Jul 24, 2013

A Single Moment

It’s something I’ve never understood or gave much leniency on. Whether it’s cigarettes, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol or heroin, my belief was ‘YOU put yourself in that situation and thus YOU must face the consequences.’ I just couldn’t understand why someone would willingly do something so harsh and damaging to themselves. I mean, we’ve all gone through Drug Week in elementary, middle, and high school, haven’t we?

The death of Cory Monteith, my idol, at the hands of addiction flipped my world upside down. Part of me was frustrated that he put himself in that situation. I was angry that he was too weak to stay away from drugs. I wanted to yell at him and shake him and punch him.

The other part of me wanted to understand. And the need to understand got me thinking.

I’m a weight conscious guy. I try to eat healthy to make up for the times that I don’t. I also work in construction. My job can be frustrating and exhausting at times. On those days, I swing by a fast food joint and pick up a large strawberry milkshake. Always large. Always strawberry. Always.

Today was a rough day. I turned into the parking lot of the fast food joint only to realize I didn’t have my debit card (I don’t carry cash). I scavenged my car for change but still came up short (even for a small), so I drove home. All I could think about during the drive was that damn shake. Even with my low fuel light on, I went back out to get that milkshake before I even consider getting gas. And let me tell you, it was worth it.

At that moment, I realized all it takes is a single moment of weakness to succumb to addiction. One. Single. Moment. I think everyone can attest to how impossible stressful aggravating difficult life can be. We've all had our moment of weakness. For some, it’s strawberry milkshakes. For others, it’s chocolate. We only see the result of those guilty pleasures when we step on the scale. But whether it’s chocolate or drugs, we succumbed to a moment of weakness. We let outside forces get the best of us. Why? Because we CAN NOT be strong every day all day. We need something to take us away from the pressure.

Unfortunately, sometimes drugs take us away permanently.

What are your thoughts?

Jul 15, 2013

Wings and a Halo

The sudden death of Cory Monteith (31) surprised and shocked me to the point that I'm still questioning whether or not today is really real. For those of you who don't know who I'm talking about, Cory is an uber talented singer and actor who rocketed to stardom via the role of Finn Hudson on the hit series Glee.

I started watching the show because I love music, expression, and pretty women. I continued watching it because it evolved into something much more than that. It became a movement. The show taught me and countless others to be ourselves, and accept others for who they are without question or passing judgement. It taught me to fight for my dreams, that it's okay to lose yourself, and that falling in love (or in like) means opening yourself up to being hurt AND opening yourself up to the very best life can offer.

The show taught me to be okay with me. And you. Andyouandyouandyou.

Cory Monteith helped teach me those lessons. He influenced my thoughts that turned to words that turned to stories that turned to characters that comprise each of my novels. He (and the rest of the cast) made me, my writing, and my life better. He was my hero.

Thank you, Cory. Your life and deeds have made the lives of countless others so so SO much better. Thank you for being fearless and teaching me to be the same. Thank you for being a gentlemen and giving me model to strive towards.

Thank you for being good. You made this world better.

You are loved, remembered, and missed. May your soul fly with angels tonight.

Jul 11, 2013

Agents for Query Kombat's Sweet 16

Thanks for coming out to peruse these queries. Query Kombat had some seriously great talent this year (and it's only our first year).  The Sweet 16 round will be officially open until the end of Saturday (but we won't stop you if you're a little late to the party). In order to view ALL the queries, click the July tab to the right. Trust me when I say these entries are too good to miss.

Once again, thanks for coming out.

QK Crew

Jul 7, 2013

QK Top 16: MG SciFi (QK Champion)

Entry Nickname: Jungle Vendetta
Title: Savage Jungle
Word Count: 60,000
Genre: MG Science Fiction


Twelve-year-old wimp and self-designated videogame pro Kreith Briggs’s birthday is off to a great, but scary start: a wild safari with his Uncle Tonas through the most treacherous jungle in the whole universe. The tour’s real fun, if not a bit creepy, until Kreith discovers he and his uncle have been set up.

The jungle’s got seven of the ten most exotic—and most lethal—animal species in the universe, including the super-sneaky electrocat and the giant land squid. But Wilmur Banx, the host of the tour, holds an old, even more lethal grudge against Uncle Tonas and the other twenty-four safari guests. That’s why he strands each pair of victims in separate places in the jungle with zero protection from the universe's fiercest beasts.

Kreith and Uncle Tonas head toward an old research facility where they can call for help and get off the planet alive. Only Kreith gets separated from his uncle and now he’s got no plan at all. Armed with a trusty new guidebook and his knack for all things techno-nerdy, his and his uncle’s survival—not to mention the lives of any remaining safari guests—rests squarely on his puny shoulders.

First 250 Words:

My heart rate doubles as Uncle Tonas hands me what I’ve been waiting for all day. Heck, all year—a present about the size of my fist. He always gets me the coolest gifts, like that fluorescent slug from planet Zambor last year for my eleventh birthday.

I rip the wrapping paper off the present without removing the bow, lift the lid off the cardboard box, and peer inside. A small electronic chip rests on the bottom.

“What’s—?” I ask.

“It’s a book,” Uncle Tonas says, eyes wide in his huge, muscular face. “Go on, download it.” He leans forward with those monstrous shoulders of his, a cigar between his pointer and middle finger. The total opposite of me. Sure, I’m only twelve years old, but my overly large black sweatshirt and baggy jeans hide the fact I’m as skinny as Uncle Tonas’s pinky finger.

“Uh…okay.” A book? That’s what he got me—a book? I try not to show my disappointment as I pick up the tiny chip and insert it into my Multipurpose Bracelet, my parents and Uncle Tonas looking on from the couch. I should really try to be grateful. It’s the thought that counts, after all.

“Would you like to download the book The Top 200 Most Treacherous Creatures in the Universe?” the MB asks in a voice as gruff as Uncle Tonas’s. I set the MB’s voice to that because it sounds like his and he’s the man, though I’m starting to doubt that after this sorry present…

QK Top 16: YA Alt History Mystery (Finalist)

Entry Nickname: Elementary Girl
Title: However Improbable
Word count: 72,000
Genre: YA Alt History Mystery


“People see, but they do not observe.” And to Marigny Sheridan, that is elementary. The Saturday night Sherlock Holmes radio broadcast is a staple in the Sheridan household for one simple reason: deciphering people provides all the entertainment she’ll ever need. That is until the Queen’s 50th Jubilee Contest twists the knickers of every eligible teenager in the Empire, and Marigny is unexpectedly selected to become the Colonies' new Saturday night entertainment.

Marigny has no interest in some cockamamie contest. After all, there’s no need for celebration when the British Empire is still going strong well into the 21st century. All she cares about is that her fellow contestants are easy to read. Especially the bitchtastically annoying girl from Australia and the street-smart player from Hong Kong. But as soon as she settles in, her Sherlock senses start to tingle. Something doesn’t smell right. And it’s not the smog over London.

The contest wouldn’t be so ridiculous if she could win riches to support her family. But no, the prize is marriage and Marigny isn’t quite ready for that yet. Even if it is to an heir to the throne.

The only boy she bothers to trifle with is Simon Whitaker, a cocky Islander with a dashing smile and slick charm. In the midst of lock picking the contest host's hotel room and butting heads with constables, they discover someone is pulling the contest strings. But when Marigny unearths an Empire secret, she must either bury her inner Sherlock to avoid exile or follow her hunch and lose Simon forever. As far as Marigny's concerned, winning is just as bad as losing.

First 250 words:

Given the time I’d had to consider it, I would much rather be sentenced to death. Poison or hanging, I had no preference. Yes, it’d be slow and agonizing, but really, that would be merciful compared to what they had in store for me. I wish I hadn’t ever won the damn Sweepstakes for the Colonies. Really, I wish I had listened to my gut and stayed in Maryland.

"Marigny Sheridan,” the brown haired man said, catching my attention. Mostly because he butchered my name. Mare-ig-nee? He said it like I was some horse and iguana hybrid. I wanted to say, “The ‘g’ is silent, idiot,” but I doubted that would have helped my case. I swear he even smelled holier-than-thou, like some volatile mix of expensive perfumes and the dirty stench money leaves on your hand. 

With a sharp breath, the man said, “Before we proceed, do you have anything to say for yourself?” If I spoke, it would undoubtedly seal the likelihood of my exile.

Gazing down at the sloppy clothes I’d thrown on that morning, only one thought came to mind: “I wish I could go out in something a bit more flattering.” But then again, I was all out of wishes at that point.

QK Top 16: YA Futuristic Fantasy (Semifinalist)

Entry Nickname: Minna Gray
Title: The Awakening of Minna Gray
Word count: 89,000
Genre: YA Futuristic Fantasy


Sixteen-year-old Minna Gray’s life in SilCorp’s Emerald District is shattered when the two boys she’s babysitting are kidnapped. But guilt turns to panic when she discovers no one is looking for the boys. No one even remembers them.

It’s as if they’ve been erased.

Fortunately, Minna’s not the only one who remembers. Corrin, a boy whose path always seems to cross hers, knows about the disappearances. He tells her they aren’t isolated events: every day more people are erased.

Corrin says Minna has a magical ancestry and that her inherited power over the elements could put an end to the ghants – the gray men who perform the kidnappings. To harness these powers, she must travel to the Outlands – the pest-infected waste beyond the city walls. But no one survives the Outlands, and Minna’s not sure she’s ready to trade life in Emerald for a slow suicide. She’s not even sure she can trust Corrin.

But soon she’ll have to decide. She must race to stop the ghants before all hope for the missing boys is lost, and before anyone else she loves is erased.

First 250 words:

She’d seen one once before - years ago, with Cameron, by the seaside. Its little round body flitted between palm fronds like a tiny jeweled fairy. They were supposed to turn it in. But they hadn’t. They’d watched it all afternoon, until finally it leapt into the sky and flew away, back over the Outer Wall. Their secret.

This one seemed even more out of place, amidst the asphalt and the early evening glow of the podcar lines. For a second, she thought she was imagining it. But then Ethan saw it too.

“What is it?” he asked, gaze transfixed on the emerald blot making its way across the dull bronze shine of the hood.

“A beetle.”

His brown eyes widened. “A real one?”

Minna nodded. “Don’t touch it.” But she was mesmerized too.

He frowned, waving his PestDetector wand over it. “It doesn’t beep.”

“Maybe it’s not infected.” Yet.

They watched its twiggy, spindle-legged progression from latch to windshield. “I don’t want anyone to kill it,” Ethan whispered as he backed away.

Technically it was a vector. Technically they were supposed to destroy it. But it was so small and round and innocent. Suddenly, it lifted off. Humming, it vanished into the protective green and white flurry of the nearby jasmine. Minna exhaled.

“Probably escaped from a DomeZoo.” Ethan said, glancing at her with a shaky laugh.

“Probably, but you still need to disinfect.” Minna puffed her emergency spray into the air, enveloping them in shivering white mist. Silently they counted out the seconds ... eight, nine, ten. Safe.

QK Top 16: Women's Fiction (Semifinalist)

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 the same 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.

But when the psychiatrist digs too deep and Cissy retreats even further from reality, her maternal grandmother uses her wealth and connections to help Cissy escape the hospital. On the road, and with no plan, Grandmother doubts her ability to ensure Cissy’s emotional survival. Their tender relationship and an unearthed secret from Grandmother’s past force Cissy to decide what’s best for her own future — and whether she wants to keep running.

THIS SIDE OF CRAZY is told from two viewpoints: Cissy’s and Grandmother’s. This book will appeal to readers who enjoyed the strong female Southern voices in Secret Life of Bees.

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 this morning. 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. It's one of my special talents.

“Cissy! Get your butt down here right this minute! Your Corn Flakes are getting soggy!” Mama’s voice carried easily from the kitchen, down a long hallway and up a flight of stairs. That was her special talent. As was prematurely pouring milk into cereal to punish her daughters’ lollygagging.

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.

Mama and our housekeeper, Bess, were locked in a battle of wills over one thing or another. I tuned them out, rushing 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.

QK Top 16: NA Urban Fantasy

Nickname: Kicking Ash
Title: Earth to Earth
Word Count: 62,000
Genre: NA Urban Fantasy


Getting over the death of your boyfriend is tough, especially when you're sure you just saw him outside of your new apartment.

Five years after Hailey loses her boyfriend, Ash, in a horrific car accident that almost claims her life, she is still struggling to put herself back together. At her breaking point, she moves from her small hometown to the big city, hoping to get lost in the crowd and start fresh. But things get complicated when she sees Ash. Or thinks she sees Ash. Swears she sees Ash.

After an exhausting search, she finally discovers the truth. The truth about Ash’s death, miraculous resurrection, and breathtaking wings that she’d never noticed before. As a guardian angel, Ash’s mission was to help Hailey in her time of death, but when he broke the rules and fell for her, all bets were off. In order to save her life, Ash makes a deal with the Angel of Death, with one heartbreaking condition. He has to leave Hailey, putting consequences into motion that he never could have imagined.

Now that they've found each other, the Angel of Death is out for revenge, setting her eyes on Hailey once again. Feeling betrayed by his lies and the time they've lost, Hailey must decide if she can trust Ash, or even really like him again. But when you're staring Death in her pretty, pale face, a rebellious Guardian Angel isn’t a bad thing to have around.

First 250:

The moment glass shatters is actually quite beautiful. The way the center splinters and spiders out before bursting into tiny stars glistening in the sunlight. 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’m riding with my boyfriend down a curvy country road, taking in the warm breeze and the smell of the wildflowers nestled along the trees. The simplicity of summer surrounds us, promising nearly three whole months of freedom until we leave for college. Everything is perfect. Then, just like that, it isn’t.

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 separating us from the cluster of trees.

When I gaze over to the driver’s side, I expect 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 is when the glass of the windshield fractures, starting as the tiniest crack before imploding into a thousand tiny particles.

QK Top 16: Adult Thriller

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


Leon Garber has his reasons for ridding the world of abusive people. Justifiable homicide is a risky business, but someone needs to take out the trash.  
Opportunity comes knocking from Like-Minded Individuals, Inc., a global company fulfilling the needs of people like Leon. LMI’s clientele are provided with new identities, security, and even lists of potential “projects.” But let’s not call it “serial killing.” Such a nasty business. For uncouth serial killers, it’s a good deal. For Leon, it’s a dream come true.  

But sometimes a killer business idea is simply…killer.
LMI’s put a target on Leon’s back. He has no idea why. Forced to defend his territory in Kansas, Leon clashes with other Like-Minded Individuals: The Good Samaritan Killer, The Mad Doctor, and Donnie and Marie—a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll, a whole lotta’ killing.

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. But nothing will keep Leon from finishing his current project. Nothing. Not even the chance to fall in love with the woman at his day-time job.
With nowhere else to turn, Leon enlists (unwillingly, natch) The Denver Decapitator, his nemesis, to storm LMI headquarters for answers. Or die trying.

First 250 words:

When LMI, Inc. contacts you, you damn well better respond. Since Leon relocated to Kansas, he hadn’t received one message. It’s not like LMI sent out birthday greetings. But when his LMI sanctioned cell phone buzzed the night before, he was forced to do something he loathed – visit the mall during the holidays.

Mandatory meeting at Barton Mall for SX-6209. Be on the bench in front of Dottie’s Dogs tomorrow at noon. No indication what the meeting regarded. With six months left on his Kansas shift, it couldn’t be about a transfer.

As Leon sat on the bench, the hair prickled at the back of his neck. He recognized the warning sign—his survival instincts sending him a "beware text.”

Experience, another old friend, taught him to always scope out a rendezvous. Mentally silencing the endless loop of Santa Baby that blared from the loudspeakers, he kept his eyes open for details that didn't belong.  It’s the little things that kept one out of prison, and alive.

On this unseasonably warm Monday, he’d donned a sports jacket, tie, and light tan khakis. Nothing that said “I kill people who need to die.” The mall was sweltering, though, and he was ready to shed the jacket. The damn sunlight beaming in through the windows didn’t help matters.

Christmas shoppers brushed by one another, focused on the next big sale. A woman, pushing a stroller, collapsed next to Leon on the bench. Doubtful she was a Like-Minded Individual.  However, after several encounters with fellow LMI clientele, Leon never discounted anyone.

QK Top 16: Adult Urban Fantasy

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. Within a month, three more have died. The only link among the victims? Wounds mirroring the attacks of creatures that Alex can't believe exist: a vampiric witch, a revenant, and a bogeyman.

It’s the ugliest, messiest case of Alex’s career, but she can more than handle that. Maybe it will keep her from jogging the streets of Philadelphia at two in the morning or drunk-dialing her dead husband’s cell phone number. When her only viable lead is killed, Alex is forced to accept that some myths... aren’t.

Finding the man responsible is easy. Killing him and his spawn won’t be. Alex is fighting time and an enemy that no human can match. If she’s not up to the task, she won’t stay human for long. 

First 250:

Sometimes it all came down to the gun. 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 stole 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, but he needed to show soon. Before my unease fermented into something harder to conceal.

“He’s late,” Mike said.

I shrugged, and played like I 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 being Kate Campbell, the annoying twit.

QK Top 16: Adult SciFi

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


When a mystery disease causes soul transference among the infected, Owen MacIntyre is too logical to believe in the urban legend of Zone Trippers. After all, he holds an esteemed job at the CDC, managing the mass hysteria surrounding epidemics and preventing pandemics PR nightmares.

But when Owen’s only daughter, Eve, shows symptoms of the psychosis, claiming to be an Irish father of three, he can no longer dismiss the rumors. Owen is forced to face the fact that his estranged daughter is one of the fabled Zone Trippers. He locks Eve’s body in an asylum, ignoring the cycle of personalities who inhabit her body, while he searches the world for her soul.

When Eve’s body escapes the asylum, Owen finds an unlikely partner in Humberto, a temporary soul in Eve’s body. While Owen fervently researches Zone Tripper’s Disease, Humberto hastily constructs a website which allows Eve’s soul to attempt a journey home. But without warning, several soul swaps yank her further away until Owen loses contact with her entirely.

Meanwhile, the world is divided between two camps: the Statics and the Trippers; furthered by an unscrupulous reality television show which exploits the Trippers, while spreading false information and rumors.

Desperation turns to terror when Owen learns of a zone-tripping serial killer who has a get-out-of-jail-free card and a penchant for torture. A video blog details each gruesome murder and offers the first tangible clue in finding Eve’s soul.

Owen abandons logic and risks his job, his life, and his soul to rescue Eve, but he might have already lost the daughter he never really knew.

First 250 Words:

At the CDC, security was a formality but success was often elusive.

My name and title was printed on the magnetized card: “Owen MacIntyre, Executive Officer of Public Health Preparedness and Response.” But the machine squawked at me nonetheless.

A uniformed guard meandered over to me, gun at his hip and doubt in his eyes.


“The card reader isn’t working,” I said, uncaffeinated and irritated. My wife used to make coffee before work but now I was at the mercy of the dregs in the community pot upstairs. My daughter, Eve, only drank green tea.

The guard compared the photo to my face and swiped the card quickly. It gave a satisfying beep.

“Must be sun flares,” the guard replied, referring to yesterday’s memo. The advantage of working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was the abundance of choices for blame. A flurry of potential disasters cluttered my in-box every morning. And every coincidence was the epicenter of an impending catastrophe.

I followed him past the open terminals to the bank of elevators.

“Thanks for the help,” I said, pressing four.

“No worries. Have a nice day saving the world.”

I didn’t bother to tell him I was in charge of press releases, not world-saving.

“There is another outbreak,” Rylan announced unceremoniously as I stepped off the elevator. My intern was partial to delivering bad news in person, rather than via email. “Another cluster of psychosis patients have been linked to the H2N8 virus. An intake ward in Phoenix is reporting a group of trippers.”

QK Top 16: MG Contemp

Entry Nickname: Eye Above You
Word Count: 26K
Genre: MG Contemporary

Born with one eye, twelve-year-old Jimmy Parker would rather climb trees with his rope and harness than hang around with people – after all, trees don’t tease. Jimmy’s prosthetic eye looks good, but due to the nature of his birth defect, it is smaller than his real eye and sits lower on his cheekbone, making for a lopsided face. Jimmy is determined to afford the surgery that he’s sure will fix his face – and change his life. With money scarce and cosmetic surgery expensive, Jimmy convinces his arborist father to let him help out in the tree business this summer.

When cheaper rent and his mom’s new job compel Jimmy’s family to move across town, he meets cute and candid Samantha Fulton while rescuing her grandma’s cat from a tree. Sam admires Jimmy’s climbing skills and welcomes him to the new neighborhood, even tagging along on a local tree job. But her own family drama ties her closer to Jimmy than he realizes. Then one afternoon, as Jimmy helps his father on a routine limb removal, a climbing line breaks, sending his father crashing onto a roof below. With his father recovering in the hospital, Jimmy and Sam conceive a plan they hope will save the tree business, and offer Jimmy and his family a chance at a new beginning.

First 250 words:

It was the third day of summer vacation, and I was hanging in a tree. Sweet! My first client of the summer stopped pacing as I glanced down at her tired face and messy nest of white hair.

“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 lots of 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, which would add to my surgery stash, but because of the way she stared at me three days ago when my mom introduced us. Mom had noticed too, but went 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. Most people didn’t even realize they stared. But I knew.

Mrs. Murphy 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 of Dad’s old climbing saddle. It fit me well enough that I could use it this summer to help out with the tree business.

QK Top 16: Contemp Women's Fiction

Entry Nickname: Champagne & Hot Dogs
Title: The Accidental Socialite

Word count: 75,000

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction


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

Quirky and a little clumsy, Paige Crawford leaves Edmonton, Canada because she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life living in a city best known for its big mall and above average murder rate. Dreaming of a fabulous career, cultured friends and preferably, a hot foreign boyfriend, she leaps on a plane to London, England. Twenty-four hours into her adventure, Paige ends up at a club and, having one too many, trips out the front doors only to be caught by a notorious and married footballer.

Waking up in a foreign country is hard enough, but waking up to find yourself on the front cover of a national newspaper and being labeled a home wrecker is less than ideal. And London seems intent on teaching Paige lessons she didn’t know she needed—such as how to narrowly escape deportation after assaulting Prince William with a Star Wars toy or the British definition of fanny after using it liberally in a presentation at work.

Things start to look up when Paige meets expat southern gentleman Jason Frost. He seems perfect, and not just because he knows Paige isn’t truly a harlot or because he introduces her to fancy things she’s only seen on Gossip Girl. But when Paige realizes Jason’s been the one feeding stories to the papers to manufacture himself a famous girlfriend, she is determined to rebuild her reputation and concentrate on developing her career. However, the paparazzi are only interested in catching her bad side. Train wrecks sell magazines and Paige is tied to the tracks. Look out London, this small town girl has a few lessons of her own to teach. 

First 250 words:

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

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

My stomach grumbled. My diet since I got off the plane had consisted mostly of Champagne, Vodka, and seared tuna.

“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.”

Liar. He didn’t look sorry. I immediately wanted to get on the next flight home. It rained cheeseburgers in Canada.

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

“I’ll have a hot dog.”
That was my new best friend, Lucinda.

We walked out of McDonalds with 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, a swarm of camera wielding hyenas approached. One flash triggered the rest and little white dots burned into my retina. I stumbled, almost dropping my fries. 

What was going on? I looked for the celebrity garnering all this attention. I couldn’t believe my luck, I was about to spot someone famous on my first day in London! But when Lucinda slapped the second fist full of fries out of my hand and pulled me towards a taxi, I realized with confusion that the so-called celebrity was me.

Jul 6, 2013

QK Top 16: YA SciFi

Entry Nickname: Colorblind
Title: An Uncommon Blue
Word Count: 65K
Genre: YA Sci Fi


In Télesphore, the glowing color of a person’s palm determines their place in society, and touching hands with another mixes the colors permanently. For the first sixteen years of his life, rugby star Bruno Nazaire hasn't had any trouble keeping his hands to himself. But when a Green boy sneaks into Blue Campus to get Bruno's autograph and is attacked by a guard, Bruno falls into defense mode.

And kills the guard.

Whether or not the slaying was accidental, the rule of law has not been challenged in fifty years and the Steward is determined to make an example of Bruno. That is, if he can catch him.

Bruno's only chance at survival is to become someone else. That means a haircut, a change of wardrobe, and most important, getting rid of his once cherished Blue. Now he’s visiting parts of town he never knew existed, and making friends with people he would've crossed the street to avoid only weeks ago. But the officials hunting him are getting smarter, and in a city enclosed by jagged iron fences, there are only so many places to hide.At the last minute, Bruno’s parents arrange a deal to clear his name and get some semblance of his life back. All Bruno has to do is abandon those in the Red slums that look to him as a leader and let a familiar Green boy die in his place.

First 250 words:

There are three unspoken rules in high school rugby.

1. Your team members are family.

2. You support your family.

3. This support must be shown periodically with an affectionate slap on the butt.

After four years as the starting right winger, I had almost gotten used to this.

Almost. At least I no longer felt the urge to bloody my teammates' noses when they tried it. But in the middle of the hall? No way. During school hours my glutes were off limits.

I whirled around to explain this to whichever of my idiotic team members was behind me.

Instead, I found myself face to face with an attractive redhead.

“Hey, Bruno,” Drea said with a smirk. “Ready for the test?”

I opened my mouth but no sound came out.

Even with her super-short hair, Drea was stunning. Before last summer she’d often been mistaken for a boy. But that all ended when puberty hit. With both fists.

I recovered from my embarrassment enough to nod.

She leaned against the lockers. Her face reflected the light from her blue palm as she twisted an earring. “History should be a breeze compared to pre-calc. I wanted to stab myself in the eye when I got to that section on antiderivatives.”

I grunted and fumbled with my combination.

Without warning she came up close and spoke in a half-whisper. Her hair smelled like coconut. “I know someone that likes you. If you hurry up with that lock, we might have time to talk before the final.”

Jul 5, 2013

QK Top 16: YA Contemp (in verse)

Entry Nickname: Lies and Lovers
Title: Lies My Father Told Me
Word Count: 34,000
Genre: Contemporary YA (in verse)


When fifteen-year-old Eden Thompson’s dad dies, poetry is her only escape. Her friends are distant and her mother spends most of her time shut away with a bottle of wine. Desperate for a connection with other people, Eden shares her words online. Just beyond the screen she finds Mason, a university student who leaves her long poetic messages that fill the empty space in her life. Having also lost a parent, he understands her pain and quickly becomes her one constant.

When they finally meet in person, Mason’s passionate words and the heat of his fingertips against her skin awaken a part of Eden she didn'tknow existed. But she swore to her dad that she would wait until marriage to have sex, and she doesn’t want the last promise she made to die with him. Uneasy with Mason’s desire for more, Eden struggles to untangle her own conflicting desires from her fear of losing him if she says no.

On the anniversary of her dad's death, Eden's mom drunkenly slurs a secret that changes everything: her dad wasn’t the person she thought he was. Her family, her life, her promise to him––all of it was based on a lie. Now that everything she knew is broken and betrayed, she turns to Mason, hoping for an escape from her pain. Torn between what her father wanted for her and what Mason wants from her, Eden must finally decide what it is she wants for herself.

First 250 words:
This Is The Part Where My Father Dies


At the funeral, 

everyone laughed,
but my mom’s voice—
it sounded more like a cry. 

She drank too much wine
and laughed too loud at the stories 
my dad’s
family and colleagues and friends and students told, 
their voices rushing 
to fill the emptiness 
with anecdotes. 

They were all 

Her lips and teeth were stained 
with red, 
and when I looked at her, 
all I saw was 
an empty shell,
a book
without any pages. 
Dead but not dead.  

She was a stranger,

Sometimes there was a glance
in my direction
for a few moments
too long.

Like sweat,
I could feel it on me.

Nobody said anything. 

I had lost
my words.  


I couldn’t understand how 
there could be 
an afterwards
now that 
he was gone.

The car swerved
to avoid

a deer

my dad

it was ten months later.
I was fifteen 

and ready for high school:
with my knee socks and their elastic bands
slipping down my legs, 
with my tartan kilt in green and blue, 
with my ring and 
my promise 
I made him 
only weeks before
            he died.

I want you 
to keep this
until you get

The ring slid on 
so easily.
It fit 
so perfectly. 

But it was so much heavier
than the metal it was made of, 
and the way it wrapped itself
around me, 
like it could never leave.

Like it would be there