Maha Hussain – YA Fantasy – BLOOD LIKE FIRE

Dear Agents,

When Muslim-American Ariana Baten is haunted by an ominous jinn overlord, she and her murderous imaginary friend must team up to stop the overlord from using his fire magic to destroy the universe.

When Ariana first begins to hear the jinn’s voice inside her head, she finds she can no longer control herself. As the creature grows inside of her, she realizes that its appearance may be related to her parents’ mysterious death. Searching for the truth and understanding, Ariana pairs up with Kered, her longtime imaginary friend. Using Kered’s Forgotten magic, the two travel to Forget Me Not, the dimension where every human thought goes once it’s been discarded. Along with the rest of the Forgotten, they plan to infiltrate the jinn dimension, Al-Jiyyin.

In Al-Jiyyin, Ariana infiltrates the jinn royal family to unravel their plan from within. As she learns how to control the fire magic that always seems to be around her, Ariana is confronted with her true identity. She learns that not only is she the last descendant of a long line of jinn who sought refuge in the human world many millennia ago, but she is also the last line of defense the human dimension has. Alone in a world and fighting in a war she barely understands, Ariana must make a choice: succumb to the fire that runs through her veins, or fight it to restore peace to the universe.

BLOOD LIKE FIRE is a YA fantasy novel, complete at 70,000 words, inspired by Islamic lore. It explores concepts of alternate realities and circles the struggles of a young Pakistani-Muslim girl trying to determine if she’s falling in love with herself or an abstract concept that will never exist, all while navigating the normal trials and tribulations of young adulthood, including love, balancing cultures, and of course, saving the universe.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration!

Warm regards,

Maha Hussain

Chapter One

He appeared before I had the chance to ask him to, as silent as the sun rising in the sky.

He stood by the window, the moon casting a silvery glow along the sides of his face. I rose my chin towards him in acknowledgement, but he remained still.

“Kered, is that you?”

His green eyes lit up for a moment, the way they always did whenever I said his name.

But he didn’t answer me, his eyebrows knit together in confusion as he stared at the sheets of white paper strewn over my bedroom walls and cans of paint lined against my bed.

“Do you feel okay?” he asked. His question echoed throughout the quiet of the house.

Apart from our voices, the only other sound was my brother, Dani, snoring.

I stared at Kered for a moment. His dark, curly hair was more disheveled than usual. It stuck up in every direction atop his head. He looked so real, so human. I often forgot that only I could see him.

I nodded, but he saw through my lie. I knew he was going to. He was my oldest friend.

“It’s okay if you don’t,” he said.

“Mama and Papa died barely a month ago. Why would I be okay?”

The edges of my vision went black. A quiet hiss sounded in my ears. My fingers went numb.

Door.

I heard the whisper inside my head and squeezed my eyes shut. The aawaz, the voice inside my head, was back.

I walked towards my door to shut it, guilt colouring my movements. Our newest house rule was that no one was allowed to sleep with their door closed, but one quick peek and I went ahead and shut it. Technically, I wasn’t sleeping.

Kered placed a hand on my arm. “Ariana?”

I blinked up at him. “Hm?”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“There’s nothing to talk about, Kered. My parents are gone, I ruined my brother’s life, and nothing will ever be okay again.”

Kered bit his lip. “You know that’s not true.”

I scoffed quietly, my gaze landing on the heavily marked calendar above my desk.

It had been thirty-six days since the wreck. Thirty-three days since the funeral. Twenty-nine days since Amnna Khala and her family had moved in. Two days since they left.

The house seemed even more haunted now that it was just Dani and I.

Brush, the awaaz whispered.

I tried to push it away, focusing on Kered instead. “It feels pretty true.”

“You didn’t ask for any of those things to happen. It’s hardly been a month. I don’t think you need to worry just yet.”

My face stayed impassive. Kered only thought those things because he didn’t know the truth. He didn’t know about the voice inside my head, about the darkness that spotted my eyes, about the loss of feeling throughout my body.

I opened my mouth to tell him, but the aawaz stopped me.

Now, it said.

 

Sarah Talton – YA Sci-Fi – CHRYSALIS

Dear agents,

The night seventeen-year-old Liv loses the most important game of her e-sports career begins just like any other. She positions the puke-bucket inside her gamepod. She dons a biosuit. She connects to LegionCorp’s cloud via the computer implant in her skull.

Forty-nine wins. One more win and she’s free.

But in the game, something goes terribly, inexplicably wrong. Not only does she lose the match, Liv is stripped of everything she loves: her team, her boyfriend, and her tenuous hope for freedom.

Alone, she flees into the wilds of the unplugged world to master an unexpected weapon: the most powerful brain implant ever built. Liv must either learn to master it or it will be the master of her death. Meanwhile, the corporation is hunting her down and it doesn’t play fair. The price she pays for another loss may be the lives of her friends, both old and new, plugged and unplugged.

CHRYSALIS is a young adult science fiction novel that is READY PLAYER ONE meets SURROGATES. Complete at 75,000 words, it stands alone but has series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I have included the first five hundred words and look forward to hearing from you if you wish to read more.

Best,

Sarah Talton

Chapter 1

I never thought I’d live to see seventeen. In my line of work most people tap out at fifteen — sixteen tops. But I don’t have that luxury. My team depends on me.

My bones ache with a brittle fatigue — it happens to those of us who have died too many times. Death is my master. It rules me in so many ways, and yet it never brings the sweet oblivion it promises. After all these years, all these games, I’m as ancient as a pillar of salt.

I stretch, forcing blood into cold flesh. My joints pop and creak. Today I feel every little twinge.  At least it’s almost over, one way or the other. Either we win the game or I take a black pill. There is no third option for me.

I slam two vials of proluxe in an attempt to feel normal. The third vial winks at me, golden liquid swirling seductively, but I resist. I can’t afford to get wasted.

The drug eases the muscle aches and frees my mind, allowing my imagination to wander outside the four walls of my cell. Though I’ve never actually seen it with my eyes, I know what my teammates are doing right now. Ashley is drinking a third, and maybe even a fourth, vial of proluxe while pacing grooves in her cell. Akari is playing death metal through her implants at top volume. And James… James is praying. He’s too good for this life. Too good for me, definitely.

I walk through the pre-game ritual of checking my biosuit for malfunctions. The familiar routine soothes my frayed nerves. I try not to think about what winning this game will mean to my team. Or what losing will mean. Despite all the misery I don’t want to black-pill myself. I want to take a long, hot shower. I want to grow the brown stubble that covers my head. I want to kiss James in the sunlight.

I tuck the puke-bucket in the bottom compartment of my gamepod, for later. Its blue scalloped edges make my stomach roll over. Barfing is the second worst aspect of playing, behind pain. And today’s game will have both in abundance.   

Soon a pair of yellow-eyed workers will transfer my pod to the playing stadium. When they enter the player’s wing our lights will turn off, a signal that we must cease all activity, zip into our suit, and enter the pod. The darkness in my room is complete and unrelenting. Some players smuggle night lights into their cells to chase away the shadows of these moments, but I don’t bother.

My nightmares aren’t afraid of the light.

Stefany Valentine – YA High Fantasy – TRIBE OF LIGHT AND SHADOW

Dear (Agent),

When a rival nation invades Tanchichek and slays the royal family, Aziah, a sixteen-year-old mage, must take the place of her dead twin brother and join an all-male competition to become the next King of her country. TRIBE OF LIGHT AND SHADOW, complete at 99,000 words, is a YA high fantasy Mulan retelling set in a Mesoamerican inspired world. It is a standalone with series potential and would be enjoyed by readers fond of immersive non-European lands like An Ember in the Ashes or Flame in the Mist.

In the patriarchal land of Tanchichek, women are executed for studying magic. But Aziah has learned how to shoot lightning from her hands and she’s good at it too. All she wants is to practice magic without the fear of death. When a rival nation invades her country and kills the entire royal family, Aziah sees a chance to rewrite that sexist law by joining a competition that results in the winner being crowned the next King of Tanchichek. To participate, she must take her dead brother’s identity and compete against the mighty Jaguar Knights. Though her skills as a mage are better than most, Aziah isn’t the best at disguising her womanhood. Her biggest competitor, Xenephi, has loathed Aziah’s family since they were children and he is getting closer to uncovering Aziah’s secret with every passing day. If she’s discovered, Aziah will lose more than her only chance at rewriting the laws of her nation.

My author platform largely consists of my Instagram account @BooksNBeaches where I cater to over 21K followers within the bookish community. I have a double minor in Technical/ Professional Writing and Creative Writing. From a young age, I have studied religious texts set in ancient Mesoamerica and am happily married to a man with Mesoamerican roots.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Stefany Valentine

 

Decree of King Himnah

40th Year Exceeding the First Great War

 

From this time forth, able-bodied boys age eight in years will train to become Jaguar Knights.

The magic of their Tribe shall be entrusted to him, as his fathers before him.

Until the age of eighteen will the youth remain students.

At the morning of manhood, he may choose to aspire to on a separate path or remain a warrior.

Documented in the Library Archives

~~~~~

Decree of King Himnah

46th Year Exceeding the First Great War

 

Never again shall women know magic.

A power so marvelous will lead to our destruction.

In addition to rearing and bearing children, this burden of power has no placement.

For this cause, a woman found with too great a potential, shall surely be put to death.

 

Documented in the Library Archives

~~~~~

 

Chapter 1

 

Aziah

256th Year Exceeding the First Great War

30th Day of the 6th Moon

 

~ Aziah dipped her toes into the babbling river that cut through the jungles of Tanchichek. The cool water offered a millisecond of relief from the sweltering humidity. Beneath its glittering surface, scaly catfish flicked their tails along the rocky bottom, pluming clouds of mud with each stroke. They would make a tasty dinner.

“Ready your baskets!” her brother ordered to the servants along the riverbank. Then he lowered his voice and whispered to his sister. “And to you, Aziah, ready your magic.”

Aziah leaned against a boulder. Her response was quiet enough to be masked by the rustle of palm leaves. “Darling Zemaron, my magic is always ready.”

“Cocky, much?” he spoke from the corner of his lips.

Aziah smirked at the face identical to her own. Then she cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted to the servants. “On the count of three!”

“Hey, that’s my job!” squabbled Zemaron.

“Hurry up then, sloth.”

Zemaron ground his teeth. “May King Leum curse you a thousand years.” Then he rose his voice, “One!”

An insult sat at the tip of Aziah’s tongue. She could have shoved her brother into the water if she wanted to. But there was a task at hand. And if she wasn’t careful… well, Aziah would rather not think of the sting of a blade.

“Two!”

Water slid over her big toe. An inch of skin against the surface was all she needed.

“Three!” Zemaron cried then slapped his palm against the river.

The moment his hand touched the surface, a shockwave of electricity pulsated down the current. To the naked eye, one would assume Zemaron shot a bolt of lightning into the river. But on the contrary, it was Aziah who willed the electrical charge. With her toe skimming the transparent surface, it was enough to conduct lightning into the babbling brook.

Catfish turned belly-up on the surface. The servants waded in to retrieve their supper. That was when Aziah slid from her rock. She ensured no one was looking their way before examining Zemaron’s hand.

 

Lois Johnson – YA Contemporary – ONE FOR SORROW

Dear Showcase Agents,

ONE FOR SORROW is a 63,000 word contemporary YA novel about the consuming power of first love and a relationship shattered by jealousy, betrayal and revenge.

How can identical twins be strangers? Shared dreams bound them together . . . now secrets tear them apart.

Fourteen-year old Evie feels abandoned when her twin, Nat, shuts her out and makes new friends. Despite Evie’s attempts to remain close, Nat becomes secretive, leaving Evie confused and alone. When Evie falls in love, the rift between the twins widens further.

Evie finds Nat sneaking out of the house and staggering back in the early hours and worries what her sister is up to. When she sees scars on Nat’s wrist, Evie fears she is hurting herself and tries to help her. But Nat’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic until the police wake the family to say Nat is in hospital following a fatal accident.

When Nat confesses she killed someone, Evie fears for her sister’s future. Nat is adamant she is guilty . . . but Evie knows Nat is lying. Can Evie repair their broken relationship enough to persuade Nat to tell the truth about what really happened that night? If she can’t, Nat will be tried for manslaughter and both their lives will be shattered.

I hope this story appeals to readers who enjoy the work of Cat Clarke, Tim Bowler and Sharon Creech.

When I moved to Manchester, complete strangers began calling me Susan. This happened so frequently that I felt like I had an identical twin – someone I had never met. Years later, this idea gradually developed into ONE FOR SORROW.

I have an MA in Writing for Children from MMU and am an active member of SCBWI where I enjoy the lively crit sessions. In addition, I have enjoyed attending numerous writing conferences and workshops, including those held in Winchester, York and Manchester. I have had eight non-fiction books published by Hopscotch and a poem published by Macmillan Children’s Books. Several of my children’s stories have been shortlisted and/or placed in a variety of competitions.  

Thank you for taking the time to read my query letter.

Yours faithfully,

Lois A. Johnson


ONE FOR SORROW – FIRST PAGE

Even with drips of dark hair dye trickling down my forehead, I still look like her.

The ginger hair has gone but I can’t change my mouth or nose. My/Her hazel eyes stare back at me.

My whole life, I’ve loved that we are identical. But not anymore. I need to look like me now. Just me.

Why didn’t I realise we are so different, deep inside, where no-one ever sees?

“Are you ok, love?” Mum calls through the bathroom door.

“Yes, thanks.”

Well, that’s another lie to add to the pile we’re all building. Maybe one day the pile will topple down and bury us . . .

I listen for Mum’s footsteps going downstairs and sigh. She’s always hovering over me. It’s suffocating. And I know that no matter what I do, when Mum and Dad look at me, they’ll always see her too.

The instructions on the hair dye say I have to wait 20 mins. I go into my bedroom and squeeze past the boxes to sit on the bed. Mum says if I unpack I’ll feel more at home.

But some things you can’t put in boxes and bring with you. And other things you wish you could leave behind are with you always – even though you never packed them.

One of the boxes has ‘FRAGILE’ written on every side.

That’s how I feel too – like I could shatter any second.

I put the box on the bed beside me, open the flaps, and carefully lift out the bleached, twisted tendrils of driftwood. I close my eyes and sniff, hoping for the salty tang of the sea. I try to hear the crash of waves or the cry of gulls.

But the only sound is the noise of cars going up and down the road outside and the shouts of neighbours’ kids playing in the street.

I’ve never lived so far away from the ocean.

It’s another 12 minutes before I can wash the colour off. I grab a handful of tissues and dab at the cold trickles running down the side of my face.

I look like I’m melting. If I could melt and remake myself, what – or who -would I choose?

I reach into the box again and the fabric bag of shells rattles. I pull the drawstring open and pick up a tiny periwinkle. I smile at the memory of dusting it off on my t-shirt before carrying it home in the pocket of my shorts. As I turn it round, a few grains of sand stick to my skin. I’ve brought a bit of the beach with me after all.

I think of long summer days, kicking off my flipflops to run along the sand, arms outstretched like wings, while the breeze lifts my hair and streams it out behind me.

But my hair’s much shorter now – ever since we moved here for our ‘Fresh Start’– another attempt to make myself look different from her – my ‘mirror image’.

 

Nicole Brake – YA Fantasy – CHASING BLOOD AND SCOUNDRELS

Dear Agents,

Seventeen-year-old bounty hunter Annora is determined to catch the notorious outlaw who nearly stole her life. When she learns the killer has entered a deadly tournament to buy his freedom, she must enter too or risk losing her only shot at revenge.

Annora’s maimed hand is a constant reminder that Gabian Zola—renowned outlaw, killer, and feared Northman— is leaving a string of murders in his wake, and Annora is his only surviving victim. Alongside her best friend and ally, Hellion, the girls bloody their hands on the forsaken streets of the borderlands to prove they’re a force to be reckoned with.

When they learn that Gabian has come out of hiding to compete in an upcoming blood tournament, Annora and Hellion decide to risk their chances of survival to pursue him once again. Recruiting the beautiful Carina, a runaway girl with a bounty on her head, they set out across the savage red desert to finally claim their prize.

During their journey, tempers fray, water skins run dry, and Hellion finds herself drawn to Carina, despite her dangerous secrets. The girls join a dozen mercenaries and outlaws to joust, race, and duel their way to victory, all the while plotting to capture their target. But when Gabian begins to methodically pick off the competitors one by one, it’s clear that Annora and Hellion are more the hunted than the hunters.

CHASING BLOOD & SCOUNDRELS is complete at 93,000 words, and is a young adult fantasy novel told in three points of view. It is standalone with series potential.

Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands meets Claire Legrand’s Sawkill Girls, CHASING BLOOD & SCOUNDRELS showcases the power of female friendship and f/f relationships and will appeal to fans of Susan Dennard and Ryan Graudin.

This manuscript was selected from 1,900 submissions to be a Pitch Wars novel, and was named as a judge’s favourite by Ink & Insights. Over the summer of 2018, I spent three months revising this manuscript with Melissa Welliver as part of the Write Mentor mentorship program.

I’m a Welsh writer and bookworm living near the coast in South Wales, UK. I hold a BA (Hons) in History with a focus on women who shaped the world.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Every inch of Annora’s body ached like a single throbbing bruise following their last job, and if the last six months had taught her anything, it was you can always find new ways to hurt.

The bazaar pulsed around her. Rowdy vendors boasted of teas that would quench the desert’s thirst. Street children squabbled over shady stoops—prime real estate in these forsaken parts. Channelling her frustrations into her heels, Annora hurtled through the narrow alleyway.

Another cruel day in the Borderlands; a day of bloody scrapes, sweaty mayhem, and dry, cracked lips. Another day of trying to keep up with Hellion, who was hot on the heels of the most wanted siblings in Gaurida as if it took no more effort than climbing from her bed this morning. Life was becoming an infinite cycle of bloodying themselves to scrape together opezas for rent while ignoring the hunger gnawing at her. She ached for the taste of an easier life.

“Quit dawdling,” Hellion called, amusement in her voice. Sweat was only now starting to break on her brow.

“Gods, you’re smug.” Annora failed to keep the breathlessness from her voice. “Keep your eyes on the marks! We’re screwed if we lose them.” Sweat pooled in her gloves, inching its way along her scars as she flexed her remaining fingers.

“Not my first time, Nora.” The steel blades strapped to Hellion’s hips glittered under the sun’s unrelenting gaze. Her golden-brown limbs cut short, sharp movements through the alleyway. “Damn it! They’re heading to the pits.”

Annora pressed the fabric of her threadbare headscarf to her nose as the tannery’s stench of animal skins and dye strangled her every breath. Sharply, the auburn-haired twins veered left. The filthy rags wrapping their feet kicking up flurries of red dirt.

The sixteen-year-old siblings had earned their bounty notice by killing their entire family with a hefty dose of wolfs bane. They had no training. No conventional weapons. On paper, this job should be a cinch. In reality, it was a bleeding nightmare.

“You know if you stop now,” Hellion called. “I’ll at least try and resist the urge to throttle you both.”

 

Lydia Massiah – YA Historical (and ghost story) – TROGLODYTE

This manuscript is no longer available for requests.

Dear Agents,

Inspired by terrifying caving experiences in Somerset, ‘Troglodyte’, my YA novel, combines historical fiction with a ghost story, and is told in a dual timeline. ‘Troglodyte’ was recently shortlisted for the Wells Children’s novel competition, and last year was longlisted for Mslexia’s Novel Competition.

When seventeen year old OWEN opens up a lost cave, he awakens an eerie stalactite girl and unleashes her tragic Celtic past to haunt him. As vengeful spirits possess those he loves, Owen must unearth his links to MARTIALIS, the Roman lover she betrayed 2000 year ago, before history repeats to destroy them all.

A-level student, Owen, with a history of depression, discovers a strange stalactite girl within a Somerset cave and unwittingly releases her, Persephone-like, into his own time. After he and his companions are nearly killed underground, Owen wonders whether she was to blame. Tormented by doubts about who to trust, he notices even his friend and brother are acting suspiciously.

Meanwhile, in a parallel narrative: Iron Age Britain, and Martialis, an ambitious young spy for the invading Roman army, is injured while on a mission to recapture a Celtic chief. When Martialis is rescued and taken to a sacred cave by the chief’s druid sister, DERWEN, he finds his loyalty to the conquering Empire questioned. Unaware that Derwen is using him to plant misinformation, Martialis tries to discover her tribe’s plans, but becomes romantically involved. However, after her deceit almost destroys his legion, the young spy returns to her underground hide-out, seeking vengeance. There his actions set in motion a tragedy which culminates in a terrible flood, killing Celt and Roman alike. Derwen is left literally petrified, suspended in time, trapped within the cave.

This is the stalactite girl’s past, but unless Owen can find out what happened to Martialis, the spirits of Derwen’s brothers who died here will exact their revenge. To uncover the truth about the young spy’s relationship with Derwen, Owen must trust her to help him resurrect Martialis. As a depressive, Owen has always feared giving in to thoughts of self-destruction, but to save those he loves, he faces sacrificing his own identity.

Throughout ‘Troglodyte’ I’ve woven in threads of ancient folklore and fertility mythology, to build a sense of the mysterious, pre-Christian, Celtic world which I believe is buried deep within our culture. I wanted to create something eerie and magical – but set in the real world. ‘Troglodyte’ contains elements of ‘Stranger Things’, and is influenced by Alan Garner’s writing, particularly ‘The Owl Service’, where a momentous event echoes down through history. ‘Troglodyte’, complete at 92,000 words, is a standalone, though I have material for a sequel.

I have a BA in English from Exeter College, Oxford, the inspiration for Philip Pullman’s Jordan College, and I was later tutored by him while training to be a teacher. I’ve worked in education, as a secondary English teacher, and as a middle school teaching assistant, which have all given me insight into children’s reading preferences. I run a SCBWI South-West critique group and contribute to various on-line writing communities. In 2016 I completed a Curtis Brown UK Creative Writing for Children Course with Catherine Johnson.

I hope ‘Troglodyte’s intriguing concept, teenage characters with heart, adventure plot, and mysterious setting tempt you to read more.

Many thanks for reading my submission.

Yours sincerely,

Lydia Massiah

 

TROGLODYTE

AD 44

The tracks had been laid. We were meant to find the cave, I realise now.

Ropes of ivy bound the crags but did not conceal the opening completely. As I watched my comrades file down into the narrow ravine, I noticed marks on a rain-smoothed bank, and beneath, a run in the scree, as if someone had recently climbed up there.

 

Chapter One

Owen

A rope. I coiled it over my shoulder and forearm. Not a noose. Just kit for today, to pack in my rucksack – along with the head-torch and helmet.

When was the last time I’d used it? Not counting that one time. Eighteen months ago or more?

Mum must have hidden it. Along with the paracetamol and aspirin. And the garage keys.

A year and a half since I’d given up caving – and everything else I loved. But I was off the anti-depressants now. Trying to get back to living again. Flying unaided.

Red, my border collie, nudged my arm with his pointed nose.

“Almost ready, boy. Then we can go out.” I slid my fingers deep into his soft ginger and white fur. He needed a walk – as much as I needed him close. He’d have to wait outside the cave – but we wouldn’t stay down for long.

Will was locking his bike at the layby as I came cycling up the hill – Red running along beside me.

“Which cave you want to try?” he asked.

I caught my breath. “Hyena Den?” We’d done it before.

“Good shout.”

A low tunnel at first – then some squeezes and a boulder choke. We’d need the rope to get out of the Lobster Pot section. Nothing to be afraid of.

From up here the land rolled out around us. The day was dank and murky – as if the sun hadn’t got up properly. We headed towards the woods and the gully where the caves were.

A few sheep panicked at Red trotting past as we crossed the hillside. He wallowed in a puddle the colour of milk chocolate, then bounded towards me. Gleefully he shook the muck off in a motion that rippled down his body from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. I wiped the mud from my face with a sleeve.

“That better, boy?”

He looked up at me like he was grinning.

“That dog’s mental,” Will laughed.

Mental. The word grazed a sensitivity. Reaching the end of term had been hard – such a long one. A-level courses ramping up the pressure, all those decisions piling in about our future, mock exams just over two weeks away in the New Year… How close was I to derailment?

Today was about getting back on course – about being the person I used to be. If I could do it, I stood a chance of surviving A-levels. Going into a cave – would show how far I’d climbed out from depression.

 

Tammy Oja – YA Paranormal Suspense – BIRD

Dear Agents,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to pitch to you.

Complete at 55,000 words, BIRD is a YA paranormal thriller with series potential, comparable to The Sixth Sense and Anna Dressed in Blood.

Sixteen-year-old Casey Sommers just wants the life she had a year ago. Before she was responsible for taking care of her younger sister, Bird. Now, nothing seems easy, or normal anymore. Including her sister. There is something different about Bird. When Bird predicts her own death, Casey brushes it off—until a string of murdered girls in the area make her sister’s forecasts impossible to ignore.  

When the strange events escalate, and her sister’s horrific nightmares end up causing her to wake up screaming and bruised, Casey knows she has to do something about it. It’s time to take action and call in the cavalry, her best friends. Together the group must unravel Bird’s link to the killer. And to do that, they will have to face a frightening secret that Bird’s kept hidden for years. With time running out, Casey is going to have to give up the idea that anything in her life will ever be normal again, or risk losing it all.

I have been published by Gallery books in an anthology called “Once Upon Now”, a fairytale retelling (2016). My short story DARLA was a top ten finalist for the TNT horror contest (2016) held by TNT in collaboration with M. Night Shyamalan. I am a commissioned writer for Wattpad, an ebook company, and TAP, a serialized story app.    

Again, thank you for taking the time to read this query.

Tammy Oja

“I’m gonna give it to you straight, because I think you’re a tough kid and you can take it. Bird, little sister, creator of chaos and future Queen of the Nerds, we …. are poor. Poor kids living in a farming community who don’t even have a farm. So poor, that we taste terrible.”

The mound under the cover erupts into squirms and giggles as I flop myself onto the bottom of the bed and pinch at the wiggling limbs.

“It’s true. No monster in their right mind would come to this crappy town and eat a kid. Or even think about scaring them. We get a free pass just for living here. Why else would we still be sticking around?”

With one hand holding a leg, I reach out the other to click on the light sitting on my sister’s wobbly bedside table. A popping sound erupts stopping the laughter as the bulb goes dark and the overhead light above us flickers. Her leg muscles stop their twitching and become stiff and rigid. It figures. Nothing is ever quick or easy when it comes to putting Bird to bed.

“Am I dreaming or did we just change this bulb out like two days ago?” I ask, scratching my head. “I think there’s a short in it. We better add a new one to the list. I’ll give you mine for tonight, okay?”

Her head stays under the blankets and she mumbles as I unplug the defective fire hazard. I place it on the dresser next to the clothes we’ve already set out for tomorrow along with her lined-up boots. Without bothering to find out what she’s saying, I head down the hallway one door to the left and grab the sparkling silver lamp next to my bed. It’s late and I’m already tired, so without bothering to bend down, I yank the cord from the wall. The full glass of water resting on my dresser shakes and splashes across the tattered algebra book laying open on my bed.

I’m tempted to throw in the towel and chuck it, but instead I pick up a dirty T-shirt from the floor and blot the water, thankful it didn’t spill on the notebook next to it. I’d never get the homework done if I had to start over. As it is, I’m still two chapters behind and if I’m going to pass this class, they need to be done before bed. Groaning, I think about my best friend Jenny who’s probably already finished and getting enough sleep to get through another Tuesday. My sister’s craziness is, like always, putting me behind.

On the march back to her room, I give myself a pep talk and promise to keep this part short. I am almost home free, just a few more minutes and it’s time to myself. As I plug in the lamp and turn it on, the top of Bird’s head slowly peeps out from under the blanket, waiting for the end of our nightly routine.

 

 

Joanna Delooze – YA – GOODNIGHT IRENES

Dear Agent X:

Being the new girl in a fishbowl sized school is hard enough. Dragging a thick southern accent, a hot twin brother, and a tragic past up north with you makes it ten times worse.

The reams of leather straps and black beads on Keelie’s wrists aren’t a fashion statement. They’re a mask, hiding the scars and reminders of the messed-up year she just survived.  Her best friend is dead, and Keelie’s bat-shit crazy mom is locked up for the crime. Hissing just beneath the surface, a spidery voice tells her she’ll probably end up just like her mother. Then Prue spots the slash scars under the jewellry and invites Keelie into the dark world of The Goodnight Irenes, a girls only death wish club.

Keelie chooses life and refuses the invite. Then Prue’s best friend decides to befriend Keelie, ditch the club, and sort her own life out.  This enrages Prue and they learn just how determined she is to bring everyone down with her.

When ugly revelations emerge regarding the circumstances of her friend’s death, and her father’s behaviour since then, hard-won family trust crumbles and Keelie falters back towards her broken, suicidal habits. Faced with the truth, she must decide if she will forgive her family, and look to the future with her supportive new friends and boyfriend, or if she’ll slide back towards the depression and darkness that’s calling her.

The novel is aimed at the upper YA range, and complete at 84,000 words. It is littered with poetry that was written especially for the book. Keelie’s story was inspired by real events from a 1970’s murder in Australia, and my own battle with unreliable mental and physical health due to a brain tumour during 2015-2016. The story would appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins’ Impulse, Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and Other Black Holes, and Susannah Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted.

I’m an ex-pat New Yorker living in England, lured here by a blue-eyed children’s nurse with a gorgeous accent. Twenty-six years later I write, run a charity craft cooperative which fundraises for my local homeless shelter, and wrangle two almost adult boys. After participating in 2010 NaNoWriMo I co-founded a writers group which is still going strong. Since then, I’ve had several short stories and pieces of flash fiction published online and in print anthologies by Pure Slush and Literary Orphans, to name a few.

 

AUGUST

Icarus flew too close to the sun

Longing for reaches far past his allowance.

With wings, I’d skim the surface of the seas

Soak up the coastal salt

Until it weighed me

So heavy and flightless,

To flounder on the beach.

Helpless, but

home.

 

Chapter One

Hunched in the front seat of the car waiting for dad, I scraped my hair into a messy bun and stared down the street, looking for things to sketch quick doodles of. Buildings, people, anything that caught my eye. I still didn’t get it. Why did people move to small towns? Not for the convenience of things, that’s for sure. Lord knew there was nothing convenient about living in landlocked Hanover, New Hampshire. The town was so tiny, I couldn’t even find it on a map.  It suited me about the same as an old Goodwill coat- badly fitting and moth eaten; familiar, but still uncomfortable. In my head, away from Dad’s judgey disapproval, I’d already christened it Little Shithole. Beth would’ve howled laughing at that, if she were still around to find things funny.

One week until school started, and life closed in on me again. The urge to run away ate at me so strong the soles of my feet sometimes itched with it. I opened my iPad and did the same thing I’d done every day for at least two weeks.

Two hours eighteen minutes to Boston.

Three hours six minutes to Montreal.

Four and a half to Manhattan.

Thirteen and a half takes me home to North Carolina and memories of Beth.

Thank you, Google maps. All possible escape routes planned.

The whole place could have fit in a tiny corner of Wilmington, maybe wouldn’t even have covered the stretch along the beach front. I missed the bustle. The enormity. I know, I know. Wilmington was no New York City, not the cultural hub of the universe, but still…I might as well have moved from the world’s biggest mall into Harry Potter’s broom closet.

Along the street there was one movie theatre, showing a grand total of three films. Thank God for the internet. One obligatory Eddie Bauer store, Yankee Candle, and a few shops selling clothes a dinosaur’s grandma would be embarrassed to wear. One bookstore. One day-care center. No beaches. No community pool.

Hanover was pretty, and peaceful in a boring, half asleep kind of way. Nice, if you liked that sort of thing. Soon, picture postcard barns would nestle into a blaze of autumn color. Fiery leaves would pile up in front of little white churches, blow up against the mandatory picket fences surrounding clapboard houses. American flags would be removed from poles on summer lawns and packed into the garage for the season. Weeks from now, snow would swirl around the porch steps leading to wooden doors with plaques saying something stupid and comforting: Love is spoken here, or Home of the world’s best grandpa.