Friday, November 28, 2008

Angela Quarles




Read the original Success Story post on Miss Snark's First Victim.

For more on Angela Quarles:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Goodreads

Google+


Her first novelette, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, will be released by Secret Cravings Publishing in December 2012.

For more on BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS:


Friday Fricassee

Posting on a holiday? Not really.

A bit of post-turkey chatter, perhaps, but not a real post.

So tell me. How was Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And Our Free E-Book Winner Is:

SOLVANG SHERRIE!

Solvang, please email me at facelesswords(at)gmail.com to let me know where to send your PDF of Agent: Demystified.

And just for fun, here's the entire, convoluted tale:

The jar slipped from Vila's icy fingers and shattered on the cobblestone terrace. Its contents, once liquid, turned to a noxious, purple vapor as soon as they hit the air. Vila couldn't have chosen a worse time to call attention to her presence.

Jumping back into the shadow of the large potted plant, Vila hoped that the vapor would waft out into the night air. That was too much to hope for. A breeze sent the noxious gas toward the guard. She hadn't enough spellcasting to defend herself properly. If they found her now, they would hold her until he returned. If he recognized her as the earthbound encantation of his lost love, There would be hell to pay, and Vila just didn’t have time for hell right now.

Wait just a second—a breeze? The night air was still, and at this time of year there shouldn’t have been any breezes. What in Goram’s name caused that swirling of leaves and sandlewood smoke? Vila risked a peek. There was a shadow there, a shadow that looked suspiciously familiar.

"Hitht" she whispered, trying to avoid the sibilant 's' which would alert the guard. "What in Dion'th name are you doing?"

Hist straightened his four foot figure and flourished his black cloak as he bowed. "Actually, it ith in Dion'th name. He athked me to ethcort you in. That ith why I'm wafting your vapor to the guard, that he maycome over here and give you a proper greeting."

"What?" Vila said, a little too surprised, and a little too loud. Her hands clapped over her mouth, but it was too late. The guard's head swiveled towards her hiding place inside the enormous laundry basket. He stepped forward to jab it with the hilt of his sword, but then stopped. A giant turtle rounded the basket, its tree-trunk like legs explaining the loud clomps.

Vila exhaled quietly, and Hist said, "You're supposed to ride the turtle through the front gate, turn right by the fountain--or was it left?--and then take the stairs to the fourth floor."

"Turtles can't climb stairs," Vila snapped.

"And why not?" the turtle said with a heavy Jersey accent.

Vila blinked but shrugged. Careful to stay behind the turtle's shell so the guard wouldn't spot her, she boosted herself up, just as Hist let out a loud whistle.

The turtle sprinted forward and leaped off the edge of the balcony, landing a short time later in the middle of Mamie Cottonwood's drawers, which Mamie had left on the clothesline after Jake whispered sweet nothings in her ear. She couldn't wait for Jake to see her in the drawers, as they were the sexist thing this side of the farm.

“So, hey, whaddabout goin’ back ta Joisy?”

“I thought we were going to see Doith?”

“Oh, who the heck knows what we’re doing now?!”

Just then a loud crack rang out in the darkened woods, followed by a high-pitched giggling shriek. It appeared that Mamie wasn't the only one getting lucky tonight.

Vila held her breath as a pair of maids swept past, smelling distinctly of molasses.

"Hoith will be very displeased if we don't get him his pumpkin pie for dinner," one of the moaned.

"If you hadn't been so clumsy you'd not have spilled all our molasses the other said. She gave the girl a friendly swat.

Vila lowered herself further on the giant turtle's back. The witches ball would run smoothly, whether or not she made it to school in time or not. But oh how she wanted to make it at least in time for the “reveal.” She had worked too diligently, deprived herself too long, called in too many favors to miss out on something as important as this. She remembered last year only too well, the year she inexplicably found herself in the middle of a noir detective thriller. Oddly, that story had turned out well, convincing her sometimes it was best to go with the literary flow. She shook her head, smiling. The life of a character actor was forever changing. She smiled at the director as he yelled, "Cut!"

"How did that take go?"

The director frowned. As much as he liked Vila, her acting ability was not the caliber he had expected from a girl with forty-three movies under her belt.

"Fine," the director snapped, flipping his cape off his left shoulder. "Someone clean up this vile mess, we're doing another take."

Vila pouted. Her fingers were frozen. If they did another take she'd never play the viola again. She stuck her fingers under her armpts. Ewww. How could she be cold and sweating? Who wrote this piece-of-crap sceenplay? Where was Josh Wheedon when you needed him? She'd bet her Pradas that Buffy the Vampire Slayer wouldn't sweat,and she'd have better weapons and better hair and a more virile costar not to mention back lighting.

She tossed her wig into the potted plant and stripped down to her undies, taking the dare to embarrass the director to a whole new level. She tossed her digital copy of AGENT DEMYSTIFIED aside, ready to make the best blooper reel this director had ever seen. Tomorrow she was going literary agent shopping, today she had a director to deal with, and Spanx to buy. She really needed to govern her impulses. Tummy tuck-less, she stalked to the drector. Her heels snapped on the concrete, as she circled around her prey. The best way to start her revenge was to knock him off kilter, publicly.

"Oh, Sven?"

All eyes focused on her, especially his.

She licked her lips. "Does my contract specify casting couch five or casting couch six? Cause that corduroy upholstery on five smells like a skunk had babies on it. Someone needs to drop a serious load of Febreeze on that thing. So," she said, looking from under her two-inch lashes, "who do I talk to about getting better treatment around here? My agent or the skunk on couch five?"

Someone snickered and Sven scowled. "I'm afraid you've overestimated yourself, Vila." Nonchalantly he eyed her up and down and then shrugged. "You might like casting couch seven better. It has a whirling dervish instead of a gall bladder, but I don't understand what that means."

"You don't need to, it's a figure of speech."

"I think you're confusing it with a metal four."

"No, that doesn't sound right. Where's the dictionary?"

“The dictionary?” Sven said, casting around wildly.

“Yes, the dictionary.”

The poor woman trying to apply make-up to Vila’s dripping face said, “Won’t the scriptwriter have one?”

“Unlikely,” Vila said, “if he did, this script would be in much better

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Pre-Thanksgiving AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED Giveaway!

...also known as THE MAMMOTH COMMENT-BOX STORY.

Entering the free e-book giveaway is simple: Add your FORTY WORDS to the ongoing story. You may add to the story as often as you'd like, but your name will only be entered once.

The contest begins NOW and will end at 10:00 am EST on Wednesday. I will then post the winner (drawn at random).

BONUS: If we reach 150 comments by the end of the 24-hours, I will give away TWO copies of AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED!

The 40-word limit is firm. STOP AT WORD 40 EVEN IF IT'S IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE. The next person will pick up where you've left off.

Here is the beginning of the story:

The jar slipped from Vila's icy fingers and shattered on the cobblestone terrace. Its contents, once liquid, turned to a noxious, purple vapor as soon as they hit the air. Vila couldn't have chosen a worse time to call attention

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Happy Agent Tale From Entrant #29

What a great way to kick off the week -- a success story!

You may remember that Post #29 in our last Secret Agent contest was redacted because the author had just landed an agent. Well, Denise was kind enough to send me a link to her new blog, where she has shared THE WHOLE STORY.

Know what I love about this? Other than the fact that one of our own has achieved success in her agent search, I mean. What I love is the honor of having been involved on some level. Denise was a winner in one of our Secret Agent contests; she also put the feedback she received here on MSFV to good use in her manuscript.

In other words, this blog and its incredible participants have been a part of Denise's journey.

So let's all celebrate with her. Her success is our success. And I know she'll keep us informed on the progress of her book, and one day we'll be able to snatch it off the shelves and say, "We knew her when!"

Do read the story on her blog. Then come back here and share your thoughts.

Way to go, Denise!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Fricassee

Well, we're heading into the final stretch of November, so I thought this would be a good time give you a little teaser of what lies in the near future.

We're not going to do a Secret Agent contest in December. Instead, we'll have our first First Page critique. We'll also do some in-house crits and holiday fun stuff. Because, yanno, it can't be Christmastime without Christmas fun. Right?

Our next Secret Agent contest will be in January. So for those of you who have been tidying up your manuscripts and polishing up those first chapters, you've got a little less than two months to get it all together!

And that's about as detailed as it's going to get.

As for today...well, here's some fodder for the comment box; have at it:

1. We've got readers on this blog from all over the world -- literally. If you're not from the USA, what are your writerly career plans? Are you intent upon pursuing publication in the USA? What is the literary climate in your country?

2. I've gotten the impression that you are all at different stages in your pursuit for publication -- everywhere from "I've got an agent" to "I'm not finished with my first draft yet." What point are you at? How has this blog impacted your journey?

3. And for the Yanks: What are you having for Thanksgiving Dinner?

Mr. Authoress and I are usually nontraditional. One year it was gourmet pizza. One year it was Cornish game hens. One year it was a restaurant. But this year we're having family in, so we're going traditional. That is, a big fat turkey and Things In Dishes.

And many pies.

So. Chatter away. My comment box thanks you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Wonderful Book For the Warped Among Us


It isn't often that I stand in the children's section of Borders and laugh out loud. Come to think of it, I don't think it's ever happened before.

But as I turned the pages of Lemony Snicket's The Lump of Coal, I couldn't help myself. The writing is so quirky, so clean, so delightfully dry -- that this book is currently on my Christmas Wish List.

It's a small book -- a hardcover specialty book for the holidays. I would go so far as to say that it is a particularly small book. Which is why I didn't want to fork over the $12.99. Hence the wish list.

You tell me, though: can anyone resist a book with the following sentence on its opening page?

Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them, you find more than you ever dreamed you'd see, and this holiday story features any number of miracles, depending on your point of view.

It's the not the opening sentence, but it's the one that hooked me.

This book is not for your overly-sensitive nephew, your writing buddy who lacks a sense of humor, or, frankly, any child under the age of six. It's a delightfully warped tale, imbued with humor as only the Brits can do it.*

Seriously. Buy this book for someone you really love. And buy a copy for yourself.



*Except, of course, that Lemony Snicket was born in San Francisco. Many thanks to the anonymous reader who pointed that out. Urgh.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Time to Break Into Song...

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you......
Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.....

(Absence of cute Siamese children notwithstanding.)

It's time to lay it all out -- in short, the What's This Blog All About post. This is in honor of all our new guests, as well as our oldies-but-goodies who might want all this juicy info at their fingertips.

Who is Miss Snark and where's the victim?

For starters, I am not Miss Snark. I am Authoress. I've pointed this out before, but feel compelled to do so again because of the increasing mentions on other blogs of yours truly as "Miss Snark." I appreciate the linkage -- really, I do! But please don't call me Miss Snark. Miss Snark is HERE. Her wonderfully informative and helpful blog has been retired for a year and a half now, but you can still reap its wisdom from the archives.

And the victim? Well, that would be me. As in, Miss Snark's first crap-ometer victim. Lived to tell the tale, I did.

What are these Secret Agent contests all about?

Once a month, I host a contest to which I have invited a literary agent whose identity remains a mystery until the contest ends. The contest is open to all unpublished authors with completed manuscripts (i.e., a manuscript that you wouldn't be embarrassed to show an agent). Read the details HERE.

What is an "Are You Hooked" round?

"Are You Hooked?" is an in-house crit round that does not include a secret literary agent. The object of submitting your 250 word excerpt is to see whether you can "hook" your readers into wanting to read more. It may or may not be the first page of your novel, depending on what mood I'm in. (The Secret Agent contests, however, are always first-page submissions.)

What is "Drop the Needle"?

"Drop the Needle" is an in-house crit round in which I post a call for submissions of a 250 word excerpt somewhere in the middle of your novel. The term "Drop the Needle" is an old, pre-CD-era term , in which evil, college music professors would "drop the needle" in the middle of an album and expect the students to identify the composer, the piece, and the movement. Drop the Needle rounds focus on specific things, such as "emotion" or "tension".

What is "Talkin' Heads"?

"Talkin' Heads" is an in-house crit round that focuses on dialogue.

What is "First Sentences"?

"First Sentences" is an in-house crit that consists of the first two sentences of your manscript. That's it. It's a fun little exercise to see how much power you can pack into those opening lines.

How do I submit my work to the in-house crit sessions or the Secret Agent contests?

If you're following the blog, you'll always know when submissions open. Once I post a call for submissions, simply follow the submission guidelines and email me your excerpt at facelesswords(at)gmail.com.

Can I subscribe to this blog so I know what's going on?

Well, I wish you would! Check the left sidebar; you can add Miss Snark's First Victim to your RSS feed, or you can subscribe via email, which will get you the day's posting right in your inbox.

What's this blather about getting my entire first chapter critiqued on the blog?

This is a new development, and we're going to test the waters in December. Basically, I've started a private group on RallyStorm for all who are interested in throwing their names into the pot. Whenever I'm getting ready to host a First Chapter Critique, I will randomly choose one member from the RallyStorm group, and that member's chapter will be (anonymously) posted on the blog for open critique. If you are interested in receiving an invitation to our RallyStorm group, please send an email to authoressmail(at)gmail.com with your request. Please include the email address (in the body of your email) to which you'd like me to send the invitation. There is still time to join the group before the December drawing.

So, what else will I find on this blog?

Author interviews, thoughts on writing, and various anecdotal tidbits from the Life of Authoress. Oh, and the occasional group story. Or group poetry. Not that too many folks have jumped at that one. I'm getting the impression that I stand largely alone in my geeky fondness for rhyme and meter.

You'll find cools links, too. I try to keep up with my list of agent and editor blogs, as the offings continue to increase. And many of our faithful readers have shared links to their own blogs. If you're an author, whether published or unpublished, and you've got a cool blog or web site related to your writing, please send the link to facelesswords(at)gmail.com and I will include you on the sidebar. Please be sure to let me know whether you are published or yet-to-be-published.

I hear you've written an e-Book. Where can I get it?

Thanks for asking. AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED -- Lifting the Veil on the Secret World of Literary Agents is now available. Read about it HERE; buy it HERE.

May I send you flowers and presents?

No flowers, thank you, but presents would be good. All loving donations of gourmet chocolate, jumbo cashews, fair trade organic coffee (whole bean, please), and gift certificates for clothing can be emailed at any time.

Or you could just buy my e-Book. Then I can get my own chocolate and cashews.

Anyone who wants to man a donation button for the Get Authoress A Macbook Air drive, let me know.

Are you serious?

Read the blog a little more and you'll know. *grin*

To all my new subscribers: WELCOME! The readership here is a fabulous group of writers with whom it's an honor to interact.

Did I miss anything? Please post your questions in the comment box.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hélène Boudreau


Read an interview with Hélène Boudreau on Write On!

For more on Hélène Boudreau:

Website

Twitter

Goodreads




For more on the books of Hélène Boudreau:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound


And We Have Winners!!

I think it's safe to say that Ms. Lindsay culled a slew (batch? gaggle? mother lode?) of gems from our Secret Agent Premium Slush Pile. I'm delighted to announce her hand-picked winners:

Honorable Mentions:

Entry #4 - Stealing Ellum by Brimfire
Entry #13 - The Peculiar Princess by Christy
Entry #20 - Strangely Charming by ipgirl
Entry #33 - Love? Please! (A Tale of the Holy Water Warriors) by Goddessmarne
Entry #38 - On Ice by June

The prize:

Ms. Lindsay requests that you each send her your query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript. PLEASE EMAIL ME (AUTHORESS) FOR SPECIFIC SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS.

Three second-place winners:

Entry #12 - Goose Feathers by Windsong
Entry #28 - Sloan Wolfe by Margay1122
Entry #23 - Into the Woods by Merryday

The prize:

An evaluation of your query and the first three chapters or fifty pages (whichever comes first) of your manuscript. PLEASE EMAIL ME (AUTHORESS) FOR SPECIFIC SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS.

And the first-place winner:

Entry #2 - And You Shall Find by Carnation

The prize:

A full manuscript evaluation, including the query and synopsis. PLEASE EMAIL ME (AUTHORESS) FOR SPECIFIC SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS.


Warm congratulations to all our winners! Please send your emails to facelesswords(at)gmail.com and I will let you know exactly what to do next.

And to all of you: thank you for being courageous and teachable and, well, downright naked. Anyone who puts his work in front of the masses to be (potentially) ripped apart deserves applause.

I applaud you all.



Secret Agent Unveiled: COLLEEN LINDSAY


Tada! This month's Secret Agent is the shoot-from-the-hip, self-admitted book nerd Colleen Lindsay of FinePrint Literary Management, LLC. Ms. Lindsay's heart to teach aspiring authors, coupled with her passion for the written word, make her a great "catch" for this month's contest.

Here's Colleen's bio:

Colleen Lindsay is a literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management, LLC. A book industry veteran with more than twenty-three years experience, Colleen's first job in publishing was in Northern California as a mass merchandise sales assistant for Ballantine Books. For five years she served as Director of Publicity for Del Rey Books where she specialized in the creative publicity and marketing of science fiction, fantasy, pop culture, YA fantasy, graphic novels, manga and third-party licensed media. She's also worked as a freelance publicist and copywriter for several major trade publishers and as a book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle under the inimitable Pat Holt. Colleen's background in independent book publishing goes even further back to her first job as a bookstore manager in 1984 at the now-defunct San Francisco Bay Area bookstore, Central Park Books. She also worked at Printers, Inc. Books in Palo Alto and spent six years as the marketing and events manager at Stacey's Bookstore in San Francisco. Colleen keeps a popular blog, The Swivet, where she and her frequent guest-bloggers talk about writing, agenting and the business of books.

Colleen is primarily interested in great fiction and she has a particular expertise in fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, paranormal romance, YA and YA fantasy, and graphic novels. She's also always looking for strong thrillers, crime fiction, mysteries, edgy or quirky literary fiction, women's fiction and LGBT-themed novels.

In non-fiction, she's looking for strong narrative non-fiction, works of LGBT interest and pop culture. She'd also like to see business, marketing and career books geared toward a female audience.

Some specifics about what she's looking for:

  • I like quirky, offbeat fiction, both literary and commercial. I love writers who can engage me with amazing characters and a strong voice. Above all, I'm looking for writers who understand the importance of storytelling. And yeah, I place a lot of importance on plot. Call me old-fashioned, but I like a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • Although I love YA writing, right now I'd really like to see more submissions geared toward an adult audience.
  • I'm looking for fantasy and science fiction that breaks rules, that moves well beyond the common tropes of the genre.
  • While I do enjoy hard SF, if your novel contains more hard science than engaging characters or a real plot, it's probably not for me. I'm not really looking for a science lesson; I'm looking for Big Ideas.
  • I am always looking for graphic novels, preferably high-concept and non-genre.
  • I'd love to see someone take lesser-known mythologies and re-work them. I'm a mythology freak and nothing stokes my fire more than seeing someone imaginatively rework a creation mythos.
  • I welcome and encourage debut authors!
  • What I really don't want to see: category romance, cozies, Christian fiction, poetry, excessively violent or gory horror, short stories or screenplays.
Thank you, Colleen, for sharing your time and expertise!

Stay tuned for the announcement of this month's contest winners.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Fricassee

So I've had a new experience this time around.

I launched the Secret Agent contest yesterday, and then I had to be away from my desk for several hours. When I returned to my overworked, underpaid gmail account, it was...overwhelming. In weeding through the scores of comments (no, I haven't read them all), I discovered several messages from authors letting me know about formatting errors. Of course I fixed them all, but it was much later than normal, because, well, I wasn't here.

Hate that.

Anyway, I especially want to point out Post 43, the first sentence of which somehow got scrambled in translation (the author and I still aren't sure how it happened). Actually, the entire entry was a formatting nightmare, which happens sometimes. At any rate, the sentence has since been corrected, so if any of you were scratching your heads over the Sentence That Wasn't A Sentence, please pop back to the post and read it the way it was intended.

Our Secret Agent has done a couple of crits; be patient -- they will all be read and responded to by the end of the weekend (I know, I know; it's hard when you have no nails left to bite).

I also want to thank those of you who have already purchased a copy of Agent: Demystified. In the spirit of shameless self-promotion, I'm going to copy our free e-book winner's comment from a couple of days ago:

I can't recommend this enough! I found myself blushing at some of the mistakes that I have made in the past (thanks for setting me straight, I'll try not to "shadow" certain agents...ahem) and realizing how right you are about NOT trying to find agents using that "creative writer" side, but using plain old business sense.

If you guys haven't gotten your copy yet, what are you waiting for? Whether you are querying yet, or just starting your first novel, this is easy to understand, entertaining (as Authoress always is), and should clear up so many misconceptions about agents and the whole process.

Thanks so much Authoress!

(Terri Rainer)


Terri was also kind enough to write a rave review on her blog. Thanks again, Terri!

And now I'm going to nuke my coffee (an act of desperation) and hunker down with the rest of you to await our Secret Agent's comments. I swear I get as nervous as if I had entered myself!

Have a glorious weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get It While It's Hot -- AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED

Agents Demystified It’s no small thing to have written a novel. And once you’ve polished and perfected it and groomed it for the market, you’re on to even bigger things.

The question is, are you ready?

And if you’ve already jumped into the I-need-to-find-an-agent arena, are you going about it the best way possible? Feeling like you’re getting the best results because you’ve hit your stride and you really believe that Agents Aren’t Scary?

Or would you like to take your knowledge to the next level?

You know, COMPLETELY lift the veil on the mystique of the agenting world?

THIS E-BOOK IS FOR YOU!

(Really, it is. I wrote it for you.)

AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED – Lifting the veil on the secret world of literary agents is now available.

You’ll learn:

  • The 3 steps to demystifying literary agents
  • The 2 main “author types” (which one are you?)
  • What a query letter IS – and what it ISN’T
  • How to avoid shooting yourself in the foot during your agent search
  • What your personal agent search should look like

AND PERHAPS MOST EXCITING OF ALL:

  • Authoress’s painful personal history (a.k.a. “how my quest for knowledge began”)

I know you don’t want to miss this.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED NOW!


Buy Now

SECRET AGENT CONTEST TODAY!

Scroll down; it's all right there.

43 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: IN THE LIVING YEARS
GENRE: YA - Literary Fiction


The road runs before us like a black ribbon—curving, inviting, silky smooth—leading to a present I’m not sure I want to open. Rain drums against the roof and the windshield wipers swish back and forth. My mother taps her finger against the steering wheel as she drives, not in time to any music, but with a nervous, frenetic beat of which she is totally unconscious. Each sound joins together in some weird symphony that I will remember for the rest of my life—it’s one of those moments you know, even as it is happening, you will never forget.

My stomach dances.
I’m not sure if it’s from excitement or anxiety or if it’s simply trying to digest the fast food salad-in-a-cup I stuffed down my throat as we drove through Ohio.

That was hours ago. We’d been in the car long enough for lunch to be our second meal eaten in motion. We had breakfast while it was still dark somewhere in western New York state, and lunch came when we were in Ohio. “Can’t we stop and eat in a real restaurant?” I asked.

“No,” she answered, the lines along her eyes more noticeable than they’d been yesterday. “I don’t want to take the time. We’ll just stop at a McDonald’s,” she added.

“McDonald’s!” I protested. “There’s nothing I can eat at a McDonalds!”

“There’s nothing unkosher about a salad. Besides, God would forgive you under the circumstances,” she said.

42 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Soul Purpose
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Prologue

Galveston Island, Texas, September 8, 1900, 7:05 p.m.

Rose was accustomed to hearing the wails of the dead, but enduring the screams of the dying was unbearable. The wind and rain howled through the second story of the house with enough volume to drown out the cries of mortality—almost. She yanked her water-laden petticoat out from under her floor-length satin skirt to make movement easier.

“Hurry, Rose, we need to get out before the structure fails,” Alden shouted over the deafening roar of the storm. He was perched in a dormer window, grasping the frame with one hand and leaning in to extend his free hand to her. “Rose, please. The water is too high. We need to get out of the house before it collapses. You will die if you are inside.” She kicked off her shoes and waded through the ankle-deep water to grasp Alden’s hand.

Just touching him eased her panic. It always had—for lifetimes. More lifetimes than she could remember.


41 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: The Stronghold Wars
GENRE: science fantasy


Aileana had been on her way to get rations when the first soldier approached her, his hands covered in swirling black tattoos, the cartilage of each ear pierced so evenly she was reminded of rivets on a trunk. Stories of rape and theft had already tarnished the novelty of martial law, and she warned him to back off.

“Aileana Katares? You’re to come with us,” his companion said. She couldn’t read his expression through the motley desert of scar tissue; more than anything, his head looked like a misshapen lump of wax.

“I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“Lord Malachi wants your help.”

That called to mind all the drug dealers and anarchists she’d prosecuted over the past seven years as a trial lawyer and did nothing to reassure her. But they had refused to take “go away” for an answer, and the moment she tried to get back in her car, Waxhead seized her around the waist. For the first time in her life, she was in a real fight. Thanks to years of martial arts training, she left both men sprawled on the asphalt.

Yet they were there when she reached the first security checkpoint. This time, both of them were carrying guns. This time, neither opened with conversation.

40 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: The Kisses of an Enemy
GENRE: YA/fantasy

Repentance Atwater sat still as a rock, clenching her hands in her lap to keep them from trembling. Staring at her reflection in the wet, black stone before her, she attempted a happy expression, but only accomplished the terrified look of a rabbit caught in torchlight.

Her mother stood behind her, gently raking her fingers through Repentance's freshly washed hair. The woman hummed a lively buttoning tune as she worked, oblivious to the pain that would come with the night.

A weeping and a wailing.

There would come a weeping and a wailing. Repentance had been to plenty of failed button ceremonies. She knew what it felt like to stand helpless before the overlords as they loaded up the slave carts.

Mercy Atwater began to plait Repentance's hair. All the button girls wore braids.

Repentance closed her eyes, trying to focus on the tune her mother hummed, but she could not shut out the sound of the steady drip from the fog-drenched trees. Even sitting in the back of the cave, through thick stone walls and two leather curtains drawn down, she could hear the incessant drip, drip, drip.

A weeping and a wailing.

She didn't want to be the cause of it. But what could she do? Inside she'd been weeping and wailing all her life.

She could go along with the buttoning, that's what she could do. She could learn to be content like everyone else.

But she was not like everyone else. She wanted to be. She tried to be.

39 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Ashes of the Red Heifer
GENRE: Thriller


Annie Grant stared out her window into the pre-dawn black of the Israeli kibbutz. She set her lips in a determined line and raised her chin, defiant if only to the moon, the same moon shining over the Nebraska prairie. "This time it's going to be different."

The vaccine would work, she was sure. Annie had veered from the path the other researchers had followed, made different assumptions and now she knew she was right. The impending birth would prove it. She'd cure BA 23, save cattle, but more importantly, she'd save people.

What if it didn't work? Doubt battered at her brain like Chinese water torture. She'd been close to her dreams before and every time she'd failed. She didn't know if she could weather that kind of pain again.

Her cell phone bleeped. She leaped for it automatically, checking the clock. At this hour it could only be Hassan and it couldn't be good news. She flipped open her phone. "What's wrong?"

His voice sounded frantic, which could mean a crisis or a stubbed toe. "Esther. Her water's broken."

"Take a deep breath, Hassan. I'll be right there." Before he could hang up she stopped him. "Call David. If this calf is born alive, he'll want to be there."

38 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: ON ICE

GENRE: MAINSTREAM/SUSPENSE-THRILLER

Getting away was easier than she thought. She put the kids in the back seat and headed west on Interstate-Ten. As the Houston skyline receded, Rene took a deep breath and let it out slowly, her damp hands gripping the steering wheel.


Glancing in the rear view mirror, she flashed a nervous smile at her daughter. Sara chanted in a little sing-song voice. Rene couldn’t hear the words but it involved some sort of finger play. The sweet, pure tone wafted to the front seat to compete with the hum of the air conditioner.


Seth was another matter. Grim best described his mood. His brows were knit and his form of finger play involved biting them until they were pink and ragged. He kept turning in his seat to peer out the back window as though searching for signs of impending doom. Too much pain for a seven-year old who had suffered too much already.


I should have done this a long time ago. Maybe he won’t follow.


Rene glanced in the rear-view mirror again, this time scanning the highway ribboning out behind them. She bit her lower lip.


Maybe hell’s frozen over.


“Are you kids hungry?” She forced a note of gaiety into her voice.


Sara clapped her hands with glee. Seth remained silent. Poor kid. This took a long time in coming but it was happening too fast for him.


Rene changed lanes, checking her mirrors for a dark blue Lexus.


He probably doesn’t know we’re gone yet.

37 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Hostile Persuasion
GENRE: Escape Thriller

Wednesday. Blood spatter from the compound fracture seemed to linger in the air before slapping into Catherine Combes’s face. When the spoke on the steering wheel snapped her left thumb, a jolt of pain rushed up the police lieutenant’s arm. A grin splayed across the yellow teeth of the man driving the Land Rover as he rammed her again. Margarita time, and she was in the blender. The churning in her gut increased as the front end of the Ford sedan fell over the rocky embankment to slide toward the white water below. The rotted trunk of a fallen pine caught the bumper and flipped the unmarked Crown Vic into the air.

Once, twice, three times. Combes had wondered why some people in car accidents knew exactly how many times their car had rolled. Now she knew. Each crushing impact created an indelible impression in her mind. The icy water smashed through her open window and overwhelmed her, flooding into her nose and mouth before receding with the current. The crystal sharpness of the details, the cracks in the windshield and the waning afternoon sun reflected on the rushing water, faded into a blurred mush. Through the haze of red dust created by the car’s descent she saw the Land Rover on the road above back away from the precipice.

Combes’s Remington shotgun broke away from its floor mount and the business end of the barrel jammed between her legs.

36 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: BAD MEDICINE
GENRE: Mystery/Suspense-RS


"You're too stupid to live, Rafael Solis!"

Chloe Palmer's words still echoed in Rafael's memory. The last words she'd said before she shot him and left town.

Now she was back, if only for the short haul. She was prettier than ever and she still had that 'go to hell' attitude.

Rafael stared at her profile throughout the funeral service. Head held high, she'd made eye contact with no one, though she had to know he'd be there, still in love with her after seven long years.

Chloe filed outside and stood apart, her back to the assembled mourners. She turned when he neared, wary, assessing him.

"I'm sorry about your dad, Chloe."

"Yeah, well..." She paused, avoiding his eyes. "It's not like he didn't have it coming."

"You're looking good." Rafael cleared his throat, prepared to ask the question, not certain he could bear the answer. "Are you married?"

She shot him a sharp glance under heavily mascaraed eyelashes. "What's it to you?"

"Nothing...Nothing at all. I just wondered if you had someone here with you. That's all."

"Yeah, I got someone here with me." She jerked her head toward her mother, standing in a small circle of friends outside the church.

"Your mother, of course." Rafael remembered how hard it had always been to talk to Chloe when she was in a mood. Like she resented every word she gave out in conversation. Her prickly defenses had protected her soft, vulnerable core...from everyone but him.

35 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: THE POWER THAT BINDS
GENRE: Paranormal romance


The intruder stared up at the turret tower and unlit windows of the great mock castle. He'd waited months for it to be empty, and tonight it was. Daniel Demaris was gone, and he could finally search unhindered for the talisman.

And if someone came? He smiled in anticipation.

His creature would kill the unfortunate fool, and he'd be free to search at his leisure. He must have the protection of the talisman before the creature killed him, too.

Avoiding the moonlit patches, he crept across the lawn, pried open a window, then slipped inside. His flashlight's beam darted across the leather-bound books on the shelves, the antique desk, and the Hudson River paintings on the paneled walls of the study. The desk first.

He began to search methodically and neatly through the desk's drawers. No one must know he'd been here in case he couldn't find the talisman.

If he couldn't, he might just rip the location from Demaris' screaming mind. It would be justice to destroy his enemy thus. Demaris deserved it for what he'd done to him. The bastard deserved it.
***

Nelson Page's loud snore rattled in his chest. Jolting awake at the sound, the newspaper in his hands crunching and crackling, he sat up in his armchair and gazed around the living room.

Her eyes twinkling over the rims of her bifocals, Angie laughed with the full, high sweetness of wedding bells, the same laugh he'd fallen in love with forty-odd years before.

34 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: FALLEN
GENRE: Paranormal Romance


The wind whipped Breann’s short curls from her forehead as she pushed through the pine trees. A cruel smile lifted the corner of her mouth. Thudding footsteps sounded behind her. Good, he had followed her. A week’s worth of hunting was finally going to pay off. She surged ahead out of the trees up the hill and glanced back.


The moon lit the well-maintained lawn behind her. To any casual onlooker, a man chased her. A casual onlooker would be wrong. Because of the gift of true sight Sammuel bestowed upon her, she saw the creature, not the man it pretended to be. Araxiel, one of Sammuel’s favored.


Araxiel’s six burnt wings wrapped around his body like a second skin. His face switched between a hawk, a lion, and a man. A beautiful face twisted by lust.


The World’s Fair Pavilion shone ahead in the moonlight, alone on top of the hill looking down on Forest Park. Caught between the pulsing St. Louis’s Central West End, the bustling university, and the busy interstate, the park surrounded the Pavilion in an otherworldly quiet. Arched doorways lined the walls and left the Pavilion open to the elements. The archways interrupted the moonlight to create light and shadows that fell on the stone floor. The perfect place to play hide and seek.


Breann darted behind a column. Her heartbeat echoed in her ears. The thudding came closer.

She drew in deep breaths to slow the beating of her heart.

33 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

Title: “Love? Please! (A Tale of the Holy Water Warriors)

Genre: Paranormal Romance


Great. Just fan-friggen-tabulous. Not even halfway through her shift and Teagan had an a**-grabber.



Another one.

Of course, that was why she'd gotten this table of five. The girls had named her “The Enforcer” for a reason.


She'd let him play for a moment...it was just a body, after all. But soon, he'd pay.


"Can I get you boys anything else?" she asked, setting a Corona in front of each of them.


The Friday night band sang "Friends in Low Places," and a few patrons whooped or sang along. Lively crowd tonight. Good tips. Everyone was lookin' for love.


Blondie, the man sitting across the table from where she stood, smiled and tossed down a hundred dollar bill. "Tequila shots?"


Mr. Hands, on her left, inched his grope further up the backside of her inner thigh. If he went any higher, he'd be fondling parts of her only seen by her doctor and her vibrator.


She snapped her teeth into a grin, ignoring Mr. Hands, as she pulled the Jose Gold from one holster on her costume gun-slinger's belt and six shot glasses from the other hip. Between the rowdy saloon atmosphere and the waitress costumes-- leather vest, gunfighter's belt over short-shorts, Stetson cowboy hat and boots--it was no surprise Tommie's Knockers drew the largest crowd in the Canyon.


"If you're buying one for me too, sugar," she said. When he nodded, she twisted the cap off the bottle, pouring tequila into each glass before sliding them around.

32 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Living in Fairytales
GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy

I was sitting at the table eating my breakfast when she came in.

“Good morning.” I said.

“Your pants make you look like the elephant,” she said in her cute little French accent. “I would not have thought it possible but I think you are fatter now than you were when I came two months ago.”

I scooped a syrup drizzled forkful of pancake into my mouth and smiled.

She grabbed a rice cake and started walking to school. I waited a few minutes until she was a safe distance ahead and then I started after her. What on earth had I been thinking when I asked my mom if we could have an exchange student? I guess I was thinking we’d get a sweet South American girl who would be thrilled to live in the U.S. and could be like the sister I never had. Things never work out like I plan.

I was just a few steps behind Dominique when we got to school. Her diet of rice cakes, grapefruit, and water must have made it difficult for her to walk quickly but she didn’t care as long as she could walk in size zero pants.

I trailed behind her through the main hall. Nearly every boy’s eyes followed her and she pretended to be oblivious to the attention. Almost every guy at the school had asked me about her since she came to stay with us in January.

“What does she like to do for fun?”

31 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE:Demigoddess 101
GENRE: YA



Am I Going Crazy, or Was That a Toga?

I know it sounds ridiculous, but from all the hoopla I've heard about
sixteenth birthdays, I half expected a chorus of angels to sing me
into this new era of my life. You know, something special. Something
just for me. But the logical side of me knows that I'll open my eyes
and see nothing more than the same old blush pink that's desperately
clung to my walls since my 'I'm a pretty pink princess' kick when I
was five.

Of course, my logic wins out. I'm greeted by the cheery, if fading,
pink. As soon as my eyes become accustomed to the retina searing
combination of wall/jovial brilliance of the morning sunlight, the
reality sets in. I have two final exams on what should be a glorious
day. So instead of a day gallivanting in the sun celebrating the most
special of birthdays, I'm stuck slaving over a standardized test that
will prove nothing more than my ability to regurgitate facts.

Fun.

With a sigh and a stretch, I get out of bed and stare out at the
world. I know what I'm going to see. A couple of oak trees, the
street, maybe a glimpse of the sky if the wind is blowing the branches
and its accessorizing foliage just right.

This morning I notice a scarf dangling off of the second oak. I have
to admit I'm a bit confused as I watch it twisting and turning,
dancing in an unseen breeze. It's not like I routinely go around
decorating my trees with accessories.

30 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Lucifer’s Porsche

GENRE: Urban fantasy


Satan pouted.


Thousands of doomed souls shuffled before him in a chained off queue. Every four meters, a sign flashed the estimated time remaining until one reached the torture devices. Anticipation fed the terror. So did bats. One swooped down to gouge a cheek. The Damned who witnessed the carnage recoiled with yelps. What did they expect? Hell was hell. Satan used to love that line. Now, well…


He flicked a talon at the next soul in line, which bore the curved form of a human female. She cowered, head darting in search of escape. A first timer.


Satan inhaled her salty, warm aura. “If you can spell ‘Mephistopheles,’ I’ll give you a pass this round.” Tough luck if the language she’d spoken on outer-Earth had been character-based.


Hope flashed in her eyes. She straightened up. “M E P H I S T O P H E L E S.”


Satan summoned an oily assistant demon. “Escort her to the elbow twister.”


Her knees faltered. “But I spelled it correctly.”


Satan rolled his head, working out a neck kink. He pointed to a neon sign that hadn’t been there a moment earlier,


NO EXCEPTIONS, NO EXCUSES

(AND NO ONE LYKES A GOOD SPELLER.)


She shrieked as the demon dragged her away. Crybaby.


Satan squinted at the endless queue, not an amusing soul in the bunch. Couldn’t they see he was suffering here?

29 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

Submission redacted because the author has just landed an agent!!!!

28 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Sloane Wolf
GENRE: Paranormal Romance


When fate arrived in Destiny Falls, Micah Sloane was elbow-deep in his brother's Ford Tempo, trying to coax the geriatric engine back to life. With little luck. But still he tried, determined not to be brought low by four cylinders of sheer stubbornness. So intent was he on his task, he would have missed the arrival of fate if not for the low whistle of his brother.

"Would you look at that?"

Must be one hell of a car, Micah thought, if he were to judge by the reverent tone of his brother's voice. Cam didn't go all soft over just any car like some of their friends did; it had to be special. Definitely not a Ford, although he liked the classic Mustangs. Probably not a Chevy, either. A Firebird was a possibility; Cam was known to get all sweet on them in the past. But - would that elicit such a whistle from his brother? No, that was a different kind of whistle, an I-never-saw-that-here-before kind of whistle. Whatever it was, it was a newcomer to Destiny Falls.

When he didn't react quick enough, his brother - who'd already turned away from their task - back-handed him on the shoulder. Hard. "Hey!" Micah yelled, returning the favor without looking up. "What's with you, brother?"

"Look at that."

But before Micah could do that, his senses pricked up - and not by the urgent undertone in his brother's voice.

27 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Ecklar’s Curse
GENRE: YA Fantasy/Science Fiction

A high-pitched scream filled the air and at the same time Ally’s horse disappeared from under her. She crashed down onto the wet sand and all air burst from her lungs. Long seconds passed before she sat up. With her back to the ocean, she wrapped her arms around her waist, and willed the air back into her lungs. As she took a deep breath, the smell of salty seawater energised her.

Shrewdy snorted and backed away toward Mount Grief.

A woman's scream had filled the air, but she and her mare were the only females on the beach. Ally knew she hadn't screamed.

An odd sensation played along her backbone and she turned around. She gasped.

A large saltwater crocodile floated in the water only metres from her leg.

Water splashed up as Ally fell sideways onto her bottom. Her heart beat fast and loud. Instead of enlarging the distance between them, her left leg jerked closer to the beast. Animals can smell fear. Without taking her eyes of the salty, she tried to scramble back like a crab but her legs wobbled out from underneath her. The dark grey reptile planed closer.

As if in a trance, Ally sank into the watery sand. She knew her mouth was open; she tasted salt on her tongue. The crocodile moved ever nearer with the tide. Why didn’t her body listen to her frantic orders to move? Closer and closer, the wide snout approached.

26 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

Title: The Grifter's Daughter
Genre: Commercial Fiction
“Don’t this thing have air?”

I glanced at the bony little man complaining; my father, Leroy, “Pops” Amadeus Logan. He was slouched in the black bucket seat of my brand new old Ford, arms hugging his chest.
A 1965 fully restored Mustang convertible, fire engine red with leather interior, chrome dash, three speed manual with overdrive, you could get a speeding ticket parked at the courthouse. They just didn’t make a better getaway car.

“Quit your bitchin’, Pops. This here’s the open road.” I chinned to the highway through the windshield. “And that there’s freedom.”

“Damned hot, this freedom.” He broke out the smile that had charmed so many wardens, twisted around to touch one of the large cases in the back, caressing the smooth mocha leather. “One point one million dollars. I never had a score like that my whole life.”

“Neither have I, Pops,” I said, trying to keep the giddy elation from my voice. Honestly, if we weren’t driving I’d be dancing in the street.

The scenery outside whizzed past, barely noticed. Fields of seed rows waiting for spring to become green again, blue sky above, gray ribbon of the Ohio Turnpike in front and back.
The temperature had reached eighty and we weren’t even past nine in the morning, hence my father’s complaints.

On the lam, five hours out of New York City, heading nowhere, the sun rising behind us cast a giant shadow to the west. We drove after the shadow as if it was a destination we could never each, like Moses near the Promised Land only, you know, crooked.

25 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Overboard
GENRE: Mystery/Suspense

David Brewer’s mind was racing almost as fast as his body was falling. Why would someone do this to me? Who the hell pushed me over the railing? He tried to yell but the fifty-five foot plunge had taken his breath away, and when he crashed back-first into the ocean it sounded like a gunshot, followed by total silence. The menacing water swallowed him like a black hole, and he sank fifteen feet below the surface into total darkness.

Disoriented and panicky with excruciating pain racing through his lower body, Brewer flailed and kicked wildly—finally making it to the surface. He gasped for air and swallowed disgusting amounts of briny sea water. Brewer spat again and again, but the waves rolled at him relentlessly, each one smacking him hard in the face. He let out a feeble cry for help, but the floating resort was beyond the range where anyone onboard could hear him. His legs were like rubber, but he continued to kick to stay afloat. He closed one eye and squinted through a salty blur as he watched the lights of the cruise ship flicker farther and farther away.

The killer smiled triumphantly looking back at the vast darkness of the ocean. The only sound was waves careening into the ship’s hull, as the Tranquility of the Seas maintained her heading and forward speed through the eastern Caribbean Sea. As had been the case with the six other passengers who’d vanished from four different cruise ships in the past year, Brewer’s name would soon be unceremoniously removed from the ship’s manifest as the Tranquility of the Seas sailed on.

24 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Legends & Heroes: The Last Mage
GENRE: Fantasy


With a deep breath, Lusa pushed forward into the dark mouth that was the entrance to the temple. The sun sunk below the auburn canopy of trees, dappling light into the gloom foyer. Now or never, Lusa.

The Dark Magics within her ached for the touch of the cold stone wall. Ached to let the temple tell her its secrets. Ached for it to give her the memories she should have of this place.

A cool breeze swept through the entryway and tugged at the folds of her tattered cloak. She pulled her hand away from the wall, her eyes subconsciously moving to the dagger sheathed on her belt. She didn’t think she could handle being attacked again by memories, if the temple was indeed linked to her past . . . not twice in one day. The headache from earlier still simmered in the back of her skull. It would give her answers. But it’d be an experience unimaginable to every sense in her body. Not something she wanted to endure again if she could help it.

With a forced swallow that felt like she’d just inhaled a fistful of sand, Lusa moved forward, sending forth the invisible tendrils of Dark Magics. A second search for any life forms wouldn’t hurt. The power filled her inner core; comforted her . . . soothed her. The Magics’ tainted whispers of the ancient tongue tickled her ears. They returned to her with no life presence found.

23 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Into The Woods
GENRE: Young Adult



Five weeks before his disappearance, Miles St. John pushed me up against a locker and kissed me. Hard.

This didn't exactly make it into the police report. A lot of things didn't. Not that night, not our plan, and especially not this little fact: I could have saved him.

Even the reporters, who descended on Verity with their news vans and power ties, didn't discover our secret. They badgered witnesses and dug up rumors, but not a single tabloid mentioned my name.

In a few hours, I could be away from it all. Suitcases and secrets in hand, I could get on that plane to Texas and never be caught. Those stories would stand and you people could go on guessing and wondering, your theories swirling around and around until pretty soon everyone loses interest. It would be yesterday's headline.

It would all be a lie.

And if there's anything my year at Verity Prep taught me, it's this: a lie, even one that no one suspects, will do more bad than good every time. So, this isn't going to be like before. I'm telling the truth now.

Not just about Miles, but about everything - the robberies, the fire, the curse.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? Uncle Dash says that the best quality in a good journalist is that she gives all the facts – from the very beginning, when things first get fishy, all the way until the criminal's confession.

So here it is –from my beginning to his end—the confession of Elizabeth Archer: amateur sleuth, total freak, and murderer.

22 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Academy
GENRE: YA Fantasy


Malora Mooreland smiled at her long-lost uncle. His name was Augustus
Caliban. He eyed her warily, like he expected her to morph into a
psychotic clown at any minute. He did not smile back.

"So you're related to my mom, huh?" she said. They sat side-by-side in
SFO, waiting for their flight. She was devouring her second scoop of
cookie dough ice-cream.

"That is correct," he said. "As we discussed exhaustively. All morning."

He barely moved his mouth when he spoke, she noticed. His eyes were
these black, staring things, two cold pits in his long, stern face.
His skin was gray, almost-- colorless. Although Malora was a
pale-skinned redhead herself, she liked to think she looked less
ghoulish than him.

"So how'd you find out about me?" she asked.

"A will. Your mother's will. Unearthed recently."

"Wow... and they didn't find it 'til I was fourteen, huh?" She tossed
the remains of her ice cream into the nearest garbage can. "That kind
of sucks."

"Indeed," Caliban said, "all those years we could have spent together..."

Malora sent him a long, careful look. She'd almost swear he sounded relieved.

I'm not that... 'uncouth', am I? she wondered. He'd called her that a
few hours earlier when they were introduced.

"Are you certain this uncouth creature is Malora Mooreland?"

So she'd forgotten to brush her hair this morning, and she'd worn the
wrinkled shirt she spilled soda on the other day... She was 'couth' in
other respects, wasn't she?

It would help if she knew what 'uncouth' meant.

21 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

Title: Dragonseeker
Genre: YA Fantasy

Kieren watched her funeral from a distant hill, face hidden under a heavy black cowl. Far below, the train of mourners passed the wooden bier. A body, her body, lay on top of the tinder, covered by an opaque shroud.

She felt sick.

Following the procession, her husband entered the courtyard, wearing the golden mantle of the King of Men. He stood, still and silent like a statue. Their son stopped beside him, head bowed. His long blond hair blocked his face from Kieren’s sight. He reached out, rubbing his little sister’s back as she sobbed into her father’s chest.

Kieren’s heart lurched, aching that she couldn’t reach out to them.

She tore eyes away and addressed the old man at her side. “This is not right, Talfryn. I don’t care what the Morraugh have told you. This is cruel.”

His stained grey robes flapped in the early spring breeze. “This is the only way, my queen. If you wish to protect your husband and children, you must leave Cuhulaiin.”

“But to make them think I have died? Staging my own funeral? How, in the Morraugh’s name, will that help anyone? They are suffering because of me.” She wrapped her arms around her waist. “I wish you’d kept the knowledge of the vision to yourself, Talfryn. No good can come of this.”

“The Prince and Princess will be safe.”

“But at what cost?”

20 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Strangely Charming
GENRE: YA paranormal


It was supposed to be some sort of aptitude test—the kind that would help with career tracking. But this test was nothing like the placement test I took last year in eighth grade where checking off that you like to work with your hands got you recommended for a satisfying career in basket-weaving. Instead, this test asked things like: ‘You’ve discovered a way to read people’s minds, what do you do?’ Or: ‘If you could change the course of any historical event, what would it be and why?’

I made a complete mess of that last question, writing how I didn’t want to change history since then I might not get born. After the test I heard a few other kids agreeing that the answer must have been to kill off Hitler.

Later on that month we had to go see our guidance counselors about our scores. I could just picture Mr. Cuthbert telling me how selfish I was to think only of myself, and not about getting rid of a terrible nemesis like Hitler or Stalin.

Mr. Cuthbert had a red, pointy nose that always looked like it needed a Kleenex, and bulging, fishy eyes. But today his washed out eyes had an intense, hawk-like stare.

“Well, Sadie, we have some very exciting news for you.”

“Oh really?” Basket-weaving here I come, I thought.

He popped open the folder in front of me, pointing at a number: 157. “This is your social I.Q. score. The average score is 100, a score of 157 ranks you as above genius-level.”