Two new short stories!

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Looking for a short story to keep you busy at lunchtime?  I’ve got a couple of new ones…

Boy Named HenryOf Black and Blue Lagoons and a Boy Named Henry

A story for grownups about the mysteries of growing up…

Everybody needs a friend. Eleven-year-old Billy Patterson and his little brother Charlie certainly understand that — until they meet Henry, they’ve got no one to hang out with but each other. Henry loves to explore, and the Patterson boys are more than willing to join him on his adventures. It’s the best possible way to spend a summer.

But there are problems: The boys have been told to stick close to their grandfather’s home. And, well… Henry’s not a typical little boy.

He’s a ghost.

Being of Value smallBeing of Value

His name is Matthew. He’s an A.I. – artificial intelligence, an android who looks fully human. He walks, talks and interacts just like a human teenager. He has feelings, just like a human.

But that’s not enough for some of the members of the community he lives in, and it’s not enough for two visiting teenagers he’s been asked to escort. To them, he’s just a machine – which means they’re free to do with him whatever they choose, even if it means taking part in a game that might destroy him.

His name is Matthew, and he’s desperate to survive. Desperate for someone to care.

It Needs to Be More Than Okay: Working with an Editor

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So… you need an editor for your book or short story.  Maybe you’ve already published it, and you’ve been hit with reviews crying, “OMG, this needs to be edited!”  Or maybe it’s safely tucked inside your computer, and you know it needs a good overhaul before you even venture toward that “publish” button.

I’m an editor, but this isn’t meant to drive you toward hiring me.  It’s to help you improve your experience with any editor you hire – to make the road easier to travel for both of you.

Ready?  Let’s get started.

You’ve done your research, and you’ve found one or more editors you’d like to contact.  Here’s what to include in your query:

– The length of your story

– What genre it is

– Is it finished, or are you still working on it?

– What publication date you’re aiming toward – next week? Next month? Whenever it’s ready?

– What type of editing you’re looking for

That last one is ultra-important.  If you don’t know the difference between proofreading, copy editing, line editing, and developmental editing, do a bit of Googling and investigate.  If your manuscript is already polished, you probably just need a proofread for tiny bloopers.  If you know your spelling is horrendous and you aren’t at all sure where the commas should go, you’ll need either a copy edit or a line edit.  And if you’re aware that your first draft is a hot mess, but you have no idea how to fix it, you’re looking for a developmental editor who can help guide you step-by-step to a final product with no dangling plot threads, no “WTF?” moments, and no completely unbelievable characters.

Whether you’ve sent a query to one person or ten, give them a little time to reply.  A good-quality editor is probably busy, and it may be several hours, or even a day or two, before you hear back from them.

Key Point: If an editor answers your query with anything other than an outright “no”, respond to them.  You may have already decided to sign on with another editor, but leaving someone’s e-mail unanswered when they’ve expressed an interest in working with you is… well, colossally rude.  Take a minute to write back, “I’ve decided to go with someone else, but thank you for your time.”

Okay, you’ve gone through the process and have chosen an editor who sounds like a good fit.  Don’t be afraid to ask them for a sample edit of a few pages of your book.  Any reputable editor will be glad to do that for you (although they may not be able to do it immediately).  A sample will benefit both of you – the editor can get a sense of your writing style and the condition the manuscript is in, and you can get a feel for the type of editing you’ll receive.

If the sample looks good, now’s the time to lock down dates and prices.  Ask the editor what his/her turnaround time is.  Do they want a deposit up front?  Do they have any special formatting requirements for the manuscript (specific margins, double spacing, etc.)?

Key Point:  Editing may cost several hundred dollars – or more.  Make sure you’ve got those funds available when you send your manuscript to the editor, and that you’ll be ready to pay on the required date.

Aaaaand… the time has arrived!  Time to submit your manuscript to the editor.  Make sure you’ve got it formatted per the editor’s requirements, and that you’ve paid any deposit that’s due.

But…

Say you’ve changed your mind.  The manuscript isn’t ready.  You’ve hit a roadblock, or a real-life situation has interfered.  You may not be ready for another week… or ever.

Contact your editor immediately!

Your editor isn’t a “spirit” out there in the fog of the Internet.  He or she is a real person with a real calendar and real bills to pay.  Your not showing up to keep your appointment means that (more than likely) your editor will have no income for that time period.  How would you feel if someone who promised to pay you a hundred dollars – or several hundred – didn’t show up?

Yeah, not cool.

So do your best to keep your appointment.  But if you can’t, get in touch with the editor right away and let them know what’s up.  Chances are they’ll be okay with rescheduling, though you may not be able to lock down your ideal date(s).

Key Point:  If your editor has agreed to do the work on one specific day, send her your manuscript the night before.  That way it’ll be ready and waiting when she’s got her first cup of coffee in hand.  Don’t wait until late afternoon, or, God forbid, 10:00 at night and expect the editor to sit up all night to do the work.

And…

Key Point:  Keep an eye on your e-mail while your manuscript is in the editor’s hands.  They may have a quick question that needs an answer before they can proceed with the work.  If you don’t answer the question, your editor may have to set the work aside, or make a decision that you may not like, which will result in extra work for both of you.

Woo hoo!  You’ve got your edited manuscript back.

And you may be feeling any number of things.  Excited.  Eager to examine the edits and do that final polish so you can publish.  Or you may be disappointed.  Or even angry, or deeply hurt.  Know what?  You’ve got the absolute right to feel any or all of those things.  Maybe you were expecting the editor to tweak a word or two, insert some additional commas (or take some out), and fix a misspelling.  Instead, your manuscript is loaded with red edits.

I’ve been an author for fifty years, and I’ll agree wholeheartedly: that stuff hurts.  But here’s the thing.  If you’ve hired a good editor, one who truly knows their business, and the two of you agreed ahead of time what sort of edits he or she would make – take a deep breath.  Take a walk.  Set the manuscript aside for a while.  Then come back and take another look, remembering: these are only suggestions.  As the author, YOU have ultimate control over your manuscript.  You can say “the hell with this!” and publish it as is.  That’s your right.

But I’d suggest that you sit down (after you’ve stopped crying, or wanting to punch someone) and examine what the editor is trying to tell you.  Do you use a particular word(s) or type of sentence too often?  Is your dialogue stiff?  A lot of beginners are afraid to loosen up with their dialogue, afraid of using contractions (“I’m going” versus “I am going”) or simpler, everyday words.  There may be other problems you weren’t at all aware of, but which jumped off the page at your editor.  Spend some time looking at the edits and considering them.

If you’re still confused, or upset, ask questions.  Ask the editor to explain what’s going on – what he or she felt you were doing wrong.

Remember, no one’s telling you that you suck.  No one’s trying to hurt your feelings, or tell you that you should give up on writing.  No one’s trying to be mean to you, simply for the sake of being mean.  If an editor is worth his salt, he’ll be trying to help you tell a better story.  To tell your story in a smoother, more professional way that will appeal to more readers and will help you avoid those dreaded one-star reviews.

I’ll offer you a quote from one of my writing mentors, a man who was in his 50s at the time and had an enormous amount of success under his belt.  I sent him some of my work to look at, and he sent it back with this note:  “It’s okay… but it needs to be more than okay.”

Keep that in mind, because more than likely, it’s what your editor is trying to tell you with all of those nasty red edits.

IT’S OKAY, BUT IT NEEDS TO BE MORE THAN OKAY.

Again, the final choices are up to you.  When it comes to your book, you’re the boss.  (Hooray for self-publishing.)  It could be that your editor actually did go too far – tried to turn your story into their story.  That they changed your voice, and the story you were trying to tell.  If you’re a beginner, it can be tough to sort out good advice from bad, and “enough” from “too much.”  You may feel like you don’t know what to accept and what to reject.  In that case… just go with your gut.  Remember that your editor is trying to help you move past okay to terrific.  From meh to OMG I love this book!  If you’ve found the right editor, he or she will be a solid part of your publishing team… and will be standing at the finish line applauding you as you start collecting those 5-star reviews from your readers.

Be proactive, and interactive.  Make it work.

My final note to you?

Good luck!!!

(P.S. – Feel free to ask questions in the comments.  Are you confused as hell about something?  Have no idea how to find a good editor?  Want to vent about something?  Go right ahead!  If you need help, I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.)

To Thine Own Self…

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College portrait

Me, a few months before I entered the Big Wide World of Work

A few weeks ago, someone e-mailed me to ask if I’d do a blog post advising students how to succeed in the Big Wide World of Business.  Should they learn how to “rock that interview”?  Become familiar with the latest software applications? Et cetera, et cetera.  I was too busy to do a post when the request came in, but I’ve given the subject matter a lot of thought.

Succeed in the working world?

Learn how to make the other guy look good.  It’s not about what (or how much) you know, no matter what field you choose to go into.  It’s — forever and always — about the other guy.  Make their job easier.  Help them look like the greatest bundle of awesome that ever awesomed, and you’re guaranteed a solid spot on the company totem pole.  More than likely, you’ll score some rewards: raises, promotions, nicer Christmas gifts.

But where will YOU be?  The real you.  The authentic you.  The you that you’ve always dreamed of being – the one who feels fulfilled, satisfied, content, happy.  That’s the real challenge in the working world: is it possible to keep the other guy looking like a star without completely burying yourself in the process?

I was part of the 9-to-5 thing for 38 years, beginning just a few weeks after I graduated from college.  My dad had ingrained in me the rule that Thou Must Always Have a Job — not necessarily a great job, or even the right job, but A Job — so I was both pleased and disgruntled when a vacation at the lake was interrupted by a phone call that said Come now, and start working.  That was the beginning of almost four decades of Making the Other Guy Look Good, and watching myself become more and more buried.

See… I’m a writer.  I’m also a variety of other things (daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, consumer, viewer), but in my heart of hearts I’m a writer.  A storyteller.  I’m the most content, the most at peace, and feel the most complete when I’m writing.  When I can’t write, I feel as if I’m being locked away from a loved one.  So whenever I could, during those 38 years in the corporate world, I used little bits of time to tell stories.  A day felt like a success not if I managed to put together a pile of legal briefs or sales flyers, but if I found the time to write a page or two (or twenty).  Over and over, I searched for jobs that would allow me to write… something.  During one job interview, I was promised that I’d be able to contribute to the company newsletter.  Did that happen?  It did not.  The best I was ever able to manage was drafting boilerplate business letters — not at all an exercise in creativity.

I had a regular paycheck.  I had “a good job.”  (Actually, I had seven good jobs, not counting the soul-killing temp assignments, during one of which I had to pick up a Fleet Enema kit for a boss who seemed determined to make me feel Less Than.)  But I never felt like a success.  I tried my best to make all the other guys look good, because I was trained to fit into that age-old image of The Good Girl, the quiet, obedient helper and listening post and whipping boy(girl) — even when it was killing me.  The whole time, I kept writing.  I published two books and a long list of fanzines, shared hundreds of stories online… and no one really took that seriously.  After all, it wasn’t my Real Job.  It wasn’t the thing that brought in the cash.

Finally, I hit the wall.  I’d been looking at retirement, figuring it was still a few years off, years I thought I could manage.  But reality was looking me in the face.  I was about to turn 60, a point at which we have to admit that what remains of the journey is much shorter than what’s already gone by.  I started to ask myself, When do I get my chance?  When do I get to nurture the real me?  I didn’t know when that would be, and I started to panic.  Literally: I had a panic attack.  My hands trembled uncontrollably, and my vision got foggy.  I had to struggle not to throw up.

That evening, I decided that enough was enough.

This past May, I said sayonara to the business world, to being constrained by office hours and limited space and other people’s needs and whims.  I became my own boss.  Now, the person I’m trying to make look good is me.  And finally, I feel at peace.  I feel like I’m nurturing the person I’ve always tried to be, the one who tells stories.  Finally, I feel like a success.

So…what advice would I give to a student who’s about to enter the working world?  Do you need to “rock that interview”?  Do you need to become a master of the latest software?  Sure.  Go ahead.  Do that.  But at the same time, be aware of the most important person on your team: yourself.  If you ignore who and what you really are, you’ll never be content.  You’ll probably start marking time, and complaining to your family and friends that Oh my f-ing god, I HATE MY JOB.  Which isn’t to say it’ll be easy to find work that fulfills you – or at the very least, doesn’t make you want to walk in front of a moving train.  Chances are, you won’t find a job that makes you want to hurtle out of bed in the morning…but do look for something, somewhere in your life, that gives your soul a chance to speak.  Find time for that.  MAKE time for that.  Write.  Draw.  Compose.  Sculpt.  Garden.

Something.

That’s how you succeed.  That’s how you’ll survive.  And with luck, you’ll find the right opportunity to shine on your own terms while you’re still sane enough to enjoy it.  So go forth, young Skywalkers, and make the other guy look good.  But don’t ever lose sight of yourself.

Yet another (slightly) new direction…

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Charlie smallIf you’ve kept up with my ramblings here at the blog, you know that most of my writing revolves around the theme of family – and relationships in general.  The entire time I’ve been writing, what’s interested me the most is how we relate to each other, how we bring each other joy and sorrow, encouragement, fulfillment, or pain and depression.  In examining that I look at siblings, friends, parents and children, and lovers, through the lens of contemporary life, science fiction, horror, supernatural mystery… basically, whatever seems to work best as a backdrop.

So when a good friend asked if I’d take a crack at a loving gay relationship, after a bit of thought I decided, “Why not?”  I’ve had gay characters in the background of stories before, but this time, I’ve moved them front-and-center, and the result is If Not for Charlie.

A short, sweet gay romance, about summers of love and loss…

Jeremy Cole is a success, by anyone’s standards: he runs a popular online magazine, and two of his books have hit the best-seller lists. Though he’s quiet and a little clumsy, his family and friends adore him. But throughout his life, he’s known there was something missing – the person who would make him complete. Someone he met years ago, during a summer he spent at the lake with his grandparents. Someone who sent him postcards and dozens of little gifts, someone who led him on great adventures… and then disappeared from his life, only to return a decade later. Someone who comes and goes on a whim, chasing a goal Jeremy can’t begin to understand.

After his grandmother’s death, Jeremy is faced with selling his family’s treasured summer home – and with deciding, once and for all, what to do about Charlie, the only man he’s ever loved.

It’s been gathering a nice amount of interest since I published it yesterday, and I hope the readers who’ve picked it up are enjoying it.  It’s not steamy; like most of my other work it’s… let’s say “safe for work.”  There’s no salty language, but there’s a hearty dose of angst.  And… oh yeah.  A happy ending.  Spread the word.  ;)

It’s a bird… it’s a plane…

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My very first favorite TV show was the George Reeves Superman series.  And my very first story was spun off the 1960s Batman show.  So it makes sense that the latest publication I’m involved in (with my writing group, the League of Original Woolwrights, a/k/a LOOW) is a collection of superhero stories!  It’s up for pre-order now, for only $0.99 — the actual release date is January 2, and a paperback version will be available shortly.  All profits go to charity (details below).  Hope you’ll check it out!  Just click the cover image to go up, up, and way… to the Amazon page.  :)

10509686_10205387917966560_7626109846516463798_n

They walk among us. They are our friends and family, our neighbors… even our enemies. Individuals with extraordinary abilities.

Some view their powers as a blessing. Others, a curse.

From the marvelous to the mundane, each of the charcters in this anthology must come to grips with the burden that has been placed upon them. Some choose to do good for others; some retreat into more pedestrian pursuits, only to discover they can run from everything but themselves. Some find solace in simple acts; others glory in the grandeur of their exploits. Some want nothing more than to disappear permanently. Yet through it all, hope and humanity prevail in unexpected ways.

Featuring nine super stories by ten amazing authors, this is truly an anthology of the extraordinary.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit the Sickle Cell Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. Sickle Cell Disease can cause chronic, lifelong pain. Riley Hospital for Children provides a holistic approach to care for patients affected by Sickle Cell Disease, and also helps family members cope with the impact of the diagnosis.

For Christmas… a brand-new story!

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Santa smallThe original theory, when I stepped down from my day job to become self-employed, was that I’d write in the morning and edit other folks’ work in the afternoon.  Sometimes that actually happens.  And sometimes… my brain just won’t cooperate. The past couple of weeks, I haven’t been able to prod myself into writing anything at all.

Then last night, I was pinged with an idea.  It seemed like a viable one, so as soon as I got up, I grabbed the laptop and got to work.  And 12 hours later… there’s a finished product!  Written, edited, covered, and published.

Introducing: Santa on My Doorstep!

Lisa’s life is just fine. She has a 7-year-old son she adores, a comfortable home, a good job… and it’s Christmas. But something’s missing – something (someone) she firmly denies she needs until a white-bearded stranger shows up at her door and advises her, “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want.”

You can find it at Amazon here.

Kimberly Readnour – For My Daughter

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visions cover webIndy author Kim Readnour is making her first foray into publishing this month with Visions: The Mystical Encounter Series Book 1 – a book she wrote for a very special reader, one who’s also her most devoted fan!

When I discovered that the main theme of this blog was family, my daughter immediately came to mind since my entire writing career could be attributed to her. In the back of my mind, the thought of writing a novel was always present, but I never followed through. That changed when my daughter reached her teenage years. With her passion for reading, we often read the same books. One day, after completing a particular book that neither one of us liked, something sparked inside me. The desire to write her stories took precedence over everything else. That began my journey for writing.

After completing some mediocre novellas, I wanted my next story to be meaningful. With my daughter’s varied interests, I wanted to write something different. Something that neither one of us had previously read. My goal seemed impossible, but I was determined to try. After pondering what to write, with unproductive results, frustration set in. I remembered lying down that evening, thinking I needed to relax. If I relaxed, the story might present itself. The next morning I grabbed my laptop and began writing the story.

What started out as a standalone novel easily transformed into a trilogy. After I finished the first book, it was nerve-wracking allowing my daughter to read it. When she finished the story and told me she loved it, the sensation swarming through me was enough justification. Pleased that the story made her happy, I worked on the second section.

With my daughter as the target audience, I never had inspirations of publishing. She, of course, had other ideas and tried convincing me to get the first book published. After sending it to a few literary agents and being politely turned away, I stalled on finishing the series. Their rejection derailed my confidence, slowing down my writing. After a few months passed, I reread the manuscript and became embarrassed. What I had submitted was more like a rough draft than a polished version. Boy, I had a lot to learn.

After some major revisions and the “save” button pressed, the manuscript sat untouched. In the meantime, my daughter started pressing for me to self-publish. Her enthusiasm for my book was encouraging, but I didn’t know if I was ready to take on that challenge. Four years, I sat on the manuscript. Four years, she kept encouraging me, insisting on a wider audience. Finally, I heeded her advice and recruited a friend of mine to read over the manuscript for a second opinion. When she finished, she not only demanded that the series be completed, but also demanded that it be published. That was my final push.

Now, after professional editing, I feel the book is ready for a wider audience. My hope is that other readers enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. Whether or not any copies sell, just by having it published, I deem it a success. The entire journey was for my daughter. From writing an unusual story, to following her advice, everything was for her benefit. Knowing how proud I made her by pursuing this, makes me proud. Not to mention having the book I wrote solely for her eyes out in the world.

You can find Kim’s author page on Facebook right here.

Mikey Chlanda – My Firefighter Family

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What better day than Thanksgiving to feature a guest post from indy author Mikey Chlanda talking about true American heroes?  Mike’s career as a first responder spanned 29 years, and he’s got some terrific stories to tell! His new book The Last Noble Profession: 29 Years of Kicking Down Doors and Helping People will be available in mid-December.

Backdraft was an awful movie from a firefighter’s perspective, but one line rings true. It’s towards the end, where the lieutenant is hanging onto the firefighter that was the arsonist by his hand.  The arsonist was yelling at the lieutenant to let him go, and the lieutenant replied, “If you go, we go.”

We have to have that trust in our brothers and sisters. That no matter what happens to us, our firefighter family will get us out.

4108Y2cpKsL__AA160_If you ever see a firefighter’s death on TV, you’ll see some firefighters carrying the body out. Those are his fellow brothers on the compnay he ran on. It is an unbroken tradition on the fire department that in the case of a line-of-duty death, his brothers from his fire company will bring him out. It is the saddest thing in the world, knowing that you could not save your brother.

We spend a lot of time with our brother firefighters.  We sleep, eat, and spend downtime with each other just [bullcrap]ting with each other in the firehouse. Citizens see us out in public buying food for dinner. Or washing the rigs outside the firehouse. The public perception is that we just hang around the firehouse, waiting for a run.

Filmmakers and journalists can’t go where we work. We have 47 pounds of gear on, carrying twenty pounds of tools, plus dragging a couple-hundred-pound, water-filled hose. Then we go to work in a 200 to 400 degree environment in close to zero visibility. Things often go wrong and we depend on each other at fires to save each other’s lives. We trust each so much that we go into burning buildings with our brothers voluntarily, knowing that if a beam falls on us, they will drag us out or stay with us and die trying.

That trust is not easy to build up. We have to know that guy is going to be there to pull us out. You do not want to have any doubts about the person you are going into the fire with.

We’re pretty hard on new firefighters. We have to know if we can break you. Yeah, you passed the test. You took the class.  But are you going to be there for me when we’re in a fire, each lugging over two hundred pounds of assorted gear, tools, and fire hose, iin 400 degree plus temperatures, five minutes left on our air supply, and the roof collapses? Can you pull me out? Can you?

If we can break you with words or practical jokes, then the fire is definitely going to break you. And we can’t count on you. Trust me, we’re going to find your buttons pretty quickly and we are going to keep pushing them to see how you react.

A fire department is just like a family. More specifically, the fire station you run out of is your extended family, and the crew you run with on your rig is your nuclear family. We always joke about the fire department being a dysfunctional family but it really isn’t. A real family may have rifts that never heal, but a fire company can’t — and doesn’t — function like that.

Don’t get me wrong — we have hellacious, knock-down, drag-out fights between ourselves. But at the end of the day, the only question left is, “Can you pull me out?”

My first fire department was the Antioch College Fire Department, nicknamed “Maples” after the dorm we lived in that was next to the fire garage. For about three years, eight of us lived there — most of us year-round. We were hard on newcomers, but once you were accepted, you were family. Thirty-five years later, we’re still very close.

The feeling grows over the years. Our shared experiences, the runs we’ve been on, and the joys and sorrows of life that we’ve known together create a deep bond. We’ve seen each other at our best, hugged each other at our worst, and know we will always be there for our brothers.

The best feeling in life is sitting on the back of the rig with a couple brothers after a righteous stop on a fire. We’re peeling off equipment, hacking the smoke out of our lungs that snuck in past our masks, blowing black chunks of God knows what out of our noses. We’re sucking oxygen out of a tank, struggling to get our breath back, thinking over the close calls. No words are spoken, but none are needed.

As Kris Kristofferson said, we may not have always beaten the devil, but we sure drank a lot of his beer for free. That, my friends, is the closest feeling in the world.

If you’d like to pre-order a copy of The Last Noble Profession: 29 Years of Kicking Down Doors and Helping People at a $10 discount, pop on over to GoFundMe right now!  You can check out Mikey’s other books at his Amazon author page, here.

New release time!

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Back in college, I took my first stab at writing some original science fiction — and it came out well enough that I scored a round of applause from my writing workshop when I read the story aloud.  But I had no publication venues open to me at the time, so the story made its way into a drawer… until this past July, when I dusted it off and decided it was worthy of an upgrade.  And publication.

Escape 1 smallA “couple whiles” after it debuted to that first audience, here’s Escape!

Meet Eli Christopher – a 29-year-old factory worker who loves the theater. It’s his only escape from a dusty, frustrating life, a place where his imagination can run free, where he can feel some genuine joy and take a nap in the sun.

This same theater is also a place of terror, for those who can’t bring themselves to leave – the people who scream in panic and beg to stay.

This isn’t Now, and Eli Christopher isn’t on Earth. He’s in a place where silence and obedience are required, where you can never change the status you were given on arrival. Where something as simple as a clean drink of water is a near miracle.

He’s in a place where a moment of joy brings with it an enormous risk: that you’ll be carried, screaming, beyond the black door…never to be seen again.

You can find it here at Amazon.

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