Monday, September 29, 2014

Premiere Critique Slot Available

I wasn't able to offer a premiere critique in the beginning of the month because I was filled up with other editing projects.  However, I'm going to have time to take one on this week, so if you're interested, it's first come, first served!


  • A detailed line edit of your first 75 pages
  • Editorial letter
  • Guaranteed 1-week turnaround
  • $260, half due up front and half after completion of the edit
Interested?  Email me at authoress.edits(at) today!

(As always, my $95 30-page edits are available, and are completed in the order in which they are received, with a 1- to 2-month turnaround.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Fricassee

It's been a busy week around here! Thanks, everyone, for your participation in our first logline critique session (and another huzzah for Holly Bodger, who is not only the icing on the cake, but also the meat in the stew!).

In the spirit of all-things-wordy, I bring you this tale of my knee-jerk response to a grammatical error.  In an email.  From a local business.  In a large font.  It said:


(I made that bigger to give you the full effect of the HORROR AND SHAME.)

It was an invitation to an open house with drawings and sale prices and all sorts of local goodness.  But I couldn't get past the error.

So I snapped.  I hit "reply" and said:

Sounds lovely!

At the risk of being "that" person -- it's YOU'RE INVITED.  Not "your invited".  YOU'RE = contraction for "you are".  (Yes, I'm a writer and editor.)


Then I brushed imaginary dust from my hands and figured I'd be de-listed at best, eternally hated at worst.  Because, yanno, who likes a grammar know-it-all?

Imagine my surprise when, the next morning, I received the following:

We could use a good writer.... What are you doing in your spare time? 

I wish I had gotten your correction before I sent this out to all our customers.
I bet they will get the meaning and hopefully look past my mistake.

Maybe you will get to come by sometime in October! Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

There you have it: THERE IS HOPE FOR HUMANITY.  (Well, that, or I was lucky to come across one extremely tolerant and diplomatic person who may have had experience with apostrophe vigilantes in the past.)

At any rate, I feel like maybe this was a teachable moment.  As in, next time she wants to invite the masses to her store, she will remember our conversation and avoid the grammatical error.  Who knows?  She may go on to TELL OTHERS.

I may have started a local YOUR/YOU'RE revolution!

Well.  Probably not.  But it surely does feel good to not be hated.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Words of Wisdom From Our Logline Guru

The how-can-she-be-so-amazing Holly Bodger, after having critiqued this week's 40 loglines, offered to write up her thoughts to help you all as you continue to grind your loglines into submission.  Of course I immediately took her up on it.  Here are her golden nuggets:

1. The point of a logline is to explain what your character wants and why it will be difficult for him to achieve it. It helps to pepper in a few interesting details about your character and setting, but only if they are necessary. A logline is not supposed to summarize your plot or explain your concept.

2. PLEASE SAVE MY SANITY AND DO NOT ASK QUESTIONS IN YOUR LOGLINE! If someone said, “What’s your book about?” you would not answer with, “What do YOU think it’s about?” Well, maybe you would, but if you said this to me, I’d want to fling poo at you. Questions are great for taglines. Save them for those.

3. A lot of loglines seem to be confusing the goal and the need. The need is the thing the character wants before the book starts (ie, a friend). The goal is the thing the character decides to go get at the beginning of the story. While the goal must fulfil the need, it is not the same thing.

4. Speaking of goals, they must be tangible. The goal is the thing that, when reached, means the story is done. The reader will never know when the character “reaches inner peace”. They will know when the character finds out who killed his dog. This is not to say that finding inner peace is not important. This is what I meant about the need. Your character NEEDS inner peace and finding out who killed his dog is the GOAL that will accomplish this.

5. BE SPECIFIC. You have 2-3 sentences to show agents why your book is special and special is in the specifics. Half of the books in my library could be defined as “girl who wants to find love”. You need to show why your girl is different and why her journey to find love is not like the rest.

6. Finally (and this is the most important one), remember that loglines are hard to write for everyone (including me)! I firmly believe that you can pants an entire novel as long as you have a perfect logline. If you cannot make your story fit into the required elements of a logline, then maybe you need to re-think whether or not your story has the required elements, full stop.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Logline Critique Round One #40

TITLE: Imperfect Lives
GENRE: Young adult contemporary

To find her sister’s killer, seventeen-year-old Mira must defy her strict Indian parents and join forces with her deceased friend’s brother to connect clues linking the two deaths. Soon they’re in a race to expose a killer before he finishes them off, too.

Logline Critique Round One #39


More than merely a collection of patient stories, my memoir of nursing provides a look into the evolution of women since the '70's. I entered a traditional women's career at a time of significant change, both in nursing and in the role of women in general. My career has taken me from New York and Hawaii to Australia where doing battle with funnel web spiders was often more challenging than any shift in Casualty.

Logline Critique Round One #38

TITLE: Shrouded Goddess
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Sophie can hide her tribal heritage and fend off her groping cousin, but when she awakens the Water Goddess, Sophie is determined to bring peace to her rainforest homeland, which has more scars than her uncle can lash out onto those who oppose him.

Logline Critique Round One #37

TITLE: Finding Gib
GENRE: Middle Grade Adventure

Trapped in isolated Graz, twelve-year-old Elias can’t accept the Elders’ maxim, curiosity kills. When he discovers a mysterious voice transmitting by radio, he’s desperate to make contact with Gib or anyone from the outside world who might have answers about his mother. Then lightning destroys Graz’s wind turbine, disrupting the village’s electric well pumps and forcing Elias to journey solo through Andalusia to find help before time, and Graz’s water supply, run out.

Logline Critique Round One #36

TITLE: Dear John
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

From jail a resilient teen untangles herself from the dark clutches of her human trafficker while writing letters to the men who bought her for sex.

Logline Critique Round One #35

TITLE: Hunted
GENRE: Epic Fantasy

When washed-up basketball player Jim Thompson falls into a parallel world ruptured by rebellion, his goal is to get home, but the people who befriended him trust him for deliverance from the usurper scheming to annihilate them. Jim did, after all, uncovered a sword of power, but if he doesn’t learn to control it, he won’t be any help to anyone, and he may never escape the Vacant Ones who hunt him.

Logline Critique Round One #34

TITLE: The Sinner Rose
GENRE: Fantasy

In Mithos, where passion fuels black magic and True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin, Martia must make a choice - kill her lover or give into their new wild power

Logline Critique Round One #33

TITLE: The Kiddush Ladies
GENRE: Women's fiction

Lifelong best friends confront middle-age, while struggling with their own issues, divorced Naomi fears empty-nest and empty life, Becky tries to stop her only son from marrying a non-Jew and Miriam takes extreme action to prevent losing one of the people she loves most, but when a decades old secret comes to light, it threatens their friendship and one woman’s sanity.

Logline Critique Round One #32

TITLE: From the After
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

When fifteen-year-old Claire meets Bryan, he seems like the perfect boy for her, except for one small problem... he's dead.

Logline Critique Round One #31

TITLE: Necessary Action
GENRE: Thriller

Two events alter Nicholas Marek’s future: The assassination of his father and his refusal to follow through with an assignment to kill a fellow agent.

Logline Critique Round One #30

TITLE: Sarita
GENRE: Middle Grade Contemporary and Historical Fiction

Thirteen-year-old Sammy’s little brother takes pity on the “cold, pretty girl,” a 500 year old frozen Inca sacrifice victim their father is studying at the American Museum of Natural History, and turns up the thermostat. Can Sammy and the “ice princess” rise above their differences while Sarita gets a second chance at life?

Logline Critique Round One #29

GENRE: YA Contemporary

When Kayla refuses an abortion and her parents kick her out, she moves in with her older sister and struggles with whether she should give the baby up for adoption. In order to make the decision, she has to come to terms with her parents' confusing way of showing love and the lack of love that created her baby.

Logline Critique Round One #28

TITLE: Revelation
GENRE: YA Historical

In order to secure a comfortable life for herself as a free woman of color in 1825 New Orleans, Angelique (17) must sign a contract with a wealthy Creole gentleman . . . not as his wife, but as his mistress. When she falls for her poor piano instructor, she foregoes comfort for love, until yellow fever threatens her mother's life.

Logline Critique Round One #27

TITLE: The Lonely Dark
GENRE: Fantasy

A stubborn woman who can speak to the elements must flee for her life when other Speakers attempt to take her powers. Speakers of the Shadow element are going insane, and stealing her power might cure them. On the run, she must find another solution before she--or anyone else--gets killed in the name of the public good.

Logline Critique Round One #26

TITLE: The Past is History
GENRE: YA Contemporary

When a popular junior is forced to investigate the death of another student, a string of disturbing clues prove that she and her friends are responsible for the tragedy in ways she couldn't have imagined. Will she bury it in the past or dismantle her life further in hopes of redemption?

Logline Critique Round One #25

TITLE: Rerun
GENRE: Thriller

Jordan finds herself in a time loop, courtesy of a friend. He’s been repeating the same forty four years for millennia, but Jordan's repeatedly killed. Waking up as a nine year old is awkward, waking up with memories of being murdered is a nightmare. How far will she go to stop it when her murderer is caught in the same time loop?

Logline Critique Round One #24

TITLE: The McNifficents
GENRE: MG Contemporary Fiction

Civilizing six rambunctious children in one summer is a near-impossible task for any nanny, but Lord Tennyson is a rather special, two-feet tall mini-schnauzer. The McNifficents is where Mary Poppins meets Lassie.

Logline Critique Round One #23

TITLE: The Farmer's Wife
GENRE: Women's Fiction

One grandpa flambé with a side of unrepentant grandmother. Should Jody turn a blind eye or finish with a helping of justice?

Logline Critique Round One #22

GENRE: YA Fantasy

When Syra saves the life of a human, she goes against everything she’s been taught—kill them or be killed—and questions if the war between her people, Natura, and Humankind is valid. Syra wants to befriend the humans and bridge the gap created by war, but if the humans find out what she is, they won’t hesitate to kill her.

Logline Critique Round One #21

GENRE: YA Fantasy

When Ruby falls in love with Henry, an Ancient who needs her blood to survive, she must choose between standing with him in a battle against a delusional Ancient leader and escaping with her Arrano family to ensure their safety.

Logline Critique Round One #20

TITLE: The Girl Haunting His Head
GENRE: Fantasy, Science Fiction

Kurtis's Dad dropped him off at a nuthouse to save dreams from extinction. His only friend is a snarky girl haunting his head.

Logline Critique Round One #19

TITLE: Miss Mayhem
GENRE: Chick Lit

When those photoshopped nudes of Destinee Faith Miller showed up on the internet, she thought it would be an easy fix, but a week and a video later, her business is as busted as her reputation. If she can't fix the leak, she'll lose everything important to her, including the man she sometimes love.

Logline Critique Round One #18

TITLE: Genied Away
GENRE: YA Paranormal Mystery

Jean sends her annoying twin sister Maya to the genie world with her haunted Ouija board. But when she is forced to become the guardian of a portal in the form of a medallion that belongs to Moira, and the shadow people pelt her with stones to get it back, it’s up to Janna to find her sister and bring her back, even if it means getting lost in the maze of the beyond.

Logline Critique Round One #17

GENRE: MG Contemporary Fiction

When twelve-year-old Savannah discovers her family's maritime museum is failing financially, she secretly applies for a private collection of artifacts. Without the collection sailing camp is out of the question. But when she succeeds in landing the elusive Fleury Collection, she attracts thieves who jeopardize the museum’s future and her family’s reputation, if she can’t find a way to stop them.

Logline Critique Round One #16

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Armed with the only piece of his legacy—a star medallion on a shoestring—a teen boy must stop a misguided whacko from severing the energy link between worlds or lose the one family he's ever known and the girl who helped him discover the man he yearns to be.

Logline Critique Round One #15

TITLE: Flash
GENRE: YA paranormal

17-year-old Benjamin is cursed as a liaison between the living and the dead. In exchange for giving the dying much needed closure, he receives a glimpse of someone set to die before their time. When his next flash shows a girl who has crept into his heart, he races against time and nature to save her life.

Logline Critique Round One #14

TITLE: Traitor Knight
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

A knight mantled in secrets and reviled by the very people he’s sworn defend must salvage the shreds of his honor and defend the kingdom from both a ravening dragon and a scheming traitor, with the aid of a feisty damsel-in-distress who’s not at all certain he can be trusted.

Logline Critique Round One #13

TITLE: Crossmatch
GENRE: Women's Fiction

When an affluent homemaker’s dire need for a kidney transplant reveals how unsupportive her husband is, two men from her past emerge to help in her quest for survival. This leads her to finding a perfect match, but her suffering compounds when her life can be saved – but only at a cost.

Logline Critique Round One #12

TITLE: Gwenyth and the Golden Spine
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Twelve year old, Star Trek obsessed Gwen is bullied mercilessly by Soda Pop Seth and his gang. As a result, she uses her iguana's magical spine to brutally bully them in return. But, will Gwen be able to handle the terrible consequences resulting from her misuse of magic and desire for revenge?

Logline Critique Round One #11

TITLE: Tarot Traders
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Toria, a tarot trader who uses gypsy magic to keep re-living her eighteenth year, is on a collision course with the most devilish of tarot thieves in Spain, while she attempts to pull off a flawless con, exact the perfect revenge, and save Tami, her last surviving family member.

Logline Critique Round One #10

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Esme’s life is ripped apart when her grandmother dies and she is sent to live with the father who abandoned her. Her grandmother leaves her a gift—Jin, a Victorian genie who’s wishes hold the promise of the happy life Esme always dreamed of but there’s one catch—she must travel back in time to destroy Jin’s diabolical former master or her dreams will never come true.  

Logline Critique Round One #9

TITLE: Thicker than Water
GENRE: NA Science Fantasy

Long enslaved for her father's crimes, Eva seeks to catch a killer to prove her innocence and win her freedom. But when she discovers the killer is her dearest childhood friend, Eva must either protect a murderer or become one.

Logline Critique Round One #8

GENRE: YA Contemporary

When chubby Ivy's boyfriend dumps her the day before high school graduation, she has one summer to get over him while trying not to fall for dreamy island newcomer, Ren.

Logline Critique Round One #7

TITLE: Edgefield
GENRE: General Fiction

While staying at a quirky gentrified hotel, a journalist, guilt-ridden over his mistake in a young girl’s kidnapping, seeks redemption when he uncovers a long ignored connection between the building’s storytelling janitor, an old county poor farm, and a 1950’s serial murderer.

Logline Critique Round One #6

TITLE: If I Promise You the Sun
GENRE: YA Gothic Thriller

Raised in an isolated religious sect in Virginia’s mountains, 16-year-old Eve refuses to believe there’s no cure for her brother’s genetic illness. As she considers how far she’ll go to save him, she meets a 19-year-old migrant who offers to get medicine to her brother, if she’ll help kill the sect’s leader. If Eve agrees, she’ll destroy the only home she’s ever known. If she says no, her beloved brother’s as good as dead.

Logline Critique Round One #5

TITLE: Gorgons' Flight
GENRE: YA Modern Fantasy

To save her fellow gorgons, seventeen-year-old Allie must bargain with a goddess who has spent millennia trying to kill them.

Logline Critique Round One #4

TITLE: The Chicken Who Saved The World
GENRE: MG Mystery

When an imaginative eleven-year-old girl discovers evil space chickens are using a popular video game to hypnotize people in her small town, she must overcome her lack of self-confidence when no one believes her to save her loved ones and stop the chickens before they take over the world.

Logline Critique Round One #3

TITLE: The Sirens of Falkeld
GENRE: YA Fantasy

To save his dying grandfather, Kade sets out to capture a beautiful, Scottish sea maiden, whom legend says will grant three wishes if caught. But his quest is complicated by an obsessive WWII Admiral, who desires the maiden's power for a weapon in the worldwide war.

Logline Critique Round One #2

GENRE: Fantasy

Chosen for her climbing skills, Crea is one of four thieves plucked from the dungeons of Tibera and offered clemency if they can retrieve the kidnapped young figurehead of the Temple. Crea leads a daring climb into the fortress where the boy is held captive, and freedom seems within reach until they encounter one little problem—the boy doesn’t want to be rescued.

Logline Critique Round One #1

TITLE: Drone On and On
GENRE: MG Light Sci-fi

To prevent the military’s adoption of automated killer drones, and his brother’s death from becoming meaningless, 12-year-old Sagan must partner with an eccentric teenage girl to win a piloted drone combat tournament and get a shot at the latest killer drone.

Monday, September 22, 2014

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:
  • W2MTB0E8 as ENTRY #1

  • K2JDP7YN as ENTRY #2

  • F74U9DXM as ENTRY #3

  • VHERRTF8 as ENTRY #4

  • GZ1I9Y8K as ENTRY #5

  • D2I6X8F2 as ENTRY #6

  • 4VXOTMG8 as ENTRY #7

  • P1OLZ66O as ENTRY #8

  • G0C523IY as ENTRY #9

  • O07MWYQR as ENTRY #10

  • GG33XFFW as ENTRY #11

  • QK5CCFJ7 as ENTRY #12

  • K4JLGZ6N as ENTRY #13

  • R0BYA38F as ENTRY #14

  • A4GTCP35 as ENTRY #15

  • ORD5FIMM as ENTRY #16

  • ONMO73WG as ENTRY #17

  • X5M5S32S as ENTRY #18

  • 167F4NFE as ENTRY #19

  • 16W9F3BN as ENTRY #20

  • XZ1B2H7V as ENTRY #21

  • 1W5Q5OSI as ENTRY #22

  • FPE0NBH5 as ENTRY #23

  • 8EG255ZM as ENTRY #24

  • 4D9B83PV as ENTRY #25

  • KX0F2F7U as ENTRY #26

  • J4DVC6RN as ENTRY #27

  • 1GEV932K as ENTRY #28

  • ESF0JZSG as ENTRY #29

  • Y7P6TGGW as ENTRY #30

  • V6Q6ABRX as ENTRY #31

  • 4ROR5BRR as ENTRY #32

  • 08TMUM69 as ENTRY #33

  • 7L5AMI7P as ENTRY #34

  • 0KWOY4L3 as ENTRY #35

  • XM7APN4K as ENTRY #36

  • 1F9SWFXS as ENTRY #37

  • 53F0W4PB as ENTRY #38

  • ZJ2KX4RX as ENTRY #39

The alternates are:

  • E4LFWYQ1 as ENTRY #ALT-1


Our Logline Guru: Author Holly Bodger

As she has tirelessly done in previous years, Holly Bodger is going to once again grace our Critique Rounds (all 3 of them!) with her plucky, non-sugar-coated, sharp-eyed critique.  Holly is GOOD at this!  And I'm ever so thankful for the gift of her time and talent.

Holly Bodger has a BA in English literature and has spent her entire career in publishing. She is an active member of Romance Writers of America and was a 2013 Golden Heart finalist in the Young Adult category. Her debut novel, 5 TO 1, will be released by Knopf on May 12, 2015.

Part Homeless Bird and part Matched, this is a dark look at the near future told through the alternating perspectives of two teens who dare to challenge the system. 

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife. 

Sudasa, though, doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing. 

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

(And by the way?  I adore this book.  And I don't say things like "I adore this book" in public unless it's true.)

As always, Holly, you have my thanks and my heart.  And my undying fangirldom.  And my address, which is terrifying.   (Love you!)

Logline Critique Round 1 Submissions TODAY!

The submission window will be open from 9 to 5 EDT today.  Click HERE to read the submission guidelines.

Good luck!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Fricassee

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

I toyed with writing my entire Friday Friday in Pirate--for about seven seconds.  I'm not fluent enough to make that exercise remotely comfortable, so let's just settle for a nice, fat


(And perhaps a bottle o' rum.)

So, lots going on around here!  In case you missed yesterday's post, submissions for our first Logline Critique Round will be open on Monday from 9 to 5 EDT.  As in previous years, the illustrious Holly Bodger will be critiquing all of the entries.  For those of you who aren't in the know:  Holly is a logline goddess.  No, really.  And she's got a fabulous book coming out next year.  You'll hear more about her on Monday.

We're only doing 40 entries per logline round, so if you don't get into this round, try again!  There will be 3 rounds total.  I know that only accommodates 120 people, but that's all we can squeeze into the schedule.  Be extra nice to your critique partners in the next month so that they will look at your loglines!

Oh, and I've just got to say this:  The bot lets me know whenever there's a duplicate entry.  So please don't try to be all sneaky and enter from alternate email addresses.  If this happens, and if your entry gets chosen, I will delete it.  The rule is one entry per person.

The Bot rules.  Almost like the eye of Sauron.

As for me--I've had another Strange New Development in my writerly journey.  Nothing huge, but definitely different.  In short, I seem to have planned my story in 3 acts.  Not that I haven't been aware of this technique--it's common and it's effective.  In fact, sometimes I've read novels that were obviously broken into these 3 days (like, "Part 1", "Part 2", "Part 3"), and I didn't like the blatant obviousness of it.  (As in, do you want to just include your plot outline at the end of the book so we can see the cleverness of your structure?)  But it works.  It's solid.  I've just never constructed my stories that way.

Until now.

It happened naturally. I've been in the planning stage of my Shiny New Story That Not Even My Agent Knows About Yet for a few weeks, and just yesterday I finished planning what is clearly Act One.  I knew it deep inside my gut-parts as soon as I finished writing the list of events.  "Great googly, this is Act One!" I exclaimed (not really).  And though I haven't got the plot entirely worked out yet, I can already see in my mind the delineations for Acts Two and Three.

Interesting!  I'm not sure why this happened, but I'm feeling pretty comfortable with it.  And, of course, I keep opening Scrivener, reading my "Act One" rough outline, and feeling all giddy.

"How was your day, Authoress?"

"Oh, fabulous!  I've planned Act One!  My very first Act One!  Do you want to see it?"

So, that's me.  Reveling in this new Thing that seems to be working.  Writing novels is such a fluid thing, is it not?  The farther along we go, the more we change and grow.

(Wow, I just wrote a spontaneous couplet.  Feel free to share that with your friends.)

Anyway--here's the the beauty of words!  And the wonderful way in which our brains work to our advantage in often unexpected ways.

Now get t'work, me buckos!  Dead men tell no tales--so we'll do it for 'em.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Logline Critique Round One: Submissions Call

To avoid confusion:  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 75, but that's still on the high side.  Think SHORT and GRABBY.

If you're not sure what a logline is, STOP WHERE YOU ARE.  Please go HERE and HERE for information on writing loglines.


The submission window will be open from 9 am to 5 pm EDT on Monday, September 22.  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 23, 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 logline here)

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Baker's Dozen Success Author: Dana Edwards

Say hello to Dana Edwards, a 2012 Baker's Dozen Agent Auction winner!

I write MG contemporary stories that have a little humor, a little sadness, and a lot of hope. I’ve been a teacher and school counselor all my adult life and I use those experiences to inform my stories and develop my characters. 

My story about a boy with autism spectrum disorder who’s obsessed with the Yankees, but clueless that his long-time friend is trying to ditch him was in the 2012 Baker’s Dozen. The lovely and talented Tricia Lawrence requested the full ms after the exclusive period ended and I became an EMLA client a few months later. 

 I’ve also written about a girl who has lost faith in anything good happening in her small Georgia town. Of course, something good does happen and it involves a has-been baseball player, a train wreck, and cookies. But my wildest story is about a girl who teams up with an old lady with Alzheimer’s and a retired Marine general to solve a bank robbery. Writing fiction is awesome! 

Thanks to Authoress I’ve met terrific critique partners. Writing can be lonely and it’s so important to make friends along the way.

Dana's MSFV success story post is HERE.

Dana blogs HERE and HERE.

Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaLEdwards

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's The Official Opening of Baker's Dozen Season!

So I've been teasing your eyes with dates and promises, but now that our September Secret Agent Contest has closed, it's official:  the BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION has arrived!

What does this mean?

Well, in the coming weeks, this is what you're in for:

WEDNESDAY SUCCESS STORY SHOWCASES:  Each Wednesday from now until right before submissions open, I will be showcasing one of our BAKER'S DOZEN WINNERS from previous years.  Bring popcorn!  It's super exciting to see what past winners are up to now.

PARTICIPATING EDITORS AND AUTHORS:  Keep your eye out for the announcement (and showcase) of this year's editors and published authors, who will be critiquing the entries.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF OUR PARTICIPATING AGENTS:  All 20 of them!  Yes, 20.  I can smell the blood already.

3 LOGLINE CRITIQUE ROUNDS:  This is to help you get ready to enter the Baker's Dozen, which requires a logline in addition to your first 250 words.

HEADS UP:  Submissions for the first LOGLINE CRITIQUE ROUND will be this coming Monday, September 22.   The submission window will be open from 9 to 5 EDT, and the bot will randomly choose 40 entries after the close of submissions.  I will post detailed submission instructions on Thursday.

The official Baker's Dozen Agent Auction schedule is RIGHT HERE.

This is our FIFTH BAKER'S DOZEN, folks -- FIFTH!  Worthy of some hoopla, yes?

Let the chaos fun begin!

(Feel free to post questions below.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

And Winners!

Linda Epstein has chosen 4 winners from this month's Secret Agent line-up:

#1 Cheesus Was Here
#12 The Sirens of Falkeld
#15 Winicker
#34 Getting Rid of Lucky

The prize:

Ms. Epstein would like to offer a first chapter critique for each of the winners.  But she would also like to see your full manuscripts!

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

Congratulations, all!

Secret Agent Unveiled: Linda Epstein

Warm thanks to the hard-hitting and helpful Linda Epstein of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency for being our Secret Agent this month!

Linda's Bio:

Linda Epstein is an Associate Literary Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. She teaches workshops about writing and publishing, has presented at writing conferences all over the country and abroad, and co-founded and runs the Writing Yoga Retreat each summer. Linda has been featured in Writer's Digest magazine as one of the "25 Agents Who Want Your Work," as well as on many blogs such as Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents,  Literary Rambles and Mother. Write. (Repeat). Linda blogs at and you can find her on Twitter @LindaEpstein.

What Linda's currently looking for:

Read HER BLOG POST HERE to find out!

Winners forthcoming.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Fricassee

I read every single comment that you leave on my Friday Fricassees and other not-a-contest posts, and often your words pierce or encourage or warm or tickle me, and I wish I could keep up with responses, but it's not something I've created dedicated time for.

So today I've just got to pull out some of the comments from last week's Friday Fricassee.  Because some of you have wonderful things to say, and I want to say something back.

(Last week's Friday Fricassee talked about my feeling BLANK.  You can READ IT HERE.)

Nikki Trionfo said:

This is exactly how I feel. Although, I define the emptiness a bit differently. It's not that I haven't "accomplished" anything. It's that I haven't escaped. Apparently I need a daily escape, which is strange because I live a full life like that one you seem to, with kids, a hubby, a house, soccer practices, church responsibilities, etc. I notice that I'm unmotivated to do chores like the dishes when there's no reward in sight, other than clean dishes. Before, there was open time if I did my chores efficiently. Time I used to escape.

Nikki, you have a point.  There is something about the writing that affords a departure from "real life", whatever that may look like for each person.  Instinctively, I know that--after all, that's why it's so amazing to choose a specific play list for writing each novel.  The music zaps you into your world with the first note!  It's like having alternate realities/universes at our fingertips.  And when we lose our traveling privileges, it feels awfully flat to be stuck in the real world.

krystal jane said:

I really don't know who I am without my writing. But I am taking tonight off because I'm stressing myself out about it. It's a promise I made to myself. When I start getting crazy and thinking I have to write everyday or I won't sleep right, I force myself to take the day off so I can recoup. Remind myself that writing is not air. I don't have to do it everyday.

And that, right there, is wisdom!  The ability to take our own "writing pulse" and then to act accordingly is a necessary step in maintaining sanity.  Seriously.  Taking a day off--or a week or a month off--isn't "quitting".  We really do need to fight to maintain our autonomy apart from our writing!

Emma said:

Of course not producing anything (or, not letting your dreams out) will cause the world to be bleaker. The world IS bleak without daydreams.

And as for the corporate 80/hr/week drone - let's not judge them either. Most of them are in professions where that kind of output is required, and they have, as you say, kids and family that depend on them.

In the end, what's the difference between spending ten hours/day on a novel and ignoring your kids vs. ten hours/day in a cubicle and ignoring your kids, as far as the kids are concerned? I know, off topic. But when you say with such determination that writing is your profession (as you've said in other posts), you do forget that it's much, much, much more than that.

You ARE a creative person. You DO need the output.

I relate. I have the exact same reaction whenever I decide to stop writing because of discouragement. But then I realize that this is me. Without creative output I'm just whatever other people need me for - I am a wife/mother/daughter/consultant. Those things are not me. They are what I do. Writing (and other creative output) is, on the other hand, what I am.

Just the fact that this is your reaction to not writing means that you ARE a writer. I realize this is going against what you are saying in your post, but if you were not a writer, the lack of output would not bother you. The world would not feel so empty. You'd be fine.

Emma, you've said so much that is good here.  That the world is bleak without daydreams, I concur.  Not just daydreams, but hopes, desires, dreams, visions, faith.  And the act of writing encapsulates any or all of these.

About the writing being much, much more than my profession?  Yes, indeed.  To call it my profession is to validate place it where it belongs so that I can go about the business of writing without giving myself a nervous breakdown or entangling my heart in the process to such an extent that I will never be able to approach the business end of things with any semblance of sense or maturity.  But to neglect to honor my true self--the fact that I AM A WRITER--is to do myself a disservice.  You're right.  I'm a creative person.  I DO need the output.

Which is why I'm so thankful I can sit down at my piano any time I choose.  Or delve joyfully into my next ballet class.  My spirit shrivels when I'm not doing something artistic.  I acknowledge that.

I cannot say, though, as you have said, that "Writing (and other creative output) is...what I am."  I draw the line at defining myself by what I do, regardless of my level of passion or proficiency.  I AM a storyteller.  I AM a musician.  I AM a dancer (well, sort of).  But I am NOT the writing.  I am NOT the music.  I am NOT the dance.

Splitting hairs, perhaps, but for me, it keeps my identity solid.  Though I get what you're saying--really, I do.  And I love the passion of your creativity (it is oozing through your words!).

This is kind of an I-am-woman-hear-me-roar moment, but I don't think I'll go there.   :)

And, finally, I especially love that you said this:  "...if you were not a writer, the lack of output would not bother you. The world would not feel so empty. You'd be fine."  Yes!  That's a wonderful reminder, and so affirming.  Of course I'm a writer!  Of course that's why the blankness bothers me!  It feels wrong because it is wrong--for me.  A necessary time of rest, yes, but not right for me because of who and what I am.

Thank you for that beautiful reminder.

MaggieMay said:

Go dabble in watercolor, dance your heart out, cry in the rain. When you have something to say, you'll write again.

Well, yes.  That's exactly it.  Exactly.

JEN Garrett said:

God is the most creative being and we are His, so we must be creative, too. Whether it's in the form of writing, art, computer programs, social events, inventions, culinary dishes, or gardens - we all have that need to make something out of nothing. And it's different for each of us.

No, writing doesn't define who I am any more than this beautiful earth defines God. But I for one, am glad He knew what He was doing when He made it.

When I find myself in the bleak writer's doldrums, I give myself a pity party then seek to appreciate the creative genius in others. The farther from my own creative streak the better. Invariably, a well-cooked steak or amazing landscape will ignite that passion in me to create something new.

Thank you.  Yes.  I believe this, too.  And I love the concept of appreciating the creative genius in others.  Of course there are so many different manifestations of creativity!  How right you are.  And yes, I am known to stop and appreciate the presentation of the sushi on my plate, or the gorgeous way a woman twists scarves around her head, or a breathtaking display of flowers in a public garden.  I'm thinking that, without my even knowing it, each of these moments is doing its part to ignite my creative passion.

I so appreciate your words of wisdom, Jen.

Sarah Maury Swan said:

Perhaps your mind is just sorting out the details and getting your character into your psyche before you write. That's what happens with me. You haven't really lost the urge, it's just mulling things over. It'll come back. It always does for me.

Well, yes!  I tend to forget that there's a whole lot of non-writing brain stuff that goes on before a single word appears on the page.  Thank you for the reminder!

And on that note--I'm a bit giddy to announce that I am officially working on my next project.  No beat sheet yet.  No word count.  But all sorts of worldbuilding and character developing and and and and THINKING going on here.

I can't deny it anymore.  I think...I think...

I think I'm writing a new story.

Mind you, I'm keeping this as "child's play" as I can.  Dare I admit that I'm starting to have fun?


Baby steps, baby steps.  I'm still not considering myself back at it full time; I'm not going to push myself.  But, man, does this feel good.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Critique Guidelines for the Secret Agent Contest

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 5 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

September Secret Agent #50

GENRE: Upper MG Fantasy

The brick house was the tallest building on the street and the brick house knew it. It towered over the competition on its city boulevard and that was without the rooftop launch-pad smashed to rubble in 1940. It was three stories tall and had a thousand to tell.

On hot days, its limestone windowsills smelled like burnt barbecue and gunpowder. Dark red stains clung to chalky mortar. Thick concrete floors hid old bones and air shafts that whistled in the dark.

A century-long line of home inspectors said, “Completely safe and stable,” and each time, the brick house grinned quietly. It was immovable and ingenious and fireproof, but the best word to describe it to someone outside the Dragon Agency was “dangerous.”

The brick house kept its eyes open. It was biding its time. It expected a lot and usually got it. The house had never settled, would never settle for anything. Its jazz-blue front door and curling ivy vines swaggered. The brick house was strong and good-looking and the brick house was kind of a jerk.

But that didn’t change the fact that it knew its stuff, didn’t change the things it had seen and the lives it had helped begin and end. That didn’t change the dark corners it would show the right tenants and the questionable plans it had for their futures.

And the brick house knew that gangly, twelve-year-old Conley Hoss was the perfect kid to help it stage its comeback.

September Secret Agent #49

TITLE: A Governess or a Bride
GENRE: Romance

The aroma of crispy bacon wafts past her nose. Immediately a severe pain encompasses every inch of her skull. She places her hands on both sides of her head in an effort to alleviate the agony. She feels something sticky on her left temple. Slowly she opens her eyes while bringing her left hand in front of her. She sees the magenta colored blood. Groaning and confused, she sits up and takes in her surroundings. A steady stream of smoke flows just beside her, evidence of a fire. She notices she is sitting in a chaise surrounded by torn open bags and scattered clothing. No horses are attached. She realizes not only does she have no idea where she is; she doesn't know who she is.

Panic sets in. What am I going to do? Clenched palms drip pools of sweat. The urge to yell vanquishes with the reality that she is alone. There is no one to hear her cries. Tears stream down her face culminating in a burst of sobs. She covers her face with her hands, allowing herself a moment of self-pity.

With haste she rummages through her belongings. Clothing is strewn about as if someone else has searched before her. No reticule is found nor any papers that could shed light on her identity. Gathering all her clothing she puts them back in their cases. While she does so she notices a crumpled piece of paper. Unfolding it she reads the headline with interest.

'Governess wanted.'

September Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Shedding the Demon
GENRE: Science Fiction

Damon looked down from the rooftop into the alley below. Shadows were spreading over the ground as the sun fell behind the tall buildings all around him. He listened intently; sure that he had heard something unusual. This close to the City, its sounds drifted into the Ruins in a never-ending hum, but he had trained his ears to ignore the incessant droning and focus on particular sounds. There—just around the corner. Something is going down, Damon thought as he tried to move quickly yet quietly.

He threaded his way over the rooftop between piles of garbage, broken down machines, discarded trash, and other detritus. Mindful of his training, he could hear his mentor’s voice in his head:

Keep focused on your target, but never forget that threats are everywhere, do NOT let someone get the drop on you because you were preoccupied.

Damon smiled as he thought of Andrea and her oft-repeated admonishments. Nonetheless, he followed her advice to the letter; eyes shifting, hearing focused, and the path he chose was winding amongst the debris rather than the easier, and faster, straight line across the roof. He came to the other side of the building, squeezed between two rusted-out hulking pieces of machinery and listened again.

He heard a shuffle of feet moving quickly, the metallic crash of something falling to the ground, and there, hidden in the other sounds, a muffled scream. Now he just had to take a look.

September Secret Agent #47

TITLE: Into the Shining Sun
GENRE: YA Speculative Fiction

Twelve days. Twelve days until I was scheduled to die.

It should have bothered me more, but it still didn’t seem real. Every saviant dies on their eighteenth birthday, their Salvation Day. I had known for as long as I could remember. And now, here it was.

Sometimes I got a little panicky. Sometimes I would get angry. I tried not to feel that way, though. It was hard enough on my family.

My bookshelf was mostly empty now.

It used to be overflowing, with extra books stacked sideways above the rows to make them all fit. I’d gotten rid of most of them over the last few weeks, taking them in a few at a time to donate to the library at St. Gwyneth’s. Now there were only a few left on each shelf.

I grabbed the first two Harry Potter books off the shelf and tucked them into the hollow of my guitar case, nestled below the neck of my guitar. It was an old Gibson Hummingbird we couldn’t place a year to. It had been my dad’s, and my grandpa’s before that. Past that we weren’t so sure. It was beautiful, with the picture of the hummingbird on the tortoise shell, and it played warm, bright tones. I’d been playing ever since my hands could reach all the frets.

September Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Soul Breather
GENRE: YA Edgy Inspirational

Late afternoon’s darkness crept in until it enveloped every corner of the room. Candles’ shadows danced on the plaster walls in response to their chants and provided the only light to the room’s black mood. The air was thick and smelled of sulfur. The space felt anxiously heavy, and the atmosphere seemed resistant to what was about to take place. Emotions splashed over me like waves, some gentle and some with force. I’d never felt such fear and calm all at once. I knew soon my life would be changed forever, or at least I hoped it would.

It felt like Rome. Not that I knew what Rome felt like, but it looked like what I’d seen of it on television. The vaulted ceilings, the stained glass, the arched pews – it all reminded me of a movie.

As I lay on the pulpit’s floor, I tried not to watch them pace back and forth. They made me nervous. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, yet their words were making me crazy. I wished they’d speak English.

“What are you saying?” I finally asked. They stopped momentarily but began again. “Please. It hurts,” I exclaimed.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” the young one said.

The priest began praying louder. My body became more and more tense with every word. It was as if each syllable was a poisoned dart piercing something dark and deep within me.

“Stop!” I screamed. I rose from the pulpit floor and tried to run away, but he pinned me down.

September Secret Agent #45

TITLE: The Superpower Meltdown
GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy

Honey Wilson charged into position, her heart racing faster than her feet. This was it. One more point for the win. Kelly set up the volleyball, and Honey slammed it over the net, her famous spike force in full gear. Shoes squeaked on floor wax as the team backed up triumphantly. Honey watch the scoreboard and waited for the number to change. Except it didn't, because the ball hadn't bounced. No explosion. It just... disintegrated.

Amid shouts and ball ashes, the Ref blew his whistle and Coach Rose called a time out. A delayed gasp sounded form the visiter's side and a stampede of parents flooded the court.

"What happened?" Kelly asked, suddenly by Honey's side. "Are you OK?"

Honey peered through a brain fog and nodded. White dust fluttered from Kelly's dark pixie hair. Honey shivered violently.

"Your not OK!" Kelly grabbed Honey by the shoulders and helped her to the bench. Honey plopped down and pulled her legs up, hiding her face behind her knees. Maybe she looked like a child curled up like that. Honey didn't care. Honey didn't know if it was a bomb that had turned the ball to dust. But a disturbing thought kept pushing its way into her mind. I almost died today.

She closed her eyes and tried not to think about anything. Like disintegrating volleyballs.

Coach Rose stood nearby, on the phone with someone. Honey assumed it was the police. Honey lifted her head to see if anyone was hurt. Nobody on the floor. No blood.

September Secret Agent #44

TITLE: The Faithful Son
GENRE: Adult Fantasy Fiction/Myth retelling

The man was startled to find himself nearly naked, sprawled face down on the banks of a frozen river. Someone was probing him, urging him to get up, a low grumble and pop mixing with the echoes of a dream. A blinding ray of sun exploded over a rock outcrop, but the air bit cold.

A shadow hovered over him, reaching to him with a long stick: “Get up, man. Get up.”

The man squinted at the shadow who spoke to him. It was a barefoot old shepherd covered in ragged skins, clutching a crook that he now held out, perhaps in an effort to help him get up. “The ice,” he said, pointing upriver. “My man, you must get up.”

The grey, frozen river had splintered, ice turning transparent in places, black in others. How he had gotten here, on his knees on the ice, he couldn't fathom. He was cold and damp, and the state of the loincloth he wore was even worse than the old shepherd’s skins. The ice beneath him gave a few shudders and a loud boom, followed by a crack and a pop that made him leap to his feet.

“The ice is breaking, see?”

The man felt the urge to rush to the forest, and to find a tuck to hide in, an old dead tree or a large rock. He didn’t know why. Certainly not for the ice, nor for this old shepherd with the scraggly beard who still poked him.

September Secret Agent #43

TITLE: A path unveiled
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Water blurred the ink on council papers into blot test cards. They had shown those to him after his reappearance in a life that belonged to a stranger bearing his name. Now words faded into insignificance - like his past.

Thierry stared paralyzed at the mess and drew his hands back in consternation. He had scattered the documents across the huge oak table in frustration, which had overturned his glass.

“Well, in that case… you need to find somebody else to bully around!” Thierry stamped the spot he had landed on after leaping to his feet. "As I’m — obviously too irresponsible – and dumb -- for this!”

Nobody answered or even looked at him as the council members hurried to scramble together what they had tried to bring to his attention in another futile attempt to involve the new Duke in city and country affairs, or so Thierry assumed. He closed his mouth and slumped back in his chair pouting. Forearms before his face, he stared down in search of what remained of the shaky composure he’d drawn upon before entering the room. And to hide the moisture building up in his eyes at the unjust accusations and unrealistic expectations in him. Their own fault they would need to redo everything.

Thierry peeked at a window where a dove witnessed his most recent humiliation. No sound reached his ears but the bird’s silent corr-corr vibrated inside of him and sent goose rash over his calves. Thierry shuddered when a weird humming responded in his chest.

September Secret Agent #42

TITLE: Crawlspace
GENRE: Middle Grade Adventure

All I wanted to do after school was find the world’s greatest treasure.

Instead I found the world’s biggest butthead.

Wayne Lynch. He was crouched in the alley behind my house, blocking my back gate. His face was squinched up into a you-are-dead-meat look. Bad enough he pushed me around at school, but I couldn’t get away from the guy since he lived next door.

I didn’t need this. Not now. I’d been trying to figure out my grandpa’s latest riddle all day, and I was stumped. Usually his riddles were about finding a book or an old coin, but this one told me to find the world’s greatest treasure. I couldn’t wait to call Grandpa for more clues.

Just one problem. Wayne. I didn’t want to fight him, and I couldn’t just push him out of the way. Might as well try shoving a gorilla. Until I met Wayne I didn’t know they made sixth graders that big.

Wayne’s lip got all sneery. Not easy looking like a tough kid when you had short red hair and freckles, but he managed it. “Well, if it isn’t little Alvie the chipmunk.”

Before I knew what my mouth was doing, it opened and said, “You are such a butthead.”

Wayne stood up. And stood up some more. He kept standing up until he was ten times my size. Or maybe twenty. “Now you’re a dead chipmunk.”

He shoved me down into the gravel covering the alley.

September Secret Agent #41

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Deep in my chest, I could feel it: the girl was asleep. The itch to jump into her dream almost overpowered me, but I lingered in the arched entrance hall of Rainthorpe Manor, the mansion we'd used as home base on Earth the last twenty years. A new recruit had died this morning, and Beatrice would bring her by any moment to meet me. Not even the peaceful glisten of snow through the leaded windows could curb my urge to depart, and I leaned around the corner to check the grandfather clock again.

Beatrice and an older woman with brown, wind-toughened skin materialized in front of me. I nodded to both of them.

"This is the Head Sifter, Seth," Bee said, gesturing in my direction.

The new Sifter's eyes flicked to Bee and back to me.

"Welcome." I didn't ask her name. The details of her former life had been included in her contract.

Her voice wavered as she asked, "Are you the one shielding it?"

I gave a short nod, and her hard face looked like it might crack. "Thank you. It was horrible."

Bee caught my eye and raised a finger to show she understood my impatience. "I'll introduce you to your partner," she said, drawing the woman from the hall. "And we'll go over some of your duties."

"Thank you!" the woman called over her shoulder, but I was already fading out, diving into the dream world of the destroyer.

It was time to find the problem.

September Secret Agent #40

TITLE: Becoming Lady Beth
GENRE: YA Romantic Comedy/Time Slip

None of it was working. None. She’d worked her way through all of her pinks and most of her blues but Elizabeth Goldsworthy was fast discovering that there were some kinds of pain that the right dress could not ease. She pressed a hand to her chest and looked about her room. There was a dress that she hadn’t tried yet, one startlingly beautiful Versace, a midnight blue to highlight her eyes, but she could barely bring herself to look at it. It should have been the dress, the dress that would have wiped every other girl’s face from his memory.

Her throat tightened. Oh, his face! He had the most beautiful face and beautiful eyes. Eyes that were green flecked and just, well, just about the most perfect eyes that she’d ever seen. His hair, light brown and golden caramel in the right light, curled ever so slightly at the back, so that when they kissed, she felt thick strands wrap around her fingers. She sighed, her mind plunging her into the memory of his mouth. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself the fantasy; her lips puckered ever so slightly and then came the pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain.

It was way harsh. An emotional crisis should never be allowed to happen at the same time as a life crisis. And although she knew it wasn’t right, she blamed her parents. Well, her parents and Claudine Layton. Okay and him, Jasper Sinclair: heart-breaker, toe-rag and cheater extraordinaire.

September Secret Agent #39

TITLE: Sarita
GENRE: MG Historical Fiction

“Eli did what?”

Oh, man! Dad doesn’t get mad very often but now he was really and truly steamed. We were at the back of the lecture hall and a bunch of blue-haired ladies were staring at us like we were eating bugs. Worse, Dad had a pretty good reason to be mad. I mean, we were supposed to be babysitting Eli in Dad’s office. It’s not like Eli’s that much of a bother, but we started playing a computer game and for the first time ever Sarah was beating me. The next thing we knew, no Eli. When we finally found him, well, we knew we were fried. Dad didn’t really have to yell his head off for us to get that.

“Darwin’s Ghost, Samuel! You’re thirteen. Can’t I trust you with your brother for two measly hours?” I shrugged and kicked at the floor.

“Dad, uh. I know we’re in trouble, but, uh....don’t you think we need to go get Eli out of the cold room?” I asked.

Dad suddenly remembered there was a room full of people watching. He turned and announced, “Folks, thank you for coming today. I’m sorry to have to cut the question and answer session short but I seem to be having a little family crisis here. Please excuse us.” He pushed Sarah and me out of the room and down the hall toward the stairs.

“Now, what in tarnation is going on?” he demanded. “What do you mean, Eli’s in the cold room thawing out my mummy?”

September Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Hybrid Reality
GENRE: YA - Science Fiction

“A man with no soul created me.”

“Oh…my…god Terrace, you are so dramatic.” Brione said as she clung to the rock wall.

“Really, I can’t take hearing this story again. That’s not what kept you and Yasmine from getting together.”

“Then what was it?”

“The fact that you never made a move maybe.” She looked down before continuing.

“And also your affection for the redhead down there.” Her voice whispered around us like wind. We continued to move down the side of the mountain over rocky terrain with little safety precautions. Our clothes ripped and hung to our bodies in rags caked with mud and black goo.

“She didn’t even know that you were Daivat’s first science experiment. So tell me, how could that be the reason you all never hooked up?”

I rolled my eyes at her phrasing. I hated the thought of my relationship with Yasmine being minimized to teenagers hooking up. It was more than that.

“I’m just trying to figure out what I could have done differently. Maybe if she’d known…” I lost my balance as my right hand slipped on the slime that covered the rocks. Recovering in less than a second I continued, “how I felt about her, she would have listened to me, she’d still be here with us.”

“Maybe, maybe not. And she’s still here. I can feel her presence all around us.” Brione’s intuition was as good as having solid evidence. Her DNA overflowed with the gifts of the guardian goddesses.

September Secret Agent #37

GENRE: Fiction - Mystery

My head hurt and not just a little. It was a throbbing pain which radiated through my entire being. Had I drank that much wine last night? I couldn't seem to remember last night. Had I even been with Greg?

"Twelve A, honey, you okay?" a woman's voice called. She had a distinct Southern accent, which wasn't too common in Jersey.

I struggled to open my eyes, but the pain in the back of my head made it a challenge. Slowly my eyelids separated, but instead of putting a face to the disembodied voice, all I could see was a strange white light. It wasn't bright, like sunshine, and I could look directly into it.

In the middle of the light, appeared a man. He was good-looking with dark wavy hair, a rigid jaw line, and piercing blue eyes which looked straight through me. In slow motion, a knife appeared out of nowhere and stabbed him in the stomach. Blood began oozing out of him as he bent over in pain.

It was like watching a silent movie but without much of a plot, and kind of gross. As suddenly as they'd appeared, the injured man and the white light disappeared.

In its place was a woman in her thirties I'd seen around the apartment building, although we'd never spoken. She pulled her curly blonde hair away from her heavily mascared eyes adn stared down at me looking quite concerned.

"You okay, honey? she asked, kneeling next to me.

September Secret Agent #36

TITLE: Forgiving Impressions
GENRE: Adult Contemporary Romance

“Zip me up?” Gina asked, coming out of the dressing room.

Roger dropped his cell phone beside her purse and stepped up behind her. “Can you believe Sabella’s getting married, and we don’t even have dates to the wedding?”

Gina shot him a chiding look over her shoulder. “Sabella deserves her happily ever after.”

He tugged the zipper up then resettled her hair. “I know! She does. But, seriously. Us? Stag at her wedding?” He plopped back on the plush cream bench across from the angled trio of mirrors. “Unacceptable!”

“Ever the drama queen.” Gina stepped onto the raised platform to assess the alterations to her maid of honor dress, trying not to look too hard at her reflection.

Roger actually stuck his tongue out at her.

“Weddings are supposed to be great for meeting people,” Gina reminded, turning towards him. “Haven’t you been saying you wanted a cowboy? Kane’ll have some friends there.”

“Oh, please.” His lips found the impeccable pout that always made Sabella jealous. Gina couldn’t wait to see her best friend outside of the computer screen again. “Does he seem like the type to have gay friends?” Roger asked with pointedly widened eyes.

“Oh, there’s a type, is there?”

Tsk. You know what I mean!”

“And you know what I mean.” Gina swept her hands out, silently asking about the dress.

Roger’s nod of approval ended with a head tilt.

“So suck it up, and put on a happy face for Sab’s sake,” she added, checking the hemline one more time.

September Secret Agent #35

TITLE: Too Hot to Handle
GENRE: Adult

My name is Colleen Montoya, and I just set my ex-boyfriend on fire. Not literally, off course; that would be bad. I know that because I'm not totally bat-s*** crazy. I set fire to his picture, or to be honest, every picture I had ever taken of him dating all the way back to high school. And no, I did not make any copies. It was just me, a shoebox full of bada**, hot-guy pictures, lighter fluid, and a fire extinguisher.

After I put out the fire I got married.

Two years ago I was more than just a little confused like I am now. I was more like the lyrics of that song, "I'm not crazy, I'm just a little insane.". In an attempt to salvage what little sanity I still had, I decided to swear off men. Sure, they look good on paper, but that's just a shell game perpetrated by mothers who long to be grandmothers. In real life, they belch in their sleep and ask if you have PMS just because you'd rather eat M and Ms and watch the Lifetime Movie Network than have sex. That Y chromosome results in behavior only a mother could excuse, like leaving wet boxer briefs on the bathroom floor because they forget to take them off before they get in the shower.

Yes, that happened.

So, I must have been suffering from a form of temporary derangement, maybe from an insect bite (we have a lot of big, aggressive, science-fiction type insects in South Florida).

September Secret Agent #34

GENRE: MG Gothic Fantasy

Inside the police car, Aggie could feel electricity building in the air. Fine strands of her hair rose towards the sky as if they could pull her into the moonless storm. As they turned into the driveway of the little yellow house on Old Possum Hill road, a lightning bolt cracked through the thick clouds and struck the open field behind the house. She jumped.

“Come on, kid. Let’s get you inside.” The cop said as Aggie climbed out of the car. He put one hand on her shoulder, steering her towards the house.

It hit her. This is for real. I’m going to meet my Grandmother. Not just meet her, live with her.

Aggie let out her breath with a whoosh. There was nothing to be nervous about. The old lady wasn’t going to bite—most likely. Why Social Services thought she needed a police escort to begin with was a mystery. She might only be twelve, but they knew full well she’d been living by herself in the city for weeks.

I’m pretty sure I can handle my own Grandma’s doorstep in the middle of east bumble, North Carolina, thank you very much.

Not that her heart listened to simple logic. Her pulse was thumping fast. If anyone bothered to look they would see it jumping under her skin. She lifted one hand to cover her neck.
So what if I’ve never met my Grandma? How hard can it be?

A jagged flash burst out of the clouds, so bright it hurt her eyes.

September Secret Agent #33

GENRE: YA Thriller

The sun snuck above the horizon like it knew I hated it and threw orange light through the window and across our bathroom mirror. For that second, the light blinded me. I shifted until I could see again, adding the finishing touches of eye shadow to my left eye.

But my mind wasn't on the makeup; I struggled to remember the fifth equation I'd need for my physics test that day. It had something to do with intertia or potential energy or something. I could picture part of it, but not all.

Dropping my eye shadow, I reached for the space between sinks and grabbed at my sister's makeup. My fingers latched onto mascara, which would work just as well as lipstick.

"Are you borrowing my mascara?" Jenna snapped her compact closed and glared at me out of the corner of her eye. She checked herself in the mirror, fluffed her blonde hair, and reached back into her half-empty makeup bag. Her phone shrieked.

I looked away, back to my side of the mirror, unscrewing the mascara cap as I bit my lip.

"We need to go, like now." Jenna waved her phone in my face. "April says something's going on."

Because whatever April wanted was so important. I fought the urge to smack the phone out of Jenna's hand. "You wanna give me a few seconds?"

"You wanna wear makeup?" She matched my sarcasm.

"I am wearing makeup."

"Not enough. Like anyone can tell you've got that pale pink eye shadow on."

September Secret Agent #32

TITLE: The Sword and the Skull
GENRE: Adult Epic Fantasy

Ryn pulled the silver hand vase from the desk drawer and flooded the apartment with the spicy sweetness of mulled cider and strawberries.

The vase was the sort of accessory young women would use to carry nosegays at a wedding. But no cleric would have suffered the presence of this particular item in their chapel if they had known of its origins in a sorcerer’s summoning chamber.

Held fast in the vase was the Durassi sand lily Ryn had cut the night before. The heavy bloom was as broad as his outstretched hand—hundreds of delicate petals arranged in lazy arcs, shaded purple, violet, and indigo.

Getting the thing to grow away from its native soil was damned near impossible. He had cursed and fussed for two years to coax this single flower from among a half dozen plants. Thanks to the wraukuic enchantment upon the vase, it would never wilt or fade.

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

“Smells heavenly, dear one,” Josalind said. Her milky gaze was fixed upon the flower as if she could still see.

“You scamp—I said to wait,” Ryn said.

“Did you, now?”

Josalind snatched the vase from his hand with an accuracy that never failed to surprise him and waved it beneath her nose as if sampling the bouquet of a fine wine. She loved to be among flowers. A dozen species crowded the rooftop garden above, tended by her gentle hand through touch and smell alone.

September Secret Agent #31

GENRE: YA multicultural

I’d hiked more than two miles over rocky mountain terrain when I heard a stone tumble behind me. I glanced back. The Sheriff was about a hundred yards below me. He’d tracked me, silent as a whisper.

When he visited our ninth grade class last month to talk about Afghanistan, the Sheriff told us he tracked a Taliban unit through the mountains for three days. They led him to their hideout. My best friend Pablo asked if he killed them. He shook his head and said he called in air support. When he and his team went through the rubble afterward, they counted the bodies. There were so many pieces they couldn’t be sure how many were killed, but in his report, he wrote thirty to forty dead Taliban.

I was pretty sure he couldn’t call in air support to get me, not here in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northern New Mexico. But I wasn’t taking anything for granted.

“Stay there, Goop,” he said, pointing his pistol in my direction.

The gun didn’t scare me. There’s no way he’d shoot. “Where’s my dad?” I asked.

“In custody. Turn yourself in. I promise nothing will go on your record.”

My dad was supposed to be the lookout. They must have jumped him quick because he didn’t radio me. Either that, or he fell asleep.

“What about Oscar?”

“We don’t put dogs in jail. You can take him home. Deal?”

I turned and kept climbing.

He spoke into his radio. "Suspect declines to surrender."

September Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Handmaiden of the Alahim
GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy

In a city that never sleeps, everything is open, almost all the time. That’s what bugged Brielle MacAvoy most when she and her new partner, Callum, arrived at the front door of Goldstadt’s Pyramid Antiquities: the shop was closed and dark during business hours, on an otherwise-normal Thursday morning.

Brielle stood in the shade of a spindly maple tree, contemplating the gold-lettered sign in the front window. It read: ‘It is Folly for a Man to Pray to the Gods for That Which He has the Power to Obtain.’ How was obtaining anything possible, when the shop wasn’t open?

She rubbed her temples to soothe the jet-lag headache that pounded behind her eyes. As the yellow cab sped away, Callum tried the glass door.

"Locked." He cupped his hands around his eyes to peer into the large front window, his breath fogging the glass. "I don't see anyone inside, either. It's dark, and looks fairly cleaned out."

"I don't understand. Aaron knew we were coming.” Brielle tucked a stray hair behind her ear, and tried to quell the hollow feeling in her stomach.

Two pedestrians walked toward them down the tree-lined street. A woman pushed a stroller across the next block. The area appeared primarily residential, with only a few small stores, including a laundromat and a Korean market, occupying the corner lots. Even the upper floors of the semi-attached, red-brick building in which Goldstadt's Pyramid was situated appeared to be apartments.

She leaned close to Callum’s ear. "Something’s wrong.

September Secret Agent #29

TITLE: Soulseed
GENRE: MG Adventure

Earphones in, Tyler Zoetemelk swept ground hominy into a pile of gold in the grain barn. That song about the end of the world played and Tyler bobbed his head in time with the song’s artillery drum pattern.

His body was marooned in nowhere central Texas, on a farm. But in his mind, he was a rock star. On a stage with fans screaming below, he towered over hot chicks dying to get a piece of T-dog (his awesome nickname he gave himself just now but would later re-think) and he sang along. Knowing the right words was beside the point. But, singing them loudly---that was everything. He readied himself for his patented rock-and-roll-splits-jump in which he’d strum the broom, pop a tiny ground clearance and spread-eagle in a not attractive way, when he was hit at the base of his skull. With keys.

Tyler rubbed the back of his head---it didn’t hurt really, it just felt like a tennis ball rolled around in there. But who would do that? He turned to face the key thrower. It was Sid Strayhorn, the walrus of a man who’d sold them the farm earlier that summer.

Strayhorn pantomimed removing the ear buds and Tyler complied.

“I was saying, I forgot to give these to your dad.”


“You know, keys. To the shed. Anybody home upstairs?” Only cicada song filled the void. “Answer your elders, people will think you’re a sucker or something. Well, see you around, kid.” Strayhorn mock-saluted.

September Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Stagger Inn
GENRE: Women's Fiction

At Dawn's Early Light, Molly greeted the early morning customers, the wintry air still trapped in their coats. Dawn's was just a little restaurant squeezed into the first floor of a tall St. Louis office building. It was a hopelessly hokey place, its walls plastered with signs like Come In and Get Fed Up, and Customers who find Our Waitresses Rude Ought to See the Manager. Fake diner interior, everything tinged by the smell of fried eggs and hashed brown potatoes.

This was Molly's twenty-ninth job in the eleven years since she'd quit high school. And she was itchy again. Five months ago she'd worked at St. Louis's prestigious Chase Park Plaza serving elegant banquets, but she felt invisible there, dressed in black, instructed to be inconspicious. She walked off the job one night, before the dessert course, before she suffocated to death. She handed her apron to the maitre d'. "My name is Molly Russell," she said, "and I used to work here." She exited through the luxurious lobby instead of the mandated kitchen door, laughing. Despite her determination to settle down, her twitchy feet were always taking her someplace else.

Molly didn't actually witness Vinnie's unwelcome entrance into the restaurant that morning. She was taking an order from two nurses when he spun her around and forced her into a dance, loudly singing a snatch of Alice Cooper's lyrics, "I can't do right when all I want to do is wrong."

Customers stared, forks in midair.

September Secret Agent #27

GENRE: MG Fiction

Just as the morning star rose over Arezzo’s city wall, Bella jumped from her window into the back of the woolman’s cart.

She wriggled herself in between two firm sacks of wool, and pulled her knees up to her chin. It had been easy enough to leap out the window of Uncle’s house.

Had Papa passed as easily through heaven’s gate?

A tuft of wool tickled her nose and she sneezed. She held her breath.

Had the driver heard?

If he threw her off, she would never get to market and back before the bells rang for Terce. The cart slowed. Bella dared not breathe. The cart stopped. She pressed her hands over her mouth and nose, praying she wouldn’t be discovered.

The cart turned the corner and rumbled on.


The rush of Bella’s pent-up breath set stray wool fibers dancing. She caught them, rolled them into balls, and pelted the woolsacks until she stopped fizzling inside.

More carts rattled over the brick-paved streets and Bella sang under her breath. The third time through the Agnus Dei—backwards—she gave a soft bleat of amusement.
"Do all you woolsacks think I’m singing to you? Does every lamb think it’s the Lamb of God? Come, I’ll sing you a psalm.” She crooned three verses and stopped on the Paths of Righteousness.

Well before the Valley of Death.

September Secret Agent #26

GENRE: MG Contemporary

Harrison Templeton has a big fat head. Thankfully I sit right behind him. When I slouch, Mrs. Cooper, my seventh-period Language Arts Teacher, can't see a single hair on my entirely normal sized one.

My right knee taps in time with each second - thirty minutes to go. I've been waiting for-freaking-ever for the first day of baseball practice. This year, with my pitching arm, we might go all the way to the Little League World Series.

"Can anyone tell me from what point of view the Red Badge of Courage is written?" Mrs. Cooper asks, pacing in front of the white board wielding a dry erase marker like a bayonet.

Ugh. I'd rather eat moldy broccoli than read this book.

They should let us read something cool, like The Boy Who Saved Baseball or The Wild Pitch. Heck, I kind of even liked Holes. All this talk of themes and symbolism makes me want to poke my eye out with my number two pencil.

I duck out of her line of sight. She's going to call on someone to read out loud soon.

My eyes blur and I can smell the grass on the field as I wind up to pitch. "Strike!" the ump yells.

“Jake?” I snap my head forward as my heart hammers.

“What?” My voice comes out high, like a girl.

Next to me, Kyle Filbert snickers, his black hair flopping forward and covering one of his eyes like a pirate's eye patch. I shoot my arch-enemy a dirty look.

September Secret Agent #25

TITLE: Bloodbird
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Five minutes had to be a record for the shortest date of all time.

Bzzp. Bzzp.

The kill order came through at the exact moment the sommelier poured wine into the glass in front of me. Clearly my superiors delighted in choosing the most inopportune time to assign me a target.

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



I glared at my clutch, the insistent buzz emanating from it making my fingers itch to chuck it across the restaurant. All I wanted was a goddamn steak. Apparently that was too much to ask.

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

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

Several tuxedo clad servers whisked by carrying plates of sizzling steaks and butter drenched potatoes. My mouth watered and my stomach twisted.

Suppressing a groan, I pulled my phone out to read the incoming text message.


September Secret Agent #24


The young man's limp body is dead weight. His teammates in the pool struggle to hoist him up as two lifeguards reach down to drag him onto the pool deck. Late for my morning water aerobics class, I hesitate, unsure if I should stop.

The guards seem to be handling everything just fine. But maybe I should at least offer to lend a hand?

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

"We've called 9-1-1," replies one of the young guards.

“Does he have a pulse?” I ask.


Relieved that they have everything under control, I turn away to join my class, which is warming up at the other side of the pool. Suddenly I hear the swimmer’s breathing change to jagged retching. I pause and turn around.

"He sounds like he's going to vomit." I say. "If you're sure there's no chance he hurt his neck diving, turn him onto his side so that he doesn't choke."

The swim coach assures us that boy hasn't been diving, just swimming laps when he suddenly lost consciousness.

"Do you know if he has a seizure history?"

The young man looks like someone who's unresponsive following a seizure. If that's the case, all we need to do is keep his airway open until the paramedics arrive. In the ER where I work, this would be just another routine day. But I'm not in the ER with the support of my fellow nurses, doctors and the equipment I rely on - monitors, oxygen, and suction.

September Secret Agent #23

GENRE: Historical Women's Fiction

Evelyn Carmichael liked to dig her fingers deep into the penny candy bins at D’Antonio’s Sweet Shoppe. To feel the crinkle of the wrappers in her hands, the sweets filling her palms. The candy store was no bigger than the tailor shop or the Town Clerk’s office, but it was filled with every kind of sweet treat imaginable. Evelyn normally chose the candies with the liquid centers—the strawberry kind was her favorite—but every so often she bought anise or horehound and tried to trick her siblings into eating it. Evelyn was knuckle-deep in a mound of root beer barrels when she spotted Peter Mayes behind the register, pulling the crank handle with a satisfying ching! that clanged throughout the small store.

It was just Evelyn’s luck that she'd run into Peter on an afternoon when she’d forgotten to swipe a coat of red lipstick over her too-thin lips. Peter was a year older—a high schooler!—and a few weeks earlier he had leaned in to kiss her after they ducked behind the football concession stand. The smell of popcorn was thick in the humid air, and she felt sticky with sweat, as if she had been brushed with butter like the popped kernels. His mouth was damp and warm, like he’d just licked his lips. He tried to slide his hand up the front of her blouse. Evelyn stiffened and swatted his hand away. “No!” she’d said, too loud, and old Mr. Sweeney had stuck his head around the corner to see what the commotion was.

September Secret Agent #22

TITLE: Child of Moon and Sea
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

He walked the beach of a windswept island, miles away from human habitation, the place where his regrets lived. One of the few places left in the world where nature was pure, unpolluted. Years since he’d visited, but the landscape was the same. Interior forests growing from fertile volcanic soil, cliffs reaching to the sky filled with bird nests, open horizon.

A sound caught his attention and he saw a baby bird on the ground, flapping his wings. Covered with a mixture of soft grey down and sleek feathers, the chick was ungainly as it grew, sharp beak making it identifiable as an albatross. The bird thrust its wobbly neck forward and back, its body shaking. It fell to the ground and tried to stand again, its taloned feet helplessly scratching at the sand. It rolled, making a piteous choking sound.

He rushed forward and cradled the baby bird in cupped hands, but the baby’s eyes closed, the vulnerable neck hanging. Gently he set the baby bird down on the beach, arranging its limbs. Nature took the weakest. No emotion moved him; instead, he understood this law of survival. The mother would lay more eggs and they would be stronger, better suited for this world.

The island curved ahead and he followed the contour. The smell of carrion reached him first. Then the sight of the beach covered by the bodies of dead and dying chicks, all like the one he’d just left. Young enough to still be covered by down.

September Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Among the Red Stars
GENRE: YA Historical

The voice on the radio spat out a few intelligible words before melting back into static. "…Large crowd here, despite the gloomy weather. They are all looking up, hoping to catch the first glimpse of…"

"Pasha, you're messing it up," said Valya. The ink from a newspaper clipping was rubbing off on her palm.

Valya, Iskra, and Pasha sat on wobbly wooden chairs that had been pulled out into the middle of the apartment's sole room, their slippered feet tucked behind the chair legs. Valya was a tanned, trousered fifteen-year-old, mostly elbows and knees, with rubber band-fastened brown braids tumbling out from under a red scarf. Pasha was often taken for Valya's relative, even though he wasn't. Iskra, a few years older, was never taken for her relative, even though she was.

Pasha's parents occupied the two comfortable chairs, his mother mending a dress and his father smoking and reading the communist newspaper simply titled Pravda. His pigtailed sisters sat on their bed, playing with an amorphous, eyeless stuffed animal that they claimed was a dog.

"The clips on the coil are a little rusty, that's all," said Pasha, a boy with an awkwardly proportioned face that looked like it had been assembled out of the wrong pieces. He hopped off his chair and, crouching next to his precious radio, reached reached into its wire and wood innards, absentmindedly singing the folk song, "Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya."

"We're going to miss it," said Valya.

September Secret Agent #20

TITLE: Must Remember
GENRE: Adult Sci Fi/Fantasy with strong romantic elements

No. Wait. F***. 

I rolled onto my back. Damn it. I was late for class, again. And if anyone dared enter after the door closed, well, they were asking for mockery. I so didn’t need that today. Decisions, decisions. Not that there was much of a choice; I couldn’t miss any more calculus. I’d just have to suck it up.

With a sigh, I scrambled up, threw on some jeans and a white t-shirt.

Shoes, where were my shoes. Gah. I ducked and rooted around in the deep, dark spaces under my bed. Hmm, Sarah’s green dress I borrowed. Mental note: I need to return that. English book, various dust bunnies of uncertain lineage…there.

Sketchers on, I grabbed my backpack, turned up my Ipod, and ran out of the door. No time to primp.

Good thing the campus I lived on was tiny. There was a big central courtyard―the quad―filled with oak trees, picnic tables and wide-open spaces surrounded by school buildings and classrooms. If I hurried, I’d make it…

I raced into the quad out of breath, and tugged my headphones out of my ears.


I slowed and turned in a complete circle.

No one around.

Unease skittered through me on soft paws.

The courtyard was always busy.

Not now.

The unnatural silence pressed in on me for a second as the echoes of my steps faded.

Then screams―men's and women’s―poured from Main Street. I broke into a run and shot between the buildings toward the sound.

Cars littered the intersection.