Category Archives: Geek Girl’s Guide

On Learning to Say Goodbye, in Winter

On January 10, 2018, my dear friend and writing partner, Darcy Vance, lost her battle with cancer.

This is my tribute to her.

We met only twice in person, once in May of 2000 and again, nine years later, for our book launch, but I first encountered Darcy in an online writing workshop sometime in 1998. We took a few classes together and ended up in the same “study group.” From there, we quickly became friends.

Darcy often told me I was the writer she wished she could be. The thing is, she was the writer—and the human being—I wished I could be.

When I shelved my novel The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, Darcy wouldn’t let it go. She loved it too much, thought it too good to let me simply abandon it. So she jumped in—like she did with so many things in her life—started working on it, converting the prose from third person point of view to first.

This might sound easy, but ask any writer: it’s not. There’s tone and style and voice to consider. The way a third-person narrator might phrase things or relate an event is far different from the way a first-person narrator would.

Here’s the note she sent me when she first started working on the novel:

I would like (very much) to play with the first three chapters of your novel. If I’m pleased with what I come up with (a big IF) I would show it to you. After that, we’ll talk. No commitments on either side.

Here’s what I didn’t know: She’d already jumped in and started, so when I said yes, I had those three chapters in my inbox almost instantaneously.

After I got over the shock of reading my story in a completely different voice, I was entranced. Darcy had done something incredibly special. When I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at a line she had added, I knew we were going to sell this novel, and we were going to sell it because of her.

Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance’s debut THE GEEK GIRL’S GUIDE TO CHEERLEADING, the story of a self-confessed debating dork whose practical joke lands her a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad, where she realizes that if there’s one thing worse than blending into the lockers, it’s getting noticed!, to Jennifer Klonsky at Simon Pulse, by Mollie Glick at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

Magic happened when we worked together. It was no longer simply my story; it wasn’t Darcy’s; it was the main character’s story. We managed to transcend both our egos and insecurities (and writers have plenty of both) and create something special.

It’s true that magic comes with a price. We fought, we fumed, we’d give each other the virtual side eye. If it was a plot issue, I usually won. If it was humor related, Darcy did. (The funniest bits in both our novels? Those are pure Darcy.)

But even when we butted heads, neither one of us wanted to call it quits. Not when we had each other.

At the launch of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading

Signing books at the launch

In May of 2009, I was lucky enough to see how incredible Darcy was in person, too. My kids and I arrived in Danville for the launch of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, but due to various circumstances, our luggage did not.

Without blinking an eye, Darcy got us to the closest Walmart before they closed and entertained my daughter while my son and I ran around the store gathering up the supplies we’d need for the weekend. By the time we met up at the cash registers, Darcy had already purchased a pair of sparkly glitter jeans for my daughter. Then she took us all out to dinner.

This is how she was in every aspect of her life. She knew what you needed whether it was a pair of glitter jeans, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or the missing plot point in your story.

That she was the same in person as in my email inbox doesn’t surprise me.

You can’t write and revise thousands of words together and exchange an untold number of emails without becoming part of that person’s life. While working on revisions in instant messenger, we often typed the same idea at the same time. One year for Christmas, we bought each other the exact same book. In 2015, we sent each other candles.

One night, I was booting down the computer when my daughter, about five at the time, said, “Goodnight, Darcy!”

I said, “You know Darcy doesn’t really live in my computer, right?”

My daughter didn’t answer.

Maybe Darcy didn’t live in my computer, but she certainly lives on through it. As far back as 1999, I started saving our exchanges. I have countless emails and replies from her, all written in her wonderful voice. I’ve been rereading her messages over these last few days, and I’m in awe of how blessed I am to have them. I know, in the future, whenever I need her advice, I’ll be able to find it there.

It’s been two years since I placed that Christmas candle on my nightstand. And while its wonderful scent has faded, I’ve never moved it from its spot. On the evening of January 10th, I inched it closer to me so I could see, if not smell, the candle while I reread her short story On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn.

At around four in the morning, the cat became agitated in a way she never does. Something had woken us, but I couldn’t say what, exactly. I bolted upright. The cat was staring at the space above the headboard in that freaky way cats have. I held my breath and listened hard.

Then I caught the scent of the candle, the aroma stronger than it’s been for more than a year.

I know what logic says about this—grief, imagination, wishful thinking. I also know what Darcy would say.

I like to think she found a way to tell me goodbye.

My writing and my life have been so intertwined with hers that even when we weren’t working on a project together, I never considered a story truly done until Darcy read it. She helped me become a better writer, and more importantly, a better person.

Rereading her short story On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn was a revelation. Somehow it was the same story and yet completely different from what I remember, very much like reading a brand-new story of hers. This is yet another gift she’s given me.

In a mere nine pages, she managed to convey so much about love and loss, and taking leaps of faith, making those scary jumps.

Near the end, there is this exchange between the two main characters:

Kathleen set down her glass and reached for her grandmother’s hand. She gave it a squeeze. “Oh, Nonni, what will I do without you?” she said.

“Jump,” the old woman answered, and she squeezed back.

I don’t know what I’m going to do without Darcy. But I do know this:

She would want me—and all of us—to jump.

 


 

More than anything, a writer loves to be read. Please take the time to read Darcy’s work.

I’ll be running a free Kindle promotion for Dating on the Dork Side between January 13th and 17th. Darcy loved our free promotional runs, was always amazed that by offering our book for free, we ended up making money. Our last run in May was so good, it caught Amazon’s eye, and they selected Dating on the Dork Side for their curated Prime Reading list over the summer.

The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading

Dating on the Dork Side

  • 1st Place: 2016 International Digital Awards, Young Adult Novel
  • Available on: Kindle  Print

Less Than Three

On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn: A Short Story

  • A contest-winning short story
  • Available for 99 cents on Kindle or read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

14 Comments

Filed under Friends, Geek Girl's Guide, Writing, YA

Cover reveal: Dating on the Dork Side!

Coming November 30, 2015

Come to the dork side … we have cookies.

front cover rgb jpg

Stung by an epic betrayal, Camy Cavanaugh relies on the sure things: her best friend, her job as peer tutor, and her safe spot on the sidelines of life. But when she hacks into a secret, trash-talking website, it ignites a war between the sexes that won’t end until the whole school is turned upside down—and Camy’s world is turned inside out.

Now the hottest girls in school refuse to date the A-List boys. But with the Homecoming dance looming, everyone from the queen bee to the girl “most likely to” pushes Camy to hook them up with guys from the nerd herd.

And then there’s quarterback, A-lister—and former crush—Gavin Madison. He hasn’t spoken to Camy in three years … but he’s talking now, begging her to pair the guys on the football team with girls from the Honor Roll.

It’s a contest of wills and everything is on the line—even Camy’s heart. Will she retreat to the sidelines, or will she find the courage to get back in the game?

Today is cover reveal day! Dating on the Dork Side will launch into the world on November 30th. In the meantime, add it to your shelf on Goodreads. Want an email when it’s available? Sign up for my mail list.

2 Comments

Filed under Books, Geek Girl's Guide, Publishing, Writing, YA

Write 1/Sub 1 check in: week 9, the one with the even weirder prom date

Week 9! I worked on a longer story this week. (Novelette? Novella? Only time and word count will tell.) I was a little worried because I knew I couldn’t finish it during the week, but still needed my write 1. But Friday afternoon, while I was driving home in rush hour traffic, an idea hit me (kind of felt like that, too).

I made it home with the idea still in my head, jotted down what I needed to, and then wrote it up yesterday. This is how The Short, Sweet Life of My Invisible Prom Date was born. It includes the line:

Now, it probably doesn’t surprise you that there isn’t a patron saint of prom.

Writing:

  • The Short, Sweet Life of My Invisible Prom Date, ~ 1,600 words
  • Untitled something-or-other, ~ 3,000 words, in progress
  • Breaking the Unwritten Rules in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction assignment: 250 words class assignment

Rejections:

None this week. However, my submission tracker tells me I should be getting some soon. 

Submissions:

  • The Life Expectancy of Fireflies AKA the neck tattoo story. I’m not sure about this one, or its pretentious title, so I tossed it into a flash fiction contest. We’ll see what happens. 

Acceptances:

  • None

Published:

Leave a comment

Filed under Geek Girl's Guide, Write 1/Sub 1, Writing

Do you hear what I hear?

Oh, you guys, you guys. You will not believe what I just discovered this morning, quite by accident (because sometimes, that’s how publishing works):

The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading

That’s the audio version of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading! Geek Girl! In audio! You can take her on your commute, download her to your Kindle–and who wouldn’t want to do that?

I listened to the sample and think they chose an excellent narrator. And then I listened to the very start on my Kindle and they totally said my last name correctly. (Three cheers for Audible!) It sounds so awesome to hear “… by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance.” I’ve listened to so many audio books that to have one is just amazing.

4 Comments

Filed under Books, Geek Girl's Guide, Promo, Writing, YA

Looking back: Writing in 2012

iStock_000002528747XSmallIt’s the end of the year (or almost) so, of course, I simply must look back on writing in 2012. All the cool kids are doing it.

Anyway, my key word for 2012 was growth. I wanted to try a few new things with my writing and untie myself from the notion that I could only do just one thing.

I think I succeeded.

First, I mixed it up with some classes. I took:

  • A poetry class
  • Writing in the flow (the Robert Olen Butler method) class
  • Flash fiction/flash memoir class

I ended up writing more than forty poems (not necessarily good poems, mind you). In March, I surprised myself by writing a piece of flash fiction that simply tumbled out of me one morning, sparked by a poem I’d read.

And I thought to myself: Why am I not doing more of this? I like this!

I liked it so much, I ended up writing seven more stories (complete drafts) and have several others in the “stewing” stage.

Than first piece of flash fiction I wrote back in March? The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty, which ended up:

In the big, surprising, out-of-the-blue sort of news this year, Darcy and I sold audio rights to Audible.com for The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading. And now you know everything I do about that. If/when the audio book is produced, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I finished off the year with The Southeast Review’s 30-day writer’s regimen. At first, I was reluctant. Writing? During the holidays? Actually, it kept me writing during the holidays. I missed a prompt here and there, but I wrote something for nearly all of them. According to the website, it looks like they’re launching all new material in February 2013. Mark your calendars! I highly recommend this. I had a blast doing it.

And that’s my writing year. I think it was a good one.

2 Comments

Filed under Geek Girl's Guide, Writing, YA

Even more Betsy, Tacy, Tib … and me!

The flyer pretty much says it all:

You can also find more information on the event here. I’m excited, and nervous, and all wound up in general. With a little luck, I’ll be able to give a report sometime next week. I also hope to share a little bit of news as well. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m excited, and nervous, and all wound up in general.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Geek Girl's Guide, Promo, Reading, Reading & Writing, YA

Betsy, Tacy, Tib … and me!

Remember way back in May when I waxed nostalgic about Betsy-Tacy books over at Jennifer Hubbard’s blog?

Well, one thing led to another (as things are wont to do) and I will be on the author panel and signing books on July 21, 2012 at the Betsy-Tacy Convention in my hometown of Mankato, Minnesota.

Am I excited? Completely. Is Kyra, who will be going with me? Also completely. We will, of course, need new outfits befitting such an event.

It just goes to show you: You never know where your writing might take you. In my case, it’s taking me back home–and I couldn’t be happier.

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Geek Girl's Guide, Promo, Reading, Writing, YA