Sunday, June 17, 2018

Query Kombat 2018 Round 3 Matchups

Round 2 had a lot of close matches and difficult decisions. A lot of outstanding entries have left us on our quest for the very best. 

Round three is coming up in just a few days. The round starts on June 19th at 8:00 a.m. and continues until June 21nd at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Round three will be hosted only on Mike's blog. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet us.

Please send your revised entries using the same format and email address by Monday June 18th at noon. 

Round 3 Match Ups

Raspberry Moon vs Got Me a Daddy Map
Planet Panic vs Shiver Me Timbers
GG: Found Family vs I Wish I Was White
Carrion My Wayward Son vs My Babysitter is a Skeleton
This Wasn't in the Job Contract vs Swimming with the Amoebas
No Heroes Here vs I'll Stand Bayou
Hungry Ocean Gods vs Unnaturally Dyed Boutonniere
Why Are You So Obsessed with Me? vs Don't Mess with an Assassin Mom

Good Luck Sweet 16 Kombatants!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Query Kombat Round 2 2018

Here we go! Round 2!

Entries are on my blog and Kara's! This round lasts until June 16th at 8 pm.

On Saturday the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. 

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the third round on June 19th! Winners may send in a revised entry to the Query Kombat email by Monday, June 18 at noon. Use the same format. 

Kombatants will not have any more chances to revise for the rest of the contest.

Reminders for the Entrants:

No commenting on your own entries until the last day of the round. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on twitter as soon as you can. If you don't have a Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling me the mistake.

Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Kombatants should comment on 4 other match-ups to help share the love around!

Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!).

Make sure to post under your nicknames!

QK Round 2 Match 1: Why are You So Obsessed with Me vs. Lady CEOs are Sexy, Too

Title: Guarded
Entry Nickname: Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?
Word Count: 76K
Genre: Contemporary Romance #ownvoices (physical disability)


Being the center of attention and the subject of tabloid gossip isn’t anything new for actress Ava Madison. After all, it’s not every day someone who uses a wheelchair becomes a Golden Globe winner. So when she tries to help her friend, heartthrob Brett Sinclair, by telling the world she broke up with him after a whirlwind romance, she expects the added scrutiny. But she never expects Brett’s fans to threaten her life because they think she broke their idol’s heart.
After someone vandalizes her car, Ava’s manager hires a security team for her. Always striving for her independence and refusing to be tied down in any way, Ava hates the thought of having twenty-four hour protection. And just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse, she discovers the person assigned as her live-in bodyguard is Leo Matthews—the annoying, condescending man she encountered at a coffee shop just the day before. They immediately clash over everything, and Ava can’t wait to get Leo out of her house for good. But as she’s forced to spend nearly every waking moment with him, she can’t deny her attraction to the tall, dark, blue-eyed former Navy SEAL who seems to anticipate her every desire. Their relationship soon heats up, but the threats from Brett’s fans turn into physical violence, affecting not just Ava but hurting those around her. While she’s scared something will happen to Leo or one of her friends, independent Ava is also scared of doing the one thing she never thought she’d do—fall in love.

First 250:
Ava Madison and Brett Sinclair Getting Married!

Wedding bells are on the horizon for recent Golden Globe winner, and our favorite cougar, Ava Madison! Sources tell us that her boyband heartthrob boyfriend, Brett Sinclair, popped the question to her last weekend! They plan on tying the knot as soon as possible, creating growing speculation that she is indeed pregnant with twins, as we reported last week. One thing’s for sure—those babies are going to be gorgeous!

At twenty-eight years old, I was a cougar.

Never mind that men like Jack Nicholson and John Stamos had women one-third their age on their arm every time they made an appearance and no one batted an eye. But as soon as I was ‘caught canoodling’ with Brett, five years my junior, you’d think I was a decrepit old woman robbing the cradle.

At least I didn’t look like one.

I rolled my eyes and clicked off the site before taking a sip of my tepid coffee, flashing a smile to the barista as he glanced my way. The speculation about Brett and me was crazy. It started when he took me as his plus one to the AMA’s. We never commented about our relationship, so according to celeb gossip sites we were either hooking up, engaged, already secretly married, or preparing for the upcoming birth of our twins. No one ever considered the truth—that we’re just friends.


Title: Swaying Magnolia
Entry Nickname: Lady CEOs Are Sexy, Too
Word count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance (#Ownvoices F/F)


Twenty-two-year-old Maggie Reyne has never felt more like an outsider than when she moves from her small town to start an internship at a San Francisco tech company. It seems like a Lord’s miracle that she landed this coveted spot, and she’s determined to be hired on full-time. That would mean enough money to save her family home.

On her first day of work, she nearly gets herself fired. She comes face to face with the CEO of the company, Victoria Citron, a twenty-nine-year-old prodigy and tech industry celebrity, infamous for demanding perfection. Not realizing who she’s talking to, Maggie lets slip a piece of gossip she heard about Victoria. Maggie believes her gaffe is going to be the end of her career—goodbye family home—but instead Victoria asks her out to a fancy rooftop lunch.

Maggie, who has lived her sheltered life with the assumption that she’s straight, cannot ignore her growing attraction to Victoria. The lunches turn to real dates, to an actual relationship. In order to keep up appearances with her Baptist family who checks up on their baby girl any chance they get, Maggie begins to dig herself into deeper and deeper lies. When Maggie’s family arrives in San Francisco for a surprise visit, Maggie has to make a choice. Deny her feelings and retreat back to the world she’s always known, or find the courage to dive headfirst into her relationship and this new identity, even if it means losing her beloved family.
First 250 words:

From where I stood on the elevated train platform, the Bay Bridge stretched out like an arrow, pointing to towering skyscrapers wrapped in fog. So this was San Francisco in August. Bright sun teased the East Bay and San Francisco’s surrounding areas, but a spell of clouds had been cast over the city. Two hours away in the central valley, summer meant warm evenings lazing by the pool, iced lemonade, bloodshot sunsets. I’d never known anything else. I couldn’t call that home anymore, though. This gloomy place had snatched the title, and there was nothing I could do about it.  

Shaking the thought away, I lugged my bags downstairs to the street. I hailed a taxi and we drove off to my new house. Well, my cousin George’s house.  

The freeway afforded another unobstructed view of the city, its towers looming like jagged teeth. My hand darted to the simple gold cross around my neck. A gift from my parents on my sixteenth birthday, it was the only nice piece of jewelry I owned. I rubbed the smooth metal of the cross until it became warm, and I became aware of my posture. Had I been sitting bolt upright this whole time? Relax, Maggie. Yes, I longed for the lush fields of infinite almond trees back in Redford, but this was the right thing to do. The right thing to do—my courage-rallying mantra these last few weeks.

My phone rang. “Home,” it read, as if taunting me.

QK Round 2 Match 2: Capes and Clorox vs. My Babysitter is a Skeleton

Title: House of Heroes
Entry Nickname: Capes and Clorox
Word count: 87K
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy/Romance


As a member of the exclusive housekeeping staff at C.A.P.E Quarters (The Crime-Fighting Association of Powered Entities), Dee’s duties include more than just windows … try cleaning up excretions of acidic slime, forgotten outwear-panties, and husks of skin left on the war simulator/foosball table.
Maybe Dee should be suspicious when super scientist Dr. Wisdom convinces her to participate in an experiment. But if the heroes don’t suspect that he is working for a telepathic megalomaniac, why would the cleaning lady?
Thank goodness Henry, the lovable jet mechanic, stumbles upon her just as the experimental laser knocks her flat. The laser alters her genetic makeup and suddenly she isn’t just Dee Dalsey anymore. She trades her apron for some spandex to become Prism, an invisible, ultraviolet-ray-wielding, forcefield-generating, bonafide superhero.
As she transitions from housekeeper to hero, Dee struggles to let go of her old life, including her secret love for Henry. Fortunately, Titan, the beefiest of the packing powerhouses, is doing a super job helping her move onwards and upwards. Turns out, a good way to get over unrequited love is to be five hundred feet in the air, legs wrapped around a perfectly sculpted torso. Sometimes spandex can be too constricting.
Dee is flying high until, one after another, superheroes begin touting a "might is right" philosophy … even Titan. According to Henry, who surprisingly moonlights as a genius rocket scientist, Dee’s powers might be the key to the superheroes’ increasingly violent behavior. He suspects Deity, a telepathic villain with out of control entitlement issues, and he thinks he knows how to stop her. Dee realizes that to free Titan and the rest of the heroes, she’s gotta free herself first.
A hybrid of Maid in Manhattan and The Avengers, House of Heroes is a funny, feminine take on the superhero genre.
First 250:

Most people don’t realize that there is a right way to clean a toilet. There is a specific process. It’s practically an art form. However, when it’s your job to clean the toilet bowls of the most powerful super-humans on the planet, you become this specialized kind of artist.
With a click of my thumb, the blue tip of my toilet wand plopped into the garbage bag. I pulled off my Peep-yellow gloves and gave my project a final flush. Beautiful.
"Damn I’m good," I said to myself. By the end of the day, the solitary nature of my job got to me. I ended up either having entire conversations with myself or singing without shame to my painstakingly-crafted 1980’s playlist.
"Dee Dalsey. Keeping superheroes hygienic one toilet at a time," I said in my best Diane Sawyer voice. I raised an eyebrow and flashed a toothy smile as if posing for a headshot on the six o’clock news. 
"Cute," an unexpected voice answered from the doorway. My heart lurched into my throat.
"Henry! I didn’t see you standing there."
He made his "oh, please" face. I knew all his faces, and he had a whole repertoire locked and loaded behind those big brown eyes.
Did his fiancé know all his expressions so well? Was it slightly pathetic to even wonder?
His features shifted into his “genuine smile” face. "Like you would have reined in your weirdness just because I was standing here."
Good point.


Title: King of Sand, Queen of Bones
Entry Nickname: My Babysitter is a Skeleton
Word count: 71K
Genre: YA Fantasy


Fifteen-year-old Patella is tired of being coddled by her necromantic cult. No one lets her help with the goat-rearing, the morning worship, or even the sacrificial blood clean-up. While everyone else has a job, she’s expected to memorize their boring history book. Desperate to prove herself useful, she ditches their desert cave for the nearby castle town, hoping to find a job and a little freedom. At least, that’s the plan until a case of mistaken identity involving her skeletal guardian and Ash, the city’s reluctant young king, accidentally outs her as a necromancer. Lucky for her, Ash is running away, too. They flee into the desert together, leaving the cultists and guards hunting them far behind.

Unfortunately, neither of them have half a clue how to survive on their own. Their first monster attack is almost their last until a trio of adventurers pull their butts out of the quicksand. Under the adventurers’ wings, Patella learns to use both life magic and necromancy while Ash studies swordplay. Patella’s a natural, healing Ash’s training wounds as easily as she summons lizard skeletons. Finally, she’s useful to someone, someone with a cute smile who trusts her despite knowing what she is.

But Patella doesn’t know what she really is. The cult was waiting for her 16th birthday to tell her she’s their god’s Chosen One, and the God of Death is not at all pleased about his hero’s last-minute change of profession. He and the cult won’t rest until she’s dragged back to complete the job she was born for: the destruction of the life mages’ last known refuge - Ash’s kingdom. Just when she was getting the crazy idea that she could be its queen.

KING OF SAND, QUEEN OF BONES is a young adult fantasy novel complete at 71,000 words and would appeal to fans of REIGN OF THE FALLEN and CITY OF BRASS.

First 250 words:

A sea of black hoods surrounded Patella, all eyes on the young man, the old man, and the soon-to-be-dead man in front of the enormous dragon skeleton. Talus and Father Parietal stood before the sacrificial altar, while old Calcaneus lied on it, a gleeful smile on his face. It was no secret that he was ready to go to Nymok and no surprise that he had volunteered to be his grandson’s initiation sacrifice. All the adults agreed it was the most desirable death and the greatest sixteenth rites gift anyone could ask for.

Patella fumed with jealousy. Her grandparents had all passed on already, her parents were far too young to be her ritual sacrifice, and Tibby didn’t count because she was already dead. She’d probably end up with a boring old goat. How was that fair? Talus was only a week older than her, but he always got the best of everything. At least no one could see her scowling under her hood and ask her what was wrong.

“Brothers and sisters!” Father Parietal raised his hands for silence, though the echo of his voice around the great dragon’s cavern was loud enough to wake the dead without any magical aid. “Centuries ago, after our founder’s destruction, our ancestors wandered the lands, aimless, directionless, brotherless. Lost and alone, they struggled, they sought, and eventually, they found each other. They gathered here, at the site of our fallen founder, where all that remained was the Book of Nymok and the founder’s faithful steed.”

QK Round 2 Match 3: God's Dead, Now What? vs. No Heroes Here

Title: Sleight of Spirit
Word Count: 126,000
Entry Nickname: God's Dead, Now What?
Genre: High Fantasy (#ownvoices LGBT and ADHD)


Selene Areste is a student at the prestigious Arcane Institute and the only priestess of Tenebris (They/Them), the God of Beatified Darkness. Tenebris protects Selene from the tortuous enchantment laid on her when she was a young woman and in return Selene invites others to see that in darkness there is comfort, safety from predators, and respite from judgement.

All worlds have Gods, and all worlds want Gods, or so Selene thinks. But then a fellow student entreats Selene to help his home of Arcadia. There have not been Gods on Arcadia in millennia. Now that world is falling apart, with holes ripping open the fabric of reality and threatening to swallow entire cities. Offered the chance to fix an entire plane and save millions of people from oblivion, Selene agrees to attempt the ritual which will bind Tenebris to Arcadia and revitalize the dying plane.

But Arcadia itself rejects Tenebris and the encounter drives Them insane. Selene finds her once gentle God flaying the souls from any living creature They encounter. Viciously cut off from the God they love so well, Tenebris’ followers die of suicide in droves. Selene must take responsibility for her role in the disaster and determine how to save Tenebris. But as she struggles through the despair of losing her friends, her faith, and her God, Selene learns that Arcadia’s history is longer than she knew, and sometimes, save means kill.

Sleight of Spirit is a high fantasy novel told from multiple viewpoints which will appeal to fans of Magic: The Gathering stories, Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci series, and anime such as Fairy Tail.

First 250: 
The official color of the healers of the Arcane Institute was white. According to the head healer, white helped him know who was bleeding. Selene suppressed a smile. In her home country, white was the color of death. The first time she’d been to the hospital she jumped every time a healer came around a corner.

I remember those days. You were so frightened. Tenebris, the God she served, spoke directly to her mind. They were a constant, gentle presence at the back of her neck.

Selene smiled. I was still afraid of the marks. She glanced at the small tattoos on her inner forearm, carved deep to punish her for using dark magic. Now I hardly think about them.

Good. Tenebris said as Selene walked to the hospice area. As it should be.

Around her, magical ether wards shimmered if she looked for them. The wards were active throughout the Institute. They were usually a communication structure, able to alert students to classes, jobs, messages and even locate people if allowed. 

In the hospital ward they did all of that, but added health alarms for heartbeats, bleeding, and fever. As she entered the brightly lit hospice, something scented the air with jasmine flowers. That was new and pleasant. Selene suspected she had Animere, the woman she was here to see, to thank. “Animere?” she called, knocking on the private door. “Did you do something to the wards?”

“You smell it?” Animere called back, and the door opened. “That’s great!”


Title: Following Shadows
Entry Nickname: No Heroes Here
Word Count: 93K
Genre: Adult Fantasy, OwnVoices


Kieron Lawson is a dashing hero on a quest to save the damsel in his dreams. In reality, he’s a socially awkward lord with a penchant for heroic fables and an aversion to touch. Determined to have an adventure, he makes a deal with his controlling father: in exchange for permission to travel across the Kingdom of Alros and compete in a royal tournament, which hasn’t been held in over a century, he’ll finally choose a bride.

Adventure begins before the tourney does. Chasing down a thief earns Kieron a private meeting with Princess Adelina, and when she slips into a deep sleep after being poisoned, he’s promised her hand in marriage if he can retrieve a cure from a forbidden wasteland.

But the fairytale falls apart when Kieron’s company abandons him, and the only person willing to guide him on his quest is the aforementioned thief, Eidolon—a man of masks and shadows, who inspires feelings Kieron doesn’t understand and can’t control. When Kieron’s temper and a cave-in derail the mission, he finds himself faced with a choice to be the hero and save the princess, or follow his feelings and save the thief.

FOLLOWING SHADOWS (93,000 words) is an #ownvoices adult fantasy novel with romantic overtones and strong series potential. Imagine a classic medieval fairytale, in the vein of Sleeping Beauty, except the charming prince is an asexual man on the Autism spectrum who falls for a male companion, instead of the princess he sets out to save.

First 250:

Hollowness spread through Kieron Lawson’s chest as he stared out the lancet window. Lunch had not gone well, but he couldn’t imagine why. He’d done everything by the book.

“Must you keep doing this?” asked his father, Viscount Lawson, tapping his fingers against the table.

“Why do you assume I did anything?” Kieron kept his eyes on the horizon. Cumaro’s farmlands seemed to stretch on forever. By now, he’d all but memorized every golden wheat stalk and hay bale.

“Lady Voss left in tears.”

The viscount’s methodical drumming sounded like a ticking clock.

“I don’t know why.” Kieron shrugged, thumbing his cold metal tankard. As his etiquette text dictated, he’d nodded politely as the lady spoke. He’d even made eye contact once. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Yes, that’s exactly the trouble. She says you sat silently for the majority of the meeting, staring at the wall behind her. Then when you did say something, you called her by the wrong name.”

Kieron turned away from the window. “You mean her name isn’t Liza?”

The rhythmic tapping skipped a beat. “No. Her name is not Liza. We’ve known the Voss family for years. How do you not remember the girl’s name?” The drumming intensified. “And did you have to tell her you didn’t like her dress?”

Kieron cocked his head at his father’s squat frame and frowned. “She asked if I liked it, and I said no.”

He’d answered a question when asked. What else should he have done?

QK Round 2 Match 4: I Wish I Was White vs. Peace Pays What War Wins

Title: East of Maplewood
Entry Nickname: I Wish I Was White
Word Count: 80K
Genre: YA (OWNVoices)


On a beautiful day in upper-middle-class Sparta NJ, Adam Hollander, the only black kid in a predominantly white school, just kissed his biggest crush. Kissing the mayor’s daughter may make him a little nervous, but it’s hands-down the best day of his life. That is until Adam’s father, a white teacher, is accused of molesting one of his students, and the perfect day becomes a nightmare for the Hollander family.

Flash-forward two years. Adam, now sixteen, has relocated with his family to the extremely poor, urban neighborhood of Irvington, where interacting with other black teens at his school for the first time triggers an identity crisis. As a heavy-metal-loving, film connoisseur and self-proclaimed “Oreo,” Adam knows he doesn’t fit in with the profane, gang-sign-throwing kids in his new town. He wants nothing more than to go back to living a normal, happy life—meaning a life amongst white people, which is where he feels a sense of belonging. But that’s not in the cards.

When he meets some kids in a journalism club who actually look like him and have similar interests, things start to look up for Adam. His new friends help him through a rough transition, showing him that color doesn’t define a person. It’s a part, but not the whole. But when word of his dad’s prior accusation finds its way to Adam’s new school, his father suffers a mental breakdown. Still reeling from being railroaded for a crime he claims he didn’t commit, he threatens to shoot up the school, and Adam’s world is rocked once again. Hurting for his dad yet terrified of what might happen, Adam must stop him from carrying out a mass shooting before dozens of people are slaughtered—including his new friends.

First 250

“Aren’t you worried about her dad finding out?” my best friend, Anthony, asks me. I’m sitting beside him on his bed while he plays The Evil Within on his X-Box One. He gets a new game every week and shrugs it off like it’s nothing. “You know he’s racist, right?”

You see, this is why I wish I was white. Then Anthony wouldn’t say dumb shit like this to me on a regular basis.

“Who told you that?” I ask.

Anthony’s eyes remain locked on the game, so he can’t see me biting my nails.

“Well, her dad’s a Republican, and my dad says that Republicans hate black people.”

“That’s not true. My mom’s a Republican, and she’s black, so…”

Your mom’s a Republican?” Anthony nearly drops his controller and his eyes go wide like I just said my mom is Emperor Palpatine or something. “I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

“Alright, fine,” Anthony says. “It doesn’t mean anything. But spill. How’d you kiss Jessica on the stairs today? You get tongue?”

Just my luck Anthony turns his head at the exact moment that I’m blushing. But this is one of the few instances where I like being black. He probably can’t even tell. When he blushes, his whole face turns raspberry red, and he even looks like a raspberry with all that facial hair. “I gave her my Christmas present.”


“Annnndd she kind of looked at me like—I imitate Jessica’s expression, squinting through imaginary strands of hair.


Title: This Is No Courtyard
Entry Nickname: Peace Pays What War Wins
Word count: 76K
Genre: YA Historical


Vuk is fourteen when the Nazis invade Yugoslavia. Unwilling to see his homeland turn into a fascist state, Vuk joins the local Partisan group along with his older brother, Pedja. While hiding out in a hay barn, their unit is betrayed, and the brothers are arrested and sent to Banjica concentration camp.

After weeks of brutal interrogations, Vuk and Pedja are transferred to the north of Norway to build railways and roads for the German occupiers. When they learn they will be shipped to different work camps, the brothers vow to escape and meet up in neutral Sweden.

Before Vuk can make good on his last promise to his brother, two other prisoners flee his camp, and the Nazis’ reprisals are swift and brutal: thirty-nine men are picked at random and mowed down with machine guns, while Vuk and the other prisoners are forced to watch.

As the Norwegian winter sets in, the conditions in camp worsen. Work on the road is hard, food is scarce, and the prisoners only have the clothes they came in. Emaciated and scared out of his mind, Vuk realizes if he’s to survive and ever meet his brother again, he has to escape. But running means sending dozens of his comrades to certain death.

THIS IS NO COURTYARD is a 76,000-word YA historical based on narrations from Yugoslavian Partisans who managed to escape the Norwegian death camps and some of the people who helped them.

First 250:

Northern Norway, summer 1946
The man strolls down the dirt road in no particular hurry, and I wonder who died to put that smile on his face. It is chilly tonight, but the sky is clear. The midnight sun sets the fjord on fire and highlights the gold in the bastard’s hair. He’s casually dressed in a brown airman jacket and loose-fitted trousers that billow in the breeze. One of his hands clutches a sixpence-hat, swinging gaily in cadence with his steps. The other is tucked into his trouser pocket. I don’t know if he’s armed, but who cares? He’s been drinking, and that will work in my favor.
I’m well-hidden among the trees lining the road. Their mid-summer foliage tangles together, creating a dense wall of green. When he passes, I follow. The rustle of the wind masks the sound of my steps. Still he senses me and turns. 
Peering into the thicket, he sways ever so slightly, but he keeps both feet on the ground. My heart speeds up. This is it. I would recognize him anywhere. The slim nose, the smug mouth, and those eyes like the northern fjords. He’s handsome in that Scandinavian way. Fair, lean, tall. Clean cut features that would make a woman look pretty as well. A clichĂ© of a man, if ever there was one, but what’s not to like?
Fucking Nazi.

QK Round 2 Match 5: Canary Girl vs. Swimming with Amoebas

Title: Locusts
Entry Nickname: Canary Girl
Word Count: 90,000
Genre: YA Sci-Fi Thriller


While locusts ravage the Earth, seventeen-year-old science-prodigy Nila is plagued by her father's suicide. Art therapy is helping to heal her trauma, as well as inspiring a passion for graffiti, but she’s not the only one affected by his death. When he died, the formula for his revolutionary pesticide was lost with him, along with all hope of controlling the swarms devastating crops on every continent except North America, pushing life on Earth toward the brink of extinction.

Under pressure from her pushy workaholic mom, and compelled by a sense of obligation, Nila puts aside her artistic dreams to pursue a career in science, even though the thought of following in her father’s footsteps fills her with increasing dread. After she wins a prestigious science award, Nila is given a job at Columbus Innovations, working alongside her mom on her father’s pesticide. 

Faced with the horrors of the animal-testing lab, Nila discovers proof that her father poisoned himself with his own pesticide. Convinced it never worked, Nila gives up and defies her mom to become a graffiti artist. As their relationship deteriorates, Nila spirals out of control, joining an animal rights group and setting the test-subject animals free.

But when the group unwittingly unleash a whole new breed of flesh-eating locusts in Boston, Nila must come clean, heal her relationship with her mom and combine her creative and scientific abilities to finally complete her father’s work and defeat the mutant swarm. 

First 250:

The last time I made my father’s chest swell with pride, I was almost four years old. He had gathered the greatest minds from across the world to resolve the locust problem spreading across Africa and Eurasia, and I was to be the evening’s entertainment. 

As he lifted me onto the head table, the university’s Great Hall fell silent except for a growing chorus of tinkling glass. With my dark curls pinned tight to my scalp, I clutched the skirt of my canary-yellow dress and recited the periodic table. In Spanish and English. Pausing only to carefully form my mouth around the desconocidos, I made sure I didn’t trip over a single one.

When I had finished, strangers spun me in the air and called me my father’s daughter.

It made me feel something then—as though at any moment I would burst in an explosion of feathers and emerge a tiny yellow bird, fluttering high up in the rafters.

“Nila!” Mom hisses from offstage, jarring me from my thoughts.

I try to grasp hold of the memory again, but it’s gone. My chest is an empty cage. Only the echoes of that little bird’s song are left, no matter how hard I try. As I prepare for the curtains to go up and the International Young Scientist of the Year to be announced, the blazing heat of the stage lights scorches the air dry, so that every breath burns me up from the inside out.


Entry Nickname: Swimming with the Amoebas
Word Count: 63K
Genre: YA Horror


Sixteen-year-old Maxine Spielman has no boobs, a fact which may ultimately save her life.

On the first night of summer, wearing a borrowed sundress and bra stuffed with toilet paper, Maxine and her friends break into Splash, the new waterpark scheduled to open in just two days. Unable to get her manufactured cleavage wet, Maxine retreats to the locker room as the others enjoy the water. It’s here that Maxine discovers the lifeless body of a park employee. He’s sitting upright against the newly painted lockers in a puddle of his own blood. When she steps closer, he lunges at her, crying for help.

The next day her friends are dead, killed with the same lethal quickness as others in their small community. The doctors say it’s meningitis, but Maxine isn’t so sure. She knows all of those infected had one thing in common: contact with the water at Splash. 

Maxine concocts an elaborate scheme, tricking the head of the water department to tell her the truth - Splash is using water from the contaminated Pearl River, and that the river is a breeding ground for Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba.

Ridiculed by the police, Maxine confides in her cute neighbor, Nathan, and tries to convince him not to take his kid sister to Splash on Opening Day. But Nathan, too, quickly dismisses her warnings as paranoia.

To save her town and the boy she’s fallen for, Maxine must shut down Splash. And she only has twenty-four hours to do it.

Complete at 63,000 words, SPLASH is a YA horror novel that will appeal to fans of Jonathan Maberry and Amy Lukavics. As a trained microbiologist, member of the Horror Writers Association, and SCBWI, I wrote this novel with plausible details and a diverse cast in a fictionalized version of Flint, Michigan, my hometown.

First 250:

Whoever came up with the high school end of year survey should be shot. Buried. Dug up and shot again. I mean, you make it through the whole year without suffering any permanent damage to your social standing and WHAM, out comes this survey so you know exactly where you rank at the start of summer. To make matters worse, it has the exact same question about me as last year.

Will Maxine Spielman get boobs this summer?

I pretend to stretch so I can watch the ruffles puff out on my cami. It's the fancy one with the extra ruffles right where it counts. But they don't move much despite my best efforts. Defeated, I lean back on my stool to minimize any skin contact with the gross black surface of the lab bench and turn my attention to Mr. Johnson.

Who needs boobs anyway?

"Come on folks," Mr. Johnson says and raises his arms for quiet. Two large pit stains in the shape of crescent moons darken his shirt. "I know it's the end of the year, but we can't get through sophomore biology without at least one class on the higher vertebrates. Now Aiden, give me one of the defining characteristics of mammals. What produced the milk you had on your cereal this morning?"

"A cow?"

"Yes, Aiden, very funny. But what specifically do cows have that, say, a salamander does not?"

"A mammary gland," he groans.

"That's right! Mammals have mammary glands."