Today's post in honor of the 2011 Cephalopod Awareness Days. October 10th is Squid Day.

It's the happiest day of the year here at Squid A Day! To celebrate (or perhaps it was just a coincidence) I attended Litquake's New Writers Workshop to get some tips on publishing my squid racing novel. The writers, agents, and publishers on the panels were very generous with their time and their advice; I came away with pages of useful notes.

However, as a result, I'm too wiped out to write a big exciting squid science post. Even though some great squid science stories are begging to be told! They will have to wait. Instead, I hope to satisfy you, dear readers, with an excerpt from Heart Set Free: A Girl and Her Squid.

I was going to give you a chunk from the middle of the book, which has been through several rounds of test readers, but then I thought, no, you deserve better. So here is the brand new opening scene which I've just written and no one but me has ever seen before. 

It might be wonderful! It might be terrible! You tell me!


"And they're off! Ikeda and Blue Note pull into an early lead, several lengths ahead. Bugaev's next, but his saddle's knocked askew. He and Kir Nesis might have had a bump against one of the arches. And is Guerra having equipment problems?"

Eleven huge squid jetted fiercely through the water off the coast of Peru. Jockeys lay on their backs, buckled into their saddles, breathing on scuba. Each jockey's hands rested on his mount's fins and guided the squid's swimming with hand signals.

"Thompson's pushing Jetstream hard, trying to close the distance to Ikeda. Look at the colors on that squid! He might be trying to intimidate the others. Meanwhile, Sakai and Tentacular are in third place and it looks like they're going for camouflage this year. The other squid might not even see them slip past!"

In the kitchen of a small house in Monterey, California, twelve-year-old Penny Clarke followed every twist and turn of the race on her computer screen. Occasionally she remembered to insert a spoonful of cereal into her mouth. The announcer's breathless commentary played on tinny speakers.

"Yes, Guerra is definitely bubbling--that's going to cost her. If she runs out of air and has to finish the race at the surface, she might even come in behind Mather and Well Armed! As usual, the Americans are dead last and not likely to make up the distance.

"There's Bugaev, it looks like he's got his saddle back on straight. Oh, but look at that--Kir Nesis has an abrasion! Still jetting fine, but this is likely his last race. Bad luck for the Russians--he's out of The Kraken's bloodline, and they poured a lot of money into him.

"Sakai's in second place now and posed to take first. Wait a minute! Who's this coming up from behind? It's Max Hardy on Fin Ish Line! The kiwis have never placed at the Sucker Cup before--could this be the year?"

Suddenly the announcer's voice was cut off and the video disappeared. Penny found herself staring instead at her mother's hand, which had just closed the laptop.

"I said it's time for school."

"And I said there's just a few more minutes left!" Penny shrieked, but the computer had already disappeared. "You won't let me take riding lessons anyone, and now you won't even let me watch the Sucker Cup?"

"Oh boy, here comes the drama," sighed her mother, as she packed her briefcase for work.

"Penny," said her father, with considerably more patience, "This isn't about squid racing. This is about getting you to school on time. You can watch the rest when you get home. Now come on, where's your bike helmet?"