I was a teacher for 11 years, so this time of year always reminds me of those days. I taught English in middle school and high school, so I didn’t teach the cute elementary kids. That was perfectly okay with me. I liked working with the older kids.
My first year teaching was definitely the hardest. I had an AP (Assistant Principal) who was of the opinion that first year teachers had to earn their place via trial by fire. I taught eighth grade in the inner city my first year, and for a 23-year-old white girl raised in the suburbs, it was an eye opener. I remember in 3rd period I had a 16-year-old boy who was a captain in the Cholos, which was one of the local gangs. Two seats in front of him sat a 15-year-old girl with a baby and an unreliable babysitter. All together, I had six classes, and 5th period was the worst. I had 35 desks and 40 students. You can guess how that worked out. I don’t think I taught anything in that class the entire year.
I remember a couple things about that 5th period English class—other than tripping over the kids who had to sit on the floor—and that was I had two of the worst boys in the entire grade in that class. I’ll change their names to protect their identity, but it should tell you something that I taught these kids in 1996, and I remember their names perfectly.
I’ll call one boy Joe. Joe was always in trouble with every single teacher. He was a clown with a bad temper who did not appreciate authority, especially female authority. So every time I said, “Joe, stop talking,” he would argue with me and turn what should have been a quick reprimand into a class disruption. At one time or another, he called me every profanity you can think of. To make matters worse, when I sent him to the office, nothing happened to him. Trial by fire, remember? Joe and the AP were best buddies, strolling around with arms around each other’s shoulders.
Would the situation have been so bad if I’d been older and more experienced? No way. I would have had control of that kid and the class from day one. But to throw a new teacher into a situation like that was really unforgivable. Because in addition to Joe, I had Carl. Carl was an angry kid. He wasn’t particularly disruptive, but it didn’t take much to disrupt a class of 40 kids. One time I was attempting to teach (silly me!), and I’d passed out highlighters for the class to use. At the end of class, when the highlighters were passed in again, 12 were missing. Twelve. Like I wasn’t going to notice that?
So I did the whole thing where I threatened to punish all the kids if they didn’t tell me who had taken the highlighters because I knew they knew who had them. A couple kids who didn’t want detention on their records told me privately that it was Carl. So I called Carl in and asked him if I could look in his backpack. Well, he was caught well and good, and he didn’t like that, so instead of handing over his backpack, he started pulling out books and notebooks and flinging them at me. Fortunately, I was good at ducking.
Then he decided maybe that wasn’t enough of a search, and he took off his shoes and threw them at me. Next came his shirt. People, when he reached for his pants, I was up and running down the hall to the male history teacher’s class. The door to my classroom was open, but no way was I getting slapped with sexual harassment because some kid decided to strip in my room.
I didn’t go back to my room, but I could hear the history teacher from the other end of the hall yelling, “Boy! What in the hell do you think you are doing? Put your clothes back on!”
And do you know the AP tried to put Carl back in my class? Fortunately, the math teacher in the room beside mine was in the teacher’s union and told me the legal way to get Carl out of my class. So he had a different English teacher the last month of school, and from all reports he was an angel in her class. It was the best thing for both of us.
But here’s what I want to tell you. The next year those eighth graders went to high school, and kids always come back at the end of the year to visit their old teachers. Do you know which of my classes had the most kids come visit? Yes, 5th period. I might not have been an effective teacher, but I cared. I tried. I didn’t give up on them, and they remembered that and they remembered me. Seeing those kids again and hearing them tell me how much they liked my class was an important life lesson. Sometimes when you think you’re just banging your head against a wall, you’re actually making progress. You might not see it, but the cracks you’ve created can splinter and break and produce amazing results.
The other night my husband, who I call Ultimate Sportsfan (USF), and I turned off baseball and turned on a new documentary about romance writers and readers. Have you seen Love Between the Covers? It’s on iTunes and Amazon, and I’d seen clips of it, but I hadn’t had a chance to watch the whole thing. I really enjoyed it. It’s always interesting to hear about other authors’ experiences and paths to publication.
Check out the trailer (at the end is my editor and the owner of my publisher, Sourcebooks).
USF found them movie interesting because it was an inside look into the romance genre. He sees a lot of the inside of the industry, but he only sees it from my perspective. This documentary widened his field of vision a bit.
My favorite part of the movie was the interviews with the romance readers. They’re the true stars of romance. In a sense, we’re all readers, and it’s amazing how books can change and affect our lives so completely.
My other favorite part was watching interviews with two of my friends here at the Jaunty Quills! Jesse and Kristan were both featured, and I think they both came off as very professional and insightful. I have a small cameo in the movie. I’m signing behind one of the authors the cameraman is filming meeting readers. I only saw it because I recognized the dress I was wearing.
So that’s the exciting story of my motion picture debut!
Have you ever been in a movie? If not, what’s the best film you’ve seen lately? One person who comments will win a tote bag filled with an assortment of romances! **Winner chosen randomly and notified on Sunday. Sorry, only open to readers with a U.S. address because those books are heavy.
You’ll have to watch the movie to see Kristan and Jesse and to spot my cameo, but here’s an extra I enjoyed.
Readers, as you know by now a bunch of us went to the RWA conference in San Diego last week. First stop was the multi-author signing, which benefits literacy programs. Here we are together.
I also got a shot of Theresa signing and my signing buddy Tina Gabrielle took one of me.
The signing had a few interesting characters too. This guy was promoting his wife’s book. What a great husband. It was hot in the ballroom.
Theresa, Kristan, and I met up again at the Rita awards reception. Theresa and I were celebrating, an Kristan took this shot of us in sunny San Diego.
We didn’t just drink and schmooze. We went to workshops and we discussed issues affecting our world. Julia Quinn was taking pictures of authors for the #whatireallyreallywant campaign.
And then it was time for the Rita awards. I can’t even explain how surreal it is to see your photo, name, and book on the big screen.
Neither Theresa or I won, but we sure had a fun night.
What do you really, really want? I have a bag of assorted books to send to one reader who comments. (Winner chosen randomly, announced Sunday, and contacted Sunday).
The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome Lark Brennan, author of two fabulous (I know because I’ve read them!) paranormal romantic suspense novels—Dangerously Yours and Irresistible Yours.
Keep reading to find out how to win copies of both of these books.
Shana: Welcome, Lark! Tell us about Dangerously Yours and Irresistibly Yours.
Lark Brennan: Dangerously Yours is the first book of the Durand Chronicles and Irresistibly Yours is the second. The series is about the Durands, a rich, powerful, famous and psychic family whose extraordinary abilities are genetic, enhanced by training and the power beneath their ancient home in Paris.
In Dangerously Yours, Lex Durand—a marine biologist and animal telepath—blackmails genius-on-the-lam Bodie Flynn to help her find whales who have vanished off the British Virgin Islands. Although each has their own agenda, they soon discover the whales were just a test and there’s a much more deadly threat in the Caribbean that only they can stop. There’s lots of action, dolphins gone crazy, a seaplane called Silverbelle, a powerful enemy, and, of course, a sizzling romance.
Adrien Durand, head of the Durand family and one of the most powerful telepaths in the world, is the hero of Irresistibly Yours. After years of action and intrigue, he’s forced to return to Paris to take over the family’s international business empire and to guard the Source of their power as only he can. When Tate shows up in his establishment, he doesn’t know if she’s a “wild” talent or a spy sent by his enemies. And when he touches her, there’s a psychic connection he doesn’t want and can’t break.
Tate has always hidden her telepathic abilities and kept to herself, until the chance to visit Paris on business throws her into Adrien’s glamourous and dangerous world. Forced to accept his protection, she discovers she’s not the only person with psychic abilities and for the first time feels accepted.
Adrien’s life begins to unravel when an unknown enemy targets Tate, and threatens his family and his freedom. Just as it seems Adrien and Tate might have a chance for a future together, the danger gets up close and personal—and deadly.
Shana: Where did you get the ideas for these books? The concept is so clever and fresh.
Lark Brennan: The idea for the Durands started with Adrien.
I was in Paris with my husband when we discovered Deyrolle, a wonderful townhouse filled with whimsically staged taxidermy animals—lions, tigers, horse, zebras, goats, rabbits, almost anything you can think of even parakeets.
I knew I should be grossed out, but I wasn’t at all. It felt as though someone loved them. I said to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be cool if whoever owned this place could bring the animals to life and they just froze in place when visitors arrived?”
That man became Adrien Durand. Although the story could have gone comedic like Night at the Museum meets Dr. Doolittle, the “animals” are much more than that– they are a key to who the Durand are and where they get their psychic power.
For Dangerously Yours I drew on my seven years diving and sailing in the Virgin Islands. Lex is a modern female Jacques Cousteau with the ability to communicate with the whales and dolphins she studies. It was a lot of fun revisiting that life—this time with Lex’s money, seaplane and really fun abilities!
Shana: You’re quite the world traveler. Where’s your favorite place to travel?
Lark Brennan: I love France and would move there in a heartbeat if I could. We often rent an apartment in Paris near Deyrolle and pretend we’re locals. I also love the South of France and the Bordeaux area. Life is so lovely there—the food, wine, countryside and, yes, the people. We’ve made a lot of French friends over the years and always feel welcome.
Readers, now it’s your turn. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win copies of both Dangerously Yours and Irresistible Yours—any format for a US winner or e-book for international.
**Winner announced and contacted Sunday. Winner chosen randomly.
Last year my friends Theresa Romain, Vanessa Kelly, Kate Noble, and I got together to write an anthology. We’d never worked together before, but we enjoyed each other’s books and thought our writing styles complemented each other. The great thing was that our personalities clicked too. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to work with these ladies. Even when we aren’t working on a project together, we like to email back and forth and keep in touch.
It’s been extra exciting to keep in touch lately because Theresa, Kate, and I are each releasing our novellas separately this summer, while Vanessa’s will be released in the fall. Theresa’s novella, Those Autumn Nights, came out on Tuesday. I love the cover, and it’s kind of cool to see Theresa’s vision for her story.
My own novella, The Summer of Wine and Scandal, releases singly next week on June 29. Here’s my cover.
I hope it looks suitably summery. Funny story about this novella. I didn’t have an idea for the plot. The anthology follows the village of Hemshawe and the Gage family through all four seasons of the year. My season was summer. So I thought about what I liked about summer. On those sultry nights, I do like to settle back with a good book and a chilled glass of wine. And what goes with wine (besides books—but then everything goes with books!)?
Scandal, of course.
So the title became The Summer of Wine and Scandal, and the plot evolved from the title. In the story, Peregrine Lochley is a wine connoisseur who gets roped into judging the wine at the local fair. There are just two problems. First of all, he has a distinct dislike for British wines. Secondly, the woman he’s falling for is part of a family who makes wine.
There’s scandal in the story too. Caroline Martin has a dark secret. She can hardly forgive herself for her mistakes much less expect anyone else to.
The novella is up for pre-order now, and it’s only 99 cents through the July 4th holiday. Theresa’s novella is only 99 cents as well. If you’re looking for a quick read while you’re at the pool or on a plane to that sunny beach, grab your copy.