Writing Characters: Layer ‘Em Like an Onion

When it comes to writing my characters, I’m all about layers. Occasionally, I’ll dive in and start writing scenes, especially ones I’ve been excited to write, but I like knowing my characters and how they’d react in their situation. One of the main reasons Lucy of Gifted is 21 years old is because I knew I couldn’t make her under 21–specifically because Lucy would never have the balls to sneak into a bar and drink underage. Lucy is brave, but not reckless (not usually, anyway) and is all about abiding rules and laws. It’s how she and her family stayed safe as gifted out in the human world for all those years.

https://i0.wp.com/www.digitalmediafx.com/Shrek/Images/Shrek10big.jpg

Shrek, the original onion layer, agrees that layers make a character.

For whatever reason, Gifted sort of simply came together for me. I mean, I worked hard on it and edited thousands of times to tie up all my loose ends, but sometimes it simply wrote itself through my fingers, my subconscious secretly piecing things together without my even realizing it. More importantly, the characters were almost a no-brainer. I knew almost immediately who they were, their roles in the story, what they looked like, and how their relationships with Lucy would evolve. I knew exactly how each person would react in any given situation. They were already old friends of mine and they nearly jumped off the page for me. I only had one major change with the characters–Renata, the Earthshaker we see a handful of times throughout, was actually a main player. I decided there were already lots of characters, so I scooted her to the background (though I kept in her big moment during a fight scene). After a while (like after the 2nd draft), I finally wrote everything down about the characters–their families, tics and habits, all of it. I made sure I knew those guys inside and out. And it took several layers that even led me to their secrets I might not have found otherwise had I not dug a little deeper.

When I say layer a character, I mean that’s my method of writing. I’d been having some difficulties with the WIP lately. When working on SuperNova, I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a blasted hard time with the characters. I could picture them in my mind, but I didn’t know them yet. Every scene I wrote sounded flat because despite my physical movements and settings, the voices were simply neutral. I could’ve traded them in for anyone. The last thing I want is Nova getting confused for Lucy. So last week, I took a step back and realized I’d skipped a step that I didn’t really have to do for my Gifted characters right away. I’d been so worried about getting the story out on paper that I didn’t take a good look at my characters, didn’t interview them or consider their thoughts and feelings.

Once I sit down to write characters, I spend pages and pages with them. Unless I’m acknowledging a relationship with another character in the book (brother/sister, love interest of, etc), the sole focus is that one person. I don’t just write about their appearance or how they react to things; I write about their fears, their insecurities, what makes them happy, their hopes and dreams, the tiny scar they have on their knee from 5th grade baseball, and so much more. I round out possible scenarios that I’ve outlined for the story and as I ask questions, I answer them along the way, cleaning up the loose ends that might be somewhere in the manuscript. For example, when writing about a new character, Penelope:

“Penelope Warner [age, physical description, role in story]…She’s younger, so more prone to jealousy and childishness…she’s bored and wants to stir up action…if [situation] occurred, she would [action]. When she first meets Nova, she thinks [thought]. How does she see her brother? When they are together [she acts this way], but if [character/situation] were to happen, maybe she’s [action].”

Sorry, I know that’s like the world’s worst Mad Lib, but you probably get the general idea (plus I know all the answers to those questions and I refuse to give spoilers before the first draft is even done!) 🙂 Once I’m done with the first layer, realizing who they are, I can move on to the next: placing them in scenes. Because I’ve already set up everything, I add in specifics, such as their facial expressions (reactions), tics (like Lucy’s finger tapping), or emotional reactions (Delia’s cookie problem). I also get little ideas within those scenes on how to move forward. Sometimes I get thrown for a loop, but often it leads to a helpful dose of detail later on in the book.

I have no doubt that layering sounds a little strange to some, just as other techniques might baffle me. However, it’s working for me in this strange little system. It’s like I’ve put all the ingredients together and now it’s time to bake the cake (I’ve got dessert on the brain). The point is, no matter how a writer composes their story, it’s important for us to know our characters inside and out. When they talk to you, write everything down! It doesn’t matter if family history or a random event in their life doesn’t make the cut–it makes the characters who they are. Those ideas shape them just as any of our pasts shape us. Brainstorming is fun and you’ll put all the pieces together eventually. Even if the details don’t make it into the story, it helps us to create our world and its people.

In Defense of Character Building (Or, “I Meant to Do That!”)

I received a review on Amazon this week that made me finally want to speak up and attempt to explain a lil somethin-somethin’. This review was good–4 out of 5 stars, certainly nothing to cry over (so I’m not). But they made a good point that’s come up in another review, too. They both mentioned my protagonist, Lucy, has a problem with FEELING. That she doesn’t show emotion nearly as much as someone in her situation would in the real world.

Quick catch up: Lucy is a Firestarter, a being who can create and control fire. In the Gifted world, a person’s gifts are completely emotion-based (all of ’em, including the happy ones). When Lucy is ripped from her circus childhood, she enters into the human world. You can imagine that a Firestarter in the human world is a dangerous notion and Lucy’s father teaches her how very, very important it is for a Firestarter to keep a firm handle on their emotions. She’s never allowed to simply “get mad” or “be joyful” because it could set her effing neighborhood on fire. Therefore, most Gifted are extremely careful with how they react to situations and people, because otherwise it might end up a blazing inferno (or a swimming pool or whatever that particular Gift is attributed to).

Here’s a bit of the review that hit home for me:

“…the only thing that bothered me was the sensation that I kept waiting for the main character to FEEL about something. We go into the story with her mom being dead only two weeks, and it’s like it never bothers her. Same sort of this with some of the other very traumatic events that happen in the book. I understand that part of her story is the need for the main character to keep her emotions under control, but it definitely made her feel less real to me.”

I knew going into the story that Lucy’s downfall would be her lack of emotions. In all honesty, I kinda MEANT for it to be that way. I want her to be real and it’s okay if readers get frustrated with her–she SHOULD have flaws, habits that might drive readers crazy but they keep reading to see if she ever evolves. After years of hiding her true self, of swallowing every emotion and bottling it up, it’s not easy to simply change within a few weeks. And Lucy’s answer to dealing with emotions is to simply not. She denies until she’s blue in the face. She thinks if she denies and pretends it didn’t happen, she won’t have to deal. If she throws herself into work and concentrates on her new life there, she doesn’t have to deal with missing her mother, with being scared to be alone. But we all have to deal with our demons eventually. We must all progress.

That’s the ticket, right there. Every character must evolve in someway (even if it’s technically DEvolving). I had hoped that by the end of my first book, Lucy would have progressed in her emotions. And she tried, she really did (I’d list examples, but I don’t want to include spoilers). But after 10+ years of being told to keep her shit under wraps, it’s not a light switch she can flip on and off. So even at the end, after all was said and done, Lucy still whispered, “I’m not ready to face the feelings yet.” She refused to just change overnight and I can respect that. A sudden change in character isn’t believable; it’s an author wrapping loose ends up neatly for the reader. (*cough twilight 3rd book cough*)

Several people have said Lucy should’ve shown more emotion after a particularly traumatic near-sexual assault. I absolutely agree–to an extent. Lucy’s so used to hiding everything from everyone, it’s in her nature to hide it away, to tuck away the fear and memories so deep down that she can pretend it never happened. It’s her coping mechanism thanks to years of high school bullies and hiding her secrets. I often used to think that if something like that were to happen to me, as much as I’d like to say I’d run to the police, I might be so upset I run and hide in my house for weeks, too ashamed or horrified to explain what happened. I don’t think I could ever tell my mother; I couldn’t bear to put my pain on her shoulders. Many victims DON’T go to the police, instead choosing to continue on as it never happened. From what I know, however, it always catches up with you at some point later in life. So Lucy’s definitely got an outrageous amount of emotions when it comes to this incident, emotions she refuses to acknowledge because she fears it will mean she is weak. She would never admit to anyone she’s weak. So instead, she chooses to pretend it never happened. This WILL, as it always does, come back to bite her in the ass. I simply ran out of pages, instead opting to include it in Book 2.

I decided to address more of the aftereffects of her shock and discoveries in Book 2, sort of as a new beginning in Lucy’s journey back into her Gifted world. It’s there she’ll begin to face her emotions head on to try and have more control over her Gift. She can’t control and be the best at her gift if she doesn’t face her emotions, a small fact that Sheffield will constantly remind her of. It’s going to be extremely unpleasant for Lucy to finally have to acknowledge what’s happened to her in the last month. She’s going to learn that accepting her feelings does not, nor will it ever, make her weak. In fact, it might even make her that much stronger.

This is where I, the author, admit that some of Lucy’s flaws come from me. Not as a writer, but literally, me as a person. The Irish hide their emotions behind a wall of whiskey and denial, and Lucy and I definitely hold up that stereotype. I might be stubborn and quick-tempered, but I am, for the most part, an incredibly locked up person, feelings-wise. I don’t share a lot of lovey-dovey sentiment, I hide behind sarcasm and humor, and I laughed as awkwardly as Lucy does when boys admitted their feelings for me. And it’s not about “not liking Lucy, not liking Liz” either. It’s just that as the author, I know Lucy is, how she reacts, WHY she reacts, and what happens in the future. Readers of course don’t know any of this–they shouldn’t! They’ll learn it as they go along (hopefully). That’s why I’m not so much upset about reader reactions–you SHOULD be annoyed with Lucy! She’s a right pain in the ass sometimes and she definitely should show more emotion!

It’s what, I think, makes her and Gabriel’s relationship so interesting. Because of his gift, an Empath, he feels ALL THE EMOTIONS all day, everyday. From everyone except Lucy. It’s why he likes her so much; he doesn’t have to try quite so hard to keep his own mental walls up. He avoids emotion as much as she does, though for different reasons. I love their relationship because despite them both wanting to be different from each other, they’re scarily similar with their personalities and defense mechanisms.

I know how this post sounds, like a whiny baby all upset over a single point in a 4 star review. It makes me sound childish, but that’s not how I want it to come off. I don’t wanna be “that author” who defends every. single. thing. that’s criticized in reviews. They’re not mean reviews–they’re incredibly-appreciated, GREAT reviews that are invaluable to me as a writer. I hope I can take the major overall problems readers have and try to fix or address them in later books.

This is where it’s frustrating for a writer. We know everything about the story, including where it’s headed next (even if we don’t know exactly all the details). I don’t want to come off like an ass, either, so I’d never shove my “I meant do to that” down a reviewer’s throat. It means I’m going to have to sit and take it, know there’s nothing I can do because it’s an opinion (and it’s not wrong!). So I’ll hope that everyone likes it enough to read the 2nd one and hopefully it’s there they’ll have their questions or frustrations answered.

I’m hoping that despite my readers’ annoyance over Lucy’s flaws, they get that there’s a reason why. That they understand that Lucy is only beginning to come out of her shell and realize what she has to do in order to become who she wants to be. I expect many people will say similar things and I hope they come to this post (help point the way, friends?) and understand I did it on purpose (though now I realize I should’ve let her shell crack a little more in the first book). She isn’t a weak character and I suppose some of my own worries filtered through in thinking if she DID show more emotion, readers would think she was weak. See? Now you’re seeing MY flaws.

I guess the main point is: don’t worry, kids. Lucy might be completely emotionally constipated, but she’ll be (forced into) facing the problem head on in Book 2. And as all authors say…

I meant to do that.

Indie Marketing: Be the Turtle, Not the Hare

Gifted has been out for just over a week now and I feel like I’ve done a pretty bang-up job of not hovering over my computer screen, begging for reviews and sales numbers. In fact, I’m kinda the opposite, perhaps alarmingly laidback about it. I keep reading (and now repeating) that indie publishing, and with it the sales, is a marathon, not a race. I can sprint to the finish line as fast as I want, but that doesn’t mean anything will come of it. Even if I somehow made a thousand dollars in a month, that doesn’t prevent an immediate drop to nothing after the first month of release. It’s like a slow burn.

Instead, I’m biding my time, hopefully building relationships with bloggers through email and Twitter and quietly promoting the Amazon link here and there on Twitter and Facebook. It’s not that I’m not aggressive–I could be if I wanted to–but I don’t want to come off annoying, especially considering this is my first book and I’m brand new to the game. I want to genuinely talk to people on Twitter, not shove my book on them. I’m hoping that reviews (both from blogs and Amazon) will back me up, speak up for me when I don’t want to be pushy. I want to take my time because I’m smart enough to realize it takes time.

Because I did my marketing plan after I finished the book, I think some things went out of order. In which case, I’ve learned my lesson for the next books. I’ve contacted tons of bloggers and gifted many, many Kindle copies or mailed out paperbacks and I suppose I should’ve done this weeks before the official book release. But because I’m trying to be a turtle and not a hare, I’m taking it in stride. I know next time to contact beforehand and in this case, now the hard part is waiting. On the plus side, out of the many, many fantastic bloggers I’ve emailed, only a couple have turned me down (and only because their TBR piles were outta control), while most have immediately jumped on my offer with an enthusiastic approach to the story. Some reviewers warn me it might not be until July or August until they can review it, but I still hook them up with excitement–if they’re willing to do a review, I’m more than happy to accomodate. The way I see it, even if my sales or marketing had dropped a little over the summer (because it’s been out for a while or I’m working on new stuff), then their new reviews later on can possibly spark interest again and help me push it out there to new readers.

I did an interview with Lauren from The Housework Can Wait and one of the questions was, “What’s the hard part of publishing?” Honestly, it’s the waiting game and not in the sense you might think. Sure, it’s nerve-wracking to think of all these people reading my book. My fear doesn’t stem from waiting for a bad review–I’m going to deal with bad reviews with a shrug of the shoulder and perhaps a stiff drink that evening, but with an understanding that not everyone will like it (and on days it gets me particularly down, I’ve heard reading the 1-star reviews for even the bestsellers is sort of an eye-opener to take it in stride). The hard part with the waiting is literally just that–the waiting to hear one way or another. The waiting while knowing (hoping?) people are laughing, rolling their eyes, and cheering for my characters. I’m not a patient person (and usually read a book in a few hours at one sitting, something I know not everyone has time for), so this has certainly been a lesson for me.

Luckily, I’ve been distracted by other things, like working on book 2 of the Donovan Circus adventures, as well as a YA title I’m really excited about. I’m staying busy even without constantly refreshing my sales page and honestly, I kinda refuse to be a slave to the numbers anyway. I don’t want to be “that girl” that forgets to actually write and do other things because she’s glued to the sales. No, thanks.

In all honesty, and I’ve stated this before, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it to have a book published. It’s freaking awesome that I look on Amazon and find my name next to a novel. The more my friends exclaim over it, the more amazed I am that I did it–I completed a bucket list item and put my story out there for the world to read. That’s sort of what I’ve always wanted since I was a kid, so I consider it a success, even if I only sell ten books. The best part is, I’m getting such nice feedback and ratings that it might actually stand a shot at selling even twenty or thirty books maybe!

My first 2 blogger reviews are listed below–Heather and Lauren were so great to help me with this, especially on short notice. They both practically dropped everything (including what they were already reading) because my story intrigued them and turns out I don’t suck! They’ve both been so kind to assure me how much they enjoyed it and help promote it for me. I’m so grateful to them!! It’s such a nice feeling, to know people got along with my characters as much as I do (and even want to be friends with them as much as I do!).

Gifted Review on Soleful Reader – 4/5 Heels

Gifted Review on The Housework Can Wait – Graded “B”

On tomorrow’s YA Indie Carnival, it’s all about Mom for Mother’s Day weekend! And at some point soon, I’ll be addressing the “New Adult” genre debate (in case you didn’t guess, I’m in support of this new movement).  And of course, more character interviews and news about Gifted. Happy Thursday!

Gifted: Chapter 1

I thought since my official book release is sneaking up on me (only 1 week away now!) I would post little snippets and sneak peeks of my novel beforehand. What better way to waste away a few minutes this Tuesday morning than by reading? (I suppose I could think of a handful of other things, but for my own ego, let’s pretend this is it). So I thought I’d share Chapter 1 with you! For information on my giveaway, let’s see if you can get through the first chapter 😉 (Again, it’s probably not that long, just the blog format) Hope you like it!

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Chapter 1, Gifted, a Donovan Circus Novel

“Donovan Circus,” a deep voice answered on the third ring.

“Hi. Um…is Sheffield Donovan there?” Knots in my stomach, my grip tightened on the phone. For a brief moment, I worried I would set the receiver on fire by accident.

“Speaking.”

“Sheffield, it’s Lucy Sullivan. When can we arrange a meeting?”

“What does your mother think?”

I stared at the wall, willing my voice not to crack. Heat flushed my skin pink in the effort. “She, uh…she died a couple weeks ago.”

“Shit, I’m sorry, Luce.”

“Can I come by soon?”

There was a brief pause and then: “How’s tomorrow afternoon?”

“I’ll be there at two if that’s okay with you.”

“See you at two o’clock.”

I hung up and stared at the phone. Would it really be that simple to walk back in? Could I even do it without my father there to guide me? Wait—did I just join the circus?

That night, I packed my bags. I didn’t sleep much between the nerves and my brain’s unyielding thought process. I clearly had no idea what lay ahead of me. I was entirely too old to be this nervous, but it was the first time I’d ever really had a chance to do something for myself without my parents there to supervise me. Now that they were gone, I had no other choice but to do it on my own.

The Donovan Circus was known for unusual acts, feats that seemed unlikely for humans. This was truer than we could admit to outsiders: a large group of gifted, those with remarkable powers, showed off their talents night by night, all the while bringing in curious humans who had no idea about us. I wanted to use my gift and be with other people like me. I wanted to be normal amongst the freaks.

The next morning, I headed to where Donovan Circus had settled a day ago. When I saw the tents in the distance, my palms began to sweat; I tried to keep fire from escaping them. As I got closer, I couldn’t even talk myself into a motivational speech. I stared open mouthed at my surroundings, like a guppy in the fish bag at one of the game booths. Donovan Circus was more than a handful of tents; it also had game booths, a few small rides like the pastel carousel, and a large, bright Ferris wheel. The lot wasn’t completely set up yet, but already I could see several people prep the grounds.

Only circus vehicles like loading trucks and clown cars were allowed on the actual grounds. I found the employees’ makeshift parking lot maybe a quarter of a mile from the tents and parked. On a mostly gravel dirt lot, it sat close to a small wooded area. I debated on taking my bags with me, but there was always a chance Sheffield wouldn’t have me. The only thing worse than hearing him deny my participation would be carrying all that shit back to the car, clumsy and defeated.

I tried to hold my head high and prayed my shoulders didn’t do that nervous twitch they sometimes did. The grounds were maze-like and I passed the same game booth at least twice. The tents were red, white, or black, and all made from the same heavy canvas material to prevent weather damage. After getting lost by the animal fences, I managed to stumble upon Sheffield’s office camper. I thought it would be more elaborate, but the only discerning detail from an otherwise everyday trailer was the large brass nameplate across the door that read “Sheffield Donovan.” I looked at my watch: 2:01 p.m. I hated being late. I hurried to knock on the door.

“Come in!”

I walked inside, turned to my left to face Sheffield Donovan. Late fifties, surprisingly fit, with a blonde coif and an impressive handlebar mustache that could easily be featured in a bare-knuckle fistfight, he looked every bit a ringmaster. Were I into older men, I could even describe him as a classic sort of handsome.

He sat behind a large, old desk swallowed up on either side with posters and file cabinets. A shiny black top hat sat by his hand, ready for a hasty exit. His costume—black tuxedo pants, white shirt, gold cummerbund, and red jacket with black trim and tails—hung neatly on the closet door to my right.

“Good afternoon, Sheffield.”

“Hi, Lucy. Have a seat.”

I sat in one of the two battered wooden chairs across from him. He motioned at a coffee pot as he filled his own mug and I shook my head, more worried about wearing the coffee than drinking it. He spoke first.

“I’m so very sorry about your mom. How are

you doing?”

“I’ve certainly been better, but thank you.”

“Not to pry, but what happened?”

I looked down to see my hands drumming an incessant rhythm against my knees. I glared at my ripped cuticles, having recently been gnawed off in my stress. I kept my head down as I answered Sheffield.

“She had a pulmonary embolism or something. She was breathing pretty hard in the grocery store and collapsed in the cereal aisle. Died in the ambulance.”

“Jesus, I’m sorry, kid.” He set his mug down on the desk, his gray eyes clouded with sympathy. My fingers drummed faster on my thighs.

“So am I. She wasn’t the same after Dad died, though. So at least they’re together now somewhere.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t been by to see you since your dad’s funeral; I meant to come by and time slipped away from us.”

I shrugged. “You’ve got a business to run, I understand that.”

“I’m glad you called. I’ve wanted you back here for a long time.”

“There’s not much else left for me out in the human world. I always figured I’d make my way back.”

“Lenny was one of my best friends. I should’ve looked out for you more. I was glad to hear from you.”

“The only reason I didn’t say yes right away to your offer at the funeral was my mom. I couldn’t leave her alone so soon, but I knew I’d take you up on it eventually.”

“We’re lucky to have you back. You ready?”

“I’m a little nervous, but I’ll get over it. I guess a lot has changed since we left.” I shifted a little in my chair.

“In twelve years, yes; I imagine you’ll be in for a few surprises. I have no doubt you’ll handle them fine.”

“Do you think I’ll be able to keep up?” I kept my voice even, refusing to let any fear betray me.

“Kid, I’m more concerned if they can keep up with you. Your dad was an incredible Firestarter, but he always said you could be ten times his talent.” He took a gulp from his coffee mug and chuckled. “You know, he often told me the proudest day of his life was when you set the couch on fire. You were only two and it was a complete accident; you started to cry and then fire came out of your hands. He said your mother almost had a heart attack, but Lenny, he was damned proud.”

I smiled at the memory; my father told that story a lot. I took my chance to ask a question that had bothered me for years. Surely if anyone had the answer, it was Sheffield.

“A few years before he died, he forbade the use of firepower. I guess he told you that?”

He gave a slow nod. “He said he didn’t want either of you to be caught training by humans, to reveal us to them.”

“That’s what he told me, too. We used to find abandoned lots or fields and practice everyday. Then one week, he came here to consult with other Firestarters, went home and put his foot down—no fireballs, no flames, no more training. He practically threw out any lighters in the house. Did something happen here to make him do that?”

Sheffield’s eyes didn’t leave his mug. “He had his reasons, I’m sure. He only worried for you.”

Silence grew between us. Sheffield was hiding something, of course, but he stayed quiet. After a long pause, I cleared my throat.

“Well, just so you’re aware, I didn’t always abide by dad’s rules.”

He looked up at me and the corners of his mouth twitched.

I shrugged. “I knew I’d be back here someday. Can’t let his reputation down, so I had to keep up somehow.”

I gave a calm smile, kept my well-practiced poker face up. I was done with our casual conversation. I wasn’t here to talk about my personal life. He read my expression and after another beat, kicked his feet up on his desk and lit a cigarette. His tone suggested nothing but business.

“Now look, this is gonna be new experiences for you. You were young when you were here last. Do you remember anything about our touring from before?” he asked.

“Not really. I mostly did whatever Dad told me to and played with the other kids.”

“Probably a lot of them are gone now. It’s three weeks of the show, a handful of days for travel and setup, and every few cities we take a two-week break. There are about eighty of us from all over. We travel year round, work hard and stay together. We have very talented folks here, but it’s a young group. Many are still developing their skills and have years of training ahead of them.”

Sheffield talked fast and already I could tell he expected a lot out of his employees.

“Here we prep in the day, open the gates at five sharp, start the performances exactly at seven and are usually done no later than midnight. We’re a bit faster on shutting down the lot than a human group.”

“I understand. I know it’s been a while but I’m ready to be thrown in. I can pick it up. This is where I want to be, if you’ll keep me.”

He nodded as I spoke. His impressive smoke rings enveloped me and the camper became smoky with each exhale as he hammered out his words.

“I wanna give you a chance, but you gotta earn your place around here. Strangers aren’t easily accepted, and I’ve already got four other Firestarters that may not take kindly to the new kid, especially since you’re a girl. No offense, but it’s rare.”

“We all have different levels and talents. I won’t step on any toes.”

“Let’s see how you feel about being here in a few months. You’ve got a lot to deal with right now, so you’ll start out an assistant to everyone else. It’s less pressure on you this way. If you decide later you’re in over your head, you can walk away without any complications. It might not be for you and that’s okay. Stick with it and you’ll move on to something else, if you want. You have any problems or questions yet?”

I shook my head.

“How about with your gift? Are you having any trouble?”

“I get headaches. I get tired quicker than I’d like and if I’m distracted, it’s all over. I’m definitely gonna need the practice. It’s been a while since I gave it my all.”

“Not a problem. The headaches happen to every Firestarter, depending on how much energy you’re using. Train in your free time; I want you in the show. Meet the other Firestarters and study, push yourself more than you’ve ever done. You can do that here now, away from human eyes. As far as the next couple months, you’ll run errands, help out as needed. I had a fireproof costume made for the shows in case we need you on the floor. You need to arrange a fitting today with wardrobe.”

“Wow. You didn’t have to do that for me.”

“Think of it as a uniform—certain people need certain outfits that also work with their gifts. The other Firestarters have them, too.”

“Oh,” I whispered. I felt silly but relieved; I’d die if people thought I got special treatment from the owner and ringmaster.

“Miss Nance in the trailer next to mine is in charge of everything non-show related: payroll, marketing, schedules. She’s helped me run this place since its formation and is damn good at what she does; she’s extremely efficient. It’s only us, no big staff folks to do everything. We don’t need that here. That being said, you go to her for your paycheck; anything else, you come to me.”

I nodded. Our world was a secret and the circus was a great cover. Most gifted beings banded together, though others did join the human world like my family did. Sheffield wouldn’t employ too many outsiders. He wouldn’t jeopardize his gifted clan with distrust.

“I put you with Delia in camper 238. It’s a good match; she’ll help you get around and introduce you to folks. If you’re ready, get your stuff and load in. Got here yesterday, so tents are goin’ up; familiarize yourself with things and it’s opening day tomorrow.”

I jumped up and headed out the door. “Thank you! I’m really excited. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”

“You need anything, let me know. Now get outta here and wow your new coworkers,” he said with a wink. He rummaged through his desk as I let myself out and practically skipped back to my car.

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So I hope you liked Chapter 1 of Gifted! I’m doing a giveaway of 3 paperback copies (as soon as I get them in my hands) to be mailed out to the winners! All you have to do is enter via Goodreads here-no catch (unless you need to join Goodreads first, in which case, authors and bloggers, you better get your bookish butts on there stat!). I’ll post Chapters 2 and 3 later this week.

Happy Tuesday!