Sunday, May 5, 2013

Softly Say Goodbye by KC Sprayberry!!

Erin Sellers, an eighteen-year-old high school senior, hates teen drinking. She and her three friends – Bill, her guy, Shari and Jake - decide to use Twitter to stop a group, the Kewl Krew, from using their high school as the local bar. But the members of this group are just as determined to stop anyone from messing up their fun. Despite veiled threats to her safety, Erin continues her crusade.

To make matters worse for her, the stress of school and extra curricular work mounts and suddenly, shockingly, booze-fuelled tragedy strikes. Erin is now under greater pressure as she spends all hours to produce a mural and other work to commemorate the death of a teen friend. Bill, Jake and Shari support her in all this...

But more tragedy lurks nearby… until it’s time to softly say goodbye.



I am happily married to a man I met while in the Air Force. We recently celebrated our 18 years of marriage. Our teen, the youngest of 8, keeps us on our toes with his band activities. Writing is something I've done since I was very young. At first, it was in a diary and then I poured all my energies into English compositions, earning praise from my Advanced Composition teacher in high school for an extremely visual project. While in the Air Force, I placed second in the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge's annual contest and from then on, was hooked. However, the reality of a military career and raising children forced me to put off attempting publication until my husband and I moved to Georgia. It was after the birth of our now teen that I began taking courses through The Institute of Children's Literature, Long Ridge Writer's Group, and Writers Digest in an effort to make my life's dream come true.
We live in Northwest Georgia, in a small town, where I write Romance, Westerns, Young Adult, and Middle Grade stories, both short and book length. More than a dozen of my short stories have appeared in magazines such as Listen Magazine, Brio, and The Pink Chameleon website. I also have short stories in anthologies, Passionate Hearts Anthology, Mystery Times Ten, The Best of Frontier Tales, Vol. I, and Mystery Times Nine. My western stories have garnered interest by avid readers and appear on The Western Online and Frontier Tales.
My work appears under the pen names of KC Sprayberry and Kathi Sprayberry. Softly Say Goodbye, a young adult novel, was my NaNoWriMo winning project for 2010. This story was inspired by a quote from a song and hearing of an auto wreck involving teens and drinking.



Chapter One

The sound of liquid gurgling and a thunk distracts me as my art teacher, Mr. Janks, says he has a major announcement. An overwhelming urge prods me to confront the offender, but she'll deny my accusation, even though everyone in the vicinity knows she just chugged some vodka.
Do it! My hands clench into fists. Tell Laura to quit!
High school drunks totally piss me off. The urge to deal with the offender overcomes common sense. I start to turn around to give her a piece of my mind but stare in shock at my teacher instead.
A week before Valentine's Day, the most romantic day of the year, I want to throw my books into the nearest trashcan and run until my legs give out. Here I am, sitting in my art class, and Mr. Janks announces we have to do a term project but not just any term project. Oh no! We have to develop a major project like cleaning up the Rec Center's playground and painting a mural on the huge cylinders kids climb all over. Worse, I swear I heard something about a video. Who has time to do all that and a video?
“Tell me Mr. J didn't say that,” I cry.
The now protesting students echo my feelings. The new issue drives all other thoughts out of my head. Oh yeah, I heard right, and the timing is rotten.
Tuck Amstead rolls his eyes and glances at me. “Total pits, Erin.”
“Maybe we heard wrong?” I offer.
“Mr. Janks, we can't possibly do this,” Tiana Bolton protests. “It'll…it'll… You're asking us to give up all of our free time and ignore studying for our EOCs. And you want us to show you what we did on the same day we take the EOCs!”
Boy, does she have that right. EOCs, end of course exams, make up a significant portion of our final grade. To top it off, we also have to take the state's graduation test — a mind-numbing horror challenging us to remember every single thing we have ever learned since our very first day at Landry High School. The idea of planning and executing a major art project due at the same as those dreaded tests gives me the worst scary feeling of my life.
“Why can't you do like everyone else?” I ask. “This is worse than impossible.”
“This is my EOC, Erin.” Mr. Janks shakes his head. “You saw the syllabus when you started the class last fall.” He stares at each student, all twenty of us, for a heartbeat. “All of you signed the syllabus, and so did your parents. No excuses. Now—”
“But we have to do all our other studying,” Tiana cries, interrupting him. “When will we have time for your project?”
Slender, sweet, and conflicted, Tiana's cap of brandy brown hair frames her porcelain complexion. Oh, so jealous here. She never has to worry about her hair bushing up on a humid day or the sun giving her freckles like I do with my shoulder-length red hair and uber-pale complexion. Even her eyes drive me nuts. Instead of green like mine, which everyone says look like the local pond's algae, Tiana's are gray. She has more than high school to worry about. Her mom won a court decision only a week ago, forcing Tiana to visit her in prison. The timing can't be worse. The first visit is the same day as the Valentine's Day Dance. Poor Tiana not only has to miss the most romantic dance of the year, she has to listen to her mom grouch about how a judge forced her into a plea deal that keeps her in prison for ten years. The dummy never should have driven when she was drunk. The family she hit is still recovering from their injuries.
“You also have a long term art project,” Mr. Janks says with what sounds like very little patience for our issues. “Now, I have a few things to say about the project since it sounds like most of you can't remember what you signed last August. It will be a major part of your final grade. Just like all your other EOCs.”
Shocked beyond belief, I scribble what he says in a desperate effort to make sure I pass this very important, blown off exam. Who ever thought I, Erin Sellers, would panic at the thought of an art project? I churn out assignments in this class without a second thought. Art is my passion, the one thing I live for, the way I relax. With everything else going on in my life, and all the issues at school, I don't need an announcement I never expected.
Usually, I love school. No wasted moments pass before I dive into the planning sessions with my crew for all major projects, the people I share each and every secret with. This time, I'm alone except for Tiana, and she sounds like she wants nothing to do with art.
“Why can't we just do what we usually do?” she asks. “It's not like we'll ever use art again.”
Oops! Major faux pas. Boy, is she about to hear it. He lives and breathes art in every form.
“All of you were included in this class for your artistic abilities.” His voice sounds colder than a late January snowstorm. “I expect you to do this assignment or join me for summer school while the rest of your friends enjoy their vacation, Ms. Bolton. Now, if you're through whining, I need to finish explaining this assignment before the bell rings.” Whoa! Mr. Janks never talks like this. He is far cooler than any other teacher, and he dresses the starving artist part. Shoulder-length blond hair with a few gray streaks highlights a thin face. Cheekbones stick out under his super-pale blue eyes, and stubble on his chin makes him look so laid back. Until this moment, I've never heard him tell a student off like he just did.
“Yeah.” Tiana slumps down in her seat. “Whatever. Like I'll have time.”
How I wish for the old days, when nothing got her down. She went into a total slide after her mom went to jail for the DUI. My crew and I want to help, but her home life is such a bummer. Her dad smokes pot from the time he gets off work until he passes out around ten or eleven every night. And she has to deal with her mom's stupid remarks whenever the woman calls, and her dad's drug addiction, but she is so cool about staying off the stuff herself.
“Does everyone understand I won't tolerate any reason for avoiding this project?” he asks.
His voice warms up a little. Almost like going from minus one to zero on the thermometer. Like me, the rest of the class sits quietly with pencils or pens poised above notebooks. No one wants to piss him off any more than he already is.
“Fine.” He searches the top of his desk as a question occurs to me.
“Uh, Mr. Janks?
“Yes, Erin.” No patience in his voice, just a lot of suppressed anger, like he thinks I'm about to make trouble.
No one, but no one, can accuse me of causing problems on purpose. If anything, I go out of my way to avoid notice and trouble, except telling off any teen drinking booze. The urge to say “it doesn’t matter” almost makes me change my mind, but I really have to know something.
“Will we have to get permission from the city to do this project? I mean, you used the Rec Center as an example. We can't just go in and do what we want unless someone approves it. Right?”
“You're right.” His voice softens. “Thank you for mentioning that.” He holds up a folder. “I have a list of places the city wants cleaned up. Mayor Flaggins agreed to let you kids—”
The whole room erupts into moans and groans. None of us like someone calling us kids, not with most of us already eighteen.
He laughs instead of getting upset. “Sorry. All right, class, here's the list. I'll call out a location, and the first person with their hand up gets it. I have enough locations for everyone to work alone, except one. Two of you will have to share.”
I sit back and go over possible locations in my mind. One sticks out. The park across from the police station on Main Street. There's a fantastic in-ground fountain for kids to play in during the summer and a bunch of concrete benches around it with walking paths and short walls. The fountain has a huge jet in the center and shoots water in a long stream over the nearby area. It also has smaller jets with bubbling water around the basin. But it's so plain, and the perfect place for a fantastic mural about living in a rural area.
“The old Long John Silver's near the Red Foods,” Mr. Janks says. “Mayor Flaggins thought something related to farming there.”
“Me!” Tuck waves his arm back and forth. “I have this fantastic idea. Maybe something including Jackson Valley and all the farms down there.”
Wallis County has a lot of small farms, nothing more than five to ten acres for people to put in enough vegetables to feed their families and sell the rest at truck stands. Tuck's suggestion brings up a visual of a long winding road beside a creek with houses against small hills and open fields to either side. In the summer, during the height of growing season, it looks fabulous.
“Okay, Tuck has the Long John Silver's.” Mr. Janks makes a note. “Let’s get on with the rest.”
The list of places to decorate sounds boring, and like Mayor Flaggins wants free labor to clean up some pretty nasty parts of town. Yeah, the economy stinks, but why do we have to volunteer to do something the mayor can put people sentenced to community service on?
“Okay, just two more,” Mr. Janks says, jerking me back to reality. “Next, the fountain near—”
My hand shoots into the air, and I wave my arm harder than Tuck did.
“Looks like Erin's hot for this one,” he says. “Okay, Erin. Want to share your idea?”
“Not sure yet,” I say. “Something including kids and the fountain. Definitely green.”
“Good.” He nods. “I like the idea of using green products. Now, last but not least is the Rec Center playground. Definitely a two-person job. Tiana?”
“I guess.” She sounds less than enthusiastic. “But it's a huge job. I can't even think of a single thing kids will like there that won't take me hours and hours I don't have.”
A loud crack of gum snapping jerks everyone forward in their seats. My eyes roll, and I want to grab the gum-cracker’s “water” bottle and throw it out, preferably in another state. A drunk in class is bad enough, but a gum-chewing drunk makes me crazed.
“I guess I have to bail out Tiana,” Laura Wiley says. “Whatever.” She buffs blood-red fingernails against her sweater. “This better not mess up my manicure.”
The queen of the Kewl Krew checks in. Oh great! So not.

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KC Sprayberry said...

Thank you for participating in the blog tour. Great post.

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