Archive | March 2014

Pitch Madness SJ-5: SISTER SHADE

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 66,000
Pitch: In this alternative history Queen Cleopatra’s younger sister Arsinoe struggles to break free from her family’s murderous past.  But what if the only way to save the ones you love is to kill them?
Caesar’s Stronghold
Like shadows, the past is glued to our heels. —The Epigrams of Arsinoe

In the heavy prison darkness, far from any coast, I heard the sea. Waves plotted with one another in low whispers, gathering their forces like crouching beasts. A hundred voices, living and dead, battering my skull until my head felt ready to implode. I rocked back and forth, shackles clanking, hands clamped against my ears. Mistress of Sorrows, how could I make myself heard over so much clamor?
Hear me, Nile dwellers,” I chanted. “I am the moonless night, the hollow underground. From birth have I witnessed woe upon woe. . ..”
Several occupants of the pit beneath the floor  threw rocks against their grate, making rude gargling noises in some obscure northern language. Either they disliked my anthem or mistook the sacred lament for a spell or curse. I kept chanting, holding chaos at bay. If I had hidden powers, did they think I would waste them on my fellow captives?
A key jangled in the lock. The pit fell silent. The short, beardless inmate pressed his ear against the  stone wall.
“Noble One,” he warned  in oddly-accented Latin, “our keeper brings visitors.”
I slid backward until my leg irons pulled taut, squinting at the sudden stab of light. A snippet of a  boy in a toga entered, leading two female companions.
“She ain’t no proper sight for the squeamish, Master Octavian,” the jailor, the one who stank of boiled cabbage, said. “You certain the general will permit these fine young ladies to see her?”

CLUE: Mr. Boddy is found sitting in a high-back
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.

My ponytail clung to my neck like a wet towel and my muscles burned like fire, but I couldn’t afford to rest. I had to beat this go-kart frame into submission, and quick.

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.”

CLUE: Mr. Boddy is found in the kitchen,
slumped over the center island, the back of his head bleeding from being
struck. Nothing is out of place save a toppled plate of homemade cinnamon
rolls, a puddle on the floor nearby.


Pitch Madness SJ-7: A BREATH OF SILVER

Genre: NA Fantasy

Word Count: 100,000
Pitch: A 22nd century historian travels through London’s forgotten Underground back to 1692, where her Scottish ancestors wield ley lines that link her future with the Glencoe Massacre, and challenge her loyalty to the recorded past.


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.

CLUE: Mr. Boddy is found on his back on the
lounge floor, something metallic glinting in a wound over his heart. A stain in
the carpet reeks of wine, and a hint of cinnamon dusts his hands. 

Pitch Madness SJ-8: LUMA

Genre: YA Horror
Word Count: 90,000
Pitch: An underground club held at an abandoned island amusement park. Abbey and Callie aren’t supposed to be there. The island is now populated by creatures with a carnivorous appetite. A night they may not survive.
An ocean of bodies moved like seaweed across the warehouse floor. It might have looked as though they were drowning except for their rhythmic movement that fused with the beat. Some looked as though they’d accepted their fate as they swayed back and forth, while others seemed to fight the inevitable. Their arms flailed about, their faces contorted with exertion as they gasped for a last breath. At least that’s how it looked to the eyes watching from above.
In the center of the floor, Abbey tilted her head back and danced. She raised her arms over her head and her long, periwinkle hair drifted with her movements. Blue and green lights bounced through the smoky air, pulsing with the rhythm of the music. Bodies brushed against hers, but she didn’t mind. Here, dancing among hundreds of others, she fit in. She belonged. No one could take that away from her.
“We need to go,” Callie yelled in her ear.
A stab of irritation shot through her and Abbey’s eyes flew open. She missed the beat of the song, which caused a ripple in the dancers around her. Callie was upset, though only someone who’d known her since third grade would be able to pick up the telltale signs: twirling a strand of hair around her pointer finger; the flush high on her cheekbones.
“Did you and Eric have another fight?” Abbey didn’t want to leave. Not yet. Callie promised her it would be the two of them, but Eric had shown up and Abbey spent the night dancing alone.
CLUE: Mr. Boddy is found in the hall, facedown, drool pooling on the glistening floor near his face. Bits of yarn stick to the lapels of his wool blazer. 




Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Word Count: 63,000
Pitch: Before she can become the greatest Empress in Russian history, Sophie–an impoverished princess from a rival country–will have to win the heart of a nation to make it to coronation day alive.

The sled is cramped, my legs and back ache in protest as we cut through the deep snow. I pull back the heavy damask curtain covering the small window. Outside the landscape is barren and desolate. Only stark white snow for miles, interrupted only by the occasional leafless tree. Though the horses race forward across the plain at great speed, the trek has been long and the snow deep. We’d had to abandon our more spacious carriage in Livonia and continue the rest of the way in this small sled. Across from me my mother carefully stitches on her small linen even as each bump threatens to destroy her colorful tapestry. She hasn’t spoken to me in two days, not since I’d finally grown weary of her constant chatter about how different and lavish life would be at a real court and reprimanded her harshly.

I sigh deeply. Perhaps the rolling hills of Anhault-Zerbst may not have been as grand as the palaces of Berlin, where she was raised, but it was my father’s estate and also mine and I ached to be there now. Never had I missed it more than I did on this journey, the dangerous trek through the depths of Russia in the coldest months of winter. I have acquired a constant shiver and my toes and fingers never seem to thaw. Still, it was only her callous remarks about my father that had provoked me to speak rudely to her. She makes me pay for it now, the already cold interior seems absolutely frigid with her indifference.


Boddy is found in the library, slumped in a chair near a tea trolley with no
apparent wounds. His face is flushed, an empty teacup caught on one finger, its
hot contents soaking his front, and round sugar cubes scattered across his lap. 


Pitch Madness SJ-10: CRUSHING

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

beneath his body. Grasped in his fingers is a class ring from Harvard. 

Pitch Madness SJ-11: BENEATH

Genre: YA Sci-fi/Thriller
Word Count: 66,000
Being trapped in an underwater resort with a killer on the loose and medication-induced blackouts is not Jen’s idea of the perfect vacation. Is she next? Or is she a murderer?
Being submerged beneath ten thousand tons of ocean water might kill me. But being trapped for six weeks in a dressed up and glorified fish tank definitely will. The others in the shuttle pod don’t get it. They actually want to be here. Maybe I would too if it was Mom here and healthy instead of the wench. 
The doors shut with a final sounding clang that reverberates through my head, making me wince. I have the sudden urge to throw myself at them and beg to be let out. I need one last gulp of fresh air. 
But the crystal blue waters close over the 360-degree wall of windows, drowning my last view of the sky. All around me employees and their family members gather as close to the glass as they can get, too eager to sit. They remind me of the school of silver herring that swirls by to the right, all following each other’s lead. 
I reach for my phone to see if Mom texted, when I remember the last argument I had with Dad and how I wouldn’t be allowed cell contact. In fact, I wasn’t going to be allowed any contact with the surface unless approved by Bennett Systems. Like I was going to let them see my personal correspondence. 
The shuttle is a sphere, so no matter which direction I look, I find either the twin shuttle pod filled with yet more excited tourists or fish that stare back, wondering what the hell we’re doing in their space. 
Boddy is found in the conservatory, laying beneath a leaky pipe with one side
of his head bashed in. Tucked into his pocket is a bit of paper with dates,
times, and places written in an elegant cursive. They’re parties and events
only the elite would be invited to.