Writing Challenge Winner: Neutral Zone by Olivia Kasych

Olivia is a 15 year old writer who has participated in many of the library’s writing challenges, including last summer’s Voyager Writing Challenge and this spring’s Bad Guy Writing Challenge. Neutral Zone is a science fiction story that leads the main character through multiple universes to battle against his alternate self!

Check it out below!

Original artwork by Olivia!

Derick slouched in his chair. The seemingly endless babble of his History teacher discouraged any interest he had in the Industrial Revolution, which was none in the first place. He just wanted the class to be over and the weekend to start. He stared blankly at his History book, trying to make sense of it. His teacher was not even talking about the Industrial Revolution at this point, instead about a bet that he made with one of Derick’s classmates. It was something about a race around the school with Derick’s fastest classmate.

Derick shrugged and tried to fill out notes for the section. He hurried through them, barely reading the section, so he could finish before the bell, which was supposed to go off in five minutes.

When the clock was in the last minute, Derick could hear the sea of eager children quickly stacking all the stuff they had in messy piles on their desks. He was doing it too, so he had no room to judge.

The bell rang and Derick almost had to run out of the classroom to get to his locker before the hallway became too crowded. He shoved his stuff in his backpack, closed his locker, and was out the door before someone could count to ten.

“Hey, dude!” called someone from behind him. Derick looked over his shoulder to find his friend Chris running after him. “You’re taking me home today, remember? And what’s got you hurrying?”

“Sorry, I forgot,” Derick answered as he slowed down a bit for Chris to catch up. “And Mom’s got to go for her yearly check up today. I didn’t want to miss my chance.”

“You knew I was coming you dumb nut, and okay.” They both continued to run to Derick’s mom’s car. The red minivan was not hard to miss. Sprinting across the parking lot was not their best idea, Derick admitted, but they did get there faster than they would have any other way.

“Boys!” Derick’s mom exclaimed once they got in the car.

“Sorry for Sprinting,” Derick apologized. “But the car was over the Verizon.” He added gun fingers.

“Derick no!” Chris said, threatening to get out of his seat and leave.

“Derick yes!” Derick retorted. He loved to mess with Chris like that.

His mom sighed. “Can we not have one moment of peace?” she asked wishfully.

“Nope,” Derick and Chris said at the same time.

The drive home was a quick three minutes. Derick’s mom dropped them at the front door and drove off. Derick walked up to the door and rummaged around in his pocket to find the key to the house…

Of which he accidentally left in the long gone red minivan that belongs to his mom. He face palmed.

“You left the key in the car, didn’t you?” Chris asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yep,” Derick said.

“Dude, you have a problem. That’s the third time this week.”

“I know.”

“And your mom’s going to kill you next time you do it.”

“I know.”

“Just saying.” Chris sat down on the front step. “You know, that cloud looks like a dragon.”

Derick joined him. “No, it looks like a Star Destroyer from Star Wars.”

“You and your Star Wars.” Chris said, shaking his head.

Derick heard something that sounded like a bomb went off in his backyard. He noticed Chris was not put off by it. Derick wondered if he was hearing things, but he figured it would be safe to check anyway.

“Hey, I’m gonna go check on something,” he told Chris while trying to strain his neck around to see his backyard.

“Sure dude,” Chris shrugged and went back to stabbing the ground with sticks he found laying in the grass. Derick rolled his eyes.

Derick quickly climbed over his fence to see what was going on. He could not believe what he saw. There was a huge crater in the middle of his backyard. In the center was a short person, about a head shorter than Derick. He wore a tan short-sleeve shirt with one light green triangle in the center of the sleeve. The tan color matched the color of his skin pretty well, but his skin was a tad bit lighter. Under it was an orange shirt with sleeves that reached his elbows. It was matched with dark brown cargo shorts. He had light blue shoes on and a sash that contained little containers full of paint that was pretty much every color of the rainbow. He had dark brown hair, the color matched Derick’s, and different colored eyes which seemed to change every few seconds. Some black paint was splatted near where his nose was, but he did not seem to notice.

Derick only had about a thousand questions for him, but another person was hovering in the air. Derick looked again and realized that he was not hovering, but sitting on a swing made of blood red strings. The strings seemed to be coming from markings on his arms. He wore a black t-shirt with grey sweats. He had on black shoes. His skin was a dark brown and his hair pitch black. His crazed grin sent a shiver down Derick’s spine. He had a bad feeling about this.

“It’s all your fault, Terrace,” the person on the swing said. “If you let me do my job, we wouldn’t be here, would we?”

“If I let you do your ‘job,’ Vick,” Terrace said. Derick assumed that was his name because the other person said so. “There wouldn’t be anything left!”

Derick was glad both of them had not noticed him yet. They both looked piping mad at each other and he wanted no part in that. He tried sneaking back over the fence. It was going well, he almost made it over.

Almost.

Another chill went down his spine. He felt like he was being watched. He froze, not daring to move.

“Well, what do we have here?” sneered Vick. Derick could tell it was him because his voice was a lot harsher than Terrace’s.

“Gosh darn it,” Derick mumbled to himself. He turned his head back around. He saw both of them now staring at him.

Terrace had a terrified look on his face while Vick continued to smile. Vick pointed his hand at Derick and his markings started to glow.

“Don’t do it Vick!” Terrace yelled. “You can’t kill him! This is the original AW, don’t you know that?” He pronounced ‘AW’ as two individual letters.

Derick was confused. He had no idea what was going on.

Vick lowered his hand and his markings stopped glowing. “What makes you think I was gonna kill him?” he asked Terrace. “You brought us here anyway.”

“No I didn’t!” Terrace yelled back. “You did!”

Derick noticed that, at this point, their battle had been forgotten and they now resorted to bickering with each other. Derick used this time to finish making his way over the fence. He could not leave them like that in his backyard, so he used a crack in the fence to watch them.

“Hi!” someone exclaimed next to Derick. He jumped back and turned to look at the person. He was wearing a light grey t-shirt and dark blue basketball shorts. He had on light blue shoes, which matched the color of the scarf he had around his neck. His skin tone was the same as Derick’s, a tan color, light brown hair, and, to Derick’s surprise, green eyes. He had on a big smile.

“What are you doing here?” Derick asked. He had no idea who this person was. “It isn’t safe!”

“You mean them?” The person pointed at the fence, but Derick knew what he meant. “They always do that! That’ll be over soon!” He giggled. “I’m Cerulean by the way!”

Derick shook Cerulean’s outstretched hand.

“You know them?”

“Of course I do! Terrace is my friend! He helped create the multiverse and the AWs! Vick destroys the AWs.”

“Hold up, what multiverse? That’s just a dumb theory. It’s not real!”

“You better believe it! Where you live is called an Alternate World, or AW for short! Your AW is the first one and mine’s the second!”

“You’re bluffing!”

“Nope! Derick, everything I said was true!”

“How do you know my name?” Cerulean did not answer. “I don’t remember telling you.”

Cerulean took a deep breath in and out. “Derick, I-”

Something blasted the fence gate and destroyed it. Cerulean and Derick ducked for cover. When he looked up, Derick saw Terrace run over towards them. “Cerulean!?” he called frantically.

“I’m here!” Cerulean called back from behind a bush. Terrace looked relieved. “So is Derick!” Cerulean added.

“I’m over here!” Derick called. He and Cerulean got up from behind the bushes. Derick quickly looked at the damage to the fence gate. He could not even recognize that there was a fence there. He further looked around the wreckage into his backyard to check for Vick.

“What happened?” He heard Cerulean ask Terrace behind him.

“Well, Vick and I were arguing for a bit and, well, you know how unstable he is,

he…uh…” Terrace stumbled around for words to describe it. “Kinda wrapped his strings around part of the porch and threw it at me. I dodged and it hit the gate. Then I laughed at him for missing me and he tried to hit me with a fence post. He stormed off to who-knows-where.”

“Man! How am I going to explain this!” Derick exclaimed. “I’m home for ten minutes and my backyard looks like I was experimenting with nukes and accidentally exploded one!” Derick was freaking out.

“Derick!” Terrace yelled. Derick stopped. “I can fix this, just give me a sec!”

“Really?” Derick scoffed. “This is not a one man jo—” Terrace generated two paint brushes out of thin air and, with a determined look in his eyes, proceeded to draw Derick’s backyard back to its original state.

“How?” Derick gaped. He was in shock.

“Terrace is the god of Creativity,” Cerulean added.

“Oh.” Derick recalled Cerulean saying something like that earlier.

“Oh yeah! I was going to tell you how I knew your name!”

“I would still like to know.”

“Well, so, basically, I’M YOU IN MY AW!”

Derick was surprised. He did not see the connection until then. “So are Terrace and Vick?”

“Yes,” Cerulean said, with less enthusiasm.

“What’s with the nicknames then?”

“Derick, you are more important than you realize!”

Terrace started laughing, much to both of their surprise. They both looked at him weirdly. “What?” Terrace asked.

“Does he always do that?” Derick asked Cerulean quietly.

“Yes, but sometimes it’s a bit different. The other day, he got really mad at me for no reason. A second later, he apologized to me for it and claimed he didn’t know what got over him. I think he’s keeping something from me.” Cerulean whispered back.

“ ‘I got a bad feeling about this,’ ” Derick said in his best impersonation of Han Solo. Cerulean laughed.

“You want to see something cool?” Cerulean asked Derick excitedly.

“Sure,” Derick said, winking one eye and smiling.

Cerulean bounded over to Terrace. “Terrace!! Can we show him the place??” he asked.

“Which place?” Terrace asked playfully. Derick could tell Terrace knew which place Cerulean was talking about.

“You know what place, silly!” Cerulean smiled.

“Okay,” Terrace said. “I guess I can do that.”

“Yay!” Cerulean cheered. “Come on, Derick!” Terrace drew a big portal-like thing with his paint brushes, stepped in, and disappeared. Cerulean did the same.

Derick did not know if he wanted to go with some strangers to some place. Scratch that, he wanted to go, he just did not know if he should. He figured a few moments could not hurt, so he walked through the portal. ​Gotta trust myself at some pointhe sighed. ~~~~~~

Derick had to take a step back. The teleportation made him a bit queasy, but Terrace reassured him that it was only because it was his first time.

“Derick, welcome to AW 10,” Terrace said. “Or, specifically, to Upmost, Earth satellite and a hospitable place for humans.”

At the moment, Derick realized…

He was in space.

Derick had to step back to take in the breathtaking view of the Earth from space. He could see the sun peaking out from just over the horizon the Earth made.

“Wait, how can we breathe up here?” Derick asked.

“This place is covered by a sort of force field,” Cerulean explained. “I’m not sure exactly how it works, but in the building over there is a generator that generates oxygen.” Cerulean gestured toward a whitish-grey covered building in the distance. The building seemed to be laid out in sections and each section was connected by some sort of above-ground tunnel.

“Here comes the head man,” Terrace announced. Derick saw someone emerge from the building. He was taller than all of them and wore a white lab coat over a dark gray shirt. “Derick, this is Astro. He’s a future you that’s a scientist. He also runs things around here.”

“Hello,” Astro said. Derick gave him a small wave. Astro turned his attention towards Terrace. “Terrace, I don’t mind that you come here, but you have to tell me beforehand, got it?”

“Sorry,” Terrace apologized. “But I had to show Derick around, Cerulean begged me.”

“This is your one pass,” Astro said.

“Hey Derick!” Cerulean pulled on Derick’s shirt. “How about I show you around?”

“Okay.” Derick followed Cerulean inside the building.

Derick barely paid attention to Cerulean giving him a tour. He really was fascinated by the structure, but he was not feeling well. Shortly after entering the building, he heard a ringing sound in his ears. After a while, he also felt incredibly hot.

“Hey, Cerulean?” Derick started to ask. “Is it hot in here or what?”

“Derick, are you okay?” Cerulean asked. “This room is practically a big freezer for all the food here.”

“Nah, I’m fine,” Derick lied. His vision started to blur. His knees buckled and he fell forward.

“Derick!” Cerulean screamed, but Derick did not hear him. He had blacked out.

Derick opened his eyes. He seemed to still be in the building. The air was musty with the smell of blood. A strange fog covered the area, giving it an eerie feel. Derick started walking around. He saw a shadowy outline in the fog. After getting a bit closer, he identified the outline as Cerulean.

Cerulean was really beat up. He had generated some sort of weapon that hung loosely in his right hand. Derick made a mental note to ask about it later.

Cerulean noticed Derick. “What are you doing here? It’s not safe!” Derick heard laughter behind him. “Watch out!” Cerulean yelled. Derick turned around to try and identify what the threat was. He tried to move, but he was not fast enough.

He could feel the terrible pain of a knife piercing his side. His hands flew to the place where the knife was. He could feel his blood on it. In front of him, he saw another outline in the fog.

“Who—” Derick started to say but was interrupted by a coughing fit. He could feel blood trickling down from his mouth. “Who are you?” he rasped.

“Who am I?” The person stepped out of the fog. He was wearing a black hoodie and black sweatpants. His hood was pulled over his eye line and he held another knife. “I’m you, but everyone calls me Blood.”

Blood walked closer to Derick. “It’s so nice to haunt your dreams. Too bad you’re not actually here. This would have been so much more fun if so.” Derick only stared. He knew he did not have the strength to run.

Blood stood in front of Derick. He smiled. “You must have thought Vick was the only one.” Blood pulled out the knife that was wedged in Derick. The ripping motion reopened the wound and blood flowed out of it. Derick desperately tried to stop the blood flow with his hands and, while doing so, sank to his knees. He felt a hand grip his hair, forcing his head to tilt upward. He saw Blood’s merciless eyes staring back.

“Silly,” he laughed. “There are a lot of us.” Blood stabbed Derick again. “Goodbye, for now.”

Derick jolted awake. He saw Terrace and Cerulean staring at him. He grew a little uncomfortable. He seemed to be in some sort of infirmary. “Welcome back, Derick,” he heard Astro say. Derick got up from what resembled a hospital bed. He felt a weird pain from his side.

The pain was close to nothing, but it was enough to remind Derick about his dream, if it could even be called that. He could still perfectly picture the knife in his side and Blood laughing at him. He all of a sudden wanted to get out of the building.

Derick walked out of the room before anyone could say anything. Somehow, his feet remembered which way he entered from. He could hear Cerulean following him; Derick knew it was him because he was calling Derick’s name. He continued on.

He finally found his way to the exit. He was going to open the door, but his side started hurting more. He figured it was because he had been running, so he casted it aside. He tried to open the door again, but Cerulean caught up with him.

“Derick!” Cerulean yelled. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Derick said. “I just need some fresh air.” He reached again for the handle.

“That’s not a good reason why you bolted off!” At this point, Derick’s side was throbbing

with pain. Derick opened the door.

~~~~~~

Derick was planning on going through the door, but he did not. He took a step back and stared forward. ​Speak of the devilDerick thought.

“What’s wrong?” Cerulean asked. He also looked forward and flinched.

“Aww, this is so cute,” Blood said. “I actually get to kill someone.”

“When you said ‘for now,’ I didn’t think you meant in five minutes,” Derick said, trying to be funny for his own sake.

Blood was obviously not amused. “Your humor is stupid,” he said. He took a step forward. Out of the corner of his eye Derick saw Cerulean generate a slingshot. ​That’s what that wasDerick realized.

“Don’t come any closer!” Cerulean warned.

“Or what? You’re going to hit me with that?” Blood laughed. “You can’t aim!”

“Yes I can!” To prove his point, Cerulean flung a rock like object at Blood. It hit him in the face. It did not seem to hurt him, but it did surprise him.

Blood was furious. He generated a knife. “This has your name on it Cerulean.”

“Get behind me, Derick,” Cerulean ordered “So he can’t hit you.” Derick did what he was told.

“I already did,” Blood smiled. He snapped his fingers. Derick’s side started hurting as much as it did in his dream. Again, he imagined a knife in his side. He grabbed onto Cerulean’s shirt to try to stay standing.

“Derick!” Cerulean shrieked. He put his arms around Derick to steady him. Cerulean looked back at Blood “What did you do?!”

“No, Cerulean,” Blood shook his head “It’s ‘what did you do?’” Cerulean flinched. “You’ve kept the truth long enough. Heck, you’ve lied to keep the truth. Now what kind of friend is that?”

“Cerulean, what is he talking about?” Derick asked. He was skeptical about what Blood was saying but Cerulean’s reaction made it seem like it was true. “What truth?”

“It’s nothing,” Cerulean said. Cerulean did not make eye contact with Derick.

“‘Nothing’? I’ve been living ‘nothing’ my whole life?!” Blood spat. “I’m only here because of you! Do you know what it’s like to be made of someone’s insecurities? Huh?”

“I didn’t know it would turn out like this!” Cerulean said.

“Oh, so you ‘didn’t know’ you were lying about Terrace? Is that how this is going? And now you’re pulling not just another person, but the original into this?”

Derick was completely lost. The pain in his side subsided, finally, but Cerulean would not let go of him. Somehow, he felt like he needed to be strong for Cerulean. “I don’t get it,” Derick asked. “Who are you?” He directed the question at Blood.

Cerulean answered. “He’s me, Derick.” Derick just stared at him. “In my… our AW, people are born with the natural ability to do magic. Some are better than others. And you can be whatever you want to be!”

“But that’s true for everyone…?” Derick half asked.

“Well, I took it more literal than everyone else. I wanted to be the best me I could be by locking away almost all of my negative traits. It took almost all of my magic to do, but I was a better person. I loved it!

“Over time, all those negative feelings grew a literal mind of their own. First, it was just nightmares. Those nightmares gave me back my regret. And then, after a while, they had a body that followed me around like a ghost. He was stable at first. He gave me criticism, but I mostly ignored it.

“You actually heard me?” Blood looked surprised.

“Yes,” Cerulean answered. “Anyway, I met at Terrace one day. I showed Terrace around my home, and we became friends. When he asked if I wanted to go with him, I immediately said yes. He showed me his favorite places in the AWs, and we had fun. During this, I didn’t realize my negative ghost was gone. When I finally did, I was concerned, actually.

“Yeah right,” Blood scoffed.

”I’m not kidding. I was so used to the constant commentary that I felt weird without it. Well, the days went on and I met Blood, he was calling himself that, truly on accident. I recognized him instantly.”

“So you’ve lied about this instead of telling the truth?” Derick pieced together. “I know the truth is very important. While you were telling the story, did you realize Blood lost the insane look he had before?” Cerulean was stunned. So was Blood. “The more you lied, the more piled on Blood, the more crazy he seemed, and the more positive you were.” As a joke, he added. “Come on, you guys do magic. You’re, like, ten times more powerful than me.” Cerulean laughed. Blood chuckled a bit too.

“You are going to explain to him this one,” Cerulean said to Blood.

“Fine,” Blood took a deep breath. “Derick, you know you are the original, right?”

“Yes?” Derick said. He did not know why that mattered.

“You get certain powers because of that. The most important one is that if you die outside your AW, all other yous die and all AWs collapse and there goes the multiverse. You can traverse the multiverse without help and…um…”

“We don’t know all of those powers,” Cerulean finished.

“Wow,” Derick said. “That’s awesome! I have one question though.”

“Shoot for it,” Cerulean said.

“Are you ready to tell Terrace?”

“I don’t know. I’ll need time. I’ve known him longer and I don’t know if he’ll take it well.”

“We’ll tell him together, all three of us,” Derick assured Cerulean. “In about five seconds.”

“What?!” Cerulean and Blood said at the same time.

The door slammed open. “Oh my gosh! Did someone die?” Terrace demanded. Derick saw that he had his paintbrushes out.

“Everyone is alive!” Derick yelled back.

“Not while he’s here!” Terrace started at Blood. Cerulean stepped in between them.

“We have something to tell you,” Cerulean said.

~~~

It took a while, but the three of them told Terrace the whole story. Terrace took it surprisingly well.

“Do we have to tell Astro that Terrace broke the door?” Derick asked.

“Nah, Terrace will fix it,” Cerulean assured Derick.

“He was you the whole time?!” Terrace asked. Cerulean nodded. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to think less of me,” Cerulean admitted. “And I was ashamed of it.” “Cerulean, you’re my friend. I would never.” Terrace gave Cerulean a reassuring smile.

Derick was happy for the two. He could not help but glance in Blood’s direction. “So,” Derick started. “What will you do now? I mean, you have things sorted out with Cerulean, and you’re done with that knife trick of yours.”

“Who said I was?” Blood smirked. Derick felt a bit of pain from his side. He elbowed Blood. “Hey, I was kidding.”

“How do you do that anyway?” Derick asked.

“Magic.” Blood grinned. Derick glared at him. “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

“This may seem stupid, but what if you helped the multiverse?”

“Me?” Blood laughed. “I’m the literal opposite of the hero type.”

“Cerulean just admitted to being ashamed. Maybe you two share some emotions instead of trade them off.”

“Derick, I’ve killed a lot of people. How am I going to come back from that?”

“One step at a time. You’ll have to give yourself some sort of chance at redemption.”

“You are very hopeful.” Blood stared up at the stars. “I’ll consider it.”

Derick smiled. He noticed that Astro was coming out of the building. “Terrace! The door!” Derick shouted.

“Shoot!” Terrace exclaimed. He quickly repainted the door. It reminded Derick about his yard. For the first time during the trip, Derick felt homesick.

He chuckled to himself. “Man, my life will never be the same after this,” he said.

“Welcome to the club,” Blood said. “If Cerulean doesn’t throw off any more negativity, I can finally act sane for once. It’ll be nice.” He smiled.

“Derick! Are you ready to go home?” Terrace called.

“Not yet!” Derick called back. He looked at Blood. “After all you put me through, I’m going to miss you.”

“Heh, me too,” Blood said. “I might just have to invade your dreams again.”

“If you do, pick somewhere less creepy, okay?” Derick and Blood both laughed. Derick had a feeling that, deep down, something sparked in Blood.

“In that case, see you on the flip side,” Blood said. “Make sure you talk to Cerulean, it looks like he has something for you.”

“Okay,” Derick waved back at Blood before walking over to Cerulean.

“Oh, Derick!” Cerulean said. “Thank you for giving me another chance! I did a terrible thing and I told big lies to cover it up and I just went about it the wrong way and I really should have known better and—” Cerulean was almost in tears.

“Cerulean,” Derick said, cutting Cerulean off. He looked Cerulean in the eyes. “It’s okay. Making mistakes is what makes us human. It’s not healthy to beat yourself up about it. You have to accept that you did something wrong so you can move on.”

“I don’t think Blood will let me.”

“Yes he will. He’s as done with the lies as you are.”

Cerulean grinned. “Thank you, again, Derick.”

“Anytime.”

“That reminds me!” Cerulean held out a piece of paper. “It’s my number. If you need anything, just ask!”

Derick pocketed the paper. “Thanks Cerulean.” Derick turned toward Terrace. “I’m ready now.”

“Okay, give me a quick second,” Terrace created a portal. “See you, Derick.”

“Come by anytime, Terrace!” Derick smiled. He went through the portal and ended up back in his backyard. He waved at his new friends through the portal before it closed. He climbed back over his fence.

“Hey dude,” Chris said. “Did you see something?”

“Well,” Derick looked back at his backyard. “I guess you could say that.”

“Cool.”

~~~

Derick’s mom was disappointed with Derick. After she dropped Chris back at his house, she talked to Derick about being responsible with things that were not his. Derick promised to do better.

After dinner, when Derick had enough time to himself, he whipped out his phone. He took out the slip of paper in his pocket. He entered in Cerulean’s phone number. He was about to close the contact when he saw the words “dial (-) first” scribbled on the back of the slip. He completed the contact. He took a deep breath. He hoped it worked and he would not accidentally text some random person instead. He texted “Heya, it’s Derick.”

The response was almost instant. “Hi Derick! It’s Cerulean!” Derick smiled. He had a feeling he would see him again soon. Above everything, he was really tired. He had had too much excitement for one day. He said good night to his parents and went to bed.

It did not last long. Derick woke up to a crashing sound. He reached over to his light switch and flicked it on. He saw Cerulean tangled up in a cord. Derick was not sure what it was to. “Why are you here, Cerulean?” he said groggily. “It’s probably midnight.”

“It’s eleven,” Cerulean said. “And we need your help!”

“Why didn’t you call me?” Derick was not fully awake. He was not thinking straight.

“This calls for drastic measures!” Cerulean gave someone behind Derick a thumbs up.

In an instant, Derick felt a cold liquid poor down his shirt. That woke him up.

“What the—” Derick started to say. He looked behind him. He saw Blood laughing his head off. “Guys, my parents!”

“They’re fine,” Blood said. “Extra sleep won’t hurt.” Derick got the idea.

“So what is it?” Derick asked.

“It’s Vick,” Cerulean said. “He’s at it again.”

“Where are we meeting?”

“Upmost.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you there.” Derick took a deep breath. “I’m going to try it.”

“Be careful,” Blood said. He and Cerulean disappeared.

Derick had no idea how to teleport. Well, he had one. He cleared his mind and closed his eyes. He thought about the spectacular view of Earth from Upmost.

A second later, he opened his eyes. He found himself in the same spot he thought about. He pumped his fist in the air.

“Oh good! You made it!” Cerulean said.

“Cerulean was worried sick,” Blood said. “He wanted to go back to help you, but I told him you’d be fine.”

“How were you so sure?” Derick asked. Blood pointed to Derick’s side.

“We have a small link now,” he said. “Don’t worry, it can only do dreams and really good hunches.”

“How long will it be there?” Blood shrugged. All three of them laughed.

“We should probably get going,” Cerulean said. “Terrace is waiting inside the building.”

They walked towards the door. Derick felt ready. He knew that whatever Vick was doing would be stopped by the four of them.

He felt truly invincible.

Look out for Olivia’s sequel called Red Strings coming soon to the blog!

Writing Challenge Winner: Luck by E James

E is 16 years old and participated in the Bad Guy Writing Challenge in April 2020. E completed a intense short story about a bitter villain desperately trying to overcome the constant thwarting of the world’s luckiest superhero! This story is great for fans of Deadpool and Despicable Me!

Enjoy E’s story below!

Chapter 1: Mike’s Perspective

I mean duh I’m the bad guy it’s not rocket science though if someone does know rocket science could you teach me. Any who I’m getting off point and talking to a fourth wall probably isn’t the best thing to do right now. Cheerful McGee is over there once again monologuing about JUSTICE and THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP which gets annoying after the 20th time of doing it like hey us villains don’t have all day. The more he monologues the more his face looks punchable. Now you must be wondering what have I gotten myself into and who is this random person?

It’s Mike by the way yeah I have a villain name but since you’re seeing it from my side I might as well give a somewhat okay introduction. And what I’m doing is facing off with Happy Go Lucky once more the hero who always has a smile and luck on his hands I MEAN IS LUCK EVEN A SUPERPOWER looking at you Ladybug and Domino. Oh great now he’s looking at me he must have finished monologuing and now is waiting for a comeback think Mike think.  Oh here I turn to HGL and say “Well justice may be your partner BUT VILLAINY IS MINE!” I let off an evil laugh to punctuate it but that was a terrible line. He reels up with one of his arms ready to punch at me but I really don’t want to deal with this dude. I mean you guys are here and he wins every time so why even bother.

Villains get tired of mundane routines, daily thwartings, and ending up in jail. I just needed to get something from one of my dealers but here’s HGL dealer knocked out behind him with that GRIN THAT AWFUL GRIN on his face. Then he and I had traded one liners then he had monologued and now here we are. As he aimed for my face with his punch I had completely forgotten to shield myself because I was talking with you guys. When his fist connected with my face I felt my nose crack and I just decided in that time and moment that I SHOULD RUN AWAY so I did. As he was reeling up for his next punch I turned around and booked it.

Now you may be wondering, does he have a superpower to let him get away? Short answer is no I don’t have a superpower to get away my superpower is well my creativity its stupid yes but it lets me create my invention plans on a whim and is able to allow me to talk with you guys it also lets me come up with henchmen but even that isn’t enough to stop HGL. I hear HGL’s heavy footsteps behind me as he chases after I just need to come up with a small escape route good enough to get HGL off my tail. I spot another alley way up ahead and turn into it hoping that there is a fire escape stairway. I do indeed see a fire escape, I immediately run faster scrambling up the ladder to the stairs. I could hear HGL just enter the alley. He may have luck on his side but speed was not even if he is fit a man like that is still slower than me. I got to the stairs and ran up them and by then HGL had gotten to the bottom of the ladder but it was much smaller than him which led to him having some difficulty trying to scale it which allowed me more time to escape. I got to the rooftop and judged the distance from this one and the next one. I ran and took a leap, I barely made it my chest hitting the side of the other building. I dragged myself up and hid behind the small wall to hide from HGL.

Now at this point you must be wondering Mike why are you a villain? I mean my parents were both villains and I wanted to carry on their legacy even if my power is as bad as CREATIVITY. They ended up dying to a hero named Firing Squad who had guns for hands. I hate the dude but also I feel bad for him I mean how does he even hold a fork. I’m well known for one thing though: MY INVENTIONS.  My inventions aren’t ever really major, more of just general nuisances  like I made an invention that made stop lights turn red after every 5 seconds. It was fun to watch people get more and more angry with each light change until I was abruptly stopped by HGL. Speaking of the guy, it sounded like he finally had gotten to the other rooftop and he was muttering to himself about my disappearance. The dude may have been a hero but he was kinda stupid. As I heard him get more and more frustrated I heard the crunch of metal against fist, he must have punched one of the air conditioner units. People say villains do more damage than heroes but I haven’t done any damage and HGL has broken his fair share of cars, air conditioner units, and glass a lot of glass just to get rid of me. I would say the dudes persistent but all heroes are.

I finally hear him leave after another 10 minutes of muttering and air conditioner destruction which he will most likely blame me for. I’m finally able to stand up and god sitting like that for 20 minutes left me with such a crick in the neck. I stretch a bit as I survey the ground below. The police have made it by now and HGL is talking to them and finally now is my time to escape. As I make my way down another fire escape another question from you guys comes through. Can you please elaborate on who you are? Well my name is Mike also known as the villain The Creator I live in AlesCreek city my antagonist is Happy Go Lucky the hero and I am a minor villain of this city though soon I will be the best villain very soon.

Chapter 2: Happy Go Lucky’s Perspective

The police take so long to finish questioning me about The Creator’s disappearance. I’m so tired after chasing him, I wish he couldn’t move as fast as he could, that’s how I usually lose him. I’ve won the most out of our encounters but lately he’s been trying to avoid me all the time. I mean nemeses are supposed to thwart each other and when he keeps avoiding me I feel like we aren’t enemies anymore. I know it’s stupid to think like that we’re supposed to take down our villains, throw them in jail, and then not worry about them anymore. I’m finally let go by the police and I walk home. I wish I could fly, that would make my job much easier but unlike The Crow, I can’t. I make it to the suburbs of the city and get to my small home, it’s not much but it helps keep my exercise equipment, food, and bed in a shelter. I walk through the door squeezing through it. I look in the mirror in my entryway, worry about The Creator is plain on my face, he didn’t even come up with any good one liners this time. I walk over and sit down on my couch as I work on taking off my boots and eye cover. Well now that I’m home maybe I can finally get some sleep. As I take off the rest of my main costume and slip on shorts and a shirt I head to my bed and at 4:00 in the afternoon I flop down on the bed and immediately pass out sinking into a nice relaxing slumber.

E’s original artwork of the characters!

Mike’s Perspective

The elevator dings as it opens to a dimly lit area, there’s a few plastic folding tables holding up parts and pieces to other inventions, there’s a wall of previous inventions, there’s a room to the side that’s all blacked out I call it my think room, and then there’s my mattress in the corner. Yes unlike other villains I do not live a life of luxury. Now you might be wondering Mike where are you? Currently at my lair which is an apartment basement. I was loaned the room by a lady who owns the apartment building, she’s a jerk and is very strict but I live here anyways.

I look over at my mattress sleep beckons but I hang up on that call and instead I walk over to the wall of past inventions and remember all the fights I had to deal with from HGL when I used them. I pick up the TANTRUM CHILD EMITTER it looks like one of those plasma globes but I can turn it on anywhere and it causes kids to throw a tantrum. It ANNOYS EVERYONE around them, it was one of my best until HGL cracked it, now if you turn it on it leaks radiation. Then there is the FORGET YOUR PASSWORD GIZMO which if shot at someone they forget all their passwords. I used it in computer labs, schools, and libraries, it was amazing until HGL made everyone remember their passwords with his LUCKINESS then promptly once again beat me to a pulp. With every invention HGL stopped it and threw me into jail. Now Lego Batman made it seem like villains and heroes have this special relationship, WRONG, I hate HGL and I really hope he just DISAPPEARS from my life. I just want him gone and he will disappear very soon though. I’ve studied HGL as he fought me and he may seem human but he’s built of luck essence, get rid of that essence he just poofs from existence.

So my next invention will get rid of him for good. I walk over to the far wall on the table there is a small metal cube with a few lines on it. I call it my BAD LUCK CUBE, it’s not complete yet I was actually getting the final piece today from a dealer but instead HGL was there and I couldn’t get the piece. So now I have to make the piece myself because I’m sure that dealer won’t contact me ever again. With all that happened today I feel exasperated I really want to sleep but I also have to figure out what to do so I suppose TO THE THINK ROOM. I walk over to the room, it has all its walls painted black and there’s no lights. I close the door and and the room is pitch black it lets me think the best. I lie down on the floor which has a bunch of sound foam to block out any sound. All of this helps me come up with the best ideas, it causes hallucinations yes but that helps as well.

As I lie there the minutes tick by I start to hallucinate sounds and colors and light but they start to form into a more solid idea. Five minutes after this I bolt up right, I’ve got it the perfect way to fix this. I stand up and open the door and immediately shield my eyes, even if the room is dim it still is blinding after that. I go to one of the tables with blueprints and notes, and immediately began to write down the notes of my idea. After a few minutes of scribbling down notes I finally have a way to make this last piece of the puzzle, the only problem is that I’m gonna have to get blood from HGL to finish the piece. It’s a little circuit system that passes electricity through the circuit into the blood then it rearranges that power into its opposite power aka good luck into bad luck then emits that power. As I come to that conclusion I look towards the mattress in the corner. Sleep is gonna have to wait.

Chapter 3: Mike’s Perspective

It took me 3 hours to get the board set up but now I need to get HGL’s blood. I grab a syringe off the table as I head for the elevator. I just need to get a few milliliters of blood and get back to here. I’m sure he’s probably at his house by now. Yes I know where his house is, I found it on Zillow because I don’t know maybe I wanted to booby trap it once, it never happened though. The elevator opens and I pull up my hood as I head out into the streets.

The first time I met HGL was back when I was 18, I wanted to join the Villain Organization to keep on my family’s legacy and my parents had been a part of the organization before they had been killed. To get in though you have to show off how and why you are a villain. So I decided to make an invention to show them. All my other inventions had been small and I decided to try my hand at something else. I searched up the most annoying things for a person and found an idea THE SLOW WALKER RAY GUN. Once I built it I went up onto my apartment’s roof with a beach chair and shot walking people to make them go slower the more they were shot the slower they went. It went on like this for 3 hours until I shot what looked like a bodybuilder but he didn’t slow down so I shot him again and he still didn’t slow down. I decided to try and fine tune the gun more but during that the dude had turned towards the apartment building, walked towards it, and scaled the wall.

When I looked back up from the gun he was standing right in front of me. He then promptly beat me to a pulp and put me in jail. I was actually only in jail for a day due to the fact I hadn’t harmed anyone just made them walk slower. I did get into the V.O. with the invention but it was the very beginner level and I haven’t been promoted at all and it’s been eight years since that beginning invention. As you could have probably guessed the bodybuilder dude was HGL and that’s how he also became my nemesis. As I walk into the suburbs I think back on all the times HGL has beat me and how this new invention will be my greatest victory of all. I finally get to his house and hop the back gate. He had left a window open, guess a guy with luck doesn’t have to worry about break-ins. I slip through the window and his place is a mess, even my lair isn’t all that organized but this is just sloppy. I hear snoring coming from one of the rooms and creep towards it.

As I figured HGL was passed out in his room with the door wide open, this man is so careless. I quickly pull out the syringe step forward and stab HGL in the arm with it. He begins to stir so I quickly draw some blood then take back the syringe. I then scamper out of the room and out through the window before HGL can really wake up. As I make my way down the street once more I pull my hood down further and think on how I’m one step closer to truly winning against this man.

HGL’s Perspective

I awake to a slight stingy pain in my arm. I rub my eyes trying to get rid of any gunk and bleariness. I hear something outside but ignore it, it’s probably a squirrel anyways. As I sit up the stinging pain is still there. It’s weird maybe a fly bit me or something who knows. I stand up and stretch out my back and arms then shuffle my way to the kitchen. It looks like it’s around 7:00 at this point so I should probably make something to eat. I root around in my freezer as I think more on the Creator situation. He doesn’t harm anyone so that’s why it’s so hard to keep him in jail but his actions are still villainous and he’s still a part of the Villain Organization. I decide on meatloaf and potatoes and open the box. I mean I just need one incriminating factor about The Creator and then I can keep him in jail forever. I bet he doesn’t even really have a home, he seems homeless though who knows.

I pull back the plastic cover and stick the food in the microwave heating it up. Villains and heroes both have similar levels to them the higher up you are the more well known you are. Which makes you think about how similar these two groups are. I mean me and The Creator are both minor people of our groups. There’s Thunderstorm who’s a higher hero and has a nemesis named Desolate and they are both well known. The higher you are the more recognition, the more popularity, just all more. The microwave beeps and I take the food out. I dump it onto a plate and walk over to my living room. Maybe I should rethink being a hero, I mean with my nemesis being The Creator  he isn’t really a threat so I technically don’t have a job to begin with.  I feel a chill and go over to close a window I had accidentally left open. I’ve been off my lucky game since this whole worrying began and it just reminds me of how The Creator is acting. I sit down on the couch and turn on the tv. Heroes, Villains in the end we’re all the same.

Chapter 4: Mike’s Perspective

       It has been a week since I stole some of HGL’s blood. I finally got the board set up and into the cube but now I’ve got to test it. I walk the streets keeping an eye out for a single superhero in this city. I have to start with erasing moderate luck before erasing complete luck. The first thing that comes to mind with luck is a four leaf clover but that’s taken by HGL, so then the next item was a rabbit’s foot. There is one rabbit themed superhero in AlesCreek, Cottontail, she can hear extremely well, smell extremely well, and leap buildings in one jump. If I find her in her usual spots I could make the cube target her and then take away her luck and if I monitor her for this next week maybe I can see what results I’ll get.

I get to West AlesCreek and climb up one of the fire escapes onto a roof. Now it’s the waiting game to see if she comes this way. I sit down criss cross on the roof but I immediately stand back up because it’s 80 degrees out but the roof tiles are burning. As I stand and wait I can feel myself begin to bake like a rotisserie chicken. I wonder if I should turn as I’m standing out here to imitate a chicken. As I wait I suppose I should answer more questions from you guys. My favorite color is purple, my favorite season is fall, my favorite food is chicken alfredo, and my favorite hobby is playing with legos. And there she goes, I was so focused on answering that Cottontail passed by me. I immediately run after her pulling the cube out of my pocket, I just have to get within 20 feet of her then I can activate the cube.

She’s fast but that’s only because she’s jumping over the buildings while I have to run across them. She finally stops on the ground listening for something and I take this as my chance. I slowly crawl down one fire escape and then activate the cube once I’m close. She freezes like a deer caught in headlights she knows something is near her but she can’t tell what it is. I let the cube work for about five minutes before I turn it off. I then slowly climb back up the fire escape. She seems to relax like she can’t sense anything so I can’t tell if the cube deadened her senses or if I’m just that sneaky. I’ll be monitoring her over the next week to see if the cube truly works. 

. . .

    It’s a week later and the device very much did work. Cottontail’s senses had been so deadened that she was so confused when she was attacked and the news had eaten it up. I scrolled through my phone seeing reports of Cottontail’s bad luck streak. I smile inwardly; this makes great leaps and bounds for my experiment unlike what Cottontail is doing now which is hitting buildings face first when she tries to jump. I think I may have put her out of a job all together but I feel no remorse. I mean I had to test my cube on someone, it’s not my fault she was the perfect candidate.  Now that I know the cube works I can fine tune it completely and set it so it will get rid of all luck. Now is the beginning of the end for HGL. I stand up from my mattress and begin my final work. 

HGL’s Perspective

       I hear about Cottontail’s bad luck streak for the fourth time this week. I don’t know what happened to her, maybe there’s a new villain in town who has bad luck as their thing. If that is true maybe they’re my true nemesis which makes me want to get rid of The Creator more, maybe fighting this bad luck villain is my true purpose. I can’t be mopey anymore just because The Creator keeps running away we had no real nemesis relationship anyways. I put on my face mask and stand up. I’ve always hated how tight this suit was but it fits my theme. I go out on patrol to stop any minor crimes that may be happening.

As I patrol the streets without my knowing I wander into the part of town that The Creator usually stays in and does his deals. I haven’t seen much of him over these past two weeks or so and to be honest I’m kinda hoping he’s just disappeared off the face of the Earth. I stop two robberies by making the bad guys drop their bags then detain them while the police get there. I love the praise and hopefully this will get me more noticed by the hero committee. I keep wandering and patrolling until I make it to that alleyway that we had fought in just a few weeks ago. It’s been cleaned up from our fight well as clean as an alley can be. I wonder why he needed the part he needed, it had looked like a computer chip with a small capsule in the middle. I couldn’t figure out what it was or why he needed it. It’s probably locked away in an evidence box somewhere at this point.

I walk farther into the alley way but there really isn’t anything here a few garbage cans, some boxes, junk, and a stray cat. I just walk out and continue on my patrol. I don’t know what The Creator is scheming or planning but it can’t be big, he never does anything big, but maybe with this new bad luck villain I could finally take on something big. Though that would mean getting The Creator out of the way first. So I begin to plan for my next encounter with him. I plan on finally capturing him and getting rid of him for good, all I would have to do first is frame him but luck is always on my side for things like that. So with this our next encounter will be our last Creator so watch out.

Chapter 5: HGL’s Perspective

       Three days later and my plan has been set in action. I made a few people steal stuff by making it a high luck chance then made them forget they did it. I called the police saying I’m gonna detain The Creator and that they should wait for my signal or call. I’m in the alley way with the stolen stuff next to me. I wait for The Creator to get here tapping my foot a bit. This is it, the main event, the main turning point in my life that I hope will put me on the right track to success. All I have to do is wait.

Mike’s Perspective

       I know he framed me, it’s obvious. He wouldn’t have made it so obvious of where he was to me if he hadn’t framed me. So I took care of the police before, giving them all bad nausea with one of my other inventions before walking to that alleyway. He sure has a way for irony since this is the same alley we were in before. As I make my way I don’t feel nervous at all, actually I feel determined like I’m finally going to win. The cube feels as light as a feather in my pocket even though it weighs about half a pound. I step into the alleyway and here HGL mumbling to himself about victory and success. He doesn’t notice I’m here until I’m like five feet away. He’s not very sense aware and he doesn’t usually put up his luck kind of shield until he’s in a real fight so he is kinda idiotic in that way too. Now this fight would be boring if it were just from my perspective so I’m gonna shift you guys to third person so you can see the full fight in effect. It should give you a whole new wow factor.

       Mike looks over at the fourth wall winking as a way to say ta daa. HGL doesn’t notice and begins to speak.

       He pointed his finger at Mike”Creator I am here to end you for good,”.

       “Yeah yeah I know you framed me but I took care of the police force and other obstacles it’s now just you and me HGL,” Mike said this so calmly that it almost seemed like they were about to play chess.

       HGL just stood there his hand sagging a bit when he heard his plan was foiled.

        “Fine then I’ll just capture you a different way and you will go to jail for good Creator,”

       “That’s what you think HGL now bring it on,”

       With that HGL charged at Mike fist cocked back. Mike ducked under his first punch then dove to the side out of the way of a kick. He began to rummage around in his pocket and took out the cube. It looked like one of those fidget cubes except instead of several things it just had one button. HGL looked at it and dove for it so he could destroy it like every other invention he had destroyed. Mike stuck it behind his back and HGL hit Mike full on like a bulldozer. Mike scrambled away and got up as he pulled the cube out from behind his back.

       “Freeze lucky boy, it’s my turn to win,” Mike grinned for once in his life feeling the victory so close to him.

       “You’re gonna stop me with a measly cube. You’ve descended into complete madness Creator,”

        “You know that bad luck villain you’ve been hearing so much about. He isn’t real HGL it’s just this cube,” Mike shook the cube mockingly at him and watched as HGL’s face flashed to disbelief for a second before going back to anger.

       HGL ran at Mike again but at that point Mike pressed the button and they both flew back as a powerful amount of energy hit them both.

       I change the perspective back to first person and let you guys back into my head.I watch as HGL falls over the very edges of him start to fade like he is a hologram fading out slowly. He gets up and tackles me and I let him, he can’t stop me, he’s done for finally. The cube hits the ground along with me and HGL ends up crushing it with his knee. He tries to punch me but his hand is no longer there having faded out completely. You could see the disbelief hit him like a truck and he sits back as I scramble away and stand up. I give my best villain grin as he then flashes to anger trying to attack me once more. Then finally one more emotion flashes on his face. Defeat he looks at me with a saddened look. It cuts me deep to the core but try to not let that on. I’m not fully apathetic guys and I’m sending this guy to nothingness. I shake my head a bit as I try to get rid of a slight bit of guilt. I mean we were both nemeses, so our end goal was to defeat each other. I don’t think he expected me to ever win since villains never do. I watch him fade away completely, that look still very much on his face. I pick up the crushed cube pocketing it. I then head out of the alleyway pulling my hood up. I walk by ordinary people going on with their day not knowing that a hero has just disappeared from this world. Something felt wrong though, it hadn’t just been the look on HGL’s face but something felt off, like I had just erased an entire law of the universe with a single push of a button.

The End

Early April new releases

Cover of The Female Persuasion by Meg WolitzerApril 3: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
From Goodreads: “Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Cover of Dread Nation by Justina IrelandApril 3: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (young adult)
Zombies, Gettysburg, and combat schools to put down the dead. What’s not to love? It’s the Civil War, and at the battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, the dead begin to walk, completely derailing the war and changing the country forever. The safety of the country’s citizens lies in the hands of a relatively few people. New laws require certain people to attend combat schools where they learn to put down the dead. And for Jane McKeene, this means more opportunity than she would have had otherwise as she studies to become an Attendant, and trains in weaponry and etiquette to prepare to protect the well-to-do.

Cover of A Necessary Evil by Abir MukherjeeApril 3: A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
In this followup to A Rising Man, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant “Surrender-Not” Banerjee are called upon to solve the mystery of the assassination of the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Sambalpore. Prince Adhir was a moderniser, but his attitudes and romantic relationship may have upset the religious elements of his country. But the new heir, Prince Adhir’s brother, appears to be an irresponsible playboy. As Wyndham and Banerjee work to untangle the mystery of the murder, they find themselves in a race to find the murderer before the murderer finds them.

Cover of Macbeth by Jo NesboApril 5: Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Famed crime writer Jo Nesbo tackles the classic story of Macbeth. From Goodreads: “Set in a dark, rainy northern town, Nesbo’s Macbeth pits the ambitions of a corrupt policeman against loyal colleagues, a drug-depraved underworld and the pull of childhood friendships. Get ready to helter-skelter through the darkest tunnels of human experience.

Cover of Circe by Madeline MillerApril 10: Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is the daughter of a Titan, but without the powers of either her mother or her father. Because she is such a strange child, she turns to the mortal world for companionship, where she learns she is not powerless. She discovers that she possesses the power of witchcraft, which allows her to transform her rivals into monsters. Threatened by this discovery, Zeus banishes Circe to a deserted island, but this just allows Circe to hone her craft.

Cover of Love and Other Words by Christina LaurenApril 10: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
A then-and-now story of love. Macy is a pediatrics resident who is busy planning her wedding to a financially secure older man. She has a plan — keep her head down and her heart tucked away. Then she runs into Elliott, the love of her life, around whom her whole world used to revolve. From the teenage Elliott and Macy who grow from friends to much more, to the adult Elliott and Macy who have become strangers until their chance reunion, this story explores what happens when love gets a second chance.

 

Late February new releases

Feb. 20: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott
Six close friends from Oxford spend what they hope will be the perfect summer getaway together in a farm house in France. And it is, until they meet the girl next door — Severine. For Kate, Severine is an unwelcome presence, who undermine’s the groups loyalties. Kate knows that after a huge blow-up on the last night of the the holiday, that things are not ever going to be the same. Some actions are unforgivable and some people are unforgettable, even if they are never seen again. But a decade later, Severine’s body is found. Suspicion begins to swirl around Kate, who finds herself buried in deception and has no one to help her get free.

Feb. 20: The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch
The latest in Charles Finch’s Charles Lenox mystery series takes the reader back to Lenox’s first case in 1850. Lenox is struggling to make a name for himself as a private detective, and Scotland Yard refuses to take him seriously. An anonymous letter sent to the newspaper is from a person who claims to have committed the perfect crime, and in the letter they promise to kill again. Lenox believes this is his chance to prove himself. The killer’s sights end up set on those closest to Lenox, and he ends up in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Feb. 27: The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta
Kiranmala is just a normal New Jersey sixth grader when she wakes up on her 12th birthday. Then her parents disappear and a demon blasts through her kitchen trying to eat her alive. Her parents had often told Kiranmala fantastical stories — like that she was really an Indian princess. Then, two swoon-worthy Indian princes show up at her door trying to rescue her. Now she’s sucked into another dimension: one full of magic and mythical creatures and magical maps. She has to solve riddles and avoid demons and try to avoid the things that want to kill her, while trying to find her parents and basically save New Jersey.

Feb. 27: The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus
Typically, the movie comes after the book, but in this case it’s the other way around. The highly rated movie, which is still out in theaters, was released a couple of months ago. Critics have said that director Guillermo del Toro was “at his visually distinctive best” with this film. He has joined forces with author Daniel Kraus to tell this love story in novel form. Elisa Esposito is mute, and works as a janitor in a research center in 1962. One night she sees a creature she isn’t supposed to, and it eventually becomes her sole reason for living. io9 says in its review that the movie and the book tell this spectacular story in two very different ways.

Feb. 27: The Hush by John Hart
This book takes the reader back to the world Hart introduced in The Last Child. But you don’t have to read that book before you read this one. Johnny lives alone, 10 years after the events that changed his life. Books have been written about his exploits, and people are curious, but Johnny works hard to maintain his privacy. His one connection to his past is with his childhood friend, Jack. Jack senses danger in the lands Johnny lives on, but Johnny doesn’t want to discuss it.

Early January new releases

It’s a shiny, brand new year and oh, the reading possibilities that brings! With the advent of a new year, we are getting into the seasons of many more new books being released! With that in mind, here are a few titles we are looking forward to in the first half of January. Click on the title of the book to go to our catalog to check availability.

Tell us in the comments what your reading goal is for 2018.

Jan. 2: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black—young adult
At 7, Jude lost her parents when they were murdered. At the same time her sisters were spirited away to live in the High Court of Faerie. Now 17, Jude desperately wants to join them, but to do so, she’ll have to defy Price Cardan, the youngest and most wicked of the sons of the High King.

Jan. 2: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox hasn’t left her home in 10 months. Over those months, she has sat at her window day after day watching her neighbors. When a new family moves in, she feels particularly drawn to what looks like a picture-perfect family living what used to be her life. Then she hears a scream rip the silence and sees something no one should ever have seen, but what should she do?  She’s not certain anyone will believe her, but she must get to the bottom of what happened.

Jan. 9: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
In 1986, Eddie and his friends spend their time biking around their English village, sharing information with each other via little chalk figures. One day, a figure leads them to a dismembered body and everything changes. Now, it’s 30 years later, and each of them gets a letter in the mail that contains a chalk stick figure. Then one of them turns up dead. Eddy figures it’s time he learns what really happened all those years ago.

Jan. 9: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
A traveling psychic shows up in New York City’s Lower East Side in 1969, a woman who claims to be able to foretell the day a person will die. Four teenagers, the Gold children, sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies they hear guide their stories for the next 50 years.

Jan. 16: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
From Goodreads: “In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances. Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie. Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy. With captivating insight and stunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.”

Jan. 16: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars are at the center of this book, which explores the friendship and creative partnership shared by Mary Pickford and Frances Marion. In 1914, Frances meets Mary, who is already making a name for herself. But together, these two women will hold much power in the movie industry and in Hollywood itself. Mary Pickford was knows as “Queen of the Movies” and Frances Marion is considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century.

 

December new releases

Ah, the holiday season is upon us. And that means the gift-giving season is upon us as well! If you are having a hard time finding the perfect gift for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list, maybe a book is the answer. We’ve got several great new releases listed below, and most of them will be out  before Christmas—with the exception of the last two titles, which will be out Dec. 26, perfect for late gift-giving!

Do you have a favorite book that you love to give as a gift? If so, share it with us by leaving a comment.

Dec. 5: Year One (Chronicles of the One #1) by Nora Roberts
On New Year’s Eve, a sickness suddenly spreads across the land. Within weeks technology begins to fail, governments have collapsed and half the world’s population is dead.  Survivors have to figure out how to work in this new world, a world where magic is beginning to rise up as science and technology have been destroyed. Some of the magic is good, and some is evil. In this new landscape, one is never sure if someone they meet is a savage or a savior.

Dec. 5: Enchantress of Numbers
by Jennifer Chiaverini
Ada is the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron, and as such, destined for fame even before she was born. Her mother is estranged from Ada’s father in an attempt to save Ada from “her perilous Byron heritage” by immersing her in study of mathematics and the sciences. When Ada is introduced into society, she develops a relationship with inventor Charles Babbage and over time, comes to terms with her own imagination.

Dec. 5: The Girl in the Tower (The Bear and the Nightingale #2)
by Katherine Arden
Vasya returns as a young woman, and is compelled to choose between a forced marriage to a prince or life in a convent—both of which will leave her cut off from the world she longs to explore. Instead, she chooses to leave home disguised as a boy and sets off on an adventure. A battle brings her to the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow, from whom she must hide her secrets, even after she realizes that she is the only one who will be able to stop the mysterious forces that could destroy his kingdom.

Dec. 12: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Heather
Samantha, an accountant, lives her life as safely as she knows she should. Then Nick comes into her life and she can’t help falling for him. However, when he plans a dangerous kayaking trip, Samantha ends their young relationship in anger. Fast forward two years, and Samantha’s grandmother has had an accident, so Samantha travels to Thunder Falls, Idaho, to be with her. Who does she find there, but Nick. With the encouragement of their family and friends, and a whole church congregation, can they try again?

Dec. 19: Bad Call by Stephen Wallenfells (young adult)
Four boys from a prep school make plans to go on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park. What could possibly go wrong? Before the group even gets out on the trip, one of them backs out. Then, a girl replaces him. Then, there’s a fire at their intended campsite. So they decide to take a treacherous trail to the top of Yosemite Valley and the bad decisions really begin to pile up. After more mishaps and issues, one of them doesn’t make it back to their tent and the rest of the group tries to figure out what happened while desperate to survive themselves.

Dec. 26: The Road to Bittersweet by Donna Everhart
Wallis Ann Stamper is 14, and lives in the Appalachians, which is not easy but she finds it satisfying. Her older sister is a mute and musical savant and is constantly watched over. Wallis, however, is rugged and and practical. When a flood forces her family from their home in the middle of the night, Wallis is exposed to a whole world beyond the banks of the creek that carries the family name. As the family makes its way to the hill country of South Carolina, the experiences Wallis has will take her across some rough terrain, not all of which is physical.

Dec. 26: Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
The scholarship Nora Tufts received was a step toward becoming a medical specialist. Then she was hit by a car. Then she overheard her boyfriend hitting on another doctor and that was two huge steps backward. So Nora goes back to the tiny Maine community she was so eager to leave 15 years before. And they don’t necessarily want her back.

November new releases

There’s definitely a chill in the air and we’ve seen our first forecast for possible snow (already?! it’s far too early for snow!). Break out the hot cocoa and some marshmallows, find a soft blanket to curl up in, and grab a good book! If you’re looking for something new, here are a few books scheduled for release this month (all of them before Thanksgiving!) that we recommend.

Nov. 7: Now is Everything by Amy Giles (young adult)
Hadley Macauley is at the center of this debut novel, told in alternating then and now chapters. Hadley’s family may look like a perfect family from the outside, but they are hiding a dark secret. Hadley is doing everything she can to keep her sister safe from their father, but after Hadley’s relationship with Charlie deepens, a violent incident at home changes everything. After Hadley attempts suicide, everyone wants to know what happened that day at home, and Hadley’s not saying a word.

Nov. 7: Renegades by Marissa Meyer (young adult)
From the author of the Lunar Chronicles comes the first in a new series about a syndicate of good guys who rose after society crumbled and chaos ruled—the Renegades. As champions of justice, they’ve brought about peace and order, which is appreciated by everyone but the villains they’ve vanquished. Nova is on a mission of vengeance for a villain who has the power to crush her, and when she meets Adrian, they both end up in danger.

Nov. 14: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive #3)
Brandon Sanderson does epic fantasy with the best of them, and the third installment in The Stormlight Archive series is no different. Humanity is facing a new Desolation in the Voidbringers. The violent Everstorm is sweeping the world with destruction. But nestled in the mountains above the storms, Shallan Davar unearths dark secrets in the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant. Previous books in The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings (#1), Words of Radiance (#2), and Edgedancer (#2.5).

Nov. 14: Artemis by Andy Weir
New science fiction from the bestselling author the The Martian is set in the near future in a city on the moon. Life in Artemis is pretty rough if you aren’t one of the rich tourists, so a little smuggling won’t hurt anything and certainly helps pay the bills. But when Jazz gets the chance to pull of a perfect crime, what could go wrong? Until she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy for control of the city itself.

Nov. 21: The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris (middle grades)—this book is on order so is not available yet on the catalog
Carter is a street magician. When he runs away to a sleepy New England town, he finds friends and more magic. After a greedy boss and some crooked carnies move into town, Carter teams up with five more kids who think like he does. They set out to rid the town of the bad guys, using magic and teamwork, and in the meantime, find friendship, adventure and their own self-worth.

Nov. 21: The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
From Goodreads: “A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.”

Early September new releases

The holiday weekend means I’m a little behind this month, but here are some new releases we’re looking forward to this month. I hope you found some time to get some reading in on that last great weekend of the summer.

Yesterday really did seem to be our last blast of summer with temperatures in the Wichita area hovering near 100 degrees. Today feels like the beginning of fall with much cooler temperatures and a cloudy sky! But for us readers, that just means that we can move our reading indoors with a cup of our favorite warm beverage (librarians here are split between coffee and tea, although my favorite is hot cocoa).

Take a look at the titles below and see if something here grabs your interest. You can click on the title of the book to find it in our catalog.

Cover of Lie To Me by J. T. Ellison
A tale of a relationship built on lies, and how it can unravel.

Sept. 5: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison
Where does a life built on lies get Sutton and Ethan Montclair? Not very far it turns out. While it appears that the couple is made for each other, the truth is much darker. They have been consumed by troubles, both personal and financial, and the two both love and hate each other. When Sutton disappears, leaving a note that directs people not to look for her, the lies begin to unravel and Ethan finds himself at the center of the gossip and questions. A thriller full of twists and turns that will have you turning pages.

Sept. 5: All That Makes Life Bright by Josi S. Kilpack
This romance tells the story of Harriet Beecher and her relationship with Calvin Stowe. Harriet has a strong faith in God and believes that God will help her accomplish everything she is meant to be, including a wife, mother, and writer. When Calvin is called away on a European business trip, Harriet begins to wonder about her place in his life as she knows he still misses his first wife. Even when Calvin returns, life is much harder as Harriet tries to fulfill her many roles.

Cover of The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
A new tale from a literary master.

Sept. 5: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
Another masterful tale from Rushdie, this novel tells the story of the Golden family, from the perspective of their Manhattanite neighbor, confidant and aspiring filmmaker, Rene. Nero Golden is a real-estate tycoon with three adult children. They move into a mansion in downtown Manhattan after immigrating to the United States under mysterious circumstances. Rushdie calls on pop culture, cinema, literature, and current events to tell this story.

Cover of Lines by Suzy Lee
A magical picture book explores the designs a young skater makes on a frozen pond.

Sept. 5: Lines by Suzy Lee (picture book)
From Goodreads: “And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee’s books have been lauded around the world, recognized on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children’s book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.”

Sept. 12: Warcross by Marie Lu (young adult—not yet on catalog, but is on order)
For those who log in every day, Warcross is more than just a game. Emika Chen is a teenage hacker who also works as a bounty hunter, searching for those who bet on the game illegally. She needs to make some quick cash, so she takes a risk and hacks into a game, but accidentally glitches herself into the action. She’s convinced she’s going to be arrested, but instead ends up on a mission for the young billionaire creator of the game.

Sept. 12: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Cover of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng creates a simmering suburb in this story of how a secret can upend a community.

Shaker Heights is a carefully planned suburb of Cleveland, from the layout of the roads to the color of the houses. Elena Richardson embodies the ideas behind the suburb perfectly, as she absolutely believes in following the rules. But when Mia Warren moves in — an artist and single mom — and rents a house from the Richardson, life in this carefully ordered community gets upended.

Late August new releases

Man, it feels like we were just here talking about early August new releases, and now it’s time for late August new books already! The good news is we have THREE more Tuesdays in August for that much more good reading to be available!

Here are a few of the books we think will make an end-of-summer splash with their releases later this month. Which ones will make it onto your list of to-reads?

Cover of Bonaparte Falls Apart
This new picture book is great for Halloween or the start of the school year.

Aug. 15: Bonaparte Falls Apart by Margery Cuyler (picture book)
If you have a child who is anxious about starting school, check out this adorable picture book about Bonaparte, who has issues when playing catch (his arm flies off with the ball) and other minor mishaps. His good friends Franky Stein, Black Widow and Mummicula are there to help him out.

 

Aug. 15: How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas
Meet Isidore Mazal, an average 11-year-old who lives in France with his five exceptional older siblings. While his siblings are on track to have their doctorates by age 24, writing a novel or playing with a symphony, Isidore notices things and asks questions others are afraid to ask. When the Mazal family experiences a tragedy, Isidore is the one to notice how the rest of the family is handling their grief and he may be the only one who can save the family, if he doesn’t decide to run away from home first.

Aug. 15: A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor (young adult)
Emma and Henri are sisters who have always been best friends. Emma trusted Henri implicitly, and then something happens that wrecks them and they end up washed ashore. They are stranded with only Alex, a troubled boy who has secrets of his own.

Aug. 22: Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton
In the second-to-last installment of Grafton’s alphabet mysteries, Kinsey Millhone finds herself in drawn into one of her most disturbing cases yet. In 1979, four boys sexually assaulted a teenage girl, videotaped it, and not long after the videotape went missing and one of the boys was killed. Fast forward to 1989 when one of the perpetrators is released from prison. A copy of the missing videotape shows up with a note demanding ransom, and the perpetrator’s family calls Kinsey in.

Cover of The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen
Cricket and her grandmother Dodo go on a Manhattan adventure in this middle-grades novel by Catherine Lloyd Burns.

Aug. 22: The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen by Catherine Lloyd Burns (middle-grades novel)
From Goodreads: “Cricket Cohen isn’t a liar, but she doesn’t always tell the exact truth. She loves thinking about geology and astronomy and performing tricky brain surgery on her stuffed animals. She also loves conspiring with Dodo, her feisty grandmother who lives in the apartment right next door. And one Manhattan weekend when she’s in hot water with her teacher and her controlling parents over a fanciful memoir essay, Cricket goes along with Dodo’s questionable decision to hit the bricks. Imagining all sorts of escapades, Cricket is happy to leave home behind. But on a crosstown adventure with an elderly woman who has her own habit of mixing truth and fantasy, some hard realities may start to get in the way of all the fun.”

Aug. 22: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Aviva Grossman is a congressional intern in Florida. When she engages in an affair with her boss — a very married congressman — then blogs about it, she takes the fall when it goes public. She changes her name and moves to Maine to become a wedding planner. However, as events in her life unfold, she discovers that thanks to the power of the Internet, her past is never actually left behind.

Cover of Glass Houses by Louise Penny, the 13th novel in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series
Louise Penny’s beloved Inspector Armand Gamache faces not just a physical investigation into a murder, but an internal investigation of his conscience.

Aug. 29: Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #13) by Louise Penny
A mysterious figure appears on the village green in Three Pines. A body is discovered when it vanishes and it is up to Gamache to discover the ins and outs of the murder. The story takes the reader not just through the discovery of the body and the arrest of the suspect, but through the trial of the accused. All the while, Gamache wrestles with the actions he’s set in motion, and his conscience.

Aug. 29: Pretend You’re Safe by Alexandra Ivy
A serial killer buries his victims on the banks of the Mississippi. Years later, the rains and floods unearth the bodies. While his victims were disappearing, Jaci Patterson was finding “gifts” on her porch — the first was a golden locket with a few strands of hair wrapped around a bloodstained ribbon inside. The deputy sheriff at the time was convinced that Jaci was just a publicity-seeking teen. Until Jaci comes home again, and the nightmare has started again.

Aug. 29: Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties by Dav Pilkey
Dog Man is back in his third adventure from the author of the Captain Underpants series. Dog Man is on the police force, which hasn’t always been the best thing to happen. But now, Petey the cat has dragged in some trouble, in the form of a kitten, and Dog Man is going to have to work extra hard to stay top dog!

Teen Film Crew Premieres Short Film Finding Sporky

*This post was written by the videographer/unit publicist of Specific Ocean Studios, the Summer 2017 Teen Moviecraft production crew*

Videographer/Unit Publicist Stephanie Bradshaw

My name is Stephanie Bradshaw, and I am the videographer and unit publicist for this summer’s Teen Moviecraft Program. Our team joined together this summer to create a film production crew dubbed Specific Ocean Studios, and together we have worked for seven weeks to create our short film, Finding Sporky. Finding Sporky was written by Carolynn Bradshaw and John Goodner and directed by Leah Khanu and Natalie Knowles. Our film is about a boy named John who throws a party when his little brother Jimmy swallows a spork, and his parents have to take him to the hospital. During the party things go horribly wrong when Steve the Spoon attacks with his army of household items like the Gangster Knives! This film has been a lot of fun to make, and it’s been great getting to see everyone work in their different jobs including set designer, special FX, costume and makeup designer and more.

Capturing the magic!

In between filming behind-the-scenes clips and taking pictures, I had the chance to talk to the co-directors about our film.

What is your expectation for the film?

Directors: Even though we know there may be some bumps in the road, we hope that everything goes smoothly and that our film turns out to be great. We hope that it turns out to be something that we can all be proud of.

I also interviewed the screenwriters of our film, Carolynn Bradshaw and John Goodner.

Joel Hileman, Carolynn Bradshaw, and Sophia Edmonson filming a scene

How did you come up with the story?

Writers: At first we just had a logline (a one-sentence summary of the story), and that gave us a feel of what we were doing. We knew we had this character, John, and he would be attacked by the spoon. Then we collaborated with the team to add other household items attacking people at a party. Once that idea was fleshed out, we had Natalie and Leah bring all of these ideas together into a single vision.

Did you enjoy writing this film?

It was fun! We got together at the writer’s table with the directors, and we wrote this amazing script. We ended up laughing so much that we could barely get anything down at first. It was an experience that we’ll never forget!

How did you come up with the characters?

Grant Bliss, Gia Alicea, Kristen Bradshaw, and Kyle Duggan at the “doctor’s office!”

It just happened. I (Carolynn Bradshaw) always love coming up with characters that have personalities as crazy and different as you can imagine. These kinds of characters really fit in with our hilarious storyline.

With this film being half animated, it took a bit more time and patience to do the stop motion and puppetry. With only two hours a week for seven weeks, we at Specific Ocean Studios definitely had a lot to do, but it was so worth it to finally have our film come together. I can’t wait for you to see Finding Sporky at our Red Carpet Premiere this Friday, July 28 at 6:30PM. All community members are welcome to come watch our film, snack on some popcorn, and talk with us about our project. I hope to see you there!

Specific Ocean Studios Logo designed by our awesome graphic artists Chloe Brown, Kaia Briggs, and Kaleb Trujillo!