A Peek at What’s Coming Down the Pike

And here we are, folks. A peek into DEAR OPL–a project of mine that began probably around the same time ancient Babylonian astronomers were first discovering some of our solar system’s inner planets.

You’ll see the synopsis, the first chapter, and the first press reviews by Kirkus.

I hope you’ll enjoy.

~ShelleyDearOpl---FacebookBanner (800x296)

SYNOPSIS

There is a sinkhole deep inside thirteen-year-old Opl Oppenheimer, and for two years she’s plugged the leak with a wad of junk food. But a hole from heartbreak is tricky. And anyone who’s experienced eighth-grade science frog dissection knows a heart can’t be repaired by a bubblegum band-aid. Worse still, overweight Opl now faces diabetes and must swallow the bitter news that sugar is the problem and not the solution to filling the empty space her dad’s presence used to occupy. Even the school’s galling version of celebrity chef Alfie Adam’s Meal Madness is turning Opl’s self-prescribed soothing syrups into miserable medicine. Mock meat and healthy colon slogans plague the lunchroom walls, encouraging change. But Opl can’t see the value of changing her whole life to save her future since it’s the past she wants to retrieve.

Opl identifies a scapegoat for her growing burdens and rallies an internet attack on Alfie Adam. The plan backfires, threatening the success of her mom’s bookstore, the loss of her best friendship and an international lawsuit. To win back her friend, Opl is forced to pledge allegiance to her arch enemy–the health-crazed chef, but in doing so realizes that, just like kimchi, festering problems, if handled correctly, can produce something a whole community can savor.

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DEAR OPL

by Shelley Sackier

Chapter One

The dark enveloped me, squishing my lungs. Like the engulfing bear hug you get from an uncle who’s built like a lumberjack. But this black was so tarry and thick, it made me feel as if I were breathing syrup and forced my heart to thud in my chest. I blinked again and again, and squinted hard, hoping something—anything— would come into focus. I wanted to sprint for my bed, to hide beneath my quilt, where nothing but fuzzy warmth and an old licorice stick are allowed. But I needed this. I couldn’t leave because I had to get rid of the awful ache that poked at my sleep. If I fed it, like a lion at the zoo, it would circle and grow quiet. Sometimes.

Even though I wasn’t supposed to.

My hands fluttered in front of me, like a couple of blind butterflies. They bumped against a pointed edge. I jerked back, thinking I’d been bit, but I took a breath and crept forward until I touched it once more. I traced my skittish fingers along its form until I felt certain the thing wouldn’t strike at me with sharpened fangs and light up with red demonic eyes. It was a box of cereal. And it had to be Froot Loops because the pantry was a bundle of lip-smacking scents like tangy lemon, zingy orange, electric lime, and mouth-watering cherry. This meant Ollie had left the bag open and steam would shoot out of Mom’s ears because it’ll have gone stale by morning. I sighed with relief because as far as I knew, no one has ever been seriously injured by sugary, ring-shaped cereal. Then, again, maybe my younger brother would be the first.

I pushed the box aside and moved my hands higher up. I knocked another smaller carton to the floor, where it bounced off my sock-covered foot. I squatted, sweeping my hands across the floorboards until I found it. Bringing the package to my nose, I sniffed its edges. It smelled like Thanksgiving—well, not the last one, but the twelve others before that. It smelled of cinnamon and apples. It smelled of happiness.

I opened the box and felt inside, my fingers searching for more of the memory. They picked up a tiny pouch. A tea bag. It made the sound of Mom’s old flower seed envelopes, the ones she held up each spring and shook like tiny maracas. “April showers bring May flowers! Let’s go plant some future sunshine.”

That didn’t happen this spring. Or the one before it.

I fumbled about until I found an empty spot I could push the tea bags into and then let my fingers wander farther across the shelf. They collided into something crinkly. Bingo!

I pressed my hands around the package. It had the right sound—like crunching plastic—when I squeezed it. I pulled it to my nose. Yes, definitely the right smell. And not one I could attach to any other thing. It was powdery sweet. Buttery. Not quite chocolate but deep, like cocoa. It mixed with scents of sugared vanilla—a cream so luscious, it ran slickly against your tongue. This was not just a food; it was a feeling. I wanted those Oreos so badly my mouth started watering like a mini sprinkler.

I felt around for the opening, the plastic pullback tab that granted you access right to the very heart of the package and the cure-all cookies. Tonight’s remedy. But something was wrong. The pull tab was missing. I groped the front and back, skimming its sides, trying to catch the sticky edge like you do when your Scotch tape has come off the metal ridge and sealed itself back onto the roll. It wasn’t there. I couldn’t find it.

Something brushed against my cheek and I reeled back in fright, bumping into the rickety pantry steps behind me. My fingers slapped at my face, but found only my hair falling out of its messy ponytail. With a racing heartbeat, I ventured a hand along the wall, searching for the light switch. Then I pulled back. I’d better not turn on the pantry bulb, because the glow would creep down the hall and shine like a headlight through Mom’s open bedroom door. She was a super light sleeper. She could leap out of bed at the sound of a cricket passing gas on the back porch.

But I needed those cookies.

A flashlight! That’s the answer. I bent down to hunt the lower shelf beneath the microwave. In my mind I could see four of them on the ledge, lined up like eager soldiers: sentries of the dark. But I bumped into one and they tumbled like dominos. I held my breath, trying to absorb the clunking sounds. I made that lungful stay put and listened, wishing I had a third ear. At the relief of no footsteps rushing into the kitchen, I grasped one of the tipsy warriors against the dark, flipped its switch, and looked at the package in my other hand. I held the Oreos all right, but they’d been double packaged, slipped inside a Ziploc bag along with a folded piece of stationery.

I sat down on the old wine crate Mom used as a step, forgetting about how badly it creaked, and unzipped the plastic bag. I pulled out the note and tilted the beam toward the words. It said:
Dear Opal,
Please don’t eat these. Remember your diet.
I love you,
Mom

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To Pre-order DEAR OPL (Published August 4, 2015)

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books a Million

Indie Bound

Indigo

iTunes

KIRKUS REVIEW

In the two years since her father’s death from cancer, Opal’s life has gone awry.

Grief and her family’s altered dynamics have contributed to Opal’s struggles with food and weight. She is increasingly at odds with her mother, who is overwhelmed and distracted. When her mother encourages Opal to start a blog as a way to document her food intake, Opal decides to use it to express her thoughts instead. Soon, Opal’s sharp, humorous observations as “Opl” garner interest as people respond to her commentary. Sackier captures Opal’s emotional turmoil as she grieves for her father and resists her mother’s campaign to persuade her to diet. When a savage blog entry directed at a popular chef earns Opal criticism from her best friend, remorse—along with an alarming health diagnosis from Opal’s doctor—compels Opal to reconsider the chef’s healthful-food philosophy. Sackier conveys a message about healthy habits without lecturing. Opal’s adventures in cooking and yoga—with occasionally comical results—alter her perspective, and her changing attitudes reflect her personal and emotional transformation. As Opal endeavors to better understand who she is, she gains a greater awareness of others’ life circumstances as well. When a chance encounter leads to Opal’s acquaintance with Rudy, a regular visitor to the local soup kitchen, Opal devises a kindhearted plan to help him.

By the story’s conclusion, readers will be happy they traveled with Opal on her journey to self-acceptance. (Fiction. 10-14)

*ROBIN GOTT’S NEW POST* (click)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

106 thoughts on “A Peek at What’s Coming Down the Pike

  1. Congrats on the book. That’s exciting! My latest novel deals with obesity too, so it’s nice to see another book with that theme. I wish you the best with the upcoming launch!

  2. Supercallifragistic Mrs P! Big Congrats, that millennium of hard work is about to pay off. Thanks for the sneak preview. Love the idea of this story and the idea of a non-preachy look into what is such a common problem for so many. Your front cover rocks (as does your writing.)

    • You’re always so wonderfully kind, Cheergerm. Kids, food and family are a trifecta of paramount importance to so many folks so I’m hopeful it will resonate on some level. We’re a world whose problems with these topics are mounting, but we’re also a planet full of big-brained and idea-fueled folks. Solutions are on the rise as well. I like the mindset of hope and cling to the movement of enterprise. 🙂

    • Many thanks, Cindy. There are so many bold and brilliant folks who are making determined strides in this field. I’m hoping to support their effortful work by bringing further awareness to their campaigns and resolutions to make a change and make a difference.
      Cheers!

    • As long as it doesn’t sell like a plate of boiled Brussels sprouts sitting in a pool of pureed liver gravy I think I’ll be happy.
      And now I have this uncanny craving for maple syrup.
      😛

  3. This is a huge achievement Shelley! All the best for the sales and reviews! If only people knew how to cook brussels sprouts properly they would love them like us!! xxx

  4. Congratulations Shelley,

    I love the morsel you’ve shared. It’s like a sumptuous little entrée leaving me wanting more – brain food that is. All your hard work finally coming to fruition must feel very satisfying indeed and I hope it will be available on iTunes in Australia, otherwise I’ll go Barnes & Noble. Thanks for sharing and the heads up.

    Clare

    • A thousand thank yous for the kind words and support, Clare. I’m so happy to hear you’ve enjoyed the first chapter. With just less than two months to go, I’m keeping my head down and plowing on. Slow and steady wins the race, or at least crosses the finish line. 😛

      • I’m a huge advocate of head down, butt up and at least with slow and steady, the ‘I’ gets dotted and the ‘T’ gets crossed and hopefully not the other way around. I can’t wait to read more about Opal 🙂

  5. I’m taking off my cartoonist hat this week.Feels strange to be in the auditorium rather than on the stage, but this is your show, Shelley (he said alliteratively!). Great first chapter. Well done and I’m sure this is going to be a BIG success 🙂

    • The stage feels rather naked today, Rob. I’ll just keep breathing into a paper bag off stage every once in awhile to keep from hyperventilating and remind myself that your return is imminent.

  6. My O my. With prose as rich as an eclair and images as colorful as a parade you paint a picture that Chandler and Hammet would admire. Your subject seems to be both timely and provocative enough so to whet a whole lot of appetites. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

    • I love your comment, Benson. And if anyone, time after time, has provided this space with eloquent words and ambrosial phrases, it’s got to be you. I can only imagine that if you take such care with your conversational prose, then your work in the kitchen must be outstandingly artistic.
      My ambition with this story is to reach a few ears in the 10-14-year-old range. They are my target. There lies my hope.

  7. What a great start and how exciting Shelley after all your work, can’t imagine what it must be like to hold a real copy of your own book in your hands! The list of ingredients sounds so promising – can’t beat entertaining and worthwhile – you must surely have a recipe for success here! I seriously wish you all the good luck in the world 😉 🙂

    • Oh, yes, Jane. The physical manifestation of one’s ideas is a heady pleasure, indeed. I sometimes just sit back with the copy in my hands and think about all the faceless folks who worked their tuchuses off to make it happen. It’s definitely not a solo achievement. I make sure to remember that every day.
      More than anything, I think it feels wonderfully solid that other folks believe the topic one of urgency and have decided to help spread a message.
      A thousand thank yous for your well wishes. It touches me from head to toe. 🙂

  8. Congratulations, Shelley – such an achievement to have come this far and I hope it flies off the shelves – I shall be looking out for ways to get hold of it in the UK. Any plans for Waterstones to stock it or should I be lobbying them from this end? Anyhow – it looks fab, has your trademark vividness of imagery, and deserves to do well – Good Luck, although I don’t think you’ll need it! 😀

    • I’ll ask my editor, Laura, and get back to you, and although I know it’s available via amazon.co.uk, obviously your local bookseller would appreciate the business a helluva lot more.
      And, of course, many, many thanks for your gracious praise. I hope it will find an audience in the UK, as it has a handful of English folk in there to bring it some dashing panache. 😉

      • I’d prefer to avoid using Amazon and support a real life bookshop if at all possible, so it would be great of you could let me know. In the meantime I may just go in to my local store and find out if I can pre-order. 🙂

        • Okay, word back from the agent and publicists: we’ve not yet sold foreign rights, BUT you can purchase the book via your country’s Amazon. I know, not the greatest answer. I too much prefer the indie bookstores, and specifically my little local hometown ones. We must help them survive!

          And, by the way, that is a stunning gravatar, Laura. 😉

  9. Wow! Shelley, congratulations on the book. I love the premise and the first chapter has me hooked as does the review.I’m away to preorder. All the best with it.

    • Thank you, thank you, Anne. We shall see what time unveils, but a nod from you is like a giant literary hug.
      I hope your own launch is chugging along splendidly. The Silver Locket is awaiting my eyes (seriously, I can’t wait to read it. Culloden here I come!), but I’m finishing off Sara Gruen’s latest novel (how can I resist a tale of folks hunting down Nessie?)
      😛

  10. YAY OPL!!! What a fun cover, and what an amazing review from Kirkus. Reading that first chapter again (however many years later) made me smile. I can’t wait until Opl is out in the world. Congratulations, Shelley!!

    • Nancy, I think it’s absolutely incredible that my blog world friends are as supportive as they are. You totally rock. I’m used to reading middle grade and young adult novels for work, but it might be a stretch to ask other grownups to jump into the world of a thirteen-year-old. My hope is that a couple of folks might know someone they think would be served by the story. Calling all tweenagers!!

      • I have added several blogging friends-turned-in-real-life friends to my life, a couple of whom are authors, so I get to hear first hand what a tough slog it is getting your books published, reviewed, even just read. I try to do my little part to add support when I can. xoxo

    • Sarah, you’re wonderfully kind. I hope the book will find it’s way into the hands of those that want it and need it. And if that happens to be you, then one thousand thank yous as well. 😉

    • It’s so lovely to read your words, Su. I remember seeing the cover for the first time and immediately thinking I should send a batch of fudge to all the folks in the art department, and then realized that this message is a teensy bit contradictory to what I actually wrote about in the story. So I’m thinking I may just tattoo their names somewhere on my bodies as a meaningful thank you.
      🙄

      • Hehe! Maybe a raw vegan fudge product made with cashew nuts and chia seeds? Or a tattoo; that would be fun to explain to people in the future. 🙂 Congrats again.

        • I DID just make a raw vegan fudge! (And now I’m feeling rather like a dolt for not thinking that would be a perfectly acceptable gift.) So, yes, the fudge would definitely be the easier route. o_O

  11. I must be going through my second childhood as I am completely hooked and want to read more…… So nice to see something for the young crowd that contains full sentences and good language [not referring to swearing either], real life and substance. I do hope it sells like hot cakes and is taken up by teens and pre-teens and maybe even becomes a movie! . Is this the book that sat t the ready when we visited? It is such a long process isn’t it – no wonder most writers die in poverty and obscurity!

    • Real life and substance. I think you nailed what I’m really hoping to communicate in this book, Pauline. One of the primary messages is that there are no magic pills or lickety split fixes for most of our troubles. Perspective and action are surprisingly a helluva lot more effective and long lasting.
      And yep, this is the book you saw. Less than two months to go.
      I hope it finds a little clan that will love it. ❤

  12. Oh, this is really exciting! I just can’t wait to get my greedy little hands on it! I love the cover. I love the preview. I just cannot wait! Thanks for the sneak peak!

  13. Congratulations! From the excerpt and the review it sounds like a heartfelt story with a dash of humor. I’d be happy to help with your release. A review or maybe a mention on my lowly blog!

    • A heartfelt story with a dash of humor and a massive bowl of teenage snark as dipping sauce. o_O
      And your lowly blog? What an honor that would be, Jan. I’ll send you an email tomorrow, ok?

  14. The Kirkus Review is excellent and not at all about ” a plate of boiled brussels sprouts” (that cracked me up!)
    You have a writing style that is engaging and keeps me interested.
    So excited for you, Shelley, and while the campaign has kept me from reading a book all the way through since January, I am buying your book!!
    XO

    • Internet hugs are oftentimes unable to convey the proper amount of gratitude, but I’m sending an extra squishy one down the 29 in your direction, Laurie. You really are lovely.
      And speaking of the campaign–I was listening to NPR this morning while scraping the nightly anti-aging spackle off my face and heard about the Republican Roast and Ride in Iowa. I seriously had to laugh at the thought of Walker and Perry leading a pack of hounding press. If they could only see you handle these Old Dominion curves!
      I hope you’re getting some rest in between stump speeches. ❤

  15. well this is terribly exciting. i feel like i’ve attended a sneak peak of a summer blockbuster. reading your blog yields oh so much more than i ever expected shelley – looking forward to being part of the literary in-crowd later this year 🙂

  16. Woo-hoo! Very excited for you. Looks like it’s going to be a great read. Wishing you lots of good feedback and plenty of happy young readers.

  17. I’ve been composing my comment for two days now…in my head that is. You’re an extraordinary writer who deserves every bit of success that comes your way. It was exciting reading your intro and then launching into the first chapter that as Laurie says, leaves us wanting more. I’m going to pre-order my own copy, then purchase a few more for my Little Free Library and a few other LFL’s close by. It’s a book that should be read (and will certainly be enjoyed). I’m so glad you’ve written this book, found a publisher, promoted it and now will deliver it to readers everywhere.

    My own father died from lung cancer when I was 9. I too have eaten chocolate in private, filled with guilt and shame, but eating it anyway. My mom once said to me as an adult in my thirties, “are you still eating chocolate?” Ouch. And Yes. I’m struggling with my own sugar addiction. It’s unbelievable how the ideas put forth in this book resonate so clearly.

    I can’t wait to read your words, crafted carefully, lovingly and painstakingly and now launched between pages with a cover and everything. Exciting business, Ms. Shelley. Cheers to your success.

    • Alys, the warmth that emanates from you is tantamount to that of the sun. Good heavens, how I wish you lived next door.

      I’m so overjoyed at your affirmation of my writing skills, and your incredibly generous decision to spread the story. That’s just … wow.

      And I’m thinking, the more I know about you, the more this story will ring true and sound within your hands. I truly hope so.

      I wish internet hugs could be felt more physically. I’m sending all of mine to you today.
      ❤ ❤

  18. I love this! It is wonderfully written and such a timely subject. I was pulled in immediately and now I must know how Opl will handle the immediate question about the Oreos as well as the other dilemmas she faces. And fyi, at the risk of sounding bossy just because I am so jealous of your gorgeous writing, in the US at least, stationery is spelled with an e.

    • So many lovely words you’ve shared and I’m truly flattered by your compliment. I’m so happy it resonates with you.

      And great news! I was using a penultimate version of the chapter. I checked with the proofreading department and they’d already nabbed that guy. I’m so grateful for the many extra eyeballs–including yours! I’ve updated the post, thanks to you.

      Cheers!

    • My heartfelt thanks! I’m always rather astounded as to the degree of difficulty we now face trying to find food that everyone can agree is good and solid and healthy and safe. The minefield spreads ever wider.
      Cheers!

  19. I Love It!!! I didn’t know you wrote young adult books, Shelley – Cool!! I used to teach 5th and 6th grade. Such a fantastic age to write for, and you’re writing style fits them so perfectly. I’ll be talking up your book to all my teacher friends!!!
    By the way, great profile pic! 🙂

    • Good heavens, Jen, what an incredible thing to do. I hope it might spark an element of interest. But regardless, my massive thanks.
      (And thanks for the compliment as well. It’s rather amazing what tricks the right lighting and fuzzy photography can do for folks these days. 😛 )

    • Egads! The dreadful synopsis. I’m fairly sure most writers agree that writing that wicked chunk of words takes longer than the actual manuscript itself. But I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
      And speaking of enjoying, I’m so drawn to the subjects on your blog–and overall in the world of downsizing to the perfect use of space. I look forward to reading more. Bring on the solar!
      Cheers!

  20. Pingback: Shelley Sackier’s New Book, DEAR OPL | Deborah Prum: Writing Tips and Cautionary Tales

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