Announcing the Backspace Conference Scholarship Contest Winners!


Based on a combination of popular vote and the votes from our panel of agent and author judges, the following 3 writers have been awarded full scholarships to the 2013 Backspace Writers conference May 23-25 in New York City. Congratulations to the winners, and a big thank you to everyone who entered.

First Place: 74 LITTLE ZEBRA by Terri Hardin Jackson

Second Place: 101 FLIGHT RISK by Bobbi Dempsey

Third Place: 91 STEALING HAPPY by Marianne Sheldon

Scholarships cover registration fees (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) and Lane Shefter Bishop’s evening logline workshop ($765 value). Travel, hotel, and incidental expenses are the responsibility of scholarship winners.


Honorable Mentions

Because the contest outcome was so very close, the following 2 authors have been awarded partial scholarships to the 2013 Backspace Writers conference.

Scholarships cover registration fees (Thursday and Friday only), and Lane Shefter Bishop’s evening logline workshop ($625 value). Travel, hotel, and incidental expenses are the responsibility of scholarship winners.

46 THE FUNERAL SINGER by Linda Acorn Budzinski


Also receiving commendation from our judges are the following entries:

106 I AM NOT HER by Heather Pemberton
98 IN ALPHA’S WAY by Kimberly Lekman
95 FOSTER MOM by Alicia Bien
90 LICKING THE BONES by Anna-Christina De La Iglesia
89 ELEVEN STARS by Brooke Younker
82 THE DOLPHIN NEXUS by Jennye Kamin
81 THANK YOU LETTERS by Colleen Only
78 BECOMING by Karen Y. Bynum
76 DARK PENITENCE by Holly Montague
73 MYTH MANOR by Kathryn Leonard-Peck
72 THE GOOD DEMON by Ryan Hill
63 MULESKINNER by Kim Van Sickler
62 FINDING LOSS AMIDST LOSS by Alphonsine Imaniraguha
61 A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO BOB by Elizabeth Stolar
56 FIRE AND BLOOD by Martine Svanevik
50 THE DOORMAKER by Bailey Seybolt
40 WAVING BACKWARDS by Vickilynn Brunskill
39 BREEDING GROUNDS by Pamela Loring
37 MY HEART IS A WILDERNESS by Molly Gleeson
35 YOU WERE FOREVER by Kathleen Donohoe
33 SPRUNG by Heather Rawlings
30 SURGE by Kerri Sparks
29 THE DEVIL ON MY LEFT by Elizabeth O’Connor
28 LIAR’S POKER by Shaun Harris
20 NIGHT FALLS by Amanda Knoss
18 DEATH BY HIGH HEELS by Holly Dennler
10 THE ART OF BREAKING by Susan Crispell
8 BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW by Miranda Doerfler
5 WHAT STEPS WE CARRY by Brent van Staalduinen
1 FRAGILE LINE by Nicole Steinhaus


How the Backspace “This Manuscript HAS to Become a Book!” Scholarship Contest worked:

When you’re browsing in a bookstore (and thankfully, we still have those!) typically, after a title catches your eye, you check out the back cover blurb, then crack open the book to read a few pages. Based on that sample, you then decide whether or not to purchase the book.

bookstoreThat’s exactly how the “This Manuscript HAS to Become a Book!” contest was judged. The entries submitted to this contest aren’t books–yet. But they could be. Some of them SHOULD be. And YOU can help make that happen!

Read the entries posted below. Which book concept and writing style absolutely blows you away? Which do YOU wish was already a published book? Which writer’s project shows such potential that they just HAVE to go to New York to attend the Backspace conference and meet with literary agents in person so they can hopefully-possibly-maybe-eventually get a book deal?

Can that really happen? You bet! Last year, Heather Webb attended the 2012 Backspace Writers Conference, where she read her query letter and opening two pages to literary agents. As a result, Heather signed with Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management. Last fall, Heather’s debut historical BECOMING JOSEPHINE, which follows the transformation of Rose de Beauharnais from Creole socialite to the neglected Parisian wife who survived prison during the French Revolution and emerged at the pinnacle of French power as Empress Josephine Bonaparte, sold to Plume! And this spring, Heather will join our conference faculty as a soon-to-be published author!

Your participation helped 5 talented authors who might not otherwise be able to attend the conference take a giant step toward making their publishing dream a reality.  CLICK HERE to view the voting results.


Entry 110 | THIS GENERATION, TRIUMPHANTLY | Historical Fiction

Petrograd, 1917: Economic exiles from Estonia, young Dr. Anna Hunt and her sister must survive in a crumbling society, when their brother returns from the German Front, wanted for desertion. That summer’s failed putsch and the Kronilov affair make home very alluring, especially since the air is rife with rumors of a bid for Estonian independence. But the mailed fist of the Baltic Germans still holds power there: why they left ten years earlier.

June, 1917, Petrograd

Chapter 1

Anna Hunt ducked into the bistro. She was amazed the place was open, considering all the food shortages. It was one of the few still in business.

Holding body and soul together was becoming harder and harder with every passing day, especially since the Tsar abdicated. The abdication that had promised so much in February.

Anna was starving, and she hoped her sister had waited. She needed to talk to Laine, but it was already three in the afternoon. Unfortunately, she had been held up by an ailing patient.

Peering through the gloom, she saw only the waiters standing idly by the bar. But no Laine. In her native Estonian Anna swore under her breath. Kurat!

The owner and barkeep was grimly amusing himself by zapping flies with a towel. ZZZZT. Thwap. ZZZZT. Thwap. Clearly fewer and fewer patrons had any money.

Anna tossed him a wave. Him she knew. But the waiters changed from week to week, and she did not recognize any of them. Unfriendly lot, she thought, when no one looked up. Being ignored was oddly disconcerting.

Anna found a table away from the bar and ordered in fluent but accented Russian. When served, she hunched herself over a medical text for diversion. Feeling vulnerable alone, she kept curling her hair behind her ears and pushing her glasses up her nose.

Done eating but still reading about emergency obstetrical procedures, she heard a familiar masculine call her name. But it can’t be. Kolla’s at the Front, isn’t he? She turned her head toward the door where several figures stood in silhouette.

“Kolla, is that you?” She unconsciously fell into Estonian. She got up to approach the figures at the door. Alive! He’s alive. Joy filled her chest. Her big brother. Come home. She didn’t care why just now. She was ready to fling her arms around him, when he put his arms up.

Puzzled, she stepped back. So unlike Kolla, who was usually so free with his affection. She then cast her medical eye upon him. He’s changed. Gone was his familiar confidence, replaced by hooded eyes and hunched shoulders. She also noted his gauntness and the tinge of anemia.

And then she saw the three other thin and bedraggled men behind him. All four were filthy and carrying rifles. And all were shuffling their feet, very much ill at ease.

“Jah, Anna, on mina. It’s me.” He garnered a nasty look from the Russian waiter standing at the bar. “I was hoping that you were still coming here.”

Anna’s ears perked up. Something was wrong. And then she felt stupid. Of course something was wrong. They had deserted and now were on the run. Amazing that they dared come here.

“We need your help.” Kolla looked at her with great sadness in his eyes. Anna felt tears gather in her eyes. Her big brother. Her protector when they were children.

Entry 109 | THE IRON KNIGHT | Fantasy

Malcolm Grae is a drunk, hardly worthy of the rank of Sergeant of the Great Temple Guard. But, when the Black Wizard unleashes war upon the Realm, Malcolm must find the forgotten weapons of the Great Four. With the help of the White Wizard, unlikely friends and unexpected love, Malcolm becomes the Iron Knight and saves the Realm.

Malcolm was lost in a chilling mist that rolled in through the forest.

“The Hounds o’ the Mists!” Malcolm thought. He was caught in their spell. He had to do something soon or he would be stuck here for eternity.

“Think,” Malcolm ordered himself. “What can break this spell?”

A sweet, aromatic scent caught his nose. Brandy moss! That could only mean the dwelling of a forest gnome. Malcolm knew exactly what to do.

He laid down, letting his head rest heavily upon the moss and pretended to fall asleep. As he expected, little pin pricks of light danced like fire flies in the periphery of Malcolm’s half-closed eyes.

Gnome lanterns. His plan was working.

Then, he heard muffled, reedy whispers as little hands grabbed at his feet, trying to steal his shoes, shoes he didn’t have. Malcolm had to stifle his laughter because the hands tickled his feet. Soon enough, the whispers became curses. The bravest of the family plopped his bottom down on Malcolm’s chest. He began whacking Malcolm about the nose with a cherry switch. Malcolm was pleasantly surprised that he could barely feel the whacking because it sounded like some one was furiously beating a boulder with a stick. Malcolm laid still, waiting for the right moment to grab the gnome.

The gnome, angered by his unsuccessful attempt to inflict pain on Malcolm, began to whack harder and faster until, panting heavy little breaths, he tired out. He sat down again to wipe his brow with his hat. Now was Malcolm’s chance.

No sooner had the gnome set down his cherry switch than Malcolm quickly snatched him up.

“Bah!” cried the gnome.

“Bah!” cried a chorus of wife and children from their candle-lit doorway.

Malcolm sat up to look upon the startled prize he had just caught. He had the gnome by the collar of his green jacket under which little suspenders peeked out. His matching pants had patches on the knees. His short, white beard was drawn into a scowl around his mouth. And, in his hands he was holding his pointed, red hat. As quickly and as deftly as Malcolm had snatched up the gnome, Malcolm picked the gnome’s hat from his little hands.

“Bah!” the gnome barked now red-faced with fury. “Drat you, beastie! Give me back me hat! I’ll pull yer toe nails out! I’ll give ye spurs in all yer bones. I’ll pluck out yer eyes!”

“Be calm, little man,” Malcolm said. “I mean you no harm.”

“Harm? The beastie speaks! Harm’s what yer’ve done to me home. Crushed me drawing room, ye have!”

Malcolm chuckled. “A drawing room?”

“A gnome can have a drawing room,” he snarled. “And, crushed it ye have! And, to add insult to injury, yer’ve taken me hat; in front of me family, even. Bah! Curse ye, foul beastie! Curse ye! And, I suppose it’s a wish yer after, too!”

Entry 108 | THE PERENNIALS | Upmarket Women’s Fiction

Friendships can forge deeper bonds than those family, especially when the families in question are dysfunctional. Erin and Amylee, best friends since high school, create a support system for one another, and this story tells how their friendship helps them endure every crisis and raw deal life throws at them. Like the perennials at the center of a garden, laughter, love, and loyalty are at the center of all best friendships.

January 2011

Old connections, friendships, and, even more potently, love affairs have always had an uncanny way of finding their way back into our lives. The age of Facebook has merely made the navigating easier.

Amylee was checking her personal email while at work, and to her shock there was a message from Facebook that he had sent her a friend request. Stunned, she sat in her chair momentarily frozen and staring at the computer screen. She had not seen or spoken to him in nearly two decades, but she loved him the entire time, and her hand trembled as she logged on to the social networking site. Accepting the friend request would not be wise. Her husband was well aware of the extent of her feelings for Bradley Scott – after all, he was her first love. In fact, he was the man she always loved, and she guarded a box full of mementos in the attic to prove it. Two husbands and several boyfriends had encountered that box, and all of them had been unequivocally forewarned that it would remain in her possession, and if they were unable to cope with this fact, they could leave. So far all of them but her current husband had fallen by the wayside, not entirely because of the box, but in all honesty because of what the box implied: him, the love of her life, and the other guys simply never compared.

Her current husband, George, was a decent enough man, if only by appearances; understanding and easy going, as well as handsome, with a sizable trust fund left to him by his grandfather that should have offered them financial stability for their entire future. Although George would make witty and sarcastic comments about the box, as well as the individual it represented, he never said or did anything to let the box get in the way of their marriage. No, there were issues enough to get in the way of their marriage which had nothing to do with the keepsakes in her box. Theirs was a friendship which resulted in a tepid, lifeless marriage, and the only truly great thing to come from it, in her opinion, was their daughter. And although George was not exactly passionate about their marital union, Amylee was concerned that if he were to see that the two of them had reconnected through the online network, it would probably cause unnecessary tension at home and it would behoove them both, and more importantly their daughter, if such drama were avoided.

Entry 107 | UNBEARABLE LOSSES | Murder Mystery

Bernie Robertson dreams of being pursued by a killer through a snowy desert. Do the dreams reflect her stress of divorcing her husband, Charlie or are they something else? After hypnotizing her, but before he can reveal the result, her analyst dies of a heart attack, and then his secretary who questions her boss’ death is killed. Bernie must face the fact that what she is trying to remember may kill her.

Charlie stood up abruptly. “You know I’m trying, Bernie. But I can’t do this all by myself.” He walked toward the door the paused. “Did you ever wonder why I asked you out?”

“You asked me out twice. The first time I said no. I couldn’t figure out why you wanted to go out with me, when you could have had anyone.”

“Yeah, but why did I ask you the second time?”

I shook my head. I wanted Charlie to leave but this would not happen until he’d had his say.

He settled on the arm of a chair, enjoying the drama. “Bill Grainger and I had a bet,” he said.

“A bet?”

“Yeah. Bill bet me that I couldn’t sleep with the worst dog in the school.”

“The worst dog?”

“Come on Bernie. You must have known why no one ever asked you out. You were short and you wore shapeless sweaters and long skirts. All you did was study. Bill and I sat down and rated all the girls in the senior class by how hot they were. You were number twenty five out of twenty six. Barbara Ferris was number twenty six. I refused to go out with her.”

“I had an early acceptance to Harvard. I was going to be a lawyer,” I said.

He shrugged.

So my getting pregnant on the first date, and then having Charlie ignore me. The tense meeting with our parents, and the wedding, where the minister called me Bennie, and Charlie’s father got drunk and made a speech implying that Charlie could have done much better. All of it because of a bet?

“You must have felt incredibly…..” I searched for the word.

“Fucked? For sure. In one nanosecond I went from being the coolest guy in the class to the class clown. Didn’t you ever wonder why I stopped going to school? Don’t get me wrong. You weren’t bad, but I wouldn’t have chosen you myself.”

“Not like Amy Lincoln, the cheerleader.”

“Yeah. She was great in the sack. But then I thought what did it matter? I could have a son that would look like me, have my name. Someone I could teach to play football and …” his voice trailed off.

“And then our baby died.”

“Yeah,” he said. “My son died.” He got up and, without a word, he left.

When the door had closed, I locked it from the inside. Then I went to the mirror and took a long look. How could I be at the bottom of the list of desirable girls? What about Evelyn Armstrong, who never wore a bra and whose double E breasts bounced all over the place? What about Tina Brancusi, who had thick hair all over her body. When she went swimming, she looked like a gorilla in a bathing suit. Susan Clayton had braces and inch-thick glasses. Muriel Bentley’s front teeth stuck out at a ninety degree angle. How could those girls be hotter than I was?

Entry 106 | I AM NOT HER | Mystery/Thriller

After an accident, a woman searches for her identity and discovers that her life, and the people in it, are not what they seem and she must learn who tried to kill her before it happens again.

Later. He is sitting next to me, staring out the window, his eyes red-rimmed and weak with fatigue. He leans over and kisses the side of my lips. Not directly on the lips like a grown up kiss but on the side of my mouth where it’s not the cheek or a full on kiss. Strange.

He is long, lean and taut with patient energy. Blond stubble has grown across his lower cheeks and chin, which I find appealing. His eyes are icy blue beneath the redness. I want them to look at me because he’s really quite cute. He’s my husband. So liking him is good, I guess.

I have woken from the sleep that blissfully knocked me out shortly after round nurse came in with the pain meds. The hammer is gone, thank you, leaving an aching impression in its wake. I think of bread dough, punched and pounded until it sits ready to rise. The smallest poke leaves an indentation in the dough. And I had a hammer.

“You gave me a scare there, Paige.”

“What day is it?” I’ll start with simple questions and ease him into the blank wall of my mind.

“Friday. The accident was Wednesday. The doctors – ” he pauses with a catch in his voice then starts again. “Do you remember?”

It’s almost a whisper. I can hear his fear, see it in his eyes. He has been told that I am lost, groping around unfamiliar terrain. He must wonder how much of him I have lost. For now, everything.

“I’m sorry.” I shake my head. I am sad for the prospect of his anguish – that his wife is alive and yet has left him.

My feelings are more obscure. I sense a picture that I will steadily piece together. I will be entertained by these people entering my life who have already been a part of it. I want to know them and hope to like them.

I am not yet frustrated that I cannot choose them now. I am not yet frozen with bewilderment at their expectations of me; their assumptions that without memory I will still carry and display the feelings I had for them before the accident. They believe, against rationality, that feelings are insulated from forgetfulness. It’s hard to accept that deep love, need, and even hate can be torn from your consciousness, tossed around and resettled in an altogether new arrangement like fallen leaves on the ground. I don’t entertain the fear that I will never remember.

“What happened?” I ask.

Hopefully, the accident will be easier to discuss than a marriage. He will have to tell me everything from the beginning. It will feel as though I am scraping his wound in some merciless hunt for my reality. But I see that it is inevitable. As nice as he seems, I can’t protect him from my truth. I must tell him that I don’t even know his name.

Entry 105 | DEFYING GRAVITY | YA Sci-Fi Adventure

To solve her mother’s abduction, high school senior Starling Laren must join a secret community of aliens marooned on Earth and partner with their leader’s rebellious prodigal son.

Looking at Starling, Dr. Whimbrel dug his hands into his lab coat pockets and pursed his lips as he contemplated his next words. “Your mother never explained that you’re… different?”

“No,” Starling replied slowly, her questioning gaze circling the exam room. The grave expressions of the men facing her revealed nothing. Except for Riven, whose rugged features projected impatience for a game that he didn’t want to play. She ignored him and instead asked the kindly doctor. “Different how?”

Whimbrel hesitated, then looked to the tall, thin man observing in the back of the room in an open plea for help. In answer, the man in the blue suit stepped forward and Wimbrel moved aside to give him the floor next to Starling’s bed.

“My name is Hammett Craye ,” he began in the commanding voice of a clear leader. His blue-grey eyes conveyed open sincerity while his weathered face flashed a brief, friendly smile. “I run this hospital and govern our small community, the majority of which reside on the medical campus here or nearby in northern Ohio. Like you, we’re not from here originally.” He waited patiently for his words to settle in, yet Starling struggled to discern his meaning.

“Are you saying I’m one of you?” she asked uncertainly.


“Then where are we from?”

He held her gaze a moment before answering, as if measuring her ability to comprehend his answer. Finally, he spoke.

“Before I tell you, Starling, because having not known us, you might find it a little farfetched; I want you to consider why your Mother never talked about your family. I would think, with you living among the general populace, that she thought it would be easier for you to think that you were just like everyone else on Earth. And perhaps safer for you as well.” He paused, allowing her a moment to digest his words.

“But the truth isn’t that simple,” he continued with a gravity that compelled her full attention, “and it’s a secret that we’ve guarded since we came to this planet for our own protection.”

To this planet? Starling froze. His words finally clicking together in her brain. Disbelief immobilized her.

She searched Craye’s face, looking for any trace of a smile or peculiar light in his eye that would give him away. There was none. This formidable man spoke in complete seriousness. Despite the preposterousness of his claim; his authoritative presence demanded a respectful reply.

“You’re telling me… I’m an alien?” She fought to keep the incredulity from her question, but it invaded her voice uninvited. Craye met her gaze head on, confirming he was indeed telling her so. She looked at Whimbrel, then finally to Riven. Surely he would repudiate this outrageous claim.

To her dismay, Riven only stared back at her with a sober expression. Unconvinced, she cocked an eyebrow, silently questioning him further. He frowned in return, annoyed at her reluctance to accept what he clearly considered the truth. The obvious truth.

Entry 104 | WHAT THE NIGHT BRINGS | suspense thriller

Three months out of the police academy, Hobie Calder screws up so bad one night it results in a death – and the potential destruction of the only career he’s ever wanted. With a shady childhood friend he concocts a scheme to get back in the department’s good graces – but it goes so wrong it’ll take every ounce of skill, smarts and luck he’s got to save not only his dream job but also everything and everyone he cares about.

She twisted to her right, smashing the smaller bottle into the tree.

Glass shattered.

In the beam of light, amber liquid exploded with the bottle – a cascade of sparkling shards flashed as they arced to the ground.

“Don’t come near me!” She held the now jagged remains of the whiskey bottle by its neck.

Hobie glanced at Lieutenant Kimmerly to get some idea how to proceed. Kimmerly kept his stare on the woman. Hobie didn’t know what to do except keep edging closer.

“You come near me – I’ll cut anyone comes near me.”

“Ma’am, this is–”

“Don’t ‘ma’am‘ me, dammit! And don’t nobody come near me!”

She waved the broken bottle in front of her like a fractured talisman still powerful enough to keep everyone away.

“Taze her.”

Hobie again glanced at the lieutenant, as if that would help his hearing.


“You heard what I said. Taze her!”

Hobie had just grabed his Maglite in his left hand and hesitated. Longer than Kimmerly wanted.

“She just threatened two peace officers with bodily harm. Unless you want her to cut you with that bottle, Taze her.”

Hobie pushed his Maglite back into place and grabbed the handle of his TASER, his right hand on the butt of his Glock. He pulled the supplementary weapon’s handle, forgetting to undo the strap keeping it in its holster. He could feel Kimmerly’s impatience.

He undid the snap, slipped a couple fingers under the handle and lifted. Too much, and too quick. The TASER popped out, floated momentarily above his fingertips and fell to the ground with a soft thud.

He quickly bent and felt for it, keeping his eyes on the woman. The powerful white-white beam of Kimmerly’s Maglite made her look almost ghost-like.

For what felt like an eternal moment, Hobie couldn’t feel the TASER at all. It must have bounced or shifted slightly from where it should have fallen. He pulled his eyes from the woman and glanced down at the ground. But after looking into the light, he couldn’t see a thing. Then he felt something against the heel of his boot and reached back slightly.

He felt the familiar handle. He checked there, trying to get a good hold. Just as he grasped it, he heard a quick: pop-pop-pop.

The sound didn’t quite register at first.

It made no sense here. Outside. In the dark. In an abandoned lot next to a run-down liquor store. With civilians around.

No sense at all.

Because that sound belonged on the firing range.

Chapter 5

The ghost lay on the ground.

The too-white light played over her as Kimmerly approached.


Hobie couldn’t conceive a single rational thought. Fuck!

“Why didn’t you taze her?” Kimmerly’s voice sounded far away, and not quite clear as if coming through water. “See what you made me do? I gave you an order, dammit.”

Entry 103 | ALTERNATE MERGE | Commercial fiction

Brynn Hackett is used to swimming with the sharks at St. Ambrose Prep. But her love affair with the prom queen, Lacey Anderson, is chum in the water. In order to protect Lacey’s trust fund, they’ve kept their relationship secret. Only the creeper knows. But then again, he knows everything. When pictures of Brynn kissing an unknown female (Lacey) surface on Facebook, Lacey dumps Brynn and stands aside as the nouveau riche mean girls orchestrate a campaign of homophobic bullying.

Once inside the vintage boutique, I felt restless. The merchandise was covered in condescension, each item plucked from the past and judged worthy of being sold twice. I browsed the sunglasses, trying on every pair and discarding them, unsatisfied. When I’d rejected them all, I walked to the front of the store.

Ian was waiting for me by the counter, playing with his phone, looking bored. “Ready to go?” he asked, his face impassive.

“Yeah. Just let me–” I started. But before I could get the words out, the bell over the door rang, and girlish laughter rushed inside. My tongue froze in my mouth, poised in a state of mid-articulation, unable to do anything but stare as Lacey walked in with Elle and Mallory trailing behind her like ducklings.

She looked beautiful. Her cheeks pink from the spring heat, her hair bunched into a knot on top of her head. The ice in her latte clattered as she chatted, and a lock of blonde hair fell into her eyes. I felt sick as I realized I wouldn’t be the one to push it behind her ear.

I wanted to run to her. To cry and beg her to take me back. I wanted to fall to my knees and clutch at her legs. To soak her thighs with my tears. But my muscles were frozen. They locked me to the spot and saved me from my own humiliation.

Lacey began to browse around the store. She was too involved in her own life to notice me quietly losing my shit in the corner. I should have been relieved. Pleased that she was sparing me the shame of a public breakdown. But I wasn’t. Instead, I was angry. How dare she giggle? How dare she consort with other girls? How dare she do anything but stay home and cry and lament her choices? She should be prostrating herself with regret, begging me for forgiveness, wailing and gnashing her teeth over the pains of her mistake. She should not be frolicking around fucking town with her fucking mean girl friends doing some fucking light shopping.

My jaw clenched, and my shoulders began to tremble with rage. I became aware of Ian’s hand around my arm, pulling my body towards the door.

“Let’s go now,” he said. The muscles that disobeyed my commands now yielded to his, and we walked to the exit.

He opened the door and the bell jangled and sunlight flooded into the store. Just as I could taste the fresh air on my tongue, Lacey’s pale eyes locked onto mine. And for a moment, a mere inhalation, her face crumbled into a look of sadness and despair, her flush fading and her eyes swimming. But before I was sure it had been there at all, the look disappeared, swallowed by her mask of indifference.

Entry 102 | LOVE DEATH SEX BETRAYAL | Non-fiction – Memoir

Deceit and confessions from her deadman. A new mother’s impulsive chaotic widowhood and her rocketing sexual peace.

17 March 2005 – New York City, Café Carlyle

Man with gold cuff links walks in:

Man: “Are you abandoned?”

Kate: “To be abandoned, someone had to be at my side to begin with.”

Man: “I’m buying you a drink.

We sat down.

Man: “Tell me something.”

Kate: “I’m a writer and poet.”

Man: “Is that your favorite identity?”

Kate: “No. Mother to Rhapsody and Bucky.”

Man: “Husband?”

Kate: “Bob. Died. Three years ago. It wasn’t the cancer that killed him. I used his death to accelerate.”

Man: “How?”

Kate: “Obeyed the impulse, collected warmth, acted on charged exchanges.”

Man: “Explain.”

Kate: “Every exchange can be coded as warm or cold, plus or minus. I accepted that negatives exist. I noted how a battery collaborates. It uses plus and minus to generate useful force. I retrained my thinking, my vocabulary, my body to express negatives into positive forms. Different translators taught me healthy methods of expressing.”

Man: “May I ask what killed your husband?”

Kate: “Lots of things. Secrets. Unhealthy patterns. Surgeon Accudia.”

Man: “Malpractice?”

Kate: “Manslaughter.”

Man: “Did you sue?”

Kate: “No. I took the surgeon to lunch. I paid.”

Man: “After your husband died?”

Kate: “Yes. Dr. Accudia was generous with me. We settled.”

Man: “Financial?”

Kate: “No, money would have been less painful. It was a spiritual settlement. Did you ever notice how, without enough space, man’s laughter becomes manslaughter?”

Man: “Give me an example of your spiritual growth.”

Kate: “I don’t know how to answer that.”

Man: “How about other kinds of growth?”

I looked at him. My husband had taught me about sensing moments. This felt like one of them. I answered, “I like cock.” He high-five’d me. We both laughed. Then he said, “You’re a poet; the economy of that sentence, the way your mouth wrapped around the c letters, please, tell me more.”

15 May 2003 – Hoboken NJ (Two Years Earlier)

In a spacious warehouse loft, there were two fifty-foot, floor-to-ceiling shelves with an aisle in the middle and a rolling ladder. There were more than three hundred boxes filled with his story. They contained his files, his clipped articles, his concepts, his whatever. Since he was dead now, the boxes were being thrown out, unread. The creator had nicknamed this space, The Back-Half of His Brain. One box was being placed on top of another, which then would be rolled to the curb, when his former assistant, Juliette, yelled “Stop!” She grabbed an 8.5” by 11” gray envelope sitting on top of the box and looked up at me. Eight years of dust could not hide the scribbled script of my husband. It read: “For KK – Upon My Death Only – Bob Kaiser.” The “KK” is for Katie Kaiser; that’s me. This was it, my movie moment.

Entry 101 | FLIGHT RISK | YA realistic fiction

Smart, cynical and way too mature for her age, Briana knows lots of things most other 15-year-old girls don’t. Like what it’s like to live in more than 50 different houses, the exact amount of alcohol her mother’s boyfriend will consume before passing out, and how to buy food by convincing a grocery store manager to give you a refund for an item that clearly didn’t come from his store. Vowing not to let her painful past and poor dysfunctional family determine her fate, Briana decides to create a place where she belongs, using the only tools she has (brains, determination and lots of creativity).

A week before starting high school, I moved into a new house. Which might have been more of a momentous event if I hadn’t already done it 50 times before.

On that day in fall of 1984, all I wanted was a bottle of Aussie hair scrunch, a teal Swatch watch and enough pairs of Jordache jeans to fill a whole dresser drawer. Oh, and a house I would live in for more than three months. Was that too much to ask?

What I actually had was one pair of no-name jeans, a bunch of thrift store books and a carefully constructed basket where I hid anything I didn’t want my mother’s boyfriend to steal.

“Yo, Budweiser! These boxes ain’t gonna move themselves.”

The words were slurred, but I’ve had lots of experience understanding drunk-speak. Pete was on his second bottle of Jim Beam. A move was usually a three-bottle event, so he had a little ways to go before he’d pass out somewhere. He called me Budweiser when he was drunk. He acted like it was a joke, but I’m pretty sure he just can’t remember my name.

“Get moving! Or are you planning to just stand around all day?”

I grabbed a box from the pile in the hall. He of course doesn’t carry anything. I knew he was ready to give me a few more smartass comments but he could hear my Uncle Freddy approaching, grumbling about how “somebody had better get off their ass and help drag this refrigerator into the house.” That meant it was time for Pete to find a hiding place before he was forced to do some actual work. He retreated to the third floor, where he could safely perform a “supervisory” role.

All of my worldly belongings fit into four boxes, and I could pick them out right away from the piles of stuff that had been dumped in the living room.

The books were in two plastic neon colored milk crates—they were see-through, so I put the books in them because I wasn’t worried about Pete seeing them. He didn’t read, of course, and pawn shops wouldn’t give you anything for books unless there were rare or were signed by a famous author—and even then, you would probably get more for an Atari. So the books were safe.

My clothes were in the corn flakes box. It had been through three moves already and was starting to rip on the bottom. Too bad, because it was the perfect size to hold my one pair of jeans, three pairs of shorts, seven shirts (including the really long one I used as a nightgown) and some socks and underwear. The only sneakers I owned were on my feet.

Finally, to round out the Moving Supplies lineup, the star of the collection: the Snap-On tools box I spotted behind a hardware store last year. Solid and sturdy, it would probably last another eight or ten moves, at least.

Entry 100 | VIRAL | YA Action/Adventure

Seventeen-year-old Cora Jane Delaney’s little brother has been kidnapped by the government. After a virus wiped out almost everyone on Earth, they gave the survivors an ultimatum: become guinea pigs for dangerous medical experiments in the name of finding a cure, or get shot. But Cora’s not gonna give up on her brother without a fight.

The sound of gravel crunching jerked me up. A guy – over six feet tall, brawny and broad through the shoulders – stood behind me.

I didn’t pause to think. Adrenaline slammed into my body, electrifying my muscles into action. I whipped around, my hand flying to where I’d dropped my holster, but it was missing. I turned back to face him slowly.

My holster and a semi-automatic assault rifle were slung over his shoulder.

“Don’t panic, sweetheart,” the guy said, white teeth flashing against bronze skin in a predatory smile. “I won’t hurt you if you do exactly what I tell you to.”

I was frozen in a fight-or-flight nightmare. My muscles screamed run, run, run! But that lizard part of my brain – the part of me that didn’t quite make it all the way out of the swamp – demanded that I take the guy down. And maybe keep him there for a while…

“What do you want?”

He cocked his head and scanned me head to toe. “I want you to get those water jugs out of your pickup, fill them, and take me for a drive.”

He wanted to rob me! Anger burned in my chest as I sized him up. Tall, muscular, handsome. The kind of guy who always got his way. I would’ve been scared stiff to look at him, much less talk to him, before the virus. And now he was going to steal my water? Oh, hell no.

He was big, but I’d heard stories about mothers who’d found the strength to lift two thousand pound cars off their babies. This asshat was standing between me and getting water to my little brother, and that was pretty much the same thing in my book.

I scanned the woods around me for an escape route and saw several half-overgrown footpaths that would lead back to my truck. I’d have to walk right by the guy to get there.


I started towards him, my steps slow and calculated, at just the right angle to take me within arm’s reach. I knew what to do. Grab his wrist and twist it behind his back, then ram my knee into his groin. He’d gasp, fall to the ground in a fetal position, and I’d sprint to the truck. A clean getaway.

Almost shoulder-to-shoulder with him, I looked up at his face. It was all sharp lines and ridges. His nose had been broken more than once and a scar, one shade paler than his bronze skin, crossed the top of his upper lip in a jagged line. Dark stubble dusted his jaw, a stark contrast with his white-blond hair.

A few strands of hair fell over his eyes, and his mouth — wide, full, and not what I should be looking at — curved into a cocky smirk. Arrogant jackass, I thought, reinfusing myself with anger.

Then I realized I’d stopped walking.

Entry 99 | THE ACADEMIC | Adventure Thriller

A historian tricked into helping his friend the detective protect top scientists lands between the criminals and their plot to develop nightmarish WMD. Then again, whoever starts killing off the bad guys ensures he gets the credit, fueling his undeserved reputation as a ruthless vigilante. Either he takes over the role, or the world is history.

Lesombre stood at the reinforced glass and watched the man inside the cell search for any means of escape. Tuberov should have saved his energy. The chamber was sealed and devoid of furniture, the walls and door steel-clad, and to fit through the air intake, the fat Russian needed to grow four feet, lose eighty pounds and find a welding torch. Tuberov would leave soon enough. If the test went well, by the abattoir drain in the cement floor.

“Are we ready?” Lesombre said.

Behind him Genevieve Gamboge gave out a cough rich with phlegm. Only her workstation console lit the test lab, and with her drunken grin in all those blinking lights she looked like a deranged mission control supervisor. It had been a privilege watching her Nobel brain chew through problems well beyond his comprehension. But with her plump frame turned gaunt by the drugs and her pale complexion now veined and blotchy, Gamboge might not have long herself.

Next came his favorite part, the creaking open of the storage tanks built into the ductwork. Lesombre could have had the mechanism work silently, but then he’d miss out on Tuberov cowering away from the vent.

The delicious rasp of metal came from above the cell. Then nothing.


In organizations everyone found their niche. Upper management acquired Gamboge to refine the weapons meant to restore lost influence. They counted on Lesombre to ensure, across a worldwide enterprise, the right things got done. Lesombre was at home as the plumber deep in the organizational bowels forever cajoling the pipes.

Tuberov was procurement. Thanks to him, the distribution network and critical compounds were ready for Belgium. His shocked expression when, instead of final payment, he received a MP5 jabbed in his ample gut was as priceless as the current terror wrenching his face. No, Tuberov was dead from the moment he read the formula. His death might as well benefit science.

Small pings like raindrops beat on the aluminum ductwork. More pings rapped inside the duct, coming faster, harder, louder, mounting into a buzz. Tuberov struggled to fit his bulk into a corner. Another reason the Russian should have laid off his meat pies.

Lesombre pressed up against the glass, fixed on the dozen narrow slits in the ceiling. After weeks of modeling and dry runs, the test flight had arrived.

A June beetle appeared from the vent, a single iridescent speck.

It was not alone long.

Gamboge had explained cyborg beetles–or her more technophile “live micro-air-vehicles”–as the ultimate in wireless. Neuro-receptor implants powered by their flight muscles allowed her to control the bugs like unmanned drones. The possible military and civilian applications were laudable, bugs trained to locate survivors, landmines, chemical weapons. Their project chased the opposite idea, to let slip the beetles of war.

Today’s test: if Gamboge could sustain the swarm, and if she could make the little herbivores hungry enough, or angry enough, to go for some Russian.

Entry 98 | IN ALPHA’S WAY | Science Fiction

When the Outer Atmosphere Counsel sends Earthophile Aldebaran – Al to his friends – to observe Earth, he imagines himself on cross-country road trips and deep sea diving expeditions. Upon discovering that an asteroid is headed toward Earth, however, Al must race against time to save us and to convince his superiors not to allow the asteroid to run its course.

A buzz like a swarm of bees erupts from down the hallway.

Cheek pressed against the cold concrete floor of the classroom, I strain my eyes as I search under the desks for my document viewing device. When the first hoverbot rounds the corner into the room, I peel my cheek off the floor to watch it, then I rise to my feet.

The reserve light in the hallway goes out. For a moment, I lose sight of the machine in the darkness of the windowless room. Then like glowing rubies, two tiny lights – eyes – flash from within the bot, piercing the darkness. The eyes grow larger as they near me, all of my senses deprived of stimuli except for the vision of the illuminated eyes. I focus on holding my ground, picturing roots growing out of my feet into the floor. I stand firm.

As the eyes continue floating toward me, I watch them, planning. The reserve light in the hallway flickers and re-ignites. I squint at the reflection off of the bot’s brilliant metallic body. So, somebody loves it. Somebody polishes it until it shines like a mirror. There is a faint smell of bleach. A small dome grows out of its square, sharp baseplate. It’s graceful, beautiful and horrible all at once.

The bot keeps moving toward me. I’m frozen with awe and then frozen in some other inexplicable way until I finally regain control of my senses. Bending at the knees, I take a deep breath into my feet, rooted and strong, the perfect springboards. I push forward and in an instant, I’ve run past the machine. Toppling chairs and desks as I go, I’m moving faster than I knew I could.

In a flash, the bot is in front of me, staring with its red eyes into mine and I’m frozen again. More metallic buzzing comes from the door. Another one enters the room. Then another one and another one still. Soon, they surround me, four or five floating one on top of another, so tightly packed that I can’t see beyond the front line. An army of red eyes. They must number fifty or sixty now and, judging by the louder and louder mechanical whirr, more are coming in. One of them in particular, the king perhaps, takes the lead, the other bots maintaining a respectful distance behind it.

“Face the retina scanner” the king commands me. No, a machine does not command. It plays a recording. It’s just a hoverbot, I tell myself. I look into the red eyes. They dim, then flash white, filling the room like a bolt of lightning. I blink and see spots from the shock. A beat passes as the bot accesses my information.

“Allen. State why you are here.” It plays back against the din of a hundred other bots.

“Retrieving document viewing device.” I answer, blinking. “And my name’s Al, not Allen.”

Entry 97 | THE UNDERGROUND | YA Fiction

While trying to deal with the death of her sister and absence of her parents, Mel Whitfield accepts an invitation to the secret underground clubs of NYC. She quickly gets caught up in the eclectic world and begins using “scents”, the new organic drug. One night, while riding the high of her new lifestyle, she’s abducted and taken to a subterranean world that she must escape before she loses her true self.

I wake up on a cold floor in a dimly lit hallway. The last thing I remember was sniffing the “scents” and dancing with a guy who purred in my ear.

Fluorescent lights glow in the distance. Random shuffles of movement echo through the long darkened space. “Hello,” I call out. No one answers. I squint. Three shadowy figures march towards me.
I gasp. I want to move, run, but my body feels as if it is bolted to the cold floor.

Two boys and a husky woman stop in front of me. Sweat drenches my palms and seeps from every pore in my body.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. “Shel Silverstein,” the boy with dark black hair leans down and whispers. “Welcome to the road less traveled.”

“Who are you?” I ask. An inexplicable instinct warns me not to look straight into any of their eyes. “Where am I?” I keep my head bowed.

The woman comes forward and stands in front of me planting her large hands on her hips She says nothing. Strength oozes from this short haired woman. She curves her lips upward into an unflattering smile. Shavings of skin hang over the rims of her lips. I have an urge to pull the dead skin off as I would if my own lips were chapped. My gaze remains downward in order to avoid eye contact. I notice that none of them are wearing shoes.

The three of them turn towards each other. The scent of chocolate fills the air and I’m reminded of the “scents.”

“Did I meet you at the club?” I ask. I strain to remember more details but can’t remember a thing after sniffing. “Not exactly,” the second boy responds. I stare at his lips as well. They are wide and smooth and much nicer than the woman’s. I glimpse up and am able to see his hair is wavy and caramel colored. I quickly look back to the floor.

They inch closer to me. I thrush my body back but the wall stops me. “It’s okay,” the caramel haired boy whispers. “Time to get the party started,” the dark haired boy yells out.

Both boys lean in and pull me up by the underside of my arms. “No!” I scream as my legs scramble beneath me.

“This won’t hurt a bit,” The woman says before she sticks a needle into my upper arm.

Entry 96 | LOCKER 103 | MG Paranormal

Winter Malone spends her nights in the local middle school, but she’s not the only one hiding in the hallways. Mr. Hawkins, the school’s Soul, must find his replacement before he can pass over to the Other Side. If Winter can’t help him – or destroy him – her own Soul is on the line.

Winter’s brain clicked through her options. If some psychopath had managed to wedge himself into Locker 103, what could she do? Her greatest advantage, she knew, was looking more like ten-and-a-half years old and less like twelve, which was what she was. They all underestimated her, and her porcelain doll face, and her big brown doe-eyes. She would use that, and if she opened this door to find some crazy pinhead hiding in it, he would regret messing with Winter Malone.

Almost everyone underestimated her, anyway. Her mother, Heaven Lee, said that she was filled head-to-toe with nothing but licorice and Tupperware — sweet but tough. Maybe that’s why Heaven Lee had thought it was okay to take off for Nebraska with her loser boyfriend and leave Winter to sleep in the band room at G.W. Barrett Middle School.

It was definitely not okay.

She was curious, though, about the man in the locker. If he really knew her mother — and the truth was that Heaven Lee knew every man between here and Topeka — she had to find out what he knew. She closed her eyes and squeezed the clip on the locker door, her muscles coiled like a doorjamb. The door squealed back, and she pried an eye open, heart hammering under her pajamas.

Nothing. Nothing but a dark blue hole and the smell of old banana sandwiches. She rubbed at her nose and leaned in.

“Winter.” The word belched out of the locker, and she jumped back with a squawk.

“Quit saying my name like that, for the love of fruit loops.” She took a deep breath and poked her head into the blue hole. “Where are you?”

Mr. Hawkins spluttered. “Kindly…take…your…head…out of me!”

“Wha… what?” She popped her head back out again, eyeing the hallway warily. He must be a ventriloquist. Heaven Lee had dated one in Omaha, or maybe Dearborn, and his preening, false soprano had given Winter the creeps. She shuddered.

Mr. Hawkins cleared his throat. “Look again.”

“There is no way that I’m…”

Every locker on the wall rattled angrily. “Look again.”

She looked again.

This time she saw a flicker. It was no more than a light mist, a haze hovering in the blue-black, but in the flicker was a face. A man’s face. And the man’s mouth was moving.

“You see me now, don’t you?”

“Holy crap,” said Winter.

The mouth tugged up at the corners. “Hello, Winter.”

“You really like saying my name, don’t you?” She chomped at her licorice. “What are you, some kind of creeper?”

The smile stuck on Mr. Hawkins’s face like a leftover kernel of corn. “My, but you are a curious little thing. I am this school, Winter. Its very heart and soul are my own.”

She poked her fingers at the flickering face. “You mean this building is your body?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“In that case, you should take up jogging or something. You’re not looking so great.”

Entry 95 | FOSTER MOM | Fiction/fantasy

According to government statistics, 58,000 children are currently living California’s foster care system. My husband and I wanted to adopt one of them. This is our story.

After the funeral I called my husband. Just before my father’s unexpected death Wade had left for Europe where he was directing his first animated feature film. This gig was a big break so I had encouraged Wade to remain there working on it.

“I want a baby,” I announced to the computer screen.

“Now?” Wade’s image looked distressed or perhaps it was the poor connection we had with Skype.

“I want to share my life and joy with a child, like my dad did for me.”

“Okay,” he said before reminding me that we were living on two continents, separated by a nine-hour time difference and a 13-hour flight. He also reminded me how labor intensive it was to make animated movies. How a “good day” was when an animator created one second of animation and how a 90-minute film had 5,400 seconds. “So, I’m going to be here for a while.”

Wade ended up spending two and a half years directing his movie. I visited him, he visited me and we made love in exotic locations—Brussels, Paris, Athens. It was romantic and exciting but it never progressed the way we wished it would—into a cooing bundle swaddled in pink or blue. After Cannes and his film premiered to warm reviews my husband returned home to Los Angeles—finally we were together. Gone were the grueling schedules, the stressors, the distance. Now—I thought—now! We will get pregnant.

We tried to get pregnant, then we tried “not” to get pregnant (wink, wink) thinking if we didn’t try to get pregnant then we most definitely would. We pretended we were high school sweethearts and getting pregnant was the absolute worst thing we could possibly do. But nothing happened.

I went doctors, general practitioners, obstetricians, gynecologists, endocrinologists, and gynecological-endocrinologists. But nothing happened.

I took blood tests, ultrasounds, the HSG, and an alphabet soup of tests with all the results indicating we were WNL—“Within Normal Limits”—and thus ripe for getting pregnant. But nothing happened.

Then I was told I was too thin, too stressed, too active, too deficient in Vitamin D. I stopped running and started walking; I started Pilates and continued yoga; I took vitamins E, D, B12, fish oil and prenatals. But nothing happened.

I went to massage therapists, acupuncturists, Eastern medical practitioners, Chinese foot doctors. One Shanghai-trained physician based on L.A.’s Westside who’d helped a number of Hollywood stars get pregnant, took extra time with me. She never could remember my name so she called me the-lady-who-always-cries-when-she-comes-to-see-me. Women like her, with healthy biological children of their own, didn’t understand the pain, frustration and loss that women like me felt with the arrival of each menstrual cycle. Women like her meant well in wanting to help. But women like me grew weary of suffering miscarriages, which we tried to avoid acknowledging except in the confines of our hearts and avoid discussing except with our spouses amid tears in the dark.

After several years of trying we… stopped.

Entry 94 | JUST A COUPLE OF DAMES | Historical Fiction/fantasy

In 1940’s Hollywood, Alanna Jayson and Nastia Kirilenko shine on the silver screen but outside the studio they struggle with a meddling boss, fruitless marriages, death, and depression until they find love in each others arms. When their heavy-handed producer learns of their illicit affair will they choose love or their careers?

My father was actually waiting for them at the secretary’s desk so they’d know just how important it was. He ushered them into his office quickly offering them seats before he sat behind his desk. He quickly slid them two separate pieces of paper with duplicate print. As they read it they began to grow with fury. After a gentle gaze into each others eyes their heads rolled into their laps. It was a gossip column from big shot Hedda Hopper outing them. My father weighed the situation as he smoked his pipe.

“When my plant down at the paper brought me this I thought it was a poor joke. But the more I thought about it I knew it to be true. Two of my biggest stars jeopardizing their careers for sex. As if it wasn’t bad enough for Nastia rolling around in the hay with a Negro.”

“It didn’t fulfill your every dream?” Nastia said.

“This isn’t the time for joshing around! This is serious. You’ve just been in the papers for a scandal. You’re fresh meat on the hilltop and all the falcons can’t wait rip you open with their talons! With all the buzz surrounding Anna Karenina, she’s planning to drop this bombshell the same day as the Oscar nominations. We need that Oscar. I think I can have it taken care of because they don’t have any real proof or it’d be out by now. What I need from you two is to stop whatever you’re doing. And now!”

“Well, Mr. Kramer. It’s like this. I’ve already given up one love for you and it nearly cost me my sanity. I do not intend under any circumstances to give up on another.”

“Alanna is that the way you feel also?” he asked.

“Even more so.

He threw his pipe into the ashtray as his baby blue bloodshot eyes focused like they never had before. “I don’t guess a suspension would help this time around since there are two of you. This could be the end of your careers and I can’t put up a fight for you if it’s going to continue. I just wish you girls understood I want the best for you. You’re making me out to be a villain when I’m just looking out for your well-being. You have until the end of the day to call me if you change your minds.”

“Yeah, the worse our well-being the fatter your pockets. We’ll be seeing you Mr. Kramer.” Alanna said.

Nastia grabbed Alanna’s hand tightly in hers as they walked out of his office. She wore the tired look of a beaten woman as they moseyed down the hall. It was a condition she found hard to get rid of.

Entry 93 | THE AMBROSIAL INVADER | Science fiction/fantasy

Gevalt Gedian ran away from home at age nine. But ever since he learned that he was a sorcerer, he has wanted to go back. However, he finds to his horror that his family has replaced him with a lookalike. Bewildered and hurt, Gevalt must solve the mystery behind this cruel betrayal, and quickly, because his actions have inexorably led to the invasion of his city and the killing of millions – and the only force that can bring an end to all this is the one that resides within him

“We can’t be seen,” reminded Gevalt.

“Yeah. OK then,” said Shreck, taking a deep breath and gripping the chip tightly, “down, and out.”

They shared one last look, steeling themselves and each other through it, and then Gevalt said, *”Miasma!”*

A thick Haze enveloped them, and they stepped over the unconscious guard’s body to face the doorway. Gevalt grasped Shreck’s arm tightly, and Shreck Gevalt’s.


Gevalt activated his Aviation sorc (*Fleegen!*) and sped down the stairs, half-carrying Shreck along. They could hear the guard they had Confused into the toilet shouting, “But I can’t find him!”

“… on the bottom level!” came another shout suddenly – but it was no problem now. The front door was just across the living room –

“NOW!” a voice screamed, and suddenly, there was a deafening clang, and they were looking at the open doorway through metal bars, which looked horribly as though they belonged to a cage.

The Guardian Group had dropped a primal cage on them. And then –