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Atlanta, GA, United States
I am the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best Selling author of The Proposition, Proposal, Music of the Heart, and Nets and Lies. I am represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich for all books except for Proposition and Proposal.
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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chapter One of Don't Hate the Player

As some of you might know, I taught MS and HS English for 11 1/2 years before quitting to write full-time in January.  Four years ago this February, I lost my first student. I'd been blessed to teach eight years before I had to go through that type of loss. It was miraculous considering I taught MS and HS students. I'll never forget that February morning when I was called into the principal's office and notified that one of my Freshman had dropped dead at the basketball game he was playing in the night before due to a pacemaker malfunction.

That experience brought up memories from the past when two good guy friends were killed in car accidents six months apart when I was a junior in HS. Travis, who died in September, would have been the next Adam Sandler or Andy Samburg, I have no doubt. David, who died in March, was a sweetheart who excelled at baseball and basketball.

Exploring how males grieve, what it must've been like for Cooper's guy friends, along with Travis and David's, is what fueled me to write Don't Hate the Player...Hate the Game. It's also combines my own experiences with grief. It is special to me not only because it honors the memory's of three special guys, but because of what it meant to my writing career as well. Don't Hate the Player was the first book I got agented with and I almost sold to traditional New York publisher.

I'm excited to finally get it out to the world, and there are so many people anxious to read it. It is Young Adult, rather than New Adult, so I feel I should make that disclaimer.

When I first wrote the book, I saw a different actor as Noah, but now I'm leaning towards Nicholas D’Agosto. Noah has shaggy dark hair and a slight build. He's rejected sports because his biological father abandoned his mother when he got to her pregnant to become a Major League Baseball Player. He is gifted at guitar and singing. 







And for Jake--the eyes, the smile, the body that makes girls drop their panties in an instant, Chace Crawford.





And here's Chapter One....

ROUGH DRAFT & SUBJECT TO CHANGE


                                                                 Chapter One

            As I slowly drifted back into consciousness, my knee jerked upward, banging against the desk. “SHIT!” flashed like neon in my mind, and I had to bite my lip to keep it from escaping out my mouth. Instead, I peered around the room, trying to gage whether the noise alerted anybody to my nap.
            Nope. The coast was clear. Everyone else in the classroom looked stoned or spaced out. Mr. Jones, a man who was a cross between Clay Aiken and Pee Wee Herman, was perched on his stool in the front of the room, droning on and on about the evils of Big Brother in 1984.
            I rolled my eyes towards the ceiling. Jesus, the man must have a screw loose. I mean, it was the first day back after Spring Break and what was he doing? Lecturing.
What a dumbass.
            I could have assured Mr. Jones that no one gave a flying shit about George Orwell. Half the class was still hung over from the previous week’s antics. Even the usual goody two shoes wore expressions of pure boredom as their pens hung in midair over their notebooks. 
              I ran a hand through my dark hair, hoping to smooth down some of the places that looked like “desk hair’ where I’d been napping. My mouth felt the way I imagined a moldy gym sock would taste, so I rifled through my pockets to find a piece of gum. I chewed on it as I glanced down at my cell phone. No new messages.
            Where the hell is Jake? I couldn’t help wondering. Jake Slater was the biggest douchebag I’ve ever known. He was the prankster who always gave Freshman swirlies in the toilets or shanked them, leaving them bare-assed and humiliated in front of the entire school. He was the somewhat illiterate jock who always wanted to copy off your homework or cheat off your test. He was the idiot who could never hold his alcohol and always ended up puking in the back seat of your car before slurring an “I looove you, man!” Yeah, he was all those things and more.
Most of all he was my best friend.
            Our friendship was cemented in kindergarten. That’s when Jake decided to duct tape me to my chair before recess. There’s a saying in the South that “Duct tape’ll fix anything.” Yeah, I’m a living testament to that. It will certainly render a five year old captive to a plastic chair until hostage negotiators—or your teacher—comes to the rescue. Once the tape was removed, along with the first layer of my epidermis, I had a new friend.
            Years later, the story of how we met was one of Jake's favorite stories to tell. Usually it was right after some hot as hell girl asked about that distorted patch of skin on my right arm where hair refused to grow because the follicles had been damaged by duct-tape.
            "What happened?" she'd ask, eyes wide with compassion as she traced the area playfully with a finger. They always hoped for a good story – I'd been burned in a fire trying to save the neighbor's newborn baby, or it was from the time I skidded out on my motorcycle trying to outrun the State Troopers. But like the true douchebag he was, Jake always shot that fantasy down within seconds.
            "Dude," he'd say, sloshing his beer out of the cheap plastic cup that seemed permanently attached to his hand from Friday night til Sunday morning.
            "Jake…" I’d begin, my eyes pleading with him to drop it and not go there for the hundredth time.
            "Get this. I duct taped him to his chair when we were five."
            "Jake, shut the fuck up!"
            Ignoring me, Jake would snicker. "He like, practically pissed himself he was so scared when Mrs. Cook ripped that shit off."
            I rolled my eyes thinking about him. He was supposed to get home from his grandparent’s farm late last night, but instead, he’d sent me a text around ten saying he was blowing off the first day back and would be home around three if I wanted to hang out after school. It was ironic that Jake, the unofficial King of Partying, spent his Spring Break off chillin’ in the mountains among rolling pastures filled with steaming cow patties rather than hitting the sandy white beaches and orgies of Panama City or Daytona. Of course, he always managed to raise some hell while he was away or take advantage of some hillbilly girl high off moonshine.
            The last time I’d heard from him was around eight this morning when he’d sent me a cryptic text during first period that read I fucked up. She’s gonna be pissed! I took it to mean he’d done something stupid to piss his mom off. But after my last few Dude, WTF? texts had gone unanswered, I was seriously beginning to think he was in major trouble—like blue lights and handcuffs trouble. 
            Suddenly, a voice came over the intercom.
            “Mr. Jones?”
            “Yes,” Mr. Jones answered impatiently, clearly pissed that the powers that be had dared to interrupt his literary ramblings. 
            “We need Noah Sullivan to Administrative Services, please.”
            At the sound of my name, I shot upright in my chair, straightening my slouching posture. Administrative Services? Once again, SHIT! flashed in my mind as I frantically tried to figure out what I’d done wrong.
            “I’ll send him up,” Mr. Jones replied, giving me a disapproving look.
            Without a word, I gathered up my books and left the room. Part of me was thrilled to be spared one more minute of British Lit, but at the same time, I was a little concerned that I’d been summoned to administration.
            Out in the hallway, I ran into my cousin, Alex. He raised his dark eyebrows at me. “You got called up too?”
            I nodded. “What do you think is up?”
            Alex shrugged while his dark eyes twinkled. “Beats the shit outta me. I’m just stoked to be getting outta AP Government right now!”
            I laughed. “Tell me about it. Jones is on one of his freakin’ tirades again.”
            “Damn, I gotta sit through that shit next period,” Alex moaned, and then he shuddered. “Having Brit Lit with Jones the last period of the day blows.”
            Before we could get to the administrators’ suite, Mr. Elliot, one of the assistant principals, rerouted us to the auditorium. When Alex and I strolled through the double doors, there were twenty or so kids scattered throughout the first three rows. I noticed immediately that they were some of Creekview’s A-crowd of popularity—football and basketball players, cheerleaders. It was most of the “crew”, so to speak, that Jake and I hung out with on a daily basis.   
            Dr. Blake, the principal, and three counselors stood solemnly at the edge of the stage.
            “Damn. Must be something pretty serious,” Alex murmured. 
            “I’m so whipping Jake’s ass if this has anything to do with us skipping out on Friday,” I hissed.
            Since most of the “the crew” had different plans for our week off, Jake had thrown what he called a Pre-Break Binge on the Friday we got out of school. When it was just us, he’d called it his “Going Out of Partying Party” since he claimed to be turning over a new leaf. I didn’t believe him for one minute, but I let him think I did. Jake always had a way of coming up with these bat-shit crazy ideas that seemed cool to him in the moment, but in the end, he’d always abandon them. He struggled with the follow through.
So, we’d basically all skipped school right after lunch and went over to his house. By three, the party was completely out of hand with drunken beer pong, half-naked people, and one fist fight. Luckily, everyone spilt before Jake’s parents got home at six.          
            Alex and I slid into a seat on the front row. The Homecoming Queen and reigning Ice Princess, Avery Moore, glanced up at me and smiled. “Hey,” she whispered.
            “Hi.”
            “Where’s Jake?”
            I shrugged. “On his way home from the mountains I guess.”
            Dr. Blake interrupted our conversation by clearing her throat. She then took a tentative step forward. “I’ve just been informed of some very distressing news,” she began.
            I cringed. I didn’t know how in the hell she’d gotten wind of the Pre Spring Break Binge, but by the look on her face, she had the goods on all of us. Great, I was going to be in deep shit at school but even worse at home when my mom found out.
            Dr. Blake stared down at the auditorium tile for a few minutes, trying to gain her composure. Finally, she glanced back up at us. “In this age of technology, it’s hard to keep news of this kind a secret for long. Since we were only notified thirty minutes ago, the counselors and I have tried to find the easiest and least detrimental way to tell you all. Sadly, there’s not a strategic plan in place that we can follow when something like this happens.” Dr. Blake drew in a ragged breath. “More than anything, I wish that there was an easier way for you to find out—that there had been time to call your parents and families to have them here to temper the tragic news by comforting you all.”
            Hmm, okay, maybe this wasn’t about the Spring Break Binge. Furrowing my brows, I turned to Alex who shrugged his broad shoulders.
            “What happened Dr. Blake?” Avery demanded from my other side.
            Chewing her bottom lip, Dr. Blake’s gaze flickered to one of the counselors who bobbed their head. “I regret to inform you that Jake Slater was killed this afternoon.”
            A collective gasp of pure horror rang throughout the auditorium. I jolted back in my seat like I’d been shot with a taser gun. An icy feeling pricked and stung its way over my body like I’d never experienced before in my life, causing me to shudder. Jake was…dead. No, no, no! Someone had to be fucking with us. Guys like Jake didn’t die.  
            Like in some freaky outta body experience, I heard my voice croak, “What the fuck?”
            Dr. Blake glanced over at me. Instead of riding my ass for cussing, she just gave me a sad look. Slowly, I found my voice again. “Are you positive it was Jake? I mean, he’s not even in town, so it might not have been him. I mean, when did it happen? Where did it happen?” The questions seemed to continuously fumble out, and I began to wonder if I should clap my hand over my mouth to stop them.
            “I’m so very sorry, Noah, but I was notified by Jake’s father.” She drew in a deep breath before she continued. “It seems that Jake and some of his friends were hanging out, shooting at cans when a bullet ricocheted—”
            “Jake was shot?” I demanded. In my mind, I pictured a group of hillbilly vigilantes or the Dixie Mafia taking him out.
            Dr. Blake’s expression became pained. “No—it seems he was sitting on his grandfather’s tractor when the bullet ricocheted off a tree, hitting the fuel tank.”
            At the realization of Jake’s fiery end, I fought the bile rising in my throat. I pinched my eyes shut and willed myself not to blow chunks on the auditorium floor. Jake had been blown up. Jesus, that was too horrible to even imagine. A car accident was one thing, but to be blown up…fuck, that was gruesome. The girls around me gasped, and some began crying. Avery reached out and grabbed my hand in hers. She started doing this horrible hiccupping, hyperventilating cry. Her frantic eyes met mine. Momentarily my own grief and potential freak-out were forgotten as I focused on the fact Avery was seriously about to lose her shit.
Without a word between us, I got up and led her out of the auditorium. Alex followed close on my heels. We stood out into the hallway. Mr. Elliot saw the state Avery was in. He motioned us inside the counseling suite across the hall.  
            Presley Patterson was already inside with several of her friends. Presley was Avery’s rival in everything from popularity to, most importantly, Jake. But it wasn’t her personality that necessarily made her popular or notorious at Creekview. It was the fact she slept around. 
            Through her tears, Avery shot Presley one of her icy stares. In retaliation, Presley jerked her chin up and wiped the tears from her blue eyes.
            I steered Avery over to one of the chairs. The minute she sat down she buried her head on the table and began sobbing uncontrollably. Her tiny frame shook so hard I was afraid she might break under the strain. It wasn’t long before an eerie and unnerving chorus of wailing echoed off the walls of the room. As the lone guys in the room, Alex and I glanced at each other. Neither one of us really knew what to do.
            We stared helplessly at Mr. Santos, the head counselor, but he was useless. He’d spent years immersed in the business side of high school counseling. Where Little Johnny was going to college and what Little Susie needed on her SAT to get into Brown. I think the man was dried up of any shred of psychobabble spin. He did manage to pat Avery on the back and say, “There, there, honey.”
            Geez, what an asshat!
            At that moment, the most random memory I could fathom wormed its way into my mind, cloaking me with its intensity. When I was ten, I’d gone on a camping trip with Jake and his family. We’d picnicked by some waterfalls, and after lunch, we started messing around in the water. Somehow I managed to step in a mammoth hole in the rocks. Within seconds, I got tangled up in some willowy weeds, and I couldn’t break free of their viselike grip.
            When I realized I was trapped and would likely drown, panic crept from my chest up through my throat. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t. I could see sunlight breaking through the surface of the water as I flailed and jerked around.
            Suddenly, an arm grabbed hold of my t-shirt and pulled me forward. Coughing and sputtering, I tried clearing my eyes to see my savior while expecting nothing short of miraculous like Jesus himself standing there with arms outstretched.
            But it was just Jake.
            He was ashen and trembling worse than me. As I sputtered and vomited up water, he did something so unexpected I almost fell back in the water.
            He hugged me. Not just a quick, “Hey, man, you okay?” kinda hug. It was a full on bear hug that took my breath. “Jake,” I’d wheezed. “Can’t breathe!”
            When he’d released me, there were tears in his eyes. “I-I thought you were dead.” He shook his head wildly back and forth. “Don’t you EVER do that to me again!”
            I was so taken back by his emotion that I could only nod my head. At the sound of voices behind us, he quickly wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands. “If you tell anyone I was crying, I’ll beat the shit outta you!” he’d warned.
           Since I knew Jake would do it, I’d kept silent all these years. I’d never told anyone.But now closed in that tiny room with the girls all sobbing around me, I felt the same panic of impending death. I was under the surface of the water again, and I couldn’t breathe. Even when I tried sucking in air, my chest constricted, and I felt like I was slowly suffocating. My eyes honed in on the door—my one escape from the churning sea of grief and loss enveloping me.  
            Without another thought, I bolted from my seat. I ignored my name being called over and over as I sprinted out the office and then burst through the double doors leading out of the school. I didn’t stop until I ran around the side of the building. I gulped in the air the same way as if I were breaking the surface of water.  I bent double, trying to calm myself of the emotions coursing through me. My hands on my knees trembled against my jeans, and I realized then my entire boy was jerking all over. Jesus, Noah would you get a grip? I could almost hear Jake’s voice echoing through my head. “Dude, quit acting like a total pussy!”
            As I stood there trying desperately to steady myself, a realization washed over me. This time I didn’t bother fighting the bile rising in my throat. Instead, I heaved the entire contents of the cafeteria’s shitty lunch onto the emerald grass. Over and over again, I threw up as if I were trying to purge myself of the dark feelings overtaking me.
            Jake is dead.
           My best friend is dead.
          I was never going to drink beers with him around a bonfire down by the lake or scope out chicks at the mall. We weren’t going to share a dorm room together at Georgia Tech like we’d planned or rush the fraternity that his brother and some of my uncles had been in.
          Not only was he dead, but he’d been blown up on his grandfather’s tractor. I mean, what the hell? Car accidents, accidental shootings, illness—I could get that, but to be blown up on your grandfather’s tractor? My mind just couldn’t comprehend that. I shook my head as I thought of what Jake would’ve said about the situation. “Hey man, you know I always meant to go out in a blaze of glory! And damn if I really didn’t!”
            No, no, no. This couldn’t be real. It all had to be just a bad dream. Pinching my arm, I willed myself to wake up and to start the day all over again. But it didn’t work. In another act of desperation, I grabbed my cell phone out of my pocket and began furiously texting.
            Jake?
            Come on, Jake! Answer me you sorry fucker!
            Tell me you being dead is just a joke you’re pulling to keep from getting in trouble for skipping out today.
            Please Jake…
            When no reply came, I sank to my knees on the grass. Oh God, it was really true. Jake was dead. He was gone and never, ever coming back again. Before I realized it, I was crying. Not just silent tears streaking down my cheek, but sobbing hysterically. Gut wrenching sobs that caused my body to spasm. The harder I tried to stop, the harder the sobs came. It was a crazy, manic feeling not to be able to control my emotions. I hadn’t cried in years—at least not when I was sober. When I was drunk, I usually cried about old girlfriends. The last time I’d cried like this was when I was fifteen and my grandfather, who had been a father to me, died.
            Suck it up, dickweed! A voice repeated over and over in my head. In a snot-filled finish, I wiped my nose on the back of my hand and shook my head. Quickly, I threw a panicked glance over my shoulder, hoping I was safe where no one could see me.
            I was wrong.
            Cold fear washed over me as Avery came striding out the double doors. Dammit, I couldn’t let her see me like this—a blubbering pansy with tear streaked cheeks down on his knees in the grass. Men were supposed to control their emotions—be strong and comfort chicks when they were upset.
            In a fluid movement, I pulled myself to my feet and sprinted around the side of the building. I could hear Avery calling my name, but once again, I ignored her. My phone buzzed in my pocket. I knew it was Alex or one of the other guys asking where the fuck I was. But I didn’t care. I had to get away. I was no good to myself or anyone else at that moment.
            Unless I was with Jake, I usually played by all the rules. But now that he was gone, I just didn’t give a shit, so I bypassed the front office and headed straight for the parking lot. When I slid across the scorching seats of my Jeep, I tried stilling my erratic breaths.
            Jake is dead. Jake is dead. Jake is dead. Jake is dead….
            As that thought played over and over in my mind, I brought a shaky hand to the steering ignition and cranked up. Squealing out of my parking spot, all I could think of was getting away. Where I was going, I didn’t know or where I could go to let go of the suffocating pain, I didn’t know.
            I just knew I had to try.           

9 comments:

  1. I love the emotion in this! The denial, which anyone who has lost someone, knows very well. Most people forget of the physical reaction the body has with such high emotion. I reacted in much the same way when my father passed away. I absolutely cannot wait for this book! Such raw feelings, I love that.

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  2. Wow, so powerful. Lost a friend in high school due to a house fire, will never ever forget...

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  3. Whoa! Definitely feel the tightness in your chest just from the emotions going on. Can't wait for the rest of the book.

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  4. Oh Katie you had to make me cry. That was really emotional.

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  5. Thanks a lot Katie! I'm sitting in my office crying...when is this book coming out?

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  6. Good efforts. All the best for future posts. I have bookmarked you. Well done. I read and like this post. Thanks. London Czech escort Erica provides escort services in Knightsbridge. Lovely Girls

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  7. Sob! I can see me crying a lot through this book!!

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  8. Crying... Such good writing. NY publisher should have published. Thanks for preview!

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