Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fricassee

Hello everyone!

I thought I'd use this week's Friday Fricassee to keep pertinent Baker's Dozen information at the top of the screen.  We're up and running!  Here are a couple of quick clicks for you:

THE EDITORS AND AUTHORS (offering their critique to our 60 entries)

THE CRITIQUING GUIDELINES (as posted yesterday)

Feel free to leave your critique at any time today, through the weekend, or on Monday!  And of course, this comment box is the perfect place for Baker's Dozen banter, so please banter away!


(60) YA Paranormal: Power Struggles

TITLE: Power Struggles
GENRE: YA Paranormal

A revenge-seeking sixteen-year-old attends boot camp to master her telekinesis and protect herself against psyfons—the power-draining psychics responsible for killing her father. Once there, she catches the attention of Jonas, the gorgeous junior trainer whose very presence makes her dizzy and distracted. Could the boy she’s falling for be one of the monsters who killed her father?

Over the past hour, the girl next to me had ignited several small fires with her bare hands.
Our destination was Camp Awakening. Our purpose: to master our powers in two weeks. Get it right, you could end up a hero. Get it wrong, you could end up dead.

I wish I were kidding about the dead part.

I stared at the smoke drifting from the girl’s fingertips. Sure, it was freakishly entertaining, but we didn’t need open flames while crammed into a non-air-conditioned school bus on a sticky July day with nearly fifty other sixteen-year-olds. And it wasn’t like she was the only one on board who could do it.
“Stop it, Erika, you’re gonna get us in trouble,” a girl across the aisle whispered. “There’s no smoking on the bus.”
“Or burning,” I added.           

Erika rubbed her fingertips on her charred jeans and smirked. “What are they gonna do, toss me off? It’s up to them to make sure we get ‘proper’ training,” she said, adding the air quotes. “And I obviously can’t control my power at the moment.”

Power. As in the singular form.

“Hey blondie,” the guy in front of me turned around. “I think you’re hot, too."

I frowned. “Excuse me?”

“I can read you.” He winked.

“You can?” I glared at him and fought off a wave of panic. “How about now?”

“Let’s see.” He shut his eyes for a second. “You think I’m… super dreamy?”

A girl behind me giggled.

(59) YA Alternate History: Abel Pirates

TITLE: Abel Pirates
GENRE: YA Alternate History

To combat piracy in the Caribbean, a desperate solution is instituted: force pirates to surrender by holding their kin hostage. And if they don’t?  Hang their next-of-kin.  

When sixteen-year-old Beatrix is named “next-of-kin” to her pirating grandfather, she seeks refuge at sea, only to discover that the price of freedom might be too high.        

Beatrix was used to keeping her head down in Sheepshank, so it wasn’t until she felt Miss Black tense beside her that she looked up from the uneven cobblestones and spotted him.  A man on horseback in their path of retreat.

He hardly seemed a threat—oily black curls bounced beneath his ridiculously wide-brimmed planter’s hat; an orange feather plume sagged upon his shoulder—but Miss Black considered everyone a threat.  Even ruddy-cheeked fops who couldn’t keep their periwigs on straight.

“Hallo there, Miss Black,” he called with a wave.  “Lost, are you?  Courthouse is in the other direction!”  He laughed, a high-pitched titter, and spurred his horse toward them.

Miss Black stopped Beatrix, taking her by the wrist.  “Not a word,” she instructed quietly, her eyes clouded with worry.

The man was upon them before Beatrix could answer.  Not that Miss Black needed an answer—Beatrix would hardly choose today, of all days, to start conversing with strangers.  But ever since arriving in town and finding the streets dead, Miss Black had been on edge—more so than usual.  The bank had been locked up, and wedged in the door they'd found a hastily scrawled noted: “Closed.  Trial of Billy Cook, accused pirate.”

“But won’t it look suspicious if we miss the trial?” Beatrix had pointed out as Miss Black ushered her briskly toward the path out of town.

“Attend a pirate trial?” Miss Black had said with a humorless laugh.  “Sometimes I think you take it lightly, just how close you are to the hangman’s noose.

(58) YA Historical Fantasy: The Age of Divination

TITLE: The Age of Divination
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

When a young female warrior discovers she has the gift of prophecy, she must undertake a perilous journey to find her sacred circle of stones and proclaim her prophetic truths to the multitudes before a corrupt Roman king and a vengeful demon can silence her,  the ancient world’s last free sibyl.

I watch as thirty soldiers dismount onto our sacred Isle’s shore. One falls, weighed down by his cumbersome armor and it takes him several tries to regain his footing as the waves thrash about him. They are so misplaced in our homeland where the winds never cease, the seas roil constant and colossal stones jut from the earth.

Yet still they come.

I scan the hillside behind me to assure the other girls are concealed and am relieved to see only the tips of their long bows peering out among the tufted reeds.

As the men fumble about, I call to those behind me. “Hold your places while I give them fair warning.”

Upon seeing me, the men begin to let down their guard, more concerned with adjusting their drenched and tangled tunics like prissy maidens.

I come to a stop about twenty hands away from their leader. His full plumaged regalia is now flaccid from the ocean spray and falls limp to the side of his gaudy helmet making him look defeated and pitiful.

I wait.

He gives me the once over, peers up into the hills and asks, “Where are your men?”

I cannot help but roll my eyes. “You are on The Isle of Virgins where no men traipse lest they be fools or allies to our purpose—and I do not recognize you as an ally.”

He scoffs. For to him, I appear to be just a young savage, but soon he will know better.

(57) YA: Margaret Ethel

TITLE: Margaret Ethel

Sixteen-year-old trouble maker Margaret returns from the grave to stop her best friend from committing the seven deadly sins. Failure means spending eternity apart. Margaret will go to Heaven and her friend will go to that other place — you know the one.

It's not every day someone dies in Mr. Sample's sixth period physics class. I guess if Freddie Johnson were telling this story she'd say, "It's not every day you kill your best friend in the Samp's sixth period physics class." But she's not telling this story, I am.

Killed, not murdered. It was an accident. Freddie's crazy, but not psycho-crazy. She doesn't go around willy-nilly killing people. But she is always getting into trouble, which was both great fun for me and a royal pain in my you-know-what.

We were in lab and Mr. Sample was going on about something, but I wasn't listening. I was updating my Facebook page to say I'm now completely and definitely single. Just so you know, we're not supposed to use our cell phones during class or even in the hall, but this was an emergency. Thankfully I did, and just in time. Now Kent Adams will always be remembered as the guy who broke up with me on the day I died. 

Perfect, it's what he deserves. He dumped me at lunch. I was devastated during fourth period, angry in fifth, and over him by sixth. I'm a quick griever. I told him I wasn't ready. I'm barely sixteen and we'd only been dating for three measly little weeks. I guess when it didn't happen at prom, he figured he'd move on. That's fine. Bye-bye. 

(56) YA Urban Fantasy: The Guardian Lineage

TITLE: The Guardian Lineage
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Protect Gargoyles during the daytime? Check. 

Escape from ex-girlfriend trying to kill you? Check.

Figure out if new crush is enemy spy? Um... still pending.

Mike Prior hated it when his girlfriend kicked his butt.
The wind left his lungs as a sharp kick nailed him in the chest. He stumbled backwards, surprised, his bare feet grasping for footing on the carpet. Another roundhouse came, this time aimed at his temple. Mike ducked underneath it. He slipped a hand out of his karategi-sleeve and grabbed Laura’s arm to pin her down, but she was too quick. In one fluid motion, she grasped his arm and flipped him onto his back.
Mike rolled left and handsprang to his feet. Cheering filled his ears. Laura took a shot at his torso, but he knocked it aside and countered with a similar jab. Then, after a few seconds of punch-counterpunch, Mike landed a shot on Laura’s stomach. She lurched forward, eyes squinted and mouth open in a stunned expression of pain.
He hesitated. This was just something she’d goaded him into, so the kids could see some real—
Just like that, he was on the floor. Laura slipped a foot inside Mike’s leg and pushed him backwards, landing Mike right on his back. She crouched down and held a fist-blade at his neck.
“Yield,” she said, breathing heavily.
Mike swore in his head. You filthy, cheating, insanely-gorgeous sleazeball…
The crowd erupted into boisterous applause. Mike glanced at the twenty-odd students who’d stuck around the dojo to watch the fight, all of them clapping and gesturing wildly.
He smirked. There hadn’t been a single eight-year-old pulling for him.

(55) MG Contemporary: Discovering Isaac

TITLE: Discovering Isaac
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Eleven-year-old Isaac Sanchez didn’t know what to expect when his deadbeat mom came back, but it definitely wasn’t this: a secret code, a new best friend, and a strange connection to the greatest scientist of all time. Isaac’s experiments sometimes end in disaster, but he may discover what he was looking for all along: his own place in the universe.

Isaac Newton: “For the natural days are truly unequal, though they are commonly considered as equal, and used for a measure of time…”

Isaac Sanchez: Every day has 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean they’re equal. Sometimes, your whole universe can change in just 24 hours.

It all started with baseball.

I hated baseball.

I would’ve rather yanked out my nose hairs one by one in front of the whole sixth grade wearing only yesterday’s underwear than play a baseball game. But every year, Grandma made me play, and my whole summer was ruined by never-ending little league. The worst thing about torture is that it’s not optional.

So there I was, an hour before the first pitch of the season, willing to give up my whole life savings (four dollars) if I could find my mitt. Without it, Grandma would be on my case again, and I couldn’t even hide or protect a single part of my body.

I looked under all the dirty clothes littered around my room. No mitt. I heard Grandma’s footsteps coming down the stairs as I chucked the shoes from my closet floor. No mitt. She opened the door without even knocking and stared down at me as I scooped an armload of my collections—my magnets, my birds’ nests, my rocks—from underneath my bed. No mitt.

Grandma frowned at my mess.

“No mitt,” I said, holding out my empty hands. A little hope rose in my chest. “We could just skip it.

(54) YA Steampunk: Bad Company

TITLE: Bad Company
GENRE: YA Steampunk

Spying for President Grover Cleveland in San Francisco is seventeen-year-old Jesse James’s top priority until an alluring sleuth named Scarlett foils his mission and swindles his heart.

“Don’t move.” I lifted the brass bow to my bare chest and shoulder, my focus trained on the apple balanced on Henri’s head.

With shirt sleeves rolled up and scrawny arms poking out, Henri trembled like a winter bare tree in a gale wind. He pressed his back against the stable wall and swallowed.

“You sure Katya fixed the power increments, non?” he asked, his dark hair falling in his eyes.

“I’m sure.” I took a deep breath and drew the string of flexible, coil-like electrum taught.

“Jesse. Arrete!” Henri bobbed and the apple disappeared into a pile of straw. Annoyed, I eased the string to resting position.

“The kinks have been ironed out,” I said.

The sixteen-year-old Parisian snatched up the fallen apple but glanced at the practice bull’s-eye with its scorched edges and large holes everywhere but the center mark. “Why am I target practice? Shouldn’t le petite Russe be holding the apple?”

I tilted my head past the curve of the bow, following the sight-line my knuckles created. “She’s researching a lead.”

“What about your shoulder?”


With the electrum string pulled back, the Akasha in the quiver thrummed against my bare spine. My fingers released the string just as my mother called from the stable door.

“Jesse James Whitedove!”

The Akasha arrow - a shot of pure energy - went wild, hitting somewhere in the loft. Henri crumpled to his knees, crossing himself and calling on saints I’d never heard of.

(53) YA Historical Romance: The Astronaut's Daughter

TITLE: The Astronaut's Daughter
GENRE: YA Historical Romance

In 1963 Texas, 16-year-old Evelyn risks her newfound popularity–and her father’s position with NASA–when she falls for a rising civil rights leader from the rival high school.

I never gave the moon much thought until my father told me he wanted to walk on it.
Sure, lots of people these days probably dreamed of flying a rocket into space. The difference for my father was he might actually go.

My sister Beverly nudged me. “Evelyn, we’re up next.”

I peeked past her to the crowd in the next room. Applause erupted as the current crop of flight test crew waved from a small stage.

My mother turned for a final examination of the two of us. I’d aimed for an Audrey Hepburn look with my silk shift dress, but I felt more like Shirley Temple: the awkward years. She reached across Bev to flatten a fly-away strand from my up-do. I liked the fly-away—it felt more natural. Hair was intended to move.

“The press is here, and a film crew,” my mother said, as if she hadn’t prepared me for weeks. “This will go in the NASA archives. Stand straight.”

She demonstrated a shoulders-back, stomach-sucked-in posture. I straightened and winced as sweat glued my dress to my back.

When I’d imagined the new Manned Spacecraft Center, I pictured sterile metal fixtures and white walls, all cold-seeming to mirror what I expected of space. Instead, I entered a stuffy, formal reception room with all the seasonal luxuries of August in southeast Texas.

The introduction drifted through the doorway: “And our final new recruit for Project Gemini, Mr. Stephen Richardson, along with his family!

(52) YA Contemporary: Rip Her to Shreds

TITLE: Rip Her to Shreds
GENRE: YA Contemporary

When her all-girl band the Wretched Gretchens goes on tour, seventeen-year-old Charlie sings goodbye to the crush all her songs are about and hello to the rock star lifestyle. Between eardrum-splitting shows and heart-thumping parties, Charlie struggles with the increasing distance between her bandmates — and what happens when she’s the only one who wants to go home.

There were at least eleven ways she could screw this up, and as she death-marched from the greenroom to the stage, Charlie counted them all. 

One: drop the mic. 

Two: trip on a cord. 

Three through ten: accidentally-on-purpose forget the lyrics to her songs. 

And finally: faint and do a major face-plant into the first row, try to pass it off as an attempt at crowd-surfing and desperately hope someone would catch her. 

She could probably get away with two through ten. Her band might not even fully blame her. But sabotage was the wrong way to tell them she didn’t want to win, and Charlie wasn’t exactly the crafty type. Besides, number eleven sounded absolutely mortifying, and no one except middle-aged men who refused to believe punk was over really crowd-surfed anymore.

Deep breaths, six/eight time. Charlie glanced at her half-bitten nails before pushing back the stage curtain. She inched to the front, lifting a hand to her eyes as the lights changed from dim to destroy-your-corneas blinding.

Next to her, Roxanne plugged in a guitar. “Stop looking like you’re going to puke,” she said, swishing her long hair over her shoulder. “We’re going to kill it.” 

It only took four cracks of the drumsticks and a crunch of gritty power chords for Charlie to believe her. Then came the bass, shaking her feet and pounding up her spine, forcing her heart to thump with it. The microphone waited, and Charlie flexed her fingers around it, enjoying its coldness against her skin.

(51) MG Adventure: Dust and Bones

TITLE: Dust and Bones
GENRE: MG Adventure

Stranded in China after his father’s mysterious abduction, 14-year-old Ethan befriends Mei Li, a beautiful 16-year-old pickpocket. Together they must combat an ancient and immortal evil in a desperate quest to save Ethan's dad—and, perhaps, all mankind.

Ethan leaned on the windowsill while his father snored on the sagging bed. Though the early evening air was cool, it hadn’t helped the tiny, sweltering hotel room one bit. He turned up the volume on his iPod to block the traffic and the snoring.

His watch read 8:30 p.m., but still Ethan knew he should be exhausted. He hadn’t slept, really slept, in days. The flight from San Francisco to Beijing had been a bouncing, turbulent terror and Ethan had been afraid to sleep, lest he wake up in the Pacific Ocean. At least the train from Beijing to Xi’an had been on the ground, but the crowded smoke-filled compartment hadn’t offered much more opportunity for sleep.

Jetlag, Ethan had learned over the last eighteen months, is a wicked tormentor, though—it makes you dead tired when you should be awake and bright-eyed when the world around you is sound asleep. His father apparently paid no heed to jetlag; he was comatose the moment his head hit the pillow. Ethan had offered to take the floor and knew that he’d probably regret it. Space being nonexistent, he thought maybe he would fit under the bed, but the drooping mattress and creaky springs warned him otherwise.

His stomach rumbled. He knew his dad wouldn't want him to go out alone;he was funny about things like that.

Ethan glanced out the window.

I'll only be gone a minute. It's just a block away.

He grabbed his backpack, slid silently from the room, and closed the door behind him.

(50) YA Contemporary: California R.I.P.

TITLE: California R.I.P.
GENRE: YA Contemporary

When her parents' divorce uproots Huntington Beach native Dani to Sun Valley, she isn't stoked to trade in her surfboard for skis. But when she discovers snowboarding--and a cute shredder named Cash--€•Dani must decide if she wants the future at USC she’d planned, or if her heart has found an unlikely home in the mountains of Idaho.

I can see the mountains through the window across from my bed, a jaw-dropping view that I suspect I’ll never fully appreciate. The stony, snow-laden peaks remind me of my mother’s face the day she walked out on my father. Cold and unforgiving.

Not that Dad deserves forgiveness for what he’d done. Or who he’d done, to be more accurate. One of his very own patients. After nipping and tucking her to perfection, he apparently found his own work so irresistible that he had to ask her out. An offense that might have been forgivable on its own. But then he had to go and fall in love with her.

And now I’m the one paying for it.

I brace myself and swing my legs over the edge of the bed before I can chicken out, burrow back down under my covers, where I’ve managed to build up a cocoon of precious heat over the course of the night.

As I stuff my arms into the prickly wool of my sweater, I try not to think about Huntington Beach and cotton sundresses and the feel of hot sand sifting between my toes. My entire stash of beachwear is lying in Tupperware bins at the back of my closet, but might as well be lying in a coffin. Mom says I’m being ridiculous, it gets perfectly warm here in the summer. But that’s impossible. Because I already know where the perfect summer is. And it sure as sh*t isn’t here in Ketchum, Idaho.

(49) YA Supernatural Thriller: Haunted

GENRE: YA Supernatural Thriller ala Lois Duncan

A sixteen-year-old nurses' aide walks the dark halls of the hospital, feels the presence of something not of this world, and learns she must hurry if she wants to save her mother and several others from eternal torment.

It's nine-thirty, the eighteenth of December, and I'm huddled in a chair in the hall outside the nurses' station, trying not to listen to the eerie sounds. The floors creak and the walls whisper as if they're alive. I wish a patient would turn on her call light to give me something to do.

I've just finished charting the pulses, respirations, and temperatures I took on patients. It makes me feel adult to chart like the nurses do.

I was supposed to have gotten off at nine, and if Mom was still with us, she'd have called and made sure the nurse let me go on time. She'd have said in a worried voice, "Samantha has school tomorrow and she needs her sleep. She shouldn't be working so late. Is there anything wrong over there?" She might even have driven over from the house and rapped on the nurses' office door.

At Huntington, the nurses run the hospital at night and if somebody's late reporting in to work, they make you stay until somebody comes in to relieve you. I've been working at the psychiatric hospital for a month to save money for college. I've adjusted to it during daylight hours, but I always feel jumpy at night.

The lights at the ends of the hall haven't been fixed even though I reported it to the nurse in charge. Not being able to see down there makes me wonder what's happening in the oppressive darkness.

(48) YA Fantasy: The Fatal Crown

TITLE: The Fatal Crown
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Taela does what she must to survive, but she doesn’t think of herself as a murderer. When her sister is executed for treason, Taela vows to avenge her death--even if it means killing the kingdom’s only hope for salvation. Taela discovers the truth about her sister’s death, and it forever ties her destiny to the very man she wants to destroy.

Taela wasn’t a thief, not usually, but sometimes folks had to do unpleasant things for the sake of the people they loved. Like keep secrets or steal from their own families.

She slipped into the cool darkness of the storage shed and quietly latched the door. She took a deep breath to calm herself. At least, after tonight, it would finally be over. She would fulfill her promise, no matter what it cost or how much it frightened her.

Ribbons of moonlight shone through the slats of the old wooden structure, falling across the crates, casks and barrels stacked around her. She had to be quick. She rummaged through a crate, grabbed a handful of dried apricots and few shriveled potatoes and stuffed them into her pack.

Standing on tiptoe, she reached up to the top shelf for the stoneware crock that held last season’s summerbeans. It felt smooth and cool in her hands. She slid the container to the edge and eased it off the shelf, but it was heavier than she expected. Before she could get a good grip, the crock slipped, fell to the dirt floor and shattered with a crash. She jumped back as shards of pottery and beans scattered at her feet. Blast it! Probably just woke the whole village.

She grabbed her pack and scrambled toward the weathered door, but the sound of footsteps approaching stopped her. Too late. She ducked into the shadows.

(47) YA Urban Fantasy: The Things That Are

TITLE: The Things That Are
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

After dreaming of her own murder, sixteen-year-old Chloe Hartwel discovers her prophetic dreams are linked to the society of demigods responsible for her father’s death and the boy she loves is one of them.

Somewhere between my poorly executed bob haircut and my obsession with plaid phase, my therapist declared me crazy. Her exact words were, suffers from delusions and her behavior is a clear sign of conduct disorder. Ethically she couldn’t call me a wacko to my face. But I had Google and her fancy psych words simply meant she wanted my mother to spend thousands more on her so-called therapy sessions. I was nine then and seven years later I thought I had finally ditched the crazy until I found myself hiding in the bushes in the middle of the night. The crazy was lurking.

My quads burned and my feet were numb from crouching for an unreasonable amount of time. I peeked over the bushes again. He was still sitting on the wooden porch swing with his legs resting on the railing in front of him and his phone pressed to his ear. If I listened to one more round of I’m sorry baby and you’re right baby, I was going to vomit. I already wanted to gag from just looking at his side swept, Bieber fever hairstyle. He had to be at least seventeen and seriously needed to move past his tween years.

I leaned forward to help balance myself and wrapped my hand around one of the branches, forgetting it was covered in thorns. I yelped and pulled back. He jerked his head in my direction. The planks on the porch creaked and whined. He was on the move.

(46) MG Historical (with speculative elements): The Sky-High Adventures of Never

TITLE: The Sky-High Adventures of Never
GENRE: MG Historical (with speculative elements)

When thirteen-year-old, wannabe-inventor Never finds a strange silver cylinder by the Thames, her only thought is to sell it for a little extra cash. But someone dangerous is after the contents of the cylinder, and if Never doesn’t keep it safe, British soldiers in the Crimea, and perhaps London itself, could face death and destruction on a scale never before seen.

LONDON, 1849

The last thing Never expected, on that rain-dark December morning, was for anyone to want to buy her.

She had lived at Tooley’s for all of her eight years, and every so often, bickering husbands and wives or weather-beaten tradesmen would sweep through the orphanage, inspecting the children like sides of ham in a butcher’s window. But she was always too skinny to be any use to the blacksmith, too pale to catch the eye of the elegant couple, too wild-eyed for the old lady in need of a maid. So she had stopped looking up as they passed, stopped wondering what life would be like outside the grey, bare walls of the house on Castor Street. Stopped hoping.

It was Wednesday, which meant it was her turn to scrub the kitchen floor, and the thick stench of rotting vegetables and sour milk made her eyes water. She was concentrating so hard on not retching that she didn’t notice the peculiar man in the top hat until he spoke her name.

‘The child’s name is Never?’ The man raised a bushy eyebrow.

‘Right little devil, that one. Any time she’s told to do anything, all she says is “Never!”’ The matron pursed her narrow lips in disapproval. ‘You sure you wouldn’t rather take one of our other children, sir?’

You old bat, thought Never, don’t you wish you could just drown me like a kitten. But she caught a twinkle of mirth in the man’s eye.

(45) YA Contemporary: Aussie Outsider

TITLE: Aussie Outsider
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Rory Turner used to be a typical American teen, but now she’s an Aussie outsider, living on a Dr. Pepper can-size island in Australia with her dad. Someone wants her off the island even more than she doesn't want to be there, and if she doesn't find out why, her new home could be six feet under the ground.

When a girl turns sixteen, she has certain expectations about what will happen.

Her bra size will mysteriously increase at least two cup sizes and she’ll shoot up three inches overnight. The guy she’s been crushing over her whole sophomore year will dump his cheerleader girlfriend and ask her out instead. Her numerous friends will throw her a surprise party and the whole school will turn out. Later everyone will remember it as the best party they’ve ever been to.

I never thought I’d be alone at the airport on my sixteenth birthday, handing my passport and one-way ticket to a United Airlines agent for the flight leaving in twenty minutes from Los Angeles to Sydney.

I never thought the only happy birthday I’d hear would be from the surprised agent as he glanced at my passport and back at me. “Sweet sixteen, isn’t it?” he asked as he scanned my passport through the computer.

Sweet? Try anything but.

I used to have a normal life. Well, semi-normal anyway. I had the typical American family: mom, workaholic stepfather, and a stepbrother and stepsister who wouldn’t give me the time of day. I lived in a sprawling house in Redlands, California, with my mom and Ted, the aforementioned workaholic stepfather. I was resentful of his money and upset at my mom for marrying him when I was fourteen.

I used to be a lot of things, but I guess it didn’t matter anymore because that life was so over.

(44) MG Magical Realism: Dias de los Muertos: Days of the Dead

TITLE: Dias de los Muertos: Days of the Dead
GENRE: MG Magical Realism

When his abusive father dies, 13-year-old Fortunato learns of an ancient Aztec curse that kills off members of his family. Fortunato’s brother is taken by the vengeful ghost of a murdered Aztec woman and, desperate to save his brother, Fortunato races against time to try to pacify the angry spirit.


My Papi wore a heavy gold crucifix around his neck, so you would think we lived like kings. The relic was our family’s only treasure, though—a gift from times past. One evening when Papi was sober, I pointed to the ornate cross and asked him where it came from. He wrapped his fingers protectively around the crucifix and answered, “Nato, hundreds of years ago, one of our ancestors came to Mexico. This cross was a gift from a priest to help protect him.”

The necklace was meant to safeguard our ancient ancestor, but I’m not certain it worked because eventually he died and passed the necklace on to his son, who passed it on to his son, and so on. All the way to my Papi, and when we were living in bad neighborhoods, eating government cheese and pulling toys from the neighbors’ garbage, Papi couldn’t be persuaded to sell the crucifix. Even when he longed for a beer and had no money in his pockets, he kept the cross securely fastened around his neck.

“It keeps me safe, Nato,” he said to me once when I asked why he didn’t sell the gold necklace. “It protects me, and one day, it will protect you.”


We were all going hungry because Papi was missing again.

Mamá kept the rice and beans warm for hours as my siblings and I waited, hoping for the sake of our hunger to hear the front door squeak open.

(43) Contemporary YA: Operation Breakup

TITLE: Operation Breakup
GENRE: Contemporary YA

Crushing on the hottest senior in school who already has the perfect girlfriend is a lose-lose situation for wallfower Abby Wheeler, until a shady frenemy proposes a risky plan for attaining the unnattainable. But the plan is far from foolproof and has social suicide written all over it.

No less than five minutes into Global Studies and the first stab of a migraine pierced my left eyeball. It started when I shoved my hand into a brown bag and pulled out a slip of paper with Ian Koch’s name scrawled on it.

“First partnership: Ian Koch and Abby Wheeler!” Mr. Rausch said with a flourish and handed the paper bag to his next victim.

You could hear a pin drop. The entire class looked up like Mr. Rausch had said, “Ian Koch and Osama bin Laden!” They stared at Ian with these big, concerned eyes, like he was going to the gallows or something.

Really? Was I that bad of a partner? I might not have been valedictorian material, but I wasn’t warming the bench in the principal’s office, either.

Ian lifted one hand, looking like it pained him to wave me over. I dragged my a** to the chair next to him, then slammed down so hard I almost paralyzed myself.

Great. Front row. As if Global History wasn’t excruciatingly bad enough.

I loathed sitting up front. Aside from looking like a bonafide dork, Mr. Rausch had this charming habit of spitting when he grew passionate about war (which, in Global History, was just about every day). And since Staples doesn’t sell spit-shields in its school supplies section, I always steered clear of the front row. Hiding somewhere in the middle suited me just fine.

“Should we move into Mr. Rausch’s chair instead?”

(42) YA Steampunk Romance: When I Called You Mine

TITLE: When I Called You Mine
GENRE: YA Steampunk Romance

To rescue her kidnapped brother, Meg must reunite with the boy who broke her heart, hitch a ride on the pirate airship of which he is now captain, and find an ancient Mayan treasure hidden deep within the jungles of southern Mexico.

My job was dangerous in its simplicity.

I should have remembered that, considering I’d worked at the Harrison & Sons’ Diving and Processing Plant for three years now, screwing lids onto vials filled with phosphorus sea slugs and the gelatinous solvent that preserved their light. Really, it should have been at the forefront of my mind.

Every day, for twelve hours straight, it was the same. The swooshing of the rubber belt beneath the vials, pushing them down the line; the soft sighs of the women around me as they twisted caps onto the various tubes, sweat dotting their kerchiefs; the clucking of their tongues as they sorted the vials based on size and grade—military, industrial, or commercial—around their workstations.

It was easy to forget the danger when the process became repetitive to the point of terminal boredom. I’d watched over a dozen girls leave the plant permanently disfigured after forgetting themselves, daydreaming about God knew what. They were clumsy with their thoughts and with their hands, and the solvent poured down their arms, seeped into their shirts and down their leather work gloves. The burns could be treated, but not fast enough to stop their hands from shriveling, their muscles from deteriorating.

Most women did not last very long in this factory, but the work did not bother me. The monotony of it all was usually a welcome reprieve from my life outside these walls.

(41) YA Contemporary: Ticket to Redemption

TITLE: Ticket to Redemption
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Guilt-ridden after the suicide of her best friend, seventeen-year-old Tenley seeks redemption by helping a boy—who hasn't left his house in over thirteen years—overcome the fears his agoraphobic mother instilled in him. But as Tenley tries to give him a life, her own is crumbling around her as she battles problems at home and a past that's never too far behind.

My toenails are naked. A year ago, I would've never allowed such a travesty—especially in the summer. It's funny how little you care about things like that after your best friend kills herself. Actually, it's funny how little you care about anything.

"What are you thinking about, Tenley?" My dad's voice cuts through my thoughts.

Sitting in a patio chair with my legs propped up on the weathered deck railing, I try to think of an answer that doesn't involve my best friend or my unattractive toes.

Shielding my eyes from the sun, I twist my neck to look at him. He's standing behind the sliding screen door with his hands in the pockets of his pleated khaki shorts. I force the corners of my mouth into a reluctant grin. "Nothing. I'm just enjoying the weather."

The weather? Did I really say that? He'll never buy it. Then again, he might be so desperate to avoid an argument that he forces himself to.

My dad rocks back on his heels. The same forced grin I gave him gets returned to me. "It is beautiful, isn't it?"

And there's my answer.

My dad is trying so hard to pretend this summer is just like any other summer spent at our beautiful lake house in the lovely town of Ludington, and that I'm the same girl I was last year.

Except, I'm not. I'll never be that girl again.

(40) YA Paranormal: Dead New World

TITLE: Dead New World
GENRE: YA Paranormal

A teenage soldier must brave a zombie-infested wasteland to find the girl he loves.

Sunlight filtered through the trees, brightening parts of the forest while leaving others in shadow. Birds chirped and chattered serenely. Everything seemed peaceful.

That’s what frightened me so much.

Nothing was ever peaceful anymore. Not since I’d been alive, at least. I tightened my grip on my M16 and tried not to let the guys see my hands shaking.

It was my first time out. A search and destroy, away from the relative safety of the bases or towns. No walls or fences to hide behind. No machine guns or bunkers for protection. Out here it was just your rifle, your squad and, if they happened to be in the area, air support.

The summer heat weighed down my bite-proof fatigues. Sweat drenched my body and dripped into my eyes, stinging. I flipped up the visor on my helmet to wipe my face.

Ambrose patted me on the shoulder. “Cold enough for you?”

I turned to him and grinned, struck again by how he’d changed since basic training. He didn’t look like the kid I’d known practically my entire life anymore. He’d shot up and filled out, his built frame and square jaw making him look older than sixteen. Even though we were the same rank, I couldn’t help looking up to him, and I wasn’t the only one.

“I hate these things. It’s like wearing an oven.” I closed the visor.

“Better than being dead, Holt. Or worse, dead-ish.”

(39) YA Paranormal Romance: Diary of a Ghost

TITLE: Diary of a Ghost
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

For perpetual eighteen-year-old Cordelia Baxter, there are worse things than being dead: Falling in love with someone who is alive. That's just what happens when the Cahill family moves into the house where Cordelia was murdered, and among them is the hunky and brooding son, Julian.

The Diary of Cordelia Ann Baxter

Born: January 28, 1971

Died: May 27, 1989

Recorded by: Julian Patrick Cahill

Born: October 21, 1989

Died: Once, but not yet

April 22, 2010

“Is anyone there?”

I meander into reluctant awareness, shaking my head to clear the foggy remnants of rejuvenation. It’s been a while since I’ve been… awake, so I have to blink a few times to shed the confusion. Then I see the girl sitting cross-legged on the floor with a Ouija board leveled on her knees.

She’s waiting for an answer.

From me.

It isn’t every day I get summoned by a Ouija-board-wielding teenager. In fact, this is the first time for me.

“If anyone is there can you please give me a sign?”

I roll my eyes. For real?

While she’s waiting patiently for me to pick up a lamp or slam a door or toss a book across the room, I study the lithe creature sitting on the floor in wonder, mainly because she’s alive. Everything about her screams living, breathing – alive - and I’m taken by a ferocious moment of jealousy. Everything from her vibrant green eyes to her long honey-blonde hair reeks of life, and I automatically hate her for it.

My sudden irritation causes a power surge and the lights flicker, unwittingly providing the sign she was hoping for.

She licks her lips, darts her eyes around the room, nervous now that she has the proof she wanted.

“Is someone really there?”

(38) MG Contemporary: Lilly Washington's Presidential Adventure

TITLE: Lilly Washington's Presidential Adventure
GENRE: MG Contemporary

When twelve-year-old Lilly Washington finds a mysterious diary with entries from the 1870s, she goes against the wishes of the school principal and embarks on a wild adventure to find an undiscovered time capsule mentioned within its pages. What she finds could uncover long lost secrets from the Civil War. That is, if she isn’t expelled first.

Sunlight pours in my bedroom window like a cheerful smile, even though it’s the day I’ve been dreading all summer. The first day of middle school. New school. New kids. New teachers. Higher expectations. Commence freak-out.

The knot in my stomach tightens as I pace back and forth across my room. After seven full steps, I stop, coming face to face with Abe Lincoln. My hero. Most of my friends have posters of Justin Bieber hanging on their walls. I prefer Abe.

Turning on my heel, I recite the Gettysburg Address out loud. It's the one thing that always calms me down when I’m nervous.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth ...”

"Lilly, breakfast,” my mom yells from downstairs in a singsong voice.

“... on this continent a new nation ...”

"Come on, come on, come on. We're already late." My little brother Teddy says, sticking his head in the door and waves his arm at me to follow him. He's wearing the Thomas the Train shirt he’s been begging to wear every day for weeks. It looks like he got carried away with the hair gel again. Either that, or the slicked back look is the hot look for the second grade this year.

"I'll be down when I'm ready." It comes out mean, which usually bothers me. But not today. I want to be left alone.

He sticks his tongue out and skips down the hall toward the smell of bacon.

“... conceived in liberty ...”

(37) YA Fantasy: Of Ice and Ashes

TITLE: Of Ice and Ashes
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Years after a toxic explosion disfigures hundreds of survivors, a town leader declares they are diseased and must all be purged. Self-conscious, seventeen-year-old Wren knows she’s the only truly dangerous survivor, and must brave brutal guards and the malicious leader herself to find the others—or she’ll burn with them.

Three layers of hand-knit sweaters and my gloves protected my skin. I tweaked the leather over my wrists, ensuring that no portion of flesh was exposed.

“You’re too cautious,” Jolie said. Her soft, clumsy hand pinned my mother’s old jade brooch to my outermost sweater. “Everyone knows what will happen if they touch you.”

“Accidents happen,” I said. Actually, an accident hadn’t happened in years thanks to my layering, but I didn’t dare risk it.

I saw Jolie’s lips purse in the silver-framed mirror by my bed. Ten years of nonstop caring for me had sprouted premature lines around her eyes. Otherwise, her face was smooth and soft, particularly round at the apple of her cheeks. Sometimes I wondered if she could have been beautiful without me as her only companion. Her burden.

My lips tugged down as I lost myself in that thought; Jolie’s pout transformed into the easy, sweet smile she always put on to cheer me up. She radiated hopefulness through every pore of that bustling body, regardless of her Scar.

I averted my gaze from hers, silently ashamed that I could never follow her lead.

Her fingers prodded against the back of my neck, adjusting the sweaters. A slight shiver always ran up my spine at these moments, probably my body’s warning against human proximity. Then I’d almost imagine warmth rushing beneath my skin, like it would if a normal person touched me. But I could barely remember what warmth felt like.

Neither Jolie nor I had felt temperature for ten years.

(36) YA SF: Ultraviolet Catastrophe

TITLE: Ultraviolet Catastrophe

When 16-year-old science prodigy Lexie uncovers a mistake in the equation to create a Wormhole, she thinks the resulting ultraviolet catastrophe is an accident - until the lead scientist turns up as a Popsicle in the cryo chamber. If she can't discover who planted the error and stop them, she and her classmates could be next.

My whole life changed with one news story.

Mom and I were having our typical Thursday night dinner. Lasagna sat steaming on the table. I chopped the last tomato for the salad, while Mom poured two glasses of milk. The soft murmur of voices on the TV on in the background filled the house.

The six o’clock news anchor started the story with, “Bad news from government facility Los Alamos today. Hackers broke into a classified server and downloaded a terabyte of top secret military plans. An explosion rocked the facility…”


One of the glasses shattered on the floor, but Mom stared at the television, her face as white as the spilled milk.

“Mom?” I set the knife down on the cutting board with a frown. “What’s wrong?”

She shook her head and held up a finger. My skin prickled at her strange behavior and I watched with her as smoke billowed from a squat, non-descript building in the middle of the desert.

“Until the culprits are found and the records retrieved, the government is treating this as a matter of national security.” The news anchor turned the next story over to his co-host and Mom stepped around the milk and turned the TV off.

Her hand trembled.

“What’s going on?” I asked again, grabbing a handful of paper towels to clean up the mess.

“Will you take care of that, Lexie? I need to call your father.” She was already moving toward the kitchen door.

My jaw dropped open.

(35) MG Contemporary: Harold - The Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved the Day

TITLE: Harold - The Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved the Day
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Twelve-year-old Jake is D-O-N-E with Harold. Sure Harold’s a genius at baseball trivia and Algebra, but he also has Asperger’s and a knack for ruining Jake’s social life. When Jake gets an opportunity to play shortstop for the undefeated Comets, he’ll get his chance to ditch Harold and the rest of Jake’s second place team—unless winning isn’t everything.

On the first day of sixth grade, I cracked open the front door and looked outside. The bus stop was empty. So far, so good. I’d figured Harold’s mom would drive him this year like she did when he was in kindergarten. Harold had trouble when it came to new things. Well, that was one of his problems.

I walked toward the stop and from behind I heard, “Hey Jake! Wait up! It’s 8:03. Bus Number 6 will be here at 8:07.”

I walked faster and called over my shoulder, “Thanks for the update, Harold. I didn’t know I was so early. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a whole 4 minutes.”

Harold caught up with me and said, “I woke up at 6:33, but Mom said I couldn’t come out until I saw you.”

Great. Where is that bus?

“Hey, Jake, have you ever heard of Harvey Haddix?” he asked while he rummaged through his bookbag.

I knew what he was looking for. Each year before school started, Harold added one green composition notebook to his school supply list and in that notebook he kept track of the times he beat me at anything—Texas Hold’em, NCAA 12, checkers. He’d write down the date, the game, and the score. He also wrote down baseball stats.

“Yeah, Harold, I know all about Harvey.”

I didn’t have a clue, but I thought just this once Harold wouldn’t go into his never-ending monologue about one more Major League ballplayer I’d never heard of.

(34) MG Contemporary: Don't Fall Down

TITLE: Don't Fall Down
GENRE: MG Contemporary

When twelve-year-old Chloe breaks one of the unspoken rules of figure skating, she finds herself stuck training with a rink full of misfits. To have a shot at Nationals, she must convince the judges her new rink isn't loser central. Which wouldn't be so hard if she was the loudmouth skater everyone thinks she is.

I have my fingers crossed for a gold medal.

Not where everyone can see them, of course, but hidden in the sleeve of my maroon and white Ridgeline Figure Skating Club jacket. If I win this competition, it'll show the judges I'm the skater to beat at Regionals in October.

My stomach rumbles. It's almost three o'clock, and the last thing I ate before I performed was a bowl of Toasted Oats cereal early this morning. The concession stand popcorn smells like something gourmet. I try to ignore it and stand on the tiptoes of my plastic blade guards to look for my friend Ellery. I can't spot her in the sea of girls in sparkling dresses crowding the hallway.

“Aren't you cold, Chloe?” Mom pulls her wool coat tighter around her.

I shake my head. I'm rolling back and forth on my blade guards. Heel. Toe. Heel. Toe. Mom and Dad got me the guards that light up for my twelfth birthday. Every time I move, the lights blink and reflect off my coach's shiny black boots.

Mom checks the time on her phone. “Where are the results?”

Like magic, a competition volunteer threads her way through the anxious crowd in the hallway and tacks the results to the bulletin board. Everyone swarms forward. The volunteer has to elbow her way to safety.

A tingling feeling shoots through my body. This is it.

(33) YA Paranormal Thriller: Suspended State

TITLE: Suspended State
GENRE: YA Paranormal thriller

When a hospital employee preys on unconscious patients, a seventeen year-old girl’s soul becomes trapped inside his body. Now Lauren must find a way out before she disappears like his other victims. Or worse…becomes a permanent part of him.

It isn’t the cold that makes me shiver. It’s the wolves. I can’t see them behind the wall of pines, but I hear them. The cries are haunting and desperate – one long wail after another.

I scoot closer to Wes, nuzzling against his warm body. “Why are they so close to a ski resort?”

He lifts his shoulders and drops them, shrugging like it’s no big deal. “The mountain is their territory, but they never bother anyone.”

“If you say so.” I look away and pretend like it doesn’t faze me. I love animals. Really. But I don’t want to be anyone’s dinner.

Wes isn’t fooled. He looks at me with softness in his green eyes and squeezes my hand. “They’ll leave us alone, Lauren. I promise.”

I gaze over the valley as the chairlift carries us higher up the mountain. Thousands of pine trees, some covered in snow, some not, all scattered against a backdrop of sparkly white as the sun starts to drop below the horizon. The valley is so peaceful from this height that it almost makes me forget I was freaking out before until Wes asks, “Have you ever seen an avalanche?”

“Seriously? You want to bring that up?”

“I’m just trying to make you forget about the wolves.” His mouth twists into a crooked grin. I try not to stare too long, but his teeth are perfect and his lips look soft. Just another reminder why I’ve had a crush on Wes since I was a freshman.

(32) YA Light SFi: Jane, Body and Soul

TITLE: Jane, Body and Soul

When his first love is killed in a prom night accident, teen genius Daniel stuns the world by using radical new medical research to bring her back to life. Now Jane’s body is failing, doctors are baffled, and she’s more interested in her “near-death experiences” than in recovering. Daniel must find a way to save Jane—or watch her die again.

Waiting for Jane at the bottom of the staircase, I have this weird, jittery feeling, but I’m trying not to fidget since her dad and her grandma are standing right next to me. The slightest movement seems to echo off the marble floors in the entryway, and the only other sound is her grandma’s breathing. I feel like I’m in a funeral parlor or something.

Crap. What am I doing here? I still can’t believe Jane asked me to prom.

She told me I should come meet her dad, but he’s barely said a word since he opened the door to let me in, and I can’t think of anything to say. I keep looking up at the top of the stairs, hoping Jane will suddenly appear.

Her dad clears his throat. “Did you use stem cells?”

“Wh-what?” Wow, I totally wasn’t expecting that. “I-I mean, yes.” I guess Jane must have told him about my internship. “Our research used stem cells, but not the embryonic kind.” I try to smile. People are usually happy with that answer.

But her dad just makes this “hmmph” sound, and his stern expression doesn’t change.

Underneath my rented tuxedo I’m covered in sweat—thanks to the bike ride over here—and now my skin feels clammy. “W-we were able to successfully revive dead organs.” I glance at him, then down at my polished black dress shoes. “The procedure has tremendous potential for saving human lives.”

(31) YA Suspense: Unknown Elements

TITLE: Unknown Elements
GENRE: YA Suspense

After a tragic "accident", Mila Crowley unexpectedly finds herself caught up in her late mother's secret past, decoding cryptic messages left behind and falling in love with a boy who, she has yet to learn, is connected to everything.

There was a steady humming, but otherwise, everything was still. And completely dark.

I closed my eyes again, trying once more. Same as before--a wall of black.

Moving my head, I felt the fabric shift around my hair. A tightness pulled on my wrists and ankles, as I tried to reposition my contorted body. They’d secured me well. Whichever one of them it was.

Working through the fuzzy memories that flashed through my mind, I could see the mistakes I’d made, the choices that led me here--bound like an animal, in the trunk of a car.

To think, a week ago, I had been sitting in class, just like everyone else. And now... My odds weren't good. Nonexistent might be more accurate.

I held my breath as the car began to slow. Veering off the smooth pavement, gravel crunched under the tires before we pulled to a stop.

The trunk release clicked open. Its hinges creaked. Gulping the stale air silently, I readied myself for anything.

Rough hands grabbed me, harshly maneuvering my body out of the tight space. Biting down on the inside of my cheek, I fought the urge to yell and scream.

Flinging me over his shoulder, the man had yet to say a word. Only the bitter winter breeze, swirling around us, made any sound.

But, I knew what he wanted. It was what they all wanted.

It had gotten her killed. And now I was next.

(30) YA Paranormal Mystery: The Channels

TITLE: The Channels
GENRE: YA Paranormal Mystery

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Clare can hear people’s thoughts, but a family history of mental illness creates a fine line between what is delusion and what is paranormal. Only Colin’s touch can make the voices melt away, but Hannah’s already heard the one secret she can’t keep: Colin’s cousin is stalking his next prey.

Silence has a sound. When the mind goes blank, I hear it. Jagged with static.

The sound changes when people’s thoughts stream in, their words joining the hiss in my head. When the channels open, nothing can control the flood of secrets. The voices come and I’m blown away, swirled in words, numb from the shock.

The static comes first.

A song of secrets, second.

Tuning into my own crazy radio station.

Chapter 1

I walked into my high school’s cafeteria with a scab on my forehead and my eyes on my feet. The scent of greasy food I didn't want to eat felt heavy in my lungs. I snuck a look around the room. School hadn’t changed at all. The lunch cliques, maybe a little, but the orange tables and worn floor and scowl-faced lunch ladies were the same. The feeling that I didn’t want to be there was also the same, times one hundred. The only good part about school, that day or ever, was Kate, my best friend since ninth grade. I spotted her at our corner table gabbing with a neighboring group, but she stopped mid-sentence when our eyes met and leapt up to crush-hug me until I could barely breathe.

“I’m soooo glad you’re back,” she said, pulling me by the hand toward the bright orb where I slid my tray of food. “I’ve missed you like crazy.”

“It’s good to be back,” I lied. I couldn’t stop thinking about the word she used, crazy.

(29) MG Fantasy: Through the Edgewood

TITLE: Through the Edgewood
GENRE: MG Fantasy

When 11 year-old Izzy's little sister is kidnapped by a faerie queen, she teams up with a band of orphan Changelings to rescue her. If Izzy fails, both her sister and the Changelings will end up as ingredients in the queen's youth elixir.

Izzy Doyle stood in the school supply section of the Piggly Wiggly, coming to terms with her fate. She agreed to come with her mom and sister to the grocery store because she needed a new journal. As she faced her only options – yellow legal pad, or inspirational kittens – the full weight of her situation came crashing down on her narrow shoulders. This was it. Her new hometown.

She flicked the thin metal stand with the toe of her shoe. How could her parents have moved them to a town with no movie theater, no swimming pools, and – this part was almost too horrifying to believe – no library? Izzy vaguely recalled her mom and dad going on about fresh air and getting closer to nature, but she didn’t connect the dots until now. When they said “nature”, what they really meant was complete isolation from the rest of civilization.

Her little sister bounded down the aisle, her blonde curls swishing behind her. “Guess what? They don’t have that gross healthy cereal Mom likes, so she’s letting us get Kookoo Crunchies!”

“That’s awesome,” sighed Izzy. Hen could be happy living on the surface of the moon as long as there were snacks.

Having decided she’d rather scrawl her thoughts on a roll of toilet paper, she left the aisle empty-handed to join her mom at the checkout counter. She reached into the front pocket of her sweatshirt, and pulled out her paperback copy of The Hobbit. That’s when she heard the cashier say, “That neighbor of yours is a witch, or I’m a bull toad.”

(28) MG Mystery: Beanblossom Versus Bombastic Bandits

TITLE: Beanblossom Versus Bombastic Bandits
GENRE: MG Mystery

If twelve-year-old Jacob Beanblossom finds hidden treasure before two grownup crooks do, he'll collect a hefty reward and start middle school being known as the boy who recovered a long-lost fortune instead of the kid who could fart on command.

Up until that fateful Friday the Thirteenth, Jacob Beanblossom's claim to fame had been the ability to fart on cue. But that was about to change.

Jacob dragged Old Man Fudgewick’s bratty Pomeranian down Main Street. The dog yipped and snarled non-stop. A lady pushing triplets in a stroller checked for cars and, seeing the coast was clear, jaywalked rather than cross paths with the yapping Pomeranian.

Jacob tugged on the dog’s rhinestone-bordered leash. “Calm down, Special Fella.” Jacob cringed every time he said “Special Fella.” But the only chance he had to be obeyed was to call the dog by his stupid name. Jacob eyed the black curlicue sign on the storefront ahead that read Madame LeChance’s Psychic Palace. “We’re almost there.”

Jacob shoved open the Psychic Palace door, wondering what quacks he’d see there today. As he yanked the dog from the sidewalk and into the waiting room, Jacob got an earful of high-pitched classical music. Anjali Sharma, the biggest nerd in the sixth grade, sat on the floor. She plucked at the strings of a long-necked, small rounded-bodied guitar. She was probably here to find out if she’d get straight As for the rest of her life.

Special Fella growled at Anjali. She stopped playing the instrument and glared at him. “Get that thing out of here! It’s ruining the ambiance.” Anjali darted a meaningful glance at the lady clutching a black-and-white photograph in her age-spotted hands.

Jacob gave Anjali a smug smile. Apparently the know-it-all did not know it all. “We’re clients.”

(27) YA SF: Veritas

TITLE: Veritas
GENRE: YA Sci-fi

When a virus turns Tori's crewmates violent, she’ll do anything to save her family and her crush, Declan. Leaving Earth was supposed to give them a future—not a death sentence. Or so they were told.

I race past door after door until they blend into the white walls. Only ten minutes late, but already the corridors are empty. Unlike me, everyone else is already at their assignments like good little crewmembers. I turn left down another hall, identical to the last save for the numbers on the doors, and pick up my pace. If Supervisor Dresden catches me running in late again, she won’t hesitate to discipline me.

Unfortunately, this corridor isn’t empty like the others. My momentum slams me straight into a patroller. Hard muscles act like a steel wall against my much smaller form, and I fall to the ground. When I look up the only thing that greets me is a scowl. The patroller’s eyes narrow and his jaw clenches.

I brush long hair out of my face where sweat makes the black strands cling. My hands tremble as the patroller stares down at me.

“Sorry, sir.” The words leave my mouth in a stutter and I look away, hoping he’ll let me go without punishment. Being late to my assignment is one thing, but pissing off a patroller is a whole other universe of trouble that I don’t want to be in.

He doesn’t say anything, just stares—which seems worse than if he’d yelled—as I scramble to stand back up. I shift from foot to foot, itching to run again. Until he growls. Literally growls at me. Even though my heart jumps at the sound, I freeze.

(26) YA SF: Something Rich and Strange

TITLE: Something Rich and Strange

Seventeen-year-old Hannah “Sasquatch” Bloom thinks her height is her only unusual feature until a gorgeous boy arrives at her school to awaken her to the truth: she’s an alien, like him. Now she must choose – help him and the rest of her race colonize the planet or protect the humans she loves.

When I sleep, I remember, but the memories aren’t my own.

Eons suspended inside a coffinlike tank, the fluid tasting of metal and misery. Glimpses of galaxies beyond the hull of the ship. A white and blue orb swelling out of the darkness, beaconing our journey’s end.

Hope. A million-voiced chorus of hope. Then disbelief. And fury.

The sense of claustrophobia still lingers an hour later. Trudging to my locker before first period, I shake my head, trying to dislodge the strange images that nudge at my brain. The dream only surfaces when I’m stressed. I guess I’m more anxious about senior year than I want to admit. At least no one calls me Sasquatch anymore – not to my face, anyway.

“Hannah!” a breathless voice chirps. “Thank God I caught you before class! Can you believe we’re back here already? It’s like some sick karmic joke. I was hoping that ninth grader who likes to play with matches would have burned the place down over the summer, but no such luck.”

I turn to see Grace Park scurrying toward me, her long, dark hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. Dressed in a pencil skirt, silk blouse, and knit blazer, she looks like she belongs in a skyscraper, not the linoleum-lined halls of Santa Elena High. I, on the other hand, would fit right in at a hoedown in my faded jeans and green plaid shirt.

“Grace!” I exclaim. “I missed you! When did you get back?” I stoop to give her a quick hug.

(25) Commercial Fiction: Cover Cracked

TITLE: Cover Cracked
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

Information scientist (aka Librarian) Elle’s double life is in order: family and friends think she’s a bookworm and CIA colleagues think she’s a bookworm, until she has a fling with a Navy SEAL who wants to know her better and whom she’s forced to work with on a classified assignment.

The cell phone vibrated in Elle’s pocket. Dammit. She’d forgotten to turn it off. Elle checked the text.

Whatever’s in the stacks 2night will still b there 2morrow. Come have dinner w/me

Wasn’t gonna happen: Elle was 700 miles from Norfolk. She’d tell Michael she missed his message because of poor reception in the library stacks. Elle powered her phone off as the elevator dinged.

The doors slid open, and Elle pushed the heavy cleaning cart out. Guests barely stepped back, forced to accommodate the cart. They looked right through Elle. Elle focused her eyes on the cart, mindful of Mason’s reminder: “The help doesn’t look guests in the eye.”

Being a housekeeper truly was the ideal cover. Elle tried not to twitch. The starched uniform was itchy. Surely the resort could afford fabric softener? Not for the staff, apparently. Elle tightened her grip on the cart to keep from scratching.

Fourteen-oh-one to the right.

Fourteen-oh-two to the left.

“Suite fourteen fourteen will be on your left, Bookworm. Stay focused.”

Mason’s voice made Elle jump, but she kept pushing the cart forward. Like he needed to rupture her eardrum with that intel. The plush carpet swallowed up Elle’s footsteps. She came to a silent stop at fourteen fourteen. Elle remembered not to touch the door as she slid the keycard into the door slot. The light on the door flashed green. Elle pressed the door lever down with her forearm and used the cart to push the door open.

(24) Women's Fiction: Daisies For Ella

GENRE: Women's Fiction

After dramatic mood swings crash the trajectory of her life, a law student discovers a multi-generational family secret, and the choice she must make—confront the issue, and create a new life, or build an emotional cave to crawl into.

The grocery bags, slapping against my legs, contained the ingredients for an apology, one to be delivered gift-wrapped in wine, food, and candlelight. A romantic evening designed to purge away my fiancé, Sam’s, lingering bitterness toward the flying shoe incident that occurred on Monday. Last night, I tried to apologize and even vowed never to throw anything again, but this morning, his hug felt cold, not icy, but slushy.

As I crossed the lobby of our apartment building, the sacks felt as heavy as my heart—weighed down by memories of flying shoes, shattered mugs, and previous promises to maintain my self-control. Sam earned the right to be angry.

I elbowed the elevator “Up” button, and the diamond sparkling on my left hand flashed. Soon, I would be Mrs. Sam Hutchinson; mood swings were not going to destroy my happily ever after.

The old-fashioned brass doors opened, and standing inside was Sam’s former roommate, Eric, pulling a suitcase.

“Hi Eric.”

He bolted out of the elevator. “Sam’s in the apartment.”

Odd, I thought as the car clanked up to the seventh floor. The doors parted, and I hauled the groceries down the hallway.

“Sam?” I called, and kicked our apartment door closed behind me. After dropping the bags on the kitchen table, I followed the sound of slamming drawers.

The scene inside the bedroom, clothes strewn across the floor, and Sam dumping T-shirts into a suitcase, soured my stomach. His eyes grew wide when he spotted me standing in the doorway.

“What’s going on, Sam?”

(23) Historical Fiction: The Fury of Dragons

TITLE: The Fury of Dragons
GENRE: Historical Fiction

Even though the penalty for runaway slaves is death, Eleri seeks to escape the powerful British chieftain who abducted her on a slaving raid.

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Every step forced the iron cuff deeper into the raw flesh of her ankle.

Eleri staggered along the forest path, chained to the other sobbing captives. Pirates with torches and bloodstained swords had herded the women through the forest all night. When the pirates weren't close, she searched the green dimness under the trees. Some of the abducted women were the wives of warriors and royalty. They and the rest of the group, slaves like herself, would have been missed by now.

She wiped the sweat off her face and shuddered when the leader's gaze focused on her. Throughout the endless night march this pirate had patrolled the straggling line of women, keeping a sharp lookout. Clean-shaven, with dark hair pulled back from a face tanned by the sun, his gaze was that of a man accustomed to being obeyed. He'd stood on a knoll yesterday at the edge of the clearing, watching his men dispatch the older members of the group and round up the young women, while the screams of the dying shattered the early morning air. Everything in his bearing spoke of ruthless power and forcefulness, from the taut set of his chin to the massive bronze armlets that coiled around his upper arms. Now his dark stare transfixed her like a hunter's arrow until she managed to look away and choke back a sob.

It didn't seem possible that only yesterday Patrick had baptized her in the cool waters of the spring.

(22) Lighthearted Women's Fiction: The Princess Paradox

TITLE: The Princess Paradox
GENRE: Lighthearted Women's Fiction

Jaded by fairy tales, Nora Roseberry’s surprised to find herself caught between ‘Prince Charming’ and his brother ‘Prince-Damn-He’s-Charming’. Stick to the story or change the fairy tale ending? Happily ever after just got messy.

I wish I had the guts to tell my best friend I’d rather gouge out my eyes with a cocktail weenie than attend her wedding. Weddings, by nature, raise numerous questions if you’re single. People you don’t even know approach you as if it’s open season on any insensitive question they can muster. Aren’t you involved? Did you just break up with someone? Are you a lesbian?

My answer to all of these was an emphatic “no.” But explaining my feelings to Jillian, well, that just made her want to hook me up with someone even more. Which was why I was sitting here in dressing room I-lost-count, watching her zip up a beautiful Marchesa bridal gown, dreading this whole experience. I knew exactly how today would end.

”Ohmigod, Nora. Look at me.”

”You look…” I nodded, “breathtaking. Really.”

”I do, don’t I?”

”You do.”

She twisted her body, arching her back, and straining her neck to peek at every possible angle reflected in the mirror, patting her body down as she did so. “It really sucks in my fat.”

”You don’t have any fat. You’re like a size two.”

”Whatever. I think this is the one.” Her eyes became teary, her lips puckered. She looked at me, attempting a smile.

”Are you sure? How do you know it’s the one?” I asked. “You’ve tried on a gazillion dresses and I’m pretty sure I heard you swear on your unborn child that you’ve found ‘the one’ at least eight times.”

(21) Women's Fiction: MAKING ARRANGEMENTS

GENRE: Women's Fiction

Battling cancer, Lang Ellis spent her final year of life making sure her adored soon-to-be widowed husband could manage without her. Ha. After he drops dead on the tennis court, Lang, miraculously cancer-free, learns one of his many secrets could cost her the most important thing she has: her family.

Lang leaned heavily on the shovel and tried to slow her breath.

A florescent cardinal perched jauntily on the feeder, dapper and energetic. She scanned the garden for his mate, and found the drab-feathered female scuttling in the leaves. Lang and Jack Ellis if they were birds.

Lang put all her weight on the shovel, balancing carefully as the earth gave way and the shovel easily slid in the damp November ground. She hadn't smelled the earth in over a year. She closed her eyes and breathed in the rich, damp scent of dirt.

She should be packing for the celebratory trip for her one year remission, not futilely trying to divide a wayward Lenten rose. She waited for her breath to slow as she went over her list, deleting the big floppy hat. After this past year, she didn't want to ever wear a hat again. Her hair was still chemo-short, but at least her scalp wasn't visible. At first glance, anyway.

Lang knew better than to smile about the love letters she'd written Jack, but she pictured them stacked and tied with the pink ribbon. She didn't want to tempt fate, trash-talk God. Still, she felt a tiny bit smug knowing she'd covered all her bases, that the letters she'd written him after her diagnosis were tucked away, unopened. Unnecessary after all.


Dear Jack,

I shouldn't feel glad at all after the news.

But I do. I'm grateful for the warning. That it wasn't sudden.

(20) Science Fiction Thriller: Circling

TITLE: Circling
GENRE: SF Thriller

When a gifted mathematician discovers that the British military found her inside a crop circle as an infant, her subsequent search for answers puts her in the sights of a rogue lieutenant colonel on an alien hunt. Now she must solve the clues hidden in the circles’ patterns and unravel their secrets before she’s brought in for testing — or autopsy.

“Mum? Dad? Where are you?”

After getting the call from her dad, Keigh raced home from Oxford. She’d packed in a rush and brought only clothes. She left her research behind. She couldn’t concentrate anyway.

The living room and kitchen were empty. He must be upstairs with her.

“Hello?” She rapped a single knuckle on her parent’s bedroom door and cracked it open. “It’s me. I let myself in.”

She pushed the door open wider and peeked around. Her dad was sitting on the side of the bed with a tray of food in his lap. A faded floral bed sheet shrouded her mum’s frail figure from neck to toe.

“Hello, hon.” Her dad’s smile didn’t echo in his watery eyes.

Her mum stretched out a gaunt arm and curled her fingers. “Come here, you.” Her voice was a croak.

Keigh crossed the room and folded her mum’s hand into her own, pressing a kiss to her paper-thin skin. The now-familiar tang of mentholated ointment wafted past.

She smoothed a white wisp of hair from her mum’s forehead. “How is the pain?”

Her mum’s answering sigh transitioned to a troubling spasm of coughing. Her dad held a napkin to her cracked lips, deftly tucking away the bloody spots inside the cloth’s folds. “She’s had better days, but having you here will do us both a world of good.”

Keigh sank to her knees by the bed. “I’m right here, mum. I’ll stay as long as you want.”

(19) SF Romance: The Everett Quartet

TITLE: The Everett Quartet
GENRE: Science fiction romance

Edmond’s girlfriend, Viv, can travel between her parallel universes. Now he must battle to win her back from the man she married in another reality. In another universe, Edmond’s and Viv’s alter egos struggle to keep their secrets from tearing them apart.


I clutch my wine glass, watching Viv shift realities. She stops eating, her hand arrested mid-air just as she is about to bite into a sumptuous prawn. Unnoticed by anyone else in the crowded lunchroom of Via Grande, my girlfriend leaves me once again.

Her eyelids flutter, dark brown irises take on the opaque colour of mud. I know then her reality shift is complete. Hades drags Persephone to the Underworld, abandoning me to the dark and cold.

The fork clatters to the table. Her breath quick and shallow, the alter ego taking Viv’s place looks around with parted lips. Then she turns to me, wary. Suspicious.

‘Hi, I’m Edmond,’ I say, handing her a glass of tepid water to soothe her throat, which always burns after a shift. ‘Welcome to my universe. I know about the reality shifts,’ her eyes widen, ‘and I’ll help you cope with your visit.’

I extend my hand. She takes it and smiles. And so, yet again, I play genial host to an alien mind in Viv’s body, while guarding her secret from the rest of the world.

A secret that revealed itself to me when my girlfriend died.


I stare out a dirty window to a street of Georgian houses. I’ve never visited this reality before.

I think of Edmond looking up from his plate at Via Grande into my alter ego’s eyes. Would his grey eyes narrow, guarded and dubious? Or will he hit it off with my other self?

(18) Thriller/Suspense: City of Zero

TITLE: City of Zero
GENRE: Thriller/Suspense

In a city where a zero tolerance policy on criminal activity results in the death penalty for all crimes, kleptomaniac police inspector Kate Swanson leads an investigation into a number of disappearances. Against a backdrop of social unrest and anarchy, Swanson must locate a man called Old Blue whose murdered wife links all of the missing people.

Inspector Kate Swanson knew the junior officer who was standing by the courtroom doors watching her. Flaherty was flushed with excitement. He looked so desperate to get Swanson’s attention that for one horrendous second, Swanson thought he might shout over to her. Swanson turned away and looked back towards Judge Livermore. The accused, William Crampton, sat to Swanson’s right on a separate table with his lawyer. Little more than a child, Crampton had been arrested six months ago for petty theft after stealing a bottle of vodka from a supermarket - a dare from his fellow gang members. Dressed in a prison jumpsuit, his narrow eyes stared at the judge. Swanson listened to the familiar sound of the verdict followed by the equally familiar sentence.

There was only ever one sentence.

The boy barely reacted. Swanson had seen the weary look of resignation countless times before. No doubt the hope had been ground out of him during his probationary incarceration.

‘Court dismissed,’ said the Judge.

Flaherty was by her side in seconds. In his ill-fitting uniform, he looked like a schoolboy playing dressing-up games. He smelt of nicotine and sweet aftershave. He pulled at the clip-on tie dangling from his throat. ‘Ma’am,’ he said.

‘What is it?’ asked Swanson.

‘It is Judge Lloyd, Ma’am. He's missing.’

(17) Women's Fiction: The Meaning of Orchids

TITLE: The Meaning of Orchids
GENRE: Women's Fiction

After hiding underneath oversize sweatshirts and baseball hats for fifteen years, Shane Phillips, born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome—a genetic intersexed condition that left her physically female but genetically male—decides to embark on a journey of self-discovery to understand what it means to be a woman.

I was born healthy–technically. The doctor told my mother he had never seen such a well-developed baby girl. Ten fingers. Ten toes. And, as we later discovered, something else. My mother wanted a girl; my father, a boy. They both got their wish.

These thoughts bang around my mind as I step out of the shower and peek at my naked body in the partially fogged mirror, my 36 D breasts and hairless vagina—the body parts that suggest I’m a woman. But as I run a towel in tight circular motions across the surgical scar on my stomach, I feel less like my adapted gender.

I slip on a sleeveless black dress, apply a stroke of mascara, and dab on a lick of lip gloss. With every move toward preparation, I second-guess my decision to attend tonight’s event. It’s not any place I want to be–not in the mood I’m in. Feelings of dejection, confusion, and loneliness are unwelcome guests to a party.

Not that I’m not grateful for a night of superficial happiness. To the colleagues and clients who’ll be at the party, I’m normal–an average woman who can grow pubic hair, menstruate, birth babies, and pass gender tests. In some ways, I’m better than normal: I move with a ballerina’s grace and my statuesque body is the perfect accessory to any kind of clothing. I stand eye to eye with most men while my breasts compete with those of Playboy centerfolds—only mine are real enough, and close enough, for men to touch.

(16) Paranormal Romance: The Treasure of a Dragon’s Heart

TITLE: The Treasure of a Dragon’s Heart
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

A shapeshifting dragon must choose between love and survival when she falls for the modern-day knight who catches her stealing the jewels she needs to defend herself from her murderous father.

Jewelry trickled through Elaina Drake’s fingers, scattering reflections across the peeling linoleum of her bathroom floor. Each piece hinted at how it had ended up in her possession—a broken clasp on a gold chain, earrings missing their backs, an eager-to-snag bent prong on a ring. Blue flashed when a loose sapphire she’d rescued from a sink drain rolled off her thumb.

But the precious ornaments lacked the satisfying clink of gold coins when they landed in her safe-box. Humans didn’t make treasure like they used to. Such a shame.

Her fist curled around the last trophy: a brilliant ruby, almost the size of her palm. A weak dribble of energy flowed into her arm. She squeezed the gem harder. It didn’t help.

An erratic rhythm still beat in her chest and desperate starvation still chilled her limbs.

Her hand dropped to her lap. Damn it. The recharge from her collection was nowhere close to enough. The meager power boost her talisman had gathered from its companions would barely keep her heart alive through the evening, much less until she happened to find another abandoned prize to claim. So much for having a choice. She had to go through with the plan.

“Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll get a new friend for you.”

Thievery wasn’t as bad as murder, right? Besides, she’d already made herself weaker by selling off a bracelet to buy an outfit for the ruse. For once, her brash nature was logical.

One brilliant success coming up. Or a dangerous failure. One of the two, for sure.

(15) SF Dystopia: Vitro/Vivo

TITLE: Vitro/Vivo
GENRE: Sci-Fi Dystopia

The Vitros live lives of genetically-engineered perfection. The Vivos are the opposite; superstitious, thriving on chaos. But when geneticist Drei stumbles across a conspiracy to eradicate the Vitro's genetic material and cannot find anyone in her own City who will help her, she must forge a reluctant partnership with a rogue Vivo to save both their peoples from extinction.

It was impossible to get lost in the City.

The streets were laid out in an ordered grid, meticulously numbered and labeled. For any wayward child who was too young to read or understand maps, the soothing voice of the guideposts described a path back home. It was the perfect blend of male and female pitches, soft and sonorous, and it never gave a wrong direction.

Drei had always loved that voice. Sometimes as a child she used to lie and tell a guidepost she was lost just so she could hear its golden tone and drift away on the music of Turn right at this corner. This is N400. You are five blocks from home. Home is N900 E700.

Now, amid the dark and the cold and a smothering stench, the memory of that voice provided Drei’s only protection against an overwhelming wave of panic.

“Home is N900 E700,” she said between retches. “Almost there.” A reassuring lie. She had no idea where she was.

The unthinkable had happened. She was lost.

Fumbling through the shadows, she sloshed into something that gave a fresh contribution to the smell. Her stomach heaved; her thoughts were a fog of confusion and disgust. Just enough rational thought remained to reach one conclusion – she must be in the sewers, fifteen meters below street level.

She had no memory of coming here. The events of the last few hours jumbled hopelessly together in her thoughts, out of order, without any clear cause and effect.

(14) Literary/Psychological Thriller: The Death Clock

TITLE: The Death Clock
GENRE: Literary/Psychological Thriller

Everyone is born with the ingrained knowledge of when they'll die, but not everyone tells the truth about their death-date - as Kit learns when ex-boyfriend Jonathan dies without warning her. As more friends die, Kit realises the watch he left her isn't just a memento, but a clue to a closely-guarded government secret: death isn't as predictable as it seems.

During his last night alive, Jonathan asked God for only two things: to watch over Kit, and to hit Uncle Asher with a handy bit of brimstone – preferably in the form of public exposure, but a more literal interpretation of his request would be fine too.

Most people didn’t like being alone the night before their death-day, but Jonathan didn’t want any company except the gold-glowing streetlamps outside his window on Oswald Square. They saved the night from being too utterly black and lent a warmth to the silence.

It was over too soon. Jonathan resented the sounds of Asher starting his day in the room next door: the creaking of the mattress, the running of the shower, the opening and closing of dresser drawers. These were signs of life, a life that would go on without him; signs too of time running out, of solitude coming to an end.

There was no knock before the door creaked open. Jonathan sat still in the dark and stared at his intruder. Asher looked as composed and immaculate as if he had not been asleep at all. His smooth coif of white hair, moonlike, glowed in the streetlamps’ light. Asher drew up the desk chair and sat next to the bed.

‘I’ll ask one more time,’ he said. ‘Let’s not end with anything between us; we’ve been too good friends for that.’

Jonathan’s jaw clenched. He looked away and waited for the question.

‘Who knows, and how much?’

(13) Romance-Historical: Stormheart

TITLE: Stormheart
GENRE: Romance-Historical

When a resourceful bluestocking is ensnared in her half-brother’s perverse game of revenge, she finds an unlikely form of escape, a convict transport bound for the British Empire’s most notorious penal colony. Her goal to remain another overlooked prisoner is thwarted by a forbidden attraction to the ship’s brooding surgeon.

London, late September, 1824

Fog stole around Emily Starling’s prison uniform, brown serge stamped with broad arrows. She willed her trembling legs not to clatter the ankle chains and closed her eyes, feeling the rough grit of exhaustion. Rows of moored ships stretched along the wharves, masts rising toward the dawn like a primeval forest. She hadn’t seen the sky in ages, but even the muted pinks and oranges brightening the underbelly of the low cloud couldn’t lift her spirits. The driver halted the open cart in front of a waiting vessel. It wasn’t a particularly impressive ship, blue with a thick white line painted around the hull. No black ferryboat of the underworld—looked as sinister as a dependable workhorse. The other women, surrounding her like herrings in a barrel, jockeyed for a better glimpse of their home for the next five months.

She fought for a calming breath and caught the hint of wood smoke in the air. Autumn had always been her favorite season. Such a cozy time of year, perfect for curling by a well-stoked fire with a book. The apple trees back home in the garden must be turning crimson, ready to yield their tangy fruit. Her stomach tightened, protesting the dungeon’s final breakfast of cold marrow soup.

“Ain’t you a fine bit o’ muslin?” A hatchet-faced guard dragged her to the worn cobblestones, shattering her attempt at self-distraction. He bent to unlock the shackles and tickled her calf with an insinuating stroke.

(12) Women's Fiction: ROBIN'S A LITTLE HOOD

GENRE: Women's Fiction

Two front-line social workers are tired of the justice system giving abusive men slaps on the wrist, so they set out to shock some sense into them. Literally.

“How can that even happen? What kind of bull**** is that, Robin?” Julia asked as one of her legs bounced violently against the other.

I figured that her questions were rhetorical so I nodded my head to acknowledge them and didn’t answer. Not that I had anything useful to say anyway, because I’d barely kept my composure since Julia told me that the Crown Attorney’s office had decided to drop her rape case.

“I mean, he can just get away with it?” Julia muttered, her leg still bouncing.


“My word isn’t enough?” she asked.


“I’m sorry I can’t offer you answers,” I said, using all of my self-control to keep my cool. “I don’t know the reasons why the Crown Attorney chose to drop your case but I do know that it doesn’t mean what happened to you is any less significant.”

Julia shifted on the couch, not meeting my eyes. My office at Fredericton’s Sexual Assault Crisis Centre was hot—almost stifling and although putting my thick blonde hair in a ponytail usually kept me cool, beads of sweat rolled down the small of my back. And if I was hot in shorts and a t-shirt then Julia must have been sweltering in her grey sweatpants and hoodie.

“I should have reported it sooner, then they could have done a rape kit,” Julia said with her hands clenched in her lap. “Do you think that would have made a difference?”

(11) Urban Fantasy: The Obsession Begins

TITLE: The Obsession Begins
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

A bride leaps to her death in ancient Egypt to escape the immortal pharaoh obsessed with her, but he tracks her down to modern-day New York. Anne Evans is a downtrodden office assistant with no memory of her past life. When she attracts one of the world's most powerful businessmen, she doesn't know whether to trust him or run.

Threads of smoke curled from under the closed double doors. Screams of terror filled the air and running feet shook the floor.

“This is your only chance,” The Queen of Egypt hissed at the girl standing proudly before her. They stood alone inside a chamber off the harem hall. “The palace is in an uproar. You should be able to slip away unnoticed, but if anyone catches you, I swear by Isis, I will kill you myself.”

The girl bowed gracefully, her ragged appearance at odds with her noble bearing.

"Fool! You must cower and scrape like a slave if the disguise is to work," the queen snapped.

“May the goddess reward you for your kindness, Your Majesty,” the girl replied coolly. Rising, she pulled her filthy shawl closer to hide her comely face and the gold amulet that hung from her neck. It was a wedjat eye to ward off evil – the only piece of jewelry she dared to keep, needed to keep.

The queen’s cat-like eyes glinted. "Now, get out!"

Hatred contorted the queen's delicate features, giving them a feral quality. Perhaps the rumours about the beast and her royal highness were true. Nonetheless, the girl hesitated. The road ahead could well bring death. After everything he had done and all those he had taken from her . . . no, better to leave now and risk her life than return to his bed.

(10) Paranormal Romance: To Catch A Fetch

TITLE: To Catch A Fetch
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

He’s a ghost hunter searching for the remaining fragments of a legendary amulet. She’s an estate photographer who doesn’t believe in ghosts—or love at first sight. How can a woman who has spent her life fighting her instincts learn to trust a man who has survived acting on his?

Devyn Cartwright stood on the porch steps of the abandoned Victorian house and inspected her future. Opportunity hadn't knocked, it had handed her the damn key. Now, as the last fragments of dusk died away, she clutched the home’s antique key in her hand, its engraved edges scraping the sensitive skin of her palm.

The heavy oak door opened on silent hinges that belied their age. Devyn stepped inside and the door snicked closed behind her. She reached out to feel for a light switch along the foyer wall. Layers of thick shadows cloaked the rooms to her right and left, making it difficult to discern more than the most basic outlines of cloth-draped furnishings.

Lots of cloth-draped furnishings. Her pulse jumped. Some women went crazy for purses or shoes, but Devyn’s obsession was houses, specifically nineteenth-century homes and period furniture. The lure of an abandoned mansion was temptation enough, but the fact it was rumored to be stuffed to its rafters with authentic pieces made the house too good to resist. She had taken one look at the vintage key in her boss’s hand and canceled her last photo shoot of the day.

Maybe I should have asked a few more questions before hauling a** out here—like did the house have working utilities? Her fingers brushed against the rounded edge of a modern light switch and she sighed with relief. Several futile flicks later she muttered her third favorite curse word.