Windmill Keepers Book 1 Cover

We lived in God’s blind spot.

Want a story about child slavery, a genius girl, and a daring plot to escape? Like to save money? If so, you’ll love this announcement…

It’s time for a sale!! Starting on September 22nd at midnight, the e-book version of Windmill Keepers will be available for only $2.99 on Amazon! The sale ends midnight, September 29th, so get it while you can, and don’t forget to review on Goodreads. 🙂

A. Kemp

The Importance of Great Teachers

Hey everyone! Windmill Keepers  is slowly making its way from the hands of our close friends and into the hands of their close friends. The spread begins! I’m proud to say this book has helped me come to another conclusion as well.

The day after we published to Amazon, I was talking to someone about my career and where I was headed in life. I admitted that I hadn’t been happy since I started my current job. He asked me what I wanted to be when my contract was finally up, and I didn’t have an immediate answer.

I have a graduate degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology, but it did me very little good when I graduated. There wasn’t anything open to a 23 year-old with no experience in the field, despite my fancy paper. Unable to break into investigations, as originally planned, I ended up joining a tiny, forgotten branch of the military. I managed to do some good at my last unit, but I wanted to move on in four years. I never expected to tricked into a seven-year contract. Now that I’m here, the only thing I can do is make the best of my situation and plan for my next career.

I’ve considered getting some more qualifications in forensics and working in a lab. After all, that was my concentration in college, and what I was best at. I’ve also considered going into robotics and possibly working in another country. But at the end of the day, I have a family to think of, and entry-level work at 31 sounds like financial suicide.

When I ran these options by my husband and sister, I added one more. I mentioned teaching, and they said that was where they could see me being the happiest. I can’t disagree with them.

I think having great teachers is extremely important. They’re the unsung heroes of America. In fact, their presence and words can alter a life. I can speak from experience on that one.

I was home-schooled until I was eight. When I finally started, the staff was worried I would be behind and placed me in second grade instead of third. My first teacher was Mrs. Moore. She was an old, puffy woman who wore lots of animal print button downs. Back in her golden years, teachers were still allowed to beat children who didn’t listen. To give you an indication of how that year would go for me, she missed those days terribly and often told us she wished America would bring it back.

We spent our days in a cinder block building, at the end of an abandoned road. There was nothing around us but cornfields, empty farm houses, and a military base on the horizon. The Midwestern sun turned our schoolhouse into an oven. With no air-conditioning, we had to make due with fans and open windows.

It was in the middle of this blistering heat that I remember silently crying as I wrote my mother and father an apology letter for being a bad daughter and student. Mrs. Moore watched me from her desk, tapping her long nails and lecturing to the class about how she used to beat ill-behaved children who talked in class. My face was red and hot, despite the fan blowing against the back of my neck.

When I was done, she read it to the class and said I didn’t do a good enough job because I didn’t admit to my guilt. She wrote an angry note in ugly red ink to my parents on the back. Then she told a girl across from me that once I fixed my attitude, she needed to teach me how to properly brush my hair. But I sat with my back to a fan, and it was that girl that had been talking – not me.

My parents sent me out of the room when they had a meeting with Mrs. Moore about the note. Apparently, my teacher admitted to calling me stupid in front of the class, and suggested that I couldn’t handle higher thinking. My summer vacation started a week early that year when my mother refused to send me back.

The next year, I had a new teacher, in a new grade and a new building. The old one was shutdown and replaced with an air-conditioned elementary school on base. Mrs. Guerrero had been a third grade teacher for just a little bit less than Mrs. Moore had been teaching second grade. But the difference changed my life.

Mrs. Guerrero encouraged me. She told me what I needed to work on, as well as what I was good at. With her, I won a poetry contest and placed third in the Young Authors program. She told me I was smart. When I saw Mrs. Moore in the hallway, I refused to look at her.

By fourth grade, I was in the advanced class. By seventh, I was homeschooling myself to skip eighth grade. The next year, I was a ninth grade student-worker at a college prep school. All along the way, I had amazing teachers that encouraged me and made me push myself (even if I nearly failed math in sixth grade).

Sometimes, I wonder where I would be if I had another Mrs. Moore in my life.  Would I have gone to college? Would I have tried to write a book? I have a feeling I wouldn’t have.

Teachers have such a huge impact on the people around them. They can make or break a young mind. I have so much thanks to give the people that encouraged me. I want to do that for another child. I know it will be scary starting something new after 30, but I think I can do it and keep my writing career as well. I have five years to go to get my qualifications and move into something better. I know I can make that happen. And when I do, I’m going to be someone else’s Mrs. Guerrero.

A. Kemp

P.S. Just a reminder that you can  purchase the e-book version of Windmill Keepers HERE for $5.99. If you like it, share it with a friend! Or review it on Amazon. Every bit helps 🙂

Responsibility in Writing

Creative writing is hard – a lot harder than people think. There are dozens of elements to consider when typing out a new story. Characters, world building, syntax, flow, and even vocabulary become a balancing act. Get too wordy and your flow is lost. Too much world building? Your plot becomes an afterthought. Focusing too much or too little on your characters’ backstories can lead to dis-attachment and disaster. It’s easy to get lost and, as readers, it’s easy to spot when it’s happening to other people.

One of the things so few people realize about creative writing is how personal it can be. Certain scenes can be ripped from our very lives. Villains are old bullies, and heroes are terrific friends. When we criticize using harsh words, we may unintentionally criticize someone’s life. So, when an author shares their work with someone, its a very brave act. Bravery and personal feelings, however, cannot serve as an excuse for careless writing in the YA genre.

Stephanie Meyer’s infamous Twilight series is a common target when it comes to accusations of harm in the world of YA literature. It’s no secret that Meyers modeled Bella after herself. A great deal of the story parallels with her own life. While some call this un-creative, and others accuse her book of being a “Mary Sue,” I say it’s no different than what most writers do. We put a bit of ourselves into every character and setting we create. If an author says they’ve never done it, they’re lying.

Where Twilight falls short isn’t even in the abusive romance of the book. The relationship between Edward and Bella is, by all accounts, unhealthy. Meyers wrote at least a dozen arguments in the first book alone that prove as much. By no accounts is this a bad thing, either. Abuse is something people experience, teenagers especially. Meyers fell short when she failed to acknowledge the relationship for what it was and glorified it instead.

Being a teenager introduces you to all sorts of firsts, one of which is usually dating. Sometimes, teens look to pop culture for guidance when trying to navigate these new relationships. Many young men and women can find themselves in abusive relationships. How can they know anything is wrong when the books they read and the songs they hear tell them this is the way it should be?

If Meyers had addressed the story in a different way, I feel it would have been received in a positive light. After all, it was nice to see a different twist on the tired vampire tale. But if Bella had called Edward out on his abuse, if she had gotten out of the relationship, or even if Edward had realized where he was wrong and worked to change his hundred year-old ways, then the book would have gone from a status of ignorant to socially aware.

If you make YA your genre of choice, it should be, in part, because you care about your audience. Those amazing and terrible firsts were like a roller coaster when we were younger. We lived through extreme highs and lows. Sometimes we loved those years. Some of us hated them. Writing for the YA audience means going back and creating the kind of adventure or tale you wanted.

And sometimes, it means writing the one you needed.