Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pitch Slam: Marvel Universe... The Battle Begins!

H.E.L.M. communications established. Transmitting across all four platforms. Signal holding strong.





















The time has come, when--through hard work and determination--Recruits become full-fledged heroes. With the aid of several H.E.L.M. Operatives, the squad captains have made their decisions on who will join their teams and Suit Up for the final round, where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will review their entries for requests. Through basic training and combat drills, every Recruit who participated showed courage and fortitude required of all heroes, and is to be commended.

Central Command thanks you for answering the call. A feat such as this would have been impossible without your commitment to your work and the craft. Over the past week, the barracks were filled to the brim with Recruits who had--and still have--everything it takes to be great. Know that if your entry did not find a place on any of the squads, that in no way indicates your story has no place in the world. There were more capable writers and incredible stories than there were positions. Do not let these results dampen the drive and spirit that makes all of you Heroes.

A reminder to any wishing to bid the new squad additions well wishes: please do not comment on any of the posts unless you are an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. or any other bureaus. All compliments and accolades are to be given on the #PitchSlam twitter feed. The Agents will have from now until 3:oo pm Eastern on October 14th, to make requests for the new heroes to join them in field duty using the following format:

Lone Hero - Query and first 10 pages
Dynamic Duo - Query and first 25 pages
The Trio - Query and first 50 pages
Team Takedown - Query and first 100 pages
ASSEMBLE - Query and full

When the request window closes, the Superhero Showdowns begin. Requests will not be revealed until the after the Showdowns are complete.

If more than one Agent makes the same request on a single entry, those agents go head-to-head in hero trivia. Each Agent in the showdown will be tagged in a #SuperheroShowdown tweet. The Agent who answers correctly first keeps their request as is. Their opponent can then choose to have their request demoted one level or wait 24 hours to receive their initial request. OR the Agent can call in for backup.

Agent Coulson from S.H.I.E.L.D. is standing by to lend assistance when needed. If contacted, he can come in and negate a loss, ending the showdown in a draw. If absolutely necessary, commander Nick Fury can issue a Showdown Override, upgrading an Agent's request to the next level if applicable, giving them victory. Agents can call on Coulson three times and Fury twice.

Presenting, the heroes of the H.E.L.M. Initiative.

The Tricksters -- See below

**Battling Hydra’s Crimson Ink

Again, to all who....


Signal disruption detected. Security protocols engaged.


Signal dis--























All those receiving this transmission, know that your heroes cannot save you. S.H.I.E.L.D. is defenseless against our tactics. The H.E.L.M. Initiative is doomed. Though you have bolstered your ranks with the entries below, and across the four squad hubs, know that your efforts are futile. We rise, ready to face your warriors with our own. Come. FACE US, if you dare.

Cut off a head, and two more take it's place.

Hail Hydra.























Transmission terminated.

To everyone who made it on a team, congrats again! For those who didn't just know that there were so MANY amazing submissions that it was tough to pick just 8 each. So keep going if you weren't picked. That yes will come your way if you do!

Good luck everyone!

And to our S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, we hope you find our recruits worthy for your rosters! ;)

Tricksters - Surviving Sarin

Name: Tanya S. Liard

Genre: YA Thriller


Word Count: 60,000

Hero: Dexter is who my protagonist best relates to- he has violent urges but attempts to focus those urges on the bad guys as he struggles to protect innocent people.

Pitch: Stranded on an island with his friends, 16-year-old Dylan struggles to keep his homicidal urges in check. When mercenaries arrive he finds an outlet for his bloodlust just in time...but it might not be enough.

250: I drag my feet and stare at the road, anything to delay getting home. I really don’t want to hear a lecture over a failed paper from my stepfather but I also don’t like disappointing him. Damn it. The constant thumping in my head is making matters worse. This is the fifth time I’ve gotten a migraine in the past two days.

“Hey Cynthia. Where’s Rob?” I ask when I get home, preparing for at least an hour long lecture.

“Work.” Her tiny eyes focus on the singing horses on the screen.

“He just left and didn’t get you a babysitter?” Strange, Rob never leaves Cynthia home alone – she’s only four. And he has been very overprotective since the implementation of the base curfew.

She shrugs then adds, “Daddy said not to answer the door, and that you would be home soon. And you have to make dinner.”

Most likely this has something to do with why there is a curfew on the base. No one at school knew what was really going on, and our parents never offered up a reason other than it’s for “protection.” Rob has been stressed, not sleeping, and working long hours ever since we were given a curfew. It must be something dangerous if Rob and all the other officers are constantly working.

Cynthia starts giggling as the singing ponies dance. My lips raise into a smile, and my grouchy mood begins to dissipate as I watch her curly golden pigtails sway from side to side.

Tricksters - Shattered

Name: Kathleen S. Allen

Genre: YA dark contemporary


Word Count: 80,000

Hero: The heroine Zoey most relates to is the Black Widow because she's able to be in control of her life even though her past was questionable, much like Zoey's and she's an awesome fighter.

Pitch: Fifteen-year-old Zoey can’t cope after her kidnapping. When another girl goes missing, the kidnapper sends clues to Zoey. Entering the kidnapper’s twisted world again terrifies her but she can’t let him shatter another girl.

250: I run a swollen tongue over dried cracked lips. The dirty water in the pail by the mattress beckons but I can’t bring myself to drink out of it. The shadows lengthen but he’s not back and he’s always back by dark. Hope flares like a tiny flame in my chest. Is this finally over?

I pad over to peer out the small hole at the bottom of the door to watch for his return. A bit of snow has blown inside and I scoop it up, relishing the fresh taste as I kneel to look out. I put my eye to the hole. There are no footprints leading away. The woods beyond are quiet.

He’ll be back soon and maybe he’ll bring food. I try not to imagine it, but it’s too late, my stomach clenches and I double over with the sharp hunger pangs. I think I ate yesterday but the days blend together with the nights…no, don’t go there.

I stand to grasp the doorknob and yank on it like I’ve done for months not expecting it to turn. But when I pull on it, it opens. The shock of cold air makes me gasp. Taking several breaths to calm my racing heart, I swing the door wide enough to see the trees stark against the wintry scene. The snow isn’t too deep, I can run through it. A twig snaps. I close the door, eyes shut, breathing hard. If he finds me outside he’ll kill me.

Tricksters - Punishment Summer

Name: Peggy Rothschild

Genre: YA Contemporary


Word Count: 67,000

Hero: Nicki best relates to Bonita Juarez -- aka Firebird. Though Nicki didn't escape totally unscathed, she survived the house fire that killed her sister.

Pitch: Stuck at Grandpa’s cabin in the Mendocino Forest, 16-year-old Nicki stumbles across a kidnapping. When Grandpa takes off, Nicki scrambles to get the girl to safety, away from the cartel enforcers and rogue deputies who will kill to stop her.

250:  Maybe if I hadn’t downed that last shot of tequila, I would’ve noticed Dad sitting at the desk as I climbed through my bedroom window. Instead, I tumbled over the sill and thumped to the floor with all the grace of a 118-pound bowling ball, my nose landing inches from a brown loafer. Dad’s brown loafer. Uh-oh.

I rose to my knees and swayed. My brain scrambled. How could I talk my way out of this one? The frown twisting Dad’s mouth didn’t help in the inspiration department. My stomach lurched. I stumbled to my feet and ran for the bathroom, managing to lift the toilet lid just as my insides volcanoed out.

When my Mount St. Helens impersonation wound down to dry heaves, Dad spoke from the doorway. “Clean yourself up then get packed.” His voice sounded as cold as the tile beneath my knees.

I grabbed the rim of the toilet bowl and looked up at him. “What?”

Dad’s face loomed pale in the hall light. “I said you need to pack your stuff. Now.”

“But, it’s the middle of the night.”

“I know. Why do you think we’re having this conversation?” He took a noisy breath. “Listen up. You’re going to your grandfather’s for the summer and I don’t want to hear any argument. Pack your boots, wool socks and that heavy jacket of yours. It’s cold there.”

Caught somewhere between the tequila fog and reality, I rubbed my face. It sure felt real. “Why am I going to Grandpa’s?”

Tricksters - If I Should Rule

Name: Kayley Freshman-Caffrey

Genre: YA Fantasy

Title: If I Should Rule

Word Count: 82,000

Hero: This particular MC (there are four main POV characters) relates most to Loki. He abhors his abusive father and wants to steal the throne from him. That type of power means no one can ignore him or disobey him again.

Pitch: When 17-year-old Niall learns his father wants to award Saol's crown to a worthier candidate, he vows to secretly eliminate other prospects. Then the king is killed and murder becomes Niall's threat, not his weapon.

250:  As my father walks toward the edge of the stage, his crown glints in the mid-day sun, a sign of wealth that stands stark against the cesspool of our kingdom’s poor. Being the biggest district in our kingdom of 100,000, their collective stench is impossible to ignore. The rank smell of sweat, urine, and whatever else they deem to lie in would be enough to make me vomit if I wasn’t so repulsed by the act.

“Greetings, citizens of Saol,” my father starts. “As your sixteenth king, I have traveled here to issue a proclamation.”

The peasants press toward us, trying to better hear their king. I tune him out.

Then my father says one of my favorite words, one that I’ve never heard him say before: competition.

That gets my attention.

“I am reaching an age at which I must appoint an heir,” my father continues. “In Saol, the crown is traditionally passed to the first born son. However, I do not believe this tradition best suits the needs of the kingdom. The person who rules should be the person most fit for the task. I am proposing this competition as a means of finding the most deserving ruler. Young adults between the ages of fourteen and twenty from all walks of life are encouraged to apply for this opportunity. Applicants will be judged on their ideals, intelligence, and dedication to the kingdom. The top ten applicants will be invited to stay at the castle for the final stages of the competition and the most suitable candidate will receive the crown.”

Tricksters - Snow Globe

Name: Mel Stephenson

Genre: Middle Grade, Dark Fantasy


Word count: 40,000

Hero: Lily's dog Milo, because he loves with all his heart, he stands by her side without question and together they can face the world, when it stops being a friendly place.

Pitch: Sucked into a snow globe, Lily must save her dog to win their freedom, or she becomes the prize: the ice queen's devoted daughter, unhappily ever after. Coraline meets CS Lewis's Snow Queen.

250: Lily Ellis slid her back down the wall and sat at the top of the stairs, clutching her rumbling belly. Couldn’t her parents have waited until after breakfast for their latest fight, or at least chosen to have it somewhere other than the kitchen? Milo dropped his chewy bone, glancing at her through long tufts of floppy fur from her bedroom doorway. In the alcove, on the opposite wall, the family photo of her and her parents slipped of its nail—their smiling faces hung lopsided, ready to fall from the frame and to the floor. She crossed the landing and straightened it up; if only saving her family were as simple as that in real life.

Milo’s name drifted up the stairs and he scrambled to his feet, nudging Lily’s hand with his wet nose. Her heart smiled as she melted into his brown, droopy eyes; the way she had four years ago when she was eight—the day they rescued him from the dog shelter. “Come on,” she whispered. They crept down the stairs and waited at the bottom by the kitchen door.

The tap gushed on. Off.

A cupboard door slammed.

Milo sniffed along the gap under the shut door, then padded over to sit by her feet.

At last her mum spoke. “You can’t pretend this isn’t happening.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” her dad said.

“This.” A paper fluttered, which she guessed was her mum waving something at her dad. “We need to tell Lily, and the sooner the better,” said her mum.

Tricksters - Silent Fiction

Name: Samantha Joyce

Genre: NA Contemporary Romance

Title: Silent Fiction

Word Count: 66,000

Hero: Echo (Maya Lopez). She’s deaf, like my heroine, Elise, but isn’t hindered by her disability or her nightmarish past. Elise would envy her athletic ability and stealth, since she’s more prone to stumbling on nothing or hitting her head on protruding objects.

Pitch: Deaf and scarred, Elise finds solace as a secret best-selling author. When her anonymity’s threatened, she hires a woman to impersonate her. But Elise’s deception could cost the one man who sees beneath her scars.

250: If the Queen booked a gig at Fernbrooke’s only theater to do a lyrical jazz routine with a unicorn, I might’ve had an easier time finding parking than I did that night.

I dashed down Main Street, stumbling over my own feet as I texted Jin I’d be there soon. Conveniently, I left out the part where I’d sat in the driveway for twenty minutes, covered in sweat, and visualizing either a mob scene or an empty building. Neither possibility stopped the hum vibrating through my skin or made it easier to start the car. That took a few deep breaths, and the knowledge Jin would show up and drag me there anyway.

The screen lit up with Jin’s reply—mostly expletives in all caps—and I glanced at the time.


I had five minutes.

Picking up speed, I shoved the phone into my jeans. Perspiration beaded my neck and snaked down my back as I pressed against the thick August air. I swerved around the crumbling town library, then skidded to a halt.

Hundreds of people lined the wall of the mini mall. They wound in front of the darkened stores and around another corner. The front of the line wasn’t in sight. My fingers instinctively traced the scar that ran from my temple to my jaw as I surveyed the crowd. Many donned horned hats or fur stoles. A boy wielding a foamy mug of beer saw me and grinned.

Yeah, there was no freaking way I was doing this.

Tricksters - The Snapping of the Lock

Name: Julie Graham

Genre: Adult Thriller

Title: The Snapping of the Lock

Word Count: 76,000

Hero: Darcy relates most to Spider-man because despite her good intentions, the people closest to her keep dying.

Pitch: Darcy learns her best friend is a killer the hard way--by surviving a vengeful almost-murder at his hands. Others aren't so lucky, and to save the lives that matter most, Darcy must take his.

250:  Darcy wasn’t paranoid—that would have implied she was imagining things. But no, she knew someone followed her on her daily runs. It hadn’t always been that way, just since she met with Sam at the library a week ago. Each morning that followed, as she laced up her shoes, she convinced herself the inexplicable unease wouldn’t come and perhaps it was her imagination after all.

That morning she ran three miles free of her second shadow, thoughts of Sam drifting under the thumping beat of her music. Then came the eruption of goose bumps across her arms and the burst of prickles on the back of her neck. Jarred from her oblivious running state, she looked over her shoulder to see only empty sidewalk. But there was no imagining that presence behind her, as tangible as gravity and equally invisible.

She hadn’t told anyone about this hidden stalker, not Sam or even her best friend Chris. What could she say? Her run took her through St. Louis’s vast Forest Park, a popular running spot. Surely it was just some other early morning runner that she simply couldn’t see—a perfectly rational explanation.

Yet rational explanations did nothing to dissipate her anxiety, and Darcy sped up in a futile attempt to escape it. She ran on, glancing back at the sidewalk, up at the roiling grey clouds and around at the bare trees. The park appeared deserted, but the shivers racing down her spine said otherwise.

Tricksters - Darcy Towers

Name: Lara Cummings

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Mystery

Title: Darcy Towers

Word Count: 46,000 words

Hero: My protagonist thinks she most identifies with Princess/Queen Elsa from the movie Frozen. While she hasn't been cursed with freezing powers, she feels cursed and burdened with "orphan-hood." But really she is Princess Anna in that she pulls out her amazing courage in a huge act of love to rescue her true and real father, after she has uncovered a deep family secret and "found" him, no less, in her older brother.

Pitch: 11yo Avery always wished to know her dad, especially now that her mom’s gone too. When library records don’t list his death date she must sneak into locked archives for the truth, because “orphan-hood” sucks!

250: The library computer lab was totally silent when my knee hit the underside of the table with a bang. I scrambled to close my screen and checked around the room; everyone else was too busy to have noticed. Plus, they wouldn’t even know there was supposed to be a death date listed for him.

My stomach got weird, like it always did on taco day at school. Maybe the librarians here didn’t know how to do things. Why else would it be wrong?

According to Wikipedia I was officially an orphan, since Mom was gone now too. Some kids at school whispered about my “orphan-hood,” like I couldn’t hear them. Remembering back made a little bubble in my heart pop open. I wanted another look, so I typed in Dad’s name again.

And it wasn’t just that either. The second entry was for “diaries.” A copy of Dad’s book used to be on the shelf in our living room, but I didn’t know he had diaries.

Why would they be in the library? ­

I leaned close to the screen pretending to read his deepest thoughts... It was about me…

“Avery, did you find any?” Claire whisper-blurted, bopping me with her elbow. I ripped out this huge scream and a fart.

Like six camp counselors shushed me as I frantically checked around again. The Coyote Campers were at the library playing “Research Olympics.” For question eight we had to find a book with an author of the same last name as one of our group members.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Dark Carnival Anthology Blog Blitz Has Arrived!

The air has grown crisp - October is here. With October comes autumn leaves, apple cider, and the siren call of The Dark Carnival.

Will you answer its call? Will you heed the beckon?

The doors are opening.

Will you leave with your life?

Blurb: In this anthology, several authors and illustrators explore the dark and hidden dangers that lie within a carnival that has come to town. But it is no ordinary carnival. It's The Dark Carnival.

And when The Dark Carnival comes to town, there's no promise that anyone can leave...alive.

And since I couldn't just do one, I've decided (and I hope it's okay,) to do a teaser and an excerpt from two of the amazing stories in this anthology!!

At the bottom of this post you will find the other stops on this spooky blog blitz!



And the Tunnel of Love loomed ahead of us.

I didn’t think they even made those things anymore. I hadn’t seen one at one of these fairs—well, my whole life. It was something you’d only see in a fifties movie, or some old black and white photo. And like anything classy, none of the loudmouth teenagers that frequented the fair were anywhere near it. The shadows around the Tunnel of Love were empty.

I wrapped my arms around her and headed towards the dark entryway.

The tunnel seemed even more like it was dropped out of another time as we got closer to it. Two giant cutout swans with chipping white paint formed a heart with their great necks, creating a doorway into the darkness where love was supposed to flourish. If not for the dark that invited one like me in, I would have seen the marred paint and carved in hearts with random initials on the pristine white of their feathers to be a bad sign, of something lost and something ruined.

I should have looked deeper.

Love Consumes Us by Julie Hutchings

Edited by: Jolene Haley, Kristen Jett, and Jessi Shakarian

Contributors include: Kat Daemon, Kristen Strassel, Julie Hutchings, C. Elizabeth Vescio, Mark Matthews, Brian W. Taylor, Kim Culpepper, Eli Constant, Mari Wells, J. Elizabeth Hill, Nicole R. Taylor, Ashly Nagrant, Kristin Hanson, Calyn Morgan, Tawney Bland, Roselle Kaes, Ken Mooney, Emily McKeon, Bobby Salomons, Ezekiel Conrad, Sheila Hall, Michelle Davis, Lucas Hargis, Vanessa Henderson, Ryan Bartlett, Debra Kristi, Jessi Esparza, T.A. Brock, Ruth Shedwick, Brian LeTendre, Amy Trueblood, Gregory Carrico, Jamie Corrigan, Kate Michael, Tyle Anne Snell, Alicia Audrey, Meghan Schuler, Jamie Adams, Wulf Francu Godgluck, J.C. Michael, Suzy G., Kristin Rivers, and Claire C. Riley.
*Final lineup subject to change


Add it to Goodreads here:

Want to show The Dark Carnival even more Goodreads love?
Add it to your shelves - horror, anthologies, and thriller are good places to start.

Did you say you have more love? Pin the shiny new cover to Pinterest, send out some tweets, and scribe it into Facebook. You never know - show The Dark Carnival enough love, and it might just let you leave.

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