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First pages

Chapter 1: The Courtyard

In a crowded town courtyard, a high platform rose from the ground like an ancient god judging the people. One young man who was about 17 stood with a rope around his neck and his hands tied behind his back. If the people of Tonguestin Towers, the shining beacon of efficiency would have ever seen the old classic movie, The Christmas Story, they would have remarked how much he looked like the bully in the story. Of course, just the word “story” in the title made it illegal.

A little boy, Marlon Smith, stood next to a stern man; Cooley was his name and he wore all black.

Marlon looked away, but Cooley grabbed his face and forced his eyes back toward the platform.

The man said, “You will watch this. And you will pay attention.”

Marlon closed his eyes. “I don't want to.”

Cooley, disgusted with his weak son, said, “One day you'll be up there if you're not careful.”

Marlon said, “I’ll never have anything to do with stories. I hate them.”

 

Standing close to the gallows and looking up into the eyes of the young man was a small girl with dirty, slightly greasy brown hair. Her clothes were worn. Wendy Wright said nothing but just watched.

A middle-aged man, obviously drunk staggered through a group of people and caught sight of the girl. He stomped toward her.

When he reached her, he glared. “I told you to wait for me.”

He cuffed her on the side of the head and she glared back at him with no hint of fear in her eyes. He started to strike her again but looked into those eyes and backed down. She continued to stare at him, until, uncomfortable, he looked away and then up to the platform.

The old man screamed, “Kill the little puke!”

Wendy looked back at the boy. Two tears rolled down her cheeks.

In still another part of the courtyard, another boy, Billy Speaks, stood quietly.

An older man, HIRAM, stood on one side of him, and his wife on the other.

Billy said, “I don't want to watch this, Mawmaw.”

“You don't have to. Just close your eyes.”

Billy asked, “Why do they do this?”

Hiram put his arm around Billy’s shoulder. “Storytellers are not tolerated. Every year since the purge, they've done this.”

“How do they know?” Billy asked. “Storytellers would never admit it themselves. They know what will happen to them.”

“Because filthy pigs are squealing to the censors. Close your eyes.”

A trap door opened and the boy's body fell through and jerked a few times before it settled.

A loudspeaker crackled. “Citizens, it is your duty to report traitors. Imagination is the enemy of efficiency. Tonguestin Towers is efficiency.”

The people in the courtyard roared with approval.

Under his breath, Hiram cursed. “One of these days, those sons of witches will have to deal with the wizard.”

Chapter 2: The Witch’s Daughter

"You are the witch's daughter," Linn said. "I have seen you at the fairs."

Linn, ten and with a freckled face and skin brown as dirt from spending nearly all of his time outside, was in the midst of a massive room. He had been sitting alone in one of the deep-backed chairs circling the table until the little girl wandered into the room. She was just as pale as he was brown; her hair was just as black as her mother’s was. He thought she was beautiful as much as any ten year old could think a girl was beautiful, but he didn’t like her or her mom because they both hated his dad.

"She's not a witch. She's the queen, and she could have you killed."

"I don't care." Linn laid his head down on the table and turned away from the girl because he did not want her to see his tears. “She’s already killed my…” He snuffled.

She sat down by him. “Your father is the one they executed then. He must have done something really bad."

The door crashed open, and the queen and her escorts swooshed into the room like a blast of arctic air. Linn shivered in fright.

"Elaina. Go to your room."

"Please, Abby, he's just a boy." The man who said this was wearing a black cloak. Though he looked like any normal traveler, Linn knew a secret about him. He wasn't normal -- no, far from it -- he was a wizard. Linn didn't know why he had come to the castle with the wizard, but he did know he couldn't not come. Plus, the wizard had told him he knew his father. Desperately, Linn wanted to find out what his father had done that was so awful. He had heard that the witch was a cruel woman who killed for no reason, but he had never believed it until then.

"I intend to destroy Lucan's lineage here and now." Then, remembering Elaina's presence, she stopped. "I told you to go to your room."

"Don't kill him, Mother."

All noise and motion ceased, and they all, including Linn, looked at the girl.

Indecision briefly flashed in Abby’s face, but then, she snarled. “What good is this … runt?”

“I know stories,” Linn said.

Abby laughed. “Sure you do. Just like your daddy did.”

Linn was hurt. “I do know stories. Ones better than my …” More tears appeared in his eyes. He couldn’t bear to speak about his father, especially in the presence of the witch – Linn would never think of her as a queen. Queens were supposed to be good; they were supposed to help, not hurt their people.

“Tell me a story, little runt. It better be a good one if you want to live.”

“Once upon a time –“

The queen snorted in derision. “You dolt. Don’t you know that’s the absolutely worst way to begin a story?”

“Guards.”

Two guards with swords drawn stepped forward, but Elaina jumped from her chair and stood between them and Linn.

"You don't want to make me sad, Mommy." She sat back beside Linn and placed her hand on his shoulder.

“Go ahead and kill me, you witch. I don’t want to live.”

Abby laughed again.

“Perhaps that’s the best reason to let you live. There are many things worse than death.”

"He has an uncle," the wizard said. "I could take the boy to him."

"He's your responsibility then, Christus. Now, get out."

The queen lifted Elaina to her feet, kissed her gently on the top of the head and led her away, but Elaina paused and turned back toward him.

“I’ll listen to your stories some day,” she said, but her mom jerked her away.

Christus jerked the boy in the opposite direction. "Come on. We must leave before she changes her mind."

"Did you know my father?" Linn asked.

"I could tell you such stories," Christus said.

"I already know stories about him."

Christus studied the boy's face and saw no guile in it.

“About you too,” the boy said.

Christus smiled, his heart suddenly feeling lighter than it had in years. For a second, he had forgotten that Lucan was a storyteller a long time before he was a warrior.

Chapter 3: School?

The vision had given Billy an excitement that many of his others had not. He had never seen his people when they were children, and the idea they were kids allowed him to identify with them on an even deeper level. For the first time in his life, even though he knew that it could kill him, he wanted to see more stories of these children. Somehow, he knew they were important.

He didn’t know where all the characters came from, but to him, they were just as much flesh and blood as he was. Even more exciting to Billy was the realization that he and Linn shared one other thing in common besides their love for stories. Both had lost parents. He wished that Linn were alive and that they were friends. They could talk together about so many different things. Presently, Billy did not dare to share his stories with anyone, not even his grandparents.

“I didn’t have a wizard to raise me, but I did all right,” he said. He saved the document to what had to be the world’s oldest computer. It wasn’t even hooked to the Internet, but that was the one thing that probably kept Billy alive. In one drawer, hidden under some disks that he used at school, was a small memory chip. Before the purge, schools used them to store documents. Now, you could only find them on the black market, and buying on the black market could kill a person just as quickly as telling a story could.

He closed his eyes and tried to will another story to come to him, but as he already knew, they wouldn’t be forced to come; they came when they wanted to. He set the printed copy down, the excitement still lingering inside him, but then, he thought about the new term at school.

Billy was definitely not excited about the new term at school. In fact, absolutely nothing excited him about school.

That is, until later that week, when he walked into the room.

A man who was tall and skinny – gaunt actually -- stood at the front of the room. He glared at Billy who found the nearest seat he could and sat in it. No one spoke.

This man, Billy thought, would be the enforcer the one who gave them the new term regulations and who would send them to behavior modification if they did not follow the rules which were always the same. No wasting time with reading or writing fiction, no trying to hack into forbidden areas of the Internet, no goofing off – BECAUSE, the edubot would monitor their every move. Then there would be an admonishment to do their very best so that they too could join the extreme efficiency of Tonguestin Towers by becoming microchips of the impeccably maintained computer of civilization. Billy wanted to be more than a cog in a machine, but he knew that people either became cogs or became dead.

Billy wondered what having a real teacher again instead of an edubot would be like. In preschool before the technological explosion destroyed any coursework that used to be labeled as “humanities,” he had a beautiful young woman who taught him. At least, he thought he remembered her. Sometimes his dreams so mingled with his real life that he could barely separate the two. Maybe the beautiful young woman was one of his characters, one whom he had dreamed of before he could even write. He ached for the stories he might have lost during those years.

This person stared at everyone for a full minute, and then when the bell rang, he sat at his desk before his computer.

The grading pads kicked into life. Billy felt the vibrations in his own mouse. He didn't understand all of the full specs of the pad, but he knew how they worked. When a student used an electronic pen to write the answers on the pad, the computer translated them into print. Whenever someone misspelled a word or committed a grievous grammar mistake, a small shock pricked their palms. Every time the mistake was repeated, the shock became more powerful.

Next, the 3-D lampimations turned on and their teacher -- or rather his image -- materialized.

"Greetings, students," the 3-d image said. "I am your master teacher, Mr. Roberts.” The image was the same as the man’s who Billy thought was the enforcer. Never had an enforcer also been a teacher much less a teacher who would use 3-d images of himself to teach. Maybe, he thought, this was something new, something to increase efficiency.

Billy mused, “What kind of ‘teacher’ did they have to endure now?”

“Stay tuned to your lesson,” Mr. Roberts continued. “Technical writing introduction. Press button A1. Follow directions. You will listen to every word your edubot says. Anyone straying from the necessary areas of the learning center to complete the assignment will be taken to the behavior modification rooms. You may begin."

Just as Billy started to read the directions of his assignment and mark the first correct response, Mr. Roberts turned some knobs to make his 3-d image disappear. Billy and the rest of the class looked up in confusion.

"You don't need lampimations. You have me in the flesh," Mr. Roberts said.

Billy did not know whether that was a good thing or a bad one. Good teachers never had to monitor classrooms in the flesh. Only student teachers or the old, worn-out ones who worked in technically blighted areas did that. Mr. Roberts was most definitely not a student teacher.

"You may wonder why I'm here. Most master teachers have their nice little offices with all of the luxuries they could want. You may have heard that making master teachers work with real students is a form of punishment. I had my office and my luxuries -- everything I needed except for one thing: contact with young people. I am here because I want to be. You are here because you have to be. Let's make the best of the situation."

The first day of Billy's new life had begun.

Chapter 4: Just a Dream?

The first night of Billy's new life happened later. For the first time, he had a dream that was much more than just a dream even though it began innocently enough.

He dreamed he walked through a field with blue flowers springing from every square inch of dirt, or so it seemed. Pink, yellow, and blue colors layered the sky, which itself was dotted with puffy white and brown clouds. He couldn't help thinking about ice cream parfaits topped with marshmallow and chocolate fudge. His stomach growled. Ice cream was something that you could only get on the black market, and even it tasted nothing like the ice cream he used to eat when he was a child.

It had rained recently because the air had that smell it usually did have after it rained and because he walked through cool, squishy mud – barefoot -- which he never did in anything but dreams. Actually, the very thought of walking anywhere barefoot – even in dreams – disgusted him. Tonguestin Towers had very few places, which had enough grass and dirt to get muddy anyway.

"Hello, Billy Bod." A sweet girl's voice rang out in the air.

“The name’s Speaks,” he said. “Billy Speaks.”

“Not from where I’m sitting,” she said. He could not only hear her voice, but also feel it, and he got warm inside like he was sunning on a huge rock with a friendly brook murmuring nearby. Actually, there was a brook murmuring nearby, but it looked more like liquid caramel than water. He decided he was very hungry.

He peered ahead looking for Elaina. Since she had appeared to him in one dream, he expected her to be in this one also. An image of her pale, beautiful face and black hair filled his mind.

Then a beautiful babe filled his mind. Well, to be more precise, a beautiful babe filled a tire swing next to the river.

That's when he really got confused. He never thought of girls as beautiful babes. In fact, when he wrote his little stories, he didn't think of girls at all. At least that’s the way he used to be. Now, he was just confused about them. This one, didn’t, he would say confuse him at all. She interested him.

Her feet touched the ground, and then twirling her body, she twisted the rope on the swing so tightly that she strained to keep it from spinning wildly away. She smiled at Billy, sat back on the tire, and lifted her feet off the ground, loosing the rope so that the tire whirled around and around -- all the while, she giggled like a silly little girl. Giggling like a silly little girl was nothing that Elaina had ever done.

Billy blinked. Billy Bod? She had called him Billy Bod. He didn’t like to be made fun of. He looked at himself and gasped. He saw -- he thought they called them six-quart abs. He didn't know for sure because whatever they called them he had never had them before, and before he got too full of himself, he remembered that his six quart abs merely inhabited his dream not his real life.

When the spinning ceased, she jumped out of the swing. "I'm going swimming." She raced to the river and jumped in, the thick brown water, slurping her down with a loose smack.

Like a Neanderthal, he flexed his muscles. "I'm coming in, Wendy."

Billy was not having normal teenage romantic dreams or fantasies. He had never met anyone named Wendy in his life. The only Wendy he had known was the single patty, with cheese, bacon, pickles, and onions Wendy, and the only way he had managed to get that one was because his grandfather bought it on the black market.

He sped over the muddy, flower-filled plain, dove off the side of the river's bank, and splashed right next to Wendy.

When he looked at her, she was no longer a stranger named Wendy; she was Elaina.

And he was Linn.

Elaina choked and gagged. Her head went under, and he swam toward her. Her head popped up again and she spit up gooey brown liquid. The gooey brown liquid changed. It got darker and thicker like tar, and its color became pitch black. He paddled harder. As in so many dreams, however, he could not move very fast. In fact, a current pulled Elaina away from him. He reached out to her but it was too late.

Suddenly, he woke up -- actually woke up. He was not writing a story in which a writer who got his characters in weird situations got them out by writing: "The alarm clock rang suddenly and he woke up."

Billy awoke in real life. The ice-cream parfait skies were gone, the caramel river. The black tar too. He didn't see Wendy either which was good because he didn't think his grandparents would have liked it if a girl named Wendy was in his room -- whether he had six quart abs or not.

He flipped on a small light beside his bed and grabbed his journal and pencil. He paused to consider how he would write the story of seeing this beautiful babe named Wendy who suddenly changed to another beautiful babe named Elaina and going swimming with her in a caramel-colored river which suddenly turned into a tar pit that sucked her down. He realized there was no way he could fully explain it, so he just set his pencil down and stared at the ceiling. He switched his light off and thought about sleeping but didn't actually do it.

The old and very much illegal ink-jet printer that was hooked up to the old and very much illegal computer in his room kicked on. It was not illegal to have a computer, but it was illegal to have a computer that was not hooked up to the Internet. Of course, his computer, had it been hooked up to the Internet, would have revealed to the authorities that he had committed the “gasp” transgression of writing stories, and he would have been arrested a long time ago anyway. Sooner or later though, the technological efficiency of Tonguestin Towers would arrive full force into the rural area in which he lived, and he and his grandparents would be discovered. The printer spit out a piece of paper, which dropped to the floor. A light breeze swept through the room and carried the paper under Billy’s bed.

Chapter 5: The Situation Is Muddied

If the story had ended right there, he wouldn't have given the dream another thought, but it didn't. The sun wasn't up yet, so it was a long time before breakfast. Still, he was hungry for ice cream with caramel topping. He crawled out of bed, felt that his feet were wet and gloppy, and flipped on the lamp again.

His feet were indeed gloppy, totally covered with mud. So were the floor and the covers on his bed. With the dream fresh in his mind, he freaked and cried out like a wounded dragert -- then, it occurred to him that he didn't even know what a dragert was. And how he knew what one sounded like was beyond him. He also knew beyond a doubt that he never wanted to meet one either. He didn’t know how he could know quite suddenly something that he had never known before all by himself. Surely, he thought, he had read about something called a dragert when he was a child before the establishment officially outlawed fiction except for disciplinary reasons.

His grandma and grandpa were in his room in seconds.

They looked at the floor, his bed, and then at each other in the way that people who are sending secret messages look.

Billy was used to seeing them give each other secret messages. Every time he had one of his visions or dreams or stories, they looked at each other that way.

"What is it?" Grandpa asked.

Billy explained to them about his dream and how it maybe wasn't a dream.

Grandpa looked at him again and then looked at Grandma.

"I think it might be time to tell him, Hiram. He is 13. It's time --"

"Billy, there's something you need to know." He paused and took a deep breath. "We didn't want to tell you -- because we were hoping, we were hoping …"

He paused for several seconds, long enough for Billy to start thinking he had some kind of terminal illness, but then his grandfather finished with a flourish, "you'd grow out of it, but, Son, you sleepwalk and tonight you got out and walked through your grandma's garden."

Grandma's eyes widened and her mouth flew open so far that Billy knew right away that Grandpa was lying. After one mean look from grandpa, she straightened her face up. When his grandpa lied or even slightly stretched the truth and his grandma didn’t raise a fuss about it, Billy knew something strange was happening. He looked around again and saw something else that was strange.

He was about ready to point out to Grandpa that the mud was only on his bed and on the floor right next to his bed where he had just stepped after waking up and deciding he would find himself an ice cream sundae, so if he had walked in his sleep outside, he would have had to teleport himself back inside directly into his bed without walking on the rest of the floor which had no muddy footprints. The carpet between the window and his bed remained spotless.

Billy started to tell his grandfather exactly that when another vision of Wendy filled his mind; in it, tears filled her eyes and she reached out for him. But her face changed again.

The ancient printer kicked on again and interrupted his vision. It spit out a piece of paper.

Billy started to reach for it, but his Grandpa got it first. He looked at it quickly and then said, "I wondered where this was." He rushed toward the door, calling back over his shoulder, "Go to sleep, Billy," and then practically ran into the hallway.

"Grandma --"

"Do as your grandpa says."

Then, she was gone too. Billy knew something was seriously wrong if for no other reason than that they did not make him mop up the floor. This truly confused him, and his thoughts fogged. Exhaustion settled over his bones and he realized that he was sleepy still and that he could actually change nothing before morning came so he might as well go back to bed.

"Goodnight," he said, and after pulling off his muddy sheet, he crawled back into bed. His troubled mind finally settled long enough for him to fall back to sleep.

When he got up the next morning, his grandparents told him to go and fetch the mail. This request was weird because Grandpa and Grandma never ever forgot to get the mail. Billy didn't know what they were always expecting because he had never seen them get anything important, but they always seemed to be expecting something.

Anyway, every day they walked the quarter mile or so to the end of the road and picked up the mail. They even went on Sunday just in case the mail carrier had forgotten something the day before and come back to their box a second time later in the day -- after they had checked the mail the first time.

"Grandma, you never forget to get the mail," Billy said.

"We don't remember if we forgot it or not, so just do as you're told," Grandma said with a little bit of a snip in her voice.

Billy did as he was told. When he got to the end of the road, he opened the mailbox and found nothing. He glanced up and saw a woman standing on the edge of the woods that surrounded his home. Just before she ducked back into the woods, Billy saw that she held a piece of paper in her hand. At first, Billy thought about going after her, but then he decided to go back home -- fast. On the way, he wondered if he should mention the woman.

Ten minutes later, with no mail in his hands, he made it back to the house. As soon as he walked into the doorway, Grandpa asked. "Where have you been?"

"I went to check the mail."

"Why'd you do that? Your grandma always gets the mail."

Billy's mouth dropped open in frustration. Grandma jumped up from her easy chair and went to Grandpa. "Don't you remember, Hiram? I thought I'd forgotten to get it." She eyed him with that look which was meant to convey information without words, mainly that he needed to keep his mouth shut.

"Oh, that's right. I forgot."

"I saw this woman in the woods," Billy said.

"Go get ready for school," his grandfather said.

When Billy went into him room, the mud was gone.

He asked his grandma about it.

"What mud? I think you've been dreaming." She busied herself with dishes, and Billy got ready for school. When he went back into his room, he felt a light breeze. From under his bed blew a piece of paper, which was then caught in an updraft. It spun in the air and lightly drifted back to the floor like dandelion seeds did when little children blew on them.

Billy grabbed the paper and read it. “Thinkers think and only dream. Dreamers speak and those dreams live.” Another line of prose followed that one. Billy read it carefully; Lucan patted his son’s head. “This is the legacy I leave for you.

Chapter 6: Wendy Blows In

At school, every day was the same thing. Math, science, and technical English -- no literature at all -- the study of it labeled useless at the very least, and at times, subversive.

The only class he could remotely enjoy was technical English. Fortunately, for him, Mr. Roberts was a little bit weird. He told jokes that only he thought were funny. He found meanings in stuff that no one - well, almost no one – else did. Billy didn't know if it was a good or bad thing, but he could usually see his teacher's point.

Though he absolutely forbade his students from writing creatively, every now and then Mr. Roberts mentioned stories that he'd once read. Then, realizing he was talking about something useless, he redoubled his efforts to convince his students he despised literature, and that the fine kingdom of Tonguestin was much better off without anything creative.

"Efficiency," he said. "Efficiency is the only literature!"

When Billy went to school, he thought about talking to Mr. Roberts about the dream and the strange piece of paper he’d found, letting at least one person know in case anything happened to him. Billy envisioned himself being sucked up by aliens or being captured and taken to the kinds of worlds he always wrote about in his stories, which, of course, Mr. Roberts knew nothing about. The instructor said that if he ever caught one of his students writing something other than technical English stuff, he would give them extra time in behavior modification.

Billy's writing process was a bit freaky; the closest thing he could compare it to was a satellite receiver. He could be sitting doing something exciting like finishing the fourth level of the video game Returning to Middle Earth -- a game that the authorities had outlawed ten years before -- or carving little elf figures out of wax, another insidious waste of time according to educational thought.

He could be doing any one of a dozen things, and suddenly, his brain would tingle. He closed his eyes when it happened and pictures flooded his head. Billy went into a -- he thought the scientific name for it was -- a hypnotic trance. Ten, fifteen minutes later, he came back to wherever he happened to be. The images, sometimes complete stories, sometimes a scene or two, tickled his brain -- like when you want to cough, so you keep drinking water hoping it goes away, but the only way it finally goes away is if you have a coughing fit.

When the visions came, he got his paper -- he didn't have a computer for a long time -- and "coughed" them up. The tickle didn't let up until he finished what he needed to write. Sometimes, when he awoke, Grandma or Grandpa and sometimes both of them were sitting and staring at him. Sometimes, he would be out for 20 minutes.

When he came out of his trances, they said something like, "Billy, do you need a glass of water, or Billy, supper's ready." It was as if nothing had happened except that they gave each other secret looks. Secret looks passed so frequently between them that Billy wondered if they belonged to some secret societies rumored to be preparing for a revolution against the establishment. Those kinds of thoughts did not linger in his mind. His grandparents thought no more of revolution than a vulture thought about devouring road kill.

Fortunately, he never experienced these visions in school, or else they would have assigned him a permanent seat in the behavior modification room.He wanted to believe that the great wizard Christus protected him. Of course that was ridiculous since Christus was only a character in a story no one but he even knew about. Still, the wizard excited him whenever he did show up in a story, which wasn’t often. Once in a great while, Billy found him with Linn, but the wizard didn’t bother to show up alone in the dreams. As far as Billy was concerned, he hoped that no one showed up in any dreams when he was in school. He didn’t know for sure what would happen, but he suspected that the punishment would be much more severe than an hour or two in behavior management. He thought of the public hanging the establishment forced everyone to watch when he was little. Now, they didn’t publicly hang repeat fiction violators. They just disappeared as if they never existed which frightened Billy even more. He wondered if he or his grandparents would ever just disappear.

Billy almost believed that Mr. Roberts would think all of this was fascinating, and he would get all excited if Billy talked to him about it. His one blue eye and one brown eye would sparkle -- that's right, he had two different colored eyes. Billy also noticed that his socks did not match all the time either. Sometimes, he imagined Mr. Roberts as some kind of alien who could not quite fit into a new life on earth.

At first, the mismatched eyes unnerved all of the students, but after a while, all of them had gotten used to it. Mr. Roberts also had big ears -- not like elephant ears or anything that bad -- but like an elf's or a Vulcan’s, but they weren't pointed.

Billy darted into class hoping to catch him before the tardy bell so that he could make an appointment with him after class. (Mr. Roberts never had a conference -- he had appointments.)

When Billy entered the classroom, he stopped stone still. The girl of his dreams stood at the front of the classroom. Not the girl of his dreams in that he wanted to marry her and spend the rest of his life with her, but literally the girl of his dreams -- Wendy, the one who called him Billy Bod. His heart thumped, but he couldn’t have told anyone if it thumped from fear, surprise, or some kind of lust.

Mr. Roberts noticed his entrance.

"Billy. Here's someone you need to meet."

The girl looked at him and froze. Her eyes and her mouth flew open at the same time. Billy knew that she somehow knew him and wondered if he had been in her dreams.

"I'm Wendy," she said when she finally recovered her senses.

"You two have a lot in common," Mr. Roberts said.

Did he know about the dream? Billy wondered.

"Wendy tells me that she writes stories too."

“I don’t write stories,” Billy said quickly. He had first-hand knowledge of the behavior modification room and didn't like it much.

“Of course you do, Billy. I often see you scratching on some bits of paper not related to technical writing. If you ever make a spectacle of yourself though, you will be sent to behavior modification. This is not a pretty place.” He touched his forehead and rolled his eyes back in his head.

“I’ve given Wendy the same kind of warnings about her stories.”

"What kind?" Billy asked, but he believed he already knew the answer.

"Fantasies," she said.

 


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I am a retired educator and freelance writer who lives in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. My wife and I have two pets and a granddaughter we do our best to spoil. In my free time, I enjoy reading, listening to all kinds of music, and watching the St. Louis Cardinals. If you ever want to strike up a conversation with me, just ask me if I think the Cardinals will be in the postseason. I've published fiction, nonfiction, and plays. What I'd really like to do is sell a screenplay.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
I think the idea for Tongue Tied came to me after I had read an especially good book. One day, I found myself wondering, what if there were no stories in the world? From this "what if" came the germ of an idea that I let simmer in my brain until the story started to come together into a novel.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I think I write because I have some innate need to create. I don't play sports, I'm not a good artist, and I don't sing or play an instrument. I had always read books when I was growing up, and then I became an English teacher. I think every English teacher wants to be a writer. It's in our blood.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
I read a lot of YA novels, everything from the gritty realistic ones to pure fantasy. Right now, I'm reading Wake by Lisa McMann. Next on my list is John Green's Turtles All the Way Down. When it comes to adult fiction I really like Dean Koontz and Stephen King.

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