Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's Been a Good Year!

I pondered writing an all-out, 2009-year-in-review.

I decided against it.

For one thing, it's easy enough to scroll through the past 12 months and rediscover the highlights. Cool contests and hefty critiques. Status reports on my WIP progress. A plethora of awesome comments from my beloved readership. And TWO CLIENT SIGNINGS BY SECRET AGENTS. (Yes, I shouted that.)

It's been a stellar year.

The main reason I've forgone the year-in-review is, well, I don't want to take the time to do it.

How lame, huh?

Until I explain that I am only about 500 words away from completing the third draft of my WIP. In fact, by the time you read this, that number may be smaller.

Or even zero.

So you can can where my priorities lie. I set December 30th as my deadline, and I'm hitting it. Today. With much rejoicing and the shooting off of virtual fireworks.

After the celebrating, I'll hunker down for a line-by-line clean-up of the whole thing (with yummy things on small plates for grabbing with nimble fingers in between edits).

Then. It goes to my readers.

Then. I either start querying or throw myself from the rooftop, depending on overall reader feedback.

So there it is. A happy Authoress has met her final writing goal of the year and is thankful for the support and encouragement of her blog community.

Rabid blogging will begin again next week. We've got a January Secret Agent contest coming up! So brace yourselves. And in the meantime, Happy New Year.

And may your dreams and hopes for 2010 wrap their arms around you and become reality!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Blessings

Perhaps it's the control freak in me, but I hate walking away from the blog.

Nevertheless, 'tis the season. Though I wanted to pop in to wish you all the merriest of Christmases.

I've got some gingerbread to bake, a few more gifts to wrap.

I've got two more chapters to go on my WIP. (Squee! I mean...squee!)

And I've got a special coffee date this morning.

So. Have a blessed holiday. Enjoy your family, your friends, your down time. Enjoy the sights, scents, impressions of the season. Take time to get in touch with your thankfulness, your sense of contentment.

I'll see you all next week!

***Christmas hugs***

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Gift: Authoress Sings

Here it is! I felt a little, yanno, left out last week when you were all creating great holiday spoofs for Lauren. So I wrote one, and you get to listen.

I give you SNARK! THE HAGGARD AGENTS SING, sung by Authoress and Mr. A, produced by Mr. A (my hero):

(lyrics below, because you absolutely have to sing along...)

Snark! The Haggard Agents Sing
(Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)

Snark! The haggard agents sing,
"Email die, and phone, don't ring!
No more queries sent from hell,
No more stories I can't sell.

Give me eggnog, rum, and cookies,
Save me from these writing rookies,
I've rejected forty-four
thousand and six, and maybe more."

Snark! The haggard agents sing,
"Email die, and phone don't ring!"

"Contracts, royalties, and tears,
Fill the weeks and months and years.
Weary, now, I shut my door,
Screaming, as I go, 'NO MORE!'

Editors, I'm tired of waiting,
On my last nerve you've been grating.
Thanks to you, I soon will be
Paying for clients' therapy."

Snark! The haggard agents sing,
"Email die, and phone, don't ring!"

"Give me sand and surf and sun,
I'm in desperate need of fun.
Farewell partial, full, and ARC,
I have had my fill of snark.

Lock the door and turn the light off;
Can't remember my last night off.
Toss the books and pass the gin!
Let the holiday begin!"

Snark! The haggard agents sing,
"Email die, and phone, don't ring!"

Friday Fricassee

Good morning!

I must be all full of Christmas sparkles; I'm smiling like a goon and thinking, weee! This is my last Friday Fricassee before CHRISTMAS! I've never outgrown that. And I'm glad.

It's been such an amazing year on the blog, and I'll recap it in a special New Year post. In the meantime, I'll just keep sparkling and smiling and being thankful for the awesome community that has sprung up here.

What's making you sparkle this week? Toss your glitter into my comment box. Please!

And yes, my Very Special Christmas Present will be posted soon (which is probably adding to my overall sparkliness this morning). Be sure to stop by and claim it!

Why the gift? Because I want to make you smile. And because you're a special part of my writerly life. You really are. Faceless, sometimes nameless, but vibrant and real and full of passion for writing, each one of you. Just my type.

Joy! Joy! Joy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ho Ho Ho...

Some great crits going on! If you haven't join in yet, don't be shy. We've got a wide smattering of genres, which makes it more fun.

Yes, one of them is mine. Some of you have already guessed that.

As for the "ho ho ho" part: It's a little hint that you'd better pop by the blog tomorrow. In addition to the weekly Friday Fricassee, I'm going to have a Very Special Christmas Present for you. Something that, I hope, will make you smile.

So don't miss it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

50 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Golden
GENRE: Magical Realism YA

Ian, an evolved being known as a Dionadir, faces having to out himself as such, but his in-love-with-another-man friend, Joss feels the need to rescue him from his tricky situation. It turns out differently than she expects.

“Don’t look now, but I think we’re going to have to dine and flash,” he said.

“You can’t be serious. Here, in the middle of a club full of people? You’d never be able to show yourself here again.”

“Yeah, and what do you think will happen if ol’ Sy takes a swing at me and comes back wondering why his fist breaks but my face doesn’t?”

“You could just dodge until he comes to his senses . . .”

Ian shook his head, annoyed. “Don’t you understand? The lunk’s got it in his head I man-handled his lady. The only sense he’s concerned with is the one that involves spilling my guts onto the ground.”

By now, Sy was closing in. In another few seconds he would be reaching for the first part of Ian he could get his hands around.

I toggled my brain-pan for a way out of the messl; my cerebral skillet obliged. Without considering the consequences, I swiveled in the booth and plopped myself into Ian’s lap, linking my arms behind his neck, then I laid the mother of all stage kisses on him. After all, Sy couldn’t try to beat Ian up if I was in the way, right?

There are fires that begin as frosts, the cold growing so sharp it burns. Kissing Ian was like a fall of ice crystals scoring my tongue, chilliness and mint.

Ian didn’t know how to kiss softly.

49 Drop the Needle

TITLE: The Wild Ghoul Affair, Book I of V
GENRE: Younger YA

Eve has followed her spirit guide to the top of St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Eve had crept out onto the open walkway that wrapped around the top of St Peter’s dome, the cold wind whipping at her clothes. The claustrophobic corkscrew climb had been bad enough, but Rome’s skyline separated by a thin hand railing had her frozen. She hated heights. A raven flew by, passing uncomfortably close to Eve’s shoulder, and then, inches from her death grip on the balustrade, it perched—huge and ugly, something round in its beak.

Mortified by the drop of hundreds of feet, Eve tightened her hold and swiped her free hand at the bird. “Shoo. Go away!” It opened its mouth, dropping its treasure, but wasn’t intimidated. “I said—go away!” She swept her free hand again at raven and it flew up into the air. It flapped its wings, talons extended, threatening, diving towards her. She released the railing and stumbled back against the dome, dodging the raven’s attack. She landed hard on all fours, the raven’s treasure spinning on the narrow walkway. It slowed and then lay, the bloody eyeball staring up at her.

Eve scrambled away, clawing at the dome’s wall. Her hands smeared on something wet and warm that covered her palms—a trickle of fresh blood flowed down the dome curve. The wind whipped as Eve traced the crimson trail upward, her eyes locking on the man’s body stretched across the top of the dome, speared by St Peter’s cross.

48 Drop the Needle

TITLE: School Zone
GENRE: YA Dystopian

Eric, suspended from school by an Administrator who wants him dead, is outside City limits without permission. On his way back, he realizes someone is following him.

Eric moved forward, slowly at first, senses on alert. He passed the next solar generator and kept moving, waiting for a sound, a flicker of movement, that would give away the location of whomever was out there. It came. As he approached the next generator, he heard the distinct sound of a dry twig snapping. It was faint and, to someone who wasn’t used to being outdoors in the wilderness, unremarkable. But Eric stopped in mid-stride, eyes darting to the generator and just beyond. Nothing was there.

Tensed to spring, he moved again, pulse pounding in the bruised side of his face. He reached the generator, passed it. The next generator was still about twenty yards away when he heard the quick footsteps behind him. In an instant, he bounded forward, reaching his top running speed within seconds. He ran without knowing where he would find safety, without knowing whether his pursuer was still behind him, the sound of his own breathing too loud in his ears. After passing another generator, he hazarded a quick glance over his shoulder. A darkly clad figure, less than ten yards away, matched his speed, gained on him.

Energy morphed into fear. Without planning to, Eric opened his mouth and yelled—long, loud, interrupted only by a ragged breath and then beginning again. He knew there wasn’t anyone to come to his aid; he knew he was out of control. He yelled anyway, until his voice was hoarse and his throat was dry and burning.

47 Drop the Needle

GENRE: Urban Fantasy

The moment the life slipped through her fingers, Tisiphone knew she had crossed the line. Her black eyes widened until they resembled two empty, forgotten wells. Her hands dropped to her sides and the body of the man with the cowboy hat folded to the floor.
This is not good, she thought.

Megaera spoke first. "Tisi," the Fury said, "what will we do?" Megaera wiggled next to her sister, Alecto, to get a closer look at the body.

Alecto addressed the matter by smacking Megaera upside the head.

Tisiphone's hands, still warm from wringing the pervert's neck, found her own throat and she stepped back, rubbing her skin raw. Her black robes rustled like dried leaves against the concrete floor as she moved toward the door.

"Quiet, Meg!" she said.

It should not have gone this far. In fact, it never had gone this far before. She had never lost sight of her purpose. Always steady. In control. But what that beast did to that girl…

She shook her head. He deserved to suffer. As the Avenger of Murder, it was her job to see to it. She was bound by oath to punish the wicked, because that is what Furies do. Every murderer shall pay a price, despite the mortal courts. Humans, Tisiphone thought, dispicable. Letting a murderer free due to some rule that twelve of them must agree on his guilt? For what was law without justice?

Except, now, she was a murderer too.

46 Drop the Needle

TITLE: The Buried Realm
GENRE: Fantasy

The protagonists have tracked a friend of theirs to a lost cavern. After finding the gates to the cavern, a dragon - or pondaer - confronts the group. Rog Arlanx, the chief warrior, has distracted the beast until the rest are safely within the caves.

The dragon then turned on Rog, and the warrior brandished his axe grimly. The beast snarled deep in its throat. Its breath was hot and sweaty, and the saliva from its mouth mixed with the blood from its eye to form a slimy puddle between them. Rog grimaced. It had set itself between him and the doors.

The creature continued to snarl and stare at him with its single whole eye. Rog wracked his brain for some way to skirt by it into the tunnel beyond. Then, with a swiftness that belied its size, the pondaer struck out with its teeth and seized the warrior by the front of his leather shirt. Rog howled and kicked it savagely in the chin, but the beast simply yanked him into the air and tossed him bodily through the doors into the tunnel beyond.

Rog felt rather than saw the darkness of the cave close over him, an instant before his shoulder struck the sloping ceiling of the tunnel with a wet pop. Then he was falling in slow motion, and suddenly — with the lucidity that sometimes happens when looking death in the face — a most unsettling thought hit him. The dragon had been guarding the entrance, but not to keep people out. Someone had set it there to keep people in. A split second later, Rog’s head struck the cold stone of the stairs and he sank into oblivion.

45 Drop the Needle

GENRE: Urban fantasy/paranormal

By the time Lee challenged the dragons to battle, she knew it was too late to save her friends and now the preternatural rapier has drawn Lucas into the fray. They wait for the dragons to arrive and the coming battle.

The eastern sky had taken on a crisp, clear aura. The early morning symphony would start and the music of the world, with the timeless rising of the sun about half an hour away. A gentle breath of scented morning air touched me.


Something. Was. Not. Right.

A low thrumming barely audible seemed to be vibrating in my fingertips and now my wrists and arms. I felt it in the balls of my feet and then tingling in my legs and torso as I straightened and stood, letting my hands drop to my sides.

The vibration filled me, strumming an indistinct hum. It enveloped me, coursing through me and…I was…


…mouse creeping away, branches rubbing, brushing against each other, grass blades whispering with the breeze, roll of gravel shifting, light from stars dimming in the approach of the sun, bugs marching to their own purpose in the undergrowth, rub of cloth against cloth, heartbeat closing, air taken into lungs, escaping in a soft hiss, pulse quickening, the smell of her skin, so sweet, so dear…

I opened my eyes.

Lee stood about 15 feet away, her eyes just beginning to close. She raised her arms, held them out and away from her body, palms up. She seemed to be…listening…hearing…testing…feeling…accepting.

And something moved behind her, a dark indistinct form, stepping to her with hand outstretched, an aura clouding the menace within it.

A Dragon, in the form and body of a man, was at her back.

44 Drop the Needle


Other is a Beauty and the Beast story with the genders reversed. Alain is a young man trapped in an magical estate, whose owner, a hideous creature, has reluctantly been teaching him how to navigate the treacherous realm of magic.

Alain woke violently, sitting up straight with a pounding heart. Had he merely dreamed it? No, there it was again, a chilling, rending scream. The creature? He didn’t know who else it could be. Hurriedly he threw on his dressing gown and ran out of his bedchamber. The corridors were thick with darkness; he willed a few lamps to light as he dashed down the hall from which the screams sounded. There, through that doorway. The same room where he had held the forest’s branch in his hands the day before. The screams had not abated. This close, they pierced his ears with unexplained agony.

He burst inside without knocking and found the creature on the ground, seized up in a terrible paroxysm. Alain fell to the floor beside her and scanned her from head to foot. He could discern nothing wrong with her, no evident injuries or wounds. Hesitantly he put a hand to her creased brow, then drew it back in shock. Her skin was burning.

In desperation he looked up to the rows of shelves and their contents, as if hoping to find a jar labeled For use in case of mysterious scream-inducing seizures. No such thing. He didn't dare use anything on her without knowing its purpose. But if he did nothing, she would surely perish from whatever pain engulfed her.

43 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Murder in Crimea
GENRE: Mystery

This is the beginning of the novel.

He lay awake on the floor, the moon his only light. The pile of straw that formed his bed still smelled of farmyard manure. In the dim-dark of the medical ward, his plan crystallized.
His mind churned with murderous images and unimaginable rage. When he completed his duty and the orderlies found the general, they were bound to overlook the real cause of death. Days would come and go before the medical officers even noted his passing. So busy were they filling out their official forms, they took precious little time to examine any man, let alone a dead one. It would be a simple thing to kill him now. The general's wounds would be mistaken for battle wounds and his death would be dismissed along with many others.

Muffled footsteps echoed from the corridor and his hand tensed against a knife. He would kill again if need be. His breath caught in his throat as he waited. The sound disappeared and he glanced about, above all, not wanting to be discovered now.

The soldiers nearby snored or called out in nightmarish shouts, dead to the world. They would be no threat. Neither would the orderlies. They could not even be counted on to discover the general. A disgusting group of Chelsea pensioners they were, sent to the battlefield with no knowledge of warfare. He reckoned it a scheme for saving money, utilizing poor old men by shortening their lives and pensions.

42 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Dyeing to See You
GENRE: Urban fantasy

A witch has trapped Karie, a college student, with a spell and is ripping her soul from her body so the witch can use Karie's body for herself.

The witch raised the knife high above her head and said more words Karie didn't understand.

No! No, she said she wouldn't stab me with it. Oh God, what's happening? Help me, somebody. Please! The panic broke into her smoke hazed brain. Karie would have sobbed if she had control over her body. She watched the knife descend in an arc in the witch's hands. Karie braced herself for the pain which never came.

Karie's head was still fuzzy and the sight of the knife protruding from the witch's stomach really confused her. Uh, Okay, did she miss? Karie hoped the witch's hold over her body would break when the witch stabbed herself, but was disappointed when she still couldn't move.

The witch dragged the knife from one side to the other. She chanted while coating her hands in the gore coming from the wound.

Karie felt a horrible ripping sensation which grew stronger as the witch chanted. Please, oh God, please, it hurts. Stop, make it stop! She tried to scream but it echoed only in her mind.

The witch took her stained hands and rubbed blood on Karie forehead, hands and feet. As she finished her chant she clasped Karie's necklace with both hands. There was a flash of blackness as Karie felt like her body was being ripped apart. The pain increased until she could no longer form a coherent thought. She screamed in mindless terror.

41 Drop the Needle

GENRE: YA thriller

Eden turned to face the smaller male at the same time he went for her throat. She jabbed him in the chest with the heel of her free hand, knocking him back a step, and went in for the kill.

A hand burst out of the dirt as she stepped forward, snagging her left ankle, and sending her tumbling face-down to the ground. Only years of training kept her bolo in her hand. She rolled onto her back as another zombie clawed its way out of the ground. And, oh God, it was a child. A cute little boy if you ignored the fact his throat was torn out.

She didn’t have time to be squeamish. Eden kicked it in the head and yanked her foot out of his grip. Before she had a chance to move, the adult zombie was in her face, its mouth gaping as it dove for her. Fuck that.

Eden rolled again and the zombie went to his knees in the exact place she would have been. She scrambled to her feet and beheaded him before he could cause her any more trouble. And then there was only the child, still trying to pull its way out of the ground. Its legs were stuck beneath the half-open grave and it moaned as it reached for her.

She stood frozen, staring at it as it tried to climb out so it could eat her.

40 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Heart's Sentinel
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Mackenzie has Shifted into panther form for the first time and is on a playful run with two juvenile jaguars from the shape shifter pride giving her sanctuary. On the run, she senses something that shouldn't be out in those woods.

Maybe if she'd had more experience in her big cat form, Mackenzie would have noticed the smell despite the rain. Maybe if the two juveniles had been more experienced, they would have caught it. As it was, the sound alerted her first.

It was like the sound of the big fans in the city, circulating air, only more concentrated and quieter. Mackenzie paused, trying to filter it from the other forest sounds that still weren't familiar to her yet. It was a whisper of city sound, out of place in the wilds.

Liam and Cal pounced on her. Distracted, she bowled them both over and stood on them, still trying to catch the sound again. Growling, they struggled under her paws, but Mackenzie growled back . She thought hard about the danger. This time her will rolled over them both and they went still.

Something wasn't right. Sensing her tension, Liam and Cal confirmed with slightly distressed noises. Or at least, that was what Mackenzie's inner cat interpreted for her.

Nudging each of them, she sent them back the way they had come. The forest had gone silent and alarm shot through Mackenzie as they retreated.

The boys were streaks of gold and black running just in front of her. Too many targets. Mackenzie's cat knew that another hunter was on them, and a hunter preferred prey that broke off and singled itself out.

Leaving the boys, Mackenzie shot in a different direction, hoping to draw the unseen hunter away from the juveniles.

39 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Seven Gates
GENRE: YA Fantasy

The MC is climbing a spiral staircase in a dark tower, alone, in an unfamiliar world.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.” she said under her breath. The words echoed loud and long. She stopped climbing, waited, shivering, for the echo to end. The sound of her words faded and became indistinguishable, but a vague sighing still came from the dark below her. Or perhaps from the dark above her? On these twisted stairs the sound could come from any direction….

She made herself start climbing again, bracing herself with one hand on the wall. Her steps echoed too; close around her she heard each step, clear and distinct, but delayed; from further away came a vague but ominous noise. She tried to step more lightly. The noise behind her grew softer. She stopped to hear more clearly. If only she could see! Maybe she could clear her ears then too…But the noise back there was no longer vague and muted; other steps seemed to be following, shambling, irregular steps—surely that was not the rhythm she had been walking in? She tightened her grip on the knife and hurried upward. This stair must end soon; the tower had not looked terribly high from below. How many steps had she climbed now? Surely at the top there would be light, and perhaps the teacher who waited here to guide her.

There was another noise now; something was breathing in the dark, breathing in hisses and ragged gasps.

38 Drop the Needle

GENRE: YA historical

Near the beginning of Chapter One, the main character, Anne, decides to confront a guy that just followed her from one Parisian cafe to another. The scene is set in 2005 (with later scenes set in 18th century France, which is why I call the genre YA historical).

I grabbed my bag and swaggered his way, wanting him to know I wasn't some silly American girl that could be the object of whatever he might be dreaming up. As I neared his table, he finally looked away and unfolded his newspaper, but then a shock of recognition bolted through my body as I remembered seeing him - and his olive complexion and dark tousled hair - yesterday at Poilane, a bakery around the corner. My body trembled.

But the cafe was full of people. I would be okay. I just had to tell him to leave me alone, to stop following me around, and that'd be that. He looked normal enough. I didn't get strange vibes from him, I just felt way uncomfortable with the way he looked at me.

"Qu'est-ce que c'est ce bordel? What the hell?" I demanded. "Just because I'm an American doesn't mean you can stalk me."

He shook his head, as if trying to make me feel like an idiot. "I am so sorry, mademoiselle." His accent was slightly off--but not American. "It is just, you are so striking, and now that I finally see you up close, I am sure."

"No." I gulped. Not many people paid attention, except for the American girls watching intently, probably thinking the same thing I was: I shouldn't be confronting strangers in the street. I knew it was the cardinal no-no of street etiquette in Chicago, but then again, I wasn't much for street etiquette.

37 Drop the Needle

TITLE :A Line in the Sand
GENRE :Suspense

Eve and two other survivors of a shipwreck are on a small, damaged craft sailing, hopefully, for land. It is night, and Eve needs to, ahem, relieve herself.

Eve stepped over the sleeping forms and walked to the rear of the boat. The wind whipped her long hair away from her face, and she had to brace herself. Pulling down her shorts and panties, she crouched over the hole at the stern.

Suddenly she fell. There was a microsecond of realizing she was off balance, and then the abrupt shock of hitting water. Its coolness surged through her like icy electricity. She clutched her shorts, struggled to tug them over her knees into place and at the same time kick upward to the surface. She churned, bewildered by the darkness. Which way was up?

The blackness pressed in on her and terror gripped her chest. She could never be alone in the dark, never. The air in her lungs squeezed for release. She had to let it go. Bubble by bubble it bruised its way down her throat and through her lips. Her body went limp. Her consciousness swirled like tub water spiraling down the drain. In one last effort, she clawed at the ocean, willing herself not to breathe in.

Her head broke the surface, and she gasped at the air. Oxygen burned the lining of her throat and lungs like iodine on a raw sore. She choked and wheezed and coughed up seawater until finally she could breathe.

The boat. Where was it? She twisted one way, then the other, until she saw it, a smudge against the stars as it sped away from her.

36 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Secret Eh-gent
GENRE: Commercial fiction

This is the beginning of chapter one:

Sfeff was sitting in a sidewalk café in the tenth arrondissement the first time he saw the man, and right away he knew something was off. From the way the man walked and dressed, he was clearly not from the tenth, the home of immigrants, dreary commercial zones, and porn shops. Yet he didn’t have any of the tourist props, like a shopping bag or a camera. And in a Paris neighborhood of decaying nineteenth-century apartments and graffiti-covered public housing, the man was wearing a navy blazer, a white oxford shirt, and beige slacks. His clothes, his graying hair and his round glasses made him look like a lawyer, Sfeff thought. Or a guy asking to be mugged.

But the man looked so relaxed, he could have been strolling the left bank. He crossed the street and approached the café. When he was a few steps away, he asked Sfeff, “Excuse me, are you American?”

Sfeff thought it over. He was American. Also Canadian. But admitting either was risky nowadays—especially after what the Americans had just done. While he decided on an answer, he looked at the man again. On a day threatening rain, the man didn’t have a jacket or an umbrella. What was he doing on a dingy side street in a bad neighborhood? Was he gay, and trolling for sex? An ex-girlfriend’s irate father? The man fit none of those descriptions. And that bothered him.

35 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Win or Go Home
GENRE: Mystery/Suspense

Bounty hunter Rick Parker has followed a clue that leads him to the Emerald City Detective Agency. He knocks on the door and finds nobody home, so he enters.

Parker walked around behind the desk and tried the door knob. It was locked. He leaned on the desk and looked closely at the legal pad. The borders were filled with elaborate doodles in thick black strokes that depicted not random scribbles but detailed skulls, gallows, guns and bullets. In the center of the paper was a list of phone numbers and dollar amounts. In a few seconds he could tear off the sheet and be out the door. The artist might object, but he had left the room unattended, so what could he expect? Parker's fingers slid under the sheet, ready to tear, when the click of the door opening behind him froze him in place. The next thing he heard was the sound a semi-automatic pistol makes when the slide is racked. Parker let go of the tablet but kept his hands visible on the desk top.

Parker had to decide which door, front or back, presented more danger and had guessed wrong. Now all he could do was wait for the unseen gunman to make a move. He lifted both arms in a gesture of surrender and stood still. The seconds ticked by in his head. He could almost feel the breath of his captor blowing the hairs on the back of his neck. He told himself he would never hear the shot that killed him.

"Find what you need? said a deep voice.

34 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Beneath the Trees
GENRE: Fantasy

Rose kept dropping barley seeds into the neatly plowed rows though her gaze remained fixed on the forest, scanning every one of the twisting, fern-covered lanes between the trunks. No matter how stealthy the creature moved, Rose knew it was coming. A breeze brought the warning, a strange mix of clotted blood, the musk of a male animal and the sweat of a man; but most frightening by far was the utter silence with which it approached.

“Uncle John,” Rose called across the field. “I hear…Mary.” It was true. Rose could hear her aunt getting supper. “She needs you.” That was also true, of course.

John Woodman learned long ago how well his niece could hear, and he caught the very real note of alarm in her voice. Casting his hoe aside, he barreled towards the little farmhouse, expecting Rose to follow.

She’d made one step in order to give him that impression, but when she was sure he was headed to safety, she turned facing the stand of ancient oaks that lined the edge of the field.

The creature must’ve heard her call. It was coming faster now. Rose heard the snap of a twig. She caught a glimpse, a dark, fleeting shape between the trunks. And then, it was upon her.

Tall as she was, it towered above her as it rose onto its hind legs. The beastly face gave a very manlike grin and a grey, clawed hand shot out to grab her.

Rose didn’t scream.

33 Drop the Needle

GENRE: YA fantasy

Spooky shadow creatures called sylph wake Erin in the middle of the night. She's no dummy: she runs.

I ducked into the woods. Branches slapped my face and caught on my coat. I tore myself free every time, pushing deeper into the forest with only hisses to hint how close the sylph were.
Freezing air stung my eyes, and the flashlight was already dimming; it had been Leigh's spare because it was old. My chest burned with cold and fear, and a cramp jabbed at my side. Sylph keened as loud as wind whistling in a storm, closer and closer. A tongue of invisible flame landed on my exposed cheek. I yelped and pushed harder, only for my bag to snag on a claw-like limb. No amount of yanking freed it.

Sylph melted snow as they formed a dark circle of cacophony and wind. Tendrils of blackness coiled toward me, and the burn on my cheek still stung with cold and memory.

I slipped my arms from my backpack, abandoning it, and darted between the shadow creatures, a rush of heat on my face like leaning into an oven. They shrieked and pursued, but I had a head start and could move in tighter quarters now that I was unencumbered. Trees, brush, fallen logs. I dodged and jumped, fighting to keep my thoughts together, focused on getting past the next obstacle rather than the snow and cold, or the fiery death that chased me.

My flashlight went dark. I twisted the tube and the light revealed bright snow and trees and nothing beyond.

32 Drop the Needle


North Carolina, 1941. Eleven-year-old Cleo Holmes has accompanied her sharecropper grandfather, Grandpa Lum, to the house of the William McDuff (“Boss Man”) from whom Grandpa Lum rents his house in exchange for working the corn & tobacco farm. Cleo, having accidentally come across Grandpa Lum’s monthly receipt the previous day, had noticed an error on the receipt; Boss Man had shortchanged her grandfather by $200. Boss Man almost finagles his way out of it, but his wife, Elizabeth, just happens to be walking by the parlor and overhears their discussion.

“William, go on and pay the man. You’re not prejudice are you?” She didn’t give him time to answer. “Because if you are, I will pack right now and go back to Daddy’s. And believe me, he will not be very happy about that.”

“Now look here, Elizabeth. You best not go threatening me. Just because your daddy lent me some money for that farm.”

McDuff glanced at Grandpa Lum, realizing, Cleo guessed, that he’d spoken too soon.

He opened his mouth, then closed it tight and dug down deep in his pocket. “Here you go, Lum,” he said patting Cleo’s grandfather on the back like they’d been boyhood pals. “You know I’d never cheat yer.”

“Thank you, sir.” Grandpa Lum inclined his head, careful not to make any direct contact with his eyes. “I ’preciate it, sir.”

McDuff turned to his wife, “See, Lizzie? It’s all taken care of,” he said, smiling.

But the smile never reached his eyes, Cleo observed.

“Mr. Covington,” said Elizabeth, nodding toward Cleo, “you should be right proud of your granddaughter here. She’s one smart girl.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Grandpa Lum said, bowing his head, again, careful not to make any eye contact. He nodded to Cleo. “Come on, gal, let’s get on home.”

“Yes, you better get on now, Lum. And be careful.” McGruff nodded as if he’d come to some conclusion. “Be very careful.”

The look in McDuff’s eyes gave Cleo the willies. She couldn’t wait to leave his house—and the South.

31 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Cry Wolf
GENRE: Middle Grade

This is currently the beginning, but I’m not sure if I should keep it. This contest comes at a handy time for me.

The curse rolled through the village, blanketing it as effectively as the fog that floated up from the nearby cliffs. Like the fog, it left the people bewildered and lost. They tried to protect their children. They placed guards around the forest edge. But children are curious by nature, and they can’t be watched every second of every day. Eventually, one or more would wander into the woods, never to be seen again.

The villagers blamed it on the wolves. They heard them howling in the night. The eerie sound sent chills down the spine, even in the heat of summer. They felt the wolves watching. Sometimes, the wolves didn’t even try to pretend they weren’t watching. A beautiful she-wolf had been spotted several times. Her proud head would appear suddenly around the curve of a large rock, or above a bush. For a moment her golden eyes would meet the weaker eyes of man, and then she would be gone, like the ghost of a thought.

Yes, it had to be the wolves. They were stealing the children. The villagers didn’t understand it. They had once lived peaceably together. But that changed the day the young gypsy woman appeared. No one knew where she came from, but she wasn’t one of them. When they caught her reading their children’s palms, and offering to tell their fortunes, they labeled her a witch. A witch can come in handy at times, it’s true, but no one wants a witch too near their children.

30 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Dwellers
GENRE: YA Dystopian/Urban Fantasy

Britta and Gareth haven’t seen another person in nearly two years. One night three strangers arrive and as Britta runs out to meet them, she falls into one of the Dweller’s burrow holes. They are a subhuman result of governmental experiments.

My foot catches on something and I stumble. I reach for Gareth, but he’s running too fast and just miss grabbing him. It’s a second before I realize I’m in trouble. I don’t just stumble, I fall into one of the Dweller’s holes. My hands and feet flail as I slide down the dirt tunnel, grappling for anything that’ll stop me from hitting the bottom, but I never make purchase.

I hit with a thud, bringing up a cloud of dirt. I find my footing fast and back against the wall of the makeshift cave. I stretch my eyes and don’t dare turn on my headlamp. Three Dwellers are in this tight six-by-six area. They curl together in the fetal position, hibernating until sunrise. The smell of decaying, burnt flesh grips my throat and burns my eyes. The sun cooks the Dwellers, just as it would cook me, but at a much slower rate. I stifle a cough. I must make no noise.

My eyes adjust slowly and I see their thick, gray-green skin. I have to get out of here. I look up the hole. The full moon is too low to provide much light down here. Night will be gone soon. Did Gareth see me go down? If he didn’t, he’ll waste time searching other holes. He’s too smart to call out for me or to shine a light. Dwellers won’t venture out of their burrows in the dark, but they’ll wake if provoked. Without light or calling my name Gareth won’t find me in time.

29 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Forever After (working title)
GENRE: YA Fantasy

In 1943 after the Nazi invasion of Russia, seventeen year old Jewish girl Inda Sobol and her family have left their home in Odessa. They are seeking refuge in Siberia to wait out the war, but her younger brother has fallen ill and the family can go no farther than a shack outside Smolensk.

I held my breath, closed my eyes and that’s when I heard it—a faint crunching from somewhere on the other side. Like footsteps in the ice-glazed snow.

I stiffened, digging my nails into the flesh beneath my knees. My ears strained and caught a rustling sound--branches sliding along a sleeve or pant leg. A twig cracked and I sought out the crescent hole again. The earth, blanketed in undisturbed white, shimmered under the dim glow of the moon, but the noises grew closer.

My father leaned forward and motioned for me to stay silent. Mama clutched Simon in her arms, muffling his breathing. Whatever it was, it was obvious my parents didn’t want it finding us. I sucked my bottom lip in between my teeth and clenched my hands tightly into fists, straight at my sides.

I counted five, maybe six sets of footsteps. Human footsteps, I was sure of it now. And there was something lighter, swifter and busier--dogs. It had to be dogs. Soldiers and dogs. A lump rose in my throat that I couldn’t force down.

They stopped in front of the entrance. The dogs sniffed the base of the door, claws scraping at the step. Their chain leashes clinked as they lunged in anticipation. They had found their target.

“Offnen Sie!”

I clapped my hands over my ears. The soldier’s fist thudded into the door like a sledge hammer. My head pounded with every blow, thinking he’d batter his way right through.

28 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Lord of Wicked
GENRE: Regency Historical

This is scene is where our heroine Melissa is out riding and is being chased by a man she knows her husband dislikes but she has no idea why. She just instinctively knows this man and his men mean her harm.

Heart in her mouth, she swung the mare around the copse, forcing the men to wheel their horses before they could follow.

Melissa felt her heart rising into her throat; swallowing, she rode with hands and knees, urging the little mare to fly.

The mare was nimble and had a good turn of speed. It had been years since Melissa had ridden so fast, so recklessly, so desperately, but the thought of her baby spurred her on. She sensed the horses gaining on her; she didn’t risk a glance back. If she was unseated she not only risked capture, she might injure the baby she carried.

She couldn’t outrun them; already she felt her mare tiring. She would have to lose them.

One paddock over was Blackwood forest, dense woodland with trees large enough to hide her or at least give her mare a fighting chance.

She headed towards the woods, her closest cover, hoping she could outrun them. Her hands on the reins felt like ice. Capture was out of the question.

The gallant mare responded as she veered north and picked up the pace. She pushed the horse into a gallop; racing as if chased by the devil.

Her hands shook. He was the devil.

His men’s curses carried on the breeze.

Facing forward, her lungs tight, she urged the mare on. They were gaining on her, the ground shaking from their thunderous strides.

Sooner than she expected, a line of trees rose before her.

27 Drop the Needle

GENRE: YA paranormal

This is the middle of a scene where the Hero, Caleb, and the Heroine, Sarah, are reconciling their misunderstandings about dating. At the same time, strange occurances have been happening in the town, and Sarah is begining to believe that Caleb is somehow connected.

His eyes swept over the landscape a second time before they rested on me. I nearly jumped when I recognized the concern etched on face. I’d seen this look before in my dreams.
The edge to his voice scared me. “You must do exactly what I say. Do you understand?” My eyes widened, but I nodded. “Don’t get out of the car for any reason.”

I trembled as he shoved on the door and leapt out. He slammed it closed, and out of habit, I locked the doors. I squirmed forward, trying to locate his dark shape against the woods. There were no campus safety lights in the park. SGA would be hearing from me.
I swore I heard a voice call out and Caleb answer. But as my breath fogged up the windows, I lost sight of his silhouette. I rubbed away the white film and saw nothing at first. A scream tore through my lungs with a burn when a black shape whizzed over the hood and shook the Mercedes. I pressed back against the seat, my heart expanding in my throat and preventing air in my lungs. The thing flew by again followed by another shape.

My voice scratched in a whisper. “Caleb?”

Minutes passed and nothing else happened. My imagination whirled at sickening speed, and I envisioned Caleb injured and unconscious somewhere. I’d seen enough strange things since I’d arrived in Wenham to know that this classified as one.

26 Drop the Needle

TITLE: The Impeller
GENRE: Fantasy

Willem is part of a rebel group. He is on a mission to save a certain child with special abilities who can help with their cause.

‘This way,’ the boy cried, skidding off down a different corridor. The sounds of barking could be heard coming from the direction of the large hall. They sprinted down a lamp-lit hallway towards another, old wooden door, heavy set and grim. Just as they reached the back Willem heard snarls from behind and the skid of skin on stone, followed by the heavy clop of wooden soles. He glanced behind and what he saw made his heart thump painfully. He swiveled fully to face the new danger.

The pretty matron stood at the entrance and placed a hand on the blonde girl’s shoulder, whilst holding a whip in the other. Her smile was serene. At her feet crawled six children, their hair grown long, covering their eyes and ears. Their bodies were naked bar a small strip of cloth covering their genitals, and around their necks clung thick leather collars tied to leashes which traveled back to the small, blonde girl’s hands. The stench of urine slapped Willem in the face as a throaty growl issued from one of the children. Willem’s eyes bulged. Grotesque fingernails, thickened, pointed and clawed grew from each of the thing’s hands and feet. One child bared its teeth. Willem stepped back, a cold sweat sweeping across his skin, his hair standing on end as he looked at the things’ teeth, filed to points and gnashing sharply. Something broke inside Willem. A tear of rage dribbled down his cheek.

‘Release them,’ the matron whispered.

Drop the Needle: Day Two

Lots of great critiquing going on here -- keep 'em coming!

The second 25 will post over the next couple of hours. Here's a refresher of the rules:


  • ALL ENTRANTS: Please critique a minimum of 5 entries. A good approach: Critique the two entries before and the two entries after your own, plus one other. If everyone does this, it'll ensure a more even crit distribution.
  • Please don't post under "Anonymous." Choose option #3 in the comment box (Name/URL) and choose a screen name by which you can be easily identified.
  • Authors: RESIST THE URGE TO COMMENT ON YOUR CRITIQUES! This is not the time to explain, clarify, defend. Read the comments, take what is helpful, leave the rest.
  • Enjoy! It's wonderful to share our creative processes and grow together toward our writing goals. This is a peek inside the brains of our colleagues! So let's have fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

25 Drop the Needle

TITLE: A Girl, A Guy, A Nurse, and A Cop
GENRE: Romantic Comedy

The Yaris was about five cars up from the ground. It’s not likely to fall, but it looks difficult to climb.

“I cannot expect you to climb that Miss.”

“I'm lighter, no offense.”

“None taken, I know my shape is not what it could be.”

“This skirt isn’t exactly made for climbing though.”

“Well, I think I should climb up.”

“Nonsense.” She drops her skirt and throws her shoes off and climbs up.

“Um, Miss, I find this highly disturbing.”

“Enjoy it while you can officer.”

The officer ponders her response, and decides he could afford to watch and enjoy a few moments of her well exposed derriere. Her panties were barely more than a thong. After all, her safety depended on his ability to respond by observing.

She makes it up to the Yaris, barely any room to squeeze in. She sees the seat off of its mounts.

A quick pull of her arm and she pulls her body into the car.


Her panties got torn up the front.

Behind the seat off its mounts she sees a black wedge. Gently she grabs for the item and finds it stuck. She then uses both arms to free it, which makes the vehicle rock slightly. Once she stops rocking, she heads back for the door opening.

The officer had a great view of her butt going up. The front of her panties were torn climbing in. No matter how she climbed down, he had a great view of her.

24 Drop the Needle

GENRE: Thriller

“Please, can I borrow your cell phone?” Khalid asked a young man who was weaving his way through the arena’s parking lot propped up by an irritated young lady. “It’s an emergency.” The boy gave Khalid a quizzical look. The smell of alcohol drifted off the kid like nuclear fall-out. “I’ll give it right back. And I’ll give you fifty dollars,” the man said, producing a wallet from his back pocket. The girl scowled and handed over her phone, pocketing the money before the boy could take it.

“Hello, I am in the parking lot,” Khalid said loudly enough for the couple to hear them. His charade was unnecessary as the couple were engaged in an argument by that time. Khalid continued in a quieter tone after Tikrit Todd answered at the other end. “Much is happening,” he reported in Arabic. “A big concert will soon take place in Havana. You need to start planning now.” He gave quick and sketchy details of Jake’s trip, keeping the conversation as short as he possibly could. In less than two minutes, Khalid handed the phone back to the girl, who barely glanced at him as she continued to bitch out her drunk boyfriend. The guy was unable to verbally defend himself as he was too busy throwing up on her open-toed shoes. Khalid slipped away to his vehicle, unnoticed.

23 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Eagle's Wings
GENRE: Young Adult

Marie Fowler is a teenage cyclist competing in a finals race that determines who will advance to the regional competition. This scene comes at the end of the race; Matt is another cyclist who has acted more and more peculiar as Marie's success grows.

The wind picked up again, pushing my bike sideways. I nearly hit Matt as my shirt billowed like a canary-yellow sail. He shot me a sharp look, his shoulders set in an angry clench.

The cracks of Saturday-morning golf balls became more frequent. It was time to put an end to this race. Matt apparently had the same thought. We both sped up, tires humming across the pavement, gears clacking as we up-shifted.

Speed was the key.

It was like a little kid’s race down the driveway—reckless, swift, each of us matching the other’s pace and then trying to top it. Matt gasped for air, and my mouth quirked into a grin.

This is over. I’m about to smoke him.

He caught my look, and glared, matching my pace even though he looked like he might pass out. I tried to shake him, but a sudden burning in my legs and lungs cut me short.

Three cyclists advance. I’ll be all right, I thought.

As we crested the final hill, entering the sight of the small crowd at the finish line, Matt began to edge closer to me. Confused, I accelerated, still hoping to get by him. Up ahead, Angela swept across the finish line. Matt wavered nearer.

I swerved to the left, near the edge of the pavement, as Matt continued to crowd me. His mouth was set, his eyes squinting. He tilted his bike away.

I realized it one horrible second too late.

22 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Bitter Bar Girl
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

Nora is at the bar celebrating. Her best friend Sabine is bartending.
Their merriment is interrupted by unexpected visitors.

Sabine’s face turns from smile to frozen dread.

Suddenly someone yells, “Everyone get face down on the floor!” Before I can react, a man in a knitted face mask pole vaults the bar in one swift move, then grabs hold of Sabine’s arm. He holds a gun loosely in his other hand like it’s a ten-dollar tennis racquet. She looks like a figure in a wax museum the way her face becomes pasty white with a thin sheen of glistening sweat. I glance over my shoulder, letting out a helpless squeal. There is another masked man guarding the door.

“Shut up! Don’t you (expletive) look at me, b****! Get (expletive) face down!” My stool falls backwards, and I grab the bar to brace myself but instead careen my chin into the lip of the wood as I plummet to the floor with a crash. I hear someone behind me kicking chairs.
“All right folks, let’s make this quick.” Someone—maybe Dean—lets out a muffled groan. I remain still, afraid to turn my head, but, from the corner of my eye I notice the guy grab my purse, fling the contents out, including my film. Then he grabs my wallet, apparently searching for cash. The sound in my head is what you might hear underwater, first a dull rush as you sink down and then the deep ring of nothing.

21 Drop the Needle

TITLE: 7 Days to Redemption
GENRE: Spiritual Thriller

Nathan found himself in a dark alley helping a man lying in a pool of blood. He called the ambulance and waited - until a group of thugs found him and approached. Scared and hearing the ambulance siren, Nathan ran. He found an opening at the end of the alley, squeezed through and is trying to find a place to hide.

To Nathan’s right stood a door. He glanced back to see how close the thugs were. He could make it in time. Inching his way across, hugging the wall as much as he could, he reached the door and thrust it open. Inside, he looked to find a way to bar the entrance before the death traps outside realized his disappearing act. A flimsy chain lock hung from the top of the door. After attaching the chain lock, he turned to look around. He leaned against the wall, gasping from the adrenalin.

With his back against the door, he noticed a blackened hallway straight lay ahead. Thirty paces to safety. If he made it in time, he’d be shrouded in complete darkness. He heard the thugs approach, their heavy tread scuffling loose rocks in their path. Pushing himself away from the door he an idea came to him. If he crushed himself into the space behind the door and wall, and the door opened, he could hide himself. As long as they didn’t close the door after coming into the hallway, it was a perfect spot to hide. He crouched close to the floor as the door bulged. He took a deep breath, holding it when the flimsy lock broke. With his heart beating loudly, he prayed under his breath to a God who deserted him a long time ago. Being crouched so low, he couldn’t see what happened on the other side of the door, but he heard it.

20 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Requiem Eternal
GENRE: Adult Paranormal

Sara O'Duinn is a conscious psychic capable of psychometry. She reads
a man's ring that called to her at the auction house. The ring's owner
is not pleased.

The vision turns to a red door slamming shut. I open my eyes to
see the outline of a man standing outside the glass door of the shop.
A deep male voice bellows with anger in my head,


I fire back to his mind, “What are you?”

He steps forward to peer at me with a more direct challenge. My eyes
meet his for the first time through the precarious safety of the glass
door. The calculated coldness of his stare is met with the heat of
adrenaline rising within me. An energy builds to wrap him with an
illuminating red glow. Deep red tendrils drift from his body into the
doorway. They seep through the invisible cracks to seek me out. My
mind calculates the quickest exit. I run to the side door pausing
first to listen for footsteps or breathing. The corridor is silent
with the dormancy of the hour. I open the door a crack to look
outside. The door handle rips from my grasp. He stands in the doorway
in front of me too close for comfort. A deep red pulsing energy
encircles his body. The ribbons of color stream from him to reach out
to me. This time, I can't move to evade their path. I focus on a
triangle of hot white neutral energy in my mind to block his attack.

19 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Sticks and Stones
GENRE: Mystery

Kai Hemming and Randi Green meet when Kai's broken coffee mug punctures the tire on her mini cooper. He puts on a spare and offers to lead her to Goodyear where he will buy her a new tire.

...He reminded me of a golden retriever. I just hoped he didn’t bite.

Kai gestured in his rear view mirror. My mini cooper inched up in back of his vehicle. The jeep peeled off from the traffic light and into traffic, laying a patch of rubber on the concrete.
Kai zoomed through the amber light at the corner of Dolefield and Painters Mills Roads leaving me behind.


Kai disappeared around the bend past the Owings Mills Metro station. The light finally turned green. I sped up. The mud flecked Jeep waited on the shoulder near Red Run Boulevard. The Jeep lurched into traffic as I approached. He veered right onto Lyons Mills Road. My wheels screeched into the turn.

“Why didn’t he take the direct route down McDonough Lane?” Perhaps the tire place was further north on Liberty Road.

Kai turned right onto Mays Chapel Road. Puddles of heat rose off the blacktop. We zigzagged past yellow grass, scrub pines and boulders. The 1900 acre Soldiers Delight Park would be a perfect place to dump a body. Rush hour traffic wouldn’t be cutting through the park for hours. My hand shook as I flipped on the radio, searching for something soothing.

Hey little girl is your daddy home. Did he go away and leave you all alone. I got a bad desire. I’m on fire. Tell me now baby is he good to you? Can he do to you the things that I do? I can take you higher. I’m on fire.

18 Drop the Needle

TITLE: (working title) From the Neighborhood

Jack and Mikey broke into a friend's house to pull a prank while the family was out of town... but a neighbor called the cops and now they're being chased. The main character is Jack, that's the one the narrative is following, I realized after isolating this section that unless you'd been reading for a while, you'd have no way of knowing who 'he' is.

Mikey dropped down first and took off toward the opposite yard. By the time Jack’s feet touched the gravel, there was a bustle of activity coming from the front of the gangway. He spared a quick enough look to see flashes of light bouncing toward him and he took off, hurdling the first fence and flipping over the second without even thinking. That’s what blind terror and youthful agility could do – an over-caffeinated gymnast would probably make a pretty decent second story man.

He burst into the alley just as the squad car sped around the corner.


He lunged over garbage cans kicking them back onto the pavement behind him and ran straight through the yard, jumping another fence and coming up the other side of the next block. It was dark enough against the front of the house, and way too flippin’ quiet.

They should be chasing me, shouldn’t they?

Leaves crunched under his sneakers as he took a few cautious steps to the sidewalk. The houses were all dark and quiet, not even a porch light to give him away. He kept walking, each house length taking an eternity, and every time he got to the next gangway the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, waiting for someone to jump out at him. He sped up, trying to control his ragged breath, trying not to freak out so much that he couldn’t run, but nothing happened. And the quieter it got, the faster his heart raced.

17 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Cannibal Island

At this point, the adventurers have descended the steps into the underground treasure vault and discovered the gold, and something else.

My breath rushed in when I saw the horrible thing behind her. I stared in disbelief for a moment, shocked by what I was seeing. Wren must have noticed my gaze. She turned around to look. After turning, she stood motionless. The coins slowly fell from her hands and made a bright ringing sound when they bounced on the floor. The revolver in her other hand landed with a heavy thud. Her shrill scream echoed throughout the chamber.

She backed up a few tentative steps, still staring at the thing in front of her. A moment later, she turned and ran toward me. Her arms wrapped around my back, and she buried her face in my shoulder.

“Oh, God!” she said. “That’s horrible!”

With Wren trembling in my arms, I stared at the spectacle displayed before us. Suspended from the ceiling was a large, golden ring. Tied to the ring was a noose made from vines. It encircled the neck of a body. The hideous corpse moved back and forth. Slowly. Back and forth. Swaying in the torchlight like a pale and grotesque puppet.

The throat was slit, resembling a ragged, bloody smile. The most horrific aspect was the face, grimacing as if the victim had suffered a frightening and painful death. Hollow, dark holes now stared out blindly from the head. The eyes were gone. Destroyed. Burnt from their sockets — as if a hot poker had been driven into them. A trail of dark tears flowed down the cheeks, the dried and crusty remnant of spurted blood.

16 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Boundary Street
GENRE: Memoir

This is actually the first page of my manuscript. I've decided to leave my husband and am phoning my mom to tell her.

I came out of the early morning San Francisco fog and entered my office, throwing my keys and purse on the desk that took up most of the tiny room. Although I was the first to arrive at work, I still pushed the door closed. My red satin Chinese jacket, a gift from my sisters-in-law in central China, caught on the coarse upholstery of my desk chair and I jerked it free.

My fingers shook as I punched in my parents’ number in Chicago. I would be long gone by the time my boss received the bill. I glanced at a photo tacked to my bulletin board of Liu and me holding hands in Hong Kong Park surrounded by purple and white azaleas and another of us with Jake in his stroller lingering under a trellis of fuchsia bougainvillea in Berkeley. One ring, then two. On the third, my mother answered.

“Susan?” My mother sounded surprised to hear from me this early.

“Mom,” I sobbed. “I’m coming home.” Tears flowed from my eyes, creating dark red spots on my jacket.

“It’s okay. Take a breath.”

Sniffling, I reached for a tissue and wiped my eyes. “My lawyer doesn’t want me to tell Liu. She also thinks I can’t do this alone.”

“Okay.” My mom paused, and then asked, “Do you want me to come out to help you?”

“That’s what she suggested. She said it’s too much for me to do alone."

15 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Love & Lies
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

The main character's brothers have just died in a fire and her ex-lover arrived at the church where she's grieving.

He pushed away from the doorframe, flicking the door shut. As the oak door swung closed, the last sunlight faded outside, leaving the church lit only by candlelight. “That you did.”

Three days ago she’d said she didn’t want him anymore, lied to him to preserve her heart and her soul, and yet he’d come north for her. She needed to feel his strength. Climbing back to her feet, Dara brushed pointlessly at the spots on her gown before reaching up and touching his face. “You came to me…” she whispered and curled her arms around his waist, burrowing her face against the familiar broad chest. Her head didn’t even come to his shoulder, but he felt so warm, so good. He didn’t put his arms around her as he used to, but having him close was enough. “The boys…they’re dead. You remember me telling you, about me…my brothers?” Echoes of L’Emeraude rang in her ears, scolding her for the brogue she fought against in the outer rims of Polite Society.

“I remember.” He stroked her hair. Even though the movement was familiar, comforting in action, something felt wrong. “The gutter trash.”

Dara stiffened. Anthony surely wouldn’t have said that. She was hearing things. He’d always been so comforting when she’d missed the little ones. “Aye, the twins. Burned they were.”

Anthony’s fingers brushed lightly against her cheek in a caress. “I told you, you shouldn’t leave, my love. There would be consequences. There are always consequences.”

14 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Morning Mist
GENRE: Speculative YA Fiction

After two full moon cycles alone and weaponless in the wilderness, Talyn and Acacia are returning from completing a required journey of engagement, a test to prove their love and worthiness to be joined in marriage Standing at the top of a hillside, looking down at the temple where their family and friends cheer and await to celebrate their union, the ground begins to shake and fall apart around them.....


Acacia screamed out his name as they fought to reach each other, but the ground slipped out from under her feet and quickly plummeted down--taking her with it. He grappled at her reached out hand, barely brushing her fingertips.

On his knees, he watched her disappear in the debris, hearing what must have been himself, crying out her name… pleading with the God’s… but they couldn't hear him over the thunderous roar of the earth falling apart all around him. Overcome with anguish, he looked out at the quickly darkening sky, swirling with threatening clouds.

A towering wave of wreckage, once an aqua blue ocean, melded with the dusty charcoal sky. The approaching nothingness was hungrily consuming what was left of the island and any other living being left to face the unavoidable end of their existence.

The breeze grew into a violent wind. He struggled to his feet. Raging drops of rain pelted his skin. He heard crashing and the roar of rolling boulders. He looked down into the valley.

His friends and family were screaming in terror! The temple crumbled down upon them. He cried out in madness! His knees failed him. There was no hope of escape.

An immense swell of roaring water sped towards him. The ledge, on which he lay, began to crumble. He cursed the heartless predator at the top of his lungs. Then he opened his arms to embrace his impending death… and tragically… surrendered to the darkness.

13 Drop the Needle

TITLE: A Crack In The Dam
GENRE: Upper Middle Grade Speculative Dystopian Mess, at the moment.

Twelve year-old Vadin (narrator) and his little sister are heading upstairs after dinner on a Friday night. They live in a mansion: huge curving staircase, long hallways. Vadin's older brother, Derik, is a sociopathic bully. Oh, and Vadin has a pet gub (fictional animal) named Stubby.

Nearing the stairs we both froze when we saw my brother approach from the opposite hall.

“Save yourself,” I whispered to Kinsey. She didn’t hesitate, darting up the stairs to her room.

I followed her casually, ignoring Derik like I wasn’t afraid of him. This must have annoyed him because he shoved me in the back.

“It’s kind of early to go to bed,” he said. “Unless you’re a little baby.”

“It’s kind of early to be home,” I replied. “Unless you have no friends.”

I took off before I finished the last sentence. I heard my brother clomping up after me, but he couldn’t catch me on the stairs. On a flat race, yes, but on the stairs we were about even. It would be a close race to my room, and if I couldn’t get the door closed and locked in time, I was doomed.

I reached the top of the stairs and sprinted down the hall. My neck hairs prickled, expecting a hand to grab my shoulder and pull me backwards. He’d slam me onto the floor and kick me in the ribs. And then he'd convince my parents I deserved it.

But instead, I heard a thump.

“You stupid gub!” Derik yelled. “You’re dead!”

Stubby yelped. He must have tangled himself between Derik’s legs and tripped him, just like he always did to me.

Safety was a step away.

Stubby shrieked again, high and pained.

My brain screamed, “Save yourself!” But I ignored it and ran back.

12 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Out of the Dark
GENRE: YA Historical

It's 1514, Seville, Spain. Marco is wandering through a series of dark underground tunnels, looking for a way to escape, and has just entered a chamber where a strange sound is echoing loudly. He is claustrophobic.

Marco flung his hands over his ears and his lantern flew away, clattering on the rocky ground. It winked out as his cry and the lantern’s clatter resounded in the air, joining the cacophony of noise. Marco gasped, turning and turning, flailing in the dark for a way to escape.

The roaring grew and swelled as if a vast multitude murmured and mumbled in some unknown gibberish. The noise tumbled over him like an avalanche, burying him beneath a mountain of clamoring bedlam. He collapsed to his knees, unable to move, unable to think, his hands pressed tight against his ears, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Stop it!” he cried. “Stop it!”

His words shouted back at him from every direction.

Stop it!

Stop it!

Stop it!

Something rushed past him. A muffled cry rang out and the noise swelled again, roaring at an even higher pitch. Terrified, Marco opened his eyes and stared into the black.

Cold fingers touched his face. He cried out and scrambled away, his heart pounding, the noise overwhelming. He crawled through the dark, not knowing where he was or where he was headed. He only knew he had to get away. He had to get out of the noise, out of the . . . .

A hand clutched his shoulder.

Marco cried out and the noise escalated.

“Who is there?” someone called.

Marco peered desperately through the black and caught a small glimmer of light in the distance.

“Help me!” he cried. “Please, help me!”

11 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: Young adult science fiction

Seth and Adair, two high school delegates at a biomedia conference, are sitting at the head table at the closing banquet. Adair, apparently ill, has her head pressed into her hands; Seth has been trying to rouse her.

Diantha Knead, Nellis’s other female delegate, was now eyeing them strangely from across Chance’s seat. Mr. Hermes’s knife and fork clanked against his plate, and Seth decided he must have noticed, too. The server behind Adair had clearly noticed: She was still standing there with her dish, her too-wide eyes darting from Adair’s hunched form to Mr. Hermes and back again, looking like she was about to hurl all over Adair’s first course.

Seth started to reach for her, not knowing what to do, not even knowing what he was going to do once he touched her, but his fingers never found their mark. And the server never got her chance to vomit, at least that he could see. Because sometime before his hand reached her shoulder, the blazing light in the ballroom flickered, flashed—and promptly died. And darkness black as space encased them.

The people gasped, the server squealed, and one loose dinner plate clattered to the floor. He realized, one second later, the sound had come from behind him. And then a light—a single one, directly overhead, like a spotlight—turned back on.

In the murky glow that streamed from who knew how many stories above them, Seth saw immediately that Adair was no longer in her seat. She was standing behind him, where the poor serving girl had just been, long hair cascading in rough jumbles past her face. And in her upraised fist she held something that looked remarkably like a knife.

10 Drop the Needle

GENRE: YA Paranormal

Mara never thought her mother would burn down their home-- even after her papa died inside-- much less that her mother would set it aflame herself without telling anyone else. Mara has just run inside to rescue her violin:

Blinding smoke chokes our tiny bow-top wagon. Its wooden walls are already aflame, sending my home to the hereafter with Papa. I can live with losing my sweet Papa and our home in the same week, but not my violin, too.

Orange light flickers off its smooth surface, right where I left it and my bow on the narrow bunk. You should have loosened the bow when you were done playing, Mara, comes Alex's voice in my head. A fine time for such a warning, when I'm risking my skin.

I snatch the unburned blanket from the mattress, holding my violin tight to my chest and wrapping the blanket close. I stumble sightless toward the door I'd left open while the flames eat away our beloved vardo. They'll eat me next if I stay any longer. If I stay...

Mother is shouting outside. "Sweet Mother Mary, save my baby girl!”

Imagine, Mother and my sisters grieving for me. There'll be nothing of mine to burn. Nothing left to remember me by. Nothing but my restless mulo to haunt them.

I'd laugh at myself if it wouldn't mean sucking in smoke. Me, just another mulo like old Kira and the Tinker. Wouldn't they love to see me so? I grit my teeth. I'm determined to live, if only to keep from spending the afterlife with those two chattering in my dead ear.

Clutching my violin, I tuck my face under the blanket and hurry toward the door, quick as a match is struck.

9 Drop the Needle


Shale, a snake, has been entrusted by Fredrick with the task of guiding James, a bird, Safya, an ant, and Alysha, a squirrel, through the secret passages of an underground city. James, the story’s protagonist, must be protected at all costs.

Something was not right. Instead of travelling higher, towards blue sky and fresh air, they were headed lower. The snake seemed to sense his discomfort.

“Sssomething wrong, Jamesss?” The snake grinned. “If not, we bessst keep moving. Don’t want to be ssstuck down here forever. I wouldn’t mind, but I think you might.”

James wanted to turn around and fly as fast as he could in the opposite direction. Shale was a bad bad creature, a very bad creature, no matter what Fredrick had said. Even a dog you have known your whole life can turn around and bite you. Shale was a dog, a bad dog. James wanted to run. But Shale’s voice was just so… so sssoothing.

Mindlessly, James followed Shale step after step. He could hear Safya in his mind telling him to stop, to turn around, to grab Alysha and run, but he had fallen under the snake’s hypnotic trance.

Something crunched under James’ foot. It was a bone. A jawbone. He heard a crack to his right, and, with enormous effort, turned to see what it was. Alysha, also under the snake’s wily power, was following Shale too. She had stepped on a ribcage. It was all going to end here, in this underground tomb where Shale lured his prey to be consumed. Even as he walked, James could see where he was headed. Shale waited at the edge of a large, black pit, willing the bird and the squirrel to jump into it.

8 Drop the Needle

GENRE: Middle Grade

Three American teens are magically transported to Namibia where they meet up with a native teenager who takes them on a dangerous safari. This is their third confrontation with a rhino they've been tracking.

The rhino must have heard the noise coming from the car. It had turned and was jerking its head up and down, definitely not happy to see them again.

Dakata crunched the gears into reverse and backed up a little. The rhino took a few menacing steps forward. Dakata backed up a similar distance. The rhino moved forward again. It was like the rhino and the Land Rover were doing one of those lame, teenage slow dances.

“Should you be moving?” Ernest whispered to Dakata. “It makes it mad when you move doesn’t it?”

“I am quite sure it is already feeling anger,” Dakata said. “You people should have more kindness for each other. One only makes more trouble for oneself by failing to work as a team.”

“Sorry,” Tyler mumbled, feeling kind of guilty. Usually he didn’t care if he caused trouble, but now he was beginning to wonder if cooperating might be worth something. Trouble here didn’t earn a simple detention. No, trouble here had more serious consequences--like getting skewered by a rhino.

“What do you think it wants?” Tyler asked.

“I believe you can better answer that question than I.” Dakata gave him a meaningful look.

Tyler narrowed his eyes at the rhino. What exactly did it want from them?

But it didn’t wait for him to come up with an answer. It pawed the ground a few times then charged, a full frontal attack. Dakata floored the gas pedal, and the Land Rover took off in reverse.

7 Drop the Needle


Let's see, Balicia is a Shuue'uae, a vaguely elf-like creature, the protagonist is a human named Evernow, Draembauriel is a bow, Brother is a raven, humans and Shuuen'uae are generally enemies, Balicia is very pregnant. The first sentence is talking about Balicia.

Deep crimson blossoms like a morbid flower between her full breasts. Her expression is the one of vexed consideration that I will never see again on her face. But I understand. A rifle. That was the sound.

I lunge. I throw myself at Balicia. But I’m not Shuuen’uae. I’m not fast enough. She spins as if performing a strange dance in slow motion. Then she falls, disappearing over the edge of the cliff. I nearly follow in my desperate failing attempt to catch her. Hanging precariously, I feel a faint upsweep of air from below. A charmed wind.

Balicia is still alive. It’s all I need to know. She is alive. She used wind to slow her descent. I secure Draembauriel and begin running along the cliffs edge. I can hear the trees now that I’m paying attention. They scream in whistling rattles, wailing of intruders. Of bloodshed. Brother swoops in from one side crying angrily.

I follow him when he veers right. He’ll already know how to get to the base of the cliff. Once I’m down there though, I still have to get back to where Balicia fell. I listen intently to the trees now, trusting them to tell me where my enemies are.

It takes so long. It doesn’t matter how quickly I move. It takes too long. I find blood just a few yards out from where the rock face joins the ground. But Balicia isn’t there. They’ve taken her.

6 Drop the Needle

GENRE: Science fiction/fantasy

When Kate and Toby search his sister Lisa’s condominium for migraine medicine she needs after her husband Ian goes missing, Kate finds a hole clawed though a closet wall and steps through into somebody else’s place.

On the other side of the wall he caught Kate’s arm. Startled, she wheeled around, gripping the camera, eyes wide. The wind blowing through the dark rooms said the place was probably abandoned, so he took one more uneasy step to stand by her side.

Ian, are you in here?

As if in answer to his thoughts, pale drapes billowed into the room, swayed and blew out through the open balcony doors. A faint rap-rap sounded, a hollow, ghostly tapping, but when the tapping repeated itself, he realized it was the wind knocking the balcony doors against the building. Sleet blew across the floor, fluttering though the pages of a magazine, and an unseen clock ticked.

In the streetlight coming through the open balcony he could make out their surroundings. They had stepped through the closet wall into a living room filled with massive white furniture, serpentine-patterned pillows, and glass-topped bamboo tables, as though the owner once lived in the tropics and had tried to import the flavor of Cancun or Rio thousands of miles north to chilly Washington, D.C. Two broad-leafed banana trees grew by the windows. Behind the couch stood a black wooden screen painted with bright green parrots, ebony macaws, and other exotic birds that were so realistic their eyes seemed alive. Bird sculptures brooded in a large curio cabinet and a series of handsome photographs ringed the walls: herons fishing at twilight, a woodpecker on a limb, a hawk waiting for its prey.

5 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Flesh Tone
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

Emma is facing a moral dilemma: to give in to her primal zombie urges, or to protect the woman that her brother loves.

Nausea rises from the pit of my stomach up through the back of my throat. Her scent assaults my airway, over-whelming me. My mouth waters from the stench. I blink the stinging from my eyes, as a primal pull courses through my veins.

The thought of eating her tender flesh takes over my head. I clench my fists, trying to re-gain control.

She must see the possessed look in my eyes because her face registers horror. Her breath shoots out in rapid bursts. Her face contorts in an attempt to control her panting.

I strain against my desires. I stand up, and pace back and forth to rid my mind of these revolting thoughts. I’m around dead flesh all the time, why is this suddenly different?

“Do what you have to do, Emma. I’d rather die at your hand then the others.” There is resignation in her voice.

I am stunned by her words, but because of my depraved state, intrigued by them as well. I consider what she is saying.

No one would know. She is dying anyway.

I contemplate what she might taste like. I imagine it being the most mouth-watering and appetizing delicacy ever. I lick my fingers in anticipation. My eyes sting more acutely. My mouth drips with saliva as I look her over, longingly.

Her eyes stare straight through me now, as if I am not even there. As if she cannot consider my existence or relationship to her any longer.

Besides, I am no longer someone she knows. Whom she knew, just minutes ago.

4 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Lost in a Heartbeat
GENRE: YA contemporary

Calleigh is swimming for the first time since giving up the sport competitively after she was raped. The dolphin charm bracelet is very special to her. Her grandmother had given it to her.

I lifted my arm up in preparation to take the next stroke, and watched helplessly as my charm bracelet slipped off my wrist and sank into the murky waters of the lake.

A hollow feeling seized me. “Great,” I muttered. It was a sign. I really wasn’t supposed to be swimming again.

I took a deep breath, filling my lungs as much as possible, dove down to the bottom of the lake directly beneath me, and groped around the sand, searching for my bracelet.

And then I found it. Or at least something that felt like it could be my bracelet. It had drifted down through a gap between two logs. It was fluke that I found it. Lucky for me, my hand had slipped though the opening while searching for the bracelet.

As I began to extract my hand, I accidentally bumped against the logs. The top one shifted, pinning me in place. I tried to jerk my hand lose, but the heavy log prevented me from escaping. I struggled again, aware that at any moment I’d be forced to suck in that final breath. But instead of air, water would fill my lungs; my life would be over.

A lightheadedness invaded my mind; my lungs screamed. This was it. No one would save me. Just like that night.

Something touched my shoulder, startling me. Without meaning to, I took a final breath.

3 Drop the Needle

GENRE: YA Paranormal

Scarlet is deep in the woods gathering herbs for Grandmother Aradia's potions.

Her breath caught in her throat as a large wolf emerged from the gloom. Its lips parted in what Scarlet was sure was a grin of anticipation. A pink tongue flicked over its sharp yellow teeth as though it could already taste her. She dropped the rhizome and trowel into the basket and slid her hand into the pocket of her cloak. She grasped the herb knife like a lifeline. The blade might be small, but it was sharp.

The fingers of her free hand instinctively found the tie on her cloak. It was secure.

Aradia had given the cloak to Scarlet almost a year ago as a gift for her sixteenth birthday. "This cloak has been in our family for generations. I used it, your mother used it, and now it is yours. Its magic will protect you from the dangers of the forest as you gather herbs," she had said.

Aradia wouldn't lie, but Scarlet had doubts about the red cloth being able to protect her should the wolf attack.

Muscles rippled smoothly beneath its black fur as it crept closer. Its low growls pumped terror through her veins. She took a step back as the wolf advanced. It snarled and leapt, landing in a crouch a few feet in front of her. The beast's tongue flicked between cruel teeth as it repeatedly snapped and licked at the air. Scarlet stared at the face of death and wondered how painful it would be when the sharp teeth tore into her flesh.

2 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Marbles
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Info - Ari is exploring her aunt’s strange house and discovers that
the shadows that lurk over balconies and in corners are quite real and

I tried to keep my movements controlled as I sorted the papers. Out of
the corner my eye, I saw the shadow crossing the room. By now, a
second one had stepped out of the wall and joined the first. Two
shadows. Crap. Frick. Damn. They wandered around Toddle’s room,
drawing closer.

My hands shook as I brushed as much of the dust back onto the papers.
I tried to ignore the shadows and remember the original order of the
papers. Forget it.

“I’ll have to confess,” I said aloud, creating an excuse for my
trembling hands.. “How bad can it be… telling Toddle her writing

I kept my eyes as blank as I turned, allowing them to trail across the
shadow guys. Tall, looming, and not my imagination. I moved towards
the door and pulled it shut behind me. Outside, I felt an
uncomfortable reprieve from a nightmare – like a commercial break.
Then I mentally smacked myself for waiting for the shadows to glide
through the door after me.

I hurried down the hallway and made the turn down the main staircase.
The air felt like it was getting heavier and combined with the feeling
I'd slipped the noose but temporarily. Get out of the house

Too late. A hefty shadow arose before me and reached the height of a
hefty man. I could smell his breath burning into my face, or perhaps
my nose imagined that. Because how could a shadow have bad breath?

1 Drop the Needle

TITLE: The Memory Of Henry Franks
GENRE: Suspense

In the middle of a hurricane, Henry and Justine find themselves unable to evacuate and stuck outside of Justine's house which has been boarded shut for the storm. To make matters worse, a serial killer is also trapped and looking for someplace to ride out the storm. The 'hissing' referred to in the scene is a recurring motif throughout the book concerning the murderer.

The hissing grew louder, seeming to drown out the storm.

Justine picked up the planter, slamming it into the window. Glass shattered everywhere, caught on the wind. A shard slammed into her thigh and she would have fallen if Henry hadn’t been right next to her, already pushing her through the window. The spikes of glass at the bottom of the sill cut through their pants as they climbed over but, then, they were through. The screaming of the storm lessened, wind and rain following them through the broken window.

Justine crawled away from the glass, holding her thigh.

“Pull it out?” she asked.

“Doesn’t look like it’s anywhere near an artery, should be ok.” He bent over her leg. “I think.”

“Do it!”

Blood soaked through her pants, but Henry applied pressure and the bleeding slowed, then stopped.

“You ok?” he asked.

“We need to cover that,” she said, pointing outside.

Lightning flashed, and the thunder followed right behind. A shadow fell across the window. Long hair whipped around but it was difficult to see once the lightning went away.

“This way!” she screamed, reaching for his hand.

Both limping, they scrambled to the kitchen, opening drawers at random in the darkness to find knives or scissors.

From the living room, they heard glass shattering to the floor and the hissing echoed through the house.

Henry and Justine backed up, away from the broken window and the storm outside, until they had no place else to run. Knives in each hand, they waited in the kitchen.

Drop the Needle: Day One

Since submissions filled up the first day, there's no reason to wait to begin our crits. This is the fun part, yes? So I'm going to post the first portion of them today.


  • ALL ENTRANTS: Please critique a minimum of 5 entries. A good approach: Critique the two entries before and the two entries after your own, plus one other. If everyone does this, it'll ensure a more even crit distribution.
  • Please don't post under "Anonymous." Choose option #3 in the comment box (Name/URL) and choose a screen name by which you can be easily identified.
  • Authors: RESIST THE URGE TO COMMENT ON YOUR CRITIQUES! This is not the time to explain, clarify, defend. Read the comments, take what is helpful, leave the rest.
  • Enjoy! It's wonderful to share our creative processes and grow together toward our writing goals. This is a peek inside the brains of our colleagues! So let's have fun.
Posts will be up a little later. Keep a weather eye!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Submissions Are Now Closed

I honestly didn't expect the slots to fill up this quickly, but there are obviously lots among us who are craving feedback.

This is a good thing!

Don't despair if you've missed out on this round; we'll do more in-house critting in January!

Drop the Needle: Submissions Open!

Well, it's been quite a while, so here's a refresher:

  • This is an in-house critique session. If you would like to submit your work, please understand that you need to participate by critting a minimum of 5 other entries.
  • Unlike the Secret Agent contests, this critique sessions DOES NOT require that you submit an excerpt from a completed novel. Bear in mind, however, that the better polished/edited your excerpt, the more useful the critique will be.
  • Your excerpt should be 250 words long (give or take a word or two for the sake of ending at a period).
  • "Drop the Needle" is an old term from the days of phonographs (the days of what?). When a music professor "drops the needle" in the middle of a piece of music, the student should be able to identify the composer and title of the work. (Only the cruelest of professors do this sort of thing.) Hence, the scene that you submit can be from anywhere in your novel. It does NOT have to be the first page.
  • Submissions are now open, and will remain open through the end of tomorrow, Tuesday, December 15. I will only close them if the number becomes unmanageable (50 is usually the doable limit).


Submit 250 words from your WIP or completed novel that portray a sense of danger or a developing dangerous scene. This scene should be MOSTLY NARRATIVE. (Some dialogue is always fine, but choose something that is not primarily dialogue.) Focus of critiques will be on PACING and TENSION. Do we feel the danger? Do we care what happens next?

Please submit your excerpt in the following format:


*A sentence or two (not an entire essay, please) giving us a lead-in to your scene

*The 250 words

And, as always, email your submission to me at facelesswords(at)

Questions? Post them below!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Fricassee

A day of random thoughts:

  • I'm on schedule with my Draft 3 push. At the current rate (minimum of 1000 words a day, not including fixes-made-after-nasty-editing-sessions-with-husband), I will be finished before Christmas. Then I'll have the rest of December to comb through the entire thing, yet again.
  • Nat King Cole's German pronunciation (O Tannenbaum) is really, really bad.
  • A small, black bird just whammed into my window. I think he's okay.
  • Just a reminder that we're having a Drop the Needle crit session next week. For the newbies: It's 250 words from a random spot in your novel, and it has to reflect whatever I call for (e.g. a particular emotion, character development, tension, etc.). Submission guidelines will be posted on Monday (and submissions will be open then).
  • There is a pint of Phish Food in my freezer that has remained untouched for 48 hours. This is unprecedented.
  • Then again, it may be directly related to the fact that it's only 20 degrees out. Not exactly ice-cream-eating weather.
  • Except for true die-hards.
  • My desk is an absolute, utter mess. Fortunately, I don't write here. I prefer my big, comfy green chair and magenta lap desk. Or my favorite coffee shop.
  • Speaking of which: the other day, in my favorite coffee shop, an Extremely Profane Rap Song played. No, I'm not exaggerating. It had the kind of lyrics you wouldn't want a young child or your Great Aunt Umbria to hear. And I certainly didn't need to hear them. But I love these guys and don't want to complain. Thoughts?
  • I'm obsessing about lunch. It's still morning.
  • Ahh, Christmastime! It gives December a reason for existing. There is certainly no other reason.
Feel free to share your own random thoughts! And now I'm going to attempt to gather mine into some semblance of order, else my afternoon writing will be a disaster.

Peace and joy!