Entry Nickname: Deadly Nightshade
Title: Nightshade
Word Count: 98,000
Genre: YA sci-fi/thriller

Morelle Noire has been told her whole life that when she was three, her military father died a hero in a bombing accident. The summer of her sixteenth birthday, Morelle’s mother sends her to an outrageously energetic camp in the mountains, where the suicide of the camp’s physician puts Morelle at the heart of a conspiracy somehow entangled with the meaning of her own name: Morelle Noire, which translates to Deadly Nightshade, a popular poison in the form of a berry. She finds herself drawn in deeper when another camper nearly succeeds in killing her with the plant that shares her namesake.  She awakes from a coma in the hospital back home, confused and desperate for answers about the attempt on her life.

When she finds herself in the middle of an armed robbery gone wrong, Morelle discovers that she may have left camp with more than a near-death experience. The story of her saving a victim from oncoming bullets by halting them midair with telekinesis makes Morelle into a faceless hero, known only by the name she gave the robbers—Nightshade.

After news of her abilities reaches government ears, they attempt to recruit her to one of their most secret specialized weapons projects, where Morelle encounters others with telekinetic powers, all sharing similar near-death experience stories. Morelle’s unique strength sets her apart, as she unintentionally proves herself to be a valuable asset. But when she begins to connect the dots about the methods the program uses to create its recruits, and her father’s involvement, the leader of the program realizes Morelle may be more valuable dead than alive. 

This time, when death comes, Morelle can only hope that she’ll be ready.

First 250:

I’ve never been scared of the dark.

Dark is calm. Dark is consistent. Dark is safe.

The dark has always been my security blanket. Always there, whenever I need it. But right now, the fabric is harsh, sharp.

I’m not scared. But I no longer feel safe.

Tonight the wind slices into any sliver of exposed skin, and the coldness of the dark only serves to sharpen its blade. I’ll admit, I should’ve been more prepared. I’d just forgotten how cold it can get at night here.

By now, most of the feeling in my hands is gone. I flex my fingers and cup them over my mouth, breathing out warm air in hopes of defrosting them. But despite my attempts to hold it back, the cold leeches in again. My hands are helpful for what comes next—but not essential. I let the hood fall down over my forehead and resign to burying them in my pockets to preserve any semblance of warmth.

As troublesome as the cold can be, right now I have more pressing problems to deal with. Problems like the million dollar ransom on my head—dead or alive, but preferably dead, and the bounty hunters and assassins it entails. That’s a lot of money to be spending on the pursuit of a sixteen year old girl. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who’s more scared of whom.
Entry Nickname: Tag, You’re Dead
Title: The Game
Word count: 82K
Genre: YA Thriller


When six teenagers play Tag in present day Chicago, there’s a twist from the childhood version…if you get Tagged, you get Dead.

The three "Its" have their reasons for buying a place in the Game: the surgically-enhanced debutante is dying to destroy a naturally beautiful girl; the less-skilled basketball player desires his target's position on their school’s team; and the brainiac craves a battle against an intellectual equal. 
The "Runners," three hand-picked innocents kidnapped and forced to play, want only one thing...to survive. 

Once the Runners receive the “Go” on the smart watches secured to their wrists, they race separately to Chicago, where their Home Bases lie. The Game rockets them through the city, from the El to Michigan Avenue to the Lincoln Park Zoo. There is no time to rest; every thirty minutes the Runners’ coordinates are transmitted to the Its, and their original half-hour head starts diminish.

There are only so many places to hide, even in one of the nation’s largest cities, so the Runners must use their unique skills to outsmart their Its, whether those talents are computer hacking, brute strength, or a charismatic personality. The Rules state that the Game will not be over until someone is Tagged, so each Runner must choose how to play it – death, murder, or a third option, not yet identified.

Six players began the Game. How many will live to see it end?

First 250:

The girl raced into the Greyhound station and scoured the times of departing rides. She didn’t care where the bus went, just so it was the next one to leave. Dubuque. Fine. Wherever that was.
She ran to the ticket booth, shoved some cash at the clerk, and leapt onto the bus, falling into a seat behind an old man who was already asleep. Across the aisle two kids argued over who got to sit by the window. They looked too young to be traveling by themselves, but the girl didn’t have enough energy to worry about it. She peered over the back of her seat. A real mix of passengers. No one who looked suspicious or weird or even insane.

She glanced at the smart watch locked onto her wrist. Five minutes until It would know her location. Three minutes until the bus was supposed to depart. She prayed — really prayed — it was on schedule.

“Tickets.” The bus driver meandered down the aisle, glancing briefly as people held up their papers.

The kids across the aisle were now fighting about who was supposed to have the tickets. The driver said he’d be back, and continued down the row. By the time he returned, the kids still hadn’t found their stubs, and the older one went with the driver to confirm their reservations. 

The bus wouldn’t be leaving on time.

The girl watched the timer count down to zero. The vibration of the coordinates transmission hit her like an electric shock.