Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Mystery Agent Contest!!!!

--- Contest CLOSED -- 
Thanks for participating!! Stay tuned for our Mystery Agent's winners. Happy Nano!

Update 11/1/11: Writing a
twitter pitch, aka a pitch in 140 characters including spaces, is extremely difficult. But most of you bent over backwards to do it! Kudos to those of you who did it right. Fifteen of you were over the limit, by anywhere from 7 to 180 characters over. This obviously isn't fair to those who followed Rule 5 down there



You've been disqualified and I'm reopening the contest for anybody who wants to submit or resubmit with the correct type of pitch.


Please check the length of your pitch to see if you're one who is being disqualified. Michelle also sent out emails (or tweets or a blog comment if you don't have an obvious email) to those who were disqualified. If you made a mistake and want to correct it, you're welcome to do so now! :) 


I promised our Mystery Agent 50 twitter pitches PLUS first 500 words, so I'd appreciate your help. Thank you!

It's true that NaNoWriMo begins today, but for those of you with a pitch-ready novel under your pillow, something even cooler is going on...

MYSTERY AGENT CONTEST!!




This month's Awesome M.A. has requested a twitter pitch PLUS first 500 words. This has never been done on OA before, so I'm excited to read the entries!


Requested genres include:
Picture book - YA/Teen:

commercial fiction
romance (contemporary and historical)
historical fiction
multi-cultural fiction
paranormal
sci-fi/fantasy in YA or romance only
dark novels
fairy-tale/legend spin-offs

The Rules:

1) Entries must be left in the comment section of today's post. (Please do not email us your entry.)

2) You must have a completed manuscript and be ready to send it upon request.

3) You can only pitch once per contest. So if you participated in any of our previous M.A. contests, no worries--you can submit your pitch today, too.

4) Please include TITLE and GENRE along with your pitch.

5) Your pitch should fit nicely in a twitter box. Please include the first 500 words of your completed manuscript following your twitter-length pitch.

Winner gets a full manuscript request from our Mystery Agent! Good luck!

And Happy NaNoWriMo!!

95 comments:

  1. Title: SWIMMING WITH TCHAIKOVSKY
    Genre: YA Suspense/Magical Realism

    Pitch:
    Sally can’t play cello without seeing clues about her kidnapped host father, but to save him she has to take on the Russian government.

    First 500 Words:

    Sally kept her eyes on her bowl. As she chased down the last bit of kasha, the only sound in the kitchen was her spoon scraping against the ceramic. Her host sister Irina had stopped eating breakfast long ago and now sat cross-legged in her chair, facing the window. Mama stood at the stove next to the steaming pot, armed with a ladle. The moment Sally’s bowl was empty the ladle moved in to replenish.

    “Thank you,” Sally murmured in Russian. To admit she was full would require looking up into her host mother's unblinking eyes.

    Yesterday evening Mikhail Grigoryevich had been sitting in the chair across from Sally, drinking tea, asking her questions as though her opinions were important. His mug was on the table where he’d left it. He’d only gone out to walk the dog.

    The frantic barking still echoed in Sally’s head. It had been loud enough to send them tearing down the apartment stairwell – only to arrive too late.

    But Sally had to stay focused. She’d been preparing for this day her whole life. No way was she going to blow it now. Anyway, what could she do to help? Nothing.

    Sally stood up. “I should get going.”

    Mama froze with another ladleful of kasha poised halfway between the stove and the table. “What? Go where? Sally dear, you can’t. It’s not safe.”

    “But she has to,” Irina said, twisting around in her chair. “The competition starts today. Remember?”

    Mama dropped the ladle back into the pot. “Irina, the government might not stop with your papa. They could be watching our apartment right now.”

    “Come on, they’re too dysfunctional to organize that so fast. It was only yesterday Papa told his editor he’d write the article,” Irina said.

    “And he was kidnapped before dinner,” Mama said, turning to another pot and stirring feverishly. The metal spoon clanged against the sides. “They’re efficient when they want to be.”

    Irina’s eyes flashed. “Whatever. I bet the only reason he’s not home yet is because he’s digging up all sorts of new evidence of how corrupt they are.”

    Mama pressed her lips together and kept stirring.

    Sally took a few steps toward the hallway. “So, yeah. I’ll just go and come right back, and—”

    “Sally, no,” Mama said, shaking her head. “What if you get lost? You only just arrived.”

    “But Irina showed me how to get to the concert hall yesterday morning, and I have the map you gave me.”

    Irina unfolded her legs and stood up. “I’ll go with her.”

    “Irina,” Mama snapped.

    “What? Why should we let the government ruin Sally’s chances in the competition? And there’s no way I’m going to stay hostage in this apartment for the rest of my life.”

    ReplyDelete
  2. Title: ANNIE WALKER, ANIMAL TALKER
    Author: Tricia Clasen
    Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
    Word Count: 47,000

    Pitch: Animals don't talk. So when they wake up Annie asking for help, she's 100% sure she's dreaming - that is, until they all start disappearing.

    First 500:

    What's that saying—you can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family or something like that? Whoever made that one up clearly had not followed my path from Carter Elementary to Madison Middle School. Sometimes your friends are boogers, too, and you don't always get to pick them either.

    "Seriously, Annie, could you eat that sandwich any slower?" Emily taps her fingers on the lunch room table. "We want to walk the yard."
    Kristina gives me a half smile. "Yeah, let's go."

    "I just have a couple of bites left," I say.
    Emily rolls her eyes. I stare at my sandwich for a split second before tossing it back on my plate. I stand and carry my tray over to the garbage area. While I walk, I crinkle my nose and stick my tongue out. The face is my unspoken defiance. Pick your friends? Not me.

    I dump my tray as fast as I can. Apparently not fast enough. Emily and Kristina stand by the door. Emily's arms are crossed, and Kristina punches the keys on her phone. I have to stop myself from laughing. I mean seriously, who does she think she's kidding? As if Kristina really has some secret stash of friends across the world to text at lunch.

    I trot to reach them, and then we all saunter through the doors and make our way outside. I don't get the point. We walk around the yard pretending to have a great conversation but we're really just checking out what everyone else is doing. It's boring. I miss doing stuff during recess, like playing four square or jump rope, but Emily says, "You just don't do those things in middle school, Annie."

    "Yeah, grow up." Kristina adds.

    "Oh, well, sure," I answer. But honestly, I'm still a little confused by the whole growing up thing. I'm not even twelve yet. Should I get a job or what?

    I've had the same two best friends since kindergarten when my mom pointed toward about fifteen other five year olds before taking a seat at a chair several sizes too small to listen to the teacher's philosophy on shaping young minds. I stood frozen in the middle of the carpet, waiting for her to come back.

    "Hi, I'm Emily. We'll be friends." The girl wore pink bows on both sides of her bouncy blond hair. I glanced over to the horde of kids. One girl was twirling around until she got so dizzy she fell down. Another licked the glue bottle. I shrugged. My options were limited.

    "Okay," I said.

    We added Kristina, who always wore striped tights, within the first week. Well, Emily added Kristina. I didn't dare say anything. No, even in kindergarten, I understood that my entire school experience depended on having the right friends. And you know what? They were the right friends. We had a blast together, and I couldn't imagine that things would ever change.

    Until middle school.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome Contest! Thanks so much OA and Mystery Agent!

    Title: THE TRAVELERS
    Author: Leigh Ann Kopans
    Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
    Word Count: 81,000

    Twitter Pitch: A time-traveling teen gets pulled back in history where she must right an expert Traveler's wrongs or risk losing her own life. YA, 81K

    First 500:
    For years, the doctors had been trying to figure Nik out. Her blood pressure was normal. Her sugar levels were fine. Three separate EKGs showed a perfectly functioning heart. Her MRI had been clear. She wasn't depressed, or anemic, or anxious. Narcolepsy didn’t cause pain. Epileptic seizures could strike at any time, not just at night.

    She was normal. Normal in every way except for the visions. The excruciatingly painful visions that only came at night, and the boy with blue eyes she saw in every single one.
    Nik felt his presence an instant before she saw him, and this time was no different. A thrill ran through her, followed by a delicious warmth. Then, when she met his gaze, the images of terror - this time, of smoke, screaming, and bodies jostling against one another for escape - melted away into calm, confidence, and strength.

    Then the boy with blue eyes became confused and distorted, just like he always did, and twisted together with the asphalt or dancing candlelight or police sirens, into the same thing.

    Pain.

    A million knife points, stabbing at her skin from the inside and invading every inch of her body, so intensely that nothing else mattered. Not her fear of the visions. Not even him.
    Nik forced her eyes open and flexed her jaw against the rough carpet fibers of her bedroom floor, wincing when it popped. She dragged her still-pounding head from the floor and glared at the useless pile of medical textbooks on her desk.

    The scent of brewing coffee floated up the stairs, finally convincing her to haul herself off the floor. Caffeine usually helped take the edge off the pain.

    This morning, a strange, aching heaviness made her usual post-episode headache even worse. The room wobbled around her, just like it had last night in her best friend Brian’s basement, when they drank too much and she felt too brave. All she really remembered was him looking at her with his heart-melting brown eyes, telling her he didn't love her.
    She winced again, the memory twisting her heart over on itself. A different kind of pain, but almost as horrible.

    "Nik?” called Mom, "Annika! Six forty-five now! Out the door in ten minutes!"

    Nik hauled herself upright, holding a groan back in her throat. While making first bell on the last day before winter break of senior year felt like a far from compelling reason to hurry, she swung her feet out of bed anyway. Nik would be far away visiting Gran for the entire break, and didn’t want to leave Mom cranky with her.

    When her feet hit the floor, a sharp gasp of surprise escaped her lips. The tips of her toes felt like they were being mashed into a space as small and rigid as a tin of mints. She flexed her feet, and ropes of hurt wrapped themselves around her ankles.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Title: PRINCE OF CITY NIGHTS
    Author: Tamara Felsinger
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Word Count: 60,000

    Twitter pitch:
    Tabby has a week to track a beast, find her sister, and topple the government, all while battling a curse that has her burning to kill.

    First 500:

    Tabby bobbed a curtsy in her Sweet Lolita dress, all frills and ruffles and lace. The closest late-night shoppers stopped to gawk. She kept her head down and resisted the urge to scuttle into the café behind her. Bait had to be seen.

    It didn’t matter that the pink dress clashed with her mini cherry-red plaits. It didn’t matter that she had sweat patches under her short sleeves. It didn’t matter that Comet Café had mold on the ceiling.

    Frills and ruffles hooked them, every time.
    She swept her arms towards the café entrance and steadied her breath. “Evening. Anyone want an icy drink?”

    It was a hot night. The crowd was tired. She was a shop greeter in a novelty dress.

    The onlookers edged forward and she encouraged them with what she hoped was a flirty smile.

    But oh, to be home in jeans, sipping on a nutri-drink and adding touches of paint to the newest picture on her bedroom wall. Away from the lights and the noise and the masses of people.

    Her gaze snagged on a man leaning against a shop window across the bustling plaza square. There was nothing overly noticeable about him, but his eyes raked her dress in a way that made her shudder. Even as she watched, his internal shadows billowed like dark clouds before a storm. Everyone had shadows. His were worse. His needed to be dealt with.

    Tabby’s sweaty fingers crinkled her packet of sanitizer wipes. She’d cleansed dozens of people already, but it still gave her ripples of anxiety thinking of the job ahead. There was always the chance something could go wrong this time. That she could end up being the victim instead of the victor.

    Her forced smile twitched when the leering guy headed over. He winked as he approached.

    “Seventeen,” she said, handing him a sanitizer wipe.

    His shadows didn’t clear. In fact, he purposely brushed against her on his way into the café.

    The curse flared up inside her like a roar of fire. Tabby forced it down. “Easy, girl,” she whispered. The cleansing would come later.

    She ignored the leering man’s stare burning into her back through the café window and surveyed the crowd again.

    The shopping district was nice during the day, but on Saturday nights it was a mess to the senses. The entire place buzzed with lights and neon signs. Artists, musicians, and magicians battled for attention throughout the plaza square. Even without shoppers, the shouts of buskers and bellow of brass instruments were making plenty of noise.

    Sizzling aromas drifted through the heat, making Tabby’s stomach rumble and taunting her with smells of food she’d never be able to afford. Onions, garlic, and meat, so much meat. Imitation, of course, except for the more expensive places. Surrounded by ocean, mountains, and desert, Shadowglen had no choice but to import all its food except fish, and with the mining boom, grocery stores could afford to be hefty on prices. Not so much help to the lower classes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Title: Dreaming Isis
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Pitch:
    17-year-old Isis must learn to navigate her dreams, control her power and discover who’s lying to her before her new powers drive her insane

    First 500 Words:

    "Peer tutoring?" I pushed my chair away from the table, making loud skidding sounds against the tile.

    "Isis, it's the last step in the counseling program." Sonya peered over glasses at me as she shuffled things in the file. She was running the program my mom had forced me into with the help of my old psychiatrist.

    "But have you looked at my file?" I picked at a scratch in the table. Then forced my hands still in my lap. "I don't fit into the normal peer tutoring candidates. My grades are perfect. My attendance at school is good, and I've got friends. I get along with others. Not to mention I've already been accepted into all of the colleges I applied for. I could see this if you wanted me to tutor, but I'm not about to be tutored by someone else."

    "Peer tutoring allows you to practice the skills that you have learned in this program. Your completion of the entire program will allow us to include you in the case studies and program brochures. It's the last step and then you won't need to come to the weekly support group meetings anymore."

    "And if I don't do it?" I asked.

    "Then I won't be able to graduate you from the program. And I'll have to call your mother." Sonya shrugged her shoulders and put the file on the table.

    "Let me think about it," I said. She didn't know that my dad had promised I could quit the entire program as soon as I turned eighteen in two weeks. So it didn't matter what she said or did. My mom didn't know about the deal we'd made when she forced me into the program at the beginning of the year.

    I headed out of the room without waiting for her answer. I walked across the parking lot thinking about the argument I was about to have with my mom. Most of the volunteers for the peer tutoring were in my classes at school. The one thing that may make my mom cave was that people would know I was in some camp for crazy kids.

    I was angry, so instead of getting in the car, I walked towards the back of the building to the serenity garden and gazebo. I rounded the corner of the building quietly. A boy sat in the gazebo, his back to me. He was juggling three balls in the air, they rose up and down in a steady rhythm. A soft yellow light streaming off of the balls caught my attention. I stepped closer, the light pulling me towards it, until I was almost to the gazebo. As I watched the balls more closely, I looked at the boy. He wasn't juggling. His arms were folded across his chest and the yellow light connected the balls back to him.

    I stepped closer, stumbling on a rock and the boy jumped. The balls clattered down on the floor of the gazebo.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Title: BEING THE QUEEN
    Author: Rosalyn Eves
    Genre: Contemporary Upper Middle Grade
    Word Count: 53,000

    Pitch: When Sabrina Tate decides to be queen of her junior high's Arthurian feast, she has to compete with the local mean girl--and not lose her best friend in the process.

    First 500:


    I slouched down the hallway, trying to keep close to the walls and shadows. Under the hallway lights of Cedar Valley Junior High, I felt exposed. I was pretty sure my new short hair cut--the pixie cut that had gone horribly, horribly wrong—was drawing attention to me like a neon sign screwed into my head.

    I was on my way to my first class when I saw Kayleigh Andrews, the last person I wanted to see when I looked like an escaped circus freak. Kayleigh arched one plucked eyebrow and exchanged a look with the girl next to her. They both giggled, a high-pitched grating sound. My face got hot. Kayleigh’s bubble-gum pink mouth opened.

    I knew what would happen next. Kayleigh would say something razor-sharp, like, “Did you forget to look in the mirror this morning?” and I would pretend like I didn’t care but really I would feel stupid and ugly and about one inch high. So I did the only thing I could think of. I turned around, fled down the hall, and slid into the nearest bathroom. I heard Kayleigh yell something at my back, but my shoes were squeaking so loudly that I couldn’t, luckily, understand it.

    For the record, I don’t usually hide in bathrooms. I’m much better at hiding in plain sight. I guess you could say I’ve perfected the art of not-getting-noticed, a talent that was going to be seriously challenged by the bush on the top of my head. Once I was safely in the corner stall, I started to think. Hiding was a stupid idea. Now I was going to be late to English—the one class I actually looked forward to. And I’d messed up goal number three for this year.

    I like goals. They make my life seem safe and controllable. This year, I’d made five goals. Except for the last one, these are the same goals I made last year (which says something about how successful I was).

    1. Actually talk to Jameson Bradley.
    2. Make friends (besides Julie).
    3. Don’t be intimidated by Kayleigh.
    4. Find something I’m good at, so mom and dad won’t keep comparing me to Audrey.
    5. Survive eighth grade.

    I was pretty sure I could handle the last one. It’s the others I wasn’t so sure about. And hiding in the bathroom wasn’t a very promising start.

    When the bell rang, I banged my way out of the bathroom stall and ran down the hallway to class. By the time I got to class, I was out of breath and sweating. Great. I pushed the door open and stopped, staring into the room. Ms. Dean was standing up front, her curly brown hair pulled back under a conical princess hat and wearing a long blue dress with a gold belt slung low around her hips. She looked like she had stepped out of a children’s illustrated book of the Middle Ages.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for this opportunity!

    Title: HOW TO KILL YOUR DEMON
    Author: Lyla Lee
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Word Count: 92,000

    Twitter Pitch: Gabriel Durante has to team up with a fashionista and the Angel of Death in order to kill the demon he serves before he becomes one himself.

    First 500:

    On the night that Gabriel Durante harvested his two hundredth soul, he bought himself a pack of cigarettes and a drink. There was nothing else he could do, really, other than try to forget the disturbing fact that he’d stolen that many souls…and that he’d kept count.

    But since the bar wasn’t the most entertaining place in the world and he got tired of listening to people drunkenly sob about failed relationships, he eventually joined the many bodies grinding on the dance floor.

    There, he spotted a girl dancing with her group of friends. Her chin length purple hair glowed in the strobe-lights—which was what had caught his attention in the first place. As she danced, Gabriel could tell from her hair and her flashy silver dress that she was a girl who craved attention. This, of course, made her the perfect target.

    "Hey, you want to dance with me?" Gabriel murmured into her ear.

    The girl stiffened, not bothering to turn around. Most guys would have been discouraged by this. But not Gabriel.

    With a slow smile, he mentally grasped the long wispy strands of his own luck and twisted it towards her.

    “Sure!” she said. Her initially annoyed expression quickly became one of poorly disguised awe when she turned towards him. He flashed a smile at her, and kept his eyes trained on her hazel eyes.

    His ability to manipulate luck was the only benefit he’d received when he agreed to serve a demon.

    "Oh, hello," she said in a pathetic attempt at aloofness as a blush flashed across her face. By now, Gabriel had also caught the attention of her friends, who were all giggling.

    Gabriel slowly grinned in a way that made the unfortunate girl blush even harder. "Well, what do you say? Want to grace me with a dance?" He held out a hand and kept his gaze locked on hers.

    The psychedelic strobe lights of the night club flashed and rebounded off both of their faces in the brief moment that the girl took to hesitate. When she eagerly accepted, Gabriel’s smile slid into an imperceptible sneer.

    I could really use a cigarette right now, Gabriel couldn't help thinking as he started dancing with the girl, easily moving in sync with her as the friends hooted in appreciation.

    Madi, his ex, had always complained about the cigarette smoke and nagged about how he was ruining his health. With any other girl, he would have just scoffed and gotten out another cigarette…but with Madi…Madi had been different. He’d quit smoking right off the bat.

    It was one of the worst decisions of his life, especially now since she and his adoptive brother Dillon, were back together again.

    I can’t believe Dillon was in her apartment. The thought sprung up inside his brain without a warning, and he cursed himself for being so obsessed over a girl that would never again be his.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Title: THE NOCTURNIAN
    Genre: YA Science Fiction

    Pitch:
    A girl gets taken over by an alien that makes her a pivotal weapon in a war between two groups that will do anything to control her power.

    First 500:

    If they give awards for raging paranoia, I should win them all.

    Amity forced the thought to the back of her mind and focused on where she was putting her feet. Indulging her paranoia wasn’t worth a twisted ankle. The ruptured flagstones flew beneath her. Running like this, one dark-haired boy in front of her, one behind her, she almost felt free of the feeling of being watched. The dilapidated houses on either side of the street shrank away from the stark orange glow of the midday sun at Amity’s back. The thick cables strung across the rooftops glowed as if on fire.

    “You guys still there?” Dirt called over his shoulder to them.

    “Unfortunately,” said Splash, behind her.

    Amity laughed breathlessly as she narrowly dodged a wide hole in the street.

    “C’mon, Splashy, you know you like the hunt,” Dirt said playfully. As he said it, he spun around and began running backwards, a maneuver that always set Amity on edge. But Dirt never got hurt, never fell through the street. Even with his rusty sawblade-sword strapped to his back, he kept his balance and his pace, and had enough time to flash Amity a smile before he spun around again and ducked behind a mountain of supply crates stacked on the side of the street. Amity and Splash huddled behind him.

    “Almost there,” Dirt said. The sun’s dull light washed out his already white-blue eyes. His whole face lit up with exhilaration. From his belt he pulled a folded-up poster he’d torn from the bakery in the marketplace. Safety posters plastered every inch of the town, all issued by the Government. Dirt spread his poster out in the middle of the triangle the three of them made.

    “Our target,” he said softly. “Captain Damien Faust.” Next to her, Amity could feel his whole body trembling with anticipation. On her other side, Splash shook with a completely different emotion. She already knew, without looking, that his face was drained of color, his hands fisted in the hem of his tunic.

    The poster’s headline WANTED: DAMIEN FAUST, CAPTAIN OF THE SKY PIRATES blared out of the page in bright red ink. The picture below it was too blurry and faded to make out.

    “Okay.” Dirt looked up at the two of them. “Now. Where do we think he’s hiding?”

    “With the dealers,” said Amity, glancing over Dirt’s shoulder, past the supply crates, and down the street. The dealers ruled this district—each house, though silent, was marked with a distinct stream of smoke billowing out of every window. The smoke gathered in the cable canopy and leeched off into the dark sky above.

    “And why do we think he’s hiding here?”

    “B-because the d-dealers and the Pirates are in the same business,” replied Splash, pinching himself on the forearm when he began to stutter.

    “Exactly,” said Dirt. “And what are we going to do when we find Faust?”

    Splash swallowed audibly.

    “Kill him,” said Amity.

    ReplyDelete
  9. TITLE: LIFE BEFORE DEATH
    Genre: Paranormal Romance
    Word Count: 78,000

    PITCH: Newly deceased Rebecca must find another girl's true love to gain entrance Heaven - which isn't a problem, until she falls for him herself.

    FIRST 500 WORDS:
    Of all the white things I would’ve expected to see in Heaven – brilliant white light, fluffy white clouds, angels in white robes – the rear ends of two massive white horses weren’t on the list. Yet there they were, staring me in the face as they towed the carriage I sat in.

    It should have struck me as odd, or at least creepy, that the man at the reins, dressed in a red tailcoat and black top hat, grinned at me with warm familiarity in spite of the fact that I’d never seen him before. And the fact that I had no idea how I’d wound up in that carriage. It was as if I had materialized from thin air, landed in this moment, and one by one, my senses became aware of everything around me.

    Every one of those senses told me I hadn’t gone to Heaven after all.

    I’d died, and that much I knew. But the white clouds and white-winged, white-robed angels? Not a one. There was a white light, though – in the distance, emanating from a marbled moon. It bounced against the sky in rhythm with the carriage, causing the ocean beneath it to shimmer. Stout cliffs formed shadowy bulges along most of the shore, topped with palm trees and more glowing dots of light from buildings and streetlamps and cars.

    Cars. Not carriages.

    Fingers of chilly apprehension uncurled in my stomach, but I forced them down. I wasn’t in Heaven, but I knew a place this beautiful couldn’t be Hell. Or maybe I just hoped it like, well – hell.

    Ocean air laced with the scent of rain filled my lungs, calling my attention to the black umbrella I held over my head. The street was wet, though no rain fell at the moment. Thank goodness, because the adorable black stilettos on my feet hardly doubled as galoshes.

    “Patrick? Where are we?” My fingers fluttered to my lips the moment the words left them. I’d said his name as casually as I’d asked the question. I could’ve sworn I’d never seen him before, but it obviously wasn’t true. And I had a feeling the freaky revelations had only just begun.

    Patrick turned over his shoulder and smiled, his blue-gray eyes crinkling sweetly. “You’ll see, miss. I think you’ll like it here.”

    “Um, while it’s certainly better than a raging inferno, I’m not so sure about this. Can you take me home?” I knew he couldn’t even as the words left my mouth, but the knowledge did nothing to stop the sadness that pulsed from my chest through my entire body.

    Patrick gave me a wan smile as the carriage stopped alongside an imposing stone church situated on a corner. I knew we’d reached my destination, though I was unaware of what I would find behind the thick, arched wood door.

    Church? When was the last time I went to church?

    I tried to recall, but I couldn’t – and not just the last time I went to church, but anything. No matter how hard I concentrated, my memory only went as far back as the sight of two white horses asses.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Title: Tripplehorn Parker, Hesitant Heroine Extraordinaire

    Genre: Upper MG Adventure

    Twitter Pitch: Adventure-phobic 12-yr-old girl moves to Africa & battles nerves/doubt to outwit bad guys seeking a legendary idol that controls destiny.

    First 500 words:

    Slumping deeper into The Forum Coffee Emporium’s squishiest armchair, I imagined a number of gruesome and excruciating deaths for myself. I could almost smell hopelessness in the air, mingling with the scent of coffee beans, brownies, and baklava bars. Tomorrow I would leave behind four-hundred and fifty-three days of perfect attendance at Winston Prep, one undefeated debate club record, eight stuffed animals, and zero friends, to possibly be torn apart by the most terrifying, murderous animal in the continent of Africa.

    My eyes focused on a photograph of the savage beast. Three ropes of drool tangled in the air while it charged. I’d ripped it from a magazine in hopes of brainstorming possible defense techniques. None came to mind.

    “Tripplehorn Parker, you sure drink a lot of coffee for an eleven-year-old girl,” said a low voice. “That can’t be good for you. Aren’t you British genius types supposed to be tea drinkers?”

    Oh wonderful, shaggy-haired Benjamin of the coffee shop, I thought, taking comfort in the perfect mole above his lips. How I’ll miss you, especially if I die.

    “I’ve adapted to your American ways,” I told him. “And you know it’s decaf. And you know I’m twelve. And this,” I pointed to the photo, “is something you don’t know. This fellow is about to become my closest acquaintance.”

    Benjamin bent and winced at the image. “Hippos, huh? Ouch. Nervous?”

    “No. I’m a bit upset at the increased chance of a painful death, of course. But that’s different.”

    “Right. So...afraid?”

    I nodded. “Maybe a little.”

    “How long will you be gone?”

    “Too long. You’ll have to find another twelve-year-old to serve.”

    Pulling a dessert can from his apron, he smiled and refreshed my drink’s topping. “You want me to replace you? Not possible.”

    “Thank you.” I took a plastic spoonful of fluffy cream, but only to honor his kindness. I tasted nothing but a gnawing bitterness about my future. The contract Mum and Dad signed with the Global Wildlife & Cultural Protectorate was for five years. Five years of studying different animals and cultures around the world. For schooling, I was supposed to get by with a tutor and “practical experience,” whatever that was.

    “I’m still surprised they’re taking you with them. Your parents sure are gutsy. Or crazy.”

    I nodded. They were both. I had hoped The Forum’s soothing atmosphere would bring me to terms with my gutsy and crazy parents. The walls were painted with columns and vines and great philosophers of the past, which made it easier to ponder which matter of reasoning could possibly have brought my parents to their latest decision. The grape/olive Plato plate specials were a nice touch, too. Plus, the brownies were much better than Mum’s.

    “Well, we’ll miss you, Tripp.”

    “Yes, I’ll miss you all, too.” There had been nothing so pleasant at Cambridge. We’d left when I was nine, and everyone there made a stink about little girls hanging around university students, even if they had large vocabularies and professor parents.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks OA and Mystery Agent!

    Title: The Silver Strand
    Genre: MG Fantasy
    Word-count: 55,000
    Pitch: Mastermind Academy’s latest recruit, twelve year old Isabelle Tresdon has five days to save her magical, silver strand of hair before it drains her life. It’s too bad the two tricksters sent to help revive it have other plans.

    Firs 500: “Let me pluck your silver granny hair.” Bianca’s voice sang out over the shouts and chatter of the school bus.

    “Why don’t you just tell everyone I still wear Barbie underwear too?” hissed Isabelle, sinking in her seat to avoid forty-two pair of eyes staring at the girl with the freaky, silver strand.

    “If anyone paid out my Christmas present to you, I’d punch them.” Bianca flashed a cheesy smile full of horsey teeth and punched a rough, tanned fist into her palm.

    Isabelle peered over her shoulder along the aisle of black vinyl seats. Four rows behind her, an eighth grade girl hung over the back of a seat, showing off to her friends and blowing gum bubbles. One seventh grade boy dished out dead arms to some poor kid across the aisle. The kid scrunched up his face, sucking up the pain of the fist sized bruise forming on his arm.

    Repeated elbow nudges fueled Isabelle’s consideration of punching Bianca’s arm. Raised on a farm, her best friend had learned to lasso a horse at age eight and trained mustangs by ten. Compared to being kicked, trod on or thrown off a horse, Isabelle’s punches would have felt like a playful slap on the arm.

    “Pleeaasssse.” Bianca’s pale, almost invisible eyebrows drew together. Her blubbery bottom lip puckered and she made a sad, puppy dog face.

    Isabelle hunted for the silver strand through honey-brown hair on the right hand side of her head. Thick like a skewer, it resembled polished silver, yet weighed the same as another hair. It twinkled in the afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. Tingles rippled through her fingertips at each stroke. Each time she considered plucking it, a little voice inside her head begged her to leave it alone. But the strand had caused nothing but trouble since sprouting. Like the time in science class when magnets attracted it as if it were made of metal. Boy that really spooked her lab partner. And news of the freaky hair spread faster than chicken pox. Twirling the strand around her finger, Isabelle looked at her friend, feeling unsure whether to get rid of it.

    Bianca sighed and slumped into her seat. "Fine,” she said, using her navy school blazer to wipe a year’s worth of smudges from her glasses. “Don’t whine to me next time someone calls you, grandma.” She mimicked the high pitched old lady’s voice that had haunted Isabelle for the past two months.

    Heat swept across Isabelle’s cheeks. “I told you not to call me that!”

    Her friend shrugged and replaced her glasses. “Pluck the strand and lose the nickname.”

    While Bianca stuffed her face with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Isabelle wrestled the temptation to poke her fingers in the slop and rub them over her friend’s lenses. Instead, Isabelle leant back in her chair and listened to the bus’ shudders and groans at the punishing hill. It had already broken down three times that month with smoke pouring out the engine and pieces falling off.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Title: VEX

    Genre-YA fantasy with a techie twist

    Pitch: Virtual Environment Ten—VEX—turns deadly when Tana discovers something living there wants to download itself into her body and take over her life.

    First 500 words:


    I tried to ignore the steady hum of the computers that filled the sterile, white-walled room. “Don’t you think it’s a little weird?”

    “He meant for this technology to be used by someone,” Shane said. “It was all he cared about…toward the end.”

    His voice choked to a halt. I placed a tentative hand on Shane’s broad shoulder, offering all the support I dared without breaking the fragile ease that existed between us.

    Toward the end. Shane meant before his father died down here using the same program Shane wanted us to try. Before he was driven to obsession by the virtual universe he’d created, it had been common for him to spend days in the lab perfecting it. His body hadn’t been found until two days after his death.

    I looked around, the large room. I couldn’t imagine locking myself away here. The thought of a body being found in this room made my skin crawl.

    Despite all of the books and file cabinets that lined the walls, the room still managed to feel cold and empty. An oversized oak desk stood against one wall, covered by a keyboard, mouse and scattered papers that were filled with complicated looking diagrams and notes. A huge computer monitor was mounted to the wall, its impersonal blue screen staring at us. Several computers lined the floor under the desk, all linked together in a network, Shane had told me, in order to provide the energy needed to power whatever program his dad had been working on.
    The air was cold and musty—like a space that had been shut away for far too long. It felt like a high-tech tomb. I rubbed the goose bumps on my arms and firmed my resolve. There was no way I could let Shane go through with this madness.
    Taking a deep breath, I squared my shoulders.

    “Shane I don’t think….”

    “Please, Tana,” his smooth brown face was edged in shadow, highlighted only by the glaring light of the monitor. “I don’t know if I can pick up where Dad left off, but I’ve got to try and I need your help.”

    Just like that my resolve crumbled. I’d known Shane since forever—he’d always been my Achilles heel. I could never deny Shane what he needed, and he seemed to need this in the worst way.

    “Okay.” I let my hand fall away from his shoulder, defeated. “What do I have to do?”

    Shane wheeled his computer chair to a metal file cabinet and brought back two odd looking black helmets. I had to stop myself from taking a step backward. They looked like something from one of those sci-fi shows. The helmets contained a thick band of crimson plastic that extended from one temple to the other and would cover my eyes. Each helmet was connected to several long wires.

    ReplyDelete
  13. TITLE: TRANSCEND
    AUTHOR: Christine Fonseca
    GENRE: YA Historical Thriller
    WC: 52000

    PITCH:
    When a horrible accident leaves Ien Montgomery abandoned and left for dead, his only link to sanity is the love of his fiancée and the support of his best friend – a mistake that might just rip away the last shreds of his humanity and reveal parts of himself he’ll wish remained buried.


    First 500 words:
    Ien stared at the mirror, his heart pounding wildly against his ribs. Do it. Do it now. He raised his hands to his face, fingering the bandages. He wanted to rip them off once and for all, wanted to see what caused the horror he saw reflected in everyone’s faces.

    Wrapping a finger around the top scrap of linen, he tugged. “No,” he said, his voice echoing off the stone walls that surrounded him. “No.”

    He dropped his hands and closed his eyes. He wasn’t ready. Perhaps he never would be.

    The weight of his pain, his torment, rested on his shoulders – a yoke that defined him. He strained against it as he paced the room, settling his thoughts. So many fantasies he now questioned, so many dreams all but given up.

    He walked to the writing desk and sat. He had few luxuries in his tiny room, but his writing set – paper and a nib pen – were among them.

    Taking a deep breath, he started the letter he’d been composing in his thoughts for days, ever since his mother had left him for dead.

    His hand shook, dotting the page with ink. Ien crumbled the paper and started again . . .

    My Dearest Kiera,
    There are so many things I want to remember about that night. The feel of your lips on mine, the longing I held when we said goodbye, the promise of a life together with you. But, sadly, that is not what fills my thoughts.

    Instead I am forced to relive the damp air, thick with fog that blanketed my skin. And the veins of mist as they hugged the ground and spiraled into smoke, choking the air from my lungs. I remember the crackle of flames when they ignited the spaces around me, turning my face to ash.

    But most of all, I remember the silence. Relentless and unyielding, like the pause before a deep breath. Or the moment before sound begins. There was a time when I welcomed such solitude, desperate to create a wall against the noise that forever bombards my thoughts. But not now; not if the price of such respite is you.

    You are the barrier against the chaos of my thoughts. You chase away my nightmares and make me feel whole again. Only you. And now that the realization of all that I’ve lost bears down on me, I am left to wonder if you will ever be able to look at me again. Will you still love me?

    When I left you that night, it was with plans for the future – our future. But now that fate has dealt us a twisted blow, I fear our paths are no longer intertwined. A silence is all that remains, a dark void where you should be. There is no comfort in it, no peace. It smothers all that I am, sinking its cold tendrils into my heart and I am again lost inside a deep abyss.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Title: SLUMBER
    Genre: YA dark paranormal
    Twitter Pitch: A depressed teenager agrees to switch places with her dream-self, and becomes trapped in her own mind.

    First 500 Words:

    Chapter One

    "What do you want to talk about today, Kate?"

    Every session, Dr. Gray starts with this question, but we both know it doesn't matter what I want to talk about. She's driving this therapy train and I'm just a passenger along for the ride.

    I shift in the chair that’s the color of pink vomit and glance at the notes scrawled on my arm. Hungover, I can’t pretend to pay attention.

    "We can talk about this being my last year of high school," I say, assuming this a relatively harmless topic.

    Dr. Gray nods. "How are you feeling about that?"

    "I guess how every other senior feels."

    "And how's that?"

    I answer with a lie, stifling a yawn. “Um. Nervous?’

    I haven’t slept in seventy-six days, or maybe it’s been eighty. The number on my wrist written in faded black marker says seventy-six, but as I look at the black digits again, I think I lost track somewhere. According to Dr. Gray, after a certain amount of time, insomnia will start to erode my organs. Without a cure, vital parts of me will switch off, one-by-one, like carnival lights at the end of a season. I don’t know how much time I have.

    Hot milk. Counting sheep. Heat pads. Sleeping pills. All failed cures.

    “What are you nervous about?” Dr. Gray’s voice sounds muted, like she’s talking to me from behind a thick door. My eye lids grow heavy and I shift my weight again, trying to focus. A cluster of dust dances in the stream of light pouring through the window.

    I imagine the rest of the house is as spare as the office, which holds only the pink chair, a rotting desk, and some cardboard boxes full of bubble wrap. Stuff that normal people might leave on the side of the road for trash pickers.

    “Kate?”

    “What? Oh, sorry.” I rub my eyes. “I don’t know. I’m nervous about everything, I guess.”

    After the accident, I slept fine, enough to function anyway. The nightmares began when Dad moved to Florida at the beginning of August, when the sky burned and the grass wilted into crusty, brown blades. Sprinklers around the neighborhood attempted to pump life back into the dying lawns, with little luck. The grass would live when it wanted to live, for a few brief weeks in September before October rolled in to color everything brown again. That was at least three months ago. Ninety days. Worse than I thought.

    I pull a black marker from my back pocket and write 90 Days onto my palm.

    Dr. Gray leans back, folding her delicate hands. She never writes anything down. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. She says, “Let’s talk about Buck’s room.”

    I roll my eyes. “Why did I ever tell you about that?”

    “Don’t.” She shakes her head. “Don’t retreat. Have you tried entering his room again?”

    ReplyDelete
  15. Title: S.P.Y. Mission: Princess Protection
    Genre: Middle Grade Adventure

    Pitch: When 12yr old super-spy Agent McKay's assigned to protect a bratty teenage princess, she finds her spying may be what hurts the princess most

    First 500:

    A normal twelve-year-old girl on an ordinary day would not be two hours into training at 6:52 in the morning.

    This is what I’m thinking as I hit the wall and turn for my final lap. Holden finished like two minutes ago. That’s ok. He’s almost twenty years older than me and really in shape. It would be kind of sad if I beat him. Sad for him, that is.

    I should be concentrating on shattering my record, but on my last stroke I glanced at the clock and now I can’t help think that if I were a normal twelve-year-old I would most likely be pushing snooze for the fifth time.

    I don’t know this from experience.

    I learned it in Kid-Integration. That’s where a kid like me learns about normal twelve-year-olds and their ordinary days.

    “Finished!” I’m breathless when I finally reach the edge. I pant in big loud heavy breaths as I look to Reese for my time.

    “12:06,” Reese says. Ugh! My record of 12:01 remains in place. Major bummer.

    I pull myself out of the pool as Holden throws me a mocking grin. “What? The IIA’s secret weapon still hasn’t hit her goal? Aren’t you supposed to be some sort of super spy?”

    “You did fine.” Reese hands me a towel.

    “Hey, those five seconds are important. They could save her life some day!” Holden balls his own damp towel and throws it at my feet.

    “You’re just jealous that I’m better at twelve than you were when you were twenty,” I snap back, kicking his towel away. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds good. Holden’s right about those five seconds, though. I have to do better.

    “It’s all luck, kid. Merely luck,” Holden taunts.

    “That’s enough, you two,” Reese scolds. “Get changed for Weapons.”

    I throw my towel in the laundry chute by the pool and head for my private locker room. I enter my code in the security pad. A computerized voice greets me as the door opens, “Allison McKenzie, identity confirmed.” Once in the room, I’m supposed to log-in to start the Miracom above my sink, but that’s lame so I’ve rigged it to start automatically whenever I enter. Sure the computer that doubles as a mirror was already cool; it's just ten times cooler now that it starts hands-free.

    I strip out of my suit and step into the shower, ignoring the daily schedule that is now scrolling across the Miracom. I have it memorized; it’s the same every day: black belt judo review, swimming, weapons, breakfast, morning briefing, lessons, lunch, afternoon briefing, basic interrogation techniques then security drills. Evenings are spent watching the news, eating a light dinner and then, occasionally, an hour of free time – possibly a game of computer chess – before falling exhausted into bed.

    The schedule’s tough.

    And awesome.

    And I wouldn’t trade it for the world because this strict daily schedule has made me the International Intelligence Agency’s first child super spy.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Title: SO YOU DON'T WANT TO BE AN EVIL SORCERESS
    Genre: Urban Fantasy


    Pitch: Mysty didn’t mean to turn Eric into a frog – she didn’t know magic was real. But the Enchanted Realm is planning her unhappy ending anyway.


    Mysty didn’t notice the black knight at the bottom of the stairs until she tripped over its mace. She slammed into the tapestry, scratching her face on the rough surface as she crumpled to the floor.

    Her mom rushed out of the kitchen. “Are you okay?”

    “Who moved the stupid knight?” Mysty asked.

    “Maybe he stepped out to wish you a happy birthday.”

    “It’s an old pile of tin. It isn’t capable of wishing.” Mysty dreaded this day all year. Last year’s present was probably still scurrying around the sewer hissing and terrorizing the smaller natives. She couldn’t imagine what horrors awaited her today. “Now I have a rug burn.”

    “Tapestry burn,” Mom corrected. “You should put some peroxide on that.”

    “The entry is a bad place for the knight. We should move it.” While she still had skin on her face.

    Mom piled the armor on its pedestal. “Where would we put it?”

    “The basement, out of sight, eBay . . .”

    “We aren’t selling the black knight.”

    Mysty opened the kitchen door. “Most people keep potted plants in their entry.” She saw something outside and hurried to the window, hoping to see the terrors that lurked in the woods. Morning mist rolled over the ground and caressed the barren trees, obscuring her view.

    Mom grabbed a bundle of herbs hanging from the ceiling and dropped them in a bubbling cauldron on the stove. Smoke poured out, filling the kitchen with the stench of burning gym socks. “Breakfast is ready.”

    “See any monsters?” her brother, Dominic, asked.

    Mysty glared at him. There was only one person who could have moved the knight. “One.”

    Dominic grinned.

    Mysty sat on the chair furthest from Dominic. A charred piece of what might have once been toast waited for her on a plate. “I don't have time for breakfast.” Her stomach grumbled. She hoped whatever her mom was cooking wasn’t part of breakfast too.

    “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Mom sighed. “And today is a very special day.”

    Mysty choked down some toast. “We don’t have to have everyone come over. Grandma and Grandpa Perilous are getting older.” And weirder.

    “Your grandparents are coming.”

    She knew it was too much to hope for.

    Dad came in the kitchen, a long black cloak draped over his arm. “Morning.” He put his arm around her mom’s waist and kissed her. Mysty looked away. Her parents had never figured out that old people kissing was disgusting.

    “Are you going to invite anyone over tonight?” Dad pulled silk flowers from up his sleeve. “I have a new trick.”

    Mysty grabbed her backpack from the hall. “I’m a little too old for magic tricks, Dad.”

    He gave her an odd smile and threw the flowers into the air. They exploded with a burst of glitter, leaving only a single butterfly that landed on her arm before vanishing as well. “A girl's sixteenth birthday is the most magical of all.”

    “It’s been super so far.”

    ReplyDelete
  17. Title: O WOEFUL DAY
    Genre: MG Contemporary

    Pitch:
    Gram’s broken hip drags Tierra’s wayward mother back to town. Will Tierra’s production of Romeo and Juliet be enough to make her stick around for once?


    First 500 words:

    My breath catches in my throat when I spy the battered envelope. About a million different stamps crowd together in the top right corner and spill down and around the address, which is written in cramped handwriting. I’ve seen envelopes just like this one a million times before. I know exactly what it is. But still, I smooth my fingers across the globetrotting paper to confirm it. Sure enough, there’s something hard and smooth inside. A glass vial.

    I take the envelope upstairs to my room and pull it out, knowing exactly what I’ll find inside: dirt. Soil. Loam, Roy used to say, but you might want to look that one up just to double check. It’s been sent international, all the way from Wherever It Is This Time. Not loose in an envelope, confetti style. But neat and classified, in a vial with a label, geoarcheologist style.

    Every few months I get one of these vials in the mail from the geoarcheologist herself. My mother. There’s never a note. Never a “Hi, Tierra, how’s things?” There’s never a cool coin from a far off land, or even a bit of paper money. But the way I see it, everyone has paper money from a foreign land. Right? I mean, who doesn’t have a euro their cousin sent while backpacking through Europe? Or a peso just picked up off the sidewalk, even. We are practically in Mexico.

    But my vials of dirt are different. They’re pieces of my mother.

    Well, not exactly pieces of her. She’s not dead and decomposing and being sent to me little by little, vial by vial, by some psycho who did her in and is now driving me slowly mad. But they’re pieces of her travels, the places that are important to her, proof of the valuable work she’s doing, and the reason she’s not with me.

    The vial’s always got a label, with the date it was extracted from the earth, and the exact latitude and longitude where the hole was dug. And it’s always signed “V.J.I., Ph.D.” That’s my mom, Vanessa Jane Irving, with a Phancy degree in Dirt.

    My name isn’t anything nearly as lovely as Vanessa. Or even as plain as Jane. My name is Mud.

    Okay, my name isn’t really Mud. But you can bet that for the better part of fourth grade, everyone called me Mud. More on that later.

    “Tierra!” Gram calls from downstairs. “Bring that book down, would you? Owen’s starting to look like the sidewalk’s on fire.”

    I pull the familiar vial from the envelope, glance at the label—Istanbul—and make room for it on the designated Shelf of Dirt. I may have to start a second shelf soon. Then I shove the empty envelope in my back pocket, and step back to scan my bedroom, like some kind of crime scene investigator, seeking out that tiny detail that will solve the messy, messy crime.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Title: BUT HE LOVES ME
    Author: Margo Kelly
    Genre: Contemporary YA
    Word Count: 65,000

    Pitch:
    13-yr-old Thia desperately wants a boyfriend, but her parents won’t let her date until 16. So, she dodges the rules and meets Kit online.

    First 500 words:

    Some old dead guy once said a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step. Obviously. I only wish I’d noticed sooner where mine were taking me. One of those first course-altering steps happened on a cold November morning.

    My best friend, Janie, arrived at my house later than usual to walk to the bus stop. She chattered on about her new fluffy snow white parka. Her words bounced in rhythm with her black ringlets, and even though she had a hood, she would never smash her perfect curls just to stay warm. The crisp air made the tip of her nose red, but the rest of her face remained alabaster white. She continued to talk as fast as she walked. I simply smiled and nodded. We’d been best friends for years, and at thirteen, having a friend made riding the bus bearable – on a normal day.

    We arrived at the bus stop and scanned over a dozen people for Tim and Josh. They stood on the other side of the group. Tim shoved Josh jokingly, and a cloud of white air escaped his mouth as he laughed. He glanced in my direction, and his smile paused. His blue eyes made my heart accelerate. Tim looked cuter than ever with his bomber hat and rosy cheeks.

    Janie whacked me on the hip. “Omigosh, Thia. Here they come. Smile.”

    While Janie hoped Josh and Tim would ask us to the upcoming school dance, I hoped to speak to Tim without sounding like a complete dope. Tim walked in our direction, with Josh right on his heels. They stopped a few feet in front of us, staring, as everyone else hovered around to watch the show.

    “Thia,” Tim said.

    I wanted to reply, but the only word I could think of was applesauce. So I bit my lip to keep the word from escaping. Unable to remove my eyes from his, my breath caught, and I prayed he couldn’t hear my heart pounding. This happened every time he came near me. From the corner of my eye, I saw Josh approach Janie.

    “Jan-eee,” Josh said dragging out the last syllable of her name. His tone broke my trance with Tim. I turned as Josh looked Janie up, down, and then laughed. “You look like a giant fat marshmallow.” Janie’s smile dissolved, and her cheeks flushed.

    “What did you say?” My voice cracked, and heat spread from my chest to my ears as I stepped in front of Josh.

    “Get out of my face,” Josh said.

    I leaned closer to him. “Not until you apologize to my friend.” He moved toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with me. His breath reeked of sausage.

    “Back off, toothpick.” Josh jerked his hands upward and faked a lunge toward me, but I didn’t know it was fake.

    Gasps echoed around me as I stumbled backward and landed on my butt. I sat dazed, too angry for tears but humiliated enough for my throat to tighten.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks OA and Mystery Agent!!

    Title: Tears
    Genre: YA Fantasy
    WC: 88,000

    Twitter Pitch: Kiana must find a rare jar of enchanted tears to break the spell blocking emotions before soldiers succeed at stealing her people's magic.

    First 500 Words:

    Silence screamed all around me, and I knew any minute the heavy tread of military boots would hammer through it. Shivers nibbled at my skin and laddered up my spine.

    I ducked through the fog into an alleyway and listened for some sound, some warning that the ever-present Arcaiac soldiers, who had infested my country Itharia, had also caught sight of a sixteen year old girl breaking curfew during their nightly patrol. I sipped a cold breath before breaking toward the Square.

    A large yellow piece of machinery rested by the abandoned fuel station, and I stopped by one if its massive wheels. The Arcs must have just stopped working to begin their patrol because the acrid smell of burnt magic filled the air around the machine. My jaw clenched. I hated that smell. Like we needed another reminder of what those axrats were doing when they took our magic.

    Well, when they took my people’s magic.

    I pushed aside my annoyance and tried to peer through the slithering fog for my best friend. “Come on, Gwynn,” I said under my breath. “Where are you?”

    Any other time the words would have left a smoky trace in the cold air, but the fog was too thick. It choked its way through the streets in Cadehtraen—I could barely see the street signs or the traffic lights.

    Moonlight shifted, and the crippled arms of our meeting place, the Guerra Tree that stands in the center of the Square, twined upward over the fog. Feeling like a moving target, I ran straight for it.

    I cursed my footfalls and shot a glance into the murky street behind me. Despite my desire to stay quiet, panicked noises crept out between my frantic breaths.

    I should have just had Gwynn sleep over. Meeting at two am would have been much easier. Except my parents never would have bought it—a sleepover on a school night? It wasn’t like we could tell them we were sneaking out to go to Black Vault. Still, Gwynn wasn’t here. I’d pried myself from my blankets, changed back into jeans and surrendered to the patrolled streets, and now I was going to get caught.

    I didn’t know much about Black Vault except it was a traveling black market that came every few months, and that illegal magical items were sold there. It was exclusive, a place you could only gain entrance to if you knew the right people. According to Gwynn, she’d found the right person. A Black Vault Gate Keeper.

    Steps pattered and I trapped my breath, blood pounding in my ears. Gwynn? Or the Arcs? Oh no, did the Arcs have Gwynn? My heart squeezed out a wimpy beat. We never should have come. Everyone said Black Vault was so rill. Rill or not, what were we thinking?

    The slapping steps grew louder. I braced myself, dug inwardly for my magic—a natural reaction though it never produced any results. I knew better than to try and find something that wasn’t there.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Title: Slipperage
    Genre: YA Science Fiction

    Pitch: Zuku (a boy-king who can talk to machines, but not to girls) has to save 12 princesses from an endless ball after they rip a hole in space.

    Excerpt:

    Marzuku Mbwana Hodari, king of the planet Mardyth, scowled at his mother and slouched lower in his seat. “I don’t want to host a ball. Why do we have to celebrate? I just want to forget that Ali Alam Alem ever attacked this planet.” He traced his fingers along the carvings on the wooden arm of the chair.

    “But the people won’t forget,” his mother pointed out. Radhiya, the dowager queen of Mardyth, paced in front of him, past the floor-to-ceiling windows in his private sitting room, and all Zuku could see was her silhouette. Her dress, a bright blue silk with lime green geometric shapes, swished with each step as she moved across the teak flooring. “They won’t forget that the Sultan conquered every planet he attacked, every planet but ours. The fight against him was hopeless from the beginning. But you did it. You won.” She sighed. “We need to do something to celebrate this victory. Zuku, you are the darling of your people at the moment. They love you. Let them celebrate you and all you did to save them.”

    Zuku didn’t feel like a savior. Zuku felt like a fraud pretending to be king. He’d felt like that ever since his father died prematurely six months before, leaving Zuku to reign in his stead. And he never felt like more of a fraud than at balls and other public gatherings.

    “Please, Zuku,” said his mother. She stopped pacing and came to crouch directly in front of him. He could see her face now with her creased forehead and worried eyes. She cared about this celebration. A lot.

    “Fine,” he said. “But don’t expect me to help with the planning.”

    His mother chuckled, a deep and throaty sound, and stood up. “I won’t. I don’t want any enormous metal monsters posing as decorations and capable of taking out a guest if they’re accidentally knocked over.”

    “That only happened once,” Zuku protested. “And I was twelve. I don’t know what you were thinking, assigning me to that committee.”

    “I wanted you to have experience with all the aspects of royalty.”

    “And that experience failed miserably. No one else on the committee dared to offer any suggestions and they went along with everything I said. I knew my ideas were bad, but I couldn’t come up with anything better.”

    “Yes and, unfortunately, you still don’t have any taste, not when it comes to decorations for the ballroom.” His mother sank down on the sofa facing him and crossed her legs. “Besides, you are the king, my dear. You have better things to do than worry about flowers and finger food. All I ask of you is that you show up—preferably on time—smile and pretend to have a good time dancing with many beautiful young women. Maybe if you pretend long enough, you’ll actually enjoy yourself.”

    Zuku scowled. “I’d enjoy myself more sitting alone in my room taking a teleporter apart.”

    ReplyDelete
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  22. Title: HARBINGER
    Genre: YA cyberpunk fantasy

    TWITTER PITCH: To save her brother from becoming a cybernetic Golem, Kai must uncover the secrets of her dying city and defy its supernatural rulers.

    FIRST 500:

    Death lived in a high-rise penthouse at the center of the South District. I could see it from anywhere in the city, and it cut the skyline like a blade. Death—she probably had a real name—was Governor Ninu's right hand and his personal executioner. Or, at least, that's what the rumors said. I didn't really care if they were true so long as it wasn't me on the chopping block.

    The governor's executioner living in the most impressive building in the city wasn't the only reason the South District unsettled me. I never went any farther than the barracks along the inner wall, but huge vadverts flickered clearly at every street corner. At least half of them projected promotions for the upcoming Tournament.

    We called the South District the White Court because the buildings were pristine. It made me wonder if the residents were afraid of dirt. It was just as well. We'd have to call it the mostly-white court.

    The strap of my messenger bag dug into my shoulder, and I hoisted it up as I turned right, towards the South Gate. Twenty-foot walls separated the White Court from the rest of the city, and only people with the right permissions could pass through.

    "See you tomorrow, Kai." The Watchman on duty waved me through. As a carrier for the District Mail Center, I had access during work hours.

    I crossed into the North District, and the spot beneath the crease of my elbow twinged as the scanpoint read my Identification-chip.

    Once through the gate, the tension left my shoulders. The North District—fondly nicknamed the Alley by some and not-so-fondly called Purgatory by others—was nothing like the White Court. Not a single building stood that wasn't less than fifty years old and the tallest rose, at max, five stories—nowhere near the towering spires inside the wall. These were plain stone and brick buildings, ugly and brown and comforting in their uniformity. What glass remained either clung to the windows or lay shattered on the sidewalks.

    Few vadverts occupied the air here—no point advertising to people with no credits, and the Tournament, even though the participating cadets came from all over Ninurta, broadcasted solely to the White Court. I turned a corner, passing a small vadvert that displayed images of half-naked men and women enticing people to visit them down at the docks. I snorted. Yesterday, the vadvert had featured some government-sponsored crap about the awesome city of Ninurta. Really smart companion advertising there. Who were they trying to kid?

    But, hey, as long as they left me and my brother Reev alone, Governor Ninu could do whatever the drek he wanted.

    A shoulder bumped mine on the sidewalk. I didn't bother checking my pockets. They were empty. But sometimes I left little notes in them I thought might amuse a pickpocket: "If you're looking for lint, I'm your girl," or "Try me again tomorrow. I forgot my diamonds at home."

    Well, they amused me anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
    TITLE: SOME KIND OF TROUBLE

    Pitch: After surviving a drive-by shooting with Marcus, Arianna is determined not to lose him to the streets, but finds that love may not be enough.

    Chapter one

    I read somewhere that if you chant something enough times it eventually comes true. I once chanted one hundred and three thousand times in one night for my mom to get better. I’ve tried the wishbone, the eyelash, and the birthday candle. I've tried coins in all types of water: fountain water, holy water and well water...nothing. My mom was still dying. Chanting turned to praying at five bucks a pop and easily arranged through mail order. I stopped the mail order and extended the praying to just about anything. I didn't discriminate and worked with a few deities.
    _Moirae, Greek god of fate, please let my beat-up seventeen-year old jalopy turn on so I can get my butt to school_. I turned the ignition and the engine caught with a grudging screech just as my phone rang.

    Miranda, my best friend, never seemed bothered by anything, not even running in a cold Chicago morning wearing stilettos and carrying a book bag too big to be hers.

    "Don't leave me!" she yelled into the phone, her hair flying in the wind, her hips moving side to side as if she were dancing merengue to the beat of her stilettos.

    "Hurry up, can't be late," I said, looking at her through the side mirror, my lips curled into a smile. Miranda and I have been friends since the third grade and although we pissed each other off enough times to garner snickers and glares from those unlucky enough to be in our trajectory, we were a good fit. Despite her failed attempts at trying to save me from me, whatever that meant, she pacified the chaos in my life. Or rather, added a different kind of chaos.

    She opened the door, threw her book bag in the backseat, and sat down breathing hard. "You were going to leave me." She slammed the door shut.

    Miranda stood four feet nothing, and in the front seat she could barely look out the windshield. I offered her a pillow once, but she threw it out the window and got me a warning from a cop. "Seatbelt," I said.

    "You’re such a jerk. Why do I put up with you?"

    "Um, because Peter left you again and he's probably driving into school without you right now." I couldn’t sugarcoat that relationship. I didn’t like Peter. Miranda knew it, and bless her heart, she made sure she kept him away from me. Being tactful wasn’t in my nature.

    She gasped. "You're such a —"

    I shot her a warning glare. Her lips curved into something between a grimace and a smile. "Fine," she said through gritted teeth. "He's an asshole."

    "Yes, he is." I turned from her and began our usual drive to school.

    "It's not totally his fault you know." She lowered the visor to look at herself in the mirror and rubbed balm on her lips. We could've been talking about someone else and it still wouldn't faze her.

    "What? That he’s an asshole or that he goes back to his ex at the first sign of trouble with you?" Ouch. That came out totally wrong. I gave Miranda a sideways glance. Her face was tight and I could sense the storm that welled inside of her.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Title: Lovely, Perilous Things

    Genre: YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi

    Twitter Pitch: Clementine longs to be a sister bride on the last dry land. But the leader's keeping 'alien' secrets, forcing her to swim for her life.

    I bit my lip as the cheetah crept through the tall savannah grass. I spotted the ostrich seconds later and my legs burned trying to keep up with the cat as it stalked, then leaped, preparing to grab onto the bird and--

    Ooomph. I stumbled, and my face smacked hard rubber.

    “What the?” I cradled my sore nose in my hand. One of my stupid sisterlings had ignored the Occupied sign on the simulator. It would be just my luck if I broke my nose the day before my Choosing. I’d only been waiting for sixteen years!

    The sleek, metal door slid open. “Oops. Didn’t realize someone was in here.” The syrupy tone was all too familiar. Esme. “Sorry” she purred, her voice as fake as the sim. She stepped into the two-person chamber, threw her towel over mine and glanced at the cheetah suspended in mid-air. “Clementine! What are you watching?” Her nose crinkled cutely. Good Leader. How did she do that? When I tried I looked like a malformed bot.

    “What did you think I’d choose?”

    “Maybe the library?” She smiled. But I heard her mumble, “Or something else insanely boring.”

    I used to wonder why I disliked Esme so much. Now I remembered.

    She reached out a manicured hand, and I reluctantly let her help me up. If there was one lesson drilled into our heads at The School for Sisterly Studies other than being good to your man, it was that sisters supported each other. If you couldn’t get along with sisterlings, how would you cope with sister wives? So I gritted my teeth. “Feel free to join me.” But inside my head, I prayed, Please don’t.

    “I will, thank you.”

    I tried not to sigh out loud. That was life with nineteen other teenage girls. I couldn’t get a minute alone.

    Like her or not, Esme was gorgeous with those copper ringlets, cat eyes and willowy frame. Still, it wasn’t like I was ostrich meat. Rumors were that blue-eyed blonds were usually first picked. And I’d been selected to be wife just like she had. So why did she make me feel so…unchooseable?

    The ostrich was in its death throes. It tried in vain to run away, but the cheetah held. I looked away when I saw blood.

    “Do you mind?”

    Esme shook her head and I called out “Forward.” The simulation skipped past the blood and guts. “Are you excited about the Choosing?” I blurted, just managing to step over a steaming pile of elephant dung. Did the sims need to be quite so real?

    “Not really,” she said, barely out of breath. “It’s obvious the Good Leader’s son will pick me.”

    “The Good Leader’s son is choosing?” If the leader’s son was choosing from our hall we’d be luckiest girls in Rivanna! But could I trust her? I wasn’t sure. “How do you know?” I asked. Okay. Accused.

    Esme just smiled. “I have my ways,” she said slyly.

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  25. Title: CAIT AFTER EXILE

    Genre: YA Sci-fi Thriller

    Pitch: In a US divided by remarkable gifts, pubescent children live in exile – away from the region that empowers them – to avoid being poached.

    500 words:

    This train has no windows; neither did the first. There are no landmarks to observe and at the speed we’re traveling, they’d blur by too quickly anyway. Even if I could see outside, the constant change in orientation would make it difficult to tell what direction we’re heading. My only information from outside the cabin is the occasional sound of metal jaws crashing together. There’s no one around to ask what it is – whether it’s part of keeping us safe or whether it means the poachers are closing in.

    A sharp drop forces an acidic liquid to rush into my mouth as though it has been waiting in my throat for just such a moment. Before I can change my mind, I’ve swallowed it. It won’t help but I want to touch my lips, to wipe the beads of sweat amassing above them. Even though I can bend my elbows, the restraints across my biceps restrict how high I can raise my hands.

    My hair slips from behind my shoulders and falls around my face, a heavy mess of coarse spirals clouding my sight for a moment. Then it falls again, this time away from my head and into what was the air above me before the train inverted. What must these tracks look like that this is possible.

    Metal crashes into metal again and the sound seems to shake the cabin even harder. I want to get out. I want to lie down, not stand strapped inside a body-shaped cut-out. The restraints were soft before we left the station closest to the safehouse. Now they are taut, cutting into my collarbone, biceps, waist and thighs every time the train changes orientation.

    I hear a splash at the other end of the car and remember I’m not alone. There are two other kids strapped in and one of them obviously had the good sense not to swallow. I can’t see it but I know the vomit must have sluiced through the grated floor. Lucky us. We won’t have to smell it for the duration. If we were lying down, she might have choked. Maybe they do know what they’re doing.

    When I close my eyes I’m surprised to see my bed at the safehouse. This is what my mind has conjured to comfort me? Not the home I’ve been missing, not Hila’s face when she promised to be there waiting for me when I finally got home. A bed in the middle of a dozen others in the house where I’ve lived in exile since my thirteenth birthday.

    One of the girls screams when the train rolls before plunging and she doesn’t stop. I don’t know if she can. My eyes sting when tears well at the bottom. The metal crashes are coming in a steady rhythm now and each one sends her into an escalated wave of hysterics.

    “Let me out!”

    As though at her request, the speeding train rolls right-side up, the extent of its concession.

    ReplyDelete
  26. TITLE: Blackbird
    GENRE: YA Fantasy Thriller

    PITCH:
    Spy chick bypasses a top-of-the line security system to steal an object before the sorcerers do in this "Mission:Impossible w/ magic" tale

    FIRST 500:
    After the years of hiding, all it took to bring me down was one slipup and an idiot with a camera phone. As the final minutes of my life ticked away in first period Bio II, I pondered the absurdity of this, my guitar pick scratching out a tuneless riff against my pants leg.

    I gripped the pick, digging it into my palm until my fingers turned the color of my chipping purple nail polish. I shoved the pick into my pocket. James Loeper could be stopped-if I got the phone. I stood up, slipping a test tube and a couple petri dishes into my hoodie pocket as I did.

    Getting out of class was the easy part. Mr. Mueller, like most guys, was scared to death of "girl stuff," so I just grabbed a not-quite-concealed tampon, went up to him, and said, "Umm... Mr. Mueller, can I go to the bathroom?"

    Poor Mr. Mueller. Ears going pink, he mumbled to somewhere above my head, "Sure, Taylor. Fine. Take your time." I stuffed the tampon into my hoodie and walked out.

    I should have been relieved, but the knot in my stomach just tied more kinks. Still, I walked down the grey and white hall as confidently as I could. The key to not getting caught was acting like you knew what you were doing. And though I had no freaking clue what I was doing, I couldn't get caught. My life depended on it.

    Literally.

    The world's most vile Vice Principal ever, Mr. Wyatt, rounded a corner. Crap. Just what I didn't need.

    "Taylor Keaton. And why are you wandering the halls this fine morning?" His tone was light, but with faint accusation as he eyed me from the top of my hoodie to my purple Converse.

    I held out the tiny blue package that was the tampon, careful not to jostle the stuff in my pocket. "Bathroom, sir." Mr. Wyatt was less impressed with my "girl stuff" than Mr. Mueller. His eyes flicked over my shoulder to the bathroom door I just passed.

    I smiled. No problem. I walked past Mr. Wyatt, took a sip from the water fountain, and then passed him again to go in the bathroom. With my hands at my sides, I twitched a surreptitious finger. Halfway down the hall, something leapt against a locker door. The loud bang drew his attention, and my last glimpse as the door closed was of him going to investigate.

    I leaned against the door, trying not to hyperventilate. That had been too close. If James posted that video before I got it... I didn't want to run again. Between my band and having a decent foster family for once, I had something close to a life. If I ran, how far would I get anyway?

    If the video went viral... I gave myself a week tops.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Title: WANDERING STAR
    Genre: YA Sci-Fi
    Word Count: 78K
    Pitch: The universe is hunting for Evee, and as she planet-hops for answers, she must decide if her pursuers want to save her--or stop her.

    500 Words:
    A blue dot. I press my finger up to the glass and when I pull it away, the dot is in the center of my print, a faded blue freckle. Earth. Everyone I've ever known or cared about or hated, there on a rapidly-shrinking point of light. I hold my gaze, focusing on the light even as my vision blurs. If I close my eyes, I think, it'll disappear, and then what am I supposed to do? I hold the image until my eyes burn, I blink, and it's gone, vanished or indistinguishable from the million other specks that surround me, and that’s when I know, I’ve made a mistake.

    Adrenaline thrums through my veins, prickling my skin. I close my eyes, hold my breath, count to one hundred, but when I open my eyes again and stare out the window into black nothingness, panic floods me, fast and heavy, and I want to claw my way through the glass and kick out through space, back to my home.

    My breath fogs the window as I let my air out in a rush, and I lean my sticky, sweating face against the cool glass, feeling the ship’s vibrations shake through to my brain. I breathe in and out, heaving gulps of breath, and I pull my knees close against my chest. I’m curled up like a baby against the circular window, almost inside the window, which sticks out from the side of the ship like a great glass fishbowl. All around me bright dashes of light stretch and fade as the ship travels, faster than the speed of light, and every now and then there’s the pop of a star close up, bursting like a firework before we leave it behind.

    I’m the first human to ever see this.

    I am certain my mother isn’t spending her time on the ship looking out the window. I shiver, feeling strange, lonely, and the panic inside me threatens to return.

    When I close my eyes at first all I hear is a rushing sound, silence loud in my ears, my heartbeat and blood. Then vibrations. Slow, heavy metal thuds. Bubbles and fizz.

    I swing my legs off the window ledge and let my feet dangle for a moment before I drop to the floor. My vision blurs in the darkness, and I walk to the cot and press a hand against its surface. It’s warm and soft and pliant, like skin.

    I’m supposed to leave my clothes in the plain white bin near the door. I pull my sweatshirt off over my head, and as the cold air strikes my flushed cheeks, I glance at the huge, blank window. Then I laugh, short and high-pitched. No one’s going to look in.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Name: MarcyKate Connolly
    Title: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE CYBORG
    Genre: YA Sci-fi
    Word Count: 71,000

    Pitch: When Maggie learns she's a cyborg, she runs away, kidnaps her nerdy neighbor, & hunts for her Maker-the only 1 who can make her human again.

    First 500 Words:
    Weightlessness is a funny thing.

    One moment ago, Dean and I were joking about the stupid, lime-green dress his ex-girlfriend wore to prom. His cheeks dimpled when he laughed.

    Now his car skids over the embankment. Our bodies are a blur of pink satin and black tuxedo. My insides lurch and jerk, like knots trying to untie themselves. Dean’s face is a blank sheet of confusion and me, well, I don’t know how I look but I’m sure it isn’t pretty.

    The free fall ends when we hit the tree. All that remains is pain and panic. And noise. All kinds of noise. Screams, creaks, and cracks from all sides. I can’t feel my legs or arms, but I’m standing and screaming and tugging at the crumpled car door.

    Dean’s stuck. I have to get him out.

    Gas fumes sting my nose and burn my chest. I tear the door off the car and nearly tear Dean’s arm off, too. He tumbles out and I drag him toward the field. The car explodes, flames consuming it in a burst of red and orange. The force throws us back from the wreck. I sit in the long grass in my tattered dress, barely aware of the hot metal in my hands or Dean unconscious at my side.

    I can't tear my eyes away from my left arm.

    It’s ruined. 

    The skin is ripped open, gaping from wrist to elbow, but I hardly bleed. I try to make sense of it, but my arm isn’t right. Something more is wrong than just the wound . . . .

    “Three point one four one . . . ” Numbers usually calm me, but not this time.

    Inside the cavity, gears click and sputter, winding around tubes. The moving parts glint in the firelight. 

    It’s metal. Prickles wave through me.

    It isn’t human.

    I’m not human.


    11:10 PM

    The sirens startle me awake. I rub my eyes, trying to make sense of the chaos. The wilting lily on my corsage tickles my cheek. I sway to my feet and freeze.

    It isn’t a dream. That thing inside my arm is really there.

    My head swims and I fall back to my knees next to Dean. He’s still unconscious, but all I can think about is how badly I don’t want him to see my arm. I tug at his tuxedo jacket, wrestling with it until I manage to get one arm free. The next is easier and by the time the ambulance pulls up, I clutch the black fabric around my body, refusing to let it go.

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  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  31. Title: Memoirs of Daniel
    Genre: High-End Fantasy/Dark Romance

    Twitter Pitch: Daniel found himself when he became Eileen's guardian. However, love for an Angel is dangerous. Every Angel that's been in love has become one of the Fallen.

    First 500 words:

    After fighting to keep away from a woman named Helene, Daniel found himself at the Temple of the Gardens, sitting on the white marble ground with his legs folded together. It was always hardest to stay away from those that did not merit the purification of their souls. He craved for them to understand, to accept, that they could be cleansed and live in the Kingdom of Araboth. However, just then he ventured that Abaddon was inflicting torture onto the woman, making her truly pay for her sins. It was all strange, Daniel thought, how these Angels renounced the faith, but still worked to maintain its balance. They hated Araboth and all that it stood for, and yet they would steal away the souls of those who did not belong in there.

    Helene, the woman that Daniel forced himself to keep from saving, had killed her child, only three months old, by drowning it in the bathtub. She claimed to the humans who arrested her that the “demons” forced her to do it, but in her heart, she acknowledged that she could not handle the pressure of children. Daniel was disgusted by Abaddon, his Fallen brother, attempting to coax him into participating in their heinous traditions.

    “You aren’t going to stay and watch?” Abaddon had taunted darkly as he gripped the black soul. “She deserves it, you know, for killing her own young.”

    Daniel slowly held his hand up toward Helene. He hoped for a sign that he could save her from this fate. There was nothing to abjure her, no spot of light trapped within her soul. He closed his eyes and shook his head, ignoring the tittering, sinister laughter of Abaddon. “There is no purity in her. My work is done.”

    He left quickly. Daniel had to admit that the woman deserved what she got from the Fallen. And he would like to know that she was sufficiently punished. But, he was not one of cold and dark heart; he could not administer or watch such a horrendous act.

    A strong hand pressed into Daniel’s shoulder, but he did not have to turn to know who had placed it there. Her very essence was intoxicating. Her fragrance was naturally calming. She caused him to immediately lose thoughts of Helene.

    “I can feel your sorrow from across the gardens,” her soft voice filled his ears and he relaxed even further. “Is it another human? Why do you let them bother you?”

    Daniel blew out a steady jet of breath. “No one can understand, Iridessa. For millions of years, I’ve felt their suffering. I’ve taken it with me. Inside of me.”

    Iridessa removed her hand from his shoulder and joined him in a sitting position. The loss of her touch caused Daniel to feel a pang of guilt for his sharp tone. “Why do you want to save them all?”

    “Not all of them,” he said firmly. “I want only the ones that are good enough. But, they... shouldn’t be allowed to-”

    “We all love them, you know?” Iridessa smiled and placed her hand on top of Daniel’s. He never quite understood her ability to soothe him. “They will all be saved one day.”

    “The rapture is only the slight of a promise. It may never happen. And still, they’ll suffer, if only because they’re human.”

    ReplyDelete
  32. Title: GRACEFUL DEATH
    Genre: YA Paranormal

    Pitch:
    Tricked into donning Death’s hoodie for an ancient Underworld demon, 15-year-old Grace must choose to reap innocent souls or lose her family

    First 500 Words:

    Not in the damn hallway, anywhere but here.

    The instant my knees hit the ground I know. My insomnia is killing me from the inside out. I struggle to pick myself up, but the sweat on my palms turns cold, tacking my hand to the faded mauve linoleum. The faint odor of disinfectant and dirty sneakers wafts up, stinging my nostrils while the other students walk around me.

    My pulse thrums erratically in my ears. My vision spots with white film.

    I can’t control anything anymore. Sleep is such a cruel and distant idea by now that when my energy seeps out, threatening to pull me into unconsciousness, the only thing I can do is rebound and rally. So, as the Santa Cruz High School crowd thins, I fall against a set of coral half-lockers and wait it out.

    Only one more period, then I can go home, deal with this in private. Other than a “whoa,” from one kid and a “doing okay, there, Grace,” from another, the other students ignore me. Except for the guy standing by the window. His tall frame casts a shadow across the floor, draping over me like a psychopath in a movie.

    I open my mouth to spit out a nasty comment, but the sight of him stops me. I grow even colder. At first I think he’s dressed in all black, some emo kid hoping to get off on witnessing my meltdown, but the chill that pricks my spine warns of something different. Something dangerous.

    The hood over his head shrouds his face, making it impossible to identify him. Harnessing my anger, I turn a scowl at him.

    He ghosts away from the window so fast I swear he hit fast forward, zooming dead at me. He hits the brakes, stopping on a dime mere inches from where I’ve collapsed.

    A couple holding hands swerve to avoid us. She’s wearing the ugliest purple jeans I’ve ever seen and he’s stuffed into too tight corduroys. Emo kid is still in black—no, not in black, in shadows. As if they’re cloaked around him, sealing all of him off from the light.

    He makes no move to help—just like everybody else.

    The sweat subsides and the spots from my vision clear. “I don’t know what your damn problem is, but—”I slam my fist down on what should be his foot to punctuate my annoyance. Black smoke disperses, wafting up and filling my nostrils with the smell of a thousand trees crackling in a forest fire. My hand smashes with a thwak on the scuffed mauve linoleum. Emo kid still stands there, without a freaking foot.

    My heart leaps into my throat, chocking back my hiss of pain. I scramble back on my hands and knees, slamming my head into a locker. Pain flares behind my eyes and my long hair tangles with the Master Lock. Darkness, something blacker than tar hovers toward me.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Title: LITTLE ACORN'S BIG FALL
    Genre: Children's Picture Book

    Twitter Pitch: As Little Acorn prepares for his BIG fall, he discovers a seed under his cap, and he must bury himself before he is lost or worse, eaten.

    First 500 Words:

    Little Acorn held on tight,
    while the brisk autumn wind blew with all its might.

    Father Oak told Little Acorn the moment would arrive,
    when it would be his duty to help the forest survive.

    "How can I help, Father? I'm too small.
    There are many trees in the forest that are strong and tall."

    "Little Acorn, it does not take strength or height to succeed.
    Buried under your cap is a special seed."

    "I'm confused, Father. How will the seed come out?"
    "Before long, you will fall to the earth and become a tree sprout."

    "But, I'm just a little nut with a round, hard shell.
    I can't wait to hear more. Oh, please do tell!"

    "Only one in ten thousand acorns grow into a tree.
    That special one is you, Little Acorn. Now do you see?"

    "But, Father, how will I know what to do?"
    "Do not worry, my son. I will guide you."

    The days grew colder, and the last leaf dropped from Father's arching limb.
    Little Acorn watched the orange sunlight grow dim.

    The blustery wind whipped Father's branches all around.
    With a wicked snap! one cracked and crashed to the ground.

    "It is time now, Little One, time for you to fall below.
    Be brave, and with the next strong wind, let GO!"

    Father Oak winked as a gust of wind blew.
    Little Acorn let go, and oh, how he flew!

    He tumbled and swirled,
    flipped sideways and whirled.

    Softly he bounced onto the ground,
    and looked up at Father Oak when he was safe and sound.

    "I did it, Father! But, you're so far away."
    "Hush now, Little Acorn, I have something to say."

    "You must quickly bury yourself under the leaves,
    and look out for squirrels, reindeer, and other nut-gathering thieves."

    "Oh, Father, it sounds like a fun game of hide-and-go-seek!"
    Father Oak looked serious and said, "Listen to me speak."

    "During the winter, some animals eat acorns as a tasty snack.
    There are slippery worms and bugs that may attack."

    "I'm afraid, Father. What if I don't succeed?
    What if I get lost or I can't find my seed?"

    Father Oak looked down and said, "Hush now, it will all be okay.
    Just follow my advice, and you will grow up one day."

    Little Acorn felt like the whole world was sitting on top of his cap.
    He was cold, and sad, and he really wanted a nap!

    "Okay, Father, I'll do my best. I know you're counting on me.
    I promise to hide myself. I'll make you proud. You'll see!"

    Little Acorn looked up, and waved his tiny stem, goodnight.
    Father Oak's branches shivered with happiness and delight.

    "Rest well, my son, and after you wake up, I will tell you more.
    Remember this, a forest needs trees to survive forevermore."

    Little Acorn wiggled around, and found a cozy place to rest.
    Although a bit frightened, he trusted Father knew best.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Title: The Baron Planes
    Genre: Paranormal

    Chris Baron has stumbled through his short life without finding purpose, until he opens the link between the living and where most of the dead repeatedly play out their tormented final moments on earth in a place that will eventually be known as: The Baron Planes.

    The visibility down the secluded lanes, despite the windscreen wipers lashing away the heavy droplets of rain, was horrendous. There were no street lights. Turns were almost impossible to foresee as midnight drew ever closer. He was more than likely going to be late he mused as he repeatedly drummed his index finger on the steering wheel.
    As he drove without abandon down what were familiar twists and turns he felt the urge to call his sister, just to hear her reassurances he wasn‘t out of his depth. More to the point, he was in the dark as to how events had transpired to lead him to some radio station in the arse-end of nowhere for a midnight discussion on the paranormal with his old professor and mentor, Dr. James Huntley.
    Blaring lights from an oncoming car caused a reckless swerve, clashing with overhanging branches from a tilting tree.
    ‘Bloody idiot!’ he scowled between gritted teeth whilst cornering into what could only be described as the safe haven of a main road.
    He felt in his jeans pocket for his mobile phone just as it began to ring.
    ‘As if she knew…’ he grimaced whilst battling to get the phone out from its restricted confines; he gazed at the caller knowing who it was.
    ‘I take it you’re on the road now, Chris?’ questioned the voice of his sister.
    ‘You know me, Jenny!’ he replied with unnatural bouyancy ‘I’ll be there before it starts, that’s for sure.’
    There was an uncharacteristic moment of silence before Jennifer spoke again.
    ‘I… I appreciate you doing this.’ Jenny voiced a little too flatly by her standards.
    ‘I’m hardly what you’d call an expert in the paranormal field but I’ll give it my best shot. Besides, Dr. Huntley’s gonna be there so it’ll hardly be a debate - more like a pleasant chat between old friends… right?’ Chris questioned as he turned off into a large business park, rubbing his bleary eyes.
    ‘I might have made a slight… error, with the-’
    ‘Jenny!’ growled Chris with a look of resignation on his face ‘What haven’t you told me?’
    ‘I… I’m really sorry. I doubt you’ll help me out again after this.’ Jennifer uttered in defeat ‘It’s not going to be James.’
    ‘Has to be - I mean… she’s not!’ Chris fumed, smacking his hand on the steering wheel aggressively ’Vanessa, right?’ he concluded by himself ‘this is harsh, sis - harsh!’
    ‘I know. I’m genuinely sorry.’ she apologised profusely ’Hang on. I’ve gotta go. Be nice to Gary and say hi to him from me? Tell him he owes me one now. Love you!’
    ‘Wait!’ he yelled as the phone went dead ‘You’ve seriously stitched me up…’ he hissed accusingly at his phone.


    As the time crept ever closer to midnight he saw the turning he needed for the radio station. Moments later, he spun in to an empty parking space opposite a pizza delivery place next door to his destination that was shutting up for the night.
    ‘Cutting it fine.’ an unfamiliar voice suggested much to Chris’ visible annoyance ‘You’ll be on in a couple of minutes. Chris, right - I’m Gary. You’ve probably heard about me.’ the man finished confidently; he was in his mid-forties with a bald head and a rather extravagant goatee.
    ‘Haven’t a clue - but a friend of Jenny is a friend of mine… usually.’ Chris ended with only a hint of reservation before attempting to shake Gary’s hand; Gary appeared harassed and failed to acknowledge this, choosing to return inside over politeness.
    Chris gazed up at the station sign that read ‘Destiny Radio’ in a lurid lilac. He sped into the open door and into what he hoped was the warmth his body needed. On that point he wasn’t disappointed. On seeing that he’d gone from a door to the studio - and that being virtually the only part of the miniscule building - he most certainly was.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Title: Here Comes the Sun

    Genre: YA Contemporary

    Pitch: Follow Natalie as she tours England and realizes that life's so much better on the other side of the pond, until the psychological demons she thought she left in Chicago arrive unannounced, wrecking havoc on her fun.

    First 500:


    “Here Barf Girl,” Meredith whispers as she bumps my arm. I jerk my elbow off the arm rest and stare at her through my brown bangs falling haphazardly into my eyes. Even though we've attended the same high school for almost four years now, this is the absolute first time she's ever talked to me. I'm not kidding. She's part of the so-called “popular crowd” - I stress the air quotes on that one - and I am, well, not. I have Krista. And that, sadly, is about it.
    I blame my nickname. And the awful Brunettes.
    Meredith has really short blonde hair and pretty typical blue eyes. They don't sparkle or resemble the ocean or anything. They are simply blue, like a well worn shirt. And she's holding out her hand to me, cupping it a little as if not to spill whatever is inside. I'm sad to admit that my first thought is that she wants me to pee in her hand. Because quite honestly, at this point, I just might.
    For the past twenty minutes I've been sitting cross-legged in my seat, my attention focused on the giant, red X glaring at me from above the bathroom at the back of the plane. I silently berate myself for drinking two diet cokes from McDonald's before take off, simply because my mom showed concern about my hydration levels as I cross the Atlantic.
    “Take this. It'll help you sleep.”
    “What is it?”
    “A sleeping pill. Duh! We're all taking them.” She thrusts her well-manicured hand closer to my face, her cream skin highlighting a small, blue pill burrowed inside. “The flight is overnight, so when we land we're expected to be alert for a full day of touring. Seeing that's it's currently, er, seven o'clock Chicago time, we're never gonna fall asleep.” She eyes me curiously. “You weren't planning on staying awake, were you?”
    “Er, no?” Kinda, actually. Not that I can see much with my aisle seat, but if Meredith allows me to lean across her lap, I'd love to spend the next six hours looking out the tiny window. But seeing that this is the first time we've had a conversation, I don't see that sort of intimacy happening. Ever.
    But I mean, how often do I get to look at the sky from above? I was able to catch a quick glimpse of the ground when I stood up to wait in line for the bathroom, only to be turned away by a stewardess with whacked out bangs and an ass the size of America. And I realized that people, well I couldn't even see people, but houses looked like ants. Ants!
    “ I didn't think so. This should help. Here, take it.”
    And so I do. With a tilt of my head, I swallow it without water. God, I hope this works.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Title: FINDING SOPHIE
    Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
    Pitch:
    A teen falls back to 1895 Paris & must solve a mystery to prevent getting stuck in the past w/a violent cop & the love she can’t marry.
    Excerpt:
    I fall out of the darkness and my feet slam onto the pavement. Ankles twisting, muscles burning, I cry out.
    I squint at the lights shining from streetlamps and rushing cars. Music blasts, car horns blare, people talk, laugh, sing. I touch my temple and groan.
    “Est-ce que tout va bien, mademoiselle? Avez-vous besoin d'aide?” a man asks, kneeling at my side.
    Is everything okay, as he asked? My whole body hurts, but especially my ankle. I can’t remember how I got here, or where here is.
    I check out my surroundings and recognize the plaza dominated by a building with more columns than I can count, winged gold statues at each corner of the roof, and a green dome. Two French flags billow in the still air. The Paris Opera.
    Okay, deep breaths. I’m in Paris. Mom's birthplace.
    My head feels stuffed with feathers and it only gets worse the more I try to remember. I frown at the long, dark skirt I’m wearing. Pointy-toed black boots? No wonder my ankle is weak and swollen. A long-sleeved cream shirt scratches my neck.
    I stand and a necklace bounces against my chest. I grab the gold medallion and stare at the engraved pattern. Memories blast into me, pushing out the feathers stuffing my mind: My mother placing a necklace in my hand. Hitting the ground at the Opera at night wearing capris and a pink tank. A policeman leering at me. A young man leaning toward me, eyes alight with desire. Jumping off a wall, my legs tangling in long skirts. A girl my age wearing old-fashioned clothes, huddling against a dirty alley wall. Each memory threatens my balance. I shiver in fear, despite the heat.
    Another glance around confirms I landed at least close to my own time period. A blue hatchback shudders to a stop, brakes screeching, while a young woman in leg warmers, short shorts, and a baggy shirt drooping enough to expose a bare shoulder glares at the driver. She bangs the hood of the car, just above the roaring lion logo on the grille. I wonder if she's a dancer or if I've landed in the 1980's. Holy Baryshnikov, what if I'm in the '80's? My parents met in Paris in the '80's, but I don't need to see that. My nose wrinkles.
    The young woman pushes up a sleeve and stomps across the street. That sparks a new memory. I stand in a dark-paneled room with long windows covered by long, flowing curtains inside. Warmth and excitement spread inside me. I don the cream shirt over my crumpled tank top and push a flip flop up each long sleeve. Now, in whatever time I'm in, I smile and pull flip flops out of my sleeves. I tear off the skirt, kick off the boots, and unbutton the horrid top to reveal a pink tank. Then I hoof it toward the rue de Mogador.

    ReplyDelete
  37. New Follower. Definitely awesome contest.

    Title: Erth Won
    Genre: Upper MG fantasy
    WC: 51,000

    Twitter pitch: A Boy Scout races bullies and a jealous alter-ego to save a broken Heartland from towbackhoes and worse pun-ishments before all die in vein.

    First 500 words:

    Light flashed down onto the snowy canyon trail, shooting straight through Morgan’s glasses into his brain. Looking up, he pinpointed the source before it disappeared from between two boulders far up the southern mountainside. The urge to investigate—alone—was so strong he couldn’t resist turning uphill, away from the other Boy Scouts hiking down towards the trailhead.

    “Where you going?” his best friend asked. At age 14, Loa was big even for a Polynesian.

    “I—” The words stuck so Morgan tried again, “g-gotta—” and his face flushed with effort. “Crap!” He rolled his eyes. That wasn’t even close to what he meant.

    Loa laughed. “Oh. That’s never left you tongue-tied before. I’ll wait here.” He put down his pack on a boulder beside the snowy trail. For him, the ground was a long reach.

    Morgan felt heavier instead of lighter as he put his own pack down. He’d never hidden anything from Loa since they met at scout camp two years ago. Why test 200 pounds worth of muscle-bound honesty? Mystified by his actions, he knew something very strange gripped him to pull him up through leafless trees and brush, over slippery logs and around rocks. No deceit was worth losing Loa’s friendship, yet Morgan couldn’t stop.

    Reaching the boulders, he stopped to catch his breath. Loa stood below like a sentinel on guard. Sure, Morgan’s wimpy dishwater blond curls and pointy ears made him a bully’s target at school, but he shouldn’t need protection here. The flash likely came from harmless ice melting in the first warm afternoon sun after a long Utah winter.

    Gulping in the fresh mountain air, Morgan waved and wiggled his ears for laughs—their only good point. Bullies called him “Ear-fart” instead of Earhart when Loa wasn’t around.

    Then he climbed around the waist-high boulders. His boots sank into soft mud where a circle of snow had melted behind them. Between the stones, a glint came from deep within a pile of debris. Morgan used a stick to pry out a thumb-length rock crystal, a clear column two inches around with six sides smooth enough to pass as gem facets.

    The crystal warmed and rainbow colors swirled within as if it were alive, a mesmerizing display. He almost dropped it when a scene formed inside—a violent world with a bruise violet sky. Amid a stormy sea, a green heart-shaped continent trembled. Its V-shaped cleft tore down to the heart’s lower point, creating a reverse continental divide. White stuff spilled out of the ragged rift—poison, since everything it touched died. Black spots also cankered the strange landscape. Then the black and white disasters turned red all over. Bad news came in threes—and trees—when fires burned the forests down. The crystal grew hot.

    Is this thing a distress message? (Italicized)

    Frozen in shock, Morgan would have dropped the crystal, except it stuck to his palm. His feet stuck too as the warm mud began to sink. Terrified, he yanked.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks for the contest!

    Title: ALTERNATE
    Genre: YA Sci-fi

    Pitch: A teen hacker is drawn into a war between parallel universes when she meets an alternate version of herself from another dimension.

    First 500:

    The fire alarm blared to life right when I got past the proxy server. Just my luck. It took me all lunch to hack into the school’s record system, and now this.

    My fingers flew across the keyboard while the alarm pierced my ears without any hint of giving up. Just another drill. Maybe I could finish this before I had to leave. If not, I'd have to start all over again tomorrow. Cracking the system wasn't hard, but it took a long time to make sure no one could trace it back to me.

    Mr. Wilson, my calculus teacher, stuck his head inside the door to the computer lab. “Everyone out. Fire drill.”

    The other students grabbed their things and rushed out, but I couldn't leave yet. My brother wasn't adjusting well to our latest move, this time to Los Angeles, and now his grades were too low to get on the school’s soccer team. With tryouts next week, there was no way he’d have time to improve them. Normally I wouldn't condone something like changing grades, but it wasn't my brother's fault he couldn't keep up with school.

    Plus, breaking in was fun.

    A screen popped up asking for the student's name. I was so close now. I just needed a few more minutes.

    “Sara, come on,” Mr. Wilson said, waiting for me at the door.

    “I'll be just a minute, sir,” I said, giving him my sweetest smile. “I have to save my English essay and print it out. It's due next period.”

    Mr. Wilson’s forehead creased, but he nodded. I knew what he saw -- a straight A student who always followed the rules, with an innocent face everyone called “cute.” Teachers loved me.

    “Okay, but come out right after. We're all gathering on the football field and you need to be there for the head count.”

    “Of course. I'll be right out.”

    The door closed behind him, and I leaned over the keyboard and entered my brother's name. Another page loaded and I scanned it, shaking my head. The user interface for the records database was unforgivable. They really needed to hire a better programmer.

    I found my brother's transcripts and changed a few of his grades, just enough to get him the C average he needed to get on the team. He still had to study, after all.

    The alarm continued its incessant shrieking. The door opened again, probably another teacher about to tell me to get down to the field. “Coming,” I called over my shoulder, as I scrambled to close programs and hide all the evidence of my break-in. I wasn’t really worried about getting caught—I doubted the school’s IT monkeys would even know I was in their system—but I was still careful, just in case.

    “Sara Morgan?”

    Behind me stood a girl in a long black jacket with straps across the chest. She wore large reflective sunglasses that hid most of her face, and her dark hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Can't wait to read everyone's entries!

    Title: Spirits from the Vasty Deep
    Genre: YA Historical (1850s) with a ghostly twist

    Pitch:
    Charlotte Doyle meets Blossom Culp: Olivia accidentally sets a ship afire, dooming all hands aboard--now the ghostly crew wants revenge.


    First 500:

    Prologue

    "Where are you taking me?" I planted my feet, but Miss Bonney roughly pulled me into motion again.

    What had I done this time? Did she find the copy of H.C. Andersen's fairy tales I hid inside the hollow oak? I was forever in trouble for removing books from the school library, but fairy tales begged to be read in the woods.

    "I'm taking you to the east wing, to end this superstitious nonsense once and for all," she answered, holding my arm in an iron grip. "I will solve two problems with one fell swoop—get some use out of that room, and cure you of lying."

    To the east wing? So, not a purloined book—this time my own words drew one of Miss Bonney's punishments. "But I don't lie," I said, my breath coming in puffs as I trotted to keep up.

    Miss Bonney snorted. "I suppose you deny telling the other girls the ghost of the groundskeeper and his dog walk the gardens? Or that Tabitha's late grandmother wanted to speak with her? Some of those girls haven't slept in a week. You're nearly ten years old, Olivia, you're getting too old for such stories."

    "They're not stories—there are shades all around us, all the time. And I told the others they didn't need to fear these spirits; they don't mean us any harm."

    I had only shared those things because I thought they would offer some comfort—like how the groundskeeper continued to protect us, even after he was found face-down in the violets last year. And Tabitha missed her grandmother terribly, so where was the harm in speaking with her again? But not everyone had grown up with the spirits as I had, and sometimes I forgot that not everyone is as comfortable with them.

    Miss Bonney turned left into a long gallery, raising her candle to get her bearings. Cold and disused, this wing of the school reeked of decay and mildew. Quiet reigned at this end of the building; all the students would be getting ready for bed in their dormitories by now.

    My curiosity about the forbidden wing outweighed any misgivings—until we approached the door at the far end. "What is this place?" I whispered, trembling as I felt the weight of a malevolent presence beyond it.

    Miss Bonney fumbled with a ring of keys. "This apartment has been locked up for years; something unfortunate happened here and the staff is convinced it's haunted. But once you've spent the night in it, unscathed, it will prove to them there's no reason to neglect this space."

    "And if it is haunted?" The "if" was for her benefit—there was no doubt in my mind that this was the scene of something more than "unfortunate".

    "Impossible," she scoffed. "There are no such things as ghosts, and once you admit that I will let you out." With a triumphant grunt, she turned the key in the lock and pulled the door open, shoving my struggling form inside.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Title: Transmigration

    Genre: YA-Paranormal mystery

    Pitch: A 16 y.o. traces her chronic nightmares back to an unsolved murder that took place before her birth. But when she learns that she was the victim, she scrambles to identify her killer before he can identify her.


    Sample:

    The scream pushed up through my chest like a hairball that demanded to be dislodged. I swallowed, willing it to expel itself from the hold it had on me. But the pain was clogging my airways, and my attempts were weakening. I willed myself to be stronger, to blink away the fear that was just shown to me. The pain was too much. Relenting, I sprang up in my bed and released the chilling, agonizing scream. And like a girl who had just been exorcized, my feeble body fell back onto my pillow and prepared itself for the calm down process that always followed.

    Looking around the dark expanse of my room, I wasn't floating lifeless on the placid surface of a pool, but rather in my bed, a layer of sweat drenching my sheets. I caught a glimpse of my appearance in the full length mirror on the side of the room and cried out. My reflection, if I had to describe it any other way, looked like I just came from a swimming pool. My long brown hair was plastered to my head, wisps of sweaty strands clinging to the sides of my neck. Shivering more from fear than temperature, I pulled the sheet tight across my chest, looking longingly at my purple comforter twisted in a heap at the foot of my bed. With the glow of my nightlight, I could see sweat glistening on my forearm as I stretched out my arm and begged it to stop shaking. It was just a nightmare,Anna, I wanted to tell myself. A nightmare that never went away.

    As the shakes spread throughout my body, paralyzing me with fear, I grasped my chest for relief. Breathe, I demanded of myself. Breathe. Knowing exactly what I needed, I reached blindly through the dark to my bedside table for my inhaler. Wrapping my hand around the plastic base of the inhaler, I held on tight as if it were my life support, and brought it to my dry lips. I breathed in three puffs and waited for the pain to subside and for my breathing to become regular.

    It only took a few seconds. Five,
    actually, for me to get my life back. Letting out a breath of relief, I fell back against my pillow and took a quick glance at my clock as I waited for it. For them. They heard the screams. Every night I had a variation of the same nightmare and every night I woke up screaming.

    For awhile, when the nightmares first began, both of my parents would come in, dazed, concerned, frazzled and in their pajamas. Now, three years later, only my mom made the journey down the long hallway through the dark, and she took her time as she always came tying together her robe to cover her pajamas. She would open my door, run a hand through her disheveled hair and ask through a yawn, “same dream?”

    ReplyDelete
  41. Title: Sonata for the Young Pianist
    Genre: Commercial YA

    Twitter pitch: When an 18-year-old pianist finds his biological brother, he finally feels he belongs--until his brother's secrets threaten his future.

    First 500:


    The envelope was big. Nine by eleven and a half, or whatever it was, and Isaac's stomach did a little jerk when he touched it. His friends had been getting envelopes like this all year. Harvard. Princeton. Stanford. UCLA. USC. One more brilliant, Ivy-league-bound feather in their high school's cap.

    But his wasn't like theirs. For one, this was the only flat envelope coming his way this year. Isaac didn't plan on putting feathers in anybody's cap except his own.

    Two, the return address on his envelope wasn't from an Ivy. The logo was stamped in the upper left-hand corner: ten keys, F through E, running up the side of an address in Chicago, Illinois.

    And three, his envelope had already been sliced open.

    "Oh, you have got to be joking," he muttered. Then, pitching his voice so that it could be heard in the great room, he hollered, "Dad! Why did you open my mail?"

    The paper rustled as he fished inside for the letter, striding toward the kitchen from the mudroom. He pulled out the letter.

    Dear Mr. Tansen,

    Based on our careful review of your recorded submission, we are pleased to invite you to the first qualifying round of the World Amateur Youth Piano Championships...


    He let out a whoop, dropped his book bag with a thud, and skidded into the great room.

    As usual, no one noticed. His sisters lay parked on their bellies in front of some cartoon show, occasionally swatting away their two Golden Retrievers when cold noses inched too close to filled cereal bowls. On the stove, something in a giant pot was drooling brownish-red sauce. And his father stood rinsing lettuce in a colander at the sink, oblivious.

    Isaac dropped the envelope on the counter, whipped the pot off its burner, and wiped it down with a washrag, nudging his father out of the way in the process.

    "Oops," came the reply. "Didn't notice that one. Thank you, Robby."

    He winced. "I hate that nickname."

    "You gave it to yourself."

    "When I was three, Dad."

    The story had it that Isaac had been obsessed with a TV show featuring a character named Robby, a pale boy with curly dark hair and dark eyes like his. As he lived in a family of willowy blonds, Isaac could only guess his three-year-old self had assumed he should take the name of someone who looked more like him. His father, who subscribed to the "support your adopted child's identity at all costs" parenting method, had dutifully called Isaac by that name, and it had turned into a habit that Isaac was still having trouble getting the rest of his family to shake.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Title: Cry Havoc

    Genre: Sci-Fi YA

    Pitch: On twin sky planets in the far future, young pilots known as Dogs of War are bred in facilities called Kennels to fight each time their planets swing into close orbit.

    Sample:

    The launch ship tore through the upper cloud level and downwards, a silver line against the swirling purples and reds of Rem’s greatest storm. Ahead of them, the enemy was just a dot against the next layer of clouds, some thousand feet down. Through the slim strip of his windshield, Akita could catch only the barest glimpse of their exhaust plumes, but he knew he could catch them. He adjusted the thrust with one flick of the burn switch. Beneath him, the launch came alive from out of its sleeping dive. The vents roared. The burners rumbled. The cockpit jolted and jounced like it was ready to come apart, but like any Dog of War worth his contract price, he knew his ship. Noreaster fell like a comet from the sky. The enemy plunged into the next strip of cloud and Akita plunged with them. The world through the plexi became nothing but a red and purple mist.

    “Shiba, what have we got?”

    “They’re four lengths ahead of us,” said his Shepherd, priming the charge cannons with a flex of her hands. She sat in the rear Shepherd’s seat. In the mirror set up beside his console, Akita could see the sharp, distant look in her eyes and the gleam of her psychic dampeners as she gazed out past the walls of the cockpit and into the skies beyond. It was said that a well-bred Shepherd at their peak could see a stretch of sky ten miles out from their starting point. Shiba was a fourth season vet, like Akita, and very close to it. “Three and a half lengths. Akita, we’re not maxed. Put on some thrust. We can take them.”

    “We’ll overshoot,” said Akita, swaying as the ship rolled in its descent. “I want their burners.”

    “I want their cockpit,” said Shiba. “You know who’s in there. We’re not here to be the good guys. Max power to the burners, Akita. We can take them.”

    “They’re not maxed either.”

    “We’re lighter than them,” said Shiba. Her voice didn’t rise, but the pressure in the cabin did. “Akita.”

    “They’ll get behind us. They’ll have a clear shot at our tail.”

    “So move so they don’t get our tail,” said Shiba. “Are you going to trust your psychic or are you going to lose a good shot? They’re four lengths ahead of us. And you might want to turn us to the left. There’s a drift stone coming up on our the left mid-line.”

    The Rom launch veered right, Noreaster pulled left. Between them a mid-sized drift stone clattered by, blown by one of the powerful particle currents whirling in the storm that stretched just ten length off of their left wing.

    “Five lengths,” said Shiba. “You pussy cat.”

    “Do you want to try flying this thing with those currents pulling on us, Shi?”

    “I would do a better job than you’re doing now, Blue.” The childhood name stung in Akita's ear. “Akita. Trust me. We can do this. It’s just a storm.”

    ReplyDelete
  43. Name: Kate Larkindale
    Title: Chasing the Taillights
    Genre: YA Contemporary
    Manuscript word count: 87 000

    Twitter pitch: If Lucy doesn’t confess her secret about the accident that killed her parents, she might lose her mind – if she does, she may lose the only person left who loves her.

    First 500 words: The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide.

    Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

    I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I can’t think, can’t make sense of the darkness threatening to drown me.

    Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.
    The ground? Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of… gas? Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

    Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.

    A taillight.

    I let my throbbing head drop as a reward, a surge of relief passing through me at this small achievement. It’s a taillight. But why is it there? What is there? And if that’s there, where am I? The questions whirl dizzying circles around my skull. My eyes fix on the taillight, broken I realize, staring into it as if hypnotized. That’s why it’s brighter at one end.

    More light. White this time, sweeping in an arc across me. I blink, dazzled by the flood of brightness. All around me I see fragments glinting in the beam, tiny jewels strewn across the road. The yellow line is inches from my nose. Why am I lying in the middle of the road?

    Ghostly music drifts in my direction. A song I know, an oldie, The Beach Boys. It makes no sense here, must be in my head. I try to drag my other arm forward, wanting to raise myself onto my elbows for a better perspective. It won’t move. Pain rocks through my shoulder, my chest and courses up my neck to my still-aching head. The heavy, metallic scent of blood hangs over me. When I glance back down, I see the yellow line is smeared red.

    The slamming of a car door breaks through the dull thumping in my skull, chases the music away for a moment. Footsteps scuff across the gravel, heading away from where I lie.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Title: Hunter & Hunted
    Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

    Pitch: Ciera, a seventeen-year-old who hates her life as a Huntress, defies her family when she saves her parents’ old enemy, the mysterious Altair de la Rosa. On the run and hunted by Altair’s enemies and her own parents, Ciera must learn to finally use her skills as a Huntress, all the while fighting the attraction she has for Altair, which she suspects may be more supernatural than real.

    1st 500 words:

    The coastline blurred past as I raced over the hard-packed sand littered with sharp rocks. Up ahead, a niche formed between two craggy limestone cliffs caught my eye. I veered for it and glanced behind me as I ran. The limestone scraped my back through my thin t-shirt as I squeezed myself into the tight space. Spray from the ocean rained down over me, drenched my shirt and turned my long, dark hair into a scraggly mess. 
     
    My parents sprinted by and sand flew up in their wake. Once they neared the water’s edge, they slowed and stalked toward their prey like two jungle cats with black leather armor in place of fur. My mother’s katana, with its long, curved blade, glinted in the sun. As I crouched in relative safety with sour fear eating at my stomach, my father didn’t even have his sword at the ready. His claymore was still sheathed down the length of his back, nearly as tall as him. I tightened my grip on my own weapon, a simple silver dagger. My palms were slick with sweat, and the gritty salt and sand rubbed my skin raw.

    My mother caught my eye and made a quick movement with her hand, indicating that she wanted me to follow. I hesitated before I rose from my spot between the rocks. I trailed behind my parents, and sweat beaded my brow when I thought about the battle ahead. In my head, I ticked off the few moves my parents had bothered to teach me. Parry, thrust—no wait, that was with a sword. I had a dagger. What little I knew about fighting leaked out of my mind like soda from the opening of a soda bottle. 
     
    A metallic scrape of sword on steel rang out. I kept my body low as I sprinted toward the sounds of battle. The waves crashed against the rock of the shore, the water sprayed both my parents and their targets with cold water.

    Closer to the action now, I could see the merrows—sort of the Irish version of mermaids. The female was deceptively beautiful with long, flowing hair, pouty lips, and big, dark eyes. She wore some kind of old-fashioned dress, the crimson fabric rich and satiny.

    The male, too, had the illusion of being young and handsome with a lean, muscular frame. His face looked like it belonged on the cover of GQ—the better to draw in his unsuspecting victims. I wondered how many innocent humans the two of them had killed.
     
    My mother battled the female while my father fought the male. The merrows both fought with faerie-forged swords, ones whose blades glowed with a bluish tint. Mom twisted and turned, flipped and dodged to avoid injury. It was difficult to track all her movements with my eyes. The merrow was nearly as fast, mirroring Mom’s every move. She flashed sharp shark-like teeth as her sword met my mom’s. She dodged to the side, her eyes on the dark water. Mom blocked her.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Title: Legacy
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    Pitch: In a family of powerful witches, Danielle is disappointingly ordinary. But when her mother's killer targets her brother, Danielle must find a way to destroy the spell killing him -- or die trying.

    Danielle hooked an arm in the railing behind her, and closed her eyes as her breakfast threatened to make an unwelcome reappearance. Funny, she’d never had vertigo before. Then again, she’d never contemplated jumping out a two-story building either.

    Her hand sought the comfort of her mother’s bracelet. At her touch, the runes etched on the metal lit up, green and comfortingly familiar. The magic stored inside, her mother’s magic, felt different though. On edge. Like a knife balanced on its point, about to tip over.

    Much like the way she teetered on the edge of her room’s balcony.

    Danielle blew out her breath and held the image of a shield in her mind. The bracelet slowly warmed against her skin – reluctant, a warning. The shield obediently appeared around her, encasing her in a bubble of green-tinted energy, before the color faded.

    She couldn’t stand here forever. Jamie was bound to come looking for her, and then she’d have to explain why his sister was hanging on the wrong side of her balcony’s railing. She couldn’t imagine that conversation going well. Or ending up anywhere but in some shrink’s office.

    But she wasn’t suicidal. Just desperate.

    Today, she’d be eighteen. No one over the age of eighteen had ever received their powers. She doubted she’d be the exception.

    Today, she’d be ordinary.

    Her mother’s bracelet would be the only spark of magic left to her. And what use was a shield against sorcerers who could start storms and kill with a word?

    Who would avenge her mother’s memory then?

    No, this was the only way. Her last chance to awaken her magic before the dreaded deadline.
    Danielle took a deep breath, supplying her body with air and courage, and let her hold on the handrail slacken.

    “Danielle!”

    With a gasp, she scrambled for the handrail. Her hand closed around it, but by then it was too late – Jamie had already finished tracing his bindrune. It flared to life as he anchored it, blue flames dancing in the air.

    Her heart skipped a beat. The Summoning Rune.

    “No!” she cried as Jamie’s magic collided with her shield, an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

    The air sizzled as the shield deflected Jamie’s Summoning Rune and vanished. She barely had time to see her brother’s eyes widen in horror before the shock of the battling spells wrenched her from the railing and sent her hurtling.

    She squeezed her eyes shut and cast her mind inward. She could feel her magic on the edge of her consciousness, enticing and vast and ever out of reach. No matter what she’d done, how hard she’d tried to grab it before, it always slipped away. Like dreams upon waking. This time was no different.

    She hit the ground on her back and rolled a few times, before coming to a stop. For a second, she couldn’t feel anything. Then came the pain.

    ReplyDelete
  46. TITLE: TRUSTING TRINITY
    GENRE: MG adventure

    Twitter Pitch: When aliens grab her best friend and demand diamonds, a 13 y/o girl must find a way to comply that doesn’t involve grand theft or jail time.

    First 500 words:

    If I heard the words “anal probe” one more time, I was going to explode.

    Not the guts-all-over-the-place kind of explode, but close.

    When I got home from the store with my mom, I slammed my bedroom door so hard it knocked the framed seventh grade class photo off the pink wall. I stomped on it, flung myself onto the bed, and buried my face in my pillow.

    The door pushed open and Mom walked in. She stepped on the broken glass and sighed.

    “Trinity, forget about those boys. You know how immature they can be.” She sat on the edge of my bed and ran her fingers through my tangled hair. “Maya will be here any minute, and before you know it, we’ll all be on the cruise ship having fun. Right?”

    I shook my head against my pillow, suffocating myself but refusing to look at her. Mom had no idea how I felt. She had been popular like my older sister, Jessica.

    I was just…Trinity.

    The girl who lies.

    And all I wanted was for people to like me as much as they liked Mom and Jess. But Jessica ruined that by making me the target of jokes and teasing.

    The thing I didn’t get was, everyone lied. I saw it every day at school when boys lied about who they kissed and girls lied about who they liked and everyone lied about doing their own homework.

    So why was I the only one who got teased?

    “It’s not fair, Mom,” I mumbled. “Jessica ruined my life. She should be banished from the country.”

    Mom picked a tangle from my hair and chuckled. “Your life is not ruined. It hasn’t really even begun, sweetie. Eventually some other juicy gossip will come along and everyone will forget about your little fib. You’ll see.”

    Her words planted an idea in my head. If I had some good gossip, I could get the attention off me. My life would be infinitely better. I bet I could tell everyone that Jessica was secretly going out with one of the young gym teachers in her high school.

    That would be much more interesting than my stupid story from last week.

    It would also be a lie, but she deserved it.

    I lifted my head from my damp pillow and wiped a few tears from my steaming hot cheeks. Mom must have read my mind.

    She gave me a stern glare. “Don’t even think about it. Now come on. Get yourself together. I think I heard a car door.”

    How did she know what I was thinking? She must have some sort of ESP.

    She got up and shot me another stare. “And clean up this glass, miss. Now.”

    She closed my door and ran down the stairs. A second later, Maya rang the doorbell five times. I didn’t need to see her to know how excited she was about going on vacation together.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Title: BREATHE FOR ME
    Genre: YA Sci-fi/fantasy

    Twitter pitch: Teen girl is forced to fight in cage matches using powers that stem from alien blood, then starts a rebellion against those responsible.

    “Next time, warn a girl before you show her a corpse.” I buried my nose in the sleeve of my hospital gown, but it did little to mask the stench.

    “He isn’t dead, Hadley.” Dr. Ramsey pushed down on the bed railing, causing a loud clank to bounce off the walls.

    I jumped.

    The body didn’t.

    Not dead, my ass. If that noise didn’t wake him, nothing will.

    I inched closer to the bed. Scarlet puddles seeped through the sheet at one end. Ten toes poked out at the other.

    Dr. Ramsey tugged on the fabric, revealing a guy who could’ve served as an extra in a horror flick. A deep gash on his forehead oozed blood and several wounds covered the rest of his face and head, making it look like he’d been used as a piñata.

    My mouth dropped open as I stared at the gurney. Was this how Dr. Ramsey treated all of his guests? If so, he could count me out. The urge to bolt crossed my mind, but I needed to help the injured man first.

    “What happened to him?” I stepped closer.

    “That’s not your concern.” Dr. Ramsey said. “Heal him. Now.”

    He slipped his hand inside the pocket of his white lab coat and produced a silver remote. Crap. That’s how I’d been treated back at Corvus Detention Center. Failure to do as I was told had earned me a nudge by way of a taser-gun. Guaranteed to make a girl piss herself.

    I aimed my palms in surrender at the doctor before pulling my hair away from my face and letting it rest against my back. A few auburn strands fell into my eyes, but I ignored them and placed my hand on the injured guy’s upper body.

    “He’s so . . . still.” The tips of my fingers rubbed against his blood speckled hospital gown. “What’s his name?”

    “Donovan.” Dr. Ramsey squeezed his shoulder like a father would to a son before a big basketball game. “We had to place him in a coma. You might as well wake him from it.”

    I drew in a quick breath and pressed down on Donovan’s chest, willing him to come out of his sleeping state. His body convulsed in a seizure-like rhythm. Was I doing something wrong? The last person I’d healed bopped her head to her iPod. Of course, she’d been awake and didn’t look like a train had ran her over either.

    I glanced at Dr. Ramsey for guidance, for some hint of what I should do next. He was already gaping at me like a proud owner of a dog who’d just performed a remarkable trick.

    If he throws me a treat, I’m decking him.

    Seconds later, screams from Donovan replaced the convulsions.

    “He’s in pain, Hadley.” Dr. Ramsey gave me a hard shove. “Heal his head! Heal it now!”

    I shifted my hand to the squishy gash on Donovan’s forehead and stifled a gag.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Title: UNVISIBLE
    Genre: YA paranormal

    Twitter Pitch: H.S. senior in hiding from organization that made him invisible risks safety for chance at one thing he never thought he could have–a friend

    500 words:

    I hated this part.

    The bell rang exactly four minutes and forty-eight seconds ago. Which meant I had twelve seconds to get through the next door. I was a hundred yards away, the hall was too crowded for me to run like a normal person, and with AP calculus, I had little hope someone would show up later than me to slip in behind.

    Perfect attendance record, gone. Not that they’d give the boy they couldn’t see a certificate.

    I skidded toward the door. Closed, of course. Mrs. Harper always closed the door, like she worried someone would want to spy on her lesson. Not likely. Except, well, for me.

    Eighteen days without a missed class. Not bad, but nowhere near last spring’s forty-seven-day stretch—lots of art classes and two P.E.s. That’s what I got for challenging myself this semester … and drinking two cokes at lunch. I knew better than that.

    I couldn’t pick up Mrs. Harper’s monotone through the thick walls, but stuck around anyway, hoping for a straggler. No luck.

    Of course it was this hour I got stuck. The worst hour. The last hour before the seventeen I had to spend alone. Maybe I’d go out tonight. I peeked out the nearest window. It didn’t look like rain. Probably safe.

    Probably wasn’t good enough. Getting caught in the rain meant bigger problems than my discomfort level. Like the body-shaped hole I created when I stood in it.

    I checked my watch. Still time to make it to the library. Miss Wester always took a break five minutes into last period. I followed her once, curious. Bad idea. I expected to find her sneaking a cigarette behind the building or a leftover doughnut from the teacher’s lounge. She was sneaking all right. With Coach Philips. I never followed her again.

    She’d just stepped through the library door. I ran the last few yards and slipped through without brushing against her, but the door caught my shoulder blade. That’d leave a bruise.

    She didn’t stop when the door stuttered. One of the best things about Miss Wester—too busy with her own sneaking.

    The library was deserted. She never let teachers schedule class visits or send students to check out books during last period. She said she needed the time for reshelving, but Coach Philips and I knew the truth.

    I stopped at the returned books cart on my way to the computers.

    I scanned the rows, but no red-and-purple covers jumped out at me. I turned to the stacks on the counter. Not there either.

    Ridiculous. Who took three whole weeks to read a book? Didn’t they know people were waiting?

    No, of course not. Nobody knew about me.

    That’s what I got for starting a series.

    I pulled off my gloves and flipped open a few random books, checking the due dates. The fourth had five days left. I shoved it in my bag, adjusting the strap to make sure it touched my skin, then put my gloves back on.

    ReplyDelete
  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Title: Grim Crush
    Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

    Pitch: Xia, a seventeen-year-old grim reaper, won’t let even Death stand in her way as she breaks the Rules of Reaping by falling for a human boy.

    First 500 words:

    He was taking too long to die.

    Sometimes it seemed like these things took longer than usual. I guess I shouldn’t be too eager to collect a person’s soul, but the waiting and anticipation drove me nuts.

    I stepped up to the precipice of the cliff until the tips of my boots hung off the edge. Leaning forward, I stared down the fifty or so yards to the ground below. When I shifted my feet, tiny rocks tumbled down the red-orange crags of the cliff face.

    Yep, a fall from here will do it all right.

    Sighing, I stood up straight and crossed my arms, staring off to my left. I hated that I had to be here early. Death had some pretty stupid rules. I could be doing something else rather than waiting for this guy to kick the bucket.

    He was probably in his mid-twenties. A guy of average build, with black hair like mine. He had on a backpack and held a camera in his hands; an expensive one with a large lens like what photographers used. He was taking pictures of the birds in the trees, while standing way too close to the precipice.

    A nature buff. Great. I’d picked up another one of these last week. They needed to learn to be more careful.

    The nature guy took another step back, his foot inches from the cliff edge. He continued taking pictures without paying attention to the sheer drop behind him.

    At times like this, I wanted to shout, “Watch your step! Look behind you!” But, even though I was standing only five feet from him, he couldn’t see or hear me.

    Here it goes, I thought, watching the guy’s foot shuffle closer to the edge. In five, four, three, two…

    The guy shifted his position, and stumbled over a rock. His scream pierced through the air as he fell backwards, tumbling down the rocky cliff face. The camera flew from his hands and bounced along with him, smashing to pieces against the crags. Within seconds, he landed with a sickening crunch on the dirt at the bottom. Silence followed as orange dust stirred around him.

    I grimaced. Well, time to go to work.

    I leaped off the precipice and into the air, dropping quickly at first. As I approached the ground, my body slowed. Gravity couldn’t kill me, since I wasn’t alive. I wasn’t really dead either, but I was a part of Death.

    I landed gently on my feet beside the guy’s fresh corpse. His ghostly counterpart was standing up from his body. The dead soul’s transparency made it easy for him to stand out.

    “Welcome to the afterlife,” I said in my customary greeting. “You are Chad, right?”

    The spirit studied me with curiosity in his eyes. “Yeah. What happened--?” He looked down and saw his lifeless body. It was a repulsive sight. The corpse’s head was twisted and his legs were bent at hideous angles.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Title: Diving with Apollo
    Genre: YA survival/adventure

    Twitter Pitch:

    15 yo Luke’s paraglider crashes along the coast of Turkey. A girl rescues him. Now, he’s got to break an ancient curse before it kills her.

    First 500 Words:

    From 25 feet up, I squinted down into the blue-green sea, on guard for a torpedo-shaped shadow just below the surface. The Mediterranean sun glinted off the water and stung my eyes. I rubbed them, silently kicking myself for not listening to the tour guide in Istanbul. “Forget the Rolex,” he’d said. He knew I had limited funds. “You’ll need the shades for the boat trip.” Thing was, the genuine fake Rolex was way cool.
    My perch on the narrow deck outside the helm was perfect. While I had a view of glassy sea and the rugged Turkish coastline in the distance, I was nearly hidden from my parents and the rest of the passengers on this vacation from hell.
    Then, I spotted the shadow. A Bottle-nosed dolphin, just like the captain said. Sweet. I leaned out over the railing in order to keep the dolphin in my sights. Big mistake. Dad and his best old pal, Ray Davis, were on the aft deck chugging beers. From the corner of my eye I saw Ray look up. He elbowed Dad, cupped his hand to his mouth and leaned toward Dad’s ear like he was sharing the punch line to some dirty joke.
    Dad took a swig from his bottle as he turned toward me. “Son,” he said. I’d blown my cover. “You takin’ the high road in?” He wore a toothy grin.
    ‘Takin’ the high road in’ was Dad-speak for doing a high dive. Something he’d been bugging me to do for two solid days. “You’ve got such perfect form. Like your rip entry,” he said. “Shame not to show it off.” As if the simple act of doing my moves would make everything better. It was going to take a lot more than a stupid dive. That much I knew.
    I flicked my head and flipped the hair out of my face as I eyeballed the water, pretending not to hear him.
    “Well?” Dad pushed. His loud voice sliced through the wind. “Hell, Luke, you were the best damn diver on the whole swim team. The best!”
    Best damn diver, huh? My shoulders shifted back. I had to admit that Dad’s flattery felt good, even if the truth was that the so-called “swim team” was nothing more than a bunch of neighborhood kids at a community pool. Not exactly Olympic-grade competition. Still, the afternoon was hot. A dip in the water would take the edge off.
    Dad leapt out of the lounge chair. “What about from that deck up there? What’s to lose?” He pointed to the deck above the one I was on, the one over the helm.
    I glanced up. Then down. Then shot him a questioning look. “Uh, my life?” The railing was way up there, like maybe thirty-five feet. I was calculating the height part when Ray cuffed Dad on the shoulder. “Luke’s not interested, Carl. Probably forgot how.”
    Forgot how? Heat seared my cheeks. Of course I hadn’t forgotten how.

    ReplyDelete
  52. And we're closed! Thanks all! If you missed it, watch for next month's contest.

    ReplyDelete
  53. --- Contest Reopened --

    Writing a twitter pitch, aka a pitch in 140 characters including spaces, is extremely difficult. But most of you bent over backwards to do it! Kudos to those of you who did it right. Sixteen of you were over the limit, by anywhere from 7 to 180 characters over. This obviously isn't fair to those who followed Rule 5 down there.

    You've been DISQUALIFIED and I'm reopening the contest for anybody who wants to resubmit with the correct type of pitch.

    There are sixteen open spots. Please check the length of your pitch to see if you're one who is being disqualified. If you made a mistake and want to correct it, you're welcome to do so now! :) I promised our Mystery Agent 50 twitter pitches PLUS first 500 words, so I'd appreciate your help. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  54. TITLE: TRANSCEND
    GENRE: YA HISTORICAL THRILLER
    WC: 52,000
    AUTHOR: Christine Fonseca

    Pitch:
    When a horrible accident leaves Ien Montogomery abandoned and left for dead, his only link to sanity is his one true love. Or is it?

    First 500 words:
    Ien stared at the mirror, his heart pounding wildly against his ribs. Do it. Do it now. He raised his hands to his face, fingering the bandages. He wanted to rip them off once and for all, wanted to see what caused the horror he saw reflected in everyone’s faces.

    Wrapping a finger around the top scrap of linen, he tugged. “No,” he said, his voice echoing off the stone walls that surrounded him. “No.”

    He dropped his hands and closed his eyes. He wasn’t ready. Perhaps he never would be.

    The weight of his pain, his torment, rested on his shoulders – a yoke that defined him. He strained against it as he paced the room, settling his thoughts. So many fantasies he now questioned, so many dreams all but given up.
    He walked to the writing desk and sat. He had few luxuries in his tiny room, but his writing set – paper and a nib pen – were among them.

    Taking a deep breath, he started the letter he’d been composing in his thoughts for days, ever since his mother had left him for dead.

    His hand shook, dotting the page with ink. Ien crumbled the paper and started again . . .

    My Dearest Kiera,

    There are so many things I want to remember about that night. The feel of your lips on mine, the longing I held when we said goodbye, the promise of a life together with you. But, sadly, that is not what fills my thoughts.

    Instead I am forced to relive the damp air, thick with fog that blanketed my skin. And the veins of mist as they hugged the ground and spiraled into smoke, choking the air from my lungs. I remember the crackle of flames when they ignited the spaces around me, turning my face to ash.

    But most of all, I remember the silence. Relentless and unyielding, like the pause before a deep breath. Or the moment before sound begins. There was a time when I welcomed such solitude, desperate to create a wall against the noise that forever bombards my thoughts. But not now; not if the price of such respite is you.

    You are the barrier against the chaos of my thoughts. You chase away my nightmares and make me feel whole again. Only you. And now that the realization of all that I’ve lost bears down on me, I am left to wonder if you will ever be able to look at me again. Will you still love me?

    When I left you that night, it was with plans for the future – our future. But now that fate has dealt us a twisted blow, I fear our paths are no longer intertwined. A silence is all that remains, a dark void where you should be. There is no comfort in it, no peace. It smothers all that I am, sinking its cold tendrils into my heart and I am again lost inside a deep abyss.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Perfect, Christine! Thank you!

    We now have 15 open spots and 15 entries still disqualified as they stand. I'd love to see them still have a chance. Please double-check your twitter pitches, people, and if they are longer than 140 characters (with spaces), rewrite and resubmit.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Opps. So sorry. I can't count in the morning. This fit on my Twitter box....


    Title: Rivers Underneath
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    Twitter Pitch: 16-year-old Emma must embrace her unwanted ability to manipulate other people’s emotions to defeat a Soul Eater and save the boy she loves.

    First 500 Words:

    Emma watched a cluster of mourners gather around the fresh grave at the foot of the hilly cemetery, curling and uncurling her fingers into her palms. The black-clad figures clung to one another, finding comfort in knowing they didn’t mourn alone. Comfort Emma couldn’t share. Even from where she stood, their shock and grief and anger pounded against her.

    Below her, the overgrown cemetery sloped down toward a wide, twisting river. Dark pathways wove between ancient, twisted trees, dividing the cemetery into irregular sections.

    The wind shaped Emma’s dark hair into softly waving tendrils and she brushed it away. She shifted her feet and the frozen dew clinging to the grass crackled under her.

    Emma knew she should join the other mourners. She knew they expected her to share in their public display of sorrow.

    But she couldn’t.

    The slightest touch, the slightest betrayal of emotion and she would lose everything. Even a hug, meant to console, could send her spiraling out of control.

    She remained frozen, a silent witness to their grief. She saw every detail in stunning clarity. The lurid green of the carpet covering the hole in the ground and the cold, dead coffin that held her best friend. The sky, the same colorless grey as her eyes, burned in her mind. Overwhelming sorrow surrounded her, but she refused to absorb any of it.

    Her parents were worried. Not that she blamed them. She’d never handled loss well. She’d nearly self-destructed when Gabriel left four years earlier. And he’d only moved away.

    Lily was dead.

    Unbidden, an image rose before her eyes. She squeezed them shut to block out the vision, but the nightmare remained. Lily under the river, a modern Ophelia caught in the current. Her black, empty eyes stared at nothing. The golden strands of her hair spread around her like the rays of a halo in a Renaissance painting.

    Emma tried to steady herself, to fight the panic rising in her chest. It was just a dream. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t hurt her. She repeated the words drilled into her brain. It’s not real. It can’t hurt me.

    After so long, she’d almost learned to believe them.

    Almost.

    But this time it was real. Lily had drowned. And no matter what anyone said, Emma knew it wasn’t an accident.

    #

    Gabriel eased his body into the kitchen and closed the door behind him. He held his breath until the deadbolt slid into place. His eyes darted around the darkened room, illuminated only by the pale green of the florescent lights under the cabinets.

    An empty wine glass stood in the sink, collecting water dripping from the faucet. A droplet hit the glass with a soft splash. He pivoted, ready to react, but the rest of the house remained still and silent.

    Gabriel doubted his clumsy attempt to sneak in had gone unnoticed, yet he didn’t hear the telltale creak of his mother’s bedroom door or the soft padding sound of her footsteps.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Resubmitting. I am very sorry! I originally wrote it IN a twitter box and didn't account for the edits I made. Very embarrassed. Hope this is better.

    Title: Cry Havoc

    Genre: Sci-Fi YA

    Pitch: In the far future, pilots known as Dogs of War are bred in Kennels to fight each time their planets swing into close orbit.

    Sample:

    The launch ship tore through the upper cloud level and downwards, a silver line against the swirling purples and reds of Rem’s greatest storm. Ahead of them, the enemy was just a dot against the next layer of clouds, some thousand feet down. Through the slim strip of his windshield, Akita could catch only the barest glimpse of their exhaust plumes, but he knew he could catch them. He adjusted the thrust with one flick of the burn switch. Beneath him, the launch came alive from out of its sleeping dive. The vents roared. The burners rumbled. The cockpit jolted and jounced like it was ready to come apart, but like any Dog of War worth his contract price, he knew his ship. Noreaster fell like a comet from the sky. The enemy plunged into the next strip of cloud and Akita plunged with them. The world through the plexi became nothing but a red and purple mist.

    “Shiba, what have we got?”

    “They’re four lengths ahead of us,” said his Shepherd, priming the charge cannons with a flex of her hands. She sat in the rear Shepherd’s seat. In the mirror set up beside his console, Akita could see the sharp, distant look in her eyes and the gleam of her psychic dampeners as she gazed out past the walls of the cockpit and into the skies beyond. It was said that a well-bred Shepherd at their peak could see a stretch of sky ten miles out from their starting point. Shiba was a fourth season vet, like Akita, and very close to it. “Three and a half lengths. Akita, we’re not maxed. Put on some thrust. We can take them.”

    “We’ll overshoot,” said Akita, swaying as the ship rolled in its descent. “I want their burners.”

    “I want their cockpit,” said Shiba. “You know who’s in there. We’re not here to be the good guys. Max power to the burners, Akita. We can take them.”

    ReplyDelete
  58. Thank you both!! So much better. I appreciate you guys more than you know!

    ReplyDelete
  59. Down to thirteen open spots/disqualified entrants.

    Thanks to those of you who fixed yours and resubmitted!!

    ReplyDelete
  60. Sorry about the length! Here's my resubmission. Thanks!

    *****

    Title: Transmigration

    Genre: YA-Paranormal mystery

    Pitch: A 16 y.o. learns she was a victim of a brutal crime before her birth, and if she doesn't identify her killer, history will repeat itself.


    Sample:

    The scream pushed up through my chest like a hairball that demanded to be dislodged. I swallowed, willing it to expel itself from the hold it had on me. But the pain was clogging my airways, and my attempts were weakening. I willed myself to be stronger, to blink away the fear that was just shown to me. The pain was too much. Relenting, I sprang up in my bed and released the chilling, agonizing scream. And like a girl who had just been exorcized, my feeble body fell back onto my pillow and prepared itself for the calm down process that always followed.

    Looking around the dark expanse of my room, I wasn't floating lifeless on the placid surface of a pool, but rather in my bed, a layer of sweat drenching my sheets. I caught a glimpse of my appearance in the full length mirror on the side of the room and cried out. My reflection, if I had to describe it any other way, looked like I just came from a swimming pool. My long brown hair was plastered to my head, wisps of sweaty strands clinging to the sides of my neck. Shivering more from fear than temperature, I pulled the sheet tight across my chest, looking longingly at my purple comforter twisted in a heap at the foot of my bed. With the glow of my nightlight, I could see sweat glistening on my forearm as I stretched out my arm and begged it to stop shaking. It was just a nightmare,Anna, I wanted to tell myself. A nightmare that never went away.

    As the shakes spread throughout my body, paralyzing me with fear, I grasped my chest for relief. Breathe, I demanded of myself. Breathe. Knowing exactly what I needed, I reached blindly through the dark to my bedside table for my inhaler. Wrapping my hand around the plastic base of the inhaler, I held on tight as if it were my life support, and brought it to my dry lips. I breathed in three puffs and waited for the pain to subside and for my breathing to become regular.

    It only took a few seconds. Five,
    actually, for me to get my life back. Letting out a breath of relief, I fell back against my pillow and took a quick glance at my clock as I waited for it. For them. They heard the screams. Every night I had a variation of the same nightmare and every night I woke up screaming.

    For awhile, when the nightmares first began, both of my parents would come in, dazed, concerned, frazzled and in their pajamas. Now, three years later, only my mom made the journey down the long hallway through the dark, and she took her time as she always came tying together her robe to cover her pajamas. She would open my door, run a hand through her disheveled hair and ask through a yawn, “same dream?”

    ReplyDelete
  61. Fabulous, Becky! Thank you!!

    Brings us down to 12 open spots/disqualified entrants.

    ReplyDelete
  62. (One of the ones who messed up the pitch--sorry! *feels sheepish*)

    Title: Hunter & Hunted
    Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

    A young Huntress defies her family when she saves her parents’ old enemy. She didn't expect to fall for him in the process.

    The coastline blurred past as I raced over the hard-packed sand littered with sharp rocks. Up ahead, a niche formed between two craggy limestone cliffs caught my eye. I veered for it and glanced behind me as I ran. The limestone scraped my back through my thin t-shirt as I squeezed myself into the tight space. Spray from the ocean rained down over me, drenched my shirt and turned my long, dark hair into a scraggly mess.

    My parents sprinted by and sand flew up in their wake. Once they neared the water’s edge, they slowed and stalked toward their prey like two jungle cats with black leather armor instead of fur. My mother’s katana, with its long, curved blade, glinted in the sun. As I crouched in relative safety with sour fear eating at my stomach, my father didn’t even have his sword at the ready. His claymore was still sheathed down the length of his back, nearly as tall as him. I tightened my grip on my own weapon, a simple silver dagger. My palms were slick with sweat, and the gritty salt and sand rubbed my skin raw.

    My mother caught my eye and made a quick movement with her hand, indicating that she wanted me to follow. I hesitated before I rose from my spot between the rocks. I trailed behind my parents, and sweat beaded my brow when I thought about the battle ahead. In my head, I ticked off the few moves my parents had bothered to teach me. Parry, thrust—no wait, that was with a sword. I had a dagger. What little I knew about fighting leaked out of my mind like soda from the opening of a bottle.

    A metallic scrape of sword on steel rang out. I kept my body low as I sprinted toward the sounds of battle. The waves crashed against the rock of the shore, the water sprayed both my parents and their targets with cold water.

    Closer to the action now, I could see the merrows—sort of the Irish version of mermaids.
    The female was deceptively beautiful with long, flowing hair, pouty lips, and big, dark eyes. She wore some kind of old-fashioned dress, the crimson fabric rich and satiny.

    The male, too, had the illusion of being young and handsome with a lean, muscular frame. His face looked like it belonged on the cover of GQ—the better to draw in his unsuspecting victims. I wondered how many innocent humans the two of them had killed.

    My mother battled the female while my father fought the male. The merrows both fought with faerie-forged swords, ones whose blades glowed with a bluish tint. Mom twisted and turned, flipped and dodged to avoid injury. It was difficult to track all her movements with my eyes. The merrow was nearly as fast, mirroring Mom’s every move. She flashed sharp shark-like teeth as her sword met my mom’s.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Aw, now I forgot to format it pretty!

    ReplyDelete
  64. Thanks, Jessica! No worries about formatting. I'm changing that a bit anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  65. TITLE: DARKLING
    GENRE: YA Fantasy
    WORD COUNT 68,000

    TWITTER PITCH: Taela is determined to kill the man responsible for her sister’s death, even if the rest of the kingdom believes he’s a hero.

    FIRST 500 WORDS:

    CHAPTER ONE
    THE RENEGADE

    The heavy stoneware crock slipped from Taela’s hands and shattered on the dirt floor with a crash. She jumped back with a gasp as shards of pottery and summerbeans scattered at her feet. This was the last thing she needed. (ital.) Blast it! I probably just woke the whole village. (ital.) She grabbed her pack and scrambled toward the weathered door. Too late. Footsteps approached from the other side. She moved deeper into the shadows and ducked behind a barrel.

    Blood rushed in Taela’s ears. Ribbons of moonlight shone through the slats of the storage shed and fell across the casks, barrels and crates stacked around her. The sour smell of vinegar from the shattered crock overpowered the scents of aging wood and hay.

    The wooden handle turned and the door inched open. Taela hunched into the shadows, holding her breath. A figure wearing a white nightdress entered. She turned and flickering light from the candle she carried illuminated her face. (ital.) Selita. (ital.) Long brown hair hung loose around her shoulders, and in her other hand, she carried a wooden spoon as if it were a club. Misshapen shadows cast by the candle danced on the walls.

    Taela shifted to ease a cramp in her calf and her boot scuffed the hard-packed dirt. Selita turned toward the sound. “Who’s there? Show yourself or I’ll let in the dogs.” A bluff. (ital)If those dogs were here they’d be yapping their heads off. (ital.) Selita took another step toward Taela’s hiding place.

    (ital.) Malice take me! She’s not going to give up. (ital.) Conceding defeat, Taela got to her feet and stepped out of the shadows. “Selita, it’s me.”

    Selita shrieked, then gasped as she recognized her. “Taela! You nearly startled me to death. I thought you were a Terrinian raider.” She set the candle on a barrel and gave Taela a hug. “What in the name of Chaos are you doing in here?”

    “Sorry I scared you. I just needed to borrow a few things.”

    Selita released her. “And you didn’t knock?”

    “Your cottage was dark. Figured you were asleep.”

    Selita folded her arms across her chest and gave Taela a look that said she wouldn’t be fooled so easily. “Taking my food without asking?”

    “Sorry,” Taela murmured. “I was hungry.” She lowered her eyes and tried to look properly chastised. With any luck, Selita wouldn’t notice the two days worth of food Taela had taken already. “Sorry about the crock. It was an accident.”

    Selita glanced at the ruined summerbeans, no doubt thinking of her wasted work. She shook her head and sighed. “You look positively cold and wretched. Come inside and I’ll fix you something to eat.”

    She slipped an arm around Taela’s waist and guided her toward the door. Taela could have protested, but she held her tongue and allowed herself to be led away. A hot meal was too tempting to pass up. (ital) Maybe Selita won’t ask too many questions. (ital.)

    ReplyDelete
  66. Here is my resubmission. Sorry to be a trouble maker, and thanks for the second chance!


    Title: Wicked Illusions
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Pitch: When Lilly discovers that she has the ability to give life to the dead and take it from the living, she has to decide who she wants to be.

    First 500 Words:

    Death is common in my town. I don't mean it in the context of the old saying, 'everybody is eventually going to die someday'. In Ironbrook, it's much more familiar than that. Nobody lives past their 74th birthday. Ever.
    So that's why it didn't surprise me that the headline of the newspaper was emblazoned with the words, "No evidence discovered in the investigation of over 100 dead birds found in local meadow."
    I tossed the paper aside, rolling my eyes. Of course there was no evidence. There was never an explanation for the deaths, and it had been that way since before I was born.
    They said our town was cursed; that some supernatural being cast a dark spell on Ironbrook in the 1800's. I didn't want to believe in all that stuff, though it's been reverently whispered about by everyone I know since I was a kid. My mom was superstitious enough to keep me on my toes about what she called "the disillusioned side of Ironbrook", but I really thought there was some undiscovered scientific reason as to why our town was the way it was. Except for the dreams. I hadn't figured out a scientific explanation for that yet.
    "Miss Elliot, could you please enlighten me as to why are you not doing your journal assignment?" Mr. Bowman was glaring down at me through his round glasses that reminded oh-so-much of Harry Potter's. I was supposed to be reading the newspaper and choosing an article to journal about for my civics class, but I'd chosen to daydream instead.
    "Sorry Mr. Bowman," I mumbled, folding the paper back together. "I just didn't see an article that interested me in the Ironbrook Weekly." I smiled up at him, trying to seem as innocent as possible; I hated civics and Mr. Bowman didn't really take well to me after I openly professed that to him one day in a fit of boredom.
    "Well, choose another paper, Miss Elliot. There is an entire stack of them by my desk." He crossed his arms and watched me expectantly.
    I stood up from my desk, rolling my eyes as I turn my back to him. I rifled through the stack of newspapers from the neighboring towns, finally choosing the Asheville Citizen Times. At least it was a paper from a large city, so maybe there would be some actual interesting news inside.
    I sat back down at my desk and opened the paper, quickly scanning the headlines. A tiny blip of an article about a missing boy caught my eye.

    "Local Missing Teen Still Not Found:

    After months of searching for eighteen-year-old Noah Dawson, the investigation has been called off. Noah was a well-loved member of Asheville High School, and he actively participated in sports such as baseball, football, and track. He has been, and always will be greatly missed in our community. A memorial in his honor will be held on March 15th on the baseball field at Asheville High School"

    ReplyDelete
  67. Well I feel silly. Thank you for giving me the chance to fix my mistake.

    Title: Here Comes the Sun

    Genre: YA Contemporary

    Pitch: On a tour of England, a 17 yo realizes life's better on the other side of the pond, until her past phobias arrive unwelcomed and wreak havoc

    First 500:


    “Here Barf Girl,” Meredith whispers as she bumps my arm. I jerk my elbow off the arm rest and stare at her through my brown bangs falling haphazardly into my eyes. Even though we've attended the same high school for almost four years now, this is the absolute first time she's ever talked to me. I'm not kidding. She's part of the so-called “popular crowd” - I stress the air quotes on that one - and I am, well, not. I have Krista. And that, sadly, is about it.
    I blame my nickname. And the awful Brunettes.
    Meredith has really short blonde hair and pretty typical blue eyes. They don't sparkle or resemble the ocean or anything. They are simply blue, like a well worn shirt. And she's holding out her hand to me, cupping it a little as if not to spill whatever is inside. I'm sad to admit that my first thought is that she wants me to pee in her hand. Because quite honestly, at this point, I just might.
    For the past twenty minutes I've been sitting cross-legged in my seat, my attention focused on the giant, red X glaring at me from above the bathroom at the back of the plane. I silently berate myself for drinking two diet cokes from McDonald's before take off, simply because my mom showed concern about my hydration levels as I cross the Atlantic.
    “Take this. It'll help you sleep.”
    “What is it?”
    “A sleeping pill. Duh! We're all taking them.” She thrusts her well-manicured hand closer to my face, her cream skin highlighting a small, blue pill burrowed inside. “The flight is overnight, so when we land we're expected to be alert for a full day of touring. Seeing that's it's currently, er, seven o'clock Chicago time, we're never gonna fall asleep.” She eyes me curiously. “You weren't planning on staying awake, were you?”
    “Er, no?” Kinda, actually. Not that I can see much with my aisle seat, but if Meredith allows me to lean across her lap, I'd love to spend the next six hours looking out the tiny window. But seeing that this is the first time we've had a conversation, I don't see that sort of intimacy happening. Ever.
    But I mean, how often do I get to look at the sky from above? I was able to catch a quick glimpse of the ground when I stood up to wait in line for the bathroom, only to be turned away by a stewardess with whacked out bangs and an ass the size of America. And I realized that people, well I couldn't even see people, but houses looked like ants. Ants!
    “ I didn't think so. This should help. Here, take it.”
    And so I do. With a tilt of my head, I swallow it without water. God, I hope this works.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Title: DREAM MAKER
    Author: MANDIE BAXTER
    Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
    Word Count: 60,000

    TWITTER PITCH: Megan's world changes when she realizes she's can bring her dreams to life. Now she must survive to save herself and others like her.

    FIRST 500: Snow white sand between my toes. Emerald waters as far as the eye can see. Sun beating down on my face. The warm ocean breeze blowing my hair. This is home. Not the orphanage I’ve been living at for the past seventeen years. Nothing can ruin this.

    “Oh look, someone let the Fins out to play,” Poppy Robinson snickers as she and her cronies pass by my towel.

    I keep my focus trained on the waves lapping along the shore, staring straight through them as her friends join in her laughter.

    I still remember the first time I heard the oh-so-clever nickname created by the students of
    Destiny Way.

    “Who is that?” a girl asked.

    “Oh, no one. She’s just a Fin,” replied a second.

    “Fin?”

    “Yeah, from Emerald Coast Home for Orphans, or-Fin. Get it?”

    I still hear their cackles ringing in my ears.

    “Let’s go Megan,” Mrs. Garver, the house mother at ECHO, calls to me. “Everyone else is on the bus.”

    As I stand to brush the sand off my legs, I scan the beach around me. Caught up in my own world once again, I didn't even notice the others were gone. We couldn't have been out here for more than an hour; I’m not even pink from the sun. It sucks that our trips to the beach are only once a month. Never enough time.

    I sulk the entire ride home, during dinner, and my nightly routine. Not only is today the last beach day of the year, tomorrow is orientation day at Destiny Way. 291 days left, I think as I drift off to sleep.

    #

    First thing I notice is the biting cold. I shiver, trying to contain my body heat, and pull my nightgown tighter against my skin. It’s August in Florida; it shouldn’t be this cold. Someone messed with the air settings. It’s the only excuse for the sub-freezing temperatures. I hate to see what Ms. Garver will use as punishment to whoever did it.

    My nightgown fails to protect me from the bitter cold. I feel around in the dark for my blanket, but it’s nowhere to be found. Did I kick it off the bed again? I reach for the edge of the mattress, pausing when my fingers brush against…concrete? Our beds are hard as rocks, not actual rocks. Making a fist, I strike the surface softly, then harder when I realize there’s no give.

    Shivering once more—this time it has nothing to do with the temperature—I push myself into a crouching position. Hoping to find an end, I examine the surrounding area with my hands. It takes longer than expected before my fingertips hit a joint where the floor ends and the wall begins. I guide my hands up along the new surface. It’s cooler, smoother than the floor…glass?

    Whatever it is, it gives off a reflection. Looking closer, I catch a glimpse of my swaying red hair—but there’s no breeze. The redness grows brighter, closer.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Thanks, guys!! Seven spots left. Two people have lost their spots, so hurry in!

    ReplyDelete
  70. Trying again--sorry for the mix-up! (apparently MS word doesn't count characters the same way Twitter does).

    Title: BEING THE QUEEN
    Author: Rosalyn Eves
    Genre: Contemporary Upper MG
    Word count: 53,000

    Pitch: When Sabrina Tate enters her jr high Arthurian feast, she'll compete with the local mean girl and might lose her best friend in the process

    First 500:

    I slouched down the hallway, trying to keep close to the walls and shadows. Under the hallway lights of Cedar Valley Junior High, I felt exposed. I was pretty sure my new short hair cut--the pixie cut that had gone horribly, horribly wrong—was drawing attention to me like a neon sign screwed into my head.
    I was on my way to my first class when I saw Kayleigh, the last person I wanted to see when I looked like an escaped circus freak. Kayleigh arched one plucked eyebrow and exchanged a look with the girl next to her. They both giggled, a high-pitched grating sound. My face got hot. Kayleigh’s bubble-gum pink mouth opened.
    “Hey, Sabrina!”
    I knew what would happen next. Kayleigh would say something razor-sharp, like, “Did you forget to look in the mirror this morning?” and I would pretend I didn’t care, but really I would feel stupid and ugly and about one inch high. So I did the only thing I could think of. I turned around, fled down the hall, and slid into the nearest bathroom. I heard Kayleigh yell something at my back, but my shoes were squeaking so loudly that I couldn’t understand it.
    For the record, I don’t usually hide in bathrooms. I’m much better at hiding in plain sight. I guess you could say I’ve perfected the art of not-getting-noticed, a talent that was going to be seriously challenged by the bush on the top of my head.
    Once I was safely in the corner stall, I started to think. Hiding was a stupid idea. Not only was I going to be late to English, but I’d messed up goal number two for this year.
    I like goals. They make my life seem safe and controllable. This year, I had five of them. Except for the last one, these are the same goals I made last year (which says something about how successful I was).
    1. Actually talk to Jameson Bradley.
    2. Stop being intimidated by Kayleigh.
    3. Make friends (besides Julie).
    4. Find something I’m good at, so mom and dad won’t keep comparing me to Audrey.
    5. Survive eighth grade.
    I was pretty sure I could handle the last one. It’s the others I wasn’t so sure about. And hiding in the bathroom wasn’t a very promising start.
    When the bell rang, I banged my way out of the bathroom stall and ran down the hallway to class. By the time I got to class, I was out of breath and sweating. Great. I pushed the door open and stopped, staring into the room. Ms. Dean was standing up front, her curly brown hair pulled back under a conical princess hat and wearing a long blue dress with a gold belt slung low around her hips. She looked like she had stepped out of a children’s illustrated book of the Middle Ages.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Thank you! Six spots left! Deja vu! :)

    ReplyDelete
  72. 
Twitter pitch: Lucy has to explain the accident that killed her parents or she'll lose her mind–if she does, she'll lose the only person who loves her.


    First 500 words: The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide.

    

Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I can’t think, can’t make sense of the darkness threatening to drown me. 



    Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into. 
The ground? Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of… gas?

    Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.



    Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.
    


    A taillight.



    I let my throbbing head drop as a reward, a surge of relief passing through me at this small achievement. It’s a taillight. But why is it there? What is there? And if that’s there, where am I? The questions whirl dizzying circles around my skull.

    My eyes fix on the taillight, broken I realize, staring into it as if hypnotized. That’s why it’s brighter at one end.



    More light. White this time, sweeping in an arc across me. I blink, dazzled by the flood of brightness. All around me I see fragments glinting in the beam, tiny jewels strewn across the road. The yellow line is inches from my nose. Why am I lying in the middle of the road?
    

Ghostly music drifts in my direction. A song I know, an oldie, The Beach Boys. It makes no sense here, must be in my head. I try to drag my other arm forward, wanting to raise myself onto my elbows for a better perspective. It won’t move. Pain rocks through my shoulder, my chest and courses up my neck to my still-aching head. The heavy, metallic scent of blood hangs over me. When I glance back down, I see the yellow line is smeared red.



    The slamming of a car door breaks through the dull thumping in my skull, chases the music away for a moment. Footsteps scuff across the gravel, heading away from where I lie.



    Thanks for the second chance!

    ReplyDelete
  73. Title: Erth Won
    Gengre: Upper MG fantasy

    Pitch:
    A Boy Scout races bullies and a jealous alter-ego to save a broken Heartland from towbackhoes and worse pun-ishments before all die in vein.

    timestamp: https://twitter.com/#!/SherAHart/status/131403891517554688

    500 words:

    Light flashed down onto the snowy canyon trail, shooting straight through Morgan’s glasses into his brain. Looking up, he pinpointed the source before it disappeared from between two boulders far up the southern mountainside. The urge to investigate—alone—was so strong he couldn’t resist turning uphill, away from the other Boy Scouts hiking down towards the trailhead.

    “Where you going?” his best friend asked. At age 14, Loa was big even for a Polynesian.

    “I—,” the words stuck; “gotta—,” his face flushed with effort. “Crap!” He rolled his eyes. That wasn’t even close to what he meant.

    Loa laughed. “Oh. That’s never left you tongue tied before. I’ll wait here.” He put down his pack on a boulder beside the trail. For him, the ground was a long reach.

    Morgan felt heavier instead of lighter as he put his own pack down. He’d never hidden anything from Loa since they met at scout camp two years ago. Why test 200 pounds worth of muscle bound honesty? Mystified by his actions, he knew something very strange gripped him to pull him up through leafless trees and brush, over slippery logs and around rocks. No deceit was worth losing Loa’s friendship, yet Morgan couldn’t stop.

    Reaching the boulders, he stopped to catch his breath. Loa stood below like a sentinel on guard. Sure, Morgan’s wimpy dishwater blond curls and pointy ears made him a bully’s target at school, but he shouldn’t need protection here. The flash likely came from harmless ice melting in the first warm afternoon sun after a long Utah winter.

    Gulping in the fresh mountain air, Morgan waved and wiggled his ears for laughs—their only good point. Bullies called him “Ear fart” instead of Earhart when Loa wasn’t around.

    Then he climbed around the waist high boulders. His boots sank into soft mud where a circle of snow had melted behind them. Between the stones, a glint came from deep within a pile of debris. Morgan used a stick to pry out a thumb length rock crystal, a clear column two inches around with six sides smooth enough to pass as gem facets.

    The crystal warmed and rainbow colors swirled within as if it were alive, a mesmerizing display. He almost dropped it when a scene formed inside—a violent world with a violet sky. Amid a stormy sea, a green heart shaped continent trembled. Its V-shaped cleft tore down to the heart’s lower point, creating a reverse continental divide. White stuff spilled out of the ragged rift—poison, since everything it touched died. Black spots cankered the strange landscape as the black and white disasters turned red all over. Bad news came in threes—and trees—when fires burned the forests down.

    The crystal grew hot.

    Was it a distress message?

    Frozen in shock, Morgan would have dropped it, except it stuck to his palm. His feet stuck too as the warm mud began to sink.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Title: OPEN EYES
    Genre: YA Epic Fantasy

    Pitch: White witch, Kenna, is running for her life in a kingdom at war against magic. But how can she keep her secret while living in the castle?

    First 500 Words:


    My feet flew across the ground, oblivious to the sand and rocks beneath them. Ahead of me, my clan’s stone shelter caved in on itself, in ruins. Bodies scattered the ground outside the entrance, cold bodies of the knights who’d attacked my clan. No visible movement came from inside the shelter, and my heartbeat quickened at the stillness. I prayed silently to God as the scene grew steadily closer, pleading that my clan family was all right—

    I stumbled through the door, tripping over a knight’s arm. My bag fell to my side and I stopped short.

    They were all dead.

    A sob escaped my throat and I collapsed to the ground. No, no, no…

    Elizabeth. The woman who’d raised me as her own daughter lay a few feet away, a victim of the king’s ‘Great War’—the Slaughters. Her eyes stared blankly into the stars through the fallen ceiling. I crawled over the bodies separating us and took her lifeless body in my shaking arms. Not Elizabeth…

    A seal barked on the beach, but my wails drowned the noise. Though Elizabeth’s dress was stained red, my skirt remained free of blood. It was dry—she’d been dead at least a day. A whole day. And I hadn’t been here.

    I took a deep breath and glanced around the room. Everything was gone. Our cauldrons, candles, talismans, even our cooking pots. What was once a home was now a burial chamber—four thick, crumbling stone walls surrounding this massacre. Their deaths wouldn’t be remembered, forgotten, or even noticed. All we’d had was each other.

    But now I was alone.

    I lowered Elizabeth gently to the ground, my sobs still coming in spurts. Numbly, I reached for my bag and emptied the contents onto the dirt floor. The herbs and plants I’d gathered for the green witches seemed insignificant now, those three days traveling wasted time. I could have spent them at home, with my family—

    But I would see them again. I lifted my thoughts to the heavens, thanking God for my gift as a white witch. I took the fourteen summoning candles I’d traveled with from the pile, setting them up in a circle on the bare earth. Once the runes were in the correct order, I stood in the center and traced a pentagram against my chest, chanting the Sacred Words of Passage. The candles lit, illuminating the mutilated, decaying bodies around me, and my stomach flipped horribly. I raised my eyes heavenward.

    “Do you desire to speak among the Saved or the Lost?” came the familiar whisper in my mind.

    “The Saved,” I breathed.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Thanks, Kate! You're in.

    Sher, please accept my apologies. I made a mistake on yours and it's fine as it is.

    There are four spots left.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Oops, three spots now. Tiffany, you're in!

    ReplyDelete
  77. Pitch: Everyone remembers Helen of Troy's love story but her sister Klytemnestra has a story of her own. Klytie loves a madman.
    TITLE: Mystique
    Genre: Historical fiction

    First 500 Words:
    When Tantalus sinned, the earth rent itself in two and Tantalus fell through the crack to Hades. When Pelops and Hippodamaia sinned, the waters were disgusted by the blood that ran into them and no water has flowed in Mycenae since. When Aerope betrayed her husband, Heaven cried and when Atreus carried out his revenge, the sun turned away in horror, and changed its course so that never again would it be forced to shine on Mycenae. When Thyestes continued the cycle of vengeance, breeding a monster like no other, innocence fled Mycenae forever.
    Now all of the old line are dead but the curse still looms over the House of the Axe, thrusting the remaining generation into the same cycle of sin. I am not of Mycenae. I do not bear the mark of evil. At least…there was a time when I didn’t. But things changed. Time passed. Thyestes’ beautiful monster wormed its way into my heart and with it came the curse.

    There was a time when I could have made my own decisions, taken control of my own destiny. But those days are over and I can do nothing but wait for the consequences of my choices.

    There are days when I feel that I can cheat Fate. If I played this card that way, made that decision, the curse would not fully reach me and I would not be consumed like the previous generations. But no one escapes Mycenae. No one escapes the curse.
    We walk out the House of the Axe’s front door to our various destinations and feel free…but eventually, the curse will draw us back, pull us into the web of evil and the door of the Slaughter-House will close forever.

    So be it. As I killed, so I will die. Yes… Death, I can accept. But not oblivion. I will not allow my name to fade with my body when my bones turn to dust. I have gone too far, done too much, ever to accept such a fate. When the spirits of past victims walk the halls of the House of the Axe, singing of former inhabitants and their fates, they will have to sing of me as well. For I am Klytemnestra, lover of Aegisthus, and ruler of Mycenae.

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  78. Hey guys. My twitter pitch has a typo, I seriously have no idea how it got there, and it's driving me insane. Mind if I fix it and repost?

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  79. Hey Jani, no problem. The contest is still open. Just delete your original post if you could. Thanks!

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  80. Thank you so much.


    Title: She Knows Death
    Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

    Twitter pitch: Kaila must keep herself alive long enough to save innocents around her from an untimely death, while the murderer constantly changes faces.


    The cold steel of the knife cutting into my side was what made me realize this was really happening.

    Frozen with shock, I stared down at the crimson stain as it spread through the white shirt I wore. To think I’d originally come here to ask forgiveness for not making it in time knowing I wouldn’t have been able to do anything anyway. I needed to apologize.

    His name was Landon, and the way he looked at me like I wasn’t really there, made my heart beat faster with fear. He took a step back and dropped the steak knife to the floor. The blade, painted red, made a mess where it landed, flecks of blood splattering this jeans and sneakers.

    “You were the closest. You should have saved him,” Landon said with cold detachment while wiping a stained hand down the side of his jeans. “My best friend is dead and somebody has to take responsibility for it.”

    His face said that I was nobody and good for him that he didn’t know or care about me.

    I stood frozen with shock and all I could think about was that he had stabbed me twice and my legs weren’t working like they should. Instead of helping, he just stood across from me next to the bloody knife and kept on wiping his hand against his jeans, the action somehow clinical.

    I saw stone cold in his eyes, maybe a hint of madness, and wondered if he had any awareness of the situation.

    Blood seeped through my fingers, and I wondered why I didn’t feel anything, but pushed the thought from my mind. All I knew was that he was grieving so badly that he needed to physically exert it, and by coming here I had given him what he wanted. And ultimately the coldness in his gray eyes undid me.

    The event he referred to replayed in my head, as clear as when it had happened.
    We had been in the middle of a busy street pavement, bright lights illuminating the night and skyscrapers surrounding us.
    Landon’s best friend had walked into oncoming traffic while he’d watched, while I’d run towards his friend with everything I had in me.

    My fingers had brushed the back of his shirt with the intention of grabbing onto it and pulling him backwards out of the way.
    But I hadn’t made it in time.
    I’d known he was about to die and hadn’t acted soon enough.

    Right in front of my eyes, a taxi had slammed into him, and I watched as he flipped into the air and landed a few feet away in a tangle of arms and legs. The back window of the vehicle had shown me what looked like a tiny old man, smiling and wiggling his fingers at me in a taunting wave. This was Night’s doing, what I’d just seen evidence enough, and the sight alone gave me chills.

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  81. Great! Still got TWO open spots, people! Check your twitter pitch to make sure you're still in it to win it!

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  82. Hi! Thanks for the chance to resubmit, I hope I'm in time!


    Title: Legacy
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    Pitch: In a family of witches, Danni is ordinary. But when a sorcerer targets her brother, she must destroy the spell killing him-- or die trying.

    Danielle hooked an arm in the railing behind her, and closed her eyes as her breakfast threatened to make an unwelcome reappearance. Funny, she’d never had vertigo before. Then again, she’d never contemplated jumping out a two-story building either.

    Her hand sought the comfort of her mother’s bracelet. At her touch, the runes etched on the metal lit up, green and comfortingly familiar. The magic stored inside, her mother’s magic, felt different though. On edge. Like a knife balanced on its point, about to tip over.

    Much like the way she teetered on the edge of her room’s balcony.

    Danielle blew out her breath and held the image of a shield in her mind. The bracelet slowly warmed against her skin – reluctant, a warning. The shield obediently appeared around her, encasing her in a bubble of green-tinted energy, before the color faded.

    She couldn’t stand here forever. Jamie was bound to come looking for her, and then she’d have to explain why his sister was hanging on the wrong side of her balcony’s railing. She couldn’t imagine that conversation going well. Or ending up anywhere but in some shrink’s office.

    But she wasn’t suicidal. Just desperate.

    Today, she’d be eighteen. No one over the age of eighteen had ever received their powers. She doubted she’d be the exception.

    Today, she’d be ordinary.

    Her mother’s bracelet would be the only spark of magic left to her. And what use was a shield against sorcerers who could start storms and kill with a word?

    Who would avenge her mother’s memory then?

    No, this was the only way. Her last chance to awaken her magic before the dreaded deadline.
    Danielle took a deep breath, supplying her body with air and courage, and let her hold on the handrail slacken.

    “Danielle!”

    With a gasp, she scrambled for the handrail. Her hand closed around it, but by then it was too late – Jamie had already finished tracing his bindrune. It flared to life as he anchored it, blue flames dancing in the air.

    Her heart skipped a beat. The Summoning Rune.

    “No!” she cried as Jamie’s magic collided with her shield, an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

    The air sizzled as the shield deflected Jamie’s Summoning Rune and vanished. She barely had time to see her brother’s eyes widen in horror before the shock of the battling spells wrenched her from the railing and sent her hurtling.

    She squeezed her eyes shut and cast her mind inward. She could feel her magic on the edge of her consciousness, enticing and vast and ever out of reach. No matter what she’d done, how hard she’d tried to grab it before, it always slipped away. Like dreams upon waking. This time was no different.

    She hit the ground on her back and rolled a few times, before coming to a stop. For a second, she couldn’t feel anything. Then came the pain.

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  83. Looks just right, Sara! Thanks so much!!

    We're waiting on one more person, either to resubmit (if you got a note from Michelle) or to submit a brand new one. ONE SPOT LEFT and we'll have fifty for our Mystery Agent. Thanks, guys!!

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  84. Title: Memoirs of Daniel
    Genre: High-End Fantasy/Dark Romance

    Twitter Pitch: In Daniel's world, love is dangerous. Every Angel that's been in love has become one of the Fallen.

    First 500 words:



    After fighting to keep away from a woman named Helene, Daniel found himself at the Temple of the Gardens, sitting on the white marble ground with his legs folded together. It was always hardest to stay away from those that did not merit the purification of their souls. He craved for them to understand, to accept, that they could be cleansed and live in the Kingdom of Araboth. However, just then he ventured that Abaddon was inflicting torture onto the woman, making her truly pay for her sins. It was all strange, Daniel thought, how these Angels renounced the faith, but still worked to maintain its balance. They hated Araboth and all that it stood for, and yet they would steal away the souls of those who did not belong in there.

    Helene, the woman that Daniel forced himself to keep from saving, had killed her child, only three months old, by drowning it in the bathtub. She claimed to the humans who arrested her that the “demons” forced her to do it, but in her heart, she acknowledged that she could not handle the pressure of children. Daniel was disgusted by Abaddon, his Fallen brother, attempting to coax him into participating in their heinous traditions.

    “You aren’t going to stay and watch?” Abaddon had taunted darkly as he gripped the black soul. “She deserves it, you know, for killing her own young.”

    Daniel slowly held his hand up toward Helene. He hoped for a sign that he could save her from this fate. There was nothing to abjure her, no spot of light trapped within her soul. He closed his eyes and shook his head, ignoring the tittering, sinister laughter of Abaddon. “There is no purity in her. My work is done.”

    He left quickly. Daniel had to admit that the woman deserved what she got from the Fallen. And he would like to know that she was sufficiently punished. But, he was not one of cold and dark heart; he could not administer or watch such a horrendous act.

    A strong hand pressed into Daniel’s shoulder, but he did not have to turn to know who had placed it there. Her very essence was intoxicating. Her fragrance was naturally calming. She caused him to immediately lose thoughts of Helene.

    “I can feel your sorrow from across the gardens,” her soft voice filled his ears and he relaxed even further. “Is it another human? Why do you let them bother you?”

    Daniel blew out a steady jet of breath. “No one can understand, Iridessa. For millions of years, I’ve felt their suffering. I’ve taken it with me. Inside of me.”

    Iridessa removed her hand from his shoulder and joined him in a sitting position. The loss of her touch caused Daniel to feel a pang of guilt for his sharp tone. “Why do you want to save them all?”

    “Not all of them,” he said firmly. “I want only the ones that are good enough. But, they... shouldn’t be allowed to-”

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  85. Title: The Baron Planes
    Genre: Paranormal

    Pitch: A chance encounter not only rekindles Chris' passion for the paranormal but opens up the gateway to the dead.

    The visibility down the secluded lanes, despite the windscreen wipers lashing away the heavy droplets of rain, was horrendous. There were no street lights. Turns were almost impossible to foresee as midnight drew ever closer. He was more than likely going to be late he mused as he repeatedly drummed his index finger on the steering wheel.
    As he drove without abandon down what were familiar twists and turns he felt the urge to call his sister, just to hear her reassurances he wasn‘t out of his depth. More to the point, he was in the dark as to how events had transpired to lead him to some radio station in the arse-end of nowhere for a midnight discussion on the paranormal with his old professor and mentor, Dr. James Huntley.
    Blaring lights from an oncoming car caused a reckless swerve, clashing with overhanging branches from a tilting tree.
    ‘Bloody idiot!’ he scowled between gritted teeth whilst cornering into what could only be described as the safe haven of a main road.
    He felt in his jeans pocket for his mobile phone just as it began to ring.
    ‘As if she knew…’ he grimaced whilst battling to get the phone out from its restricted confines; he gazed at the caller knowing who it was.
    ‘I take it you’re on the road now, Chris?’ questioned the voice of his sister.
    ‘You know me, Jenny!’ he replied with unnatural bouyancy ‘I’ll be there before it starts, that’s for sure.’
    There was an uncharacteristic moment of silence before Jennifer spoke again.
    ‘I… I appreciate you doing this.’ Jenny voiced a little too flatly by her standards.
    ‘I’m hardly what you’d call an expert in the paranormal field but I’ll give it my best shot. Besides, Dr. Huntley’s gonna be there so it’ll hardly be a debate - more like a pleasant chat between old friends… right?’ Chris questioned as he turned off into a large business park, rubbing his bleary eyes.
    ‘I might have made a slight… error, with the-’
    ‘Jenny!’ growled Chris with a look of resignation on his face ‘What haven’t you told me?’
    ‘I… I’m really sorry. I doubt you’ll help me out again after this.’ Jennifer uttered in defeat ‘It’s not going to be James.’
    ‘Has to be - I mean… she’s not!’ Chris fumed, smacking his hand on the steering wheel aggressively ’Vanessa, right?’ he concluded by himself ‘this is harsh, sis - harsh!’
    ‘I know. I’m genuinely sorry.’ she apologised profusely ’Hang on. I’ve gotta go. Be nice to Gary and say hi to him from me? Tell him he owes me one now. Love you!’
    ‘Wait!’ he yelled as the phone went dead ‘You’ve seriously stitched me up…’ he hissed accusingly at his phone.


    As the time crept ever closer to midnight he saw the turning he needed for the radio station. Moments later, he spun in to an empty parking space opposite a pizza delivery place next door to his destination that was shutting up for the night.
    ‘Cutting it fine.’ an unfamiliar voice suggested much to Chris’ visible annoyance ‘You’ll be on in a couple of minutes. Chris, right - I’m Gary. You’ve probably heard about me.’ the man finished confidently; he was in his mid-forties with a bald head and a rather extravagant goatee.
    ‘Haven’t a clue - but a friend of Jenny is a friend of mine… usually.’ Chris ended with only a hint of reservation before attempting to shake Gary’s hand; Gary appeared harassed and failed to acknowledge this, choosing to return inside over politeness.
    Chris gazed up at the station sign that read ‘Destiny Radio’ in a lurid lilac. He sped into the open door and into what he hoped was the warmth his body needed. On that point he wasn’t disappointed. On seeing that he’d gone from a door to the studio - and that being virtually the only part of the miniscule building - he most certainly was.

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  86. That concludes our Mystery Agent contest! Thanks to all who took the time to participate and to those who had to resubmit. You guys are great!

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