Jun 7, 2017

QK Agent Round - Life as a Dumpster Fire

Entry Nickname: Life as a Dumpster Fire
Word Count: 103K
Genre: Speculative Noir (#ownvoices)


Jeb knows there are only two kinds of family: the ones who leave you or the ones who own you. Each time he tries to escape the crime family who raised him, he receives a strike. The smartwatch implanted in his arm keeps count—three strikes and he's dead. Jeb already has two. When he gets his last, unexpected, strike, he knows it’s over. So, a federal agent offering him a way out of Felicity Harbour—a city as anxious and brutal as everyone living in it—looks too good to be true. All he has to do is hand over the access codes to his boss’s technology empire. Except Jeb’s best friend, Booker, has the codes.

It isn’t just a matter of stealing information. Both raised as mob orphans, Jeb and Booker have known each other since they were kids. But their relationship is complicated. Especially when they’re both more than a little in love with one another. Jeb has never told Booker that he loves him. Or, worse, how desperately he wants to leave Felicity Harbour.

Despite this gulf between them, betraying him is unthinkable—until Booker betrays him first. Now Jeb must decide which is preferable: the future ending shortly in a shallow grave, or the future where the only way out means becoming as brutal as the place he’s trying to leave behind.

First 250:

ERROR. Unable to open phone application. Please restart your device.

Jeb stabbed at the screen and the notification disappeared from view. He yanked open the taxi door and got out. His first step sank ankle-deep in a pothole pretending to be a puddle. Cold, dirty water flooded into his shoe and soaked the hem of his jeans.

“Damn it.” He sighed and shook his foot. The distant waves breaking against the waterfront laughed at him.

Jeb didn’t even have to be at the docks. Except Booker had asked for his company, and life was better when Booker was around.

A second notification appeared, this time scrolled across Jeb’s contact lens. There is a problem with the system. Please restart your device. Cold wind grabbed at Jeb’s nose as it passed—it smelled like misery and fear, and the corpse of Jeb’s childhood. He squeezed his eyes shut and scrubbed a hand over his face. Then he restarted his device—the edges of the implanted screen burned hot against his wrist—and retried the phone call.

THIRD STRIKE PROTOCOL INITIATED flashed across the screen, even as the connection went through.  He’d gotten another third strike alert that morning. Two in one day was alarming enough for Jeb to ask Hyun to look at it. It could be nothing. Or it could be the beginning of the end. Everything combined made him want to lay down on the wet tarmac and take a nap.

 Booker picked up. “I'm getting old, man. Where the hell are you?”


  1. Sounds like a terrific story. Would be happy to check out the query, synopsis, and first 3 chapters over at acquisitions@curiosityquills.com Good luck and congrats on making it this far!

  2. I'd love to read on. Would you please send the query and material via my submission form?

    Here is my submission form:

    All my best,

    Steven Salpeter | Curtis Brown, Ltd. | Ten Astor Place | New York, NY 10003

    1. Pages sent! Thank you so much for requesting and for your participation in the contest. I hope to hear from you soon.

    2. Thank you, Rachel. I will be in touch soon.