Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Fricassee

And so the year draws to a close!  Admittedly it's my happiest New Year ever.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my "journey story."  It's taking a bit of time to get together, but it'll be worth it because--wait for it--Josh and I are co-writing it.

Oh, yes.  You're going to hear the rest of the story from his perspective as well as mine. 

And I know you love getting inside agents' heads as much as I do.  So this is going to be fun!  Look for it next week.

In the meantime, have a glorious and peaceful transition into the New Year!  As always, I'm thankful for the time I've spent with you.

I leave you with a thought:  Earlier this year, I claimed 2010 as my Year To Get An Agent.  It took the entire year, but it happened!  So instead of making silly, guilt-invoking New Year's Resolutions, why not claim 2011 as your year to Accomplish Something.  You don't have to reach for the moon, but don't settle for the sand at your feet, either.

Even "Completing and Editing My Very First Novel" is a worthy goal.  Finishing ANYTHING you've begun is a worthy goal!  So don't make promises for the New Year. SET GOALS.

Because anything can happen.

Anything.

And I can finally say that with authority!

Happy, happy, happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Year of Near-Misses

It's an apt title, truly.

2010 is hardly the start of my journey, though.  The first thing you need to know is that it took me more than five years to land an agent.

That's right.  Five years, three projects, and more rejections than I'd like to think about.

Those of you who have read AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED already know my agent-from-hell story.  So I won't start there.  Suffice it to say that...I had an agent from hell.*  And once I disentangled myself from her, I began the Real Journey.

The one that's led me here.

Mind you, despite my vast amount of research prior to beginning the Query Quest, I still had a tiny problem about which I was sadly unaware:  It was my first novel, so it sucked.

Really, it was rife with every beginning-novelist problem you can imagine.  POV problems (head-hopping like you wouldn't believe). Revoltingly purple prose. Stilted dialogue.  And an attempt to express two storylines from two perspectives:  12-year-old Maralyth and her 15-year-old brother, whose combined destinies would SAVE EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE!

Well, sort of.  You can imagine, right?  I called it "YA Fantasy," which was problematic from the start since my primary character was a 12-year-old.  It had all sorts of overdone fantasy elements, like glowing stones and mysterious, ageless wizard-type people.  (Not that I have anything against overdone fantasy elements.  Fantasy is my First Love Forever.  But...well.  The novel was bad.  'Nuff said.)

I actually got two partial requests on it, though, so my query must've been halfway decent.  (Point number one: A good query only goes so far.  It's all about the writing.)

I wrote a second novel--MG fantasy--that was marginally better than the first and queried it with gusto.  My first full request (from a big, juicy, well-known kidlit agency!) was consequently dashed to bits by a (poorly photo-copied) form rejection.  And on it went from there.  A decent number of requests for partials and fulls, all coming to absolutely nothing.

Thus began the Growing of Impenetrable Skin.  (Point number two: If you can't take the pain and grow from it, you're in the wrong game.)

I wrote another novel that, technically, I shouldn't have written.  Because it was a "book 2" to the novel I was querying.  Silly, because why write a sequel to something that hasn't even landed you an agent?  But looking back, it was good for me to go ahead and do that.  I needed the practice.

And then I wrote the YA dystopian that I had conceived two years earlier.  (Point number three:  All things in their own time.)

Jodi Meadows ripped the second draft to shreds.  Which is exactly what it needed.  (No, you can't have her.  She's mine.  Well, she's a few others', too.  But she's mostly mine.  I may put her name in a 26-point font on my acknowledgments page.)

After a heck of a lot of work, I began querying the project in January.  And some Very Exciting Things happened.

First Very Exciting Thing:  Requests for the full on my first day of querying, including one from a Very Big Agent Who Had Never Sniffed In My Direction Before.

Second Very Exciting Thing: A revision request from one of the agents who'd requested the full.  An agent, I might add, whom I adore and with whom I would have loved to work.

Third Very Exciting Thing:  The Very Big Agent, after rejecting the full, said he'd be happy to read a revised version, or anything else I wrote.

Three things that had never happened before!  Definitely a sign of moving forward, yes?  So I spent a month revising and sent the new baby out, as requested.

Nope.  Didn't cut it.

My collection of reasons-agents-gave-for-saying-no continued to grow.  And the amount of names on my to-be-queried list continued to shrink.  I even emailed the agents who had requested the full before the revisions, asking if they'd like the new-and-improved version (they did).  Everything still ended in big, fat no-thank-yous.  It was clear that something was Wrong with my novel.

Yes, Wrong.  Capitalized.  Holly Bodger's critique was brilliant (as you can imagine), but I still didn't know how to fix what wasn't ultimately working.  And I was having trouble connecting the dots between the varied comments from agents.  If there was a common thread, I wasn't seeing it.

I threw myself into a complete rewrite of my Second Novel (the MG fantasy), figuring I'd query a select group of agents (i.e., those who'd said, "Send me other things any time!") with that project while the YA ran its course.  Meanwhile, Beth Revis offered to critique the YA for me.  Awesome, yes? A sci/fi diva ripping into my sci/fi!  Couldn't be more perfect.  Terrifying, but perfect.  So I sent her the manuscript, sure that it was now in its final death throes.

And then I queried Josh Getzler.


to be continued...




*The agent in question was a legitimate agent who "discovered" my self-pubbed non-fiction and thought she could sell it.  At the time, I didn't even know what literary agents did.  (No, really.  I was that uninformed.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Anyone Out There?

It's hard to know whether or not to blog during this nebulous week-between-holidays.  Most "normal" folks have jobs/life to which they return, which I assume includes their daily blog reads.  But the publishing industry takes a long winter's nap until January, so it's a weird sort of limbo.  Yanno?  Because we're all...writers.

Not that I meant to imply that publishing is somehow not "normal."  It just beats its own drum.  Which is probably why it's a perfect fit for me.

At any rate, I just wanted to send you a loud PSSSSST! so you know what's coming up.  Namely, the journey-to-agent story.  In two parts, even.

First installment tomorrow.  Just to make sure you're still out there.

(Yes, I'm still grinning!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Showered With Roses

That's what this feels like!  Your words of congratulations here--and those on Twitter and the Blueboards and even in my email box--have felt like roses at my feet.

Thank you for sharing my happiness!  (Well, "happiness" is lame, but I'm trying to maintain a professional veneer.  Even though you all KNOW I've been dancing around the house with a stupid grin on my face for days.)

I'm going to post the Authoress Gets An Agent story after Christmas.  Until then, a couple of tidbits:

Josh has added me to his client list as "Authoress."  You've gotta love a guy who will play along with my alternate personality, yes?  See it HERE.

For the many who have asked:  Yes, I will reveal my real name (anticlimactic, I'm sure) when we've got a book deal.  I'd rather not have "Authoress" on my book covers.  And, yes, I'd like you all to know who I am so you can come to my book signings and introduce yourselves by your screen names.

(How many people get the opportunity to hear things like, "Hello, I'm Screaming Guppy!" in public?)

You've been a part of my journey as much as I've been a part of yours.  I'm so grateful to be "knit into" this community.

You rock!

Truly.  Thank you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Biggest Announcement Ever

As if December hasn't been fantastic enough already, there's one new development worth mentioning.

I have an agent.

(Yes, I really said that.)

I've signed with Josh Getzler of Russell and Volkening. And I really do believe we're the perfect "fit."

Best Christmas present ever!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Here we are--the last Friday before Christmas Eve!

I'm all about my Pandora Christmas station, sitting by the tree, drinking cocoa with peppermint stick melted into it, and finding the perfect treasures for Mr. A's stocking.

Yes, we stuff each other's stockings.  It's one of the most romantic things we do all year!

And, too, it's nice to have a sort of winding-down feeling.  Just last week, I was pushing madly ahead to finish the first draft of my WIP.  Then I discovered the broken plot.

Yeah.  Bad day, that.

So now I've started over, and the pressure to finish before the end of the year is gone.

Well, sort of gone.  It's an ego, thing, really.  I completed another first draft earlier this year (my dystopian's "book 2"), and wanted to pride myself on having written two first drafts in the same year.

As if that matters.  I think I'm over it.

I think.

Anyway, my week-leading-to-Christmas is going to be much different than I'd anticipated.  Much BETTER.  Being dedicated is one thing, but I tend to pressure myself beyond recognition.

So there you have it.  A calmer, less stressed Authoress.  Anyway, it makes my husband happy.

What about you?  Are you ramping down?  Meeting end-of-years goals or deadlines? Plodding merrily along with thinking too hard about anything?

Share your journey points!  It's a good way to collectively "take our pulse," hold each other accountable.

And have a joyous weekend.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thank You

I may as well admit it: I'm not good at receiving.  That's why I squirmed so much when the donate button went up.  Not that I thought it was a bad idea; so many of you had expressed a desire to "give back" somehow.

It's just that I wasn't looking for a way to "get" anything.  This blog--this COMMUNITY OF AWESOME WRITERS--is a gift in itself.  I've said so countless times.

It "gives back" to me on its own, anyway.  Without realizing, really, what I was doing, I've created a solid--albeit anonymous--platform.  A by-product of what was conceived as a community for encouraging writers.  That's an awesome payback all by itself.

Anyway.  Your generosity has blown me away.  And I'm not known for my speechlessness.  As you can probably imagine.

So to each one of you who has so selflessly donated from your pockets:  THANK YOU.  You have created Christmas.  Literally.

To each one of you who has purchased my e-book:  THANK YOU.  I hope you found it a truly helpful tool for your journey.

To each one of you who has written words of encouragement, affirmation, and reminders to never give up:  THANK YOU.  I have been strengthened by your words time and time again.  And they've made me smile.

To each one of you who has shared your personal success story and how the blog played a role in that:  THANK YOU.  It's amazing--and humbling--to watch people reach their goals, touch their dreams.

To each one of you who has generously given the gift of time by leaving thoughtful critiques on countless excerpts throughout the year:  THANK YOU.  This blog wouldn't be what it is without you.

To each one of you who has dealt with the frustrations of the submission process in order to get your work on the blog:  THANK YOU.  I salute you for your bravery AND your patience.

This blog--this COMMUNITY--is one of the hugest blessings in my life.  I am undone.

Wishing you peace, joy, contentment, and THE BEST POSSIBLE FUTURE FOR YOUR WRITING.

And you know I mean that. :-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Slush Choices and Imbalanced Genres

In perusing the (very helpful) comments on my Baker's Dozen survey, I noticed a few repeated themes.  This is good, because repeated themes help me to identify problems and strengths as I plan for next year's auction.

Yes.  I think another auction is a given.

*pause for cheering*

However, one of the repeated themes isn't something I can't change, so I thought it would be a good idea to address it.

Paraphrased:  "There were too many fantasies."  "I wanted to see more women's fiction/historical/fill-in-the-blank."  "Way too much YA."  "The genres weren't evenly distributed."

Okay.  I've got to say this tenderly.  When one is faced with a finite pool of submissions, one must choose THE STRONGEST of the bunch.  As you all know.  And if there happen to be stronger entries in some genres than others, the slush-readers don't have any control over that.

Here's an example (totally made up):  Let's say there's one more slot left in the MG/YA section.  We've already got lots of SFF and YA, and it surely would be nice to add an MG historical to the mix.  As luck would have it, one of the three remaining entries is a MG historical!  The other two are both YA urban fantasies.

So we read the MG historical with bated breath.  And...it's not strong.  REALLY not strong.  Not query-ready.  Probably needs a good overhaul before it hits the eyeballs of agentkind.

We mark it as a "maybe" because the logline is decent, and because we know we've got to fill the final slot.  Then we move on and read the YA urban fantasies.  And one of them is STRONG!  So we choose it.

In this situation, there is no way we would choose the MG historical just to "make the numbers more even."

So unless we ran a separate submission window for EVERY SINGLE GENRE, there is no way to control how many of each genre and subgenre make it through the final curtain.

And, folks? There is no way I'm running separate submission windows for every genre.  That's in the realm of ludicrous.

So splitting it into two categories--adult and children's--is the best I can do.  And my decision to take more children's than adult's was made after analyzing the tastes of our participating agents.  Frankly, there was a lot more MG and YA listed on their websites.  We have to go with what the agents want.

Who knows?  Next year we might end up with exactly the opposite--more adult and less kidlit.  It's all about the agents.  Happy agents come back to participate in future contests, yes?

Anyway, I hope that helps you understand why you saw what might've seemed like disparate representations of genres.  Jodi and I weren't paying attention to genre.  We were paying attention to writing.

And that's what agents are paying attention to.  Writing.

So write on!

Oh, and one more thing.  A few of you lamented that you wished you'd been given a reason for your rejection.  For as frustrating as that is, I just can't email reasons to everyone whose work doesn't make the final cut.  The writing either worked for us, or it didn't.  It either felt "ready" or it didn't.  It's totally subjective, yes.  And Jodi and I REALLY clicked as a slush-reading team.  To a scary extent, even.

There isn't a single entry over which we argued.  Not even in jest.

And?  I deleted the rejected entries after we made our final decisions.  Reading slush took A LOT OF TIME.  Sending reasons for rejections wasn't something we could add to that.

You'll hear the same thing from agents.  So you'll have to be ready for that.  For the Reasonless Noes.

I can tell you this: It was never because I don't love you. *smile*

So to ALL OF YOU who entered:  THANK YOU.  To all of you who filled out the survey:  THANK YOU.

The whole experience blew me away.  It's absolutely worth repeating.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Fricassee

I think this week speaks for itself.  It was amazing to watch everything unfold, plus I'm still sending post-auction requests from agents.  So my Fairy Godmother wings are feeling pretty sparkly!

Biggest frustration today?  I had no idea that Survey Monkey only allows a maximum of 100 responses on its free account.  I surpassed that halfway through yesterday--in fact, last count was at 167.  In other words 67 results I CAN'T SEE.  Unless I pay $19.95 a month.

Yeah.  I could pay the 20 bucks, read the survey, and cancel.  But...do I WANT to spend $20 on a survey two weeks before Christmas.  *grumble grumble*  I may have to bite the bullet.  I REALLY NEED the feedback, most of which has been very helpful.

A few sour grapes.  A couple WIFMs.  That's normal.  Mostly it was all constructive, helpful feedback.  Once I've compiled and studied it, I'll let you know what I've discovered.

Other news?  Um.  I watched The Princess and the Frog last night.  Because I'm addicted to Disney princesses and hadn't seen this one yet.

Dumbest. Movie. Ever.

The life's-all-about-my-pleasure prince never really redeemed himself enough to deserve Tiana's love.  The songs all sounded the same.  And aside from a few funny lines, it was, overall, just the same-ol'-same-ol'.

Boo, Disney.  I had higher expectations.

And now, off to finish this dang first draft.  Or kill myself trying.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baker's Dozen Agent Auction Survey

The fun continues as editor Stacy Whitman works her way through the entries leaving excellent feedback (have I mentioned she's awesome?).

In the meantime, I'm looking ahead.  As in, should we do this again next year?  Every year?  So I've crafted a wee survey and I would appreciate your feedback.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY NOW

Your responses will remain anonymous unless you choose to share your name/email.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I get fairly geeked over stalking survey results, so this will provide me with something else to click on every ten minutes instead of focusing on my WIP.

I'm at 64K, folks.  If I don't get stuck, I should finish in ten days or fewer.

If. I. Don't. Get. Stuck.

*worried*

Okay, off to be productive.  Looking forward to your feedback!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

EXTRA BONUS GOOD NEWS FOR ALL WHO RECEIVED BIDS!!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Now that the auction is officially closed, I'll let you in on my little secret.  I promised the agents they could ask for ANYTHING THEY WANTED after the contest.  So many of you will end up getting more requests for your work as a result of this auction.

It will take a few days for me to process all the agent requests and send submission information to authors.  But hang with me!  This is the part where I get to play Fairy Godmother.

I love this role!

And the winning bids...

Here they are, the who-gets-what!  Authors, please refrain from sending your materials until you receive submission instructions from me.

1. No Other Tart Will Do, FULL to Laura Bradford
2. This Side of Crazy, 15 PAGES to Laura Bradford
4. The Cacao Conspiracy, 10 PAGES to Josh Getzler
5. Hound in Blood and Black, FULL to Kate McKean
6. Hatshepshut, Female Pharoah, 25 PAGES to Josh Getzler
8. I, Mulan, 50 PAGES to Danielle Chiotti
9. Dead, Without a Stone to Tell It, 75 PAGES to Josh Getzler
10. Windy City Blues, 103 PAGES to Danielle Chiotti
11. The Clown House, 40 PAGES to Laura Bradford
13. Ghost River, 20 PAGES to Suzie Townsend
14. Crown of Stars, FULL to Kate McKean
17. The White Curse, FULL to Kathleen Ortiz
20. Regina Brinkwell and the Truth Brigade, FULL to Sarah LaPolla
21. The Devil You Know, 20 PAGES to Laura Bradford
22. Out of My Body, FULL to Lauren MacLeod
23. Kwizera Means Hope, 10 PAGES to Sarah LaPolla
24. Ink Wash, 50 PAGES to Josh Getzler
26. Unvisible, 50 PAGES to Danielle Chiotti
27. The Candle Dark Wicked, 35 PAGES to Josh Getzler
28. Crossing Dark Water, 40 PAGES to Kate McKean
29. Chimera, 75 PAGES to Kate McKean
30. The Persephone Paradox, 10 PAGES to Melissa Jeglinski
31. Emma Brown and the Invisible Unicorns, FULL to Weronika Janczuk
32. Waiting for Unicorns, FULL to Sarah LaPolla
34. Wayward, FULL to Josh Getzler
36. Requiem, FULL to Melissa Jeglinski
37. Multiple Choice, FULL to Lauren MacLeod
38. Red Lick, FULL to Joan Paquette
39. Bracer, 20 PAGES to Laura Bradford
40. To the Bone, 5 PAGES to Joan Paquette
41. One Up, 5 PAGES to Michelle Wolfson

Baker's Dozen: BIDDING NOW CLOSED

Wow! That was the most fun this blog has ever seen.  Truly.

If your excerpt contains a winning bid, I will email you (or have already emailed you) with specific submission instructions for the agent with the winning bid.

If your excerpt did not receive any bids, YOU ARE NOT A LOSER.  You made the cut, you received lots of (hopefully) helpful feedback, and--perhaps most important--you PUT YOUR WORK OUT THERE.  It's a vulnerable place.  It's not for wimps.  So kudos to you.

To all of you.

I'll post a list of all the winning agent bids as soon as I've finished compiling it.

And then?  There might be a little extra surprise.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baker's Dozen: BIDDING NOW OPEN

Agents, place your bids directly in the comment boxes of the excerpts you'd like to win.

Readers, feel free to continue critting during the 24-hour auction window.

Good luck, everyone!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Snark! The Haggard Agents Sing

For your listening enjoyment whilst reading and critiquing. :)



(Lyrics HERE.)

#41 Contemporary: One Up (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: One Up
GENRE: Contemporary

For seventh grader Jace Evers, basketball and a friendly rivalry of "one-ups" with a teammate are welcome diversions from his deteriorating home life... at first. But when the rivalry escalates into malicious pranks, Jace must choose between going along with the one-ups to keep his only friend, or stopping a prank that would endanger an elderly gentleman's life.

If Jace pulled the hood far enough over his eyes and hunched his shoulders just right, he could walk down the crowded hallway without seeing anyone.

Just inside the locker room door he stopped. Brushed the hood off his head. Then took a deep breath. Sneakers, new basketballs, sweat. Jace felt better already. At his locker he traded his tattered sweatshirt for shorts and a t-shirt, and headed to the gym.

Coach blew his whistle with the force of a cargo ship horn. Everyone gathered around him. "Gentlemen," he boomed, "to make the traveling squad you will have to work hard, work together, and do it until it hurts. Now run! Twenty warm-up laps!"

Other players groaned. But Jace smiled. He'd played for Coach the year before, and had predicted that exact speech. Jace was grateful for it. And to be at try-outs instead of on his way home.

He jogged alone in the middle of the pack until he heard a steady flap, flap, flap behind him. Then a new teammate fell into step beside him.

"Name's Owen," the kid said, pushing his shaggy, sandy brown hair out of his eyes. "You gonna make the traveling squad?"

He reminded Jace of an English sheep dog. A big one.

"Hope so," Jace answered between breaths, knowing that as a seventh grader he'd have to beat out a few eighth graders to do it.

"Me too, Owen answered. "Wanna make a bet on it?"

#40 MG Historical: To The Bones (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: To The Bones
GENRE: Middle-Grade Historical

When an angry 13 year old Harper Puckett sets out to prove he can make it on his own, he gets caught up in the Dinosaur Bone Wars of 1881 as a spy, and then a double spy. His situation becomes more dangerous than he ever imagined, and if his cheating ways are discovered, he risks losing his family, himself, and the only life he's ever known.

My grandpa used to always say, "Harper, sometimes you have to jump off the train before it even gets to the station." Here at Como Bluff that meant beating the sun, and the weather, with a fully loaded pack train. I knew he'd be proud to see me now, working the rounds all on my own.

We hiked the rocky path along the bottom of the tall, multicolored bluff, with me whistling and the mules plodding to the beat. "I think Ma's gonna like our new plan," I said to Boomerang. He snorted.

I turned my head to make out the sounds coming at us. The rhythmic clank of pick on stone settled in my ears like a miniature hailstorm in the sun. That would be Mr. Reed. I quickened my pace just a bit, the mules coming right along with me.

This was the strangest mining operation I'd ever seen, digging up monster bones, but Grandpa had taught me not to judge. He said to respect any hard working man, so that's what I did. If they really were mining old monsters, how did those bones get themselves embedded in solid rock in the first place? Didn't make much sense to me, but it didn't really matter. Even this type of mining camp needed supplies. "Good morning, Mr. Reed," I hollered as we rounded the rock jutted bend. He spun toward me, pick in hand. His eyes blazed for a moment, brighter than the morning, his bushy brown moustache a straight line.

#39 Urban Fantasy: Braver (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Braver
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Leyik, the teenage vocalist of a breakout rock band, journeys through abandoned warehouses, destroyed subways, and fallen skyscrapers to find the girl he is chemically addicted to, Claire, the only person who can stop the biblical-scale disaster caused by Spire Corporation.

Strong hands plunged Leyik's head underwater. A stream of bubbles rushed past his face as he screamed. He didn't have much time left.

Leyik struggled to move his head above the water, but his neck was gripped with such power that his spine could have easily broken under the force. He thrashed his arms and legs against the jagged metal tank, but couldn't break his shackles. His body buzzed from what felt like ten thousand pinpricks in his fingers and toes. Little specs of light burst into his vision from a spasm of blood vessels in his brain. Finally the reflex to breathe was too great to be controlled. He opened his mouth and sucked in water. A moment later a man with a shaved head pulled him out of the tank. Leyik violently gasped for air as he collapsed to the ground.

The man spat out questions before Leyik could clear the water from his lungs. "Who are you working for? What are you planning on doing with VANGUARD?"

What the hell is vanguard? "I don't know what you're talking about!" Leyik coughed. "What did you do with Mike?"

The man ignored Leyik's question and checked his watch. He wore a white lab coat that covered the length of his slender form. Thick-rimmed glasses rested on his pale, sunken face. He walked across the room to switch on surgical lights above a medical table. Leyik tried to shield the blinding light with his hand to look around.

#38 YA Historical: Red Lick (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Red Lick
GENRE: YA Historical

In a last-ditch effort to gain his father's respect, Hawthorne takes part in a midnight hunt, only to learn his prey is human and his father is a member of the Klan. With no way out of the situation, he participates in a murder and learns the next day that the boy murdered was not the intended victim. Unable to live with himself, Hawthorne decides to turn himself in and tell what he knows, but can he do it before the Klan, or the victim's angry brother, take their revenge?

August 24, 1963

Thorny Taylor crept through the dark wood, his clothing heavy and damp with humidity. He had to catch up to the others, and he had to do it quickly, without notice. If he scared off the night's prey, there would be no more chances for him. He could not fail again.

“Watch out, boys! He's doublin' back!”

Thorny's heart quickened and he crouched behind a large sycamore, trying to melt into the sweltering dark. In the distance, a firefly blinked as though sending a signal. Thorny pulled his clothes from his sticky skin and peered around the tree.

Please, God. Let me catch him. Let it be me.

Brush crackled and branches snapped. Voices rose from the silent depths, growing louder and louder. They were coming, all of them, barreling toward him like a freight train, making no effort to be quiet. Thorny stood, ready to pounce.

A blur broke through the trees and Thorny sprang from the brush. Someone slammed into his chest and they both tumbled to the ground. Thorny shoved the body away then scrambled on top of it. He sat on the heaving chest and pressed his knees down on two flailing arms then stared at the struggling body beneath him.

Jesus, he whispered. Willie?

“Get off! Let me go!” Willie pleaded, his face twisted in terror. “Come on, don't do this. Let me up”

He doesn't know it's me.

Thorny swallowed, grateful for the hood that covered his face.

#37 YA Contemporary: Multiple Choice (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Multiple Choice
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Maddy, Nina, and June have always been til-death-do-us-part, epic best friends--until junior year, when one sexy secret, two destructive sisters, and three little lies force them to fend for themselves. Just when the girls need one another the most, their unbreakable friendship breaks--and their choices will determine whether or not they can pick up the pieces.

It's just a little pink box, Maddy thought, trying to calm the twist of her stomach as she opened the front door to her house. Covered by a drug store circular, triple-wrapped in plastic bags, and shoved in the very bottom of her gigantic purse, the pregnancy test box made her feel like a terrorist sneaking a bomb through an airport. She glanced at her reflection in the foyer mirror. Was her face flushed? Did she breathe too quickly? Everything about her said one thing: guilty.

She motioned behind her, encouraging her best friends, Nina and June, to follow. The clinking of glasses told her that her mom was in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher.

"Is that you, Maddy?"

"No mom, it's your other daughter," Maddy said, like she did every time her mother asked that question. Except her voice wavered and cracked like a boy going through puberty. Hello, obvious.

"Hey Ms. Ferguson," Nina said, loud and clear. Maddy shot her a grateful look.

"Thank you for having us over tonight," June added.

"Oh, no problem." Maddy's mom peeked her head around the kitchen doorway.

Maddy clutched her purse, and her heart skipped. When she was little, her mom told her that all mothers have x-ray vision, in addition to the extra pair of eyes hidden beneath their hair. A part of Maddy still believed her.

#36 YA Contemporary: Requiem (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Requiem
GENRE: YA Contemporary

When Ben's seemingly perfect older brother chases a bottle of Tylenol with a fifth of vodka, Ben must decide what's more important: exposing the skeletons in his brother's closet-- which may include having knocked up the so-called school slut-- or getting rid of the ones his brother's death has exposed in his own.

Marissa considered the word, let it roll around on her tongue like a jawbreaker, the spicy cinnamon kind that burn if they linger against the inside of your cheek for too long.

Pregnant.

Pregnant.

She repeated it to herself as if somehow that made it more, or perhaps less, real as she clutched a stack of pamphlets covering everything from genetic tests to her options.

A nurse looked at Marissa with a combination of sympathy and disdain but Marissa was used to this, to people looking at her like she's a person to be pitied. And perhaps feared. But in that moment, she was grateful for the familiarity of it, as if nothing really changed even though absolutely everything had.

"You have options," the nurse repeated, placing extra emphasis on the P. Options. Like she was spitting it out.

"You mean I can pick the sex?" Marissa asked. She bit the corner of her cheek to hide the curl forming in her lips-- her one tell.

The nurse looked at her sideways so that Marissa couldn't figure if she was onto her or horrified. Marissa was, of course, hoping for the latter.

"There's an adoption agency I can refer you to," the nurse continued. "Or if you'd rather talk with the counselor about how to manage your pregnancy, I can schedule that, too."

Marissa wondered about that word, manage. As if her pregnancy would require her to add another person to her payroll. Should she collect resumes? Conduct interviews? Negotiate wages?

#35 YA Magical Realism: The Legend of Itasca (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: The Legend of Itasca
GENRE: YA Magical Realism

Fifteen-year-old Jeni buys a Native American artifact and unintentionally frees a mythic underwater monster which drowns victims in the icy waters of Lake Itasca. If she can escape the human minion sent to steal the artifact and eliminate her, Jeni must then lure the monster back into captivity before it kills again.

Fourteen family members. One cottage.

If Jeni wanted to avoid Tyler - and she did - she had her work cut out for her. Only the bathroom or the bedroom she shared with her grandma would provide complete refuge from her cousin.

Tyler appeared in the living room doorway as if he'd heard her thoughts. Jeni stuck her nose farther into her book, hoping to go unnoticed.

No such luck.

He beelined straight for her and jiggled keys in her face when she refused to acknowledge him. "Wanna drive?"

"No thanks."

"C'mon. I know you need the practice hours."

"Not that bad."

"Mmm. Or maybe you're chicken because you suck at driving."

Closing her book, Jeni glared at her cousin. "I doubt my parents will let me anyway."

"Ask them."

Jeni watched Tyler's eyebrow inch up under his shaggy hair and blew out an exasperated sigh. "Fine." Though the answer would be no, Tyler wouldn't give up until he heard it for himself.

A few minutes later, stunned and ticked off that her mom agreed with the idea, Jeni stalked out of the cottage. Tyler leaned on the deck rail, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He tossed Jeni his keys.

She wanted to tell him exactly what he could do with his keys, but they'd be here for a week. Better to prove she could drive than get badgered about it for days.

Except - was ridiculing her driving skills enough for Tyler? He must have something else up his sleeve.

#34 YA Urban Fantasy: WAYWARD (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: WAYWARD
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old witch, Hex Wayward, struggles to control the dark magic inside of her. When her power-hungry family threatens the human boy she loves, Hex will do anything to keep him safe.

I laid on the throttle and smiled at an answering purr from the engine. My baby was a patch job--all spit and spare parts, mostly junk or stolen.

The two guys on my right were South-side gearheads with shiny chrome monsters that they probably got straight off a dealer's lot. I could take them easy. The last rider had a cherry-red rice rocket, a Ninja maybe. It was hard to tell in the dark.

Any minute, a Southie would saunter up and tell me girls shouldn't be racing. Try to get inside my head. As fun as it'd be to plant my boot in his smirking face, it wasn't worth the effort. The two-hundred bucks I won off them last week spoke for itself.

We lined up on the deserted street, bikes jumping like caged tigers. My heart beat faster in anticipation. I wanted the freezing wind to whip through the opening of my jacket and numb my lips. Nothing between me and the road but squealing tires and a roaring engine.

A girl in a miniskirt walked in front of us, waving a yellow bandanna like a flag. Time slowed as I waited for her arm to come down.

Without warning, a stench overwhelmed my senses, strong and acrid, so hot that it seared the hair from my nostrils.

The smell of burning sulfur and ancient spice.

The scent of magic.

#33 YA Paranormal/Urban: Feel (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Feel
GENRE: YA Paranormal/Urban

When honors student, Asia, discovers her unusual powers by speed-healing a deep cut wound on the boy she babysits, a foreign mobster searching for members of Asia's legendary bloodline tracks her down. Asia needs to accept her talents and decide whether to protect herself or blow her cover and attempt to revive a comatose woman, all so the boy she healed can grow up with something Asia doesn't have--a mother.

I walked into a clawing headache in first period American History. Not my headache--someone else's, and the deeper I went into the classroom, the more it felt like bugs worming through my brain.

Ugh.

Strolling into someone else's pain, literally, had been my secret suffering since puberty. I scanned the room for today's culprit, careful to avoid eye contact with my ex-best friend, Angela. Our school's quarterback lowered his head to his desk. Figured. After Friday's victory, I had to share his post-party hangover.

Stupid. Freaking. Jock.

At least it wasn't gas--some people held it until their bloated bellies folded me in two. Or genital burning. I took a seat as far from him as possible and cradled my head. I didn't know if my condition had a name. Physical empathy? But honestly, I didn't give a flying dunk what it was called. I'd been slapped in the face with chronic mess-up-my-life syndrome.

I stopped in the girls' bathroom before class and fixed my bride-of-Frankenstein hair with a rubber band I found on the floor since I couldn't get ready at home. Mental note: ponytail plus headache equals crappy combo. I pressed the pads of my fingers into my scalp and then loosened the tie for relief.

Screw this.

Things were a little easier until last year, when I only felt one person's aches at a time. Not anymore. And Chicago--where people were crammed together like pigeons on a roof--was no place for someone like me.

#32 MG Fiction: Waiting For Unicorns (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Waiting For Unicorns
GENRE: MG Fiction

Fable claims that unicorns grant wishes, and the unicorns of the sea-Narwhal Whales-are twelve-year-old Talia's last hope for an impossible wish. She's certain they can bring her mom back from the dead. But when the elusive whales fail to make an appearance, and Tal's dad continues to grows emotionally distant, will several unusual friendships give her the strength to keep her family, and herself, in one piece? Or will Tal's grief destroy her belief in the impossible?  

The old Inuit woman told me that if I ever saw a unicorn, to close my eyes. Tight.  "Unicorns break your heart," she said. And she'd placed her bent arthritic fingers over her eyes, icy blue and sightless, warning me against the very thing I was dying to see.      

But that's the trouble with things like unicorns. You get hungry for what you're not supposed to want, and it eats at you. Pretty soon, all you can think about is that thing-the thing you're supposed to shut your heart to, pretending you never cared about in the first place. But I did care. And I told myself that when I saw a unicorn, I'd keep my eyes wide, wide open, and just let the sight of it pour into me, breaking up whatever wholeness was left of my heart. And I'd make my wish.

In early spring, the year I turned thirteen, we moved.

Dad and I ran packing tape over the seams of a couple-dozen cardboard boxes and sent our life away in a cargo plane bound farther north than I could ever imagine.  Woods Hole, Massachusetts was pretty far north in my mind, considering it was only about a four-hour drive to the Canadian line. But Dad and I kept right on going-right on over the border.

#31 MG Science Fantasy: Emma Brown And The Invisible Unicorns (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: EMMA BROWN AND THE INVISIBLE UNICORNS
GENRE: MG Science Fantasy

After 13-year-old Emma Brown is rejected from a school for children destined to save magical creatures from extinction, she leaves Earth to explore the galaxy with her dad, a well-known mad scientist. When hunters kidnap her father to help them de-activate a unicorn's cloak of invisibility, Emma must find a way to be accepted in the school, and rescue her dad and the unicorns, before they both become extinct.

Stars needed names.

That's what her dad told her when she accidentally incinerated his research on the re-birthing habits of phoenixes when she was bored. Being stuck on a spaceship for two weeks will do that to a five-year-old.

Emma Brown was thirteen now, but the game stuck.

In her cabin on the Ark 17, Emma stood on her bed and tapped a spot on the glass window that made up an entire wall of her room. Instantly, the computer calculated the distance the Ark was from the star, their current location, and speed, and then glowed - like a twinkling Christmas light.

"Star #276,412,402, unnamed," the computer's voice chirped.

"Unnamed," Emma repeated. She paced on her mattress, bobbing up and down like a buoy. "Computer, we shall call the star - "

"Frank."

Emma turned toward the voice. Her dad, Ben, was standing in the doorway wearing a huge rubber apron and goggles that magnified his light blue eyes. He usually stayed in his lab until they were ready to descend. His appearance meant that she better put on socks.

"Frank is the worst star name ever." She kicked over her pillows and blankets to unearth her stockings.

"Wait till you get to the billions and run out of names. Frank will be looking mighty good. Try under the bed."

"Fine." She stuck out her tongue before leaning over her bed. Of course her socks were down there. "Computer, log star #276,412,402 as Frank."

Emma was listening to the computer beep its consent when she looked out the window at the planet Oz.

#30 YA Contemporary Fantasy: The Persephone Paradox (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: The Persephone Paradox
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

When seventeen-year-old Zoe learns that an evil Greek god and The Fates have been playing tug-of-war with her life--and that she's a daughter of the goddess of spring, not just some freakish gardening prodigy--she must wield her life-giving powers with deadly force to win her battle for independence or else become a weapon in her enemy's plot against humankind.

"I can tell you've been clenching your teeth," my dentist says, blinding me with her headlamp as she takes a closer look. It's as if she's mining for something worthwhile in my mouth. She obviously doesn't know--there's nothing worthwhile about me.

She continues her excavation while I grip the armrests, anticipating pain.

"How old are you now, Zoe?"

My response is lost in the suctioning of my spit, but the woman is fluent in phlegm.

"Seventeen? Hmm. I've never seen so much gum recession in someone so young before." Dr. Fallon says this not with the sympathetic or scolding tone I'd expect, but with fascination.

I'm a prodigy in all things disturbing.

At least my hair's not receding, but that gives me no comfort. Grey strands weave through my long black hair, making me look like a witch. Wrinkles radiate from the corners of my eyes as if some sadistic crow stomped on my face. And now my gums are shriveling, too? Just what will I look like in ten years?

Then I realize it doesn't matter. I doubt I'll even still be here.

#29 YA Urban Fantasy: CHIMERA (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: CHIMERA
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Seventeen year old Kahlua finds her normal life overshadowed by a new paranormal one when she discovers that she's a nephilim - the bastard offspring of a fallen angel and a mortal woman. The taint of mixed blood runs in Kahlua's veins, and a recently unleashed demon is bent on spilling it.

I knew at a young age it wasn't normal for Mom to keep a suitcase by the front door, with stern instructions never to look inside. Her unexplained travels always ended with an attempt at normalcy when she came back. I'm adaptable, so I put all the odd information about Mom in the I'll-think-about-that-later file, which I managed to keep closed until I was seventeen. Still, I should've been prepared when I got the instant message that changed my life.

I was in my bedroom, surfing Facebook on Mom's borrowed Macbook. There was chemistry homework spread around me, but we'd been successfully ignoring each other for an hour. Dad was too busy stressing over Mom's absence to worry about my chem grade. I could tell from the volume of the downstairs TV that he was doing his calm version of panicking.

I coveted my time alone with the Mac, even if it did include the background static of worrying about Mom. A week had passed since the night she'd snuck into my room to watch me for a moment. It was part of her ritual before leaving, and the sound of my bedroom door shutting behind her the prelude to days of anxious waiting. I hadn't jumped to horrific conclusions yet. I wanted to believe that if something were wrong, I'd know somehow.

#28 Paranormal thriller: Crossing Dark Water (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Crossing Dark Water
GENRE: Paranormal thriller

When Jeep-loving Haley puts the pedal to the metal to free her sister from a mountaintop mental hospital, she collides with a cartel of doctors who deal in magic--and must risk her own sanity to save her sister's.

My twin sister, Sierra, sat in lotus position on the teacher's desk with a dozen prom committee members gawking at her. She stared at the ceiling like she was stoned out of her mind. Which was impossible, she was all about healthy eating and substance free living. I would have assumed it was some yoga thing except spit bubbled from one corner of her mouth and she was talking nonsense.

Again.

"Look." Sierra pointed a trembling finger upwards and everyone's eyes followed her gesture. "The ceiling's opening like a curtain. So much darkness--but there's the moon. Can you see it?"

Okay, I knew better, but I looked up too. A pencil jutted out of a cracked ceiling tile and there was a gross yellow smudge, but nothing moved.

Leah Newman, our junior class president, squealed excitedly. "A curtain on the gym ceiling--that's an awesome prom idea! We could have a shiny black sky above it and glittery stars with everybody's names on them."

I rushed toward the desk. I needed to get Sierra out of there before someone realized her babbling wasn't artsy brainstorming.

"My mom could donate the fabric," someone suggested.

Leah bounced on her tiptoes. "The guys from the building trades' class could hang the curtain and make it move."

Everyone began chattering at once. Blinking, Sierra stared from one committee member to the next.

I slipped past Leah and leaned in close to Sierra. "You alright?" I whispered.

Sierra's sweat-dampened face went scarlet. "I'm fine," she said.

#27 YA Paranormal Romance: THE CANDLE DARK WICKED (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: THE CANDLE DARK WICKED
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

Sixteen year-old Teagan returns from visiting her twin sister in the hospital with a key to a crayon diary she hopes will unlock a mystery. Nine years earlier while playing hide and go seek in her grandmother's study she found her sibling with a puppet on one hand, and the words find me written on the other--lying in a coma.

Teagan cared about being a pitcher first, a girl second--maybe that explained why her boobs remained straight A's just like her marks in school. The perky darlings allowed her the freedom to whip a softball fast. Almost as fast as the punch she threw at her friend Mike for kissing her sans permission slip after she tossed a shutout earlier today. Nothing soft with her knuckleball. She grinned knowing Mike's shoulder hurt more than his pride. ‭

The reason she fouled his romantic play was as simple as 1-2-3.‬ One year, two months and three days. The age differences between them. Too bad his parents didn't drink that bottle of wine a year earlier. She found him cute, especially when he shivered as their lips touched.

Now, the fifteen-year old forbidden fruit would see her for the first time in a dress, her hair combed and not hidden under a cap. She'd dressed like this to visit her twin sister, AKA sleeping beauty in the hospital knowing somehow it made her happy.

Well she didn't have to make Mike happy, so she stepped off the bus and pushed a crunched up baseball cap onto her short red hair, thinking his budding boxers suffered enough protein stains for one day. They waited for her on the front porch, Mike, his sore shoulder, and Rachel, her best friend.

“Why we messing around with voodoo dolls?” Mike asked.

“They're not voodoo dolls.”

“Good because I forgot my chicken.”

#26 YA paranormal: Unvisible (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Unvisible
GENRE: YA paranormal

Owen, a high school senior in hiding from the organization that made him invisible, risks his safety for a chance at the one thing he never thought he could have--a friend.

I hated this part.

The bell rang exactly four minutes and forty-eight seconds ago. Which meant I had twelve seconds to get through the next door. I was a hundred yards away, the hall was too crowded for me to run like a normal person, and with AP calculus, I had little hope someone would show up later than me to slip in behind.

Perfect attendance record, gone. Not that anybody would've given me a certificate.

I skidded toward the door. Closed, of course. Mrs. Harper always closed the door, like she worried someone would want to spy on her lesson. Not likely. Except, well, for me.

Eighteen days without a missed class. Not bad, but nowhere near last spring's stretch--forty-seven days--lots of art classes and two P.E.s. That's what I got for challenging myself this semester ... and drinking two cokes at lunch. I knew better than that.

I couldn't pick up Mrs. Harper's monotone through the thick walls, but stuck around for a few minutes anyway, hoping for a straggler. No luck.

Of course it was this hour I got stuck. The worst hour. The last hour before the seventeen I had to spend alone. Maybe I'd go out tonight. I peeked out the nearest window. It didn't look like rain. Probably safe.

Probably wasn't good enough. I'd have to check the weather forecast.

I hurried to the library. Miss Wester always took a break ten minutes into last period. I followed her once, curious. Bad idea.

#25 MG: Shorty (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: SHORTY
GENRE: Middle Grade

When seventh-grader Tom Sullivan's growth plan (think green drinks and medieval torture racks) is plastered all over the school by tough guy Willowby, Tom snaps and embarks on a scheme to take the bully down. But reversing his shocking transformation from nice to nasty requires the thing he fears the most--a face-to-face showdown with Willowby.

When my Social Studies teacher told us to line up by height, he had no particular reason, no evil purpose. He had no idea that it would change everything about seventh grade for me.

A groan passed through the class like 'the wave' cheer on the bleachers. Mr. Johnson ignored us.

"Line up, please," he said again.

Pete Willowby stood up and pumped his fist into the air. "First in line, boys, ye-ah."

It was no surprise to anyone that Pete was first in line. He had been the tallest kid in our class for the past year. This year I noticed he even had a couple hairs on his lip. The thing was that Pete and I used to be friends. Pete lived next door to me. I'd known him since kindergarten, when we walked to school together every day. Me, Pete, and his dog, Sadie did everything together. Pete and I used to look each other in the eye then. But all that changed last year when he got taller and forgot about me. He got new friends. Taller ones. And nobody called him "Pete" anymore; it was "Willowby" now.

Rachel Toggles stood up next in line to Willowby. She had straight brown hair that she kept in two braids by her ears. Today I noticed a zit on her chin and I think she was wearing a bra too. I looked up to her...literally. Willowby made a farting noise with his armpit and grinned in Rachel's direction.

#24 YA Urban Fantasy: Ink Wash (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Ink Wash
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Katie moves to Japan and crosses paths with her school's arrogant and gorgeous kendo star, whose drawings come to life in sinister ways. When Yakuza gangsters hone in on Tomohiro's dark talent, Katie has to decide whether to stay away from the one person who's come to understand her, or to face running from the Yakuza--and from an even more dangerous gang that holds the key to Tomohiro's abilities.

I made it halfway across the courtyard before I realized I was still wearing my school slippers. No lie. I had to turn around and slink all the way back to the genkan, the stifled laughs from other students trailing me as I mustered what slippered dignity I could.

God, way to scream foreigner. I hoped it didn't get around.

I pulled open the door and lifted myself onto the raised wooden floor, sliding between the rows and rows of shoe cubbies looking for mine. It wasn't hard to find--it was the only one with a pair of leather shoes sticking out approximately a mile, surrounded by the neatly tucked-away slippers in everyone else's boxes.

As I reached for my shoes, a girl's high and whiny voice echoed from the hallway, muffled by the sliding door. I rolled my eyes--yet more drama. I pulled off the first slipper and then the other, clunking my shoes onto the floor and sliding my feet in.

And then the genkan door slid open with a crash.

I crouched down, jolted by the footsteps stomping towards me. I did not want in on this performance.

The girl's voice rapidly churned out Japanese words I didn't know yet. I caught a particle here and a past tense there, but I could only make out one thing--she was seriously pissed.

And she was definitely ranting and raving at somebody.

I peeked around the wall of cubbies, hugging the wooden frame so they wouldn't see me.

#23 YA: Kwizera Means Hope (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Kwizera Means Hope
GENRE: YA

Having survived the Rwandan genocide in which her father and many schoolmates died, guilt now causes sixteen-year-old Cecile Kwizera loss of appetite, migraines, and nightmares. If she can't overcome the symptoms, she won't be able to keep her housekeeping job with a humanitarian organization which allows her to provide for her family, let alone save enough money to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.

I really did not want to pick tea for a living.

"It will just be temporary," Mama said. "Until you can find something better."

It didn't matter. Since the war, taking care of my family was more important than anything I wanted.

Anyway, how would I find something better if I had to spend all day in a tea field? I sighed and looked up at the Virunga volcano that seemed to float above the eucalyptus trees in the western sky. Another day out of school, another day further from my dream.

"Keep picking, Cecile," Mama yelled across from the next row. "If you don't meet your quota, Mr. Kabuga will fire you."

What she didn't say was that without this job, our family wouldn't have enough money for food. I hadn't been eating much anyway, but Mama needed to keep her strength up for picking tea and to nurse my baby brother. And my little sisters needed to eat, too.

Lucie and Therese came running down my row of tea plants, screaming and screeching, followed by a gaggle of boys and girls who should have been in school. Like me.

I grabbed Therese, the younger one, and spun her around in the air. Her shrill laughter filled the plantation. At eight years old she was still small enough for me to lift over my head. I couldn't do that anymore to Lucie, only two years older than Therese, despite the lack of food in recent months.

"Cecile!" Mama shouted, the frustration evident in her voice.

#22 YA Urban Fantasy: Out of My Body (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Out of My Body
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Tanya Reinhart, a sixteen-year-old girl who suffers from uncontrolled out-of-body experiences, needs to do anything to save her mother's kidnapped soul--even if it means risking her life as an astral projection spy (aka freak-in-training) for the U.S. Government.

Prickling. In my fingers, like ants gnawing my skin from the inside. Not here, please. Not now. But the tingling spreads like a current through my arms, chest, legs.

Maybe, if I really hurry, I can make it.

I scramble to rise from the chair and bump my hip against my desk. I hit it so hard that the desk tips over and crashes against the classroom tiles. Oh, this will definitely leave a mark on my hip. But now I don't feel pain. I'm already numb--I just feel my head and my unblinking eyes. This means I've only got a few seconds left to make it to the bathroom.

Everybody's looking. Even Mr. Doherty has stopped scribbling numbers on the whiteboard to stare at me. "Tanya, are you okay?" he asks, holding his blue marker in midair.

I don't answer. I just reel forward. Pass Aaron Burman's desk and stumble over Lindsay Narayan's backpack. Reach the door--kudos to me.

My hand flies to grasp the handle.

Too late. My fingers pass straight through the handle, through the closed door. And at the same time, the thud of a limp body crashing against the floor shocks me.

Oh, God.

I'm already out of my body--again.

Un-kudos to me.

Slowly, I look down. My body lies on the floor tiles, eyes rolling back, hands pulled against chest like a begging puppy. "No, no, no!" I yell, but of course no one hears me.

#21 YA Fiction: The Devil You Know (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: The Devil You Know
GENRE: YA Fiction

Seventeen year old Angie Dawson discovers she's one of the unlucky few born with the ability to see demons, and now she has to make a decision--make a deal with one of them, and be corrupted, or try to resist, and be driven insane. If only it were that easy. A particularly nasty demon isn't taking "No" for an answer, and now Angie must find a way to stop him, without losing her sanity--or her soul--in the process.

I can't have been asleep for more than an hour, maybe two, when my bedroom door swings open with a long, shivering groan. I ignore it--the door never latches right in winter, and our apartment is draftier than a frilly skirt on a windy day.

But then there's a touch on my foot, the barest hint of pressure on the duvet, and I am instantly, fully, awake.

"We've got company, cupcake," a voice says from the chair beside my bed.

"Thank you, Captain Obvious. Why did you let it in?"

"Last I checked, I wasn't a doorman," he says.

Still soundless, the thing continues its path around my bed, moving ever closer to where my head is resting on the pillow. I tuck my chin to my chest, shifting so the blankets cover most of my face, just in case. Ghosts won't try to get physical, usually, not if my oh-so-helpful partner Zeke is around. But it never hurts to be cautious.

"Gross," Zeke says, and even though I know better I open my eyes.

Inches from me, crouched down to be level with my face, is a scorched, peeling thing--nothing but black skin and grimacing mouth, lidless eyes wide and bright in the darkness. The ghost opens its mouth and the skin around it bursts and peels away from the charred lips. "You can see me," it gurgles.

#20 MG: Regina Brinkwell & The Truth Brigade (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Regina Brinkwell & the Truth Brigade
GENRE: Middle Grade

Sick of adults being big fat liars, twelve-year-old Regina Brinkwell fills her community service requirement with a spirited honesty campaign using picket lines to target businesses, teachers, and more. When she uncovers a blackmailing scandal and heartbreaking secret involving people close to her, she must find the courage to tell some very ugly truths or her school will be cheated out of thousands of dollars. 

Regina Brinkwell sat at a corner table in the lunchroom and watched her best friend devour a combination of peanut butter, banana, pickle, and marshmallow fluff. A blob of snot-colored goo splattered the paper he was reading. She nibbled on a fingernail, waiting for Skippy's reaction.

"What's this again?" he asked, studying the neat row of names. 

"A list of all the lying grown-ups in the town of Fredalia.  What do you think?"

"Um, I don't think bugging them counts as community service."

"Well, it should." She wrinkled her nose at the fishy odor coming from her cafeteria tuna melt. It stunk almost as bad as the peanut-pickle disaster. "Listen--adults have had the upper hand forever. When I was five, Dad said he was taking me to the playground and we went to the doctor's office for shots instead. Lots of shots, Skippy--painful shots that the doctor said wouldn't hurt a bit."

Skippy rolled his eyes and kept chewing. "You've gotta do better than that."

"Okay, what about that creepy clown at Sarah Graber's party in third grade?"

"Oh, yeah, yeah. He had that trick dog who was supposed to do flips."

Regina nodded, grabbing his forearm. "Exactly. That fat dog couldn't have flipped for a cookie if its life depended on it." She ignored a few stares. She was used to people thinking she and Skippy were boyfriend and girlfriend, which was ridiculous. Nobody should have a boyfriend if they still wear a retainer.

#19 YA Urban Fantasy: Urban Mythos (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Urban Mythos
GENRE: Young Adult Urban Fantasy

Zydeco Cashcan, an erstwhile griffin transformed into a human teenager, discovers a plot to capture exiled mythological creatures and expel them to a barren world filled with ravenous hellions. When the conspiracy, which goes all the way up to the mayor's office, results in the kidnapping of both his stepmother and best friend, it falls on Zydeco to rescue everyone before they're served up as chimera chow.

"My name is Zydeco, and I am a recovering mythological creature." I stood at the makeshift podium and looked out over the musty, high ceilinged room, my fingers clutching the stone hanging on the black rope around my neck.

For the first time in three months, tonight was my turn to kick off the meeting. Moments ago, the regulars had finished up their conversations and hunkered down into the rows of folding chairs with stale donuts in hand. Some newbies continued to mill about the cramped YMCA gymnasium, their eyes darting around nervously. This was the most popular group of its kind in the city, and as a result everyone sat in rows instead of a circle.

As one out of tune voice, they answered, "Hello, Zydeco."

The canned response didn't always make me crack up, but after hearing it about eight hundred times, I couldn't help but chuckle a little. I swear, sometimes I thought they were sheep -- the weird, legendary kind that flies and craps rubies. Don't get me wrong, these guys were great and everything. They had done the human thing for a heck of a lot longer than I had.

Octavio, the support group organizer, bustled to the front row, shushing everyone and motioning the stragglers to their seats. As usual, when he parked himself, coffee slopped over the edge of the
styrofoam cup and onto his yellow tie. He jerked his head down, which made the bad smelling stuff spill onto the ample belly of his white shirt.

#18 YA urban fantasy: FLORA (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: FLORA
GENRE: YA urban fantasy


Sixteen year-old Dahlia Kennedy never thought the deserted forest she went to in her dreams could be real, until she meets the mysterious Rowan Rochfort and discovers she's been going to his world. But when he disappears, Dahlia must find him before his country of Ambrosia falls into the wrong hands, or everything she holds dear in both his and her worlds could be lost forever.

Some people believe you can feel when change is coming. A strange feeling clouding around you, that you just can't shake. A gust of cool air on the back of your neck, leaving goosebumps up and down your arms, as it dissipates. A sudden twist, deep in the pit of your stomach. A dull ache in every fiber of your bones.

I felt all of that and more the morning I turned sixteen. But I didn't think it was change I was feeling -- I thought it was what I'd been dealing with for most of my life.

Every. Single. Year.

Like clockwork.

I was running late for work, rushing out the front door. So distracted, in fact, that my own birthday had slipped my mind. And there it was, when I stepped down from the porch -- the second something shifted beneath my shoe. Cool air on the back of my neck. My stomach twisting. Loss of breath. Goosebumps.

I lifted my foot to look down and confirm what I already knew. My stomach lurched into my throat.

Trying to swallow, I sent my foot down again and looked up and down the street, scanning the neighbors' windows. No movement, from what I could tell. Maybe no one had noticed.

The air rushed out of me, my breath a lingering mist in the frosty air as I bent down to pick it up. The flower commanded my attention, standing out against my light skin.

#17 YA Steampunk Fantasy: The White Curse (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: The White Curse
GENRE: YA Steampunk Fantasy

Damned servant girl turned noble scion, Lissy's fortunes take a terrible fall when her social debut catches the attention of the demon who owns her soul. After witnessing Lissy's 'talents' at weaponry - she can't miss a target even when she doesn't try - the demon assigns her to kill God of Wilderness, He who keeps the delicate balance between nature and man. Rags-to-riches fairytales aren't supposed to end with an apocalyptic showdown between a God and a fifty-foot automaton, but Lissy's will, unless she finds a way to outwit the demon and reclaim her soul.

Dying sunlight filters through the draperies, pink and ethereal. An hour before the rise of the full moon, Lissy can already feel herself changing: the peculiar looseness of her skin, smoother than silk, thinner than the membrane of a boiled chicken's egg. She dares not touch her hair, lest it molt more than it has already. It won't do, for the oh-so-noble members of her family to find white hair in their beef bouillon.

Pushing aside the curtains, she sees Prince Xin's dirigible still stationed outside the castle courtyard, emitting gentle puffs of smoke. The Prince is inside Novva castle now, taking the grand tour. Which is why Lissy's locked in this antechamber, hidden away from the world. As always, her presence is kept a secret - officially, she does not exist.

Hiding here was Tess's idea. Lissy's twin sister thrived on whispered secrets and mystery. Lissy could have easily stayed in the dimmest corner of the kitchen, masquerading as a sack of flour, but no. "What if you get discovered?" Her excitable sister had demanded. "I'll never see you again!"

Lissy snuck into this chamber willing enough. She'd been able to see the Prince's grand arrival, the smooth touchdown of his dirigible, the moment he pulled away his flying cap and brass goggles, his hair strikingly black under the sun. She'd watched the entirety of Novva's household, nobles and servants numbering to the hundreds, all falling upon their knees, murmuring fervent obeisance. She couldn't have seen that from the kitchen.

#16 YA Science-Fantasy: Fingerprints (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Fingerprints
GENRE: YA Science-Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Lareina puts her faith in scientific laws. That faith is sorely tested when she and her deaf sister discover they're from a world unlike our own, filled with both technology and magic. It gets worse when Lareina learns she's a freak even among the weird. Lareina the science geek has powers she shouldn't, enabling her to bridge a divide that's stood for millennia. The sisters will either unite a society or trigger its destruction.

Infuriating . . . but it kept me from being bored to death.

Mr. Stein droned on about the socio-political background of the Boston Tea Party. No one took the life out of already-dead people like Mr. Stein did. Instead of admiring his supreme talent, I focused on Evie, the sign language interpreter at the front of the room. My "notes" were a list of points Evie mis-signed, misrepresented, or missed altogether. Tasmin would check them later to make sure the bungled interpreting hadn't tangled her too much.

Tasmin glanced over, and I gave a minute facial expression, the slightest squinching of my nose, to indicate Evie was doing semi-okay. Her twitch of an eyebrow in return was the equivalent of a sigh. She faced front again to watch the interpreter's hands fly, for whatever it was worth. Such tiny changes in expression would have been ambiguous at best to anyone else, but we read each other's faces perfectly--pretty easy when the face I looked at was my own.

We were identical in every feature, from the chestnut shade of our hair to the way our second toes were slightly longer than our big toes. Our ears were the only difference. Mine worked flawlessly; Tasmin hadn't heard anything quieter than a jet engine in all our sixteen years. So I endured the monotone drawl of Mr. Stein, while she wondered what she was missing.

#15 Literary: Courting Greta (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Courting Greta
GENRE: Literary

Coping with his disability (spina bifida) is the least of Samuel's problems when he takes a job as a high school sub and falls for the man-hating girl's basketball coach. To win her heart, he'll battle student mockery, staff gossip, and Greta's painful past... until she unearths the secret he'd die to bury.

Samuel watched his brother's big hands walk over the steering wheel, taking the pickup around the corner into the campus parking lot. He should have driven himself. Nobody who saw Samuel's prematurely graying hair would mistake him for a teenager, even as small as he was, but being dropped off still felt juvenile. He shifted, adjusting his seatbelt, and double checked to make sure the bus schedule was in his pocket.

Chris glanced at him. "You okay?"

Sometimes it seemed like that was all anyone ever asked.

"I mean, no offense, but this doesn't seem like you. Moving, new job... any of it."

Could Chris actually not have the slightest inkling of what had happened on July Fourth? Or did he just not want to see? Maybe he was just that dumb. "I needed a change, that's all." Buying a house sight unseen, switching careers, and moving five hundred miles north couldn't possibly have anything to do with spending two hours huddled on the bathroom floor while--

No. Samuel wasn't going to go there. Not now, not ever again. He leaned forward, peering through the grimy windshield as the main building came into view. It was single-storey, branching off in several directions, barely salvaged from eyesore status by the redwoods towering around it. "I don't see anyone."

"Since when do you like change?"

Rather than elaborate on the lie, he ignored the question. The hallways seemed dark and empty from across the parking lot. "Seriously, where are the kids?"

#14 Fantasy: Crown of Stars (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Crown of Stars
GENRE: Fantasy

After a renegade sorcerer curses the last ruler of Aida, Amelia has to give up her soldier's life to guard the sickly prince. But the curse puts more at stake than one man's life, and if Amelia doesn't find a cure--and soon--the country she fought so long to defend will be lost.


On a dreary autumn day, Amelia's mother began to cough: and then she began to sigh, and her skin grew wan and translucent, and the tip of her handkerchief came away from her mouth wet and pink with blood. At night Amelia would watch the stars, waiting for one of them to flicker; she knew that soon they would spin the right way, and with their magic her mother would be well forever and her father would never need to use his sword again. Stars had told Amelia's father that he would marry Amelia's mother, and they had told Amelia's mother that she would have a brown-haired daughter, and Amelia believed in them, because in Aida stars could never lie.

In that kingdom magic flourished under the watchful, silent stars; magic, long ago, had chosen the first good and righteous king of Aida, and grown his castle up around him, high on a hill: and there after a thousand years the Hawthorne line still flourished under the heavy-handed reign of the Winter Queen.

Amelia's family lived in a cottage far south of the Aidan palace, in the tiny village of Dulayne. There were roses climbing atop the cottage and blooming down the house's sprawling lane, and hazelnut orchards and huckleberries all along the farm, soft white chickens and fat cows.

Amelia's father assured her that the stars had said her mother would be well again, and he told her the stories the stars wove, if you knew how to look.

#13 Paranormal Mystery: Ghost River (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: GHOST RIVER
GENRE: PARANORMAL MYSTERY

When Veronica learns she signed an agreement in a former life to help lost souls -ghosts- who are stuck in this dimension, she must use clues the ghosts provide to prove a friend is innocent of murder, which gains spiritual points for the ghosts but puts Veronica directly in the path of the real killer.

The first thing that popped into my head as I drove through what was to be my new hometown was the theme from "Deliverance".

Probably not a good sign. Then again, I was undoubtedly looking for the worst in everything because I wasn't happy with my situation. Dr. Phil might give me points for admitting this, but I wasn't ready to let go of my crappy mood yet.

A rusty pickup raced by, a confederate flag flying from its large antenna. Seriously dude, we're in freaking Oregon, not the Deep South. I sighed and glanced at my directions. Five more miles after the edge of town, turn left at the red school bus shack and go down the hill. I drove the rest of the way in a daze, not sure what to expect. I turned at the bus stop and wound my way down the steep little hill. It took me straight into the parking lot. I turned into a space, switched off the
engine, gathered up my nerve and opened the door.

I stood next to my car and looked around. There were all these big green things surrounding the parking lot, what were they called? Oh yeah, trees. Didn't have a lot of them at my condominium in the wilds of stripmall suburbia. We had lots of cement, though. This place seemed kinda low on their cement quota. Lots of green, not much gray. This could take some getting used to.

But change can be good, right?

#12 Urban Fantasy: Hidden in Shadows (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Hidden in Shadows
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

As a paranorm with the ability to create and hide in shadows, assassin Lorna has been searching in vain to find her father's murderer when the Paranormal Intelligence Agency tries to recruit her and her power. If Lorna will kill an innocent person, they'll tell her where her father's murderer is, but when she meets the man of her dreams and he despises her profession, Lorna has to decide if her thirst for revenge outweighs the love she never expected to need.

The man I stalked panted heavily as he looked around with quick darting movements. I handled the mountain trail with ease, but my prey muttered a curse every time he slid a few feet down the gravel. Guess drugs'll do that to you.

I'd waited four days for this: my opportunity to hunt and kill him at my leisure. Rocks tumbled down the worn path, and I ducked behind an oak tree. The slowly setting sun blinded me when I peeked around to watch my prey.

He stood, hunched over, his hands on his knees. His labored breathing shook his large frame, his face bright red. If he continued at this pace, I might not have to do anything. His heart could give out.

But I couldn't rely on the possibility of a heart attack. He had to die by my hand. I removed the large knife from its sheath inside my right boot and risked another peek.

The man now sat on the edge of the path, idly picking up pebbles and dropping them into a pile. The orange-red clay soil of Driskill Mountain, Louisiana dyed his trembling, pudgy fingers. Even from this distance, I could see the telltale shoot-up marks on his arms and the cold sweat on his face.

Why is he climbing the mountain? Didn't think druggies cared for exercise.

A loud groan came from the man. My prey left behind a large mound of rocks and resumed climbing.

As did I.

#11 Thriller: The Clown House (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: The Clown House
GENRE: Thriller

When his younger brother is murdered in Phoenix but the police don't investigate, wealthy lawyer Roger Steele returns home and draws on a network of powerful old friends to conduct his own investigation, only to discover his brother was a player in the deadly world of Mexican drug cartels. But when Roger uncovers a network of Arizona officials who protect and profit from the cartels, one of his "friends" orders Roger killed and he has to rely on a member of his brother's cartel for protection.

I assume my pals are going to kill me, but so long as they don't get creative, I can live with that.

Back in town, they duct-taped me to a two-by-four, wrapped a wool blanket around me, snug as a bug, and topped everything with a coarse burlap hood that smells of sweat, sweet onions and jalapenos. Now I'm in the desert, a six-foot-two totem pole leaning against the sliding door of their old Chevy van.

I don't blame them. Business is business. Still, when the best you can hope for is your old friends finishing you off quickly, the numb resignation that conceals your raw panic is like gift-wrap on a frisky puppy--pathetically inadequate.

To my surprise, Carlos removes the hood. I shake my head like I'm exiting the shower, urging my follicles to release a few hairs to drift over to the shag carpet in the back of the van. For Debbie's sake, I want to leave behind as much DNA as possible. But Carlos thumps me upside the head with his gloved hand and says, "You want I put the hood back?"

My captors know a thing or two about evidence.

When it comes to evidence, blood beats hair, but they haven't cut me yet, so I bite my tongue hard and let the salty fluid accumulate in my cheek. The moment they remove the tape from my mouth, I'll turn and spit into the van.

Bloodsplatter--the victim's last retribution, the resourceful detective's best friend.

#10 Historical Cozy Mystery: Windy City Blues (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Windy City Blues
GENRE: Historical Cozy Mystery

In 1928, Kitty Carmichael arrives in Chicago determined to reinvent herself--and to mooch off her rich uncle as long as possible. Instead she discovers that her uncle has been murdered, his fortune is missing, and his half-Japanese daughter, Koko, has been left in her care. It's a responsibility she shoulders less than gracefully. But as she works alongside handsome detective Tom Gallo to solve the mystery of her uncle's murder--and get her hands on the cash--Kitty discovers that one little girl can mean more to her than the life she's always wanted.

The first car on the train was for the wealthier travelers, but the porter made an exception. Not so much for me, but for my big green eyes, which I gave him just one glimpse of before lowering shyly. That was a little number I had perfected in math class, and it still works. To this day, I have no idea what to make of an isosceles triangle.

I settled down onto the plush velvet seat and did what I could to look like I belonged there. I crossed my legs. I tucked my threadbare carpet bag far back under my seat. I looked casually out the window.

The train pulled away from the station and quickly picked up speed. Each new mile that was revealed to me quickened my heartbeat, made me almost stupid with joy. It was really happening. I was leaving, at last.

Surely you won't remember me. My uncle's words played over and over in my head as hills of fragrant black Iowa earth rolled past my window. A group of boys broke away from their chores and ran along the side of the train, shouting and waving. I waved back at them. Surely you won't remember me.

How could he think I'd forget?

For my first eight years, my Uncle Owen's visits had been the highlight of my life. He came rarely and irregularly, usually with no notice at all.

#9 Mystery: Dead, Without A Stone To Tell It (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Dead, Without A Stone To Tell It
GENRE: Mystery

When a single human bone is found on a lonely stretch of coastline, a determined homicide detective and a reluctant scientist risk their lives when they join forces to bring a serial killer to justice.

Boston, Massachusetts; the Old North Church

The heels of the woman’s boots beat a muted staccato against the worn wood of the narrow, centuries-old staircase as she followed the vicar from the brightly lit, sun-streaked upper reaches of the church above into the oppressive still and silence of the dark, damp basement below.

Not many people went down to the basement anymore ― only those who would commune with the dead.

She was one of those people.

She stepped off the lowest step onto a floor of poured concrete and followed the darkly robed clergyman through the adjacent doorway, barely skimming the crown of her head on the low lintel as she ducked under the small sign that read ‘Watch Thy Head’.

“Here we are.” The vicar’s voice resonated in the quiet. “These are the crypts.”

They stood in a small vestibule, the large area under the sanctuary of the church spreading out before them. Through the doorway, a long corridor stretched away into the gloom that shaded the far reaches of the space, only dimly lit by the few exposed light bulbs that hung from the ceiling. There, long held safe in the quiet darkness and forgotten by all but a scarce few, were the oldest crypts in Boston.

Standing in the near silent basement, with only the creaks from the floorboards overhead announcing the presence of the funeral mourners above, she could feel the centuries of history entombed in this building, just like the dead sleeping inside the aged brick walls.

#8 Historical Fiction: I, Mulan (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: I, Mulan
GENRE: Historical Fiction

To save her family from ruin, Mulan breaks law and tradition, disguises herself as a man, and takes her aging father's place in the Chinese Imperial cavalry. When accused of treason by a traitorous friend, she must risk yet another deception to clear her name and prevent a civil war. She prevails, but her actions expose her as a woman and Mulan must stand before the Chinese Emperor, arrested and accused by the general she has secretly grown to love.

I swirled my writing brush in the well and watched the bristles roll through the ebon liquid. The ink flowed perfectly, not too thick, not too thin. When the brush had absorbed just the right amount I drew it from the pigment and reached out to finish the waiting scroll.

Neat characters trickled down the parchment in straight vertical lines, each perfectly balanced to offset the one before. Together they composed a four-line poem, the best I had written in all my nineteen years. I spent months preparing the verse and weeks practicing my calligraphy. Only after hundreds of repetitions did I trust myself to commit the words to fine parchment.

I paused to orient my mind for the final strokes and reached forward to set the pictographs on the scroll, three characters which composed my signature and name, Fa -

"MULAN!"

My sister shrieked just outside the door. I jumped and dropped the brush. A dark smear spread across the parchment as black droplets spattered my delicate words.

Months of practice and hours of effort, destroyed in a moment.

"Mulan!" Sulan yelled again, bursting through the door with a long stick in her hands. "The matchmaker's here!"

Only the deaf could have missed her words but I failed to comprehend them in my sorrow over the ruined scroll.

"Meimei," I scolded, "you yell like a barbarian. I've ruined Father's gift."

Eight years old and wild as a starling, Sulan had little use for scrolls.

#7 Fantasy: Estranged (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Estranged
GENRE: Fantasy

After a violent car accident, sixteen-year-old Jeremy Drake is thrust into the coma-state world of Nevermore - a dream world accidentally created by his estranged brother. Hunted relentlessly by a shadow, Jeremy must come to terms with his parent's death and escape the coma before his mysteriously aging body falls victim to the ravages of a fabricated existence.

Jeremy slouched in the passenger seat, face pressed against the car window, breath steaming the cool glass. Outside, people in black drifted downhill, passing like a procession of shades under the dark, leafy oaks of the cemetery.

"Would you like to talk?" Mary asked, wiping at the mascara smeared beneath her eyes.

"What's there to talk about?"

"Nonna-" his sister caught herself. "Grandma Maria was the last family we had."

Not entirely true, he thought. What happened to you, Peter?

"But I'm home for good now," she continued as they left the lot. "And... things will be different."

In that instant, Jeremy loved her. She honestly believed what she said; but what Mary needed was the future and what Jeremy wanted was the past.

"Jeremy-" Mary stopped and frowned. She pumped the brake repeatedly, the car answering with empty thuds as she brought her foot down again and again. They weren't slowing. Her knuckles whitened on the wheel. She slammed her foot down, but the brake pedal grunted uselessly.

Jeremy's eyes locked on the intersection ahead and widened. The traffic light screamed red, screamed stop.

"Jeremy-!"

Everything slowed, the moment stretching into eternity. A maze of cars through the intersection. The light glaring red, red, red, unchanging. And finally, a massive truck, barreling at them like some hammer of destiny. But he didn't believe in destiny. And the moment was most certainly not eternal.

The semi slammed into the passenger side, sending the two ton sedan tumbling like a child's toy.

#6 Historical Fiction: Hatshepsut: Female Pharaoh (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Hatshepsut: Female Pharaoh
GENRE: Historical Fiction

Amid foreign wars and a palace coup, tormented by her love of a commoner and cursed with personal tragedies, Hatshepsut challenges history to proclaim herself Egypt's first female Pharaoh.

Her sister was dead.

Hatshepsut reached out to touch a clump of papyrus reeds as the skiff bobbed its way across the Nile. The morning was still cool enough; Re's scorching heat had not yet wrung the sweat from her pores. The rowers gave a hippo wide berth, but the lazy river cow only yawned before submerging itself below the silty waters. Hatshepsut's eyes burned with the tears she had shed at Neferubity's tomb, but donkeys brayed and children laughed as the boat neared the East Bank. Life continued here in Egypt's capital, despite Neferubity's absence from this world. The rowers--young men scarcely clad in loincloths--grunted as they tied up the royal barque. One almost tripped in his haste to help her onto the dock.

"Hatshepsut!"

Even though she hadn't heard it in almost two years, she knew that voice.

Her brother. And future husband.

Thutmosis had been in Canaan on a military campaign with their father for the past two years and wasn't expected back for several months. Soon--too soon--Hatshepsut would become his Great Royal Wife. The title should have gone to Neferubity; would have, had her sister not passed to the Field of Reeds. Now Hatshepsut's greatest responsibility in this life was to marry Thutmosis and bear Egypt's future heir. The thought made her wish she could trade places with her sister. Hatshepsut was shocked as her brother hobbled toward her, leaning on an ivory walking cane. His lips pursed every time he put weight on his right foot.

#5 Dystopian: Hound in Blood and Black (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Hound in Blood and Black
GENRE: Dystopian

Kumari the Hound is a zombie wrangler; she catches undead and turns them into gladiators, whose triumphs in the arena mean food and water for those she loves. It's dangerous, but what isn't in a world filled with monsters? A dead brother and father are proof of that.

When Kumari saves a child named Heaven from slavery, she discovers the unexpected: hope. Now that she has found something worth living for, Kumari will do anything to protect it - even if it means becoming one of the monsters herself.

Last tank of gas, Kumari thought. The Jeep engine spit out a black cloud before picking up speed. Last chance to make a catch. Last chance to keep the people she cared about alive.

"Harder!" Kumari called over the battered engine's howl. She adjusted the bandana across the lower half of her face as her partner Bastion punched the gas, pebbles spraying the old army Jeep in peppered graffiti. She focused on her target and ignored her racing heart.

Looked like a man. About five-foot-ten, maybe two hundred pounds. No shoes, denim jacket. Bald. Dirty.

Dead.

"Left!" she shouted. The Jeep veered hard, tires skidding over the rocky desert. Kumari caught herself with a hard foot to the wheel well, maintaining her balance as the vehicle sped across the uneven plain. The undead stumbled as the Jeep cut in front of it. "Damn it, Bastion! Don't run it over."

The Jeep jerked again, right, spewing more dust into the air. Kumari swallowed. Only daybreak, and already hot as hell. Best to finish the hunt and get home before noon.

No pressure. People would only die if she didn't.

She shook her head; now wasn't the time for distractions. Kumari flexed her hand around the collar, the most important part of her arsenal. A wrangler's prime tool, the seven-foot pole's horseshoe-shaped tip was the best way to pin an undead; at arm's length and with minimal damage to the future gladiator.

#4 Thriller: The Cacao Conspiracy (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: The Cacao Conspiracy
GENRE: Thriller

Workaholic Peta takes an innocuous job on a documentary about chocolate and discovers the dark side of the sweet industry after witnessing two murders. With the killers' influence extending to the highest reaches of office and further deaths hushed up, Peta must expose the murderers before she is next.

Peta Blackman strode across the jungle clearing, lugging a blue icebox towards an Ivorian boy. She placed it on the ground before him and wiped the sweat from her forehead, then removed the lid.

Little Wilfried Eboue leant forward and peered into the icebox. His eyes widened as he saw the bar of chocolate inside. Peta grinned. At eight years old, Wilfried was about to get his first taste of chocolate. Peta, and the film crew of which she was part, were capturing the moment so they could one day broadcast it worldwide as part of a documentary on chocolate.

Peta surveyed the clearing. Wilfried's father, a cacao farmer, hovered nearby while a gaggle of older brothers lolled against trees. The crew members bent over their equipment, readying themselves for the first take.

A movement in the trees caught Peta's eye. The hairs on the back of her neck rose. She scanned the foliage, but saw nothing except the crops. There were cacao trees, with colourful pods ripe on the trunks, but banana and mango trees also abounded, all growing in a riotous tangle - apparently the cacao trees did better if mixed in among other crops. As a location scout, it offended Peta's sense of what a plantation should look like, but she had been ordered to find a typical cacao farm in Ivory Coast and she had delivered.

The trees rustled again. Peta just had time to register a glint of metal before gunshots rang out.

#3 **Redacted** (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

The author of #3 received an offer of representation prior to the opening of the auction!

#2 Women's Fiction: This Side of Crazy (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: This Side of Crazy
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Cissy, a troubled 16-year-old in 1970s Mississippi, uses humor, OCD tendencies and conversations with "God" to help her cope after killing her abusive father. When her terminally ill grandmother busts her out of the state psychiatric hospital and they go on the lam, Cissy uncovers secrets about her childhood and finds a sense of family and normalcy in the most unlikely places.

For years I escaped to a private place in my mind and daydreamed about killing my daddy. The thing is I never really thought I'd go through with it. When I shot him in the back that July morning, I surprised myself as much as everyone else.

The Harrison County sheriff said I must be some crazy whack of a girl but I know I'm not crazy. I was just born into this world with good boundaries, which, in my opinion, most people lack. My definition of crazy is staying married when you're not all that happy, telling lies when the truth will do in most instances, and believing a gray-haired man in the sky has our lives all planned out for us.

My definition of crazy is bad-touching a child and then pretending to be a normal daddy to the outside world. I don't think it is at all crazy to kill your own daddy to stop the shameful things he's doing to your body and mind and to prevent him from hurting anybody else. Maybe what's crazy is waiting until age 16 to do it.

"Cissy, answer my questions." Judge Carroll's voice cracked. If he meant to sound authoritative, he did a poor job of it. He seemed more nervous than anything. The way he sweated, you'd think the Biloxi sun scorched a hole through the courthouse roof and beat directly down on his head. I wished he'd wipe his forehead because those shiny domes of sweat looked liked blisters waiting to pop.