Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Query Kombat Round 1 Has Begun!

That's right Query Kombat is live! We are underway from now until Monday, June 3rd, for voting and commenting. That gives the judges a full week to consider their votes. Updated brackets listing the second round Kombatants will be posted on June 4th.

As a reminder, our fabulous judges are voting as replies to the first comment in every matchup using their secret nicknames. (Please give me a few moments to get those first comments settled before you jump in.) Judges will vote as follows: Victory: Kombatant nickname! and then they will possibly give more detailed feedback about their votes. I will try and shout out on twitter when I see a judge stopping by the blog. Only the Query Kombat judges' votes will count toward determining who moves to the next round.

Voting ties will be broken by the blog host, which is me for this round.

Anyone may comment, but we hope each Kombatant will provide constructive feedback on at least 6 matchups. That means lending your thoughts to both entries in a matchup.

While not everyone can advance to the final round, everyone can gain insight that makes their query and first page stronger. It has been an honor working with all of you.

Let the battles begin!  

QK Round 1: The Decapitator versus The Swimmer

Entry Nickname: The Decapitator
Title: The Art of Severance
Word Count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


ATF Special Agent Alexandra MacPherson can’t decide which is worse -- a witness who dies or a suspect who won’t stay dead.

A routine investigation escalates to FUBAR when one of the accused turns up dead, his body untouched but drained of blood. A pregnant college student is found, minus her ten-week fetus and internal organs. A mother and daughter are smothered in the nursery. The only link among victims is their wounds mirror the attacks of creatures that don’t exist: a vampiric witch, a revenant, a bogeyman.

Bodies make it a big case with bigger problems. Alex can live with that. Maybe it will keep her from jogging the streets at two in the morning or drunk-dialing her dead husband’s cell phone number. Then her only viable lead is killed and Alex is forced to accept that some myths... aren’t.

Finding the man responsible is easy.

Killing him and his creations won’t be.

Surviving may be impossible.

First 250 Words:

Sometimes it all came down to the gun you chose. SIG Sauer P226 .40 S&W or Rossi .357 Magnum revolver with a six-inch barrel. I’d picked the SIG. I should have gone with the Rossi.  

I sneaked a look at the battered clock on the wall of the loading dock. My dealer was only five minutes late. Not so long I worried he’d had second thoughts. I needed him to show soon, though, before my unease fermented into something harder to conceal.

“He’s late,” Mike said.

I shrugged. Played like I didn’t care, hadn’t noticed, and didn’t want to hiss at Mike for his observational skills.

“You watch the game last night?” Mike asked.

“What game?” 

“The Sox.”

A Sox fan. God help me. I’d kept hundreds of mindless details straight for six months but couldn’t for the life of me remember whether Kate Campbell gave a crap about the national pastime. “I don’t follow baseball.”

“They play the Yankees tomorrow.”

“Well, I do hate the Yankees.”

“Who doesn’t?” Mike dropped the remnant of his cigarette to the floor of the dock and crushed it under his shoe.

Kate Campbell was a vegetarian who sold lattes at an internet cafe and lived in a dump near Temple University. A fugitive from the United Kingdom for alleged involvement in a train derailment in North West England, she fancied herself a modern day Guy Fawkes.

I was done pretending to be Kate Campbell, the annoying twat.


Entry Nickname: The Swimmer
Title: What the Water Gave Us
Word count: 94,000
Genre: Adult Social Science Fiction


Tia Sawyer is one hell of a good traitor. She’s a marksman who won’t shoot to kill, a money-launderer who gives her profits away, and worst of all a dangerous rebel leader married to the Prince invading her country. To her people she’s a disgraced renegade, to the Empire she’s a liability, but both will need her for their very survival.

Stuck on a planet devastated by disease, mankind has united under the rule of a royal family whose blood provides the only viable treatment, but one nation resists. They refuse to sell out their sovereignty for access to doses.

Prince Anton’s intentions are good—defy his own government to eradicate the disease once and for all—but his arrival throws Tia’s life into chaos sparking a war in her already tumultuous homeland. Tia’s countrymen will stop at nothing to protect their freedom, Anton will risk his life and other’s to end the spread of the horrific virus, while Anton’s uncle, the Tsar Regent will bring the full weight of an empire to ensure that neither succeed.

The only hope of diplomacy rests with Tia, but she has not spoken to Anton in ten years, and a reconciliation threatens to expose secrets from their past that could topple the empire and destroy the delicate peace the rest of the world enjoys. To save herself and those she cares about Tia must decide whose side she’s on and overcome her own broken spirit before all are lost.

First 250 words:

Prince Anton watched his cousins’ indifference as their blood became public property, siphoned out by attending nurses as they laid in a row at the Ministry of Health. This had been their routine since birth.

His cousins shared loud jokes to pass the time, but Anton now closed his eyes and mouth. This gift of his blood was the only message he wished to convey, and the only sights he felt he had earned played inside his head—the wretched cries and contorted, bloody features of the dying. Even immunity was no protection against the emotional toll of the Kappa Violenti virus. No matter how much blood they gave it was never enough.

The laughter stopped, all levity sucked from the room. Anton knew before he opened his eyes who had entered; his uncle, the Tsar Regent Elias Verkov, slinked under the doorframe like a serpent too large for its cage. “So none of you felt it pertinent to tell me you were giving extra doses?” Elias asked. The cousins replied with the acquiescent silence of a shamed pet. Elias's words had been for them all, but his eyes were only on Anton as he knelt beside him.

“This is our normally scheduled time,” Anton offered with false confidence.

Elias wore a warning, the slit of a smile on his unnaturally taught face. “My dear boy, you’ve been leading your poor cousins astray. This blood is our power, and you fritter it away to foreign parasites. Did you think I wouldn’t find out about Sunderland? And you think you can do the same in Levant?” 

QK Round 1: Sway Me Buble versus Penny Lane Grows Up

Entry Nickname: Sway Me Buble
Title: Sway Me Buble
Word count: 92,000
Genre: Adult Women's Fiction


When Ava Elliot was nineteen, she broke off her engagement to Eric Wentworth, her high school sweetheart, and fled to New York, leaving both fiancé and pretentious family behind. Eight years later, armed with a Master’s degree from Juilliard but no job, she has returned home to the twisted symphony that is her new life: her dad has lost their Hollywood Hills mansion and Eric has gone from struggling musician to successful jazz singer.

Eric is also back in LA after a sold-out tour. He doesn’t want to see Ava, but it’s hard to avoid each other when they share the same friends. Despite Eric’s spiteful songs, Ava goes out of her way to prove that she’s long over him. It’s okay when he starts dating her sister’s best friend because she’s met someone new, too—Gage, a handsome actor with sweet words and chocolate kisses.

But no matter how perfect Gage seems, long-buried feelings for Eric are starting to replay like notes from her favorite sonata. Ava is forced to face the truths about herself that she has long avoided. If she can’t forgive and forget the mistakes of her past once and for all, Ava will never be able to fight for another shot at a future that could-have-been.

First 250 words:
The cab inched its way up the twisting road. Royal Empress trees blocked the view of our final destination. The wind blew through the open window, twirling my hair around my face, tickling my cheeks. I listened to the leaves rustling, the sound like a flute transposed to a lower octave. I took a breath and exhaled slowly. It wasn’t that I was nervous exactly, more unsure. Unsure of my reception. Unsure of my feelings.

“We’re here,” the cab driver said, stopping the car.

Slinging my bag over one shoulder, I exited the cab and stared at Kellynch Mansion—my childhood home. The camel-colored stucco, stretched windows, even the ridiculous marble fountain were all ingrained in my very being. It’s been so long, and yet it feels like I never left. What a cliché. I dropped my gaze. The cab driver had pulled my suitcases out of the trunk and was waiting patiently.

“Do you want me to help you bring them up?” he asked, eyeing the staircase leading to the oak front door.

“No, that’s okay.” I slipped him some cash and waited for him to drive away. Leaving my luggage at the foot of the stairs, I headed up, finger-combing my hair and adjusting my blouse.

I pushed the doorbell. Weird—ringing the doorbell to my own house. Peering through the windows, it took a few minutes before a shape appeared, distorted by the etched glass.

The door opened and Aunt Rose stood over the threshold. Her pale gray linen suit looked fresh off the Chanel runway, she had slicked her hair back into a low bun, and the pearls around her neck were as familiar to me as my own name.


Entry Nickname: Penny Lane Grows Up
Title: Somebody That I Used To Know
Word count: 95,000
Genre: Women's Fiction


Ali Fisher was a fan of rocker Matt Hartley in her teens, but at 27, her high school fantasy is grown-up reality. It’s been five years since he asked for her number after a show, since she fell in love with the real Matt. Her friends are climbing career ladders and buying properties, but Ali’s in no hurry.

Then she meets the 19-year-old who claims to be Matt’s lover from the road. Shameful parallels between them spotlight how much Ali sacrificed to be a songwriter’s muse, and no personalized power ballad can make up for that now.

Stuck in a sterile admin job and an apartment on the corner of Nearly 30 and Nowhere, Ali seeks who she might’ve been had her wildest dream never come true. Growing envy of her friends’ figured-out lives threatens to maroon her. Visiting Britain was a goal long before Matt, so when her boss needs artwork for a new building, Ali volunteers her rusty painting skills for a commission to fund her trip. London’s streets, the Cornish coast, and the Scottish Highlands reawaken her artistic ambition—as does British bassist Thom. Then in an English gallery, she stumbles across her own neglected muse. Ali must decide when to let go of impractical dreams, and which are really impractical. She faces a choice: pursue stability while she still has time, or risk it for what her unreliable heart wants. But which will close out her twenties with hope, and not regret?

First 250 words:

Ali Fisher’s got it all. That’s what friends say when introducing me, or what my sister says with a shake of her head. Never mind that I’m still renting at twenty-seven, or that I’m assistant to a threesome-loving Trump-wannabe. If you ever dreamed of talking with a beloved personal hero—be it a musician, writer, or actor—and that they’d listen and love you back, then you’ll be interested to know that it does indeed happen.

No matter how underground or mainstream, if there’s someone who inspires you with their talent and passion and ability to share it, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. This isn’t about leaving him on a pedestal. You’ve got to be realistic; PR whitewashes 80% of his screw-ups, after all. I’m talking about stumbling into his world and peeling back his layers like an artichoke to get to the good stuff. The real stuff. The part where you can make a difference.

Tonight, I’m celebrating that difference with my best friend Val. The band has outdone themselves but now I’m restless, waiting for the encore. Teasing Val about the drummer’s newborn, cradled by its mother nearby, is my chosen distraction.

The truth is, a lot of babies look like Phil Collins. This one’s a doozy. I think it’s the perfectly round head, the stubborn wisps of hair, and an awareness out of place if your age is still tallied in months. The resemblance makes me cringe at Val’s guilty obsession.

QK Round 1: Champagne and Hot Dogs versus Beelzebub Basher

Entry Nickname: Champagne & Hot Dogs
Title: The Accidental Socialite
Word count: 75,000
Genre: WF Contemporary


When small town Canada collides with the glitz and glamour of London, someone’s lady parts trend on Twitter.

THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE follows quirky and a little clumsy Paige Crawford who leaves Edmonton, Canada for London because she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life living in a city best known for it's big mall and above average murder rate. So, she makes an impulsive decision: she's moving to London to find a dream career, cultured friends and preferably, a hot foreign boyfriend. Forty-eight hours into her adventure, Paige ends up at a club and having one too many, trips out of the front doors only to be caught by a notorious and married footballer. Waking up in a foreign country is hard enough, waking up to find yourself on the front cover of a national newspaper being labeled a home wrecker is… well, not ideal. 
But, Paige is an optimist.  Being pseudo famous has its perks:  free champagne, parties, goody bags - oh, and more free champagne.

In the haze of her first days, Paige begins to date Jason Frost.  He seems perfect, knows Paige isn’t a harlot and introduces her to the kind of fancy things she’d only seen onGossip Girl.  Ultimately, cracks start to show in Jason’s façade and Paige finds out that some people in London aren’t exactly who they appear to be.

From mistaking the word sommelier as a derogatory term for someone from Somalia to narrowly escaping deportation for assaulting the second in line to the throne with a Star Wars toy, London teaches Paige lessons she didn’t know she needed. With heartbreak, humour, culture clashes and a bit of edge, THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE is an international fish out of water story that takes the reader through one girl’s journey to make the most out of her life.

First 250 words:

It was 3 A.M and all I wanted was a cheeseburger.

“Miss, we sell only Big Mac after midnight,” said the Bangladeshi McDonalds employee.

“Yes, I understand that and I will pay for a Big Mac, but I would like a cheeseburger, so can you,
like, remove a patty and mid bun and hold the secret sauce? Please?”

“Miss I am sorry but we do not have this item now.”

A tall, drunk and incredibly beautiful blonde South African girl appeared at the till next to me.

“I’ll have a hot dog.”

That’s my new best friend, Lucinda.

We walked out of McDonalds still drunk and without our respective food, just a small fries to ‘split’, which really meant Lucinda was going to watch me eat them. As I was elegantly shoving eight fries into my mouth at once, not unlike a four-year-old, I became the unwitting participant of a photo-shoot. I looked around for the celebrity garnering all this attention and it wasn’t until Lucinda slapped the second fistful of fries out of my hand that I realized that celebrity was me.


Less than twenty-four hours earlier, my eighteen-hour flight from Edmonton to London connecting in Denver landed at 9:38 A.M on a grey, drizzly Saturday in late January. I struggled to get my large carry on bag out of the overhead compartment, not just because it was heavy, but also because I had inadvertently rendered myself immobile.


Entry Nickname: BeelzebubBasher
Title: Chasing Eternity
Word count: 77,000
Genre: Historical Fiction


Colin is an English peasant from Canterbury. Swept up by events over which he has no control, he finds himself a squire to Robert, Duke of Normandy. Crusading in Robert's retinue, he meets an ancient man that forces a cursed scarab necklace into his hands. Later, he settles with the woman of his dreams. Only then does he learn that the necklace is cursed. He has not aged since his return from the Holy Land, twenty years ago. The people of Dover threaten to burn him at the stake as a witch.

He only wishes they had succeeded. Colin Harcourt survives the harshness of war, pandemic, famine and multiple wives, as he must constantly watch the people he loves wither and die. Enslaved to the cursed necklace he wears, he tires of remaining 32. He is drawn to danger, hoping to meet his demise. Instead, he meets his soul mate during the tumultuous early years of the American nation. He leaves her, unable to watch her die. However, heartbroken, he returns, determined to fight the curse. He loses the battle. She dies of consumption, shortly before his good friend, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. He finally finds the one thing that may kill him—grief.

Colin Harcourt is doomed to follow the tragedy of time and blessed to live through events that define our daily lives.

First 250 words:

Fate is the coincidental act of one’s lifestyle colliding with time and circumstance. A grieving widower, a heroic Civil War general, and a great president struck down in the prime of his life are on the same coincidental collision course headed towards their own separate fates. The universe stands still for a brief moment just long enough to listen to the widower’s life story designed by fate and written by the hands of destiny.

Colin and his wife were fervent patrons of the theater.

Colin read the invitation with excitement. “Dear, we have been invited to the theater. They are performing, Our American Cousin at Ford’s on Friday.” Noticing tears running down the cheeks of his wife of sixty-years, he said, “There is no need for tears. The war is over. You are feeling better and we have an invitation to the theater from our friends. It will do us good to get out and mingle. This infernal bout with pneumonia has passed.”

Beth pressed her fingers against his lips. “Colin, that’s just it, I have not told you the truth my dearest husband. You do worry so.” Beth attempted to subdue a cough but it exploded into a wracking, body-wrenching convulsion culminating with expectorating into her fine handkerchief. “It was never pneumonia, my darling. I lied.” She opened the handkerchief now stained with fresh blood.

Colin’s eyes watered, his legs collapsed, the bloody handkerchief confirmed his loving wife’s secret. “Consumption? But the doctor said…”

QK Round 1: Dr. Thermo versus The McTavish Academy

Entry Nickname: Dr. Thermo
Word Count: 77,000
Genre: Adult Science Fiction


Despite juggling a research career and children, Chrissy King feels like life has passed her by. At thirty-five she has a job, two kids, and a steadily more distant husband. She is trapped by a mountain of safe choices. When an alien detective falls out of the sky and smashes into Chrissy’s car, she has a choice: take up the job as an interstellar detective, or continue slogging through her life.

Chrissy takes life by the horns and joins the technologically advanced—but often draconian—interstellar detectives, the Knights of Mourning. Her first mission: figure out who is murdering the Knights, starting with the one who smashed up her car. Chrissy quickly learns that in the real galaxy, murders are more complicated than on TV. The murderer has started killing stars.

Sol is next.

First 250 words:

I dug past my daughters’ toys to the bottom of my purse and slapped the money on the counter.

“Nice pony,” the barista said, pointing at my ear.

Sure enough, tucked behind my ear was the pink pony my girls had been fighting over on their way to daycare. I put it in my pocket. “Kids, you know?”

The barista nodded and handed me my brownie and tea. Caffeine and chocolate could fix anything. Okay, they couldn’t fix anything, but it would distract me from the sleep lost to a two-year-old’s potty accident and my husband cancelling our dinner plans, again. If I didn’t know better…

With my brownie bag in hand, I stepped out into the desert morning. I could still beat my boss to the labs if traffic was light. A plum tree sprayed the parking lot in blossoms, and weeds tried to push apart the pavement. They’d be dead in days. The desert was like that.

A high pitched whistle filled the air. Then it dropped in tone, like mortar fire in a movie about World War I.

My head snapped up to find the source, but before my eyes made it to the sky, my car exploded. On pure instinct, I threw myself away from the fireball. The heel of my shoe caught the edge of the sidewalk, and I fell over backwards dumping the tea and brownie. A pressure wave thumped my chest as I fell, and the air whooshed out of my lungs.


Entry Nickname: McTavish Academy
Title: McTavish
Word Count: 80,000
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


He wanted an education. They gave him a gun.

On a quiet hilltop outside of Boston, a stone fortress rises up from the suburban sprawl. The McTavish Academy is renowned as a top-tier military school. People call it exclusive. They call it mysterious. Eighteen-year-old Michael Solomon doesn't care about any of that. When he arrives at the gargoyle-adorned front gates it's simply the means to an end--his last chance at keeping a death-bed promise to his beloved mother. But when he's greeted by a ninja with a sword on his back and taken to a Knight Templar for orientation, he discovers he's in for a whole lot more than lunch lines and math homework.

In over his head yet determined to keep his promise, Mike finds himself the newest operative in The Alphabet Corps, a motley band of troubled youth handpicked to defend the school and its dangerous secret against an army of nightmares hiding in plain sight.

Now, a Turkish ghoul from the First Crusade stands outside their gates, unshakable in his ambition to take the school and its secret by force, even if it means destroying the structure, its residents, and the very fabric of civilization in the process.

First 250 words:

She just wouldn't stop crying. Ugly, choking gasps for air between exaggerated sobs. Kneeling there on the dining room carpet, snot dripping down her rather plain face, she looked up at him and babbled incoherently. Something about not hurting her boy. Çöl Çelik found it repulsive. Examining her with his jet black eyes, expressionless, he tried to relate, tried to recall a time he had ever been so weak.  But after a thousand years, he could only vaguely remember ever being human at all.

Sitting back in his chair, old wood and well made, he turned from the woman to brush away flakes of dried skin from his robe. To his left the woman's son, only a small child, sat in quiet concern where they had tossed him, knees tucked tightly to his chest. The boy was courteous enough to keep his tears to himself and for that Çelik was thankful. In gratitude, he drew an old pistol from his robe and pulled the trigger.

The mother shrieked, crawling to her son’s body and drawing his tiny corpse into her arms. Çelik did his best to ignore her, running a long, boney finger down his polished armrest. From this room. From this chair. Here the one they had mocked, the one they had dubbed ‘The Traitor King’ so many centuries ago would finally take what he deserved. But the crying was getting to be too much.

“Oh stop it," he groaned. "I did him a favor. You have no idea what's coming."

QK Round 1: Zone Tripper versus History Hound

Entry Nickname: Zone Tripper
Title: Zone Trippers
Word count: 90,000
Genre: Adult SciFi


Owen MacIntyre already lost his wife to cancer and now his daughter is missing. But he can’t just file a missing person’s report—Eve is infected with Zone Tripper’s disease, which causes people across the globe to involuntarily swap souls en masse. Eve’s body remains at home, serving as a revolving door for other zone trippers, while her soul leaps into other trippers all over the world.

In quick progression, Eve finds herself in a Chinese slave laborer, a blind French woman, then in a dying woman. Only a train stop away from home, Eve’s soul jumps once more and she hasn’t been heard from since.

Owen struggles with the strong personalities rotating through Eve’s body as he continues to search for Eve’s soul, using the website he co-creates with one of Eve’s visiting souls, Humberto.

Meanwhile, the world has segregated itself into two camps—the trippers and the statics. The survival odds for zone trippers are falling fast, with horrific conditions waiting on the other side of a bad trip.

And to further complicate their fates, a tasteless reality show, Identity Theft, debases victims on international television while zone-tripping serial murderer, called the Infinity Killer, has put other trippers in his cross hairs.

Owen must risk his own safety—and soul—before he loses his daughter for good. But how do you find a missing person when it's her soul that's left?

First 250 words:

Home is where the heart breaks, my wife had always said.

She wasn’t wrong.

The garage door opened its jaws and swallowed my car whole. Each time I pulled into the drive, it’s a fist to the gut. My daughter Eve’s Toyota sat in the third bay, seemingly miles away. A small ghost of an oil stain marks the center spot.

Walking out to the bricked mailbox in the frigid March air, I leafed through today’s bills, which included a tuition payment. I had agreed to pay for Eve’s frivolous photography degree, but only if she factored in a few business courses, achieved stellar grades, and lived at home.

Photography is a hobby. Taking pictures isn’t a career. How many times had I told Eve that?

A junk mail letter with Penelope’s name caught between the tuition statement and a flyer. I stopped rifling and swallowed hard. Shouldn’t this have stopped by now? It had been three years. Ironically, it was an ad for life insurance.

Viewing the house from the outside made it seem emptier. Penelope had stood here almost every day, gathering the mail—until she was too sick to walk outside. The house held 5,200 square feet of broken memories. Her fingerprints could still be seen on her vanity mirror but her absence echoed from every corner. Her love seat held air, her bedside table sat naked, and her painting studio was empty now except for dust. Every night I forced myself to enter this tomb for Eve’s sake.


Entry Nickname: History Hound
Word Count: 85,000
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction


Elizabeth Tudor is born into dark and dangerous times. She disappoints her parents by being a girl and when her mother is executed for treason she becomes aware that not only her sex but her status of bastard place her in a precarious position. Growing and witnessing her father’s relationships to four further wives, and affected differently by each unfortunate woman, she is thrown into adulthood abruptly by an attempted rape when she is just fourteen.

While growing she meets a boy who will become her lifelong friend, Robert Dudley. Robert is the one constant in Elizabeth’s life; her confidant and advisor. He watches her grow into a gloriously intelligent woman and helps her to make the decisions that shape the type of ruler she will eventually become.

Always potentially a figurehead for rebellion, Elizabeth witnesses her brother Edward’s feeble reign and then endures the constant threat of death at the hands of her sister, Mary Tudor. Mary, driven mad by a false pregnancy she so desperately wanted, tries to return the realm to the old faith, thrusting the protestant-raised Elizabeth into a light she despises and fears. With the help of her friends and supporters she survives intrigue, plots, months living under the threat of death in the Tower of London and years of house arrest to finally ascend the throne of England.

First 250 words:

The screams that had for hours echoed through the halls and corridors, forcing themselves into every corner of the palace, were now still. In the birthing chamber the smell of burning candle fat mixed with blood and sweat. Ladies-in-waiting hurried back and forth between the bed and the washbasin; stumbling occasionally, unable to see in the room darkened by the heavy tapestries covering the windows. After a day and a half of labour the queen had been growing weak but the midwife had refused to summon a surgeon to cut the child from its mother’s body. Just as the queen’s chief lady was about to overrule the midwife, the screams had abruptly stopped. The room held its breath as the midwife cleaned and swaddled the newborn. She now faced the queen, the silence in the room broken by a small wail coming from the bundle in the old woman’s arms.

“Tell me! Is it a boy or a girl?!” The nervous silence that followed her question elicited from the queen, worn from childbirth and delirious from exhaustion, a shriek at those present. “I demand that you tell me! NOW! Is the child a boy?!”

The queen looked expectantly at the woman’s face. The midwife stood still, her eyes cast down. Finally she shook her head, the fear sharp in her features. The queen’s agonising wail drowned out those of her child.

QK Round 1: Like-Minded Individuals versus Nostalgic Dreamer

Entry Nickname: Like-Minded Individuals
Title: The Secret Society Of Like-Minded Individuals
Word count: 82,000
Genre: Adult Comedic Dark Thriller


Being an accountant by day allows Leon Garber to pursue his true passion. He has his reasons for scourging the world of abusive people. But justifiable homicide is a tricky, risky business.
Opportunity comes knocking from Like-Minded Individuals, Inc., a global company fulfilling the needs of people like Leon to pursue their “projects.” LMI sets their clientele up with new identities, security, and even lists of potential candidates. A grand business model for today’s increasingly expanding and changing economy. All for a price, of course. Some things are worth the cost. For Leon, it’s a dream come true.

But sometimes a killer business idea is simply…killer.

Leon finds himself out of favor with Like-Minded Individuals for reasons unknown. LMI, the police,
sanctioned hit-men, and a vicious psychopath are after him. Heads are chopped, dropped and swapped as Leon fights for his life and freedom.  All of which keeps Leon from finishing his current project. But as a consummate professional, Leon can’t leave a job incomplete.

First 250 words:

The child knew when to hide.  Anytime his father opened a bottle of liquor.  He’d known that for years, just as he knew the burning lash of a leather belt followed the accidental breaking of a dish or a glass.  It was part of his world.  Accepted as normal.

Until a day in late May.  The day everything changed. The day he came home from school to find his mother backed against the refrigerator, his father’s hands wrapped in a vice grip around her neck.

“How long you been screwing around in Bill Arnold’s bed, you whore?  How long? Always knew you were nothing but a whore!  That little bastard’s not even mine, is he?”  The hands jerked and his mother’s body shook like a ragdoll.  “Shoulda made you abort him when I told you to!”

The boy raced across the kitchen. His father's hand lashed out and he crashed to the floor. The heavy work boot kicked and cracked his nose. Half-blinded, he saw his father latch onto a kitchen knife. The blade plunged into his mother's chest, again and again. And again. Chunking like a watermelon chopped into quarters. One more flash of the knife and her throat opened up in a red grin. Blood showered out. His father dropped the knife and staggered out of the kitchen.


Entry Nickname: Nostalgic Dreamer
Title: Man of My Dreams
Word count: 78,000
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance


Mia Murphy is married to the man of her dreams. But the man in her dreams is the one that got away. 

The only thing saving Mia from her monotonous routine as a stay-at-home mom is her perfect husband, Declan. He’s gorgeous, he adores her, and the man melts her heart with his sexy singing voice. Mia feels like the luckiest girl in the world, until she discovers that Mr. Perfect had a brush with infidelity. Mia is devastated; everything she once believed about him and her marriage is now covered in a big cloud of doubt and regret.

While she and Declan are on a break, Mia receives an invitation to her high school reunion. Although her heart still belongs to her husband, inescapable thoughts of her crush, Noah, resurface. And ten years later, Noah is finally ready to make his move. When the build-up of fantasies and ‘what ifs' comes to a head, sparks fly and it’s Mia’s turn to question if her marriage is everything she wants out of life. Searching for answers, Mia dives head first into dating Noah, falling further away from her husband and closer to her old flame. But Declan’s not giving up so easily. Mia is his one and only and he’s not about to let another man win her heart.

A contemporary romance complete at 78,000 words, MAN OF MY DREAMS is Mia’s nostalgic, humorous, heartwarming story about what happens when life gives you a second chance to consider what might have been.
First 250 words:

I pace the pale green carpet in my room, back and forth, over and over, twirling a chunk of my hair into an unruly knot. “Do you think he’ll be there, Grace? I really don’t want to go if he’s not.” I don’t have to hide the embarrassing fact that I have no desire to attend this thing if Noah isn’t going. Grace is my best friend, the one who knows all the awkward details about my unsuccessful swooning over the hottest guy at my school. 

But this is my last shot.

High school will officially be over soon. Sure, I’ve done my job of cozying up to Noah. We’d swapped calculus notes a bunch of times, sat together in the cafeteria for lunch on occasion and even attended the same parties and get-togethers on the weekends. He may even consider me a friend, but there is nothing special that ties the two of us together. And soon we’ll graduate and go our separate ways.

“You have to go, Mia. Even if he’s a no-show. Everyone else will be there. Some of those friends you’ll never see again. You owe it to them, at least. And besides, you’ve spent the last four years popping up where you knew he’d be. Look where it got you.”

I take the cordless phone away from my ear, and stare at it, practically snarling. I don’t need a reminder of what a loser I am. “I know. You’re right. But I won’t be able to live with the regret of what if. This has to happen. I have to kiss him before he leaves for college and I never see him again.”

QK Round 1: Knight in Shining Armani versus Witch for Hire

 Entry Nickname: Knight in Shining Armani
Title: Catch My Breath
Word count: 74,500
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance


Lia Meyers' plan for a relaxing Scottish vacation is short-lived. One uncharacteristic moment of clumsiness lands her in the arms of a dangerously attractive Englishman.

Still reeling from a bad breakup with a controlling, possessive boyfriend, Lia doesn't have the time or patience for Alastair Holden's seduction. Enigmatic and charming, he's exactly what she wants to avoid but can't. He hides behind an impenetrable mask, never allowing anyone to see passed it. The mystery is too tempting for Lia. His quiet intensity lures her, easily breaking apart her attempts to resist him.

Drawn to him, Lia battles with her insecurities. The closer they become, the more she recognizes her own weaknesses as she peels away his layers. Discovering that Alastair is tormented by a painful past, Lia must decide if they can heal one another together or if their deepest fears will tear them apart.

First 250 words:

“Amelia Grace Meyers. Nap time is over. Let’s go. We’re getting picked up at seven for the benefit. I don’t want to be late.”

The blankets were unceremoniously ripped from my body, destroying the warm cocoon I’d wrapped around myself. I sat up with a start, blinded by the bright light spilling from the bedside lamp. Wisps of an unpleasant dream nagged at me. Grabbing the blankets, I flopped back onto the mattress.

“You’re mean,” I whined into the pillow, trying to figure out what the hell my best friend was talking about. And more importantly, where I was. I opened a sleepy eye and saw Stephanie Tempe, all perfumed and primped, standing at the foot of the bed. Oh right. Scotland.

“What time is it?” I yawned.

“Quarter past six. Get up.”

I crawled out of bed, shooting a half-hearted glare in her direction. Why I agreed to go to this event with her tonight was beyond me. I stumbled toward the bathroom, deftly avoiding suitcases that were scattered in a schizophrenic maze on the floor. I’d been in Glasgow for two days and still hadn’t technically seen the outside of this room. Who knew jet-lag could be so vicious?
Twenty minutes, and a furious effort on my part to look presentable, later, our heels clicked in unison on the marble floor in the hotel lobby.

“You totally set a new record for getting ready,” Stephanie remarked as we waited for our ride. I nodded, yawning.


Entry Nickname: Witch for Hire
Title: Wytchcraft
Word count: 101,000
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


Wytchcraft takes place in Brighthaven, a supernatural populated neighborhood of West Hollywood. In this universe the supernaturals are out of the closet and living among humans, in a strenuous relationship.

Matilda Kavanagh is a witch for hire, just trying to pay rent and keep from sharing the same can of tuna with her cat. When a troll comes knocking at her door, looking for a spell to catch a fairy, Mattie can’t turn away his money. Little does she know, the fairy he intends to catch is the fairy princess, Rae of Dunhallow.

Rae’s brother, Roane, has gone missing and now all eyes on are Mattie and her charms. The Lord and Lady of Dunhallow are holding Mattie responsible to bring Roane home, safe and sound. To force her to cooperate, the Dunhallows are holding the vampire she once loved hostage. If she cannot save Roane, the Dunhallows will kill her and her former love.

Can Mattie find Roane and bring him home before the Lord and Lady lose their patience and kill her and her former, and possibly future, lover?

First 250 words:

I was almost out of vervain; I was almost out of a lot of my stores. I’d have to go visit Ronnie soon, but my tab was getting a little out of hand and I didn’t like the idea of adding to it. I closed the cupboard, deciding against starting the potion I was going to make; if I didn’t do it right it would blow up in my face. Literally and I had just waxed my eyebrows, I wanted to keep them.

“Gonna have to find work soon, Artie,” I reached to scratch my black, smush-faced cat behind the ears as he purred on the kitchen table. “We’ll both be eating canned tuna if I’m not careful.” Artemis rolled on his back, four black paws stretching in opposite directions before he became boneless.

I reached for the fridge door, poking through leftover take out containers. Just as I grabbed a cold eggroll, someone banged at my front door. A glance at the clock told me it was well after midnight. It wasn’t odd for someone to come by at this time of night, but I wasn’t expecting anyone. I bit off a bite of eggroll and nudged the fridge closed with my hip, grabbing my baseball bat on my way to the door. Sure, I could hex whoever it was or use my knockout powder, but if it was a friend they wouldn’t thank me for it in the morning. At least the bat was threatening enough to give someone pause and me a second to react.

QK Round 1: Aztecs in Space versus The Fisherman

Entry Nickname: Aztecs in Space
Title: The Aztec
Word Count: 100,000 words
Genre: Adult Sci-Fi


As a child, Papan was chosen as the sacrifice for the Aztec’s New Fire Ceremony, a brutal ritual intended to ward away the evil gods who would destroy the world.  Though she willingly faces death, Papan renounces love and family and refuses a life beyond her duties to the temple city of Tenochtitlan.  She dies, but her last thoughts are not bound in glory or honor.  She regrets the life she chose. 

Captain Vick Halley watches the grisly sacrifice from orbit.  When he agreed to pilot for the scientists terraforming Earth, he didn’t think they’d allow their program’s publicity stunt to die on a stone altar.  Their plan to resuscitate the woman with an artificial heart works; however Vick is forced to act as intermediary between the irate Aztec and scientists.  Papan refuses to assist the program’s fundraising until the scientists intervene to prevent thousands of meaningless sacrifices to false gods.

Between appearances at fancy galas, Papan sneaks away with Vick to explore the wonders of the universe: ocean planets, meteor storms, and comets.  But, as her artificial heart begins to fail and the scientists struggle to finance a new surgery, Papan’s second chance in the advanced society is a heartbeat away from ending; along with any hope of saving her people.
For the first time in her life, Papan does not want to die.

First 250 Words:

The calendars decreed Papan would die in six days.

More precisely, Pan had five days, an afternoon meal, and one sunset left to live.  She preferred to be precise.

The temple offered as much hope as it did distraction in the few remaining days before her sacrifice.  Pan tended to her duties, scouring the temple’s stone walkways for any lingering cobwebs, ashes, or flecks of grass.  Outside, blood perpetually dripped from the grand altars, staining the pyramid’s one hundred stairs crimson and dark.  It was mess which would not be scrubbed clean.  The blood protected the city from all manner of demons and foul destruction.  A comfort.  Pan’s death, however gruesome, would prevent the heavens from descending upon Tenochtitlan, sating the gods before they devoured the entirety of the vast Aztec empire.

The temple’s halls did not need swept.  Even the hidden corners and tucked away secrets where she hid from the priests as a child did not require cleaning.  She paused within a shrine, bowing low to honor the symbolic mask of the god Quetzalcoatl.  Fragments of turquoise and jade formed the mosaicked image of two intertwining serpents curling over the mask’s eyes.  The stones were gifts, tributes from far away cities.  She asked, but the priests could not estimate the distance the mask traveled before settling within the sacred shrine.

The warriors told stories of the expanding lands and surrounding city-states.   Traveling merchants raved of the empire’s borders, stretching beyond sight until the land gave way to infinite waters or the paths were lost within the dusted sand of barren deserts. 


Entry Nickname: The Fisherman
Title: The Fisherman
Word count: 90K
Genre: Adult Literary Suspense


Everyone Jude Fisher has ever loved is dead.  His parents, his three best friends, the love of his life—they’ve all gone to their untimely graves.  And Jude has killed them, every one.  It’s a curse: when he loves someone, they’re laid low.  It never fails.  They always die.

THE FISHERMAN pits the world-weary, 22-year-old Jude against the ultra-violent Lucas Moordenaar, a depraved killer who murdered Jude’s parents a decade before, triggering the boy’s tragic malediction.  When Lucas is about to be paroled, Jude embarks on a relentless, three-day mission from Minnesota to upstate New York, where Lucas sits in prison, waiting for him like some terrible spider.  Jude must stop the man who birthed his curse from going free: if he doesn’t, he’ll be forever doomed to walk the earth, killing anyone unlucky enough to become his friend.

Jude trips through trains, buses, city streets, and country roads on his spasmodic journey to Greenvale State Penitentiary, haunted by his dead loved ones.  He is tortured especially by the apparition of his lovely Angela, whose death wounded him worst of all.  Her dying wish was that Jude seek out the man that murdered his parents and learn the truth about his curse.  Jude won’t let her down: he will meet this monstrous evil face-to-face.

First 250 words:

The question I get most since they chucked me in this hole is this: Are you sorry for what you done?  Everybody asks me, when they find out what I done.  And its sorta an interestin question.  It sets me to thinkin.

See, there are probly a few who are sorry.  The two pukes I wasted in here for starters.  If you could ask them now, which you cant, they would most definitely wish I hadnt squirted up into the system and trickled down and out the shitpipe into scenic Greenvale State Peniten-shee-ary.
Its like I always says: you dont cross Big Luke.  Some learnt that little factoid harder than others, but they all learnt it.  Tell the truth bout them pukes I dusted, the both of em deserved what they got.  Anyone I ever waxed deserved it, matter of plain fact.  They was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, all of them.

But the little kid, you see, the reason I landed here—he maybe didnt deserve what he got.  But hell, I still aint even answered the questionI done my share of crazy shit, but I always meant to do it.  Always did it with purpose.  But with the kid, I didnt mean for none of it to happen the way it did.

And I might tell you too much over the next few pages.  I might tell you all about shit I done thatll make you want to puke.  Hell, you might even grow to hate me a little.  You wouldnt be the first.

QK Round 1: Mississippi Crazypants versus Tall Ships and Magic

Entry Nickname: Mississippi Crazypants
Title: This Side of Crazy
Word Count: 86,000
Genre: Women's Fiction


Cissy Pickering swears that shooting her daddy in the back was the smartest thing she’s ever done. After surviving more than eight years of his abuse, she had to prevent him from having a secret with her two baby sisters. What she didn’t count on was being sent to the Greater Mississippi State Hospital instead of prison.

When a caring, yet unorthodox, hospital psychiatrist tries to unlock the family secrets that led to Cissy’s crime, the 16-year-old retreats to a world of make-believe and compulsive counting. Meanwhile, three generations of women struggle to understand and forgive Cissy while coming to terms with the loss of their son, husband and father. Only her maternal grandmother offers unconditional love and support.

When the psychiatrist digs too deep, Grandmother takes drastic action to ensure Cissy’s emotional and physical survival – even if it means breaking the law. Their tender relationship and an unearthed secret from Grandmother’s past force Cissy to make her most courageous decision yet.

First 250 words:

My sisters and I had already consumed an impressive stack of books since school let out, reading long into the sticky June nights, even under threat of punishment. We’d needled Mama until she finally agreed to take the three of us to the Biloxi library, although grudgingly. Her chief argument against getting more books – and a flimsy one at that – was that we read too fast and the books we had should have lasted all summer. I ignored her complaining because that’s one of my special talents.

In my room, I slipped into a plaid cotton sundress and my pink plastic sandals that squeaked when I walked and rubbed blisters on my little toes. The sound irritated Mama just enough to make those blisters worthwhile. Some might call this childish behavior for a 16-year-old but I took fun wherever I could find it.

Jessie, already dressed and downstairs in the kitchen, whined that we’d run out of her favorite cereal. Mama told her in the sternest voice that plain old Corn Flakes would have to do. When our housekeeper Bess offered to make pancakes, Mama shushed her, too. She was forever telling Bess that she spoiled us and that spoiled children grew up into spoiled adults.

The excitement of selecting new reading material sent my stomach into flip-flops, akin to the type experienced on Christmas morning. I rushed out of my room and down the hall toward the bathroom to brush my teeth. What I saw stopped me short, the plastic of my shoes sticking fast to the wood floor.


Entry Nickname: Tall Ships and Magic
Title: HMS Invisible
Word count: 106,000
Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy


What if the Master and Commander had met Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? Like Naomi Novak's Temeraire series, HMS Invisible imagines an alternate history in which tall ships contend with the practicalities of magic while fighting a desperate war for survival.

In England of 1803, magic isn't forbidden—it's just lower-class. Gentlemen do not care to associate with vulgar enchanters, but the Royal Navy is fighting a desperate battle against Napoleon's forces, and cannot afford such nice compunctions. Shields of air, broadsides of flame, and swirling water currents are becoming part of the arsenal of His Majesty's fighting ships, while Catholic chaplains struggle to suppress the powers of enemy enchanters. Duty, discipline, and skilled ship-handling are still what make the difference between glorious victory and life inside a French prison.

Mr. Midshipman Nicholas Mitchell is training to command the sailors, gunners, enchanters, and Marines crammed aboard the towering ships of the line—until the stress of battle brings out powers unprecedented in an officer and a gentleman. His Navy career uncertain, young Mitchell accepts a commission into the King's Own Service, a shadowy organization founded soon after the Act of Tolerance made magic legal in the United Kingdom. Soon he will discover that the same powers excluding him from polite society permit him to slip unseen into French harbours and bring back information that may just affect the course of the war.

First 250 Words:

Shiphandling would win this battle—not cannonfire, and not the magic of the enchanter's mates belowdecks. HMS Steadfast was a long way from the French three-decker, but the two ships seemed to be heading for the same point. The moment the enemy had been spotted, the captain, the master, and the first Lieutenant had shot to the rail with their sextants and slates, and begun a veritable frenzy of observation and calculation which had not yet ceased.

Mr. Midshipman Nicholas Mitchell had never seen any behaviour to top it, though he'd been in the Navy for nearly two years: the captain had since gone himself aloft with a telescope, but the other two were still back and forth to the rail, scribbling on their slates and muttering to each other. Word had gone around the ship in urgent whispers: neck and neck. The two ships were still miles apart on opposite tacks, and were apparently heading for the same point in the ocean—neither one headreaching on the other. Mitchell stood at his post by the signal locker, holding himself erect as an officer was expected to do, and waiting for orders.

He couldn't predict which ship would be first to the meeting point, but he did know there would be a battle there—and it would be brief and violent. The first ship to arrive would cross the bows of the other and rake her horribly, but then it would settle down to a pounding match. With the two ships close together it would be brutal.

QK Round 1: Automatic Victory for Meryl-&-I

An entrant has decided to withdraw due to personal obligations that have arisen, and unrelated to this competition. Please continue to leave comments for Meryl-&-I.

Entry Nickname: Meryl-&-I
Title: Blame it on Meryl Streep
Word count: 95K
Genre: Women's fiction


At age 28 TV producer Laura Sanders has never been in a relationship, never had sex, and never been loved. Certain that something has to be terribly wrong with her, she’s resigned to a dull, lonely life in the company of a few friends and her disinterested cat.

But when she watches the movie Mamma Mia, Laura is unexpectedly mesmerized: Meryl Streep seems to dance off the screen, showing Laura all the joy and passion that’s lacking in her life. Clearly Meryl Streep would be the perfect coach to guide her to a happier place.

Instead of spending her evenings watching Grey’s Anatomy and memorizing some of the show’s relationship conversations to copy whenever she feels the need to cover up her own inexperience, Laura now hangs out with her new BFF: imaginary Meryl Streep.

Meryl pushes Laura to try online-dating, advising her to rule out profiles with nicknames such as MrCool4Sale, OrgasmGiver or GotSomeWantSome. She teaches Laura her icy The Devil Wears Prada demeanor to copy when dealing with bigheaded, bullying co-workers. And she encourages Laura to spend more time with her new colleagues: women more likely to discuss vibrators than Danish directors. All of a sudden Laura is something she’s never been: cool. And while her sex-life used to consist in hugging her pillow good-night, Laura now has three potential love interests: two very real men … and one very imaginary Meryl Streep.

But soon Laura feels invincible and starts to ignore Meryl’s advice. Her best friend thinks Laura should finally grow up? – Laura counters with radio silence. A great date reveals he’s no Meryl Streep fan? – Laura dumps him. Her boss ignores Laura’s ideas? – She goes behind his back. Ultimately Meryl is all that Laura has left. Will she be able to take what she learns from her fantasy life and rediscover the very real possibility of love and happiness that await her? Or will Laura lose touch forever?

First 250 words:

I’m Laura Sanders.
I’m twenty-eight.
I’m a TV producer in Los Angeles.
I’ve travelled the world.
I have a cat named Sartre.
I own 108 pair of shoes.
I’m a virgin.

The worst part about my pathetic, lonely life is the constant pretending. Pretending to be normal. Everybody knows the drama of love, the passion, the pain, and not knowing makes you a complete freak. Until some years ago I used to be honest and tell friends that I never had a boyfriend, never had sex. Someday I’ll tell a stranger that I killed a person. Simply to see if that confession arouses a similar mortified look.

The look is always followed by the insensitive comment: Why don’t you just pick up a guy at a bar? A woman can get laid even if she’s coyote ugly and you look cute. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want to get laid. I want to be loved.

Next is usually the sexist, but popular, good advice:
Good Advice Number One: Be dumb. Men don’t like smart women.
Good Advice Number Two: Be hard to get. Men still think like hunters.
Good Advice Number Three: Be a listener. Men need attention.

Finally there’s the worst part: the awkward silence. After all, everything everybody talks about are relationships and to fit in you need stories to contribute. So I make up stories. Stories that cover up the fact that I’m an invisible woman, unable to catch a guy’s eye, let alone his heart.

QK Round 1: Dangerous Politics versus O Captain My Captain

Entry Nickname: Dangerous Politics
Title: We the People
Word count: 71,200
Genre: Adult Thriller


Reilly Grant is important, but she has no idea why. All she knows is that the United States of America has fallen to a man everyone once called President.

The Emperor has stripped away everything that had once made the USA great and replaced it with despair and tyranny. The suburbs, once part of the American Dream, have become veritable ghost towns – museums of the lives people once had. Having once worked for the Emperor, Reilly knows how dangerous he can be. It’s one of the reasons she defected from his army and joined the rebels in an effort to fight back.

But what Reilly doesn’t know – or can’t remember – is that she participated in a sleeper agent program aimed at stopping the former President prior to the transition from democracy to tyranny. Somewhere along the way her handler failed to activate her. Left in the dark she’s vulnerable to retaliation from the Emperor who’s learned of the program and her involvement.

In a fight for her life, Reilly has to choose who she can and can’t trust. If she gets it wrong it could mean her life. 

First 250 words:

The water was black. It wasn’t brown or milky tan, but pitch black. I discarded the water over my shoulder and trudged forward. Mara and I had been searching for a viable water source for ten days now, but ... nothing. Not a drop had been clean enough. It wasn’t necessarily surprising, but it was discouraging nonetheless.

“Rei, I think we should move on to the next sector. One we know might have water.” Mara threw her backpack down, dug out a bottle of clean water, and pushed her unruly black curls away from her face so she could take a sip. Even swigging from a bottle, her face looked delicate, but nothing else about her was delicate. Short as she was, she was well-muscled and built for speed and strength. Next to her, I felt plain. My face wasn’t as delicate as hers, nor was I built for swiftness or force, but I did have stealth. Or at least I felt like I did. Lately, it seemed stealth wasn’t even on my side.

“Hex won’t be happy if we do that, and you know it. I’m not about to deal with one of his bad moods, Mara.”

She snorted. “What a hack. He thinks he runs the operation, when everyone knows you’re the brains behind it.”

I let out a sigh. “Hex is military. Of course he thinks he’s in charge. We are at war."

Mara shoved the bottle back into her backpack and started marching toward the next empty house.


Entry Nickname: O Captain My Captain
Title: If Only
Word Count: 67,000
Genre: NA Contemporary


Twenty-year-old Jordan Brooks is NOT a virgin. But, according to her roommate, a two-year dry spell earns her V-card back. Tired of waiting for life to happen, of waiting for love to happen, Jordan wants to make the most of her junior year in Scotland by journaling her experience, figuring out life after graduation, and earning re-admittance to the club.

On the train from London to Scotland, Jordan meets Griffin—sweet, sexy, not to mention unafraid to say what he means—admitting that he sits by Jordan because he likes her smile. He’s only staying the semester. He could be the one to end her two-year dry spell, the boy she enjoys for the short time they are together. The only problem—Noah—the stranger who stumbles out of the train’s loo right into her, a boy with impossible blue eyes with whom she feels an immediate connection, a boy who came to Scotland from Ohio…with his girlfriend. 

Jordan knows everything this year has an expiration date. Falling in love was never an option. But her obsession with E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View and inability to avoid Noah on campus make it impossible to be the girl who shirks it all to just have fun. Because she is in love, just with the wrong guy. If only Noah could admit what’s there between them. If only she didn't write that damning entry in her journal. If only the year didn't have to end. Then, maybe, Jordan’s wait could be over.

First 250:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a two-year dry spell earns one’s virginity back. This nugget of wisdom is brought to you by Sam, my roommate, who insists I use my year abroad to earn re-admittance to the club. 

My hand cups the back of my neck as I try to check my reflection in the train window, but the white London sky doesn't offer enough contrast. I’m not used to this me, physically speaking, trading my once wavy, dark brown mane for an almost pixie.

I laugh quietly, as if someone catches my lame attempt at vanity, and decide to abandon the window seat all together. Nine hours from London to Aberdeen requires more trips to the loo than I’m willing to admit. It’s a good thing the aisle seat is still open. Wait, was still open.

At first all I see is a long torso, his head and arms obscured by the overhead bin. 

“Hey,” the torso says, though he’s no longer just that. He’s a guy, sitting in my aisle seat. His hair is a shaggy mess of dirty blonde waves, and the corners of his mouth quirk up into a broad grin, his deep brown eyes fixing on mine. “I’m Griffin.” 

He’s American too. 

“I’m Jordan.”

It’s just a hand shake, but his touch ignites a feeling the old me, the one who’s been holding out for what’s never going to happen, would ignore. Everything this year has an expiration date. Maybe it’s time I let my waiting expire too.

QK Round 1: Kicking Ash versus Avenging Angels

Entry Nickname: Kicking Ash
Title: Earth to Earth
Word count: 62,500
Genre: NA Fantasy


“It’s done.”

Part of 23-year-old Hailey Crane unraveled when, Ash, her boyfriend, whispered those words with his dying breath. Now, years later, she’s hanging on by a thread. And that thread is just about to break.

Desperate to escape her status as the “town tragedy,” Hailey moves to a new town. For a new start. But just as Hailey is learning to move on, she starts seeing things.

No, not things. Him. Ash. Everywhere she turns, she could swear she catches a glimpse of him—that worn leather jacket, the hair that always fell into his eyes…

It’s impossible. A figment of her imagination. A mysterious doppelganger. Hailey runs through every possibly explanation. But she’s convinced he’s real. By the time she meets him face to face and figures out the truth behind his miraculous resurrection, she’s thrown herself into a dangerous game of cat and mouse that could kill them both. For good this time.

First 250 Words:

The moment glass shatters is actually quite beautiful. The way the center splinters and spiders out before bursting into nothing. Not many people really get the chance to appreciate the magnificence because everything happens instantly. So quick that you blink and it’s already done. But when you’re convinced you’re about to die, the world tends to move in slow motion.

I don’t see whatever makes him jerk the wheel violently to the left. The smell of burnt rubber assaults my nose as my body slams hard against the restraint of the seat belt. The car spins and rockets towards the guardrail. As we plow through the hunk of metal, the car tilts as gravity jerks me to the earth.

I gaze over to the driver’s side, expecting to hear my boyfriend scream. A cry. Something. There is nothing but silence as he stares back at me, sporting a perfectly calm expression. No panic, no fear.

My head snaps forward as we hit the ground and roll. Once. Twice. The third time the glass of the windshield shatters, starting as the tiniest crack before imploding into a thousand tiny particles.

I hold my arms up to shield myself a moment before the impact knocks the wind out of me, leaving me gasping for air. I’m slipping away, surrendering to the darkness. Dying. My body goes limp, numb to shield itself from the agony. A strange haze clouds my eyesight, but I’m convinced a dark shadow swoops down in front of me.


Entry Nickname: Avenging Angel
Title: Angel in the City
Word Count: 74,000
Genre: NA Urban Fantasy


Twenty-two-year-old Jamie knows how to navigate the streets of New York well enough to stay out of trouble. He knows how to use his fists just in case it comes looking for him. But all of his self-preservation skills don’t tell him how to deal with Sigrun, a girl who managed to save him from the brink of death after a drunken brawl.

She’s polite, coldly beautiful, even a little charming, and she gives Jamie the kind of attention he’s never had . . . until he discovers her secret. Sigrun is a Valkrie, and not just in her unusually tall, blonde, brawny figure or her Nordic avenging-angel looks. Sigrun is an honest-to-god Valkrie, attempting to battle the darkness that is slowly enveloping New York City . . . and Jamie is now her ‘Knight-in-Training.

First 250:

Life is a funny thing. One second you’re on top; the next, you’re down so low Satan’s filing a restraining order.

Philosophers, scientists, comedians, and biblio-nerds everywhere have tried to append a rightful definition to this concept called “life” to no avail. You could look in the dictionary or search Google and manage to find answers less than satisfactory. However there has always been one universal truth – something that everyone from every culture and species can agree to: life is freaking hard.

Sadly, there’s always a point in someone’s life where they start to realize this. But we keep living, because that’s just how it is. Even if it means living aimlessly for whoever knows how long. That was probably the best answer to how I found myself sitting in a bustling diner, the thick and oily atmosphere threatening to choke me, with a cold cup of coffee in my hands in the middle of the afternoon.

After a few hours I finally decided to get up and moving. I stepped out into the bright, noisy streets of New York City and instinctively coughed a few times to keep the noxious fumes brought about by the afternoon rush hour at bay. After checking my bearings, I turned and headed south toward my office, which sat prominently at the corner of 51st and Park.

My mind was on other things as usual as I crossed the edge of the notorious ‘dark alley’. There are so many of them in New York that I didn’t think twice about it, but as an aficionado of horror pop culture it should have sent a red flag . . . this is just about the point in the story, where the darkness comes roaring out.