Dear Agent X:
Being the new girl in a fishbowl sized school is hard enough. Dragging a thick southern accent, a hot twin brother, and a tragic past up north with you makes it ten times worse.
The reams of leather straps and black beads on Keelie’s wrists aren’t a fashion statement. They’re a mask, hiding the scars and reminders of the messed-up year she just survived. Her best friend is dead, and Keelie’s bat-shit crazy mom is locked up for the crime. Hissing just beneath the surface, a spidery voice tells her she’ll probably end up just like her mother. Then Prue spots the slash scars under the jewellry and invites Keelie into the dark world of The Goodnight Irenes, a girls only death wish club.
Keelie chooses life and refuses the invite. Then Prue’s best friend decides to befriend Keelie, ditch the club, and sort her own life out. This enrages Prue and they learn just how determined she is to bring everyone down with her.
When ugly revelations emerge regarding the circumstances of her friend’s death, and her father’s behaviour since then, hard-won family trust crumbles and Keelie falters back towards her broken, suicidal habits. Faced with the truth, she must decide if she will forgive her family, and look to the future with her supportive new friends and boyfriend, or if she’ll slide back towards the depression and darkness that’s calling her.
The novel is aimed at the upper YA range, and complete at 84,000 words. It is littered with poetry that was written especially for the book. Keelie’s story was inspired by real events from a 1970’s murder in Australia, and my own battle with unreliable mental and physical health due to a brain tumour during 2015-2016. The story would appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins’ Impulse, Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and Other Black Holes, and Susannah Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted.
I’m an ex-pat New Yorker living in England, lured here by a blue-eyed children’s nurse with a gorgeous accent. Twenty-six years later I write, run a charity craft cooperative which fundraises for my local homeless shelter, and wrangle two almost adult boys. After participating in 2010 NaNoWriMo I co-founded a writers group which is still going strong. Since then, I’ve had several short stories and pieces of flash fiction published online and in print anthologies by Pure Slush and Literary Orphans, to name a few.
Icarus flew too close to the sun
Longing for reaches far past his allowance.
With wings, I’d skim the surface of the seas
Soak up the coastal salt
Until it weighed me
So heavy and flightless,
To flounder on the beach.
Hunched in the front seat of the car waiting for dad, I scraped my hair into a messy bun and stared down the street, looking for things to sketch quick doodles of. Buildings, people, anything that caught my eye. I still didn’t get it. Why did people move to small towns? Not for the convenience of things, that’s for sure. Lord knew there was nothing convenient about living in landlocked Hanover, New Hampshire. The town was so tiny, I couldn’t even find it on a map. It suited me about the same as an old Goodwill coat- badly fitting and moth eaten; familiar, but still uncomfortable. In my head, away from Dad’s judgey disapproval, I’d already christened it Little Shithole. Beth would’ve howled laughing at that, if she were still around to find things funny.
One week until school started, and life closed in on me again. The urge to run away ate at me so strong the soles of my feet sometimes itched with it. I opened my iPad and did the same thing I’d done every day for at least two weeks.
Two hours eighteen minutes to Boston.
Three hours six minutes to Montreal.
Four and a half to Manhattan.
Thirteen and a half takes me home to North Carolina and memories of Beth.
Thank you, Google maps. All possible escape routes planned.
The whole place could have fit in a tiny corner of Wilmington, maybe wouldn’t even have covered the stretch along the beach front. I missed the bustle. The enormity. I know, I know. Wilmington was no New York City, not the cultural hub of the universe, but still…I might as well have moved from the world’s biggest mall into Harry Potter’s broom closet.
Along the street there was one movie theatre, showing a grand total of three films. Thank God for the internet. One obligatory Eddie Bauer store, Yankee Candle, and a few shops selling clothes a dinosaur’s grandma would be embarrassed to wear. One bookstore. One day-care center. No beaches. No community pool.
Hanover was pretty, and peaceful in a boring, half asleep kind of way. Nice, if you liked that sort of thing. Soon, picture postcard barns would nestle into a blaze of autumn color. Fiery leaves would pile up in front of little white churches, blow up against the mandatory picket fences surrounding clapboard houses. American flags would be removed from poles on summer lawns and packed into the garage for the season. Weeks from now, snow would swirl around the porch steps leading to wooden doors with plaques saying something stupid and comforting: Love is spoken here, or Home of the world’s best grandpa.