Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February Test Run #9


Her name was Katherine Elizabeth Allen. Or Katie, as she was known to her family. Although her name bears little importance here in this no-where land, she still holds it close as it's al she has left of the past. She was sixteen when she died. Just sixteen when they came to take her, arriving in the night as she lay in her bed. She didn't fight...she was too tired to fight.

She had seen the Tall One before when he stood underneath the tree in her front yard, watching the house...watching her. She had to admit, he scared her at first, with his long yellow robe and hood pulled low over his face. All she could see were his thin blue-red lips and a pointed chin, sticking out like a beak from behind the folds of fabric. He'd stand perfectly still as the cars whizzed by on the road behind. Nobody ever noticed him but Katie.

He'd watch her as she opened her parched lips to begin her daily ritual of medicating, numbing herself to the pain. He didn't leave when her Mother held the pail as her body tried to reject the cancer nor did he leave when Katie cried herself to sleep in the afternoon sun after pulling clumps of blonde hair from her head.

She didn't notice the other one at first, or maybe he just wasn't there, who knows for sure.

February Test Run #8

TITLE: Apple Boxes

It was the third day of summer vacation. I had over eighty days to relax and enjoy my freedom before starting the eighth grade. I painted my toe tails with a glittery purple polish. I cleaned my room and threw out all my old school work. I had a fresh stack of books from the library waiting to be read. I had the house mostly to myself, if you didn’t count the cat and my dorky little sister. Life was about as good as it could get for a girl like me, and it lasted until I heard the garage door opener come to life.

 “Hey Jay-Bird, are you in there?” I heard Dad holler into the house from the garage, “I need you to come out here and give me a hand.” My dad doesn’t particularly tolerate dawdling, so I tossed my book aside and headed to the garage.
At the sight of my dad’s truck I froze and my heart sank at a nauseating rate. The truck was parked in the driveway and the back was filled with empty apple boxes.
“Dad, does this mean what I think it means?”
“Do you think it means we’re moving?” he replied with a tinge of his usual sarcasm.
“Well, it’s the first thing that came to mind.” I sassed back.
“Then yes, oh Observant One, you are correct.”
Apple boxes. It’s always apple boxes. Occasionally a banana box finds its way home, but mostly apple.

February Test Run #7

Genre: YA/Sci-fi/Dystopian

Fear plays me for a fool. It knocks me down, paralyzes me, spits in my face and then laughs at my misery. So while I scoot across a translucent wire, thousands of feet above snow-topped chimneys and high rises below, fear takes its bite. An arctic wind whips my matted hair into my eyes and distracts me from my job--- to repair the downed circuits of the sky rail. I shiver. Straddling the wire, I’m wrapped in Dad’s faded blue jacket. His blood-red beanie protects my ears. His clothes help me remember, though how could I forget. I smell the cool, pure, refreshing scent of snow; like white rain, it will fall shortly. The wind, sharp and cruel, cuts through my clothes to my pale skin. I glance at my thumb and pinky, now violet blue, protruding through holes in my glove. Damn, I should have sewed the holes before coming up here. Peering down, I see little brown specks of trees, I flinch, trembling. Concentrate, ZaraFocus. One unexpected jerk of a muscle, and I will plummet to my death.
A chirp from my hover board, Batman, floating beside me, diverts my attention from the sheer drop below. Even now, my dad watches over me. Batman was his board. Just breathe. I sit up straight; my butt rocks the wire as I clench it with my wobbly right hand. If my brother Seth or Tia Marleena could see me, they’d pass out. I look like I’m floating in mid-air.

February Test Run #6

TITLE: Cadence
GENRE: YA Speculative

I’m at dinner when they come for me. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears, and feel the adrenaline rushing in my feet, my hands. I’m sitting at a table by the windows in the dining hall of the Cartwright Institute for Young Women, eating bad dorm food while my friends discuss the chemistry test we took today, which Mira swears she failed even though I stayed up half the night to prepare her for it. And I know that they’ve come for me.

There’s an uncomfortable squirming in my gut that has nothing to do with Cartwright’s signature meatloaf mush and its proximity to my mouth. There’s a whispering in my ears, memories of voices and people who I have tried desperately hard to forget.

Mira taps me on the shoulder and I jump, sending my knees into the bottom of the long rectangular table. Chocolate milk splashes out of my glass and splatters all across my blouse, leaving the pristine white cotton pocked with brown freckles. The other girls around us laugh and Mira sheepishly offers me a napkin. “Sorry,” she says. I take it with burning cheeks.

“No worries.” I dab at the stains and try to swallow down the rising panic in my throat, making me want to cry or scream or choke. “What is it, Mira?”

“I was wondering what you got for the first question,” she says, her thin, dark eyebrows scrunching low over her wide brown eyes in concern. 

February Test Run #5

TITLE: Obliterated

I didn’t know there was a camera there. If I had, it probably wouldn’t
have made a difference. I would have still dropped to my knees in the
swirling dust and gouged bloody scrapes on my tear-stained cheeks. I
would have still screamed silently, the sound choked back by the
fragments of my former life clogging the air.

The shutter clicked. The worst moment of my life was translated into
millions of colored pixels that were underneath news headlines all
over the world the next day. The captions were even worse. Putting
that moment into a collection of trivial words felt like an insult:
“Afton Blake, 16, kneels at the site of the Morehead meteor strike.” I
have no idea how they found out my name – that silent scream was the
last time I opened my mouth for a week.

Until that day, I had imagined I would become famous another reason.
The headlines were supposed to read: “Afton Blake nominated for
Academy Award in both lead and supporting actress categories.” “Afton
Blake buys million-dollar home in Hollywood Hills.” “Starlet Blake
steals hearts and wallets at charity ball supporting Global Women’s
Rights.” Nowhere on my IMDB page was there supposed to be a reference
to the tragic destruction of my hometown.

But there I was, looking over the edge of a crater that could have
been the set of a blockbuster science fiction movie, but was horribly
real. The National Guard trucks appeared right after that.

February Test Run #4

TITLE: Untitled

Our house is full of people and the neglected little place isn’t used to this sort of thing.

Clearly, it’s as uncomfortable as I am, because as scads of strangers make their way across its wooden floors, the house replies with a series of cranky moans and grunts.

I glance down at the floors, sympathizing with their discomfort…someone laughs a little too loudly and the sound brings me out of my thoughtful moment.

Wait a second- where’s Dad?

Scanning the room of mourners, I look for him and…great… he’s not in here

That means he’s hiding in his work room.

should go back there and check on him, I think with a sigh, but I hate seeing him on the floor in the fetal position … it’s freaking scary.

“Karen.” Ms. Davidson’s voice, as soft as ever, makes me jump.


For the past five years, I’ve heard Ms. Davidson’s voice nearly every day… yelling at her grandchildren to get in the house and wash up for dinner, screaming at my Dad for allowing his “robotic contraption” to, again, knock over her trash bins…but never, on any of those occasions, have I heard Ms. Davidson speak softly.

Today- she sounds like a mouse.

Attempting to recover from my shock at Ms. Davidson's uncharacteristically gentle tone of voice, I turn to the older woman, and am flabbergasted when I see that she’s crying.

February Test Run #3

TITLE:   Orion's Curse
GENRE:   Suspense

Windy King pointed the street-purchased pistol directly at the
forehead of the young man dressed in a suit and tie with one thing on
her mind. Her son.

It was well after midnight. Damp October air outside Senator Taylor’s
campaign office reeked of stale beer and urine. The Irish pub next
door emptied an hour ago, leaving the weak neon of the closed sign as
the only lighting on the block. Who knew campaign managers put in such
late hours? On a rainy, misty Wednesday nonetheless. She’d nearly
driven herself crazy inside her beat-up sedan while she waited for him
to retire for the night. In another moment she would have gone in and
dragged him out at gunpoint.

Less than three feet separated them on the sidewalk.

Behind him rectangular signs of red, white, and blue were mounted
inside plate glass windows, urging citizens to 'Re-Elect Scott Taylor
In The Name Of Freedom'.
Could Senator Taylor guarantee freedom? She certainly hoped so, for
the sake of the campaign manager’s life- and that of her own thirteen
year old son.

“Got cash in my wallet. A watch. Whatever you want. Just please don’t
shoot me.” His bottom lip quivered as he bartered for his life.

For a fraction of a second her heart ached for the young man whose
world she was about to change forever.

Slapping of rubber on wet pavement from a passing vehicle kept perfect
time with a mental clock that reminded her time was of the essence.

February Test Run #2

TITLE: Dear Katherine
GENRE: Science Fiction

My life began the day I turned eighteen and fell off a planet for the first time. Up until I left school, I hadn't started living--I had just existed.

But even after falling on and off most of the colonized planets in the Tetracoil Galaxy for fourteen years, I still felt exhilarated every time the synchrotron was powered down and gravity took hold of the spacecraft. The adrenalin rush from those seven minutes of free-fall, not knowing if the hovering jets would engage in time, lasted me days.

My heart was still racing when the hatch opened and fresh air rushed into the passenger cabin. I smelled brine in the air--my first greeting from Millanos. I unfastened the straps holding me to the seat and stretched my back. Through the internal passageway, I could see the three pilots moving around the cockpit. One of these days, I would learn to drive just to be able to ride in the fun seats. But first I had nine more planets to visit and Millanos was just a few steps away.

I collected the single duffle that contained all my possessions and shouted a “thank you” toward the cockpit. I had paid them in advance, so there was no point in disturbing their crosscheck protocol. And after six and a half hours in the confined cabin, I was more than ready to be outside. That wormhole was a long one.

February Test Run #1

GENRE: MG Fantasy

If there was an award for creepiest boiler room door, Hillcrest Middle would win it hands down. The trophy would just be a tall rectangle that looked a little wider at the top than it should and be made out of rusted grey metal and smell like the back end of a dead fish.
Every school had a door like that. And apparently there was something in the make-a-school rule book that said the door had to sit at the end of a hall, stay locked all year long, and ooze about a million gallons of strange and disturbing.
Asher’s school took that rule very seriously.
He tore his eyes from the door and took out his books for first and second period, shoving them in his backpack. Nothing was going to keep him from enjoying today. Especially not some weird boiler room door. Asher could feel it. Today was going to be good. Today he was the Big 13. Officially a teenager.
It was also the anniversary of his dad’s death. Six years to the day. Sure, that part royally sucked, but at least it was starting to get a little easier.
Sort of.
Asher’s eyes drifted down to the small blue pin fastened to the tongue of his right Chuck Taylor shoe. A size six actually fit him better, but the extra half made him look a little taller. A little older.
He moved his foot and let the light catch the picture of the fist holding the hammer. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February "Test Run" Critique Round *Call for Submissions*

***The submission window is now closed.  Thanks to everyone who entered and be sure to check back tomorrow for the entries!***

Since everyone seems to like the opportunity to score feedback on WIPs, we'll do another "Test Run” session. This is for any first page. Whether your manuscript is finished and polished, it's a work-in-progress, or you only have the first page, this is the time to test it out on readers and get some honest, helpful feedback and support from your peers. If you've entered previous rounds, this is also a great opportunity to get feedback on your revisions.

From Sunday, February 24 at 9:00 AM EST until Tuesday, February 26 at 9:00 PM EST, I will accept submissions. I will post them on February 27 here at KTCROWLEY.COM for critiquing.

Please send submissions to ktcritiques [AT]

In the subject, please state "FEB TEST RUN”.

This round I will accept all genres and it is one entry per person, per genre (So you can submit 1 adult 1 YA/MG).

Please list the TITLE, GENRE and your SCREEN NAME (I will not include screen names in the critique posts, these are for my purposes only. Your screen name is the name you'll use to critique others in the comments.) above your 250 words (format it the way you normally would). Please do not stop in the middle of a sentence. If it goes over the 250 limit by a couple of words, that's fine. If you stop at say, 235 words, that's fine, too.

Your submission should look like this:

SCREEN NAME: Your Screen Name Here
TITLE: Your Title Here
GENRE: Your Genre Here

(Excerpt here.)

Please leave out "chapter one," chapter "titles", etc. Otherwise, I may count them toward your 250 and you could lose some of your first page entry.

You will receive a confirmation email, but it may not be right away. Only resend if you don't get one by the last hour of the submission window.

Please check your submission(s) carefully for typos, grammatical errors, etc. before submitting. Once the submission is confirmed by email, it is set to automatically post. Double checking it first will ensure your writing is critiqued appropriately. ;-)

If you enter, you must critique at least 5 other submissions (if there are only five, please critique all). If you enter two first pages, please critique 10 (if there are less than 10 total, please critique all). This is so it's fair for everyone involved.

I will accept up to 25 entries.

That’s it! If you have any questions, please hit me up in the comments or send me an email at

Spread the word please; the more, the merrier! Let's fill up this round and help everyone involved get as much feedback as possible. Also, if you're not a follower of my blog, please do so, so I can continue to offer rounds like this to help writers like you perfect your work. :)