Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Mystery Agent Contest!

CLOSED!!! Thanks and good luck! :) 

Huzzah!! April Mystery Agent Contest has arrived!!

Our mystery agent is looking for the following:

I'm looking for YA of all types, story-driven (as opposed to "lesson"-driven) middle grade. I'm also looking for a range of commercial adult fiction.

As far as commercial adult fiction, I would say it covers anything on the commercial end of the spectrum, as opposed to literary fiction. Our agent didn't specify, so if in doubt, enter anyway. :)


Here are the official rules. Please follow them carefully if you wish to stay in the contest. We've disqualified people in the past; don't let it happen to you!

1) Entries must be left in the comments section of this post (please don't email/Tweet entries to us. You won't be entered into the contest if you do).

2) Your manuscript must be completed and ready to send upon request.

3) You can only enter once today (only one project). If you participated in previous MA contests, you may enter this one as well.

4) Please include TITLE and GENRE along with your first 200 words.

Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Best Novel E-ver!
Blah blah blah blah--my 200 words here.....

5) Your pitch must be up to 200 words, but not over. Please end at a sentence break, not in middle of a sentence. And yes, 201 words will disqualify you, no matter how compelling your words are.

6) This will be your FIRST 200 words, not some random bit in the middle of your mansucript. You don't need to include "Chapter 1" as we will already know it is the beginning.

7) The contest will close once we receive 50 entries.

8) The winner will receive a partial manuscript request! The specific number of pages will be revealed along with our Mystery Agent.

Go forth and enter-ith your opening pages, my blogging friends!! Best of luck to all who enter!!

And may the odds be ever in your favor.


  1. GENRE: YA fantasy
    TITLE: In The Between

    I could always tell what kind of mood Momma was in by the type of cleaning she was doing. Cleaning out closets and drawers? Sad. Reorganizing every shelf in the house? Frustrated. Wiping down the walls and baseboards? Angry. Polishing the silver? Stressed. So the day I opened the front door to find a pile of clothes lying in front of the coat closet, a bucket filled with vinegar solution standing next to the wall, and the smell of ammonia hanging in the air, I pulled my phone from my purse and texted my brother immediately. “Get home quick. She’s Granny-cleaning.”

    I was still standing in the doorway when Sam got there. I’d heard the loud thumping of the car stereo long before I heard the crunch of gravel beneath the jeep’s tires, but I decided to ignore it today. I hated sharing a car with him. He was going to blow our speakers, I just knew it.

    He stood behind me and peeked over my head. That’s another annoying thing about Sam- for a twin brother, he’s entirely too tall. “She ironed the sheets,” he said, nodding toward the ironing board in the hallway.

  2. Genre: Adult Fantasy
    Title: The Black Keep

    The parapet stones were cold beneath her pale fingers as she waited for the night, watching the last vestige of sun sink below the tundra. The stinging wind seeped through the tattered layers she wore, but she ignored the cold. It was not the reason her insides quivered. She had stalled long enough. Father would be cross if she neglected her duty. She turned from the sun’s demise to the luminous orb peeking over the mountaintops.

    “Hello, again. I suppose it’s time.”

    Platinum hair twisted in the updraft, dancing above her head as she descended the stairs. Hugging her arms to her chest, she couldn’t melt the ice that had settled on her heart. Turning her mind from the ritual to come, she padded through the stronghold’s winding halls, finally climbing narrow steps to a small chamber perched in the highest tower. Earlier she had retrieved the things Father needed from the library. Now she paused in the doorway, her feet reluctant to enter.

    A stone altar dominated the center of the room. She gave the blood-rimmed manacles dangling from it no thought; he had never used them on her.

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  4. Genre: YA Science Fiction
    Title: One

    Most nights at dusk and some mornings before sunrise, I sneak to the back of the shed and practice. I push myself off the ground, telling my body to go weightless, and hover. An inch, two, six, then a foot. I stay there for seconds, then minutes.

    I can’t generate enough tension between my body and the air to take a step - can’t even make myself drift. I’d give anything to be able to float along like a freaking ghost.

    It’s the same for all of us. Ones start with an ability everyone thinks will turn into a superpower. A really fast runner might have muscles that can’t take the strain after a few seconds. Or a kid who can stretch an arm out really far will have to wait days for it to pull itself back into place. They get teased at Superhero High, waiting for their Second – in those cases, enhanced muscle power or elasticity - to show up. While they do, that One power fades. After a while the kid quits trying and it fizzles into nothingness.

    Then their parents ship them off to Normal High, like mine did.

    Here’s my secret: I never quit trying.

  5. Title: After the Scandal
    Genre: Historical Romance

    Some things improved with age, like full-bodied wine, fancy cheese, and well-worn leather.

    Annabelle Swanson was one of those things.

    As she climbed into the plush carriage seat across from him, James Cassity appreciated the changes a decade had wrung out of her features. Her cheeks had lost their childish fullness. Her vibrant blue eyes were sharper now and the ghost of a wrinkle creased her brows.

    The gem-encrusted necklace nestled into the base of her neck was a change as well. Nothing she would have worn ten years ago. But, Cass supposed the fashions of a London courtesan differed from those of a vicar’s daughter.

    Her eyes flared, the only sign his presence in her carriage surprised her.

    “Hello, Belle. You look well.” A bold lie. She looked stunning.

    “My God. Jamie.”

    The childhood name made him cringe. “I’m just Cass now.”

    “I see. Cass, then.” The wrinkle at her brow deepened. “I hear congratulations are in order, for your recent succession.”

    “Ah.” He coughed softly, shifting a little. “Yes. Thank you.”

    “A baron. You must be…” She chuckled as the carriage jerked to a start beneath them. “If I remember you correctly, you’re undoubtedly horrified.”

  6. Genre: YA Contemporary
    Title: Alexithymia

    Sometimes I think people take their knowledge of reality for granted.

    Like how you can tell the difference between a dream and real life. When you're in the dream you may not know, but as soon as you wake up, you know that your dream was a dream and whatever happened in it, good or bad, wasn't real.

    People take that for granted.

    What if you didn't know something was real? What if you walked around all day in a constant dream, not knowing that everything around you was a lie? Is that dog really taking a dump on my lawn? I don't know. Is that clown actually buying wiper blades from the AutoZone? I don't know.

    I’m a paranoid schizophrenic.

    This is what I've lived with since I can remember. My parents didn't think much of it when I was little. When you're little, everyone expects your imagination to run wild. Talking to someone who’s not there isn't such a strange phenomenon. My parents, historians and intellectuals to the end, praised me for the off-the-wall characters I invented and the vivid historical events I reenacted. They encouraged it.

    Thank God I’d been homeschooled all my life.

  7. Kimberly GabrielApril 1, 2012 at 7:26 AM

    Genre: YA Paranormal Thriller
    Title: The Beauty of Destruction

    I’m convinced this won’t work. Of the eight freshmen that get stuck in that science room, they chose Valerie Wittier to go back and save the six that die. I suppose their reason for choosing her is obvious. But seriously, any of the other seven would have been better.

    Just ahead of me three Lights shine down from a ridiculously high ceiling as a single cone shaped beam. They form a perfect circle around Valerie’s body. Everything else is shrouded in pitch black. The whole scene is creepy and intimidating, as if they are trying to scare some morals into her. Right now, she sleeps peacefully. She looks ironically childlike and innocent.

    It’s unsettling, really. After everything she caused, she’s the one with the second chance at life. No one ever offered me that opportunity. Instead, I get to talk her into fixing her mistakes. Even if I somehow say the perfect thing, this plan is doomed to fail. Valerie Wittier is incapable of change. After everything I’ve seen about her, I can’t honestly believe that she’ll care enough about anyone besides herself to make things right.

    Open your eyes. The Lights’ demand shivers through me silencing my thoughts.

  8. Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
    Title: Apathy's Hero

    Incense filled Conner’s lungs. His mantra repeated in his head, set to the rhythm of his measured breathing. The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. He didn’t like that something so cliché had become his focus, but since he had been there twenty five hundred years ago when Socrates first said it, he felt justified.

    A pleasant array of red, gold, and orange silk draped the bamboo walls of the Tibetan monastery, adding to his calm. His meditation was mirrored by the three-dozen or so monks in the shrine room. A pond of dark heads surrounded him, black fuzz decorating every scalp.

    He ran his fingers through his own white hair. It had been almost three months since he’d shaved his head, and he kept putting it off. That probably meant it was time to think about going home.

    A sharp crack echoed through the shrine and everyone jerked toward the noise. Conner’s eyes grew wide as soldiers flooded through the now shattered doors. His fingers twitched and he considered summoning his bow from the ether. He needed to do something. Buddha certainly wasn’t going to. No god would these days.

  9. Genre: YA Science Fiction
    Title: Sleeper

    Being dead and coming back to life runs the risk of something from the other side crossing over with you. Even with a medically controlled death and revival like mine. At least that’s what my friend, Nerissa Murray, believes. With my fingers clenching sheets damp with sweat, I’m beginning to think she could be right. I’ve had bad dreams every night since the operation a month ago.
    At the end of the bed my Persian cat, Smelly Belly, eyes me cautiously. Her back arches with her long cream fur standing on end. I hope that’s because I was just thrashing about, and not screaming.
    Dad appears. Nope. Definitely screaming.
    “Mishca? Is everything okay?” He surveys the room and goes off red alert mode when he sees no immediate danger.
    “I’m fine. Just a bit of a nightmare, that’s all.” I suck on my bottom lip and look away. I haven’t told Mum and Dad about the dreams that have been plaguing me since the heart transplant. There’s no need to worry them any further. They’re just dreams after all.
    As though he didn’t hear me, Dad strides over and sits on the bed.

  10. Genre: MG Contemporary
    Title: Pele and Yo-Yo

    My best friend, Julio, always said if he had a dog he'd name him Pele because Pele is the king of soccer and Julio loved soccer more than he loved his very own birthday.

    And then I would say if I had a dog I'd name him Yo-Yo, because Yo-Yo Ma is the king of cello, and I loved playing the cello more than I loved playing soccer.

    Whenever we saw an awesome dog at the park, we'd argue about which name fit best, until I'd say to Julio, "Ay, loco, your mom's alergic," and he'd say to me, "Tonto, Ramon! You know your landlord says no animales." Then I'd punch his arm and he'd punch me back, like thirteen-year-old boys are supposed to, until the dog was out of sight.

    On the day I found my dog Yo-Yo, Julio missed watching the Barca vs. Real Madrid game.

    He never let me forget, but he didn't stay mad at me very long. He couldn't because it wasn't like I'd kidnapped him and made him go dog shopping or something.

  11. Genre: YA Science Fiction


    I scurried along the tree branch, watching as an earthling enveloped in white from head to roots emerged from the cocoon that covered my landing pod. Water pooled in my eyes when I spotted the rooting box in his hands—the rooting box that contained my cloned siblings.

    Part of me wanted to grow thorns on the tips of my twigs and drop to the ground to rescue them, but I stopped, letting tears fall instead of me.

    My palms covered my eyes to stem the waste of precious fluids.‭

    Before this mission, Mother cautioned me to have patience. To watch, learn and to remember that if the humans hurt me, to dig into my fiber and think of something else.

    I gritted my teeth and thought about my sixth day planted here after I deciphered my first mutilation in the dead forest named library. Its words helped me respond to a female worker who had asked my name.

    “Sam I am,” I said.

    She laughed. “Where’s your mother, Sam?”

    I pointed upward.

    She touched my limb. “Oh, you poor dear.”

    I almost forgot—never reveal mother orbited this planet.

    No, thinking of the genocide called books did not help ease the pain.

  12. Genre: YA Fantasy
    Title: The Halo

    Plants I get; they have guidelines. Sun or shade. Wet soil or dry. Prune them often or leave them alone. People are harder.

    I’m standing on the edge of the Phinns’s yard, while around me throngs of people sing, eat and laugh. Kara Phinn and I have some classes together, but we don’t exactly hang with the same crowd. Well, I don’t really have a crowd at all.

    She’s on the far side of the pool and I swear she must’ve taken those shorts out of her little sister’s closet. She gives her hair extensions a flip while flirting with the quarterback. They glance my way and start laughing, then Kara’s friend Danielle walks past me.

    “Hey, Becca, who picked out that skirt? Your grandma?” She snorts and saunters past.

    I tighten my jaw, but shake off her comment.

    The Phinn’s annual Fourth of July cookout features live music, a catered B-B-Q dinner, and the opportunity to mingle with the Who’s Who in Sugarland, which is why my parents wanted to come. But I’m not exactly a mingler, so I squat down to deadhead some begonias, checking my watch to see how much longer I’ll have to endure the crowd.

  13. Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Title: Memento Mori

    On the night that Gabriel Durante harvested his two hundredth soul, he bought himself 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.

    A flash of purple caught his attention, and he turned to see a girl dancing with her group of friends. Her chin length violet hair glowed in the strobe-lights and Gabriel could tell from her hair and 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?"

    The girl stiffened, not bothering to turn around. Most seventeen-year-old 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. His ability to manipulate luck was the only benefit he’d received when he agreed to serve a demon.

  14. Genre: Middle Grade
    Title: Sciencetastic SuperGirls

    I’m pretty sure nobody’s ever gotten good news from a man with twitching eyebrows. So when our English teacher disappears for an emergency appendectomy and the new sub Mr. Trolp appears at the lectern with eyebrows all a-wiggle, I’m not expecting him to start handing out cookies.

    Of course, I’d likely get the first cookie if he did – because he’s staring right at me.

    “You never know who’s going to be out to get you in life.”

    Right. No cookies coming from this guy.

    “You’ve got to stay on your guard, always checking behind you.”

    OK, so we’ve found ourselves a sub loonier than the lady who only walked on her tiptoes and spent half the class talking about leprechauns. Because, actually, it’s not just his eyebrows – his left hand is twitching, too. Maybe he got bit by a rabid spider. Maybe he’s becoming a rabid spider.

    I get it, Mr. Trolp. I’ll check behind me. I’ll even walk backwards. Now, look at someone else, so they can benefit from this juicy morsel of very-important-advice-instead-of-actually-having-English-class.

  15. GENRE: YA Contemporary Romance

    First 200:
    If I had to see a ghost, I guess the first day of school was as good a time as any.

    Not that he was really a ghost, but he might as well have been. I’d buried him with a chapter of my life that ended long ago. Or so I thought.

    The first day of my senior year of high school started off normal enough. I smoothed my white sundress beneath me as I took my seat beside Ryan in his Camaro, pulling the visor down to check my makeup in the mirror. Satisfied that lip gloss and mascara hadn’t budged on the way from the house to the car, I snapped it back into place.

    That’s when my insides went cold.

    There was something clipped to the visor that I’d never seen in this car before, but I would have recognized it anywhere.

    “Where did you get that?”

    Ryan unclipped it, laughing as he held it out to me. "I almost forgot. This is for you."

    My body went rigid and I made no effort to take it from him. "Where did you get it?" I repeated.

    Ryan’s smile faltered. “I found it. What’s your deal?”

  16. Genre: Paranormal Romance (Time Travel)

    A reenactment ball was the perfect setting for romance. Or not.

    Isabelle fidgeted in her oddly-shaped, but oh-so-accurate ball gown surrounded by women who'd sacrificed authenticity for sex appeal. It was as if she were a dorky kid again, participating in dress-up day at school when everyone else had magically decided it was lame.

    At least her co-worker Anna was with her in this. Like Isabelle’s, her dress was circa 1834. “Hmmm. How about him?” Isabelle eyed the guy walking past in tight-fitting, buff-colored pantaloons.

    Anna sucked on her olive and plopped the stir stick back into her martini. “Oh, yes. A breech-ripper for sure.”

    Isabelle choked on her drink—they’d just been discussing their favorite “bodice ripper’ romances. She’d also discovered they shared a mutual obsession with guys in period clothes, which had helped propel her through the early stages of the strange party. Since this was the first time they'd hung out, she treated this moment delicately, afraid to puncture the mood. No need to point out they were pantaloons, not breeches. To have another friend in London would be wonderful.

    A sharp elbow in her side caused her drink to flirt with the rim of her glass.

  17. Genre: Adult fiction (women's fiction)
    Title: GENTLY USED

    Beneath the ash trees on Johnson Street, just east of campus, Hourglass Vintage stood in a weathered brick building, wedged between a fair trade coffee shop and a bike repair business. Behind the boutique's windows, Violet Turner was buttoning a mannequin into a smocked sundress.

    She sighed as undergraduates with bright scarves and red faces rushed by without glancing at her or the garments on display. Gray spring days like this one were all about hurrying and practicality, and Violet had never liked either concept. People in practical moods didn't wander into the shop to buy turn-of-the-century kid gloves or 1930s Bakelite jewelry.

    Violet bent down to put espadrille sandals on the mannequin. When she stood up, a pair of blue eyes stared back at her. A girl, no older than twenty, stood inches from the window, clutching a 1950s wedding dress against her fleece jacket.

    Violet remembered that the girl had come in just a few weeks earlier, trying on half a dozen gowns before selecting the full-skirted one she held now, which flapped in the wind like a surrender flag.

    The girl came in and spread the dress on the register counter. “I need to return this."

  18. Genre: YA Science Fiction
    Title: Purge

    The blast turned everything piercing white for a moment. Then the soundwave hit her.

    “Bloody hell!” Beth’s ears rang as she gripped the steering wheel to ride out the aftershocks. For a moment, it felt like the whole world would collapse in on itself.

    The silence that followed was almost as deafening.

    Beth blinked through her dark goggles, trying to make out any sign of life outside the vehicle. All she saw was the burning crater where the bomb had hit, the already bleak expanse swallowed by a blanket of dust and smoke. Beth kept watching for Michael to reappear, her leg spazzing in rhythm with the proximity alarm.

    “We should go,” Saul said, his breath moist on Beth’s neck. She edged away.

    “We can’t just leave Michael there!”

    “Don’t see why not. It’s not like he’s a real person.”

    She could hear Saul’s sneer without even looking at him. Another blast rocked the roach, further away but still too damned close. The vehicle lurched as it struggled to maintain its balance. No part of the landscape was left untouched by the bombs, rough craters and ditches carved like war wounds into the ground.

    “Not. Yet.”

  19. Breathe
    YA Suspense

    I try to go through everyday like a normal 16-year-old. Most days, I can almost forget someone murdered my sister. I can eat breakfast, go to school, do homework, but then something will remind me that my family will never be the same. I see my mom looking out the kitchen window—she has this blank look and weighs next-to-nothing. I worry she doesn’t eat enough to stay alive. Or I see the picture on the coffee table we took three Halloweens ago, where Daisy and I dressed up like crayons, and Caedan and Lilly were Skittles. It seems like a long time ago and then, again, I remember it like it just happened.
    We finally moved two weeks ago. Mom decided we couldn’t continue to live in Burbank. Besides the obvious reason that Daisy’s murderer was never caught, someone was always staring at us with that look that said, “Isn’t it so sad what happened to the Rourke family?” But you know in their hearts they are thinking how glad they are it didn’t happen to them. Somewhere in there you know they’re thinking my mom must have done something wrong.

  20. That didn’t move itself.
    There’s someone else in my house.

    Di stared at the cracked, wooden hourglass on the bookshelf. The trickling sand glistened inside its bulbous shell. It hadn’t been there a second ago.

    She pressed herself against the wall to cover her back, throwing panicked glances up the hall in both directions. Whichever way she searched first, she’d leave the rest of the house open for an intruder to sneak around. That is, if she managed to move her concrete limbs at all. The skin on her right arm prickled, where, only inches away, the wall ended for the world’s creakiest stairs. If she went up to check on her brother, she’d cut off any means of escape.

    Di locked her eyes on the hallway phone. And something crashed to the floor above her.

    Coby! Di dived around the corner and found her twin brother upstairs on the landing.

    “Before you go mental,” he said as a football rolled out behind him, “that vase was ugly anyway.”

    “Uh-huh. Where did this come from?”Di said, jerking a thumb over her shoulder.

    “What?” Coby craned his neck to see beyond her. Di spun around. The hourglass was gone.

  21. Genre: YA Fantasy
    Title: The Girl in the Mirror

    The two initiates stared at me with equal parts revulsion and pity. Both girls wore their hair pulled back, exposing the swirling gold tattoos at their temples that flaunted their standing as nobles of Hel's Court. The blonde one met my eyes and winced. I arched an eyebrow, daring her to utter the word lurking behind her teeth.

    Come on. Say it to my face, you little brat.

    Csuzu .

    The word everyone thought but never said. The word I'd been reading in everyone's eyes since I was five, despite their graceful manners and false smiles.

    The blonde, proving she did have some sense of self-preservation, dropped her gaze and turned to her companion. Yet I could still hear the unspoken word like a whisper scuttling through the corners of the Sanctuary's dreary antechamber.

    Csuzu—child of infidelity.

    I gripped the edge of the bench I'd sat on alone all morning and resisted the urge to scream that I wasn't contagious .

    The wooden door tucked in the corner creaked open. An attendant, the same man who'd been ushering initiates since early morning, came out.

  22. The Spark
    Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

    The phone rang pulling me from a particularly juicy chapter. I emerged from the insulating cocoon of fiction and answered dreamily, not ready to face the real world.

    “Good morning,” trilled Lily, my endearingly chipper best friend.

    “Morning,” I replied. The sliver of light seeping in through the dusty window did little to invite my enthusiasm.

    She got right to the point. “So last night while you were tucked in with three hundred and fifty pages of inky fantasy, I was at a party on the riverbank.” That explained the noise I heard in the distance late last night.

    “I went with Josie, who you should know is now going out with Keith. And Jessa was there too.” I bristled at the mention of my-would-be nemesis. I wasn’t the hating type, but Jessa Crawford sure was and had started despising me the very first day we laid eyes on each other.

    “Kyle was there, oh Neeve,” her tempo slowed as if in reverie, “he’s so cute and I think he might…” Her words faded as I wondered with alarm when had Lily become interested in parties and guys. Had she contracted something during her vacation to Niagara Falls?

  23. Potion of Doom
    Genre: MG Fantasy

    Her teacher was wrong. Not all bats were nocturnal. Stella LaPlant flipped through the notebook on her school desk. She kept an animal journal and the bats she had seen were odd – maybe a new species. She pushed her sunglasses further up her nose and scoured her entries under “Strange Sightings.”

    Her finger slid down the page. Yes! She raised her hand and blurted, “Yesterday, I saw bats flying in broad daylight. I know that we have bats in North Carolina, but these were some sort of giant mutant species.” Leaning forward, she tapped the page. “And they had a ‘Z’ on their bellies!”

    Mrs. Smoot dropped her eraser. “What?”

    The entire Possum Trot Elementary fifth grade class looked at Stella as if she’d just blown peas out of her nose.

    “Stella, that’s very … interesting.” Mrs. Smoot turned to the board.

    Stella’s shoulders fell as snickers surrounded her. She shouldn’t have said mutants. Now she’d have to put up with another round of teasing.

    “Mutant bats,” Cody whispered behind her. “You’re such a weirdo.”

    Stella sighed. Dumb Cody didn’t understand. Bats flying in broad daylight had to be a sign – or a special message.

  24. Okay, I may look like the village idiot here but I can't get the right thing to post. Here's to third time lucky. :P

    Genre: YA Fantasy
    Title: The Hourglass Bridge

    That didn’t move itself.
    There’s someone else in my house.

    Di stared at the cracked, wooden hourglass on the bookshelf. The trickling sand glistened inside its bulbous shell. It hadn’t been there a second ago.

    She pressed herself against the wall to cover her back, throwing panicked glances up the hall in both directions. Whichever way she searched first, she’d leave the rest of the house open for an intruder to sneak around. That is, if she managed to move her concrete limbs at all. The skin on her right arm prickled, where, only inches away, the wall ended for the world’s creakiest stairs. If she went up to check on her brother, she’d cut off any means of escape.

    Di locked her eyes on the hallway phone. And something crashed to the floor above her.

    Coby! Di dived around the corner and found her twin brother upstairs on the landing.

    “Before you go mental,” he said as a football rolled out behind him, “that vase was ugly anyway.”

    “Uh-huh. Where did this come from?” Di said, jerking a thumb over her shoulder.

    “What?” Coby craned his neck to see beyond her. Di spun around. The hourglass was gone.

  25. Genre: MG Low Fantasy
    Title: sWitch

    Even her mother’s best Patience spell couldn’t keep Mina from pacing her room. In less than sixty minutes, she would celebrate the thirteenth hour of her thirteenth birthday, and her magic would finally flow from her fingertips. She would show everyone once and for all that she was not a weirdo in the world of witches.

    Mina moved to the Mystic Revealer again. She didn’t want to be the type of girl that stared endlessly into a mirror, but this object showed more than her reflection; it showed traces of magic. Like she did most mornings, she first straightened her hair, then searched the outline of her image looking for any sign, small as it may be, of her magic leaking. This time she expected to see something different – a glint of what lurked beneath, a shimmer around her reflection – but the Mystic Revealer didn’t show anything but the same old Mina. Today, she told herself. It’ll be there soon.

    “Mina? Time to go!” her mother’s voice resonated clearly in the room thanks to the Close-Call spell, though she knew her parents probably waited in the garage.

  26. Genre: YA Contemporary
    Title: Halls of Hell

    First 200 words:

    “Loser.” Gentle whispers yet the impact of the words are anything but. They penetrate my body and invade my heart and soul. It hurts like hell. Little reminders that the life I once loved, adored, is nothing more than a fading memory.
    “Moo.” The animal sounds hurt the most, chipping away at my insecurities until I have no choice but to face them. I’m not overweight. It took me awhile to convince myself though. When you are mooed at, at every corner you turn, it’s hard not to look in the mirror and see a cow. I’ve finally realized a size six and 5’5 is far from the silhouette of a cow. But that doesn’t stop them. Nothing does.
    It’s my fault. I guess. I should have known better. I shouldn’t have broken the cardinal rule of high school. But I did and have paid for it ever since. It began with nasty looks and has escalated to name calling and sound effects.
    Do I deserve this? I don’t think so. For the most part, minor infractions aside, I’m a good person. But I stood up to the ‘Queen Bee’ and now her whole hive makes my life hell.

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  28. GENRE: Adult Urban Fantasy
    TITLE: Black Widow Sins

    Today was the anniversary of the worst day of my life, and I was trying to forget about it by consuming vast amounts of alcohol, as one was supposed to do. It was helpful that I owned a bar; screw needing to be sober on the job. I was deliriously drunk, and that was an accomplishment because witches weren’t easily susceptible to alcohol. Even so, the significance of this day still gnawed at me. Maybe only drinking myself into a coma would do the trick. I’d have to work on that.

    Currently I was behind the bar managing the late night crowd. As I mixed drinks, I imbued them with a touch of magic depending on what the customer asked for. Wanted extra stamina to take home to your girlfriend? Sure. Wanted something a little hallucinogenic and trippy? I got ya.

    Somewhere in the room I heard riotous laughter, and above that the voice eliciting that laughter. Xiune was having a good night for a change and had come out instead of holing up in my office. Though since she was just a head inside an acrylic box, it was understandable that sometimes all she wanted to do was hide.

  29. Title: THUMP
    Contemporary YA
    57,000 Words

    There are three really stupid reasons I shouldn’t go out tonight.

    “I’m just staying the night at Leah’s.” I block their view from the TV.

    “I don’t know…” My mom glances nervously at my dad. If it were up to her, I’d be strapped to a hospital bed, hooked up to a bunch of machines reporting all of my body’s levels and functions.

    The first is if my parents knew, they’d be mad. Really, really mad. Like, murder-me-themselves-instead-of-waiting-for-the-inevitable mad.

    “All we’re going to do is watch movies. And make popcorn.” I look at my dad with big, pleading eyes. And braid each other’s hair. Like good, healthy girls do.

    “Hailey,” he says in that way that makes me feel like I’m five. “I don’t think it’s a good idea right now.” I open my mouth to say something, but he holds up a hand. “I think you should take it easy. At least for tonight.”

    “I can take it easy at Leah’s house. I promise, I won’t exert myself. We’ll go to bed early. I’ll—”

    There’s a honk in the driveway. I flash him one more desperate look. Please, please just let me have one more night. This night.

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  31. Genre: MG Mystery
    Title: The Titanic Caper

    Savannah slung her ratty denim backpack over her shoulder and sprinted toward a giant banner emblazoned with one word. TITANIC. Beneath the sign, an enormous poster of the ship covered an outer wall of the Philadelphia Convention Center. She turned and waved at her best friend. “Hurry up, Zach. Come check this out.” While she waited for him to catch up, Savannah grazed her finger along the bottom of the illustration.
    “The world’s most famous shipwreck,” she read, as Zach sauntered up beside her. “Why does every picture show the Titanic sinking?”
    “It was supposed to be unsinkable, but it went down anyway,” Zach said. “Ironic, huh?” He pushed his Pittsburg Pirates baseball cap higher and studied the artist’s rendition. “Do you really think it happened like that? Only two lifeboats in the water and the ship going down with all its lights on?”
    “Probably not.” Savannah stepped on her loose shoelace, tripped and tumbled forward. “Whoa!” She swung her arms trying to balance and knocked a travel guide from Zach’s hand. He grabbed the strap of her backpack, stopping her fall just as her hands scraped the ground.
    “Savannah,” her mother called from the parking lot.

  32. Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
    Title: Time Bound

    A jagged scar of lightning split the sky above the castle, illuminating the dead girl crumpled at the roof’s edge and the old man crouched above her. Ozone, sharp and sour, mingled with the iron-soaked scent of her blood. The trace of a smile curved her cold lips.

    Tam anchored his feet against the slippery tiles as fire burned through him and his knees buckled. He always forgot how much the mending process hurt, but this time he didn’t know if the agony was physical or emotional. What did it matter? He’d failed to escape and this girl had paid the price.

    From his post just a few feet away, Tam watched Akio rise to his feet. The old man pulled his dagger from the girl’s chest. Blood coated the blade and slid toward the tip, dropping onto the roof tiles in a dark pool as Akio stared down at her body with a frown. If Tam didn’t know better, he’d think the old man regretted his actions tonight.

    Another surge of pain rushed through him and a low moan escaped his lips. Akio was the one who’d killed her, but it was Tam’s fault the girl was dead.

  33. GENRE: Middle Grade Mystery
    TITLE: The Curator's Game

    Trying to sneak into the Bricklebright Room hadn't been the best idea. Audrey tried not to move a muscle or make the tiniest sound. Nothing that would give her away.
    Her legs burned, and she was dying to stand and stretch them, but she knew she couldn't risk it.

    Scrunched down into a ball, she stayed hidden behind a marble pedestal, beside the doors to the Bricklebright Magical Artifacts Collection. She'd been staking it out for days, trying to get a peek at the security code before they changed it. She should be able to see it from here.

    Thaddeus would be along any minute now. He always checked this corridor right after lunch. As soon as she thought it, she heard his keys jingle from down the hall. She ducked down a bit lower. He’d be pretty upset if he knew what she was up to.

    But getting in to the Bricklebright Room would be worth it. It was the only part of the museum Audrey hadn’t seen yet. Her mom insisted it wasn’t a big deal. Just stuff like Houdini’s handcuffs and photos of famous magicians.

    Audrey thought it was more than that.

  34. Genre: YA contemporary romance

    Skyscrapers loomed below. And with them, so did reality. I closed my eyes. After my summer in Paris, I knew two things. First, I was over Spencer. Completely. Sort of. But I had a plan. And second, nobody would force me to run from the city again. My stomach lurched and it had nothing to do with turbulence.

    “Kendall, you okay?” Veronica squeezed my hand. I opened my eyes to see my best friend staring at me. “We’ll be on the ground soon.”

    “It’s not that.”

    She regarded me with her you’re-a-total-liar look. “What are you wearing tomorrow?” The ability to keep me distracted was an art form and she was Picasso.

    Hanover Academy had a dress code. But like rules, dress codes were meant to be broken. I typically shattered them. Rule bending was kind of expected when your father’s a rock star. Was. My father was a rock star. The fact he only existed in the past tense made as much sense as people who insisted the BeDazzler was a great invention. Some things shouldn’t sparkle. And the people you really needed shouldn’t be gone.

    “You realize this is important,” Vee said, pulling me back to reality.

  35. Genre: Paranormal Romance

    If I could sleep, I’d dream it was 1729 again, and I’d save April Anne Fletcher. Perhaps if I’d saved her that day, I wouldn’t have had to watch her die another thirteen times since.

    But there was no going back. No way to change the past. All I had was the future, and the determination not to lose her again. So while others slept, I searched for answers, and each morning I stood in the hallway of Harvard’s Quincy House waiting to discover if the love of my life was still alive. But this morning – the first day of our summer vacation – there was no light spilling out from under her door, nor had she answered when I’d knocked.

    My blood ran cold. I twisted her spare key in the knob and pushed the door open to reveal a lifeless room. Her jacket lay on the end of her bed, which was still made. In fact, it appeared nothing had been touched since I’d been here last night. I gripped the doorknob tight.


    I checked my cell phone as I raced down four flights of stairs and into the courtyard. No text messages. No calls. My chest tightened.

  36. Genre: Woman's Fiction
    Title: The Ironing Board

    The blows came one after another, each with more intensity than the one before.  She had tried so hard not to cry this time, not to give him the satisfaction of seeing her weak.  But it hurt so much.  Everything hurt.  Her head, her arms, even her legs where he had kicked her.  She tried to disappear into her private place where she didn't feel anything, but the blows kept bringing her back to reality.  She could hear Davy crying in his crib and wanted so much to go to him.  But she couldn't.  As she curled into a ball on the kitchen floor, she prayed for it to be over.  And after a couple more kicks, it was.

    He had worn himself out and now he would stumble into the bedroom and fall into a drunken sleep, not waking till morning.  But before he disappeared down the hall, he yelled over his shoulder to “shut that kid up!”  And that was one of her fears...that if she couldn't, he would.
    She slowly pulled herself up, holding onto the counter for balance, and everything started spinning.

  37. Genre - YA Science Fiction
    Title - The Eye of Darwin

    A deafening blast drives the air from my lungs. At first I think it’s a huge fire signal calling volunteers to a major fire but when it doesn’t stop, or even waver, there’s no mistaking what it is.
    My head snaps toward Mom, in the garden.
    Already on her feet, her eyes grow wide. She stares at the sky then rushes toward me. Her lips move but her words are inaudible over the constant wail. “Oh my God! It’s happening.”
    I wrap my trembling arms around myself.
    Mom races to my side. Her garden-gloved hands shake my shoulders.
    “Grab your things, Kiara,” she shouts. “We may only have thirty minutes before the fallout hits.”
    She spins me toward the house and pushes. I stumble, and then bolt for the back door.
    “Don’t panic.... don’t panic,” I repeat as I yank the screen door wide. Mom
    charges left, to the kitchen.
    “Get changed, Kiara. You can’t wear your pajamas in the fallout shelter, even if they are designer.”
    Without missing a beat she flings the kitchen cupboards open and scrapes food cans off the shelves.
    “Why?” I hurry to help her toss the cans into a plastic bin.
    “Just do it.”

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  39. Genre: YA Sci-Fi
    Title: AMPED

    I can’t stop imagining how things would be different, if I’d never looked up.

    The last mile of my bike ride everyday takes me down a country road lined with verdant pine trees. I take a deep breath, and lean my head back so the breeze can lift the sweat-dampened hair from my shoulders.
    It's exhilarating to close my eyes and put my trust in this rusty Schwinn and the dirt beneath me. I can’t resist the rush of freedom through my veins as the wind whips my hair. The bike takes control and I glide like a bird on the updraft. Seven seconds of uncertainty, then I open my eyes. Squinting through wind and sunlight, my house appears through the foliage.
    Tucked into the pocket of Mt. Lamborn, we live in the pint size town of Paonia, Colorado. The house, like the town is surrounded by trees, huddling like emerald sentries.
    My dad grew up in the city, and always dreamt of life in a cabin, simple and functional. My mother is a romantic and had visions of towers and spiral staircases. Neither of them could agree. They combined visions to make our mutt house

  40. Genre: YA mythpunk
    Title: Daughter of the Nether

    She should've worn her combat boots, not five inch heels. Heavy feet thudded behind her, pounding the asphalt. Her pursuers drew closer.
    “Stop, thief!” A man shouted. Omyn risked a glance over her shoulder. The guy was breathing heavily, his pendulous belly straining the buttons of his jacket, his flashlight whisking left and right. The skinny bastard to Chubby's left, however, was quite the sprinter – an android in a latex flesh suit, gaining on her.
    “By order of Lantis...” The android droned on in simulated speech.
    Omyn pushed harder, kicking up her endo-ware into over drive. The cybernetic implants, way past an upgrade, struggled to maintain the pace. Muscles burning, legs pumping like pistons, she sped off the main street down an alley.
    The bag dangling from her shoulder, thumped against her back, challenging her balance already precarious on the stilettos. The pigs were were still behind her. Gritting her teeth, Omyn forced her aching limbs in a last dash towards freedom. But her efforts were thwarted by a puddle of ice that sent her skidding into a dumpster.
    The android grabbed her, already reading off her rights as he shoved her face into the stinking bags of trash.

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  42. Genre: YA fantasy
    Title: A Single Feather

    Kila stepped into the breaking surf, letting the saltwater of the Pacific dampen the hem of her kapa skirt. A wind from the south pinned the bark cloth to her legs and sent her long black hair into a frenzy about her face. She closed her eyes and raised her arms, willing the wind to carry her away from the island.

    “Kila, where are you?” her father, Wana’ao, shouted from the taro fields in the distance.

    She smiled and ran to the grassy bank beyond the sand, pausing at the open-air hut where the family’s wa’a sat on stilts off the ground. As always, the wooden engravings along the side of the canoe transported her imagination to another time. The carvings weaved together the story of the ancient chief Akua. She traced the weathered shapes of his many forms: a shark, a sea turtle and a goose stirred beneath her fingertips. Kila longed for such a transformation. Akua’s tale spoke of adventure and freedom. She withdrew her hand and brushed it against her hip, wiping away the temptation with a sigh.

    “Kila, hele mai!” Her father’s shout was closer now.

  43. GENRE: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
    TITLE: Coveted

    Phoenix Arizona, 1971

    By the time the body hit the ground only dust remained. She clutched the empty robe, her hands shaking.

    “I-I’m sorry,” she gasped around a sob. She wanted him gone, not dead. Just gone. “I didn’t mean—”

    “Over here!” More robed figures from Libra filled the mouth of the alley.

    She flung the cloth aside and ran. The sound of footsteps rose behind her, followed by angry shouts. The figures had found their fallen comrade.

    Blinking through a veil of tears, she ducked down an adjacent backstreet and banged into a dumpster. Pain blazed through her hands and knees.

    Don’t stop. Disoriented, she spun around and stumbled on.

    The darkness at her back parted. Symbols from a language long forgotten swept along the walls, radiant as brands. She might be able to outrun her pursuers, but could she outrun those Runes?

    Fear weakened her legs and she nearly fell face first into a pile of garbage. Brick towered over her on either side. Neon signs flickered sluggishly, little more than blurs in her peripheral vision. Doors whipped by, along with barred windows.

    Keep going.

  44. Genre: Women’s Fiction

    Valene rose from the chair and pressed the button on the wall to summon the doctor. Her head was pounding and she pushed the hair back from her face, wanting to believe the worst was over.
    She stood at the window, listening to the peaceful sound of the spattering rain upon the glass as it played a soft, rhythmic melody and concluded the dismal Portland weather was rather appropriate for a day like today. Outside, two young girls wearing rain jackets and galoshes were stomping puddles in the neighboring parking lot and Valene smiled, remembering a time of innocence--a time where nothing else in the world seemed to matter. A woman motioned to the girls from her car and the two playmates disappeared into the back seat. Tears glistened in Valene’s eyes as she watched the car drive away.
    She turned away from the window and gazed upon the scene behind her, wondering if God were still in the room. Returning to her chair, she picked up the silk daisy that lay on the bed and rolled its stem between her thumb and index finger as its crumpled white petals spun round like a flickering kaleidoscope of light.


    I put the testing golf cart in park—no cars allowed in my hometown!—and turn to look at the buck-toothed driving examiner.

    He’s not smiling.

    “What did I do wrong?” I feel like my whole world is crashing down. I’ve been waiting for today, my thirteenth birthday, ever since found out I could drive around by myself when I became a teenager.

    The examiner wrinkles his forehead. “It takes one major mistake or three minor mistakes to fail your driving test. You didn’t make any major mistakes.”

    I smile and sit up straighter.


    I slump down and so does my smile.

    “There were minor mistakes. Number one: when a wasp flies into your golf cart, do not take your eyes off the road and both hands off the steering wheel to shoo said wasp out. Number two: when you see a friend driving toward you, a simple wave is sufficient. No need for both you and your friend to stop in the middle of the street and have a conversation over the yellow line dividing traffic going in opposite directions about the wasp that crashed your road test. You’re lucky the wasp didn’t literally crash your road test. Number three—”

  46. Genre: Sci Fi Adventure
    Title: POP TRAVEL

    Seattle, WA. 2078.
    Sarah fought the intense pain threatening to empty her stomach. As she pushed herself forward, the clacking of her high heels on the sidewalk enhanced the throbbing in her head. Background city noises exploded around her. Even her vid phone’s beckoning rumbled through her like a train, shaking her off balance. She couldn’t bear to answer it so she fumbled to turn off the annoying ringer. Shielding her eyes from the glare of an overcast sky, she willed herself to reach the next crack in the sidewalk, then the next one. If she could just make it to her apartment, she might be okay. At least it wasn’t raining.

    After an agonizing three blocks, the valium the doctor gave her finally kicked in. The hammering retreated to a slight, steady pulse as she reached the welcoming sight of her high rise home.

    “How are you this evening, Ms. Johansen?” asked Henry as he opened the door for her.

    “Fine, thank you,” Sarah answered with a sigh and hurried inside. She shook off a chill. Making chit chat with an android gave her the creeps.

  47. GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

    Selina drifted on the waves of Mrs. Riley’s voice as she described the assignment; a letter to the future. “I know it’s the last day of class and you don’t want to do an assignment, but when I mail this letter back to you in ten years, you’ll be so happy you…”

    The classroom faded and for a brief moment Selina was falling through heavy gray fog. She emerged within a ring of trees, landing softly on the sandy shore of a lake. A warm breeze wove strands of mist into her hair and around her legs. Selina looked up, but a wall of gray masked her view of the place she’d fallen from.

    And then something great and winged sliced through the twilight. It flew with the grace of a bird, though it was far too large to actually be one. The creature stretched out sharp talons and flapped green leather wings as it landed on the sand not too far from where she stood. A plume of fire erupted from its mouth, burning through the wet air. Selina’s breath caught in her throat.
    Is that a dragon?

    “I must be daydreaming. Again,” Selina mumbled.

  48. Title: UNYDING

    My life cannot get any more perfect than this.

    I'm grinning like a crazy person as Cam and I walk along the river holding hands, glancing at the shops and doing a little bit of people-watching. We're here on a spur-of-the-moment long weekend--the kind that makes me happy we don't own any pets and have decided to put off having children for a few years. Being unencumbered is what makes us able to be here at all right now, walking along the river in Savannah. I smell warm chocolate among the scents of river water and fried food, and my mind is suddenly consumed with thoughts of, well, consuming some.

    "Can we stop? That's fudge I smell, and I bet they have pralines, too," I wheedle.

    He laughs and pulls my hand to his mouth for a kiss in a gallant gesture I'm sure would only work for a couple on their honeymoon. I giggle at his cheesy, over-the-top moves while an older couple passes us. They're wearing identical expressions: nostalgic and knowing. They must be thinking we're silly young people with no worries, no life experience, and remembering when they were just like us, before life had its way.

  49. Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fantasy
    Title: Thunderbird Dreams

    Not that I’m afraid or anything, ‘cause I’m not, but when a high-pitched wail rises in the chilly night, I pull the quilt up to my eyeballs and scooch closer to my sisters.
    “Did you hear that?” I whisper.
    “It’s just a coyote, Christine. Go to sleep,” Bethany mutters and rolls over, yanking the quilt out of my grip. Megan keeps on snoozing in the middle of us, hugging that dang stuffed bear of hers.
    “That was no coyote,” I mutter. We’ve been in this crummy, flea-bitten, middle-of-nowhere mining town for almost a week now, I know the difference. I shiver and tug my share of the quilt back.
    What I heard sounded like a ghost from one of old Jeb’s stories. The old coot loved to scare the bejeezus out of all us kids back home with his stories. But he’s far away now and that ghostly sound was nearby.
    Another caterwaul, and I sit up. Twelve year olds do not believe in ghosts. And I don’t. I can’t. Because if I did, then I’d have to worry about Mom coming back to haunt me for what I did. Or what I didn’t do.

  50. Genre: YA Contemporary

    There’s more than one way to fail, and if you do it like me, seven times infinity is how you start.


    “Savannah Gregory,” I say as my father’s voice flows over mine: “Kaitlyn Gregory.”

    “This says ‘K.S. Gregory,’” says the DMV worker with the I-don’t-have-time-nor-patience-for-your-discrepancy tone, tapping the blue index card. “Are you K.S. Gregory?”

    “Yes,” we say.

    “Fantastic.” DMV Man clearly does not find this fantastic. “Park across from the playground.”

    I pull the keys from Dad’s hand. He tightens a finger around the lanyard. Foiled, as usual.

    Outside, early morning October sunshine hits my eyes. Cassie cut school to go to Montauk. Nobody’s in Montauk now, especially not after the first frost glazed the fields yesterday, and that’s just how she likes it.

    Tomorrow, she’ll show our teachers the photographs, lowering her thick eyelashes and dropping her voice so that it almost falls into her purple-and-green Palestinian scarf as she holds out the camera, held gently like a sleeping child. She’ll even win over our notoriously hard-ass precalc teacher. He too will carefully take the camera and peer at the tiny square representation of Cassie’s skill. He too will be enchanted. As always, she will be forgiven.

  51. GENRE: YA high fantasy

    Glass shattered, piercing the silence of night. Gabe leapt from bed in a state of panic and his blankets tackled him to the floor. Flailing around, he wrestled the material in a chaotic display of acrobatics. His hands began to sting like pins and needles. Not again!
    He froze and took a slow breath, trying to settle his emotions to keep from setting his covers a blaze. His power calmed.
    Braking free from his blankets, he sprung up, alert. What was that!? Gabe stared at his opened door, searching for signs of movement beyond his room.
    The house slept. Silent.
    Good, it was just a dream.
    No sooner had the thought entered his mind, a shadow dashed through his door. Before his eyes had time to warn his brain of potential danger, she was at his side, arms outstretched.
    “Sis,” he said, exhaling a deep breath. “Why are you out of bed?” He bent over and picked up the frightened, little girl.
    “The noise scared me,” Kyla whimpered, wrapping her legs tightly around his waist and throwing her arms about his neck.
    She heard it too! His heart quickened. What should I do? Did Mom and Dad hear it?

  52. Title: DESCENDANT
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    Tristan flung open his bedroom window. Freezing night air sucked the breath from his burning lungs. Smoke swirled as he waved it away with a handful of sketches. Flames rose higher from his garbage can, eating through his collection—drawn landscapes, clipper ships… detailed portraits of people he didn't know. Mapping constellations was a breeze too, not that anyone cared. He tossed a few more into the fire and studied the final sketch, a man he'd only seen once or twice, then let it go, tired of believing someone would come for him. When nothing but smoldering ash remained, he poured half a bottle of water into the can and kept the rest for later. He shrugged on a sweatshirt and left to carry out the next part of the plan.

    In the driveway, his mother's truck sat at an awkward angle, pinning garbage cans against the side of the trailer house. She laid slumped over the steering wheel with her bleached hair hanging limp over her face. Her jaw hung open, red lipstick smudged from chin to cheek. Frost collected on the windows. He used to drag her into the house so she could save face with the neighbors

  53. Genre: YA horror

    The carpet in the school library was rough against Erwin’s cheek, but the uncomfortable floor had nothing to do with why he couldn’t sleep. No one was sleeping. Everyone was lying there in silence, the fear and tension in the air so thick it reminded Erwin of movie scenes where the ceiling is slowly coming down to crush everyone. The only difference was that in the movies they always escape just in time.
    It was hard to believe only a few hours ago he had been working out in the school gym. He remembered thinking this day couldn’t possibly get any worse. He laughed at the thought now. Outside he heard another bang as whatever those things were tried to claw and crash their way into the locked school.


    Erwin was on his way to lunch when he saw them. Justin had Natalie pushed up against her faded orange locker, his tongue down her beautiful throat. Erwin’s own throat tightened and his stomach churned. So much for lunch.