Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Phones

When I posted pictures of the room we redecorated this summer for the girls, many people commented on the Red Phone on the wall.

Heather Kelly wanted to know if it was a direct line to the President, and J.E.M. wondered if it contacted Batman. That's the look we were going for! :) However, the phone is really part of the intercom system my husband installed in the house. The phones all call each other -- you just dial the extension for the room you want.

Here is the phone in Gina's room.

And there's even another Red Phone inside the Playhouse under the basement steps. (Ooh, remind me to tell you sometime how the Playhouse became the Murder House during the reign of Maui the Rabbit Killer ...)

I have a phone, too, but it's not very fancy. Bob is on the lookout for a more stylish, steampunk model.

Anyway, that's the story behind the phones. It's awesome to have such a creative husband! He's always coming up with some clever thing to make our home more interesting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

PAYA 2011 and Irene

This Saturday was the second annual Bring More YA to PA Book festival (also known as PAYA), held in West Chester, PA and squeaking in just ahead of Hurricane Irene. Sadly, a number of authors had to cancel due to the weather-related difficulties, and some of the attendees didn’t make it either. But I was thrilled we weren’t forced to cancel altogether. (And actually, the smaller crowd made it possible to have more conversations with people.) Kudos to Skyanne for another wonderful event benefiting Pennsylvania libraries!

There were raffles of books and swag.

There was a goldmine of donated books for PA librarians to take (free of charge!) back to their libraries.

And of course, there were lots of YA authors signing their books. I enjoyed seeing April Lindner and Josh Berk again. (We met at the Drexel University event back in May.) There were authors back from last year, like Shannon Delany. And I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Shaw, Leah Clifford, Charlotte Bennardo, and Natalie Zaman – plus K.M. Walton whose book Cracked comes out in January of 2012. (She and I had only met electronically before!)

I walked away with signed copies of Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman and The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk. (But there are plenty more titles in my head I plan to check out on my Kindle.)

By the time I left the event, it was raining – but just a normal kind of rain. Plenty of time to get home, kick back with one of my new books, and wait for the storm to roll in!

As for Irene, her destruction was minimal in our area of southeastern Pennsylvania. No trees down in my yard, nothing broken or damaged. The power went out around 4am and was out for about 9 hours. We had a generator to power our refrigerators, so we viewed it mostly as an inconvenience and didn't have to worry about our food.

The scariest moment of the whole storm for me was when I walked outside the basement door into our sheltered patio by the goldfish pond and nearly stepped on a 6 inch black snake. I know he was just a little fellow sheltering from the storm, but I screamed and nearly climbed straight up a brick wall! *shudder*

Hope all my friends in the Bloggerverse survived the storm as well as I did.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ta-Da! The Girls' Lounge

One of my goals for the summer was redecorating "the playroom" upstairs into a teen/tween lounge where my daughters might hang out with their friends. For the seven years we've owned this house, "the playroom" over the garage was a complete shambles, filled with toys, crafts, games -- usually spread all over the floor. It was impossible to walk from one end of the room to the other. There was paint and nail polish spilled on the carpet -- and Play-Doh ground in like cement.

I DID NOT take a before picture. I would have been ashamed to show you.

But here are the AFTER pictures! "The Lounge" is now a room where the girls can hang out and read, write, or chat ...

... have a jam session with their friends ...

... and I'm happy to report that all the "little girl" stuff is not entirely gone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Goals Assessment 2011

At the beginning of the summer, I posted goals for all the things I wanted to accomplish during my vacation. Today (probably while you are reading this), I am sitting in faculty meetings, preparing for the start of the 2011-2012 school year. For me, summer is over, so I figured it was time to report how I did.
1) I wanted to finish my first draft of VOLTAGE, complete one round of revisions, and send it out to beta readers. I did all this and more! I’m currently working on draft 4, based on reader feedback and my own gut instinct about the weak areas of the story.
2) My second goal was to get halfway through another project, which I was calling DOOMSDAY. Sadly, this story got trunked. It lacked a strong enough conflict to drive the plotline, and I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for revising/rewriting it. I spent a little time exploring an entirely different idea, but mostly I spent the summer with VOLTAGE.
3) I wanted to visit more blogs, and I hope I did that. During the school year, blog visits are generally limited to what I can do over my coffee in the morning and perhaps what I might read on my phone over lunch break. But never, ever during a faculty meeting. Nope. Not ever. ;)
4) My fourth goal was to exercise often. Um, let’s not talk about how badly I failed that one.
5) The final goal I posted was to redecorate the horrendous eyesore that we called “the playroom” into a lounge where my teenage and tweenage daughters could hang out with their friends. I’m happy to say this was a great success! Pictures later this week!
6) I didn’t post a sixth goal in June, but I definitely had one I didn’t want to put into print. I wanted to sell a book. And happily, I met that goal! If the announcement in Publishers Marketplace wasn’t enough to prove to me it was really happening, the startlingly fast appearance of THE CAGED GRAVES on Goodreads did!
So, tell me? Did you meet your goals for the summer?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mystery Fish (from Outer Space)

Can anyone identify this species of fish?

About three years ago, approximately 2 dozen of these fish appeared suddenly in our pond. They were about ½ inch long when we first spotted them, and in the past 3 years, they’ve grown to 7-9 inches. Before anyone asks, our pond is a closed system with an upper pond …

… and a lower pond joined by a pump.

These fish look nothing like any other fish we have, so they weren’t babies of our existing fish. It’s as if they just dropped from the sky (or outer space). Now, my friend Kelley Crist did admit to sneaking into our yard when we weren’t home one year and depositing a bucket of frogs in our pond (No, I don’t know why, either. Ask her.), but she adamantly denies delivering these fish.

They are all dark-green to black in color. Some of them have a silver streak along their backs at the base of the top fin. (Military rank?) We wanted to catch one of those to photograph, but they were too quick. Our regular goldfish are dumb enough to be caught by a net again and again, but not these mystery fish and especially the striped ones. (It’s as if their mother ship warned them about this.)

Now, brace yourself for the weirdest part of this story. In the fall of the year they first appeared, we decided to drain the upper pond and clear out the algae. As the water level dropped, we discovered another of these fish – living all by himself, upstream, in the upper pond. He was twice as big as the others (because he was their leader).

One more interesting point: When our pond was robbed of all the largest fish this spring (by a heron, a juvenile delinquent, or the Fish Rapture – don’t know which), these fish all escaped harm. They are all still here.

If anyone can tell me what kind of fish this is – or make up a plausible interesting story about how they got in my pond – I’d love to hear from you!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thank You!

I want to thank everybody who stopped by here in the last few days to offer congratulations. Thanks so much for all your encouragement and good wishes! I just love this wonderful writing community!

After the excitement of the past couple days, I'm going to take today off from the blogosphere, but I'll be back on Monday with ...


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The News I've Been Dying to Share ...

I love my agent, Sara Crowe!

Well, that’s old news. I’ve been loving her since a) she raved about one of my characters and offered to represent me and b) her sharp editorial eye picked out what my manuscripts were lacking and pointed me in the right direction to fix them.

But now I have a new reason to love her!

My historical mystery, THE CAGED GRAVES, has sold to Dinah Stevenson of Clarion Books (an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)!

From Publishers’ Marketplace:

WE HEAR THE DEAD author Dianne Salerni's THE CAGED GRAVES, in which a 17-year-old returns to her hometown -- where "the dead don't stay where you put them" -- to marry a young man she's met only through letters, an unpromising engagement complicated by another suitor and by her family's entanglement with a legendary treasure and rumors about why her mother was buried in a caged grave, to Dinah Stevenson at Clarion by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger.

I’ve been grinning stupidly for days now. This is an amazing way to end my summer vacation, and I’ll be headed back to the teaching trenches next week walking on air! Recess and lunch duty? No problem. Some of the supplies haven’t come in yet? I’ll manage. Don’t have your homework? Wait – that’s still going to be a problem, even if I did just sell a book. Sorry, kids.

THE CAGED GRAVES is fictional, but the story was inspired by two real caged graves in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I’ll soon be planning another trip to the mountains so I can visit the cemetery and leave flowers for those two young women. I owe them big time!

Don't Forget Who's in Charge

I see a lot of talk on the blogs about writing characters – especially establishing goals for your characters, putting obstacles in their path, directing your characters like rats in a maze by blocking the path and making them work harder to fight their way out.
Sometimes I wonder if the reader sees through all that plotting. The last thing you want is your story looking transparently like an equation: character + goal < obstacle = need for ally + escalate action > new obstacles = goal achieved + boy gets girl.
Writers want to build a world that is convincing and real, a world in which the reader can become immersed – and create characters the reader worries about every time s/he has to close the book to eat dinner, shower, or go to work. But I don’t think we should forget that the author is in charge on the other end – manipulating the reader. Yes, think of the reader as your puppet. You’re in charge of what they know and what they think.
A few years back, I was working on a short story for an anthology with editor Michael Katz. The ending of my story was a real dud, and we were brainstorming alternative endings (let’s call them A and B). I liked Ending A, re-wrote the story to incorporate it, and sent it to Michael. His response: “Wonderful! Much better! Now, re-write it again so the reader thinks you’re going for Ending B, while you’re really heading for Ending A all along.” And he was correct.
So, I’ve spent the last few weeks mulling over the beginning of my current WIP. I just wasn’t getting it right, and for a long while, I didn’t know why. I knew what my MC’s goal was, and I felt as if the reader would understand it – but somehow, the whole thing came out flat.
Then I realized. Who says the reader has to know exactly what his goal is? Yes, of course I need to establish his goals, determine his obstacles, and make sure all his actions are designed to overcome them. That’s my job.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t mislead the reader into thinking his goals are something else entirely. Something that already fits the story and makes just as much sense. Something that adds more tension to the opening.
Sure, I’ll reveal the truth along the way. But I’m the author. I get to say when.
The interactive Einstein blackboard above is from The quote on the board is from The Producers by Mel Brooks, of course!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Do You Think of Google+?

When I first saw Google+ hitting the news and started getting invitations to join, I groaned. Facebook, yes. Twitter, I’m there. But ANOTHER ONE? I didn’t think I could do it. So, I deleted all the invitations and said, “The social networks stop here.”

But then, Tina Laurel Lee suggested a Google+ Hangout for our TPR group. If you’re not familiar with TPR (The Practice Room), check it out here. The brainchild of Tina Laurel Lee, TPR is basically a way to write in the company of other writers, separately but together, in a designated 1-hour session of concentration (no phones, TV’s, or internet allowed) and chat about it afterwards.

Google+ Hangout gives TPR a way to meet (occasionally) in a visual chat for a writing session. Imagine the Brady Bunch heads in their little square boxes, only everybody is busy writing in their boxes – taking a break every 25 minutes to chat, throw out a question, share a breakthrough or a frustration – and then returning to another writing session. People arrive and leave as suits their schedule. One of our Hangouts lasted for 2 hours of writing, with designated "water cooler" breaks to share.

So far, we’ve done this twice, and we’re planning another session for this Friday, August 19 at 2pm EST. (This is a change of date since my original posting -- We wanted to avoid conflicting with Write On Con.) If you’re interested in attending, contact me or Heather Kelly (Tina’s on vacation) for an invitation. Since this is my last week of summer vacation (quiet sob), I hope to set up some evening Hangouts once the school year begins, for those of us unable to make the afternoon EST times.

Okay, so I broke down and joined Google+, but the Hangout is the only thing I’ve done with it. Tell me, blogging friends, what else is it good for? I’d love to know what (if anything) you’ve done with it!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

One of my teacher friends (I think it was Tracy Litchfield) recently bemoaned August 1st as the death knell of the summer. I agreed. August does to the summer what Sunday evening does to the weekend. Then, of course, one of my parent friends (Michelle Gonnella) retorted that for her, August felt like Thank-God-It’s-Friday!
Yes, parents at home with bored, squabbling children are looking at the calendar and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. For us teachers – well, we see the light, too, but for us it’s an oncoming train!
I’m not complaining, because I was grateful to have these weeks off. Many of my co-workers worked their behinds off taking graduate courses all summer. Another whole bunch of my co-workers spent these weeks in the final stages of pregnancy or recovering from same with their beautiful babies. (Seriously, something must have been in the water at my building!)
As for me -- I always imagine I’ll set a rigorous writing schedule for myself – but that rarely happens. The sad fact is, if I have all day to write, I get very little done. It’s too easy to wander off task, get distracted, and holler: “Hey, Gabbey! Want to stream some Doctor Who from Netflix?” (She always says yes.)
By contrast, during the school year, if I only get 2 hours to write in the course of a day, you better believe I sit down and WRITE. Like many people, the more I have to do, the more organized I get. So, I have to admit that getting back on the train tracks might improve my productivity, rather than lessen it.
This summer, I met some, but not all, of my goals. Soon, I’ll share the details – but in the meantime, how is YOUR summer going? Do you see that light at the end of the tunnel? Is it daylight – or a locomotive?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bring YA to PA: PAYA 2011

I am excited to announce that the Second Annual Bring YA to PA festival is ON for Saturday, August 27th. Mark your calendars!

PAYA 2011 will be held in West Chester, Pennsylvania -- just a little south of Philadelphia. Writing workshops with some of the authors (including me-yay!) will be held from 10am-12pm, with author signings beginning at noon. At present, at least 18 authors will be attending -- and if it's anything like last year, the Festival will be a magnet for YA book lovers and bloggers from multiple states.

Last year, I was thrilled to meet Aine and Christine -- whom I had previously known only through their blogs -- and I fan-girled over Kristi the Story Siren so much I could scarcely sign her book!

Be sure to check out the Bring YA to PA website, and while you're there, you can read my guest post on why you can bring your horse to water, but shoving his head in the trough to make him drink won't help your story at all!

Hope to see you in West Chester on 8/27!

Monday, August 8, 2011

First Impression #19

Our fourth and final First Impressions post for August comes from Matthew Reeves, author of the wildly successful cell phone novel Once Upon a Christmas Wish.
This sample is the first page of his currently untitled YA historical fantasy, set against the backdrop of World War II:

“Will,” a voice spoke softly, breaking the silence that had only moments before surrounded his thoughts.

Looking up, a small yet noticeable yawn escaping from his lips, the young man quickly found himself greeted by a familiar face.

“Is there anything I can get for you?” the flight stewardess asked, flashing a large smile.

It was the same smile from before.

Straightening up from his slouched position, he shook his head, “Thank you, but it’s alright. I’m fine.”

"Are you sure?" she said eyeing him, "There aren't many your age who can handle flying alone so easily."

"Yes," he nodded, flashing back a timid smile of his own, "Quite sure."

“Okay, but remember, if you should need anything, anything at all, I’m only a wave away,” she winked.

He gave another nod.

As the woman continued to move down the aisle of the plane, passing his seat and the vacant one behind, he let his eyes gradually follow after her. She had been the first person to greet him when he and the other passengers had boarded. Being as nervous as he was, he had blurted out his own name immediately upon seeing her. With a laugh she had welcomed him and politely replied with her own.

“Susan…” he whispered to no one in particular.

She was from Britain, the same as himself.

Yorkshire, to be exact.

Turning his head back to the window, he continued to stare out at the alien view that lay beyond the pane of glass.

“We should be approaching the Almaza Airport very soon,” spoke one of the flight attendants after peaking her head inside the pilot’s cockpit.

‘Cairo,’ he thought with a mix of anxious and nervous heart beats.

My first thought is that I’d like to visualize the setting a little more clearly, since I know it's historical. Although I’m sure the year will become clear once Will disembarks in Cairo, there could still be some hints here. For example, Will might see propellers on the wings of the plane out a window, feel the throb of the engines, or even straighten his tie and suit coat when he wakes up, (I imagine that is what he might be wearing in the 1940’s). These details will give us the sense right from the start of the time period. It will also explain the solicitousness of the stewardess, for Will is obviously not a small child needing her attention.

It might also be nice to have a more intimate glimpse of his thoughts, if only the tiniest hint of why he’s traveling to Cairo on his own – or excitement about the flight itself if this is his first time. (Is he sorry to have slept through part of it?) I want to like this polite young man, flying without any family with Egypt, and giving me a peek inside his head will help me connect with him right away.

In editing notes, “peaking” should be “peeking” and I would drop the word “gradually” from “let his eyes gradually follow after her” because I think it reads more smoothly without it.

Overall, the combination of World War II, Cairo, this young man, and the designation of the novel as “fantasy” pique my curiosity about the story! Thanks, Matt, for sharing your work with us. Readers, please check out Marcy’s critique on Mainewords – as well as Matt’s website. You can also find him on Twitter.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Impressions #18

Our third First Impressions post for August comes from Sarah Nicolas. This is the first page of her current WIP, Dragons Are People Too – a YA urban fantasy about a teenage weredragon operative for the US government.
Well, crap. Mission Intelligence got it wrong. Again.
I mean, seriously? Heat sensors? When your operatives have a core body temperature of 142 degrees, that should be the first thing you check for. I daydream about ripping Simon a new one as I scale up the three stories of crumbling stone.

So now I cling to the east stone wall of the Lebanese embassy in DC with a diplomatic document pouch hanging from my belt.

I am overly conscious of the two security cameras aimed at my back, despite the full-body black catsuit with matching ski-mask that Draconic Intelligence Command (or, as I liked to call it, DIC) requires me to wear. Sirens blare, telling me security already knows we are here, but I still can’t let them see my face. And, more importantly, I can’t let them see me change.

Beside me, Wallace scrabbles, then loses his balance and falls twenty feet to the ground, hitting the wall at least twice in the process. Rookie. His breath comes fast, but he is uninjured. He could probably fall from three times that height without a scratch.

“Kitty." Even his whisper has a British accent. He lies sprawled on the immaculate lawn of the Embassy and slowly makes his way to his feet. “I can’t make it without changing.”

“No!” I yell, then catch myself and lower my voice to something more like a hiss. “Absolutely not. Do you have any idea how many cameras are on you right now?”
All right, the first thing I have to say is that a weredragon named Kitty makes me giggle. It’s cute! As is the fact that Kitty calls her command organization DIC. (I assume it’s her opinion of them as well as an acronym.)
I wasn’t quite sure about the reference to heat sensors at first, but I think it means the Lebanese embassy is equipped with them, and they were immediately tripped by the presence of the two operatives – whose temperature runs hot even in human form.
Kitty and Wallace have obviously caught red-handed, climbing up the side of the embassy. They’ve been spotted by cameras, too – which seem unrelated to the heat sensors. Didn’t anyone scope out the cameras in advance?
The writing is smooth, and Kitty’s voice is clear. The author has raised my curiosity about the mission, the abilities of these two operatives, and if she’s already on camera, how she plans to escape without showing her face or her shape-shifting. Those are things I expect to be answered in the rest of the chapter.
The only thing that bothered me on the first page was how they were caught by cameras as well as heat sensors. How could DIC not have known the security cameras were there, recording their operatives? If that question is going to be answered in the story ahead, then no worries! Otherwise, it seems odd to me.
Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your first page! Readers – please chime in with your thoughts! You can find Sarah at her website or on Twitter. Don’t forget to stop by Mainewords to read Marcy’s critique of this page, as well.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

First Impressions #17

The second First Impressions critique for the month of August comes to us from someone I know well … my 14-year-old daughter, Gabbey. This is the first page of her fantasy novel, The Mirror’s Curse.
Must keep running. Have to get out of here. Have to get out of here.
The boy stumbled as he ran, weaving through the thick, snaring collection of trees, tripping periodically over roots and the uneven ground, his boots tromping loudly on the dried leaves that scattered the forest floor. His lungs burned fiercely, but he had to run. He had to run. It didn’t matter where.
Thoughts of Tibius and Ava whirled about his head, spun around him, chasing away the sensible thoughts that tried to cross his mind. Tibius was dead. Ava was dead. And he was next. At least, he was supposed to be next.
He knew they were still chasing him, and he knew escape was invaluable. But where was he to run? Finally overwhelmed by his fear and the responsibilities that had recently landed on his shoulders, the boy stopped abruptly mid-stride, unsure of where to turn. Blackness surrounded him, the trees seemed to mock his uncertainty. If he didn’t run, they’d find him. If they found him, they’d kill him. If they killed him—
His feet skidded along the ground as he began to run again, but he shouldn’t have given them the chance to catch up. The black shapes flickered in and out of his peripheral vision, and whenever he stopped to turn he saw nothing. A hand with claws like death shot out of the bushes and grabbed hold of his ankle.
He let out a startled yelp of surprise and fell to the ground, hitting it hard but barely noticing as he turned over onto his back and tried to pull from the grasp of his shadowy attacker. A long hiss made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and he yanked himself free before scrambling up, stumbling towards the thick wall of trees, the sight of which he now welcomed.
There was a loud whoosh, and a hand grabbed hold of the back of his shirt collar. The boy thrashed and swung his fists blindly in a flurry of panic, but the person spun him around and hauled him up into the air.
The boy grabbed hold of the figure’s hand, twisting and trying to pry himself away, but the dark figure held tight as though he had fingers of iron. He, too was shrouded in blackness, just as the creatures around him had been—but even in the dim, moonless night, the boy recognized him all too well.
Gabbey has heard my response to this opening many times, so I’ll keep this brief and ask my blog readers to chime in with their comments and suggestions.
The passage starts us off with heart-pounding action and vivid imagery. I especially like “the trees seemed to mock his uncertainty.” Gabbey uses some excellent words here, especially verbs – but there are too many adverbs. Now, I’m not a writer who advocates annihilating all adverbs, but I do think they need to be used carefully. If you’ve got more than one in a sentence, you’ve probably got too many. I tend to overuse adverbs in my first draft, then weed them out afterwards. Sometimes adjectives need the same treatment. If Gabbey takes out some of the modifiers, her other excellent words will shine!
Be sure and check out Marcy Hatch’s comments on Mainewords. Thanks, Gabbey, for sharing your first page with us! (Love, Mom)

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Impressions #16

For the month of August, Marcy and I have taken on FOUR First Impressions critiques. Why? Because we love ‘em so much.
Our first critique is for the preface of Jessica Buccinna’s YA novel Surviving Derek, Maybe.
My former roommate Derek Shipley hung himself in the basement of his parent’s house last December, while he was home for Christmas. He used a bungee cord tied to an extension cord. At least that’s what I heard, anyhow.
Tis the season and all that.
There was this long memorial by the train tracks that ran through Haslett property where people lit candles and talked about Derek. It’s funny how people only say good things about someone after they’re dead. Like death makes you flawless or something. Because not one person stood up and said Derek Shipley stole ten bucks from my gym locker or Derek Shipley was an idiot who couldn’t pass Intermediate Algebra. He was dead, so it was like all of those things were absolved. Counselors with furrowed eyebrows hung around near the dorms all the time, in case anyone else dropped dead or had a break down. Things went haywire. We were supposed to talk more, but everyone talked less. And we all had to turn in our shoelaces.
The following week, it was back to business as usual and everyone who could just kind of forgot Derek Shipley ever existed at all. Like a selfish prick, I wondered if people would light candles and forget me if I hung myself in my basement. I wondered if I’d be perfect then, too. It’s probably unfortunate for my conscience that I’m not suicidal, I probably should be. Derek is dead and absolved and I’m here, trying to live in this mess and trying to survive.
First of all, I have to say I loved this opening, and I was immediately engaged by the voice of the narrator. It captured my attention, and I was sorry when the passage ended. I would definitely turn the page and read more of this!
I do have a question about chronology. Derek killed himself at home, over Christmas break, but I assume the memorial happened when everyone returned to school – since counselors were involved and dorms are mentioned. So why does the narrator imagine hanging himself in his basement instead of his dorm room (if that’s where he is now). If he was picturing himself doing it over Christmas break, then it should be in perfect past tense (had hung myself). It’s a small point, but I had to read the passage a couple times to figure out where and when the narrator is speaking.
There’s a couple editing errors: parent’s basement should be parents’ basement (plural possessive) and a semi-colon should be used in place of a comma in this sentence:
It’s probably unfortunate for my conscience that I’m not suicidal, I probably should be.
I read this sentence a couple times, and the double negative gave me trouble. I think it’s saying that his conscience would feel better if he was suicidal, because Derek is dead and absolved and he’s not. This makes me think that he and Derek did something wrong together (and I want to know what!) If this isn’t what Jessica meant, I would suggest changing the sentence – and even if that is the correct meaning, she might want to re-word it. Getting rid of the double negative would make the meaning clearer.
Thanks for sharing your work, Jessica! I wish I knew what was going to happen next – or perhaps more importantly, what came before! Be sure and check out Marcy’s critique on Mainewords.