Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Fricasee

Wow -- what a great turnout for our first NAME THAT GENRE!

Guessing/comments are now closed.  (In other words, if you post a guess at this point, it will not be included in the tally.)

ENTRANTS:  Please post your genres ASAP!  To do so, leave a comment beneath your entry.  (Note: if you are reading this in your email box, you will have to go to the actual blog site to leave your comment.  Please do not hit "reply" to the email.)

Thank you, everyone.  Some of you did A WHOLE LOT OF GUESSING AND FEEDBACK-LEAVING.  I want to personally acknowledge the following, each of whom took the time to respond to 25 or more entries:

Abbe Hoggen
Adam Heine
Chris Bailey
Emily Moore
HL Brixey
Jennifer Kay
Krystal Jane
Peggy Rothschild
Rachel Tell
Sarah Mawry Swan
Timothy Gwyn

The gift of your time for your fellow writers is noted and appreciated!

The top 10 entries will post this coming Wednesday, and you'll have the opportunity to leave critique.

Up next?  Our September Secret Agent Contest (last one of 2014!).  Details will post on Monday.  After that, it's all about the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction!

I've enjoyed the energy seeping through my screen from your involvement in this week's contest.  My father-in-law passed away on Tuesday morning, so things have felt pretty off.  (He was ill for a long time, so this was not a shock.)  Mr. A is navigating the emotional waters of having lost a parent, and I am trying to support him without really knowing how (this is our first parent loss).  Your ever-present enthusiasm and support for each other is a reminder of the vibrancy of life as it continues around us.

Thanks for that.  And have a wonderful (long!) weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014



Welcome to our first-ever NAME THAT GENRE round!

Here are the guidelines:


1.  First, GUESS THE GENRE.  Please be sure to write this FIRST in the comment box.
2.  Then, briefly mention why you feel the excerpt is this particular genre.
3.  There is no need to do a full critique on the entries!



It's obvious in the 2nd sentence that her husband is a cyborg, since she's reattaching his left leg.  Also she mentions she'll miss the transplanetary shuttle if she doesn't hurry.

Note:  If you can't guess, say so!


There is nothing in your opening paragraphs that gives me a sense of genre.  At first I thought it was historical, but then you mentioned a skateboard and something about a dragon, so...


1.  Yes, you may post guesses, too!
2.  IMPORTANT:  You must leave a comment ON YOUR OWN POST telling us what the genre is.  DO NOT DO THIS UNTIL THE GUESSING PERIOD HAS ENDED.  You will then have 24 hours to return to the blog and give us your answer.

IF YOU DON'T LET US KNOW WHAT THE GENRE IS, YOUR ENTRY WILL BE DISQUALIFIED.  I can't count winning guesses if I don't know what you've written!


The guessing window will close at NOON EDT ON FRIDAY.  Any guesses received after that time will not be counted toward the total.

Entrants, you will have until NOON EDT ON SATURDAY to let us know what your genre is.  I will post the 10 winners next Tuesday.

Have fun!

Name That Genre! #40

GENRE: Secret

I remember the end of the world very vividly. Not like, “Oh my God, Harper, Vivian Hall just told the entire class that you started your period in gym class,” teenager end of the world. I mean, the literal end of the world.

In old movies, this literal end of the world typically revolves around one of three specific scenarios.

One: Aliens invade our planet to take over our resources and show the galaxy that they’re the big kids on the playground.

Two: There is some crazy zombie epidemic that turns us all into flesh eaters who stumble around looking like lost tourists down in Times Square.

Three: An asteroid plummets towards the earth and, much to our dismay, Bruce Willis is unavailable to pull off his last minute save the world routine.

Instead, my literal end of the world starts with silence.

Name That Genre! #39

TITLE: Young Adult
GENRE: Secret

If I hadn’t felt with each prickling of my skin that the day was going to bring horrific things, I might have been fooled by how brightly the sun shined and the birds chirped. The cloudless sky and warm air with just a hint of coolness would’ve been ideal for a picnic with my family and Terrace.
I waved goodbye once I got back to the porch, watching dust kick up from the gravel road, as my family disappeared into the distance.

“Okay, there’s no time to waste.” Mysin said as he turned me around and nudged me back into the house. Taking my hand, he led me towards the kitchen.

Abbey hovered over the table, unfolding a large sheet of paper, hair cascading over her shoulder in a copper waterfall.

“Yasmine, draw the house with the forest around it.”

Name That Genre! #38

GENRE: Secret

Raisa was in her cherry tree. She stood on her favorite branch, which her mother could not see from the house. She wasn’t hiding, she was playing; she had her old doll to prove it. Jill was mountaineering today, the rough bark of the tree a rock face as she searched for valuable cargo lost on the remotest parts of the volcano. She was dressed in a set of coveralls Raisa had sewn for her two years ago. They were much more practical for adventuring than the absurd wedding dress that had been her original costume.

Raisa would come down when it was time for her midmorning lessons. Leaves hid the sky, so she could not tell if the sun had climbed halfway up the rings yet, but she could judge the time by the shadow of the tree on the courtyard. With any luck, mother would not give her a big lecture

Name That Genre! #37


You cannot kill magic, but if you capture it, you can use it as you please

— Old proverb

The dumpling-shaped man gripped the pages lightly in one fat, bejeweled hand and frowned. Despite its foxed edges, the paper’s thickness signaled its age, promising a good profit. Yet he wavered.

Across from him, perched on a high and narrow fencepost, the tall girl blinked, pretending that she hadn’t caught a whiff of his misgiving. “Take a good, long look. I brought them to you as I know you love a first-rate history,” she said.

As she spoke, the hot scent of frying lamb rinds cut through the chill in the air, and for a moment they both paused. “Snap ’em up! Frrreeesssh rinds!” hollered the high voice of a young boy from the marketplace below.

The man moved a hand involuntarily toward his belly, while the girl puckered her nose and drew in a hungry breath.

Name That Genre! #36


Simon didn’t like breaking the law, but exploring an abandoned theme park was just too exciting turn down.

To be fair, Simon hadn’t set out with the intentions of trespassing. He’d been at Mrs. Drew’s finishing his homework, when he’d run out of pages to read. Bored and with his elderly babysitter snoring in front of her TV, Simon went to leave a note saying he was going for a walk, as any good twelve-year-old should.

Something giggled from the kitchen shelf.

Simon jumped. Perched next to her black, plastic shoes, an ancient doll bobbled with laughter, her eyes faded and wide. Simon bolted halfway down the street before the screen door had a chance to creek shut.


“Owww.” Simon rubbed his forehead. He took a few steps back to get a better view of the paint-chipped “Welcome” sign. The bottom half, which faintly read “to Midway”, was covered with wild vines.

Name That Genre! #35


The tall blonde TV reporter drove down from Atlanta to stand in front of a glop of tar on the beach and tell the world that the Gulf of Mexico was closed.

Like official word made any difference. Fishing had already petered out. Folks were scared of catching a mackerel full of oil. I’d stashed away eight hundred and seventy-eight dollars from my fish-cleaning business, but that wasn’t near enough to buy the boat I had my eye on.

No job, and six weeks of summer left. Some of the charter boat captains got contracts laying oil boom to keep the floating crude off shore, but they weren’t hiring fifteen-year-olds.

When Captain Butler limped into the harbor on that old wood yacht and offered to pay me to help clean her up, I though my luck had changed. I didn’t suspect I could be aiding and abetting.

Name That Genre! #34

GENRE: Secret

Hushna had called her a bastard.

Anala's gouge bit into the spinning wood, throwing off a satisfying spray of dust. She reveled in the spicy aroma, ignoring the faint twinge of guilt she felt at being reckless enough to breathe it in. The low chatter of metal against wood soothed her heart in a way nothing else could and she needed that. Besides, nobody would care if she got sihr sick, and anyway it took years to accumulate that much sihr in the blood. She took another careful pass at the wand on the lathe, thinning the shaft to the long, convex shape that best suited casting. It was a shape her mother had shown her years ago, and Anala took pride in finding that shape in every wand she turned. The act of creating that simple beauty was like enfolding herself in her mother's arms.

She missed hugging her mother.

Name That Genre! #33

GENRE: Secret

It started on a Thursday. I sat at my usual table—under the window on the left side—at Borderland Elementary School. There I was, minding my own business, doing my best to choke down the thing the cooks tried to pass off as a chicken patty on a bun. The bun was like Styrofoam, and the patty—well, I wasn't sure what it was made of. But it didn't taste anything like chicken.

Across from me, my best friend, Abigail "Big" Wolf, picked through the salad her mom sent for lunch. "My mom hates me. It's official."

"Why?" I asked.

"This, my dear, Red." She snatched a handful of wilting baby spinach leaves out of her clear plastic bowl and plopped them onto the table. "Can you believe it? Not even any dressing to make it go down better. Wait. What's that? Can it be? Ah-ha!"

Name That Genre! #32

TITLE: Young Adult
GENRE: Secret

Stupid morning bells. Stupid, stupid morning bells. Kaiya cast a baleful glance at the grand iron banes of her existence as she trudged towards Chapel. The bells ignored her and continued to ring with a clarity that was unnecessary in the otherwise silent dawn. Next to her, Mollie made an impatient sound and pulled at Kai’s elbow, increasing their pace.

“Come on, Kai. I’m not going to get stuck with dishes for the next two weeks because you think it’s too difficult to get up like any regular faoii for chapel.”

Kaiya wrinkled her nose and yanked her arm away, making a face at her redheaded shield mate. It wasn’t too difficult, just unnecessary. The Goddess didn’t ask for your worship through words or songs. She cared about your love of justice and strength. She cared about the strength that came from being you. You didn’t have to worry about pleasing Her.

Name That Genre! #31


Note to self, always have a backup getaway car. The Volkswagen’s engine clicked dejectedly as Sara turned the key. It wouldn't start. The car was ten years old, and it had carried Sara through college, but today, when she needed it the most, nothing.

Rain drummed on the windshield and raced down the cracked paint. Sara scratched the back of her head. Her feet were soaked, and water seeped out of her shoes, darkening the carpet of the front seat. Her duffel bag grew heavier with each passing second. She thought she heard the whine of a siren in the distance, but it must have been her imagination. No humane policeman would blare a siren at three in the morning. Would they?

Sara pounded her fist against the leather steering wheel. She had relied on the car for years, but this was the first time she had used it in a heist.

Name That Genre! #30

GENRE: Surprise

I unlock my bedroom door with a hairpin and sneak out as soon as the hallway empties. Harp notes and laughter drift in the air from the night festivities downstairs. But that’s not where I’m heading. Mingling with the drunken nobility without my grandmother’s protection will only get me married to my cousin by morning.

Candlelight frames the door of Aryeea’s chamber, and I squeeze through the narrow opening to avoid announcing my presence with creaking hinges. Eyes closed and ocher hands folded over her chest, my grandmother seems at peace. She is only half the Baroness I knew in my childhood. But her dark hair is still as black as mine. Tribal blood pumps strong in our veins, no matter what we do to hide our descent.

As she lies, resting on a bed brought by my grandfather from across the sea, I try to believe Aryeea is dead.

Name That Genre! #29

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

Ling had been hunting dragons her entire life. Each dragon unique. How many had she hunted? Dozens? Hundreds? Maybe a thousand. Yes, at one time there were thousands of dragons, now perhaps a handful were left. At one time she hid from the dragons. Now they hid from her.

It had been years since she encountered a dragon. Her quarry sat a few feet away in the Ex Libris Cafe, radiating magic. Inexperience or overconfidence, she wasn’t sure which. He sipped some frothy espresso drink, blending in with the other college students perfectly. They always blended in. It was one of their talents. Well, it was also something Ling had mastered. She approached, confident the backpack and University of Chicago t-shirt were appropriate for the location.

“Hi, you’re in my physics class aren’t you?” She dropped her backpack on the floor and sat in the chair next to him.

Name That Genre! #28

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

“I always knew it would come to this,” came the voice, gravely and over dramatic.

“God,” I muttered, not quite under my breath, rolling my eyes while I continued with the knife slices.

“No, no really. Listen. I got it,” Mac continued excitedly. “When I began this journey, I could foresee the outcome long ago.”

“Really?” Seltzer called out from across the room. “A bit much for a doctor, don't you think?”

“You don't think they struggle with depression at all?”

"I don't know. Drug use, maybe. I never really thought about it. I suppose-"

"Will you two knock it off!" I yelled in frustration, my voice a bit louder then it should have been given the circumstances. "I'm working over here," I said, turning back to the job at hand.

"Sorry," came the synchronized muttering.

"We certainly didn't want to disturb the artist," said Mac, somewhat playfully.

Name That Genre! #27

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

“Great. I needed this like I needed a hole in the head,” Jordan groaned. Although given her present situation, probably not the best choice of words.

“Hey Princess! Are you deaf?” the demanding voice growled. But she simple sat there unmoved and continued to drink her double caff venti macchiato – or whatever the mortal called it.

Her cell went off with an incoming text. It read: D kindly requests your presence back at home.

Of course she does. Jordan sighed and stood up to leave. Grabbing her coat, she began to walk towards the door.

“I’m sorry, but am I interrupting something?” the brute snapped again, impatiently.

The cell dinged again and Jordan groaned. She lifted the phone and read: Immediately if not sooner!
With a deafening bang and a loud scream from everyone else in the restaurant, Jordan saw her impatient cell shot to pieces out of her hand.

Name That Genre! #26

GENRE: Secret

Dear Stacey,

Dad said I have to apologize, so here goes: I’m sorry about your Louboutins.

That’s a lie and we both know it. If you ever made anything besides reservations, you’d have found your shoe behind all those fancy olive oils you bought last year. How many olive oils did you think we needed? YOU ONLY EAT FAT FREE DRESSING. Anyway, it’s not my fault they spilled. This is Los Angeles. We have earthquakes.

I’m sorry Fariba threw it away, but I thought you’d find it first. You’ve poked through everything else, including my room after I told you to stay out, but did you listen? NO. If you ever go through my stuff again, I will hide more than your Louboutins. Do we understand each other? I’ll be in my room if anyone wants to come yell at me or RIFLE THROUGH MY BELONGINGS LIKE A STILETTO-HEELED SPY.


Westley Fagan, oppressed person.

Name That Genre! #25

TITLE: Middle Grade novel
GENRE: Secret

You can hear our voices

in the roars of beasts,

whispers of wings and wind

running through grass

and the leaves of trees.

From the mightiest to the least:

We are the voices of this island, speaking as one.

Listen close and listen well -

time has a way of unraveling stories, turning them to shreds.

Story land witches ride broomsticks to the moon.

Everyone has forgotten that real Witches have wills of steel

that can grind every soul to sand beneath their heels.

No one wanted the Witch to come.

Yet she did as she pleased

and here we sit,

turned us to stone,

unable to flee.

But the memory of what we were is alive,

humming and thrumming

where our hearts used to be.

Now we can only wait -

For someone who can see more than these hollowed out husks,

someone who can see life is still burning deep inside of us.

Name That Genre! #24


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.

Name That Genre! #23

TITLE: Middle Grade
GENRE: Secret

Just as the excitement of riding a new horse bubbles up in my chest, Grandpa’s comment slaps the fun right out of me.

I shut the truck door and pat my sister’s arm when she slides over to take my spot by the window, “Good luck finding a dance studio, Jen.”

With a nod and a smile, I say, “Thanks for the ride, Grandpa. I’ll just walk back to the farm when I’m done.”

That’s when he zings me with his warning, “Have a good time, Emily, but don’t get attached to this horse. He’s got four white hooves.”

I want to ask him what he means, but he’s already put his truck in gear. Way to dash my hopes, Grandpa.

He smiles at the frown on my face. “Don’t fret, we’ll find you the right horse.”

Goodbye Clyde mean old lesson horse. I’ll learn on my own horse.

Name That Genre! #22

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

The revolving doors kept spinning, taking people into the terminal or spitting them out into harsh sunlight. Brad straddled his bags and watched people hurry past while, thirty feet away, Dean paced back and forth on a broad slab of cement. Dean’s voice cut through the distant jet engines and passing cabs as he talked on his cellular phone. With his eyes, Dean directed Brad toward the ramp leading to SFO arrivals. A black Range Rover with tinted windows and glistening rims rounded the corner.

Dean nodded, seemingly seeking rare approval.

Apparently this is what we’ve been waiting for, Brad thought as he eyed the approaching SUV—the low profile tires all wrong for jeep trails with deep ruts and jagged rocks. They hadn’t even pulled into the campground yet. Everyone will think we’re total a*******. Brad crossed his arms over his chest.

Dean covered the receiver and shouted, “First class all the way.”

Name That Genre! #21


Dammit! Mabel swore silently as she stepped off the plane and realized that she was sharing her skull again. I thought maybe I’d lost it somewhere over the Pacific.

She spent a moment working through a sense of panic that wasn’t entirely hers. She’d hoped that once she got this far, it would stop pestering her and just let her make a vacation out of this forced march instead.

She looked around for a shuttle to take her to a local hotel, and started toward the advertised “Airporter,” but an involuntary locking of limbs brought her up short. Another of those mental nudges she’d tried so valiantly to ignore over the past couple of weeks finally pushed her out of the terminal toward the rental car counters, and she heaved a sigh. Apparently it wouldn’t allow her to stay here in Hobart, either. Insistent little miscreant, aren’t you?

Name That Genre! #20


Grace stubbed out her cigarette in the sink, and ran water over the crushed Newport before grinding the butt in the garbage disposal. She shined a Maglite into the disposal to make sure the damn thing was gone, then lit a fresh Newport and retreated to her computer.

A few mouse clicks later and Grace was studying the take-out menus from eateries near her office. Three Rivers Deli was the closest—but their corned beef was lousy, and the company had excellent encryption on their host server. Gyro Circus was an easy target, but not many people from her office ate there. Her plan required a large audience.

Grace took a long drag from the Newport, and scanned the system programming code for the Daniel Island Café. “Gotcha,” she said. “You guys should put as much time into your firewalls as you do your crepe-of-the-day.”

Name That Genre! #19


I first spotted him as I stood at the top of the ballroom’s sweeping stairs; his luminosity, perfectly tousled brown hair, and chiseled features drew the light from everyone around him. The breath left my lungs like I had been punched in the gut, and I tried to steady myself from this emotional tsunami.

It seemed impossible to tear my eyes away, but my dad’s aide interrupted my reverie by speaking.

“Ready, Mr. Secretary?”

My father nodded and gave a thumbs-up. “Born ready, Sam.” Dad let out his trademark guffaw, beaming as he began his descent down the marble stairs to the ballroom below, strutting in his custom-made designer tuxedo and Italian shoes. Music boomed from the speakers hidden around the room while lights glistened off the women’s fancy dress gowns.

Carefully, I straightened my tie and trained my eyes away from that spot below where I knew he had last been standing.

Name That Genre! #18

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

It was a perfect night to bury a body.

The man in the slicker walked stooped over, his breathing labored and his body was soaked in sweat. The weight he carried, though not substantial, was awkwardly draped over one mammoth shoulder. The rain had shriveled to a heavy mist and the sky was beginning to lighten. It had rained all afternoon. At times soft, then drizzly—and at one time it was vicious, as it bombarded the trees and leaf-covered ground.

It was never easy carrying a lifeless body through the woods in the middle of the night, especially when the terrain was so uneven, but Bart was in superb shape at six-foot four and weighing a hefty two hundred and fifty pounds. A cocky confidence guided each of his steps and the Austrian nine-millimeter Glock he carried was certain security.

Twisting his ankle en-route was unexpected of course, but . . . . . . . . .

Name That Genre! #17

GENRE: Secret

Lily Evans never really believed in wishes.

But that didn’t mean that she and Luke, her twin brother who was older by 20 minutes, wouldn’t attend a friend’s birthday party—where wishes of the highest hopes were made when the lucky girl or boy blew out the candles on the cake.

Besides, this gave them the chance to scope out ideas for their own birthday party, due to happen in a month on the third weekend in June.

Even as Lily watched the old magician pull a second fluffy white rabbit out of his top hat, she knew Mai Tanaka’s 13th birthday party would be the same as all the other ones.

Pink and purple balloons and streamers prettied up the drab concrete basement, and nearly 30 kids sat on all kinds of chairs—plastic ones, wooden ones and a few piles of cushions.

Name That Genre! #16

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

I couldn't take another night of this. Stuck in this cheap-a** hotel room, listening in on the galaxy's latest in WMD technology.

The stench of ozone thickened in the hallway outside my room, burning my nostrils. Followed by the smell of deep-fried tofu and the light footsteps of someone trained to move silently. They weren't succeeding. But then, I had excellent hearing.

Had I f***** up that bad already? Of course if they were here to terminate me, they hadn't gotten the memo. I was immune to poison.

I placed a mini holo projector on the desk to hide the scattering of equipment that connected me to Buki Technologies' and Bogu Enterprises' communications networks and the minivid player that stored all the data I had collected on the development of House Aquarius' newest weapon of mass destruction.

Name That Genre! #15

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

I hate boys’ games.

“Run!” I yell to Pam. “They’re right behind you.”

She dodges the boys, races past Mommy’s vegetable garden, and heads toward the maple tree in her backyard. If she touches the trunk, we win, and the boys will finally have to keep their promise to play house with us.

I kneel behind the shrub. My side aches with each deep breath. Using the hem of my shirt, I wipe sweat off my forehead.

Steve sneaks behind Pam and drops the hula-hoop lasso over her head. She kicks and screams as her brother drags her to the cave, the cinderblock barbeque pit in my backyard, and rolls a pretend stone in front of the cave door.

Pam beats on the rock. “I can’t escape. They’re going to eat me.”

Hula-hoop in hand, Steve turns toward my hiding place. “I’m coming to get you.”

“No!” I race toward the tree.

Name That Genre! #14


This wasn’t Brae’s first time stealing. Quite the opposite. Her mother called her a born thief.

Born into a rogue clan of thieves, she had learned from the time she was very young. Her father had encouraged this talent with praise and training. Her mother encouraged it with cold critiques and high expectations.

She’d stolen all sorts of things. Weapons, clothes, supplies, coins, food. She could steal in the dark of night and in the light of day. Missions had been carried out in the calmest of weather and during thunderstorms where she could barely see in front of her. Brae was able to get out of any tough situation, and never got caught.

She enjoyed stealing. She enjoyed the planning, the perfect execution, and the adrenaline rush. She liked to feel competent and strong. What she hated, though, was stealing with a partner. She preferred to work alone.

Name That Genre! #13

GENRE: Secret

Dev Nair didn’t trust the talking chair. Not just because it was located in what had to be the grimiest toilet in Keshablanca, though that fact did not help its cause. It wasn’t the way the thing spoke, in the softly deranged tones of a children’s show host. It wasn’t even the way it waved around one of the many arms attached to its plastic frame, waggling a complement of syringes like jazz fingers.

On second thought, it was probably all of those things.

“Gangrene selected,” the chair cooed. “Please insert limb into the MediChair patented Safe Hands cuff for evaluation!”

Dev took a step back. This med unit hadn’t been right since Nacio “No Mas” Machado had punched it right in the central processor. Normally, he’d have steered clear of it. But his last opponent, a man who clearly hadn't seen the inside of a sanitation stall in months, had bled all over him.

Name That Genre! #12


Thirteen-year-old Kurtis heard his heartbeat for the first time. Not the sound of his withered lungs choking on his breathes. Not the sound of death. Life, that’s what he heard pounding from his flesh, and it was a nice change. Nice enough for him to smile for a second. He stood on the rooftop, under an ocean of red stars as his heartbeats tapped against his chest like somebody knocking on a door. Like somebody wanted to get in. Or get out. And that’s when Kurtis remembered something. An important thought dropped into his head.

Happy endings were gone.

All of them.


Kurtis remembered they were extinct in his world, a planet called Serius. His dad had warned him about it right before he dumped the boy off at the HOME.

A nuthouse for kids.

But that wasn’t as bad for Kurtis as having a girl inside his head.

Name That Genre! #11


“Target sighted. White male, late thirties, armed. Knack unknown. Three hostages, one female, two male. Female hostage currently at gunpoint.”

That's what I should have said. I should have been speaking calmly and clearly into the wireless transmitter embedded in my ballistic helmet, to relay those facts to command once I had some kind of visual confirmation. Instead, I felt damn near helpless. Shaky breath rattling my chest, while I tried to to steady the pistol in my right hand. I kept the gun pointed toward the sky, just in case, with the safety still on. It's not like I could bungle these situations so badly that I'd accidentally trip and shoot myself in the foot. I hoped.

Still, this was the last place I wanted to be, especially alone. My hair was already a sweaty tangle under the helmet, and the short ponytail that stuck out from beneath it…

Name That Genre! #10

GENRE: Secret

I bounced down the stairs to my thirteenth birthday dinner with optimisim radiating from the depths of my soul. Or at least what I thought was my soul. It was going to be a good year, I was certain of it. This was the year I would be a brace-face no more, and I was sure it would be the year my unruly hair would decide to cooperate. (I was praying the flat-iron I requested for my birthday would be sitting on the dining room table.)

"Happy Birthday!" Mom said.

"Thanks," I smiled.

Lingering at the dining room table, I studied my presents, looking for a long rectangular box that would be sure to hold my greatest desire. Winter crashed into the chair on the other side of the table rolling her eyes at me. I looked my younger sister over and decided I would be nice to her tonight.

Name That Genre! #9

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

Karen wondered if she was starting to slip. That's the thing about being crazy. You don't know if you're sliding into the hell of another episode, or if you're just having a bad day. Which this was shaping up to be. She knew the meeting was important to her husband, Tom. She'd tried to put on a positive attitude.

They walked past the final two shops, the dry cleaner and the pet store. Karen checked her reflection in their windows. At least the makeup looks good, she thought.

Tom glanced over. "Honey, Pastor Jason will get us over this rough patch. He helps lots of people; the Henrys are happy, just like the Lindners."

The Henrys were so happy they scared Karen. Marge Lindner was fooling around with some teacher at the junior college; everyone in town knew except Pastor, Tom, and Mr. Lindner.

They arrived at their destination, and Karen rang the doorbell.

Name That Genre! #8


Bryssa gripped the rope, heavy and slippery from rain, as the bucket caught against the mossy stones ringing the well. Lightning pierced the heart of the night sky with a ragged bolt, and the girl winced and drew the fingers of her left hand in a circle over her heart before tugging again with all her strength. Her arms ached.

From the stables, Mistress Elwynn called. “Child! Hurry!”

“I'm....trying,” came the muttered response, teeth clenched. “And I'm not a child. Almost sixteen,” Bryssa added for good measure when the bucket, brim with shimmering water, came into view. She heaved once more, steadied the wooden vessel upon the well's stone wall, and poured the sacred water into the pewter pitcher.

Dashing toward the yard--the grass sodden and slick beneath her bare feet--Bryssa took care not to falter upon the muddy entryway to the stable, the pitcher in careful balance.

Name That Genre! #7

GENRE: Secret



The orphan flicked a lit match into the fireplace, setting ablaze her 49th tarot card and all remnants of her old alias. The clock struck midnight and her Erin identity ceased to exist. January first, her birthday. Once again she turned eighteen, but today she became Kaity.

There’s an infinite number of experiences on this crowded planet while tarot trading, and no better way to set up the perfect con or the perfect revenge. This year she’d do both.



The wind blew a napkin off the table, but the blond in the pink angora sweater didn’t notice. Designer sunglasses buffered her from the masses. Her glamour captivated the crowded sidewalk cafe as she ate breakfast alone. Regular patrons had attempted to strike up conversations, but none ever learned more than her first name: Kaity.

Name That Genre! #6


A clamor of rooks exploded through the trees, nearly drowning out the woman’s scream.

Morgan’ head jerked up, his mouth quirking into a grim smile. At last! Trouble. It had been a boring patrol thus far. He put his heels to Arnicus’ flanks and the big grey gelding quickened its pace along the narrow trail. The raucous calls of the birds faded as they flapped off. A watchful silence overtook the woods, broken only by the thud of Arnicus’ hooves on the summer-dry earth.

Morgan scanned the undergrowth for the source of that cry. There was no good reason why a lady, screaming or otherwise, should be in the middle of the King’s forest. But whatever the reason, he had to find her. Help her, if possible. Avenge her, if not. He’d never been one to shy away from trouble. No soldier was, or he didn’t remain a solider for long.

Name That Genre! #5

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

The only moment Harrison felt he didn’t know his grandfather was as the man lay dying, turned on one side to ease his last breaths. It was past midnight in the small farmhouse just outside Wilmington, Illinois, and Harrison had taken what everyone expected was the last shift of watching John Ulysses Miller as he died from old age and failing lungs.

“Harrison,” his grandfather told him, “I need you to hold onto this.” He pressed into his grandson’s palm the ring he’d worn for as long as anyone could remember: a broad silver ring with a bright blue stone. The stone’s facets shimmered in the light from the oil lamp that stood vigil at the bedside, burning now for six days straight.

“What’s so special about it?” Harrison asked, but his grandfather shook his head, as always.

“You don’t need to know. Just keep it safe. A young woman, Katie, will come for it."

Name That Genre! #4

GENRE: Secret

There’s no glamor in vomit. I should know. I spend half my days up to my elbows in it. Today is no different. Our patient is Tommy, a seven-year-old boy with a nasty case of stomach flu. I’m quite certain Mother Superior saves all of the messy ones for me. She’s probably sipping tea at the bedside of some duchess with the sniffles, while I’m in the middle of Thornham attempting to pick regurgitated corn out of my laces.

With a grumble, I turn on the kitchen tap. Sister Bernadette is supposed to be helping me. Actually, I am supposed to be helping her, but she’s busy “resting her eyes” which is Sister-Bernadette-speak for “snoring on the settee”. I don’t know why they call me a nurse’s aide when I do all the work she is meant to do.

Name That Genre! #3

GENRE: Secret

I was not about to step aside for Kaptan Berker.

His gaze on the front of the room, the middle-caste barge master smoothed his greasy hair and sniffed like I was a fool for not reacting to his general magnificence. The many bells on my headscarf jingled as I shook my head. Magnificent belly maybe. He didn’t run a full ship. Just a barge. My back to the man, I leaned against the floor-to-ceiling elephant tusk that marked the license line’s half-way point.

The light from the window’s pointed arches had gone from morning’s white to noon’s yellow as I’d waited behind middle-caste merchants and low-caste sailors like myself. Only now could I stretch my neck and glimpse the bearded men and steely-eyed women whose seal rings would allow me to continue shipping small loads of grain and poor passengers across the sharp waters of The Pass.

Name That Genre! #2

TITLE: Adult
GENRE: Secret

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 the 2004 Dravern Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon into the glass in front of me. I hadn’t even tasted the award-winning vintage yet. 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."

Name That Genre! #1


The boat approached from the west. Lelya watched as it drifted across the water in the dark of a new moon. Tonight was the eve of the first cycle; new students always arrived the day after the summer harvest. The Abled students aboard made up the Nu class. Tomorrow they would begin their thirteen-year training at the Academy on the island of Koliada.

Attending the Academy wasn’t so much a privilege as a sentence from society. Abled children were feared by society. During the familiar inquisition, the Sapient had decided that the Abled were a danger to the rest of Maran kind. There had always been precautions taken with those gifted with magic, but following the brutality of the inquisition it was not safe for caster students to be in the mainstream.

It was tradition for the boat to arrive at night; it was symbolic of the lunar source of their power.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Winners for Name That Genre!

Winning numbers have been drawn for Name That Genre! 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:
  • 0HVLFFN5 as ENTRY #1

  • UW2NGZD8 as ENTRY #2

  • MIOOPI7X as ENTRY #3

  • 09AOUBMD as ENTRY #4

  • LV8TAAKD as ENTRY #5

  • W08YJ1U4 as ENTRY #6

  • A6NZRTE7 as ENTRY #7

  • 6F8UBLMH as ENTRY #8

  • TZTT0XB5 as ENTRY #9

  • 2KQT82BR as ENTRY #10

  • D1X9YODZ as ENTRY #11



  • 35Z5VXFW as ENTRY #14

  • P3LOAZF9 as ENTRY #15

  • Q7N3YWOG as ENTRY #16


  • LLOZ42DI as ENTRY #18


  • WXTM4KYE as ENTRY #20

  • IB1L37DL as ENTRY #21

  • BMX6CJL3 as ENTRY #22

  • 8G6VDR0K as ENTRY #23

  • 4XGTJMBB as ENTRY #24

  • EH81UJ7T as ENTRY #25

  • 8YK45YOS as ENTRY #26

  • MURZ8PRZ as ENTRY #27


  • 44M1UZYG as ENTRY #29

  • I8MZF0H1 as ENTRY #30

  • Y0BT4LHA as ENTRY #31

  • I90H08YW as ENTRY #32


  • 2QPDILTJ as ENTRY #34

  • LLO9GKEX as ENTRY #35

  • RSZJL5XW as ENTRY #36

  • KBRSQ5O1 as ENTRY #37

  • XH25RS6Z as ENTRY #38

  • 6MJA84D1 as ENTRY #39

  • 7LM09RXP as ENTRY #40
The alternates are:

  • EV7T4KYX as ENTRY #ALT-1


NAME THAT GENRE: Submissions Today!

8:00 am to 5:00 pm EDT!

Submission guidelines HERE.

Good luck!

Monday, August 25, 2014

New Critique Contest: NAME THAT GENRE

Let's mix things up a bit!

Worldbuilding is a beautiful and difficult thing.  In order to create a solid, believable setting for our stories, we need to do our due diligence before we begin weaving the tale.  And once we bring those words to the paper, they must be infused with the world we've created, so that our readers are drawn in and stay in our stories--right from the opening pages.

So I've created this contest as a way for you to take the pulse of your worldbuilding.  Here's the challenge:


Think about it.  Settings can be created with the most subtle touch.  A mention of 3 moons in the night sky screams science fiction.  A woman spilling coffee on her blouse while waiting to meet the handsome new lawyer in the firm strongly suggests women's fiction.  Pa coming in from the fields because it's begun to hail hints that we're probably in 19th-century America.

Do your first 150 words paint the picture?  Want to find out?


1.  Use the web form to submit your first 150 words.  IMPORTANT:  Under "TITLE", ONLY LEAVE THE CATEGORY.  That means ADULT, NA, YA, or MG.  NO TITLE!  Under "GENRE", TYPE "SECRET".


3.  All genres are welcomed EXCEPT erotica or erotic romance.

4.  Submission will open at 8:00 am EDT time TOMORROW (Tuesday, August 26) and will close at 5:00 pm EDT.

5.  THIS WILL BE A LOTTERY.  The Bot will choose 40 entries to post on the blog.

6.  Winning entries will post on Wednesday, August 27.


1.  The first line of your feedback should be YOUR GENRE GUESS.  After you guess, you can leave any additional comments that you think may be helpful.  NOTE:  These comments should focus on THE WORLDBUILDING/SETTING OF EACH EXCERPT.   Full-blown critiques ARE NOT NECESSARY.

2.  Feedback/guessing may continue through the weekend.  THE TEN ENTRIES WITH THE MOST CORRECT GUESSES will be invited to submit their first 300 words for public critique on the blog (next week).

Questions?  Post them below!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Fricassee

Hello, Friday!

Something amazing happened last night, and Mr. A gets the credit.

(Well, doesn't that sound all spicy?)

You know I'm on a self-imposed writing break.  You know--because I bleed my heart all over this blog--how deeply necessary this hiatus has been.

And yet, as my second week of non-writing dragged on, I wasn't filling my time with Good Things.  I was despairing.  Drowning in a dearth of creativity.  Crying too easily because I felt empty.

Seriously, Non-Writing Me!  What's with that?  I am not the high artiste type.  Not the woe-is-me-I-am-dying-internally-because-I'm-not-wordcrafting type.  Really, I'm not.  Writing does infuse me with life--but so does any creative pursuit.

Because I was created to create.  And that is where, for me, life and joy exist.

In the midst of my difficult week, the seeds of a story came to life in the dust of my dormant brain--a retelling, of all things.  (I have never been tempted to do a retelling before.  But this one...oh, this one!)  And last night, accompanied by a glass of Chardonnay and soft guitar music, I sat with my husband and brainstormed.

It was tremendous.

For whatever reason, Mr. A has captured the vision of this story with me.  (Oh, yes.  He was created to create, too.  It's one of our strongest bonds.)  And when I skipped ballet in order to spend creative time with him, he was happy to oblige.  In fact, he'd already offered more than once to sit down with me and play around with this story idea.

How can a gal say no to that?

So it was fairly magical, tossing around characters and plot ideas and setting and romance and all the good things with the love of my life.  And this morning, I am fresh and alive again.

Here's the thing--I'm still on hiatus.  In order for this to truly work, it needs to feel like child's play for a while.  I need to sift my fingers through the sand without building a castle.  Yet.

I'll know when I'm ready to write this thing.  Right now, it's refreshing and restoring me.  I'm not going to push myself to start that beat sheet.  But I am going to immerse myself in the joy of finding this story's heart.  And this is new ground for me--I'm not a lover of the planning stage.  I need productivity--word count--a completed manuscript that I can rip into and revise.

But that's not what my spirit needs right now.  And thanks to Mr. A, I've discovered exactly what I do need.

I need this story to dance in my head and take shape in its own time.  I need to allow myself to live in the seven-year-old-me realm, where stories float to the surface and I stir them with my fingertip, watching them grow.  No pressure.  No deadline.  No ROI or marketing plan.

Just pure creativity.  Pure story.

Pure bliss.

Thank you, Mr. A, for helping me find my lost self.

And thank you, dear readers, for taking this journey with me.

May your creative spirits find equal refreshment!  I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Baker's Dozen: On Hard-to-Sell Genres

This question was posed yesterday:

Would it be not a very good idea to enter the contest with a YA dystopian because of market saturation? I know agents are shying away from it in general, and I imagine that would impact your and Jodi's choices, too.

I took the question directly to our auction agents, and here is the consensus:

Yes, dystopian is a (very) hard sell.  Yes, your dystopian will need to float miles above the rest to get someone to sniff in its general direction.


Why?  Because you never know.  And this puts the onus on Jodi and me to do the culling.  (Oh, the pressure!)  So, yes, we are going to be super picky about dystopian entries.  (I told the agents that we'll only choose one if it makes us both faint...)

And oh, this is painful.  Because dystopian is my true love.  You know this.

Anyway, this applies to any genre that happens to be a hard sell right now.  ENTER IT ANYWAY.  Jodi and I will make the calls.


Monday, August 18, 2014


This will be our FIFTH BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION (and probably our last)!  Here's everything you need to know for now:


October 28 and 30 -- Adult fiction (all genres except erotica and erotic romance)

November 4 and 6 -- Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction (all genres)


Now, there will be lots of other dates nestled in there as well, such as our logline critique rounds (3 of them), winner notification dates, and so on.  But the above dates are THE BIG ONES.  So mark your calendars!


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.

There is a $15 entry fee.  (Note: this is an increase from the last couple of years.)  Please understand that this is the only MSFV event with an entry fee--because it is, hands down, the most time-intensive to plan, set up, and run.

Amazingly, we've got 19 AGENTS SIGNED UP for this year's auction!  This is an all-time record, and assures us of a high level of professional competitiveness and behind-the-scenes trash talking (my favorite part).  Hooray for excited agents!

Spread the word! Take a moment to share this link on your blog.  Or swipe the info and include a link back here.  The bidding is always fast and furious (I seriously have to clear my calendar that morning); too much fun to risk missing.

If you're new to the Baker's Dozen, you can learn more by perusing past contests.  Just click on the "Baker's Dozen" tag in the archives (on the side bar).

Oh, and now's your chance to ask questions and get generally chatty in the comment box.  No question is too stupid (well, unless 5 people have already asked the same thing, in which case it's a matter of YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION), so ask away.

Oh, and if you're asking about NA?  So far, at least one of our participating agents is accepting it, so all NA authors are invited to submit to the ADULT ROUND, with NA included in your genre designation.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Fricassee

Hello, all!

It's hard to believe that the Baker's Dozen Frenzy-ness is stirring up already.  I've had a FABULOUS response from the agents this week (Seriously! Best response ever!), and I'll be posting the Very First Baker's Dozen Informational Post next week.

Really!  Next week!  Tell your friends.

So, last Friday I announced that I was taking a writing hiatus.  I'm pleased to report that I've survived my first non-writing week.

It's funny how we forget what non-writing life feels like.  When we write, it's woven through the fabric of everything our days bring.  We plot in the shower, think through dialogue while we're driving to work, snap up twenty minutes here and forty minutes there to squeeze in a few hundred extra words, fashion the rest of our day around our sacred Writing Time.  And when all of that is gone, well, there are a lot of holes.

A. Lot. Of. Holes.

(But, hey.  At least they're not plot holes.)

Here are some highlights from my week:


In fact, on Tuesday I took 2 classes--one in the morning and one at night, with the rest of the day sandwiched between.  During the evening class, we had several brand new students, and my teacher asked me--ME--to lead the line from the corner when it was time to do chasés across the floor, so they could watch me go first.  YOU DON'T KNOW HOW UTTERLY WEIRD THIS MOMENT WAS.  Yet it filled me with a tremendous sense of self-confidence, and I didn't balk.  What makes this all the more satisfying is that chasés have been my nemesis for months.  I've overthought them to the point where I haven't been able to do them properly.  Yet there I was, leading the class across the floor.

On Thursday evening, only 2 of us showed up for class, so our teacher decided to lean toward "intermediate" (instead of "beginner"), to get us ready to move up to the next level.  It was amazing being pushed to do all those wonderful new things, with so much attention from the teacher.  Yeah, I made a lot of mistakes.  But it didn't matter, because I WAS BEING ENCOURAGED TO PUSH BEYOND MY LIMITATIONS.  And it was exhilarating.


Wednesday is a weird day of the week to have a special date, but my sweetheart and I managed to squeak out a wonderful sushi dinner to celebrate each other.  And I'll admit it felt nice to not have to angst about not having gotten X amount of work done that day (I am so horrible about feeling like I can't let go and have fun if I didn't have a productive writing day).  And Mr. A didn't ask, "So, how was writing today?"  (Oh, blessed relief!  For both of us!)  AND the sushi was fabulous.  I could subsist on sushi and chocolate.  With Chardonnay.


I deep-cleaned my closet.  Unclogged my clogged-for-months bathroom sink.  Mended a dress.  In short, I looked away from my laptop at the little world around me, and engaged.

It's not that I never accomplish anything else when I'm writing--I do.  But writing trumps ALMOST EVERYTHING when I'm elbow-deep in a project.  And with nothing to trump them, other tasks rose to the surface and grabbed my attention.  (Imagine that.)

Mind you, the week hasn't been all happy fairies and cupcakes.  Sometimes I cried.  Sometimes I stared out the window and felt completely empty.  Sometimes I asked God what it is, exactly, that I'm supposed to be doing with my life.

You know.  Those moments.

But overall?  I've had a tremendous week.  And I'm so thankful (if not a tad surprised).

Admittedly, one of my writerly friends is going through the same thing right now (voluntary hiatus), and having someone to walk through this with has helped a lot.  She cries sometimes, too.  She's filling her days with surprising Other Things, too.  Strangest part?  We made the decision ON THE SAME DAY to take a writing hiatus--and we weren't aware that the other had done so.  If that isn't serendipity at its finest, I don't what is.

Okay.  That's my check-in.  What about you?  How do you readjust your life when you take a writing break?  How do things feel different for you during those times?  And--most importantly, perhaps--how did you find your way back to writing?

Do share.  More than ever, I need to reach into the void and find your voices waiting there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another Success Story!

Funny how these stories tend to arrive in small clusters.  Here's another one, straight from the author's fingers:

When I originally submitted the first few lines to your site for the Are You Hooked? entry, it wasn't just the first few lines. Those were the ONLY lines I had written. (Yeah, I know, bad author.) I had just gone through a round of over a hundred rejections for my first novel, a fantasy that was doomed thanks to all my own rookie mistakes. So, as a way to lick my own wounds, I decided to try my hand at something a little younger. Something for the kiddos. And I wrote it up and sent it in. Then, thanks to the feedback I got in the comments, I decided to keep on writing.

Just a few weeks after this, you contacted me to let me know that an agent was actually interested in my book. Say what?!?? I hadn't even queried anybody, in fact, the book wasn't even ready yet. Jeepers, those must have been some very catching first few lines! (TBH, the very first line of the book is almost the only thing that has stayed intact from that day until now.) So I feverishly finished the book and sent it to my critique partners. Meanwhile, I attended an online writing conference, WriteOnCon, and decided to get even more feedback on the book, so I submitted basically the same opener I'd put up on your site over there.

And, low and behold, more agents contacted me. Now, armed with the confidence I got from my experience, I started going back and forth with a few of them, and eventually decided to sign with Marietta B. Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. After several more revisions and many months of sending it to editors, we finally got an offer from David Gale at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Now, The Troubles of Johnny Cannon will publish on October 14, just a couple of months away! And it all started because of the feedback I got on your site.

So, thank you!

Isaiah Campbell

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Fricassee

My dearests!

So we're deep into August, and the summertime is swooshing by.  Soon (and very soon!) we're going to be in the throes of BAKER'S DOZEN PREP.  Which is incredibly hard to believe, yes?

Keep your eye on the blog for EARLY INFO on the Baker's Dozen.  And start polishing your loglines!

As for me--I'm taking a writing hiatus.  Not a blogging hiatus, mind you; I'll still be here.  But I've got a substantial amount of editing (for Authoress Edits) lined up for the rest of this month, and, well, also I simply need a break.

I mean, really.  And for the first time, I am allowing myself to do this without keeping a pinky finger on my keyboard.  (You all know what I mean.  Right?)

I'm drained.  It's a long journey, and my water bottle has run dry.  I've just finished an emotionally difficult revision, and I'm not sure what to do next.  So I'm putting it all aside.

Probably this is my smartest move in a long time.  At least, I hope so!  And yes, I know--many of you have counseled me before in the wisdom of taking a break.  Thing is, I was never really quite able to do it.  That whole oh-my-gosh-my-day-isn't-complete-unless-I've-written something kicks in pretty strongly most days.

I guess I've hit my breaking point.

I hope I find my reentry point, too.

Because...I'm a writer.  And I've got to keep doing what I love.

So.  There it is.  You've got my back, right?

You know what's going to happen next.  I'm going to wake up in the middle of the night with an AMAZING story idea, and...

Yeah.  That's how it goes.  Isn't BEING A STORYTELLER such a wonderful thing?  I love it--I really do.

Have a good weekend, my lovelies!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

ARE YOU HOOKED? Critiquing Guidelines

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.

Are You Hooked? #ALT-1

GENRE: New Adult Romance

Lindsay’s measurements were even more impressive than quite a number of A-list celebrities. Or so she said. Not the celebrities in the boring movies, she assured me. Her measurements were up there with the bimbos who’d started out in cheesy videos and then turn up as the romantic lead in adventure blockbusters starring craggy but weirdly youthful movies stars left over from the eighties.

Today Lindsay wasn’t quite so satisfied.

“I look like s*** in this crap,” she said.

She smoothed the expensive Patagonia top-layer shell coat over her waist, trying to create darts where no darts existed. “I look like the Michelin Man. This would fit, like, anyone.”

She was right that the gear did not exactly delineate her perfect hip-to-waist ratio, though it didn’t come any smaller.

I spent my adolescence listening to metal-mouthed middle school boys call me a whale or bark at me at my locker. Even after I’d reached real adulthood and ditched almost all that extra weight, I got nervous every time I glanced in the mirror. My own reflection still felt like a Halloween costume, like a Cinderella spell that surely would disappear at midnight. Or worse, in a dressing room, trying on swim suits.

And that made it a whole lot harder to listen yet again to skinny, perfect Lindsay complaining while she stared at herself in our apartment’s cheap full-length mirror.

“You should wear this coat, Emma. It’s probably big enough,” she said.

Are You Hooked? #25

TITLE: The Mistake
GENRE: Adult thriller

Sam Moranga began self-medicating at Mile Marker 18. His right hand was coated to the wrist with bright yellow rubberized plastic intended for tool handles. He raised the joint to his lips while his bright yellow left fingers spun the wheel on the lighter his father had given him when he turned fourteen. He inhaled deeply and held the smoke for a full sixty seconds. As he slowly exhaled a sweet-smelling white cloud, he slid his foot off the accelerator and coasted just past Mile Marker 13. He turned right, drove half a mile up the unmapped dirt logging road to the fire cut that gave him a clear view of the road two point six miles back where he’d come from. He U-turned, aiming his truck downhill. He set the parking brake, took another long, satisfying drag, put his medicine back in the metal pill box, and slid the box into his shirt pocket.

Then he put on his crash helmet.

Sam had stolen the F-150, the most popular vehicle in America, from a construction site down in Virginia. The winch protruded from the front like an ancient Greek battering ram. He figured it would more than compensate for the dozen airbags inside the brand-new 2007 Lexus LS 460 he was about to collide with.

According to the readout on his equipment, his target’s vehicle was five miles out, traveling at sixty-two miles per hour. A little slower than planned.

Which meant she’d live maybe three seconds longer than expected.

Are You Hooked? #24

TITLE: The Price of Mercy: Book One of the Lokana Chronicles
GENRE: Fantasy

Dirty tears carved grooves through the layers of grime on the poor farmer’s face as he fought and lost the battle for his dignity. “Please, your Highness, have mercy. I beg you.”

Toqarnna Vegin sympathized with the man, whose pitiful appearance was exaggerated by the colored light filtering through the stained glass windows lining the gallery. But drought or no, he still had taxes to pay; surely he had other ways of obtaining the necessary funds. Even if he didn’t, was prison really the most suitable penalty? How could he ever hope to earn what he owed if he was stuck in a prison camp? But he couldn’t simply let the man go, either.

As Vegin opened his mouth to speak, the room’s heavy wooden door burst open. The prince flinched as his father stalked into the room, the queen trailing behind him. Kintarnna Tol swept his gaze around the room as the court fell to its knees before him. The guards scattered about the room stood at attention, ready for anything. The pathetic heap of a peasant trembled, prostrate, before him. The prince, out of habit, stood atop a dais in front of two intricately carved thrones, and froze the king in place with the sternest gaze he could muster.

“Vegin!” Tol’s voice boomed through the chamber, commanding attention. “If you’re not going to sentence this man, I’ll be more than happy to do it for you.”

The prince’s eyes narrowed. “That’s really not necessary, Father.”

“Oh? So you’ve sentenced him, then?”

Are You Hooked? #23

TITLE: Dryad Down Under
GENRE: Contemporary ("Urban") Fantasy

“Listen to me!”

Mabel paused her ministrations, startled by Gran’s tone. Had she let her attention slip so much that she hadn’t noticed Gran’s fever ease? The sense of the previous words wormed its way through her exhaustion and she sighed. More trees, spirits, and danger; the same gibberish Gran had spouted since her collapse.

“No, listen, Ace!” No one but Gran ever called her “Ace.” She’d called Mabel a multitude of names that weren’t hers in the last few hours; maybe Gran’s mind was clear after all. “I don’t have much time, and who knows if I’ll be this lucid again later.”

Mabel stared at her, stunned at the cold certainty in Gran’s voice. The wet cloth she’d been using to cool Gran’s forehead hung suspended inches above said sweaty brow, forgotten. Gran saw that she had Mabel’s attention and drew a papery breath.

“I thought I’d have time to explain it all to you, but I’ve been a fool. I’ve put both you and my Essence in danger. You’ll have to go to your Tree. When I’m gone, you must go to the grove and—”

Gran’s eyes glazed over as the fever took control again. All Mabel could make out was something about Pops, and she knew Gran was lost in the past again. Mabel resumed her nursing duties, more dejected than ever.

One of the old kitchen chairs lined up along the far wall as a makeshift waiting area groaned its familiar complaint at taking on a human burden.

Are You Hooked? #22

TITLE: Operation: One-Night Stand
GENRE: Romance/Chick Lit

I had commandeered the sofa. The beautiful, butter-yellow sofa Sarah had purchased when she first moved to her amazingly spacious two-bedroom apartment almost three years ago now had a probably permanent imprint of my a**. The cushions had become a wasteland overflowing with wads of my snotty tissues and creamy brown stains from my new aptly named addiction – Pint of Tears, smeared the arm. My trusty sidekick, Mr. Bibbles, a childhood stuffed thing – I wasn’t sure anymore if he ever really was a bear – lay oddly contorted at my side providing me with the comfort only a childhood memory could.

For the past six weeks, since Steven and I broke up, I’d lived with Sarah. My best friend, my trusty confidant and, probably, the only person on earth who’d have put up with my s*** for as long as she has. Besides the other third of our trio, Mel. But I’ll get to her later. Of course, my nightly crying fits, my refusal to leave the house for anything other than work and my newly minted status as Ice Cream Dreams’ most valuable customer was, in hindsight, wearing on my friend.

For five years, Steven and I dated. Moved in together. Worked together. Dreamed together. That was before it all went to s***. That was before I found him in my bed with Betsy the Intern. That was before he figured it was okay to add my favorite vibrator into their sexual exploits. That was before I found myself homeless.

Are You Hooked? #21

GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Nadya held the burly man’s wrist in a tight grip—tight enough to be uncomfortable, but not tight enough to crunch bones. Inhaling deeply, her eyes fluttered closed. As repulsive as she found this man’s personality, she ached to lick the droplets of blood from his creamy skin. Instead, she looked down and dabbed Betadine over the manic eyes that straddled the vein in his wrist. She picked up her needle, dipped it in black ink, and began outlining the wide mouth that would complete the biker gang symbol. As she meticulously filled the pale mouth in with crooked teeth, her fingers dug into her client’s skin with increasing pressure. He grimaced.

“You do nice work.” The man’s voice was strained. A tough guy. She’d wait a few weeks, then hunt him down. Watch him until he showed his true nature. They always did. Especially after getting their tattoos.

Over the past sixteen years, Nadya had watched while the world spiraled down the drain, crime ever on the rise. The economy was finally starting to bounce back, but only for those with powerful allies. In Vancouver, that meant gang connections. Nadya memorized the man’s scent, looks, and voice, and mentally filed them as she bandaged his tattoo.

She rattled off the balance due. The man picked up his leather jacket, admiring the bright patch emblazoned on the back, and held out his unbandaged wrist.

“It’s five percent extra for chip payments,” she said. “There’s an ATM about three blocks away.”

“Just scan it.”

Are You Hooked? #20

TITLE: Capturing the Last Welsh Witch
GENRE: Adult paranormal

Ella blinked several times as golden sunlight streamed down upon her and the sounds of birds chirping surrounded her. That wasn't right, normally she was in a warm bed, with the aroma of coffee wafting up from the kitchen and Aidan was there, but right now a blast of frigid air hit her, and she shivered.

Had she died again?

In the distance, she could hear water gurgling and knew she needed its healing energy. She peered at an upside-down view of a blurry world and trees as tall as tower blocks. She was lying on her side on the cold and damp earth with grass stuck to her lips. Lifting her head, she shook it trying to clear her mind and vision, and forced herself upright meaning to stand up but a wave of bile rose up in her throat stopping her.

Damn it, why was she so groggy? And why couldn't she remember anything about last night? Usually, those last moments of her life were etched in her brain, but nope, as hard as she tried nothing? Right now, she was lying in a flimsy dress that was torn and dirty in the middle of what looked pretty much like a forest with no recollection of how she ended up there. Frosty kisses from the early-morning breeze touched her bare shoulders, and as she hugged herself, pain throbbed all over her body.

She lifted a shaky hand to her head, and paused, staring at the dried blood that covered them.


Are You Hooked? #19

TITLE: The Collector
GENRE: Southern Gothic/Horror

Granny Enid didn't want to take me in. The social worker really had to work at her to get her to agree. I thought it was me—maybe she thought I was bad luck or something, seein' how Mama died and all. But it wasn't me; it was just one of those secrets that I didn't know about until later. Granny was right, though. It would've been better if I’d stayed away.

When I first arrived at Granny Enid's, Crankston's Landing was finishin' off the driest summer on record. The white sedan the social worker drove was covered in a thick red film from the Oklahoma dirt that seemed to cover everything that year. A white cat sat on the rail of the porch, and when it stretched out I could see the red-stained fur matted on its underbelly. No matter how much that cat licked and cleaned, the stain never came off.

No one answered the door when I knocked. I looked back at the social worker, sittin' in her air-conditioned car, and she motioned for me to try around back. I clutched the plastic grocery bag that held my spare socks and underwear in my sweaty palm, and I followed the path to a half-rotten gate. The hinges squeaked when I shoved the gate open enough to slip through.

Everything in backyard was dead—the yellowed grass, the withered honeysuckle, the pile of rotting kitchen scraps, and the remains of a tiny kitten left near the trash cans.

Are You Hooked? #18

TITLE: Blood Demon
GENRE: Supernatural Thriller

The white cabinets seemed to glare at her and the cheery yellow walls of the kitchen glowed too brightly, hurting her eyes. Jamie dried her shaking hands and hung the towel back on the oven handle. It’s the adrenaline, she thought.

She took one last look around, before walking through the narrow doorway into the family room. Her parents sat on the sofa watching TV, their backs to her. Like a reproach, her step father’s arm was slung casually across her mother’s shoulders.

“Kitchen’s cleaned up,“ Jamie said.

“Oh, thank you, honey,” her mom replied, turning her head. Crow’s feet crinkled around her eyes as she smiled at Jamie. Another cut in the emotional flaying.

“Sure.” Jamie leaned over to kiss her mother on the cheek. She lingered a moment, savoring her mother’s faint scent of warm bread and fresh wash. “I love you, mom.”

“I love you too, baby.” She returned Jamie’s kiss.

Moving to her stepfather, Jamie put a hand on his shoulder, “You, too, Dad.” She kissed his rough cheek. “I’m tired. I think I’m going to go read and make it an early night.”

“Ok, hon. See you in the morning.”

Jamie headed for the stairs. On the landing, she took one last look at them. Just a normal night. She swallowed the lump in her throat and climbed the stairs slowly.

In her room, she pulled out the note she’d hand written and read it one last time.

Mom and Dad,

I’m sorry. I love you, both, very much.

Are You Hooked? #17

TITLE: Werewold in the Fold
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

The manager’s voice became careful. “If you were hired, what would you do if some of your co-workers came up to you saying there was a werewolf in the department, and asking what you wanted to do about it?”

James was sweating the interview questions, so he had to stay absolutely still so his slacks wouldn't make those obscene sucking sounds against the vinyl chair he was sitting in. He took a breath, knowing his answer was both honest and presentable. “I would say, ‘What bigotry is this?’ I have no problem with Werewolf-Americans, and I would have little patience with those who do.”

The manager nodded. “That’s the answer.” About a hundred pounds overweight, Robert seemed to assume his double chin and beard would hide the sloppy knot in his tie. He rose from his desk and shook hands with James, letting him know he could expect a second interview later that day.

“Thanks, Robert. I guess I’ll get back to work.” Strange, to hear those words come out of his mouth. But this was the life of a temp: work at a place for six months, take a half hour out for an interview to become permanent at that very same position—which in this case, meant writing training manuals for the call center he was standing in—then go right back to his desk as if nothing had happened.

Robert wagged a finger at him. “Just make sure the new RA manual gets done.”

Are You Hooked? #16 (removed)


Are You Hooked? #15 (removed)

removed by request

Are You Hooked? #14

TITLE: The Amazing Adventures of Heroic Man's Brother
GENRE: Humorous Superhero Fantasy

My fingers quivered with excitement as I plugged in the last thumb-sized, plastic piece and stepped back. Yep, that did it. After four years of nonstop, grueling—but at times invigorating—work, my masterpiece was finally complete. And finally—oh thank God finally—I could prove my genius to the C.E.O. of Electrifirm and get the hell out of the mailroom once and for all.

Raw energy bolted through me as I stared at the array of tiny substations splayed out on the electrical power grid model on my bedroom desk.

Tomorrow was the day. Tomorrow I’d do it. First thing in the morning I’d walk right up to my boss with the model and demand he show it to—

“Norm—dinner!” Mom’s voice wafted from the bottom of the stairs into my bedroom.

But first there was dinner to attend.

“Coming!” I shouted.

The scent of steamed fresh vegetables never smelled so succulent—okay, it was intermixed with the heavy, foul odor of red meat—as I hopped down the stairs two at a time—the first time I’d done that since I was eleven or so. No doubt about it. I felt like a child again in light of my amazing accomplishment. Tomorrow was the day my life would change forever, and at the ripe-old age of twenty-four, no less. It simply felt too good to be true.

But the euphoric feeling immediately plummeted to the wooden floor at the sight of my brother’s massive, muscular figure at the dinner table.

Are You Hooked? #13 (removed)


Are You Hooked? #12

TITLE: Wishes to Nowhere
GENRE: Magical Realism

Birthday parties made her nervous. Itchy. She didn’t mind the screaming kids, puddles of melted ice cream or even the clowns who twisted dogs out of skinny, colored balloons. It was the birthday candles and subsequent wishes that did it.

Wishes tended to complicate life for Olive McCallie.

Too bad that excuse didn’t fly with four year olds. So there she sat, sideways in a plastic booth, next to a pile of discarded plates and crumpled, pizza-sauced napkins. Lip prints and finger smears coated a barrage of disposable cups. One lay on its side leaking orange soda from the straw hole. It crept across the table toward her, millimeter by millimeter. She couldn’t find a clean napkin to mop it up with so she let it continue its slow attack.

The party room smelled of pepperoni and dirty diapers. She could just make out the melody of some teeny-bopper song over the clanging, whooping, and beeping of the games from the arcade on the other side of the door.

“Ol-lee!” her best friend’s daughter yelled from across the room. “Cake! Cake! Cake!” Violet waved her twiggy arm, beckoning Olive over.

Olive scooted out of the booth but stayed a safe distance from the birthday girl and her unicorn-shaped cake with four candles protruding from its back. The ice cream cone horn was slathered in white icing and silver sprinkles. “I’m not hungry,” she called. She avoided looking at her best friend, Maybe Foster, who was no doubt rolling her eyes at Olive’s wariness.

Are You Hooked? #11

TITLE: The Roaring Silence
GENRE: Historical Fantasy

Rarely does a life begin at a funeral, but for Harrison Miller, that was precisely the case—not that he knew it yet. Chunks of earth sifted through his fingers and onto his grandfather’s casket before he threw the handful down into the pit. He blinked away a tear and returned to his fiancée, Suzie. He didn’t look at her, but, knowing what he needed as she always seemed to, she took his hand; her thumb worked circles into his knuckles, just as it would whenever he came from the feed store, stressed about the day’s work or meager pay. “It won’t be much to live on,” he’d tell her, but she’d simply take his hand and put it to her cheek as she insisted, “It’ll be enough.”

Harrison had been quiet during the interment, but he had noticed Suzie’s looks, the downturned corners of her mouth, the gentle rubs and pats as she stayed by his side, arm in arm throughout the minister’s standard farewell for every great patriarch of the community.

After the service, Harrison and Suzie walked the mile of dirt road from the church to his home.

“You okay?”

Harrison took a deep breath before he simply said, “Yeah.”

Seeing she was about to ask something else, he gently put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her in to kiss her hair. She always smiled at that, and, as predicted, abandoned her question, curled under his arm, and contentedly leaned against him as they walked, her head against his shoulder.

Are You Hooked? #10

TITLE: Dry Bones
GENRE: Adult Speculative Fiction

She knew she could not deny what she had seen. There, ten yards outside their grid, the sheen of smooth stone and shadowy lines that distinguished it from the surrounding rock of the Montana Badlands.

Her brain ran through every possible permutation of what it could indicate. Hammer and chisel in hand, she intended to find out.

Against that notion came words of caution. Venturing outside their marked off grid would bring the attention of the entire dig team. Had she had seen a mere trick of shadows and sunlight? What would the other team members say if it proved to be nothing? The echo of teasing laughter and hurtful words echoed through the years. A voice inside her screamed, don’t risk it, don’t draw attention to yourself. Stay safe, comfortable, and secure.

Most days, those voices won out as Lilith faded into the background, her khaki shirt, and pants blending chameleon-like into the beige rock of the Makoshika State Park.

She wiped her hands on her pants, sweaty from more than the mid-June heat. The other graduate students busied themselves loading excavation equipment into the vans as the late afternoon sun dipped ever closer to the mountains.

The longer she debated, the harder it would be to act. If she hesitated and boarded the vans back to Glendive, she would toss and turn all night tormented by a brain that demanded answers she did not have.

Taking a deep breath, she silenced the voices of caution, and marched toward her discovery.

Are You Hooked? #9

TITLE: Rerun
GENRE: Suspense

Not everyone gets to remember their own death. I don’t think you should. It’s painful to remember being murdered. Agonizing, excruciating, unbearable. Unthinkable.

A man I used to love, who clearly still loved me even after I left him, was desperate to — teach me a lesson, I suppose. I understand what made him do it, but that doesn’t mean I forgive him and it doesn’t mean I want to remember it.

Nothing makes sense out of context, I have to go back to the beginning. Changing your mind sometimes leads to unforeseen consequences.

I met Seth and Jason at the same time really, but I think of it as meeting Seth first. I was sitting in a café in New York, trying to recover from a morning of shopping before meeting my agent. My daughter, Rachel, pointed him out.

“Mom, look, over there. Seth Slate and Jason Austin.”

I glanced up briefly from my laptop, annoyed at being interrupted while writing the climatic revelation of my latest mystery novel. I tried not to take it out on Rachel, she was bored and couldn’t help it that I was too busy to entertain her. Of course adult children shouldn’t need their mothers to keep them entertained.

“Don’t stare,” I told her and tried to pick up the threads of the thoughts I had. Something about bloody fingerprints being reversed. I was nitpicking a Doyle story, almost, although I doubted anyone would notice.

“But they’re reading one of your books, Mom.”

Are You Hooked? #8

TITLE: Round Robin
GENRE: Thriller

The little boy climbed onto the rail, reached, pulled himself up the stone wall, then scrabbled along the top and under the leafy branches. He was about six, a pudgy kid in a red shirt and tan shorts, his hair curling sweaty around his face. No one noticed. They were all too occupied watching the polar bear in the enclosure, who at that very moment rose on his back legs, paws in air, and lowed morosely into the sunlight. But I wasn’t too occupied. No, I followed the boy, one, two, swung my legs onto the wall and into the viridian shade.

Good, said my Client.

The boy’s mother rooted around in the underbelly of a stroller while a toddler - his sister - screeched with fury at the heat, the crowds, maybe at the helplessness of being strapped into a vehicle and carted around God knows where, or why, when all she wanted was her dolly, and her blankie, and her bottle.

I sympathized with the baby. If I could've solved my problems by opening my mouth and letting loose howls of anger and frustration, I would've done so years ago.

The boy clambered higher, thrusting his chin out, his young skin moist with humidity.

He’s afraid, said my Client, whose name was Booth, and who was my guide and controller today, moving my body with the help of a chip his unit implanted just to the left of my cerebral cortex. And he hates his sister, Booth added.

Are You Hooked? #7

TITLE: Silent Witnesses
GENRE: Literary


The alarm blasted twice before I found it in the dark, and it was still pretty dark. Sunlight was mostly blocked by the fancy new curtains Cass had bought without even asking my opinion. Like always.

I rubbed my eyes and looked at the alarm clock. It flashed a bright red 7:15. I had more than an hour before I had to head out. I stretched one arm out to the right, meeting a tangle of blankets and sheets.

Downstairs already. I wondered if she was laying out my Sunday project yet, either adding to the list or fixating on one of my dozen or so unfinished projects. “Probably.” I laughed at myself for even considering that word; there was no chance the answer wasn’t definitely.

Going downstairs wasn’t a good idea. If I walked in on her planning, I’d lose any shot at my basketball game with John. Checking my email was a much better bet. I purposefully left the bed unmade, knowing I could hop back in if I heard Cass’s steps.

The computer beeped and whirred to life. Smartest thing I’d ever done was suggest bringing it into the bedroom three years earlier when we’d converted the office into a nursery. I’d spent more than my share of weekend mornings hiding out from my honey-do list without Cass being any wiser.

Not that the computer actually needed to remain there though. Only dust spent any time in that room, dust and stacks of brand-name baby clothes.

Are You Hooked? #6

TITLE: Waking the Dragon
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

She never should have told him what happened that night just before Christmas. Rhianna's mouth was always the source of her troubles.

She only said she'd seen her mom in her room, sitting on the edge of the bed. She was alive again, and all her hair had grown back. Rhianna could feel the weight and warmth of her body on the mattress beside her, could even smell her shampoo.

“Mom?” Rhianna had tried to wrap her arms around her, but her mother was insubstantial, like fog.

“Honey, it's coming,” Gwen Chapman had said. “Be careful.” Then the lines of her face had dissolved into what looked like a thousand tiny tadpoles, wriggling away into the shadows. Only the lingering trace of jasmine proved she had been there. Rhianna could almost see it, her scent, like an afterimage hanging in the air.

Her mistake had been telling her dad. She hadn't even breathed a word about her mom's warning. The words had dried up in Rhianna's mouth when she saw the way he was looking at her. Suspicious. Afraid.

For days afterward, she'd wondered what he would do, had sensed some decision was in the works, could almost hear the weighing and measuring going on in his head. And then, The Incident at School, and the school counselor's determination that she was Officially At-Risk, had apparently been the last straw.

Today is a Saturday, the beginning of winter break, and Rhianna sits in her bedroom reading Watership Down.

Are You Hooked? #5 (removed)


Are You Hooked? #4

TITLE: The Heart of Elebfar
GENRE: Science Fantasy

There were two mysteries about Rhauw’s front door. He intended to unravel both of them.

His father would say it was an idle whim, not worthy of his time. Knowing or not knowing would make no difference. The door was, after all, a door. And not only did the massive wooden slab serve its practical purpose as well as any could, it was a splendid piece of craftsmanship—a fine entrance to the fine new house. The questions it stirred in Rhauw’s mind were irrelevant now. Or so his father would say.

Rhauw disagreed. The door was part of his home—his and Miema’s, he reminded himself, with a touch of the uneasiness that often rose at the thought of her, absurd though it was. How dull and incurious would he have to be to see it every day and not wonder? If he tried to put it from his mind, each time he crossed his own doorstep he would be reminded of it. He’d been reminded just now merely by glancing up at the impressive gray-roofed house cantilevering out over the top of the draw, above the sloping hillside where he crouched beside a sprawling faidra bush, his hands braced in the muddy soil.

If only keeping his mind on that soil and the plants that grew in it were as easy as putting his hands into it. It was a simple task he’d charged himself with that afternoon, but he couldn’t stay focused on it; his thoughts kept drifting this way and that.

Are You Hooked? #3

GENRE: Literary

Mitch sits alone in his dressing room, but the bustle of the television station murmurs just outside his door. The interview is over. The one he has avoided for forty years. Until today.

His shoulders stoop as he gives a heavy sigh. On camera, he possesses the presence of a much younger man, the one his audiences have loved for decades. Off camera his joints creak, his muscles slack. He feels every minute of his eighty-two years. At least his lungs and ticker are healthy. Something needs to work in order to propel him out of retirement every few years.

He pulls a cigarette out of a tin box. He had his first taste of tobacco from that box long before his first taste of stardom. Both have lingered with him. One as a hateful, disloyal wife, the other as a faithful friend.

Someone knocks on the door, but before he moves, a woman bursts into his dressing room.

“Honestly, Dad. Are you smoking again?”

Mitch shrugs. “I never quit. For me to be smoking again, I’d have had to quit.”

She crosses her arms and looks pointedly at him. “You’re not funny.”

“That’s what your mother said. You’re just like her. Always so serious. You need to lighten a little. Laugh. What’s life without laughter?”

“I don’t know. What’s life without emphysema?”

He wags his finger and chuckles. “You have your mother’s looks and cynicism, but there’s still hope for you. At least you don’t look like your father. Now that’s an ugly bastard."

Are You Hooked? #2

TITLE: Moonshine
GENRE: Historical Romance

New York City, 1926

The shoe caught Dr. James Winslow’s attention.

Delicately trimmed in black lace, with a low slung golden heel, it whizzed by his right ear like a shot from a cannon. James jerked up, as the fashionable projectile hurtled into a shelf of lab equipment. A rack of test tubes teetered, tottered, then smashed onto the floor.

James whirled away from his microscope. “What the devil?”

“The devil, indeed!” In the doorway to his lab, a tall blonde woman shimmered in gold silk and anger. Another shoe quaked in her grasp. “I thought you’d been struck by a cab, or called away on some grave medical emergency. How dare you still be here!”

James blinked. It always took him a moment to shift out of work. Meditations on cell membranes warred with the irate vision before him. The tumblers of his mind whirled until three words coalesced: Millicent. Date. Seven. With black humor, he grinned. “You wish I’d been flattened by a taxi, instead?”

“I wish you’d been anywhere—absolutely anywhere—other than here, with your nose stuffed in an amoeba. Again. This is the fourth date you’ve missed this month.”

“It’s a bacteriophage, actually. This species has—”

A feminine scream cut him off. “I don’t care! I don’t care about amoebas or bacterio-whats-its or any of these ridiculous creatures. Curing people is all fine and dandy, but we had opera tickets! Millicent Andrews does not live her life at the whims of germs.”

Are You Hooked? #1

TITLE: Family Album
GENRE: Literary Fiction

She had to go. My mother was already gone. She didn’t really have a place in my memory since she passed when I was barely two years old. My grandmother was here in full force. So this new woman Dad brought home did not fit into the life we had. And I had hoped he’d see that sooner rather than later.

What adults failed to comprehend was that children do not like change. We don’t like it. There’s a reason we eat the same things over and over. A reason for the routine that settles us. Change is problematic and I had every reason to be concerned once Amy entered our home.

Grandma Jenkins held court over the dinner table. My older brother and our guest on one side of the oval table. My dad at the other head and me on one side alone. Grandma spoke of my parents wedding, specifically the music, in particular a guy named Sylvester.

“Joel was, I don’t really know what you were doing but you and Mikayla were having fun out there. Your father strut his stuff on the floor. His hips going in and out his arms the other way to that song Mika loved. You make me feel,” her voice went a bit higher than the deeper tone she had emphasizing the southernisms I’d heard about.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Winners for Are You Hooked?

Winning numbers have been drawn for Are You Hooked? 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:
  • JEVMV191 as ENTRY #1

  • 7GRGT13A as ENTRY #2

  • OORERJ5L as ENTRY #3

  • BYM4Y4QG as ENTRY #4

  • 6VYTA7Q9 as ENTRY #5

  • DQL9IBMH as ENTRY #6


  • 4FNO3CFX as ENTRY #8

  • 5YEAJZFN as ENTRY #9

  • 4X08HFTI as ENTRY #10

  • 8W6WYZEW as ENTRY #11

  • JB3JJWAS as ENTRY #12

  • F872PV6P as ENTRY #13

  • U9E6LE39 as ENTRY #14

  • SP7C7Z6V as ENTRY #15

  • J3JYAQ21 as ENTRY #16

  • ORQYP0ZL as ENTRY #17

  • H84JGFER as ENTRY #18

  • U6LMTQ91 as ENTRY #19

  • OY4VIAJI as ENTRY #20

  • AGY05PMW as ENTRY #21

  • IPOQPI25 as ENTRY #22

  • 5AMAO7LG as ENTRY #23

  • 9W38B2E0 as ENTRY #24

  • 3ORFIAK9 as ENTRY #25
The alternates are:

  • HJCG666G as ENTRY #ALT-1