Thursday, April 24, 2014

New release! Stone of Destiny by Laura Howard

Stone of Destiny (The Danaan Trilogy Book 2)

by Laura Howard

Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance


Allison thought it was crazy enough when she found out her father, Liam, wasn't entirely human. But now she has to join his magical allies to unravel his former mistress's plans. Aoife wants to keep Allison's parents apart forever.

Despite Allison's efforts to keep Ethan, the only guy she's ever cared about, out of this supernatural mess, fate keeps throwing him back into the mix.

Will Allison be able to find the amulet that holds the enchantment Aoife placed on Liam and destroy it? Are Ethan' s feelings for Allison strong enough to endure the magic of the Tuatha De Danaan?


The Forgotten Ones

Book One in The Danaan Trilogy

About Laura:

Laura Howard lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Her obsession with books began at the age of 6 when she got her first library card. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and other girly novels were routinely devoured in single sittings. Books took a backseat to diapers when she had her first child. It wasn’t until the release of a little novel called Twilight, 8 years later, that she rediscovered her love of fiction. Soon after, her own characters began to make themselves known.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Visit me at The Houston Indie Book Festival on 5/3

I will be signing books in Houston this May! You can find me at a table under my name at the Houston Indie Book Festival at the MenilFest on 5/3. I'll be around all day, from 11am-6pm.

I know you would come JUST to see me, but you don't have to. There will be lots to do at MenilFest, like music, art, food, and kids activities!

I'd love to connect with some new Houston fans, so I have a giveaway just for you! Use the Rafflecopter form to enter to win a signed copy of Destruction--a dark wizard family drama set in Houston. If you win, you (or someone you send on your behalf) will need to pick up your free copy from me at the Houston Indie Book Festival on 5/3, between 11am-6pm.

Good luck! I look forward to meeting you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Query Critique Continued

I can't help myself. I want to critique more queries!

Recently, I did a public query critique on Jessa Russo's blog and I have some overflow going on today.

Thank you so much to the brave volunteers who were open to having their queries critiqued publicly! *Gulp* I know it's scary and horrible. I've been there. I'll be honest, but don't worry, I have no interest in showing off how snarky I can be at your expense. And, happily, both of these are pretty good. :)

Everyone who had their query critiqued has won a free digital copy of Destruction! Congratulations! I hope you enjoy it.

If you're interested, here is my how-to post on queries:

The Query Formula

Please help out these brave authors by also posting your own feedback in comments!!

Query #1

I’m querying you because [reason].I’d like to submit my urban fantasy, SOUL SKINNED, for your consideration Unless whatever you're listing in [reason] is really compelling, you don't need this. You can go straight to the story.

Soul Walking witch  At this point, I don't know what you mean by a "soul walking witch," so I recommend removing it for the sake of clarity. Emmy Riley spent her youth on the run from a demon mother determined to use her daughter’s blood to release her from exile in Hellfire. Remaining Still free and with all her plasma intact, Emmy’s managed to carve out a relatively normal life as an agent for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Her ability to merge with souls of the recently deceased and relive their final moments has made her one of the most valuable investigators in Seattle, and her track record for solving homicides is unmatched within the Bureau.

But when Emmy’s called to a crime scene involving a sacrificially flayed shapeshifter whose soul can’t identify his murderer, it quickly becomes apparent she’s dealing with a demon magick mastermind unlike any other. Then another shapeshifter is killed and the murderer leaves an ominous message about Mommy Dearest in the victim’s memories. Emmy realizes that unearthing the demonic magick in her blood might be the only way to stop the madman, even if it means finally facing her past and walking right into her mother’s trap.

Complete at 92,000 words, SOUL SKINNED is an urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of Jennifer Estep’sElemental Assassin series and Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series. I didn't fix it so you can see it and make sure it's fixed on your final drafts, there is a space missing between "Estep's" and "Elemental." Though a standalone novel, SOUL SKINNED has series potential.

I’m an advertising professional living in Seattle, WA, where I spend my days managing deadlines and creating new ideas for clients, and my nights writing. You don't info like this in your query. If you don't have publishing credits to put in your bio, just leave it out.

Per the guidelines on the [XXX Literary Agency] website, I have included [requested materials] Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

I think it is great! You laid out the plot well. It's all very clear and sounds like a compelling story. Good luck!


Query #2

Sixteen-year-old Sara's is convinced that her life is completely under control--at she wants to believe that. Her grades aren’t perfect (she’s failing three classes), and her friends aren’t the best influence (she’s caught up in the gritty world of Speedway). Maybe it's just me, but I have no idea what "Speedway" is. :) But her grandmother always said that it’s important to keep up appearances and Sara has had plenty of practice from living with ’s fa├žade is well in place. It’s almost as good as her a mother who hides her crippling OCD. That's not a critical change, but the way it reads now feels clunky to me.

But However, while her exterior is immaculate, Sara is falling apart. If you do decide to combine the last two sentences, then you'll have two "but" sentences in a row. She spends the majority of her time cleaning the house to ensure her mother doesn’t spiral out of control. Between that, a part-time job, and her chaotic relationship with Speedway racer, Logan, Sara is beginning to believe that anxiety runs in the family.

Sara wasn’t raised to ask for help, but she needs to decide who she can trust before it all falls apart. It’s no longer just her grades on the line, but her first love, her health and most importantly, her mother.

Chemicals Collide is a 75,000 word, young adult novel that delves into the world of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It tells the tale of a girl learning to stand on her own two feet with the help of those who want to build her up, not tear her down. This is more "telling" than "showing".

Jodie Llewellyn holds a Bachelor of Communications from the University of the Sunshine Coast. In her spare time she enjoys blogging; hHer personal writing blog has over 3,000 followers.
So excited to see another story I recognize from Nest Pitch! I was SO close to picking this one too. I had it in alternates and was happy to see another blogger snatch it up. As I said, the first paragraph reads a little clunky to me at the end, but otherwise I think it's a strong query. Well done!


Don't see your query yet? I plan to do one more post. :)

Literary Addicts Spring Into Books Event and Giveaway


Welcome to the Spring Event April 18 - March 5
We are having a Book Blast and Virtual Book Party. Check out the books sponsoring and content below

GiftedCoverEven in a world of freaks, being a Firestarter is considered a dangerous Gift. Lucy was born with the ability to create and control fire. She longs to leave the human world for one filled with Earthshakers, Transporters, and Chameleons, to name a few. When she rejoins the circus, it’s everything she hoped it could be—new friends, a potential love interest or two, and a place where she can be herself. When troupe members begin turning up dead, however, Lucy is suspected of foul play. She must not only prove her innocence but also realize the full extent of her power. To find the real murderer, she must uncover the truth behind her father’s fiery legacy while figuring out whom to trust within her new circle. Little does she know the history of the Donovan Circus and its enemies might actually destroy the entire gifted world. Buy on Amazon

Chira Kelly thought she didn’t need anyone…until she met Ben. Because of one ugly rumor, Chira lives as an outcast at her school. Which is fine with her, because she works better alone. Always has, always will. And at least she has her one and only true friend, Tasha. When Tasha insists that they join a group to visit a possibly haunted abandoned old schoolhouse, she's wary, but joins her friend. Because of that decision, their lives are in jeopardy as a malevolent spirit targets the group. Tragedies and accidents pick them off one by one, and Chira finds herself drawn to the one person who can see the truth. But can he protect her? Buy on Amazon

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00020]
Get into more TROUBLE with The Lynlee Lincoln Series Book Two. And Remember MAUCs Series One is Free Lynlee Lincoln isn’t just a witch, she’s also a Neutralizer. Her job is a juggling act to keep magical and undead clients out of trouble. But getting back together with her old flame throws one more ball into the mix and romance with a guy who has two kids can get complicated. When her old mentor asks her to investigate the goings-on of a dark witch, things turn messy. The witch is stalking supernatural creatures to collect ingredients for a potion that Lynlee can’t seem to figure out. To keep those closest to her from becoming the next victims, she may have to confront the demons within herself. Buy on Amazon


Nell Massler is a powerful witch from an ancient magical family. Before she was eighteen years old, she attempted murder—not once, but twice. Committed to a psych ward, she attempts to right her wrongs and almost loses her life. While she’s lost in a coma, Caruthers Initiative Institute develops a vested interest in waking Nell—and offering her a chance at redemption. Nell is given a fresh start in exchange for saving her fellow agent, Rafe Brooks. Keeping him alive and in hiding will require every ounce of her extraordinary abilities. Not falling head over heels for the sexy mind manipulator will take a miracle. It's when they uncover a plot to destroy the world that Nell will be put to the test... will she choose Rafe and to do the right thing? Or will she succumb to the temptation of evil yet again? Buy on Amazon

When two worlds collide, nightmares become reality. Have you ever wanted to forget? Nariella Woodlinn has. Many times. Especially when her already frustrating life gets turned upside down by a mysterious boy who randomly shows up in her small town. And she can’t seem to understand anything about him, despite how much she tries. ?Nari hates everything about her life, except for her best friend Rydan, but now that they’ve been separated during their senior year of high school, she has to learn to make new friends without him. When strange, unexplainable phenomena start becoming an every day part of her life, Nari struggles to come to grips with reality. And with love. Get FREE on Amazon

Control You - Jennifer Snyder

Kind hearted and naive, Paige Jacobs wants what every girl craves…to be loved. She uses this need to make excuses when her current boyfriend goes from being a tad jealous and slightly overprotective to stalker-ish. She isn’t that girl and Craig isn’t one of those guys. Things are fine. Perfectly fine. Until the moment a dark-haired, tattooed hottie with a snarky mouth walks into her life and tells her she deserves better. Confident and boldly spoken, Cameron Green has always been the guy bad girls can’t get enough of and all the good girls want to tame. He’s lived a lavish lifestyle filled with drugs, women, and alcohol up until his destructive path finally caught up with him. Now Cameron isn’t sure what to do with himself or how to dampen the longing for something more festering inside of him since coming out of his drug-induced haze. But when he meets a doe-eyed girl who gets past his walls like no other, everything about him clicks into place. Together the two learn there are emotions that hold within them all the power to control you. Buy on Amazon
Destruction-Sharon Bayliss

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice. Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can't imagine living without. Buy on Amazon

A dark shadow stalks the night, watching her—waiting to claim what is his. Seventeen-year-old Tayla Jonas longs for a simple life, but after a traumatizing family loss, she is forced to be both mother and sister to her cousins while caring for her mentally unstable aunt. Moving to her grandma’s quiet town of Cody, Wyoming, Tayla finds some normalcy with her quirky green activist friend, Chel, who spends no time converting her to vegetarianism. A few weeks into her new school, Tayla catches the eye of Kyle Harrington—the high school quarterback and resident millionaire—who can seduce any girl with his charismatic charm, including Tayla. But Kyle is anything but what he seems... Buy on Amazon
Redemption Cover

Be careful what you wish for. When the breakup of her family forces Grae White’s mother to move her two children from their privileged city life to her hometown in the mountains of Virginia, all Grae wants is to be invisible in her new life. But that’s rather hard when everyone knows that her father is the latest headline-grabbing white collar criminal, the most popular boy in school wants to take Grae to the prom, and then there’s that she lives in a haunted mansion. It would make anyone want to get away. Grae soon learns that a simple wish can reveal an unknown ability. Something more than curiosity spirals Grae back in time to seek the truth in the tragedy of a 200 -year-old murder. Along the way, she learns about history, happiness, and heartache in the lives of those who have lived on the property, including her own family. Her first journey reveals secrets that will lead Grae to further explore the legends of Graham Mansion. Buy on Amazon

weeksebookIs eight weeks enough time to earn back the love of someone you've betrayed...the only one you've ever loved? Shelly has been in love with Cal since they started dating in eleventh grade. Despite everyone saying that the odds were against them, they got married after graduation and built a life together. Now, six years later, she is faced with the ultimate betrayal. Devastated, her first instinct is to call it quits… After a drunken binge at his best friends’ bachelor party, Cal betrays the one person who has always been there for him, his wife, Shelly. Terrified and realizing she might divorce him, Cal must come up with a way to prove to her that his love is true… Buy on Amazon

Death of the Body_mediumI grew up in a world of magic. By the time I was ten I understood nature, talked to the trees, and listened to the wind. When the kingdom of men conquered my town, I was murdered by one of my own—the betrayer of my kind. But I didn't stay dead. I woke to find myself in a strange new world called Los Angeles. The only keys to the life I remembered were my father’s ring, my unique abilities, and the onslaught of demons that seemed hell-bent on finding me. Now I must learn who I really am, protect my friends, get the girl, and find my way back to my beloved hometown of Orenda. Buy on Amazon
KoF NEW Amazon GR SW

Joclyn Despain has been marred by a brand on her skin. She doesn't know why the mark appeared on her neck, but she doesn't want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won't let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to. The scar is the reason she is being hunted. If only she knew that she was. If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air. Get for FREE on Amazon

Ambers faerie tale for SW and BNYou asked for it, you've got it... Amber's story! If you haven't read Enlightened, it is recommended to read that book before reading this novella. As a matter of fact, if you haven't read it...don't read the synopsis of this book....or pay attention to the title. By continuing to read, you're taking it into your own hands that you're reading a spoiler. Don't write me and say you had no idea and now you're scarred for life. Nope, you can't say those things. Amazon Best Selling Series - age 13+ You're reading at your own risk. I'm warning you to turn your eyes and run and read the first two books before going any further. Get it for FREE on Amazon.

Fifteen-year-old Therese watches her parents die. While in a coma, she meets the twin sons of Hades—Hypnos (the god of sleep) and Thanatos (the god of death). She thinks she's manipulating a dream, not kissing the god of death and totally rocking his world. Than makes a deal with Hades and goes as a mortal to the Upperworld to try and win Therese's heart, but not all the gods are happy. Some give her gifts. Others try to kill her. The deal requires Therese to avenge the death of her parents. With the help of Than’s fierce and exotic sisters, the Furies, she finds herself in an arena face to face with the murderer, and only one will survive. Get it for FREE on Amazon

INOPERATIVE FINAL  200x300Introducing a new series by Award Winning Author, Charity Parkerson: Generation Automation is upon us. The craving to own the latest and greatest technology in the name of convenience has created a world where man and machine live alongside one another in an unsteady peace. Humans still rule for now. However, an underground movement has begun that will change everything. For every arising enemy against humanity, a countermeasure is born-- Alexia is one of the few humans left who'd rather not have an android hanging over her shoulder all day.... Get it on Amazon  

agelessseaThe crash was no accident. Fate carried Brady and his airplane to the isolated island where Karis was banished to live alone. She feared the worst as she sifted through the wreckage, sure that no one could survive. But there he was, barely breathing yet still alive. The closer she got to him, the more her powers awakened. He was like a magnet she was drawn to. Maybe it was the years alone that left her yearning for companionship, or maybe it was the taut muscles in his arms that beckoned her to come closer, either way she had a hard time controlling her thoughts. She knew things about him that he couldn’t remember, things that were blocked from his memory. He wasn’t from earth either, and she needed his help to save both of their worlds. But the closer she gets to Brady the more she knows her world is with him.... Get it on Amazon

immortalvoyageBefore the time of the great pyramids, there was a place like none other, a city of glass and metal rising from the depths of the ocean. Shrouded in mist, the island of Hy-Brasil and its capital Atlantis lay hidden from the rest of the world by its people, a race of long lived, interstellar nomads. What secrets would you keep to save your kingdom? On the Queen’s deathbed, the sonless King Aldric is force into a promise to allow his five daughters to marry for love. A promise he wished he had never made,and one he will have to break, to save the kingdom from his squabbling, incompetent son-in-laws... Buy on Amazon

Anya thought she had an eternity to put her life back together after the Council of Alchemists exiled her. Just when she started to find her place in the world again, disaster struck. Someone witnessed the gifts she had tried desperately to keep hidden. Now the Council is back with an offer she can’t refuse: join them in their quest to take over the supernatural community or lose the life she worked so hard to rebuild. Trying to find a way out of helping the Council, Anya lands in a heap of trouble. A string of sacrifices that point directly to her. Now she’s on a path to discover a deception that could destroy the world as she knows it. With the life of her friends and loved ones on the line and Heaven and Hell on the brink of a Holy War, only Anya can put a stop to the apocalyptic nightmare. Coming in May. Sign up for Emails


Romantic Edge Books began when nine authors’ love of writing and reading collided. The genres in which they write may differ, but one thing remains the same: romance. Whether it’s panty ripping or stolen looks, the girls of REB know how to make their pages smolder. Sign up for their Emails     These authors are giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card and a Book Boyfriend T-shirt from Romantic Edge Books. Fill out the form below to Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter #NestPitch Hunt is Now On

Nest Pitch agent round is now on! Starting now through 8am April 19th USA EST.  

The Slush Bilbies have sorted through the entries to help the Nest Bloggers whittle down the entries. Now the top seventy-two entries have made it through and are waiting for agents to hop on by to make requests.  

Please remember that until the agents have finished making their selections, comments are for agents only. If you want to cheer on your favorite, you can do it in the comments of this post.  

To find out more about the Nest Pitch Easter Pitch Hunt go here and the Rules and Conditions here. You can find the full schedule here and the participating agents here.   

Here are my gorgeous entries: 


SB-2 YA Contemporary - REVERSE CASCADE

SB-3 YA Science Fiction - FADE AWAY

SB-4 YA Science Fiction – THE DISCARDED

SB-5 YA Literary Magical Realism - THE BIG SLEEP OF ARTIMUS FINCH

SB-6 YA Speculative Fiction – EQUILIBRIUM

SB-7 YA Superhero Fantasy - BLOOD BOYS


You can find the rest of the entries snuggled safely in the other bloggers nests: 

Brooke Powell    
Tina Moss     

Good luck to everyone who has made it to here. May your nest be filled with lots of chocolaty requests.  

#NestPitch SB8: You Can Still Make A Baby With Your Socks On

Category/Genre: Women's Fiction/Adult

Word Count: 52,000 

Pitch: The humorous and heartwarming story of what happens when a thirty year old accepts a dare to follow one piece of advice from each of her hilarious grandmother’s letters.

If the MC was an Easter egg...

Black, to hide dirt. Or white, everything looks crisp when it is white, except dirt. 


Dear Aida,

I hope you got the socks I sent you. When I first mailed them, they were in a regular sized envelope with one of those return address labels from the Easter Seals. I always feel bad using those since I only donated $5 back in 1992 and since then they’ve sent me enough labels to cover the Great Wall of China. Of course, I would never actually use those labels on the Great Wall because I wouldn’t want that many people knowing where I live, but it doesn’t matter because two days later the envelope was returned.

Do you remember our mailman Chris? The one whose brother is gay but you would never know it because he always wears his shirts all untucked and sloppy? Well, he knocked on the door on Thursday with my letter in his hand. He told me that I didn’t put enough postage on it. I told him that it had to be a mistake because I only sent one pair of trouser socks and I even ironed them before putting them in the envelope. I explained to him that trouser socks weigh much less than tube socks or knee highs so they wouldn’t require nearly as much postage. I tried to lift up my pant leg to show him the difference, but he stopped me as I was holding on to his shoulder for support. In the end, I had to find a new envelope and a few more stamps. Thank goodness I had so many of those Easter Seal labels.

Anyway, remember to keep them on when you walk on those wood floors of your new apartment. I saw on Doctor Oz that it really is true that you can get the flu from cold feet. I know it will take a while to feel like home, but you will heal from this, Aida. You will.


Remember, only agents can comment on entries!

#NestPitch SB7: Blood Boys

Category/Genre: YA Superhero Fantasy

Word Count: 58,000 

Pitch: A radioactive spider would be pretty freaking nice right now. In 17yo Sebastian's world, only the most fearless become superhuman. Forever reckless, he enlists in the program. Now he must survive a nightmarish, insanity-inducing boot-camp.

If the MC was an Easter egg...

Dark chocolate filled with honeycomb because I'm slightly bitter but have a fragile sweet center.


Half the kids on the bus have fresh buzz cuts.

It's hard to tell who among them is enlisting today and who did it for the admittedly sexy shock value. Like Sarah Smith, the blond girl who'd totally be a cheerleader if our school had cheerleaders. Her long blond locks? Gone. Beside her is Adam Green, the quiet guy who, until today, had puffy brown hair that shot out in all directions. He's staring forward, his hair short and spiky.

And then there's me, sitting by myself, resting my head against the grimy window. I run a hand over my prickly scalp. It's uneven, and there's a pretty drastic dip above my left temple. Still, it doesn’t really matter what it looks like. There's no last minute holy-crap-you're-going-to-war booty waiting for me. Because while I may not know if the others are enlisting:

I know that I am.

The bus lurches to a stop in front of my school. A bunch of signs have been erected on the lawn in honor of it being Enlisting Day. They're the same ones that started popping up everywhere since they first appeared, with brave men and women dressed in camouflage surrounded by phrases like: 'Be a Hero' and 'Defend Your Family'.

Outside, a group of beefy guys, all sporting new buzz cuts, are blocking the entrance to the school. Like they do every single day. Most days I keep my eyes down and force my way through with the volume on my iPod turned all the way up.

Not today.

"Hey look," says one of them as I approach. "Leech's given himself a haircut!"

"Let me through, Ryan," I say. He's the leader of this group of meatheads and as such is the only one who matters. Also, his name is Phil, I just wanted to piss him off.


Remember, only agents are allowed to comment on the entries!

#NestPitch SB6: Equilibrium

Category/Genre: YA Speculative Fiction

Word Count: 100,000 

Pitch: 17-year-old Marvel is able to teleport across parallel universes, but when the Shadows from another dimension seep into her world, she must stop them before more of her classmates disappear.

If the MC was an Easter egg...

I’d be plain old chocolate because it’s normal. 


Stars sprinkled the sky, pinpoints of light around a low yellow moon. I breathed in deep as the wind yanked at my hair. Two steps to the edge and I’d fall. Two steps and I’d be gone.


I whipped around at his voice. Gray stood outside the rooftop entrance, his hand lingering on the handle. “What are you doing?”

There was caution in his voice. He knew exactly what I was doing. I’d done it before.

He pulled out his pocket watch, the same one all Royals carried. Brushed gold with exposed gears, turning and turning through thousands of years.

“Just twenty minutes, Leah,” he said. “I’ll stay with you. It’ll be okay.”

I looked at the view again. I could see buildings for miles, lights in windows. People working, eating dinner, spending time with their families. Mine was home as well, with no idea I wouldn’t be back tonight.

That I’d be dead before tomorrow.

Gray’s feet crunched on the gravel as he walked to my side. He only said one word. “Please.”

My heart twisted and a ball of emotion clogged my throat. “I can’t.”

His fingers grazed mine, then slid up my arm and cupped my elbow. When I turned, his cheeks were taut, raw emotion behind his eyes.

“Gray,” I warned, trying to inch away. “I have to do this.”

“Not again. Not this time.”

He wrapped his arms around me, a tight band, and I could barely breathe. A warm breeze blew, tickling my hair against my cheeks. I closed my eyes. Let myself give in for an entire ten seconds as his breath brushed my ear. He traced the length of my blonde hair, all the way to my waist.

Then I eased back.


And I leapt. Straight off the edge of the building and into darkness.


Remember, only agents are allowed to comment on the entries!

#NestPitch SB5: The Big Sleep of Artimus Finch

Category/Genre: YA Literary Magical Realism

Word Count: 84,000 

Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Josephine, haunted by her mother’s death, hops a magical train in 1933. It leads her to a mystic promising her greatest wish, if she risks her life to get it. 

If the MC was an Easter egg...

Josephine would be an indelible and bold painted Russian egg, because art never dies. 


There is a risk to love. That nothing this beautiful can be held, that the lover’s heart exists to be beautifully, perfectly, gone.—Josephine Nightingale

(For Nikolai)


1933, Grand Forks, North Dakota, U.S.A

The train roars like a metal monster trying to outrun us. I chase it as my past chases me. Thirteen years ago today, my mother and baby sister died in pool of blood and moonlight in the field beside our farmhouse. Ever since, something dark and oppressive has been building around us, stalking my grandmother and me.

This morning, the nightmare finally caught up, and I ran for my life.

Dust billows up from our feet as we sprint after the train. Nikolai grips my hand so tight his heart beats inside of my palm. Glancing sideways, I catch him in a smile big enough to change the world.

I shout over the train's chugging metal wheels, "Everything in exchange for each other, right?" The whistle blows, echoing freedom into the clear prairie sky. The native scent of wild sage rides the wind at our backs like a love-letter pleading don't go. I focus on Nikolai's dimpled grin instead of the fact that I'm running away.

Nikolai replies in what remains of his Russian accent, "Everything in exchange for each other, Josephine!" His blonde hair weaves a golden web over his face. I squeeze his hand tighter and push my legs faster, propelled by his answer and the hope in his ice-blue eyes.

Tears threaten, but I won’t let them come. Because right now, racing alongside my best friend, I am warm and safe; there is only Nikolai Genokovitch and my feet pounding the earth.

Hands still clasped, I’m closest to the half-open boxcar rattling like a million chains. I reach out my left hand for the train car’s handle.


Remember, only agents are allowed to comment on the entries!

#NestPitch SB4: The Discarded

Category/Genre: YA Sci-fi

Word Count: 68,000 

Pitch: When Brielle’s bff reveals she has cancer, she returns to the island where she’s wanted for murder to steal the cure. Unfortunately, her tendency to electrocute people when upset makes it hard to be inconspicuous.

If the MC was an Easter egg...

Chocolate covered scorpion – if the scorpion was still alive. I tend to strike when bitten. 


I tugged the hood farther over my face and sunk back into the jacket as I slipped through the night. I could see the smoke from the fires snaking up into the starlit sky and hear the peals of laughter from my side of the city – just another Edge of the World party thrown by The Pythons. The local gang liked to throw parties at the cliffs that overlooked the sea. I shuddered with the thought. The cliffs weren’t that high, possibly fifty feet or so, but any height was too much for me.

I trudged through the sleepy city, the steel doors of the buildings closed tight against any nefarious forces passing by. Most of Zale was closed up since it was a party night. The people who lived here were all about survival and on a night like tonight, it was better to be inside. As I neared the edge of the city, I passed the old Zale sign that hung there. The sign was from another time; the letter “S” on the end had been broken for years. I adjusted the long blade against my back nervously. Being as this was my first ever trip to one of the parties to join in the fun, I needed a little security. The parties were notorious for making people disappear.

My heart beat wildly against my chest any my skin tingled with anticipation. I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t love a good fight. But me versus the whole gang, well I wasn’t really looking for that much fun.

The smoke was beginning to thicken enough that I could feel it soaking into my clothes and burrowing into my hair. It hung low over the city, its tendrils licking at my face. I tried to escape it by pulling the hood over my nose as a barrier between my lungs and the offensive smell.


Remember, only agents are allowed to comment on entries!

#Nestpitch SB3: Fade Away

Category/Genre: YA Science Fiction

Word Count: 76,000 

Pitch: With mankind suddenly infertile, marriages are genetically assigned to study why. Cadi escapes hers, but things get complicated when she discovers feelings for her husband-to-be... and secrets that prove extinction might be avoidable after all.

If the MC was an Easter egg...

I’d be chocolate-covered, raspberry-filled because a girl shouldn’t wear all her secrets on her shell. 


The lights in the chilly, deserted classroom begin to glow as they detect my body’s warmth. The door slides shut behind me with a whoosh, then instantly bounces back open as if on a spring.

I blink in confusion as Evan walks into the room with bowls in his hands and a pod of cereal tucked under his arm. “What are you, the world’s best boyfriend?” I ask with a laugh.

“Today at least.”

Evan winks, his dark eyes flashing mischievously, and glides a propulsion chair out from under the desk. I plop into the chair and flip off the hologram keyboards while he sits and pours the cereal.

“You should have your favorite cereal on your birthday,” he adds.

I shovel a mouthful of the colorful flakes into my mouth so he can’t see me frown.

“Besides, I only had to get up by five to make sure I could sneak all this out of the cafeteria.”

I brandish my spoon at him accusingly. “They don’t even put out the breakfast foods until seven.”

“Yeah well, I got up extra early to plot the breakout,” he replies with a smirk. “Nothing too good for my girl on her special day. Special week, really.”

“Don’t remind me,” I mutter, stirring my cereal so colorful swirls ripple through the milk.

“C’mon Cadi, you’re not still worrying about Thursday, are you?” Evan asks, his eyes softening. “I wish you’d just find a way to be excited about it. It doesn’t exactly make it easier for me, seeing you like this.”

“It just seems so fast,” I whisper, watching as the colors hug the edge of the bowl and the flakes begin to sink. Saliva floods my mouth and my stomach spins like the colors in the bowl. I swallow hard and push around what’s left of the flakes. 


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#NestPitch SB2: Reverse Cascade

Category/Genre: YA Contemporary

Word Count: 48,000

Pitch: Jake transfers into a school that has suffered a shooting. He forms a circus arts club to bring fun and attract Sara, but the school is still grieving and may not be ready to heal.

If the MC was an Easter egg...

Jake says, “I’d be a clear sugar crystal Easter egg, perfect for catching the light and sending weird shadows as I rolled along a forearm or across a shoulder.” 


Unicycles make people laugh. They smile and clap their hands. They watch to see if you’ll fall.

That’s why I skipped the cheese wagon and pedaled off for my first day at Patrick Henry High School. I wanted to hear some cheers, and I wanted everyone to know when I arrived.

I needed the boost after the crappy way the day had started. For the first time since third grade, Mom made me pass wardrobe inspection. “It’s a new school, and they have guidelines.”

Yeah. We’re not in Baltimore anymore. Those Rocky Mountains? My first clue my friends were a millions of miles away. And guidelines? Strictures. Orders. Commandments. There had been a shooting at the school a year ago. National news. Now an inch-thick book of rules covered everything from “Jokes and Appropriate Humor” to “Manner of Dress.” Which is why I wore a plain red sweatshirt and jeans that had been ironed. This was a compromise from the button-down shirt and khakis she wanted. And marked me as a total loser.

So riding a unicycle was plain survival.

Patrick Henry was a mile from home. I'd googled up a map of side roads to get me there. You don't want to distract drivers who are zipping along a main road.

A block away from my house, I came up on two little kids being walked to their bus stop by their mom. As I rolled by, they both pointed and tugged at her hands. I waved and gave a bobwhite whistle. The mother tugged them in closer, but then she smiled.

I turned the corner, and I came across two girls my age. They wore skirts, something that wasn't too common back home. I rode up close. I matched their pace, waiting for them to notice.


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#NestPitch SB1: The Unchosen One

Category/Genre: MG Adventure

Word Count: 30,000 

Pitch: Peter Harper is NOT a hero destined to save his city from doom. But he doesn’t know that. When a criminal mastermind threatens to destroy Dunton City, The Unchosen One isn’t their only hope.

If the MC was an Easter egg...

I’d be a sour apple egg filled with Pop Rocks that explode in your mouth. 


Peter Harper’s summer started like any other, until his ten-year-old sister wandered into traffic.

At first, he couldn’t react. His feet stuck to the sidewalk like shriveled weeds—roots twisting deep below the concrete, pulling the soles of his shoes.

When Sally’s baby blue TOMS stepped from the curb onto the sizzling street, he snapped out of his trance. Before he could process how he got there, Peter had Sally in one arm and raised the other like a traffic cop.

“Halt!” The word burst from his mouth as the overwhelming heat took his breath away. He shut his eyes and braced for impact.

A deafening pop shot down Third Street, and a mustard-yellow truck screeched to a stop. The unpleasant aroma of burnt rubber and exhaust hit Peter and Sally, but the truck didn’t follow.

A skin-and-bones boy got out, scratched his peach fuzz and examined the flat tire.

“How do you like that?” He wiped his forehead, still unaware of the two cowering children he almost flattened. “First it’s the muffler, now it’s a tire—rusted old hunk of scrap metal—wish it would just die already.”

Peter turned to Sally. “Are you okay?” She clutched her baseball with the ungloved hand and nodded. Strands of sandy-red hair slipped free from her ponytail and waved in the humid breeze.

Third Street wasn’t busy, but Sally chose the worst moment to chase after her baseball. She tossed that ball up and down everywhere she went. Peter never saw her drop it. Except that one time.

He didn’t mind. His pants were damp, but it was a slight discomfort compared to what could have been.

“Any chance either of you have a cell phone?” The driver acknowledged the siblings for the first time.

“Um…what?” Peter peered over his shoulder.


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