Archive | March 2015

Pitch Madness: SJ4 – ASHES ON BRADY STREET

Genre: New Adult Historical Fiction

Word Count: 86,000

Pitch: Lacey Anne McDougal, defying her Klansman father, sneaks across tracks separating the city’s colors to hear jazz music. There, she falls in love with a pianist—but there’s just one problem: he’s colored.

Excerpt: Lacey Anne McDougal was sure this was a bad idea. She stood by the tracks that separated Tulsa, Oklahoma, staring open-mouthed at a lopsided sign that read: *Let not the sun go down on a Negro’s back, lest he be dead*. A noose hung around a dummy’s neck, tied to the pole above it. *Yes, most definitely a bad idea*, she thought, her palms slick with the idea of what she was about to do.

The sign was not a threat—it was a promise.

The bustling city did nothing to calm her nerves like it usually did. Cars zipped by as young adults waved and shouted from the windows. People laughed and children played marbles on the sidewalks. Smoke rose from chimneys, belching hazy waste skyward. White-gloved women strolled through the city, gossiping and pointing at every person trimming plants in front of the marketplace. Ever since Lacey was a child, she knew not to go to the other side of town—it was beat into her by her Klansman father. Today, however, she was breaking that rule.

“Miss?”

Lacey turned around slowly.

“I am sorry, Miss, but you shouldn’t be out here… you know, this far from Main,” a deep voice informed her. “And don’t worry about the dummy. It isn’t going to hurt anybody… it’s from that film, you know?”

Her eyebrows shot up.

“What film?”

“Why, *The Birth of a Nation*, ma’am. What are you doing out here alone?”

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Pitch Madness: SJ5 – BLOOD AND BONES

Genre: Young Adult ThrillerWord Count: 75,000

Pitch: Surgery erased her terminally diseased brain tumor, but Skye must find out why she was left with the memories, and voice, of a serial killer in her head.

Excerpt: It was an obscenely hot summer morning when I was sentenced to die.

After endless months of paralyzing headaches, occasional memory loss, and countless doctors prescribing useless migraine prescriptions, I was certain I was at the conclusion of my life’s story. My father, who wasn’t ready to read my final chapter just yet, took me to see a renowned neurosurgeon at Saint Stephen’s Hospital. A few moments through the pulsating tunnel of a M.R.I. illuminated what he was in search of and allowed him to diagnose my troubles with two little words:

Brain tumor.

My father’s horror-stricken face mirrored my own internal struggle with the news. My selfish, younger sister snatched a box of cheap tissues from the doctor’s desk and dabbed away the crocodile tears that streaked her flawlessly made-up face. I tried to remember how to breathe when I looked into the patient face of the man who claimed he could rescue me.

And somewhere far away from where I sat, I pictured my mother smiling at the imaginary butterflies that often flitted around her wild red hair within the mental facility she had been living for nearly two years.

In spite of everyone’s dread about my test results, Dr. Taylor had other ideas about my future.

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Pitch Madness: SJ6 – BLEED THROUGH

Genre: Adult Psychological Suspense

Word Count: 70,000

Pitch: After witnessing a murder, schizophrenic Liam must distinguish between reality and the creations of his mind before he loses the life he’s fought so hard to recover.

Excerpt: Liam drew aside pink ruffly curtains and peered across the street. A quick glance at the owl alarm clock confirmed the time: 3:00 PM.

Right on schedule, Mrs. Channer emerged in her Monday outfit, a white tennis skirt and matching tank that revealed skin flaccid with age. She strolled toward her letterbox and retrieved the day’s mail, shuffling it through her hands like a deck of playing cards. Feigning nonchalance, Mrs. Channer shaded her eyes against the intense afternoon sun and turned toward Liam and scanned his house. She knew he was watching.

Liam eased the curtains closed and shrank to the floor. The unwritten rules of engagement between Mrs. Channer and him required discreet surveillance and he wouldn’t be the first to break protocol.

Even between enemies, it’s best to avoid awkward situations.

He lifted up a small mirror and watched Mrs. Channer’s reflection retreat indoors. A stubborn old bitty, she insisted on living nearby despite the fact that he’d killed her one hundred times.

Problem was, the pesky woman kept replicating. Protecting his family from her wasn’t an easy job, but Liam didn’t mind hard work; neither did Joshua.

“You’re gonna have to kill her again,” Joshua said, sprawling across Tasha’s bed, his uniform of black jeans and leather jacket a shadow against the pink comforter. Shreds of afternoon light filtered through the curtains and settled on his pockmarked face. He yawned and laced his hands behind his head.

Liam was never that relaxed.

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Pitch Madness: SJ7 – BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE AND OTHER DRAMATIC DISASTERS

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Word Count: 41,000

Pitch: Sixth-grader Mary-Catherine fails at everything…until she’s chosen to direct the school play. Balancing boys, besties, and bake sales is hard enough, but with a nemesis set on dramatic sabotage, how will MC save the show?

Excerpt: Starting middle school on crutches had been about as bad as it sounds. While I was hobbling around trying to find all my classes after an “unfortunate accident” during field hockey tryouts, everyone else found all their friends and where they fit in. By the time I was back on my own two feet, I was pretty much invisible (except to Angie, who’d been my BFF since, well, forever). And it’s not like I hadn’t been trying things. For four months I had been trying things. I just hadn’t found the right thing. But today, that would finally change. I could feel it.

I took another look at the picture of the expertly frosted Best Chocolate Cake our home ec teacher, Mrs. Collins, had projected on the screen in the front of the classroom, and my mouth watered.

*Baking is the perfect answer to my New Year’s resolution to find something I’m good at. I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate cake? People are going to ask me to bake them things all the time! Maybe I can even get extra credit for it. I’ll have to find out what our history teacher likes before midterms…*

I read through the instructions one more time: grease and flour the pan, mix everything in a bowl, and pour the batter into the pan to bake. *This is going to be awesome.*

“Do you want to grease the pan, or should I?” I asked my partner, Kate Nichols, who was the second worst person in the room Mrs. Collins could have paired me with.

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Pitch Madness: SJ8 – CAUGHT IN THE SHADOW OF A LIE

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Word Count: 67,000

Pitch: Seventeen-year-old, Juliana, dreams of a national mountain bike championship, but her life becomes more dangerous than the downhills she craves, when she falls for an heiress, who hides deadly deceit behind her beauty and lies.

Excerpt: The violet-gray of twilight enveloped the road as Jules flicked her fingers, pushing a higher gear to increase her sprint. Focused on winning tomorrow’s New York Mountain Bike championship, nothing could break her concentration. With head down and feet pounding the pedals, she rounded the bend—a quick downhill shot to town.

Not many seventeen-year-old girls were as dedicated to the sport. She needed to win that race for her dad, and to prove to herself she was an exceptional cyclist, not just using one passion to hide another. In her small town, biking was the easier choice.

Jules glanced up. The valley lights below caught her attention, but her head wrenched back at a shadow in the road. Too late! A muffled thud stopped the front wheel, flipping the rear of the bike in the air—and Jules over the handlebars.

Asphalt and pine trees blurred. She slammed into the pavement. Peeling herself off the blacktop, pain ripped across her shoulder. Blood flowed from her forearm, where gravel shredded her skin. “Shit!”

She pulled off her helmet and ran scraped fingers through her hair, so wet and dark it didn’t look blonde anymore. Jaw clenched, she shuffled back to the twisted heap of metal straddled across the obscure object.

“What the hell is that?”

Jules lifted her mangled bike and a limp hand fell out of the jumbled mess, palm up on the road. She jerked back and switched on her helmet light.

“Oh… my… God!”

It was a body.

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Pitch Madness: SJ9 – THE ROAD BACK FROM BROKEN

Genre: Adult Mainstream Commercial

Word Count: 94,000

Pitch: A wounded soldier’s battle with addiction forces him to confront the very thing he wants to forget: his role in the death of a comrade killed in an IED attack.

Excerpt: The siren’s wail fell silent as the ambulance pulled up.

Jennifer Fitzgerald stood in front of the Emergency Room doors and watched as the paramedics yanked the gurney out of the ambulance, letting its wheels hit the ground harder than they normally would. The patient squawked at the impact and began complaining in low, slurred tones, but didn’t move, having one arm splinted and the other handcuffed to the gurney.

Normally she should have been angry with them, treating a patient roughly like that. Had she seen them treating one of her patients that way, she would have laid into them right there. But this time, with this patient, she simply stood in bitter silence, her jaw tightening with anger as they wheeled him into the ER.

It hadn’t always been this way. He hadn’t always been this bad. For months she’d told herself it was a temporary thing, a phase he was going through. That he’d pull himself together somehow, the way he’d always done before. It would get better. But as the weeks turned to months and the long spring of his convalescence turned to summer, it didn’t get better.

It had been four months since her husband returned from Afghanistan, and she hardly recognized him anymore.

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Pitch Madness: SJ10 – SWEET JANE

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Word Count: 61,000

Pitch: You Against Me meets Cracked Up To Be. Seniors coerce sophomore Jane into a deflowering game—pawn or participant, she can’t tell. Another girl’s rape forces a decision: reveal her part or let justice fail.

Excerpt: Being invisible was an art I perfected.

“It was more than being a wallflower,” I said. “More than being picked last in gym class. More than shrinking like a violet. And for what it’s worth, violets don’t actually shrink. They are hiding in the leaves.” Their petals so inconspicuous and dainty they almost disappear. That was me; quiet, small, and hidden in the crowd. Like I wasn’t there at all. Just waiting to be seen.

Detective Hereford dragged a handkerchief across his sweaty forehead and banged it on the table between us. Coffee spilled over the side of his roll-up-the-brim to win cup from Tim Horton’s. His eyebrows pinched together to form one big unibrow. He mopped up the spilled coffee with his hankie and set the cup down gently. The brim had been unrolled. The look on his face told me he hadn’t won.

His partner, Detective Bryant, was a good foot shorter than him and didn’t have any hair on top of his head, just two inches of wild grey curls circling around the back from ear to ear. They reminded me of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. I half wondered if they’d count paperclips and announce the letter of the day. *Today’s police investigation was brought to you by the letters J and C and the number 8.*

There were eight of us still left in the game at the end. The rest went quietly to their graves. Metaphorically, of course. No one actually died. It just felt like it.

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Pitch Madness: SJ11 – THE BEATLES FAN

Genre: Middle Grade Historical

Word Count: 50,000

Pitch: Twelve year old Gordon Cohen’s world crashes when he discovers his Dad had another kid while serving in World War II. He runs away to find his brother and the truth about his family.

Excerpt: Saturday. February 8, 1964

I stared at my reflection in the window.. The one and only Gordon Cohen. Twelve –year-old Devil Dog lovin’, comic book junkie, Beatles fan. And now – a runaway kid.

If I had half a brain I’d jump off the train faster than a speeding bullet, but then I’d never find out the truth about Dad’s secret. Asking him was not an option. I had been snooping when I found the document. He’d punish me for life for messing with his stuff.

As usual, he’d sigh, like all the other times I’d gotten into trouble. “You can do better, Gordon.” “What were you thinking, Gordon?” “Haven’t I told you a million times, Gordon!” I did stuff without thinking. it was part of my personality, like losing my new math review book, If I hadn’t lost it I wouldn’t have looked for change in dad’s dresser and I wouldn’t have found the information that got me on this train in the first place.
So even though my insides felt like worms at a wrestling match, I kept my butt in my seat.

The train moved. There was no turning back.
Outside, puffs of steam rose up from the tracks like a sci-fi movie. I’d never ridden a real train before, only the subway. It smelled like old cigarettes and my grandmother’s fancy perfume. I rubbed my hand on the soft red seat cushion and hoped I wasn’t making the biggest mistake of my life.

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Pitch Madness: SJ12 – THE LAST SUMMER AT SHADOW LAKE

Genre: Young Adult Horror

Word Count: 63,000

Pitch: Mia thinks she drowned her best friend and lied to cover it up. Years later, back at the lake, she learns the truth, which is way more horrifying than what she’s been led to believe.

Excerpt: The air hung steamy and thick as we pulled up the drive to the lake house. Over the past four years our old summer retreat existed only in my memories. Ones I’d tried hard to forget.

The house hadn’t weathered well since our last summer. The paint was peeling and the foliage was so overgrown, it looked like the trees and bushes were devouring the place. The smell of mold and wet moss wafted in the air as I climbed out of the car onto the stone drive. I looked around and shuddered. From where I was standing, I could see my best friend Sara’s old house as well as the path to the lake where her dead body had been floating after I killed her.

My mother handed me my bag and sighed. I knew she wasn’t any happier about being here than I was, but I wasn’t sure if her sigh was one of nostalgia or regret. Maybe a little of both.

“Well, honey, ready to take the plunge?” she said. “See what we’re dealing with inside?”

“If it’s anything like the outside, I think we should cut our losses and go home.”
My mother shot me a wan smile as she brushed my cheek. “I know you don’t want to be here, Mia, but we need to finally sell this place, especially now that your dad’s gone. Besides, Dr. Hershel thinks it will be good for you to come back. You know, for closure.”

“Psychiatrists love to throw around terms like closure.

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Pitch Madness: SJ13 – THEN YOU WIN

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Word Count: 80,000

Pitch: Meagan doesn’t want to change video game culture, she just wants to play. Her mom wants to make gaming the next battleground for women’s rights. Now, online trolls want them both dead.

Excerpt: I have Ms. Pac-Man, that pixelly yellow biscuit with a pink bow on top, to thank for everything. Until Mum and I left Australia for California, my house was the only one I knew that had a genuine original Ms. Pac-Man arcade cabinet right there in the lounge room—*or living room, I s’pose you’d call it*. In Silicon Valley there are probably heaps of them, but I’m pretty sure, to the owners, Ms. Pac-Man is nothing more than a kitschy relic of a time when girls were given one tiny foothold in the world of video games. Still, a foothold was all my mum needed. To her, that yellow biscuit—*or cookie, if you like*—was the starting point, the thing that kicked off her whole future and, consequently, decided mine.

On the plane from Sydney, Mum told me I should feel at least a little bit at home in Veracruz. After all, California’s one of the few places outside Australia where eucalyptus trees grow in profusion. I pressed my nose against the window and looked down at the lumpy green landscape below. Home? Yeah, right.

Mum’s new car was waiting for us at the airport, and she actually managed to drive to our rented house without killing us—amazing, really, when you consider the number of times she veered onto the wrong side of the road. All the way she chattered about her new job, my new school, and how exciting our new life was going to be.

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