chair in the library, head back, with a tiny puncture wound in his neck. The
area around the wound is swollen. An expensive brooch with rare gems and a
noble family crest is found stuck in the Parisian carpet beside the chair.
Genre: MG Contemporary
Word Count: 52,000
Pitch: Three foster kids are about to be homeless. Their last chance to avoid the streets: build a killer robot and win ROBOT SMACKDOWN’s $10M prize. FREAK THE MIGHTY meets REAL STEEL.
Smashing my hammer into a steel tube stupid enough to defy me, I winced as vibrations tore up my arm. But I pushed aside the pain and threw right hooks, punishing the struts for their disobedience.
Five. Ten. Twenty body blows later, I dropped into a dizzy crouch, panting in the garage’s stifling heat. Sweat cascaded off my bangs, plinking into the cement, and I flicked the matted red hair out of my eyes. I studied the frame under the buzzing fluorescent lights. It wasn’t pretty—rusty metal, scavenged wheels, and two dozen bolts holding everything together—but it would do.
I checked the wall clock, biting my lip. Only 30 more minutes before our buyer was supposed to arrive. Where the heck was Walker? If my brother didn’t get here with an engine, we’d lose tonight’s sale.
And we needed this one.
I rubbed the oil blotch staining the floor, a bittersweet reminder of the days when Dad still had his junker car. Still had his job at the boxing gym. Still could pay the bills without us secretly helping out.
I wiped grease onto the go-kart’s seat, hoping to smear in some good luck.
A rattle sounded outside the garage door. I froze, listening to the approaching creaks.
“Rose,” whispered a high-pitched voice. “Lemme in.”
Genre: NA Fantasy
Before that day, I’d never set a toe in the Ruins for anything but research. As Sod’s law would have it, my exception to this turned into a complete cock-up. On top of everything else, it was my twenty-second birthday, so admittedly my wandering mind was largely to blame. With our average lifespan of forty-four, I’d officially entered midlife-crisis territory, and the swiftness of its arrival stole my breath. Like an alarm clock I hadn’t realized was set, my greatest fears joined forces to blitz my peace of mind at midnight on the dot.The Ruins weren’t a place you went seeking solace, given what they were the remnants of, and yet they seemed an appropriate answer to the week’s trauma. Their dichotomy of incalculable loss masking invaluable treasure had set my course as a researcher since birth. Though I’d never say it aloud, I clung to my childhood notion that Thomas and I alone had the power to make them bequeath their hoard of history, of what really happened here all those years ago.
But today wasn’t about research, and thanks to birthday anxiety, it wasn’t likely to be about solace, either.
My boots pounded gravel as I darted through the fence, leaving town’s cottage rows and sculpture-dotted promenades behind. Weekly research expeditions built my tolerance to the Ruins’ psychological residue and disorientation, but Tessah and Hyde had no such tolerance. Dashing across the melted landscape, I swore for the fifth time in as many minutes. If anything happened to them, I’d never forgive myself.
Genre: YA contemporary
Word Count: 75,000
Pitch: Lindy’s killed all her ex-boyfriends but, this time, she’s found the One. Meanwhile, her detective daddy closes in on a killer of teenage girls – Lindy’s new boyfriend.
We’re going to break up, so I’ve brought my gun with me. It’s been in arm’s reach since I saw him with Jenna at the mall on Wednesday. When he blew me off that night – homework, lame excuse – I went home and loaded it.
Three bullets. Two for him, one spare. Just in case.
He called me ten minutes ago, as usual. Must have nearly chickened out this time, though: the first text came through just before midnight. He hoped I’d be asleep. Should have known I wouldn’t be. My market value is sky-high on Friday nights. I jumped straight out of bed and put on the dress he likes. Easy but not cheap. I hope.
When I see him, I know it’s hopeless. Our eyes lock and his face drops. Barely a second, but enough. It’s over.
I sit on his bed while he fusses. He slams a drawer shut – his finger with it – and swears. Pretend casual: “What’re you doing?”
“Nothing.” He turns towards me then quickly away. I don’t blame him. The dress is cut high and low in the wrong places. Very distracting. “Getting ready for tomorrow.”
“Today.” I gesture at the clock. Tick tock. “Coach said early night.”
He smiles. Smirks. “You know me.”
“Yeah. I do.” I cross my legs. The dress is rebelling in every direction, and there’s no cosmetic way to adjust it. “I was surprised to hear from you.”
Playing dumb: “You were?”
I smile sweetly. Playing, too. “I missed you.”
CLUE: Mr. Boddy is found in the kitchen, his throat neatly slit, a pool of blood formed