Monday, December 26, 2011

Submission Instructions: Off-blog Critique, Week 1

Hi, all!

These are submission instructions for:

Adult Entries #1-28, hosted at the blog of Melodie Wright
Adult Entries #29-56, hosted at the blog of Lauren Fobbs

These critique sessions will take place the week of January 2.  Entrants, please send your logline and the first 250 words of your manuscript to Melody at rewrighter(at) (1-28) or Lauren at empressawesome1(at) (29-56) no later than DECEMBER 30.  Both blog hosts will post all entries on January 2 and they'll be up for 5 days to a week for critiquing.

Questions? Post them below.

And now I'm returning to my post-Christmas haze.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wrapping Up the Year

I'm in complete holiday mode and ready to go off and be merry.  So in the essence of at least appearing somewhat organized, here's what's coming up:

  • Instructions for the first round of Baker's Dozen non-winners' off-blog critique sessions (holy cow, that was a mouthful) will be posted the Monday after Christmas.
  • Instructions for the second round of {insert long noun phrase} will be posted the Monday after New Year's.
  • Bakers Dozen success stories (trust me; they're in the works!) will be posted as soon as they happen and I'm given permission to do so.
  • Our Secret Agent rounds will start up again in January.
  • I am going to be 15,000 words into my WIP by Christmas Eve.  (Okay, this isn't is a blog event. I'm just a little excited about it.)
Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!  It's certainly been a sparkly month around here, and I look forward to spending more time with you after my Favorite Time of Year has wound down.

Merry merry!

Monday, December 19, 2011

And Now, A Few Words From Our Agents

As a final nod toward a fun and successful Baker's Dozen Agent Auction (that is, until the success stories start rolling in...), here are some words from several of our participating agents.


"I had so much fun participating in this auction. I thought overall the quality of the entries was very high and such a great way to stir up some friendly competition with our fellow agents. Thank you so much for hosting and I hope I can participate next year."


"This is my 2nd Baker’s Dozen auction and I hope I’m always asked to do it. The competition and trash talking with other agents is fun and all, but more than that it’s so exciting to see so much talent out there. The competition becomes very real! Thanks to all of you, and to you, lovely Authoress, for making this an annual treat to look forward to!"


"I had tons of fun, but this was tough! First of all, the entries were excellent; I had a really hard time narrowing down which manuscripts I wanted to pay the most attention to. It was also a struggle to balance my focus. You spend too much time on one entry and you miss out on the others, but if you bounce around too much, you can lose them all—and I won’t even discuss my issues with google reader home page. I was also surprisingly competitive and disappointed to lose the manuscripts I’d wanted. I’m thrilled we get to be in touch with authors whose manuscripts we didn’t win. Overall, this was a great experience, but if I do it again, I need to meditate or something beforehand."


"I find Baker's Dozen to be one of the more fun days of the year. I feel like it lets the agents show themselves to be 'real' people who fundamentally enjoy their jobs. And more than that, I feel like oftentimes folks get the impression that when we read queries or samples we are looking to say NO. I think this auction shows that really, what we want to do is say YES, to be excited about novels. When we lose to another agent we do curse! And for the writers, they are effectively getting a simultaneous submission to 15 agents, as well as a new group of critique partners--some professional--who give constructive criticism and lovely praise. And even if there is an occasional procedural question, ultimately everyone is gracious and good-natured, and that makes it that much nicer. Wonderful job, MS A, and I look forward to next year. And as an update, I've asked for a couple of fulls and a couple of 'more time's and am very hopeful for a new success story!"


"I was so thrilled to be asked to participate in Baker's Dozen again this year. There are so many things I like about it— I love seeing what other agents bid on, seeing who I have similar taste with--without Bakers Dozen, it would have taken me much longer to figure out that Tamar Rydzinski* at the Laura Dail Literary Agency is my editorial nemesis—and I love participating in the agent trash talking. And the adrenalin rush of swiping something great out from under my fellow agents can’t be beat, though I could do without the crushing disappointment of losing something I really wanted (Sarah LaPolla, and Kari Stuart,-- you are on notice for next year).

I hope you guys learned something as well. For example: did you notice the high number of car accidents in the YA entries? This happens in my slush all the time (though not always car accidents)—the take away here isn’t that putting a car accident in a manuscript is bad, but that when you have something in a manuscript that has been done before, you need to make sure the rest of your manuscript really stands out because it might be the third or forth query letter that mentions vampires/a dead mother/a high school student who can heal by touch etc. that day.

My thanks to Authoress for putting together such a phenomenal, unique and exciting event—you should be so proud!, and to my client Jodi Meadows for helping Authoress go through the submissions and pull such great ones (even though you didn’t help me cheat). And most of all, thank you all for submitting—it was extremely brave to go through this so publically and without these excellent projects to fight over the Bakers Dozen wouldn’t be worthwhile or fun at all.

*who claims she doesn’t like puppies**! Keep that in mind when we both offer on your excellent project. We may both have truly fantastic taste in manuscripts, but only one of us likes puppies.

**Well, claimed when I tried to distract her from bidding against me by sending her links to adorable puppy things on the internet. But still! How could you even say such a thing!"


I had a fantastic time participating in the auction this year! And already can't wait for the next one. The adrenaline rush was even better than coffee! And I found it really interesting to see which entries other agents were bidding on.

I especially liked beating out sneaky agents who tried to win by distracting the other participants with videos of dogs kissing. Or something. I don't like dogs so I didn't look. Next time, Lauren MacLeod, I will be prepared with videos of adorable animals doing super-cute things. Now you have a whole year to try to figure out my kryptonite. Good luck! (Cue evil laughter.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Fricassee

It's four days until the start of Chanukah and eight days until Christmas Eve -- and so the Big Publishing End-of-Year Wind-Down begins.  

This isn't a bad thing.  It's just a thing.  For some (publishing houses with January releases), the wind-down is more like a breakneck sprint, with deadlines looming.  For others (agents who close shop until the New Year), it's a time to play catch-up.  And for aspiring authors?  It's an excellent time to assess your progress this year, and what your goals for next year will be.  It's also a wonderful time for those of you with almost-ready manuscripts to whip them into shape in preparation for January querying.

So, what does your last-two-weeks-of-December look like?  Are you finishing something up?  Taking a much-needed break?  Waiting with bated breath for news you're sure will come after the New Year?

Share!  Your own approach to the rest of December might inspire someone else who needs a little direction.  (Because sometimes holidays can be overwhelming -- yanno?)

As for me?  I'll be writing 1000 words a day on my (YA dystopian) WIP.  By the Christmas tree, of course.  I can't tell you how good it feels to hunker down and do this!  Even though starting this new project has been like cutting wisdom teeth.

(I have all 4 of mine.  Isn't that odd?  I'm still waiting for the wisdom...)

Happy weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baker's Dozen Exclusive Period Over!

Just to let you all know what's going on behind the scenes:

Today the one-week exclusive on winning bids has expired.  This means that ALL the agents may email me and ask me for ANYTHING they'd like to see from the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction.

And the requests are already rolling in.  Many are from agents who were outbid on items they wanted.  Some are for entries on which the agent didn't even bid.

One is for an entry that didn't receive any bids in the auction.

See?  You never know!

At any rate, sending the requests to the authors isn't as streamlined as I'd like it to be, so please give me several days to get these done.  If you don't hear from me in, say, a week, you can assume that your entry has not received any further requests.  You should then feel free to query any of the agents from our list on your own (provided you've edited/revised your work).

And so the fun continues!  We've got battling agents and a scheduled phone call and who knows what else.  Hopefully I'll have some success stories to share in the weeks and months ahead!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baker's Dozen: Reasons for Rejection

As a voracious lover of feedback (as most of us are), I thought I'd take some time to share some of the reasons why Jodi and I rejected entries for the Baker's Dozen Auction.

Bear in mind, of course, the subjectivity of all this.  Neither Jodi nor I claim to be Empress of Slush.  (I'd rather be Empress of something else, anyway.  Like chocolate.  Or the universe.)  Still, I do hope that our combined eye has been discerning enough to perhaps give some of you a few things to think about as you continue to write/revise/edit/polish.


I'm fairly sure I've touched on this in the past, but there does seem to be a trend--particularly in YA and MG--of starting a story by jumping directly into high-stakes action.  It's born, I think, from the pressure we receive to "grab the reader!" and "start the story somewhere interesting!".  Yet, frankly, it backfires.  And here's why.

If I open a book and someone is running for his life on the first page, I don't really care whether he dies or not--BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW HIM.  Or if, after one paragraph of introduction (or perhaps no introduction at all), someone is flying through the windshield of a car or waking up in a pool of blood or diving into a subway entrance to avoid an explosion--I DON'T CARE.  Because I'm not invested.

And I think the problem--and Jodi agrees--is that folks are confusing ACTION with CONFLICT.  And they're not the same thing.  A good novel will begin with inherent conflict, which is ultimately what makes us want to keep reading (assuming the writing is good).  But dropping the reader into the middle of a battlefield or onto the balcony of a burning building isn't going to automatically make him CARE.

I think, as writers, we need to constantly reevaluate what CONFLICT means.  And to be careful not to confuse it with ACTION, which doesn't necessarily belong in the opening pages.  It was, more often than not, a fairly quick "no" from Jodi and me.


Sometimes the opening page was so confusing we weren't even sure what was going on.  This doesn't mean there wasn't a good story to follow.  It just means that the opening didn't do anything to make us want to know what that story was.

I think there are three specific things that can make an opening confusing:

1.  TOO MUCH ACTION:  If there's so much going on that we can't follow it, there's nothing that makes us want to continue reading.  This is, of course, directly related to what I listed above.  Being dropped into the middle of a storm of action is disorienting.

2.  NO GROUNDING IN THE WORLD:  Setting the stage for your world is a delicate balance of details-without-too-many-details.  If too much is thrown in at once--or if there isn't enough to go on--the reader will not know where/when he is, or where/when everyone in the story is.  And if there's confusion like this on the first page, it doesn't bode well for the worldbuilding in the rest of the novel.

3.  WRITING THAT ISN'T CLEAN:  This goes without saying.  The words themselves will lend to the clarity of your opening scene.  Sometimes, the confusion factor is directly related to sentence and paragraph structure.  (Or lack thereof.)


Writing can be halfway decent but still lack a compelling voice.  And voice isn't something you develop overnight.  In fact, it isn't even something that someone can tell you how to do.  Rather, it develops as you continue to grow as a writer.  The voice of your novel is twofold; a combination of your voice as the author and your protagonist's voice relative to the genre.  If the voice was lacking--or if it was wrong (as in, a YA that didn't have a teen voice or an MG that sounded too "old"), it was a "no" from us.

Similarly, some entries had writing that simply wasn't ready yet.  This doesn't mean the writer couldn't write, or that the story idea was bad.  It just wasn't ready.  One or two read like first novels (yes, there is a certain "first novel read"), but most of the time, when an entry fell into this category, it was writing that needed work.  (And sometimes these were the most disappointing "nos" of all--an exciting logline followed by not-there-yet writing always elicited groans.)

One thing that's different for the Baker's Dozen is the fact that Jodi and I aren't looking for specific things the way agents are.  So we've got an entire palette of genres in the slush and we get to find the best entries without being constrained by subgenres or agency bents.  Sure, it's challenging to read an entry in a genre that doesn't flip our cookies, but that's when the question, "Will someone else like this?" comes in handy.  Because if the writing is decent and the first page generally works, it doesn't matter if it's not a pet genre of either Jodi or me.  We get to say "yes" because there's a good chance one of our participating agents will like it.

And you saw them fighting last week, so we're feeling pretty good about what we put out there!

Anyway, I hope this has been at least a little helpful.  I hated reading all the "I didn't make it" comments after winning entries were announced, despite the fact that they were beautifully stated and offered congratulations to those who did make it.  I have dozens and dozens of rejections under my belt, and I don't relish being the one to hand them out.

So there it is.  I can't deny that reading so many entries in a short time was fairly exhausting.  But I also can't deny that it's a privilege to read the work of my fellow writers.  Thank you all for being good sports, and for your many kind and appreciative words for Jodi and me.

Let's do it all again next year. :-)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dragon Moon Press: Call For Submissions

Gabrielle Harbowy has once again requested an MSFV announcement of Dragon Moon Press's open submissions!

Dragon Moon Press is open for submissions through December 31, and they're looking specifically for epic fantasy / sword and sorcery / high fantasy, and for contemporary urban fantasy. They focus on the adult market, but they will consider YA-friendly and YA-crossover titles.

Dragon Moon Press's MSFV-related success stories include JM Frey and Leah Petersen (whose book FIGHTING GRAVITY is forthcoming in April!), and their books have been winners and finalists of writing awards like ForeWord Book of the Year, the Bram Stoker Award, Sir Julius Vogel, IPPY and Endeavour.

THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES ARE HERE. Please read them carefully.

Also, when you submit, please mention that you were referred through this site (so that Gabrielle can credit success stories where they're due!).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Fricassee

What a great week!

My morning is about to consist of driving my husband all. the. way. to his office to pick up his laptop because he's working at home today--because he forgot it.  (Men!)  (Yes, I mean that!)  (Well, sort of.)  So, why am I driving him instead of his, yanno, hopping into the car and going by himself?

Because his brain functions at about 15% capacity this early.  Which is likely one of the reasons he ended up with an infuriatingly-morning-person wife.  For keeping him alive during early expeditions.

I feel so loved.

At any rate, I'm posting quickly to say:  Thanks for an upbeat, high-energy auction week.  As ever, there were no snarkies, no grumblings, no whine-laced navel gazing.

I also want to publicly thank THE FIFTEEN MOST AWESOME AGENTS ON THE BLOCK.  You know how I get all mother-hennish about this blog community?  I'm starting to feel the same way about our Baker's Dozen agents.  (Yeah, I really need to stop that.)

And huge thanks to GABRIELLE, SARAH, AMANDA, AND NANCY for their critiques (a few are still forthcoming).  You all know how time-intensive critiques are, so this is a big deal.


Okay, that sums it up.  Now I've got to scrounge up my darling morning-zombie and shuttle him up the highway.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

And for the rest of you...

Here's the schedule for the host blog critiques for all remaining entrants.  Please note that the actual dates will be announced prior to each critique session, along with specific submission instructions from each blog host.  Entrants are divided up by the original entry numbers you received when you entered the contest.

Please do not email me to ask when your turn will come or how to submit.  Everything will be announced here, on the blog (and I won't have the information until a week before each round, since that's how I've set it up with our host bloggers).


Week of Jan 2:  Melodie Wright at (adult #1-28)
                          Lauren Fobbs at (adult #29-56)
Week of Jan 9:  Ian Hiatt at (adult #57-84)
                          Alicia Gregoire at (adult #85-111)
Week of Jan 16: Leigh Ann Kopans at (YA/MG #1-33)
                          Sarah Pearson at  (YA/MG #34-66)
Week of Jan 30: Tami Moore at  (YA/MG #67-99)
                           PJ Schnyder at  (YA/MG #100-132)
Week of Feb 6:  Justin W. Parente at  (YA/MG #133-165)
                          Michael Broadway at (YA/MG #166-198)

Each pair of blog hosts is going to coordinate their efforts so that their dates line up.  There will be no baker's dozen critiques during Secret Agent contest weeks, so we don't dilute our critiquing army.

Remember that the details for each week of critique will be posted ONE WEEK PRIOR.  So make note of the dates and keep an eye on the blog.

And yes, you may absolutely revise your entry prior to submitting it for critique to your host blog.

Any more questions?  Ask below!  And a HUGE THANK-YOU to our ten generous blog hosts!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Baker's Dozen Winning Bids

Out of yesterday's heady rush comes a satisfying list of 18 full and 21 partial winners.  Here they are:

2 Wicked Spirits: Josh Getzler, full
3 The Secret History: Josh Getzler, full
6 The Black Letter: Josh Getzler, full
7 Death By High Heels: Josh Getzler, 25 pages
8 Pomegranate Seeds:  Josh Getzler, 15 pages
10 The Actor's Daughter:  Josh Getzler, 50 pages
12 A Flick of the Switch: Weronika Janczuk, 5 pages
14 Dying Is Not an Option: Josh Getzler, 25 pages
18 Shovelface: Josh Getzler, 10 pages
20 Pro Bono: Weronika Janczuk, 5 pages
21 Shadow Runner: Josh Getzler, 50 pages
22 Girl Under Glass: Sarah LaPolla, 20 pages
24 Murder on Music Row: Josh Getzler, 40 pages
27 For One Hundred Swords: Laura Bradford, 35 pages
30 Hannah's Half: Victoria Marini, full
31 Clear Cut: Ammi-Joan Paquette, 55 pages
32 Ghost Light: Melissa Jeglinski, full
33 The Travelers: Tamar Rydzinski, full
34 Time Bound: Melissa Jeglinski, 20 pages
36 Cracked: Victoria Marini, full
37 The Defenders: Victoria Marini, 25 pages
38 The Secret Hum of a Daisy: Tamar Rydzinski, full
39 Cryptogram Chaos: Ammi-Joan Paquette, full
40 Lament the Blade: Tamar Rydzinski, 25 pages
41 My Sister's Reaper: Kari Stuart, 100 pages
42 Gladys Gatsby Takes the Cake: Kari Stuart, full
43 Glub: Weronika Janczuk, full
45 The Black City: Sarah LaPolla, full
46 Chasing the Taillights: Laura Bradford, 70 pages
47 All She Needs Is Love:  Lauren MacLeod, 75 pages
48 Anomaly: Lauren MacLeod, full
49 Folktale: Sarah LaPolla, 20 pages
52 Shakespeare on the Lam: Victoria Marini, full
53 Opposition: Ammi-Joan Paquette, full
54 Grim: Melissa Jeglinski, 50 pages
56 The Stars Fell Sideways: Lauren MacLeod, full
57 The Decretum: Danielle Chiotti, 110 pages
58 The Iron-Bound Fae: Tamar Rydzinski, full
59 Loop: Sarah LaPolla, full

CONGRATULATIONS to all agents and authors!

Winners:  Please email me at facelesswords(at) for specific submission instructions.  In order to streamline this process, PLEASE INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:  Your post number, title, and the agent's name and request.  Your material will be granted to the winning agents on a ONE WEEK EXCLUSIVE.

Here's why:  Once the week has expired, other agents who placed bids--but didn't win--will have the opportunity to email me to request material from the auction.  SO SIT TIGHT.  I'll be contacting you if you've got more requests.

This is the part where I feel as if I'm handing out Christmas presents!  Except, they're not presents.  They're hard-earned.

Whew!  Page views peaked over 10 grand yesterday, and I even got a couple "is it too late to enter your auction?" requests from folks who had just discovered the blog because of all the Twitter brouhaha.  Fun stuff!

And now it's denouement time.  Deep breathing and all that.  May I just say -- YOU'RE ALL WONDERFUL!

Thanks for a brilliant auction.  Guess we might do it again next year...


Whew!  Wrap-up to follow shortly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Please refrain from posting critiques for the next 24 hours.

Agents -- Go get 'em!

The 2011 Baker's Dozen Agent Auction

Today's the day!!

Bidding will open at 11:00 am EST.  Here are the rules:

  • Agent bids will consist of the number of pages they would like to read, up to a full manuscript.
  • There is no guarantee that every entry will receive an agent bid.
  • The minimum opening bid is 5 pages.
  • Agents are not allowed to bid for a full manuscript until a) a minimum of 5 bids has already been placed on the item, and b) the bidding has reached 150 pages.
  • Once bidding for an item reaches 150 pages, agents are NOT obligated to bid for the full.
  • The highest bid on each item at the close of the auction wins.
  • If 2 identical bids appear at the same time, the FIRST ONE TO POST is valid.
  • Bidding will close immediately on items that receive a full manuscript bid.
  • I'm respectfully requesting that you hold off on critiques once the bidding is live. Critiquing may continue after the bidding has closed (December 7).
I'll be watching carefully, and will mark auctions as "CLOSED" when a full bid is placed.  All other items will remain on the block until 11:00 am tomorrow, at which time the highest bid on each entry will be declared the winner.

To the entrants:  You already rock.  Whatever happens today is icing on the cupcake.

To everyone:  Let's have a blast!

To the agents:  On your mark...get set...

Friday, December 2, 2011

IMPORTANT: On Critting Etiquette

There's a whole lot of WONDERFUL critting going on here today, and most of you don't need to read this.

When you're leaving critique for someone, please don't say things like "I WOULD NEVER BUY THIS BOOK."

Just -- don't.  That's not what we're asking here.  We're asking for helpful, tactful feedback.  Okay?

I'm deleting anything that I deem harsh.  And "honest" is NOT the same as "harsh."

You know I'm all about "honest."

Okay, public service announcement over.  *Mother Hen steps away from the podium*

Friday Fricassee

You all know I'm much too sequential to skip my normal Friday Fricassee just because, yanno, there's a huge auction going on right now.

So here it is -- December's first Friday!  We all know the month will blur by, even if we do our best to savor the days.

Aside from the don't-move-my-cheese factor, I'm really writing to say a little bit about ENTRIES THAT DON'T GET ANY BIDS.

Yes, it will happen.  Last year, 9 out of our 40 entries did not receive any bids from the participating agents.  That's not a bad ratio, really.  But I'm sure it didn't feel so great to the 9.

Here's the thing.  "No bids" does not equal "my work sucks."  I'm sure you all realize that, anyway, since the 60 winners have been chosen because Jodi and I felt they were strong enough to stand up in the auction.  But I just want to throw out the reminder, because "no bids" might feel a lot like rejection.

It's not.  And while the bidding is certainly the most scintillating part of this event, the critique is invaluable -- and everybody is getting that!

Okay, that was my mother hen moment.  You know I care a great deal about this community; I want this experience to be positive for everybody!

So HAVE FUN!  Critiquing will go on throughout the weekend and into Monday.  Bidding will open on Tuesday at 11:00 am EST.

Hugs to all!

#60 YA Fantasy: The Book of Three

TITLE: The Book of Three
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Three unlikely conspirators—Janey the miller’s daughter, her suitor Dickon, and a young prince with a price on his head—are thrown together by a civil war sparked by a regicide baron of the magic-working race who conquered Salix three hundred years ago. Janey befriends young Val before learning his identity, but his enemies hunt him with beasts spawned by corrupt magic. To save themselves, their families, and Salix itself, Janey and Dickon must persuade young Val to embrace his perilous birthright, then help him unite their oppressed people against the baron’s army and evil powers.

The day of Thane Scammony’s flour distribution, my father ordered me to make the trek to Ulworthy to collect our portion, despite Mam’s protests that a girl shouldn’t be alone on the road. Time was, I’d have been glad to go. Time was, I’d sought any chance to go to town, eager for the shops and exotic wares river traders brought—for a world wider than our village mill.

Now, three years on from the old king’s death, I was afraid. Too many of Thane Scammony’s hard-eyed soldiers quartered in Ulworthy, and the royal foresters had been withdrawn, so the road through the Arrowood scared me as never in my almost seventeen years. What with the fighting down south, rumor whispered of masterless men killing folk on the roads.

Worse, last month, I’d heard a scream rising outside Grimsby village that froze my marrow. Next day, Mistress Pymm couldn’t find her pigs, only a pool of blood in the sty. No wolf left so little trace. It was a fiend-cat haunting us, evil come to life out of ancient tales.

Fiend-cats stalked by night, the tales said. I prayed so, for if I didn’t go to town, we’d have no flour. No bread in lean times meant my family starved. Da couldn’t go, not with him doing the work of three, laying in wood and fodder against the cold months and draining our rented fields. Not that he’d go anyhow—not Da, the miller of Grimsby Dale, to beg someone else’s flour.

#59 YA Sci-Fi: Loop


When sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis botches a History midterm to the distant past, she inadvertently transports a boy home with her to the 23rd century. He claims he’s in love with her, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a pain in the arse. But after she discovers that a recent rash of time travel accidents are actually attacks, she might need her temporal tagalong’s help after all. And when those closest to Bree become the next victims, he may be the only person she can trust--her future self included.

Hitting the ground is the hardest part. Nine times out of ten, it’s dirt or gravel. But all it takes is that one time on concrete, or worse, asphalt, to send even the most experienced Shifter into a panic.

My feet slammed into cobblestone. Muskets cracked and echoed down the alley where I’d landed. Acrid gunpowder stung my nostrils, searing my throat as I fought back a cough and crouched down. The gunfire grew louder and louder, bouncing off both sides of the narrow passageway, so I couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from.

Where was I? Valley Freakin’ Forge?

If so, my dang transporter had missed the target by well over two centuries. Good grief. How hard was a 23rd to 21st Shift? Wyck must have set a new personal record. He would pay for this when I got back.

Puffs of fresh gunsmoke clouded the already dim alley. Pull yourself together, woman. I slipped behind a barrel and pulled out my QuantCom. A Virginia address and instructions popped up. “Bree Bennis, pre-Tricentennial midterm. Deposit package contents on Muffy van Sloot’s grave with following message: ‘There’s no time like the past.’”

So help me, I thought, if this is for a dead cat, heads will roll.

Dr. Quigley could flunk me for all I cared. Okay, that wasn’t even a teensy bit true. I needed an A on this test in a craptastic way. Still, I wasn’t taking a musket ball to the head for anyone.

#58 YA Fantasy Romance: The Iron-Bound Fae

TITLE: The Iron-Bound Fae
GENRE: YA Fantasy Romance

Seventeen-year-old Cecile’s fortunes deteriorate when the trolls of Broken Mountain discover she meets all the criteria on their curse-breaker checklist. But when kidnapping and bonding her to their prince fails to secure the trolls’ freedom and her own, Cecile must seek another way out of their labyrinthine prison. Only the trolls are not all the monsters she expected. Cecile’s fight to escape becomes a choice: free the boy she has hopelessly fallen in love with or protect humanity from a race that was cursed for good reason.

My voice rose an octave, resonating through the Goshawk Hollow marketplace, drowning out the bleating sheep and the hammer of the blacksmith down the way. Dozens of familiar faces abandoned their business, expressions uniform in their nervousness as they watched, anticipating the note I had dreaded daily for the past month. She liked an audience for my failures.

A tremor raced through my body, my palms slicking with sweat. Madame Delacourte’s gaze burned between my shoulder blades, her low expectations only fuelling my resolve. I would not break.
Resisting the urge to ball my hands into fists, I pushed my last breath into the crescendo of the piece. Almost there. Several people stepped forward, the words of encouragement on their lips drowned by the enormity of my song. This was when my voice broke. Always, always.

But not today.

The market erupted with cheers as I finished. “Well done, Cecile!” someone shouted, and I bobbed a little curtsey, my cheeks flushed with a sweet combination of embarrassment and delight. The echo of my soprano song drifted off through fields and valleys tinted green with spring, and everyone went back to their business.

“Don’t go getting all puffed up in the head,” Madame Delacourte sniffed from behind me. “Impressing that lot of backwards country folk is no great feat.”

My back stiffened, and I turned to meet her wrinkled glare.

“You’re good,” she said, lips drawn tight to the point of invisibility. “But not as good as her.”

Her. My mother.

#57 YA Dystopian: The Decretum

TITLE: The Decretum
GENRE: YA Dystopian

Generations after a plague almost eradicated society, sixteen-year-old Aura lives by three rules: Stay within your quarter; touch is illegal; love is forbidden. But in the search for her missing brother, Aura is about to break them all.

I shouldn't be walking alone in the Lower Quarters.

If they knew I was here, they'd kill me.

I'd heard the stories. We all had. About the girl who'd swapped her blue gown for the red smock of the LQ and headed out. She never came back -- her body had been discovered at the borderland three days later. They said people from the Beyond killed her.

It wouldn't surprise me. My Guardians say the people there are animals.

Which is why it isn’t smart being out here. A daughter of The Decretum shouldn't leave her Quarter. It's forbidden.

Screw that. A dare's a dare.

I tighten my grip around the handle of the bucket. All I have to do is get the proof home. Show Salina. I won’t get another chance. She’ll be gone soon and… Silence whistles through the empty street -- the hustle of daily life still almost an hour away.

The breeze whips up particles of dirt. They scratch and claw at my skin, but I can’t stop. I’ve already been here too long. I inhale the heady aroma of wood chips and smoldering cinder -- the remnants of a dying fire -- that marks my entrance to the Upper Quarter. Home.

The sun pokes above the clouds, casting its amber shadow across me, bathing my skin with color. I scan my surroundings. The street seems to close in. Trapping me. I shake my head.

Grow up, Aura. You wanted to come here.

With each step I take, the water I’m carrying splashes on the fabric of my shoes and pools between my toes. A chill travels along my spine.

I hear the scuffle of footsteps behind me.

Out of the corner of my eye, a figure leaps behind the crumpled metal frame of a factory. Straightening up, I draw in a deep breath. Move or die, Aura.

#56 YA Steampunkish Urban Fantasy: The Stars Fell Sideways

TITLE: The Stars Fell Sideways
GENRE: YA Steampunkish Urban Fantasy

Alison Arroway’s a teen stunt double. While filming in Portugal, their boat shipwrecks and Alison and pampered teen actress Pomegranate find themselves on the lost island of Atlantis. Only one problem: now that they know the secret of the island, the Atlanteans don’t want them to leave. They're stuck with corsets, strange steam-driven contraptions, and a ruthless army Captain. They'll go through a mountain, literally, to find the Book of Blue, that will explain how to make the 'stars fall sideways' in order to save the day and earn their freedom. 

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

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

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

Refocusing on the ledge, I started swinging my legs up, trying to get a foothold. The sharp plastic edges dug into my fingers, but I pushed down the pain. I had been hanging for nearly five minutes now, and my muscles were definitely burning.

“Need a break?” The director said from below me.

“No!” I yelled back, voice shaking with the effort. Pull it together. Pull. It. Together.

I gave my legs another swing and finally found purchase. I gripped the plastic and rubber grass for all it was worth, and heaved myself up and over the edge, where I landed with a thump in the fake dirt.

“Cut! Alright, Pom, you’re in.”

A girl dressed exactly the way I was approached me from the right. “You could have been more graceful, you know. Everyone’s going to make fun of the way I did that.”

I stared up at her. “Pomegranate, I—”

“Really,” she interrupted. “Get out of the frame.”

#55 YA Fantasy: Tears

TITLE: Tears
GENRE: YA Fantasy

A wizard’s spell has blocked emotions so people can’t cry. Stubborn, sixteen year old Kiana must find a rare jar of enchanted tears that can help her reverse the spell, but she has to do it before the Arcaian soldiers steal her people’s magic—including her brother’s.

Silence screamed all around me, and I knew any minute the heavy tread of military boots would hammer through it. Shivers nibbled at my skin and laddered up my spine.

I ducked through the fog into an alleyway and listened for some sound, some warning that the ever-present Arcaian soldiers, who had infested my country Itharia, had also caught sight of a sixteen year old girl breaking curfew during their nightly patrol. I sipped a cold breath before breaking toward the Square.

A large yellow piece of machinery rested by the abandoned fuel station, and I stopped by one if its massive wheels. The Arcs must have just stopped working to begin their patrol because the acrid smell of burnt magic filled the air around the machine. My jaw clenched. I hated that smell. Like we needed another reminder of what those axrats were doing when they took our magic.

Well, when they took my people’s magic.

I pushed aside my annoyance and tried to peer through the slithering fog for my best friend. “Come on, Gwynn,” I said under my breath. “Where are you?”

Any other time the words would have left a smoky trace in the cold air, but the fog was too thick. It choked its way through the streets in Cadehtraen—I could barely see the street signs or the traffic lights.
Moonlight shifted, and the crippled arms of our meeting place, the Guerra Tree that stood in the center of the Square, twined upward over the fog. Feeling like a moving target, I ran straight for it.

I cursed my footfalls and shot a glance into the murky street behind me. Despite my desire to stay quiet, panicked noises crept out between my frantic breaths.

I should have just had Gwynn sleep over. Meeting at two am would have been much easier.

#54 YA Paranormal: Grim

GENRE: YA Paranormal

Sixteen-year-old Libbi meets Aeron like most people meet their local Grim Reaper, when she’s about to die. But instead of collecting her soul and carting her off to the Great Beyond, Aeron saves her life. Pretty freaking sweet, until Libbi learns the one condition of life after meeting Death: she must replace him in one week. And everything about Aeron’s job sucks.

My stalker is back.

I may not be able to see him, but I know he’s here, somewhere. Call it intuition. I hunch over my History final and release the hair from behind my ears. It swings forward like a curtain and hides my face.

Show’s over, buddy.

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

The test is what’s important. I must focus on this test.

The loser’s gaze bores through my auburn shield of hair and my arms erupt in gooseflesh, but I read the next question anyway. Before I get to the multiple choice answers, my eyes betray me and shoot up for a quick scan of the classroom.

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

Kyle’s desk sits directly in front of Mr. Winkler. He calls him Mr. Sprinkler, and after nine months of daily spraying, I suppose he can call Mr. Winkler whatever he wants. He leans forward, runs both hands through his wavy hair and thumps his forehead down on his final.

Everyone else is working. Nobody’s staring at me.

But I know creep-boy is watching. I can feel his stalker stare.

#53 YA Fantasy: Opposition

TITLE: Opposition
GENRE: YA Fantasy

In a world where the Yang Light and the Yin Shadow make up the balance of the Earth, fifteen-year-old Atalanta Raire is an Aerisian, one of a floating continent of people guarding the pair. When the Yang Light is stolen, and her sister goes missing, there is nothing Ata can do but go to the Earth Plane, where a man with a centuries-old revenge is about to make her his bait to the world--a world crumbling to its depths, nonetheless.

The first thing I see when I rise out of hiding is a stumbling sun. It used to be so bright. It used to warm my fingers, my skin, tickle my feet and glow, explode. Now, as I see it again after a full year of darkness, it trips in its path and dips low over the horizon, spilling bucketfuls of light.

Walls pressed around me before. Walls of flame, the Circle, fire licking my conscience and sanity until I went insane.

Insane, like everyone else.

Eisa—the first adult we've seen in a year—came to us today, finally, she unlocked the Circle for us. I have never felt so lonely. There were a hundred girls trapped with me.

They stopped crying in two days.

They stopped talking in a week.

And they stopped thinking, stopped trying, in a month.

Every time I looked at them, they would stare at me with glassy eyes, reflecting nothing but my own misery. They would pick solberries as silently as the dead. They acted like the dead. I tried to shake one of them out of their trance once, Laurie, and all I felt was cold.

They are like snow, falling and splattering onto the ground, melting away into a glorious puddle of white. They are beautiful, but they chose to stop living.

Watching the sun, the sky, the birds, memories from before the attack cripple me. I close my eyes, bathing in the light.

Then, someone screams.

#52 MG: Shakespeare On the Lam

TITLE: Shakespeare On the Lam

Using a magic orb, 12-year-old Jared Hearne accidentally swaps his older sister, Athena, for Shakespeare. Now Jared’s got only a small window of time in which to rescue Athena and return the modern-loving Bard to the sixteenth century before the orb ensures they’re stuck in the wrong place forever.

A ghost lurked in his house; Jared Hearne was sure of it. A ghost who prowled the corridors, muttered in strange voices, cackled. Sometimes, the ghost flitted around the dinner table. Sometimes, it sneaked into the family room when Jared was watching TV, coming so close he could feel its eyes fastening on the back of his neck as it readied itself to pounce.

Nobody else seemed to notice, that was the weirdest thing. Mom, Dad, his sister Athena—all of them slurped their soup, or yawned on the couch, or yakked on their cell phones without even a furtive glance or a frightened tremor. While Jared could practically feel the thing poking him in the ribs. Like right now, at 5:30 on a dark, rainy Oregon morning. The ghost was once again on the move. The chills running down Jared’s spine proved it.

He shivered as a spatter of rain hit his bedroom window. Taking a deep breath, he switched on Dad’s camcorder. If he got this ghost on camera, he’d be famous. It would be on TV, all over the internet. Kids at school would gape when he walked past.

One final check of his equipment. The strap of his bicycle helmet pinched his chin. His swim goggles were vacuum-tight. Whoa, epic eyeball bulge. Excellent. No way would the ghost now be able to yank out his hair or claw out his eyes. He was ready for action.

Stealthily, he cracked open the door. The tray of flour he’d positioned in the corridor showed no sign of footprints. His skateboard, the object he’d chosen to catch the ghost’s interest—in case the ghost was another sixth-grade skater like him—hadn’t moved.

#51 MG coming-of-age: Riding the Dam

TITLE: Riding the Dam
GENRE: MG Coming-of-age

In 1952, San Angelo is a boy’s paradise providing ten-year-old, Allan, with endless adventure. But when his mother becomes ill, Allan discovers it’s not adventure he longs for, but the gift of friendship.

It was a day like any other summer day in San Angelo—hot, dry, and full of possibilities. Today was the day Raymond and I were going to ride the dam. This was not just any dam, but the biggest dam in the world. If it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest.

Raymond and I both had bicycles, but I had decided early on that it was a lot of work to pedal around looking for ways to spice up our days, so I convinced Raymond to let me ride on his handlebars while he did the pedaling. I told him that this arrangement allowed for easier conversation. This method was not without its risks. Some kids were known to get their toes cut off in the spokes of a bike riding like this, so I developed toes like an eagle's talons to wrap around the front axle.

It took us thirty minutes to get to the extreme end of the dam and there, we began our slow ascent to the highest point. It was straight uphill and Raymond was pedaling, almost standing straight up. This was going to be harder than we thought.

Raymond was trying to catch his breath and in rhythm with each down pedal, asked, “Why. Am I. The one. Always. Doing. The pedaling?”

We had had this discussion a million times so I said, “You know good and well, this way I can watch for rattlesnakes.” Raymond was deathly afraid of rattlesnakes.

#50 YA Paranormal: That Succs

TITLE: That Succs
GENRE: YA Paranormal

When fifteen-year-old romantic Emmy Duivel puts her first date in the hospital—with a kiss—her mother tells her the devastating truth: she’s not human and there is a price to pay for it. In order to accept what she is, she must give up her dreams of true love, and her feelings for classmate Paul, who has secrets of his own.

I stared in the mirror, wondering how Lily could possibly consider the piece of cloth she’d given me a dress. It covered less than my t-shirt.

“Do you have it on yet?” she called through the door. “Come on out. I wanna see it.”

My cheeks reddened just thinking about walking out of the dressing room with the dress on. “O-okay. Uh, just a minute.” I gave the hem one more tug, but it was as far down as it was going to get, which was less than five inches from my underwear and way too short for public viewing. Then I had to tug the top again, since every time I pulled on the bottom, the top came down, too. I give up.

I stepped to the door, when what I really wanted to do was take the stupid thing off and put my clothes back on. Sadly, I didn’t have much of a choice. If I didn’t come out, my best friend would insist, loudly, and by the time she got her way, there’d be a crowd.

With a sigh, I opened the door and stepped into the dressing room hallway. My shoulders curled in as I tried to keep as much of my body inside the “dress” as possible.

“Oh, honestly, Emmy. Stop hunching. You look fabulous.” She pushed me in front of the three-way mirror at the end of the hall. “See? You are totally hot.”

I looked, but all I saw was way too much of my own skin.

#49 YA Fantasy: Folktale

TITLE: Folktale
GENRE: YA Fantasy

After being mistaken for her older sister by a rampaging kelpie, eighteen-year-old Nadine Sullivan is transported to a world full of other mythical Celtic creatures. Nadine learns of a plot to destroy this world and that the leader of the resistance was supposed to be her sister. Feeling spiteful, Nadine decides to take her sister’s place, but proving herself to a bunch of freaky creatures who just want to mess with her turns out to be much harder than she expected.

Who says I even want to be an adult?

Better question. Who decided that being alive for eighteen years qualified a person as a mature, functioning member of society? The same people who thought eighteen-year-olds should be allowed to get tattoos and order things from infomercials? Probably.

I wasn’t enticed by any of my so-called adult privileges. I had been dreading this birthday for a long time. Not because I was afraid of aging, or anything like that. In fact, there were plenty of reasons I should have looked forward to December seventeenth. It had been the last school day before winter break. Christmas was only a few weeks away. I ought to have been ecstatic.

But I wasn’t. Not even close.

By one of the cruelest twists of fate that Life has ever thrown at me, this year, this day, my birthday, was also the day of Miriam’s glorious return.

Miriam. My older sister. Everyone in the whole world complains about their siblings. They usually don’t even mean it, because deep down, under all the show, siblings are supposed to love each other.
I’m different. I can say, beyond the faintest shadow of doubt, that I hold no love for Miriam.

The four year difference between us ensured that I trailed behind her reputation no matter what school I attended. Miriam was everyone’s favorite. She beat me academically, socially, even alphabetically. At home, she was the golden child, a perfect genetic blend with Mom’s dark brown hair and Dad’s bright brown eyes, while I was the dirty blonde, hazel eyed freak of the gene pool.

#48 YA, Science Fiction: Anomaly

TITLE: Anomaly
GENRE: YA, Science Fiction

Sloan's not a killer. So when she's next to get her brain scanned for the new government initiative, Project Reform, she never expects to end up in the Desolate, an island full of teens who have been marked as future killers. After someone starts drugging teens in the dorm with something that turns them into actual killers, Sloan has a decision to make--save the Desolate, or let the drug do its job and take everyone out.

I think my mom’s craptastic advice is what I'll miss most. Mom pulled up to the airport terminal as a huge plane flew overhead and almost shook the car off the magnetic track.

“Remember what I said about goodbyes,” Mom said in a somber tone, her tan hands wringing the steering wheel. We’d said goodbye before but not like this. Not where we wouldn’t know when we would see each other again.

“Never say it unless you mean it,” I said in my mock-mom voice.

She pinched my chin between her fingers and yanked me toward her, giving me a quick glare that disappeared into warmth behind her eyes. “Don’t sass me, mija.”

“Well, don’t tell me the same things fifty times, then.” I grinned, but I let it fade as she let go of me.

“Only fifty? I’m losing my touch. Let me know when I’ve reached a hundred.” She paused and stared out the windshield, her face swept up in concern. She turned toward me. “You’ll be late.” She wrenched the car door open and I followed her into the airport.

I mistakenly thought she would impart some infinite wisdom on me as we stood in the entrance.

I was wrong.

She tugged down on my shirt that had bunched up in the car and cocked her head to the side, her fake-blonde curls bouncing around her shoulder. “Don’t forget to—”

“Eat your green-biotics,” I finished for her.

She frowned and gave me the mom-eye.

#47 Contemporary YA: All She Needs is Love

TITLE: All She Needs is Love
GENRE: Contemporary YA

Emma needs volunteer hours to get into college. Enter eight year old Gigi, who has no family aside from a deadbeat dad and is more than willing to be Emma’s charity case. What Emma doesn’t expect is for the wiggling, giggling, bouncy little girl to wrap herself around her heart. When Gigi’s father kills himself in a drunk driving accident, Emma must decide if she should completely alter her life plan and take Gigi in. Or leave her to the foster care system, which Emma herself is a product of.

     “Happy birthday to me,” I mumble as I walk out the front door holding a garbage bag with all my possessions. Every last one fits in this bag. Pathetic, I know. But when you’re a foster kid, you do a lot of borrowing. You never really own anything. So I guess I’m lucky I even have something to put in my garbage bag.

     I’ve been preparing for this day for a while though. When you turn eighteen the state gives you the fancy, new trash bag and ushers you out. My foster mom was nice. Let me stay an extra day. Didn’t want to kick me out on my actual birthday.

     “Emma!” little Jimmy calls from the porch. I turn and look at the kid. I am gonna miss him, even if he did steal most of my socks.

     “What’s up, little man?”

     “Where ya goin’?” he asks as he runs down the steps. “I mean, can I come visit ya sometimes?”

     I ruffle his hair and put on a smile. “Course you can little man. I’m not goin’ far. You know the diner where I work?” He gives me a big nod. “Ms. Shepherd is letting me live in the apartment above it. You can visit me anytime you want.”

     He wraps his little arms around my leg. I can’t help but cringe. I don’t like affection, makes me feel awkward.

     “Okay, okay,” I say as I pull him off. “You just make sure you tell Jan when you’re comin’ to see me so she doesn’t worry, alright?”

#46 YA Contemporary: Chasing the Taillights

TITLE: Chasing the Taillights
GENRE: YA Contemporary

After a car accident kills her parents, Lucy is forced to rely on a brother she has never been close to. She can’t tell Tony what she knows about the accident for fear of destroying the tentative bond between them. Yet, if she doesn’t confess, she might lose her mind. If she does, she might lose the only person she has left who loves her.

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

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

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

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

#45 YA Fantasy: The Black City

TITLE: The Black City
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Fifteen-year-old Amalia, a pacifist witch unable to perform magic in a violent world, must journey to the Black City and battle dark creatures, flesh traders, and mixed-breed thieves in an attempt to find her twin brother before their sixteenth birthday. She has one month to restore the powerful twin magic fueled only by their connection. If she fails they will not only lose their powers, but their freedom, and ultimately, their lives.

The infant will be dead before the waning crescent.

It’s the fate of all witch boys—death within days. But I admire him anyway, bundled against the winter as he is in his mother’s arms. His mother is only seventeen, two years older than I am. I try to push down the envy I’m feeling—she’s important, respected. Pitied, yes, because her baby will die. But still, she is a mother; she is honored. She was chosen.

She smiles at me. “Send my gratitude to your mother for her assistance in Henry’s birth.”

My mother, the midwife. “I will.”

She nods and joins the throng of witches exiting the library, on their way to the Festival. Some of the witches approach her to greet the baby. Their stricken faces when they learn he is a boy make me wonder why she brought him out at all. Perhaps she believes he will survive. It is common for young mothers to think so.

I hug my arms around myself, my Christmas sweater weak protection against the windy winter solstice. None of the Selene Coven celebrates Christmas; it’s an old holiday practiced by the Ungifteds long ago. Strange as it is, I enjoy the knitted green tree adorned with red candles.


I look up, as do several of the older witches. I spot Tamryn’s head of dark blond hair swimming toward me in the sea of women. Tamryn—loud, bright, and extremely gifted—has never understood my desire to live beneath notice.

#44 YA-Contemporary: Here Comes the Sun

TITLE: Here Comes the Sun
GENRE: YA-Contemporary

A lonely wallflower since freshman year, 17-year-old Natalie's life is as depressing as her favorite MP3 playback list. But a senior trip to England changes everything when she falls for a kaleidoscope-eyed Beatles fanatic who has her heart crooning love tunes, forcing her to confront the humiliating event that left her near friendless, before her past sneaks up and snatches him too.

“Here Barf Girl,” Meredith whispers as she bumps my arm. I jerk my elbow off the arm rest and stare at her through my brown bangs falling haphazardly into my eyes. Even though we've attended the same high school for almost four years now, this is the absolute first time she's ever talked to me. I'm not kidding. She's part of the so-called “popular crowd” - I stress the air quotes on that one - and I am, well, not. I have Krista. And that, sadly, is about it.

I blame my nickname. And the awful Brunettes.

Meredith has really short blonde hair and pretty typical blue eyes. They don't sparkle or resemble the ocean or anything. They are simply blue, like a well worn shirt. And she's holding out her hand to me, cupping it a little as if not to spill whatever is inside. I'm sad to admit that my first thought is that she wants me to pee in her hand. Because quite honestly, at this point, I just might.

For the past twenty minutes I've been sitting cross-legged in my seat, my attention focused on the giant, red X glaring at me from above the bathroom at the back of the plane. I silently berate myself for drinking two diet cokes from McDonald's before take off, simply because my mom showed concern about my hydration levels as I cross the Atlantic.

“Take this. It'll help you sleep.”

“What is it?”

“A sleeping pill. Duh! We're all taking them.” She thrusts her well-manicured hand closer to my face, her cream skin highlighting a small, blue pill burrowed inside. “With the flight overnight, we need to be alert for a full day of touring tomorrow.”

#43 MG Contemporary: Glub

GENRE: MG Contemporary

Grace has big plans for seventh grade—ace her classes (like always), sit first chair violin (easy peasy) and win a spot on All-City Orchestra. But when her gym teacher introduces a graded swimming unit, Grace fears she won’t make High Honors—a requirement for All-City musicians. Before her musical dreams float away, Grace needs to replace her dorky doggie paddle with front crawl. Too bad asking for help is worse than diving head-first into the deep end.

The day Miss K asks me to play a violin solo in sixth period orchestra, my head swells like a puffer fish. I can’t wait to show off my perfect pitch and rhythm, since most days it’s smothered by the second violins, their bows grinding the strings like bare fingernails scraping a chalkboard.

“Everyone listen up,” Miss K says, tapping her baton against a music stand. “Grace is going to play a selection from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Mozart piece for this year’s All-City auditions.”

Before she can say, “Take it from measure one,” I dive into the melody, my fingers flying. Even though the tempo is allegro, I kick it up a notch, zipping through the eighth note passages without even looking at the music. Miss K’s got to be impressed. I mean, it’s only March and I have the whole thing memorized.

I’m lost somewhere on page two, trying to amaze Miss K with my vibrato, when she claps her hands. “You can stop right there Grace. Thank you.”

Bella, an annoying eighth grader who sits next to me, stops texting under her sheet music long enough to let out a snort. “Finally,” she sneers. “Thought you were gonna play all day.”

I’m considering saying, “At least I don’t sound like a screech owl,” when Miss K steps onto the podium. “All-City auditions are the end of April,” she says. “The top player from each section- violins, violas and cellos- will be chosen to represent our school.”

#42 Humorous Middle Grade : Gladys Gatsby Takes the Cake

TITLE: Gladys Gatsby Takes the Cake
GENRE: Humorous Middle Grade

Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for The New York Times—she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.

Gladys Gatsby stood at the counter, the spout of her father’s heavy blowtorch poised over the top of the first ceramic cup. Her finger hovered over the trigger button that was supposed to turn her plain little custards into crunchy, tasty treats. That's when she heard a car door slam outside.

Gladys froze for a second, but then she checked the clock. 5:16—still a good 44 minutes before her parents were due home from work, and they were never early. It’s probably just the neighbors, she told herself, and with that, she took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

Several things happened at once. With a hiss, a blue flame several inches longer than Gladys had expected shot out of the blowtorch, passing clear over the far edge of the first custard. With a whoosh, the wind outside changed direction and began to blow in through the kitchen window, setting the gauzy blue and white curtains aflutter. And with a jingle and a grinding noise and finally a click, someone turned a key in the Gatsbys’ front door.

A moment later, she heard her parents’ footsteps in the hall.

“Gladdy!” her dad called. “We’ve got pizza!”

Fudge! Gladys thought. She tried to release the trigger on the blowtorch, but to her horror the spout kept shooting flame. She pumped on it desperately with her finger, but that only seemed to make the flame get bigger.

Their footsteps were getting louder.

#41 YA Paranormal: My Sister's Reaper

GENRE: YA Paranormal

Sixteen-year-old Zadie’s first mistake was telling the boy she liked she could bring her dead sister back to life. Her second mistake was actually doing it. When Zadie accidentally messes with the Reaper’s Rite that should have claimed her sister Mara, things go horribly wrong. Mara isn’t the same anymore—Zadie isn’t even sure she’s completely human. And now Zadie must figure out how to defeat her sister’s Reaper or let Mara die … this time for good.

I didn’t know what scared me more, sneaking out to crash a graveyard party at midnight or knowing that Gavin was going to be there. Wriggling through the crawlspace someone had cut into the chain link fence surrounding the cemetery, I fought off nausea and focused on not making too much noise.

“Ow!” Naomi, on the other hand, was not as discreet. “Watch it, Zadie.”

“Sorry,” I said, realizing I had let a branch smack her in the face as she crawled behind me.

When I was able to get to my feet, I extended a hand to help her up. We followed the voices and flickers of light that fell across the faces of headstones. My skin prickled at the thought of some poor soul’s grave being used as a fire pit.

I heard Gavin’s voice and clenched my stomach to stop it from churning. As soon as I spotted him, I sucked in a breath, self-consciously smoothing my hair. It took all I had to hold myself together when Gavin’s eyes met mine.

“What are they doing here?” The cold glance Emily Broding—Miss High and Mighty herself—gave me almost made me wince.

“There’s no guest list.” Gavin shifted the wood in the fire. “Grab a seat.”

“Cool, thanks,” Naomi said.

“Zadie, right?” he asked. Shocked that he actually knew my name, the only response I could offer was a curt nod.

Gavin’s best friend Danny gave me a quizzical look. “You’re Mara’s sister, right? Is she still in a coma?”

#40 YA High Fantasy: Lament the Blade

TITLE: Lament the Blade
GENRE: YA High Fantasy

When The Long Dark casts half the world into an almost perpetual night, the four youngest mages in the lands east of the Silver Sea seek its cause to stop their world from falling into shadow. They're too young to know how much it will cost them in blood and personal sacrifice and too powerful not to try.

Cyran Averne often practiced killing imaginary enemies with a makeshift wooden sword. When the time came to actually kill a man, all the playacting in the world couldn't prepare him for the real thing.

The shackled prisoner stood in front of an old tree stump, his ragged breath visible in the chill air of the early winter morning. When Master Swordsman Gent arrived, a soldier shoved the prisoner to his knees. Battle-hardened, Gent was a survivor of the War of the Long Dark. Scars crisscrossing his cheeks told the tale.

He surveyed the recruits. "Which one of you skinny runts is up to a kill?"

Cyran froze, hiding behind a fringe of pale hair that had fallen into his eyes. Surely this was a test, but what was Gent testing? Strength? Skill?


When no one volunteered, Gent pointed to Cyran's best friend Balar, whose bony limbs and gangly appearance got him the nickname 'Scare The Crows'.

Gent held out a huge sword almost as long as Balar was tall. "You'll have to do. Have at him."
"What?" Balar's face blanched. "What do you mean?"

"Separate him from his head."

Balar took the sword, but the heavy blade dropped to the earth, the tip sticking in the mud.

"Dark be damned!” Gent said and took it back, wiping it on his trousers. He shoved Balar aside. "Who among you can hold a sword?" He walked around the group, eyeing them up and down.

Gent pointed the blade tip at Cyran. "What about you?"

#39 MG: Cryptogram Chaos

TITLE: Cryptogram Chaos

12-year-old computer whiz Cody Reynolds leaves his loner existence to help two classmates create a virtual reality game. Players (and readers) solve cryptograms to move ahead in the game where they can do all the things they can’t in real life. But fun and excitement turn to fear and suspense when Cody secretly sells the code to Eamon Wiley, manager at a local game company, and Wiley takes control of the game for his own evil ends. It’s up to Cody to save the gamers, including his classmates Nicole and Kerry, who are trapped in the game.

The lights in the lab dimmed. The flat screen embedded in the wall glowed blue, and then yellow letters appeared: NVR ULTRA ZX10_OCEANCAVEDESERT.

Mr. Gifford handed the headpiece to me. “Want to give it a try, Cody?” His face lit up, like he couldn’t wait for me to say yes.

And I wasn’t about to say no. “Sure!“ My voice squeaked. I sounded like a dork, but I didn’t care. I took the headpiece from him. It weighed about as much as a birthday card. Two crisscrossed, thin plastic ribs connected four sensors.

“You won’t get the full effect since it’s not programmed for a specific game,” Gifford said. “But you’ll get an idea of its capability.”

I glanced at my brother. He was putting on a headpiece, too. He gave me a weird smile—mysterious but excited. What were these guys so amped about?

Copying Brad, I put the headpiece on with the red sensor resting on my forehead, two white ones on either side of my head and another white one pressed against the back. Other than that, I didn’t feel a thing. Maybe it wasn’t programmed right. I was about to take it off and let Gifford check it when my body jolted as if I’d stuck my tongue on a hundred-volt battery.

The lab vanished. I stood on a beach. Seagulls screeched. Waves crashed onto the shore and splashed around my legs.

#38 Contemporary Middle Grade: The Secret Hum of a Daisy

TITLE: The Secret Hum of a Daisy
GENRE: Contemporary Middle Grade

After the sudden death of her mother, Grace, 13, struggles between a deepening relationship with her once estranged Grandma, and the belief that her deceased mother is sending signs warning her away.

All I had to do was walk up to the coffin. That was all. I just had to get there and set the gardenia on the smooth brown wood. Grandma said gardenias were a proper funeral flower. As if there were such a thing.

But my mind kept turning to daisies. The wild ones I’d found against all-slushy-odds and stuck into those cold white wreaths. Mama would have liked that. She’d told me once that daisies spoke in a kind of song, a secret humming that birds could feel in their hollow bones, drawing them close. She said I could feel it too if I tried, along the fine hairs of my arms and neck. That we all have a little bird in us somewhere.

But there wasn’t any bird in me. I was more like a cast iron pan.

Listen, Grace. Mama’s voice seemed to drift near the stained glass windows where the snow first stuck and then slid down the colored panes.

Grandma told me it had been a cold winter, and it wasn’t over yet. One of the only facts she’d shared with me since we’d met the week before. Of course, it wasn't like I knew how much it snowed here or when, being from just about everywhere else. In all our wandering across the great state of California, Mama had never mentioned her home town. Auburn Valley.

Grandma took my hand in her damp one and squeezed. Hard. "Listen now," she said.

#37 YA urban fantasy: The Defenders

TITLE: The Defenders
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Toby McGovern inherits two things when his dad dies: super powers and a double life in a secret order. However, he’s much more interested in using his newfound skills to pop fakie ollies at the skate park and win over the queen of the social food chain than fighting crime—that is until the man who killed his father comes after him.

“Toby, don’t be rude; people are waiting,” snaps mom.

Begrudgingly I make my way downstairs. It’s been two weeks since dad died but relatives I’ve never heard of keep coming out of the woodwork. Mom insists the more the merrier but without merriment it’s just more people, and a hell of a lot more lasagna.

All they want to do is reminisce. None of them want to talk about the fact that he was killed in the highest security area of the city. Or that he was killed. Or that they haven’t found who did it. But that’s all I can think about.

“Ohhhhh Toby,” they say in one communal breath, their eyes widening as they take me in. I’m wearing the same recycled Cage the Elephant T-shirt and flannel pajama bottoms I have every other day. I make no attempt to tame my wicked morning fro’ hawk either. I feel like s***, no point in pretending otherwise.

You’d think I’d been assigned the role of grieving widow in this family drama. My mother is dressed up, her bobble-head nodding along agreeably to everything these people say. I don’t know how she does it. I’ve heard her crying in her sleep but by day she’s someone else, someone pleasant and agreeable and completely foreign to me.

#36 YA Urban Fantasy: Cracked

TITLE: Cracked
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Charmingly wicked half-demon Meda must hide from hell's army in a school for demon-hunters—who mistakenly believe she's a saint.

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

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

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

I’m the third kind.

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

That might be why I feel so at home here.

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

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

Grey stone walls, grey stone floors. Once-white nightgowns, now grey. The skin of the inmates. Grey. The metal-framed bed. The bedding. Grey, grey, grey. The bars on the window…

Black. Imagery ruined. Correction—prison of the cracked, grey and black.

#35 Contemporary Middle Grade Fiction: Return to the Mountains

TITLE: Return to the Mountains
GENRE: Contemporary Middle Grade Fiction

Eleven-year-old Kate McAllister is tired of living in the shadow of her domineering older brother, Tyler. So when she sees a lynx (one that’s part of a controversial reintroduction program) on their Colorado ranch, she is determined to track it and get the recognition for protecting her family’s livestock. But when she realizes the lynx has kittens, and learns the reasons for the reintroduction program, she has a change of heart. Kate secretly watches the lynx until Tyler discovers them, forcing her to stand up to him to defend the feline family she feels she knows better than her own.

My brother is six feet tall, but his shadow seemed longer than a ponderosa pine’s. And no matter where I stood, his shadow fell on me. My dad looked to Tyler to do all sorts of things around the ranch, even though he was only 17. Me, I was almost 12, but dad and Tyler both treated me like a little girl.

Until the lynx.

It was an animal no one in our valley wanted back in Colorado because of the threat to livestock. The wildlife people released the lynx anyway, and spent all kinds of time and money monitoring them with a bunch of high-tech gadgets. Folks still grumbled about the program all the time, even though no one had actually seen a lynx, or had a problem with one, in the years since the reintroduction.

But as I stood in the shade of my brother on that first day of summer vacation, beside the empty chicken coop, I understood why ranchers hadn’t wanted the lynx back.

“Blasted cats,” Tyler snarled, sounding exactly like our dad. He stabbed the ground with his shovel.

“My chickens…” I started to say. But I had to stop so I could bite my tongue to keep from crying in front of Tyler.

“Kate!” He turned his whole body toward me and replanted the shovel. “This is exactly why the lynx don’t belong here.” Tyler stomped off. His boots pounded into the dry earth leaving a cloud of dust hovering over his path.

#34 YA Fantasy: Time Bound

TITLE: Time Bound
GENRE: YA Fantasy

While visiting her grandmother in Japan, sixteen-year-old Holly meets a Time Dragon trapped in a boy’s body and learns her blood is the key to releasing him from his human prison.  Holly feels honor bound to help him, as it was her ancestor who helped capture him in the first place, but there’s one small problem - if she sets the dragon free, he will rewrite time to heal his past and she just might become history herself.

Holly stood at the edge of the farmer’s market and wrinkled her nose. Usually the scent of yuzu and fresh chestnuts spiced the air. But today was Wednesday. Fish day.

Just her luck.

Located at the edge of town, the market was a shiny new structure of red iron pipes and stretched canvas roofing that bustled with the usual market activity. Vendors shouted and laughed as they greeted customers, shoppers gossiped over shiny fruit. It could have been any market in America. Except it wasn’t.

She was back in Japan for another summer and now she had to get used to the place all over again. It had only been a year since her last visit, but it always felt so foreign, so alien to return, like stepping off a spinning merry-go-round and trying to stay upright. And the older she got, the longer she took to regain her balance.

The scent of burning leather replaced the fish as Holly weaved past tables strewn with belts and wallets. Men streaked with sweat hunched over their tables, hammering designs into the glossy surfaces. Several glanced up as she passed, their quick judgment of her easy to read in their drawn brows and cold eyes.
Despite being half-Japanese, she was still an outsider. Everyone was much too polite to say anything but she knew what they were thinking.

Hafu. Hapa. Half-breed. The terms were different depending on her location, but the meaning was the same. She didn’t fit in anywhere.

#33 YA Science Fiction: THE TRAVELERS

GENRE: YA Science Fiction

When Nik discovers she is a time Traveler, she unwittingly becomes the nemesis of the Traveler's City Director, who is breaking Traveler law by going back in time to reverse her own personal tragedy. Pulled into the backdrop of 1940s New York, Nik must find a way to keep the Director's painful past as it is, or risk losing hundreds of future lives - including her own.

For years, the doctors had been trying to figure Nik out. Her blood pressure was normal. Her sugar levels were fine. Three separate EKGs showed a perfectly functioning heart. Her MRI had been clear. She wasn't depressed, or anemic, or anxious. Narcolepsy didn’t cause pain. Epileptic seizures could strike at any time, not just at night.

She was normal. Normal in every way except for the visions. The excruciatingly painful visions that only came at night, and the boy with blue eyes she saw in every single one.

Nik always felt his presence an instant before she saw him, and this time was no different. A thrill ran through her, followed by a delicious warmth. Then, when she met his gaze, the images of terror - this time, of smoke, screaming, and bodies jostling against one another for escape - melted away into calm, confidence, and strength.

Then the boy with blue eyes became confused and distorted, just like he always did, and twisted together with the asphalt or dancing candlelight or police sirens, into the same thing.


A million knife points, stabbing at her skin from the inside and invading every inch of her body, so intensely that nothing else mattered. Not her fear of the visions. Not even him.

Nik forced her eyes open and flexed her jaw against the rough carpet fibers of her bedroom floor, wincing when it popped. She dragged her still-pounding head from the floor and glared at the useless pile of medical textbooks on her desk.

#32 YA Contemporary: Ghost Light

GENRE: YA Contemporary

When sixteen year-old Cal’s car is totaled by a drunk driver, his friend Lizzie is killed and only a heart transplant saves his life. He thinks he’s lost everything: Lizzie; a promising future as a baseball player; and any chance he ever had with the girl of his dreams. But when he discovers that his donated heart was Lizzie’s and starts hearing her voice, sharing her dreams, and feeling her desire for their mutual friend Spencer, Cal fears he’s losing the only thing he has left: his mind.

No one ever calls in the middle of the night to tell you that you’ve won the lottery.

Or that you aced your chem final.

Or that your favorite team won the series.

If the phone rings in the middle of the night, it’s a pretty sure bet someone has died. Or broken up with his girlfriend. Or, in my case, that something awful has happened to Lizzie.

She doesn’t always call me. Sometimes she calls Spencer. Sometimes, I suspect, she just deals with her mom’s drinking and her loser stepfather’s temper and doesn’t tell either of us. I hate that even more than I hate the phone ringing in the middle of the night.

This time when it rings, I’m dreaming that I’m kissing Ally Martin while standing on first base. Yeah, I’m getting to first base on first base. My subconscious obviously has a sense of humor.

I know it’s a dream because you can’t really kiss someone you haven’t had the courage to speak to. But still I pull her closer and, as I do, her breasts rub against me and suddenly I know why most guys have been drooling over girls while I’ve been perfecting my swing and beating myself up for being a coward.

My cell keeps ringing, shrill and demanding. I pull my hand away from Ally and fumble around on my nightstand just as it stops. Somehow, I resist the urge to smash it against the wall in frustration. And then it starts again.

#31 YA Fantasy: Clear Cut

TITLE: Clear Cut
GENRE: YA Fantasy

When Nanoken enters the last stage of priestess training, she just expected to exorcise demons and other impossible tasks. She never expects to side with a slave and a mass-murderer against her high priestess.

I'm glad I'm not the only one to giggle when we realize the biggest test of our lives starts with drawing numbers out of a hat.

Our teacher Kitty, High Priestess Kiretel of the Light, holds it high. “I know, girls. Try to still your mirth.”

She nods toward the heavy iron door and my laughter dies in my throat. “Through that door are twenty prisoners sentenced to exile. Seven rapists. An arsonist. A pedophile. Seven murderers. Three mass murderers. And one man who tried to summon demons to possess his enemies.”

A low growl rises from many of my friend's throats. Serenity, the youngest to have completed training, leans close to me. “I'm scared,” she whispers.

I try not to envy the girl. She's twelve. I'm sixteen. It takes most of us six years to complete priestess training. There are five others my age. How'd she get here? “Don't be,” I whisper back, and put my arm around her shoulders. “They won't hurt us. They know better.”

“You do not know which crimes they committed,” continues Kitty. “Their crimes do not matter. Your goal does. They are all irredeemable. They have been brought here, from six countries, to see if one of our priestesses can redeem them.”

She presents the hat, a simple knitted wool cap like most of us have, to one of the seventeen-year-olds. Rosemary reaches in and selects a number.

#30 YA Paranormal Mystery: Hannah's Half

TITLE: Hannah's Half
GENRE: YA Paranormal Mystery

18-year-old reluctant psychic Hannah Spencer has learned to ignore her morning visits from the dead until Adam, a recent casualty in a car accident, appears and demands her help to move on to the afterlife. Troubled by her intense attraction to him, Hannah uncovers the truth about their connection: Adam is her twin flame — the other half of her soul— and the two have spent a number of lifetimes together. When Hannah links Adam to the terrifying recurring dreams she’s having, she must decide if helping him is worth risking her life … again.

“You got a name, kid?”

The boy sitting on my bedroom floor couldn’t have been more than five years old. The cowlick in the back of his corn-husk blond hair needed taming. As he sat cross-legged, holding a half-inflated red balloon, I noticed that the bottoms of his bare feet were dirty.

I rarely asked questions anymore because the Visitors never speak. I mean never. I’ve been seeing dead people for as long as I can remember and it’s always the same routine. Stare with haunted eyes, linger in the room, then disappear.

“Give me a break.” I sighed and pushed back my comforter. I’d gotten over being shy in front of the dead a long time ago. If they were going to invade my space, then they’d have to deal with seeing me in my panties.

The sweet, burned smell of kettle corn filled my nose and carnival music played in my head. In strobe-like flashes, I saw the little boy walking hand in hand with an older man in dusty overalls and a crooked John Deere cap. The man handed the boy a cardboard cone wrapped with pink cotton candy.

“I don’t have time for this. I’m going to be late for a calculus test.”

The boy continued to stare. I didn’t want to be shown how he died or if the older man had something to do with it. The whole routine was super old and I’d give anything to have a dead-free day.

#29 YA Paranormal Romance: Hunter & Hunted

TITLE: Hunter and Hunted
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

Ciera, a seventeen-year-old who hates her life as a Huntress, defies her family when she saves her parents’ old enemy, the mysterious Altair de la Rosa. On the run and hunted by Altair’s enemies and her own parents, Ciera must learn to finally use her skills as a Huntress, all the while fighting the attraction she has for Altair, which she suspects may be more supernatural than real.

The coastline blurred past as I raced over the hard-packed sand littered with sharp rocks. Up ahead, a niche formed between two craggy limestone cliffs caught my eye. I veered for it and glanced behind me as I ran. The limestone scraped my back through my thin t-shirt as I squeezed myself into the tight space. Spray from the ocean rained down over me, drenched my shirt and turned my long, dark hair into a scraggly mess.

My parents sprinted by and sand flew up in their wake. Once they neared the water’s edge, they slowed and stalked toward their prey like two jungle cats with black leather armor instead of fur. My mother’s katana, with its long, curved blade, glinted in the sun. As I crouched in relative safety with sour fear eating at my stomach, my father didn’t even have his sword at the ready. His claymore was still sheathed down the length of his back, nearly as tall as him. I tightened my grip on my own weapon, a simple silver dagger. My palms were slick with sweat, and the gritty salt and sand rubbed my skin raw.

My mother caught my eye and made a quick movement with her hand, indicating that she wanted me to follow. I hesitated before I rose from my spot between the rocks. I trailed behind my parents, and sweat beaded my brow when I thought about the battle ahead. In my head, I ticked off the few moves my parents had bothered to teach me. Parry, thrust—no wait, that was with a sword. I had a dagger. What little I knew about fighting leaked out of my mind like soda from the opening of a bottle.

#28 YA cyberpunk fantasy: Harbinger *REMOVED*

TITLE: Harbinger
GENRE: YA Cyberpunk Fantasy

To save her brother from becoming a cybernetically enhanced Golem, 17-yr-old Kai must uncover the secrets of her dying city and defy its supernatural rulers.



#27 YA romantic fantasy: For One Hundred Swords

TITLE: For One Hundred Swords
GENRE: YA Romantic Fantasy

Unwillingly betrothed to the mountain-king for the sake of an alliance, Kimri doesn't expect to discover a man she could come to care for. But when her beloved brother is taken as a war hostage, the mountain-king refuses to pay the ransom and Kimri decides to pay the price herself, even at the cost of her impending marriage. She has no idea she's about to awaken sleeping dragons.

Her brother traded her for peace, a hundred swords, and ten thousand arrows. She didn't speak to him on the day the guards came to escort her through the mountain pass and to her new home; she was too furious with him.

"Kimri," he said, "won't you even give me a proper farewell?"

She patted her sorrel's neck and swung herself up into the saddle. They wouldn't need a farewell, she thought, if he hadn't given her away to the mountain-king like market goods. With her knees, she told her horse to move on.

Her brother stood squarely in the way. "I had no choice, you know," he said.

She spared him a disdainful glance. It was true that no one dared challenge Helsmont. The small mountain kingdom conducted its affairs as it saw fit, but in the past it had always done so quietly, involving no others. It had been her brother's messenger who had gone there first, asking what it would take for an alliance between their realms.

Kimri was, frankly, impressed she was worth such a price. But it was one thing for the mountain-king to offer it, and another for her brother to take it.

Dereth sighed and stroked the sorrel's face. "Just don't try to run away. Ride safely," he said, then stepped aside.

Her escort was waiting in the yard outside the stable: half a dozen guards in leathers, standing by their mountain-bred horses. Such a small band from anywhere else would have been an insult, but Helsmont guards were famed as the deadliest fighting force in five kingdoms. Her brother's warning had been unnecessary; she wasn't going to try to escape these men----and woman.

#26 YA Sci-Fi: Significantly Other

TITLE: Significantly Other

When the military tells teenage telepath Ziv that violent aliens are on their way, deciding to help defend Earth is the easy part. Keeping her humanity while unleashing her strange gift on the race that gave it to her … that's tough.

Blades of grass brush my toes, forcing me to suppress a shudder. Textures like this still feel unnatural, wrong. Too irregular and unpredictable. I shouldn’t have worn sandals.

Despite my physical reaction, I continue across the school lawn. If I force myself to endure it enough times, maybe I’ll finally get used to it.

“Hey, Ziv!”

As I let Khalil catch up, his skin—darker than mine, but that’s not saying much—seems to radiate the warmth of the sun back out to the world. Not for the first time, I wonder if he finds my pale face as cold as I do.

The thought is interrupted by a tickle on my foot, different from the grass. A ladybug crawls across my toe, and I reflexively clench my fists, not letting myself fritz out.

Khalil stops and scrunches his brows. “What’s wrong?”

The ladybug flies off, and my hands relax. “Nothing, just stressing the civics test tomorrow.”

He smiles as we walk to the building. “I’ll bet a carb-bar you do just fine.”

My performance will depend on whether I give the correct answers, or the answers the instructor wants, but I keep that to myself.