Nalena Maxwell is The Waste. At least, that’s what she’s been tagged as at school, due to her mother’s obsession with hoarding truckloads of paper, each one scrawled with lines of what appears to be single-sentence stories. The insane volume of paper has forced them out of their house and now threatens to push them out of their apartment, but Nalena’s mother, Evangeline, refuses to part with a single sheet.
Evangeline’s papers are so much more than just a hoarder’s obsession.
They are the reason behind the Maxwell’s tumultuous family past.
And they are the reason why the future is calling upon Nalena as its champion.
Kept in the dark, in order to protect her from the past and future that no mother wants her child to endure, the life she’s presently living is illegible to Nalena. She believes her fate is to be only The Waste, until one night, when Garrett Reese–possibly the school’s most handsome and popular Senior–seeks her out in the back corner of the library with answers and questions that reveal the true ink on Nalena’s destiny.
Targeted Age Group:: Young Adult and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Cornerstone was inspired by a dream that woke me from a deep sleep and it was so real, I couldn't forget it. However, Cornerstone isn't that story. The dream is actually the last book in the series, but it was the seed from which the entire series grew. I was given the end of the book in that dream and I had to know how I got to that finale, and that was how the series was born.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters presented themselves. They were whole people, although many of them house traits of people I have known or experienced in my life. Garrett was based on a crush I had as a teen. Nalena just showed up. Garrett's rambunctious brothers share characteristics with the rascally brothers of my daughter's friend. They're all very real, although none of them truly are.
I’m hunched over my history book, re-reading a paragraph that just won’t sink in, when something catches me from the corner of my eye. I glance up, figuring Julienne has come to replace a book, but instead, there is a boy with a backpack over one shoulder, walking right toward me, like he knows where he is going. I’m a little confused. My oasis is the only thing at the end of the aisle and he seems to be on a collision course. A boy like this, tall and thin with perfectly messy, jet black hair, has got to be coming to rendezvous with his girlfriend. He’s probably going to ask me to leave so they can have their privacy. It’s not the first time someone’s asked. The closer he gets to me, the more I brace to defend my sanctuary. When he reaches my table, he momentarily disarms me with a grin. “Is it okay if I sit here?” he dumps his backpack on the table before I can say it isn’t and pulls out the chair that is diagonal from mine. “I’m not leaving anytime soon,” I say. He smiles at me. His teeth aren’t perfect but the way his lips frame them, they are. His eyes are bright and amused, like he wants to hear something I didn’t even say. I push my books out an inch, making the circle a little wider around myself. I don’t care if he looks like a homecoming king plucked from the Varsity basketball team. If he thinks he’s charming me into moving, he’s wrong. But instead of looking annoyed, he lets an amused chuckle escape from behind another smile. I hate that he keeps doing that because it makes me want to keep looking at him. “That’s fine,” he says and takes the seat. “If you’re waiting for somebody,” I whisper over the table, “there’s not going to be room for her.” “What makes you think I’m waiting for a her?” he whispers back. Oh. He’s gay. My heart sinks and I wince inwardly. I was hoping he wasn’t waiting for a girl but I’m embarrassed that it ever occurred to me that his sitting here might somehow be connected to an interest in me. I hadn’t even thought beyond that. “Whoever you’re waiting for,” I correct. “There isn’t going to be enough room for anyone else and like I said, I’m going to be here for a while.” “Good.” He nods and unzips his backpack, like this is finished business. He fishes out a worn copy of Brave New World that looks soft and gray at the edges. He leans back in his chair, opens up the book and starts reading. There’s a whole library full of empty tables up front, but this boy, with hair that would probably feel like soft twine between my fingertips, has to sit here. I try to find the passage in my history book that wasn’t making sense before, but I can’t even tell which paragraph it is now. Without meaning to do it, my eyes flick to his face. He’s concentrating on his book. I go back to mine, but all I can do is skim, and the sentences run through my head like annoying news feed at the bottom of a TV screen. I blink and I’m looking at him again. I quickly pull my eyes down to the bottom of the page in front of me. His skin is smooth and tan, like maybe he’s outside a lot. Maybe he’s in Track. This image of the two of us warming up and running side by side, drifts into my brain. I shut down the thought immediately. He’s got to be popular and therefore, he’s got to know that I’m The Waste. I shove the fantasy out of my mind and stare hard at the words on the page in front of me. Besides, he might be gay. Or maybe that’s not what he meant at all. Maybe he’s sitting with me on a dare. Or maybe he thinks he can make me leave just by sitting here too. I don’t know why he’s here, but I force myself to go over the sentences in front of me again. I still don’t register one lousy word. Four more times I try, but the only thing in my head is me, telling myself not to look up at him again. I fight to keep my eyes glued on my history book until they feel dry. It’s the same kind of ache I get as when I’ve been smiling too long. This is stupid. He’s just a boy sitting across from me. I tell myself to forget that he’s even there. Ignore him. He’s nobody. I’m nobody to him. But the second I let myself relax, I do a quick glance up and my breath catches in my throat because our eyes meet. His gaze is centered and lazy, like he’s been watching me for a while. His expression doesn’t change when our eyes lock, even though I can feel the muscles in my forehead suddenly hike toward my scalp. It’s like he’s been studying me and doesn’t care if I know it. My stomach flutters and I suck it in, trying to keep myself motionless. It would doom me worse than I’m already doomed if he’s a Varsity jock, detecting me – The Waste – being fluttery about him. I force my eyes back down into the crease of my history book. As if he’ll believe that my looking at him was random. Like I was just looking around and happened to trip over him, staring at me with his liquid blue eyes. Like I couldn’t help but notice him only because he was taking up the space where I was going to look anyway. I hope I look more random and uninterested and convincing than I feel. I hear him stretch his legs under the desk. I hear the soles of his shoes slide over the nubby carpet and I swear I can feel the heat of his leg stretched out beside my own. The chair next to me nudges my arm and I flinch. I look up and there he is again. Smiling.
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