Entry Nickname: Guilt by Association
Title: Skeleton Key
Word Count: 80,000
Genre: Adult Mystery
As the daughter of a safecracker and burglar, Foley Munion is used to police scrutiny, but this time she’s their prime suspect. For the second time, robbers have hit a bank where Foley helped install the security system. During the first bank heist, Foley’s business partner was taken hostage, her charred remains found months later.
With her locksmith shop already on the brink of failure, this police investigation could be the blow that closes her doors, ruining the company she’s spent years establishing. To make matters worse, her felon father has broken out of prison. Though he claims he’s escaped to find out who’s framing her for the bank jobs, Foley suspects he’s really after one last score.
While the authorities focus on linking her to the robberies and her partner’s death, Foley hunts for the real perpetrator. The more she digs, the more she questions what she’s being told by the police, FBI, and her father. By the time Foley uncovers who’s setting her up, her father’s been trapped by the killer. Foley’s lock-picking skills come in handy during her rescue attempt but, once freed, her father refuses to abandon his quest for the stolen money. If Foley helps him, she becomes the thief some already assume she is, putting both her career and life at risk. If she doesn’t, her father may end up dead.
Foley Munion glared at the name on the window: Manley and Munion Lock and Key. The last time she had the plate glass replaced, she should’ve told the painter to leave off Allison’s name. Even if it still brought in the occasional customer. Foley opened the door and sighed. The way business was going, the point could be moot by the end of the month.
The small lobby was colder than the parking lot. Foley nudged up the thermostat then lifted the walk-through section of counter. Metal shavings from the key grinder sparkled on the worn linoleum. Inside the back room, she froze, the nape of her neck prickling.
The heater whooshed on. Foley flinched, then took a slow turn. The bins of wire and alarm components sat undisturbed. But something was off. Hurrying to the safe, she crouched and spun the dial. When the lock clicked, she yanked the handle and pawed through the contents. Money untouched. Schematics secure. She leaned forward to sniff the locking mechanism. No tell-tale odor of oil or graphite. So why the heebie-jeebies?Standing, she closed her eyes and breathed deep.
Oh no. That smell. Soft, but with a slight edge. Partagas.
Her dad’s favorite cigar. A faint scuff came from the left. Her eyes popped open. Unlit cigar in hand, he stepped from the storeroom.
“Dad.” Foley’s right eyelid twitched while she did parole math. Even with good behavior, he shouldn’t be out yet. “Tell me you didn’t escape again.”
Entry Nickname: A Girl and Her Serial Killer
Title: The Confidant
Word count: 62k
Genre: NA Thriller
18-year-old Stella Stokes has a secret: Gideon, a dashing English serial killer in the novels she writes, actually talks to her. He’s been by her side, offering somewhat twisted peanut gallery commentary, advice, and affection for every pathetic turn in her adolescent life. Sure, some of his darker suggestions scare her, she’s never been worried about his presence. After all, she’s the only one who can interact with him; he can’t really kill anyone.
The summer following high school graduation, Stella and her best friend, supernatural-obsessed, trans-man Quinn, decide to take a few weeks to explore California. However, their first stop at an idyllic beach town isn’t quite as calming as they would’ve hoped: a local’s prank gone horribly wrong leaves Quinn and Stella standing dumbstruck over four dead bodies. As they clean up the mess and flee town, Stella can’t help but notice Gideon’s signature all over the murders.
Now, Stella has no choice but figure out what Gideon is: ghost, demon, byproduct of mental illness, or something else entirely. Because if Gideon is more than an imaginary friend, not only could he really begin a murder spree, but maybe he really could force her to kill with him. As bodies stack up around them, Stella has to keep one step ahead of the authorities, keep Quinn safe, and most importantly, prove that the writer is more powerful than the creation.
First 250 words:
"You're barmy if you don't think a paid professional screwing up your haircut is enough reason to kill them.”
I open my drawer and snatch the first two pieces of water-friendly fabric I see. The unsolicited advice comes from Gideon, who lies on my bed tossing a dragon figurine from hand to hand. We’ve been talking for five minutes, and I’m so done.
“No, Gideon, you’re…whatever you just said if you think I'm going to murder someone because she cut my hair too short,” I say. “Besides, you’re English. Your people would rather suffer in silence than complain about a subpar haircut. Turn around.”
Gideon rolls his eyes and turns his back to me. I slip into my bikini.
“This figurine is a good density. An ideal bludgeoning weapon—”
“Don’t change the subject.”
I reach for my cover-up, but stop as Gideon wraps his arms around my waist.
“C’mon, poppet. Have I steered you wrong before?”
I resist a smile as he presses his lips to my throat. The moment almost lasts, but a thunk from inside my bathroom brings me back to reality: my best friend Quinn is changing in there, and when he comes out, he won’t be able to see Gideon.
After all, I'm the only person who can interact with him.
I pull away and return my figurine to the shelf, hoping Gideon gets the message. His words roll around my mind, and my eyes linger on the golden dragon.
It is dense.