Entry Nickname: Life Sucks—I’m Stuck in Podunk
Title: Middle of Knowhere
Word count: 70K
Genre: YA Contemporary
Truck-driving, tobacco-chewing rednecks. That’s what seventeen-year-old Hailey Nelson pictures when her dad decides to up and relocate their family from vibrant Chicago to the middle of God-Knows-Where. She plans to hate this small, rural three-stoplight town. But what she doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with a Pepto-Bismol colored antiques store and the quirky woman who runs it. A woman who shows her more love and affection than Hailey's always absent, TV journalist mother.
Misery does love company, and when Hailey finds out her parents are getting divorced, anti-social Ryker Evans—a local teen outcast and bearer of hideous posture—is surprisingly supportive and understanding. Probably because his family is even more messed up than hers. When Hailey gets a glimpse of what Ryker could look like with a little TLC, Project Ryker is on. Only she doesn’t expect Ryker to be hot with a capital “H.” Or sweet and fun, writing her songs and taking her dumpster diving for donuts. Now she has more to worry about than her parents’ divorce and her mother’s abandonment. She has her own stupid feelings for Ryker to work through too.
But falling for Ryker could present a whole new set of problems. Because ever since his mother took her own life, Ryker has blamed himself. And if Hailey tries to find out the truth of what happened that day, she could lose him forever.
This is what hell looks like.
I stare out the window of Dad’s Ford Explorer. Along the curvy road, dilapidated double-wide trailers that look like they belong in some independent film version of a horror flick, litter the sparse lawns. An old couch, unused tires, and even a rust-stained toilet lay strewn next to one particularly neglected trailer.
“Please tell me no one lives there,” I mutter.
Dad glances in my direction, his mouth set in a firm, disapproving line. “Now, Hailey, try to remember that these people aren’t as fortunate as you and I.” His eyes grind into me, like a pestle trying to turn me into bits of shame. “They do the best they can.”
I sigh and turn back to the window as another trailer comes into view, this one even more unkempt. Amazingly enough, one of the occupants is sitting on the sagging porch steps blowing a cloud of smoke into the humid summer air. The man is grease personified. Like if someone wrung him out, they’d have an entire vat of frying oil. I wrinkle my nose and look down when I make eye contact with him. Suddenly, my nails are desperate for attention.
“How long until Mom joins us?” I ask, digging at one particularly bothersome cuticle.
Mom’s been gone for weeks now. As a broadcast journalist, she jet sets around the world while Dad acts as homemaker extraordinaire. Not that I’m knocking my dad’s skills. He can make a mean BLT.
Entry Nickname: Forget You, Stalin, We're Outta Here
Title: Night Witch
Word Count: 115,000
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
While the summer sun shines down in 1941, the Nazi war machine quickly swallows up vast areas of the Soviet Union, and millions of her men. Nadya Vasiltseva’s brother is one of them. Nadya refuses to cave to grief, and instead joins the elite “Night Witches”, an air regiment made up almost entirely of women, as a navigator. For the next four years, coping with the devastating losses of her comrades, two things keep her alive: her skills in the air, and her love for Nikolai, factory worker turned front-line soldier.
Nadya is married – but her husband is Peter, a functionary in Stalin’s Communist Party. Deemed “too important” by the government to risk at the front line, he spends the war years far away from any danger. As Nadya, Nikolai and countless others throw their lives into driving the Nazis back to the Rhine, Peter is anonymously – falsely – denouncing his fellow Soviets to the secret police, sending an untold number to the firing squads.
When Nadya finds out, it is clear what Peter would do to Nikolai, and to her, in retaliation for their affair. Their service to the Motherland offers no protection. In fact, now they’re targets of Stalin’s twisted paranoia: that the evil capitalist West has brainwashed all veterans who fought in Germany. Having escaped Peter for good, Nadya and her new husband Nikolai now battle terror, oppression and famine. If they stay in the Soviet Union, they’ll starve. But if they try to leave, they too could face the firing squad…along with their two children.
First 250 Words:
Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. September 1940
"I’m terribly sorry, Comrade. I seem to have two left feet today.”
I looked into the face of a tall man wearing a beige overcoat, who was trying to jostle his way to a place near a pole on the metro. The expression on his face was wide-eyed contrition. Very different from the usual response in this sort of situation, which was “Get out of my way, you clumsy oaf,” with ear-burning cursing that only Russians are immune to.
I tucked my feet under my seat so that he could move past without stepping on me again, and smiled at him as he stuffed himself between two men. Both of their doughy faces (Party men, surely, to be that well-fed) melted into looks of bitter resentment aimed at him. The smell of unwashed body contrasted sharply with the elegant station platform I saw out the window, lit with sparkling chandeliers. It was a sight I saw every afternoon on my way home from the flight navigation school where I took classes. It barely registered amidst my floating thoughts about the day’s occurrences, the loveless marriage I was stuck in, and which of my fellow metro riders were listening to conversations, compiling denunciations for the secret police while pretending to read Pravda.
I caught the eye of the tall man again. He was quite handsome, in his clean and pressed coat and tie; I couldn’t reconcile the body-odour stink with him. When he returned my smile, I noticed his eyes.