Mark Terry, The Zombie Zoo
Samantha Black was dressed to kill. She liked that expression. Dressed to kill. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror behind the bar, just another beautiful face in the crowd. She picked up her drink, a zombie, the club’s specialty, vodka and grapefruit juice, and made a modest toast to herself. She took a sip, intending to nurse it. She needed a clear head. She didn’t need the buzz. She already had one of her own making and it was better than alcohol. She smiled. The image in the mirror smiled back.Jessica: I personally liked Mark’s entry because it’s just a great setup. From those 100 short words you get a great sense of voice and you are beyond curious. Is she literally dressed to kill? Who is this woman and what is she up to? Mark’s 100 words have me wanting to read more. Thanks!
Kim: I agree. I loved the voice in this excerpt. It pulls you in from the very first sentence or two. Plus, it’s a great mystery opening. Is she literally “dressed to kill”? The writing is very lean. Not a single wasted word.
Nice work, Mark! When you’re ready to send the query letter, synopsis, and first chapter of The Zombie Zoo for our critique, just send it through the blog e-mail link. We look forward to seeing more!
While it turned out that Jessica and I had pretty different tastes overall, we were able to pick one runner-up that made both of our radars.
The runner-up is:
Anonymous 10:34, Peripherals
It was gone.Jessica: I thought this was hysterical, and funny usually makes me want to read more. The general setup, someone being dead, isn’t completely new. I’ve seen that one before, but the mother at the other end, the pissed-off mother, is brilliant. I love this! I’m intrigued and would definitely want more.
He blinked a few times in case there was something wrong with his vision, but it didn’t change the fact that his body wasn’t where he left it.
He'd seen the sheet pulled over his face before he was yanked to the light so he knew he was supposed to be dead. What he didn't expect was to be kicked to the curb when he reached it.
His mother was waiting for him when he got there, arms crossed, a pissed look on her face, tapping her foot.
Kim: Again, for me it’s the voice. Like Jessica said, a dead narrator isn’t uncharted territory, but the notion of “losing” his dead body and the eye-rolling dead mother was fun and intriguing. Plus, it’s succinct. No time’s wasted getting to the point. We learn a lot about the narrator in just a few sentences.
Beyond these two that we agreed upon, Jessica and I had very different lists of our favorites. I think each of us actually look for different qualities in those first pages. So tomorrow we’re going to talk about our honorable mentions. We each chose four more excerpts that really stood out for us. We’ll highlight those and tell you why we liked them.
Overall, we were really impressed with the quality of the writing in all of the entries. If your excerpt didn’t make it in our honorable mentions or top picks, please don’t be discouraged from querying us. Obviously, it’s tough to judge a complete book based on the first 100 words, and just because we didn’t select your work for the blog doesn’t mean you couldn’t grab our attention with your proposal or query letter.
TODAY IS THE PARANORMAL ROMANCE/ROMANCE WITH FANTASY ELEMENTS/FANTASY WITH ROMANTIC ELEMENTS CONTEST! (That’s a mouthful!)
Here are the rules:
1. We’ll only accept entries that are posted in the comments section of this blog article. No e-mailed entries will be considered.And in case you’ve forgotten, the prize is a critique of the query letter, synopsis, and first chapter of the winning entry! The winner will e-mail us the additional material and we’ll provide our notes privately, not on the blog. We will, however, discuss what we liked about each winning 100-word entry on the blog, and will pull out a few honorable mentions to highlight other excerpts that came close and why.
2. Include your title and the first 100 words of your book. Now, we’re not saying to leave us hanging mid-sentence here. Stop wherever the previous sentence ends, but do not exceed 100 words.
3. The same work cannot be entered in more than one genre. If you think your book straddles more than one genre, you’ll have to pick one. We will, however, accept multiple works from the same author in the same or different categories.
4. Once the material is entered, it’s your final entry. We won’t allow revised versions of the same work.
5. We’re accepting excerpts of both finished and unfinished works.
6. The deadline is tomorrow, February 20th, at 9:00 a.m. EST.
We’ll post the winners in a few days and then move on to the next genre: Erotic Romance!
Secret Lore of the Dolphins
(fantasy with romance elements)
Rim of the Atlantic Trench, two hundred fathoms down --
Out of the darkness of the ocean depths they came, mindless automatons, something more than relay switches, something less than watchdogs. They received their commands and acted, without reflection, without care. A dozen of their greatest took their stations and concentrated their power, a power subtle and invisible at a normal level but devastating and irresistible at the sub-atomic levels of the crystaline structure on which they focused their energies. Soon the crystal began to glow a dull angry red. Beneath them, the earth trembled. Around them, the water churned.
Devil Take Your Soul (paranormal romance)
“Where is she, Arthur?” Josef’s voice melted into the silence of the night.
Ali stood two steps behind Josef. So far Arthur didn’t seem to have noticed her. Arthur was obviously high. Drugs or blood or both? Either way, she had no desire to be his next snack.
Arthur peered around, “Who?”
Ali dragged the torch light up Arthur’s body. He was dressed to party. Two drops of blood on his white shirt. No doubt Josef had already seen them, smelled them. The light reached Arthur’s face, he hissed and barred his fangs.
(fantasy with romantic elements)
A SCREAM RIPPED from Irini’s throat, echoing through the forest. Trying to pull herself upright, she crashed back into a heap, doubling over as pain shot through her bloodied battered body.
How could this be happening?
What sort of men attacked an obviously lone pregnant female? Why hadn’t they listened to her pleas? Why had they disappeared after the attack?
By chance as a Thassosian she’d been raised to defend herself and others if diplomacy didn’t work. A skill honed when she and her Ambassador mother had moved to the kingdom of Nikeon, with Master Gallen as the arms-trainer.
Alek looked at the knife sticking out of his chest. It had the most exquisite handle. He couldn’t help but admire the intricate pattern of golden suns and silver stars. Impressive craftsmanship and he wished he had one like it. Well, he supposed he did now, since the knife’s owner had disappeared. Alek lifted his hand, wrapped his fingers around the hilt and then changed his mind. The silver blade was lodged in his aorta and although his skin had started to knit around it, pulling it out would make matters worse. Still, how much worse could his situation be?
THE CONSOLATION PRIZE
Luka leaned against the wall, his dark gaze cruising the crowded dance floor of his nightclub, Rebellion. Half-naked, drunken bodies gyrated to the loud thumping music, sweat glistening on their torsos. Hands caressed faces, fondled asses and rubbed groins. Those who weren’t fucking watched ones who were. Luka felt a pang of jealousy. He was in the wrong business in so many ways.
A slim blond male sidled up and brushed against him, a provocative touch followed by a light caress of Luka’s balls. “Like to dance?”
Luka wasn’t looking for a partner, he was looking for trouble.
Another Bloody Love Story
“Will you go on already? I’ve things to do.” Sister Constance had not lost the lilt of her Irish heritage in almost forty years of devotion. The thin set of her mouth grew tight; a line of malice in the moon under the wimple.
The former Sister Mary looked over her shoulder at her tormentor and raised an eyebrow. “Screw you, you old harridan,” she said, taking a pair of sunglasses from her jacket pocket and slipping them on.
She pushed them up the bridge of her nose with a forefinger, turned and promptly fell down the step.
Of Ghosts ( fantasy with romantic elements)
I was standing there naked when a dead man sauntered into my bathroom.
Sauntered -- not shambled.
That was the second frightening thing.
I inhaled and skittered backward. The shelves holding my soaps and pretty bottles bit into my bare behind. I didn't need the stink of chemical putrescence he brought with him to know he was a revenant.
Nathan! I gasped. I shouldn't have. His name stopped the slow swing of the sleek blond head and gave the viscous brown eyes focus. On me.
He curled back his sulky lips and leered.
That was the third frightening thing.
Shadow Hunter (paranormal romance)
KYRA DELANO SIPPED from her glass of whiskey on the rocks, savoring the sharp burn on her tongue and the chill of ice melting in its wake.
The heady fumes assailed her remarkable sense of smell, removed her for a moment from the repugnant scent of cigarette smoke, old beer spills and sweat - a prerequisite for every nightclub she'd visited this last month.
A mirrored wall behind the bar flaunted the jaded images of humans intent on having a good time.
One woman in particular.
Kyra's fingers clenched, and the glass shuddered as she tossed back its amber contents.
Wings of Desire
(Fantasy with Romantic Elements)
Lorelei froze when she saw the envelope on the mantel.
She’d known it was coming, despite her denials; foretold by a prickling restlessness, an itch in her joints, a preoccupation with sex – and a premonition of flight. Though something rose joyfully within her bones at the thought of flying, she remained torn.
The invitation that must not be refused had arrived. She would have to decide.
She fingered it thoughtfully, unsurprised to see it had been opened. Although it concerned her fate this summons bore her mother’s name, not her own.
Dragons were not only traditional, but matriarchal.
Shadow of Destiny
(Fantasy with Romantic Elements)
Zebara sulked, and her Shadow suffered.
The slow wagons and the fluttering servants were irksome. Without them they could have made the journey in three days, riding hard.
She shifted against the grinding ache in her kidneys.
Gemir, her Shadow. Her bodyguard, not that she needed one; she was skilled in her family’s arts. She gave him an insolent stare, only to see his dark face tighten.
“Get down,” he barked, drawing his great blade.
Years of obedience meant the crossbolt flew over, rather than through her. Zebara reached for her weapons, the pain in her back forgotten.
The Hidden Heart
She couldn’t believe it had come to this. All the years of hoping and training, the long struggle to conquer her powers and her heart as she pursued her childhood dream.
And for what? So she could submit herself to eternal bondage with some trigger-happy testosterone-fuelled hero.
At her side, Laetitia shifted restlessly; her mind leaked a slurry of hopes and fears. Elin disentangled their cloaks once again and cursed her friend’s lackluster screening ability.
Waiting with her peers for the Binding Ceremony to begin, Elin had never felt more potent – or more afraid.
The Wounded Heart
She rose unwillingly through the layers of awareness, bones aching, burdened with the memory of fire and pain.
Wakefulness tugged at her mind with insistent claws and she yearned to refuse the call of consciousness, to burrow into the scant comfort of the dark.
But it was not to be.
She lifted her hands, fingers questing for the silver torc that circled her neck, symbol of her most cherished ambition.
The icy contact almost burned her fingertips, the cold circle of metal impervious to the warmth of her skin. It was inert, unresponsive.
Dead, and all her dreams with it.
THE NIGHT TOWER - fantasy with romance elements
“I need you two to come with me.”
Halley looked up from arranging her skirts ready for another morning of watching the canals flow through the Aquifer, and felt her heart pause for a beat, a temporary stillness of her blood for those striated hazel-brown eyes focused on her, on her face. Flecks of green like seeds in the irises, a ring of almost-gold around the pupil, and oh, no, she was staring.
“Yes, sir,” she said, and flushed, looking down and away from Hadrian so that she had an excuse not to take his hand as she stood.
“Angels don’t exist, angels don’t exist,” Nora Kendall chanted as she carefully wove her way between the many linen-draped tables on her way toward the ladies’ room. She’d nearly convinced herself of that by the time she gained the plush interior and collapsed against the burnt-gold door, breathless. Nearly…No, she quashed the thought, ruthlessly. “They don’t exist.”
She inhaled a breath that sliced against the back of her throat like a razorblade. Swallowed hard. Inhaled another. The second breath went down easier than the first; the third easier still. With the fourth, her heart actually slowed to its regular pace.
Prophecy Child (paranormal romance)
Shay Delano merged soundlessly into the shadows cast by the ancient grandfather clock, holding her breath as her parents drifted past, pale and ghost-like. A sight made all the more eerie when the clock gonged the midnight hour.
Dear Lord, they’ll see me.
But they took little notice, seemingly aware of little else but each other as they moved onward, Altair pressing a hand into the security panel before opening the door for his wife, Kyra, and to the darkness outside.
By Fionn Jameson
Running down the line of his body like chocolate covered fruit.
He smiled that wicked smile from over his bare shoulders and I was all but ready to cry off the stupid vow of chastity that I made in the first place. Being what I was, abstinence was very, very important.
"Sexy, isn't he?"
Next to me, Melissa nudged me in the ribs with a throaty laugh and I turned my head so that she couldn't see how infatuated I'd gotten.
Urban fantasy w/ elements of romance
May couldn’t believe how fast her life had fallen apart. Jack Severn, her hero, her crush, her ideal mate, had not been chosen for her as a partner for M.U.C.I., (Mutant and Undead Criminal Investigation). Instead, Brianna Henley, the human woman she hated the most, was now her partner.
To top it all off, their first case had been a disaster. She’d almost gotten her new partner killed because she’d forgotten a silly little detail, humans can’t see in the dark as well as she could, and now everyone was furious with her. Even her father, who usually kept out of her professional life, had given her a scolding.
Title: Cursed Legacy - Saret
Genre: Paranormal Romance
121 words, or it would have chopped the last sentence.
The white house stood on a slight rise, the slate gray sky above warning of the impending storm racing in from the east. A loose shutter rhythmically banged against the wall, while above it the round skylight window of the attic blindly stared out over the bay. There was a widow’s walk, the railing silhouetted against the dark sky like skeletal fingers, a small round tower at the side, with stairs leading down to the first floor.
Saret stood at the fence that was meant to keep the world at bay, staring at the building. The skylight drew his gaze, reminding him how he'd once joked that Ard na mara was really a cyclops lying in wait to devour innocent passersby.
A Trail of Copper Snakes
(fantasy with romance elements)
The stone gods had conquered Vachari. They squatted outside every doorway, leering, hands open in their laps as if demanding gifts. Between their feet nestled bowls filled with trinkets: copper coins, river-smoothed pebbles, the occasional silver ring. Around their thick necks and resting on their fat bellies hung garlands made from scrunched fabric roses.
Dzakh greeted them like old friends. Ten years he'd been on the road, travelling from mountain range to mountain range and from coast to coast, and now he'd made it home in time for the festival of Luzin.
(Additional: God bless you for doing this!)
I shouldn’t have come here, I knew. It’d been too many centuries. Soren had drowned so long ago, there shouldn’t be a trace of him. I couldn’t help it though…in my sleep he’d called me, again and again.
So here I was…on the cliffs, the closest I could get to my birthplace, the island that’d been swallowed by the waves centuries ago.
“You’ve finally come home,” his voice was softer than human as he touched my shoulder. I didn’t fight his touch, but my reply was distant. “This isn’t my home anymore, Soren. I should have drowned with you.”
BlOOD AVERSIONS (For his own amusement a Vampire turns a woman who gets sick at the sight of blood)
I never asked for this undead life. It found me. As a single girl at age thirty there weren’t a lot of options in the decent man department. Most guys who weren’t married by this age were either gay or had the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am date down pat. They buy you dinner, collect what they think should be their payment and move on. I was so tired. Dating seemed more of a chore then a pleasure. I was sick of guys I barely knew trying to paw me. I decided to stop caring if the right man would ever come along.
A Stranger in Her Own Skin
(Time-Travel Historical Romance)
Woorooloo, Western Australia
With a hard-won veil of poise, Emily Carrow fixed her eyes on the opposite wall and shut her ears to the flint-edged taunts of crow and kookaburra. Her thin chest rose on a deep breath, and she broke her silence.
“I forgive you.”
She held her breath. What might he say? Thank you, I’ve been dying inside needing your forgiveness? Not likely.
She wrenched her gaze down and gripped the cold, hard metal chair arms, prepared to follow her courage out of the room.
He spoke. His voice was the same as she remembered, like cloying, viscous golden syrup.
As Yet Untitled because (I am horrible about titling my novels) -
A romantic fantasy set in Roaring 20s New York City.(So, would that be historic urban fantasy romance?)
First 96 words:
The night started out firecrackers. On account of a scheduled raid at the 21 Club, the floor was packed by nine-thirty with a new kind of crowd, young, dolled up, and drinking like this was their last chance to show the world how fried they could get. Even the orchestra was lit up like Times Square. They still managed to catch their cues, though, which was a miracle and a half for me because I was doing this act with Dorie, and she couldn’t smoke a cigarette without a drum section telling her when to puff.
and Falling, Fly
The angel of desire is damned – at least that’s what my tattoo says. Okay, if I’m honest, it just says “dam,” with “ned” only outlined in purple stencil. But true twenty-first century angel that I am, I don’t want honesty, I want speed. If Ed doesn’t hurry, no lie will explain what he’ll see.
He glances up from the black halo of letters that crowns my pubic mound.
“You wanna tell me the story?”
Tattooists are the new priests for the fucked up and the thrown away. They speak the language of symbol, and administer penance in tiny metallic lashes.
Witchy Woman (Paranormal Romance)
The mat read, "Welcome". Unfortunately, nothing else about the house offered a cheerful greeting. Peeling paint, pollen tinted windows and the musty smell of rotten wood spoke of aged neglect.
With tentative fingers, Stella Campbell grasped the tarnished brass doorknob to her aunt's house. Thirteen years ago, she had fled through this door, vowing that she'd never return. Thirteen years had passed, the memory of that horrible night still haunting her every waking moment. Thirteen years had slipped away since her aunt held her down and sacrificed her virginity to a demon.
Seventh Son ( A werewolf romance)
The sky was as dark and gray as the muscular form that paced back and forth outside the kitchen’s dirt-splattered window.
“Don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t try to pet her. And don’t look directly into her eyes,” said the dreadlock-haired, white guy who stood before me.
His wife –‘old lady’ --- was his term for her, hung on him and pulled her oversized sweatshirt against her rippled-edged peasant skirt. Her stringy hair fell long past her shoulders. “Oh, and if he opens his mouth on you---don’t be scared or jerk away---it’s just their way of greeting you.”
Zombie Stakeout (fantasy with romantic elements) - 85 words
The front door of the suburban residence was wide open, a dirty red brick holding it in place. I noticed the wire-screen door usually protecting such Australian homes from plagues of locusts and whatnot was absent. Huh.
Back in my covert operative training days in Secret Location, USA, the common motto was “Everyone’s Business Is My Business”. Now, taking into account the clear entrance – and that the clapboard property in question was my neighbor’s – I felt the right to stick my nose into their business.
Fantasy with Romantic Elements entry
Virginia, July, 1948
Meara stood on the balcony, the wind pressing her thin white robe against a slim body poised on the last brink before womanhood. Her arms were raised, hands cupped in a pose as ancient as the call to the elements she made. Candles flickered and flames rose up in a circle around her as she chanted, head thrown back as the vivid blaze of her hair fell down her back. She had chosen this night to change her future. Witchcraft, the power and the glory of it, Meara honored but knew was not to be her destiny.
THE PECULIAR PRINCESS
(Romance with fantasy elements)
The castle’s inhabitants never suffered delusions of grandeur. No love struck-princess would degrade herself to seek refuge in the stocky towers, and no noble prince would see the point in storming the tattered gates. Its humble form inspired no poet to greatness or tourist to ask for souvenir postcards. In fact, its only claim to fame would be the speed with which one forgot its very existence.
It held Lexy Newbury captive anyway. Her heart pounded with the fear she’d forgotten not only the castle, but something much more important. Something she had no business forgetting.
(Historical fantasy with romantic [m/m] elements)
The strangled cry jarred Trenus from his studies. He looked up to see Father Flavius clinging to the library door, gasping for breath.
"We must flee! Hurry!"
Students craned their necks to discover the commotion. "Come? Who's come? Father, speak sense."
"The praetorian guard!" With a whimper, the priest swept his hand toward the fragile scrolls that lined the high walls.
"Sweet Jesu, no! The edict!"
One quick-minded student sprinted for the shelves, shoving manuscripts beneath his cloak. Two other students followed his lead. Others forsook the books to race out, empty-handed, past the priest at the door.
And many thanks to Jessica and Kim!
She ran, blood pounding in her ears, lungs straining, at their limit.
The rough sound of his breath pushed her to go faster. The trees provided cover but not enough, considering his sense of smell. She was fast, though, and she’d had a head start.
She’d veered off the path immediately, her bare feet cut and bleeding from the forest underbrush. She needed a place to hide, somewhere he couldn’t find her.
A slim beam of pale gold sunlight caught the tip of a nearby pine. The midsummer air in the Pennsylvania forest smelled of heat, heavy and wet.
The Penumbra Children
(Paranormal futuristic romance)
“Have you fragged your corals today?” asked the bubbly blonde on the advertisement kiosk. The recorded hoload continued on, listing the virtues of everything from pH balanced sea salt to chemical syrup scientifically designed to enhance the color of corals symbiotic zooxanthellae.
Fleur paid the ad little mind. It entertained the children while they waited for the crew to finish loading their gear, and that was enough.
“Momma,” Ogden said in a breathy voice, “I wanna frag coral.”
“We don’t have corals sweetheart.” Fleur ruffled his hair.
He frowned, the picture of seven-year old plotting.
Sean O’Rahilly watched the train cut across the moonlit desert. Even at a distance, the railcars’ rumble hurt his ears. The noise, however, wasn’t the reason he wanted to stay away. Once the train came, Sean would have to say goodbye.
He turned to Su Ni, who lingered near some sagebrush, hair pulled over her shoulder. Despite her sorrow, she sat the horse with shoulders straight, eyes dry.
“Ready?” he asked, to break the silence between them. Sean and Su Ni needed few words. And since she spoke no English and he no Cantonese, this was a fortunate thing.
Question: The winner of the Mystery Contest uses the word "She" eight times in the opening parargraph, isn't that a major no-no, or does the writing outweigh that oversight?
(Please don't take this as a slam on your entry, Mark Terry, yours was one of my favorite too!)
Stina shuffled through dead brown leaves on a dead, pre-winter morning, nudging a chicken out of her way with the side of her foot. “Throw the horse over the fence some hay, Stina,” Grandfather had said. He’d forgotten that they hadn’t had a horse for half a year.
She rested her hand on the side of the barn and bent to straighten her sock. The cold stones numbed her hand, and her breath curled thick in the air. She wanted to hurry with this imaginary horse so she could get inside and warm herself with a hot dish of oats....
Dark Paranormal Romance (Vampire)
“I swear if you’d just tell me what they paid you, I’ll double…even triple the amount!”
Drake Black shook his head as the last living member of Detroit’s Elder Council tried to negotiate for her life. He’d been in this situation before, and no matter how many times he thought it might go differently – it always had the same ending.
He’d stand right here, in the middle of the pitch-black room, while the lone survivor huddled under the heavy oak table throwing out reason after reason why they should be spared.
The Ninth Curse (paranormal romance/suspense)
Joel Hatcher grabbed the phone book, flipped it open, and searched for a heading called "Curse Removal."
Finding nothing under Curses, he skipped ahead to Spiritualist. Maybe they would have had some experience with someone like him. He scanned each advertisement. None of them mentioned curses. And then, he saw what he had been looking for.
Madame Eugenie - Palm Readings, Spiritual Guidance, Curse Removal.
Madame Eugenie it was.
He ripped the page out of the book, opened his cell, and dialed the number. He hoped she had late hours. Very late hours. He glanced at his watch. Midnight.
Dark Paranormal Romance (Vampire)
Oktober stood motionless as bands of shadow mottled and writhed around him. The primitive side of his brain told him to fight, but the other part – the part he barely knew anymore – reminded there was nothing he could do.
The shadows weren’t real.
Nothing he’d seen the entire time he’d been here had been real, but it ravaged him all the same.
He closed his eyes when he felt icy tendrils circle his bare arms. He should have never taken a punishment that wasn’t his. He’d done nothing wrong; nothing to deserve the hell that stalked him in this darkness.
Dark Paranormal Romance (Vampire)
“Will you be enrolling for the fall semester, or are you his slave for the rest of eternity now?”
Michelle Bainbridge grinned at her best friend, Lydia Vincent, who cackled evilly while ripping posters from the walls of their once shared dorm room. “Honestly, I have no idea. I haven’t talked to Torren since the ritual.”
“I’m sorry,” Lydia offered, wickedness spreading across her lips. “Did my death interrupt your plans to find out what’s under his robe?” She smacked a hand against her chest and fell back on the bed. “Please, forgive me if I’ve caused you any distress.”
Dark Paranormal Romance (Vampire)
Derek of Ballard Glen stood in the center of the worn battlefield, his heavy armor stained crimson under the faint moonlight. Bodies lie strewn about, mutilated and seeping, some barely recognizable as friend or enemy.
He’d never seen so much carnage, so much senseless brutality. But as the horror of it settled deeper into his chest, his Sire’s words intruded, “The cost of war is great, but the cause fought for is even greater.”
Derek shook his head. No cause was worth this. No land, no title…nothing was worth thousands of men cut down for something they couldn’t even touch.
Dark Paranormal Romance (Vampire)
“Scowling won’t get you a date, let alone a meal.”
Tyler dropped down into an overstuffed chair and glared at his brother, Erik. “I don’t want a date.” He jammed a hand into the pocket of his worn jeans and tossed a wad of bills on the table. “I want to eat.”
Erik shook his head, blond hair falling loose around his shoulders. “You can’t just throw money on the table and expect to be fed. You have to talk. You have to interact. For God’s sake, you have to engage with a woman before she’ll go home with you.”
Dark Paranormal Romance (Vampire)
“You can’t have it!”
Logan Ellis stared at the seventy-something woman standing half-hunched in front of her, then down at the bag. Big and brown, it probably gave her back problems, so it wasn’t as though she’d really miss it. If nothing else, she was doing the old bat a favor.
She narrowed her eyes when the woman clutched it tighter, wrinkled fingers splayed across the worn leather as though it was an irreplaceable national treasure. She hated having to ask twice. “I said give me your purse.”
Dark Paranormal Romance (Vampire)
“I can’t say I was expecting to see you standing out here.”
Raven Black-Ballard swallowed her heart, which jumped and lodged itself sideways in her throat the second the door swung open. Panic swelled inside her, tightening her stomach as she stared up into the gorgeous, sapphire blue eyes she’d spent five years avoiding.
This wasn’t what she expected.
He wasn’t what she expected.
“I was supposed to meet Sara here,” she all but croaked. She cast a glance over her shoulder at the car waiting on street before focusing back on him. “She said you were out of town.”
The Damned Halo/ paranormal
“God, give me strength, I beg of ye.” There was a waver in his voice as he intoned his desperate but heartfelt plea.
Angus stood at the foot of the bed, mesmerized by the sight before his astounded eyes.
Perhaps astounded was the wrong word. Repelled would be more fitting, because he could feel the roiling in his stomach and the surge of blood in his throat.
The babe’s gaze held him captive, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away. He tried to look away but it was as useless as his prayer had been.
“Isn’t this just bloody wonderful?”
Dark Paranormal Romance (Vampire)
“I’m not going to deal with her! She’s barely out of diapers!”
Dahalia stared out the floor to ceiling windows across the room, unblinking, as Sydney Forrester’s shrill voice sliced through the once quiet office. Diapers? She knew she should feel offended. After all, that’s exactly what Sydney wanted.
Unfortunately, one had to actually care to find themselves offended, and Dahalia hadn’t really cared about anything in more years than she wanted to consider.
“There’s a reason why we’re called an Elder Council, Christian. I absolutely refuse to share responsibilities, let alone my thoughts, with someone who probably still breathes!”
Name: Untitled (working title "A Comedy of Witches")
Contemporary Fantasy with a Romantic Storyline
The Committee of the Disaffected met every week for personal growth and enlightenment. This usually involved tequila and always involved a debate.
Tonight’s featured discussion was the yoga class they had decided to take together at the town rec center. When they soon found themselves in the emergency room in hopes of having Diana extricated from a difficult Astravakransana pose, The Committee of the Disaffected knew it was time to implement plan C.
After an infinite number of med students and an adequate supply of muscle relaxants were employed to rescue the woman from her predicament, they retired to a nearby restaurant to discuss their options.
(Fantasy w/ romantic elements)
The catacombs beneath the Council chambers reminded the Apprentice a lot of the cavernous room of the Knighthood wing ceremony. He remembered the high ceilings and tranquil depressions of water, warm and comforting despite the pain and discomfort to come. He had screamed along with the others when his back muscles multiplied to support his wings. The discomfort was almost unbearable, but he had pulled through. Looking back, he thought he could do it all over again without screaming. There were so many things more painful.
If I were being honest, I knew he would never be mine for long – there were too many reasons, too many dangers, too many faceless enemies that stood between us.
But the enemy wasn’t faceless now. And even though I knew better, his eyes still scared me. It was the only thing about him that hinted at a less than human existence.
He walked over to me - five feet between us, and a universe of lies. They were in the open now, flowers that bloomed whether or not they wanted to, forced to the surface by a power stronger than them.
Chains of Honor
“Damn it, Hatch! This is war. If you can’t handle it, get your ass back to the transport.” Cyani slammed her back against the tunnel wall as the shattering explosion of a K-bomb shook the ground. Fine pebbles and dust crumbled over her head, illuminating the laser sights streaming from her team’s eyepieces. She scanned her men to see if any of them were beginning to panic. They couldn’t lose focus.
“I’m fine, Captain,” Hatch shouted back. He cringed as another blast rumbled in the distance. “Don’t like tight spaces is all.”
Earthlen, they could be so damn unpredictable.
“I’m gonna kill her.”
The masculine bark in his ear jarred Dan further awake. The crimson numbers on his alarm clock—4:38 AM—edged him to join in homicidal fury.
“Wake up, you prick,” his partner said. “Get over here.”
Dan snorted. “Lock yourself in the bathroom. Five minutes, I’ll take her for a long ride.” He snapped his cell closed, tossed it on the night stand and rolled out of bed.
Thanks to superior organizing skills, clean clothes hung out in the plastic basket that lived in the corner by the neglected dresser, while dirty ones graced the bathtub.
Way to go, Mark! I enjoyed your entry as well and wish you much success with it. I look forward to seeing it in print some day soon!
Thanks Jessica and Kim for your kind words about my entry. It was a great way to begin the day and a delightful kick in the pants to get some writing done today.
Jessica and Kim: I thought the winning entry certainly established a mood, and I'm intrigued to know what Samantha's up to but I found the use of "She" 8 times in 100 words a bit jarring. Any thoughts?
(I don't have a horse in this race, I'm just curious to know what you think)
Past the Point of Rescue
You are mine, now.
Invisible winds buffeted the Guardian as he stood by the prisoner in the execution chamber. Soon the man would be dead, black spirit freed from his earthly body.
The Guardian shivered, ashamed of his own fear. They were coming for him. The fallen ones. If he ran now, they’d not catch him. But he’d deprive his charge of one last chance for redemption.
At the risk of his own soul, a worthy Guardian would stand fast until the last possible moment. To abandon his charge would fling him beyond humiliation, beyond disgrace.
And into damnation.
Congratulations Mark and Anonymous/Peripherals. I, too, laughed out loud at the "where's my body" image conjured up in Peripherals. The pissed off mama was icing on the cake. Good job, both of you!
And good luck to all of the brave souls in the next category!
Many, many thanks to Jessica and Kim for their time and input! This has been great! Can't wait to see more.
Night Sun Rising
Dr. Charles Merritt offered blood sacrifice in an ancient Maya ritual that hadn’t been performed for hundreds of years.
At least his victim wasn’t human.
Hand trembling, he hit record on the digital camcorder and left a bloody fingerprint on the casing. “Jaid, I’m sorry. I can’t wait any longer. Since you haven’t translated the entire Codex yet, I guessed at the calibration.”
In the ruins, a jaguar screamed. He whirled, heart slamming against his ribs.
A man stood in the temple’s broken shadow. “As Gatekeeper of Chi’Ch’ul, I command you to leave my City or die.”
Title: The Wizard of Morgan's Island
The sandalwood aroma of the air ward reached Ilene as she drove onto the bridge. Michael’s magic. That scent evoked the same visceral reaction now that it had twelve years ago, making her pulse speed up and her stomach twist with longing. Stupid, stupid.
She glanced up through the windshield. Hazy, yellow-orange streaks of the warding floated above. Could his scrying system identify her or did it just warn him that someone with power approached? How would he react if he did know it was her? Throw her off the island, most likely, and tell her not to come back.
The Demon Connection
He spotted his mark.
She staggered out of the hotel bar, her stilettos clacking as she walked across the marble inlaid flooring. Every now and again, her ankle wobbled as she almost fell off her ridiculously high heels, but she managed to right herself before actually stumbling to her knees.
Dissipating into the shadows, he followed her heavily aromatic wake of eau de Merlot. Once he absorbed her energy, he knew it would boost him to a higher level in the organization. Innocence tended to produce a more malleable and powerful energy than most demons realized.
Prince of Winter(fantasy romance)
As the Dark Prince strode forward to quench his thirst in the cold waters of the Elysian River, he didn’t know what shocked him more: The sight of the beautiful young woman who lay on the far side of the grassy riverbank, or her unabashed nakedness.
A rush of adrenaline coursed through Stellan’s tired limbs as blind instinct seized control. Bereft of cover, he immediately dropped into a crouch, keenly aware that his lean, black clad figure left him dangerously exposed against the surrounding grasslands.
The boy was eight when he made his first kill, and small for his age. Small and thin, with a thick fall of dirty blond hair that brushed his shoulders and constantly had to be shoved away from his eyes.
He did so now, thrusting it out of his face with a brush of his fist. The hand, like the rest of him, was soiled from too long without a proper bath. Raw scrapes marred his knuckles, and they stung in the cold slap of the autumn morning. Vestiges of last night’s tussle for dinner. Hunger still cramped his stomach.
Title: Gargoyle Alliance
Death didn’t improve the looks of a gargoyle. Or the smell.
Lyana wrinkled her nose as she scanned the scattered remains of at least three of the creatures. There didn’t seem to be any live ones nearby.
Davios gave a protesting whine. I’ve been in swamps that smelled better. His complaint rang in her head.
Sorry. Lyana choked back a surge of nausea, breathing through her mouth. It must be worse for you. Your nose is more sensitive than mine.
But you’re closer. Happy to leave this one to you, boss.
THE BIG EASY (urban fantasy)
The earth flew under her feet, moving so fast it was nothing but a blur of greens and browns. Her ground-devouring lope felt effortless and, though the sun had long since set, she had no problem making out the landscape around her. Gentle rolling hills gave way to a flat, grassy plain on the left and a steep hill climbing up into a dense forest on the right.
She altered her path, heading toward the hill and the safety of the woods. The woods offered protection from predators.
Title: PIERCING THE DARKNESS
Temperance sighted along the barrel of her psivamp enhanced crossbow. One chance, one shot. Rarely did the bastard allow himself to be so exposed. If she missed, it might be awhile before she had another chance. She’d have to start over. Screw that. She couldn’t start over. Not after getting this far.
Impatience warred with caution. Her fingertip tightened on the trigger, but didn’t finish the movement. She swore softly. Stefanos, heir to House Meloss, had too many lifestylers and sycophant mundanes surrounding him. She couldn’t get a clear shot. And she didn’t have enough weapons to take them all down.
When Tara Jackson sprinted up the walkway to the rental home she'd converted into her mayoral campaign headquarters, several things tilted off-kilter all at once.
The first, and most obvious, was her hair.
No matter how tight a ponytail she started with each morning, she could never seem to keep a hairstyle on-kilter for more than a few hours.
On-kilter? Was that even a word? Tara yanked the band out of her hair with one hand and twisted the doorknob with the other. Unlike bad hair, a dark office was a strange occurrence. She fumbled for the light.
Title: TEMPTING A DEMON
The widening of the old man’s eyes was the only warning Mira Asiyah received before he lunged across the table. He grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked her to her feet, pulling her close until their faces were inches apart.
She heard the startled cries and felt someone grab her around the waist but the old man was strong and she stayed locked in his grip.
“I know you.” A whisper but for its power to affect her, he might have well shouted. Sour breath wafted to her nostrils. Her stomach clenched. “You are the Elect.”
Working title (will change): split personality (paranormal romance)
He smelled it. He could hear it—the beating of her heart. She was happy. The euphoria made her blood smell all the sweeter.
He wanted it…needed it.
The woman stopped and looked over her shoulder, her smile faltering only a little before returning to its earlier vibrancy. She continued on her way.
He followed her, stalking her in the dark. She sensed him on a primal level but was too caught up in her own fantasies to truly pay attention to that age-old instinct that had to be telling her to run far and fast from the encroaching danger.
When I was younger, I used to think our next door neighbor--bent, gray, cackling Miss Ravenwhistle--was a witch. It wasn't until I caught her dousing our doorstep in holy water that I realized she thought my mother was one. I even asked my mother about it once, when I was about ten. She laughed. I laughed. But she didn't say yes or no.
Like all the women in our family, uncanny luck follows Mama wherever she goes. But luck takes two forms: good and bad.
Today, we fought against the bad.
title: mate's choice
“Would you marry me?”
Reia grinned at the man sitting across the table. His name was Mahkah and she’d just met him five minutes ago.
She’d been skeptical about the speed dating scene and was about to leave after twenty minutes when he sat at her table.
Mahkah was, by far, the best looking man at the entire function. He wore blue jeans that showed off his sculpted legs and a soft gray button-up shirt.
Title: SHADOW WARRIOR
The Anatta left her alone to watch Caddawyc die. Tesla Naadhira, caretaker of the young Lourvain prince, stood by his bedside and brushed a gentle hand across his hot cheek.
Cad couldn’t last much longer. His wails, soft now, came further and further apart. Each ragged breath seemed to take him away from her. When he died, she’d have no one.
She’d be alone.
Loss bowed her shoulders. The strength she’d relied upon these last months drained from her with every whimper Cad made. He made a slight choking sound and for a brief moment, silence hung heavily in the room.
Ranulf stared at the room before him in a thoughtful manner. Beside him, Lucien looked through the contents of a nearby box.
“We need to stop putting this off,” Ranulf said. “Every year we say we’ll get our collection surveyed and every year we find an excuse not to.”
“Why do you want strangers tromping through our home? Where does this whim come from?”
“I’ve forgotten what we own.” He indicated the boxes. “And can you find anything in this crush? I never get past the first ten boxes before I give up.”
Lucien closed the box and straightened.
title: Carrier's Secret
Symone read over the letter one last time then put it back in its envelope. Once she got home, she would put it with the dozen of others she’d gotten over the years. Calvin was a persistent man even though she had never once answered any of his letters. No matter where she moved, he always found her. She had her parents to thank for that.
It was Calvin’s right to hound her the way he was. He was her warlock.
Anon 9:08 asked "Question: The winner of the Mystery Contest uses the word "She" eight times in the opening parargraph, isn't that a major no-no, or does the writing outweigh that oversight?"
I have to confess I'm not a real stickler for grammatical rules unless it seems like you need them. I didn't notice the use of the word "she" eight times and obviously it didn't effect my enjoyment of what Mark wrote. Is there a number of times you can use one word? I don't think so. I think the problem comes when something starts to bother a reader or stand out.
Rules are meant to be broken and if they can be broken and still grab your readers you've been successful.
Evangeline Pemberton’s head slammed against the carriage window, jarring her awake. For a moment, she thought she was still stuffed in a mail coach until she recognized the two women seated across from her.
Lady Stanton lifted her nose with the same glacial expression she’d worn when Evangeline appeared on her doorstep.
Then as now, Lady Stanton’s narrow, bloodless lips pressed tightly together, stretching the single black mole hovering below her left nostril. Blonde hair so limp and lifeless as to appear almost white coiled beneath her bonnet like the sloughed dry skin of a snake.
Most grease monkeys have spent a morning or two beneath the hood of a car. I was spending precious minutes of mine on our warped hardwood floor, spread-eagled beside an old mangled wheelchair. To look at the rusty metal and worn leather seat, you might think a dilapidated contraption like this belonged in the trash. You'd be right-that's where I found it.
"I don't want it," came my mother's scratchy voice. "I told you." The couch squeaked as a coughing fit wracked her wasted frame.
(fantasy with romance elements)
Tessa Montgomery settled into the chair to read the letter Mr. Hancock had received on her behalf, enjoying the calm quiet of his office. If Robert Hancock had strong emotions, he hid them with skill, allowing her too-strong empathic sense to find a refuge from the storm of emotion at home.
A moot point on this day, as the second paragraph of the letter caused her to sit up in astonished alarm. Alarm that was strengthened as she felt the surprised concern of her maid, who had been knitting in a chair by the door.
Cast In Shadow (paranormal romance/suspense)
“Doctor Marcus wants you to stop by his office at the morgue,” Ann called to me from the front desk.
I slipped my old Motorola into my pocket and hurried over. When I reached her, she swung her legs off the desk in a hurry. A picture frame was knocked down to the floor. “Watch it!” I scowled at her. “How many times have I told you to keep your feet off the furniture?”
She rolled her mocha colored eyes. “Sorry.”
“Henry called and said he didn’t think it was safe for me to go out.”
“Do you do everything Henry tells you to do? Anyway, Marcus said it was urgent.”
After Thoughts and Before
County Wicklow, Ireland
Eldridge watched his mother lie upon the crude wooden bed. Each breath pulled her closer to deaths abyss. His mind replayed their last conversation, the final look in her eyes as she lovingly smiled, though pain ravished her body.
Frail hands, had begged him closer. “I’m dying, me son. I know it to be true. ‘Tis time I tell ya what I should’ve told ya many a year ago.” The distressed look on her face compelled him forward, a sense of foreboding washed over him. Death spoke words that would change the living forever.
The Jahejn Legacy
Paranormal Romance (95 words)
The textbook in Mark’s hand snapped shut with a sharp crack. A few disinterested gazes popped up at the sound. He ignored the lack of energy in the sunlit room. Facing the board, Mark drew the diagram on the chalkboard saying, “Can anyone tell me what nomadic mid-western tribe this originates from?” He scanned the room, calling on Leah.
She perked up and her smile broadened when he said her name.
“It’s a Sioux symbol for longevity and fertility.”
He nodded. “Do you know where this would have been found?”
If possible, her smile grew.
Sea Demon (Paranormal romance)
Lightning struck the anchor winch. Matt jumped backwards, releasing the wheel, and letting the seas slam against the port quarter. The boat’s hull groaned. The deck lurched like an out-of-control carnival ride. Now he regretted leaving the flybridge where the elevation would let him see the water. He tried looking out the starboard window which, as it wasn’t facing the rain, provided slightly better visibility.
There, just beyond the window, hovered a naked woman with black wings. Her wings beat slowly, evenly, in complete disregard of the tempest swirling around her. She saw him looking and waved.
TWENTY FOUR HOURS TO MIDNIGHT
11:56 p.m., Dec. 23
“Dana, dear, you’re under arrest.”
“Merry Christmas to you, too, Mrs. Pettiman.” Keeping her smile steady, Dana Griffin glanced away from the botoxed, bat-faced woman and scanned the room beyond. Glittering pinpoint lights dripped from graceful chandeliers, illuminating a dozen fully decorated trees that stretched above the crowd like proud ballroom sentinels. A silver-haired band looked ready to belt out every Christmas standard from the last seventy years, and everything seemed appropriately merry and bright.
So Dana’s sudden urge to douse herself in holy water and run screaming from the room was perhaps a bit extreme.
Epinoia (Fantasy with Romance elements)
DUBLIN, 1014 A.D.
The orange light of oil lamps danced on the gray stone in perfect rhythm with the clash of battle and the screams of warriors who now rode with the valkyries to the mead hall of Odin. The battle was near—some would say too close for comfort. Even within the thick walls of Dublin castle, King Sigtrygg Silkbeard could hear it. He raised a goblet in toast and grunted at their courage. Silkbeard didn’t fear the Irish; if battle came to his walls, he would wade into their forces and slay as many Celts as he could.
Michelle J. Intercession
Colette rolled over and slapped her hand on the bed table; some where to her right her cell phone was ringing. She spied the blue light that emanated as the phone almost vibrated off the table. The clock said 4:11, she groaned.
“Hello?” she said, yawning.
“Colette, some young girl found a dead body. I am at the scene, but this corpse, well it is… odd. I wondered if you wanted to come see it before we moved it.” Rodger, her assistant said.
“The body looks mummified. Like it has lain in a tomb in the desert for years.”
Robyn peeked inside the fitness club’s chrome and glass-doored entrance, the blast of conditioned air cool against her summer-heated skin. It appeared empty and quiet but for the deep thrum of alternative rock music that vibrated the air inside. She recognized the band: P.O.D., Payment on Death. Good theme music for the club’s resident ghost.
“Hello?” she called, bobbing her head in time with the music. No answer. “Robyn Dahl here. You called for a ghostbuster?”
Hex Appeal (paranormal romance)
As far as Sara Wardwell was concerned, J.K. Rowling could bite her.
Harry Potter wannabes hadn't annoyed her until four months ago, when her assignments from the Witches Council had directed her to start tracking teenagers with no sense of self-preservation. If she had to run in one more hormonal teen for dabbling with dangerous magic or performing an illegal spell, she might sell off what little she owned and move to Mexico.
She stood under the limbs of a tree darkened by moon-cast shadows and watched five hooded teenagers, their black robes swaying in a faint onshore breeze.
Dreaming Green Sex-Fairies
Priscilla OK used to be a fairy. Yes. Exactly. The kind with the blue gossamer wings and full of mischief. But she was a human now. OK, not quite. Not exactly anyway. She was having a human life, however. The only trouble was that in the realm-entering (birth process), well, she forgot about the fully-forgetting juice. Dear, dear. So she came in with some of her previous fairy memories. And whereas she couldn’t remember quite everything, she highly suspected she might have previously been a pretty outrageously naughty fairy. Oh, yeah, and now this badass green fairy was after her.
“Damn loser recruit,” Captain Connors muttered, as he sweltered in the alleyway, forced to endure the scents of week-old Chow Mein coming from the Dumpster he leaned against.
A mingled odor of sweet citrus and coconut strong enough to turn his stomach overpowered even the stench of the restaurant refuse surrounding him as the hairs rose on his arms. It was one of them, had to be. Shapeshifters were the only species to give off that cloying scent only a recruiter could detect. He inhaled the rancid fumes rising from the pavement to clear the oversweet smell from his nostrils.
Love, War, and Faith
(Fantasy with romantic elements)
Summer Solstice in the year 802
A low moan emanated from a pile of corpses on the battlefield.
“What was that?” thought Ruggiero. “Did someone call my name?”
He had been riding at the back of a cadre of knights surrounding their commander, Agramante, the brash young viceroy of North Africa. Without saying a word to his companions, Ruggiero set off in search of the ominous sound. He urged his horse across the desolate plain while taking care to avoid stepping on any scattered limbs. Vultures and other carrion birds circled overhead before landing and feasting on the dead.
Night's Eye (romance with fantasy elements)
She stood in the small clearing, her sword at the ready, and closed her eyes. Her body became attuned to her surroundings, the cool feeling of the mist as it moved across the land brought shivers to her back but she did not move.
She could feel every bump in the braided leather that covered the grip of her sword as the minutes ticked by. The chill in the air did nothing to combat the sweat that formed along her brow as the weight of the sword pulled at the muscles up her arm and along her back.
Congratulations, Mark Terry! 'The image in the mirror smiled back' was wicked. Brava!
Further congrats to Anonymous (Peripherals) 'kicked to the curb' made me laugh. Way to go.
And congrats to everyone who entered their work. A difficult, yet necessary mile on the road to publication. Kudos to all!
Not Your Average Cinderella (romance with fantasy elements)
Teagan O’ Leary stood at the edge of the third floor balcony, her head peeping over the edge to watch the couple below. A satisfied smirk settled on her lips as she saw the young man go down on one knee and pull the small velvet box from his coat pocket. She allowed herself to enjoy the scene, the squeal of delight from the blond-haired woman, the stopping of passersby as they watched the happy moment unfold. Pushing herself away from the railing, she stepped back into the shadows and disappeared with a blink.
Out of the Shade
(Fantasy with romance elements)
Some days having wings is a bitch; especially when a smelly assed goblin is holding me by them in front of his mouth like a French fry.
I looked out the broken shop window at my coworkers; members of the Supernatural Task Force, waiting for their brilliant surprise attack to begin. I had been sent in as the decoy. Six inches of faery with a bad case of PMS, supercharged by the earth’s energy that I had absorbed to shrink to this size. The goblin gang, high as kites, laughed and their leader then plucked me out of the air.
The Slayer’s Circle
(Fantasy with Romantic Elements)
Tara crawled across the plush rug toward the demon. Every cell in her skin fired tiny pleasure pulses as her knees dragged through the rug’s long, silky pile. Although her mind understood – was repulsed – her body reacted to his magic. Long, hot strokes of pure ecstasy blasted through her as she watched his gaze rake across her barely covered body. Her sheer gown hid little from him.
She peered at him through the dark curtain of hair that hung around her face. His perfectly sculpted, completely naked body lounged on the ornate gold throne. Today, he was a golden-haired god.
MY ZOMBIE ROMANCE
(Dark Paranormal Romance)
Dylan and I, we were fixing us when the zombies came. Not real zombies. It doesn’t matter anymore, but I won’t ever believe that monster nonsense Jane talked about.
“We'll call the realtor tonight,” I said.
Dylan laughed. “Just like that?”
“You can't stop smiling,” I said.
I couldn’t remember the last time he sounded so happy. I closed my eyes as he kissed me on the forehead. The familiar smell of his skin left an ache in me. Things would be better now.
I leaned in and thought maybe the realtor could wait.
That's when they came.
Title: The Fire, the Wolf and the Wind (fantasy with romance elements)
The flames beckoned with a promise of warmth against the frigid winds, but these were funeral pyres. Though the Ticanee shivered against every bitter gust, they shied away from the fires so the spirits of their dead could escape to a better place. Totem poles witnessed their grief as the Ticanee closed their eyes to pray over the crackling pyres.
But one girl's eyes remained open; her gaze followed the smoke that billowed into the winter sky. She was Taria, daughter of the Oshta, and her otherworldly blue eyes gave the impression she could see beyond sight.
He returns to Abraham’s field each spring; a crude figure of a man, stuffed with hay, fashioned of old dungarees and torn flannel shirt. A face drawn with oily crayon across a piece of canvas; eyes wide, staring, crescent shaped mouth turned downward in a frown. Tied around his neck, a nubby length of baling twine. With a pole rudely thrust inside his shirt, he hangs to frighten away the crows.
When Abraham gave him life in early April last year, he assumed his dutiful place among the corn stalks as decorative ornament and entertainer.
The title is Bogey Man
(Paranormal Fantasy with Romantic Elements)
"Pick your poison."
Lorin glanced at the attendant's name tag. Ros.
Ros tapped on the glass counter separating them. Snapshots decorated the surface, ranging from the daintiest tattoo of a crimson rose to metal spikes jutting through a stubbled cheek.
"Not that one." Lorin pointed at the pierced cheek. The thought of a needle breaking through that much flesh made her want to hurl. "Kind of disturbing, huh?"
Ros laughed. "Sure you don't want to give it a whirl?" She combed strands of auburn hair off her forehead and peered over her shoulder. "The girl doesn't like your spikes, Kandi."
Papa Legba and the Sabbath Queen
In the realm of ecstasy, word has it there is no such thing as time. Yet once upon a time there lived a young Hebrew Godwoman by the name of Malkah Moonstone. A Sabbath Queen, Miss Moonstone reigned in a heaven-time of much darkness. In fact, if we mortals were to look at a cross-section of the Tree of Life from the time of this story, we could trace a strange ring, knotted and gnarly, with the tip of our finger. The tree ring of Moonstone-time, as it was called, smoldered quietly, sacrifice on the minds of few, if any.
Love Within Reach (paranormal romance)
“Have you ever had sex in an elevator?”
Nicholas Marshal arched his brow and leaned back in his office chair, holding the cell phone closer to his ear. What the hell? Nobody knew this was one of his sexual fantasies. With his luck, the tabloids were probably harassing him again.
“Is this a prank?” Who would call on the first day of his new job and ask that kind of question?
“If you want, I can make it an obscene call.”
The woman laughed and her husky voice brought back amusing memories. Vanessa could always make him smile.
Never on a Tuesday (urban fantasy with romantic elements), 99 words
Meritt Slade sidled up to the case and held his breath so the glass wouldn’t fog. When he saw the smooth green stone inside, his face fell. That was it? That innocuous little disc could make his dreams come true? Doubtful. There weren’t even any runes on it. Not that he would know what runes looked like. Meritt Slade, class act and foremost upright citizen, with the number one radio show in the city, didn’t deal with unseemly things like magic. Not if you asked him.
ANGELS INC. (Urban Fantasy w/ romantic elements)
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most virtuous Angel. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve sinned just like a human. I once even gave into a demon’s seduction, if you can believe that. He was half-demon, half-human but that didn’t matter. He was one hundred percent evil. And I was put on this earth to stop evil.
My target tonight was sitting at the bar with a mug of draft beer in front of him, munching on an unlit cigar while scratching his ass. I recognized his nicely shaped posterior from the picture in the file. Demon #3,761.
Thanks so much for doing this for us.
Highland Raven (romance fantasy)
Nuala savored the all-too-rare sight of her husband in her bed. Gloriously naked with one arm behind his head, sprawled on his back, Bran slept trustingly deep. He was long and hard and his body all muscle. Known as The Panther, Bran stalked and seized power for his King with a fierce energy that had made him legend.
Aye, to the world she might seem but a speck of dust swept up by his galloping horse, but Nuala was canny. Bran had been bound to a vicious wife. Nuala had solved that problem. Healers knew about poisons.
Urban fantasy with romantic elements
Serenity Masters was good at two things--running her bar and killing demons. She just never expected to have to do both at the same time.
From behind the counter, she watched her latest customers walk into the Midnight Angel. To everyone else, they were two guys hanging out by the pool table, but Serenity knew what they were right away.
The taller one had brown hair and was dressed in a black topcoat and matching slacks. It wasn’t his pale skin or clothing that made him stand out. It was the gold flecks in his dark eyes.
I love how you and Kim talked about your fav entries and why they work for you.
Unseen Dangers, paranormal romance (100 words)
The air felt off. Tension prickled along Cole Sorenson’s skin. He paced in anticipation; of what, he did not know.
It was an ordinary night. Foster had given him the end-of-day report only an hour before; all was well with the Aviderae, those misfortunate enough to be born with different abilities. Within Cole’s domain, no one who looked to him for protection had been taken by Hunters, government men who thought stalking helpless people for research served the greater good.
The night changed with each telephone ring. It was no longer ordinary, and Cole was so grateful he couldn’t speak.
Dragon Born (urban fantasy with romantic elements)
I was six the day my mother realized I wasn’t normal. I was fourteen the day I realized she would kill me for it.
I envy those who tell stories about their wonderful lives. I want to warn them, every time I seem them… at the movies, out for dinner, laughing and talking like they have nothing to fear.
I was like that once. I thought my life was perfect once. The creatures took that away from me one dark night. They stole it from me with my mother’s blessing and changed me forever.
I actually thought the runner up was better (written) than today's winner.
Untitled / single-title paranormal romance
Brooke still has that place in her heart that only Tyler possesses the key to. A place abandoned for all but the memory he left rattling around like a ghost in an empty chamber. No matter how she’s tried to exorcise him, to sweep out the cobwebs, it’s been futile. The key is entombed like an ancient treasure, never to be unearthed. Now it seems the rusty tumblers are falling back, and the old door creaks on its hinges, as if he has taken the key from its hiding place, fingers it, and thinks of using it again.
During the course of his quest, Dair Curator had lost count of the number of women he'd slept with. He didn’t care if he’d gotten a reputation for being a womanizer. He only cared about correcting his mistake. Angels don't make mistakes, especially ones that cause a Mortal's death.
Looking out the apartment window at the slow motion of the red sun slipping beneath the tumbling verdant hills, he wished he possessed the stillness captured by the sunset. Instead, he felt the twinges of homesickness threatening to grip his body again, like an addict gone too long without a fix.
Title: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead
The problem with being a witch is when you ask the universe a question, it generally gives you an answer. Or just enough of one to ruin a perfectly good week. But since it was my birthday and I was working on being an optimist, I pulled three cards for the coming year.
Three of Swords.
Transformation, sorrow and change through destruction. Damn it, I shouldn't have looked. My entirely-too-loud-for-my-own-good tarot deck always suckered me into peeking into the future and I just about always regretted it. The hell of it was… the cards were usually right.
Return to Sender (romance with paranormal elements including a naked selkie and a schoolteacher)
"You have something that belongs to me...? That's your line? To a perfect stranger?" Ella’s schoolmarm skepticism was showing.
“Mmhhmm,” I said, rinsing my cup and setting it on the sunny draining board.
"You'd lose your cool," she said, inspecting her morning mail.
"Nope, I know my line."
"And the follow-up?"
"Well, if he's the man of my dreams, he'll want to know what he has that belongs to me."
"Ah, dreamer. How old are you, girlfriend? And you will say...?"
I shoved my glasses up the bridge of my nose and grinned. “I'll say: You have my attention."
(Time Travel Paranormal Suspense)
Fiana’s heart pounded with fear, beating out a rapid tempo against her ribs that echoed in her ears. Her breath came in a rush of sharp inhalations. She was almost panting, scared of what was to come. Yet still, the sounds of her panic did not drown out the roar of the crowd. A crowd she could not see but heard. The noise grew until she could almost make out what they were yelling for.
But she already knew.
They wanted her death.
They wanted her blood to drench the sands of the arena she was standing center in.
The Faltering Stone
(romance with fantasy elements)
Arethusa sensed a kind of horror approaching. She breathed it in the stateroom’s musty air, tasted its bitter tang on her tongue, caught it in the voice of her mother as she fretted and paced behind her.
She barely breathed, whether out of fear or exaltation, she did not know. The Azores Islands lay in wait; by nightfall they would drop anchor in Angra Bay, Terceira. As much as she wished to, she could not trust a hope, could not shake the fear of each approaching mile, as the old clipper ship Sea Nymph pitched fitfully through the deepening dusk.
The Faith of a Mustard Seed
Emerson chooses a quaint restaurant. Inside, the walls are covered with frescos painted in muted colors, and small trees glitter with tiny clear lights as they sway beneath the soft breath of slow ceiling fans. Bare frosted light bulbs are stretched on wires across the ceiling, giving the place the ambiance of an outdoor café in Milan.
A wiry old man stands at the ready with an old Rolleiflex. Tia expects someone with a violin at any second. Instead, she hears Sull’aria, the only bit of opera she’s familiar with, wafting from the kitchen, along with the scent of herbs.
FAMILY GHOULS (Fantasy with romance elements)
William Jollybanks was dead. I knew this because he was walking up Main Street, frank 'n' beans dangling out through the slit in his pajamas. They were the same blue-and-white checked bottoms he was wearing last month when a silver BMW crushed him.
That had ended badly for everyone involved. Missy Caper ended up with a broken nose and a busted bumper, and William was chopped in two. His walker had done zip to protect him.
Yeah, William definitely got the worst deal. And Missy? She got a new nose which made her pretty damn happy, from what I hear.
My Knight in Time
I was not lost.
I draped my jacket over a pub chair. I knew exactly where I was going and what I was looking for, no matter what the nosy waitress thought. Miss Nosy had taken one look at my soaking clothes, brown hair plastered against my head, fogged-up glasses and heavy backpack that was almost as big as me and had asked if I needed directions--like I was a bunbling tourist. Not only was I not lost, but according to my calculations, I had found the ancient monastery of the Brotherhood of Janus. I ordered tea.
Thanks for doing the contest.
Title: Zombies Are Forever
It was just like any other family gathering, except it was the first with all of us dead.
And my crazy immigrant relatives acted like nothing had happened. My youngest cousins ran around playing. Six-year-old Jeremy was still aggravating his sister Joanna, and she still threatened to make a smear of him on the pavement.
I’d been so happy this morning before I died. Only a few more classes and I’d graduate. Mainly I looked forward to moving three states away so I could get a life that wasn’t constantly monitored by the Romanian version of Fiddler on the Roof.
Title: A CERTAIN CHARM AND SECRECY
Genre: Romantic Urban Fantasy
HE STIRRED in the incubator. He was a newborn, big for a human, strong in muscle, smart in mind. His eyes were harbor seal sweet to disguise a probing stare. He enjoyed the incubator, strokes of temperate air soothing the stark room and overhead lights.
A newborn needed this, wanted this, the stream of balmy air and the way it welcomed him to Earth. How it softened the humans and the heartless way they treated their home, and made him hunger to begin his assignment.
He recalled his orders, mouthed the words even now. Save Earth. Save them from themselves.
Destiny (Paranormal Romance)
The yellow haze from a lone street lamp offered little visibility in the misted, moonless night of England's deepest winter. Clethra Shelle jumped the hedge, her piercing gaze fixed across the street where fog blanketed the stately trees of Clayburn Park, swallowing every hint of form or shadow.
"See anything?" asked Malva at her back.
Laser sharp instinct cut Clethra's reply. She turned and shoved, sending them both to the ground as the streak of blue fire hit damp hedge with a wet sizzle.
"Demors," spat Malva, rolling to his feet. "What have you done to piss them off now?"
Contest - Fantasy
The Lay of the Demon Pyre
Ignoring the warm spring breeze, the old magician threw more wood on the smokey fire then carefully began to draw his protective circle – with the required indigo sand. An hour and a half later, he cursed his stiffened joints, forced his creaking knees to unlock, and staggered to his feet. After a long pull at his wineskin, he sneered into the darkness. How dare those fools on the Council censure him! So what if he liked to drink a little wine. He was always able to control what he conjured. Stupid fools. They didn’t know who they were dealing with.
WAY TO GO
Rikka was so tired; it felt good just to lie there. She couldn’t think of a nicer way to go. Not many people died at home in the arms of someone who loved them, without ever having been sick. Like old people sometimes died; simply go to sleep, and not wake up.
She read somewhere that hearing was the last sense to leave, that the dead still heard what was going on around them after they had … what had Jeremiah said? Expired. Like a fuckin’ driver’s license, or somethin’.
THE POWER THAT BINDS
The intruder stared up at the turret tower and unlit windows of the great mock castle. He'd waited months for it to be empty, and tonight it was. Daniel Demaris was gone, and he could finally search unhindered for the talisman.
And if someone came? He smiled in anticipation. If someone came, he had his creature and a one-way trip to the astral plane for the unfortunate fool, a free one-way trip to Hell.
If someone entered a gateway unprepared—terror or his creature would kill, and he'd be free to search at his leisure. He must have the protection of the talisman before the creature killed him, too.
Fantasy With Romantic Elements
Shades Of Passion
The grass was damp, the fog created drops of glistening dew in the moonlight. No sound echoed in the valley as Elune stepped through the lush vegetation. Of course not. She could touch nothing, feel nothing. Except the loneliness.
Why had she come here tonight? Had the moon drawn her into the valley, away from her cave? Was it because tonight marked an anniversary? For whatever reason, she wandered this beautiful Valley of Tears and her heart bled.
Being a shade did not mean she did not have a heart. She was trapped in this form, ghostly, shimmering.
Night Secrets (historical paranormal)
Shoveling knee-deep animal droppings seemed more appealing than dealing with his family.
Morgan Thornton growled as he sorted through the missives littering his desk. He’d been back from traveling abroad for three days in attempt to expand his lumber business. While he’d been gone, hell had erupted thanks to his damn younger brother’s irresponsibility.
Amazing the manor still stood when Morgan returned. It seemed his brother and sister-in-law couldn’t do anything right, but at least they hadn’t burned the place down.
No better time than the present to set the household affairs in order. Starting with kicking his brother out.
Art & Soul
He was different from the others—so different that she wasn’t the only one to spot it. Still, all that regard wasn’t good for him. The boy was far too serious for so young an age.
And his eyes followed her as she wove through the crowded room.
She sighed. The crowds were going to make it much more difficult. She’d left the boy hanging much too long. It was time to resolve this. There was a certain pleading in his expression now. He was tired of waiting, but he had no way to approach her—
Anonymous at 3:04 said...
I actually thought the runner up was better (written) than today's winner.
I agree. The winner's writing sounded choppy to me. I also thought the runner-up's idea was more original and intriguing. Sorry, Mark. You should have done your research, too. The cocktail you described is a Greyhound. A Zombie is fruit juice and rum, a lot like a Mai Tai. That helped blow it for me.
Curious as to why Jacky Sach isn't participating in the fun and games.
Callie wiped her tears. Twenty-two years seemed like a million, as if it had been someone else’s life, not hers. Drops of water pooled on the edge of the faucet and dripped into the tub. She lifted her toe to it. It dribbled over the top of her foot, and wound its way around her soul.
The glow of the candle breathed in, breathed out; its flame tick-tocked like a metronome. Shadows danced across the walls. The candle sputtered and grew dim. A draft swept over her, carrying goose bumps and the scent of lavender.
That threw me too actually. I also spotted that a grapefruit juice and vodka is a Greyhound, put a little salt on it and it is a Salty Dog, one of my favorite drinks when camping.
Okay, that says a little too much about me, I think.
What really interested me was that it seemed like one line really did the trick, "She was dressed to kill." Seemed to be the clincher. It created a question in the minds of the readers, I guess.
Congrats Mark, though I don't think Greyhound Zoo has quite the same ring to it. *wink*
Oops, sorry! Messed up the first one!
“Will I need tampons in outer space?” Amy held a handful of cigar shaped packages out in front of her.
“Ok. Let’s slow down before we launch off into ‘space.’ So…Wendell’s missing? And you think he’s been abducted?” Marti looked around Wendell’s destroyed apartment.
Marching to the other side of the room, Amy dragged her luggage behind her, frantically throwing toiletries and clothes into it. Her hands swiveled in circles above her head with three sticks of deodorant in each. “No, no! Not abducted! Abducted implies testing! Samples! Are you not paying attention!? KIDNAPPED! My boyfriend’s…”
“Ex. Your ex-boyfriend.”
“Fine. My ex-boyfriend’s been kidnapped by an alien! And by God, if Lance Bass can make it into space, I sure as hell can too.”
“But…Ames…Lance Bass never actually made it to space.”
A Taste of Fey (paranormal romance)
My colleagues warned me not to accept this assignment, but I was young (relatively) and foolish (definitely) and I needed to prove myself.
It should have been a simple job: escort my client to and from Pete’s Piano Bar and make sure no one harasses, hunts, or harms him. Sure, the club might be in the middle of the Were’s territory, but I worked for a wolf. I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Then again, my client wasn’t called Thrill Bill without reason.
Blistering heat shot through me. I could barely read the decaying newspaper article I held in my hands: Young Pianist Murdered.
“Julia!” My neighbor charged into my kitchen carrying a perfect cake on a platter, candles blazing. “Happy birthday!”
I leaped from my stool to block her from the letters, photographs, and rose petals strewn on the counter. Futile.
“What’s with the mess?” Tara set down the cake and snagged the article. “Your thesis?”
A chill cut through me. “I’m supposed to interview Rita.”
My mother, deceased and unavailable for comment.
“Say, this article has today’s date.”
Minus thirteen years.
The 2nd Coming (Urban Fantasy with Romance)
“Nemamiah,” a voice from the dark crackled.
I opened an eye, trying to focus on the sound. “That’s not my name. My name’s Jace, damn it.” Rolling over, I glared at the bedside alarm clock. “How many times do I have to tell you that?”
“Nemamiah, it is time.”
I picked up the timepiece and chucked it into the shadows. Crash. It hit the wall with satisfying force. “Leave me alone.”
“The babe has been taken.”
What? I shot from the bed, cracking my knee against a milk-crate nightstand. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“You didn’t ask.”
Title: Poseidon's Voodoo (romantic fantasy)
The sea was a chatterbox of murmured secrets, an inveterate gossip who talked about everything and everyone, including me. Most of the time, I ignored her. The happenings of Undersea hadn’t been my concern for years, but that didn’t keep the latest news from lapping against my wind-worn boat.
The sea just couldn’t stop moving information from shore to shore. Always rubbing in the salt and reminding me of the home that had cast me out. Pricking my heart like a sea urchin’s spine.
Tokyo's Robin Hood
“Oh, crap,” said Mari. Her hand grasped the cold, metal railing. The floor jerked her off-balance, almost sending her crashing into the lap of an office lady on the subway bench in front of her.
The office lady flinched back, looking at Mari as if she were a crazy person. Her sweater and skirt in dirty tatters, Mari realized she did look like a crazy person.
Mari cursed again. Tears welled up hotly in her eyes. It was gone, all gone. Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest, everything gone.
(Paranormal Romance - Vampire)
Miruna Tomsa could see fear. Despite the dim candlelight from the wall sconces she could see it in the air like falling embers from the pyre in the town square. As she walked to the back of the tavern the fear surrounded her. She smoothed out her skirt as she continued to the back to greet her friends. Not friends anymore. The thoughts in Nicolae’s head as she approached made her stomach churn. They would burn her while the pyre from the last witch burning still smoldered. But she was not a witch.
A Faerie Fated Forever
(Romance With Fantasy Elements)
Dancing in the moonlight with a faerie can be hazardous to your future.
It started innocently enough, but then again, life-changing events often do. One fine spring evening, Ian Maclee, the handsome young laird of his clan, grew restless and went for a ride towards nearby Uist. He stopped to rest at the edge of a wildflower-strewn meadow, and saw Tara, a beautiful faerie princess dancing alone in the moonlight. What man could allow one so beautiful to waltz alone, held only by the moonbeams?
Soon they waltzed to the melody of their hearts beating each for the other.
The Sorcerer's Temptation
The loud crash caused Reese to drop her book.
“Reese, where are you?”
Her heart leapt. Tristan. Reese raced to the front of the coffee shop. Tristan and Owen balanced the weight of a woman between them. Her head flopped to one side and red hair dragged across the floor.
“We were ambushed.” Tristan stumbled and the gash on his forehead peaked out under his damp blond hair.
Reese swallowed the lump in her throat. Every night she worried when Tristan left to search for UMA - Unauthorized Magic Activity. Now her worst fears had come true.
Title: Mistress of the Moonstone
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Luísa Tavares shimmied up the mainmast of the Coral, her tight leather britches and sharp cutlass a mockery to all that was decent in a woman. She had a list of sins the length of the Antilles, but there was no time to repent them now.
The storm picked up speed, belching thunderbolts and jagged rain that stung like barbed needles.
No matter. They were returning for the old man—welcomed or not.
"What say you, Gato? Will we make it?"
"Aye, Mistress. The squall won't catch us, but the devil might."
The devil didn't stand a chance.
Jasmine Caine had never been one for deep, philosophical discussions.
Ask her opinion of the new day spa out at the country club, and she could talk for hours, especially if somebody was pouring chilled gin. But bring up life, death and the hereafter, and her eyes would glaze over. “Bored,” she’d say and walk away.
But all that changed on the night of her 29th birthday when Jazzy opened the door to her beach-front condo in Pointe St. Anne Mississippi, fully expecting flowers and got a gunshot blast to the head instead.
"Okay, that shit was so not funny.”
(Romance w/Paranormal Elements)
'Dress for success.'
The tired old cliché took on a whole new meaning for Vangie Bates when she looked down and saw her shoes; one black, one navy blue.
Now, if that ain’t enough to make a preacher cuss...heckdarndangit.
First day as a summer intern with the Federal Court and she looked like she’d just ridden in on the Orphan Train. She sighed and rolled her eyes, wondering how many people had already noticed. Her buy-one-get-one-half-off purchase at Payless didn’t seem like such a great bargain any more.
To Tame His Heart
Surely, God was punishing her.
After all, hadn’t Lady Buckley reminded her again and again, no good would come to those who had the devil’s ability?
As if she had any control over her powers, as if she had any control over the devil, as if she had any control over her life.
Do not tell anyone what you are capable of, the woman’s words whispered through her head, bringing the heat of shame to her body.
Ella sank onto the window seat and focused on the garden, attempting to glean comfort from the cheery daisies.
Sightless eyes stared back at her from smooth, blank features. There were similarities. The cobalt blue of the woman's eyes, the high cheekbones, the curve of her slack mouth, all bore an eerie resemblance to Sasha's own reflection.
Light, harsh and bright, illuminated the pale form with its neck tilted at a ghastly angle; surrounding it in a glowing circle that cast everything beyond into blackness.
Strands of blond hair fanned out--the only real difference in their appearances--to mingle with the ever growing puddle forming beneath the shredded skin and sinew of the woman's neck.
Emergence of the Fey
(fantasy w/romantic elements)
Marian stretched from her curled position nestled in the oak's branches. Her back would be sore most of the morning, but sleeping in Oak Tears Forest was worth the pain. To wake up to soft sunlight pouring down the mountain, birds twittering overhead, and the fresh scent of dewdrops. Not to mention avoiding Terra's cold feet waking her in the night.
"Sis? Where are you?" Terra's voice came from the direction of the village.
Marian sighed. So much for solitude. "I'm here." She straightened her tunic and leaned over a branch to wave at her sister.
(fantasy w/romantic elements)
Adolf joined his brothers in the dimly lit study of their loft. Guntram, the youngest at eighteen, lounged in the window seat, long legs somehow managing to fit in front of him. He flicked the remains of a cig out the cracked window that let in the muggy night air. Erwin leaned over a laptop on the desk. Without looking up, he beckoned the eldest brother closer. Adolf pulled up a folding chair and straddled it backward, resting his arms on the back as he scanned the images on the screen. "This is the last coven witch? An albino?"
(science fiction romance)
Lena McAllister stared at the approaching pulse cannon shell. Its white hot tail streaked behind it to light the entire sector of space. It was almost pretty, if it didn’t signify a fiery death. Her clammy palms slid on the padded leather armrests. The restraining belt tightened across her chest. From her position in the captain’s chair, every aspect of the battle was laid out on the command console before her. Sweat soaked hair fell across her face.
“Brace yourself,” she yelled to Casie at the nav console.
Lena pushed far back into the chair and clenched her teeth.
Wherever You Are
First came the screams. High pitched and filled with terror. Popping, crackling, and an occasional hiss added their symphony to the horrible shrieks.
Juliana struggled to open her eyes but her eyelids seemed weighted down. Her head felt as if she had the mother of all hangovers.
She hurt all over. Her head. Her arms, her legs.
The screams--the horrible, unbearable screams--continued until they were inside her head, clawing at her brains. Her stomach lurched at the odor of burning wood and something far worse--burning skin and hair.
Breakfast in Central Park
Sabrina Light could either hold on to her hurt and anger, or she could try to find her own happiness. She chose to do the latter. Dropping the name, Ariel Sprightly, was easy. The next step, however, terrified her to the very core of her Fairy soul. The idea of stealing the elixir , which would prevent her from having to return to Synchronos every year and a day, made not only her hands shake, but the graduation lunch she'd just eaten churn in her stomach, fighting its way toward her throat. But she needed to get away forever.
Dreams in the Dragon's House
Her adopted family had lived in the neighborhood so long that the street that had been built around her house was known to locals as Aithne Avenue. She had seen several generations of mortals pass through their lives from the vantage of her window. On a rare occasion, she felt the urge to see other lands, other stars, but she knew that she would never leave the protection of the house her late husband had built for her.
She imagined her brothers laughing at her. “Never fall in love with a mortal, not matter how worthy they are. Your mourning will outlast their love and their life.”
Nate turned his ear to the wind and listened.
He pulled out his keys for the car ... the shrill cry came again. So much for a boring night. Heading back toward the club he saw two drunken kids stumbling around, harassing a female. Nose flared he couldn’t help but inhale her tantalizing scent—she was in her moon heat.
Damn, he should have known better than to want more excitement.
Because this female was sure to make his night very interesting.
Nate knew all the dames that came through this bar, but she was new.
House of the Cat (paranormal romance)
Ryman Coppersmith fled down the narrow lane, relying on the scant light provided by one of Ibrox’s two blood red moons. Betrayal. His brother had set him up. His own brother. The realization made his head thump a violent tattoo in time with his wheezing lungs. He darted a glance over his shoulder and snarled under his breath, continuing his mad sprint down the twisting road. Damnation! He didn’t know how or why, but he bloody well intended to find out—if it was the last thing he did.
Footsteps pounded behind. The redcoats were too close for his liking.
It sucks to be me.
I had hoped I’d gotten over my obsession with Dad’s employer, but here I stood in his study almost drooling on the big, bad bossman’s Gucci leather shoes. Though the room was lit by only one single floor lamp, the way he liked it, I could see every delicious inch of him.
Six feet of restrained energy topped with coal black hair and midnight bedroom eyes, Triton Aleron oozed mystery and danger. And I lusted for him with all of my five-foot-three body.
Of course, he’s beautiful in that old-fashioned Sicilian sexy sort of way.
To Kill a Vampire
Not a breath, not a rustle of paper disturbed the tomb-like silence of the packed courtroom.
“On the charge of first degree murder, we the jury find the defendant, John Trough, guilty.”
Carol Morgan, the victim’s mother, coughed out a sob.
Angelica closed her eyes, gripping the edge of the table to steady her shaking legs as the jury foreman continued. Seven counts of aggravated sexual battery on a child under twelve. Guilty. Reckless endangerment, distributing child pornography - the list went on and the jury convicted on every charge.
“Great job.” Barry Littleton, the Chief of Criminal Bureau for Cook County, squeezed her shoulder from the bench behind her.
Gertie crept closer to the temple and the two men that guarded the entrance, her body blending with her surroundings. Her sensitive nose twitched. The humans stank of leather and stale sweat, and the smaller one reeked of garlic. She slithered nearer. The guards shifted their weapons and peered into the darkness, as if sensing danger.
Nervous as a lamb at a wolf’s wedding, she thought with grim amusement. The guards looked right at her, but did not see her. The human eye could not detect a troll in stealth mode.
Claire Johnson’s fingers cramped for the umpteenth time. She let go of her little garden digger and flexed her gloved hand a few times, then went back to work. The birds early morning chirping from where they’d gathered on the telephone line overhead grated on her nerves like most everything else these days. The only reason she was on her knees seeding her flower garden was out of habit. She knew she wouldn’t enjoy the scents or blossoms when they bloomed like so many summers before.
“Damn tree root,” she cursed, stabbing the packed dirt.
Addy glanced up at the rumble of thunder, her steps slowing to a jog. Summer time in Alabama was a pressure cooker of high temperatures and humidity. Some days it was like trying to breathe underwater.
“Whatcha think, Dooley, it gonna rain?” she asked her companion.
She already knew the answer. Her Labrador retriever feared no mail man, but was a bona fide weenie when it came to thunder. Only the day before she’d had to pry the trembling eighty-five pound dog from behind the dryer in the wake of a late afternoon thunder boomer.
The devil's in the details: a Zombie is made with rum and fruit juice. Vodka grapefruit is, I think, a Greyhound or a Salty Dog.
The Chronicles of Laura
(Urban fantasy with romance elements)
Not yet eight-thirty in the morning, which in my time translated to half-past two cups of coffee, something told me it wasn’t going to be a good day. Granted, I tend toward the neurotic side of normal, but I’m not crazy. So, when a voice literally whispered in my head, “They’re coming,” I did what any sane person would do. I ignored it. After all, getting through biology 435, not to mention my entire senior year, promised enough torture without a haunting voice whispering in my head.
Did I mention it’s a persistent voice with a limited vocabulary?
Paranormal Romance 98 wds
The frilly bedroom had been recently decorated in red – blood red. Panicked, Samantha Blair struggled to move; this wasn’t her room or her bed and it sure as hell wasn’t her body. Tears welled and trickled slowly, sadly from eyes not her own and then the pain started; still she couldn’t move. She could only endure as terror clawed at her soul and dying nerves screamed in agony.
The silence, when it came, was absolute.
Then the whispers started. They poured from the shadows in a one writhing morass, each indistinguishable from the other … except for one.
“Give me your purse.”
“Ummm…no. I had to fight an old lady for this purse. Not that I'm ashamed of it but I actually broke out in a sweat during the melee. For an old gal she was rather strong. So forgive me if I’m a little reluctant to part with it. Plus I think you’re more of a Marc Jacobs’ man. Gucci’s lines wouldn’t really do much for you.”
I sighed. Or at least I pretended to. It’s kind of hard to give a really good sigh when your lungs atrophied over five centuries ago.
“Hanhepi would like to see you, Kim.”
I swallowed hard. I had a choice, I could act like I didn’t hear him or for once in my long miserable life I could be brave and face Mistress without having to be dragged, kicking and screaming.
It’s a new year, a time for change, I told myself as I stood and faced Mistress’ general. Nausea bubbled in my throat. He was smiling or what could be considered smiling for him. The lower half of his face was missing so the only way I could tell was by the glee in his eyes, the disfigurement a keepsake from one of the queen’s infamous temper tantrums.
Shades of milk and Honey
The Ellsworths of Long Parkmead had the regard of their neighbors in every respect. The Honorable Charles Ellsworth, though a second son, through the generosity of his father, had been entrusted with an estate in the neighborhood of Dorchester. It was well-appointed and used only enough glamour to enhance its natural grace, without overlaying so much illusion as to be tasteless. His only regret, for the estate was a fine one, was that it was entailed and, as he had only two daughters, the estate would to pass to his elder brother's son upon his death.
TITLE: IN THE PUNDIT'S CORNER
GENRE: ROMANCE WITH FANTASY/PARANORMAL ELEMENTS
All the Underwoods have guardian angels.
Furthermore, most of them claim to have seen their angels at least once during this life. A few are sure they've barely missed out--having heard a rustled drapery or caught a flash of light just as the save took place, but being otherwise too occupied with the crisis as it happened to watch closely until it was too late and the angel had flown.
Kay Underwood Fisher was one of the latter.
She hadn't seen her angel, but she knew she had one. Otherwise, that truck would've taken her out a nanosecond ago.
TITLE: CAMILLE'S TRAVELS
GENRE: URBAN FANTASY
By the time Camille MacTavish stepped off the bus in Texas, she was beginning to regret stealing the dragon.
As the Greyhound pulled away from the curb, Camille visored her hand against the sun. This town was a lot smaller than the ticket clerk had said. Just her luck.
But maybe her luck would take a turn for the better. At the bottom of her left-hand jeans pocket she could feel the dulled vibrations of the netsuke she'd stolen, a palm-sized Japanese dragon carved of rosewood. Impulsively she reached into her pocket. When her fingers touched the dragon, they tingled.
_Miranda's Rights_ (fantasy with romantic elements)
On the morning of her thirtieth birthday, Miranda Callahan came awake with the certain knowledge that her best friend was casting a spell on her.
"The moon enters the house of the dragon, and Hecate works her magick on me." Miranda groaned, raising her head off the sketches for her latest cartoon panel. She'd fallen asleep at her drawing table again.
She had to get to Zepp right away. What could be worse than waking to unfamiliar magick--except, of course, waking up in a cold bed without Alex. Which she'd cleverly avoided by conking out at her desk.
Lost Paladin (paranormal romance)
A soft cool breeze sent autumn leaves scattering across Lisa’s path as she hurried toward her pickup. Between the almost full moon and strong light that beamed from the scattered lampposts, the hospital employee parking lot was well lit.
Yet it all escaped Lisa Hardcastle’s attention.
The only thing that occupied her mind was that a young woman, no older than herself, was dead. The poor girl had been brutally murdered.
Lisa was no stranger to death; she worked as a unit clerk in the emergency department of Pacific West Medical Center.
Winds of Passion
“I’m a general, not a babysitter!” Rowan Windstorm ground his teeth and paced the royal chambers. He had no desire to prance around earth and watch over a human. He hated earth, hated the pollution, and hated the way they’d severed themselves from the otherworld. His wings flicked in irritation and his jaw ticked. Usually he’d agree with the princess’s decisions. This time, however, she’d gone too far.
Rhiannon Nightwind, newly winged White Faerie Princess, sat on the royal dais. She held her chin in a stubborn angle, and pride shone in her emerald eyes.
Second Sight (Paranormal Romance)
Sight looked up as the elevator opened. A man exited and walked straight to Maxwell’s office. Interesting. She knew he’d never been here before, yet he walked right in, barely knocking before entering.
Who is this guy?
She got back to work and promptly forgot him until her computer beeped, signaling an instant message from her co-worker, Debra.
See the new guy?
Oh…that’s the new guy…barged right in Max’s office.
I know. He’s hot!
Not wasting time r u?
Happily married…not dead.
As long as he’s nothing like Danny.
Don’t worry. He’ll probably be wonderful.
Destiny's Gate (paranormal romance)
Her breath came in harsh, painful gasps, the stitch in her side almost unbearable. Fear kept her legs moving in a clumsy rhythm. Searing panic rose and gripped her throat. She forced it back. She fought for control trying not to lose her footing in the thickly wooded forest. If only she could make it to the lake where there were houses, people. She threw a look over her shoulder but glimpsed nothing. The taunting echo of sticks snapping and the crackle of dry leaves told her that more than one being chased her... and she knew they weren’t human.
(Futuristic Fantasy Romance)
“Do you fee-e-el the terror awakening? Do you see-e-e it?”
The words, uttered in a high-pitched male voice hovered in Samirra’s mind. A shudder sliced through her as she struggled to break free.
Her head told her it was another vision, but how could that be? They only came at night when the dreamscape held her captive.
The last thing she remembered was working on a dream interpretation chart. Now the real world had faded, reduced to this voice in her brain. She struggled for clarity, but it was hard to separate fact from fiction.
“Feel the terror…feel the terror…”
Wolf Mate (paranormal romance)
Something growled in the darkness. Startled, the keys fell from her shaking fingers. She glanced back over her shoulder and saw a shadow detached itself from the far wall of the alley.
It growled again, long, low, and deep in its throat. Before she could move, it sprang, its heavy weight and massive paws pinning her to the car door. She saw the moon glint on sharp fangs before she felt a sharp pain in the sensitive cord between her neck and shoulder. She felt the warm, sticky blood run down her shirt and knew she was going to die.
Maya (Fantasy, Romance)
December, 1st 2007: Bangalore, India
“Om Bhur bhuvaswaha…” the electronic doorbell chimed inside his head and he hit his head on the bed post. Ouch.
He slithered out of bed, legs following torso following head. He looked at his watch through the chinks of his rust coated eyes. 6 AM.
“The idiot is early again today”, he thought.
Unmindful of the huge erection that propped up the front of his trousers like a tent, he almost ran to the bell, covering it with the palm of his hand to muffle the sound before his daughter woke up.
(fantasy romance with suspenseful elements)
My nervous system was jammed between edginess and vigilance, red blinking light emotions. Forced intimacy with complete strangers made most people tense. I was no exception. Those sensations were to dominate my life over the next week, secondary even to bubbling, melted cheese desire and serious ‘Buddy can you spare a paradigm?’ loss.
We began our descent. I craved fresh air and wind, but mind-numbingly boring had much to recommend it. Life up here devolved into amoeba-ness, most actions requiring mere pseudopod extensions. Long haul insomnia jerked off all my remaining neurons, causing them to fire prematurely if at all.
Graydon’s first words chilled my very soul.
“You may think you know me but you don’t.”
He was right of course.
I really believed I already knew him. Our genetic material had been combined to produce over twenty-five progeny on several different worlds. Our DNA was considered the most compatible since the inception of the Human Colonist Gift Program. Naturally I assumed we would have something in common.
I was not prepared for his scornful manner or the disoriented feeling that came over me when I looked into his angry dark eyes.
When I formally shook hands with Graydon Strathon I suddenly felt powerless and apprehensive about this trip to Melanias IV and the frontier experiment that threw us together.
Warriors of the Elements: Precious Metal
(Paranormal Romance) 100 words
Zane watched his brothers chase after the scaly green creatures known as the Shagli as they broke threw the bank door. He looked over in concern at the woman lying limp like a broken doll.
Broken glass crunched under his feet as he made his way to her through the debris. Knelling down he checked her pulse and sigh in relief when he felt the strong steady beat of her pulse.
She’d been badly cut but seemed stable. He knew that he would have to take her with him. She’d seen them and no one could know of their existence.
Dead of Night
The alley stank of decaying trash and rancid food. A rat scurried past, dodging the small, brackish puddles dotting the cracked pavement. Ray kicked at it, the toe of his boot connecting with the rodent’s side. It squealed and hurried on its way.
Ray crouched next to a group of dented metal trash cans, scanning the area for his next set of clues. He had to find them if he planned to win. The only other option was too terrible to even consider. He would win tonight’s round. He would not die trying.
The Light Keeper
(paranormal historical fantasy)
A shocking burst of laughter rang out, shattering the peace and quiet of the library. Noreen Willshire gripped the sides of her chair. The letter she held drifted to the floor.
The hiss and crack of smoldering coals answered.
From the mantelpiece, the gnarled features of her wooden companion peered down. Lord Somerton’s prize gnome peeked at her, its features pasted into a silly grin as if guarding a secret. Smiling at the odd creature, she retrieved her letter.
The moment her gaze focused on the words, laughter floated across the room; a low rumble of cackling mirth.
ALL THE KING’S WOMEN (Historical Fantasy with Romantic Elements)
When I turned fourteen, His Majesty the King, Beloved Father of Our Fair Nation, died; with his death I went from beautiful to flawed. It wouldn't have mattered if I had been bred to be an aristocrat’s wife. But to a girl groomed to be a Companion, it was a reversal of fortune so great that it threatened me with expulsion from the Pleasure House to which I belonged.
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
The approaching evening cast amethyst shadows across the final patches of snow. Finished with the preparations for my next day’s appointments, I pulled my own chart up on the computer. Pluto had been transiting my natal Saturn for so long, I felt like I’d been holding my breath forever. Uranus still squared my natal moon, and that made me restless. I couldn’t imagine what catastrophe would befall my home, family, or domestic matters. That was the trouble with Uranus; it wouldn’t be the thing expected.
The moon was bathed in a haze red as blood but then so were the lush green leaves and the tree trunk Kira Randall arched against. This was how the change took her; the terrible heat came first, until her skin was sweat-slicked, easing the way for the reforming of bone and muscle.
And with it came the primitive, insatiable desire that was always with her. No human lover would have ever understood its ferocity, its terrible burning need.
The name of my entry didn't get posted: Blood on the Moon (Paranormal)
Title: The Witch and the Geek
She stood in front of the monster of a house, hoping the door would
be answered by The Kid. She'd intentionally pulled on a sweat shirt over her blouse to cover what his brothers always stared at. The ogre purse inside the handbag bounced with such velocity her arm bowed.
Fey snapped the bag close to her side when the door opened. A tall and broad shouldered stranger, with light brown hair and an angry expression imposingly blocked the entrance. His blue eyes glittered as he glanced at the bag punching her arm.
A spell came quickly to her lips.
Fallen Angel (paranormal romance)
Responding to a plea was a crapshoot.
Zoë Taylor jammed her feet into her sneakers and snatched a pair of combat knives from the hall table.
Oh, the basics were simple enough: endure a gut-wrenching psychic cry for help, sweep the terrorized human’s thoughts for details, then jump to the source of trouble and pummel the bad guys. The problem was panic. A flood of adrenaline pretty much guaranteed those all-important mission details would be balled up.
But even a skewed image beats going in blind.
She took a deep breath, calmed her pulse, and shifted.
ONE HIGHLAND NIGHT
Elizabeth Martin had dreamed of this day, waking and sleeping, for years.
Dreams filled with the scent of rose petals and dappled rainbow light streaming through stained glass windows, the heavy swish of satin-and-lace skirts, and the warm press of Doug’s lips as the priest pronounced them “husband and wife.”
She never imagined she’d find herself standing in the lobby of a hotel almost four thousand miles away from her little church in Kentucky, wearing plain jeans and a t-shirt.
The polite inquiry jerked her back to the here-and-now.
Shadows (romantic fantasy)
Nathaniel Hawthorne has lived on the earth for over seven hundred years. Maybe living isn't the best word. He's existed. A magician by profession, Nathaniel's first love has always been magic.
He had lesson books that he studied from as he was learning, but he eventually outgrew them. Because he was naturally talented, it wasn't long before Nathaniel began inventing his own spells. He wrote one that could bewitch numbers so they arranged themselves to tell the precise time. He threw out all his timepieces. He penned a spell to conjure fire out of thin air. That one was particularly useful on a hiking trip when he had to spend the night on the mountain.
Her home was seldom quiet. When she could get it, she took it even if it meant sending her two precious twins alone on an airplane across country to stay the three day weekend with their grandparents. On Tuesday, they would be back in their own beds and back at their same routine, playing, fighting, television watching, running through the house, and sneaking snacks from the pantry. Still she had a good life, a lonely life, but a good one. She missed Lance. She still cried at night sometimes, but she didn’t ache for him now.
Thanks BookEnds for holding these contests. I get a real kick out of reading all the entries.
Can I just say, ya'll are all awesome? It's been a pleasure reading these entries (okay I have a soft spot for romances), and a huge chunk of you sucked me right in with your snappy dialogue, your character descriptions, and your conflict setups.
I wish you all success with the contest and beyond!
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