Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Book 1 of the Zygradon Chronicles:

Eavesdropping wasn't nice, and Le'esha frowned on it, but he sensed it would be worse to step out now and face these intruders. If they were angry enough, they might thrash him. What would they do to Ceera if she woke up and started crying or attacked them for hitting him?

How much longer would Le'esha be gone from her office? When would she come back, stop their rude talk, and send the strangers on their way again?

"And just why are the Noveni refugees? Because our land is poisoned, a little more every year. What poisons us?" the first man snarled.

"Star-metal," the Warhawk's man said. He sounded bored and made a face at the third man, turning his head so the first couldn't see him. Mrillis liked this man, whoever he was.

"Exactly. Star-metal falls on Lygroes just as much as it does on Moerta, but why aren't Rey'kil crops blighted? Why don't Rey'kil cattle fall sick? Why don't their women miscarry and their children die young? Why aren't their springs poisoned and the wild animals running mad?"

"The Estall loves the Rey'kil better than the Noveni?" the third man said. He slouched in his chair and closed his eyes, to all appearances ready to fall asleep.

Mrillis grinned, admiring his attitude toward the angry man. That still didn't excuse his feet on Le'esha's table.

"The Rey'kil have magic. That's how they keep their land clean and their homes and farms and people healthy. Why don't they use their magic to help Moerta?" He stomped over to the Warhawk's man and glared down at him, hands jammed into his fists. "Why doesn't the Warhawk demand answers? I know he must have the same thoughts, the same questions. Why don't the Rey'kil suffer the poison of the star-metal, when it falls on their land as much as it does on Moerta?"

"My royal brother has asked." The Warhawk's man stood, with his gloved hands clasped behind his back. Mrillis imagined his knuckles turned white from the effort not to strike the other man. "He has asked without anger, with respect for our allies who have made room for us. Our allies who have given up fertile farms and rich mines to our use, who have shared their knowledge, their skills, their magic with us. The wisest minds of my brother's court study with the leaders of the Rey'kil, seeking that very answer, and they have not found it yet."

Monday, February 26, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: RANGER'S APPRENTICE #1: The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan

This book is proof of the adage that the best book promotion is word of mouth.

I was prepared to like it and be hooked even before I found it at the bookstore. Because a writing friend has talked about it several times. She and her husband listen to the audio books of this series on long drives, and they got started because their grandsons love the books.

So yeah, I'm going to be looking for the rest of the books as soon as I have more room on my to-be-read shelf.

What's the story? Young Will is our hero, an orphan, growing up as a Ward of Baron Arald. The Wards don't have parents to guide them into crafts or guilds or apprentice them, so choosing day is their chance to grab onto the future they want. The other 4 Wards his age know what they want, and have proven their abilities, so being accepted into their chosen fields of study is easy. Not so for Will. He's too small and thin to enter battle school -- but that's what he wants because he believes his father was a warrior who died a hero in a massive battle just before Will was born. His only real option is to go into farm work.

At least, until Halt the Ranger says he thinks Will has what it takes to be a Ranger. The problem is that Will doesn't really know what Rangers do, other than a lot of somewhat frightening rumors. But what choice does he have? It's an adventure, learning what Rangers do, learning the truth behind the rumors.

As Will and the rest of the fief learn, he made the right choice. Even someone young and small and afraid can do important things, even if they seem small. It's the impact of your choices that matter.

I'm gonna love this series.

Friday, February 23, 2018


Book 1 of the Zygradon Chronicles:

The one with the crest of a leaping, blue battlecat on his overtunic gestured at the shelving. "She has enough medicine in this room alone to tend half the villages on Moerta for a year. It just isn't right."

"What isn't right?" The man who had stood with his back to Mrillis, studying a tapestry on the far wall, turned around.

He wore a closely trimmed beard in dark gold and his skin was the color of freshly forged bronze. He wore the wings-spread crest of the Warhawk across the chest of his overtunic. He couldn't be the Warhawk, high king of the Noveni; Mrillis knew Afron Warhawk was a man in his late thirties, and this man was perhaps in his early twenties.

"The Queen of Snows willingly shares all the Rey'kil healing powers and knowledge with our people. All we have to do is ask. How many healers has she sent to the sufferers on Moerta this year alone?" he continued. He walked across the room and settled down in one of the low-backed chairs hung with thick woolen blankets, which sat in front of Le'esha's worktable.

"We shouldn't have to ask," the first growled. "The Rey'kil owe the Noveni. We shed our blood daily to fight off the warriors of the Nameless One--a rebel Rey'kil. He's their problem, not ours. Why should we fight for Lygroes?"

"Perhaps because the Noveni are refugees in Lygroes, and defending Rey'kil land keeps us safe as well?" the third man asked in a lazy drawl. He sat down and put his still-wet boots up on the edge of Le'esha's table.

Mrillis nearly darted out from behind the shelves, to knock the intruder's feet back to the floor. The prickle of discomfort up his spine, which warned him when Le'esha's visitors were dangerous, warned him now to keep silent. He glanced at Ceera, asleep with her thumb in her mouth. He knew his first duty was to protect the little girl.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Book 1 of the Zygradon Chronicles:

One fall day when Mrillis was six, some Noveni visitors and their careless words opened to him a wider view of the World. He and Ceera had spent the morning in their sheltered corner of Le'esha's office. Though the sky was black and churned with clouds and lightning and the sea heaved like a mad beast, sunshine and sweet air reigned indoors. It was washing day, and those children who didn't work were expected to stay out of trouble and amuse themselves quietly.

The two children retreated to their corner of Le'esha's office with scrolls for him to read, beads and a tiny loom for her to play with, and enough provisions to last them through the day. Biscuits and jam, dried apple slices and a pitcher of cider. Le'esha had shared their cider late in the morning and then had left them alone while she tended to an emergency in the public healing rooms. The children fell asleep, lulled by warmth and quiet and full bellies.

Mrillis woke to the sound of unfamiliar voices. He got up on his knees and peered out between the sealed jars and boxes of powders, salves and dried herbs sitting on the shelves.

Three men stood by the open door of Le'esha's office. She was nowhere in sight. The strangers were Noveni, with their tangled, golden-brown curls and brown eyes. They didn't wear cloaks, so someone at the gates had taken their wet clothes. No one could enter the Stronghold without passing the gatekeeper's tests, so Mrillis wasn't worried. Someone had brought the three men to Le'esha's office, rather than making them wait in the welcoming hall. Either that, or the three had chosen to be rude and wander around, going where they hadn't been invited. Mrillis didn't like the way the men scowled and looked around the room.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book of the Week: ZYGRADON

Today starts a focus on my Arthurian fantasy series, The Zygradon Chronicles. All published by Uncial Press.

There are 5 books in the series:

Hope you enjoy these excerpts!

Child of Blood or Child of Life, both born in a fierce winter storm. Mrillis was orphaned in a battle against the Nameless One, the most evil enchanter the World had ever known. Raised by the most powerful Rey’kill enchanter of their time, Mrillis and Ceera grew up as brother and sister, and discovered their destinies and magical talents – and knew they would always be together. 

When the Nameless One targeted Mrillis, to either destroy him or turn him into the Child of Blood, all the armies of the World joined together to defeat him. He left three children, Three Drops of Blood, according to prophecy. The oldest, a boy, became Mrillis’ friend. Endor, Mrillis and Ceera grew up together, exploring their talent, learning their destinies, and fighting to find a cure from the ravages of star-metal that poisoned their world. 

Almost by accident, Ceera attempted to use star-metal as metal, and tame it. And from her hammer, the Zygradon was born, to harness all the magic of star-metal in the world.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: THE STARK NAKED 21-DAY METABOLIC RESET, by Brad Davidson

This is one of those situations where you start reading a health-related book and you think, "This is too good to be true, there's gotta be catch."

Then you get far enough into it and you realize no, it's NOT too good, it's very true. The catch is that it's gonna take some dedication and discipline and planning to make it work.


On one level, the author makes the whole change-your-eating-habits-and-fix-your-metabolism-and-have-all-the-energy-you-want proposition sound so common sense and DO-able. And yet when you realize what you have to put into it, the rearranging in your schedule and your pantry ...


For three weeks, you have to stick with the eating plan, the limitations, the cleansing of your system to, yes, reset your metabolism. After that, you reintroduce foods into your menu, paying careful attention to the impact of each new food, so you can determine whether it's friendly to your new, rearranged digestion and energy and habits. Sounds simple, right?


I want to do this, but ... I'm a sugar addict. And that's just one of my excuses. I think I'll start off slow, applying a few principles at a time from the book, until I get acclimated to better habits, like no carbs in the morning and drinking hot lemon water first thing, and essentially build up the strength to take the plunge. Yeah, that's the coward's way, but a wise woman knows her limits.

Friday, February 16, 2018


Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

Until Kyle came by and ruined it. He's got this smirk and this "I told you so" attitude. He actually said that to one of the tech guys, when I finished my shot and could finally walk off. Something like, "Told you she'd do it." Yeah, like the big jerk knows anything about me? I fell into that whole stupid trick of Alyssa's, where she keeps referring to us by our character names. A couple times I really felt like we really were Jess and Bridger, teaming up against the bozos running the colony and threatening to destroy an important valley area with this power plant. Like we could understand each other. Then Kyle does something stupid like burping and ruining the shot. Or shaking up cans of beer to make like champagne, to celebrate with the stunt guys when a scene goes right. I am definitely not going to sit around and watch the other people filming their scenes if I'm not going to be in them. Nope, gonna use homework as an excuse to hide in my trailer.

Sometimes it's really hard to pretend Kyle is Bridger when we're doing our scenes. And then there are times I turn around and catch him watching me and I just get this weird shiver all over. Not like the scum-bums in our class who think anything in skirts is fair game, and if you're not one of the popular girls then you should be grateful for attention from them. You know? Why does he watch me like that all the time?

Mom is waking up. I better get off. Another day of filming ahead of me. We're going to be in the water most of the day, either swimming up to the power plant intake, or getting pulled downstream when the dam blows up. Fun, fun, fun. Maybe I can talk Mike into changing the big heroic scene, where Jess steals Bridger's coat and makes colony security think she's him, and they shoot her, letting Bridger get away. Either talk them into killing Jess or capturing Bridger and letting the aliens-disguised-as-animals break him out. What do you think?

Thursday, February 15, 2018


 Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

Wednesday, August 16

Okay, things aren't quite so bad as I thought they'd be Monday morning. Maybe it was stage fright, even though there's no stage? The cameras do kind of look like prehistoric monsters.

Anyway, the first two days of shooting weren't so bad. Mostly because I was doing all my solo shots, where Jess has run away from the colony and trying to survive out in the wilderness by herself. The animal wranglers are pretty nice, and some of them know who Mom is, so they were nearly asking for her autograph. You should have seen some of the other actors staring, when they let me handle the falcon that brings Jess this mutant-looking rabbit with bug eyes. Got to play with the wolf cubs, too. They said I have "the touch." Well, duh. You grow up playing with wild animals, you know how to talk to them, y'know?

I was feeling pretty good, other than being a little ticked that they changed some of Jess's lines. Hello? We're on an alien planet. What makes them think that the aliens speak English? It's not like we have a Universal Translator or anything. They cut all my lines where Jess talks to the animals and then kind of slaps herself for being stupid enough to think they'd understand. Of course, they're working on bigger hints that the animals who protect Jess and bring her to Bridger are aliens. So I guess that works out. I hope it's better on film than it felt when I was saying the lines.

You know how we were goofing around, pretending we were scouting and setting up traps for colony security and helping Bridger escape traps and all that fun stuff? We were such little kids, but it was so much fun. There were a few times during the shooting when I could actually slide back into that pretending so hard it became real. That made everything a lot better.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

Honestly, I'm wondering what I'm doing here. Sunday we were supposed to spend the whole day reading through the script and just figuring out the subnotes or whatever Mike the director calls them, you know, what the characters are thinking underneath the lines. I learned not to volunteer what I was thinking when I wrote the lines. Turns out, writers are the lowest of the low in Hollywood. The guys at craft services get more respect than writers. They feed us, in case you were wondering. Weird how I'm picking up the lingo so fast. I certainly don't want to pick up much else of anything around here. Anyway, it turns out that even though I'm the writer and I created half the characters, I don't know what anybody is thinking when they say the lines that I wrote. Conrad Emerson, the guy who plays Captain Simmonds, and Kyle Hawkes are about the only actors who didn't sneer at me when I explained why lines had to be said a certain way, so lines later on in the script would make sense. I think they didn't sneer at me because I met both of them before filming, and they both know I'm the writer. Everybody else is all, "You're just a stupid kid, what do you know?" The second time someone snarled at me, Mike snarled back at them that I was the writer, so yeah, I did know something, since I knew what was going to happen later in the script, and it just showed that none of them had read the script yet or they'd know what I was saying made sense. Didn't stop them making faces and muttering at each other, but at least they didn't do it out loud where he could hear it.

What a bunch of jerks. Actors are all jerks.

Yeah, that includes Kyle Hawkes.

Now that you've picked yourself up off the ground, here's the scoop. Even though he was so nice to me in April, the guy is a bozo. He's an overgrown adolescent. Just as bad as the jerkfaces in our class. Getting back to what I was starting to say before, about Sunday, we were supposed to spend the whole day going through the script. We didn't because Kyle and some of the stunt crew guys and most of the lighting crew guys were out drinking and goofing around Saturday night, until Sunday morning. So they were all sleeping late and hung over. None of them -- except Kyle -- had to show up for the meeting, so what did they care? So when Penny came by the trailer Sunday morning and said I'd be free until after lunch -- and added, "Like usual," so that means those bozos have done this before -- she offered to have someone drive me into town if I wanted.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Off the Bookshelf: DARK IN DEATH, by J.D. Robb

Thank goodness for e-book borrowing capabilities at the Cuyahoga County Public Library!

I reserved this book 4 months ago, and when the book showed up in the stores, started checking my place in the queue waiting to read the next book in the adventures of near-future homicide detective Eve Dallas. I was 91 -- but my position in the line dropped quickly. Either the library had a lot of e-book copies, or people did like me and read fast! As in neglected other duties to read....

This particular adventure has some uncomfortable parallels with both popular movies (Stephen King's Misery) and current crime events, where people take out their frustrations on innocent parties. In this case, a successful crime writer has a wacko fan who turns quickly from adoration to menacing. The fan, who intends to be a writer too, decides that the writer has stolen her work of genius and warped it. It won't do any good to point out that the book was in pre-production before the fan sent the completed manuscript to her, without permission, wanting feedback.

The fan decides she's going to prove what a good writer she is by writing and improving on murder scenarios. She's decided villains are the real heroes. Yeah, warped. Eve and her allies are in a race against time to figure out who the next victim/target will be and prevent another murder, while identifying the wacko writer-wannabe fan. Chances are good she'll finish "rewriting" by killing the writer whom she once adored. Oh, yeah, and "write" Eve into the story line, too.

My favorite part of these books is the ever-developing relationships and interactions and the changing dynamics among the characters. Great fun to jump back into the familiar world, despite the murderous circumstances.

Friday, February 9, 2018


Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

Monday, August 14

Hey, Sam --

I figured out why they wanted me to play Jess. This is a two-bit outfit. All the guys on the crew are grumbling about it. They do everything as cheap as they can, and that includes hiring kids with no acting talent or experience. One of them even told me that I was like a bazillion (his words) times better than the slinky dame (his words) who was here last week. They said she was crawling all over Kyle, on camera and off. They were laughing about how she was past fifty, makeup three inches thick, and her full-body girdle creaked every time she moved, playing this matriarchal witch who wants Bridger to donate to a big test tube baby factory. Can we say double-ick-gross-vomit?

Kind of makes me think selling my first-ever script wasn't so incredible. If that's the kind of stuff they're buying.

They were laughing about how uncomfortable Kyle was, having to be nice to the old bimbo off camera. Even though she doesn't have a lot of credits (at least, ones she'll admit to in public, according to Ricky the animal wrangler), she has powerful relatives in the business. So they didn't shoot her with a tranquilizer the first time she tried to play tonsil hockey with Kyle. Not part of the script. Maybe they bought my script because Jess most definitely does not kiss Bridger?

Anyway, we got here on Friday night, and the Internet was out at the hotel, so I had to wait to report to you like I promised until we actually got out on location this morning, with the trailers, and they got the wireless signal up. I swear, the first thing I'm going to do with my check for acting is get a portable wireless doohickey thingy. You know what I mean? I don't want to have to depend on everybody else having a signal I can link to.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

"You complained that Jess had all the good lines," Alyssa said with her characteristic smirk.

"That's why it was great. Less work for me." Kyle thought he could breathe again when Raine's nose crinkled up and she smiled. Relief -- she understood that he was joking.

"You have to help me convince Raine to take a screen test, see how she'd do playing Jess."

"I don't know how to act," Raine said, coloring a little more.

"Neither do I," Kyle said.

"But--" A cute little wrinkle dug in between her eyes when she frowned and her mouth opened and closed, visibly confused.

"Until I helped my cousin Jamie with his graduation project in film school -- that's him over there on the patio, the bear--" Kyle gestured. Jamie was watching, enough to raise a hand when everyone turned to look at him. "Until I did that film, I never did any acting. In the pilot, the guys on the crew were calling me Pinocchio -- to my face -- because my performance was so stiff. It got better."

"That's what you think," Alyssa muttered, and winked at Raine. She let out a squeaking snort of a giggle.

"Yeah, and I felt like an idiot, but less of one. You'll do fine."

"Listen to the man," she said. "Would Bridger lie to you?"

Raine blushed again, while Kyle muffled a groan. He hated how Alyssa kept referring to him as Bridger. Marvin said it was a trick to get actors to "be" their characters. Kyle felt like he had something many-legged crawling inside his shirt. He had seen what happened to guys in high school and college who believed their press releases about what great athletes or scholars they were. Just about the time they really thought they were "all that," they tripped over something big and ugly. Usually something they didn't want other people to know about them. Usually in a big, public way. He didn't want that to happen to him. It would, if he let people talk like he was the character he had played.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

Kyle managed to sound fifty I.Q. points more intelligent as he said goodbye to Menger. The show's creator chuckled and shook his hand again, and admonished him to take good care of himself, because the first season was going to be an active one. Anyone who wasn't used to the rigorous shooting schedule of a television series could get wiped out and crash very easily.

"Yeah, well, the guy sure doesn't know you. Mountain Man Garrett," Jamie muttered, once Menger had exited into the hotel room.

Kyle knew he shouldn't stare, but something like dread held his attention on the five people seated around the poolside table, talking. Maybe the smart thing would be to go inside. The more he stared, the younger Raine looked to him. He knew exactly what he would do to a guy who stared at Katie like he was staring at Raine.

Jamie just laughed at him and leaned back, his notebook on his lap, and put his feet up on the patio table.

Disaster struck, in the form of Alyssa looking around and gesturing at him, then beckoning him to come over. Kyle knew he should have listened to his gut instinct and gone inside about five minutes ago.

Raine looked even younger when he walked over to the table and Alyssa introduced him to Raine, her mother, Dr. Rilke, and her agent, Larry Pondsby. His palms felt like waterfalls as they shook hands.

"I thought your script was great," he said, and hoped no one noticed when he wiped his hands on his backside. Raine's big gray eyes got even bigger and she blushed just enough to notice under her creamy tan. She had to be an outdoors type of girl, to have that good coloring so early in the spring. Kyle thought about asking if she liked to go canoeing or hiking. He didn't, because that sounded lame in his head.

Monday, February 5, 2018


Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

"Does she like animals?" Kyle asked, trying to redeem himself. "Just from the way Jess interacts with the animals in the script, I get the feeling the writer knows animals, how to work with them. Wild animals. Back home, we get a lot of people who don't even go to the zoo. They ignore our safety warnings and then talk to the animals like they understand English and..." He shrugged.

"Yes, indeed. Raine, so I'm told, has an incredible gift for animals. Her parents run a wildlife rescue center and she is something of their secret weapon, able to calm sick animals so they can be treated."

"Is that a fact?" Alyssa took another step off the patio and tipped her head to one side, studying Raine. "What do you think of her, Kyle?" She laughed when he just shook his head, unsure what she was getting at. "Does she look like Jess to you? Can she act?" She turned back to Menger.

As a matter of fact, Raine did look a lot like Kyle envisioned Jess, when he read the script.

"How old is she?" he had to ask.

"Hmm, still in high school. She's the protégé of a colleague. That's how she came to have consultant credit in the pilot script," Menger said.

"Triple threat," Jamie muttered.

"How's that?"

"She writes, she's a critter wrangler, she's cute, and if she can act..." He shrugged.

"That's four," Kyle had to say. His cousin snarled silently at him, earning soft chuckles from Alyssa and a thoughtful look from Menger.

"Excuse me," Alyssa said. "I shouldn't take long, but--"

"No need," Menger said. "I spotted a coffee shop next door. I think I'll settle down there and get some notes jotted down while the ideas are still clear in my head."

"Sounds good." She nodded to the three of them and set off around the pool.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

BLADE OF INNOCENCE, Highlander the TV series fan fiction

Excerpt from Chapter 16 of the fan novel now available on Wattpad:

            A scraping sound over his head made Duncan turn, raising his sword, imagining another blade sweeping down at his neck.

            "Mine," Immerman growled.  Fire flared in the darkness of the stairwell leading up to the third floor.

            Duncan staggered at a blow high in his chest, near his shoulder.  As he fell, then he felt the fiery bite of the bullet. He clutched his sword, but his arm was useless.

            "Does it burn, MacLeod?" Immerman purred from the shadows.  A single footstep dragged on the steps.  "Does it eat into you, like betrayal? Like love sullied and innocence destroyed?"

            "I never betrayed you, Karl."


            Another bullet screamed through the darkness. Duncan tried to roll, but it caught him in the ribs.  He choked as blood spurted through his lungs.  Blackness deeper than the shadowed hall swirled around him.

            Duncan fought it.  He spat blood and pulled himself up against the wall and tried to get to his knees.

            "Face me honorably, Karl.  Sword to sword.  Or are you afraid you aren't up to it?"

            There was a fine line between irritating Immerman so he lost some of his elegant control, and goading the man into savage fury.  The longer Duncan could keep Immerman talking and not attacking him, the more time he had to regenerate.

            "Oh, I won't take your head here, MacLeod. Not yet. That wouldn't be satisfying at all."

            Duncan choked and spat up more blood.  He couldn't seem to get enough breath.  Fire raced through his body in waves, pulsing with every beat of his heart.

Friday, February 2, 2018


Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

"She's not," Alyssa Carter said, stepping out of the hotel room behind them. "You read the new proposed scripts?"

Kyle nodded. There was precious little else to do in this town besides making the rounds of five different night clubs. He could go country western or disco revival, or just find a smoky, dark corner to sit and drink. Reading the stack of scripts would impress the producers and provide an excuse not to go bar-hopping every night with Jamie. His mother had warned him about the Hawkes side of the family, after all.

"That cute kid, as Jamie puts it, created one of the characters we hope will be semi-regular."

"Jess?" He turned and looked at the girl again.

"What do you think of Jess?" an unfamiliar, deep male voice asked.

Kyle turned back to the door to the hotel room as a white-whiskered man stepped down with some care, leaning on an eagle-headed ebony cane.

"I think she gets all the good lines." He shrugged and grinned. "I know my sister and all her friends would love her."

"Uh huh." Alyssa nodded. "That's what we thought when we first saw the stories she proposed. Appeal to a wider audience."

"Stories?" Now that he had looked at the man a little longer, Kyle thought he had seen him during the shooting of the pilot movie. He had to be someone important in the production company. He held out his hand to shake. "I'm sorry, sir, I don't remember if we met."

"We didn't." The man chuckled and gripped Kyle's hand for a few seconds. "I'm G. Don Menger." He laughed when Kyle stammered, trying to think of something intelligent to say. "I'm pleased to meet you, too. What do you think of Raine's first-ever script?"

"Talented kid," Jamie said. He snorted when Kyle gave him a questioning look. "Yeah, I read it."

Thursday, February 1, 2018


Published by Desert Breeze Publishing:

"Now that's a stage mama if I ever saw one," Jamie said, hooking his thumb over his shoulder.

Kyle looked up from testing the feel of the shackles on his wrists and ankles. Post-production would insert all the blinking lights and shimmer of electrical current that was supposed to restrain Bridger and knock him unconscious whenever he resisted orders from colony security. Right now, the shackles were just hunks of dull gray plastic that looked like they had been rejected from building the Death Star. He followed his cousin's gesture into the three-sided courtyard of the hotel.

Bryce Hancock, story head, was just settling down at one of the glass-topped tables set up on the concrete slab around the pool. With him were a man who looked slightly familiar -- Kyle was sure he had been introduced as someone's agent last week -- a woman in faded jeans and khaki jacket, and a girl who looked around his sister's age. The woman and girl looked enough alike, with snub noses, square cheekbones, pointed chins, and long, honey-colored hair caught to the left side of their heads in a single, glossy ponytail, they had to be mother and daughter.

"Bryce doesn't do casting," Kyle said, and slipped the shackles off his wrists.

"Yeah, well, this outfit isn't as well-heeled as they'd like you to think. The big-wigs are covering each other's jobs, instead of bringing in more staff. Save money," his cousin retorted. "What other reason would they be here? They're casting for the first script." He frowned and leaned forward, as if to see the two strangers better. "Can't remember a cute kid being in the first script."

"She's not," Alyssa Carter said, stepping out of the hotel room behind them. "You read the new proposed scripts?"