Monday, August 29, 2011

Third Writers Platform-Building Campaign

Hello, my friends!

I thought many of you would be interested in joining this campaign. Get started now. There's only a couple of days left.

Must finish my ice cream now.

Later,

Rachel

Sunday, August 28, 2011

And The Winners Are...


So apparently Lauren Ruth has a super power she's been trying to hide from the rest of the world - she's a multihumanoid, which means she can multiply herself. How cool is that? I don't know how she managed to judge these entries, take care of a toddler, be a wife, and be a super agent if she wasn't a multihumanoid. But she mustn't worry. We'll keep her secret.

Now on to the results. Drum roll please...

First place was actually DOWN CHINABERRY ROAD, I say "was" because Lauren found this query in her inbox and had already requested more from the author, so she decided to pick another first place winner, which is THE BLACK ANKH

Second place is DEEP WITHIN.

Lauren also choose three honorable mentions: Honorable mention #1 is YOU, ME, AND THE FIREFLIES for originality of voice and concept. Honorable mention #2 is ELEMENTAL HUMANS for writing and an interesting idea. Honorable mention #3 is WALKING SHADOW for best single line in the contest: 'It's a barrier as fragile as the surface of a bubble." Lauren said, "This was way too dark for me and it read like an angry teenager's diary, but it stood out to me because of its passion and intensity."

Congratulations to the winners! First place winner, please email Lauren your first 50 pages. Second place winner, please email me the name of a book off of Amazon that you're just dying to read, authorrachel@gmail.com.

As for everyone else, you are always welcome to query Lauren. And if your manuscript is complete, check out her blog for great tips on writing query letters. 

This contest was really fun. It was great to see all the awesome talent out there. Thanks for participating!

Rachel




Saturday, August 27, 2011

We Have Arrived!

I made it. No major problems. I couldn't be happier to be here in beautiful Portland, Maine.

Wait. What?

There's a hurricane coming? And it's going to hit Maine?

But I just got here!

So being from Idaho, what does a country girl do in a hurricane? I'm high up in a hotel with a great big window. Is that safe? :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Surviving

Half way there! So far we've had one bloody nose, two florescent yellow-colored vomits, and three meltdowns by my two year old.

I was expecting much worse. Am I speaking to soon?


Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Journey Begins...



Tomorrow. My husband and I, along with our kids ( they didn't sell with the rest of our furniture :) ), will make the long trek back to the Maine coast - 2600 miles away. Despite the fact that we are moving into a home a third of the size of our current one, I am very excited. I love adventures. And I love the unknown.

But...

I will miss my amazing friends and family. I have been truly blessed by their kindness and generosity the last several weeks. So a big shout out to the them!

And to all my writing peeps, I fully expect to hear a good report when I check in next. Let's make a goal...5000 words by the time I get to Maine. That's nine days.

Deal?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Want To Update Your Submission?

For those of you who entered the contest and was one of the 25 selected, feel free to send me an updated entry if you'd like. Lauren will start judging them tomorrow.

Thanks!
Rachel

Monday, August 15, 2011

THE SORTING HAT HAS CHOSEN

This is the part I hate. Only 25 can move on, but I wish it were all of you. I can only promise those who weren't selected that there will be more contests in the future.

And now for the randomly selected 25 entries:


Gateway to Glory
Embrol
The Peanut Butter and Jelly Friendship
Nocturne
Down Chinaberry Road
Storm
Deep Within
Elemental Humans: Water
Walking Shadow
You, Me, and the Fireflies
Breaking Up the Girl
Blackbird
Daze and Knights
Soulmark
Absinthe and Lepreachauns
Summer Spell
The Grave Winner
The Black Ankh
Envious
The Underground Gift
The Girl with Brown Eyes
A New Day
Legacy
Bleed Well
Elena's Pen

Lauren will announce the first and second place winner within four weeks. In the meantime, please feel free to enjoy and comment on other entries.

And...

I have a couple of questions for you guys. I know there are a lot of resources out there like Query Tracker,  Absolute Write Water Cooler, and others. Do you take advantage of these websites when it comes to showing your work? If not, why? Or do you rely heavily on critique partners? Finally, do you like posting your work on other's blog to receive feedback? Do you find it beneficial?

Thanks guys! And good luck to the 25 entries!

Rachel

SMOKE RISING



This one was submitted days ago, but for some reason I missed it. I apologize to the author. I did notice it in time to be a part of this contest. 


Prologue-

And here I am
 
I don’t blame anyone for how my life started, but I’m less than thrilled by how I’ve been told to live it.

I remember what life was like before I was told Conner was my father. And I’ll never forget the short time he was like a real father to me.  

From the first time he stood up in front of our class in Precademy I felt a connection to him that drew me in. I was fascinated by his ability to answer any question we had for him and how he’d get so excited when we would mimic something we worked on. All the excitement faded the day that I noticed our resemblance.

Our lesson for the day was to observe our surroundings and find something we felt no other person might have noticed. I caught a glimpse of my own reflection in the window behind him. I sat there, in awe of the exact replica of my eyes on another person. I was an orphan and I shared no physical likenesses to another person, not even my twin brother. In my mind it created a connection to Conner, a person who had become a surrogate father figure to me. I wanted him to feel the connection as well. When it was my turn I announced my observation with pride.

“Your eyes are just like mine.”

I expected the typical cheerful response from him, but instead Conner just nodded while his tan face transitioned to the glow of a bloodless white hue before he went on to the next child’s turn. During the rest of our lessons, he looked away every time I attempted to make eye contact with him. I went to bed that night with a pillow drenched with my tears, my heart broken because I felt as though I’d disappointed the one person I looked up to with a wrong answer.

Now I know that I wasn’t expected to notice our resemblance. I guess the Elders didn’t factor in female intuition when they assigned him as a mentor for the class I was in.
That day marked a crucial shift for all of our lives. By the end of the next month after many visits with Conner and his parents, the orphanage director signed the necessary paperwork to return us to our father’s custody. The life we began with them as a family slowly lured Dan and I out of our reclusive natures that the loveless atmosphere of the Orphanage had instilled in us. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere.  

Why couldn’t fate turn a blind eye just once? Four months after we moved in our grandparents decided they would go forward with their delayed annual getaway. My father didn’t want them to go, he was afraid something would go wrong.  They assured him it was just nerves about being alone with the two of us so soon. But it wasn’t nerves, it was intuition. A tractor trailer flipper over on the interstate and caused a twenty vehicle pile-up that killed our grandparents.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer Contest has Ended

I am impressed. 79 entries. I honestly wasn't expecting that. I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of talent - salty, delicious goodness.

First and foremost, I want to thank Lauren for judging this contest. It's an amazing opportunity, and we deeply appreciate it.

Second, if anyone submitted over the last seven days and still do not see your entry, send your submission again. On Monday I will randomly select 25. Until then, please continue to post comments on other entries. As any writer will tell you, they are invaluable.

After the 25 entries have been posted, Lauren will begin the judging process. She will announce the winner within four weeks.

Any questions, comments, tickly tid bits you'd like to share?

BOOD LIBRARY


What a great entry to end this contest:

Sara Harricharan
General Fantasy

When a writer stops writing, do they go mad straightaway or does it dribble off day by day? I’m forever terrified to know the answer to that question. Perhaps that’s why my hands can’t still. I think my head would explode if I ever stopped writing.
I like to write about people. I like to give them names so I can remember their faces. I have trouble remembering faces, but I never forget the names. Empty faces. Meaningless names.
Sometimes I think I’ll die even if my hands are busy moving.
The one I work for is nameless by choice. My heart calls him Julius, so Julius he is. He tells me that isn’t his name, but I can’t hear him, because if I did, I might hurt him. It would be too easy and that wouldn’t be good.
One of these days, I’ll know his full name. Then I’ll call his book. When it comes, I’ll use every page and finish it words he’ll never forget. I’ll make him hurt for the lives he’s taken and the ones he continues to take, unless he is dead when I alter his life.
If he is, I think I’ll call it anyway. Unless I destroy his book by my own hand, he will live to suffer.
What kind of a monster does that make me?
He thinks I’m not keeping track, but I am. I’ve worked for this monster for nearly fifty-years of the centuries I have to my name. My hands are no longer clean.  
I’m more of a monster than he is, because the options I take are not ones I should. There’s no justification for what I’ve done. But I have always been fair to the books that pass through my hands.
I wish Ruben was here. I miss him. I would grant him freedom if it were in my power to do so. Sometimes it’s as if I have no choice at all.
But I’ve had enough. Today I won’t do it. I’ll refuse. I’ll stand in the flames while my world burns to the ground and maybe, Ruben, I’ll smile while it does.
I’ll pretend that I’m alright, that I know what’s going to happen next. I won’t give them any warning. I’ll pretend that I’m dying in the very moment that I’m living.
Come soon, Ruben. My mind needs something new. What I write on these walls is pure drivel. These horribly blessed walls. If not for them, I would be insane.
But I today, I heard it. The Library calls me in whispers that promise new life and a new beginning. I long to live in its hallowed halls again.
I crave the peace that comes with writing my heart and soul into existence. There is power in the empty pages of every book in this realm. I’m glad The Library breathes again. I can finally leave this room and use this gift for good.
Blood speaks. I listen.
This ends tonight. 

GATEWAY TO GLORY

Jan
YA


Certain four-letter-words should never be used. The word “date”, when used by your mother in reference to your long time guy pal, should definitely be one of them, Glory Ann Fulton thought as she dropped her school books on her desk, plopped into her air seat and spun it in circles.
The nature–themed murals painted on Glory’s bedroom walls blended together forming the illusion of a never-ending forest, complete with wildlife. The full grown bobcat sprawled out on her lodge poll pine bed, playfully swiping at her with paws the size of quarter pounders with claws, however, was real.
When the chair stopped spinning, Glory focused on the mountain of homework on her desk and sighed. In order to escape living in the spud capital of the world, get linked to med school, and become a holistic healer she had to not only finish her high school biology thesis, but ace it. She couldn’t, and wouldn’t get caught up in the teen drama of dating. Her mother was soooo off-planet on this one. Becoming a healer and traveling the world was all she ever wanted.
“Power down,” Glory ordered her G-TUNE. The Total Universal Nanobite Electronics device was no bigger than her thumbnail and sat in the middle of her desk projecting a live, image of Earth into the air.
Another image of a dark-headed girl with pig tails shimmered to life above the globe as Glory spoke, but Glory was too busy thinking about her mother setting her up on a date with Kyle to notice the droid companion crossing her arms and scowling at her before both spectral images swirled together and faded away.
Glory leapt from the chair and began pacing. Rufus, her pet bobcat, eyed her for a minute and then stretched, rolled over, and yawned, drifting into a sleepy slumber.
Glory threw her hands in the air startling the cat. “What in the flip was Mom thinking?” She turned back to Rufus and waved a finger at him. “I don’t date—especially not Kyle.”
Rufus batted at her finger, overshot, and caught her forearm with his. Glory moved in, maintaining eye contact, her green cat-shaped eyes to his yellow, until they butted heads. Rufus released her arm and blissfully nuzzled against her. Glory huffed out a breath, turned, and sat beside the enormous cat with an arm draped over his neck.
“It’d be like dating my brother, if I had one,” she said, pushing strands of hair from her eyes. But the tone of her voice wasn’t so convincing and her heart was racing. She mindlessly raked her hand up and down Rufus’s side. Striped and spotted fur rippled and rolled.
Glory smiled despite her mood and shifted so she could scratch under his chin while she stewed over her mother’s sudden onset of madness. Things were different in her mother’s day she knew. Most girls were at least engaged by their twentieth birthdays, having dated a variety of boys in their teens, but that was before the economy collapsed, border wars ripped apart the south, and natural disasters were a daily occurrence.


EMBROL


For contest rules, go here

Abby
YA Science Fiction
 
“Is this Heaven?” I asked.

My angel laughed, his eyes sparkling in the light from the two moons overhead. “Heaven? You’re messing with me, right?” A warm breeze rustled the field of glowing blossoms surrounding us and tousled his curls. He slipped his arms around my waist. “Okay. I’ll play. No, it’s not Heaven, but sometimes, it feels that way. Especially with you here.”

He leaned in, his scent filling the air around me. His lips brushed mine—

“Livy?” Patty’s quiet voice jerked me back to reality, from my attempt to escape to a happier place. Even if that world—and the boy I’d come to call my angel—existed only in my dreams. “It’s almost time.”

I glanced across the room at the casket—shiny black with silver handles. Elegant, according to Patty. Like that mattered. It would be buried underground, never to be seen again after today. And that wasn’t my mother in there. Not anymore.

Patty settled down on the arm of the loveseat and tucked my long bangs behind my ear. I resisted the urge to release them, so I could go back to hiding behind the auburn curtain they created.

“You sure you don’t want to see her?” she asked. “This is the last chance you’ll get.” She meant well. Just doing her job as my pseudo-grandmother and legal guardian. Well, that was what she would’ve been, if I hadn’t turned eighteen on the day my mother was killed.

“I don’t want to remember her like that. She knows how I feel.” I bit my lip and stared at my hands. I will not cry in front of everyone.

The loveseat shifted under the weight of someone sitting down beside me. Familiar fingers wrapped around mine.

“No worries, Patty,” Trevor said. “I got her.”

Patty squeezed my hand, surprising me again with her strength. She looked deceptively frail, even shorter than me, maybe five feet tall, and her paper thin skin clung to her bones like plastic wrap. “Think about it, dear,” she said. “You still have a few minutes.”

I watched her feet as she walked away and pressed my face to Trevor’s shoulder. His cologne washed away the smell of sweat permeating the room. An overabundance of warmth in Mesa, Arizona wasn’t that unusual, except that it was December. It should’ve been cool and comfortable, but so many warm bodies in one room made for thick air and unpleasant odors, regardless of how nice it might’ve been outside.

“Aw, c’mon.” Trevor rested his head against mine. “Don’t cry, Strawberry. I’m here now.”

I couldn’t help but smile. He hadn’t called me that in years. The nickname he’d given me on the day we met—Strawberry Shortcake. That night I’d insisted my mom buy me strawberry-scented shampoo.

“See there. I knew you needed me,” he said. “Where’s Camryn?”

“Her mom dragged her off to help set something up.”

“Guess that makes me the best best friend then, huh?” He laughed, though it sounded forced.

ELEMENTAL HUMANS: WATER

For contest rules, go here.

Margay

Mother had sent them to hell.

That was the first real thought Geo had when he arose from the earth in human form. Mother had sent them to hell. A hell full of teenagers in varying stages of maturity congregating outside of a sprawling brick building that could only be a high school.

A high school.

Seriously?

This was her solution to their running wild? To send them to a place overrun by people who were infamous for that behavior? This was how they were to learn discipline?

He cast a questioning look toward his siblings as they arose, one by one, around him in the forms that Mother had chosen for them. Zephyr, his brother, with his chiseled facial features, short ebony hair and skin the color of chocolate. His sisters, Mer and Ember, the former with her long dark hair and china doll looks, the latter with hair like fire, emerald eyes and fair skin. All of them were dressed in the very latest styles, to mimic the humans who milled about the schoolyard.

Vaguely, Geo wondered what he looked like – did he rival his brother in the fairness of his features? Did he have a sharp nose and a chiseled jaw? he wondered as he lifted his hands, tentatively, to his face. What about his hair, what was it like? Brushing his hands through it, he discovered it was straight and smooth, and the act of dragging his fingers through it caused it to spike in wild directions. He kind of liked that, so he didn’t bother trying to pat it back down. He couldn’t tell much else beyond the fact his skin was the color of the earth with its reddish-brown tones and he felt rather…muscular.

Shaking off blades of grass with a flick of a hand, Ember put voice to his thoughts. “What was Mother thinking?” Her voice snapped and crackled like the fire that was her element and Geo had to wonder if the harshness of it was due to the newness of it – she’d never had to use words to convey her message before – or if it was intentional. Did she mean for it to sound that way? If she did, Geo marveled, she had a far quicker grasp on this human thing than he did. He couldn’t help but resent her for that, but the emotion didn’t last long, thank the heavens. His resentment was swallowed by curiosity as he watched Ember acclimate to her human form, right before his eyes. She cast a disgusted look about her – how did she master that expression so swiftly? –and  wrinkled her pert nose at the sight of the trendy-clothed teenagers flowing past her on their way into the school. “Is she serious about this?”

“Very serious,” a voice behind them said, drawing their attention to a vivacious older woman in a stylish sweater dress the color of clouds. “You chose to behave like teenagers, so what better place is there for you?”  

THE SILVER LOCKET


For contest rules, go here
People often stopped Jenny on the street to ask if the child by her side was her younger sister but she was not embarrassed to say, “No, this is my child.” Yet some of the looks she drew from others certainly bothered her.

Jenny had to seriously think about her past and her future. She was 16 years old when her life changed forever. Despite being raised in a Christian home with strict religious values, some of her choices were careless… and they came with weighty consequences.

Today as the mother of a teenage daughter, she views the world with the eyes of an adult. She looks back and clearly sees how different she viewed life back then - so childishly irresponsible. Her family stood behind her during those difficult times but she did not truly appreciate their support. Recalling her rebellious years, she hopes Janie will not follow in her footsteps.

A strange combination of sadness and joy overcome her when she turns back the clock. Names and faces float through her mind like ghosts that still haunted her but as always, a smile forms on her face and she remembers only love. 

Her name is Jenny Federigo and this is her story. Let me warn you that this may seem like a typical teenage story as you read of her getting into trouble like most teenagers do. You will smile, you might even get mad and at some points you might also cry. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.


Chapter 1   
The Present Day

Jenny fervently pushed down on the gas pedal. It was 3:25 in the afternoon and she was anxious to get home. As she drove her green Camaro on a warm windy day, tiredness consumed her. She had run all day at work, talking to customers and writing receipts. She worked for the city helping people acquire permission for legal additions to properties – not the most difficult job but she was also a single mom with plenty of chores to do when she got home. However, she still needed to go shopping for the party and fought off the exhaustion.

Jenny glanced into the overhead mirror. The image staring back at her reflected her mother’s rich Italian features as well as her father’s distinctly Indian traits. Her skin was a beautiful olive color, her hair long and dark, and her eyes a deep brown. Her daughter Janie usually went to her grandmother’s house after school. She had promised her that after school that day they would go to the mall. Entering her grandmother’s driveway with the windows rolled down, she could hear the wind ringing through the chimes on the front porch. As she strode up the sidewalk to the front steps many memories of growing up in that two-story house embraced her. The screen door was open so she let herself in and it slammed behind her.

“Janie?” her mother called. “Is that you?”

Marie thought it might be her granddaughter arriving home from school. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

WALKING SHADOW

For contest rules, go here.


First name: Brigid
Genre: YA Fantasy

Everything is a lie––their faces, their words, their clothes, the books on their desks. It's a barrier as fragile as the surface of a bubble.

Underneath it, I see their fears, their secrets, the feelings they hide. I know their loneliness; it emanates from their minds, building from a whisper to a murmur to a scream that ricochets around in my skull.

One of those shrieking souls is my own. I share their pain. On the inside, we're all screaming.

But I've learned that I'm different from them. I accept the scathing mess of words their minds throw at me: freak, girl, freak, witch, goth, freak. I don't care what they think, as long as they never know the truth. They can think I chose to dye my hair blood-red, that my reflective eyes are contacts. They can think I wear long sleeves because I cut myself, even though I'm hiding something very different from the furious red slashes they'd expect.

I don't blame them. It’s human to make judgments. If I had a choice, I would make them, too.

Instead, I have to know every last detail about everyone, all the time––who likes who, who hates who, who's sleeping with who, who's doing drugs, whose parents hit them. Thoughts and dreams and memories and fears all burst inside my head like fireworks … and someday, I won't be able to take it anymore.

I never asked for this. I sure as hell never wanted it. My whole life, I've kept it inside. But it's killing me, crawling through my veins like a disease.

How long before it takes over––before it takes me, like it took my mother?

*

I dig my pen into the desk, drawing black lines that flow like poetry. I draw people the way they should look––same height, same size, same shape. They have X's for eyes, so they can't see. They have no mouths, so they can't tell lies. They hold their hearts in their hands, exposed and bleeding for the world to see.

I try to lose myself in the rise and fall of murmured thoughts around me, but it’s the first period of the day and they’re all the same. Bored, tired, hate this class, bored, bored. I shift my attention to the thoughts of the Pre-calculus teacher, Mr. Sampson. He tends to think in graphs and numbers, which is oddly comforting.

Numbers are safe. They don’t hide their purposes. They put everything in order, in measurements, in boxes. I don't like math, and I'm not good at it. I just like its consistency.

I stop, putting my pen down to observe my finished work. X-eyes, outstretched hands, dripping hearts.

No one can see the world the way I do, I think.

I'm completely alone, and there's no one.

No one, no one, no one, no …

STORM

For contest rules, go here

Kaity
Medieval fantasy

The moon’s glow cast shadows on the forest floor and lit his surroundings.  Dark curls clung at the nape of his neck, and sweat glistened on his brow.

Storm flexed his fingers and tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword. Placing one foot behind the other, he took a solid stance and awaited his opponent’s attack.  

Silent and fast, the swing came. Pulling his sword around, he blocked the slice and pulled up, causing his opponent to stagger backwards slightly. Before he could move forward, the man had regained his footing  and quickly came with another attack. With skill and strength that had taken many years of hard training to obtain, Storm turned and blocked from an angle. Quickly spinning, he brought the sword  around and aimed for his opponent’s knees.  A split second before impact his blow was blocked and swiftly returned.

Power surged through him as instinct took over. In a combination of maneuvers, he quickly pushed his attacker back, breaking down his defenses.  Sweat dripped from the man’s  brow as he struggled to block Storm’s advancements. The man held his own until Storm swung hard, nearly knocking him over.  Taking note of his chance, Storm brought his sword around and in a burst of energy stuck the man to the ground. He fell upon him, resting his knees on either side of him and holding the edge of his weapon at his throat.


“Where is it?” Storm growled, his voice low.

His defeated opponent unsuccessfully attempted to hide his fear as he shook his head. “Kill me if you must, but I will not tell you.”

Anger boiled in Storm’s chest. He didn’t have time for this. Kayla was dying. He needed what he’d come for. And fast.

Swearing under his breath, he jerked the man to his feet and dragged him to where his horse stood. 


DEATH SERAPH

For contest rules, go here.


Ashley B.
YA Paranormal Romance

I’m ashamed to admit the day my life began was day the lives of my parents ended. As I look back on that day I realize their inevitable demise set into motion a chain of events that would forever shape my path to self-discovery. After tragedy strikes most of us are given only two options. We can either continue on with our mundane existences as hollowed out ghosts ignoring our own foreseeable futures or we can simply choose to succumb to misery and end our own lives. The real tragedy is that either way the icy cool hands of death touches us all at one point; some, in different ways than others.

In all my seventeen years it had never occurred to me that my calling had already been predetermined. It wasn’t until I met a death seraph by the name of Nicolaus that I figured out what destiny had so intricately designed for me. At my old high school back in Philly, I recall being introduced to all kinds of occupations on ‘career day’ in the fields of law, banking, computers, and of course my own personal favorite, medicine. Not once did any of the corporate representatives at their cheesy 8’ x 8’ booths ask me if I had an aptitude for delivering souls of the departed to their rightful destinations. I’m pretty sure I would’ve remembered that one.

All in all none of us really know what we are capable of until we are pushed to the brink. If door number two meant denouncing my destiny and saving the one meaningful person left in my life then so be it. My only regret would be that I’d hurt her. The best memories of my life were the summers I’d spent at Aunt Maggie’s house. She’d been the only one who had ever understood me completely. I felt not even she would’ve been able to blame me for the obvious choice I had to make if she’d known the truth. Come to think of it, there had been no choice at all. There had only been Aunt Maggie. So as last stands go, I guess this is mine.

Aunt Maggie,

I am so sorry for all the pain I have caused you. It was never my intention to hurt you. I know the stress of having me around has been unbearable at times but I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I can’t promise you I will be going to a better place because truthfully I don’t know what kind of reception I will have on the other side. All I know is that they are coming for me and this is the only way I can protect you. Though it would be easier if you understood what was going on, it’s simply too dangerous.

I have only one request I need you to honor when I’m gone. Try to live your life as if I were never part of it.

Love always,
Minky

A GIRL CALLED RANDOM

For contest rules, go here.

VALENTINA
YA/DYSTOPIAN



I'm looking at Death. I see a flash of light from the street lamp bounce off the knife he's holding. I try to imagine what it'll feel like to have that blade rammed into my body-- to feel my life's blood pouring out of the split in my flesh--my dead body laying on the street like a piece of rubbish for the Gids to kick around. Where will that shiny, razor sharp blade go? Between my ribs? In my heart? Across my throat, maybe?

Is this really the end? My life over at seventeen. Not very old. Not old enough to die. What is old enough? I can feel cold sweat on my forehead--fear in my throat. Jumbled thoughts are shooting around my brain, like racing cars on a chicane. My mum. I love her. My dad. I miss him.  My brother, Zac. Where the hell are you? My dog, Ordinary. What about Ordinary? Who'll look after him? Shit. This isn't the ending I'd planned for Taryn Random.

It's quiet. The street is empty because of curfew. It's my own fault that I'm in this mess. My own bloody fault. I should have listened to Ryan. He begged me not to leave the shelter after dark but I'm a know all. I knew-- I thought I knew that I could make it. I'd spotted a bone laying under the fence at the back of the shelter. It looked like a deer's bone, just right for Ordinary. The poor old guy hadn't had a proper bone in months. In fact, he was beginning to look more like a bone than the bone. A lurcher needs a lot of food. I'd been sharing mine from the feeding station with him, but it wasn't enough. I can't lose Ordinary. He's all I've got. Now it looks like he's going to lose me.

I look around for something to defend myself with. This guy is big. The Gids seem to be able to get food for their tribe. I'd love to know where they're finding it, but I've got more important things on my mind right now.

As we stand facing each other down, an overpowering, acrid smell falls from the sky, landing on both of us. Sulphur. That means the Nicors have left their nest. Could this get any worse? Stabbed by a Gid or torn to shreds by a Nicor. Taryn, girl. You know how to get yourself in trouble.

YOU, ME AND THE FIREFLIES


For contest rules, go here. 
Sonja
Memoir

My father wouldn’t eat watermelon.
In 1942, during the war, he and a handful of other German soldiers were cut off from their unit somewhere near the Black Sea. They were stranded in a watermelon field behind the Eastern Front, surrounded by Russian soldiers. By then they had already been on a three-year European tour through Poland, France, Yugoslavia and then the Ukraine. They didn’t have much food to begin with; soon all they had were watermelons. The fruit must have tasted wonderful at first, a welcome change from rations—sweet, crunchy and refreshing.
I don’t know how many watermelons those men ate, but they were stuck in that field for three weeks, so it must have been quite a few. As they got hungrier, they ate into the rind, seeking something more like food and less like water. They all got violent diarrhea, which dehydrated them and made them want more watermelon.
When I imagine them there, it is always night. The field is vast and ringed with woods entirely in shadow. In the middle of the field is a shed, the only shelter. I picture the men sitting on the ground, leaning on packs propped against the shed, exhausted and ill. They are cradling their guns, waiting for the siege to end. They don’t have anything left to say to each other. The cracked melons all around them look like broken helmets.
I don’t know how my father got out of the watermelon patch. I don’t know if the Russians gave up, if my father and the others were rescued, or if they found a hole through the net of men that encircled them. I never asked. When my father told stories, no one asked many questions. Instead of getting up from the table after the dishes had been cleared as he usually did, he would stay, and so would we. Something would shake loose in his mind and he would start talking. If we asked questions, he might stop. Or, worse, we might find out something even more terrifying than what we were already hearing. As each story unfolded, my estimate of the tragic and gruesome nature of life expanded; it seemed possible, in listening to those stories, that horror was limitless. While my father bore witness to a universe of suffering I kept my mouth shut. My father didn’t talk about the past very often and about the war even less. I got the sense that how much he would say was carefully regulated. Sometimes he hinted at things, like when he said the only French he learned during the war was “Do you want to make love?” It seemed likely there were events that he didn’t want us to know about or that he had buried so deep it was if they happened to someone else, or to no one at all. 

THE RISE OF TEDDY.

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Luis
Literary Fiction.

The world laughed at him. It always had. Even alone in his car, it found a way to crush any hope for a day free of ridicule.
            A group of high-school kids flicked cigarette ash onto the pavement outside. One pointed and the rest laughed. It wasn't long before they had all joined in on the game. Their taunts were muted by his windows, but their lips were easy to read. Fat, they were calling him fat. And why shouldn't they? Everyone else did. He wished he could say he'd grown a thick skin -- that the constant barrage of asinine insults had grown stale with repetition -- but nothing was further from the truth.
            Theodore Ronald Reagan Joffry sat in the parking lot of Bretton Hill's only strip mall and glared at his belly. It pressed outward from his torso and kissed the bottom curve of his steering wheel. He tried to avert his attention, only to become more aware of how his one-size-to-small shirt folded with the rolls of his gut. An emblem clung like a groping hand to the slab of his chest. The word's “Lew's Gym” arched over the visage of society's requisite for masculinity, an image that stood in stark contrast to any that Teddy's might convey. Mockery, the shirt is pure mockery. At times he wanted nothing more than to take a black sharpee to the white emblem and blacken it as much at it blackened his mood. He couldn't, of course. That shirt and that logo were the only things that marked him as an employee of Lew's Gym. Like anyone would believe his employment status went along with anything that involved physical fitness without some proof of the association.
            I hardly believe it myself.
            A fat kid in a gym was bad, but a fat kid who worked at a gym was the worst. Life became a constant reminder of just how far he fell from acceptable when every passing person wondered why the hell he was there. Why the hell am I there? Teddy had been dealing with his obesity as long as he could remember. It didn't bother him at first, back when kids didn't know better, back before TV taught them what was socially acceptable.
            Taught him that he wasn't.
            It was early still, well before his shift actually started. But really, what else did he have to do? Well, my character is stuck mid-mission outside the wall of the Forbidden City. I could be obtaining Argyris's Hammer. Besides, he had his reasons for arriving two hours before his shift started.
            Miss Tia Paige. Just thinking her name elicited a sigh. Best get to the gym if he had any hope of basking in her glory for more than ten minutes.
            Time waits for no man.


DREAMING ISIS


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Mim
YA Fantasy

"Peer tutoring?" I pushed my chair away from the table, making loud skidding sounds against the tile.

"Isis, it's the last step in the counseling program." Sonya peered over glasses at me as she shuffled things in the file. She had her PhD in clinical psychology and was running the program my mom had forced me into with the help of my old psychiatrist.

"But have you looked at my file?" I picked at a scratch in the table. Then forced my hands still in my lap. "I don't fit into the normal peer tutoring candidates. My grades are perfect. My attendance at school is good, and I've got friends. I get along with others. Not to mention I've already been accepted into all of the colleges I applied for. I could see this if you wanted me to tutor, but I'm not about to be tutored by someone else."

"Peer tutoring allows you to practice the skills that you have learned in this program. Your completion of the entire program will allow us to include you in the case studies and program brochures. It's the last step and then you won't need to come to the weekly support group meetings anymore."

"And if I don't do it?" I asked.

"Then I won't be able to graduate you from the program. And I'll have to call your mother." Sonya shrugged her shoulders and put the file on the table.

"Let me think about it," I said. She didn't know that my dad had promised I could quit the entire program as soon as I turned eighteen in two weeks. So it didn't matter what she said or did. My mom didn't know about the deal we'd made when she forced me into the program at the beginning of the year.

I headed out of the room without waiting for her answer. I walked across the parking lot thinking about the argument I was about to have with my mom. I'd seen the volunteers for the peer tutoring and most of them were in my classes at school. The one thing that may make my mom cave was that people would know I was in some camp for crazy kids.

I was angry, so instead of getting in the car, I walked towards the back of the building to the serenity garden and gazebo. I rounded the corner of the building quietly. A boy sat in the gazebo, his back to me. He was juggling three balls in the air, they rose up and down in a steady rhythm. A soft yellow light streaming off of the balls caught my attention. I stepped closer, the light pulling me towards it, until I was almost to the gazebo. As I watched the balls more closely, I looked at the boy. He wasn't juggling. His arms were folded across his chest and the yellow light connected the balls back to him.

I stepped closer, stumbling on a rock and the boy jumped. 

THE SHADOW FACTORY


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Kyle 
Dystopian fantasy


Prologue
  
They called it The Shadow Factory. They called it The Shadow Factory because that’s where all the shadows are made. Simple isn’t it? It’s like that so we don’t forget.

 We must remember that the things behind us and beneath our feet aren’t natural. They’re woven from nightmares and black; manufactured in The Shadow Factory and sewn to our heels with spectral thread. 

Once the light from the huge bulb beneath our feet goes out they separate from us and watch us sleep, hanging over our beds like baleful silhouettes.

My name is Kitty Turner and I’m twelve cycles old. A cycle is ten harvests long and a harvest of glow grass is thirty five Bulb days long. They’re called Bulb days because I live on Luminance which is a titanic convex light source, or ‘The Bulb’, and is owned by Mr. Splicer.

Ever since The Consequence; Mr. Splicer has ran Luminance. He is the mayor of our small populace, the owner of The Shadow Factory and the creator of the Shadelings.  He is our mayor, our life, our idol and yet no one has ever seen in him nearly fifty cycles.

Mr. Splicer lives at the top of the spire next to The Shadow Factory. The bell tower sits in the centre of Luminance like a gray spine and allows him to watch over us all. It’s a position of power. It’s a position of control.

When the children of Luminance reach their teens they earn their shadow. The Shadelings come in the dead of night, creep in through the window and sew a shadow to their feet with needles of bone.

If the child screams: they die.

If they open their eyes: they die.

We are taught to fear the Shadelings and yet also to respect them. As through them there we are protected from the horrors beyond the perimeter fence that surrounds Luminance.

Its three days until my thirteenth cycle. Its three days until the Shadelings come for me and I’m scared. Once children earn their shadow, they change. They become hollow. The elders pretend to not to see it, but I do.
My name is Kitty and Luminance is my prison. My name is Kitty and this…is my story.


The Bulb

Luminance 99 A.C.

I cautiously poked the Pincher with my stick again. The shelled creature shifted with the prod, before scuttling stubbornly back into position with an agitated click of its pincers. This Pincer was one of the biggest I’d ever seen. The gaps in the barbed fence must be getting pretty big to have let this monster in.

Its smooth white shelled body was about as wide as a hand-span; it also had eight armored, tubular legs and a large set of tough pincers. These pincers could prove quite nippy; which was how its name was coined.

A Pincher’s strangest feature, however, is their white beady, blind eyes. These tiny organs tell you a lot about what’s beyond the fence that surrounds Luminance.

MARKED


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Charlee Vale
Young Adult


The satin feels like water under my hands. It is blue, bluer than blue. It is blue fire in a sea of other, paler colors. No one has a dress like mine. I feel vibrant and sensuous and new like I’ve never felt before. My grandmother wore this dress to her Receiving, and my mother to hers. Tonight is a night of honor, respect, beauty, and legacy.

I look around at all the others with me in the banquet hall. We are a garden of silk flowers, and the men are dressed in solidifying black; the soil to our petals. We are the future. We are all seventeen, and in under an hour my life, our lives, are going to change. We are going to Receive it.

The Vita.

It is not an object. It is not a word. It is that one thing that we will seek to fulfill our entire lives. It defines us, drives us, is the one steadfast thing when everything else may be raining from the sky.

I feel my heart beating in my throat, and my stomach drops in a familiar free fall. I look at my friends, and wonder what their Vitas will be. We all have some kind of idea—the aptitude tests last week told us our three most likely marks—except me. I pinch the blue satin between my fingers to keep from running my fingers over my empty collarbone for the hundredth time. I have no idea what the Consilium will choose for me. After my aptitude test, the results cam back without a color. The technician had smiled and said, "Don’t worry, these things happen sometimes," but I saw the lie in her eyes. Tests that came back without color were Blank.


Please, don’t let me be that.


I grasp at my senses to calm me down. There’s a constant, raucous tinkle of cutlery on china. A hubbub of voices in the crowded room echoing up and back from the vaults in the ceiling. I inhale the spices from our meal, sorting out the ones that indicated the different courses: clove, oregano, cinnamon. I force my heart to slow with each breath, force a smile, force eye contact with my friends.

 We are the Six from Yarmouth: Jewla, Dalion, Romana, Corone, Kalor, and me—Calista. They are laughing about something that happened last year in class. A bird from the science aviary got loose and ended up ruining many people’s clothes. You can hardly blame it with how scared it was. I let the memory wash over me and find myself laughing right along with them, until I see Kalor.

He is laughing just as heartily as everyone else, but he wasn’t there. Kalor was absent on what the Consilium called a ‘gifted retreat’ all of the last school year. It happened when we were twelve too. What really happened to him during those years? We’ve never had the chance to talk about it. We never seem to get the chance to be alone, though it seems we both try… What if he is Blank?

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THE DESOLATE

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Luisa
YA Fantasy

Blake wakes up, tears running down his cheeks and into his ears. He’s nine; he shouldn’t be crying like a baby. But he’s had that dream a million times, and every time the pain is fresh and new. In his dream, he plays hide-and-seek with his mama. He can hear her laughing, but he doesn’t know where she is. Why can’t he find her, when he knows she wants to be found?
            Now fully awake, Blake knows the answer. Mama is dead, and that means he’ll never see her again. He remembers the funeral, even though Dad says that he was too little, and that he has made up the memories from pictures. The white casket covered with lilies. Dad’s gray face above his black suit. The tired-sounding music Aunt Edie played on the church organ. Even though it was five years ago, in Blake’s mind, it’s all as fresh as yesterday.
            He wipes his face dry with his pajama sleeve and stares up into the darkness. The wound in his heart where Mama used to be gapes wide and raw; the lump in his throat feels like he’s swallowed a rock. Mama must be close.

After the graveside service that terrible day, Aunt Edie had been the only one who seemed to understand. She’d been doing dishes in the narrow kitchen, washing out the casserole pans and plasticware brought over by friends all week. Four-year-old Blake had come in to hide from all the sad smiles and hugs in the living room. He leaned against his aunt’s hip and closed his eyes. She took off the dish gloves, knelt down on the black and white tiles, and took his face in her long, cool hands.
“Your heart hurts, right, Sweetie?” she asked. Blake nodded, afraid that if he opened his mouth, he might cry or throw up, or both.
“I know, Blake. Your throat, too. Your mama was my big sister, remember. I know exactly how you feel.”
It was hard to look into Aunt Edie’s face. Even though she wore glasses, her eyes were the same as Mama’s: sea-blue with tiny yellow and white flecks. He hugged her so he wouldn’t have to see them. She hugged him tightly right back, then whispered into his ear.
“You can’t see your mama now, Blake, but she’s all around you. We buried her body today, but her spirit is still alive. You’ll know she’s close when you feel that pain in your throat and heart. She must be right here now, don’t you think? Because I feel that way, too.”
Blake nodded again. Hard but quiet, the sobs he had been forcing down all day squeezed their way past the rock in his throat. Aunt Edie held him until all the tears escaped, then a while longer.

“Mama,” nine-year-old Blake now whispers into the air-conditioned night. Though his voice is creaky because of his swollen throat, he hums one of his mother’s favorite songs, the song she’d sung when she peeled potatoes or folded laundry. 

ELENA'S PEN

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Nicole Zoltack
Fantasy MG


Mr. McMichaels has hated me ever since he confiscated a story I wrote during class last week. A story about an evil goblin warlord. Named McMichaels.
I guess I can't blame him, but wouldn't most English teachers love a student who wanted to be an author? Not this one. I was lucky he only threatened me with detention.
I took my time walking to my sixth grade English class, not looking forward to Mr. McMichaels and his evil-eye glare.
The crowded hallway slowly thinned out as sixth, seventh and eighth-graders swapped classrooms. A kid slammed his puke green locker shut, wafting the scent of body odor and days-old sweaty gym clothes toward me. I gagged and hurried past.
"Elena?"
I turned and spotted Artex, the new guy, down the hall. He waved a piece of paper in his hand. His lopsided smile was so inviting that I smiled back. "Hi." Why was he talking to me? I forced myself to not shuffle my feet or play with my hair.
He jogged over. Dark hair fell across his forehead and made him look oh-so-cute. "I think this is yours." He handed me the story I had started during science.
"Thanks." I shoved it into a notebook. "I guess I forgot to grab it."
"Poor Roderick. Fighting without his armor and his horse against three bloody pirates. I'm not sure he can handle them." He fell into step beside me.
My cheeks grew hot. "You read it?" My biggest dream is to see my name, Elena Streaming, on the spine of a book, but I couldn't let anyone read it!
"How else did I know it was yours?" He laughed and brushed back his hair. "Why don't you want people to read your stories?"
I jerked back and stared at him. Was he reading my thoughts? No, he was probably just reading my face. Breaking eye contact, I frowned, the floor suddenly very interesting, full of scuff marks, gum stains and all manner of disgusting things.
Artex cleared his throat. "You should finish it. It's really good. Maybe you could even get it published."
"Maybe." Someday. Don't be rude, Elena. I didn't know Artex that well, but he liked my writing… how bad could he be?
By now, the hallway was deserted, and if we didn't hurry, we'd be late. I stopped with my hand on the knob to Mr. McMichaels' classroom. "Class," I said.
Gah, why couldn't I ever talk to cute guys without sounding like a complete idiot?
"I know. I have English with you." Artex grinned and waved his arm. "After you."
I blushed. I knew that.
I walked into the small classroom and slid into my customary seat in the middle. In the front, the teacher can see if you're taking notes or not. In the back, the teacher assumes you're a troublemaker. But in the middle, you can do anything.
Artex sat in the front.
Mr. McMichaels stood in front of the class. Short with a pot-belly, he really did resemble a goblin, at least to me he did.

GEAS

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First name: Robin
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Brina knew better than to go out in public looking less than her questionable best.

She knew it, but figured hurrying home for her mother’s birthday party deserved a special endowment of luck. She didn’t even grow to human size first. Instead, she left her purse and car keys with her best friend Moira and launched herself out the palace window into the sweltering air of San Antonio, Texas.

The first flash came from her left and, like an idiot, she twisted toward it. Which is how the photographer’s zoom lens caught her: eyes opened wide, long braid slicked back from her face with her own sweat, and limbs sticking out at startled angles from her workout tank and short-shorts. All of it glowing softly brown in the dusk.

As a special bonus, the magazine’s cover photo captured the moment her four bright white wings froze in shock, sending her plummeting a few feet downward. The resulting portrait could have been entitled “Freak, Falling” but instead the headline proclaimed: “Human-Pixie Hybrids: The Last American Taboo.” That worked, too.

Naturally, the cover was taped to her locker first thing Tuesday morning.

It hadn’t been torn carefully, and a jagged gash ripped halfway through Brina’s right wing. As if she needed help looking ridiculous.

Brina stopped dead in the middle of the hallway and forced herself to breathe. Stretched her lips into a slight smile. Pressed her head to the side, as if she were pondering a pleasant surprise. Ignored the churning in her stomach.

Soon, she hoped she’d be able to shove her feet forward.

The other students, pixies and humans, were starting to stop and stare at her locker, so Brina fought down her nausea and took the last few steps forward. Pulling the glossy paper down, she arranged her face into an expression of bliss, turned around to face the hallway, spread her brilliant white wings out against the dull beige lockers, and beamed at everyone. “Thanks so much!” She hugged the cover page to her chest. “I will treasure it always.”

One or two students smirked, but most of them shot her disgusted looks and hurried on their way. Mission accomplished.

She turned back to the locker, spun the dial, and jammed the cover inside with her purse.

The locker next to hers opened. “Are you excited for auditions tonight?” Moira was sure chipper this morning.

Brina sighed, shoved her biology book into her shoulder bag, and turned to look at her friend. “Do you think Mrs. Z would let me audition during lunch or something? I’d much rather fail in private.”

“What are you talking about?” Moira’s perfect light blue eyebrows arched over her perfect light blue eyes in her perfect light blue face. “You’re the best actor in the class. You can have any part you want.” She pursed her lips. “Except Titania. That part is mine.”

Brina turned back to her locker and scanned her folders. “That’s what I’m afraid of,” she mumbled.