Have you read ANOMALIES yet?

by Sadie Turner & Colette Freedman
Release Date: February 9th 2016
Genre: YA Sci fi
Select Books in NY

Summary from Goodreads:

In the future there is no disease. There is no war. There is no discontent. All citizens are complacent members of the Global Governance. But one summer is about to change everything.

Keeva Tee just turned fifteen. All of her dreams are about to come true. She s about to make the trip to Monarch Camp to be imprinted with her intended life partner. One day they ll have perfect kids and a perfect life. But in her happy, carefree life in the Ocean Community, something weighs on her mind. She hears whispers about anomalies citizens who can t be imprinted. No one knows what happens to them, but they never seem to come back.

When Keeva arrives at Monarch Camp, her worst nightmare becomes a reality she is an anomaly. After imprinting, the people she loves change, and she starts to doubt everything she s ever believed. What if freedom and individuality have been sacrificed for security? And what if the man who solves all the problems is the very man who s created them and what if he isn’t a man at all?

When Keeva finds a warning carved under a bunk bed she begins to understand: nonconformity will be punished, dissent is not an option, insurgents will be destroyed.


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Praise for Anomalies!

Turner and Freedman masterfully create a futuristic world where lives are carefully planned out. Individuals are paired at the age of five with their intended. Then at 15, they are reunited, given careers, and sent out to an assigned community. On the surface there appears to be no war, disease, or famine. Beneath the carefree civility lie secrets that the ruling Global Governance will kill to keep. Unknowingly caught up in a covert war, 15-year-old Keeva goes to Monarch Camp expecting to be imprinted with her life partner. When she arrives, she finds that her intended has died and Keeva is now an anomaly: a citizen who has no partner. Without the imprinting process to control her, Keeva more openly questions a society that she has always found sophistic. Who took her baby sister all those years ago? What does the Governance want with the anomalies? When will the resistance strike, and how does she fit into the plan? As Keeva uncovers answers, she has to discover who she truly is before more lives are lost and nightmares become reality. A lively story with plenty of appeal for reluctant readers, this work ends in an abrupt, unresolved conclusion. There is no doubt that a sequel is on its way. VERDICT A general purchase for libraries where Ally Condie’s “Matched” (Dutton) or Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series (HarperCollins) are popular.–Claire Covington, Broadway High School, VA


“This book makes spirituality exciting and vibrant. I predict it will be so successful that we’ll all have to learn how to pronounce ‘anomaly’ correctly.”—Russell Brand, comedian, author, actor


“Anomalies leaves you thinking about human nature and what makes us who we are. Bravo.”—Jason Segel, actor, author, producer


“[Anomalies is] a fast-paced story which champions individuality and truth. Keeva is a compelling heroine who is relatable and strong.”—Pamela Anderson, actor, author, producer, activist


“A compelling read which confirms we must fight for what makes us each special and unique.”—Randy Jackson, music producer, American Idol host


“We get to see this unusual futuristic world through Keeva’s smart and unapologetic eyes. A whirlwind adventure with deep meaning, [Anomalies features] smart writing, engaging characters, and a plot which leaves you hanging onto every word.”—Max Beesley, actor, musician


About the Authors

SADIE TURNER is a Los Angeles-based producer and writer originally from Brighton, England, who works in business development with several Hollywood entrepreneurs. She has various projects in development, and also teaches yoga.

Author Links:



COLETTE FREEDMAN is an internationally produced playwright, screenwriter, and novelist who was recently named one of the Dramatist Guild’s “50 to Watch”. Her play Sister Cities (NYTE, 2009) was the hit of the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe and earned five star reviews: It has been produced around the country and internationally, including Paris (Une Ville, Une Soeur) and Rome (Le Quattro Sorelle). She has authored fifteen produced plays including Serial Killer Barbie (Brooklyn Publishers, 2004), First to the Egg (Grand prize shorts urban shorts festival), Bridesmaid # 3 (Louisville finalist 2008), and Ellipses… (Dezart Festival winner 2010), as well as a modern adaptation of Iphigenia in Aulis written in iambic pentameter. She was commissioned to write a modern adaptation of Uncle Vanya which is in preproduction and has co-written, with International bestselling novelist Jackie Collins, the play Jackie Collins Hollywood Lies, which is gearing up for National Tour. In collaboration with The New York Times best selling author Michael Scott, she has just sold the thriller The Thirteen Hallows, to Tor/Macmillan, which comes out Dec 6, 2011. She has just sold the novel The Affair to Kensington and is getting ready to shop her YA series The A+ Girls.

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Writing Thoughts...Everyone thinks they’re right.

It was a simple truth a colleague said to me after a professional development for educators years ago, but it was so profound I’ve never forgotten it. Everyone thinks they know the the correct way to go about things, and no where is that more true than in the writing world. Granted, there are basic forms and processes that should be employed, but the way we each apply our craft to those forms and processes will be wildly different.

Never, ever, under any circumstances, should a writer use adverbs. But I like a well-placed adverb. How about instead of never, we use adverbs sparingly.

Avoid adjectives like the plague. What if I need an adjective to paint the perfect picture for the reader? Well, then I say use the damn adjective. Just don’t splatter them around all willy-nilly.

A good query letter has no more than a hook and two paragraphs — oops. Wonder how I ever managed to get an agent? Your query letter should be concise, professional, and the only thing it must do is hook the reader. That’s it.

Never, and I mean never, open your story with a character looking in the mirror or thinking about the weather. Okay, this one might be good, unless that mirror or the weather is going to become a character in your story. In that case, proceed with caution, but proceed none-the-less.

You should never change something in your story based on something a single person said. Maybe, but what if what that one person said really resonates with you? What are you waiting for? More confirmation for what you instinctively knew?

Don’t ever use a thesaurus because the first word that came to you is probably the word you meant to use. (Huh?) I have to admit, thesaurus.com is my best friend sometimes. But it’s not a good idea to use words you found in a thesaurus that you wouldn’t personally use in daily conversations.

All of these “rules” were probably correct, at some time or another and with a specific story. I’m not saying they’re never true, just that they’re not always true. I’m more of a middle-of-the-road type person, as you can see above. Some adverbs, some adjectives, and as someone who actually took graduate level meteorology, I happen to like a little weather in a story.

So I have to admit I’m curious, what writing “rules” have you heard passed around from those that know?


Dialogue Do’s and Dont’s…

happy valentine's day (2)I love writing MG and YA dialogue. Probably because I teach in a middle school and my days are spent with nearly 600 children between the ages of 12 and 14. It’s safe to say I’m hip to all the modern lingo and know exactly how dramatic one can truly be due to over-plucked eyebrows (three days out of school, of course).

But dialogue is one of the trickiest things to write well, no matter what age group you’re writing for. It has to have a purpose, first of all, and it has to hit the reader’s “reader ear” in an authentic way – but it can’t be written authentically.

Wait. Not written authentically?

Was that a typo?


People interrupt each other, use sounds and grunts in place of words, and wave their arms around to indicate many different inflections. Put that hot mess on the page and you will drive your readers insane. On top of that, readers automatically fill in gaps as they read. You don’t have to spell everything out for them. In fact, they’re going to get bored and put down your book if you do.

What I mean is, you’re dialogue should follow few simple rules so that it comes off as “authentic” to the reader, even though it’s anything but.

  1. Dialogue just for the sake of dialogue is boring.

“Hi, Joan. How was your day?”

“Great Mark! And yours?”

Can we say snooze-fest? There is no purpose to this dialogue. Do we do this in real life? Of course, but it makes for a horrible story. This type of dialogue has no place in your novel.

Dialogue should deepen characters, engage them in conflict, or maybe (and I mean maybe) reveal information to the reader–sparingly.


  1. Well-written dialogue is every bit as concise as “real life” dialogue, often even more so. Shorten that stuff down. I mean realllly shorten it down.

What we tend to write: “Do you happen to have any butter for the toast?”

What we say in real life: “Got any butter?”

What we should write: I slid the plate of toast toward me, avoiding Karen’s eyes. “Butter?”

People rarely speak in complete sentences, let alone grammatically correct sentences. As long as the reader knows they’re eating toast in this scene, the reader will figure it out. Trust your reader. Which leads me to my next point…


  1. Vary up your dialogue tags and action beats. If you can show what’s going on through action beats, your dialogue doesn’t carry all the responsibility for communicating what’s happening. Yes, “said” and “asked” are perfectly fine, but they shouldn’t be the only thing you use. This is also an excellent way to eliminate unnecessary adverbs and exclamation points.

What we tend to write: “Get out!” Mark shouted angrily.

What we should write: Mark flung the door open, pointing to the cab idling by the curb. “Get out.”

See what I did there? Which scene do you see more clearly in your mind? Which example carries the most emotion?

The exclamation point is gone (you only get so many to use in your lifetime, you know) and “shouted angrily” tells me nothing. Another writer whose opinion I trust and admire, Naomi Hughes, tweeted about this same thing just the other day. It seems like a small detail, but the impact on your writing is immense.

If you find you’re still stuck trying to get decent dialogue on the page, open up some of your favorite books (preferably ones published in the past ten years or so) and take a peek at the dialogue. Notice the ebb and flow, the way the author gives certain speech patterns to different characters, how the sentences are chopped to the bare minimum. Practice, practice, practice….and always read it out loud.


Risk Taking isn’t Optional

who am i not to beNot if you’re a writer, anyway. I still remember the first time I showed my writing to my family. I was terrified–heart pounding and palms sweaty–as they read my words. And then my mother, my dear mother, pronounced her judgement.

I hadn’t written that. I’d found one of those Madlibs-type-fill-in-the-blank-create-your-own-story things and was trying to trick her. Because if I could really write like that, why the hell hadn’t I shown her sooner?

Gee, Mom. I wonder why?

It didn’t stop there. With endless support from my husband, I finally managed to finish my first manuscript. Then I researched the publishing process and quickly realized I’d need an agent, and to get one of those I’d need something called a query letter, and maybe even a synopsis (folks were pretty grim on the topic of the dreaded synopsis). So I read a few blogs, whipped up my first query letter, sent it out, and waited.

My first two rejections crippled me. They were form letters! Not even personalized! But I was good, better than good, right? I backed up, regrouped, and started poking around online writing communities. There I learned about writing contests and all the grand promises about how they could help me as a writer, but they all required interacting with people, and that just wasn’t happening.

Now, if you know me at all, you already know that my opinion of putting myself out there didn’t last long. Writing contests literally changed my writing life. Every last one of my critique partners, who have all made me a better writer in infinitely fantastic ways, can be traced back to my (and their) participation in writing contests.

I might’ve signed with my agent from her slush pile, but I have no doubt that would never had happened if I hadn’t pushed past the fear and put myself out there.

So what would I say to the person who’s still frozen with fear? To the person who desperately wants to move forward with their writing but just can’t seem to put themselves out there?

I say be afraid. Be downright terrified. And then do it anyway.

Enter online writing contests, online communities, join a local critique group, even national and regional writing groups. No matter what path you choose, just get yourself out there. Listen, learn, grow. I can’t tell you not to be afraid. We’re all afraid. Embrace the fear, and take the plunge.


Taking Ten with Rena Olsen!

Rena Olsen The Girl BeforeToday we have Rena Olsen on the blog, author of The Girl Before releasing August 9, 2016 from Putman, an imprint of Penguin. The Girl Before is an adult psychological suspense novel that literally has me drooling. I seriously can’t wait for this book. Not only does the blurb entice me to no end, it’s written in alternating timelines which is a technique I adore (but don’t think I could ever pull off). Don’t forget to follow Rena and make sure you get this book!

In this powerful psychological suspense debut, when a woman’s life is shattered, she is faced with a devastating question: What if everything she thought was normal and good and true . . . wasn’t?

Clara Lawson is torn from her life in an instant. Without warning, her home is invaded by armed men, and she finds herself separated from her beloved husband and daughters. The last thing her husband yells to her is to say nothing.

In chapters that alternate between past and present, the novel slowly unpeels the layers of Clara’s fractured life. We see her growing up, raised with her sisters by the stern Mama and Papa G, becoming a poised and educated young woman, falling desperately in love with the forbidden son of her adoptive parents. We see her now, sequestered in an institution, questioned by men and women who call her a different name—Diana—and who accuse her husband of unspeakable crimes. As recollections of her past collide with new revelations, Clara must question everything she thought she knew, to come to terms with the truth of her history and to summon the strength to navigate her future.




Now, without further ado, let’s ask some slightly difficult writerly questions!


  1. First, let’s talk about your upcoming novel, The Girl Before! I’m always curious to know what triggered the idea for a story! How did The Girl Before come about, and which came first—the premise or the main character?

This is one of those questions that I feel like I should know the answer to, but I really don’t. I have a degree in psychology, and a master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy, so I’ve always been interested in human behavior. I also have a probably unhealthy love for villains, mostly because I always wonder what happened to someone that they turned out like that? And if you think about it, every villain is the hero of their own story.

At the same time as I was contemplating that, I was researching a lot about the world of human trafficking, and how so many times the victims had opportunities to escape, to change their fate, and didn’t take those opportunities. It got me thinking…if someone grew up in a world like that, where most people’s morals are flipped on end, how would they see the world? How would they justify what to the rest of us seems insane? That’s when Clara started speaking to me, telling me her story. She was the most powerful and unique voice I’d even encountered in writing. I couldn’t NOT write her story.


  1. What’s one juicy fact about yourself readers may not already know? And please, provide tons of details!

Oh my goodness. I promise you I’m really quite boring. I think the most crazy thing I ever did was ride in the back of a friend’s truck while sneaking through the ice cream factory loading zone in high school. We wanted to weigh ourselves in the truck with this giant scale they had. After being chased off by security, we zoomed through the Wal-Mart parking lot and my friend hit a shopping cart. Small-town life, man.

Or I suppose there was the time we moved to a new town where my dad was the new pastor at a church, and my sister and I were invited out to dinner and the movies with a group of kids from church. I was 16, and this group of church kids snuck me in to see American Pie.

See? Clearly not terribly wild. My parents won’t be able to read this though, right? There’s gotta be a filter for that.


  1. What do you do when you’re faced with “no-writing-feels”—those days all writers face where we’re certain we’re not meant for this writing-thing?

This has been very timely this year. Or last year, I suppose. I got a promotion at my day job which required me to basically work two jobs for a while, I bought a house and had to move, and was also working on several rounds of edits for The Girl Before. There were many days were the prospect of sitting down and squeezing out more new words was not appealing in the least.

The most important thing to remember when those days hit is that it’s perfectly normal and it’s OKAY to take some time off. Let your brain work in the background while watching Netflix or hanging out with friends or sitting at the pond and talking to the ducks (maybe that’s just something I do). But I can say from experience that taking too much time off isn’t good either, because it takes that much longer to get the juices flowing again. So I try to let myself have a couple days if I need them, but the only way to get words written is to sit down and write them, whether it’s a hundred words or five thousand.


Now to show off my hard-hitting journalism skills—try to contain your laughter as I adjust my sleuth’s hat!


  1. Let’s go back to your querying days for just a moment, to when you first signed with your agent. How long were you in the querying trenches? Was The Girl Before the manuscript that caught your agent’s interest, or something different?

I queried for about two years before The Girl Before. It was the third manuscript I’d queried, the second one I had been really serious about, and it was my first adult manuscript, because I always thought I was a young adult writer. I knew as soon as I sent queries out that TGB was going to be different. Even with a lot of agent interest, I queried for about four months before signing with Sharon, including a pretty significant R&R with another agent.


  1. There’s always a lot of buzz around agent contests (and contests are great for writers in so many ways), but most authors still find their agents through good old fashioned querying. Was it a contest or the slush pile that connected you with your agent?

It was actually a Twitter pitch party that connected me with Sharon. Before that, I had been in a blog contest called New Agent, and through that had connected with another agent who asked me for an R&R, which polished my manuscript and grew my measly 70K word adult manuscript to over 90K. While I do credit the pitch contest (#PitMad) with connecting with Sharon, in the end, it really comes down to impressing an agent, which is just as easy to do in the slush as it is in a 140 character pitch. I’d been in many (MANY) pitch contests before with hardly a bite. It just takes one.


  1. One of the least written about topics for writers is the submissions process itself. What can you share about being on submission for The Girl Before? How did you manage to stay sane? (One thing all writers want to know is how long you were out there before you had an offer, if you can share that.)

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, for me at least), I don’t have a lot of advice for sanity in this area. My submission journey was pretty atypical from what I understand. My agency has a newsletter that goes out every four months, and I was in the January newsletter. That went out the second week of January. The third week of January, my agent sent out the first round of submissions. The next week, I talked with editors and received offers. I officially accepted the offer from Putnam on February 2, 2015, three weeks from when the newsletter went out. It’s all kind of a blur, and I still have to pinch myself some days to convince myself it’s real, even a year later.


  1. It’s not uncommon for writers to go through one or more rounds of revision with their agent before going on submission, only to do even more revisions with their editor once the manuscript is acquired. Can you share what the revision process was like for you and The Girl Before?

I mentioned before that I’d done a pretty serious R&R with another agent before signing with Sharon. I count that as my first round because it was intensive. Sharon and I did another two pretty intense rounds, and then a few back and forth changes. I’m not much for plotting (total pantser), but I even made myself a post-it wall to keep track of my scenes.

My edits with my editor were even more intense. My experience was a little different here too, as I worked with two editors. The first editor wrote a very detailed, and I mean detailed, edit letter. Painful, but so good for my story. Unfortunately, she ended up leaving while I was working through those edits. Fortunately, I got another rock star editor who shared the vision for the book, and we did another 2-3 rounds of edits between just us. After that there were several more rounds from copyeditors and cold readers. Sometimes it felt like it would never end, but each tweak made my book that much better. The team at Putnam is incredible, and they really know their stuff. I have felt very blessed throughout this entire process.


  1. What were a couple of your biggest surprises about the publishing process?

Honestly, everything has been a surprise. When I think back to when I first started this process, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Probably just how much goes into every decision that is made. So many rounds of edits, even down to the tiniest tweaks. (The last round I did was to check four word usages. Four.) The level of detail is what makes Putnam great, and what makes their books the high quality they are. It was also surprising to me how not scary everyone I’ve worked with is. I think I had this idea that these Big Important People in Publishing would be…cold? Unfriendly? I don’t even know, but I do know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone has been wonderful, and they expect me to work hard, but they work hard as well. We’re a team, and everyone shares the goal of making The Girl Before the best book it can be.


  1. If you could whisper in the ear of the writer reading this, what one piece of wisdom would you share with them?

*whispering* Turn back now…

KIDDING. Here’s my real advice. Find a good support system and cling to them. Your support system should be a mix of people both in writing world and outside of writing world, because you need that balance. These are the people who are going to hope for you, believe for you, believe IN you, when you’ve lost that ability, and you will. Any creative process goes through valleys, through times of wanting to quit. Writing might be solitary, but surround yourself with people who aren’t going to let you wallow (for too long), who aren’t going to let you quit, who can dream with you and for you when things are hard.


  1. What’s next for The Girl Before and its illustrious author?

My deal with Putnam was for two books, so currently I’m working on Book 2, tentatively called Scavenger. It’s another thriller, not at all connected to The Girl Before. It’s a different feel, but still very psychologically based, this time asking the question, How far would a person go to protect someone they love?

Other than that, more naps, probably. And tacos.


Rena Olsen

Rena Olsen is a writer, therapist, teacher, sometimes singer, and eternal optimist. By day she tries to save the world as a school therapist, and at night she creates new worlds in her writing. Her debut novel, THE GIRL BEFORE, will be available from Putnam 8/9/2016. Represented by Sharon Pelletier of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.


Cover Reveal for Haley Stone’s Machinations!

Machinations Final Cover Haley Stone

Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.


The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Pre-order Machinations today!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

And don’t forget to add it to your list on Goodreads!



hayley stone author photo

Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Machinations is her debut novel, releasing June 14th, 2016 from Hydra/Random House.

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KT Hanna’s HYBRID releases TODAY!

HYBRID (The Domino Project #2) goes out into the world today.

We’re celebrating with an excerpt reading, and a giveaway!

I am so excited to be part of KT Hanna’s release of her latest book, HYBRID. KT is more than a talented writer and gifted editor, she’s a dear friend who has given so much back to the writing community by mentoring in contests, such as Pitch Wars, and just always being willing to point a writer in the “write” direction. Please join me in celebrating her new book!

If you haven’t read CHAMELEON – it’s on sale until the end of 11/12/15 for $0.99


K.T. Hanna reads an excerpt


As Sai recovers from her life-threatening injuries, she struggles to piece together her damaged relationship with Dom. He fights the parasite within, suddenly freed from the interference of the other Dominos in his head.

Inside Central, Bastian’s Shine dosing has become a dangerous dance. Enhanced security protocols and endless meetings have him on a tightrope, with little room to move without revealing himself.

When the GNW release the Damascus to begin their systemic hunt of the Exiled, the noose closes around the rebels and their allies. If they can’t disable the threat, the Exiled won’t be the Damascus’ only agenda.


Praise for Chameleon – The Domino Project #1

“Wow! A fast-paced, science fiction delight with fabulous action, a seamless world, and the most unique characters I’ve read in a long time.”
Elana Johnson, Author of the Possession Series.

“Nikita-like post-apocolyptic novel with a heroine that would give Katniss a run for her money.”
Alina @ Unfazeable.com

Psionics is wicked cool and I wish a meteor would give me some super-secret powers. The logistics of the abilities are many, and normally would have been a nightmare to follow. Hanna handles it with enough subtle description laced through the opening chapters that you’re able to grasp their powers naturally.
Heather @ Aussie Owned and Read

A seriously great sci-fi. Dark, edgy and complex. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s a gripping read because of the author’s tense voice; the characters are well defined, believable and likeable, despite all of their flaws; the story flows well; and the ending leaves you on edge to read more. If you like sci-fi, you will love this book.
Kate Foster – Author of Winell Road

HYBRID is available at the following retailers


Watermark Books – Signed Copies!

Celebrate HYBRID’s release with us!

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The Keepsake, The Empress Chronicles #2, by Suzy Vitello




Keepsake.CoverThe Keepsake (The Empress Chronicles #2)

by Suzy Vitello

Release Date: October 1st 2015


Summary from Goodreads:

In this second Empress Chronicles book, Liz and Sisi continue their intertwined journey through time. On the heels of discovering a magical locket in the empress diary, Liz comes to understand its very special power: the wearer must speak the truth. Not only that, but it turns out that there are three lockets, each with their own magic and power.

Meanwhile, Sisi realizes that she’s communicating with a girl who lives 150 years in the future. A girl who knows what awaits her if she marries the emperor: lack of personal freedom and a legacy that will refer to her as the “reluctant empress.”

With the world’s future hanging in the balance, the two heroines must work together to thwart Lola, whose ambition to rule the Habsburg Empire will rewrite history, and lead to a terrifying new version of reality.

Add to Goodreads




When I open the locket, there’s a bolt of sadness that stabs me, then clings to my skin, making me feel like I’ve trespassed somewhere I shouldn’t have. If there really is some sort of power coming from this thing, we should return it. Only, with Dr. Greta over in Germany, and having stolen the diary a whole month ago, we’d both be in crazy trouble. Especially Cory, given that he’s already got two strikes against him with the juvenile authorities and MIPs and stuff like that.

The diary is hidden under a loose board behind my bookcase. Once we found out that my shrink had been summoned to return it to the authorities, Cory suggested that we stash it. It’s been a couple of days since I checked it, and now, with our new suspicions about the locket, I want to revisit that passage about the keepsake’s magic. Only, I need Cory to translate Sisi’s German.

The bookcase scrapes the floor a little when I shove it forward. The entire wall is made of wood—not one sheet of drywall in this old place—and Cory had pried loose a short panel of fir where it meets the baseboard molding. That’s where I find the empress journal pages crammed into one the binding of my last shrink-sponsored food diary. My heartbeat competes with the storm as I wiggle it free and tiptoe across the hall.

I find Cory already asleep, buried in his sleeping bag in the screened-in summer porch. The diary and locket feel heavy in my hands; my nerves are jangling as I approach his burrito-wrapped body. “Cory,” I loud-whisper.

He snorts and turns over, facing away from me.

“Wake up!”

Cory pops his face out. “Dude, you’re totally interrupting my amazing dream.”

For Cory, an amazing dream probably has to do with his mouth over a bong, or some girl-related activity, and I don’t want the details. I hold out the journal, “We need to get to the bottom of this.”

Cory sits up and rubs his eyes. Another crack of thunder, this one right over us. I settle in close to him. I seem to be shivering, all of a sudden.

“What, you’re scared of a little storm, Lizzie?”

“Don’t call me that.”

He holds his arm out, his chin gestures toward his shoulder, “Come here.”

I scootch in closer, his warm body heating me instantly, taking the shiver away. His arm settles around my shoulder and I open the diary, the loose pages of ancient text shift away from the decoy cover, and I hold them tight to keep them from blowing away as another gust of wind swoops in.

As I page through it, looking for that place where Cory had translated Sisi’s entries about love and visions and magic, the image of Alika gets clearer. Alika and Cory, together on that bridge. I keep turning the worn, yellowed pages, trying to ignore the intrusion of thoughts of Cory close to another girl, but the vision is very strong. Overpowering. Rain spits at us. Wind blows and whistles through the screen. I toss the locket to the far end of the sleeping bag, down near where the rain has trickled and pooled on the floor. And just as I hear the clink of the keepsake sliding to the floor, Cory shouts, “Liz, look at this!”


And don’t miss the first book! 

the empress chronicles



About the Author

suzy vitelloSuzy Vitello is a proud founding member of a critique group recently dubbed The Hottest Writing Group in Portland, and her short stories have won fellowships and prizes (including the Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Award, and an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship).
Suzy’s young adult novels, THE MOMENT BEFORE and THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES are available wherever books and ebooks are sold.

An e-chapbook of some of her stories, UNKISS ME, can be found here


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