PW #113: Adult Historical Fiction, Own Voices: BEYOND THE CARVED WALLS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Holly Faur Mentee Name: Hema Penmetsa Title: BEYOND THE CARVED WALLS Category: Adult Genre: Historical Fiction, Own Voices Word Count: 98,000 Pitch: Sold by her family into a Muslim harem, Hindu girl Sundari must rise in power, even at the cost of losing herself, or be crushed by the harem’s brutal politics. Excerpt: PROLOGUE Hindu scriptures say forsaking one’s life for another is the highest form of sacrifice. Few humans are granted the gift of this ultimate redemption. I remind myself of this, clutching the Hanuman figurine to my chest, as keys rattle at the iron bars. I can’t tell how many days it has been since I was thrown into this dungeon, which stinks of feces and urine, slimy green mold breeding along its walls. I rise, roll the piece of mat and set it next to the water pot. “It be time.” A fat soldier in a dirty salwar-kameez lumbers inside. He grabs my arm, swamping me with the stench of stale wine and sweat. “I’ll follow you, sipahi.” I shrug off his hand. “No need for roughness.” He looks fully into my face—an insult for any respectable woman—with an insolent sneer and shoves me toward the doorway. I stumble against the iron threshold but right myself and step into the soft light of dawn. My eyes crinkle at the brightness; it’s more light than I’ve experienced in days. As a velvety breeze caresses my cheeks, I raise my face and inhale. A high, circular wall hems us, and I crane my neck to see a bowl of clear, blue sky at the top. A flight of stairs coils upward to the ramparts of the fort. I’m obviously in one of the round watchtowers that had so fascinated me when I first saw them. “Climb.” The soldier pokes my ribs with a spear. Sweat breaks out on my forehead. I know what’s at the top of these stairs....

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PW #114: Adult Upmarket fiction with elements of suspense and magical realism: ONLY WHEN I FALL

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Kristen Lepionka Mentee Name: Ernie Chiara Title: ONLY WHEN I FALL Category: Adult Genre: Upmarket fiction with elements of suspense and magical realism Word Count: 80k Pitch:  Tristesse, a homeless but talented artist, is out of second chances–until Mia, his drug-dealer and ex-girlfriend, secretly enters his painting into an online contest. The image goes viral, sparking a widespread search, but not everyone chasing Tristesse means him well. With his pursuers closing in, he battles his addiction while Mia fights to save the man she wishes she didn’t love. Excerpt:  The Museum of Fine Arts was humming. Patrons clopped around on marble tile toward the new Vermeer exhibit, loners sketched landscapes in spiral pads, and tour guides directed groups between potted ferns from the European galleries to the Americas. An odd tang of coffee and parmesan wafted from the café. Mia wiped down table five, the edge of her full-sleeve tattoos peeking out from the black uniform shirt cuffs buttoned at her wrists. She brushed a strand of pink hair behind her purple glasses. As she rushed to take an order from a customer at the next table over, a different kind of customer stepped into the café. She saw Tristesse out of the corner of her eye. He was hard to miss. His dirty blonde hair was matted and fell past his shoulders like a neglected houseplant, its tendrils winding their way through his overgrown beard. Glancing around the room, he found an empty chair and slid into it. Their eyes met and she raised a finger for him to give her a minute. Finishing up with her customer, Mia approached. “Hey, Tris. Can I get you a cup of coffee?” He sat hunched over the table, his eyes unreadable. “No thanks. Just a fruit cup.” A thin sigh escaped her lips. “How about a muffin or something?” “Not today.” She knew he didn’t care about the fruit. He came for the heroin she slipped inside....

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PW #115: Adult Women’s Fiction: THE ONES WE CHOOSE

MANUSCRIPT STATUS: Finished Mentor: Karma Brown/Susan Bishop Crispell Mentee: Julie Clark Title: THE ONES WE CHOOSE Category/Genre: Adult / WF Word Count: 94,000 Pitch: When geneticist Paige Robson decided to use an anonymous sperm donor, she believed she was protecting her child from the abandonment she faced with her own father. But when her son’s donor suddenly shows up in their life, she must choose between giving her son the truth he craves and losing the people she loves most because of it. Excerpt: If loneliness were a color, it would be the deep purple of my eight-year-old’s shirt as he makes solitary laps around the school track. From the quiet of my car, before opening the door and letting the playground sounds crash over me, I watch him. Wondering how I can fix this, or if my chance of doing that passed long ago. With an ache of worry that seems to always chase me, I grab my purse and slam the car door shut, hurrying toward the picnic tables where other students are bent over board games. “Hey Dr. Robson,” the woman in charge of the after-school program says, offering the sign-out book with a smile. It’s the third week of school and I should remember her name by now, but my brain is stuck in a three-word loop: Miles is lonely. “Please, call me Paige.” I sign Miles out and she flips the book closed, looking toward the track. My eyes follow. Miles rounds the far corner, no bigger than a matchstick. “We set up some games, hoping he’d be interested,” she says. “He was very sweet, explaining the periodic table as he played chess. But when the game was over, that was it for him.” I try again to remember her name, this woman who cares enough about my child to help him make friends, to settle him into his new school. “Thanks for trying,” I say....

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PW #116: Adult Sci-Fantasy: SLOW BURN ARMAGEDDON

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: J.C. Nelson Mentee: Ian Barnes Title: Slow Burn Armageddon Category/Genre: Sci-Fantasy Word Count:89,000 Pitch: Asher broke the hacker’s number one rule: Never steal from your employer. Then he broke rule number two: When you do, don’t get caught. Now, he’s on the run through Boston, sporting unknown cybernetics and sharing brain-space with a fallen goddess. Asher wants nothing to do with her, but she insists there’s more at stake than his life. A storm of radioactive magic looms, and unless Asher can discover how to exorcise the goddess, it’s going to delete the eastern seaboard. Excerpt: I’m going to die on the subway, Asher Mar thinks as someone knocks him into the handrail. What a shit way to go. He tenses, but no knife slips between his ribs. No mage’s fire scorches the oxygen from his lungs, and no shockstick sends electricity coursing up his spine, rendering him unconscious on the sticky floor. Asher cranes his neck around. The kid with the cybernetic ears bumps into him again, gripping the subway strap and swaying as the train squeals around the turn. His head bobs to the beat pumping through his chrome, oblivious to the nervous death-glare Asher shoots him. As his panic levels reboot, Asher contemplates hacking the kid’s system to replace whatever he’s blissing out on with techno-polka and air horns. Instead, he shoves his hands into his coat pockets and returns to staring at the doors. Relax, he orders himself. You’re safe. Stop twitching like a sim junkie and blend into the crowd. His arms itch, which doesn’t help. Needles of static prickle and burrow beneath his skin. Scratching makes it worse. The subway screeches to a halt and the doors swish open. Cold air washes across his face as the pressure equalizes, bringing with it the stale stink of sweat, ozone, and spilled coffee. If ARC-Sec finds me, I’m dead....

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PW #117: Adult Psychological Suspense/Domestic Thriller (#ownvoices): BABY TEETH

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Margarita Montimore Mentee Name: Zoje Stage Title: BABY TEETH Category: Adult Genre: Psychological Suspense/Domestic Thriller (#ownvoices) Word Count: 99,000 Pitch: Recovering from Crohn’s disease surgery and overwhelmed by her mute seven-year-old’s increasingly defiant behavior, Suzette’s health and sanity hinge on finding professional help for her daughter. Hanna resents Mommy treating her like a “bad seed” and vows revenge so she can live happily ever after with Daddy. Their battles escalate, but only one will win the mother-daughter war. Excerpt: Maybe the machine could see the words she never spoke. Maybe they blazed in her bones. Maybe if the people in the white coats blew up the pictures they’d see her thoughts, mapped like mountains and railroad tracks, across her ghostly skull. Hanna knew nothing was wrong with her. But Mommy wanted them to look. Again. The room in the hospital’s dungeon carried the threat of needles and smelled like lemon candies tinged with poison. When she was little, the machine scared her. But now, seven, she pretended she was an astronaut. The rocket ship spun and beeped and she scanned the coordinates, double-checking her course. Through the round window, tiny Earth dropped from view, then she was in the darkness with the glimmering stars, zooming away. No one would ever catch her. She smiled. “Stay still, please. Almost finished—you’re doing great.” The flight director watched her from his monitor. She hated all the ground control people, with their white coats and lilting voices, their playdough smiles that flopped into frowns. They were all the same. Liars. Hanna kept her words to herself because they gave her power. Inside her, they retained their purity. She scrutinized Mommy and other adults, studied them. Their words fell like dead bugs from their mouths. A rare person, like Daddy, spoke in butterflies, whispering colors that made her gasp. Inside, she was a kaleidoscope of racing, popping, bursting exclamations, full of wonder and question marks....

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PW #118: Adult Apocalyptic Women’s Fiction: THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Kara Leigh Miller & Meredith Ireland Mentee: Elissa Grossell Dickey Title: Those We Left Behind Category/Genre: Adult / Apocalyptic Women’s Fiction Word Count: 75,000 Pitch: With an asteroid on course to hit Earth, best friends Lilia and Magda journey across an apocalyptic Midwest toward one last shuttle launch. Lilia must find the courage to return to her family, and Magda must decide if revenge is worth dying for when THELMA AND LOUISE meets STATION ELEVEN. Excerpt: I wasn’t planning to deceive him—not after eight years of marriage. Not on our last day on Earth. But like the asteroid we were trying to escape, the events were set in motion eons ago. The mountainous shuttle loomed outside the terminal. Inside, the stench of citrus and soap hung thick in the air. Sam and I stood together, forming a protective barrier around our boy. Anthony was our heart, pumping life into these dark days. I’d obsessively made list after list of what we would bring in our allotted one bag per person. How on Earth could our lives be crammed into three suitcases? How on Earth. What would the new expression be? How on Mars. “Your turn, Mommy.” Anthony tugged on my shirt. I forced a smile, surveying our surroundings. I Spy, his favorite game, helped ease the restlessness during the excruciating wait. But what to pick? I spy something silver—the gun of the security guard who searched our bags. I spy something black—the sea of chairs around us, emptier with each passing moment. My stomach churned, wishing I’d had more than scorched coffee. Sam squeezed my hand. “I’ve got one, bud. I spy something brown.” His serious little face scoured the terminal, and my stomach began to settle. “I know.” Anthony’s smile was dimpled and triumphant. “That girl’s hair.” Sam laughed. “What girl?” He pointed. “The one that’s looking at Mom.” I turned and spotted her, shaking and curled up in a seat....

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PW #119: Adult Historical Mystery: A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER

Manuscript status: FINISHED Mentor: E.B. Wheeler Mentee: Dianne Freeman Title: A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER Category/Genre: Adult Historical Mystery Word Count: 81,000 Pitch: A high society burglar. A marriage-mad sister. A murdered footman. When the London Season turns deadly, Victorian widow Frances Wynn fears one of her sister’s suitors may be the killer. She must use her wit, social artistry, and a circle of gossiping friends and enemies to find the culprit before she becomes his next victim. Excerpt: Black—no. Black—no. Black crepe? Oh, heavens no! I bundled the offending gowns and dropped them on a bench for my maid to dispose of, then glanced around my dressing room. One word described it—mourning. In my wildest imaginings, I never would have dreamed I’d find myself a widow at the age of twenty-seven. Though for me, the difference from marriage was barely discernible. While I’ll confess to a foolish infatuation, Reggie and I hadn’t married for love. My mother instigated the match when she brought me from New York to London. I suppose love had something to do with it. Reggie loved my money, and my mother adored his title. When we married, my family gained the consequence of that title. The Wynn family gained me, Frances Price, commoner. Oh, and a little over a million U.S. dollars. True aristocrats that they were, to this day they acted as though they’d been swindled. I’d endured a whole year of mourning with them. Miserable, yes, but at first I had no desire to show my face in public. While only two people besides myself knew the circumstances of my husband’s death, I’m sure many more had their suspicions. You see, my husband died just over a year ago—in his lover’s bed. At a house party. At our home. Delightful man. I eyed the gown I’d be wearing tonight, a rich royal blue. Ah, color in my life again. Mourning period...

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PW #120: Adult Commercial Fiction: LIES UNDERCOVER

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Tamara Mataya Mentee: KK Hendin Title: LIES UNDERCOVER Category/Genre: Adult Commercial Fiction Word Count: 97,000 Pitch: Miss Congeniality meets 21 Jump Street Serious field operative to fake Youtube beauty Vlogger? Not the CIA career trajectory Kira anticipated. When a lethal drug circulates the NYC modeling community, Kira’s thrust into a world of models, mayhem, drug lords, and douchelord exes. Solving the case while deciding between kissing or kicking Blue Sandoval-Mendoza? It’s complicated. Now, if she can just find a Met Gala dress that’ll hide all her knives… Excerpt: March 2015 When I joined the CIA, I knew they’d ask me to do a lot of weird shit, but this is possibly the weirdest. Has Jane Hesterman, head of the CIA, lost her goddamn mind? She wouldn’t destroy our careers like this. Son of a castrated monkey. “You want us to do what?” “Exactly what I said.” Hesterman gives me the stink eye. “We need infiltration in the entertainment industry. You fit the part.” “Isn’t starting a YouTube channel counterintuitive? Why bother with covers if we’re going to be so exposed?” Calli asks. “Beauty vloggers-turned-bodyguards? You’ve got to admit, ma’am, it’s…farfetched.” Hesterman’s grip tightens on her cup. “This isn’t just about protection. It’s about infiltration. The celebrities in these circles don’t let their guards down unless they think you’re one of them.” But we’re not one of them. “How are we going to—” “Sterling will be working with you on this project.” Hesterman turns back to her computer, effectively dismissing us. And with that, the meeting that kind of just changed the entire trajectory of our careers is over. We hustle out of the conference room and head towards Starbucks. There are a lot of uncomplimentary things you can say about the CIA campus, but having a Starbucks here is really nice. Not to mention the baristas have never fucked up my order....

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PW #121: Adult Contemporary Women’s Fiction: EX, EX, OH

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Tamara Mataya Mentee: Kelli Newby Title: EX, EX, OH Category/Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction Word Count: 85,000 Pitch: Losing fiancé to the head of a roleplaying game empire? X Burying herself in 80-hour work weeks to forget? X Dating the ex of the woman who stole her fiancé? Oh… Meg and Nicholas’ chemistry is volcanic, but he runs the game business with their wildly charismatic—and just plain wild—exes. Dating Nicholas means letting them back into her life just as she’s recovering from the devastating break-up they caused. Dungeons and Dragons? More like Lawyers v. LARPers as Meg takes on the manipulative people who aren’t quite ready to let her and Nicholas go. Excerpt: My Date was named Ed, but he’d asked me not to call him Ed. He was Ed-something. –Gar? –mund? –win? –ward? Suffice it to say, I was thinking of him as My Date so I wouldn’t slip and call him “Ed.” Once more, my gaze returned to his large-faced watch that ticked away the one-and-a-half billable hours I hadn’t logged tonight. “I see I have competition for your attention.” Offering a lopsided smile, he pulled his sleeve over the dial. “Sorry.” I pinched my temples, hoping to dampen blood flow to the lawyer center in my cerebral cortex. “My brother’s a lawyer. I should’ve known better than to leave a clock where you could see it.” He stretched back in his chair, as if to assure me he wasn’t upset. “Speaking of siblings, do you want to write your sister an invoice for tonight’s hours?” I laughed, surprising myself. “I’d love that.” Give him a chance. My Date had messy, rich-kid hair—like someone had coated him in prep school. It was rascally. I didn’t want to jump him, though. My libido had been in hibernation since my fiancé had run off a year before. Not bear hibernation, though. More like Sci-Fi cryogenic hibernation....

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PW #122: New Adult Contemporary Romance: ONE HUNDRED AND ONE CHANCES

MANUSCRIPT STATUS: 1 month delivery Mentor: Marie Meyer Mentee: Brianna Lespinasse Title: ONE HUNDRED AND ONE CHANCES Category/Genre: NA Contemporary Romance Word Count: 80,000 Pitch: Kira is days away from killing herself when she confesses her plan to Chase, her handsome neighbor. Determined to rekindle her passion for life, Chase proposes a bucket list—one hundred and one challenges to help Kira remember that life and love are worth fighting for. All she has to do is hold on. Excerpt: I’ve been wandering between rows of headstones and delicately placed bouquets for over an hour. It doesn’t usually take this long to reach him, but today is different. Every time I start to get close, my legs take me down a different path—a path with statues and memorial trees and headstones with names that aren’t his. It shouldn’t have taken me weeks to come back, but once I made my decision I couldn’t face him. He would be disappointed in me. He’d be angry. He won’t change my mind. I reach an intersection I’ve gone through four times now, but instead of turning away I head where I’m supposed to go. My heart rate quickens with each step and I wring my hands in anticipation. I’m nearly there. Seconds away. A lump forms in my throat when his grave marker comes into view, and I slow my gait, letting the final few moments last as long as possible. I fall to my knees, and trace his name with my fingers—letters that will forever mark his absence from my family. I cling to the smooth marble and close my eyes, biting back tears. If I start crying I’ll never stop, and I need to get through this. I need to tell Grant my plan. I owe him that much. When I’m confident opening my mouth won’t release a sob, I let go of the cool stone and sit back on my heels. “Hi, big brother.”...

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PW #123: Adult Contemporary Romance: THE MOMENT I FALL

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Laura Brown Mentee: R.R. Baker Title: THE MOMENT I FALL Category: Adult Genre: Contemporary Romance Word Count: 73,000 words Pitch: Tattoo artist Knox falls for recovering aerialist, Genevieve, the moment she throws him off balance at physical therapy. Already losing the use of his legs; he can’t afford to lose his heart. His only definite plan for the future includes a wheelchair, but the Moroccan beauty is determined to prove that all of him is worth loving. Excerpt: “You almost died, Genevieve.” My jaw clenches as I squat into my fifteenth lunge. “That’s something I’m reminded of every day.” Brennan’s eyes cut toward me. “I want you to really think about that before you swing through hoops and tangle yourself in silks again. Being a safe aerialist is serious business. Now, steady your right foot and bounce on your toes.” I focus on the white wall in front of me and do as I’m told. My physical therapist Brennan has the power to clear me and I intend to end this session—my last session—on a happy note. “Your improvement has been substantial, especially with your knack for disobeying orders. I’m surprised we’ve made it to this point so soon. Switch feet and repeat.” I switch feet and feign interest on the clock above me. Brennan continues to circle me, prodding my back with his pen to correct my posture. He taps my arm. “That’s enough.” I sneak a peek at the guy doing leg exercises on a bench on the other side of the room. He arrived twenty minutes ago on crutches looking like he’d rather lay hot coals on his eyeballs than be at physical therapy. Dark brown hair pulled into a messy, man-bun looks like something I’ll enjoy loosening and getting my hands all tangled up in while nuzzling his telltale shadow of a...

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PW #124: Adult Commercial Fiction: DRAG NET

Manuscript Delivery: Finished Mentor: Kelly Siskind Mentee: Meghan Scott Molin Title: DRAG NET Category: Adult Genre:  Commercial Fiction Word Count: 91,000 Pitch:  MG’s world revolves around geek culture, designing for drag shows, and writing comic books. A rash of copy-cat crimes from her favorite series disturbs the peace, bringing with them handsome Matteo Kildaire, LAPD, who needs her expertise. When MG learns she’s being framed, sleuthing on her own will either exonerate her or land her in the clink. Excerpts:  Instead of finalizing his coffee order, the shmo ahead of me in line is reading on his iPad, the headline “Mystery Drug Bust at Docks” splashed across the screen. While I can’t fault him for being sucked in, if we don’t hurry we’ll all get stuck on the 110 in lunchtime traffic, having to contemplate peeing into the cup. As irked as I am, I can’t help but look over his shoulder. I’d read about the drug bust this morning in my twitter feed, but I hadn’t seen a picture of the crime scene. It’s a doozy. Who doesn’t love when three street dealers are trussed together back-to-back on the Long Beach docks, left with a note for the police? Actually trussed together. Like a comic book. “All that’s missing is a golden arrow,” I mutter, giving the picture one last look as the line shuffles forward. I dutifully shuffle straight into iPad Guy’s heels. “What did you say?” He snaps the iPad closed. Oh crap. iPad Guy looks at me with the typical “I disapprove of your purple hair” frown and completely ignores the counter girl yelling, “Next!” There’s a lull in the shush and hiss of the coffee-making orchestra that suggests they’re ready to make the next order. “Nothing. Just that news story reminds me of a graphic novel. Are you ready to order?” I paste a smile on my face. I know better than to upset the muggles....

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