Ebook Available!

Well, here it is:  the novel is now available. As I said in a previous post, this is an important one to me. When my daughter and I were looking for YA books that featured central characters with cerebral palsy (which my daughter has), the pickings were, as they say, slim. While I won’t make the argument that my novel is a perfect representation (like autism, there’s a wide range of mobility and severity for people with CP), I do hope that it’s a relatively early entry in what could become a larger body of literature representing multiple facets of the lives of teens with physical disabilities. The specific type of CP that one of the main three characters has is hemiplegic, meaning that it effects only one side of the body (the right, in my daughter’s case). This is different than a  paraplegia that effects both legs and neither arm or quadriplegia, which would effect all four limbs. Even this distinction is part of what can make trying to represent physical disabilities complex and challenging. All that to say, the character in the book has struggles, exercises, and concerns that are similar to what my daughter might have, but even if I were to represent her experience with perfect accuracy (obviously not what happens in the book; to the best of my knowledge, there aren’t paranormal forces endangering her in high school, but maybe at her next 504 plan meeting I’ll be proven wrong), it would not represent all people with CP or even all high schoolers with CP.

Anyway, before I spend too much time talking about the failings of the book, here’s the link to the ebook. Print copies should be available later:



New Book!

I’ll be starting to shift things a bit from my previous focus for this blog. I have a new book coming out in May, and I’ll start promoting it here. It’s not entirely outside of the focus on diversity and representation, though. The book is a novel (The Three of Them, Rogue Phoenix Press) with disabled protagonists. In particular, one of the titular three has hemiplegic cerebral palsy, which is what my daughter has. This book comes partially from a recognition that there isn’t a lot of decent representation of disability in American YA fiction. While the book is, of course, imperfect, I hope that it can be an early entry in what will hopefully be a larger body of work.

Final Section

Illinois Voices won the third round, so here’s the thrilling conclusion:


Cassie smiled at the family. “I did have help. Do you want to know what it was?”

The kid bit her lip and nodded. Cassie held up the gem. “A rock?” the kid said. “That’s silly.”

Cassie laughed. “It probably seems that way. I can hardly believe it myself. But you know what? It did help me. And now, I want it to help you.”

Cassie let herself think about keeping the gem for just a minute. Think about what it would be like to hang onto her power. But then she handed it over to the little kid. The kid took it, then looked up at her mother. Her mother looked at Cassie. She said, “Thank you so much for saving us.”

Cassie smiled. “I’m just glad you’re safe.”

The kid said, “Hey hero lady, who do you think sent the robots?”

Cassie stopped smiling. She’d been so focused on protecting the family that she hadn’t even thought about that. “I have no idea,” she said. She kind of wished that she had the gem back.

The kid touched Cassie’s hand. “If they do come back, then we’ll use this rock, and we’ll kick their butts.”

Now Cassie laughed, and her laugh pushed away the anger and the fear that seeing the robots had brought. “I’m sure you will,” she said. She patted the kid’s hand and walked away. As it turns out, the force behind the robots did come back, but that’s a story for another day.

Third Chunk

What Cassie envisioned was all of the robots tipping over. What she envisioned more specifically was that she was the one making the robots tip over. It was strange, because, in her vision, she was moving too quickly for any of the robots to touch her, but she never was the fastest kid in gym class. The robots were moving at a decent speed, and the lasers would hit her if she tried to get too close to the robots.

Still, she wanted to try. Cassie wanted to keep the family in the car safe. The kids looked like they were crying by now. So, Cassie sighed, she picked up a stick, and she started running towards the robots, because she’d been carrying a stick in the vision. She followed her vision and ran as fast as she could towards the robots. To Cassie’s own surprise, she moved incredibly quickly. The first thing that she did was to jam the stick into the base of the robot that was smashing things. Its club started to swing, then it got stuck and recoiled backwards quickly. When it recoiled, the club swung back and hit the laser robot. The laser robot tipped. Some of the pipes fired lasers into the sky, but many of the pipes also fired into the ground, which split open. That made the laser robot tip even further, falling all the way over.

When that happened, the laser robot fell into one of the saw robot’s saws. The saw tore through the laser robot, but the pipes continued to fire for a few seconds. In that time, both the saw robot and the club robot got hit by the laser robot several times. In fact, the club robot’s club arm got hit by a laser, and the club fell off, smashing the robot itself flat, like crushing a soda can, though Cassie guessed that she’d never seen someone use a giant club to smash a soda can. Cassie circled back, laughing at the two destroyed robots. The third, the saw robot, also got hit by the laser. For that robot, though, whatever was holding one of the saws in place broke, and the blade flew from the robot. Cassie watched its arc and almost immediately recognized where it was headed:  the family in the car.

Cassie gasped; that hadn’t been part of her vision. She had to stop the blade. She ran as quickly as she could, and then she jumped up, catching the blade in the air, spinning once, and throwing the blade back to the robot. It flew into the robot, digging deep. The robot shook back and forth a bit, and sparks started to fly. After a few seconds, the saw robot exploded. At first, Cassie thought that was good news, because it was gone. But as she started to watch the pieces fly into the air, Cassie realized that the pieces would come down, and fast. She tried to track their path up so that she could figure out where they would come down. Cassie started running in a large arc so that she’d be able to bat away any of the larger pieces before they would hit anyone.

The pieces came down fast, and Cassie ran, slapping them if they seemed to be headed toward something. The pieces burned her hands a little, and she had to wave her back and forth quickly to cool them off. Her feet had started to feel hot, too, but Cassie couldn’t stop running. She had to keep going to make sure that she kept the city safe. The last falling piece was headed right towards the car with the family in it. Cassie realized that it wasn’t just her hands that were heating up as she ran. Instead, it was her whole body. But she couldn’t stop now. She couldn’t even slow down. As she tossed away the last piece, there was an explosion.

Some time later, Cassie blinked herself awake. At first, she thought that the robots were still alive. She started to sit up, but she didn’t go nearly as fast as she had while fighting the robots. Cassie looked around, and she saw that the family had stepped out of the car and was watching her. They were okay. Cassie let out a deep breath and rubbed her head. After looking around a little more, she saw the gem again. Cassie picked it up, and she could feel the power in it, but the power didn’t seep into her quite yet like it had the first time.

“You saved us,” one of the kids said. The mother was hugging her.

Cassie smiled. “It wasn’t just me. I had some help.”

The kid smiled back. “You had help?”

Cassie held the gem in her hand. She thought about what to do next. She thought that she knew what the gem was, but she couldn’t decide what she should do about it.


If you want Cassie to throw the gem away so that no bad guys get it, give to CISHA

If you want Cassie to keep the gem and help others, give to MarcFirst

If you want Cassie to give the gem to the family, give to Illinois Voices Theatre

Second Chunk

Thanks so much to everyone who gave during the first round!

MarcFirst/Robots won the first round, so here we are

What happened was a loud crash. It startled Cassie so much that she fell back and pushed herself behind a tree. When she peeked out, she saw three large, metal things. For a second, she thought that they might be some kind of weird playground equipment, but they were moving. The first one was tall and had pipes sticking out in all directions towards the top. Cassie ducked back behind the tree when lasers shot out of the pipes. There was some whirring, and Cassie looked out to see the other robots. The second one was shorter than the first. It had treads like a tank on each side, and there were arms with circular saws spinning. A little way behind it, a fallen tree was laying by a stump, which explained the crash. The third robot looked like a large garbage can. It had a single large club that swung from one side to another, smashing the ground as it moved forward.

Cassie looked around, and saw burns around, but it looked like, up to that point, it was all damage done to buildings, trees, or cars. She didn’t see people hurt or injured, but crowds of people were running, and it was only a matter of time before someone got trampled. Cassie looked at the direction the robots were heading in. It took her a second, but Cassie realized that the robots were headed towards the park, and that would make things even worse. All the children would likely make easy prey for these awful machines. Cassie wished that her parents had given her a cell phone so that she could call the police. She tried to tuck the thought away without forgetting it so that, if she lived through the robot attack, then she would have to tell her mother that things like this really meant that she should have a cell phone of her own. In the moment, she wasn’t sure what the police would do about the robots anyway. A laser hit one of the buildings, and there was a large, black burn on the wall.

But even with all the mayhem and damage, there were still people being dingbats. In fact, there were at least a half dozen people on the sidewalks using their phones to either take pictures or videos of the coming robots. Cassie looked past one of the dingbats and saw a family trapped in a car. Cassie felt a deep panic. It was an awful thing to see, and she knew that she couldn’t just sit back and watch some poor family get destroyed by robots. But what could she do? The robots were huge and powerful, and she didn’t know how to fight lasers or circular saws.

Cassie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened them again and looked at the family in the car. It was a mother in front and two kids in the back. Both of the kids were crying. The mom looked like she was trying to balance between keeping them ducked down and comforting them. In that moment, Cassie hated the robots more than she’d ever hated anything else in her life. She was so angry at them that she wanted to pick them up and throw them straight up to the sun. The club slamming robot cracked a picnic table in half. The idea of what it could do to a car (and the poor people inside it) made Cassie shiver. But maybe she could distract the robots, get them to move off course and away from the family and the park. The problem, of course, was that getting there attention would put Cassie in harm’s way. If she had that gem back, maybe she could whip it at a building and break a window or something.

Cassie ducked back behind the tree and looked around for rocks. There were a few decent-sized ones, and one was at least not partway buried. That rock looked like it could make enough noise if it were to hit an empty car door or shatter a window. That should be enough to capture the robots’ attention. When Cassie picked the rock up, it felt heavy. She had a clear idea of what to do, but Cassie still wanted to feel confident, so she closed her eyes and pictured the blue gem. She pictured how good she’d felt when she first picked it up. As she pictured it, she started to feel good again. In fact, she felt great. She giggled once, and, when she opened her eyes, she drew her arm back, ready to throw the rock. But she didn’t throw it. Instead, an image popped into her mind, distracting her. And that image felt so strong that she couldn’t help but give it a try.

If you want the gem to give Cassie super strength, donate to Seedling

If you want the gem to give Cassie extreme speed, donate to Central Illinois Sled Hockey

If you want the gem to give Cassie telekinesis, then donate to MarcFirst