Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October Mystery Agent- Submit Your First 250 NOW!


Instead of one line pitches, our Mystery Agent wants to see the first 250 words of your manuscript!

Here is what our agent is looking for:

Upper Middle Grade
Young Adult
New Adult
Commercial Fiction
Narrative Non-fiction
Historical Fiction

Post your first 250 in the comments of this post. Newbies and vets alike are welcome, and past contest winners are eligible. This contest will close at 30 qualified entries. Best of luck to everyone, aaaaand... GO!


  1. Kate L. Mary
    NA Romantic Mystery
    When I open my eyes the world is a blur of noise and lights, spinning around me like a tornado. Red, blue. Red, blue. White. The white hurts. The lights swirl until my head threatens to split in half and I have to squint against the pounding glow of colors. I’m dizzy with pain, but even more agonizing is the noise. Muffled voices and the crunch of metal and glass grinding against each other. It’s bearing down, spiraling around me and pressing me into a tight ball until I can’t breathe. Suffocating me.
    I need to breathe! My chest is tight, like something is sitting on me, and my lungs are on fire, screaming for relief. I gasp, but only manage to get a teaspoon full of air, and my hands fly to my chest. Something is there. Something hard and immovable. My breathing comes out in short gasps while I grab at it, trying to pull it away, but it doesn’t budge. The textured surface is familiar, but the pain in my lungs and the noise in my ears and the lights blinding me make it impossible to focus.
    I need to focus.
    Squeezing my eyes shut, I suck in a sliver of air and grip the surface harder. What’s the last thing I can remember? Where am I? There’s a flash of memory. Darkness cloaked in a thick blanket of white. Snow. I was driving in the snow. Then the world was spinning out of control.

    Middle Grade Historical Fiction, 42,000 words
    Stephanie Theban, sltheban@gmail.com
    “The Elders think we can do no more than gather wood with the children.” I tossed a stick at Running Deer.
    Running Deer jumped sideways and let the stick fall on the rotting leaves of the forest. Then he stooped and added it to his load. We had been sent to rummage through the thick undergrowth of the forest, looking for fuel for the cook fires. We pushed through vines and stumbled over stones. Some had armfuls, while small ones carried one or two twigs.
    Running Deer shifted the wood from one arm to the other. “I do as my father says.”
    I straightened my shoulders, and took in a deep breath. A tiny chipmunk stood and nibbled on a bit of walnut. A few jerky bits and the food was gone. My belly rumbled. I jumped a limb to grab it, but the squirrel was gone in an instant. I caught my breath. “A prairie chicken or rabbit would make a good stew.”
    “Perhaps the men will bring us game today.” Running Deer pulled at something, but found it was a root and would not budge.
    “I think we should not wait for others. We can bring food.”
    I did not answer. I took a few long steps toward one of the younger boys, and placed my bundle in his arms. “Here, they will be pleased at how much you have gathered.”

  3. Emily Bleeker
    Commercial Fiction

    Sometimes you have to lie. Sometimes it’s the only way to protect the ones you love. Like when I take a bite out of the cookies Josh and Daniel put out for Santa, then the next morning point and say, "Look Santa came!"

    Or when Daniel brings me the duck he made in preschool: bill on crooked, missing one leg — and I tell him it is the most beautiful farm animal I’ve ever seen. Or when I said going on a vacation with my mother-in-law sounded like fun.

    No, officer I was not speeding. Wow, that’s a lovely blouse. This is the most delicious pasta I’ve ever tasted! No, you do not look fat in that.

    We all do it. We all lie.

    Even God lies sometimes. He told Adam and Eve if they ate the forbidden fruit they would surely die, but they ate the fruit and no thunderbolts. I wonder what they thought at that moment. Did they think God was merciful letting them live? Or did they have an urge to run for their lives? I would guess run.

    My dad, Pastor Rob, used to point out that Adam and Eve did eventually die, after all that multiplying and replenishing. If that wasn't stretching the truth then I don't know what is. If God can do it, why can't I?

    I’ve been lying to everyone I love for the past eight months. I found out it’s surprisingly easy. Well easier, at least, than the truth.

  4. Ava Jae
    NA Sci-Fi

    First 250

    My brother just killed me. Again. I know, because I wake with a knife to my throat and the cool barrel of a phaser pressed against my forehead. Good morning to you, too.

    “Blazing suns, Sam,” I murmur, rubbing the grogginess from my eyes. “If a Sepharon soldier manages to find camp while I’m sleeping, I accept that I’d be dead, okay? Now let me rest.”

    I lower my hands and peer into the darkness of the tent. It must be earlier than I thought, because the suns haven’t risen yet. A shadowy figure cloaked in black stands over me. Silence twists through my chest. The hiss of shifting sand nearby sets my pulse racing. There are others here. And since when does Sam wear a cloak?

    “Sit up, boy,” the figure says, and his light voice surprises me—he’s a kid, can’t be older than fourteen—and he’s calling me boy? He nudges the phaser. “Scream for help and I’ll cook your brain. Now move.”

    I obey. My fingers are cold and my heart’s about to explode, but I force a slow exhale and swallow a bout of nausea. If this is some kind of training exercise, Sam’s gone way too far. As Head of Security, he’s obligated to be paranoid about raids from the Eljan Guard, but if they ever find us, they won’t sneak into my tent and hold me at phaserpoint—they’ll just raze the place to the ground.

    A thought worms into my mind and a shot of ice hits me in the stomach. What if this isn’t a drill?

  5. Name: Anne Shivelle Perry
    Email: nursetatchet1@bellsouth.net
    Title: Protect Her
    Genre: New Adult

    Oh my God, help me.
    Something grabbed Golden Alexander’s shoulders. She screamed—again.
    “What’s wrong?” Joe whispered.
    Golden’s body shook as she pointed up the staircase. “In…my…room.”
    Her sister, Maggie, pulled her toward the open front door while Joe grabbed a baseball bat from the umbrella stand and went upstairs.
    Maggie’s back was rigid, her hand poised over her cellphone. “What happened?”
    “The demon. It’s back.” The beast’s insect-like body, wings, and glowing red eyes flashed in Golden’s mind.
    Maggie tilted her head, and took a deep breath. She slipped her phone in her bathrobe pocket, closed the front door, and walked toward the kitchen.
    A sharp pang pierced Golden’s chest as she watched her sister’s back. Maggie had never believed her. She blinked away the tears collecting in her eyes. For once she wished someone would take her seriously.
    Golden gripped the banister as Joe’s weight caught every creak in the old staircase. He shrugged his shoulders and patted the top of her head as if she were a toddler that had a bad dream instead of a twenty-year-old woman. “Room’s empty, Goldie.”
    She blew out a shaky breath and focused on Joe. He wore the same expression that had been etched on Maggie’s features. Deranged. Crazy.
    The creature was gone, but once again no one else saw it. Maybe Maggie was right and she was unhinged. But it was so real. She’d seen every detail, heard its maniacal laughter, smelled mold and decay. It couldn’t be a hallucination.

  6. Title: GERALD
    Contact: contact (at) carlhackman (dot) com
    Genre: Upper MG, humorous fantasy

    First 250 words:

    A flash of blinding blue light filled the room, followed by a billowing cloud of dark, acrid smoke.


    Now this is not the sound you want to hear from a wizard, especially a short one and Gerald was only five feet tall, meaning he wasn’t very good yet. He had dreams of exceeding six feet but only the best wizards in the land ever reached those dizzying heights.

    A rumble under his feet, steadily increased in strength until the floor beneath him rolled like a ship in a storm. Trying to stay upright, he staggered to the window at the front of his weather-beaten cottage. The small hill supposed to be growing outside - to improve the view - failed to materialize. But the cotton ball clouds normally gently drifting on the warm summer breeze were fairly whizzing by. The sight of villagers clinging to structures for dear life deepened his frown of consternation. His flint grey eyes nearly popped out of his head when the village herbalist flew past his window and, as he followed her progress across the green, he spotted Lord Moleheart hanging onto a tree like a flag in a gale.

    “Kack!” said Gerald.

    “Gerald! What have you done?” shouted Colin, dodging flying crockery as he made his way across the room.

    “Hmm?” replied Gerald. The point of his especially tall and illegally obtained wizard’s hat twitched, as his bushy eyebrows bumped against the brim in a tattoo akin to a drum roll.

  7. Name: Katherine Khorey
    Twitter: kak927
    Genre: Contemporary YA

    Halloween’s over, which is a relief. It’s Sunday morning, November, a good day for a clean start. I can see the white sky through the screen door as I sit on the floor in the hallway, tying my shoes. I like the thought of getting back to my normal life, even if it will get boring after a while.

    But I can’t start again just yet. I have some finishing up to do first, some damage I have to at least try to fix. It’s going to be a long day, but, I hope, worth it in the end.

    I take a deep breath, stand up, and open the door. I’m stepping out of our house.

    Our house is the tallest, thinnest one on the block. It used to be white, but now it’s light blue.

    Inside, my mother and I have kept the black and white kitchen tile and all the hardwood floors downstairs. We did get carpets in our bedrooms. My father liked to sweep and polish the hardwood floors. He built the shed in our backyard from a kit, and hung a rope with a tire swing off a tree for me when I started kindergarten. Two summers ago, when the white shed started to look dingy, Mom painted it yellow. I didn’t speak to her for three days. Last summer, we painted it lilac, together. She showed me where to find Dad’s favorite brand of primer. I can cook and clean because Dad taught me how.

  8. Name: Ashley Walker
    Email: ashley(dot)walker(at)mindspring(dot)com
    Genre: Upper Middle Grade Adventure
    Title: Once Upon a Tiger
    First 250:

    When Mei’s mother died, 47 cats attended her funeral.

    Friends came too, of course, and Mother's colleagues from Chinatown's Cat Clinic. But it was mostly American shorthairs and the odd exotic. Chartreux. Manx. The Siamese even made it.

    The cats arrived in carriers and carts, a couple on leashes. To each who rubbed a furry condolence, Mei scratched thanks.

    The cats sat, slept, slinked between Mei's knees. The Persian groomed. The Sphinx gazed. In the mortuary's glow, their pupils narrowed into tiny exclamation points. Those yellow eyes seemed to say: GONE! After only one life?

    “Gone, but not forgotten,” the minister monotoned.

    When he wheeled the coffin away, a post-op Persian wailed — pfsssst! Bending to touch behind his pinna, Mei flooded the e-collar with tears as her eyes filled with a protest: Mother can't just GO like this!

    Cats were her calling; she was always on call for them. Dr. Jun Chang saw all 73 breeds. And not only that. People brought her rabbits and rodents and retired fighting crickets. She never turned animals away. Some of Mother’s clients didn't pay because they couldn't pay…

    Looking back, Mei would say this was where it started.

    The stealing.

    What else could she do?

    When Jun died, the clinic wouldn't treat the poor animals. No free tapeworm tabs for tomcats. No Selederm for scabby Siamese. No one would administer Advantix to alley cats.

    So Mei did. Mei became a cat burglar — albeit a new kind, one who stole for cats.

  9. Katie Slivensky
    Katie (dot) Slivensky (at) gmail (dot) com
    Upper Middle Grade SF Thriller

    Nearly every single person in this auditorium is wearing a t-shirt with my name emblazoned across the front. This might be the most nauseating thing that’s ever happened to me, and I rode the Vomit Comet three months ago, so that’s really saying something.

    “You look a little ill, Space Kid.” Lindy nudges me playfully from the seat next to mine in the front row. Despite the media and a bunch of government officials dictating exactly where I should sit for the “big announcement”, they at least allowed my best friend by my side.

    I give her a look. “Not helping, Lindy.”

    The rocket ship painted on her cheek scrunches up as she smiles. “Relax. This is about to be the coolest moment of your entire life. Take it in!”

    Take it in. Right. Frankly, I’d rather be back on the Vomit Comet right now. Free-falling in a specialized plane from the edge of Earth’s atmosphere? Yes, please. Waiting to find out if I get to live my biggest dream? If I’m one of six kids chosen out of one hundred and ninety seven for the first ever Mars mission? I shudder. I’d take free-falling any day.

    There are cameras flashing nonstop. At the edge of the auditorium stage, my family looks like they’re caught in the pulsing light of a rotating neutron star. I catch the eye of my parents and my little sister, looking for a reassuring smile. Instead, I get a flurry of ultra-enthusiastic waving.

  10. Name: Leatrice McKinney (Writing as L. L. McKinney)
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Word count: 93,000

    Chapter 1: On His Own

    Killing was one of those things that grew easier with time, that and tight rope walking. While one didn’t have anything to do with the other, at fifteen, Jay had grown skilled at both. Balanced on the balls of his feet, he raced along the length of a power line, pivoted when he reached a pole, and leapt to a nearby building. Light from the autumn moon split the darkness blanketing the roof, as if to aid him in the search for signs of his prey.

    He shoved strands of white hair from his face, tightened his grip on the sword at his hip, and stalked forward. The wind lashed out with bitter cold, cutting through the leather he wore from head to toe. October in Chicago—arctic. His boots crunched against loose gravel. No point in trying to be quiet, he wasn’t the one hiding.


    Something moved in the shadow of a ventilation shaft. He locked gazes with a pair of yellow, pupil-less eyes.

    Gotcha, he smirked.

    Caught, the howling bounded toward the end of the building. Jay took off after it. His steps thudded against the concrete, mirroring the pounding of his heart. Ahead, claws flashed and raked against the roof, kicking up loose bits of stone. The creature panted hard and heavy around a warning growl as it threw a glare over its shoulder, baring a mouth full of gleaming fangs.

    A shiver chased a thrill the length of Jay’s spine.

  11. Pete Catalano
    Upper MG Contemporary Humor

    First 250

    After being placed in the Witness Protection Program and moving our family seven hundred and thirty two miles from Brooklyn, my dad finally slowed the car down in a very small town in North Carolina. Looking out the window at the neatly trimmed lawns, and well-kept houses, I realized there wasn't a satellite dish in sight.

    I can see it now, I thought as we turned another corner. Deech Rosselli, age twelve found bored to death after leaving Brooklyn. Rosselli passed while sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, remote in hand, waiting for his new teeny, little podunk town to get DirecTV.

    “HOLD ON,” Dad yelled as our Jeep came to a screeching halt after nearly crashing into the moving truck parked in front of our new house. He'd been chauffeured around for so many years now that having to remember how to drive himself around was nearly giving him a heart attack and making me a nervous wreck.

    “Dad,” Angie, my sixteen-year-old sister shrieked as she put her feet up after the near impact. As usual she had been playing on her iPhone, oblivious to the world, and had no idea it was about to happen.

    “What is putting your feet up going to do, stupid?” I asked her. “You’re still getting crunched if dad hits the back of that truck. Only thing you can do at that point is hope that the hospital has Wi-Fi.”

    “I’ve been hoping for the same thing for thirteen years,” she hissed after she put her feet back down on the floor, “but you’re still here.”

  12. Michelle Barry
    The Alliance
    YA Science Fantasy

    Noise filled the giant factory as machines hummed, metal scraped and Jace Faulkner grunted under the weight of the work and the watchful eyes of the supervisors. As he listened, the clamor blurred together like a sickly orchestra. The workers alongside him didn't seem to mind it though. They knew there were worse sounds, like the buzz of an electric baton and the crack it made when it contacted the flesh of a worker who wasn’t working hard or fast enough. No such sound could be heard in today's symphony, he noted. But that could change at any moment.

    The metallic click of military officers' shoes on the factory floor seemed somehow louder than the rest of the racket combined. Jace tried not to think about the unexpected and unwelcome noise, or the terror clenching his chest at the sound. They walked amongst the workers, all slaves, all under the age of 18, debating who to choose.

    Jace searched his sleeve for a clean area to mop the sweat from his brow, but finding none, wiped his face anyway. His thoughts flickered to the Clanders, his adoptive parents. Word traveled fast through Renderon’s bustling lumber mills and he was sure they would be in full panic for him by now. Even if they were the ones who sold him into slavery in the first place.

    Doing his best to focus on his task instead of their snapping steps, Jace braced his body as a powerdrive crept down his assigned conveyor.

  13. Name: Sunni Yuen
    Twitter: @odathot
    Genre: YA Science Fiction

    Saskia splayed her fingers over the old-fashioned cash register. The muted sheen of the long brass keys reflected the pink of her nail polish. Perfect. It was a drowsy spot in the afternoon, and she reveled in the quiet, which was surprising considering she had company. She looked away from the register to her left, where Chloe Lim leafed through a detective novel Saskia did not recognize. Across the counter, March was absorbed with applying a bead of Elmer’s glue to his stamp book. Stamps were his latest obsession. Good. They were entertaining themselves without mucking about the store.

    She gazed down the sun-dappled aisles, inhaling the comforting scent of paprika and honey. The shelves were laden with bottles of sunflower seed oil, chocolate wafers, and loaves of poppy-seed bread. The beets and pickles glowed ruby and moss green in their jars.

    The corner of Saskia’s mouth twitched upwards. She had worked hard all summer at the till and stocking inventory to show Uncle Peter she could run the store. And now, it was actually happening. She, Saskia Brennan, age fifteen, one week shy of high school, was managing the store without any adult supervision. Once school started, she could work late afternoons and weekends freeing Uncle Peter to focus on his research.

    “Why are you smiling? No one else is here,” Chloe asked. She slumped low on her stool, legs dangling.

    “I’m here,” March said without looking up from his stamps.

    “I meant customers. People who matter,” Chloe amended

  14. Lyla Lee
    YA Alternate History

    First 250

    At the celebration parade of the two hundredth and twenty-fourth anniversary of the day George Washington became the first king of the United Provinces of America, I see a man with a gun. Amidst the crowd of little kids riding on their dads’ shoulders, couples wearing matching shirts that say, "Long Live the King," and daredevils throwing bang snaps on the ground, the man scowls up at the parade floats passing by in their obnoxiously red-white-and-blue glory with his hand in his breast pocket.

    I can make out the faint outline of his pistol from where I’m standing, but everyone else is too busy trying to see past the street corner to notice. They’re all waiting for King John V and his family to arrive.

    “Haden,” Sylvia’s voice comes from my earpiece. I can hardly hear her above the roar of the crowd. “Do you see the assassin?”

    “Yup, I’m already on it,” I say, keeping my eyes on the man.

    Not wanting to cause a scene just yet, I make my way closer to him, and I’m almost there when the royal family appears, waving at the crowd as they drive by in their convertible.

    Jaw-locked and hands-steady, he aims at the king.

    And at that moment, I see my chance and jump.

    “Watch out!” I yell, and pounce on the man. My momentum forces his arm upward and the gun goes off in the sky, causing a loud bang that makes everyone duck for cover and scream.

  15. Name: Miriam Caldwell
    Email: miriam.caldwell (at) gmail.com
    Genre: YA Speculative Fiction
    Title: Nightfallen

    The men in the clearing look lost, far away from home knowing they will never go back. The light filters through the trees casting green shadows on the ground. It should smell clean out in the middle of nowhere, but instead there is an overwhelming stench of decay. The infected are gathered in a loose circle getting ready to set up camp. Some of their bodies can barely move, the disease has spread so far.

    My father leads our team of fighters, signaling men to move around the clearing. They are silent as they tread carefully into place. We should be able to stop any of the infected from escaping as long as the men hold the perimeter.

    I step next to my father. With his hand on my shoulder, he leans in next to my ear. "Lexy, there are twelve in the clearing. They may have reinforcements." My role is to step in and draw their attention to begin fighting. If they do not attack me, we move on. They aren't far enough gone to kill yet.

    I nod and grab my katana in one hand, my knife in another. I peer through the trees assessing the situation. My first rush of adrenaline shows my anticipation for the next few minutes. A group is gathered around a small fire. The infected look tired. A few have the gray bubbles spreading up along their faces. They shouldn't be able to fight back as quickly as the others.

  16. Molly Pinto Madigan
    mpintomadigan at gmail dot com
    70,000 words
    NA Modern Folklore Retelling

    My father forbade me to go to The Hall that night.

    I listened to him calmly – he was being quite rational, a welcome change – and then I went anyway.

    The copper beech beyond the glass shivered in the cool October air, and the glow from the streetlight gathered golden in the leaves. Hoisting open my window, I hiked up my ridiculously impractical (but deliciously scarlet) '50s-style dress, narrowly avoided strangulation by my purse, and climbed down the tree’s sprawling, silver-barked branches. Climbed is too generous a word for what actually transpired. I slipped on the beech bark, which was smooth as polished stone, and, in an aerial display that I can only hope amused the lone squirrel watching, I landed in my father's petunias. After retrieving one of my black leather flats from the hedges, where it had flown seemingly of its own volition, I swore to myself that next time, if there was a next time, I would dress more sensibly.

    I wasn’t quite bold enough to swipe my father’s keys, which meant that my mode of transportation for the night would be my faithfully rusted mountain bike. I don’t think I have to point out the shame of a twenty-one-year-old stealing away on her fifth-grade bicycle, but it had silver handlebars curved like a bull’s horns, and I felt like a rapscallion when riding it, which was, I thought, worth all the hideousness.

  17. Ambiguous_A
    YA Magical Realism

    Fist 250:

    I remembered the first time I tasted lemon meringue with tart-tongued brilliance. And I could recall the exact way my grandfather’s lower lip curled when he smiled, as if he had died only yesterday. Both memories were precious and unforgettable.

    Neither of them compared to the first time I heard the drumbeat.

    Nothing ever would.


    A street musician lounged at the edge of the plaza, singing wistfully about a girl, or a friend, or maybe a car, and I wished he would shut up.

    He drew a crowd within minutes, leaving me trapped outside the throng on Chef, my new-used bike. I’d known it was stupid to venture into Venari’s plaza at eight at night, but I hated the thought of waking up tomorrow morning without fresh fruit and vegetables.

    If I didn’t cook for my brother Guster, he’d revert back to a toaster waffle and peanut butter sandwich diet before I could grab hold of a dough whisk. A move from western to eastern Oregon couldn’t make me abandon my standards.

    I used Chef’s front tire to nudge between people.

    “Excuse me. Sorry,” I said. Almost everyone met my apologies with polite smiles, except one girl with electric yellow braces who glared at me as if it was a personal offense that I didn’t give a damn about the guy’s whining.

    But no song in the world had ever given me goose bumps, or even made me smile.

    The scent of Vietnamese cinnamon, however, made me grin like a fool.

  18. Name: Susan Bailey
    Email: Susan.Lea.Bailey@gmail.com
    Genre: YA Fantasy/ Retelling
    First 250 words:

    The pockmarked face of the nearly full moon glared at Rose like the harsh glance of a warden. Her real warden, Sander, shot her a look as she shifted her weight, trying to rub feeling into her swollen, manacled hands. Rose rolled her eyes at him. As if she could go anywhere. He’d been snoring through the clinking and rattling of chains all night as the other girls giggled and gossiped. Their light voices eager for the ceremony that would arrive with the dawn tomorrow, the day of the Fertile Moon. But now, with the noisy girls sleeping peacefully, every time Rose adjusted an inch he was instantly wide awake.

    Rose was torn between laughter and tears. Hers were the only bands locked. The other girls’ were just for show—part of the tradition. She wasn’t going anywhere. Whether Sander slept on the job or not.

    Repositioning herself was more difficult than she’d expected. She ended up halfway on her side with a rock digging into her ribs. A shame the view wasn’t much better.

    Beside’s Sander’s pointy face out of the corner of one eye, the only thing visible was a slice of halfnight sky and the thatch roof of her house. Unlike the other houses, there was no smoke curling from her chimney. The half dozen copper pipes that sprouted out in bunches around the chimney were not emitting their usual steam and colored vapours. It all served as a harsh reminder for what Rose already knew—her home was empty.

  19. Name: Tiffanie Lynn
    Email: tiffanielynn (at) rocketmail (dot) com
    Genre: New Adult Fantasy
    Title: SHATTERED
    First 250:
    Don’t look, Dawn. You know what happens when you look.

    I looked up. It was inevitable. When you tell yourself not to do something, you usually do the exact opposite.


    The park vendors swarmed me like a pack of rabid dogs. Their voices tore into me, snarling off sales pitches.

    “A beautiful necklace for a beautiful—”


    “Would you like a subscription to The Vigrith—?”


    “Mini glow-in-the-dark helicopters for sale! Buy ‘em by the dozen.”

    “What? No. Why the hell would I want twelve glowing helicopters?”

    I didn’t wait for a reply. I walked as fast as I could without drawing attention. Luckily, the tiny carts were only set up at one entrance to the park. Turning into a large clearing, I glanced around for Cassie before settling at an empty picnic table.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t find one in the shade. The heat was bearable, but the sun had me worried. Ultraviolet rays plus white girl equaled a burn no amount of aloe vera could soothe. Hey, at least I had a gorgeous view...

    Who was I kidding?

    One half of the park had a dried-up garden with a statue of the plump Lady Fredericton; the other side had a few trees, twice as many picnic tables and a pathetically empty sand pit—

    Power washed over me, rushing into my lungs like water. I gasped, vision blurring. Stupid. I’d been stupid. Letting my mental barriers down was the epitome of stupid. The intruder left almost as soon as they came, but I still sensed them.

  20. Rina
    zylr29 (at) outlook (dot) com
    Young Adult Fantasy

    The mime’s bleeding eyes stared at Caitlin from across the street, his face in a perpetual smile. Caitlin’s skin tingled as she stared back at the white face. (Italics) Why can’t you guys just stay in my head? (Italics)

    Caitlin knew the boy with the painted mime’s face as Archer. Tonight, it looked like he’d brought a friend along—a boy wearing a Chucky mask. Caitlin didn’t like how she didn’t know the other boy’s name. She knew everyone’s name. (Italics) I’ve lost control of them—(Italics)


    Caitlin tore her gaze from the boys and turned to the speaker. “Yeah?”

    Folding her arms, Rachel let out an irritated sigh. “Stop zoning out, will you? I asked if you wanted a drink from the street vendor because this line is taking forever. So, yes or no?”

    Caitlin frowned as the two boys made their way to the entrance of Central Park, cutting the long line of people waiting to enter the party within and ignoring the shouts of protests thrown at them. After handing their tickets to the masked men flanked at the entrance’s sides, Archer turned around.

    Their gaze met. The smile on his black lips stretched wider, as though taunting her, and Caitlin wished he’d disappear, like he’d always done back then at the thought of hers, when he was just a figment of her imagination.

    As he passed the entrance, Archer continued staring at her, concealing the laugh behind his eyes, until he and his companion disappeared into the crowd within.

  21. Leslie Hauser
    YA Contemporary

    In order to accomplish great things, I not only have to plan but also
    believe. The bold yellow lettering on the banner overhead screams this
    at me. I'm a step ahead of it. For a week Matt and I planned our playlist, and I believe with my whole heart in the lyrical magic we’re about to spin into this musty gym.

    Lives are going to change when they hear this band. It’s going to be epic, I just know it.

    Matt’s face is glued to the computer screen at our DJ table. A
    vibrating speaker to our left thumps out music, so I yell into Matt’s
    ear, “Is it ready?”

    He tilts his head toward me. “Geez, Ivy. I just put the disc in.”

    “Okay, okay…sorry.” I scuttle backward. He sweeps his blond hair out
    of his eyes and returns his focus to the computer.

    I pace behind him, carving out a tiny square of excitement. I imagine
    the musical enchantment that will soon weave through these bodies and
    drift into every ear. My heart floats up like it’s one of the blue and
    yellow balloons covering the ceiling like a latex fog.

    Matt still fidgets with the computer. Ugh. This school-issued laptop
    we were allowed to borrow for the dance must be from Neanderthal
    times. My hand nervously strums on my thigh, and I watch Principal
    Henry standing with Narc 1 and Narc 2 off to the right. Yawns travel
    across them like falling dominoes. The newbie freshmen line the walls
    and cluster in groups; none of them dance, and the mood is more like a
    casting call for an acne medication ad.

  22. Martha Mayberry
    Twitter: @mbelec123
    YA Speculative Fiction

    Tipping my face back, I savored my last rays of Earth sunshine.

    Within an hour, my brother and I would sleep in stasis pods, blasting through space to join our parents on a planet called Stellar 3. Chemicals searing our veins. Gasses choking our lungs. Chillers morphing us into a space-icles.

    “You have your toothbrush?” Auntie asked.

    Startled, I tried not to stare at the vivid smile she’d drawn on her face mask. Gesturing to the bag at my feet, I peeked at my wrist com. 11:40. Twenty minutes until they called our names.

    “Stay,” Auntie said. “I’ll find a way to take care of you and Joe.”

    I glanced at our spaceships, perched on the runway like huge silver birds. “You know we can’t. Mom and Dad-”

    My brother tugged her shirt. “I can take care of myself.”

    She gave him a long look.

    “I can take care of myself. I’m almost nine. A man.” He puffed his chest, and my grin slid as I took in his gaunt face and twiggy arms.

    He’d grow tall in our new world, like a transplanted tree. I tousled his hair, leaving the fine strands stick up all over his head.

    He swatted my hand. “Lia!”

    Maybe a thorn tree.

    “What’s this?” Auntie plucked a mouse from inside his shirt by the tail. “I told you I’d care for your pets.”

    “Can’t I bring a little one?” Joe pleaded. In an instant, the man fled, replaced by the lost boy who’d crawled into my bed every night since our parents had left.


  23. Deirdre
    deirdrespark (@) yahoo (.) com
    MG Magical Realism
    43,000 words

    Bobbie crashed through the mudroom door, kicked off her sneakers, and plopped her backpack on the kitchen table. A few paces behind, Charlie entered, slipped off her ballet flats, and brought her homework into the kitchen. Unexpectedly, their mom, Anna, and Dad, Jolly, waited for them looking unusually excited.

    “We have big news,” Anna announced as the twins settled in. Her smile grew wide as she looked at Jolly, who tucked into one of the cupcakes arranged neatly on a plate in the center of the table. He wore a bit of chocolate frosting on his salt and pepper beard.

    “Maybe a bit more vanilla, just a smidge,” Jolly exclaimed.

    “That doesn’t sound like big news,” Charlie said.

    “It actually does have to do with what we want to share with you,” Anna answered.

    “Which is?” Bobbie asked.

    “We bought a bakery,” Anna declared, her voice squeaking gleefully. Jolly’s bearded grin reached up to his eyes.

    “That’s cool,” Bobbie said as she thought of all the yummy treats she’d get to eat. If every day were like today, her parents could open ten bakeries for all she cared. Charlie carefully studied her parents as they looked at each other, beaming.

    “There’s more,” Jolly said. They nodded at each other as if confirming some unspoken agreement.

    “And it is? Charlie asked with growing uncertainty.

    “It’s in Maine,” they said together. The old wooden clock on the kitchen wall counted ten seconds in the silence that followed.

  24. FEARS REAL AND IMAGINED, at 80,000 words, is a young adult science fiction adventure
    Peter Meister
    petermeister (at) live.com

    Sixteen-year-old Elsa, stood alone, as she usually did, outside the middle school’s front doors. She was impatiently waiting for her brother Justin to appear.

    Over by the high school, her older classmates were hanging around their cars, talking about their plans for the summer. None of those plans included Elsa. Even though she was Justin’s big sister, no one in this small town knew she existed.

    She sighed. Finally, this stupid school year was almost over.

    Elsa was glad they were moving to Virginia next year so her brother could go to that high-school for academic whiz-kids. She looked forward to being close to Washington, DC. First, it would not be as cold as New Hampshire, and second, she would have a chance to start over somewhere new. Anything was better than here.

    Justin eventually emerged from the middle school building, surrounded by three or four doting admirers. Spotting Elsa, Justin gave her a nod of his head. He said goodbye to his friends and joined her, eyeing her warily.

    “What’s up?” Justin asked her cautiously.

    “So, I heard you fell off the rope in gym class today,” Elsa smirked.

    Justin looked crestfallen. “Why does everyone know about this? I just got dizzy and had to come down. I totally freak out when it comes to heights.”

    Elsa snorted. Justin loved school and the school loved Justin. If Justin accidentally burned down the school cafeteria, everyone would still love him and agree it was time for a new cafeteria anyway.


  25. Chance by Carol Blackley and Megan Herman
    With every stroke of my blue wax crayon, I tried to visualize what it would be like to live on the real “Broadway”—Packards and Lincolns kicking dust up as they rolled down the street, fashionably dressed men and women chattering as they bustled into theaters. Papa had described it all to me many times. But in the summer of 1935, living at the foot of the Pennines, in Leeds, north of London, I had no shot of going to the real “Broadway.” I couldn’t even afford the fake “Broadway” with my fake Monopoly money.

    Having just finished Year 6 of school and with my eleventh birthday approaching, I was ready to take on the world! But as a wanderlust, at least for this summer, imagining all the places on the American Monopoly board—Broadway, Baltic Avenue, Marvin Gardens—would have to suffice.

    Papa was second in command to the managing director at Waddington, so he spent long hours deciding what card and board games to bring to market. Mama, always singing a new show tune, was absorbed in the excitement of the theater and frequently traveled to London, staying with family and catching the latest musical. This left my brother and me home alone for much of the summer. To Edward’s dismay, Mama made him promise to keep a watchful eye on me. Eddie, who was four years older, had hoped to make his own mischief and not be stuck amusing me. But unlike Mama’s current musical fascination, Anything Goes, in our house it was “whatever Mama says goes”... and Eddie was stuck with me!

  26. The crack of a whip smacking the backside of a mule carried clearly in the frigid air. It was late November 1844, and soon the canal would ice over for the winter. Everyone rushed to get last loads of the season delivered. The northbound boat racing toward Kettlewell Whiskey Lock was no exception. It looked a good boat-length closer to the lock than Clay's southbound boat. At twelve years old, Clay had been guiding mules on the Ohio Canal for six years already. No one had to tell him to pick up his pace.

    The only thing that awaited a second-place boat in a race like this was a fifteen-minute delay before its turn to lock through.

    "Make sure we get there first, Muleskinner," Cap'n Sheridan called from the stern, where he steered the 80-foot-long boat that Clay's mules pulled, the Bonnie Lass.

    Muleskinner. Broomtailer. Nicknames for the mule driver on the canal. These were the names Cap'n Sheridan always called him. Only Cap'n's ma, Ruby, ever called him Clay, the name she said he was born with.

    "Aye, aye, Cap'n." Clay lengthened his stride on the towpath, the walkway for the mules and their driver. "Walk on, girls. Let's step lively now." He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth as he grabbed the lead mule's bridle.

    The northbound boat looked a bit closer to the lock than he was. But his boat, the boat traveling upstream, had the right of way according to Ohio law.

  27. Chance is a young adult historical fiction novel of 67,000 words.

    Middle Grade, 47,000 words

    Granny’s cozy yellow kitchen used to be my favorite place in the world to chill. Nearly every day the scent of something sweet and fresh-baked greeted me at the door, and a glass of ice-cold milk waited for me at the table. But now, with cabinet doors flung open, dishes piled on the counters, and boxes labeled FREE scattered across the floor, Granny’s cozy yellow kitchen looks like an everything-must-go event at a Salvation Army thrift store.

    I cross my arms and lean against the doorframe as I watch Aunt Rose study pots and pans like textbooks. When she dumps them, they hit either a FREE box or the trash. I cringe with every clank. Aunt Rose will have this house emptied out before the sun sets.

    Aunt Lily, the beauty queen, relaxes at the table. The most she lifts is a can of diet soda. Granny used to say she’s just like those lilies of the field in the Bible. She neither labors nor spins.

    “Why do we have to go live with Uncle Percy?” I call into the kitchen.

    Aunt Lily stops mid-sip. She and Aunt Rose stare at me like I just said, “Poof,” and pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

    A brochure from Uncle Percy’s funeral home lies on the table. I stomp into the kitchen and snatch up the brochure. I shake it towards my aunts. “Why are you sending us here?”

    Aunt Lily shrugs then pops open a bag of salty chips.

  29. Raluca Balasa
    YA Fantasy

    First 250:

    The stench of fear stifled the air like a heat wave as Quinton crossed the Ascendant campus. Students he'd envied for their courage and cool, people he'd never seen flinch: today they rushed under a cloud of unspoken terror. Socks and forgotten cloaks littered the streets. This wasn't mere lecture tardiness; something serious had happened.

    And he'd spent last night doing his readings. Even when he got ahead, he was left behind. Typical.

    “Hey,” he called to a girl dragging a suitcase. She kept walking, so he jogged after her. “Hey, what's going on?”

    The girl – an apprentice Seizer, he saw from the palm-shaped clasp on her robes – glanced back at him with huge eyes. “He's sick. They say he'll die this time and...and...” She swallowed. “Well, I don't want to be here when that happens.”

    She hurried away before Quinton could shut his gaping mouth, leaving him the only static figure on the street. But she couldn't mean...?

    “Aren't we calm this morning.”

    Ah, the icing on the cake.

    After a moment's preparation, Quinton turned to meet the brawny student who came jogging down the steps of the Guards' residency, clad in a silver-inlaid cloak that shimmered when he moved. Usually Quinton would've gouged out his eyes before appealing to Phaedon, but few others on campus even condescended to taunt him, so he couldn't miss this chance at gathering information. No matter how unpleasant.

  30. Name: Alex Brown
    Email: alex.brown815 (at) gmail (dot) com
    Genre: YA Horror
    Word Count: 65, 000
    Title: ANONYMOUS

    We really shouldn’t be here. Despite all the damn signs, and how much we want to help, going into the White Woods this close to sunset is a stupid idea.

    “When’s it supposed to get dark again?” Josh asks. If he’s joking, I’m gonna punch him.

    “Not for a few more hours. It’s the longest day of the year, remember?” Erin leans on my shoulder, staring into the camera’s display screen. She’s wearing her usual overly floral perfume – which is kind of ridiculous, since cryptids don’t really care how she smells.

    Well, that Wendigo in Oregon kind of did, but that was the only time. If it even was a Wendigo. I still think it was an overzealous bear.

    But Erin didn’t become a Wendigo-meal, or a bear-meal, so I guess it worked out. She laughs as she moves next to me, not taking her eyes off of Josh. “I think you’re gaining weight, Banks.”

    Josh sticks his tongue out at us as Raff laughs. “I think she’s right,” Raff says, poking him in the shoulder. “Maybe you should stop eating so many cheeseburgers.”

    “As fun as it is to point out Josh’s obsession with Big Macs,” I say, panning the camera across the open field. “We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover before the sun goes down.”

    Josh laughs, walking over and clapping me on the shoulder. “Eliza, you need to stop worrying. Cameramen are supposed to be fearless, remember?”

    I flip the switch, shining the camera’s light in his face.

  31. Name: Kara Reynolds
    E-mail: kara.reynolds87@gmail.com
    Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
    Word Count: 90,000

    The thick manila envelope from the University of Oregon is staring at me. Or, at least, I am staring at it, trying to figure out what it is doing on my desk. I haven’t applied to the University. So why are they sending me a big, thick package?
    I carefully tear open the envelope and pull out a letter.
    Dear Ms. Claysmith, Thank you for your interest in the University of Oregon. Enclosed you will find a copy of our course catalog for the upcoming school year.
    I don’t need to read any further. This has Dad’s handiwork written all over it. The envelope, the letter, the course catalog- all are explained by the photograph of my parents that sits on my desk. The two of them are only a few years older than I am in the photo. They have their arms around each other, and are proudly wearing robes and mortarboards. In their hands are their diplomas from the University of Oregon.
    Dad hasn’t kept it a secret that he hopes I’ll go to Oregon when I finish my Associate’s degree in December. But pretending to be me and requesting a catalog from the school is taking things a little too far. I chew on the inside of my cheek, trying to decide how to tell him this.