Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Fricassee

Happy Friday!

We've already established that the vast majority of us are introverts (or ambiverts, a label I'm pleased to share with some of you).  I'm now wondering if I'm also among friends in my propensity to get overly geeked about things that, perhaps, the Average Jane doesn't get geeked over.

Like this weekend.  Mr. A and I have planned--wait for it--a shopping trip.  The Big Reason for this trip is Mr. A's recent promotion at work.

Hooray, hooray for Mr. A!!

Silly as the business world is (and perhaps "pretentious" is a better word), my dear husband has had to upgrade his wardrobe.  Better shirts, better pants, and lots of ties.  As in, lots of ties.

Naturally, he relies on me to help him choose said ties.  "Would this tie go with my blue shirt?" (as if I have a photographic memory) and "Would I need charcoal pants to go with this tie?" (as if I am a fashion expert).  Honestly, he's so adorable, I don't mind.  But I'm not quite sure I should be THIS EXCITED over a day-long shopping spree.  We do have a knack for making outings feel like dates, so there's that.  And, yes, I'll be able to shop for myself, too.  And probably have a nice latte or something. 

Shopping is fun, right?  Especially husband-sanctioned shopping.  But the fact that I've been counting the days until Saturday whispers, "Authoress needs a life."

Truth is, I love staying home.  Especially in the evening, when I'm happiest in my jammies with a book or a WIP.  Or possibly watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.  My favorite "meal out" is breakfast, because, yes, I'm one of those annoying Morning People.

(Sometimes I go grocery shopping at seven in the morning.  That doesn't excite me, though. That just gets the job done before people multiply and become annoying.)

So maybe it's the fact that ANY outing of magnitude is enough to ring my bells.  Or maybe (I flatter myself) I've learned to enjoy simple pleasures, and don't actually need a weekend jaunt to NYC or an evening of gourmet food and the symphony.  I'm happy to have a cup of gelato with my sweetie on a summer evening.

Then there's the outside-the-box stuff that makes me crazy-happy.  Like spelunking on Christmas Day (which we did last year).  Working on a short film that stars my dad.  Driving an hour and a half for a hike and a picnic (with wine) because of the breathtaking views.  Visiting an alpaca farm.  (We haven't done that yet. It's next on my list.)

All that to say -- what floats your boat? Do you find that your leisure time is spent in less-than-mainstream ways?  Are you happy as a clam for the opportunity to return books to the library?  Or does your inner social butterfly soar to new heights each time you go out the door?

I'll think of you tomorrow while I'm trying on jeans and keeping track of my husband's new tie obsession.  Here's hoping your weekend is mine!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Authoress Interview

I am always arrested by the graciousness of these interviewers!  A big "thank you" to Amy at Chasing the Crazies for THIS INTERVIEW.

Once you've popped over, please take a moment to leave a comment for Amy.  Because everyone knows how good those comments feel, and I'd like to shower her with a few!

Writer Odyssey Wednesday -- The Illustrious Authoress


Another Indirect Success Story

This one's from a long-time blog participant:

After not making the cut for the 2010 Baker's Dozen contest, I worked hard on my subsequent manuscript with hopes I'd qualify for 2011. I sent in my logline and 250 words, crossed my fingers and toes, and waited for the rejection email. My spirits were flying high when I got the email saying I was in. I was already one step further than the year before!

Then the nail biting began for the auction. Not making it in the year before was one thing, but could I handle it if my entry didn't get any bids? My nerves were a tangled mess as the auction started. To my
delight, the bids came in! From more than one agent! I ended up with a 100-page request from one agent, and a first-chapter request from another agent who didn't win my bid but contacted Authoress once the auction was over. Both agents had wonderful things to say about my writing, but sadly, neither offered representation. However, between their comments and comments from the editors who participated in the contest, I was able to give my manuscript a new polish.

The next contest I entered was the Pitch Slam on YALitChat, where I made the top ten. Though I didn't make the top three, I was soon contacted by the assistant to Georgia McBride, who had just started up Month9Books. They wanted to see my first chapter! Three days later, they wanted the full! In the meantime, I won a full manuscript request from a contest judged by another publishing company. My full manuscript was being read by TWO publishing houses. You'd think I would have been confident, sure of myself, like I had nothing to lose. Wrong. I was a mess. I was sure they'd both tell me how horrible I was. But I waited with high hopes, and in the end I was offered a two-book contract from Month9Books! My debut novel, MY SISTER'S REAPER, will release May 29, 2013!

It can be found on Goodreads here.

Thank you, Authoress, for holding these wonderful contests that help writers achieve their dreams.

Dorothy Dreyer

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Logline Critique Round One #40

TITLE: Deathless
GENRE: YA Fantasy

17-year-old fugitive, Zifa Matarah, is a Farookhi; an almost immortal descendant of nine warrior goddesses who attempted and failed to conquer her country, Otera. For over a thousand years, her kind has been under a death sentence – any girl found to have the golden blood of the Farookhi is subject to a swift and true death. When an ancient enemy threatens Otera, Zifa has to decide what is more important, survival as a fugitive, or fighting for her country, and for everything she holds dear.

Logline Critique Round One #39

TITLE: Nooks and Grannies
GENRE: Humorous Fiction

Late-bloomer misfits Keegan and Amelia move into his grandmother’s house, unprepared for ghostly undertones - as unprepared as they are when two young men enter their lives looking for romance.

Logline Critique Round One #38

TITLE: Vitro/Vivo
GENRE: Sci-Fi Dystopia

When geneticist Drei stumbles across a mysterious conspiracy, she barely escapes with her life, let alone with any idea how to protect her people against the plot to eradicate them. While she struggles to find a way, she must forge a reluctant partnership with Jag, one of the violent, superstitious denizens of the wild lands, as they discover it is not only Drei's people who are in danger of extinction.

Logline Critique Round One #37

TITLE: Twenty-four Hour Boy
GENRE: Contemporary Middle Grade

A Strange light and bumps in the night. A murder next door. Up all night, every night, ten-year-old gadget-maker Hunter Harris has to prove he’s telling the truth about a series of strange night-time incidents to preserve his secret lifestyle. (Hunter’s secret: He never sleeps. Never.) TWENTY-FOUR HOUR BOY is a young MacGyver meets Rear Window with a twist.

Logline Critique Round One #36

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Lori Gibbs can fly, so her parents register her in Easten's Talent Show. If she fails to impress the judges, she'll hang.

Logline Critique Round One #35

TITLE: My Sister's Dating a Serial Killer
GENRE: YA Thriller

High school's a bummer, especially when Cameo Carter has to stop her older sister from dating a serial killer; if Cammie doesn't hurry and get hard evidence on him, he might just put her on his To Do List.

Logline Critique Round One #34

TITLE: Artashad
GENRE: Historical Fiction

When Tiridates, an exiled Armenian prince, learns how his people suffer under Persian rule he resolves to reclaim his father's throne on Artashad. To succeed, Tiridates must navigate the ruthless ambition of Roman warlords, the manipulations of the emperor's seductive daughter, and the unstoppable Savaran riders who defend Persia.

Logline Critique Round One #33

TITLE: Dias De Los Muertos: Days of the Dead
GENRE: Middle Grade

When Nato’s abusive father dies, Nato is left as the reluctant head of his dysfunctional household. And when an ancient Aztec curse threatens to destroy Nato and the rest of his family, Nato realizes he must make things right or suffer the death curse that has haunted his family for centuries.

Logline Critique Round One #32

GENRE: YA alternate history

In 1924, the Great War ends with Texas turning Mexican, and the US scrambles to protect its borders by enhancing the minds of its sharpest young citizens. Pallas Keller risks persecution and, even worse, ridicule to become the first female savant, just as a charming con man targets her in his latest scam.

Logline Critique Round One #31

TITLE: The Partizans
GENRE: YA Paranormal

Becoming a witch isn’t what sixteen-year-old Hannah expects when she enrolls in boarding school. Neither is fighting monsters she doesn’t believe in. But she has a choice: enter a supernatural witness protection program or accept her battle-filled legacy. Either way, it looks like going to the prom is definitely out of the question.

Logline Critique Round One #30

TITLE: Thou Shall Not Kill
GENRE: Crime Fiction

Murder for hire isn’t on Lily Birch’s agenda until her father dies, leaving behind a secret debt. Italian mobster, Silvio da Corte is out thirty thousand dollars. If the mild-mannered thirty something can’t repay the money her father borrowed, Lily and her mother are also out the deed to their home.

When Silvio offers to wipe out Lily’s debt, provided she wacks his no good nephew and makes it look like an accident, Lily begins stalking the death-obsessed oddball and his associates; Donal, the ferret-faced serial rapist and Madame Kahn, psychic and notary public.

However, killing someone can be considerably daunting when you’ve got a strong moral compass, a nosy mother, an epileptic dog, and a dysfunctional temp job. Toss in Silvio’s good nephew and a giant-sized undercover cop, who is also one heck of a kisser, and maybe crime really does pay. …Just not in cash.

Logline Critique Round One #29

TITLE: Expelled
GENRE: YA Paranormal

A reluctant teenage exorcist-in-training must learn to stand on her own in order to fight the demon that claimed her mother.

Logline Critique Round One #28

GENRE: Multicultural/ Women's Fiction

One week into what is supposed to be a three month stay in Pécs, Hungary, Amanda Smith meets a family of Gypsies. She didn't expect to fall in love with a Gypsy dancer, and she didn't expect to stumble on a trail of secrets involving her grandpapa and the dancer's family. Now she questions everything she knew about her beloved grandpapa and must repair the wounds she didn't intend to open.

Logline Critique Round One #27

TITLE: Amongst
GENRE: Middle Grade/YA Fantasy

[editor's note: This is not a logline.]

“Young man, it is not impossible to leave Verandale; it is impossible to leave with your body still wrapped around your soul.”

Enoch tried not to yawn during his father’s lecture. But the fact was he had to listen to it every time another villager was eaten by a Cof.

Logline Critique Round One #26

TITLE: Beyond Chains and Stars

When twins Juhan and Chosi are stolen from their planet of peaceful psychic by slavers, Juhan swears they’ll survive and return home. But as his slavery leads him into the intrigues of galactic politics, and Chosi’s takes her to the deadly gladiator arenas, the twins have to survive on their own. And each is forced to confront how much they are willing to change, and what price they are willing to pay, to return home.

Logline Critique Round One #25

TITLE: The Disappointment Country
GENRE: Adventure/thriller

Never dare someone who runs on one leg. An idealistic outdoorsman named Cutter overcomes a below-the-knee amputation to build his dream, an “adventure ranch” in the remote San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. But he must survive wildfire and the schemes of a Kosovo war crimes fugitive to save it.

Logline Critique Round One #24

TITLE: Fabrication
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Candace Crystelle's perfect life vanishes into nothing when her wing is broken, her mother breaks her engagement and her sister, the future queen, banishes her from the kingdom.

In a society where deformities force you to live as an outcast, Candance doesn't know how to survive away from her spoiled life. With no friends and no where to go, Candance decides to slip through the portal and live with the humans, where she expects everyone to treat her like a pamperd princess.

It doesn't take Candance long before she fits in with the In crowd. She's invited to all the right parties and meets the boy if her dreams. When she learns of her Mothers death and her sister's desire to bring her back home, it's time for Csndance to decide which life she wants. Her old one or the new life she's fabricated with the humans.

Logline Critique Round One #23

TITLE: Paths through the Garden
GENRE: Women's contemporary fiction

Alternative healer Leyla Jo Jared struggles with infertility and explores natural botanicals for a solution. Her passion for a child leads to a conflicted crossroad...choosing a husband's health over their desire for a child. When the archaeological exhibit the couple curates is compromised, their role in the professional , scientific community is threatened. Now she must explore her path through the garden to travel her biggest journey.

Logline Critique Round One #22

TITLE: Listening In The Snow
GENRE: Middle Grade Fiction

In the deep of a dark Vermont winter, eleven-year-old Nathan Hayes, a shy stutterer, breaks into the long-abandoned Specter house, willing to brave its legendary ghosts in order to find the magic he believes will bring his mother home.

Logline Critique Round One #21

TITLE: The Withering of Amblethorn
GENRE: YA - Science Fiction

The girls of an exclusive New England school are disappearing and two unlikely friends are left to figure out who - or what - is behind it.

Logline Critique Round One #20

TITLE: Unwritten
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

A popular singer at the center of a vicious smear campaign must face a tragic secret from her past to repair her hard-earned reputation and fight for a chance at happiness with the college professor who's taught her how to love.

Logline Critique Round One #19

TITLE: The House That Nobody Built
GENRE: Fantasy

Chuch-Ky is a petty conman, the least dangerous criminal in a prison of cyclopes, manticores and broken gods. When a riot breaks out, Chuch is mistaken for the man in the next cell over, Zhanjee the Butcher, an infamous soldier, and only Zhanjee’s reputation keeps Chuch uneaten. That same reputation gets him sucked into a conspiracy between the inmates to fortify their prison against the Munenori Empire that locked them up and now seeks to exterminate them. He is trapped between becoming prey or a casualty, when all he wants to do is run away.

Logline Critique Round One #18

TITLE: The Hacker of Guantanamo Bay
GENRE: Near Future Cyberpunk

Jailed for a crime he didn't commit, raped and tortured for information he doesn't have, Burhanuddin, a hacker, will stop at nothing to take his revenge on his accusers and the government which held him for twenty years without trial. Even if that revenge means war.

Logline Critique Round One #17

TITLE: Break Free
GENRE: YA fantasy

Self-proclaimed “bad boy” Kiel Reaux is one delivery away from earning his freedom when he’s captured by slavers and forced to lead a priestess through a murderous magic jungle. But when old debtors come to collect, earning his freedom is the least of Kiel’s problems. Freedom means nothing if he’s dead.

Logline Critique Round One #16

TITLE: Lucy in the Sky
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Teen girl is unable to cope with the death of her brother, but will further revelations help her heal or pull her further under?

Logline Critique Round One #15

TITLE: Running Down the Dragon
GENRE: Thriller with paranormal elements

Thalia Drake, a member of the U.S. military's elite shapeshifter forces, must stop a serial killer whose ultimate goal is the extinction of all shifters. But stopping him means exposing the dangerous secret she's hidden for thousands of years - her true identity. If the world discovered her true shape was that of a dragon, she might not be allowed to live long enough to stop the killer.

Logline Critique Round One #14

TITLE: The Sculptor
GENRE: Suspense Thriller

Mara Silvestri is the only one who can stop a serial killer, "the Sculptor," from murdering Rome's female grad students, and she's the one woman he truly covets for his collection.

Logline Critique Round One #13

TITLE: One of Darker Blood
GENRE: YA Dark Fantasy

A young woman cursed to see and touch spirits wants to use her ability for good, but must first overcome the prejudice of her community, a murder-bent ex lover, and her own violent tendencies.

Logline Critique Round One #12

TITLE: Flint
GENRE: YA Dystopian

To break her sister out of the Settlement, the military society responsible for the death of her father, fifteen-year-old Bekka (and the gang of secretive, overeager runaways who've been following her everywhere) teams up with her sister’s kidnapper. She needs the girl’s inside knowledge, but in trade for her sister’s freedom, Bekka may inherit her father’s demise.

Logline Critique Round One #11

TITLE: Jennifer Strange
GENRE: YA Paranormal

Fifteen-year-old Ghost Hunter Marcus Blackwell must help Jennifer Strange with her unique ability to touch ghosts before a wraith threatens to destroy his entire family.

Logline Critique Round One #10

TITLE: The Guardian of Sudner
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

Fourteen year old Jaden loves academics and freezes up in battles. With his father the nations military hero, Jaden feels like a disappointment to everyone. His fears are confirmed when his father gets captured by the fierce Wargal race while Jaden cowers in the hollow of a tree. In a quest to redeem himself and rescue his father, Jaden discovers he is much more valuable than he ever imagined.

Logline Critique Round One #9

TITLE: Havoc's Knot
GENRE: Upper MG Epic Fantasy

After finding himself on a foreign world, Jake’s attempt to return home by fulfilling a stolen prophecy transforms into a race to defeat the wolf king before everyone he has come to love is exterminated.

Logline Critique Round One #8

TITLE: The Duct Tape, Cereal Box Knight
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

Eleven year old science geek and creative recycler George Argos has a secret. After school he wraps himself in a suit of armor he’s making from duct tape and cereal boxes. It’s the only thing that makes him feel better after another horrible day of being taunted by Hunter Dunlop and his snarky sidekick Todd for being so big and so–sensitive. A year younger, a foot taller than popular kids like Hunter and Todd, no one seems to understand why he’d rather organize sea shell collection than dive into organized sports. When George unites two halves of an oyster shell together to be categorized his collection, he unwittingly sets off a chain reaction of magical, environmentally catastrophic events that only he can stop. But that means facing a sinister dragon who bares more than a passing resemblance to Hunter Dunlop.

Logline Critique Round One #7

TITLE: Elemental Fire
GENRE: Upper MG Fantasy

Fourteen-year-old Brook discovers a Gate to another world in her physicist father's workshop. She inadvertently carries the Gate key, sought by a stranded madman determined to rewrite the ancient rules controlling travel between Tirasvara and parallel Earths. Brook must protect the key and the existence of all Gates, while fighting the temptation to use it and flee to a world where her mother still lives.

Logline Critique Round One #6

TITLE: Chrysalis

Seventeen-year-old Ivy Chapel has the soul of an angel…literally. Shadowed by a secret past she doesn’t remember, Ivy finds herself the missing piece in the middle of a life or death battle between two adversaries. She will soon discover the implications of this amazing revelation as the fate of her heart—and the world—hangs in the balance.

Logline Critique Round One #5

GENRE: YA Post-apocalyptic Paranormal

When seventeen-year old Haylee Wells stumbles through a portal and wakes to a post-apocalyptic future, she discovers the Pale Ones – creatures that can kill with a single touch – have propelled her through time to claim a power she didn’t know she had.

Logline Critique Round One #4

TITLE: The Wanderers
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Clouds of dead souls are trapped in the skies of Erion. Rhanee must find a way to free them before Dorrek beats her to it and claims ultimate power as his reward.

Logline Critique Round One #3

GENRE: YA Fantasy Steampunk

In Spirited Away meets Boardwalk Empire set in a city akin to Victorian London, Enne Alfero roams the shadow world searching for her lost mother, but when the owner of a casino royale tricks her into swearing an unbreakable vow to work as an assassin, Enne must play against the city’s politicians in a deadly game for her life.

Logline Critique Round One #2

TITLE: Deathsign
GENRE: YA Fantasy

After a fatal accident, a quirky teenage girl wakes up as a wizard and fights to save a primeval paradise from a Nazi sorcerer and his sexy demon.

Logline Critique Round One #1

TITLE: Through the Edgewood
GENRE: MG Fantasy Adventure

When 11 year-old Izzy's little sister is kidnapped by a faerie queen, she teams up with a band of orphan Changelings to rescue her. They soon learn the queen is also hunting Changelings, leaving it up to Izzy to save both her sister and the entire Changeling race.

Logline Critique Round One: Disclaimer!

Our first round of logline critique begins today!  Here's the disclaimer:

Some of the entries ARE NOT LOGLINES.  Some are PITCHES, and at least two are apparently OPENING SCENES.

I am taking partial blame for this, because I set the word count at 150. Honestly, I didn't expect it to be a problem!  I can certainly understand a bit of confusion between "pitch" and "logline".  But the opening lines of a story are another thing altogether.

I have marked the story openings "This is not a logline."  Please do not critique these.  Authors: I have shared links with 2 posts on how to craft a logline. PLEASE READ THESE.

I apologize to those of you who entered valid loglines and were not chosen by the bot.  Such is the nature of a lottery, yes?  Please enter next time.

From now on, the word count will be set at 75, and I will include more alternates.  Anything that's not a logline in rounds 2 and 3 will be disqualified and replaced with an alternate.  Fair enough?

Anyway, no worries.  It's okay to work out the kinks as we go!

Have fun with the critiquing!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Winners for Logline Critique Round One

Winning numbers have been drawn for Logline Critique Round One and the owners have all been emailed their entry numbers.

If you didn't get an email, I'm sorry; that means your ticket number wasn't selected.

Here is the complete list, so you may double check:
  • GGO0MT6E as ENTRY #1

  • N79R9NV2 as ENTRY #2

  • LZHJZB4Z as ENTRY #3

  • 97LBBZD1 as ENTRY #4

  • S2RFSFTE as ENTRY #5

  • SLLE6DZ7 as ENTRY #6

  • QP4HNLVA as ENTRY #7


  • XUU7GUI1 as ENTRY #9


  • 2ZMJTOAO as ENTRY #11

  • KZJQNQ08 as ENTRY #12

  • ULZNN1KU as ENTRY #13

  • 7BM56RPQ as ENTRY #14


  • 73EYIMNF as ENTRY #16

  • LI93SUSH as ENTRY #17

  • PKYIV0A9 as ENTRY #18

  • OWRMNG0N as ENTRY #19

  • 0LR6Y2N7 as ENTRY #20

  • KS7O53UF as ENTRY #21

  • 1Q1KLK25 as ENTRY #22

  • ZK9KAYOZ as ENTRY #23

  • LY5PDN28 as ENTRY #24

  • Z8I9HAMB as ENTRY #25

  • FTFMKYI7 as ENTRY #26

  • YLU77SW6 as ENTRY #27

  • RJNEE9H0 as ENTRY #28


  • UEQ9LRPZ as ENTRY #30

  • DN2C4ZHK as ENTRY #31

  • TX4M4MCE as ENTRY #32

  • 9PVOVEXK as ENTRY #33



  • IAY80S6D as ENTRY #36

  • J5ZZB0GW as ENTRY #37

  • SOBJ9IAB as ENTRY #38

  • 4B4IXXH1 as ENTRY #39

  • LIR60YRT as ENTRY #40
The alternates are:

  • 88CM38YK as ENTRY #ALT-1

I Said I'd Play: The Next Big Thing

If you've been here any length of time, you're aware that I don't normally do things like this.  The simple reason is that I'm certain I'd end up getting tagged in more things than I could handle--and more than you'd want to be inundated with.

I said yes to this one, though, because the lovely and talented Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown (which I loved), invited me.  So in the spirit of supporting someone who's promised me a peek at her next galleys (heh), I give you THE NEXT BIG THING!

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?


Where did the idea come from for the book?

Two things: I’m a whole foods junkie, and I think too much. I had a “what if” moment concerning manufactured food and the toxic world we live in, and the seed of a story was born.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA Speculative Fiction.  Holly Bodger disagrees.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I haven’t a clue. Honestly? I’m not well versed in today’s young actors. I could try to throw some names out there, but it would end up sounding ridiculous. So instead, I’ll just announce that I would like to be consulted during casting.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In a society in which everyone is born fatally ill, 16-year-old Quinn McKenna vows to do anything to save her sister, who has been scheduled for voluntary termination–but when Quinn agrees to an engagement she isn’t ready for so that she can gain access to an alleged cure, she must decide what is most important: saving her relationship, saving her sister, or saving herself.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ve got an agent I adore. As you all know. ☺

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?

3 months, which is my normal time frame with 1000-word-a-day drafting.


I have never seen anyone die outside a hospital. It is always controlled, sterile, painless. For the person dying and for anyone who might be watching.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I can't go here.  If I say Divergent by Veronica Roth, people will think it's a dystopian with war-like overtones.  If I say Defiance by CJ Redwine--well, that's a little closer because of the girl-breaking-out-of-the-boundaries part. But I haven't finished reading Defiance, so I can't say for sure.

Maybe my critique partners can better answer this question.  But I really hate saying "my book is like such-and-such".  I know where it belongs on the shelves in the bookstore, and that's about it.  (YA SF/F, of course.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My own beliefs about the food we eat, the world we live in, and the brokenness of our health care system are what inspired me to write this book. I believe the story is speculative in the truest sense, because it takes the “what if” of our current food supply/medical model along a certain trajectory that could, in the worst of worlds, end up the way I’ve envisioned it.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

The too-close-to-home truths about my characters’ world; the fight to save someone you love; the pressure of choosing between what seems right, and what your heart is screaming at you. Yeah, all that.

Thanks again to Nancy Bilyeau for tagging me!  Here are my 5 belovedly-tagged choices--please be sure to visit their blogs in the next week or 2 to read their own answers to the ten questions!

Adam Heine
Elissa Cruz
Holly Bodger
Julie Butcher
Peter Salomon

Message for the tagged authors and interested others: 

Rules of The Next Big Thing:

*Use this format for your post
*Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
*Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged. Be sure to line up your five people in advance.

Logline Critique Round One Submissions


The submission window will be open from 9 am to 5 pm EDT TODAY.  This is a lottery, which means the bot will randomly choose 40 entries at the close of the window.  These entries will post on Tuesday, September 25, for critique.

WEB FORM SUBMISSIONS (preferred/easiest method):

GO HERE.  Please remember to proofread before hitting "submit".


As always, send your submission to authoress.submissions(at)  Format as follows:

SCREEN NAME: (type it here)
TITLE: (type it here)
GENRE: (type it here)

(type your 150-word logline here)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Fricassee

It's amazing how adding one little thing to a daily schedule can create utter chaos. 

Well, it's probably me creating the chaos.  But since I've begun my Friday morning ballet classes (joy! joy! joy!), the other bits of my Friday mornings -- the Before and After bits -- are beyond stressful.

And, yes.  Writing the Friday Fricassee falls under the Before bit.

Admittedly, it doesn't take me long to write blog posts.  I wish I could draft as easily as I can craft a readable blog post!  But you know how it is when your brain's going in several directions?  "Focus" is suddenly an alien concept.

Anyway.  The one thing that's been floating to the top of my defocused brain this morning is the concept of Writing As Lifestyle.  More to the point:  Have you gotten to a place where writing is as much a part of your life as everything else?  Eating, working, sweeping the front porch, putting out the garbage, brushing your teeth? 

I don't mean "obsession".  That's when you think about your writing all the time.  "Writing as Lifestyle" is more of a non-thought process.  As in, the writing is so engrained it's something you just do.

Not the writing alone, either.  This includes the querying, the blogging, the researching, the critiquing, the networking, and the being-on-endless-sub-with-editors.  Has it become a natural part of your life?

If it has, you're in a good place.  You've found your balance; you've stopped feeling compelled to make excuses to people for your writing; you're not fighting Other Things in order to write. 

The dark side:  If, after a long and tiring journey, you decide that you no longer desire this Writing As Lifestyle, you're going to have a fairly large paradigm shift.  There will be holes in your day; there will be a grieving process.

This may actually mean that you shouldn't quit.  That the Writing As Lifestyle is truly for you.  But it may just mean that, like any loss, you'll need a time to grieve before you regroup and move on.

I'm fairly certain I've embraced Writing As Lifestyle.  My authorly self isn't separate from my "me" self.  (Well, except online.  And I can't tell you how TIRED I am of being anonymous!)  When I feel ready to quit (which happens a lot lately), I start to think things like, "But...what will I DO?"  And that's probably a sign right there that I'm already doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

What about you?  Do you live the Writing As Lifestyle life?  Does the thought of quitting leave you with a sense of great loss?  Or could you walk away tomorrow and move on to the next thing?

Share!  And I'll see you all on Monday at the opening of submissions for our first Logline Critique Round.  Woo!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Open Call: Submissions For a Dragon Moon Press Anthology

The lovely Gabrielle Harbowy has asked that I pass along the call for submissions for Dragonmoon's upcoming anthology, WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME 2.

From the web site:


The award-nominated WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME, from Dragon Moon Press, has been praised as “a perfect example of how an anthology of stories should work.” Upon the success of HERO and its follow-up, WHEN THE VILLAIN COMES HOME, co-editors Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy are pleased to announce WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME 2.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Yessiree, Another Baker's Dozen Success Story!

In the author's own words:

Sorry, Authoress, for making you wait so long for my success story! But my How-I-Got-My-Agent story was all tangled up with another story that I wasn’t allowed to discuss until now: my How-I-Sold-My-Book story.


I still can’t quite believe it.

I started writing in February of 2011 with a YA fantasy. Once I finished it, I wanted someone to read it and stumbled upon On Critters, you can submit a portion of your story to be critiqued, and, in return, you critique other people’s stories. I got lucky and met a group of awesome, patient, and knowledgeable folks--I cannot tell you how much I learned from them!

I decided to test all this new knowledge on a fresh slate. So in the beginning of May I wrote my second novel, Cracked. It took about 8 weeks to write—then I put it through Critters and revised like crazy.

When Authoress held her  August Secret Agent Contest, I decided to enter. I was one of the  winners (woot!). Danielle ended up passing, but her comments were great. I revised just in time to submit to the  Bakers Dozen Auction.  The end result was that both Victoria Marini and Michelle Wolfson “won” my full, and a few other agents requested it shortly after.

Within a week, Victoria emailed said she loved Cracked, but thought it had some flaws, so suggested a revise and resubmit. I sent her, and the other agents who had my full, the revised version a couple months later.

Then in April, a critique partner from messaged me out of the blue. He had offered to read my roughest draft of Cracked back in July, but had a family emergency and couldn’t. In April, he offered to make it up to me by passing Cracked along to a friend of his in publishing so I could have a professional’s opinion. I told him that he didn’t even need to apologize, let alone do me any favors! He did anyway and the following Monday, I received an email from a commissioning editor at Penguin India named Ameya. She loved Cracked and wanted my permission to share it with the rest of her team.

Once I peeled myself off the ceiling, I said yes. I then emailed Victoria, since she’d helped me with all the revisions, to let her know what was happening. She’d actually just started reading my revisions and said she would get back to me ASAP. She also took the time to answer a lot of my questions about the publishing process and give me advice, since I was completely unprepared for what was happening.

Ameya emailed a week later and said the whole team loved it, but wanted it to be a series. Could I please send the synopses for the next two books so they could offer on the set?

Once I recovered, I said yes. I emailed Victoria and the other agents who had my ms and Victoria and I scheduled a call. About twenty minutes into the (awesome) call, Victoria said, “Oh, and I just realized--I never officially offered. I am.” And...I found happily plastered to the ceiling once more.

I emailed the other agents, but was very ready to accept Victoria by the time the week rolled around. I felt like we already had a good working relationship--I thought her revision suggestions on Cracked were spot-on, she'd already read my other ms, and we'd talked on the phone a few times. When this thing happened with Penguin India, she was all over it and gave me fabulous advice before she even offered. I felt like she was already in my corner, before there was a corner to be in.

This offer from Penguin India happened really quickly. Only a couple of weeks passed from the time I received the first email from Ameya to an offer. I had no idea what I was doing, and although it was really (REALLY!) exciting, I think it would have been a lot scarier had I not had Victoria to help, and I never would have met Victoria without MSFV.


~Eliza Crewe

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baker's Dozen: Logline Critique Info and Submission Guidelines

Jumping right in!  Our first logline critique round will be open for submissions on Monday, September 24 (one week from today).

For the uninitiated:  I hold 3 critique rounds for loglines only (no story text), in preparation for the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction.  Each critique round will host 40 entries, so a total of 120 folks will get a chance for public critique of their loglines.

To avoid confusion (there have been a few questions):  These logline critique rounds are NOT a part of the auction.  They are simply an optional opportunity to get some feedback as you craft and fine-tune your logline.  You don't have to participate in the logline critique rounds in order to submit to the actual auction.

A logline should be as brief as possible.  The word count for these rounds will be set at 150, but that's actually TOO MANY WORDS.  I've padded it for stress-lowering purposes.


The submission window will be open from 9 am to 5 pm EDT on Monday, September 24.  This is a lottery, which means the bot will randomly choose 40 entries at the close of the window.  These entries will post on Tuesday, September 25, for critique.

WEB FORM SUBMISSIONS (preferred/easiest method):

GO HERE.  Please remember to proofread before hitting "submit".


As always, send your submission to authoress.submissions(at)  Format as follows:

SCREEN NAME: (type it here)
TITLE: (type it here)
GENRE: (type it here)

(type your 150-word logline here)

If there's ANYTHING you don't understand, please post your question below!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Fricassee

So here's a Friday Question for you:  How do you find your stories?

I'm not a six-dozen-story-ideas-in-a-folder kind of gal.  In fact, sometimes I despair at my lack of an idea reservoir.  I know writers who, at any given time, have several germs of ideas swimming about in their heads, or a collection of loglines or beat sheets or light outlines for more stories than could possibly be written in a lifetime.

Occasionally, some of these writers will lament that they can't decide which story to work on next.

And I'm all...really?

Because the most I ever have is One Other Story in my head, in addition to whichever project I'm working on.  I'm a firm believer in always working ahead, so it's important to keep those ideas cooking, right?  Yet I am bereft of the kind of idea/plan pool that many writers seem to have.

Sometimes it makes me feel like less of a writer.

So I'm wondering how your stories are birthed, and how many you have in your queue at any given time.  Do your ideas burst forth like a series of fireworks, unbidden?  Or are you like me, with ideas that simmer and cook and slowly rise to the surface of the pot, one at a time?

Let's peek inside each others' brains a bit.  And, hey.  If I can find even one other writer whose brain percolates at the same, slug-slow rate as mine, I will be happy, indeed!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our Third Annual Baker's Dozen Agent Auction: Schedule and Facts!

It's here!  Well, almost.  Welcome, everyone, to the season of the third annual BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION!

For the newcomers:  The Baker's Dozen Agent Auction is MSFV's biggest event of the year.  60 250-word entries, hand-picked by Jodi Meadows and Authoress, will be placed on the auction block for agents to bid on (with requests for pages, up to a full manuscript request).  It bears the name "Baker's Dozen" because the original auction in 2010 included 13 agents--a baker's dozen.  The actual auction is in December, but the fun starts NOW!


Each Baker's Dozen entry is required to have a logline.

What is a logline?  A logline is a 1- to 2-sentence pitch that encapsulates your story and makes us want to read it.  See HERE and HERE for advice on writing an effective logline.

We will have 3 critique rounds for those of you who would like feedback on your loglines prior to submitting. These rounds will be run as lotteries. Times TBA.

ROUND 1: Tuesday, September 25 (submissions on Monday, September 24)
ROUND 2: Tuesday, October 9 (submissions on Monday, October 8)
ROUND 3: Tuesday, October 16 (submissions on Monday, October 15)


ADULT ROUND 1: Tuesday, October 30 (100 entries)
ADULT ROUND 2: Thursday, November 1 (100 entries)
YA/MG ROUND 1: Tuesday, November 6 (150 entries)
YA/MG ROUND 2: Thursday, November 8 (150 entries)


25 adult category winners notified via email: Monday, November 12
35 YA/MG category winners notified via email: Monday, November 19

60 WINNING ENTRIES POSTED: Friday, November 30

AUCTION GOES LIVE FOR AGENTS: Tuesday, December 4 (for 24 hours)


  • There will be a $10 entry fee for this contest. Yes, that is $2 more than last year.  Blame it on Paypal fees.  (And no, I won't be raising the fee every year just for the fun of it.  I feel like $10 is a fair entrance fee.)  To avoid confusion:  Yes, every entry must pay the fee.  This is the ONLY EVENT I charge for, simply because of the amount of work it takes to pull it off.  
  • A maximum of 500 entries (200 adult, 300 YA/MG) will be accepted. Of these, 60 winners will be chosen (25 adult, 35 YA/MG).
  • If the maximum number of adult entries isn't reached, the remainder will be added to the YA/MG entry maximum (because you know as well as I do that I'm going to be inundated with kidlit).
  • The 60 winning entries will receive critique from editors, authors, and blog readers, in addition to being on the auction block for our participating agents.
  • The (up to) 440 non-winning entries will be given the option to receive critique on the blog via lottery at a later date. (Because, yanno, I can't exactly post hundreds of entries for critique simultaneously.)

Names of participating agents (and critiquing editors and authors) will be posted as soon as they are finalized.  I've already got a great response!

Just a reminder that there will be no Secret Agent contest in November. October's SA will run as planned. And, yes. You may enter the October SA and still submit to the Baker's Dozen auction. Unless you win the SA contest, of course.

Questions?  Ask below!  But please don't ask specific questions about submissions: I will be posting detailed instructions as we get closer to the submission dates.  I promise that everything you need to know will be included in that post.

Spread the word. Invite your friends. And start working on your loglines!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Updated Baker's Dozen Success!

This email from Beth Hautala is short-n-sweet, but big on exciting.  During the 2010 Baker's Dozen, Jodi Meadows and I were delighted (and bemused) that there were two unicorn stories in the mix.  When one of the authors landed an agent, we were thrilled.  How wonderful to see this author's unicorn story make it all the way to publication!

Here's the story (and a link), straight from Beth:

I just wanted to send you a little note of thanks—once again—for all you do and all you've done to help aspiring authors . . . like me.

Back in 2010 I found my lovely agent (Danielle Chiotti/Upstart Crow) through your Baker's Dozen Agent Auction. Or maybe I should say she found me??? Anyway, as of last week, the submission that garnered me an agent in that auction, found a home at Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Group. And I can delightedly point a finger back to you and applaud your influence, support, and ingenuity in making this dream of mine a reality.

Here's a link to the shakedown.

Monday, September 10, 2012

And Winners!

And here are this month's winners:


 #7, Fireproof 
#19, Suspended State
#27, Mountain Escape
#30, Staying Dead

The prize:

Mr. Dunton would like to see the first 100 pages of your manuscript.


#43, The Recruited

The prize:

Mr. Dunton would like to see your full manuscript.

Congratulations, all!  Winners, please email me at facelesswords(at) for specific submission instructions.


Mr. Dunton is hoping to get a query from anyone who got an "I'd read more" or "I'd probably read more" comment.  Please send these queries through his normal querying process, and be sure to mention your SA entry in the body of your query letter.


Secret Agent Unveiled: David Dunton

A round of applause for the delightful and instantly likable David Dunton of Harvey Klinger, our Secret Agent for this month!

David's Bio:

I've been a literary agent at Harvey Klinger since 1996. Before that, I was a keyboard player in a rock band, something I still do for fun. And before that, I was an editor at Simon & Schuster, in the trade paperback division. I majored in American Studies, graduating from Wesleyan in 1988, am from various parts of New England, have been to 46 of the 50 United States, and live in Jersey City, New Jersey.

What David's looking for:

Great contemporary, sci-fi, and fantasy young adult and middle grade fiction. Moving and funny are a winning combination. On the adult side, I'm looking for narrative nonfiction, music-related nonfiction, memoir, and literary fiction. Some of my all-time favorite books include Mark Helprin's WINTER'S TALE, Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS (and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK), David Mitchell's CLOUD ATLAS, and Susan Cooper's THE DARK IS RISING sequence. I also really liked the first three books of Jacqueline Carey's KUSHIEL'S LEGACY series (thanks to my wife for that one).

Many thanks to Mr. Dunton!  Winners forthcoming.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Fricassee

It's bizarre how, when life is different for a while, the work/writing-related things feel like they're compartmentalized in a barely accessible part of my brain.

Does this happen to you?

I've got mega-family in town right now (some of them are leaving this morning), and I feel as though I'm looking at this blog through tinted glass.  I'm also feeling the slowly building pressure as we head toward Baker's Dozen season.  Because--GUESS WHAT!  The fun is starting sooner than you think.

As in, the first logline practice round will be later this month.  (I hate loglines.  Just so you know.)

(Okay, I only hate my loglines.  They are on the low end of my skill set.)

Anyway, consider this your first heads-up for the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction.  I'll post all about it next week, so those of you who are new to our party will understand what it's all about.  All I'll say right now is--YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS.

In the meantime, tell me about your non-writing coping mechanisms.  As in, when you're in the midst of a family visit or an unexpected event or anything that tears you away from your writing (and, indeed, the writing world in general--I've barely tweeted this week, so you know I'm out of my element!), how do you manage?  Do you find that you can switch easily back and forth between The Mode and Real Life?  Or do you twitch and gnash the entire time?

I am admittedly discombobulated!  And something tells me I'm not alone.

Happy weekend and hugs to all!  (Except those of you who were hiding behind chairs in our fantasy writers' lounge.)

(Oh, wait.  That was most of you...)


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Hinder
GENRE: YA Fantasy

It's often advised to never ignore a cold tickle on the back of your neck, especially when it's felt when you're alone. But that's exactly what Aime Hirsch did. There was something else that begged her attention, not the lost, lingering sensations of unease, not the skipping of a single heartbeat, or the missed chance of breathing in the forgotten hum of a breath. A normal person would've sensed trouble from these small warnings, would’ve done something, anything about them. Maybe she should've.

Instead, she fiddled with her long, half-bleached hair while sitting on a stool in her kitchen, waiting for him to knock on her parent's front door. Staring through the window over the sink, she watched a crimson twilight through the naked, black branches of mountain maple trees and tangled brambles. It had been night for a long time. Maine's typical end of a mad winter day always ended so swiftly, she'd begun to think the daytime never began.

Waiting for her date to arrive for the past hour had been leaving her to time to develop some extreme realizations. He'd been her demise in high school and now, into her first semester at community college. She was the girl with the crush. That's what everyone knew her for. It wasn't a secret, not even to him, even though she wished he could've figured it all out earlier.  It was Friday night and the fourth date she was able to set up with him.

September Secret Agent #49

TITLE: Beyond The River Shadows
GENRE: Literary Fiction

Along the steep canyon walls trees swayed in unison like slow moving breakers. A wondrous expanse of green surrounded him, the sun anchored high above the ponderosa pines, the air laden with heat and the sweet fragrance of azaleas. Ten years had passed since Brad Lucas heard the sounds of a river; he had been away too long. He squatted down on his haunches and smiled at the McCloud River as it coursed by, shimmering with sunlight. His heart pounded in his fingertips.

“How much farther?” Brad’s voice cut the white noise of river and wind.

“It’s so damned pristine out here,” Dean Romans said, pausing in the middle of the trail, “I half-expect a unicorn to prance out of the woods.” His grin widened, exposing perfect white teeth that gleamed in contrast to his black eye.

Throughout the two hour hike, Dean had led the way like a four-star general. The fact that Dean insisted on leading didn’t surprise Brad—only Dean knew where they were going. What did come as a surprise to Brad, though, was Dean’s total lack of caution. Brad found it hard to keep up, and he hated that this irritated him. He had fully expected Dean to slow down in the woods. Even in the wilderness, Dean acted as if he owned the place.

Hands cupped, Brad splashed river water on his face and the nape of his neck. The cold snatched his breath away. For a moment, he felt reinvigorated. Only fleeting relief, he thought.

September Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Desiderium
GENRE: YA Dystopian

If I had a dollar for every time I found myself wishing for more time, I might only have to work two jobs. Maybe then I'd actually have time for a life. But I can't want more time. I can't want anything. Not if I don't want to end up in jail.

The light on my bracelet is already flashing yellow. My gaze fixates on the steel band clinging to my wrist and I have to remind myself to take a deep breath.

“Hey, Rhiley.” My heart leaps out of my chest as a girl from the high school waves across the hall. I furtively nudge my jacket over the bracelet to conceal the yellow light.

Forcing a cheery reply, I plaster a smile to my face and scrutinize her expression. Detecting no sign of recognition, I quicken my steps. When I'm within a few steps of the classroom I sneak a peek at my wrist and heave a sigh of relief when I find no sign of the desire I almost let myself feel.

I hurry through the door and slide into an empty seat in the back. Allowing myself a quick glance at the clock, I pull out my textbook to cram in a few extra seconds of studying. Calculus is the one class I don’t need to spend a lot of time studying for, which is a lifesaver. It’s the difference between going to bed at 2:00 or staying up until 3:00.

September Secret Agent #47

GENRE: YA Fantasy

My blood will entice warlocks to ask for my hand in marriage, so of course Father wants it spilled. The sooner he can have the magic within it measured, the sooner he can be rid of me. Despite knowing this my whole life, I'm still unprepared for the demand. I'm not ready to enter the marriage pool. However many warlocks desire my hand, he won't think them enough to make up for my being the eldest of fourteen girls instead of being a boy.

Is there any way to say that without a fist flying my way? Or a hex? Father hasn't blasted me with one of those in a few days. I hazard a glance at him.

The predawn rays aren't enough to brighten his face as he sits at his desk next to me, just enough to cast a faint glow. I'm not worth using an electric lamp for, nor a candle. It makes it harder for him to read my expressions, at least. Easier to mask my words than my face. Yet it masks him as well. I can't tell if he's in a forgiving mood or not, but I can't stay silent. What if this is my only chance to get out of the marriage pool?

“Not all girls get tested at seventeen,” I say.

“You will enter the marriage pool.” Father stands.


His fist knocks my face so hard I plummet off my chair onto the wooden floor. “You're more stubborn than the Envadi. We are going.”

September Secret Agent #46

GENRE: YA Paranormal

Hiding underwater, that’s what my parents called it. But to me it wasn’t hiding at all, it was being free, like taking a deep breath. Sitting at the bottom of the pool with my eyes closed, I heard the muffled sounds of the pool party above me and I felt the children’s excitement; the water was overwhelmed with it.

Parties rarely took place during my Wednesday afternoon swimming lessons, but the YMCA pool wasn’t always available on weekends, especially during the summer months. My instructor, Valerie, had made sure to put me in the farthest lane over from them, and she’d still had to strain her voice to give me directions. I didn’t really care though. Just being in the water was enough of a reward for another week of being landlocked.

At the end of my lessons, Valerie always let me stay in the water a few extra minutes so I could float on my back or stay underwater until I ran out of breath. It was the best part of the class, and she’d given me even more time today, to compensate for the less-than-stellar lesson.

Listening to the party noise underwater wasn’t as comforting as the usual stillness, but it was enjoyable all the same.

When time was up, I put my hands on the edge of the pool to jump out of the water.

And then I felt it; panic and a struggle for breath… and soon after, silence going deeper in the water.

September Secret Agent #45

TITLE: Trustless Angel
GENRE: YA Fiction (fantasy)

“Rest in Peace,” the phrase is simple enough, but do we really want rest after death?

People retire in old age, which could be considered resting after a tiring life. So is it assumed that we want to continue that in the next life?

A person’s working age includes forty to fifty years, up to seventy if you include childhood and school. So you spend less than a quarter of life in retirement.

But in many beliefs, souls are immortal.

“Resting” for eternity. Comparing eternity to seventy years…wouldn’t that be like working mere minutes before entering an endless vacation?

Doesn’t that sound lazy, even boring?

Even if you are led to paradise and allowed to do as you wish. People grow tired of any indulgence when given enough of it. If a sweet lover ate candy every day, hate would eventually replace their love of it. The same can be said of any activity.

Immortality also negates necessity. You wouldn’t have to eat to survive. No major obligations could come from other immortal souls, so why do today what you can do millennia from now?

People can feel achieved and satisfied through work, but work without obligation isn’t considered work.

Wait… so can immortal souls work?

The opposite of work is rest.

By wishing Rest in Peace, are we wishing for the departed to spend eternity repeating actions that have lost any sense of satisfaction?

Amber L’Vera couldn’t help but ponder this as she thought back on the last few days.

September Secret Agent #44

TITLE: Cartographer
GENRE: Upper middle grade fantasy

The signpost was cracked and sun-bleached and looked likely to crumble in a stiff breeze, but if you squinted you could still make out the words announcing this was Tallarook Station, for anyone who cared to know. Simon doubted anyone did. He pressed his nose to the back window, peering out as the chauffer parked the car. This place looked like the surface of Mars and signs of civilization were scant. A handful of crispy, miserable weeds had tried and failed to survive. A blistered payphone loomed over the scrap of shade where a wallaby lay, either sleeping or dead. There was no platform. He didn’t even notice the train at first glance, and no wonder. It was so filthy it looked like another part of the endless red grit sea.

It was a passenger train, but if anyone ever travelled here, where did they go? Where could they go? Simon glanced at the horizon, where a few indistinct somethings flickered through the heat haze. When the door opened he almost jumped out of his skin.

The chauffer’s eyes flicked to the nose-print on the inside of the otherwise pristine glass. For a moment he looked like he was wrestling a compulsion to break out his Windex and scrub out the evidence left by his adolescent passenger, then he said, “It seems we’ve arrived," and trotted off without waiting for a response.

Simon shuffled out. The heat sucked all the sweat from his skin, leaving him with the unnerving feeling the air was still thirsty.

September Secret Agent #43

TITLE: The Recruited
GENRE: YA thriller

The clank of her cell door opening startled Naomi upright. “Williams, you have a visitor,” the guard said.

Naomi stared blankly at her, legs dangling off the edge of her bunk. “What?”

“You have a visitor,” the guard repeated. “There’s a man here to see you.”

“But it’s not my parents’ day to visit, and my dad—”

“You. Have. A. Visitor.” By now there was no masking the irritation in her voice. “Get your a** up and come with me.”

Picking herself up off the bed, Naomi attempted to straighten her wrinkled uniform before her hands were cuffed. A small calendar on the wall, checked off boxes counting down the time on her sentence, read September 4th, 2025. The guard held her by an elbow as she escorted Naomi through a maze of hallways to the small visiting area at the front of the facility.

The room was about half full with girls and their families or friends. They talked in low voices, their volume occasionally flaring up on a shout or a curse. Laughter was all but unheard of here.

It took Naomi two seconds to identify the man who’d come to see her. He sat by himself at a table in the farthest corner of the room. His posture was perfect, better than hers, even though her mother had been snapping at her to sit up straight for years. As the guard led her up to the table she noticed his expensive-looking suit and his neat, close-cropped hair.

September Secret Agent #42

GENRE: YA epic fantasy with a romantic twist

Alex was having a wonderful time, enjoying his first unauthorized dive, until the shark appeared out of nowhere. Neither of them should have been there. Alex wanted to dive so badly, although everyone had warned him against it. Sea water was toxic and no one was allowed to dive except for scientific or rescue missions.

Researchers claimed that all the fish had died long ago. But somehow this shark survived. Alex had only seen sharks in aquariums around Gensolia, where scientists kept them away from the hostile environment of their natural habitat.

The shark stopped circling and floated in front of him, challenging and ready to attack. It bared two rows of shiny pointed teeth at him, two golden eyes glistening with hunger madness, and yet, at the same time, they showed shades of pain.

Is it afraid to attack?” he thought.

It was taking the shark quite a long time to attack. He wasn’t an expert on sharks, but it seemed unnatural. The shark was acting as if it was confused or struggling with its decision to attack, as if it had forgotten that it once was a carnivorous beast.

Is that even possible?” he thought, “ Why not? It’s been over fifteen years since they declared all fish to be dead in oceans, maybe those few who survived had found new sources of food or started to feed on sea weeds.

Still he knew that at any time, the shark's nature could kick in, and then it would attack him, ripping him to shreds.

September Secret Agent #41

TITLE: Cassandra of the Crescent Moon
GENRE: MG fantasy

The clouds were acting weird. Really weird.

When Cassie and her parents left the city the clouds had been normal: blobby shapes that, if you squinted just right, or turned your head a little, lazily morphed into a one-eared bunny or a lop-sided turtle. But now they were definitely misbehaving. Cassie didn't need to squint or tilt her head at all now. And there was nothing lazy about the way the clouds were moving. They were forming shapes, quickly and precisely, like a cartoon character blowing smoke rings. A candle. A bat. A crow. A coffin.

A skull.

“Mom, did you see that? There's a skull in the sky!”

In the front seat, Cassie's mom didn't even glance up from her laptop. “Uh-huh,” she replied.

“No, seriously, Mom, you have to look. It's creepy. I think maybe it's a sign. Y'know, like something bad is going to happen at camp...”

“Nice try, Cassie,” her dad said. “But you're going to camp.”

“But...but...would you at least look? There were other shapes too. I'm telling you, it's weird. I've never seen clouds do that before. It's gotta mean something.”

“The only thing it means is that a storm is coming,” Cassie's mom answered, still staring at the screen. “You know clouds are just collections of water vapor and ice crystals. There's no deeper meaning involved. No more nonsense. I really need to study these notes...”

September Secret Agent #40

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Dawn trickles through the narrow windows as I race toward the stairs. Noor pants beside me, her dressing gown billowing in her wake. The slaps of our bare feet echo through the empty corridor.

A corbie. A real, live corbie, here!

It makes no sense. None. The winged witches never leave their forest, not since the Great War. Besides, Tavor Castle is a tiny, nowhere fortress, not a palace. My father’s infrequent visits are the closest we come to real excitement. Why would a corbie come here?

Noor and I dash around a corner—and come face to face with the Dalmother. Our religious guardian never looks happy, but now her wrinkled face quivers with anger. Despite the early hour, her starched wool dress and linen headscarf are immaculate. I cringe under her glare.

“What foolishness is this?” she asks. I struggle to explain, but she cuts me off mid-stammer. “No excuses. Go back to your rooms and stay there, both of you.”

“We were just going to see the corbie,” Noor says, her hazel eyes fixed on the floor.

The Dalmother’s nostrils flare. “I see. You wanted to visit the little savage, did you? Small wonder you didn’t bother with proper clothes!”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “It was my fault. We’ll…”

“What in Dal’s name is going on up here?” Nurse Ofra marches up the staircase, and I sneak a breath of relief. She fixes her impatient scowl on the Dalmother, who swells and turns a brilliant shade of red.

September Secret Agent #39

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Taela wasn’t a thief. Not usually. Sometimes people had to do things they didn’t like. Sometimes they had to lie and keep secrets. She slipped into the cool darkness of the storage shed and quietly latched the door. Her heart beat rapidly and she took a deep breath to calm herself. She made a silent vow that this would be the end. Tonight, she would fulfill her promise, no matter what it cost her or how much it frightened her.

Ribbons of moonlight shone through the slats of the old wooden structure, falling across the casks, crates and barrels stacked around her. She had to be quick and get out. She rummaged through a crate, grabbed a handful of dried apricots and few shriveled potatoes and stuffed them into her pack.

Standing on tiptoe, she reached up to the top shelf for the stoneware crock that held last season’s summerbeans. She slid the container to the edge and eased it off the shelf, but the crock was heavier than she expected. Before she could get a good grip, it slipped from her hands, fell to the dirt floor and shattered with a crash. Shards of pottery and beans scattered at her feet.

Blast it! Probably just woke the whole village.

She grabbed her pack and scrambled toward the weathered door, but the sound of footsteps approaching stopped her. Too late. She ducked into the shadows and hid behind a barrel.

September Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Feudlings
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Arianna Delacour thunked her black duffle bag at the foot of her bed, wondering if she should even bother unpacking. This was her 16th boarding school. Sixteen in nine years, but it would have been more if she hadn’t been home schooled until third grade. That was when the Family started sending her out to hunt.

Shaking her head quickly, she shoved the thought away, jumping to a safer subject. Wrong life. She had to focus on this life now. She was about to start her senior year, and she really wanted to graduate. So, determined that this be her last boarding school, she started unpacking.

“Who are you?” a high pitched voice demanded behind her.

Ari didn’t turn to investigate. “Arianna Delacour. Who are you?”

“This is my room,” the voice said instead of answering Ari’s question. She thought it over, decided there was nothing to respond to, and continued unpacking. “I said, this is my room.” The voice grated on Ari’s ears and made her teeth ache. Sighing, Ari stood up, shoving her long black braid over her shoulder and turned. A much shorter, somewhat round blond girl stood in the doorway with her hand on her hip, green eyes glowering back at her.

“Apparently, it’s also my room. If that’s going to be a problem, you should probably take it up with the headmistress,” Ari’s dark brown eyes clashed with the girl’s green gaze. The girl’s lips tightened as she gave Ari a slow once over.

September Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Shot in the Dark
GENRE: YA contemporary with mystery and romance

Biology is supposed to be the study of life, yet everything I see screams death death death. I’m freaking surrounded by it.

The pickled animal organs on the shelves along the back wall. The organs Travis claimed the football coach dissected from members of the team, after they screwed up their big chance of making it to the playoffs last year. The skeleton hanging in the back corner, its jaw slack in a sickening grin, as if sharing a private joke that’s lost on me.

My twin brother’s empty desk chair.

My fingers tingle from the same numbness that’s inhabited my body for the past two weeks. A hollow stillness spreads through me, like the finally moments before a tsunami. When the water pulls back—leaving the beach painfully empty—seconds before the world crashes in.

I’m still waiting for that singular moment, when everything inside of me caves and I’m carried away, to be drowned in the ocean.

Where the hell is Liv? My first day back was bad enough, starting with the fun-filled hour with the grief counselor this morning, but being here without my best friend to distract me is asking way too much.

All I want is to escape before I finally fall apart. If I cry at school, no way in hell will Mom let me skip out on another agonizingly boring hour with the shrink. I just have to survive the next sixty minutes.

Only I can’t do that without Liv.

September Secret Agent #36

TITLE: My Dragon’s Keeper
GENRE: YA fantasy

Dry, barren and remote, just like his life, Garith Dern thought hell must look like this. The town of Halifire had always seemed to be hiding something, like someone trying to bury their past.

Garith thought if he ran fast enough and never looked back that Halifire would fade like a inconvenient memory. If only it were that simple.

The rain cascading off his head seemed desperate to wash away the desolation in his heart and Garith welcomed it more than even the sunniest days. Rain settled the dust and brought a cleansing touch to Halifire, like light exposing the darkness. But it couldn’t change the anxiety, the unrevealed potential in his life.

Garith’s 17th birthday had come and gone, the eve of the age of release when a boy would be commissioned into manhood, choosing the trade he would pursue the rest of his life. Many of the young men he knew had gained apprenticeships throughout town. He should be bonding further with his father and standing alongside him in his vocation as he contemplated his own.

Just the opposite had occurred. His father grew more distant and appeared less interested in the choices before his son. He didn’t seem to care about his only son’s future.

“I’ll get to it, Garith. I just don’t have the time,” was all Narith Dern ever said. No matter how Garith pleaded, his father appeared unmoved and distracted.

Garith ran faster to match the pace of the downpour. He relished the freedom running provided.

September Secret Agent #35

TITLE: She Came From the Hill
GENRE: YA Horror

Nothing thrived at the far end of the park. Even laughter died at the first stunted tree. Clay tightened the straps on his overnight pack and pedaled up the dusty path. Shadows danced between the brittle trees. The shadows were moving in the blistering sun, but the trees weren’t. He pedaled faster, his feet moving with the rhythm of his pounding heart.

Clay could have skipped the shortcut if Alex, who had the communication skills of a wet cell phone, called an hour earlier. Didn’t he know proper packing takes time? In five months Clay would have his driver’s license and never need the shortcut again. A branch snapped somewhere in the dusty haze behind him. Five months never felt so far away.

The creepiness clung to his skin like cobwebs, even after he left the park behind. He coasted down the road and skidded to a stop in Alex’s driveway. His friends were scattered around the yard, none of them in uniform. Clay straightened his scout shirt. They needed to take scouting more seriously.

Alex aimed a small camcorder at him and pushed a button. Light flashed in Clay’s eyes, blinding him.

Clay shaded his face with his hands. “Alex!”

“The enhanced light works!” Alex turned it off, leaving Clay seeing spots.

“What’s the camera for?”

Alex shut the screen, leaned forward, and whispered, “The camera sees what we can’t.”

“Like what?” The scoutmaster didn't let them go anywhere at night, no matter how quietly they sneaked out of the tent.

September Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Finding Zuza
GENRE: YA urban fantasy

There were currently three things wrong in Zuza’s world. One, it was her last year to be kissed for the first time. If she turned sixteen before this happened, she would die of embarrassment. Two, her papa was trying to replace her with the spawn of the housekeeper. No explanation needed there. And three, some tattooed punk was following her.

She walked faster.

Three frat-boy-looking guys lounged on the porch of a chopped-up Victorian, probably taking a break from hazing recruits. They called out to her.

“Hey, beautiful. Want some beer?”

“Ewww, no,” she mumbled without looking up. They were statutory-rape-creepy, but she cut them some slack because she did look older than fifteen. She’d been into heavy makeup since her papa’s wedding. Raccooning her eyes each morning took the edge off living in a house with two lovey-dovey people.

She blew past the Victorian and turned the corner. Footsteps followed her. A breeze rustled her curls like an approaching cold front. She wondered if people would see it as especially tragic if she were murdered only blocks from her papa’s office. Maybe he would even feel guilty. No, his new wife would squeeze out her wrinkled turtle-baby early to distract him from her memory.

Zuza maneuvered her pack so she could reach her back pocket. She pulled out a stick of gum and chewed it furiously. A peppermint high, familiar and reassuring, filled her as she trotted across the road. There was no sense in dying with bad breath.

September Secret Agent #33

GENRE: YA light sci-fi

Mid-May, and it was already hot. And wet. Sweat pasted the few strands of stringy blonde hair that had escaped my ponytail to my damp neck, and I tried not to stir up dust as I walked fast down the old dirt road.

Today was my last day working with Dr. Green, the only large-animal vet in Dabb Creek, and it wasn’t much different from my first. Except on that day it had rained. Stormed more like it, and Doc had said to meet him at Mrs. Blalock’s barn. My boyfriend Jackson and his best friend D’Lo had to tag along, of course. They didn’t think I’d go through with it, and I think even Dr. Green was skeptical, which was why he’d said I’d have to palpate the widow’s best milking cow before he’d agree to make me his assistant.

Palpate. I knew what that meant. Fancy word for sticking your hand up a cow’s backside to see if she’s pregnant. They didn’t think I could do it because I was so little. Years of stretching and drinking milk had only got me up to five-foot tall, but I climbed up on that stool, set my jaw, and plunged right in.

“Make your hand like a wedge, Prentiss.” Dr. Green stood close by me, holding up Elsie’s tail. His man-sized plastic glove went all the way over my shoulder to my neck, and it was slathered in lubricant. It kept me clean, but I was getting the full experience of hot, smelly cow butt.

September Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Of Fire and Shadow
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

My mother died a week ago because of me. Smoke inhalation, the coroner’s report said.

The problem: there was no fire.

The cause: the freakish mutation that's plagued me for three years. Not that I could admit it, unless I wanted to become a science experiment, or thrown in jail. As I leaned against the rough brick wall, something caught my eye.

The shadows across the road were oddly darker than the midday sun warranted, as if they had swallowed the very ground. Goosebumps prickled down my neck.

I stepped away from the wall, drawn by the shadows, which was a good move considering the wall had etched a pattern into my skin.

Something, or someone, stood in the shadows across the street. I squinted, trying to overcome the glare of sunlight, to make out what stood before the towering office buildings. The figure swayed like branches caught in a breeze. My eyebrows furrowed as I stepped into the gutter, ignoring the cars blurring past. The shadows writhed and crept towards the buildings, the figure moving in their safety.

“Talitha?” I spun and faced my grandma’s inquiring face. She’d finished inside the lawyer’s office—finished with the aftermath of my own design. I swallowed hard and glanced back at the shadowed trees and sidewalk. They were normal once more.

“Everything sorted?” I asked, and shook my head to clear it. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the writhing shadows.

She squinted at me through her round glasses. “Yes.”

September Secret Agent #31

TITLE: Lau Dai Lá
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

As Linh descended the stairs, strange sounds came from the living room.

She looked around; her mother wasn’t home. Eeek! Eeek!

Probably mice. This didn’t stun her. She’d grown used to hearing those horrible little rodents scuttling inside the clogged drainpipes at school. Likely they’d come out because of her house’s currently clogged drain.

Then she heard thumps within the wall.

These couldn’t be mice—unless their tiny feet had grown overnight. Unless they were giants. She tiptoed toward the sound and tried to pinpoint its source, but saw nothing. Stepping toward the window, she pulled away the long, lacey curtains. Her heart seized.

A narrow door stood beneath the window.

Linh couldn’t believe her eyes. Had this small door always existed there, right beside the back door? Why would she never have noticed? She bent down, knocked on the mystery door, and waited.

One minute. Three. The sounds had stopped.

Linh placed a trembling hand on the doorknob; it felt solid and rough. Slowly, she opened the door—and with another hard squeeze of her heart, walked through it.

She found herself gazing at another world: the sun beaming down on a colorful, spacious backyard—so unlike a gray, Irish summer day in Dublin. She blinked: she wasn’t daydreaming.

She stepped into the different landscape, full of warmth and light, her heart thumping with excitement. Plump mushrooms and lush green shrubs grew on each side of the yard. On her left, a field of flowers—daffodils, roses, tulips, and sunflowers—carpeted the ground.

September Secret Agent #30

GENRE: YA Dark Fantasy

When your eardrum gets blown apart, something weird happens. Right before everything goes silent, there’s this freaky ringing in your ear.

Not a lot of people know this, but that ringing in your ears? It’s actually the sound of dying cells. What you’re hearing is actually the last time you’ll ever get to hear that particular note. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

And right now, it was as if there was an entire orchestra of notes, all ringing, all dying, and that sound just drowned out everything. It drowned out the sirens, it drowned out the screaming. It even drowned out the firefighter who was trying to drag me to safety. I think he was yelling something at me, but I couldn’t tell. I couldn’t hear a thing.

I blinked, staring up at the sky. Everything was coming in and out of focus for some reason. Blurry, sharp, blurry, sharp. Was there something wrong with my eyes too?

Ironically, it was actually a nice day.

The sky was blue, bluer than I had ever seen before. And in the distance, flocks of birds twittered, darting this way and that, chasing each other like playful children. Briefly, the sun winked at me before disappearing beneath a group of puffy white clouds and I sighed as a warm summer breeze washed over me.

Great. The first nice day we get in a long, long time and I was going to miss it.

September Secret Agent #29

GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary (Edgy)

Senior year just started and it's already perfect.

Varsity Cheer. Check.

Hottie boyfriend. Check.

Kicking a** in school. Check.

I spin in a circle, inspecting myself in the mirror.

It took me a half hour to pick out an outfit, but I nailed it. Dark wash Joe's jeans that make my non-existent butt look perky. White sweater than shows my tan. Leopard ballet flats for a touch of flair. I need a touch more lip gloss.

I'm rushing around my room looking for my make-up bag when the screen on my phone lights up with an incoming text message. Olivia. I sigh. I'm not ready yet. Blake will be here any minute. I dial her number, phone on speaker.

"Why are you calling me? Only old people actually call." Music is blaring in the background.

"Hello to you, too. I'm trying to finish getting ready. I'm running late. Blake'll be here any minute. What's up?" I'm yelling toward the phone while zipping back and forth across my room, looking for my Opi nail polish. The polish on my right pinky finger chipped.

"Oh s***. I forgot you had a date. I was going to invite you out. I'm meeting up with Lauren and Ashley in an hour. We're gonna go find a party to crash."

"Sounds fun. We're going to see the new slasher movie that just came out. The one with Reed Bentley, the smokin' hot Australian." I'm ecstatic I convinced Blake to do something other than go to a party or have sex.

September Secret Agent #28

GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure

The week before her grandfather decided, once and for all, to send Jocelyn to finishing school was an eventful one, even by her standards.

On Monday, Jocelyn’s newest tutor found his pupil unable to do her history lesson. It seemed as though someone had torn out most of the pages from her lesson book in order to make paper boats. This same unidentified person had apparently floated the paper vessels on the garden pond, after lighting them on fire, of course. A spot of soot on Jocelyn’s nose, coupled with the faint smell of smoke still clinging to her rumpled dress, pointed an accusatory finger right at the girl, though she sat at her desk with eyes too wide and innocent looking.

If you ask me, her tutor was wrong to turn in his resignation. True history is filled with burning fleets.

On Tuesday, Jocelyn startled the head cook, who rather foolishly was not expecting the girl to come flying down the front banister brandishing a wooden sword and singing a bawdy sea chantey at the top of her lungs. A tea-tray of French pastries dropped on Sir Charles’s finest Persian rug could clearly be no one’s fault but the cook’s own.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were much the same: Jocelyn tore her new silk stockings trying to climb a high iron fence surrounding the manor in order to see out and “scout for enemy ships approaching”.

September Secret Agent #27

TITLE: Mountain Escape
GENRE: YA Fiction

It was Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69. That’s what was playing when I lost my virginity. In the back of a pick-up truck. Stoned out of my mind. And I had just turned sixteen. Fortunately, I didn’t get any diseases or get pregnant, but I did enjoy the next few months. Immensely. When people say sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll are overrated, they’ve never lived. Too bad I got caught, several times. Too bad my parents set up an intervention to ruin my summer.

That’s how I ended up on a trail, in this God-forsaken valley, climbing six miles and 5,500 hundred feet to my new home and job. Sucks when the ‘rents have family willing to help out the wayward daughter. I wanted juvie, at least there I’d fit in with my black-lined eyes and heavy make-up, piercings, and cute tattoo.

I tripped over a stupid tree root and fell to my knees. Pain vibrated through my legs. This hiking thing was hard. It had been almost a year since I did anything physical, except run from the police.

“You okay, Adahlyn?” came the too-sweet voice of the pain-in-the-a**-straight-from-the-cornfield-wholesome girl who was hiking up with me.

“Fine,” I wheezed, trying to catch my breath.

“I think we should stop and rest.” She paused.

“No. I’m fine,” I protested, bending over and sucking wind. My chest felt like it would explode.

September Secret Agent #26

GENRE: YA Fantasy

I’ve died this way before.

Before, I stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time. But now, from the burning in the stranger’s eyes, I know he has every intention of killing me.

I wonder, does he see her too?

Her name is Far. All my life, I have been haunted by memories. I don’t know about magic or destiny or death. But they do. There are thousands of memories and dozens of lives trapped inside me. Or maybe I am trapped inside them.

His footsteps behind me grow louder. When I try to push myself up from the forest floor, my chest smashes back to the ground.

The footsteps stop. I hear his breathing behind me. A heavy inhale. A slow, relaxed exhale. I can’t see him, but I think he’s smiling.

I squeeze my eyes shut and try to recall how it feels to be stabbed. For once, the memories don’t come.

Of all the memories, Far's are the clearest, so close to the surface that sometimes I believe they’re my memories. That I am Far. That she is me.

Of course that can’t be true. Her tiara is my baseball cap. Her magical tattoos are my tan lines. Her creepy past-life sketches are my Shia Labeouf posters.

I’m not Far.

I’m not.

But I can’t let it go. I can’t convince myself that I’m my own, separate person when one crucial piece of evidence is missing: Far never died.

September Secret Agent #25

TITLE: Crazy Deep
GENRE: YA Speculative Fiction

Marissa, I’ve a feeling we’re not in New Orleans anymore, I think, glancing out the window at the Pennsylvania mountains.

When Dad forced me to evacuate without him a week ago, I thought it would be temporary, that I’d fly back to him in a couple of days once the whole Hurricane Katrina threat passed. Now I live in Aunt Celeste’s guest room, my room, according to her. My real bedroom is filled with water, if it’s still there. Even a pair of ruby slippers can’t take me home again.

I follow the slap of flip flops to the front steps of a brick building that looks exactly like a school. Imagine that.

As I make my way up, I distract myself from panicking by singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” to myself. Or at least I think it’s to myself until someone behind me whistles the “We’re off to see the Wizard” part. I whip around and bump into a chest—a solid, male chest. I lift my eyes slowly, taking in the flipped-up cuffs, navy sweater vest, and this fantastic smile. Then I raise my eyes a little higher, and I’m caught in the most intense, blue stare. My heart trips and this invisible tug I can’t explain pulls me closer.

Before I totally embarrass myself, I step back.

The guy’s smile revs up a notch. “Sorry I interrupted your American Idol tryout.”

September Secret Agent #24

TITLE: The Graveyard Five
GENRE: MG Coming of Age

Bags cringed at the sight of the red phone peeking out from a pile of papers. He didn’t want everyone to have to call their parents. The principal’s office was cramped with two oversized wooden chairs and diplomas filled the walls. The bars on the small window blocked any view of the outside and the scent of cheap cologne lingered. Nerves and all of the junk food he ate throughout the day were causing his stomach to shake like a washing machine off balance.

Friends always watch each other’s backs. His father’s words filled his head.

“So, you all thought it would be fun to skip school before entering high-school?” Mr. Bentley towered over the kids. He banged his fist against the desk. His emerald eyes widened and his jaw pulsated like a beating heart.

“I am disappointed that some of my best students are being dragged down into the ditches with you two.” He stared into Bags eyes and Bags was surprised at the disgust he seemed to have for him and Sarge.

Bags glanced at his four friends. Penny’s lanky frame leaned against the wall furthest away from the principal’s desk. She did not look nervous like Dubray or scared like Simone, she looked bored. The words Rules Are Meant to be Broken splattered across her t-shirt summed up Penny in a nutshell. She was taunting Mr. Bentley without even having to open her mouth. As if she prepared her wardrobe knowing they might get caught.