Entry Nickname: These Little Earthquakes
Word Count: 64K
Genre: YA Contemporary
After getting kicked out of the house, 17-year-old Charlie Elliott leaves her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and hops on a plane to Los Angeles. She’s running far away from her self-absorbed parents, the boy who broke her heart, and an addiction to alcohol that’s taken over her life.
Charlie is ready for a fresh start—the only problem is that she has no money and no plan. She stays with her aunt in Santa Monica while she tries to find a job, but a drunken misunderstanding forces her to leave. Unwilling to give up, Charlie sleeps in a lifeguard tower on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, sharing the space with a stray cat and a schizophrenic homeless man. Life on the streets is harder than anything she’s faced before, and she turns to drinking once again to numb her pain.
Fortunately, Charlie meets Les, an awkward, video game-obsessed 16-year-old who helps his mom sell jewelry on the boardwalk. Charlie crashes with Les when she gets sick (without his mother’s knowledge), and he supports her while her true recovery begins. But without a job or place to live, Charlie doesn't have long to decide whether she should go back to Ann Arbor and try again or stay in L.A. where she has nothing…except for Les.
The familiar sting slides down my throat as I take a sip of whiskey. It’s sharp and hollow at the same time. I don’t wince when I feel it, not anymore. Instead, I find it soothing, knowing the relief that the sting will ultimately bring me.
The music is loud, some rap song I’ve never heard before. Stacey Harrington stands right in front of me but might as well be a thousand miles away. She’s saying something about the new exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, trying to sound intelligent and cultured. Normally, I would force a smile and tell her about the time I went to the Louvre in Paris. I’d talk about how tiny the Mona Lisa is in real life and pretend to be sophisticated and discerning, despite the fact that Paris is the only foreign city I’ve ever been to and it was back when I was ten.
But I don’t feel like playing that game. I haven’t felt like it in a while.
Stacey’s blonde hair is up in the highest ponytail imaginable, and over the top of her head, I see someone step through the front door. Suddenly, I don’t hear the music anymore. I don’t see Stacey, or smell the scent of booze and mildew, or feel the plastic cup gripped in my hand. Everything around me halts to a stop.
His dark brown eyes scan the room like he’s looking for someone, the way he used to look for me.
Title: Open the Door
Entry Nickname: I Forgot to Close the Door
Word Count: 51k
Genre: Young Adult Horror
In OPEN THE DOOR, generations of Ellen Lucille’s family have lived and died inside of a haunted inn, pruning shadowy wraiths that creep in during the night. No one has ever left, ever felt the sun or smelt a fresh breeze. The rules are quite clear. If they ever leave, then so will an army of formless shadows. An army that can possess a body or swallow it whole.
Her family’s legacy, though, will soon be broken – Ellen, 14, is the last of her line. With only her dog, a two-way radio, and an ancestor’s diary for company, she must fight every day to keep the shadows, and the madness, at bay. Because she can’t open the front door, not really. Not when the eyes of her dead family watch from the walls. But the days do seem to get longer, and nothing is quite as it seems. As long as that door remains closed, she’ll never see another human being or civilization. Yet freedom for her also means freedom for the shadows that scratch at the handles...and whatever else the inn holds secret.
Every morning at six, after the sun rose, I used to wake to my mom climbing the stairs to my room. I would leave on my overhead light throughout the night, and this particular morning it had burnt out before the gray of dawn could relieve the house. With my blanket hugged tighter than burial shrouds, I waited by my door until two shadows crept under the crack. I recognized the soft-leathered shoes they were attached to, but still waited for her faint knock.
“Ellen?” my mom whispered. She had such a voice, a voice that could caress as easily as scald. I remember that most about her. “Ellen Lucille, are you awake?”
I threw open that door and ran into the lighted hallway, jumping into her arms. Night’s dank shadows got burnt off and I swear I could see them steam from my skin. My mom tsked and yanked shut the door.
After replacing my lightbulb with a new one, she took me downstairs for breakfast, which was always a bowl of cereal. My dad was already there with his own. He had a puzzled look on his face and had paused mid-chew.
“What now?” my mom snapped. They had some mornings like that, where they wanted anyone else in the world to talk to. To her, I don’t think there was anything wrong with my dad – the problem was that it was always my dad. She loved him least whenever she realized that he always had the same face, the same clothes.