Title: PLAY IT COOL, CLAIRE
Word Count: 87K
Genre: Contemporary YA
Claire can sum up her first fifteen years with three words: middle child syndrome. She’s utterly unremarkable while her two siblings and parents are all mega geniuses in one way or another. Sophomore year is off to a rocky start: her Grandma Rae dies, she’s got a new boyfriend (that sounds great until she realizes he’s got a seriously dark past and maybe a couple of issues), and she’s seeing dead people. She’s finally got the extraordinary talent she's always wanted, though it is seriously affecting her social life.
Claire doesn’t have time to mourn her grandmother. Grandma Rae’s spirit keeps hanging around to dole out wisdom, mostly to tell Claire to stay away from Graham, the dreamboat next door. Oh, and Graham’s dead mother keeps hanging around, mostly to tell her to date her son. Obviously, she takes Graham’s mother’s advice. The list of things to love about Graham expands exponentially each day, but so do his worrying behaviors. It’s a lot to handle, and Claire’s family is too busy being brilliant to notice. Claire has to learn to cope, to accept her gifts, and to lean on her friends and family. None of these lessons are more important than when a spirit delivers the worst sort of news and Graham is ripped from her life.
First 250 Words:
Grandma Rae didn’t leave me anything in her will. I’m used to be forgotten. It’s the curse of being the unremarkable middle child of a quite remarkable family. Grandma Rae left my older sister, Cecilia, most of her jewelry, even though Cecilia already has plenty of jewelry. My younger brother, Cameron, got the piano that had belonged to our grandfather, even though we already have a piano. My mom was her only daughter, so she got everything else.
I guess I’m surprised because, deep down, I always suspected that I was her favorite. She spent the most time with me. Maybe that’s just because she felt sorry for me. I certainly do. It’s hard being sandwiched between my siblings. Cecilia is a bona fide genius. At seventeen, she takes mostly college courses, going only to our high school for home room and gym and home economics. She’s a great cook. And she’s gorgeous. And she’s sweet. And everyone likes her. It’s hard being her little sister; but that isn’t the half of it. Cameron, who is twelve, has autism. And he’s a musical prodigy. And he can paint. Like, really paint.
Me, I’m passably smart. I’ve got a few really good friends who really seem to like me. And my Grandma Rae adored me. But now she’s dead. C’est la vie, as Cecilia would say. She’s fluent in French and Arabic. Vraiment, she should say “c’est la morte.” But what do I know?
The fact that my grandma left me out of her will is certainly casting a shadow over her funeral service--as if funerals aren’t shadowy enough.
Entry Nickname: Not Odette
Title: Princess of Swans
Word count: 84,000
Genre: YA Fantasy
As the heir to her war-torn country's throne, teenage princess Feyana Belmaron should be the most powerful woman in Amgovar. Instead, she is a prisoner. After a traitor killed her mother and disfigured her, Feyana’s father confined her to an isolated castle to keep her safe. Ten years later, Feyana gives up hope that her father will ever let her go—and with a face like hers, no storybook prince is likely to come to her rescue.
But perhaps she can come to his.
When a gravely injured volkarei witch foretells Feyana’s marriage to a handsome enemy prince–a marriage that would not only end the war, but unite the feuding countries for good–the scarred princess seizes the chance to put her castle walls behind her. Eager to finally serve her people, Feyana disguises herself, scales the wall, and sets out to find the prince.
But the outside world is far more dangerous than she imagined, full of pirates, soldiers, and thieves angered by her father’s policies and eager to revenge themselves on his sheltered heir. Her only allies, a volkarei-cursed monster and a lowborn, gay thief, are both convicted criminals...and one has already betrayed her. When her prince, too, turns out to be far more alarming than charming, Feyana must face a bitter choice: turn back and abandon her country to an unwinnable war, or keep on and give up her hard-won freedom.
First 250 words:
Tavor Castle is beautiful, for a prison. The white stone castle is small but well-kept, and its fields and woods cover almost a square mile. Even the looming, twenty-foot walls enclosing the grounds have an odd charm to them. To protect you, Father says, but I know better. It’s to hide me. The only ugly thing in Tavor Castle is its princess.
I jam my foot into Lulari’s stirrup and glare up at the walls, wishing my hate could melt them. Only a little longer, until the war ends, and I’ll be free. Father promised that much, at least.
I turn away and cluck Lulari to a walk. The warm breeze ruffles my fascinator and fills my nose with the scent of horse. I smile. Outside, there may still be walls, but at least there’s no ceiling. I brush back a lock of hair—and an ashen, black-cloaked woman appears in my path.
I clutch at her mane but grasp nothing. The ground races up to slap me, and pain jars through my shoulder and back. Breathing hard, I stir my arms and legs, then probe my ribs for tenderness. Nothing broken, praise Dal. A stablehand races toward me, calling my name. I sit up and groan.
“I’m fine,” I say. “Is she all right?”
The mysterious woman lies crumpled beneath her cloak, her face unnaturally gray. I crawl toward her, my shoulder throbbing, but the stablehand pulls me back sharply.
The black mass I took for a cloak is a vast, dark wing.