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1. Cover Revealed for New Kerry Kletter Novel

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2. Open Mic Wednesday - Welcome

Welcome to Open Mic Wednesday everyone. So glad you could join me.  Today's guest blogger is my friend Teddy O'Malley.  

Thank you so much Teddy for consenting to be my guest here on Storywraps. Teddy is going to talk to you about bullying,  a very important topic that needs to be addressed with your kids.  I appreciate your input friend and the mic is all yours...

Bullies can come in all shapes and sizes. From a young age we're told what a bully is. Maybe you have a mental image of the typical t.v or movie bully who steals a kid's lunch and knocks him over. Maybe your cousin who took your toys and made you cry when you were little comes to mind.

The dictionary defines a bully as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

In the book, Nicu: The Littlest Vampire by Elias Zapple, the bullies are the kids at school and Nicu's brother. They are the types of bullies almost all of us have dealt with at some point in our lives. They mock us or push us around. Nicu's parents are even bullies, something that kids who have been abused or bullied by their own parents will be able to empathize with.

Nicu, the protagonist, is an empathetic character. Most of us see ourselves in him. We don't want to be the older brother who pushes Nicu around. We don't want to be Nicu's mean parents. We don't want to be the kids at school who endlessly harass Nicu. We all want to be the good guy.

What if you thought you were the good guy, but you weren't.

In my own book, Cool Kids Wear Glasses, the bully is less obvious, at least to the protagonist, Mandy Harper. Mandy is an insecure 8-year-old who believes that she is in charge of the popular kids and that she has created and maintains the school's hierarchy.  When she is called out by a “less popular” girl, Kayla, Mandy responds by treating Kayla as if she is the bully.

Kayla demands Mandy to stop bullying. She tells Mandy that what she has done could just as easily have happened to her. But Mandy doesn't see it that way.

But, but, but...

She's just trying to be helpful. Or perhaps, she's trying to justify her actions.

Have you ever felt like you may have left someone out? Have you ever wondered if you have treated somebody in a way that you wouldn't want to be treated? I think we all have at some point. If you've asked yourselves these questions then you may have wondered: Am I the bully?

Whenever you are about to do something that may exclude someone or hurt their feelings, stop and think. Would I want this done to me? Why am I doing this? If the answer is no and you can't come up with a good reason why you are doing it then you may be a bully or at the very least, an unkind person.

Remember, every new encounter is a chance to be kind.

Unwrapping Teddy's latest book...

According to Amazon...

Mandy Harper, one of the meanest girls ever, viciously ruled the school. She decided who was in and who was out. At least until Kayla Littlebe started standing up to her. 

But one day Mandy found out she might need glasses. Would she still be able to rule the school or would her new glasses help her see the error of her ways? 

Lessons taught in this adventure include: 
The importance of being kind to others 
Standing up for others 
Not judging a book by its cover

About Teddy...

Teddy O' Malley was born in in Saint Louis, Missouri. She has traveled all over the United States and enjoys learning about new things and other cultures. She has enjoyed studying Spanish, German, and now Italian as well. She dreams of visiting a foreign country. Teddy O'Malley has also worked as a nurse assistant, aiding the disabled and the elderly.

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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3. Informing the Reader without Expo-dumping

...or how much expo-dumping can you do without completely pulling your reader out of the plot. The book I'm writing deals with a brother and sister (16

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by Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier and Manuel Garcia, Fernando Blanco, Javioer Pina, Eduardo Alpuente, Peru Bros, cover by Manuel Garcia
 US$34.95/GBP 22.99 
 7x10 tpb, 
160 p. color

- Foreword by J.-M. & Randy Lofficier
- #1. Like an Angel, Feral-Eyed
- #2. In the Shadows of the Night
- #3. Caresses such as Snakes Give
- #4. The Livid Daylights
- #5. Icy Till the Evening
- #6. Rule with Fear
- Portfolio by Alfredo Macall

Homicron, a NASA physicist whose body is inhabited by an alien intelligence, Starlock, the fugitive servant of awesome cosmic entities, Jaydee, a teenage alien metamorph abandoned on Earth, Jaleb, the telepathic agent of the Galactic Federation and Futura, a mysterious woman from another dimension, are gathered together by Tanka, a former jungle lord and agent of Earth's farthest future, to help save our planet from the deadly threats of Astaroth, the Necromancer and Duke Oxian.

Check out all Hexagon titles here:

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5. हाल-ए-बीमार


lady photo


कुछ देर पहले मेरी सहेली  मणि घर के सामने से जा रही थी. मैने उसे बुलाया तो वो बोली कि अभी किसी रिश्तेदार की तबियत ठीक नही थी उसे मिलकर वापिस आती हूं तब तक चाय बना कर रखना. आधा धंटा बीता फिर एक फिर दो … पर मणि नही आई … मैने उसे फोन किया तो वो घर थी और उसका मूड बहुत खराब था. मैं तुरंत उसके घर गई कि क्या बात हुई.

वो चुपचाप टीवी देख रही थी. मेरे पूछ्ने पर वो बोली कि रिश्तेदार की तबियत ठीक नही थी. मिलने गई तो पहले तो उलहाना देने लगी कि अब आई है हाल पूछ्ने .. खैर ये भी कोई बात नही फिर  मेरा हाल चाल पूछ्ने लगी और बोली बहुत मोटी हो गई है तेरे को  थाईराईड ही निकलेगा फिर बोली शूगर भी टेस्ट करवा लियो… पता नही शायद वो भी न हो .. और वो जब खडी होने लगी तो बोली तेरे घुटने का भी आपरेशन करवा ले … जबकि उसे तो कोई तकलीफ ही नही थी…

मैने हैरानी से पूछा कि क्या ये वो पूछ रही थी जिसका हाल चाल जानने तुम गई थी या कोई अन्य .. वो बोली कि वही पूछ रही थी जिसका हाल चाल जानने वो गई थी. अब वो काफी ठीक थी शायद मैने मुस्कुरा कर कहा …

मणि बोली कि हां वो तो ठीक हो गई पर उसने उसे बीमार जरुर कर दिया. पता नही पर उसकी बातों से ऐसा लग रहा था कि वो चाहती है कि मैं बीमार पड जाऊं …

मैने मणि को थोडा नार्मल किया और समझाया कि जब कोई लम्बी बीमारी से ठीक होता है तो उसका चिडचिडा होना स्वाभाविक होता है इसलिए ज्यादा महसूस नही करके बात मुस्कुरा कर टाल देनी चाहिए. जब लगा कि मणि अब नार्मल हो गई है तो मैं वापिस घर लौट आई पर  ये जरुर सोच रही थी कि ऐसे लोगो को भी अपना स्वभाव बदलना चाहिए. अगर कोई आपकी बीमारी का हाल पूछ्ने आया है तो उससे बात करो उसकी राजी खुशी पूछो….  ना कि उसे ही बीमार करके भेज दो… हर व्यक्ति अपना भाग्य लेकर आता है इसलिए किसी से कुढने या जलन वाली कोई बात नही करनी चाहिए कि बुरा लगे …

वैसे भी बात कहने से पहले खुद पर सोचो कि अगर ये बात कोई हमे कहे तो कैसी लगेगी … आपको जवाब मिल जाएगा …

वैसे आप तो ऐसे नही होंगें … है ना … अगर हैं तो जरा नही बहुत सोचने की दरकार है …

The post हाल-ए-बीमार appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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6. An Impartial Witness

An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

An Impartial Witness is the second book in the Bess Crawford mystery series by Charles Todd. I love that the series is set during World War I; An Impartial Witness is set in 1917. Bess Crawford is a nurse, and, she's nursing wounded soldiers both abroad and at home. (Bess spends a good amount of time in this novel in France, very close to the front.)

The book opens with Bess arriving in London on leave for thirty-six hours. She's just spent time on a convoy with a wounded soldier--a pilot with severe burns. He keeps holding on because he loves his wife. Her photograph is something he always has close by. She would recognize his wife anywhere she's seen it so often the past few days. But she didn't really expect to see her--this wife--at the train station seeing another soldier off. The scene was VERY emotional, and quite inappropriate if she's the wife of another man. The scene haunts her.

And with good reason, it turns out! For she soon learns that this woman--this wife--is found murdered that evening. She tells what she saw at the train station--several hours before the crime. She describes the man--the soldier--with her. That might have been all...except that she can't stop thinking of the case, of the tragedy of it, and she keeps talking with Scotland Yard about what she learns...

A man is arrested. But is he guilty? She doesn't think so. She really, really doesn't think so. For could she be falling in love with him?! Michael Hart isn't capable of murdering the woman he was supposedly in love with for years, is he?

Can Bess find the real murderer?!

I love, love, love this series. I love the characterization. I love the historical setting. I love the mystery itself. It's just a fabulous read.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Open for consumption

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8. John Krasinski Goes on a Mission in the 13 Hours Trailer

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9. "Sunset in Paradise" by Linda T Snider-Ward, Louisiana artist

Sunset in Paradise, a whimsical little watercolor painting, sold a few months ago, so it found a good home. I always love that. More of my artwork can be seen on my website and my Etsy shop

If you're a watercolorist or just someone who likes dappling in watercolor, and you would like to join this site and share your work, send me a link to your blog or website in a comment, and I'll add you to the site.

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10. Happy International Tiger Day!

I'm delighted that my novel TIGER BOY is heading for publication in India, thanks to Duckbill Press. In honor of International Tiger Day, here's the almost-final cover designed by Tanvi Bhat in the traditional patachitra style of the Bengal region. Isn't it beautiful?

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11. My tweets

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12. Margaret Atwood Imagines the Future Post-Oil

There are stories in the news all the time about climate change these days. the most recent one, in case you missed it, is how sea levels will likely rise more and faster than previously thought. If you are considering buying beachfront property you might want to rethink that.

But while these stories are shocking and worrisome, for the most part people go on their merry way because they don’t live on the coast or in drought burdened California or any other “threatened” place. Not in my backyard, not my problem. Except it is. If we think the migrant issues in the Mediterranean are bad now, it is only going to get worse. But worse still is so abstract it is hard to imagine. That’s where writers like Margaret Atwood can help.

In 2009 she wrote a piece on climate change for the German newspaper Die Zeit. Now, Atwood has updated the article and the online magazine Matter has reprinted it as It’s Not Climate Change it’s Everything Change. In the article Atwood imagines three possible scenarios, a utopian one, a worst-case one, and a somewhere in between one. They are nothing more than short sketches but it is very easy for the imagination to fill in the details of what if.

And while I would love to be able to go down the road of the utopian scenario, realistically, it is too late for that one to happen. So we are looking at the possibility of worst-case or something short of that. But if anyone thinks the not worst possible outcome scenario is not that bad, you’re wrong. And if you think that daily life as we know it will be pretty much the same in twenty or thirty years, you’re wrong about that too.

The essay isn’t a huge downer though, in typical Atwood fashion, she injects some dark humor into it:

The present governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is said to have issued a memo to all government of Florida employees forbidding them to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming,” because he doesn’t believe in them (though Scott has denied this to the press). I myself would like to disbelieve in gravitational forces, because then I could fly, and also in viruses, because then I would never get colds. Makes sense: you can’t see viruses or gravity, and seeing is believing, and when you’ve got your head stuck in the sand you can’t see a thing, right?

Oh, she is so good!

What Atwood’s essay drives home most, however, is that no matter what future scenario comes to pass, everything is going to change. It will be changing in our lifetime. It will happen whether we want it to or not.

Filed under: Margaret Atwood Tagged: climate change

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13. Charlotte Day






Charlotte Day specialises in creating botanical inspired illustrations, she combines an historical interest in botany with the decorative arts. Charlottes work has featured on editorials and on products such as tents and teapots! Her clients include Random House, Penguin, Liberty and Anthropologie to name a few. 

To see more fantastic work from Charlotte Day visit her website 

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14. How One Word Can Impact the Strength of Your Query

When coaching my assistants and other agents on how to approach editors I've always been very particular about word choice. The word "just" has been a pet peeve of mine for a number of years. It's a word I've consciously worked to remove from my vocabulary and a word I've encouraged my team to drop.

Imagine my surprise when I came across this article written about Ellen Petry Leanse and her distaste for the word "just".

I agree with everything she says. Using "just" takes away our power. We're no longer marching into someone's office to tell them we've got something they have to read. We're now slinking in to ask meekly if they think it's worth reading and, frankly, giving them permission to reject it rather than telling them they'd be making a mistake by not reading it.

We are word people, it's our job to embrace the power a single word might have and use it to our advantage. Take a look at some examples of publishing correspondence with or without the word "just." You tell me which is stronger.

Dear Editor:
I'd like to ask if you have just a few minutes to discuss my very important concerns regarding these edits.

Dear Editor:
I'd like set up some time to discuss my very important concerns regarding these edits.


I am writing to tell you about the terrific new thriller I've written.
I am just writing to tell you about the terrific new thriller I've written. 

I'm following up on the submission I sent back in January.
I'm just following up on the submission I sent in January. 

Take a look at your query, at all the professional correspondence you have written. Let's work together to eliminate just from our professional vocabulary.


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15. Flogometer for Joseph—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Welcome. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.

The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Download a free PDF copy here.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer. I use it on my own work.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins engaging the reader with the character
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • The character desires something.
  • The character does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question.

Caveat: a strong first-person voice with the right content can raise powerful story questions and create page turns without doing all of the above. A recent submission worked wonderfully well and didn't deal with five of the things in the checklist.

Also, if you think about it, the same checklist should apply to the page where you introduce an antagonist.

Joseph sends the first chapter of a novella, The Meter Reader . The remainder is after the break

Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.

The dashboard radio interceptor crackles in and out, and the voices are barely audible, so Orville adjusts the squelch button, which helps a little.

“Did you get it?” he asks, his knobby fingers twirling the button.

“Don’t sweat on it boss. It sounded like two tags. Got the coordinates, too.” I turn on the flashlight, point it on the mapbook, and flip to the right page.

The coordinates place this next job on the far end of the reservation, a few miles away. I ask, “Do you know where that is?”

“It’s been a while, but we’ll find it. Strap on the seatbelt. Pot’s right.” Orville jams the Chevy in drive and floors the accelerator. Bits of desert gravel shoot out and seconds later, we are rolling down the state highway under the cover of the desert sky. I hope we have enough time to save those two folks.

Two tags on two meters of two souls, soon to be removed by the termination unit, unless we get there in time. Whether or not these two folks on the ground were victims of foul play or mere accident (hand of man vs the hand of God) is a matter for Orville and me – one ornery ancient wildcat meter reader and his comely and humble apprentice, creeping in and out of space-time, changing folks’ fate, saving lives, making miracles. God, I love this job! Until the old fart opens his mouth.

Were you compelled to turn the page?

Good voice, mostly good writing, and a goodly number of story questions worked for me in this opening. The writing could be a little crisper and there’s potential for confusion in one spot, but those things are easily fixed. The opening introduces a different kind of world without belaboring it and blends it into the action. Good work. Notes:

The dashboard radio interceptor crackles in and out, and the voices are barely audible, so Orville adjusts the squelch button, which helps a little. For me, the micro detail of adjusting the squelch button is just not needed. Use the words for story. You could combine this paragraph with the next one for greater clarity.

“Did you get it?” he asks, his knobby fingers twirling the button. I thought he had already adjusted the button in the first paragraph, so why is he still twirling the button? Don’t think you need that.

“Don’t sweat on it, Boss boss. It sounded like two tags. Got the coordinates, too.” I turn on the flashlight, point it on the map book mapbook, and flip to the right page.

The coordinates place this next job on the far end of the reservation, a few miles away. I ask, “Do you know where that is?”

“It’s been a while, but we’ll find it. Strap on the seat belt seatbelt. Pot’s right.” Orville jams the Chevy in drive and floors the accelerator. Bits of desert gravel shoot out and seconds later, we are rolling down the state highway under the cover of the desert sky. I hope we have enough time to save those two folks. They shouldn't be in a moving car without the seat belt fastened. I would just delete this and get on with the story. As a long-time poker player, I recognize the phrase “Pot’s right,” but I wonder, since “pot” also stands for marijuana, of non-players will. I know he uses the phrase later but, unless it’s vital for the story, there’s potential for confusion here. Good story question raised about saving two folks.

Two tags on two meters of two souls, soon to be removed by the termination unit, unless we get there in time. Whether or not these two folks on the ground were victims of foul play or mere accident (hand of man vs the hand of God) is a matter for Orville and me – one ornery ancient wildcat meter reader and his comely and humble apprentice, creeping in and out of space-time, changing folks’ fate, saving lives, making miracles. God, I love this job! Until the old fart opens his mouth. Plenty of story questions raised here.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

Flogging the Quill © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Joseph



“Let’s go over this again,” Orville says. “What’s step one?” With one hand on the wheel and both eyes on the road, he casually reaches to his left side where the .38 special waits in its holster. He’s checking the ordinance again. Orville might be humorless and stiff, but he sure is thorough.

“I know step one and I know step two,” I say. “And three and four and all the rest. This is getting old. Like you. Except you’re already past ‘getting’.”

“Do it, rookie. Step one.”

“All right,” I answer. “Step One is a little number that goes like this; I stand guard and count while you check the tags on the life meters. The end. Sorry that I said you’re getting old. You can’t help it. Better check your firearm again because I think it may have escaped. From too much fondling.”

“Never mind. What’s step two?”

“You play detective, check for clues of foul play, then intervene as needed.”

“Elaborate. What do you mean by ‘intervene’?”

“Intervene, verb, to alter the course of events, to change one’s fate, to perform a minor miracle. For example, the grouchy old man intervened and saved a soul from being ripped out of the poor folk on the ground, hallelujah. All while the handsome apprentice stood guard and counted. In other words, I do all the heavy lifting while you play with dolls.”

Orville barely grins at the wisecrack, which means that I’ll have to try harder. Or maybe that’s my problem – I’m trying too hard. He turns left off the highway to take a dirt road, tires grumbling underneath. “After that?”

“After that, we get the hell out of there, as fast as a married man in a cathouse. You like that one?”

Orville grunts. He’s been doing that a lot lately. He looks like this job has been drilling a hole in his spirit. His yellow moustache seems droopier, his wit replaced with slow shakes of his head. Either that or my jokes are getting bad. Nah.

Silhouettes of cacti and mesquite roll by, suddenly illuminated by a pair of headlights coming our way. Orville slows down a bit and turns off the high beams. The vehicle does not reply in kind. It closes in, practically blinding us until the vehicle is close enough to run us off the road. Orville swerves just in time. “Numbnuts!” he barks and I watch menacing red light zip past us.

“Was it them?” I ask.

“I’m sure it was,” he answers.

Meter readers, I think to myself. The most heartless, mindless drones of all the employees who work for C&F Utilities. Good thing they’re all idiots because if it wasn’t for their incompetence, we would probably be slinging hash somewhere off the grid, working odd jobs here and there, then coming home to our trailers, hitting the bottles, waking up with hangovers, stumbling to new jobs because we just got fired for being late too many times. God save me from that nightmare. This wildcat job is the best thing going for me, and as soon as Orville cuts me loose, I’ll be performing miracles my way.

A few minutes later, we’re parked two hundred yards from the site, hidden from the road. Orville hands me his clipboard and reminds me to not accidentally press the buttons, especially the SLIP button. I sing that old song with him in mock fashion. All three buttons shine like gems, each with their own color – SLIP, COUNT, and RESUME, which sends us back to Earth time.

The engine is left running and we creep up to a spot outside of dirt clearing in front of a small shack of mud and two beat-up cars. We hide behind the desert shrub because it looks like someone is sitting inside one of the cars.

“There’s the instigator,” I say. “See? I can spot him, just like you trained me to. Bet your ass that he’s the one.”

“Maybe,” Orville says. “Get ready to press SLIP, on my mark.”

The dark figure emerges from one of the beat up cars, flicks away a cigarette butt, and heads towards the hut. It looks like he’s carrying a pole or big-ass stick with him. I point to the instigator and almost reveal our hiding spot when I whisper, too loudly, “The murder weapon! What the hell is it? Can you see?”

Orville covers my mouth and breathes hot fire from his old nostrils. His stare burns and I feel like a rookie all over again. He shakes his head and points to the clipboard, which means get ready to press SLIP. I don’t know why he trusts me, but he does. His hand goes again to check the revolver in his holster. He’s caressing the handle. He really needs a girlfriend.

Now at the front door, the figure raises the stick over his head and I see that it’s a hatchet with a long handle, for chopping wood. Not the best murder weapon in an enclosed space, and that’s when I realize that the figure at the door is either an enraged ex-boyfriend or the dumbassiest assassin in the universe. Someone inside is about to be hacked to death in a God-awful way, which is why Orville and I are here in the first place.

Orville points at me and I press the SLIP button.

Everything stops.

The crickets stop fiddling their tune, the stars stop rolling in the sky, not that I could tell, and the coyotes stop yipping. Even the breeze stops blowing. A bat hangs in the air as if suspended from fishing line. The dark figure still stands at the front door, his hands frozen on the handle of the hatchet and the blade waiting to come crashing down.

Orville and I don’t stop. There’s work to be done here and if we’re lucky, two lives to be saved. He hurries to the house and enters while I stand by the truck and look out for the termination unit and their van. Orville calls them the ‘numbuts in coveralls.’ They have their own power to SLIP in and out of time because they, too, have a clipboard just like the one belonging to Orville. Clipboards and huge tongs, which they use to remove the souls from the folks and send them to central cold storage at C&F Headquarters, then on the reprocessing center where they wait for their next assignment.

According to the COUNT, we have about 600 heartbeats to get in and out of here without being caught. It may not seem like a long time, but it’s damn dull watching the COUNT on the clipboard and watching the road while Orville has all the fun. I hate SLIP time. Nothing on Earth seems alive and there’s little to do.

200 heartbeats to do something important.

I grab a handful of rocks and hang them in the air to make a lifelike portrait of eyes and a nose and a mouth. Then I grab a handful of desert sand and a few mesquite branches to make a head of wiry hair and a bushy moustache. Voila. The exact likeness of Orville. Another hurried masterpiece.

Orville calls to me from the inside of the hut. He tells me, “You gotta see this.”

Finally, some action! I destroy the evidence to leave the rocks, sand, and mesquite a mid-air mess, then I hurry to the scene to find him in the bedroom, standing next to a double bed.

“It’s time for your first big test,” Orville says. “What do you see?”

I better ace this. I take a deep breathe, crack my knuckles a few times, shake off the cobwebs. Here goes. “There’s a pregnant woman sleeping on the bed, next to the father of her baby. Or maybe Paul Bunyan outside is the baby-daddy. Baby-mommy has two tags, one for her and one for the baby. Wow. Folks on the ground are a cruel lot.”

The meter of life is shaped like any old analog meter, an arc with a field of green on the left, a narrower field of yellow in the middle and the smallest field of red on the right. You don’t want that needle to ever go in the yellow, let alone red. Once it’s there, you get tagged by a meter reader. Then it’s lights out and your time on the ground is over because the termination unit shows up, reads the red tags, fills out the requisite paperwork, and takes your soul away where it waits in hyper-cold storage. For this reason, I prefer to call it a death meter.

Folks on the ground can’t see that meter, but it’s there -- below the hairline on the back of your neck. And that needle usually stays in the green, but once someone on the ground does something stupid or dangerous, like climb a mountain or fall asleep at the wheel, or even something harmless like take a shower, that needle moves to the right, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.

“That’s obvious rook,” Orville says. “I trained you better than that. Try again.”

I look again, deeper now, observing the faces of the couple and the way their bodies flow across the bed. The pregnant woman faces out and so does the man, but in the other direction. They lie apart from each other about as far on the bed as they can be without falling off. More evidence beyond my grasp.

“What’s her name?” Orville asks.

I read both tags again. “Jackie Begay. Her daughter’s name is Aubrey.”

“Detective time. Tell me what’s gonna happen.”

“Four hundred heartbeats left. Do we have time?”

“Make it fast.”

I hurry through a fairly obvious prediction: Axe man at the front door bursts into the house and hacks Jackie Begay to death. The current boyfriend luckily escapes.

Orville grunts and shakes his head. “Follow me.” He heads out the bedroom and through the hallway. He walks with determination and I hurry to follow him to the door of the one-bedroom shack.

Orville stands on one side of the closed door and I stand on the other. He nods for me to open the door, and I do.

I stand right in front of the killer and if I were to accidentally press the SLIP button, that axe blade would cleave right into my skull. I feel my arms crawling with goosebumps.

“What do you see?” he asks.

The look in his eyes is heavy and red, not wild and frightened. Odd.

 “I see…a killer…a…something ain’t right. This guy doesn’t look pissed, he looks stoned. Too stoned to give a damn. Why is he even here?”

“You’re the one being tested. You tell me.”

I go into my best explanation and I don’t believe a word of it. “Stoner here is desperate for cash, so he breaks into the home to steal something, but all he sees is a used microwave oven and a nearly-empty refrigerator. He stumbles into the bedroom, wakes the couple. Fight breaks out and next thing you know, Jackie Begay and unborn daughter are killed while the guy in the bed survives, maybe there’s a scuffle and he scares the stoner off, which wouldn’t be too hard. None of this makes sense. Oh, and 350 heartbeats to go.”

Orville just shakes his head. He’s too tired to teach me the truth and frankly, I’ve been training too long not to know it. I wish I had his knowledge and experience but not his wrinkles. He can keep them.

At this time, I begins the intervention, which I expect to go something like this; he steps behind the stoned killer, straighten the stiff fingers to release the grip on the handle, and hand me the murder weapon, which I’ve been trained to quickly hide. I’ll probably throw it in the desert for future use.

But I should know that Orville never does the expected. Instead of removing the murder weapon from the killer’s grip, something we’ve done countless times before, he does nothing about it. Now I’m the one who’s shaking his head because I have no idea what the old fart is up to.

“Now,” Orville says, his eyes lighting up a bit and his mouth merging to a smirk. He always enjoyed this part of the job. He stands close to the axe-man and whispers into his ear. “I ain’t no cold-blooded murderer. I don’t kill helpless mothers and unborn babies. No way.” Orville eyes me to see if I get it. I wish I did.

He continues his whispery serenade. “I’m taking over this operation. I’m the one in charge, not him.” Now he’s looking right at me again as he closes in even closer on the axe-man’s ear. “I’m too smart for him. I’m too smart for all of this. The plan is about to be changed.”

Orville tells me to go check the meters of Jackie and the kid. On my way to the bedroom, I hear more whispering but I have no idea what Orville is saying

Back in the bedroom, I check her meter and the baby’s. I tell Orville that both are lower, but still in the red.

Orville returns to the bedroom. He says we need to make more drastic steps and hands me his gun as though I know exactly what to do with it, which I don’t. It rests in my hands like a hungry baby bird. I’m about to place the gun next to the boyfriend when Orville says, “What the hell are you doing?”

“I thought…I thought you said…no clue.”

“Don’t look. See. Who kills Begay? Who kills her unborn baby?”

“Paul Bunyan.”

Orville is about to say something, but I stop him. “The boyfriend slash husband? He hires the thug to kill her? Why?”

“Does it matter? Insurance money…furious that it’s not his baby… do the folks on the ground really need a reason to kill each other?”

I said I guess not. I think I’m getting it.

“What are you gonna do about it?” Orville asks, his bony finger jabbing a hole in my chest.

“I’m gonna change fate. Ow.”

“And how are you gonna do that?!”

“I’m gonna save two lives tonight! Ow.”

Orville nods and says, “Now hand me my clipboard. I’ll count and you

work. You got 250 heartbeats. Pot’s light and ante up. Go.”

After the gun is placed next to the nightstand of the mother, I check her

meter. The needle has dropped a little, but it’s still in the red.

“You need to do more,” Orville says.

I need to do more? What more are you doing?”

“Teaching. Two twenty and counting. Remember that trick about divine

inspiration? Do that and see what happens.”

I lean over and whisper to Jackie, “You have a gun. Someone close to you

gave it to you for a Christmas—”

Orville clears his throat.


Orville shakes his head. His meter officially reads Pain In My Ass.

“—birthday gift. You will use it to shoot the stranger who’s coming into your room.” I check her meter. The needle has dropped to the yellow zone, which means her fate is still in jeopardy. She could die tonight or the next day or the month after that. Who knows. What’s worse is that Baby Begay’s meter still reads red. Then I realize the point of the intruder in the first place and it becomes clear, like a slap across my face, that Orville “inspired” Paul Bunyan to hack apart the real murderer – the fellow in the bed.

I tell the sleeping mother the most important part, the one that saves her life and the life of her unborn child; “Wait until the intruder kills the man in bed. Then point the gun at the intruder and keep firing until he drops.” Orville is giving me the keep-it-going sign, so I say, “Keep firing until the revolver is empty.” Orville gives a thumbs up and I check her meter. The needle has finally dropped to the green zone. Good for her, but bad for me. I feel a bit wheezy.

“Hallelujah, rook,” Orville says as he slaps me on the back. “Your first miracle. Breakfast is on me. Check your work and meet me outside.”

“How much time do we have?”

“Just enough. Hurry it up.”

Jackie is safe. Baby Begay is safe. Momma and baby live happily ever after. I rip off both of their tags, tear them four times, and throw them in the air like confetti, all the time singing my new favorite song and busting out a dance move somewhere between the robot and the mashed potato.

I believe in miracles.

We’re you from?

You sexy thing!

I check the meters of the boyfriend and the invader and they’re both in the red. For a little extra hot sauce, I punch sleeping ugly in his nutsack. He won’t feel a thing now, but once Orville presses RESUME and Earth time starts again, his junk will be roaring in righteous agony right as he gets hacked up. I am a sexy thing!

“What the hell are you doing!?” Orville asks. Has he been watching me the whole time?

“Making a difference?” I say.

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

“Telling you?”

Orville tells me to quit wasting time, which makes me laugh because we have the power to SLIP time, even if it doesn’t last. He doesn’t laugh. He just shakes his head and tells me to fill out two tags. After doing that, I slap a big, bright, red tag on the boyfriend and another on the axe-man to ensure that the termination unit drives out of here with two souls. Rule number two of Orville’s Wildcat Handbook– Balance the Tags. Never give the suits Upstairs a chance to doubt anything. Two folks for two folks. Cosmic balance sheet looks good and scoreboard reads good guys over bad guys by two souls.

“You know somethin’ Orville?”

“What’s that?”

“I’m gonna like this job.”

Orville chuckled and said, “Let’s get the hell outta here before the termination unit gets here.” That was rule Number One – Don’t Get Caught, by the numbnut meter readers, by the TU, the auditors from the suits Upstairs, but most of all, do not get blindsided by the thugs of the Intervention Division. The tales of their splatter guns are horror stories.

Orville hands me the clipboard and we hurry to the truck. He sets the gear in drive and I press the RESUME button. The night desert returns to life as we speed away. The crickets continue their sweet song, the stars continue their sky-wide journey and that lonely bat flaps away into the darkness. Then we hear the finale – no screams, no shouts, just the repeated pop of a pistol followed by silence. Orville grins that old grin, the old, younger grin I used to see so much.

On the road back, we spot a pair of headlights coming our way. Orville turns off the high beams and the headlights get closer and finally pass. We got out of there with heartbeats to spare.

“Ciao,” Orville says to the TU, his moustache creeping up on both sides of his face. When both sides of his lip whiskers wriggle like that, I know it’s a sign that he’s pleased. “Good job, Gil.”

“Thanks,” I respond.

“Did you clean up?”

“Sure did.”

“What did you do with the tags?”

I shook my head and told him that both tags are in my pocket. Later that morning, at breakfast, I told him that I tossed the tags in the trash.

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16. Liz’s Summer Reading Pick

Squish Rabbit

by Katherine Battersby

            Squish Rabbit is a book that is a perfect read for the youngest in your family because sometimes as adults, I guess we forget how big the world can seem when we were young and small. In mind of that, I recently drove slowly down the street where I grew up. It was a revelation. As an adult everything seemed so small. Driveways I roller-skated down as a child seemed unbelievably wide and steep. But as I looked at them that day through adult eyes, the driveways seemed narrow. And as for steepness, there was barely any elevation at all!

            Well here in Katherine Battersby’s Squish Rabbit, Squish is decidedly at that same stage of life when being small and hard to see makes it seem as if life is passing you by. Everyone is busy with grown up things, so even Squish’s stories are ignored. Being lonely, Squish sews a friend literally out of blue plaid cloth but quickly finds this pretend friendship can only fill half the gap. Trees are nice too as potential friends but somehow fall short of expectations.

            How Squish in a moment of pique kicks an apple and finds a friend echoes the moment of discovery for each child when he or she finds someone to share and play with. And when the friendship starts with a rescue, so much the better. Squish is a gentle book for the shy child who longs to join the group but may have trouble getting his feet wet or making the first awkward moves towards, “Wanna be friends?” Squish can definitely help your child bridge the gap.


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17. The BIG Posting Is On Its Way...

Honestly.  Keep the faith as it is turning into a whopper.

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18. 10 Best Books by Writer-Illustrators

As a child who loved books I was fascinated by the illustrations just as much as the text. The same is true for me today, and I'm happy to be among a group of writers who also illustrate their own works. There's a rich tradition of writer-illustrators spanning time. All 10 of these books are [...]

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19. Riverhead Books to Publish Anthology: ‘Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It’

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20. How should authors be paid?

There was an interesting kerfuffle recently as Amazon began transitioning some royalties over to pages read, as opposed to downloads. Will Oremus is one who thinks it makes sense.

It got me thinking. How should authors be paid?

What about all those used book sales that authors aren't compensated for? Library borrowings? Back to the patronage system?

Anyone got some creative ideas?

Art: Money to Burn by Victor Dubreuil

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21. My Thoughts (& Giveaway): Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr

4 soft frosted sugar cookies.

Cover Love:  I like how it is simple but eye catching.  Appealing to many readers.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
This one actually flew under my radar until I was offered a chance to participate in the blog tour.  I looked up the synopsis and decided I wanted to give this one a try.
Here it is from GoodReads:
In the vein of The Outsiders and the early Western novels of Elmore Leonard, this inventive debut novel, a cross between the cult classic Mad Max movie series and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, blends adrenaline-fueled action with an improbable yet tender romance to offer a rich and vivid portrayal of misfits and loners forced together in their struggle for a better life.

Adam Stone wants freedom and peace. He wants a chance to escape Blackwater, the dust-bowl desert town he grew up in. Most of all, he wants the beautiful Sadie Blood. Alongside Sadie and the dangerous outsider Kane, Adam will ride the Blackwater Trail in a brutal race that will test them all, body and soul. Only the strongest will survive.

The prize? A one-way ticket to Sky-Base and unimaginable luxury.

And for a chance at this new life, Adam will risk everything.

Romance?: Not really, although Adam does have a crush during the book.

My Thoughts:

Dystopian books used to be my absolute favorite genre.  There have been some great ones--The Giver, The Hunger Games, Unwind, The City of Ember.  The problem is that The Hunger Games was so successful that the genre got diluted for awhile there.  (This doesn't count the books I consider "apocalyptic," like Rot & Ruin and The Knife of Never Letting Go).  So I have kept away from them for some time.  When I got a chance to be part of this blog tour I read the book synopsis and decided I wanted to give this dystopian book a chance.

And I am glad I did!  t set up a very interesting world, one that I want to learn more about.  Not necessarily the world of the "Left-Behinds" on earth, but the world of the Sky-Base.  That place sounds both amazing and awful.  I have a feeling that anyone who wins the right to move to the Sky Base don't really get to be part of the Sky Base.  I bet there is a lot of dystopia on the Sky Base.  I wouldn't mind a prequel book either.

Back to the story, each person involved in the race own a byke/motorcycle.  But they are made of a material that seems to remember previous riders and that adds to the abilities of the current rider.  Winners of the races win a ticket to Sky Base and the second and third place riders earn points that they can save up to eventually purchase a ticket.

The world Adam lives in before the race is awful and crazy and bleak.  Basically people can be miners (I can't remember the name of what is being mined, but they are pulling it from the earth's core) or have a job in town (and by town I mean old Western type town).  If you are young enough you can ride in the race.  This race reminds me of a novella I read a long time ago that was written by Stephen King back when he wrote under the pen name of Richard Bachman called The Long Walk.  It was the story of boys who walked, just walked, but if you fell or stopped walking you were shot and there could only be one winner.  Not everyone dies, but a lot of people do and it's ok to try and kill other riders.  The strong survive and all of that.

Adam literally doesn't have anyone.  He has no family and no friends.  However, a strange rider named Kane enters his life early on and although they don't connect right away, Kane soon becomes someone Adam realizes he can trust--warily.

The one thing that didn't quite jive with me is that Adam has no confidence, yet he is a really good rider.  One that many consider the one to beat.  And he knows he's good, he feels it.  That should give him some confidence, but he has a hard time making decisions.

To Sum Up:  This is a book that would appeal to many YA readers, especially those that like dystopian.  I have many questions about this world and look forward to book 2.  I will be adding it to my order for the fall!

I am giving away a copy of Stone Rider to one lucky reader from the US or Canada.  Please fill out the form below and I will inform you if you win.  Contest ends on August 12.
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22. Hunter S. Thompson Talks Outlaws

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23. Dylan O’Brien Takes the Heat in The Scorch Trials Trailer

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24. ‘Worst Day Ever?’ Poem Goes Viral

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25. Trello for Writers: Using Templates in a Project

Trello is as flexible as you need it to be. The way you set up your project really depends on the way you work. In this tutorial, I'll assume that one story or book is one project. I'll also assume that you've set up template cards as shown in a previous tutorial.If you haven't set up template cards, it's no big deal. Those templates make it so you don't have to re-create similar cards for each character, for example, or for each scene.

Create Project

In the previous tutorial, we created a Trello board to hold our templates. Because we want to be able to use those templates in multiple projects, we don't want to use that same board as our project board, so we'll create a new one.

  1. Open Trello.
  2. From your Boards menu or on the Boards screen, click Create New Board.
  3. Name the board. For this example, I'm calling the board for my project "Jack and Jill."
Create Lists

A story consists of several elements. For my Jack and Jill story planning, I want to create lists called Characters, Settings, and Scenes. Eventually I'll create another list to track submissions, but let's not get ahead of our selves.

On your new project Trello board, create a list called Characters. Conveniently, there's already a box to help you create your first list. Just type "Characters" and click Save. A new box automatically pops up for the next list, so call it "Settings," then do this one more time for Scenes."

Copy Templates to Project

The next thing we need to do is copy cards from our Templates board to our project board.

From the Boards menu, pick your Templates board. Next, click your Character template card, then click Copy.

Change the Title field to your character's name. Then, in the Board field, select your story project, and select the Characters list. Then click Create Card. This creates the card based on the template and puts in the right place. If you switch back to your project board, you'ss see the character card you just created in your Characters list.

Repeat this for each template you want to copy. Remember to set the name, board and list for each card. But if you forget, it's no problem. You can easily change all of that stuff later.

Edit Cards

Once the cards are where you want them,you can edit them.

For example, my Character card includes a comment with some basic info about thecaracter. In the template, I just have headings for the info, but I can go into the card and add the details now that it is is in my project.

Next Steps

That's most of the basics for creating your project and starting to plan your story. Next we'll go into some deeper information, like using Trello to manage actual writing.

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