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Thursday, July 31, 2008
DEBUT AUTHOR: Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich
I am delighted to have had the honor of interviewing Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich, fresh-and-green author of SEVENTH GRADE SUPERZERO and someone with whom you can't help but fall in love.
AUTHORESS: Tell us about your book!
GBEMI: SEVENTH GRADE SUPERZERO is scheduled for a Spring 2010 release (just moved) by Arthur A. Levine Books. I was a slush submission to my wonderful editor, Cheryl Klein, and I'm represented by the fabulousness that is Erin Murphy.
Reginald Garvey McKnight created a superhero character in kindergarten; now he dreams of being a real-life leading man: The Guy who's got game and gets The Girl. Instead, he threw up on the first day of school. In front of everyone. Seventh grade has gone downhill ever since.
Now Reggie can't even look The Girl in the eye, and his former best friend is bent on shredding his already tattered reputation. In SEVENTH GRADE SUPERZERO, Reggie just wants to live between the lines and avoid graduating as only "Pukey McKnight". He'll leave the living out loud to his oldest friend Ruthie, who was probably chanting "No justice, no peace!" in the womb, crowd-pleasers like Justin Walker, the guy every girl wants and every boy wants to be, and the "Grin Reaper" Vicky Ross, who has been in relentless pursuit of the rejection-proof college application since 3rd grade. Reggie is grateful for the steady friendship of Joe C. -- though a white best friend who's obsessed with bizarre trivia can make for awkward moments.
Reggie wonders why things are so bad if God is so good; his faith at all levels is challenged by his friendships, his encounters with a homeless man, and his role as a "Big Buddy" to a kindergarten boy. When he finally decides to "be the change he wants to see", Reggie leaves his superhero fantasies behind and values the little heroic acts of daily life; he learns that sometimes winning big means living small.
AUTHORESS: So, you started in Cheryl Klein's slush pile. Can you tell us a little bit of your story? As in, what was Cheryl's first response to your submission, and where did it go from there?
GBEMI: After ENDLESS research (blog reading, hunting down interviews, quotes, etc.) I queried Cheryl (snail mail) because I thought that she'd 'get' my book. A day after I dropped my query letter in the mail, she updated her submission policies, including a cautionary word about scatological humour which freaked me out because I had something really gross on like, page 2. But, I got a very fast response for the first three chapters, and then a request for a full soon after. There was some uh, scrambling, because I wasn't expecting the full request so soon. About three months later it became an exclusive sub. (And now that gross page 2 is gone, by the way.)
AUTHORESS: You mentioned that you have an agent now, but clearly you landed this sale prior to landing the agent. How and when did Ms. Murphy come into the picture?
GBEMI: I did the same sort of research on Erin, and really, really liked what I'd read. Since she's conference or referral only, I had to wait about a year until she was at a conference in the area and registered right away. She was assigned to me as a mentor (huzzah!) and about two days before we were to meet in person, Cheryl also referred me to her. I didn't mention that when we met, since she already had my work, and might not have liked it, but thank goodness she saw something she liked and it all worked out. I had another offer from a great agent who I like a lot, but everything that I'd read and guessed about Erin turned out true and more; we really clicked. I liked her editorial suggestions a lot, and her working style is perfect for me. I signed with her and about a month later we got an offer from Cheryl. (Right after I had some major surgery and right before Christmas!)
AUTHORESS: So, a book deal in between surgery and Christmas! How has the "I've got a book deal" life differ from the "I'm trying to get a book deal" life? Has your perception of yourself as a writer changed?
GBEMI: Well, a lot more book-related periods of jumping up and down. And a lot more book-related "How Am I Going To Do This" anxiety too. I had a lot of ideas about expectations for me, and because sometimes I am not so smart, I didn't ask, just created scenarios in my head and went with them. When I finally did speak up and ask questions, the answers were very different from what I'd imagined. My agent is a fantastic communicator and has been wonderful about this, and she does it without highlighting the fact that I am indeed a crazy person.
For me, there is also less focus on "I've got to sell this book" to "How will I go about building a career as an author", which is a good thing.
Along with that, I've had to learn and re-learn to do justice to the truth of the characters and the story and worry less about what 'they' (readers, friends, enemies, frenemies, etc.) will think of *me* when 'they' read the story. Self-consciousness can be a real story-killer.
I've learned to pretty much ignore the literary snobs who look down on children's or YA literature, or "I would write if I didn't have to work because 1)I wrote a book. (!!!!) and 2) that's just silly.
I also encounter that same kind of thinly veiled hostility when it comes to some of my other craftish pursuits; there's that "I wish I had time to do that" that's supposed to make you feel bad. Whatever, I say. (Not to their faces, because that may not sound so mature. I just smile and act nice, or say nothing. And go on making the time to do the things that I feel I should be doing.) And I've found that my crafty pursuits are wonderful for that "think-writing" that is a large part of my writing process before I write anything down.
Also, I feel less guilty about reading now. Which is silly, because, reading is kind of a good thing. But sometimes, I'm silly.
And I hope that one day I will be able to say more than ".....Um", when people ask "What's your book about?" That hasn't changed, but I live in hope.
AUTHORESS: This process is sounding so...therapeutic. You mentioned focusing on "How will I go about building a career as an author" instead of worrying about selling this first book. This seems like the right focus! So tell me, what does "a career as an author" look like to you?
GBEMI: Yeah, good question. I think that I start with more of an acceptance now, a real idea that "I am a writer", which is something that I was unable to say to myself, much less anyone else, even though I worked as a full-time freelance writer for quite a while. I'm still a little mumbly and awkward saying it to other people, but I'm getting better, and I've stopped answering "nothing" when people asked what I "do".
I think a lot about my growth as a writer, and feel it as I work on other projects. My editor is truly gifted -- I thought that I liked to revise before, but it's a whole new level now, like the 36th Chamber of the Shaolin!
I also think more and differently about school visits, conferences, and the like. I have a lot of teaching in my background and really look forward to returning to classrooms as an author, and am excited about how that will enrich my teaching and learning experiences. And I do pay more attention to issues relating publicity & marketing, bookshops, libraries, etc. and how I hope that my work will be received by these entities. And I'm also paying attention to how much I don't have control over -- much of the issues relating to publicity & marketing, bookshops, libraries, etc. and trying to do my best on the parts that are in 'my' domain. There's so much that's really out of my hands, so I have to just try to 'write good'. :-)
I'm a member of two fantastic online author communities, the 2009 Debutantes and the "10_ers", which have been indescribably precious arenas of support, schooling, savvy, and the occasional sillies. (There are some amazing books coming out in the next two years!) These talented authors really help me to think more "long term"...Oh, and lovely 2009 Debutante author Rhonda Stapleton (STUPID CUPID) has a cool writing career template on her site.
AUTHORESS: Well, it's really encouraging to hear about your growth as a writer, and of your "self acceptance" as such. So aside from all this exciting professional (and personal) growth, what else can you tell us about who you are? What do you do when you're not writing?
GBEMI: I love to walk this great city, especially the bridges. And go out and explore different neighborhoods -- they have such distinct personalities. Sewing, knitting, stitchery are huge hobbies of mine. I love making toys and dolls. Puppetry. Paper crafts and book arts also. Music. I love to cook and bake -- I collect cookbooks, though I rarely follow the recipes. But they're fun to read and be inspired by. Playing with clay -- great for working out a writing problem. Spending time with family and close friends is very important to me, and we have a lot of fun just hanging out. And of course, reading. I cannot explain how much I love a good book.
AUTHORESS: Your passion for life is effusive and palpable; it's been a pleasure learning so much about you. Do you have any words of wisdom, advice, or encouragement for aspiring authors?
GBEMI: You are too kind to me! I don't think I'm qualified on the words of wisdom front, and any advice or encouragement I'd give would probably sound exceedingly trite, even when it's in earnest. Hmmmm....Take risks, laugh at yourself, be kind to others and yourself, keep learning, pay attention, and write what's true.
See what I mean? Sigh.
Thanks so much, this has been a lot of fun. And thanks for the blog -- it's funny, truthful, and enormously helpful. Hey! That makes more sense: read blogs like Miss Snark's First Victim, hang around on Verla Kay's message boards, join SCBWI!
AUTHORESS: Thank you for this wonderful interview, Gbemi. Rest assured I'll be snatching up your book as soon as it hits the shelves!
GBEMI: Thanks so much, I'm honoured.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Drop The Needle 41
She knows we’re here.
McKinver reacted before Will could. We can’t leave – we’re on assignment. How can she see us?
Tom backed up a step as Danielle moved closer to him. I don’t know – I think it’s because of Mist.
When can we stop observing? Fear tinged Will’s mental voice as flames started to lick at the base of the stairs. For now none touched the front door.
You know we can’t burn in this dimension – not in this form. McKinver reminded him.
I don’t like fire, came the small reply as Will brushed past Tom’s shoulder and raced to the top of the stairs.
Concerned that he’d have to intervene and stop a taunting session, Tom was relieved when McKinver changed the subject. Although the matter at hand worried him.
Here comes the cavalry.
Peering through the banister poles, Tom saw a five Retrieval team advance slowly towards Danielle, their stun guns prepared to fire. Danielle glanced at them, and the fire on the stairs flew up the banister.
Tom stop it!
Go calm Will, he commanded McKinver, walking down the burning stairs into the flames. He felt the heat of the fire stroke his transparent feet.
Drop The Needle 40
GENRE: Gothic Romance
Sylvia looked up at Edlyn’s profile. He, too, gazed
at Lucky. A slight smile played on the corners of his
mouth. Sylvia’s hand tightened on Edlyn’s arm, and he
glanced down. Her expression must have betrayed her.
Amusement flashed in his eyes.
Edlyn’s amusement was ice. He would not laugh at
her. The music started. Hands clasped hers on both
sides, and she began the dance. The first steps of
the dance separated them. When she returned to him,
face-to-face, and gave her hands into his, she tilted
her chin and leaned toward him. She stumbled
slightly, pressing her breasts against his chest. His
hands tightened around her waist. She caught her
balance and begged his pardon.
The heat in his eyes told her he was no longer
laughing and no longer thinking of Lucky.
At each opportunity the dance provided, Sylvia
provoked him further. She slid her fingers against
his palm as she took his hand and caressed each
finger’s full length before releasing it. When the
dance brought her close, she stepped in an inch closer
than the dance allowed. She stayed too close a second
longer than she should.
She held his attention, undivided, until the
dance was nearly over, but that was not enough. He
had laughed at her. “The room has become quite warm.”
“Perhaps it is the dance.”
“A rest would be in order, then. And a cool glass of
“The room is so crowded.”
“I know a quiet place.”
Drop The Needle 39
Grunting, Serobin settled crossed-legged in the grass. "I'm getting too old."
"At least you're alive. We lost eighty men." Darion sighed.
"It's war," Serobin sat up, scowling. "There's always a price to pay. These men knew the risks. But I wonder what have they died for?"
Darion raised his head at Serobin's fierce tone.
"While you hesitate, we're losing comrades. What are you afraid of?"
Darion shifted against the tree trunk, searching for words. "I want to help my people. But how? My father was a great man. He held Kheld together. What if I fail?"
Serobin patted the earth. "Here below are the roots of this tree. They go deep, and spread far. Tell me, does the tree hold the earth together, or does the soil keep the tree upright?"
"The ground holds the tree."
"True. And it's not the king who holds the kingdom together, but the people. You are but one man, Darion. You can only do so much."
"But my father-"
"Your father was strong, like this chestnut. His roots went deep, but he was still one man. You're a different man. You can't be your father."
Darion swallowed. A lump formed in his throat. "I can try to measure up to him."
Serobin swung his arm wide. "Do you see another chestnut close by? Step away from your father's shadow, and grow your own roots. Try to measure up to yourself. You have much to offer. But make a choice, and soon!"
Drop The Needle 38
Title: Bruised Fruit
I turn on the shower and hear shrieks echo off the tile. There is a large, wet man in my tub. It's Detective Mike Stanley. “Oh… s***!” I just blew Larry’s cover.
“Trish, put this on, then we’ll talk.” Detective Stanley hands me my T-shirt, and waits till I'm covered. He leads me to the edge of the bed.
"Sit." The detective demands as he paces in circles.
“I guess you heard everything.”
“I didn’t hear anything I didn’t know.” Mike dries himself from his unexpected shower.
“I’m not here to bust Larry, I helped him get immunity." Detective Stanley places the towel on the dresser. "Didn’t Larry tell you not to say ANYTHING to anyone?” Larry lied to me, he does know Mike Stanley. “Yea he did.”
“So, why'd you tell Dawn about Larry being Ethan?”
“I told her I believed Larry was Ethan, right after I met Larry. I asked her to help me find out what was going on regarding Ethan's death."
"And what was Dawn going to do?" Mike's gives a slight giggle revealing the thought of Dawn playing detective amuses him.
"Find out when Ethan died or where he is buried. Living in New Hampshire, doesn’t give me time to snoop around in New Jersey. I thought she didn't believe me until this morning, she started believing me when I didn't want her to."
"Oh, sweet irony of life, I'd spy on you and Ethan years ago to annoy you. Now I’m your matchmaker."
Drop The Needle 37
Only Tristan would think to drive with the roof open in this bitter cold, to wait until this late at night to venture across the Massachusetts countryside for an already-sleeping city, to head without thinking, without warning us beforehand …
Maybe that was the first moment I could appreciate Tristan the way Win seemed to, the quality that made him larger than us somehow: his ability to hurtle full speed where we merely crept, slow and ever-watchful.
I could have driven forever like that, even as my body numbed and my cheeks felt immobile with cold. But evidently Tristan did have a plan, because he pulled up to a curbside in front of the sparkling exterior of a hotel, tossed his keys at the uniformed valet in a movement that looked practiced, and spun around in a whirl of black, his voracious grin bidding us follow him.
We piled into the lobby of the plaza, three of us benumbed teenagers entirely out of our element, Tristan striding in decisively like he owned the whole place.
“We’ve got a hotel suite on the thirty-fifth floor,” he told us, walking backwards so he could encompass us with a theatric sweep of his arm, “And full access to the amenities down here… courtesy of Dad, of course.” He yanked out his shiny black credit card for us, answering all of our questions before we could even ask.
Drop The Needle 36
I stood in front of the sheet-covered mirror over my dresser. I had shut off the light, a cool breeze blew in through the window.
The door to my room opened, and the silhouette of my mother's head appeared against the light in the hallway.
"Yeah, I'm here," I said.
My mother flipped on the overhead. "What's with you and the dark?"
Fastening my belt and banding my shoulder-length hair back into a tail, I glanced at her with my good eye. I figured she should know the answer to that by now.
She watched me closely, one hand on the doorknob, the other covering the light switch. Her graying hair and blotchy skin made her look ten years older than the thirty-eight years she was.
"I like it that way," I said, walking past her and picking up my brown work shirt lying on the bed.
My mother jerked her head at the mirror. "I can't stand when you do that."
I kept my eyes on my shirt as I buttoned it.
My mother went over and pulled the blue sheet off the mirror, tossing it over her arm. "You're a beautiful boy," she said, patting it down.
I hated when she coddled me which was, at least, once a day. "I'm eighteen," I said. "I'm not a baby."
I walked over and closed the window, shutting out the fresh air.
Her hand fell on my back, curling like a claw.
Drop The Needle 35
Drop The Needle 34
Genre: MG historical fiction
Jane was better, less of a cough. There was no eye contact when I first got there. She seemed embarrassed by her illness and letting the drink get the better of her. She'd combed her hair and there was a shirt drying on the back of the chair.
"You know you don't need to be here. I'm getting up soon," she said.
"Cummings says to take another day. They rented a snake act"
"What, he brought in some family member?"
I laid out the fancy foods. I told Jane they were from Julia.
"A real lady, not like some. Tell her I inquired after her."
"You going back to the show?"
"I guess. Keep working. Save up for a ticket back." She was quiet for a moment, "I'm a Legend in her own time, remember, pony express rider and whatnot. After hearing them stories a few times, just mighta been the way it happened. Daisy, it's been a long time, and a lot of not-always-water has passed under the bridge. And Bill, Wild Bill Hickock, hell, might as well claim him too." She opened a food tin with her pocketknife and sniffed it.
"What you going to do next? They for sure can't stay on the road with a baby." She gave one of the pastries a squeeze to see what was inside. "They get sick, take cold, breaks your heart. They need an awful lot of stuff, small as they are."
I felt sure she was speaking from experience.
Drop The Needle 33
Atop the elephant, Ellerus threw his head back and let loose a cry of delight. The beast spurted water into the air, sending it raining down upon him. Ellerus’ hair was plastered to his head, covering his eyes and trailing rivulets of water down his shoulders. He sputtered in surprise.
Nearby, N’via was doubled over with laughter. Did he look so hilarious? Ellerus contemplated his own appearance; ratty tunic half torn from his body in his clamor for a seat, wiggling uncomfortably as he realized the hair upon the beast’s back was irritating to his skin, and crowing with childish laughter at his own feat. And wet. He was dripping wet, and smelled of elephant. A bright grin shot across his face as he laughed again, raising his hands to shove his wet hair from his eyes.
The elephant began to move, and Ellerus hollered as he lost his balance. Arms flailing, he fought for purchase, ending up sprawled forward with his arms embracing the animal’s massive neck. Wide eyes blinked from beneath fallen locks of black hair, his jaw slack with shock.
And there was N’via, watching him! His heart skipped a beat as he sat up abruptly, smoothing back his hair and wrestling down his tunic. Raising a hand, he waved at her, swelling with pride at the musical sound of her laugh. He was entertaining her! He yelped as the elephant’s hair poked at his backside. He grinned, sitting atop the elephant like a Sultan regardless.
Drop The Needle 32
The captain inserted himself between her and the scene. "Abby, please. Your father will have my hide, and you don't want to see this."
Abby stepped around him. "He's a savage, isn't he? What has he done?" She knew she should turn away, but she couldn't.
"He's an Apache. They took a settler's son and we want him back. The men are trying to find out where the boy is. Now please, come away."
She ignored the hand he placed on her arm. "Beating him will make him tell you?"
"We hope so."
Abby's voice threatened to disappear as she raised her gaze to his. "On whose orders? My father's?"
Rigid above a sea of blue wool, brass buttons and braid, the face she encountered no longer resembled the elegant young officer whose easy laugh had charmed her moments earlier. This man was all hard lines and grim eyes. He was her father, three decades younger.
"Mine. Now come with me. Please."
"Yours? Your orders?" A crack of the whip drew her attention back across the parade ground. Red welts streaked across the Indian's skin. "I don't understand. You…?"
The voice no longer belonged to the man Abby knew, either. "This isn't St. Louis, Abigail. I can't afford to be young and idealistic anymore. I was naïve. Both of us were."
"I was quite fond of your young, idealistic naiveté."
The Army had claimed Jim too. One by one, everyone she loved had fallen beneath the hooves of a beast that devoured souls.
Drop The Needle 31
GENRE: CHILDREN'S 11-14 YRS
"Okay," he said. "Here's what we do. We practice stance, although it says
you should never stand still. Keep moving, less chance of being hit. Then
we practice punching."
"But we don't really punch each other, right?"
"Course we don't punch each other."
Belly skimmed the book again and dropped it into his bag. He stepped out
with his right foot and coughed. "Okay. You put one foot forward, like
this. Then you hold your fists like this."
He reminded me of a fat praying mantis, but I didn't tell him that.
Instead I copied his pose and we stood, right fist to right fist. Then
Belly said, "Now, you pretend I'm Jacko and jump around like this." He
jumped from side to side, backwards and forwards like he had springs in his
shoes. "Keep moving so your opponent doesn't know where to strike."
It sounded good, but it looked dumb. "You sure you read the book right?"
"Yep, don't worry, it's right. Then...you swing...like this." Belly
pranced around and his fists flew like a crazed puppet. "Right hook, left
hook, uppercut," he said, puffing like he was being chased.
I hopped around like Belly. "Right hook, left hook, uppercut."
"No, no...not like that...like this," said Belly. He repeated the move
while I watched. It was easier to follow this time because he'd slowed
"You okay?" I asked.
Drop The Needle 30
As soon as the indicator light showed wheels-on-ground, Penn felt the cockpit bob as someone climbed the steps and hovered behind him. He glanced at the mirror. Finch, with his ever-present clipboard. Two, in fact. The familiar electric blue plastic clipboard Finch never seemed to be without and a battered brown pasteboard one tucked under his armpit.
“You’ve got injuries, Captain Penn. You’ll want one one three four,” Finch said, reaching over Penn’s shoulder to punch in the code to start the new recorded message to the passengers.
Batting the hand aside, Penn entered the code, leaving bloody fingerprints on the keypad. Finch hissed and grimaced. You’d think he had to personally clean the cockpits, Penn thought.
In the mirror, Penn watched Finch check his immaculately starched and pressed shirtsleeve for blood smears, then glance at the dangling harness in the right-hand seat.
“Who was your co-pilot?”
“Which Russell? We have three on payroll at Gant-Hang.”
Payroll, Penn thought. It had taken less than a week for him to realize Gant-Hang administration considered pilots mere employees. Not the highly trained, career professionals they truly were.
He turned to look at Finch. “I’m new here. His name tag said Russell. We didn’t take time to introduce ourselves.”
“Oh, that Russell,” Finch said, not responding to Penn’s dig, nor making a note on his clipboard.
“Here are the reports you’ll need to complete, Captain Penn.”
Penn hadn’t yet figured out how Finch managed to make the honorific sound like a put-down.
Drop The Needle 29
The goddess caressed the trunk of one of the oaks. She didn't look at them, but must have sensed their presence. "So many tears shed for Him. All immortalized in these trees. His memory lives on." A single tear fell from her eye. She caught it and pressed it into the bark. "The enchanters feared us. Hated us for our power, though we had no thoughts to use it against them. We merely wanted to live. If only we had stayed on my isle. I could have prolonged his life so he would still be with me. But I wanted to share both worlds with him.
"They followed us here. I received a message that they were slaughtering all fey in their path. But there was no time to form an army to face theirs. I had only the fey that shadowed me on their pilgrimages, and those that lived here. Hundreds of enchanters stormed this forest, and they turned its animal inhabitants against us. I don't think they could have killed me, but he sacrificed himself for me and my children." Her aura darkened as she knelt in the center of the clearing. Marian cringed as a ring of fire encircled the goddess, grateful for the snow that held it at bay. The flames rose in a cyclone of air in Her fury. "Monderay, you shall not be forgotten. They will suffer, as I have without you."
As the flames died and the air calmed, Eleuteria rose and smiled.
Drop The Needle 28
GENRE: Dramatic Thriller
Mr. Forsythe’s eyes trained in on Rick’s face, “The hell’s the matter with you and what the hell do you want?”
“Just open up Mr. Forsythe, I forgot something,” Rick baited the hook and cast the line.
“How many times have I told you people? Don’t run in and out of here bringing items you should have logged the first time – all the items at one time!” Forsythe berated Rick.
As he watched Forsythe pack his duffel bag, Rick threw out an excuse for his absentmindedness, “Look, Mr. Forsythe, I have a lot on my mind thes-“
“Well, come on, come on,” Forsythe impatiently cut a Rick off and motioned for him to produce the item he wanted to log.
The fish had taken the bait, “Have you seen the logbook yet?” Rick slowly reeled the line in and hoped he hadn’t examined it yet.
Mr. Forsythe stopped. His keycard in his hand, just inches away from the scanner, he looked at Rick, “You’re gonna supervise academy freshmen they send over, every Saturday, for the next five months. Just. For. That.”
The keycard sliced through the scanner, and the keypad tones played like music to Rick’s ears, “I was planning a vacation,” Rick feigned reluctance to take his punishment as the door opened.
“Vacation,” Forsythe scoffed, “next time, fill out my logbook like I ask. Acting like a rookie fresh out of the academy…” Forsythe murmured inaudibly as he emptied the thermos into his mug and downed the potent brew.
Drop the Needle 27
Drop The Needle 26
Genre: YA urban fantasy
'"Dude, you shouldn't waste time on that crap."
I opened my eyes. A guy with floppy blonde hair and lime green eyes stood in the doorway, his arms folded.
"Edgar," I stood up, a grin spreading across my face.
He smiled slowly, grabbed me in a one-armed hug, and said, "Hey, bro. Good to be back."
"Right. You hate Montana."
"Not in the summer. It's just the winters that totally suck. Too cold."
I laughed. "Sure they do." We didn't actually feel temperature. We couldn't feel anything. I sighed and wished for sleep, something that would never come. "You got out of Lock Down?" I asked, pushing the thoughts of sleep away.
"Yeah. I hate babysitting criminals. This will be a much better assignment."
He was right. Working in the Shadow prison would be worse than babysitting humans—or your older sister.
Edgar sank down onto the couch next to me. "Diane said you were hiding out down here. Reliving your transformation again?"
Edgar knew me too well. He'd been around for most of my depressive episodes. He was usually the only one who could pull me out of them.
"Seriously, man. You found a Mirror! You're closer than you've ever been."
I nodded, the words choked in my throat.
"Don't tell me this is about your dad."
I glared at him. Edgar had distanced himself from his father's crime ring three centuries ago. So we shared the whole horrible-father thing. Except Edgar thought my dad was just wonderful.
Drop The Needle 25
Genre: Middle-Grade. Realistic Fiction
Joey walked in without saying anything, but Miss Sue knew he was there.
“Why, hello, Joey!” said Miss Sue in an extra-cheery voice. “You’re my first customer today.” Joey glanced at the clock on the wall that read 4:30.
“How can I help you?”
Joey shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, you must have come in for some reason. Did you just want to say hello?” suggested Miss Sue. Her curly grey hair was pulled back into a bun, but several uncooperative strands had escaped being tied up. Her soft blue sparkling eyes peered over her half-lens spectacles. She knew that Joey didn’t frequent the library, and certainly never visited for pleasure.
Joey stared blankly at Miss Sue.
She politely explained that she had work to do, and told him to let her know if he needed any help.
Joey remained glued to the floor in front of Miss Sue’s desk, unable to mutter anything coherent. Help? Yes, he needed help. But he didn’t even know where to begin.
He watched Miss Sue do her work, quietly humming and occasionally mumbling to herself. She busily tapped away at the computer, stacked books for re-shelving, and tidied things up. As she worked, Joey noticed that Miss Sue had an air about her, something that seemed to drive her, to keep her moving. She kept an even steady pace: Working, working, working.
Drop The Needle 24
Genre: Fantasy Teen-YA
"Yes," Morticia sighed. "He became sick at our wedding. When we rowed to our secret honeymoon island?" Her eyes flickered over to me again and she mouthed the word, "Illusion".
The last thing I wanted was my sister pretending I was a figment of her imagination.
[i]How are you holding up?[/i] Belugas knelt down next to my bucket, looking kindly at me. [i]I know you can't talk, how about if you splash once for yes, and twice for no?[/i]
He was kidding, right?
[i]Do you remember your name?[/i] He waited, but I made no attempt to respond to his insulting question. I'm not sure if I [i]could[/i] splash around as he suggested. There was nothing left of me but my head and shoulders – how do you splash with just that?
He sat back on his heels and looked up at Morticia. "Have you noticed anything peculiar about the sea?"
"Peculiar?" Her face squinted. "How do you define that? You merfolk are all peculiar to me. I'm used to being around trees and woods, not talking fish."
She could have mentioned visualizing her youngest sister in a bucket being peculiar - it would have made me feel better to be acknowledged at least.
"Talking…" Belugas sputtered, looking surprised. "None of my fish talk at all, not even to me."
Morticia chewed her lip. She always did that when put on the spot - same old Morticia. “Yes, well... the islanders have caught fish that sing and talk. Put them off their dinner, they said. Something bad in the water, perhaps?”
Drop The Needle 23
Matt sat at one end of the black-tiled island, eating a bowl of cereal, and watched as Sarah dumped her things onto the counter and hurriedly took out a glass from the cupboard. She wore a white pantsuit that hugged her figure and contrasted sharply with her jet-black hair and turquoise jewelry. She radiated in the morning sunlight. Matt smiled, admiring her from across the room; she always looked smart.
"Rachel, it's a quarter to eight. I've got a meeting at eight-twenty-five." She quickly poured orange juice into her glass but spilled some in her haste.
"Damn, it!" She jumped back to avoid getting any stains on her suit, "No, not you."
Matt tossed Sarah a dishcloth.
She wiped away the mess and continued, "Just leave Ben in the hotel. He's a big kid, or at least he acts like it."
She pushed the cloth aside, "Well, I can't help it either. There's no way I can go twelve blocks out of my way, drop him off, and be back in time to not blow the deal."
She backed the counter, taking a sip of her juice. She glanced at Matt, wrinkling her brow.
"Cereal, babe?" she whispered, "Why not something healthy like grapefruit?"
Matt responded by slurping the milk straight from the bowl.
Sarah stifled a laugh.
"Fine!" She continued, "If I get fired you'll be the one chauffeuring me around town."
Drop The Needle 22
More tears slide down my face. “Just shoot me!” I yell out, trying to yank my hand away.
“Oh Irena.” His eyes travel down to look at my wounded hand. “I’ll get you cleaned up. Let’s go sit down.” He is still holding my wrist as he leads me to a small desk with a chair next to the bed. I stare at his face. It is cleanly shaven and shiny. A stray string of chocolate brown hair brushes his nose. He sits me down at the chair.
I cannot move nor say anything because of the overwhelming grief that sweeps through my body. It paralyzes me, and when I look at my hands, I see them shaking.
He grabs a first aid kit from under the bed, and kneels down on the floor in front of me.
All I can whisper is, “Why are you helping me? … Who are you?”
A tweezer is gripped between his fingers and he reaches for my hand. “I’m helping you because of who you are.” Fiery pain spreads through my hand and arm as he pulls out the glass. “And my name is Derek.”
My eyes are squished close and I refuse to look down at the wound. I can feel the glass being pulled out. His hands are rough like those of someone who is a carpenter, and the tweezers are none too gentle.
Soon I feel my hand being bound in a bandage. I open my eyes and look down. The pieces of mirror and my blood are on a sheet of newspaper. My hand is clean and neatly wrapped. The pain still throbs, but not as much.
Drop The Needle 21
Title: The Morretain Prince
Genre: YA Fantasy
Aydin wore his defiance like a banner; head tilted as if he were proud about Elerosse’s injuries. “Rosse isn’t even a full elf. He’s a blood traitor and a morretain. He got what he deserved.”
Kieren tensed. Her nephew was not the first to say such things since Elerosse’s birth, but he certainly was the youngest. “Where did you learn that filthy word?”
The elfling crossed his arms. “Real elves told me all about humans. How they used to kill our kind just for sport. They say you shamed yourself by marrying one and having his half-breed.”
Kieren pushed past Javad and grabbed the boy’s shoulders. She shook him, hard. Her fingernails dug into his skin and he winced. “Because of an idiotic blood prejudice, you would kill my child? Your future king?”
“Stop it! You’re hurting me!”
“Release my son,” Javad warned.
She ignored him. “Is that your excuse for hurting my son? Speak, or so help me I will feed you to a grigor beast!”
Javad pulled his son from her grasp and pushed him towards his brother. “Boys, go to your chambers. I shall speak with you later.”
Aydin cast a final, hateful sneer over his shoulder before following Aiya. Kieren wanted to run after them; wanted them to feel like she did. Angry, and hurt, and terrified she’d never see her child alive again. And it’s their fault. How did it come to this, that elves would turn against their own?
Drop The Needle 20
The telephone rang for the zillionth time that morning, and Samantha bristled. Mondays are always like this, she thought. Everybody and their dog, and their dog's fleas, calling here.
"Paul Berman Insurance, this is Samantha speaking, how may I direct your call?" She leaned back in her flimsy build-it-yourself task chair, certain that one of these days the back was going to snap and send her to the floor.
Samantha could hear Paul on the phone in his office behind her. "I'm sorry, Mr. Berman is on the phone right now, would you like me to put you through to his voice mail?" She tapped her pen on her desk. "All right, please hold." With a little more force than she meant to, she pressed a button on the phone and hung up.
She loathed this job. She hated the cheap plastic plants strewn about the reception area, the pea-green drapes from the 1950's, and the way Paul insisted she answer the phone. There were only two agents in the office for heaven's sake. She felt idiotic every time she said, 'How may I direct your call?'
The phone rang again, and she gritted her teeth. She wondered if anyone would notice if the line became unplugged for a while. Surprisingly, she heard Courtney's high-pitched voice coming through the receiver.
"Samantha, you're not gonna believe this. Lana's husband called her from the station today. They got a phone call from Emily Grant. She said she's gonna come turn herself in!"
Drop The Needle 19
Genre: Paranormal Romance
"Should we establish rules?" Kandi propped his head on his elbow.
"Where am I allowed to touch?"
A grin spread across her face. "Nowhere fun."
"Damn." He cast her chest a disappointed glance. "You start feeling lightheaded or unsure, stop me. All right?"
"I think I'll be fine, but I promise."
"Good." Kandi reached across her, his brown irises focused on her face, and wrapped his hand around her wrist. His weight settled against her side, a warm pressure along the line of her torso. "You mind if I handle this a little different than I do it with Fain?"
"That depends on what you mean."
"I don't use lips on Fain until after I bite him, just for--uh, drawing out blood. Makes him uncomfortable if it looks like I'm coming onto him."
Lorin grinned, and it turned into laughter. "Understandable."
"The bite won't hurt at all if I use lips first. Kind of like sucking, right? I told Fain that, but he still said no."
"Is it going to leave a bruise?"
"Might make a small one. Can I?"
The appeal of no pain won over the thought of letting Kandi suck on her neck. "I suppose."
"Appreciated." His thumb rubbed small circles on the pulse points in her wrist.
She liked his smile, how it lifted in one corner and dimpled his cheek. She wondered if he did it to hide his teeth.
Drop The Needle 18
Genre: non-historical Historical Fiction?
Baypat now walked past me. I thought she might be Bulyar’s daughter, not his wife. The same eyes and cheeks, even the dimple on their chins matched. I thought she was thin, but her sleeveless dress showed wiry muscles that tightened and relaxed in spasms. She scared me. I cowered and turned my shoulder, hiding my gesture against the evil eye under the cloak. As she walked, she stripped down, removing her foxtail cape and dropping it on the ground. She took off her skirt and her tunic to toss to one of the slaves, leaving her breastband and a short skirt. She stopped in front of me. “He loved me best because he gave me his heir,” she said, and then, at the top of her voice, repeated the claim.
Violna was now taking off her garments. The elegant dress was not thrown onto the ground as Baypat’s foxtails had been. A young woman – a relative, possibly one of Violna’s daughters – took the dress and carefully folded it over her arm and pulled a cloak over it. Violna took a leather thong and tied back her hair as she circled the courtyard again. “FARIDA!”
Where Baypat was muscle, Violna was curve and grace. Her stomach undulated as she walked around the courtyard as if she were dancing. She called again. “FARIDA!”
“You’re going to say he loved you best, aren’t you?” Violna pointed up at Farida, who shook her head.
“N-N-Nnnno,” she stuttered. “No, he didn’t.”
Drop The Needle 17
Genre: Upmarket Women's Fiction
Helena stood on the opposite bank, the hood of her coat pulled around her face as she lifted a finger to her lips and motioned towards the pedestrian bridge a few hundred feet up the river.
Beatrice darted towards the bridge; her mother met her halfway across and embraced her.
"I'm really sorry about this, honey," Helena said, "but you have to say goodbye to Patsy now." She held out a trembling hand.
"But, why, Mama?" Her voice was tiny as she handed over the doll.
Helena's shoulders shook. She knelt down beside her daughter. "Sometimes, when you really love someone, you have to say goodbye to them."
The tone of her mother's voice meant no more questions. Beatrice looked up at her mother puzzled, but whispered, "Goodbye, Patsy." She kissed the doll's cheek and then watched as Helena dropped it into the river. Beatrice's mouth gaped open but no sound came out as Patsy swept into the speeding current, her layered dress dragging her deeper into the murky water until she vanished from sight.
The noise of the children playing washed over the spot where the pair stood over the river. Helena snatched her daughter's hand and dragged her across the bridge and through a thicket of trees to the parked car.
Beatrice's head swam as she scrambled into the front seat and her mother closed the door behind her. Danger pulsed from Helena in noxious waves. Beatrice had never been so afraid of her mother.
Drop The Needle 16
Angie opened her notepad. "So, are you suggesting he may have broken into the FBI computer network before?"
"Well, he certainly found his way around quickly. Either he's exceptionally good at it, or he's been in here before."
Burke cleared his throat. "He told me he hacked into the University system where he found those phony encrypted messages."
Angela raised her head. "Hold on Dave, I'm not sure we can call those phony just yet," she said.
The man in the pinstripe suit let out a sigh, and shrugged his shoulders. Angela wondered who the mystery man was.
"This doesn't make sense to me," she said. "Why would someone open a case with the FBI, and then break in and delete their own case file?"
Mister pinstripe was now fidgeting in his chair. What the hell is his problem? He was starting to piss her off.
She looked back at Dinkins. "Are you sure it was done from his apartment?" she asked.
Mister pinstripe looked around the room. "Excuse me," he said, "I feel I need to jump in here. The evidence clearly points to this Riley fellow. It's obvious, to me anyway, the initial case he reported was just a ruse. The break-in was this guy's way of telling us he knows better than we do."
"Um, just who the hell are you?" Angela blurted out. Her supervisor gave her a cold stare.
Drop The Needle 15
Fenlay pulled up his sleeves. "Step back, Sire."
Deviran moved to the corner of the balcony and waited. This time multiple jets of blue and pink light shot out of Fenlay's fingers, running down the ranks and files like quicksilver. The light engulfed the parade ground, then as one the troops shuddered.
Deviran gripped the balcony railing. This was It. Finally, finally, his troops would be satisfied. Efficiency would increase a hundred fold, and he could conquer with the unions on his side. Butterflies jumped in his stomach.
Purple light flashed over the parade ground, blinding Deviran.
Strange. He blinked, watching the after images. That looks like a rabbit. The butterflies in his stomach became lead weights.
He stared down at the parade ground. Where his troops had stood, rank and file, all men at attention – now the field was littered with milling, bright pink, disgustingly fluffy, over-sized rabbits.
Deviran turned to Fenlay. "Please, please, explain. And quickly."
Fenlay grinned. "Because it's funny."
Deviran closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. "Fenlay, tell me you have a better reason than that. Please."
"You want them happy." Deviran heard the shrug in Fenlay's voice. "Much happier as bunnies than as evil troopers. Bunnies are, by nature happy. Troopers, especially of Evil Overlords, are not."
Deviran shot a pained look at Fenlay. What hurt the most, of course, was the sheer truth of the matter. He had, after all, asked Fenlay to make them happy.
"And," Fenlay sniggered, "it's funny."
Drop The Needle 14
Jakar pressed the gun barrel deeper. “She told me I could kill you if you ever made a move on her. This looks like one hell of a move to me.” His arm tensed. “And if I’m mistaken… oh well.”
I gritted my teeth and clenched the wadded envelope in my fist. “She says you’re supposed to support me.”
“She left this for you.” I opened my fist.
Jakar took the envelope with his free hand, and using his teeth, pulled free the note inside. Seconds later, he put the gun away and chuckled his way back to his seat.
“You read this thinking it was for you, didn’t you?” His eyes twinkled and his lips drew up into a massive grin. He held up the half page note, forcing me to see her crushing words yet again. “You must be telling the truth. It would have killed you to make this up.”
I looked away. I couldn’t help it.
“She doesn’t care about you. I would have thought that was obvious by now. All she wants is someone to watch her back, and at the moment, that happens to be you. You’ll never get anything more from her. She’s too busy warming my bed to think about your paltry mind games.”
His words ate away at me like acid. “She said…”
“I know what she said. It's right here in my hand." He shrugged. "I’ll let you bumble about your way until someone else kills you."
Drop The Needle 13
"Put her down, you hear? Or I'll fly up there meself and tear your fey hide to shreds."
The fairy had the gall to laugh at Bran, and with a wave of her wand, he was born aloft. "Why don't you stop running your dirty mouth and be of some service to a good fairy?"
"You wretched, filthy, no-good-doin', smarmy—"
With another flick of her wand, Bran's jaw clamped shut, and in through the window he drifted, landing silently in the bassinet.
"Until we meet again, dear one."
Bran sat up and looked out the window, but the fairy was nowhere to be seen. It then came to his notice that the missus had lit a candle and was coming over to check on her infant. What was he going to say? He had always been such a good little brownie; would they turn him out in the cold? Would he be forced to work at the orphanage where his cousin Barm worked?
Mrs. Keefe lowered the flame to look at him, then let out a shriek. "Mr. Keefe! Come quick; the baby, she's—she's—"
The brownie sat up and tried to explain what had happened. "Madam, forgive me; the fey, she came and—and—"
"What is all this rumpus?" Mr. Keefe asked. One look at Bran and he too let out a cry. "Who are you?"
"Bran the Brownie, at your service."
Drop The Needle 12
Title: The Willow
Genre: General Fiction
Grandma used to joke that Grandpa had two thumbs: one black from reading the paper and one green from the garden.
"Sam,” he would say, holding up a handful of dirt. “Don't ever buy that crap they bag up and sell in stores. Plants were meant to grow in the land, and Virginia is rich. Taste it.”
Together we'd take a pinch full and place it on our tongues.
"What does that taste like?”
"Exactly, no pesticides or fertilizers necessary. Just Mother Nature, kiddo.”
I'd grin and he'd grin, and I'd feel special.
"Sam!” he called out as I rode past his house on the way home from my first day of high school.
"What's up?” I asked and jumped off the bike to walk across the dirt that made up his yard. Grandpa never planted grass. He thought it was a menace, the ultimate weed, corrupting society into thinking it was necessary.
"How was school?”
"Come on,” he said, slapping my back. “I've got a present for you.”
I followed him to the shed and waited outside as he went in. He returned, handing over a bag of dirt with a few long twigs sticking out.
"Thanks,” I said, “But what is it?”
"It is a fitting gift for a future botanist.”
I stared at the twigs, waiting for further explanation.
"Gah!” He threw his hands up it the air. “Take it home, and when you've figured out what it is, call me.”
Drop The Needle 11
"I'm perfectly aware of how to drive this craft."
"It's a Jeep, not a craft."
Saevus snarled, returned his attention to the task at hand and stepped on the two pedals, turning the key again. The engine revved up, maxing out the RPM's, shrieking for release.
Atla cringed, and then looked down to see that Saevus had both the clutch and the gas pedal pushed to the floor mats. "Ease off the gas before you blow this hunk of junk's engine."
Saevus let off the clutch instead of the gas. The Jeep lurched forward. The tires squealed and smoked, leaving half their rubber on the brick street.
"I know how to operate this." Saevus reached down and slammed the Jeep into forth without stepping on the clutch. Painful grinding followed by the Jeep lurching to an immediate stop, throwing Atla into the dash.
"If you'd let me drive, we might actually get somewhere."
"I can drive this thing!" Saevus snarled at him, then stomped down on the clutch again, before turning the keys. The engine rolled over and rattled life. "Our technology was more advanced than this, three thousand years ago."
"Calm down and put it in first, or you will stall it again."
Saevus burned him with an icy stare, letting off the clutch and punching the gas. The Jeep sputtered to a start in fourth.
Drop The Needle 10
The Crichton Heir
The smile faded from his face the instant she locked eyes with him. He had only seen her without her spectacles once before, and he barely remembered, not having been the least bit curious about Maggie’s new companion.
He certainly didn't remember the large almond shaped eyes, as dark as the soil under their feet. She glared at him through thick long black lashes. He could now see why her spectacles wouldn't stay up, given her patrician nose. Her cheeks were flushed, and her full lips slightly parted. Time seemed to stop.
Josephine wasn't surprised by the reaction that Frederick had. He looked shocked, as though she were a stranger. Narrowing her eyes in anger, she took two long strides over to him, jerking the spectacles out of his hand. His arms hung limply by his side, his jaw seemed to be unhinged. Sliding the old, ill-fitting glasses back onto her face, she felt as if a wall had been thrown up between her and the world, once again.
“What? Did you expect my eyes to be crossed? Perhaps you should close your mouth, before you find it home to a swarm of midges. You could make yourself useful by helping fix the mess you and Margaret made of Irma’s garden.”
Frederick felt as if he'd had the wind knocked out of him. It took a moment to recover, but when he did, he realized that Josephine thought he'd been the one to tumble around with Margaret.
Drop The Needle 9
As soon as they hit the outer doors, Darius had some snarling of his own to do. "What do you think you were doing?"
"What you asked me to do." Nero grinned. "With a few extras."
"And those would be?"
"I upgraded their antiquated system with a few downloads from the ship."
Darius stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. "Nero."
"Relax. It was a simple three-dimensional, diagnostics program on human anatomy. I even included a dictionary of homo sapien conditions, diseases and their cures. Cross indexed of course."
"You know we are not supposed to shovel out knowledge or technology to anyone who hasn't advanced to the point they should have it. This world hasn't been reintroduced."
"They're advanced enough."
"You didn't give them any cures that they don't know about?" Darius grabbed Nero's arm. Nero sometimes jumped into things without checking to see if it was a good idea.
Nero's smile faltered.
Darius groaned. Nero jumped. "Tell me you didn't give them any cures."
"Okay maybe a couple, but they'll never look. I stuck them in natural remedies."
"What does any of that have to do with getting the IDs I asked for? If the Council finds out about our interference in this planet's natural evolvement, both our butts will be locked away for a long time."
Nero grinned. "I uploaded a link and hijacked the connection from their computer. I'll have the IDs by nightfall."
"After you get the IDs, I want that program to crash. Permanently."