“God, Adds! Do you ever let up? The season hasn’t even started, yet,” Jessica whined from her position inside the goal.
“After 14 years, I thought you’d have learned the answer to that question,” I teased.
“Well, there was that ONE time in first grade when we sat in your living room and watched a movie,” Jessica quipped sarcastically.
“Ha. Ha.” I rolled my eyes. Jessica Strobel and I had been best friends since first grade. Now, going into our junior year at Northwestern University, our relationship subsisted entirely on sarcasm and caffeine. “I’ll tell you what. Since you managed to block almost 10% of my shots, and I know what a sore loser you are, I’ll take you out to coffee after we’re done here.”
“Wow, your highness! You are so magnanimous. Thank you soooooo much…” Jessica continued her sardonic charade. As much as we teased, I did feel a little guilty for dragging her to this practice. It was the last day before the start of fall classes, and while pre-semester practices weren’t mandatory, I was beginning to feel the stress of the inevitability of graduating in two years. I only had two seasons left to impress scouts and get picked up by a professional team, or risk becoming another college has-been. That was a fate to which I refused to succumb.
Title: The Social Season
Category and Genre: Adult Speculative Fiction
Word Count: 110,000
The forty-fourth Social Season isn’t optional for Natalie James. She’s being forced to participate, a stipulation from her trial for treason back when she was a child. While she’d been spared, her mother wasn’t so lucky. And she’d be damned if she let that death be in vain.
Instead, Natalie begins scheming to use the system to her advantage. Her plan is to go unnoticed through the various events, meant to showcase the qualities that would make her a good wife, mistress or servant to a member of the elite.
If she succeeds, she’ll be able to marry her best friend, a man who isn’t determined to control her and will help her take down the tyrannical government controlling their lives.
There’s just one problem. While searching for weaknesses in the government, she’s caught trespassing by one of the most powerful men in the city: Nicholas Olsen, future lord of Dolfian.
Nicholas finds himself intrigued by someone who doesn’t want to obey orders. And he’s determined to make her his wife, a task that will please both his family and his city.
Most girls would be delighted by his proclamation. But Natalie isn’t most girls, and she has no plans to let Nicholas Olsen take over her life and mark her as his legal property.
The Season quickly becomes a battle of will and power, as Natalie works to circumvent an oppressive system and Nicholas bends the rules of the same system to take what he so desperately wants.
First 250 words:
I was pacing anxiously in my father’s office, searching for an escape route from this horrid conversation. He was not easily evaded, however, and he’d been adept at bringing me to his office immediately following my arrival. He’d doubtless spent many hours crafting this particular speech. The conversation had been lingering at the edge of our meetings for months now.
As I continued to pace, he spoke. “Son, it’s time for you to choose. I’m not saying it has to be this season. I’ll give you…let’s say…three seasons. But you will attend each one until you’ve claimed a mate. Do you understand?”
He was just barely speaking, his voice a bit louder than a whisper. He didn’t need to yell, anyway. I’d spent enough time with him to know when to argue. But I’d no interest in a wife; I didn’t need a woman following me around, groveling at my feet.
“Father,” I said. “I’m only twenty-five. I’ve been training under you for five years now. I shadowed you for a long time before that. Don’t you think I should be able to relax for just a bit before I take on a wife? And if I’m going to be the next Lord of Dolfian, do you really think I should be distracted? Why don’t I go through a season looking for a servant or a mistr-“
I broke off quickly, seeing his face grow dangerously cold. I’d gone too far in my desperation. But I wouldn’t apologize.
When Maggie summons her twin Josie for lunch in the middle of a work day, Josie knows there’s a favor looming. When Maggie asks asexual Josie to be her surrogate, Josie is tempted to brush aside the clump of hair that’s hidden her eyes since high school to see if she’s serious. But when Maggie insists that Josie get pregnant the old-fashioned way, by sleeping with her husband, Josie’s heard enough. She packs up her salad and heads for the door.
That’s when Maggie says if Josie doesn’t do it, she’ll use a former classmate who just ducked embezzlement charges and wants to have sex with her husband. What choice does Josie have? She’s spent her life protecting Maggie, saving her soul at the expense of her own. She’s never said no to Maggie. After all, they’re practically one person.
But there’s a lot about Maggie that Josie doesn’t know — the reason for her infertility, that she’s having an affair . . . her compulsion to claim for herself everyone who has ever wanted Josie. Flirty and adorable, Maggie doesn’t expect the shift in her husband’s affection. It never occurred to her that he could fall for sexless Josie. Or Josie for him.
Told from the perspectives of Maggie, Josie and their husbands (one of whom is unreliable), it turns out Maggie’s not the only one with something to hide. In the aftermath of the “act,” their marriages seemingly over and the twins at odds, the couples wait to learn whether Josie is pregnant. At long last, Maggie and Josie must come to terms with the incestuous relationship that turned them toward and away from each other, and molded their identities.
Josie’s cell phone rang again, the ringtone it came programmed with emanating from the battered vinyl purse slung over the back of her desk chair. It had been ringing repeatedly for an hour which meant it was Maggie. When her twin wanted to talk, she meant now. Maggie didn’t know what it meant to work. That you can’t stop an experiment mid-culture to yack about whether Maggie should try bangs or to congratulate her on losing two pounds.
Eighteen. Josie counted the rings subconsciously. She was math-y that way. Numbers spoke to her better than people.
“Would you pick up the damn phone, Josie? It’s driving me nuts,” Jack Randall called from the next office. It wasn’t like Jack, who co-directed the forensic lab with her, couldn’t be annoying. He spent plenty of time on YouTube and Hulu while he set up cultures and rubber-stamped requisitions. If he was doing something rote, it never occurred to him that Josie might be trying to concentrate, even if she pointedly closed her door. But Josie never spoke up, never told him off, didn’t today. She wasn’t that way.
The office walls were paper thin. They weren’t even proper walls, just dividers that gave lab directors the illusion they’d risen above the mere benches. As a result, Josie knew way too much about Jack, his rocky marriage, his druggie kid, his gambling, his girlfriend. She didn’t want him, or anyone, to know about her.
Seventeen-year-old Sherry Anne Maes is a hand-shakin’, state-travelin’, good-luck-givin’ girl. Born with a rabbit’s foot attached to her hipbone, her palm contains the power to bestow good luck to those she chooses.
But unfortunately, using that luck to save her cancer-riddled father is another story. And when he dies, he not only leaves Sherry with a grudge against her handshake, but he truth-bombs her with a long-kept secret about her birth. Suddenly, she feels like an outsider, a dumpster baby no one wants, and so Sherry gets the hell out of her hometown and gets highway bound via Buick Skylark.
Traveling across the US of A, Sherry tries to outrun the gift of her handshake, while working to unravel clues about her past left behind in her father’s letters. Letters which eventually lead her to learn that she is not alone in the world. That there are others out there like her, those called Weirdos.
Curious to connect with her own kind, Sherry hitches a ride with her boot-knockin’-boy Catch Shepard, lead singer of a busking bluegrass band. However, her efforts to track down her fellow Weirdos are derailed when Sherry discovers one of her past handshakes has gone wrong. Now she must rush against time, and fight against a meddling cocaine-addled fiddle player, to right the good luck she has pressed to the wrong person, even if it means letting her own run luck—and life—run out.
First 250 Words:
I was born fur on fire.
Fourth of July morning, a full moon high in the sky good enough to howl at, my little town of Mariah, Montana went insane. Because I came into this world with a rabbit’s foot attached to my hipbone.
Small and floppy, this furry extra appendage dangled off my right side, high up, an afterthought like one of those unwanted skin flaps old people get. A silky gray-brown pelt dotted with small orbs of pearly white. Cushy pink pads on the bottom of a dainty paw. An honest-to-god rabbit’s foot.
I’ve got photos as evidence. In the faded, grainy prints taken by hospital staff, the foot’s tiny, about a pinkie-length, and pretty in an odd holy-shit-this-shouldn’t-be- possible kind of way. Like babies born with vestigial tails or cutaneous horns. And at least those conditions have been documented throughout history. Medical anomalies which have an explanation for the skin-covered bundle of nerves and tissue buried beneath the flesh of the afflicted. So far, science tells me I’m the first in history to be born with something that should only be carried on a key chain. Sold at dirty truck stop gas stations along with a pack of KOOLS and Astroglide.
I’ve got the foot too.
Local doctors removed it a week after my birth. Snipped it off with great big medical scissors and stitched up my hip, leaving behind a four-inch raised scar. Today the scar resembles braided white twine coiled on my bony hipbone and ending near the top of my waist.
Word Count: 105k
Rebel son to a real-estate mogul, Dante Arzola stays as far away from his father’s illicit hotel business as possible. The need for him to distance himself from the blood-soaked dealings of his family is only exemplified the night his mother passes away, leaving him with a hole in his chest and two years’ probation. In his world of wealth and corruption, his childhood friend has always stood as a beacon of goodness and light. Now he wants more than friendship. He wants her.
Sadie Trajkovski isn’t as innocent as Dante thinks.
Blackmailed by her former partner, Sadie must find a way to protect herself from one man’s callous revenge and keep Dante from learning the truth that dangles right within his view. She is in love with his brother. However, as her blackmailer’s threats turn more sinister, Sadie will have no choice but to pick—betray Dante’s trust or risk her life fighting an enemy she has no clue how to defeat.
First 250 Words:
I can’t get caught. I can’t. My stomach churns as I unclench my fist. I am so close…so close to the truth I can taste it, and if I get caught, she’ll take it away from me. She did it once. She’ll do it again. I keep my eyes locked on the kitchen archway. Toes curled in the plush living room carpet. Sweat gathers under my arms and behind my knees, in the area where my boobs meet the wire of my bra, and I’ve never been so thankful for nonstick deodorant. My heart drums wildly in my ears, much louder than the air conditioning humming or the gentle wind pulling the smell of salt-water and rain through the open windows. I wipe my palm down my shorts before I inch my hand into my mother’s purse. Slowly. Slowly. Fingers touch metal and plastic.
The first time I heard some things were better left alone was when I was twelve.
During primary school, I would spend each summer at the Arzola Estate in Coral Gables. The manicured lawns were my playground. The oceanfront was a mini paradise I would swim in for hours on end. One day when the chauffeur dropped me off, he turned to me with dead-set eyes and said, “Nobody has this much money unless they’re involved in bad things. If you know what I mean.” But I didn’t know what he meant, though I’d soon find out.
Hello, all you #SonOfAPitch- es! I am so happy to be a judge in this contest, which is now officially entering its second year! Son of a Pitch was the first contest I had the honor of judging.
Last January, I saw on Facebook and Twitter that Katie Hamstead was starting a new contest. I’ve always wanted to be a contest judge. I’d just had my first book published—my LGBTQ romantic suspense novel, Love or Money, which came out on January 12, 2016. I’d also signed a contract on my Other Place Series. When it hit me that I was actually eligible to be a contest judge…it was an amazing feeling. I’d spent two years of my life certain I’d never be a published author.
But I was. I messaged Katie right away asking if she needed more judges. She did!
The moral of this story is: perseverance pays off. I’m also able to tell you that the perseverance can’t end when you get that first publishing contract. I remind myself every day that all my hard work and tears are worth it. Some day I will make enough money off writing and editing to live comfortably and put money away for my kid’s college. Not that I’m uncomfortable now: even if I get rich, I’ll probably still live in my tiny house on my family’s ten acre farm, but I’d also be able to rent a practice space where I could keep my drum set and other music gear. 🙂
Below, I’m sharing my successful queries, to give you an idea of what worked for me. I’m also sharing a short publication story with each.
LOVE OR MONEY
I wrote this book because I was tired of being told my writing was okay, but my characters were hard to relate to and my plots were unexpected. I tried to write a “regular” romance, but it still turned out weird…however, the book sold easily. I didn’t send out regular queries on it. I pitched it on #PitMad, and ended up with two offers.
The novel, entitled THE HUSTLE, is complete at 77,000 words.
am a musician, and a prolific writer for young adults and adults. I have another novel, Love or Money, coming out through Limitless Publications on January 12, 2016. I am a board member of the San Luis Obispo NightWriters association, assistant editor and columnist for their newsletter, and have had a short story published by Akashic Books.
When I was considering whether to accept Limitless’ offer, I had another publisher show interest. The acquisitions editor recommended they sign the book, but the higher-ups declined because they already had a book about mental illness on their list.
The struggle for diverse books is real. Be sure to read them, recommend them, and give them reviews, so agents and editors begin to see the market for them.
I’ve been inspired by the women who ran from NYC to DC to raise money for Planned Parenthood. I’ve had an idea, and I want to put out feelers to see what kind of support this idea would have, because it will be a difficult thing to do and I need to know it would have an effect before I set out to do it.
I would like to walk from here (Yakima, WA) to our state capital (Olympia, WA), a distance of around 180 miles. I would be living homeless, in order to raise awareness and money about the plight of the homeless and neurodiverse. I wouldn’t be accepting money directly for these causes – I would ask for pledges to charities like NAMI.
I’d like to know who would be willing to donate, and who would help me by amplifying my social media presence with regard to this. I would love to hear your thoughts, and would love it even more if you’d retweet, reblog, or share this post to see if any of your friends might be interested in supporting me one way or another on this journey.
If I got enough awareness, my next trip would be to DC.
And yes, I’d be living homeless, as authentically as possible, but I’d make it as safe as I could in ways I will brainstorm with you and discuss later.
Who’s with me?
As some of you know, I recently finished drafting my SIXTEENTH manuscript!
I would like to celebrate this milestone, along with the upcoming release of LOVE AND WAR, the third installment in THE OTHER PLACE SERIES, which is set to drop on March 7, 2017.
I would like to send you all cake and champagne and kisses, but the logistics of that are difficult. Instead, I’m going to have a contest. I’m going to pick SIXTEEN WINNERS. Fourteen of those winners will get a free Kindle copy of one of my books – their choice. The second place winner will get a free signed paperback of one of my books – again, their choice. The grand prize winner will get a signed paperback, AND A $50 AMAZON GIFT CARD.
Yes. I did say $50. And I meant it.
The rules are simple. If you are already signed up for my newsletter, you are entered. If you’re not signed up yet, SIGN UP HERE to enter. You’ll also get a free anthology for signing up!
If you want an EXTRA ENTRY, refer someone else to sign up for my newsletter, and either comment on this entry , send me a DM on Twitter or Facebook, or shoot me an email to tell me who you referred.
Winners will be picked randomly on MARCH 7, 2017 – which is the release date for LOVE AND WAR.
Thank you for your support!
Yo, California dudes and dudesses! I’ll be speaking tomorrow at the San Luis Obispo NightWriters’ monthly meeting. The topic will be online writing competitions like Pitch Wars, Nightmare on Query Street and #PitMad. I hope to see you there!
Presentation starts at 6:30 and takes place at the United Church of Christ meeting hall, 11245 Los Osos Valley Drive.