MENTOR: Diana Gallagher

MENTEE: Neely Stansell-Simpson


CATEGORY/GENRE: YA paranormal thriller

WORD COUNT: 82,000



Six days before her birthday, Ruby discovers all the women born into her family die the day they turn 18. To save herself, she must unravel the secrets of a ballad found on a headstone in the family graveyard.



I run my fingertips slowly over the weathered writing on the gravestone: Rosemary, 1676-1727. The air in the graveyard is crisp as an autumn apple; a chill settles into the tip of my nose. Leaves in shades of ochre carpet the ground in varying states of crunchiness, giving off an earthy aroma that perfumes the cool breeze. Summer is long over, and the light of day is fading quickly, making the trees that surround the mountain graveyard look like gnarled, haunted things.

Something at my feet catches the last rays of sun. Snatching it carelessly from the dirt, I hiss through my teeth as the fragment of mirror slices my fingertip. Quickly, I close my fist over the blood and step back before it can drip down onto Rosemary’s grave. There’s no telling if it might be able to reopen the door in the ground.

Staring down at the contents of my hand, I see myself reflected back in the small shard of glass smeared with red. Like Dorothy wandering the Land of Oz, I’d spent my entire life trying to figure out how to get home. As if in slow motion, a ruby droplet rolls from my finger to rain down onto my shoe, leaving a tiny, perfect circle.

It all started with a ballad and my father’s murder.

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