It's May 21st, time for the Teen FIRST
blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will
feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST
and his book:
Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)
Liparulo is an award-winning author of over a thousand published
articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man
magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure,
Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily
Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a
celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton
Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A.
Weekly. He has sold or optioned three screenplays.
an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement
and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four
Here are some of his titles:
“A house of which one knows every
room isn't worth living in.”
—Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
The walls of the house absorbed the woman’s screams,
until they felt to her as muffled and pointless as yelling underwater.
Still, her lungs kept pushing out cries for help. Her attacker carried
her over his shoulder. The stench of his sweat filled her nostrils. He
paid no heed to her frantic writhing, or the pounding of her fists on his
back, or even her fingernails, which dug furrows into his flesh. He
simply lumbered, as steadily as a freight train, through the corridors of
the big house.
She knew where they were heading, but not
where she would end up. In this house, nothing was normal, nothing as
it appeared. So while she knew in advance the turns her attacker would
take, which hallways and doors he would traverse, their destination was
as unknowable as a faraway galaxy. And that meant her taking would be
untraceable. She would be unreachable to searchers. To would-be
rescuers. To her family— and that realization terrified her more than being
grabbed out of her bed. More than the flashes of imagined cruelty she
would suffer away from the protection of the people who loved her. More
But then she saw something more terrifying: her
children, scrambling to catch up, to help. Their eyes were wide,
streaming. They stumbled up the narrow staircase behind her attacker,
seeming far below, rising to meet her. The thought of them following her into
the chasm of her fate was more than she could stand.
back,” she said, but by this time her throat was raw, her voice
The man reached the landing and turned into another
Temporarily out of sight, her son yelled, “Mom!” His
seven-year-old voice was almost lost in the shrillness of his panic.
He appeared on the landing. His socked feet slipped on the hardwood
floor and he went down. Behind him, his little sister stopped. She was
frightened and confused, too young to do anything more than follow her
brother. He clambered up and started to run again.
gripped his shoulder, jarring him back.
The boy’s father
had something in his fist: the lamp from his nightstand! He past the boy
in the hallway. His bare feet gave him traction.
God, she thought.
He reached her in seconds. With the lamp
raised over his head, he grabbed her wrist. He pulled, tried to anchor
himself to the floor, to the carpeted runner now covering the wood
planks. But the brute under her walked on, tugging him with them. The man
yanked on her arm. Pain flared in her shoulder. He might as well have
tried pulling her from a car as it sped passed.
a glimpse of the bizarrely shaped light fixtures on the corridor
walls—mostly carved faces with glowing eyes. The bulbs flickered in time
with her racing heart. She could not remember any of the lights doing that
before. It was as though the electrical current running through the
wires was responding to a disruption in the way things were supposed to
be, a glitch in reality.
“Henry,” she said, pleading,
His grip tightened as he stumbled along behind
them. He brought the lamp’s heavy base down on her assailant. If the man
carrying her flinched, she did not feel it. If he grunted or yelled out,
she did not hear it.
What he did was stop. He spun around
so quickly, the woman’s husband lost his grip on her. And now facing
the other direction, she lost sight of him. Being suddenly denied her
husband’s visage felt like getting the wind knocked out of her. She
realized he was face to face with the man who’d taken her, and that felt
like watching him step off a cliff.
“Nooo!” she screamed,
her voice finding some volume. “Henry!”
His hand gripped
her ankle, then broke free. The man under her moved in a violent dance,
jostling her wildly. He spun again and her head struck the wall.
The lights went out completely . . . . but no, not the lights .
. . her consciousness. It came back to her slowly, like the warmth of
fire on a blistery day.
She tasted blood. She’d bitten
her tongue. She opened her eyes. Henry was crumpled on the floor,
receding as she was carried away. The children stood over him, touching him,
calling him. Her son’s eyes found hers again. Determination hardened his
jaw, pushed away the fear . . . at least a measure of it. He stepped
over his father’s legs, coming to her rescue. Henry raised his head,
weary, stunned. He reached for the boy, but missed.
the huffing breath of the man, the soft patter of her son’s feet reached
her ears. How she’d loved that sound, knowing it was bringing him to
her. Now she wanted it to carry him away, away from this danger. Her
husband called to him in a croaking, strained voice. The boy kept
She spread her arms. Her left hand clutched at open air,
but the right one touched a wall. She clawed at it. Her nails snagged
the wallpaper. One nail peeled back from her finger and snapped off.
Her assailant turned again, into a room—one of the small
antechambers, like a mud room before the real room. He strode straight
toward the next threshold.
Her son reached the first door,
catching it as it was closing.
“Mom!” Panic etched old-man
lines into his young face. His eyes appeared as wide as his mouth. He
banged his shoulder on the jamb, trying to hurry in.
“Stay!” she said. She showed him her palms in a “stop” gesture, hoping he
would understand, hoping he would obey. She took in his face, as a diver
takes in a deep breath before plunging into the depths. He was fully in
the antechamber now, reaching for her with both arms, but her captor
had already opened the second door and was stepping through. The door
was swinging shut behind him.
The light they were stepping
into was bright. It swept around her, through the opening, and made
pinpoints of the boy’s irises. His blue eyes dazzled. His cheeks glistened
with tears. He wore his favorite pajamas—little R2D2s and C3P0s all
over them, becoming threadbare and too small for him.
she started, meaning to say she loved him, but the brute bounded
downward, driving his shoulder into her stomach. Air rushed from her,
unformed by vocal chords, tongue, lips. Just air.
son screamed. Full of despair. Reaching. Almost to the door.
The door closed, separating her from her family
Saturday, 4:55 P.M.
“Nothing but trees,” the bear
said in Xander’s voice. It repeated itself: “Nothing but trees.”
Xander King turned away from the car window and stared into the
smiling furry face, with its shiny half-bead eyes and stitched-on nose.
He said, “I mean it, Toria. Get that thing out of my face. And turn it
His sister’s hands moved quickly over the teddy
bear’s paws, all the while keeping it suspended three inches in front of
Xander. The bear said, “I mean it, Toria. Get that—”
fifteen years old, Xander was too old to be messing around with
little-kid toys. He seized the bear, squeezing the paw that silenced it.
“Mom!” Toria yelled. ”Make him give Wuzzy back!” She grabbed
Xander turned away from her, tucking Wuzzy between
his body and the car door. Outside his window, nothing but trees—as he
had said and Wuzzy had agreed. It reminded him of a movie, as almost
everything did. This time, it was The Edge, about a bear intent on eating
Anthony Hopkins. An opening shot of the wilderness where it was filmed
showed miles and miles of lush forest. Nothing but trees.
A month ago, his dad had announced that he had accepted a position
as principal of a school six hundred miles away, and the whole King
family had to move from the only home Xander had ever known. It was a place
he had never even heard of: Pinedale, almost straight north from their
home in Pasadena. Still in California, but barely. Pinedale. The name
itself said “hick,” “small,” and “If you don’t die here, you’ll wish
you had.” Of course, he had screamed, begged, sulked, and threatened to
run away. But in the end here he was, wedged in the back seat with his
nine-year-old sister and twelve-year-old brother.
longer they drove, the thicker the woods grew and the more miserable he
became. It was bad enough, leaving his friends, his school—everything!—but
to be leaving them for hicksville, in the middle of nowhere, was a
stake through his heart.
“Mom!” Toria yelled again, reaching
for the bear.
Xander squeezed closer to the door, away
from her. He must have put pressure on the bear in the wrong place: It
began chanting in Toria’s whiny voice: “Mom! Mom! Mom!”
frantically squeezed Wuzzy’s paws, but could not make it stop.
“Mom! Mom! Mom!”
The controls in the bear’s arms
weren’t working. Frustrated by its continuous one-word poking at his
brain—and a little concerned he had broken it and would have to buy her a
new one—he looked to his sister for help.
grabbing for it anymore. Just grinning. One of those
“Mom! Mom! Mom!”
Xander was about to show her what happened when you messed with him—the
possibilities ranged from a display of his superior vocal volume to
ripping Mr. Wuzzy’s arms right off—when the absurdity of it struck him. He
“I mean it,” he laughed. “This thing is
driving me crazy.” He shook the bear at her. It continued yelling for their
His brother David, who was sitting on the other
side of Toria and who had been doing a good job of staying out of the
fight, started laughing too. He mimicked the bear, who was mimicking
their sister: “Mom! Mom! Mom!”
Mrs. King shifted around in
the front passenger seat. She was smiling, but her eyes were curious.
“Xander broke Wuzzy!” Toria whined. “He won’t turn off.”
She pulled the bear out of Xander’s hands.
The furry beast
stopped talking: “Mo—” Then, blessed silence.
looked from brother to brother and they laugh again.
shrugged. “I guess he just doesn’t like me.”
likes me,” Toria said, hugging it.
“Oh, brother,” David said.
He went back to the PSP game that had kept him occupied most of the
Mom raised her eyebrows at Xander and said, “Be
Xander rolled his eyes. He adjusted his shoulders and
wiggled his behind, nudging Toria. “It’s too cramped back here. It may
be an SUV, but it isn’t big enough for us anymore.”
“Don’t start that,” his father warned from behind the wheel. He angled the
rearview mirror to see his son.
“What?” Xander said,
“I did the same thing with my father,” Dad
said. “The car’s too small . . . it uses too much gas . . . it’s too
run down . . . ”
Xander smiled. “Well, it is.”
“And if we get a new car, what should we do with this one?”
“Well . . . .” Xander said. “You know. It’d be a safe car for
me.” A ten-year-old Toyota 4Runner wasn’t his idea of cool wheels, but it
Dad nodded. “Getting you a car is
something we can talk about, okay? Let’s see how you do.”
have my driver’s permit. You know I’m a good driver.”
“He is,” Toria chimed in.
David added, “And then he can
drive us to school.”
“I didn’t mean just the driving,” Dad
said. He paused, catching Xander’s eyes in the mirror. “I mean with all
of this, the move and everything.”
Xander stared out the
window again. He mumbled, “Guess I’ll never get a car, then.”
“Xander?” Dad said. “I didn’t hear that.”
“He said he’ll never get a car,” Toria said.
Silence. David’s thumbs clicked furiously over the PSP buttons.
Xander was aware of his mom watching him. If he looked, her eyes would be
all sad-like, and she would be frowning in sympathy for him. He thought
maybe his dad was looking too, but only for an opportunity to explain
himself again. Xander didn’t want to hear it. Nothing his old man said
would make this okay, would make ripping him out of his world less awful
than it was.
“Dad, is the school’s soccer team good?
Did they place?” David asked. Xander knew his brother wasn’t happy about
the move either, but jumping right into the sport he was so obsessed
about went a long way toward making the change something he could handle.
Maybe Xander was like that three years ago, just rolling with the
punches. He couldn’t remember. But now he had things in his life David
didn’t: friends who truly mattered, ones he thought he’d spend the rest of
his life with. Kids didn’t think that way. Friends could come and go
and they adjusted. True, Xander had known his current friends for years,
but they hadn’t become like blood until the last year or so.
That got him thinking about Danielle. He pulled his mobile phone
from his shirt pocket and checked it. No text messages from her. No
calls. She hadn’t replied to the last text he’d sent. He keyed in another:
“Forget me already? JK.” But he wasn’t Just Kidding. He knew the score:
Out of sight, out of mind. She had said all the right things, like
We’ll talk on the phone all the time; You come down and see me and I’ll
come up to see you, okay? and I’ll wait for you.
you will, he thought. Even during the past week, he’d sensed a coldness
in her, an emotional distancing. When he’d told his best friend, Dean
had shrugged. Trying to sound world-wise, he’d said, “Forget her, dude.
She’s a hot young babe. She’s gotta move on. You too. Not like you’re
married, right?” Dean had never liked Danielle.
tried to convince himself she was just another friend he was forced to
leave behind. But there was a different kind of ache in his chest when he
thought about her. A heavy weight in his stomach.
it! he told himself. He flipped his phone closed.
mental list of the reasons to hate the move to Pinedale, he moved on to
the one titled “career.” He had just started making short films with
his buddies, and was pretty sure it was something he would eventually do
for a living. They weren’t much, just short skits he and his friends
acted out. He and Dean wrote the scripts, did the filming, used computer
software to edit an hour of video into five-minute films, and laid
music over them. They had six already on YouTube—with an average rating of
four-and-a-half stars and a boatload of praise. Xander had dreams of
getting a short film into the festival circuit, which of course would
lead to offers to do music videos and commercials, probably an Oscar and
onto feature movies starring Russell Crowe and Jim Carrey. Pasadena was
right next to Hollywood, a twenty-minute drive. You couldn’t ask for a
better place to live if you were the next Steven Spielberg. What in
God’s creation would he find to film in Pinedale? Trees, he thought
glumly, watching them fly past his window.
David’s soccer concern, said, “We’ll talk about it later.”
Mom reached through the seatbacks to shake Xander’s knee. “It’ll work
out,” she whispered.
“Wait a minute,” David said,
understanding Dad-talk as well as Xander did. “Are you saying they suck—or that
they don’t have a soccer team? You told me they did!”
said later, Dae.” His nickname came from Toria’s inability as a toddler
to say David. She had also called Xander Xan, but it hadn’t stuck.
David slumped down in his seat.
Xander let the
full extent of his misery show on his face for his mother.
She gave his knee a shake, sharing his misery. She was good that
way. “Give it some time,” she whispered. “You’ll make new friends and find
new things to do. Wait and see.”