cheesy cartman

Countdown: Two Days Till GRAPEMO

A solitary space.

Phone turned off and tucked out of sight.

Coffee, tea, or soda at hand...maybe a bowl of munchies.

Soft background music...or sweet silence.

A dog, a cat, or slippers on your feet.

Peace and quiet.

Endless hours.

Endless words.

Sounds lovely, doesn't in? Unfortunately this is the reality most writers face:

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Jeez. What's with Jack? All she did was offer him a sandwich!!!

But Jack didn't want a sandwich. Jack wanted to write. OK, he didn't have to be such an ass. But seriously, people, non-writers don't get it. Some family members especially don't get it.

So here goes:

Dear Family-Members-Who-Don't-Get-It:

I love you. But I need to write.

I can't imagine life without you. But I need to write.

You know I'd do anything in the world for you.

But not right now.


So the answer is "no" to whatever you're asking, unless you're asking me if I'd like a couple hours of uninterrupted silence.



Writers, learn to say NO. GRAPEMO is your month to shine. There are 365 days in the year. All you're asking is to have 28 of them for yourself. Unreasonable? No way.

Now I highly doubt anyone here will forget to feed their kids. But when your family members expect you to jump, instead of asking "How high?" remain firmly seated, hands on the keyboard, eyes straight ahead. Write away from home if there's any way to swing it. If not, stick to your guns. YOU DESERVE THIS TIME! Don't let anyone talk you out of the few precious hours, or even minutes, you've set aside for yourself.


Shine on, my friends.
grape bunch


Yes, writer friends, it's time for GRAPEMO! This year we're trying something a bit different.

Well, okay. A LOT different.

This year's GRAPEMO will be on FACEBOOK. I've come to this decision because:

1. The vast majority of former Grapenuts hang out there anyway
2. Updates and teasers can be sumbitted directly there rather than all of us depending on messages and e-mails
3. A lot of old friends are no longer on LJ--but they are on FB, so it makes sense to me
4. A chance to make NEW friends who share your passion for writing!

Our GRAPEMO 2015 FACEBOOK PAGE will be a "closed" group, meaning you have to hustle on over there and request to join. This is to keep out the wackos if you haven't already guessed.

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Not a wacko? Want to get some SERIOUS WRITING done? WELCOME TO GRAPEMO 2015!

Below I've listed the usual GRAPEMO guidelines, with a few changes to fit the FB format. These are also posted over on FB.

What GRAPEMO is:
1. One full month of writing/revising/editing/outlining/world-building/illustrating/and/or anything else you need to accomplish.
2. Runs from February 1st through February 28th.
3. An exercise in discipline without the mandatory word count of NaNoWriMo
4. FUN!

What GRAPEMO isn't:
1. A race or a contest.
2. A month-long life destroyer.
3. Goals set in stone.
4. A critique board.

PERSONAL WRITING GOAL: Your PWG can be anything you want it to be. A certain number of words to either a brand new story or something you’re already working on. Finishing up a current project. Revisions or edits. A short story, a synopsis, an outline, or even a legible query letter. It’s whatever you want it to be—and the best thing is, as time marches on and you realize there’s no way you’re going to reach your original goal (life, as we know it, often gets in our way), then feel free to change it. All I want is for you to be actively working on something, for 4 weeks, with a solid plan to achieve a realistic goal.


1. Sometime between now and January 31st, please START YOUR OWN POST and describe your Personal Writing Goal for the month of February.
2. Once GRAPEMO begins, once a week we will send out a reminder to add what you’ve accomplished over the previous week. Again, you can START YOUR OWN POST to describe your progress. At that time, if you feel you need to revise your goal, you can add that to your post. Please try to get these in on the day due, otherwise there will be random update posts all over the board.
3. Remember not to post your goals or your updates in any comment sections. They will not be seen.


This is the fun part! In fact, even though this is not a contest by any stretch of the imagination, each time you post a “teaser” of your current project, you’ll automatically be entered into a random drawing for a $25 gift card for Amazon or Barnes & Noble. One teaser, one chance…five teasers, five chances…you get it. :)

1. Post your teaser on TUESDAYS and THURSDAYS. You may start your own posts—they will automatically drop down under the pinned post labeled TEASERS. Teasers posted on other days will not be counted. Again, no teasers in any comment sections of any posts.
2. You may post up to 300 words, give or take. Please try not to go the limit.
3. Please include a title in your post.
4. Remember that whatever you post may be visible to anyone.
5. Everyone is free to comment on a teaser; however, it is imperative NOT to critique this work. Posting teasers is a way to get (especially new) writers used to sharing their work with strangers, not to subject it to unsolicited criticism.

The TEASERS are absolutely the best part of this, so don't be shy!



It seems quite a few folks have moved their blogs over to

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So I decided to give WordPress one more shot myself.


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Seriously, WordPress peeps--can anyone there (without a free account) tell me how to change the frickin' font? Apparently it's impossible without paying for an account and/or buying a particular theme (not sure which one) and I'm not paying for something I'm not even sure I'll use because A. I'm not crazy about learning a new system, and B. my blogging history has been dismal to non-existent. Besides, I'm already paying for this one. :p

The font, of course, isn't the only reason I don't like WP. I'm not equipped to deal with the learning curve. I've spent weeks and weeks trying to create a blog (and I don't even want to think what's involved in moving this one over there) and, frankly, my soul has been sucked dry. WP doesn't like me much, either. WP, in fact, seems to hate my royal guts and has proven it over and over and over again. I've tried to make amends. Really. I have.

Now this is what I'd like to do to WP:

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BUT as GRAPEMO is coming up on February 1st (and this year we'll probably do it on Facebook, which MAY be easier once I figure out the logistics) I decided I'd better show up for my own party.
movie film

Oscar Night

If you missed it, trust me: You didn't miss much.

8:30 Glad to see Ellen back after the last few host duds! I LOVE YOU, ELLEN! You look gorgeous.

8:34 OK, so far really baaad teeth and plastic surgery in that audience… Not naming names.

8:38 Ellen’s razzing folks in the audience. Semi-funny.

8:40 Anna Hathaway: Same hairstyle as Ellen. Best supporting actor nominees. Major applause for Jared Leto.

8:42 Jared Leto WON for Dallas Buyers Club. I don’t remember him being that particular shade of orange in My So-Called Life. Red bow tie.

8:44 I only have two Red Vines left. WTF?

8:46 Jim Carrey. Black bow tie. Not funny, blah, blah. Animation clips. Yawn. Tuxes really should be BLACK.

8:50 Kerry Washington introduced Pharrell (sp?) Williams singing “Happy.”

8:52 I’m bored. “I want everybody to get up!” he yells. I don’t think so. This song is MONOTONOUS.

8:53 One Red Vine left. Commercial.

8:56 Samuel L. Jackson and Naomi Watts. Costume design nominees. Winner: Catherine Martin for The Great Gatsby. Didn’t see it. Acceptance speech in her bra. Crazy eyes.

8:59 Nominees for makeup and hairstyling. Winner: Dallas Buyers Club. Adruitha Lee and Robin Matthews. So true what she said about today’s generation not understanding “AIDS 85.”

9:02 Grandpa Harrison Ford talking (with a lot of help from a teleprompter) about some of the best pic nominees. Clips of the films.

9:05 Channing Tatum introducing, um, a bunch of people…. (???)

9:06 Commercial break. Funny how standing out in my driveway, smoking in the dark in subzero temperature, seems much more interesting than watching this show. Is it me? Is it really this boring?

9:08 Still one Red Vine left…

9:10 Ellen’s gave scratch-off lottery tickets to Bradley Cooper.

9:11 Matthew McConaughey and…I missed it. Someone with BAAAAD plastic surgery and possibly laryngitis. I will have to Google it. Best animated short film. Winner: Mr. Hublot.

9:13 Very emotional acceptance speech. Missed the guys’ names, sorry.

9:14 Best animated feature film. Winner: Frozen.

9:16 (ok, I Googled it…that was FREAKING KIM NOVAK!)

9:17 SALLY FIELD! Salute to ordinary everyday heroes (as portrayed in film)…Harvey Milk, Erin Brockovich, William Wallace…wait, Atticus Finch? I thought these were “real” people…

9:20 Emma Watson and Joseph Gordon Levitt (oh he is so cute). Best visual effects. Winner: Gravity. Can't catch all the people’s names so I’m just naming the movies now.

9:23 Zac Efron can’t read the teleprompter. Karen O singing song from Her. Simon Cowell would shit a brick. Throw her a fish.

9:26 Commercial break. I hope I make it through this thing. Oh, cute Muppet commercial!

9:28 LOLOLOL Tina Fey commercial—“A dinges ate my baby!” How sad is it that I’m enjoying the commercials more than the show?

9:29 Kate Hudson (looking amazing!) and Jason Sudeikis. Best live action short film. Winner: Helium.

9:33 Best documentary short subject. Winner: The Lady in Number Six: Music Saved My Life. A brown velvet (?) jacket with a black tie??? I would NOT let my husband accept an award in that getup.

9:36 Ellen wants to order pizza. I want this show to pick up some speed. Bradley Cooper—best documentary feature. Winner: Twenty Feet From Stardom.

9:38 Just realized I have seen none of anything that was nominated for anything.

9:39 Darlene Love belting out “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Black lace dress on over what looks like a white slip. Just saying…

9:40 Kevin Spacey. Honorary Oscars to Angela Lansbury (88 years old, working on London stage), Steve Martin, some guy I missed looking for my last Red Vine, and humanitarian award to Angelina Jolie.

9:44 Commercial break.

9:48 Ewan MacGregor and a tired-looking Viola Davis. Best Foreign Language film. Winner: The Great Beauty (Italy) Nothing much more sexy than an Italian accent. 

9:51 Tyler Perry talking about best pic nominee Nebraska and Gravity with clips.

9:54 Ellen changed her clothes and introduces Brad Pitt…who looks CLEAN for once.

9:55 U2 singing “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Standing ovation. So far the highlight of the show. This song should win. It won’t. It’ll be “Let It Go” because of the controversy.

9:58 Commercial. No more Red Vines. Hot pipes. Guzzling water.

10:01 Ellen’s taking s selfie with Meryl, Jennifer, Bradley, etc.

10:04 Michael B Jordan and Kristen Bell, blabbing about miscellaneous award (scientific and technical.)

10:06 Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. Chris’s suit coat’s too tight. And ugly! Charlize has clear plastic straps holding up her gown. Best sound mixing. Winner: Gravity.

10:09 Best sound editing. Winner: Gravity again. Sandra Bullock, in the audience, looks like a million bucks!

10:11 Christoph Waltz. Best actress in a supporting role. Winner: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave. The girl is in shock!  And tears. “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.”

10:21 Pizza delivered. Seriously. Ellen is hanging out slices with the delivery guy.

10:23 Cheryl Boone (whoever that is) yawn yawn yawn I have NOOOOO idea what you are blathering about….zzzzzz.

10:25 Amy Adams and Bill Murray. OMG, Bill? Is that you? Best in cinematography. Winner: Gravity. Again.

10: Emma Roberts and Gabourey Sidibe. Best film editing. Winner: Gravity agaaaain!

10:32 Whoopi Goldberg (with striped stockings and ruby slippers) introduces Liza Minnelli and Joey and Lorna Luft; 75th anniversary of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Liza does kind of look like she's impersonating herself. Hey, I didn't say it first...Ellen insinuated it.

10:35 Pink singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with scenes from The Wizard of Oz playing. (That red sequined dress must weigh 40 pounds…oh, and don’t bend over, Pink.) Beautiful tribute!

10:38 Commercial

10:42 Ellen dressed as GLINDA! LOL

10:43 Jennifer Garner and Benedict Cumberbatch. Best production design: (I bet it’ll be “Gravity… ) ………………………waiting……………………OMG The Great Gatsby! LOL—NOT Gravity for a change. Crazy Eyes is back to accept….

10:46 Chris Evans (whoever that is). Clips from a bunch of movies but I missed what he said. (Oh, my daughter says “hero tribute.”) Alien, Indiana Jones, etc.

10:48 Bored and tired. Commercial break.

Q10:53 Glenn Close dressed in…black. Fitting, I guess, for a tribute to those who passed this year, including James Gandolfini, Karen Black, Tom Laughlin, Carmen Zapata, Hal Needham, Eileen Brennan, Paul Walker, Deanna Durbin, Elmore Leonard, Annette Funicello, Peter O’Toole, Sid Caesar, Roger Ebert, Shirley Temple, Joan Fontaine, Juanita Moore, Harold Ramis, Eleanor Parker, Julie Harris, Maximillian Schell, Richard Matheson, Esther Williams, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

10:58 Bette Midler singing “Wing Beneath My Wings.” Nice surprise. Standing ovation.

11:02 Commercial. Big stuff should be coming up…

11:04 Ellen says their selfie crashed Twitter.

11:05 OMG—Goldie Hawn! Or wait…is it Kim Novak again? I CAN’T TELL!!!! Talking about 12 Years a Slave Captain Phillips and Philomena. The real Philomena is actually in the audience, which is pretty cool.

11:08 John Travolta introducing “Let it Go” from Frozen.

11:09 Idina Menzel singing “Let it Go.”

11:12 Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel. Best music score…you guessed it…Gravity.

11:16 Best song: “Let It Go.” I KNEW IT!!!

11:22 Ellen’s passing the hat to collect money to pay for the pizza.

11:23 Robert DeNiro and Penelope Cruz. “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing…” I wish I could type fast enough to get the whole quote. It was awesome! Something about “soul crushing inadequacy.” Best Adapted Screenplay. Winner: John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave. Best Original Screenplay. Winner: Spike Jonze for Her.

11:31 Angelina Jolie and Sidney Portier. Best Director. Winner: Alfonso Cuaron for...wait for it...Gravityagain.

11:42 Daniel Day Lewis. Best Actress. Winner: Cate Blanchette for Blue Jasmine. Wow, she is all one color--hair, skin, dress. Kind of matches the statuette.

11:46 I would've bought TWO packs of Red Vines if I'd known this would go on till midtnight.

11:47 Cate is still blabbing! Oy.

11:48 Jennifer Lawrence, gorgeous in red, and no, didn't trip this time. Best Actor. I hope Bruce Dern wins, just because he never has. And he is old elderly ancient getting up in years.

11:51 Waiting....waiting....  Nope, it's Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club.

11:42 (Just noticed that everyone in the audience looks orange!)

11:55 Will Smith announcing--at last--Best Picture!

And the Oscar goes to ... (please not effen Gravity again) ...

...12 Years a Slave.

Every time someone says "Steve McQueen" I think--wait, he's dead!

Overall impression: Not worth staying up for. I still miss Billy Crystal.

Grapemo 2014 TEASER DRAWING *drumroll*

And the Winner

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(Basket of names)

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(Impartial hand--not mine, lol--drawing a name)

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Thanks to everyone who was brave enough to share your work with us. I hope to see many of you back here next year!

GRAPEMO 2014 is over. Your stories, on the other hand, will be with you 24/7. Whenever possible, make every month a GRAPEMO month--and always remember:

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Grapemo 2014 Day 28: FINALE!

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That is so often true. And there is nothing like support from other writers to motivate us to make time for our writing. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!

Here are the total monthly updates. If any of you sent one in and don't see your name on this list, please let me know. Or...if you didn't send's not too late to be added.


Akoss "As of today I've revised a total of six chapters this month.It's been great challenging myself to get something done even if it's not exactly what I planned at the beginning."

another_wip "TOTAL for GrapeMo.... lots and lots of edits, but for the stuff that really mattered: 11K on Khyr. Not all chapter words, but all necessary. And the end is in sight. It was a wonderful GrapeMo and as always I am thankful for the opportunity to take part. Thank you for doing this year after year."

edgyauthor "I completed nine strips for my webcomic, exceeding my original goal!"

fandoria "This week has basically threatened to be the death of me schedule-wise, but I did sneak in about 15 minutes to scribble in my notebook Wed night in between finishing setting up for an event and the time said event started.

"As for the month as a whole... I didn't manage to write for two hours every week (especially the last half) like I wanted, however, thanks to an abundance of free time in the first half of the month, I made awesome progress. The rest of the time, I had to learn to find spare moments here and there to steal. Good thing I always carry a notebook with me. So this month, I wrote 1 1/2 scenes and plotted out several more. Overall, I'm pretty happy with my Grapemo accomplishments."

Jenni: "I didn't quite meet my goal for the month, but close. I completed writing Dimensions, and have begun work on the final edits. Nearly halfway through! Extended planned release date for March 11."

Mialie S "Progress Report for the month:
~ Finished original goal of doing the layout for the Puppy Tails Book Two manuscript
~ Added an additional goal of doing the layout for Book Three and finished that
~ Continued publishing articles in the newspaper including the 71st and 72nd editions of "Puppy Tails", two wedding articles, and other misc.
~ Continued graphic design assignments for my city and the library where I work
~ Wrapped up the month in kid-lit fashion by knocking out nearly 1,000 new words of "Puppy Tails" Monday morning. I usually hate Mondays, but that one started out well."

newport2newport "This month has been great for introspection and revision. I've finally--FINALLY--figured out the structural issues in the first several chapters, and am fixing them. It's been time-consuming, but in the long run, I believe the time I spent tearing things apart and reassembling them (rinse, repeat) will inform the revision process for later chapters. Onward! And thanks again for hosting GRAPEMO. I love the focused energy & appreciate everyone's support."

onegrapeshy "I switched my goal in them middle of GRAPEMO from 50 pages to 25. I did manage, amazingly, to make it to 38. I can't tell you how much i appreciate everyone's enthusiasm, diligence, and moral support. It's been a GREAT WRITING MONTH! xox"

Patti M "For the month I am thrilled that I have 14 queries out for my YA sci if, a great start to my YA paranormal, and a couple of extra things. I wrote and submitted 3 articles for a travel magazine and started researching castle architecture for
the setting of my paranormal. I'm thrilled with grapemo and I would definitely do it again!"

Sher T "As of today for the month of February, I have written 46,103 new words and edited a complete 80,612 manuscript, as well as started edits on a second manuscript. Come on March GrapeMo! Thanks Jen. Hugs to all."

swhisted "I only added 7,922 words to Dreamsters (of the 10K I'd hoped to add). I guess if you count the 2K in plotting I wrote, I could technically say I pretty much met my goal, but I don't really mind my total as it stands either. It's far more than the month before, I closed up all the holes in the story, and I'm so close to the end now. It's hard to be mad at any of that."

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Grapemo 2014: BIG REMINDER

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Total monthly updates are due by midnight EST tomorrow (Thursday) night for posting on Friday. Feel free to add any comments when you send them in.

Also on Friday, every Teaser sent in this month with be thrown into a pot for a drawing! The winner will receive TWO prizes:

1. Your choice of one of these:

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2. Also a signed copy of one of my novels: THE UNQUIET, SAY THE WORD, or BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN. Your pick, of course. Smiley

In the meantime, GOOD LUCK! I hope you reach your goals--and, if you don't, I hope you can say that you wrote much more this month than you might've written without GRAPEMO.

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Grapemo 2014 Day 26: Wednesday Inspiration--Embrace Your Inner Weasel

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Here he is: The Plot Weasel.

You know him well.

Worse, he knows you--and he knows your story.

He plagues you in your sleep. He haunts you when you're awake. Often he's the number one reason you close out your file, sink back in your chair, and think: I can't do this.

He's an insidious dude, often popping up when you least expect it. I mean, you've been hammering out dozens, even hundreds of words a day. You're loving this story. You're on a freaking roll and feel nothing can stop you.

Then it hits you, that niggling feeling, like the tapping of claws or the nibbling of sharp teeth at the base of your spine:


A screw-up in your timeline.

Your main character's voice doesn't sound "right."

The "Z" in your story can't possibly happen because the already-written "X" and "Y" makes that impossible.

You realize a key point you used, based on your own limited knowledge, is totally false; now, what comes after simply doesn't ring true.

One of your favorite scenes/characters/subplots suddenly has no place in your ms; because it kills you to let it go, you waste time and energy trying to make it fit in.

Suddenly your whole manuscript strikes you as a big pile of crap. You're ready to trash the whole thing.

One word: DON'T.

As much as all of us despise the Plot Weasel, he serves a great purpose. He points out the flaws in your story, whether they're massive plot holes or smaller (yet no less important) issues. Yes, we hate him. We hate him because he disrupts the rhythm of our writing. We hate him because he makes us take a critical second or third, sometimes tenth or eleventh, look at our project, when all we really want to do is just finish the story, have people read it and love it, and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

As annoying as the Plot Weasel is, though--can you imagine what terrible writers we'd be without him?

Writers Digest has a great article: 10-Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems. Check it out!

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You win, FB friends: A "real" weasel.  :)
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Grapemo 2014 Day 25 FINAL TEASERS!!!

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Elaine H

“I demand to speak to a manager this instant.”

A sixty year old woman with a bad red hair dye job and blue mascara caked above her beady little eyes towered over Rachel Ehler at the San Francisco Totally Five Star Hotel concierge desk. Hoping to be manager one day and head of the concierge desk in the much nearer future, Rachel practiced her friendliest, most sympathetic smile. “Perhaps I can be of assistance.”

The woman looked down her long, patrician nose at Rachel. Her nostrils flared as her ruby red lips thinned and her demon black eyes narrowed. “Read my lips, young woman. I don’t need you, I need the manager.”

“Yes, Ma’am. But of course.” With slightly shaky fingers Rachel phoned Barry Lambert, her manager and long time friend. She feared the dragon lady was ready to breathe enough fire any second to incinerate her. When Barry answered she asked in her sweetest voice, “Please come to the concierge desk immediately, Mr. Lambert. A guest requests your assistance.”

Barry sighed as if he was cross, and why shouldn’t he be in the midst of one of the toughest weeks ever in the hotel’s history? “I’m in the middle of a crisis here. Please handle it.”

“Sir, she is demanding to speak to you. She refuses to speak the Concierge.”

Rachel smiled at the guest even though the woman continued to shoot deadly glares at her. When a group of other furry guests passed by and jostled the woman, her glower became an open-mouthed gawk. When a cat and a griffin pantomimed having anal sex across the lobby, she paled and pointed at the pair. “That is precisely what I want to see the manager about! How can you condone such behavior in a public place?”

Rachel did her best to hold back a grimace and keep her smile in place as she watched the couple rubbing groin to ass in the lobby. The fates must be having a hearty laugh that they’d booked the Southern Coalition of Baptists convention the same week as a Furry Con.

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They gave them nothing to eat at night fall. Nothing.

Yawa would’ve given anything to have a sandwich or even the crappiest burger ever. Anything with meat she wanted right there and then. It never came. She lost interest in her doodling. Tried to escape in her dreams but her cage mates made her way too uncomfortable to truly fall asleep.

A sharp pain jerked her out of her semi state of sleep. She looked around to face the most hideous old lady she’d ever seen in her life. Yawa was prepared to lash out but everything she could possibly think of only got bundled up behind her lips as she could do nothing but stare at the old lady.
The lights at the camp didn’t make it easy to see the old woman properly. Her nose was big and fat. She must’ve been missing some teeth because of her misshaped jaw. Her hair though was stark white against her wrinkled skin. Something horrifying caught Yawa’s gaze. The old lady had a lock of her hair twisted around her bony fingers.

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Patti M

“Trey!” I squeezed my eyes shut tighter as I heard my mom calling me, hoping to stay in the swirling smoked-filled cave longer.

I don’t know where I am but I want to stay here.

But it slipped away. Or maybe I slipped away from it. I don’t know which but I knew what I heard wasn’t a dream. It was really my mom, and I was really bouncing around in the back of our car.

Peeking out from the slits that were my eyes, I saw sun shining through tree limbs at the top of long trunks. My eyes widened, adjusting to the brightness. I noticed the line of tall trees on each side of the car, without preparing myself for what stood at the end of the gravel drive.

My mom turned around to glance at me, making sure I was awake. I nodded at her. My sister, still bobbing and weaving to the beats pounding into her ears, gazed around the grounds.

I didn’t notice the building until my sister spoke breathlessly. “Wow. It”s nicer than the pics.”

Mom turned again and smiled at me, no doubt sizing up my reaction to the castle. But, my focus moved from her to the structure, as the car inched into a parking place somewhat above the castle’s foundation.

My eyes darted from one rooftop to another, trying to take it all in. But I couldn’t. There was just too much; too much in front of me and too much in my head. That was some dream…and one pretty girl. Sure like to meet her.

Round turrets shot into the sky from one end to another, and pointed towers; so many pointed towers. Part of it was brick and part of it stone, along with off-white stucco and wood trim painted a drab red. It looked cool…weirdly huge, but cool. It wasn’t my home, never would be, but I couldn’t deny it was cool.

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It’s not visiting hours yet, but they made an exception for me. The cops are still there, two of them, posted outside my sister’s room.

Larissa’s sitting up in bed, a breakfast tray in front of her. The IV is out, the oxygen is gone, and a clean bandage covers her neck. Mrs. Desai lets me go in alone.

“Hi,” I say.


We look at each other. I think I should hug her, but we’re not that kind of sisters. Awkwardly I sit down on the edge of a chair and watch her tap a plastic spoon on a mound of red Jell-O.

“Are you okay?” I finally ask. “Like, when can you come home?”

“Home?” She looks at me like I’m nuts. “What home, Kat? You think I want to go back there?”

“Well…” I haven’t thought that far ahead, but she’s absolutely right. How can we go back and live in that house? Live there by ourselves, without Mom and Dad?

“Where are you?” she asks, still tapping that spoon. The Jell-O quivers, a bloody blob

"At Pooja’s.”

“So, like, will that be forever?” Tap, quiver. Tap, quiver. “You think they'll adopt you?”

“Will you stop it with that spoon?”

The spoon stills.

“I saw the news last night," I tell her. "They said you know who did it.”

Larissa pushes the rolling tray away. She pulls her pillow out from behind her and hugs it to her chest. “No, I don’t.”

“They said you gave them a name.”

“Why were you watching the news? Are you sick?” She points to the TV on the wall, the dangling cord. “The nurse freaking disconnected mine. I can’t watch a thing. I just sit here and stare at the walls, and talk to cops, and…” Her voice breaks. Tears squirt. “I should’ve died, too. I wish I’d died, too.”

“No you don’t,” I say, which is a stupid thing to say because if she says that’s how she feels, it’s probably how she feels and who am I to say it’s not?

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Mialie S

Pushing some of the larger ones into the very back of the shed, the floppy-eared puppy used his nose to gently guide them into position. Pretty soon nearly half of the stash spread in now-neat stacks on the grassy green of the lawn, but as Doodle Dog feared, the space inside the deep dark shed was now quite bright with all the pretty boxes, leaving little room for the rest that still had to find a place.

It was time to get creative, so the curious floppy-eared puppy continued to poke his nose around the smallest of crevices to figure out this puzzle in front of him. The different shaped boxes with their vibrantly-colored tags arranged just so reminded Doodle Dog of a game he’d seen the little kids playing on the computers at the library. Eyeing up an empty space, he chose another box nearby that looked like it just MIGHT fit, and rotated it this way and that way until… it… DID!

The space was now so tight that Doodle Dog had to back his way out of the shed and in the process backed right up into a wall of boxes. The wall didn’t even seem to attempt to block his path though as he backed right through it, pushing one of the lower boxes right through with him. Doodle Dog looked up and tilted his head to one side, surveying the scene. The trembling boxes on the top of the tower reminded Doodle Dog of a game he’d seen adults play on the tables in the park. It was very important that the top boxes not fall over or the game was over! Thinking of the project as a puzzle or a game would help Doodle Dog have some of his afternoon fun even earlier than expected, so the floppy-eared puppy figured out how to turn his work time into playtime and before he knew it, the job was done!

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