Welcome back to the Alley this Wednesday! Today, we are kicking off the Agent in the Alley pitch contest with Julia Weber (website | twitter). 

The window for Weber's pitch contest opens today (Nov. 7) at 12:01 AM PST and will close on Friday (Nov. 9) at 11:59 PM PST. One pitch per person will be accepted. Submit pitches in the comments.

Pitches must be submitted in the following format:
  • Name:
  • Email:
  • Novel Title:
  • Genre (within NA):
  • Full word count:
  • Blurb (no more than 200 words):
  • First 250-300 words:
Julia is interested in New Adult titles from any genre, though fantasy should be set in the real world. Julia only accepts novels; no short stories, no novellas. All manuscripts must be complete and revised (ready for submission), and all authors must be unagented. 

From the winner, Julia will request a full manuscript to be (at least) critiqued by her. From any runners-up, Julia will request partial manuscripts. The results of this contest will posted on our blog here in two weeks time. 

Without further delay, please submit your pitches! While you don't need to follow NA Alley to participate, it is encouraged if you want further updates about this and future contests and content. 

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  1. Tara Brown


    The Light of the World

    Paranormal Romance



    In her dreams whispers taunt her.

    They chant wicked things to frighten her.

    Every morning she wakes, with the same sentence on her lips.

    'You're dead. You're dead and I just forgot to tell you.'

    The problem isn't entirely the sentence.

    It's the person she sees in her dreams chanting it.

    It's her mother.

    First 300 words-

    Dreams speak to you about the things in your day that your brain feels are unfinished. I know this because my mom is a dream analyst.
    If I ask her about my dreams she always tells me something crazy, like the bear in my dream tells me that the female side of my body lacks something in some way.
    It's not about sex or wearing perfume though. It's always something mysterious and intangible, like I avoid being a woman and need to make womanly decisions because I still act like a girl. A bear wants me to know this. Apparently in dreams bears are girls. They are also incredibly judgmental.
    If I could 'le sigh' and move past it, I would. But I can't. She is relentless.
    Instead of acknowledging she is crazy, we make a dream board-which is essentially pages cut from a magazine glued to a poster board. This tells her my fortune. She is a picture reader too.
    When I was eight she was a palm reader. Several times she has toured with groups of psychic spiritualists. I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I swear the things I saw with those women have still not started to make sense. They're always with us, her spiritual friends.
    She isn’t a bad mom and she isn’t a flake or a fake. I just am not entirely sure I believe the things she might be. The things people, who want to see and need to see, see.
    Which is why instead of backpacking across Europe for the year, like she suggested, I chose University. The battle over university was brutal. To the point of me nearly running away, to school.
    What kid runs away from home to go to university?

  2. Name: Rhen Wilson

    Email: RhenWilson@gmail.com

    Novel Title: THE HARKER SINS

    Genre (within NA): Urban Fantasy

    Full word count: 83,443

    Blurb (no more than 200 words):

    Lyndon Harker can't take time to indulge in the fantastic when there are bills to pay. Caring for his autistic twin brother, twenty-two-year-old Lyndon's only goal is to provide for his brother while trying to live up to his deceased parents' celebrated reputations as Catholic evangelists. So when Koral Waters, an eccentric girl his age, stalks him down and spouts off about angels, demons, and exorcisms, he can't afford to humor her.

    A self-proclaimed prophet, Koral insists that an angel came to her to deliver Lyndon a message: He has been chosen to exorcise the Seven Sins of Death from seven sinners. Koral explains that the Seven Sins of Death (mistakenly known as the Seven Deadly Sins) are the seven highest ranking demons in Satan's army. If Lyndon can exorcise and destroy them all, he will eradicate evil from the world. As crazy as it sounds, Lyndon can’t help but wonder if this is his opportunity to prove himself as his parents' son after all.

    With no idea how to perform an exorcism, an autistic brother that depends on him, and the demon of Gluttony hungry for flesh, Lyndon struggles not only to understand his purpose but to survive it.

    First 250-300 words:

    Lyndon Harker entered his apartment to find the living room covered with mounds of paper. Shredded paper to be exact. A dozen tiny heaps of ripped up, cut up, and obliterated stationery were scattered about the apartment. Mostly old newspapers and magazines. His home looked like a mole field.

    "Isaac," he sighed, shutting the front door. He glanced into the open kitchen and saw the oven clock: 3:02. His interview was in twenty-eight minutes. He didn't have time for this. His unexpected lunch shift had made him late enough.

    He could hear his brother grunting back in his own room. Lyndon dropped his server's apron next to the front door, crossed to Isaac's room, and knocked.

    "Hey, Eyes," he said, using his brother's nickname. "You in there?"

    The grunting continued but there was no response. Lyndon considered this permission to enter.

    His twin brother sat on the floor with a pair of scissors in one hand and a half-annihilated book in the other. Isaac was going to town ripping the text to pieces. A sliver of tongue poked through his lips as he sliced into at least twenty pages at a time. Isaac grunted as he destroyed more and more pages — it was a rather thick book. Thicker, he noticed, than the destroyed newspapers and magazines in the living room. . . .

    "Wait! No!"

    Lyndon realized what Isaac was chomping into and scrambled for it. Isaac jumped back, flinging the scissors behind him. Lyndon grabbed the remaining half of the text book from his brother, but it was too late. Mass Media in the 21st Century: 3rd Edition had been cut down the middle. Now it only read, "Mass Me in 3rd Ed."

    "That's great, Isaac," he seethed. "This book cost $150."

  3. Name: Anya
    Email: anya.hauenstein@gmail.com
    Novel Title: Blame it on Meryl Streep
    Full word count: 97,000

    At age 28 TV producer Laura Sanders has never been in a relationship, never had sex, and never been loved. Certain that something has to be terribly wrong with her she’s resigned to a dull, lonely life in the company of a few friends and her disinterested cat. But when she watches the movie Mamma Mia she finds the perfect coach to guide her to a happier place in life: Meryl Streep. With imaginary Meryl at her side Laura embarks on a journey to discover her own sexuality and learns to accept and love herself. Nobody but Laura can see and hear Meryl, but so what? Sometimes you have to lose yourself in a fantasy to fix your reality.

    First 250-300 words:

    I’m Laura M. Sanders.
    I’m twenty-eight.
    I’m a TV producer.
    I live in Los Angeles.
    I’ve travelled the world.
    I have a cat called Sartre.
    I own 108 pair of shoes.
    I’m a virgin.

    The worst part about my pathetic, lonely life is the constant pretending. Pretending to be normal. The simple truth is that everybody knows the drama of love, the passion, the pain, and not knowing makes you a complete freak. Until some years ago I used to be honest and tell new friends that I never had a boyfriend and never had sex. Someday I’ll tell a stranger that I killed a person. Simply to see if that confession arouses a similar mortified look.

    After the look there’s always the insensitive comment: Why don’t you just pick up a guy at a bar? A woman can get laid even if she’s coyote ugly and you look cute. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want to get laid. I want to be loved.

    The look and comment are usually followed by the sexist but popular, good advice:
    Good Advice Number One: Be dumb. Men don’t like smart women.
    Good Advice Number Two: Be hard to get. Men still think like hunters.
    Good Advice Number Three: Be a listener. Men need attention.

    Finally there’s the worst part: the awkward silence. After all, everything everybody talks about are relationships and to fit in you need stories to contribute. So I make up stories.

    However, lately I don’t have much need for my relationship tales. I don’t go out anymore. It’s too painful to watch everyone around me have fun, get drunk, fall in and out of love while I simply can’t keep up with them. Of course I have my theories to why that is.

    First, I blame my parents.

  4. Shawn Keenan

    The Intern’s Tale


    Dystopian Adventure

    93,000 words


    For nineteen-year-old intern Kip Pureweather, a little insubordination goes a long way. In defying the oppressive knight-executives of Vassalcorp, The Incorporated Realms of America’s largest corporation, Kip triggers a revolution across the country and a civil war within his own conscience.

    In saving the family farm of office maiden Abbey Fairchild from foreclosure, Kip has brought the wrath of the country’s controlling interests down on himself and anyone brave enough to stand with him. In an attempt to protect those he cares about, Kip flees to the forbidden Empty Lands north of the Realms. But his time there brings more trouble and knowledge of a secret the corporations have kept since the time of the war that brought them to power and ushered in the second Dark Ages.

    With a new war in the Realms imminent, Kip returns to York City to warn his friends. With the help of a slave, a mailroom clerk, a tabloid princess, and a disgruntled wizard in a lab coat, Kip and Abbey take a final stand against Vassalcorp and the army of genetically enhanced soldiers they’ve unleashed from the north to crush the country back into submission.


    From the saddle of his mechanical horse, Cian gazed across the underground garage in an uninterested way, but Kip knew better than to let his guard down. Cian’s opponent had nearly scored a point on him during the last pass. It was clearly unintentional, but his opponent’s lance had missed Cian’s shield by only a few inches. The slip-up was more than Cian was used to tolerating. He wouldn’t lash out at his opponent and subordinate in an obvious way – that would come later, more subtly, in the boardroom about something seemingly unrelated. But he also wouldn’t wait that long before venting in some meaningful way. Kip had seen it a hundred times while serving as Cian’s valet during jousting practice. The snake was going to strike, and for once, Kip didn’t want to be the unwitting receptacle of its venom.

    Cian removed his sleek, steel riding helm to reveal a head of tightly cropped hair, a style in fashion with all the affluent knight-executives of York City. His pitch-like eyes betrayed no secrets about the thoughts behind them, a great asset during negotiations. Another of his assets was the unchecked power and considerable influence he held over all matters that affected the Incorporated Realms. As is said throughout the Realms, it’s good to be a knight-executive.

    Currently, intern Kip Pureweather was attempting to live in that unattainable space between being completely unnoticed by but alertly prepared for his temperamental superior. As Cian casually let his helm drop from the side of his saddle, Kip sprung from his spot on the side of the underground jousting list. His fingertips latched onto the edge of its faceplate before it hit the ground, something it was never allowed to do.

  5. Name: Shannon Wixom
    Email: swixom(at)gmail(dot)com
    Genre: Contemporary w/ sci-fi twist
    Word count: 66,000

    Just about anything would be more welcome than what ends up ruining Alexis Ortega's perfect senior prom. Appendicitis, being dumped or dateless; name it and she can handle it. But how does a girl deal with a voice in her head who claims to be herself from two years in the future?

    The voice, nicknamed the memorywalker, needs Alex to prevent something horrible from happening, only she can't say what. Alex starts to suspect as strong emotions leak through from the memorywalker. How is her father involved with this time traveling technology, and is he going to die? Will her boyfriend break up with her? And why does the memorywalker want to rip her best friend’s hair out?

    The memorywalker has a reason for coming back in time, and Alex is the only one who can help her. If they fail, the future isn’t likely to go happily-ever-after.

    First 279 words:

    I’ll remember you.

    I couldn’t turn my head in any direction without seeing those three words. They were taped to the outside of my locker as I elbowed it shut. They littered the ground as I stepped over them on my way to the parking lot. They hung on a shiny vinyl banner across the hall and were posted on every classroom door I passed.

    Bold white letters against a midnight blue sky sprinkled with sugary stars, the silhouette of an embracing couple completing the promise that every senior would remember this year’s prom for the rest of his or her life.

    At least that’s what I assumed. Maybe I was reading too much in those three words. I had my reasons for being the teensiest bit excited about this prom, for wanting it to be the most perfect day of my life.

    I skirted past a fellow senior who had crumpled up some of the prom fliers from the ground and was chucking them down the hall like snowballs. Before I reached the end of the hall, I felt the unmistakable thunk of one of the snowballs hitting the back of my head. Nice.

    I bent over and picked up the crumpled paper. Scrunching it in my hands, I turned to glare at Spence Tilby. Rumor had it he wasn’t going to graduate with our class, and his normally immature behavior had lately migrated to just plain ridiculous. Last week he’d somehow managed to turn the sprinklers on in the middle of lunch, ruining my PB & J, along with an expensive pair of ballet flats.

    “I dare you, Ortega,” Spence said, eyeing the snowball in my hand.

  6. Name: Ayesha Schroeder

    Email: ayeshaschroeder@gmail.com

    Novel Title: That Mess of Pottage and All That Comes With It

    Genre (within NA): Fiction

    Full word count: 54,590

    The Qazi family is anomaly. With one foot in Pakistan and the other in America the family is forced to navigate a split lifestyle wrought with culture clash and a confused sense of identity and allegiance. Made to feel like the “mutts” their father's side of the family often refers to them as, the Qazi children endure the stigma while their mother battles bi-polar disorder and their father clings to the last string of culture he can while attempting to rescue his family from the allure of the American lifestyle. As they battle their demons and the misconceptions that follow their pottage like life, they fall apart and come together learning all the while that family is family and some things never change.

    First 250-300 words:
    Anita watched as her father Farhan lugged his heavy briefcase out of his rusty, blue hatch-backed Honda Civic. He wore a crisp white shirt tucked into black pants that creased perfectly in the front, while a black belt secured these articles in place; notched perfectly in the middle. His dark hands clasped the briefcase and keys in one hand and he adjusted his round glasses with the other before heading into the small ranch house that he called home.

    Anita quickly released the blind that she had been looking through and jumped from the bay window in the bedroom that she and her sister, Umber, shared. She stumbled as her pudgy feet hit the floor, and looked around expecting somebody to have been looking and laughing at her. She quickly shed the bright orange tank top that she had taken from her mom’s chest of drawers and donned a more appropriate t-shirt from her closet that sported a Dalmatian puppy surrounded by hearts on it. As she was changing she wondered if her father knew that she had been wearing the tank top, and a white hot fear surged through her body at the thought. Ignoring this, she knew that he expected each of his children to run to him when he came home. He always said that seeing his excited, welcoming children was the highlight of his day.

    She heard his greeting “As-Salāmu `Alaykum!” and took this as her cue to come running out. She ran down the hallway and made a momentary stop at her brother Wasif’s room.

    “Dad is home,” she stated matter-of-factly as Wasif bobbed his head to the Nirvana song he was listening to.

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  8. Name: Jessica Harvey
    Email: harveyjek (at) my (dot) ccsu (dot) edu
    Novel Title: NEVER THE HERO
    Genre (within NA): Contemporary Fantasy
    Full word count: 61,000 words

    Blurb: Everything nineteen-year-old Krystin knew about her destiny changed the moment her true love, Shawn, almost died by her hands in a misguided attempt for power. But even knowing their unfulfilled prophecy is the key to holding off the Final War, all the pair have are doubts as to whether a magical treasonist with a bloody past and a plain, mortal human with an inferiority complex will be hero enough to fight off an enemy caught somewhere above Good and Evil. For the first time in both their lives, Krystin and Shawn have a choice; they'll just have to decide what's worth sacrificing to make it and save their world from war.

    First Words:
    It’s kind of funny the places you end up in life, the way it throws you for a loop and sets you back into motion when you least expect it. How, after all you’ve been through—all you considered hell—it can help you start all over again.

    Or, that’s what I’d like to believe anyway.

    Then again, there’s also a moment in everyone’s life where you make that one decision that changes everything. The best way I’ve heard it described is something my mother told me once: everyone at some point in their lives comes to the edge of a huge cliff. You can choose to either fly and succeed, or jump and fall to failure. In the end, she was right in more ways than one, even if I’ll never admit it to her indignantly proud face.

    It’s been a good year, down to the day if I’m right, since I made that decision which would change everything so drastically. Instead of choosing to fly, I jumped and plummeted to the very rocky bottom. Funny thing is that regardless of what it’s cost me and how little I got in return, I’m happy that I did it—to some extent, at least. I got the chance to start over, and that’s what I thought I most desperately needed.

    You see, so many people have told me that I’m supposed to do something “great” with my life, that I’m above all this “Good and Evil” crap I basically grew up on. The kicker, however, is that they’ve never actually proven it to me in any way.

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  10. Name: Mara Valderran
    Email: maravalderran@gmail.com
    Novel Title: Heirs of War
    Genre: New Adult Fantasy
    Full word count: 137,000
    Seventeen-year-old Zelene doesn't believe in magic or prophecies. When she's told she is part of the prophecy foretelling five powerful girls bringing peace to the war-torn worlds, she scoffs. The idea of other dimensions layered on top of the world she lives in is almost as ludicrous as the idea that she might be able to save them.

    Yet, she can't argue with her own eyes. Strange men tried to kill her using magic and now she is in a new world. Varrick, the warrior blood-bound to her, brings her before the elders of her homeworld. She’s left with the burning desire to take the crown she supposedly inherited and shove it somewhere Varrick wouldn’t appreciate. When she learns that her long-lost twin Ariana has been captured by the rebels, Zelene’s tantrums are brought to a halt.

    She finds herself torn between her need to save the sister she has never known and her longing to return to a simpler life. She’s not sure how she is supposed to fight an army of magic-wielding rebels when she her ability to manipulate the elements is still locked. She doesn’t really trust the elders to rescue Ariana since their medieval politics started the war. The answer is clear to Zelene.

    Screw the prophecy. She’s getting her sister back.

    First 250-300 words:

    Zelene felt the sting of the slap before her foster-father’s hand had even made contact with her cheek.

    “You look like a slut,” he slurred at her.

    She tried to take a deep, calming breath and even counted to ten before responding.

    “Well that’s kind of the point when you go on a date, Danny.” She winced before the next hit came, though it had more to do with her own mouth running away with her than with the impact of his now balled up fist. “I’ll go change,” she muttered before slinking off to her room.

    Of course, she had no intention of changing. She knew well enough that when Danny got like this, he was soon to pass out and then she would be free to do whatever she liked. Unless Nora got home first. Even if Danny had already doled out the punishment he felt she deserved, her foster-mother would make sure to outdo him when she got wind of it.

    Zelene gave Danny around fifteen minutes before she dared to poke her head out of her bedroom. She heard the sounds of his snores from the second-hand armchair he reclined in as the television blared something from Fox News. She crept into her foster-parents’ bedroom and went straight for the nightstand, where she knew they liked to hide the car keys from her. She dug around aimlessly through the junk in the drawer, her fingers stilling as they came across a letter addressed to her.

    She read each word carefully, her eyes widening and then darkening significantly as she took in their meaning. The sound of the front door slamming shut moved her into action as she quietly slipped into the hallway and made a beeline for the backdoor. She knew who she needed to talk to about this and she wasn’t going to waste another minute.

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  12. Kathleen S. Allen
    NA-Space Opera

    On the verge of finally seeing a peaceful solution to the planetary war between Koro and Zemele, Olwen resigns when her power hungry sister discovers she’s half-human and exiles her to space. When her sister begins to overtake the planets and kill those who do not follow her rules, Olwen must find the strength to regain her power and stop her sister even if it means risking her life to do so.

    FIRST 250 WORDS:
    Olwen slid off the boulder snout first, her primal need to return to the ocean finally satiated. How long had it been since she felt the cold water’s embrace? Too long. Her political duties were different now that she turned seventeen, before she was president in name only but now she would be declared president in a few days. Yet, each time she stayed ashore, she felt a part of her shrivel up.
    She ducked her head under the waves coming up to the surface with a snort. The familiar feeling of water in her nose used to annoy her, but today she relished the freedom that came with it. Shaking her head to clear the water, she headed out to sea, as far away from her home as she could swim.
    She gazed around seeing the seals, looking back at the shore she spotted a human walking with their head down as if searching for something. Anna. If only she’d love me like a sister would…Anna turned her head toward Olwen muttering to herself. Fear at being discovered shot through Olwen, and she slid back into the water. If Anna saw her as a seal, would she know it was her? Does Anna suspect I am a Selchie?

  13. Name: Joy Callaway
    Email: Joy.Callaway@Gmail.com
    Novel Title: THE MAPMAKER
    Genre: Historical
    Full word count: 128,000

    When her cartographer father, Charles, is tapped by the British crown to serve as Surveyor General in the rebellious southern colonies at the onset of the Revolutionary War, 23-year-old Ella Lennox and her brother Robert go along to make sure he meets his tight, militia-stipulated deadline. While graphing the hostile lands disguised as a man, Ella is initially disturbed by the Rebels’ animosity, but, with time, comes to understand Rebel and Loyalist alike, eventually finding herself at the crux between two noble ideals and two loyal men – Indian agent, Everett Alston, and Intelligencer, Benjamin Marshall.

    All too aware of the ferocity of allegiance, Ella is horrified when her father turns on the crown after witnessing torture in the name of the king – a fate eerily similar to her uncle’s. As her father plots his revenge through the lines of the map, Ella tries, but fails to change his devastating motives. Making things worse, she finds that she can’t deaden Everett’s anger at her father or alter Ben’s resolve to pay for a past transgression, and must find a way to save her father, Everett, and Ben from themselves before war and deceit take their lives – or her own.

    First 250-300 words:
    James Monroe was, without question, the worst surveyor in the world. George II’s selection of anyone at random, including children, would’ve been about as effective. I flicked the blue blotch where I supposedly stood. According to his rendering, I should’ve come across a lake ten miles ago and I had yet to see as much as a puddle. James’ indifference seemed to sneer at me from the map and I suppressed the urge to scream, knowing if I let myself break, it’d be as good as accepting the fact that I wouldn’t find the lake after all.

    I checked my compass, took a deep breath, and wondered if he’d been insane -- going hand in hand with solitude, it was almost as common among explorers as the tendency to get distracted by forward women and barrels of whisky, both offered in abundance along routes. Regardless, it was obvious that he’d sketched the backcountry without seeing it. The only other option was that he’d thrown the scale off on purpose. But there was little reason for James to trick George II back then – fifty years ago, the colonies loved England. And a botched map by a skilled surveyor would still be accurate, just scaled off-mark. I settled on distraction as his most-likely folly, cursed the general fickleness of men, and kicked at a scattering leaf. I caught the gleam from my buckled shoe in the fading afternoon light, and laughed, finding it quite humorous that in all appearance I was one as well.

  14. Name: Katrina Sincek
    Email: katrina.sincek at gmail dot com
    Genre: Paranormal Romance
    Word Count: 94,000


    Blind dates are usually awkward, but Ally Wright expected her night to end with an exchange of phone numbers, not gunfire and explosions.

    Ally is obsessed with two things—leading the resurgence of the local punk metal scene and protecting her coven from a ruthless organization of witch hunters. While her sisters waste their time divining the identity of their soulmates in some weird supernatural dating service, Ally focuses only on their protection. Then she meets Mason Shepard.

    He’s cute, he’s a drummer, and he’s not human. Unfortunately, their introductions are interrupted by grenades and automatic weapons, the calling card of the party-crashing paramilitary witch hunters. The coven survives the firefight, but Ally realizes Mason would make an excellent weapon against their enemies. However, her new-found soulmate is a pacifist. He refuses to war with humans.

    Though dinner dates and Battle of the Band contests are fun, Ally isn’t a romantic. Her priority is defending her coven from stray bullets, and, despite Mason’s warnings, the war will only be settled in blood. She will fight to protect her sisters, even if it means losing Mason.


    Alicia Wright’s hair was dyed every color of the rainbow except for indigo—-screw indigo.

    Her hair was transformed into a perfect gothic rainbow. It was punk, it was bad-ass, and Ally dared someone to insult her by mentioning indigo. Blue was blue, purple was purple, and anyone who thought differently wouldn’t understand why she dyed her hair six different colors in the first place.

    But dyed hair was expected of guitarists. Green or blue wasn’t edgy anymore. And pink? Ally regretted that color almost immediately. Pink was so chic she looked more Disney heroine than punk princess. The public expected crazy hair from their teeny-bopper pop stars. As a result, the underground metal scene was reduced to mundane acts of rebellion. Ally’s bangs were cut on an angle, and the writers of Cosmopolitan magazine would just have to deal.

    Bangs and hair dye. It wasn’t the most counter-culture statement, but the wild streaks on her head would garner attention for the Battle of the Bands contest. If last season’s debacle had proved anything it was that the pub’s judges were influenced by appearance. Also, free drinks. But mostly appearances. And Ally wasn’t about lose to another hipster Green Day cover band just because they sported Buddy Holly glasses and toboggan caps.

    Ally separated the last brunette lock of her hair. She snapped her fingers.


    The paint samples were diligently placed in her palm. Ally thumbed through the colors, pausing over the indigo with a frown. She cast the sample off her bed and chose a tropical orange.

  15. Name: Amy Standage
    Email: amystandage@gmail.com
    Title: Fathom
    Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
    Word Count: 77,500


    Olivia cannot believe that the supreme ruler of idiots, Brock Mallory, sent a picture of her dressed as a beached mermaid to a tabloid. Nor can she understand why a strange red-haired woman gave her a meaningless seashell—until the red-haired woman turns up dead.

    When Olivia is accused of committing the crime and taken in for questioning, she isn’t brought to the police station. She’s taken to a man named Doran Linnaeus who is after one thing only: the seashell. He also seems to have mistaken Olivia for someone else… someone or something.

    Olivia then becomes caught in a war between humankind and creatures that weren’t supposed to exist. Creatures, no less, that have a deep distrust of humans, a thirst for vengeance, and an innate aversion to eating shrimp.

    First 250-300 words:

    I could hear the waves before I could see them. As I stepped off the pavement that separated the city from the bluff, the deep grey-blue of the ocean spread below me. The wind tugged at my hair. The sound of rushing, crashing, foaming waves sent goose bumps to my skin and a shivering thrill to my insides. This was my sanctuary. This was my solace and my future. I was going to make the ocean my life and I had an entire summer to explore it. I couldn’t wait to get started.

    “You’re thinking about plankton, aren’t you?” said my best friend Samantha from behind me. I turned around. She held her camera to her eye and snapped a couple pictures of the horizon.

    “No,” I replied with a laugh. “Why?”

    She lowered the camera. “Because we’re standing in front of an ocean. And you have that look on your face that says,” she changed her voice to a swoon, “ah, plankton. Or whatever stuff is in there.” She jerked her head toward the water. I smiled and inhale a deep breath of fishy, salty air. I wasn’t thinking about plankton, per se. But I couldn’t help mentally running through several pages of my marine-bio books as Samantha and I stood on the bluff.

    “So? What if I am thinking about plankton?” I replied, brushing long strands of my windblown hair out of my face. Sam snorted and took a few more pictures.

    “You’re such a geek.”

    “Takes one to know one.”

    She shrugged, grinned, and took off running down the path that led to the beach with a great, wild, “Wahoo!”

    I laughed again and scampered after her.

  16. Diane Lash Decker
    Women’s Fiction
    102,000 words

    “Choice” seems like a simple concept. After all, today’s young women (new adult readers, for example) can't imagine not having a choice about their body, lifestyle or partner and may, at times, take choices for granted. Yet, women spent the second half of the twentieth century fighting for choice, insisting on choice, and there’s no way we ever intend to lose our right to choose. Moreover, the unrest we feel when a person makes a choice that’s difficult to understand leads one to believe the concept of “choice” is anything but simple. THE ESSENCE OF CHOICE is a compelling story (with tender moments of humor) about the NA women during the 1980s that battled for choice and ironically had to find a way to respect all choices – even the ones they didn't understand. The timing for my novel is essential because Senator Todd Akin’s remarks and the Sandra Fluke incident are both powerful signs that women’s choices continue to be in jeopardy. Plus, the imminent retirement of one or more justices on the Supreme Court keeps the issue of “women’s choice” in our headline news.

    First 300 words:
    Lizzy - 1985

    Lizzy and her father had finished dinner and were lingering at the table. They called themselves the “linger-longers” because that’s what they liked to do. They'd sit and the dishes would sit and the candles would burn. Sometimes they talked and sometimes they just listened to music. Lizzy said they were putting off the dish duty but her father believed they did it to extend their time together at the table. Either way, it was bewildering to some people like Lizzy’s friend, Ranie, who opted to eat, clear and clean without pause.

    They were lingering even longer since Lizzy was visiting for only one night. Her father’s home in Richmond, Virginia was half-way between Lizzy’s townhouse in Old Town Alexandria and her weekend destination: Manteo, North Carolina. She and her three best friends, Ranie, Meredith and Pilar, were finally getting together for their first get-away reunion since graduating from college five years ago.

    Each year they said they were going to meet and each year something got in the way. Ranie’s wedding after college and birth of her daughter and Meredith’s goal to attend law school combined with Lizzy’s sporadic schedule as a stewardess and Pilar’s unexpected wedding last spring made it practically impossible for them to get time away at the same time. Then three months ago Ranie put her foot down, reserved a small cottage and insisted they make it a priority, and since Ranie wasn't one to be questioned, the weekend was set and their excitement grew.

    During dinner; however, Lizzy wasn't thinking about the girls’ reunion. She was thinking about the yellowed newspaper page she had discovered over a year ago. It was folded in half and tucked between the older photo albums lining the bottom shelf in her father’s den. If the four lines hadn't been circled with a blue magic marker, Lizzy wouldn't have noticed them.

    "Helen Elizabeth O’Neil, beloved wife of Richard
    James O’Neil and mother of Elizabeth Marie
    O’Neil passed away on November 18, 1963.
    Born in Richmond, Virginia on July 1, 1930."

    Lizzy studied that newspaper page and the differences between the obituaries for men and those for women unsettled her. Women just died, it seemed. Their interests and cause of death were hardly ever mentioned. Did women have careers or passions in the early sixties? Lizzy wondered. Men certainly did.

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