Friday, November 28, 2014

Baker's Dozen Agent Auction: Critique Guidelines

Finally -- we're LIVE!

Here are the official critiquing guidelines:
  • Please use a screen name instead of "Anonymous".  Using a screen name does not require that you have a Blogger account, or any other account.  Simply choose the "Name/URL" option for signing in, and type whatever screen name you'd like to use.  The URL part isn't necessary.
  • While it's fine to comment on whether or not the logline worked for you, the main thrust of your critique should focus on the actual writing.  
  • As always, a mixture of tact and honesty is the best approach.
  • Hundreds of critiques will be flooding my inbox, and I won't be able to police them (unless I stop the rest of life for the next four days).  If you see something that is VERY SNARKY, please let me know.  (By "very snarky", I mean "completely inappropriate".  This does not include comments on your own work that may have hurt your feelings because they've pointed out some flaws.  I will not delete legitimate critique.)
  • IMPORTANT:  Please DO NOT CRITIQUE during the auction (Tuesday, December 2, 11 am to 11 pm EST).  I have encouraged the agents to subscribe to the comments of the posts they're bidding on, and they don't need to be bombarded with critiques while they're trying to win something.  THANK YOU FOR ABIDING BY THIS.
  • ENTRANTS:  Please critique a minimum of 5 of the entries.  Also, please refrain from commenting on the comments on your own work.  For one thing, most people will not return to a comment box they've already left a critique in.  For another, it's not a good idea to try to justify/explain/defend your work to those who are critiquing.  Read quietly, sift through, keep what's golden and reject what doesn't work for you.
Questions?  Leave them below!  Happy critting, everyone!

(60) YA Contemporary: CATCH HIM BY DISGUISE

GENRE: YA Contemporary

To catch the boy who put her younger brother in a coma, sixteen-year-old Hannah trails him to summer camp as a boy. It’s the perfect plan—as long as no one catches Hannah first.

Mattie Matt,

1.4 seconds. I looked up a velocity formula online, so I know that’s how long it took you to hit the dumpster. 1.4 seconds. Less time than it takes the average person to be thrown from a mechanical bull—which would have been a smarter stunt.

You do these stupid things without considering the consequences. You think you’re invincible. Well, you’re not. You might never wake up, and it’ll be all your fault.

And mine. Because I should have

The doorbell rang, and I jerked, leaving a blue streak across the page.

“Hannah! Could you come down here, please?” Mom called, her voice muffled through my bedroom door.

Probably another church member with a foil-covered casserole dish. Except Mom didn’t need me for that. Maybe it was Lena. She’d been bugging me to go out with her this weekend.

I snapped my notebook closed and flicked a glance in the mirror to make sure I was decent—not a sure thing lately. I’d greeted the youth minister the other day in skimpy pajama shorts and a cami with no bra. He’d stared over my shoulder while he asked how I was holding up. Talk about awkward.

Satisfied I was fully dressed, I slipped out of my room. Multiple voices mingled in the foyer, including, I realized with a start, Dad’s. He usually only left Matt’s room in the trauma ward for work or sleep.

I peered around the corner down the stairs. Two strangers, a man and a woman, stood just inside the door. Well-dressed and with the kind of proper posture that made my shoulders ache.

“Thank you for seeing us, Reverend and Mrs. Davies,” the man said. “William felt strongly

(59) YA Science Fiction: TRACKER 220

GENRE: YA Science Fiction

When everyone has a tracking chip in their brain, one glitch threatens the safety and knowledge the network provides. As sixteen-year-old Kaya becomes that glitch, she must choose between life as a lab rat, or a rogue movement that plans on using her to destroy the tracker network.

We were going to get caught. No question about it. Masking your tracker signal got you a date with the authorities at best, and at worst… I didn’t want to think about it. I wasn’t lucky enough to get away with this. I was never that lucky.

Troy grinned and held out the radio wave generator. “Come on, Kaya. You know you want to.”

I shook my head. A few minutes of freedom from the tracker network wasn’t worth the risk. The authorities would brain probe us to check our chips for glitches if they showed up. Not if—when.

Troy waved the box in my face. “You sure? It’s such a rush!”

I shivered despite the blazing bonfire in front of us. “No, I’m good, thanks.”

That little box was trouble. Worse than Pandora’s. My muscles tensed. At least if I refused to disrupt my tracker signal, then I wouldn’t have to lie about breaking the law.

I snuggled up to Harlow, and he put his arm around me. I liked some of Harlow’s friends. But trekking into the woods to watch them attempt to beat his record for longest signal disruption was insanity. Why couldn’t we hang out at the fly-in theater instead? Anything other than pursuing a one-way ticket to tracker juvie.

But they loved the thrill of tempting fate—the ultimate game of chicken. At best, they had about five minutes of interrupted tracker signals before the network alerted the authorities. They’d show up and we’d scatter.

Troy glared at Harlow. “Looks like your girlfriend’s afraid of getting caught.”


TITLE: The Adventures of Ratboy
GENRE: MG Adventure

When a twelve-year-old aspiring comic book artist accidentally brings his own characters to life, he has to team up with the hero to defeat the evil villain, Dastard Lee.

I stood in the entrance of the cafeteria and twirled my Green Lantern ring around my finger. It was the first day of seventh grade, and I didn’t have anyone to eat lunch with. Not that I wasn’t fun. I was a lot of fun, even if I did say so myself. And it wasn’t that I didn’t have any friends. I had one friend, my next door neighbor, Peyton. We’d started hanging out together right after my family moved here last spring. But I couldn’t see her anywhere, even when I craned my neck around the doorframe. Maybe she didn’t want to eat with me.

Someone bumped my shoulder, and I stumbled past the doorway into the actual cafeteria. It was super noisy and echoey, and it smelled like spaghetti. A couple of kids from my street glanced at me and then away again. A girl from my morning math class waved and then pulled her hand down really fast. A guy from last summer’s art camp looked right at me and opened his mouth, but then the kid next to him said something, so he closed it again.

I swallowed my disappointment. Obviously everyone was still thinking about the incident from sixth grade. That’s okay. I could eat alone. I had my comic book, and someday when I was rich and famous they’d wish they had been nicer to me.

I scurried along the wall until I found a mostly empty table in the back. A skinny kid with dark frizzy hair was already there. He was so thin and his hair was so big he reminded me of a dandelion. As he tapped furiously on a tablet computer, I could hear beeping and twerping amid the occasional explosion.


TITLE: Monsters of Wintervast Island
GENRE: YA Magical Realism

A ’90s-obsessed gamer girl, still an outsider even to her unlikely group of friends, struggles to find a missing boy on an island where H. P. Lovecraft-esque occurrences are a regular part of the day.

I slid the knife into my skin, cold metal seeking warmth against the snow falling endlessly around me. The scent of my blood spread into the storm, wind-thrown away from me like a fishing lure. I removed the knife, pain not even crossing my mind, and waited.

As if I had summoned it, an equinocus, or snow pony, appeared twenty yards away.

I held my breath, shutting out the chill, and absorbed the sight of it. Someone from the mainland might have marveled, starry-eyed, at the part-horse, part-apparition like it was miracle. But for me, someone who knew the tales of the equinocus, I saw it for what it truly was.

A killer.

The Fat Man stood beside me, squinting through his facemask until he saw it, too. He muttered into his earpiece, “Snow pony, ten o’ clock from my position. Move in.”

Two ghost-like puffs of breath escaped the equinocus’s nostrils as it watched us. Its powdery ears, seemingly made of fine snow, twitched toward the Fat Man’s gruff voice.

“Earn your pay, girl,” he grunted, raising his rifle loaded with lard-filled bullets. I knew what he wanted, but my legs refused to move. For a moment, we stood at an impasse, none of us breaking the frozen spell.

He jerked the gun barrel toward the equinocus and barked, “Now, Stacie.”

For the money, we need the money, I chanted to myself, shutting down the small voice in my mind that wondered how the Fat Man knew my name.

(56) MG Contemporary (verse): ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES

GENRE: MG Contemporary (verse)

When her parents enroll in marriage camp, Bailey and her brother spend August on an island with a grandmother they barely know. With the help of a driftwood mermaid, mysterious ice-cream vendor, and new best friend, Bailey learns how everyday miracles can change lives.

After the storm

Felicity Bay is washed clean—

cottage roofs rain-fresh,


in the morning sun.

I lean over the porch railing,

scan the ribbon

of wet sand.

Last night’s wind rearranged driftwood

along the beach

like my mother scrubbing,


moving furniture around

after she and Dad fight.

My brother couldn’t sleep.

This morning I found him

on Nana Marie’s ocean-blue couch,

wrapped in a sheet.


Nana Marie calls me inside

before I can explore.


Bailey, she hollers. Pancakes.


I kick off my flip-flops,

dash in,

plop down across from Kevin

at the kitchen table.


Don’t just stare at them, Nana Marie says.

Eat, Chickadee.


She has to check them first, says Kevin.


He thinks it’s dumb

that I study the gold and white designs

fried into flapjacks,


for the face of God.

He was only little

when Aunt Debbie discovered Tom Hanks

staring at her

from her breakfast plate.

She watched every one of his movies

after that,

said it changed her life.

So I say, You never know,

and I check for God.


Later that morning

I find Daniel outside,

peering at things

through his camera.






He turns on the camera,

snaps a picture,

turns it off.


Daniel’s eleven,

same as me.

He stays in the cottage

next to Nana Marie’s

and takes pictures

of everything.


Where ya going? Daniel says.


Nowhere, I say,

and we start going there



A short trail cuts through beach grass—

grey-green blades

as long as my legs,


in the breeze.

(55) YA Fantasy: AGE OF THE GIFTED

TITLE: Age of the Gifted
GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy

With her newfound power, fifteen-year-old Shyla summons rains and saves her desert village. She ages five years overnight. Horrified, she vows never to use her power again. But she can’t keep it a secret. Soon she’s hunted by a king who wants to control her, rebels who plan to use her, and sick and dying people who long to be healed. When war breaks out, Shyla must decide if growing old is too high a price for peace.

Clutching a large water jar to my chest, I raced down Shalot’s dusty streets.

The twin suns’ blazing heat scorched my skin. Sweat soaked my kaftan. But still I ran, skirting people and skidding around corners. Finally, I stumbled out of the last twisty side street into the village’s largest bazaar. Ancient limestone shops surrounded the market. The mingled scents of curry, garlic, and hot pepper clogged the air.

People milled around the bazaar, but the area surrounding Shalot’s only well was empty. A warder in a stained white robe was moving a wooden lid back over the rock-rimmed structure.

I was too late.

“Wait!” I shifted my jar to the crook of my arm, ran forward, and grabbed the lid.

The warder pushed my hand aside. “Come back tomorrow, girl.”

“My family’s out of water.”

“Not my problem.”

“But our camels are dying.”

“If I don’t do my job, people die.” The warder slammed the lid in place.

I felt myself slump. I could still see our camel lying doubled over and twisted, her mouth gaping at the cloudless sky. Above her emaciated body, shadows had seemed to flicker like ominous flames. The odd vision should’ve scared me, but in some strange way, it had compelled me to try to save her. I’d spent the morning dribbling the last of our water down her throat and trying to make her stand.

But nothing had helped. I had to make the warder change his mind.

(54) YA Romance: THE VIRTUE OF SIN

TITLE: The Virtue of Sin
GENRE: YA Romance

When her cult leader forces 16-year-old Miriam into marriage with a stranger, she's faced with an impossible decision: renounce her faith and her family or lose her one true love.

The girls never get a choice. This has always been the way in New Jerusalem, for as long as I've been alive and longer. My father chose my mother, a fact he seldom lets her forget. Now that I am sixteen, tonight it is my turn to be chosen. And though the very thought turns my insides liquid, it’s more from anticipation than fear.

My mother perches beside me on one of the low, hand-carved juniper benches the men have dragged from the Chapel out into the Mojave Desert. Tonight—and tonight only—we are allowed outside the high, concrete walls of the city. She holds out a plate piled with sticky rice, some slices of roast lamb, and a crumbling chunk of bread.

“You need to eat something.” She raises her voice to be heard above the music booming from big speakers into the open air; the same sound system that in less than an hour will be used to announce my future.

The smell of the charred meat churns my stomach. This is a feast compared to our daily meals, but I push it away.

“Ruth is over by the food station with Leah.” She points through the crowd, toward the fire in the distance. “They look as nervous as you. Perhaps more.”

“I’m not nervous.” My best friends are terrified of what tonight will bring. They don’t know who will choose them. But I have no reason to share their fear.

Still, my stomach lurches again as I turn away from my mother’s finger, toward the cave opening in the steep red rocks to our right. I’ve never been inside. Like most of our rituals, the men are free to attend, while the girls go only once, on their wedding night.

(53) MG Contemporary: LAST CHANCE

TITLE: Last Chance
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Twelve year-old Journey and her rootless mama have only ever had each other and the open road. When their Winnebago breaks down in a dying town, Journey makes her first ever friend: a forgotten shut-in whose home stands in the way of the town’s only shot at survival. With her own future at stake, Journey has two choices: Save the house and kill the town, or save the town and destroy a life.





I craned my neck to see what had died, but it was gone. I flung off my seatbelt, ignoring Mama’s “Hey now!” and raced through our Winnebago to peer out the back window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the corpse at the side of the road.

“Slow down!” I hollered. Mama obliged, stomping on the brake and sending me sprawling. The Ford that had been trying to pass us all morning swerved and kept going, horn wailing all the way. Mama let the engine die, then twisted in her seat to give me her Behave look.

“Journey Jones, what’d I say about running around in Born Free while we’re driving?”

“Don’t,” we said together.

“Sorry.” I scrambled to my feet and pressed my forehead against the rear window. Through the dust clouding the glass, I made out a small brown shape about fifty yards behind us.

“Can we back up a little?” I asked.


“Just fifty feet?”

“Sit down, darlin’.”

I squinted hard as the wind from passing cars made a flattened, bottlebrush tail flap limply against the road. Satisfied, I made my way back to my seat, where Mama sat with her arms folded across the steering wheel.

“Can we go now?” Mama asked as I strapped myself in.

“Can we go back to Nashville instead?” I countered.

“You know I hate going back,” Mama said, and I sighed, ‘cause it was true. In my twelve years on the road, we’d only ever gone forward.

(52) YA Contemporary: NOWHERE TO BELONG

TITLE: Nowhere to Belong
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Recently orphaned Bailey Scott sucks at lying and has always been protected by her older brothers. Devastated when they're separated, she must now protect them by lying convincingly about the dangers she faces in her foster home, or risk permanent separation when the oldest turns eighteen: her ticket out.

I'd still be standing on the other side of the fence if Jake hadn't raced out of his doghouse, begging me to open the gate. Well, that and the fact that I was out of clean underwear.

After I grabbed our key from under the rock, my trembling hand stopped in front of the keyhole. Jake barked with anticipation, prancing back and forth behind me. I pushed the key into the hole, but couldn't bring myself to open the door.

Frozen in place, I pictured my mom on the other side. What would she be doing at this exact moment if she were here? I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the frosty door, imagining her emptying the dishwasher, wiping down the table and doing a hundred other insignificant things.

Jake whined, bringing me back to the present. Unclenching my fingers from the ice cold doorknob, I yanked the key out of the hole. I was not going into my house without my parents waiting on the other side of that door. Jake and I settled on the cold ground leaning against the porch steps--well, I leaned against the steps and Jake leaned against me.

"Jake, they're not here," I choked out.

He stiffened, looking up at me with anticipation.

"Buddy, you've g-got to understand," I sputtered. "Mom and Dad aren't coming back."

At the mention of their names, Jake bolted up the stairs and eagerly stared at the door, wagging his tail.

(51) MG Contemporary: LOOKING FOR STARDUST

TITLE: Looking for Stardust
GENRE: MG Contemporary

While following a clue to find her missing dad, a twelve-year-old homeless girl, Sofia, and her momma end up in the desert. When Momma falls ill, Sofia believes it’s up to her to finish the search no matter the result, but in order to succeed, she’ll have to travel two hundred miles with little more than the survival skills Momma taught her.

Living in a hearse is just asking for trouble. It’s the reason Momma lost her job over at Vinnie’s Pizzeria. Seems folks didn’t like the idea of a hearse delivering their food. At least the car is roomy enough for Momma and me to stretch out in the back to sleep on account it’s made for carrying coffins. In the way, way back it’s got these curtains that can be pulled shut over the windows so it’s really dark, and there’s this stuff called crushed velvet covering the part they used to put the coffins on.

At first it was kind of creepy, sleeping in the same space where dead bodies once were. But then I told myself, “Sofia, it’s okay. You and those dead people aren’t much different.” I’m just as smelly as one of them. Truth is, sometimes I think those dead people are luckier than me. They don’t worry ’bout having enough to eat, how they’ll live the next day, or where they’ll sleep. Momma and me sleep in the back of the hearse, but I don’t sleep there every night. Momma and me trade off. Last night was her turn.

Normally she’s up by now, but for some reason she’s still asleep, even though the sun’s nearly all the way up. It’s too hot on mornings like this to hang around inside the hearse, so I pop open a can of beans and climb on top of the hood. Pity follows me, wagging his tail.

(50) YA Suspense: SUBMERGED

TITLE: Submerged
GENRE: YA Suspense

Desperate to find her best friend's killer, 17 year old Mindy Palmer unwittingly trusts the murderer, an obsessed psychopath she met in the Teenspeak chat room. If Mindy doesn't uncover the murderer's identity soon, she could be his next victim.

She was dying, couldn't breathe without oxygen. All he had to do was unplug the plastic tubing and disconnect the tank while she slept, so easy it made him laugh. Year 12 Biology - learning about the needs of living organisms hadn't been a complete waste of time.

Pulling out the oxygen line woke her, and she tried to raise herself in the bed. Her head flopped about like a dried up flower on a withered stem.

With a tissue, he wiped his prints from the line. Her body sagged, her mouth opened and groveled for air. In the old wicker chair next to the bed, he leaned back, his arms folded across his chest, watching, as if he were enjoying a favorite movie.

After her lips turned blue and she stopped twitching, he reconnected the oxygen, wiping for prints again.

He wasn't sure what to do next. He hadn't planned any of it, although he'd thought about it many times.

Today, the rage had built in him as he watched her sleep...and then it was done.

He had the urge to tell someone - let the world know who he really was. He turned on the computer, logged into the TeenSpeak chat room and checked to see who else was online.

The girl was there. His mouth went dry and he ran his tongue over salty lips. His heart beat faster. She was there...waiting. Almost as if she knew he needed her - that he had never been more ready.

(49) YA Contemporary Fantasy: THE TASTE OF LIGHTNING

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Pia Xun is so over being called spoiled brat and ching chong and psycho stalker. That last one’s thanks to the deity living in her body, who insists she follow around stupid Lauchlan McCrea for his protection or whatever. But when she learns what happens when Lauchlan's gone, she finally starts to take things seriously, nicknames be damned. Because Hell on Earth? Kind of a big deal.

I was standing in the newsagency pretending to browse a stack of glossy magazines when this middle-aged woman wandered up to me.

“Hello,” she said, loud and slow. “Can you –” she pointed at me, “– please help me?” She pointed at herself.

Possibly a few k’s short of a marathon.

I gave her my most patient smile. When she was sure she had my attention, she gestured out to the city street. People hurried past, not bothering to wait for the crosswalk signals as they ducked between cars and buses, their business outfits and school uniforms already sticky from the Australian summer heat. The scent of pastries and coffee wafted from the adjoining café, where Lauchy was downing an iced coffee with his precious posse. Dear old Metal Mouth was the reason I was stuck here this morning thumbing through magazines rather than lounging in bed.

“Can you tell me how to get to Raine Square?” the lady said. Still loud. Still slow. She was drawing attention. Soon Lauchy and his friends would notice me, and if that happened I would never shake the “psycho stalker” tag.

I set down my magazines and took her outside. “It’s a bit of a walk.” Didn’t think she got most of the instructions, but I tried anyway.

She beamed. “Thank you.” This time she spoke normally. “I didn’t realise you’d be so good at English until you opened your mouth.”



What the actual hell?

(48) YA High Fantasy: THE DEMON PRINCE

TITLE: The Demon Prince
GENRE: YA High Fantasy

Ashira wishes for love, excitement, and adventure far from her desert village. When her coming-of-age prophecy states she will “live a life of no renown,” she becomes determined to change it, utilizing a lazy and cynical djinni. Her errant wishes trigger demon outbreaks and darker prophecies. Now, Ashira must contain the magic she unleashed before it destroys her world.

Ashira stared down the dirt road, longing for a glimpse of her future to form in the horizon like a heat vision. Instead of the endless sand of Saban, she would sail oceans. She would bask in the luxury of the northern kingdoms and master the magic there—fight past drakes and any other beast she could imagine with a brave and handsome man at her side. Find the forest fairies and even taste snow.

Camel groans and the stench of sweat reached her first. With her prophecy still days away, Ashira had to settle for dreams and vicarious adventures. She held the skirt of her sari away from her sandals as she moved from the village gate, weaving around the returning caravan. She tried to guess at their last stop, but nothing stood out among the cloth bags and worn baskets until she found Vaslin, the merchant’s daughter.

The girl had a light in her brown eyes that said she had a secret—a secret Ashira would have to spend most of the evening wheedling out of her.

Ashira swallowed past the dust in her throat. “Do you have a letter?”

“Let me think.” Vaslin pushed a stray lock of hair under her veil and sorted through her satchel with agonizing deliberation. “You’re expecting to hear from Isila?”

“Isila, Liaha, Jalila—it doesn’t matter. Do you have a letter or not?”

“Yes, I think . . . Jalila. That’s her mark, isn’t it?” She held a bundle of parchment just out of reach.

(47) YA Contemporary: STICK FIGURE

TITLE: Stick Figure
GENRE: YA Contemporary

When 16-year-old Elizabeth lands in an eating disorder clinic, she's determined to get out and win back her ex. But when anonymous gifts arrive in the mail, she’s forced to question everything she believes.

No one told me that when I got skinny I’d grow fur. Tiny translucent hairs, fine like white mink, appeared on my arms, legs, and face, giving me soft blond sideburns no girl should have. When I looked it up, the fur turned out to have a name—lanugo. Babies are born with it. Anorexics grow it.

My first thought? What a pain in the ass.

My second thought? So far, so good.

After all, I knew I had to suffer to be beautiful. Of all the things Mom said to me, I understood that this was true. If you wanted people to notice you, want you, admire you, envy you, want to be you, you had to sacrifice. Easy? No. But that’s why people called it suffering.

And even if all your suffering seemed to get you nowhere—well, nowhere except the Wallingfield Psychiatric Facility’s Residential Treatment Center, remember this: There is always success hidden in failure. After all, you might be locked away, but you’re still a size zero.

“I hate this hair.” I’d been at Wallingfield for exactly 21 days when I brought up my fur in group therapy. I don’t know why I chose that moment; maybe it was because the circle felt cozy that day, with the chairs pulled into a tight circle and our knees curled up to our chests to stay warm even though the baseboard heaters creaked and groaned all day.

Or maybe it was because I’d followed the rules, eaten my meals, and they were still there. I wanted to shave every single disgusting one off, except that a razor was sharp, and they didn’t let us have anything sharp at Wallingfield.

(46) YA Contemporary: THE MIND TAMER

TITLE: The Mind Tamer
GENRE: YA Contemporary

A teenage boy seeking to win back the love of his life develops telekinesis, only to discover a shadowy conspiracy of telekinetics that he alone can prevent from taking control of the world.

She walked into Biology as the bell rang but didn’t look at me.

She’d never done that before.

I closed my eyes. Rosie, I thought, look at me. But when I opened my eyes, she was talking to the girl behind her, oblivious to my mental plea.

Our teacher, Ms. Styborne, was reviewing the procedures for dissecting the frogs that had been delivered that morning.

“Matt,” she said. I looked up. “You and Pedro will pith the frogs, then distribute them to the teams.”

I nodded. We were her lab assistants, chosen because we’d do her dirty work. Our more squeamish classmates objected to certain procedures, so we had to perform them in the teacher’s lab, a small room behind the whiteboard at the front of the class.

Another glance at Rosie. She was staring at the wall, as if the Animal Kingdoms poster that had been there all year was suddenly fascinating. I scribbled a note: What’s up? I folded it, wrote a capital R on the outside, and passed it to the kid who sits next to me. It would pass through seven hands before reaching Rosie. Styborne had separated me and Rosie the first week in class. We figured Syborne, who lived alone, couldn’t stand seeing young couples in love.

Pedro and I walked toward the lab. He went through the door but I looked back. Rosie received my note but she didn’t unfold it. Instead, she wrote something on the outside and passed it back.

(45) MG Historical Fiction: FREEDOM BOYS

TITLE: Freedom Boys
GENRE: MG Historical Fiction

After a perilous journey in 1848 from slavery in Mississippi to freedom in Liberia, thirteen-year-old Granville Woodson seeks an education, a real home, and a peaceful life without whippings and lynch mobs. When his friends die from the African Fever, he must battle his fear of snakes and critters, white men, and the indigenous people to search for medicine in the forest to save his sick mother and best friend.

A shiver shoots down my spine. Above me, owls hoot back and forth, regular as a tick-tock. As the sun rises, a dust devil whips up from the big house ruins and floats across the garden through Master's cemetery. It's coming direct at me and Gibson in the woods, swirling and sucking in more leaves till it's taller than a pillar. I grasp the rabbit's foot real tight--not that I'm scared or nothing.

When the dust devil smashes against an oak tree, it scatters bits clear over the slave cemetery. My stomach twists.

Gibson hops as if a ghost is blowing hot breath on his soles. "Granville, what're you waitin' for? Grab them belongings!"

"It's my fault y'all won't be leaving with us for Liberia. Please forgive me." I pluck up a string of cowry shells, a piece of gleaming plate, a ring carved from a horn, and a brass amulet from my friends' graves. "May God help y'all rest in peace, Amen." I scoop up a handful of cemetery dirt, in case of trouble.

We race downhill, cutting across the fields where the cotton bolls languish. Gibson lags behind me. I stop dead in my tracks and shout out, "Can't you run faster?"

A dog howls in the woods.

Brownie! That's trouble all right. Most nights, Mr. Stampley, the overseer, keeps the bloodhound tied up behind his cabin. By the time Gibson stumbles next to me, the barking's louder than my thumping heart.


TITLE: Nixie in the Center
GENRE: MG Literary

Twelve year-old Nixie has no friends, her sister hates her, and having dysgraphia makes everyone think she’s stupid. When a deaf dog runs wild through her town, disrupting a funeral and crashing pool parties, Nixie thinks training the dog could prove she’s more than her learning disability. But with animal control, mean girls and her own mother standing in her way, how can Nixie save an unwanted dog no one believes can learn?

When I was little, Mama told me that my name--Nixie--means “water sprite.” A water sprite is a fairy that lives in the water, so for a few years I wore a tutu when I went swimming. But when I was in second grade (for the first time), I found out the real meaning of “nixie.” It’s bad, and the worst thing is, it fits me perfectly.

It was spring and Mama had sent me to the post office because she wasn’t going anywhere with her stomach as big as it was, carrying what I hoped was a baby sister. Mama had been having so much indigestion, which she never did with me or my big sister Trilby, that she was thinking it was a boy. I thought her burping was because of the bratwurst and hot sauce she had been craving.

“It’s a nixie!” I heard an unfamiliar voice say from behind the post office counter.

“Yup, it’s a-me!” I said, shaking the spring’s rain off my red boots.

“What?” the man asked.

“It’s a-me! Nixie!” I said again, reaching for one of the Tootsie Rolls in the little dish on the counter. I squinted at the man. “Hey, how’d you know my name?”

“Oh!” he laughed and put an envelope up on the counter. “No. I meant this “nixie.” Look here.” The corners of his eyes had what Mama calls crows’ feet. They looked like lots of little smiles. “See how you can’t read the address?”

(43) YA/thriller: DEAD SILENCE

TITLE: Dead Silence
GENRE: YA/thriller

A pandemic sweeps the globe and Hawaii loses contact with the rest of the world. A teenage girl learns her father has the antidote . . . but he’s missing. She must find him before the airborne virus reaches the islands.

Friday, December 12, 2025

The day the world fell silent, I sat in Basic Chinese, a class I was going to fail. Again. Chinese would be my doom. It was a required course in Hawaii, so I had to pass.

Fat chance.

Millions of Chinese babies learned the language without any trouble, but here I was, a reasonably intelligent tenth grader falling further and further behind.

While the teacher scanned the room for someone to torture, I scrunched down behind a boy the size of a Sumo wrestler. His bulk hid me from Mrs. Wu and spared me the humiliation of responding to questions I couldn’t answer.

Beyond the classroom walls, surf pounded and called me to the beach. It was wrong, flat out wrong, to trap me here when I could be windsurfing or snorkeling or jogging on the beach.

And I was supposed to care about Chinese?

Mrs. Wu left her desk. Like a shark circling its victims, she stalked down one row and up the next and asked students random questions.

Not me, not me, I inwardly chanted. Pick someone else. Anyone else.

She stopped in front of Tiffany Warrick and smiled with all the warmth of a cobra. “Zhè shì shénme?” She held up a book.

What is this? That was an easy one. Even I knew the answer.

“Zhè shì shū,” Tiffany said without hesitation.

Mrs. Wu gave a swift nod, but no praise. She interrogated other students, but luckily, I escaped her attention. Hands laced behind her back, she returned to her desk.

Relief rushed through me. The inquisition was over.

Mrs. Wu pivoted. Her gaze burned a path straight to me.

(42) YA Fantasy Romance: BELLA AND THE CURSE

TITLE: Bella and The Curse
GENRE: YA Fantasy Romance

Aquila, future queen of Alogo, needs shape-shifters in order to save her country from a cursed plague. Her only option: marry a man whose secret could kill her. Especially if she falls for him.


Aquila Katharros, eldest Princess of Alogo, stared at the portrait.

The King of Leontaria definitely lived up to the myths surrounding his name. It wasn’t what his people called him—The Kind King—that she could comment on, since for that she didn’t know one way or the other. But as for other more physical descriptions…well, for those, Aquila could find no exaggeration.

Seated atop a horse, he was dressed in rich velvets, a fur cloak, and heavy jeweled chains—clothing fit for no less than a king. With wide shoulders, a lean waist and muscular arms, his body would have been the focal point—perfectly formed as it was—if he had not had that face to accompany it. It was a face of legends: deep-set blue eyes, a prominent nose and full lips. And a scar running from ear to chin, cutting through a close-shaven beard. Those imperfect features—features that could have easily been smoothed with the touch of cream paint—combined to shape a face that Aquila found hard to tear her eyes from.

Her future husband.

Aquila’s stomach churned at the thought.

She could no longer even count the amount of times she had looked at the portrait. Still, she couldn’t quite understand what it said about the king that he left his features so raw. Her own mother had personally hovered over the palace painter until her face was flawless. Perhaps like her, he did not really care for the marriage. Or perhaps his head was simply too big.


TITLE: The Memory Thief
GENRE: YA Fantasy

In the city of Craewick, where talents and memories are bought and sold, seventeen-year-old memory thief Etta Lark returns to the world of theft she left behind—the black market of memories—to complete the greatest heist of her life and save her comatose mother’s memories from the auction block.

When I see the letter nailed to my front door, I know something is terribly wrong. The envelope is covered in fancy handwriting and sealed with a wax stamp the color of dried blood. I don’t wonder who it’s from, because only the Blinders use gold ink—and they never send good news.

I shove the letter under my cloak, hoping no one on the crowded streets has seen what the Blinders, the city’s peacekeepers, sent me. My hands tremble so badly that it takes me a few tries to get my key into the lock. Once I’m inside, I twist the iron handle, which is cold as ice in my palm, and shut the door to my apartment. As a chill works its way to my bones, I pull my cloak closer around my body. My throat tightens at the warm scents of honey and lilac buried in the wool. The last time my mother wore this was the day before she entered the asylum, almost four years ago. Somehow, it still smells like her.

A knock on the door jolts me.

“Etta? It’s Klive.”

The door opens slightly, bumping into my back as he slips inside. Even in the dim light, the bruise blooming near his left eye is hard to miss. His lip is cracked and bloody, too. I’m not surprised he’s beaten up. He’s spent the last few hours hauling criminals from the Maze into the city with his regiment.

After all, it’s Auction Day.

(40) MG Light Fantasy: THE LAPRAN LINK

TITLE: The Lapran Link
GENRE: MG Light Fantasy

PITCH: Eleven-year-old Jennifer accepts a mysterious neighbor’s invitation to time travel, hoping to meet her father, who died when she was a baby, and possibly prevent his death. But when the two friends inadvertently alter history, erasing their world, Jennifer must risk her life trying to save both her world and her dad – if she can find him.

From the front gate, you couldn’t see the house, just the long driveway winding through the trees. But when you stepped in a bit and followed the drive, as Jennifer did every day on her way home from school, you caught sight of the mansion, proud and glistening white against the hillside.

The Randolph estate, it was called. Raa-an-dolph. Jennifer loved the way the sound rolled over the roof of her mouth. Lord and Lady Randolph, she fancied. Except they didn’t have lords and ladies in California.

As far as Jennifer knew, no one had ever seen the occupant of the house, but there was lots of speculation in her neighborhood of modest homes. Some said it was a young woman who had been deformed in a terrible accident and didn’t want to be seen. Others swore it was a notorious criminal in hiding. Kids, whispering of ghosts, shunned the house. All except Jennifer.

She’d often climbed the back wall of the estate to watch the swans there. And she’d wandered the rooms countless times in her mind, imagining Persian carpets…crystal chandeliers…winding staircases…and a life of infinite possibilities far removed from her own. But she had only ventured up the driveway in the past month when she’d started sixth grade. Her walk home took her by the main entrance where the towering gates always stood open, inviting her in. It wasn’t really trespassing. After all, they were practically neighbors.

(39) YA Fantasy: DARK CORE

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Reincarnation's a bigger bitch than the goddess hell-bent on killing Saekina, but if she doesn't find a way to defeat an immortal, this life could be her last.

Saekina tucked into the darkness.

Moon orbs lined the cracked, cobbled streets, their weak glow casting long, crawling shadows along the barren buildings.

No one was coming. Good.

She ducked into the alley near the hotel’s rusted door, and passed dumpsters overflowing with rotted food and used magical charms. She ignored the repugnant scent—she’d smelled worse.

Saekina brushed a strand of dark hair behind her ear. Even at this time of night the heat clung to her skin, creating a layer of sweat. Then again, even the cooler seasons in Dennin were sweltering.

Her stomach grumbled, reminding her of her hunger. But after tonight, she'd be able to eat for days. Information on slavers never failed to earn at least a gold coin. Bounty hunters would rip each other apart for the info.

Saekina cast a few furtive glances towards the end of the alley before pulling the dented door open. She shuffled past the hotel’s owner.

He looked up from behind his desk with a bored expression. He scratched at his balding head, dandruff flakes spilling onto his shoulders. "You again.”

Saekina slipped him the usual payment. He’d invested a lot in making his hotel safe for less-than-legal operations. Plenty of back entrances and large vents hidden by glamours. I’ll have to drop this place before he gets figured out. I don’t want to be here when people realize he’s playing both sides. “We good?”

He counted the coins before adding them to his purse. "As long as the money keeps coming."

(38) YA Science Fiction: ULTRA/VIOLET

GENRE: YA Science Fiction

15-year-old scientist Violet is lonely living in a dome lab on her own island until a cosmic event gives her the power to create the lab assistants she always wanted–a brilliant green cat and a morphing human. But when 3 men appear with plans to mine her island’s rare minerals, Violet must make them leave or else she, her new family and her island will be destroyed.

Violet paced under the transparent ceiling in her bedroom, wishing the sun would sink faster. In 35 minutes and 42 seconds it would be cool enough for them to go. She untied the knot of hair on top of her head and retied it with nervous excitement. This was the first time she was going to climb the Globe. On the outside. It was a dangerous prospect, but worth it.

If she could fix the Globes, they would save countless gallons of water that was crucial to their existence on the island. It would also mean winning the respect of her mother, and coming closer to entering the shadowy realm of female scientists that her mother ruled.


Her mother’s voice filled the bedroom.

Violet ran down the hall to the spiral staircase that looked like the DNA double helix.

She was waiting for Violet in her lab. “Do you want to go in the Agri-Dome for one more practice run?” she said, raising an eyebrow.

“No, I’m ready,” Violet said confidently. She had tested the invention so many times that she’d filled an entire notebook with the results.

Her mother straightened and smoothed her white lab coat. “Let’s begin,” she said, her voice suddenly official. “What is the question that created the invention?”

Violet took a deep breath and wiped her sweaty palms on her lab coat. “My question was, 'How can I make the cracks on the Globe easier to repair?'”

“Define ‘easier’,” her mother instructed.

(37) MG Contemporary Fantasy: FIX YOUR LIFE!

TITLE: Fix Your Life!
GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy

Thirteen-year-old Megan wishes she could ditch her family. She’s stuck in the middle between her over-achieving big brother and insufferably cute baby sister, and all she gets from her parents is NO. Then the producers of the reality show, Fix Your Life!, steal her super-secret-do-not-read-on-pain-of-death journal and grant her wish. Poof—her family disappears. Megan has seven days to solve a series of clues to bring them back or they’ll be gone forever.

My father flaps a sheet of neon pink paper at me. “What is this, Megan?”

Ambushed. One more step and I would have been out the door.

“How should I know? I can’t see it while you’re waving it in my face.” I’m lying. I know what it is. If the color didn’t give it away, the strips I’d cut into the bottom and written my cell number on would have.

“Don’t be rude young lady.” He holds the paper between his thumb and index finger like it’s something gross. “I don’t recall giving you permission to sell your flute.”

I knew he’d be mad, so I’d figured out my defense ahead of time. “It was mine! You gave it to me.”

“I bought it for you to learn how to play. Musical instruments are not currency in this house. I forbid you to sell it.”

Too late. A lady saw my flyer in the library last week and called. She gave me a hundred dollars for it. That was how much more I needed to buy my new Trek bike, which I’d already done.

“It was mine,” I repeat. I said I had a defense. I didn’t say it was fancy.

Dad was slow, but he wasn’t dumb. “You already sold it, didn’t you?”

“Can we talk about this later? I’m going to be late for school.” I open the door at the same time hoping he’ll say yes. If I’m late one more time it’s detention city.

(36)YA Supernatural: THIRD TIME'S A CURSE

TITLE: Third Time's A Curse
GENRE: YA Supernatural

When fifteen-year-old competitive softball pitcher Tish Reilly and her friends investigate a haunted road, they uncover two bitter ghosts and a long buried secret. While juggling a control-freak mother, a taunting rival, and dating her best friend’s brother, Tish must find a way to help the ghosts move on or they’ll all end up on the losing team of a deadly game.

Some girls you wanted to bean in the head. The girl crowding home plate was one of them. She stood tall, bat at the ready with a cocky leer on her face, skinny as a splinter and just as annoying. I’d faced knockoffs like her all summer long, taunting rivals with long blonde ponytails. I hated long blonde ponytails.

As satisfying as it would be, a softball-sized goose egg wouldn’t win the game. One more strike would.

Brandon’s voice crackled out of the PA system. “This is it folks. We’re coming down to the last play of the gaaaame.” He knew how to work the crowd. “Tish Reilly on the mound for the Stonecutters. Full count. One more strike and the Stonecutters are Chippewa Valley Chaaaampions.”

I adjusted my hat against the blistering August sun, tilted the bill a bit lower to cut the glare. Ponytail was good, I’d give her that. With two hits today, she was looking for a third.

Over my dead body.

Feet planted into the pitcher’s mound, I curled my fingers around the softball nestled in my glove. The game was in my hands, not hers.

(35) YA Science Fiction Romance: CHASING A STARLIGHT

GENRE: YA SF Romance

Eighteen-year-old Skye Reilly has life all planned out. She got into her top choice school, and she's dating her long-time crush. But when an alien spaceship lands on the lawns of the Washington Monument, falling in love with Ethan, an alluring Celeian, is definitely not in her plans. Neither is meddling with the aliens' secret plot to conquer Earth- or becoming a threat that must be eradicated.

A perfect first date is supposed to end in a perfect first kiss. My first date with Taylor Manning ended with the beginning of the end of the human race.

Just then, though, sitting next to him on a picnic blanket under the moonlight with the nerves bouncing around my stomach like tiny rubber balls, the fate of humankind was the last thing on my mind.

"I hope you like this place." Taylor leaned in closer, gently pulling out a leaf that must have gotten caught in my hair.

Warmth flushed my cheeks. I'd been crushing on him since the beginning of senior year, now only two months away from graduation, he'd finally asked me out.

Hoping he couldn't see the color spreading through my face, I turned my head toward the majestic Corinthian columns of the National Arboretum. Their image reflected in the dark waters of the pond they overlooked. "Are you kidding? It's absolutely beautiful. I've never been here at night. The tour and the picnic....It's all really amazing."

Taylor had arranged a private tour for us. Not something they did for just anyone, but his family was D.C. elite. My family? Not so much. "I guess it's good to be a Capitol Hill brat, huh?"

He grinned, caressing my cheek with the back of his hand. "It has its perks."

My face grew warmer under his touch. The tips of his fingers traveled from my jaw up to my lips, and a tremble went up and down my spine.

(34) YA Contemporary: THE FAN GENE

TITLE: The Fan Gene
GENRE: YA Contemporary

What happens when a 16-year-old superfan and the actor she’s obsessed with meet in New York City psychiatrist’s office? He's there as a patient. She's the afternoon receptionist…a job she has because her mother is the psychiatrist.

It was 3:15 and the 3:00 still hadn’t showed - a woman in her thirties who’s been Mom’s patient for over a year to deal with her chronic lateness. Personally, I think she should get her money back.

I looked at the white door just past my desk with the large DR. FOX: NOT IN SESSION sign. Those words mean that Mom can wander out at any moment, looking to chat or spy. I’d already collated a stack of insurance forms, put a new toner cartridge in the printer, rinsed out all the coffee mugs, and thrown away the four Snickers wrappers that the daytime receptionist, Ann Marie, had somehow managed to wedge between the cabinet and the trash can. Guess she’s cheating on her diet again. Nothing Mom-approved left to do.

I missed the old days, the pre-Leia-watches-too-much-TV-and-spends-too-much-time-chatting-online days. As soon as Mom got it in her head that I needed to be more productive, I was drafted into service. It isn’t the worst job in the world – she pays well and it can be fun to try to figure out what’s going on in her sessions, to make up stories behind the red eyes and nervous fidgets.

But there is also a severe lack of privacy. I never know when Mom is going to suddenly be standing over my shoulder. Luckily, I’m smart enough to keep my real online life secret, only bringing it out when she’s safely in session. So, all she ever sees is whatever I need to Google for homework. Whenever that happens, she gets this proud, kind of smug smile, like she’s saved me from myself.

(33) YA Thriller: LITTLE DO YOU KNOW

TITLE: Little Do You Know
GENRE: YA Thriller

Two years after her boyfriend died on Santa Cruz Island, Ellie reluctantly returns determined to get through her school trip in one piece. While exploring the island’s caves, Ellie and her friends stumble upon an underground lab and find themselves in the middle of an experiment centered on her boyfriend, who is very much alive. When they learn the truth about what’s going on, they must find a way out before knowing too much gets them killed.

All I had to do was knock. In theory this should’ve been easy, but nothing about my “friendship” with Travis was easy. I didn’t have the energy to play this game tonight. Maybe he’d be sleeping and wouldn’t hear. Then I’d have no choice but to return to my cabin and bury myself in my sleeping bag.

Sleep was a better idea anyway. It’d been a long day of cataloguing plant species and sitting through lectures given by tour guides who got a little too excited talking about birds. The only thing that I ever learned from the annual Emerson Prep science excursion was that time can actually stand still.

I tapped on the door as gently as possible. I waited a moment and then exhaled when no one answered. As I turned to leave, the door opened.

Travis leaned against the doorjamb. “What’s up, Ellie?” He muttered in a barely audible tone.

My eyes trailed down and came to a stop at that perfect place where his sweats rested just below his hips. I wasn’t used to seeing him without a shirt and I stared longer than I should have. Hopefully he was tired and didn’t catch that. When my eyes returned to their appropriate position, the smirk on his face let me know that he noticed.

“Do you still want to walk to the beach?” I asked.

Travis lifted his hand to his head and combed down his just-slept-on hair. “I see you brought chaperones.”

(32) YA Science Fiction: THE DIASPORA

TITLE: The Diaspora
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Like all Artakin’s über-violent eldest children, sixteen-year-old Becca is trained as a soldier who protects the planet from afar. Her only goal is to distinguish herself in battle against a tenacious enemy, but after she’s downed on a hostile planet, fleeing becomes complicated when she discovers the young lieutenant she’s come to trust may be using her to achieve his own ends.

I’ve learned two important lessons while masquerading as a Hawthorne Youth Outpost cadet. One: dress like a cudgel and you think like a cudgel.

And two: cudgels are idiots.

Lester Jyles hauls me to my feet and slams my head against the mess hall wall. My boots dangle a foot above the scuffed linoleum. My windpipe threatens to collapse under his hairy forearm. Bravo Company falls silent. Even the distant clatter of dishes getting manhandled by grunts on jankers duty dies away.

I should have just let him take the bread. But that’s a cudgel for you. Instead of keeping my mind on my goal, on gaining a berth on the Cor Moon shuttle, all I could think was: I don’t want that jack to have our food.

Lester leans in. His breath is humid – warm and wet from the musty protein stew we’ve all been eating. His free hand presses against my chest, pins me to the cement block, and I’m thanking the Fourteenth God I took the time to bind my breasts this morning. I don’t always, not since winter set in. Four layers of synthowool hide my figure better than all the med-stretch tape on Artakin.

His thick fingers grip my jaw. “When a Com wants something, grunt, you give it.”

“Yessir,” I croak, but korfi floods my blood and the world edges red as the kill hormone swamps my senses.

Everything I am screams at me, and it screams that I must end Lester.

I want to. I really, really do.

(31) YA Science Fiction Thriller: PHOENIX RISING

GENRE: YA Science Fiction Thriller

After seventeen-year-old Lesha and her little brother win spots for the newly-colonized planet, Eris, she can't wait to get them off dying Earth. But, their starship crashes in Eris’ wasteland, stranding them far from the civilization with few survivors. If blistering heat, flesh-eating snakes, and starvation aren't bad enough, someone goes missing. Lesha finds his mutilated corpse in a sick desert shrine. Something hunts them. Lesha must get her brother to safety, before they become the predator's next victims.

March 15, 2261

On my last day on Earth, I hurried through the corridor in Bunker Number Four at way-too-early-o’clock, the packs I’d retrieved from the storage unit smacking my back.

In the six months since Joe and I won spots in the getaway lottery and moved into the Bunker, I’d come to hate this place.

Long, gray, cinderblock halls without a single window. Coverless fluoros shedding just enough light to see where you were going, but never enough to catch the roaches lurking in the corners. And freakin’ cold. They piped in heat during the winter, but the ancient boilers barely brought the place above see-your-breath range.

Dark, gloomy, and damned ugly. Not that people preparing for the end of the world cared much about ambiance, but they could’ve given the place some color. Fluorescent orange came to mind.

Reaching my best friend’s door, I entered the code on the touchpad beside it, and the panel slid open. Darkness enveloped her room. “Tiff, get moving.”

She moaned, and the bed squeaked when she shifted.

“I mean it.” I dropped her bag. “I gotta run. Don’t go back to sleep.” Silence. “Tiff?”

“Okay already, Lesha,” she said. “I’m up.”

I locked her door and jogged to my room. Inside, my eight-year-old brother slumped on his bed, brown eyes focused on the televid screen mounted on the wall.

"Almost time to leave for the spaceport, kiddo.” I nudged his shoulder. “Go wash. Put on a clean durasuit.”


TITLE: Where All the Missing Pieces Go
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Needing a place to crash, down-and-out Jane finds refuge in a sorceress's castle. But when the sorceress asks her to paint the stars to earn her keep and pieces of Jane's soul are ripped away to create living, breathing star creatures, she flees. Now Jane must race to find her stars both before the sorceress, and before they return to the sky and her missing pieces are lost forever.

Waiting in front of Lord and Lady Crocket’s dining room, I could only think of one possible explanation for why I’d been summoned. They were kicking me out.

Mrs. Cowl had her hands clasped behind her back as she stood beside me staring at the doors. Sunlight flickered down through the glass ceiling, casting rainbows across her gray-streaked bun. She didn’t have to be here, waiting with me. I knew she had a million other head-housekeeper-duties she could be doing instead. So she probably knew.

I tilted my head back, wincing at the sunlight refracting across the roof. I’d lived here my whole life. This was my home.

The footman appeared from behind the door and held it open for me. “Her Ladyship will see you now.”

After one last glance at Mrs. Cowl, I stepped inside and squinted. Of all the airy rooms of the solarium, this had always been my favorite. Arching stained-glass windows lined the outside wall, their sun-warmed scenes drenching the parquet. Combined with the glass ceiling, it sometimes felt like I was standing inside a kaleidoscope.

They were all at the table. Lord Crocket read the paper, Lady Crocket swirled a biscotti in her coffee. Sari and Stella lit up as I approached.

Lady Crocket’s eyes snapped to me. Her expression reminded me of the one Sari made whenever Stella brought up politics at dinner. “Ah. Jane. Thank you so much for coming.” She cleared her throat. “Please, come sit. Would you like a biscuit?”

(29) YA Historical Fantasy: CHILD OF THE STORM

TITLE: Child of the Storm
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

When the fourteen-year-old Amargi finds his mentor brutally slain, he leaves his tribe in the Zagros to petition the kings of Sumer for justice. Skilled, clever, but too innocent for politics, he soon becomes the pawn in a deadly game for supremacy. At a time when deception means survival, Amargi must trust the girl who once betrayed him, else forfeit his dignity, his plans for vengeance, and his life.

A storm was rising; Amargi could smell it in the air. The wind already shook the tent walls, and the skins snapped hard against the support poles. Amargi searched the tent with his eyes, clutching his knife, certain something menacing had come.

“Kutik?” he whispered. “Adda?” He peered through the darkness inside the tent.

Snoring softly on the mats were only his brother’s wives and the children. Outside, the darkness had already eased into a bruised dawn.

He’d been up for hours already, to sharpen the knives and axes, and to get the dogs fed. At thirteen, and the youngest, if his adda said to stay and watch over the cattle, who was he to defy? An uneasy feeling had brought him back. It was early, still. He thought he might still find his brothers and adda here, but no such luck. Amargi wished the holy shatin would acknowledge him a man already. Then perhaps he could have told adda about this bad feeling, rather than staring at the snoring forms of the women under the sheepskins.

Amargi heard grandmother’s humming outside. That old witch was always awake. Thunder cracked and popped, making the earth beneath him vibrate. Amargi stared at the moving shadows of the trees against the tent skins, his knife firmly in his grip.

The shatin would laugh at him if he saw him now. “So now the boy reads omens like a holy man? Why don’t we just let him invoke the gods, then?”

But Amargi was worried. The feeling was real.

(28) YA Fantasy: BEYOND THE WILD

TITLE: Beyond the Wild
GENRE: YA Fantasy

When seventeen-year-old Syra is forced to befriend the enemy, she unexpectedly finds them admirable and uses her powers to heal one, defying her tribe and revealing her secret—she is Natura and her race is at war with humankind. To stop her tribe from killing innocents who don't want to fight in the war, she'll risk banishment forever from her family.

I stretch my mind beneath my feet into the earth’s humming energy and pull. Warmth twists up and into my body, washing away my aches. The trees behind me, the bugs in the grass, and even the birds in the sky, sing with life.

I take a deep breath, smelling dirt, pine and the sharp, musky stench of humans. I gag, turning my head into my shoulder. It has been a year and still the scent hits me hard. The humans stand in a disorganized line ahead of me, waiting for the guards to push the camp’s gate open. It rattles and whines, rocking the compound’s nine-foot high fence.

Over my shoulder, the forest’s treeline reaches into the distance. Running through those trees, dried leaves crunching beneath my feet and fresh air in my lungs, that’s what I want. The Wild. Sighing, my chest stinging, I shift my laundry bag and don’t look back.

A bird above me cries while in flight, swooping down in a burst of white energy. It’s too close. I look to the camp’s guards, cringing.


Its essence ceases as quick as lightning, its death cutting a sharp pain through me. I choke back a gasp as the kids around me glance up. They only see a blue jay, dead, its wings out as it spirals to the ground.

By now, the animals should know not to come this close to camp. Every time they do, the guards shoot them down.

“Syra,” Trax whispers, tugging on my arm.

It’s time.

(27) MG Historical Fiction: ESTER, CALLED MARIA

TITLE: Ester, Called Maria
GENRE: MG Historical Fiction

For thirteen-year-old Ester Cordova, being a secret Jew is a bit like a game until the Inquisition arrives in Portugal. To try to keep her family out of the Inquisition’s reach, Ester lies to her family, strikes a deal with enemies, disguises herself, but finally must obey her parents and do the unimaginable-- leave Portugal without them.

There are two of me. I watch myself, and I’m the one I’m watching:

Mama crouches at the trapdoor and hands Isaac down to Grandma. I’m next. The cellar is black except for a small lamp. I clutch my doll Fryda and squat beside Grandma. She cradles Isaac and gives him sips of wine. It dribbles onto his chin. She puts the cup in my hands. I swallow the rest. The bitter smell of sour grapes. Mama has a basket of food. Papa has blankets. He rolls me up in one. It’s hot, and my ears and nose itch. I feel Grandma beside me. I think it’s Grandma. From somewhere else, clomps, cracks, screams, smacks. The sounds get louder. My head hurts. I can’t move…

I shake the shadowy dream, slip on a petticoat, pull my dress over my chemise, cinch the bodice, then spit three times over my shoulder and hope it works. No bad omens today. Reaching over, I stroke Isaac’s warm brow until his eyes flutter open.

“It’s morning,” I whisper close to his ear. My little brother sits up rubbing his cheeks, and quickly we mouth the morning Jewish prayer, Modi Ani…. We’re done before Luzia comes in.

“Good morning, children.”

She hands Isaac his clothes. He wiggles under the covers to put them on.

“Maria, let’s see to your hair.”

“I can do it myself.”

“Of course. But would you like help?”

Luzia unravels my night braid, and we each take a comb to one side.

(26) YA Fantasy: MECHANIC

TITLE: Mechanic
GENRE: YA Fantasy

When the dragonstones, her frozen world’s only source of heat, start failing, a young dragonstone mechanic must discover the cause and fix them, before the cold murders everyone she loves.

The heat charred every inch of my exposed skin and scorched my throat with each breath. Out. Now. Please. I reached the turn wheel at the end of the tunnel. It glowed red. I grabbed it and scathing heat bit into my fingers through my gloves, like some vicious little creature was chewing them off. Gritting my teeth I cranked it around and the door popped open.

I slid out of the stone and the wonderful coolness of the outside air hit me. Finally. I yanked off my hood. There’d be a rat’s nest on my head for sure, but the only things around were a couple of plants. They’d hardly judge. I took a deep breath, savouring the crispness in the air that was already banishing the horrible memory of that heat.

“You fixed it.”

I jolted. Darm stood right at the edge of the garden plots, his expression tight with pain. It was obvious despite the smile he’d plastered onto his face.

“Darm, what are you doing? You shouldn’t be this close to the stone.” I grabbed my jacket from where I’d abandoned it and jogged over to him.

“Just suffering in solidarity.” He looked up at the stone, his smile faltering for the first time. “But it’s okay now, right?”

I glanced over my shoulder. The panel I’d fixed was glowing once more. Not as strong as I wanted, but at least it was lit.

“Yes.” My throat tightened around the lie. “Of course it is.”


GENRE: Cozy Mystery

Mama Meatballs – Mona's been murdered! Can her best friend Rose, a sassy septuagenarian and manicotti-aficionado, put her fork down and enlist the help of her big-city attorney granddaughter Anna to solve the case? Navigating a veritable buffet of suspects, small town characters, and age-old feuds will take all the courage and cunning these ladies can cook up.

Whenever Grandma Rose called, Anna went running. Not because Rose was about to die, or because her furnace was acting up again, or because Rose thought she saw a mouse and spent four hours circling the block to avoid a rodent showdown. Anna went running because if she didn't, she would never hear the end of it. If there is an afterlife, Anna will have a chubby little Italian lady dishing her meatballs dripping in red sauce from a bottomless pot saying, "Would it have killed you to call?" On a loop. For eternity.

Anna assumed it was another false alarm when Rose left her a wild voicemail one night in late October. She still dragged herself onto a bus when she woke the next afternoon and headed upstate from Manhattan to Milton, her Hudson Valley hometown.

Ringing Rose's door bell, Anna heard a familiar "coming, coming, coming" chant followed by a symphony of lock clicks and clangs that would make the fellas at Fort Knox beam with pride. Anna flicked her menthol into the neighbor's birdbath just before the door flung open to reveal her grandmother.

"What are you doing here?" Rose said.

"Are you kidding? Your message said 'Get here immediately.' What's going on?" Anna said.

Rose rubbed her hands together and looked at the ground. When she faced Anna again, tears streamed down her cheeks.

"It's nothing really, nothing you need to worry about at least. Just my friend Mona. She's dead. Murdered. End of story."

(24) Memoir: NURSE!

GENRE: Memoir

A young woman enters nursing school in the early 70's, just as the feminist movement is gaining momentum and changing all the rules. Her nursing career takes her on a forty year journey from New York to Austalia, challenging her both personally and professionally in ways she never expected and introducing her to some of the most intriguing characters who ever entered a hospital.

The young man's limp body is dead weight. His teammates in the pool struggle to hoist him up as two lifeguards reach down to drag him onto the pool deck. He's pale, but breathing normally. The guards seem to have everything under control. Maybe I should at least offer to lend a hand?

"Need any help? I'm a nurse."

"No, we're okay," replies one of the young guards. "The paramedics are on the way."

"How's his pulse?" I ask.

"It's good."

Relieved, I turn away to join my class which is already warming up on the other side of the indoor pool. That's when I hear his breathing change. Turning back, I take a step closer.

I'm wondering if he could be postictal - unresponsive following a seizure. If that's the case, all we need to do is keep his airway open until the paramedics arrive. In the ER where I work, this would be just another routine day. But I'm not in the ER with the support of doctors, my fellow nurses and the high tech equipment I rely on. I'm at my neighborhood rec center, trying to guess why this teenager is unconscious.

Suddenly, the boy's color changes to dusky, faintly blue. I no longer see any rise and fall in his chest.

(23) Adult Thriller/mystery: TIMBER POINT

GENRE: Adult Thriller/mystery

Cat burglar Shawny Daniels’ latest break-in leads her to a serial killer’s lair. She inadvertently steals his trophy box. He wants it back and hunts her down, but she can’t find it. Now she’s juggling evading a madman and not losing her own heart to the case’s lead detective. Unless she coughs up the box, she’ll be the killer’s prey. If she does, more will die and she’ll lose the only man she’s ever loved.

I eyed the perfect house, a two-story contemporary in an upscale neighborhood in Revere, Massachusetts. Cased it night after night to learn the occupant's schedule. Shattered a street light out front with a rock to cloak me in darkness, and then returned tonight for the heist. I left nothing to chance.

Learning the target's habits is essential in good prowling. The last thing I need is an unannounced arrival or a half-asleep homeowner surprising me in the dark. I get in and get out. That's my specialty. Simple. Smooth. Stealth. Homeowner's insurance covers the stolen goods anyway. It's a victimless crime. And the only way I know to survive.

I waited for just the right moment to strike. The ideal opportunity when the neighbors' homes blackened and all movement stopped inside the target property. To me, it's like a dance. The music starts slow as the first house-light extinguishes, enhances as the second home darkens, and then elevates into a vibrant symphony once the last glimmer vanishes from sight.

This contemporary house, fronted with glass and stucco and a stone-columned carport on the left side, had no swing-set or signs of children in the home.

A perfect mark.

My favorite feature: the catwalk, made from the same wood as the house with chest-high railings that began at the front gate, traveled over a rocked stream-- a manicured lawn on either side-- and continued straightly to the front door. The baluster rods reminded me of hundreds of nutcrackers standing at attention.

(22) Urban Fantasy: HOT FLASHES FROM HELL

TITLE: Hot Flashes From Hell
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

A woman discovers her hot flashes are opening portals to hell in her kitchen appliances.

I stopped wishing people would go to hell when they actually started going.

Reality went sideways, backward, and upside down on a Monday. It started with the worst job interview in the history of employment.

My resume mainly consisted of running my husband Ty's dental practice for the last 15 years. In fact, I'd changed my college major to business for just that purpose. I'd taken night classes in accounting. I'd driven through snowstorms to sign paychecks. I'd placated patients, vendors, and landlords with a calm yet cheerful demeanor, handing out calendars, pens, and homemade cookies at strategically appropriate occasions. Didn't matter. When Ty decided to divorce me for his assistant, I lost my marriage and my job at the same time.

So Monday morning. Cloudy skies and stiff breeze, unusual for Colorado Springs where we get roughly 370 days of unrelenting sunshine a year. As a new visitor to the land of the hormonal hot flash, I took the cooler weather as a good omen. My mistake.

My friend, Alicia, was retiring from SmileBrite Orthodontics in two weeks. I needed a job. Seemed like a perfect match. But I knew there was trouble as soon as I arrived. Alicia didn't offer me any coffee, wouldn't meet my eyes, and kept fiddling with my hastily assembled resume until she tore a corner off.

(21) New Adult Contemporary: TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE

TITLE: Two Truths and a Lie
GENRE: New Adult Contemporary

A college student used to playing fast and loose with the truth must rescue her grifter mother from a con gone bad, but the one person who can help her sees right through her lies. And when she discovers the secret he has been trying to uncover, she has to choose between her mother’s security, or exposing the one lie so big even she didn’t see it coming.

I had big plans for Friday night. Bigger than dancing at Revel, crashing the Delta Tau party, or cramming for the Global Marketing Strategies midterm. They did not include hanging out in the bathroom, patching up a bullet hole in my mom's ass.

I yank the first aid kit out of the cabinet while my anger does a slow, steady simmer. I told her Sanderson was a disaster waiting to happen. I told her and she promised to stay away.

The bathroom is tiny—barely enough room for one person to move comfortably in—so that my mom is forced to straddle the toilet. I wiggle around until the torn part of her micro-mini is within reach. “Hold still.”

"Ow!" She jerks away. "Watch it!"

“If you’re going to be a baby about this, you can go to the ER."

“You’re in a mood.”

“It’s Friday night, and I’m keeping you from bleeding to death.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic. The bullet barely grazed me.”

“That’s not the point!”

“Come on. You can’t tell me this isn’t more fun than doing that market analysis thing with your little study group.”

I wasn’t at study group. The words are on the tip of my tongue, but I don’t say them. I never told mom I tracked dad down, and it’s not like I’m going to fill her in now, after he slammed the door in my face.

(20) Post-Apocalypse Romance: THE BEAUTIFUL EARTH

TITLE: The Beautiful Earth
GENRE: Post-Apocalypse Romance

Lily Monroe is carrying what may be the world’s last unborn child after a plague leaves survivors nearly sterile. Cash Walker can lead her to a safe haven on a Louisiana plantation, but Lily wants more than a guide. Now she faces both a gang intent on stealing her child and the dangers of falling in love with Cash, a man tortured by his past and determined to survive the only way he knows how: alone.

Lily could have sworn she’d seen a light. Impossible, of course, because there were no lights. Not anymore.

Lily propped the shotgun on the windowsill, the barrel glistening in the moonlight as Sasha’s deep-throated growl rumbled like distant thunder. She slid one hand under the Dane’s collar and the other down the gun, resting her finger against the trigger as she scanned the yard. Raccoons and coyotes had been marauding since the power grid failed, but last night, two bears tussled over the garbage can. Smoky Mountain black bears might be docile compared to Grizzlies, but they were still powerful enough to be dangerous. Even with a dog and a gun, Lily opted for keeping a low profile.

She slung an arm around Sasha’s neck, partly to keep the dog quiet, partly to remind herself she wasn’t alone. The muffled sound of Garrett’s snoring drifted down the hall, but outside, the darkness was primordial: no blaze of street lamps, no passing headlights, no city glow on the horizon. Nothing broke through the night but the light of a slivered moon and the twinkling of a million stars.

The houses along the street stood as silent as the death each hid within its walls. Old Mrs. Goodard next door, the honeymooners two cabins down, the frat boys on summer break. Gone, all of them, and the little city in the valley below as quiet tonight as it had been for the last three weeks, since the world collapsed around them.

(19) Mystery: DEAD ODDS

TITLE: Dead Odds
GENRE: Mystery

All FBI Conrad Keane wants is to reconnect with his estranged brother. After a reunion ends with Sean Riggins dead after a late-night mugging, Keane seizes a chance to redeem years poor decisions and avenge Sean. But his off-the-books investigation reveals the Sean he never knew, an entrepreneurial gambler linked to a local syndicate. When more gamblers turn up dead, an increasingly unpredictable Keane must find the killer before he loses his career – or his life.

Conrad Keane slammed his hand on the mahogany bar. “Enough.”

The two men in front on him jerked into silence. The father, Quentin Riggins, pointed a crooked finger at him. “We’re not done. And this doesn’t concern you.” He turned to his son. “Does it?”

Sean Riggins glared back.

“I’m just saying it’s been a great weekend, and you’re ruining it,” Keane said and shook his head.

For two balmy December days in South Florida, the three of them fished and drank, laughed and told stories. It was as much of a family reunion as Keane had ever enjoyed. He’d never had a beer with his half-brother, never even made the effort to be a part of Sean’s life beyond birthday calls and occasional holiday visits.

To Keane, the recent death of their mother — sainted by no one — had lifted a burden. He suspected Sean felt relieved, too. Today they’d bonded.

Yet Quentin — everyone called him Q — picked a fight as soon as he locked the door behind the last drinkers out of The Tides, his Boynton Beach bar.

“What’s the problem?” Keane asked.

“He wants to run my life,” Sean said.

Keane chuckled. “That’s what fathers do.”

“What would you know about it?” Sean shot back.

Keane blinked. He’d left his hard-ass, FBI attitude in Tennessee, never figuring he’d need it here. He cocked his head. “Listen —”

“See what I mean?” Q lifted his hands in frustration. “You try to set him straight, and he won’t hear it.

(18) Fantasy: DRAGON HUNT

TITLE: Dragon Hunt
GENRE: Fantasy

The deteriorating magic of a centuries old Peace Accord, bound by the blood of Elves, Humans and Dragons weakens further as Arch Mage Risa Thimoryn begins her quest to eradicate dragons from Paelon. When a human girl, Gillian, manages to save her dragon, Naga, from Risa’s sword in an unimaginable way, and threatens the mage’s quest, Risa changes tactics and finds an unexpected inheritance offering her more than just a solution to her quest.

Risa glared at the back of the horse-sized, brick-red Watch Dragon lying on the rocks below her. She pulled her cloak hood over her braided brown hair and pointed ears, and cautiously settled among the boulder field to wait. With the breeze coming up the hill from the human village, she was sure the smoke from evening hearth fires wafting the aroma of roasting meats and baking breads would hide her scent. Anxious for the shroud of night to come, she peeked from her hiding place and watched the dragon’s nose whuffle the delicious smells, but remain still with his eyes closed. His apparent complacency would make him an easy target and the magic of his pelphar would be another welcome addition to her collection.

Glancing down the hill, Risa adjusted her sword and crouched lower as an auburn haired teenage girl ambled up the hillside with a bouquet of golden lilybells. At nearly the same moment, the dragon’s green eyes opened and his snout lifted to sniff the air. In one smooth motion, he drew his feet under him and wrapped his nearly seven-foot-long body into a neat bundle like a cat ready to pounce. Only the tip of his tail twitched. As the girl neared, the dragon shifted slightly, his ear flaps swiveling to catch the girl’s humming. Tiny fidgets readjusted his tense body, waiting for the perfect moment, and then he pounced.

(17) Epic Fantasy: THE SWORD AND THE SKULL

TITLE: The Sword and the Skull
GENRE: Epic Fantasy

When the witch he loves becomes slave to an evil demigod’s plan for conquest, Ryn Ruscroft must steal a sentient sword to save her. But this doomsday weapon accepts no master, and its thirst for victory could leave Ryn guilty of mass murder.

Ryn pulled the silver hand vase from the desk drawer and waited. The cathedral’s bells would soon deal out their daily punishment. He didn’t want to be near Josalind when they did.

The vase held the Durassi sand lily he had cut the night before, after Josalind was asleep. Two years of cursing and fussing to coax just one flower from half a dozen plants. A green thumb he wasn’t. The bloom was as broad as his outstretched hand—hundreds of petals arranged in lazy arcs, shaded purple, violet, and indigo.

He cradled the lily under his nose—spicy sweet, like mulled cider and strawberries. Thanks to the sorcerer’s enchantment upon the vase, it would never wilt or fade.

If only it were so easy to protect everything rare and precious. Their work as bonedealers demanded Josalind touch a dead soul almost every day, and each time he wondered how often she could wander the Netherworld before it claimed her. She would sometimes try to explain what it was like to read a soul passed for centuries from an old relic or bit of bone, but words weren’t enough.

A sudden breath sounded at his shoulder, giving him a start.

“Hmm, smells like berry tarts, dearest,” Josalind said. Her milky gaze was fixed upon the flower as if she could still see.

Damn. “Scamp—I asked you to wait,” Ryn said.

“Did you, now?”

Josalind snatched the lily from his hand with an accuracy that never failed to surprise him and waved it beneath her nose as if sampling the bouquet of a fine wine.

(16) Adult Urban Fantasy: BLOODBIRD

TITLE: Bloodbird
GENRE: Adult Urban Fantasy

An obedient basilisk solider accused of treason, Faida’s forced to ally with her clan’s Executioner to prove her innocence. But uncovering the real traitor’s endgame has Faida fighting to stop a madman hell-bent on species eradication.

The kill order came through the exact moment the sommelier filled my wine glass. Clearly my superiors delighted in choosing the most inopportune time to assign me a target. Faida might be doing something enjoyable. Let's interrupt it...just in case.


Gazing across the candlelit table at my maybe-boyfriend, Christian, I offered an apologetic smile. The X Squad never sent an order unless it was urgent, and that meant I was about to ruin the second date with Christian this week alone.

Bzzzp. Bzzzzp.

I glared at my clutch, the distinct buzz alerting me to the incoming command. My fingers itched to chuck it across the restaurant. All I wanted was a g****** steak, but apparently that was too much to ask.

Christian sighed. “Just answer it, love. I know the hospital’s needs are more important than dinner.”

His pleasant demeanor aside—Christian was the most mild-mannered guy I’d ever dated—I knew he was less than thrilled. But seriously, who could blame him? I’d lost count of the number of times the “hospital” had interrupted our plans since we’d started seeing each other three months ago.

Several tuxedo-clad servers whisked by carrying plates of sizzling filets and butter-drenched potatoes, and my mouth watered. Suppressing a groan, I pulled my phone out to read the text message.


F****** parasites always found a way to ruin a perfectly decent evening.

“Yep, it’s from Dr. Flores,” I lied.

(15) Mystery: THE CAT'S MEOW

GENRE: Mystery

Veterinarian Marti Foxx realizes her dream of owning an animal hospital, but instead of finding the stability she craves, she becomes the prime suspect in a string of crimes and struggles to rebuild her reputation while searching for the real criminal.

The first moths of spring huddled against the weak porch light.

“Here kitty, kitty,” I crooned, peering over the railing into the darkness.

My only reply came from the distant peal of the town carillon, marking the quarter hour. I made my way down the steps and stumbled onto the road.

It was a country lane, lit only by the moon and the homes that dotted it. Once the vernal rains began, its pavement would be splattered with the guts of hapless frogs, squashed while making their way to the spawning pools. But tonight it remained devoid of decoration, dead or alive, amphibian or otherwise.

I shivered and rubbed my arms for warmth. Searching the entire property without a flashlight was impractical at this time of night. The cat I’d heard crying--if, indeed, it was a real cat and not a fragment of dream--would have to wait until morning to be rescued.

I picked my way back to the porch and retreated into the warmth of the farmhouse. The old house had been subdivided in recent years into three apartments. My elderly landlady occupied the first floor. An anthropology professor rented one of the second floor units. And the last one belonged to me, Marti Foxx, veterinarian and newcomer to Ivy Lake.

The polished oak staircase in the entrance hall beckoned me back to bed. As I placed my foot on the bottom step, a door slammed open on the landing above, and voices exploded into the hall.

(14) Contemporary Romance: LIKE LIGHT REFRACTED

TITLE: Like Light Refracted
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

When recovering alcoholic and cancer survivor Annette Miller takes charge of a historic Minnesota lighthouse, she gets more adventure than she bargained for in artist and fellow AA member Nils Egeland. But opening up to love exposes old wounds, and when a family crisis strikes, she must come to terms with her past to preserve her sobriety and her first chance at happiness in years.

If there was anything more perfect than cruising down Highway 61 on a June morning with The Boss on the stereo, Nils had yet to discover it. Oh yeah, he believed in a promised land. Here it was: Lake Superior glistening on the left, trees leafing up the hills to the right, and the dark flank of Palisade Head rising against a blue sky in front of him.

He couldn't have asked for a better day to start the paintings he owed Thordahl. Good thing. He'd already lost the first two weeks of tourist season; if this project was going to pay, he needed to get those prints into the Split Rock gift shop now.

At Silver Bay, he turned off the highway and climbed the long hill to High's Diner. Nothing had changed here while he was gone. The poster for the high school musical still hung in the dusty front window, a month after the show had ended. Pete Hakala still hadn't fixed the side panel on his F-150 from when he clipped that deer in November. Lazy S.O.B.

"Egeland!" Clint Hansen waved from their booth.

Nils limped forward, his bad leg stiff from yesterday's drive. Da**it. Summer and Springsteen notwithstanding, right now, he felt about as beat up as Hakala's piece-of-s*** truck.

He slid into the seat across from Clint, next to Jeff Palo. "When did you get back?" the pastor asked.

"Last night." Under the table, Nils massaged the old break. "Drove straight through from Ottawa."


TITLE: Falling Up The Stairs
GENRE: Family Saga

All Joey wants is to be loved. When the five-year-old and his six siblings are scattered in foster homes and orphanages by an alcoholic mother during World War ll, they suffer a life of unthinkable cruelty and neglect in "the system."

Joey finds that the road to securing his dream for happiness will take well over three decades and is fraught with many challenging obstacles in life, including hypocrisy, larceny, gross fabrication and unforgettable heartache.

It was unusual for a car to be sitting in front of the house, especially when your family lived on a side street. Very few rich people drove by, and when they did, Joey stared at them until they were out of sight. It was a special event, indeed, for a boy whose family had no car. Most automobiles in the town were black and had an ominous look, especially the sedans. He was fascinated with the one parked very close to his front porch. We’ve got company, he thought.

He spotted the car from a block away after turning the corner on his way home from school. Moping along, he was taking his time, but began to sprint into the April wind, his heart pounded as if there were a bass drum inside his chest by the time he reached the front door.

The house was as quiet as an early Sunday morning. Joey kicked off his shoes, wrestled out of his jacket, and tossed it on a chair in the living room before rushing into the dining room. A woman sat at the table with his mother, Alice, his Grandma Lillian, and sister, Beth.

Joey had never seen the woman before.

Coffee cups sat in front of the ladies. The dining room window was half open, and the curtains fluttered with the breeze. The tick-tock of his grandmother’s favorite clock seemed loud in the silence of the room. They all eyed Joey when he made his out-of-breath entrance,