Thoughts about Riley Taylor, the protagonist of the YA ‘Smoulder’ series.
Who doesn’t love a kick-ass chick?
Thoughts about Riley Taylor, the protagonist of the YA ‘Smoulder’ series.
Who doesn’t love a kick-ass chick?
Focused on my little investigation, I neglected to notice Teddy saunter into school, or his surveillance of my activities. I didn’t register Mr Ried’s words in our morning Homeroom announcements as I stewed on my predicament. Instead of heading to my first lesson, as soon as we were dismissed, I hurried to find Tom.
He must have known what was coming, because as soon as Tom noticed my approach, his skin drained white while he stood near the entrance to an empty classroom.
“Can we talk?”
“In here.” Tom led me into the vacant room, closing the door behind us. “I wish I could reverse what I did. You were right. I should have stood up to Teddy. This should never have happened.”
“It’s a bit late for that now. The damage has been done. They don’t remember anything that’s happened between us since I started, not exactly. Rebekah and Bernie didn’t even know who I was.”
“I didn’t think it was that bad.”
“You didn’t think. That’s the whole problem isn’t it?”
“Riley. I’ll do anything, anything to make this right.”
“I’m really trying not to hate you at the moment.” Upon spitting out those words a tear escaped, trailing down the side of Tom’s face.
I wished that I felt guilty, that I could stop, but the venom of my rage failed to waver.
“You violated their minds. An essential part of who they are. Doesn’t that occur to you? How serious this is?”
“Of course it does. I don’t do any of this lightly.” The pleading tone had left his voice, replaced with the harsh edge of irritation.
“Like you did with Mrs Noble? That was hardly the last possible choice of action. You could have made up a story, lied?”
Tom simply hung his head, searching for an answer.
“All of you have gotten so used to relying on your abilities, even though you want to appear normal, disconnected from the rest of us. Every time you go alakazam, you fly in the face of everything you’re trying to achieve.” I stepped close, so the seriousness of my face clouded his vision. “Either take ownership of what you can do, limit the damage, or don’t do it at all.”
“I hate this.” He whimpered back. “This is exactly what I didn’t want.”
“I don’t mean to attack you like this-“ I couldn’t finish my sentence as emotion ebbed like a tidal wave from my feet to the tip of my head.
My body sprung forth and I caught Tom in a tight hug, a loud sob escaping from somewhere deep in my throat.
“This feels so helpless.” He croaked as thick arms clutched me against a muscular chest.
Realisation struck at what I was doing, and I pushed him away – well, rather forced myself off his solid frame – my eyes freely trickling with tears as I stalked vehemently from the room.
Hurrying to my special place, I curled up on the bench and willed for the tears to stop. Why was I so upset? Did Tom just use some mind-mojo on me? I waited out the rest of the lesson, using the time to regain my composure.
All through my next lesson, Maths, I pushed every thought of Tom – and that involuntary embrace – into a box locked away deep into the overactive neurons of my cranium. Sneakily pulling out my mobile, I sent a text to Teddy, asking him to meet me at my car for morning break. He was the next victim on my hit list. It was time I made my feelings clear, and be done with him once and for all.
The interior of my bug was like an oven, baked under a boiling sun, I started the engine and cranked up the air conditioning and watched students milling about outside, on alert for Teddy’s approach. I switched on the radio after a minute… where was he?
Just before I ran out of patience and resorted to another text, Teddy appeared through the external doors and headed in a straight line towards where I sat. My heart skipped, it annoyed me how he still managed to boggle my senses, his smooth gait so effortlessly cool. I needed to stay angry to make my point, scowling as he reached the car, knocking at the window. I waved for him to climb in, watching the circumference of the building to see if we were being spied upon.
“This is a little intimate.” He smirked as soon as he pulled the door closed, the radio broadcasting a love song I could not identify.
I switched it off.
“I didn’t want anyone to overhear me screaming at you.” I replied and his smile instantly faded.
“Tom said you tore strips off him.” Of course he did!
“So you know just how angry I am. How indecent it is of you to ask me to be okay with everything that has gone down?”
“I understand. It won’t happen again.”
“And this thing between us-“
“There is still an us?”
“If, and I re-iterate, if, we continue to see each other, I am not going to choose you over my friends. You’re going to have to come up with some other way around keeping what you want secret. Scrubbing out peoples’ memories is no longer an option.”
Teddy replied with a nod and stared at his lap.
“You’re not going to say anything back?”
“I don’t know what to say. At this point let’s just agree to disagree.”
“I can’t be with anybody who condones involuntarily stripping away parts of peoples’ lives.”
“It’s not like that.”
“Then enlighten me. Help me understand; because I want to. I don’t want to feel this way about you.” My words seemed to hit home and Teddy squinted in pain.
“It might be easier for you to understand if you had been living with us for a while. But Roberts’ hunches, they’re never wrong. And he truly believed that there was no other option, a choice between two terrible things, we took the one that meant less death.”
“Less death? Someone is going to die?”
“We think so.”
Another shock, more information that he drip-fed me.
“Please, go. I need to be alone.” He climbed out of the car, pausing before gently closing the door.
“You can ask me anything. Anytime. Just call me and I’ll be there.”
I didn’t want to be sitting at school any longer, with 10 minutes of our break left, I decided to shirk the rule of not leaving the school grounds, and coasted out of the lot, heading towards the closest road out of Alice Springs.
Living in such a small burg, the buildings receded into the scrub very quickly, and within minutes I was surrounded with powder green shrubs and ore coloured rubble. It was the perfect place to gather my thoughts; a clear open sky, nature nestling in from every angle. Parking under the large shadow of a River Gum I waited for my mind to stop reeling.
At least I was taking charge of the situation, although, I did just run away again… Teddy promised no more hidden facts, and I had gotten exactly what I asked for. Was I really capable of handling this? It could be so easy to end all ties and stick my head back into the sand, live out the rest of High School blinkered from the Tavish clan. I could – if I didn’t lose control of my faculties whenever I was in a room with one of them. Resting my head on the steering wheel I prayed a solution would simply fall into my lap and life would be uncomplicated again.
© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Something I was working on last week. I needed to take a break from second edits (of Smoulder and re-boot), This is from Book 3 in the LONERS series…
Turning, we began to navigate a path between what passed for trees on this planet, crumbling stone pillars with tufts of decaying organic matter. The further Derek and I descended into the forest, the taller and thicker these unusual growths got. The smell was worse than month-old rotting horses arse. Varying from sewage, to sulphur gas, to heavy ammonia. My head reeled, making it difficult to focus on where to put my foot next. I just hoped that breathing this air wasn’t going to slowly infect our lungs with an alien virus or bacteria.
Derek had latched onto my arm, intently shadowing every move. Stepping into my footprints, a sheen of sweat condensed to heavy droplets drenching his tattered and stained business shirt. His eyes darted everywhere at once, wide and bulging like a skittish horse. I wanted to shake him off, force him to stop breathing down my neck. But worried he’d knock me off balance, or climb on my back at the first noise, I let him be… at least he was quiet.
Maybe Derek’s incessant drivel would have been better than some of the ominous sounds coming from deeper in the stink-tree-pillars ahead of us.
I crouched hearing movement close overhead. Staring up into the dim, unable to identify the source, my free hand unclipped the gun.
Before Derek could ask what it was, I pressed a finger to my lips. He nodded, swallowing loudly.
Two minutes passed.
Spikes whistled through the air, embedding into the ground five metres to our right. A slug the size of a small dog dropped onto a mossy patch a moment later, motionless. Spines matching the ones littering the ground jutted from its carcass. The instant the wet body hit the ground a mustard coloured cloud puffed from the bed of moss it had landed on. A frustrated shriek came from above, followed by rustles of movement, and clawing over the hard tree surface, which slowly faded. Whatever hunted from above, luckily, moved to another hunting ground.
But the slug, caught in the yellow gas began to dissolve.
Derek tugged at me.
“My guess is acid. That moss stuff probably feeds like a fly, discharging a stomach acid and absorbing nutrients through osmosis.” I explained.
“So if I puke I’ll be feeding the ground?” He turned an even sicker shade and rubbed at his midsection.
“Just don’t chunder on that brown leafy stuff. I like my skin.”
“Then make sure you swallow.”
“We’re descending into a deeper level of Hell.”
For those of you who follow my blogs regularly and know about my works in progress, you are aware I like to create my own book covers while I’m writing. An inspirational/motivational tool to cheer me on. Given that I’m half way through writing the series, I wanted to design some covers that tie the books together, and designed a new set. Check out my handiwork below:
The Smoulder series
Do you create your own covers for works in progress? Does it help you stay motivated too?
I’d love to see some of your creations…
The silence of our stolen generation echoes in our YA literature…
I’m not trying to be political, or clever, but growing up in Alice Springs, NT, aboriginals were my classmates, my friends, my neighbours… and it was only natural to include our native Australians as characters in my novels. I didn’t think twice about it. So when I did a little research recently on YA novels, particularly the Australian market – not only for interest’s sake, but a little market research – it upset me to find very little representation of not only Indigenous writers, but also Aboriginal characters within popular YA publications.
When tackling the global market and the most recent prolific titles for the YA industry, the only title that stood out depicting indigenous characters, was Twilight’s Jacob Black. Australian Authors didn’t even make the top ten on the list. When actively looking for cross-cultural content, you can find it. But you have to be looking, it’s not on best seller lists, shown in billboards, being made into movies (as is the current craze). Is it that we aren’t tooting our own horn enough? Going that extra mile to market Australian talent overseas? Staying true to the ‘Australian Brand’ in our writing?
Then I thought about my favourite movies and television shows produced in Australia and struggled to find any which had an Aboriginal character as a part of the main cast. Suddenly I felt very disappointed in our Entertainment Industry.
With a secondary character in the ongoing series ‘Smoulder’ and a half-cast protagonist for ‘The Understudy,’ Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are in the forefront of my cast it was never my aim to be culturally diverse. And it was a surprise in recent feedback on drafts, with beta readers praising the inclusion of characters of colour, which had me responding, “It really shouldn’t warrant comment. These types of characters should be mainstream in Australian content. Their representation wasn’t on purpose, I write drawing from my experiences.”
So I guess this is my social commentary on the sad fact that the only exposure overseas readers get of Australians and our indigenous brothers and sisters is of stereotyped characters like Paul Hogan, Steve Irwin and the nameless shadows clad in a loin cloth, propped on one leg with a spear. I really hope that more modern, Australian content starts to appear. Characters artfully written in YA novels with intricate and intelligent storylines to challenge preconceived ideas of the developmental rift between our two cultures. This topic leaves me itchy and uncomfortable because there is so much more that could be said, and so much more light needs to be spread over this topic. But I want to refrain from getting on my soapbox and concentrate on staying true to my voice. I guess I have to be one of those instruments of change – keep writing, continue to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander characters in my novels. And hope that others will start to do the same and show Australia for the truly unique country it is.
© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
“Miss Taylor!” Mrs Noble exclaimed happily. “I have the last spot just for you.”
She pointed across the room to the second-last bench towards the back, where an empty stool waited for me.
I recognised Theodore immediately. Raven black hair falling in strands across one eye. He hadn’t noticed me yet, busily flipping through a text book.
As I walked down the aisle to the empty seat a tingling sensation filled my head. I reached the desk and started to pull out the stool when he looked up. Expecting another dazzling smile I inhaled deeply to calm myself. Instead, his eyes widened in recognition and his forehead crinkled, an expression more worried than pleased to see me. I tried to hide the confusion from showing on my face – hadn’t he just smiled at me during lunch? It was understandable that he would change his mind now he could see me up close.
“Hi.” I quietly chirped, moving to sit down.
My face felt hot again, no doubt tinged with red. Not hitting the seat squarely, glancing painfully off the side, I stumbled and caught my head on the edge of the bench, tripping into the aisle. Great first impression.
“Are you alright?” Theodore bent down steadying me with his hands, both of us squatting between the rows of benches.
I was thankful that he had been the solitary witness to my ungracefulness.
“I’m sure I’ll live.” I pushed back my hair and met his eyes.
They were even more stunning up close, the lightest pale blue around the black centre, to a deep violet rimming the circumference. His irises did that reflective thing you see in photographs for a second. A little twinkle. I was suddenly aware of his hands on my shoulders and my breathing accelerated. Theodore’s hands were hot, maybe I made him nervous too?
“Here let me help you.” He stood, steadying me by grabbing an elbow.
“Is she okay?” I heard Mrs Noble ask over my shoulder.
My head momentarily dipped and I clumsily stepped into Theodore’s chest. Wow – he was more muscly than I had thought. His arms shot around me before I fell again. Boy he smelled good! I attempted to shake off the dizziness and felt Theodore stiffen. Was he preparing for me to topple again?
The sound of breaking glass exploded through the room followed by alarmed screams. I felt sharp pain on my left forearm. Looking up, I discovered that the beakers on the shelves above our bench had exploded, shards of glass littering the floor and the bench. My eyes shifted to focus on a glittering at Theodore’s shoulder, and the thick pointed wedges embedded there.
“Oh my goodness!” Mrs Noble fussed, signalling for the class to settle. “How did that happen?”
“You’re hurt.” Theodore’s husky voice breathed in my ear.
I knew it was my arm without looking, it stung and a warm stickiness dribbled towards my elbow.
“Mrs Noble, she’s bleeding.” Everyone wide eyed and excited, but Theodore’s voice was calm, as if unaffected by the event.
“Dear girl.” She stepped over splintered glass and inspected my arm.
Theodore’s hands left my skin, followed by the distinct tinkle of a few pieces of falling glass.
“Should I take her to the nurse?” Matthew suddenly appeared at the teachers side.
“Yes, that would be a great help.” Matthew wrapped an unnecessary arm around my waist and walked me up the aisle towards the door.
I turned to look at Theodore, knowing he’d been cut too, but something about the look on his face made me stop. Matthew tugged on me harder and got me out of the door.
© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.