Writing Credits and Resume

EARLY WRITING SUCCESS My early writing accomplishment were multiple hits within a few years: In my first year of writing back in 1987, I wrote three Sf short stories that were accepted by major slick magazines which qualified me for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and at the same time achieved a Finalist award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. This recognition garnered me a top gun SF agent at the time, Richard Curtis Associates. My first novel went to John Badham (Director) and the Producers, the Cohen Brothers. Only an option, but an extreme honor. The writer who beat me out of contention for a feature movie, was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. My book was called Dinothon.

A year after that I published two best-selling non-fiction books and landed on radio, TV, in every library in the U.S. and in hundreds of newspapers.

I have been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle ever since. My YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon won the grand prize in a publisher’s YA novel writing contest, went to a small auction and got tagged for a film option. So, I’m getting there.

PUBLICATION HISTORY

BOOK CREDITS:

Auto Repair Shams and Scams (Forward–Ralph Nader), 1990, Price Stern & Sloan, Los Angeles–226 pages, non-fiction, consumer warning and repair book.

Garage Sale Mania, 1988, Betterway Publications, Crozet, Virginia–190 pages, non-fiction—1988.

Word Wars, a SF novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—May, 2007.

Once Upon a Goddess, a Fantasy novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—January, 2008

Planet Janitor; Custodian of the Stars, a SF novel sold to Engage Books, May 2009

The War Gate—paranormal thriller to Pen and Press—August, 2012

Gate Walker, a Paranormal Fantasy, sold to Lyrical Press—January, 2009.

The Wolfen Strain, a fantasy thriller sold to LBF Books, February 2009

The Girl They Sold to the Moon, a YA dystopia, to Intrigue Publishing 2014

Planet Janitor, Omnibus Edition Reprint, Engage Books, March 2016

Blackmailed Bride, erotic romance to Melange Books, Jan 2018

SOLD–COMING SOON:

Screamcatcher: Web World, Book 1, Melange Fire & Ice YA—March 2019

Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers, Book 2, Melange Fire & Ice YA—March 2019

Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye, Book 3, Melange Fire & Ice YA—March 2019

MAGAZINE—SHORT FICTION:

“Stella” by Starlight, to Amazing Stories, 1988.

The Lonely Astronaut, to Amazing Stories, 1988.

Temperamental Circuits, to Gordon Linzner of Space & Time, 1989.

Things that go Clump in the Night, to Richard Fawcett of Doppelganger, 1989.

Dance the Macabre and Dance it Well, to Erskine Carter of Ouroborous, 1989.

Future School, to Chris Bartholomew of Static Movement, January 2006.

The Incredible Mr. Dandy, to Not One of Us.

Planet Janitor:  The Moon is not Enough, to Enage Books, 2012

Planet Janitor:  Journey Interrupted, to Engage Books, 2012

Other magazine appearances from 1988 to 1991 include, Alpha Adventures, Small Press Writers and Artists Organization and Sycophant.

RADIO PLAYS:

The Summit, 15-minute horror play to Night Sounds, Embassy Cassette Inc, Santa Ana, California—1990

Night of the Moa, 13-minute horror play to Night Sounds, Embassy Cassette Inc, Santa Ana, California—1990.

AWARDS:

Finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest for Temperamental Circuits, 1987.  First place, grand prize for The Girl They Sold to the Moon—in the Entranced YA novel writing competition—cash prize.

JOURNALISM AND MAGAZINE ARTICLES
350 newspaper profiles, stories, and interviews to Sunset Publishing, Anaheim, California, appearing in The West Coast Jewish News, The Senior Citizens Reporter and The Military Review. From 1988 to 1991. Seven automotive and home and garden articles to Dollar Stretcher Magazine, from 12-2-2011 to 2-28-2012. Eight science articles to Xiauduo Media, for Chinese translation( 8 -14 year-old audience)—Astronomy, new transportation technology, space, exoplanets, future spaced ship drives, big bang theory and inflation.

CONTENT AND CLIENT
I have written and published over 1,750 non-fiction automotive, aircraft, marine, home and garden and science articles for Demand Media Studios under the Beta-Automotive and E-How stations. Six automotive articles to Examiner.com—6-2012. Published. 440 automotive and general articles to TextBroker–2014—plumbing, gardening, home improvement, home utilities, electricity–Content writing for a total of three years.

ORGANIZATIONS/POSITIONS:

Served as content editor for Sunset Publication (see above) for three years. Responsible for all writing assignment content, filler and artwork.

President and founder of Heartland Writers Group, Huntington Beach, California, from 1987 to 1991.

AGENTS:

Past agent–Richard Curtis Associates, from 1988 to 1991.

Past agent—TriadaUS (Dr. Uwe Stender), from 2005 to August 2009

Present agent—Sara Camilli Agency

CURRENT FINISHED BOOKS (AVAILABLE):

Iron Maiden an adult military espionage thriller.

Valley of the Mastodons, a non-fiction book involving the Ice Age megafauna discoveries in Hemet, California, during the Diamond Valley reservoir dig in 1994–1997. Proposal, chapter outline, and 100 pages available upon request

Dispossessed Incorporated, an urban ghost fantasy with time travel.

The Omega Wars—SF, apocalyptic alien invasion (Sequel to PJ)

Screamcatcher (Web World, Dream Chasers, The Shimmering Eye), A YA fantasy trilogy about teenage paranormal investigators. (ALL ARE SOLD)

Earth Angel, a paranormal cop thriller.

Sky High—YA dystopian thriller—Logan’s Run/Hunger Games mash-up.                                  

The Wonders of the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits—a children’s chapter book about the Ice Age and the megafauna entrapment—told in a nonfiction/storytelling format. 

Sky High-YA Dystopian Excerpt

The foot tram was broken on the north side of the pier. Seventeen year-old Toby Johansson had to walk across the dirty grid path—it wasn’t too strenuous for a physical enhancement instructor. As he strolled, he looked at the solar panels attached to the tall support frames and building facades. The panels were glazed over with oxidation and separating at the seams, posing the danger of breakage and electrical shorts. ZZZzzzpht! Eight hundred years of exposure to the elements had taken its toll.

            He knew that twenty wind turbines, rooted to the pier and reaching skyward from tall masts supplied supplemental electrical energy to the high scraper city. Only half were operable, but still working in concert with the warped solar panels. What a joke. When the weather didn’t permit solar penetration, wind turbines strained to keep the deep cycle batteries charged to supply the city.  

            Toby stuffed his hands in his jumpsuit pockets, feeling the nip in the air. To his left loomed the quads; endless rows of massive Quonset hut dormitories built with three story levels, with the roofs blanketed in cracked solar panels. The quads took up one hundred and thirty of the one thousand two-hundred and eighty acres. The rest of the platform land was reserved for the enclosed garden grounds, hydroponic stations, electrical generators, shops, drag pumps, maintenance bays, iron and copper mills and factory warehouses. He’d seen every installation so many times he couldn’t give his mind permission to wander. My city. You’re ugly enough to make a freight train take a dirt road, old as Triassic rock and carrying more baggage than a Cruiseliner. You piece of shit.

From his vantage point, he could see the giant Phillips drag pump installation that took up the southwest corner. The pump machinery sat over the hollow piling extending below it. The pump station looked like an oil refinery that’d had coitus with a cement plant—a dirty, eroded collaboration of tanks, pipes, valves and furnaces. It stank like burnt oil.   

            When Toby neared the southwest corner, he glanced around before he ducked under a bundle of conduit pipes, stepped around a back-up generator and squeezed between two holding tanks. He crossed over the red warning line and walked to the railing. This was the most isolated spot he’d found on pier zero-zero-one-C, officially named Cloud’s Rest. He called his hiding place the “cubby hole.” He stared below at the last remnants of sleet nestled in the muddied gullies.

            Anything alive and moving down below was indistinguishable, except for the big electric scout and track vehicles which ran over a levy road and disappeared in the distant tree line. The edge of the forest sat upon upraised land created by the giant tidal surges nearly five hundred feet above the flat washed-out basin. Behind the surviving trees, hills rolled away in a blaze of grays and dark greens. The trees seemed cleaved away from the basin as clearly as though cut by an axe stroke. The saltwater run-up had done its damage. Toby knew that the birds that flew over Cloud’s Rest had come from the arboreal dells within the forest. How many times had he wished that he could fly above the trashy flotsam and soar in the sweet fragrant air, to land in the comfort of a nest? Freedom.

The trees and plant seedlings produced and cultured at Cloud’s Rest were frauds, engineered in giant Lucite tubs and fed mineral supplements. What trees they had were stunted varieties that grew in shallow soil on the fringe of the garden grounds. The more mature vegetables were planted in the expansive gardens and harvested when they ripened. The homemade greenery was just as encaged and controlled as the populace—nearly 8,000 people trapped, corralled in a makeshift pier city that was fast running out of resources and raw materials. The whole rusted heap was leaning, ready to topple over and crash to surface.  

            Toby flinched when he felt a shoulder pinch. His thoughts curdled when he turned around expecting to see law enforcement in his face. Instead, he found eighteen year-old Maria Theresia standing behind him. The auburn highlights in her dirty blonde hair stood out under the dim sun. The crack of a wide smile cut her elfin face in half. She held out her hands in an open gesture, which he took to mean, hey, it’s only me; so don’t blow a gasket.

            “Don’t sneak up on somebody like that.” The breath sucked sharply between his teeth. “I thought for sure you were a blunt.”

            She grazed against him before she sidled up next to the rail. “I don’t know how you could mistake me for a blunt.” She looked at him with steely green eyes and pursed her lips. He was convinced that her body language was deliberately animated. She never stood in front of anybody with a relaxed stance. She always struck a pose.

Toby watched her raise to her toes and arch her back, throwing her chest out over the rail. She had made her own summer top constructed of sheer fabric which she wore in November to torment him. She had him right where she wanted him. Turn it on and melt me into slag again, why don’t you? She had the kind of hair that flipped, dropped, curled and flowed. He couldn’t resist the way it looked so feminine and wild at the same time. She had once told him that she liked the old classic multi-layered shag. He’d thought she meant that she owned a extra thick carpet in her quad. In spite of her flirtatious shenanigans, he’d made no mistake about her skill at tailoring and sewing. Her job assignment was seamstress and material fabricator. If not for her talents, none of their plans would have taken root.

            He turned from her and focused his gaze at the tree line. He estimated the distance to it to be ten miles away, give or take. Could be seven or eight miles. The accuracy of his depth perception runneled through his head. The city council had outlawed range-finding oculars and spotting scopes from the general populace. You never wanted us to see the truth.

Without turning to her he said, “How far along are you? You’ve got to be close.”

            She rubbed the small of his back. “I finished this morning, just in the nick. The cords gave me the most problems but I got lucky and found some surplus nylon three days ago. I used plastic eyehooks, canvas harnesses and a hell of a lot of knots. All the material is old stuff but I’m sure it’ll hold up. Justice helped me out with the last of it. We worked fast.”

            “You and Justice are featherweights. I’m pushing one hundred and eighty pounds. Remy’s about fifteen pounds over that. We’re talking about some major pull and load.”

            “I’m telling you, they’ll take the load. No one in the factory suspected anything missing. If they did, they didn’t give a care or show it. Look, I’m no expert on drag coefficients—we knew the risks.” She peered over the rail. “It’s five thousand eight hundred and twenty-two feet. If we have a breeze we’ll get some good lateral distance. What could go wrong?”

            He gave a snort. “The chutes don’t open; we plummet over a mile and pancake on the deck.”

            “It’s the last foot that kills you.” She let out a squawking laugh. “Cheer up! This was your idea a long time ago. We can back out if you want…or put it off.”

            He wasn’t about to back out. It was one of those now or never dates with destiny. There would be no time for custom fittings, prototypes, experiments, or friends who shied off because of a lack of guts. They all knew the risks and punishments. The time couldn’t be better to make a dash for freedom. Tomorrow was the eight-hundred year-old anniversary of pier zero-zero-one-C, Cloud’s Rest. There would be aerial pyrotechnics, deregulated alcoholic beverages, free rides at the Happy Corner and old classic holographic movies. The blunts would be busy monitoring the crowds and making arrests. Security patrols for restricted areas would be cut by seventy percent. The countdown to Toby’s Soaring Eagle had begun.

                                          *                                *                                   *

            It was eleven o’clock at night when Toby made it to the cubby hole. Surprisingly, Maria and Justice were there, sitting in the extreme corner and making themselves as small as possible. He could see their faces in the refracted light set off by the fireworks above—the anniversary celebration of Cloud’s Rest was in full swing. Justice looked thin and frail with her knees drawn up against her chest, head at a slight downward tilt, causing her long black hair to cascade over the front of her shoulders. Her dark brown eyes were lost in shadow, looking like two black sockets.

Four packs were lined up against the railing, harness straps splayed out on the deck like fat strands of linguini. The girls had placed all the packs and gear there earlier. Toby noticed the packs were encased in heavy paper sacks, which gave him some alarm. Four additional survival packs were stacked against a railing post.

            Where in the hell is Remy?” asked Justice

            “He better not be doing what I think he’s doing,” said Toby.

In a kidding gesture, Toby had nicknamed him a “slobaholic,” since the man had a penchant for stealing liquor, picking fights and trashing his quad cubical. Remy had been written up twice for imbibing hooch, a strictly rationed commodity that was reserved for special parties and medicinal purposes. Toby had once caught him sipping rubbing alcohol. One more infraction and Remy Billings would pull sixty days of lockdown.

 Toby looked at Justice crunch up her face and rock back and forth, knowing she had the same thoughts. “I’m going to kill him,” she said. “He’s getting his fill somewhere when he knows we’re on the clock. Soaring Eagle will come apart at the seams if he doesn’t get his ass here—right damn it to hell now.”

            Toby gave Justice the finger over the lips gesture. Her voice was a tad loud, considering they were under stealth mode. The thought of a blunt happening upon them sawed on his nerves. There would be no question about the group’s intentions. Attempted escape brought severe penalties. Lockdown for six months was not uncommon. Another option was a shorter sentence at hard labor in the fertilizer depository. The hard labor was durable. The fact that dead human bodies were ground up with mulch and served as nutrient feed to the garden grounds gave the job a sickening morbidity. He closed his eyes and imagined the bones cracking and flesh squishing under the grinding wheels. I’m about to lose you, you ugly bitch, he swore at the pier

            They had to wait fifteen minutes before they heard a body shuffling and clanging through the pump gear. The unknown person warbled a few stanzas to an old song and then hit something that sounded like a bell. Remy. The thick-bodied seventeen year-old, appeared from between the tanks, stood for a moment and then leaned ponderously forward. He rubbed an impact injury on his forehead.   

            Toby hooked an arm around him, shoved him to the rail and hissed, “Shut the damn hell up, Remy. You stink. You’ve been swizzling.”

            Remy blew out a flammable breath. “I ain’t doing this shit sober. You know me—when it ain’t right, I get tight. Besides that, and for your information, I had a mission to accomplish.”

            Justice got in Remy’s face. “You damn fool; you can’t do this drunk. We’ll have to call the whole thing off on account of you.”

            Remy rocked on his heels. “Naw, we’ll never get this chance again. I’m goin’.”

            Maria said, “The hell you say.”

            Toby swished his arms. “Everyone enhance your calm.” He turned Remy’s face around to glare steadily into his eyes. “You sure about this? You know what we have to do. We can’t have any foul-ups, and that means terminal ones.”

            “I’m tellin’ ya I’m going to be all right. Let’s make this happen.”

            Toby gave Remy’s body a scan. “What do you have in that waist pouch? You know our weight limit is critical.”

            “Just a few essentials.” He blew out a nauseous burp. “No more than a few extra pounds.”

            “Whenever, and if we ever get married, I’m going to kick your ass to a dirt curb,” said Justice.

            Maria positioned everyone’s feet over the two leg strap openings. Then she told them to pull up the harness straps, cross them over their shoulders and bring the belly strap around to the front. Toby knew about the belt buckles and adjusted his harness for a tight fit. He and Maria helped the others lace up and position their pull cords over their right shoulders. Toby knew that with one stark yank, the pull cord would deploy the pilot chute then pull out the main canopy. They’d performed the movements in rehearsal a dozen times, three times in the dark.  

            Toby tossed the surplus packs over the rail near the base of the corner pier piling. He wouldn’t hear them hit or see where they landed. He ordered everyone to spread out a distance of ten feet from each other. Instead of taking his position, he walked over to Remy and put the pull cord firmly in the man’s right hand. “Give it five seconds,” he reminded Remy. “Don’t let go of this cord for any reason, even after you pull it. Wait for the rockin’ big tug.” Toby wet his finger in the air and held it up. “Okay, no breeze. No steering. Don’t pull to either side.”

            “I know the drill,” said Remy and slung his leg over the top rail. “God Master on a wagon wheel, here I go!” He leapt, emitting a small whine.

            Justice went next after a ten second wait. Maria counted down and gave Toby a snappy salute. She bellied over the rail and disappeared from sight. Toby waited his turn and then kicked up over the rail and let go.

He felt weightless in the pitch black void, but then he had the feeling he’d begun a spiraling tumble. He cursed against the wind rush and pulled his cord at the five-second mark. Nothing happened. He cursed again and yanked harder. He heard the snap of fabric and then had the sensation of being punched in the guts by a giant fist.

Sky High-Short Synopsis (YA Dystopian)

I got this idea after reading Hugh’s Wool debut. The population is trapped in a fortified silo after a catastrophic disaster. I wondered what kind of a human populace would take to the sky to avoid a wrenching natural upheaval in the form of an massive earthquake and subsequent tidal wave. What would it be like living above ground with no hope of ever setting foot on Terra firma again? This is repped by my agent Sara Camilli and is currently out on submission. I’ll include some artwork when I can find a suitable sky high city as described in the story text. I’ll include a first chapter–check out the excerpt section.

TAG: A Hunger Games and Logan’s Run mash-up.

Four teenagers make a desperate parachute jump from an 800 year-old tower city in Salem, Oregon, called Cloud’s Rest. They are 5,822 feet high, confined to a self-sustained metropolis of 1,300 acres and 8,000 residents. There is one law that has been strictly enforced by the city government since its conception: no one is allowed to leave the futuristic pier/city and set a foot on the earth. Four hundred years into the lifetime of Cloud’s Rest, a 9.9 earthquake set off the Yellowstone Supervolcano, nearly wiping out most of humanity. Since then it has never been safe down there.

All that is left below are wild rogue tribes and monstrous feral animals, so the rumors say.

The kids don’t believe in primitive savages and man-eating beasts. Besides, juveniles of their ilk have been tortured for acts of which they had no control over; but that’s the way orphans (dung beetles) are dealt with in their society.

During a distracting city celebration, the kids land on terra firma in the dead of night. They make a mad dash for freedom. They are in search of a mythical Shangri-La, a sweet haven which holds the last remnants of a surviving and peace-loving community. New sights and smells assault their senses. The earth between their feet seems to go on forever, and they are drunk crazed with freedom.

 Yet something’s amiss.

Toby Johansson, the seventeen year-old physical enhancement instructor and the chosen leader of their band, has led them out of the flames and straight into hell. The rumors were true—they’ve trespassed into a nightmare world of tribal warriors and hybrid monsters. They can’t retreat; the Cloud’s Rest security force is hot on their trail, armed with super weapons and a track vehicles. They’re hemmed in, and sure to be killed or arrested.

Not only do the kids doubt their chances of ever finding their safe, new home, but they are now certain they will never live to see their ultimate dream come true. After a rouge tribe captures the kids and condemns them to death, a miracle unfolds that turns the tables on everything. The security detail that runs them down finds them just as they are about to be executed. The cops and kids make a daring escape to find shelter and safety somewhere—anywhere. They can’t get back to Cloud’s Rest, the track vehicles are broken. So they steal horses and begin a perilous thousand mile journey south over the Rockies where they find the remnants of an inhabited civilization known as Lala Vegas. It’s the strangest city and people they’ve ever seen. This place was not in the history books. It had to be Xanadu, that promised Shangri-La. All they have to do is throw themselves before the mercy of the Vegas king and pray for the best. Their best is answered with a nightmare (END HOOK).

COMPARABLE TITLES:  The Hunger Games and Wool. There is also the desperation seen in Logan’s Run, since escaping a dictatorial society is paramount to their existence.

The Girl They Sold to the Moon EXCERPT

I’m Reginald Breedlove.  I’m here to pawn my daughter.”

I’m here to pawn my daughter.  Tilly Breedlove knew they had another word for it—they called them “kickouts”, people who were sold to the establishment to cover debts. She and her girlfriends used to laugh at the K-Span commercial on late night Holoview.  She wasn’t laughing now.  She’d never seen so many kids gathered in one spot, except at a school assembly. Right now she felt like slithering into a crack.

The first floor of the auditorium-sized building had at least twenty standing lines and a waiting area filled to capacity. This building area was reserved for the Sunflowers, teenagers who ranged in age from 13 to 19 years-old. At 17, Till fit right in.  Sure, there were sniffles and tearful goodbyes, with an occasional knock-down-drag-out, but the worst scenes were reserved for the six to twelve-year-old kids, the next wing over.  Those kids were on the Daffodil Plan, commonly called Daffys, and their screams pierced through the air conditioning vents. She’d seen the entrance door for the Daffys on the outside of the building, next to the Sunflower entrance, which was her admission portal. The Daffys were hardly equipped to handle the emotions of severing bonds with their parents, and Tilly couldn’t even begin to understand what kind of jobs assignments those kids would have in order to work off a debt for their parents.

“Pawn is a term reserved for the intercity establishments, Mr. Breedlove, most notably found in the vicinity of Forty-Second Street, “ said the check-in receptionist, who didn’t crack a smile when in a husky contralto, she added, “You cede, or relinquish custodianship of your ward here at Family Trade and Loan, for a specific time period.  Do you have your identification wafer and DNA cube, sir?  I don’t want your hard-card identification.”

            Reginald unsnapped the lid on his wrist-held Omnicomp and handed a small wafer diskette and cube to the woman.  “Pawn, sell, loan, trade, it’s all the same,” he said.  “I’ve already been through the psychogram and background check.  So I’d appreciate it all to hell if I was not held up any longer.”

            The receptionist, whose name tag read Aurora slipped the wafer and cube into a console and adjusted her monitor.  “Bear with me while I double-check the contract-application.”

            “Mother Mary on a wagon wheel,” muttered Reginald.  “It’s taken me three hours to get to this counter.  I’ve got varicose veins as thick as rope, ready to burst from standing in this line.”

            Tilly chanced a look around and saw a few eye rolls, mixed with a few sympathetic smiles from the other kids. This place was drama central. Her father wasn’t helping any with his over-the-top exaggeration. The man had always been brutally impatient. 

            Aurora remained calm, steadfast.  “I’ve already had microsurgery for such an affliction, sir, so you are not alone…and…I think we have a winner.”  She pulled down a headset magnifier and grimaced.  “There seems to be one discrepancy here…I cannot make out the residence location.  Is it Sealand Condominiums or the Sealand Community Housing Authority?”

            Reginald raised his voice above the din. “Neither of the above.  I’m housed at the Pier J Settlement on Long Island. I live in a converted Sealand transport container.”

            Her eyebrows shot up.  “Oh, my mistake. You mean the projects.” 

            “Used to call ‘em steel deals without the wheels,” boomed someone behind Tilly.  “They became low-income housing for the financially impaired in 2019 during Palin’s administration.”

            Tilly heard a few gasps and guffaws behind her.  Way to fucking go, Dad, another cringe-worthy statement. If she could find a crack in the floor, she’d cram her shamed self inside it.  She could feel the stares burning holes in the back of her head. But she had vowed from the start she would get through this and hold her temper. 

            “And you must be Tilly Breedlove,” said Aurora, locking eyes with her.  “What a bright-looking, attractive young lady!  May I have your identification wafer and DNA cube?”

            And you must be Aurora Borealis, as in Bore-me-Alice, with your smile ready to bust collagen bags in your face, and your head stuck firmly up your liposuctioned ass. Tilly bit her lip and handed the items over. “Thank you very much, Miss Aurora.  I’m looking forward to a pleasant stay at my Eff-TALC assignment.”  She implied a bit more meaning in the company acronym than intended.  The whole place could eff-off as far as she was concerned.

            Aurora processed the items and handed them back.  “Looks like you check out, dear.”  She turned to give her father a puppy dog tilt of her head.  “Looks like you’re cleared to proceed, Mr. Breedlove.  Your last stop will be with Mr. Frampton, your financial counselor.  Follow the yellow line to suite 175.  Or enter the suite number on the foot tram console, and you will be transported there.”

            Her father took Tilly by the hand and approached a rainbow pattern of lines on the floor.  He picked out the yellow line and began a swift march. They arrived at a back facade of the building, festooned with dozens of corridors.  Tilly wondered why all the walls were painted pink.  Then she remembered from what her father had once told her that such was the case with the prisons and many mental institutions.  The color supposedly soothed the nerves in stressful situations.  Pink and light green.  It would take more than pink to bring her nerves to heel. 

           Her father found the foot tram, keyed into it, and they were off at a swift glide.  They arrived at suite 175 to find an In Closed Session digital readout across the door.  Her father hammered on the door with the heel of his fist.  The door opened a minute later, expelling a couple who brushed past them. The female of the pair looked visibly shaken.  Father and daughter stepped inside.

            A rotund man dressed in a white suit sat behind a clear Lucite table.  He had a patch of hair over each ear, a weak chin and sad eyes.  He made a half stand as they entered his office.  “Welcome, I’m Mr. Frampton.”  He plopped down, gesticulating at the plush airbag sofa.  They took seats.  Her father handed over his I.D. wafer and cube to the man.  Tilly followed suit.

Mr. Frampton loaded them into his console and gazed at his screen.  “Hmm…I see,” he said, an edge of mysticism in his voice.  “Tilly Breedlove, female, seventeen years old, born in Chicago, Illinois, and given up for adoption at the age of two in Gary Indiana.  Custodianship bestowed to Mr. and Mrs. Breedlove, Reginald Cornelius, father, and Denise Patricia Ann, mother.  Denise Patricia Ann Breedlove deceased, August ninth, 2021, Venice Beach, California.”

Given the formality that it was, it bothered Tilly that she had to be reminded of her mother’s death three years ago. Her mother would never have let this happen and would have done everything in her power to keep the family out of debt. She missed her mom—her confidant and best friend.

            “If you don’t mind,” Reginald said, “I’d like to get down to the dollars and cents on this issue and finalize the transfer.  I’ve had my application and documents read to me a dozen times over the last three months.  I could recite all of it word for word.”

            “Just verifying the information, Mr. Breedlove,” said Frampton.  “I suppose we can usher things along a bit.  Now, according to her bio/history, she’s been categorized with an eight point five attract-appeal rating as of her last state scan, which was six months ago.  If you wouldn’t mind, Miss Breedlove, I’d like you to step on the green disk in the corner of the room.  We’ll have to rescan you and see if your rating has changed.”

            Tilly walked to the corner of the room, stepped on the small dais, and looked at a smoke-colored screen bolted to the wall. She ground her teeth, feeling like a pet put on display.  Maybe her father would have second thoughts and void the deal, once he witnessed her humiliation.

            “Hold perfectly still,” said Frampton.  He threw a switch and pushed some buttons.  “This is a full rotational body scan and X-ray.  Close your eyes against the laser beams.”

            Tilly crimped her eyes shut.  She could feel the disk under her feet engage and begin a slow clockwise rotation.  The feeling was identical to the state scans, but this equipment looked newer and more high-tech.  When she came around full circle, she heard Frampton’s voice.  “That’s perfect.  You may dismount.”  She took her seat again, sitting as far away from her father as possible, pissed that he felt the need to rush everything.

            Frampton looked at his monitor again.  “Teeth look fine,” he began, “no bruising, lacerations, cuts, disfigurements, lungs clear, absence of tumors, a weight gain of four pounds, hmmm…the hair is styled a little differently than last time out, and thank the maker, no pregnancy!  So, we’ll adjust your rating and bump you up a few points.”  He typed on a touchpad.  “Now, we’ll merge this with the intelligence and talent index…and we’ll have it.”  He scratched his chin.  “And…done.  An eight point nine!  Impressive.”  He looked at Tilly as though she should cheer at the news. 

            “I still don’t know how the scan, bio and talent index factors into this,” said Reginald.  “Clue me.”

            “It has everything to do with your allotment, the maximum amount you can borrow.  It also gives us a profile for her employment assignment.” Frampton kicked the table leg hard.  His desktop comp wobbled.  “Seems there was a glitch in the machine,” he said, raising an eyebrow.  “I just found an extra data point, raising the index to nine-point-oh.”

            Typical, thought Tilly.  Reducing people to profiles, numbers, and calculations to determine their worth.  That’s how products were sold, just like a can of protein slurry.  She wondered if there wasn’t some pervo or sloboholic sitting behind those scanner screens, ogling the cute little bodies, scribbling on notepads, tabulating all these data points.  No way did she feel she deserved a ninety percent rating.  She knew a way to find out.

            “Just out of curiosity,” said Tilly, “where did I get a point deducted?”

            Frampton glanced at the screen and smiled. “Facial profile; the nose is a tad large.  Half a point for that.  Another half point was deducted for your, let’s say, upper torso…a bit underdeveloped, as far as age, weight and frame.  You should be ecstatic; those were physical attribute deductions. You score a perfect ten for your talent and intelligence.”

            Well, he did have her measurements down, she admitted.  Or the Know Everything Database (KED) had tallied her numbers accurately enough.  Still, routine scanning always left her feeling violated.

            Frampton read from a small folder.  “Financial hardship has been proven for a one hundred and twenty day loan-out.  Should you default on your settlement at the prescribed end of the loan-out, you will be charged an interest of six percent, compounded daily until your account is paid in full.  You have waived the insurance policy that covers accident-injury.  Therefore, you qualify only for standard medical care provided by Family Trade and Loan, should there be an injury upon the premises of the work facility or during transport.  This contract is binding and complete, subject only to changes and amendments deemed reasonable by FTALC.  Should you default payment of the loan, your ward will be impounded and full custodianship assumed by FTALC.  While still in the possession of FTALC, the ward will be eligible for the next scheduled labor auction.  Do you understand these terms or have any further questions?”
           

“I want to change the assignment duration, or whatever you call it,” said her father.  “I want six months.  You said she was a nine, so I’m entitled to a longer loan period.  I know that part of the contract.”

            Tilly stood up and turned on her father with balled fists.  “We agreed to four months, father!  You know about the rich uncle who is paying for my boarding school?  That was the cover-up so I could be back home for break.  My friends weren’t supposed to know anything about this.  You promised!”

            “Be quiet and sit down,” said her father.  “I’m the one in trouble here.  I’m headed for Federal prison.  Six months is nothing.  You’ll be getting free lodging, free eats, and I’m sure, an O-J-T education.  You have no right to demand special conditions.  I’ve given you the best years of my life.  None of this is about you.”

            “Oh, yeah?” she said, seething. “What about my reputation? How am I gonna live it down if my friends find out about this.”

            Her father’s eyes became slits. “Don’t back-sass me. You’re still my daughter and under my control. Sit down and behave yourself!”

            She sat down, her arms crossed in front of her. She found it hard to catch her breath.

            Frampton typed out a sequence on the touchpad.  “I’ve made it known that a change to the contract has been requested and entered.  A six-month duration has been stipulated by the custodian and granted.  His audio request serves as his signature, and is now a matter of record.”  Frampton rose from his chair and stepped up to a wall safe.  “The only legality we have left, Mr. Breedlove, is the method of your payment—should it be Imperials or regular tender?”

            “I think the Imperial is still sliding like the Euro.  I’ll take cash on the barrelhead.”

            Frampton removed a thick envelope from the safe and turned.  “Are you sure?  The Imperial might rebound with an upsurge in the economy.”

            “Hah!  Not in our lifetimes. I’ll take the cabbage.”

            Frampton counted out $90,000 and shoved the pile toward her father.  Her father recounted the stack, then folded it neatly before tucking it in a money belt.  Frampton pushed a blue panel button on the desk, then shook her father’s hand with vigorous pumps. “It’s been a pleasure.  I hope our association culminates in success on both ends.”

            “Yeah, pleasure.”  Her father gave Tilly a peck on the forehead.  “Now you listen to all the instructions from the staff.  Ace those classes like you always have.  I’ll see you in six months.  I’ll tell your friends that rich uncle wanted to keep you during break and spend some time with you.  Most importantly, keep your yapper shut and ears open.”

            Tilly let out a gale-force sigh.  “Dad, you know how you are with gambling.  Don’t blow it.  Pay the back taxes so I can come home.  If you default, I swear to God I’ll hang myself.”

            “Will do, bright eyes.  Take care.”  He gave Frampton a snappy salute and skipped to the exit. “A million things to do,” he said as he left with the slam of the door.  Just then, a large man wearing a one-piece black latex suit entered.  The man wore a FTALC security patch on his breast, a riot helmet with a gold visor, and held a sting wand in his gloved hand.  He took up a parade rest stance near the door and glanced once at his wrist-held Omnicomp.  Then, with a monotonous regularity, he began to thrum the wand on his thigh.

            Tilly’s heart crashed in her stomach while she watched Frampton run some hard copy documents through an automatic rubber-stamping machine.  The financial officer looked cold and calculated now, as though he’d won some great victory.  When he reached into his desk, he brought out a chain necklace with a tin tag attached to it.  He gave it a light toss at her.  She caught it deftly.

            “Wear that at all times,” said Frampton, avoiding eye contact.  “Memorize your personal code number.  You’ll be asked to repeat it.”

            She slung it around her neck, flipped it up to look at it.  9S555365. She tucked it inside her top with a trembling hand.  “I don’t suppose you might tell me where I’m going.  You know, my work assignment?”

            Frampton gagged, and then spit in a cup.  He wiped his mouth on his suit sleeve, a sleeve stained multiple times from the same disgusting habit.  “Your dossier indicates an entertainment position,” he said.  “Probably dancing for the Prairie Dogs…and I’m not supposed to tell you that.”

            Dancing for the Prairie Dogs. Dancing, as in strutting around naked and wobbling my bare-ass body parts for men like you? Then she thought about what men like Frampton could do to her or want to do to her with such a job.  But where were the Prairie Dogs? 

“You mean out in the mid-west?” she tried.

             Frampton chuckled.  The security guard coughed.

            Frampton cleared his throat.  “Prairie Dogs are miners—diggers.  That’s what they call them at Tranquility Harbor, anyway.”

            She swallowed hard.  “Is that anywhere near Long Island?  Or maybe New York?”

            Frampton blinked.  “You’re about two hundred and forty thousand miles off, Sunshine.”

            Tilly did some swift mental calculations then stiffened.  “You’re not talking about the Moon settlement.  Not the Moon!”  Now she knew who the Prairie Dogs were–just the type of men who would take advantage of her.

            “That’s the place, Sunshine.  You’ll be just one more hamster in the giant Habitrail.”

            Tilly knew she would not be singing in a choir or dancing in a stage play.  They were shipping her off to the Moon, to dance for men that never shaved, showered, or spoke a sentence without using a cuss word.  She had a girlfriend who’d told her that her mother had said that the miners were all a bunch of thugs.  She thought it incredible that they would put a teenage female in harm’s way like that.  Thugs.  If things got out of hand, she vowed to open up the first pressure hatch she found and step outside.

            “It’s not so bad,” said Frampton.  “Those hard-working brutes could use a cute little cheerleader like you to brighten their day.  I know Id love it.”

           She felt bile rise in her throat.  Then she began to make high-pitched wheezing noises.  She always did that before she vomited.

Screamcatcher-Web World Excerpt

            I’m late! Jorlene Pike swung the front door open and leaped out of her apartment only to collide with a body. Their faces met with a hard clack, doubling her over in pain. Her purse slipped from her shoulder and hit the porch deck.

            She bent to pick it up; the other figure also crouched and fumbled for it. She knew right then it was Choice Daniels. Another unexpected visit. I’d like to make time right now but I can’t.

            “Jethuss, Choice, if you were any closer to my door….” She picked up the purse and threw her arm into the strap “….you would hath been made of wood.” Her jaw hurt. She had some trouble forming words. “Were you trying to thspy on me through the peephole?” She took quick inventory of her teeth with her tongue–all were there, but her chewing gum was missing.

            Choice straightened, fingering his jaw. “If you were paying attention, you would have noticed I was just getting ready to knock. How come you’re blasting out of here so fast anyway?”

            She tossed her hair to the side and annunciated. “I work, remember? And right now I’m late.”

            “Oh, yeah.” He looked at his watch. “You are late. We can take my bike and get you there faster.”

            She had no desire to straddle the saddle on his motorcycle at this time in the morning when the streets were wet. She’d been on the back of it before and it wasn’t too bad, her arms clasped tightly around his hard body—the scent of his neck, when pressing her face into it. There you go again. Reminding me.

Marching past him, she headed for her Jeep Cherokee at the curb. As she dug in her purse for her keys, Choice’s plodding steps followed her.

            “Okay, you’re late,” he said. “But you owe me because you said you were going to let me spend the day at your grandpa’s shop. That’s why I stopped by. I have to get something for my brother’s birthday, so what better place to do it than White Feather’s Novelty Store?”

            She hesitated for a beat then continued on to the driver’s door of the Cherokee.

            Before she could stick the key in the door, Choice had his hand on the handle. He pulled it a couple of times. Now he’s putting on the chivalry act. Of course, the door wouldn’t open.

            She waggled the keys at him and arched an eyebrow.

            “Aw, c’mon. Won’t you even think about it?”

            “There’s nothing to think about,” she said, unlocking the door.

            “If you say so.” With a mischievous smile, he licked his lips. He gazed at her and sniffed. “Is this yours?”

            “Look, just….” She winced. He had a smear of cherry flavored lipstick on his upper lip. Impact transfer.  She pulled the door open. “Wipe your mouth off. You’re wearing me.”

            He rolled his tongue over his lips. “It tastes mighty fine since I know where it came from. Sure you don’t need any company?”

            She ignored the question as she stepped in and shut the door. A twist of the ignition key and the car hummed to life. She looked back at him. Choice stood in the middle of the street, a look of abandonment plastered across his face. He looked pathetic, like a stray cat peeking up from the bottom of a cardboard box. It wasn’t that he didn’t pass in the looks department. He had a hunky body and a chiseled face, but he also had a fourteen year-old mind hardwired into an eighteen year-old body. And when it came to chasing after Jorlene “Jory” Pike–as he had for the last three years–Choice sorely lacked in the dignity department, much less the romance department where he had no more finesse than a tornado hurtling through a trailer park.

            She buzzed the window down. “Do you have any money, Choice?”

            “A hundred bucks. I’ve been slinging gravel for my uncle the last three days. You think I’m kidding? I told you I’d buy something.”

            “It’s not that you have to buy anything. I was hoping you’d found a real job.” She checked her dash clock. “Ugh, now I’m really late. All right. Get in!”

            She unlocked the passenger door. After he fastened his seatbelt, she threw the car into drive and flicked on the wipers.

            Out of the corner of her eye, she watched him study every item in her car–the candy wrappers in the center console, the crack in the dash panel, the small disco globe swinging from the rearview mirror. It wasn’t the first time he’d been in her Jeep, but he always noticed those little things. On other occasions, he’d used them as conversation pieces, just to start a dialogue. He was sweet and endearing at times, but he could wear on her nerves.

            “Got some new CDs, eh?” He absently fingered a few plastic cases. “Still having the nightmares?”

            “Uh, yeah.” The question surprised her as they hadn’t talked about it for awhile. “I had a whopper last night. I didn’t really fall asleep until an hour before the alarm went off. That’s why I’m running late.”

            “I could tell. Your eyes are still red from crying. You can always talk about it if you want, but if you don’t feel like it, just remember, time heals.”

            Yeah right. Time was sure having a hard time healing the sudden death of her parents. It had been thirty-four days and twelve hours since her parents’ car took a too-wide turn on Cloud’s Reach Pass and plummeted over the cliff edge. It had made no difference that her dad had been trying to get home for an anniversary party that he and Jory’s mother had planned for months. They’d never made it.

            Jory screwed up her face, thinking about it. “It’s like a really good film that got mixed up in the editing department at some studio,” she said.

            “What is?”

            “Everything. It’s like somebody cut out a really sweet section of the story and put in a horror scene.” She sniffled and then blinked back a tear. Jesus, here I go again.

            “Yeah…closure takes a long time.”

            She bit her lip. “I hate that word. Don’t ever say that word to me again.”

            “Why?”

            “Because it’s not true.”

             Albert Pike’s White Feather Novelty Store was a single story log cabin building that sat on a quarter acre flanked by multiple-story glass office buildings. It gave the impression that the store had been shoe-horned onto the property. Red geraniums planted in antique horse troughs sat on the long porch, while red and yellow wagon wheels leaned against rickety porch beams.

            They arrived in front of the store and Jory parked at the curb. She locked the Jeep and strode up to the double-glass front doors, primping in her reflection before she swung one open for Choice, letting him take the lead. Once inside, she passed through a swinging door to step behind a glass display counter that stretched from the front of the shop to the rear. After stashing her purse inside a small cupboard behind the counter, she looked around for her grandfather.

            Her gaze fell on her unplanned guest. You are so sweet, but insufferable.

            Choice stood with his feet bolted to the main aisle where he had stopped, awestruck. Much of the inventory consisted of Native American tourist brick-a-brac–toys, apparel, books, posters, blankets, boots and moccasins. A small tack wall, holding some saddles, took up the rear corner of the shop. Hygiene items, camera film, medicines, snack food, tanning lotion and maps occupied the first island at the front of the store. Moving toward the rear of the shop, items got progressively older and more Indian in nature and craftsmanship. Dozens of quart and gallon jars of multicolored sand sat in neat rows supported by pine shelves. Potions and herbs took up small niches. All of the jewelry and semi-precious stones sat in neat rows inside the floor-mounted glass counters. She couldn’t guess what Choice was thinking as his eyes panned back and forth, taking in all the sights. She’d seen it all dozens of times and never told him of its existence. She didn’t need a stalker at work.  

            “This place is awesome!” he finally said. “Where’s your granddad?”

            “He’s probably in the back room. You don’t have to stand there. Check out the inventory if you want.”

            Choice walked off toward the rear of the shop, his focus pegged on an archery and slingshot rack.

            Jory heard the faint noise of a toilet flushing in the back room. A moment later, Albert White Feather Pike stepped out into the counter aisle. His small, black eyes caught sight of Jory, prompting him to rush to her, which was still slow motion. She adored the way his arms and legs would scissor in sync, making him look like a tiny windup soldier. She met him halfway–as she had done for the past six months–and put her arms around him in a gentle embrace. Her chin rested on the wispy snow-white hair atop his head.

            “It is wonderful to see you again, Granddaughter,” he said against her shoulder. “I have fresh coffee in the back room and I have already dusted the shelves.”

            Her grandfather always opened the shop for her, sometimes very early in the morning. He would read and wait for her arrival, like an expectant child waiting for a surprise toy. Since her parents had died, his need to be with her had intensified. Although he never mentioned the subject of her parents passing, he always waited for her to express any pains or emotions about it. He had a good ear and wise advice.

            She sighed. “The wild black cherry tea hasn’t helped much. Whenever the vision comes, I jerk awake and imagine the scene all over again.”

            Albert pulled back from her and placed his gnarled hands on her shoulders. “Perhaps the wild lettuce will let you remain in slumber through the dark spirit passage.”

            “Grandfather, I don’t think the herbal medicines are working. Maybe this is something that has to pass with time.”

            Choice clopped up to the counter. “That’s what I was trying to tell her. Closure takes time.”

            “What did I tell you about that word?”

            “I was just agreeing with you.” Choice looked at the small man. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Pike. I’ve seen you before at one of Jory’s stage plays at our high school about a year ago, but we weren’t introduced.” He gave Jory an annoyed look. “I’m Choice Daniels. Jory invited me to help out today.” He waved his hand, gesturing at the store. “This shop is dope, and I mean that in a good way. That’s an awesome long bow you have in the corner.”

            Albert looked him up and down. “It was one of my own when I was a young man such as you. So you are the boyfriend of my granddaughter. I cannot see a tribe in your face, since your eyes are like the sky on a cloudless day.”

            “He’s not exactly a boyfriend,” said Jory. “Just a friend.” She felt awkward saying it.

            “I’m black Irish,” said Choice. “At least that’s what my parents tell me. Jory and I just hang together.”

            “Hmmm…you are black, you hang and you are Irish,” said Albert. “That must be a good thing, and we could talk about that all day. But to other matters…”  He took Jory’s hand and pulled her down the counter aisle until they arrived at a large, black velvet board screwed to the wall. Two dozen webbed hoops hung on tiny hooks, their bottom portions trailing feathers and stringed beads. Some of the hoops were circular, while others had teardrop-shapes. Of course, Jory knew that these were the dream catchers, and was familiar with some of the tribal legends associated with each variation. Albert pointed to the board and began to explain. Choice, who had followed them, sidled up to the counter to listen.

            “It is said that Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared to an old spiritual leader in the form of a spider. Iktomi, the spider, picked up the elder’s willow hoop, which had feathers, horsehair and beads on it and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life and the many forces–some good and some bad—and how it was important to listen to the clean, good forces and to avoid the darker ones that could hurt and lead you astray.”

            “The big spider was the teacher, then?” asked Choice.

            Jory rolled her eyes, having heard the legend before.

            Albert’s eyes became slits. “Yes. When Iktomi finished the web, he returned it to the elder and said ‘The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the middle. All of the bad forces, visions and dreams enter onto the web where they are trapped and held. All of the good forces find their way into the center and slip through, to travel down the feather and bead path, arriving upon the sleeper. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will filter your visions and give you pleasant dreams. The bad ones will never pass.’”

            “But, Grandfather, said Jory, “the dream catcher was used for babies and small children to comfort them. They were used above cradleboards.”

            Albert seemed not to have heard her words, having focused on Choice. “And when the sun rose the next morning it would wash all of the bad spirits from the catcher, cleansing it for another sleep cycle. It was always made to fall apart and wither after years of use so that it would never be filled up with the dark things.”

            “Damn,” said Choice. “What’s it made of? Little sticks and strings?”

            “They were made for adults too,” said Albert, looking at Jory. “The hoop is made from the twigs of the red willow, formed and dried. It is woven with the thread from the stalk of the stinging nettle. The very old ones have sinew for web. The beads are a decoration, and only one gemstone is used to show that there is only one creator in the web of life. Long ago, the government of this country outlawed the use of real eagle feathers, so most are made from feathers of other birds.”

            Choice nodded and waved his hand at the board. “Then they’re just copies?”

            “Not these,” said Albert. “I made many of them as a youth when no such law existed.”

            “You’ve got the real deal then,” said Choice, his eyes roaming over the board until he looked up toward the ceiling and saw an enormous dream catcher hanging from a rafter. Jory had seen it before. It was as large as a basketball hoop, trailing long, elegant feathers. But it appeared that it hadn’t been cleaned or dusted, which gave it a brittle, antique appearance. It looked like thick strings of gut or leather had been used to fashion the web. A few talons and claws hung from individual strands, a marked difference from the construction of the others.

            “Where did that one come from?” asked Choice, indicating the large catcher with the flick of his eyes.

            Albert steadied himself with a hand on the counter to look up, his voice a mystic whisper. “It is the oldest one, the one passed down from the ages, from the time just after the great turtle. It was not meant to be used, but only copied. It is the one that carries the design for all to learn from…the one you would say is the…I have not the word for it.”

            “The prototype,” said Choice. “The original.”

            “Yes,” said Albert. “It was considered a treasured heirloom. I cannot say whether it was used to capture the bad spirits or not or whose hands and tribe it passed from. I only know it is the greatest grandfather of them all. It represents all the nations of all the human beings.”

            Albert lifted one of the smaller dream catchers from the board with delicate fingers and extended it to Jory. “Granddaughter, I make this a gift to you. May you find protection in it with the blessings of all our ancestors. It will drive the devil spirit from your thoughts and give you peace.”

            Jory gave him an endearing smile. “It’s really generous, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer. But, Grandfather, you have to understand that the ways and teachings of the old ones are so very lost in today’s culture. I don’t think I have the proper faith to make it work.”

            Albert grunted. “You are saying it is an embarrassment to carry the blood of your family tribe and you find suspicion with things that are held dear and sacred.” He glanced at Choice. “It is a shame that the tribal youth of today–the Ojibway or Chippewa–have no time for the chants and songs, nor do they understand the words in the old stories.”

            Choice nodded.

            Albert looked at the large, front panel windows and out into the street. “This is an age of bending metal, cutting down the trees of the forest, fouling the waters and blackening the earth with soot and chemicals. The sound of the flute song and drums has disappeared, along with the dances and animal pantomimes. Today the music is born of electric violence and its words are lost in savage mutterings and howls. The world–the great circle upon which all creatures great and small live–is an angry, dying spirit.” He looked back at Jory. “That is the today you speak of, precious granddaughter. You have lost touch with your origins. The spirit cries out for your return. You have only to give heed to that calling. It’s never left you.”

            “Well, you’ve got me convinced,” said Choice and gazed at Jory with soft eyes. “You owe it to yourself, girl. You should try this out. Nothing else has been working for you. And your granddad’s right. You are Chippewa, and a real one at that.”

            “You see,” said Albert. “Even a black Irish white man can understand it.”

            She felt like she was being tag-teamed. It was true that both of them had her best interests at heart, but what would she gain by sleeping under a flimsy tourist charm designed to trap nightmares? This was the twenty-first century–not the Black Hills a hundred and fifty years ago. Yet she felt she could at least compromise.  

            “I suppose so,” she said and extended her hand to take the dream catcher.

            “Wait!” Choice said, placing a hand on her wrist. He looked at her grandfather. “Mr. White Feather Pike…I have an idea that we might see eye-to-eye on. I have a proposition for you that involves taking care of this problem once and for all. Maybe we can go to your back room and talk about it?”

            Albert cocked his head. “If it involves the welfare of my granddaughter, then I am willing to listen.”

            “Oh, it does.”

            Jory watched, awestruck as Choice hiked up his leg and slid over the counter, landing next to her grandfather. Her grandfather seemed neither surprised nor angered by the display. The two walked to the back room and disappeared behind the door. A latch fastened. She had a feeling that whatever those two were up to was bound to have her reaching for Tums or aspirin for the rest of the day.

                                                           *                    *                  *

            “I’m still upset with you,” Jory said as she put her key into her apartment door. “You lied to me.” Well, what else could she say? He’d played the sympathy card to the hilt and now she felt obligated. Choice Daniels is a manipulating little tool–but a nice one–maybe.

            “I just lied about it being my brother’s birthday. I didn’t lie about the money.”

            She shoved the door open and picked up the snack sacks. He followed behind with a case of Dr. Pepper and another package wrapped in brown paper. They met in the kitchen and put the items away, except for the wrapped package. Choice pulled some drawers open and gave her a sheepish look.

            “You’re not going to put it up now, are you?” she asked.

            “Why not get it out of the way?”

            “Third drawer on the right. Nails and hammer. Before you do that, arrange these snacks into several bowls and set them out on the living room table.”

            “All right!”

            Jory’s cell phone rang. She flipped it open, saw that it was her best friend and answered, “Doing, Darcy?”

            “Calling you, stretchy girl. Are we still on tonight?”

            “Sure, no problem. If you have any favorite eats, bring ‘em on. I’ve got cheese puffs, Zingers, and pretzels.”

            “Oh, sounds good. I’ve got a box of games I’ll bring too. Maybe something you haven’t seen. Oh, and not to forget a few DVDs that I picked up at the store. You okay? You sound tired.”

            “I had a rough day. All the aspirin’s making my ears ring. I did make some good commissions on some Arapaho rugs—three of them at once.” She walked into the living room, glanced over her shoulder and lowered her voice. “Darcy, Choice is here. He did some favors for me today.”

            “It sounds okay, unless you want to chase him out.”

            “I just hope you don’t mind. He might…stay.”

            “Just as long as he hasn’t got any ideas about threesomes, it’s okay with me. He’s not such a bad sort, but I’m not the one he’s all gaga for.”

            “It’ll be all right. I’ll see you when you get here.”

            Jory clapped her phone shut and headed for the bathroom. “Taking a shower,” she said over her shoulder. “Help yourself to the fridge, if you want. And stay away from this door.”

            “I’m not a peeper!”

            Jory picked up a change of clothes from her bedroom, then ran the bathroom water. She’d decided on the lavender jogging suit and a pair of high-top Nike shoes. Once in the shower, she let the warm spray hit the back of her neck. She massaged the soap and conditioner into her scalp. Darcy had kept her promise to spend the night. Most of her girlfriends had made the same trip, so many that she had to rotate them in shifts. No one wanted Jory to be alone, and last night she had spent the evening friendless because no one on her visit list could make it. Some of the younger girls were still in high school and it was hard for them to sleep over on weekdays. Darcy was sixteen and worked as a dental assistant at her parents’ office. Tonight was Darcy’s visitor night.

            After her shower, Jory dressed and stepped out into the living room, toweling her hair. The sound of a few grunts and hammer blows came from her bedroom. When she went to investigate, she found Choice standing on the bed in his socks, twisting the large dream catcher for the proper angle. It hung directly over her headboard.

            “I still wish you wouldn’t have done that,” she said. “I feel bad about taking commission on it.”

            Choice jumped off the bed and turned to admire his handiwork. “Hey, it’s for the right cause. I figured bigger was better.”

            She rounded the bed and looked up at the charm more closely. In place of the beads and single gem seen on the other examples, this one had large yellow teeth and talons attached to it. The eagle feathers were real and enormous.

            “I had it close to my face,” said Choice, “and the thing smelled pretty funky—like a dead smell. It must have real animal guts in it or something.”

            The feathers ruffled for a moment. The teeth clinked and the hoop slammed against the wall. Outside, a thunder crack shook the house, rattling the bedroom window. It looked like a second storm front was moving in on the tail end of the last one. More rain and overcast.

            “I still don’t know how you got my grandfather to sell it to you. It’s been in the shop for as long as I can remember.”

            “I just told him that I never had the chance to buy you a nice graduation gift.”

            “Yeah, but a hundred dollars, Choice! I would have been happy with a gumball.”

            “It didn’t cost a hundred. I’m on the payment plan. Grandpa said he could use the extra cash to get you white man’s counseling. So you see? We both got what we wanted. Hey, you look nice.” His eyes stripped her.

            Jory entered the small kitchen, trying to keep her temper in check. Right now, a glass of her grandfather’s blackberry tea sounded like the perfect prescription for what ailed her. But sedation was a coward’s way out of this mess, and wasn’t it her who had invited Choice to the shop in the first place, which set the whole thing in motion?

            She wondered if she had enough pre-made Spanish rice to feed an extra mouth when she put it in a pan to simmer. Chips and salsa were no problem, and she had the extra snacks. She set out some plates, cups and silverware. The sound of racing engines reached her ears from the living room, telling her that Choice had found the remote. It sounded like a NASCAR channel, which was all right as long as he kept the volume down.

Jory stayed in the kitchen, and after twenty more minutes of getting the food ready, when she heard a knock at the door. When she answered it, she found red-haired Darcy standing on the porch with some plastic containers in one arm and a huge sack in the other. She was not alone. An older guy whom Jory had seen before at the movie theater stood behind her girlfriend. Jory didn’t count eighteen year-old Lander Cunningham as a trusted friend, since he often hung around the video arcades in search of underage girls. His hands were always filthy, permanently stained from grease and oil. A large box rested in those greasy hands, she noticed.

            “Hope we’re not too early,” said Darcy and stepped in. Lander shuffled behind, his head down, ball cap pulled backward over his head. He set his box down and sat on the couch an arm’s length away from Choice, who also knew Lander, but only in passing.

            Jory pulled Darcy into the kitchen, keeping her voice hushed. “I can’t believe you brought that guy. You’ve just paired us up. That’ll encourage Choice.”

            “Jeeze, take it easy. I figured three was pretty awkward. This evens it up. Nothing’s going to happen anyway. You know that. Lander doesn’t feel me up or anything—he only kisses because he knows I’m sixteen.”

            Jory rolled her eyes. “How do I know that? Doesn’t Lander have a record or something?”

            “He hot-wired somebody’s car once. It was just a gag. He really is a good mechanic, though. He fixed my Suzuki’s heating problem last week and didn’t charge me anything.”

            “Nothing but a date, I’ll bet.”

            “So what’s the harm? He never gets out and away from that boozin’ dad of his.”

            Jory felt like saying, I can see why, but turned up the fire on the Spanish rice and stirred the pan.

They had what was supposed to be a sleepover meal for two on the living room coffee table fifteen minutes later. Darcy dug in her purse and came out with a DVD that was titled There’s Something about Mary. It figured it would have to be a romantic comedy, one that Jory had seen at least three times before. But the guys gave it their vote, confessing they hadn’t seen it. Darcy set it up. As it played, Jory took small nips out of her food, occasionally glancing at Choice, who seemed to be enjoying the flick. During an embarrassing zipper scene, he laughed aloud and gripped his knees to rock back and forth on the sofa.

Jory waited for the movie to end before she cleared the table, meeting Darcy over the kitchen sink. Glancing over her shoulder, she could see Lander passing a flask to Choice, who ducked to take a sip. Outside, the thunder pounded like a kettle drum. The first raindrops hit the roof, sending the noise reverberating through the vent system.

            “You need to cut loose and party down some,” said Darcy, washing out a plastic bowl. “It’s almost like you’re afraid to be happy. ‘Normal’ isn’t going to happen if you keep thinking abnormal is all around you.”

            Jory wiped the counter down. “Maybe you’re right.”

            “Good,” said Darcy, pulling a white stick-shaped object out of her cleavage. She waggled it in front of Jory’s face. “I brought a blunt, just in case.”

            “You’re not that right. Besides, Lander gave that to you and you don’t even know what it is.” Jory plucked it from her hand and tossed it into the wet sink, then broke it up with a fork.

            Darcy slumped. “If you change your mind, let me know—I have another one. In the meantime, I have a surprise…”  She walked into the living room, opened a box and yelled, “Twister!”

            Twister. New games she hadn’t heard of before? There was no way seventeen year-old Jory was going to play Twister with two semi-strange guys in her living room, sober. It took her a few belts from Lander’s flask to numb her mind and ease her nerves. She turned on the stereo and dialed in a metal station, which risked the wrath of the neighbors. Before long, she actually began to enjoy the game in a silly sort of way. Her cotton jogging suit allowed her to twist herself into a pretzel, and at times she laughed and fell over when she lost her balance. Choice wasted no time in trying to encircle her with a series of moves that groped, nudged, hugged and rubbed. She laughed and shoved him hard off the play mat several times. Darcy and Lander ended up in the most provocative poses, and Jory suspected that Darcy had brought the game as an excuse to maul the lanky mechanic. After two hours, the guys begged off, complaining of groin strains. The foursome collapsed on the couch, huffing. Darcy put another DVD into the player. This time a horror flick.

            The movie trudged along with little or no plot, coupled with a ridiculous amount of splatter scenes. The actresses screamed on cue with maniacal energy while the boys who were charged to protect them ended up torn to shreds by every monster imaginable. The idiocy of the film was not lost on Jory, and she screamed with hilarity, sometimes drowning out the others. Toward the end of the film, a neighbor rapped on the door, inquiring if there was a domestic disturbance going on. Jory assured the neighbor that the excited howls he heard came from laughter and not from someone dying.

            With the snacks gone and fresh out of way to continue the party mayhem, Jory called it quits at two in the morning. Suspecting that Lander and Choice were drunk and past the point of perfect driving reflexes, she invited them to stay and sleep in the living room. She broke out her guest blankets and pillows and plopped them on the sofa.

            “We can’t sleep alone,” said Choice, feigning sheer fright just as lightning lit up the living room. A thunderclap pounded the apartment walls three seconds later. “Especially after seeing Massacre Maidens.”

            “Yup,” said Lander, grinning drunkenly.

            Jory knew where this was going. “Okay, but you’ll sleep on the floor. Darcy and I get the bed. And there won’t be any sneaking in under the covers because you’re so scared because of Massacre Maidens.”

            Choice surrendered palms up. “That’s the best deal we’re going to get.”

            They collected the bedding and followed the girls into the bedroom. Jory threw the comforter back and spanked the pillows. She and Darcy kicked off their shoes and hopped into bed.

            Lander stood transfixed, staring up at the large dream catcher hanging over the bed. “What’s that thing?”

            “Therapy,” said Jory. “Choice, hit the light.”

            “Okay, but you wanna know something? Sleeping in your clothes is not good for them. You should slip into something more comfortable.”

            Jory gave him a playful scowl. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Now flick that light off!”

            Choice hit the switch and moved to Jory’s side of the bed, where he flopped on the floor. Lander took up the other side. Jory could hear the hiss of the downpour outside gaining in volume. The thunder rolled on and on. A lightning bolt flashed against the window, capturing the room in a skeletal flash. Above her head, the dream catcher swayed on its thin wire. The tiny charms clicked against each other, sounding like a macabre wind chime. She could almost feel the static electricity in the room, along with an icy draft. She pulled the comforter over the top of her head, determined to fall asleep.

            Jory wavered between consciousness and unconsciousness for a long while. Some part of her wanted to surrender to a deep, relaxing sleep. Yet another part of her didn’t have the courage to face the nightmare that was sure to come. She finally let go and fell into the netherworld.

            When the inevitable scene came to her, she gripped the covers, white-knuckled. It played out like a video, with her as the sole audience member. The silver Lexus locked up its brakes, skidded and plowed through the guardrail. It seemed to hang in the air for a very long time before the hood nosed over. The car picked up speed in a downward plunge. She could plainly see her parents’ faces through the front windshield, their mouths agape, eyes bulging. Jory screamed for them in the dream. It took so long for them to fall, that in the next moment, their faces relaxed before the canyon bottom rushed up to meet them. They joined hands—a fatal embrace—the pose that they were found in. Then the impact came, their bodies thrown forward into the metal, glass and rock.

            Jory pulled the comforter down and cried out with a long, pitiful wail.

            The room exploded with a jarring thunderclap. Jory pushed herself upward with a spastic jerk. Darcy screamed. In the next second the window blew inward, spraying shards of glass. The comforter flew off the bed and hit the wall. The mattress was knocked askew. An icy spray of raindrops blasted into the room while the drapes–shredded and torn–flipped crazily in the torrent. Jory leaped from the bed to land on a body that was just pushing up from the floor. She rolled off, hitting her head against the wall.

            “Where am I?” It sounded like Lander’s voice below her.

Reviews–The Girl They Sold To The Moon

This Was The First Place Grand Prize Winner Of The Entranced Novel Writing Contest. It Sold 10 times and won out to a small bid.


Eric T Knight4.0 out of 5 starsI really enjoyed this book February 9, 2016Format: Kindle EditionVerified PurchaseI really enjoyed this book. I love the premise it’s based on. The whole idea of being able to basically pawn your children gives me goosebumps. I liked that the story moved very quickly and there was lots going on. Some of the scene changes were a little abrupt and I got lost at first, but I got used to it.

Virginia Dobias5.0 out of 5 starsGreat soft Science Fiction for those who like it easy over June 19, 2014Format: PaperbackVerified PurchaseThe Girl They Sold to the Moon by Chris Stevenson

I wanted the ARC to this book but they never got back to me; so I had to buy a copy and wait patiently for it to arrive in the mail, which was all well and good because I had other things to do anyway. Finding myself with an extra day, where I wanted to read something just a bit on the light side, I picked it up and read the boldfaced type all the way from the front right through to the finish. This book reminded me some of the old science fiction I read some thirty years ago. Some of the Robert Heinlein juvenile Science Fiction series. I enjoyed reading it and I want to give it high marks, but I’m going to be brutally honest about a few things.

Chris Stevenson has created a sort of sassy character in Tilly Breedlove who is sold into a sort of slavery in order to keep her father out of prison. Her mother has some few years earlier passed away and without her influence her father has fallen prey to all his vices and she has no delusions, going into this whole arrangement, that he will change his ways. In this dystopic future that sounds like a throwback to the times Charles Dickens wrote of; we have a society that allows parents to sell their children into some sort of work camp slavery while parents try to pay off their debts to stay out of prison through a loan which they must then pay off before their children can be released.

That whole arraignment lends itself toward some real potential for failure.

The Girl They Sold to the Moon bears some strong resemblance to the one other book I have read by this author: The War Gate. By this I mean that it has several threads running through it that make up a whole bunch of mini plots that revolve around the main plot that seems to be a soft science fiction light weight which is why I call this light reading. It is a good Young Adult novel and it almost seems like a twisted merging of Dickens’ David Copperfield and Oliver Twist and Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars staged in the environment of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. But the whole thing diverges into it’s own world because of that potential for the slave workers to become permanent property of the company when someone defaults on the loan.

Of The Girl They Sold to the Moon and The War Gate similarities there is that striking male character that is a magician. And both books delve into the world of entertainment while striking off in slightly divergent directions of Science Fiction in the one and Magic in the other. If I have any complaints at all it’s that there sometime is a difficulty for me to zero in on which plot is the prime plot of the novel.

The most likely candidate is the dystopic society’s inhumane treatment of these young family members who are traded off and sometimes left to pay their own way out of a system that seems to have the cards stacked against them. But I get confused about this very plot when the potential evil motives of the company are often glossed over too quickly in favor of the sub plot of the infighting between the chatteled entertainers vieing for the top position; a position that only serves to make the company richer through their success. Then there is the moon-crossed love story hindered by the presence of rules prohibiting the girls from fraternizing with anyone in any close manner on or off work. Along with all of this we have a thread about Tilly’s desire to be in the very work she is now in and the frustration in the knowledge that her unexpected success is all going to someone else benefit until she gets released.

This is a great light read of soft SFF with some romance and a couple of good cat-fights.

J.L. Dobias

Kindle Customer4.0 out of 5 starsInteresting Y.A. Science Fiction July 10, 2014Format: Kindle EditionVerified PurchaseThis book is set in the relatively near future. The plot revolves around Tillie, a 17 year old who is “sold to the moon” as an indentured servant for the length of the time a loan is unpaid by her Father. It is a fast moving tale of her abilities and struggles as an indentured servant to a mega entertainment corporation. Her life as an exotic dancer first on the moon, and then later on the earth make interesting reading. I would think that any teen would love to read about the feisty Tillie and her friend

jeannemalm5.0 out of 5 starsA dance with danger July 4, 2014Format: Kindle EditionI was intrigued by the notion that a head of household could pawn a family member to accrue a large cash advance. Then I realized that this story was set in a near-future society where the economy is stressed to the breaking point and all the social rules have changed. When it was revealed that it was a father pawning his only daughter to an unscrupulous corporation, I was hooked. Tilly Breedlove really didn’t stand a chance when she was forced to dance for rich ore miners on an exotic Moon-based settlement. When Tilly reached the end of her term, she found out that tragedy was not done with her yet, leaving her with a desperate decision that culminated in a dash to freedom.

The Girl They Sold to the Moon has got it all—conflict, adventure, catastrophe and inner turmoil—a coming of age story for a girl who has to endure impossible odds while keeping her sanity intact. The pace was fast and the stakes high. At the end, I found myself wanting more, but there seems like there’s room for a sequel. Hopefully I won’t have to wait long.

—Jim Melvin, author of the six-book epic fantasy series “The Death Wizard Chronicles”

lidia armesto5.0 out of 5 starsThe Girl They Sold To The Moon ARC copy review June 10, 2014Format: PaperbackThe Girl They Sold To The Moon Review
Review by: Naila Gutierrez
Author: Chris Stevenson
Publisher: Intrigue Publishing
Rating: 5 Stars
*SPOILERS!!!!*
*This book was given to me as an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review*
This book is basically about an 18 year old girl named Tilly Breedlove, her father sells her into a form of slavery on the Tranquility Harbor Mining Company located on the Moon. She is forced to be an exotic dancer for filthy rich ore miners. After a disastrous explosion on the Moon, they send her back to Earth, imprisoned to the Las Vegas-Henderson Gambling Complex. Her father fails to pay the loan and goes into hiding, exiling Tilly to be temporary property of FTAL. Tilly plots a rebellious escape plan with friend Fia, and also with the help of blossoming love Buddy Gunner Bell, to break out of FTAL.

To me this dystopian read was exuberant, imaginative and creative. From start to finish this book grabbed me in for one wild ride and didn’t let go, for such a short book it was certainly delightful and whimsical. The plot in this was very well put together and it flowed with the story quite nicely, from when her journey began in FTAL, to the meteor shower that hit the Moon base at Tranquility Harbor , to the very ending where she escaped and finally got to fulfill her friend’s wish as well as hers. From the beginning when her father turned her in for FTAL I could feel how scared Tilly’s character was towards the situation of leaving her home to work in an entertainment division for 6 consecutive months. But then you can really notice the change in her character as the story progresses, she becomes more confident in going through all these obstacles, I really admire her character. Although I really did feel connected to Tilly’s character the most I did however appreciate Buddy’s and Dorothy’s characters. I did quite enjoy the growing romance and feelings between Tilly and Buddy growing feelings and a relationship from friends to lovers, their romance was just right as to not be sappy and come off as a desperate and rushed romance, like you see in so many books. Their growing relationship blossomed in just the right way, starting off when they met in the book and started talking I could feel chemistry between them, and it left me wanting more of their romance.

In a way, I have to say there was a bit of suspense sprinkled within the many wonders of this book, for example; when you found out that Fia Bluestone, supposed friend of Tilly’s was actually her long lost birth mother. Also when Tilly stood there and had to witness the suicide of her best friend, Dorothy, I have to say that scene was so wickedly crafted that it got to me. Then there are those well thought out action scenes of Tilly and fellow refugees scrambling about to find shelter from the meteor shower, and also when Tilly, Buddy, and Fia were escaping the Vegas Gambling Complex in search of freedom from the so well manipulated form of slavery.

Overall, I gave this book 5 stars because I like the well written, professional use of vocabulary, well thought out and procedure that was this lovely book. I personally am a HUGE fan of dystopian and post-apocalyptic worlds and this was one of the best I have read so far. I’m not going to say it’s the best I have read because I still have a lot more to read, but I can safely say that this was an extraordinary book, it was refreshing, action-packed, suspenful, and not bad in the romance department either. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short yet giving book that hooks you in once you indulge in it and who enjoys books in the dystopian and apocalyptic category.
*thanks so much to the author for sending me an ARC*

Young Adult Taboos: Oh, The Horror Of It!

I’ve got a YA fantasy thriller knocking around out there and have pulled in about 12 publisher rejections. Yet, I’ve also yanked in four offers, but declined them all. I’m just looking for a better deal. I’m fairly new to the YA category (two years) and something just struck me last week after another rejection. This rejection pointed out that my manuscript was unsuitable because it contained pot, underage alcohol consumption, some dated slang and a stereotypical American Indian character. I was only interested in trying to decipher the reason for the pot and alcohol comments (actually had two different editors remark about this). I’ve got a 16, 18, 19 and 20 year-old cast. Now if these were Christian publishers I could well understand it. They were not, nor did they stipulate that such behavior would not be tolerated anywhere in their YA guidelines or mission statement.

I just couldn’t understand it at all. The pot scene involves a blunt being passed around and they all take a couple of swigs of liquor from a flask. The scene is tiny and disappears in a flash, never to be repeated again. Now, as far as reality goes, this type of behavior was part of my teenage years and just about included everyone else around me. I don’t think it’s gone the way of the dodo today and might even be a bit more prevalent. I was just very surprised because it was highlighted in the rejections. It’s seems that all the other Rs, and even the offers, paid no mind to it at all, or I certainly would have heard about it in some fashion. I’m all for more moral turpitude but I’m crafting realistic fiction here with some real teenagers who are not dyed in the wool, church-going WASPs. I could understand plenty of this type of consumption in urban or ghetto fiction–it’s part of the whole essence.

So here’s my question to you–was I really out of line in exploring these taboos? Are some publishers apt to run with these types of scenes without it bothering them? Is this an editorial preference and variable to the specific publishing house? It seems to me that many publishers will run with it and others are dead set against it.

I guess the way to interpret a publisher’s moral stance is to read a few of their books in this category and genre and see what goes. I just haven’t had the time to read all those books since I’m watching my pocketbook lately. I suppose one could read the mission statement of the publisher or even the tone of the book blurbs to get a hint.

Anyway–short blog post here. You’re welcome to chime in on this one and let this old bird know wass up with this type of subject matter.