Title: Stars and Reeds
Entry Nickname: There is Stardust in My Eyes
Word count: 81K
Genre: YA Fantasy
Since being sentenced to life imprisonment at a desert work settlement, seventeen-year-old Jameelah has little faith in justice. After all, she had no part in her alleged crime of killing a Star Gazer merchant. But the only way she can clear her name is to perform the spell of mercy using magic granted by the Star Gazers’ capricious gods—who don’t care about a Marsh Dweller like Jameelah, or her little brother growing up without her. So when she learns that her brother is dying of fever, she braves a dangerous escape, desperate to save him.
Now a fugitive, Jameelah flees to a Star Gazer city for medicinal herbs, but discovers instead that her childhood enemy Rashida is a trained star magician—and the merchant’s real killer. She tracks down Rashida and threatens to expose her crime to the judges unless Rashida helps her master the spell to clear her name ... and, one to heal her brother.
Together, the girls trek across the desert in search of a fallen star to invoke the magic. But Rashida, ever the schemer, has her own vision of justice, a plan that would prevent Jameelah from returning home. If Jameelah is to reclaim freedom and save her brother, she’ll have to weave a little magic of her own, including transforming her fury and Rashida’s deceit into an alliance even the gods cannot ignore.
Through the narrow door of the weaving shed, I watch the setting sun kiss the work camp wall. Its fierce light stains the rough-hewn rocks with brilliant copper and brass tones. If I were at home, I’d call to my brother across the reeds, luring him back with the promise of fish stew for supper. But I’m trapped in this camp, and a different voice calls instead.
“Move out!” A guard barks. “Prisoners to the sleeping huts.”
My overseer shoves me from my loom and into the crowd of prisoners gathering outside. They stagger from their own work sheds, mud-brick structures squished together like segments of a wasp’s nest along sandy paths that twist toward to the looming wall. With shouts and snarls, guards herd us toward the sleeping huts, marching us past the temple at the camp’s center—four tiers of pure white stone, so tall they prod the sky. Only the priest is permitted within there, gibbering to his star gods on behalf of our lost souls.
Many of the prisoners gaze to that temple as we pass, dipping low and muttering their own pleas and prayers. I, however, stare in the opposite direction, toward the eastern wall where the full moon will soon rise. Tonight, I must sneak there. I must get to my visiting nook. The past three full moons, I’ve failed to reach it. That cannot happen again.
“Move, Marsh Girl!” A guard slams his staff across my back. “Murderer,” he snarls.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: The Mortal Coil
Entry Nickname: Hero by Default
Word count: 80K
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
When Covington Academy's basketball team is found comatose during practice, seventeen-year-old Aiden Milligan goes from top of the class to top of the suspect list. With a brilliant mind, extensive disciplinary record, and grudge against the team, he's marked as both the likely perpetrator and an ideal recruit for The Orphion Circle, the rumored anarchist group the police are investigating. Guilty until proven innocent in the principal's eyes, Aiden knows he's one misstep from expulsion and being thrown back into foster care — or worse, a prison cell. Losing his academic future, the one thing that separates him from every other parentless screw-up, is not an option.
Teamwork is torture for Aiden, but classmate Jessie Rivas is his only help in clearing his name. A crackpot conspiracist breaking into the world of journalism, Jessie drags Aiden into a mystifying investigation of mounting coma incidents around the city. When bloody symbols appear at the scene of the attacks, Aiden begins to believe Jessie’s theories about the mysterious Orphion Circle are true — they’re not an anarchist group but a coven of dangerous witches.
Stopping The Circle and clearing his name become one and the same for Aiden. Every move he makes jeopardizes his innocence, and with a detective all too eager to lock Aiden up, salvaging his reputation and his academic future may be impossible. But if he can't discover the truth behind the mounting coma victims before The Circle silences him, he won't have a future at all.
Aiden Milligan was in the principal's office. Again. And, for once, he wasn't sure why.
He hadn't skipped any classes. This week, anyway. And Ms. Maynard seemed more resigned than mad when he corrected the electron assignment in her molecular formula during Chemistry yesterday.
He sighed and stared down at the infamous Covington hot seat. He'd half-expected his name inscribed on it by now. He craned his neck to glimpse the back of the stiff wooden chair. Nope, no plaque. Shame, really.
Aiden straightened up as Principal Hadley entered the room and sat behind his impenetrable oak desk.
"Sir," he muttered.
After two years at Covington, Aiden and Principal Hadley had become very familiar with each other — in the way a lion becomes familiar with a straggling wildebeest. Aiden was a problem that didn't want to be solved, and Hadley took that as a challenge. The man was determined to churn out the future world changers for which Covington Academy was renowned, like it or not.
Aiden begrudgingly admired that resolve. Or would, if it weren't laser-focused on him.
Hadley ran a hand through thinning, dirty-blonde hair. “Thank you for coming, Aiden."
Aiden raised an eyebrow. Like he had a choice?
Give me my slap on the wrist and hollow lecture and set me loose, 'cause you can't risk losing your highest GPA student. Rinse and repeat.
“To business.” Hadley folded his hands on his desk. "This morning, there was an incident.”
Incident? Oh, damn, not good...