Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Writer's Voice Contest Entry: NORTHERN NIMSBY VS. THE DRONES


My novel, Northern Nimsby vs. the Drones is a 65,000 word cozy mystery.

After Jordan Nimsby’s perfect fiancĂ©e is murdered, her life enters a downward spiral until she hits rock bottom in her hometown of Eagle River, Wisconsin. Most people wouldn’t look at an explosion on the first day of a new job as the light at the end of the tunnel, but for Jordy, it means returning to a childhood passion: solving mysteries.

Living in a dusty cabin next door to her parents, working for an old rival and lusting after a high school crush, Jordy welcomes danger during her orientation at the Coffee Cravin’ Cabin.  Drawn by her inner detective, she dives headfirst into the bombing investigation- and right back to her high school BFF and resident rebel, Samantha Orwitz, who is now working as the lead detective for the local police department. The two combine their witty sarcasm and rambunctious personalities as they follow the clues from a series of unmanned drone attacks in nearby towns. The women chase an array of questionable characters and stalk down clues that lead from political conventions to creepy isolated cabins as they seek to unveil who is bringing destruction to the Northwood’s and why.  Leaving behind chaos and general mayhem, as well as the occasional cold brew and deep fried cheese curd, they become determined to survive the mystery without getting blown to bits themselves.

Northern Nimsby vs. the Drones has the potential to evolve into a series, and I have additional outlines in the works. I think the cozy mystery genre needs an adventurous Wisconsin gal with an offbeat personality and a hearty dose of spunk- Jordy is that girl! Previously, the majority of my published work has been freelance or for campus publications at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; this is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sarah David

First 250 words:
I screamed when the eight-legged monster jumped from the shelf above the oven, missing my head by inches and my scrambled eggs by less. Fortunately, I quickly recovered and beat the spider to a pulp with my trusty old hiking boot. I shoved the tawny boot back in its place near the door before returning to the stove top and giving the eggs another poke with the spatula. One more joy of living in my parents’ sparsely insulated log cabin: bugs around every corner and crevice, preparing for attack. I was at least 72% certain that these creatures had a personal vendetta against me from day one, and their battle tactics seriously surpassed my own. For two weeks now it has been me (Jordan Nimsby) vs. the Evil Bug Bastards (or EBBs for short).
            Yes, that’s correct; my parents gave me an androgynous name. When I was about four or five, prancing around in princess costumes, it was a BIG deal; I wanted my name to be Anastasia or Katherine. Since those days, I’ve grown to love it. My friends used to call me “Nimsby” or “Nims” in high school; now, however, most of them call me Jordy, partially after one of THE best wide receivers in the NFL. Seriously, don’t interrupt a Packer game unless you’re bringing fresh cheese curds or kolatchze to share. You may laugh, but we don’t jest about our football, cheese and European baked goods here in Northern Wisconsin. Or our beer, for that matter…

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Irresponsibility Problem

As a teacher, I feel that I often get a glimpse into some of the darker problems of our society. I'm sure this is also a common occurrence if you are employed in, say, the medical field or law enforcement. In fact, probably any job allows you to see the bad sides to people (I can think of a few gruesome incidents when I was employed as a housekeeper over the years...for more on that, you can check out my old blog here: along with the good. With teaching, you certainly see different things than with housekeeping (and for that I must say, thank God!), but the problems you witness can be upsetting just the same.
Over the years, teachers have seen their fair share of Huckleberry Finns and Tom Sawyers, so being a slacker is certainly not a recent devolution. Still, it's rough when you find students who sport a complete and utter lack of motivation. Of course, this isn't necessarily a large percentage of my students, but it does seem larger than it should be. I will also add that this is one of the first generations that have parents who see slackerdom as acceptable behavior. Take a look at 1960's classic television. When the kids mess up, the parents lecture, educate, and/or swat the troublemakers. The kids realize they need to get their act together, and things go back to normal. What do we see on television nowadays? Besides a ridiculous amount of risque behavior, we see everyone, from kids to the elderly, behaving badly and getting away with it, even being applauded for it! This sort of "applaud the evildoer" mentality is not only a common occurrence in sitcoms nowadays, but also in reality TV and even the news! It's terrifying, quite frankly, but I digress...

Now, I don't think that our society is doomed or that modern television is evil. I do, however, believe that a good chunk of our society has in fact hit rock bottom, and, for whatever reason, they don't realize it. Or maybe they just don't care. From a teacher standpoint, these are the kids who come to school without a clue. They haven't done their homework, they text and chat all through class, and they make snide remarks to everybody and anybody. Their hobbies include playing video games for hours straight, posting a zillion selfies on Instagram and Facebook, or (even worse) getting involved in drugs/alcohol/other stupid stuff. No, I didn't have my life planned out by high school, and I certainly wasn't perfect, but I at least had some semblance of an idea that I wanted to have opportunities and be successful later on. That meant I was working (and, sure, occasionally playing) hard- studying hard, working an after school/weekend job, participating in school sports and activities, being active with my friends and family, being outdoors, and basically enjoying life. I ask some of these kids what they want to do after high school and the answers make me want to yank out my hair: "I'll just live at home, my parents don't care", "I'll probably, you know, play video games, hang out, whatever", "I'll stick with my job at McDonald's; all my friends work there", and a common one, even for my seniors: "I don't know- what does it matter?" What does it matter, indeed?
Where is this attitude coming from, and why is it becoming more and more acceptable? It's not just the kids; their parents are to blame, too. I'd prefer not to disclose the times I've heard parents telling their kids (or insinuating) that school doesn't matter. Some of these are the people that I see aimlessly wandering Wal-Mart at 2pm on a Tuesday wearing their pajamas. What do these people do? And what message are they sending their children? The saddest part about this situation is that we live in a truly incredible and fortunate nation, where people with motivation and solid work ethics can accomplish really amazing feats, regardless of the difficulties they face. Success isn't guaranteed, but the chance to work hard and try your best is free for the taking (which can't be said of every place around the globe). Unfortunately, these kids, without the right encouragement, might not ever realize their true potential or even the fact that they have one. It's depressing.

That's why I am constantly encouraging my students, and the ones who come from rougher situations need this encouragement even more. And when the parents shrug off a meeting, a deadline, and due date, telling their kids that it's okay to do the same, I come back with, "No, actually, it's not, because you need to be prepared for the future. Jobs have deadlines and requirements, and this is your foundation." Everyone comes with a backstory- some lives are tougher than others; it's just the hard, honest fact- but if the option is to cry about it and waste away or to dust yourself off and show life where to shove it, I personally would take the latter- and I hope my students do, too.