PW #125: Adult Contemporary Romance: A HEART’S DESIGN

Manuscript Status: FINISHED Mentor Name: Scarlett Cole Mentee Name: Natalee Cooper Title: A HEART’S DESIGN Category/Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Word Count: 65,000 Pitch: When Madison lands a project with real estate tycoon Jase Cutter, one that will ignite her architectural career, she doesn’t expect his request for secrecy—or to fall hard for the sexy-sweet bachelor who’s haunted by a past he can’t escape. But when one leaked story fuels a firestorm of doubt, Madison realizes she stands to lose her career, and her heart. Excerpt: Architect Madison Blakeley stared wide-eyed into a sea of dark suits and little black dresses, all accented with platinum cufflinks and cascading diamonds. She smoothed her own scarlet gown with shaky hands. “Never again let me take the advice of a style magazine. Bold colors are definitely not all the rage.” She twisted her bracelet, her choice in evening wear taunting her already tight nerves. “Oh, come on.” Eric Strand peered over the crowd. “Those two women aren’t wearing black. And at least you didn’t seek advice from the senator’s wife.” He gestured to the curvy blonde’s gold and white striped skirt that could have doubled as a mini circus tent. He had a point. The backdrop to the exclusive gala, the Stratton hotel, was stunning with its burgundy walls and gold damask patterns—both of which glinted under the dramatic lighting of the chandeliers dripping from the ceiling. But none of that mattered. Where are you, Jase Cutter? Madison followed Eric through a crowd of guests who’s cocktail of perfumes and cologne whispered of money and importance and tried not to be overwhelmed. “Any sign of him?” “Not yet, but I’m sure the bachelor won’t be too hard to spot. Or, what is it they’re calling him these days? Brilliant real estate mogul?” He snorted, drawing a few looks. Madison didn’t care what people called him, she cared about making a good impression. No. Not good—unforgettable....

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PW #126: Adult Upmarket Women’s Fiction: 101 NORTH

MANUSCRIPT STATUS: Finished Mentor: Laura Heffernan Mentee: Tabitha Forney Title: 101 NORTH Category/Genre: Adult upmarket women’s fiction Word Count: 82,000  Pitch:  On September 11, Erin sips cocktails on a Spanish beach while her husband, who didn’t want her to go on this girls’ trip, is at work on the 101st floor, North Tower. When she makes it home and Daniel doesn’t, guilt pushes Erin into a dark fog of pills and booze. After a downward spiral sends her plunging off the cliffs of coastal highway 101 North, she must decide whether to accept her new fate or give up on life. First page: The top of the plane glints in the morning sun. A silver bullet with red, white and blue stripes. He’s seen a lot of things up here — lightning storms, bird fly-bys, hovering helicopters. But never planes at eye level. Coming so fast. Flying too low. It won’t clear the building. Adrenaline rushes his veins and takes his breath. Time slows. In that space where an entire life should flash by, just one moment, frozen in time. Her skin soft and sweet. Half-lidded eyes, contented smile. Making love in the innocent slant of morning sun. At the time he had felt it viscerally, this ephemeral life. Moments slipping past and evaporating like raindrops. The plane banks up. A glimpse of the pilot’s dark hair, coming for him. He dives under his desk and curls into a fetal position. The building explodes. Full-bodied maelstrom. Skin, bones, skull reverberate under a shock wave of pressure. Metal screeching on metal ripping into concrete. The heavy tang of jet fuel and burning steel throttles his senses. The building lurches, a roller coaster going over the precipice. His desk pitches over him. Keyboards and monitors and chairs fly past. Something bangs into his shins, his back, his head. The floor buckles beneath him. Debris rains down. He curls up tighter. Eyes pinned shut, jaw clenched. He waits to die.  ...

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PW #127: Adult Science Fiction: ERGO SUM

MANUSCRIPT STATUS: Finished Mentors: Dan Koboldt and Michael Mammay Mentee: Elise Bungo Title: ERGO SUM Category/Genre: Adult Science Fiction Word Count: 99,000 Pitch: Ethan Ogden, a robotics prodigy suffering from PTSD, returns to Africa to work for a company with dubious motives. After an experimental nanotechnology treatment saves his life, he begins to question his own thoughts—and whether he’s still human—as he races to stop a civil war. Excerpt: Sound always disappears first. I know the flight attendant’s said something, but by now I can’t even see her. All I can see is the first child who tried to kill me. The girl’s drugged out of her mind as her weapon levels on my chest. I hold up my hands to show I’m unarmed. I beg in a frantic mix of pidgin French and Swahili, but she doesn’t hear. Her voice is shrill with panicked bravery, its pattern echoing the percussion of the AK-47s. “Please,” I whisper, but the sound sticks in my fear-swollen throat. She staggers, and her weapon sags. Blood blossoms from her chest, dousing the faded rainbow printed across her T-shirt in a final monochromatic red. The flight attendant wrests away the empty glass. A dull ring floods my ears, and the silver sparks of memory drift away. It’s hard to breathe, but I refuse to gulp air like a lunatic.  “We’re landing soon,” she says. Her accent is pleasant but clipped—German, not South African. She points at the seat, and I raise it dutifully, as if the three-inch recline could make a damn bit of difference to our landing. I wonder what I looked like to that child in those last seconds before Christian blew a hole through her heart—a man, a boy, or some sort of cocaine and gunpowder chimera… I swore I’d never go back. But that was then, before I’d exhausted every option....

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PW #128: Adult Mystery: DERAILED

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Names: Kellye Garrett & Sarah Henning Mentee Name: Mary Keliikoa Title:  DERAILED Category:  Adult Genre:  Mystery Word Count:  83,000 Pitch: Second-generation P.I. Kelly Pruett has a deaf daughter, an over-protective ex-husband, and her first real case involving a woman who drunkenly stumbled into the path of a train. Kelly is desperate to prove the death was no accident, but as she sinks further into the world of Portland’s elite, she finds that exposing the truth could cost Kelly her daughter and her life. Excerpt Portland has as many parts as the human anatomy. And just like the body, some areas are more attractive than others. My office was in what some might consider the armpit—northeast Portland. Petty crime and graffiti were rampant. Still, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I’d grown up here in my father’s P.I. business. I’d just flicked off the light when a soft rap sounded on the front door. From my desk, I couldn’t see who it was. I made no effort to check. I’m no wimp, but I don’t rush to open doors after dark. Another rap, more insistent this time. It was more likely a vagrant than a client but I couldn’t afford to lose any opportunity for a paycheck. Despite steady work from a few law firms around town, being a single mom usually meant there was more month than money. I reached into my purse for my pepper spray. Bracing myself, I clicked on my desk light and strode into the reception area, opening the door. A woman stood there, raincoat and umbrella sheltering her from the late October drizzle. With the street light at her back, I couldn’t see her face, only the pin curls in her hair and the briefcase hanging from her hand. “Yes?” I said. “I need your help.” Her voice was strained. She must be having car issues. “I need to hire you.”...

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PW #129: Adult Humorous Women’s Fiction (#ownvoices): MY NAME IS NOT JULIE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Names: Sarah Henning and Kellye Garrett Mentee Name: Suzanne Park Title: MY NAME IS NOT JULIE Category: Adult Genre: Humorous Women’s Fiction (#ownvoices) Word Count: 76,000 Pitch: MASTER OF NONE meets BRIDGET JONES: Drowning in a never-ending onslaught of parental nagging, work catastrophes, and romantic blunders, unlucky-at-life Korean-American millennial Julia Jung is fed up and wants a do-over. Pronto. She moves on a whim to Seattle with no job, cash or friends, and must figure out how to navigate adulthood relying only on herself. Excerpt: Only I could wind up with the nickname “Dog Shit Girl” after less than four months on the job. Amazing, right? That title was bestowed on me when I managed to have three (yes, three) canine feces incidents in one week. It all started when I joined my ad agency’s charity sports team. I’m not an athlete by any means, although if there were ever an elliptical machine pedal-a-thon I could probably hold my own (at a low intensity and no incline). “Rah! Rah!” team spirit activities instinctively made me want to vomit all over the peppy people into that kind of shit. But the guy-girl ratio on the signup sheet for the charity sports thing was pretty damn good, and a lot of guys on my team were easy on the eyes. The first activity of the day was softball, and when I stepped up to the plate, my team from Bates & Gray was tied with our opponents from a rival boutique agency. This didn’t bode well because my cumulative batting average for my entire lifespan was zero. The God’s honest truth was the last time I had ever attempted to hit anything with a bat was at a co-ed party in sixth grade. There was a piñata practically hemorrhaging candy, and I missed. Instead, I hit my sixth grade crush in the crotch with a clumsy, big swing. He probably can’t have children now because of me. Sorry, Aiden Sweeney....

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PW #130: Adult Supernatural Suspense: SOLSTICE SISTERS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Jennie Nash Mentee: Emma Nelson Title: SOLSTICE SISTERS Category/Genre: Adult Supernatural Suspense Word Count: 86,000 Pitch: After her grandmother passed away, Cici Dardompre left America’s most haunted city in search of proof that death isn’t as final as her mortician father believes. But when an upstart eco-friendly funeral home threatens the family’s traditional business, she returns to Salem and finds a haunted tour-guide job to keep her quest alive. As spirits of Salem’s legendary witches begin hunting her, Cici jumps at the chance to slip through time in search of Granmè and prove that what matters in death, as in life, is defining your own narrative. Excerpt: Witches Lore is a cluttered tourist shop, made to look like the inside of a crone’s cottage, with colorful spell candles, satchels of divination herbs, and burlap poppets. During the day, we sell passers-by their witchy souvenirs and magic needs. By night, we lead haunted tours where visitors can seek out the otherworldly. It’s not where I’d imagined myself a month ago while entrenched in finishing my PhD—at a minimum-wage, storytelling gig, wearing Halloween props year-round—but somehow it’s the perfect fit. Granmè always said when night falls, you must tell stories. History, myths, folktales—it doesn’t matter, as long as storyteller and listener enter the darkness together. I step out of the shop and scan the tourists’ faces with my all-white-iris, zombie-lensed eyes. “Let’s get this show on the road,” I call, and they snap to attention. “I can’t follow you,” an amply-pierced teen fake whines. “You look like aliens sucked out your soul.” I hiss and flare my eyeballs, hoping the contacts take full effect against my dark skin as I adjust the witch hat over my springy hair. “The better to scare you with. Now, off we go. Salem’s full of ghosts—let’s not keep them waiting!”...

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PW #131: Adult Contemporary Interracial Romance (#ownvoices): #INTERCEPTED

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Kara Leigh Miller & Meredith Ireland Mentee Name: Alexa Martin Title: #INTERCEPTED Category: Adult Genre: Contemporary Interracial Romance (own voices: biracial) Word Count: 85,000 Pitch: When Marlee Harper learns her NFL-star boyfriend is wide-receiving other women, she swears off athletes, but new quarterback Gavin proves irresistible. Unfortunately, between the teammates’ wives and the rabid fans, their love may not last the season when REAL HOUSEWIVES meets ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. Excerpt: For the first three years, it’s fun being a pro-football player’s girlfriend. “Marlee, let me see your hand! Did Chris propose yet?” Amber asks. I’m in year ten. “Still naked.” I wiggle my fingers in front of her the same way I did last week and the week before that…and the week before that. #HeDidntPutARingOnIt Sometimes, I like to hashtag my life. #CheaperThanTherapy I sip my margarita. “When it happens, I promise to let you know.” Or you know, keep asking every time you see me. “Marlee.” Courtney sighs. She stands at the head of the table clutching a glitter-coated gavel. “We made exceptions for you to join the Lady Mustangs. Try to acknowledge that and save your little side conversation until we’ve finished.” “Sorry, Court.” Every time I call her Court, she strains her Botoxed forehead and glares my direction, so obviously, it’s the only thing I call her. Well, sometimes I call her bitch, but she doesn’t know about that. “As I was saying, the Annual Lady Mustangs Fashion Show is in three weeks. Everyone must attend the next meeting so we can discuss the outfits for you and your husbands.” I catch her eye again. She raises her chin, and her fat-injected lips form an actual smile. #HoldOntoYourButts “Oh, I’m sorry. In your case, Marlee, you and your boyfriend.” See? Bitch. “Thanks for the clarification, Court, but I understood.” My fingernails dig into my palm as I fight the urge to ask if one of her husband’s girlfriends will be joining the...

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PW #132: Adult Romance: ONCE WHEN YOU WERE MINE

Manuscript status: Finished Mentor: Brighton Walsh Mentee: Jen DeLuca Title: ONCE WHEN YOU WERE MINE Category/Genre: Adult Romance Word Count: 89,000 Pitch: Twenty years. Two continents. A third chance at first love. On a whirlwind trip to Leningrad, a sheltered American and a sweet but pragmatic Soviet fall in love as teens, bridging their language barrier with local underground rock and shared Walkman headphones. A decade later a missed connection leaves them yearning for unattainable love. When they get one final chance, his rock stardom and her newfound independence threaten the possibility of a life together. Excerpt: Mom was right. Learning Russian’s going to kill me.  Of course, Miranda’s mother had been thinking about nuclear war or her daughter being kidnapped by the KGB. But Miranda faced a more immediate danger: freezing to death on a Leningrad street while staring up at a sign she couldn’t read. Miranda thought she’d been so clever, slipping the handlers and striking out on her own. She was seventeen—practically an adult!—with a semester of Russian under her belt. She’d been in the Soviet Union for three days. How hard could it be to explore by herself? Pretty hard, actually. Panic set in quick when she realized sounding out words and understanding them in context were two different things. After several wrong turns, the letters on the signs started swimming together. Reading comprehension flatlined. H sounds like N. C is S, P is R. T is still T, right? She turned in a tight circle, looking for anyone who might help her with directions, but this street was more desolate than the one before. Fire escapes corseted upper floors of high-rise apartment buildings. Boarded-up windows showed no signs of life. She’d long since given up on acting like she knew where she was going. There may as well have been a neon sign over her head with an arrow pointing down. AMERICAN. PLEASE MUG ME....

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PW #133: Adult Contemporary Romance (#ownvoices): RELATIONSHIP ON RETAINER

Manuscript status: Finished Mentor: Brighton Walsh Mentee: Helen Hoang Title: RELATIONSHIP ON RETAINER Category/Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance (#ownvoices) Word Count: 89,000 Pitch: In this gender-swapped Pretty Woman, a brainy economist desperate for love but struggling with intimacy issues stemming from her autism hires a male escort—a complex Hapa man escaping the shadow of his past. When he awakens her dormant sexuality and she reminds him he’s more than the body he was hired for, they must decide if what they have together is more than just a relationship on retainer. Excerpt: “I know you hate surprises, Stella. In the interests of communicating our expectations and providing you a reasonable timeline, you should know we’re ready for grandchildren.” Stella Lane’s gaze jumped from her breakfast up to her mother’s well-aged face. A subtle application of make-up drew attention to battle-ready coffee-colored eyes. That boded ill for Stella. When her mother got something into her mind, she was like a honey badger with a vendetta—pugnacious and tenacious, but without the snarling and fur. “I’ll keep that in mind,” Stella said. Shock gave way to rapid-fire, panic-scrambled thoughts. Grandchildren meant babies. And diapers. Mountains of diapers. Exploding diapers. And babies cried, soul-grating banshee wails that even the best sound-cancelling headphones couldn’t buffer. How did they cry so long and hard when they were so little? Plus, babies meant husbands. Husbands meant boyfriends. Boyfriends meant dating. Dating meant sex. She shuddered. “You’re thirty, Stella dear. We’re concerned that you’re still single. Have you tried Tinder?” She grabbed her water and gulped down a mouthful, accidentally swallowing an ice cube. After clearing her throat, she said, “No. I haven’t tried it.” The very thought of Tinder—and the corresponding dating it aimed to deliver—caused her to break out in a sweat. She hated everything about dating: the departure from her comfortable routine, the conversation that was by turns inane and baffling, and again, the sex…...

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PW #134: Adult Contemporary Romance (Body-Positive): MOONLIGHT & WHISKEY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Rebecca Yarros Mentee: Tricia McKee Title: MOONLIGHT & WHISKEY Category/Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance (Body-Positive) Word Count: 93,000  Pitch: When a plus-sized engineer with body issues collides with a tattooed, commitment-shy frontman, Avery learns to rock her curves. But as her connection with Declan deepens and Avery’s vacation ends, attraction alone can’t burn away their darkest fears. Both must face powerful insecurities to embrace a love as elemental as the sultry New Orleans night. Excerpt: I had a porn habit. It wasn’t an obsession. It wasn’t a fetish. It didn’t require trips to anonymous meetings where you said, “Hello my name is X and I’m addicted to naked men.” I simply enjoyed watching people have sex. The women in porn, however, never looked like me. Mainstream porn stars looked more like some variation of silicone Barbie, i.e. half-modeling career failure, half-sex doll/mechanical experiment, a la Frankenstein. There were exceptions, of course, but generally, the Frankenhookers with fake funbags were the rule. Conversely, I was soft, curvy and…not a size six. I’d been told that I wore the weight well, that I had a pretty face; all of that shit curvy women heard. Men told me that I had a great rack. That if I lost 40 pounds I’d be fuckable––that’s actual verbiage there––and even referred to flirting with me as “taking one for the team.” I’d never be thin; some women aren’t meant to be, but I was so damn tired of feeling invisible. I wanted to learn how to rock my curves and be confident in my skin. It was high time I threw up the old double-bird salute at all of the guys who’d overlooked me or used me to get to my best friend. To send out a giant fuck you to the men who’d thought I was either too much or not enough. Which was how I ended up in a tacky-as-hell waiting room....

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PW #135: Adult Speculative Fiction (mystery): SHARDS OF SOULS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Nazarea Andrews Mentee: Elesha Teskey Title: SHARDS OF SOULS Category/Genre: Adult Speculative Fiction (mystery) Word Count: 88,000 Pitch: Cole Lachlan and his brother Reese use their abilities to hold souls to save lives. When Reese disappears, Cole discovers evidence suggesting his brother is involved in soul trafficking. Cole needs to use his illicit past to fight a cult and crooked cops to find his brother before they both lose their souls. Excerpt: I tapped the steering wheel in agitation. “Come on,” I muttered as the thick traffic hit a standstill. I was only a few blocks from the collision where paramedics waited for me. Every second weighed on me knowing someone’s life was at risk. With all our ingenious technological advances, you’d think someone would have solved traffic problems by now. “Shit.” I killed my cruiser’s siren and guided it into an alley. Looked like I was on foot; at least I travelled light. The only thing I needed to do my job was me. I hopped out of the car, my heart pounding as I sprinted between stationary vehicles with their irritated drivers. The com clipped to my belt went off a second time. “I’m coming,” I grumbled. Looky-Lous stood beside their vehicles, craning their necks towards the collision, until they heard me yell at them to get out of my way. When they turned, it took a second before their eyes widened. People expected Necros to have black hair and white eyes. My dirty blond hair and blue eyes often threw them off, but there was no missing my black uniform identifying me as a Necro Enforcement Constable (NEC), which sent people scrambling out of the way to avoid touching me. You’d think I’d come for their souls. I ignored the fear and suspicion radiating off people. I didn’t have time for their nonsense....

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PW #136: Adult Fantasy: SHATTERSPELL

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Hayley Stone Mentee: Erin A. Tidwell Title: SHATTERSPELL Category/Genre: Adult Fantasy Word Count: 109,000 Pitch: When the taboo spells that bind Hulgardt to serve the ruthless Duke of Temborough break, his newfound conscience prompts him to rescue the duke’s heir from her father’s deadly schemes—unaware that Edrienne has a few schemes of her own. Excerpt: I arrived at Thasgar Manor near dusk, on horseback and alone. The manor’s wrought iron gates stood open, crusted in snow, but I didn’t encounter anyone until I passed the nearest outbuildings. Even then it was only a stable boy hauling a rake who froze when he spotted me. His eyes jerked toward the house, no doubt torn between greeting the duke’s castellan and his duty to warn the widowed Lady Thasgar of my arrival. I waited until the boy finally came and took my horse, reaching the conclusion that he feared me more than wrath of his mistress. Wise choice. Inside, a maidservant took my gloves and heavy fur-lined cloak with shaking hands. “Please sit, m’lord. I’ll fetch her ladyship.” I frowned as I surveyed the manor, silent but for the groaning of floorboards as the maid scurried ahead. An estate like this should have had more servants to spend on maintenance, most of them ethnic Lsalfians, but instead, every door pushed aside dead leaves and a cold fireplace lay at the heart of the main hall. The state of the house gave weight to the duke’s suspicions that Fiona Thasgar was using her income to fund some faction against him. As I was considering my options, Fiona Thasgar swept in. She was dressed in drab, layered wool, and her sharp blue eyes were the only color about her. “What’s this about, Hulgardt?” she asked, shoulders stiff. “You’re early. I wasn’t expecting you for six weeks or longer.” “I’ve come to fetch His Grace’s daughter.”...

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