#PitchMadness: Game On! #TeamBallsy

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It’s been a long week of reading through all the amazing pitches. Our wonderful readers have narrowed the slush, and your game hosts have chosen sixty pitches for the game. For those of you not familiar with Pitch Madness, it’s a contest where agents compete in a game against their peers for pitches. This time the game is Clue logo2. To meet the slush readers, agent insiders, and the blog teams go here. And you find out more about the amazing agents playing the game on this post here.

Clue-Billard-Room

Welcome to the Billiard room!

You are cordially invited to a private gathering at the Pitch Madness manor, where your presence would be most welcome in the solution of a murder most foul. Villainous deeds abound as the culprits are killing to get their hands on the most valuable pitches. At the bottom of each pitch’s post, there will be a clue to solving the dastardly deed for that pitch. The agent who out sleuths the other agents will win the request. The agents guess what weapon was used in the crime to make a request. All requests are partials, but if more than three agents try to solve the crime, the request becomes a full. To find out more about how the game will be played, go to this post here.

Here are the pitches you’ll find in our Billiard room or just scroll down to see them all:

Comments are set to moderation so the agents won’t see their competitors’ bids. Please no comments other than those from the agents. After the game we’ll release the moderation and let you all comment on the entries. We’ll reveal the agent requests on March 20 at 12:00PM (that’s noon) EDT.

Please note: We will email submission details for all requests by the agents. After the contest, agents will make requests to us for the pitches they loved and did not win.

Congratulations to those who’ve made it into the game! For those who haven’t made it (and whoever else wants to join us), we are hosting a Twitter Pitch Party on March 25 from 8AM to 8PM EDST on the hashtag #PitMad.

How do you twitter pitch? You can find all the details here.

Go to the other hosts’ blogs to read all the winning pitches …

Brenda Drake

Sharon Johnston

Summer Heacock

Rebecca Weston

Happy sleuthing!

#PitchMadness R-1: PHOEBE THE FATABULOUS

Genre: MG Contemporary
Word Count: 41,000

Pitch: Thirteen-year-old overweight Phoebe and her dad plan to see the world—until he gets sick. Now her only chance to travel is the local beauty pageant, but fat girls can’t compete, much less win.

Excerpt:
Everybody knows fat girls can’t be in beauty pageants. And I’m a big fan of Butterfinger candy bars. And of Oreos. Any junk food, really.

That’s why I walked right past the pageant sign on the outdoor bulletin board at Three Corners Middle School like it never existed. But my best friend Lacey grabbed my wrist and pulled me back up the stairs.

Behind us kids shouted and laughed, their flip-flops smacking against the pavement. Last day of school excitement. Wahoo.

Lacey shaded her eyes and read: “Enter the Three Corners Princess Pageant! Open to Girls Grades 6-8. $1,000 Grand Prize!” She turned to me, hands clasped like she was praying. “Phoebe, let’s sign up!”

“For what?” I asked.

She nudged me with her hip. “The pageant!”

“Have your brains melted, woman?” I looked at the bright pink poster, then at my friend. “But you should do it,” I said. “You’d be great.”

And she would. Lacey was skinnier than a needle, with legs from here to Canada—sort of like a Barbie, only without the chest, which was way better than too much chest, if you asked me. I straightened my bra.

“C’mon, Feebs.” She bounced on the balls of her feet, curly hair flying. “Please. It wouldn’t be any fun without you.” Lacey had a hard time with the word no.

“I’ll sit on that prickly pear cactus before I spend my summer vacation in a pageant.” I pointed to a spiny clump by the bulletin board.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is sprawled on his back at the entrance of the mansion. There’s a hole in his chest, and the blood soaked into his shirt is spotty and drenched, as if someone tried to wash it off. A feather is stuck in his hair, jostled by the wind.

#PitchMadness R-2: RELATIVE VALUES

Genre: Women’s Commercial Fiction
Word Count: 90,000 words

Pitch: Two suburban housewives and a goat go on a road trip through the small towns of South Africa, guided by their dead grandfather and a Zulu-speaking Ouija board.

Excerpt:
Tensions had been running high in our book club for some time. I can’t remember how it started – I think Cass said something about White Oleander being lowbrow, and Jane got all upset because it had been her Choice of the Month for January. So when her turn came around again, Jane chose Nausea and gave us a fifteen-minute talk on Existentialism. Then Cass hit back with Crime and Punishment, Jane responded with The Crying of Lot 49, and from there it just spiralled out of control.

The rest of us were caught in a crossfire of books we could hardly make sense of, watching helplessly as our fun club became a battleground. While we once used to drink loads of wine and chat about Marian Keyes, we were now forced to listen to Cass and Jane barking terms like ‘genre’ and ‘motif’ at one another.

We were losing members at an alarming rate, and the mood among the remaining few was mutinous. But it wasn’t until Cass foisted Ulysses upon us that things got really ugly.

‘What the hell is this?’ asked Eve at the next meeting, dropping the book onto the coffee table with a solid thud.

‘Well,’ Cass smirked, ‘to borrow a phrase from one of the main characters―’

‘To borrow a phrase from Wikipedia, you mean,’ Eve cut her off. ‘Don’t pretend you’ve read this.’ And then she used some literary terms of her own, like ‘unreadable horror’, ‘raving lunatic’ and ‘two pretentious cows’.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is found in the hall with his head smashed. A trail of dirt leads from the door, and a hunk of granite lies a short ways off. A heavy perfume wafts from a handkerchief in his fingers, the scent a fruity tang.

#PitchMadness R-3: A SERPENT IN THE GARDEN

Genre: YA Historical Mystery
Word Count: 60,000

Pitch: Amid the grit and pageantry of medieval Germany, an impetuous teenage noblewoman investigates a brutal murder. When she suspects the friend of her betrothed, she must risk her heart and life to catch the killer.

Excerpt:
No one prayed for my mother’s soul. No one spoke of her. My uncle Baldric forbade it. But I refused to forget her. She died fifteen years ago when I was only a babe, but every morning, before the rest of the castle woke, I went to the chapel to plead for her.

Darkness filled the room, intensifying the smell of incense and the aching in my legs as I knelt on the stone floor. I recited the De Profundis, the Misere, and the Requiem Aeternam, prayers suitable for a soul suffering in Purgatory. I considered praying that my uncle Arnulf might finally drink himself to death, but I decided against it. I stood and walked out to the chapel garden.

On my right loomed the bergfried, a defensive tower and, in troubled times, a holding place for prisoners. On my left, the crenellated battlements of the south wall snapped at the sapphire sky. I shuddered, feeling like a mouse trapped in the jaws of a lion. Father Gregory would have reproached me for such ingratitude. Most ladies would count themselves lucky to have a guardian as wise and temperate as Baron Baldric, but I knew he kept me out of duty rather than love. And most ladies do not have to contend with an uncle as reckless and cruel as his brother, Baron Arnulf.

I walked toward the stone archway that led to the main courtyard. A ghostly voice cried out. “Judge thou, O Lord, them that wrong me.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is found on the dining room floor, a chair toppled on top of him, his lips stained red. There’s a manuscript page stuck to the leg of the chair. A desert plate with crumbs is beside him, and a small note in his fingers reads, “Pie for my benevolent benefactor.” 

#PitchMadness R-4: THE FIREDRAKE

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 96,000

Pitch: There were horrors in the desert that 16-year-old Akhtimet had never imagined. Horrors with the faces of men. But she survived them – every last one – and now the Firedrake will help her get her revenge.

Excerpt:
It was raining outside and that’s what woke her: the sound of the rain pounding on the roof above her. But the rain, this rain was not like the mists and monsoons that soaked the earth and nourished the fields around the village. This was the Draka-Ushut, the Dragon Rain – a deluge of ash and stone and bits of volcanic glass coughed up by the great, quaking mountain to the east. Once it started, it would go on for hours, and no one, no matter how hard of hearing, could sleep through its cacophony of sound. So Akhtimet lay still and simply listened as the Dragon Rain rattled and thumped against the roof of her father’s small home.

A tapping came at her bedroom window just a short time later and she turned her head to see a tall, slim shadow limned in moonlight.

“Usaan,” she whispered, scurrying from her bed and pushing the panes wide. The Dragon Rain was in full swing, pelting the buildings, the streets, everything outside. She grabbed his arm and helped him inside before pushing the window firmly closed. “What are you doing? If Father catches us -,”

“Shh,” Usaan said, lifting a finger and laying it across his lips. He dusted his hands across clothes and hair and then took her hand and padded silently across the floor. “Wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“Liar. You came to steal kisses,” she said as they settled on the bed.

“Well, maybe.” He smiled and leaned in, placing a soft kiss on her cheek.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is draped over one of the potted bushes in the conservatory, bleeding from multiple head wounds, each a perfect small circle. Seeds are sprinkled over his body and the floor, and an empty packet of Floribunda Rose seeds lies in the trash.

#PitchMadness R-5: LEAVING PEACESYLVANIA

Genre: Contemporary YA
Word Count: 70,000

Pitch: Neo-hippie Lark rebels from her commune in a big way when she registers for public school. She never thought she’d fall for a mainstream boy. Or that she’d lose the world she knew.

Excerpt:
My to-do list has grown dauntingly long. The darkening grapes are just another reminder of how quickly this summer is ending.

I scoot a few feet to my left to stay in the grapevine’s long narrow patch of shade. I tap my pen on my worn notebook and look over the master list.

1. Registration forms.
2. Break things off with Petey. Again.
3. Get out of grape harvest.
4. Learn math. All of it.
5. Help Dad get help.
6. SAT prep.
7. Read giant stack of books.
8. Sew new wardrobe.
9. Reveal secret plan.

“Lark! It’s quittin’ time!” My half-brother, Sean, shouts louder than he needs to. It startles the pen right out of my fingers.

“Jesus, Sean. You have to stop sneaking up on me!” I stand up and do a quick tick-check on my bare arms and legs. It’s really freaking hot, and my honey-colored mass of curly, partially dreaded, partially braided hair makes my back feel immediately sticky.

I reach behind Sean and grab the ratty bandanna that’s always in his back pocket and use it to tie up my hair.

“I definitely just used that to wipe my nose,” he says. He’s filthy from head to toe, wearing his grime like it’s a badge of hard work.

“Whatever,” I smile, “I love your snot.”

“You’re so gross,” he says.

“Says the one with half of his lunch still stuck in his beard,” I tease.

“I’m thinking of shaving it,” he says.

I raise my eyebrows at him; he normally loves the Peacesylvania aesthetic.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is found slumped over his desk in the study. Blood oozes from a gash in his head. There is wax stuck to the side of his temple. He lies face down on an entertainment magazine opened to a scathing review of a new film.

#PitchMadness R-6: WHERE ALL THE MISSING PIECES GO

Genre: YA Fantasy (steampunk fairytale)
Word Count: 77,000

Pitch: Tricked into painting the stars, Jane had her voice, vision, and memories stolen by Etoile Nymphs. Now she must find them before they return to the sky forever with all her missing pieces.

Excerpt:
Waiting in front of Lord and Lady Crocket’s dining room, I could only think of one possible explanation for why I’d been summoned. They were kicking me out.

Mrs. Cowl had her hands clasped behind her back as she stood beside me staring at the doors. Sunlight flickered down through the glass ceiling, casting a rainbow across her gray-streaked bun. She didn’t have to be here, waiting with me. I knew she had a million other head-housekeeper-duties she could be doing instead. So she probably knew.

I tilted my head back, wincing at the sunlight refracting across the roof. I’d lived here my whole life. This was my home.

The footman appeared from behind the door and held it open for me. “Her Ladyship will see you now.”

After one last glance at Mrs. Cowl, I stepped inside and squinted. Of all the airy rooms of the solarium, this had always been my favorite. Arching stained-glass windows lined the outside wall, their sun-warmed scenes drenching the parquet. Combined with the glass ceiling, it sometimes felt like I was standing inside a kaleidoscope.

They were all at the table. Lord Crocket was reading the paper, Lady Crocket was swirling a biscotti in her coffee. Only Sari and Stella looked up as I approached.

“The city’s petition to ban Magicals was denied,” Lord Crocket said, shaking out his paper and turning the page.

Lady Crocket hummed. “Well I suppose that’s what happens when your Emperor is married to one.”

“Apparently, Her Imperial Majesty has decided to host some sort of peace rally instead.”

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is sprawled on the stairs, a perfect circular hole, the size of a grape, in his back. Gripped in his hand is an invoice, listing the price for river rocks, koi fish, lilies, and the installation of a grotto.

#PitchMadness R-7: THE TASTE OF TURF

Genre: MG Contemporary
Word Count: 51,000

Pitch: Twelve-year-old Beth just wants to play football. When Coach makes her a kicker, she has to show him and her team that girls can be running backs too, if she can survive middle school.

Excerpt:
Dad has always said we should turn our disadvantages into advantages. So far, I was just trying to keep from getting a concussion.

With a grunt, I got up on my feet and adjusted my pads. I put my mouthpiece back in and welcomed the now familiar taste of grass and dirt. Determined to survive practice, I hurried over to the line of scrimmage.

“Remember, you wanted to play,” said my twin brother, Brock, from across the line.

I wanted to tell him to shove it. Instead, I took a bigger bite of my grass-stained mouthpiece. He was right. All my friends tried to talk me out of playing, but I love football. The leathery new ball smell, the strategy, fake outs, touchdowns, I love everything about it. As far back as I can remember, the game has been part of my life.

“Down!” yelled Tank, my side’s quarterback for the practice game.

I got set in my stance and stared into Brock’s blue eyes so like my own. He sneered at me. As soon as the ball snapped, he’d be headed right through me. Being the smallest kid and only girl on the team, I was at a distinct disadvantage

The clash of plastic on plastic echoed in my ears. My mouthpiece flew up in the air and got a fresh dose of grassy earth, as Brock and Bubba again brought me down. I’d spent three hours a day for the last two weeks with my brother and his friends tackling me. The dizzying sight of blue sky quickly replaced by green field had become mundane. My bruises had bruises, and I loved every frustrating minute.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is curled on the floor in the library, a twisted bit of metal sticking out of his back. Clutched in his fingers is a medallion torn from a plaque. Words engraved in the metal read “Royal Navy.”

#PitchMadness R-8: POX

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Word Count: 77,000

Pitch: Blacksmith-turned-thief Isa’s only hopes for saving her brother from the pox and herself from hanging are the missing goddess of justice and terrible origins of the pox hidden in the king’s secret laboratories.

Excerpt:
A traitor dangled from the meeting hall rafters. Blowflies and beetles hummed around him, clinging to the tattered frays of his King’s Guard uniform and crawling over his bare feet. I tucked my nose into my shirt and glanced at my boots. My toes poked through the cracked leather.

Pity someone had already stolen his shoes.

I balanced atop the sewer grate. I’d sat beneath it countless times, listening to the march of boots at the evening shift change. The view had always been crowded by leather soles freshly branded with the rising sun sigil of the King’s army. Tonight, I’d caught a glimpse of the soldiers stomping off to guard the storeroom and waited for the room to clear. I hadn’t dared venture into the hall before now.

The room I’d imagined was bigger, grander. This was the room recruits stepped into after swearing away their lives and kneeling beneath their noble patrons. I’d expected pomp. The only decoration was the hanged man.

That was one way to stop defection.

“Ill met,” I said with a mock salute.

He didn’t respond. All the better. I was too hungry to be in a talking mood. The soldiers he’d left behind were still doing their jobs—breaking up groups, closing markets, guarding tribute wagons. I’d already scouted the storehouse. The guards there were new and eager to please. They’d catch me in a wick.

Which had brought me here. This nest of soldiers—dead and alive—was money one way or another.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is found in the library, blood seeping through a narrow, deep cut in his jacket. A piece of dusting cloth rests near his arm.

#PitchMadness R-9: AFTERMATH

Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Word Count: 57,000

Pitch: When 15-year-old Grace’s childhood sexual predator returns, her shield of faith and perfectionism shatters, leaving her one choice: heal with the truth but destroy her family, or self-destruct with the lie of misplaced guilt.

Excerpt:
Like suck-ups who sit near the front of a classroom, I pick the pew ten feet from the Jesus-Watching-Over-Us statue, hoping proximity counts for something. We sit in our usual order – Mom, me, Dad, then my little sister, Mary Kay, who gets the aisle seat, so she doesn’t have to hold hands with some stranger during the Our Father. Gathering storm clouds mute the altar’s Thanksgiving golds and browns. Today, no rainbow prisms will splash through stained glass windows. I note the first hymn number posted up front. It’s not cool to sing in church, but I risk social exile, to look good in His eyes.

Mass begins. Prayers. Chants. Music. Readings. If I’m filled with these, forgiveness doesn’t seem out of reach.

When the service ends, I stack our books and spot my best friend, Rae, near the back. She was probably late. Like she always is. For everything. I’d die before I’d slink in after mass starts – too much like the death march to the bench, after a strike out. I sneak up behind Rae. “Boo!” I say. “Oops, wrong holiday.”

She turns. “Hey, Grace!” She yawns and stretches. “Was that the longest mass ever? I thought Palm Sunday was bad.”

“Uh, yeah,” I force a laugh. “Like we wanna be here any longer than we have to.”

Rae leans in. “Can’t complain about the view, though. Guess who sat in front of me.”

“New Guy.”

“How’d you know?”

I tap my chin. “The drool? Dead giveaway.”

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is found on the floor in the billiard room clasping a pool stick in his stiff hand. By the thin, red burn mark around his neck, he looks to have been strangled. A cufflink with a cross etched into the gold is found under his leg.

#PitchMadness R-10: SATELLITE HEARTS

Genre: YA Science Fiction/Thriller
Word Count: 97,000

Pitch: In Botswana, sixteen-year-old Zahra Mbali is a programmable human with only one hundred and fifty days left until her body explodes. Tampering with her biological technology is risky. One mistake could instantly end her life.

Excerpt:
I squeeze myself, carefully, through a crack in the corrugated sheeting that forms the wall of our home. Mama shifts in the lounge and my heart knocks a marimba beat.

I can’t stay. I’m sorry Mama to be another death in the family.

I run four huts down from mine—old, scraggy and made from scrappy sheet iron—along the Old Naledi fence, my hand scraping the diamond wire. The Botswana heat melts into the air, coating my brown skin with a layer of sweat. I strain my eyes to look up as the fence rises, shaking in the breeze, towards the deep crimson sky: the time when the sun begins to bleed.

My fingers vibrate. Text message. I press my wrist to read it; printed on my skin just below my palm is S’beno’s text in white moonlight letters: “How far? I have him.”

“You didn’t hurt him, akere?” I speak into my wrist. Message sent.

S’beno. “Ija, of course not. It was a safe, bloodless kidnap.”

“On the way,” I reply. I brush my braids from my face and hurry off.

Walking to the Stats, our short name for the rank station, is tiresome but I’m not complaining. This is the last time I will see my home. I stare back at the compound of Old Naledi: rusty shacks, unpaved grounds littered with broken glass, fizzy drink cans, plastic bags and trees. My childhood prison.

Not too long, an hour has passed. The night is teeming with unseen enemies, and the encroaching darkness should freak me out, but I’m more nervous about how tonight will end.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is on the floor in the kitchen, covered in champagne, a glass broken near his fingers. His tongue is swollen, and the faintest scent of bitter almond is detectable in the air. A handled silver tray rests against his body, a faint ring of condensation at the center.

#PitchMadness R-11: BLAKE: KEEPER OF SECRETS

Genre: MG Low Fantasy
Word Count: 50,000

Pitch: Blake, a 12-year-old whose biggest fear is talking to grown-ups, becomes his town’s Secret Keeper. Creepy shadows whisper the townspeople’s secrets and describe a murder-to-be. Blake must stop the killer…or become the next victim.

Excerpt:
Icicles dripped all around me. One fat drop snuck inside my coat and ran down my neck, giving me the shivers. As we walked, I stomped in a puddle, soaking my good shoes…and my sister, Jenna. She didn’t even yell at me. Just gave me a cold stare. But her red, teary eyes totally ruined the effect.

We trudged along in silence. Having started at the front of the group, we’d dropped further and further behind. Mom didn’t notice, of course – too many things on her mind.
Jenna wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

“I’m going to catch up to Mom,” she said. “You better get there soon.”

It’d been quiet before, but now all I heard was silence. Times like this made me miss him more. I felt his absence like a concrete block on my chest. Everything got blurry and I tripped, landing on my hands and knees. Something wet rolled down my cheek.

I wasn’t crying. Twelve-year-old boys don’t cry…at least not in public.

I was going to stay there, or maybe crawl home, but the wind blew. Well, I’m pretty sure it was the wind. The leaves were the only things that moved. The dead ones on the ground rose up and circled around me, like a mini-tornado. The sharp edge of one scratched my cheek and made me bleed. They moved around me, pressing in closer and making me dizzy. I stood up. Waving both arms in front of me to scatter the leaves, I pushed my way through.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy lies in the hall, his face blue, silk fibers stuck to his neck. There’s a faint dusting of white flour on his back.

#PitchMadness R-12: PLACED

Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Word Count: 70,000

Pitch: Angelique, a 17-year-old free woman of color, is determined to find her own place in the racial web of 1825 New Orleans, until yellow fever threatens her mother’s life and her desires become too costly.

Excerpt:
New Orleans, July 1825

I twirl the stick in my hand, a thin piece of wood wrapped in silk. The attached mask follows, circling above my hand like a bird. Flawless dove feathers rise from the right corner. I brush my fingertips along the edge of one. It tickles, and I smile for a moment. I love costumes—or I did. Dressing up as something else, escaping the reality of my life in search of boundless possibilities that chase each other around my head like a cat after its own tail. Yet when I raise the mask to my face, it cannot hide what I am expected to be, a seventeen-year-old free woman of color, caught between Maman’s expectations and my own. My fingers tighten around the stick. It cracks in two.

“Angelique,” Maman says, my name sliding like silk in her perfect French marred only by the hint of disapproval that sharpens it. She accepts the broken pieces from me and, for a second, her lips pinch then ease as she turns back to the seamstress, all sweetness again. “It looks exquisite, Madame.”

It is the costume for the performance of living pictures, which will involve me standing still on a stage, posed for the viewing pleasure of wealthy white men. When Madame Lebrun announced the theme for the performance, the Creation story, Maman snapped her fan closed and tapped my arm with it.

“You must be a dove. It is too perfect for your first ball.”

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is slumped against the back door, two stab wounds centered in his chest. He clutches a newspaper folded to the gossip column where a local attorney is rumored to be having an affair.

#PitchMadness R-13: LIV ON FIRE

Genre: YA Thriller
Word Count: 83,000

Pitch: When a serial killer starts burning people alive and releasing his crimes online, eighteen-year-old Liv ignores the media’s frenzy, until she stumbles upon one of her classmates tied to a burning stake.

Excerpt:
“If you have to wear a disguise, it’s obviously a bad idea,” Bridget says so loud I pull my phone away. It’s a good thing she’s not actually here or else I’d be getting that look from her too.

“It’s not a disguise,” I say. “It’s an outfit.”

“This. Is. Not. Healthy.” Bridge bites each word, like they’re one of her rock-hard protein bars. Seriously, if I wanted to deal with this shit, I would’ve answered the phone when Mom-Bot called.

I readjust my rearview mirror to apply my wine-red lip-stain. “If you’re so against the way I am, why are you my friend?” I throw the tube into my cup holder and readjust my bra underneath my sheer black top. Strapless, they’re a mega pain sometimes. I bet it’d stay in place if I filled it out better. My flip-flops get kicked off before I feel around for my silver-studded boots.

“Just think about it. Please? You’re out of control. Don’t go to the creepy dive bar, just don’t,” Bridge says. “It’s so shady. And that guy? Ew. Seriously. Ew. Totally beneath us, Olivia.”

“Liv,” I correct her and hang up. Before I can put it away, my eyes catch on my home screen-pic. Every time it comes to life, it’s on a new photo from my gallery. Usually it’s me, or Bridge and me, or Jude (lots of Jude), and sometimes the Burners band.

Not now.

Now it’s Evan. He’s smiling at me from the driver’s seat — this seat, the seat I’m in right now — and saying something.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is found in the dining room, face down in his spaghetti, garnished with fresh basil and bay leaves. His hand gripping the fork sports a small puncture, the flesh around it caved and discolored.

#PitchMadness R-14: JANUARY RESOLUTION

Genre: Adult Traditional Mystery
Word Count: 88,000

Pitch: When her former boss dies of anaphylactic shock, Denali Danserau alone believes it was no accident. She must unravel the truth before becoming the next victim in this wry Jessica-Fletcher-meets-Northern-Exposure mystery.

Excerpt:
I love the month of January. The year lies out full of possibilities and promise. Plus, when you live in Alaska, it means winter solstice is behind you so the days are getting longer. It may only be a few minutes each day but you take what you can get. The minutes turn into hours and before long you know you’ll bask in days with 20 hours of light and the warmth it brings. Maybe not southern California warmth but I’m an Alaska girl and 65 degrees is plenty warm for me.

It was Monday, the last week of January, and my resolve was off to a good start. I’d flossed daily. Resolution number two: check. I’d tried three new recipes since the beginning of the year and had the makings for eggs Benedict in my refrigerator for the weekend. Resolution number three: try one new recipe each week. Check. And now I was on my way to see my former boss, Ellen Walker-Wallace, for a late breakfast. Resolution number five: connect with friends. So what if Ellen hadn’t made the top 10 people I intended to call when I made the resolution? And so what if I wasn’t actually the one who did the calling?

When I turned onto Klein Street, I saw a patrol car and unmarked police vehicles in the emergency lane of the A.T.E. building. Selfish as this might sound my first thought was to hope whatever was going on wouldn’t affect our breakfast plans.

If only I had known.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is found in the billiard room, prostrate over the pool table, one leg dangling. That leg is swollen and mushy to the touch; two small circles bleed red and yellow at his ankle. He’s lying on top of a feather duster, his wide eyes fixed on the wall.

#PitchMadness R-15: FOLLOWING INFINITY

Genre: Contemporary MG
Word Count: 38,000

Pitch: In the wake of her brother’s death, thirteen-year-old Molly travels across the country to his dream roller coaster. Will she find a final connection or discover her destination is something entirely different?

Excerpt:
My brother Michael died last week. He was eight years old.

It wasn’t a car wreck or a swimming accident or some weird allergic reaction. He had been sick for a long, long time. Cancer, if you can believe that. Yeah, I know. That’s supposed to be one of those things you get when you’re older, like in your sixties or seventies. But to find out you have it when you’re only six, and die from it when you’re eight? Something pretty wrong about that.

I still remember the moment. It was 12:09 in the morning, but we had a houseful of relatives over. Everything felt warm and stale wrapped up in that middle of the night quiet. I went outside for some fresh air before trying to sleep and was met with a surprising autumn chill. Every time I left the house, even just stepping into the backyard like that, I felt out of place. It seemed impossible there was a world that didn’t realize what was happening up in that bedroom. It felt just as impossible that I’d have to rejoin that world someday, which sounded as easy as climbing back on some spinning carnival ride after falling off. But it felt better to be outside at night, when I could hide in the darkness and look up at the stars and pretend none of it was real.

I hadn’t been out long before I heard the patio door slide open behind me.

“Molly.”

It was my cousin Ryan, standing in the doorway.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is crumbled at the top of the stairs, a small, deep puncture wound in his gut. A rosary keychain is clutched in his fingers.

#PitchMadness R-16 (AGENT INSIDER PICK!): HUNGER – THE LIFE OF JIN

Genre: Adult Literary
Word Count: 74,000

Pitch: An orphaned Jin meets the Kitchen God who teaches him to cook food that sings on the tongue. Jin gains fame and purpose until tragedy strikes, threatening his love, his gift, and, ultimately, his life.

Excerpt:
A fortuneteller foretold Mei’s fate but her mother-in-law sealed it. Mei’s pregnancy was almost at an end, the baby was sure to come any day now. She lowered her gaze and fanned herself, keeping the sweltering heat at bay.

“Did you drink the tea before we left?” her mother-in-law asked.

Earlier, Mei held the delicate tea cup in her trembling hands. Her tongue rejected its bitterness, curling into itself while the tea drained into her throat. Mei failed to proved the Tan family with a son and drinking the vile concoction was part of her penance.

“Yes.”

Inside the rickshaw carriage, her skeletal mother-in-law stared at Mei’s distended belly. The tea had been taken too late in the pregnancy and would not affect the sex of the baby. No doubt Mei was full of ill luck. Three daughters and still no sons. If not for her considerable dowry, her husband would have taken a concubine by now. Dowry or not, this marriage was cursed. The family line must continue, with or without Mei’s womb.

The wheels bounced along the dirt road, rattling the passengers inside. Mei played with the wooden fan’s tassel on her lap while the older woman gazed into the distance. When conversations were disguised as forms of condescending guidance, Mei welcomed the silence.

Soon, the farm fields swallowed the two-story family compound from her view before giving way to the stilted village with its slanted, tiled roofs. The fluttering of Mei’s sandalwood fan attempted to mask the scent of the seaside fish market.

 

MURDER MOST FOUL

Mr. Boddy is found in a chair in the study, there are two punctures in his pant leg, and blood trickles onto to his shoe. His hand rests on the desk atop an open Molskein notebook. In the notebook is scrawled one sentence: It was a dark and stormy night in Africa.