Title: THE IVORY NEEDLE
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Only two are yet remaining,
Precious magic ever waning . . .
That’s just part of the mysterious message 16-yr-old Chessie receives when she’s forced to visit her great-grandmother for the summer. Bad enough Gram lives in middle-of-nowhere, Kenya. But when Chessie’s contacted by the spirit of Jhelani, an eons-dead elephant, things take a total left turn toward weird. Communicating with cryptic songs and strange symbols, Jhelani’s message slowly emerges: if someone cannot save the last of her once-immortal tribe, the Earth may pay an unknown price. Freaked out and overwhelmed, Chessie shuts down, breaks communication, and refuses to help.
Meanwhile, Kenyan teen Daniel can’t feed his family when his crops fail. Desperate for work, he’s coerced into a gang of poachers with their sights set on a huge payday: the remaining elephants of Jhelani’s tribe. Just this one job, he swears. Then he’ll find honest work. Hold his head up again.
Chessie finally comes to a decision. She wants to be the kind of person who, as Gram would say, “grabs life by the tusks.” But by the time she finds the missing elephants, the poachers are closing in. With elephants charging and bullets flying, Chessie’s taken prisoner and her world and Daniel’s collide. To survive, Chessie must conquer her fears and seize a dangerous opportunity to escape. And Daniel must decide where he’ll draw the line: thief, poacher, or accessory to murder.
When your family falls apart, I suppose you shouldn’t expect anything to be the same again. Not even your mother’s smile.
Mom’s goofy I-love-my-life smile hadn’t been seen in months, and I’d become all too familiar with the distant impostor that had replaced it. But the smile she wore right now? Pretty sure I’d never seen that one before. Like something you’d grab at the mall without stopping to try it on, it was too tight and way too bright.
And she was cooking, for the first time in months. “Mom? What’s going on?” I dropped into a kitchen chair and watched her pull something from the oven.
“Roast chicken? Dibs on the drumstick,” Bent shouted, slamming his scrawny ten-year-old frame into the chair nearest the chicken. He leaned across the table, freckled nose practically up the bird’s butt, and took a deep sniff. “Look, Chessie, mac-n-cheese, too.”
Mom set a tray of steaming cornbread on the table and sat down, still beaming. “Your great-gram has invited us to visit her. In Africa.”
I paused, forkful of mac-n-cheese halfway to my mouth. My stomach felt hollow. I had the feeling no amount of mac-n-cheese was going to fill it, not even one with four gourmet cheeses and a crispy crumb topping. “Can you get enough time off for a trip like that?”
Her smile flickered like the lights during a thunderstorm, right before the power went out for good. “I . . . I can’t go. But you two will go without me.”
Entry Nickname: Librarians, Curses, and Mysteries – Oh My!
Title: The Curious Curse of the Lonely Library
Word Count: 56k
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Low Fantasy
The Pickettsville library has moldered in silence for two hundred years, but Theodore Plumford can sense that it’s special. Not just any library was founded by a madman.
Left with relatives one summer, twelve-year-old Theodore coaxes his reluctant siblings to explore the unusually grand town library with him. Though the rest of Pickettsville refuses to darken its doors, the majestic building and its lively librarians soon enthrall the children. But when they discover that characters from the books are haunting the halls, an investigation into the founder’s mysterious life reveals a curse causing the library’s present predicament.
As the Plumfords and librarians unravel the past, the library’s future seems brighter. But Theodore’s impetuous brother Hugo would rather have an adventure than help the others, even if it throws the library into chaos. With the town clamoring to demolish the building and the characters fighting for their freedom, Theodore’s mettle will be tested when their lives and the library are endangered because of Hugo’s foolish choices. The bookworm who has always lived through others’ stories must learn how to be his own hero if he’s going to save the day.
Theodore’s neck prickled when they drove past the building on their way into town. The rest of Main Street was a collection of shabby stores, but this place stood apart like a wild beast among tabby cats.
Six white columns guarded a wide double door, and cold, silent windows rose between the pillars. On top of the building, rosy light streamed through the panes of a glass dome. It looked like a ball of fire upon a mammoth block of ice.
“Mom, what’s that?”
Mrs. Plumford twisted in her seat to follow Theodore’s pointing finger. She squinted into the sun. “I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask your aunt.”
Theodore’s younger sister Lucy squirmed around to look at the building before it disappeared from view. “It looks scary,” she whispered.
“It looks boring,” said Hugo Plumford, elbowing Lucy in the center seat to make more room for himself. “Are we there yet?”
“Almost,” said Mr. Plumford. He turned the car into a neighborhood of prim houses in tidy rows, each so alike they might have been pressed from the same mold.
Hugo squashed his nose against the glass and groaned. “Can’t I go with you? I don’t wanna stay here.”
“No,” said Mr. Plumford. “I’d prefer you weren’t eaten by a crocodile.”
“But I wouldn’t!”
“Hugo, you’d be trying to measure its teeth the minute I turned my back.”
Theodore stifled a sigh and hunkered over his book, determined to ignore the hundredth round of this debate.