It’s on … Can You Hook a Teen? Blogfest Contest

THE CONTEST IS CLOSED. CHECK BACK ON MONDAY 9/26/11 TO SEE THE WINNERS. THANKS TO ALL FOR PARTICIPATING. <3
    

 

Official Entry Post

It’s time to enter your first 250 words of your YA or MG manuscript entries on your blogs for the  
Can You Hook a Teen? blogfest contest. If your first 250 words fall in a middle of a sentence, then go to the end of that sentence. Hop around and critique each others’ entries, and when you’re ready, come back here. Enter your polished entry in the comments of this post by Midnight (we’re doing my time MST) on September 23. You can start posting now and up until 11:59pm MST on September 23.
You don’t have to do the blogfest portion of the contest, and you can join in until the contest close.
Our wonderful judges and prize givers are (click on the eyes to see all their wonderful editing services) … 

       Kate
Taryn
 
Your entry should look like this…

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Title: Library Jumpers
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Only God and the vendors at Haymarket got up early on Saturday mornings. The bloated clouds spattered rain against my faded-red umbrella, threatening to further dampen my pissy mood. I strangled the wobbly handle and dodged spastic shoppers along the tiny makeshift aisle of Haymarket, Boston’s famous outdoor produce market. The site, just off the North End, is totally packed and stinky. The fruits and vegetables up for sale are rejects from nearby supermarkets. Basically, they’re cheap and sort of edible.
“Limes!” an older Italian man with a huge belly yelled. “Twelve for a dollar!”
 I skirted around a slow moving tourist.
“Real Sugar Cane!” a woman battered by the sun hollered over the crowd.
“A buck a pound!” another man shouted as he held up a tomato.
“Fish! Fresh off the boat,” a shorter man lied.
The stench from the fish gagged me and I hurried past the booth, holding my breath. I rushed up the street, my sandals slapping against the wet pavement. The rain slobbered my legs and I cursed my best friend, Afton, for insisting I get up early and wear a skirt today. Breaking through the crowd, I continued up the street to the Haymarket entrance to the T, Boston’s subway system.
Across the street, my two best friends huddled under a black umbrella. Nick held the handle while Afton leaned into him to avoid getting wet. Nick’s full-face smile told me he enjoyed sharing an umbrella with Afton.
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 If you forgot how it’s going down go here.
And don’t forget to visit all the other participants’ blogs to critique their first 250 words…

 
Please only post entries to the comments below. If you have questions, you can go to this post and comment here.

79 comments to It’s on … Can You Hook a Teen? Blogfest Contest

  • Title: Simon’s Oath
    Genre: Light Fantasy (no magic, fantastical world)

    In the city of glass, there was one stone tower in a garden grown wild. Abandoned and feral, long tongues of ivy and morning glory were devouring the walls, their hungry roots finding holds in stone that glass could not provide.

    No one remembered who had built the tower, or why, or how, for the people only knew how to pour moulds of glass and iron upon which to raise their city. Very few went near the garden, and those that did hurried past it, their eyes averted from the erratic maze of roots and branches. They feared that the irregular leaves and flower petals that grew in oddly regular spirals would somehow invade and corrupt their short, easily measured lives.

    CHAPTER 1
    Walls Of Iron And Glass

    In a glass house by the river, Simon slid open the door to Faith’s bedroom. She was in her usual spot on the window-seat, curled into an embroidered cushion as she stared out through the clear glass. Her thin limbs were almost lost in the whiteness of her nightgown and her black curls spilled over one shoulder, savage and tangled from sleep.

    As his eyes settled on her hair, Simon touched his chest, his throat, his lips. A reflexive ward against drowning, though an incomplete one. He mastered his fear and stopped before spitting a wad of saliva on the tile floor. Instead, he cleared his throat, taking care to keep his voice low and steady. Appropriate, for a servant.

    “Good morning, little princess.”

  • Title: Unexpected, Book 1: The Mystery of Dullish
    Genre: YA Mystery Paranormal

    Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty, forty-one—

    “Nat, look out the window,” Dad said eagerly, interrupting me from counting the ribs on the back of Micah’s seat. I looked up with unblinking eyes. A smile played on Dad’s face through the rearview mirror, something I didn’t return.

    What exactly is he talking about?

    Through the window, there was nothing but trees and the same stretch of rutted highway we’d been driving along for forty-five tedious minutes.

    “I don’t see anything,” I mumbled, my voice lifeless, I noted. For the past few months I’d been like this: blank, unresponsive, empty. I might as well have been dead for all the good I was doing.

    As I was about to remove my gaze from the desolate scenery outside, I saw something—some indication of life—up ahead.

    Dilapidated farmhouses with large expenses of fields came first: boards falling off the sides; shutters hanging precariously, threatening to fall; broken windows; roofs caving in. Next, the random houses—most of them huge, abandoned-looking mansions in need of repair—popping up among pine, birch, and evergreen trees along the road. My window was open the tiniest bit and I caught the strong smell of rot, pine and manure. Not a pleasant combination, if you ask me.

    After a few more long minutes of only looking at trees, I spotted the Welcome sign. It was old and plainly adorned. The dark slabs of wood were worn away at the edge, like any other Welcome sign belonging to any other small town.

  • Title: Legacy
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

    But she wasn’t suicidal. Just desperate.

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

    Today, she’d be ordinary.

  • Title: Urquist
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Dal sat up, fully dressed, in her bed. It was dark but at least the curtains were open. Margaret must have finally got the message that she didn’t like to sleep with them closed. Too late now though, thought Dal.
    For a moment she watched the dust spin like sparkles in the moon shining in through the window. Then she threw off the covers, put her feet on the short, stubbly carpet and placed her head in her hands. The room felt stuffed with tight air and bad feelings.
    She went to the window and shoved it open as far as it would go, so the cold, west coast air swept in over her face and body. That air was the only good thing about being here, but it wasn’t enough.
    She glanced down to her bedside table, and in a last minute, impulsive decision grabbed the necklace her dad had left her, threw the leather string over her head and tucked it under the top of her t-shirt. Her eye caught the notebook Margaret had given her too, the one with the local folk stories written in it. “For Dalrianna” she’d put on the front.
    Dal cringed. The only person who ever called her by her full name was her mum and she tried to think about her as little as possible now.
    Dal knew Margaret had meant it as a nice thing, so couldn’t help feel a stab of guilt that a story in it had inspired what she was about to do, but she forced the guilt away along with everything else.

  • SOPHIE
    YA Historical Fantasy

    I fall out of the darkness, my feet slam onto the pavement. My ankles fail and I cry out in pain and surprise.
    I squint at the lights shining from streetlamps and rushing cars. Music blasts, car horns blare, people talk, laugh, sing. I touch my temple and groan. Everything is too much.
    “Est-ce que tout va bien, mademoiselle? Avez-vous besoin d’aide?” a man asks, kneeling at my side.
    Why is he speaking French? Is everything okay, as he asked? My whole body hurts, but especially my ankle. I can’t remember how I got here, or where here is.
    I check out my surroundings and recognize the plaza hemmed in by five- and six-storey buildings sporting arched windows. All dominated by a building with more columns than I can count, winged gold statues at each corner of the roof, and a green dome. Two French flags billow in the still air. The Paris Opera.
    Okay, deep breaths. I’m in Paris. Mom’s birthplace.
    My head feels stuffed with feathers and it only gets worse the more I try to remember. I frown at the long, dark skirt I’m wearing. Pointy-toed black ankle boots? No wonder my ankle is weak and swollen. A long-sleeved cream shirt scratches my neck. What happened to my shorts and flip flops?
    I stand, vaguely wondering where my good samaritan went, when a necklace bounces against my chest. I grab the gold medallion and stare at the engraved pattern. Memories blast into me, pushing out the feathers stuffing my mind.

  • J

    Title: Keepers
    Genre: Fantasy

    They were getting darker. The whorls and lines that covered Faron’s torso were now the light brown of field mouse fur. They would certainly be visible to anyone who saw him without his shirt. Faron scooped a handful of water from the stream, scrubbing it over a patch of skin on his stomach. He knew it was futile, but it was habit at this point. He still clung to the hope that they would prove to just be dirt after all, rather than permanent markings.
    Faron knelt on the stream’s grassy bank, running the cool water over his head as he tried to remember when he’d last bathed. He’d been on the move for days, choosing continuous motion over rest. He knew he wouldn’t sleep anyway. His ghosts would be waiting for him. Instead, he moved ever forward, hoping to reach the market in Terra before the other clans moved on.
    He knew his future was bleak. As far as he could tell, he had two options. He could either choose to remain with the Fanai society by marrying into another clan, or he could leave the only culture he’d ever known and be an outcast. Neither prospect was overly appealing for an eighteen-year-old. He wished his father were there, or his mother. They had always given advice and guidance when it was needed. But much as he might wish for them, this was a decision he would have to make on his own.

  • KM

    Title: THE MEMORY OF PROSERPINE
    Genre: YA PARANORMAL ROMANCE/FANTASY

    Shadows surrounded the queen as she sat alone in the throne room. Voices echoed off the mural-covered, domed ceiling and through the dark hall, cries of spirits receiving justice and paying penance. A whisper of wind blew through the palace, bringing with it the scent of spring flowers. The queen turned her face to the wind and drew in a deep breath, remembering the joy of the Above.

    Another whisper blew across the marble floor. Yet this time, it resembled the brush of silk against tile. The queen turned her head away from it, tears wetting her cheeks. The fresh memories scratched at her emotions like a lion’s claws tear through flesh. He might not have been her lover, but he had taken care of her when no one else would.

    “It’s done, milady.”

    The queen glanced up and met the gaze of a servant of the dark.

    “Have you brought him?” she asked.

    “He has been placed in the king’s bedchamber. Do you wish to see him?”

    She shook her head. “Not yet.”

    Too soon. Eventually, she would have to see him, tell him everything and help him through the transition. She’d been given the same courtesy at the beginning of her stay here, and she refused to offer him any less than she’d received.

    “What of the murderer?” Her grip on the edge of her silver armrest tightened so her fingertips tingled.

    “He has been taken back to Olympus. He has been received like a brother. A god even.”

  • Title: Ruhe
    Genre: YA Fiction

    What I don’t want to tell you is that I actually can speak. I’m not a mute like everyone thinks. My parents assumed it was something traumatic – they asked me if it was something my ex did, if he had ever forced me into anything. They can’t accept the fact that I chose to be this way, I chose to stop talking. They sent me to shrinks, specialists, doctors, hospitals, then registered me as disabled and sent me to a state school instead of the university, just so I would be closer to home.

    It may seem like I sacrificed a lot in giving up my voice, but I’ve become so much more aware of people, of their mannerisms, and of how horrible of a person my voice made me. I was voted into three different superlatives: loudest, class gossip, and best laugh. My friends and I had a laugh about it, we ran a campaign to get me elected class gossip. But those superlatives really rang true.

    I told my friends secrets, I talked behind their backs, I couldn’t help it. It was word vomit in the worst form. It all blew up in my face, as it always does, and slowly, I was edged out. The popular crowd carried on without me, the graduation parties, the dates to prom, everything. While I was sitting, listening to a girl drone on about her sex life, I realized something. No one cares about what you say. It was useless to carry on a conversation.

  • Title: PERFECTION
    Genre: YA Dystopian

    Ellyssa, a.k.a. Subject 62, sprinted through the dark alley with a black messenger bag slapping against her thigh. The sirens piercing the night an hour earlier had finally faded, but she still wasn’t safe.

    Her mind raced as it flipped through the map she’d memorized. Turn right here, left there. She had to reach the train that would take her away from Chicago. There she might find safety…or her death.

    She slipped behind a metal dumpster and backed up against the brick wall, blending within the shadows, breaths coming in gasps. Panic edged her nerves, and she released the reins.

    For a few blissful moments she allowed herself to bathe in the physiological effects of panic. She felt her heart slam against her ribs and blood rush through her veins. But not for long. Panic brought less desirable traits—uncertainty and paranoia. She understood why her father would find the emotion useless, hindering the goals of a soldier and, therefore, eradicated.

    Regardless, it was an emotion, and she relished the feeling before she closed her eyes and slowed her breathing and heart rate, reining in panic and tucking it away. Ellyssa opened her eyes, her face like a blank slate, completely unreadable.
    She looked out from behind her cover and peered into the alley. Dark shadows wavered, but nothing solid moved. She reached with her mind, searching for any presence. Silence greeted her.

  • Title: ONE KISS
    Genre: contemporary YA romantic suspense

    “Just one kiss,” Alex whispers into my neck, and suddenly I don’t care that I will be late. With my back pressed against the cold stone of a cemetery monument, and my arms wrapped beneath his jacket, I have never felt so alive. Our tongues dance, and Alex runs his hand beneath my shirt. He lets out an involuntary groan and our kiss deepens. I respond eagerly, pulling him closer. This is the first opportunity we’ve had to kiss in a very long time, and I don’t want to waste it. Alex’s kiss is worth any punishment.

    It’s not like we’ll do more than kiss and touch. I’m still a virgin, and with the constant monitoring of our relationship, it will likely remain that way. No, our need for privacy isn’t about sex. In fact, we have never done more than kiss until this very moment. But Alex’s kisses are like breathing for me. As long as I have them, fine, but if I don’t, I think of nothing else until I can have them again.

    I push against him and his lips come down fiercely on mine. His hands roam beneath my shirt, and I marvel at the feel of him. I have never felt his touch beneath my clothes, and I am electrified by it. My body hums like a fine-tuned engine, and I wonder briefly if this is why everyone seems so determined to keep us apart.

    “God, I wish you didn’t have to go home,” Alex whispers

  • Title: Cracked
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    There are some people you know you ought not make angry because it isn’t right. Like your mum–if she’s the nice sort.

    There are other people you know you ought not make angry because they have the authority to punish you. Police officers, politicians, insane asylum wardens, your mum–if she’s the bad sort.

    But there are some people you ought not make angry that you don’t know about, because no one ever survived to warn you.

    I’m the third kind.

    I eat souls. The packaging can be tricky, but fortunately I am blessed with special skills to pry my meals from their pesky shells. My teeth rip skin, my jaws snap bones. I am fast, lightning-fast, snuff—oh-was-that-your-life?–fast. I try to stick to bad souls, in the memory of my own mom (the nice sort). There were other reasons, reasons I used to understand, but they are reasons for a good person. I am not that.

    That might be why I feel so at home here.

    Small rooms, thick walls. Hushed whispers and ear-grating wails. A symphony of misery set to the beat of beatings. An insane asylum, prison of the cracked and grey.

    Cracked windows, cracked walls, cracked minds. Don’t make them angry or there will be cracked skulls!

    Grey stone walls, grey stone floors. Once-white nightgowns now grey. The skin of the inmates. Grey. The metal-framed bed. The bedding. Grey, grey, grey. The bars on the window…Black. Imagery ruined. Correction—Prison of the cracked, grey and black.

  • Title: Scratches
    Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

    I drove a little bit faster, though normally I wasn’t one to speed. The thought of getting a ticket just to get somewhere a few minutes sooner was pointless. However, I made an exception this time; first because I finally knew where I was going after getting lost twice, and second it was getting dark and then I’d be sure to miss the house.
    I eyed the retreating sun with more than a little uncertainty.

    It won’t be that bad… I told myself.

    I tried to relax, but I was anxious and unreasonably irritated. If this was supposed to be a fun getaway after all the chaos of high school why did it feel like a prison sentence?

    I noticed my white knuckled hold on the steering wheel and loosened my fingers. They ached as blood rushed back into them. I could feel my pulse in my palms.

    I was being ridiculous. It’s not like I was driving to my own execution; although imagining Rachel in the role of executioner wasn’t difficult whenever Dylan was around.

    Dylan. My anxiety rose a few notches and I let my foot off the gas a little.

    If unrequited love wasn’t enough to put a damper on the summer I didn’t know what was.

    I frowned at the rural highway. I lost my mind. I had to have; otherwise nothing would have convinced me to accept a vacation invitation from Rachel of all people.

    Two months, I’d be stuck in that beach house.

    Two months.

  • TITLE: Chasing the Taillights
    GENRE: YA contemporary

    The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

    I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I can’t think, can’t make sense of the darkness threatening to drown me. Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.

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

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

  • Title: I, Benandante
    Genre: YA Dark Fantasy

    The sound roused her slowly, like a drip in a faucet. Marisa heard the rhythm grow stronger, like someone tapping – no, like a drum. It sounded like someone was beating a drum.

    “Come on!” A man’s voice shouted at her. “Get up! It’s time to go!”

    She had heard that voice before; it was happening again.

    Marisa didn’t want to open her eyes. She was terrified of what she would see. She could feel them swirling around her.

    “Wake up! Will you come with me?”

    The voice shouting at her had an authoritative tone that demanded obedience. Her eyes flew open and she stared at him standing over her bed. He carried a plant with a long stalk in his hand like it was a weapon.

    Then Marisa realized she could see through him.

    She wanted to scream, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t open her mouth or move any other part of her body. She felt frozen, like a stone. With the scream still caught in her throat, she glanced up at the man’s face again. One second it was a human face, then it changed shape into a cat, then a mouse, then a chicken. The only thing that didn’t change was his eyes as they bored into hers with an angry, terrifying gaze.

    “The battle is approaching!” The chicken head changing into a bat head shouted to her.

    Marisa knew the others were there. Rats, cats, rabbits, birds, deer with human eyes, more spirit people with cat and goat eyes; all of them moving together to the same destination.

  • Title: Shot in the Dark
    Genre: YA contemporary

    Some days I wish time would race by and keep me from dwelling on everything I’ve lost.

    Why can’t this be one of those lightning fast days?

    Forcing myself not to look at the empty seat—his seat—I check the clock on the biology classroom wall for the second time in two minutes.

    Okay, where the hell is Liv? I can’t do this alone. This is the only class my brother and I shared. The only class where his memory haunts me like the skeleton hanging in the back of the room, the metallic taste of death lingering from it. The only class where breathing feels like a privilege, not a right.

    My first day back was tough enough, but being here without Liv to distract me is asking way too much.

    Before Mr. Brenner has a chance to close the door, my best friend sails in, shutting it behind her. She sits next to me at our table and smiles, but it’s like the light in her eyes has been flicked off. Not the reassuring smile she gave me this morning. The one that’s supposed to let me know everything’s going to be okay. That I’ll survive this day—and all the staring and whispered speculations.

    “Are you okay?” I ask, voice crackling, rough and forgotten.

    Before she can answer, Daniel Ackerman—aka quarterback and team captain of the varsity football team, all around hottie, and major asshole—enters the room as the bell rings.

  • Title: RIVERS UNDERNEATH
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    A shiver ran down Emma’s spine as she watched a cluster of mourners gather around the fresh grave below her. They clung to one another, finding comfort in the knowledge they did not mourn alone.

    On either side of her, dark pathways wove between ancient, twisted trees, dividing the cemetery into irregular sections. Crumbling markers with names etched in soft, malleable limestone endured as faded reminders of mortality, while glossy marble monuments stood in polished defiance of the strains of time.

    Emma shifted her feet and the frozen dew clinging to the grass crackled under her. The wind shaped her dark hair into softly waving tendrils and she brushed it away from her face with the back of her hand. She knew she should join the other mourners. She knew they expected her to share in their public display of sorrow.

    And she knew she couldn’t.

    She felt numb. Far too numb to grieve. The slightest touch, the slightest betrayal of emotion and she would lose everything.

    She remained frozen, a silent witness to their grief. She saw every detail in stunning clarity. The lurid green of the indoor-outdoor carpet covering the hole in the ground and the cold, dead smoothness of the coffin that contained the mortal remains her best friend. The hardened ground and dull sky burned in her mind. Overwhelming sorrow surrounded her, but she felt none of it.

    She knew her parents were worried. Not that she blamed them.

  • Title: The Last Daughter of Elhamair
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Unlike the rest of the villagers, the Magicians didn’t ignore her. She would have taken a different route had there been one, but the only road out of the city took her past their stalls. They leered at her as she passed. “Buy a trick?” they caroled, and laughed when she shook her head, not meeting their eyes. One of them leaned close enough to whisper, “Here’s one for free, then,” and Sameen jumped as the road near her feet exploded in a cloud of colorful smoke. She pressed the leather purse tighter against her waist to try and muffle the clinking of the coins as she ducked under their arms and hurried on.

    Someone called to her out of the crowd, but she kept her eyes on the road and continued walking until a hand took her by the arm. Startled, she spun around to face an older man she did not recognize—at least not completely. There was something familiar about his face, yet it felt like a memory that belonged to someone else. She wondered how he knew her.

    “Excuse me,” he said. “I did not mean to frighten you.”

    It took Sameen a moment to understand his words through his accent, but it was not as strange to her as she first supposed. He talks like Kenlin, she thought, recognizing the same stressing of unusual syllables that had long made neighbors suspicious of her uncle. The man even dressed in the same peculiar style and his hair was as dark as her own.

  • Title: Grim
    Genre: YA Paranormal

    My stalker is back and he’s watching me.

    I may not be able to see him, but I know he’s here, somewhere. I can feel his creepy, stalker stare. I hunch over my History final and release my hair from behind my ears. It swings forward like a curtain and hides my face. Show’s over, buddy.

    I’m not looking around for him this time, not with Mr. Winkler on ‘cheater duty’. The guy will eventually get bored and go wherever the hell he goes when he isn’t ogling me.

    I take a deep breath and read the next question on my test.

    The loser’s gaze bores through my auburn shield of hair and my arms erupt in gooseflesh. Just ignore him, I tell myself and read the same question again. Before I get to the multiple choice answers, however, my eyes betray me and shoot up for a quick scan of the classroom.

    Mr. Winkler sits at his desk, scratching at some poor schlub’s paper with red pen, his bald head gleaming in the harsh fluorescent light. God, I hope it’s not my paper he’s destroying. I can’t afford another bad grade in this class.

    Kyle’s desk is directly in front of Mr. Winkler. He calls him Mr. Sprinkler, and after nine months of daily spraying, I suppose Kyle has earned the right to call Mr. Winkler whatever he wants. Kyle sighs as he leans forward, runs both hands through his wavy hair and then thumps his forehead down on his test.

  • Looks like I’m the first MG! Thanks guys for holding this competition.

    Title: The Silver Strand
    Genre: MG Fantasy adventure

    “Let me pluck your silver hair.” Bianca’s stumpy fingers crept up Isabelle’s arm.

    “Shhhh!” Isabelle swiped them away and glared at her loud-mouthed best friend.

    No doubt everyone on the crowded school bus had heard, and forty-two pair of eyes stared at the girl with the freaky, silver strand. She glanced around the rows of black vinyl seats. Four rows behind her, a girl hung over the back of her seat, showing off to her friends and blowing gum bubbles. One seventh grade boy dished out dead arms to some poor kid across the aisle. The kid scrunched up his face, sucking up the pain of the fist sized bruise forming on his arm.

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

    Instead, Isabelle slumped back in her chair and listened to the bus’ shudders and groans at the punishing hill. It had already broken down three times that month with smoke pouring out the engine and pieces falling off. With each bump over an endless stream of potholes on the narrow country road, she bet the wheels were next to go, and they’d roll back down the hill and into a paddock, collecting ten cows along the way.

  • Title: The Reluctant Assassin
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    My father liked to tell me that killing my instructor would be easy. I always countered in my head that there wasn’t anything easy about death; it was messy and brutal.

    I was glad my father wasn’t here today to watch my lessons. The added pressure of my father’s stare as I trained never failed to nauseate me. Just the weight of the sword in my hand already made my stomach twist. No doubt he would have started calling me pathetic by now. His useless child.

    My fingers tightened around the sword’s grip.

    My hand steadied, a desire building in me to strike back at him.

    “Kella, attack!” my instructor yelled. He was waiting for me to pounce on him so we could spar, but I hesitated.

    I knew I had to be extra careful because no matter how much I denied it, in the far back of my mind I had to admit my father was right: I could kill my instructor quickly. I was cursed to be a fighter, and each spar brought me closer to turning into the thing I was destined to be but hated—a killer.

    It was too easy to imagine my swift movements bringing me forward before my instructor could blink, slashing through his stomach. The image of his ripped skin and the rushing of his blood and guts tormented my mind

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  • Title: AWAKEN
    Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling

    If she touched the volume one more time, she’d pull back a bloody nub. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her little fingers inch towards the dial.

    “Casey!” I snarled.

    “But I love this song!” Casey said in that whiney, nasal tone all ten-year-olds used when they wanted their way. But I wasn’t giving in.
    “Seriously kid! I have a headache. Could you please behave until we get home?” I cringed. I sounded just like mom.

    She slumped back in the seat, crossed her arms over her chest, and thrust out her bottom lip. “You sound just like mom.”

    “Yeah, well you are acting like a spoiled little brat.” When I got my license, my adventures sans parents were supposed to be filled with hanging out with my friends and cute guys. Not chauffeuring my annoying little sister to and from ballet practice.

    “I’m telling mom you called me a brat.”
    “Whatever.” I leaned forward and turned the volume all the way down. The pounding in my head eased as the bass dulled.

    My head shot up at the stomach-wrenching sound of tires squealing across asphalt. The blinding white light from a pair of headlights barreled towards us. Dirt and rocks flew up like a rooster tail on both sides of the truck as it launched over the median.

  • Title: A Special Someone
    Genre: YA Mystery

    The announcement echoed across the stadium when I heard my name, “Taylor Schuman.” I was handed a microphone and escorted to the center of the football field. My nerves were getting the best of me. The whole school was watching my every move, everyone, except for Rachael. Where was she? Great, finally my moment of fame and she was nowhere in sight.

    Then adrenaline kicked in, my heart started pounding loud, similar to when I’m around Kyle, except it was much faster. My legs felt wobbly, like they may not hold me up. And my arms felt like they weighed a hundred pounds each. I was shaking and had to use both hands to keep the microphone steady as I led us in the National Anthem.

    The cheers immediately followed and the applause was my cue to exit. I jogged off the field, passing the bench of jerseys. I looked for Kyle, but I couldn’t find him. Did he change his number?

    My BFF, Malorie Baldwin was waiting for me on the other side of the chain-link fence, flagging me down with her arms. She played percussion for the marching band.

    “Hurry up, Taylor!” she yelled across the field. She doesn’t like to draw attention to herself while she’s in her uniform, so she must have had something urgent to tell me.

    “What’s up?” I was winded and suspicious as I ran over to her. Did something happen to Kyle? “Well, are you planning to talk anytime soon?”

  • Title: Cinnimin: The Road to Womanhood

    Genre: YA historical fiction

    Cinnimin Filliard had thought the most shocking event in her young life was her father’s death the day after her birthday last year.

    Until today.

    While listening to the radio that afternoon, she’d heard the shocking news that the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, had been bombed by the Japanese at daybreak. She knew that was where her annoying aunt Lucinda, her one-legged cousin Elmira, and her bizarre uncle Jasper had recently moved. Cinnimin wondered how a disturbed lunatic like Jasper had ever made it past basic training in the Marines, and if they’d only kept him in out of pity. At any rate, she certainly didn’t miss any of them, and was glad they no longer lived in her house. Right now she cared more about the possibility of her big brother M.J. being drafted than what might’ve happened to her relatives in Hawaii.

    Cinnimin was looking at her celebrity posters when she heard a car pulling up outside the house. From her bird’s eye view at the window of her attic bedroom, she could see Lucinda and Elmira getting out of a car, luggage in their hands. This could not be good, she thought as she raced downstairs.

    “It’s really rude to spring a visit on someone without making advance plans.” Cinnimin stifled her urge to laugh at Elmira’s flat chest and Lucinda’s ridiculous clothes.

    “Cinnimin, this is family!” Widow Filliard chided.

    “Jasper is dead,” Lucinda announced, a hint of a smile on her face. “So we got on the first plane out after the attack was over. We’re always welcome at home, right?”

  • Title: She Knows Death
    Genre: YA Paranormal

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

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

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

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

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

    I was stunned and all I could think about was that he had stabbed me twice and I was still standing here, staring at him. Instead of realizing what he had done and helping, he just stood across from me next to the bloody knife and kept on wiping his hand against his jeans, the action somehow clinical. The guy was stone cold and completely crazy.

    As blood seeped through my fingers, I wondered why I didn’t feel anything but pushed the thought out of my mind.

  • Title: Unnatural
    Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

    As long as I didn’t go behind the bleachers tonight, I’d be fine—I hoped.

    “Come with me, Alexa…”

    It was homecoming, and I refused to let one scary vision ruin my night.

    As I pushed the sound of the stranger’s voice away, the butterflies beating my insides calmed and my heart rate slowed. My parents wanted to take pictures on the front lawn while our neighbors watched, embarrassing me, so I had to be able to smile, and I couldn’t do that thinking about what could happen at the dance if my vision held true.

    It was a typical beautiful evening in West Palm Beach at dusk; the clouds unique shades of pink and lavender. The air was unseasonably dry and the light ocean breeze felt great.

    “Hey, Lexi.” Dell Landry said as I approached him on the lawn.

    My pulse quickened at the sight of him, making it impossible not to think about our kiss. I did a double take, noticing how attractive he looked in his black suit and red tie. He stood as tall as a basketball player, lanky, but muscular, the suit showing off his athletic physique.

    “Hey.” I tried to sound casual.

    “You look…beautiful.” His crooked grin made my stomach leap into my throat.

    I flushed. “Thanks, I like your—”

    Taryn Stabler bumped into me then, tripping in her high heels. Dell caught me by my elbow as I stumbled. A shock ran up my arm and I gasped, meeting his light green eyes.

  • Title: The Prize: Tales From a Revolution – Vermont
    YA Historical Fiction

    His paddle dipping silently in the still water of the bay, protected from the freshening breeze, Caleb pushed his heavy dugout canoe along the familiar shore, alert for the presence of the Abenaki. One could never be quite sure which side they might be on at any given time. True, he’d heard they had provided guides for Colonel Arnold’s bold seizure of the British Fort Ticonderoga the prior week, and they had been known to offer other forms of support to Colonial forces, but there were dark rumors that information about the movements of Colonials would often make their way back into the hands of the British, too.

    Caleb could see, upon reflection, why the Indians would be ambivalent about the war between the Crown and its former American Colonies – after all, the Crown had been actively engaged in granting lands to settlers where the Abenaki still resided – sometimes even with competing grants from different Crown Governors – while the Colonists simply took what land they needed for their crops and cattle, driving off the Indians by whatever means were necessary.

    He still didn’t like that he couldn’t so much as take a clandestine canoe trip along the shore of the deeply forested island without having to worry that his position and activities would be spotted and reported to the wrong people. His attention was particularly keen as he steered around the point into the southern bay of the island, approaching the spit he would parallel on his way back to the mainland.

  • Title: The Stars Fell Sideways
    Genre: YA Steampunk-ish Urban Fantasy

    Where did the casting director find this guy? Villians-R-Us?

    I grunted as I hung from the Cliffs of Broken Glass, my fingers barely holding on to the plastic edges fifteen feet above the soundstage.

    “See what happens when you mess with me?” Captain Aragno said in a bad imitation of Jack Black. He pointed down at me, his head back in laughter. “Let’s see how you get out of this. Your precious Mikaehl can’t save you now! So long, Princessa!”

    Aragno laughed again and stomped away. I watched his saggy belly sway above the ridiculous codpiece as he strutted down the back ramp and over to the nearby table. He took a quiet drink from a large Nalgene bottle and winked at me, the feathers in his hat blowing madly from the force of the wind machine beside him.

    Ew. He really was awful. And his real name was Eugene, to boot. But enough of him. I had a job to do.

    Refocusing on the ledge, I started swinging my legs up, trying to get a foothold. The sharp plastic edges dug into my fingers, but I pushed down the pain.

    At a training day about a year ago, my father took me to the Navy Seals training grounds in North Carolina and we worked on dangling techniques.

    “Keep your arms slightly bent,” he had said. “Try to pump if you can, keep that blood flowing.”

    It’s not easy to get tired muscles moving, but I worked on it tirelessly for weeks after that. I had bigger guns than Madonna. It was awesome.

  • Title: Alexithymia
    Genre: YA Contemporary

    I was five years old when I met Blue Eyes at Meijer. My mother always took me grocery shopping with her on Sundays, but only under the threat of death by guillotine if I asked for anything that wasn’t on her list. (Two realizations about this came to me when I was older, the first being that I couldn’t ask for anything we didn’t need because we were, as the government puts it, “at the poverty threshold,” and the second being that my mother didn’t have the resources to procure a working guillotine.) She took me with her and, of course, encouraged me to make up stories as she rolled me along in the shopping cart.

    Back then, she sometimes had soft moments when she’d buy me a Yoohoo or something and smile at me and be all motherly. I loved those Yoohoos, not only because they were probably the most delicious chocolate drink ever conceived by man, but because they meant that my mother still cared whether or not I was happy.

    While she went to go buy my father’s favorite pork chops from the meat counter, my mother left me at the lobster tank. When I was five, lobsters fascinated me like no other creature could. Everything from their name to their claws to their magnificent red had me hooked.

    My dad called me ‘his little lobster girl’ because my hair was that red, the kind of red that looks okay on everything but people, because a person’s hair is not supposed to be red.

    Orange, yes.

    Auburn, sure.

    But not lobster red.

  • Title: Red Sky
    Genre: YA Contemporary

    People who have experienced great sorrow can still experience joy. I know that’s true, but when things are bad, I don’t feel like it’s true. Right now, my foot on the gas, my arm out the window, the drumming music, I can feel joy. The balmy Southern air rushing into my car whips my hair about my face. I’m cruising I-26 towards home, away from my therapy appointment.

    I try not to think about the last hour. I hate therapy, sitting and talking about things I don’t want to talk about, let alone remember. So I turn up the radio and Coldplay’s “Yellow” charges through the speakers and I enjoy the first warmth of spring.

    I pass the billboard that reminds me why I don’t trust men. The one that makes me feel like a statistic. One in four girls, it says. Twenty five freaking percent of the female population. Molested or, in my case, worse. My good mood evaporates. To be reminded, to remember, is to experience. I accelerate the car.

    When I get off the interstate, I call Graham at a red light.

    “Hey, just got out of therapy. I need something to distract me.”

    “Got it. Be right over.”

    Graham is my best friend. He’s tall—a total string bean—and plays on the basketball team. He pretends he can dance, and he almost can, but not really. I tease him about it often. I tease him about a lot of things. Like, how he obsessively cleans and babies his car, an old nineties Buick he calls Rhoda.

  • Title: NOCTURNE
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    On the night that Gabriel Durante harvested his one hundredth soul, he bought himself a drink. There was nothing else he could do, really, other than try to forget the disturbing fact that he’d stolen that many souls…and that he’d kept count. He was determined to get wasted before the demon came to take the souls from him.

    Breathing in the thick, smoke-filled air of the casino, he waved at a passing waitress.

    “A lighter, please,” he said, and casually looked around at the unfortunate souls trying their luck on the slots. As he did, he got out a cigarette.

    One middle-aged woman in particular caught his attention, wearing clothes that were at least three sizes smaller than her body. Each time she pulled the lever, she grunted and her beady eyes squinted against the glaring light of the machine.

    7-7-7, Gabriel thought, and the three columns of her machine lined up in a row of triple sevens. His ability to manipulate luck was the only benefit he’d received when he agreed to serve a demon.

    “O-Oh!” The woman jumped as a strident ringing noise rang clear across the casino, causing many envious glares from all around her. She seemed to be in shock at her sudden stroke of luck. This was understandable, since Gabriel had seen her at the same exact machine for the entire week.

    “Congratulations!” A waiter said and Gabriel turned back to the bar, sipping the drink he’d gotten earlier. He couldn’t remember what he’d ended up getting …but he didn’t care. As long as it allowed him to forget who and what he was, he was satisfied.

  • Title: HALF-HEARTED
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    I know it’s weird, but I like math. See, math doesn’t change. It doesn’t move every six months. If you divide an eight by a two, you get a four. I bet no one ever asked a one to dress a little nicer so she could fit in with the twos. Threes aren’t jealous of fours, and I doubt a five ever had to worry about which shade of foundation could hide her zits. Most people get zits when they’re eleven or twelve. I came into my acne at eight. Now I’m sixteen, and I’m still an A cup. Life really isn’t fair.

    Birthday bucks burned in my pocket, and I twisted some earrings in the mall light. “How much?” I asked the kiosk attendant. Malls across the US are nearly identical. Muzak piped in some song old songs from the nineties and people walked by texting and laughing, swinging their bags.

    “All our sterling earrings are nineteen ninety-nine,” the vendor replied with her slight accent common to Native Americans in Albuquerque. I tried to figure out if her accent was fake to drive up prices by selling the stuff as ‘Made by real Native Americans.’ She took my frown as a sign to keep talking. “Sterling silver is the purest silver. That’s what the stamp means,” she said pointing at a sign that said .925. I fiddled with the birthday bucks in my pocket. Okay, they’re pre-birthday bucks. I was born at midnight, so by tradition, my birthday celebration starts at sundown before my actual birthday.

  • Title: A Handful of Scars
    Genre: YA historical fantasy

    Nothing lasts, not even stone. Only one arch remained of the little ornamental bridge my father and I had built together, measuring and fitting the stones to make sure they would stand firm. The rest of the bridge had been scattered across the hillside, like a pile of offensive dung kicked apart.

    I put my foot up against the remaining arch. No point in preserving it. If I tried to rebuild the bridge, the superstitious villagers would just ruin it again. Besides, my father wasn’t around anymore to help me, and Talos wasn’t either. I pictured Talos’ face as I gave the arch a hard shove. He wasn’t the bridge-wrecker, but he’d turned out to be a faithless friend, anyway. All the years of our childhood together, discarded and scattered like the stones from my bridge.

    The small arch wouldn’t budge. I grabbed a sharp rock and chipped away at the mortar around the keystone. Sometimes tearing down can be as satisfying as building. The stone was almost loose when a loud screech overhead startled me.

    A creature the size of a rabbit, with a cat’s long twitchy tail and the wings of a hawk, lighted on my stubborn arch and hissed at me. I jerked back and my dress snagged on a stone and tore. “You wretched sneak!”

    I hated being caught off guard. I shot an imaginary arrow at the griffin. It was a friendly little game we played. He hissed, I shot. Sometimes I used real arrows.

  • Title: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee
    Genre: YA sci fi

    I snuck out with Cora to forget we were afraid, but nobody in this city was good at forgetting.

    Everyone must have wanted to try anyway, because the energy of the crowd in the Low-G Club thrummed at a faster pitch than usual. Cora and I headed to our favorite table, and the closeness of so many people made me glad we didn’t come on weekends, when a mob like this was the norm. I tugged my gloves higher up my arms to hide my Link bracelets— and any exposed skin.

    Someone moved past me, so close the buzz of her memories vibrated inside me, louder than the general hum of the club. Lyn Thompson. We were in the same class, so the buzz was familiar. She had her pouty face on as she followed Treya Higgins toward the exit.

    “There’s nothing to worry about,” Lyn whined. “There hasn’t been a Link theft in a practically two months.”

    Treya’s voice faded into the music as they walked. “Maybe that just means the thief is ready to strike again…”

    I wiped a drop of sweat from my forehead. So much for forgetting.

    Our table was empty except for three soda glasses and Dom’s leather jacket, saving our spot. I took a long swig from one of the glasses, dripping condensation onto my gloves.

    “I thought Dom was meeting us,” I hollered over the thumping bass.

    “Must be on the floor already,” Cora said.

    I followed her to the dance floor, where people moved in surreal patterns, slowed by the low gravity and quickened by the colored strobe lights.

  • Title: BOUND
    Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

    Kira glanced up at the silver eyehook screwed into the gym ceiling. Threaded through the two-inch hole was the other end of the rope she held in her trembling hands. She gave it a solid yank to test its strength. She could do this. It wasn’t like she was afraid of heights—she’d dance along the edge of a four-story building if it meant not having to climb this stupid rope. It had to be a mental thing, some unreasonable fear of—something—that kept her feet glued to the floor.

    Coach Andrews stood a few feet away with her arms folded over her flat chest. “Today, Edwards!” She tapped the toe of one worn out Sketcher on the wooden floor.

    “You can totally do this,” Lydia whispered from behind Kira.

    Kira tucked a lock of hair behind one ear and glanced over her shoulder to glare at her friend. “Easy for you to say. You can shimmy up this thing like a freakin’ monkey.”

    “So can you, if you just try. Now go, before we both have to do laps.” Lydia flipped her long blonde braid behind her back and gave Kira a gentle shove. “Up.”

    Kira wiped her sweaty hands on her shorts and gripped the rope with purpose. The entire class watched. Some girls sat on bleachers a few feet away, snickering, while others stood nearby, offering what seemed like genuine support, but was more than likely a desire to see her colossal failure up close.

  • Title: Pansytale
    Genre: MG Fantasy

    Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She wasn’t sure why she was named Little Red Riding Hood, but she was indeed. It never occurred to her to ask her parents why. Instead, she thought about it. And thought about it. She cried and yelled and ran around the house twenty-one times.

    And then Little Red Riding Hood got an idea. Why not run away? She could go very far and call herself something else. Then no one would know she ever had such an absurd name. No one would laugh at her.

    So one night, Little Red Riding Hood took special care not to fall asleep, until after her mother and father went to bed. She began to creak down the ladder from her loft room. Halfway down, Little Red Riding Hood stopped in shock. She’d forgotten to pack!

    After much thought, she decided on what she would need most: her red cloak, a quill pen, seven silver buttons, and a small handheld mirror. Little Red Riding Hood tied all of these in her hanky, except for the cloak, which seemed to work best when she wore it.

    She tiptoed out the door and stopped by the flowerbed spotted with pansies. Little Red Riding Hood loved flowers, especially pansies. She watered them with special care—when she remembered. Now she bid them a teary farewell, and then trotted over to the chicken coop.

    No, she was not interested in hunting for eggs. She needed to bring a chicken with her.

  • Title: The Green Ray of the Sun
    Genre: Older YA contemporary

    “I feel seahorses in my boots,” I joked, but Herr Cutter only leered at me through the wet, gray hair stuck to his face. “You’re supposed to laugh, sir.” With a grunt, Herr Cutter continued down the trail, reminding me how deathly allergic he was to fun. Geez. It wasn’t my idea to conduct field research in a torrential downpour.

    We struggled to keep pace with Tiziano, the manager of the Tuscan farm where we were staying. “Un disastro ecologico,” Tiziano moaned in Italian as he trudged through the mud, a task difficult for a bear-shaped man like himself, let alone us little people. Earlier, with frowns and hand gestures, he had tried to warn us against going out. But noooooo. Herr Cutter was so confident that his dainty lace Regenschirm (German for “umbrella stolen from my neighbor’s five-year-old daughter”) could keep us dry. Obviously, common sense was not required to be a world-renowned botany expert.

    “How far to the ocean?” asked Herr Cutter. Tiziano looked back, puzzled. That’s when Herr Cutter turned to me—Ryland Taggart, ace research assistant (read: unwitting toady). “Miss Taggart, translate my question.” And I would have done so. If I had known Italian. Maybe he should have asked about that before schlepping me halfway around the world.

    Anyway, duty called. I flipped through my waterlogged Italian-English dictionary, the fat raindrops punching the pages. “Uh…il mare? ¿Donde está il mare?” That’s right. I was speaking Spitalian to Tiziano—a language no one understood—completing this delightfully infuriating circle of non-comprehension.

  • Title: FIXING SHELBY
    Genre: YA Contemporary

    (Posted by Christy)

    “Seriously, Shelby Honey, you could put on a little more make-up. You look pale.” Mom held the steering wheel with one hand and grabbed her purse with the other. She plopped the large leather bag on my lap. “I know I have several shades of blush in there. Help yourself.”

    I glared at the purse for a moment before setting it at my feet. I’d rather be home cleaning the toilet bowl with my toothbrush or ripping out my fingernails than primping in the car on the way to a basketball game. “You didn’t have to drive me, Mom. You’ll be late.”

    She glanced at the clock. “It’s only two minutes out of my way. Besides, it was nice of Ashleigh to call and invite you.”

    I rolled my eyes. Yes, how nice of Ashleigh to call me at the last minute.

    “You should be a little more grateful.”

    Whatever. Ashleigh knew I wouldn’t want to go. She should have realized my mom would jump at the chance for me to be social. Of course, that would have required Ash to put more than one thought together at a time. A little too complicated for my “best” friend.

    “I don’t know why you gave her such a hard time about going.”

    I sighed and tapped my fingers on the door handle. “I don’t know, either, Mom.”

    “You’ll have a blast, I’m sure.”

    “Yeah.” I counted the houses that passed outside my window. Mom had gushed over Ashleigh for years.

  • Michal S

    Title: ORIGINAL
    Genre: YA Dystopian

    On the night she made her first kill, the girl on the glass ledge was thinking about a toy stuffed bear.

    It was extremely cold on the ledges that night, and the black rifle that stretched across the girl’s chest seemed to leach in the frigid air and grow heavier with the cold. Still, she kept her steps even as she stiffly paced up and down her stretch of the thick glass divider. Waiting. Ready.

    The girl, who’s name had until quite recently been KR-84, recalled that, on the day that she and her yearmates had turned four, each had been given a small stuffed animal to mark the occasion. There had been penguins, the girl remembered, and there had been bears. She had wanted a penguin, and received a bear.

    By now it was the third week of the girl’s term on official patrol, and her third week of waiting. A wispy rumor had floated among her yearmates, the newly minted patrols murmuring that not a single O had been seen in almost half a year, and wasn’t the walking getting boring?

    Still, the girl on the ledge (who had not wanted to stop calling herself KR-84 and had twisted her lip and decided that Kay would be her name if she must change it) was very close to knowing that she would kill someone that night. She was waiting for it, in fact, in the way you wait for pain in the tiny endless moment between injury and hurt.

  • Title: EVERVEIL Book 1 of Uncommon Chronicles
    Genre: YA Paranormal

    Chapter One

    Luca

    Summers are supposed to end with a bang. Mine ended with Vivvie dying in my arms, leaving this emptiness inside of me. I was too chicken to tell her how I really felt. That made it worse. But at sixteen, death was the furthest thing from our thoughts.

    I didn’t know how to play well with others– still don’t, honestly– but Vivvie seemed happy with me, just as I was. Now I’m doing extra work at school because my guidance counselor thinks it’ll help me deal with the grief. Kids who never looked my way shot me second glances, not the kind that made me feel appreciated. Others whispered to one another when I passed by. None of them said a word, not even a, “Sorry for your loss.” I knew what they’re thinking. I think it as well.

    I was in the accident, too. I should have saved her.

    Better yet, it should have been me.

    Mom’s been extra clingy lately, the only person who’s glad I survived. I’m still not sure how and can’t help questioning why. With longer mixed martial arts sessions, I shouldn’t have any time for this grieving business. But it’s there. Nothing I do fills the void. The absence is unbearable. Her smile, her laughter, her head on my shoulder whenever she wanted to talk. I never realized I’d miss the smell of apricot shampoo so badly.

  • Title: Dawn of Emotions

    Genre: YA High Fantasy

    I don’t really care about all of this, but hey, it’s an easy grade. This assignment is about somebody who’s made an impact on my family before I was born. I just want to get this done, so here’s the jist of it. This little girl was picked up by my now dead uncle. He loved her, or so I was told. He had my mother take care of her while he was away doing whatever. Then he died, and left the little kid with mom. Then the girl died because she wasn’t a human. She wasn’t important, but people thought she was. I don’t care. Just fail me already. I hate this class anyway.

    Okay….So. That didn’t go well. I failed the class, and then mom got mad, so now I had to go see an oracle to see the entire story from when my uncle met the little girl to when she died. I had to write down everything I see and hear. Let the suck begin.

    So I finally made it to the oracle point that mother had arranged for me. It’s close to home, so mother would know if I ever came there. I was stuck there, so I might as well have done what I was supposed to. It wasn’t going to be a very pleasant experience, but it’s much better than just doing nothing for three hours.

  • Title: The Blinded Gardener

    Genre: Y/A Contemporary (edgy)

    Danny

    One moment I’m my Dad’s personal punching bag, and the next, well, I’m a pawn in his maniacal master plan. That is, until Danny stepped into the picture and discovered my secret.

    Dad forced me to move across the country, and once again, I found myself at a new school, the third in two years. It sucked having a dad in the military.

    The warning bell rang for first period. The halls cleared with the slamming of doors. As I wandered about searching for my classroom, I heard someone approach me from behind. I turned and saw a blond guy walking up the center of the hallway. Long bangs fell over his eyes as he loped past me with a kind of natural ease.

    How blind is this guy? Didn’t he see me standing here, fiddling with this useless map.

    “Hey, dude. Could you tell me how to get to room 305?”

    A slight curl formed on his lips as he faced me. He tossed his head. Platinum fringe shifted to the side and revealed freakish blue eyes that glanced toward me, unfocused.

    Holy shit! Is he blind? Stoned is more like it.

    “I’m heading that way.” His deep voice held a trace of a southern accent.

    He turned and continued his long strides.

    I envied his height: well over six feet and me just an average dude.

    “You better move. Connors loses it when you’re late.”

    I rushed to catch up to him. His hand overshot the rickety metal banister.

  • Title: BECOME
    Genre: YA Dark Urban Fantasy

    If he weren’t Father’s right-hand man, Akaros would be dead. I clenched my fists, felt the nails bite my flesh. Akaros shook with laughter—but instead of retaliating, I pulled ragged breaths through my burning throat.

    “Stop holding yourself back, Desolation.” Akaros’ voice boomed through the featureless, black training room. I pressed my toes onto the smooth floor so I wouldn’t topple over. Every part of my body yearned to fight, and I poured all of my anger into a fiery gaze. I could have unleashed the heat of a thousand suns upon him, but I didn’t—it would have been nothing to him, anyway.

    “Yes, yes,” Akaros soothed, walking around me, sizing me up. “Use that rage, feed me your anger—Become.”

    His command threatened to shake my conviction. My shadow-self strained within me, yearning to break free. And yet, I resisted.

    Years of training, and still I resisted.

    It was the one form of rebellion Father, who commanded all within our cold and fiery realm, despised. He worked tirelessly to break me, to drive me to embrace the demon within. Akaros, a demon of the First Order and father of the Spartans, had been my personal tutor since I could walk. He inflicted an endless torment of mental and physical conditioning designed to make me burn as bright as my father.

    But my father was the last thing I wanted to become.

    So I stood and let Akaros circle me, every cell of my being focused on gauging his presence, the movement of his body, waiting for the millisecond of warning before he struck.

  • Title: JUMP BOYS
    Genre: MG Sci Fi

    I watched in silence as the tiny, metallic spider climbed up Val’s pant leg, and up his body toward his face. It was programmed to climb up his nose—but I doubted it would get that far.

    “Ahh!” Val shrieked and stood so fast his chair fell back with a clatter. “You skunker! What’d you do that for, Jayce?” I was pretty sure Val’s eyes would be shooting laser beams at me right about then—good thing no one had invented that tech yet.

    I gave my usual one-shouldered shrug—a move I’d perfected and claimed as my own around the same time Val decided he would be the hyperactive do-everything-best twin. “At least we know my spider works.”

    “Ha. Any bot could climb up someone’s leg. Pretty ’fused programming if you ask me.”

    “It would have climbed up your nose if you hadn’t freaked out like a girl.”

    “I did not freak out.” Val stood maybe one foot away from me, staring me down while I continued to sit, calmly, in my chair. His face turned red, which made his freckles pop out. I felt this little thrill of power—and at the same time wanted to take it all back. I didn’t exactly enjoy hassling Val, he just made it pretty impossible not to.

    “Super nova alert,” I said under my breath. Well, sort of under my breath. I might have said it more like a whisper—just the right amount of volume to give the impression of whispering while really going after the desired effect of . . .

  • Title: THE SWIFT
    Genre: MG Fantasy

    The house held its breath, quaking a little after Henry slammed the bedroom door. I pressed the pillow over my head, trying to shut out the “discussion” Mom and Dad were having downstairs. The old house couldn’t keep a secret even if it tried.

    “Charlie, what did you think was going to happen? No job, no money—no house!” The pillow did nothing to mute the screech in Mom’s voice. I could hear her rattling every pot in the tiny old clapboard kitchen, opening every drawer, stomping around like a bear.

    Dad’s muted reply whispered up the stairs. “I didn’t know. I swear to you, I didn’t know.” I pictured him sitting at the peeling Formica table, his head in his hands. “I didn’t think they’d touch the house. I thought, if nothing else, we’d always have this place. A roof over our heads. A home.”
    Henry groaned from his bed on the other side of the room and I stole a glance from under my pillow. A second later a Lego pirate flew at my head.

    “Quit staring at me, freak,” Henry growled.

    Without thinking, I grabbed the pirate off the bed and flung it, hard, at Henry. It hit him on the forehead, and bounced onto the collection of pirates and ships on Henry’s nightstand. The ships fell to the ground and broke apart on the hardwood floor.

    “Look what you did!” Henry jumped to the ground and gathered up the pieces.

    “I hate you!”

  • Jen

    Title: In the Shadow of the Dragon King
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    “Nightmares are terrible enough when they invade the safe confines of our dreams They are even more unpleasant when they decide to hang around like annoying house guests and wreak havoc on our conscious minds”.~ Islabelle Fenton, The Imaginarium Solarium

    Chapter 1

    David Heiland put the final touches on the amber, cat-like eyes staring back at him from his drawing.

    Just like in his nightmares, the dragon clung to the castle’s battlement, a body clutched in one talon. Small horns jutted from the top of its head and two leather-like whiskers protruded from both sides of its snout. Crouched in the shadow of a turret were a man and a woman. Their arms were raised like shields above their heads, terror etched into their eyes and mouths.

    Charlotte leaned in from behind, her arms folded across his shoulders. “That is so creepy. I can’t get over how real it looks.” She kicked off her shoes and climbed into the center of the carved, four-poster bed. “Who are those two people supposed to be?”

    “My parents,” David said, adding a few lines to the beast’s tail.

    “No way. That’s so twisted.”

    No kidding, David thought, slumping back in his chair. “You know, it’s funny. When I was a little kid, I used to have all these amazing dreams of them being alive. Now all I dream about is this and my mom telling me my time is nigh and I have to be brave.” The drawing floated from his hand to the desk.

  • Title: Blindspot
    Genre: YA Urban Dystopia

    Chapter One

    petepetepetepete

    I adjusted my headlamp to shine directly onto the rusted out mailbox. Lights blazed past me and out the door. None hesitated. And why would they? I didn’t know why I still checked for mail. Optimism? Not quite. A vague belief that things would just get better without any help from me? Maybe. Regardless. Here I was. Turning the key so hard that I braced for it to snap.

    I mean, I still expected to see the sun every morning. Clearly, I was delusional.

    The door to my mail slot popped open. Key still intact. I fished around inside. Nothing. I pulled out my hand, and it brushed against something folded along the steel side of the mailbox. I snatched my hand back as if it had been bitten by a spider—a scenario which, after all, held the higher statistical probability. I leaned down to shine my light into the black box. Empty. Had I imagined it?

    That wouldn’t exactly have been out-of-character either.

    I stuck my hand back in. I felt crumpled, thick paper. I slowly dragged out a white envelope and turned it over. The glare of my lamp pooled shiny blankness over the envelope. I tilted my head slightly away so I could read the envelope. My name. My address. The black ink stung my eyes. Computer generated? Typeset in an achingly familiar font. I shivered. Fonts. I thought those had gone extinct.

    My thumb felt a familiar oblong divot in the crumpled paper. A Bot had delivered this?

  • Title: Reality’s Heroes
    Genre: Urban Fantasy

    The prophecy said that five would save the world.

    I’m James McDonagle, and I was number eleven hundred and thirty three.

    This is my story.

    ***********

    It was my fifteenth birthday. Forgotten, just like my fourteenth. My parents had a bad habit of remembering important dates a week too late. I figured a few days would pass before they’d noticed the calendar where I’d written, “JAMES’S B-DAY!!!” in blocked red letters. Then they’d go out and buy me something expensive and act as if they’d planned it that way.

    Surprise.

    Anyway, my parents weren’t home, meaning I had to babysit my little brother, Archibald (It’s a dumb name, I know. I call him Baldy). He was watching a cartoon that I couldn’t stand. It was about some yellow kangaroo that called everything “kooky.” He refused to turn the channel. And since the world would end if Baldy got upset, the TV was stuck on suck. Not that I was paying attention or anything like that. When the TV played crap, I sat my butt in the recliner and did my best to zone out.

    I had a book in my hand, which one, I can’t remember. It was probably some story about a secret magic school, or a kid with super-hero parents, or something like that. Those were the only things I’d read about. But I wasn’t reading it at that moment. More like I had my page held with my finger and was pretending that I had parents who cared about their son’s birthday.

  • Title: Speaking of You
    Genre: YA Contemporary

    Chapter One

    “Excuses are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink.” –Grandpa

    You avoided getting a summer job for three reasons: 1. you’re lazy 2. you had prior obligations and 3. you try your hardest not to listen to your parents. Sitting on the toilet, you ponder these truths.

    1. Yes, you are lazy, but you’re lazy with class. You bathe and workout. You wear Axe body spray and hold doors for the ladies. You work hard on your material, and it pays off – everyone laughs at your jokes.

    2. Video games. Parties. Video games. Sleep. Video games. You were very busy this summer. There was no time to “Gussy up and head to the mall and ask for applications” like your mom asked you to do on a daily basis. You were too busy. So busy, in fact, you didn’t have time to fill out the day planner your dad bought you. That was supposed to be the proof that you were trying. Well, you weren’t.

    3. Your parents are wrong 99% of the time. “Allen, do this, Allen, do that, and everything else will fall into place.” Well, you listened to them for the first sixteen years of your life and look where that got you.

    There’s only one person who led you in the right direction and that was Grandpa. You miss him and wish he were still here to tell you what to do. And then you realize he would’ve told you to get a job.

    Dammit, someone forgot to change the roll. Oh yeah, it was you.

  • Title: The Lion Within
    Genre: YA Sci Fi

    Insects were scattered across the outside of the shower curtain. Renna ignored them, and focused on the inconsistent stream of water splashing her head. The shower would only last a few minutes, and her lengthy mane of hair took most of the water to clean. She had her mother’s thick locks, and despite the inconvenience, she wouldn’t dream of cutting it short. Every time she brushed it she reminded herself, like a mantra, she wasn’t her mother. Only five more showers in Kenya, she thought, and then she, and her dad, would return to California to start her junior year in high school.

    The last soap suds rinsed away just before the water ran out. After two years in Africa, Renna had the timing down to the second. She grabbed her towel and tapped the curtain. Bugs took to the air or fell to the ground. All but one departed, an insect the size of Renna’s pointer finger. She tried to flick the straggler off multiple times but it wouldn’t budge. With her usual curiosity she moved to the other side of the curtain to take a closer look. The beetle was bright purple with long antennae. She’d never seen one like it. She leaned in to admire its textures. Paper thin, iridescent wings were folded across its flat back.

    It tilted its head to look at her and then took flight, bouncing off her cheek.

    Startled, Renna shrieked, and fell backwards hitting her funny bone against the wooden divider that served as a wall.

  • Title: The Other Prince
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    After an hour of drills, Prince Bob felt like a rug on beating day. Repeatedly falling off a horse will do that to you.

    Instead of concentrating on the exercise, he debated excuses to get out early so he could sneak off to the library. Forgot to make his bed? Ate some turned meat at lunch? Or should he keep it simple by fainting?

    “Go!” Commander Peter called.

    The line of cavalrymen shot forward. Bob dug in his heels, already several paces behind. He raised his sword, leaned in to strike . . . and miscalculated. Again.

    Bob struck air. His balance shifted, and the dummy smacked him in the head. For the fourth time that day, he landed flat on his back.

    Laughter echoed from his comrades. Mostly cousins.

    “Did the big, bad dummy fight back?” Friederick called.

    Bob sucked in the pain that pulsed from his body and forced a grin. “Is that you, Friederick? Huh.” He jerked a thumb toward the dummy. “I could have sworn that was you.”

    Friederick dismounted with a thud and rounded on Bob. “You little—”

    A shadow passed overhead and a blast of wind struck Bob. He stumbled backward and in a glance, he forgot about his cousin. A black dragon hovered above the training fields: powerful wings spread as wide as the training field; talons glinting in the sun; green eyes boring into his soul.

    Bob screamed. “Dragon!” He pointed at the sky above Friederick.

  • TITLE: Knights of Avalon
    GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

    A fencing champion destined for the Olympics, a martial arts prodigy, an organizer for Habitat for Humanity. Someone was murdering the brightest, most brilliant teens in New Jersey. Now in the middle of the night, the persistent ringing of my cell phone broke me out of my sleep.

    I scrambled to get my bearings in the darkness. I was in my bedroom, the Bruce Lee posters on the walls told me that much. Through bleary eyes, I could see the alarm clock shining 3:11 back at me. I froze, shaking off the last remnants of sleep. Why would someone be calling at 3am ? I peered at the phone, trying to place the number. Then I took a deep breath and picked up. “Hello?”

    “Hi, Justine. I’m sorry to be calling so late.” I immediately recognized the shaky voice on the other end of the line, it was my best friend’s Mom, Mrs. Martinez, but I had never heard her sound like this. “Gwen’s not with you, is she?”

    My mouth dropped, the question a punch to the gut. Three in the morning on a school night. A murderer on the loose, cutting down the best kids in the state. And Gwen? She was the most incredible person I had ever met. She had an inner light, a compassion that shone like a beacon, and now she was missing.

    “No,” I said, my mind racing with possibilities, each one more horrible than the last. “Why would she be?”

  • Title: NONE SO BLIND
    Genre: YA Romantic Suspense

    Chapter One: Christian vs. the Stowaway

    I always thought making life or death decisions would be more dramatic. Thrilling. Like something from a movie. I should have known better.

    Last week, I chose death. It didn’t work out.

    Today, I chose life. And that meant leaving.

    I tossed the last of my gear into the back of my Range Rover. The car my father gave me just after I turned sixteen. That was over a year ago. He hadn’t spoken to me since. Maybe I should have felt guilty for using it to ditch him, but I didn’t. Just because he had a son didn’t mean he wanted one.

    In ten minutes, I arrived at my first stop. The cemetery. I pulled in and followed the wide curve of the lane until I came to a huge cedar tree. I grabbed the cellophane wrapped flowers I bought at the gas station and wove my way through the forest of headstones to my mother’s grave.

    I’d sat here many times, telling her about Dad, how he hated me, and how my life was messed. It never changed anything, but I felt better—for a few days at least. I barely remembered her now.

    More than anything, I remembered after she died. When Dad checked out and never really came back. At least not to me. For him, it was like I didn’t exist.

    And now the time had come to make that a reality. How else could I avoid a repeat of last week’s lapse in judgment?

  • Title: THE GLASS PRINCE
    Genre: YA – Magical Realism

    Today was the one time a year we set three place settings instead of two. I took the plates from the hutch in the living room, then blew off dust and stacked them on the side table. I took down the sparkling cider goblets next. The third goblet lingered in my hands. I fingered the small chip on the rim. Dad’s goblet had the only blemish in the whole set.

    He’d dropped it one time, sixteen years ago.

    Dizziness hit like a brick and I fell back into an armchair. Dad’s goblet slipped from my fingers and onto the floor. Strange images started to pop in front of my face. It was as if some phantom turned page after page of a photo album too close to my eyes. I shoved my head into the chair cushion and scanned the room for Mr. Personal-space invader. I wanted to see how he managed to juggle those images in one hand, while whacking me senseless with the other. My head ached something fierce. But, I was definitely alone in the living room. I still heard Mom tinkering in the kitchen. I tried to blink the images and the pain away.

    Blink one. The leather chair I curled up in turned into some gaudy four-poster bed.

    Blink two. I sat in my chair again.

    Blink three. I recognized the white-steel front door. Mom’s ugly dried-flower wreath hung from it.

    Blink four. The door changed to a gray plank with a nail sticking out of the middle, and dipped candles on a string hung there.

  • Title: Graceful Death
    Genre: YA Paranormal

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

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

    Not in the damn hallway, anywhere but here.

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

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

    I ready a sharp nasty comment, but the sight of him stops me. I grow colder still. At first I think he’s dressed in all black, some emo kid, maybe hoping to get off on witnessing my meltdown, but the chill that pricks my spine warns of something different. Dangerous.

  • Title: Angel
    Genre: YA Supernatural thriller

    Chapter One: Exile

    It started with the beef noodles and ended with a flying baseball. Not a totally bad ending to the school year. Almost the norm if it hadn’t ended up with Angel sitting outside the nurse’s office instead of in the principal’s office. She was definitely in big trouble.

    “What happened this time?” Mrs. Margot asked, cracking an ice pack and setting it gently on her eye.

    Angel winced, preferring something for her wounded pride. “He started it.” A part truth in the scheme of things.

    Mrs. Margot raised a brow and cocked her head. “He?”

    Angel smirked. Her favorite person in Hell High, the nurse, counselor, and all around good gal when it came to kids with high emotional needs, Mrs. Margot calmed Angel…most of the time. “What kind of guy would hit a girl?”

    “A guy defending his right to live…maybe?”

    “That’s an overstatement don’t you think?”

    “Not when it comes to you.” Mrs. Margot leaned her small, solid frame against the wall opposite Angel and folded her arms in front of her. “Did he really hit you?”

    Matthew Tyler, jock extraordinaire, had thrown Angel a baseball after she bumped into his girlfriend, sending almost a ton of beef onto the front of her crisp white cheer uniform. It had been an accident. And it was only a serving of beef, though to the lovely uniform it didn’t matter.

  • Title: The Demon Chronicles: Prophecy
    Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

    Crimson splattered across everything. A stream of it trickled through the room, filling it with its metallic bitterness. Walking slowly toward where it was coming from, she gasped. A hand lay lifeless in the deadly river. Her eyes refused to look at his face, but she knew he was dead. A single tear fell down her cheek as she heard the demonic laughter behind her. At that moment she knew she was the one who ended his life.

    A scream ripped from her throat as she jolted awake. It was just another dream. Taisie Monahan thought to herself breathlessly as she lay back down and tried to push the nightmare from her mind. Since her mother’s death, they had been coming more frequently than normal. She never saw who was dead or the one who made her kill him, and she prayed she never did. They were bad enough already. She didn’t think she could take anything more.

    The big red numbers on the digital clock flashed 1:00 A.M. Her eyes adjusted to its light after a minute making her let out a loud sigh. “Ugh. Really?” She pulled the comforter over her head and listened to the rain dancing on the roof, hoping she would drift into a dreamless sleep this time. In six short hours she had to face her real worst nightmare. First day of school.

    ***

    A sea of Forever 21 and American Eagle flowed Taisie’s direction as she fought her way up the sidewalk of Saint Isabel High.

  • Cat

    Title: Terry and the Folding Rule of Time
    Genre: MG fantasy with time travel

    Second bell for science — I hated old Bodger on the best of days but most of all on a Monday morning. I slammed the door of my locker hard enough that it bounced open again, and the magnetic name tag fell out.

    TERESA ROOTS — Mom’s idea.

    She thought it would remind my schoolmates that I am not a boy despite my close cropped hair and chin-length bangs. As if anyone had ever done that. I picked the name tag up and stuck it back inside. Chewing on a straw-colored strand of my hair, I closed my locker more gently and sauntered to our classroom. I looked forward to seeing old Bodger’s face when he plopped onto a cold, wet chair. I smiled a little. Not too much. That would alert him, and he’d guess right away it was me who snuck into class before first bell. I eased into my chair, stretching my gangly legs, feeling smug and satisfied until the door opened.

    Old Bodger hadn’t come. I felt as if a pail of ice cold water ran down my spine when the principal entered instead. His slumped, mousy appearance faded from my mind as I watched the lady that came with him. She was nearly a head taller than the principal. Gorgeous black hair flowed in waves to her waist and framed a perfect face. I remember dad telling me that a symmetric face didn’t exist, but here it was. I forced myself to close my mouth

  • Title: CHICK MAGNET
    Genre: YA Paranormal

    There are fifty reasons my mind should be on school today, but Susan Milton should not be one of them.

    I should be thinking Northside and their defensive line, the one that racks up ten QB sacks a game. I should be running through Coach’s five new plays—the ones the Monarchs won’t see on the scouting tapes. I should think about how David and I are going to get a keg for the beach after the game. Or how if I don’t play the game of my life, we won’t even need one.

    Maybe I should focus on my senior project.

    Or the Pre-Calc test I have in thirty minutes.

    But I just can’t get my mind off her.

    Ever since she glided into English on the first day of school, I haven’t been able to focus on much else. And not just because Susan Milton’s the hottest chick I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, she is: tight little body, sexy smile, shiny blond hair that smells like the jasmine in Mom’s garden. She has a habit of wearing these low cut tops, and if she bends over just right, I almost get a free show. But God, her voice. The way she recites poetry, it’s like she’s singing—just to me. I used to hate English. Now I hate that I have to wait until third period for my new favorite class.

    But Susan Milton is forbidden. Off limits. I can’t have her.

    And unfortunately I can get practically anybody.

  • Title: School of the Guardians
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Eight miles from Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs.

    No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide. The adults in the group hung on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

    Though not tall, and despite his high-pitched voice, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . “

    There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if the boulders were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground, and they treated it as such, much to the exasperation of Ralph and the security guard.

    All save one boy who appeared to be sniffing the stones.

  • Title: Bodyguarding Evil
    Genre: YA Fantasy
    A thin line of drool was dripping down from a foot long tusk and almost fell on my head. I hate drool. I guess no one really likes drool, but this slobber is even worse than what people imagine when they first think of saliva. It is thicker than most slimes and it has a green hue to it. As horrible as the drool is the drooler is even worse. Imagine an ugly hairy walrus but instead of the tusks pointing down they point up. Then put this hairy ugly walrus head on top of a giant man. The drool is falling off this ugly walrus face because it is mad. Luckily for me I am not the object of this madness. I am just a measly little assistant. I am no more than a gopher.
    So what is a little assistant doing next to a salivating walrus headed giant? I am the assistant of the person Mr. Ugly is looking at. My boss used to be a bounty hunter. He was paid to hunt down anything weird or unusual that needed to be brought before the AHT. The Alternate Human Tribunal. The governing body of all Alternate Humans. Alternate Humans is the politically correct term for anything supernatural. Ugly walrus head is an Alternate Human. I am not sure what type but I am sure he is one. Vampires, ghosts, werewolves, zombies and the like are all Alternate Human life forms. I helped him hunt, track and sometimes kill these Alternate Humans.

  • Title: I’m Game
    Genre: YA Sci-Fi

    The com on my bedroom wall buzzes, spitting out the voice of my best friend Tag. “Dodge, you there?”

    I don’t want to extract myself from my bunk’s covers to answer. The heating’s broken for the second time this winter, which means there’s no way to ward off the chill leaking in around my window.

    Despite my total lack of response, Tag keeps talking. “I know you’re there, bud. Sitting in your bunk and trying to ignore me. Don’t think you’re getting away with it – I’m gonna keep talking until you answer, and I will get steadily more annoying.” A pause. “Yes, that was a threat.”

    I roll my eyes to the stained ceiling. Tag’s not kidding, either – he’ll go on for hours if I don’t shut him up.

    I slide out of my bunk. The icy air calls the hair on the back of my neck to attention, and my fingers rub the goosebumps away, trailing over the microchip beneath my hair.

    I kick my way through the clutter on my floor and slap my hand onto the wall-com. The cold of the silver disk eats away the heat of my palm. “Yeah,” I say. “What’s going on?”

    “There you are,” Tag says. “A few of the guys wanna go out. You coming?”

    I’m tempted to say no. If I go, they’ll ask me what I’m going to pitch.

    Tag pitched Army. I knew he’d do it – it’s a rich kid thing. When they pitch, they get their extras plugged under their natural-born arms, one more arm on each side.

  • Title: The Girl with Brown Eyes
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    At twelve years and not old enough for a title, the Boy kept his focus on himself, but he stopped his daily walk through the cemetery at a sight even he could not ignore.

    “You shouldn’t do that.” He narrowed his eyes and glared with all the indignation called for in such a situation.

    “Do what?” The target of his fury, a girl no older than he, swung her legs back and forth. She had brown eyes, but as for her other features, he had not taken the time to notice them. He found something else far more interesting.

    “What you’re doing, sitting on that headstone there.”

    “And why shouldn’t I?” Her question seemed genuine, but the Boy could not fathom how she could not see the issue with her actions.
    “Because. Someone died there.”

    The Brown-Eyed Girl brushed an orange leaf from the headstone. “No they didn’t. Not one of these people died here. They all died at home in their beds, or abroad in the world, or wherever it suited the world best to have them die.”

    The Boy paused in surprise at her response, but could not deny she was right. “Well, I’m sure that person doesn’t want you sitting on his headstone.”

    “Oh, I’m quite certain she doesn’t mind.”

    The Boy jolted. Who did she think she was? He puffed up his chest. “And how can you be so certain?”

    She ran her fingers through her hair and shook it loose. “Because,” she said, “this headstone is mine.”

  • Title: Hellfire
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

    Avery was fully dressed, under a sheet, and felt more exposed than if she were naked. Even if she were checked on, she could pretend to be asleep. There wouldn’t be any reason for her covers to be ripped back, revealing her intentions, but the sleeveless top and jeans she had on felt like a traitorous beacon, calling out. She laid flat on her back, staring through the darkness with the summer heat pressing down on her.

    She couldn’t be early-standing out in the dark alley alone would be stupid. And if she was discovered to be out of bed, she’d be caught before Megan could pick her up. Being caught meant bruises and being locked in her room for a week, if she was lucky.

    She couldn’t be late, either. Megan would wait for a minute, maybe two before creeping away, thinking Avery was unable to escape and not wanting to draw any unwanted attention.

    The light from across the hall that leaked under Avery’s door had gone out forty-three minutes ago.

    Please let her be asleep by now.

    Six minutes to go.

    She had to move now, or she wouldn’t have enough time to get the window open and the screen out without feeling rushed and making noise. The edges of panic nipped at her, but she knew from experience that if she allowed it to take hold, it would be harder to think and even harder to react. Her life had taught her this, and more than anything she wanted control over her fear.

  • Title: The Moongate
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Maybe it was weird for a sixteen-year-old girl to still be afraid of the dark, but everyone has their phobias. Actually, I was fine with normal darkness–but when you mixed in wind and trees, I’d start to freak out. I blamed my grandma for that.

    There was this ghost story she would tell my brother Drew and me when we were kids. Of course, a few years ago I’d stopped believing in ghosts. Or in the story that, to this day, she swore was true. But when the wind came howling up out of the trees, I found my skepticism wavering…

    The door of the coffee shop rattled. I looked out the window, then jumped up, slamming my book shut. The clouds were already darkening to lead-gray, streaked with purple and pink at the edges.

    The cashier shot me a perky smile from behind the counter. “Leaving already, Nissa?”

    I barely heard her as I stuffed the book into my backpack and tossed out the remainder of my hot chocolate. Waving goodbye over my shoulder, I pushed the door open and hurried out into the gusty evening.

    The air smelled like pine and chimney smoke. I stuffed my hands into my jacket pockets and quickened my pace, dashing across the street to the empty field in front of the trees. The tall yellow grass lashed against my knees. I already knew I wasn’t setting foot in the woods with the wind whipping up the branches like this.

  • Title: The Demon Sword
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    In the dim lamplight of the cabin, the man’s fingers curled around his dagger. He slammed its point into the edge of a piece of parchment, pinning it to the table.

    In the shadows behind him, Heiren Delaire watched her father with uncertainty. The cold of the night raised goosebumps on her skin. She shivered. “What are you doing?”

    He didn’t answer.

    She clutched an arm with her trembling fingers and stepped forward, letting her green eyes trail over the black ink as it curved and flowed into lakes, rivers, and mountains. A map. The tiny dashes trailed from her home in the Kadian Mountains northward to the walled city of Beniin, and farther. A trail to a sword of miracles.

    Of course. Her father would be obsessed with a thing of legend. A sword that doesn’t even exist. “The map’s a fake, you know.” Heiren combed her tangled hair with calloused fingers, watching him. “I don’t understand why you bought it.”

    Still he did not reply.

    “You want to use the sword to bring Mother back, don’t you?”

    He turned his head a little, and his greasy black hair fell over his eyes. He listened now, she knew, but refused to acknowledge her. Like he did when he fell from his depression into one of his manic states. When he stopped listening to reason.

    Heiren folded her arms.

    “You’re a fool if you think Erhistaut can bring back the dead.”

  • Title: BLUE GHOST
    Genre: YA Futuristic

    Isabell wanted to storm into her mama and auntie’s bedroom and tell them the truth. Tell them that she had planned to run off and say, “I do” to the man her mama hated. Instead, she stood at the top of the stairs, gawking at their closed door and wondering why they hadn’t stopped her. She guessed they couldn’t. They had no idea that she desired to marry William. Maybe they did and wanted her to believe they had no clue. Or maybe she would actually get away with this.

    Her body flared with a mixture of excitement and fear. Her sister had the rebellious spirit—not her. She clutched the handle of the suitcase with wariness. She was seventeen, legal, and allowed to do whatever she wanted, right? Her mama didn’t scare her.

    The whisper of felt slippers scuffed against the hardwood floors and a plump shadow moved near the entrance of their room. The suitcase slipped out of her sweaty hand, landing with a thump. She grabbed the handle of her bag. Had her mama heard the noise? So maybe she scared her a little.

    She stared at the doorknob, hoping it wouldn’t turn. If it did, then what? Run? Cry? Her pulse galloped, and she waited for her mama to move or do something.

    Finally, the scent of blown out candle wafted through the air. Isabell crept to her room across the hall, then shut the door, leaned against it, and closed her eyes.

    “What took you so long?”

  • Title: Erth Won
    Genre: MG SF

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

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

    “I—,” Morgan choked out, and “gotta” stuck in his throat. He felt his face flush with effort. “Crap!” He rolled his eyes. That wasn’t even close to what he meant.

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

    Morgan felt heavier instead of lighter as he dropped his own pack. He’d never fooled Loa since they met at scout camp two years ago. Why test 200 pounds worth of muscle-bound protection? Glasses disguised Morgan’s long eyelashes, but not the pointy ears that made him a bully’s target. At least only the stupid ones called him “Ear-fart” instead of Earhart when Loa was around.

    Mystified by his own behavior, Morgan knew something very strange gripped him, pulling him up through leafless trees and brush, over slippery fallen logs and around frozen rocks. Nothing was worth losing Loa’s friendship, yet Morgan didn’t want to stop climbing. Besides, he couldn’t.

  • Title: SuperNintendo Geek Girl Adventures
    Genre: Pop Fantasy

    School. The blackly brown Plague imitating lawless authority, a self-sex-having abomination that poops out children of dismal origin and names itself the narcissistic mother of our mournful civilization.
    School! By god! Even a supreme, all-seeing entity such as I– am forced to hurled out the few planets I ate for breakfast today… for this self-sexing entity makes destiny-destruction an innovation by strapping long, ungodly things upon their waist to ferment rough love by night and, by day, serve the blackest of academia into the rear-ends of innocent, youthful victims of scholasticism.
    “God save the Christian!” said Rina, fire engulfing her hands, “Can’t I just repent by hating him?! O Jesus can’t it be that easy?”
    Leodie’s milk box was in his lips, his throat stopped at mid-gulp, “Uuh, you talkin’ ‘bout that boy behind you?”
    He clearly saw Rina’s heart explode in her eyes just before she turned around, only to see nothing but Sterd the nerd pass by.
    “Made ya look!”
    “You’re so GAY!” She frightened Leodie, unaware of her passionate regret!
    She laid back on the seat, staring at the glary lights, “save me…”
    “Yo!” An Asian face intruded, “you look like you just peed the bed or something.”
    “Etna!” Rina sat up, liberating herself(and Leodie) from any more anguish.
    “Herro,” greeted Leodie.
    “Screw you,” Etna middle fingered.
    “No, no, not today.”
    “Alright Rin-chan,” began Etna, “what was SO spectacular that you called me up 3am last night?”

  • Title: The Ash Plague
    Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

    The soldiers locked Flynn’s family in the house and set it on fire in the night.

    Climbing through the cracks of the shattered door, Flynn grabbed his four-year-old sister from his mother’s battered hands and ran from the flames, the cracks too small for his parents to escape through. He flew down the fire-lit streets of the snowy mountain town and struggled to stay upright amongst the bloody slush beneath his feet. His country’s army, dressed in bronze and green, trampled through the streets between the houses and snatched up the people running from their burning homes while those still trapped in their houses screamed and thrashed against the walls.

    Gagging on the smoke, Flynn held her closer to his chest and skidded onto the last street of the town, ducking under an arrow and slipping on the ice. Another arrow flew by his face as his sister sobbed into his shoulder. Her hands clutched his neck and hair.

    Laughter rang out behind him. He turned and saw his elderly neighbors, dead and splayed out in the dull red snow filling their basement doorway. The laughing soldiers kicked the bodies back into the smoke-filled basement. Flynn blinked and turned away. Skidding across the ice, he twisted his body and darted between two shouting soldiers standing between him and the safety of the woods. His sister screamed.

    For the briefest moment when she raised her head, he could see her eyes, wide and unimaginably green in the firelight. He ran faster, away from whatever had caught her sight.

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Title: Diamond Wars
    Genre: YA Dystopian

    Spartans were bred to fight and kill. Parents eliminated children born weak. War brought honor and glory, but from the moment I arrived at the War Zone with my unit, I knew I’d never make a good Spartan. It wasn’t because I was a girl—Taylee and Shera fought as well as the guys. No, I must have missed out on some kind of Spartan gene.

    The back of my neck prickled and I snapped up my head, searching for whatever had set off my internal alarm. I maintained formation, my gaze scanning the desert terrain—thorny plants, sun-bleached rocks, a thin, green shrub pretending to be a tree.

    We entered a ravine and everyone slowed, alert for signs of enemy attack. This was the perfect area for ambush. We knew it and our enemies knew it.

    Ahead of me, Captain Ary pulled out his sword. Behind me, Hulk’s sword made a soft, metallic shing as he drew it. I reached for mine, too, my muscles tensed and ready to spring into action.

    A shiver of unease trickled down my backbone. Cold wind whistled around us, throwing dirt in my face. I tugged my hat lower over my eyes and fastened the top button of my scarlet Spartan jacket.

    With all nineteen of us armed, we crept cautiously through the ravine looking for a place to climb so we could lay ambush for the enemy…unless they already waited for us.

  • Title: Keepers of the Flame
    Genre: YA Pre-Dystopian Political Thriller

    Essie stopped.

    Through the clamor of escalating chaos, something screamed at her, demanding her attention.

    But there was no time. The seconds continued their reckless march towards the cataclysmic event she knew was coming and was powerless to stop.

    She shouldn’t stop. She needed to keep running.

    It pulled harder.

    One glance couldn’t hurt . . . right?

    With a shiver, she turned.

    That moment, the earth halted in orbit and time froze. Essie felt the catch slip, closing her old life forever. A new door opened, a wide expanse stretching out in front of her, full of pain.

    “No,” she whispered.

    Too late.

    Essie screamed and recoiled at the flash of brilliant orange light. The earth quivered under her feet and the deafening explosion cracked through the night like a gunshot. In an instant, the monumental stone dome caved, sending a column of black smoke into the atmosphere.

    It wasn’t a minute. It wasn’t even a second. But it felt like eternity.

    Essie watched the figure on the stairs throw his hands protectively over his head. For a brief moment, their eyes met. Essie sobbed. She reached out as if to touch him one final time. His kind eyes held hers, lips parting to whisper a last, silent message.

    I love you.

    The inferno consumed him.

    The explosion hit Essie like a wrecking ball. She gasped, her body blown backwards by the sheer strength of the blast. Essie wasn’t sure how far she flew. She didn’t care.

  • Fate is one of those weird, inexplicable things we spend way too much time trying to make sense of…

    It is Christmas day in 2008, and my mom and I are over at my Aunt Delia’s. We’ve opened our gifts, and stuffed ourselves with a breakfast prepared for us by my Uncle Kendrick. Although he works as a butcher, my Uncle Kendrick is a frustrated chef who can never prepare less than six things at a time, and because everything is delicious, we can’t help but eat it. Now we are lying around the family room, too full to move. Suddenly, my uncle announces that he thinks we should go place fresh flowers on my grandmother’s grave. We all stare at him blankly. “Fresh” would be the operative word here.
    My grandmother died when I was six, and I am now sixteen. I have only been to her gravesite once, when I was seven, and as far as I know, no one has been back since. It’s not as though my grandmother wasn’t loved, because she was. I have heard stories about her hundreds of times over the years, from both my mom and Delia. I have my own memories of baking cookies together and of her taking me to the carousel in Griffith Park. We just live by the theory that she is in our hearts and not the ground. My Aunt Delia and Uncle Kendrick met in high school, and although they are only in their late thirties, they have been married for twenty years.

  • Title: HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT
    Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

    “I’m not gonna sit here locked in a closet all day.” Magellan pulled out of his mother’s grasp as his siblings whimpered behind her.

    “Magellan, come back here.”

    “No. I wanna hear Dad’s speech.” He pressed his cheek to a large crack in the door and closed one eye. Sconces lit the long stone hallway that lead to the auditorium. “I wish I could see or hear something.”

    “Get back mine scum!” A guard threw something against the door, slamming the wood against his face.

    “Ouch,” Magellan rubbed his cheek. “Jerk.”

    Someone called, “Hondren, come see this,” from down the hall.

    Footsteps clomped away, and his mother exhaled loudly. “Magellan, your father said…”

    “I know what he said.” Magellan furled his eyebrows. Right before they locked us in here. He flicked a bug from the stone wall beside him. I’m not a baby anymore. I want to help.

    He ran his fingers across the locking plate. Flames flashed across the metal, spinning and swirling around it. What was that? Nothing was in the room to cause a reflection. He reached for the lock again, and the bolt fell right into his hand. What the… The door swung open. What is going on?

    He touched the doorframe, and his mother gasped. “Magellan Talbot. Don’t you dare!”

    Magellan smiled. Four toddlers weighed her down. What was she going to do?

    “What if you run into the King?” she asked.

    “Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.” He stepped through the door.

  • @ Taryn and Kate – I’m posting Donna’s entry. It was entered on the wrong post. 😀

    donna galanti said…

    OK, here is my official entry post of the 1st 250 words of Joshua and the Lightning Road. Thanks to all who helped me edit it!:

    I was twelve the summer that lightning stole my best friend.

    Lightning. Pretty amazing stuff, right? Sure, if you don’t know any better like everyone else. But not me.

    And if you’re a kid reading this who thinks lightning is awesome, think again. When it strikes you better not be alone. And if it’s nighttime leap out of your bed, run fast down the hallway and jump into your parent’s bed.

    Don’t wait until the Lightning Road gets you, because if it does you may never get home again.

    ###

    My name’s Joshua Cooper and if it hadn’t been raining that August day we might not be here right now talking. About weird stuff like lightning that zaps you without burning you to a crisp. But, it was raining that day. An ordinary day, really. Rain, thunder and lightning. No big deal.

    My new best friend, Finn, was coming over to hang out and spend the night. I say new because we had just moved here to the middle-of-nowhere Byron, New York last month.

    The ‘we’ being, me and my grandfather or ‘Bo Chez’ as I call him. It’s short for the Big Cheese. My grandfather is big. Like a wrestler. His legs are thick tree stumps that pump up and down when he walks. He’s got this thick gray hair that stands straight up too like spiky, metal grass. His hands are stubby baseball mitts that can wrap around my head. I’ve even seen him burst open a cantaloupe by squeezing it in those hands.

  • The Divine
    YA Paranormal Romance

    Em had made up her mind; no explosions, no fights, not tonight. Her objective: to get through her date with Adam without him flipping out, again.

    “Tonight was fun.”

    A smile forced its way to Adam’s lips. “Yeah.”

    Guiding his mother’s red Malibu along the curb, he stopped a few houses short of Em’s, their “good night” spot for the last six months. He turned the key, cutting the engine, leaving them in silence. She knew this would be the hardest part; saying goodbye.

    Em Folded her leg into the seat, half Indian-style, facing him as he leaned back against his head rest. He stretched his arm across the middle console resting the back of his hand on Em’s knee. She slipped her hand in his, letting his long fingers curling around hers. The night had gone perfectly, if only she could make it last a little while longer. She liked having the old Adam back; the one she knew before he lost it over her leaving for the summer.

    “September will be here before you know it. You’re going be busy working for your dad this summer anyway and then football practice…“
    “Yeah,” Adams voice drained of emotion. He fixated on their joined hands, tracing shapes on the back of hers with his thumb.
    Breaking his trance, he lifted his eyes to hers. She caught a glimpse of pain before they tightened with anger.

    “You can’t leave Em.”

    She hated to see him hurting. “Adam. I’m going.”

    “No. I mean, I’m not letting you.”

  • @ Taryn and Kate I’m posting another one that got messed up.

    Jess Huckins said…

    Title: ALL’S FAIR
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Princess Fawn longed to miss her seventeenth birthday party.

    She slipped out of her quarters after the midday meal, while Nona, her maid, sorted through birthday ball gowns in the dressing room. The princess’s royal chambers were six floors above the practice fields behind the palace, which spread down the steep, grassy hill to the great wall that separated the palace grounds from the outskirts of Raven Heights city.

    Fawn ran down the stairs, in too much of a hurry to quiet the clomping of her leather training boots. She could hear her guardsman, Tomas, behind her.

    He stayed by the palace door as Fawn burst out into the crisp autumn air and jogged down the huge hill, her breath puffing out around her face. Lilla of Hawk Ridge, her best friend from court, waited by a grove of shedding oak trees that grew at the edge of a small pond near the wall. If they stayed behind the trees, Nona could not see them from the chamber windows. Lilla ran to meet her, her feet kicking up colored leaves.

    “You escaped! Have you even seen your gown yet?” she asked.

    Fawn snorted.

    “There will be plenty of time for that. Nona will come looking for me before the sun passes the North Tower.” She nodded to the sky. “And the dress will probably be green,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

    “You look lovely in green, you know,” Lilla said. “With your hazel eyes and—”

  • THE CONTEST IS CLOSED. ALL ENTRIES BELOW THIS COMMENT WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED.

    THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE BLOGFEST AND ENTERED THE CONTEST. <3

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