Today's guest, Saundra Mitchell, is not only a novelist but also a successful screenwriter. She is the head writer and executive producer (i.e., Big Cheese) for Fresh Films, a program for teens with an interest in filmmaking. Participants make their own films, many of which have gone on to compete in national and international film festivals. And...Saundra just announced on her site that Fresh Films will be coming to television!
Saundra's debut YA paranormal novel, Shadowed Summer, was a Junior Library Guild selection and an ALAN pick (the Assembly for Literature for Adolescents--no, I'm not sure where the N comes from either).
Saundra and I have (at least) two things in common: we both write about ghosts, and we share a cover artist--Chad Michael Ward of Digital Apocalypse Studios, who also did the cover for my Aspect of Crow trilogy.
For her Blogtoberguest blog, Saundra wrote an awesome little extra from the world of Shadowed Summer, called...
There wasn't much that happened in Ondine, unless you count what I did this summer, but at least we had Homecoming. Not in my whole life have I ever walked out in a sweater and tasted that crisp air that's supposed to go with October. Autumn in Ascension Parish is when the humidity goes away, traded out for rain.
But me, I know it's fall when Daddy gets wound up about high school football. Once upon a time, he played fullback for the team. He didn't go to State, and he didn't get a scholarship, but we're still Gators, by God. The St. Amant Gators, that is. Daddy says the University of Florida can go... well, I won't repeat, but you get the idea.
Uncle Lee and Uncle Carl came first, carrying the beer cooler between them. Our house sweated with the spice of Daddy's gumbo, and I hit the door hard when I heard Collette on the walk. Her mama made caramel corn for the game. It was sticky and tasted like sulphured hell, and it was my favorite part of Homecoming.
But before I got to Mrs. Lanoux, Collette grabbed me by my elbow and wheeled me around. Now, it was half-raining, but all of a sudden, we were walking down the street bare-footed. Away from my house, away from the gumbo, and the caramel corn I'd been craving all day.
Collette dipped her head close to mine. "Lord, Iris, there's a vampire moving in Old Mrs. Landry's house."
"Well, all right, then."
I woulda followed her all the way to the trailer park after that. It was a two-headed oddity, like joined-up twins in a jar at the fair. One, that a vampire was moving in. But two, that ANYBODY was moving in. Our town was made for leaving. It was supposed to be the kind you talked about, like, way back then I grew up in Ondine, Louisiana, we didn't have but one store, now pass me some caviar and cigars, darlin'.
Nobody moved here. Ever.
So of course, we had to go look. And of course, we had to stop at Ben's house. That was my fault, I guess, because I turned that way, but Collette didn't stop me, and anyway, it was kinda funny seeing him squint at us through the screen. His house was lit up for Homecoming, too. The radio blared, and I heard his brother Shea cussing somebody fierce for a fumble.
"Game's on," Ben said.
And since it was Collette's news, I shut up and looked at her until she announced, "There's a vampire moving into Old Mrs. Landry's house, and we're going to look."
"You're invited," I added.
Ben pushed the door open a little more, clutching the frame. He looked pained, then lowered his voice. "But the game's on."
I rolled my eyes first, Collette second, and we turned away at the same time. If Ben didn't have the sense to abandon a football game he couldn't even see on TV, to come look at the restless undead, there was help he needed that we couldn't provide.
"We gotta quit doing this, running around like idiots after monsters," Collette said, hooking her elbow in mine. Our hips rocked, and we bounced off each other as we hurried "There's a dance, and I want to go to it. And not with you, no offense."
I cut her a look. "You'd be lucky to have me."
"You'd be lucky to have me, more."
"Nah," I said, letting go of her arm to take a long run toward the corner. "It's a better world if we spread our evil out."
She laughed behind me, and I whooped when the skies opened in earnest. Pulling my t-shirt off my skin, I turned to soak up rain that didn't bring more heat with it. That was summer, and summer was buried. I shivered, and let my teeth chatter, and acted a fool because there wasn't anybody there to see me do it but Collette.
Planting her foot on my backside, she shoved me off the corner and as we turned under gold-grey gum trees, we both stopped. The tiger lilies that used to guard Old Mrs. Landry's house were gone. Not dead for the season- they were gone. Mowed down, and a bunch of landscaping rocks in their place. Somebody went and painted the house. It was strange and fresh in a coat of yellow, and there was a light on upstairs.
Up in Elijah's room, that hadn't been his room for twenty-something years.
Collette's eyes darted from the moving van out front, to the window, and I followed her gaze. Human-looking people stood on the porch. A tall, umber man peeked up at the sky, then laughed to someone in the shadows when he came back still wet. His head was smooth; I wondered what it was like to feel rain on a bare scalp.
"Go on," Collette said.
"What do you want me to do?" I whispered low. "Go up there and ask them to show me the vampire?"
We both jumped when a voice spoke behind us. "Y'all look like drowned rats."
"Bite me, Ben," Collette snapped. She shoved him for startling her, and I crossed my arms tight over my chest. I was wet, my shirt was thin, and all of a sudden, I wondered why I'd skipped caramel corn for this.
My face hot, I told Ben, "Go on home. You're missing the game for nothing."
"I don't know about that," he said. His laid his palm between my shoulder blades, and nodded toward the house. Collette resisted looking right away; she liked to have the satisfaction of doing things because she wanted to, not because somebody told her to. Still, we all ended up staring at the white boy in the window.
And I do mean white, not peach or beige or any other pale color skin comes in. He was blue-white like powder, his skin and his hair both. A new kind of cold come over me, because he wasn't just looking out. He was looking at us.
Leaning close to the glass, he exhaled on it. Then, in the fog he wrote, YES.
"Yes what?" I wondered.
And as if he could hear me, he flattened a sheet of paper against the glass. I inched forward in the rain, still clinging to myself. I had to walk half into the street, and pull everybody's attention from the porch just to read it. My cheeks felt slapped when I finally made out the words, but I kinda had to smile too. I waved, and he waved, the light suddenly extinguished behind him.
Ducking away, I looped my arms with Ben and Collette's, and dragged them back toward Homecoming. They didn't even have to ask; they knew I'd tell 'em and as soon as we got around the corner, I did.
"Bite yes," I told them, trying not to crane back for another intriguing look. "Sparkle no."
And that's how Simon Drinkwater came home to Ondine.
Photos Copyright Gaylon Keeling and used with permission.
After that, how can you not want to read more?
To enter to win Shadowed Summer, leave a comment below. For complete rules, read the introductory post.
Deadline for entry: Monday, October 12, 11:59pm Eastern.
Other open Blog-toberfest giveaways:
Rosemary Clement-Moore and The Splendor Falls
Shannon Reinbold-Gee and 13 to Life
Thanks again to Saundra for giving us an extra special look into her world!