Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Dear Ones!

I'll get straight to it.  (My Friday blog posts are often cathartic.)  I applied for a job, and I've made it to the second round.

This isn't earthshattering; people apply for jobs and make it to the second round all the time.  I'm not asking for gasps of admiration or even polite applause.  I'm just asking for your ear.

Here's the thing--I have a Life About Which I Say Nothing (in order to remain anonymous, obviously), and I have my Writing Life, into which you are fully and joyfully invited on an ongoing basis.  My Writing Life comprises a certain amount of my time, and that time includes this blog and MY WRITING.

You get where I'm going, right?  This job (which entails writing!) is a 10- to 20-hours-a-week, work-from-home, how-could-it-get-any-easier job that would theoretically fit like a puzzle piece into my Life About Which I Say Nothing.  But...and this is a gargantuan but...that 10- to 20-hours-week?  THAT IS MY WRITING AND BLOGGING TIME.

If I am offered the job, and if I accept, I don't know when I will write.

No, I'm not being melodramatic.  We all have the Things we do every day -- our jobs, our relationships, our lives.  And there are only so many other Things we can add to the daily lineup.  So, seriously.  I'm feeling like the fact that I'm even flirting with this job is like admitting that I'm considering, even unconsciously, the fact that it's time to move on.


Believe it or not, I do have other work in my life that isn't Authorly Work.  But I'm sure it's obvious by now that I don't have a 9-to-5 office cubicle job that takes me away from the writing world every day.  (If I did, I don't think I could handle the blog.)  I work from home, which is a huge blessing for many reasons.  So this New Potential Job fits into the way my life is already shaped.

But, oh.  Those hours-that-should-be-writing-hours.  They are sacred to me.  And now I find myself considering filling them up with something that isn't writing.

Well, it's writing.  But it's not WRITING.  What it is, actually, is copywriting.  Which I have discovered is something I can actually do.  I don't love it the way I love writing stories, but I can do it.

Mr. A has been so supportive over the years.  But it's been getting harder and harder for him to watch me work so hard and have nothing to show for it.  I think it seriously pains him every time I get another rejection from an editor.  And there's the whole money thing.  Writing stories is great, but, frankly, there's no stream of income attached to this.

I was supposed to be the one to jumpstart our retirement fund.  I was supposed to be the one to dig us out of the financial hole left by an epically failed business venture that left us with a debt load the size of Alaska.  (Lesson learned: Find investors. Don't use personal credit to fund a business.)

Big dreams, those.  "Don't worry; I will save the day!  In a few years, I will have some books sold, and we can pay off the rest of this debt.  And then we can put the rest in the bank and feel like we actually have some sort of nest egg."

Wow.  These were deeply private dreams, and I've just spilled them to the masses.  But this is raw stuff, and I know that, for many of you, the decision to keep writing or stop writing is pretty raw, too.  There are dreams, and there's reality.  There's the ROI on our time spent.  If warm fuzzies are enough to keep a person writing, then warm fuzzies it is.  But after 10 years of writing novels, my fuzzies have gone cold.

So.  This may all be for nothing, as the job may never materialize.  And even if they offer me the position, I may ultimately feel like it's not a good fit for me.  (I mean, ugh. Copywriting.  How does this compare to writing kiss scenes and making things explode?)  But I had to throw this out there, especially to those of you with full time jobs and super-full lives who STILL FIND TIME TO WRITE.  Like those of you with nine children and six dogs and a job and a volunteer position at the local food pantry.

Writing at night isn't a good option, because my brain doesn't function well after 8 pm.  I've tried.

And I already get up at 5:45 each morning, so getting up even earlier probably isn't an option, either.

(I'm not being difficult; I'm being realistic.)

(Also, I don't do caffeine, so I can't even artificially wire myself up.)

So.  If you have a super-full, super-busy life, but you still write regularly, how do you manage it?  Do you feel like you spend enough time on your craft?  Is it worth anything else you might sacrifice (like, I don't know, sleep or food or possibly shaving your legs)?

I feel like I'm at a crossroads.  And I really, really hate being here.  I need your words of wisdom today.

Thanks for being wonderful!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Public Brainstorm: Feedback

Okay, folks.  Many of you offered great ideas yesterday--it's fun digging into someone else's story for a bit, isn't it?

So please give me your feedback, and I'll determine whether or not we should do this again some time.  If you were a participant:  Did you find this exercise helpful?  Do you have some positive takeaway?  If you were an idea-giver:  Was this enjoyable?  Would you be willing to participate again in the future?

I'm all ears!  As ever, I want this to be a place you want to come to.  Critique away!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Let's Brainstorm!!

We've got a great mix of 8 stories here, and the authors need your help.  Please offer your ideas in the comment boxes!

You can reply directly to specific comments, so that it's possible for back-and-forth dialogue to occur here.  Make sure you "subscribe" to the posts you offer feedback on, so that you'll receive email notification whenever there's a reply to your comment.

We've got SO MUCH creativity in this community.  Let's offer up our collective brainpower and help our colleague get un-stuck!

Public Brainstorm #8

TITLE: The Resurrectionist
GENRE: YA Historical Thriller

18 year old Calvin will stop at nothing to make a name for himself in the medical world, but the deeper he delves into the seedy underworld of body snatching, the more he learns he's not in it just to help people. Set in 1890s America.

Cal has just killed the leader of the body snatching gang, a doctor, that Cal's a part of. He forged a letter of recommendation from the dead doctor for medical school and the dean of the school is pretty much ready to accept him. People in the local medical community are talking about the apparent "suicide" and Cal is gloating.

Where I'm stuck is I want the man's death to be written off as a suicide, so he's think's he's scot free and can make some more serious mistakes down the line and the cops get involved. But there needs to be some sort of external conflict/pressure, maybe within the gang (or a rival)? It's four guys, who all get along pretty well, but now the dynamics have to change. One other guy is doing it for the medical reasons, the other two are just doing it for the money.

Public Brainstorm #7

TITLE: Dragons of My Heart
GENRE: Fantasy

Boy turns his back on the dragons that have helped raise him when his father dies in an accident serving the dragons. I've gotten him to leave the dragons, but there's a gap (of time and space) before he reconnects and returns to the dragons. I'm looking for interesting sub-plot ideas or other challenges that will take him on his journey back to his roots. (Dragons in my world are an intelectual society- not monsters)

Public Brainstorm #6

TITLE: Liars And Thieves
GENRE: Epic Fantasy

The supreme ruler of the Dominion transmits his power to everyday objects, including a sword which protects the life of its rightful bearer--the Lord Regent of Efrathah. When the sword is stolen, Josiah, second in command, accuses trade delegates from a neighboring country who have only recently arrived in the capital.

We're at the point of the story where Josiah persuades the Lord Regent to let him search their quarters and belongings. Eventually Josiah is going to be accused of stealing the sword himself and then thrown into the dungeon.

But when I started to write the scene showing the search . . . well, there wasn't enough conflict. He looks in room A. No sword. He looks in room B. No sword. I don't know how to infuse this part of the story with conflict. Ideas?

Public Brainstorm #5

TITLE: The Memory Taker
GENRE: YA Magical Realism

Astrid takes memories. If someone can't cope with the loss of a friend or wife or someone they love, they can pay a fee and Astrid will erase that memory for them, relieving them of their unbearable pain. Astrid's younger sister is in a coma and Astrid has tried to get into her head to find the memory that has her so deep into unconsciousness, but it's too hard, too straining. But now she's found Kellan. He came to Astrid haunted by the murder of his girlfriend. And Astrid thinks that if she can help fill in the gaps of that horrific memory that's buried deep in Kellan's memories, she may find what she needs to save her sister.

Problem: I want the murder of Kellan's girlfriend to somehow be related to Astrid's sister, but I'm having trouble finding a way to plot it. I want it to be a twist that takes the reader by surprise at the end.

Public Brainstorm #4

TITLE: Still in the Works
GENRE: MG Adventure

Twelve-year-old Holland Stratford hair mysteriously turns pink and Holland tries to hide it from her mom but when she sees her new style, she gives Holland a bronze coin, then collapses.

We're at the point of the story where Holland needs to find the map so she can get the cure to save her mom and get her hair back to normal. Her dad has been arrested because the police think he took the mother. The problem is I'm not sure how to transition from Act 1 to 2 so that is interesting. What can they do to get out of the house without the adults following them or telling them no?

Public Brainstorm #3

TITLE: Splintered
GENRE: Urban fantasy

Splintered is a novel about two sisters, both born in the afterlife, "Elysium." The novel is set in Elysium and Earth. Their father is the immortal Consul charged with keeping the balance between the Core Realms of Elysium and the mortal realm of Earth where it should be. Their mother is Fae and during a massive Horde demon attack on Elysium, she disappears with one sister, Alyssa, taking her to Earth for safety. She's forced to leave her there to hide her identity as the Consuls daughter and so she grows up on Earth, coming into contact with the Conclave, an organization of Auric (magic) users on Earth bent on controlling all magic for themselves. Shes trained by them until she realizes their true purpose. She's pursued and sought after by the Council, and Conclave.

My problem: I can't really figure out why she's so important. Does she hold the key to breaking the status quo? What about her abilities makes her a target?

Public Brainstorm #2

TITLE: The Ladysmiths
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Blurb: Shennafi has always wanted to be a Ladysmith, but now she needs their power for more than just fulfilling her dreams. She has to avenge her father and rescue their village from his power-hungry apprentice.

Question: When she first, illicitly, summoned the firewylfs (the key to Ladysmith power), she did it with such strength that she burned herself and her friends. Now back, recovered and determined to succeed, she can't manage to get enough power to make a lamp brighter than a dim candle.

I need her to not be able to access her power fully, but I don't know why she keeps having such problems. She clearly has the ability, since she did it successfully the first time. So why not now? Her friends aren't having the same difficulties.

Public Brainstorm #1

TITLE: Disappeared
GENRE: Suspense

BLURB: Two American women are vacationing in Morocco. Fay disappears. Julie figures out where Fay went and goes after her. After multiple adventures, Julie is reunited with Fay—in jail. Fay's plan to rescue two Moroccan women who'd been 'disappeared' has failed.

The four women poison their their captors, escape, steal a truck, beg for money, have a medical emergency, narrowly avoid recapture, reach the airport just in time for the Moroccan women (who've received false passports) to get away . . . phew.

The conclusion is too tame compared to Fay and Julie's earlier hardships:

They've arranged decoy airline reservations near where they were last spotted. Their end-of-vacation flight home will leave in a few hours from this airport, so they cautiously check in. When they see a soldier near the gate (normal security? to arrest them?) they try unsuccessfully to get on a different flight. Then they make a smoky fire in the ladies room. Pandemonium. When the soldier leaves the gate to take charge, Julie and Fay board the plane. Fade to black.

Too easy?

How can they get home with the same personal resourcefulness they've exhibited throughout (no cop-out embassy call)?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Call For Submissions: Public Brainstorm

So I want to try something new, and if it flops it flops, yes?  We won't know unless we try, though, so here goes:

You know how, sometimes, you get really stuck on a plot point, to the point where you are despairing of its ever resolving itself?  We've recently talked about how our brains figure out (sometimes unusual) ways of breaking through--but don't you just wish, sometimes, that you could bounce your problem off a fertile mind or two, to brainstorm your way out of the corner?

Well, this is my attempt at providing just such a forum.  There is SO MUCH CREATIVE ENERGY HERE.  Let's tap into it to see if we can help some of our fellow soldiers-of-the-pen get through a tough spot.

Here's how it will work:

1.  I will accept 10 entries (first-come, first-served).  Enter HERE.
2.  Include a short blurb for your novel so that we understand the premise.
3.  Briefly outline your problem--your stuck place--and what you're not able to figure out.
4.  Our fellow writers will offer their ideas to you in the comment section.
5.  THIS IS IMPORTANT:  As folks leave their ideas, don't come back and tell them why their ideas won't work--UNLESS it is posed as a question!  For instance, if someone says, "What if she finds the bloody razor after the donkey relay?  Would that throw off your time line?"  In this instance, it's fine to answer yes or no, and engage in dialogue.  But please don't be a Negative Nellie and punch down other people's brainstorms.  Read, absorb, let your brain start quietly ticking.
6.  The entries will post tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

So, basically, your entry will look something like this:

TITLE: Seven Dead Spiders
GENRE: YA Thriller

BLURB:  Sven is a 17-year-old genius headed for an Ivy League school--until he starts murdering people in his sleep.

So we're at the point of the story where Sven realizes he's been planning (in his dreams) to kill his girlfriend Flopsy.  It's the middle of the night, and Flopsy is knocking at Sven's back door.  The problem is that I can't come up with a compelling motive for her to be there.  They just had an argument earlier in the day, but it's not in Flopsy's character to come running over in the middle of the night just to apologize.


Ask your questions below!  I will open the submission window at 1:00 PM EASTERN TIME (NYC) TODAY, and will close it after we have our 10 entries.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Fricassee

So, I've been sitting here staring at my blank Friday Fricassee screen--because I keep slipping into the world of my WIP, thinking through plot elements and specific scenes.  That's a good sign, right?  When we're so engaged in our stories that they creep into our thoughts when we don't mean for them to.

Actually, those tend to be the moments that contain the most potentially brilliant revelations, yes?  I just had one of those--a soft-gasp-inducing "oh I actually should do it THIS way!" moment.  And for several heartbeats, the universe made more sense.

I love being a writer!

Eons ago, when I was working on the revise-and-resubmit Josh asked me for, I was absolutely stuck on something.  (Yeah, I don't even remember what it was.)  In the kind of despair that only we writers understand, I sat halfway up our front stairs in a weak patch of sunlight and rested my head on the wall, eyes closed.

(Can't you just FEEL the melodrama?)

Yet, in that moment of utter lostness, the solution to my sticking point flashed into my brain without any effort on my point.  It was suddenly...there.  I opened my eyes, amazed.  Without even THINKING or TRYING or DOING ANYTHING AT ALL, I had come up with the solution to my problem.

And, yes, I went on to finish the revision, send it to Josh, and the rest is history.

I know you have similar stories.  And I want to hear them today!  Share your weird, writerly brain experiences--the ways in which you figured things out without trying, or perhaps without even realizing what you were doing.  The odd moments in the shower or on the dentist's chair or perhaps even in your sleep, when you've suddenly and inexplicably worked out something brilliant.

Or even not-so-brilliant.  Because sometimes it's the small things that make a difference.  But then, those small things can be pretty brilliant, too.

Looking forward to hearing your authorly a-hah moments!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gushing Over Nancy Bilyeau's THE TAPESTRY

I've just emerged from a delicious lark through Tudor England -- again.

Nancy Bilyeau has once again woven (get it? tapestry? woven?) a tale that seamlessly unites feisty heroine Joanna with the biggest names in the court of King Henry VIII, including the bulbous, pus-legged monarch himself.  THE TAPESTRY is the third and final installment in this wonderful series, preceded by THE CROWN and THE CHALICE, and it brings a satisfactory close to the court intrigues, attempted murder, and romantic entanglements of Joanna, an ex-novice who wishes only to live a quiet life weaving her tapestries--and gets anything but.

I could FEEL the bigger-than-life presence of Henry VIII as Joanna supped with him.  (I could also SMELL him.)  Nancy's attention to detail and talent for bringing everything to life without an ounce of historical dryness brought my favorite time period to life like nothing else.  The religious tension, the battles for power at court, the horror of the executions (Do you know how many chops it took to remove Cromwell's head?  You will, after you read this!).  You won't want to put this book down until you reach the final page.  And then you still won't want to put it down.

Read the synopsis (and buy the book) HERE.  (Or at the book store of your choice.)

THE TAPESTRY is available March 24 from Touchstone.

And for those of you who may be new around here?  Nancy has participated in not one, but two of our Baker's Dozen Agent Auctions, offering critiques to the adult entries.  She's a long-time supporter of this blog, and I'm a long-time supporter of her books.  I wish her well as her third masterpiece bursts forth into the wild!

(I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher.  My opinions of this work of fiction are my own.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Fun Success Story!

I think you'll enjoy reading Tatum's rollicking tale of her journey toward success.  In the author's own words:

I am prone to prolixity, so to keep myself from rambling too much *looks back over post; realises she has failed dismally* here is the bullet-point version!

Way back in the foggy mists of November 2010: Start writing my first novel, an MG historical adventure.

December 2010: Realise I know sweet foosh-all about writing novels, or middle grade, or publishing. Neither does the cat, nor any human I know, so I dive into the interwebs and find all kinds of stuff, the most exciting of which is a site featuring contests with Real Live Agents, called Miss Snark’s First Victim.

Dec 2010-April 2011: Finish my WIP, whilst hoovering up every crumb of information on MSFV. Learn vast amounts from the excerpts and critiques, especially to never EVER start with a dream or car crash unless I want agents to hate me, and even start critiquing some first pages myself.

May 2011: Start querying, and nervously enter the monthly Secret Agent contest. Where everyone says nice things! Even the agent! But he doesn’t pick me. Boo.

September 2011: Receive some complimentary full rejections, but no one seems to agree on what kind of revisions my MG historical needs. Decide to put querying to one side for now and start writing something new.

October 2011-October 2012: Spend a whole year trying to write something new, inhale at least 40 packets of biscuits and 4 bottles of bourbon along the way, and fail utterly. Decide to go back to my very first idea, an MG fantasy about the youngest son of the devil, who is hopeless at being evil.

December 2012: But wait! Behold: a shiny new Baker’s Dozen contest! New Book is not yet ready, but hey why not have one more bash with my original story? Do so, get picked, and after some lovely comments and a ridiculously exciting bidding war, end up with nine or ten full requests! Champagne for all!

February 2013: My thrilling Baker’s Dozen requests are turning to dust, along with my hopes and dreams. *sad writer montage* But all is not lost! *inspirational writer montage* I find my first ever, long-overdue critique partners at MSFV! One from a CP meet, and one from a contest, where I read a first page and fall in love with the writing and beg the author to be my CP...

March-April 2013: ...just in time for my lovely new CPs, Danica and Nat, to help me bash my newly-finished second novel, the D’Evil Diaries, into much sparklier shape.

Fast forward through lots of exciting agent and publisher shenanigans and celebratory Pina Coladas and writing retreats and high-fiving the cat and contests and... in November 2013 I somehow have both an agent and a two-book deal! WOOHOO.

April 2015: My debut MG fantasy, The D’Evil Diaries, is finally released into the wild and I go on to world domination muahahaha. (Hey, a girl can hope.)

All of this is to say, I may not have got my agent or deal directly through MSFV, but I couldn’t have done it without this site. I learnt so much from reading both the entries and critiques, and critiquing excerpts myself; the nice comments I received when I entered the contests boosted my confidence hugely and helped me keep plugging away through numerous query rejections; and my debut wouldn’t be half the book it is if I hadn’t found my brilliant CPs. So a massive, massive, thank you for everything you do Authoress, and to all the wonderful community of writers here. I hope I see you all in Hell ;)

Tatum Flynn

Monday, March 16, 2015

Aaaaaand we have winners!

Danielle's choices are:

5th place:  #20 -- OF NIGHT AND STONE

The prize:  1st chapter and synopsis

4th place:  #26 -- THE LIGHT BEHIND THE CLOUDS

The prize:  1st 3 chapters

3rd place:  #28 -- MISS YOU, LOVE YOU

The prize:  First 50 pages


The prize:  First half of the manuscript

1st place:  #45 -- THE WIDE STARLIGHT

The prize:  Full manuscript

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

Congratulations, everyone!

Secret Agent Unveiled: Danielle Burby

Thanks and applause to the astute, thorough, and adorable Danielle Burby of the Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency for being our Secret Agent this month!

Danielle's Bio:

Danielle graduated from Hamilton College with honors and a double major in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies. Before finding her home at HSG, she interned at Writers House, Clarion Books, Faye Bender Literary Agency, Dunow Carlson and Lerner, John Wiley and Sons, and SquareOne Publishers (along with stints as a waitress and a farmers’ market vendor).

Her passion lies in YA, Women’s Fiction, and mysteries. She gravitates toward stories with a strong voice and particularly enjoys complex female characters, narratives that explore social issues, and coming-of-age stories. Genres that appeal to her include contemporary YA, medieval fantasy, historical fiction, cozy mysteries, and upmarket Women’s Fiction. She finds it hard to resist gorgeous writing and is a sucker for romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative, but don’t dominate it.

Danielle was involved in way too many singing groups in college and is always up for karaoke. She also enjoys both tea and coffee, managing to defy the naysayers who claim they’re an either-or thing. She is, however, distinctly a chocolate person. You can follow her on Twitter HERE.

What Danielle is currently looking for:

"Right now I am pretty actively looking for contemporary YA, fantasy in general, but specifically medieval fantasy, and upmarket women's fiction."

Winners forthcoming!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Let's talk about tiny things.

Bearing in mind, of course, that I do line edits.  Which means I'm not only making comments about the story, I'm fixing grammatical and punctuation errors, too.  The more errors I have to fix, the more tedious the job.

So I thought I'd point out a few today, just in case these little babies have somehow slipped under your radar.  Remember--a clean manuscript is a beautiful manuscript.  :)


This is certainly a wee thing.  But here's the rule:

IN in used to denote LOCATION:

The rabbit was sleeping IN the box.
She found her keys IN her purse.

INTO is used to denote ENTRANCE:

He slid his hands INTO his pockets.
She put the fish INTO the refrigerator.

Most common error:  Using "in" when you should use "into".  As in, "He slid his hands in his pocket."  It's true that, once he does the sliding, his hands are IN his pockets, but as he's doing it, it's INTO the pockets they go.


The correct usage is DIFFERENT FROM.  As in, always.  "Different than" is commonly used in both speech and writing, but it's incorrect.  And it makes my teeth curl.

Full disclosure:  I've only learned this in recent years.  I still find "different than" here and there when I edit my own work.  Old habits die hard!

But, yes.  It's

I'm not so different from you.
Avocados are different from artichokes.


Some of you will balk at this one, but I'm going to say it, anyway:  THE CORRECT WORD IS SNEAKED.

And, yes.  I change it in the work I edit.  Every. Single. Time.

Here's the thing:  "Snuck", which sneaked into American English some time in the early 20th century, is so widely used and accepted, that, yes, some people think it's okay to, yanno, use it.  And there are cases when, for the sake of voice, it might work in your novel.  Like, if you've written a middle grade story from the first person viewpoint of the main character, and he happens to talk that way.  In that instance, "sneaked" would sound inauthentic.


Most of the time, and especially if you write adult novels, SNEAKED is the correct choice.  It is the grammatically correct past tense form of the verb TO SNEAK.

The present, past, and past participle of TO SNEAK are:   SNEAK, SNEAKED, HAS SNEAKED

These 3 forms are used to make all 6 tenses of the verb:

I sneak.
I sneaked.
I will sneak.
I have sneaked.
I had sneaked.
I will have sneaked.

(And by now, the word "sneak" doesn't even feel like a real word.)

Thus endeth my little list of wee things.  (Well, inside my head, they're not so wee.  I sort of want to claw things when I see these errors.)

And now I'm off to ballet class after not-quite-5 hours of sleep (don't ask).  This should be interesting.

Happy weekend, all!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Secret Agent Critique 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.

March Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Almost Like Magic
GENRE: Fantasy

Most people think the worst thing about a poltergeist is that it's evil. And usually trying to kill someone. To me, though, it's the screeching. That delighted, demented half-laugh, half-scream. Not that having something try to kill you is a treat, never mind trying to keep someone else alive while it's trying to kill you. Kill your best friend.

But that's what I do, what all trackers do: we save people. Koh and her team rush in, often uninvited, to take on any number of demons and evil spirits tormenting innocent people. Which is how I ended up in this family's house just outside Green River. She was trying to save them, and now I had to save her. Koh was just lucky I'd been on my way home from work, and literally minutes away. I couldn't always duck away from the family medical practice in Rock Springs to save lives in the field.

Glass shattered over my head, followed by a scream icier than the Wyoming winters I'd grown up in. Above the maniacal sounds and crashing glass, I heard the familiar chant of a Latin exorcism, tinged with a heavy Bostonian accent, something powerful enough to send this entity back to Hell. Shel – formerly Father Sheldon O'Reilly, and Koh's newest partner – came into view, his voice strong as he blessed each corner of the room with a smudge stick of protection herbs.

March Secret Agent #49

TITLE: Veering Straight
GENRE: Women's Fiction


Mocha’s nails tip-tapped on the hardwood floor, and Diana twisted her desk chair away from the bay window overlooking the neighborhood.

“Hey, girl. Whatcha doing?” Diana scratched Mocha under her graying chin and rubbed her hand up and down the wavy brown fur on the dog’s backside, then slid her gaze back toward the front window.

In the distance, the peak of the pyramid-shaped Transamerica building pointed toward a sky as blue as the bay surrounding the edges of San Francisco. Critiquing manuscripts was less of a job and more a joyful experience with this view. But the niggling worry crouched in the corner of her mind. Living in Piedmont wasn’t worth it.

“Want to go for a walk, Mocha? You’re getting heavy. Dr. Applegate said a hundred pounds is too much.” Mocha laid her head on Diana’s lap, her soulful golden eyes tipped upward. “You’ll be eight years old soon. We want you to reach at least twelve.”

Diana stood up and grabbed the leash. “Come on, girl.”

The doorbell rang. She loved the sound of the deep bong vibrating through the house. Whether she was in the basement, kitchen, or second floor, the tune wended its way through every room like the organ music at the basilica where she attended mass as a young girl.

She leaned over her desk and peeked through the paned-glass windows to the porch. Her sister Taryn, chewing gum like she was getting ready to enter a Bazooka contest.

March Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Complex Solutions
GENRE: YA contemporary

Amanda pulled back on the door handle with one hand and gripped Bailey’s leash in the other. Ugh! The seismic pounding in her head was rendering her dizzy.

Her grandmother appeared at the top of the stairs. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ll be fine.”

But she wouldn’t. True, that blasted, evil migraine had returned, but it was the nagging, taunting voices beneath the searing physical pain which were more troubling…and they wouldn’t be dismissed with medication.

“I’m sure my medicine will kick in soon.”

“Okay, see you shortly.”

Amanda set off with her yellow Lab for his morning walk. The September sun wove its brilliance through the leaves, enchanting the path to the beach. Falmouth, Massachusetts was gorgeous this time of year, a stunning palette of rich earth tones, set off by the crystal blue water of the sea. But in Amanda’s world it was depressingly black.

Why wasn’t it me? They had everything to live for. As she walked, Amanda gazed down at her Sasquatch –size feet. She felt the despair and loneliness welling up again. The voices hissed inside her head. Come on…you’re out here by yourself. Finish it this time. You’ve got nothing to live for. You won’t last at this new school…you don’t fit in anywhere. She felt around in her pocket. It was there. It was always there. But she’d promised she would try. Plus, Gram was waiting for her and…well, Bailey needed to go.

March Secret Agent #47

TITLE: Farlight
GENRE: YA sci-fi

Inching forward on my stomach, I craned my neck into the darkness of the vent. Pollen dust filled my nose and my hands faltered in the dim light. I wasn’t designed for this. For life on the Asteris. For life on Earth either. I was designed for another planet entirely.

One I’d never see.

I paused, flicking my lavender-green light against the void. All along the sidewalls, it flared back at me, tracing the impurities in the ductwork in spidery streaks of yellow and blue. Soon they’d grow into cracks, then fissures: a lacy web out of which the air would seep. Away from the ship’s cycling system.

But air wasn’t the resource I was here for. My charges were much less predictable.

I dragged myself onward. Wrist, forearm, shove; wrist, forearm, shove; every movement calculated and heavy against the press of the walls. The air was stale with the scent of over-clocked computers and fried autorations. Humid and oppressive. Someday, chasing after these stray beehives would be the death of me.

I adjusted my sensor glove, the webbing dark against the dull gray sheen of my outstretched hand. Beyond it, past the safe semicircle of lilac glow, a blackness so long I couldn’t see its end. I double checked my light. If something went wrong and– my throat hitched. I pushed out a slow, measured breath. Calm. I could do this. Jesry had done it, and he was seventy years old.

Only Jesry hadn’t had any reason to be afraid of the dark.

March Secret Agent #46

TITLE: The Curse of Jenny Greenteeth
GENRE: YA Thriller

In the wispy dark of a foggy night, the children come. The children die.

Jenny Greenteeth croons to them, her keening call they cannot deny.


Gram was dying and it couldn't happen soon enough. Not that I didn't love her and wish she could be with us for all the rest of my own years. But each breath that her frail lungs fought to take was laboured, and it took her whole body to pull it in. Not even the oxygen that was being forced into her through the mask over her nose and mouth offered her any relief. No one wanted to watch their beloved Gram die that way.

Sam's sobs drifted through the closed door. Dad said he was too young to sit with us and no matter loud he howled, Dad refused to budge. So Sam's cries and Gram's tortured breaths were the only sounds we had. The machines had all been turned off by the hospice nurse.

Mom had long ago stopped her own crying. I think she was numb. She sat in a chair beside the bed and stared at the blankets covering Gram's small frame. I wondered if, like me, she wanted this to be over. For Gram to have some peace.

"She'll finally be at rest," said Dad. The scratch in his voice belied the stern set to his face.

Gram was a constant in all our lives. She'd lived with us longer than I had.

March Secret Agent #45

GENRE: YA magical realism

You’re not supposed to whistle at the Northern Lights. According to Arctic legend, those colored waves of light are the souls of the dead streaming across the night. They don’t pay us living people much attention, but if you whistle, they’ll swoop down and carry you off forever.

I know it’s true because my mother whistled at them.

When I was ten months old, she took me out of the house at midnight. She’d dressed me in my snowsuit and two hats, one over the other, nesting cozies for the baby egg of my head. Silent, she carried me through Itigajaq, the tiny hamlet where I was born, and stepped out onto the frozen fjord.

Everyone says I was too young to remember any of it, but sometimes when I’m just about to fall asleep I see her face, a strand of black hair caught on her cheek, and so many stars over us that it looks like a blizzard frozen in time. The lights were a long line of ectoplasmic green, their edges hinting at pink, wavering from one horizon to the other.

Miles from nowhere and nothing, my mother stopped. She held me tight to her chest, pressed her nose against my hats, and whispered my name. Elisapie. I curled into her, sleepy and safe. Then she tipped her head back and whistled. It wasn’t a song; it was a call.

The wave of electric light curved down. It took her.

It left me there, alone on the ice.

March Secret Agent #44

GENRE: YA Fantasy

How long is the fall down to earth?

I lean against the fence that marks the drop from the floating city to the desert below, digging my fingernails into the wet wood. The city rests drowsy behind me, golden spires and cobblestone roads cloaked in morning mist. My legs shake underneath me. I fidget with my fingerless, scaled gloves.

It’s morning already.

And the smell of blood is still so strong.

I should have left hours ago, but I couldn’t leave my room, couldn’t stop scrubbing. Hot iron blooms in my nostrils as if the sticky red liquid is still smeared across my face, my clothes, my palms.

But it isn’t on my skin. I’ve washed myself pink. It can’t be there.

Gravel scrapes behind me. I curl my wings snug against me, gripping the fence tighter and looking around.

Once someone finds the corpses, once they know I’m gone, I’m dead. And yet, here I am, not ready to leave the people who would kill me. My fingers itch for the sabre I left behind.

They’re coming this way. They’re going to spot and capture me if I don’t move. Sweat beads on my forehead.


I lean forward, stretching my wings slowly so the soft stained-glass feathers don’t make sound —

Something grabs the collar of my shirt. Hot, moist breath brushes across the nape of my neck and through my shorn hair as I’m yanked backwards.

I scream and grab my dagger. But I know it’s useless.

March Secret Agent #43

TITLE: Destiny's Plan
GENRE: Women's Fiction

On a moonless summer night, a Greyhound bus rushes along a lonely stretch of road, its headlights penetrating the blackness. In the thoughts of Men, a bus is an innocuous conveyance, transporting all sorts of strangers. But, in that single moment, all are joined in an unspoken united purpose: to reach their destination. The simple act of moving from point to point is taken for granted. It is on these rare, unintended occasions when paths cross, lives intersect, and the Fates intervene. Directions, once solidly set, change. Destiny is fickle, humbling human arrogance. It spins, It weaves, and It cuts lives on a whim.

June 1st, 1967 ~ Houston ~ Greyhound Bus Station

The image of Papá waving good-bye still scorched Raquelita’s mind. She tried to swallow, but it was impossible. After last night, her mouth was dry and raw. Desperate to erase the painful memory, she stared around the waiting hall, her gaze hopscotching from person to person, reading the emotions of her fellow travelers: excitement, fear, exhaustion. Marité, her younger sister, showed curiosity. Mamá, as usual, flashed bold irritation, made clearer with every grating heel tap on the tiled floor. The wooden benches, the incessant crisscrossing of travelers, and the jarring noise of the loudspeakers aggravated Mamá’s tense disposition past its limits.

The two-hour connection seemed endless, and all destinations had been announced except theirs. Not that she was eager for her bus to arrive; given the chance, she would turn back to her father in San Antonio immediately.

March Secret Agent #42

TITLE: Crap Out
GENRE: Mystery

“You know where Apple Way is?” Harley Millshutter yelled over what sounded like the whirring roar of chopper blades. “Where the rich people live?”

“Of course,” Carson Rule acknowledged. Having just completed a 30-minute workout in the mini-gym he maintained in his office, the 46-year old private detective straightened his 6-foot 4-inch frame and stepped onto the electronic scale—215, 18% body fat. Frowning, he asked, “Is that a chopper I hear?”

“You got it, big guy. Can you get out here now or should I send the chopper?”

“What about lunch? I was on my way out for lunch.”

“Now means now,” Millshutter shouted. “We got a problem on our hands. A big problem.”


“Haghorn,” Millshutter said. Just the day before Millshutter had retained Rule to investigate the man.

“The cat out of the bag?” Rule asked.

“No such luck. He’s dead. It looks like murder. 4360 is his home.”

“Murdered? You on your way there?”

“I’m five minutes out,” Millshutter said. “The old man doesn’t want those dumb ass sheriff deputies screwing up the crime scene.”

Rule ran a hand through his thick, prematurely white hair. "I'm on my way."

“You want me to swing by and pick you up?” Millshutter asked.

“Yeats doesn’t like to fly,” Rule said looking at his pound dog, supposedly a Chihuahua/miniature collie mix. Yeats was staring up at him from his bed.

“He still with you?” Millshutter shouted.

“He is.”

“Always liked Yeats. See you soon.”

March Secret Agent #41

TITLE: Awake and Astray
GENRE: Upmarket Fiction

I have the weirdest taste in my mouth. Metallic, like I’ve been sucking on pennies, and spicy—no, not spicy. Stinging. Blood. What the—? I move my tongue and feel tiny pebbles. They’re sharp and cutting my gums and the insides of my cheeks. Teeth? No. Glass.

I turn to spit out the pieces of broken glass, but my neck is encased in something that makes it impossible to move. I push them out of my mouth with the tip of my tongue and they roll down my chin on a trail of saliva and blood.

I open my eyes and see I’m in some kind of… storage room? With shelves of equipment, strange monitors, dials, wires.

Have I been kidnapped?

The room is tiny, and moving, and noisy. There are beeps, the hiss and tinny chatter of a walkie-talkie, the looped bellow of a siren.

Where the f*** am I?

It finally registers: an ambulance.

Next question: Why the f*** am I in an ambulance?

I try to sit up, but only manage to lift my head maybe an inch. I have a lot more questions. A hand on my shoulder prevents me from rising any further. No, it’s not just the hand. I’m strapped in.

“Nice to see you coming around, but don’t try to sit up. Do you know today’s date?”

“September ninth, 1999,” I mumble.

“It’s actually September tenth,” he corrects me. Close enough.

“What happened? Am I hurt?” Of course you’re hurt, genius.

March Secret Agent #40

TITLE: The Firefly Field
GENRE: Younger MG: Fiction Adventure

Creeped out by rustling in the bushes, Herby whizzes over a branch and glances over his left wing.


Herby plunges to the ground. Dizzy, he looks up at Alex hovering above him. Herby’s light goes into full flicker spasm.

“Watch where you’re flyin,” Alex shouts. “Freaky fly can’t control his miserable yellow light. Francine has got to be as blind as a moth to like you!” He yanks Herby’s antennae and darts off.

Herby twitches his feelers and flips over. Crawling home, he questions out loud, “What’s with that new fly, Alex? Doesn’t he know Francine and I’ve been friends since glow worm stage? Why isn’t my light green like everyone else’s? And will I ever control this embarrassing nervous-light disorder? ”

With thoughts churning, Herby arrives at his cozy home that lies deep within the folds of the grass. He scuttles over to his mother, Claire, “Why’s my light yellow?”

“I knew that question was coming,” his mom says while rocking her glowworm twins. “You inherited it.”

“From who?”

“Your great-great grandfather,” says his mom.

“What do you know about him?”

“Not much, he had a yellow light, and died in a spider’s web.”

“I learned today in school, fireflies never escape spider webs. And now you tell me my great-great-grandfather, who I look like, died in one. Next, you’ll say it was a deadly Stryper.”

“I’m afraid so, Herby, but his light barely glimmered when it happened – he was old.”

“You mean a firefly doesn’t matter when its light starts fading?”

March Secret Agent #39

TITLE: The Devil's Kaleidoscope
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction

The military policeman raises his rifle to his chest and pushes us toward the low wooden jail door at the back of the police station. “Bedros Andonian!” He yells Father’s name through a small, square window with iron bars beside the door. A thick smell of human waste surrounds me, like that gendarme poured it straight out of a bucket onto the dirt floor.

I peer through the bars, trying to distinguish Father from all the other Armenian men crammed together in the dark cell, some stooping under the low wooden beams of the ceiling. I can’t find him, even though I’m standing on my toes to get a clear view since this window is nowhere near eye-level for 13-year-old boys.

“Stinky.” Garo twists his head around and buries his nose in my shirt, still clutching his toy boat, as I hold him up near the bars. Father’s probably been choking on the stench for hours, but we rushed over as soon as we heard the military police took him.

People shift positions inside as the gendarme takes up his post behind us. He reeks of rotten meat, or maybe that’s the jail. I clamp my mouth shut to keep from gagging. A glob of spit sticks to his scraggly beard. Half of his teeth are missing. Turkish gendarmes always look scary, but this one looks deranged. He’s the one to lock up.

March Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Chasing Chaucer
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I opened my locker to find a cream-colored envelope resting atop the mess of crumpled papers and worn books. It looked out of place, like an exotic creature had chosen the most chaotic spot possible to build a nest. Handwritten letters across the front spelled out my name: Brittany J. Hanson.

Who had access to my locker? And who did I know who wrote calligraphy?

I extracted the envelope with my fingertips, feeling I should wear gloves to handle paper so nice. A round, raised seal embossed on the back flap had the monogram PCM.

Too curious about the content to keep being careful, I ripped it open. Inside was a thick card, the same cream color as the envelope.

The honor of your presence is requested

Today, May 20, at 15 minutes past three in the afternoon

In classroom A-6

A Unique Opportunity Awaits

I tapped the edge of the card against my locker and twirled a chunk of hair.

The phrase alone was enough to set my pulse racing: Unique opportunity. I could use one of those. It didn’t even have to be unique—I’d settle for any old opportunity. It had come knocking once this year, but sometime after I let it in, it bolted without the courtesy of a goodbye.

Granted, unique opportunities were rare. I shouldn’t get my hopes up. But it was worth checking out.

Not like I had anything else to do after school. Not anymore.

March Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Devil's Playground
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

“Elizabeth, are you up?” I sit up with a start, taking a moment to orient myself. Oh, yeah. It’s Sunday. And I’ve slept in again.

“Yes, I’m almost ready,” I lie, jumping out of bed. I wince as my bare feet hit the cold floor. Time to put on my ‘Sunday best.’ I pull out the first dress I see. It doesn’t seem to matter much when my choices are the black dress, the dark black dress, or the other black dress. Shall I wear the one with the hole, the one with two holes, or the one the mouse chewed through?

“Elizabeth! We are going to be late, we need to leave,” I hear Mother call again, this time with a hint of impatience.

“I’ll be right there!”

After exchanging my white nightdress for the dark black dress that the mouse chewed through, I tie a white apron around my waist, attempting to hide the hole. I am nearly out the door when I realize I have forgotten my cap.

I sigh, quickly pinning my hair back before covering it with the white cap, a symbol of my purity. I now look like every other girl in Salem village, just how it should be. It seems a shame to let my curls go to waste and I can’t help but pull a few forward.

I walk out to the front room where Father, Mother, and my younger sister Anna are waiting. Mother sighs and shakes her head.

"What did I do now?" I ask.

March Secret Agent #36

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Cornelius thought his luck couldn’t get any worse, the aching in his back made him think he might not be able to participate in the year’s final swim competition. Winning the championship would be the one thing that would bring him that much closer to being accepted by his classmates. He’d missed the last few days of practice. That tomorrow was his twelfth birthday was the last thing on his mind.

Laying on his bed, he tried to read but couldn’t find a comfortable position. So much for reading. He let the whirring fan on the ceiling hypnotize him and within minutes Cornelius was fast asleep.

By the time he finally woke the sun was setting. A long streak of orange light reached across the room to where he lay on the bed. The television was on downstairs, its sound muffled through the bedroom floor. Was that fresh baked lemon cake he smelled? The clock read 7:45pm. He rubbed his eyes and forced himself out of bed, dragging across the room to the door. The inside of his mouth felt like a wooly sweater. He could do with a glass of water.

As he passed his mirror, he stopped. What was that on his back? With one cautious step backward, Cornelius eased himself toward the mirror again. He took a deep breath and slowly turned to the side, then stumbled backward. It was all he could do not to scream. There, poking through his shirt, was a long black feather.

March Secret Agent #35

GENRE: YA Speculative Thriller

A hollow snap like fractured bone filled the air as Aaron's hatchet bit into another half-frozen log. Mismatched wedges of wood tumbled to the ground, spraying snow across the wet cuffs of his jeans. Shivering, he jerked the hatchet out of the chopping block and stared at the pitiful pile of kindling he’d managed to split. There was no way it would last the night, especially if it started snowing again, but—

Please. He grimaced at the unbroken layer of clouds hanging heavy and low in the sky. This was Prague; of course it was going to snow again. That’s all it ever did here. He hadn’t seen the sun in so long, his body was going through vitamin D withdrawal.

He flexed his numb fingers—after two months he still wasn’t used to the cold—and debated whether to call it a day.

A gust of wind knifed through his coat.

That’s it.

Hatchet poised above his shoulder, he eyeballed the chopping block and was about to bring his arm sweeping down when his phone rang. The guitar blast ringtone was so startling in the winter stillness of the backyard that he almost dropped the hatchet on his head.

“Son of a—”

This snow-hell of a city was going to decapitate him.

Aaron fumbled inside his coat, pulled out his phone, and immediately rolled his eyes. Considering the fact that his dad still wasn't home, it didn't take a particle physicist to figure out why he was calling.

March Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Flash
GENRE: Young Adult Paranormal

Benjamin strolled into Taylor Woods Nursing Home knowing somebody was going to die. Popping an orange Tic Tac into his mouth, he nodded at the secretary and headed off towards the East wing. He didn’t need a guest pass. She knew who he was, and based on the raise of a single eyebrow, she was curious. He peeked back, curious if she was watching to see which room he walked into.

She was.

“Howdy, Ms. Gail,” Benjamin crooned as he walked through the door at the end of the hallway. In this wing, lunch was served on trays as all residents were no longer able to make it to the cafeteria. The floral and disinfectant smell of the nursing home was so strong that he couldn’t make out the menu.

Ms. Gail wasn’t speaking. He blew out the breath he wasn’t aware he was holding. Had he expected her to stand up and dance at his arrival? Nobody did that, even if they didn’t know about his gift. Or curse, depending on the day.

Her bedroom was noisy, even though it was just the two of them. The respiratory machine hummed as it breathed in and out, an accordion-like thing moving up and down with the noise. To the right of Ms. Gail was the heart machine. The green lines weren’t moving up very far, if that meant anything at all. And the beeping noise that accompanied the rising green line took a break for a few seconds before repeating.

March Secret Agent #33

TITLE: Memories in the Mist
GENRE: Women's Fiction blended with Historical Fiction

We often miss beginnings.

Our lives are busy; our focus is on ourselves; our responsibilities pull us in multiple directions. I know all of the above was true for me in 2006.

I missed an important beginning in Mom’s life. She lived in North Carolina. I divided myself among my life in Kentucky and my two daughters—Jenny in Alabama and Kate in Ohio. I visited my mother at best twice a year and trusted my sister, Angela, in South Carolina to check on Mom more frequently.

I’m here to tell you…playing catch up is hell.

It all began when a phone conversation revealed a glimpse of the future.

“I lost my car today at the mall,” Mom said when she phoned me in Kentucky.

“How did you do that?” A small inhale betrayed my concern. “You know the mall like the back of your hand.”

“I guess I do.” Mom chuckled. “After all, I’m there several times a week. Like to ramble around and see what’s new. You never know when you might stumble onto a bargain.”

I smiled. Ah yes, the elusive bargain. “But how did you lose the car?”

“Oh, I guess I’m just getting old. No worries. I finally found it. All’s well that ends well.”

I recognized fear in the tightness of Mom’s laughter. A series of prickles ran up my arm. I shuddered and made a mental note to put an orange tennis ball or fake flowers on Mom’s car antennae next time I visited.

March Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Neodymium

At least he didn't call her crazy.

From the time the red-haired, green-scaled businessman called Lem a witch to the time she chopped him down like a holly bush—eh, about four seconds. No one else in the ice cream parlor interrupted. No one helped, either. The space-lemur policeman in the corner stared at the phone in his paws, ears perked as he pretended not to see; the Wonderfrog server behind the counter tapped his bulging fingertips on his skull like desserts really worried him.

Lem tightened her grip on the businessman's wrist. “Whatever I am, everyone in here knows you're selling little girls to the greys,” she snarled in the businessman's ear, spitting through her teeth as she pushed his face harder into the table. “And one day I'll prove it and get Officer Scritch over there off his duff for a change.” She lowered her voice to a harsh whisper. “But the day you talk to my sister again? Officer Scritch won't be lookin' for you. Won't be a you to find.”

The businessman grunted. He got it. A'ight. Lem straightened, threw back her shoulders, and wiped her brow on the sleeve of her rough brown civvies as she yanked the guy up from the plastic booth where she'd thrown him. She gave him a reassuring pat on the back as he wheezed. Perv had asthma. “Now get out so I can enjoy my ice cream in peace.”

Her wristband lit up. So much for finishing in peace—shyte, how'd her captain catch her already?

March Secret Agent #31

TITLE: Harlequin Cove
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Tonight on AC 360, I’ll take an in depth look at the mysterious disappearance of renowned novelist Joseph Polk.

Today marks exactly two years since the beloved American mystery writer became the subject of one of his own novels. With no family to speak of, it appears as though the only person who could possibly find the now seventy-year-old author is his own fictional super-sleuth, Avery Mack.

The man who has churned out two fast paced cracking mysteries every year for the past thirty-five years hasn’t published a book in over eighteen months. Tonight we ask the question: Is Joseph Polk dead?

The letter, on its thick, cream vellum paper with its black as night ink was calling her name.

Pearl Davis kept one eye on the road, one hand on the steering wheel, and reached for the tantalizing document sitting at the bottom of the box on the passenger seat. The source of all her anxieties. The reason she had just upped and quit her secure job. With benefits!

The penmanship of her oh so proper British father’s final words to her was unrecognizable now with its shaky scrawl.

God. What had she done? It was all too little too late. She hadn’t followed her dreams while he was still alive, so what was the point of pouncing on them now? He was cold in his grave and unable to share her monumentally, screwed up, rash decision, let alone praise her for it.

March Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Pendulum Heroes
GENRE: Fantasy

Melvin Morrow’s first shock was a pair of cinnamon-colored breasts that defied gravity. Melvin perpetually fantasized about touching breasts like these, of being smothered in their soft embrace. Now he had a pair protruding proudly out of his chest in a steel bikini top. The steel shimmered in the sunlight. He was too mortified to be aroused.

The second shock was the uigr. He erupted from the tree line on the forest’s edge, a caveman on steroids, as big as a tree himself. Concept art would never capture the power and tremendous size of a real one as he barreled down on Melvin. The uigr’s axe was crude.

The third shock was the axe. Its path was wild and angry. It found a home in the shoulder of the gray-skinned man standing right next to Melvin. Not a man, an aian, a being that, like the uigr, was complete fabrication moments ago. Aians always looked noble in the concept art, tall with angular features that stayed stoic as they struck battle poses. Not now, not here; gone was any sense of regal composure as this aian screamed in panicked, desperate agony.

Melvin recognized this aian as Cephrin. His best friend Jason Streible played as Cephrin.

The fourth shock was Cephrin’s left shoulder. It had a uigr’s giant axe buried in it. Blood showered from the wound all over the bearded face and gray robes of Richard Bates’ character, the human mage Razzleblad.

Melvin had reached his shock tolerance. He fainted.

March Secret Agent #29

GENRE: YA Contemporary

If I hear another song from Grease, I'm going to freaking punch someone.

Ever since the spring musical was announced, my sister's done nothing but sing songs from the show: in the bathroom; at dinner; in the car, to and from school. Like, right now. Alexandra's bouncing in the passenger seat, singing, occasionally primping her ponytail in the side mirror when there's an apparent break in the lyrics. And I say apparent because she's singing along to the music from her iPod, earbuds plugged in, so all I get to hear is her.

The singing's not horrible. Actually, Alexandra's got a pretty awesome voice (not that I'd ever tell her that), but "Summer Nights" 24/7? Her and Dylan doing the "Hand Jive" in the living room for the past two months? Singing a stanza over and over again until it's perfect?

Someone please kill me.

I crank up Panama's stereo and try to tune out her a cappella performance with Aerosmith. Alexandra flashes me a pitiful sneer, huffs dramatically, then sings louder. I yank a bud out of her ear and point at my stereo.

"Ow!" she exclaims.

"Do you mind?"

She tsks. "I'm rehearsing for my callback today, thank you very much, and I have to make sure it's flawless. I'd have the best junior year ever if Mr. Fonda cast me as Sandy." She pulls down the passenger-side mirror, appraises herself, and sings, "Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee-"

"Lousy with virginity," I mutter. "Yep. You're perfect for the part."

March Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Miss You, Love You
GENRE: Contemporary YA

Once, six girls sat on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, at the start of the earth and the end of it. They perched there where fog met sea and foam met sand and old met new, and it seemed to them they felt the world shift. It was opening up to them, but as it did, it was pulling them apart.

So that night as the sun went down, they promised themselves to stay the same. The ocean took their promise and carried it out to sea in a single wave, out to where it could break against the horizon and be scooped up by the universe. And it was as if the ocean brought a promise back to them, a promise of constancy. A reminder that some things, like water and earth and love, could endure. The waves would keep rolling, and if they could, so could the six friends.

They had returned here, to this shore of their adolescence, many times over the last few years. Sitting there, six silhouettes against the setting sun, it was easy to think things had stayed the same. They imagined their friendship preserved in the water, indelible.

But you can’t drop something into the ocean and expect it to come out unchanged. The summer their promise resurfaced, they didn’t realize it. But that’s because they were looking for the constants. They wanted the predictable tide of the ocean, not its capricious, mercurial swells. They looked toward the future, but they didn’t see it at all.

March Secret Agent #27

TITLE: Court of Dark and Light
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Odelia dreamt a river of blood. She stood in the middle of it, the blood gushing over her feet and soaking her white robe to the knees, turning it a sickly red. She doubled over, gripping her stomach, crying out as a sharp, burning pain ripped through her. Blood oozed over her hands as she gasped for breath.

“You will die like your mother,” a woman snarled.

Odelia’s head shot up. Her Aunt Tabitha stood in the distance, a dagger dripping with fresh blood in her hand. The river flowed from a mountain of dead bodies behind her, and atop them was Odelia’s father, the king. A strangled cry escaped Odelia’s lips, her eyes widening. Black feathers rained from the sky and Odelia tilted her head back to see a winged man hovering above the bodies. His cold, pitiless smile sent a chill through her, bone deep.

“We are coming,” he warned. “And your people will fall.”


The chamber filled with a thick haze. The Dark Prince emerged from within it, stepping up to the dreaming princess. He pressed his fingers against her forehead, reading her dream. He frowned; why were young females always chosen? Did He honestly think this one could defeat him when all others had failed?

The princess lurched under his fingers as he drew the dream from her mind, her eyes fluttering open and rolling back into her head.

He removed his hand and she stilled, her eyes falling shut.

He slid back into the haze and vanished.

March Secret Agent #26

TITLE: The Light Behind the Clouds
GENRE: Women's Fiction w/ Magic Realism

For centuries, the women in Abigail's family tucked their children in at night whispering the instructions of life: plant a tree, repair the home, nurture the gift.

As soon as she was old enough to carry a bucket, Abigail was charged with caring for the tree planted the spring after her birth. Though that wasn't part of the saying, every time the family planted a tree, it was a walnut, grown from the seed of the mother's tree. Walnut trees were finicky - they required proper placement, careful watering, and patience. When both Abigail and the tree were ten years old, the tree started producing, but her elation was short lived. Over the next few years, Abigail made multiple trips to the furthest point of the backyard, gathering buckets of nuts. On many of these occasions, she was joined by her mother and her grandmother as they cared for their own trees also in the yard. Abigail wondered aloud why the tree had to be planted in their backyard. And why they couldn't plant something like a maple or a spruce - something that didn't require so much work every single year.

"There are some things worth nurturing," Mother said, "worth the time and effort. Love is one." She smiled and added, "Raising a gracious daughter is another. You will learn this someday. And in the meantime..."

In the meantime, Abigail placed bucket after bucket on the back step. Her home was the house that generations built. Or at least, maintained.

March Secret Agent #25

GENRE: YA Fantasy

The gargoyles are staring at me again. I narrowly miss clocking the stone figure’s outstretched tongue as I stumble forward, my high-heeled boots puncturing the frozen grass. Bray smiles and shakes his head as he throws a wave to one of the guards stationed at the estate's main entrance. Even from our distance, our family's silver insignia twinkles on the breast pocket of their jackets. It's the most comforting sight I've seen in hours.

"I've made an executive decision,” I tell Bray as the shadow from hundreds of feet of soaring black stone envelops us, the towers blanketed by spiraling tufts of fog. "I'm removing Fang and the rest of those statues. I think my eyes are peeling from the hideousness."

"Fang is going nowhere, Lace." Bray's mouth twists into his you-can’t-be-serious look. "He's my favorite. And hey, maybe they'll scare the Council members for you." We pause to greet the guards as they open the massive doors, but my stomach drops.

The Council. The thumping of my heart overpowers the sound of my boots’ light staccato against the dark marble floors. "Do you think they’re already here?"

I've spent days going over my first speech to them. It has to be eloquent, convincing, and smart, and starting with "Hello, I know you might not feel comfortable having a seventeen-year-old as your boss" won’t cut it.

"I don't know." Bray shrugs as we stride through the wide hallway. The estate is as silent as time frozen. A slight chill glazes over my skin.

March Secret Agent #24

TITLE: Broken Beyond The Meadow
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction

Closing my eyes, I could hear my mother saying, “Just pray, Clara. Pray, and it will all work out."

Maybe this time she’d be right.

There was no light in the sky when I made my way over the familiar stones to the Dunlap’s wagons. The newly-covered prairie schooners were near the family's barn, but my heart pounded like a drum in my ears. The air was thick with the promise of rain, pressing my best cloak against my cotton dress, sticking it to my skin.

Dear Lord, please don’t let them send me back.

A light swung near one of the wagons. Catching my breath, I froze in the middle of the damp grass. The silhouette waved, the light going at the same frantic pace. With a relieved sigh, I recognized my best friend Nancy.

I quickened my steps, holding my bundle of one extra dress, a blanket, and a likeness of my parents. I hoped fear didn’t show on my face. This had been Nancy’s idea, but now I felt courage draining out of me.

“This isn’t a good idea,” I said in a low whisper, just a foot from Nancy. “I should stay—“

“We aren’t doing this again, Clara.” She lowered the light near my face. “Do you want to see the West and have a real adventure, or do you want to stay here taking care of your ungrateful aunt and uncle for the rest of your life?”

I bit my lip. “This better work.”

March Secret Agent #23

TITLE: The place you're supposed to laugh
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Chad Loudermilk was fourteen, and he was living in calamitous times.

Alone, he walked from the lab building to the gym. He was trailed by the sound of girls’ laughter. Not at you, he told himself, trying hard to believe it. He stared at his feet and kept moving. A few more steps of September sunlight before the cavernous gym.

Because the Palo Alto High School campus was composed of many small buildings, the walk between classes gave you a moment outdoors. The sun shone in its mellow northern Californian way: warm and temperate without being overbearing. For a moment you could soak up that easygoing sunshine, breathe the mentholated scent of eucalyptus on the air, and consider yielding to the palm trees beckoning toward the pool and fields. But you had seven minutes between classes; you had to grit your teeth and ignore those sweet lazy rays. You had to hump that backpack over to Brit Lit and not complain about it. Or in this case, trudge into the gym for the memorial assembly.

Inside, the bleachers were almost full. If this were an awards assembly or a rally for the football team, everyone would be talking and laughing. It would be easy for Chad to slip up the bleacher stairs, into a row near the top, without attracting attention. Even Chad himself would hardly notice his alone-ness, his lack of a clan to join.

March Secret Agent #22

GENRE: Adult Paranormal Thriller

Scarlet would have killed for a glass of merlot.

Although the day stretched long behind her, she was still in her office reviewing a status report at seven on a Friday evening. “What’s this idiot project manager doing?” She rubbed her eyes. What was the guy’s name? She didn’t know. She didn’t care.

She was composing a scathing email detailing his point-by-point failings when a breeze rushed over her face carrying the stench of burnt human flesh.

“Aw, hell, no,” she blurted to keep from gagging.

It was back.

For one stomach-clenching, head-twisting, freezing-sweat moment, Scarlet was no longer an almost-fifty vice president of technology in a large bank. Instead, she was eight years old again, shivering under bedcovers. Despite the glare of the overhead lights and the twilight glow coming through her window, midnight darkness blasted her skin with a chilly breeze.

“Go away,” she said between gritted teeth, embarrassment at addressing a disembodied presence washing away some of the terror.

The words had no effect.

Pissed off—but whether at herself or the presence, she wasn’t sure—she threw her pen across the office. It bounced against the closed door and landed in her trash can.

Well, that did a lot of good.

Scarlet stood and peered out the small frosted window along the door frame and saw what she expected: nothing. No human eyes checking if she was still at work well past when the rest of the employees had gone home. No janitorial staff whistling a tune. No one.

March Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Vanishing Point
GENRE: YA romance/thriller

The lady was dressed in a white hospital gown and although Meg couldn't see her face as she walked away, she knew who the woman was. Her figure grew smaller and smaller as she placed more space between herself and Meg.

“Don't go! Please! Don't go!” She tried yelling out, but her mouth refused to release the words and the woman kept walking. The outline of her gown softened as diffused sunlight from the windows at the other end of the hall began to blur her into a formless shape she could no longer recognize, her blonde hair now looking as if it was the very essence of the sunlight itself.

Meg fell to her knees and buried her head in her hands as sobs escaped her mouth, but the lady was no longer there to hear them. Her mother was gone.

Meg awoke with a startle to the sound of her alarm clock. It had been only the second nightmare of the week, but she regretted it was on the first day of school. She lay in bed trying to calm her breathing, still unaware of the sheets she firmly clutched within aching fists. She could only remember fragments of the dream itself, but could fill in the missing pieces. It was always the same.

March Secret Agent #20


Every stone in this damn castle looks the same. The walls practically crumble beneath my touch as I trip down the corridor, my dying phone a flicker against the darkness. Back home, the sun guided me, and even in the deepest parts of the woods, I never got lost.

There is no sunlight here.

Words carved in the stone whisper at the stroke of my fingertips, the hiss of forgotten history. I should have stayed in bed, waited for Dad, but a dim glow edging the stained glass woke me, and I couldn't get back to sleep. Because today is the day.

And I need it to be over, already.

My phone dips, its weak light dropping onto the small wooden box clutched in my other arm. Oval-shaped and carved into a blooming rose on top. Too light to believe there's anything in it at all.

"You're home, Momma," I whisper to the box.

After all this time… I'm here without her.

And I can't find a damn light switch.

I break into a trot, my legs wobbling like a newborn colt. Six hundred years of stagnant air catches in my throat, and cold sweat beads in the scar that slicks along my hairline, dripping like blood. Memories best kept locked away ooze into the shadows.

Blood and flame and nighttime sky. Her hand, so still.

No. Those memories don't belong here. I crossed an ocean to leave them behind, to lay her to rest. To help her find peace at last.

March Secret Agent #19

TITLE: Supernatural Fog
GENRE: Urban fantasy mystery

The demon is gigantic. Like, twenty feet tall. At least. It’s made of thick, white-hot volcanic rocks. He looks like a sort of evil Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four. Only bigger. Much, much bigger. And it spits lava and fire, of course. What fun would there be if it wasn’t spitting lava?

“A little help here, Morgan?” I shout while dodging a jet of lava as big as a car.

“It’s holy ground,” growls Morgan, aka the Abomination, who was flying outside, peering through a broken window. ““If I touch the floor, I burst into flames…”

I see her point. It’s holy ground. Which doesn’t make sense. At all. I mean, we are in a church. Yeah, All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest and most haunted church in London, but it’s still, nevertheless, a church. And demons shouldn’t pop out of holy ground like daisies, not if I could have my say about it. And, of course, I cannot.

“Girl, may I remind you that you are the incarnation of the Rabbit? You know, the animal spirit, my ally?”

She says nothing, just keeps flying outside, flapping her large, crow-like wings, her monstrous mouth twisted in a grimace.

I cannot believe this. That’s super bad luck! I mean, nothing happens for a month and then BANG! Fire demon in a church, right when each and every member of my ‘team’ is out of town for one reason or another.

March Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Bluebell Baker Sucks at Life
GENRE: YA contemporary

Polyester is the devil’s fabric.

I’m standing outside the gym with my back against a bank of freshman lockers. These are the worst lockers in the entirety of Watford High School. About as far away as you can get from classes and the student parking lot, yet close enough to the locker rooms to get a lovelyeau de jockstrapwafting down the hall.

The whole school is rumbling by like cattle at the feedlot. Shuffling feet. Talking, shouting, the occasional moo. And here I am, with my hands stuck up my polyester cheerleading skirt, attempting to get some rogue spankies back in place.

It’s the first week back at Watford High. Obviously, weneeda pep rally, right? Because I know that’s what was top of my mind when I thought about starting my senior year. “Yay English” and “This year’ll be great” and “Don’t drink and drive,” etc.

That all means I, a Watford High varsity cheerleader, had to bolt out of fifth period to throw on my uniform, scrape my straight brown hair into a pony, and tie the world’s most depressed ribbon around said pony. In about five minutes flat. Somewhere in the process, my undies went to war with my bodysuit, and spankies placement was a casualty. One butt cheek is peeking out, and the giant polyester spankies have wriggled into my, you know, lady region, and I have a spectacular camel toe that will really stand out nicely when I have to do a heel stretch.

March Secret Agent #17

TITLE: The Most Happy
GENRE: Historical Women's Fiction

The sun greets the morning sky, sparkling on the frozen castle grounds. Several birds share their song, welcoming the new day. But there is nothing good about today.

I stare out my open window at the waking morning, clutching the tattered letter in my hand. A soft snore draws my attention back to the large bed in the far end of my room. The sun falls across his smooth, milky skin and I smile at the sight. But my joy is short lived. I won't be seeing him this way again soon, if ever.

After today I’ll be a Lady of King Henry VIII’s court once more, a woman of value to my family, a Boleyn seeking an advantageous marriage even if my family has already forced one to come to an end. And he will be nothing more than the married poet he was when we left. I want to mourn our life together, but I know I cannot.

Sighing, I glance back out the window. A part of me always knew I would be returning one day. A part of me always knew that Thomas Wyatt wouldn’t be my husband.

“Anne.” His deep voice calls to me and makes my heart flutter as it has since the day we met. I look back to him with a smile.

“Good morning, Thomas,” I say.

Thomas groans, stretching his muscular arms overhead. “Come back to bed.” His bright blue eyes gaze at me, dancing up and down my body.

March Secret Agent #16

GENRE: YA Fantasy

As I waded into the imperial pond, I admitted defeat to Mother...again. She was right: I would never be as sharp as my brother.

Levai could have devised an effortless strategy for evading the palace servants in a heartbeat. My “strategy”, once out-running the maids had failed, involved tossing my shoes into a nearby shrub of nectar flowers and trudging through blue silt and waterlilies.

“Princess Hesperia!”

I picked out the new maid’s squeak among the rest of the voices and felt a squeeze of guilt. Only her third day, and here she was playing cat and mouse in the gardens. When she called my name again, my resolve weakened.

But recalling the sand arena, where I should have been watching the trial by blood with the rest of my family, cemented my feet. To reveal myself meant being dragged back to imperial box and forced to watch dunglings hack each other to pieces.

I retreated into my forest of lilies and waited. The servants gave up on the bridge and moved on to the persimmon grove.

Watersilk worms darted into the water as I parted the lilies with my hands to venture deeper. When the water was to my waist, I stopped to arrange the fan-reeds. No one would think to search in the waterloom portion of the pond, since watersilk stings before it’s been boiled. Already, the glistening threads on the surface clung to my arms, but red welts were a small price to pay for shirking my duties.

March Secret Agent #15

GENRE: Upmarket Women's Fiction

The painting opposite the grill was missing. Sold. It matched the one I already owned—a homeless musician embossed over skyscrapers. Together the two works would have provided a private concert of city life dissonance, great architecture clashing with Dallas’ forgotten souls. But I owned a single piece, a hollow song of solitude. I considered the artist of both paintings my rival, only she never knew it.

Above me in the near-empty club, came the sounds of scrambling and thumping and then soft padding of feet down the unpolished steps. What I noticed when I had first met Moonrock Nick was his tangled mess of curly, blond hair. The second thing was underneath the ravages of fifteen years of continuous drug usage, he had the warm, chiseled features of a seraph. If it wasn’t for drugs, Nick’s beauty would have been painful for mortal eyes. As it was, the shame of his loss was painful for me to see.

Nick gave me a warm hug, holding me tighter and longer than was comfortable. I struggled against the urge to break free. After he let go, shyness crept across his face. He looked as though he had been caught staring at the pretty girl in class. A certain endearing innocence clung to him, but I could never love him, not in the way he wanted.

“What happened to the painting?” I asked.

His gaze lingered over what was no longer there. “I’m sorry. I tried to hold onto it for you.”

March Secret Agent #14

TITLE: With Back Straight and Head Held High
GENRE: Women's Fiction - Historical

The feeling of loneliness is almost palpable as I sit on my comfortable tufted carriage seat, gazing down upon an abandoned, dilapidated house by the river that at one time was my home. Home is not the correct word. House? Shelter? Sad dwelling that I wanted to be a home, would be more precise, but who cares anymore? Certainly not me. Not my family either. The mother and father who gladly gave me up to a man twice my age, a man they did not know, for a couple acres of bottom land, land that was fertile, land which would help feed their growing family, or at least make a few coins that could keep a roof over their heads. Oh, well, that is not why I came back to Pennsylvania. It is time to leave this place of immense sadness, which I feel even now. My heart races as I tell my driver to take me into town. No one will recognize me and that is in my beat interest.

What would that young scared girl who was brought to this house think of middle aged me? A woman who killed a man in a fit of anger, a woman who conducted a multi-year sexual affair with a married man and looking back, believe that both were morally acceptable; a young poor girl looking at the older woman in an expensive automobile, one of the riches women in the state of Ohio.

March Secret Agent #13

TITLE: Keeping My Chin Up
GENRE: Women's Fiction

“Excuse me, Doctor Smith.”

Jaime Smith didn’t bother looking up. She continued to scan the patient file in her hand. “What?”

“Dr. Fogel would like to see you in his office. He said it was urgent.” The nurse's voice lowered to a mere whisper, “He sounded very upset.”

Jaime reached the end of the corridor and pressed on the elevator button. The bell rang and the large stainless steel doors slid open. She stepped into the elevator and glanced at her watch. It was already eleven o’clock. Her brows furrowed together. Dr. Fogel had never stayed at the hospital this late before.

She knocked on the door of his office and walked in. She dragged a chair closer to his large wooden desk. She plunked both elbows on top of the desk and cupped her chin. “I’ve already covered two complete shifts. I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”

Dr. Fogel smiled fondly. “I’m not asking you to stay on longer.” He wheeled his chair closer to the desk until his round belly made contact with the edge. He lowered his gaze and picked up a pen. He twirled it in his hands.

The light of the desk lamp shone on his face. His features were taut. The knot of his tie had been roughly pulled down. The fine hair left on his almost bare scalp stood at odd ends. Something was wrong, very wrong.

Jaime leaned back into her chair. “I’m too tired to play guessing games.”

March Secret Agent #12

TITLE: The Third Gift
GENRE: Middle grade fantasy

Hunched over her magical telescope, with her black cloak flapping in the wind, the Witch could have been mistaken for a pteranodon, or a pterosaur - some great winged predator the world had not seen in a very, very long time.

One more look was all she needed. One more look at the new home that was filled with flowers instead of sand. Singing birds and beautiful animals instead of rocks. Now she had it in her lens. In a couple of more days she'd have it in her hands. She'd been searching for so long that she'd lost count of time; years flew past like dandelion seeds caught in a whirlwind. Perfection was hard to find..

“There are so many ways to lie,” she told a stone squirrel sitting next to her. “But no one can outsmart a witch.” It's black onyx eyes glittered back. She rapped its head with her knuckles. “You think I don't know you're hiding in there? How does it feel to be in a prison? Your own body turned to stone? It's what you deserve for trying to fool me. All of you. ”

“How grand you all looked when I first saw you through this telescope. You all looked perfect. But after I came. After I saw you up close...I could always... find... something... wrong.

“You promised fur softer than a cloud,” she pointed to a fox. “But you shed all over my clothes. Clouds don't shed. They cry if you pinch them hard enough but they don't shed.”

March Secret Agent #11

TITLE: Then Ted Ate Erica
GENRE: Mystery/noir

Late October, that sort of L.A. evening that claws at your throat: grit in the air, gritted smiles. Drivers caged in their cars to protect one from the other. Station attendants who would just as soon toss a lighted match in your tank as to fill it with gasoline.

"I'm calling for an ambulance." Soft-spoken, matter-of-fact, no trace of panic.

"Sir, what's the nature of your emergency?" I asked.

"I need an ambulance."


"Fourteen hundred Tipton Road."

"My crew's got to gear up. Can you describe your problem?"

"You get here soon. My name's Jiffy."

The line went dead. Even before being called to the phone, I had my first clue to the oncoming disaster: he rang up the admissions desk in the emergency room. In times of crisis, most folk dial 911. These exchanges are recorded and, in criminal cases, anything the speaker says can and does get used as evidence. The paranoid and the lawbreakers, all those who game the system, invent dodges around this, including contacting lines inside the hospital.

Beyond that, in an authentic cry for help, the first words uttered speak to the nature of the crisis. The urgency and drama of the incident, the distress and anguish and the fact the caller has connected to someone who can help—these merge in a shrill desperation: "I've been shot," or, "I'm having chest pains," or, "My kid is barfing blood." The suffering is conveyed even before places and names.

The clincher: I recognized this address.

March Secret Agent #10

TITLE: A Trace of Madness
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Don’t be sorry. Don’t be sorry. Don’t be sorry.

Zéphyrine repeated the sentence in her head until it became her mantra, the only truth she could rely on. When it came to conquering countries, preparation was as essential as brute force, and she had done that, to painfully precise lengths. Zéph had spent the last six months preparing for this task, playing maid to a noble family and the girl whose mantle she was to take. To achieve a flawless impersonation, knowing the original person from inside out was not recommended, it was mandatory.

By now, Zéph knew María better than she knew herself. All she needed to see this through was the lesson her mother had taught her long ago. You are a mind witch, and people are your playground.

She touched the small stone table in the middle of the Sidonia manor’s circular foyer, where a crystal vase of colorful dahlias brightened up the otherwise dull room. It shouldn’t be long until the guard found María’s aunt and gave her the good news regarding María’s survival.

Her chest turned to stone as she remembered the warmth with which María had spoken about her family—a family Zéph was about to trick into believing she was their niece, the sole survivor of the attack on the border city of Alaterra four days ago. Never mind María was actually quite dead, burned to a crisp by Zéph’s brother right as she tried to flee the fire that wound up consuming the city.

March Secret Agent #9

TITLE: The Possibility of Fate
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

A secret is a powerful thing.

Lily realized this as her dad slid his keycard over a tiny silver box on the wall, unlocking the door to the lab. She felt like she was part of something special, worthy of whatever was hiding behind that door.

"Why are we at your work?" she whispered as the matallic door slid open. The slightly antispectic smell her dad always carried home from the lab suddenly filled the cool air and her pulse raced. She'd never been allowed inside the building before, and that scent made it real.

She followed her dad through the threshold and stopped in her tracks. The room was filled with metal tables and rolling chairs and all sorts of unusual machines and equipment, just like he'd described. But it was also dark and empty.

"Where is everyone?" Lily asked as her dad flipped on the lights.

He flashed a conspiratorial smile over his shoulder. "I gave everyone the afternoon off."

Lily's happiness deflated a bit. When he'd picked her up during the middle of a sixth grade assembly, it felt mysterious and clandestine. But it wasn't as special if others were in on it too.

Her dad chuckled at her disappointed expression and scooped her up onto one of the lab tables. "I let everyone else go home early so we could be the only ones here. I've been working on something amazing and I wanted you to be the first one to know about it."

March Secret Agent #8

TITLE: Straw. Salt. Gold.
GENRE: YA Fantasy


A sickening noise echoes through the flat, breaking my concentration. The wool I spin snaps, as the spinning wheel flies forward, and I topple over. Yarn tangles and splits in the bobbins, catching around the spokes of the wheel. I brush the dust from my skirt and relight my oil lamp to better survey the damage.

My heart sinks.

The spinning wheel, wedged into the hatbox of a room, is cracked in two, with its support beam split in half. All of its parts; crank, flyer, and treadle, list precariously. The soft merino wool my older brother Braun traded for, hoping to sell my handiwork for cabbages and bread, is a tangled mess. At best it will need to be re-carded.

A half days work gone in a pop and a flash.

The wheel must be fixable. It must be. As gently as I can, I lay the great wheel on its side, wishing for a miracle. I’ve patched my wheel before, held it together with beeswax, tar, and prayers. The fixes were crude, but they worked when we needed them. This time, to keep the rot from spreading the support beam will need to be removed and replaced.

In my heart, I hear Braun sighing; “Oh Rumilla, another expense?”

Wiping the grime on my skirt, I pick up my wrench from the toolbox. I’ll take in the part to salvage, instead of dwelling on the destroyed fiber.

Just another piece of ill-luck, in two years overflowing with ill-luck.