You Scratch My Back And…Thanks! That Felt Great!

Recently I was asked to read and review someone’s book. I don’t mind doing that, especially when it’s an indie author. Sometimes the little guy could use a boost, and sometimes you’ll find their writing to be way better than some stuffy traditionally published author as well.

One author sent me a copy of his book as a gift from Amazon. He sent it to me a while ago, but I was just in the middle of reading another book and then I was reading Norma Beishir’s The Unicorn’s Daughter so that I could give her a review. And now I’m beta reading for William Kendall’s debut novel Heaven and Hell. I will get to this author’s book when I’m finished with William’s book, giving it a review. I think I owe it to him to give him that much since he did send me the book as a gift.

Norma, William and Mike Saxton have all beta read for me, short stories and novels alike, and Martin Rus has edited for me before. Eve Gaal has done reviews and read-throughs, as well as Shelly Arkon. And all of us have been promoting a little known author from my brand name, Bent River Books, named Devon Cooper. She is the author of Bad Day, and is promoting when she can. She is a newbie to Twitter and Facebook, but we scratch each other’s backs. We care that the other’s work is well written and I would do what I could for them.

I do tend to gravitate to romances and romantic comedies more so than thrillers and horrors, but I have been known to read my fair share of paranormals. I’m not a huge sci/fi and fantasy fan, but if it’s well written, then I’ll read anything. I do tend to stay away from mysteries and horror, but sometimes you have to try something new once in awhile.

If any of my friends asked me to beta read for them, I would. If they asked for a review, I’d give them as honest a review as I could. So, why is it that I feel that I’m scratching everyone else’s back, but not getting any relief from my own itch?

It seems that there are many Indie author’s who are hellbent on writing that “next best novel”, and expecting it to be read and reviewed, and yet, do nothing for anyone else.

One fellow author told me once that she would do a bloghop with me (whatever that is, exactly), but that I would have to pay for her services. WTF? I couldn’t believe that! Paying for a service because it would take up some of your time was a ludicrous thing for her to do/say. If I did that for every time I’ve read, reviewed, formatted, blogged about or otherwise promoted someone else by tweeting or by facebook etc, then I guess I’d be a rich woman who wouldn’t have to write to try to earn a little extra spending money.

What I’m getting at is that there are authors out there that aren’t interested in anyone but themselves. They tell everyone on Facebook how many words they’ve written that day and that after the beta reads come back, they’ll be starting their next novel. I-haven’t-got-time-for-anyone-else kind of attitude.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s my Canadian nature. Canadians tend to be a little more giving of ourselves, wanting the “little guy” to succeed. I want every one of my friends to succeed. And they will. You know why? If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s because they give back.

I’m not saying that you have to read and review all books that come your way, (because I have a shitload of free books on my Kindle) but I think it would be nice to take time out of your otherwise busy schedule to read and review your friends books. And don’t think because I read and review books that I don’t have a life. I work fulltime, I’m a fulltime mother and wife, and that means there’s always stuff to do. I write, and because of the reading, reviewing, promoting, formatting etc, I haven’t blogged that much lately. I have my online relationships that are maintained through emails and Facebook, and those relationships are important to me because those people have been supportive of me and my works as I’ve been supportive of theirs.

Let’s just put it this way. We’re all struggling to make a go of this. It’s a difficult thing to be #1…and especially in this industry when there are so many great indie authors out there that are just begging to have their works read and reviewed…yet, there are others who won’t don’t want to take the time out to give a little scratch for someone else.

Fifty Shades Of Sparkles

 Shades of Sparkles

I’ve always been dull.

Ok, that didn’t come out right. That’s not what I meant. What I’m trying to say is, is that I’m not stupid or dumb or otherwise lacking in the brains department, because, in fact, I’m actually quite the opposite. I’m at the top of my senior class, and have an IQ of 250. Two more months of boring high school, and then I’ll be off to college. No, I’d say I was far from dumb–just dull.

And, what I mean by dull is, my life and everything about it is dull. I just don’t shine. I’m over-shadowed by those around me, and I mean, everyone. Even those in my class that are dumber than myself.

My looks are sub-standard at best, and my hair won’t do anything that I want it to. In fact, the day it looks good will probably be the day that I’m dead, laying in a casket awaiting my funeral. It’s a dingy brown colour with absolutely no highlights in it at all. My dull hair hangs down against my pale, sunless skin. If I go out in the sunlight for even a minute, I’m burnt to a crisp. It’s just easier to wear SPF 100 proof sunscreen and a floppy hat instead of having to endure the wrath of a burn just so I can look as if I’ve been tanning.

As for my facial features, even they are lack-lustre. My eyes are a dull grey brown that look like murky rainwater puddles laying beside a commonplace nose. My lips are thin and flat. Even I cringe when I look in the mirror. I’m definitely no Snow White, although, I have to confess, my skin is whiter than hers. Even my name means white–Biancha. And, my nickname is Snow Ball. Fitting actually, since my last name is Ball.

However, even though my looks are kind of in the toilet, my grades are exceptional. That being said, I wish my love life was. It’s kind of in the toilet, too. Always has been. With my looks, I’d end up with the pimply-faced kid with the broken glasses and pocket protector. Even then, it’s a crap-shoot. I’ve had worse looking kids laugh at me.

My parents are divorced. I’m now living with my pocket-protected dad with the zit scars on his face and the miles of computer cordage hanging out of his back pocket. He might be a computer nerd, but he’s a great dad. He doesn’t hover. I like that about him.

I just moved here to this school the other day, and already I’ve been kicked out of groups. I tried out for the cheerleading squad, but the head cheerleader told me I was pathetic, and that my moves were lifeless. I thought they were pretty good. They told me that my cheers brought tears to their eyes, and not in a good way.

Next I tried out for the glee club, hoping that a little music and drama would make my life a little less dull. I auditioned for the spring musical which was Silence Of The Lambs. The drama teacher told me that I didn’t make a very nice moth and that when I sang, dogs were barking in response.

See what I mean? I’m dull. Lifeless. A matte finish in a shiny world. I suck.

I arrived at school much like I had any other day, alone and uninteresting, when my one and only friend, Alyssa, caught up with me and walked me to the cafeteria.

“Hey, Biancha. Whatcha doin’?” she asked enthusiastically.

“Um, walking to class.” I shifted my books in my arms and adjusted the strap of my purse back onto my shoulder.

“Well, do we have a few minutes before class? I want to talk to you about my math homework. I don’t get it.”

I nodded. “Yeah, sure. What don’t you get?”

Alyssa shoved her math book at me and muttered, “All of it! I don’t get any of it.”

We walked to the cafeteria and sat at the extra nerdier table. Alyssa opened her book to the page she wanted help with but I was far from paying attention. I couldn’t pay attention. Not when this extremely beautiful guy just walked by our table. I elbowed Alyssa and asked, “Who’s he?”

She looked up to see who I was looking at, then back at her book, pointing to the questions she needed the answers for. “Oh, that’s Fredward Coolson,” she said nonchalantly. She shoved the book over at me again and said, “Here, these are the questions that I don’t get.” I was too busy looking at Fredward Coolson to notice what questions she was talking about. Suddenly I was whacked from behind. I turned around to find Alyssa with a glaring look in her eyes and her book shoved ever closer to me. She poked the book with her finger and said, “Pay attention to me, not him. Besides, Fredward doesn’t like anyone here. He never dates, and he doesn’t even talk to anyone, so get that thought out of your mind.”

I tried to concentrate on the questions she had laid out before me, but my eyes kept wandering up to where Fredward sat on the other side of the cafeteria. Alyssa whacked me again.

Suddenly, in the mere blink of an eye, he was standing beside me. I looked up, and I know a stupid smile came upon my face. He didn’t have a smile on his though. Mine quickly disappeared.

“You’re Biancha.” It wasn’t a question but more of a statement. I nodded, my jaw waving in the air as it hung loosely from my face. “Are you ok? Is she bullying you?”

I didn’t know what to say. Was she? No, silly, she just needed some help. I just couldn’t help but stare at him instead of helping her. He was the most handsome guy I had ever seen, and certainly one that cute would never speak to me under normal circumstances. Was he normal? Or was he as abnormal as I?

Suddenly I felt another whack to the back of my head. It was Alyssa again. I looked back at her and she whispered through clenched teeth, “Answer him.” She moved her eyeballs in his direction, alerting me that he was kind of glaring at her.

I looked back at him. “Ah, no.” Pointing to Alyssa, I added, “Um, this is my friend, Alyssa. She needs some help with her math homework.”

Just then the bell rang. Like a shot, he was gone. I watched him leave with no regrets and no goodbye’s or “I’ll maybe see you later at lunchtime”. There was nothing. He was just gone. God, his backside was to die for.

“Sorry, Alyssa. Maybe I can help you at lunch time.” And, with that, I took my dullness and headed for my first class which was biology.

I went to my seat and sat down. The seat beside me had been empty the last few days, but now it was filled with sparkles and light. It was filled with Fredward.

Fredward was beautiful. His eyes were a sparkling gray and his perfectly highlighted hair was absolutely perfectly coiffed. I wondered how much gel he actually used to get it to stay that way. He stared at me the whole class. Well, it was almost a glare, but I’d like to think he was just staring.

At lunch time, I headed for the cafeteria to get my usual french fries, gravy and cheese curds, when I suddenly felt a draft behind me. I turned, and there was Fredward.

“You know, you really should stay away from me,” he uttered, then turned and walked away quickly.

I stood there dumbfounded. Huh? WTF? He’s the one that’s been coming around me, and yet he tells me that I should stay away from him? Weirdo.

I shrugged my shoulders and then went to sit at the nerdier table. Alyssa joined me soon after but all I could concentrate on was looking at Fredward. He was staring at me, too. Double weirdo.

“I need you to help me with my math. It’s my next class. You’ve got to…” I was staring at Fredward again. I couldn’t help myself. WHACK! Alyssa clobbered me again. Ok, I probably deserved it since I’d been kind of ignoring her, but he was just so darn cute.

In a flash, he was by my side again. He glared at Alyssa and then grabbed me by the arm, hauling me away. His eyes were sparkling, his grip firm but not hurting me as he dragged me away from Alyssa. I looked back at her and she just sat there dumbfounded at his actions towards me. For someone who didn’t talk to anyone or like being with anyone else, he was certainly going out of his way to talk and be with me.

He lugged me outside and around to the back of the school. I thought he was maybe going to hurt me. Should I run? Yell? I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t do any good anyway. He seemed to be pretty fast. And, what kind of name is Fredward anyway?

“Are…are you going to hurt me?” I asked, stuttering my words a little out of fright.

He backed me into the wall and put his hands on either side of me. The expression on his face looked like I had slapped him. “Hurt you? I…I feel very protective of you. Your so-called friend keeps whacking you.”

“Are you following me?” I asked, my voice squeaking just a bit. I was a little frightened of him. He had me boxed in.

“Well, just a little.”

“You always seem to be where I am. You’re always staring at me. You never eat or drink anything. You’re definitely fast. And, what kind of name is Fredward?”

“It’s just a name.”

“It sounds old”, I told him.

“It is.”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen,” he replied.

“How long have you been seventeen?”

“A while.”

“You’re frightening me.”

“Good.”

“Good?” God, what kind of psycho is this?

“Yeah, we shouldn’t be friends.”

“Why not?” I asked.

He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me further behind the school to where the bleachers were. It was deserted. Now I was extremely afraid. Was this guy some sort of serial killer? Some whacked out junkie who raped poor innocent girls? Should I scream? Or run?

But I didn’t do either of those. Instead, I let him drag me over behind the bleachers. He stood away from me and opened up his shirt. His skin sparkled as the sun beat down on him. There was so much sparkle that I thought I would go blind.

What the hell?

“This is what I am. I’m an alien from a far distant planet named Sparkletur.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“Biancha, this is the skin of an alien.”

“I know. I heard you. How can I get skin like that?”

He looked at me astonishingly and started to do up his shirt buttons. I just wanted to look at him all day long. He curled up his nose at me and said, “What?”

“I want skin like that, too. I’m so….you know, blah. There’s nothing remotely pretty about me and you’re so gorgeous. I want that. I need that. I’m nothing but….drab.” I shuddered with the thought.

“You want to be like me?”

“Yes.”

“And, you’re ready right now?”

“Yes.”

He eyed me warily but pulled me closer to him, letting me feel his warmth against me. His sparkly skin was glaring right into my eyes. I wished that I had a pair of sunglasses right now.

But, I still wanted it. If I could be as beautiful as him, maybe I wouldn’t have to sit at the nerdier table anymore. Maybe the cheerleaders would want me on their team just for my beauty. Maybe I could be a butterfly instead of a moth.

He leaned in closer to me, his breath warm on my neck. I opened my neck for him and then it happened. He licked me.

A sudden rush of coolness dashed over my skin, making me shiver. As I held my arms out in front of me in the sunlight, they tingled. I squealed with delight as tiny sparkles emerged on my skin. I looked at a strand of my hair and it was suddenly a beautiful shade of chestnut with lighter and darker highlights throughout.

I opened my purse and pulled out my compact mirror. I bit my lip in anticipation of what I might look like. When I looked, I was amazed. The person staring back at me had sparkly gray eyes and was beautiful beyond any other girl in school. I looked way too beautiful to have to sit at the nerdier table again. I was even too beautiful for the cheerleaders.

I could honestly say that I wasn’t dull anymore.

Thanks to Fredward, now I sparkled.

As we walked back into the school together, hand-in-hand, my skin, hair and eyes sparkling as if some fairyland fairy threw up on me, I suddenly realized that everyone was staring at us. At me.

Alyssa grabbed me by the arm. I looked at her and smiled. “What happened to you?” she asked, looking at me from head to toe. She squinted her eyes from the glare.

“Fredward is what happened to me.” Looking at him with googly eyes, I said, “Isn’t he dreamy?”

“What have you done to yourself? You look like you just took a bath in silver glitter. You’re like fifty shades of sparkles.”

“I know. Isn’t it beautiful?” I held out my arm, watching the glitter catch the fluorescent lights from above.

“Well, I hope for your sake that it washes off. You look silly.”

I glared at her. How could she think I looked silly when I was now more beautiful than everyone else? “You’re just jealous because now I’m beautiful, and I now have a gorgeous boyfriend.” Looking at Fredward I said, “He’s going to ask me to the prom, aren’t you Fredward?”

“Ah, yeah, sure.” Fredward didn’t look so sure.

“What’s the matter, Fredward?” I asked, suddenly concerned about my social status. I mean, really, I would look hot in any outfit. And, I wouldn’t need jewellery. I was already blinged out.

“Um, well, it’s like this. Sparkleturians can’t dance. We all have two left feet.” I looked down at his feet. He appeared to have both a right and left foot.

I smiled, understanding that he just didn’t know how to dance. “That’s ok. I can always make you. Don’t worry. With my new looks and moves, I’ll have you dancing up a storm. They’ll be fifty shades of blown away when they see us coming.”

He smiled back at me, taking me into his arms. For the first time ever, I felt the luminosity of our love. When he kissed me finally, we had a tingly glow about us. People were stopping to stare. I didn’t care. I was shimmering now in the dull world I’d just been a part of.