How did I do it? Juliana Haygert. I asked her EVERY QUESTION YOU COULD IMAGINE about what to do at each step. Twice. And she was immensely patient with this newbie. Seriously, people, I love her. (And if you haven't done so yet, you should read her books because they're super sexy and totally fun.)
So, here we are, re-release day for this little story that I love. I'm so grateful that there's a way for me to bring it back to readers.
Buy your copy of (the NEW & IMPROVED) BREATHLESS right here:
Read a sneak peek of BREATHLESS.
I exhale and watch bubbles float off into the churning blue above me. I draw another breath, except this time, there is no air. My lungs, in all their twenty-seven years of finding no resistance to their whims, of drawing in sweet gulps, huffs, and puffs, meet a wall of stainless steel. With the next try, that wall slams into my diaphragm.
My left hand grasps the air pressure gauge as it bobs and snakes down by my hip. The dial’s needle hovers at a thick black line highlighted in red. Zero pounds per square inch.
I’m seventy feet below the Caribbean Sea, and I’m out of air.
Heavy nausea grabs hold of my gut and throat. I almost spit out the regulator mouthpiece, but reason kicks in. I stop myself just in time.
Don’t panic. Stay calm.
But it’s so hard to follow my own instructions. The warm water cradling my body has no mercy for this tiny, helpless human, and it turns to ice around me, needling my skin with cold until I’m numb. I hold my final breath. Everything in me screams out the wrongness of this. The world on the other side of my mask fuzzes out. My mind will soon follow if I don’t do something. Now.
Remember the training. Just find another diver.
Thank God, one of the instructors is less than ten yards away. My finned feet power me to Dale’s side with five hard kicks. He’s tucking something into a waist bag, and when I thrust my air pressure gauge into his face, at first he jerks away from it. Then his eyes widen as realization hits.
I expect him to immediately reach for his spare regulator, the savior of rubber and metal, my sole hope if I want any fate other than drowning. Instead, he brings his large, strong hands to my face. The honey-gold flecks within his irises glint and flash in what filmy light breaches the yards of water between the surface and my airless lungs. There’s no warmth down here, and I’m out of time.
Dale is my only hope.
I let him capture my face between his palms and hold me with his anchor eyes. My heart beats a fluttery, jerky rhythm, and I count--One. Two-three. Four. Five-six-seven--and wait as though I’m not moments from my death.
As though I have all the time in the world.
But whatever he’s doing, it’s working. I’m calmer. For the first time since I found nothing behind my inhale, my heart beats steady and true. He gives me a firm nod, and I return the gesture.
It’s then, only then, that he unhooks the spare regulator from his dive vest. His other hand comes to the mouthpiece I still clench in my teeth. He brushes his fingers against my lips as he pulls the device free, and I give it up reluctantly even though it’s totally useless. A small, salty flow of water hits my tongue, and I swallow it down—the first of what could turn out to be a whole ocean’s worth if we mess up this maneuver.
Are you a fan of horror, sci-fi, or fantasy? Do you like free stories? Then check out the latest issue of Allegory eZine, including several stories that yours truly was fortunate enough to be assigned, right HERE.
half a dozen times. In it, the main character goes to Hawaii with her friends and they take a standard scuba course. The course that he wrote about was nearly identical to the one I would eventually take in 2000. Because I read the book so many times, and because (like a nerd) I totally memorized the entire class, when I did my first PADI course, I knew all the skills. The instructor was very impressed.
Now let’s fast-forward to 2013 THE DAY of my second dive. That scuba company did NOT go through the entire Padi course, but I still recalled all the skills. So, when I happened to take a nice old breath and there was nothing there—literally nothing, just resistance, like trying to shove a marble pillar with my lungs—I was pulled back into Christopher Pike’s world. The one where Mandy had a problem with her gear and stood up in the pool. Her dive master told her the very words that echoed in my brain when I was under all those feet of water with my last breath quickly dissolving into my blood and no more where that came from: You need to handle emergencies in place, under the water. The solution can’t be to bolt to the surface.
AND, most importantly, I recalled the words, You always have air.
Okay, that was a totally botched quote (my copy of the book is somewhere in my house, but the idea of trying to dig it out sounds as daunting as the idea of pushing a marble pillar with my lungs), but the gist is absolutely accurate.
AND IT SAVED ME. Literally.
I recalled the book and knew I merely needed to find another diver, and luckily they were all around me. Just like Leah in BREATHLESS, I swam to my dive master who was about four kicks away, and showed him my gauge with the needle in the deep red. And just like in BREATHLESS, his response wasn’t to immediately hand me his spare regulator, he first took my face in his hands and peered into my eyes. At the time I was like, Uh, now’s about the time I could use a little spare O2, but later—once I actually had a chance to think about it (and let me tell you, when it hit me what happened, there was a whole lot of holy BLEEP! going on)—I realized, he did that to make sure I wasn’t panicking. To make sure when he handed me that savior of rubber and metal, that I wouldn’t screw the maneuver up and end up breathing in a mouthful of salt water.
And once he was satisfied, he passed me his spare, and all was well. I recalled how to purge my regulator. No problem. That’s just the push of a button. We surfaced, pausing to let our bodies adjust to the pressure change, and I climbed back onto the boat totally and completely fine.
When I think back to that day, fear isn’t the strongest of the two sense memories I have. The first is that feeling of something pushing back when I tried to take a breath. And the second was the way the dive master looked into my eyes. Never have I been more vulnerable, and never again will a stare feel that intense (at least I seriously and truly hope it won’t). The experience has haunted me ever since THE DAY.
What’s a writer to do?
Write a story about it, of course. And the concept for BREATHLESS was born.
So, I dedicated this updated edition of BREATHLESS to two people: my incredible husband, Eric, and Christopher Pike, because without his book, that story, and all the ones I’ve written since, could very well have died along with me in the blue waters of the Caribbean.
"...a great story, exploring the human soul's emotional needs with insight and an exciting touch
of mystery and the paranormal." -- Hilary Hawks for Readers' Favorite
Look for BREATHLESS on May 15th, 2017
Ah! I'm so excited to share this cover for my YA horror novella with Leap Book's SHINE in their Bloody Good Reads series. The book comes out October 2nd, just in time for the Halloween season. I'm always craving spooky, specter-filled books and movies at that time (Can you crave books? Well, I do .) and this one is exactly that. In the words of my Leap editor, Judith Graves, this book is CREEPTASTIC.
They rip, they tear, they FEED, and you never come back again.
Then, seeing tweets that MIGHT have been mine... Of course, we never really knew, but sometimes we could guess. Then, finding out I was getting a request for more pages. GAH!
Now, I'm going to have the honor to give back to the writing community. After all, I signed with my incredible agent as a result of this competition. It would be the most incredible thing to have an author I mentor go on to sign with an agent and then get a book deal.
Check back here often for updates and the schedule of event, which I'll be posting in the near future. In the meantime, you can check out more about Pitch Wars here on Brenda Drake's site.
Until then, Congratulations to all the Mentors! We're going to have a great time!
Hello, Wonderful Writers! Not too long ago, someone in the Electric 18’s group shared a video by Brene´ Brown, Ph.D. I majorly LOVE this woman’s work. In case you’re not familiar with her, she’s a researcher who focuses on studying shame and vulnerability. If you haven’t read her books, I really recommend them all. She talks about how being vulnerable is one of the most courageous things we can do, that vulnerability comes with great rewards, “because vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, trust, empathy, creativity, and innovation.”
What she’s discovered through her research is that without vulnerability, we cannot create. If we’re going to make art, or put ourselves in the “arena,” as Teddy Roosevelt called it, then there is “one guarantee. You will get your ass kicked. If courage is a value you hold, this is a consequence. You can’t avoid it.” And who does this ass-kicking she speaks of? The critics. There are many kinds of critics (and I highly recommend you hear her talk or read her books for the full discussion), but today I want to focus on one—the worst critic.
The worst critic, she tells us, is ourselves.
I’ve always loved doing art. Drawing, painting, crafts. You name it. Back in my teen years, I did a lot of sketching. There’s nothing like a perfectly-sharpened pencil and a blank sheet of paper. There’s nothing, alright—nothing scarier. I’d sit there, thinking about what I wanted to draw, the tip of my pencil hovering over the page, and I’d be stuck. What if my drawing was a ginormous failure? What if the image I had in my head didn’t match up with what I achieved on the page? What if my subject was sucky or corny or boring? And of course, even though there was no risk of this happening—like ever, because I was never taking my sketch pad out of the safety of my house—but what if someone saw this sucky, corny, boring hot mess of a drawing? In my head, even if I locked up my pad in a steel safe, I could catastrophize until I ended up at school with the sheet of paper somehow magically glued to my butt, unbeknownst to me, out in the world for all to see.
Yeah. It gets scary in there sometimes.
So, what did I do in response to these “gremlins?” I armored-up. I still put pencil to page, but I didn’t draw my own creations. I copied photos or book covers. Someone else already decided those pictures were worth making, so I played it safe and copied them. Sure, I was practicing my skill, and I got better at drawing, but I wasn’t creating. I wasn’t making art. Thinking back now, it would have been better if I had made a terrible version of the awesomeness in my head, even if the outcome was cringe-worthy. Better because it would have been mine. I would have made art.
Now, I’m creating a new kind of art with my stories, and I can’t help but wonder if this is the same process that causes us to get stuck. That causes us to stall partway through a work in progress. Are we so afraid of making a sucky, corny, boring hot mess of a book that we can’t create? Is our fear of vulnerability causing us to armor-up so securely that all we do is cut off the natural flow of our wondrous imagination? And all this even before a single soul has laid eyes upon what we’ve written—all except for ourselves. The worst gremlin of them all.
Folks who've been following my blog will remember that just a little over a year ago, Three Worlds Press shut its doors. This is always such a hard thing for everyone. Sure, our books revert back to us, but to see them gone from the world and to face the uncertainty of what will happen with them is tough.
I was fortunate to publish a short novella with them, BREATHLESS, I like to call romantic paranormal magical realism. For the last year, I've thought about the story with sadness. Like most authors, I love all my stories, and I really wanted BREATHLESS to be back out in the world.
Jessica Bayliss Blogs about reading, writing, & other fun stuff