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Tea in Space: Too Cool to be Forgotten

Join the Genre Chicks for High School, Hypnotherapy, a cup of Red Rose tea, and a discussion of Alex Robinson’s time-traveling graphic novel To Cool To Be Forgotten. (Back in the day, that would be spelled “2 Cool 2B 4gotten” and squeezed in between “Have a great summer!” and “LYLAS.” )

What are some of the silly sentiments you remember from your high school yearbook?

Also — please let me know if you have any issues with the production quality of this podcast. We’re constantly trying to improve — but I’m at the point now where I think I’m hearing problems where there are none. Do me a favor and tell me it’s all in my head, willya? Thanks!


Genre Chicks: Kitti McConnell, Janet Lee, Alethea Kontis, and Lillie Rainey

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Universally Surreal Postal Service


I had a migraine on Friday. Bad. In hindsight, I suppose I should have expected one — it had been slowly barreling its way northwest for a while now, and its name was Fay. Stress, sleep, hormones, and barometric pressure are all the [mostly] unavoidable migraine factors. I had four aces. The universe had a straight flush. 

I also had a short story deadline for this workshop I’m doing in Portland in a couple of weeks. So I took the day off, turned the air conditioner down, and sat propped up in bed typing in the dark. It was slow going. I took breaks to nap and eat. Needing the story done and printed and in the mail kept me hammering away at it.

Right on the verge of passing out, I finished. I went for a 20-minute walk on the treadmill and took a shower, hoping to perk myself up, but wanting nothing more than to pass out. Dizzy and probably not in the best frame of mind, I read the story over once, and then proceeded to print out three copies in manuscript format. It took forty minutes. I felt every blessed one.

I threw on an old pair of jeans and a stained t-shirt, slipped on my flip-flops, and was ready and waiting the second the last sheet printed. I knew a truck left the main post office at 6pm. It was 5:05. I wrote the address on a post-it note, grabbed my sunglasses, and left the house. The heat hit me like a fist. I took shallow breaths.

When I got to the post-office, the parking lot was pretty empty. I ran inside, grabbed a Priority Mail envelope, and scribbled the address on it. I pulled the strip off and sealed it three seconds before the clerk invited me to step forward. I had my credit card out and ready. It was 5:25. Perfect.

“Is this anything fragile, liquid, or perishable?” the clerk asked.

Like she hadn’t just seen me shove 100 paper-clipped pages inside. But I knew she had to ask. “No.”

“Do you need any insurance, delivery confirmation, or–?”

“No.” God, my head hurt.

“Do you need any stamps, packing supplies–?”

“Nope.” It even kind of hurt to talk. I wiggled my credit card, anxious to complete the never-ending transaction.

The clerk gave me a wry smile. “I have a question you will answer ‘yes’ to,” she said chipperly.

Any other day, I would have been in the mood. Hell, any other day, I would have said the same thing. I used to do stuff like this to grumpy customers when I worked at the bookstore, just because I could. And it never hurt anyone to smile. I raised my eyebrows. Her grin got huge, and her eyes twinkled.

“May I see your ID?” she asked. The woman behind me in line chuckled. Yeah. Wasn’t she clever?

Now, I have this small pet peeve about cashiers who ask to see my ID when I’m purchasing an item that’s less than $5.00. If someone wants a bottle of water/pack of gum/Priority Mail sent badly enough to STEAL MY CREDIT CARD for it, then they’re welcome to it. Seriously. Chances are, I would have given them the five bucks in the first place had they asked for it. Most credit card machines don’t even ask for your signature if the transaction is under $25.00. It doesn’t take but a few brain cells to figure out that all this “asking for ID” nonsense is just a power trip. A few more brain cells, and I would have had my own chuckle.

Unfortunately, my brain cells were otherwise occupied trying to keep me vertical. I flipped open my wallet with all the effortless grace of Fox Mulder, and the clerk made a big show of comparing the credit card to my driver’s license. The TSA give less thorough examinations. And as she handed the wallet back to me she said, “I liked the book.”

I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. “What book?”

“The Sherrilyn Kenyon one.”

I froze. “Oh my GOD, you MUST be kidding.”

She wasn’t. We went on to chat about Sherri, and she asked me how the Acheron signing at the Parthenon went. I told her that after they kicked us out, we signed books on the steps until one o’clock in the morning. She told me about all the “pseudo-writers” who come in from time to time to send a manuscript one place or another. She told me about another children’s author who had never heard of The Giving Tree. I told her about how that book had been banned in several school systems, and why. And because there were still people behind me, I broke off our lovely conversation and excused myself. She invited me to come back soon. I said I would. And then I went straight home and called my mother.

I got recognized by a perfect stranger at the post office. ME. In my ratty jeans and ancient t-shirt and flip-flops and big, dark sunglasses. Like I was Nicole Kidman or something. I may as well have been…that’s just Nashville. Look, ma, I’m a celebrity! Holy crapinoli.

I just hope to god my envelope got on that last truck.

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Calling All Vampires!

Sherrilyn Kenyon Dark-Hunter Fans, UNITE!

Dragon*Con Parade Info
Where: Marriott Hotel water fountain
When: Saturday, 9am
What do I wear?: Goth Gear, sunglasses, comfortable shoes! (Wings and horns optional)

Come one, come all, come kick some Daimon ass!

(okay, and if you’re just friends of mine you better be walking with us too. All warm bodies accepted.)

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Dragon*Con Schedule

Barring any other unforseen changes, here is my schedule for Dragon*Con:

Saturday

10:00 am — Parade (walking with Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Vampire Brigade)

2:30 pm — Autographing

4:00pm — Panel: Sherrilyn Kenyon: Year of Acheron…and Beyond
Description: An hour with best-selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of the “Dark-Hunter” series.
Length: 1 Hour
Moderator / MC for panel

Sunday

5:30pm — Reading (w/ Eric James Stone)

Monday

2:30 pm — Panel: What’s Next for Romance?
Description: Industry professionals talk about the current trends in the romance genre and where they expect the field to go next.
Length: 1 Hour

I’ll also have some signings scheduled in the Exhibitor’s Hall — be sure to check Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Big Fat Booth for details.

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Beauty & Dynamite for $10 — One Week Only!!

For ONE WEEK ONLY, select Apex Publications books are only $10, including Beauty & Dynamite! If you’ve been holding off, now’s the time to buy your very own copy!

Other Apex books on sale:

Unwelcome Bodies
The Next Fix
HebrewPunk
Aegri Somnia
Gratia Placenti
Orgy of Souls
Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales

Make Alexander Hamilton proud. Spend ten bucks and buy a book!

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Whirrled-Con 2008

It’s an amazing feeling. You know, that feeling you get when you discover a new author. You put down the brilliant novel you’ve just finished, completely enraptured, and you hope this person has a ton of backlist that you can go straight to the nearest B&N and fill your shopping cart with. You can’t get enough of them. You’re obsessed. And it feels GOOD.

I get that feeling too. I fall in love with authors and wonder why on earth I didn’t know about them before. Only, I do it in person.

Sure, I had heard of John Scalzi and David Louis Edelman. I’ve got all their books. Haven’t read a word. (This is a hazard of my profession I’ve come to accept.) Doselle Young‘s name I didn’t recognize, despite having been the DC Comics buyer for five years. In the space of an hour (a dinner with Young and Edelman; a reading with Scalzi), I had three enormous crushes. What can I say? There’s just something about talented artists. Tell me I’m beautiful and make me laugh, and I’m yours forever.

I’m in the middle of Zoë’s Tale right now and loving it. I’m going to hunt down my copy of Infoquake just as soon as I finish. Books have become more than just books for me anymore; they’re visiting with dear friends whom I miss tremendously and wish to know better.

Conventions are like that too — even an exhausting five days is not enough to see all of your best friends and give them each the time and attention they deserve. Thankfully, years of attending Dragon*Con have prepared me to be overwhelmed, and not be disappointed that I can’t do EVERYTHING. Each day I chose two or three people to hunt down. I ran into Sean Williams while Eddie and I were checking into the hotel, did a quick Australian time zone calculation, and immediately sent him off to bed. I didn’t see George Mann, Christian Dunn, or Mark Newton until Thursday morning, by which time everyone knew them as “Lee’s Brits.” On Friday, I managed to snag one quick picture with Sharon Shinn, and one gignormous hug from Jeff Carlson. I also squeezed in an all-too-brief appearance at the Codex Writers breakfast to put faces with names I had known for so long. Saturday, we crashed the Baen party long enough to blow kisses at Toni Weisskopf.

The other fun thing at cons is running into friends you’ve known for years…over and over again in a crowd of thousands. It only reinforces that cosmic sense that fate would have thrown us together anyway, had we not figured it out ourselves. So I didn’t mind finding myself constantly haunted by David Coe, Stephen Segal, Ken Scholes, Diana Rowland, Matt Rotundo, Eric James Stone, and Jay Lake. I did, however, mind the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad blisters I acquired Friday morning.

Friday was just One of Those Days. The blisters were a bad way to start it out. Yes, I’ve done enough cons to know better than trying to break in cute new shoes, and if they hadn’t been a brand I’ve never had a problem with (RocketDogs) I would never have attempted it. I signed a few books at the Codex breeze-by and crashed David Coe’s breakfast with his editor Jim Frenkel, but by the time I made it back to the dealer’s room, the skin had already rubbed off one foot and my lunch date got cancelled. I missed running into both Jeff and Sharon at their Kaffeklatches while I went back to the hotel to change my shoes, which made me mad. Eddie and I bought lunch for Mary Robinette Kowal, but had to shuffle her off to a signing without actually spending any time with her. I was in pain and overtired, which only made it worse. Mary had explained why we weren’t sleeping well at the higher altitude, but knowing didn’t make it easier.

The masquerade was a treat, and the Pyr party and the smelly Tor party and the Weird Tales party and every other party Nick Mamatas dragged me to were fun, and I met tons of great people, and I wore the cute dress and different cute shoes, but every step reminded me how stupid and tired I was. I kept telling myself that it was only one day, that it’s only ever one day every time one of Those Days happens, and that tomorrow is always better. Always. Every time. Without fail. This was no exception.

Only, the Saturday of WorldCon was one of those amazingly wonderfully perfect days that I wish I could put in a bottle and treasure forever. Despite the excruciating pain I slept, actual SLEEP, and after a fortifying breakfast, I hobbled to the CVS to buy flip flops and band-aids. Afterwards, I skipped down the streets of the pedestrian mall, giddy with rest and the ability to walk again.

And what with one thing or another, the Hugos happened. I met up with the Codex crew (a.k.a. The Mary Robinette Kowal Cheering Section) and we set up a deathmatch between Jeremy Lewis’s rat and Lawrence Schoen’s buffalito. We took pictures of Mary and Ken entering the theatre, Mary more radiant in her gold dress than the Columbia Pictures lady. We fidgeted patiently through the pre-Hugo awards, and the lovely memorial presentation (tough when faced with just how many Greats passed on last year), and finally it was time for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. We sat on the edges of our seats when Jay Lake sauntered on stage. I’m sure Jay said something poignant and funny, but the blood was too loud in my ears. And I know, I KNOW Mary had up until that point forbidden anything that might jinx her chances, but I quietly, subtly, crossed my fingers anyway.

When Jay read her name out loud, the crowd went wild. We flew to our feet. I welled up with tears and screamed like a banshee; Lawrence and Matt started a “MA-RY! MA-RY!” chant. But I heard other voices beyond ours, other people in that crowd who loved Mary just as much as we did. David Coe put it best later: it was just so refreshing to see someone new, someone good, someone who deserved such an award actually get it. Apparently, it’s a rarer event than one might think.

Not that I don’t think any of the other nominees didn’t deserve the Award as well: Joe Abercrombie, Jon Armstrong, David Anthony Durham, Scott Lynch, and my new best friend David Louis Edelman are all fine, upstanding gentlemen. But seeing Mary up there, MY Mary, OUR Mary…it was like watching my sister win an Academy Award. My heart still fills to bursting when I think about her in that tiara.

After the Hugos, I found myself in a packed elevator and managed to catch the eye of Sean Williams, who, you’ll remember, I saw for five seconds when checking into the hotel and then NEVER SAW AGAIN for three days. Conventions are like that. I had only two more minutes to catch up with him between the lift and the door to his party, and that was it. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see him again, and I was kind of depressed about that. But I had Nick, and my Brits, and Jetse de Vries, who bought me a nifty raspberry drink at the Hyatt bar.

And when the Aussies wandered into the lobby and made an enclave with the Magical Words brigade, my boys didn’t mind when I ditched them. Leave it to David Coe to come unwittingly to my rescue…and to offer me one of his precious Tim Tams to boot. There was much laughing and origami and pink drinks (apparently I need to place my order with an Australian next time I’m at a bar, because Jonathan Strahan knew EXACTLY what Sean was talking about when he asked for a “pink drink”, and I only ever receive blank stares with that one). I thankfully remembered to take out my camera at that point — check out my website or Facebook for pictures (that I posted a lot more promptly than this con report).

When the bar closed a bunch of us walked to a diner and kept on going. It was the last night, and we all just didn’t want it to end. I’m not sure how many times I ended up hugging Sean that night — when two people live 16-and-a-half time zones away from one another, no number is too much. I cuddled back onto the broken couch with George and Mark (decked out in his Abercrombie finery). “Everything okay?” Nick asked me. Oh, yes, I smiled. Everything was just fine. It was a lovely convention.

Now, somehow, I need to find a way to get to Montreal next year…

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Beauty & Dynamite Book Trailer

Yes, folks, here it is — the official Beauty & Dynamite Book Trailer. It’s not much, but it’s mine, and I love it.

Kudos to Stephanie Rinehart for piecing this together before and after her finals this year, and to my beautiful friend Fontaine, whose voice still gives me goosebumps after all these years.

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Beauty & Dynamite Book Trailer

Yes, folks, here it is — the official Beauty & Dynamite Book Trailer. It’s not much, but it’s mine, and I love it.

Kudos to Stephanie Rinehart for piecing this together before and after her finals this year, and to my beautiful friend Fontaine, whose voice still gives me goosebumps after all these years.

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Genre Chick Interview: Edmund Schubert

In October of 2005, Orson Scott Card launched Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show—an online magazine featuring spectacular science fiction and fantasy tales, gorgeous professional artwork, and an original story from Card’s Ender universe in every issue. Less than a year later, he named SF bad man Edmund Schubert editor of the now-quarterly ‘zine. A new anthology compiles a selection of fantastic stories from IGMS (written by Tim Pratt, David Lubar, David Farber, among others), as well as all of the scenes from the Enderverse.

I honestly don’t know what else to say. I’ve been waiting for an interview like this for four years. Enjoy!

*************

Alethea Kontis: How did you meet Orson Scott Card?

Edmund Schubert: In the summer of 2004 we were both in Antarctica, at McMurdo Station. Orson had been invited down by the American commander to do a reading and signing, and I happened to be in the area researching the mating habits of snowflakes for a BBC documentary. At dinner that first night, it turned out we both had a taste for fire-roasted penguin. But there was only one left in the station’s larder so the commander made us arm-wrestle for it.

AK: How did you get the gig as IGMS editor?

ES: I won the penguin arm-wrestling contest. Orson really wanted that last penguin pretty badly, so he said, “How about I make you the most powerful man in the world and hire you to edit my online magazine?” I was tempted. Being an editor had been a lifelong dream of mine for almost four years. When I found out just how extensive the god-like powers of being an editor were, I knew that penguin was as good as his.

AK: What are the best and most challenging parts of your job?

ES: At first, the biggest challenge was learning to read. But once I realized I didn’t have to know how to read in order to be an editor, I just settled in and had fun with it. At this point I‘d say the most challenging thing is figuring out what to do with all the money. You wouldn’t believe how much money editors make, especially in the field of short fiction. When my wife and I had to build a new room over the garage to hold all the money, I thought I was going to go crazy. It was terribly inconvenient.

The best part of the job? I’d have to say doing interviews like this. The opportunity to open up and share my innermost thoughts without having to worry about being judged is exactly what my therapist says I need.

AK: How does IGMS work?

ES: You buy it, you read it, you love it. Pretty basic, really. Probably you should start by logging onto the Web site. It also has pretty pictures (no extra charge).

AK: How do you choose the stories for the magazine?

ES: It starts with my cat, Patches. We call him Mr. Patches now because people always assume that cats are female and he was getting a little gender-confused, showing up in evening gowns and that sort of thing. The other cats were starting to make fun of him and when the mice started mocking him too, I knew we had to take action. But to get back to the point, Mr. Patches is in charge of the first round of decision making. I print out all of the manuscripts, fling them across the floor, and then he plops down in the pile and starts gnawing on them. At first I thought it was random, but it turns out he was chewing up the bad ones at a prodigious rate, so I put him on the payroll.

The second round of reading is done by my children, Roweena and Uganda, who are 164 and 99 (we started counting in months when they were born and it was so cute that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to stop). Anyway, they take the rest of the stories to school and let their friends pick out their favorites. This tends to slow down the process in the summer months, but we live in an imperfect world and have to make the best of what we’ve got. It’s either that or I to learn how to read, and nobody wants that.

AK: What are the pros and cons of having an online magazine?

ES: The pros are the people who write for the magazine. There is an organization called the SFWA, which sets certain minimum levels of pay and distribution to qualify as a professional magazine, and IGMS meets those criteria, so the writers are considered pros.

The cons are the weekend-long meetings that take place in cities across America where people go to meet their favorite writers, buy editors drinks at the bar (my favorite part), play games, and dress up in costumes. I think the official term is “conventions,” but somewhere along the line somebody decided it was too big a word so they shortened it down to “cons.”

By the way, this was an odd, one-off kind of question. What’s up with that?

AK: How were the stories chosen for the print anthology?

ES: At first I was going to try to balance things out; you know, a certain number from each issue, a certain number of SF stories and a certain number of fantasy stories. But then I got this box in the mail. All it contained was a freshly roasted penguin and the business card of one of the authors from issue four. Once word got around that he was going to have two stories in the anthology (you’re welcome, Mr. Eric James Stone), suddenly the penguins started coming out of the woodwork. At that point it simply became a question of who could season the penguin the best, who used the most creativity on concocting penguin-based meals (who knew penguin ala mode was best with rum-raisin ice cream?), and who simply could get their hands on the most penguins (high tally was 16, by James Maxey, who would have never made the anthology otherwise).

AK: Tell us about Side Show Freaks.

ES: Wow, talk about a loaded question. I think I’m going to go for the unexpected and reply with a straight answer. Side Show Freaks is my blog. Usually I write about things related to either IGMS or writing in general, but once in a while I’ll also delve into personal things. For instance, I rode the length of the Sky Line Drive and part of the Blue Ridge Parkway on my bicycle last summer and posted a few photos from the trip.

I think my favorite thing on Side Show Freaks is running essays from the authors in each new issue of the magazine. I invite them to write about the creation of their stories (much the way I did in the IGMS anthology). I have always been fascinated by the stories behind the stories. Plus, it was a good way to trick the authors into writing extra words for me with out having to pay them extra money get extra exposure for these valued authors and their brilliant stories.

AK: Will this be a yearly event?

ES: I try to post to Side Show Freaks about twice a week. No one would read a blog that only had one post each year. Again, an odd, one-off kind of question. Where do you come up with these?

AK: There are certain authors you’ve published more than once or twice…do you have a “stable”?

ES: Wow, that’s really sweet. It’s been a long time since anyone called me “stable”–or even used that word in a sentence that had anything to do with me…

AK: If you could be any superhero, who would it be?

ES: Penguin Man, Penguin Man,
Does whatever a penguin can
Swims in seas, full of ice
Catches fish, just like Japanese fishing trawlers chasing whales in clear violation of international law but hiding behind the flimsy veneer of “science”
Watch out

Here comes the Penguin Man.

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At Last: The High School Reunion Story (Part 4)

Casey and I stepped down from the stage, blushing like mad. Erik was nowhere to be seen. What the heck? “Maybe nobody heard that,” I wishfully thought aloud.

“Oh, yes they did,” said Matt. Damn.

Turns out, Erik wasn’t even in the room when Casey made our scandalous announcement. Maybe he was in the bathroom or in the main hallway admiring the infamous rocket…either way, someone had to go and tell him what happened. Millions of minutes later, he walked back into the room. I noticed when he did–I always noticed when he did. Like riding a bike.

He slowly made his way over to our side of the dance floor, and Jim Scott intercepted him. Leave it to Jim: he was not going to let this evening end without an encounter between the three of us. I jabbed Casey in the side again and pointedly looked behind her to where he was standing. Time to face the music.

Erik met us with a smile, and put his arms around both of us with casual ease. “Twenty years,” he said, “and this is the first I’m hearing about this? You were the smart kids.”

I’m not sure if he meant that we had been dumb for keeping it a secret all this time, or if he was pointing out how impossible a match between our two strata would have been. Casey must have had the same dilemma — she admitted to me later that she almost responded, “But you were the beautiful kid!” Instead, I answered with, “Oh, come on. It’s not like it was much of a secret.”

We confessed about the notes and the codes, this great and secret show we had put on for years with him as the unwitting hero. Margo joined in at that point too. When we put it into words the whole fiasco becamea hilarious story of schoolgirl smitteness, and I hope if anything that he was flattered by the attention.

We proceeded to catch each other up on our lives since then, undoubtedly the longest conversation any of us had ever had with Erik in the whole of our young lives. Thanks to Casey’s mother’s diligent examination of the social section of the paper, we knew that he had married another girl we had gone to school with: Amy Sunshine, the dentist’s daughter. (I swear to god. If I wrote this in fiction, you’d never believe me.) Erik and Amy have three children now–I told him to please buy AlphaOops and send me a copy so that I could inscribe it to them. Casey assured him that when it was time for them to choose a college to go to, she’d be happy to put in a good word for them at Winthrop. It was a lovely ten or fifteen minutes, and when we said our goodbyes we exchanged big hugs and cheek kisses.

If I could have gone back in time and told my twelve-year-old self that in twenty years I’d share deep dark secrets and then get kissed on the cheek by Erik Younginer, I would have fainted. Dead away. Even after he left us there on the dance floor, Casey and I were giggling like mad.

Josh was not so amused. “Seeing you and Margo and Casey simpering over Erik Younginer just now…wow. That was possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.” He frowned. “You never simpered over me.”

I punched him on the arm. “I haven’t spent the last two days straight with Erik Younginer either. His loss. So shut up.”

None of us wanted to leave. We had been invited to an afterparty at another friend’s house, but we knew that Casey and Todd wouldn’t be joining us. Chris started making his way toward the door, and Casey and Todd admitted that it was time to pull the plug. I still hadn’t talked to everyone in the room, but it didn’t matter. The whole night, the whole day, the whole weekend had been like a movie already. A movie that was about to end with the perfect scene.

Arm in arm with Josh, just as we were all walking back across the dance floor to leave, the band started to play “At Last.” My breath caught, and I turned to see Todd spin Casey around and sweep her up in his arms for one last dance. My heart was tight in my chest, so full of love that I thought it might burst. “At Last” was their song, the song they had played at their wedding, their first dance as husband and wife and their last dance that night. I stopped to snap a quick picture and then ran to catch back up to Josh. I will cherish that moment for the rest of my days, my hand in the crook of Josh’s elbow, walking out the door, looking back over my shoulder at two of my very best friends dancing to their song. The director could have yelled “Cut!” and rolled the credits right then.

And then there’s that bonus scene…the one after the credits have finished, the one that only the most dedicated film watcher will still be hanging around in the theatre to see while the ushers pick up cups and wrappers and sweep up popcorn around him. Josh and I caught up with Chris in the lobby, and as we waited for the rest of our party to congregate, I looked out the window and gasped. “Oh, Josh! We forgot!”

Josh’s eyes went wide; he swore, turned, and dashed headlong back into the ballroom. I was hot on his heels. He waited patiently beside the stage for the song to end, and then grabbed the microphone from the guitar player.

“Chris McCormick,” he said in a deep voice, “Chris McCormick. Please meet your party at the rocket.”

—THE END—


Casey, Erik, & Alethea


Their first dance…and the last song.

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