Can you hook a teen? Teen Eyes Editorial Contest … submission post

Sweet female high school student with long hair and a speech bubble of multi language in class, studying multi language with laptop and books

 

THE SUBMISSION WINDOW IS NOW CLOSED!!

Have you ever wondered if your manuscript would hook a teen reader? We all have. So what better way to find out than a contest with the talented teens of TEEN EYES EDITORIAL.

How is this going to work? You’ll post a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of your middle grade or young adult manuscript in the comments of this post from now and we’ll take entries until August 26 at 1PM EDT. Your manuscript doesn’t have to be completed, but the pitch and first page should be polished. The three Teen Eyes editors will go through the comments and each select one winner. The winners will be announced on September 1st.

What are the prizes? There will be three (3) winners. The winners will receive a free 25-page critique from the editors. Each Teen Eyes editor will pick the entry they feel is best, and then work with that writer on the critique.

Can I enter this contest if I entered Pitch Wars? Absolutely. The critique would be an added pair of eyes on your manuscript … teen eyes. If you make it into Pitch Wars and win a critique from Teen Eyes, you and your mentor will decide how best to use the critique.

Formatting …

Your Name

Your Email

Title of Work

Category/Genre

Your 35-word (max) pitch. (Single spaced, a space between paragraphs, no indentions.)

The first 250 words of your manuscript. If the 250th word stops in the middle of a sentence, go to the end of that sentence. (Single spaced, a space between paragraphs, no indentions.)

 

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Here’s a bit about the teen editors . . .

 

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Kate Coursey
Editor

Twitter

Kate Coursey has been editing professionally since 2010. She helped found Teen Eyes in 2011, working with clients from all over the world to perfect their manuscripts. As a YA autho, her novel LIKE CLOCKWORK won Scholastic’s PUSH Novel Contest when she was 16 years old. In addition to having extensive experience as a freelance editor, Kate worked as an intern at Scholastic Press, where she read many agented and unagented submissions. She received the prestigious Sterling Scholar Grant in 2011 based on an extensive creative writing sample. Later that year, Kate underwent a comprehensive evaluation of her editorial skills, beating out dozens of post-grad students for an editorial internship at a mid-sized publisher. She is currently finishing up her ninth novel, which took first place in the LDS Storymakers First Chapter Contest. Kate spends far too much time messing around on the Internet and occasionally succumbs to caffeine-induced fits of hysteria at 2:00 a.m.

Kate loves all things fantasy, contemporary, historical, steampunk, dystopian, and magical realism. She particularly enjoys unique lead characters and morally ambiguous situations.

 

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Grace Smith
Editor

Twitter

Grace Smith is a 17-year-old who’s been passionately blogging about books and writing since April 2011. During those three years, Grace has interned for a small press, served on numerous panels and teen outreach programs by publishers, as well as edited for authors with book deals from imprints such as SimonTeen and Greenwillow. After attending BookExpo America in 2012, Grace’s desire to work in publishing led to her to pursue even more connections to the industry. While Grace currently focuses on short stories and poetry herself, she’s fervently devoted to manuscripts and the development of fiction. A finalist in the prestigious Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition, Grace studied at Interlochen Center for the Arts in the summer of 2013 under the tutelage of professors from M.F.A. programs at the University of Michigan and Brown University. She reads over 200-300 books a year but can never read, write, or edit enough. She has a weakness for books from strong poetry backgrounds as well as fractured fairy tales, but loves almost everything encompassed by the young adult genre. When not working or with her identical twin, she plays lacrosse and piano.

 

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Zoe Strickland
Editorial Director

Twitter

Zoe Strickland is a 19-year-old California college student currently living in Oregon. She has been working at Teen Eyes for two years, and has been Editorial Director for one year. Outside of Teen Eyes, she is Editor-in-Chief of The Northwest Passage, Western Oregon University’s literary magazine.

After a brief and intense tryst with Harry Potter, Zoe went straight into reading Young Adult books. After reviewing books for 5 years, she decided to end her review website in 2014 in order to fully focus on editing. In addition to book blogging, Zoe’s past literary experience includes an internship with Creston Books and assisting Young Adult novelists Sarah Ockler and Daisy Whitney. Zoe particularly enjoys contemporary novels with characters that jump off of the page and demand to be heard. Though she loves to read anything and everything, some of her favorite writers are David Levithan, Rainbow Rowell, Hannah Moskowitz, and Stephanie Perkins.

When she isn’t editing, Zoe enjoys watching British television, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and dancing to musicals.

Thank you, Kate, Grace, and Zoe! We’ll post the winners on September 1, so come back then to see if you hooked a teen editor!

Please only entries in the comments. All other comments will be deleted.

To enter, post your entries in the comments below …

183 comments to Can you hook a teen? Teen Eyes Editorial Contest … submission post

  • Christy Hintz

    nc_hintz(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Saving Noah

    YA Paranormal

    (Pitch)
    When Julia discovers chilling links between her boyfriend’s so-called cousin and the injuries that put her little brother in the hospital, she must battle demons hell-bent on winning her family’s souls for the devil’s army.

    (First 250)
    A sudden sharp pain courses through my shoulder blades. I nearly drop the mug and pot of coffee I’m holding, but manage to grit my teeth and hold tight until the pain subsides.

    Yet moments later, despite my efforts, a coffee cup shatters at my feet and hot liquid splashes up to scald my ankle. Turning away from Travis, the boy who made the mess at my feet, I swallow a swear word and splatter a grin across my face. I place the mug I’ve filled with coffee in front of a regular customer.

    “Here you go, ma’am. Two sunny-side-up eggs, bacon, and whole wheat toast.” I slide a salt and pepper shaker across the counter with the back of my hand. From under the counter I grab another mug and fill it to the brim. To the man at her right I say, without throwing a glare Travis’s way, “Here’s an unbroken, steaming cup of coffee.”

    Mr. Thomas, also a regular, grunts and doesn’t look up from his morning paper. He’s wearing a cap with his company logo on it and work clothes still covered in grease and grime from working the day before.

    I step around Travis’s crash site, that he is hurriedly sweeping away, and head to the kitchen in back. Everyone is served…for the moment. I take a minute to reach around to massage my aching back. I never had back pain up until two weeks ago. Since then, it comes and goes. Usually it’s more a dull pressure than full-on pain, but lately, shooting bursts of pain have taken my breath away.

  • D.M.King
    iteach22@windstream.net
    NINE
    YA/Sci=Fi

    (Pitch) Discovering you don’t have the alien expiration date technology in your body should be a cause for celebration. Too bad Faith’s too busy trying to keep her soul.

    (First 250)
    Dying for your country sounds so noble, until you uncover the real reason they want you dead.

    I do my best to disregard Dr. Busby’s words as the traffic swells down Route 402. Ever since he got his PhD over the Internet, he’s certain he can solve all of humanity’s problems. If he only knew how many kids have a habit of calling him Pretty Heavy Dude behind his back. Perhaps he’d lose some of his lofty goals and bizarre ideas, especially all his government conspiracies and infatuation with little green men. If Martians existed, wouldn’t they already be here taking over this lame world? Or marrying our grandmothers? Insanity must be a requirement for teaching these days.

    “About another hour to the facility,” says one of the case workers, better known as our security guards—his face nearly as white as his clothes. “Traffic’s like a funeral procession, but don’t worry. You’ll all find out your day of departure soon enough.” He chuckles like he’s told the best joke in the world, but the other riders and I shoot him a dirty look. He yaks it up with the other two chaperons steaming up the windows. I write “you suck” on the glass, but he’s too preoccupied with the sudden slow-down to notice. The five other vans ahead and behind remain at three-car intervals at least

    “Guy’s an a-hole.” A thin Richie Rich-like kid with dark glasses whispers in my ear from behind. I nod, but I’m in my own little universe— one of three girls on this transport this fine morning all because we got the call.

  • Name: Mike Hays
    Email: coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com
    Title of Work: THE BATTLE OF WONDERLAND GARDENS
    Category/Genre: MG Fantasy Adventure

    35-word pitch:

    After his middle school nemesis is kidnapped at a retirement home by its possessed dance instructor, Ellis must save the girl and lead the oddball elderly residents to battle the demon and its raven minions.

    The first 250 words:

    The air seeped from Ellis Brown’s balloon of hope and instantly ruined his once-promising Saturday morning. He could not believe what he just heard. “You mean a girl has already been here selling these tickets?”

    Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Center’s hosts, sat in their lobby’s red velvet armchairs smiling. Mr. McGregor returned the tickets that Ellis just tried to sell them and said, “Yes, she came about an hour ago. Still in the building, I believe.”

    Mrs. McGregor beamed. “Such an angel, blonde hair, blue eyes, and beaming with joy.”

    ‘Yep, that’s Alicia. What a fake.’ Ellis forced a smile as the anxiety bubbled in the pit of his stomach. “And I suppose she sold you tickets to our show?”

    “As a matter of fact, she did,” Mr. McGregor said. “Such a sweet young lady. She did mention that a boy might stop by later, and here you are.”

    ‘Sweet? Maybe, if rattlesnake’s venom is sweet.’ “She does have a way,” Ellis said.

    Ellis was a good kid, but he had one big problem, Alicia Swanson. She had been a thorn in his side all throughout middle school. She beat him at everything and, to make matters worse, she had a habit of broadcasting it to everyone.

    He was counting on the retirement home’s residents to beat Alicia by selling more Alice in Wonderland show tickets to them. Not anymore. Ellis felt a familiar churning in his gut as, once again, a sure victory slipped painfully through his fingers.

  • Tracey Joseph

    tracey_joseph(at)msn(dot)com

    IVY OF OUR HEARTS

    YA Light Fantasy

    (Pitch)
    When Ivy’s plan to run away goes awry, she must escape a fairy that spellbinds her. Under his spell, she falls in love with him, blinding her to what he is—monstrous.

    (First 250)
    I was a cruel and selfish daughter.

    While my parents dreamed of their new lives in the Big Apple, I wrote them my farewell. I brushed away tears and held the letter up to my lamp light. Chicken scratch. But it would have to do. In the room across the hall their bed groaned. I folded the letter and pressed a kiss against it for good measure. I tucked it in-between the pages of a book, where I hoped they’d find it.

    Hurry, Ivy, my heart seemed to say. Hurry. Margaret’s waiting.

    My hands shook so much I fumbled with the lamp’s switch, until my fingers closed around it and with a click I met the dark. Uneasiness curdled in my belly. Fresh tears prickled my eyes, but running away had been my idea and Margaret waited at the edge of the woods.

    I snuck from my room, halting in the shadows as Dad coughed and Mom whispered for him to roll over. Shoulder pressed to the wall, I crept down the stairs to the back door, to the path that ran behind my house into the woods. I avoided the floorboards that would squeak under my weight. Once I thought I heard Mom call to me.

    I paused at the door, listening for her. The aroma of our late night dinner brought on a new wave of nauseating guilt. I clutched the door handle so tight my hand pulsed, but nothing except for the wind made a sound, whistling through an open window.

  • Nicole A. Brake
    nicoleabrake@gmail.com

    THE BACKSLIDERS
    YA Speculative fiction

    2019: Great Britain closed its borders, but not before expelling all foreign influence.
    2022: 17-year-old year old Eve Mimieux wants one thing: to escape.

    Slow down, damn it!

    I scowl at his long, gangly legs in the hope they’ll stop moving so bloody fast. My court shoes nip at my heels and just the thought of taking another step makes my temper flicker.

    What is that boy thinking?

    I’ve always hated winter, and following him for almost an hour in the wretched British weather has only amplified my desire to escape this place. Hovering close to a crumbling brick wall, I watch him navigate the darkness. He hurries down a street lined with abandoned terraced houses, his white shirt a ghostly beacon for me to follow.

    I wait for him to take the corner up ahead so I don’t risk being spotted. I’ve lost him twice already. First when he was leaving the Elite side of the river and the second time when he’d disappeared at the tram station.

    The blustery wind makes my ears ache and I retreat further into my hood.

    I’m sure he doesn’t normally walk this fast.

    The artificial flame of the street light flickers in the glass box above me and the thought of it disappearing leaves me cold. I can practically feel the MilPol curfew breathing down my neck. If we get caught breaking curfew it’ll be a one-way ticket to the penal colony for both of us.

    The hem of my black dress catches in the wind and I tug the skirt down. I wish I’d had time to change into trousers, it’s not a good idea to expose bare skin where we’re going.

    • Sarah L. Miller

      Title: ORION’S BELT
      Genre: YA Contemporary

      Pitch: Camilla Silver’s got the goods: designer clothes, lip plumping-gel, and a quarterback boyfriend to DIE for. When she discovers her BFF and boyfriend are cheating, she enrolls in horse camp, even though she’s terrified of all things furry. There she discovers the meaning of friendship.

      First 250 Words:

      “Ciao, fellow peeps. Thanks for tuning in.”

      I talk into my laptop, sure to make eye contact with the tiny black bullseye. It’s like talking with one of my sister’s Lego people.

      “You have been asking me to do this video for a while so here it is. Drumroll, pullllease.” I say, letting my voice flutter like a circus announcer. I lean close to the camera. “I am Charming Camilla and I am addicted to –listen carefully — Emoji heart eyes bulging… “ I toss up a handful of metallic confetti in jewel green, peacock blue, and violet. “…COLOR!” The confetti tinkles to the floor in a colorful rain. “You should be, too,” I say and wink sidelong with my left eye. My left side is my better side.

      “Chicks, it’s time to throw away that little black dress. You heard me. Garbage out. Then wiggle yourself into that strappy RED number!”

      This is my seventh YouTube video. My channel goal? Simple. To dole out make up and beauty tricks to help girls…and some guys… make themselves gorgeous, resulting in the world becoming a more beautiful place.

      Beyond fab. I know.

      Career goal? To become a cosmetologist. Not just any. The Best. But Dad=teacher and Mom=ER doc, which spells tension on the home front and more secrets than I’d like.

      The doorbell zings. I jump like a flea-infested spaniel. The bowl of carrot sticks on my lap sails through the air and lands with a thud. It’s 10:14 p.m..

  • Jamie Nare

    Jamie Nare

    wthornhillauthor@gmail.com

    Pandora

    YA Paranormal

    (Pitch)
    Pandora’s box is a myth. But Pandora knows the truth. She also knows hope can never be released from the ancient jar that houses it. Saving humanity is going to be a bumpy ride.

    (First 250 words)
    I don’t remember much before waking up in a dark room. My nose tickled at the sterile scent filling the air. I tried to move, but my arms and legs felt heavy and dull. My eyelids began to stay closed longer with each blink. I wanted to stay awake because I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up again. Apparently, though, my mind and body decided I had exhausted myself just waking up and that a nap was in order. I took a deep breath, released it slowly, and for one brief moment knew there was someone standing beside me. I felt the gentle brush of a hand over my head and heard a whisper, “It’s going to be okay now.”

    The next time I woke, the sun was streaming into the room. Showering the dull grey walls with its golden hue. The dust particles danced along the rays that barely touched the foot of the bed I was lying in. I was able to move, but felt like I had never learned how to control my muscles. My arm flopped around and I smacked myself in the face with my hand.

    My reaction must have been louder than I thought when I heard hurried footsteps coming closer. A short, round dark skinned woman burst through the door. She was dressed all in white. White shoes, white shirt, white skirt. Even her smile was a brilliant white. She was the antithesis to the grey.

    “Oh, honey, it is so good to see your eyes open.”

  • Melanie Vickers

    (Pitch) Five eventful days in the life of a girl whose mother is a coal miner.

    HELLO OUTSIDE

    Contemporary/Realistic

    (First 250)
    Uncle Wes nicknamed me Lightning Lexie when I was little because I struck fast and left a disaster. My West Virginia birth certificate, dated thirteen years ago, has Lexie Aracoma Logan, signed John W. Vaughan, MD, written in messy, cursive writing.

    My favorite thing to do is to climb up Mingo Mountain with my dog, Southbound. It’s a hard climb especially if it’s rained or snowed. At the top is a sandstone rock that sticks out like an airplane wing from the mountain. Here, I can think clearer about things.

    I can see in all directions. Across from me is my hometown of Coalboro, West Virginia. Today, it looks like a colorful quilt spread out on the mountain with the New River flowing along the side as its blue ribbon binding. At the top of the hill are mansions with heated driveways that lead to houses as big as hotels. Along the bottom is the original town of Coalboro. Almost touching the river is the railroad track sewn in like a zipper to the mountain. Between the train station and covered bridge is Coal Miners Boulevard, where I live.

    The tin roof on the A-frame home where mom and I live looks doll-house size, from here. It’s built next to the old family farmhouse where my grandmother lives. Her full name on the family tree is Gennifer Aileen Ramsey Logan. Her hair is the red of an Atomic Fire Ball candy which matches her personality. So, I call her “Red.”

  • Farida Mestek

    faridamestek@gmail.com

    Almendra’s Journey

    YA Fantasy

    (Pitch)

    Her mother was dethroned, people slaughtered, magic gone. Almendra must travel the realm, find her true love, fulfill the fateline and save her kingdom before it disappears for good amid a plot to kill her.

    (First 250)

    Almendra opened her eyes on the seventh chime of the clock. She quickly sat up, stretched and smiled. Just then the door to her room opened and in entered a large, grey wolf with a tray on his back.

    “Good morning, Woo,” said Almendra, her face splitting into a grin. She pecked the wolf on the nose and took a large mug of hot tea from the tray. Breathing in the familiar scent of mint, she clutched the cup in her hands and raised it into the air like one would a goblet at a feast, her hazel eyes bright with humour.

    “Cheers!” she said loudly and “May today be the day!” before bringing the cup to her lips, an expression of bliss on her face. Woo walked towards the window and drew back the curtains with his teeth – the sky outside was murky grey. Almendra drank up her tea and placed it back onto the tray just as Woo was leaving the room.

    In one big leap, she bounded out of bed, ran across the carpeted floor and slipped behind the screen, her long, brown hair flying in her wake. Behind the screen, Almendra picked up a thick rope, lying in a coil on the floor, with an iron hook on one end, then wound it around a huge wheel it was fixed to on the other end, opened the window and threw the rope down.

    A second later the hook hit the ground with a clunk.

  • Natalie Page

    Natalie Page
    nataliefairbank@hotmail.com

    Iridium Apprentice

    YA Psychological thriller

    35 word pitch

    Captured, interrogated, tortured for information. Special Forces operative Alana will withstand it all, but when her captors suggest she is the daughter of Iridium’s most infamous criminal, she must discover the truth, before more die.

    First 250

    I reeled backwards as I took the full force of the blow to my temple. As my face hit the ground, my vision was blurred by a searing flash of pain and I could taste the salty yet metallic flavour of blood in my mouth.

    My brain reeled, what the hell? I was genuinely shocked, I really didn’t think she had the guts to hit me. I jumped to my feet, bracing myself to return the punch.

    “Enough!” the voice rang out, clear and commanding over the mass of other voices, all screaming for a fight, and I saw Nathan pushing through the crowd to get to me.

    “What the hell is going on here?” He stood between me and the blonde girl.

    “Well?” he stared at me incredulously, and I shook my head, my eyes avoiding his.

    The blonde girl piped up from behind him, “nothing for you to worry about Nathan, is there Alana?” She stared at me intensely, a slight quiver in her voice.

    I took a moment to take in the girl opposite, she had untidy blonde hair tied in a loose plait, and a slight build. Despite her bravado, her eyes were bulging with fear and adrenalin. She knew she had been lucky. If Nathan hadn’t shown up, the outcome of our little disagreement might have been quite different. I looked up at Nathan and then cast a quick glance over at my attacker.

    “It’s nothing,” I echoed. “We simply had a difference of opinion,” I threw her another glance.

  • susan dalessandro

    A Complex Solution

    YA Contemporary

    Pitch: After losing her parents in a car accident, Amanda, a critically depressed teen, loses the will to live…until she discovers a secret from her parents’ past and meets a boy who changes her life.

    Dizziness rocked her head. Her stomach was still uneasy. But at least Amanda could function this morning – for what it was worth. She pulled on the door handle with one hand and gripped Bailey’s leash in the other.

    Her grandmother appeared at the top of the stairs. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” she asked.

    “Yes, I’ll be fine.” But she wouldn’t. Although no longer in the grip of that blasted migraine, Amanda couldn’t shake the nagging, taunting voices in her head which were far more troubling and they wouldn’t be dismissed.

    “Okay, see you shortly.”

    She set off with her yellow Lab for their morning run. It was a ritual they’d shared since she got him as a puppy when she was ten years old. The September sun wove its brilliance through the leaves, enchanting the path to the beach. Falmouth, Massachusetts was gorgeous this time of year, a stunning palette of rich earth tones, set off by the azure sea. In Amanda’s world though, it was depressingly black.

    Why wasn’t it me? They had everything to live for. As she ran, she gazed down at her large feet clopping along. Despair and loneliness welled up inside her. She patted her pocket. It was there. It was always there. But she had to try.

    After returning home, she jumped into the shower, dressed in her usual jeans and t-shirt and downed a glass of orange juice. It was all she could handle on this day.

  • Debra Chapoton

    Debra Chapoton

    debralchapoton (at) gmail.com

    The Time-Bender

    YA/Science Fiction

    35 word pitch:

    Selina overlooks Marcum’s clumsy flirting and enters his spaceship. What? It’s not a science project? Marcum thinks her ability to bend time will help in the alien wars. They’re both in for an intergalactic surprise.

    First 250:

    My little brother’s glasses reflected the comforting orange glow of the candles I’d lined up on the table. Michigan winter. Yuck. We had another power outage.

    “Cue the scary music,” I mumbled. Sheesh, it wasn’t even mid-November yet.

    “Selina?” Buddy’s voice trembled as he lisped my name and asked for the tenth time, “When … Mom … h-home?”

    “I don’t know, Bud. Soon, I hope.”

    Nine years ago my best friend Alex got a puppy for his eighth birthday; I got a special needs brother. I wouldn’t trade him for a thousand puppies.

    Of course I might trade him for an honest-to-goodness boyfriend. Not to sound desperate or anything, but you could leave out the “goodness”; I just wanted a boyfriend. Good, bad, tall, short, blonde, brunette, as long as there was a check in the box marked human.

    A loud booming noise made both of us jump. “It’s just the deck, Bud,” I assured him … and myself. “The wood cracks like that when the temperature drops so fast.” That sounded like a reasonable explanation to me. Yeah, I’m going to go with the deck cracking and not crazed-murderer-with-gun or psycho-maniac-breaking-basement-window. I looked through the break in the clouds where stars peeked down. It had to be a zillion times colder that far out in the universe.

    ***

    “Twenty light years is kind of stretching it, isn’t it?” Coreg’s voice crackled through the minuscule speaker in Marcum’s helmet.

    Marcum’s heart beat double time in anticipation of an illegal contest with Coreg.

  • Lucy Hallowell

    Lucy Hallowell
    lucyhallowell30 [at] gmail [dot] com
    YA/Contemp Mystery/LGBT
    THE SECRET LIBRARY

    Pitch: To fight their school’s censorship, Elspeth and Robin run their own secret library. But after a teacher is murdered, the girls discover that the school is trying to hide more than a few controversial books.

    As of today I am a co-conspirator. I don’t know if you can count being the student representative for the first years a position of power but if it is I am using it to further my nefarious purposes. Well, that’s how I imagine my parent would see it. I’m sure the school would.

    The school started all of this with my parents. They forced my hand. Besides, if there is a better way to raise a liar than having my parents I’d like to hear it. They could train spies for the CIA. Smile and hold the knife behind your back. If I took Latin I could translate it for a family crest. They’d love that, actually.

    They taught me that a Fairfax never loses. They taught me that a Fairfax always comes out on top. So really, I am only doing what they taught me to do.

    I’m not sure they will see it that way.

    There’s never anyone in the library on a Saturday night. Tonight is no different. Robin is behind the desk and looks to her right when she sees me. I follow her eyes and see another student. What are the odds? She’s got her headphones in and is watching something on her laptop. I can’t imagine a reason why she would come to the library when she can do the same thing in the comfort of her dorm room.

    She doesn’t look up when I get to the counter but Robin bites the side of her thumb and looks around the library instead of at my face.

  • Bonnie Terry

    Bonnie Terry
    granbonnie101@yahoo.com
    REMEMBER ANNABEL
    Middle grade mystery

    (pitch) The Crescent Hotel fascinates Cooper. It’s full of ghosts. But having his own personal haunting is not so fun. Cooper can’t get rid of Annabel without help from unexpected places, including the ghost herself.

    (250 words) The shovel blade scraped against the frozen rocks as Cooper wedged it between them and pried one loose. Dead weeds clung to its edges as he separated a stone from the earth and rolled it aside.

    “Quinn, how far up the mountain does this trail go?” he asked as he examined a blister on his palm.

    “I don’t know,” Quinn said. She was stacking Cooper’s loose rocks into a fence along one side of the trail. “Dad just said for us to clear out the old woods trail behind the hotel and make a rock fence along the edge to stop the trail from eroding again. He wants the trail fixed so people can hike up here like they used to. Grab the other end of this rock. It’s heavy.”

    “Are you admitting you need a man’s help?” Cooper said. He lifted his chin and stuck his chest out.

    Quinn rolled her eyes and sighed. “You don’t qualify as a man yet.”

    “Sure I do. I have a whisker, look,” Cooper said, pointing to his face.

    “Where is it? Let me see,” Quinn came close and stared at a spot on Cooper’s chin. She reached up and pinched the single pale strand between her thumb and finger. “Is this it?” Quinn yanked the hair out and held it in front of Cooper’s face.

    “Ow, that hurt!” Cooper said, rubbing his chin.

    “Ok, tough guy, help me move this rock.”

    Cooper dug his fingers under the edge of the jagged rock and heaved it over on its side.

  • Lana Wood Johnson
    lana [dot] wood [dot] johnson [at] gmail [dot] com
    CLANDESTINE MENAGERIE
    YA High Fantasy
    [Pitch]
    Rhee’s stuck shapeshifting into animals in the menagerie while the rest of the Floating Circus acts as the Sky King’s secret police. By stopping the Prince’s assassination she may prove herself— or screw everything up

    [250]
    I am losing the sense of the bicycle. The pedals beneath my tentacles taste like dead wood and metal. When a wineglass flies at my head I snag it out of the air with one of my eight appendages. Just like I’m supposed to.

    It’s my shortest act, but trying to work a bicycle as a Giant Land Octopus while catching things is absolutely the worst.

    I just have to hold on a little bit longer. One more lap and I’m off to become a unicorn.

    Unicorns are easier. More intelligent. They’re as close to a person as you can get and still look like an animal–still feel normal.

    There’s nothing normal about an octopus.

    All my instincts tell me to ditch the bicycle and climb to the far corner of the tent. It wouldn’t take much to fade to the bone white of the big top’s canvas. I’d be practically invisible.

    I should have told Dez about my headache. If I had mentioned how bad my brain has been buzzing all day he would have changed the show. All I have to do is give him a signal.

    Except–I don’t remember the signal.

    The audience keeps looking at me. Always looking. Predators everywhere. In the stands. Waiting backstage. Coming for me. They’ll eat me. Hide. Must hide. Away. Disappear.

    A sticky, sweet liquid washes over me just as I’m about to release an inky aerosol to cover my escape. Two of my three hearts skip beats as the wine meant for my glass seeps into the breathing sacs most people think are my ears.

  • Earl G. Fisher

    Title: Long Love the Dead

    Genre: YA Paranormal romance/historical

    Pitch: Must a girl be dead, buried, and resurrected before she finds true love and a little romance? “Long Love the Dead”–the greatest undead love story ever told.

    The first 250 words:

    Chapter 1
    New Bern, North Carolina
    July 18, 1861
    SUSAN MARION ETHERIDGE

    This morning I make a vow. I swear I’m going to give my virginity to the first man I meet who has most of his teeth and can speak without stuttering. Not because I’m ugly, fat, or smell like unwashed feet. But because of what Papa says. Today is the celebration of my sixteenth birthday, and Papa ruins it with his very first words.

    Earlier, I had dressed, rinsed my mouth and face, and brushed my hair. I gave it fifty licks, setting the hairbrush down in the kitchen where I could give myself another fifty after breakfast. Then I began my chores.

    I milked Betsy-Ann, churned a small wad of butter, and stuck the rest of the milk in a can in the springhouse trough. I brought a pitcher of cream-topped milk and the butter inside to have with our bacon and biscuits. It was a right-fair start to the day until Papa opened his big mouth. He was up and sitting at the table, waiting for me to bring him breakfast. Mama did me no favors by spoiling the man.

    “You’re of age, Susan,” Papa tells me as I walk inside. “It’s time.”

    “Time for what?” I stop. If he says something mean, I’m going to throw the pitcher of milk at him. It’s my birthday, dammit.

    “It’s time you got married.” He uses the same tone of voice he uses to tell me it’s raining outside.

  • Kara Jemal
    karajemalauthor(at)gmail(dot)com
    WARPED REMAINS
    YA / Thriller

    (PITCH)
    When her plane crashes on a strange island, Emily gets caught between violent natives and a government willing to sacrifice the crash survivors to keep the island secret. LOST meets AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

    (FIRST 250 WORDS)
    As I stand in the airport, staring at my parents and my brother, I realize something. I hate them. Not just because of the awkward, no one is saying anything, let’s sit around and stare at each other like morons silence that’s happening right now. No. I can handle the silent treatment from the three of them. What I can’t handle is knowing they want me gone, knowing I don’t fit into their perfect life.

    To them, I’m a screw up. A trouble maker. The black sheep of the family. An embarrassment.

    “Emily,” my father looks at me with sad eyes, “I know this is hard for you, but… We love you very much.”

    My mother nods in agreement. “We just feel this is a necessary step in becoming a mature young lady. It’s really best for everyone.”

    What she really means is it’s best for her, Dad, and my brother. None of them will admit it, but I know they think they’ll be better off without me. Heck, maybe they will. What do I know?

    “Honey, please don’t be upset with us. You really didn’t leave us any choice.” Mom pats my shoulder, and I jerk away from her touch.

    “Shipping me off to Butt Fuck Nowhere to live with two people who are older than dirt is not your only choice. It’s just the easiest and least messy.” I turn away from them and stare out the window.

    “Watch your language, young lady.” My father’s stern face is reflected in the window, but I ignore him.

  • Michele Marshall

    Michele Marshall

    writingmarshall(at)att(dot)net

    ILLUSION

    YA Contemporary Fantasy

    (Pitch)

    When Kate discovers she’s an otherworldly magician, she must use her newfound abilities to prevent an ancient sword from freeing its creator from his prison in the center of the earth.

    (First 250)

    It just doesn’t stand to reason why my very normal life would have to be interrupted by weirdness on the last day of school. Of course, reason isn’t pervading my thoughts at the moment. Only alarm.

    “Stop with this nonsense,” I admonish myself, “You can figure this out.”

    The cause of my distress is a ball of the spherical variety that, up until a few moments ago, I was using to practice a magic disappearing trick.

    Until the ball actually vanished.

    Footsteps crunch past me. “Have a good summer, Kate.” A guy-a rising senior like me-heads toward his bus pick up.

    I stop frisking myself for the ball long enough to nod politely to him. “Thanks. And if you need any help with summer homework, just let me know.”

    “Will do.” His bus pulls up and he takes off to catch it.

    Behind the row of buses, a silver pick-up tags along. Wait. Idina? What is she doing here? A cold, heavy weight descends on me, chilling the already chilly New Jersey day. Does she have news from the trial?

    The pick-up’s passenger window rolls down and a cheery voice sings out, “Hop in, Kate!”

    Something must have happened at court for Idina to pick me up. After all, I haven’t seen her in over a month. She must want to break the news to me before I get home, so we don’t upset Mom.

    I settle myself in the cab of the truck and nestle my backpack and Idina’s leather satchel between my feet.

  • Robert Floyd

    Robert Floyd

    nanobot.dreams@gmail.com

    Poison Ellen

    YA Science Fiction

    (Pitch)

    Befriended by a tech geek and a comic book diva, a cynical teenage girl with bizarre abilities discovers her origin and realizes only she can stop her mother’s plan to enslave humanity.

    (First 250)

    I grip the tennis racket tighter and my knuckles whiten. I don’t know why I’m so twitchy. Anything lurking in these woods should fear me.

    Shadowing the others, I pick my may through dry leaves and fallen twigs that snap and crunch underfoot. Gwen, one of my house-sisters, walks beside me and cradles her arms. She glances up into the trees every few steps as if nervous, or maybe scared. It’s weird for her to go so long without opening her big mouth. Creepy, actually.

    “It was there last night,” the oldest says. A sixteen year old going on twenty-one, her name’s Josephine, but we call her Joe. We even spell it like a boy’s name ‘cause she looks like a guy with her dorky pixie-cut and crooked nose. Using her tennis racket, Joe points to a large oak. “That’s where Gwen and me saw it. A pale little thing with huge black eyes.”

    I search the dark canopy of leaves high above, catching glints of sunlight through the trees. Here the air feels thick and spongy. I breathe in a musty scent, the earthy smell of dirt and rotting wood.

    There’s a faint shriek in the distance and I swallow hard. “Maybe you guys saw an owl. Some owls have a pale face.”

    Gwen props a hand on her chubby hip. “It wasn’t a bird, idiot. It was human. Like a little kid.”

    “No, genius, it wasn’t a kid,” Joe says. She lights up a cigarette and takes a quick draw.

  • S E Dyne

    S E Dyne
    sarahdyne1@gmail.com
    The Ichthys Kiss
    Romance: crossover sci-fi/paranormal

    Pitch:
    They erased her memories, destroying everything she knew about her past, but they couldn’t erase her heart…now her feelings are resurfacing, leading her back to the truth and she’ll risk everything to win him back.
    First 250 words:
    August 15th
    A single scream rips through the air, shattering the tranquility of the summer’s day.
    The crows are quick to flee. They rise up, squawking in alarm, till the sky turns black. Through the trees in the dip of the valley I can just make out the red tiled roof of our farmhouse, with its ribbon of smoke rising from the chimney.
    Another scream.
    Run…
    Though it kills me to leave, I can’t go back. I’ve already wasted too much time. I crash deeper into the woods, barely noticing the brambles that catch and rip the skin of my arms and legs.
    I’m running faster than I thought possible, lungs burning, my chest exploding. My foot hits something hard. Arms and legs flailing, my body slams to the ground, the breath knocked out of me.
    When I open my eyes he’s leaning over me. I can feel sweat on my lips, taste blood at the back of my throat.
    ‘Look at me,’ he commands in a voice like silk.
    Don’t look at him. Don’t.
    At the same time my head is tilting up, drawn by some force. We lock eyes.
    ‘Why?’ The question barely leaves my lips.
    His pupils are blacker than the crows wheeling above us. I lift my arms to push him away, but it’s too late.

  • Hayden Sharpe

    hayden.sharpe225@gmail.com

    THE FAULTS OF OUR FATHERS

    YA/Contemporary Fantasy

    35 Word Pitch
    Theo can’t control his magic, and his former-villain father isn’t helping matters. When Theo’s dad clashes with his shapeshifter friend, Theo must choose between family and friendship. If he’s wrong, someone he loves may die.

    First 250 Words:
    Some say that socks are best for sneaking around the house in the middle of the night. Others swear up and down that barefoot is the way to go. The goody-two-shoes at school say that sneaking around is wrong, and threaten to tattle. Theodore Drescher found that bare feet gave him more traction and fewer injuries.
    When his classmates gave him the best channels to watch when his parents were asleep, he nodded and thanked them, not bothering to correct them. He couldn’t very well tell his friends that he was sneaking around to practice magic.
    Theodore opened his door as slowly as he could, wincing when it creaked. He waited a few seconds to make sure his dad hadn’t woken up before slipping through the gap. He shut the door behind him and stepped carefully through the hall on the balls of his feet. One, two. One, two. One, two.
    His tiny hands clung to the banister, and he slowly made his way down the stairs, putting as little weight on his feet as he could. When he made it to the ground floor, he made a beeline for the living room. He could walk quicker in the living room, but not too quick. Carpeted floors didn’t mean silent floors.
    Theodore knelt in front of the cabinets and opened one of the doors. He ran his little fingers over the spines of the books in the cabinet and drew one out. He didn’t know what was inside, but there was only one way to find out.

  • Christine Edwards

    Christine Edwards

    cpoe2@msn.com

    CHILDREN OF AVALON

    Young Adult/Fantasy

    35 Word Pitch: When her aunt destroys their kingdom, a spell sends Princess Crysta out of time. Centuries later, she’s back and auntie still wants her dead. Only one can survive this new plot to end the world.

    First 250 Words:

    Pounding hoof beats echoed in Crystianna’s ears, thudded in her chest. Her mount raced forward. The wind tore around them as horse and rider flew toward the tree line. Grass and the warm scents of summer filled the air.

    She glanced back and saw her brother, Damien, bent low over his saddle, a white mane flying across his face. Devilish eyes met her look with a challenging gleam.

    Clouds of dust and dirt drew her eye to the thundering mass of wild horses coming up behind them. Her brother’s grin spread. He had whipped the beautiful creatures into a frenzy, daring her to race with them across the open field. And like all their mischief, he never had to dare for long.

    She leaned forward to whisper encouragement in Starlight’s ear, following the powerful motion as the horse ran. They shot forward in a burst of speed—perfectly attuned since the magnificent animal had been given to Crystianna for her ninth birthday. Her father always said the filly’s beautiful white coat reminded him of his daughter’s bright smile.

    She laughed, delighted, as Damien fell behind. Then, Starlight lurched, broke stride, and plunged. Momentum pulled her from the saddle with a frightened scream.

    She pitched forward, the ground rushing to meet her. She landed hard and bounced, tasting the bite of dirt on her tongue. Her long, brown hair fell across her face as the world spun. Dull aches screamed along her shoulder and side, but the sound of thundering hoof beats brought her back to reality with a jerk.

  • Tracy Gold
    tracyc@tracycgold.com
    THE ACCIDENTS
    YA Contemporary

    Pitch
    Sixteen-year-old Olivia Morgan must work with her biggest rival to escape a corrupt reform school—before their twisted therapies drive her insane.

    Page
    I sink into my chair as everyone else shuffles through their bags and takes out typed and stapled essays. Why do I always mess this stuff up? I grope around in my bag, pretending to look for mine.

    I knew we had a deadline today, but last night I stayed up late working on a portrait for art class that isn’t even due until next week. I got so caught up, and then I guess I just fell asleep without even thinking about Mr. Drake’s stupid essay. If I could, I would go straight to Bolton and skip all this high school crap. But here I am, practically handcuffed to my chair.

    I’ll be damned if I can’t get at least two pages done during class. Mr. Drake wanted us to write three pages about the id, superego, and ego in Lord of the Flies, but I don’t buy that psychoanalysis bull. You don’t need to be stranded on an island with a group of them to know that teenage boys are animals.

    Mr. Drake rambles on in his mental-masturbation way about the symbolism of some pig the boys killed. I scribble until my hand hurts. The id is the true soul of the human because the id is the same thing as the libido. Mr. Freud-wanna-be Drake will like that.

    I glance up, to make Mr. Drake think I’m paying attention, and Bethany looks straight at me.

  • Bronwen Fleetwood
    bronwen@bronwenfleetwood.com

    UNCHURCHED
    YA Contemporary

    Feminist Janine’s the worst possible candidate for a purity ball, but her dad is obsessed. She’ll hate herself forever if she takes the chastity vow, but refusing will break her father’s heart.

    Temperance Baptist Fellowship welcomes you!
    Connect with Christ
    Feed your soul
    Bite my ass.
    No, really, bite my ass. Sunday mornings are meant for sleeping in and eating Dad’s famous omelets, not church. Never in my freaking life had it meant church. My skin crawled as we stepped up to the ugly building. I would probably burst into flames the moment I stepped inside.
    “If it isn’t the Harper family!” A woman in a noxious magenta skirt suit sailed through the main doors to greet us. She had her arms flung open wide, like she could just gather us to her in a big, suffocating hug. “Reggie, it’s so good to see you again. And Wendy, wonderful to see you outside the office.”
    “You know Mrs. Buckley?” Mom asked Dad, her voice strained. So this was the infamous Constance Buckley, who regularly made Mom’s life hell by demanding she make enough photocopies to bring down the Amazon rain forest. I preferred to think of her as the school administrator who went off the deep end, drunk driving, and plowed her car into a tree. A very messy divorce. Guess she’d found Jesus since then.
    “Oh yes, he’s been coming here for weeks now,” she said. “But you must call me Constance. We’re not formal here.”
    Weeks? Dad had been coming here for weeks without telling us? What the hell?
    Mom’s gaze bored into Dad for a moment before she smiled at Constance. “Thank you for welcoming us so warmly.”

  • Mara Mahan

    Mara Mahan

    Mmahan96@live.com

    WARDBREAKER

    YA Fantasy

    Pitch:
    Knights. Magic. A witch. Impossibly shifting terrain. Can Kyrin, a thief, save the world despite his lack of magic?

    First 250 words:
    Only the bravest of the brave, the strongest of the strong, and the wisest of the wise could join the Knights of Alinor. Legend held that only heroes could pass through the iron gates to their Stronghold.

    Kyrin brushed his dark hair out of his green eyes and carefully regarded the enchanted lock that sealed the famous gate. When I rob this place, I’ll go down in history.
    The ward protecting the lock was a thing of beauty, a tapestry of language woven by a master enchanter from simple lifeless iron and his own inner magic. However, like a tapestry, while the guardian spell had taken great effort, great skill, and great talent to weave, a man only needed to pull the right thread if he wished to unravel it all. Kyrin almost had it—he could almost see the common theme. Somehow, everything fit together and was related within the magic. Kyrin just had to find the flaw.

    Kyrin drew the last of his prized lock picks from the pocket near his heart. He had hoarded his money for three years to pay for them, skipping meals and going without sleep until he could afford to hire a specialist smith willing to work from his design. Now he never let them out of his sight. They were the perfect tools for quietly undoing mundane locks and wards alike, and not a similar set existed anywhere in all of Alinor. At least, that is what the man’s face had suggested when he had seen Kyrin’s diagrams.

  • Patrick Thornton

    Patrick Thornton
    misspeld@hotmail.com
    STEPPING UP
    MG Contemporary

    Pitch
    Twelve-year-old Nate Gilbert’s father has deployed to Afghanistan with the National Guard. His mother is in meltdown and his four-year-old sister is crazy as a bedbug. If that weren’t enough, someone has stolen his Xbox.

    The First 250
    Nate Gilbert sat on his bed doing his best not to cry. Twelve-year-old boys don’t cry. They just don’t. Not when they get sucker punched, not when a bad hop gets them a baseball in the face, and not when their dad could be shot or blown to pieces.

    “Think fast!”

    Nate looked up just in time to grab the helmet before it hit him in the chest.

    “Nice catch,” his dad, Captain Ben Gilbert, said from the doorway. He was in full uniform—camouflage shirt and trousers, webbed belt, black beret, and combat boots. Everybody said he looked like his dad, same curly dark hair, same green eyes. He didn’t have his dad’s muscular shoulders and arms, but he was working on that.

    “Thanks,” Nate said, doing his best to smile. He turned the helmet around in his hands, looked at the big, white letters—MP—then tossed the helmet back.

    His dad caught the combat headgear, carried it into the room, and sat on the bed next to him. He put his hand on Nate’s knee. It was a big hand, strong, heavy.

    “I’m depending on you to take care of your mom. She’ll be hearing from some people in the Guard support group but none of them live close by. She’s not as strong as she seems sometimes so she’ll need you to be there for her.”

    Nate only nodded.

    “You know how your mom is about computers.”

    “Doesn’t even have an email address,” Nate said and tried to laugh. It came out more like a cough. “She makes me write ‘thank you’ notes with a pen.”

  • Eric Poole
    SplashEric@gmail.com

    THE PROPHET
    (YA Contemporary w/Paranormal element)

    (Pitch)
    A privileged girl is drawn into the world of an aloof boy who discovers a bizarre app that shows him videos of future events. Soon the FBI, celebrities, and assassins all want a piece of them.

    [Told in alternating perspectives; opens with the boy’s]

    (First 250)

    I stared up at the bank of news channel television monitors, as the assistant director led me down the hallway to the soundstage.

    And my face was on four of the six.

    “17-year-old Spencer Allen has become one of the most talked-about figures in the world right now…”

    “Allen, a high school student from Las Vegas who has completely upended our beliefs about the amount of control we have over our lives…”

    “It’s hard to believe that what young Mr. Allen does is real, but as yet, no one has been able to disprove it…”

    “His ability is unlike anything the world has ever known.”

    I didn’t ask for any of this.

    “Can I call you Spencer?” Josh, the assistant director said to me.

    “I’m sorry?” I said.

    My head was throbbing and I could barely focus. I felt like I was on a speeding train and people on the platforms were trying to talk to me – in slow motion – as I hurtled past.

    “Oh. Sure,” I said.

    I realized that I was already sweating, and I wasn’t even on the stage yet. Remind me not to raise my arms. Or move. Maybe they could suspend me in a crate like a baby calf.

    “Right down here.” Josh led me down a long hallway filled with photos of the network’s news stars. He held his finger up to indicate that I should be quiet, and led me through a heavy door with a red ligh

  • Carly Warner

    Carly Warner

    cmwarner22@gmail.com

    CAPTIVE

    YA/Contemporary

    (Pitch)
    Molly’s Philippines adventure becomes a nightmare when she’s kidnapped by rebels. Stuck in an island jungle, she must choose – docile prisoner waiting for release, or taking matters into her own hands before it’s too late.

    (First 250)
    Today is the start of my new beginning. After today, I will be done with him forever. Because I can’t spend my life waiting for someone that will never get it.

    Today my friends and family have gathered to celebrate my graduation and say a brief good bye. One week from today I leave on my Philippine adventure. Nothing, not even *him*, can spoil that.

    I grab a fresh bag of potato chips from the kitchen and weave my way back to the refreshment table. My mom is already there surveying the food situation and making a mental list of what she needs to grab more of. We’ve had Tupperware containers of fruit salad, sticky rice, and shrimp filling up the fridge for the last week. I set the bag down and turn to make my next set of rounds.

    The crowd is seriously impressive. I may have invited most of the junior and senior classes from my high school, a good handful of the faculty, and my entire family, but I can’t believe they’re all actually here, filling up my house and back yard. There’s hardly a place to sit down, let alone walk.

    There are so many bodies it’s hard to stop and talk to anyone as I snake my way through. I manage to wave at a few girls who were in my French class and say a quick hello to the English teacher who gave me a glowing letter of recommendation. I get lots of quick hugs and “I’m going to miss you so much!”, “I love you, girl! I can’t believe we graduated!”, and “We’ll totally visit each other next year! College is going to be so fun!”

  • E.A. Sirrah

    E.A. Sirrah

    ely.azure@gmail.com

    BEAUTIFUL WOODS

    YA/Dark Contemporary Fantasy

    Pitch:
    Sixteen-year-old boy falls for a teenage assassin who’s not only another race, but from another world. She’s about to sacrifice herself to save his town and he’s willing to do something crazy to rescue her.

    First 250:
    It was one of those clammy Florida days where Kess could work up a sweat doing nothing. Early July and still mid-morning so it wasn’t quite a hundred degrees yet, although he knew by noon it would feel like it. Around three there would be a thunderstorm and for the rest of the evening he would fight off mosquitos.

    He could avoid them by staying inside, but the empty house was filled with the ghost of his mother and reminders that his father ran off a year ago.

    He lived in Old Town, across from the Amelia River in a little green house on the corner of Commandant Street, a road made of oyster shells and sand. Many of the homes, like his own, hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint since before his mother passed away.

    The house had been in his family for decades, but the only reason he could guess his father would leave it all behind was because he was afraid of the virus. Quite a few of Old Town’s residents died recently of strange viral infections and some believed the nearby pulp mill increased their asbestos exposure or dumped toxins into their water supply, but no law suits had ever made it to court.

    There was rumor the ill became severely deformed just before death, but Kess hadn’t seen any proof of that. And he’d never even had a head cold. Plus he was sixteen and quite capable of taking care of himself. He pushed off the sagging couch.

  • Fran Laniado

    Title: BEAUTIFUL

    Genre: YA/Fairy Tale

    Pitch: EIMEAR, a faery, casts a spell that inadvertently ruins someone’s life. Following him into the wilderness, she begins to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about magic and the meaning of “home”.

    First 250:

    Once upon a time. Always a good way to begin a story. But my story does not start that way. Because it was not “once upon a time”.That was the problem. In my case, it was all the time. I also must warn you that I cannot start at the beginning, because when I think back on things I see a new beginning each time. Events rearrange themselves. One thing causes another to happen, which pushes the beginning back even further. I can start at my beginning though.

    Like all babies, I was born. I say this because many people will assume that I came into being in some strange other way. Sprung fully grown from the head of my father perhaps. Or emerged from an oyster shell like a pearl. Or hatched from the egg of a swan. If so, I am sorry to disappoint such fanciful readers.

    Faeries are born just like humans, amidst blood and screams from both the mother and the child. And I was no different in that way, Of that much I am sure.

    I was different in other ways though…

    But perhaps I am already getting ahead of myself.

    It was breakfast, that finalized my decision.

    The morning that I decided to leave was, by all appearances, no different from any other. I awoke when I heard the servants moving about and the household stirring. Bright light shone through my windows and I squinted into it, holding a hand before my face to shield my eyes.

  • Jenny Chou

    Jenny Chou
    jennychou1216@yahoo.com
    VANISHED
    YA Thriller

    When Sasha’s partner-in-crime talks her into one last heist before college, disaster strikes. They’ve been set up. She must steal a priceless sapphire back again, or her bewildered identical twin will take the fall.

    While the last of the sun drained from the sky, my brother and I crept from the woods carrying a ladder between us. As we cut through Signora D’Agnelli’s lush garden the air grew thick with the sweet scent of autumn crocuses. In the dusky shadow of her eighteenth century villa Raj and I stopped and looked up. Three stories high, with a red tile roof and six wrought iron balconies, the villa was an architectural masterpiece.

    Not that we were in Italy to take in the beautiful scenery.

    Together we braced our ladder against a stucco column beneath the lowest balcony. I flinched at the sound our boots made scraping against her patio.

    Her closest neighbor lives half a mile away, on the other side of the woods, I reminded myself. Signora didn’t have a security guard, and her housekeeper had the night off. Raj and I had spent weeks learning the daily routines of Signora, the grandson who lived with her, and their various employees.

    Raj removed a laptop from his backpack and set his computer on a wooden table beside the lagoon-shaped pool. His fingers danced across the keyboard, and with practiced ease he hacked into the website for Tele-Italia.

    “I’m telling you, Sasha,” he said in French, “This alarm’s a joke. I mean, c’mon. A landline? Really? It’s almost like she’s inviting us inside for dinner.”

    Typical. Raj had the Chinese characters for genius tattooed on his bicep. I’d call him cocky but he’d take it as a compliment.

  • Eric Poole
    SplashEric@gmail.com

    TROLL CONTROL
    (MG)

    (Pitch)
    Shouldn’t bagging your first kid for dinner be easier than this? Alvis is a young, monstrous troll whose quest is complicated by a talkative troll he befriends, and by the human girl who discovers his mortifying secret.

    (First 250)

    [Book is designed to look like a manual on pest control]

    TROLL INFESTATION IS A SERIOUS THREAT.

    Although some trolls are harmless, many can kill.

    This guide will help you identify, prevent and potentially remove trolls who have taken up residence near or inside your home. *

    * The publishers of this manual accept no responsibility for children, pets, small cars, or Aunts wearing armor who are eaten.

    Chapter 1

    Catrina wasn’t sure how that giant, blue troll got into the castle. But she was pretty sure she was about to die.

    And in the worst way possible.

    “Run!” she shrieked to her brother, Liam. “The Trog’s right behind us!”

    Illus: Troglo Monstroficus
    Copy: A fearsome species of troll that is extra stupid and violent.

    Heavy doors slammed shut as the troll lurched down the grand main corridor of Dunderbarf Castle – home to the town’s most important family. He roared ferociously and swung his powerful, apelike arms, knocking over priceless antiques and sending maids and workmen scrambling for cover.

    Lightning flashed jagged blades through the high, arched windows. And thunder rolled ominously across the highlands surrounding the castle. Which only made the whole situation even more bloodcurdling.

    But trolls liked that kind of thing.

    Liam Dunderbarf, Catrina’s fat, spoiled brother, screamed at his longtime nanny.

    “Nanny Elspeth! Fix this, NOW!”

    12-year-old Liam was heir to the vast Dunderbarf fortune, and not accustomed to being inconvenienced by things like homicidal trolls.

  • Maria Ashworth
    mashworth113@yahoo.com
    LIVE BY THE CODE
    Young Adult

    Think today’s Breakfast Club meets Breaking Amish.

    Jeff’s steroid induced high falls short when an Amish boy, Amos makes the team and steals his girl, Becca. Jeff plans to stop him, even if it means foul play. [told in three POV’s]

    CHAPTER ONE
    Jeff

    I rubbed the black tattoo on my collarbone for luck. “Live by the Code,” four words written in Old English lettering, rose above the neckline of my wrestling singlet, reminding me to stay on top, no matter what—even if that meant doing something illegal. No questions asked. Those that couldn’t follow the code wouldn’t last.

    The spectators in orange t-shirts packed the stands on one side. Spartan Wrestling stamped on the front of them. They shouted names of their favorite wrestlers. While Faulkner’s side of the bleachers speckled in visitors dressed in purple.

    From the corner of the mat, a familiar voice scratched at my insides like a sharp chip does when you swallow it wrong. “Come on, Jeff, don’t let him pull you down, son,” my father called out. His use of the word “son” sickened me. Like he cared. Nothing was ever good enough for him. I was more of an accessory, no different from his expensive blazer, polished shoes, and Prada glasses. His gray hair tossed in a mess as he tried to look half his age. A spectacle. He couldn’t look like a normal parent. I didn’t feel much like his son, much less than I felt he was my father. I’d hoped he couldn’t make it tonight. I wanted his usual lame excuse that he had to work late for a business meeting. I knew better. He had a meeting, nightly, with Jim Bean or Johnny Walker. Asshole.

  • Elizabeth Caulfield Felt
    elizabethcfelt at gmail.com
    THE STEPSISTERS: A STEAMPUNK CINDERELLA
    Upper Middle Grade / fantasy

    (pitch)
    Cinderella’s stepsisters, autistic Dru and fashionista Lottie, explain their “poor behavior” in steampunk tale of magic and science, murder and romance. While socially clueless Dru tinkers, socially astute Lottie must lie, or Cinderella will die.

    (first 250 words)
    The gondola of the luxury airship Ludtwidge sways gently beneath its hydrogen-filled balloon. Pilot Brijit Eyre studies the dark sky and taps the barometer. Something’s off. She can feel it in the air, in her bones.

    “Betti, change course 5 degrees north-northwest. Alec, ready a met-pigeon.”

    Captain Eyre flips a valve. Steam hisses through a pipe, moving the engine to full throttle.

    The Ludtwidge uses a Steppe steam engine. Instead of creating steam by burning coal or gas, Steppe engines use the flameless heat of firestones. A vast improvement over past airship engines. Flame and hydrogen are a deadly combination.

    In the largest cabin of the Ludtwidge, inventor Sir Ernest Steppe lies on his bunk, melting into sleep.

    His daughters open their gifts. Lottie puts on her hat and dances. Dru holds her hat, which begins to fly. She yells at Ernest. No, it isn’t Dru. It’s the Queen. She’s angry at Ernest. He hasn’t done what he should’ve done. Dru’s engagement to the Prince? No, a tree, or a baby. Did he forget the baby? The Queen expands to twice her size. Her red hair ignites. She leans over—

    Ernest wakes when his body hits the floor. The airship’s gondola rocks. The floor tilts. He slides from one side of the cabin to the other. Grabbing the porthole’s raised edges, Ernest pulls himself up. Rain pelts the glass. Lighting flashes. Thunder rumbles.

    “Heavens undone.”

    In the corridor, he passes panicked passengers . . . .

  • Eric Poole
    SplashEric@gmail.com

    SUPERNERD
    (MG)

    (Pitch)
    A bullied, 12-year-old band geek discovers his trumpet has superpowers that enable him to not only fight back, but play like a rock star. Now if he can just keep everyone from discovering the truth.

    (First 250)

    STUFF I SHOULD PROBABLY TELL YOU RIGHT UP FRONT:

    1) I’m a band nerd.
    Hold your applause.

    2) I’m deaf in one ear. If you do applaud, try to do it on the left side of my face.

    Chapter 1
    I’m Not Delusional (Today)

    Everything embarrassing that could happen to a guy happens to me.

    Out of nowhere, my phone goes off in the gym locker room and starts playing a One Direction song.

    A wheel flies off my skateboard and knocks Lester the janitor’s front tooth out. Which was his last one.

    During my daily torture session with Jake Stimson, class bully and epic skullcrusher, I accidentally fart.

    I thought it couldn’t get any worse. But then, this happened.

    Illus: Locker being “haunted” (Wizard of Oz-like)

    I know. It sounds crazy. Like the plot of some dumb horror movie where a cheerleader goes to a deserted school in the middle of the woods for directions. (I mean seriously, people. Never go to a deserted ANYTHING.)

    But I’m not making this up. I don’t need any more quality time with Mr. Ford, the guidance counselor. I know that dude means well, but I don’t need to talk about my “feelings” with a guy who has more holes in him than a kitchen sponge.

    Illus: Hipster teacher with a lot of piercings. He’s drinking water and it’s shooting out of the holes like a fountain.

    So here’s how this whole haunting thing went down.

  • Jennifer Todhunter
    jen@todhunter.ca
    THE GARDENERS
    YA Speculative Fiction

    Pitch:
    When Raelle runs away from her communal farm she needs to figure out who’s behind a deadly clinical trial to save lives . . . but it means putting everything she loves in harm’s way.

    First 250 words:
    Daisy and Bea, my grandmotherly parent-type guardians, taught me how to manage a stick shift along the roads behind the farm on my thirteenth birthday. They said I needed to learn to drive in case the dust bowls or food riots took over Washington State and we were finally forced to evacuate. It wasn’t ever a question of if it would happen, it was more a question of when. And I guess they figured thirteen was old enough not to pussy foot around things anymore.

    Three years later, and we’re still here, living on the farm. The same farm Daisy and Bea built fifty-five years ago when they were just a little older than I am now. Back when peace, love and all that was still a possibility. I haven’t had to evacuate, haven’t had to drive down anything made of something other than dirt or gravel yet. The thing is, I’m not sure Daisy and Bea will ever leave this place. And lately, all I can think about is how to get out of here.

    I need to see what else is out there before it all disappears.

    “Happy birthday, Raelle. Where are we going today?” Sam, my best-friend-for-all-of-eternity, slams the car door and sticks a cup of tea in the holder jutting out from the dash. “Sixteen is a big year, better make it somewhere good.”

    This is my favourite time of day. The short breaks we take from life, when we sit in one of the cars and catch up.

  • Lynette Hofferber

    Lynette Hofferber

    Email: lynettehoff@hotmail.com

    Title: Everlasting

    YA/Paranormal Romance

    Pitch: When seventeen-year-old Sophia learns her to-die-for boyfriend Tate actually died eight months ago, she must make a decision. But her choices are tough, does she leave him or join him?

    First 250:
    The hypnotizing screech of the wipers against the windshield kept my mind heavily sedated and battened down the churning of my stomach to a slow stir. Since the phone call last week, even the slightest sound caused me to jump. Something about it—the white noise, the crackle of electricity in my ear, something—freaked me out from the first ring.

    “Something’s happened.” A pop of electricity had me holding the phone an inch or five from my head. “Can you come…? It’s been ages.” The voice, strained and unrecognizable, struggled again through the white noise of the phone.

    My forehead furrowed, and my grip on the phone slipped. “Uh …I don’t know who this is. I’m hanging up now.” My heart raced. Loud. It was too loud. The pounding in my ears should have warned me, but I clenched the phone closer.

    “C’mon, it’ll be fun….The entire summer.” I recognized that voice, the little sing-song that bounced every word from octave to octave. “Meet me at the Charleston airport …next Friday …I’ll pay for everything …no worries.”

    I pushed my damp bangs from my forehead. “Mandy …is this you?” My words quivered, but a rush of relief washed over me.

    “Good God, girl, who’d ya think it was …the Pope?”

    I ignored the clamoring of my heart since I couldn’t reach in and slow it down. “I …I don’t know….You had me thinkin’ all kindsa weird things. Didn’t sound the same.”
    The phone clicked—the buzz of the dial tone tickling my ear.

  • Mary Lynne Gibbs
    mlynnegibbs@gmail.com
    DRAGON’S CURSE
    YA Contemporary Fantasy

    High school is hard enough for Elizabeth until a dragon crashes the Homecoming dance.
    Everyone has dragons to slay. Elizabeth’s just happens to be real.

    A few lonesome leaves still clung to the oaks surrounding Fuller Field, where the Homecoming bonfire burned. At the far end of the lot, as far as I could get without actually leaving, I sat on a patch of dead grass with my knees drawn to my chest. The top of my jacket, I held shut with one hand. The wind whipped my hair into my numb face, but I no longer felt it. I’d been there too long in that cold, October night. The scent of dirt and pine tickled my runny nose, making me sneeze. I rubbed my face with my sleeve and sighed. *Why am I here?* I thought as a shiver rattled through me.

    A moment later, a single raindrop splattered onto my glasses.

    “Great,” I muttered.

    My hands shook as I wiped the lens on my jeans. Thunder crashed; a great rumble that shook the ground and made me cringe. I held myself tighter and peered through the darkness to see if I could pick April out of the crowd of cheering students. *Why’d I let her talk me into this?* A soft couch, fluffy blanket, and a cup of Granny’s homemade hot cocoa waited for me at home. I could be safe in a warm house, yet there I froze on the damp ground, in the dark, with a storm on its way. I shoved my glasses into place with the tip of my forefinger.

    The fire looked much clearer now.

    A petite form split from the others and trotted my way. “Beth!” a perky voice called as it came closer. The shadowy figure of a girl stopped, breathless, in front of me. “What are you doing over here? You look like you’re freezing! Come sit with us.” She gestured over her shoulder to the bonfire.

    “I don’t like fire,” I muttered through clenched teeth. My eyes fixed on the dancing blaze and a chill shook me to the core.

    The girl gave her ponytail an impatient tug. “Oh, come on!” she insisted. “I want to hang out with you. You’re missing all the fun!” I couldn’t see her good-natured pout, but I knew it was there. “Please? Derek’s waiting.”

    My hands balled into fists. *Derek,* I thought. Of course. With narrowed eyes, I grumbled, “That makes me want to jump up and run right over there.”

    “Beth…”

    “You know how I feel about him, April. He treats you like dirt. You deserve better.”

    A sudden, strained silence fell. As far as best friends went, we knew our limits, and April’s boyfriend was our limit. “I know,” April murmured.

  • Eric wheeler

    Rick Wheeler

    Eswheeler1992(at)gmail(dot)com

    Impossible Quests

    YA Fantasy

    Pitch:

    To avoid becoming betrothed, Princess Rosalinda demands impossible tasks in exchange for her hand. When princes from rival kingdoms disappear, their families demand their safe return. Rosalinda must save the princes to prevent a war.

    First 250:

    Princess Rosalinda sat in the tallest tower of the castle; of course, the tallest tower was a mere two stories tall. She straightened out the tattered hem of her old dress as she watched the royal livestock graze in the field, a malnourished cow pecked at the ground hoping to get any last strand of dry, brown grass. The rest of the livestock consisted of a nanny goat and a hen that would have been supper long ago if not for her extraordinary egg laying ability.

    “Oh why did I have to be born into the poorest kingdom in all the land,” Princess Rosalinda said to the handmaiden, who she wished would cater to her every whim, but in such a poor kingdom the handmaiden also served as the royal chef, the stable girl, and the herald leaving little time to tend to the princess.

    Princess Rosalinda smiled knowing what she lacked in gold she undoubtedly made up in stunning good looks. She was by far the prettiest princess in all the land and the envy of every princess within a thousand miles. Her hair, the color of the setting sun, her milky white skin, and bosom the size of two newborn babies’ heads had every prince from the neighboring five kingdoms sniffing around as a mangy mutt sniffs the refuse bins.

    Princess Rosalinda brushed her lush hair watching in the mirror as her hair straightened out.
    “Let me get that.” Maria, the handmaiden, rushed over taking the brush from the princess’ hand.
    “You reek of the stables.” Princess Rosalinda scrunched up her nose.

  • cassandra

    Cassandra and Niko Newbould

    cassnwrites@gmail.com

    THE MONSTER ATE MY CLUBHOUSE

    YA/CONTEMPORARY

    PITCH:

    sixteen-year-old Lani’s family seems perfect on the outside, but her bipolar dad makes life anything but. In search of “normal,” the family goes on a road trip-turned-relocation that turns their lives upside down forever.

    FIRST 250:

    Buffered under my fortress of blankets, I’m safe; no one can harm my soul here. Here, I can pretend I’m a normal girl. That my life won’t follow his path.

    My heart races, while my throat tightens. The sound of the Dragon in full rage-mode makes me wish I had magical powers one reads about in fantasy novels. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near that lucky. No, I’m just a sixteen-year-old girl with a dragon for a father, that’s all. Dad didn’t earn that nickname tucking us in and reading bedtime stories every night. That’s for sure.

    “Shut up, Mel, I swear if you don’t—”

    “Patrick, please. Not tonight.” My parents’ words collide outside my door, and I scoot further under the covers. It’s highly unlikely they’ll make an appearance in my room, but you never know. When he’s loose, anything’s possible. Dad’s not your stereotypical dragon, he’s just a man.

    “Patrick, calm down.” Mom’s voice is only a whisper. Still, it echoes in my room.

    Oh, Mom— now you’ve done it. Wish my blankets were made of steel.

    “You can take your calm and shove it. Don’t you ever tell me what to do!” The smoke-and-fire Dad breathes when he’s behind closed doors is enough to make anyone hide under their bed.
    The first time Mom tried to explain to me what bipolar was, it made no sense. By the 500th time, I wanted to yell. Just because a doctor says it’s a disease doesn’t make it any better.

    Sometimes, it’s worse.

  • cassandra

    Please could you delete this one? For some reason the spacing didn’t work. Thanks 🙂

  • Dani Nicole
    daniellebaxter61@gmail.com
    Moonstruck
    YA Fantasy

    Pitch:
    17-year-old Moriah races to stop the High Priest from sacrificing the boy she loves, before an end-of-time prophecy manifests at the next full moon and destroys her village.

    CHAPTER 1 – THE CALL

    It’s considered sacrilegious to chart the moon phases, but that didn’t keep me from trying. When I was younger, I scribbled in my journals until I nearly went mad counting down to the beginning of the Prophecy. What we know is that the world will end thirty days after Blue Moon 456. What we don’t know is when Blue Moon 456 is, because the Priesthood controls the lunar charts.

    When Mother found my journals, my attempt at figuring out the end, she took them away. She told me faith was all I needed.

    I guess there’s beauty in not knowing how long you have left.

    So my village gathers, hunts and builds, because while the end always looms over us, we still have mouths to feed and life to support. I’ve seen nearly every part of the village as a Gatherer, picked almost every plant. But I’ve never climbed up the steep slope of Mount Halex to collect the sacred Zyca fruits. Until now.

    My best friend climbs next to me, her curly blonde hair contained under a thick fur hat.

    “I hate it up here, Moriah,” Larah calls over the noise of the wind.

    “I know. But we’re getting closer,” I shout after her. “I can already smell the Zycas.”

    I miss the sunlight, miss the yellow glow and warmth as the cold air bites. During the season of Rymna, the sun never rises, and the moon reigns with majestic, taunting power. Each step takes me further up the mountain, further from the warmth of street fires, from the safety of solid ground. And still, I climb.

  • Linnea Ren

    linnearen@gmail.com

    Call of the Elder

    YA/High Fantasy

    35-word Pitch:

    Elin is the last of her people who can use magic. When a dragon elder summons her, she has no choice but to travel across the country to see him, risking both slavery and death.

    250 Words:

    The heat made it difficult to breathe. Moist air crept its way down Elin’s lungs, filling her chest with each breath. The summer months weren’t normally this painful, but with the monsoons breaking out over the middle country, moisture and rain worsened the heat.

    Elin closed her eyes and raised her arms over her head. Sleep evaded her, the light of the half-moon adding to the uncomfortable heat. The two thick braids of black hair tickled her bare arms, but at least it was off her neck.

    “No!”

    The loud shout echoed through the open window and startled Elin. She snapped open her amber eyes. She recognized the voice. It was that of a child, and it came from across the street. The beginning of the third division. She sat up and stared out the window.

    “Shut up.”

    She ran a hand over her sticky, wet neck, searching for the source of the new voice. It was deeper. A male, and not one she recognized. She knew everyone in the camp, but not in the rest of Hallendale. Fear trickled through the heat.

    “Don’t hurt her!”

    There they were. The house two down and across the street. The man she didn’t recognize was holding the tiny wrist of a small child — the girl who’d screamed — while a young woman clung to his other arm. The two in danger looked like everyone on the camp: silky black hair with copper skin.

    The man pulled his arm away from the woman and backhanded her.

  • Melissa Menten
    melissamenten(at)gmail(dot)com
    THE BACH DOUBLE
    YA Contemporary

    Pitch:

    Fifteen year-old violinist Elise wants to win. Win auditions and her dad’s heart back, but if she can’t admit what broke their bond, she’ll never succeed.

    First 250:

    Elise stood in the patch of sunlight streaming through her bedroom window. She ignored the sun blistering the spines off the front yard’s giant saguaro cactus and tucked her violin under her chin. Just enough time before supper to run through her scales. Each note rang pitch perfect. Her fingers moved steadily across the strings, calming her mind’s ever-thrumming tension.

    She switched keys from B flat major to G melodic minor. Up and down over three octaves starting with broad notes, she increased her tempo each time she reached the bottom note. Again and again. Scales, especially the melodic minor ones with their changing pitches, smoothed the lines from her forehead.

    A challenge, and yet so logical. Every note fit squarely in its place, just as every item in the room was neatly arranged, from the alphabetized books on the shelf above the desk to the pillows on the pumpkin-colored bedspread.

    Minutes flew by, and Elise opened her eyes to focus on her fingers contorting into scales of thirds and then sixths. Her dad had forgotten to pick up her good bow from the repair shop today. Things like that used to be important to him, but she sounded fine with her cheap one. She just had to work harder.

    Her goal was to blow Mr. Smith away when she played for him next week in orchestra. If she could edge out the seniors, she had a chance to lead the orchestra as concertmaster. Over the summer that possibility had become an obsession.

  • Ashley Martin

    ashleymartin.mt(at)gmail(dot)com

    FOLLOW ME

    MG/Fantasy

    (Pitch)
    Twelve-year-old Alivia Hart knows what no one else would ever believe: The woods took her mother. Now the forest is calling to Alivia with two words whispered on the wind…”Follow me.”

    (First 250)
    The wind had turned cold.

    The breeze reached through the darkness and raised goosebumps on Alivia’s skin. Teeth chattering, she pulled the covers higher under her brother’s chin and hugged her arms across her chest as she hurried on tip-toes past the open window toward the warm refuge of her own bed. The thin white nightgown that swished around her ankles glowed against the darkness. Like a beam of moonlight.

    Or a ghost.

    She dove under the covers and pulled up the down-filled quilt, wiggling her toes nearer to the homemade bedwarmer she’d tucked at the foot of the mattress. Alivia smiled with impertinent satisfaction. Aunt Lorina would be furious if she knew several of the potatoes buried in the ashes of the kitchen fireplace to cook were now warming Alivia’s feet. But worse than that, if her aunt knew the window was open on such a cold night, she’d find a way to lock it up tighter than the glass-doored bookshelves downstairs in the library.

    Alivia wrinkled her nose as the scent of half-baked potatoes drifted up from beneath the sheets. Since Aunt Lorina’s arrival they had dined on potatoes at nearly every meal–a testament to the strength of Aunt Lorina’s penny-pinching frugality. Potato soup, potato mash, baked potatoes, fried potatoes, and every other form of potato-something that could be imagined. Alivia missed her mother’s cooking almost as much as she missed her touch, her smile…

    Her voice.

    It came then, preceded by a gust of wind that rippled the heavy linen curtains and sent a chill up Alivia’s back, despite the down and potatoes.

  • Name: E.S. Wesley

    Email: eswesleywriting[at]gmail[dot]com

    Title of Work: The Outs

    Category/Genre: YA speculative sci-fi

    Pitch: An honor student with a voice in his head and a language-disabled comic book artist accidentally kidnap a little girl who may be key to stopping a phenomenon that’s been stealing people’s memories.

    250 words:

    Another night of wondering what he’d done. What he might do.

    What he will do.

    Caleb shook off the foreign thought.

    His temples ached as he paced his bedroom. The picture of him and his family hiking at Emerald Lake in Colorado last year mocked him. All those smiles.

    No one was smiling now that his parents were missing.

    He tapped a finger on the stack of college acceptance letters laid neatly in the center of his clean desk every time he paced by, hoping the words would comfort him. “We are pleased to inform you …”

    He just had to keep telling himself that people still had the opportunity to be pleased, despite the Outs. People still went to college. No matter what terrible things had happened over the past year since the Outs started, he held out hope that there might still be a future for him. The hope that he could find them and make everything okay.

    The dim lights of the Dallas suburbs winked out one by one, preparing for the long night. The air thickened. He hated this time of night. The not knowing. Everything shutting down. The darkness.

    It was all so, so wrong.

    You just need a thrill, brother.

    Again, he pushed aside the hateful voice in his head. Just his imagination. Just insecurity, or whatever. It didn’t mean anything. It didn’t mean he was a bad person.

    It didn’t. It didn’t.

    Things were bad even before Mom and Dad disappeared two nights ago.

  • Kathryn Lipscomb

    Kathryn Lipscomb

    Rynnlipscomb@gmail.com

    IRL: In Real Life

    YA Near-Future Science Fiction

    Pitch:
    To protect her siblings, Brynn takes her mother’s abuse in silence, but at night she plays a virtual reality game where she can be herself—someone who speaks her mind and fights for what’s right.

    First 250 words:

    The slap across my face stings for only a second, but the look of hatred on my mom’s face burns into my heart. It’s all there. Anger and disgust written in the age lines by her bright blue eyes despite the amount of make-up covering her face. Her stance is that of a panther ready to attack, and it glues me to my spot on the bathroom floor. Even though I’m her same height and build, I don’t dare move and am unable to look away. I should though. I should look at the brush she used, still clenched in her hand, or the floor covered in water puddles and kid’s clothes, but I can’t.

    My mother’s whole body twitches and mine jolts in response. She doesn’t yell, but the anger in her voice make me take a step back. “Don’t look at me like that.”

    I turn my head and back up as much as I can against the cold tiled wall. I can’t believe I stepped in the way as she tried to hustle Jenn into the bathroom to do her hair. My six year old sister looks at me wide-eyed but knows better than to say anything as our mom attacks the snarls in her hair.

    I give them all the space possible as if I can melt into the foundation. When there’s an opening, I slip by.

    I just won’t brush my teeth today.

  • Fractalistic
    YA contemporary

    * One-sentence pitch:

    Sixteen-year-old Winter struggles to cope with her father’s bizarre obsession—using math to communicate with the dead.

    * Almost one page worth of words:

    The never-ending cascade of cubes makes my head spin. It turns my brain into a tiny marble bouncing in my skull. I can’t look at the screen anymore. I avert my eyes, concentrating on the picture sitting on Dad’s desk. I can’t see it well, but I know it by heart: Dad, Mom, me. Together. One of our last happy days as a family.

    Mom.

    I miss her hands threading my light-brown braid in front of the mirror, and her dark-blue eyes, those gentle eyes gazing at mine, contrasting with my hazel ones, saying a wordless, I love you.

    “Pay attention, Winter,” Dad whispers, breaking the silence.

    We sit on the floor in his home office, touching shoulders, side by side, in a lotus position. He motions to his giant seventy-inch, paper-thin 3D TV hanging from the wall. With the blinds down and no light filtering through the door, the computer-generated cubes bathe Dad’s office in shades of blue.

    I can’t do this anymore. “I’m going to bed.”

    Dad grips my arm. “Sit.”

    He hurts me, uncharacteristic of him. “Dad.”

    Letting go, he shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Pumpkin. I-I …” He pauses and blinks. “You know how much I want you—this, this to work.”

    I nod, saying a silent, I know. He’s been trying hard since Mom died a year ago.
    Dad picks up his tablet and types, and as I leave, his frustration hits my back like cold water.

  • Ali Herring

    alioherring (at) gmail.com

    HalfWorlder

    YA Fantasy Romance

    35 word pitch:

    The long-dormant powers of a half-alien boy awaken just in time to save the Earth from planetary destruction, but he never imagined winning the heart of a girl would be harder than saving the world.

    First 250

    Mom stood at the counter nursing her coffee and reading her paper, but in typical Helen fashion, eye-balled me while pretending to read the opinion section. She has been looking at me funny for the last 17 years or so, meaning since I was born, so this wasn’t unusual. However, on this particular morning her eye-darting thing was over the top. There were extenuating circumstances what with dad and all, but come on.

    ‘Course, I guessed the thing with my alarm clock threw her too, but I decided to add it to the list of weird things happening to me and go on. Maybe her, not so much?

    “Gil, we need to talk about this. Your alarm clock …”

    Score one for Gil. I was right.

    “Yeah, sorry about that. Either my alarm clocks hates me. Or maybe you rigged it that way to get me out of bed faster?” I arched an eyebrow. I wasn’t a morning person, and my mom was a genius, so I wouldn’t put it past her.

    “I didn’t rewire it,” she smirked back.

    “Then it’s definitely defective.” I broke eye contact and stared into my cereal bowl like I’d found something interesting there, talking through the mush, “Did you see the way it smoked?”

    “Yes,” she sighed but didn’t say more.

    It had jolted me from another crazy nightmare with that annoying, “Ehh, ehh, ehh” sound and proceeded to go bonkers on me. The red numbers spun wildly like they couldn’t decide what time

  • Emily McCrea

    Emily McCrea

    emeraldskyethewriter@gmail.com

    (Title) Lonely Stars

    (Genre) Fantasy

    (Pitch)
    The Valkyries always claimed the Island of Exile was just a myth, but an unexpected kidnapping sets Cirriyon on a journey that leads her deep into the heart of the island-and its terrible secrets.

    (First 250)
    It was a stormy day. Dark layers of clouds blanketed the sky, hanging motionless as though they would never leave. The wind whipped across the gray water, sending waves rippling to and fro until they crashed into the hulking boulders lining the shoreline. On one of the largest boulders, a small Valkyrie boy sat perched. His light brown wings rustled as the wind played with their feathers. His golden eyes studied the restless waves below him.

    “Aerion!” a voice called.

    The boy raised his head. “Yes, Mama?”

    “You better have not been swimming in this weather. The water is too dangerous right now.” A Valkyrie woman in a faded ice blue dress emerged from a cave mouth set into the rocks not far from the shore.

    “I haven’t,” the boy replied meekly.

    “Good. I’m going hunting in the ravine. Go inside and draw on the cave walls. Morning Light likes it when you draw.”

    “I don’t wanna draw right now.” The boy slipped off of the rock and limped towards his mother.

    “Aerion, you know I don’t like you going into the gorge with me. It’s dangerous, especially since this is hunting season for the rock wolves.” Her eyes drifted to the boy’s crippled right leg before she could stop herself.

    Aerion swiftly caught her glance and flushed. “I’ll be fine, Mama. We haven’t even seen wolves around here for years.”

    As his pleading eyes met hers, the woman bit her lip guiltily. “Alright,” she said after a bit of hesitation.

  • Marcia

    Marcia Reeves Thrasher

    marciaisbalance@aol.com

    BUFFAY, SLAYER CAT

    MG, MAGICAL REALISM

    (Pitch)

    Every cat life counts. When Beelzebub threatens to annihilate the country with the bomb found beneath the waters of the marshes off Oatland Island it’s up to Buffay to stop those soul-sucking, sneaky marsh snakes.

    (First 250)

    “tk, tk, tk, tk, click, click, click” if only I could let go my cares, my responsibilities to the gentle breeze blowing inland. The mesmerizing motion of the tall marsh grasses, the click, click, clicking of unbending reeds, a cacophony of insect life, all familiar sounds of the marshes. “Stay here forever and be a part of my never ending beauty.”

    Momentarily distracted I open my eyes to see several white cranes and a lone blue heron land on the dark sandy knolls dotting the marshlands. They are most likely looking for shrimp or tiny crabs. The availability of food washed inland by the tides is attractive to the many species of bird life, reptiles and others. Marsh water is dark unlike the aquamarine of the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the constant movement of oceanic waters, marsh water is sedentary, relying upon outside agitation. And that makes it a great habitat for things that like to remain unseen.

    My eyes wander away from the blue sky and slowly I tilt my head toward the nearby roadway. There is movement. It takes a conscious decision to pull myself away from the beauty of the marshes but there are more important things to consider today. It may be quiet and still at the moment but I know first hand what lurks beneath still waters, hides within its habitation.

  • Abracadabra…Oops!

    Upper Middle Grade Paranormal Adventure

    (pitch)
    Sammy and Jordy are the only ones standing between thieves and the black magic they want. Unfortunately stopping them is going to require some magic of their own, and that is a really iffy proposition.

    (First 250)
    Jordon and Samantha are so bummed with themselves that they’re bickering. They made a promise to their parents. They’d practice a spell every day while Aunt Esmerelda was staying with them. That promise had only been made yesterday and they were already scrambling to keep it. They were due downstairs to help with their aunt’s séance in two hours, and there was no more putting it off. The setting sun was already stretching the shadows of the trees outside into giants, darkening the room into an unfamiliar space promising all sorts of surprises. The only delay left was playing the blame game.

    “You started it, Jordon. You just had to finish your book before we practiced.”

    “You were the one who wanted to wait until after lunch.”

    “How was I supposed to know you were going to go play baseball all afternoon?”

    The reason for all the excuses wasn’t a secret. They simply chose not to admit it to each other. The truth was that without their parents around to consult, things always seemed to go sideways when they practiced.

    Once they’d decided to magic up a birthday cake for their aunt. They’d finished the spell and come to the scariest part—-waiting to see what would happen. They were staring upward, their fingers crossed when the small cloud appeared above them.

    “Uh oh,” Jordy said.

    Their arms went up to cover their heads just as a wiggly green snake dropped to the table, thumped onto the spell book, and slithered to the table.

  • Tanvi B.

    tanviberwah@gmail.com

    Fire and Ashes

    YA High Fantasy

    [Pitch]
    An accomplished 18-year-old assassin is swept into a life-threatening quest with the high-minded Commander of the King’s Guard and must find a magical ink to ransom her life from the unyielding king of Windurken.

    [First 250 word]
    Her hundred and fiftieth target would be dead in a few minutes. Tonight Shahnaz Tamarlan was making history.

    If only the palace guards moved quicker.

    Shahnaz considered gutting them instead of waiting for them to pass. But she resisted her natural urge. Hidden in the shadows, she flexed her hands behind her.

    If Queen Dowager Una was lucky, she’d get a clean, quick death. Because if not… Shahnaz shuddered. Most unfortunately, she’d begun to like Una. Even if her job wasn’t to like people; her job was to assassinate them as the king and queen commanded.

    For the Gods’ sake, just slit her throat! Nice and easy.

    Una’s assassination had to be faultless. The king and queen had placed the highest faith in her by choosing her instead of Darius to take out Naishasa’s Queen Dowager. She wouldn’t allow her reputation to be tainted.

    Not that it was that surprising. Her mother, may Gods keep her at peace, had passed her ruthless instincts on to Shahnaz that, combined with her artful wiles, made her the deadliest assassin in Samarshon. And in that, she had become completely unlike her mother.

    Finally, the palace guards and their reek of burning coal and sweat turned the corner ahead. The metallic scales of their armor, wrangling in sync, glimmered with checkered bits of light through the perforated arches. The thorns of the thistle, sigil of the League of the North, glinted together on their backs. Those idiots had marched right past her, their breaths fogging up.

  • Emily Layne
    emilylaynewriter@gmail.com

    THESE WICKED WATERS
    YA Thriller

    Pitch:

    Eighteen-year-old Annie expects a boring summer working at her Mom’s island resort—until she stumbles upon a siren skeleton and rekindles a centuries old vendetta.

    First 250:

    When Mom bought the island logical investors called “cursed,” I figured she was hungry for a challenge. Even still, the last thing I expected was for her to build a multi-million dollar resort on the island’s sandy shores. Or that I’d spend my first five minutes on Viaii Nisi throwing up in the women’s bathroom.

    “This is disgusting,” I groaned, rubbing my watering eyes as I banished the remains of a once delicious grilled cheese sandwich to the island’s plumbing. Seasickness was a terrible weakness. I’d much prefer a penchant for fainting and waking up in the arms of a hot guy.

    I exited the bathroom stall with the tattered remains of my dignity and maneuvered through the crowd of women at the sinks. Perfume and excited chatter clogged the air with a tangible intensity. I palmed a cough, answering the call of a water fountain at the bathroom’s entrance.

    Outside, the blast of fresh—if humid—air eased the tightness in my chest. I took a slow inhale of the salty breeze and curled the bill of my baseball hat as I waited for a guy to finish slurping from the fountain. Hordes of people milled about the Welcome Center, a cluster of shops and information booths, while they waited for the resort bus to arrive. A group of elderly ladies toddled toward the bathroom, sporting the panicked look of weak bladders and a desperate need to go.

  • K.M. Guerin
    KarinaM.Guerin@yahoo.com
    La Bastarda (Book 1 of the Trastámara Series)
    Young Adult Historical Fiction

    Constanza is prepared to risk it all to stay in favor in the fickle Trastámaran court, but when will she learn Fate has a way of reclaiming those who try and escape its clutches?

    FIRST 250:

    14 November, in the Year of Our Lord, 1358

    Discretion was key. They had checked into a poor inn near Flines, one where the maid and her ‘aunties’ would be forgotten instantly, on the way back to some unnamed town. “Going home for Christmastide,” they said, in spite of the fact that it was mid-November. It was simple to think of a different reason why the trio were at the inn, and it was a rumor that the older women had encouraged: pay enough gold, no one questions your story; pay more, and strangers will lie for you. Patrons who heard anything coming from the room upstairs were told that it was the new girl “learning the ropes”, complete with a wink and a smile. The old fishermen and poorer merchants pulled back their rotting skin to show matching teeth, deadmen’s anticipatory leers. Most of them had had every whore in the place, knew every sore on the tired old women’s privy parts, and fresh meat was always welcome. A new whore needed to be broken in before she could be properly enjoyed, though, and so the men waited.

    Meanwhile, the little thing on the bed was dying, that much was sure. The midwives exchanged a solemn glance, not even trying to hide it; the wretched creature was so far gone in her pain that she could hardly breathe, let alone see or hear.

    Oh, she had been pretty once, and the two women could still hear her tinkling laugh as she helped chase chickens around an innkeeper’s garden or herded children back to their mothers, her long blonde hair trailing behind her while she ran.

  • Sareh Lovasen

    akally52@gmail.com

    Sword of Clouds

    Young Adult/Fantasy

    (Pitch)
    Princess Kimiko seeks revenge on the prince who killed her father–the same prince who will do anything to save his sick sister’s life, even if that means destroying the world.

    (250 first words)
    A fox’s gift is always trash.
    Moments before, the leaf in her hand had been a beautiful fan, inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory. She tried to control the rage shimmering underneath her skin, focusing on just breathing. Away from the pavilion where her sister’s magic had been disguising it, she stared down at the path to the beach. Down below, her younger brother and sister were looking for seashells and mermaids. Now taunting them with the fan wasn’t an option.
    Smashing the leaf under foot and stomping back up to the pavilion, she let kitsune-bi send sparks of lightning crackle across her skin. Laying on soft beds, her mother, older sister, and her sister’s husband enjoyed the soft breeze playing with the light silk curtains hanging around them.
    The pavilion sat on the edge of the mountain, overlooking the Jade Sea and surrounded by blossoming gardens. It was connected to the rest of the palace by a bridge that crossed in front of a rushing waterfall. From here, one had a view of the palace and the rest of the island.
    “Lian!” Kimiko shouted. “That was uncalled for, getting my hopes up like that!”
    Resting her head on a pillow and spread out across one of the couches, her eldest sister giggled and gave a fox’s sly grin.“Oh Kii-chan, you’re so foolish!” She pulled her fan out of her sleeves and swung her long legs over a cushion.

  • Christy C

    Name: Christy C

    Email: calenchris@gmail.com

    Title: Seven Seas

    YA Science Fiction

    Pitch:
    Cal dreams of living among the stars, Lia dreams of coming back down to Earth. He’s a wanted space pirate, she knows how his story ends.

    First 250:
    The gun clicks and I smile.

    Goosebumps cover my arms even though the temperature is always perfectly controlled at twenty-five degrees Celsius. I purse my lips, finding it difficult to keep the foolish grin off my face.

    So much for acting like a professional.

    “It’s oddly exhilarating, isn’t it,” my boss notes. Following protocol, Chloe takes the gun carefully with gloved fingers. The lid to its velvet-lined casing closes with a quiet hiss of air, locking automatically.

    “It’s hard to believe five thousand years have passed since any of these items were seen by another human,” I say, disposing my used gloves in the bright orange burn box by my feet. I know I shouldn’t be smiling over what more likely than not was used to kill, but I push that disturbing thought out of my mind. It’s a lot easier dealing with ancient artifacts and not human remains.

    Chloe punches in the security code and a row of glass cases descend back under lab floor tiles for storage. I lean against a metal railing, watching as the large panels glide smoothly back into place. “Don’t tell me you’ve got the entire pirate ship hidden under there too.”

    “We’re still receiving deliveries from the field team. I believe your fabled shuttle will be here by the end of next week,” Chloe says.

    I laugh a bit at this. “My ship? Don’t you mean Callum Davis’ ship? I think he’d be turning in his grave at this very moment if he heard me renaming his pride and joy the Dahlia.”

  • Ael

    Ael End
    aelend@gmail.com

    ONE WEEK
    Contemporary YA

    Pitch:

    Sophomore Olivia Morris disappears from school after a mysterious accident just as her english teacher gives the class a diary assignment. Through their diary entries her classmates discover what happens.

    First 250 words:

    Olivia – Entry #1

    The ball was red and it was blood and there was blood on the ground and the car and the ball. I took the ball. I gave it back, too.

    Nothing is going to be the same again.

    They won’t let me see him, but I’ve been at the hospital
    since it happened, just sitting here. Jenna came to see me
    after school. I guess it was after, I don’t really know time
    right now. She gave me this journal and said I don’t have to
    do the assignment because of what happened. But I could if I
    wanted to.

    And I said what happened? Because I still don’t know.

    I know, but I don’t.

    A ball and a bump and a boy.

    When is a bump not a bump?

    Dylan – Entry #1

    Her hair. That’s the first thing I noticed about her. Olivia
    hates her hair, a fact that I came to know very well the first
    time I told her I liked it. It’s like a blonde cotton ball,
    but in a good way. It looks like it’s going to fly away in the
    breeze. So does she.

    But it wasn’t the way her hair looked. It was how it
    smelled. Her smell. It’s not like with other girls, that
    branded smell, lilacs or lavender or whatever scent brought to
    you by some shampoo or perfume company. I’ve fallen for that
    before. But Olivia smells like the world. No, like the woods.
    Campfire, trees, and maybe a little dirt.

  • angeleya77(at)gmail(dot)com

    Title: Skye’s Lure

    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    Pitch: Contact with humans is dangerous, but when Skye the mermaid saves Vince – a human – from drowning, she embarks on a journey that she fears could destroy her and all Mer-kind.

    Excerpt: “The Mer didn’t always exist – at least not as we’re known now. We used to live as people of the sea, living in the water nearly as much as on land. We turned to the depths for our food, trade, and more. It was a simple but wonderful life, as some tell it. Our people kept to themselves, preferring the briny waters and marine life to outside tribes, and the sea returned our love. We fished with the dolphins, swam with the sharks, and oysters willingly gave us their pearls.

    “Then everything changed.” I paused, looking at the young Mer gathered around me. Their eyes were wide, reflecting the glow of the jellyfish that danced by. It wasn’t so long ago when I sat in the audience, mesmerized by the animated retelling of our people’s history.

    “As legend tells it, our tribe was very protective of the secrets we learned from our love. In order to protect these confidences, our elders passed a law that no one should find love or marriage outside of our tribe. It worked for many years, but as our trade business grew, some of the younger among us began to fall in love with the young and exotic traders that would come in. There were only a few at first, but soon a large group of our tribe had fallen in love with outsiders.”

    An appreciative “oooh” went out from the small crowd, and a couple of the little mermaids giggled. A smile brushed my lips.

  • Name: E.G. Moore

    Email: emilygmoorewriter at yahoo

    Title: SAMANA’S FLAIR

    Age Category/Genre: YA Fantasy

    Pitch:

    Fifteen-year-old Flairmaid Samana wants to find her place in a peaceful desert society. Incognito rebels, a Flairian Chief that’s not what he seems, her temperamental magic, and falling for a Flairman forces her to reconsider.

    First 250 words:

    Samana let out a breath and soaked in the melody filling the dim adobe room. The gentle tug of fingers sifted through her black hair.

    The haunting song faded. Samana twisted around.

    “Do you have to stop?”

    Demeriz’s cheeks bunched as she smiled. “Singing, or brushing your hair?”

    “Both.” Samana gathered her locks over one shoulder and braided them. “Your songs are so beautiful, especially that one. No wonder your flair came in as charrion.”

    Demeriz touched her chest where a swirling trio of black bird tattoos cascaded down her shoulder and over her collar bone. She fastened Samana’s braid with a leather tie.

    “Music beckons the soul from its darkest places.”

    “Where did you hear that?” Samana asked.

    Demeriz paused. “I don’t know. It always crosses my mind when I sing. Maybe I heard it at the Chawe house.”

    Samana nodded. The only good thing the orphanage ever offered her was the chance to escape it. A wonderer’s life may not have as many meals as the chawe house provided, but Dimerez was her family. That was all that mattered.

    “We finally have a place to call our own! We will be each other’s family,” Demeriz echoed Samana’s thoughts and cast her hands wide. “If I can keep finding places to sing for trade, we can make a life here. All we have to do is avoid getting snatched up and sent to the mines.”

    Samana frowned at the terracotta floor. “Highest Skies, that self-indulgent yapper!”

    “Samana!”

  • Faydra Stratton

    faydrastratton (at) gmail (dot) com

    DEVIL SPRINGS

    YA—Contemporary

    Pitch:
    Mesa must decide if she’ll join her grandmother’s devil-banning crusade. She’s sick of being bullied into fake piety, but her grandmother’s wrath means no more cross country team or Cody, Mesa’s almost-first boyfriend.

    First 250:
    Avis cries out in the kitchen, but I hesitate to see if I’m really needed. My grandmother likes to holler.

    “Mesa! Get in here!”

    I toss my book aside and move toward the sharp scent of ammonia that lingers from Avis’s post-breakfast mopping. She stands at the sink, blood dripping from her finger onto the glossy linoleum.

    “Get this out of the way.” She shoves a colander filled with strawberries toward me and lifts her hand in the air. I grab the bowl as blood runs down her wrist and seeps into the cuff of her blouse, crimson blooming in white threads.

    “The devil attacked me.” Her voice is sharp, hissing. Her revelation vibrates between us.

    That’s so Avis. Brimming with melodrama and crap. She cut herself, the paring knife she’d been using to hull the berries slipping as knives sometimes do, but I nod. Kenzi and her mom will be here in ten minutes to pick me up for our senior picture appointment; Now’s the time for placating.

    “He’s in this town. Staked his claim into its very name.”

    Her favorite topic. Avis has been trying to get the town name changed from Devil Springs to Life Springs for as long as I can remember. I return the strawberries to the fridge, consider popping one in my mouth, but decide against it. It’s hard to tell if they suffered any blood splash.

    “I’ll get the Band-Aids,” I offer.

    Instead of acknowledging me, Avis starts to pray.

  • Phoenix Kingston

    Phoenix Kingston

    PhoenixKingstonBooks@gmail.com

    GREATER THAN COURAGE

    YA Fantasy

    Pitch:
    Avi’s dad had a secret until the day he died of cancer: he was a knight in another world. Now Avi must navigate two high schools and keep everything hidden – if nothing eats her first.

    First 250:
    I look at the yawning, craggy hole in front of me. The waterfall crashes behind, mist chilling the back of my arms as I stare into the black, fathomless nothing at my feet. I can’t believe it’s really here, just like he said; my limbs feel strangely disconnected as I try to believe I’m not hallucinating. He failed to mention that the opening would look like a terrible monster, hungry to swallow me whole – failed to mention how eerie I would feel as the sunlight is warped and distorted through crashing water.

    “There are a lot of things he failed to mention,” I think bitterly.

    I need new Keds. The tread on mine is dangerously worn down as I try to keep my footing on the slippery rocks; every time I move, my shoes threaten to send me toppling down the monster’s throat.

    I tried to avoid this. A small part of me always hoped it would be true, but I was far more terrified to find out he had lied. I put it off for months. But now I’m standing on the edge of a hole I can’t see the bottom of, a crumpled piece of paper clutched in one sweating hand and a bulky leather bundle in the other, and I’m out of options.
    To die would be an awfully big adventure. I grimace as Peter Pan’s words bloom in my brain – they feel like a slap in the face.

  • Lisa Bradley

    Lisa Bradley
    ladybug10960@gmail.com
    ISLAND SHADOWS
    Contemporary YA

    Pitch:
    A sixteen-year-old heroine travels to a river island to save a beloved childhood castle from demolition, but her journey is thwarted by the island’s reclusive caretaker and townspeople who’d rather keep the castle’s secrets buried.

    First 250:
    I was in the middle of drawing a self-portrait, or trying to draw a self-portrait, when Gramps called me downstairs. Crumbled sheets of sketch paper littered the bedroom floor. I’d been at it since after dinner, but my proportions were all wrong. I balled the sheet of paper with my fists and tossed it aside with the others.

    Ever since I had arrived at the river two weeks ago Gramps had been bugging me to attend a town meeting with him. It’s not that I didn’t like spending time with Gramps, being around him and Gran was one of the only things I wanted to do lately besides draw. But just then, I wanted to be alone. I needed to get this drawing right. But it was either listen to Gramps belt my name through the house’s thin walls or discard the drawing and start over later.

    I gathered the paper wads off the floor and tossed them with the others in the wastebasket. I grabbed my ivory cardigan, the scratchy one I pulled off the high shelf in Mom’s closet before I left our Brooklyn apartment, shrugged it on over my t-shirt, and tied it at my waist. Mom never wore the sweater anyway. She wouldn’t miss it now.

    “Shake a leg, Tess,” Gramps bellowed. “I want a seat up front.”

    “I’m coming. I’m coming.” I jogged down the creaky stairs.

    He smiled up at me, and for a moment it was like nothing had changed.

  • Jen Fulmer

    Jen Fulmer
    jdmfulmer@gmail.com

    LILY AND LION
    YA High Fantasy

    (Pitch) When eighteen-year-old Princess Callie realizes rejecting Prince Rory’s marriage proposal was a mistake, the two must find a way to end his engagement to her sister without causing a scandal or angering the gods.

    (250) The bell sounds as I reach the balcony at the top of the entryway stairs, and my hands begin to shake. Below, a pair of footmen open the heavy wooden doors, and he walks in. It’s only Rory, I scold myself. There’s no reason to be so nervous. He’s my best friend—at least, I hope I can still call him that. But my fingers find the wrought-iron banister and I can’t pry them loose again.

    A gust of wind sweeps in the open door, ruffling the black frock coat he wears over plain traveling clothes. The breeze climbs all the way up the stair to touch my cheek, and Rory’s gaze follows. He pulls the top hat from his golden head, and his hazel eyes find mine.

    It’s impossible to breathe. Every second of every day since we last saw each other a year ago thrums in my veins, keeping time with the grandfather clock in the entry below. I finally understand exactly what I’ve done, and the consequences I never could have predicted.

    I love him. The crystallization of that thought leaves me shaking harder than before. But I had my chance, and I wasted it with my stupid, terrified refusal.

    I know Rory’s not here for me, not like every time he’s visited in the past. He’s here for his fiancée. Yet the shining of his eyes when they meet mine makes it impossible to believe my best friend is marrying my sister.

    “Hello Calla Lily.”

  • Alexis Wainwight

    Alexis Wainwright

    Snuffalupagusrising@gmail.com

    WHEN YOU WISH

    YA/Fantasy

    Pitch:

    Granting wishes is everything for fallen-star-turned-human-girl, Pisces. When her first wish requires her to knock off an evil emperor, she expects success. But her vegetarian villain target isn’t about to go down without a fight.

    Excerpt:

    Picking out a bush to hide under was the most critical component of any battle. Erickson knew the shrubbery of choice had to be big enough to conceal him, but not too dense or he couldn’t see over it. The bush he’d selected sat midway on a plateau, closer to the fighting than he would have liked. The last bush, two weeks ago at a border skirmish, had been more ideal. This one was only so-so, but its location did lend him an excellent view of the field. That would be important when the order to retreat was issued. And if he knew anything about the barbarians they fought, it would be issued sooner rather than later.

    Erickson pressed his palms tight against his ears. The unholy clang of steel broke through his shaking hands.

    He wasn’t about to charge the field with the rest of his company and be hacked to bits.
    He was proud enough to call Isonia home, but his country’s feud with the Farrei Empire was none of his concern. When the imperial prince attacked the fort, General Brise called Erickson’s company to action.

    Only Erickson didn’t want to fight. He’d sooner crawl home and beg mercy. He wasn’t the first disgraced noble to wind up a deserter. Whimpering, Erickson propped himself on his elbows and risked a glance across the battlefield.

  • Carol-Ann Rudy
    rudycarolann@gmail.com
    TITLE: FaceTime
    CATEGORY/GENRE: YA dystopian speculative fiction

    PITCH:

    The consequences of being a FaceAlike, looking like someone else in the 23rd Century, can be disastrous, including mutilation. Essa must join an underground army to fight this evil regime—before she is taken!

    FIRST 250 WORDS:

    My dad Ofram Marzen and I sat high up in the Gala Stadium at the Blitz N Bomb Gala Concert. I’d been on the field twice before, taking part in gymnastic competitions. That is my sport, along with tumbling, rope, and cliff climbing. Tonight for the first time I was here as a spectator. Mom died giving birth to me, so it has always been just the two of us.

    Dad said the stadium was a relic—a leftover from the last war about two hundred years ago, what the Elders call World War III. The stadium hadn’t changed much since then. Of course, he was only repeating what his father and grandfathers before him were told. It was the war that came close to ending humanity when millions poured into the country, later named New Universal Terra. We call people who work in government NUTs, of course.

    The sun dropped out of sight over the rim of the stadium and the air chilled as night set in. Bright lights above the field shone mercilessly on us. Everywhere we looked we saw gigantic, ancient television screens ready to provide close-ups of Blitz N Bomb. Brilliant fluorescent colored graphics warned us about FaceAlikes, too. Look around you, the captions began. There may be a FaceAlike near you. You are required by law to report any transgressor of the Copyright Law to the nearest Law Enforcement Officer. Do not, under penalty of death, seek to protect or conceal the FaceAlike.

  • Title: Within
    Genre: YA Gothic Fantasy

    Pitch: Everyone is keeping secrets from Lucy and she’s determined to learn the truth of her past; but as her nightmares bleed into her waking life, she comes to realize that some secrets can kill.

    250 Words:
    Lucy Gelling sat on the edge of a cliff, legs dangling high above the choppy, black Irish Sea. She sighed as she looked out into its frigid depths, watching wave after wave crash unceasing on the shingled beach below. Her book lay unopened beside her as she leaned out into the cold winds that blew in, salty and wet and full of life. Black curls whipped around her face, her pale, pinched cheeks red and chapped with cold. She paid the cold no heed, simply wrapping her cloak tightly around her thin shoulders and gulping down the fresh sea air like a drowning sailor. After a winter stuck in a stuffy manor house with six adults and no one near her seventeen years, Lucy was willing to suffer the brisk spring cold for the freedom of the open sky.

    Shifting to cover her shoulders better, she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye and swiftly turned to see a young man battling his way up the hill towards her. Immediately she noticed the energy and vitality he radiated as he bounded up the path, an image of youthful freedom that she had never known or even realized possible. Struck dumb for a moment, she may have never gained the courage to speak to him save for the fear that he would soon pass by and out of her life and she would never see him again.

  • Gillian Libby

    Gillian Libby

    Gillian.cummins@gmail.com

    Royal Never After

    YA Contemporary Romance

    PITCH:
    The Princess Diaries in reverse. Seventeen-year-old Romy must face life as regular girl after it’s discovered her family isn’t as royal as they thought they were.

    FIRST 250:

    I’ve always been different than other girls my age and that’s just how I liked it. Being a princess always made me special. It put me in an entirely different category than every other girl in my county, than most of the world’s population. And that didn’t suck. Now, everything does.
    At our stop Felix and I get off the bus. He lingers behind chatting with a girl from the bus. How does Felix always make friends so easily? I used to be able to talk to people just fine when I had a title that made me feel important and told everyone who I was. Maybe I had a better personality when I was a princess. Or maybe I lost everything interesting about me now that I’m not one.
    The girl from the bus tosses her long dark blonde hair over her shoulder as she smiles up at my brother. A tall blonde boy stands a few feet away watching the hair toss with narrow eyes. Felix better not be hitting on that guy’s girlfriend. Not that it would surprise me, but I don’t feel like breaking up a fist fight as my introduction to my new schoolmates.
    I start walking to our new house. A two hundred year old classic Connecticut colonial. It has white wood shingles and black shutters on every window and I hate it.

  • Heather Eagar

    Heather Eagar
    heathereagar@hotmail.com
    YA/Historical Fantasy
    DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND/69,000

    PITCH:
    Elizabeth Winters, a witch in Salem, uses her forbidden powers to save innocent people accused of witchcraft. She accidentally curses the village instead and must figure out how to stop it before Salem is destroyed.

    250 Words:
    I shiver as my feet hit the cold wood floor. It’s too early to be awake. It’s always too early. Massaging my eyes I attempt to block out the sunlight bent on streaming straight into my retinas.
    “Elizabeth, are you ready to go?” Mother calls from the kitchen.
    “Yes, I’ll be right there,” I lie. It’s Sunday and I’m late, as usual. With a drunken shuffle I make my way to the large chest at the foot of my bed and grab the first dress I see. It doesn’t matter much when my choices are the black dress, the dark black dress, or the other black dress. Shall I wear the one with the hole, the one with two holes, or the one the mouse chewed through?
    “Elizabeth! We are going to be late, we need to leave.”
    “I’ll be right there,” I say.
    After exchanging my white nightdress for the dark black dress that the mouse chewed through, I tie a white apron around my waist, attempting to hide the hole. Before walking out the door I realize I have forgotten my cap.
    With a sigh I quickly pin my hair back before covering it with the white cap, a symbol of my purity. I now look like every other girl in Salem village, just how it should be. It seems a shame to let my curls go to waste and I can’t help but pull a few forward.

  • Kaitlyn Johnson

    Kaitlynjohnson1991@yahoo.com

    JESSARAY – THE CULLING SERIES

    YA Dystopian

    Pitch:
    Jessaray wakes with a hundred children as captives, selected due to their outcast status. They must fight in The Culling to determine their worth for “activation.” Only by working together can they hope to survive.

    First 250 words:
    They came for them at night. Each child shivered in bed, curled in on themselves to retain what little heat they could as they slept. They didn’t hear the soft footsteps, the sudden quiet from the animals outside, or the gentle clinking of the weapons carried by their assailants…

    Jessaray was able to get out one muffled shriek before the club came down on her head.

    Pain was all she knew as her eyelids fluttered with the return of consciousness. It flooded her senses, pouring from her lips in a river as she groaned. Gradually, the ache became a slow throb, and she was able to crack her eyes open just a sliver. Am I blind? Her eyes darted back and forth, only to be met with more darkness. Her ears seemed to work just fine. She could hear someone moving nearby, and a hand rested on her shoulder, making her jump.

    “Can you move?”

    The voice was male, with an accent she couldn’t place.

    “Come on. I’ll help you sit up.”

    She didn’t fight as the person eased her into an upright position. To her relief, her eyes were starting to adjust, and she could see the boy kneeling beside her. All that could be made out in the blackness was a thin face, with hollows in his cheeks and beneath his hazel eyes. Hair so dark it looked almost black was cut close to his head, and she thought she could see some kind of necklace peeking from beneath the hem of his shirt.

  • Holly R Hughes

    hgirlla(at)yahoo.com

    Dear Dead Drunk Girl

    YA Contemporary with a twist of magical realism

    PITCH:
    Heaven’s a dive bar for Mary. When people start writing the Dear Dead Drunk Girl no one expects her to write back! By answering letters Mary earns a shot at redemption, sobriety, and ultimately forgiveness.

    FIRST 250:

    My heaven is a dive bar. And I’m the only patron.

    I’m not lonely. I have the entire universe at my disposal and Robert my bartender is good company. He provides me with a never ending supply of vodka tonics or whatever else I want to drink. But the absolutely best part of my heaven is the art.

    Exact replicas of my little sister Anjuli’s masterpieces line the walls. Top to bottom are rainbows, smiling faces and triangle stick figure sisters holding hands. There used to be a few on the ceiling. They fell.

    The only flaw with heaven is I can’t turn off my brain. I catch myself repeating the combination to my school locker as if I need it. It’s like wanting to fall asleep when my body aches with exhaustion but my brain is on a loop about stupid things: the smallness of seahorse’s mouths or wondering how hair from my head used to get tangled in my razor when I shaved my inner thigh and what ever possessed an otter to eat oysters?

    I blink. Salt water threatens to escape me so I focus my eyes between the amber bourbon bottles to steady the room. When I stare in that exact spot the mirror reflects gold onto Anjuli’s rainbow painting and makes the sun glow.

    I remember the rainy Saturday she painted it. We used finger paint on a grocery bag to hide the brownness of Mom’s drunken mouth. Memory is sweet and bitter like dark chocolate radish.

  • Cindy Layton

    Comment
    Cindy Layton
    calayton@verizon.net
    INDIGO CHILD
    Young Adult Fiction / crossover

    Pitch
    Allison is an Indigo: intelligent and intuitive. With her teacher, she draws from ancient philosophy, religion, history and nature to harness the power of her extraordinary abilities. Lives will depend on her success.

    First 250 words
    The heavy gray doors swing open. I wonder if every emergency room has these same doors and why they always have to hit the wall the way that they do. Each time they open it’s like a pistol going off, like the start of a race. Only nobody seems in a rush here today. Two ambulance workers roll an old woman on a stretcher into the hospital. Mom and I are walking to the elevators to get to the fifth floor but she stops me and says, “We have a little time before your appointment. I’m going across the hall to get the parking validated. It should only take a minute.”
    “I’ll wait here,” I say. I sit on a bench near the swinging doors, surrounded by concrete walls and square linoleum tile floors.
    “Allison, there’s a line so stay here until I get back.”
    She’s always telling me to do stuff that any thirteen year old knows. One of the ambulance workers stops at the front desk.
    “Hey baby,” he says to the nurse at the desk.
    “Well, if it isn’t John Travolta at Memorial Hospital!” the nurse jokes. “Who do you have with you?” The driver gives her a big smile and shows off a spin move. He holds out a finger to point toward his audience. “This’ Mrs. Cheh. What I’m told, she fell in her daughter’s apartment. Look’ like she hit her head on something. BP’s one sixty over one hundred. No fractures or contusions.”

  • Stacy Ricco and Kerri Netherton

    Title: Supernatural Police Department: Academy Days

    YA Paranormal

    PITCH: Someone or something is killing cadets at the Supernatural Police Department academy. Cadets Abby and Mike Shepard, along with their friends, are determined to catch the killer before they become the next victims.

    FIRST 250

    Today was the first day of the rest of her life, her very long life, and Abby was nervous. High school was in the rear view mirror along with any chance for a normal life. She didn’t choose to become an immortal, but what was done was done. After becoming immortal and learning her boyfriend was a werewolf, joining the Supernatural Police Department seemed like the next logical step.

    Getting accepted to the SPD academy was easy. Thankfully she and her twin Mike knew a current officer and he had put in a good word for both of them. Alex, their guardian, had some vocal objections to Abby and Mike joining, but thankfully they had been aimed at Damianos and not at the twins. Mike and Abby hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but it wasn’t really eavesdropping when the two immortals had been yelling at the top of their voices in the next room. Being eighteen meant that Abby and Mike didn’t need Alex’s permission, but they wanted her support. The immortal eventually came around and the twins left on November 1st with Alex’s blessing.

    An underground complex under an abandoned Air Force base wasn’t what she was expecting, but then again she didn’t know what exactly to expect from any of this. There wasn’t exactly any information on the SPD anywhere, not even on the Internet where there was information on everything. The only results she got from web searches on the SPD only mentioned urban legends and myths.

  • G. Reid

    Title: The Channel

    Genre: Gothic-Dystopian-Young Adult Romance

    Pitch: Orphaned after a killer flu devastates her isolated town, Julia takes work as a medium’s assistant to support her younger sister. She suspects the handsome medium is a fake, but is he also a murderer?

    First 250 Words:

    In the dressing room of Majestic’s only nightclub, I was laying out a makeshift bed for my little sister when I could’ve sworn I heard our mother whisper, “Julia, this isn’t working.” It was her voice, soft like a lullaby, and it was exactly the thing she would say. But since December she and my father had been interred in a steel shipping container at Majestic’s only cemetery, waiting for the spring thaw. This far North, the ground was so frozen we would have to wait until May to bury our dead. May would be a busy month.

    “Jenny, did you hear that?” I asked my sister. She was lying on the tattered green couch, almost asleep. The other dancers and I had finished putting on our costumes–a crazy mess of sequins, feathers and shimmery fabric–and Jenny and I were finally alone. I didn’t want to rouse her, but I had to know. “Did you hear that, Jenny?” I lifted all fifty-five pounds of her from the sofa and she stared blankly up at me with heavy-lidded eyes. She hadn’t heard it.

    Perhaps it was just my exhaustion, my guilt, or a toxic combination of the two. Perhaps my mother was just stone, cold dead and her soul was not now gently chiding me, coaxing me, like she had in life. With all of my heart though, I wished it were my mother. At seventeen and having only just begun to take care of myself, I felt impossibly ill equipped to take care of my much younger sister.

  • Aviva Gibbs

    Aviva Gibbs
    aviva.e@gmail.com
    A COMPLETE LIFE OF ITS KIND
    YA Contemporary

    PITCH:
    For 14 years Theo thought her mom was dead — she’s not. After a failed confrontation with her father leaves her with more unanswered questions, Theo runs away to discover her family’s deepest secret.

    First 250:
    At 6:33 on the evening of February 5th while my dad was out at the pharmacy getting cold and flu medicine for my little brother, who had passed out on the couch while playing the epic (as he would say) Xenoblade Chronicles, I discovered something in his room that caused the hairs to stand up on my unshaven legs. Cara and I had just gotten back from our usual Wednesday afternoon Coffee Slam, where we allowed ourselves one day a week to bitch about all that is crazy and annoying in our lives while we, of course, drank coffee. This tradition started when Lana Greene wore a blue and yellow thong underneath her already too tiny cheerleading skirt to one of Cara’s last competitions in her freshman year to try and “sell” her school spirit to the very male heavy judging panel. Needless to say their team lost that year and Cara didn’t stop talking about Lana’s butt for like a month. Seriously, if I had to hear about this girl’s ass one more day I was going to kick Cara’s. So, thankfully, Coffee Slam Wednesday entered our lives.
    “Does he always snore that loud?” Cara whispered as she tiptoed past Jonas discarding her empty cup in the trash. “Grab me one of those chocolate date bars that nerd made yesterday please. You’re brother is such a freak of nature but like a savant with his easy-bake oven,” she said before she closed herself into the bathroom.

  • Angela Warren
    angelamarywarren@gmail.com
    LOGOS
    YA Contemporary Fantasy

    Pitch: Eve’s grandfather hid her birthright to protect her and then disappeared. Determined to find him, she follows the clues to ancient Rome and alien relics. These artifacts are a hot commodity, so is she.

    First 250: Eight years ago my grandfather boarded a plane and vanished somewhere over the Atlantic.
    He just disappeared. His absence, an aching hole inside my chest. Each beat of my heart a reminder, but it didn’t feel permanent.

    There was no note. No confirmation that he willingly abandoned us. Only an empty casket as proof of his goneness.

    One moment I am sitting on his lap, promising I will keep his secret medallion hidden and safe. And a few hours later Grandmother called, hysterical because he was gone.
    Later, the police found documents of him boarding a flight to Rome, but there wasn’t any record of his disembarkation and none of the flight attendants recalled him getting off the plane.

    The name on my airplane ticket stub says, Genevieve, but no one calls me that. Eve is what I go by, although I’ve had a few terrible nicknames over the years which usually has something to do with my height. Being six foot tall isn’t as cool as you would think. No, I don’t play sports. No, the air isn’t better up here. No, that isn’t an Adams apple. Mostly I have to deal with ill-fitting clothes and cramped spaces, as in my knees to my chest for the entire nine-hour flight.

    I stopped feeling my butt hours ago, but thanks to a generous Italian flight attendant who took pity, the rest of me was satisfactorily numb as well.

    Somehow, I had completed the transatlantic journey my grandfather hadn’t. Not that I expected to disappear mid-flight, but it had happened before.

  • Heidi Peitz

    Heidi Peitz
    heidimp@gmail.com

    Drowning In Rivers
    Contemporary YA Romantic Drama

    Pitch:

    A newly paroled and reformed wild child trying to turn her life around just wants to survive her summer of punishment without falling back into her dark place.

    First 250 Words:

    PROLOGUE – THE ESSAY

    April 25, 2015

    Essay #2:
    Tell us about where you grew up and how that has helped shape you into the person you are today.

    I’ve put this particular essay for my St Louis University undergraduate application off to do last. It’s not an easy question and has an even more complicated answer.

    I mean, where do I even start?

    I read the question for like the umpteenth time, stretch, and look around my living room, searching for my inspiration…

    CHAPTER 1—FREE DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN FREE

    May 22, 2014

    I was never really one to do much with my hair before being locked up. I’ve always been the kind of girl content to leave it straight or just pull it back into a ponytail. It’s my bunkmate, Lox, who loves to experiment with my hair. It’s been like having a personal stylist.

    Ha. Prison stylist. Total oxymoron.

    Today, her fingers move through my hair impossibly fast. The resulting braids are smooth and flawless even though she’s working with my finer ‘white girl’ hair.

    I pick one of the two-tone chocolate and blonde microbraids off my shoulder and examine the intricacy of the woven strands as I confess, “I’d be lying if I said I was ready to go home.”

    Lox huffs, “Ho, you gettin’ out. Don’t be playin’ like you ain’t ready to take a shower by yoself.”

    “That’s pretty much the only good thing about getting out. I mean, five hundred hours? I did the math, that’s basically a part-time job with no pay for a whole year.

  • Rochelle Deans
    rochelledeans(at)outlook(dot)com
    SMALL THINGS
    YA contemp/sci-fi

    (Pitch)
    Sixteen-year-old Treyton Staub knows his expiration date is soon and never cared. But to save his eleven-year-old friend from her own untimely death, he must survive his expiration date and decide his life’s worth living.

    (First 250)
    My best friend’s funeral is so predictable I shouldn’t have bothered coming. Everyone wears black. No one cries. No one except Hayleigh, who’s sitting in the front row where she can’t hide it. Her shoulders shake and her head is bowed.

    In front of the cross, Pastor Locklear takes another deep breath. I bet he’s about to start on Jesus. How Jesus embraced his expiration date, and everyone else should, too. How Hunter was a Good Christian for pressing that gun into his chin.

    Not that anyone but his family and me knows how he died. The obituaries come out a week in advance.

    The pastor doesn’t even open his Bible. “In John 7:30, it says…” Here it comes. I grab my phone from my pocket and open the file called “Notes for My Funeral.” For the love of God, don’t mention Jesus, I write. I’m aware of the irony. While I write, Pastor Locklear drones on. “‘No one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.’ Jesus always had his enemies. But his expiration date informed the actions of those who hated him, and Hunter, too, was spared until…”

    I don’t know why they always read this verse at funerals. It doesn’t even apply. For one thing, Hunter’s hour has obviously already come. For another, it’s not like people don’t have accidents. They get run over by buses. They find out the hard way they’re allergic to peanuts or bee stings. Those funerals are sad.

  • Chris Bailey

    C. R. Bailey
    crb.writer [at] gmail [dot] com

    Bait and Swish
    YA Suspense

    PITCH
    When cops arrest 15-year-old Blue’s older brother, they question him about a murder victim’s missing jewelry. Blue tracks down the loot and has to steal it from the killer to free his brother.

    FIRST 250
    Nobody’s fishing today. Or swimming, either. A few tourists in shorts and T-shirts turn their backs to the weird orange crests on the waves and take selfies. I pass them by, following a tide line full of black gunk.

    It smells.

    Not normal, like rotten seaweed or dead fish. Something bad.

    A blonde lady carrying two big canvas bags hurries past me. Stickers on the bags say 2 Eyes on Gulf City. The TV station on the mainland.

    “Need some help?” I ask.

    “Nope.” She drops the bags in the sand, unzips one, and pulls out a three-legged stand. She sets it up, and gets a camera the size of a big tackle box out of the second bag. While she’s messing around with the camera, she asks. “Don’t you have somewhere else to go?”

    It’s a public beach.

    Maybe she’s one of those people who get nervous about being watched. Strange is all I can say, considering the business she’s in. After another minute, kinda sorry for her, I move on.

    With nobody bobbing up and down in the water, and no little kids building sand castles, the beach is like those movies where it’s the future, and a big war or some disease or space aliens have wiped out most of the people, and the good guys have to kill the bad guys to survive.

    I climb up into an empty lifeguard station, far enough from the reporter that if I hold real still she won’t notice me.

  • Jen Finelli
    petrepan at gmail dot com
    Neodymium Exodus
    YA/Scifi

    Pitch:

    Lem’s a black teen space-ninja with sick mace skills—and she’s destined to destroy the Universe.

    But destinies get lost in translation. Now? Lem’s making that first world-busting choice between her planet…and her best friend.

    First 250:

    Lem wasn’t a big fan of warnings, but the people who ran her life were, so she gave the meat market businessman a loud one the moment he made eyes at her little sister.

    “She ain’t for sale, Skins,” she said, stirring the dregs of her shake with her straw. She said it so everyone in the ice cream parlor would know she’d warned him.

    The businessman’s green hair puffed in offense; his slit-eyes gleamed as bright as his ruby scales. “Mind yourself, witch,” he sneered.

    Witch, huh? Lucky for him he didn’t call her crazy.

    A loud slurp silenced the whole parlor as Lem finished off her shake.

    Four seconds later Lem had chopped down the businessman like an overgrown holly bush. No one interrupted. No one helped, either. The space-lemur policeman in the corner stared at the phone in his paws, ears perked even as he pretended not to see; the wonderfrog server behind the counter tapped his bulging fingertips on his skull like desserts really worried him.

    Lem tightened her grip on the meat-man’s wrist, spitting through her teeth as she ground his face harder into the plastic table. “Whatever I am, everyone in here knows you’re selling little girls to the greys, and one day I’ll prove it and get Officer Scritch there off his duff for a change.” Her voice dropped to a husky whisper. “But the day you talk to my sister again? Officer Scritch won’t be lookin’ for you. Won’t be a you to find.”

  • Kimberly Kay Durtschi

    VILLAINOUS
    YA Superhero

    Pitch:
    In Sanatorium, the role of hero or villain is assigned, not chosen. Sixteen-year-old Cal is a villain. Her powers make her dangerous, and her history leaves her vulnerable—especially when she falls for a hero.

    First 250:

    I couldn’t see the stars.

    Late June snow drifted past my window in enormous gray flakes. Mom said thirty years ago, before Yellowstone’s supervolcano erupted, the snow was pure white and came only one season of the year instead of choking the planet in a constant ash-stained winter. With six inches of snow stacked on my windowsill, her stories were hard to believe.

    I tied the hem of my button up shirt under my ribs and straightened my tank before grinding a violet pastel onto a chipped plate. In the flickering candlelight, my knuckles glowed luminous and white, the bone too close to the skin.

    After adding a splash of water, I stirred the chalk with my fingers until it became a smooth paste. Barefoot, I stood on my bed. It didn’t matter if I spilled. The bedspread, speckled with fluffy pink sheep, was hideous at best.

    On the ceiling, purple smudges appeared everywhere I touched. They danced with the other colors of my painting, transforming from mere fingerprints into stars and galaxies. A large moon, as white as an angel feather, glimmered over my bed. I ran my fingers along the edge, giving the crescent a pale purple glow. Luminous. Alive. Unlike everything else on this wretched planet.

    Unlike dad.

    My breath caught. Even after three years, a single stray thought left me aching for him. I had nothing left of him except for memories and…

    I wiped my fingers on my jeans, cupped my hands, and focused.

    Indigo energy filled my palms.

  • Tom Brosz

    tbrosz [at] comcast [dot] net

    ZORYA

    YA/SF

    Pitch:

    Zorya’s flirtation with the only human in the California Enclave high school results in banishment to her grandfather’s Idaho refuge. Forced to flee the refuge, she must brave lethal daylight and terrorists to get home.

    250 Words:

    My name’s Zorya. Mother says I’m named after Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the Evening Star. That’s sort of cool.

    There were fifteen of us in my classroom that fall—the entire high school senior class population of the Northern California Enclave. And then there was David. Named after David, I guess.

    He wasn’t one of us. He was one of them.

    I propped my arm on my desk and casually leaned my head on my hand, turning my face a bit to the right. That way, I could look at him without…looking like I was looking at him. Up at the front of the room Madame Stefonia was writing something on the whiteboard, so she probably wouldn’t notice right away that I wasn’t paying attention.

    The moonlamps were turned up high so David could see well enough to read and write. Their eyes are really bad—I don’t think they can even see colors at night. On the other hand, I could see him just fine. Unlike me, he was watching the teacher and busily taking notes.

    He was blonde, which in a room full of black hair made him stick out like a snowball on an asphalt road. He was almost a year older than me, almost a foot taller, and even skinnier. His eyes were dark brown, which was as weird around here as the blonde hair. His voice had a twinge of accent, Texas I think, and my God, the tan. It was only the third week of school and he hadn’t been here long enough to start losing it.

  • Chantal Lyons

    Chantal Lyons

    chantallyons@gmail.com

    “The Times of Amber”

    YA/Sci-fi

    Pitch:

    Amber’s ended up 108 years into the future thanks to a brain tumour and a suspended animation procedure. Now she must survive the madness of a corporate ruler to save what’s left of her family.

    First 250 words:

    If I say no, I will die.

    If I say yes, I might live. Or die sooner.

    The part of my brain into which the tumour has woven its tentacles throbs, leaving hardly any space for thought. I don’t know who I’m more afraid for: myself, or my family. There’ll only have a few days to say goodbye if I say yes, the rest of my terminal time gambled away.

    Even if the procedure succeeds we won’t see each other again for two decades.

    Beyond the door of my bedroom, a murmur ends in a sob. I can’t tell who it is. I’d never heard or seen Dad cry till the diagnosis. It isn’t Julia though. I know that she knows what I’ve already decided to say. I imagine the heat of her anger radiating out towards me from wherever she’s run to. I wish I could explode like her. Instead all the rage tunnels further in, leaving me silent and helpless.

    Finally I find myself picking up the phone and pressing digits I’ve read off the contract too often. Time is measured now by the tumour, as it adds to itself cell by cell. I can’t delay any longer.

    The line is slow to connect, temping me to give in to fear and hit Cancel. A bite of panic; a finger hovers over the button. Then the logic scrolls through my head again.

    I might die when they suspend me. I might die during revitalisation.

    I will die if I don’t say yes.

  • LA Knight

    Cathryn Martyn-Dow-Jensen
    (aka LA Knight)
    JaenelleEbony(at)aol(dot)com
    HOUSE OF GEARS
    YA dark historical fantasy

    —-PITCH—-

    Coraline meets a steampunk Labyrinth when Juliet Loew must save her little sister from El Cucuy, the Spanish bogeyman, and in the process learns her entire life is a carefully-constructed lie.

    —-FIRST 250—-

    I drove my needle through flesh as white as sun-bleached bones. Crimson flowed, silky and warm over my fingers. Gaslight glinted along the elegant spine of the needle. Eustacia watched as I stitched the messy, gushing slashes, black curls brushing my knees.

    “Stepmother’s going to murder me if she finds out I did this for you. Imp.” My back cricked as I leaned closer. The rosy-copper sunset bleeding through my window didn’t give me enough light for the final stitches. “Fetch my goggles; there’s a good girl.”

    “Yes, Juliet.” Eustacia dashed to my desk. My brass-bound goggles sat on top of my schoolbooks. Eustacia’s dress poofed and billowed as she hopped around, trying to grab the leather strap I used to hold them in place. Stacia was only four; she couldn’t see over my desk yet. In the end she snagged the strap with my cello bow.

    Have to remember to put that back, I thought, glancing out the window. Stone and wood houses ranging up and down northern Fremont Street bled shadows across the sand. Down a ways, Boot Hill Cemetery thrust rocky ridges into the cool air. Mama and Elnora Porter, my best friend, were buried there. My brother Benedict’s empty grave laid beside theirs.

    The desert crept in toward the town, beautiful desolation. Winter storms had brought fresh rain, and scrub grasses blazed emerald against tan earth. Cacti edged with a lace of black and gray rot still showed off their golden and mauve flowers, woken early by the rains.

  • Jason Robbins

    Jason Robbins

    jrobbins3839@hotmail.com

    FOR LOVE AND SCIENCE

    YA/Contemporary

    Pitch:
    Nikki Medina’s dreams of being included in a science workshop become complicated when a new crush and a genius rival enter her life. She must use everything in her nerdy arsenal to succeed.

    First 250 Words:

    I flipped down four tiles on my game board, taking the lead in a riveting game of Psychological Profiling Guess Who? against Agatha Emerson in the cafeteria.

    “Do you pamper your pets to find solace after a recently failed relationship?” she asked.

    “No,” I answered.

    She flipped down some of her tiles.

    The plan I had devised weeks ago to impress my new teachers preoccupied me, and though I’d have loved to take my next turn, the guilt or excitement, or whatever was welling in my gut, made it impossible to think of anything else.

    “Agatha, you know how I’m signing up for all this school stuff all of a sudden, like being a teachers’ assistant and joining the fundraising committee?” I broke eye contact, as I often did in intense moments of discussion. “I have an ulterior motive—”

    Her gasp formed into a grin. She leaned across the table, so I had to protect the secrets of my Guess Who? board from her wandering hazel eyes as she adjusted her glasses. “Is it for a guy?” The absurdity of that being the case justified my silence. “You go, Nikki! It’s about damn time!”

    Her enthusiasm couldn’t be stopped by mere words. I tried. A lot. Loud words. Big words. Spanish words. French words. Klingon. (“Stop” is all I know in Klingon, but I find myself using it more frequently than half the French I know.)

    I poked her horn, which shut her up. She was a pink unicorn, and there was no telling how many horns or extra body parts she’d show up with each day.

  • Your Name: Carolyn Chambers Clark

    Your EmailCarolynChambersClark@gmail.com

    Title of Work;MY SISTER’S DATING A SERIAL KILLER

    Category/Genre YA Thriller

    Your 35-word (max) pitch.

    Take Cammie—determined sixteen-year-old amateur detective. Add a good-looking, smooth-talking serial killer who’s dating her sister. Stir in he’s on to Cammie’s investigation. Result: both girls could end up D-E-A-D.

    The first 250 words

    A tiny piece of fabric hangs off the blackberry bush on the tree-lined path. Light blue cotton. I’ll bet someone snagged his shirt. The scrap has probably been in the woods for ages, but I doubt it—not looking as new and clean as this.

    Everyone in my small Carolina town thinks I have an over-active imagination, but I can’t help it. Show me a clue as clear as this one, and I’ll follow it.

    Two steps ahead, speckles of sunlight shine off the black flip-flops almost totally hidden in the underbrush. Men’s, I judge by their size, but they could easily belong to a women with big feet. The footwear is older than the swatch of cotton, but not much.

    My sister, Cort, short for Cortland, bangs her bucket under another bush and my interest turns to her. She hands me the berries.

    I take a handful and chomp them down.

    She frowns and pushes her straw hat down on her blonde locks. “You’re supposed to pick them, not eat them.” In a lacy white dress, she looks as if she’s on her way to tea or lunch in the city. She never gets anything right—especially boyfriends—w hich is why I have to look out for her.

    The sweet and succulent blackberries we’d been picking for Mom’s pie still melting in my mouth, I yank off my sweaty T-shirt and cutoffs, and stash them on a tree stump. I kick off my moccasins and the warm sand by the river’s edge prickles my toes.

  • Amber Buckley

    Amber Buckley
    buckleyam33@gmail.com
    Transformation
    YA/Fantasy

    Pitch: Growing up is hard enough without accidentally killing your mother and discovering a monster that hides within. 17 year old Asha must learn to harness the extraordinary power within and come to terms with herself.

    First 250: She held the baby close her heaving chest. Her gaze shot skyward expecting to see the eyes, those eyes, to be staring down at her. When nothing appeared from between the clouds she sighed a soft exhale of relief. She pulled the baby away from her body and looked at its soft face. The pink complexion glowed in the moonlight as the child slumbered unaware of their imminent danger. She stroked the child’s cheek with her index finger, tears stinging her eyes. So young. How could she leave someone so young? Her chest swelled with sorrow and tears fell making it appear as if the baby’s face was covered in flecks of glass. She held the baby back up to her chest her heart thumping a message against the child’s face. The message she hoped her child would never forget.

    She had to act quickly, those eyes weren’t far behind her. Grabbing a branch she moved it aside and looked at the building. It was run down. The windows on the second story sagged and the porch sloped inward making the building look like it wore a perpetual frown. The sign on the front of the building was still hanging but worn with age. All she could make out were the words “inn”. Her hands shook, this wasn’t ideal but she didn’t have much choice. She couldn’t let him get her baby.

    The patter of rain started. She removed a blanket from her pack wrapping the baby inside of it but before she covered the face she kissed the cheeks letting her tears stain them.

  • Jayme Stryker

    Jayme Stryker

    jaymestryker@gmail.com

    The Frequency of Blue

    YA Magical Realism

    Pitch: Drew survived the crash; his best friend didn’t. When new entries appear in their shared journal, Drew realizes that he may not have to say goodbye to her after all.

    Drew couldn’t shake the stench of blood and lilac. The metal bedframe dug in behind his knees as he watched the medic talk to the nurse and gesture in his direction. He should smell antiseptic and cotton swabs and tile, but the thick sweet aroma persisted and dragged him back to that slick stretch of highway. To the hypnotic pattern of red, blue, and yellow flashes that turned his stomach.

    He remembered the sick panic when he’d seen the black cocoon on its stretcher. He’d made it only two paces before the medic stepped into his path. She’d pressed her hands firmly against his shoulders. “Stop.”

    He’d tried to keep moving. “Who is that? Who’s in the bag?”

    “Stop!”

    Drew stopped. What was he planning to do? Tear down the zipper and find Ryan or Gopher lifeless beneath the plastic? The tremor started in his hands and moved up his arms.

    “Look at me.” The medic snapped her fingers an inch short of his nose. “The EMTs are working to help your friends. That’s the other driver.”

    The tightness around his chest eased, but the tremor remained. He closed his eyes. His lids muted the flashing, but they’d done nothing to ease the clench of his fists as the rescue workers loaded Ryan and Gopher into separate ambulances.

    Even now, even though he knew he was safe in the ER, behind his eyes he saw the only things that mattered – Ryan and Gopher flat on their backs, cobwebs of mist forming on their hair.

  • Leslie Wibberley

    lwibberley@hotmail.com

    THE MAGIC WITHIN

    YA for 12-16 year olds

    Magical Realism

    Pitch:

    Anastasia, an insecure fifteen-year-old albino, discovers a violin in the attic of her new home. Touching it unleashes an ancient magic that becomes her obsession. A musically gifted deaf-boy is her only hope for salvation.

    First 250 words:

    The hat crammed over my head may have prevented the crazy-ass sun from frying my lily-white face to a crisp, but it also made my hair stick to my scalp like wet T-shirt sticks to your skin, if you’re lucky enough to be caught in a rainstorm. Not that there was any chance of that happening. Not in the middle of the summer, and especially not in the middle of a desert.

    I tried to ease a little further into the shade of our old willow tree. As a person with albinism, this was the story of my life: Covered in layers, lathered in sunscreen, sunglasses perched on my nose and hiding in whatever shade I was lucky enough to find. I didn’t mind though, I was used to it.

    Careful to keep my feet out of the sun, I stretched out my legs. The brown and yellow straw posing as our front lawn scratched my skin through my thin cotton pants. Mom, a transplant from the east coast, insisted we needed grass. Our neighbors knew better. Our pitiful patch of brown was surrounded by yards filled with pea gravel spread in artful designs, and green succulents interspersed with cacti.

    Mom said, “Our new home in the Pacific Northwest will be green and amazing.”

    Awesome, Mom. Exactly what a fifteen-year-old girl cares about.

    I was waiting for my best friend, Clara to arrive. Despite the heat, we decided to spend our last few hours together outside. No point in subjecting my already stressed out parents to what promised to be a spectacular display of teenage-girl-drama.

  • Name: Scout Wilkinson

    Email: wilkinscout(at)gmail(dot)com

    Title: Under The Magnolia

    YA/magical realism

    Pitch:
    The ghost of a 1920s renaissance man sends five teens on a mad scavenger hunt across LA to help him finish what he started 90 years ago.

    First 250 words:
    Everyone is a little superstitious at some point in their life. Everyone, whether they admit it or not, has an overactive imagination. You’re three and you know there’s a monster under your bed. You’re twelve and you refuse to walk past the run-down house at the sidewalk’s end. I was no exception to this rule of human nature; but, like most children, I outgrew it. The terrifying shadows transformed to ordinary ones. The chill I felt on a dark street at night was just the thin desert air on my shoulders. My brother’s paranormal TV fascinations were nothing more than mildly entertaining hoaxes.

    I came to believe there was a reasonable explanation for everything.

    Then I met a ghost, and everything changed.

    ****

    To the rest of the country, Los Angeles seems to fall into one of two categories; an unattainable dreamscape, or a vapid celebrity hideaway. Neither of those assumptions are accurate. Every day feels beautiful in California, even the rare gray ones.

    Keeva had walked the path to the antique shop so many times that her feet knew the route without having to think about it. She strode with a brisk pace; she never went anywhere without purpose. Five minutes later, the shop’s sign was in sight. Pushing the door open, she was greeted by the muted tunes of 1920s jazz and two enthusiastic dogs. In his excitement, the small one jostled a mahogany coffee table, and it wobbled with an air of danger. From behind a decrepit curio case, Fin’s hand shot out to grab it before disaster struck.

  • Roxanne Lambie

    Roxanne Lambie

    rmlambie@hotmail.com

    QUANTUM

    YA Time Travel Romance

    Pitch:

    17 year-old Willow can be in two places at once, but she doesn’t know it. With a fated love and a terminally ill mom, she risks losing memories from both sides that are irreplaceable.

    First 250:

    Oh my gosh, it’s hot up here. The airplane hit another thermal, and it did that thing where my stomach felt heavy and then light—all in half a second. I forced myself to look outside at the horizon instead of the airplane instruments. Watching the altimeter go up and down, and back up again was making me nauseous.

    Sweat dripped down my neck, and my voice cracked. “Is this any better?”

    “More right rudder Willow!” My flight instructor Paul yelled.

    “Okay. Got it.” My response was quiet and I gritted my teeth instead of yelling back at him. I hadn’t been this frustrated while flying since I had switched flight instructors early on in my training. Paul was usually much more patient with me. What was his problem? Oh yeah. We were in a small plane, 8,500 feet high, and I was botching every single maneuver. I needed to do this right. This had been a tough day. I hadn’t done the best job on any of my maneuvers. They weren’t to standard, and I really needed to redeem myself. Shake it off, Willow! You’ve got this. Besides, what were other 17-year-old girls doing right now? Walking around the mall? Lying in bed texting? I was flying a plane for crying out loud. I blew out a flustered breath and tried to brush away the long brown wisps of my hair that were plastered to my neck from sweat.

    “Alright, I’m ready.” Or was I?

  • Name: Taryn Bashford
    Email: taryn@tarynbashford.com
    Title of Work: SASSY JAM
    Category/Genre: YA Contemporary

    35-word pitch: When 16 year old expert sailor Shae accidentally commits a crime she must cross the Pacific to reach the only person who can help her. If crossing the Pacific doesn’t kill her, then love will.

    The first 250 words:
    I need the fingers on both hands to count how many times I almost died in the past few weeks. Perhaps it would be better if I had.

    The beach is peppered with small boulders. I navigate the dinghy around them, paddling with my hands; I’d lost the paddles weeks ago—one to a tanker and one to a storm near Hawaii. In the shallows, I hop into the water and pull the dinghy onto the sand, tie it to a palm tree. As I step from one rounded rock to another, flip-flops in hand, my bare feet nuzzle the warm rocks, the dust, the tarmac road. It’s impossible to stand still after being at sea for almost two months, like when I was a kid and spun myself in circles till I was too dizzy to walk.

    Sassy Jam is anchored and slouching in the early morning glare. ‘Need to get my land legs back, old girl,’ I say. The sight of her, rocking in the waves, makes me doubt what I’m about to do—her self-steering mechanical windvane needs fixing so I have no choice but to leave her. ‘Back soon,’ I whisper. But I’m a fly stuck to fly paper. She may only be a boat, but she saved my life more than once, riding apartment block-high waves. She’s been my only friend for weeks.

    Yet for all the dangers at sea, being on land, with the possibility of being recognised, is more dangerous.

  • The Slum Heirs

    YA Dark Contemporary

    Pitch:

    After seventeen years of perfect grades and perfect behavior, Mikaela Clearwater suddenly finds herself in the middle of a Slums gang war. Imagine her surprise when she learns her business-oriented father is the cause.

    First 250:

    “Our world is changing.”

    My father’s voice rang over the crowd, amplified by the microphone in front of him. I suppose he looked powerful, standing there in his dry cleaned suit, his hair perfectly slicked back and a smile on his face. It was an act I’d seen many times before. Not so impressive to me.

    “New avenues are opening up to us, personally and professionally.” Robert Clearwater pressed a button on the small remote in his hand, and the screen behind him changed from displaying his company’s name, Clearwater Consolidated, to showing a massive photo of Queens, New York. “These avenues could lead us to improving the broken side of our great state.”

    He was talking about the Slums. An area that took up most of what used to be Queens and the Bronx, now filled with criminals. No one went there unless they wanted trouble.

    “What do you plan to do, Mr. Clearwater?” a reporter asked, shoving his recorder closer to my father’s face.

    My father smiled. “We’re a construction company, my friend. We take what we have and we make it better. What we commonly refer to as the Slums has great potential. There’s a lot of space out there, waiting for us to use it.”

    “Are you talking about tearing down the Slums?” a woman reporter asked, taking notes in her phone, her eyes never leaving my father.

    “We’re talking about building a better community for everyone,” my father said with another smile.

  • Name: Stacie Wilson
    Email: staciewilsonwrites@gmail.com
    Title: Myst
    Category/Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    Pitch

    Brianna must discover who and what she is, unravel an ancient prophecy and battle the Shadow Master to save a world she doesn’t remember. Two worlds separated by Magic. Good vs evil. Who will survive?

    250 Word

    I replayed the night they took her from us for the countless time and mulled over the rash decisions the Council made all those years ago. I’m not sure why I persisted in the futile game of “what if” that I caught myself lapsing into during unguarded moments. What if they’d allowed her to stay? What if the Shadow Master didn’t want her dead? What if she hadn’t marked me that night and linked us together? One thing was certain, “what ifs” were a waste of time and energy. As a child, I was powerless to stop them from sending her away, but as a fully trained Guardian, I will bring her home and right at least some of the wrongs that were done to her, to all of us.

    Leaves and twigs crunched under my boots as I made my way through the dense forest. I’d used my sword more than once to cut back some of the branches and undergrowth that obscured the path that led to where my father waited. Crouching under a large branch, I entered a lush green meadow. The moon directly above was full tonight and illuminated the area. I was relieved we wouldn’t need the torches. Secrecy was critical if we were going to pull this off.

    The portal lay several feet ahead of me on the other edge of the forest. The ancient standing stones always filled me with wonder. The hair on the back of my neck and arms stood on end in response to the energy pulsing off them.

  • Donna Munoz
    Donnalynn26@hotmail.com
    A JAR FULL OF BUTTERFLIES
    Literary Middle Grade

    (PITCH) After moving from Mexico to Texas, 12-year-old Graciela Flores feels trapped like a butterfly in a jar, unable to breathe. Everyone she loves is changing. The traditions that made her feel safe are slipping away.

    (FIRST 250 WORDS)
    ~ Grandmother is sleeping. I walk over to her bed and whisper, “No te mueres, Abuelita. Por favor.” Don’t die, Grandmother. Please. I slip my hand into hers. It’s soft and cold. She opens her eyes, smiles, and tries to squeeze my hand, but she can’t. She’s too weak now. I can’t hide my tears from her. She raises her hand slowly, trying to touch my face, but it falls back down to her side. I lean in closer, and she reaches up and brushes the tears from my cheek. “El cambio puede ser bello,” she says, her voice just a soft whisper. Change can be beautiful… My abuelita told me a lie. ~

    Chapter 1
    I miss the open skies of Mexico. Instead, when I look out our windows I get to admire black tightrope wires that connect to tall wooden posts, tangoing with tree branches and covered with blackbirds. Even after three years here, it’s something I’ll never get used to – the feeling of a prison.

    This is why I hardly ever look outside my window anymore. But today, the motor of Papí’s truck screeches, and then click, click, clicks. He’s trying to get it started so he can leave to work, but it won’t budge. This is the second time this week. Maybe it doesn’t like to wake up. Same as me. Because waking up reminds me that I’m here. In America. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
    After three years here, my hope is giving out.

  • Title of Work – The Bike Gods and Gucci
    Genre – YA Contemporary – LGBT

    Pitch – A seventeen-year-old mountain-biker’s life becomes more dangerous than the downhills she craves, when she falls for a teen heiress with a deadly secret. Shift meets Gone Girl with a teen lesbian twist.

    First 250 – With a mile to go in the last training run before the NY State mountain bike race, nothing could break Jules’s concentration. Head down and feet pounding the pedals, she rounded the bend at twilight—a quick downhill shot to town.
    Glancing up, she wrenched back at a shadow in the road ahead. Too late! A muffled thud stopped the front wheel, flipping the rear of the bike—and Jules, over the handlebars.
    Asphalt and pine trees blurred as she spun through the air and slammed into the ground. “Shit!”
    Burning pain ripped across her shoulder. Jules peeled herself of the stony grit and forced a breath from her gasping lungs. She yanked off her cracked helmet and raked scraped fingers through her hair, so wet and dark it didn’t look blonde anymore. Her eyes flashed to her bike twenty feet away. She shuffled forward, ignoring the gash on her right arm that left a red trail on the gravel.
    Jaw clenched, she lifted her mangled bike off the jumbled mess, when a limp hand fell, palm up, on the road.
    “Oh… my… God!”
    She jerked back, switched on her helmet light, and froze. Shock jolted through her like a live wire and she stood unsure, for only the second time in her life. Her drenching sweat turned cold at the thought of the first time she helplessly stared into vacant eyes.
    She turned her face to the violet-gray sky to avoid looking at the dead guy near her feet.

  • Ariel Marie McManus

    Ariel Marie McManus

    arielmariemcmanus@gmail.com

    Chasing Moonlight

    MG Fantasy

    Pitch:

    When a 15 year old girl finds the moon injured on the ground, she chooses to help him return home through a land of gods and monsters.

    250 Excerpt:

    It troubled Laney that a piece of the moon disappeared. This started the day after she received her first telescope. She looked and looked again. There was no doubt about it. A sliver of the moon was in fact gone. She recalled rumors about the moon being made of cheese. It honestly looked as if somebody stole a slice away. She stared through the lens chuckling because cheese was a ridiculous image. Whenever she gazed at the moon, she imagined it to look like a collection of diamonds.

    Laney pulled out a sketchbook where she used watercolors to illustrate pictures of moons, planets, stars and other wonders. Underneath a picture she painted one of Earth’s moon, she wrote:

    Day 2: Another piece of the moon is gone. What if this is the end of the world?

    She closed the sketchbook about to look up at the moon again when her dad peered out at her while she stood on what she understood as a “widow’s walk.” There the whole world curved at her fingertips. The ocean curled over the edge of the world beyond where she could see while a lighthouse waited closer. Its light spun around and around throwing telescope lenses out of focus. Once Laney asked the purpose of the widow’s walk after they first moved into the house. Her mother just told her it was there to look pretty. That was a lie.

    Instead, Laney considered it the best spot to stargaze.

  • Gemma Gilmore

    gemmgilmore@gmail.com

    FOREVER ROSE

    YA/Contemporary Fantasy

    PITCH: Rose Asters never intended to become best friends with an Angel. She also never intended to spend her final year of school searching for her father’s killer. Things don’t always go to plan.

    FIRST 250:

    Rule one: don’t remember the day your father was murdered. This morning, I break the rule. In the shower, my false sense of security is slipping down the drain with my apple shampoo. I remember him as I walk to my bus stop, wet hair soaking through my jacket.

    Rule two: live in the moment. The rumble of traffic grows louder than my music and the combination of both sounds creates a new song in my ears. A city song. The chug of a bus catches my attention.

    Rule three: don’t overthink it. I look up to see the bus pulled up in front of me isn’t my school bus.

    Rule four: go to school. If I go to school, I am doing what I need to do to keep the peace with Mum at home. It’ll keep Bree and Jake happy and, most importantly, it’ll keep me out of trouble. This is what they expect. Stability, routine. I stick my hand out, signalling for the bus driver to open the doors. I don’t know where it goes.

    Rule five: Rose Asters never plays by the rules.

  • Janelle

    NAME: Janelle Leonard

    EMAIL: janelleleonard523@yahoo.com

    TITLE: Endicott

    CATEGORY/GENRE: YA Fantasy (with Steampunk Flair)

    PITCH: The prince planned on proposing to Endicott the night of the ball. But due to a curse, a deal with the banished Vampyre King, and an enchanted dress and shoes, their happily-ever-after never even began.

    FIRST 250:
    She wasn’t the only one running from the ball that night. She wasn’t the only one to ruin her dress, to lose a shoe. All eyes, even the prince’s, were on her. But no one paid attention to me. No one noticed me running.

    Sobbing.

    Crushed and aching.

    Desperate.

    Broken.

    The man that held all my hopes and dreams had chosen someone else. What did I have to live for?

    The ground is cold beneath my stockinged-feet, both my shoes long gone. I’d spent weeks creating those shoes—shoes that were more than just sweet-looking footwear, shoes that were illegal for me, as a female, to create and possess. My caring was long gone. Let someone find them. Let me be fined, punished, banished.

    I didn’t care anymore.

    My feet take me to the woods, to the place the prince had shared with me. A special place that made me feel so at home while I’d been visiting the palace. But I don’t stop when I reach our hideaway. I keep running, my lungs now aching as much as my heart. I can’t breathe for much longer. But I’m almost there.

    Only a little further are the Cliffs of Avonia. The beautiful cliffs. The deadly cliffs. Perhaps, my saving cliffs.

    The trees end. I’m thirty feet from the edge.

    No one will know.

    No one will care.

    The one I’ve been dreaming about—was so sure was mine—had forgotten my name and replaced it with another. And not just any name.

  • Casara Clark
    Casaramarie [at] gmail [dot] com

    HER GUARDIAN’S ANGEL

    Young Adult Urban Fantasy

    (Pitch)

    A young girl with a fatal heart defect learns that she only survives day after day because of a boy’s sacrifices 100 years in the past — sacrifices that will lead to his death.

    (First 250)

    It was its fragility that made it such a beautiful dress.

    Thin blue silk threads interlaced seamlessly and delicately along Jenny’s hand.

    The lace was soft and light to her touch. Even the thickest concentration of threads in the pattern felt light as air. And the thinnest was barely visible at all in most light.

    It would be so easy to destroy the image formed by the lace. One fingernail just slightly too long could snag a thread and the entire blue rose would unravel into disconnected strands, all curly and hollow from the connection they once had.

    That was probably why Jenny had fallen so in love with it, she realized.

    This dress hadn’t been cheap either. Her dad always seemed more than happy to splurge on her. Or distract her. She felt it was more likely the latter, but even more about distracting himself.

    It was like making her happy, even if only briefly, let him forget about the credit card debt or medical bills she cost him. She, herself, had a much harder time forgetting.

    She remembered when they saw this dress. She tried to pretend she was uninterested, as she often did when her dad tried to splurge on her. But the intricate design and voluminous shape of a blooming blue rose in the lace had affected her. Her poker face failed. And her dad pounced on the opportunity to get it. All she thought as she watched her dad pay for it at the register was: what if she never got to wear it?

  • Heather Penner

    NAME: Heather C. Penner

    EMAIL: HeatherLovesBooks123 (at) gmail (dot) com

    TITLE: THE WOLF AND THE RAVEN

    GENRE: YA Contemporary (near-future)

    PITCH: Sixteen-year-old Lyca must lead her new friends back into the city from which she just escaped, to find her little brother before he is reassigned and lost forever.

    FIRST 250:

    The knock on the door makes us jump. My mother is standing in what passes for a kitchen, refrigerator door wide open, and the sound stops her mid-sentence. My mother shoots me a questioning glance, and I lift my hands in a shrug.

    I flatten myself to the cabinet and my mother squeezes by, silent in her socks, and tiptoes over to peer out through the peephole. When her shoulders relax, I let out my breath. My mother’s fingers hurry to undo the latches but before she’s even halfway through opening the door, it bursts open and my Aunt Kay enters like a freight train. As she always does. Right on her heels trots Zephyr, and his wolfish bulk wedges in. My mother waits respectfully for the dog and then rushes to close and re-bolt the door behind them.

    “Kay!” my mother exclaims, “What on earth…?!”.

    But no one is listening to my mother, because my little brother Nico has thrown himself whooping into Aunt Kay’s strong arms and they are twirling around and laughing. A chair and a few boots tumble over. Zephyr has retreated to the hallway that leads to the one bedroom, but he is watching us all with his clear blue eyes.

    My aunt sets Nico down. “It’s only been a couple of months, and you’ve grown AGAIN!” she exclaims, tousling his brown hair. He bounces on his toes and smiles. Now that I’m sixteen, I refrain from rushing Aunt Kay, but I can’t help that I am grinning ear to ear.

  • Sussu
    bookriders1 (at) gmail (dot) com
    BUNKING WITH THE OTHERKINS
    YA Paranormal Suspense

    (35-word pitch)
    When Janna, a 15-year-old psychic, frees her twin sister from the otherworld through a portal, she involuntary invites energy vampires to the larder, and discovers she’s one of them. Choosing sides is freaking tough.

    (250 words)
    All L.A. otherkins went on their spirit lives, not minding us humans, except one, my dead sister Moira.

    “Boo…oo, Janna. Hide here with you, okay?”

    I kept my nose in my book. “If you have to.”

    “Woahhhhh!”

    My twin shot out of an invisible portal like paint ball.

    Wet goo met my elbow. I startled and slipped off the bedroom couch, falling flat on my face. The beach house’s floor wasn’t covered in furs, I can attest to that.

    “Oh, shoot. Duck!” Moira yelled, floating around in a bubble lined up with goo that always reminded me of wet diaper crystal balls.

    I flattened my face on the floor. Her bubble grazed my head, parting my hair in two. It felt like cold shaving cream. She twirled around the bedroom like a huge condom, then flipped down at the bottom of the bubble and laughed.

    “For reals, Moira? Do you have to bring the otherworld to me?”

    She shrugged. “Not my fault. The guys on the other side were having fun with my bubble, thinking I’m a beach ball. I tried to escape, but you know, it’s a tight squeeze through the portal. It got pinched. The pressure built, and pop. Needless to say, I wasn’t aiming.”

    I lifted myself up with a groan. “Really, do you have to be such a bugaboo?”

    The spine of the library book I was holding broke under me.

    “Oh, crap,” I complained.

    One sickening rip and my twin had just added several zeros to my library fees.

  • Kay Cox

    Kay Cox
    RoseEarth(at)gmail(dot)com
    Cloaked
    YA Fantasy

    (Pitch)
    The King has three problems:
    • His son is missing
    • Someone is killing the Zaspan Trackers
    • Finding the fabled Cloaked Tracker
    When he hires Giaana he doesn’t realise they are all the same thing.

    (250 words)
    Giaana loosened her grip on the laundry bag hanging off her shoulder and made a beeline for the tree root pushing through the gravel track. Catching her foot, she lurched to the right and the low hanging branch she’d earmarked snagged the bag.

    With an exaggerated sigh she knelt to pick up the clothes strewn over the track. Reaching back for a shirt, she scanned the road. The trees rearing between the array of brightly coloured tents did little to stop the glare of the sun as it slid towards the zenith, the diminutive first moon following in its wake. Droning conversation hung in the air, the faint chink of knives and forks marking the midday mealtime.

    Blaze it! Her hand clenched. Flattened against a tree trunk about forty body lengths away was the man with the greasy hair she’d noticed watching her swim earlier. The way he’d licked his lips as he’d run one hand up and down the side of his thigh had her exiting the water, swathing herself in a towel and leaving the beach in a rush.

    Stuffing the last piece of clothing into the bag she stood up and resumed her journey. A twig cracked behind her. Resisting the urge to run, she reached into the pocket of her shorts and pulled out a small, near-invisible ball. With a methodical motion that calmed her shaking hands, she began to knead the Web between her hands, concentrating on the image she wanted to create.

  • Tanya S. Liard

    Name: Tanya Sarlanis
    Email: tsarlanis@gmail.com
    Title: SURVIVING SARIN
    Category/Genre: YA Thriller

    35 Word Pitch:

    Stranded on an island with his friends, 16-year-old Dylan struggles to keep his homicidal urges in check. When mercenaries arrive he finds an outlet for his bloodlust just in time…but it might not be enough.

    First 250:

    “Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.” —Paul Tournier

    Ms. Patterson finishes writing this quote on the board with a flourish then re-caps the marker and returns to her desk to shuffle through papers. I’m supposed to be writing the quote down and beginning a five-paragraph essay exploring what it means to me, but my eyes rove over the words, the curliness of her handwriting at odds with the pervasive sadness the words spear through me, as though their meaning reflected a sweet, fluffy sentiment instead of a seriously messed-up part of my life.

    I highly doubt anyone in this classroom understands secrets more than me.

    “Dylan,” Ms. Patterson says causing my body to jerk sideways. “Zoning out again? I need your dad to sign this. Return it to me tomorrow.” She slides my essay from last week across my desk then walks off, not even waiting to listen to my protests. The scent of coffee and some kind of sweet body lotion trails behind her.

    “Whatever.” I grab the paper with an ‘F’ on it and jam it into my backpack. Rob is going to fucking kill me because of that stupid assignment.

    A comparative essay asking to describe how life experiences shape a person then to relate it to a character in a book was not exactly something I wanted to think about. So I wrote exactly that. As my essay. Ms. Patterson should really consider that some kids don’t want to discuss their life experiences.

  • Name: James Stryker
    Email: JStryker21@gmail.com
    Title of Work: The Better Man
    Category/Genre: YA Contemporary

    Pitch:

    When Jared is ejected from the body, he discovers that Adam is resurfacing in order to stop him from taking the medication that keeps their personalities separate and Jared in control.

    First 250 words:

    Jared struggled to focus through the worst headache he’d ever experienced. It’d been two days of feeling the combustion engine in his head rev and watching the tachometer needle jump. Upshift, downshift – it didn’t matter. Nothing helped. The RPM continued to skyrocket, and he was about to redline thanks to the stream of garbage that spewed from his girlfriend’s mouth.

    “So I was telling Taji, and it was so weird, about how I have the water cold when I brush my teeth. But she has to have it warm, and that’s so nasty and…” Candice yammered as the car idled at the traffic light.

    Jared drummed his fingertips on the steering wheel and blocked out the fascinating discussion of ideal water temperatures. He filtered most of the stupid things Candice said. He didn’t care for how beautiful she was, how intelligent she wasn’t, or that he could sleep with her if he wanted. He liked that she was considered a prize among his friends. They wanted her, and he was always the better man.

    Prize or not, what I wouldn’t give for silence, he thought. The pain disintegrated his bullshit sifter and her nonsense sailed through to further gum the engine.

    “I asked Amber, and she sided with me about the cold water. But it can’t be too cold. Not like ice cold, you know what I –”

    “Babe, do you have any Codeine on you?” He ran his hand across his face. The pressure in his head was overwhelming and his vision blurred.

  • Layne
    Laalkis@hotmail.com
    DARK CORE
    YA Fantasy

    Pitch

    Reincarnation’s a bigger bitch than the goddess hell-bent on killing Saekina, but if she doesn’t find a way to defeat an immortal, this life could be her last.

    250

    The only light came from the moon orbs lining the cracked, cobbled streets. Saekina peered around the corner. No one is coming. Good. She turned into the alley, passing dumpsters overflowing with rotted food and used magical charms.

    Her stomach rumbled. After tonight, she’d be able to eat for days without worrying about her next meal. Information on slavers never failed to earn at least a gold coin. Eagerness fluttered in her chest. Bounty hunters would rip each other apart for the info.

    She pulled the hotel’s dented door open. The owner looked up with a bored expression, a half-drunken bottle of ale at his side. He’ll be passed out within the hour. “You again.”

    He’d invested a lot in making his hotel safe for less-than-legal operations. Plenty of back entrances and large vents hidden by glamours. I’ll have to ditch this place before he’s found out before people realize he’s playing both sides. She slipped him the usual payment. “We good?”

    “As long as the money keeps coming.” He counted the coins before adding them to his purse. “Room seven. You have half an hour until they arrive.”

    Saekina forced her lips into a tight smile. Smiling is good for business. “Nice working with you.”

    She needed to be careful considering the danger she was already in. Not that info gathering was risk free, but it kept a roof over her head. And it wasn’t as dangerous as bounty hunting.

    Allies would be nice. Not friends though. They never lasted long.

  • Amber Morrison

    ambermmorrison4@gmail.com

    Darkness and Light

    YA Modern-Day Fantasy

    Pitch:
    When Sam’s mom is kidnapped, he takes it upon himself to hunt down the man who supposedly took her, even though his obituary tells a different story, as well as his vigilante father.

    First 250 words:
    Sam jolted awake, kicking the sheets onto the floor.

    He brought his clammy hands to his face and rubbed his eyes. For years he’d dreamt of the New Year’s Eve he celebrated with his family when he was eight years old. The red, yellow, and green fireworks that shot off on the outskirts of town, the algae-infested pond that reeked of rotting wood, and the pumpkin pie his mother made flooded his mind when he slept. He groaned as the tastes of nutmeg and cinnamon floated on his tongue, and his stomach rumbled at the thought of the dish his mother hadn’t had the heart to make in four years, about the time his father hid himself away in his city hall office.

    Sam yawned and climbed out of bed. The heels and balls of his feet recoiled from the cold wood, and Sam ran across his bedroom to the dresser, grabbed a pair of mismatched socks from the drawer, and sped back to his bed to put them on.

    Prepared to confront the chilly floor, Sam stood up and looked in the early morning light for clothes. Long after he was dressed, he finally found his second shoe behind the curtain and ran his fingers through his dark hair until it felt brushed. Sam tucked his shoe laces under the tongue and walked down the hallway. He zigzagged through the living room in the dark, careful to avoid the old desk from his parents’ room that no longer had a home due to the remodeling his mother was doing, and searched the fridge on his way past the kitchen.

  • Kristina Ruth

    Kristina Ruth

    kristinaruth90@Gmail.com

    Shadowbound

    YA Historical Fantasy

    (35-word Pitch)

    After Evelyn’s father is murdered, she flees to London only to become entangled in a decades old curse. An assassin offers his help, but she has doubts about trusting a killer for hire.

    (First 250)

    1858, London

    Steam billows from the stacks as the ship begins to dock. The eagerness to exit the metal death trap is a stark contrast from the excitement I’d felt when we left. I never liked being on a boat, and now that I’ve experienced the long duration of a continental journey I am eager to be where the land stays true, and I’m not jolted to the side by a sudden wave. Yes, I’m liking this new city already.

    It’s been a month since my father’s murder, and I can still see the horrific scene clearly whenever I close my eyes. A clean cut and his papers were soaked with blood. We heard not a sound, not a creak of the floorboards, nor a scream. It was as if the air itself murdered my father.

    Shaking myself out of the gruesome memory, I slip my hand into Connor’s and give it a quick squeeze. It’s a movement I’ve been doing a lot lately, one that has earned us a few sideways glances. The lack of a ring on my hand ignites gossip, though they don’t know what name to attach to the stories. Once, I’d been tempted to tell them so I could properly imagine the horror on my mother’s face when she learns that her daughter ran off with the tailor’s son.

    If only it were that simple.

    I’d hoped my departure from America would help me cope with my father’s death, but so far it hasn’t.

  • Isabelle Felix

    Name: Isabelle Felix
    Email: ifelix5814@gmail.com
    Title: 186 LIES & COUNTING
    Genre: YA Psychological Suspense

    (Pitch)
    A black teen escapes her dementia-ridden father only to find herself kidnapped by a disturbed young man who mistakes her for his dead girlfriend.

    (The First 250)
    The driveway was empty. Still.

    I should’ve hidden his keys.

    I leaned back from the front window and pulled out my cell for the hundredth time. The light shone in the darkness of the foyer. 12:15 a.m. So much for “I’ll be back by eight.” I jammed the phone into my sweatpants pocket, only to yank it out seconds later.

    My throat tightened as I stared at the blank screen. Had I missed something? A text? Nope. I could’ve sworn I felt it vibrate. Frowning, I put it away again.

    I had already called Dad and every hospital in and around Orlando. Nothing. I even tried his co-workers. Straight to voicemail.

    What would I even say to them? I’d risk Dad’s job if I blurted out how serious this was. How just last week, he forgot how to get home from Walmart — that was only three miles away. Yeah, he blamed it on stress, anxiety, blah blah blah. But what if his memory slipped again? What if his cell lost its signal? He could be parked on the side of the road, right now, freaking out. Or his car could be wrapped around a pole. And I was just standing here, doing nothing.

    I looked to the left. Headlights flashed along the dimly lit street. I held my breath.

    The car sped by. I would kill Dad for this.

    Another car passed by slowly. It drove onto the grass next door and cut its lights.

  • Susan Paxton

    Title of Work: A RITE OF PASSAGE
    Category: YA Contemporary

    Pitch:When Aramay Winslow’s dare-devil bridge jump misfires, she’s submerged in a world where mean-girl rumors, psychiatric sessions, and rejection by her crush threaten to engulf her. A master stroke could lead to affirmation—or betrayal.

    First 250 words:
    A few more steps. The break in the bridge railing is narrow, but I’m sure I can squeeze through. My throat is dry and my hands are sweaty. I glance at Cassidy whose nostrils quiver. I chew at my lip, and look down at the icy water below.

    “Aramay!” Michael cries and I cringe. He’s right behind me.

    I wish he hadn’t showed up. But he won’t change anything. I’m still going to jump.

    See, high school’s tough; it’s a hard place to fit in. I need to prove that I can be a risk-taker, an adventurer, an outlier—a jumper. Juniors and seniors have done it. I can’t say that they’ve lived to tell about it. Oh, they lived. But no one ever talks about it. Whisper, maybe. But everyone somehow knows. That’s what I’ve heard anyway. That’s why I’ve made sure that Cassidy is here to be my witness. I’m hoping she’ll take some pictures that will show, well, not me exactly, but me in the shadows, the bridge behind me. The first day of school, I’ll drop them on the floor by my desk and pretend that I don’t want anyone to see them.

    I look at Cassidy again and see the doubt in her eyes. And the fear. She’s confused. She thinks we’re on this ledge because of Michael. His being here is a problem, but I’m the one that came up with the plan. And I’m the one that’s going to make the next move.

  • Rebecca Crockett

    Rebecca Crockett
    rebeccalynncrockett@gmail.com

    Heirloom
    YA Adventure Fantasy

    (Pitch)
    Greenach is destroyed, and Haeven only accepts the most gifted within its walls. Will their store of heirloom seeds and latest science project be enough to get Ainsley and Jeremy inside? And what happens then?

    (First 250)
    “Damn.” Jeremy exhaled, shaking his head as he removed the glass slide from the microscope.

    Ainsley MacQueen peered at her best friend through lowered lashes. Bent over the plain wooden work table with his face screwed up in a grimace of concentration, Jeremy was the picture of the hopeless scientist lost in an experiment gone awry.

    “Why are we doing this again?” she asked, hefting herself down from her perch on a storeroom shelf and into a graceless squat. She leaned back, hugging her arms around her knees and rolling her head to relieve the tension in her neck muscles. They’d been at it for the better part of two hours.

    “We’re doing this so we can understand how those tulips of yours affect us on a chemical level. So they can be used more efficiently.”

    She snorted. She and her grandmother, Nan, were responsible for cultivating the plants used to feed the village and to cure them when they were sick. But she didn’t think their greenrooms housed a single tulip. A pity, too. Tulips were lovely—but they were also useless, and Nan insisted they didn’t have room for any plants that couldn’t pull their own weight. It was a cruel world they’d inherited, even for the flowers, but it was their reality. She and the other villagers would have to content themselves with the wild tulips that bloomed once each spring and lasted a bare two weeks, if they were lucky. Senseless beauty was a fleeting thing in Greenach.

  • Name: Michelle Archer
    Email: michellearcher@me.com
    Title: ARTIFEXIA
    Category/Genre: Upper MG Fantasy

    PITCH:
    Payton hopes to get the lead in the play, get the boy, and not be in her best friend’s shadow. She isn’t planning on being the one who can save humanity from losing its imagination.

    250 words
    “Be careful,” a man shouts. “The time is near!”

    He is tall with short dark hair; sporting a dark blue wool plaid blazer and designer jeans. A plaid scarf is wrapped around his neck. A well-dressed man, my mother would say. It’s New York; crazies on the train are normal. Even on the three train. Most of the people don’t even look up from their books or newspapers. I continue to look around, ignoring the man who’s yelling.

    There he is. Book guy. He reads, or I should say he holds the same book every day. To the left is a young mother with her two toddlers. She tries to keep them calm, but they ignore her. The train comes to a stop to let more people on; taking them to school, meetings, auditions and their jobs.

    The well-dressed crazy guy begins to yell louder. He starts grabbing people, looking them straight in the eye to intimately share his message. The crowd takes notice. Their bodies stiffen. They look around to see if someone is going to remove him from the train.

    “You will all start to forget things!” he yells. “It’s coming!” he hollers as he makes his way through the crowd of people.
    “Just wait!” he screams. “You will be helpless!”

    The mother holds tightly to her toddlers; other people back away as he passes by them. It’s my stop. The crazy man stands between the door and me. He’s still yelling. Is he drunk? Deep breaths Payton.

  • Name: Laurie Germaine
    Email: l.germaine9(at)gmail(dot)com
    Title: TINSEL IN A TANGLE
    Category/Genre: YA Fantasy

    35-word pitch:

    Dwarfing her fellow elves, Tinsel struggles to find her niche in Santa’s Workshop. When her latest blunder jeopardizes Christmas and Santa’s grandson crashes the sleigh, exposure to the outside world offers a tempting life alternative.

    First 250-words:

    Crumbling candy canes! How am I supposed to connect these things, again?

    I clench the colored wires between my fingertips and fidget where I kneel at the miniature lab bench at the back of the room. Though an icy draft seeps around the windowpanes in Herr Chemie’s classroom, a bead of sweat trickles between my shoulder blades and my face prickles with heat. For half a second I consider filling the nearby sink with cold water and dunking my head.

    If you wonder why a child’s two-way radio unnerves me, try constructing one as part of a final exam.

    And pretend you’re me while doing it.

    “Don’t botch this,” Herr Chemie warned the class at the beginning of the exam. He looked right at me when he said it, of course, which prompted a ripple of snickers among the students.

    It’s not the first time I’ve been singled out. Towering over my classmates at five-feet-five-and-one-quarter-inches (they’ll be lucky to reach thirty-six inches fully grown), I’m an easy target for flippant jokes and remarks. Doesn’t help that I have yet to find my talent. Maybe if I were good at something, the Red and Green Clans would overlook my height. My mother blames my infamous great-grandmother for my colossal frame, but at least Great Oma Fay had a talent! Best tree decorator this side of the equator. Me? So far I seem to have a talent for…blunders.

  • Susan McGrath

    Susan Monroe McGrath

    sleighmonroe(at)hotmail.com

    Alisha’s Tree

    YA Magical Realism

    Pitch: Alisha will do anything to hold onto her mother’s memory. Including talking with ghosts and unearthing skeletons, both literal and figurative. She may discover that her mother was more than she remembers.

    First 250 words:
    I woke up in a strange bed and really had to pee. I made my bladder wait a minute while I figured out where I was. The pale moonlight coming through the window was much weaker than the streetlight back home, but it was bright enough to show me the quilt crumpled at the foot of the bed. Delicate hand stitched purple flowers twined through frail green vines. Grandma’s house.

    I exhaled a sigh, remembering this was where I’d been banished for the summer. I would have preferred to go to Thailand with my dad, but he was on no-kids-allowed-business-trip. I had tried to argue that 17 didn’t count as a kid, but I was overruled.

    I kicked off the light-green sheet and promised myself again that I’d stop drinking root beer right before bed. Maybe then I’d sleep through the night for once.

    My bare feet hit the nubby softness of the rag rug by the bed, then a few steps later, the cool wood of the floor. I grabbed the door handle and turned it slowly, not sure if this door was a creaker. Pleased with its silence, I padded out into the hall and down to the bathroom.

    Skipping the overhead light, I took care of business. Headed out the door again, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. The strange angles from the night-light’s glow turned my face into a death mask. Large hollows lurked beneath my cheekbones. My eyes were burrowed dark sockets peering out from under moss-dark bangs.

  • Nicole Becker

    Nicole Becker
    becker.nicole.j@gmail.com
    THE WHITE LADY
    YA/NA Horror

    Pitch: When the hotel Thea works in is swamped with so-called ghost hunters after a mysterious death, she is forced to consider that The White Lady isn’t just a bedtime story. Maybe the hotel really is haunted.

    250 words:
    I knew the man would die before it happened. Christopher Johnson was a business major, twenty-three, and had traveled here from Vancouver to meet his fiancées parents, and now he was dead. He looked like an abandoned puppet with the strings cut off. The wooden balustrade on the first floor of the entrance was broken, as if something had pushed through it with an incredible force. Right underneath it laid Christopher’s body, sprawling all fours from him. Maybe he had been uncautious, maybe the old wood had broken when he sleepily leaned against the balustrade. It looked like it had been an accident. But I knew this wasn’t what had happened. I had tried to warn him, but he hadn’t listened.

    My friend was frantically gesturing while she called the police. A maid had knocked on her door at four am after she had discovered Christopher. Taryn had run over to me immediately, yelling and shaking. Taryn wasn’t the kind of person that was easily emotionally affected. She was calm, collected, and professional. I had known immediately that something was wrong when I had seen the tears forming in her eyes. Taryn was the daughter of the owner Ms. McNeil, and in charge until her mother came back. We were both eighteen, but I had never felt as helpless and young before.
    I was still staring at the body’s twisted limbs. Completely hypnotized, I didn’t notice that someone walked up to me.

  • Peggy Rothschild
    peggyrothschildvta@gmail.com
    FLAME
    YA/Mystery

    Pitch: It’s 1977 and wildfires threaten the California beach town where 16-year-old Beth lives. Then her ex-boyfriend turns up dead in the strawberry fields and Beth fears her new boyfriend may be a killer.

    First 250:

    From the first moment I saw him, I wanted Denny Beech. Tall and lean, wheat-colored hair curled over the collar of his blue shirt, while a spiral of smoke drifted from the side of his mouth. A quick crowd scan told me I knew everybody in the backyard – except for him. Not a pretty boy, age had already burned away the puppy fat to show off high cheekbones and a strong jaw. I pictured his lips pressed against mine and, despite the heat, I shivered.

    A film of ash from the brush fire east of town coated the patio and the air smelled of wood smoke. Though closing in on 9 o’clock, the wall-mounted thermostat read 78 degrees. At least the Santa Ana winds had softened. Andie and I paused to inspect our reflections in the sliding glass door. I centered my pendant while Andie fluffed her hair. Kim Bellman’s parents traveled a lot and she hosted most of the parties. We all wished the Bellmans would adopt us.

    I dug a cigarette from my purse and nodded toward the newcomer. “Who’s that?”

    Andie shrugged then looked at me. “Nice to know someone can still catch your eye.” She flicked her lighter.

    After pulling back my hair, I bent to the flame. The cigarette didn’t taste much different than the air. I turned my profile to the new guy, grateful my period ended two days earlier—along with the bloating and zits. “Is it me or is he drop-dead gorgeous?”

  • Name: Taryn Bashford
    Email: taryn@bladerecruitment.com
    Title: GAME FACE
    Genre: YA Contemporary

    (Pitch)17-year-old risk-taker Harper must fight for the US Open & her estranged family while her doubles partner’s secrets could ruin everything

    (The First 250)

    Something’s wrong.

    Dad gazes out the cab window, except he’s staring through the buildings and traffic. Judging by the slump of his shoulders and how he hasn’t pushed his floppy fringe out of his eyes I’d say he was sad, crushed even.

    Normally he’d be recounting how my serve in the second set took his breath away or how my volleys in the final minutes brought him to his feet, and he’d be listing all the things he wants to do now we’re home. He likes simple things—walking the dogs with Mum, his own bed rather than a hotel room, and my sister Aria’s home-cooked meals.

    When I place a hand on Dad’s trousered leg he tilts his head to me. A wistful smile glances across his face before he looks out the window again.

    Something’s wrong.

    My chest squeezes.

    I watch Coach Kominsky in the front seat, his perfectly round, shaved head glistening in the sun, with no freckle or bump daring to blemish it. Why isn’t he dissecting my recent game or analysing my last opponent’s weaknesses? Why aren’t we talking about this week’s training schedule? Why is he also staring out the window?

    When I’d exited the court at Washington yesterday, I’d been pumped. Sure I’d lost, but it was in the second round, not the first. Dad had given me his usual bear hug, but his eyes weren’t twinkling and his smile seemed pressed onto his lips, and Kominsky was on his phone to the airline shifting our flights to an earlier schedule. But I’d broken my first round jinx. The day before I’d beaten Sophie Nugent, ranked 96 in the world. Whatever was bothering them would have to wait because I wanted to hang onto the moment and enjoy it. If I didn’t, what was the point of training for five hours a day? What was the point of denying myself cakes and chocolate and hot chips and pretending to love green smoothies? What was the point of leaving high school, of catching up on homework in hotel rooms late at night, of never having friends my own age? I’d given up a normal childhood for moments like that.

  • Emily Garland

    Emily Garland
    garlande@uvic.ca
    OMNIPOTENCE
    YA Science Fiction / Fantasy

    Pitch
    Darian Weaver is one of thousands with the chance to become Omnipotent. But becoming
    a God will mean every one of her friends will combust in flame.

    250 Words
    I have no choice but to listen. It’s not like you can do much else when you’re strapped to a chair and your mother has twice the amount of electricity needed to kill you in her hands.

    Her snarl of hair covers her eyes as she connects the bio-wire from her ancient black Input-Machine to my wrist. On her desk she keeps consulting a tiny silver cube.

    My feet tap impatiently. I pull my skirt down. This session will be my tenth and as much as reading is fascinating, Inputting is better. The whole thing is downloaded right into your skull. If I bug my mum enough, I might know everything I ever need to know by the time I’m nine years old.

    I stare at the wall to keep focused.

    There have been a lot of fires in here.

    A lot of stuffed animals have combusted.

    We have fourteen fire extinguishers. I counted.

    I’ve used six of them.

    My mother’s hands fly and the machine whirrs its fans with effort.

    Soon, everything in her Machine will be translated. Information, feelings and experience will pop into existence. Last time I visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris back in the early second millennium. The time before that I skied down the largest mountain in the world. The very first time I was Inputted, I learnt to ride a bicycle. Today, she needs to show me something important.

  • Jennie S Bailey

    jenniesbailey@gmail.com

    The Protector

    YA Fantasy

    Pitch:
    No one thinks the Spirits make mistakes, until they choose Auria as first girl to protect a wolf pack. But her past hides a secret that only they know, her magic will save her people.

    First 250:
    I’m not supposed to be here because I’m a girl. The Elders wrinkle up their mouths around the word as though it tastes bad and spit it out at me. They say it like it’s a curse. I’ve grown weary of hearing what I can’t do, what I’m not allowed to be. Today, I’m showing them all just what this girl can do.

    Today, I am crashing their Trials.

    The trees form a canopy above me, my moccasins leaving little marks in the soft ground as I count down the switchbacks. Four. Then three. Two spits me out into a meadow before the forest swallows me again.

    Making the final turn, I see the bright light where the trees and trail abruptly end. I race toward it, sprinting out into the sunlight. I blink at the sudden brightness, struggling to adjust. I scramble straight up toward the saddle, hands and feet sliding on the shale.

    A scrape on the broken rocks behind me heralds Raven. A full foot taller than me, his long legs and arms give him a distinct advantage. Even with my head start, I barely make it to the top before he does.

    The path stretches out before me, the straw dummies in a small clearing next to the lake. I skid to a halt in front of the first one, a dagger hurtling past. It sails to the right of the second target.

    “You pulled out your knives while you were running?” I can’t believe Raven would be that reckless, wasting one of his throws.

  • Imani Josey

    Name: Imani Josey
    Email: imani@imanijosey.com
    Title: Wings
    Category: YA Fantasy

    Pitch: When the commander goes missing before Moriah’s Ascension challenge—a deadly trial elevating angelic warriors — he foregoes it to find only completion will save her. An Ember in the Ashes meets The Mortal Instruments.

    Blood pooled on the floor near his feet, so he shifted to the opposite end of the tub. If this night followed a Challenge, he’d fill his bath with ice and cloak the room black to ease his senses. The blood on the floor would mix his and his opponent’s, splattering on the tile after he’d dropped his weapons belt. If adrenaline still coursed through him, he’d rush the ritual, maybe start scrubbing the syrupy mess as the water ran. Blood fascinated him as only his could see him through the most merciless acts of training.
    But he wasn’t soaking tonight.

    And he didn’t have time.

    With a deep breath and swift hand, he dug his blade to the bone. His teeth gnawed tight against his lips, though no sound escaped. He would have already bled out if he was someone else, but he hadn’t been some kid on 79th Street in a long time. Moriah exhaled and removed the red- slicked knife, waving it over the flame again. Don’t be a bitch, he thought before his hand darted, repeating the motion. His teeth caught his tongue this time.

    He was all too familiar with the smell —burned flesh— as it filled the room. Wouldn’t be a stretch to think it wafted through the halls. The candle used to warm his blade burned steadily as Moriah satisfied its singular tastes. Like all the Selected’s candles, it burned evenly until snuffed out, a reminder that all the trials would be by fire.

  • Amanda Perry
    Ama625(at) gmail(dot) com
    The Isles Of Alyis
    YA Fantasy

    35 Word Pitch: Montgomery’s life is ruined when she’s forced to flee. Sebastian fights for freedom,surrounded by slaves. On the run from assassins and monsters alike, their biggest enemy lies in the secrets they’ve yet to uncover.

    The ship screams in protest as it skips angrily over the treacherous waves, the hull rising in the air moments before slapping down on the water with a deafening thud, winds wailing through the cracks in the cabin walls, causing a chill. Many of the crewmen are ill. Few seafaring men have the stomach for storms as violent as this one. I wonder how many more storms this ship the crewman refer to as Kidlat, can survive.

    Lanterns sway on their hooks with the movements of the vessel, though most of them have burnt out more than an hour ago. Shadows flicker across Bayani’s sharp features highlighting his face as he struggles to keep the inkpot from spilling and his handwriting precise.
    I lean back on the threadbare mattress I have become so accustomed to, feeling the frigid draft on my back and picking dirt from my fingernails with the tip of my dagger. The storm does not interest me. My father used to say my lack of regard for the Alyis Sea frightened him. My father had been slaughtered by that very same sea. A lot of good all that circumspection did him.

    “Are you quite finished yet, Yani?” I look up from my hands long enough to glare at his letter with disdain.

    “Just another moment, your Highness.” he smirks.

    He calls me this now, only because I find it so grating. I stopped being royalty the moment I abandoned a kingdom under siege

  • Melissa Thorson

    Name: Melissa Thorson
    Email: thorson.melissa2011@gmail.com
    Title: AGAINST THE WIND
    Category/Genre: YA Contemporary Romance (with a touch of paranormal)

    Pitch:

    Jezibel Maddock’s senior year is uprooted and flipped upside down when her twin brother is killed in an accident, she is mysteriously drawn towards the boy responsible, and her best-friend reveals a devastating secret.

    First 250:

    My twin brother Kai was hogging the bathroom, as usual. He had a slight addiction to the Axe Body collection, and an obsessive compulsive issue when it came to showering. Not like I didn’t completely support guys making an effort to bathe regularly, but Kai took hygiene to a whole other level. Friday nights were the worst; it was like a wild buck preparing to strut out onto the prairie and draw in some doe’s.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reminding him that in a few months’ time we would be amongst the graduating class of 2013, and he would go from being one of the Alpha Male’s to just another guy amongst thousands of college students. He’d laugh and say, “Give it a week and I’ll prove you wrong.”
    I’d never say this to his face, but I had a feeling he was right.
    “Get out of the bathroom, or I’m gonna chuck your phone out the window!” I shouted through the door.
    “Go ahead, Jezi. Then I can get a new one.”
    “Ahhh,” I hit the door again, and marched down the hall, making sure he heard me slam his bedroom door. I folded my arms and tapped my foot on the carpet. I knew it would only be seconds before he came charging in, and I was right, as usual. A few weeks earlier–when he had refused to come out of the bathroom–I had deleted the female contacts in his cell, one-by-one, until he came out.

  • Rudy De La Torre

    rdelatorrepegueros@gmail.com

    The Random Adventures of Random Hill High School

    Genre: YA Adventure/Fantasy

    Pitch: High School Juniors David Ramirez and Johnny Tran hope to make this school year memorable. But a time traveling cube, a never ending sports drink, and an ancient dictionary will reveal more about their limits.

    “I seriously cannot believe this already happening tomorrow!”

    David Ramirez was distraught. His thin, athletic frame leaned slightly forward in front of a very noisy, cream-colored refrigerator covered in ceramic magnets and sticky note reminders of dental appointments and shopping lists. His brown eyes stared past all the clutter and directly at a calendar, which was hanging lopsided from a Latino radio station magnet. Under the “Law Office of Jose Hernandez” advertisement banner that was on top of almost every calendar used by those in David’s neighborhood, were four of the worst words anyone can say to a sixteen year old at Random Hill, written in a red pen, circled with that same pen, and slowly fading.

    First Day of School.

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I am suuuper excited!”

    David’s little sister, Esmeralda, or Esme, as everyone who knew her called her, was jumping around the kitchen behind Johnny with an apple that looked like it had lost a battle to a vampire. Her light brown eyes shimmered brightly with excitement as her slender legs shuffled right next to David’s to look at the calendar.

    “That’s because you’re barely starting high school,” David interjected sharply, turning to face his sister.

    “You just wait. You’ll learn to dread the first week of school.”

    Before Esme could respond, and with a swift motion, he slid his slender body onto an empty wooden chair a few feet away from the fridge, and leaned forward with his pointy elbows on the kitchen table, which had an old brown wooden fruit bowl missing a member of its team.

  • Ellen Mulholland
    ellenmulholland@att.net
    ON THE ROAD TO MARTY MCFLY
    YA Contemporary

    All fourteen-year-old Kathryn wants is to meet her dad, but when her brother uncovers a mysterious letter hidden in an old lunchbox, she must decide if this absent dad is worth locating.

    Kathryn wished to be anywhere but here. Pressing her face against the window’s cool glass, she imagined melting through it. Bodies moved before her like a movie. Red-and-white-striped clerks sponged the ice cream parlor’s sticky counters and swept up litters of straw sleeves. A glint of sunlight reflected off a shiny napkin holder. Not a smudge on it.

    Impressive.

    An annoying fall breeze lifted Kathryn’s tangle of curls as she rolled her skateboard . . . *seven . . . eight . . . nine* . . . If people would stay in their seats, she might be able to count them, too. Was that sixteen or seventeen?

    A puddle of classmates gathered at a back booth. Two blond heads. Great. The Watson twins.

    *Too bad there’s no disinfectant to wipe you away*, she thought.

    Kathryn’s skateboard shifted, but the street sat sleepily behind her. Too early on a Sunday for shopping Main Street, but clearly it was never too early for Winston’s famous Wake-Up Waffle Coffee Cone. Most other Armario residents were likely picking through treasures at a yard sale, mowing lawns, or gathering marshmallow gun materials from the local hardware store. If you were a girl in search of your dad, you were spying into ice cream parlors or scouring the city streets.

    Probing the crowded creamery, she avoided the curious gazes, including the icy glare of Isabella Watson. The queen of mean wasn’t worth her time. Her dad was, and today was her scheduled time to search him out.

    *Where are you?* she wondered as a tingle rose deep inside her.

  • Kristen C. Strocchia

    THE PALACE OF SAND
    YA Historical Fantasy

    Pitch: Longo broke his refuge—a living palace at the heart of an eternal sandstorm. Now he must save Barbarine from her slave rescue mission in eastern Africa before the palace locks them both outside forever.

    First 250 words:
    Longo traced the smooth, dusty grooves of Barbarine’s face. Stopping his finger at her chin. Wishing she were standing here right now so that he could tilt her head up to look at him. Instead he gazed into those cool, sandstone eyes.

    Why didn’t you find me that night you came back? He rubbed a thumb across the tell-tale face glyph—but then it wasn’t just the glyph this time. Did you forget the palace would show me that you’d come? Or were you in trouble and hurrying?

    The palace had rendered her likeness well enough that the etching looked ready to answer him. Flawlessly beautiful. Longo almost smiled, knowing that the stone eyes couldn’t see him staring at her with all of the longing that he’d felt for Maman since she died, though the ache was different. But even though Barbarine treated Longo like a man, he didn’t dare hope that she—or anyone else—would ever desire him, animal that he was.

    “When will this Lady of the Palace of yours be back?”

    Eshban. So the old peddler had learned to walk with pickpocket feet in just his few weeks here.

    Longo didn’t turn to look at him. Instead, he unlatched the palace’s door handle and let the sandstorm fling it open, catching it with his hands before it could slam into his body. “I’m afraid the storm is detaining her, as you surely can understand.”

    Eshban would eventually figure out the deception. The sandstorm would never end.

  • Steven Palivoda

    Soul Dragons

    YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy

    Pitch

    Suvius is a vengeful, soul-stealing sorcerer whose ultimate goal is to reunite his body and soul. He must acquire thirteen souls to succeed. His organization, The Purifiers, must defeat the light warriors to conquer Earth.

    First 250 Words

    In the Beginning-1

    The menacing citadel of Cronotin Castle echoed with a deafening scream that shattered the stillness of the night. Suvius didn’t even blink. Citizens in the streets shivered from terror, but the patrolling soldiers did not react to the horrifying cry. Spirit imprisonment occurred frequently and often. It happened in public. Suvius was infamously well-known for committing these acts.
    Minutes earlier, in an alleyway, a gentleman was lumbering, dragging his feet across the deserted road as he chugged beer down his throat. He had just rounded the corner when a high-pitched whistle cut through the darkness. The sound was enough to turn his head, but his eyes barely widened at the black and white spiral that appeared—a churning maelstrom of lightness and dark hovered in midair. The man paused. Gripping his bottle more tightly, he shrugged, and then shuffled away from the swirling mass. As the portal widened, a man dressed in a black hood—Suvius—stepped out with a red-eyed staff in his hand.
    An evil red eye was encased in a crystal on the head of the staff. Many people had fallen prey to this nefarious scepter. Souls had been sucked into the potent weapon.
    His wavy black hair formed a thick spike at the front and facial hair covered his cheeks. A solid streak of platinum ran through the middle of Suvius’ hair and ended at the tip of the spike. His eyes weren’t just black.

  • Name: Caroline Lingaitis W/A Caroline Cozens
    Title of work: “Friended”
    Young Adult/Contemporary Romance
    35 Word Pitch: Megan likes a boy. And for a while she thought he liked her back until his status announced he was in a relationship. Which ended and now he’s flirting with her again.

    First 250 Words:
    Nate leaned closer to look at her book during compline. She felt excited and nervous at the same time. The youth leader ended compline and the group moved towards the door.
    “So we have treats, upstairs in Tolliver hall until the parents pick us up, usually.” Megan thought she sounded so lame but Nate looked at her and smiled.
    “You have someone picking you up?” Nate asked he gently nudge her.
    “Well, I drove myself but I can wait with you.” Megan continued. She was totally blushing. She was tall but he was taller and for a girl nearly six feet tall that was a nice change.
    “I’d like that.” Nate gently moved a piece of hair away from her face and behind her ear. (Megan’s mind was screaming! This cute boy is flirting with me! ME!!!) He followed her to the refreshment table and again to sit next to her on the stage.
    “So where do you go to school?” She wanted to keep the conversation going.
    “Well, I’m a senior but my mom homeschools us because I tour as a disc golfer all over the US.”
    “What is disc golf like Frisbee?”
    “Kind of. You should come see me play sometime.”
    “That would be interesting I think.” She answered trying hard not to swoon.
    “How about you. What year are you in school?”
    “Oh, I’m a junior at Cathedral High School.”
    “So you wear plaid?”
    “Hounds tooth actually.” Megan answered. A younger girl who had bubblegum pink hair

  • Cassie

    Name: Cassie Traeger
    Email: cassietraeger[at]gmail[dot]com
    Title of Work: CAST IN SHADOW
    Category: YA Thriller

    Pitch: Seventeen-year old Tomoe Ikeda just wants to be a ninja. But when she accidentally ignites a deadly feud with the rival shinobi school, the ensuing conflict threatens to destroy everything she’s built.

    First 250: My mother always tells me a dull kitchen knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. I apply the same philosophy to my weapons. A dull kunai blade could be the difference between life and death. Since I wanted to keep on breathing, I kept my knives sharp enough to cut through bone.

    I’d laid my weapons out on the tatami floor in front of me for cleaning. I assessed my glittering arsenal of death with a critical eye. Almost twelve shuriken of various sizes and construction. Half a dozen kunai blades. Two tantō and one kaiken. A single, beautifully crafted Hattori katana rounded out the set. You only needed one Hattori sword. Besides, good katana like that didn’t come cheap.

    I picked up one of my bō shuriken and started sharpening the tip. Shuriken usually came in two models – stick shaped shuriken like the one I had in my hands and hira shuriken, what we also called throwing stars. We didn’t normally use them to kill people. Instead, we threw them at exposed body parts like hands, feet and eyes as a diversion. Nothing like a sharp spike in the eye to slow you down.

    Satisfied with the state of my shuriken, I quickly scanned my array of blades. The kunai knives looked fine because I’d worked on them yesterday. Same with the kaiken and tantō. The kaiken was a dagger small enough to fit into my obi or even in a sheath on my spine. I tended to belt the longer tantō at my waist or on my thigh.

  • Shells Legoullon

    YA-Light Sci Fi
    Title: Signal Void

    35 word pitch: Kate’s signal vanishes, suspiciously before her parents are murdered. With every citizen Bio-chipped, The EYE suspects Kate. She blames Defiance. Thrust into a seedy world of Junkers and Tag Dealers, she’ll unravel the twisted truth.

    First 250 words:

    The house is lit up like a shrine, no doubt in my honor. Knowing my mother, she’s been glued to her bit-map since I left, only taking a break to call my holophone or pee. I glance at the call log on my phone. Fifteen missed calls.

    An anxious wave rolls through my gut, as our thick metal gate crawls open like a feeble old woman. How can my father be okay with something so time-sucked? You’d think the archaic wreck would embarrass him considering his profession.

    I drum my fingers against the wheel and stare at the illuminated digits hovering above the dash. When there’s enough space, I speed through. The tires squeal against the shiny concrete as I brake at the top of the drive.

    Both of my parents explode from the house and race down the steps. I’m dead. I choke back the lump of remorse at my mother’s face. Pink and swollen, like after my uncle died. My father’s tight pressed lips and clenched jaw confirm I’ve already been judged and tried. I ease out of the car.

    “Kate!” My mother rushes in, cinching me up like a snare. “It’s nearly three in the morning! Where have you been?”

    Like she has no idea. I roll my eyes.

    “You’ve been off grid for hours,” my father snaps.

    Wait, the grid’s down? My little red dot hasn’t moved all night? That explains why they didn’t show up and yank my butt home. I’m surprised my mother’s still breathing.

  • Kara Leigh Miller

    Karaleighmiller (at) gmail (dot) com

    HALLOW GROUND

    YA / Paranormal Romance

    (35 WORD PITCH)
    In a town shrouded with secrets, Chloe happens to fall in love with the one boy who will be the cause of her death — unless she can find a way to end his family’s curse.

    (FIRST 250 WORDS)
    “You haven’t said a word in over an hour,” Aunt Beth said and glanced over at me with a frown.

    I shrugged and continued to stare out the window. There was nothing to be said. My life had been irrevocably changed and it was beyond my control. All I could do now was sit back and be dragged along for the ride. Literally. The drive from the city to the town of Graves Barren was long and arduous and completely boring. We passed endless fields of barren, lifeless dirt. The town was aptly named, that was for sure. It wasn’t until we actually reached the town limit that I saw anything interesting – a massive, sprawling cemetery.

    I sat straighter in my seat and all but pressed my face to the car window. I’d never seen such a large cemetery before, and this one was huge. It must have gone on for miles, consistently dotted with stone markers. There were no monuments. Nothing fancy for departed loved ones. Just unassuming stones evenly placed in neat rows. There weren’t even any flowers on the graves. It was as if everyone had forgotten all the poor souls lying in the ground. It was the oddest thing I’d ever seen. And the creepiest. That was a lot of dead people for a town with a population of less than fifteen hundred. Apparently Graves Barren had a high mortality rate, which would explain the town name. I slumped back in my seat and cradled my mother’s urn closer to my chest.

  • Name: P.D. Pabst
    Email: pdpabst2@gmail.com
    Title of Work: THIS SCARY MANOR BLOWS
    Category/Genre: MG/Light Horror

    35-word pitch: Agnes plays pretend in an old manor and learns she must solve the murder of an eight-year-old ghost, but secret passages and hidden rooms aren’t places to play when a more sinister specter threatens her.

    First 250: The dilapidated Galli Manor loomed over Agnes and made her feet shift on the sidewalk. Inheriting the mansion from her grandfather—a grandfather she hadn’t known existed—was supposed to be good fortune. But, she felt certain if she put one foot on the aged steps her future would end with a decayed board through her chest.

    For the love of chocolate—RETREAT!

    She stepped back with her mother, brother, and a non-related lanky lawyer and gazed at the ghastly stairs. The wrought iron spindles stretched to the railing and wrapped it like bony fingers—each holding a globe-shaped glass light. Several globes had broken, littering the stairs with shards of glass—a hazard to walk around to get to the entrance. The leaning paint-chipped columns stood three times her height, taunting they’d crush her if she got past the steps.

    Agnes glanced at her mother and wondered if the poor woman had gone blind. The widow Galli gaped at the manor with fretful eyes. Her thin body, long black hair and pale skin mimicked a taller version of Agnes, or so it’d been said. She squared her shoulders and squeezed Agnes’ hand. “It’s not as bad as it looks. I promise.”

    Agnes hoped her mother was right. She cringed at the thought of going back to the shelter. The old geezer who’d slept by her snorted like an elephant & kept her up most nights. Plus going back meant returning to her old school where the kids called her a Dirch (dirty-child) because she didn’t always get to shower.

  • Kathryn D. Fuller

    YA/Sci-Fi

    35-Word Pitch: In 3641, Earth is dying. When religious fanatics attempt to gain control of a spaceship destined to colonize New Eden, 17yo Vayen must unify enemies to derail their plan and save her parents.

    Ten miles outside the third largest hulled city on Earth, Vayen Kallmunz ignored the sandstorm rolling in—a massive, red wall of sand and soil stretching north and south as far as she could see. She cast an angry glare at the tattered East Point flag snapping overhead, obscured by dust and dirt swirling in the howling 152-degree wind. Through her hood’s lens and green goggles, the once red flag had bled to gray, shredded to colorless ribbons, like her confidence.

    It was such a simple concept: Be better tomorrow than you are today.

    The city’s motto, drilled into her head for as long as she could remember, taunted her. Be better tomorrow…she certainly hoped so, because today could not get any worse.

    So much for being a genius.

    “How did my day go?” she mumbled to herself, testing the question her father would ask. “Fine. It went fine. Just another day in the lab.” The lie felt as conspicuous as the fog clouding the inner lens of her hood.

    Her lab partners emerged from the East Point University’s lab which lay half-buried in the side of a rocky mountain. Like Vayen, Dexton and Sharmel wore matching silver and white rig suits, protecting them from the killer heat and blocking the sand that threatened to flay them alive.

    “What did you say?” Dexton’s voice snapped in her headset. “Are you getting in or what?”

    “Just making sure these specimens don’t tip over.” She packed a small case into the trunk.

  • Heidi Schroder
    itsheidischroder at gmail dot com

    THE UMBRELLA NIGHTS
    MG / Fantasy

    (Pitch)

    Incarcerated for crimes his father committed, Hugo travels to a secret world through his dreams to plot the ultimate escape, and vows to hunt down his fugitive father to earn back his freedom.

    (First 250 words)

    When the guards shut off the lights, Hugo Barrie and three of his fellow inmates slid their toes into rainboots, pulled on waterproof coats, and crept into bed. Clutching black umbrellas to their ribs, they closed their eyes and waited.

    Outside, the wind whooshed and roared, smacking rain against the prison windows like a wet towel. The hour and minute hands of a broken grandfather clock in the next room chased each other around the clock face, spinning hypnotic circles. Hugo’s jaw clicked in time with the marching beat of the second hand.

    When an icy breeze stung his cheeks, he opened his eyes and unfurled his umbrella against the rain. Water lapped at his boots. He was standing in the ocean.

    Shawn was waiting for him on the shore beneath an umbrella, holding something against his chest, wrapped in a plastic bag.

    “Beat you.” Shawn said. “Three minutes. I timed it.”

    Hugo waded through the shallow water and up the beach. “No way. I’m second?”

    “You were nearly third. Darien’s right behind you. Losing your touch.”

    Darien splashed toward them. “Drinking warm milk does not help you fall asleep faster. It’s a lie.”

    “Try pushups,” Shawn said. He squinted into the distance. “Oh no. Claude forgot again.”

    Claude was leaping through the water like an Olympic hurdler, wearing nothing but his socks and prison uniform. “W-w-well this sucks.”

    “Serves you right for forgetting.” Shawn offered Claude his umbrella when the shivering boy reached them. “Didn’t I say to you at dinner, ‘see you tonight’?”

    • Andrew Phillips

      RimBomBo – The Legend of Joe Kokomo and the Three Tells

      MG Fantasy

      (Pitch)Through a freak accident of magic, a giant grows to only three feet tall. Unfortunately, he’s supposed to be the Uniter who will thwart the BlackHeart Witches’ plans to take over RimBomBo.

      (1st 250 words)Once upon a time, in the land of RimBomBo, following the FirstNight storm, somewhere in GloomWood Forest a green and black marbled egg wobbled in a woven twig nest high in the branches of a buckeye tree. A young raven pecked and flapped his way to freedom. In another part of the forest, in the rotted wood of a creekside log, a baby firefly wriggled to life as it morphed from a nymph into a young beetle. Off the CraggyCliffs below the peak of CloudMountain, a wisp of a cloud formed along the rim. It breathed itself to life. And in the Valley of All Beginnings, an unlikely hero for the ages was born.What follows is a grand adventure as true as the earth is old. But, as I’m sure you know, sometimes we story tellers make up the true stories we tell. You must decide if my tale is just such a story.

      “Joseph Dag Kokomo…Watch out! You’re too close to this mallet!” giantess Daisy Kokomo shouted at her son. And then, in a calmer voice. “How many times have I told you to be careful when you’re watching me make biscuits?”

      Ignoring his mother, Joe, his red hair curling down across his forehead, tapped his lips with a thoughtful finger and asked,
      “Mommo, aren’t you supposed to break up the bones into small pieces first before you smash them?”

      Eight-year old, twenty-five pound Joe, still in his nightshirt, stood on the kitchen table. Only one foot taller than the one foot tall mixing bowl full of cold rain water he leaned on, Joe watched his ten-foot tall, 850 pound mother spread out the ox bones.

  • Lindsey Dalley

    North of Nothing

    YA Adventure

    (Pitch)
    Finding your soul mate usually leads to love. Hayden and Kit find theirs—until Area 51 Security discover they know too much.

    (First 250 words)
    I’m about to cross into an alien world. Not an alien world with lanky, almond-eyed green men, but a different world where “secret projects” spill outside Nevada’s Nuclear Test Site northward, into this desolate county. My own experience has taught me that these secret projects are either accidents or training exercises which produce what my dad calls “the routine-unexpected.” I call it adventure.

    I whiz pass a single dusty road that serves as the back entrance to the notorious Area 51. The October crisp air carries a hint of pungent sage and cools the intense late-morning sun. What a great day to be alive! I slow my bulletbike to a hundred and twenty and barely miss some tire chunks.

    Empty road lies ahead—except for a pickup hooked to a horse-trailer with someone working on a trailer tire. Just before zipping past, steam explodes from under the hood. I gotta stop and help. I hit the brakes and overshoot the truck before I can slow down and flip around.

    It’s a girl and about my age! My chest tightens. Her brunette ponytail pokes through the back of a faded tan cap with a black rim. Her wrangler jeans stack onto scuffed, round-toed boots. A fitted western shirt flatters her wide shoulders and athletic torso. Her soiled hands grasp the open hood exposing outdoor tanned arms. She’s definitely from around here.

    “Do you need help with that?”

    She turns and delivers a hard stare. Her eyes slice me as her brow furrows.

  • Mary Newton Lima

    Title: Lost in the Darkness

    Category: Contemporary (with a twist!)

    Pitch:

    Fifteen-year old Corey Tajos is broken. His healing power erases the physical marks his father’s beatings leave behind, but it cannot stop the raging darkness inside.

    First 250 words:

    Deep breaths. Take deep breaths. Stop the shaking, inside and out. Push down the darkness, get through practice, and this suckhole of a day will be over.

    I closed my eyes, open locker shielding me from the rest of the team. Three minutes. All I needed was three minutes.

    I leaned my forehead against the row of lockers. Cold metal to hot skin. Good start.

    One breath for Father gifting me the fist-sized bruise below my shoulder blade.

    One for my backpack vomiting my crap all over the hall before school even started.

    One for the slap Amy Gosche laid on me when I pinched her butt for the third time.

    One for the D+ on the math test. (Father’d be pissed.)

    One for Lindsey Buckner announcing I kissed like a wet fish. To the entire cafeteria.

    One for—

    BAM! My locker door smashed closed, then shimmied back open from the force. My head jerked off the ringing metal as I spat out a long string of curses.

    “Hey FRESHER!” Joe, a landmass of a linebacker, grinned at me with a rule-the-school smirk only seniors could pull off. “Gotcha, Corey. You meditating back here?”

    I slapped the locker shut, rammed the lock home, and grabbed my helmet off the bench. Every muscle rang with tension as I said, “Outta the way, ass-wipe.” My helmet may have collided with his stomach as I pushed passed him. These things happen.

    Joe’s hand, the size of a mallet, clamped onto my shoulder and spun me around. “What did you say?”

  • Jeigh Meredith
    jeighmeredith@yahoo.com

    RESONANT
    YA Fantasy

    (Pitch) Mythological phoenixes (who help mankind progress through magical songs that inspire epiphanies and strokes of genius) drag washed-up prodigy Tenny into their world as a valuable asset when she senses their music.

    (First 250)
    It’s the stage lights that throw people off. When it’s just you and that shiny grand piano up there, the brightness and heat can be oppressive, as if the judges’ eyes are burning holes into you. Their expertise, their ability to hand you your future—or not—all presses in while you sit and play. But I like the heat.

    It reminds me that this is where I’m supposed to be. And I know I’m doing well as I play. I can taste it. This run is smooth and smoky Gouda. That chord is tart pineapple. And this last part is all spice and sugar. It always tastes like sugar at an audition, and for me, I mean literally. All music tastes like something.

    I still my fingers at the end of the piece and watch them tremble with the barest of movement. The judges won’t see it, and even if they did, they wouldn’t fault me. This is a big audition—a final, tiebreaker round to be the official pianist for the Montana Youth Symphony. Certainly, the loss of composure isn’t uncommon. My nerves aren’t for the performance, though. It was solid. It was flawless.

    But. There’s always a but.

    I stand and take my bow before joining the other final contender, Natassia, at center stage.

    “Tenny Carter.” The second judge from the left announces me, as if I’ve forgotten my name. Or maybe they have.

    “Yes,” I say. My best friend Aiden sits in the very back, probably gnawing on a fingernail and playing it cool.

  • Kerry Reed

    TITLE: DREAMSCAPE

    GENRE: YA FANTASY

    PITCH: Sixteen-year-old Chloe Wilder has always been reasonably content with her self-described “average” life – until the dreams start. Soon she’s spending her nights in a fantastical dream world. But are her dreams really just dreams?

    FIRST 250 WORDS:

    The wide, grassy field was warm and cheerful and strangely familiar.

    Like daisies.

    Why daisies I had no idea, but I could almost see them in my mind. As if I remembered them. There, all across the field, white and green and yellow. Infinite daisies.

    I collapsed back onto the sweet, spring-smelling grass with my knees in the air. The overhead sun was blindingly bright and the sky almost too blue with just a few pillowy clouds. A perfect cloud-watching kind of day, I decided. Like when I was little. My dad and I had loved that game, tracing familiar shapes in the sky – painting cloud pictures, he’d called it – and inventing stories to fit our scenes.

    This was when I realized I was wearing my favorite sundress from back then. The one I’d worn night and day for an entire summer the year I was seven: white-smocked with pink, purple, and blue-patterned hearts and ribbons that tied at the shoulders. I’d cried the day my mom had decided it was too small and donated it. Yet there I was, nine years later, wearing it. Strangely it seemed to fit.

    Abruptly a shadow crossed above me, blocking my sun.

    Not a shadow – a pair of legs. I blinked, a little startled, and another piece of the memory clicked into place.

    Calvin.

    My Caly. Of course. This field, the daisies, the dress, and Calvin. I remembered it all.

    Except the person towering over me now was not Calvin. Definitely not.

    “Hi there,” he said.

  • Clarissa Hadge

    Clarissa Hadge

    chadge26@gmail.com

    JETSTAR FIGHTER PILOT

    YA Sci-fi

    Pitch: In this feminist spin on ENDER’S GAME, Reeka must become the first female jet fighter pilot at the toughest, all-male space academy in her galaxy to find her missing brother.

    First 250 words:

    I collapsed in an alley as the fiery whip of pain in my ribs threatened to burst out of me. I barely had enough strength left to tap a message to Ari on my ion5:

    : Are you up?

    Several excruciating moments passed, the hot jolts in my ribs acting as much more than a distraction. Finally, instead of a message, Ari sent me a vid-chat:

    “Reeka, where are you?” she asked, her voice cloudy with sleep.

    “Downtown?” My head throbbed as I tried not to slip further down into the void.

    “Wait, what time is it?” Ari’s eyes flashed over to the digi-time. “Reek, it’s three AM! Why the hell are you out?”

    Her cursing made me laugh, but doing so made my ribs hurt. “Goozer,” I said, wincing. “I tried going after Dek. Didn’t make it.”

    “You are so stupid, Reek. Why would you leave without telling me?” Ari sat up and turned on her bedroom low light. Her brown eyes were big behind the specs that she shoved up the bridge of her nose.

    I braced myself against the wall so that I wouldn’t pass out. “I don’t know. I had to go after him, Ari.” I closed my eyes. “But you’re right, it was stupid.”

    Dek and I had made three rules for survival when we were kids: stick together, trust no one, and always go back for each other. I’d been having a rough time with that third one since he’d been officially classified as MIA from the JetStar Academy.

  • Belinda Robards
    BelindaRobards@aol.com
    Walls Budger
    Young Adult Romance

    Pitch: A boy who hides his face and a girl who hides everything else. When their worlds collide, they must navigate the chaotic teenage battlefield of changing alliances, hidden motives and each other.

    I mindlessly followed Granny through Spendmart as she shopped, until we arrived at the fabric department. My fingers twitched with longing to caress the bright and colorful fabrics and spread them out in the aisles. Instead I stood motionless, eyes unfocused, imagining endless varieties of dresses, skirts, shorts and shirts I could design and make with each fabric.

    The stale, artificially cooled air tickled my nose. I double-blinked when the rope dropped down in front of me but otherwise remained inert. The thick, white, plastic-looking rope had knots tied in it every foot or so but it had nothing to do with me.

    “Coraline,” Granny called.

    “Yes, ma’am,” I said automatically then turned to face her. With effort I focused my eyes on her small, neatly dressed figure.

    “What do you think about this?” She held up a bolt of dour looking fabric.

    I held a grimace in check with effort as I eyed the fabric. “It’s fine.” Granny was making me a new dress.

    “Where did that rope come from?” Granny’s expression was as dour as the fabric she held.

    Like it’s my fault it had just fallen from the ceiling? I glanced up to the rafters where the rope originated. “I don’t know, Granny.”

    “Stay here while I find someone to ask.”

    “Yes ma’am.”

    When I turned back, Walls Budger was standing next to the rope. Solidly built and tall, Walls Budger’s shoulder-length chestnut brown hair hung like a curtain over his face. I tried to picture his

  • Suja
    drsujas@yahoo.com
    IMPERFECT LIVES
    YA contemporary thriller

    (Pitch)
    A jock and a math geek form an unlikely partnership after their respective siblings’ deaths in order to trap a killer who masks his murders as accidents. If they fail, they could end up as his next victims.

    First 250:

    Shaun

    Our three-story colonial could withstand force-five gales, but the walls did nothing to muffle Mom’s sobs, or Dad’s frenzied pacing in the hallway outside my room.

    I dragged a pair of jeans over my boxers and sat on the edge of the bed, staring at my clenched hands. Stop it already. Please.

    Mom’s weeping continued. I strode to the door and grabbed the handle, then dropped my forehead against the cool wood. Jumping in wasn’t a good idea. I should know; I had the scars from my last attempt.

    If only David were here. He’d know the right thing to do. But then, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place, and I wouldn’t be sitting here with this gaping hole in my chest, missing my twin, while my parents tore each other apart.

    Something heavy thudded against my bedroom wall, followed by shattered glass. Dad stopped pacing. “What the hell, Terese?” A pause, then, “Oh, for God’s sake, get a grip! He’s not coming back.”

    Dad was great at stating the obvious.

    I’d caught him crying once, in a back room at the funeral home. He was huddled in a dark corner, his face stuffed in his jacket, his shoulders shuddering. Like he was coming apart, breaking into little pieces before my eyes. The unfamiliar sound had washed over me as I’d considered my options—comfort him and risk embarrassing both of us, or pretend I’d never been there. Knowing Dad, I’d locked my jaw, blinked back my tears, and had edged out.

  • Isabel Filippone
    ifilippone33@gmail.com
    The Chalk Boy
    YA Contemporary

    (Pitch)
    Every morning Evie draws the chalk boy, the one from that night. She remembers the sirens blaring loudly, as a policeman drew a outline around a dead body. She also remembers her own bloody fingers.

    (First 250 words)
    The bed was hard, the mattress threadbare, and I could feel the metal frame underneath my weakened body. The room was painted a dull white with mottled stains here and there. It was a bleak room that could only belong in an asylum, and it did. It was my room, but the only thing that was really mine was the little container of chalk hidden beneath my bed.

    Each day for thirty minutes, I was allowed outside. The fenced yard consisted of patches of dirt where the grass had long ago died and small areas of asphalt. In one corner of the blacktop, I had found a spot covered by an overhang protected from the elements. This is where I would come every day to draw, and when I drew, it was always the same picture. He was the reason that this was now my home.

    Today, like so many other days when the orderly called I grabbed my container from under the bed and followed. She unlocked and opened the door, and I was out. The sun was blinding, but it was always a joyous moment when I realized I was outside. Precious for my short lived freedom, it was also my only time with him.

    The asphalt was steaming, the scorching sun shining down upon it. I could feel the burn of the tar on my stomach when I lay down on the ground in anticipation of drawing. After a few minutes of planning my picture, I could feel a sunburn starting on my lower back where my tank top had risen.

  • Rachel Somer

    Name: Rachel Somer

    Email: rachel_sj(at)live(dot)com

    Title of Work: Nameless

    Category/Genre: YA Fantasy

    35-word (max) pitch:

    When her life-long companion is taken by a god-like man riding a storm cloud full of monsters, Adria teams up with an immortal assassin to get her back. (A fantasy world heavily inspired by Hinduism).

    The first 250 words:

    Chapter 1

    Clang! Clang! Clang!

    I jolted upright, every nerve in my body buzzing a danger warning. I crouched in the middle of the wheat field—

    Clang! Clang!

    The watchtower bell? I’d never heard it ring.

    I peered across the field. A sea of wheat, golden in the noon sunlight, swayed in the gentle breeze. At the foot of the snow-capped mountain, Tanglewood Forest sprawled, a knotted mess of mossy branches and vines, dark and menacing.

    The bell stopped. The wall wardens shouted garbled orders at the guards of the gates. I glanced back at the city wall and hunched myself lower. Had they finally seen me? Caught me outside the walls?

    The wardens were standing atop the battlements, pointing at something in the forest. I followed their gazes to the tree line—

    Movement.

    A dark animal paced at the edge of the forest. I stood up to get a better look—

    And the creature halted, watching me. It bobbed its flat muzzle, snorting the air to… catch my scent?

    Yama! What is that?

    It wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen. As large as a bear, its hunched back bulged with muscles beneath patches of matted black fur. But it was sickly, arms gangling like a half-starved gorilla.

    The creature galloped into the sunlight. Yelp!—it skidded to a stop, recoiling like a threatened dog, and darted back toward the forest. In the shade, it shook itself, then pricked its ears. It can’t go in the sunlight?

  • Charley Pearson

    charley.pearson@gmail.com

    RIPPLE IN THE SEA

    YA-Historical

    Pitch:

    Horrified over her mother’s treason, desperate to redeem her family’s honor, a Japanese-American girl infiltrates a WWII Japanese prisoner-of-war camp to free victims of medical experiments. That’s the plan, anyway.

    First 250:

    I never set out to be a spy. It sort of crept up and ambushed me. That’s what happens to naive little fools.

    Then again, how could I have known what was coming?

    Never mind. I’ll make this record, while I still have time. Others can fill in my blanks, or pretty it up, or bury the whole thing. Perhaps the latter would be for the best.

    Anyhow, here goes.

    #

    Dive-bombing sea gulls swooped above the knoll, the only decent park in Alameda, sucking my attention across the bay toward San Francisco and the illusion of a tolerable life. I knew better. Frisco was too close to home. Someone would recognize me.

    I brushed a stray leaf off my skirt, exposing the high school mascot embroidered along the hem. My mother’s idea, and the world’s ugliest beaver. A reward, she called it, for putting enough precision into my ship drawings. I still heard the taunts when others saw it swishing there around my calf. That hardly mattered, though, and neither did my mother’s gesture, paltry and belated. My mind was set.

    I reached over and adjusted the chrysanthemum perched above Maxine’s ear. My friend smiled, and the wilting flower sagged again. Everything in life was sagging. Children squealed in a nearby playground, oblivious to anything outside their perfect moment. I hopped up to recover a wayward ball and tossed it to a short cherub who seemed to need a turn.

    Floating strands of silky, ebon tresses whipped into my mouth as I sat down.
    ___________________

  • Theresa Toropov

    Haneen Toropov
    Haneen.Toropov(at)gmail(dot)com
    Piper in the Fairy Realm
    Magical Realism/Young Adult

    Pitch

    Swept into the Fairy Realm with her bully, Piper discovers she has family there. The Realm proves dangerous for her bully and Piper must decide if she wants to save her and her kind.

    250 words

    As she walked to her bus, she watched the ground and made a wish. It was the same wish she made at the end of every school day. Please let them leave me alone.

    Piper McCloud was only eleven years old, but she had already figured out that being different was okay, as long as you weren’t the one who was different. Life had convinced her that deep down, everyone wanted everyone else to be just like them.

    Piper thought the adults on the island took too much pleasure in hearing themselves say things to her like: “being different just makes you special” because she knew better. She saw their concerned eyes and their nervous smiles when they witnessed her strangeness. She knew they were lying.

    She took her usual seat behind the bus driver, old Mr. Ferguson, and kept her head down, trying hard not to be noticed. She watched different pairs of shoes pass by. She didn’t dare look up. Eye contact would be like throwing chum into shark-infested waters.

    Piper fidgeted and recited the words of the Gettysburg Address in her mind. She hadn’t meant to memorize it. She had to read it for a school assignment and the words just stuck in her head. Now whenever she was nervous, recalling the words somehow calmed her. When the bus engine rumbled to life, she released a pent up sigh and the frantic butterflies in her stomach settled down. If the kids were going to hassle her, it usually happened before the bus left.

    • Ariadne Lukas

      Title: Field of Violets

      Category/Genre: YA romantic suspense

      35-word pitch:

      Convinced the voice in her head is not a mental illness, seventeen-year-old Violet runs away with classmate Neil to his reservation, where his shaman grandfather helps her discover her real identity.

      First 250 words:

      Slumped in the back seat of Dad’s Land Rover, my head nodded from lack of sleep as I drifted in and out, lulled by tires humming over wet pavement, drops sizzling overhead.

      Lightning cracked.

      My eyes jerked open.

      Breathe, you’re fine.

      I stared straight ahead, my eyes stinging, my joints stiff like a robot. Between my parents’ heads, the wipers swept rain from side to side over the windshield—back and forth—in rhythm with my right leg—up and down.

      Relax, will you.

      I’d brought this feeling on myself, so I better find a way to get through it myself. I let my head fall back onto the headrest and roll toward the window. Gray trails of rain snaked down the glass to the rubber window strip, where drops jumped off like excited bugs and disappeared into the flooded streets.

      I blinked hard to clear the creepy image, and again, harder, to ease the pull that stretched across my forehead. Nope. Same tight feeling. I cried a little inside, wondering how long this feeling would last.

      Hoping for a distraction, I focused outside, where another Sunday morning trip to church droned by. Backyards hidden behind tall wooden fences, the deserted soccer field, and…here we were at that mini mart where we always stopped for two large coffees and my bottle of Dr. Pepper.

      Finally, something that might help.

      Dad parked, ran in, and returned with our dripping drinks. “This is never-ending.” He shook his sleeves like a poor wet dog.

  • Andrea Crum

    Andrea Crum
    andreacrum7@gmail.com
    DEFINING NORMAL
    YA Contemporary

    Pitch:
    16yo, Hunter, is obsessed with psychological disorders and the odd boy next door. While her parents are divorcing and his mother is dying, she soon discovers their friendship is not what everyone expects or accepts.

    First 250:
    Last summer, I got obsessed with psychological disorders. I’ve studied them all, and I’m pretty sure my neighbor suffers from a combination of three, and he’s only sixteen.

    I released the curtain from my grip and returned to the paper I was typing for history. I erased the title and started again…”Joseph Stalin: Imperial Leader and Homicidal Maniac.” Much better and more accurate. I typed a few more lines, then pushed my laptop screen down again, leaned against my desk, and grabbed for the curtain, tugging it back.

    He was still there, in his backyard, like three minutes before, rubbing the same two sticks together. No telling what he was doing, but by all the black he wore, I suspected he wasn’t earning a Boy Scout badge.

    Jessie stormed into my room and tossed her wool cap onto my quilted bedspread. “Seriously, Hunter, are you staring at him again?”

    “It’s hard not to look. He’s weird,” I admitted, letting go of the curtain and swiveling in my chair to face her.

    “Whatever; I know you think he’s hot. Preston will be jealous.” She gave me this look like any best friend would if she thought you’d lied. I sighed.

    “I’m pretty sure Preston stopped caring about me when he dumped me last week,” I said.

    She jumped onto my bed and folded her legs. “That’s temporary and you know it. You’ll be back together in no time.”

  • Dru-Ann Robertson

    Name: Dru Robertson

    Email: druanng1(at)msn(dot)com

    Title: Dormant Blood

    Category/Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

    35 Word Pitch:

    The mystery behind a missing fairy king comes to light when a human is abducted, leaving his young son on a quest to not only find him but save Earth’s ancient mythical creatures.

    The First 250 Words:

    CHAPTER 1

    There Jace was, two days ago, closing his locker and minding his own business, when he turned around and tripped over Big Red’s walrus-size hockey bag. Sounds innocent enough, right? Yeah, except his ant farm went sailing into the air and crashed on top of Big Red’s girlfriend’s head. Maybe he was weird (okay, Jace was definitely weird), but he never expected the accident to lead to the biggest fight in Plummer Middle School’s history or the extermination of his ants by heartless pest control experts.

    Talk about a one-way ticket to two weeks of detention, or so said the principal. Jace couldn’t think of a better way to forget his upcoming torture with Mr. Peterson — who got clocked in the mouth by Big Red when he had ducked suddenly — than a three-day weekend at the family cabin. Yep, nothing like staying at a creepy, rundown cabin that belonged in a B-rated slasher flick with the parents, kid brother, and thank God, his best friend who also received detention with him for joining in the fight.

    Of course, this latest incident only added to the label of bad kid. The day before he was with his mom at Cornerstone Market and Grocery when he accidentally stole a pack of gum and they caught the whole thing on camera. It was completely unintentional, he had been carrying it around for the better part of an hour, becoming one with his hand, when they walked out the door.

  • Andrea Crum

    Andrea Crum
    andreacrum7@gmail.com
    THE GAMES OF MY LIFE
    MG Contemporary

    Pitch:
    13yo Darcy chokes at tryouts and is denied a spot on the basketball team. To win a state trophy, she must risk her integrity and sabotage her rival or risk her pride as team manager.

    First 250:

    Carter Morgan and cheer tryouts on the first day of eighth grade made me want to shout out “hallelujah” for Carter Morgan and a horror-movie shrill for cheer tryouts. The routine I had to memorize played on repeat in my mind the whole night, too. I couldn’t make it stop, so in an attempt to clear my mind, I stuck the earbuds in my ears, cranked up the volume, and tossed a shot into the basket.

    Catching the rebound, I dribbled from side to side, bounced up for a jump shot, and nailed it. I sank a few more baskets, grabbed my backpack off the pavement, and headed down my drive to school.

    I spotted Kendall the second I arrived by the vending machines with a few kids I didn’t know. When she saw me, she pointed to some really cute boy standing a few feet away from her who had about ten girls huddled around him. The boy she pointed to laughed and pretended to tickle some girl to his left, which caused the entire crowd to squeal. When he glanced up and saw me staring, he made his way through the herd toward me.

    For a moment, I pretended in my mind that it wasn’t Carter. I even rationalized that it must be some new boy headed in my direction, smiling and waving. He even walked with a swagger, which he must have totally invented over the summer.

    “Hey, Darcy!” Carter lifted his hand up for a high five.

  • Carissa Harwood
    bluestocking.lady@gmail.com
    3500wordsperpound.blogspot.com

    Title: THE WITCHES OF HEX HOLLOW
    Genre: YA/URBAN FANTASY

    Pitch:

    In present day York County, PA, seventeen year old Novella Madison finds herself in the middle of a centuries old witch war between two families when a classmate dies in a car crash.

    First 250:

    The dead girl rushed across the road, her white dress a blur. It was so sudden and unexpected, I braked hard, as if I were really about to hit something with my car, making me slam painfully against the steering wheel. There was no mistaking who she was, even without the darkness that shaded the road with the almost setting sun. This is where she had died. I looked to the side of the road, trying to find her, in the direction she had gone, but all I saw now were thick trees. Her memorial was right up ahead to the right, a picture of Rylie’s junior class portrait with her long dark hair and light brown skin radiating life and happiness and promise from her smile. All of that gone now.

    You could still see the giant gash in the tree where her car had hit, a gash that was now partially covered by the gifts people left behind. There were a ton of cards, stuffed animals, ribbons, candles, and even a Pow Wow hex sign pinned to a white cross by the side of the road. I recognized the symbols for life, death, and rebirth. I was filled with self-doubt, wondering if I should have come this way at all, wondering if I was being watched. I was letting myself be guided by my intuition as I’d been taught, but with everything that had happened, I didn’t know if this was the right thing to do or not.

  • Kim O'Brien

    Name: Kim O’Brien

    Email: kim-obrien@hotmail.com

    Title: The Darkest Place

    Category/Genre: YA Psychological Thriller
    35 Word Pitch:

    An aspiring dancer fears the guy she’s falling for may be a killer when she discovers a link between herself and the deaths of three other girls.

    The First 250 Words:

    It was choosing day.

    He dressed carefully – ironed his clothes, gelled his hair, and used a blade instead of the electric razor. As he walked into the church, he felt huge, unstoppable. It seemed impossible that no one looked at him any differently.

    Taking a seat, he clenched his hands to keep them from shaking. When he’d been younger he’d always had trouble fidgeting. This had earned him more than one warning from his mother, who worried God could not be accepted into his boyish heart unless there was utter stillness.

    Next to him, a balding, middle-aged man scribbled on the sermon notes. On his other side, the cloying smell of a woman’s perfume. He tuned them out and thought of Carrie, the first girl. She’d been petite and blonde, sweet in a way that had both enraged him and nearly drove him mad with the wanting of her. Samantha had been a tall, muscular girl on the varsity tennis team. She’d fought him hard, and he had the scar beneath his left brow to show for it.

    He sat up straighter when the pastor started explaining about the graduating high school seniors leaving on a youth retreat the next day. When the pastor asked those who felt called to come forward and pick a prayer bracelet bearing the name of attendees, he pushed himself to his feet.

    Folding himself into the line of volunteers moving toward the stage, he kept his head down.

  • Belinda Robards
    BelindaRobards@aol.com
    YA Mystery

    Pitch: Anna dreams of becoming a professional hover racer. If she bonds with Drais, her dream will be over. Max offers an alternative but he’s surrounded by secrets in a world where there are none.

    I was enjoying walking around the track floor despite the crowd. A race was going on overhead. A slight cool breeze swept over me when the crowds occasionally thinned. Sugary sweet and salty temptations wafted by carried by the breeze. My stomach rumbled uncomfortably reminding me I’d skipped breakfast in my haste to get to the track that morning.

    It was easy to find me in the sky at the track. Splashed across the exterior of the hover was my signature neon pink dragon on a teal background. It stood out against the pale orange/magenta colored sky. On weekends, I tried to drive every intermission. Recreational hovers required two operators so it was unfortunate but necessary to find a partner. I’d just finished the first intermission with Min. He was cute–I only rode with cute guys at the track–but he was definitely not my type. Guys who insisted on driving drove me nuts.

    I was training to become a professional hover racer and I was good, with the potential to become great. There was only one obstacle in my way and his name was Drais Divelle. I scowled as I pushed all thoughts of Drais out of my head. He was a problem for another day. Instead I began searching for my next hover partner.

    My attention was caught by an auburn-haired young man walking about twenty paces in front of me. He was tall–about six foot I guessed–and slim with a nice figure. I liked the way he walked confidently through the crowd and tried to imagine what he looked like.

  • Michelle Guerrero

    Michellemguerrero(at)live(dot)com

    WINGED

    YA Fantasy

    (Pitch)
    Tessa believes magic exists only in her steamy fantasy novels and that unicorns are fanciful creatures that pervade her dreams, until the day she transforms into one and discovers magic and curses do exist.

    (250 Words)
    “Tessa, wake up!”

    My eyes are closed, but I’m fully aware of Reese’s incessant tapping on my shoulder, which progresses into poking and then finally pushing, as she tries to wake me. What are the chances she’ll give up?

    “Wake up! Goodness, you sleep like the dead.” She hits me with a pillow.

    My chances aren’t good. I force the one eye open that’s not smooshed into my pillow and lean just enough to see her sitting over me with an amused expression on her face, like she just caught me doing something naughty.

    “What the heck were you dreaming about? I wasn’t sure if I should take my pillow and head to the couch or wake you up for the juicy details! Obviously, I chose option ‘b’. Should I grab the emergency candy stash to munch on while you fill me in, or are you going to be selfish and keep this one all to yourself?” She says with a sly grin.

    I groan. It’s all I can manage at the moment. I force myself into a sitting position and rub my eyes with my palms of my hands in an attempt to chase away the remnants of sleep.

    Reese has been my best friend since forever, technically we are cousins. My mom is married to her mom’s brother, who is my step-dad. It’s kind of¬ confusing. Although we aren’t blood related, it doesn’t matter; we are as thick as thieves. We are the type of friends that would start a pizza fight in our bedroom if properly provoked.

  • Mike Crowl

    Title: SubAqua
    Category/Genre: YA/Adventure

    (Pitch)
    In the underwater city of Aquataine, Phelan Maxwell evades capture to reveal evidence that will clear his name and implicate a candidate for dome minister who caused the explosion that nearly flooded the dome.

    (First 250)
    The sky outside my bedroom window is green today.

    Sometimes the daylighting doesn’t work in our section of Aquataine, but I guess a green sky is better than darkness. Maybe after the photonic lighting panels that line our dome have warmed up, the artificial sky will turn a more familiar shade of blue.

    I can’t find my work ID badge. I retrace my steps from last night, and remember that I’d hung it on the doorknob so I could find it more easily. Ugh!

    Uncle Gene expects me to be to work on time this morning, and I’ve been wasting time looking for my stupid badge.

    My senior school internship facilitator has lectured me twice about what she calls tardiness. “Phelan Maxwell, I don’t know how you can possibly be late for every single appointment,” she’d say, shaking her finger at me.

    It bothers me even more when my uncle looks up at the clock over the entrance to the plant, and then looks me right in the eyes without saying anything.

    Just like everyone else in Aquataine, I completed my first two years of senior school online over the Ubiquinet, or the Biqi-Net as most people call it. But for our last year, students have to complete an internship and study a trade.

    Most kids work wherever their parents work, but that isn’t possible for me. I live with my Uncle Gene and Aunt Lori now, so I work with my uncle as a fluid dynamics engineering apprentice.

  • Paula Benge

    Paula Benge
    paula.benge@att.net
    Title: DROP CURVE
    YA/Contemporary

    Pitch: Watching her college softball coach die in front of her drives River to rally her team in a race against time for the final record-breaking wins, but when trouble comes who can she trust.

    (250 words)

    Number eleven is stalling, swinging her bat in short, sharp arcs that thump her back. She’s pretending that I don’t exist.

    “Come on, Eleven,” I say under my breath. “Be my last batter. Put your feet in the batter’s box.”

    Her coach raises a fist to the ump for a time out and the tension in my shoulders fades. The girl on deck lowers her bat and starts toward the coach, too, but he waves her off. He looks calm as he leans close to Eleven, not frazzled by the possibility that she’ll be their last out and we’ll win the state championship. As I watch, a cool October breeze lifts the loose hairs away my face that aren’t plastered down with sweat.

    “Good job, girl,” my catcher Brit says, pausing by my side, her helmet gripped between arm and hip.

    “You too,” I tuck the softball deeper into the web of my glove and wait. The other four infielders are on their way over for a huddle of our own. It’s times like this that I notice that I don’t blend in. At six feet tall, I tower over the rest of them, standing out like a stalk of rye in a wheat field.

    “Let’s get this last out,” third baseman says, taking charge of the huddle. “No errors.”

    “It’s the bottom of the seventh inning,” the shortstop Maddie says moving in closer so we can hear her over the music and the crowds. “We hold ‘em here.”

  • Lisa Super
    lisasuper77(at)gmail(dot)com
    TOP TEN
    YA Contemporary

    (Pitch)
    After discovering a To-Do List written by their deceased siblings, Daphne and Oliver team up to fulfill the list. But their quest to reconcile the past is jeopardized by their growing attraction to each other.

    (First 250)
    When Daphne was ten and Emily was seventeen, Emily made a decision. It had been Taco Tuesday at Pepe’s Cantina on an evening in March. Daphne had no recollection of the dinner with her parents, but she assumed that her dad had gorged himself within centimeters of his stomach bursting on all-you-can-eat-tacos-for-eight-dollars. She also estimated that her mom had consumed one too many margaritas.

    Daphne’s memory began with the ride home alone with her parents. Her father, Tim, had asked about her day at school. She reported that karma had visited the class bully during dodgeball in gym. A trill of delight had weaved through her voice as she recounted the perfect throw by Andrew Taylor, the runt of the classroom litter: the bully’s bloody nose, the keeling over, the nervous laughter and unspoken bonding with her classmates. Her mom had twisted around in the front car seat to study Daphne, worry and amusement straddling Cindy’s cheekbones. Daphne remembered the burning in her own cheeks, the apologetic flash of guilt. In hindsight, Daphne wished she hadn’t avoided her mother’s scrutiny. It was the last time Cindy would look at her without seeing Emily.

    That evening, as all other evenings, Daphne’s older sister had no desire to go to Pepe’s Cantina with her family. Emily would rather stay holed up in her bedroom with her boyfriend, Jason. Many months of Tuesdays, Cindy had simply asked, then demanded, then begged for Emily and Jason to come. All approaches ended with Emily and Cindy shouting at each other, which, in turn, led to Tim shouting at Emily, which led to Emily shrieking.

  • Robbin Luckett

    Robbin Luckett
    robbinluckett@gmail.com

    RELINQUISH

    YA Contemporary

    (Pitch)
    A gutsy teen discovers adoption papers and uncovers a corrupt attorney’s family secret, the key to finding her own identity apart from her so-called parents, self-worth, love and trust.

    (250 Words)
    Performing the National Anthem at the homecoming football game was my chance to shine. I stood with my friends in a semi-circle around a microphone in the middle of the field. I stared into the bleachers, as if I were a football player searching for the talent scout that could change my life forever.

    Jennifer grabbed my hand and pulled me close. “Miranda, I can’t do this.” She squeezed my fingers. “The whole school’s watching us.”

    I squeezed right back. The whole town of Bedford, New York was watching us, except for my mom. Maybe if I were singing a solo she would’ve shown up. Maybe if I were part of the homecoming court she would’ve made a point to come. Maybe if I had a perfect model body like her and platinum blonde curls she’d give a crap.

    I closed my eyes and pushed aside the thoughts of mom. I didn’t need her support. Singing was my therapy. I’d kick-butt all by myself. I read the Post-it notes of lyrics sketched in my brain. God, don’t let me mess up the National Anthem.

    The introductions echoed through the intercom and the football players lined-up in front of the benches. I singled out Kyle Baldwin holding his shiny red helmet. The sunlight fell on his face. His intense dark eyes, defined jawline, and toothpaste commercial smile gave me warm goose bumps.

    Ask me. Ask me. Ask me. I sent out a telepathic message. Just ask me to the dance.

  • April Galarza

    AprilWriter(at)gmail(dot)com

    Fractured Magic

    YA Contemporary Fantasy

    (Pitch)

    When the gods revoke Earth’s magic, warlocks find an alternative in a byproduct of fracking. Aine, a novice druid, must fight to save a little girl and reverse the destructive forces that threaten the planet.

    (First 250 words)

    I found the path the gorgeous green-eyed boy at the pub had recommended easily enough. It was right where he said it would be at the forested edge of the cemetery. This path was dirt, unlike the gravel paths I was used to, and my sneakers made almost no sound. Here the crickets buzzed and owls hooted; a sharp contrast to the sounds of a distant ambulance siren, or the hum of traffic that usually accompanied my midnight runs back home in Chicago. The path started to incline up a steep hill, something the boy from the pub failed to mention. Oh well, I thought, perhaps a heavier workout will help make up for missing Taekwondo classes.

    I reached the top of the hill and gasped, ahead of me was a circle of standing stones. It was breathtakingly beautiful and eerie. Eight pairs of stone columns stood in a circle. The ring was bathed in moonlight and fireflies darted in and among stones like fairytale pixies. I had visions of myself practicing kicks and punching combinations while the sun rose in the east (totally badass) and snorted a giggle as I ran the last couple of feet and entered the circle. I saw a shadow creep over one set of columns and looked up. The sky which had been clear only moments before was now filled with clouds. One of which sped toward the bright moon and in a minute more overpassed it leaving me in complete darkness.

  • Tina Spear
    tinaLspear@gmail.com
    THE CURSE OF THE BLUE FLASH
    YA/Urban Fantasy

    (Pitch)
    Lacie has second shot at life after mysterious boy kisses her back to existence—causing a legend to unfold. She must battle to stay alive after another kiss—and survive with her heart still intact.

    (First 250)
    I should’ve died three years ago.

    Now – I’m slowly killing myself, by not sleeping.

    Seriously, how can a girl possibly sleep from years of haunting by her first love?

    I’m still in love with him ¬– my first love. We’ve only met once, I don’t know his name, where he’s from, and for the record – we’ve not even carried on a conversation. Awkward, I know.

    Abandoning my make-up table, my wrist flips against the lockset of my bedroom door. I wait for the thud in my ears, for complete privacy. I have a sleep disorder. No one knows about it. Shhh!

    At night with the still surroundings, everyone else sleeps, and I stay awake.

    My nights consist of lying in my room, fully aware of the dream images behind my closed eyelids. I place every detail in my mind’s eye of my first love. The stillness in the air, the distant trees on the horizon, the sunset of the sky. I imagine my whole body, in that place we first met, until it soon pops into a lucid dream.

    Essentially, I’m totally awake, the orchestrator of my dreamscape. It was difficult to control the phenomenon at first. But now, the intensity is overwhelming. Especially, after drinking overabundant amounts of double chocolate Frappuccino, caramel lattes, coffee, or espresso.
    It feels almost, as if, he is next to me.

    Realizing, tonight, as every night, I will fall in love with him all over again.

    Let the night’s ritual of my sleep disorder begin.

  • Patricia Moussatche

    pmoussatche[at]gmail[dot]com

    SHROUDED GODDESS

    YA Fantasy

    (pitch)
    Seventeen-year-old Sophia was raised among the foreigners who married into her tribal family, but to bring peace to the ravaged rainforest, she must awaken a powerful goddess and prevent the slaughter of her tribe.

    (first 250)
    Only Uncle Hector would hang a man then go fishing.

    The giant jatoba tree, where the noose is set, shades the corpse but doesn’t protect it from the heat. Winter is more merciful than the hellish summer of this land, but only slightly. Noon is fast approaching, and a stench of emptied bowels permeates the village like early morning fog. I press an arm over my nose and quicken my pace to the bakery ahead. At least there is some advantage to being forced to wear long sleeves in this weather.

    Vultures circle the cloudless sky above the tree, but not even they dare to defy Uncle Hector. Why did Aryeea send me to the village now? I glance over my shoulder at the fortress’s four-story tower spiked on the Igjommi Hill. The fluttering white cloth, billowing like a sail in the valley breeze, can only be my grandmother’s skirt. Of course she’s watching me from the balcony.

    I find the bakery door closed, so I shut it behind me. The warm scent of dough helps me ignore the heat. Steps approach from an inside room, and the baker’s rosy face beams at me as he ambles through the doorway.

    “Lady Sophia.” He wipes his hands on his tunic. “What do you like today?”

    I’d like someone to cut down that man and bury him before he rots. But if I voice the request, the baker will feel obliged to carry out the order. No need to tempt another hanging.

  • Kelsey Simon

    Kelsey Simon
    ksimon@kcai.edu
    Wind Riders
    YA Fantasy

    Pitch:

    Sixteen-year-old Kiora’s Isle depends on the wind for safety from invaders and energy to trade but the Windbeast that creates the wind has disappeared. To save her starving family, Kiora must bring it back.

    First 250:

    The bike’s wheels whirred, spitting up a flurry of dust. I leaned back, squeezing the muscles in my thighs to hold on as the bike tilted into a turn, patchy burnt up grass stretching ahead and behind us.

    “Is this fast enough?” Mox yelled over the bike’s chorus, his knees bobbing furiously as he pedaled faster. My brother gazed at me over his shoulder, his golden hair lifting off his forehead in a breeze for the first time in months.

    I shrugged, licked my finger and held it out-―not to test anything, but just because I could. The wind turned my spit icey cold, then dry, and my chest hugged my insides tight. “Yeah,” I called back, wiggling a thumbs up. “Keep it steady!” The air whispered past my ears, singing about how much it missed moving, how much it missed being pushed and pulled and rushing across the ground and twisting and twirling. It was sick of sitting stagnant. It was sick of being still.

    Mox’s shoulders rose and fell in rapid fire. He was doing his part, now it was time I did mine. I gripped the wooden handle that shot out from the side of the siren―a meshed metal box hiding internal springs and gears that when spun created an ear splitting cry. The handle was chipped and where the wood cracked, the grain bit into my palm.

    I bought the siren over a week ago, for a silver. Two months ago, that silver would have let me buy Mox a good birthday present.

  • Kathryn Hewitt

    Kathryn Hewitt
    smallstonestallstories@gmail.com
    Wild Calling
    YA paranormal/historical

    Pitch: Maybelle Langton an 18th century pirate suffers the death of her father, the loss of their ship and the betrayal of both parents. She captains a ship to discover her Mam and her selkie heritage.

    Fist 250:
    Rose:
    I sing song after song calling to my Maybelle. I ask the oceans to take the songs to her, to call her back to me.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    My Da was Petey Langton, pirate captain and the best liar in the Caribbean. Da lied to everyone, but I never thought he’d lie to me. He loved me, I knew that and I trusted him in that unthinking way you do as a child. As it turns out I was wrong.

    Growing up on board ship was so much fun and Myra, the ship’s cook, looked after me well. Life got even better when I had a friend to share the fun. When I was about six we’d taken Billy on board.

    I had been so jaded when we were beached to careen the ship. The ship’s boys were working scrubbing the barnacles and worms off the boat and Myra was cooking, as always.
    I wandered up the burning white sand towards the trees, when I got there a boy almost fell out of the woods at my feet. He’d been running and he looked behind him as though expecting someone to be following him.
    ‘Hello, Is your Mam in the woods?’ I asked.
    ‘No, I’ve left my Mamma behind. She made me go.’
    ‘My Mam’s dead. My name’s Maybelle.’ I took the boy’s hand and led him to Da and Myra, they’d stop him being scared.
    ‘Ahoy lad, want a bite of grub?’ Myra said, as he stood staring at her.

  • Maribeth Graham

    maribethpgraham@comcast.net

    Middle-Grade/Magical Realism

    Pitch: A secret world filled of magical, fantastical, creatures live inside the Weeping Willow in Abba’s backyard. The hidden world is threatened to be destroyed when Abba’s mother decides to have it cut it down.

    ABBA’S TREE

    Long ago on a fateful day in a backyard there stood a tree, a magnificent magical weepy tree that promised to shelter legends, harbor beautiful beasts, protect their secrets and allow them to enter and become who the outside world would not let them be. The promise made by the tree would only be broken if the tree were to meet its demise.

    “There’s magic in the tree,” Abba shouted. She ran her small palm across the trees’ jagged skin and traced the shaded ridges. “I can see faces in the bark.”

    “Let me see, let me see.” Her sister Silly bopped behind her, desperately trying to catch a glimpse.

    The backdoor swung opened. Abba’s mother glided onto the porch. Her floral sarong blew with the wind and the steam from her coffee mug rose like small ghosts dancing with excitement at their release. “Not for long, that tree is coming down,” she said.

    The Golly family just moved to their new home and Abba was thrilled. She was delighted to finally have trees in her backyard. She spent the last nine years living in a small second story apartment on a dead end street in Nevada. She dreamed of having a backyard like this and now her mother was threatening to take away the most beautiful tree she ever laid eyes on.

  • Keely Parrack

    Keely Parrack

    K.parrack@comcast.net

    THE ICE BETWEEN US

    YA Thriller

    PITCH:
    When 16 yo Lottie agrees to babysit her step-brother, a black out hits in the middle of a snowstorm. With danger mounting fast, Lottie must outrun all her fears in a race for survival!

    THE ICE BETWEEN US
    I lingered at the front door, watching the taillights disappear—red into black, as Mom and my new step-dad, drove off into the sunset.

    A chill breeze ruffled the branches, sending waves through the surrounding woods and goose-bumps down my neck.

    “This is it, kiddo, just you and me,” I smiled winningly at my stepbrother.

    “You’ve got spinach in your teeth.” Will brushed by me in his hurry to return to
    the electronic world. “And I can look after myself just fine.”

    “Yeah, right, because you’re so mature for an eight year old.”

    Will didn’t reply. He just turned the TV up. An evening of How it’s Made awaited.

    Mom took my offer to babysit Will, as proof that I was ‘coming around’ and finally accepting Neil and Will as my new family. But it was a no brainer–I hadn’t expected Mom to actually go through with the wedding, so I didn’t get them a present. My kind gesture went down in family history as my most Angelic moment. But it was a gift to myself, an easy way to get to the heart of Tahoe, no trains, no buses, no hitching required.

    I glanced back at Will inside the cabin, cozied down on the sofa with a fleece blanket up to his chin, and a bowl of chips by his side. The lights were bright, the TV glaring, the dark outside beckoned.

    Dad was out there, just a few miles away. I checked the address I’d stored on my map app; 1100 Pioneer Drive, Truckee.

    I lingered at the front door, watching the taillights disappear—red into black, as Mom and my new stepdad, drove off into the sunset.

    A chill breeze ruffled the branches, sending waves through the surrounding woods and goose-bumps down my neck.

    “This is it, kiddo, just you and me,” I smiled winningly at my stepbrother.

    “You’ve got spinach in your teeth.” Will brushed by me in his hurry to return to
    the electronic world. “And I can look after myself just fine.”

    “Yeah, right, because you’re so mature for an eight year old.”

    Will didn’t reply. He just turned the TV up. An evening of How it’s Made awaited.

    Mom took my offer to babysit Will, as proof that I was ‘coming around’ and finally accepting Neil and Will as my new family. But it was a no brainer–I hadn’t expected Mom to actually go through with the wedding, so I didn’t get them a present. My kind gesture went down in family history as my most Angelic moment. But it was a gift to myself, an easy way to get to the heart of Tahoe, no trains, no buses, no hitching required.

    I glanced back at Will inside the cabin, cozied down on the sofa with a fleece blanket up to his chin, and a bowl of chips by his side. The lights were bright, the TV glaring, the dark outside beckoned.

    Dad was out there, just a few miles away. I checked the address I’d stored on my map app.

  • Name: S D Grimm

    Email: SarahGrimm99(at)gmail(dot)com

    Title: WITCHER

    Genre: YA Paranormal

    Pitch:

    One person can save Allie from the curse that’s turning her into a ghost–the one-handed boy next door–but he’d have to take her place as cursed. He’s willing, but she loves him.

    First 250:

    Witching for bodies in a cemetery was not my idea of a fun end-of-summer dare, yet I stood at the mouth of a graveyard, divining rods in hand.

    At least that’s what Nell called them. Ten minutes ago they were two halves of a metal coat hanger. Nell’s eyes had practically sparkled as she snipped them with wire cutters by the light of her headlights and then bent them into L shapes. Then she handed me the finished product and flashed a dimpled smile. No spells. No witchy juju. How potent could these things actually be?

    Though I had to admit, despite the summer heat, the thin wire felt almost cold in my hands. Unnerving. There had to be a scientific explanation.

    My friends seemed mesmerized by the entrance to the cemetery, as if the moonlight made the familiar place completely foreign. It was the same looming presence that always sat at the end of my street, yet all five of us stopped in front of the two towering, brick columns flanking the asphalt driveway. Columns that reminded me of rooks in a chess game. Castle watchtowers with no watchers. Who would they protect anyway? Everyone inside was dead.

    Vines clutched the weather-darkened bricks like black, sinewy fingers.

    No gate barred the way. Only a cracked driveway that led into darkness.

    A shudder rippled through me.

    “You coming, Allie?” Hunter’s voice snapped me out of my staring, and I watched the rest of my friends head up the driveway, disappearing into the black void one at a time.

  • Name: Heather Lawson
    Email: heatherreviewsblog@gmail.com
    Title of Work: Within These Walls (working title)
    Category/Genre: MG Horror

    Your 35-word (max) pitch:
    Taken from her home by the demon creature her mother always warned her about, Yuuki must escape the mines she’s forced to work in and get back to her family before it’s too late.

    The first 250 words of your manuscript:
    My gnarled fingers sunk deep into the springy, moss-ridden dirt as I clawed my way out of the hole in the ground.Prickly branches swept over my body, niggling against my back as they fell back into place to cover the tunnel again. The sky had faded to a dull purple during my time underground, leaving me to be little more than another shadow in the night.

    Heaving the rest of my tail out of the tunnel, I turned and sniffed. The sweet scent of life weaved through the air. Sharp, vibrant, tangy; I shivered at the thought.

    Moving silently through the darkness, I kept my head tilted as I listened to the sounds of the night. My progress was slow; my tail feeling more and more like the burden it was. I was getting weaker; it had been a while since my last hunt.

    A light thrust me into a spotlight of unwanted attention and I hissed involuntarily, forgetting myself for a moment, then retreated into the shadows once more. Glaring at the offending building, I noticed a silhouette dashing behind a curtain in the square of light that had blinded me. Perhaps I wouldn’t need to go far after all, I had thought. I had planned to go further into the heart of the city, but the outskirts would do fine if I could get even a hint of what I was searching for.

  • Nicole Lynn Hoefs
    nicolelynnhoefs@gmail.com
    Syd-ply Misunderstood
    YA/Contemporary & romance

    (Pitch)
    Sydney’s life is complicated. Divorced parents, a meddling best friend, and a cheating ex. She decides to stop dating because she fears heartache and rejection. But the new guy in town might change her mind.

    (First 250 words)
    I don’t even know why I did it. I mean I had plenty of motivation before, but something inside me snapped. I couldn’t take Drew’s cheating anymore.

    So I dumped his sorry ass and didn’t look back. I didn’t care if he was the star of the baseball team, or that he was really, really good looking. And I didn’t care that he smelled so yummy wearing his Calvin Klein cologne.

    He didn’t even have the nerve to tell me he’d been cheating. I’d happened along him making out with Roxanne, my sworn enemy, in a dark corner at Brice’s party when I’d been headed towards the bathroom. After he’d finished sticking his tongue down her throat, he’d found me standing in the kitchen, my drink in hand.

    Her famous shell pink lip gloss covered his mouth and that was the last straw. I threw my drink in his face, told him we were over, and walked away.

    That was over a week ago, and so far, I had yet to regret my decision. The only reason I stayed with him so long was because he made me laugh. I was a sucker for funny guys. I was glad I hadn’t gone past kissing him. I wanted my first time to be with someone special, not some guy who’d betrayed my trust and shattered my self-esteem.

    I could barely look at myself in the mirror in the first place because staring back at me are my father’s hazel eyes.

  • T.D. Forney

    T.D. Forney
    tbforney [at] gmail [dot] com
    The Secondaries
    YA/Urban Fantasy

    Pitch

    Besieged with visions of the dead, Seren hopes for a normal life with new boyfriend Jackson. But a tangle with an immortal soul called Finn drags her into an afterlife battle between spirit worlds.

    First 250

    Its murmurings are everywhere. Between, above and around the hordes on the crowded sidewalk. She feels rather than hears it calling her. Seren.

    Now she walks faster among oblivious people, secure in their closed-off shells of skin and bone. She doesn’t want to look but she can’t not. There it is — the familiar ripple in the air, a disturbance in the appearance of things, like a rock thrown into calm water. The sensation that she’s occupying the wrong space, viewing the world and all of its people from inside out. A quick glance again and she sees the tell-tale mist, the entity that’s gliding instead of bobbing up and down in a human gait. Seren looks ahead and narrows her eyes, slivering them open just enough that she doesn’t trip and fall. She grasps the strap of the messenger bag slung across her body and hurries toward her target – the arched and spired Gothic revival cathedral on the corner.

    For a while, she had hoped the visions were gone for good, in the foolish way that girls hope for things. A date to prom, a prince to rescue them, not to see dead people anymore. Every priest she’d ever confessed the visions to, in quiet confession boxes in empty churches, had told her she’d outgrow them — they were just child’s play, her active imagination. At eighteen, her active imagination is still going strong.

    But the dead had never shown up on her morning coffee route before. She was going to have to find a new coffee shop.

  • Dennis Staginnus
    dennisstaginnus (at) gmail (dot) com
    “Bionic”
    YA Contemporary Science Fiction

    Pitch

    Sixteen-year-old Jason can go from zero to sixty in eight seconds. Part organic, part bionic—he can lift a small car, but can’t pass biology. As if being a teenager wasn’t hard enough.

    Chapter 1

    “By the time you get this, I’ll already be dead.”

    The text on Detective Brad Taylor’s phone flashed from the passenger seat. The words were seared into his brain—a message from his nephew not five minutes ago.

    Tires squealed as Brad veered onto Victoria Avenue. The storefronts became a smear.

    “Get the hell out of the way!” he shouted, swerving past a rusted grey Ford. Despite sirens and lights flashing blue-red on his dash, drivers couldn’t pull over fast enough.

    He turned hard to the right, bounced over a pothole, and raced over the Fraser River Bridge.

    Faster. Gotta get there faster.

    In his peripheral vision, he saw a white cross with flowers decorating the railing where a girl had been killed a week earlier. Witnesses said Kelly Mathers had staggered into oncoming traffic. Some said she’d done it on purpose. An SUV struck her with so much force, the impact sent her flying over the edge.

    Brad was at the scene when they fished Kelly’s broken body out of the water. Her eyes were open. Bugging out. Bloodshot.

    The fourth drug-related suicide this month. Each time a cryptic text message was left behind.

    Now it was his nephew.

    Brad stepped on the gas.

    It would take exactly ten minutes to get from where he was to the precinct—if he were driving the speed limit and obeying traffic lights.

    He wasn’t.

    He’d get there in four.

  • Susan Silberman

    Susan Silberman

    silbermom1@gmail.com

    NOWHERE TO BELONG

    YA/Contemporary

    PITCH:

    Family is the most important thing to fifteen-year-old Bailey, so after her parents die, she lies and breaks rules to stay with her older brothers. Not an easy task for a girl with a conscience.

    FIRST 250:

    I’d still be standing on the other side of the fence if Jake hadn’t raced out of his doghouse, begging me to open the gate. Well, that and the fact that I was out of clean underwear.

    After retrieving our key hidden under the rock, my trembling hand froze in front of the keyhole. Jake barked with anticipation, prancing back and forth behind me. I pushed the key into the hole and twisted it, shivering when I heard the familiar click of the deadbolt. I put my hand on the doorknob but couldn’t bring myself to open the door.

    Frozen in place, I pictured my mom on the other side. What would she be doing at this exact moment? I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the frosty door, imagining her emptying the dishwasher, wiping down the table and doing a hundred other insignificant things.

    Jake whined, bringing me back to the present. Unclenching my fingers from the ice cold doorknob, I snapped the deadbolt back into place. I was not going into my house without my parents waiting on the other side of that door. Jake and I settled on the cold ground leaning against the porch steps—well, I leaned against the steps and Jake leaned against me. I tried to explain to him why Mom and Dad weren’t there, but every time I said their names, he got excited and looked toward the door.

    “They’re not coming back, Jake.” I could barely get the words out before my heart slammed into my chest wall, and a sob escaped.

  • Your Name: Dilyana Kyoseva

    Your Email: dilyana(dot)kyoseva(dot)writer(at)gmail(dot)com

    Title of Work: You are the Answer

    Category/Genre: YA/Paranormal

    Pitch: A difference in species. Trust Issues and a troubled past. Desire to love and be loved. A quest to find the One.

    First words:

    Tonight was the night I was going to approach them. Everything about that group would make the average moral citizen go out of their way to avoid them: tattoos, piercings, leather jackets, bikes, owning a pub which was rumored to be a cover-up, a legal way for them to explain their income…

    They were the largest gang in the nearby towns yet no one could pinpoint what they were up to. Many people had tried to join but none had been accepted. It was as if The Silver Bullets were a family; either you were born as one of them or you were out.

    I was unsure of as to what exactly had compelled me to try to gain their attention; I didn’t even know how they’d react to the fact I was gay. Maybe they hated people like me; I had previously been burnt – metaphorically and literally – because of who I was.

    I touched my right hand sleeve over the spot where the flames had permanently deformed the flesh.

    I refused to hide who I was even though it had brought me pain; I refused to cower and condemn myself to a life of loneliness because I was attracted to my own gender.

    No. Not anymore.

    This was it; this was the night when I’d either shine or my light would be forever extinguished with me lying cold in a gutter. And what could be a greater act of bravery than to flirt with some of the fiercest men in town?

  • Name: Cris Alvarez
    Email: calisurfdreams@gmail.com
    Title: Dragon Fire Awake
    Category/Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
    Pitch:

    Home for fifteen year old Ingrid is nothing but physical and emotional abuse. When the appearance of a horde of destructive dragons shocks the world, Ingrid decides she’s found the way out of her troubles.

    First 250:

    I hear a deep rumbling from far away. We all hear it. Our bodies pressed together uncomfortably, unnaturally but that’s been our lives for well nigh hundreds of years. I’ve lost count a long time ago.

    We’ve slept for long periods and woken sporadically, angry at Him, thankful to Him. He saved us. He condemned us. What is that damnable rumbling?

    Little Olista squirms under me and I press my arm against her to still her movement and quiet her mewling. Little child was born in this enormous cave, our living grave, and has never known the shine of the yellow disk or the sweet chill of a cold wind shearing over her skin, gliding over and under her outstretched wings.

    Restrapie moves now. Younger than me but older than most. He remembers and perhaps holds even more rage than I in his bosom for Him. What is it he senses? He sniffs the air and laps at it with his red tongue as he has often done but his movements are different, more anxious and excited. Then I sense it too. The air is not so cold as it has always been. Have the Ages of Heat and Cold disappeared and left us free to roam once again? Perhaps the new world has diminished the cursed race of murderous, grasping men with it and left us the fruits of paradise to enjoy.

    Quick. They all squirm now. A seething mass of anticipation. Fifty of us maybe. I’ve lost count of that too.

  • Valerie Bodden
    valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com
    SAVING YOU
    YA Contemporary

    (Pitch)
    Seventeen-year-old Calli’s downing Adderall while caring for her dying mom. Noah’s jumping off roofs to prove his life isn’t some cosmic mistake. Can they save each other—before it’s too late to save themselves?

    (First 250)
    The last day of summer beats into my limbs, making them heavy and light, solid and liquid, at the same time. I never want to move again.

    A sharp fingernail pokes my side.

    I swat my best friend Sashi’s hand away, but she pokes me again.

    “What?” I grumble, my face still buried in the sticky-sweet grass.

    “Check this guy out,” Sashi says, tugging my arm. I groan. I should have known this was about a guy. A wave of chlorine fumes hits me as I roll over and sit up.

    “First you drag me to this party. And then, when I finally manage to relax, you….” My words evaporate as I follow her gaze across the backyard, over the pool, and to Tom Brant’s mansion, site of this annual end-of-summer soiree.

    I wait a second for my brain to catch up with what I’m seeing.

    Then I spring into full-on lifeguard mode, launching myself toward the pool deck. My feet sizzle when they hit the concrete, but I keep running. Idiot. He’s going to kill himself. A guy I’ve never seen before balances at the edge of the second-story porch roof. He bends his arms and lifts them to the side, then leans forward in a muscle stance to the front. His shirt is still on—a blue Superman t-shirt—but I can detect the outline of his pecs and biceps through it. Someone wolf whistles. Then Tom starts to chant, “Jump! Jump! Jump!”

    There must be a good ten feet between the edge of the roof and the edge of the pool.

  • Mark Jensen

    requests(at)markjensenwriter(dot)com

    Brother’s Keeper

    YA Science Fiction

    PITCH:

    While aliens try to heal his brother, Trent helps a clone fit into high school and date his brother’s athlete girlfriend.

    FIRST 250:

    Feels good writing out my thoughts, seeing these words appear one by one on this screen… I can’t believe I actually considered releasing the airlock panel. There’s always a way out. That looks good, I need to write that again. THERE’S ALWAYS A WAY OUT. Nice.

    They’ll come back, and they’ll want to know why. I know the Broon, they have no choice but to check out what’s going on. Their Unified Council for sure will want answers, they must be screaming at each other right now about what just happened. We really wrecked their spaceport on Nup’Rila, that dark/light freaky looking moon [ISA: This moon is most likely Iapetus], so it will be hard for them to send out a reconnaissance scout right away. I bet I have a few cycles until they come, possibly more.

    So okay, I’ve calmed down, and I have a plan. While I wait for the Broon to capture me, I’ll write down everything in this ship’s computer, the whole story from the beginning. Kobec’Dox would want that from me, but not expect that. So if I present her with a huge report she’ll not do anything hasty. Even though she doesn’t know me, she’ll soon realize we have an alternate past together, and I respect her. Tory’s files too, he wrote down all that happened on Earth. Everything. And I have Aleesha’s diary, luckily her whole book didn’t burn up in that fire. Roasted my hand pretty bad grabbing it, but worth it. Her diary will probably save my life.

  • Brian Truitt

    Psykids

    Paranormal MG

    PITCH:
    A thirteen year old boy who can’t focus to save his life must use his new power to see the past unfolding before him in order to save his kidnapped little sister’s life.

    FIRST 250 WORDS:
    My room looks like the Hulk tore through it.

    I’m supposed to clean it. I hate it when my room gets like this, but figuring out what to do first: I’d rather hand feed great white sharks. Okay, I’ll start with the clothes. Dirty in the hamper, clean on the bed.

    Diving into the first pile, I pull out a couple of t-shirts, a pair of shorts, and jeans. The sniff test tells me what’s dirty and what I can get a few more uses out of. Jeans and one shirt on the bed, the clean pile. The shorts and one shirt: back on the floor; I’ll put them in the hamper later.

    Wait, what’s in the pocket of these shorts? A balled up math worksheet. Better put this with the other papers on my desk, a white avalanche waiting to happen.

    At the top of the teetering mound is an essay with five measly sentences scribbled down. It’s due Monday. I’ll never get it finished if I wait until Sunday. The math worksheet replaces the essay on the pile. More clothes on my chair. Push those to the floor. Hey, there’s an X-Men comic here.

    I love this issue. I think. Is this the one where the team travels to another dimension? My butt finds the chair as I start flipping through the bright, colored pages.

    “Ben.” Mom taps on the door. “You’re going to be late for swim practice — again.”

    Crap!

  • Maggie Eilertson
    maggieeilertson(at)yahoo(dot)com
    WAVES
    YA Contemporary

    (Pitch)
    WAVES is a story of first love, self-discovery, disaster, adventure, and survival set against the backdrop of the sea and its lost islands.

    (First 250)
    Mia was spending her summer on a pirate ship. Technically it had been described by Carlton Study-at-Sea as, “an authentically-rigged schooner” but that was obviously just fancy talk for a pirate ship. She tilted her head to consider the boat from a different angle. The rolled sails were bound with salt-roughened ropes and there were net ladders strung from the edge of the deck to the dizzying crow’s nest at the top of the mast just waiting for someone to race up with a knife clamped in her teeth. A bead of sweat trickled down the back of Mia’s neck, and she swiped at it with a finger before wiping her hand on her shorts and fighting the humid air for breathable oxygen. Sailing around the ocean for two-and-a-half months was exactly how she wanted to spend her last summer before college, and now that The Nimbus was floating majestically in front of her she wasn’t going to let a little thing like heat temper her excitement.

    She adjusted her increasingly-heavy bags higher up on her shoulders and puffed a strand of hair out of her face before dropping the bags unceremoniously on the rough boards of the dock. She could almost feel the wind against her face as she pulled on a rope to raise the sail…or something else people did on a sailboat.

    “Let me guess, you’re here for the Carlton Program?” a voice called from the ship.

    “That obvious, huh?” Mia called back, craning her head to see a face appear over the rail.

  • Shaila Patel
    info[at]shailapatelauthor[dot]com
    SOULMATED
    YA Paranormal Romance

    (PITCH)

    Irish empath Liam Whelan searches for the soul mate from his father’s vision and meets Indian-American Laxshmi Kapadia. What will he sacrifice if she’s not The One? Can she defy cultural expectations if she is?

    (FIRST 250)

    They call this a test?

    Not even a ping grazed my mind as the five Elders attempted to probe behind my mental blocks and into my emotions. A sheen of sweat above my cousin’s lip proved he wasn’t faring as well. Of all us cousins who were now of-age, William and I were the last two left. I’d have felt guilty had he ever shown an interest in leading the family estate, but, even as children, we all knew he’d rather be in a library. And now his heart was with his new wife. He, at least, seemed to have a choice.

    I sighed. Not me.

    “Are we boring you, Prince Liam?”

    My attention snapped to Elder Adebayo. In the fraction of a second it took to decipher his heavy Nigerian accent, I schooled my features. The Elders sat along one side of an antique conference table. The manor staff had rearranged the study to hold both the testing and signing-over ceremonies. Gone were the heirloom tables and Tiffany lamps normally dotting the large space.

    My throat-clearing echoed in the now silent room. “No, sir, not at all. Although, uh…I’d like to know when it is you’ll begin with me.” I pasted on an oh-so-innocent smirk and watched William shake his head and grin. I shrugged, hoping I’d lightened the mood.

    All the Elders cocked an eyebrow, except for Elder Claire Brennan, our lone Irish representative. Her body inched forward.

    Ah, well. So much for having a bit of craic.

  • THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. PLEASE DO NOT ENTER ANY MORE SUBMISSIONS. ALL ENTRIES AFTER THIS COMMENT WILL BE DELETED.

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