Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Introducing Our Affable Authors

ON THE BLOCK 2016 is just a few weeks away!  Here are the (adorable, amazing, altruistic) Affable Authors who will be offering critique on the 20 posted entries:


Nancy Bilyeau is the author of a trilogy of historical thrillers published by Touchstone (S&S) called "The Crown," "The Chalice," and "The Tapestry," also on sale in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, and Russia. The debut, "The Crown," was an Oprah pick and on the short list of the Crime Writers Association's Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award.This year, "The Tapestry" was the runner-up for the Daphne du Maurier Award from RWA for Best Historical Romantic Suspense. A magazine editor, Nancy has worked on the staffs of "Rolling Stone," "Entertainment Weekly," "Good Housekeeping," and "InStyle." A proud Queens broad, she lives in Forest Hills with her husband and two teenagers.


Erin Bow is the author of the YA fantasies Plain Kate and Sorrow’s Knot, and the new YA science fiction duology The Scorpion Rules/The Swan Riders. She has a physics degree, a garden, two telescopes, and fifty-three cookbooks, and she looks normal if you squint.  Connect with her on twitter or tumblr, or visit  


Piper J. Drake (or “PJ”) began her writing career as “PJ Schnyder” writing award-winning sci-fi & paranormal romance and steampunk. She has received the FF&P PRISM award for her work as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award. Now, Piper writes romantic suspense, incorporating her interests in mixed martial arts and the military into her writing.

Backlist in order of publication:

HIDDEN IMPACT   (A Safeguard Novel)
Released: November 9, 2015; digital; ASIN: B00URJJYME    
Publisher: Carina Press  
Purchase: All online bookstores

EXTREME HONOR  (True Heroes series)
Released: January 26, 2016; print/digital/audio; ISBN-13: 978-1455536047    
Publisher: Forever - Hachette Book Group
Purchase: All local/national bookstores, All online bookstores

DEADLY TESTIMONY  (A Safeguard Novel)
Released: May 9, 2016; digital; ASIN: B014PHVM78    
Publisher: Carina Press  
Purchase: All online bookstores

ULTIMATE COURAGE (True Heroes series)
Released: July 26, 2016; print/digital/audio; ISBN-13: 978-1455536054    
Publisher: Forever - Hachette Book Group
Purchase: All local/national bookstores, All online bookstores

ABSOLUTE TRUST (True Heroes series)
Released: December 20, 2016; print/digital/audio; ISBN-13: 978-1455536085    
Publisher: Forever - Hachette Book Group
Purchase: All local/national bookstores, All online bookstores


Dorothy Dreyer is a Philippine-born American living in Germany with her husband, two teens, and two huskies. She writes young adult books that usually have some element of magic or the supernatural in them. She likes reading, movies, chocolate, take-out, traveling, and having fun with friends and family. She tends to sing sometimes, too, so keep her away from your Karaoke bars.


My Sister's Reaper Reaper's Rite Book One

Sixteen-year-old Zadie’s first mistake was telling the boy she liked she could bring her dead sister back to life. Her second mistake was actually doing it.

When Zadie accidentally messes with the Reaper’s Rite that should have claimed her sister Mara, things go horribly wrong. Mara isn’t the same anymore—Zadie isn’t even sure she’s completely human. To top it off, a Reaper is determined to collect Mara's soul. Now Zadie must figure out how to defeat her sister’s Reaper or let Mara die … this time for good.

My Tethered Soul Reaper's Rite Book Two

It’s been months since Zadie faced her sister’s Reaper, months during which she’s been under her mentor’s magical protection. But now that she’s turning seventeen, that protection is about to run out.

When dark forces lure Zadie to wander at night, she’s manipulated into committing unspeakable acts. With her friends and family at risk, Zadie must try to use her powers to break free from the Reaper’s grasp, or surrender to the Reaper’s Rite, which can only lead to death.

The First Mourning (Anthology short from SCARE ME TO SLEEP) Release date: October 3, 2016

Brothers Cain and Abel come to life once more in Dorothy Dreyer’s The First Mourning – a haunting tale of sibling rivalry bound by insecurities, the need for parental approval and affection, and the precarious line between love and hate. Some sins can’t be erased.


Sara J. Henry is the author of A Cold and Lonely Place (2013) and Learning to Swim (2011), both from Crown. She began as a newspaper sports editor in the Adirondacks and became an editor at Women's Sports & Fitness magazine and Rodale Books before turning to fiction. She has edited many books, fiction and nonfiction; cowritten books on health and fitness; contributed to numerous magazines; and been a correspondence writing school instructor. She has also worked as a bicycle mechanic and was a soil scientist for a very short while. Her novels have won the Anthony, Agatha, Mary Higgins Clark, and Silver Falchion Awards, and she won the Arthritis Foundation Russell L. Cecil award for magazine writing. Sara grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and received her master’s in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa. She lives on a dirt road in southern Vermont.


Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Alice Loweecey recently celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she's not creating trouble for her sleuth Giulia Driscoll or inspiring nightmares as her alter-ego Kate Morgan, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year).


Joshua McCune was born on a Navy base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He grew up in London and Washington, D.C., went to college in Texas, and got married in New Zealand. He worked as a telemarketer, an SAT instructor, and a robotics engineer before becoming an author. He currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife and two dogs, writing stories of people and places just beyond the reach of planes, trains, and automobiles (but not dragons).

TALKER 25 (Greenwillow, 2013): It’s a high school prank gone horribly wrong—sneaking onto the rez to pose next to a sleeping dragon—and now senior Melissa Callahan has become an unsuspecting pawn in a war between Man and Monster, between family and friends and the dragons she has despised her whole life. Chilling, epic, and wholly original, this debut novel imagines a North America where dragons are kept on reservations, where strict blackout rules are obeyed no matter the cost, where the highly weaponized military operates in chilling secret, and where a gruesome television show called Kissing Dragons unites the population.

TALKER 25: INVISIBLE MONSTER (Greenwillow, 2015): Finally free after spending three months locked in a secret government facility where she was forced to torture and assassinate dragons for the popular television series Kissing Dragons, all Melissa Callahan wants is a quiet recovery. Hiding in an Alaskan cave with fellow escapee Allie (known as Talker 21) and a silver dragon named Baby, Melissa does her best to stay out of the dragon politics. However, when a group of bloodthirsty insurgents called the Diocletians comes looking for them, Melissa must put everything on the line to protect those she loves.


Jodi spends all her time writing books. With the extra pockets of time she steals from you, she knits things.

 Leah Petersen

Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina manipulating numbers by day and the universe by night. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing. 


Peter Adam Salomon is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Horror Writers Association, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, the International Thriller Writers, and The Authors Guild and is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

His debut novel, HENRY FRANKS, was published by Flux in 2012. His second novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS, published by Flux in 2014, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Young Adult fiction. Both novels have been named a ‘Book All Young Georgians Should Read’ by The Georgia Center For The Book.

His short fiction has appeared in the Demonic Visions series among other anthologies, and he was the featured author for Gothic Blue Book III: The Graveyard Edition. He was also selected as one of the Gentlemen of Horror for 2014.

His poem ‘Electricity and Language and Me’ appeared on BBC Radio 6 performed by The Radiophonic Workshop in December 2013. Eldritch Press published his first collection of poetry, Prophets, in 2014, and his second poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners, was published in 2016 by Bizarro Pulp Press. In addition, he was the Editor for the first books of poetry released by the Horror Writers Association: Horror Poetry Showcase Volumes I and II.

He served as a Judge for the 2006 Savannah Children’s Book Festival Young Writer’s Contest and for the Royal Palm Literary Awards of the Florida Writers Association. He was also a Judge for the first two Horror Poetry Showcases of the Horror Writers Association and has served as Chair on multiple Juries for the Bram Stoker Awards.

Peter Adam Salomon lives in Naples, FL with his wife Anna and their three sons: André Logan, Joshua Kyle and Adin Jeremy.


Amanda Sun is the author of The Paper Gods, a YA Fantasy series about dangerous drawings coming to life in Shizuoka, Japan. The first two books, INK and RAIN, were Aurora Award nominees and Junior Library Guild selections. Her short fiction has also been published in Strangers Among Us, the Aurora Award–nominated Tesseracts Fifteen, and other anthologies and literary journals. Her new YA Fantasy, HEIR TO THE SKY, harbors monster hunters and floating continents. When not reading or writing, Sun is also an avid cosplayer. Find her on Twitter at @Amanda_Sun and get FREE Paper Gods novellas at

My book info:

Paper Gods Series
SHADOW (enovella prequel)
RISE (enovella #2.5)
HEIR TO THE SKY (April 2016) STRANGERS AMONG US (antholology, Aug 2016) 


Mónica was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companion as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog. She's the author of the NA trilogy FROSH and is represented by Lauren MacLeod.

Book info:

Frosh: First Blush (Paper Lantern Lit/2015)

During welcome week at Hillson University, the FROSH will hit the fan.

Type-A aspiring journalist Ellie plans to take freshman year by storm. But hell-bent on breaking a huge on-campus scandal, she risks becoming one herself—and getting the mysterious, heart-melting QB in serious trouble.

Grant, star quarterback and charismatic chick-magnet, is hiding a life-altering secret. The last thing he needs is an overeager (absolutely adorable) journalist asking questions. He’s got a reputation to protect.

High-society legacy student Devon is ready to catch the football hottie of her dreams. If the tabloids feature her with the “it” boy on her arm, her tainted past will be buried—or so she thinks.

Charlie, pre-med, is done being the sweet and funny geek that girls like Devon ignore. But if he tries to impress her with a new edgy, spontaneous attitude, will his heart end up in the emergency room?

FROSH intertwines the stories of Ellie, Grant, Devon, and Charlie in Mónica B. Wagner’s sexy NA debut series, about falling in love and falling apart.

Upcoming book:

Frosh: Second Chances (Sept 27, 2016)


In FROSH: FIRST BLUSH, Ellie, Grant, Devon, and Charlie spent their welcome week falling head over heels for each other—before totally falling apart. Now, in FROSH: SECOND CHANCES, they’ll have to pick up the pieces.

After ruining Grant’s football career (and her own reputation), Ellie has been trying to lie low—which means not making more enemies. But some students still want her to pay for what she did, and now, Ellie’s determined to fight back—and fight for Grant.

Grant is adjusting to his new reality: no more football means no more free passes in class, and definitely no more distractions; especially from Ellie, whom he misses even after she destroyed his world. Can he find a way to move on without her—and without football?

Devon finally has it all: her brother's sober and her boyfriend is an adorkable genius. But when her parents threaten to tear her and Charlie apart because he doesn't 'fit' into their high society, she will go to dangerous lengths to prove that nothing—nothing—can defeat Devon Connors.

Charlie’s never questioned who he is: pre-med science geek, and now, Devon Connors’ boyfriend. But when he discovers a secret about his past, Charlie isn’t sure of anything—especially whether he can trust Devon with the truth.

Monica B. Wagner’s sexy New Adult series follows these four characters all the way to winter break—when the only thing they’ll want more than first love is a second chance.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Fricassee

A brand-new Jodi-mitt wrapped around a coffee mug

Mr. A and I have just returned from a sweet autumn getaway at our favorite beach along the Jersey shore.  We wanted to see if our love for this place would withstand the absence of summer's warmth and bustle.

It did.

October in a beach town means no glut of vacationers on the street corners, waiting to cross.  It means stoplights set to flash yellow instead of going through their regular cycle, because the traffic has been reduced to locals-only.  It means wearing a hoodie on the beach, even though the water is warmer than it was in June.  It means your favorite restaurants are only open Thursday through Sunday now, so if it's a Tuesday night, you're out of luck.  

It also means 50%-off tee-shirts and an almost-empty bed and breakfast (which translates to snooping through all the vacant rooms to see if you like any of them better than the one you're staying in).  Fires lit in cozy hearths.  Long walks instead of long beach sunnings.

Glorious.  We had such a lovely time.

The timing, for me, was perfect.  I finished the first draft of my latest novel (huzzah! woop-woop!), so it felt wonderful to just set it aside and NOT WRITE for a few days.  Though, truth be told, by the last day, I was wishing I could curl up and spend the day writing.  You know how it is.

I did, however, get some much-desired reading time!  Finally I was able to dig into Mary E. Pearson's The Beauty of Darkness, which is a fitting reward for having finished my draft in the allotted 3-month span.  Of course, I'm still reading it, and today I'm officially entering Revision Mode, so I'll have to use it as my end-of-writing-day reward.  You know how it is when you get sucked into an amazing novel, yes?  All you want to do is to read.  And read some more.  And, well, I've got to write.  It's hard to do both!

Me and The Beauty of Darkness

So, what does jumping into Revision Mode look like for me?  First off, I need to complete my post-draft outline.  Which I'm supposed to be creating as I go (Scrivener makes this SO VERY EASY), but I tend to procrastinate because it's tedious and boring and annoying to stop at the end of each scene and write bullet points.  So now, instead of having to do it in tiny chunks, I have to sit down and DO IT ALL.  I got the first 10 chapters finished before vacation, with 20 to go.  Ugh.

Also, I'm working on character sketches of all the important secondary characters, so I can really bring them to life and make their roles in the story solid.  I started this process on the beach (my favorite place to work out story stuff!), but I didn't get too far--especially after I was caught unaware by the rising surf, which soaked my towel and my spiral-bound notebook (but fortunately not my iPhone).  So now my notebook is saltwater-warped, and I love it even more.

After all this preliminary stuff, I'll get to the best part, which is actually digging into the novel and doing the heavy lifting.  LOVE THIS PART.  My goal is to have a clean second draft before Thanksgiving.

So, that's my fall.  Oh, and there's this wee blog contest thing that I'm still narrowing down entries for.  I'm down to I've-got-this-many-yeses, and I'm going back over--and over--my list of maybes, making the painstaking decisions about which ones to put in the contest.  (Having this many maybes is a good thing--it speaks to the quality of the entries.  Bravo, all!  But, ugh. It's hard to choose.  Really hard.)

Coming up:  A showcase of the AFFABLE AUTHORS who will be reading and critiquing the winning entries.  In the days ahead, I'll also be offering more information on the actual auction--what to expect, how it works, and the best way to follow and root for your favorite entries on auction day.

I'll also be offering a special opportunity for those who submitted entries that DON'T get picked.  But more on that later.

For now, I'm off to revision land!  Happy to be home and ready to hit my autumn stride.  It never ceases to amaze me how the ocean refreshes and invigorates me, and how that effect lasts well beyond the actual vacation days.  Here's hoping it doesn't fade for a long time!


Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Fricassee

Confession time!

I'm the author of TALKIN' HEADS #30.

I almost never put my own stuff in the crits here, and I didn't intend to do it this time.  But the numbering system is a little off on my end of the bot--it thinks it has more entries than it really does, so I have to do a little math and add extra slots so that, when I say there are 30 slots, there really ARE 30.

So I did the math and added the extra slots.  And forgot to bear in mind that I had manually rejected one of the entries because it was a duplicate.  (People, please don't enter the same thing from two separate email accounts.  All you're doing is stealing a spot from someone else.)

Needless to say, I ended up with 29 entries queued to post yesterday, and I was all, POOP.  Because when you promise 30 slots and submissions close, and then you post 29...well, it doesn't look good.

So I scrambled to find an excerpt of my own work to fill the empty slot.  I chose a scene from a draft that hasn't yet seen its first revision, so it was pretty risky to throw it out there.  I felt like it was at least clean enough for some public critique, though, and I am very appreciative of the feedback I've received.

And because I love you, I'm going to call you out by name.  :)

THANK YOU Rachel Menard, mad-hat-ink, Jen Schafer, ikmar, and H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw.  Your comments are so helpful.  (Pointing out small things like removing extraneous prepositional phrases is always helpful as we dig into revisions, yes?  Like your suggestion, mad-hat, to change "What if I refuse to write?" to "What if I refuse?"  And, Jen, your suggestion to change "You're not going to hurt me" to "You won't hurt me" is equally spot-on.)

And, mad-hat-ink?  I feel like you really "get" my writing.  And we all know how good that feels.  The lines you quoted are actually characteristic of my writing style, and I used them to convey exactly what you got from them.  That was a lovely moment for me.

You were divided over the food-chewing, which amused me.  I'll have to see what I can do there to make sure it's not a hiccup.

Anyway, thank you all.  Truly.  This particular draft is a hot mess, and when I finally dig in, I'm going to need lots of chocolate.  Thank you all for offering such helpful feedback, and for helping me to see that, even in the midst of a mess, there's always some good.

Whew!  My conscience is now clean.  But I'm also grateful for having had the opportunity to call out some of you who have been faithful to critique not only during this particular round, but in many rounds.  I always see a pattern of familiar screen names in my inbox, to the point where I feel like I'm walking into a coffee shop and seeing the faces of friends.  YOUR TIME AND EFFORT ARE SO VERY APPRECIATED.

And now I'm off to have a low-key, get-some-rest-and-some-writing done sort of day.  It's a performance weekend for the symphony chorus I'm a part of, so I've given myself permission to live like an artiste for a couple of days.  Heh!

May your own weekends be joyful as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Talkin' Heads: Critique Guidelines

For this critique round, we are focusing on DIALOGUE.  Namely:

  • Does it sound natural?  Do people really talk this way?
  • Is there a good balance among dialogue, tags, and beats?
  • Is the pacing good?
  • Does the excerpt feel like it's propelling the story forward, or does it feel more like static banter?

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 5 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

Talkin' Heads #30

TITLE:  From the Ashes
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Zila, a young queen, has been kidnapped by Denas, who means to put her on the throne of a fallen kingdom he wishes to resurrect.  He has told her she needs to write to her husband, the king, to demand supplies and manpower.

“He will never agree.”

“Oh, I think he will,” Denas said.  “Your safety is going to mean everything to him.”

I tightened my hands around the goblet.  “If you want me to be your queen,” I said slowly, “you’re not going to hurt me.”

“He doesn’t know that.  And, frankly, neither do you.”

My breaths were coming faster, my layer of perceived safety dissipating like mist.  “What if I refuse to write?”

Denas took a long time to chew and swallow a mouthful.  Then he stared at me, using his tongue to work a piece of food from his teeth.  “For every day that you refuse,” he finally said, “one member of your expedition dies.”

He said it so matter-of-factly that, at first, I felt nothing.  Then his words sank in, and I stared back.

“You would kill someone in order to force my cooperation?”

“I would.”

He continued to study me, watching my reaction.  I didn’t give him one.  Inside, my heart was a storm—despair, fear, indecision.  Outside, I was glass, smooth and cool.

“You’re a terrifying man,” I said.

“I’m a passionate man.”

“There is little difference.”  I poked at my food.  “And you already know I won’t let you hurt anyone on my account.”

He smiled.  “You’re everything I’d hoped you’d be, Your Majesty.”

Talkin' Heads #29

TITLE: The Doppelganges
GENRE: MG Fantasy Contemporary

“Don’t talk to me,” he whispered, his voice urgent. “Didn’t I tell you not to talk to me unless you saw the bracelet?  I could have been him!”

“What? You could have been who?  Now you are totally nuts. I always knew that brilliant brain of yours would snap someday.”

“I told you to only talk if I was wearing this bracelet,” he said and stuck his arm up in her face.

“Well, you’re wearing it. So talk,” she said. “You know, I got a strike at school today for ditching lunch without a pass to find you in the library.”

“We can’t talk here.  He’s in there. Come with me.”

     He grabbed Wren by the arm and pulled her a little too roughly around the house and behind a gardening shed.

“Ouch. Cut it out,” she cried and pulled her arm away.

“Sorry.  I guess I am losing it.”

“Who’s in there?” she demanded.

“You’re not going to believe me, but here goes.”

     He told her a shortened version of the story, leaving out the fact that he didn’t exactly feel like he was himself. It sounded ridiculous and she wasn’t buying it.

“Reed, I am not saying that you are lying, but think about it.”

“Wren, go in the house and you will see a kid who looks just like me, but he won’t be wearing the strap. Then look out the window and you will see me standing here.  Then you will know why I am freaking out.”

Talkin' Heads #28

TITLE: Bits & Pieces
GENRE: YA Contemporary

The narrator, 17 year-old Chase, wakes the morning after a fight to find his 14-year old sister Brooke hovering over him. Both are still grieving the loss of their older brother to alcohol poisoning nine months prior.

Consciousness creeps behind my eyelids, and I find a blurry Brooke curled in my desk chair next to the bed. She remains still as I struggle to sit. Nothing doing. I sink to the mattress in pain.

“Don’t ever do that again.”

“I have to get up sometime, Pixie.” I squint at her through the eye not swollen shut.

She frowns, her eyes the saddest I’ve seen since …

“Don’t be so sad. I’m okay.” I grit my teeth and force myself upright. “See?”

Brooke stalks from the room.

Damn. My room starts to spin and I drop to my pillow. “Ow.”

“Look.” Brooke forces a handheld mirror in my face.

The guy in the mirror is a mess. Swollen, bruised, stitched. A real Frankenstein.

“Okay. You made your point.” I lift an arm to swipe at the mirror, but my hand weighs a ton.

“You promised.” She places the mirror on my desk. “You promised not to … be like him.”

“I’ve kept my promise. I wasn’t dr —”

“Do you think I’m stupid?”

“C’mon, Brooke.” God, my chest hurts.

“Trevor could have killed you.”

“But he didn’t. Sit down. Please. Let me explain.”

She perches on the edge of the chair, arms crossed.

“Trevor went after Kelsey. She's barely bigger than you, and he’s bigger than me.”

“I can take you down.” The lines in Brooke’s forehead harden.

The muscles in my face protest a smile. “I know. You’ve had practice, and you’re fearless.”

Talkin' Heads #27

TITLE: Prelude to a Shift
GENRE: YA paranormal

Fil's first lunch with a trio of people she just met at her new high school. She's just eaten some disgusting lasagne in the lunchroom and spit it into an empty milk carton.


Jess offers half a sandwich. “My dad made the bread. Peanut butter’s organic.”

            My teeth sink into whole wheat bread with different kinds of seeds in it, glued to ripe bananas by impossibly peanutty peanut butter. Lasagna fades from mouth-memory.

            Drex digs in her pack and donates a couple of squished miniature Milky Ways.

            Indy rips her cheese bread in two and hands me half. “Good thing we don’t all subsist on Milky Ways and Coke.”

            “At least I don’t chow down like a garbage truck.” Drex turns her shoulder to Indy and focuses on Jess. “So, we on for Friday?”

            “What do you think?”

            “I think you cancelled last week. And the week before.”

            “What can I say? I must suffer for my art.”

            Indy snorts but cuts it short when Drex glares at her.

Drex zeroes back in on Jess. “Look, smart ass, there are 24 hours in a day, and only one a week for that stupid paranormal show you hooked us on. You,” she pokes his chest, “better get your priorities in order. Us first. Art second.”

            “Oh, right. As ravishing as you two are,” he gives each a pained look, “I had a painting to finish. A pain-ting? Face facts. Art first. You guys second. And Paranormal Phenomenon a very, very close third.”

            Indy holds her tray up like a shield and beckons me closer. “Now the shit’s really going to hit the fan,” she says with satisfaction. “Just watch.”

Talkin' Heads #26

TITLE: Knackered
GENRE: MG Fantasy

<This is near the start. Mom just called twelve-year-old Avi downstairs to the kitchen>

<Mom> motioned for me to sit on the chair facing her, took a deep breath and released a long sigh.

“It’s time for you to go, Avi.”


“To your grandmother’s house. To live.”

For most people, that sentence might not have been strange.

“Grandmother? You mean one of the two you told me were dead?”

Her cheeks flushed light pink. “Well she’s dead now, so I wasn’t exactly wrong. I just told you too early.”

A thousand questions popped into my brain. I’d never met any of my grandparents. Never met my dad either. Actually, other than one uncle who didn’t look like my mom at all, I’d never met any family. But figuring out my family tree wasn’t my main concern.

“Why am I going to Grandma’s house if she’s dead?”

“Well, you can’t stay here. I’m leaving. My job is done.”

“Your job? You’re my mother.”

Mom slid a piece of paper into my hand. “Here’s the address. Grab what you need. You have to be out of this house by midnight. Anything left will be destroyed.”

She stood and lifted her suitcase. She leaned in for an awkward hug. “Good luck. Knowing you has been...interesting.”

Without a glance back, she was out the door. She didn’t even stop for Cain, her slobbering pug.

Talkin' Heads #25

TITLE: The Poacher
GENRE: YA Speculative

Lead in: An unwelcome human has been detained by a pack of wolves. The visitor is presently pinned to the ground by the animals. Oh - the wolves possess an unusual faculty: they can talk.


Bosc yelped. “Please.”

There was a pause while the big wolf stared at him. “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to put my mouth around your neck, and you’re going to roll over and we’re going to sniff you to make sure you’re not carrying a gun tucked away somewhere. Then you can get up.”

Bosc breathed in relief. “All right.”

“As a favor, we’re not going to cripple your hands.”

“Thank you.” Bosc paled.

“After that, any time I wonder what you’re up to, I’m going go ‘Hmmm?’ and you’re going to stop what you’re doing and show me your hands. Do you understand?”


“You don’t get any second chances, all right? I say ‘Hmmm?’ and you show me.”

“I understand.”

“I really hope you do. You know, we admire your smartness. You’re smarter than all of us put together.”

Bosc smiled weakly. “Right now that’s debatable.”

“It’s true, though. I bet you’re already thinking of ways to beat us, and given time you will. Your kind always beats us in the end. Always.”

Bosc swallowed. He looked into the pale, bleak eyes of the wolf. He had no answer for the animal. His mind was blank.

“Our only advantage is speed,” the wolf continued. “So if you make me nervous, if you make any of us even the teensiest bit nervous, we won’t hesitate to break your arms.”

Talkin' Heads #24

TITLE: The Evolution of Evie
GENRE: MG contemporary

    “You know the school dance is next Friday,” Marcus says at lunch the following week. “I think we should all go.”

    Danielle rolls her eyes. “School dances are lame.”

    “How do you know?” Marcus asks. “Have you ever actually been to one?” 

    “No.” Danielle takes a bite of her meatloaf, makes a face of disgust, and promptly spits it into her napkin. I have to agree. It’s not the school’s best meal.

    Marcus was smart and opted for taco salad bar instead today. His plate is already clean.

    “Exactly,” he says. “How do you know unless you go to one.”

    Danielle shrugs. “I just know.”

    Marcus turns to Chelsea. “Come on, please. Will you go with me?”

    Chelsea smirks. “Like a date?”

    “Oh please.” Marcus wads up his napkin and tosses it at her. “You know what I mean.”

    “Ooh,” Chelsea says, her smile growing wider. “I bet you were the one to send me that candy gram.” 

    Now it’s Marcus’s turn to roll his eyes.

    “Please, girl. You know I love you, but it wasn’t me.” He looks at me, his last hope. “Evie?”

    I shrug. “Um, I guess I could go. I mean, I have no idea how to dance, but it might be fun.” His face lights up and I realize that I should have put more emphasis on might. 

    “See, Danielle,” Marcus says. “Evie wants to go. She thinks it will be fun, too.”

    I hadn’t exactly said that, but oh well. If it would make Marcus happy, I’d go. 

    “Fine,” Danielle says with a sigh. “I’ll go.” 

    Marcus claps his hands together. “Yay!”

    “And you’re coming, too, Chels,” Danielle adds.

    Chelsea doesn’t argue. I think we’re all secretly a little afraid of Danielle.


Talkin' Heads #23

TITLE: August and September
GENRE: YA Contemporary

September just met Wyatt on her first day of school.

The bell rang, and he stood up and put his backpack on.

“AC/DC, huh?” I said, pointing to his shirt.

He lifted up his eyebrows, surprised that I was talking to him. “Yeah, you like them?”

“Do you?”

“Yeah, they’re one of my favorite bands.” He walked towards the door and I followed.

“Oh, really.”

“Yes, really. Why do you say it like that: ‘Oh, really?’”

“Name one of their songs,” I said.

“Back in Black.”

“That just proved to me that you have no idea who they are.” I walked ahead of him.

“What are you talking about?” He jogged to catch up with me. “Back in Black. Probably their most famous song.”

“Exactly. That’s the song that everyone would say if I asked them to name an AC/DC song. Your mom would say that. Heck, your grandma would say that.”

“Ok, then, Thunderstruck.”

“Once again, you prove my point.” I chuckled.

“Fine then, what do you want me to say?”

“I don’t want you to say anything. You’ve said it all.” I stopped at my locker, holding back a smile. I watched him from the corner of my eye while I turned the lock.

Talkin' Heads #22

TITLE: Chinchilla Dreams and Beauty Queens
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Frankie Lee Parker has long list of worries. Money for the beauty pageant, disappointing Mom and Dad, Fiona and her purple van, and Uncle Donny in a jail cell. And now Kate... 


The bedsprings squeaked and the shadow of my sister tiptoed across the room, shoes in hand.

“Where are you going?” I whispered.

She froze. “None of your business.”

“You’re going to meet Eddie, aren’t you?”

“No. I’m going outside to get some fresh air.”

“The window’s open. The air’s fresh in here. You going to make out?”

“Frankie! ‘Course not. We’re going to talk about our future.”

Yeah. Right. I wasn’t dumb. I knew what boyfriends and girlfriends did when they snuck out at night.

“Kate, don’t get…like Hannah Watson.” Hannah dropped out of school right after Christmas, before she started showing too much.

“Frankie! You mind your own business. And don’t you dare tell Mom or Dad.”

“I’m not a tattletale.” And I wasn’t. But as I lay awake I added my sister to my list of worries. 

My eyes didn’t close until she slipped back into our room a couple hours later.


Talkin' Heads #21

TITLE: The Keeper
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

After witnessing the cruel yet necessary beating of one of their captive visitors, Era confronts her parents, Nyx and Savin, about the use of such violence. In order to preserve the fragile core of their world and the one below, Savin uses the moment to remind his daughter about her previously learned lessons.

“There’s no need for such actions,” Era said.

“Era, he isn’t one of the puppies you’re so used to. He isn’t an heir from one of the other houses. He is a Brody, and a stubborn one at that. He has been brought to the truth, and his core is a little brighter. As should be your own,” I said patiently.

“Because he seeks the truth? You deny it to him and beat him instead. I’ve no idea how it serves the core.” At this Savin set down his bread and stared at her.

“Tell me the core, Era.” She laughed bitterly.

“I’m no child, Dad. I passed my lessons long ago.”

“To preserve the core means to reflect and revisit it constantly. To have the deepest experiences possible and to come to recognize those pieces in a different light based on our constantly changing experiences. So tell me the core.”

“Love. Truth. Loyalty. Innocence. Pain.” She said the last word with disdain.

“What is my path?” He was unbuttoning his shirt. I cringed, for I knew his intentions.

“Savin, don’t,” I whispered.

“Pain, but…” Era answered.

“Do you know how I learned it? How I was forced to see the full truth? Part of it was separation from those who truly mattered to me. From those I loved, and love still. That pain was tremendous, and it pushed me on. But much of it was like Jamie Brody in that moss-lined cell.”  

Talkin' Heads #20

TITLE: Dust after Slaying
GENRE: Adult Urban Fantasy

Dee and her friend Hope are following a mysterious online map with their names on it. They actually fight vampires; werewolves are fictional in their universe.


Hope brought the smartphone closer to her face. It was finally lit enough to show she was frowning. “You really watch the werewolf stuff?”

“I guess there’s not as much on TV about werewolves as there is about vampires. But those novels in bookstores with threatening covers—eyes filled with contempt, strange tattoos, edged weapons.”

“And those are just the women.”

Dee laughed. “Doesn’t it bother you they portray werewolves and other such things as sexy nowadays?”

“Sex sells, sister.”

“Though it seems to me, if they describe a woman getting intimate with a guy who then has to turn into a werewolf to protect them, isn’t that like . . .”

“Bestiality? I’m not sure. Anyway, I look at those books for research purposes only.” Hope came to a dead stop. “This makes no sense. The path we’ve been following from this map keeps going straight. But you can see where the trail we’re walking on goes.” She gestured to the left, where the trail curved.

“Isn’t that just some tiny blip your map doesn’t show? Like how my GPS device shows the road ahead with geometrically straight lines, but in reality it’s crooked and full of potholes?”

“No, this trail we’re on doesn’t curve back to match the online path. You can see why.” She pointed to the steep hillside ahead of them. “Are we supposed to climb up and hike cross-country?”


Talkin' Heads #19

TITLE: Getting to Candyland
GENRE: Adult Women's

"I've decided I can't continue this way," I say, my voice strong, confident, rational. Not a whine or sob in earshot. Inside, however, my stomach clutches and my intestines buck back in protest. I’ve been working up my nerve to confront Frank for weeks. "I need to know if we're a couple, if we mean something more to each other than a casual friend and a convenient lay as required."

           Frank groans, rolls his head against the back of the booth. "Don't, Claire. This behavior is past the point of charming eccentricity. When you snuck up to my bedroom window to make faces through the glass--that was kind of cute. Talking your girlfriend into acting like a hooker to offer me her services, more extreme. You already have a reputation as a border-line freak. An ugly confrontation in the middle of a cheap restaurant won't improve our relationship."

            "What ugly confrontation?" I'm astounded to hear my voice rise in volume and tone. "I want a simple, calm discussion. And what do you mean by 'border-line freak?' Who called me that?"

            He sits bolt upright and snaps his fingers toward the waitress. When she looks in his direction, he points an index finger toward the surface in front of him. "Some of my friends. After you stood on a table one night and declaimed poetry. You weren't even drunk.” Now he watches me. “What's next, pierced nipples?"

            "Don’t you wish? Frank, you are becoming a tight-ass. If a little unusual behavior blows you away, you're in for a boring, narrow life. Let loose. Don't always do and think what's expected of you." Why am I pushing? Do I want to lose my only lover?

            "And you are a pain in the ass. Three in the morning, for God's sake. Can't this wait?"

Talkin' Heads #18

TITLE: My Deal With Elvis
GENRE: MG Contemporary

I had to find a way to talk Elvis into looking for George Edwards’s plot. If my hunch was right the gold and money were there. It made perfect sense.

“I sure do hate how Charlotte and her brother go around acting like they’re better than everybody, don’t you?” I asked.


“What makes them think they can do whatever they want?” I asked.

Elvis shrugged.

I couldn’t read his face, so I said, “and kicking Luther out of the house he’s lived in his whole life.”

Still nothing.

“That’s why I agreed to help you win the talent show," I said. "Show Charlotte she’s not queen of Milledgeville.”

“Yup,” he said.

“And I will help, it’s just, it might be smart to have a plan B. I mean, in the unlikely event you don’t win.”

"What do you mean, unlikely event?” That got his attention. He stared a hole through me.

“It’s just if we were to make a monumental discovery—say, the last known outlaw’s hidden booty—we’d be somebodies. Right?”

Elvis narrowed his eyes.

“I wouldn’t be some convict’s kid who had to repeat the third grade and you wouldn’t be the weirdo kid who dresses like some dead singer.”

He sat on the bench beside me and reached around the back of his neck. He pulled up his shirt collar. “I like dressing like Elvis Presley.”

Talkin' Heads #17

GENRE: MG Conemporary

Mr. Rayburn, the vice-principal meets the kids in the hall. The Mathalon team needs to have three female members to compete. “And we don’t at this time have any.”


Viola raised her hand.

“Oh, yes,” Mr. Rayburn corrected himself. “We have only one.”

“Does this mean I only got picked because I am a girl?”

“Let’s just say it was in your favor.”

“That’s not fair. I answered more questions right than anyone.”

“Yes, you also got picked because of that. May we continue? You there, tall girl. You’re on the team.”

Candy sputtered but got the word out in a panic. “No.”

“Yes. You are the tallest, so you are on the team.” Mr. Rayburn looked at sore-loser. “See how that works. Everyone on the team is best at something, even if it’s not math. We’ve got the richest and the best shoes, and now we’ve got the tallest girl.”

Candy wanted to jump out of her shoes and sink. What a day to have worn her high-heels. “I don’t want to be on the team.”

“You’re needed.” He pointed to Leslie. “And lastly, you. The sassy one.”

“Sassy? Excuse me?”

“Yes, just like that. You will be our third female. And why didn’t you go out for the team. You’re obviously good at math.”

“Read the shirt.”

“Yeah, right. You’re on the team, Ms. Lu. And I expect you to be our closer.”

“Can’t,” Leslie said in a hurry. “I have previous commitments.”

“Oh, you do not,” Viola challenged “You just think you’re too good for the team.”

“No, I do. I’ve already committed to being a cheerleader.”

Candy’s jaw dropped.

Talkin' Heads #16

TITLE: Trembling Truth
GENRE: Adult Thriller


 I grow alarmed the best thing to do is to flee I take my coat from the chair and put it ‘I saw your friend yesterday.’

‘Which friend?’ Mike asks, narrowing his eyes at me.

‘Sam, it was weird I saw him in my street looking at my window.’ I say

‘Are sure it was him?’

‘Of course I am sure, what makes you think I am not?’

‘Did you drink?’ 

‘I had a couple of drinks,’ I say.

‘So you might have mistaken my friend to someone else.’

 ‘I know what I saw please tell your friend not creep in my neighbourhood.’

‘Why don’t tell him yourself when you see him!’

‘What happened that night?’

 ‘I already told you what happened.’

‘I find it strange that I danced with your friend then he’s creeping at my neighbourhood staring at my window the same day you left me that bloody note’

‘What do you want me to say?’ He barks.

‘How about the truth!’ I snap.

‘You’re thirty-six, you are responsible for your life and of your actions if you didn’t drink senseless you wouldn’t be in this position now, would you? Where is your self-respect?’

‘Why don’t go ahead and say it!’

‘Say what?’

‘Since I had been here all you did was making remarks about my lifestyle, I want to hear it come out from your mouth come on, sweetheart, hit me with it I’m a big girl I can take it’

‘You said so yourself, you are an alcoholic, you are weak, and pathetic it’s disgraceful the way you behave.’

‘Boy, you are good looking but does your mouth make up for it.’

‘For what? For saying the truth? You told me to say it now you’re pissed off because I did, what’s wrong with you?’




Talkin' Heads #15

TITLE: Getting to Know You
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Toby and Melissa have just recently met and are getting to know one another.

            “Where are you from?” He’d asked her this question at least five times now, but she had refused to tell him.


            “Ah, come on,” he insisted.

            “It’s not important.”

            “I want to know.”

            “What is that irritating sound?” She looked around. “Oh, right, it’s you.” She rolled her eyes and slapped her bare feet onto the dashboard.

            “So?” he prodded.

            “Oh, my God, do you ever quit?”     

            “Tell me.”

            She stared at him. “A town you’ve never heard of.”

            “I might surprise you,” Toby said.

            She ignored him by leaning her head back and closing her eyes.

            “Well?” he said.         

            “I’m from a place called Waukegan,” she said with a huff.

            “In Illinois?”

            Mel smirked. “What do you have? A GPS chip in your head?”

            “Nah. I just like geography.” He looked over at her. “So . . . how did you get all the way out here?”


            “That’s really dangerous!”

            She snorted. “Ya think?”

            “Did you run away from home?”

            “No.” She sighed. Then said, “Yes.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “My mom wanted me to leave, and I was happy to go.”


            “She has a new boyfriend.”

            “Where’s your dad?”

            “My parents were never married.”

            “Do you miss him?” he asked.

            “My father? I don’t even remember him.”

            “But still, you must miss him.”

            “What are you talking about?  How can I miss someone I never even knew?”

            “Well, the feeling of having a dad, then,” Toby explained.

            “Not hardly!” She gave him a nasty look before turning away.


Talkin' Heads #14

TITLE: The Quicksilver Conspiracy
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Cerelian's 5-year-old daughter Tassali disappeared while she was in the middle of fixing her lunch. Cerelian has been searching for Tassali in a panic when the little girl suddenly reappears.

     "Mam, mam! Did you see it?"

   Cerelian let out shuddery breath. "Why are you running around?" she said. "Go sit at the table. It's lunch time."

   The little girl threw her arms around her mother's waist and gazed upwards with desperate eyes. "Can I keep it? Please oh please oh please!"

   Cerelian pried her daughter's arms from her waist and crouched down so she was eye level with the little girl. "Tassali, I told you. No going invisible in the castle."

   "I didn't." The little girl's blonde curls quivered with excitement. "Can I keep it?"

   "Why didn't I see you, then?"


   "Tassali Arianna, I asked you a question."

   "I wasn't invisible," the little girl said, her eyes gleaming. "I was playing with the baby wolf." She tipped her head to the side and smiled charmingly. "I want to keep it."

   "Wolves don't make good pets."

   "What if he was a baby?"

   "Little wolves grow up to be big wolves."

   "He'd be very nice. I know he would. He wouldn't even bite."

   She wouldn't count on that. Cerelian glanced back at the shadowy corner of the kitchen where Tassali had appeared. A wolf? In the kitchen? Maybe she should ring for the steward after all. "It looks like your pup has disappeared," she said, hoping that was really the case. "He probably went to find his mam." She took Tassali's hand and led her back to the counter and her waiting lunch.

Talkin' Heads #13

TITLE: Graffiti Dome
GENRE: YA Dystopian

In Graffiti Dome, My YA Dystopian novel, Silver fights to free artists kept in captivity. Gabe, her best friend, tries to keep her and her gang from putting their lives in danger. A heated conversation ensues.

I pushed a cracked nail on his chest. “You’re asking me to stop the fight.”
“No. I’m not telling you to do anything, I’m just watching your back.” He looked around the room nervously. “And it’s a good idea to tell them to go home too.”
“You want me to tell them to go home?” I repeated. “You do know everyone here follows their own convictions. Right. Not mine.”
“It’s an emergency.”
“No way! They know the stakes. They’ve decided.”
“They will die tonight.”
“No, but people like us will be sealed off the main barge if we stay home. We can’t let that happen.”
Gabe grabbed both of my arms and gently shook me. “This is not the time to be stubborn, Silv. I only came here to warn you. You save them. You’re good at it.”
The tone of his voice put the jiffies inside me. If they died, it was on me. Not fair.
I screamed at the top of my voice, forgetting where I was, “So what. We piss off some people in the government and you ask us to lay low. Since when?”
People turned around to look at us.
He whispered, his voice croaking, “You think I don’t care?”
I pushed his hands gently away. “I don’t know you anymore.”
His fingers closed up on me. “Yes, you do. I… um…”
He tried to articulate something, hacking up deep feelings he kept bottled up inside.
I shrugged him off. “Stop, you’re acting weird.”

Talkin' Heads #12

TITLE: Banished
GENRE: YA Fantacy

 Surprise crosses his bold features as I pop into visibility.

“Hey, aren’t you going to untie me?”

I turn back and consider him. I don’t hear any sounds of pursuit but I am well aware that I need to get my butt moving.

“Why should I involve myself? I’ve got enough trouble as it is.”

“Untie me and I’ll give you anything you ask for.”

“Why didn’t they put a rag in your mouth?”

“What? I assume because we are too far away for anyone to hear me. What kind of question is that anyway?”

I shrug and turn away.

“I don’t have time for this. I’m sure you did something that justifies getting tied up and tossed back here.” The alley isn’t a dead end but connects to another alley through a narrow passageway. There is a short wall about waist high so I almost didn’t notice. I grasp the wall and draw myself up. Perfect. I can see an alley I recognize from here…..

“You can’t leave me here!” The man yells at my back. “I’m Rugor! I really can get you anything.”

That stops me. I’d just killed Rugor. I turn back and glare at him.

“Prove it.” I demand.


“Prove you are the leader of the rebels. I’ve hear some of the stories. Prove to me you are who you say and I’ll untie you.” What is going on? If this is Rugor as he claims, then who did I kill?

“Not all of the stories are true, you know.”

“I don’t care. Pick one.”

“You are incredibly difficult, you know that? Fine, but get ready with whatever stunt you pulled earlier. We’ll have company in about twenty beats. Now, stab me in the heart.”

“What?!” Now it is my turn to gape.