H4: YA Science Fiction: THE LAST RELIC


AUTHOR: Mikki Tolley


GENRE: Science Fiction

WORD COUNT: 82,000 words


When a vengeful warlord invades her planet with his cyborg army, Princess Lusi must work with exiled rebels to stop a galactic war and unravel a conspiracy to end her race. FROZEN meets STAR WARS.

FIRST 250 words:

There are secrets, and then there are lies. My parents insisted all their lies were to protect my secret. But their lies to the Empire were nothing compared to the lie they told me.

“Hold still, Lusi.” My mother barely hid her impatience as she tightened her white-knuckled grip on my father’s arm beside her.

I couldn’t help the glare I cut her way. If I was shaking, it was Dr. Goetz’s fault.

“Almost there . . .” Dr. Goetz gently removed the needle-patch from my arm, careful not to smear the fresh swirls of deep purples and golds painted across my skin. It was Luz Fete: my seventeenth birthday and official crowning. In a few minutes, I would leave my suite of rooms to address the Empire and the League of Nine Worlds, revealing myself to the public for the first time.

My parents held their breaths beside me as they stared at the blood-filled pouch in Dr. Goetz’s hands. Behind them, armed guards encircled us, gripping pulse-rifles with bulging muscles and blank expressions. Their hard presence clashed with the delicate white flower arrangements decorating my prep room. And yet they had become a permanent presence in my wing of the palace.

“Relax,” my mother said, noting my focus on the extra security. “No one can get to you in here.”

“I don’t know.” I eyed each security guard. “They’ve been pretty creative in their attempts to reach me lately.”


H5: YA Dark Fantasy (Own Voices): VITIUM


AUTHOR: Steven J. Hanton


GENRE: Dark Fantasy (Afro-Latino Own Voices)

WORD COUNT: 78,000


To resurrect her brother, seventeen-year-old Daniela becomes one of Death’s Aspects: avatars of the Seven Deadly Sins tasked with killing immortals.  But failing will transform her from hit-woman to target. KILL BILL meets FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST.


As an Aspect of Death, I know exactly when I’m supposed to die. Down to the very second.

But standing at the top of the New York Times Building, I’m suddenly not so sure. Ambulance sirens below me whirl in my ears and a warm April breeze caresses my face. My lungs expand as I take in a breath. It feels strangely final.

No. I won’t die. And, to prove it to myself, I leap into the open air.

The rushing winds lash against me and rip my cheeks. My blood surges in my ears.

Why the hell do I always do stupid shit?

Terror constricts my throat. For a moment, I can’t breathe. But just as quickly, my adrenaline kicks in. Confidence surges beneath my skin.

“Look at the world, Dani! You run this!” I shout.

Screams from below interrupt my boasting. A kid points in my direction and yells for help. The people on the ground will probably be calling 911 soon. Gotta act fast.

Ignore me,” I command them.

My voice strains in the gusts of air blowing around my face. They can’t hear me hundreds of feet down on the ground, but another Aspect perk is that they don’t need to. As long as I can see them, my commands work.  And sure enough, people return to what they’re doing—buying street meat from sidewalk vendors, laughing with friends, taking pictures.


As I turn my head from the crowds, the howling of my inner demon starts.



AUTHOR: Jennifer Camiccia


GENRE: Contemporary

WORD COUNT: 73,000 words


Surviving high school trapped on Kauai? Manageable. Avoiding a dangerous stalker? A little harder. Trusting a football star who shattered your heart to be your bodyguard? Downright impossible. PRIDE & PREJUDICE meets GILMORE GIRLS.

First 250 Words:

It’s a universally known fact that the back of a school bus is for the cooler, edgier kids. I avoid the back of the bus with a carefully crafted plan of perpetual lateness. No one in the back will deny me grabbing the first available seat when the bus is already moving and the potential of becoming a human missile grows exponentially every second. Especially after our bus driver has been smoking weed with aforementioned cool kids behind Mitsui Market.

The front of the bus is a landmine for the opposite reason. Students there are on the bottom of the sliding social-scale. Even sitting with them can knock someone’s rep down a notch or two.

The middle is the coveted neutral zone (Star Trek reference for my fellow closeted nerds). Those in the middle can be anything really. I prefer the ambiguity of the middle. And in the middle I can avoid Junior, the second-year senior (second time’s the charm) taking up a whole seat with his shoulders and ego in equal measure.

“Haole girl,” he bellows, as he does every morning. “Come sit by me.”

I pretend not to hear, as I do every morning, and snag a seat next to Calvin. I’m used to being called haole, the Hawaiian word for white. Technically it means foreigner, but in reality everyone knows it means you’re white as a piece of Love’s bread. The irony is I probably have more Hawaiian blood than most of the kids here.



AUTHOR: Deborah Kreiser


GENRE: Contemporary LGBT

WORD COUNT: 60,174 words


ROMEO AND JULIET with HOUSE OF CARDS twist. Paris seems like the perfect son for an aspiring Republican Presidential candidate, except Paris has a secret: it’s not Julia he wants, but her forbidden boyfriend.


I took a deep breath to steady my nerves. Expensive perfume, aged whiskey, and leather paneling—the room smelled like money, like all of these events I attended alongside my dad. He enjoyed being known as the sympathetic widower who single-handedly raised me to be “The Success I Am Today,” so I was always trotted out for the high-profile gigs.

Focusing on my role as official sidekick, I surveyed the scene from the top of the ballroom stairs and caught my first glimpse of him mingling below: Montae Romero was pure hotness, sharply contrasting with the older, fleshier crowd. I couldn’t ignore the heat rising in my cheeks and the sudden twist in my stomach; part dread, part anticipation, and part something I couldn’t—wouldn’t—name.

I struggled to compose myself and straightened my tie again. My dad brushed by, the odor of his overpriced cologne distracting me from my reverie. His aide, Sam, standing at attention, asked, “Ready, Mr. Secretary?”

Picking at imaginary lint on my sleeve, Dad examined me one last time, then nodded and gave a thumbs-up. “Born ready, Sam.” He let out his trademark guffaw, strutting in his custom-made designer tuxedo and Italian shoes. Music boomed from speakers hidden around the room, while lights glistened off the beadwork on the women’s fancy gowns.

Carefully, I trained my eyes away from that spot below where I knew Montae had last been standing. He was forbidden fruit in more ways than one.



AUTHOR: Amy Zinn


GENRE: Modern fairy tale

WORD COUNT: 83,000


Seventeen-year-old Hazel is the youngest godmother L.A. has seen in eons, but that’s no excuse to fall for her client’s ‘Charming’. After all, fairy godmothers don’t make their own dreams come true.


Wedding cake toppers are as varied as couples are themselves. You’ve got the high fivers, the piggybackers, the couple at the altar each with an ear to their cell phones, and the couch potatoes. And then there are the lucky ones—those who really are in impeccable, unshakable love.

Two pairs of beady, unblinking eyes stare back at me from my nightstand. My mother’s been foraging again and found me an addition to my collection. I cup my hand around the woman’s chiseled gown and bring it in for a closer look.

She smells like 5th and Grand. Rubino’s Italian Bistro. No doubt this figurine was mixed up in the dregs of one of Rubino’s paninis earlier today. My mother is one of the elite dumpster divers of the world. Some people have a weakness for puppies in boxes out in front of grocery stores. My mother has a soft spot for inanimate objects, items left on sidewalks next to handmade cardboard signs that say, “I need a home,” or “Free junk.”

The figurine’s not bad though. The couple faces forward, with the bride leaning up against her groom. He has his arms around her waist and she reaches back to touch his cheek.  I picture them watching their band play, swaying to the music together. They look like they’re in love. I know he’s glued to her, but it seems he would hold her just as tightly on his own.

Then again, how would I know? Being in love is not in my job description.


H9: Adult Contemporary Women’s Fiction: DESIGNER YOU


AUTHOR: Sarahlyn Bruck


GENRE: Women’s Fiction

WORD COUNT: 92,000


Pam checked every box: marriage, kid, career? Check. When her husband dies suddenly and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled daughter and save the family business.


Pam had been the one who’d found him. Thank God she’d made the gruesome discovery. If she’d been held up in traffic or stopped someplace else on the way home, Grace would’ve arrived first after school.

Pam would never have forgiven herself.

Now, a mere twenty-four hours later, she could no longer avoid it. It felt too soon, too unreal to share the unavoidable news with their legions of followers. She closed the door to her home office, sat down at her laptop, and forced herself to type.

It’s with a sad, heavy heart I must inform you, our faithful readers: Nate died yesterday.

She paused after she typed that sentence. Her husband would’ve hated having his death announced on their lifestyle blog. Better than on Good Morning America or in the pages of This Old House. An inappropriate giggle escaped Pam’s lips, immediately followed by more tears. In one day, she’d cried more than maybe her whole life. She grabbed a Kleenex and blew her nose. This was the hardest thing Pam had ever written, but it was necessary. Their fans deserved to know, and the full story needed to come from her.

You may have already read about it in the ‘People’ section of the newspaper, or heard about it on a brief report on the local news last evening, or this may come as a complete shock to you. It did to me. And I’m still in shock. I haven’t fully absorbed the fact that Nate is gone.

H10: Adult Speculative Thriller: THE NURSERY


AUTHOR: Roark Arnett


GENRE: Speculative Thriller

WORD COUNT: 82,000 words


When Kenleigh Maize learns a mysterious DNA sequence is the cause of her infertility, she’s invited to participate in a misleading clinical trial. It won’t treat her infertility but may explain the origins of life.


Twin boys playing beside a toy bin in the clinic’s waiting room reminded Kenleigh Maize of her haunting discovery. She and her deceased mother were identical twins. Part of her wished she hadn’t found her mom’s cryptic journal entry stowed away in her jewelry box, so none of these family secrets would’ve ever surfaced.

Kenleigh couldn’t resist the urge. She opened the photo library on her smartphone and reread her mother’s entry from May 5, 1992.

The pregnancy tests came back positive. All ten of them!
How the hell did I get pregnant without having sex? I found
one possible explanation, but it’s disturbing.

“Kenleigh,” the receptionist called from behind the counter.

Phone off, she followed the woman into the doctor’s office and braced herself against the door.

Her confidential medical records were pinned to Dr. Sahoo’s office wall with thumbtacks and pushpins, connected by zigzagging bands of red and yellow string. The shrine looked similar to an evidence wall used by detectives in crime shows. A couple sticky notes adorned her MRIs; others were pinned to her intake forms and prescription history. It should’ve been an alarming sight, but Kenleigh couldn’t help admiring the abstract features of the medical wall. There was an unintended artistic quality to the arrangement, like the color splatter on a painter’s apron. The meticulous nature reminded her that Dr. Sahoo’s examination of her medical condition, as unorthodox as it may seem, was, indeed, an investigation. Maybe today’s appointment was more than just a consultation.