Entry Nickname: A Cozy for Geeks
Title: The Genuine Fake
Word Count: 75,030
Genre: Mystery Cozy
You'd have to be drunk or crazy to hire Dahlia Moss as a detective, and her client was conveniently both. Drunk was verifiable-- there was a wine glass in his hand. Crazy was self-evident: Dahlia had no experience, no money, and the only thing she'd been reliably good at finding were pink slips.
The details of the job only make it seem stranger. The client wants her to recover the Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercing, a powerful and breathtakingly gaudy weapon from the online game "Kingdoms of Zoth". The pay is insane, a thousand bucks just for looking, and double for finding it. Dahlia thinks the job is certifiable, but pragmatically signs on; two thousand bucks buys a lot of Ramen.
Her investigation takes her through the student slums of St. Louis and into the on-line jungles of Zoth, interviewing aggrieved gamers, drunken fire-mages, misogynist golems, and an extremely petulant tree. But just when she gets a handle on the case, her client turns up dead-- skewered by a 3-D printed replica of the very spear she was looking for.
Suddenly, the police are involved, and Dahlia is in the middle of a murder investigation. Gamers are showing at her doorstep, detectives are trailing her, and more 3-D printed spears are mysteriously showing up in the mail. It's exactly the wrong time to learn that her client's decision to hire her wasn't so random after all.
The only time I ever met Jonah Long he was wearing a fake beard, a blue pinstripe captain's outfit and a toy pipe that blew soap bubbles. He did not seem like someone who was about to change my life.
"I have a proposition for you," he had told me. Admittedly, that does sound like the kind of thing a life changing person might say. It's right up there with "it's dangerous to go alone-- take this!" and "you are the chosen one." But a plastic bubble pipe really takes the edge off this sort of thing.
It was a nautical themed party, which partly explained his ridiculous outfit. I'd thought he was hitting on me. “I’m in a non-dating phase," I'd told him. Not entirely true, but I repeat: bubble pipe.
"A financial proposition, Dahlia."
I had no idea who he was. I was irked that he knew my name but it was clear from the way Charice was hovering over him that my roommate was involved. She was wearing an over-sized mermaid's outfit that made her look faintly seal-like-- especially with her mugging at me as Jonah spoke. Eh? Eh? I felt like I should throw a fish at her.
But really: what could I do? I had seventeen dollars and twenty three cents in my bank account at the time of this exchange, with less in savings. I could only use ATMs that dispensed tens. Despite my correct sense that Jonah was 1) ridiculous and 2) trouble, at the phrase "financial proposition" he had my undivided attention.
Entry Nickname: Lavender Marriage
Title: The Well-Adjusted Household
Word Count: 86,000
Genre: Adult Upmarket Fiction
Ben has been called a lot of things: doctor, husband, father, deviant, liar. His wife Alena calls him friend and her brother Iain calls him lover.
They live in Prohibition-era Pittsburgh and booze isn't the only thing that's illegal. Homosexuality is a felony and Ben and Iain don't care to spend the next ten years behind bars. Luckily, their sham marriages to Alena and her paramour Margaux are the perfect cover.
In public, they are the wealthy and powerful Blackburn family, heirs to a steel fortune. But behind closed doors, they are an improvised household of artificially conceived children and secret passageways between bedrooms. Everything is orchestrated. Nothing is as it seems.
When a conniving maid discovers their secret, Iain and Ben are arrested on charges of sodomy and homosexual behavior. The men and their constructed family are put on trial and it is up to their wives to convince the world of their “innocence.”
Their reputations, their fortune and the custody of their children all depend on this one, grand lie. They are well-aware that the truth will not set them free.
“On your right!”
The bicycle appeared from around the corner while Ben was lost in thoughts of covalent bonds and chemical reactions. There was no time to avoid impact. His beakers hit the pavement first, followed by his face.
“Jesus Christ, I've killed him. Hello? Can you hear me?”
Ben rolled to his back, coughing from the impact. “Left. You were on my left.”
“Pardon?” The cyclist hovered over him, surveying the damage. “Goodness. You're bleeding.”
Ben sat up slowly, poking at his cheek where a shard of glass had lodged. His vision was blurry, though his spectacles were still somehow perched on his nose. Perhaps he had been concussed.
“Please, let me help you.” The young man grabbed Ben's arm and pulled him to his feet. “I do apologize. I've never run over anyone before.”
Ben dusted off his trousers, struggling to keep his temper in check. “I find that hard to believe, sir. Furthermore, I–” The words died in his throat as he took in the full visage of his assailant. He was beautiful, with an easy smile and grey eyes. “I, um, my class...” Ben gestured to the mess of books and glass on the ground, struggling to regain his train of thought.
“Your class?” The young man leaned in closer, inspecting Ben's wound. “I'm afraid you have blood all over you.”
He smelled lovely, like Eau de Quinine. Ben exhaled sharply. “Be that as it may, sir–”
“– it's Iain, actually,” he laughed.