Title: Tree Roper
Word Count: 26,000
Genre: MG Contemporary
Born with one eye, twelve-year-old Jimmy Parker spends more time climbing trees with a rope and saddle, than hanging around with people – after all, trees don’t tease. Even though his prosthetic eye looks great, it is smaller than his good eye and sits lower on his face, attracting unwanted attention. Since money is tight, Jimmy works with his professional arborist father this summer to help pay for the cosmetic surgery that will soon fix his face – and his life!
When his family moves across town for his mom’s new job, Jimmy meets cute and candid Sam Fulton, and local loud mouth Jared (whose attitude stinks worse than his breath.) While helping his father during a routine limb removal in the new neighborhood, a climbing line breaks, sending Jimmy’s father crashing onto the roof below. With his father recovering in the hospital, Jimmy and Sam conceive a plan they hope will save the tree business, and keep Jimmy’s summer goals alive.
First 250 words:
It was the third day of summer vacation, and I was hanging in a tree. Perfect. Well, almost. But at least I was having fun and making money at the same time. My client stopped pacing as I glanced down at her tired face and the untidy nest of white hair below me.
“Please don’t walk right under me, Mrs. Murphy. It’s not safe!”
“Oh, of course. Are you okay up there? Maybe you should come back down and I’ll try again with the food.”
“I’m good. I’ve done this many times. Besides, I don’t think your cat’s that hungry yet.”
I was anxious to show her I could do this. Not just for the money she promised, but because of the way she had stared at me three days ago when my mom introduced us. Mom had noticed too, but had gone on about how moving to this side of town was going to make things so much easier for our family—mainly being able to walk to her job and the better school for me and Ethan. Like Mrs. Murphy, most people didn’t even realize they stared. But I knew.
Even while Mom was talking, Mrs. Murphy kept staring at my face. She couldn’t have known then that the right eye was a fake, though. Mom probably told her later.
As I hung from the rope above her yard, my arms throbbed and my stomach burned from the workout. I relaxed into the canvas and leather loops that formed my climbing saddle. It was Dad’s old one, and it fit me okay. Well enough that I could use it this summer to help out with the tree business. I leaned back and felt the freedom of empty space all around me. What a deal. Climbing trees—and getting paid for it!
Entry Nickname: One-Eyed Cat
Title: Ghost Farm
Word Count: 33,000
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
By the time twelve-year-old Rebecca Kincaid is dragged by her mother to visit relatives in rural Iowa, her summer is already being ruined by terrifying nightmares. Then, the second she arrives at the old family farmhouse, an eerie feeling comes over her. A creepy one-eyed cat appears out of nowhere. Doors creak open without explanation. A ghostly apparition materializes, then vanishes. And that's just in the first ten minutes.
Adding to Rebecca's misery? Her mother, a widow, starts dating an old flame, and his conniving ten-year-old daughter Kelsie is definitely up to something suspicious. Then there's this cute boy named Nick whose attitude—friendly one minute, dismissive the next—baffles Rebecca. Her recurring nightmares about dark, thrashing woods in a fierce storm plague her every night. Her days are stalked by the unsettling apparition, which utltimately leads her to an abandoned farmhouse. A farmhouse she discovers is linked to her family's past.
Rebecca is determined to figure out what the increasingly desperate ghost wants from her. But with mother self-absorbed, Kelsie causing trouble, and Nick unreliable, she is on her own. After finding an old trunk, a hidden diary, and a tiny scrap of a map, Rebecca begins to piece together the strange, sad puzzle and uncovers a tragic, long-buried family secret. Finally, during a violent thunderstorm, her haunting nightmares become reality, and she must confront her personal demons—and the ghost itself—head-on. Or a life will be lost.
Rebecca winced as she peeled her sweaty legs away from the hot leather seat of the car. Out the windshield ahead she saw only a two-lane road and rolling green cornfields. Her mother's favorite eighties music pulsed from the speakers. The smell of french fries lingered in the air.
She hated car trips.
"There in two minutes!" her mother chirped from the driver's seat, blazing July sunlight glinting off her sunglasses.
At least this part's over, Rebecca thought. She and her mother were at the end of the long drive to her aunt and uncle's place where they'd be staying the rest of the summer. The summer before seventh grade. The summer she'd wanted to be with her friends at camp. Rebecca slumped down in the seat.
The car slowed and turned down a long gravel driveway. Ahead was a sunny yellow frame house with a wrap-around front porch. Tall trees stood over flourishing flower beds. An old red barn towered in back. Just as Rebecca began to appreciate the picture-perfect scene, a shadow flickered past the window next to her, so close she jumped. She turned, expecting to see a bird flying off, but there was none. The blue sky was empty, hanging over acres of harmless corn. Strange. A shiver skittered down her spine.
Her mother stopped the car in front of the house. "Thank goodness," she said, yawning and stretching her arms above her head. "This is going to be fan-tastic."