Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Fricassee

Happiness and Soon-To-Be-Spring thoughts to you on February's Final Friday!

(Yes, I'm desperate for winter's demise.)

Our Drop the Needle is still going strong -- lots of good, helpful critiques pouring in! I've noticed that the "back end" isn't getting quite the same attention as the front end -- hopefully that will resolve itself today and over the weekend.

So: If you're just jumping in to the critting, please be aware that excerpts in the 40s through the 70s are averaging about half the number of critiques as the rest of the bunch. Maybe you could choose one of those "decades" to begin your reading and commenting.

I'm especially interested to hear from our first-timers in today's comment box. How has your experience of critiquing and being critiqued been? Have the comments been helpful? Were the pre-critique nerves worth it all?

And for all critters: Were there particular entries that made you wish the book were already published? Which ones, and why? Has the critiquing process brought to light some areas of your own work that you are now itching to dive into and tear apart?

(Ah, the ruthlessness of editing. It satisfies something deep within.)

Okay, I'm off to squeak out a few more critiques. Thanks again, one and all, for your time, your thoughts, your hearts.

And Merry Weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

88 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Raymond Figg and his near-death experience of the soul
GENRE: Adult Fiction

Raymond Figg has everything a guy in his early 30's could want and yet he suffers a panic attack, seemingly out of nowhere. "Meltdown" is the first chapter and it chronicles Raymond's panic attack in all its frightening intensity. Fear and doubt will follow, anxiety, seeds of doubt over the true value of his life. What follows after this chapter's end is Raymond's plunge into the dark abyss of depression and his long journey back to the light.

He wanted to get up off the bed but the floor seemed insubstantial, incapable of supporting his weight. How am I going to get to the phone? He felt a steel collar clamp around his windpipe; he felt his heart pounding against his ribcage threatening to beat its way out of his chest. What’s wrong with me?!!!

He felt the need to run but his feet were rooted to the floor. He began to hyperventilate. His brain went blank, his body flooding with adrenalin. He felt like his limbs were charged with electricity. He leapt off the bed and charged down the hallway to his study, wheezing loudly as he tried to suck oxygen into his lungs. He burst through the door and spotted his phone resting in its charging cradle. He snatched at it, knocking the charger and phone to the floor underneath his desk. He fell on hands and knees, trying desperately to locate the phone that had bounced into a jungle of cables and power boards. When he did sight the elusive object, his arm flashed out at it like a striking cobra, his hand clutching at cables, missing the target several times before finally hitting its mark. His fingers shook violently as he flipped the phone open, his chest continued to heave as his lungs desperately sought air. I don’t want to die, he said to himself as he struggled to focus, as he struggled to aim for the three numbers that would dial ‘Emergency’.

87 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Shades of Gray
GENRE: Middle grade

Patrick is the 12 year old son of a cruel slave plantation owner. Smudge is a small slave boy that recently arrived at the plantation after being severely beaten. Jeremiah is an old slave who, along with his wife, have made caring for Smudge their responsibility. Patrick has become friends with Smudge.

This excerpt is the morning following further abuse to Smudge by Patrick's father. Patrick has just learned that instead of recuperating, Smudge has been taken out to the cotton fields to work.

Patrick raced toward the fields where he found Jeremiah and Smudge. Even in the weak morning light, Patrick could see Smudge's ashen color. Smudge picked a white puff, and his hand dropped and rested on his leg. His filthy makeshift bandages hung to the dirt.

"Careful son, you is getting blood on the cotton," Jeremiah said.

Smudge slowly viewed his hands as though he weren't seeing anything. He sat with a small thump, and stared at nothing.

Patrick placed a hand on Smudge's shoulder. Smudge sprang backward on his hands and feet. His face contorted with pain, and he fell flat, his breath short and fast.

"It alright son, it just young Massa Patrick," Jeremiah said.

Smudge's eyelids flickered, and his head flopped to the side.

Patrick moved closer, but Smudge let out a roar, his eyes vacant.

"It's me... Patrick."

Smudge shook his head, and coughed. He inhaled sharply and gagged. Panic sparked in his eyes as he fought for air, and grasped his throat. Three deep hacks, and Smudge's eyes rolled back in their sockets. He crumpled and lay still.

"Smudge!" Patrick jostled him. "Smudge, wake up!" The young boy appeared to have stopped breathing.

"SMUDGE!" Patrick took hold of his ragged shirt, shook the lifeless little body, and slapped his cheek. Patrick stared in horror. His face burned. His mind raced. He took a slack wrist in his hand and bellowed at the sky as if somehow it would make it better. He can't be dead!

86 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: One Wish
GENRE: Middle Grade Urban Fantasy

Two sisters (Ella and Mackenzie) wander into a bog and discover an odd boy. Here is the end of the conversation:

Mackenzie had slowly inched her way over to the boy. Before he could stop her, she reached out and wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. Boy sad. She hugged him again, and then looked at her sister, "Boy sad Ella. Boy go home." The Boy squirmed in her arms but before he could break free, Mackenzie leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Sorry Boy." She whispered as she let go.
Ella grabbed her sister's hand and turned to the boy one last time. "You know all she wanted, was to be your friend. She never forgets a face, so I can tell you, if she ever sees you again, she'll start it all over, askin your name, and askin where you live. Why don't you do us all a favor and tell her."
The boy shook his head.
"Suit your self. Come on Mackenzie, he's not going to tell you his name so just leave him alone. We gotta get back to the cabin anyway. If Mom wakes up and finds out we wandered past the swings, we're gonna get it." Ella led her sister away, back towards the cabin.
Once the girls were out of earshot, the boy mumbled, "Seth, my name is Seth and this is my" Tears streamed down his cheek as he watched the girls cross out of the bog and back into their world. Convinced that they were safe, at least for now, he turned around and hopped away.

85 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Belda Jar
GENRE: Fantasy

Tommy captures a Woodland Fairy in a Bell Jar and takes it home to
show his disbelieving parents to find they have already left for work.

His slipped off his backpack, sat on the edge of his bed, and removed the jar.
Tossing the pack on the bed he held up the jar. A pale light like a gas camper
lantern low on fuel, dissolved into the room from the glass. A tiny glowing
girl inside stood with balled fists pressed against her hips, her radiant green eyes
glaring at him under tightly furrowed eyebrows. “They’d never believe this anyhow,”
Tommy said. “Even if I could’ve shown you to them.”

The tiny golden figure’s mouth moved. Tommy cocked his head. Her lips moved again.
Tommy shook his head. She then stomped her foot on the bottom of the jar. He felt a slight
tremor in his hand. It looked like she was shouting something over and over until she went
red in the face. He shrugged.

The girl threw her hands up and stepped over to the side of the jar and tapped.
A teeny ban of metal around her finger made a barely audible ‘tink-tink-tink’ against
the glass. She beckoned to him. Tommy held the glass next to his ear. He heard what
sounded like a small sparrow’s chirp. Tommy looked at her and again shook his head.
She held the flat of her hand to one side of her head and then jabbed her finger at a spot
on jar. This time Tommy pressed his ear the glass as she took in a deep breath.

Tommy blinked. She wasn’t chirping, she was speaking to him.

“Stupid boy! Let me out of here!”

84 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings


Cleo & her brother, Otis, are living on a farm with their sharecropper grandparents, and Hattie, their 12-year-old aunt. Cleo is making funny faces while Grandma Jenny is explaining to Grandpa Lum what happened with their neighbor, Miss Ellie, and her well. Cleo had had a run-in with Miss Ellie a while back & didn't like her.

Grandma Jenny, with her back turned to Cleo, did not see the antics going on.

“Boy, you laughin’ at Miss Ellie’s problem?” Grandma Jenny asked, her eyebrows raised, demanding an answer. She wiped her hands on the apron she wore round her thick waist.

“Uh, n-n-n-no ma’am,” stammered Otis. “I’s just laughin’ at, um, Hattie,” said Otis. He hoped Hattie would go along with him. “Her, ah, hair looks funny, is all.”

Hattie stopped stirring the black-eyed peas and turned around from the stove.

“My WHAT looks funny?” Hattie said, glowering.

Oh no! Cleo didn’t like where this was going.

“Uh, your hair is, uh, a might bit hard, is all.” Otis winked, hoping she’d catch on and bail him out.

She didn’t. “Hard? Otis Hughes, are you sayin’ my hair is nappy? I”ll show you nappy!”

“Uh, Hattie, I don’t think Otis—” Cleo started, hoping to resolve the situation, but it was too late. Hattie’d already made up her mind!

Looking around the kitchen, Hattie’s eyes had caught sight of the oak-colored rolling pin she used to roll dough for her sweet biscuits and dumplings.

“Now, now, Hattie,” Grandpa Lum said. “The boy was jes kiddin’ ’round wit you. Your hair’s jes fine, jes.”

Before he could get his last word out, Hattie had picked up the rolling pin and clunked Otis over the head with it. Cleo couldn’t believe her eyes!

Otis stood up, opened his mouth, then closed his eyes and fell flat on his back.

83 Drop the Needle: Chapter Ending

TITLE: New Dawn
GENRE: Thriller

Brad Randall is approached by a stranger who calls him by name and tells him details of his past and his future. At first, he thinks it is a prank from his friends.

"Jack! You can come out now! The joke is over!"

Brad waited for Jack to appear with Rachel on his arm, both having a good laugh at his expense. Then Brad walked to the main path and still didn't see them anywhere. Brad caught the attention and weird stares from some of the people around, but no sign of Jack or Rachel.

Brad stuffed his hands deeper in his pockets, put his head down and walked toward the gazebo. He felt the stranger's presence behind him. "Okay, who are you and why are you telling me this?" He turned around.

"And whatever you do," the stranger said, "always remember this:

Tip the stone, find the book.

Inside yourself, you'll have to look.

What was once revered, now is shunned,

You'll discover yourself, and your work has begun.

Only with this help, will you succeed.

There is mystical advice that you must heed."

Brad sat in the gazebo, facing the Roanoke Sound, with his back to the stranger. "What does any of this have to do with me?"

As if Brad hadn't said a word, the stranger continued. "And Brad, you must find the necklace. It will help your journey go easier, for without it, you may have to sacrifice your life."

"What necklace?"

Rachel and Jack walked into the gazebo, taking Brad's attention, as they collapsed of fatigue on the wooden seat. "Who you talking to?" Jack asked between breaths.
Brad pointed to the stranger, but no one was there.

82 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Ghost Machine
GENRE: Supernatural thriller

Linda has recently moved out of the house, leaving her husband, Greg. She now lives with her sister, Denise. Denise has taken Linda to a bar to "cheer her up." Two guys at the bar were trying to pick them up, and as they are about to leave, Linda is contemplating adultery for the first time in her married life.

Maybe Linda wanted someone who would treat her like a princess, at least for one night.

She made up her mind. Why not? What was one little infidelity against Greg’s stacks of lies and broken promises? Who could it hurt?

Tom was watching her expectantly. She was about to open her mouth to say yes when she glanced down at his left hand.

No ring.


“Tom,” she asked, “what are the names of your little girls?”

“Oh. Jeri,” he said, “and, um, Ryan.”

“Really. How old are they?”

“Seven and nine.” He looked away and gulped the rest of his drink.

“I see.” Jeri Ryan, Seven of Nine. He was a Voyager fan, all right. Her intuition and sensibility had kicked in just in time. What was she thinking? “No, I think I’ll be fine,” she said, casually ignoring the hurt expression on his face. “Thanks anyway. Come on Denise.”

Denise sighed as Linda pulled her to her feet. “Text me,” she told Anthony.
“Sure will,” he said with a salute. “Great meeting you.”

Linda pulled Denise out of the bar, waving goodbye to Dave on the way.

“What?” Denise demanded once they were on the sidewalk. “What is your problem?”

“Those guys were trying to pick us up.”

“So?” Denise cupped her hand around her lighter and lit a cigarette. “What’s the big deal?” She made a disgusted look and threw it on the ground.

“I’m married. I’m not cheating on Greg. Especially with an a****** like that.”

81 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Angel Undercover
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Paige and her sister, Savannah, are talking about kyters as they walk to a surprise Savannah has for Paige (she's going to show her magic).

“Ears,” I repeated, “So they echolocate like bats, then.”

Savannah slung her arm around my neck and pulled me into a loose headlock. “Yes, wise-knob, but I’ll tell you something you don’t know. I suspect that kyters can have entire conversations in a pitch above our hearing, which means they could talk in our presence, without us ever knowing.”

“Seriously?” I asked her, shoving her arm off my neck. “Awesome!”

Savannah looked at me scathingly. “No, not awesome. They could be plotting against you in your very presence. Can you imagine what an army of kyters could do with that ability? They could swarm an entire city, like Crossroads, and coordinate the whole time. No one would ever know until it’s too late.”

I sighed. We were back to the old problem again. To dissuade her, I smirked sideways at my sister and tugged her ear. “Hey! Yours are getting a little pointy there, Sabba. Maybe you’re turning into a kyter, what with all the time you spend in the dark.”

Savanna batted my hand away and pretended to scowl. “They are not!”

“Look in a pond sometime then, if you don’t believe me,” I said. “What is it you were going to show me, Sabba? We’ve been walking for awhile.”

My distraction worked. Savannah’s face lost its seriousness and she grinned at me like we were still both kids. “Just up ahead here . . .”

80 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings


Dallas , 1923. During a controversial mayor’s election, Doc Laval, the new medical examiner, discovers facts behind the brutal murder of a black prostitute. Evidence found on the body implicates one of the three candidates, and all three sides separately marshal forces to stop Doc from exposing the truth and altering the balance of political power in Texas.

“I hate politicians,” Doc Laval said.

“Get used to it,” said Bogush. “You’re the new medical examiner-- made friends handling the flu epidemic. The mayor noticed you managing those body wagons.”

Doc said, “There weren’t enough dead politicians in them.”

Alice Brown, Doc’s assistant, had left with the police van carrying the murdered woman. Doc and Deputy DA Bogush headed back in Bogush’s new Packard. Crossing Dallas ’ Trinity Bridge , they spotted a glow breaking through the fog: lighted windows blazing a giant white cross on the Magnolia Building . Tomorrow, one hundred thousand Klansmen would march down Commerce and Main, led by Grand Dragon Hiram Evans, and the Texas governor.

Looking at the light, Doc said, “Damn it, I barely got a new microscope. I hired Alice just two months ago.”

Slumping in his seat, Doc realized his biggest case since the epidemic would shackle him –what he found out bringing hell from someone. It wasn’t his problem a Jewish candidate for mayor’s business card was found on the woman. Not his fault another candidate was Klan backed, or that the third candidate already ran Dallas finances.

Bogush turned on Elm toward the morgue. Ken Kercheville hunched against the building and noted it. Ken, the Klan rat from Greenville , fingered his knife and gulped down a shot of laudanum. Tomorrow was his big day. Last month a judge changed his middle name—“Knight “for “Leroy”. Tomorrow, for the march, Ken’s initials would be KKK.

79 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings


Emma is 13 years old and was asleep in her bed when her cat's hissing woke her up. After hearing some strange, muffled sounds coming from her parents' bedroom, she goes to investigate.

Emma walked into the room, unaware that she was holding her breath, and found one black arrow pierced through the bed. Delicate, down feathers from the mattress had escaped from the arrow's wound and littered the top of the sheet. Suddenly she was very cold, her heart thundering so much that she was afraid it was going to break through her chest. The large window in her parents' room was wide open, and the night breeze snuck in and played with the feathers. Emma stared at the ominous arrow and instinctively took a step back. Her foot felt like it was full of lead as she willed her eyes to adjust to the dark. She wanted to shout for her dad, but there was something terribly wrong with her voice. Emma turned sharply when something big and white flashed by the house, and a single, perfect, white feather floated into the bedroom through the open window. Nearby, she could hear the sound of beating wings mingled with the yelps of her dogs. Before she could find the source to the sound, a gigantic, gloved hand wrapped tight around her face. The putrid smell of the cloth hidden in the palm of the hand caused her to struggle, and she kicked the air a couple of times before her limbs felt too heavy to lift. Before her eyes closed, she saw again, through the slits between the gloved hand, the flash of white outside the window, and then, there was nothing, but black.

78 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Heart is Lonely Still
GENRE: Women’s Lit

Scene: Kate looks back on her life, which is revealed in later chapters…

The shrill whistle of the faded sea foam green tea kettle from the stove jarred Kate from her thoughts. The kettle boiled over with vigor as Kate raced toward the stove to remove it from the burning red heat of the element. She poured the steaming water into a teacup with one teabag. It was this that brought her thoughts to Jude. Young, wild-haired, carefree, intellectual, hippie, gypsy… Jude. She laughed to herself, “he was quite the ladies man.”

Kate realized that both Henry and Jude were the type of men who could never really love one woman, so why is it that it was so easy for her to love them and not John? Her love for John resembled that of a close friend. It lacked…passion.

Bare white bottom, wavy blonde locks rustling in the wind, standing on a rock beside a pool of water, ready to jump in, beating his chest, yelling out his love for life and poetry, at one with nature, Jude. “He saved me from myself once,” Kate thought. A frown spread over her face as she sipped her tea. “How did my life turn out this way?” she mumbled, “my life, my love, my soul; lost to me forever.”

77 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Crown in Shadow
GENRE: Fantasy

With alcohol and the drug, bliss, for encouragement Kat has gone to an illicit part of town where she is befriended by a pair of heathens. She and her new friends are now being trailed, either by Church soldiers or by the City Watch. And yes, Kat has fallen and cannot get up.

Pound. Slap. Boots neared.

Damn. Silently, with a subtle flicker of mud-darkened hand Kat waved her new friends off. Maddy's warm hand found hers and squeezed, urging. It was late for running, of course. Too late for her bliss and brandied self certainly, but she feared, too late for Maddy and Luke as well.

Luke knew it. Finger to lips, demanding silence, he hauled her up and dropped her in a darkened doorway, space for one.

Boots on ice, curses and ragged laughter, all too close.

Soundless in the sleeting dark, Maddy and Luke crossed the street, sliding into a crumbling archway. It wasn't escape but a hiding place only, and too precarious a one at that. Even if the patrol had caught no movement or sound, a chance glance into the archway in passing could reveal shadows where there should be none, heathens in hiding.

That, Kat could not allow. She owed a debt.

Chin up, she clomped out, her loud boot claps and drunken stumbling, not, unfortunately, entirely theatrics. The patrol broke course, abandoning the far side of the street and the possibility of prey to close in on a certain and far more entertaining quarry.

Back, she veered, toward the streetlamps and away from Maddy and Luke, drawing the chortling patrol with her. When she fell it was unplanned, and rather than embarrassing herself further by trying to rise again, she sat, icy rain doing nothing to wash the muck from her person, and waited as the swishing long-coats surrounded.

76 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Star Wishes
GENRE: Middle Grade Light Fantasy

Holly has found a golden box and been granted three wishes. She has used her first wish to find Brian, the town doctor's nine-year-old son. Her wish has been granted, and she has been shown where Brian is. She has walked through the blizzard to Murphy's Hollow and found him in a cave, at the bottom of a hole, with his boot stuck between two rocks. She has climbed down into the hole to try to free him. The water in the hole is rising rapidly...

"Wow!" She shivered as she reached him. "It really is cold. But we'll have you out of here in no time. Now, which one of your feet is stuck?"

"This one," Brian answered, indicating his right leg.

"Let's see if we can get it loose," Holly said. "I'm going to lift your leg, and I want you to try to lift it at the same time. Okay?"

Brian nodded, and his chin splashed in the water as he did. It was rising more quickly now.

Holly reached below the water and gripped Brian's leg. "Okay, pull," she said.

Even after several seconds of straining, nothing happened.

"This isn't working," Holly said. "I'm going to have to go down there and see if I can feel what's holding your foot."

The water had risen to Brian's lower lip when Holly took a deep breath and disappeared below the surface. It was too dark to see, so she had to feel her way along Brian's leg and downward toward his ankle. Before her hand reached his boot she felt the hard surface of the rock. She grabbed the edge of it and pulled. Nothing moved. Taking another grip, she pulled even harder. Again, the rock failed to yield to her efforts and remained stubbornly in place. She needed air.

When she surfaced, Brian's eyes were wide. The water level was just below his nose. Time was running out. She knew this would be her last chance — and Brian's.

75 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Haunted
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Harley Crown can see spirits. Her ability, and often life threatening job has bestowed her with amazing powers to help her fight to ward off evil ghosts and help the confused ones to move on. On top of her extra curricular activites, there is a war brewing in her tiny town in the outskirts of London. It's vampires and demons against an organisation created to kill them, except the organisation have found a means to rid the world of those blood thirsty creatures for good. Harley is swept into the war, helping her friend, who is the general's daughter, whilst embarking in her first ever romance. Except he happens to be a vampire, and she's been enlisted (with the use of her ability) to kill him.

The chapter the following extract is from is when Harley is contronted with a vampire. He came to town to thwart the organisation, and has his eyes set on Harley as the weak link.

I knew I had one last burst of energy inside me. I lifted one limp hand to summon up the most powerful lightning ball I had ever tried to summon. And then I slammed it into his head.

We were both blasted back from the impact. I hit the wall behind me, and Jesse flew back into one of the trees surrounding us, which unfortunately meant he wasn’t far enough, nor was he unconscious. In fact, he seemed to be...high?

I clutched my bleeding neck, glaring at him, daring him to move. I knew I was fresh out of energy to even spark a flicker of lightning, but he didn’t know that.

“Stay away from me,” I warned him, trying to ignore the fact that everything in my vision was swirling.

“ are you?” he whispered, shaking his head a few times. He lifted his hands and a few crackles of lightning ran down his arms before disappearing. “Serious head rush. But I have never felt so...powerful.” And as if to demonstrate it, he reached up and slammed his hand through the trunk of the tree he was leaning against.

I flinched as the noise vibrated around us. “I...I’m a girl.”
“You’re amazing,” he whispered. He opened his mouth to say something else, but I never heard. My head slumped, my eyes closed, and everything turned to black around me.

74 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: McKenna Cruz, Teenage Psychic Detective
GENRE: Young Adult Mystery

McKenna Cruz is a high school freshman and psychic who can’t get a good night’s sleep. Ghosts visit her dreams, and during the day, when her classrooms are quiet, she either falls asleep or yells at apparitions to get lost. Because of her disruptive behavior McKenna has once again been sent to see Mr. Amato, the freshman class principal. In this scene, while she waits outside his office, McKenna tells his secretary she has a sinus infection and asks for a piece of candy to help stay awake.

The principal’s secretary snaps her fingers. “Pop quiz. If I’m not the school nurse and I’m not your mother, do you really think I give a crap about your sinus infection?”

“No, Ma’am.”

“Ding, ding, ding.” Mrs. K lowers her voice like a game show announcer on meth. “You get the grand prize. And I bet that’s all you get right today.”

Old—and mean—now there’s an ugly combination; kind of like high-water jeans and last year’s Keds.

Mrs. K’s chair squeaks when she stands. Her face is inches from mine. Spit flies from her mouth. Some of it lands on my hoodie, but most of it mingles with her chin hairs.

“And don’t get up again until Mr. Amato calls your name or I’ll write your skinny ass up for being insolent.”

By the time I sit down, the ‘world’s greatest secretary’ is back to filing. Her office gets quiet. My eyelids feel heavy and I drift. I see an image of her at a table with a bunch of women wearing red hats and purple scarves. They click wine glasses and cheer when Mrs. K says, “The doctor says I’m cancer free.”

I feel something nudge my shoe and blink awake. Principal Amato stands in front of me with a thick manila folder tucked under an arm.

He shakes his head. “Taking another nap, Miss Cruz?”

73 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Netherpoint
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Kate and her two friends, having sneaked away unnoticed from the formidable house matron, Mrs. Dodger, have broken into the headmistress’s office to look for an unusual book that they believe might offer some clues to a mystery. Kate is uncomfortable and doesn’t want to touch anything, so the boys are searching. Rufus has just found a wooden box with Kate’s name written on the top.

She shook the box gently; something shifted inside, but it was impossible to tell what it might be. As she had guessed, the box was locked. Kate placed the box back in the drawer.

“Aren’t you going to take it?” Devin said. “I mean, we have a couple of days before Miss Heathering gets back, and I could probably pick that lock for you.”

“No,” Kate said. “If Miss Heathering wanted to give me the box, she would have done so. Whatever’s in there isn’t meant for me to see.” She closed the trapdoor and looked up at Rufus. “You’d better put that stuff back in the drawer.”

“You wouldn’t make a very good pirate, Kate.” Rufus began to replace the books and papers that he had piled onto the floor.

“You’re the only person I know who actually wants to be one,” Kate replied.

The remainder of the boys’ search proved fruitless. For as disappointed as Kate may have felt about not having access to a book that might shed some light on the mystery in the lagoon, she was equally relieved that they were going to leave Miss Heathering’s office without having taken anything. She stood with her hand on the doorknob, waiting while Rufus fixed the curtains and Devin tidied up one final shelf. Then, she turned the knob and opened the door. The lamplight bled into the hallway and illuminated a tall, angular figure that stood just beyond the doorway.

Kate let out a strangled gasp. “Mrs. Dodger!”

72 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Madman's Mansion & the Lost Tunnel
GENRE: Middle Grade

Sam and Alice traveled through a mountain tunnel and found themselves in
another world. They're hiding under blankets in Burl's horse cart because
they don't have proper IDs to pass through the checkpoint to enter the
town of Umbra.

“I’ve got potatoes to sell at the market,” Burl answered.
“Another lazy potato grubber,” someone sneered. This voice was
completely different. It sounded like someone with gorillas in their
family tree. “Well, don’t just sit there, Spudboy,” it barked. “Get
down and open the back gate. We haven’t got all day.”
A moment later the gate swung down and heavy feet climbed up. The twins
heard the canvas tarp being pulled aside. Sam felt a knot growing in his
“It’s potatoes, all right,” the nasty voice called out. The sound of
rustling grew nearer. Apparently, this guard wasn’t as lazy as the
others. “More crates of wormy potatoes. What’s in the back there?” he
“Some old blankets,” Burl answered. “Do you want me to pull them out?
They’re a bit smelly. Ran into some horse muck a ways back and had to
wipe off my boots.”
“Keep your grimy blankets,” the voice snarled. “You potato grubbers
always smell like you’ve stepped in something foul.”
They heard rustling papers and the sound of a stamp. “Proceed,” said the
prim voice.
They were through. The whip cracked and Jeb and Jess bolted forward.
“We made it,” Alice whispered.
Sam breathed a sigh of relief until a sudden thought occurred to
him. He felt a cold jolt in the pit of his stomach. He and Alice
didn’t have papers or, apparently, the right clothing. If it were
this hard to get into Umbra, how would they ever manage to leave?

71 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Breakers
GENRE: Science Fiction

The hero has just stopped a robbery-in-progress by knocking everyone out with his superpowers. An off-duty police officer has seen him enter the building.

Three down. Good. With any luck they’d stay unconscious until help arrived. Speaking of… I needed to get out of there before someone showed. Someone would’ve noticed the lights and the bangs, and called the cops.

There was a knock on the door, and then a male voice, stern, official, right outside the front door. “This is the police. Stop what you’re doing, put down anything you’re holding, and come out with your hands up.”

Shit. Shitshitshit. My expletive vocab didn’t do this situation justice. I needed to get out of there now and the window I’d come in by was in view of the door. There had to be a back way.

I found it in the kitchen at the same time as the cops came in the front. There was a sliding door opening out onto a small, toy-covered yard. Perfect. I reached for the handle, then jerked back. I’d leave fingerprints and the cops would look for them.

There was a greasy dishcloth on the edge of the counter. I grabbed it, opened the door, and ran out into the next yard, dropping the rag as I went. When I reached the sidewalk, I turned left, away from 41st, and slowed to what I hoped was a nonchalant walk.

At the next corner, I pulled off the balaclava and went right. I walked for a couple more blocks, catching my breath, and then headed back to the thoroughfare. There wasn’t a single cop car to be seen.

70 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Prophecy Murals
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

Nick and Ally and their two friends are lost (in another world) and are trying to find their way home. In this scene they are (were) enjoying a giant flower garden.

The air began to vibrate with a low dull hum. “See, what did I tell you?” said Ally sharply. She scoured the sky, trying to figure out where it was coming from but the flowers blocked her view.

The sound droned on, increasing in intensity. They took cover, waiting for it to go away, but instead it got closer.

“Oh my god, do you think it’s a swarm of bees?” shrieked Megan. “Because I’m allergic to bee stings!”

“Well, it’s a freaking huge swarm if it is,” said Nick.

A shadow flickered by, and then another until they were drowned in the shadow of the swarm. Nick looked up to see a flock of unusual birds flying overhead, their bodies striped with an assortment of alternating colors.

When they passed, Jake and Nick clasped their hands together and hefted Ally above the flowers.

“Tell us what you see,” said Nick.

“Ooh, they look cool!” said Ally. “Sort of like huge colorful dragonflies but with gigantic stingers.”

Jake scowled. “You always think every dang thing looks cool Ally!”

“Never mind what they look like,” said Nick, adjusting his hands under Ally’s weight. “Tell us what they’re doing!”

“Well…they’re flying. There’s probably twenty or so. Oh…they’re turning. Ooh, they have big eyes just like the white monster.”

Nick elbowed Ally’ leg. “Stay focused!”

“Oh, um…they’re going off to the left.” Ally shifted slightly, raising her hand to shield her eyes from the sun. “OH, CRUD!”

“WHAT?” screeched Nick and Jake at the same time.

“They’re coming back…HIDE!”

69 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

GENRE: Young Adult/Crossover

While on a two week cruise, eighteen year old Christina has just met the handsome, well-built Aaron. Inexperienced with men, she’s trying hard to get his attention; while grappling with how far she wants to take things.

“What are you going to do today?” he asked, arm casually draped over my shoulder. His hands hovered inches from my breast, causing the pins and needles sensation to run throughout my core. That instant, I knew I wasn’t playing to catch and release.

I grabbed hold of his dangling hand and intertwined my fingers with his. “I’m going to go swimming,” I replied, thinking about wearing my tiniest bikini – the one I’d never been brave enough to wear publicly. “Do you want to go?”

Our faces were only inches apart. I took advantage of the close proximity, examining his lips and boyish dimples. He nodded, eyebrows crunching slightly. “Definitely,” he answered. For a split second, I thought I’d let something leak about the tiny two-piece. His answer was fast and enthusiastic. “When do you want to go?”

Every vital organ racing, I wanted to go immediately, but knew it wouldn’t pay to be overanxious. So, I successfully slowed the runaway freight train. “Like in an hour or so?”

“Yeah, sounds good. I’ve got a few things I need to take care of.” He released my hand, and then hoisted himself from the floor; rock-hard quadriceps tightening as he rose.

“I’ll be back,” he said, playful smile lighting up the dim hallway. Heart pounding, I walked over to shut the door. I’d need at least an hour to debate the bikini issue.

68 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Socialite
GENRE: Mainstream Fiction

Elena Bancroft is Boston's most notorious socialite slash heiress. Mixing cocktails with men has always landed her in trouble and this time is no different. In a black limousine, on a dark and chilly night, she finds herself sitting beside Sebastian Kane. She and Sebastian share the same fate, a commonality which makes them rivals for life. Their fathers run competing ad agencies. Someday, so will they. Across from her, sits a man named Will, who threatens to reveal Elena and Sebastian's secret affair unless she offers herself to him. Elena knows her scandalous past will only confirm the validity of the affair in everyone's mind. To retain her title as legal heiress to Bancroft International, she has to make sure her family remains in the dark.

“But you offered him money, right?” Even though panic surged through her veins, she managed to keep her tone controlled.
Sebastian's gaze remained fixed on Will. “Of course, but he doesn’t want it.”
Elena reached into her clutch. With nimble fingers, she dug for a pen and the checkbook she was only supposed to use in times of emergency. “I have a large trust fund. I’ll give you however much you want, just name the price.”
A menacing chuckle sounded from Will’s lips. “That’s your solution for everything, isn’t it? It must be nice to have that kind of money. Very few mistakes can disappear with a carefully written check quite like yours can. But I’m sorry. No amount you could give me will buy you silence this time. All I want is you.”
His coldness frightened the hell out of her. No way could she agree to his terms.
“Of everything we could give you, why me?”
Will leaned forward and rested both elbows on top of his knees. His lustful gaze disturbed her, his eyes every bit as dark as the hair neatly spiked upon his head.
“You’re Elena Bancroft, that’s why. You’re heiress to one of the most successful privately-owned ad agencies in the entire country. Every man wants to fuck you for that simple reason, besides the fact you’re also gorgeous—even more so in person.” He nodded toward Sebastian. “Your opponent has gotten his chance. Why shouldn’t I get mine?”

67 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

Title: Just Maybe
Genre: YA Fiction

Lisa is sitting in her best friend Sam's brother's truck as he drives her home. She is listening to him talk. Tony is taking Lisa up on her offer to listen if he needed to talk. He talks about his sister for a while and how grateful he is that Lisa's been around. Then he brings up the night a week ago when he and Lisa had kissed. They haven't spoken since then until tonight, but it is something she doesn't really want to talk about because Tony could never really understand. He wouldn't understand the culture she comes from, the expectations her family has or the rules they have in place. He reaches out to touch her face, but she pulls away.

Tony didn't react for a moment, his hand still stretched toward me. I watched his reflection in the window. There was something in his eyes that I didn't know, something that made me feel bad for my words and my actions. But I couldn't change the situation. I wanted to explain to him that it wasn't that I didn't want to spend more time with him, or see him as something more than my best friend's brother, but I couldn't. I didn't know how to explain to him that none of this would be fair to him.

"I'll see you tomorrow, I guess," I said quietly as I climbed out of the truck.

"Yeah, sure," Tony answered, his voice distant now.

I walked quietly into the house, slipping off my shoes beside the front door. It was just after ten, but it felt so much later. We had been sitting in the parking lot talking for only twenty minutes, maybe, but it felt like hours. I was glad it hadn't been, but at the same time, I wished it had.

I wished that was something I could do, that I could let myself do. I wanted to, but I knew what my rules were, the expectations I had to live up to. I had lived all my life knowing what was expected of me. School first. Family second. That was all that was allowed in my life. So where was I suppose to fit Tony in?

66 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: God of War
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Kate Hayden has waking nightmares. Her mentor in the Institute for Paranormal Investigation calls them visions and says she's blessed, but it doesn't feel that way to Kate.

She meets former seminarian Michael O'Neil while consulting on a serial case. Earlier in the week, she and her contact in the police department informed Michael that they suspect his identical twin brother, Thomas, was a victim. The lone witness, an old street vagrant, claims Thomas was killed by a demon with huge black wings. As a result, everyone discounts him as a witness – everyone except Kate.

Kate returns to visit the crime scene and finds Michael standing in the rain. The old vagrant joins them and shows Michael where the murder occurred.

Strands of yellow police tape flapped in the wind, the sound of the rain crisp on the plastic marking off the crime scene. I examined the spot where Thomas died. In the darkness, it was impossible to see anything but wet grass glistening in the faint light from the streetlamp.

“This is crazy.” Michael pushed past the old man and left the garden. I followed him to the park's exit where he waited for me.

"Are you going to accept?"

"I don't know," he said. "I feel as if I need something powerful, to keep me . . . ." He hesitated and rubbed his temple.

"To keep you what?"

He turned his face away. "To keep me alive."

He ran down the street without looking back. At the corner, he hesitated and turned back before crossing. I would have run to him but something stopped me – a sense that I had no right to be involved in his life and that this was a private decision only he could make. Despite my attraction to him, he was a stranger, and I couldn't think I had any claim to him.

Sadness filled me and for the first time, I realized how incredibly lonely I really was. In some foolish way, I’d hoped that he’d be more to me than just a name in a murder investigation.

When I glanced back, the old man stood in the center of the park, still unprotected from the rain that now fell in torrents.

65 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Enter Like a Needle
GENRE: Suspenseful Women's Fiction

After learning the identity of a woman at the funeral for Mara's two children, Mara chases after the woman's car to confront her.

The rooftop level was deserted. Unless the doctor had parked on the way back down, she hadn't come into the garage after all. Mara sped up as she rounded the curve and then rolled down the concrete slope into the coolness of the covered floors. The pulse of parked cars whisking by quickened as she descended the more crowded levels closer to the street.

Mara hit the brakes. Inertia drove her forward in the seat. Pain flared in her bottom, but she paid it no mind. There it was: the red Lexus. Her eyes leaped to the green sticker on the rear window. She crawled the car closer and squinted. "GMH… Goodsen Memorial Hospital," she read. "Gotcha."

The Lexus sat empty. The doctor was nowhere in sight.

Glancing over her shoulder, Mara backed the car up the ramp. She edged into an empty spot across the aisle and cut off the engine. So what if Dr. Bitch got away? She'd be back eventually.

Mara tilted the rear view mirror and caught a glimpse of the bruises across her face. That was Dr. Bitch's fault too, really. If Jonah hadn't been killed, Mara wouldn't have crashed the car in the first place. And the baby wouldn't have died.

A hot tear slid down her cheek, and she dabbed it away. She centered the mirror on the Lexus and then laid her head back against the seat. Dr. Bitch could take all the time she wanted. Mara could wait.

64 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Michaela’s Gift
GENRE: MG Light Fantasy

12-year-old Michaela and family are visiting the grandparents. She and Aunt Sharon are upstairs having some girl talk. Aunt Sharon is an artist, and Michaela aspires to follow in her footsteps.

“What I’m trying to tell you, Michaela, is that I painted Blackie.”

Michaela rolled her eyes at the ceiling. “Yeah, I know. We already went there.”

Aunt Sharon rolled over and wadded her pillow up under her. “I know you don’t understand. There’s no way you could yet. But what I’m saying is this: I’d never seen Blackie before I painted that picture of her. I just decided in my head what would be the perfect dog. I knew what she would look like, and I knew her personality. And that’s what I painted. Then I went outside and waited for her. I sat on the porch step less than a minute before Blackie showed up. She took one look at me, and then she jumped over the gate and ran into my arms. We’ve been best friends ever since.”

Michaela lay still as a stone, letting her aunt’s words seep into her brain. Aunt Sharon was telling her that she had painted a dog into life. Yesterday Michaela would have never believed anything so shocking. But yesterday she hadn’t ever seen a ghost, or eaten peaches and bananas that grew from the same tree. And yesterday she hadn’t heard a canary have an intelligent conversation with a four year old. And anyone who knew Chloe knew that a talking canary wasn’t the weird part of that idea. She looked at Aunt Sharon, who was studying her closely. “How is that possible?”

Aunt Sharon’s smile was secretive. “It’s the gift.”

63 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Time Is Hell
GENRE: urban fantasy

Heckler thinks he has a moment to relax after a highly stressful day (mobbed by faeries, nearly killed by giant clock monsters, and getting morally conflicting choices thrust on him). By now, Heckler is exhausted, beaten, sleep and nicotine deprived, and has been pushed past his limits physically and mentally. He's in his basement, hoping for a rest bit as the end of the world approaches.

It came down to whether or not he'd do what Baal wanted. Why did the damn circumstances have to keep shifting and throwing him for a loop? Moral acrobatics weren't his forte, given he had so few to begin with. Just when he thought for sure he could deal with killing Widower, the man saved his life. Again.

He hated debts.

Something thumped against the window. Heckler jerked and stood. His legs wobbled and his back muscles protested. Any minute now and his whole body would go on strike. Bracing himself on the folding chair, he gripped the saber hilt and waited.

Another thump from the other side of the basement rattled the glass. Green light glowed outside.


Wouldn't the fey ever give it up?

Glass shattered and a dozen faeries burst in. Heckler threw his arm up on reflex, shielding his face.

Oberon was subtler. He created a portal in the center of the room. Wild thorns and negative energy crackled and spiked the air with burnt ozone. The faerie king stepped through with a lance and whip, his neon green hair flaring around him in a mane of static electricity, and lime-green sparks of rage dancing in his eyes. Way too melodramatic. "You are pissing me off, mortal."

Heckler widened his stance and glared back. "Ditto, glitter."

"You are by rights mine." Oberon leveled his lance at Heckler's chest. "And you are not escaping me again."

"Wanna bet?"

Oberon charged him.

62 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Varuna Kannon and the Caluminar's Cave
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Departure Night....Una's departing for her training and has just witnessed hard proof that the Guardianship is real.

It was totally different to see something she read about appear in real life.

"As you children see-" the sound of Elder Era's voice brought Una's attention back to the rain drenched moment "-your locker-boxes will be brought to the boarding area. Now, if you and your families would please follow me." She turned on her heel and strode down the walkway, closing the gap between herself and the end of the locker-box procession.

Una held tight to her mother's hand. Her father came and took her free hand. The walk felt endless as they inched forward with the crowd.

Looking around, all Una could see were rain soaked bodies, ahead of which bobbed the locker-boxes. There was still no sign of the ship.

As the group neared the end of the terminal's walkway, Una let go her parents' hands and pushed her cuff back to look at the time. It was nearly midnight. Where was the ship?

When she looked up she saw Elder Era standing atop one of the locker-boxes. No, wait, Una looked more closely, she's standing on a cloud.

The cloud bobbed gently under the Elder's black boots.

Elder Era turned to face the waters of the Sound and raised a pale hand in one quick motion. The air in front of her wavered in the light, like a finger touching the surface of a pond.

Una's eyes widened, her mouth fell open. "No way," she muttered.

61 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Fallen
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Daniel invited Janie away to his cabin. She thought it was for a romantic weekend. It was, but his idea of romance is to turn her into a vampire. Prior to this, she accused him of putting her under thrall to make her love him. He is rather upset by this accusation.

The smile vanished from Daniel’s face. Janie realized it was not a good idea to upset a vampire. He could easily rip her apart, tear her arms off, punch a hole in her chest and pop her head off like a dandelion. It would be an excruciating way to die, but the agony couldn’t last forever.

That’s the way out. If she got him angry enough, he would just kill her. Those were her choices, death or the unspeakable.

“Even I’m not the powerful,” Daniel said.

“How powerful are you? What have you done to me?”

The words dripped like acid. They burned a hole in the air, in the ground and in Daniel. They ate away what remaining composure he had. His hands came up of their own accord, not balled into fists, but open and curved, aimed at Janie’s throat. He wasn’t going to drain the life out of her. He was going to squeeze it out.

Right before he made contact, he stopped, froze for a moment, then returned to the path. He looked at Janie one more time before he turned around and kept walking.

Janie was free. Things couldn’t be that easy. He had spent all that time on her. He couldn’t just let her walk away.

A dozen questions crowded her mind, each demanding she answer them first.

If Janie left, would he come after her?

In what had become a horror filled night, her eyes still went wide with even greater horrors.

Would he come after her students?

Would he punish her?

Would he punish her by hurting them?

There were more that two options. Being turned was only unspeakable.

60 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Camp Wylde
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Drew (MC) is a camp counselor, who took one of her campers (Sarah Jane) to the bathroom in the night. But while Sarah's in one of the stalls, a goblin comes in and Drew can't breathe. Just before he starts to attack her, Drew sees a glowing, spinning, blue bauble in his hand. Drew knows that goblins usually come after children. So at this point in the scene, she's sitting in front of the stall door, blocking Sarah from getting out and the goblin from getting in, all while unable to breathe at all.

And in that moment I knew one thing for sure: he wasn’t getting Sarah Jane.

I narrowed my eyes at the goblin; he kicked a foot up onto the tiled wall behind him, bowing his body to aim the top of his head right at me. He was already starting to glow with blue fire, the flames engulfing him slowly from his head to his feet, growing brighter and brighter until they were all I could see. I leaned back, bringing my feet out in front of me. There was only one thing I could do. And I’d only get one shot.

Right as the goblin pushed off from the wall, I spun sideways and propped up my feet. I kicked out with everything I had, connecting at the last possible second. As some kind of miracle, the very edge of my left foot collided with his knees, so that his momentum sent him spinning through the air to thud loudly against the far wall.

His small form slumped to the cement floor, and the cloudy blue marble rolled out of his hand toward the central drain. I had to reach it. I had to break it. I opened my eyes as wide as I could, but everything was dark and out of focus. The marble was holding my breath, and I knew I had to get to it before I blacked out. Summoning the last of my strength, I crawled across the floor, dragging on my stomach when I could no longer hold myself up. And just as I reached the marble, just as my fingers closed around it, everything went black.

The last thing I remembered was hearing Sarah Jane scream.

59 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Paladin's Pride
GENRE: Epic Fantasy

Gentyl is desperate to learn to fight and maintain her position in the military unit. A pirate has agreed to give her some sword fighting lessons in exchange for a kiss if she loses. He baited her into the trap with the first match.

“Are you certain? You don’t want to take some time and think about it. Perhaps think about the moment of repayment? Savor it?” He smirked again, making her madder.

“I think not,” she snapped. “I won’t be in debt to you and I certainly don’t want to think about you or your prize.”

“Very well.” He leaned closer and whispered in her ear. “Paladin’s pride. It will be your undoing.”

Just as the first battle was mere bait for the full trap, so was the kiss. When he finally released her, she could only say one thing. “What…”

“It’s called desire, Little One. And now I must be gone. They’re always punctual, always on time.” He looked over her shoulder and pulled his hat low. She saw him dart to the side of the inn and pick up the last tankard of ale before he disappeared around the corner. His men had slipped away silently as ghosts and were nowhere to be seen.

She wondered what he had been speaking of before turning to leave, then took one step. Her heart stopped for a long moment when she recognized the patrol standing before her. Captain Longbough’s face was the color of beets. The troops behind him stood erect, like statues. No movement. No sound. Barely a breath.

“Fall in, soldier.”

She snapped to attention and saluted. “Yes, sir,” she said, trying to imagine what she would look like with a shaved head as she was drummed out of the company.

58 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Preliator
GENRE: Young Adult Urban Fantasy

The ending of chapter two is pretty self-explanatory: a teenage girl and her ally fight an unidentified monster.

The monster suddenly stood over me, moving so fast I never saw it coming. Just as I picked up my sword, Will’s fist collided with the side of its face and its body smashed into the pavement, shattering the asphalt. I jumped to my feet and Will stepped back to me.

“You good?” he asked, his gaze locked on the creature’s black, glossy eyes.

“Never better,” I said. “Thanks for covering me.”

He nodded once.

The beast climbed to its feet and let loose a low, rolling earthquake of a growl that I felt to the bone. It sprang and charged at me, jaws gaping. I tried to jump out of the way, but its mouth clamped around my arm and shook me violently. The teeth bit into me and rattled my body midair, blinding me with pain. It let go and I fell to the ground and looked up. Will had it by the throat, his arm buried elbow-deep in thick fur, miraculously forcing the beast back.

“Now!” he shouted.

It thrashed like a giant pitbull and broke free.

I shoved my sword into its soft under-chin and straight through the top of its skull. The creature’s legs buckled as its fur shimmered oddly in the streetlight. The tail crumbled and vanished. The rest of the body disintegrated in front of me, bursting into a cloud of charcoal ash, until finally the head and muzzle disappeared, leaving nothing but empty space where a monster had just been.

57 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Power of Five
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Kristen Barfield has just seen on the news that her rapist, Jamie McAdams, has been shot to death in his home following a confrontation earlier in the day between Kristen, him, and Kristen's four best friends. Struggling with her feelings following the death of a man she so despised, she goes to a local church to reflect on the day. There, she runs into one of her friends, Bree, who was present for the earlier confrontation.

Bree had turned and was now facing forward in the pew again, a silence having settled over us as we watched the candles in front of us flickering on the altar. I imagined the people who’d lit each of those candles, a small prayer for someone hurt, sick, or suffering. I wondered if God could see those lights from heaven, distress calls flaring from out at sea.
&n bsp; I thought about Jamie McAdams, wondering if someone somewhere would light a candle for him. I knew I’d never be able to bring myself to do it.
The thought not just my own, Bree finally spoke after a long few minutes of nothing but the soft licks of the candles' flames. “So,” she said plainly with no hesitation, “did you shoot him?”
I thought for a moment, wondering how to answer such a heavy question loaded with so many complexities. “Nope,” I said, my heart crammed painfully with emotion. “But if someone else didn’t, I might have.”
Bree nodded slowly, then she stood up and walked toward the altar to the hundreds of little candles burning there. She picked up the small lighter sitting on a table and clicked it on, staring at its flame for a moment before lowering it to the wick of an unlit candle. She held it there until the wick caught fire, bringing the lighter up slowly before flicking it off.
She turned her back to the candles and said to me, “For whoever did.”

56 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Zero Matter

Adam has just finished a thirty-six hour shift absorbing and shedding a body of regular matter under the watch of Dr. Marcus. After the practice session, they go together to his eighteenth birthday party which is interrupted by General Brayton.

“Really, you don’t know? Can’t guess? I thought you were supposed to be a genius,” General Brayton sneered.

Dr. Marcus’ face turned ash gray.


“About twenty minutes ago. Completely destroyed the creation lab. They knew right where it was. We figure this place is next on their list.”

General Brayton stepped back, pushing the door open with his shoulder and waved a hand. More soldiers entered the room with a coffin shaped box.

“Why are you doing this?! Dr. Marcus?! What’s happening?! Where are they taking me?!”

“Tanner, shut him up,” General Brayton ordered and his lackey moved to push another command on my chest.

“No,” Dr. Marcus objected firmly and then addressed me. “Adam, I need you to calm down and…”

“Not gonna happen until someone tells me what the hell is going on!!” I shouted.

General Brayton nodded to Tanner who waved over the soldiers with the gun metal gray body box. I screamed at them every profanity I knew in as many grotesque combinations I could think of. They picked me up, dropped me into the box like a sack of dirt and closed the lid.

After I stopped screaming, I endured every bump and jolt of the move in complete silence and darkness. It felt like they were wheeling me on a dolly through the halls of the lab. They stopped and started again regularly several times, obviously going through the secured doors to get out of the station. I counted the stops and at number twenty-three, whispered to myself.

“Happy birthday. You’re out of the lab.”

55 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

GENRE: Dark Urban Fantasy (Or literary w/magical realism, depending on
who you talk to.)

The narrator, Axyl, has been on a revenge killing spree with
Shona, his unwilling sidekick. In the scene before this chapter ending,
Shona has talked him out of killing the last person on his list--a
former friend of his. Axyl has given her a pretty bad beating in the
course of this "conversion"to mercy. They've stopped for gas and Axyl is
returning from getting a cup of ice from the gas station.

Shona sat on the hood of the car with her face in her hands. I pulled on
the back of her shirt to make her sit up, but she didn't look at me.
Even when I pushed her hair back to take a look at her face, she kept
her eyes down. I'd messed her up pretty bad. Her left eye was swole shut
and her cheek was bruised. I didn't have nothing else for it, so I
pulled off my t-shirt and emptied the ice into it.


"Thank you," she said, but she didn't take the ice.

"No problem."

"Thank you for not killing them."

"Put this on your face." I put the ice in her hands and she pressed it
against her cheek.

A minivan pulled up to the pump next to us and some all-American family
got out. Mom, Dad, and two little girls. The kids stared at Shona and me
until Mom herded them toward the store.

You ever see them people, pass them at a gas station on the highway?
Driving an old car covered in road dust. The big, dangerous looking guy
with tattoos and no shirt,and the girl who looks like she needs to leave
him but she can't figure out how. You ever see them and wonder, "Where
they coming from? Where they going?"

Nowhere. Nowhere.

We got back on the highway, even though there was nothing up ahead of us
and nothing behind us, not even revenge.

54 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Mystic Taxi
GENRE: Steampunk Urban Fantasy

This chapter is close to the end of the book. Henry and his friend Levi combine their ability to summon demons and capture all the Snit demons in New York city to store them in a butcher shop freezer where the demons will freeze and become powerless.

It took only minutes to draw them in as a fisherman might haul a net full of fish. Together, they directed their catch toward the open freezer door. Henry opened his eyes to see the swarm of individual blue energies tangled together and vibrating as if agitated. Snits hated the cold, and being forced to enter a frozen environment against their better judgment made them struggle. But they were no match for two Bringers with stronger wills than theirs.

Once the last of the Snits curled its way inside the freezer, Henry broke from Levi and slammed the door shut.

"We did it." Henry shook his fists above his head. "We did it!"

An explosion rocked the shop so hard Henry was knocked completely off his feet, forcing him flat on his back to the tiled floor. Shards of glass rained over him and black smoke billowed from a hole in the wall. The smell of gunpowder permeated the air.

He watched a blue stream of energy shoot out from the gaping hole. The Snits. They were escaping.

"Levi!" Henry coughed as he sat up and waved his hands to clear smoke from the air so he could see. "Levi, we have to call them back. They're getting away! Where are you?"

Eunice struggled to a sitting position beside him and made a choking sound while pointing a shaky finger. "There."

Levi's masked head lay on the floor ten feet away.

53 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Crevan Fox
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Crevan has a huge crush on Elizabeth and a huge rivalry filled with lots of
animosity towards her brother, Nate. Crevan gave Elizabeth a kiss, Nate
wanted to make sure he wouldn't try it again. A fight ensued and the boys
went off the side of the pier, into the ocean. Elizabeth's best friend,
Toby, was there with her when it all happened. It's nighttime, 4th of July,
fireworks are going off...

Elizabeth stood up, ready to jump off the dock, into the ocean where
the two boys had fallen. Toby grabbed her around the waist and held her

"No, Lizzy, don't," he shouted in her ear. "You'll never be able to
help him by jumping in there."

"That's my brother, Toby! What else am I supposed to do?" she
yelled, trying to pry his fingers off her and kicking back at his legs. He
didn't let go.

"What's that? Stop it, Lizzy," he yelled, shaking her hard. "Look!"

Elizabeth looked where he pointed in the sky, toward the

Something floated in the air coming towards them, lit by the
fireworks shooting into the sky. It dropped into the ocean right in front of

"What was that?" Elizabeth asked. She squirmed out of Toby's hold to
get down on her knees and look.

The flying figure emerged out of the water, holding two things at
its sides. Water splashed and dripped as it flew back where it had come
from the top of the lighthouse.

Elizabeth watched in confusion.

"Come on Lizzy," Toby yelled, grabbing her hand to help her stand.
He tugged her toward the beach.

"What about Nate and Crevan?" she asked.

"That was Nate and Crevan. Didn't you see?" Toby pointed at the
sky. "Something just snatched them out of the water and took them up there!"

"But no one knows how to get into the lighthouse," Elizabeth cried.

52 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Green Boy
GENRE: Contemporary/occult

Bliss' and Milo's 13-year-old daughter Linnie is hours late coming home from school. Their missing ranch hand has just found out that Bliss' mother was accused of killing his mother -- and may have met Linnie on her way.

We'd called her several times, and she hadn’t answered. We paced; we looked at each other and then looked away because we couldn’t bear the fear we saw in each other’s eyes. We knew we had to call the sheriff, and we did, and it left us feeling like she was already dead.

What had I been thinking, to bring Jody here in the first place, much less to let him stay once we knew who he was? How had I thought this would end? My small voice suggested that maybe Jody still didn't know, that maybe all this was an innocent mistake. Yeah, right, I heard my inner cynic snarl. Blue Impalas. Shacks in the Tennessee woods. Orphaned baby boys. Aunt and uncle. Diary. Witches. Witches, witches, witches.

There were sketches in her diary, sketches of That Poor Woman, That Husband of Hers, their house, maybe the aunt and uncle too. I knew Mother was a pretty good artist when it came to flowers, but I didn't know if the faces she drew were recognizable. Had Jody ever seen pictures of his parents?

If we'd told him sooner. If we'd found him work somewhere else. If I'd taken him to the sheriff's office in Bisbee to begin with. If Linnie'd spent the night with Maria or Sophie in Benson instead of coming home. If it wasn't storming. If, if, if. Gods, Bliss, I finally told myself. You are a Witch. Stop iffing around and do some magic, woman!

51 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Swan Song
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Lily is a self-loathing immortal trying to work through her issues with the help of her immortal psychologist friend, Victor. She has just finished a nighttime swim in the ocean when she hears two gunshots in the distance. She finds two dead/dying woman on the side of the road and is able to track down and kill the murderer. She has just hit speed-dial after realizing what she has done.

“You need to come to headquarters for a death review following the forensic team’s inquiry.”

Lily had heard of death reviews, but had never attended, especially as the defendant.
“I’ll be on my way as soon as they allow.”

“Good. We’ll be expecting you.” The man immediately hung up the phone.

Lily sat motionless for a moment, her surroundings uncomfortably silent. She turned and saw the lifeless body next to her. His pained eyes were still open, staring upward. Now the consequences came crashing down all around her. Now it mattered. Closing her eyes, she felt sick; whatever humanity there would’ve been left in her had also died this night with the man. Her devolution from human to monster was now complete.

“Damn it, Victor!” Lily began to cry. She didn’t remember the last time she had cried. Victor knew how important it was to her to never kill another human being, no matter how foul. Why didn’t she feel this way before she drained the mortal? She had plotted, planned and attacked to release the rage. Now, she had real blood-lust. Fresh blood was so much better than stored blood.

She exited the vehicle and dropped to the ground. Did Victor know how journaling would unleash her anger? Did he realize how dangerous she was now? After a few minutes, her crying ceased as she dried her eyes. She sat on the gravel, leaning up against the car. Suddenly she remembered the victims off the side of the road. He would have killed again and again. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve. Obirian law allows for killing of murderous mortals…

Lily was unsure of how much time had passed when headlights approached, causing her to squint and shadow her eyes with her hand. Now the explanations would begin.

50 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Across Two Universes
GENRE: Science Fiction

After Paul's mother dies on Earth, his father rushes the family back to the Sagan, the spaceship where they live. Paul's mother was a descendant of Sean Quinn, a legendary 20th century musician.

Dad hurried them until they reached the space elevator shaft. The technician on duty signaled them to get ready; once the door opened, they had only a few seconds to scramble inside before the space elevator resumed its glacial climb. This box had a chemical toilet in one corner and an air recycler mounted on the ceiling. During the twenty-hour trip, there would be little to do but talk.

Cass took a tranquilizer and curled up in a corner, replaying the latest Elvii Twins holo on her handheld until she fell asleep. Once her breathing became even, Paul said, “No one else is here, Dad. Can you tell me what’s really going on?”

Dad sighed. “I just want to make sure your great-uncle doesn’t try to keep you on Earth with him.”

“I told him no.”

“He might not listen now that Mom’s gone.”

“Because of Mom?” Paul remembered the photo Great-Uncle Jack had sent him. “Or Sean?”

Dad’s eyes widened, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to.

Paul glanced at the Elvii Twins holo playing inches from Cass’s face. They were clones of a TwenCen rock star like Sean Quinn. Someone had traveled on the Sagan through the wormhole and into the alternate universe to get the DNA. Mom had made a similar trip; in a flash, everything came together.

Feeling as if he’d forgotten his most important line in the middle of a performance, Paul asked, “Dad, am I ... am I Sean Quinn’s clone?”

49 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Devil's Angel
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Angels are hanging out at a bar called Heaven's Gate.

Claire hadn’t realized how tall he was until he rolled off the stool and stood. Most of the angels she met were etheric beauties. They were the inspiration for such artists as Michelangelo, DaVinci and many other renaissance artists.

This one had a hard quality about him that simply made him mean-looking. He had the same features as most others of his race, but the stubble on his face hid the smooth skin. A scar by his right eye marred the perfection prized by the angelic realm. He didn’t seem to care. Yeah, he dressed all right, in a Ralph Lauren way. He wore a clean, expensive shirt and equally pricey jeans, purposely made to look old. Or perhaps they really were.

He plunged a hand in his jeans pocket, pulling out some cash. The other hand dug through his dark blond hair, which fell just above his shoulders.

“Fuck it.” She heard him mutter, his voice thick with an Aussie accent.

She watched as he swayed, looking around. He turned and headed toward her. He threw down a few twenty-dollar bills.

“That should cover me?”

His expression masked whatever thoughts consumed him at that particular moment. The frown on his face turned into a grimace. But Claire could sense his mind was racing at light speed.

She reached for the money and their fingers touched. For a moment, she thought he made the earth move.

Until she realized it was an explosion that rocked the back of the building.

48 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Carleson Peak
GENRE: Historical romance

Two women in 1802 England. Susan's fortunes have disintegrated; she is now a housekeeper for the Duke of Gohrum. Delia, on the other hand, has just married the Duke. But she's not happy about it.

"Let me make you snug, my dear," Gohrum spread a blanket over her lap and tucked her hands inside a fur muff. "We'll be at Philly's in no time."

This was entirely satisfying. Delia had lost the man she wanted; so be it. She was a duchess, and how could she have thought that an undesirable thing? She was suddenly so pleased with herself, she purred, "I wonder what a bride must do to receive a kiss from her husband?"

Cold gruel. His kiss was soft and grateful, and all the goodwill in her trickled away. Regret clamped down like an iron maiden; when she could breathe again, she could not breathe free. The rest of her life rolled out before her, like a narrow carpet running to an uninteresting vanishing point. She would be ordinary, she would be cruel, she would not respect her husband. Not all the fortune and deference bundled with Gohrum could disguise the utter lack of power in that kiss.

Gohrum wasn't Leopold Singer, and her chest hosted a jagged, ravaged wound where a heart could have been. Leopold could have made her happy; and she had lost him not through any mistake on her part. That whore servant of Gohrum's had somehow bewitched him. Well, the wretch would pay. It was a shame to have to wait until May, but when Delia returned to London after her wedding trip, she would have that slut housekeeper thrown out.

47 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

GENRE: YA-Contemporary Fantasy

Seventeen year old Elliot and 4 year old Oliver are having lunch in the afterlife...

Atop his head was a messy thatch of ebony hair, giving believability to his prickly personality and obvious anger issues. I was just about to ask Mel who the guy with the scowl was, when Oliver leaned over and whispered in my ear.

“That’s Trevor. He’s angry.”

“Yeah, I got that.” I nodded in agreement. “He’s also tall.”

Trevor pushed back his chair and stood up. He had to be over six feet. He had at least a head on me.

“Is he always like this?” I wondered aloud.

“Dunno. He just got here too. Right after you.”

“How do you know who he is then?” I asked, already feeling a wave of dread washing over me.
“He’s gonna be in our Workshop with Mel,” Oliver whispered.

“Have you got any other good news for me little buddy?” I asked.

Oliver’s face lit up. “Yeah, they’re bringing out dessert.”

I looked up. A big plate of warm chocolate chip cookies was sitting on the buffet. In my mind, exchanging a hostile guy with warm gooey cookies, was a good trade. Maybe we could talk Mel into bringing dessert to workshop tomorrow and leaving Trevor at The Haven.

46 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings


This is from the end of chapter one. Elara is escaping a would-be rapist in the woods during a freak lightning storm...

Elara dug in for a last surge of energy, her legs moving faster. She forced her body into full gear, almost home. Unfortunately, with safety in sight, and the tears filling her eyes, she didn't pay attention to the ground before her. Once again, Elara tripped on a slippery, moss-covered rock, but this time nobody was around to catch her fall.

Elara plummeted into a very deep, stone well.

Down, down, down, she fell, jagged rocks ripping at her uniform, ivy slapping at her cheeks like whips. Her lungs filled to scream, but there was no sound. She wondered if she'd ever stop falling, until a cold wetness engulfed her body, pulling her into blackness. The scent of dirt and decayed leaves permeated her nostrils. And then she was floating. A dull light shone from above. The moon? She wanted to reach it, but she couldn't find the strength to move her arms, move anything. Everything hurt.

And so she stayed still, her body throbbing, floating at the bottom of the well, and with no energy to speak of, no fight left in her, she closed her eyes. A dream. Colors undulated in her mind's eye; waves of purple, magenta fluttering like wings, three dimensional, like a vortex. A face. A smile. Her eyelids fluttered. A chill bled into her body and her pain subsided. A single tear rolled down her cheek. She gasped, taking in one last gulp of air.

And then there was nothing.

45 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Seeker of Night
GENRE: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Adrienne's two best friends, one being Gabe's sister, have been kidnapped and taken hostage by an unknown group of baddies, hidden in an underground lair.

"I'm scared, Gabe, what happens if we're too late?" I whispered hoarsely.

"I know, but we still have to try. Think about Laura and Felicity." Looking into his eyes, I saw them shift; he had just partially shifted.

"How did you do that?" I knew that with shifted eyes, he'd have night vision and I wanted it too.

"You just have to concentrate on shifting that one thing. Close your eyes and focus, picture the shift on just your eyes." He instructed.

I took a deep breath and followed his directions; fire burned behind my eyelids but I kept them closed until it stopped. Opening them, I looked at Gabe and saw him perfectly; he nodded and smiled. Then, reaching out he yanked the door of the truck open and grabbed my hand, leading us down into the dark hole.

The staircase had a wall on each side, so we didn't have to worry about falling off or anything getting us from the side. The stairs had a green tint to them from my cat eyes and they appeared to be rocks and stones. We were approaching the bottom, which was about a hundred feet from the top; when the blood curling scream filled our ears.

Gabe grabbed me and pulled faster; in the direction of the scream. Off the last step, we rounded a corner and stopped to listen. Just when the silence was getting to me, something scratched across the floor and then everything went black.

44 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings


16-year-old Sechra is climbing down a rock face in thick mist. She expects that when she reaches the bottom she'll find an opening into one of the other worlds of which she has dreamed.

Voices seemed to come to her in the wind’s moaning: ...Rena’s sharp “What are you thinking?”; Oren’s gentle “Are you all right?”; the solemn voice that spoke just as her dream shattered into the waking world, its words strange to her, its vibration felt throughout her body. Down, always down……

No more trees now. Only narrow ridges in the bare stone. Her feet hurt. The mist seemed full of eyes flickering at the edge of her sight. She could not see them clearly, but she knew they held her fixed in an unblinking gaze. She flinched, hiding her face, and fell, too spent to scream…..
and landed almost immediately, with a jolt that hurt her knees and closed her teeth firmly on her tongue. She tasted blood, blinked back tears.

The dragon-tails of mist were above her now. The land before her was in shadow, but she could see the stony valley-floor and the dark stream sunk in its channel on her left. By her right hand was a fissure in the cliff. It was dark, but not entirely so; there must be light beyond it.
Remembering how the spring water had awakened her, she turned back to the stream, knelt and drank. The water was bitterly cold. She felt no stronger. She raised her head to peer into the mists.

For a moment the shadows parted and a shaft of sunlight lit the entrance of the cleft. Sechra rose, nodded, and went in.

43 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Aryli has returned to her kingdom to find that her throne has been usurped. Having already failed miserably in her first attempt to reclaim it, she happens upon the deceitful usurper giving a speech in a crowded town square and decides to take another shot.

Every self-preservation instinct that I had was screaming at me to run and hide--to say, "Just kidding," to do anything but what I was doing, which was walking confidently toward the platform with my head held high. I saw Gabrien out of the corner of my eye as I passed through the crowd. He looked pale with panic and flush with anger all at once. 'Please, don't do anything me,' I thought at him and Miqqal and Hynton.

Whispers and excited murmurs ushered me to the platform, and I found myself ascending the steps before I even knew I had reached them. Close enough to see Arybin properly, I noticed (with a blossom of rage in the pit of my stomach) that she was wearing the crowns Paxia and Strios had given me.

"It's time to stop pretending, Arybin," I called in that not-mine, regal voice I'd used earlier that morning. I pulled my hood back and shook my newly auburn hair out, hoping that one or two people in the crowd had seen my mother before she died and would recognize me for who I was.

Undeterred, Arybin gave me a private, shark-like smile that bared all her pearly whites before turning to address the crowd--once again a picture of everything sublime.

Apparently, it was game on.

42 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Stop the Presses
GENRE: YA suspense

Reporter Lottie Griffin is hiding in the balcony of a secret underground auditorium, eavesdropping on an emergency meeting of the shadowy Sigma Society, which has been committing crimes on the campus of Davenport University in order to cover up an awful crime committed 40 years ago by one of its former members, Augustus Schirmer. The first speaker is Sigma leader Heath, standing onstage, accusing Lottie's friend Walker of "treason" against the Sigmas. Oh, and they're all dressed as Confederate soldiers.

"Whatever we've done, whatever crime we may or may not have committed in the past few weeks, was done to make sure a good man and fellow Sigma can claim his rightful seat on the bench of the highest court in our country. None of you can look at me and say you'd do any different. We did what had to be done, and with the former Bobby Lee's blessing." His eyes flicked to Schirmer, then back at the audience. He leaned forward, his green eyes glittering. "I'll call any man—and I mean any man," he threw a look back at Walker that could only be described as full of hate, "who says differently a traitor. If you're not with us, you're against us."

Walker took a step back. He looked scared now. Lottie frantically fumbled for her phone. She looked at it, saw she had no signal, and almost screamed in frustration. The slick scrape of metal on metal snapped her attention back to the stage. Heath had pulled Walker's sword from its sheath, and Walker hadn't done anything to stop him. What were they doing?

"Traitors are punished," Heath said calmly. He raised the sword.

"NO!" Lottie screamed. Heads snapped up and turned in the direction of the balcony. Lottie was standing, trembling, and watching as all eyes in the room found her in the darkness above them.

41 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: In the Shadows of Darkness (working title)
GENRE: Science Fiction

Archon is a rogue member of a disbanded military project called "Dark." In chapter five, she recieves a message from the Castellan (the head of the Gaian Allaince and the creature responsible for organizing an asassination attempt on her lover Jacob six years ago) telling her the location of Jessari (the asassin that almost killed Jacob six years ago, who is also a fellow Dark).

Archon forced the breath out of her lungs, the air hard and stale as it left her lips. Her memory was eternal; she forgot nothing, not even the smallest of details. The day they almost took Jacob away reverberated through her existence. It had a taste, a flavor that she was unable to ignore. Had she her way, she would have razed an empire to ash and dust. Killed all of them.

But Jacob denied her, asking something of her for first time. Begging her as he bled.

Run. Leave. Abandon, and live outer rim. When the bubble of blood had broken across his lips, Archon was compelled by a force she still found difficult to understand. For him, she let them live. Because of Jacob's compassion, the Gaian Alliance won the Tetrin War instead of being plunged back into spaces between three shattered planets.

Now his words were less compelling. Here, direct from the Castellan, the very conductor of the plot against Jacob's life, was an offering vengeance. The manner was backhanded and laced with masked and silent motives - Archon would be a fool to think otherwise. Yet the com told her that the Dark, the assassin Jessari, was marked for execution. The Castellan called for her head. There was no reward, no other direction. Simply a location, a where and a who. If nothing else, the Castellan knew Archon would not ignore this information.

The Castellan knew Jessari would die.

The Second Bunch

Okay, here they come!

Hope this approach is working a little better for you. You're all doing a FABULOUS job of spreading out the critiques and making sure all the posts get equal attention.

No matter what goes on here, you always collectively raise the bar and rise to the occasion. I'm so used to it that it doesn't surprise me anymore!

Thank you, one and all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

40 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Under a Dark Star
GENRE: Science Fiction

Best friend's Kit Marlowe and Beka Sweets decide to renew their military contracts after Kit's family threatens to kill her. This is the ending for the chapter where the girls arrive on the cruiser-class warchip, Warbringer. Denay is one of the other special forces pilots.

After chow Denay gave them a complimentary tour of the Warbringer, flirting outrageously with Kit the whole way, and introduced them to General Vesuvius who was in charge of the fleet.

The old man with white hair and no family name of meaning glared at Kit, but seemed mollified by the fact that she was just another Marlowe peon. Beka tried to be grateful for small favors from the Muses.

Much later, when ship’s night descended and the bunk room fell dark, Beka leaned out of her bunk enough to peer up at the light above her. “Kit?”

“Yes?” Kit’s personal computer whirred to life

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Beka asked, the ionized curtain crackled as her hair brushed against it.

“I’m too awake to sleep. Giddy, almost.”

“Giddy?” Beka stifled a yawn.

“This is wonderful.” Kit leaned out of her bunk to smile down at her. She looked beatific, almost glowing with joy. “I feel so free here. All the weight is gone. I can breath!”

“Right.” She rubbed her eyes and curled back under her army-issue blanket. “I’m going to bed. When is the light going out?”

“Soon,” Kit promised. “I just want to check the news at home, see what I missed today.”

Beka heard the keys clicking in rapid succession. Kit’s breath hitched and there was a muffled groan. “Anything exciting?”

There was a beat of silence, then, “I’m dead.”

39 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

GENRE: Urban fantasy

Celeste, born with a powerful healing touch, has awakened to find her power is gone. Unfortunately, she was scheduled to assist in the risky heart transplant procedure for a 20-month-old baby that same day.

It was Brogan Levine, little Acacia's father, with his wife in tow
like a drifting ghost in white. Brogan's nostrils flared as he
marched towards me. Sariah dangled from his swinging arm, resembling
a toddler trying to hold back a Mastiff.

"Honey," Sariah whispered, "Please, calm down. You can't change here,
please. Not in the hospital. We have to be able to stay with Acacia.

Brogan stopped two feet from me. His chest heaved, and I could almost
see his heart beat through his shirt. "Brogan, Sariah," I said,
lamely greeting them.

"If my little girl dies because you decided to call out sick, I'm
going to kill you," Brogan started to hiss, and the words ended with
an inelegant snort. Brogan's eyes were bloodshot and rimmed purple,
and his arms were so rigid that I could see muscles bulging beneath
the carpet of black hair.

I couldn't hold back my tears. "You think I just called out sick for
fun?" I grabbed him by a furry arm. Sweat dribbled between my
fingers. Whether he was fighting his shapeshifting or willing it, I
didn't know. "What do you feel?" I asked him.

He stared in bewilderment at his own arm. "Nothing." He knew what my
bare touch was supposed to be like.

I dropped his arm, and it flopped limply to his side. "Nothing," I
said. "That's what I have. Nothing."

38 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: To Know Who You Are
GENRE: Time-Travel Romance

Kyra is a college student, still living at home, and with a mother who's determined to run Kyra's life for her, and willing to do almost anything to keep Kyra under her thumb. Kyra has defied her mother's 'orders' for the first time in years, and is just now coming home from a week staying with a friend (and falling in love with her best-friend's brother, which is where the time-travel threads begin). He's just dropped her off at home, and her mother has just informed her that she's redecorating Kyra's bedroom for her graduation present. Kyra will find her things in the guest room...well, those things worth keeping.


Worth keeping?

Horror swept over Kyra as her mother walked away. She flew up the stairs as images dashed before her mind's eye.

She thought of the coverlet her grandmother had hand-quilted and the furniture that her grandfather had lovingly crafted. The framed postcards that her aunt sent from all over the world. The figurines that her father had given her each birthday from twelve to twenty-one.

She reached the upstairs hall and stepped to the nearest door. Crimson curtains and bedding screamed their greeting, while the ugly headboard and nightstands taunted her. No time-worn coverlet softened the bed. No portraits of her grandparents hung on the walls, watching her from their childhood.

A violin case lay on the dresser, and she flipped it open. Yes, this was her where was her old violin? The Ruggieri she'd loved for nine years?

She stepped to the closet and flipped the lights on. She dug through hangers filled with all of the clothes her mother preferred she wear, but no second violin case greeted her.

She flipped more frantically. The dress she'd worn as her aunt's flower girl wasn't there, either. In fact, none of her favorite clothes were there.

She left and turned down the hallway toward the room that had always been her sanctuary. Her footsteps whispered on the carpets as though they, too, were afraid of what they'd find.

The door swung open against her touch, she reached for the light switch, and she froze.

Everything was gone.