Monday, October 29, 2018

For Your Ears Only is Out Today!


If you love strong, independent women, sibling relationships, found families, close-knit friend groups, lots of food, car chases, close calls, and a bit of snark, you'll love this book.

Start Reading!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Declassified Profile: Character Profile on Julep

(Sanaa Lathan)

Codename: Julep


Birth Year/Age: 2009, 23 years old

Description: 5’6”, medium brown skin with hair in long box braids, has a penchant for brightly colored skirt suits and high heels, under which she conceals her weapons

Temperament: Julep appears to be demure and business-like when you first meet her, but once she warms up to you she is warm and loud. She is confident in her looks and often uses her pretty exterior as a way of tricking her opponents into underestimating her.


Declassified: Character Profile of Royal

(Viggo Mortensen)
Codename: Royal

Birth Year/Age: 1982, 50 years old

Description: 5’10”, lightly tanned skin, worry lines on forehead, mid-length brown hair that’s graying at the temples, piercing blue eyes

Temperament: Royal has a solemn but not unpleasant demeanor. He enjoys being around the teenagers he considers his children, but often feels the need to remind them of the seriousness of their job. The weight of what they do bothers him, so he spends most of his down time alone in his office. Royal doesn’t talk more than necessary, and almost never loses control of his emotions. Sometimes, he regrets getting his daughters, and later Lotus and Vale, involved in spy work because of how dangerous it can be.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Declassified: Character Profile on Vale, and His Aesthetic

(Thomas Beaudoin)

Codename: Vale


Birth Year/Age: 2014, 18 years old

Description: 6', dark brunette hair worn long, green eyes, cleft chin

Temperament: Asset is grounded and practical. He has grown and thrived in his role as the team's communications officer, keeping tabs on all agents in the field during missions. However, his goal is to complete training to become a field agent. To that end, he still lacks training it several key areas. Vale is not good at keeping secrets, and instead tends to sulk when he is forced to keep something from a team member. It is doubtful that Vale would be successful at undercover work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Declassified: Character Profile on Clarity, and Her Aesthetic

(Sophia Loren)

Codename: Clarity


Birth year/Age: 2015, 17 years old

Description: 5'8", olive skin, chin length wavy brunette hair, thick build but flat chested, large, wide-set brown eyes, long nose, thick, dark eyebrows, full lips

Temperament: Asset is graceful, nurturing, and not to be underestimated. While Loveday's strength is overt, Clarity's flows underneath the surface. She often provides a supportive foundation for her team leader, Loveday to stand on, whether that be through a steadying hand or a calm demeanor. 



Monday, October 22, 2018

Declassified: Character Profile of Loveday, and Her Aesthetic




Codename: Loveday


Birth Year/Age: 2015, 17 years old

Description: 5'2", fair skin with freckles, bleached blonde pixie cut, built like a gymnast

Temperament: Asset is strong, independent, and likes to be in control. She prefers to call the shots at all times, and bucks when things don't go her way. She is a natural leader, improved by the training provided by her handler, Royal. Asset loves her family deeply and will do anything for them. This may become a liability.




Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sneak Peek and Preorder Link for For Your Ears Only

Hi lovely readers!

I can't believe it, but For Your Ears Only goes live in only eight days, on October 29th. I started writing it in May, took a break to write something else, but then came back to it because the story was bursting to come out. I've spent hours and hours with these characters, writing their words and actions and getting to know them. Finally, (finally!) it's time to share them with you: Loveday, Clarity, Lotus, Vale, Royal, and Julep.

During this week leading up to the launch on October 29th, I'll be sharing a little bit about each character and an aesthetic of images that reminds me of each character. Come back tomorrow for a profile on the main character in the Ivory Tower Spies series, Loveday.

But for now, enjoy this sneak peek!

***

My pulse quickens as I eye the lack of space around the Lexus. “Guys, I don’t know if I can get into the car.” My eyes study the available space. There’s no way I can get in through any of the car’s doors, but there is a three foot gap between the vehicle’s roof and the ceiling of the shipping container. “Wait. I think I have a way in.” I hop onto the hood of the car and climb onto the roof. I curse under my breath. The sunroof is shut tight.“Loveday?” Royal asks.
“Give me a second.” I take my laser glass cutter out of my belt and start etching the glass in a wide circle, big enough that I can fit through.
“We’ve got company,” Lotus says, his voice sounding stressed. “They’re coming out of the office.”
“How much time do I have?” I ask, still working the glass cutter.
“Maybe a minute.”
I close the circle I’ve etched in the glass, shove the cutter back in my utility belt, and swivel around so my feet are above the glass. I stomp down once, twice, and the glass gives way.
“Loveday, get out of there.” Lotus’s voice is urgent.
I’m on my stomach now, lowering myself into the cabin of the car. “I’m almost there.”
“There’s not enough time. Get out of there. Now!” He’s speaking louder now.
If he doesn’t quiet down, they’ll hear him.
“Loveday!”
“Give me a second.” I take my laser glass cutter out of my belt and start etching the glass in a wide circle, big enough that I can fit through.“We’ve got company,” Lotus says, his voice sounding stressed. “They’re coming out of the office.”“How much time do I have?” I ask, still working the glass cutter.“Maybe a minute.”I close the circle I’ve etched in the glass, shove the cutter back in my utility belt, and swivel around so my feet are above the glass. I stomp down once, twice, and the glass gives way.“Loveday, get out of there.” Lotus’s voice is urgent.I’m on my stomach now, lowering myself into the cabin of the car. “I’m almost there.”“There’s not enough time. Get out of there. Now!” He’s speaking louder now.If he doesn’t quiet down, they’ll hear him.“Loveday!”


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Giveaway for a Signed Advance Reader Copy of For Your Ears Only


Hi everyone! 
My upcoming novel, For Your Ears Only, releases in just 19 days,
so I decided to do a giveaway. Enter to win a signed ARC copy. 

Details:
- Open internationally
- Must be 13+
- Giveaway ends 10/17/2018 and winner will be picked at Noon.

Here's the link:



May the odds be ever in your favor!


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

For Your Ears Only Cover Reveal and Request for ARC Readers

Hi everyone!

I've been hard at work on a new book, called For Your Ears Only. It'll be the first in a series about teen spies, and I'm having a blast writing it!

***


***

Keep your clients close, and your teammates closer.

Loveday’s an international teenager of mystery, or at least she’s about to be. When a private citizen tasks her team with their first international espionage mission, Loveday is thrilled. Her crew is ready. Well, mostly ready.

But when their mission fizzles, Loveday starts tracking another lead: the origins of her adopted sister’s biological family. What they find in Palermo stops them short: one of her teammates has done something they never suspected.

But the real kicker comes when Loveday discovers that he’s not the only one who’s lying, and this time, it puts the lives of her entire team at risk.

Fans of Ally Carter and Pretty Little Liars will love this series!



*Seriously, I will love you forever if you add this book on Goodreads. It's one of the absolute best ways you can help an indie author like me!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Get the First Four Chapters of All-American Liars for Free on Instafreebie

Hi everyone! I hope you've picked up a copy of All-American Liars and are loving it. If not, you can read the first four chapters for free by following this link. Let me know what you think!



Friday, May 4, 2018

Chatting with Katie Polen About All-American Liars

Hi everyone! I had the pleasure recently of chatting with a fellow author about All-American Liars, and I'd love for you to check it out. Here's a snippet:

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel/novella/short story?

Oh yes. My first novel, Malignant, took me YEARS to write, but mostly because I kept choosing to do other things instead of writing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

How to Write an Unreliable Narrator

In the last couple of weeks, I've been mulling over an idea: how do I create a narrator who is a flat out liar, but still relatable somehow (yes, Blogger, relatable is a word!)? I want to try to write a story in which the narrator contradicts him or herself constantly, leaving the reader guessing as to the truth of what is happening. Has anyone written or read something like that recently?

Obviously, I turned to Google and came up with some great articles on the subject:

What is an Unreliable Narrator? 1) Why are they unreliable? 2) Why is it important to the story? 3) How noticeable is it?

Seven Types of Unreliable Narrators: Is your narrator lying out of self-preservation? Is he or she a psychopath? Is he or she simply heavily biased in some way? This is a great starting point.

Using an Unreliable Narrator:  The narrator must provide information, but it doesn't necessarily have to be correct. Dun dun dun!

8 Tips to Writing Unreliable Narrators: Use secondary characters to hint at or highlight the narrator's unreliability.

Truth and Lies in Fiction: Flesh out your character. And remember not to cheat the reader.

There are a million more articles on this topic, but these ones are the ones that stood out to me. They've each got different tips for writing such a narrator, so I'm saving them here for later. :)

Monday, April 23, 2018

All-American Liars is Out Today!

The day has finally arrived! All-American Liars is available for purchase as an ebook, paperback, or hardback. Yay! I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and encouragement. It's going to be a great Monday. :D



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Meet the Characters of My Newest Book, All-American Liars

Good morning! All-American Liars comes out in two days and I'm so excited. I've worked really hard on it and I hope all of you lovely readers enjoy it! It's got drama, romance, secrets, reveals, female friendship, sibling relationships, and more!

Meet Annie: Brave. Intelligent. A little bit terrified.
 Meet Tristan: Honest. Charming. Scrambling for answers.
Meet Wren: Snarky. Curious. Increasingly suspicious.
Meet Rich: Hard working. Schemer. Hopeless in the romance department.

Aren't these illustrations fabulous? Evan at Ecstatic Images did them for me, and I'm so happy with them. :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Get an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of All-American Liars

Can't wait until April 23? Me either! So...



This weekend I'll send out ARC copies to readers. I hope you love reading it as much as I did writing it!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Cover Reveal for Upcoming YA Novel, All-American Liars

Hi everyone! I'm so excited to share this cover with you. It's gorgeous. Mariah Sinclair did a fantastic job on it. Don't you think?

P.S. Will you pretty please add the book on Goodreads? It would help me immensely to get the word out to other great readers just like you! :)


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sneak Peek at All-American Liars Chapter 2

Hi there lovely readers,

I'm working away at All American Liars with the goal of publishing it in late April. I'm pretty excited and it's hard to wait, so I'm sharing Chapter 2 with you today. :)

If you missed Chapter 1, read it here.

Keep in mind, this hasn't gone through the final proofread, so there may be mistakes in it.

***

Chapter 2


Tristan’s parents were standing in the doorway of Principal Hastings’s office watching him, and neither one looked happy. Tristan’s dad’s face was a blank slate and his mom’s was set with a frown. The police officer who had come to the gym earlier with the principal stood behind Tristan’s parents with arms crossed.
Tristan’s mouth went dry.
Annie put a hand on his arm. “Want me to wait outside?” She glanced toward the door to the hallway, fidgeting as she did so.
Tristan simply looked at her for a moment before shaking his head. “No, it’s okay. Go on home.” He pulled her toward him with his hand still grasping hers and gave her a quick hug. “Call you later.”
Annie gave him a small smile as she backed away. Then she pulled the faux fur-lined hood of her anorak over her head and almost ran down the hall.
Tristan took a deep breath and strode toward Principal Hastings’s office, but his courage failed him and he paused in the doorway. His parents sat in the two wingback chairs opposite Principal Hastings, who leaned against the edge of his desk facing them. The officer moved to stand in the corner of the room behind the desk. He watched with a stoic face as Tristan entered.
The principal stood as Tristan came in. “Have a seat, Tristan.” He motioned toward his desk chair, which sat to the side of the desk rather than behind it.
“I’m fine,” Tristan said as he stood still in the doorway. He’d rather be standing when his parents heard whatever Principal Hastings was about to tell them. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good news.
“Go ahead and close the door.” He gestured toward the office door, which hung wide open to Tristan’s right.
Tristan sighed. “All right.” He closed the door quietly before turning back toward the four adults in the room.
“So, Patrick, what’s this about?” Tristan’s dad asked as he leaned forward. “Why is there an officer here?”
“Yes, what’s going on?” Tristan’s mom asked as she fidgeted with the zipper on her purse. She glanced toward the officer before looking at Tristan. “Surely this officer isn’t here for our Tristan. He’d never do anything illegal.”
Principal Hastings started to speak, but his voice was hoarse. He cleared his throat and tried again, measuring his words as he spoke. “Officer Vaughn is here as a part of our school’s zero tolerance policy. He and another officer inspected the school, using their dogs, in search of illegal substances.” He paused and made eye contact with Tristan, frowning. His face had a gray tinge that made Tristan look away. It was the pall of disappointment. But what could he be disappointed about? Tristan hadn’t ever done any drugs, and he certainly didn’t have any in his car or locker. What in the hell was going on? Tristan’s stomach curled in on itself.
“What are you getting at, Patrick?” Tristan’s mom asked, her hands now clutching her handbag.
“Laura, I don’t know how to tell you… I’m so disappointed myself…” Principal Hastings spoke slowly as he turned from Tristan to look at Tristan’s parents. “They found steroids in Tristan’s truck.” He leaned toward the cop, who handed him a small plastic bag with a travel-size Rolaids bottle inside, surrounded by a few large white capsules.
Tristan jumped as if he’d been shocked. “What?” exploded out of his mouth. “No way. That’s impossible. I’d never…”
Tristan’s dad jumped out of his seat. “Are you serious? Steroids?” he barked. His body stilled, tense as he turned back to Officer Vaughn. “Am I to assume you got a warrant for my son’s truck?”
Officer Vaughn produced it and showed it to Tristan’s dad. “Judge Collins had a slow day,” he deadpanned.
Color built in Tristan’s dad’s face as he read the page. He let out a “hmph!” before moving to stand directly in front of Tristan. “Son, be honest now. Have you been doping?”
Tristan’s face grew hot. He must be the same shade of red as a cardinal’s feathers. “No. No way. I’d never do that. No way.” He was stunned. How… how could this happen? He had never even laid eyes on steroids, much less taken any. He’d heard whispers about other players using, but not Tristan. How in the hell would there be steroids in his truck? The color drained from Tristan’s face as it dawned on him that someone had to have put the drugs in there. “Someone must have planted them,” he blurted out. “They aren’t mine,” he finished, realizing how lame he sounded.
His dad’s eyebrows shot up as he leaned in close to Tristan’s face. “That’s… hard to believe. Who on earth would put steroids in your truck?”
Tristan couldn’t hold his dad’s gaze. He looked at his mom, who remained seated in the crisp wingback chair.
She was starting to cry. “I never in my wildest dreams imagined that you would take drugs, Tristan. You’re so talented. You don’t need them. I can’t believe it.” She took a tissue out of her purse and dabbed at her eyes.
“I didn’t take them,” Tristan insisted. “I wouldn’t do that. I’m telling you guys. Someone planted them in my truck. It has to be.”
“STOP IT,” Tristan’s dad raised his voice as he glared at him. “If you’re going to make a huge mistake like this, at least own up to it. We’ve raised you better than that.”
Tristan clenched his hands as he stepped toward his dad. “I swear. They aren’t mine. I don’t know how they got in there. You have to believe me.”
His dad put his hand up to silence him. “Have a seat,” he said as he glared at the wall over Tristan’s shoulder, refusing to meet Tristan’s eyes.
Tristan slumped into the chair. His heart was beating too fast, and he felt his chest tightening. Tears slipped down his cheeks and he cried quietly. He was so confused and embarrassed, but he couldn’t stop them from coming.
“What happens now?” his mom asked quietly. She reached out and took Tristan’s hand. She sat straighter and met Principal Hastings’s gaze. “What can we do?”
The principal looked at the floor and back up. “I wish that was all I had to tell you, Laura,” he said.
Tristan’s mom paled. “There’s more?” She looked at Tristan, who shrank back into the wingback chair.
“Tristan?” she asked. “What is it?”
“Do you want to tell them?” Principal Hastings lowered his chin and stared at Tristan.
Tristan, thunderstruck by the whole exchange, couldn’t look at his mom. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. He fixed his eyes on the muddy brown carpet.
“No?” Principal Hastings said with a drawn out sigh. “Okay then. Laura, Eric, there was also a bottle of vodka in the floor of the truck.” He reached behind his desk and pulled out an empty bottle of raspberry vodka.
“What?” Tristan’s mom squeaked as she gripped Tristan’s hand so tightly his fingertips turned deep, purple-red.
“I can’t believe this,” Mr. Adams spat out. “Steroids and alcohol? Have you lost your mind? And ten days before final selection for the All American teams?” He was fuming. His ears were bright red and his eyes were scrunched into the bridge of his nose.
Tristan whispered. “None of it was mine.”
Tristan’s dad narrowed his eyes. “Do you expect us to believe that someone planted that stuff in there? Come on.” He shook his head as he turned to look at Principal Hastings. “What now?” he asked. He stood ramrod straight as he crossed his arms roughly over his chest.
The principal shook his head. “I have to suspend him for ten days. And he’s no longer eligible to play sports. We’ve got a zero tolerance policy here and I can’t get around it, or I would.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
Tristan jumped out of his chair. “What? I can’t play basketball? That’s insane. I’m telling you, that shit isn’t mine!” He looked at them with wild eyes, willing them to believe him.
“Language,” Tristan’s mom hissed.
“Sit down,” his dad growled at him.
Tristan flung himself into the chair and pulled his sweatshirt hoodie over his head. His life was over.
His dad closed his eyes tightly and pressed the back of his hand over his mouth. He nodded slowly without looking up.
Tristan’s mom squeezed Tristan’s hand tighter and began to cry. “My boy… my boy,” she blubbered.
“Ahem,” Principal Hastings cleared his throat again. “Officer Vaughn is here to explain Tristan’s legal situation.” He gestured toward Vaughn. “Mike, please fill us in on what happens now.”
Officer Vaughn uncrossed his arms and stepped forward. “Possession of steroids and alcohol is a misdemeanor in our state, and each item is a unit. Because Tristan is a first time offender, he probably won’t serve any time in a juvenile detention center, but he will have at least a year of probation, a $1,000 fine, and his driver’s license will be revoked for twelve months. In addition, he’ll be ordered to attend alcohol awareness and substance abuse meetings.”
Tristan’s dad huffed loudly. “Fine. We’ll handle it. Patrick, thank you for letting us know.” He nodded to Officer Vaughn before turning to his wife. “Let’s go home.”
She unclenched Tristan’s hand and stood, still clutching her purse in her other hand.
Tristan wiped his eyes on his sleeve before meeting his dad’s eyes. His chest was constricted, but his heart had slowed. His life was over. Maybe he’d die of it. It’d be better than being on the receiving end of the daggers in his dad’s eyes.
“Go to the car,” Tristan’s dad said to him.
Tristan swallowed and trudged out of the school to the empty parking lot. The weak winter rays hit the white truck, making it gleam in the light.
“Keys!” Tristan’s dad barked.
Tristan looked at his dad. He had tears in his eyes too.
Tristan dug through his backpack, found the keys to the truck, and handed them to his dad, who strode away from him across the asphalt toward the shining white truck.
“It’s open,” Tristan called after him with a garbled voice.
“Let’s go,” his mom said quietly.
“Mom,” Tristan whispered, “I’m sorry.”
She frowned slightly before unlocking her car and sliding into the driver’s seat. Her feet hit the floor inches away from the pedals, so she pulled a lever at the side to move the seat forward.
Tristan hung his head as he shuffled around the back of the car to the passenger side and folded himself up so he could get into the front seat. He stared out the window, not focusing on anything, on the short ride home.
* * *
Tristan was sprawled on his back on his bed in the dark, scrolling through his Instagram feed when his phone vibrated. It was a notification from WhatsApp. Arlo was messaging him.

Arlo Ramirez: What the hell man? Steroids?
Tristan Adams 04: What? How did u hear that?
Tristan Adams 04: Hell no. I don’t dope.
Arlo Ramirez: Crap. Some nozzle posted on here saying the cops found ‘roids and vodka in your truck.
Tristan Adams 04: Yeah. But that stuff is NOT mine. Someone’s framing me.
Arlo Ramirez: Insane. Who?
Tristan Adams 04: ?
Arlo Ramirez: So, is it true your expelled?
Tristan Adams 04: No. suspended for 10 days.
Arlo Ramirez: That sucks.
Tristan Adams 04: Yep.

Tristan navigated to his home page and clicked on the group he’d named Muskrats Unite! He scrolled through his friends’ posts. Everyone was talking about him, and most of it was bad.

Howie Cline II: Can’t believe it.
Arlo Ramirez: It probs ain’t true.
Howie Cline II: Right…

Howie had posted a GIF of Beyonce throwing shade while drinking coffee.
Tristan scrolled up further, scanning the group messages for whoever had posted about it first. His eyes hit on a mention of his full name, and he stopped to read the message.

Muskrat123: You guys… just heard Tristan Adams got busted for having vodka and ‘roids in his truck!
La(WREN)ce Williams: No way. How’d you hear that? Can you give me any more details?
Muskrat123: No. That’s all I know.

And from there the messages had spiraled quickly. Nobody cared about the vodka. But everyone was mad about the steroids.
One of the players on the freshman team had posted:

Trev Le Beouf: Not surprised. Nobody’s that good.

Tristan’s blood boiled. He had spent hundreds of hours working out and practicing and it was all for nothing. Aside from Arlo, everyone assumed he had doped. Tristan swiped to open the keyboard on his phone and typed.

Tristan Adams 04: Fork you all! I’ve never done drugs in my life. It’s called hard work.
MuskratCheerleader: So how did that stuff get in your truck then?
Trev Le Beouf: You expect us to believe that? *eye roll*
RatBoii: Your pants are flaming.
Tristan Adams 04: I don’t know. Somebody put them in there.
Tristan Adams 04: I’m not a liar.
Rich Ryan: If he says he didn’t take them, he didn’t.
Tristan Adams 04: Thanks.
Rich Ryan: *thumbs up*

But even Tristan realised how ridiculous it sounded. Didn’t every teen caught with drugs or alcohol say something to the effect of, “It’s not mine?” He bit his tongue to keep from crying as he closed his phone. He was off the basketball team. Nothing else mattered. Tristan threw his phone on the bed, flopped over onto his stomach, and shoved his pillow over his head.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I am celebrating today by releasing a new cover for Malignant.  You guys, I love this gorgeous over. Grab a copy now!


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Do You Fudgel? Old English Words That We Should Definitely Bring Back


A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook that listed old English words that are still relevant today. I was nodding my head at every single one. You guys, we should totally start using these words again.

Which one do you think is most useful?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Sneak Peek - Chapter 1

Hi everyone,


I want to share the first chapter of my current work in progress with you. I'm hoping to publish in early April, and I'm getting excited about it!

Keep in mind, this passage hasn't been edited yet, so there are probably mistakes in it. :)
***

Chapter 1



Finally, around 10:15 PM, Mr. Kelley, the owner of Greenridge’s last mom and pop pharmacy locked the front door of his business, slid into his car, and drove off down the street. The slap of his tires rolling through a puddle of water hit the cold, damp air as he turned the corner out of sight. The flaming orange light from the streetlights streaked across the wet asphalt as a tall, thin figure wearing a hoodie and track pants stepped out of the alley beside the bank across the street and hobbled stiffly to the curb. The figure looked left and right before slowly stepping into the street. He walked gingerly without bending his left knee, and there was a bulge at his left ankle. Any passersby who saw him would undoubtedly remark at his unnatural gait, but there was no one on the street. Downtown Greenridge was dead, even though it was still early.
The figure reached the sidewalk in front of the pharmacy and huffed into the cold air. He watched the condensation from his breath dissipate as a mid-size SUV rounded the corner and zoomed through the standing water. The figure snapped his head downward to prevent anyone in the SUV from seeing his face. Someone in the vehicle hooted out the window as the car passed and sped down the street.
Once the car was gone, the hooded figure turned just enough to look up and down the road. This time there would be no cars; he was sure of it. There was no movement visible in any direction, even though the rain had stopped. The figure rubbed his clammy hands together before lifting the front of his hoodie and pulling out a pair of bolt cutters from his left pant leg. As he did so, a roll of duct tape fell out of his hoodie pocket and rolled a few feet down the sidewalk. The figure mumbled a curse as he went to get the tape, all the while holding the bolt cutters against his chest in case another car came by. He fetched the tape and, taking small strips off the roll as quietly as he could, used it to cover the small window pane in the pharmacy door. Once the glass was covered in tape, he wiped his hands on the front of his hoodie one at a time and lifted the handle of the bolt cutters toward the glass. He’d read about it online, and hoped it would work now. Gently he hit the handle of the bolt cutters against the glass and paused to listen. It was silent. He hit the glass again, harder this time, before pausing to listen. The tinkling of shards hitting the floor inside the pharmacy was so loud, the figure froze. He was sure someone else could hear it. But who? No one was downtown at this time of night. Still, he stood unmoving and surveyed the empty street. He hit the window pane one more time, harder still, and the glass fell inward and hung from the duct tape. Carefully, the figure reached in through the broken pane and unlocked the door. It jingled as it opened.
“Crap.” He’d forgotten the bells on the door. The figure shook his head as he stepped into the pharmacy and closed it softly behind him. He clutched the bolt cutters to his chest as he tiptoed through the store and behind the counter. Once more he wiped his hands on his hoodie, eyeing the metal cage where the prescription drugs were kept. He positioned the bolt cutters at a point near the cage’s lock and, pressing the handle against his abdomen, the figure made his first cut through the metal. The snap of the woven mesh separating made him pause and glance around him. The darkness inside the store was reassuring, and he repositioned the cutters.
* * *
“Time to get up,” Tristan’s dad said as he swung open the bedroom door.
Tristan grinned at him from where he sat in his desk chair. “I’m already up.” He finished tying his shoe before standing and throwing his arms wide. “Today’s the day we hear about the third round of voting.”
“Oh, is that today?” Tristan’s dad winked. “Let’s go downstairs. Your mom made some celebratory waffles.
“Dad…” Tristan tried to stifle a grin. “I don’t know if I’ve made it yet.”
Tristan’s dad slung an arm around his shoulders. “Those All American team committee members would have to be brainless not to put you through to the final round. It’s a slam dunk.”
Tristan’s cheeks flamed. “Dad....” He snatched his Muskrat hoodie off the floor and pulled it on over his head. “Waffles do sound pretty good,” he laughed through a cracked smile. Tristan led his dad downstairs. Today was Tristan’s day. Even his toes were tingly with excitement. First the All American team, then the UCLA Bruins. He couldn’t keep the grin from his face.
* * *
“Come on.” Rich slammed his hand on the desk next to the computer, but quickly checked himself. He looked furtively around the library. The handful of other students scattered at the various tables were looking at him, but averted their eyes when his gaze fell on them. The librarian was reshelving books that had been left on the tables yesterday. Rich turned back to his computer. “Keep it down, Rich,” he muttered. The results of the third round of voting for the McDonald's All-American teams had not yet been posted on the website. It was supposed to be posted today. Dick drummed his fingers on the table. He hoped it would be up before school started. He rubbed the stubble on his jawline. He had to be chosen for the team. The All American game was his best shot at getting out of Greenridge. And that couldn’t come soon enough. His mind flicked to his brother, Greg. He’d been popular in high school, and now look at him. He worked the night shift at the local big box store, restocking shelves. Rich bit his lip. He had bigger ideas for his life than living here and working some dead-end job. He had his sights set on a college scholarship and pharmacy school. Plus, if he made it through to the final round of voting, it might get Howie and Arlo off his back.
Rich scanned the magazine rack, and a headline on a newspaper caught his eye. He loped over to the old, metal rack, and retrieved the newspaper from the bottom shelf. He set the paper on the computer desk and lowered himself into his chair.
Local Pharmacy Robbed for First Time
January 9, 2018
Kelley’s Pharmacy in Greenridge was broken into Saturday night around 10:30 PM. The burglar used bolt cutters to access the cage where the pharmacy’s prescriptions were kept.
The owner of the drugstore, Mr. Ewan Kelley, said of the store’s security cameras: “They’re fake. We’ve never needed them since we’ve never been broken into for the ten years we’ve been here.”
The only items stolen from the pharmacy were anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are prescribed for conditions such as delayed puberty, anemia, osteoporosis, endometriosis, and impotence. Steroids are also used to enhance muscle and bone strength to improve performance in competitive sports.
The police department spokesperson announced that they had been able to get photographs of the suspected burglar from a low-resolution ATM camera at the bank across the street. The suspect appeared to be above average height and wearing a gray hoodie and striped track pants.
“It’s a shame,” Mr. Kelley said. “We’ll have to replace the window and the cage where we keep the medications. It’s such a mess.”
The grainy photo was positioned to the right of the article and captioned, “A burglar broke into Kelley’s Pharmacy late Saturday night.”
Rich’s eyes widened as he sucked in a breath and whistled on the exhale. The hum of the heater reached his ears. It was warm in the library. Outside, the sky was gray and soggy from the downpour that had hit Greenridge Sunday morning. The clock on the wall ready 7:20 AM. School would start in 10 minutes. Rich clicked on the search bar and went to Twitter. He scrolled through his feed, but nothing grabbed his attention. It was mostly people celebrating or grumbling about the players in the upcoming NBA All-Star game.
Golden arches at the bottom of the screen caught his eye. He scrolled down and there it was: the results of the third round of voting. Rich clicked on the link. His heart pounded. He scanned the list. “Yes,” he hissed. He threw his hands in the air and stood, looking around. The librarian and the other students in the library looked at him with blank faces before returning to their books. Rich's face flushed as he pulled his arms to his sides and sank back into his seat.
Rich scanned the rest of the list and his face dropped. Of course, his biggest competition would be nominated: Tristan Adams, Muskrat team captain. Eff it. He read the rest of the list and recognized most of the names. Most of these guys had been playing together in summer workshops for years. Rich rubbed his jawline again. The only other guy on the list he knew personally was John Humphrey, who played for their biggest rival, the Beavers. Double crap. Rich ground his teeth as he logged out of the computer and slunk out of the library.
Two police cars pulled into the parking lot as Rich walked past. The officers swung their legs out of their patrol cars and stood chatting. Rich cocked his head as the emblem on the side of one of the cars caught his eye. K-9 unit. It was drug sniffing day. Rich stopped on the sidewalk, and his fingers traced the outline of the travel-sized Rolaids container he had stashed in his pocket. The bottle’s contents rattled slightly. Rich guessed he needed them after all. With a slight bob of his head, Rich jogged through the parking lot.
At least one person was about to have a garbage day.

* * *

Swish. The basketball fell through the net without hitting the rim. Tristan grinned and turned toward the bleachers where his girlfriend, Annie, sat. He blushed slightly as she met his gaze. They had been dating for three months and having her here at practice still made him self conscious if he thought about it too much.
Annie sat hunched forward and bundled up in her khaki green anorak even though it was stuffy in the gym. Weirdo. She was always freezing. She smiled weakly at Tristan before taking a long drink from her bright pink water bottle. She carried it everywhere. Annie had told him that she was practically addicted to the sparkling water she carried in it.
Tristan turned back toward the court, but the long, lanky guy sitting next to Annie leaned toward Tristan, catching his eye. Annie’s older brother, Ren. He was probably at practice to ask questions about the All American team selection process for the school newspaper, The Daily Muskrat.
“Nice shot,” Ren drew out the words as he looked at the cell phone he held in his lap and typed quickly with his thumbs. Once he was done typing, Ren looked back at Tristan. “I bet you're excited that you made it to the next round of voting for the All American West team.”
Tristan nodded and opened his mouth to speak, but Annie interrupted.
“Ren, leave him alone.” She cuffed him in the shoulder with her water bottle. “He doesn’t have time for that right now.”
“No, it’s cool,” Tristan gestured with one hand. “Go ahead.” He dribbled the ball slowly and with control as he stood waiting.
“So, you’re excited,” Ren asked again with a slight upturn of his mouth. With one hand, he rubbed behind his ear where his glasses sat.
A warm grin moved across Tristan’s face. “Yeah, it's awesome. I’ve worked hard, and it’s paying off.” This was his dream. He was going to make the All American team and get a full ride to UCLA. California, here I come.
Tristan took a few steps away from them and shot the basketball again. This time, it bounced high off the rim before falling through the hoop. Tristan jogged to retrieve the ball and came back across the shiny wooden floor to stand at the bottom of the bleachers.
Ren leaned forward on the bleacher seat and spoke in a low voice. “How does it feel that Rich also made it through?”
“Geez, Ren…” Tristan responded in a low voice. He looked around the gym and back at Ren. “Rich is my teammate… and friend-ish.”
“Come on; it’s news,” Ren said with eyebrows raised.
Annie rolled her eyes. “Rich is a good player,” she said. She shivered and rubbed her arms.
Tristan cocked his head at her and held the basketball under one arm as he spoke. “He IS good. He just tends to be a little--”
“He’s an ass,” cut in Jacob, as he and Arlo strode across the court toward where Tristan was standing.
Arlo pulled off his school hoodie and threw it on the bleachers at Annie’s feet. “Watch this for me, will you?” he asked as he reached up one tawny brown hand to smooth out his black, spiky hair.
“Sure,” Annie said, taking another sip from her bright pink bottle.
“Who’s an ass? Rich?” asked Howie, another member of the basketball team, as he joined them. His arms looked unnaturally long in his basketball jersey, and his black basketball goggles stood out against his pale skin.
“Obvi,” Arlo said.
“Rich the Dick,” Jacob chuckled.
Arlo smirked. “Action Jackson.”
Howie smirked as he too pulled off his hoodie and tossed it at Annie’s feet. He adjusted his goggles on his long nose before speaking. “Bacon rod?” He raised his eyebrows and waited for the nod from Arlo.
“Nice one.” The two guys high fived.
Jacob guffawed.
Tristan smirked, but stifled it quickly. That was a good one.
The gym door made a creaking sound as someone opened it, and they all swung around to look toward it.
Rich stood there, water bottle in hand, watching them.
Tristan’s face reddened and guilt pricked his conscience, even though he hadn’t done anything wrong.
“Clam hammer,” Arlo whispered.
Howie chuckled. Jacob wiped a hand over his mouth to smother his laugh.
“Shut up, guys,” Tristan huffed under his breath. He shot a small smile at Rich, who frowned slightly as he crossed the court.
When Rich reached them, he fixed a smile on his face. “Hey guys.”
“Hey. Congrats on making the cut.” Tristan gave Rich a pat on the back.
“Thanks. It’s awesome.” Rich climbed the bleachers to sit beside Annie. “Hey neighbor. Are these guys trying to make you the coat lady again?” He pulled his worn hoodie over his head, wadded it into a ball, and shoved it between the bleachers.
“Yep,” she said. She shivered and took a swig from her bottle.
“Whatcha got there?” Rich asked as he leaned toward Annie and took a whiff of her drink. His nostrils flared as he looked up into her face with a grin. “Care to share?”
“No way,” She squirmed as she pulled the bottle out of his reach. “You’d hate it anyway. It’s sparkling water.”
“You’re probably right.” Rich smirked as he leaned back in the bleachers and met Ren’s eyes behind Annie’s back. “Are you here on newspaper business?”
“Yep.” Ren angled his body toward Rich and spoke. “I was asking Tristan how it feels to have made it through to round four, especially in competition with you.”
“What did he say?” Rich glanced toward Tristan and then back at Ren.
“Chill, Rich,” Tristan said coolly as he began to dribble the ball again. “It’s no big deal.”
“For you, maybe,” Rich mumbled as he leaned back on the bleachers and stretched out his legs before glancing at Annie. She met his eyes for a moment before turning away. She scooted toward Ren and read his phone over his shoulder.
Ren shrugged her off before speaking. “Anyway, how does it feel? Are you excited?” Ren asked again.
“Hell yeah,” Rich said loudly. “It's my ticket out of here.”
“To where?” Ren asked, his thumbs poised over the phone.
Rich glanced at Howie, Jacob, and Arlo before speaking, more quietly this time. “Pharmacy school.”
Jacob snorted.
Tristan glared at him, but didn’t speak.
Ren’s eyebrows shot up and he started typing again. “Really? Wow. I didn’t expect that…”
“Yeah,” Rich lifted one corner of his mouth and jabbed himself in the chest with his thumb. “I’m smarter than I look.”
“Right,” Howie said as he snickered.
Arlo laughed in agreement.
Tristan rolled his eyes. “Dude has an A in chemistry. If you paid attention in class you’d know that already, brillo head.” His hand shot out and messed up Howie’s already fluffy curls.
“Shut up,” Howie said, glaring at Tristan as he tried to comb his hair with his fingers before giving up and dropping his hands to his sides. He glanced at Arlo, who gave him a thumbs up.
“All right guys, let’s get moving,” Coach Edmonds hollered across the gym. He nodded to Tristan as he marched toward the group of guys. “Three on twos. Count them off, Captain.”
“Right,” Tristan said. “Let’s go, guys.” He tossed the ball to Rich, who caught it easily as he stood up. “Come on, Rich.”
Rich hopped off the bleachers. “Aye aye.” He saluted Tristan with one hand as he dribbled the ball with the other.
Howie and Arlo followed them toward center court.
The rest of their teammates moved across the gym from the locker room door and congregated at the center line.
“Tristan Adams,” a loud voice yelled across the gym.
Everyone spun to look, their shoes squeaking on the polished floor.
Principal Hastings stood in the doorway with a police officer at his side. “Come with me, please,” he said, fidgeting with his hands as he spoke.
Tristan furrowed his eyebrows, but jogged over to them. “What’s going on?” He asked.
“Let’s have a chat, in my office.” He grimaced at Tristan, whose eyes widened.
“Let me get my stuff,” Tristan said. What could this be about?
Principal Hastings glanced at the officer, who pursed his lips and met Tristan’s eyes. “Fine, but do it quickly.” His shoulders slumped.
Tristan nodded slowly and looked over at Annie and Ren, who were standing on the bleachers watching him. Hesitantly, he gave Annie a small smile before jogging out through the door that led to the locker room.
Principal Hastings turned and trudged out of the gym with the police officer striding ahead of him.
“What the crap?” Arlo asked as he stood on the court with his arms out, palms up.
Ren shrugged as he stood. “I’m going to find out.” He jogged after them.
“Wait up,” Annie called to Ren as she stood. She popped a piece of gum into her mouth and slung her backpack over her shoulder. Quickly, she jumped to the floor from the lowest bleacher bench and power walking after her brother.
* * *
Rich watched Tristan leave the gym through downcast eyes. That hadn’t taken long. He turned to look at Annie out of the corner of his eye. She shivered as she crossed the gym after Ren, her arms swinging at her sides. He watched her move out of sight down the hallway before turning back to Coach Edmonds.
“Okay, guys. Focus. I’m sure he’ll be right back.” Coach clapped his hands and the remaining basketball players took the court.
* * *
Tristan jogged to his locker. His heart was pounding. He ran his hand through his shaggy brown hair and exhaled loudly. Excitement coursed through him. Maybe the selection committee for the All American team had given early notification that he’d made the team. It could happen, right? Why else would the principal want to see him?
That was it. It had to be. It was Tristan’s year. He’d earned it.
He stuffed his clothes into his backpack and pushed his locker door closed. He took a breath to try to slow his heart down, but it continued to beat rapidly.
Tristan willed himself to walk calmly down the row of lockers toward the school hallway. As he opened the door, he saw Annie standing there, leaning against the wall, waiting for him, chewing gum. She stood bolt upright as he approached.
“What’s going on? Why do they want to see you?” Annie put her hands in her pockets and pulled them out again.
“No clue.” Tristan studied her face. Annie’s eyes were wide and a little bloodshot.“Are you okay? Your eyes are a little…”
“Oh, yeah, I didn’t sleep well,” Annie said as she waved her hand. “No biggie.”
Tristan nodded. “All right.” A grin spread across his face. “What if they’re going to tell me I made the All American Team? That could be it, right?”
Annie bit her lip and looked away.
“You don’t think that’s it?” Tristan asked. He watched her, waiting.
She looked back at him with a small smile. “It could be, but I didn’t think they made their choices for another week.”
Tristan shrugged. “Maybe they made an exception.”
“That’d be awesome.” Annie said slowly.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Tristan asked. “You don’t seem excited.”
“I’m excited,” Annie said quickly. She stepped closer to him and went up on her tiptoes to kiss him lightly.  “I am! See?” She smiled at him, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
Tristan studied her face for a moment and sighed. “Okay, let’s go.” He tried to suppress a grin as they walked down the hall. A bolt of excitement at the possibility of having made the All American team coursed through his body, tempered by Annie’s lukewarm response. But there wasn’t any other reason he’d be called up to the office. His selection to the All American team had to be it.
The halls were pretty much empty. Almost everyone was gone for the day, having left campus as quickly as they could after the final bell rang. Tristan’s shoes squeaked on the slick linoleum floor as they rounded the corner in front of the administration office.
Ren was standing outside the office door waiting, phone in hand.
“Ren,” Annie called to him. “Go home. This is not the time.”
“But this could be a huge story.”
Annie glared at him. “Leave. Now.”
Ren narrowed his eyes at her but slunk away toward the exit.
Tristan raised his eyebrows. “Kind of harsh, don’t you think?” He grasped her hand and led her into the administration office. He stepped up to Mrs. Bloomfield’s desk and opened his mouth to speak, but froze when he saw who was waiting for him.