About the Book:
Alex and KJ have rescued their friends from the Center that held them captive all their lives, but they are not yet safe. Discovering a community of free spinners also reveals the full extent of the plots against them, and the true threat is not the Center, nor even the Central Office, but Kronos, a shadowy international organization that has masterminded the spinners’ suppression for centuries.
When their escape from the Center brings Kronos’s attention to the very refuge that is protecting them, Alex is determined to act. Back on the cold streets of Portland, she and KJ find out Kronos’s chilling new plan to eliminate spinners forever.
As the danger mounts, Alex has to decide how far she will go to save her friends. Time is running out and evading the enemy is no longer enough. To win this battle, Alex must face Kronos itself.
The U-Haul’s engine shuts down with a rattling cough. I lift my head off KJ’s shoulder, instantly alert, and blink into the absolute darkness filling the back of the truck.
The words pop into my head, bringing a burst of happiness that explodes inside me like my own private fireworks. The murmur of tentative voices rising through the dark confirms that this isn’t a dream. We did it. KJ and I rescued all twenty spinners from Portland’s supposedly secure Crime Investigation Center and brought them here, miles from where we started, to the brink of a new life. A safe life, where no one will control us or our time skills.
“You awake, Alex?”
KJ’s whisper is so close to my ear that his breath tickles my neck. I reach through the darkness and find his hand. When I touch it, his fingers twine with mine.
A loud creaking sound comes from outside as our driver, Yolly, climbs from the truck’s cab. Seconds later, she yanks the rear roll-up door partway open with a deafening clatter. Normal darkness, the kind lightened by moon and stars and streetlamps, floods our cave-like space. In the soft glow, I can make out the outlines of the kids KJ and I rescued, curled together like puppies on a patchwork assortment of pillows and blankets. At the lip of the truck’s bed stands Yolly, her round form a solid mass of reassurance.
“Everyone OK in there?” she whispers-an unnecessary courtesy, given that all the people clustered around me are wide awake.
“We’re great.” I crawl toward the opening, KJ at my heels.
“Wait here,” I tell the other spinners as I squeeze my way through them. “KJ and I will make sure everything is safe.”
“What about us?” asks Aidan. “We’re just supposed to stay wedged in here?”
Aidan mutters, “So they think they’re in charge now?” to his buddy Raul, but neither of them gets out from under his blankets.
I swing myself out of the truck, wincing a little when my feet hit the ground. It’s been a long night. The short nap I snatched on the hour-long drive over here is holding back the worst of my exhaustion, but it hasn’t erased the headache beating a persistent drumroll inside my skull.
KJ clambers out behind me, stretching his long body like a cat and darting quick glances at our surroundings, presumably searching-as I am-for a sign of someone about to attack. No one appears. The night smells like diesel and hums with quiet. To our right are a handful oflong-haul trucks, their slumbering forms blocked from the freeway by a stand of tall pines. To our left, empty parking spots face a low concrete building. A sign hung near the door proclaims MEN over the blue-and-white image of a person in a wheelchair. There’s a soda machine next the building and a display of maps and tourist information. I can’t read the notices from here, but if we’re in the right place, they’ll be telling us about the wonders of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.
“Is the guy you’re meeting here?” Yolly asks, peering across the dim lot. She’s parked the U-Haul in a spot at the end, as far as she could get from the lights.
“He should be,” I say. “This is the Moose rest stop, right?” “Memaloose,” Yolly corrects me.
The word slides from her on a heavy sigh, and I study her more closely. Yolly looks as tired as I feel. Her full lips are pinched, and there are cavernous circles under her eyes. A twinge of guilt dims some of my happiness. What has Yolly been thinking about as she chauffeured us on this midnight drive? Does she regret what she’s done? Yolly is an adult and an employee of the Center. If they figure out that she helped twenty spinners escape, she won’t just lose her job. Yolly will go to jail.
“I don’t see him,” I say, pushing my guilt aside to answer her original question. “But I’m sure he’s on his-“
A car exits the highway, heading in our direction. KJ yanks down the truck’s roll-up door and pulls Yolly and me behind the vehicle’s bulky mass. All three of us peer around the side to watch as the car’s headlights grow bigger. A familiar thread of worry worms its way up from the back of my mind. What if this is a trap, and instead of coming here to take us to a spinner refuge, Miguel actually works for the Center? What if it’s the Center’s director, Dr. Barnard, or my former time agent, Carson Ross, who leaps from the oncoming car, bringing with him the leashes that prevent us from freezing time? Or worse, what if the car is full of wipers?
I clench my teeth, willing the fear to go away, which only sort of works. Knowing that freezing time for extended periods causes paranoia doesn’t stop my alarm bells from clamoring.
“You think it’s Miguel?” KJ asks me. He shoots a quick glance at Yolly, and I know he’s thinking the same thing I am: Sheshouldn’thaveturnedoffthetruck.
“Why don’t you wait in the cab,” I tell Yolly. “We’ll go ta!k to the driver, and if he’s not who we think, or if he does anything threatening, you drive everyone else away. OK?”
Yolly’s eyes go wide. “You don’t think something’s going to go wrong, do you?” A quiver of fear prickles my scalp. Of course I do.
The lights of the car swing to one side, and a compact blue Honda pulls into a spot three spaces over from us. The prickles on my head spread, and every hair on my body turns into an antenna. I take a deep breath and force myself to smile at Yolly.
“Nothing is going to go wrong,” I tell her. “It’s just in case.”
Yolly makes her way along the side of the U-Haul and climbs back into the cab, her hesitation clear in the half-hearted thunk of the door closing. I scan the darkness beyond the restrooms. If this is a trap and Yolly somehow manages to get away, where could she possibly take our friends?
The Honda cuts its headlights, and the engine dies. KJ grabs my hand. “We should check it out.” “Right,” I whisper. “I’ll do it.”
He nods. I adjust my focus inward. Time drifts through me-minutes, seconds, instants-all sliding forward into the unknowable future. I reach out with my mind. To me, time is not an invisible force; it’s a weave I can grab hold of, made up of a million endless strands. I lock onto them and drag the world to a halt. At least that’s my intent, but when I close my mental grip, time slides through my grasp like so much confetti.
I try again. Nothing.
“You do it,” I whisper to KJ. “I can’t.”
He doesn’t look surprised. I’ve frozen time so often tonight that I literally passed out from the strain before we left the Center; it’s hardly shocking that I haven’t built up enough strength to do it again. It is worrisome, though. We’re not safe yet, and traveling without any time skills makes me feel as exposed as a snail without its shell.
A frown of concentration drags KJ’s dark eyebrows low on his forehead. For an instant, I worry that he, too, will fail-KJ held time nearly as long as I did tonight, and bringing someone into a freeze with you is always harder than stopping time alone-but then I feel the familiar shift in the quality of the air as the world stills. The highway turns into a parking lot of unmoving cars filled with equally unmoving people. The wind stops tugging at the pines, stranding their branches in mid-sway. The moon’s rays, no longer moving, dim slightly as every atom freezes. In the U-Haul’s cab, Yolly sits like a mannequin, head turned as she squints blindly at the blue car.
“How long can you hold on?” I ask KJ.
“Five minutes?” His teeth are gritted. “We better hurry.”
The two of us walk quickly around the truck and approach the small car. In the utter silence of the frozen night, the scuff of our sneakers against the asphalt seems loud. KJ’s pulse beats like a trapped bird under my fingers. We’re perfectly safe right now in this paused oasis, but if the person in that car is not who we think, we’re in trouble. The U-Haul isn’t going to win in a real-time chase.
We reach the Honda’s window and lean forward as one.
Miguel sits in the car’s front seat, his body twisted toward us, one hand on the seat belt’s release button, the other on the door handle.
“It’s him.” My words are nearly lost in a sigh of relief.
Miguel looks exactly like he did when we met him yesterday back in Portland: slim, with dark eyes and equally dark hair that falls all the way to his shoulders. He’s even wearing the same type of clothes, the sporty kind that suggest he’s prepared to set off a twenty-mile hike at a moment’s notice.
KJ bends lower and peers through the window into the car’s back seat. “He came alone.”
The words don’t calm me as much as they should. I chew my lip and study the pale-faced girl reflected in the car window. The recently dyed red bob makes the image unfamiliar, but I recognize the distrust in her expression. Are my nerves rational caution or freeze-induced paranoia?
The headache behind my eyes gives an especially vicious pulse as the happiness I woke up with shatters in a burst of fury. I am so tired of living in a constant fog of dread and fear; I’m tired of running, and hiding, and always trying to think two steps ahead. I rub my forehead. I want to crawl back into the U-Haul, curl up with my friends, and let someone else figure out what to do next. Except there is no one else. There’s just KJ and me and this single moment offering a temporary shield from whatever comes next.
“Do you think you can rewind a little?” I ask KJ, pushing aside my anger to focus on the problem in front ofus. “We should check and see if Miguel sent someone ahead of him. You don’t have to rewind very far; we only called him an hour ago.”
KJ gives a curt nod, his eyes growing unfocused as he sinks his thoughts into the instant that’s locked all around us. He grasps hold of the frozen strands of time and starts to pull them backward. The past unrolls around us, the images like the faint reel of a movie played jerkily in reverse. A shadowy copy of Miguel’s car detaches from the solid real one and backs onto the freeway, followed not long after by the U-Haul. KJ pulls the strands harder, increasing the rewind’s tempo. Shadows flicker over the ground; trees bend in nonexistent breezes. We hear vague echoes of the world’s former soundtrack, the noises unintelligible since they’re playing backward. Only two vehicles arrive. One holds a tired-looking family, all of whom stagger in and out of the bathroom before returning to the freeway. One of the long-haul truckers stumps toward the restroom as well. We follow his shadowy form and discover no more nefarious activity than the un-purchase of a soda from the machine. The man returns to his truck, and we watch the memory of the vehicle’s arrival as its misty shape eases out of the parking spot and rolls backward onto the freeway.
“That’s long enough,” I say. KJ is panting slightly, and there’s a sheen of sweat coating his forehead. “I checked the trucker’s watch. He got here right when I called Miguel.”
KJ stops the rewind, and the frozen moment we inhabit spreads around us, silent as a held breath. “We want to do this, right?” he asks, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. “We’re sure we trust him?”
“He’s the best chance we have,” I say.
“If we are wrong”-KJ gestures toward the U-Haul-“whatever happens to them will be our fault.” “We did the right thing.” I roll my shoulders to ease the tension that’s squeezing them toward my ears. “We don’t know what’s going to happen at the refuge, but if we’d done nothing, they’d have been taken to the Central Office in the morning and killed.”
My words would probably sound more convincing if my hand wasn’t squeezing his so tightly. KJ nods anyway. His ability to hold time is obviously nearly drained.
The two of us retreat to our hiding spot behind the U-Haul. The metal side gives slightly when I prop my tired body against it. This exterior isn’t as hard as it looks; it would take minimal effort to crush what’s inside.
KJ releases the time strands. Lights brighten, and there’s a slight loosening in the air that proves the world is moving forward again. KJ is still clutching my hand, almost certainly due to his own nervousness more than my reassurance. I raise my eyebrows in a silent question. KJ’s throat works as he swallows. Hand in hand, we step out of the van’s shelter and into the parking lot’s muted light.
The door to the Honda pops opens.
“Glad you made it.” Miguel’s greeting is so instantaneous that I suspect he, too, froze time to check us out. The idea is disconcerting. It was only eleven days ago that I learned spinners aren’t doomed to die in their teens. Miguel is the only adult spinner I’ve ever met, and the concept is still hard to accept.
“Hi,” I say, as KJ and I move toward him.
Miguel smiles. It’s a tight smile, very different from the eager enthusiasm he showed at our first meeting. Of course, it ispast midnight. Like me, I’m sure he’d rather be asleep right now.
“Where’s your ride?” he asks. “Right here.” I gesture to the truck. “You came in a U-Haul?”
I think he’s going to say more, but just then, Yolly jumps from the cab. Miguel tenses. Yolly walks in our direction, eyes narrowed as she sizes up Miguel just as obviously as he’s assessing her. When she reaches us, she puts a protective arm around my shoulder. She’d probably put one around KJ’s, too, except that he’s a foot taller than she is.
“I’m Yolanda Richardson,” she says. Her voice is mama-bear gruff, and her body feels warm where it touches mine. I lean against her. I may have rolled my eyes at her relentless cheeriness while we lived at the Center, but she has proven to be one of the few people in my life I’ve been able to count on, and knowing we’ll part soon makes me sad.
“Yolly,” I say, “this is Miguel, the man I told you about. He’ll take us the rest of the way.” I turn to Miguel. “Yolly is the matron at our Center. She knows the truth about what they’ve been doing to us. Without her help, we never would have gotten here.”
Miguel holds out his hand to Yolly. “Thank you.”
He speaks with a slight drawl that makes everything he says sound soothing. Yoily releases her grip on my shoulder to shake his hand.
“There aren’t a lot of Norms who are willing to help spinners,” Miguel says.
Yolly looks at her feet. “Anyone would help, if they knew what was really going on. I can’t believe I worked there so long without suspecting anything.”
“The Center is very good at what it does,” Miguel says. “Especially when it comes to covering up its crimes.”
“I wish I could at least quit,” Yolly says. “There would be some satisfaction in knowing I walked away. But with the Center closing tomorrow, I guess I don’t have a job there anymore anyway.” “It’s closing tomorrow?” Miguel frowns. “I thought it was open until the end of the month.”
“They changed their plans,” Yolly says. “Having four spinners escape last week caused quite a ruckus at the Central Office. And then when Alex got caught and broke out again … ” She shrugs. “The order to close came down yesterday. Dr. Barnard told the press they’d found mold in the building and they needed to evacuate everyone.”
“That’s why we had to get them out,” I say.
1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?
I’ve been an avid reader since I was small, and while growing up I wrote occasional short stories and kept lots of journals. In school, I loved taking creative writing classes, but eventually put writing aside for a more practical career. I missed writing, though. In my early forties, searching for that elusive “other” that would make life feel more fulfilling, I went back to this early love. I started toying with the idea of writing a novel, seeing it primarily as a challenge to see if I could actually pull it off. I dabbled, took classes, then (as the true child of two academics) eventually committed to writing by going to graduate school for an MFA. I wrote REWIND after I graduated from Stonecoast and then – quite a few years later – eventually got it published.
2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?
Outside of writing, I work as an affordable housing developer, a job which I’m lucky to be able to do part time. My perfect schedule is to write at home in the morning when I’m fresh and then head into my office around mid-day. This doesn’t always happen. The housing job has deadlines, priorities interfere, life gets busy, but when I’m truly immersed in a project, I am fairly consistent about writing at least six days a week for two or three hours. Writing consistently keeps me immersed in the story and also keeps the writing “muscles” sharp.
3: Where do your ideas come from?
The idea of freezing time came to me when I was in elementary school, though at the time it was a much more innocent vision than the life-threatening condition it grew into in my novels. I just wanted a private gap where I could run home and retrieve missed homework or hide something I didn’t want anyone to see. The actual plots for my books come from lots of free writing; long conversational word dumps where I work pretty blindly to figure out where an idea might lead. For all my books, I have huge Word files with “work out notes” which I use to write through possible plot changes, character backstories, and all the many, many stumbling blocks as I realize (over and over again) that my original plan has flaws.
4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?
I am firmly in the outline camp. I start with an idea, then create a character(s), eventually circling onto a plot, which I outline with as much detail as I can come up with. Once I start writing I inevitably run into plot problems, so I stop, work through them, re-outline, then rewrite and move on, until I hit on the next problem. Writing for me is definitely an iterative process!
5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?
Most of what I’ve written (and everything I’ve published) is young adult science fiction. I think I write this because these are the types of stories that originally made me fall in love with reading – places where things are magical or at least operate outside the rules by which we normally live. I find it freeing – and fun – to let my imagination roam in a world I’ve created.
6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?
This would be an easier question to answer if I had a better memory for actors’ names. Or names in general. I think my dream cast would be full of unknown diamonds in the rough – people who have worked on their craft but are not yet famous. Playing a role as a spinner in a REWIND inspired movie/TV show would be the big break that made them into stars!
7: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I read every day and lately I also have an audio book going. Favorites change all the time, but recent obsessions include: Holly Black, Brit Bennet, Tana French, and E. Lockhart. Jane Austen will always hold a special place in my reader’s heart.
8: What book/s are you reading at present?
This week I’m listening to All Adults Here by Emma Straub and reading Maggie Stievater’s Lament. (And very much enjoying both of them.)
9: What is your favorite book and why?
I can’t imagine choosing a favorite, there are too many wonderful books out there! That said, here are a few that stood the test of time: The Bone People by Keri Hulme, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.
10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?
Write a lot. Don’t give up. Write because you love it.
Writing well takes a long time to master, it’s solitary, and usually involves a lot of rejection. Even if you do get published most of us don’t exactly have fans banging down the door, so if you’re writing primarily for external approval, you’re likely to be disappointed. If you write because you enjoy the challenge then you’re more likely to stick to it, and the longer you stick to it the better you’ll get, and the more likely you’ll find an audience.
11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?
I have the following social media sites:.
I post photos of places that inspired scenes from the REWIND trilogy (I even have a theme song for RECKLESS!), pictures from our new floating home and the mansion where I’ve been socially-distanced-working during COVID, plus too many shots of my dog.
About the Author:
I live in a much prettier and less dangerous version of Portland than my characters. I’ve loved writing and books my whole life, but didn’t venture into novel writing until the late 2000s. When, as a kid, I dreamed up the idea of freezing time, I only considered the benefits: always having the perfect snappy come-back, the right answer on the test, and untraceable revenge. It was when I turned the idea into a novel that I delved into the dark side of this potential blessing. I am so excited and humbled by having my books published so I can share them with the world! Outside of writing, I have spent the last twenty five years working with Portland non-profits to develop affordable housing.