Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Finally, the last Friday of February! Not that I wish my life away like that; I don't. It's just that...well, this winter HAS been dragging on! I'm ready to stop draping thick, shapeless, warm things on in the morning. I feel like an amoeba.

So. This week, after several weeks of staring into space and plotting and staring into space some more, I tentatively jumped into my new WIP. I've been kind to myself, allowing a daily word count of 100 instead of my normal 1000. I'll ramp up once I get past this I'm-afraid-I-don't-know-the-dance-steps phase.

You know what I mean. Right? Choosing exactly the right place to begin the story. And actually...beginning.

What makes this even harder is that it's technically a "book two." A sequel, if you will. Or the second installment of a brilliant, eight-book series. (Well, not really. Then again, you never know.)

So there's that fine balance of "jumping right in" and "gently reminding the reader what happened last time." Without overwhelming him.

It's like the "Last week, on Star Trek: Voyager." And then you get a 30-second montage. Except, in the literary world, that's called an info-dump. And info-dumps are ugly.

Thus the quandary. How much is too much? Too little? How do I weave in the "remember this guy?" without sounding like a condescending narrator?

Honestly, books 2 and 3 of the Harry Potter series drove me nuts with this. I REMEMBERED who Harry was, what Hogswart was, and the whole backstory. I'm sure J.K.'s editor told her to do it, considering the age of the audience. But still. It bordered on ridiculous (and she's a fabulous writer).

So. All you authors-of-book-twos: How do you find your balance? Have you found starting a "book two" more challenging than a "book one"?

I'm hoping to write a lot this weekend, since Mr. A will be attending a conference (in town, but still gone most of the time). So pass along your writerly advice! I'll have lots of time to apply it.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

50 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: The Sibling War
GENRE: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
EMOTION: Young Friendship

Jake (the MC) and Emmy are both thirteen, poor, and live in a remote wooded area that will soon become the setting for a Civil War battle. Emmy has recently moved in, and Jake is smitten.

“Hi Jakey.”

The eggs in my hands smashed to the ground when I realized it was Emmy. The front of my pants turned goopy yellow. “Aw geez. Now I have to go change my britches.”

“Sorry,” Emmy said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I thought you were my brother Tom.”

Mischief crept into Emmy’s smile. “You need your eyes checked.”

“If you were my brother, those eggs would be smashed on your face.”

“That’s not very nice.”

“Neither is Tom.” I surveyed the gook on my pants. “I wouldn’t ever smash you in the face with eggs.”

“That’s good to know,” Emmy said. “Seeing as I came over to give you something.” She held out a blue and white checked bag tied with a bow. Inside I found a ring of light yellow rope.

“You brought me a hanky and a ring thing?”

“It’s not a hanky, silly. And that ring thing is your present.”

I poked at it, and noticed the cloth matched Emmy’s clothes. “You tore this off your dress?”

“Never mind that. What do you think?”

“Um... it’s great, thanks.”

Emmy smiled sweetly. “Try it on.”

My heart skipped a beat. I had no idea what to do. Emmy’s eyebrows raised.


“You don’t even know what it is, do you?” Emmy grabbed it and slid it over my wrist. “I made that with my own hair.”

“You lopped off your hair to give to me?”

“Not lopped, but yes, I cut my hair.”

“Wow. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

49 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Where's Virginia?
GENRE: Contemporary Romance/mystery/suspense
EMOTION: Enraged frustration. At him. At Virginia. At herself.

Her daffy friend Virginia is suddenly getting married on a short trip she
won on a radio program to Scottish Highlands. Daphne has arrived at Castle
Craig as she was instructed. But he has denied any marriage plans and
claims he has never heard of Virginia. Daphne is temporarily stranded in
this remote location, and he is a very reluctant host.

"Follow me." His voice was brine.

"I'll leave my bag on the porch."

"Sorry but you can't."

"More cannots!" You irritating piece of...


"But that's absurd. It's heavy and..."

"That door hasn't been opened in thirty years." His head tilted at the huge
front door.

She looked at the large wooden thing. Leadlight side windows filthy,
lacklustred and cobwebbed. "Must say it doesn't surprise me. The welcomes
here aren't exactly a thrill a minute."

She picked up the bag which was heavier than ever. It'd never roll through
the stones to wherever he was going to lead her.

"If you ask me I will carry it for you," he said most ungraciously.

"If you offered I'd say yes!" Her voice was snippier than she intended.
She wasn't snippy by nature but this guy sure was frustrating.

"Here." He handed her the dead birds. "Carry these."

"I hope that's the only thing you shoot around here." She eyed the wet
bundle and realized too late that there was blood on her gloves. Yew!!!
"Poor ducks."

"Actually, they're pheasant."

"Poor pheasants!"

"They're bred for killing."

"Poor pheasants!"

48 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Whisper
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance
EMOTION:Mutual Attraction

Rain is surprised when rich boy Chase shows up at a house party full of the type of people he would usually consider "trash" (herself included). After taking care of some business he approaches Rain, who he has never even bothered to speak to before, and starts hardcore flirting with her. After noticing that she's not having a good time at the party, he offers her a ride out of there. She grudgingly accepts. This conversation takes place in the car.

“You know how to get to the Haven Ridge Trailer Park?”

“Do I look like the kind of guy that hangs out in trailer parks?” He started the engine and navigated his beast of a vehicle around the other cars in the yard.

“You know you’re an asshole, right?”

He smirked. “I’ve heard that once or twice.”

“I live across the street from the entrance.”

“What makes you think I’m taking you home?”

The tiniest flicker of fear ran through me, but I shook it off. He was probably too lazy to attack anyone. “Chase, we both know I’m not your type. You don’t want to hang out with me.”

“Maybe you are my type. I’m sick of rich white girls. I wanna try something new.”

“Is that supposed to turn me on?”

He pulled up at a stop sign and grinned at me. “Does it?”

“Oh, yeah. I love the idea of being your science experiment. I’m still half white, though so you wouldn’t really get that full on ‘different’ experience you’re looking for. Maybe you should try a guy.”

“You’d have a lot of fun.”

“I seriously doubt that.”

He smiled – a real smile, not his usual slimy one. It changed his whole face. “Alright. At least let me buy you something to eat.”

Something fluttered in my stomach. “Why?”

“Why not? It’s Friday night, we’re out.”

“No offense, but I don’t really want to be seen with you. Bad for my rep.”

He burst out laughing. “Your loss."

47 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Melani has been hiding from her father as a street person. The street people told her to move on, and she did move—but not far enough. They come for her and her little boy in the middle of the night, and they laugh at her when they tell her what they're going to do with their bodies. She pulls away and runs into an old friend. He threatens the street people with a sword, but they don't seem to care.

“But the Ambroz will know,” Melani insisted. “He will tell the governor.”

“He never has before,” the woman said. “If there is an Ambroz, he will not care what happens to you.”

“Melani,” Enrikos said. “Do they know who you are?”

The street people froze. If they knew her name, she had to intimidate them, or they'd hand her to her father. She pulled the blanket away from Jaavan's face and held him up for them to see. She could hear the men whispering.

“Did you hear her name?”

“Did you see his face?”

“We are so dead.”

“Why else would a Grand Master defend her?”

“We didn't know,” the small man with the big voice protested.

“Do you think the governor will care whether or not you knew?” Enrikos asked.

They shook their heads and backed away.

“Wait,” Melani called. Do not think to turn me in for a reward. If word of what you have seen tonight reaches the governor, you will die. He will not pardon you for sharing information with him, not when he learns you would have killed his daughter and his heir. You cannot imagine his wrath. The man who sent my husband to the mines does not show mercy.”

Melani turned to face the woman. “He will not care what happens to you.”

46 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: YA Paranormal
EMOTION: Saddness/grief

Intro: Sixteen-year-old Zoe Daniels is just your average teenager--that is until she sort of dies, has her body hijacked by an evil spirit, and falls for Mason--the hot Soul Collector that comes to escort her to the afterlife. In this scene, Zoe is preparing to go back to her life, leaving Mason behind.

I took advantage of those last moments, the last time I'd feel his touch, smell his scent, and see his beautiful face.

"Tell me you love me," I said with urgency, needing to hear his voice speak those words, to ingrain them in my memory forever. "Tell me I'll remember. Tell me I'll still feel you when you come around. Tell me, Mason. Please." I sobbed into his chest.

"I love you," he said as he lifted my face to his, and pressed his lips to mine. "You'll remember. You'll feel me." His voice broke with the last sentence.

I knew he said it just for me. He didn't know any better than I did, but God I loved him for saying it. I touched my lips to his again, my sobs giving me no reprieve to kiss him the way I wanted. My tears intermingled with his as I gasped against him.

"Please, Zoe. Please," he begged, holding me so tight that if I'd had to breathe I wouldn't have been able to. "Please don't cry. I can't stand it when you cry."

But I couldn't stop, the tears kept coming and the gasps grew louder. "I-I-I can't-I can't-can't leave-"

He hugged me tighter. "Yes you can. You can, Zoe. You have to."

"No," I moaned.

He grabbed my face. "Yes."

I tried to wretch away, not wanting to hear it, but he held firm.

"Listen to me, Zoe. You can do this. We both can."

45 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Alternate Reality
EMOTION: Connection

The characters are in a coffee shop on their first sort-of date. The underwear reference has to do with some photos they took earlier in the day. The narrator, Lizzy, has amnesia and generally avoids the past. Chase will eventually help her come to terms with it.

“What’s with the camera?” I prompt before Chase turns the conversation toward me. “You in photography class or something?”

“Yup and yearbook.”

I lean forward. “Please tell me you’re going to put our underwear photos in the activities section of the yearbook.”

Chase nearly spits his coffee. “Oh man, I don’t think I could get away with it. No,” he shakes his head. “I’m keeping those for myself.”

“Oh, for your personal activities, eh?”

“Wha-? Oh! No. I didn’t mean. Well…” He looks up at the ceiling and sighs.

I laugh. “You talked straight into that one."

"You're right. I did" He smiles and scoots his coffee cup around in a small circle. "I so did."

"We’re never going to finish our coffee if we can’t stop laughing. Serious question now. Why photography?”

A whimsical look replaces his smile. “You know that feeling when you pick up an old picture? It’s like you’re transported back to a memory you’ve forgotten?”

I shake my head. "No, actually." Doesn’t he know?

“Oh,” Chase looks horrified. “Your...I forgot. I’m sorry. I didn’t think.”

I’m amazed someone could forget. I thought my amnesia was a constant source of mystery, amusement, and awkwardness on campus. “No, it’s okay. Go on.”

He studies me a moment then says, “Well, I love that. To know that I’m creating that future-feeling, preserving memories I can surprise myself with later. It’s just, yeah; it’s a passion.”

“That sounds really nice,” I admit, and I realize it kind of does.

44 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: The Buried Realm
GENRE: Fantasy
EMOTION: Showcasing

The main character is Yonder, a dwarvish weapons merchant who has just arrived at a border town. He is trying to impress the two guards, Bornel and Renast, so they will let him into the country to sell his wares.

“Okay, see those trees over there? How far would you need to advance before you could hit them?”

“What, those?” asked Bornel, pointing at a grove some twenty paces away. “I bet Renast could hit it from here.”

“And you?”

Bornel shrugged. “Spears aren’t really my thing. They’re hard to aim.”

Yonder nodded. Perfect. “How about it, Renast,” he asked the taller guard.

Renast smirked and hefted his spear, aiming with deliberate nonchalance. Bornel leaned against the wagon and watched. It occurred to Yonder that this might be the most exciting thing that happened to these two all day.

Renast put his whole body into the throw and the spear sailed the full twenty paces to bite deep into the bark of the nearest tree. Bornel whooped and clapped approvingly.

“Not bad. Not bad,” said Yonder rubbing his beard. “But what would you say if I could hit that one over there?” Yonder pointed to a tree some fifty yards away. The guards’ eyebrows went up.

“No one can throw that far,” said Renast. “Not with any accuracy.”

“But a speargun can,” said Yonder, warming to his subject. “And with perfect accuracy, even if you can’t aim a spear.” Yonder dropped to one knee and aimed the gun. “You just line up your target with this notch here, pull the trigger and . . .”

There was a loud crack as the weapon released, and in less than a second slammed directly into the tree. Yonder grinned.

“Magic!” whispered Renast.

43 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Golden
GENRE: YA Magical Realism
EMOTION: Ego/frustration

Ian and Joss have a love/hate relationship; he loves to give her reasons to hate him, but it's still true his bad boy nature gets him into places she can't, and Joss needs his contacts if she wants to find the criminal plotting against her family, so she handles it, albeit without much grace.

(begins with Joss):

“There must be somewhere they give narcissistic pig lessons because I can’t believe you come by it naturally, you James Dean wannabe. You’re here because you’ve got something to trade so shut up and tell me what you want in return this time.”

He ignored my demand and knelt on one knee, unlacing first his right combat boot and then the left.

“What, have you got a slip of paper with names or numbers hidden in your heel?”

He toed each boot off and threw them both onto my bed by the laces. They thumped still by my crossed knees. “Nope. Dance floors don’t take to inch-deep treads like you’d think, and I’m not letting you out of our deal just because you’re afraid of scuffing the wood.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but my room doesn’t actually have a built in pole or strobe lights, so whatever fantasies you’re rockin’ in that sick-puppy head of yours should probably come to a speedy end.”

“Yes, the obvious need for a pole does come to mind if I wanted to shove a few singles down the waistband of your Bobbie Brooks, but thankfully ballroom doesn’t require one. Not that a pole wouldn’t spice things up, but I think we can work with what we’ve got. Which reminds me . . .” He offered his right hand, his left flicking a spark over his shoulder at the music player, starting a waltz from one of my favorite old school fantasy flicks.

42 Talkin' Heads

EMOTION: One character is drunk, the other is shocked and worried

Intro: Blythe, the main character goes outside and runs into her roommate, Hannah. Kelsi is their other, evil roommate.

As I passed the willow tree, I heard the faint sound of singing, only this time, it was not a male voice. Or, unfortunately, a talented one. I walked over to the tree and looked at the ground. Someone lay in a pile of branches and leaves, waving a twig like a flag.

“Hannah?” I said as soon as I recognized the red hair covered in leaves.

She bent her head to the side. “Blythe! How come you’re standing upside down?”

“I’m not.” I crouched down beside her. “What are you doing down here?”

“Watching all the shooting stars. I’ve never seen so many before. Do you think it’s one of those mediocre showers?”

“You mean meteor.” I looked up. The clear sky was full of twinkling stars, but not one moved. Hannah burped then giggled. I leaned in to smell her breath. “Hannah, are you… drunk?”

She giggled again. “Course not.” She picked up the large, empty glass by her side. “All I’ve had is some lemonade. Kelsi said Sister Agnes made it ‘specially for me.”

I turned to the house. “That little bi—” I put my hand on her arm. “We’ve got to get you to upstairs before someone sees you. Can you stand up?”

“Of course.” She sat up but stopped to grab her head. She looked at me but her eyes wandered all over my face. “Do you think it’s possible for your head to fall off your neck? If it gets too heavy or something?”

41 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: To Die For
GENRE: YA Paranormal
EMOTION: Nervous fear

Intro: Bryce has gone to visit his boss after a girl was doped with a date-rape drug at a party the night before.

Ian Donnelly sat behind a massive desk, his body framed by the sun setting through the bay window at his back. “Vincent said you were quite insistent.” He waved at a high-backed leather armchair. “Have a seat and tell me what was so important, Mr. Owens.”

The assistant’s name is Vincent. I need to forget that now too. “It’s about the deliveries.”

“I didn’t anticipate it being about my choice in cufflinks.” Donnelly fiddled with a letter opener on his desk, the light glinted off the razor-sharp edge.

Don’t dick around. He doesn’t want to waste time with you, and he isn’t going to like this. Bryce straightened in the chair, but kept his eyes slightly down-cast. “I’ve never asked what you load in the car. It’s not my job to know. But someone is selling date-rape drugs at Purdue. I was hoping, if you had any clue who that might be, you could put a stop to it.”

Leaning on the desk, Donnelly tapped the letter opener on its surface. “I’m sure that sort of thing has been going on at universities for years. Why the sudden interest?”

Bryce watched the tip of the blade and had to swallow hard before his voice would work. “A girl I care about was slipped something last night.”

“This girl, is she the type that means something to you today, or will mean something to you long term?” The letter opener twirled between his fingers, the gleam making it look like it was taking flight.

40 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Eagle's Wings
GENRE: Inspirational Young Adult
EMOTION: Attraction/Reluctance

Marie (the main character) is a teen cyclist with a crush on Ryan and an allergy to church. Ryan and her friend, Cara, have been pushing her to come to more youth group events; Marie finds it particularly hard to say no to Ryan.

“Marie! How’s it going?”

“Pretty good.” I wrote off the heat in my face to the warm morning. “How was your break?”

“Not bad. My sister came home from college. I tried to get her to toss the football around with me, but…” he shrugged.

“You’re really into football, huh?”

He grinned. “No sport equals it! No offense, of course.”

“None taken.” Why was my stupid smile about a continent wide?

“How was Florida?” he asked. “Are you coming back to church anytime soon?”

“Florida stunk.” I stepped back to let another cyclist sign in.

“That happens sometimes, with the swamps,” Ryan deadpanned, his bright eyes giving him away.

Why did my face get redder every time I grinned?

“Did Cara send you the stuff about Splash Day?”

I smothered a laugh. “You didn’t tell me it was for the little kids!”

“Yeah, so we need a new name. But it’s loads of fun.”

I glanced at his eager expression and wrinkled my nose. “I’ve already been to church twice this month...”

“Splash Day doesn’t count as church.”

I smiled again. Maybe my face would pass through red into purple and I would look like I was choking. “I’ll think about it. I might be busy.”

With homework, snacking, and staring at the walls… but hey.

“Well, I’ve got to talk to Matt,” Ryan said, looking past me. “Come Wednesday, all right? That’s an order.”

I saluted without quite meeting his eyes. “Aye, aye.”

39 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: Paranormal romance
EMOTION: Totally freaking out

Set-up: Aeron, a boy Libbi has never seen before, was staring at her from the door of her English classroom during a test. He waited for her after class and, after a breif introduction, started following her.

I was almost to the road when Aeron’s fingers gripped my upper arm and he yanked me to a stop. My hand flew up by itself, balled into a fist and slugged him in his jaw. Hard. I heard the pop of his teeth smacking together.

“What is your freaking problem?” I said.

“What did you do that for?” He massaged his jaw.

“Leave me alone. That’s what I did that for.”

“I would think you’d be grateful.”

“Grateful? Grateful for what? The fact that you’re a freak and you haven’t murdered me yet?”

At that, Aeron laughed. He shook his head and raised his palms to the sky as if to say ‘What am I gonna do with this one?’

“What is so g*******d funny?”

“Libbi, I’m not trying to murder you.” He met my gaze directly. His pale-blue eyes penetrated mine. A chill stood the hair on my arms on end, despite the unseasonably warm weather.

“Then what do you want?” It was barely a whisper.

“I want to save your life,” he said. “And believe me, Libbi, that’s not something I say often.” He let go of my arm. “Your shoes are untied.”

I looked down and, sure enough, the laces of both tennis shoes dangled to either side of my feet like four lifeless, white worms. That was strange. In Mr. Winkler’s classroom, they’d both been in secure double knots.

“How did…” I glanced up, but the lawn was empty. Aeron was gone.

38 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: Dark Fantasy

Cassandra and her aunt, Korynn, are just about to depart from Silas’ home with the idea that he is indeed the man they’ve been searching for. However, Silas is not so willing to leave his family to join them.

“Thank you for your hospitality. We will be on our way.” Though her tone should have been gracious, it was not in the least.

“Cassandra, not until–”

“Korynn,” she interjected, “we will not waste any more time here.”

“We came all this way…”

“And we have yet to find him. This is but a small town in a vast land.”

Korynn appraised the young man. “You don’t believe it’s him?”

“No,” Cassandra affirmed, her white gaze sliding to Silas, “I do not.”

Silas cut in, “Who are you looking for exactly?”

Her stare grew cold. “Why do you wish to know?”

“Maybe I can help. I mean, I know all of the townspeople.”

Cassandra’s eyes tightened on the him. “You deny us help and then offer it?”

He was at a loss for words. There was something about how she asked her questions that tied his tongue, as if she’d been interrogating people all her life. And the look she gave him… It made it difficult to breathe. “What…I…”

“Cassandra, honestly now, this is not an execution,” Korynn reprimanded.

The brunette lifted her eyes from Silas, as if he were not even worthy of being seen through them. “If it is indeed him, then perhaps it should be.”

“Child, you don’t mean that.”

At last, her gaze returned to him. “I apologize.” And without another word, she left the room, not in a hurry or in an angry trudge, but at a normal, impassive pace.

37 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: Memoir
EMOTION: Looking to show best friend's doubt

I'm telling my best friend I just became engaged to a Chinese student I'd been tutoring in English. She's worried about my future.

Jean tore up the check and wrote to my mother, explaining she couldn’t attend the wedding and wouldn’t be able to buy the flowers. Deep down, I knew Jean put my best interests first. I didn’t hold it against her for not attending my wedding, although I felt disappointed she wouldn’t be with me on my big day.

When I first called her, the day after Liu proposed, I sensed Jean wouldn’t be happy.

“Are you sitting down?” I asked her.

“Yeah, why?”

“Well, Liu and I talked last night about personal things. And, well, he asked me to marry him.”

“What? You didn’t say yes, did you?”

“Actually, I did. I know it’s quick, but I really like him. Plus, we’re not going to get married until after graduation, so it’ll be another year and a half.”

“Susan, I don’t’ know about this. You don’t even know this guy. What if he just wants to marry you to get to the US?”

“Well.” My voice lowered a bit, even though I was in my office with the door closed. “He doesn’t want to live in the US.”

“Where does he want to live?” She seemed puzzled.


“Oh my god.” It came out as a whisper.

“He’s also talking about Singapore and knows a business man there who’d like to hire him. I’m hoping for that.”

“For your sake, Susan, I hope you go to Singapore, too.”

36 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Primigenio
GENRE: paranormal romance

In this scene, main character powerful vampire Eamon Rutherford is
stressing over how to continue to appear human to his love
interest. He's discussing it with another vampire, Marta Jimenez
de Castillo. I'm trying to convey anxiety and Eamon attempting to
overcome his, pushy, overbearing ways.

“I have to start doing things to appear more human to Amelie,” Eamon said to Marta as she sat down on the sofa.


He took a drink of his scotch and then frowned. “What do you mean why?”

She smiled at him. “Doesn’t it seem more sensible to tell Amelie the truth rather than keeping up this illusion?”

“No, it doesn’t. I’m not ready to tell her and until I am, I’ll continue on as I have.”

“I still feel you would be better off being honest,” she said with a sigh.

“I didn’t ask for your opinion in this.”

She flipped her blonde hair and laughed. “I’m giving you a woman’s point of view.”

“Save it. I’d like you, cousin, and Isabelle to accompany Amelie and me to lunch at the Yacht Club.” It was more of a decree than an invitation. He loosened his tie and frowned.

“Lunch? I despise going out during the day. It gives me a headache.” She frowned and dug the toe of her shoe in to the rug. “Cousin?”

“Yes, cousin. I don’t care. Wear a hat. You know what I mean and I want you to do this.” He considered how he sounded and then took another drink. Eamon blew out flustered sigh. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t ask like that.” An uncomfortable moment passed for him as he took on a more courteous tone. “Will you please help me?”

35 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Finding Grace
GENRE: Women's Fiction
EMOTION: Awkward introduction

Grace is having dinner with old friends and meeting cute new boy, Tom, for the first time. Her friend Jeff embarrasses her by giving Tom too much information about a personal piece Grace wrote.

“So Grace,” Tom said turning to her, “What do you do?”

“Well, I’m a teacher. I work at a private school. Third graders.” Grace replied.

Jeff, who had been leaning over to try and join in on the conversation, said,
“That’s not all. Tell him what else you do”.

Grace forced a strained smile, “I also write for magazines and stuff”.

“You write? That’s so cool. What kind of things do you write about?” asked Tom.

“All kinds of stuff- some of it’s really funny.” Jeff interrupted.

She looked at him and hissed quietly “He was talking to me”.

Jeff ignored her. “Oh my God you should have read the last thing she wrote!” He said loudly and gained the attention of everyone else at the table.

“What was it?” said Meghan

“It was hilarious! Did you ever get that one published?” Jeff asked.

“Umm I don’t know which one you mean? The one about home schoolers?” Grace asked hopefully but knowing full well that wasn’t the one.

“No- that was boring. I mean that one about PMS- you know...” Jeff looked at her like she was an idiot.

“What was so funny about it?” Asked John.

“Nothing.” Grace said quickly. “Nothing funny about PMS. Besides”, she added, “I wasn’t really planning on submitting it. Jeff just read it for fun.”

Tom smiled warmly at her,
“Tell us about it” he prompted.

“That’s OK- I don’t really remember,” she said.

34 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: Middle grade action adventure
EMOTION: frustration, despair

In this scene, which takes place in Namibia, Africa, Kondor, a Himba poacher is marching Tyler and Sierra (two American teenagers) and Dakata, a Himba conservationist, up a dry riverbed to shoot them for trying to stop him and his fellow poachers from killing rhino. Because Dakata is afraid his failure to protect the rhinos will disappoint his father, Tyler shares how he disappointed his own father in the past.

“Look, it wasn’t anything specific.” Tyler ground his teeth together. Why was Dakata making it so difficult? “All I know is when my dad left, he told me I was weighing him down. That he was tired of not being able to do what he wanted. That he wasn’t at all happy with the way his life had turned out.”

Dakata shook his head.

“Dude, you’re not getting it.”

Dakata put his hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “No my friend, it is you who lacks the getting. What you say is impossible. I say fathers do not act this way.” Another shot rang out. Kondor had stumbled over a rock so he’d shot it.

Dakata sighed. “You must remember Kondor’s father. Even though Kondor has turned out to be a truly detestable individual, his father never abandoned him. Even at the trial, you saw, he tried to change his son to good. Even now, I say this father would still try to help his son. It is what fathers do. They never give up on their sons.”

Another shot rang out. “Move faster lazy humans, or I shoot.”

“You already did shoot,” Sierra mumbled from behind them.

Tyler glared at Kondor and walked even slower. “I don’t get what you’re telling me.”

Dakata put his hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “Tyler, my friend, have you ever considered that your father left because he was the one deficient in some way, not yourself.”

“No, Dakata, it’s me. It just is.” Tyler jerked his shoulder out of Dakata’s grasp and picked up his pace.

33 Talkin' Head

TITLE: In Darkness She Fades
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Delilah, sixteen, is the MC. She's following Jerald, popular senior at new high school, who claims that her hallucinations of demons (goblins) are real. She's about to find out that goblins are not the only thing to fear in the small town of Rosewood.

Delilah crossed her arms against Jerald. She shivered. Something’s wrong. Gazing up at the treetops, she squinted. “Jerald. The trees. They’re bending inward.” She backed up.

Jerald positioned himself behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “ Shh ... they’re here.”

A high cackling erupted through the wind, making a shrieking sound that mimicked nails scrapping against a chalkboard. The bushes along the stone path shook. Gruff laughter echoed through hollow logs and trees.

“God, let’s get the hell out of here!” Swiveling, Delilah attempted to run back to the wall, but Jerald held her firmly against himself.

“Not until you’ve seen them up close.”

“Are you insane?” Delilah asked. Shaking her two-toned hair and struggling to break free from Jerald, she stopped when he jerked her hard.

“Delilah,” Jerald lifted her chin, “you need to see how dangerous goblins are. I want you to drop your interest in these demons.”

Delilah’s eyes widened. “Your teeth. They’re changing.”

Jerald grinned. “Theses are the laws of Rosewood – Never enter the Goblin Kingdom. Don’t consort with the goblins. Never disobey me. If you break these rules, you die.”

“What the hell are you?”

Jerald bent down. The wind spiked his raven hair and his eyes swirled electric violet. “Vampire.”
Delilah’s heart froze. She couldn’t breathe. Goblins popped their massive heads out from thorny bushes and trees. Curvy sneers and bat-like ears
poked out from around the edges of their skeleton masks. Delilah watched the goblins surround them and block off their only exit.

32 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Inside Out
GENRE: Mainstream Fiction
EMOTION: Expectation

Short Intro: Rick and Laura have been best friends since college. When Laura’s ambitious plans for success fail and she finds herself without a job and no direction, Laura accepts Rick’s offer of a job and a guest room in his home until she can get back on her feet. A short time later, Rick receives a late night phone call of a robbery at his office. Returning home a couple hours later, he sits on the couch with Laura, who has been waiting for him to return. The robbery was an ill-planned attempt by a teenage boy.

Laura felt almost sorry for the boy now awaiting his parent's arrival at the police substation. "If our kid ever pulled a stunt like that I’d tan his hide." Laura’s flushed with embarrassment at her unintended implication.

"Yes," Rick mused, lost in thought. "But not until he knew we still loved him." Rick sat in silent thought for a moment before realizing their joint blunder. But instead of embarrassment, Rick simply looked at Laura seeming, she felt, to search her soul. Then, slipping his arm around her shoulders he changed the subject. "What on earth are you watching?"

More fully aware of the warmth of Rick’s body beside her and the light scent of his aftershave, Laura gratefully focused her attention back to the television screen where Kitty Bennett was again behaving foolishly. "Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version." She said. "Only the best movie ever."

"Best?" Rick challenged. "Nothing is better than Star Wars."

"Having not seen Star Wars, I'll reserve judgment. But don't set your hopes too high."

Rick grasped at his chest, leaning away from Laura in mock horror. "Oh my poor heart. How could you live this long without seeing The Trilogy? Tonight, you and me are having a marathon.

Laura smiled as Rick stood. "Fine, but later this week, you and Me are watching P&P. The whole thing."

"I make no guarantees." Rick teased, leaving the room.

31 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: Science Fiction/Fantasy
EMOTION: Hiding something

Both characters have something to hide. The reader finds out about Annie's secret in this scene.

“I’m starving,” Annie said. “I’ve been craving a bagel with cream cheese and tomato all day. And dill pickles.”

Laughing at her, Monroe put his arm around her shoulders. “The deli’s closed. Maybe the pub has bagels.”

They went into Sullivan’s, an Irish watering hole with a floor full of half-empty tables and two couches beside a fireplace. When they sat down near the bar, a gaunt, fortyish waiter took their order. Sully’s didn’t have bagels. They didn’t have cream cheese, either, but the waiter said the kitchen would come up with something just as good. Monroe ordered coffee.

“I still want a bagel with cream cheese,” Annie said.

“Let’s get married,” Monroe said.

She smiled and looked down. “I’ve heard that before.”

“We’ll have a bagel and cream cheese wedding cake.”

“I want sixteen children. You should know that.”

“Fine with me,” he said. “Let’s have twenty-five.”

She toyed with her silverware. “How many children do you really want?”

“I want to get through law school before I even think about that.”

“I still want sixteen.” Or just one. Annie looked down again, wondering what he would say if she told him she was pregnant. Probably pregnant. She placed her hand on her belly under the table. Something was different. She was late, too, but there was no reason to mention it until she was sure. Her eyes strayed to the drugstore across the street. If she tried to pick up a pregnancy test, Monroe would stick with her through the aisles.

30 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: YA Christian Fiction
EMOTION: Deepening relationship

Will's parents and Hannah's sister all died in a car accident a few months ago. Will now lives in Hannah's basement, and just asked her to Homecoming. She said no, but they continued talking. Hannah asked Will to describe the accident that took her sister. Will refused at first and busied himself playing pool, so she started to leave.

“There was a lot of screaming.”

I stop. I’m only on the second stair. “I thought they all died on impact.”

He puts his cue in its cupboard. “They had time to scream before. And I was still alive after.” He quietly shuts the door to the cupboard and turns toward me.

I try to imagine him screaming. He yelled at the football game, but that was different. There was no desperation there.

“At first, I thought Rebecca was still alive. There was no question about my parents – there was blood everywhere – but Rebecca… Who would’ve thought a flashlight… Mom and Dad were the bloodiest. Dad, especially. It came out his mouth and all over –”


He does without another word. Somehow, I didn’t expect him to be able to. As he raises his eyes to me, I feel badly for not being able to listen more because I think he wants to tell me, and I ought to know. “When did Chandra ask you to stop?”

“At screaming.”

“…About Homecoming.”

He shakes his head. “I knew you’d say no.”

“But Connor – ”

“Even without Connor,” he says.

He’s right, so I can’t argue. I take another step up then stop. “So why’d you ask?”

“I wanted you to know.”

“You didn’t think it’d be awkward?”

“No.” He smiles and turns away. He starts walking toward his bedroom door. “And even if it was, I live in your basement. We’d get past it eventually.”

29 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: Mystery/Suspense
EMOTION: Tension

Intro: This dialogue occurs immediately after Pen Smith, the protagonist, has been shot and Enriqué Soong has saved him from subsequently being run over by a bus.

"Pen Smith," I said, holding out an unsteady hand. "Thank you very much."

"Enriqué Soong. Glad I could help." His grip was firm and his English was good.

A diminutive waitress appeared and said something like "Dig me."

I looked helplessly at Enriqué. "French," I apologized. "Eight worthless years."

He smiled. "‘Dígame.’ It means: Can I take your order?"

"Dos café pronto," he told the waitress.

"Triple brandy" I gasped, then seeing vermillion spotting my pants, added water to the request. The area above my knee was a mess, the fabric ripped, and underneath, raw, sticky, oozing flesh. I grabbed a year's worth of napkins and crushed them against the wound.

"Will the police come?" I asked.

Enriqué looked me over. "Usually they would," he replied, "but you walked away. And the Diablo Rojo is long gone--"

"Devil. . .red?"

"Yes, the ‘Red Devils.’ They are responsible for many horrible accidents. Last year, nine people burned to death in a Diablo Rojo. Terrible." He threw up his hands.

"People here are accustomed to the Diablos Rojos. They know it is of little use to report something like this." He gestured at the street which showed no sign of the previous turmoil.

"Bus gone, the man who fell down gone. . ." He looked at me with questioning eyes. "No, I do not think the police will come. That is. . .unless another person observed what I did."

28 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Second Chances

Whitney has left her abusive mother behind in MS and is now enrolled at Penn State. She never looked back and has promised herself she will find a normal life, she will no longer be damaged. With the help of her roommate, Casey, Whitney is making friends.
In this scene, Wes (longtime friend of Casey and the head coach's son), Casey and Whitney are playing a game of truth or dare in the dorm foyer. Whit's never played, but the truths are telling too many of her secrets- so it's her turn.. and she's picked "dare".

“Ok, You asked for it.” Casey smirked.

I was afraid of that.

“You have to try and sneak Wes into our room, tonight, before curfew.” She whispered and laughed as she looked around.

“WHAT!” I squirmed in my chair. “Do you want me to get kicked out?”

“You won’t get kicked out. It’s Wes, for crying out loud. His dad will bail you out.” She said sarcastically.

I rolled my eyes at her. What a mess. I closed my eyes and looked at Wes. He was whispering to Casey and she was laughing. My cheeks involuntarily flushed.

“Alright, fine, Wes… I guess follow me.” I stood up and reached my hand for his. I looked around… no one was looking our way.

Maybe this would be easier than I thought.

I didn’t like getting in trouble, I never skipped school. I never got into any real trouble at home.

I sighed heavy.

“Don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble… I bet we won’t even make it up the stairs.” Wes teased.

“Don’t get me fired-up, I’m already annoyed.”

“Fired up?” he raised an eyebrow and let out a laugh.

“Stop! Please don’t antagonize me… you’re not making this any better. I could seriously throw up. I’ve never broken any rules, ever.”

He pulled me close to his waist, and looked deep in my eyes. He was looking at me so intently that I felt hypnotized.

He started to brush my hair with his hand, “Calm down, it’s fine. It’s just a dumb game.”

27 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Other
GENRE: YA Fantasy/Romance
EMOTION: Compromising

Other is a Beauty and the Beast story in reverse. Alain is trapped in the estate of a powerful creature (much to the creature's annoyance) and is trying to convince her to teach him about "the Other World," the realm of magic which he has just discovered an affinity with.

“What?” she snapped.

“I want to learn about the Other World.”

“So what?”

“You’re the only one who can teach me.”

“That’s too bad.”

Alain’s imagination had seldom failed him before. He relied upon its full extremes now, pretending he was having a reasonable conversation with a civilized person. “Don’t you think it would benefit you as well as me?”

Her beady eyes narrowed. “I can’t imagine how.”

Ignore the nastiness. Imagine she’s perfectly pleasant. “Well, you keep complaining about how I’m a hopeless, bumbling idiot. Disturbing your solitude and all that. If I knew what I was doing, I wouldn’t disturb you any more, would I?”

She drew her bristling brows together for a moment. Alain realized she was actually considering it. Then her face settled into its habitual glower. “You think you’re clever, don’t you?”

“No.” He dared a smile. “I’m hoping you could help me become so.”

The creature bared her fang-like teeth. “All right, clever boy, explain to me how teaching you, requiring me to spend more time in your irritating presence, would disturb me less rather than more.”

“Maybe not in the short term. Long term, though…” Alain shrugged.

“It could take months. Years, judging from how you fumble about.”

Alain forced his face to remain bland and unaffected. She was watching him, waiting for him to pout or flinch or frown.

The creature threw her hands into the air. “Do you enjoy having people walk all over you? Fine. I’ll teach you, whatever good it will do.”

26 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: The Bearers of Life
GENRE: Paranormal/Romance
EMOTION: Stress/Relief

Jordan (our female heroine) needs to bring Ethan (who just became an immortal himself) back to the City of Immortals before they are attacked again. They had just survived an attack by another immortal sent to kill Ethan, and Jordan is on edge.

A moment passed, then two. Just as he called out for her, there was a loud crash and she reappeared, slamming a shadowed figure into the ground at his feet. A ball of black flames erupted in her hand and the unseen stranger began to struggle harder.

“Wait!” he said, putting his hands up in surrender. “It’s me.”

“Geez, Duncan. You should know better!” she yelled.

“Jordan, would you mind?” he groaned. “Preferably before you rip a whole through my chest.” She was half tempted to let him have it anyway, simply as payback for sneaking up on her.

“Fine,” she said begrudgingly, extinguishing the black flames as she got up to help him off the ground.

“Thanks,” he sighed with relief as he stood up.

Just like Jordan’s black flames, a ball of white light began to glow in Duncan’s hand, finally casting some light on their surroundings.

“You look like hell, baby girl,” he told her.

“Hey as least that’s a change for me. You always look like crap.”

“You’re just jealous,” he snarked back with a smile.

“You wish,” she laughed. He was one of the last few remaining bright spots in her life, and she hadn’t seen him nearly enough lately.

“So what was with all of the secrecy before you left? Where did Dianara send you?” Duncan asked looking over to Ethan for the first time.

“Sorry, Duncan this is Ethan – Ethan, Duncan, the Bearer of Light.”

“Sebastian’s replacement?” Duncan was surprised, but Jordan didn’t answer. Instead she glared cruelly at her friend and then walked away. “Sorry. I didn’t mean…”

“I know.”

25 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Fly With Me
GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy
DIALOGUE EMOTION: Anger/Frustration

Vincent (MC) has been reading letters from a childhood friend of his roommate Conner. Scene below is after Vincent borrowed Conner's scooter, but didn't get it back before Conner returned with a girl.

You could have at least made an effort to return it in time."

"I had a lot on my mind." I emptied my pockets onto my dresser. "Your date didn't seem to mind you playing for her."

Conner stomped over and snatched the envelope from beneath my wallet. He waved it in front of my face. "What is this?"

"A letter from Alexa. What else?"

"I meant what are you doing with it? I thought she was done writing."

"You said I could read them."

He gaped. "You mean you've been reading all her letters since you moved in?"

"Yeah. So?"

"I never would have given you permission if I thought you'd keep reading. Drop the issue. Leave Alexa alone."

"It's not as if you had any intention to read them."

"Get over it, man. It's none of your business."

"She needs a friend. Someone who will actually *read* her words."

Conner pulled out the two pages. "'Sloop and his surrogate mother came to visit. That's why this letter is late. I felt safer with them in my backyard. But they could only stay a few days. It's not like I can afford to feed a full grown dragon.' Dragons! Buying into her delusions is psychotic. You should avoid unhealthy relationships."

I snatched the letter back. "Delusional or not, I'm not giving up on her like you did."

Conner finally raised his hands. "Your wasted life, man. I've outta here. I have a shot at a *real* relationship."

24 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Not So Far From You
GENRE: Young Adult
EMOTION: Lighthearted and friendly

In the 1980's, college freshman, Hope and Lisette forge a friendship that is strong but fades over time. Together they have harbored secrets that their daughters, in the modern day, are able to uncover which brings everyone back together.

“I’ve seen Repo Man twenty seven times,” Whit said. “ Best quote EVER: ‘You don’t want to look in the trunk.’ ” Whit was passionate about few things: films, Peter Max, German music equipment, Queen, the Potomac River, and Hope. No one had quite figured out in what order. “Emilio Estevez was great in that movie and what a killer soundtrack! Holy shit. ‘Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.’ ”

“Do you know what movie I love?” Hope asked. “Wuthering Heights with Lawrence Olivier: ‘Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad! Only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!’ Heathcliff yearning for Catherine, Catherine yearning for Heathcliff…and all the horrible punishment of love. Oh and Merle Oberon! A creature of utter and irretrievable beauty. Brings me to absolute angst ridden tears just thinking about her and Cathy Linton.”

“I hated that movie AND the book” hissed Lisette, squishing up her teeny tiny nose. Lisette looked like a senator’s daughter with a rebellious edge – petite, naturally graceful with the calmest eyes – but her mouth could shock you. “All that brooding, wind blowing through the heather, and more damn wasteful brooding…just sleep together, if it works great, if it doesn’t, move along! Give me Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure anytime. No thinking required, an outrageous narrative arc, cute dimwitted boys that are easy on the eyes…oh yeah, I smell a hit.” Lisette could be a tough broad. “Keanu Reeves is a great piece of ass.” No sentiment, total analysis.

“Where the hell is Nadine? She can weigh in on this...” Lisette uncurled her body from the papasan chair, her dark wavy hair taking on an inquisitive life of its own as she moved. “Jesus! These chairs are impossible to get out of. They suck you in like a Venus fucking flytrap plant. To top it off, I feel like the god damned flag.”

“The flag?” asked Whit. “Um, I don’t see it.”

“Well, a more observant person would notice my BLUE skirt, WHITE top, and Evening’s Desire nail polish – voila, my concession to RED.”

Whit laughed, “Lee, you are weird. But a good weird.”

23 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: The President’s Daughter
GENRE: YA Contemporary
EMOTION: Romantic Tension

Chelsea is a high school sophomore, on the swim team and has a best friend, Justin. Justin is interested in another girl and Chelsea is jealous. Logan is beginning to show interest in Chelsea. Here is the scene where she realized he is interested in her…

“How many events do you have today?” Logan asked as he finished his stretches and sat down on the bench. Chelsea felt the bench give as he sat down and even that tiny bit of non-contact made her stomach do a flip.

She rolled her eyes as she sat down. Get a grip! “Five. The 100 and 200 meter, breast, back and the 400 IM.”

“I think you’re fine with the breast and back,” he said, giving her a look from top to bottom. Chelsea nearly fell off the bench. She tried to answer him, but all that came out was, “Ggkay…”

Thankfully, the buzzer went off at that exact moment and Logan couldn’t hear her verbal blunder.

“What?” he asked.

Chelsea cleared her throat and at least partially snapped out of her hypnotic state. “I’m swimming the IM for the first time, and I’m sure I’m going to make a fool of myself with the butterfly.”

“Naw,” he said. “It’s easy.”

“Easy for you,” Chelsea answered. “You’re the district champ.”

He shrugged as if to say it was nothing. “Butterfly is just about the thrust.”

Oh, my god. She was going to become a big love sick puddle right at his feet. “The thrust?” she managed to croak.

“You know,” Logan said as he stood and extended his hands and arms straight above his head. He brought his arms down and pitched his chest forward, muscles rippling from his shoulders down his torso and thighs to his calves. “The thrust,” he said when he’d finished the demonstration.

“Uh huh,” was the only thing Chelsea could get out of her mouth as they called her first event.

She stood, pulled on her goggles and began the ritual she used to adjust them into the correct position. “Do you want to get something to eat after the meet?” Logan asked.

She usually got ice cream with Justin to either celebrate her victory or mourn her defeat. Either way, there was ice cream involved. She found him in the stands with her eyes as she tried to decide what to do.

Justin seemed to be deep in conversation with none other than Madison Arnold. Chelsea turned to Logan and answered, “I’d love to.” It looked like Justin would be busy enough.

22 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Summer Lovin'
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
EMOTION: frustration

On vacation in Mexico, Stacy, the heroine, is being conned by her husband Nathan's enemy--Cortez. Near the end of the story here, the dive shop owned by a friend is broken into. And this is where things start coming together.

She wanted to go to her husband and smooth the lines that marred his forehead.

“Don't worry, we'll get him, Mrs. Gerard.”

She smiled. “I'm sure you will. Do you think he's here, Nathan?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. Look, let's not talk about this right now, okay? I have contacts set up to warn me if Cortez is on the move. I haven't heard from any of them. This could just as easily have been a regular, old-fashioned break in.”

Stacy held up her hands. “No problem. We'll clean up and spend the day lounging on the beach. Right?” If there was a hint of sarcasm in her voice, she could only hope he got the message.

“That's right, Stacy. Vacation as usual.”

Except this hadn't exactly been a usual vacation so far.

Picking up a pile of rumpled canvas, Nathan shook it out. A hat flew from the folds and flipped across the room. “Whoa, watch it.”

“Aiyee. Nice toss, Nate,” Jaime said with a laugh as he caught it in mid air. “I wonder whose it is.”

"Berries." Stacy sniffed the air again. “Give me that.”

Taking it from Jaime, she ran her hands over the rim and lifted it to her nose.

“Ew, Honey. That's gross.” Nathan's lips twitched as he help back a laugh.

“I know that smell.”

Nathan lifted a brow. “I'm not sure I want to know.”

Rolling her eyes, she held it out to him. “Berries. Go ahead, smell it!”

21 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: Science Fiction

Intro: Two old friends with uncertain agendas burst into Vayen's home where he and 'Stassia have been hiding for the last four years.

Jey came up behind Merkeif. “We’re not done here quite yet. And when we are, you’ll be leaving with us.”

“I don’t think so.” I pushed ‘Stassia backward and signaled for her to run.

She was back beside me a second later. Damn woman.

Merkeif lunged forward. His fist caught me in the chin.

“Stop this!” ‘Stassia took a wild swing Merkeif.

He caught her wrist in his hand and pulled her away from me, swinging her into Jey’s awaiting grasp.

My heart seized. The inbred compulsion that bound me to ‘Stassia screamed in my head, demanding that I protect her.

Jey wrapped his arm around her squirming body. “We don’t want to hurt her, Vayen.”

“Let her go!” I punched Merkeif in the gut, intent on getting past him to reach Jey.

My efforts elicited a mere grunt from Merkeif as he slammed me up against the wall. The rough fabric of his armored sleeve pressed against
my neck. “You will come with us to Sere, and will show your face to reveal Kess’s triumphs as lies. Once he’s discredited, you can go.”

“They’ll never let me go. You know that.”

Little feet thudded down the stairs. “Daddy?”

Merkeif paled. He wrenched his head around to see where Daniel had halted halfway down the stairs. Ikeri stood beside him, her tiny hand in
his. His voice dropped to a whisper. “You didn’t tell me you had children.”

Uncertainty filled Jey’s voice. “Merkeif.”

Merkeif bowed his head. He let me go.

20 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Adventure Society
GENRE: scifi/fantasy/noir/western
EMOTION: Confident/surprised

Short intro: Coldwell has gone to Steve's house looking for a journal that Barker had sent him to find. A journal that is key to fining lost treasure. Coldwell is the main character in this section.

Steve slowly backed towards an old wooden cabinet as Coldwell’s eyes bore into him. His shaking hand slowly pulled out the drawer, noise of wood rattling filled the room. He retrieved a small cloth pouch and tossed it to the table. “Here is the thousand that Hendrik paid me. Take it, its all I have. I’ll find another way to pay my creditors. Just let me stay with my family.”

“And Barker?” Coldwell’s eyes did not veer from the farmer. “He would not be happy that justice was not served today.”

“Keep him quiet,” Steve stammered. “I want you to keep him quiet just like he wanted you to keep me quiet. We committed those crimes together.”

The Ranger’s smile grew wider. “There is one thing that you should know. When I am on a job I always see it through to the end.”

“No, please don’t. My boys, they need me.”

Coldwell chuckled, “I’m sure they will grow up just fine without a thieving murderer as a father. They may even make something of themselves.”

On a wall across the kitchen the farmer’s pistol in a belt holster hung from a hook. With a rushing hobble, he dashed for the gun. A loud crack filled the room. Steve’s eyes were wide with pain and fear as he fell to the ground. Blood poured from an extra orifice that appeared in the chest of his dirty white shirt. Smoke wafted from the Ranger’s barrel, the revolver had not even come an inch out of the holster.

19 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Rockabilly Romance
GENRE: YA Romance
EMOTION: Indifference, rudeness form the main character.

Main Character, Jenna, is snubbing the new boy, but her best friend, Mercy, is trying to get her interested in him.

“I see you met Mister Cutie Pants,” Mercy said with a grin when I slid into the seat next to her. She was looking toward the lunch line. I followed her gaze to Tom.

“The new guy?”

“Yes, the new guy! Don’t tell me you didn’t notice his hotness.”


“Jenna, you need help.”

Don’t I know it. “He’s alright. I guess I didn’t really pay much attention. We met in the library.”

“Ahh, so you were engrossed in a book. Of course! Book or cute guy.” Mercy lifted her hands like a pair of scales, one tipping lower than the other. “Jenna chooses…book.”

Tom set his tray down across from me and took his seat.

“Hey, Tomas,” Mercy said, nudging my side.

“Hello, ladies,” he said picking up a slice of pizza and taking a bite. The cheese clung to his lip and made a tight rope back to the slice. He wound it around his finger and stuck it in his mouth. Surprisingly the gesture wasn’t unattractive. He was pretty nice to look at, I supposed. “Easy on the formalities, Merc. I don’t want to—wait, doughnuts? That’s all you’re eating?” he asked, turning to me.

“Uh, yeah.” Nobody had ever commented on my lunch before. Except Kate. And mom, when Kate told mom.

“Noted,” Tom said. He grabbed an apple from his tray and set it down in front of me and smiled.

“I’m not eating that.”

“What she means,” Mercy said, looking from me to Tom, “is that she’s not hungry, but thanks anyway.”

18 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Leave a Comment
GENRE: Contemporary YA
EMOTION: Contempt for her wealthy grandmother conveyed by 15 yr old protag

“Remember when I was six and she took my Barbies out of my bag before we left for the Christmas Eve church service because they were wearing mini skirts? She said Jesus didn’t want to see trash like that. The woman thinks she can speak for JE-SUS!”

“She’s a little overbearing but she means well, Kendra. She’s always been very generous toward you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, with money. She thinks she can use her money to make people do whatever she wants. She practically came right out and said it in my thirteenth birthday card. Do you remember what she wrote?

‘Dearest Kendra, We hope you have a wonderful birthday. Stay sweet. Love, Grandpa and Grandma Martin. P.S. Remember, your grandfather and I have vowed to disown any of our grandchildren who get tattoos. I just thought a reminder might be in order now that you’re a teenager.’

Seriously? Like I was going to blow out the candles on my Dance-a-Mania birthday cake and demand somebody take me immediately to get the number thirteen tattooed on my left butt cheek? Who writes something like that in her granddaughter’s birthday card? She’s crazy.”

“As I recall, she probably felt the need to do that because, when she came to visit two weeks earlier and took us all out to lunch, you told the waitress with the full sleeve tattoos on both arms you liked her ink and asked her where she had it done. Then you looked right at your grandmother.

17 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: The Quest
GENRE: Fantasy
EMOTION: Self-directed anger, mournful

This bit of writing takes place in the middle of the night in a bedroom (does that sound bad?). Markha and Luke are the characters.

“John,” he whispered.

“I blame myself,” Markha said, jumping up from the bed and turning her back towards Luke. “I should have known he was coming. He must have been coming for me. I was the strong one there, I should have stayed and fought. But I let John push my mind and send me away. I am the one with too many abilities for any one Kin, and I was too weak to stop John from sending me away. I should have fought by his side and then we would have won.” She turned again and stared at Luke. “I’m so sorry,” she cried and covered her face with her hands. “It should have been me! I’m no one. I have no family to miss me. It should have been me!”

Luke shook off the momentary shock that had paralyzed him for a moment at the end of Markha’s story and jumped off the bed.

“Markha,” he gathered her in his arms again, “you must stop believing that, this very instant! John loved you. I know he did because he married you. And he knew that he had to protect you. I don’t know why he had to die the way he did, but it must serve some greater purpose. And his protection of you must have as well. He sent you to me for a reason and we’ll discover that reason together.” He wiped the tears from her cheek. “John will not have died in vain. We will not let that happen.”

16 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Sad Girl
EMOTION: torn and scared

Runaways Kat, the MC, and her bulimic friend Danny are on the Pacific coast, looking at a giant carved wooden statue who "spoke" to Danny. She just realized that she has to go back home and deal with her parents.

“He said I had to let go.”

It seemed simple enough, but my insides disintegrated a little. I could think of two things that he meant by that, and one of them was definitely not good. What did he mean by let go?

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, Kat! Don’t you see? I just have to let go. It’s so clear to me now.”

For a second I could see the slamming waves right through Danny, like he was becoming a part of them. Like he already was.

“It’s the only way that end all of this is going to end.”

“The bulimia?”

Danny frowned for a nanosecond, but shook his head.

“The everything, Kat! The only way to get back control is to let it all go. It makes so much sense.”

It didn’t make any sense. Not in the front part of my brain. If he was saying what I thought he was, I was going to fight it.

“And you will help me. Aunt Sophie will help me.”

My knee started spastically shaking.

“You know that I can’t stay.” It was a statement. I wasn’t going to give him any way to talk me out of going back. Already, I wasn’t sure. Not if he was going to “let go.”

“No, Kat. You have to stay! You have to help me! No!”

He pulled at his hair, letting out a growl of frustration.

“Just when I’m getting things together, Kat! No!” He yanked a big chunk of sea grass out and hurled it into the wind, then crouched into a ball, rocking on his feet.

15 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: The Be-Attitude Project: Downside Up
GENRE: Christian YA
DIALOGUE EMOTION: Heated conflict

Josie just watched Heather humiliate one of Heather's "friends" and can't take her bratty behavior anymore.

“Grossy Josie,” she spat, “How dare you interfere in my business. Jillian and all the others just keep coming back for more so I don’t think they’re bothered by it. And even if they are, I really couldn't care less.” A chill ran up my spine; she was too calm.

Then, like a flipped switch, Heather's mouth broadened into an almost-sinister smile when she said, “But the fact that it raises your hackles is really funny to me—just precious, actually!”

“I'm so glad I can entertain you, Heather,” I shot. “Are you so convinced that the universe revolves around you that rest of us give a rat's behind what you think?” Okay, I was stooping low there, but emotion had overtaken me.

“There obviously are a lot of people who DO give a rat's behind what I think. . . Jillian's the latest example, but all my friends care very deeply what I think.”

For a split second I could see I’d touched a nerve—like a hint of vulnerability was showing. It was almost like she too knew that her friends weren't “real” friends.

“No, they care about getting on your good side so that they don't have to feel the Wrath of Heather! The stinky part is that they still do! Do you even know what true friendship looks like?”

I heard the smack before a hard sting on my cheek registered and my head swung violently to the side.

Heather Jacobs had slapped my face in front of God and everyone!

14 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: YA Fanstasy
EMOTION: Awkward

Aura was so preoccupied with her crush, Nigel sitting behind her that class ended without her copying the assignment. By the time she realizes it, everyone but Nigel has left, so she's forced to speak with him.

“Did you get the assignment?” I whispered.

“Uh, yes.” Nigel appeared surprised. Then he smirked. “Weren’t you paying attention?”

“I think you both need to move on. You’re making this dallying a habit,” Mr. Worosz admonished from his desk chair.

We hurried out and I began to go towards my next class, when Nigel spoke. “Hey, don’t you want the assignment?”

I blushed and mumbled, “Oh yeah.”

Nigel opened his agenda and I hastily copied the pages to read and what our response was to be, trying not to be unnerved by how close he was to me.

I again went to leave when Nigel asked, “How did you know I was looking at you?”

I smiled evasively. “Why were you looking at me?”

“I think I fancy you.”

My jaw dropped, but I quickly recovered, though not enough to say something intelligible. “Oh.”

Nigel leaned in, like he had the day before. He was just as beautiful, but his eyes seemed troubled. “Do you fancy me” he whispered.

The rest of the students seemed to disappear and it was just the two of us. I was sure he could hear my heart beating. How do you answer a question like that? Americans never use the word fancy that way. And no American response is nearly as appealing. “I do,” was the best I could muster.

“Good,” he replied and headed to his own class, leaving me standing.

13 Talkin' Heads


Ella is the MC. She is a divorced mother trying to get her messed up life straightened out. She is not bitter, but she no longer trusts herself or men. Ella had a mishap regarding a pizza box, an oven and a fire where she first met our hero, Captain Jack Piper of the local fire department. She was intantly attracted to him, but mortified by getting caught directly out of the shower, and simply doesn't trust him. She lied to him about her name, thinking she would never see him again. Now, she runs into him at a bar during her best friend, Avery's, bachelorette party. Avery is trying to complete a checklist of naughty things, as well as "sell" the lifesavers on her t-shirt (men pay $5 to "remove" a lifesaver), and collect condoms for her hat. Jack knows Ella gave him a fake name, and he wants to mess with her.

Avery grinned at Jack, who returned the smile. Jack gently turned her head and tipped her chin up slightly to bare the base of her neck. He bent down and chose his lifesaver, removing it slowly. Avery let out a small moan.

“Wow. That was amazing,” Avery said as she swayed a little.

“Now, who is your friend?” Jack asked.

“This is Ella. Ella, this is...what's your name?” Avery said as she handed him her checklist.

“My name is Jack. Jack Piper. You look very familiar, Ella. I feel as though we've met before,” Jack said to me as he signed Avery's list and handed it back to her. He was going to make me suffer.

“I d..don't think so,” I stuttered.

“I'm a firefighter. Have you recently had an incident needing our services?”

“Sure you did. Wait...oh my God! Ella! Is this the guy?” Avery shouted.

Jack beamed. Now he knew I had told my friend about him. The ultimate male ego boost.

“Wait till I tell Claire!” Avery screamed as she ran back to our table.

“Thanks a lot,” I said trying to sound cold. It was next to impossible, especially considering I was really starting to feel all warm and fuzzy.

“Well, you can't be her, because her name is Susan. Susan Jefferies, I believe. In fact, I'm certain I just received an email from Susan. So she can't be you, but you look exactly like her, except with dry hair, make-up and clothes on instead of a robe.”

12 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Greta
GENRE: Mainstream fiction

Setting: Local deli, two women, as the older women tries to convey to the younger one her mother is not the evil person that she appears to be.

Rosa reached over and took Greta’s chin in her hand, turning her face towards her.

“My dear Greta, please don’t think that I am picking on you or trying to make you upset.” She peered into Greta’s face, her eyes full of concern.

Greta nodded again. “I know,” she whispered. She felt vulnerable and exposed under Rosa’s worried scrutiny.

Rosa put her hand back on the table and sat back in her chair.

“When Lillian was your age,” Rosa began, “she was already married with a young child that she was raising all by herself. Your father was gone, my son was gone, and there was only you and Lillian. I felt sorry for her.”

Greta looked at Rosa in surprise. She couldn’t imagine anyone feeling sympathetic toward Lillian.

“What, I can’t feel sorry for her?” Rosa laughed. “Lillian was very different than she is now.”

Greta was dubious as she waited for Rosa to continue.

“Oh, she always had that haughty look, like telling the world, ‘look at me, I am all put together.’ But that was not who she was, not really.”

Rosa leaned back in the chair.

“Do you remember the story about how Lillian’s parents died?” she asked.

Greta nodded. “Some of it.”

“Well, when Lillian was a little girl, she was quite happy. She was an only child and she had all of her parents’ attention, especially her father. Her father doted on her …”

Rosa scrutinized Greta, an eyebrow raised.

“Pretty much the way your father doted on you.”

11 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Of Oak and Dragons
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
EMOTION: Teasing friends

Lee is avoiding a persistent lawyer and the delivery of certain legal papers. Her roommate, Eva, has more faith in the lawyer’s intentions and she pushes Lee to meet the man.

“That lawyer called again looking for you. Left another message,” she said after a moment of silence.

I pinched my forehead between my thumb and forefinger, trying to rub away the tension. At least my stomach had settled down. “Yeah, I heard it. Kinda snippy. Maybe he’ll stop and crawl back to the hole he came from.”

Eva barked a short laugh and turned to the newspaper on the table. “You should call him back,” she said.

I blew a rude noise at her. The newspaper didn’t even rattle.

“Ok, whateverrr,” she said.

Let it go, Eva, I thought. I fiddled with my bottle cap and waited. I didn’t have to wait long.

Like we hadn’t had this conversation many times already.

“You know you’re being rude,” she said. “Give the guy a call. He’s gonna have a coronary trying to find you.”

“Oh, yeah, meet with a perv.”

She shrugged one shoulder, sipped her coffee. “Fine by me. Don’t call then.”

“I don’t need to talk to him.”


“I don’t even know who he is.”


“He’s a con man.”


“He’ll give up.”


“Cool accent, though,” I said.

“Fi…” The sound like air escaping from a punctured tire made me grin.

Eva raised the newspaper up to bury her face.

I glanced at the clock on the wall. “Crap, I gotta go. I’ve got a new Roman plaque to catalog.”

“Old,” she said around a sip of coffee.

“What?” I half-turned back to her, my inner clock ticking.

10 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Wilder Times
EMOTION: depth of relationship

Intro: Kat’s best friend, Jackson, won a chance to write the treatment
for a music video, but the contest didn’t stipulate which recording
artist he would get to work with. Jackson recently met the recording
artist, but he has yet to divulge the name of the artist to Kat.

“That’s who it is, isn’t it?” She could hear the uncertainty
in her voice. She didn’t want it to be there. She wanted to be so…in
your face Jack! You can’t elude me!

Jackson looked around the cafeteria. “We can’t talk about it right now.”
She squinted at him and then looked around the cafeteria as well.
Were there spies here…from another record label? Were they dying to
know what little video the infamous Jackson Scott was concocting?
“Jackson, enough! Stop playing games. Tell me already. I deserve to

He set down his sandwich and turned his bedpost knees into her. His
face was serious. “I will tell you. But I can’t right now. Wait until
after school. Now drop it.”

Whoa. He was way serious. She didn’t know if she had ever heard him
sound so firm before. But…she wasn’t done probing. “Why? Why can’t you
tell me right now?”

“Too many people around.”

“And last night? Why didn’t you tell me then?”

“Because I wanted to tell you in person.”

“But you’re not.”

He gave a big sigh. “Later Kat. Got that? I. Will. Tell. You. Later.”

She was giving him that glare of death again; this time he saw it.
And he didn’t die. He didn’t even choke on his sandwich. He finally
looked away, back down to his food, and then he smiled. How dare he!
He was enjoying this.

9 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Santorini Sunset
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
EMOTION: Frustration

BLURB: This scene is between Caroline Clayton and her ex-fiancé, Albert. Albert has just left his new fiancée, Caroline’s sister, Gabi, at the altar. Caroline is talking to Albert, who is already three scotches to the wind, trying to get him to return to the wedding chapel.


“Caroline. Oh Caroline. You’re so beautiful.”

I took the glass and bottle from him. “We need to talk.”

“Yes, we do!” He sat up in the chair and reached for my hand. “I love you, Caroline. I can’t believe I dumped you for Gabi. You’re so much more woman than her.”

“Yes, I know. You’ve pointed that out on several occasions.” I snorted. I don’t think he was referring to my girth, but you never know with him.

“I was a fool. Led on by the promise of thin thighs. And I was vain enough to be flattered by the attention of someone as beautiful as Gabi. Now I know what they mean about surface and inner beauty. You’re the true beauty, Caroline.”

“For God’s sake, Albert. Listen to yourself. You can’t even give me a compliment. What makes you think you love me?”

“I just gave you a huge compliment.” He looked at me confused.

“Telling me that I have inner beauty, is not a compliment. Trust me! That’s almost as bad as saying that I have ‘such a pretty face.’”

“But you do.”

“G*****n it, Albert, stop before I deck you.” My tone startled him. “You’re about superficial, outer beauty and care about what people think. You need a trophy wife to make yourself feel good. You have the depth of a Florida snow.” He looked at me dumbfounded by my analogy. “Snow in Florida. Not very deep. Melts quickly. Give me a break, I’m working under pressure here.”

8 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: "Carey On"
GENRE: Women's Fiction
EMOTION: Forgiveness/Acceptance

Quick background: Years before this scene takes place, Katie and Adam had a romantic relationship. It ended when Katie fell in love with Adam's best friend, Jay. For reasons too numerous to mention here (you'll have to read the book! LOL!), Jay has left Katie. This scene occurs when Adam, who is freshly divorced, shows up unexpectedly at Katie's house and finds her ruminating in the back garden. It's the first time the two of them have really talked since the break up of their love affair.

A brief shrug moved his shoulders. “Thanks, love. But it was going to happen. We should never have gotten married in the first place.” He turned his head toward her. “Now your turn.”

Katie lay back down, her hands on her stomach, and sighed. “I’m not okay.”

“I didn’t think you would be,” he said, his voice matter of fact. “You shouldn’t be.”

His was the first honest reaction she'd got since Jay decamped. She much preferred it to the constant refrain that she'd feel better in time, given in a tone usually reserved for those who've suffered the death of a loved one. She turned her head toward him. “Do you know where he is?”

“No, love, I’m sorry. I don’t.”

“Would you tell me if you did?”

He raised up on an elbow, and stared at her, his mouth open. “Of course I would, Katie! What do you take me for?”

“Sorry.” She shook her head. “I just have a hard time trusting anyone these days.”

“Especially me.”

Katie’s eyes darted to his face, but instead of peering down at her, he was looking across the garden toward the pool. Those ridiculous shades still hid his eyes, and she wished she could see his expression. “That’s all over and done with, Adam.”

He snorted, and waved a languid hand. “And yet the melody lingers on.”

“Not for me. Life’s too short for all that s***.”

His sunglasses looked down at her. “Really?”

She nodded. “Really.”

7 Talkin' Heads

EMOTION: Personality insight

Brooke is working at her aunt and uncle’s resort for the summer. Her cousin Shelby is treating Brooke as her personal chauffer since her license was suspended. Currently, they’re driving to a friend’s house so Shelby can retrieve her cell phone.

“Too bad. You probably can’t get out of work if you’re paired with Kathy. I mean Katie. You know, I can’t believe how bad I am with names.” Shelby pounded the dashboard with her fist. “It’s Candy!”

“It’s Kayla.”

“Oh yeah, right.” Shelby waved her hand frantically. “Right. You have to turn right here.”

Brooke slammed on the brakes and executed a sharp right turn.

“Where are you going?” Shelby twisted in her seat and looked out the rear window, clearly appalled.

“You told me to turn, so I did.”

“I meant you had to turn, because the road we needed was right there. But we had to go left. Really, Brooke, you should work on your listening skills.”

Sighing, Brooke pulled to the side and turned the vehicle around. They ended up on a meandering lane, with trees on one side and spacious brick lake homes on the other.

“That one,” Shelby said, and pointed.

That one had a dozen parked cars spilling off the side of the long driveway. Brooke pulled in behind the last one. “I thought your friend lived in town.”

“She does, but she called when you were talking to Dad. She rode out here with a friend.” Looking at Brooke out of the corner of her eye, Shelby added, “Maybe we shouldn’t mention that we went to a party. Not that Mom and Dad will ask, they think you’re a Girl Scout. Oh wait; you really are a Girl Scout, aren’t you? I forgot.”

6 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Love & Lies
GENRE: Paranormal Romance
EMOTION: Irritation/frustration

Dara has just learned someone she doesn’t like is her contact for reaching the vampire council and has retreated to an old representative (Gretzki) to reach the council instead. It goes against the rules and he’s just suggested that she contact the other representative (Caldwell) instead of him.

Her braid was going to be torn off one of these days, Dara just knew it as she gave her hair a sharp pull. “I don’t want to send word through him.”

“I saw the picture of you, hon. Just because you’re having a spat…”

She rapped the mouthpiece against her desk. Anyone with a vampire’s keen hearing would have an aching ear after that. People needed to stop making assumptions about her, they really did! “There is no spat. The picture was taken out of context.”

“Uh huh.” Dara pictured the sandy-haired vampire’s crooked grin and refrained from a second rap on her desk. “Sure it was.”

“Don’t make me play dirty, Gretzki. Just tell your councilor I need to speak with him and I’ll take it from there.”

“What you gonna do if I don’t?” he demanded.

“I remember a certain set of wolf-shifter twins you were playing with when you were here. They’d love to know where to find you, after you left them in the lurch the way you did.”

“Is that all you got, D?” He scoffed, “That isn’t worth crossing a kitten, let alone Caldwell.”

“How about the little magelings who you were also playing with…and all four of them learning about each other?”

That got his attention. “Ehh, better. Fine. We’ll be clear after this though, right?”

“Naturally. Just let me know what you hear. It’s not crucial it be today, but I do have a timeline to consider.”

“Right, I’ll email you in a while.”

5 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: The Book of Generations
GENRE: Fantasy/Historical fiction
EMOTION: Exasperation

Setting: Garrit has just discovered the woman he's about to marry is actually Eve--the mythological figure, and also his great-great-great-great-great(etc) grandmother. His family has been sworn to her protection since the dawn of time, but now he's struggling with the facts. Eve/Nemi is trying to calm him down about it, but she's had about enough.

“It’s myth, Nemi. Creation is a myth!

She was wet, and miserable, and he hadn’t even had the courtesy to shut the bathroom door before shouting at her. “Part of your myth is standing in front of you in a towel! Tell me that the thousands of lives I’ve lived are all lies.”

Garrit looked at her, his eyes narrowed. “I don’t know what you are.”

She bit her lip. “This is why I didn’t tell you.”

“It’s all been a lie, then?”

“I hardly run about the earth advertising my reincarnations!” Her voice had risen, but she couldn’t bring it back under control. Of all people, he should have known better than to think such a thing. “My feelings, me, our relationship, none of that has been a lie.”

“I’m just supposed to accept this? Without any hesitation or reserve?” he asked.

“Your parents didn’t seem to be upset by it.”

“Bon Dieu!” She flinched. It was never a good sign when he slipped back into French. “That’s just great, Nemi. You tell my parents but you don’t think to tell your fiancé.”

“I didn’t tell them. They put the facts together themselves, just like you.” Only faster. And with less drama.

His jaw clenched. He hadn’t missed the implications. “Your portrait. In the hall.”

She sighed. “Yes. My portrait.” He would come to terms with it, or he wouldn’t, but she was shivering and he was blocking the door. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to get dressed.”

4 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Untitled
EMOTION: Nick: guilty, slightly embarrassed, a little annoyed. Claudia: angry, but in that seething, simmering kind of way.

Set-up: Nick (Nick is "I" in this passage) and Claudia are on a cross-country trip. Claudia has discovered an acceptance letter from Brown University that Nick has been hiding from her for a few months.

“When did this all happen?” Claudia calls to me as I head around to the front seat. She is waving the brown folder at me. The white crest with the red cross catches the sunlight and temporarily blinds me.

“Like, April,” I gulp and shrug.

“April? Were you going to tell me about it?” Her voice is measured.

I just shrug again. “Eventually, I guess.”

“Like when you were packing your suitcases? Or maybe after you got there and moved in? Or maybe graduation day four years from now. That would have been the perfect time to say, ‘Oh, Claud, by the way, I got into Brown.’” Her voice has gotten just a little bit loud.

“I would have told you, I swear. I’m not even sure if I’m going or not.” I say to the ground.

“What? Of course you’re going! You were smart enough to get into the Ivy League and you’re talking about not going? Are you nuts?”

“I don’t know. We don’t have to talk about it right now, do we?” I say, heading to the driver’s side of the car and holding out my hand for the keys.

Claudia sets her mouth in a line and I can see her cigarette shaking in her hand. She takes a breath like she’s about to say something, thinks better of it and plops the keys in my hand. “You’re the boss,” she mutters.

3 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Ink Wash
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy
EMOTION: Teenage Indifference

Intro: After her mother's death, 17-year-old Katie (main character) moves to Japan to live with her Aunt Diane. Katie and the school's arrogant (and gorgeous) kendo star grate on each other's nerves, so she decides to join the kendo team to try and take him down a notch.

“I joined the kendo club at school,” I said to Diane over dinner. She went bug-eyed and just about dropped the shrimp straddled between her chopsticks.

“You what?”

“I joined the kendo club.”

“I thought you hated contact sports.”

I shoved in a forkful of salad. “I do.”

“Kendo does not translate to ‘ballet,’ Katie.”

I rolled my eyes. “I know. I sat in on a practice today.”

“It’s dangerous. You could get hurt doing kendo,” Diane said, but I shrugged.

“You could get hurt crossing the street.”

“Katie, I’m serious. Are you really sure you want to do kendo? Did the teacher talk you into it?”

“No, I want to do it.” I poured my cup of green tea over my rice and mashed it in.

Diane sighed. “I don’t know about this. What would your Mom say if I let you try it? And don’t pour your tea in your rice, Katie, you’ll ruin it.”

“It tastes better this way. Tanaka told me,” I said. “And don’t worry. Mom would say, ‘Good for you, Katie! Japan needs more girls taking kendo!’” I rose to my feet and started clearing up my empty dishes. Diane stared down at her pile of shrimp tails and I knew I’d won when her shoulders sagged.

“All right,” she said eventually. “It’s ok with me, but take it slowly and be careful. If you get hurt, I’m pulling you out.”

“Diane, come on,” I said. “What’s a contact sport without contact?”

2 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Again
GENRE: Young Adult Paranormal
EMOTION: First Emotion - Interest; Second Emotion - Sorrow

INTRODUCTION: Emma and Owen have spoken before, but only briefly. This is their first conversation that goes beyond surface level as they get to know each other better. Emma opens up to him about what's been bothering her.

“How long have you played the guitar?” I asked Owen.

“I took lessons when I was a kid, but it didn’t last very long. The painful calluses made it unappealing. My parents were disappointed because they had given me a nice Gibson for Christmas, but I just pushed it to the back of my closet. It wasn’t until junior high that I decided to give it another try.”

“What changed?” I asked.

“My parents were going through a divorce. I was extremely unhappy and wasn’t dealing with it well. Some people fight stress with drugs or alcohol. I learned to fight it with music. I’ve been playing ever since.”

“Oh.” I paused, wondering if I could open up to Owen. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, the type who could understand my situation and be sympathetic. “I think my parents might get a divorce,” I said softly.

“Emma, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I understand what it is like.”

“Does it get any easier?” I asked, trying to suck in my sadness, keeping it from spilling over into my voice.

“Sadly, no,” he answered, looking me straight in the eye. “Even though it is been years since my parents divorced, it’s still hard sometimes, the going back and forth, the double holidays.” He put his hand gently on my arm. “Hey, if you ever need to talk, I’m here.”

“Thanks,” I answered, unable to take my eyes off of his hand still resting on my arm. “I appreciate that.”

1 Talkin' Heads



Demas, Will, Eyre, and Turne go to the circus to pry a secret from the Ringmaster.

“Hello,” Turne said, snapping to get the Ringmaster’s attention.

Ringmaster stopped his conversation with the green-painted drummer, and craned his neck to the side. He looked at Turne, Will, Demas, and Eyre through the corner of his eye.

“Get out of here, you filthy spies,” he said.

“I’m not after your carny secrets,” Turne said. “I’m after another type of secret.”

Ringmaster threw back his shoulders and tilted his chin. He still didn’t face them. “Secrets are only as good as those who keep them.”

“Never said a truer word," said Turne.

Circus people watched with interest; noises died down.

“Too many people are after secrets and treasures that are meant to stay secret and treasured.” Ringmaster looked at the tent while he spoke.

“I shall treasure this secret forever,” Turne said, stepping closer.

Ringermaster glanced at them sidelong. He checked them out, up and down. His eyes snapped back towards the wall. “What type of necklace does the Old One wear?”

Demas took out the key from under his tunic, displaying it on his palm.

“Many Keypers come,” Turne said, “and many Keypers go—”

“I only trust what they can show,” Ringmaster finished.

“Are you the son’s son of a prophet?” Turne asked.

“I claim that lineage,” Ringmaster said. “But it is your lineage that is on the line.”
“Would you trust us if we tamed your wildest beast, out shot your skilled marksman, and copy-catted the ancient symbol of passage?” Turne grinned.