Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Town in Three Photos - Mackinac Island

 by Krysten Lindsay Hager
 
I grew up in Michigan and one of my favorite places to visit in the summer has always been Mackinac Island. It’s located between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas and is pronounced “mack-in-awe.” The island is known for its beautiful views, historic architecture, and, oh yeah, the fudge. Mackinac Island fudge is famous (and delicious) and tourists are often referred to as, “fudgies.”
To get to the island you take a ferry.
 
 

 
There are no cars on the island. To get around you either take a horse drawn carriage, a bicycle, or walk.
 
There are lots to do when you get on the island. There are outdoor activities like horseback riding, hiking, sailing, and other water sports, as well as art, shopping, and more to do once you get there. Or you can just relax and take the beautiful views in.
 

The movie, Somewhere in Time, was filmed mostly on the island, which is very fitting because once you step off the ferry, it does feel like you’ve gone back in time a bit.
 
Thanks for letting me share one of my vacation getaway places with you.
 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

AP Author Spotlight: Shea McIntosh Ford




Shea McIntosh Ford
 
Website:
Blog: http://sheaford.wordpress.com/
Twitter ID: @SheaFord1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/SheaMcIntoshFord
Google +:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SheaMcIntoshFord
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/stringdancer/
 
Describe yourself in three words:
Christian, student, scribbler.
 
Tell us a little about your latest release:
The Stone of Kings
Twelve year old Ardan is hopelessly distracted because he wants to meet a real faerie. But when he gets his hands on a mysterious red book loaded with faerie spells and accidentally sends himself three hundred years into Ireland’s future, he soon learns that there are more important things on which to focus his attention. Throw in some immortal druids, fun storytelling, a touch of forbidden romance, along with the music and antics of the legendary Irish harper, Turlough O’Carolan, and you’ll become swept up in a very real Irish mythological adventure.
I have played harp from the time I was fifteen years old and play some O'Carolan tunes. I had a basic understanding of who he was; he traveled all over Ireland with a guide because he was blind and was highly respected for his music. So I thought, what if one of his guides gets stuck in some other time period and teaches everyone what it's like to play harp with Turlough O'Carolan? The research I did caused the idea to blossom into The Stone of Kings.
 
What is your earliest memory?
I was two. As soon as my mom had finished ironing the clothes, I secretly grabbed the iron, so that I could be just like Mommy. Yup. It was still hot and I burned my hand. Still have the scar. I even remember that the blanket I was trying to iron was blue.
 
What would you consider the greatest moment in your life?
The day I chose to be baptized to become a Christian.
 
What’s the hardest thing in in life you’ve done?
The hardest thing by far was to tell my Catholic family that I no longer held any faith in Catholicism. But this was a key experience to give me the perspective I needed to write much of The Stone of Kings, since Turlough O'Carolan was a devout Catholic.
 
What have you learned in life so far?
Find ways to be friends anyone. There may be things about the other person that I disagree with. I've learned not to focus on that, but to instead focus on what we have in common. As long as the other person is not oppressive or harmful to others, I focus on the positive. It makes for less drama. I'd rather save the drama for my books.
 
Everyone’s favourite question: if you could invite five people for dinner, who would it be?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that I can list living and deceased. So I'm going with:
1. Stephanie Taylor - For taking a chance on me.
2. Michael Scott - to pick his brain about Ireland and mythology.
3. J.K. Rowling - because I loved the themes in The Deathly Hallows and think that a conversation with her would be fascinating.
4. J.R.R. Tolkien - to pick his brain about Bilbo and Beowulf.
5. Grandma Caroline (who died last year) - to know if she appreciates they way I incorporated her Irish stories into my book.
I was tempted to say Turlough O'Carolan, because I would love his humor, but I think I'd be terrified that I got something in his character wrong and he would get mad at me.
 
 
Chance for our readers - what else would you like to know about Shea McIntosh Ford?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

RELEASE DAY: Tara Mayoros "Eight Birds for Christmas"



Blurb:

In the Christmas novella Eight Birds for Christmas, a Holiday funeral sends Laidan into a dormancy of sadness. Holed up in her mother's lake house with her best friend and her bodyguard, birds appear one by one as gifts that help her through a time of grieving. Each birds carries with it a word and a hope that things will begin to look up.

Hurt from the realization that the rock star life Laidan led had made her selfish, the birds reveal forgotten memories and glimpses into how she can become a better person. It will take confronting her past to make peace with her future. By taking to heart the gifts the birds bring, Laidan begins to realize the true meaning of Christmas and that there are other ways that she can share her song.

 

Author:

As a child, Tara Mayoros moved to Asia with her family where her love of different cultures and travel began. In college she satisfied her wanderlust by moving back to China, filling her head with countless stories, and occasionally writing them down.

Years, marriage, children and many adventures later, she picked up her dusty pen and paper (or laptop) and realized that writing took her to different worlds and gave her the experiences that she yearned for. As an author, artist, baker, music teacher, gardener, and nature lover – she sees the beauty in the process, and the miracle, of creation. The Rocky Mountains are her home and they call to her whenever she finds herself in need of inspiration.

 

 

Now available on
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Excerpt:

Chapter One

 

A hush blanketed the room. The people stood in silence, which had never happened before. Usually they were as chatty as a flock of seagulls. She glanced around the room, thoroughly confused. Laidan had grown accustomed to their endless critiques and ridicule, so this reaction surprised her.

“What, what’s wrong?” Laidan asked in a small voice. Her hair and makeup team only smiled.

The fluttering in her chest multiplied and her palms became moist as she wove her fingers around each other. Laidan thought she had overcome the nerves. She also thought it strange the different levels of nervousness she could experience in one single night.

Known to her fans as Lady Laidan, the past couple of months left her trailing in the whirlwind wake of airports, stadiums, and screaming fans. But this year felt different. First of all, the venues were much larger, the stage set now consisted of fireworks, and of course the number of fans had multiplied. Now to think — she awaited the stage for the coveted spot of singing for the White House Christmas program. This both terrified and excited the world’s newest rising star. She gazed around the dressing room again, awaiting an answer.

Stunning! Glorious! I have never been more proud — ever.” Tom, her fashion designer, had never been one to dish out compliments. In fact, there had always been an unsaid war between the two of them about her image. Relief settled as she felt color return to her face.

“Really, Laidan, I hope now you won’t refuse to dress this way more often. You should, you know. Embrace your inner diva. The fans would love it!”

She laughed internally at the thought of being a diva, but only smiled. The last thing she wanted to be was a dress up doll. It had always been about the music. That’s what fueled her desire for being in this crazy industry. Most others, it seemed, loved the pageantry of it all. But not her, she loved the songwriting, the itchy fingers as she picked through the chords on her guitar, then seeing how it all came together during her concerts. It was the process, not the end result that made her happy.

She could feel the weight of her gown as folds of it fell around her ankles. Swirling snowflakes stitched with crystals danced on the white silk. She unhitched her hands and looked down at her jewelry. “Frost and icicles” Tom had called it when he pitched the idea to her, rather timidly back then. Now, she didn’t doubt his genius. Diamond rings sparkled on her fingers in the shape of intricate snowflakes.

“So this is what it feels like to be a bride, I guess,” she finally said, feeling the huge smile on her face.

Tom laughed flamboyantly. “Better. Much better. More like a Snow Queen.” He placed his hands around her arms. “Turn around, just look at yourself.”

The vast fabric of her skirt made it hard to make sudden movements, so she slowly turned around. Her breath caught as she noticed her hair. How had they done that? She was known for her long dark hair and her hairstyles were often the cover of magazines, but tonight, Tom had outdone himself.

“Maybe now you will be more excited about the doll industry contacting you about fashioning a doll after you.” Tom turned to the others and squealed in delight. “Can you just imagine!”

Laidan rolled her eyes at their dramatics as they whispered with excitement to each other. To be polite, she smiled, which had come easily because, despite the secret panic attacks that overcame her on stage, she had never been so happy. Reaching up to touch the dark mass of her updo, her fingers skimmed across the crystal and diamond snowflakes, which seemed magically attached in her hair. Her fingers followed her neckline down to the diamonds and crystals that were shaped into delicate patterns and looked as if they had frozen as they landed on her chest.

RELEASE DAY: J.J. Nite "His Christmas Bride"




Blurb:
Hugh Alexander, Earl of Kerry, returned from the war physically and emotionally scarred. He is determined to never set foot inside of a ballroom again, convinced that no one would want him anyway. Hugh isolates himself and says it is only until he heals, and then he meets Annabelle. She doesn’t appear to be effected by his appearance and is quite beautiful. If only she wasn’t a maid in his household.
Annabelle has lived and worked in the Earl’s townhouse her whole life. She knows nothing about her family and since her mother’s passing ten years earlier, has no one to ask about them. Annabelle unwittingly helps Hugh find his will to recover and encourages him to open himself up to his family again. While she doesn’t yearn for anything more, there is a secret that, if brought to light, could destroy everything she knows to be true.
Can the new friendship and budding feelings Annabelle and Hugh have for one another be enough to overcome an uncertain future? Or will they be forever lost to each other?
 
 
Author:
J. J. Nite lives in North Alabama with her husband, 3 kids, a dog, turtle, and 5 goldfish. She devours books like some people eat chocolate! She's also found that if she doesn't write something every day, her mood is that of a bear waking from hibernation. Don't worry though, the children have learned to let Mommy write a little before approaching
 
 
Now available on
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Excerpt:
 
CHAPTER ONE
 
“Annabelle! What do you think you're doing, girl? If Bernard finds you peeping in there again he's liable to banish you to below stairs,” Sarah said.
“I was only trying to get a peek at the master. I haven't seen him and everything I've heard makes him sound so mysterious. Tilly said he has not left his rooms since he arrived, but I heard Bernard say he met with him in the study. He has to come out sometime,” Annabelle said as she turned and followed Sarah to the back of the townhouse.
“All I’m saying, missy, is you had better take care or you’ll be finding yourself banished to the nether regions of this townhouse -- or worse, looking for new employment,” Sarah continued.
Annabelle smiled behind Sarah’s back and shook her head lightly. The plump house keeper had been a mother to her since hers had died, leaving Annabelle an orphan ten years earlier.
Sarah had woken her in the morning and given her the news of her mother’s death. She had dried Annabelle’s tears and then helped her get dressed and made her a list of chores to make herself useful around the townhouse. Her manner was always brusque, but Annabelle knew it hid a big heart.
Annabelle grabbed her cloak and basket and headed out the back door for her daily trip to the market. While she loved being out of the house, the smells that assailed her once she was on the main streets were overwhelming. The refuse, waste, and unwashed bodies made her wishing this was another’s duty.
****
“Hugh. Have you heard a word I’ve said?”
Hugh Alexander, the Earl of Kerry, glanced over his shoulder at the solicitor and then turned his attention back to the window he was currently standing at. His attention had been caught by a servant covered in a brown cloak hurrying away from the house.
“I apologize for my inattention, James; please continue,” Hugh said, turning from the window and sinking into a leather chair that sat next to the window.
“All I’m trying to say, Hugh, is since your return I had assumed you would want to take a more active role in your investments,” James Stevens said.
Hugh grimaced, which was all he seemed to be doing lately. He knew it was his duty to take a hand in his investments and properties, but who wanted to look at him the way he was. Glancing back at James, he could see the man was holding something back.
“Out with it, James. It is more than apparent that you have something else to say,” Hugh said gruffly.
“Right then,” James paused and took a breath. “Your father contacted me. I had assumed you had seen him since your return, but he made it clear all he had received were correspondences. I was given a message to relay.”
“The message?”
“Your parents are expecting to see you for dinner, and I was given the impression it was not negotiable on your part,” James finished in a rush.
Hugh growled to himself. He should have seen this coming. His parents would of course want to see their son after his return from the war, but they couldn’t even begin to imagine the horrors he had witnessed while there. Or the visible reminders clear on his person.
“I cannot. My mother would be horrified at what has been done to me and then, as is her want, would proceed to smother me with her good intentions. My father would pretend nothing is different and would only anger me by doing so. No. I won’t be going. I’ll send a messenger explaining I am otherwise occupied,” Hugh finished.


 

RELEASE DAY: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy "Tidings of Comfort and Joy"



Blurb:

They met during the holiday season and married in May.  Jessica savored every moment of happiness with her beloved husband Johnny but their newlywed bliss is shattered when he’s caught in a storm on the lake on the Fourth of July.  First missing, then presumed dead, Johnny Devereaux appears to be gone and everyone mourns him except his wife.  Jessica refuses to believe he could be dead and she steadfastly refuses to give up hope that he is alive and will return.

As the months pass, each holiday is another reminder of his absence and it becomes harder to believe but she refuses to yield to despair.  As his family, especially his brother Tad, struggles to accept Johnny’s death, only his great-grandmother and bride hang onto their hope.  Jessica comes to believe he’ll return to her at Christmas so the holiday takes on new significance as she waits for tidings of comfort and joy.

 

 

Author:

Growing up in historic St. Joseph, Missouri, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy scribbled her stories from an early age.  Her first publication – a poem on the children’s page of the local newspaper – seems to have set her fate.  As a full time author, she has more than twenty full length novels published along with assorted novellas and short fiction.  A contributor to more than two dozen anthologies, her credits include Chicken Soup For The Soul among many collections of short fiction.  She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Missouri Writers Guild, and the Ozark Writers League.  Lee Ann earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Missouri Southern State University as well as an Associate Degree from Crowder College.  She has worked in broadcasting, retail, and other fields including education.  She is currently a substitute school teacher.  As a wife and mother of three, she spends her days penning stories, cooking, reading, and other daily duties.  She currently makes her home in the Missouri Ozarks, living in what passes for suburbs in a small town.

 

 

Now available on
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Excerpt:

Prologue

Christmas one year earlier

She loved Christmas. Every detail from the scent of fresh-cut evergreens, to the bright, glowing beauty of holiday lights, to the quiet moments curled up listening to her favorite vintage holiday music. Jessica could never wait for Thanksgiving to end so that the Christmas season could start.

That year, the year she fell in love — really in love — for the first and what she felt sure would be the only time in her life, the holiday season provided the perfect setting. Snow began the week after Thanksgiving and continued so the ground remained white through December. Even though most people griped and groused about the weather, Jessica adored it because it made a winter wonderland for her holiday romance. The songs, from her favorite Sing We Now of Christmas to the soulful, lovely refrain from God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, echoed through her mind and she trilled a few lines of the refrain in her alto voice, “Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…”

The night she first met him was magical...

 

Chapter One

The Fourth of July

"Hey, are you comin' with me?" Johnny's whisper sliced through layers of sleep, and Jessica stirred, uncertain whether it was morning or midnight.

The bed sagged as he sat down beside Jessica. "What?"

"I'm going fishin', remember? It's the Fourth of July, and everyone's comin' down to the cabin later. Are you comin' with me now or going down later?"

She stirred, sat up, and scrubbed her face with both hands. "What time is it?"

"It's almost four."

She moaned. "It won't be daylight for almost two hours. I want to sleep."

Johnny laughed with that rich, full sound she adored. "You can. I just didn't want to leave without telling you and giving you one last chance to come with me."

"Do you have to go so early?" She loved going out on the lake with him, but she hated rising before the sun.

He grinned, facing her from where he sat on the edge of their bed. "I do if I want to catch anything. I like to hit the lake before daylight. What time are you comin' down?"

Jessica struggled to make her mind work through the remnants of sleep-fog. "I guess noon or a little after. When's your mom going to be there?"

"I think she said by four. Amy's comin', too, and so is Tad."

Johnny's sister Amy had been a bridesmaid in their May wedding, and Tad served as Johnny's best man. Tad's girlfriend Isobel helped to cut the cake at the reception. "Is Isobel going to come, too?"

"I think so. Honey, I need to go if I'm going."

"Okay," she said with a yawn.

She sat all the way up, circled his neck with her arms, and he delivered a potent kiss that promised more to come later. Jessica considered heating things up, knowing if she did, she could get him to stay later but she didn't. He loved fishing, and she wanted him to have that solitary time he wanted out on the water.

"I'll see you this afternoon," Johnny told her. "You be careful driving down, and watch the holiday traffic, okay?"

"I will," she promised. "Have fun, and catch lots of fish."

"I'll do my best. See you, honey."

With another quick kiss, he was off the bed and out the door before she could say anything more. He never said good-bye — it was their personal tradition something he taught her on the very first night that they met. She remembered that moment as she laid her head on the pillow.

"I'll call you."

"If you don't, I'll call you."

He grinned. "You won't have to, Jessica. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Promise," she said, and he traced a cross over his chest.

"Cross my heart," he said. "See you."

She opened her mouth to tell him good-bye but he held up one hand.

"There are no good-byes but one, and that one is final," Johnny said. "So don't ever say it."

Jessica smiled and touched his face with her hand. "Then I'll say' later.'"

"Later, darlin'."

Then, she hadn’t understood the reason. Later, when he explained how devastated his family had been by his dad’s unexpected death and told her how one of his cousins said ‘good-bye’ before heading home to die in a house fire, Jessica understood his reasons. And it became their custom, their habit.

RELEASE DAY: Mya O'Malley "If You Believe"


Blurb:

Melody considers herself lucky that she has already found love once in a lifetime. Her love story, however, abruptly came to an end; all hope of finding love again disappeared the day she lost Jack.

Jack knows that Melody’s heart is big enough to give love a second chance, the challenge lies in helping her meet just the right man. Not sure if he’s an angel or a ghost, Jack finds himself searching for a man to make Melody feel alive once more. He had no idea how difficult it would be to face his conflicting emotions while finding this man. To top it off, he only has until Christmas Eve at midnight to help Melody fall in love. 


Author:

Mya O’Malley was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, daughter and three step-daughters.  The family also consists of two boxers; Destiny and Dolce and a  ragdoll cat named Colby.  Mya earned an undergraduate degree in special education and a graduate degree in reading and literacy.   She works as a special education teacher and enjoys making a difference in the lives of her students. 

Mya’s passion is writing; she has been creating stories and poetry since she was a child.   Mya spends her free time reading just about anything she can get her hands on.  She is a romantic at heart and loves to create stories with unforgettable characters.   Mya likes to travel; she has visited several Caribbean Islands, Mexico and Costa Rica.   Mya is currently working on her fifth novel.  


 

Now available on
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Excerpt:

Prologue

He stood, watching her, feeling every ounce of her pain, her anguish. He was probably the only one who understood what it was like to lose the person you loved, the person who was everything in the world to you.

If only he could just touch her, reach out to her, make her feel happy again. But that was just selfish on his part, wasn’t it? It wouldn’t be fair to Melody. Anybody could see that even three years later, she was still struggling. Hadn’t he always told her that if something happened to him, he would want her to fall in love again? It saddened him to think that if she continued down this cold and lonely path, she would be alone forever.

Melody had wanted it all, a home filled with children, a loving marriage. Thinking back to how happy they had once been, it broke his heart to see her this way, and it was always saddest to see her like this around the holidays, which were quickly approaching.

 Jack’s mind was whirling with ideas, if only…He wished that he could talk to her just one more time, but alas, that was against the rules. If only there was some way, if only he could help her see the light. The corners of Jack’s mouth crept up as his mind took hold of an impossible thought. Would he be able to pull this off? If he did, could he ever be the same again?

 
Chapter One

Melody stacked the last book on the shelf and glanced around, feeling a sense of accomplishment for a hard day’s work. Gazing around her cozy bookstore, she took in the twinkling lights and decorations that were set up to help her customers get in the mood for the festive holiday season. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Melody knew there was nothing she could do to escape the holidays. If only she could put her heart into the joyous season. Christmas had always been her favorite time of year. Well, that was when she had Jack by her side. It seemed like her life was now neatly compartmentalized—before Jack, during Jack and after Jack. Each and every one of the Christmases she had shared with Jack had been amazing. He always said that it was the time for miracles. But Melody wasn’t one to believe in magic or miracles, especially now.

“Earth to Melody!” Cassie’s green eyes shined with warmth.

“Oh. Sorry. What was it that you were saying?” Plastering a smile on her face, Melody did her best to brush her melancholy feelings aside, at least for the moment.

“I was asking if I could leave, everything seems in order.” Cassie’s eyes scanned the store.

Taking in the tiny café area, Melody noted that there were some desserts that still needed to be put away in the back room fridge. “Go ahead, I’ll get the rest.”

“Are you sure? I can stick around if you want.”

Who was she kidding? Knowing that her best friend was going out on a hot date tonight with a guy that she recently met, she figured that Cassie wanted to leap out the door.

“Nah, I got it. Go, and have a great time.” Melody knew that when she hired Cassie to be her right-hand gal, it would not be the typical employer/employee relationship. At least she could trust Cassie, though, and that was the most important thing. Besides, Melody was truly happy for Cassie. Her friend finally seemed happy after her recent breakup with Harry the Horrible, as the two women so fondly called her ex.

Approaching her friend slowly, Cassie cleared her throat. “What are your plans for the night?”

“I thought I’d just stay in, maybe catch up on some reading.” Knowing just how pathetic it sounded, Melody realized how good it was to have a friend in Cassie; she didn’t need to pretend with her.

“Mel, it’s Friday night. Are you sure you don’t want me to cancel with Trent? I mean I could…”

Brushing her long auburn hair to the side with a swipe of her hand, Melody exhaled. “Don’t you even think about it. Get out there and have a great time.”

“Love you!” Cassie winked at her friend and practically ran behind the counter to grab her bag. “Oh, and don’t wait up.” With that she was gone. Melody followed her friend’s path to the door and locked it behind her.

Not only was Cassie an employee of Melody’s, but she was also her roommate. Since Jack had passed away, Melody couldn’t stand being alone. At first, she had needed time to heal, but when time didn’t heal all wounds, Cassie had offered to help out her friend—keep her company, help with the bills. Melody couldn’t deny the fact that it wasn’t healthy to spend so much time alone, and she figured she could certainly use the extra money that her friend contributed in rent each month. Having a best friend close by was exactly what she needed, but there was that nagging feeling of guilt that had started to creep up on Melody lately. She hoped that Cassie wouldn’t feel bad when the time came to get on with her own life.

RELEASE DAY: Dean Lombardo "Donkey Sense"


Blurb:

Eleven-year-old Timmy Unterkanz suffers the death of his dad, and then extreme bullying in a new town. Timmy’s in serious trouble – that is, until Pedro steps in. You see, Pedro’s not your ordinary friend and bodyguard. He’s a talking donkey and he’s got a feisty attitude, similar to that of his owner, a former Texas ranch-hand named J.T. Atkins. Pedro and Mr. Atkins teach Timmy the ropes, like how to defend himself when there are no adults around. Timmy also meets Kelly, his eccentric voice of reason and confidence. Timmy’s safety and happiness will come down to one final showdown against his tormentor, the bully Eddie. Can Timmy turn his life around by proving to girlfriend Kelly – and to himself – that he’s not going to withdraw from a sometimes cruel world? That he’s going to be as feisty and stubborn as a donkey.

 

Author:

Dean Lombardo was born in Norwalk, CT, and now resides in northern Virginia. He is an author and avid traveler who makes it a point to explore many of the same settings where his fictional characters can be found. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and a natural curiosity about the universe and many things in it.

“Donkey Sense” is Dean’s third published novel, his first for a younger audience. His previous two novels include the sci-fi/satire "Space Games” (Kristell Ink, 2013) and the sci-fi/horror novel "Vespa" (Active Bladder, 2007). When not writing or researching his novels, Dean works as a writer and editor in the information technology industry, with a focus on software products. Prior to that, he served as an editor and reporter for several newspapers and magazines in New York and Connecticut. Besides writing and traveling, he enjoys hiking and reading suspenseful novels and mainstream scientific journals.

Dean lives with his wife Karen and their two children and one dog.

 

 
Now available on
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Excerpt:

Chapter One

“HEY, SHRIMPO UNDERPANTS!” shouted a big, beefy thirteen-year-old named Eddie Batts. “If you give yourself up like you did the last time, we’ll go easy on you!”

Timmy Unterkanz dropped his book bag and leapt from the sidewalk, leaving behind the four seventh-graders who’d followed him out of school after dismissal.

One of them called after him: “Hey! Slow down Underpants!”

Timmy ran across the parking lot.

“Hey!” another shouted.

“Get him!” Eddie yelled.

The sound of their footsteps followed him and Timmy shivered in terror.

Gotta make it home, he thought, huffing. He forced his wheezing, gasping self to run even faster, but already his legs were tired; weakening.

The second day of school had just ended and, as a fleeing Timmy reached School Street’s sidewalk, he wished he’d never had to come to Richfield, Pennsylvania, in the first place, to this school where older students greeted small newcomers with—

“You are so dead, Underpants!” Eddie hollered. “You better stop running!”

Timmy Unterkanz—or Shrimpo Underpants as some of his schoolmates were already calling him—glanced back at the four bullies chasing him. They’d gained on him and the quick peek back sent Timmy into a zigzag pattern costing him additional time. Focusing all of his attention on the sidewalk ahead, Timmy pumped his short, skinny legs and planted his feet as far and as fast as he could.

Eddie Batts’ voice came again, out of breath. “Hey Shrimpo Underpants, if you keep running away… it’s only gonna get worse.”

Timmy refused to look back. Despite being nearly exhausted, he pushed himself. “We’ll go easy on you,” and “it’s only gonna get worse,” was what Eddie had said the last time, and Timmy wasn’t going to let the four bullies slap and spit on him and then push him down again like they’d done on the first day of school during recess. They hadn’t used their knuckles, and by the time Timmy had found the nearest teacher to report the bullying, all of the bright red spots where they’d slapped him and the shiny wet spots where they’d “loogie-tized” him had mostly vanished. Then Eddie Batts, Joey Jergens, Ralph Bacchio, and Stew Pressner had lied to Mrs. Folson and said they hadn’t touched Timmy. Mrs. Folson, despite inspecting the accused boys with a suspicious eye, had let them off with a warning.

Worst of all, because Timmy had told on Eddie and his accomplices, the four boys were now trying to hurt him really bad. He’d seen it in their eyes just before he’d dropped his book bag on the school’s front sidewalk and bolted toward home. If only his mother could have picked him up after school today.

Timmy broke into a sprint, nearing the intersection between School Street and Main Street with Crabapple Farm on the other side of the highway, beyond the fence.

“Get him!” Eddie hollered again and Timmy heard the gang’s thumping footsteps getting closer. His heart racing, he scrambled to the end of the street then checked both ways for speeding cars before crossing to the opposite side of Main Street. Without slowing, he raced up the bank. When he reached the sidewalk, he turned left and gave it all he had, his feet flying, the soles of his sneakers smacking the concrete sidewalk, his breath coming in wheezes.

Almost home.

Timmy checked over his left shoulder and gasped when he saw Joey, the fastest of Eddie’s gang, sprinting diagonally across the street and heading straight for him. Behind Joey, the other three boys had just started to cross. It was going to be a footrace to Timmy’s front door and Timmy realized in a sudden panic that, one, he hadn’t even reached the end of Crabapple Farm’s pasture yet, and two, that Joey could run a lot faster than he could.
Timmy was hyperventilating, something his mom said happened whenever he got too excited or the weather was too humid, both of which were the case now. His mom always told him it was all on account of his asthma. Mom, where are you now?