#PitchMadness: Game On!

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Welcome to Team Lollipop Woods! It’s been a long week of reading through all the amazing pitches. Our wonderful readers have narrowed the slush, and your team hosts have chosen seventy pitches for the agent round. To meet the slush readers and hosts, go to this post here. And you can find out more about the participating agents on this post here.

For those of you not familiar with Pitch Madness, it’s a contest where agents compete in a game against their peers for pitches and you can find the rules and instructions of the game here.

I’m co-hosting with the amazing Marieke Nijkamp! Check out her site and follow her. You’ll be happy you did!

Marieke Nijkamp

Marieke Nijkamp

Website | Twitter

#1 NYT bestselling author of THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS (Sourcebooks Fire) | Dreamer | Wanderer | | Secret Agent: , Barry Goldblatt Literary.

 

Scroll down to view all 10 picks for my blog or click on the links to each post …

Middle Grade

Young Adult

Adult

Comments are set to moderate so the agents won’t see other agents’ requests. Please no comments other than those from the agents. After the agent round, we’ll release the moderation and let you all comment on the entries.

We’ll reveal the agent requests on March 17 starting at 4:30 Eastern time. All the twitter fun will happen on the hashtag #PitchMadness, where we’ll tweet the results of the agent round.

Join us for the Twitter Pitch Party on March 23 from 8AM to 8PM Eastern time on the hashtag #PitMad. It’s open to everyone!

How do you twitter pitch? You can find all the details here.

A huge HUGE thank you to my team and to the wonderful agents!

Go to all the hosts’ blogs to read more winning pitches …

Team Ice Cream Sea – http://www.brenda-drake.com/
Team Peanut Brittle House – https://pintipdunn.wordpress.com/
Team Licorice Castle – http://sharonmjohnston.com/
Team Peppermint Forest – http://wadealbertwhite.ca/blog/
Team Candy Castle – http://samanthajoyce.com/

 

 

R-10: ADULT SPACE OPERA: STARS AND SHADOWS

Title: STARS AND SHADOWS

Age Category: Adult

Genre: Space Opera

Word Count: 131,000

Pitch: To topple an empire, Lin will do anything–even recruit its prince accused of fratricide. The plan: infiltrate a space-bound prison. The goal: be the last one standing when their alliance inevitably goes to hell.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
Most things were prettier from far away. From space, Dalcon looked like a rotten apple.

The northern continent’s major metropolises bled into each other in moldy shades of black, eating away at the planet’s battered ecosystem, scarring the rust-red earth. Lin clung to the metal exterior of the station, which orbited like a hungry fly. As she crouched in the vacuum, the subliminal hum of her suit’s life support system filled her ears, an unwelcome reminder that she didn’t have much time left.

Damn cheap thing.

She could only hope everyone inside the station was already dead.

She mulled over her options, hating them all, silently cursing Nexus for sending her on this asinine mission. She’d have done it out loud for the catharsis, but that would have taken up more of her dwindling oxygen supply.

Her commander always had plans within plans within plans, and didn’t share the full scope of them. Half out of paranoia, half because he liked it when his little surprises went right and everyone marveled. If they went wrong, nobody had to know. It was starting to grate on Lin. She would have liked some warning, for instance, that she’d spend today hiding from the police, wearing a third-rate vac suit, hoping her booby traps inside the station killed the blackcoats before they got a chance to kill her.

Exposed to space, she’d probably last thirty seconds. Inside… If everything had gone wrong, which was decidedly likely, she might last a few minutes.

Decision made, Lin gritted her teeth and started to climb.

R-9: UNQUEENLY

Title: UNQUEENLY

Age Category: Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Word Count: 87,000

Pitch: When sixteen-year-old Queen Janai is unfairly accused of using dark magic to kill someone, she must use her swordsmanship skills in a sparring arena to clear her name and reclaim her throne.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
The darkness below held the traitor in its midst.

With Ralel’s steadying arm around my own, we descended, my gold high heels clacking down the stone steps. The odor of mildew, urine, and feces ambushed my nostrils. It was difficult to refrain from gagging, but my desire to face the traitor kept my stomach settled.

We reached the bottom of the stairs and continued down a hallway lined with torches whose flames swayed as we passed them. My gown dragged across the floor, gathering dust and who knew what else, but I didn’t mind. I did, however, tighten my grip on the muscular biceps of my defender when a rat scrabbled by us.

“I find it amusing that someone who once wanted to become a fearsome warrior is afraid of a puny rat,” Ralel said, his tone suggesting amusement, but his face as serious as usual.

“I find it amusing that you find anything amusing,” I grumbled, giving the rat a dubious glance.

He worked hard to keep a smile off his face. “I told you this is no place for a queen.”

“You’ve made your disapproval quite clear. But it’s time for me to do this.”

“You should’ve allowed the guards to bring the prisoner to you in chains.”

“I want to see how he’s living. I want to see him suffering.”

He sighed and rubbed a hand across his close-cut hair. His skin—a deeper brown than mine—was already glistening with sweat.

R-8: YA THRILLER: HIDE ME AWAY

Title: HIDE ME AWAY

Age Category: Young Adult

Genre: Diverse Thriller (Own Voices)

Word Count: 62,000

Pitch: When Indian-American teen Tanvi is framed for her classmate’s murder, she must prove her innocence and find the real killer: her cousin, Mimi. The problem: Mimi has been missing and presumed dead for five years.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
Ever since my cousin Mimi disappeared, Auntie and I followed a pattern. A routine. At three-fifteen sharp, I texted my standard message to her: School’s done. Smiley face. Home soon. It was second nature, as familiar as getting dressed or brushing my teeth. Or breathing.

After sending the text, I stuck the phone in my jeans pocket and joined the swarm of bodies in the school hallway. The stampede on Friday afternoons often reminded me of the crush at the temple we’d visited in India when I was six. I battled my way through a crowd and spotted my target down the hallway. Bright green eyes under tangled curls, and then the rest of Drake—tall and draped in a sweatshirt and jeans, and leaning against my locker.

Heat crept up my face, a common reaction around Drake. He hadn’t caught on yet, and I had to thank my dark brown skin for that. After flipping my hair to cover the telltale blush on my neck, I approached him.

He looked up from his phone. His gaze zeroed in on me and softened. An answering warmth tugged at my heart.

“I got your message,” he said. “So you’re not coming for the game?”

“Can’t. I have to stay home with Auntie.”

He lowered his eyes, but not before I caught the flash of disappointment in them. Crap. I hated letting my friends down, Drake especially, but it seemed like that was all I did lately.

R-7: YA FANTASY: I AM DRAGON

Title: I AM DRAGON

Age Category: Young Adult

Genre: Diverse Fantasy

Word Count: 93,000

Pitch: In a world where Chinese fairytales are real, Sara, a sixteen-year-old artist, trades her brushes for a sword to save her little sister from a sorceress hell-bent on eating souls to feed her magical powers.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
I had waited five years for a message from my dead mother. Now that I had it, I wished to God I could send it back.

Huddled under the covers, I clicked my flashlight on and off to the steady beat of rain plinking against the bedroom window. Ever since I lost my parents, my nightmares would yank me out of my sleep. Then crazed and wild-eyed, I’d hunch over my sketchbook with the stub of my pencil, gouging black shapes into the paper to banish the demon dragons.

This time, when I opened my sketchbook, I found something I hadn’t drawn. Every blast of my flashlight illuminated my mother’s chop—her signature seal in Chinese characters—stamped on the bottom left corner of my sketchbook.

Grandma Apo cautioned me that our Chinese ancestors always returned in some form. Really! No amount of forewarning could prepare me for the sight of my mother’s calligraphy.

The chop bloomed like the red tide that turns the ocean the color of blood. Above it, six stacked horizontal lines, dressed in the blackest of ink, stood like a legion of soldiers in formation. Was this the written language of the dead? Simple lines and no words. Obviously, the dead were beyond the same needs as the living. I feared my only option to decipher the message was my death.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, sounding like a wounded animal.

“Saaraa!” Jaz, my five-year-old sister, cried out in her sleep.

R-6: YA CONTEMPORARY: FEET MADE OF STARS

Title: FEET MADE OF STARS

Age Category: Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary

Word Count: 78,000

Pitch: To fulfill her immigrant mother’s incomplete dance legacy, Akira reluctantly allies with rival subway dancer Dawson to form a diverse crew of outcasts in hopes of winning a hip-hop dance battle.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
Dance is an electric starburst. Three deep breaths get me up from my bed every morning, but it’s dance that sustains me.

The D-train hastily skids into the station, screaming on the metal tracks. The sight of it gives me eyegasms—my stomach doing little flips in beat to the rhythm in my heart. The adrenaline rush just before I step into the train is the one purest feeling in the world, not marred by the doubt and anxiety that plagues most of my day—including the way I walk past people or how I move my jaw when I speak. When I’m dancing, nothing else matters.

Beside me, Jody fans himself. “It’s steaming here.”

I cast him a sideways look. It took me gazillion years to coax him down here to the subway.

“You sure you know Samantha Grace?” he asks for the tenth time. “I hope I didn’t get my ass down here for nothing, Akira.” Jody lives in the apartment next door to me in the Bronx and is always filming the crews who perform in the subways for his YouTube channel. All except me. Apparently, I’m not popular enough to end up on his videos.

“You’ll get your girl, bro,” I say. An introduction to Samantha Grace is my humble offering to Jody. In return, he’s going to make the tape for my Litecrew dance audition next week.

Samantha is a senior, same as me, but I’ve never talked to her. She’s the diva of Rookwood High; she wouldn’t talk to a girl from the wrong side of the track. But Jody, who is a junior, doesn’t need to know that.

R-5: YA URBAN FANTASY: BLUFF, RAISE, FOLD

Title: BLUFF, RAISE, FOLD

Age Category: Young Adult

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Word Count: 86,000

Pitch: The Godfather meets Mean Girls in Vegas with magic. Seventeen-year-old Sierra Redstone would kill to rule her brutal clan of sorcerers. But when she infiltrates her enemies, an unlikely friendship throws her loyalties into doubt.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
I tossed my keys to the valet and strode up the casino’s palatial red steps. When I turned to look for my date, he was trailing behind me. Clearly, this was his first time in Vegas. What was his name again? Lawrence? Lee? Lucas? Probably Lucas.

“Sierra, wait.” Probably-Lucas caught up to me and offered his arm. I shifted my leather clutch to the other hand and gave him my precisely polite smile.

This was a waste of time. I should be managing the family casinos, or fighting sages, or negotiating mercenary contracts—anything but dating useless pretty boys from old money clans. But I had to keep Grandfather happy until he officially gave up on my cousin and named me the heir.

My date tried to guide me through the crowd of normals, and I gritted my teeth as my arm brushed against the protruding belly of a tourist. The whole casino reeked of stale cigarettes and sweat.

Probably-Lucas stepped beneath the imitation Chinatown gate into the Shanghai Casino. He stopped and glanced around like he was lost. The main floor was a jumble of “authentic” Eastern culture: Chinese lanterns dangled from the ceiling, Mongolian armor stood on display, and a Japanese fan hung on the wall above the Korean symbol for luck. The waitresses wore tight red cheongsam dresses with collars that came up to the neck and skirts that barely reached the thighs.

What could I say? We gave the people what they wanted.

R-4: MG CONTEMPORARY FANTASY: SUMMER OF L.U.C.K.

Title: SUMMER OF L.U.C.K.

Age Category: Middle Grade

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Word Count: 46,000

Pitch: Fortunes may change for three unhappy kids who stumble on a magical abandoned carnival warehouse if they can help its ghostly owner reunite his bickering family before the property is sold to the wrong buyer.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
Four weeks had passed since the last time Justin Pennington uttered a word.

Not that he didn’t have plenty to say. But he had his reasons for staying silent.

On the Saturday before camp, Justin ran scales at the piano, staring intently at the keys. After a while, as always, his eyes shifted to his dad’s picture atop the polished lid. Abruptly, he shoved the piano bench backward. Despite the bright Milwaukee sun outside, his glum expression darkened.

He headed to the bay window and hurled his stocky frame onto its cushion. With deepening gloom, he stared out the window, pulling the curtains close around him.

On the lawn, a baseball glove lay exactly where he’d left it after his twelfth birthday last Sunday. Light through the window highlighted his solitary reflection, and he tugged at a handful of his unruly fair hair, wondering if the leaden weight in his stomach would ever go away. As he calculated the prospect of Camp Inch being any better than home, he shut his eyes. It can’t be worse.

Justin bolted upright when his mom pulled into the driveway. Sunlight on the sedan’s silver hood, dull with dust when she’d left a few hours ago, glinted off its shiny finish.

Why couldn’t she leave it the way it was? He backed away from the window, ignoring her wave. Swallowing hard, he realized the dirt covering the car had been the last evidence he’d had. Now it was gone too, just like his dad.

R-3: MG HISTORICAL FANTASY: A MATTER OF MUMMIES

Title: A MATTER OF MUMMIES

Age Category: Middle Grade

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Word Count: 50,000

Pitch: When mummified murder victims pop up all over Victorian Dublin, girl genius Liadan’s on the case. It’ll take a devoted inspector and some werewolves to help solve it—before Liadan ends up a victim herself.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
Breakfast was oatmeal. Watery. Hateful. Oatmeal. Eating, however, was a far less unpleasant idea than being fed. They would put their hands on her. Force her to eat. Bruising pale skin and laughing. She didn’t like to be touched. The horrible click of silverware against plates and the dull murmur of the other patients echoed around her with none of the pleasantness she’d once associated with meals taken in company.

After oatmeal, an orderly—with his hand on her shoulderInsufferable lout—shoved more than led her to her appointment with Dr. Francis O’Toole, her onetime peer. The orderly deposited her without a word in the doctor’s office.

Clenching her jaw, she rubbed at the bruise on her arm. It was invisible under her sleeve, but sore enough that every time she shifted it reminded her that she’d been unsuccessful in escaping—again. Couldn’t have known that orderly would decide to slip out for a smoke. Next time, though… Next time she’d get out.

Dr. O’Toole was talking, but she wasn’t really paying attention to what he was saying. The chair she was in was dusty, the fraying fabric far more interesting than he was. Though his bright red mustache did catch her eye. Like a bird to a bit of ribbon. The curly edges flopped as he spoke. Droned, Liadan corrected. He drones. Worse than Sir Andrew, for certain. But a word caught her attention from the stream of dullness.

Electrotherapy.

She blinked, bright green eyes going wide and wary, like a cat alerted to danger.

R-2: MG HORROR: FEAST ON FEAR

Title: FEAST ON FEAR

Age Category: Middle Grade

Genre: Horror

Word Count: 50,000

Pitch: ZhenYu teams up with his friend, sister, and a friendly spirit to defeat an ancient creature before it possesses his soul. Stranger Things meets Singaporean mythology.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
Zhen Yu strode past his papa’s BMW parked in the driveway, resisting the urge to punch the huge hulk of metal. The gate creaked in protest as he yanked it open and stepped out into the street outside his home. At 2 AM on a weekday, his neighborhood was a ghost town.

He kicked an abandoned Coke can down the empty road. If only Harun wasn’t sick and could’ve snuck out as usual and joined him. If only his papa would get help for his depression. If only his Nainai was still alive. If only his mama hadn’t left them… There were too many “if onlys” in his life.

He turned a corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Piles of burnt hell notes, oranges with joss sticks protruding from them, and bowls of rice littered the field in front of him. Tall, thin red candles poked out of the ground, glowing like beacons for wandering spirits.

In his anger, he had completely forgotten that it was the Hungry Ghost month. The gates of the underworld were wide open. What if a lost spirit followed him home?

A sudden breeze stirred the leaves in the trees, making them whisper like phantom voices. The moon hid behind the clouds, enveloping him in a shroud of darkness.

The skin on the back of his neck crawled. Someone watched him from the shadows. Or, worse, maybe it was a something not a someone.

R-1: MG MAGICAL REALISM: THE LUCKIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD

Title: THE LUCKIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD

Age Category: Middle Grade

Word Count: 53,000

Pitch: When the Luckiest Girl’s luck turns rotten, she must swallow her pride and play nice with the super show-off Luckiest Boy to get her good luck back and prevent the Yellowstone supervolcano’s eruption.

First 250 Words of the Manuscript:
The orange glitter storm wasn’t one of my better ideas. For one, glitter’s impossible to clean up. Days later, I found specks in the strangest places, like my toothbrush and under my toenails.

What’s worse though is that the glitter bomb tipped off my parents to what I’d been up to—trying to coax the super-powerful orange luck I was born with to return. Truthfully, I couldn’t believe it took them so long to realize what I’d been doing. You’d think painting myself orange or sleeping on a bed of orange peels would have done it. But no, it took the glitter fiasco, specifically the sparkly orange flecks in the mashed potatoes, for them to figure it out. I should have expected as much. Dad loves his potatoes.

But now they knew, and they weren’t on board. At all. That’s why it was such a big deal when I entered the corner convenience store in search of supplies for my next luck recovery project. My stomach knew it too. Forget somersaults. We’re talking backflips, cartwheels, and handsprings so big my entire middle ached.

The door’s bell chimed, and I jerked a moment before ducking and scooting into an aisle. Weaving through rows of pet food, candy bars, and beef jerky, I made my way to the lucky charm display at the end of the far row.

Packages containing four-leaf clovers, horseshoes, rabbit’s feet, wishbones, ladybugs, and number 7s littered the rack. Perfect. Everything I needed for my super-scientific plan, aka Maggie Mangan’s Luck Recovery Project 12.0, was here.

Here’s the Thing: Not Everyone Finds It “Easier Than Ever” to Make a Living as a Writer

Can I just take a minute to discuss the statement that I often see that “it’s easier than ever to make a living as a writer”? I saw it pop up again this morning and am still mulling it over. Because, let’s be honest — nine times out of 10, that statement is referring to self-publishing. And I’m beyond a fan of self-publishing — I think it’s great — but to put it out there like, “Well, there’s self-pubbing, so you can just do that and make a living” is so very very flawed.

Self-publishing is awesome and has given a lot more writers the opportunity to write full time, but it is absolutely 100% not the solution for everyone please stop. Consider:

  • That not everyone writes in genres that thrive in self-publishing at the moment, which mostly favors adult markets with a lot of commercial flair
  • That not everyone can handle the entrepreneurial and marketing elements you need to manage to find success; in fact, for some that shit is a total muse-crusher and would result in them being mentally and emotionally worse off
  • That not everyone has the extra money in the bank that it takes to put out a decent quality book — by which I mean, some proofreading, a not totally shitty cover, etc.; I’m talking basics here. A lot of writers have budgets scraped so thin that even $50 upfront for their cousin’s friend to do a cover on MS Paint means less food in the pantry or no money for transportation
  • That not everyone even wants the self-publishing life and tossing this reasoning at them isn’t at all helpful because your goals are not their fucking goals

So while, yes, it might be easier than ever for you or your buddy Joe to put your super-awesome books out yourselves and make a living, before you throw that sentiment out at someone who’s talking about the difficulties of making ends meet as an author…just stop. Tuck this particular privilege back into your pocket and keep walking.

#PitchMadness Mario Kart Edition: GAME ON!

Bowsers Castle

Welcome to Team Bowser’s Castle! It’s been a long week of reading through all the amazing pitches. Our wonderful readers have narrowed the slush, and your game hosts have chosen sixty-four pitches for the game. To meet the slush readers, go to this post here. And you can find out more about the amazing agents playing the game on this post here.

thunder cloudFor those of you not familiar with Pitch Madness, it’s a contest where agents compete in a game against their peers for pitches and you can find the rules and instructions of the game here.

For this Pitch Madness game, we’re playing Mario Kart. bob-omb

See below for all 16 picks for my blog or click on the links to each post on the right.

MIDDLE GRADE

YOUNG ADULT

ADULT

gold coinGo to all the hosts’ blogs to read more winning pitches…

Rainbow-road-n64Rainbow Road on Summer Heacock’s site

 

 

 

Bowsers CastleBowser’s Castle on Rebecca Coffindaffer’s site

 

 

 

moo moo meadowsMoo Moo Meadows on Sharon Johnston’s site

 

 

Yoshi Falls on Brenda Drake’s siteYoshi_Falls_Overview_-_Mario_Kart_Wii

 

 

 

Comments are set to moderation so the agents won’t see their competitors’ bids. Please no comments other than those from the agents. After the game, we’ll release the moderation and let you all comment on the entries.

donkey kongWe’ll reveal the agent requests on March 11 at 12:00PM (that’s noon) EST.

Please note: We will email submission details for all requests by the agents. After the contest, agents will make requests to us for the pitches they loved and did not win.

All the twitter fun will happen on the hashtag #PitchMadness! mario and bowser

bullet billCongratulations to those who’ve made it into the game! For those who haven’t made it (and whoever else wants to join us), we are hosting a Twitter Pitch Party on March 17 from 8AM to 8PMEST on the hashtag #PitMad.

How do you twitter pitch? You can find all the details here.

R-17: THE BONES OF PARIS

Title: THE BONES OF PARIS
Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 74,000

Pitch: When four teens’ nightmares force elemental powers to emerge, the search for answers takes them to Paris, where the truth of their connection and a dark mage threaten to destroy the City of Lights.

First 250 Words:
My world boiled down to a dizzying wash of green and grey, throat-coating cigarette smoke, and nauseating country music. Harsh light from the overcast clouds struck my eyes, leaving me squinting, and the music and driver’s off key singing made me wish for headphones. But both my sunglasses and headphones were broken. Some bloody git stepped on them during the flight from Bermuda. Given that I didn’t have American money yet, replacing them would have to wait until I reached the court-determined destination. As far as days went, this one left much room for improvement. Doubly so considering it was my seventeenth birthday.

I rolled down the back windows, desperate for some clear air. Sticky, humid air assaulted me and the cabbie shouted, his thick Southern drawl making it hard to understand what he meant. Whatever he’d said, the driver’s tone wasn’t unkind, simply matter-of-fact. He rolled the windows up as we turned onto a street and then slowed to a stop in front of two-story, red brick house. Gooseflesh prickled over my arms and neck, and a shaky breath escaped me. Movement from a window captured my attention. The front door opened and two people walked out. I squinted, trying to place them, and then glanced at the moustachioed driver, his gaze meeting mine in the rear-view mirror questions written all over my face.

Who are they?

A man—tall, with dark skin, and a build that comes only from the military—wore a pair of dress slacks, and a button up shirt that hugged his body.

R-16: ALL OF US WITH WINGS

Title: ALL OF US WITH WINGS
Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Word Count: 91,000

Pitch: Xochi loves her fairytale job: live-in companion for tween genius Pallas. She’s trying not to screw things up, but the polyamorous tribe of musicians that share the family’s San Francisco Victorian are hard to resist.

First 250 Words:
On the night of the Vernal Equinox the sky was clear, the moon nearly full. Arching above an ancient Hawthorne, the tower of the white Victorian rose like a sister moon to meet the last hours of night. Defeated revelers straggled down the hill toward Haight Street, mascara-smeared and nearly sober. Xochi’s taxi swerved to miss them, turning up the steep drive to deposit her at the garden gate.

Ambient music leaked from an upstairs window, the soundtrack to the after-party’s demise. Xochi shivered, bare arms sticky with spilled beer and sweat and unlocked the back door. Sometime in the past few weeks, she’d learned this part of the house well enough to navigate in the dark. Laughter trilled up from the basement studio. The after-after party? Xochi wasn’t even tempted. All she wanted now was a hot shower and clean sheets. She trudged up the servant’s staircase, legs aching as she climbed the final flight.

The attic door was unlocked. Pallas sat hunched in the window seat, feet tucked under her long white nightgown, a cigarette in one hand, a teacup in the other. A real live smoking twelve-year-old.

“Pallas?” Xochi switched on the light. She felt the anger in the room now, goading her to react. “What’s up?”

“What does it look like?” Pallas dropped the butt of the clove cigarette into the gilded teacup. It hissed when it hit the liquid inside.

“Are you OK?” Xochi kept her tone neutral, careful not to look Pallas in the eye. Like a moose, she thought. Or a bear.

R-15: SHAPES AND FORMALITIES

Title: SHAPES AND FORMALITIES
Age Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 136,000

Pitch: Tantoska, a reclusive sculptor of magical clay, must teach her grief-stricken liege lord control of his magic while conniving barons, ancient evils, and murder force them into an unlikely alliance to save the kingdom.

First 250 Words:
I spent the morning harvesting blue. Overflow from the stream had washed away the dirt covering a vein of token clay. Open to sky during the last magic storm, the magic imbued the clay with all shades of blue sky from palest dawn to sapphire noon to indigo midnight. While I filled up buckets with my lucky find, my mind mused over the possibilities. Would this shovelful of clay become the sweep of a hawk’s wing, the delicate petal of a flower, or scrap on my work chamber floor? My fingers itched to sculpt something beautiful, right there at the edge of the stream.

My back twinged in complaint at the heavy labor. I paused to stretch the kinks out of my creaking spine and to kilt my skirts higher before the mud stained the hem bright blue. This clay deposit was about a mile upstream from my cave, near the blackberry patch where a fallen redwood tree left a gap in the thick forest canopy. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of my hawk constructs as they circled overhead keeping watch for wolves and mountain lions. Birdsong and rustling grasses added counterpoint to the burbling stream, and the wind held a promise of winter’s chill.

I took up the shovel and drove the blade into the ground. No matter how hard I tried to lose myself in the work, I could not escape Parle’s words. I had not heard Parle’s voice for so long, only read his writing on the message tablets I’d made for us, but his words hounded me as if he whispered his pleas into my ears.

R-14: VICES

Title: VICES
Age Category: Adult
Genre: Speculative Thriller
Word Count: 97,000

Pitch: Don’t trust Glory Jones. She’s a liar, a manipulative screw-up. She sees the way people die? Sure. Now her sister’s in trouble? Yeah, right. Only, this time, it’s true. Alone, Glory must stop the killer.

First 250 Words:
My earliest memory is of my sister trying to drown me in the tub. She must’ve been about four. There was a noise. The doorbell or a ringing telephone. The warmth of my mother’s hovering hand left my back. Hurried footsteps. I can recall my sister’s outstretched arms, and then the wavy view of drifting suds. I was less than a year old. People say I couldn’t remember such a thing. But I do. I remember my starfish hands and the sweet scent of baby shampoo. No more tears.

I showered this morning. Not an easy feat when you have to be on the road by five-flippin-thirty in the AM. Today, I am Ivory Soap fresh, scrubbed raw enough to conjure Cynthia and that long ago bath. It’s funny how scents can do that. Take you away.

The Carhartt jacket I’m wearing, on the other hand, it brings me back. There’s nothing fresh about it, it hasn’t been washed. It smells like Knox. A bouquet comprised of a once familiar musk: linseed oil, loose tobacco, frayed twine, and overpass breeze. All with a sprig of magic. Like a whiff of moon dust. I shouldn’t think about him. Goddamn. I should burn the jacket.

It’s hard to forget Knox. He’s the only person who ever understood me and believed my secret. I wouldn’t have met him if I were normal. Normal. That’ll keep my mind occupied for the rest of the drive. What would normal be like?

R-13: THE GREEN WELL

Title: THE GREEN WELL
Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 81,000

Pitch: Isobel, a prodigy portrait artist paid in enchantments, invites catastrophe by painting sorrow in an immortal prince’s eyes. Their doomed romance spells death, unless she sacrifices her talent—or wields her art as a weapon.

First 250 Words:
My parlor smelled of linseed oil and spike lavender, and a dab of lead tin yellow glistened on my canvas. I had nearly perfected the color of Gadfly’s silk jacket.

The trick with Gadfly was persuading him to wear the same clothes for every session. Oil paint needs days to dry between layers, and he had trouble understanding I couldn’t just swap his entire outfit for another he liked better. He was astonishingly vain even by fair folk standards, which is like saying a pond is unusually wet, or a bear surprisingly hairy. All in all, it was a disarming quality for a creature who could murder me without rescheduling his tea.

“I might have some silver embroidery done about the wrists,” he said. “What do you think? You could add that, couldn’t you?”

“Of course.”

“And if I chose a different cravat…”

Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. Outwardly, my face ached with the polite smile I’d maintained for the past two and a half hours. Rudeness was not an affordable mistake. “I could alter your cravat, as long as it’s more or less the same size, but I’d need another session to finish it.”

“You truly are a wonder. Much better than the previous portrait artist—that fellow we had the other day. What was his name? Sebastian Manywarts? Oh, I didn’t like him, he always smelled a bit strange.”

It took me a moment to realize Gadfly was referring to Silas Merryweather, a master of the Craft who died over three hundred years ago.