Excerpt from Prodigies

Here’s a section of the WIP I’m editing:

I peered in at the window of the restaurant and breathed a sigh of relief. The restaurant appeared both large and informal, two pluses when it came to secluding ourselves, I hoped. Golden hearth tiles accented the white walls, and pale, warm wood covered the floor, giving the place a rustic look. A small uproar greeted us at the door, its source the lively customers who took up two-thirds of the tables. Did Poles ever sleep? I wondered, realizing there would be no need for 24-hour pierogi places if they did.

Ichirou murmured anxiously, “Do you think they could find us here?” With those few words, Ichirou reminded me of the gunshots, the escape, the danger we were in.

Just then, we heard the sirens, playing a distinctly different tune than American sirens, heading in the direction of Palac Pugetow.

The hostess, middle-aged and plump with that pale Polish skin, seated us in the dining room — a large one with probably forty-some tables — toward the back as we requested. She looked at us with a brittle smile. “Do your parents know you’re out, young man?” she piped. If only she knew the reason of our outing.

“No, ma’am,” Ichirou piped up. “But it’s okay. She’s my babysitter.”

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I felt my face go red, because now the waitress was scrutinizing the both of us. “That’s good,” she said brightly.

As she exited, I scowled at the menu. “This menu is all in Polish, and I think it would take forever to translate it all.”

“Just translate the names,” Ichirou shrugged. “I translate English to Japanese and back all the time.” And with that, he had shifted from a child to the wise for his years twelve-year-old.

I picked a random item and pulled out my cell phone. “Krakow Misalliance,” I sighed. “Wasn’t that the turning point in World War I?”

“Did you just make a joke?” Ichirou scrutinized me with widened eyes.

“I think so. It’s the stress.” And the fact that, facing the front of the restaurant, I found myself watching every moment for Second World muscle.

Some fifteen minutes later, a waiter, older with reddish hair pulled in a ponytail and the grace of a ballet dancer, stepped up to our table to take our order. Ichirou muttered at me, “Wait. We don’t have any money.”

“Yes we do. Don’t worry about it,” I hissed back. “I’d like the venison pierogi,” I addressed the waiter.

“I highly recommend the Krakow Misalliance,” the waiter nodded, his English charmingly accented. Unlike the people on the street, he seemed unfazed by the Asian boy in the presence of a black woman at an impossible time in the morning.

“If you know English, why didn’t you bring English menus?” I groused.
The man shot me an angelic grin. “Because you didn’t ask.”

I almost laughed despite my banked terror. “I’ll have venison pierogi. And water to drink,” I told the obliging server.

“Still or sparkling?” the waiter smiled.

“I get a choice? I’ll have sparkling,” I replied.

“I’d like cabbage pierogi with tea,” Ichirou decided.

The waiter strolled away, and I hoped he wouldn’t chat about the obvious foreigners at the back table.

Ichirou interrogated me after the waiter had left. “How did you come up with money?” He studied me through his steel-framed glasses.

“I’m 17. I’ve been handling my own finances since last year. I have a credit card.”

“As a high school student?” Ichirou peered over his nerd glasses at me.

“As a trust fund baby.” I peered back at the youngster.

Ichirou pulled out his phone and tapped on the screen. “Trust fund baby?” He scrutinized the screen, then nodded.

“My parents died and left me money. I’m an emancipated minor. By all definitions an adult. I sued to get control of my money and won.” I could taste the bitterness of that fact on my tongue.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ichirou murmured.

“It’s complicated. I spent most of my life at residential schools. Music schools. I never really knew my parents as Mom and Dad.” I caught myself remembering Ichirou’s animation that made me cry, that feeling of being loved.

“That’s strange,” Ichirou replied. He paused for a moment, then spoke slowly, as if trying to piece things together. “I spent time in a boarding school, too. I knew almost nobody but Ayana. That’s why I made that animation; I needed unconditional love in my life.”

Before I could reply, the waiter came back with our drinks. Ichirou scrutinized his cup of hot water with a teabag beside it, frowning. My water came in a bottle with bubbles.

“Are you sure you don’t want the Krakow Misalliance?” the waiter smiled, reaching toward an invisible lock of hair and then stopping. “It takes a while to cook, though. Your pierogis will be out in a minute.” He wandered off, and I noted that he glanced over his shoulder at the door.

I glanced at the door again, and thankfully I didn’t see any beefy men striding through. “Do you think they’re going to find us here?”

“Hard to tell.” Ichirou took a sip of the tea brewing in his cup. “This is tea?”
“The rest of the world drinks tea just like this, Ichirou,” I smirked, then sobered.

Ichirou took a deep breath. “What happened back there? At the Palace?”
“I think they want people with talents. Not talents like mine, but talents like yours. Like what you knew would happen when I watched your video.” I remembered the feeling of peace, of unconditional love, and thought about how it could manipulate people in the wrong hands, like hypnotists could do by inducing relaxation. Only much more so. I felt angry again.

“I didn’t know for sure my program could do that,” Ichirou responded. “I thought it might. But I had to know, because it was important.”

“You tested that on me without knowing what it would do?” I hissed just as the waiter came by with our plates. Ichirou gave me a warning look.

“Venison pierogis for you,” the waiter handed me my plate with a dancer’s grace, “and cabbage pierogis for the vegetarian. Let me know if you need anything.” The waiter walked off, glancing over his shoulder again.

“So you think they’re after me because of my animation skills,” Ichirou conjectured between bites.

“Not your skills,” I whispered to him. “Whatever it is you do that makes people want to smile. Or whatever you want them to do.”

“Oh. What do they want with the others, then? With you?”

Good question, and not one I’d been able to answer. “Nastka — Anastasja — I overheard her talking to Matusiak about practicing something. Did you notice that Dominika did not mention her talent in the introductions? And the twins acted like they had contact with this bunch before, and they looked terrified.” I remembered the white faces of the children and their mother, and I remembered the gunshots as we fled the building, and wondered what their resistance had cost them. “As for me, my only talent is music; I don’t have a talent like they’re looking for.”

“We’ll see,” Ichirou responded, rubbing his chin. “You’re here.”

Staying Positive

I deleted my last entry because it was not very positive. I was writing about the querying process, and like many others who have gone through the process, I was dwelling on past rejections and declaring failure before anyone even read my queries.

For those of you who are not writers, querying is a formalized process for authors to court potential agents. The author assembles a packet according to the agent’s instructions, which usually includes a biography, a cover letter, and an excerpt to a book. Other things might be asked for, like comp (comparable) titles, a pitch (a one line teaser for the book) or “where do you get your ideas?”

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To query, one must become accustomed to rejection. It is certainly not recommended to those with tender feelings or those without a growth mindset. Even now that I’ve done this before, my optimism is tempered with a cautious self-protection.

I have sent out 10 queries for the book Prodigies, which is a New Adult contemporary fantasy. I have revised this book a great deal from the first time, having learned more about the shape of a novel.

Wish me luck.

What I Did Today

I’m writing late today mostly because I got sick this morning. It’s a work-at-home day, and I’ve been working at home between trips to the bathroom. I’ll take my temp in a few minutes to see if I should worry.

However, I also wrote a synopsis for Prodigies, a novel I feel compelled to query because of the change of branding from fantasy to New Adult fantasy. It fits better there because it’s kind of a coming of age novel, with the teen protagonist having to navigate uncomfortable truths about her life.

Here’s the synopsis:

Grace Silverstein, an eighteen-year-old viola prodigy at a prestigious high school for the arts, flies to Poland to participate in an international assembly. Her hosts, including Dominika Wojcik and her young daughter Anastasja, plan to kidnap and coerce the prodigies under a flimsy mask of hospitality. Grace discovers that one prodigy, Ichirou Shimizu, has a preternatural talent for manipulating moods through his graphic designs. When the evening banquet takes on menacing undertones, Grace finds a friend and protector in Lord Mayor Przemyslaw Przybyszewski, who helps Grace and Ichirou escape from the hotel. With the help of a small handful of strangers, find an all-night pierogi place to hide in. Ichirou’s chaperone, Ayana Hashimoto, smuggles the two out of the country with the help of her mysterious accomplice. On their journey cross-Europe, Grace finds Ayana disturbing and Ichirou cute and annoying, and everyone seems to be keeping secrets. The three part ways at Copenhagen, and Grace dodges the hosts’ accomplices with the help of Ayana’s secret partner, Grzegorz Koslowski, another talented person who played most of the helpful strangers. He protects her until she catches her flight home.

Back in the US, Grace’s ordeal becomes a memory as she clings to her alma mater and takes a gap year before college. Then Ichirou and Ayana arrive from Japan to warn Grace that the foreign agents from her trip to Poland, as well as Homeland Security, close in on Grace and her compatriots. They fight with the vice president and president of the school, Estelle DeWinter and Beau Boren until they release Grace from her job with the school. Startled by the news and by Ichirou’s transformation into a tall, handsome teen, Grace has no idea why anyone pursues her, as she has no talent like Ichirou does. She goes with Ayana and Ichirou anyhow.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

While on the run, the three find refuge in a cabin secured by Grzegorz, who Ayana has not yet met; Grace will not reveal his identity.  Ichirou helps Grace discover her own talent of manipulating emotions through her beloved music. Grace realizes that she has always sensed her talent, but that the acknowledgment of her ability leaves her in doubt as to the ethics behind her augmented performances. Eventually, on the way back from Lakeview to copy music for Grace to practice her talent with, the three are ambushed by a sharpshooter who shoots Grace in the chest. Grzegorz heals her, revealing his dramatic talent, and Grace is left to ponder the miracle that brought her back to life. Ichirou helps her cope by making a soothing graphics video which helps her sleep – but brings her into the space she found when she was dying. When she has recovered enough, Grace and the others discuss the costs of using their talents too often, to discover that Grace and Ichirou endanger themselves if they use their talents too much.

The four – Ayana, Ichirou, Grzegorz (called Greg) and Grace – now are on the run again. They go to an empty cafe, where they access a working group on the Dark Web with Greg’s credentials. There, they are confronted by the proprietor of the café, who identifies himself as Weissrogue, a legendary white-hat hacker. He convinces Grace to use her talent on him, because he doubts that he has ever felt sad. After she does so, Greg rages at her and runs outside. Grace follows him, and he kisses her, then pushes her away, and Grace gets the impression that Greg is deeply damaged. Ichirou balks, feeling jealousy toward Greg and Grace. When looking through the site, Renaissance Theory, the group finds that the children with talents which have been carefully schooled (such as themselves) are called Renaissance Children, and that the group from Poland pursuing them, Second World Renaissance, plans to attack the United Nations during their general assembly.

Weissrogue, whose talent is luck, follows instructions from Pzybyszewski and hides the group in the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. On the way out on the ferry, however, a Homeland Security agent attempts to accost them and is stopped by Grace’s mournful song. He jumps off the side of the boat, whose personnel rescues him and holds him until evaluated by a psychiatrist. Once ashore and settled at the hotel, Grace and Ichirou venture out and find Beau Boren, who sounds like he knows about Grace’s talent; Grace gets a bad feeling about him. Ichirou and Grace return to the room to find that Ayana and Greg are in bed together. Grace runs off and Ichirou finds here and listens to her muddled feelings. Later, the four and Weissrogue deliberate whether to get involved in stopping the group behind Renaissance Theory. They decide that they will try to stop the plans for the General Assembly, with Anastasja Wojcik acting as a fire talent who will burn the assembly hall down while the others assassinate three world leaders. Second World Renaissance will use their talents’ destructive abilities to angle for Renaissance representation at the UN.

Grace and Ichirou’s talents make the centerpiece of the plan to stop the conflagration, as they both can control moods and emotions. They decide that using their gifts to stop the conflagration and murders will require they work together on video with music to be run on the screen before the Assembly while people are filing in. They meet with a record producer on Weissrogue’s list, taken from Homeland Security, of suspected talents. The record producer, William Alden, helps them create the potent video. Grace and Ichirou discover a synergy that makes them more powerful – and more connected.

Once in New York, the group puts together their strategy, which involves Greg smuggling the video loop into the audiovisual room, Ayana and Weissrogue and Grace and Ichirou creating distraction. Although this goes successfully, the Homeland Security agent pursuing them turns off the video and kidnaps Grace and Ichirou when they try to put the video on again. Once they have persuaded the agent, Walter Adams, to help them, they run into the assembly room. They find the room occupied by members of Second World Renaissance and their soldiers. Amid the chaos, Grace sings while the others try to stop the attackers. One trains his semiautomatic on Grace, and Walter Adams shoots him to death. Greg brings him back to life, and his allegiance flips. Grace’s song, amplified by Ichirou’s synergy, moves the audience to fight against the attackers, and they are overwhelmed by numbers. Greg stops Dominika and the reluctant fire talent Anastasja from setting the curtains aflame; Dominika reveals that Anastasja is his daughter.

In the aftermath, several things are revealed: Beau Boren, President of Lakeview School, is a member of the Renaissance Theory group with hopes to deliver Grace to Second World Renaissance. Estelle DeWinter knew this and was trying to protect Grace. Przemyslaw Przybyszewski has been more than Greg’s benefactor, being involved in an anti-Second World movement. Greg and Ayana finally get together when Greg finds out Ayana is carrying his baby, and Ichirou and Grace finally admit their relationship.

A Slap

So these last few weeks have been a great growth time for my writing. I have revised two out of my four novels (Whose Hearts are Mountains and Prodigies) to give more of a development of character at the beginning instead of barreling into the plot immediately. I am working on a third, Apocalypse for the same, and the fourth, Gaia’s Hands, is going to require a lot of work, especially now that I know it’s a romance novel. 

And I would never have known to do this without rejections from agents sending me to developmental editors and beta readers and books about writing. I haven’t been revising just to pay my dues; I really feel like I have a better product because of it. 

My mother once told me it took two people to paint a picture: the artist and the person who slaps the artist when they’re done. At this point, I feel like I need a slap. I need someone to read something and tell me if I’m done. 

And then, in my next set of queries, what if I don’t get accepted by an agent? What’s next? I have really no idea to be honest. I suspect it will feel like a slap in the face.

Monday Morning

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Monday morning, which seems a lot like every other day in this pandemic — I have two cats at my workstation (the corner of the loveseat in the living room), and I’m drinking coffee.

Today is work (the ordinary type where I have to grade final exams for classes) and work (the writing type where I look at what I’ve written and what it needs). I’ve done fixes on Whose Hearts are Mountains and Prodigies, and it’s time to apply it to Apocalypse.

You see, now I know what my problem is. I started right into the action and didn’t give the story its moments to develop characters and scene.  I hope I’m doing it right this time.

First Chapter from Prodigies (rewritten)

After classes for the day, I stepped out of the music building at Lakeview Academy, a private residential school for the arts. I walked quickly down the paths, through manicured lawns, past buildings dedicated to teaching written, visual, and performing arts. I walked under trees that would show their fall colors in a few weeks, past the banks of mums that gave the campus an air of nostalgia. I could walk this path with my eyes shut, as I had walked it for seven years, ever since I was a junior high student nervously clutching my viola. Instead of the scrawny, frizzy-haired biracial child I had arrived as, I had grown tall and slender, and my hair tamed and pulled behind me in glossy tight curls. I still saw both my mother and father in my looks — brown skin, deep brown eyes, a thin and fine-boned nose. 

My mother and father, however, had died when I was fifteen, in a plane crash attributed to unknown causes. I found out when Dr. Estelle DeWinter, my mentor, found me in art history class and walked me back to the office to break the bad news to me. Although I felt like I would crumble into nothing, I cried very little through it all; I sat through bewildering appointments with my parents’ lawyers and suffered two years of a guardian who threatened to pull me out of Lakeview. Only the surprising effort of Dr. DeWinter kept me in Lakeview until I became an emancipated minor at 17. 

I think I missed what could have been with my parents more than what we actually had; I spent my life in residential schools from age seven, to develop a musical talent my parents recognized as extraordinary. If I inherited anything from my parents, it was my ambition, and from my grandmama I received humility to temper it. What I claim as my own is discipline and my own inexplicable talent, a freak accident of birth.

I walked quickly toward my weekly meeting with Dr. DeWinter. I was lucky to have a mentor at Lakeview that I could identify with as one of the few black students at the arts academy. I entered the Administration Building, an austere Neoclassical Revival building from the beginning days of the academy. Inside, dark wood paneling and white walls lent a gracious, if institutional air. I went to the front office where Mary Kravitz, the secretary, stood guard behind a low partition. “I’m here for Dr. DeWinter, if she’s ready for me.”

“I’ll ring her.” I was punctual, as Dr. DeWinter had taught me. This, she said, was the most basic courtesy of a professional, no matter what accounts of divas in the news would have one believe. 
I didn’t look forward to the meeting, because I knew that I would disappoint Dr. DeWinter again. I had not applied for any colleges yet, and it was my senior year of high school.  I couldn’t explain to her or to myself why I dragged my feet except that I didn’t want to leave the familiarity of Lakeview. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself — anything but music was out of the question, but I didn’t know if I wanted to go into music performance, which was what was expected of me, or fall back on music education. Therefore, I hung back, feeling guilty in my school uniform.

“You can go back, Grace,” Mrs. Kravitz said behind her counter. She hung up the phone and stared back at her computer screen.

I turned the corner and walked down a corridor of shut office doors with their shaded glass windows showing light inside. I reached Dr. DeWinter’s office, with its hand-lettered name on the door, and knocked.

“Come in, Grace,” she announced in her voice, warm and dry like a plucked viola string. I tried to read her mood from her voice and failed. I opened the door and slipped through it, into the familiar office with its jungle of plants in the window. I sat on the wooden chair that looked like it had seen generations of students before me — even Dr. DeWinter herself — and had survived them all.

“Grace,” she said, turning to me from her wooden swivel chair. “How have you been?”

I looked at her, her straightened grey hair swept back into a bun, her oval steel-framed glasses accentuating her nearly black eyes. She was my mentor, she was the mother I had never really had in a lifetime of residential music schools, and we walked through our ritual of the past seven years. “I’m fine, Dr. DeWinter. I haven’t gotten that cold that’s going around yet.”

“Good. How are your lessons going?”

That I could smile about. “I’m currently butting heads against Paganini’s 24 Caprices. What kind of demented genius could write those?”

“Paganini did. And played them, too. What does the music say to you?”

“Impish. I mean, technically very challenging. But the feel of it is that of a little imp, darling and devilish, taunting other violinists.”

“Do you still prefer your viola to violin?” Dr. DeWinter smiled.

“I know I have to give equal time to both instruments, because there’s so little written expressly for viola, and you keep telling me I have a career ahead of me. But my viola — “ Here, I sighed. “My viola is almost like a part of me. It’s like my voice.”

“And of course you’re still getting voice lessons on the side.”

“Yes, but I think my voice will always be for me, not for the public. I have a good voice, I know, with good musicality — but I’m not Norah Jones, and that’s who I’d want to be.”

“I would agree with you there,” Dr. DeWinter said — and paused. Here came the question I didn’t want to answer. “Speaking of careers — “
I would never get away with anything with Dr. DeWinter. “I know, I know. College applications. They’re due November 1st.” I felt my stomach sink as I realized I had disappointed my mentor. “I’ve been looking on the internet, but —”

“But?” asked Dr. DeWinter, eyes boring into mine.

“I don’t know what I want. I know you’re expecting me to go into music performance, because you believe I have great potential — and I know I do. I could probably get myself into some program like Berklee or USC, but I don’t know …” Here I dithered, revealing my indecision and my discomfort at anticipating the future. I had no idea how to be an adult — not even how to budget my money, as I spent money for nothing but tuition, room and board, and the occasional concert dress. I had few clothes that were not uniforms; little contact with the outside world other than field trips to operas and plays and concerts and art exhibits, not to mention performances. I suspected real life was more complicated than that.

“I think we’ve sheltered you too much here,” Dr. DeWinter said after a long pause. “You’re almost eighteen, and you’ve been in residential schools since you were seven.” It was true; my parents had placed me in an enriched boarding school called Renaissance School for the Arts when it was clear that I was a music prodigy, and from there straight to Lakeview. 

I felt a flutter of uncertainty in my stomach as I tried to explain to Dr. DeWinter: “I want to stay here another year. Explore my options. Learn — “ I hated to admit the next part — “learn how to live on my own.”

“Most people learn how to live on their own by living on their own,” she said wryly. “I want you to try to fill out a few of those applications, at least one, within the next week. You can ask Ms. Hollis in the school counselor’s office to help you with those, you know.” 

“I know,” I sighed. “I just —”

“You really can ask for help if you need it. Being on your own doesn’t mean going it alone. Take it one step at a time.”

If only I knew what that first step was.

Later, after dinner and a string quartet rehearsal, I was back in my room. I had a room to myself, which had been part of the original arrangements for me at Lakeview. I had few belongings, as I needed few. The posters on my walls, something which would surprise most people, were superhero movie posters — Captain America, Wonder Woman, Black Panther. On a shelf were the glass menorah my father’s mother had given me, a tiara I had purchased as a joke, a stuffed-toy Siamese cat, as close to a real cat as I’d ever been able to keep, and trophies I had earned in competitions. The items that declared me a princess, a reputation I had built myself in self-defense from the microaggressions, as Dr. DeWinter called the sidelong stares and condescending conversations I often faced in the classical music world. 

I lay on my bed, surfing Facebook on my phone. Various chatters from my classmates, people I knew but didn’t really know. It was as if we lived in parallel universes. In their universes they went home for Christmas, they paired up in the halls and broke up just as quickly, and some of them risked expulsion by sneaking out to the ropes course or behind the gymnasium to have sex. I had not gone there; first, for a protective instinct I’ve always had, and second, because I was saving myself. Not for marriage, but for that career I knew I should have. 

Suddenly tears started to flow, blurring my screen. There was nobody I could talk to about this — Dr. DeWinter didn’t relate to me on this level and I didn’t want to talk to the school psychologist about it out of that same sense of self-preservation in my core. So I thought about the Paganini piece and felt ready to tackle it again.

Progress (I think)

I think I’m through the edit of Prodigies — it’s going to my in-house reader now. The edit was about two things — emotions and plotting. I hope I have those in a better place.

I guess Prodigies will go out on my next querying round, and I’m hoping the beginning now brings agents in. They should get to know the main character now. 

Now, I’m afraid, it’s time to go back to Gaia’s Hands. I would rather prune very prickly roses than go back to Gaia’s Hands, to be truthful. That book needs so much help, being the first one I wrote. It needs replotting and characterization and dilemmas and … I still don’t know if I want to start it from scratch.

I do worry because I haven’t had an idea for a new book for a while (but Whose Hearts are Mountains wasn’t that long ago, either). On the other hands, I want the existing works to be sharp, sparkly, and compelling. I hope I get closer to that.

The beginning of a novel

I got an agent rejection for Prodigies the other day (that’s been out for a while; I guess it got backlogged) with a difference: The agent explained what she found wrong with the book.

She loved the setting and the beginning descriptions, but she couldn’t get into the characters.

I looked at the novel and realized the reason she couldn’t get into the characters was that I never gave her a chance to.

The beginning of a book, according to Save the Cat methodology, should accomplish a few things: The character in her original setting before the action begins. A theme to the book. The debate where she goes on her path — but perhaps it’s the wrong path.

My book starts with the action — no chance of getting to understand Grace, no way to see Grace in her original setting, In other words, no way to identify with Grace. 

My beta reader didn’t tell me about this, which is worrisome. On the other hand, I am learning enough about the structure of novels that I can fix this (I’m fixing this right now) and hopefully I will be able to incorporate this into new novels. 

A Glimpse at my Novels (Literary Works)

Are you curious about what I’ve written?

I casually mention in this blog that I’ve written five novels and am working on getting an agent and getting published. I very seldom talk about what I’ve written. So here’s a list of my novels with synopses.

I will cover the ones that exist in the same universe first, in chronological order.

Gaia’s Hands
The odd couple of Jeanne Beaumont, biologist, and Josh Young, writer, follow a threat to Jeanne’s livelihood and a path of their own awakening talents. After calling forth a miracle at the collective Barn Swallows’ Dance, they must fight the conspirators who would destroy it — and possibly their lives. 


Laurel Smith, a woman without a past, works as a laborer at the ecocollective Barn Swallows’ Dance, unaware of her part in a 6000-year-old myth. Adam Lee is an immortal Archetype who holds the patterns which allow Han Chinese men to survive. He’s been sent on a mission to help Laurel find her legacy and bring her memories back.

An army assembles to kill Laurel to collect on a millennia-long vendetta. Laurel’s memory loss isn’t an accident, though, and three dangerous Archetypes more ancient than even Adam are determined to keep her in the dark. If Adam and Laurel can’t collect enough allies to stop the approaching army, they will build an army to wipe out all women on Earth, and with them, all future generations of humans.

Grace Silverstein, an eighteen-year-old viola prodigy, flies to Poland to participate in an international assembly of prodigies. However, her hosts have hidden their plans to coerce the prodigies under a flimsy mask of hospitality. Grace’s new friend and fellow prodigy Ichirou can influence people’s emotions with his computer graphics, and they figure out that his talent is what their hosts want to capture. Grace smuggles him out of the country with the help of his chaperone and her mysterious accomplice, but their escape has not gone unnoticed.

Back in the US and under pursuit, Grace discovers her own talent of manipulating emotions through her beloved music. The chase continues as both foreign agents and Homeland Security close in on Grace and her compatriots, who uncover a terrorist plot by the prodigy organization. Grace can keep herself and her friends safe if she never reveals her gift but exposing her talent could save many more lives. Making the right decision while avoiding capture may be the hardest thing Grace has ever done—and could have long-lasting effects on the entire world.

Whose Hearts are Mountains
In Whose Hearts are Mountains, Annie Smith escapes the smoking ruins of her university and heals in a remote Canadian town, where she hears stories about a fair folk who help humans and then disappear. These tales resonate with the stories her mother told her as a child, and she seizes the opportunity to research the spread of these tales – until she comes home to find that the United States has crumbled under sectarian turmoil.

Annie chases the stories through a drastically changed landscape, and begins to experience unsettling dreams and strange phenomena. The stories lead to an oasis in the middle of the desert and a people who present mysteries. Pieces click together, and Annie finds out that her identity is tied in with the tales and with a frightening act of terrorism that only they can stop.

This next one is not in the same universe as the others:
Ian Akimoto, Traveller, jumps through time from the environmental catastrophe called the Chaos to 2015 Kansas City to help Kat Pleskovich, time-jumping daredevil, solve the mystery of who wants to kill her mentor.  Soon their own lives are in danger as they piece together clues involving everything from time physics and falsified records to multiple Kats and gruesome deaths in Kat’s daredevil game Voyageurs. 
Their search reveals that a rogue time traveller broke the timeline at crucial points with a goal of winning Voyageurs with the greatest stunt of all – destroying humanity. Kat and Ian must decide whether to risk their lives toward setting the future right. 

Enjoy and give me feedback!
If you have suggestions for synopses or just want to comment on the storylines, please let me know! My email is lleachie@gmail.com.

Counting the words

I am trying to extend a 1200 word story into a 7000 word story for a writing contest. I’ve written 300 words so far; so I only have to do this 22 more times. 

I tend to like short, concise writing, even in novels. I wonder if it’s because I’m relatively impatient, or whether I have a short attention span, or whether I really really can get everything I want done in fewer words. I’ve been told the latter by my dev editor, who doesn’t want me to lengthen things. On the other hand, I have a short story that an editor would like to see as a novel. He’s absolutely right, and it would make a great prequel to Prodigies, but I would have to immerse myself in Poland for a couple weeks to get the feel for it. 

So, back to the story. The story is Kami, and it’s about death and afterlife. It also features Jeanne and Josh Beaumont-Young, one of my favorite couples. Jeanne at this point is 80 and has just lost her 55-year-old husband of 27 years. I like the couple because they defyour common notions of love and attraction, and because they have a chemistry despite their bookishness.

I need to take a deep breath and set myself a writing goal, and just write, then edit. Luckily I have a vacation to do it.