Finding Beta Readers: Some Advice

So as many of you know, I recently finished a book. It’s a book that can be accurately described as, “X-Men, but in a basement.” And because I wanted to know if it was good enough to publish, I started looking for beta readers. Since then, I’ve swapped manuscripts with two people and received three in-depth critiques so far, of which I am grateful for.

(Side note: I also sent out a manuscript to three other people, who have yet to even make a comment on the document. Which makes me wonder: did they not like the book? Or have they just not gotten around to finishing it? Either way, if you’re one of these people, and you still plan on critiquing said manuscript, please know that the document you’ve got is now out-of-date. I’ve already received three critiques, after all, and I’m already returning to the revision stage. If you’d like to read the updated version, let me know, but I should warn you, it may take a few weeks before you get it.)

So, yeah, I’m basically a professional beta reader now. Not a big deal.

And as someone who’s critiqued many people’s work in the past and has been critiqued several times myself, I’ve got some advice to share. This advice goes for people sharing entire manuscripts, or for those posting smaller bits of writing at places like Destructive Readers. Really, if you want anyone at all to read any piece of your writing, this advice is for you.)

1) For the love of God, proofread your work first.

Let me tell you about the first person I swapped critiques with. She sent me the document, and after reading the few paragraphs I thought to myself. “Oh dear. What have I got myself into?”

It wasn’t just that the story itself sucked. That would be understandable. The problem was the typos. So many typos. At least one in every paragraph, and she wrote short paragraphs. Now, I am no saint with typos, as my readers can attest, but had this person clicked the “spelling & grammar” option, at least half of these errors could’ve been fixed.

This guy knows how I felt

And the thing is, this writer did a great job critiquing my manuscript, so it wasn’t like she didn’t have have a proper grasp of the English language. Instead it seems like she busted out a first draft and sent it to me without a second glance.

Don’t do this. Don’t make your reader spend so much time fixing something you could easily fix yourself. Because now instead of focusing on the story, the characters, the world-building, etc., the reader’s going to get bogged down on the little details. Plus, it’s kind of rude. It’s like if you ordered something at a restaurant, and the chef came out and just threw all the individual ingredients at you.

(No, it’s not like that? Alright, I’ll work on my metaphors.)

2) Don’t get defensive.

This hasn’t happened to me personally, but I’ve seen other people on places like “Destructive Readers,” (or even worse: on actual Amazon reviews of a self-published book), where the author got defensive and lashed out at the negative reviewer. Don’t do this. No matter how misguided or mean-spirited you think the critique is, say thank-you and move on. Because critiquing is not a debate. You’re not going to change the readers’ mind by telling them they “just didn’t get it.” 

I get that writing is a personal experience for most, and it’s easy to take things personally. But I’ve critiqued a lot of really terrible, embarrassingly bad stories over the last year or so, and not once did I find myself judging the person who wrote it. Most people are able to separate the story from its author, and are not going to think less of you for writing a shitty book. (Unless the book is like, aggressively racist or whatever.) They will, however, think less of you for not being able to handle criticism.

3) Remember, you don’t actually have to follow anyone’s advice.

You should still follow point #2, of course, but that doesn’t mean you should listen to every little thing they have to say. Sure, if more than one person points something out, it’s almost definitely worth addressing, but there’s been times where I looked at a beta reader’s advice and thought, “nope!”

Because sometimes, beta readers are wrong. Sometimes they simply have different tastes or opinions that don’t match the audience you’re aiming for or the vision you have. And that’s okay. It doesn’t take any validity away from their other points, and it doesn’t make you an egotistical jerk for not listening to that one part of their critique.

And because I only wrote this post to rant about points one and two, here are a couple of minor bits of advice that I will elaborate very little on:

  • If you’re asking someone to critique your story, make sure to actually tell them what it’s about, and how long it is.
  • One person sent me a copy of her manuscript where it ended mid-sentence. And I emailed her and said, basically, “Is this a mistake, or are you trying to pull off a Sopranos, here?” Because if it were the latter, that would be a pretty ballsy move. Not even The Sopranos was able to pull off a Sopranos ending. She responded with, essentially, “oops, my bad. Here’s the real document,” and sent me a version of the manuscript that was slightly more polished, and came with an actual ending. And I was pissed because I just spent two weeks pushing myself through a typo-ridden manuscript only to find out I’d been given the rough draft by accident.
  • So, don’t do that last bullet-point.
  • (And yes. That person was the same writer from advice #1.)
  • Okay, enough giving you guys advice, I’m just gonna rant some more. How the hell do you accidentally send someone the older copy of your manuscript, and not realize it at all during the weeks he spent critiquing it? There’s carelessness, and then there’s that.
  • I wasted two weeks of my life, dammit.
  • Okay, more like around fifteen hours or so of total work put in, but still.
  • Excuse me while I go chop down a tree.

Wow, so this post quickly veered off track. I’d like to end this post by saying good luck to all you writers out there, and I’d like to say thank you to those who critiqued my manuscript. You’re the best.

Ten Books I Plan to Read in 2017

My last post like this was all the way back in 2015, and it’s funny because I still haven’t read most of those books. But this year will be different, I say, for the fourth year in a row.

Image result for the winds of winter

1) The Winds of Winter, by George R. R. Martin.

That’s right, I’m calling it. This book will be published this year. I know I said this last year and the the year before that, but I mean it this time. I mean, he has to finish it eventually, right?

Right?

Image result for perks of being a wallflower
What a boring cover

2) Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

I pick this book because it’s short, it’s supposed to be great, as well as an easy read. That’s what I love about YA books: they’re all quick to read, even when they’re bad. Plus, Emma Watson was in the movie adaptation, and come to think of it, I haven’t seen her act in anything since Harry Potter, so I hope to watch it after finishing this. 

Image result for extremely loud and incredibly close3) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathon Safran Foer

I remember seeing the trailer to this movie and thinking, “I don’t know what this is about, but I like it.” I never got to see to see the movie, but I heard the reviews for both it and the book were very divisive. It was either the most beautiful, heartwarming novel you’ve ever read, or a three hundred page piece of trash that belongs in the depths of hell.

I will get to decide which it is.

Image result for the kite runner

4) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Fun fact, I actually read the first fifty pages or so, and found it fascinating. Sure, the main character was kind of a jerk to his friend, but I assume he’ll grow out of that. Plus I really want to learn more about the history of the middle east. The gist of what I know is this: Afghanistan got fucked over real bad in the 1970s, and I’m pretty sure the Russians were responsible, because the Russians are sort of awful like that. Although I’m sure the U.S. was also at fault in one way or another, because at one point in the novel Henry Kissinger was mentioned, and that guy’s famous for being a bit of a war criminal. Either way, I doubt this book has a happy ending.

Image result for the road book

5) The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

I also read about 80 pages into this book, and I loved every moment of it. Although I do find it kind of arrogant of the author to just ignore the rules of punctuation. “Pff, I don’t need commas or quotation marks,” I can imagine him thinking. “My story is just that powerful.

Image result for doctor sleep

6) Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King

I know, I know. It’s been over three years and I still haven’t read this book. However, I recently started getting back into King’s Dark Tower series, after putting it aside for a long time, so I think I’m ready to go back into his work. 

Image result for The price of salt

7) The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith

It’s a romance novel about two lesbians in the fifties, which was recommended to me by Engie from Musings from Neville’s Navel. While I wasn’t a fan of The Maze Runner, I do tend to love most of the books she recommends me. Like A Game of Thrones, or Between the World and Me, or The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Or V for Vendetta.

So intend to get around to reading this book, and the pages will be soaked with my heart-shaped tears.

Image result for life the universe and everything

8) Life, the Universe, and Everything, by Douglas Adams

This is the third book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, and if it’s half as funny as the first two, I will be in for a good time. 

Seriously, though. You know how rare it is for me to laugh out loud when reading a book? Usually I just smile, or exhale out of my nose, but Adams sends me into fits. And then I find myself thinking about scenes from the books months afterwards and I crack up again, and then I have to explain to people why I just started laughing for seemingly no reason.

Image result for i am legend book

9) I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson.

I remember seeing the Will Smith movie adaptation for this, and thinking, “meh, seven out of ten.” But apparently the book is completely different? Also, the book is currently sitting on a shelf in my basement, and no one knows how it got there, which adds quite a bit to its mystique.

10) Maggie Stiefvater’s new book, whatever it is.

Stiefvater’s become one of those authors whose books I would immediately buy the moment they were released. Other authors include John Green, Markus Zusak, George R. R. Martin, and Suzanne Collins. If any of them publish a new book this year, I guarantee I’ll be buying it, no matter what the circumstances.


So what are you planning to read this year? And if you’ve read any of the novels above, feel free to share your (non-spoilery) thoughts. Oh, and Happy New Year!

In Which I Sorta Kinda Need Glasses?

Are glasses really this effective?

Fun fact: I found out my grade for AP Calculus today and well, uh, it’s not that great. Pretty terrible actually. In fact I think it’s the worst grade I’ve ever gotten in anything in my life, which is saying something since in seventh grade, I accidentally skipped a bubble on a multiple choice test, and every single answer after that question came out wrong as a result.

I can only imagine how the conversation’s gonna go when my parents find out about it. Based on past occurrences, it should start off with shock and anger on their part.

“A [grade removed]?! How the hell did you get a [grade removed]!” they ask. I’ll probably respond with a shrug, which gives off the impression that I don’t care about my grades, which isn’t the best impression to give off in such a situation. 

Then after a little bit they’ll just be concerned, and they’ll likely go ahead and assume that something is horribly wrong.

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you doing drugs?”

“Yeah, but that’s not really the main issue right now.”

“Then what is the problem?”

I pause for dramatic effect. Max Richter’s Afterimage 1 plays in the background. The camera zooms in on my face as I burst into tears. “I need glasses!”

Everyone gasps. My mother collapses from the shock and my father’s face grows red with anger. The pet dog quietly leaves the scene. “Don’t you know?” my father says, “That the Black family has prided itself, for countless generations, on our perfect vision?”

“But dad—“

“You are no son of mine. Get out of my house, you freak.”

Perhaps getting bit by a radioactive spider will solve this problem.

Okay, so I don’t think the conversation will actually go like this, but it is true that I really do need to see an eye doctor or something. For the most part, I could see fine, but it’s starting to become a handicap in the classroom. This became an undeniable fact just a few days ago, when I tried and failed to take notes in class.

I was near the back of the classroom, squinting at the board, trying to decode the small, horrific handwriting of my Calculus teacher. Is she writing in hieroglyphics? I found myself wondering. I could’ve sworn I saw the illuminati symbol in there, and that troubles me.

Eventually I threw my hands up in the air and said, “Fine. I’ll switch seats.”

So I moved to the only other seat available, only one row in front of me. This did not help much. And all the time I could’ve spent listening to what the teacher was saying, I instead spent trying to figure what the hell she’d written down. 

I asked around if anyone else had the same problem, but nope, everyone else can read her handwriting just fine. 

And while my family doesn’t actually have perfect vision (I think everyone over thirty has glasses) I myself have always been proud of my eyesight. I used to pass those doctor eye tests with ease. “Good job, Matt,” the Doctor used to say. The subtext being, “because you have superior eyesight, that means you are also a superior person.”

(I think I may have been the only one who picked up on that subtext.)

Oh well. I guess it’s all downhill after this. I know that as you get older, your senses slowly start to go, but I was hoping I’d first lose one of the lamer senses, like the ability to feel pain. That would actually be pretty cool. I would never lose a single game of bloody knuckles.

Is there a point to this post, you ask?

Yes. The point is that no one in the history of the universe has ever felt the pain I’m feeling right now, and you should all send me pity flowers in the mail. Also, if you happen to own the world’s smallest violin, now would be a good time to whip it out and start playing.

___

So for those of you who currently own a pair of glasses, what’s it like? How helpful are they? If I got contacts, what’s the likelihood of me accidentally stabbing myself in the eye? (I have no idea how contacts work.) 

I kind of want to run George R. R. Martin over with my car.

So I don’t usually do the daily prompt, but yesterday’s prompt looked like a nice little goldmine of possible humor, so I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. The prompt is:

Kick It

What’s the 11th item on your bucket list?

 

Of course, in order for my eleventh item to gain any significance, I should probably tell you my first ten, which are the following:

1) To save someone’s life

2) To take someone’s life. (Preferably Jeb Bush, but I’ll settle for his loved ones.)

3) To get thrown in jail for a joke I made on the Internet. (#2 should get this done.)

4) To get a book published.

5) To somehow join the cast of Orange is New Black.

6) To work a night shift as a paramedic. (I have no idea why, but this really appeals to me.)

7) To become old and overweight enough so that I could get a job as Santa Clause at the mall.

8) To Kill a Mockingbird.

9) To become fluent in another language. (Could it be dothraki? I wanna learn dothraki.)

10) To sign up for sky-diving, only to back out at the last moment. 

And number eleven is . . .

. . .

. . .

To meet one of my favorite authors in real life. 

Ha! Didn’t see that coming, did ya? Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever met a famous author in real life. Well, maybe I did and I just didn’t recognize them at the time. I’m reasonably sure that both John Green and Stephen King were within thirty miles of my house at one point, because 1) Stephen King totally name-dropped my hometown in one of his short stories, and 2) A major plot point of John Green’s Paper Towns has to do with the sort-of town of Agloe, New York, which (fun fact!) is also sort of close to where I live.

Unfortunately, both of these stories were written before I became a fan of their work, so if I had bumped into them at one point while their doing research, I don’t think I would’ve known. 

That being said, if I had to pick the author I’d most want to meet, it would be either Maggie Stiefvater or George R. R. Martin. For completely different reasons.

I want to meet Maggie because there’s a whole bunch of questions I’m dying to ask her, mainly:

  1. “The check engine light in my car is back on, and I just got it back from the repair shop yesterday. What’s up with that?”
  2. “Also, my car makes squeaking sounds whenever it’s really cold out. Is that normal?” And:
  3. “How do you pronounce your last name?”
You can’t deny Martin’s sense of fashion.

If I ever met up with George R. R. Martin, I’m not sure what I’d say. I’d ask him about his books, although somehow I don’t think he’d want to talk about it, considering that rather unfortunate case of writer’s block he’s had on and off for the last, oh, fifteen years or so. (The poor guy.)

Instead I’d ask him, “Hey, would you mind if I ran you over with my car? Because Stephen King had a similar problem as you with his Dark Tower series. I don’t know what exactly was his issue with that story, but it was only until after he was hit by a car that he started to write them at a fast pace.”

He’d probably say no, or maybe he’s become so desperate at this point that he’d actually consider it. Either way, I’m running that fucker over. I’ll slam on my gas pedal so hard he won’t even see me coming. Hopefully I’ll get to meet Maggie before I meet him, so she could give me advice on how do this with the least likelihood of killing the guy. 

Please don’t judge me. I love Martin’s books. I’ll just do whatever it takes to get more of them. 

In Which an Idea I Made in Jest Becomes Surprisingly Serious

So a few months ago, I wrote a post in which i briefly mentioned hearing the ice cream man outside at two o’clock in the morning, and mentioned how that would make a really good horror story. People commented agreeing with me, and suddenly an idea for a story formed in my head, a story about someone (or something, eh?) who uses the ice cream truck in the middle of the night to lure kids outside without their parents knowing.

Then I did some research about the ice cream man, and oh boy, did I realize that this was the story I was meant to tell.

I wrote the prologue, which involved an abused, disfigured boy being kidnapped by an ice cream man with no eyes (you know, just normal prologue stuff), and then had to resist the urge to keep writing, because I’m working on another WIP, and I know that when I try to work on two projects, things never work out well. I usually just go back and forth, making ridiculously slow progress with both of them.

So I worked on my original WIP, and kept working on it, but that nagging voice at the back of my head kept saying, “Hey. Hey, Matt. You should work on that other story. You know, the one about the evil ice cream man?”

“No,” I said to the voice. “I know from many past experiences that that would only end badly.”

“But but but, ice cream!” said the voice. “You have all these great ideas. You can even use that drive-thru shooting scene that you tried to work into your other WIP but couldn’t because it didn’t fit.”

(The drive-thru shooting scene is an idea I came up with on one of those slow days working the McDonald’s drive-thru. Basically, I realized just how easy it would be for someone to go through the drive-thru and shoot me in the face as I handed them their food. They could just drive away, maybe wipe the blood off their car, and switch the license plate around and no one would ever know who it was. Except me, of course, but I’d be dead. I realized afterward that this would make an amazing surprise death scene.)

“Okay, fine!” I said. “I’ll focus on the other story,” and that was that.

So I titled the story, “I Scream for Ice Cream,” because of course I did, and I’ve been making decent progress with it ever since. It helps that halloween’s right around the corner, which should help get me in the spooky mood. 

What is this story about, you ask? 

Well, the story centers around a teenage girl, her best friend, and her best friend’s drug dealer, as each of them are stalked by an evil creature who drives an ice cream truck, who may or may not be human. (Haven’t decided that yet. I’m going to do the Stephen King approach and just sort of wing it.) 

I may end up publishing this as one of those interactive blog stories, but I won’t do it until I’m completely finished. 

Some other facts about this story:

  • The story takes place in a town called Simmer Lake, and much like Long Island, the town has an evil, intangible presence within it.
  • The ice cream man has bizarre looking eyes. “His eyes were all pupil — two black ovals above his nose, watching nothing and everything at once.”
  • George Clooney will make a cameo appearance.
  • He won’t, actually. 
  • If it does become a weekly published-on-my-blog sort of story, I am totally naming the characters after my followers, so you could all hate on me when I kill you off.
  • That last point could get really weird if I end up writing a sex scene.
  • I’m probably not going to include any sexual content, though, so all is okay. Although one of the characters may be tempted. *winkity wink*

Well, that’s all I have to say about that. If anyone would like to have a character named after them, please let me know. I’ve already named a character after one of you, by the way. (I just felt like the name fit the character well, in that instance.) 

The Rainbow Book Tag

So I’ve recently been tagged in Nevillegirl’s post, “The Rainbow Book Tag,” (Hey look, we both used the same title!) and I was very excited to do it. The subject is LGBTQ+ YA books, a topic I’m not too savvy about, but I’m going to write about it anyway because I don’t think I’ve ever had. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never written an LGBTQ+ related post on this blog. If someone were to only gain all their knowledge from this blog and this blog only, they’d probably think a homosexual was some sort of exotic fruit, or something.

look at all these homosexuals

But that’s not right. LGTBQ+ rights is an important issue, one that I have very strong investment in, so I should probably mention the subject every once in a while. Hence, this post:

RED
The color of passion and desire

If you could own only one LGBTQ+ YA story for the rest of your life, which book would you choose and why? What makes you desire that particular book so much that you just have to have it on your shelf – characters, plot, author, cover, et cetera?

Well this one’s obvious. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth, and not just because it’s one of the few LGTBQ+ YA books I’ve read.

If I had to pick my top ten books of all time, this one would be on it, somewhere. And if I had to make a list of top ten books everyone should read, no matter who they are or where they live, this book would be number one. Because the world would be a much better place if that happened.

ORANGE
The color of creativity

If you were to create your perfect LGBTQ+ YA book in your mind, what would it look like? Romance? Non-romance? Fantasy? Sci fi? Contemporary? Historical fiction? Some other genre/genre mix? Novel? Short story? What about the characters – lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual? Who would you want to write this novel? Would it have a happy or sad ending? Where would it be set? Is it a series or a standalone?

It would be an urban fantasy/thriller written by Maggie Stiefvater. The main character is a lesbian drag car racer with a sentient car. I say this because according this one post I read months ago on Stiefvater’s’ tumblr, she’s apparently planning to write a book featuring a female drag racer of some sort, so if anyone were to write this book, she’d be the best one for the job.

YELLOW
The color of sunshine and sand

Let’s talk beach books! Imagine you are going to the beach with a friend, who is looking for some YA LGBTQ+ books to read there. Which book(s) would you recommend?

Does The Dream Thieves count as an LGTBQ+ book? I hope so, because I’m picking it. It takes place during the summer, it’s a quick read and it’s surprisingly violent, compared to the books preceding it. (Oh yeah, forgot to mention. This is the second book in a four part series, “The Raven Cycle.” It’s one of those rare book series where each book is more gripping than the last.

GREEN
The color of money

If you could get any five YA LGBTQ+ books for free,
which five would you choose?

Well, the first would be Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, because I’ve heard good things about it, and the synopsis is lit.*

The second would be The Miseducation of Cameron Post, because I’d like to read that again.

Then there’s Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, because who could say no to a retelling of Cinderella that features Cyborgs?

[Edit: I’ve been informed via helpful commenters that Cinder doesn’t actually have any LGTBQ+ themes, and that I had mistaken it for Ash, by Malindo Lo. Twas an honest mistake, I swear!]

Four would be Fans of the Impossible Life, by Kate Scelsa: “the story of a girl, her gay best friend, and the boy in love with both of them.” Well that can’t possibly end well. I’m intrigued.

And the last would be The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. I have no idea what its about, but I recognize the author’s name and it’s tagged under LGBTQ+ on Goodreads. So Oscar Wilde wrote a book featuring homosexuality in the slightly homophobic nineteenth century?  That’s pretty ballsy, I gotta say.

Indigo
The color of intuition

An LGBTQ+ YA book that you haven’t had the chance to read (yet) but have a really good feeling about.

Uh. . . Cinder, probably, because I haven’t heard a bad thing about it yet.

VIOLET
The color of dreams

You are hosting a tea party and can invite one LGBTQ+ YA author, two LGBTQ+ YA characters, and three non-LGBTQ+ characters (from any YA book) to any restaurant/place – real or fictional – you like. Who would you invite? Where would your party take place?

I’d pick Loras Tyrell from ASOIAF and Ronan Lynch from The Dream Thieves as my two LGBTQ+ characters, if only because I have literally no idea what would happen if they found themselves in the same room together. I can see their first meeting being either a) a complete disaster or b) the start of something wonderful.

For the straight characters, I’d pick Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, and Jon Snow, if only because I want at least three of the Starks to reunite at some point and I’m beginning to lose hope of that ever happening. It’ll be a tearjerker, I’m sure.

As for the LGBTQ+ YA author, I’d choose Emily M. Danforth, so I can ask her some questions I have about what happens to Cam after that final chapter of TMoCP. I need to know!

And, that’s all for today! Feel free to do your own post with this tag, if you want. Or you could answer the questions in the comments below. Or you could go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather, unless of course you live in a place whether the weather isn’t so great right now, but based off the map on my stats page, I’d say there’s a good chance you don’t. That’s right, I did my research.

*I’m using the tem “lit” now. Get used to it.

A Slightly Belated Valentine’s Day Post

I’m back, bitches!

Sorry for the profanity. I just felt like adding “bitches” to the sentence would add more punch to it, so to speak. Anywho, I was recently nominated for two valentine’s day-themed awards, and while admittedly it’s no longer Valentine’s day, it’s still never too late to talk about the romance. (Ladies?)

So thank you, Engie, for nominating me. Oh, and thank you for that eCard thingy you sent me a few weeks back, which I will not reveal to the readers for sole purpose of being coy. You have no idea how happy that made me.

To start off with the first award, the Be My Valentine Book Tag:

Who is your favorite couple in a book?

Gregor and Luxa from the Underland Chronicles. They were adorable, in a slightly painful-to-watch sort of way.

Which book character would you take to dinner if you could?

As in, a date? Because I ain’t paying no check. And I’d feel bad if she had to pay for the whole thing, so I’d have to pick a character willing to dine and dash. Therefore, I pick Cameron Post, because she’s not likely to be fussy about taking things without paying.

Of course, it’s very, very unlikely that Cam (can I call her Cam?) would be interested in me. (Read the book, people!) So instead I’ll go with Blue Sargent, from The Raven Cycle. I feel like the two of us would get along well. We both similar senses of humor, sort of.

Villains deserve a little love, too. Which villain would you give a box of chocolates to?

Hm, could I pick Fiona from my own story, More Than I Can Chew? Because sure, she sort of ruined everything for everyone, but she still had one hell of a rough day.

No, Matt. You can’t choose your own character, you obnoxious egomaniac.

Fine then. I choose Daenerys Targaryen, who could be considered a villain, depending on who you ask. She’d probably be all, “What’s this?” And I’d say, “It’s chocolate,” and she’d say, “What in the seven hells is chocolate?” And then I’d have to explain the whole concept and manage to convince her it’s not poison. Hopefully she’d find the chocolate so delicious that she decides to stop pursuing the iron throne to start a chocolate milk factory, giving her army and dragons to me instead.

Be a Matchmaker; pick two characters from two different stories and pair them up.

Samantha Black Crow (American Gods) with an adult Cameron Post (Miseducation of Cameron Post). I just figured, they’re both really cool characters, so if they get together they’d be twice as cool.

What book setting would you like to visit while on a date?

Dorne, from A Song of Ice and Fire. As of the latest book, it’s easily the most peaceful and most tolerant of the seven kingdoms. Not to mention, with winter coming, I’d want to be as far south as possible. Those white walkers, am I right?

It’s not all about romance. What’s your favorite non-romantic relationship in a novel?

Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes. (I feel like I’m going about this question the wrong way . . .)

Venturing out of the book sphere for a bit: What song makes you feel loved?

“I Got You Babe,” by Etta James. This song wouldn’t be nearly as great if I didn’t connect it with this scene from The Last of Us:

Who is your favorite couple in a movie/TV show?

Frank and Claire Underwood from House of Cards. They’re both terrible people, but as a couple they are very unique, not to mention powerful. And neither of them seem to have any qualms about a spontaneous three-way with their security guard, which is pretty cool.

Now for the most important question of all: What is your favorite shade of red?

Blue. Because fuck you, that’s why.

(Just so you all know, I’ve spent the last few days finishing the final season of The Wire, which may cause an increase in colorful language.)

And now for the second tag:

Favorite couple ever? You want to have their relationship.

Eleanor and Park, because they fit together, like milk and cookies, or handstands and foot rubs.

Relationship that never happened? You wanted them to get together, but they never did.

Two certain characters from The Book Thief. I will not say more for spoilers’ sake, and because after three years I still find it a bit tough to talk about. #brokenheartsstaybroken.

Your bookish crush?

Hmm… I’m a huge fan of post-AGOT Sansa Stark, and am a huge fan of her from ASOS on.

Favorite “feel good” romance?

By this, do you mean a romance book with a happy ending? Because all the love stories I read tend to be tragedies. I guess I’d have to go with Paper Towns, where the romance was probably the least “feel good” part of the novel. Margo was sort of kind of a little bit of a terrible, terrible person, and Quentin was unhealthily obsessed with her. But hey, they were adorable as kids together.

(I think I’m going to write a “In Defense of Paper Towns” post one day, because lately I’ve been seeing a lot of criticisms of that book. And while everyone’s entitled to their opinions and whatnot, I do feel like some people are kind of… missing the point. Will discuss later. Possibly.)

Favorite genre to add romance to?

I don’t know. Urban fantasy? I say this because The Raven Cycle is the only urban fantasy series I think I’ve read, and the romance was great, and no one can say otherwise.

And that is all for questions. I refuse to nominate anyone because Valentine’s Day has come and past. Also, Valentine’s is a pretty stupid holiday anyway, essentially a Scam created by Evil Corporations so we’d Spend Money, or at least that’s I hear from a couple billion or so people each year.

To end this post, here’s a picture of two giraffes in love.

The TMI Tag

I found this over at Stay and Watch the Stars, and decided to do it because well, why not? I should warn you, though: there are five answers here that I may have lied about. Whoever can properly determine the five lies will win a special prize. (The prize is a fox.) Now, to the questions:

1. What are you wearing?

Shorts and a t-shirt. (“But Matt, it’s winter and it’s snowing outside as you post this!”) Yeah, but the thing is, 1) I am currently inside, and 2) I am impervious to the cold.

2. Ever Had a Terrible Break-up?

Nope. I’ve had a mutual sort-of breakup, but nothing else.

3. Any tattoos?

Last year I decided to have a drawing of a male genitalia tattooed across my face. I have no regrets.

4) Any Piercings?

Nay.

5) OTP? 

Ellie and Riley, from the Last of Us: Left Behind. They may be video game characters, but that doesn’t make their relationship any less touching.

6) Favorite Show?

Well, I think the best show I’ve ever seen is The Wire, particularly season 4. But Orange is the New Black is probably my favorite to watch, followed by Breaking Bad, then Sherlock, then House of Cards, then Game of Thrones, then Doctor Who, then. . . Brooklyn Nine Nine? That last show has somehow snuck up to my favorites list without me even realizing. Captain Holt is the bomb.

I like the fact that Captain Holt is openly gay, and yet is the funniest character on the show due to reasons that have nothing to do with his sexuality. Too often do shows resort to gay stereotypes for humor. (I’m looking at you, Modern Family.)

7. Favorite Bands?

Glee, obviously.

8) Something you miss?

Ninth grade. My first year of High School was easily the best I’ve had so far. I enjoyed the first half more than I probably should have, due to the fact that I thought we were all going to die at the end of the year and wanted to savor each moment before I died. (I knew the whole “The Mayans predicted the end of the world!” thing was bullshit, but a tiny part of my subconscious bought into it.) And the second half was great because of the cool things I discovered about myself. I discovered I liked blogging, and snowboarding, and John Green books, and that I had a sense of humor that other people liked. Not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty sure I was the funniest guy in at least two of my classes.

9) Favorite song?

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. I didn’t think much of it at first, but it slowly grew on me and four years later I still haven’t gotten tired of it.

I’m not sure what’s going on in this video, but I love it.

10. Zodiac sign?

Taurus.

11. Favorite Quote?

Here’s one from the great Tyrion Lannister:

Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

12) Favorite actor?

Can I pick an actress? Because if so, I choose Maisie William, mostly because of her amazing vines. Here’s her reaction to a certain Red Wedding. (Warning, some spoilers.)

13. Favorite color?

Blue.

14) Loud music or soft?

I don’t know about loud or soft, but I prefer MattyBRaps.

15) Where do you go when you’re sad?

There’s no specific place. I usually just watch TV until the feelings go away, which may not be the best coping mechanism, but I have watched a lot of great TV because of it, so all is okay.

16) How long does it take you to shower?

It varies, depending on the water temperature and where I’m taking it. If I’m taking a shower at someone else’s house, it’ll usually take me a while to figure out how to turn the water on. Why do other people have such complicated shower faucets?

17. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

Varies, depending on how much time I have. The more rushed I am, the less time I take.

18. Ever been in a physical fight?

Several. I guess you could say I’m a badass. Admittedly, most of these were with my brothers and the others weren’t started due to conflict, but out of boredom. I’ve never been in a fight with a stranger before. However, I think we can all agree that if such a thing were to happen, I would win.

19. The reason you started blogging?

Because writing is fun.

20. Fears?

—Finding out (too late) that there are spiders in my socks.

—That A Song of Ice and Fire will never be finished.

—That I will become nothing but a failure, and my cousins and siblings would use my life as a cautionary tale to tell their children.

21. Last thing that made you cry?

I’m too tough to cry. *Punches wall.*

22. Last time you said you loved someone?

To my parents, because I needed money at the time.

23. Meaning behind your blog name?

Well, when I was eight years old my favorite uncle came to my house (it was Christmas, by the way), and gave me a small train-set for me to play with. “Matt,” he said, “I have played with this train, this little engine, since I was your age. It has brought me many happy memories, and I hope it brings you some as well.” I said thank-you, not thinking much of it.

My uncle died in a car crash the next day. That train was all I could remember him by. Whenever I starting missing him again I would play with the train track until the tears finally stopped. When it came to easing my pain, it was the little engine that could. That is, until the day before I started this blog, when the engine malfunctioned and the train was deemed unfixable. My parents offered to buy me a new one, but I said no because I felt like that would be an insult to my uncle’s memory. I kept the little engine, even though it was broken. Unable to work or to ease me through my sorrow, it was now the little engine that couldn’t. . .

Ha, just kidding! There’s no meaning behind this blog title at all. I just thought it was somewhat clever.

24. Last book you read?

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. It was creepy, just the way I like it, but it wasn’t as good as, say, The Graveyard Book, or American Gods.

25. The book you’re currently reading?

Les Miserables. I’m getting back into the book now after a short break, and I think I’m just starting to realize how brilliant Victor Hugo really is. Also, I’ve been pronouncing the book’s name wrong this whole time.

26. Last show you watched?

Uh, House of Cards? I think. I’m still only three episodes into the second season.

27. Last person you talked to?

My mom. She was asking about my wrist, which I might have sprained yesterday from snowboarding.

28. The relationship between you and the person that last texted you?

The last text I sent was to my Mom, who was currently dropping my brother off at Burger King, where he works. The conversation goes as follows:

Me: Can you get me some fries?

Mom: No.

My mother is a cruel and heartless woman.

29. Favorite food?

Shriiiimmpppp!

30. Place you want to visit?

Hershey Park, Pennyslvania. Last summer I completely overcame my fear of roller-coasters, so I think I’ll enjoy this place so much more than I did the last time I was there. I only went on one of the rides, threw up on it, and didn’t go on anything. I did enjoy all the candy, however.

31. Last place you were?

Mount Snow, where I injured my wrist.

32. Do you have a crush?

What is this, fourth grade?

And yes I do. Here’s a picture.

33. Last time you kissed someone?

Twas a game of Spin the Bottle, a little while back.

34. Last time you were insulted?

A customer at McDonald’s called me an idiot after I messed up his (extremely long and complicated) order. He’s dead now.

35. Favorite flavor of sweet?

Do Butterfingers count as a sweet? Because if so, I still wouldn’t choose Butterfingers because they are easily the worst and most disgusting candy to ever disgrace mankind. I prefer those m&m’s with the pretzels inside.

36. What instruments do you play?

The piano, but I’ve been slacking lately. And by slacking I mean “have not played in weeks.”

37. Favorite piece of jewelry?

Brass knuckles, so I can beat people up with them.

38. Last sport you played?

Snowboarding’s a sport, right?

39. Last song you sang? 

Hey There Delilah, by the Plain White T’s. Someone mentioned the song and I just couldn’t help myself.

40. Favorite chat up line?

“May I slytherin to your chamber of secrets?”

I’m not sure where I found this line, but I’d like to thank whoever came up with it.

41. Have you ever used it?

Yep.

42. Last time you hung out with someone?

Yesterday, for ski club. I even wrote a speech about our third year of this club together. (Not for the whole club, just a small group of friends I hang out with there.) It was pretty groovy, if I dare say so.

____

I won’t nominate anyone specifically, but I will nominate everyone reading this with an ‘e’ in their name.

That’s right. If you have a blog and have an ‘E’ in your name, you must participate in this tag. If you don’t, I will give you a disapproving look.

New Year Resolutions (A Little Late, I Know)

Never change, Calvin. Never change.

I realize that it is now January 2nd, and you’re all probably tired of hearing all these resolutions. Hell, most of you have probably broken them already. (I kid, I kid.) That being said, I have a few goals and plans for this year that I hope to achieve. To start off:

1) No more missing deadlines.

Okay, so I sort of dropped the ball on this one. (It is no longer New Year’s Eve, after all), but this will be the last time. My posts for the TCWT blog chain have been late twice last year, and for that I have shamed myself, my family, and my country. But in 2015, I will no longer shame anyone, for I will not miss a single TCWT-related deadline. If I do, I give you all permission to murder me in my sleep. I mean, I’d prefer it if you didn’t murder me in my sleep, but if you felt the need to I guess you couldn’t be blamed.

2) Comment more.

I haven’t commented as much as I should have in 2014. There are some great bloggers out there who probably don’t even know I exist, despite the fact that I’ve read all of their posts for months now. (If you’re reading this and I’ve never commented on your blog, just assume I’m talking about you.)

Not only that, but I sometimes neglect the comments on my own blog, which is quite possibly the most unforgivable crime any blogger could possibly commit. Sometimes I’m just not sure how to reply, and then I tell myself I’ll answer it later, and then I just forget about it. Then I’ll look back at the post five months later and see the comment I didn’t respond to and I’ll feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. But I’m not sure if I should still respond because well, that comment was from five months ago, responding now might just add insult to injury.

3) Finish a novel of some sort.

I’ve had a trilogy of sorts planned out for years (think: X-men meets Mockingjay), yet I’m having trouble actually writing it. Which as it turns out is like, the hardest part.

I’m also toying around with the idea for a prequel to More Than I Can Chew, centering around a fifteen year old Kathy Mellonsky. (Wyatt and Adrien would be adorable eleven year olds at this point.) I felt like Kathy had the potential to be the most interesting character in MTICC, yet she didn’t get a whole lot of time to shine, and a prequel would give her plenty of time for that.

So hopefully, I’ll get at least one of these done. 

4) Bump into a fellow blogger in real life.

Because how cool would this be? In fact, I think I would die happy it if at least three bloggers I follow all went to my house and we played Super Mario Bros for about five hours or so. And afterwards, we’d go to the nearest supermarket, take two carts and a few broomsticks, and we’d have a tourney in which two people would be pushed towards each other and they’d both have to try and knock the other down. And then we’d talk shit about other bloggers behind their backs, and then we’d all smoke pot and watch one of those Harold and Kumar movies. I hear they’re funnier if you’re high. And then—

I think I’m getting off topic here.

Anyhoo, those are my main goals for this year, blogging and writing-wise, at least. All in all, 2015 is probably going to be a very stressful year for me, (I hear the final half of junior year and first half of senior year is the hardest) but I’m still going to stay optimistic, at least until the stress gets to me and I end up sitting in the shower, fully dressed, eating cake whilst crying hysterically. But hey, everyone does that every once in a while, right?

Right?

*cries*

Books I Plan to Read in 2015 (And a Look Back at Those Read Last Year)

So it’s becoming sort of a tradition on this blog to make a list of ten books I plan to read the following year. This time I’ll be doing something slightly different. In addition to listing ten books, I will also be reviewing the books I planned to read in 2014.

Now, for last year’s books:

1) Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson. [Haven’t finished yet]

I’m about three hundred fifty pages into this novel, and I’m not entirely sure what to feel about it. It hasn’t quite hooked me in like my first Sanderson book, The Way of Kings, has, and besides Vin and Elend, I don’t really care about any of the characters. But then again, the last three hundred pages of TWoK were easily its best pages, so hopefully the next three hundred pages of Mistborn will be just as great. Hey, you never know.

2) Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King [Didn’t read.]

I can’t believe I still haven’t read this book. I don’t have an excuse; this book’s been on my kindle since last Christmas, and I’ve wanted to read it since 2012.

I’ll get around to it eventually.

3) A Storm of Swords, by George R. R. Martin [Read.]

This book was easily the best in the series so far. It was simply stunning. The last five hundred pages were basically just one huge, groundbreaking event after another, yet it never felt tired or excessive, because all these events had been built up to for literally thousands of pages. Not to mention it was the most satisfying of the novels. If George R. R. Martin just decided to stop writing and become a lumberjack right after writing this, I wouldn’t have been that upset.

4) World War Z, by Max Brooks [Didn’t read.]

I haven’t read this either, which can probably be attributed to my declining interest in zombie stories over the last twelve months. What? They’re overdone.

(An exception: The Last of Us, a videogame I got for Christmas, and ended up beating today. Greatest. Video game. Ever. If anyone has this on the ps4, please comment immediately with your psn username so I could shoot you with my crossbow in the multiplayer mode.)

5) Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman [Read]

This was the book where I realized just how funny Neil Gaiman could be. This was hilarious, and deeply moving at the same time. Plus it had some scary parts, which I didn’t expect.

Also, can I also just point out that this might just be the only book I’ve read that centers around an almost entirely black cast and yet isn’t about racism? Why is this so rare?

6) The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. [Didn’t read.]

I can’t seem to find this book anywhere.

7) The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling, by J.K Rowling. [Didn’t read either]

Heh, I didn’t either of these books. I will one day, though. I swear.

8) The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater [Read]

I must admit, the first book didn’t really grab me. It was good and all, but the characters didn’t seem nearly as well-defined and interesting as they’d become later on. Except for Blue and Noah . (They are perfect.) It wasn’t until reading its sequel, The Dream Thieves, that it became clear just how great this series was.

9) Any Book, by Agatha Christie. [Read]

I read two of her books: And Then There Were None and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The first book was amazing, and completely took me by surprise. The second one wasn’t quite as good. It wasn’t as tense and I managed to guess the killer about fifteen pages before it was revealed. #skillsofdeduction

10) Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo [Didn’t finish yet]

I’m almost six hundred pages into this beast of a novel, and I’m not even halfway through. That being said, I loved the first four hundred pages or so, but after that the story’s started to drag, and I’m growing restless. I still want to see what happens to Cossette and Jean Valjean, though, so I plan on continuing the read.

And, now onto the books I plan to read in 2015:

1) Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King

That’s right. I put this on the list twice. I also need to (finally) finish up the rest of his Dark Tower series. The first three books were amazing and I finished through them all within a month. And then I got to the flashback portions of Wizard and Glass and I just grew bored and stopped reading. But the thing is, I still want to know if Roland finds the Dark Tower or not, and if so, what exactly is up with that Dark Tower anyway?

Also, I’m told that King wrote himself into the series (as a character!) which is a sign of either genius or complete insanity. Possibly both. Either way, he has piqued my interest.

2) The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

You know that video game I was talking about earlier, The Last of Us? Well apparently, that was partially based off this book, so I assume the book will be scary, funny, poignant, dark and cynical all at the same time. And they’ll be a badass teenage girl named Ellie. (I hope.)

3) The Great Gatsby, by Scott F. Fitzgerald

I’ve heard this book is overrated so many times that I’m beginning to think it’s actually underrated. Does that make sense? I think it does.

4) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Why? Because I see this book everywhere, that’s why.

5) Jonathon Strange and Mrs. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

I have no idea what this is about. But judging from the title, I’m going to guess and say: it’s kind of like a Harry Potter-esque story, but with like, sex and stuff. Oh, and it takes place in Victorian London.

6) Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

Because with the exception of Nightmare in Silver, Neil Gaiman hasn’t let me down once. Not to mention, this book features characters with beads for eyes, and that sounds terrifying.

7) Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

How have I not read this book yet? Supposedly it deals with topics such as depression, sexual abuse, drugs, mental illness, homophobia and a bunch of other terrible things in only two hundred or so pages, and I kind of want to see how it pulls that all off without feeling like a soap opera.

(I don’t actually watch soap operas, so for all I know that last sentence was completely inaccurate.)

Also, Emma Watson was in the movie adaptation, so that’s always a plus.

8) Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve only read one book by good ol’ Kurt, and it was Mother Night, a story about a Nazi war criminal who was actually an American spy, and it was amazing, in every sense of the word. I finished it in one day.

But when you ask someone what their favorite Vonnegut novel is, they almost never say Mother Night, which leads me to believe that perhaps there are even better Vonnegut novels out there in the world, such as this one.

9) Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

I know absolutely nothing about this book, except that apparently it was important enough to have a commonly known phrase created because of it.

10) Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Because my blog friends like it, for some reason, and I’ve decided to give it a try. Apparently it’s a retelling of Cinderella, but with cyborgs. . . Sounds interesting.

So, what do you think of my to-read list? What books do you plan on reading this year? And most importantly, do you have The Last of Us on the playstation 4? Because that game’s rad.

More Than I Can Chew: The Final Chapter (Probably)

Sorry this is late. I blame it on technological difficulties. 

To end this lackluster year of 2014, I give you the final chapter of More Than I Can Chew. I might write an epilogue, but only if this chapter gets enough hate that writing an epilogue is the only way to stop the death threats. (Also: no death threats!) 

Click here for the last seventeen chapters. Enjoy.

Wyatt

Kathy was the first person to call 911, and the paramedics came about six long minutes later. James was still alive at this point; still coughing and gurgling up blood; no one in the room knew what to do. They asked us to clear the room when we got there, which we did. Kathy and I helped Adrien upstairs and left him sitting in the truck where he was being cared for.

According to the paramedics, James wasn’t going to die. He was, however, going to be breathing through a tube for a while and wouldn’t be able to talk too well. Adrien, meanwhile, didn’t have a concussion, and his nose was only sprained. I didn’t think it was possible to sprain your nose, but that’s what they said, and I assume they knew they were talking about. But the bigger thing we had to worry about weren’t the physical effects; apparently Adrien was in shock. Almost murdering someone can do that to you, as it turns out.

With both James and Adrien under medical care, that just left me, Sean, Kathy and Fiona sitting on the porch, contemplating the events of the day. Somehow it was only four thirty in the afternoon.

“This was so stupid,” said Fiona, after a short silence. She was crying, yet neither me nor Kathy or even Sean made an effort to comfort her. In fact, both Sean and Fiona were making a conscious effort not to talk to even acknowledge each others’ existence, leading me to wonder exactly what went on in the phone call between them. Meanwhile, Kathy was busy calling Mom and Dad, trying so very hard to get a word in.

“. . . Mom, just— Mom. Do you want to know where we are or not?” There was a pause, and Kathy reluctantly filled her in on the current situation, being cut off every few seconds as she continued to yell at her. To Kathy’s credit, she managed to stick through the entire conversation without hanging up once. She even got all the vital information through: Adrien was being taken to the hospital (“He’s going to be fine,” Kathy said over and over again, though Mom kept interrupting her with questions and demands to talk to him herself), and Kathy offered to drive me either to the hospital or back home, depending on what Mom thought was best. Except Mom didn’t trust Kathy to drive me anywhere, instead deciding that Dad would drive me to the hospital and that Kathy could just “go away.” Her words.

“Fucking gum,” she said afterwards. I muttered in agreement. Hard to believe someone almost died because of a fight over gum.

“So, what do we tell them?” said Fiona, as the paramedic truck drove off. In a few minutes all of our parents would come over, along with that detective and maybe a few policemen. I wasn’t sure exactly. 

“We could say it was an accident,” I said. “That we were all just hanging around in your house and Adrien accidentally shot James in the neck. Teenage recklessness, or something.”

Kathy shook her head. “That doesn’t explain Adrien’s injuries, or James’. Or yours.”

“Okay, how about this: Adrien and James’ got in some sort of argument, they started fighting and I tried to break it up for a few seconds. After getting punched in the face a few times, I gave up, and then Adrien somehow accidentally shot James’ in the neck.”

“Okay, but they’re also going to be questioning you about the kidnapping incident. What do you say about that?”

“That I have no idea about any of that.”

“Okay. . . and what about the ten thousand dollars worth of gum?”

“I don’t know anything about that either,” I said. “I was suspended for selling a few packs, but I never made ten thousand dollars worth of it. That’s just ridiculous.”

“Okay,” said Kathy. “What else are we forgetting?”

“They’re going to ask what James was doing at my house to begin with,” said Fiona, quietly. “My parents will, at least. And no matter what you say, you can’t count on Adrien or James saying the same thing.”

I sighed. “What if we just told the truth?”

Fiona looked disgusted. “What? No!”

“Not the whole truth, anyway. Not the parts that could get us in serious trouble. Speaking of which, how involved in that kidnapping were you, exactly?”

“It was all James’ idea.” She refused to make eye contact with any of us. “I just told him to find out where you hid the money and the gum, and he said he’d handle it. I didn’t think he’d actually drive a van onto school grounds or anything. Why would I agree to do something like that?”

“Assuming James doesn’t die,” said Kathy, “he’s not going to go along with that.” Fiona sighed, looking down at her feet. It was quiet for a few seconds.

“Who owned the van?” I said suddenly. “The van they drove onto the school yard.”

“Diesel, I think.”

I smiled. “Then we have our scapegoat. Everything was Diesel’s fault. He drove the van into the school, organized the kidnapping and stole all of my money. He also beat up Adrien and shot James in the neck. Then immediately after shooting James in the neck, he took the money and left.”

“Yes,” said Kathy. She was getting excited, all of a sudden, like she would back in her younger years when she was planning one of those crazy stunts she liked to pull. “You, Adrien and James tried to stop him from taking the money, so he beat up all of you and took it anyway. He’s big enough to pull that off, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I thought he was an adult the first time I saw him.”

“So where does that leave me?” asked Fiona. All things considered, she seemed surprisingly accepting of this whole plan. I guess she realized she wasn’t in any position of leverage.

“It was all Diesel’s idea, and anything you did, he forced you into it,” said Kathy. “That’s what you say, okay?” Fiona nodded.

“Anything else we’re missing?” I said. “Any loose ends, or anything?”

“The BB gun,” Sean said, startling me. I’d almost forgotten he was there.

“I’ll take responsibility for that,” I said. “I took it from my neighbor’s house without his permission.” Sean nodded. I looked out at the three of them to see if there was anything else that needed to be said. Nothing.

“Well,” Kathy stood up. “My mom wants nothing to do with me at the moment, so I’ll drive over to the hospital. Let Adrien in on it all before they get to him. Sean, want me to drive you back to your car?”

“Yes, please.” Sean got up and followed her back to the car, not looking at Fiona at all. The two of them left, leaving Fiona and I alone on her porch, both savoring these last moments before our parents came and we’d have to deal with the actual consequences of the last six hours.

“Sean broke up with me on the phone,” Fiona said, quietly. “You told him what I did?” She didn’t say it in an angry, accusing way; she was just curious.

“He was with me when I found out. You okay?”

She shrugged. “We were barely dating, anyway.”

I had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but I didn’t press. “You think this whole idea will work?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Well that type of attitude won’t do. “I think we have a good chance. James will live, Adrien never meant to kill him anyway, and it’s not like any of us are going to press charges. And I’m sure you know this already, but you’re an amazing liar. You’ll be fine.”

For once she seemed hopeful, which surprised me. I didn’t think she’d actually buy into my drivel. Maybe it wasn’t drivel after all.

My parents’ car pulled into the driveway, followed by a police car. When he stepped out I could see it was that detective guy, Roy Thompson, the guy who suspected me of selling drugs. I couldn’t wait to see his face when he found out that everything that happened today—from the kidnapping to the possible manslaughter to the multiple break-ins and the excessive violence, was all because I decided to sell some gum.

More Than I Can Chew: Chapter 17

In this chapter, stuff happens. Like, a lot of stuff. Click here for the last sixteen chapters.

Adrien

I was pretty sure I didn’t have a concussion, or a broken nose. I’d had both before, and I remember the pain being a bit worse than this. I’d never had a tooth knocked out, though, so that was new.

The whole fight that put me in this state was a bit of a blur; all I knew was that Diesel threw the first punch and that James took over from there. I think it was Diesel’s involvement in the whole thing that stung me the most. Or maybe it was just that familiar feeling of complete and utter failure.

I had tried to seek revenge, only to get beaten up for the third time in one day. My gums were now throbbing and I could taste the blood in my mouth. Take that combined with my nose, and I thought there was a slight chance I could pass out due to blood loss, but hopefully not.

I wondered if Fiona would ever let us out of the basement. I mean, she had to, eventually. She had to have had parents, or some sort of family that would come home soon and see all of this. No matter, Fiona was now standing in front of us and holding the gun with one hand and calling Diesel with the other. Unsurprisingly, Diesel didn’t pick up. “I can’t believe him.” She put the phone back in her pocket.

“Me neither,” said Wyatt. James took this as an excuse to kick him in the shin, a move that he managed to dodge. Fiona yelled at James to stop and Wyatt kept talking, as usual. “You know what I just realized? Diesel is the real enemy here. We’re just his victims. He’s been lying and manipulating all of us all day. And you know, now that there’s no money for me to take back, there’s really no point in me being here. Or Adrien, for that matter.”

“I don’t know,” Fiona said, sounding honestly distraught. “What exactly did Diesel say to you? To make you think he was on your side?”

Wyatt filled her in, truthfully, on most of the details; he just neglected to mention Kathy or Sean’s part in the plans, or y’know, the counterfeit money. So he basically bullshitted his way through the whole story, not that either of them seemed to notice.

“So you were just here for the money, that’s all?” She was watching him cautiously.

“Yep,” he said, except James clearly didn’t believe him, so at my expense he added, “Well, Adrien was here for revenge, but you can’t really blame him for that, really.”

Fiona nodded hesitantly, while James just made an impatient groan from behind. “Okay, how about this,” she said. “I’ll let you both leave, but you need to promise me you won’t try to get revenge, or call the police or anything, okay?”

“They’re going to be talking to the police no matter what,” said James, in a very pissed off tone. “Just look at his face!” He pointed at me.

“He doesn’t have to say it was us—”

“WHO ELSE COULD HE BLAME IT ON?” He was screaming at her now, and I don’t think he was aware of the fact.

All things considered, Fiona held her ground remarkably well, yet she still shaking a little. She said quietly, “I was going to say, he could blame it on Diesel.”

“And Diesel’s going to immediately blame us. Goddamnit, Fiona. Use your fucking head!” One look at James’ face told me that there was a good chance he was about to get violent.

Luckily, in what could only be described as perfect timing, Fiona’s phone rang. She looked at it and after a few seconds’ thought, decided to answer.

Her voice changed to the chirpy, bubbly Fiona that I had known at school. “Hey Sean, what’s up?”

She handed the gun to James, whispered something to him and walked upstairs, leaving us alone in a basement with this crazy, armed, dangerous maniac. I was starting to think having Sean call her was a bad idea.

Wyatt and I sat completely still, for about a minute or two, both of us afraid to say anything. Then Wyatt decided to test the waters. “So Fiona’s pretty hot, huh?”

James kicked him in the leg again, but didn’t say anything. After about fifteen seconds Wyatt decided to try a newer, slightly more blunt approach. “You know Fiona has a boyfriend?” I cringed.

“Why would I care?”

“No reason.” Wyatt’s voice rose an octave as he said this. James glared at him. “His name is Sean, you know. I’m pretty sure she’s on the phone with him right now, making plans and whatnot.”

“I don’t know why you’d think I’d care.”

“Never said you’d care, just thinking outloud,” he said, and then he shut up, because James was glaring at him with his crazy eyes. 

Wyatt’s phone started ringing. Without a moment’s hesitation he began to reach for it, but James had other ideas.

“I’ll shoot if you answer it,” he said, his gun aiming directly at Wyatt’s face. He held out his other hand. “Take it out and give it to me.”

Wyatt seemed to consider this for a moment, and then he shrugged and took the phone out. He moved it towards James’ hand—I saw that it was Kathy calling—and then with no warning whatsoever, he tossed it towards me and simultaneously kicked James in the shin, taking him by surprise.

James collapsed to the ground, as Wyatt struggled back to his feet, and within seconds they were fighting for the gun again. While this was going on, I picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Adrien? What’s going on?”

“Thingth went wrong. Diethel took the money. I think I’m going to need an ambulanthe or thomething.”

“Diesel took the— why are you talking like that?”

“They knocked out thome of my teeth.”

“Oh my God. I’m coming over.” She hung up before I could say anything else.

Fiona rushed down the stairs and then stopped, not sure what to do with herself.

Wyatt and James weren’t fighting to the extent they were before. They were fighting to take control of the BB gun, with Wyatt wrapping himself around his body with his hand wrapped around it.

I looked back at the phone. Wyatt’s was locked, obvious, but I could still use the emergency dialpad. I could’ve called 911. No, this isn’t an emergency.

Wyatt kneed James in the back of the leg, and with one arm he started choking him around the neck and with the other he kept on struggling for the gun. Then the gun fell out of James’ hand and onto the floor. James tried to grab at it, but Wyatt threw him to the side and, not letting him go, kicked the gun blindly with his foot.The gun skidded toward me.

I hesitated.

James elbowed Wyatt in the mouth, making him finally let go and fall back on the couch. James eyed the gun and started to run towards it.

Now I was in full blown panic mode. I picked up the BB gun, reminding myself that this was the guy who broke my leg and knocked out my teeth and may have broken my nose and who would definitely pull the trigger if the situation was reversed. So I did just that.

I pulled the trigger.

The tiny BB was a lot more effective than I would have guessed. James collapsed to the ground awkwardly, clutching his neck. The whole room fell silent as we all watched him struggle. James started gasping for air, but it was clear from the sound that he wasn’t getting any.

Fiona was the first to go into action. She rushed over to his side, almost in tears, and she moved James’ hand from his windpipe and I saw it was covered with an excessive amount of blood.

Oh my god oh my god oh my god.

I heard a door slam open upstairs, and Kathy shouted “Hello?” Wyatt responded in a far off voice, “We’re down here!” And both she and Sean were in the basement now, and Kathy had her hand over her mouth and I heard her say, “What the fuck happened?” and I don’t remember what she said next because the room was spinning and my vision was blurring and everything felt like it was happening far, far away.