Wednesday, June 8, 2016

QK Agent Round: 3. The Ghost and Ms. Clair, Adult mystery

Title: Donn’s Hill
Entry Nickname: The Ghost and Ms. Clair
Word count: 83K
Genre: Paranormal Mystery

Query: 

Mackenzie Clair knew her life would change when her father died, but she wasn’t expecting the grief to give her the ability to talk to the dead, or to end up chasing a murderer through the most haunted town in America.

Twenty-seven-year-old Mac never really figured out what to do with herself. She sleepwalks through her dull desk job every day, tries not to aggravate her controlling boyfriend every night, and relies on her father and their shared love of books and music to hang on to her sanity. When Mac loses her father to cancer and her boyfriend to infidelity all in the same week, she embarks on a mission to reclaim some joy. She abandons the city life and relocates to the place where she’d been happiest in her youth: Donn’s Hill, a small town in Middle America that’s best known for an abundance of paranormal activity, especially the séances at its annual Afterlife Festival.

Mac doesn’t get much time to acclimate to small-town living before an angry poltergeist begins to stalk her, forcing her to quickly come to terms with her newly discovered psychic powers. With the help of the ghost-hunting crew of the nationally televised show Soul Searchers and a spirited tortoiseshell cat named Striker, Mac becomes bold enough to do things she never imagined possible: investigate hauntings, banish poltergeists, and generally feel happy again.

Unfortunately, in the midst of her journey of self-discovery, someone is killing off the town’s residents. Death has followed Mac to Donn’s Hill, and in the weeks leading to the Afterlife Festival, corpses are piling up. Harassed by the ghost of a murdered man, Mac must make a choice: leave town for her own safety, or stay and use her abilities to identify the killer before she winds up joining the ranks of the spirits who wander the town.

First 250:

Someone was sitting on my bed.

I’d awoken to the thin mattress shifting beneath me when his weight pressed down near my right side. My body wanted to roll toward that lower point, but I held myself in place, not wanting to touch him. He—and I was sure it was a “he,” though I couldn’t say why—smelled foul, like rotting garbage, but hadn’t harmed me. Yet. Too frightened to scream and risk propelling my intruder into motion, I held my breath and strained my ears to hear his breathing.

I heard nothing but the hum of a car passing on the highway.

Questions pinged around inside my skull and crashed into each other. What’s going on? Is he holding his breath too? Are we locked in some kind of silent contest, the loser being the one who passes out? How did he get past the locks?

And the most pressing questions of all, the ones I’d need to move to answer: Who is he? What does he want from me?

It couldn’t be anything good. People who want to do good things usually knock.

Taking a chance, I opened one eye a tiny bit, creating a narrow slit between my eyelids. The motel room was pitch-black, thanks to the ancient heavy curtains and my having unplugged the digital alarm clock. Keeping my arm under the covers, I crept my left hand toward the nightstand.

Slowly, I told myself. Don’t make a sound.

Faster! my lungs screamed at me.

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