Shit shit shit shit. It was the litany in my head as I fled the hot, too-cramped clerk’s office and flung myself down on the curb outside. I pressed my knees together, lest some passerby get a view straight up the tulle configuration I’d picked up from the secondhand shop yesterday afternoon, last season’s discarded prom dress, no doubt. Staring down at my cleanest pair of combat boots, the laces untied, I willed myself to breathe in through my nose, out though my mouth. I was unsurprised by the crunch of footsteps behind me. Cooper sat down next to me and crossed his legs, lacing his fingers around his knee, managing to look elegant in his expensive suit, while I imagined I looked like the tooth fairy after a rough night, in this...
The house phone was ringing as Sofija walked into the flat, frost clinging to her heavy winter coat. Tossing her keys on the foyer table she quickly picked up on the third ring. "Yes, hello," she answered in a soft Eastern European accent as she pulled her mobile from a pocket. Two missed calls. "Sofija, it's Henry Morton, I've got a listing I want to show you, a last-minute cancellation. Are you available tomorrow morning?" Sofija sighed; it had been a long day and her train was delayed coming out of the city. She was also growing weary of the property hunt; the affordable ones were gone almost as soon as they were listed and the rest were rubbish. "Please to send listing first?" she asked in somewhat broken English. "Yes, I can...
An old man in a dark suit hobbled up a gravel path through a rural graveyard. Twisted old oak trees with bark darkened with age lined the meandering path, reaching across like steepled fingers with Spanish moss hanging down. Golden sunlight trickled through the leaves as the sun descended beneath the horizon. The old man carried three bouquets of flowers cradled in his left arm. He read the names on each of the headstones as he passed by, but he turned from the path and walked through the graves until he came to a group of three, two large and one painfully small: Douglas Ellender, loving father and husband, Caroline Ellender, loving mother and wife, and Marni Ellender, beautiful daughter, ages thirty-five, thirty-one, and six...
Celestial Beach The sound of the trunk closing, enveloping my single suitcase, rang with an odd finality. I stared at my warped reflection in the rear window. “I shouldn’t go.” Sandra, my best friend since high school, put an arm around my shoulders. “You need this, Dee.” Her smile managed to look both hopeful and concerned. “You deserve a vacation.” I couldn’t shake the strange sense of wrongness looking at my car gave me. I’d always loved driving… before. “Something isn’t right.” Sandra’s smile faded. The concern in her eyes deepened. “David’s been gone two years, Dee. You can’t hide in this house forever.” Was that what I’d been doing? Hiding? It felt more like waiting. Waiting for my life to make sense again. Waiting for the...
Toni stared at the invitation in her hand. Adams High School Class of 1973 50th Reunion. She’d been seventeen in 1973. The year the U.S. left Vietnam. Roe v. Wade. Watergate. She hadn’t had a clue about any of it back then. High school had been her whole world. Dancing to Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” and watching Sonny and Cher on TV. With long brown hair, long legs, and a miniskirt, she had looked a little like Cher. This was her first trip back to Adams in years, and it was bittersweet. Her father was gone now, and her mom was in assisted living. Toni, their only child, was putting the family home up for sale. That the timing coincided with her high school reunion felt providential. She drove out to the now vacant home in the...
Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.” This was one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite childhood Christmas movies. I remembered fondly sitting on the floor of my living room, excitedly waiting for it to start. It didn’t matter how many times I saw the movie, year after year, it signaled the start of the Christmas season for me and my family. Everyone knew that the Grinch was an old sourpuss, but deep down he had kindness in his heart. Isn’t that the way humanity is supposed to be? That is what I was taught growing up. Volunteering in soup kitchens with my parents, Girl Scouts for me, Boy Scouts for my brother, gathering toys at Christmas for local foster kid organizations, and many other...
Two words changed our lives forever. “Active shooter.” We all knew what it meant. We’d had drills. When Principal Deen’s tense, hushed voice spoke those words over the PA, we understood. Sandra Collins hurried to the door. I was glad she was class leader today. I wasn’t sure I’d have thought to move so quick. Even as she pressed the lock, loud pops rang out from somewhere nearby. Screams echoed through the walls. Eyes wide, Sandra slapped the light switch, plunging us into semi-darkness, the only light from the two windows. “One, two, three—come to me.” Mrs. Brady, our sixth-grade math teacher, gave our ‘remember phrase’ in a low, clear voice. I slipped quietly from my seat, following my classmates. We gathered near Mrs. Brady’s...
The eucalyptus burnt down in the hot summer of 2022. One minute the huge tree was there against the skyline and then ‘whoosh’ it was alight in a sparkling red inferno. The conclusion—it was because of the hottest summer we’d had in the outback for some years. We could have told anyone that. Even when we dragged our beds out of the house to sleep under the stars at night, the temperature remained humid. Sleep was difficult. Everyone did a lot of stargazing. With no lights, the Milky Way was awesome. That tree stood on flat land at the end of the houses and at the beginning of the bush. It stood alone and was a gathering place where the women sat and discussed community affairs, children chased each other around it and lovers carved...
Story Title:Elizabeth’s Story Department of Homeland Security Form 194: Proof of Legal Entry into the United States Even now, I sometimes dream that we are all together. Before Dad and Mom and I left. I was the youngest of five, but my big brother and my sweet sisters stayed behind. I never saw them again. In my dreams, we are still kids, laughing and playing. I wake up and cry. I was thirteen; I was a child. I didn’t want to leave the only home I knew. My parents said “We are leaving. You’re coming with us.” And that was that. I didn’t choose to be an “illegal alien.” I wasn’t a Martian on a spaceship. The journey here was one long nightmare. Sixty-six days. We got lost. More than once. Grown men were crying and begging to turn...
Story Title: Convergence I first saw the door as a child. I’d come in from the pool and got turned around. The hotel halls all looked alike. As tears pooled in my eyes, I found a door with a purple tag with an image of a door. Purple was my favorite color. Perhaps someone in this room could help… I turned the knob, not remembering it wouldn’t work without the card, and not thinking to knock. A warm rush of air engulfed me as it opened, easing my goosebumps The smell of popcorn, distinct and familiar, drew me inside. The air inside looked misty. Voices called faintly. “Hello?” Footsteps sounded. A boy came into view, his thick brown hair messy. He panted, like he’d been running. “I—I’m sorry if I woke you up…” He frowned, glancing...
Thank you to all the wonderful agents and authors who participated! We could not do this without you! Don't miss the 2024 Spring Pitchfest! Good luck to everyone and please let us know if you connect with an agent who loves your work! ~The Savvy Crew Cindy Bullard at Birch Literary: Please follow all of these instructions: A new email to me at cindy at birchliterary dot com Subject of email: 2023 Autumn Pitchfest Request Body of the email should be a formal query. For PBs, please attach the full ms. as a word document attachment. For all others, please attach the first three chapters of the finished manuscript. All requests must be received by 12/15/23. Requested Projects: HOMETOWN COWARD by Christine Guidry Law BUMBLE BEE...
2013 Grandma plopped on the couch with a book in her hand, a fan on high speed aimed at her face. “I need to lie down, Harper. it’s so hot out there you could fry an egg on the pavement.” Harper looked out the living room window at the hayfield. If she squinted, she could almost make out the paved road beyond it. Not like where she lived, with city blocks full of sidewalks, paved driveways, and parking lots. The best two weeks of the year were almost over. Her mom was coming back to the farm tonight to take her home. She would start fourth grade next week. “C’mon, Barney.” She held the door for him, and they scooted out together. The Jack Russell sprang ahead as she grabbed a bucket of tennis balls and an old racquet from the porch...
‘Emergency. Which service do you require?’ ‘There’s a giraffe in my lounge.’ A moment of silence followed. ‘Maisie, is that you again? I understand you’re lonely and want someone to talk to, but this number is for genuine emergencies.’ ‘This is an emergency. There's a giraffe in my lounge.’ Her voice wavered, a little less certain than before. The call handler sighed. ‘Yesterday, you thought your house wasn’t where it should be. Twice this week you went shopping and forgot to close your front door, then blamed a burglar. You get confused. Do you think it’s possible you imagined it?’ Maisie acknowledged her recent episodes of confusion. She agreed to make a cup of tea and check if the animal disappeared while she was in the kitchen...
Thank you to all the wonderful editors, publishers, and authors who participated! We could not do this without you! Don't miss the 2024 Spring Pitchfest! Good luck to everyone and please let us know if you sell a book and when it will be or is published! ~The Savvy Crew Please note that we are still waiting on requests from Bella Books. We will update once we’ve received their request. Jess Verdi at Alcove Press & Crooked Lane Please send synopsis and first three chapters to jess.verdi at alcovepress dot com CHRISTMAS CHALLENGE by Karna Bodman SWEETHEARTS OF THE OVERTHROW by Sheryl Stein THE MARS DEFECT by Anima Sahu Tamara Grasty at Page Street Publishing Please send full synopsis and full manuscript, each in a word...
The image is impossible. I cannot parse it. A broad waterfall plunges into mist in the background, and the red roof of a colorful upside-down house spikes the foreground. It appears as if the waterfall has swept the house off its foundation and deposited it there, but the home is pristine, perfectly painted, not a flower in the balcony planters out of place. I try to handle the problem the way a human would. First: Imagine a scenario. The power is out. A candle flickers on the countertop. The deluge drums on the red roof and the wind prises open the storm shutters. The storm attacks the house with the ferocity of drowning rats trying desperately to get inside where it is warm and dry. Rats, I have learned, are something most humans...
Story Title: Home Sweet Home “Hey! This flipping machine ate my quarter!” Connor kicked at the Home-Sweet-Home arcade game. “Watch it, Ladd-o.” Ripley’s hunched, disfigured form cast a crooked shadow. He gave the tweener kid his evilest eye. “These games aren’t cheap, you know.” He stroked the metal casing lovingly. “They need to be treated right.” Connor’s lips curled as he stared, brows furrowed under a frock of dirty-blonde bangs. His nose wrinkled, as if he’d caught a bad smell. “Weirdo,” he muttered, backing away. Ripley shook his head. Children shouldn’t be allowed near games. He chuckled. Some children, at least. He peered into the Home-Sweet-Home screen. “Oh, dear!” His pale face blanched. Maison Jaune, his favorite house...
Mom got me the ant farm for my birthday last fall. She thought watching bugs build tiny tunnels in an inch of dirt packed between two plastic plates would teach me about responsibility. How coming together to get something done not only made it easier, but better. About teamwork. For the good of all. She should have kept the ant farm herself. Maybe then our family wouldn’t be falling apart. I used to watch them outside, their little ant-domes poking up through the cracks in the sidewalk, right in the way of every bike, foot and skateboard going by. Now I know how they feel. Little bugs running around trying to save their homes, when some giant shoe comes down and smashes them all to smithereens. Who cares, right? They’re just a bunch...
Every day, I see him. He sets his easel up with the others. They line the curved street like portable windows. Squared glimpses into the mind and soul, portrayed in oil or acrylic. Pastel visions of faraway dreams; black and white interpretations of a colored world. How he intrigues me. It’s nearly lunchtime, and the other painters on the cobbled street have already gone to eat, leaving him alone to capture the midday sun in all its glory. I pass under the Souvre Arch, lilac skirt swishing gently against my legs. This is the only dress I own, but even if I had others, I would have chosen this one. Not because it flatters my figure, although I like to believe it does, but because purple is his favorite color. He uses it more than any...
She waited in the terminal lounge, clutching her backpack with both arms. Her gaze was glued to the orange carpet. Ten minutes remained until they began boarding her section of the space transport. Ten minutes until she was caught and thrown out. She risked a quick look around. The other passengers looked as downtrodden and desperate as she did, but their faces lacked her terror. How she envied them. When their names were called and they stepped, one by one, into the testing machine, they had nothing to fear. They would pass through, board the transport, and begin their journey to a new life on the moon. The testing machine. She didn’t want to look at it. Just a clear-sided elevator. Step inside, the doors closed, it dropped out of...
The same violet colors that bruised the sky swirled on the reflective surfaces of the hot-air balloons. Lavender-tinged sand met the blue of the sea, and the splendor of the dawn stretched to the horizon. I crammed shoulder to shoulder with the others, behind the laser fence. No one jostled too closely, respectful of the deadly nature of the boundary between us and them. We were not allowed to stand on that pristine beach they floated so easily above; we could only look at it. We were not allowed to touch the gentle waves rolling up the beach. That was reserved for them. The message they wanted us to believe was that nothing that beautiful could be evil. They lied. “Cheer,” the sergeant-at-arms ordered. “Cheer for the lords and the...

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