Jun 27, 2016

Query Kombat Round 4 Wrap Up

THE FINAL FOUR have been crowned! Two from Michelle's team, one each from Laura's and Mike's. These are the top FOUR out of over 340 entries--an amazing accomplishment by these authors. Congrats to the winners of Round 4 who have become our Final Four! The next round takes place on Tuesday and goes for two days before the final round starts on July 1st. A big cheer for the last four standing from sixty-four entries! Among them is our Grand Champion!
 Go Mike and Laura's Team!!!! WHOOOOO
All the action is over on Michelle's blog for the next two days! 

Here are the matchups:
Cement Gargling 101 vs Madam Butterfly
Jello Poems vs Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

Good Luck Kombatants!

Jun 24, 2016

Query Kombat Round 3 Wrap Up

Round 3 of Query Kombat has officially come to a close.

Our numbers have been cut in half yet again. The Sweet 16 becomes the Elite 8 fighting for just four spots in the next round. Round 4 promises to be the toughest round thus far. I have no idea how the judges are going to do it. Good luck to all!

Below is the list of round 4 entrants and who they will be matched against. Happy taunting. Rebels Without a Comma are in orange.

Madam Butterfly vs My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery

And I Feel Fine vs Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care 

Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy vs Cement Gargling 101

Jello Poems vs. One-Handed Wonder


Jun 21, 2016

Query Kombat Round 3!

Round 3!

This round lasts until June 23rd at 8 pm.

On the last day the hosts will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. In the event a tie remains, the blog host will provide the tie breaker.

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the fourth round on June 25th!
There will not be any more opportunities to revise for the remainder of the tournament. Good luck!

Now before we begin:

Read this post again to remind yourselves of the rules and guidelines of 

commenting and judging. Below I've reposted the main ideas:

Reminders for the Entrants:

You may comment on your own entries ON the last day of the round to offer thanks or congrats. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on twitter as soon as you can. (@RavenousRushing) If you don't have a Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling us the mistake. Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.
Kombatants should comment on 6 other match-ups to help share the love around! But Kombatants do not cast votes. 

Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!). Be sure to point out the good as well as what needs work. Post under your nicknames! If you forget, just delete and repost. And judges: seriously, thank you for doing this. It's a very tough job and isn't for the faint-hearted.

Reminders for Everyone:

Try not to comment until after one of us hosts have made the first comment, then go ahead and offer your feedback. We ask everyone who entered Query Kombat to leave at least one comment. 

NOW THE FUN BEGINS!!! GO GO GO!!! We'll be Tweeting under #QueryKombat!


QK Round 3: My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery vs. Ticket to Ride

Title: Windfall
Nickname: My Boyfriend Rigged The Lottery
Word Count: 83K
Genre: YA Contemporary Suspense


In Marina’s culture, dumplings are thought to bring wealth and good fortune to anyone who eats them. But she’s been eating dumplings her whole life and good fortune remains as elusive as a good boyfriend. She’s a Chinese-American piano prodigy with no say in her future, and the pressure to be perfect is crushing her. 

On her eighteenth birthday, Marina plays Windfall—a new lottery game promising large payouts every day for life. When she wins and her dad inexplicably forbids her from claiming the prize, she feels newly entitled to defy her parents and reject their plans for her life. She accepts the money against their wishes, cutting her family ties in the process. As she lets new friends in, including a sexy guitar player named Sean who represents everything that’s missing from her musical life, her old friends get pushed to the side.

But Marina’s lottery win comes with strings attached. She was hand-picked to win because of her family connections, and because those on top thought she’d be easy to manipulate. If she fails to do her part and the scandal is exposed, she’ll be removed. Since it’s a for-life prize, the company only has to pay out as long as she’s … well, alive. When Marina finds evidence linking her dad to the intrigue, she turns to Sean for help. But Sean’s arrival in her life was suspiciously close to the announcement of her lottery win and there’s a lot she doesn’t know about him, including the fact that he’s the CEO’s nephew. To keep her family and friends out of the crossfire of the scandal, Marina must figure out who to trust and who’s pulling the lottery strings—before her prize becomes a noose.

First 250:

My best friend’s raspberry spritzer sat dangerously close to the edge of the table, a twitch of the elbow away from tumbling to the floor. It was non-alcoholic, of course. The staff at Valer Prep made sure that alcohol was only consumed by parents (preferably ones with fat checkbooks) at the annual fundraising events.

I reached over Darya and slid her drink to a less precarious spot in the center of the table. She didn’t even notice—she just kept staring at the phone in her hands.

Okay, I was staring at it too.

“The draw was at six. Why haven’t they posted the numbers yet?” Darya’s eyes were wide, and her dark hair hung in thick waves down her back. She had the tiniest hint of a Spanish accent, but it only came out when she was stressed or upset. Like now.

“Relax, it’s only been five minutes.” My leg bounced up and down under the table, upsetting the floor-length tablecloth.

The parents in the decked-out ballroom were dressed like they’d gotten lost on their way to the Oscars and ended up at our high school’s silent auction by mistake. They mingled about, bidding on rounds of golf at exclusive country clubs and dinner cruises around the San Francisco Bay. What they really should have been bidding on were self-help courses like: Connecting with Teens For Dummies, or How to Break Your Workout Addiction in Ten Easy Steps.

Despite what I'd said to Darya, I felt anything but relaxed.


Entry Nickname: Ticket to Ride
Word Count: 78K
Genre: YA contemporary


Seventeen-year-old Jack wants to escape his narrow-minded Appalachian hometown more than anything. His family’s welfare checks pay for little more than food on the table, his mom and her pastor won’t stop lecturing him about his sins, and the rumors about his sexuality floating around school make him feel unsafe at every turn. The only thing worth looking forward to is the full-ride scholarship with his name on it—his one-way ticket to a better life.

But his plans hadn’t involved falling for Casey, the boy from the trailer park down the road who understands him in ways no one else in their town can. With the countdown to college ticking away, there’s only a limited amount of time to make the most out of their relationship. And unfortunately for Jack, using his scholarship means leaving Casey behind.

Then, right before college starts, his mother tries to commit suicide, blaming her attempt on her son’s sexual orientation. Overwhelmed with guilt, Jack finds his mental state heading in the same direction as his mom’s. It doesn’t help that he hasn’t slept since she kicked him out of her room at the psychiatric clinic, or that Casey, without explanation, hasn’t returned any of his calls since the incident. Now, Jack must learn to balance the life he’s been dealt and the life he wants before he can patch up the situation with his mom and win back the guy he loves.

First 250:

Jack snapped his head around. What was different? Had the shower curtain moved?

He swiped a hand over his face to clear away the sudsy water, then examined each corner of the shower stall. Nothing, nothing, and nothing. The only thing within reach was his tiny bottle of shampoo, the one shower product he’d been using to clean himself.


There, on the bar above the shower curtain, he saw it: No clothes hanging over the bar, no towel, even though they’d been there just moments before.


He rotated the lever until the water stopped flowing. Surely this couldn’t be happening. His towel must’ve fallen off the curtain rod. His clothes, too. Because there was no way someone had taken them. Right?

Jack placed a hand on the shower curtain, ready to pull it back. His stomach clenched as the root of the problem hit him: the noise level in the locker room also fell into the “nothing” category. He heard no talking, no footsteps, no lockers slamming. Had he been so focused on his thoughts—what was I thinkin’ about, again?—that he’d missed when the entire gym class left?

With a turn of his wrist, he peeled back the edge of the shower curtain. His gaze landed on the bare floor, the empty bench, and the vacated shower stalls. The only sound prickling his ears was his own breathing.

Everyone was gone. And they’d taken his clothes on their way out.

QK Round 3: Escape the Fate vs. Cement Gargling 101

Title: Prophecy Punk
Entry Nickname: Escape the Fate
Word Count: 65K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy


Cassandra of Troy High School has the gift of divine prophecy, is compelled to recite what she sees, and is cursed--no one can ever remember what she says.

Knowing the future sucks the life out of everything (and has left her in need of a serious attitude adjustment) but Cass has discovered an almost as good consolation prize: money. When her prophecies are ready to become reality, she presses record and uploads the video to her website. All Cass cares about are how those thousands of ‘press play’ clicks turn into cash.

While ProphecyPunked.com is a much-needed money-maker, Cass’ prophecies aren’t all viral video worthy. Buried beneath the funny accidents, incredible feats, and curious glimpses of her future girlfriend, she also foresees a deadly rivalry brewing. A foreboding vortex of violence has begun to swirl around her beautiful, and beloved sister, Helen. With the sinister threat of a school shooting looming, Cass must turn to her morally bankrupt ex-boyfriend, Apollo, for help. She swore to never speak to him again after their prophecy-fueled blackmail business ended badly. Unfortunately, he’s the only who can help her (because that dirtbag can remember her prophecies).

Together, they vow to do anything (including lie, cheat, steal, commit felonies…) if it will prevent Helen’s death. Cass knows the future is impossible to change, but for the first time in her life, she’s ready to fight fate.

First 250:

Cass had warned him this would happen.

A dangerous patch of early morning ice had formed up ahead, right in front of the door to the fast food place where he worked. He pulled on his coat while talking to someone not visible through the glass door.

“Why are you stalking Kiernan? I thought you didn’t like him?” Diana asked. Foggy plumes of breath formed with each impatient huff. “Anyway, we’re going to be late so let’s go.”

Cass lounged against the Java Joint's brick wall. She winked at Diana, lips curling into a mischievous smile--the kind that made a person want in on whatever was about to go down.

“Shut up before you mess up my video.” She pressed the camera icon on her phone and held it up toward the spot she had seen in her prophecy.

“Ooh!” Diana rushed to her side, peeking over Cass’ shoulder to watch the screen. “What are we recording?”

It had always been we, not you.

“In about ten seconds, Kiernan is going to come running out of the building, slip and almost fall for about seven seconds of pure hilarity in a stunning show of balance and luck. It’s going to be great. I’m thinking about calling it Lights, Camera, Traction.”

Diana’s eyes glazed over with an opaque sheen. Her face slackened while the memory of Cass’ prophecy erased itself from her mind. When she blinked, her eyes returned to their normal dark brown.

“Did you just say something?” she asked.


Title: The Siren Episode
Entry Nickname: Cement Gargling 101
Word Count: 82K
Genre: YA Fantasy


Arlen’s parents kill monsters—sirens, gorgons, and even leprechauns—then broadcast the murders on their TV show, Myth Slayers. And killing is a family business.

Ever since mythological creatures destroyed San Francisco twelve years ago, Myth Slayers has been number one in the ratings. Now the show’s stars want to retire and force the reins upon their son. But at seventeen, Arlen doesn’t want to slaughter monsters on primetime TV—he just wants to survive high school, where a quirk in his Myth Slayer blood makes life unbearable.

Arlen’s blood gives him power, but repels members of the opposite sex. He can’t even approach girls without making them physically ill. So when he finds a girl who’s not getting sick, he finally sees a chance at a normal life. Problem is, Lenora’s a siren. Worse, she’s a murderer. And Lenora hides a secret: the location of a safe filled with evidence that Arlen’s parents destroyed San Francisco, not the monsters. If opened, the safe’s contents could ruin his family, leaving humans unprotected against nightmarish creatures. Arlen’s parents want the siren dead, and Arlen faces an impossible choice: kill Lenora to bury the secret, or trust the siren and expose the truth.

First 250:

Arlen Boggs hopped his neighbor’s fence and slipped past the protestors. They’d camped in front of his house again, picket signs raised. He tried to keep his footsteps light, but the rain puddles didn’t help his cause.

Two blocks, he thought. You can do two blocks without getting recognized.

The morning air chilled his neck, and he buttoned his father’s trench coat, too big for his lanky frame. Arlen wore the coat, baseball cap, and sunglasses to keep himself hidden. He hoped it would work this time.

Head down, he hurried along the narrow sidewalk. Trees rustled on either side of the street, and he glanced up at the sycamores. Nothing but windblown leaves.

A woman’s voice came from behind him: “There he is.”

Arlen turned to look at the protestors, five houses back. “Great,” he muttered.

Two of their poster boards read, “GO AWAY, MYTH SLAYERS!” and “MYTHS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO!” Despite the wet September morning, the crazy zealots surged onto the road and shouted at him.

A few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, Arlen still didn't have his driver's license. His parents never had time to teach him, always out filming their TV show. Otherwise, he would have driven himself to school and avoided the daily hate-fest.

Another tree rustled and a branch snapped.

Could be a monster.

The protestors sped up, chasing after him with their hand-painted signs.

Arlen broke into a jog. Monsters in the trees, protestors on his tail. Why were mornings so complicated?

QK Round 3: Jello Poems vs. Parters-in-Magic

Title: The Henchmen Company
Entry Nickname: Jello Poems
Word Count: 37K
Genre: MG Humor


Nobody would dare call Gordo Vanderhough a baboon-faced dorkisaur.

Towering over even the adults at Taft Elementary and the only 6th grader with a 5 o’clock shadow, Gordo is known for toppling kids in the lunch line like dominoes (Ga-pow!) and stealing entire trays of Jello (because he only loves two things in life: Jello and poetry). But nobody ever calls him a dorkisaur because nobody really talks to him at all.

One day a man not only talks to Gordo, but actually compliments him and invites him to join the Henchman Company. Gordo, though the youngest henchman, is a natural at all of it: giving evil glares, maniacal laughter, trash talking, throwing large kitchen appliances, and not thinking too much. He’s thrilled about his first job until he figures out that his boss is an evil mastermind trying to hook the internet up to his own brain. If successful he will be able to control a secret government robot army and a flying spaceship the size of a city. This creepoid is going to bully his way to world domination. Suddenly, Gordo questions his career path.

When the other henchmen get wind of his change of heart, Gordo finds out what it feels like to be the one being bullied. With total human annihilation on the line (and the fate of all gelatin desserts), Gordo decides to use his size and skills for good. This villain is about to get Gordoed.

First 250:

Gordo Vanderhough lumbered into the cafeteria past dozens of other hungry kids. He headed straight for the front of the line but no one called out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” No one chided, “You can’t do that.” And nobody even thought of saying, “Get to the back of line, you baboon-faced dorkisaur or I’ll kick you in the teeth.”

They didn’t say the last line for several reasons. One reason was that no one at Taft Elementary could kick high enough to reach Gordo’s teeth. It would require an amazing jump, a ladder, or a trampoline. Maybe even all three. But the most important reason was that no one dared say anything remotely threatening to Gordo Vanderhough.

Gordo was officially the hugest kid at Taft Elementary. In fact, he was the largest person—period. Though he was a sixth grader, he towered over the teachers. He was also as wide as a buffalo—the big kind with burly shoulders and a mop of dirty fur on its head. Plus, if you looked really close, Gordo’s chin had the stubbly beginnings of a beard. His nanny told him to shave every other day, but she only spoke Polish so he couldn’t understand a word she said. To him, it sounded like she was telling him to sing songs about shampooing zebras. And that didn’t make any sense. Needless to say, Gordo didn’t shave, or sing songs, or shampoo zebras.


Title: Spellbinders
Entry Nickname: Partners-in-Magic
Word Count: 74K
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy


When twelve-year-old Sam heals a dying cat with her bare hands, her world gets turned on its head. Magic exists in boring upstate New York. Sam has magical powers. Strangest of all, she used to know all of this, before a magical accident destroyed her memory.

Unfortunately for Sam, her magical past comes complete with a snarky elf named Gabe, who reappears in Sam’s life as her powers emerge and now he won’t go away. Ever. Sam and Gabe are a pair of Spellbinders, bonded for life. She can't perform a single spell without him.

Sam is still reeling from her magical awakening when Spellbinders start disappearing. All over New York, humans and elves with magical powers are being abducted. When Sam’s guardian, Aunt Jo, goes missing too, Sam and Gabe set out to rescue her. But the path to Aunt Jo is dangerous. They don’t know whom to trust, they can’t quite control their own powers yet, and they have a pair of would-be kidnappers on their trail. And rescuing Aunt Jo becomes more important than ever when they learn who is targeting Spellbinders…and why. 

First 250:

Unlike most twelve-year-olds, Samantha Jacobson had a stalker. He was small, grey and white, and quite possibly the most irritating stray in cat history. He watched Sam every morning as she tried to tame her straggly hair into a ponytail. He watched her every evening as she kissed a photograph of her mother goodnight. No matter where she was, the stalker cat would find his way to her side and stare. She called the cat Creep.

It was week four of Creep-gate, and Sam felt like a prisoner in her own house, complete with her own furry guard. It was also the last day of 6th grade, which meant her problem was about to get a lot worse. She would soon have to endure eight more hours of disapproving cat-stares each day.

But Sam refused to give into cat terror. While her teachers talked about summer assignments, she huddled over her notebook writing a plea to Aunt Jo for help with her “Creep problem.” She planned deliver it that evening at dinner. This was a desperate move and Sam knew it. Aunt Jo loved cats and had a particular soft spot for mangy strays like Creep. All the strays in upstate New York had free rein on their property. At least six of them had colonized the sprawling vegetable gardens outside Sam’s window.

Sam fiddled with her glasses and bit her lip. Hopefully, Aunt Jo wasn’t kidding when she said she appreciated a well-reasoned argument.

QK Round 3: One-Handed Wonder vs. The Order of Black

Title: The Windup
Entry Nickname: One-Handed Wonder
Word Count: 40K
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Contemporary


Kyle Whalen, a southpaw Little League pitcher, had enjoyed a typical adolescent boyhood until a car crash took his right hand, his twin brother, and his passion for life. Now, three years later, Kyle is fourteen and determined to play ball again in memory of his brother and fulfill the dream they shared: win the Brookhaven Invitational Baseball Tournament, a feat his home team has never accomplished.

Kyle practices hard with his catcher Hailey—the girl he’s crushing on and best friends with—but he struggles to pitch and bat one-handed. Those challenges mount when he discovers she likes a rival ballplayer. Things get worse when his coach and several of his teammates bail, leaving his team ineligible to compete. It’s game on, though, when Kyle convinces his estranged dad to take over as coach and his troublemaker cousin joins the team.

As Kyle leads his ragtag club toward the championship, he grows closer to his father, the man he thought no longer cared—about anything, not since the crash. Kyle also begins competing for Hailey’s heart. When Kyle settles a score with a bully by whiffing him each at bat and bouncing his team from the tournament, he thinks the torment is over. He thought wrong. The bully pulls a nasty prank on Kyle a few hours before the big game, and Kyle must choose between keeping the dream alive and keeping his family together.

First 250:

I stood atop the pitcher’s mound, baseball in hand. My only hand. Perched over the stub where my right hand used to be was my baseball glove, pocket-down.

“Last one, Kyle. Fire it in here,” Hailey said, punching her catcher’s mitt. She was my age, fourteen, and a cutie. Ponytailed blond hair. A freckled nose. Full lips. Yeah, I had a crush on her, but it was just a tiny one. Really. Okay, a big one.

The two of us had been practicing on the weed-choked Little League field for about two hours. Summer rays warmed the back of my neck. My tired pitching arm sagged at my side. I dug my cleat into the soft dirt in front of the pitching rubber, wound up, and slung a fastball. After my follow-through, I slipped my hand into my glove, fumbling a bit, and got into fielding position. Mastering the transfer of my glove was the hardest part. I had no doubt teams would test me by hitting comebackers.

“Nice pitch,” Hailey said, hopping up. “You’re ready for this.”

I shook off my glove. “I hope so.”

It was one thing to practice without a batter standing at home plate. It was another story to pitch in a tournament, which was what I planned to do in just a few days. The last time I laced up for a game was three years ago. Back when my dad was the coach. Back when I had a right hand. Back when I had a twin teammate to double high-five.


Title: The Order of Black Hollow Lane
Entry Nickname: The Order of Black
Word Count: 57K
Genre: MG Mystery


Ginny’s mom is a world-renowned parenting expert with no parenting skills of her own. She doesn’t even give Ginny warning before dumping her at a boarding school right before her thirteenth birthday. If only Ginny’s dad was around to look after her, but he disappeared when she was three. She figures she’s heard the last of him.

Then the box arrives. It’s crammed with ornate medallions. There’s no return address, just a note that says, ‘These belonged to your father.’ Ginny thinks the medallions are just heirlooms until she sees symbols from the box in an unexpected place: her new boarding school. She starts investigating and finds out her dad was a member of a mysterious student society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane.

At first it seems like nothing more than an old boys’ club, but then Ginny finds evidence that The Order had something to do with her dad’s disappearance. She’s desperate to learn more about what happened to him, but The Order won’t give up its secrets without a fight. When some of its members start threatening her, Ginny has to decide if finding out what happened to her dad is worth the risk…even if it means risking her life.

First 250:

There were certain things Ginny’s mother didn’t really need to know. Trivial things, like whether Ginny had clipped her toenails that morning, or that she’d stepped in something sticky at the park. But the box in Ginny's nightstand was not a trivial thing. Ginny knew it wasn't. And that's why her fingers twitched every time her mother came into her room.

"Are you ready, dear?" Her mom opened the door. "The press will be here in a few—“ She put her hand to her chest and gasped.

Ginny held her breath. She had put the box away, right? If her mom saw it, if she found out....

Suddenly her mother's eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Ginny, that dress...you look just...just beautiful."

Ginny breathed out and picked at the crunchy taffeta on the front of her dress. She had to put the box out of her mind. She needed to focus today.

“Don’t you just love these little pink polka dots?” her mom asked as she brushed Ginny’s hands away from the dress. “They’re all hand-sewn, that’s why they pop out so much!”

It looked like the dress had come down with the measles. The sleeves puffed out like pink toadstools, which would come in handy if Ginny ever needed a place to hide a cat.

QK Round 3: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care vs. What's Luck Got to Do With It

Title: The Gray Hole
Entry Nickname: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care
Word Count: 63K
Genre: Magic Realism/Suspense


Six students at Mayville High will be dead by Saturday night. Again. And again, they will begin the week over just before Tuesday's first period class. Doomed to repeat the same week until seventeen-year-old Grayson Dell decides to stop killing, the group must work through two problems: First, Grayson has no idea the groundhog week from hell is happening; Second, the victims are all jerks.

As Grayson debates whether or not to kill, some of his victims begin to see the cycle as a blessing instead of a curse, and in order to ensure it continues, they increase their cruelty to outrageous levels. It isn’t until Grayson’s once-most-brutal tormentor and member of that group treats him as a fellow human that signs of a possible end to the cycle begin to appear. Now with the help of his old adversary, Grayson must steer clear of his other victims and all their evil plans in order to find the therapy, medications, and friendships he needs. Otherwise, he will be forced to endure the week before prom forever, corsages, limos, improvised-explosives, and all.

Although the manuscript is narrated by a second-person voice in Grayson’s head, his is not the only story being told. Since Grayson is unaware of the temporal loop, so is the voice, leaving the reader to only feel the presence of the loop through Grayson’s interactions with the group of students he kills. While Grayson’s outlook resets with each chapter, the group members’ memories continue across the length of the manuscript, allowing their individual outlooks and attitudes to evolve, or in some cases, devolve. These secondary arcs are as seen by the voice in Grayson's head who keeps saying "you" when any rational, reliable narrator would clearly just say "I."

First 250:


You tell yourself today will be different. Maybe it will. The lockers are the same sick, pale blue as yesterday, the linoleum floors still shine with same pungent cleaners that have been disintegrating nose hairs and SEAL-Team-Sixing brain cells for all four years you’ve spent in this school. And your classmates – if they’ve changed anything other than the color of their hair, it’d be tantamount to Chris Hemsworth intentionally eating a carb.

But still.

That pale blue used to be your favorite color before your wardrobe and your attitude took an about-face to the dark side. The chemical glint and nauseating smell from the floor is fading with each sneaker’s squeaking step. And those people – the juniors, sophomores, freshman, even your classmates – they all could –

Your head snaps against a locker so hard it’s unclear whether the high pitched hum ringing in your ears is just a sudden bout of tinnitus or if the blue painted metal is actually screaming back at you. You try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red, but the hand that put you there doubles the pressure from its sweaty palms, digging the blunted and jagged ends of chewed away nails into the back of your head and your left cheek.

You stop struggling before you start. Today will be no different. Why would it be? Embarrassment is the baseline of high school, and pain is just a reminder you haven’t left yet.



The author of What's Luck Got to Do With It received an offer of rep! Congrats!!!
Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care wins by default!

QK Round 3: Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy vs. Meet Me at Lake NevaeH

Title: Under the Surface
Entry Nickname: Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy
Word Count: 64K
Genre: YA Speculative Fiction


Seventeen-year-old Lauren is a professional mother-disappointer… but losing her sister in an eerie underwater town sets a whole new standard.

When Lauren hears the legend, she’s intrigued; exploring the lost town under Lake Modoc is the perfect adventure to take her mind off of her mounting stack of detention letters. Together with her two best friends, she hops on a boat (somewhat illegally) and sets out to discover the Atlantis of Owego County.

One problem: Lauren must bring her eight-year-old tattletale sister, Roxie, along for the ride. In the split second Lauren and her friends find the creepy, algae-covered church steeple under the lake, Roxie disappears from the boat. Silently, impossibly, Roxie is gone.

With her sister missing, Lauren is wracked with grief and uncertainty. She becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets behind Roxie’s increasingly mysterious disappearance. But when the police can’t see the steeple Lauren leads them to—the place where Roxie vanished—she takes matters into her own hands, scuba diving into the deep.

Lauren finds out too late that the town under the lake was abandoned there for a reason. By opening its doors, she unleashes its dark, magical ability to lure away children—and if she doesn’t find her sister soon, she might have more than one lost kid to answer for.

With Roxie’s life hanging in the balance, Lauren must piece together the secrets of the town under Lake Modoc—or live under the weight of Roxie’s death forever.

First 250:

Whenever I stand on the shores of Lake Modoc, I scour the horizon like I’ll find something out of the ordinary. Today I do the same, letting my eyes skip over the dark blanket of water as the wind plays with the ends of my hair. On the edge of my vision something bobs some twenty feet away, but the moment I squint harder to see its shape, it disappears.

“Ugh, damn it! These test tubes are impossible,” Carly shouts beside me, breaking my reverie.

“Jesus. You ruined my yoga vibe.”

“Yeah, ‘cause I can totally see you doing downward-facing whatever. Can you help for two seconds?” Carly pushes her red curls out of her face, bent over the water’s edge.

As I step toward her, movement flashes in the water again. My stomach drops out, leaving a vague sense of dread in its place. Whatever’s out there avoids my glance, so I force myself to take up my time-honored duty: talking Carly down from insanity.

“Hey,” I say. “It’s a simple assignment. We’d be fine using tap water.”

“Tap water is too easy. I want a challenge.” The glass tubes she’s struggling with tumble into the lake, causing her to swear under her breath.

“Well, consider yourself challenged.”

Carly has been my best friend since that time we had the misfortune of being dressed in the same hideous sweater on picture day in the second grade, but at times like these I reconsider our actual compatibility as human beings.


Title: Lost Inside Her
Entry Nickname: Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh
Word Count: 71K
Genre: YA Thriller


For as long as seventeen-year-old Violet can remember, she’s had a voice in her head she calls Gabby. Gabby’s not just her best friend, she feels real. To doctors, the voice is a mental aberration they’ve treated with meds and therapy. But nothing’s worked.

Gabby hasn’t been her playful self lately. She begs Violet for help, but can’t clearly communicate what’s wrong. All Violet knows is the fear reaches so deep, it makes her dizzy and nauseous. Things grow even more confusing when Violet notices weird bruises on her arms. Worried they’ll put her away for good, she keeps the new symptoms to herself. When she meets Neil, her new classmate from Red Lake Indian Reservation, his down-to-earth, gentle nature draws her so close, she trusts him with her secret. And he’s the first to believe her.

When Gabby’s visits land Violet in the hospital, they discover the bruises and plan her transfer to inpatient treatment. Now Violet’s had enough. Hungry for real answers, she runs away with Neil to his reservation, where his grandfather performs a shamanic ritual. Swept into a trance, Violet learns Gabby is a real live, flesh-and-blood person, their bodies linked by a rare anomaly in their cells. Finally, Violet understands the bruises. They’re Gabby’s. And someone’s hurting her. Violet must save her best friend to save her own life…and to have any chance of being with the first guy who ever believed in her.

First 250:

Three days since I’d secretly quit taking my meds. Or was it four? This might have ranked as the stupidest thing I’d ever done. Huddled in the back seat of Dad’s swaying SUV, I forced my eyes open. Swirling gray clouds dumped more rain onto the street, already flooded from a week of late-September storms.

That spot where Gabby’s voice filled my head was empty. For now, anyway. After all her drama, insisting I “stop the drugs,” she hadn’t even popped in since I’d quit. Maybe it was better that way. Because just thinking about how weird she’d been acting lately made me sweat all over. Staring out the window, tears filled my eyes, blurring the falling rain. I didn’t even know my best friend anymore. I almost wished she’d never visit me again.

A gust whipped fat drops against the windshield, forcing Dad to slow down and lean forward. We crawled through the downpour and turned into the mini mart’s lot. While Dad ran in for drinks, Mom flipped down the visor’s mirror and applied that bright-red lipstick I hated. She saw me looking at her. “You still mad at me?”

“I was tired. I didn’t mean to yell.” I’d swear she was more concerned about being yelled at than why I was so upset when she woke me for church. I’d barely slept all night, and I really wanted to tell her why. Tell Dad. Tell someone.

Gabby’s mantra echoed: Keep it inside, where it’s safe with me and you.

QK Round 3: The Ghost and Ms. Clair vs. And I Feel Fine

Title: Donn’s Hill
Entry Nickname: The Ghost and Ms. Clair
Word Count: 83K
Genre: Paranormal Mystery


Mackenzie Clair knew her life would change when her father died, but she wasn’t expecting grief to awaken her lost ability to talk to the dead, or to end up chasing a murderer through the most haunted town in America.

Mac never really figured out what to do with herself, and relies on her dad and their shared love of books and music to get by. When she loses her father to cancer and her boyfriend to infidelity all in the same week, she embarks on a mission to reclaim some joy. She abandons the city life and relocates to her favorite childhood vacation spot: Donn’s Hill, a small town in Middle America that’s best known for an abundance of paranormal activity, especially the séances at its annual Afterlife Festival.

Mac doesn’t get much time to acclimate to small-town living before an angry poltergeist begins to stalk her. She joins forces with the ghost-hunting crew of the nationally televised show Soul Searchers in an attempt to come to terms with her newly re-discovered psychic powers—powers she didn’t understand as a child and barely understands now. When Mac stumbles across a dead body while helping the team film an episode, she recognizes the dead man as the ghost haunting her apartment. It isn’t long before a second body follows the first, and Mac realizes that not only is someone killing off the town’s residents, but at least one of the victims is determined to force Mac to user her powers to bring the killer to justice.

Death has followed Mac to Donn’s Hill, and now she has to make a choice. Run away from this confrontation like she has every other her entire life, or embrace her psychic gift and use it to hunt down a murderer. If she leaves, the poltergeist will surely follow her…but if she stays, she risks joining the ranks of the spirits who wander the town.

First 250:

Someone was sitting on my bed.

I’d awoken to the thin mattress shifting beneath me when his weight pressed down near my right side. My body wanted to roll toward that lower point, but I held myself in place, not wanting to touch him. He—and I was sure it was a “he,” though I couldn’t say why—smelled foul, like rotting garbage, but hadn’t harmed me. Yet. Too frightened to scream and risk propelling my intruder into motion, I held my breath and strained my ears to hear his breathing.

I heard nothing but the hum of a car passing on the highway.

Questions pinged around inside my skull and crashed into each other. What’s going on? Is he holding his breath too? Are we locked in some kind of silent contest, the loser being the one who passes out? How did he get past the locks?

And the most pressing questions of all, the ones I’d need to move to answer: Who is he? What does he want from me?

It couldn’t be anything good. People who want to do good things usually knock.

Taking a chance, I opened one into a narrow slit. The motel room was pitch-black, thanks to the ancient heavy curtains and my having unplugged the digital alarm clock. Keeping my arm under the covers, I crept my left hand toward the nightstand.

Slowly, I told myself. Don’t make a sound.
Faster! my lungs screamed at me.


Title: Starborn
Entry Nickname: And I Feel Fine
Word Count: 85K
Genre: Adult Science Fiction


Numbed and heartless, 24-year-old Sherman Logan has saved every life but his own. He's damn good at pelting in from between galaxies and rescuing as many people off their dying planets as possible for the Enders Agency, an interstellar first-responders team. Over. And. Over.

When Sherman’s last real friend and comrade goes starborn – or dies on the job – to save a suicidal man and his brave and beautiful daughter named Bennett, Sherman falls for her hard.  She wakes him from apathy - but waking means feeling the horror of every victim he didn't save. Soon, he discovers, the carnage won't end at his faraway deployments: Armageddon is about to hit right at home.

On Sherman's resident planet, a poltergeist ruler struggles to retake the podium from beyond the grave. It murders current officials and speaks through intercoms by eerily weaving together clips of its old speeches. Just when Sherman and his comrades realize they may be the only ones able to halt the phantom's violent course to resurrection, Ender agents begin to disappear. With Bennett's help, Sherman must confront the dictator-poltergeist and the root of these vanishings before they come for him too and destroy the Enders for good. On top of the incomprehensible death that haunts his everyday life, he'll have to venture deeper into his crashing universe – and himself – than he could have ever imagined.

But hey, apocalypse doesn't faze him. It’s his job.

First 250:

The vehicle jumps and knocks my hand off the wheel.

I slam it back. Sarge says keep on the wheel. Don’t let go of the wheel.

Fuck that. Sarge ain’t here. The grey leather jerks in my grip and I keep my foot hard against the pedal. My eyes are dead ahead as the blizzard pushes us aside before I can jolt the wheel steady. But the bridge is falling apart beneath us; concrete crumbling from our tires into the steel colored ocean below. Hail flashes like daggers off the headlights.

I glance into the overhead mirror at the huddled children in the backseat. Siblings. They always give those to me for some reason.

“Sherm!” The mic attached to my shoulder buzzes.

Instinctively, I look out the driver’s window, expecting to see someone cruising next to me. Unc’s two lanes over, looking asleep again. His wrinkly old hand holds the wheel and his eyes droop, but nothing stirs, no emotion when his car jostles past a pothole at ninety miles per hour. More concrete railing sinks into the sea far below.

Wasn’t Unc. Of course. I know the voice.

I scrunch up my shoulder and speak into the mic, keeping my eyes on the road as we finally peak at the bridge’s arch and head for the descent. “Talk, Grant.”

Fuzz. Heavy breathing as Grant messes with his shoulder sleeve to speak.

“What’re we gonna do if this thing blows?”

“I’m gonna die. What’re you going to do?”

Always freaks him out.

QK Round 3: Madam Butterfly vs Irish in America

Title: The Absence of Butterflies
Entry Nickname: Madam Butterfly
Word Count: 80K
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance


Will Kavanagh is the only one who knows the truth about the drug overdose that killed Christy Talbot. Not that he’s telling. The world famous actress may have starred in the film adaption of his novel, but that doesn’t mean he wants to go to jail for giving her illegal drugs. Troubled by a mounting sense of self-loathing and guilt, Will returns to the only place he has ever felt something other than lost: home. Not that everyone in town is rolling out the red carpet for Cherrington’s prodigal son—especially not his former fiancée, Jessica Locke.

Following the unexpected death of her father, Jessica needs something—anything—to keep herself busy, and fixing up a property for Will’s mother sounds like just the ticket. The only hitch is her ego-fueled ex-fiancé is back—the one who left her in the rear-view mirror on his way to literary fame in NYC. Will is the last person Jessica wants to talk about, let alone see. The trouble is, she never could resist those piercing blue eyes and tortured writer’s soul. It isn’t long before things heat up between them once again.

Each dealing with death in very different ways, Jessica and Will navigate conflicting emotions and their undeniable attraction to find something worth saving. Too bad Will, haunted by the knowledge of how Christy died, isn’t exactly relationship-ready. Neither is Jessica. She knows Will is hiding something and she’s determined to find out what.

Then Will realizes that unless he’s willing to reveal his secret to Jessica, fast, he could lose her trust—and her love—all over again. Because, as it turns out, Will isn't the only one who knows the truth behind Christy’s death.

 First 250:

When Will Kavanagh stepped out of the coffee shop, his eyes were drawn to the bookstore window like a magnet.

Just get back in the damn car, he commanded himself.

But his legs seemed to move of their own volition, taking him over to the book display. He would have recognized those red and gold splashed covers anywhere. Bold black letters at the top of each one proclaimed Now a Major Motion Picture. Underneath was a snapshot of the two main stars. The one on the right gazed back at Will, her full lips curved in a wide smile. His gut twisted into knots of guilt.

As he stood transfixed on the sidewalk, the world around him faded away. He didn’t see Christy Talbot with her arm around her leading man. Instead his mind burned with the image of the actress as she lay sprawled on the floor next to an upended pill bottle, her eyes empty. Those eyes had haunted him every day for the last two months.

“Excuse me.”

The voice made him snap back to the present. A man stood beside him, holding out the bag that contained Will’s bagel. “You dropped this.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled.

“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?”

Will stiffened. “No.”

He strode back to his BMW. With a tightness in his chest, he drove past the downtown stores, this time making damn sure his eyes faced forward. He needed another reminder of Christy like he needed a hole in the head.


Title: Donovan
Entry Nickname: Irish in America
Word Count: 100K
Genre: Adult Historical Romance


In post-Civil War Arizona, Jesse Travers' father and brother die, leaving her with a crumbling ranch and a deep well of distrust.

Shunned by the village for her outlaw brother's deeds, Jesse is not sorry to hear he's been killed while robbing a bank. Strangely enough it is Adam Donovan, the man who shot her brother, who brings the news. Even more strange is the Irish immigrant's willingness to help her put her ranch back on solid footing.

Donovan is known as a man with a fast temper and an even faster gun, and all of Jesse's experiences with her neighbors have left her jaded. But love for her canyon home overcomes her trepidation, and she accepts Donovan's help. Despite his reputation, he seems gentle and empathetic – a far cry from her brother, whose relentless abuse drove her to the brink of despair, or her father, who would never believe the things Jesse told him about her brother.

As they work together, Jesse begins to let down her guard, and feels the first stirrings of love – an experience she's never known before. On the verge of believing she might be worthy of happiness, Jesse discovers that her mongrel brother's treachery has consequences that reach beyond the grave, and they might rip the new life she's building to shreds.

If the truth comes out, Jesse knows the villagers will blame her for her brother's crimes – they've done it all along. She has no recourse but to confide in Donovan and hope he'll stand with her. But Jesse's not sure who she's seeking help from: the temperamental gunfighter or the compassionate man who sings as he works. She only knows that if she's wrong about him, she'll face a lifetime of solitude and shame.

First 250:

Jesse Travers stood in the cabin door, willing her hands to unclench, her jaw to relax. The old man who sat wrapped in a blanket by the fire was being more querulous than usual. He can’t help it, she told herself, any more than he can help being old. Or crippled. But God help us if this day doesn’t end soon.

The clearing where the cabin stood was too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently today.

The only restful thing was the occasional glimpse of buckskin in the sycamores. The old man always told her that wild animals knew where there was danger and would run away. So maybe it’s nothing–maybe it’s just too hot for April. Maybe that’s what makes me feel so sick.

Then the utter silence yielded to the faint clip-clop of horse’s hooves.

No one should be coming. No one ever came. She tasted the sharp metal of fear. As the hoofbeats closed in, she took up an old Sharps rifle and moved out onto the sagging porch, into the shadows of its roof.

Round the edge of the cottonwood grove, the horse ambled into sight. Its rider had dark hair, dark clothes, a dark gun sitting low on his left hip. There isn’t anyone in the Territory who doesn’t know who he is. But what does he want here? Squaring her shoulders and raising the rifle, she took a single step into the light. 

Jun 18, 2016

Query Kombat Round 3 Matchups


Round 2 of this tournament is officially over. All kontenders fought valiantly, but alas, half of you must be knocked out. Win or lose, thanks for officially making QK the toughest query tournament in all the land.

A standing ovation to those of you who fought and came out victorious. A full 48 entries out of the 64 that started this tournament have been eliminated. Those left can practically smell the title of QK Grand Champion. Best of luck in round 3, kontenders. You're going to need it.
Please have your revised entries to us by Sunday, June 19th at 8 pm EST. Use the same format and send to the contest email: QueryKombat (at) gmail (dot) com.
Round 3 will be hosted on Mike's blog from June 21st-23rd. Below is not only a list of who made it into the 3rd round, but who entrants be match against as well. Orange entries are on Team Rebels without a Comma!!!

Happy Editing!

Madam Butterfly vs. Irish in America

The Ghost and Ms. Clair vs. And I Feel Fine

Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy vs. Meet Me at Lake Neveah

What's Luck Got to Do With it vs. Hot Sauce is Bad of Wound Care

One-Handed Wonder v. The Order of Black

Jello Poems v. Partners in Magic

Escape the Fate vs. Cement Gargling 101

My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery vs. Ticket to Ride

Jun 13, 2016

Query Kombat Round 2 Matchups

The agent/editor round was a HUGE success this year. A total of 146 requests were made, with two entries tied for the most requests at 11 each.

Below you will find Round 2 match-ups. Since TWO entries received an offer of representation before and during the agent round, we have 30 entries going into the second round instead of 32. 

Round two will be hosted on Laura and Michelle's blog. Orange match-ups will be posted on Michelle's blog, and Laura with post purple match-ups. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet us: @ravenousrushing @michelle4laughs @lh_writes.

Round 2 Match-ups
Ivy League Sex Scandal v. Madam Butterfly
Samba and Surrender v. What's Luck Got to Do With It?
Croissants Kill! v. The Ghost and Ms. Clair
Human Kind is Basically Screwed v. Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy Cuddles and Coups v. Irish in America
Black Holes v. And I Feel Fine
Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh v. These Little Earthquakes
To Be a Man v. Escape the Fate
Southern Gothic Secrets v. Ticket to Ride
Cypotopolis v. Cement Gargling 101
My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery v. Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care
Ice Cream Rebel Rousers v. The Order of Black
Mustache Head v. Jello Poems
Partners-in-Magic v. Humanimal
Play Chess, Not Checkers v. One-Handed Wonder
Good Luck Kombatants!

Jun 8, 2016

Query Kombat Agent Round

Here we go! The agent round! Before you dive in, please - agents and entrants - read this post!
Agents, entrants are spread out over all three blogs. You can also find them at Michelle's and Mike’s blog. Blog assignment does not necessarily indicate who picked them.

Agents will request by saying, “I want to see more of this!” and leaving their submission instructions. (Kombatants: Don’t forget to put QUERY KOMBAT Request in your subject line when sending material!) As you remember, agent requests will stay hidden until an entry is knocked out of the tournament. The number of pages you’ll send depends on how far you go in Query Kombat! 

It's because we're super evil. Here's how the system works: 

Host Saves or Round 2 knockout = 30 page request Round 3 knockout = 50 page request 
Round 4 knockout = 100 page request 
Round 5 knockout = 150 page request 
Round 6 knockout = 200 page request 
GRAND CHAMPION = Full request  

For instance, getting knocked out in the third round means an entrant will send 50 pages to any agent who requested their work. The grand champion winner from the final round will see their requests bumped up to a full. Host Saves will be allowed to see their requests immediately as they are not continuing to the 2nd round. 

Each agent gets 2 wild cards! (In the case of a wild card, said wild card is displayed immediately, giving Kombatants a reason to watch the blogs!) If an agent sees an entry where getting the minimum of 30 pages isn’t enough, they can play a wild card and name their amount of pages and get their request immediately! If they fall in love and absolutely want a full, the wild card will let them do that. However, only two wild cards can stand per entry. That means only the first two wild cards count. After that, the agents will have to wait. So that’s it! Commenting on entries is only allowed for agents. Kombatants can mix and mingle on twitter but can’t comment, with the exception of this post where they can leave questions.

Best of luck and May the Requests Be With You! 


Agent Round: YA Science Fiction - Sanctuary

06/09/2016: This entry has an offer pending. All requests will be released ASAP. The author has ask for a week to consider her options. Please keep this in mind when making requests.

Title: Sanctuary
Entry Nickname: Don’t Eat Me!
Word Count: 80,000
Genre: YA Science Fiction


Seventeen year old Kenzie Cord has never doubted her future as an elite guard on Sanctuary, an orbital prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. When the prisoners take her hostage, she’s confident her commanding officer -- who also happens to be her mother -- will stop at nothing to secure her freedom.

But Kenzie’s mother chooses regulations over her daughter, leaving Kenzie to engineer her own escape -- easier said than done when surrounded by mind readers, invisible vigilantes, and an infuriatingly charismatic thief who runs at the speed of sound. Reluctantly, she begins to empathize with her captors’ desperation for freedom, wondering whether the real criminals aren’t the people imprisoning children in a soulless, AI-controlled wasteland.

Then monstrous alien creatures tear through Sanctuary, determined to harvest the entire station. With Kenzie’s survival tied to the prisoners’, she discovers there is more to her past than she ever dreamed, and more to the alien invasion than she initially suspected. Her worldview in tatters, she’s torn between the future she’s always imagined and the increasingly complex moral web she’s weaving -- a choice that might land her in prison herself.

Of course, that decision won’t matter if the space monsters eat her first.

First 250:

My parents would kill me if they caught me watching cat videos at two in the morning, but I was too keyed up to sleep. I hunched over my tablet, flipping between cats and ducklings -- anything but my homework -- until the shrill of the alarm shot me straight out of my chair. My head smashed against the low ceiling and my tablet flew across the room. It shut down in protest, leaving me in a sea of flashing red and blaring alarms.

I thumbed the wall controls and jammed my feet into my boots. The lights came up, revealing I had them on the wrong feet. Swearing, I swapped them and tugged at the laces.

“Kenzie!” Dad’s voice boomed from outside.

“Coming,” I shouted. I took a second to scrape my curls out of my face and into a ponytail before I slid the door aside.

Dad waited, looking like he’d just woken up. He frowned at the reflective surface of the comm device embedded in his wrist. “I know!” I said, barreling past him.

The klaxon was loud enough to wake the dead, ridiculous since only five guards lived on the entire prison -- six, if you counted me. I ran down the deserted corridors with Dad on my heels. We bolted through the living quarters into the larger area of the station, housing medical supplies, airlocks, a common room, and of course the command center.

The latter was where we found Mom, hands clasped behind her back, not a hair out of place.

Agent Round: Adult Dark Romantic Suspense - The Dictator's Wife

Title: The Dictator’s Wife
Entry Nickname: Cuddles and Coups
Word Count: 82K
Genre: Adult Dark Romantic Suspense


A military dictatorship governs Britain, led by the First Lord of the Treasury, Julien St John Helmsley. Julien is charming, charismatic, and utterly ruthless, particularly towards the resistance group known as the Treaty.

Melanie Bonham, a member of the Treaty and enemy of the state, accepts her commanding officer’s orders for a deadly last stand. She must become the First Lord’s mistress, learn his secrets, and then assassinate him. Failure would mean torture, death, and vicious retaliation against the rebels, but success could restore democracy.

But Melanie has a secret. Before she faked her death and fled to the Treaty in disguise, she was Julien’s beloved but equally merciless wife. Instead of sneaking into the Regime’s stronghold as the Treaty expects, she makes a triumphant return as the long-lost First Lady, claiming the rebels have held her prisoner for years.

In love with the man she’s meant to kill and tempted by absolute power, “Melanie” must choose between freeing the country and breaking her heart or ruling at Julien’s side and losing her soul – before both sides seek to execute her as a traitor.

Alternating chapters jump backwards and forwards in time to tell the story of the idealistic build-up to the military coup and the brutal realities of its aftermath and to reveal why our rather unreliable narrator really left, why she’s really returned and where her true loyalties lie.

First 250:

I became a triple-agent on the eighth anniversary of Britain’s military coup.

That morning, I strode into the Treaty’s underground control room and pushed through the crowd until I reached the resistance leader.

“Good of you to finally join us, Melanie.” Without another word, David set our hacked CCTV feed to show Somerset House. The elegant arches and columns of the Regime’s London headquarters formed a stark contrast to this utilitarian network of abandoned mines. I studied the soldiers guarding the archway and the helicopters hovering above the courtyard, but the larger-than-life portraits covering the façade demanded my attention.

Honour the First Lord ordered the painting on the left, which depicted a striking man in replica nineteenth-century military uniform. Remember the Eternal Blessed First Lady mourned its companion. My co-conspirators considered its subject a she-devil in life and their most high-profile victim in death.

“The Regime bombed Derby last week for supporting our cause. Yesterday, they wiped out an entire platoon. We need to stop the First Lord once and for all.” Years of outdoor living had given David muscles and a hearty glow. When he spoke, people listened.

I ignored him.

My eyes lingered on the second portrait until I was content the so-called Eternal Blessed First Lady’s curves, red lips and Dior gown bore no resemblance to my soldier’s body and weather-beaten face. Besides, the dictator’s wife had been famous for her Rapunzel curls, and I’d cropped my hair to the skull five years ago when I’d fled to the Treaty.

Agent Round: Adult Science Fiction - The Pull of Gravity

Title: The Pull of Gravity
Entry Nickname: Black Holes
Word Count: 122K
Genre: Adult Sci-Fi


Iari Lenerian wanted to help make the galaxy a better place. He was supposed to be a small cog in a big machine--an informant posing as a palace guard, that’s it. He didn’t mean to attract the Emperor’s attention, didn’t mean to gain his trust. And he didn’t mean to fall in love.

The rebellion that recruited him is going forward as planned. Iari is the only person who can get close to the Emperor--and the only mindfighter strong enough to challenge him. Iari still wants to see his impoverished homeworld free of Imperial exploitation, but he’s not ready to kill the man he loves. Desperate to keep the Emperor safe, Iari takes him hostage aboard the insurgent fleet.

The planet below isn’t so fortunate when Iari’s allies open fire in a last-minute change of plans. Suddenly the galaxy doesn't seem so black and white, and he's feeling more like a traitor than a revolutionary. The Emperor is heartbroken, systems are falling into civil war, and the insurgent leaders are as dangerous as they are powerful. With the destruction of a planet on his conscience and the Emperor's vengeful sister chasing them across space, Iari has to decide if fighting for his ideals is worth sacrificing everything he loves, and becoming a villain himself.

The story is told through two alternating timelines, Before and After.

First 250:

Iari drew a shaky breath and checked the time, dark digits that glowed against the frosted glass of the lounge window. 7:92. Eight minutes until he betrayed his best friend.

He scanned the sky for ships, but it was impossible to make anything out through the blustery snow. They're out there, he reassured himself, though his heart pounded in his chest.

Dialing up the opacity on the windows, he arranged his face into some facsimile of composure and took a moment to gather courage. Emperor Alexander Furin rested on the lavender cushions by the fireplace, forehead in one hand as he scrolled through the reports scattered around him. On any other day, Iari would have picked up the Emperor’s mug and refilled the coffee. On any other day, he would have collected the discarded silk coat, checked their schedule for tomorrow, and found something unusual to order for breakfast. Not today.

The Emperor shifted, gaze flicking up. Iari's breath caught, but the other's eyes passed over him and dropped back to the report pad without focusing. He looked so ordinary there in the dim stillness of the lounge—the fingers in his light hair, the way he sat on one foot, the furrow between his eyes as he concentrated. Not an Emperor, just Alexander.

Iari steeled himself. The time for such feelings was past. Elise stood guard outside their chambers, planetary defenses were down, and ships from the Independent Alliance had entered orbit that morning under the pretense of border negotiations.

Agent Round: YA Spec Fiction - Under the Surface

Title: Under the Surface
Entry nickname: Like Atlantis, Only Totally Creepy
Word Count: 64K
Genre: YA Speculative Fiction


Seventeen-year-old Lauren Williams, self-proclaimed rebel and professional mother-disappointer, needs a distraction.

When Lauren hears about the legend of Lake Modoc, she’s intrigued; exploring the forgotten underwater town is the perfect adventure to take her mind off of her mounting stack of detention letters. Together with her two best friends, Lauren hops on a boat (somewhat illegally) and sets out to discover the Atlantis of Owego County.

One problem: Lauren must bring her eight-year-old tattletale sister, Roxie, along for the ride. In the split second Lauren and her friends find the creepy, algae-covered church steeple under the lake, Roxie disappears from the boat. Silently, impossibly, Roxie is gone.

While the police and the county focus their efforts on dragging the lake, Lauren is wracked with grief. She becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets behind Roxie’s increasingly mysterious disappearance. The further she digs, the more she realizes that the century-old town under the lake was buried for a reason. Unwittingly, Lauren unleashes the town’s ability to lure away children—and if she doesn’t find her sister soon, she might have more than one lost kid to answer for.

With Roxie’s life hanging by a thread, Lauren must dive under the surface to save her sister… or live under the weight of Roxie’s death forever.

First 250:

The water of the lake stretches out in a shadowy blanket before me, rippling in the cool breeze. I breathe deeply and let the wind play with the ends of my hair. On the horizon, I see something bobbing in the water, but the moment I squint harder to see its shape, it disappears.

“Ugh, damn it! These test tubes are impossible,” Carly shouts beside me, breaking my meditation.

“Jesus. You ruined my yoga vibe.”

“Yeah, ‘cause I can totally see you doing downward-facing whatever. Can you help for two seconds?” Carly pushes her red curls out of her face, bent over the water’s edge.

As I make to take a step toward her, movement flashes in the water again. My heart skips a beat, but I try to focus on taking up my time-honored duty: talking Carly down from insanity.

“Hey,” I say. “You’re the one who wanted to overachieve on this assignment. I would’ve been fine using tap water.”

“Tap water is too easy. I want a challenge.” The glass tubes she’s holding cascade into the lake, causing her to swear under her breath.

“Well, consider yourself challenged.”

Carly has been my best friend since that time we had the misfortune of being dressed in the same hideous sweater on picture day in the second grade, but at times like these I ponder our actual compatibility as human beings.

I crouch down next to her and help her fish the test tubes out of the water.

Agent Round: YA Fantasy - The Eventide

Entry Nickname: TO BE A MAN
Word Count: 97,000
Genre: YA Fantasy


Val has studied, fought, and completed her sailing expedition—faster than anyone else—to become chieftess of her tribe. Returning home, she discovers her twin brother has been kidnapped by the foreign conquerors of Airylle and if she doesn't find him soon her tribe will go to war and be massacred by their enemies. However, the only way to get to Airylle is aboard one of their ships and their laws prohibit girls from joining a crew.

Assisted by Airylle’s only female mage, Val disguises herself as a boy and is hired aboard The Eventide. Surrounded by the people she believes are her enemies, her sole focus is locating her brother. But on the ship, Val discovers that not all Airyllens are pale-faced demons. As she earns Captain Devon's trust, Val is torn between her loyalty to the tribe and her newfound love for the captain—whose affections lie with the lady mage.

If Val doesn’t reveal her true identity, Devon will never return her true love. But if he learns who she is, he has an obligation to report her to the king and Val risks losing her brother, the war and her life in this loose retelling of Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT.

First 250:

No one witnessed the tears staining my ocean-weathered face. Like my ancestors before me, I made this trip alone. If they still lived, I’d personally see them to the spirit realm for creating this rite of passage.

The purple mountains jutted into the sky, glistening as magic cascaded off them like an early morning fog encompassing the land. I leapt out of my seat. For most the Pass represented the boundary between the southern tribes and the pale-faced invaders. For me it meant home.

My rash movements caused the port side of my sailing canoe to dip under the water.

“Spirits!” If I capsized this close to the end, I’d die of humiliation.

Tonight, after eighty-two long days, the elders would name me chieftess. Chieftess Valerian. My mother had trained me for this moment all my life.

You’re only chieftess if you beat Shecayah home, a voice in my head reminded me.

The elders say the spirits whispering in your ear is a sign. I’d say my exhausted body wanted trick me.

Letting my sail out, I tied the mainsheet and moved from the stern to the bow, the wind pulling strands of my black hair out of its braid and into my eyes.

I sat cross-legged and loosened my drawstring pouch. Dust the color of the stars lay at the bottom. When I’d started my trek, Elder Fire gave me a full bag. I dumped the remnants in my hand. The silver stood out against my dark skin and I blew the powder away.

Agent Round: MG Mystery Humor - Mischief, Mysteries, and Milkshakes

Title: Mischief, Mysteries, and Milkshakes
Entry Nickname: Ice Cream Rebel Rousers
Word Count: 45K
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery Humor


Eleven-year-old Gabe and his younger sister Lily are dreading summer vacation. They’d rather do anything than spend eight weeks with Aunt Helene in her creepy old house. No Wi-Fi, no cable, a grandfather clock called The Howler that randomly shrieks, and plenty of rules, the strictest of which is to stay away from the antiques—especially the old writing desk in the library. It belonged to their Great Uncle Patrick and, well, some secrets should never see the light of day.

When Aunt Helene goes out for her weekly tea, where she wears white gloves and eats tiny sandwiches stuffed with pink goo, Gabe and Lily decide that some rules are made to be broken. Finding the key, they sneak into the writing desk and discover a journal written by Patrick when he was young. The journal contains secrets about hidden rooms and tunnels throughout the house where a once-cursed treasure is allegedly buried.

Determined to learn more, Gabe and Lily enlist the help of their new friend, ten-year-old Harper, a self-proclaimed milkshake addict. Faced with riddles to solve, creepy noises that most certainly couldn’t be voices from the past, and a realization that their aunt may also be on the hunt to keep the treasure all to herself, the three children set out to unravel the mysteries of the house, in hopes of being the first to get to the hidden treasure before summer ends.

First 250:

The rules for Aunt Helene’s house were clear: Nothing slimy, loud, or messy, keep all rooms neat, ask before doing anything, and no fighting with your sister.

Keeping the rules wouldn’t be impossible; they would just be annoying.  As far as summers went, this one was officially going down in the books as the worst in my eleven-year history, and it hadn’t even started yet.

“Are we here?” my younger sister Lily quietly asked, clutching her doll close to her body with white knuckles as I peered out the window.

Dad had pulled the car over, but there was no sign we were getting out. Lily stared at me with wide eyes, waiting for some kind of confirmation. But how would I know if this was Aunt Helene’s house? I’d never been here before either. In fact, up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know we had an Aunt Helene.

“Hey, Lil,” I whispered across the back seat of the car.


“I heard Aunt Helene keeps pet rats in her basement.”

“Gabe!” Mom twisted around from the front while Dad looked at us in his rear view mirror with a smirk on his face. “Don’t tell your sister tales like that. You know she scares easily. Lily, honey, he’s just kidding. Aunt Helene is … lovely.” 

“But Grandma said—” I started.

“Grandma is the reason you and your sister are going to Aunt Helene’s for the summer. Try to understand. Please?”