Monday, November 16, 2015

Early Reviewer Sign Ups for THE PACKING HOUSE

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The Packing House by G. Donald Cribbs

Early Reviewer Signup Sheet

Review copy available in your preferred format in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Logline: The Packing House is about a teen who must choose between protecting his dignity and exposing the person responsible for his debilitating nightmares.


At the bell, I head to study hall, my last class. There's a substitute today. Cell phones come out. Someone has their iPod up way too high. In a way, I feel sorry for the sub; as a job, it has to be right up there with garbage collector. I prop a book between me and my backpack then close my eyes, which have been slamming shut all day.

The next thing I know, the substitute is standing over me, his hand on my shoulder, shaking me awake. Someone sniggers nearby.

“Wake up, young man. There's no sleeping in study hall.”

Pushing my glasses back into place, I look up and try to get my eyes to adjust and stay open; I blink a few times and look around wildly. What an idiot. I even forgot where I was for a moment. A flush of warmth starts at my ears and neck before sliding across my cheeks.

“All right, I'm up.”

Whispers erupt in various places around me as I sit up and rub my eyes. Someone laughs. My desk is askew. Something smells bad. Sulfur. Odd… the realization hits me hard.

A female voice remarks, “If I were him, I'd be totally embarrassed!”

“What's your name?” the substitute asks quietly.

“Joel Scrivener.”

The substitute leans down. “Joel? You might want to speak with a counselor about those dreams.”

“What do you mean?”

He leans closer, lowers his voice. “You kept saying, ‘get off me, stop touching me, get off me,' over and over.”

He gives me what he must think is a reassuring smile. Then he leaves.

The only thing worse than getting caught asleep in study hall: getting caught asleep and crying out from a bad dream in study hall.

There's more whispering, but this time it crackles nearby. A recording—presumably of me—replays the sound of me jerking around in my chair, desk legs scraping against the floor, then “Get OFF me!” and “Stop TOUCHING meeee!”

The bell rings.

Down the hallway, students gather in odd clumps, skittering away from me like I'm the monster. A cacophony of whispers follows a chorus of aborted cackles; I hear my voice playing over and over, like my life jammed on repeat. I'm too stunned to reply, even when Shampoo Girl, who rides my bus, tries to stop me. I'm not good with names. We move too much for them to matter. This girl is heavyset, plain, with nice hair. I like how it smells if I sit behind her on the bus. Shampoo Girl. She's one of the few I've caught glaring at my attackers when I'm dropped into the lunchroom trashcan or tripped with an armful of books between classes. She hasn't said anything to my attackers, like that punk from Algebra II, but her quiet defiance is at least reassuring. Not that I've thanked her or acknowledged her for that.

“Joel? Joel, are you okay?” I definitely don't deserve her sympathy; instead, I look back down the hall.

My own brother Jonathan is with his swim team posse and says, “I can't believe you dudes got this,” before he sees me.

“Izzat rilly yer bro, man?” asks a blond-haired skater-punk friend of Jonathan's, pointing at his cellphone. They must be watching the video of me from study hall just like everyone else. Man, that traveled fast. On the far end, cackling like a fiend, my brother Jonathan laughs at his best friend Elias’ reaction, who is doubled over and turning purple. Skaterdude is on this end, sputtering and waving his arms like he’s imitating me from the video. Between the other two is Elias. God, I hate him sometimes. Why does he stick his nose where it doesn't belong?

“You still owe me a fiver for the Terror Bet,” Jonathan says, slapping the back of his hand on Skaterdude's chest. He should've kept our energy drink bet private, between the two of us, but instead I imagine he thought he'd impress his posse and make a few bucks. So he bet off me, did he? Jonathan looks up and sees me staring right at him. He tosses up two fingers after bouncing them off his chest like a salute to his homies, although I'm clearly not one of them. I'm just his loser brother.

It doesn't matter.

He's right. Jonathan must think of me as another one of his casualties just like him. I'm a cast-off, like Terror Man, my mother's latest boyfriend. To Jonathan, Terror Man and I are just accessories on his social status climb. Even after our most recent beating for touching the shrine of Terrors, Jonathan dared me to try to steal one without getting caught. I thought he was just looking out for me since I haven’t been sleeping much, but I guess I was wrong. If I can't tell the difference between someone being nice or using me, I wonder how I will ever fix things with Amber Walker, the only girl I've ever wished was more than friends.

No turning back now. My social life is officially over. I wonder how long it will take until everyone hears, and probably sees, a cell phone clip of my nightmare.

Only I can't wake up from this one.


I don't plan to collapse on my frameless mattress late that night. By the time I'm fully out.., I'm already drifting down a vaguely familiar set of stone stairs, before I realize the déjà vu—at first a cold tingle then a white-hot shudder that seeps down my spine. As it dissipates, I continue down, despite the thrumming in my ears.

Firelight dapples across shadowed walls near the bottom. Cold air gusts past, chills me until my teeth rattle, and almost blows out the torches. The room opens to the right, but I can't see around the corner.

As I step into the guttering light, I'm knocked on my face so fast I barely get my hands out to break my fall. I gasp for breath beneath this tremendous weight. There's no getting away. Sharp pain bursts along my ribs.

From its grip, I get a twinge in my spine, sharp stings that shoot up my back and spread out across both shoulder blades. Whatever is behind me is huge. Its hulking mass presses me down into the ground. I sure as hell don't dare move.

“C'mere, Joel!” the deep voice snarls against my ear.


I wake up.

Sometimes I wake screaming. How does it know my name? My mother has found me a few times that way; about as comforting as getting caught jerking off under blankets.

When she finds me like that, I roll toward the wall and mumble about a bad dream. I'll be fine. Go back to bed. Please don't ask any more. I'll never live this down if my mother holds my hand and chases away some boogeyman. I've got to figure this out. Better to man-up than be labeled a loser. At least Jonathan's still asleep. I don't need him betraying me any further.

If I could, I'd squeeze my eyes shut and will myself back to sleep. What if that thing is there? The stone stairs. The horrible, personal things it says. The sweat-rot stench of sulfur. I'd rather stare at the blurry ceiling all night. Besides, questions begin to swirl, threatening to keep me awake indefinitely. There's at least three hours until it's time to get up for school. I might have a test. Better not think too much.

Next thing I know, it's light; the roof of my mouth is sandpapery, I've got rank morning breath, and, if I don't get to the bathroom right now, I'm going to have a waterbed for sure.

I have to limp my way there, momentarily forgetting about our lecture at the hands of Terror Man last night. I don’t like him. He’s always in our faces. Always trying to prove what a man he is when he slams us against the wall or some shit.

He’s nice enough when he’s not railing on Jonathan and me for drinking his Terrors.

As I find relief in the bathroom, I start to wonder about this latest nightmare. Then I grab a shower, wincing when the tender spots in my back come under the flow. Maybe I should've let Jonathan take the brunt of it all, since he made the bet, but I couldn't live with myself if I hadn't intervened. I thought he was gonna kill Jonathan this time. What a nightmare. Which reminds me: I've got too many memory gaps to make sense of it all. I need to figure out their source. The root cause.

It's not for lack of trying.

I've scoured every book on nightmares I can find. One said the mind is a strange muscle that remembers every ache. Nightmares are a way we revisit each painful experience, circling back to make sense of what happened. That still doesn't explain how the creature knows me well enough to snarl my name. Is it someone I know? I glance at the clock. No time to dwell; the bus'll be here any minute. Time to get dressed and head downstairs.

My mother is at work, and Jonathan went in on the early bus for swim team. I grab breakfast and ibuprofen and then head for the street corner. My hand lands on the last two cans in my backpack. I'd forgotten all about the Terrors. Jonathan. I'd toss them back in the fridge if I weren't already at the bus stop.

Might as well. Chugging the first one down, I collect weird looks as I let the burp rip. Jonathan still got pretty roughed up; after all, he dared swipe from the shrine of Terrors on the top shelf of the fridge. Terror Man left no visible marks on me, only bruises, but I doubt Jonathan made it out unscathed. I wonder what Coach said to him this morning.

Was Jonathan trying to set me up? Guarantee a win for his second round of Terror Bets, so he could up the ante? It's never enough with him. Jonathan can't seem to leave well enough alone. Like he has to poke the bear or something. Everyone knows you let a sleeping bear lie. Not him.

The last stragglers come out as the bus pulls up. I'm the new guy. Technically, it's Redhead-Dude-With-Braces-And-Acne's stop.

I must space out the whole ride to school because it feels like only moments later when the bus pulls into the drop-off circle by the Broad Run High School, Home of the Panthers sign. Cheerleaders brush past in uniform, and the football team is sporting jersey hard-ons, strutting as we all press toward the door.

School's a bust. I doze through most of my classes, but at least I overhear that the history test has been moved to next week. Now I just have to make it through English class (easy for me), study hall, and I'm out.

We're reading this book Fahrenheit 451, where Guy Montag is an anti-fireman who burns books for a living. If I could talk some sense into him, maybe he'd lay off the bonfires and help me sort through all the bizarre shit in my brain. Yeah, it's a crazy thought, just like the ones about Amber.

I get flustered when I think of her.

Maybe Montag and I aren't as different from each other as I first thought. We both have problems we're running from. Beatty hunts him down when they catch Montag hoarding books in his air vent. I knew he was a reader. His own wife turns him in. Betrayed by someone that close. Man.

That's what set him off running.

My English teacher makes us write on the salamander or fire lizard. Is it a tattoo or just a uniform logo? I consider writing a story or a poem. According to legend, they're not lizards, which are reptiles. Salamanders are amphibians and have an affinity for fire. They can also regenerate lost limbs and tails. Remind me of an Escher tessellation. Patterns that transform from one thing to another. I should go for extra credit.

Speaking of extra credit, my grades have been nothing but toilet water, they're so flushed. Up until now, I've held tight at honor roll. But, just like that time in the closet with Amber, it, too, was a test I knew I was doomed to fail. Now I can't shake these nightmares. Neither could Montag.

If I don't do something soon, I'll have to repeat my sophomore year. Then I'd be in the same grade as Jonathan. That's reason enough to invoke my previous plan.


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Read a prelude to THE PACKING HOUSE HERE.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Five Years in the Making: A Writer's Journey to Publication

It's been five years in the making. Five years of writing. Five years of editing. Five years of combing through draft after draft and revision after revison to find the right tone, voice, plot structure, pacing, and so get the idea.

It's been five glorious years. And I mean glorious.

Not every writer gets to take their time with their debut. Not every writer starts with their "heart book." For those of you who have written a book from the heart, like me, you know how much of your soul goes into each line, chapter, and revision.

And soon it will all be over. It will be published and out there in the world for you to read, to see, and to know every detail. Then, it will be yours and no longer mine. It will be yours to share, to experience, to critique, and to review (hopefully!).

No matter what you think, I'll still be here, and I'll still be your friend. But, please, be kind. Remember those bits of heart and soul I just mentioned above? Yeah, they're in it, and they're pretty tender. Say whatever you wish, just remember there's a person who lived much of what's between these covers, and then some, and you're not just critiquing an entirely fabricated or made up story.

The first rule of writing is to write what you know, to write the truth, to the best of your ability, as honestly as you can manage. I may not have done so perfectly, and I'm totally fine with taking my lumps for that. Writing this book isn't without its cost. I didn't go through the process without being scathed, triggered, and wounded all over again. I did so by choice, of my own will, in order to get at some harsh truths I hope will empower the reader, to know they are not alone, and to join me in what it's like to live with abuse, and the healing journey of surviving it, despite how much it hurts.


Remember when I said it's been five years in the making?

Yeah, it's also been five years of processing the raw wounds, the soul bruises, and each and every trigger as I have written, rewritten, revised, and edited this novel to its current state. One of the best parts of this whole process is, I didn't have to do it all alone. Many fellow writers have joined with me in this task, and have given of themselves to help me see things I've been too close to the details to step back and view it objectively. If I have not thanked each of you enough, please know that every word, sentence, and so on you've given me has been a gift of your friendship and support that has meant so much to me while on this journey. Had it not been for your support, encouragement, and belief in me to see this through to the end, I might have given up, trunked the manuscript, and moved on with my life. In fact, many times, I thought long and hard about doing exactly that.

Does the world really want to read and experience what I've written?

The Packing House isn't your run-of-the-mill Young Adult contemporary romance story. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy spends a decade working up the courage to pursue girl, only to have his heart crushed before it's all said and done. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Yes, there is a romance within these pages, but it isn't as cut and dry and cute and safe as you might think. There's also a dark stairwell, a living nightmare, a relentless taunting of an unidentified (at first) and unknown (well, those memories were pushed way down there for a reason...) abuser, and when he shows up, will Joel even be ready to face him?

I didn't stop there. After all, there's more to the story than what's on the surface.

I challenged myself to find a way to write Joel's story that lets you in on his secret right from the start, and then, if you choose to do so, bravely join him and walk along with him on his journey as he tries to figure out who's after him, how's he going to face it when all he wants to do is run away from it, and how he messes up along the way. If nothing else, Joel is vulnerable. That pretty much sums up his greatest weakness, and his greatest strength, all rolled together in a boy who doesn't have it all, but dreams about a world where he might actually deserve to be happy and hopeful again.

So, I share this post (after dusting all the cobwebs off this blog) for several reasons:

1. I've been sorely absent for months (Actually, I've been completing final edits, round one, thanks to the patience and fabulous editing skills of my editor, Jessica West).

2. Grad school is hard work, and I need to practice good self-care, and my writing is one of my outlets, thus I wrote a blog post (I hope you know you're so much more than my therapy).

3. I've had a peek at a rough copy of the cover, and *insert gasp and religious epithet* it's stunning and vulnerable, and gorgeous, and textured, and I've only seen a rough up so far! Soon, you will join me in all the gloriousness that is my amazing cover designer, Greg Simanson. Man, do you have mad skills! But all good things come in due time, so you'll have to wait just a bit longer.

4. I'm currently working on second pass edits (I've finished parts 1 and 2, and am working on part 3 now), and will soon deliver final edits to my proof reader, who will hack and slash her way through THE PACKING HOUSE (publishing Fall 2015 from Booktrope) until every sentence is flawless, and the book is fully formatted for publishing. This also means I get to write my acknowledgements (one of my favorite parts!).

5. I'm working on updating my website: to expand from a one page holder to a fully functioning author website, including clickable things, goodies, and more.

You might be surprised to know I'm going to be posting here with more frequency and giving you all the details of the publication progress along the way. I might (definitely will) host some giveaways, because who doesn't like winning free books and such? To thank you for joining me in this process, I'll reward all of you first. So, exciting things are coming soon.

One of my other frequent places to post all about book news, quotes, inspiration, and lots more is found at my Facebook Author Page (click the link and don't forget to tap that "Like Page" button so you can find your way back later).

Writing is such a privilege, and a gift. I haven't failed to learn from each step along the way, and I expect I'll learn more once I get to share it with all of you. I know you don't take it for granted, and neither will I. I hope you'll share this news with all your friends and loved ones. Keep reading.

Until next time!


Monday, June 15, 2015

Check Out the Anatomy of Story Writer's Retreat and Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway

Attention Writers!!

Searching for a writer's retreat that is both intensive and navigates both the writing aspect (Anatomy of Story) and the marketing aspect (Anatomy of Publishing)? If so, this is the writer's retreat for you. Before you go any further, check out the blog post by YA Author extraordinaire, Courtney C. Stevens, who is so incredibly humble, transparent as a writer and human being, and gives so much of herself to help all of us. Then, read more about the opportunity below and afterward, enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win some fantastic prizes.
Click the link to find out more
Join Courtney C. Stevens (author of Faking Normal, The Blue Haired Boy, and The Lies About Truth), Tessa Gratton (author of The Blood Journal Series and The United States of Asgard Series), Natalie C. Parker (author of Beware the Wild and Behold the Bones), and Victoria Schwab (author of more than a dozen books including The Archived Series, Vicious, and A Darker Shade of Magic).

The retreat runs August 27-30, 2015 in beautiful Camdenton, Missouri at the house pictured above. Follow the link by clicking the image for more details.

So you've looked over the MadCap Retreat website? Worried about finances for the retreat? Spread the word about the retreat and then enter this contest (which runs from June 15th-June 20th) to win a $300 coupon for the retreat! Three of these coupons will be given away! That is awesome! What a blessing. There are other prizes up for grabs as well! Check it out:

1- 50 page manuscript critique by Courtney C. Stevens
3- signed copies of Faking Normal (U.S./Canada Only)
1- ARC of The Lies About Truth (U.S./Canada Only)
5 - electronic copies of The Blue Haired Boy


Contest runs from June 15th to June 20th. Enter today and good luck!

Also, you should probably follow these amazing authors on Twitter if you haven't already:

Courtney C. Stevens: @quartland
Tessa Gratton: @tessagratton
Natalie C. Parker: @nataliecparker
Victoria Schwab: @veschwab

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Book Review: SWAGGER by Carl Deuker

SwaggerSwagger by Carl Deuker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not usually one to read a sports-themed book, but this one had me turning pages and fighting my way through to the end, to the truth and the light and to the powerful story underneath. Even if you've lied a little, or even a lot, does speaking the truth matter more? Sure, there are tournaments to be won, and big, shiny trophies, but do they matter? Do college scholarships matter, even if you've worked hard to earn it? Does the truth matter more? When a friend needs you to speak the truth, and they can't speak up for themselves, would you do that? Would you risk it all for your friend? Would you do the right thing, even if if cost you everything you thought that mattered?

Deuker delivers in fast plays, well-crafted games, and at the center of his story, Jonas, the MC with the swagger to apply his skills on the court to his academics and future goals (college with a basketball scholarship), and to his relationships. SWAGGER follows Jonas from before he has any clear direction or goals, to a driven, committed young man coming into his own.

When Jonas's dad loses his job and has to relocate, Jonas is put to the test to start over and continue toward his goal of earning a full basketball scholarship to Monitor college by proving himself in his academics and in his skills on the court. It's one thing to play and make shots, and it's another thing entirely to lead players to function as a team, playing to their strengths and ensuring every player shines when called upon.

As the story unfolds, Jonas meets his new coach, Hartwell, who proves to be somewhat shady in the way he crosses moral lines with Jonas and his fellow players. Prior to being hired as coach, Hartwell meets the team and offers them tips on how to improve plays and shots at the local community court. Seemingly harmless at first, the reader slowly realizes how calculated Hartwell is, how nothing he does is an accident or coincidence, but each move is part of his bigger goal to gain the position of head coach and predator among his group of players.

Jonas and his best friend Levi play and sharpen one another all summer, and throughout their senior year, their friendship deepens. As the team works toward the state championships, Levi changes, keeping more to himself and withdrawing as a player. Jonas tries to reach out to Levi, but being a friend is what Levi ultimately needs, and this is proven when Levi reveals the secret that changes everything.

What a powerful read. Highly, highly recommended. And the games were pretty intense, too. Worth a read. Slam dunk.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 15, 2015

Final Edits are Underway

I'm blessed to have a very thorough editor. I've got three levels of edits to work through, and I've got them all printed out so I can highlight and make edits on paper (this is important because it changes up what could easily be missed on the screen/keyboard), then transfer those to my electronic document. As I go through, I'm checking off each edit note to make sure I don't miss anything, and if I have something come up that I need to discuss with my editor, I make a note and check in with her.

While I've only just begun this process, it's going well so far, and I'm pleased with the results. I've got a few bigger bumps along the road coming up (cutting a whole chapter, half of another), and some character arcs needs some retooling as well, but I'm ready for the challenge. Once I'm through final edits (round one), my editor wants to do a quick once over just to be sure she didn't miss anything (did I mention how awesome my editor is?), and then it's off to the proofreader. My proofreader will go through for formatting and grammar to ensure a new set of eyes searches and destroys any remaining typos, grammar errors, or formatting glitches.

Then, we're go for submitting for layout and cover design. Meanwhile, I'll shift gears and get all the marketing aspects ready. I've got some really cool things planned, so stay tuned. Speaking of, have you seen my new dot com? Yes, I've got one of those:

Check it out. It's like a newborn baby for now, but soon I'll have tabbed sections and you'll be able to find out what's happening both here and there. I will be updating more frequently, I swear. I know I've been seriously absent here for awhile. My last two grad school classes were seriously kicking my butt, however,  I just finished and somehow managed to maintain my 4.0! Woot. I'm starting one more class for early summer, but I went ahead and dropped the other one (I've got space later on to take that class), so I had more time to get my book edited and ready to go.

What are your summer plans? My family and I are going to a local campground with a cabin that works for my son's walker. It has a nice pool, walking paths, and other things our boys love to do. We'll probably go to the beach as well at some point.

If all goes well, and according to schedule, we should have ebook and print copies of THE PACKING HOUSE ready for September/October. Once we're closer to the final date, I'll let you know. Somewhere between now and then, we'll have a cover reveal and updates on blog tour, giveaways, and other plans.

Thank you for sharing this news with friends and coming back despite my lack of updates. I appreciate each and every one of you, truly.