Author: Patricia Williams
ISBN: currently only available in e-format; ASIN: B004SURQK0
Page count: N/A
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy (YA)
When I was just an ankle biter, I had dreams of running away and joining the circus. I’d regale the crowds with stories of my adventures and hang out with lions and elephants and eat hotdogs and popcorn for breakfast lunch and dinner.
While spending most of the day at a keyboard lacks the thrill of walking the tightrope or breathing fire, writing’s pretty awesome. I currently live in Sacramento, writing sci-fi/fantasy, watching an unhealthy amount of Supernatural, and kicking butt at Rockband.
Tell us about your book:
Wasteland tells the story of Becca Wilkinson- a nobody, and those that are aware of her existence know her as “that quiet girl in the back of class”, “loser”, or her favorite- “that chick that killed all those people”.
While most people at Leeville High have long forgotten Becca’s role in the devastating car wreck that happened a year ago, she still has nightmares. Her memories are in fragments and what little she remembers doesn’t make sense. Memories of hearing voices and moving things without touching them.
After the arrival of a mysterious stranger who claims they want to help, Becca will learn the truth about the accident…and herself.
How long did it take to write the book?
It took me about 8.5 months to write it, along with 2 months of rewriting/revisions/editing.
What inspired you to write the book?
Sci-fi/fantasy has always been my favorite genre, so I knew I wanted to write something in that arena. When a friend told me about being bullied because of her sexuality, I knew I wanted to do a story about an outsider, ‘every-teen’ kind of character who dealt with bullying. So that was my driving point while I wrote the story.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
My writing process is very sporadic. I spent a few hours a day, either at work or after class just free writing and getting my ideas onto paper. After writing it all out on paper, I transfer it to a word document. It is physically impossible for me to write straight on the computer-I start youtube-ing and the next thing I know, it’s 12am and I only have a paragraph.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope my readers relate to Becca and really lose themselves in the story. Writing Wasteland was truly an awesome adventure, I just want the readers to have as much fun reading as I did writing it!
Where can we go to buy your book?
Wasteland is available on Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/47055), Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004SURQK0), and Barnes and Noble (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Wasteland/Patricia-Williams/e/2940012367822).
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
I’m also on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4719254.Patricia_Williams), Twitter @triciatypes, and I blog at (http://www.triciatypes.blogspot.com). Follow me! I won’t bite. J
Excerpt from book:
Chapter One: If You’re Invisible, You’re Not a Target
“Please don’t pick me,” I prayed silently, burning holes into my desk. It was more habit than anything else-if anybody up there was listening, I’d be in the south of France. Or sitting on a beach in Tahiti. Or tracing the walls of the pyramids in Egypt. I’d be somewhere, anywhere, except sitting in the back of a classroom, avoiding eye contact.
There were an odd number of students in US History, so if everyone but me partnered up, I could probably talk Mr. Jones into letting me work alone. In my experience, there were two types of people in a group project-those that get by doing as little as possible, and those that end up doing all the actual work. Take a quick guess at which category I fall under.
Unless you were one of the precious few at Leeville who thought that high school was the best thing since sliced bread, it was wise to be as invisible as possible. And when teachers asked for class participation, become spontaneously fascinated with your desk or textbook. But seeming really, really interested in the course content didn’t do much good if a teacher had the bright idea to partner everyone up.
I skimmed the assignment sheet. We were supposed to analyze six political cartoons and discuss how they reflected the beliefs and attitudes of the time. The cherry on top was that we had to give a ten minute presentation in front of the class, discussing our findings.
My eyes never left my desk, but I heard the scrape of desks, rearranging to accommodate the pairings. I stared at my textbook, the words dancing and swimming together as I squeezed my eyes shut, giving my prayer a little extra oomph. All the scratches of metal across the worn floor changed to chatter about the project. It looked like I was home free. It looked like I was-
“Hey, wanna be partners?”
Crap. Before I could protest, Mona Woods drug a desk uncomfortably close to mine.
I flipped my stringy hair over my shoulder and flashed a halfhearted smile. Mona’s hair fell in gentle waves past her shoulders. Mine laid like limp spaghetti noodles no matter what shampoo I use or brush strokes I counted. My eyes were a dull green, the color of peeling linoleum or an old chalkboard rusting away in a supply closet. Hers were crystal clear like the sea, with a glint of mischievousness. The closest I came to name brand clothes were hand me downs from Peggy’s Thrift store. Mona was never caught in anything that didn’t have a reputable designer’s name printed on the tag. Mona never spent a Friday night alone and was the captain of the tennis team. Even as a freshmen she was homecoming queen, and three years in, still a shoo in.
Despite her looks, popularity, and athletics, she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. But with one massive weapon in her arsenal, who needed smarts? The principal at Leeville High was Mrs. Woods…her mother.
When Mona’s big blue eyes or connections didn’t do the trick, she just made some unlucky person’s life a living hell. The beads of sweat that formed on my forehead weren’t because the room was hot. She thought I was an easy target.
“I’m giving you the last 15 minutes to decide who’s doing what,” Mr. Jones said at the front of the room. “You need to figure out some time outside of class to get together and combine forces to complete it.”
I took a deep breath and got on with it.
“So,” I began. “The easiest thing to do is probably split the cartoons in half…maybe you could do the first three and I’ll do the last three?”
“Or I could do the first three and you could do the last three?”
I looked over at Mona and saw that she was angled, her hair creating a golden curtain that shielded her face. A blue light peeked out. She was texting.
“Yeah that’s fine,” the hair said.
And that’s how the next 15 minutes went. I asked her a question and would receive something that sounded like a grunt in response. When the bell finally, blissfully rung, I made one final attempt.
“I just wanted to make sure I heard correctly.” I wasn’t really fluent in grunt. “You’re going to do the first-”
“Yeah,” she snapped, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “That’s fine Rachel.” Without another word she glided from the room.
I slid my stuff into my bag, biting my lip. What did I expect? When you were invisible, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the queen forgets your name.
I plopped down at the lunch table that sat alone, tucked away in the corner. I unzipped my backpack, searching for my lunch. I rolled my eyes when I found it…or what was left of it. My tuna fish sandwich had become some sort of tuna fish smoothie. I guess I was having jello for lunch. First the thrilling exchange with Mona’s hair, now this. At least my bad luck was in line with how things had been going lately.
Last week while giving a presentation on the Holocaust, I started sobbing uncontrollably. I was so inconsolable that my Mom had to come pick me up. And a few days back, while waiting for the toxic delights they serve in the cafeteria, I vomited all over the line. The cafeteria staff wasn’t amused.
“Ugh,” a voice snapped, sliding beside me.
I glanced up and gave my best friend, Patrice Green, a lackluster smile that went perfectly with her annoyed grimace.
Patrice and I had been friends since middle school. She was 6 feet tall at 13, maybe a good quality at 18, but in middle school, it made you a freak. We bonded because we were both social pariahs and hoped there was strength in numbers. The fact that we both loved Stephen King and had an affinity for Johnny Depp was just an added bonus.
Patrice was built like one of the Grecian statues we studied in AP European History, her body curvy and soft. Her porcelain skin gave her piercing blue eyes and otherworldly look. She had thick hair the color of onyx that ran down her back in waves. Unfortunately at Leeville, if you weren’t blonde and a size 2 a la Mona Woods, you were unattractive.
She tossed her bag on the table with a devastating thud.
“What happened?” I asked, swallowing a spoonful of Jello.
“That bastard Kyle,” she said in a low voice. “If he calls me Big Trice one more time-”
“You can’t let him get to you,” I said, shaking my head. “That’s what he wants. Don’t give him the satisfaction.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” she fumed. “You don’t have to deal with him every day.”
Kyle Russell looked like he was pulled straight from an American Eagle catalogue, complete with tousled blonde hair, a ripped body, and preppy clothes. Most of the girls at Leeville thought the sun shone out of his butt, but Patrice and I saw his true colors. He was cold and sadistic, and got his kicks by verbally and in some cases, physically, tormenting people. For some bizarre reason, he especially hated Patrice and didn’t let her forget it.
She pulled out a Mountain Sprite and took a satisfied gulp. “How has your day been?”
“Riveting.” I said flatly. “Group project in US History.”
“Oooo,” she cooed. “Group projects are always fun. Who’s your lucky partner?”
She snorted, coughing up a bit of her soda. My thoughts exactly.
“Well I guess it could be worst,” she said, dabbing at her mouth.
“Sure,” I said unconvincingly, thinking about me and Mona’s one sided conversation and how she was obviously uninterested in helping me with the project. I tried to tell myself that I wanted a crappy partner, because then I’d do the work myself and know it was quality, right?
I took a slurp of my water and swallowed slowly, focusing on the cool liquid sliding down my throat. “I’m just glad today’s Friday.”
“Me too,” Patrice nodded. She sat up straighter now, her lips curling up into a Cheshire grin. “Speaking of weekends, this one’s a big one for you, huh?”
I rolled my eyes.
She laughed, her blue eyes twinkling. “You’re the only person I know that hates birthdays.”
“Birthdays are overrated,” I shrugged.
It was hard to believe last year I looked forward to this day like the second coming of Christ. I could finally get my license and kick my mom’s Prius to the curb. Hello responsibility. But this year I was carless, and the responsibility I had on my shoulders, because of the accident, was more than I could bear.
Last year, a few weeks after my sixteenth birthday, I became the resident human incarnation of Stephen King’s Christine. I was in the papers, on the news…right beside words like ‘horrific’ and ‘onslaught’ and ‘death’.
I had a panic attack behind the driving wheel that resulted in the largest, deadliest pileup in Chance’s history. I was a murderer-despite what a judge ruled and my crackpot therapist said. And for months after the accident, Kyle and his goons and my teacher’s sympathetic gazes wouldn’t let me forget it.
Patrice gave me a sidelong glance, her blue eyes filled with concern. “There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the day you were born, you know.”
I stabbed at my jello. “That’s only if you think it’s cause for celebration.”
I grabbed my backpack, scooping my trash into a plastic bag before she could go any further. “I’ve gotta get to 3rd period. Have a good weekend.”
The room was filled with an otherwordly glow. I closed my eyes and just like that, everything went black. Sounds filtered gently through the open window from the early evening commotion outside. I could hear the Jones’ brothers from across the streets playing basketball in the driveway, their sneakers squeaking on the pavement. Mrs. Winters fearsome Chihuahua chirped manically for no apparent reason. All the noise and clatter magnified the silence that hung heavily in the room as I slowly opened my eyes, clearing my throat.
“Did you make a wish?” Mom asked hopefully. She pushed away from our cherry dining room table and flicked the switch, flooding the room with light. Her wiry hair bounced as she walked back to the table. Her ebony hair cascaded past her shoulders, accentuating her oval shaped face.
I flashed something that probably looked more like a grimace than a smile.
Dad’s green eyes glittered in the dim light as he squeezed my hand supportively. He was 6’2 and had a lean, muscular body. He commanded attention when he walked into a room…only my mom and I knew that he was a big softie.
They both stared at me, concern written all over their faces. I knew what they wanted from me. A quip. A toothy grin as I dug into the cake that sat in front of me. They wanted me to be happy.
And I should have been. I had an awesome best friend who got me a signed book by my favorite author, Stephen King. I had two amazing parents who loved me enough to make me a vanilla cake from scratch. But whenever I thought about all the things I have, I thought about what happened a year ago. I thought about the birthdays that would never happen again. I couldn’t help but think about the accident.
“Tada!” Mom said with a flourish.
I watched as she slid a small box on the table. Last year my parents got me the complete works of Shakespeare. This year, I expected a biology textbook. But the box in front of me was too small for anything practical. Too delicate for the writings of Karl Marx or Immanuel Kant.
As the box creaked open I gasped. Lying on a delicate bed of cotton was the most beautiful necklace I had ever seen. The chain was as thin as a string of thread and sparkled as the light touched it gently. The jewel was a small sphere. Different jewels were speckled on it-diamonds, rubies, and emeralds.
“You guys,” I breathed. “I thought-” My voice trailed off as I looked up at them with surprise. As far back as I could remember, my parents taught me that knowledge was more valuable than anything you could buy at the mall. Yet in the palm of my hand, I held something that must have cost a fortune.
Dad put a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “17 is an important age, Rebecca. And you’ve done so well this past year. We’re proud of you.”
“But this is so-it’s so gorgeous!” I gushed. I held the jewel up to the light, watching as it sparkled with every movement. “Thank you so much!”
I turned to my parents, the smile falling from my face. Mom’s face was blank-the same look she has when there’s something that’s bothering her. I glanced at Dad, who fumbled with his fork, avoiding my gaze.
“Is something wrong?” I asked, my hand frozen in the air.
“No, no,” Mom insisted, her face breaking into a smile. “You’ve just grown up so fast. Right Carl?”
Dad nodded in agreement.
The silence returned, filling the room with all the things we didn’t say.
“Well,” Mom said, cutting through the quiet as she reached for a knife. “Who’d like another piece of cake?”
I burst into the bathroom, trying to calm the lurching in the pit of my stomach. The room was dark except for the pale shimmer of the moon that danced on the tiles. I held my hands on the sides of the sink, steadying myself. My heart beat roared in my ears. The room started to sway and vibrate. I threw open the medicine cabinet. Where was it?
“No,” I told myself firmly. I wasn’t this person. A tiny white wouldn’t be my salvation. I could do this…I could breathe through it. I could.
But my hands followed other orders, closing around the bottle. All I needed was a flick of my wrist.
“No,” I said, my voice shaking. I could do it. Breathe in.
1, 2, 3.
Breathe out, 2…3….
But the roaring began-a beating drum that consumed me. The pink wallpaper that lined the room made my head throb. The flowers that sat on the sink were decayed and rotten. I could smell every fleck of dirt in the room with crystal clarity. My fingers on the porcelain sink were like nails on a chalkboard, screaming in my ears.
So I gave up. After one long swallow, I felt the unpleasantness fade away. The room was right again. I grabbed a hand towel and wiped the sweat from my brow. My eyes darted around me, embarrassed. At least I was at home, in my own bathroom.
I had my first panic attack a year ago…before the accident. Since then, they’ve become a normal occurrence. The attacks started as a stomachache then moved into severe cramping territory. Think that ‘special’ time of the month, multiplied times 100. After the cramps, it became hard to focus and breathe. The attacks were pretty debilitating, but daily medication helps kept them somewhat under control. And I have fast acting, emergency pills that I took when it gets really bad.
For a while, the attacks were few and far between. But during the past few weeks, incidents as small as the cafeteria screwing up my lunch order seemed to trigger me.
I shoved the bottle back in the cabinet, splashing water on my face. The girl reflected back at me looked normal enough. I wiped my face with a hand towel and heard a light tap on the door.
“Becca?” Mom said softly. “Let me in.”
I swung open the bathroom door, letting it slam against the wall. I knew she meant well, but every time she found out about an attack, the national threat advisory level went to red.
“Jesus,” she muttered, padding into the bathroom. She turned my face toward hers, her green eyes flashing. “You look terrible.”
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically, wrenching my face away. Naturally, my mother looked amazing, even in rollers and mismatched plaid pajamas.
“Did you have another attack?” she asked quietly.
“Well honey, Dr. Bailey says-”
“Dr. Bailey’s an idiot,” I snapped. Talking to him once a week was about as effective as talking to a wall. He spent most of my session typing away at the sequel to his atrocious attempt at a self-help book.
“Well,” she countered, an edge to her voice. “The whole ‘court ordered’ thing takes out any choice in the matter.” She tucked a hair behind my ear and looked me deep in the eyes. “You know you’re going to be okay, right?”
“I’m going back to bed,” I said flatly, pushing past her.
She stood in the bathroom, silent, then finally headed back to her room.
I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling. Nights like these made me wonder-would I really be okay? Did I even deserve to be okay? I squeezed my eyes shut, willing myself to sleep. The last thing I thought about before I surrendered was the flicker of something I saw in my mother’s eyes…doubt.
My flip flops squeaked as I walked across the gym towards the group. From here, they almost looked human.
“Can we help you?” Ramona Williams asked, flipping her long, fiery hair over a tanned shoulder. She was only a sophomore and was already head cheerleader. Since her tenure, Leeville’s cheerleading squad was on the map, and brought home lots of shiny things to hang in the trophy case.
Ramona’s olive colored eyes evaluated me briefly. The smirk that played on her glossed lips was the verdict-I was found wanting. The other girls continued to cut, their perfectly styled hair spilling over their magazines, not even taking notice of me.
“I-” My voice cracked, betraying my nervousness. I cleared my throat and pressed on. “I’m here to talk Mona.”
All eyes turned to the queen bee, who didn’t even look up from her magazine.
“What can I do for you?” she asked smoothly.
“We were supposed to meet in the library, to finish our project,” I answered.
She looked up, amused. “We were? It must have slipped my mind.”
“Well that’s okay,” I countered. “We still have the group room for 30 more minutes.”
“I have planning committee,” she shrugged. “We’re working on the spring fling. Important stuff.”
“I know prom is like, the most important thing ever,” I quipped, doing my best Valley Girl impression. “But that doesn’t change the fact that we have to finish this project.”
Her friends sat up, suddenly interested in me standing up to Mona. I was pretty surprised myself, and bit my lip, wishing I could take it back. It’s not like I really cared about getting an A on the project. I could get all A’s with little to no effort, but I liked flying below the radar. A+ students’ got their names called out at assemblies and called on in class as a shining example of what an ideal student should be. It was better to just be that quiet girl at the back of the class.
No, I thought to myself, standing taller. Mona made me a promise, and it wasn’t fair that she didn’t follow through. She obviously had no intention of doing any actual work…the least she could do was humor me and put forth a little effort, all important dance or not.
Mona’s eyes narrowed now, locking on mine. That saying “If looks could kill” flitted through my mind.
“Look,” she said acidly, her indigo eyes burning. “Let’s not pretend that I’m moving from this spot. You’re leaving the way you came in…by yourself.”
All eyes were on me. They dared me to stand my ground. They wanted Mona to eat me alive.
My hands turned into small fists when I saw the smirk that played at her lips. The same smirk Ramona had. Who decided they were in charge? Why did everyone else get the short end of the stick?
And then it started. The bubbling in the pit of my stomach. Accompanied by a throbbing headache.
Impeccable timing, I thought despondently. What better way to prove my point than barf all over the gym floor?
I put my hands on my hips and tried to breathe through the pain. But instead of the discomfort becoming a searing white thing, it was different. Instead of chunks of the sloppy joe I had for lunch decorating the gym floor, a sensation rippled all over my body. The nausea morphed into tingly energy that spread from the top of my head to my toes.
The old fans on the walls of the gym slowly creaked to a stop.
The bleachers began to creak and moan.
The air was hot and stale as Mona’s friends looked around, like they could sense something was off, but couldn’t quite put their finger on it.
Mona’s eyes never broke away.
“Anything else?” she said finally.
The gym was silent. It was my move.
I sighed, defeated. I could hear them whispering as I trudged back the way I came–alone.
My eyes scanned the visitor’s lot but my mother’s car was nowhere to be seen.
“That’s weird,” I muttered to myself. My mom was always 30 minutes early for everything.
A Toyota on the other side of the parking circle buzzed to life. I squinted and saw a familiar face behind the driver’s wheel. My dad waved, pulling up to meet me.
“Hey honey,” he grinned, unlocking the door.
“Hey Dad,” I said, surprised. I slid into the car and tossed my backpack in the backseat. “Where’s Mom?”
“Can’t your old man pick you up from school every now and then?” he said, feigning hurt.
“Sure,” I laughed, playfully pinching him. “It’s just-” I paused, looking around at an array of coffee cups and papers that were scattered all over the car. Definitely a different vibe from Mom’s. “-you haven’t picked me up since elementary school,” I finished.
Dad glanced at me for a minute, remorse in his eyes. “I’m really sorry about that, Rebecca. I should have been more involved.”
I looked at him oddly. I wasn’t upset about it. I knew he was busy at school. But the look on his face was like he had forgotten my birthday or just delivered the bad news that Santa didn’t really exist.
“It’s okay dad,” I said, squeezing his arm. “I’m glad you picked me up today.”
His signature grin reappeared as he pulled onto the highway. “So tell me about your day.”
I watched as the cars zipped past, going through the events of the day in my head. I still had to finish that project in US History, I had a paper coming up in English lit, and now that the weather was warming up, I had a bad feeling that we were going to be forced from the AC to the track in PE. “Glad it’s over,” I said finally.
“You should cherish this time Becca. You’ll look back on these years and remember how easy you had it.”
Easy? I thought incredulously. I glanced over at my dad in disbelief, then with interest. Beads of perspiration covered his forehead and I could see huge sweat stains underneath his armpits. He was nervously tapping on the steering wheel. Coupled with the fact that he never picked me up from the school, something was fishy.
“All right,” I said, crossing my arms. “You haven’t picked me up from school in years-don’t you have a class right now anyway? You’re talking about the awesomeness of high school and you’re sweating like you just ran a marathon. What’s going on?”
“What’s up with all the questions, Law and Order?” he laughed. But his laugh was different, uncomfortable. His teeth chattered so hard that they made my jaw ache.
“What’s going on, Dad?” I pressed.
“Can’t sneak a thing past you,” he said after a moment. The car eased into the driveway. After flashing me a nervous smile, he shut off the engine. “Your mom and I have a surprise for you.”
“Yeah. Come in and meet her.”
“Her?” I repeated.
It couldn’t be a pet-my mom too OCD about cleaning for any furry companions. Maybe they finally broke down and bought me one of those automatic vacuum cleaners that I’ve been begging for forever.
But when I walked into the foyer, I didn’t find a puppy or a Roomba. Standing beside my mom was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.
She towered above me, her ebony skin glowing in the dim light. Her hair was buzzed short and highlighted her oval shaped face. Her lips broke into a grin as she glided toward me and extended her hand.
“Hello Rebecca. My name is Mya.”