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Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

the wrong girl - The Lost Knight by Candy Atkins

"We need books like this to inspire the imaginations of girls and boys in our world today. A wonderfully exciting read!" - Goodreads, Tameka
"The Lost Knight is thrilling story, [...]. I really enjoyed reading it, can't wait for the next book, to join Agatha Stone in her new adventures in magical land of Ashra. It is light but intense and filled-with-action read, very suitable for readers of any age. " Goodreads, Davor

Description:

Published: May 20th, 2016

How am I supposed to save the world when I'm not strong, not brave, not smart, and not particularly good at most things? I ran away from home the day after my thirteenth birthday when Auntie and her weird friend attacked me. Now I'm on the run with the Grim Reaper and a scary soldier. And I'm no longer on Earth. They were expecting me to be a Knight. The savior that's supposed to stop a war and prevent the invasion to Earth. But I'm not. They grabbed the wrong girl. I just don’t know how to tell them.

GUEST POST
Why Do Thirteen Year Old Girls Disappear? Written by Candy Atkins

I made Agatha Stone, the protagonist of the Lost Knight Series, thirteen years old to embody just how unprepared she was to save the world. But I discovered something interesting: she doesn't have a lot of other girls her age to stand next to on the shelf.

When I finished the series my daughter was thirteen. She might have been able to save the world, but no one asked her so we will never know. No one ever asks a thirteen year old girl to do anything. We often say how hard "that age" is, but there's really nothing in our society that addresses it. Instead, it’s shut down, minimalized, and our girls basically disappear until they're fifteen and the messiness is over. 

Thirteen year olds are not cute and silly, like they were just the year before. Instead, they're uncomfortably sexual, highly opinionated and moody. When my daughter started middle school one of the teachers warned me that "There's nothing meaner than a middle school girl." 

I don’t think they're mean. I think they’re in pain. Hormones riddle girls with doubts, which makes them afraid, which makes them act out or disappear. 

Our society has based puberty off the experiences of boys. There are many coming of age movies-books-stories about how difficult and fun "that time" is for boys. I'll wait while you try to think of a few for girls. If you said Are You There God It's Me Margaret, congratulations you've made it to middle age. That book is forty-five years old. If you said Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, you’re not as old, but that was seventeen years ago.

There are a few disturbing examples of girls discovering their sexuality, but a comedy, drama or sitcom about the real issues of being thirteen is highly under represented. And the thirteen year old actresses are out of work unless they look ten. They won’t work again until they're fifteen, unless they model, but that's a different discussion. 

Generally speaking, there are no television shows where a thirteen year old girl is the star. If she was cast in a television show when she was younger, her now thirteen year old character is a shell, with minimal lines and almost no story. 

As a female writer, I don't want to complain or moan about the unfairness of it all, or blame the evil thing (insert whatever evil thing you wish) or rail at men for writing about what they know. Instead, I wrote about a girl. I tried to make her as true to a thirteen year old girl as I could. 

I was thirteen once. I had a daughter and a stepdaughter who both struggled through "that time." It’s nothing to be afraid of. I encourage other creative types to explore these interesting and uncharted stories and let our girls be heard.

EXCERPT



CHAPTER 2
I get ready for school and ignore Auntie’s request that I change my hair. I grab the black jeans I wore yesterday and pick up the black sweater that’s lying next to them, but a quick smell check informs me that I need to wash it before I wear it again.

As soon as I hit the sidewalk, I slow my pace. Goosebumps race up my arms and my feet stop moving. I scan the street for anything out of the ordinary but everything seems to be as it should. I shake off my willies and head off to school.

The feeling won’t leave. Something isn’t right. Then I hear it. I never hear the laughter or singing during the day, but today I hear both. In fact, the singing is louder and clearer than it’s ever been. It’s in a language I’ve never heard, so that’s probably why I couldn’t understand it before. Last night I saw creatures at the foot of my bed, and today the singing. Did Auntie see them too, or am I going crazy?

“Shhhh. Shhhh. That’s her,” whispers through the air, but there’s no one around.

Mrs. Belmonte is taking her garbage to the curb. She’s the only one on the street and I can see she’s not talking.

“That’s the Agatha.”

I stop and thoroughly scan the area. Someone must be playing a prank, but I don’t understand how they could do it without an elaborate setup. Plus, I’m not important enough for anyone to go to that much trouble.

“Yep. Her.”

The sound seems to be coming from the maple I’m standing next to, almost as if one tree is talking to another, but there are too many voices. They’re exceedingly high-pitched and talking in unison. Can bugs talk? Can I hear bugs? No, bugs don’t talk, so obviously that’s not what I’m hearing.

My gaze darts down the street. I don’t want anyone to see me listening to the tree. I used to believe that the singing was something everyone heard. People always talk about a song they can’t get out of their head, or maybe an argument they had with themselves, but when I told Auntie about my songs, she told me that only I can hear them. She said I must never tell anyone or they’ll take me away. I never asked where they would take me or who they were, but I’ve never told anyone anything ever again, not even Auntie.

The voices used to be just songs, but now they’re talking to me, or more accurately, about me. Delusional, that’s what this is called. I’m imagining things in my room and hearing voices.

I can’t get enough air into my lungs. My fingers are tingling and my arm is going numb. I need to get away from the bugs, or whatever they are. I don’t want to run and draw attention to myself, so I walk as fast as I can while trying to look relaxed.

“Which one?” the voices continue.

“That one.”

“That’s the Agatha.”

“Goes to school down the street.”

“Why did she do that to her hair?”

The bugs in each tree speak as one voice and discuss me with their neighbors in the next tree. I don’t care who sees me, I’m running.

The wind in my ears and the blood thumping through my veins make it impossible to hear the voices, so I sprint faster. I cross the street against the light and weave around the honking cars. Even though I don’t go far, my lungs almost implode from the effort. My right thigh is cramping so intensely I’m afraid I might fall.

As I reach the school, I have to slow down because the other students are clogging the sidewalk. I shove anyone who is in my path out of the way. Some of the kids complain and a few push back, but I keep running.

Once I’m safely inside, the noise of the other students drowns out everything else. I bend over and rub my thigh as I try to fill my burning lungs. I’ll never run again for as long as I live. When my air returns and I can keep my breakfast down, I stand. There, on the locker right beside my face, is a fly. Without thinking, I smash it with my bare hand. There’s no way I’m letting them follow me in here.

“Gross,” a girl across the hall says to another.

The burning in my face replaces the fire in my lungs. I can’t believe I just did that, and in front of Trishel Gomez, of all people. My hand is covered in fly guts and Trishel is witnessing the whole disgusting episode.

“So Aggi,” she says, leaning against the lockers. I wipe the fly guts on my jeans and see her flash of revulsion. This day couldn’t get any worse.

“What made you decide to dye your hair?” Trishel asks so sweetly it’s easy to tell she’s faking. 

“I’m thinking of dying mine, too. Where’d you get yours done?”

I don’t answer. I just put my head down and walk away, hoping she doesn’t follow. She’s making fun of me the way mean girls do. I don’t know how to fight back when they pretend to be nice but really aren’t. Her friends laugh at me as I walk down the hall, and I’m relieved they let me go.

First period is science. I share a lab desk with Joe Thompson, one of the most popular boys in school. I’m not up to facing him, so of course, he’s waiting for me when I arrive. I keep my head down and hope Joe loses interest in whatever he has planned for me today, but no such luck.

When I reach the desk, I notice he’s left a white carnation on my side of the table. I ignore it as I sit down and chide myself for getting to class so early. Joe is unfazed by my lack of reaction as he waits for more of his followers to arrive.

When the class is full, except for Ms. Quraishi of course, Joe picks up the flower and drops to one knee. “Agatha Stone, you are the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. I must have you. Will you marry me?” The last part is hard to understand through his laughter.

My blood stops circulating and I freeze solid, praying he’ll tire of this game, and willing the teacher to hurry up.

“You just got rejected by Agatha Stone!” a girl in the back of the room shouts. The entire class erupts into laughter.

I don’t understand why this is funny, especially since he does stuff like this all the time. He asks me to every dance, recites obscene poetry, and tries to hold my hand on a regular basis. It wasn’t funny to begin with, but the repetitiveness of his torture should be boring his audience by now. It’s been going on for years, though, so I guess I’m wrong.

I make it through the rest of my morning classes without incident and, as is my ritual, I hide in the library during lunch. I get some chips and a soda out of the vending machine and peruse the aisles.

My nightmare rattled my nerves. Only now I can’t remember what I was dreaming about, just the events that happened after I woke up. I try to find a book in the psychology section that can explain what’s going on with me.

I’ve always been different. I don’t know how to talk to people, and I don’t know why people do the things they do. I also don’t like the stuff others seem to like, and they certainly don’t like what I like. Different had been hard, but this new delusional twist is terrifying.

I open a book at random and then slam it back into place. I’m not insane. I’m in the wrong section. Where I should be is in mythology. That thing last night looked a lot like the Grim Reaper. Maybe I read something that stuck in my head and came out in the nightmare.

Death is dark and cloaked like that. Every cartoon wanting to depict something scary has the red eyes in the dark. The devil sometimes appears like that, too. But what I saw wasn’t scary. Maybe that’s the trick: like a Venus flytrap, it makes you comfortable, then eats you.

Frustrated, I leave the library to get an early start to my next class. I don’t pay any attention to my teacher and try, without success, not to think about the weird events of the last few hours.

“Ohhh! Ohhhh! Ohhhh! I know this one! I know it!” say the high-pitched bug voices.

I snap my head around and scan the room. No one is talking, and no one hears the bugs. The teacher continues his lecture as I search for the source of the voice or voices—many voices saying the same thing.

”Agatha,” the teacher says.

Mr. Hallman has asked something, but I have no idea what the question was. Why do teachers get such a thrill from picking on the weak? Mr. Hallman knows I don’t know the answer but called on me anyway just to humiliate me.

“Cape of Good Hope! I know! I know! Ohhhh! Ohhhh! Cape of Good Hope!” the bugs chant.

I don’t know the question Mr. Hallman asked, and I’ve never heard of the Cape of Good Hope, but the bugs seem to know. “Cape of Good Hope?” I mumble.

“Very good,” Mr. Hallman affirms, sounding surprised.

I’m surprised, too! How do I know that? Maybe I heard the question and somehow knew the answer, but I don’t know what the Cape of Good Hope is.

The bugs are singing again. This time it’s in English and about famous explorers. I’m definitely not writing these songs. It’s one thing to make up a language, but I don’t know these explorers. It’s coming from a large Yucca tree in the corner that’s swaying in the breeze from the open window. However, there’s no breeze on this side of the building. The tree is dancing. It’s singing a song and dancing to its music.

I’m as nutty as Auntie. The thought makes me jump out of my chair and gaze helplessly at the startled faces staring back at me. I need to get out of here. I grab my book bag and walk out the door. Mr. Hallman says something about my leaving and the Yucca bugs say goodbye, but I ignore them.

I run as fast as I can toward home, but even though it’s just a block and a half, I’m not going to make it this time. I’m almost there when my lungs won’t take any more. This is the most exercise I’ve ever had in my life and it might kill me. I’m nauseous, but once some air gets into my lungs and I walk off the leg pain, I notice that the bugs have stopped talking. Relieved, I walk the rest of the way home.

Just as I reach my stoop, the bugs mock me. “You’re in trouble. You’re in trouble,” the high-pitched voices chant in unison.

I try to jump up the first three steps at once, but miss and crash painfully into the concrete.

“You don’t want to go in there,” the bugs tease, shaking the trees branches.

I ignore them and limp inside. Is it rude to not speak to one’s delusion? Walking up the stairs clears my head and I relax for the first time today. Auntie won’t be mad that I’m skipping school because she doesn’t care if I go or not.

When I walk into the apartment, the air leaves my lungs with an audible whoosh. My body refuses to draw in another breath as my eyes travel around the empty room. Before I can form an explanation, I leap backward out the door. I bend over to make the oxygen rush to my brain faster. I can’t believe I was so distracted I accidentally walked into the wrong apartment. I turn in a slow circle and press my hand to the bridge of my nose. I’m in the right place, but I check the number to be sure.

I cautiously step back in. Everything is gone, including the carpets. Moldy stains cover the floor and walls, and the entire place has been swept clean and wiped down. The smell of garbage-cats has been replaced with the scent of rotting lemon-pine trees. Funny how our apartment looks smaller with the stuff out of it. My vision spins but straightens out before I can faint. How is this possible?



About the author:
Candy Atkins is a full-time writer who lives with her husband and two kids in Orlando, Florida. She's an avid reader and lover of all things fantasy and sci-fi. Her debut novel,The Lost Knight, is volume one of the six-part Lost Knight Series.

Her life's journey has taken her from dining with the President to being on food stamps to running her own company. And since all author bios end by naming and quantifying pets…she also enjoys spending time with her boxer, Butler, and Wynona the cat. 

Author's Giveaway

2 comments:

Cyndi F said...

I really love the cover!!! Very nice. The blurb is great and i look forward to reading it. thank you for the giveaway

Jan Lee said...

A very intriguing excerpt :) I want to know what's going on with this girl! It's on my to read list now!! :)