Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Onward Into 2017

Isn't that the best writerly Christmas present ever?  Someone who loves me--and who GETS this writing thing, even though she's not a writer--gave it to me this year.  It pretty much sums up the past 11 years of my life.

That's right.  Eleven.

My writing goes back farther than that, really.  I self-published a non-fiction book in 2002 for a niche market, and believed myself to be an essayist, not a novelist.  A couple years after doing the non-fic thing, though, I wrote my first (terrible terrible terrible) novel.  And I haven't stopped since.

To date, I have written eleven novels.  (There's that number again.)  I don't intend to stop.

It took me five years to land an agent.  I spent five years with him, and we parted agreeably when I expressed that I thought it would be a better fit for me to move to his assistant Danielle, if she would have me (fortunately this made her smile and dance a little).  And I've just spent an amazing first year with her.  I'm so excited about what we're currently working on that I can barely breathe.

Yes.  After eleven years, I'M THAT EXCITED.

In the past couple of weeks, both as "Authoress" and as "Real Me", I've had folks online express that it's because of my blog/facebook posts/words/life that they haven't given up on their writing.  

This means the world to me.

When I launched this blog in 2008, I never dreamed it would be a place people would come because THEY NEEDED TO HEAR MORE WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THAT GAL WHO IS STILL WAITING FOR HER SHIP TO COME IN.  In fact, had I known that, I may have thrown my computer out the third-story window and never written another word.

I mean, who wants to be THAT girl?  THAT story?  Who wants to be the one with the long, painful journey that others can derive hope/strength/encouragement from?

Yet that's my story.  And I'm thankful for it.

I'm thankful for every person who says, "You haven't given up, so I'm not going to give up, either."

I'm thankful for every person who thinks that, even if I never hear the words.

That's why I'm here.  I'm convinced.

BUT.  My journey isn't over.  And I think 2017 is going to be a Very Good Year!

So, why am I so excited?

First of all, I have an incredibly talented, incredibly enthusiastic, incredibly incredible agent who SHARES MY BRAIN SPACE.  I swear she does.  It's like she's inside my stories with me, and her insight and editorial suggestions are downright spiffing.  I adore working with her.  For my latest work, she actually offered to read my outline before I even began the first draft.  I took her up on it, of course, and her suggestions led me to write an EVEN BETTER STORY once I sat down to do it.  She's been 100% on board with both of my current projects EVEN BEFORE THEIR FIRST DRAFTS WERE COMPLETE.  And now that they're both finished works, she continues to be completely invested.  She's my champion, my advocate, my cheerleader.  I'm more thankful for her than I can express without sounding like a chattering ninny, so I'll stop here.

Secondly, the work that we've been subbing this year has come back with glowing words of praise and excellent insight that's helping me take a fresh look at it to see what needs to be done as we continue to move forward.  I'm VERY EXCITED to continue to explore this story's possibilities, because I love it and believe in it and WANT TO SEE IT FLY.  (Danielle believes it will, so on my doubtful days, I just remember the amazing gal to whom I've entrusted my work.)

Thirdly, my newest work is standing on the starting line, and my entire body is twitching as I wait for that gun to go off.  I'm so excited about this one that my stomach goes hollow every time I think about it.  Four of my beta readers -- four! -- told me that they were in tears.  Not that I like making people cry, but when it comes to writing stories, I LIKE MAKING PEOPLE CRY.  (Actually, the whole thing blows me away.  For my words to evoke that depth of emotion is almost beyond comprehension.  It's as humbling as it is exhilarating.)

Look at this wonderful, handcrafted mug--another beloved Christmas present, this one from a fellow writer.  She ordered it for me because the dragon is wingless, like the ones in my current story.  It's not easy to find wingless dragons depicted on much of anything (unless you're looking at Chinese New Year decorations), so she was thrilled when she found this for me.  I LOVE IT SO MUCH.  (On a side note, she's one of the beta readers who cried, apparently through the entire last 14 pages of my novel.)

This mug is the EMBODIMENT of my passion for writing.  It's handmade (like a story), it's a gift from a fellow writer/adoring fan reader, and it's A REFLECTION OF MY LATEST NOVEL.  How can I feel anything but satisfied, energized, and absolutely geeked out when I curl my hands around it?

All this--ALL ALL ALL THIS--to say that ELEVEN YEARS AND I'M STILL PRESSING ON.  I love what I do--the writing AND the encouraging.  I don't plan on stopping either.

I'd like to thank each one of you for being part of my journey (and I'd also like to invite you to continue along for the ride).

I'd also like to thank the following (because it really does take a village to raise an author):
  • Josh Getzler, for believing in me enough to take the plunge (with a novel we both still love)
  • Gabrielle Harbowy, for interviewing me on her blog even before I was agented, and for being a bigger source of encouragement than she may realize
  • Jodi Meadows, for taking me under her wing and pouring into me in ways no one else ever had
  • Alison Weiss, for being an undying support of my blog, the now-defunct teen writer blog, aspiring authors at large, and me personally
  • Peter Salomon, for being utterly solid and terribly supportive
  • Adam Heine, for teaching me more about worldbuilding than should be humanly possible, and for making me laugh (a lot)
  • Maggie Skye, for being my Biggest Supporter Ever, and an undying voice of encouragement
  • Rena Rossner, for GETTING IT, and for spurring me on...and, truth be told, for loving my stuff enough to say she'd offer representation if she'd been reading as an agent
  • Danielle Burby, whose praises I've already sung
  • Mr. A, who won't let me quit, and who loves me in the midst of both angst and euphoria
I'm ready for the year.  I'm ready to dig in, press on, inch forward.  I'm ready to fully embrace the joy of writing, in all its ugliness and grit and constipated moments.  I'm ready to fly.

Get ready to unfurl your wings and fly with me.  We're in this together!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

YA Are You Hooked? -- Critique Guidelines

As you critique, remember that today's offerings are all YA, so keep a keen eye to voice (is it an authentic teen voice?) as you read.


General 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 4 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.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #30

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Common-born mages are forbidden. When the peasant Adara accidentally destroys a hut with blue flames, the Dragonmaster agrees to hide her on two conditions: she must pass as a noble, and she must fling enough fireballs at his enemies to make the risk of being caught worth it.

As I got off the hay-cart, I realized a major problem in my plan to hide in a city: I’d never been to a city before.
One street had more life crowded into it than all of Stoneyfield. Horses with carriages and horses with merchant wagons, horses carrying men who looked down their noses. Women in trousers hurrying with purchases, chattering women in skirts of endless orange and blue. Trinket-pushers shouted behind me, bracelets and combs and eggs for—First One above, for an entire copper apiece—and the buildings crowded together with two, three layers of windows. Already the hay-cart was lost in traffic, lost in noise, lost in horse shit and people churning.
I stood gaping at it all like a bewildered cow.
Snap out of it, Adara. The sooner you get used to this, the better. I picked a trousered woman and tried to copy her easy-yet-rushed way of moving. The hay-cart farmer had promised this was a street of cheaper inns. I ambled until I came to a door.
The noise didn’t dim, it just changed. Through an arch across the foyer, people laughed, talked, and cursed. Pipes and a drum tried to be heard over it all. The foyer itself was empty except for a man bent over a book at a counter. Keys dangled from hooks on the wall behind the man, and several uncomfortable-looking chairs lined the opposite wall.
The man glanced up with a smile. It vanished.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #29

TITLE: Harm Ye None
GENRE: YA Magical Realism

An introspective Invisible strives to escape her born-again mother and the Cretins who make school a living hell, but when the new girl at school gives her the power to fight back, she discovers that getting everything what you want can change you for the worse.

Good girls don’t let everyone see their underwear. My mother’s voice is clear and concise even though, realistically, I know she’s miles away in her shop, and not currently squeezed into the bathroom stall with me. Still, the words tickle my ears. Mom has always been very black and white. Good girls don’t let people see their panties; only naughty girls do.

It’s a lesson my five-year-old self learned after going down the slide in my new Minnie Mouse skirt. The only thing running through my tiny brain was that the slide was the best thing in the world and I wanted to slide again and again. When my mother snatched me up from the bottom of the slide, I knew I was in trouble. I knew I’d done something wrong. I just didn’t know what.

“Dude, so what?” My best friend’s voice calls out to me from the other side of the blue, metal door. “So people caught a peek at your a**. You wouldn’t be the first girl to show your goods around here.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“Well, at least you’re the only one of them that hasn’t whored yourself around school.”

My face is still firmly planted on my knees, my hands clasped on the back of my head. With the social suicide I had just committed, I’m assuming crash position. Put your head between your knees and kiss your a** goodbye. “It’s not even that everyone saw my panties.” Lie. “It’s which panties they saw.”

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #28

TITLE: Prime Vector
GENRE: YA YA Sci-Fi with Romantic Elements

In the new world, only immortals matter…
During a routine tour to Earth, first-year cadet Catita Johns witnesses the murder of her immortal twin, Ry Johns: something she believed to be impossible. When the incident is covered up, Catita agrees to take her sister’s post on the dreaded Forever Queen’s immortal army to unravel the mystery behind Ry’s death. She’s prepared to do whatever it takes, including living the rest of her life as someone else. 

I glance out the window. Again. Every time, I expected to catch a glimpse of the Old Planet, but everything out there was black, vast empty space. The Epoch1955, the fastest ship on the Martian fleet, had been my home for the last twelve universal weeks. And though I knew it’d be years before I could download to the surface, I’d hoped to see Earth from a distance. No such luck. I glared at my wristband for what had to be the hundredth time since I left my bunk.
Ry’s not coming.
The halogen glow that replicated daylight in the Epoch dimmed another notch, turning the stark white walls to a soft grey. I should call it a night. With a sigh, I spun around and almost ran into a worker from the south quadrant. He ducked his gaze and stopped to let me pass. As protocol dictated, I kept my eyes forward, and strode past him. It was all about the dark uniform. The Forever Queen’s coat of arms alone commanded respect — and in most cases, fear. He had no clue I wasn’t a commando from the immortal army, the QEC, Queen’s Elite Cadre. But I was military; he had to play it safe.
Before I reached the end of the corridor, the elevator slid open. A unit of QEC lieutenants pounded out of it, laughing and shoving each other. If I’d had time to react, I would’ve done what the worker did.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #27

TITLE: Running Toward Illumia
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Astrea must flee Mist, the land of fog that's always been her home, when an old secret her parents kept threatens her life.

Astrea stalked the pure white creature, wondering how she would live with herself if she caught it. Unicorns were a rare sight in the Mist. This was the first one she’d ever seen. Vapors swirled away from its glittering silver sword of a horn, as if it had the power to dispel the fog entirely.
A red curl tickled her forehead, sticking to the sheen of sweat. The mud caked on her pale skin was starting to dry and crack, and she longed to scratch it off, but she didn’t dare move a muscle and spook her prey.
Her lungs strained against the warm, wet fog. Taking another careful step forward, Astrea gripped the reed, already loaded with a poisoned dart. She was close enough now, the musty smell of sweaty hide ambling through the still air. Its flank twitched, silky white tail slapping away flies.
Silently, she lifted the reed to her lips, her cheeks filling with air. One shot. She wouldn’t have time for another. Her hand shook. Stay true. For the tribe.
“What was that?”
The voice echoed in Astrea’s ears in an odd sort of way. She tensed, willing herself to pick up on the approaching footsteps, but the forest yielded no unusual sounds. If one of the youngers spooked the unicorn, that would be the end of it. Her face grew hot, her lips and grip tightening, but no further sound came.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #26

TITLE: Luli's Unibrow
GENRE: YA Magical Realism

When Luli, a Tajik gypsy girl, accepts an outrageous gift from a wicked customer, an entire village comes after her. Proving her innocence requires to grow a horrible unibrow and hide among a group of nomads in the Pamir mountains where dealing with vengeful spirits change her destiny.

The fragrance of freshly baked delicacies fill the market. Tajik samosa and manti, a dumpling filled with chopped lamb and squash, tempt me as I wander through the labyrinth of stalls. My stomach makes knots inside me. I tighten the scarf that holds my baby brother on my back. The pressure eases the hunger, enough to keep my hand from snatching a brown juicy grape the size of my baby brother’s fist.
I am a gypsy and covered in silver jewelry, wool ornaments, and layers upon layers of brightly colored skirts. The gaze of vendors follow me and housewives press their hands over their inner pockets where they hide their money. The fluttering of padded robes hiding a lining of silk robes cause my little brother hiccup in fright. I move the pan of my veil over his head. Maybe the brouhaha of the market will finally lull him to sleep.
The friendly vendors greet each other with soft salaams. “Peace upon you.”
Women with flopping scarves topping flat hats are dishing up cups of kymyz or mare’s milk. I don’t care very much for the beverage, but my stomach pinches me so hard, I would drink anything just to get the hurt out of my body.
I snake my way further between the piles of vegetables, jiggling a copper coin in my hand. Some people add few more coins in my hand after spying the baby. Not enough to eat. I thank them anyway.
“God bless you, my prince.”

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #25

TITLE: One of the Lucky Ones

Falling in love with your best friend is always risky, especially when she already has a girlfriend. And you thought you were straight.

“Okay, guys, you remember the rules.” Dad was doing his best to look stern as we stood outside the door to the library on a warm Saturday afternoon. It was not a convincing performance. He sounded like he was talking to all three of us, but he was watching Millie and especially Owen. He uncrossed his arms and waved a hand in an “I’m-waiting” motion until we all answered.

 Yes, even me. I might have been sixteen, but I knew if I didn’t play along Owen would start yelling, “Annie’s not saying it!” and the rest of the morning would be much less pleasant. At three, he had very strong ideas about what was “fair.”

“No running, no fighting, no yelling,” we all chanted together. “We don’t pull all the books off the shelf,” — I muttered “Owen” under my breath — “we use our indoor voices, and if we want the same book we have to take turns.” Dad nodded and opened the door. The kids didn’t quite run to the children’s section.

Oh good, Ms. Davis is here, I thought. That’ll make it easier.

Ms. Davis was the new children’s librarian, and already had my siblings wrapped around her perfectly manicured little finger. Owen acted much better when she was there, but Dad and I still made sure one of us was close enough to intervene if a storm broke. Millie was five-going-on-twelve; I didn’t worry about her unless Owen made her mad.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #24

TITLE: The Seven Laws
GENRE: YA High Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Roiden practices elemental magic in secret experiments, to preserve the only connection he has left to his parents, and where he was born. When he tries to save his friend, his use of elemental magic is discovered—and attributed to her. Now he must either confess, or find a different way to secure her freedom, and the cost of failure is death.

Prologue - Nine years ago

Roiden watched from his place at the dormer window, as the dark closed tighter around the grand bedroom and the heat became suffocating.
He thought he might’ve been forgotten, in the window seat. No one glanced his way when they went in or out, though they passed close by, and the light from the fireplace didn’t quite reach him there.  It seemed to glow stronger, in the air right before him, but he didn’t move out into it.  It would’ve felt better than sitting in the dark, but he wasn’t allowed to.  It was wrong, to notice it anymore.
Two servants had just gone out, leaving the bedroom more still than before.  They’d each carried their own burden wrapped in cloth, one bigger than the other and trailing withered leaves, and the other small and heavier, tied before Roiden had seen what it was.  The servant holding the smaller one had carried it at a distance, as though he could hardly bear to touch it.  Roiden thought it might’ve been cold.
He pulled himself tighter against the curtained window, wishing he could disappear, or that he could’ve gone out with the servants without being seen.  He didn’t think he was supposed to be here.  Aerael’s mother was asleep in the bed, but Aerael, the little girl almost his age, stood by the nightstand, and the old healer woman sat beside her.  Aerael was crying.
The old healer woman took one of her hands gently, and Roiden suddenly felt he should be crying, too, without knowing why.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #23

TITLE: love hurts than death
GENRE: YA dystopia

Never ever in my worst nightmare had I dreamt that I would lose you one day. But fate has it's own way. I lost You. To say honestly, I am lost to u.
Could fate break true love? Yes it can, if it was not a true love. Wasn't my love true?
Sorry, I couldn't agree to it. I wholeheartedly loved you. I loved you more than I loved myself. Love is a small word for me to describe my feelings for you.
The moment you left me alone, my dreams were shattered. I couldn't think anymore, everything was blurred. My friends used to tell me to divert my mind. How could I? I lost my mind and feelings to you. It would be better if I slept for some time. But I had a fear of losing u. You may go from my thoughts if I sleep. I don't know when I slept last?
You used to tell me you wont leave me alone at any cost. I promised you the same, even if i was on my deathbed.
Yes I did not change. I did not leave u...
You moved on, you moved on with a guy whom you have been knowing just days back. What did you saw in him that was more than my true love? Did you forget all your promises? You gave me the reason that it was mere liking, it wasn't love. 2 years, wasn't that too long to know the difference between loving and liking?
Didn't you feet for me a single day? I left everyone just for you. My friends warned me that you are using me, but I believed you, more than I believed myself. You had broken my trust, shattered me into pieces . You came as a lesson to my life, not to trust anyone and it's just because of you, I still can't love anyone. I can't forget you, I don't want to forget you. It was infatuation from your side, but I... I loved you and still loves you, purely from my heart, my soul.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #22

TITLE: Bumper Cars
GENRE: YA Contemporary Realistic Fiction

Being seventeen and pregnant isn't easy.  But when Ainsley is diagnosed with ovarian cancer at twenty weeks, the impossible decisions of motherhood can't wait.  Putting the life of her baby first, Ainsley starts a journal and writes down everything she would like her unborn baby to know about life before her own life comes to an end.

June 16

     I am a child without a mother who is about to have a child who will have no mother.  That's all they're gonna remember about me when I'm gone.  They're not gonna remember that my GPA was 3.9 or that I ran the fastest times Hamilton High had seen on the track field in thirty-four years.  And they sure aren't gonna remember that I've taken care of my little brother, Mo, practically by myself, for the last four years, but that's mostly because nobody knew.
     When your dad owns buisinesses all over town, working his fingers to the bone so that his heart doesn't have time to remember that his wife isn't waiting for him at home because the cancer treatments were more than her body could take, you spend a lot of nights at home alone.  Or in my case, with Mo. That's okay though, because Mo and I do alright on our own.
     And we would have kept on doing alright on our own if it hadn't been for three things:  Penny Parker beating my record in the 400 meter, Jacob Singleton's grayish green eyes, and those damn bumper cars.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #21

TITLE: Desperately Seeking Normal
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

After sixteen years of yearning to escape her tiny trailer and maniacal mother, Thomas Miranda gets her wish.

“Thomas Miranda Little, did you steal my cigarettes again?” my mother squawks like a hungry pterodactyl.
That’s me.
A sixteen-year-old girl.
My mother found it a fantastic idea to name me after her father. When I complain she says, “Just be glad your sperm donor and I split before you were born, or you could've been a Eugene.” But Eugene is my favorite. Unlike Grandpa Thomas he doesn’t enjoy whiskey with his breakfast, and he sends a birthday card on the 18th of every month, just in case - he nails it in July.
I am Miranda to my friends and Randi to my mother when she is not in breakdown mode from quitting smoking, which happens twice a month.
Three years ago my school signed me up for freshman football because they thought I was Thomas Lawry. I got flyers in the mail with suggestions on what size sport cup to buy.
They say a soul chooses its family. I challenge whoever came up with that theory to live for a week in a 500-square foot trailer in small town Ohio with one absent parent and one who creates dead bug jewelry for a living. Every day I dream of teleporting to a magical land with dragons and fairies and hot sword fighting men on shiny horses, or at least a normal family with a mother who doesn’t enjoy singing old Doors songs with her unemployed hippie friends at two in the morning on a Wednesday, surrounded by cockroach carcasses.
Or preferably no parents at all. I’ve basically raised myself, anyhow.
I shuffle out of my room and step into a scene from a disaster film as it seems my mother has tornado'd through the entire trailer searching for the cigarettes she hid from herself three days ago.
With a sigh I turn around, lifting the lid of my music box with the one-legged ballerina - a gift from my father before she drove him out of our lives.
“Looking for these?” I dangle the little red carton.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #20

GENRE: YA Paranormal Thriller

17-year-old Daniel has survived five near-death experiences. After the fourth, he started seeing ghosts. The fifth murdered his brother. When another boy is brutally killed, Daniel makes a pact with a grim reaper to track down the serial killer and avenge his brother. Even if he has to sell his soul.

Six years old

You never forget the first time you nearly died. We were six. Mom took me and Ian to the pool. Abuela wanted to drive us to the beach, which really meant Mom would have to drive us, but Mom said the beach was too dangerous, which meant it was too far and she wanted to save on gas. Abuela muttered something like “bambalan,” which made Mom go, “What was that?”
So the public pool it was.
Ian blended in like chocolate to milk. He was always a bit darker than me, so he sported that effortlessly tanned, athletic kid look. He romped over the water like a baby killer whale, winning oohs and aahs from the pasty and elderly. I think at one point he was even chatting up some girls, who looked like hot college chicks in string bikinis, but were probably preteens at most, with frilly flattened tops.
By the time he joined me in the shallow end, I was sulking and not saying why. “Maldito, quit being a girl,” Ian muttered, and he splashed me. We started a splash war until a hairy dude told us to cut it out, then we played who-could-hold-your-breath-the-longest.
Just once I really wanted to beat Ian. I grabbed the pool ladder and crossed my feet around the bar and held on for dear life.
I nearly drowned.
Ian still beat me.

Nine years old
Abuela came to “housesit”—Ian said he’d riot if Mom got us a babysitter—because Mom had a church picnic and Dad was chasing down some killer who liked to leave heads in buckets. Abuela was watching the UFC finals, hollering stuff like “Harder, muchacho! Punch him to the ground!” so Ian suggested we watch our own special video, which was rated R for a whole different reason.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #19

TITLE: A Beastly Beauty
GENRE: YA Fairy Tale

Isabella's lived her whole life as a hideous beast, thanks to a wicked fairy's curse. And as if that weren't bad enough, a blonde in glass slippers just stole the one man who might be falling for her anyway. (Gender-swapped "Beauty and the Beast," featuring Cinderella as a villain.)

I glanced back at the castle in the moonlight. Father’s windows were dark, except for the ones in his study. In another few minutes Amelita would bring him a hot toddy, and then he would retire for the night.
My night was just beginning.
I clutched Domino’s reins with one hand and the cool metal clasp of my cloak with the other. My pulse pounded with the familiar thrill of being out and on my way to town, the one night each month when I was—when I looked—well, normal. Human.
I had Amelita, my faithful nursemaid, to thank for it. She had decided on my sixteenth birthday, which happened to coincide with the full moon, that I ought to spend the evening beyond our castle grounds.
“After all, chérie,” she had said then, “how will you ever find your true love if you just sit about here, waiting for him to thunder through the gate? Your father’ll have him into the dungeon faster than he can say ‘Be mine, Lady Isabella!’”
That night I had slipped on my cape and sneaked through the gate to ride Domino into Molinas, the town below our estate. I had played darts, tasted ale, and danced with a handsome stable hand. It was glorious. I had impatiently counted the days between full moons ever since.
And for over two years of full moons, Father had been none the wiser.
I slowed Domino to a walk. Tolly, our ancient gatekeeper, leaned against the wall.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #18

TITLE: Bark at the Moon
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

In Winnipeg ca. 1987, 15-year-old headbanging werewolf Richard must convince his girlfriend Lydia he didn’t kill his best friend — while the real culprit is after them both. Richard must gain control of his lycanthropy and stop the murderers before they get him and Lydia, too.

Lydia was someone worth not dying for, so I was pretty sure I’d make it across the highway alive.
It was June and I’d just turned fifteen. I shivered in my holey Kick Axe t-shirt in the cool summer night, since I refused to cover up the Vices album art with a hoodie. Staring at the headlights of cars and the occasional semi roaring down Highway 59, I gripped the handlebars of my Canadian Tire special. Which means, a crappy bike that didn’t have the greatest brakes in the world. The whoosh of the traffic heading into Winnipeg pulled me toward the highway with every vehicle that passed and I told myself Richard, if you make it across the road alive, you’re going to kiss Lydia tomorrow night at grad. Of course, I couldn’t actually hear anything because I’d cranked the volume on my Walkman and was listening to Poison wail through “Look What the Cat Dragged In.” I sure couldn’t hear whether Vance was still following me, either, and I didn’t look back. Later I felt like kind of a dink about that. Because if I had, I’d have noticed a lot sooner he was missing.
Behind me was the neighbourhood we lived in, where all the houses had been built, like, five minutes ago. My older brother Ross would have said he remembered when our street was like where I was now — just bush and grass on either side of surrounding the road.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #17

TITLE: Anomaly
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

After she wakes up dead -- buried behind a house in the middle of the woods, a teenage girl must make sense of her past and the experiment that that gave her life again. 

  The first time I died I was too young to remember it.
   I know it happened because it’s written in the notebook. A three page epic poem detailing my death. Three pages worth of guts and gouging. Silver tools and hungry fingers.
   I know it happened because I still have the scar. A long, thin thing that stretches from above my sternum to just below my navel.“The kiss of the scalpel”, the notebook says. I don’t remember it, but I’m sure it didn’t feel like a kiss. Not even close.
   The scar is faint. The first time I died I was seven years old. I’m seventeen now. It makes me wonder how large the wound was when it was fresh. It makes me wonder how many stitches it took to patch me up after they brought me back to life. Now the scar is close to invisible. Because of my age, because of the way they fixed me after they were done tearing me apart.
   These things are discussed in detail within the pages of the notebook. Words like “unethical” and phrases like “moral consequences” are scrawled more often than my own name. I think that my name -- I think that “Memi” is written five times, maybe six tops. “Unethical” is repeated at least a dozen.
   If I could, I would ask which one of them wrote it, but it’s impossible. I’ve been alone for two years.
   I’ve been alone since the last time I died.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #16

TITLE: The Art of Insanity
GENRE: YA Contemporary fiction

A high-school senior wants to earn a scholarship to art school, but a diagnosis of severe bipolar disorder interrupts her life.  When she throws her best art pieces off a bridge while in a manic state, she's in danger of missing the competition deadline. 

            The car accident last summer wasn’t an accident.
            Secrets have weight, and that one is heavy.  It’s not the light, fun kind of secret that provides fodder for late-night sleepover chats or hallway gossip.  It’s the dark kind of secret that lurks in shadows, and I spend my days hoping that it stays there and never comes into the light.
            I step out of my new-to-me Toyota Camry, and I run my fingertips along the metallic silver of its side.  I won’t let anything happen to this car.  I grab my backpack, shut the door, and head across the parking lot to my last first day of school.  Do I look like a senior?  I don’t feel like a senior.
            My new blue shirt matches my eyes, and I’m hoping people will notice that instead of my slight limp.  People always say I have beautiful eyes.  I’m wearing jeans and old tennis shoes because I don’t want anyone looking at my legs.  Look at my eyes, people!  Remember how beautiful my eyes are?!
            I take a deep breath and walk into the school.  The one-story brick building is big enough to hold our 600 person student body, but small enough that news travels fast.  I think that perhaps because the accident happened in the summer, maybe not many people know about it.  Maybe I can pretend it never happened.  I’m wrong.
           “Oh my gosh Natalie!”  Alyssa Jackson runs over soon as she sees me.  I had physics with her last year (I think), but I never talked to her outside of class.  She gives me a hug, which feels awkward.   “How are you?!  I heard all about the accident!  How terrible!”  She pulls out of the hug and gives me a once-over, looking for evidence of injuries.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #15

TITLE: The White Glove Society
GENRE: YA Contemporary

When a teenage guitar phenom is ousted from the band she started and forced to attend her conservative South Carolina town’s annual White Glove Society Ball, she challenges the decades-old tradition by doing  more than just being presented to society.

There’s nothing more satisfying than fingers flying over cold steel. Heart pounding in rhythm to the beat. Silky sounds feeding the soul. I look over at Zander and try to get him to look at me, but he’s staring down at his own hands drumming out the beat. Odd. He usually watches Grace.
I focus on my own riff and then steal a glance at Grace. She smiles and even winks at me. That’s a first. Her norm is the stink eye when I stand too close to her or steal the applause. It’s looks that make me feel like gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. From the first moment Zander urged me to try out for the band, Grace had a beef with me, but now I think I’ve won her over. Tonight everything feels like I’m cocooned in good karma. I even scored a free latte from the barista. I step a little closer to Grace and sing the chorus along with her. I don’t want this song to ever end.  This is where I belong. I let my mind wander.
Instead of the twenty or so coffee-loving-media-reading people we’re performing for, I imagine twenty thousand music-loving-media-posting fans. They’re all chanting my name, wanting more. I step closer to the edge of the stage and give the crowd what they want—an added guitar lick in the middle of Grace’s favorite song.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #14

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Zoe's found the girl of her dreams—if she can ignore the fur and fangs. The creature responsible for her beast’s torment isn’t finished with her, and this beauty could be cursed as well unless they can defeat this ancient evil.

Tonight is a Magus Moon, almost unnaturally large and bright. A trick of the light, out-of-towners claim.

It’s perfect for a party I don’t want to be at. The crisp night air mixes with the burgers, hot dogs, and chicken sizzling on the grill, but there’s no way I can eat. Someone is bound to say something about class today.

“It’ll be fine, Zo,” Jenny says. “Besides, we have to be here. We couldn’t be the only two cheerleaders not to show up.”

“I guess…”

“Breathe,” she says, as if this anxiety is something I can turn off. “No one’s going to bring it up.”
I grip the sides of my dress, my cheeks burning. “It was humiliating.” It only proves everyone knows how stupid I am. “It took me ten minutes to read a fucking haiku. God, they must think I’m such a dumb blonde.”

“No one laughed. I would’ve killed them if they did. Or fed them to The Magus.”

Despite my mood, I chuckle at her bringing up Statfield’s boogeyman. “I think they’re too old for him.”

“We can always hope they get lost in the woods?” I give her my stop-this-idiocy-now stare and hope she gets it. “Well, I’m scary enough.” She pulls me closer. “Relax. Have a good time.”

“Okay. I promise I’ll try.”

Jenny scans the crowd, a familiar glean in her eye. “Look, check that one out. He’s hot.”

“I just want a nice boy.” Or girl, but I don’t say that part. Somehow, I don’t think the concept would stick. I’d be ‘confused’. And I’d have to hear all about it.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #13

TITLE: LIONCLAD - The Coins of Cruelty
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Corey Roote’s an idiot. The ugly earring he found on the Isle of Man won't come off. It also turns into an enchanted, pushy lion helmet that gives him heightened strength and senses. Corey hopes it’ll help him and a sea-wielding local face a killer who gambles with human souls.

A wave was coming to devour the Isle of Man.
Eoin Wade waited on the Tower of Refuge ramparts. The stout, neatly bricked fortress glowed red and green under artificial spotlights. It sat on a patch of stone and sand four hundred yards from the shoreline of Douglas, the Isle of Man’s capital city. On the horizon, the jagged outline of the English coast peeked through the mist.
At Eoin’s back stood a line of three-storey Victorian guesthouses. Vacancy signs creaked on their hinges. Pigeons shuddered under flake-painted eaves. The pre-dawn sky was salmon flesh in colour. There was still time until silver-haired shoppers and leather-clad motorcyclists filled the promenade behind him. Provided that the ocean didn’t fill it first.
Black hair trailed from Eoin’s oilskin hood. Salty air rushed through his trimmed beard, making the skin underneath itch. Heavy metal screeched from the earbuds hanging from his shirt collar. To think there was once a time, a long, yawning river of time, when he couldn’t stuff his head with Motorhead or Thin Lizzy. Was it from so distant an age, when letting music leak from little sponges into your ears would’ve been considered witchcraft? Of course, much had changed since Eoin’s longship first caressed these sands. Too much.
The most pointless thoughts stirred in Eoin’s head when he was afraid. It was one of many reasons he never felt like the right man for this...role he’d been given. His father would’ve agreed, no doubt.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #12

GENRE: YA Contemporary

Abandoned by her former friends after a vicious rumor circulates about her, Rosaline, adrift, alone, and out of options, joins the high school stage crew and tries to find a place for herself among the school’s resident band of weirdos.

It’s not the moment your life collapses that’s the worst part.
It’s what comes after.
When you wake up from the nightmare to find out that it wasn’t, unfortunately, a nightmare, but your life, and you have to go on living it.
So this is me, approximately three months after my life ends and I have to start it all over again:
Sitting like a taut wire at the edge of one of those red velvet, deceptively uncomfortable auditorium seats, while on stage a short, skinny boy with skin issues is eking out Hamlet’s soliloquy.
“What dreams may come,” he squeaks, “When we have shuffled off this mortal coil—”
Which sounds exactly what I’d like to be doing right about now.
My knuckles are white. My intestines have tied themselves up into a knot and are currently trying to escape through my throat. I’m two people away from my audition. Some people have sucked, like this kid, but most have been pretty good.
And me? I’ve never done this before. But if we’re going to base this on my high school endeavors to date, I’m placing my bets on the “suck” end of the spectrum.
I could just get up and leave. I should just get up and leave.
But that would be admitting defeat. To Mom, to Vicky. To myself.
This was my last great idea. I’m out of options.
I take a deep breath. I can do this. I love plays. Especially Shakespeare. Especially Hamlet.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #11

TITLE: A Complex Solution
GENRE: YA Contemporary - Romantic Suspense

Lonely teen who cuts herself learns her dead parents secretly solved a famous math theorem. She must curb her addiction if she’s to find their research before her stalker does and preserve her parents’ legacy.

     The voices died away as the doors thudded shut. I glanced down the empty, unfamiliar school hallway, my pulse racing. My head spun as I shuffled along the tiled floor. I needed to do this. Quickly. I slipped a hand inside my jeans pocket and pushed open the girls’ bathroom door with the other. My heart stopped.
    Two girls leaned over the sinks. “Shouldn’t you be in class?” asked one of the girls, touching up her mascara. She turned and looked me up and down. “You must be new here,” she said, before screwing up her face. “Geesh, how tall are you, like, six feet?”
     I froze, clutching the penknife in my pocket, and glanced away.
     “C’mon, Jess, let’s go,” said the girl’s friend, smacking her freshly glossed lips together.
     They whirled around and headed out the door, their laughter echoing down the hallway.
     I tucked into the last stall and shut the door. Tears leaked out of my eyes. Just one cut. Enough to silence the pain inside. It was worse here than home, all the stares and whispers. I couldn’t even make it to first period.    
     Yanking my sleeve up, I drew the knife out, looking for a fresh square of skin. I pushed the blade in and dragged it through. My heart raced as the blood bubbled out, streaming down my arm. I gritted my teeth and felt the tears wet on my cheeks. The pain was like fire in my veins. But it felt wonderful.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #10

TITLE: The Sky Will Fall

Elysium meets Resident Evil as Bree and Kennon must work together to defeat a power-hungry mad scientist from the exceedingly advanced Sky Cities before his venomous mutants ravage what remains of humanity on Ground Level and destroy the few things left to love in a forgotten world.

 Moon and stars, I needed to get out of the stupid Bio Sector before I palm-heel-striked the next person who asked me to slow down. I marched through the maze of wide corridors toward my dorm room, feeling like the proverbial mouse as the white-scape walls pressed in on me.

“Bryony,” a voice called from behind and I paused, cringing at my given name.

Only one person could pull off such loathing and condescension into a falsely sweet, childlike voice: Patron Alice. I forced my shoulders down from where they’d begun to creep near my ears and turned. My features settled into the familiar blank I reserved for the Patron Mothers.

“Yes?” My toneless voice conveyed none of my inner rage. I would not give them that. Not today.
Patron Alice’s slate-gray eyes appeared buggy in her full face. She clasped her chubby hands together under her ample chest like some proper lady in novels I’d scanned. Her narrow shoulders were nearly nonexistent under the layers of skin fed by bon-bons she stashed in her personal cooling unit.
Everything about her was very…round.

“I do believe you are going the wrong way.”

She sniffed, tilting her head back a notch so she appeared to be looking down at me, though we stood eye-to-eye. Her starched-into-submission smock crinkled with every movement, pleading for some give. A single, thin eyebrow curved up toward the dishwater bangs cut too short for her face as she glanced at my feet. No doubt they straddled the red line, designed to keep all the campers in their proper lanes, bisecting the pristine marble floor.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #9

TITLE: Knights and Daes
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Tragedy is the reason Jaycie’s name is famous. Her brothers died from being struck by lightning - the first in 50 years. But she uncovers a letter that tells a different story. During the reign of hoverboards and a game of lightning, Jaycie unravels a century-old family conspiracy that changes everything.

Most nights it rains. Others, it storms. Those are the nights the games begin. Those nights the darkness is alive with laughter, lightning, and canons of thunder. Tonight there is only silence in the absence of rain on the rooftops or the soft hum of hoverboards. The stars and the moon shine like beacons in the darkness, beckoning me out into the stillness of the night. It’s nights like this I can still smell the bloodred roses in my hair, feel the spring breeze in my face, and hear summer chimes in the distance.

I slip my feet into a pair of shoes, pull my gray sweatshirt over my head, tug a black face mask over my mouth, and move to the window. Through the glossy windowpane I can see a thin fog blowing through the yard, seeping in and out of the forest trees like spirits. The window whines as I carefully slide it open and punch out the screen, trying not to wake anyone. I duck through the windowsill and climb onto the roof of the porch. With one deep breath, I slip off the edge, the grass squishing under my feet when I land. I take, one, two, three steps and run, heading straight for the woods.

The wet air lingers on my reddened face as I duck under low tree branches and leap over fallen logs. Still, my mind is full of nonsense, almost as infuriating as the hum of hoverboards in the middle of the night. The trees thin and I enter the clearing, approaching the ancient, thick-barked tree. A drop of water slips down my neck as I reach into my sweatshirt pocket and wrap my fingers around the stems of flowers.

Under the starlit sky, I lay the white carnations beside their names and run.

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #8

TITLE: The Truth about Justyce
GENRE: YA Realistic/Crossover

Cassie Thompson skips town on her eighteenth birthday to escape a scandal, changing her name to Justyce. But an accident, a musician with his own troubled past, and a pattern of behavior that leads to disaster, causes her to rethink her old, and new, life.

I spit out the first glob of the god-awful cereal. Not only is it crap, it hurts like hell to chew. It’d be just my luck to survive the accident only to die of starvation.

Everything hurts. Trying to move, even a twitch, about kills me. Lift my head from the pillow just a tad and my head pounds like my worst hangover. Trying to talk is a bitch, too. So I just lie here in a dream-like state, wondering what’s next on my big agenda.

Doc and these nurses keep telling me I’m lucky to be alive. Considering my life so far, that’s not such a prize.

That said, it’s not all bad being in a hospital. It’s not like I have any place else I need to be. I hurt—hell yeah, I hurt—but most of me doesn’t much care. Anytime I have the slightest discomfort, they give me these chill pills. I just may plot to extend my stay here at “Club Med.”

When they told me how I got here, it took me awhile to process it all. Everything’s pretty foggy. I know I’m in this hospital far from where I used to call home, but that’s about it. I feel like I’m in an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” that old TV show Dad used to watch reruns of. They say I’ve been here for days, the first two are blanks since I was in a coma. But little by little, things are coming back.