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Our Valentine to You

Happy Valentine’s Day! We have a surprise for you! So if your significant other drops the ball and doesn’t come home with a dozen roses or a bottle of expensive aftershave, you can’t say you didn’t get anything this year. (But you can still lay on that guilt trip pretty thick. . . .)

We’re launching a new contest today, and this one is going to be something a little different. We’ll actually be judging a whole series of contests. We decided to try several genre-specific competitions of the first 100 words of the work. We’ll be limiting the types of books to the areas that we represent. Honestly, do you want someone judging your YA who hasn’t read anything in the genre since Judy Blume’s Forever first hit shelves? Probably not. And we’re not going to presume to call ourselves experts in genres we just don’t read on a regular basis. Selfishly, it also gives us a very real opportunity to find a potential new client. Seems like a win-win.

Honestly, we also think it can be tough to declare an ultimate winner in a contest that includes a variety of book types. What if the top three are a terrific cozy, an emotional women’s fiction, and a really hot romance? They may all be great in their own ways, but it can be impossible sometimes to decide which is ultimately the best when the three genres rely on very different writing devices to make them work. Frankly, we don’t want to put ourselves through that hair-pulling, so this seemed the best alternative.

In the next few months we’ll be holding contests in the following genres:

Mystery (traditional and cozy)
Paranormal Romance/Romance With Fantasy Elements
Erotic Romance
Women’s Fiction
Romantic Suspense
Contemporary Romance
Historical Romance


The rules are as follows:

1. We’ll only accept entries that are posted in the comments section of this blog article. No e-mailed entries will be considered.

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 different categories.

4. Once the material is entered, it’s your final entry. We won’t allow revised versions of the same work.

5. The deadline is tomorrow, February 15th, at 9:00 a.m. EST.

The prize, you ask? Accolades from the masses! Oh, and we’ll critique the query letter, synopsis, and first chapter of the winning entry in each genre! 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.

Jessica and I will post the winner within the next couple of days, and at that time we’ll go on to the paranormal romance category. So start whipping those projects into shape!

Let the games begin!


Category: Blog



  1. Excellent. And mystery is my genre too!

    Title: Nothing Easier

    George Mina came into his house to find Wayne, his bodyguard, lying facedown on the floorboards. A perfect circle of blood, four feet in diameter, surrounded the poor bugger’s head. Manjula, George’s girlfriend who was over forty years his junior, was sitting in the sofa chair. Blood splatters covered her nightgown. Her eyes were shut and her legs stretched out, like she’d just come home from a hard day’s work. It wasn’t until she opened her eyes that he knew she was alive.

    George’s first thought: his old associates were finally making a move and had come to kill him.

  2. Excellent!

    What a great idea! Shame you dont represent my genre (fantasy!)… ah well – I can still learn from others, and will enjoy reading all the exerpts!

  3. Screaming Yellow, Chapter one.

    The door slammed hard enough to rattle the stained glass in the fanlight.

    Jennifer logged her status to ‘global away’ and pushed her chair away from the computer. She crossed to the door and leaned on the jamb. “Simon?” she called. “Is that you?”

    Her brother stood in the hallway shrugging off his overcoat. His face was creased in anger and he pulled his arm out of the sleeve, heedless of the fact that it was dragged inside out. “Who else would it be?” he asked, a little too harshly for Jennifer’s liking. “I live here, don’t I?”

  4. Amsterdamsel

    Walletjes, Amsterdam

    The street is busy despite the pouring rain, cascading bursts in the unpredictable winds. Her dazed eyes follow the men hurrying past; raised collars, struggling with reluctant umbrellas, hurrying towards their destinations, hurrying from this self-inflicted hell on earth. She doesn’t see how their once lust-filled eyes now watch her in distaste. How their lips curl at the sight of her listless hair, the sunken eyes, grey skin, the scabs she can’t help scratching, turning the once beautiful face into a landscape of raw, bleeding pools.

  5. “We will, however, accept multiple works from the same author in different categories.”

    What about multiple works from the same author within the same category?

  6. Title: Though This Be Madness

    The sound of rage raced the length of the hall just moments before the man did. They both stopped at my open office door. Despite training, I leapt to my feet, but whether it was the sight of him filling the door or the waves of booze rolling off him that sent my heart racing I couldn’t tell.

    After the first instinctive reaction, my brain took charge, ticking off observations in orderly bursts. The guy was big. Well over six feet his jean jacket straining at the shoulders. Under it, a ratty t-shirt offered sexual favors to the reader’s sister.

  7. Title: Murder Anonymous

    I walked into terror. The blood climbed the walls like lacy red ivy, lush splotches bursting into bloom in scattered patches. Climbing to the ceiling, and then puddles of it pooled in mirror images across the floor. Vicky sprawled across the bed in a lake of bloody gore. Naked, torn, emptied of blood, life, spirit. I heard moaning: deep, guttural. I was making that sound and I needed it to stop, but it wouldn’t. Evil pulled that sound out of me, forcing and delighting in it.

    My horrified brain tried frantically to both absorb and reject the carnage before me.

    Chapter One

    I popped the DVD into the player and fast-forwarded until an image appeared. It was my old friend Grace from high school. She wore a powder-blue terry cloth robe and sat in a plain wooden chair, her back rigid, her pallor making my heart jump. I paused the disk and stared.

    I remembered her skin as being the color of cherry wood, her raven-black hair long and heavy with shiny curls. What I saw now was a woman whose face was ghostly white, bruise-like circles beneath her eyes, and her hair shorn to ragged wisps that barely covered her scalp.

  9. Can we enter two versions of the same work, if they’re different scenarios? I’m trying to decide which of 2 openings is most effective, so talk about timing!

    Thanks, Kim. You guys are amazing!

  10. Nancy A. — Sorry, but we consider a second version of the same book a revision. Please just pick one.

    Jessie — We’re only judging the Mystery category today. You’ll have to post at a later date to be considered for the Contemp Romance contest. Keep an eye on the blog to see when that will be.

  11. I’ll play!
    Title: Case One

    I hadn’t been raised a dummy and knew trash talking coupled with charm, fit body, and skimpy clothes equaled large tips for a bar waitress. Momma thought my work to be a bit degrading, but not me. Not when I had my own air conditioned home, with cable. At the moment I poured a cosmo as I had every other one, but this time an unfamiliar man watching me made my knees knock. He was a pleasant upgrade from the usual types looking for my number since he was physically fit, dressed nicely, and had all his teeth.


    I’ve always known, ever since I was a little boy, that one day I would kill someone. I never told anyone this, however – not even my mother – or any of my psychiatrists. That’s why I’m telling you now from this strange place in which I find myself. Such a very strange place; not at all what I expected. And what a surprise! Life is full of surprises, but death is full of certainty.

    Let me begin my story – for I desperately need to tell it – at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City. It was the second intermission of Wagner’s Parsifal –

  13. Hi Josephine–

    Yes. You’ll have about 24 hours for all of the contests. Since we’re doing so many of them, we really didn’t want it to get too drawn out.

  14. Category: Mystery
    Title: The Zombie Zoo: A Laser Squad Mystery
    Author: Mark Terry

    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.

  15. Thanks, Jessica and Kim!

    Title: Weeps the Willow
    Word count in MS Word:96

    Womp-wump, womp-wump, womp-wump. The wipers flapped back and forth like the hortator of a Roman galley pounding out a ramming-speed cadence. The engine raced intermittently, as the driver tried to rock his car out of a muddy rut, but it was useless. The car was not going anywhere. With a turn of the key, he silenced the engine and wipers and stared cataleptically through the front windshield, as lightning snaked its way through the clouds, peeking out here and there with the illusion of a threadbare arc.

    How on earth had it ever come to this?

  16. Cut and Dried

    The old cliché is there are a million stories in the naked city. What they don’t tell you is if you add in all the clothed ones, the number of stories easily triples. The naked stories are easy enough to figure out. I leave those to guys with nothing better to do. The real money’s in the stories hiding behind the blazers and the dresses and the jogging suits. I’m in this for the money. Too bad for me this business isn’t as rich and glamorous as Hollywood would have you think. But a gal can hope, can’t she?

  17. Title: Peripherals

    It was gone.

    He blinked a few times in case there was something wrong with his vision, but it didn’t change the fact the 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.

  18. Title: Combustion

    Claire Reynolds expected a dead body. Not pieces of a dead body. Or pieces lacking a torso. And a head. What remained of the body lay in a sprawled position against the wall. Both arms and right leg were intact. The left leg was charred to the knee. Burnt flesh, an acrid, sweet smell, lingered in the air. Claire didn’t flinch when she neared. Had she gotten used to the scent? Or did she simply file away the smell for recall later?

  19. Here’s my entry to the mystery contest.
    Title: Bluetooth,

    Traffic patrol found the candy-apple red, $250,000 extravaganza of convertible hardtop sedan smashed into a tree – no skid marks, broken guardrail, hood crushed, four-way hazard lights blinking, doors open and dead body nearby. A white cloud of steam poured out of the engine, barely rising before surrendering to the sleet and freezing rain. Lightning illuminated three policemen with flashlights picking up ice cubes from the car. Icy rain crept inside Detective Sergeant C. Harold Blantan’s poncho as he walked towards the wreck. Usually, a cold snap in late spring only killed flowers, but tonight it claimed human life.

  20. Thanks for doing this!

    Title: Death Upon the Wicked Stage

    Imperial Pictures’ Stage 25 was crammed with reporters straining for a glimpse of the King of Hollywood 1938 — so busy gawking, in fact, that not one of them noticed the heavy stage lamp plummeting toward my oldest friend’s head. I didn’t notice either, because she was seated next to Raymond and I refused to stare goggle-eyed at her beau, even if he was a matinee idol. So except for the hand that pushed it free, I suppose no one knew it was falling until it tore a fair-sized hole in the chair where Emma was sitting a moment before.


    Something didn’t add up. Paul Donovan scraped a callused hand across his face and rubbed the stubble on his jaw, deep in thought. Standing in the hallway next to the morgue, he couldn’t help but wonder. Why the hell would a nineteen-year-old girl die from ventricular tachycardia when there was no history of heart disease? And more importantly, why was this the second teenager to do so in the last two weeks?
    The smell of harsh chemicals from the pathology lab penetrated the walls and burned his nostrils. The eerie shadows lining the drab corridor gave him the willies …

  22. Re-doing as I forgot to add the title.

    The Scent of Humanity

    Chapter One

    He didn’t even know her name.
    He didn’t know anything about her.
    Just that she was perfect.
    The way she carried herself with such confidence, the air about her crackling with the energy of her presence. The way she ran up and down the length of the driveway, not a spare ounce of flesh jiggling, hair floating out behind her like a long blonde banner.
    The way she dribbled the ball before her like an athlete.
    Synchronized with the rhythm of his frantic heart.
    She was perfect.
    Everything about her was perfect.

  23. Wow!
    Title: Lake Town

    My brother Dave told me about Lake Town, because he had always wanted to live there. He didn’t admit that, of course, because he had an ideal life and couldn’t admit to anything lacking. My own life was so far from ideal that I was safe to talk to, even if Dave, who was 35 when he began worrying and 40 when the town’s children began dying, didn’t realize how much of himself he gave away.

    He lived on the edge of Lake Town, just a block beyond the boundary line on the map. His house was in the unincorporated part of Young County, not in the town, and that was all the difference.

  24. Bomber Group (book one of a series)

    “Your Place or Mine?” I cringed when I said the words into the telephone. And mentally kicked myself, for the hundredth or maybe the thousandth time. True, the play on words was a clever title for my reunion-planning business, and it was indeed an apt description of said business. It was also true, however, that it brought unwanted invitations and other unsolicited and unwanted opinions. Sometimes. Still–?

    “You arrange reunions, right?” a raspy middle-aged, male voice asked.

    “I do indeed,” I responded.

    “And they can be anywhere in the country, not just in Peru, Illinois?”

    “Yes, sir, they can.”

  25. Title: Rose’s Search for a Killer

    I squeezed the trigger, the noise of the gun nearly deafening in the confined space of the elevator. My legs trembled as I made my way over to where he lay, sprawled on the parking garage floor. Blood seeped from the four gaping holes in his chest, while his eyes stared unseeing up at me. The gun slipped from my grasp, clattered to the concrete, and landed next to the body.

    I reached into his coat pocket and grabbed the cell phone that he had taken from me, only moments earlier.

  26. In Absentia

    It was neither the scenic escape he’d hoped for, nor a refresher for his weary brain. The autumn colors, so enticing from the hotel, were undercoated in moist humus. Crackling reds, yellows, browns overlying rotting foliage.

    Stench. Decay.

    He sloshed along, believing, for nearly five full minutes, that he was alone.

    Safe. At peace.

    When the slosh-slap, slosh-slap of sticky treads came at him from behind the shrubbery, he picked up his pace to a comic slurp-slosh of his own. Heart pounding and mouth dry, his panting muffled his hearing.

    No drama. Nothing he couldn’t handle…


    No escape.

  27. “The Nightmare”

    Rebecca could see the vein on his forehead pulsating and the birthmark on the side of his face slowly turning purple. Kicking and punching the man laying on the ground, there was nothing she could do to stop him. He bent down, biting the man’s ear off, then she heard him laughing; that appalling deranged laugh that seemed to swell as he stood above the body, blood trickling down the side of his mouth.

  28. Thanks for doing this! I have, what may be a silly question.

    If you have a prologue does it matter if you start with the first chapter or would you rather it started as it does in the manuscript?

  29. Title:
    The Search for a Missing Rich Wife

    It was early Monday morning, my third cup of coffee sat on my desk, untouched. A new client, Rachel Renault, was seated across from me.

    “Here is $1,200.00 dollars. If you haven’t gotten the jewels back by Thursday afternoon it will be too late. Even my husband will notice I’m not wearing them for the gala.” She said as she stood up and walked out the door.

    My name is Kimberly Murphy. I am a 30-year-old, divorced, private investigator. I live in Centerville, Ohio. I was born here and never hated it enough to leave.

  30. Title: Mercy Me

    “He did what?” Sophie Gallagher stopped halfway through the office door, her cell phone gripped so tight her fingers ached.

    “Dad said Ray put an ad in the Pennysaver.” Sophie’s mother hurried on, “He advertised as a mercenary for hire.”

    “Lord.” Sophie ran her free hand over her face. When she’d moved five hundred miles to take the job with her Uncle Ray four years ago, it had been as a favor to her father. To help keep her, scatterbrained uncle’s PI business solvent. Not to babysit for the ever-addled uncle who fancied himself MacGyver and Magnum rolled into one.

  31. Title: Friends, Lovers, & Blackmailers

    I hadn’t seen my father since I was fourteen and he bailed me out of jail for hacking into the school computers to change a few grades. I would have had said the intervening sixteen years had been kind to him if my doormat hadn’t been being splattered with his blood. Okay, so there were only a couple of drops of blood on the mat, but still…

    “Hi, Jac. How’ve you been? Can I come in?”

    I always wondered where I’d gotten my dark sense of humor. Now, I knew.

  32. Cozy mystery
    Title: It’s Raining Men

    “Damn,” she thought, “first one here again. I need to stop being punctual.”

    Wide stone steps rounded by thousands of feet over the last 150 years led into the beautiful old brick building. The fading sunset glowed against the windows casting mischievous shadows inside.

    Anne shivered as she unlocked the door. Even after 40 years attending events here, the darkened interior still gave her the creeps. She knew every inch of the upper two stories and basement but being alone made her uneasy. As she flipped on the lights, the musty old place warmed to her presence.

  33. DEATH OR GLORY – a mystery

    Looked like shit, checked my watch, too late. Splashed my pits, deodorant, clean shirt.

    Pocket-pat: cell, wallet, keys. Folder on the dresser: sixty-four pages of bullshit for the planning board, collated.

    Flew downstairs, pulled the front door.

    A girl, about to knock. Cute. Early twenties? I can’t tell anymore. She looked at a slip she held, said my name, made it a question.

    I said: “Yes.”

    She said: “I’m your daughter.”

    “I don’t have a daughter.”

    Behind the girl: shitbox VW Golf, running, a boy at the wheel.

    She said: “You had an abortion. I’m the abortion.”

  34. Lobsters Don’t Kill

    “Do you know when I’m going to die?” Ginger Chase demanded from the most comfortable chair in the cavernous room, shapely knees pressed together like an Egyptian cat sculpture.

    A red ball of yarn sprung from a second woman’s arthritic fingers and skidded across the pine floor dodging Mission style armchairs, Victorian settees, and mismatched tables. Lamps shaded in ochered parchment, stenciled with sailing ships and blueberries, worked overtime to light a space darkened by exposed wood and the dreary Maine evening.

    Six women clustered in the lodge of the old ladies summer camp on Primrose Point, greedily awaiting entertainment.

  35. Vicki — First 100 words of the book. So if there’s a prologue, it should be the first 100 words of the prologue.

    We’ll probably be following close to the order of the list here. But to be honest, I’m not 100% sure yet.

  36. Title: A Touch of the Past

    The envelope was soft with age, beginning to yellow around the edges and the postmark had faded to a memory. My fingertips skimmed across the surface of the paper as the voice of the Northwest pilot cut into my thoughts.
    I really didn’t care that we were at thirty-four thousand feet, but the interruption gave me a reason not to slide my finger under the flap. It was loose. Would only take a second for me to break the seal. I closed my eyes and folded my hands in my lap. Not yet. Not quite yet.


  37. Title: Let Us Prey

    I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of. For starters, I once lured a man into the bathroom at a bar with the promise of sex, only to have his wife standing at the sink. Then there was the time I spent two weeks stalking the CEO of a software company. Lower than low, I used the information I learned on a blind date to find out about the guy’s personal and financial history.
    I’m Mimi Capurro, owner of Gotcha Detective Agency, and my next assignment would have me doing a lot of things I’m not proud of.

  38. Awesome idea. (My friend Christie pointed this out to me).
    This is my wip, a traditional mystery called House of Cards.
    Metal crunched against metal igniting sparks as the vehicle tumbled across the blacktop. A loud pop echoed in the moment of silence followed by a burst of heat. The stench of burning rubber and charred flesh thickened the air.
    She wrestled against her bindings, the black smoke constricting the air in her lungs.
    Don’t let me die! Please don’t let me die!
    Sirens filled the air, tires screeching to a stop around her. Voices screamed and echoed in the distance telling her to stay calm. Struggling with the restraints, she tugged as hard as she could.

  39. Thanks so much – Tricia S.

    Title: Murder is a Dirty Business

    Marrying money definitely had advantages. The biggest one? I didn’t have to clean up my messes—or anyone else’s. But the days of living high on the hog, as my Grandpa Earl used to say, had come to an abrupt halt.
    Tears ran down Esther’s cheeks and plopped onto her faded pink sweatshirt. Her nose had turned a deep shade of scarlet.
    “I’m so sorry.” I blinked to hold back my own tears. Esther had been taking care of my family and house for thirteen years.
    “When Mr. Cavanaugh makes good on my check, I’ll be back.”

  40. Title: The Witch’s Stone

    Glendon House.

    The great stone manor rose up from the gloom, dark and forbidding, against the dreary gray sky. Ivy grew up one side of the old Victorian, bright, leafy green. The large windows beneath the peaked roofline seemed to stare out like dark, soulless eyes.

    Hillary clutched the cold handle of her suitcase, the hair on the back of her neck pricking, and forced her feet to move forward. The case’s wheels wobbled over the uneven ground behind her.

    It was an old house and a lot of fog, nothing more.


    I checked the mail, hoping for a birthday card and found a pink notice from Com Ed. At least I had plenty of candles to fall back on if the electricity went. Suddenly, a wave of panic overtook my stomach and clenched it hard. Forget crawling — gooseflesh positively raced across my arms.

    I dropped the mail and ran for my apartment. The front door was wide open and the living room lights were on. Shit! If I was lucky, it would just be a break-in. A simple case of anonymous robbery. But why would burglars turn on the lights?

  42. THis is great, thanks!

    Title: Cruel Tide

    Something flipped and rolled in the early morning surf. Barry squinted, trying to make out the figure tumbling through the tide. Sweat stung in his eyes and he swiped it away on the sleeve of his sweatshirt.

    Oh, shit.

    Gulf winds roared past his ears as he sprinted past the “No Trespassing” sign. He raced into the breakers and grabbed the drifting arms but cold hands slipped from his grasp. He plunged in behind her – definitely a her – the tide slapping his thighs as he reached beneath the arms, locking his fingers over her chest.

  43. Time of Death
    Annie Macsen tightened her grip on her camera and inched further up into the great oak, watching the two men in business suits slog across the dune toward the beach. The big, florid-faced guy trudged along, waving his hands in angry slashes, while the other man tried to calm him. As they approached, a single ray of sun broke through the clouds, illuminating them like the odd couple tumbled into a Rembrandt painting. The light drew her. She raised the little Sony to her eye and snapped.

  44. Summer Resort
    “I wish…” said Truth Diamond, exhaling an irritated breath, “I wish people like that would stay away from my resort.”
    It was a rhetorical remark, aimed at the tiny Pomeranian panting in the shade beside her., Not unnaturally the dog made no reply, although from the cock of its head it could have had it so desired.
    Truth spiked a drooping lock of platinum blond hair from behind her ear with a fishy- smelling hand and scowled at the aforementioned person, a man, as he hiked the cedar bark trail back up to the car park.

  45. Title: Frayed Silk

    Sebastian Gray pushed aside the curtains and watched Annie Millet march from his doorstep to the sidewalk until she disappeared into the sheeting rain. He still felt the sore spot above his solar plexus where her finger had poked him repeatedly, punctuating her angry words. He couldn’t remember what she’d said, hadn’t really been listening. Something about the fence, or maybe the fact that he’d again sprayed Roundup on the poison hemlock that kept creeping into his yard from the thicket she maintained in hers.

  46. First 100 words of “Murder @ Play”:

    Anonymous letters are always a cliché. In South Africa, they can also be deadly.
    This one would contain no explosives or wires. Just a plain envelope and a photocopy of words cut out from newspapers.
    How many copies?
    Five. One for every guy at the Election Day after-party.
    Or perhaps only four?
    Yes, that would be truly brilliant. Only four.
    “Every marriage needs a glaze of mystery,” her husband had said last night. “Even ours could do with a secret or three.”
    Christine Chamberlain thought theirs could do without.
    Whoever said that jealousy was green, must have been colour-blind.

  47. A Game to Die For

    Sun streamed through the French doors of Audra Bennett’s office. At my feet, tiny rainbows of color and light reflected in the dark mahogany floor. I sat in a straight-back cushioned chair with lumps dating back to the original Victorian owner and tried to look calm and self-assured. Difficult, since her dark reptilian gaze had latched onto mine.
    I’d learned a lot about Audra in the last ten days, enough to know that at any moment those lids could close and send her serpent’s tongue lashing out at me.
    I didn’t have to wait long.

  48. Title: How Long Will You Cry? (Cozy)

    I’m not a bad person. I try to help people. I mind my own business. I don’t even gossip. Believe me, not gossiping in Turner’s Crossroads is a stellar
    achievement. So why Ryker Fordham punished me with his presence in my library every Thursday, week in, week out, was . . . not fair, as my sixteen year old daughter would say.

    “Mrs. Russell!” Mr. Fordham bellowed.

    Six years of this and I still hadn’t figured out why he did it. It’s not like the library in this small, somewhat forgotten, Florida panhandle town is a
    hotbed of intrigue or corruption.

  49. Title: Confluence Point

    The guard unshackled the kid outside of my cell, saying, “Another cop killer for you, Warren.”

    After eleven years in Corcoran State Prison, I’d had my share of new cellmates, none of them as young as Nick. Slight and smooth-faced, Nick acted as though his long rap sheet and conviction for triple homicide made him tough. That first night, he used my mattress as a stepping stool to get to his bunk. Either he was testing me or he was stupid. The result was the same. I bounced him off the wall.

  50. Title: In Shades of Blue and Gray

    Chapter One

    He wasn’t prepared for the blood.
    Not for the actual smell of it. So sickly sweet. Or how it had splattered everywhere. On his face. His chest.

    His hands.

    He glanced down. Especially his hands. They were sticky with it now. He doubted if they’d ever be clean again.

    The stench of the blood rose to his nostrils. Nausea clawed at his gut.


    He had to prove he was a man and finish it, dammit! Finish what he’d started so he could be done with it.

    Be done with him once and for all.

  51. TITLE: Deadly Creatures Make Dangerous Pets

    “Lilly, we need you right away.”

    Sister Thelma telephoned while I was recording the feeding schedule for Oliver Maxwell’s frogs. As a professional animal-sitter, I like to leave my clients detailed accounts of their pets.

    “The students will be here any minute and–” Her voice faded as though she was speaking to someone else. “Father Patrick is saying mass. No, I will not interrupt him.” And then back to me she said, “Mr. Wiggins is dead.”

    Of course, I was the one Sister Thelma called to take care of the corpse.

  52. Under The Devil’s Club – Chapter One

    I waited inside Frijoles Cantina for the alleged killer. While I rolled the word ‘alleged’ around my brain, I shoveled salsa-laden chips in my mouth. The fiery habaneros sizzled on my tongue and it felt good.
    Caught in the void between lunch and dinner, I had the place to myself.
    The watermarked window paned a dreary view of Dolly Varden Boulevard and the Au Natural Foods Co-Op across the street.
    The asphalt appeared wet although no rain fell. My new Dodge pickup loafed at the edge of a puddle the size of a small pond.

  53. Taking On Water — Chapter One

    An Arctic blast hit me in the face. Ice granules snuck up my nose. I squinted and caught my breath before it was snatched away by the raw Alaskan wind.
    I held the River City courthouse door for a teenager with pink and white streaks in her brown hair. She walked by without a thank you from her thin purloined lips. I watched as an enormous tumbleweed of blowing snow swallowed her in a crystalline gulp and she disappeared like a gothic mirage.
    Inside, I stomped the snow out of my boots, then flopped my sheepskin jacket in the x-ray tub.

  54. Portia and I stopped dead in our tracks when we spied blue and red lights flashing off the brick walls of the elementary school. Police officers swarmed over the grounds, nosing through shrubbery and bagging small objects with rubber-gloved hands.

    Across the street, teachers huddled in groups, stock-still and quiet as observers of a macabre golf tournament. Yellow crime scene tape cordoned off the aging jungle gym and draped like a spider’s web around the sliding board whose bum polished surface glinted in the early morning sun. The air was thick with the fog of danger.

  55. Thanks for this great opportunity.

    I have a question, though. I read it was a bad idea to post excerpts because it could be considered “published.” One hundred words barely fills out a paragraph. Should there be any concern with this?

  56. Title: Adverse Events

    One in the morning is a desolate time. I drove cautiously and opened the windows to let the cool air rush against my face. In the CBI parking lot, I slammed on the brakes in a space reserved for Senior Vice Presidents. We’re all equals at that ungodly hour. I plugged my badge into the electronic lock and stepped inside. The building was strangely quiet and dim and reeked of disinfectant. I moved swiftly in the direction of the lab. This would be quick. In. Out. Done.

    Rounding a corner, I smacked into the chest of an oversized security guard.

  57. Title: Jennie Manning and the undecided lover.

    Word count: 99

    The petite woman’s hurried steps echoed against the concrete walls of the empty parking structure. Her tan Toyota Camry, the last one there, sat a couple of feet away, but she needed, absolutely had to, reach it before the quivering in her stomach turned into fear and crippled her from moving or thinking clearly.

    She could hear herself breathe, heightening her awareness that someone was chasing her during an ideal situation — alone, in a big empty space, with no where to run, and no one to hear her desperate screams for help.

    Her pace quickened into a run.

  58. Category: Mystery
    Title: The Death of An Ambitious Woman
    Author: Barbara Ross

    “Sprouts.” Tracey Kendall’s voice crackled over her cell phone. “He likes lots of sprouts on whole wheat.”
    “Yeah, I know.” Hannah Whiteside glanced at the granite countertop where Carson Kendall, her four year-old charge, munched on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “It’s your mom,” she mouthed.
    Carson brightened, reaching for the phone.
    Hannah held up her index finger, gesturing, wait. Returning to the phone, she said, “He’s eating now.”
    “Good. Just checking in. I’m driving to the gym. I’m busy all afternoon, but I won’t be late tonight. Can you start dinner?”

  59. Great idea!


    Darcy saw the yellow police tape flapping in the cool autumn wind and slid her Honda Accord into a parking slot right behind Detective Hank Nelson’s black Ford pickup. She grabbed her notepad and clipped her press badge to the collar of her denim shirt on the run.
    “Hi. Darcy Moreland, KGWN TV,” she flashed her brightest smile at the officer standing on the small, covered porch. “What’s up?”
    The young woman smiled back. Officer Clark was about the same age as Darcy, late twenties.
    “Can’t comment, ma’am.”

  60. What a fantastic idea and great gift from you! Looking forward to reading all the entries. I wish I could write mysteries well, but alas, will save myself for another genre.


  61. Thanks for this!

    Title: DEATH’S ANGEL

    Small drops of rain collected on the windshield, meshing together until they grew heavy enough to slip down like tears on glass. Emma leaned back in the tattered leather seat of her parked hatchback and watched the silver display. Melancholy soaked through to her core and stillness settled deep in her soul.

    With her eyes closed, she listened to the tapping of heaven’s cool fingers on the roof. No longer afraid of death, she wished for eternal sleep, beckoned it with open arms. No more missing Joshua. No more longing to feel his warm hands against her flesh.

  62. I wouldn’t really want the title of a work that I was actively seeking representation for right now to be posted anywhere, because should a prospective agent (or publisher) search for it on the internet (although I doubt they do this, but you never know), I wouldn’t want anything at all to come up, because it ruins the virgin, never-before-seen-by-anyone-but-you-and-my-inner-circle-of-test-readers appeal.

    But I don’t see any reason not to enter the contest with future, “first draft level” material that does not give away the full premise, perhaps with a different title, or title withheld–can we withhold the title?

    To me, the ultimate feedback comes from the genuine query process, I would only use these contests as a testbed for experimental material.

  63. A post of the first 100 words of your manuscript in a contest such as this certainly wouldn’t be considered a publication. I don’t think that should be a concern.

    If you’re uncomfortable using a title, you don’t need to include it.

  64. The Guggenheim Principle

    Detective Nina Carter hated cases with dead kids.

    November, bathtub. July, trunk of an El Camino. Today, budget motel. Rank smell and bloated legs coming from under the ratty bedspread.

    “How long you think?” her partner asked, one hand spidering over his mouth.

    From the stench and the purplish cast to the toes, Nina guessed a couple days, maybe longer. She forced her trembling fingers to snap some photos. “Hard to say.”

    Hooley flashed her a give-me-a-break glare.

    “Seriously,” she insisted. “Miami. A/C set on ‘Antarctica’. No maidservice.”

    “Point,” he conceded.

  65. What a great opportunity! Thank you.

    Title: Good Night, Charlie

    Laura turned off her Jeep and killed the headlights. The drive to the lake had smoothed her tangled thoughts allowing her to relax for the first time all day. The light from an enormous Harvest moon glimmered on the water’s surface. When Laura shut her eyes, the saffron sphere continued to glow on the back of her closed lids.
    A thunderous roar rattled the windows. Laura’s eyes snapped open. To the right of the moon a second yellow blob had punched a hole through the darkness. Across the lake, crimson tipped flames attacked the ebony sky. Sparks and burning debris littered the ground where, seconds earlier, Aunt Rose’s cottage had stood.

  66. Hunt Road By Lynn Salisbury

    The last time Greg had seen Hank was at Diamond Lil’s blackjack table. Hank had been winning as many hands as he was losing. Greg was just losing. Hank’s bourbon and water kept coming.

    “The government’s so dumb, they don’t even check the boxes that are shipping out, if you know how to mark them. “

    “Hell, that sounds like stealing, not working. Leave it to you to fall into something like this.” Martin said. “You should tell Greg all about it. He could tell you if the government’s dumb.”

    “There’s nothing illegal about this. Jake says…” Hank started coughing.

  67. Title: Melora and Orlando: a modern retelling of a 17th-Century Arthurian Legend

    Melora rushed over to the fallen man. He looked like an old-fashioned gumshoe, complete with khaki trench coat and black fedora.
    “Are you okay?” she said, dropping to her knees beside him in the alley.
    “Rosebud,” the man said.
    “My name is Melora.”
    “No, ROSEBUD.” He reached one bloody hand out of his coat and, grabbing her new white T-shirt, looked her in the eye.
    “What is this, The Maltese Falcon or something?”
    “No,” the man said again. He struggled to get his other hand out of his coat. “This is the Maltese Falcon.”
    Melora took the black stone bird.

  68. Genre: Cozy Mystery
    Title: Skip and Go Naked

    I’ve always been fascinated with fiber. Maybe it began when I was five and my mom gave me an enema. It was so refreshing, I discovered, to have stubborn stuff leave my body.

    But my story doesn’t begin with an enema, but with my fourth day serving beverages at Seattle’s Rainwater soup kitchen.

    “Trudy! a voice called from the line of homeless.

    Startled, I clutched my tetchy stomach and peered left. “Felix, how are you?”

    “Great chow,” the homeless man said on his approach. “Just might live forever, no shittin’.”

    No shittin’, I thought. Damn, that made me immortal too.

  69. Death Perception:
    Casey Powers knew the man would think she was crazy. Most did. But Zack Wilson was going to listen even if she had to beat him over the head with her purse. She was the only one who could save him so he had to believe her. Gathering up some inner strength, Casey knocked on the door.
    Pressing an ear to the door, Casey thought she heard a muffled sound. She rapped again. This time someone swore as a dog began barking.
    Suddenly, the door flew open and something small and furry rushed out, hitting her in the knees and knocking her off balance. Just as she thought she was going down a strong arm shot out and pulled her upright.

  70. Title: BAD MEDICINE

    “You’re too stupid to live, Rafael Solis!”
    That’s the last thing Chloe Palmer said to him before she shot him and left town.
    Now she was back, if only for the short haul. She was prettier than ever and she still had that ‘go to hell’ attitude.
    “I’m sorry about your dad, Chloe.” Rafael stared at her profile throughout the funeral service. Head held high, she’d made eye contact with no one, though she had to have known he’d be there, still in love with her after seven long years.
    “Yeah, well. It’s not like he didn’t have it coming.”

  71. Title: Faithful Deceptions

    Hailey Marie Devlin considered herself a smart resourceful businesswoman. An observant, over achieving, go get’em adventurous type that drove most people crazy with all the energy springing from her every pore. But she never cared about what others thought.

    That is, until Delaney Sinclair, her best friend and business partner, met Mr. Wonderful. Now Hailey’s life, her pride, all she believed about her reality, her world, zoomed down an unfamiliar path. A course she discovered much too late no amount of vigor or knowledge could ever prepare her for.

    “This is the last straw.”

  72. The Garden in the Desert : a mystery of Byzantium (WIP)

    Exile. The word tasted bitter in my mouth, bitter as those purgative herbs the sick are forced to swallow. Since leaving Constantinople, day had succeeded identical day in a procession of eternities until gradually I had lost not only all sense of time, but all sense of purpose; I had long ceased attempting to calculate how many days lay ahead before journey’s end or thinking what I should do when we finally reached the monastery.

    Low in the west the sun glowered relentlessly, fixing our pitiful band of pilgrims and their guides with its baleful red eye.

  73. Wisdom’s Hiding Place : a Mystery of 4th-Century Rome

    Zenon crept out from the sheltering roof of the synagogue’s porch, pulling his moth-eaten cloak tightly about his shoulders and shivering in the chill dawn. In the back of the alleyway he hitched up his thin tunic and relieved himself with a sigh. Things could be worse. Though Rome’s Subura was a rough district, the Jews of this street had been kind to him. Rabbi Simon, their teacher, and Archon Stafylus, who was the head of the community, often brought him food. And the Subura was a good place for a runaway colonus.


    The next category competition will be:

    Paranormal Romance/Romance With Fantasy Elements/Fantasy With Romantic Elements

    It’ll take off the same day that we announce the winner of the Mystery contest.

  75. Untitled WIP : a Mystery of 4th-Century Rome
    (same series as previous post)

    From my vantage point behind a well-placed pillar, I watched Father’s visitor leave the study and amble across the atrium towards the front door. He was young, with a long, sad face like a hunting dog’s, and he moved with the deliberation of a hunting dog, head bowed and eyes cast down as if he were following a scent. His dark tunic and coarsely woven cloak were made for use rather than show, unadorned by any fringes or fancy embroidery. Obviously not a man of senatorial class.

  76. Organized Grime (cozy mystery)
    by Cyndy Salzmann

    Repair. Reuse. Recycle.

    This may be a catchy bumper sticker in one of the “Green” states. But in my business, it’s just a handy excuse for packrats.

    My young client shrugged as I held up a rusty coffee can labeled String Too Short to Use. “My mom had a hard time throwing things away. I mean, you never know when you might need it.”

    I smiled and nodded as Professional Organizers are trained to do in a way we hope wordlessly conveys, “I feel your pain. But now it’s time to click your ruby slippers and return to the real world where you’ve collected enough twist ties to supply a third world country.”

  77. Title: BAD GIRL!

    “This is not a date!” Her stilettos paced a tempo on the hardwood floor, echoing throughout his sparsely furnished bachelor apartment.
    “Well, it kinda is. I look forward to Tuesdays now.” He winked, playing the cute card but she wasn’t buying it. No gain on play.
    She gazed at him like a scientist observing a lab rat, her expression detached, no sign of emotion. “This is strictly a business arrangement.”
    “We could make it a date.” He patted the sofa beside him, flashing his boyish grin.
    “That’s against the rules. Better get this right or I’m gone.”
    The rules again.

  78. Title: Miz Dosia’s Pits

    I knew I was headed for trouble when I disobeyed Miz Dosia’s orders and set out down that creepy road to her limerock pits. But after two months at my grandmother’s place I was desperate to break the monotony of cows and pine trees and I hadn’t expected anything like what I found.
    In case you think I’m a brat who doesn’t appreciate an idyllic summer on Grandma’s farm, let me clarify: the chickens here don’t wear velveteen jackets, bunnies don’t sleep under hollyhocks and Theodosia Epperson Hardee, my grandmother, doesn’t bake cookies.

  79. What a Gift!

    [email protected]

    Tile: Don’t Get Mad …

    As she swung the Carerra onto the tree-lined drive off Makamah Lake Road, Maggie McNamara O’Reilly turned down the volume on THE HONKY TONK WOMAN. KIDU was the radio station that played everything from old stuff like The Stones and Rod Stewart to new music by Narcosis and DJRX. It all passed the music for driving test. It was loud, fast, and the way Maggie liked it.

    She glanced at Walter Hollingswood, her associate and mentor in her real estate consultant company.
    Maggie grinned and double whammied him with a big, fat wink. “Walterhoney, you are truly a peach.”

  80. What a Gift!

    [email protected]

    Tile: Don’t Get Mad …

    As she swung the Carerra onto the tree-lined drive off Makamah Lake Road, Maggie McNamara O’Reilly turned down the volume on THE HONKY TONK WOMAN. KIDU was the radio station that played everything from old stuff like The Stones and Rod Stewart to new music by Narcosis and DJRX. It all passed the music for driving test. It was loud, fast, and the way Maggie liked it.

    She glanced at Walter Hollingswood, her associate and mentor in her real estate consultant company.
    Maggie grinned and double whammied him with a big, fat wink. “Walterhoney, you are truly a peach.”

  81. Josh was scared, the type you feel deep inside your bowels. The flips your stomach, transforms your legs into rubber and keeps you seeking the bathroom scared. Heavy hot moist summer like air, remnants of the day, laid over him like an unwanted blanket…one that you could not kick off. The twin sisters of desperation and dread rooted his feet to the floor as tension washed over him like a tsunami. It was unusual that in early spring it would be this hot but it was. It made everyone a little edgy. The sweltering temperatures did not seem natural….right.

  82. First Call

    Chapter One

    Luther Trott could smell death.
    He knew because he’d smelled it before, more times in his thirty-eight years than he cared to count. Over time, he’d learned the scent did not overpower; in fact, most people traveling this road at this moment would not notice anything amiss.
    But Luther was trained to notice when something, or someone, was amiss.
    This smell, this vibe, promised a painful death: The pungent aroma of blood mixing with earth, the faint stench of gasoline right before a fire erupted to life, both evident despite the heavy scent of the ocean simmering in the background.

  83. Title: A Gift for Murder

    If I’d known how bad Wednesday would get, I would’ve… What? Stayed in bed? Not likely. The show must go on and all that. But I would’ve at least asked for another shot of espresso during my morning stop at Starbucks. Maybe two.

    My work day went from peaceful beginning to chaos within half an hour. This wasn’t just another day at the office. The start of the annual Gifts and Decorations Show, our biggest event of the year at the Commerce & Market Show Center, was always the worst day of the year for the staff that organized it.


    Boston, 1861

    “The last thing I intend to do,” Allegra Montayne announced, “is marry in the midst of war. I’d rather be dead than widowed prematurely.”

    Henrietta Newell Cobb dreaded the reaction of her son, the unfortunate fiance for whom the remark was intended. She hoped he hadn’t heard. Standing a slight but significant distance from Allegra, Neville inclined his head minutely. His tightened jaw told Henrietta he would rather disappear altogether from the theater lobby where the outburst now centered attention on him.

    It was that candor, Henrietta reflected, that might one day get Allegra her wish.



    Something bounced off the back of my head. Belatedly obeying the shouted warning, I grabbed at Trish, but my fingers slipped off the sleeve of her silk suit jacket, and I lost my balance and did a face plant on the sidewalk among hundreds of other pedestrians.

    Trish folded into a graceful lotus position next to me. “Sylvie, are you all right?”

    “Sure.” The sidewalk was a pebbly blur smelling of used chewing gum and dropped ice cream. “You?” I asked Trish.

    Above us, pedestrians argued about whether a car had hit us, and if so, which one.

  86. Organized Grime
    by Cyndy Salzmann

    Repair. Reuse. Recycle.

    This may be a catchy bumper sticker in one of the “Green” states. But in my business, it’s a handy excuse for packrats.

    My young client shrugged as I held up a rusty coffee can labeled ‘String Too Short to Use.’ “My mom had a hard time throwing things away.”

    I nodded as Professional Organizers are trained to do in a way we hope wordlessly conveys, “I feel your pain. But now it’s time to click your ruby slippers and return to the real world where you’ve collected enough twist ties to supply a third world country.”

  87. Crossroads: JLT

    Thursday, June sixteenth, nine fifty p.m. I was sitting in the Avalanche Saloon in Lakeside drinking Jack Daniels straight up, trying to mind my own business and wishing desperately that the rest of the world would do the same.

    Across the horseshoe-shaped bar, a plus-size woman with a strain of red hair unknown to nature smiled brightly every time I glanced in her direction. Although it was the middle of June, the NBA playoffs were still dragging on endlessly, and on the television set above the bar, the Lakers were thumping the New Jersey Nets.

  88. Commotion on the Ocean

    “Omigod. Janie McGetrick, the boss killer.” The cruise line employee squealed and stared wide-eyed at me.
    I dropped my roll-aboard. Cripes, I wanted to escape my notoriety on this cruise and avoid people identifying me as the boss killer or the killer anything. I coveted normal while I plotted my next move along my personal yellow-brick road back to my job at the Land of Oz attraction.
    “I heard about you,” the woman said. “Crushing your boss like a bug with Glinda the Good Witch’s parade float—in front of all those people. Did they fire you for that honey?”

  89. False Confession

    At first glance, the young mother and baby looked as though they were sharing a peaceful nap. Until you looked closer, and saw the single clean bullet wounds in their chests.

    “Why would he do this? He looks like he adores her. It just doesn’t make sense.” My partner Jen was looking at a recent picture, taken on Christmas day, showing the husband smiling down at his wife and baby.

    “This happens more often than you’d think,” I said as I lightly traced an old scar near my collarbone. I was lucky, my ex-husband hadn’t been very good with a gun.

  90. A magazine slapped the table in front of Maggie, its glossy pages dulled and creased.

    “Would you believe that a woman’s number one fear is seeing a dead body?”

    “No.” Maggie glanced at the girl leaning over her shoulder. Real fear was being thirty-nine, reasonably attractive, and single. “That’s a joke, right?”

    “That’s what I thought too.” Allyson stabbed at the page with her slender, red tipped finger, and traced the words as she read out loud. “They polled a thousand women, and 58 percent of them said that seeing a dead body is their number one fear.”

  91. Bad Company

    Amber light glowed from an open window in the back of the shack. Waist deep in the brackish water, I listened for voices as I advanced but heard nothing over the frogs and other swamp creatures. Pale beams of moonlight cut through the trees and lent an eerie luminescence to the low hanging Spanish moss.

    I stopped in mid-stride. An alligator was floating about ten feet away, pointed in my direction not moving. I stood still and held my breath, waiting for the monster to stir. It seemed to be sizing me up.

  92. Title: His Perfect Hiding Place

    The teenager bolted from the house, nearly toppling me. In his fly-by, he managed a swift greeting. “Hey, Aunt Grace.”

    By the time I steadied my footing on the front doorstep, he was already across the lawn and dove into the sport’s car idling at the curb. I knew if I took a closer look I could find something illegal on the vehicle and give the blonde hottie behind the wheel a citation. Her instant lip-lock with my nephew reminded me little Joey wasn’t so little anymore. The thought forced me to remember how long his mother had been missing…

  93. What a wonderful Valentine gift. Thank you for doing this Kim and Jessica.

    Title: Deadly Surrender

    My screams echoed off the banks of the Susquehanna while Betsy shouted for me to hold on. I could barely hear her above the roar of the jet ski and the water pounding
    against its underbelly.

    “My fingers are going to break off if I squeeze you any tighter,” I yelled.

    She opened the throttle and steered into the incoming wave, throwing us into a spin. I lost my grip and flew off the back, shrieking at the top of my lungs.

    Betsy circled and pulled up alongside me. “You okay?”

    I coughed up fishy tasting river water.


    I never intended to get involved. But when someone you know, however slightly, is murdered, it’s hard to stay out of it.
    I knew Cal very well. I’d sat in Al-Anon meetings with him for ten years. He dated several people I loved. He also screwed them over. Did I like him? Not really. He was a meeting troll, a player, a man seeking Miss Next. And he had the looks to back it up.
    That night I found him in the little meeting room we used every Monday, bleeding, dead, helpless, he didn’t look handsome. He looked pathetic

    (Thank you for this.)

  95. Title: Call In Dead

    Sonia Prescott knew it was going to be a bad night when she found her neighbour floating face down in the deep end of her pool. Poor Mr. Wilson. She glanced at her watch. Shit. This would make her really late for work. How would she explain this to her boss?

    She ducked inside and grabbed the cordless phone. Then she made her way to the pool, being careful to step on the stone path and not disturb anything on the ground. So much for ever swimming in her pool again. As she neared the deck she walked slower.

  96. In-Scribe 2 (untitled, really)

    Writer/researcher for hire Marielle Tucker was used to searching through old newspapers for her clients. But this was the first time she’d ever seen a photo of herself on a paper that was some fifty years old. She closed her eyes, shook her head to clear it, looked at the paper again. Nothing had changed. The face looking out at her from the front page of the Winchester Clarion still looked exactly like the one she saw in the mirror every morning. Same broad forehead. Same hesitant smile. Same curly hair.

    Marielle pinched her arm. The woman was still there.

    Thank you!

  97. Title: Hold Fast To This

    Joe Bashir was moments away from banging his girlfriend when his pager went off. Amaris cursed vigorously and wrapped her muscular legs around his, effectively immobilizing him. They were halfway up the stairs of her condo, and he didn’t relish the thought of tumbling down.

    “Come on, Amaris,” he scolded, trying to disentangle himself. The pager was snarled in his pants, which were just out of reach a couple steps down. His shirt lay in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, and given Amaris’s housekeeping skills, it was probably rimed with dust.

  98. Title: Line of Descent

    On the morning of the massacre, Gordon Mahone climbed again to the place he always climbed to: that flat outcropping on Lenape Mountain where he could listen to the falls play metallic notes on the rocks below while searching Lydia’s window for signs of life. That morning, he found only the vase of lavender he placed there the night before… not so much for Lydia, he knew, as to help him share this place with her in some small way. Here, if Mahone could not be content with his life, he could at least be at peace with it.

  99. Title: The Myth-Chaser

    I was born intense, with a purpose, with a steadfastness that no man can unsettle. As a child I knew which path to take through the woods to find the otter in the stream and as an adult, if I listen closely enough to my heart, I know where to look for the answers, even those which have defied generations of seekers.

    I grew up to follow an unusual career path.

  100. Broken Promises

    Cassidy O’Leary snagged her lower lip between her teeth as she shut the window, slid the lock home, then yanked the shade down to the sill and shoved the bottom back until no light from the streetlamps shone through the sides. Drawing in a shuddering breath, she carefully tiptoed around the marbles she’d scattered earlier across the parquet floor her husband, John, had polished the week before his murder. If the man creeping around outside didn’t kill her first, Cassidy would find out who had killed John and why. A shadowed figure paused at the one window she’d failed to lock.

  101. Title: GLEN COE

    After three days of longing for pen and ink, I sit with same in hand, reluctant to record what the fortnight past has seared into my brain. Should I choose not to write, memory may one day be kinder to me than conscience presently allows. Yet, I feel myself compelled to write, destined to tell, damned to remember.

    Despair seeks to impart reason to the following account of our action in Glencoe, but self-loathing prevents it. Let my only attempt at justification be this acknowledgment: that I was not privy to events leading to the wickedness so freshly endured.

  102. Title: Whimper

    In the black of night, his fingers explored the contents of the burlap sack. Deep in the bottom, in the far corner, he found what he hungered for-fresh meat.

    He sighed with anticipation as he pulled out the piece of tender flesh. As he sat up slowly, the glorious juices dripped down his arm. He wanted to savor every joyous second.

    He licked the bloody meat as a dog licked a bone. His eyes rolled back into his head lost in the sweet pleasure. He sucked on the flaccid nipple and caressed it between his hungry lips. Yum, breast meat.

  103. Remember to Forget

    Her blood surrounds him like random graffiti, dripping like crimson tears from headboard to pillow, in sync with the rivulets of sweat that dilute his splattered face. He licks the creases of his mouth, letting the taste wash over his tongue. His heart thumps, like the swinging pendulum of a grand clock, counting the last seconds of her life.
    Tick. Tick. Tick.
    She is, irrefutably, beautiful. Death could not strip her of that. No.
    Tick…tick…tick. Slower now. His heartbeat. Hers. Time.
    Tick…tick…. Almost there.
    Raspy, gurgling whispers as her delicate lungs fill to capacity.
    Tick. Ti—
    and she crosses over.

  104. Title: The Lost Anchor

    ‘Michael’s gone!’ Julia screamed into the payphone.

    ‘Calm down, Mrs Stewart. She’ll be with you shortly.’

    Julia bristled at the matter-of-factness of the receptionist’s voice. ‘I don’t care if she’s with the Queen. My husband is missing. I think I’m losing my mind.’

    ‘Please hold and I’ll see if I can interrupt.’

    Click. Mozart replaced the receptionist’s voice. The familiar hold music from the past sounded surreal against the background noise of the Swanston Street traffic.

    A pedestrian bumped into her daughter’s stroller, turning Shellie to tears.

    ‘Stop that, you bad girl!’ Julia rolled the stroller under the phone box.

  105. Title: Side Effects
    If Chris Trillo had know he was going to be murdered he would have called in sick. He would have played a round of golf. He would have kissed his wife good-bye.
    Instead, he was a loyal employee of Kirkwood Hospital and at 2300 hours he was rapidly checking anesthesia equipment and supplies. Normally, an anesthesia technician did the job, but the night tech had been fired for drug abuse. Now the nurse anesthetist on emergency call was doing the tech work.After administering anesthesia for a long surgical case, he was tired. Moving on to another job crossed his mind.

  106. Not My Own

    Despite the sunlight’s warmth spider-webbing across the gray marble floor, Megan felt a chill cut to her bones. Death hung in the air. She smelled it. Felt it. Her senses alive with familiarity.
    Each click of her heels inched her closer to the hissing respirator of room 407.
    Facing the man in the bed would be the hardest thing she’d done since her husband and son’s death.
    Megan moved into the room.
    Her breath caught.
    Thin, yellowed skin folded into crevices of his skeletal form and stilled bony fingers, did little to satisfy her need for revenge.

  107. Old friends

    I remember when Derek last came to see me. It had been raining for four days non-stop and the main street to the hotel was flooded. He stayed in his room or the bar, calling me every hour to tell me how bored he was. Drove me nuts. I was so irritated at him. Seems petty, now that he’s gone.

    Don’t beat yourself up over it. He got on all our nerves at one time or another. I still don’t think Larry killed him. I mean, why? They were old friends, hadn’t seen each other in years.

  108. Flight Risk

    As a reporter, Karyn Philips was nosey. She turned the dial on her digital camera to view the photos.

    Once back at the photographed site, she bent forward and peered beneath the bush.

    Karyn did a double take when she stumbled over the pair of feet that protruded from the underbrush.

    She leaned over again and stared at the body, underneath a scattered layer of Palm Fronds.

    Her gaze fell dead on into the corpse’s wide-eyed face. Her heart all but stopped.

    She backed up and steeled herself against what looked like a murder victim, almost certainly was.

  109. Title: If Books Could Kill

    I’ve wanted to be a cop since I was little – that or a centerfielder – problem is, at 4’5”, I’m still little and my chances of shagging pop flies probably rival those of wearing a badge. I’m saying I’m a dwarf, and if you make a crack about Gimli I’ll sic Helen’s killer on you as soon as I figure out who it is. That’s my job, now, apparently — which almost makes up for the trauma of standing over her body in the middle of my old school library. I mean, who wants to revisit high school?

  110. I love this! You totally get the wrong impression from the first 100 words out of context, but hey, it is what it is:


    In the bedroom, dark except for the cool blue moonlight slanting in through the blinds, Ronan brushed his hand over his wife’s bare thigh.

    He crawled into bed and with one arm, held himself over her, admired her laying beneath him. Her long, auburn hair fanning out across the pillow.

    Settling in between her legs, he heard her soft giggle, followed by a sigh. Her hazel eyes danced.

    He smiled down at her and trailed a finger slowly up the inside of her leg, higher and higher, until her mouth parted and her back arched.



    Being framed for murder can really screw up a woman’s life, change her whole attitude, her entire outlook. Looking back, I sure as hell wouldn’t have restocked the beer cooler, wiped the bar, or swept the floor that night.

    “Why don’t you just sit down, lady, and shut up?” That’s what I wanted to say to the bimbo who just walked into my bar. Heh, my bar. Who the hell am I kidding? I only work for the clowns who run the place. All four of them. That’s how many it takes to run this VFW.

  112. Title: Process of Elimination

    It took Andie half a second to recognize the mangled mass that dropped down from above the farm house door and wobbled against the toe of her left shoe. Then she spun, ran to the nearest bush, and barfed up her breakfast burrito.

    When her stomach was empty, she rubbed her runny eyes with the back of her hands and sucked in a shaky breath. Both completed successfully while swallowing past the overwhelming urge to upchuck again.

  113. Title: Process This

    Two mounds of hairy flesh, pink from the sun and split in half by the narrow band of a red thong swim suit, were not hard to spot in a sea of scantily clad women. Samuel “Sammy” Gilroy was stretched out on a white lounge chair, oblivious to my intrusion, as a topless woman rubbed suntan lotion onto his chubby lower back.

    I shuddered and made a face. Clearly Gilroy had not gotten the memo that men pushing sixty should not wear a thong.

  114. Title: Tight Skirts and Alligator Boots

    Danny blinked spider webs out of her eyes and squinted; positive her optic nerves had processed this bit of information to her brain all wrong. About four feet from her right side were what appeared to be three mummified fingers, partially peeled open to expose skeletal bones, sticking out of the dirt and curled up and over like the legs of a tarantula.
    Panic zinged through her veins as the musty space under the low porch shrunk further and further around her with each pulse of her heart.
    She grimaced. They certainly did look like freeze dried human fingers.

  115. Title: Debt of Honor

    His throat rumbling like a Huey helicopter, Spark Ellison gripped the chair’s arms as if taking off in a booby-trapped rice paddy before he spoke.

    “Gonna kill me a man. Need to know you’ll be in my corner.”

    I plucked at my pen as if dodging a snake and stared at the yellow sheet of paper on my desk. I saw not a legal pad, but faces, ugly mouths spewing filth at me on that summer’s day. They held guns and broken beer bottles, and their boots had left bruises on my body.

    “Well, sir, I suppose I am.”

  116. Title: Dead Calm

    “Is it a shark? They’re not usually in the Bay, are they?”

    “Can’t be a shark. It’s not moving. They have to keep moving to breathe.” Annie leaned over to stare at the white object.

    Swallowing hard, she leaned in for a closer look. For a second, her friends thought she was going to swamp and end up in the water.

    Never one to sit back, Gigi poked the object with her oar.

    It bobbed, then rolled over.

    A naked man, as white as goat cheese, flipped into view.

    “It’s Grayson,” Annie mumbled. “That’s his tattoo.”

  117. What fun! Thank you for doing this.
    My manuscript is entitled “Murder Most Municipal.”
    Had Walter Cappelletti known he was going to die that Tuesday, he almost certainly would have ordered something other than his usual breakfast of oatmeal and dry wheat toast.
    Imminent death would have been his best excuse yet for ignoring his doctor’s orders to eat better and exercise more. For Walter it was a reluctant campaign anyway, vulnerable to temptation and doomed to failure.
    But if nothing else, Walter Cappelletti was persistent, an important quality for any municipal Code Enforcement Officer.
    Pat Remick
    [email protected]

  118. Untitled

    Negative numbers suck. My checking account balance looked healthy until I added the minus sign. I tossed the checkbook into the desk drawer and shoved it closed. I pushed myself away from the roll-top desk and headed for the upstairs bathroom.

    My bathroom, my sanctuary. The only room to be totally renovated. I’d insisted on it when Rob and I inherited this old dump. Bathroom first, kitchen last. Preferring a hot bath to a hot stove, I had prioritized the remodeling projects. We’d planned on doing our bedroom next.

    Yeah. Make plans and God laughs.

  119. A Biscuit, A Casket

    by Ann Yost

    Hale sucked in a last hit as he waited in front of the fifty-foot replica of Bowman’s Biscuit Mix plastered on the side of the Clark County Bank. A minute later the black Beamer glided to the curb.
    The quiet motor lulled him into a fantasy of sun, sand and fingers on his flesh. His own hand moved to his crotch.
    “Pleasant dreams?”
    “Yeah.” The grin he turned to his companion died when the angled sun flashed on something silver. A knife. Hale felt a stab of regret. It was over. At least he’d lived hard.
    He died hard, too.

  120. Title: Plowed Under
    Fishtailing through a turn in the middle of the night is God’s way of saying “slow down, moron,” but since I didn’t actually slam into a snow bank, I figured it was more of a suggestion than an order. I eased the accelerator back down.
    “Sand on the road. Really. I’m not going that fast.”
    Nikki cringed on the passenger side, hugging the door as far away from me as she could get. With her left hand she pulled her camera gear closer, like a mother protecting her children.
    I hit my high beams and started picking up speed again.
    Frank Cook

  121. Gemini

    The monitor on the wall in the coroner’s office held Graeme McConnell’s rapt attention despite a nagging need to rinse the after-taste of vomit from his mouth. Nothing could distract him, not even the plaguing stink of the morgue, the smell of formaldehyde and death that stuck in his nostrils like skunk spray. Six long hours later, the old bite of bile still burned the back of his throat, and his clenched jaw reminded him why he his teeth hurt.
    Downstairs in the refrigerated room, the tight-lipped police detective with tired eyes and rumpled suit glared into the surveillance camera.

  122. Guillermo’s List

    Chapter One

    The elevators that separated the neonatal unit from the rest of the hospital swished open then slammed shut.

    Mimi St. Claire wanted to tilt her head forward and let the doors close. On her head. Like a vice. Of course, it wouldn’t work. She had tried it before and cried when the doors reversed without even grazing her head. She was never going to get out of here.

    She spotted Dave Samuels sitting a few feet away rocking on one of two lavender-print couches in the unit’s waiting area and knew she couldn’t leave without talking to him.

    Chapter One

    The name’s Luce.
    Tiffany Luce.
    On the surface, I’m not much like James Bond. But take away his suave sophistication, sex-god status and futuristic cars, replace them with baby spit-up covered sweats, too-tired-tonight excuses and a dented minivan that doubles as a diaper bag, and we’re a lot alike. Okay, even then we don’t have much in common. Except for dogged persistence and (occasional) flashes of investigative genius.
    And maybe a little too much of the same dependence on adrenaline. Which explains why I didn’t flee when the SUV dealership exploded one hundred feet behind me.

  124. Did I read about “purloined lips” in an entry? I’ve heard of purloined kisses, but if somebody would be so kind as to explain what stolen lips are, I’d appreciate it.

  125. Letters From Paris

    Lisa Patterson shifted through her keys. She pulled out one she hadn’t used in awhile and inserted it into the lock. No, not that one. She shifted through the keys again. Second try, strike two. But three is a charm, she thought. The third key turned.
    She let herself into the farmhouse. Alice really should be doing this herself. Lisa just lived across the street.
    The farmhouse smelled musty. It had been sitting vacant for over fourteen months now.
    The woman who had last occupied the house had up and left for Paris, just as mysteriously as she had arrived.

  126. FAN MAIL
    Aspen skidded in the driveway, hot dust pouring in through the windows of her Jeep, the aroma of Ponderosa pines unable to stifle the stench of her clothes. She stared at the Mercedes parked near the cabin and the scar on her jawline prickled with tension. She didn’t know anyone who owned a Mercedes, and people didn’t just drop by in Lake Tahoe. Had the guy whose garbage she’d just rooted through figured out where she lived? Choosing not to be a punching bag for anyone, Aspen shifted the car into reverse. Then she heard her dog keening inside the cabin.

  127. The Death Part

    They took the same wedding vows as everyone else. For richer or poorer, in sickness and health. That was nine days ago. Inspector Fuertes was now caught up in the ‘till death do us part’ bit. Had their honeymoon in Mexico ended in murder? The bride appeared distraught enough and these kinds of accidents do happen. But Fuertes couldn’t stop thinking her story was a little too pat. Besides, he was curious why the groomsman had hung around so long. What prompted Bren to stay on at the Mayan resort? Was he an archeologist who dug dirt both literally and metaphorically?

  128. Title: Crop You

    “You need to get rid of him, Haith.” Sierra Brodart punctuated her sentence with a snap of her wrist. Two yards of brown and pink grosgrain ribbon furled out. A click of the lethal-tip scissors and the perfect length of ribbon existed to complete the layout.

    The employee crop at Making Legacies was in full swing and I hadn’t completed one page. I squinted at the picture of Luke, my significant other, otherwise known as the ‘him’ in question. The page composition would work better with only me in the photo. But, it didn’t seem polite to hack him off.


    Jacquidon Carroll could’ve killed her boss.

    Yancey Neisskopf stared down at the papers on the conference table. “Due to a mandatory reduction in the size of my staff, you are being terminated from CSD Enterprises. Effective today.” When Jacquidon didn’t answer right away, he looked up. “Jacquidon? Are you listening?”

    She slid her glasses off. “Yancey, this isn’t funny. I’m snowed under with work. Let’s skip it, and you can still tell everyone how successful this prank was.”

    Yancey loved practical jokes. Last time it’d been a fake crack across her computer monitor’s screen.

    This time he looked profoundly serious.

  130. Title: What God and Cats Know

    I smelt the blood before I had a chance to look for it; the tangy dense scent landing on the back of my tongue. Opening the office door I looked at the man sitting in the chair opposite my desk.

    “Ms Desjardin.” Harry Cloches nodded as I sat down in the old oaken chair. “Sorry for being early.” There was a small box sitting on the left side of the desk; a new addition. The brown paper wrapper encased the palm-sized box fully but I could already see the moisture beginning to fight through the paper.

  131. Oops. *facepalm* I, too, read that as nine PM. Didn’t see the notice that the contest had closed because I just used CTRL-END to get to the comment box at the bottom of the page. *headdesk*

    I suppose that means we must say, “Never mind.” *revolvertemple* Of course, now we’ll be said to be among those who don’t follow rules, when we’re really only lysdexic on AM/PM. *nooseneck*

    Forgive us?

  132. “I’m on my way to the coroner’s office.” Henry’s voice was quiet on the phone. “I’ll see you at your place later, okay?”
    “Yeah…Yeah, of course,” I answered, cell phone gripped tight.
    “Listen- no matter who calls, don’t leave.” He paused. “Bye.”
    The phone signal died, but I held it to my ear for a few seconds more. When I moved my hand down it was trembling.
    His voice had sounded so tired and weak. What could possibly have happened?
    Ann called to me from the front desk. “Cham, Doctor Marcus called a minute ago. He wants to see you.”

  133. I’m sorry for posting late.

    A friend had emailed me saying the contest ended at 9 pm. I read through the rules but overlooked the am since I had pm stuck in my head.

    I did enjoy reading all the entries in the contest.

    Again my apologies.

  134. By entering this contest, I learned something of vast importance to my dreams:

    As my brain shot off the starting block, I was instantly energized. The idea of being read by the masses spurred me into action in ways I never thought possible. I prepared every one of my stories and then took a step back to see if I could admire my own editing efforts. Initially, I did. I had “edited” I told myself. I had “tightened.”

    In truth, what I accomplished was to scythe away at my paragraphs like a madman through a corn maze. Suddenly, scattered at my feet were bludgeoned, forsaken words, phrases, and ideas…never to be read.

    And I realized—I was sad.

    Stumbling into this reality, I discovered what it is about writing I love so much. I love impact writing of course; there are times when the most brilliant thing a writer can do is sucker punch the audience with a one-word paragraph.

    there is the other part, that quiet whirring of the zoom lens in my head that wants nothing more than to lure, to creep with intricate imagery towards the readers, until they are unaware of the world around them. I want them to see and feel, want them to hope for the best and fear the worst. There are times when I am so thoroughly inside my head watching the story unfold as I write that I startle myself. When readers laugh aloud while sitting alone in a crowded restaurant…when they hear a noise that isn’t there yet it causes them to peer over the top of the book into the darkness beyond to see if anything is lurking…that is the true success of the writer.

    What I learned in this 100-word exercise is that sometimes, just sometimes, “cut to the chase” should be left up to the moviemakers. I forfeited my voice, and be damned if I didn’t miss it. In retrospect, I honestly don’t know I assumed I had to cut description and deliver answers. After all, I wasn’t being asked to write a synopsis or a pitch. No one was hovering over me slapping pointer to palm. I was simply being asked to write well.

    For my next entry, I’m going to close my eyes and take a deep breath as the images appear. And then—ever so slowly—I’m going to exhale them onto the page.

    Anyway, I was just sitting here wondering if anyone else ran through the corn maze with me, with the evidence of good writing as dead as the victim written about?

  135. I’ll go first I guess. My list is made up of those I would read more of just based on the first 100 words. I look at the title, writing and voice. See you at the bottom.

    Writeless-“Amsterdamsel”-Nice descriptive writing. Inetesting Beg. Great title.

    Therapist Writer-“Murder Anan.”-Interesting Beg., Nice writing, title could change.

    Keri Ford-“Case One”- Great voice, Interesting beg., very descripive. Title, could change.

    BE Sanders-“Cut and Dried”-Title is pretty good. Cool voice, Interesting beg. and nice desciption.

    Kim Haynes-“Death Upon a Wicked Stage”-Nice flow and description. I’d lose the title.

    Margay-“Scent of Humanity”-Great title, nice imagery and nice voice.

    Honey-“Laketown”-Very nice. Loved the last 6 words. Almost seemed like a hook.

    Kelly-“Bombegroup”-Title did nothing for me, but I loved the whole reunion Idea. Nice voice.

    Midge-“The Nightmare”-I liked this, it definately piqued my interest. Great writing. Title-Okay.

    Marianne Harden-“Sweetest Sacrifice”-Nice beg., great writing, loved the rose bushes.

    Anon.-“Death or Glory”-Interesting Beg. great voice, Okay title.

    HmHolzer-“Frayed Silk”-Excellent title, Nice voice, Interesting beg.

    Micqui-Miller-“A Game to Die For”-I lose the title, it doesn’t do the beginning justice. Loved the rest of it. Last line was best part.

    Skipper-Mis Dosia’s Pits-Very cool, nice imagery. Great title.

    Cheryl S.-“Tight Skirts and Alligator Boots”-Great title, great imagery, especially the spider fingers. Very cool.

    Anon-“Closing Time”-Nice Voice, title Okay, loved the VFW.

    doreen-“Broken Promises”-Title is great, story line great, love the last line.

    Debra Lee-“His Perfect Hiding Place”-I’d lose the title, the rest is very nice. Great image. Nice last line. Very Intriqueing.

    Well there you have it. All were good, but these stood out for me. Don’t know exactly why, just captured my interest and held it. Thanks for letting me read all of yours. I enjoyed it immnensely. Also thanks to Bookends for allowing us the privilege.

  136. Better very late than never perhaps… (just for the fun of it)

    Fathom Five

    The wind made her eyes feel like they were bleeding. It licked the sea into constant spray, cracking and howling. Incredible, she thought, this violence. And then: we won’t make it. They were both soaked, but the cold of his body in her arms was something else. He lolled in her grasp, a mannequin with skin the colour of lead. Even the blood that slicked the back of his head and neck was grey. He probably loved me, she thought. But I’ll never know. It’s comic, really, to see him like this. And then she let go.

  137. This is fun! I’d like to enter the historical section.


    The bramble thicket offered sparse shelter from the gale that howled
    remorselessly across the exposed German heath. Lying under thick
    blue-dyed cloaks that served to keep out only some of the cold, Madog and his beloved wife Elen sheltered in a deep leaf-filled hollow under the thorns, trying to forget for a while that they were British Celts, servants of the High Lord Artwyr, in the heart of enemy Saxon territory. They had come hundreds of miles, beset on all sides by mortal danger that emanated not only from human foes, but those of another world too.

  138. The hair on the back Ethan’s neck is standing up, again. He never questions why but obeys the command of the omen. His gun is cocked and ready as he lies on floor waiting for the danger to present itself. Keeping still is an effort now that Lacey, his cat is climbing on his head. Through the semi-darkness he sees blood on his shirt and looks for a scratch on his cheek from the cat. There is no scratch, just blood on his cheek, and Lacey’s paws and tail. His hand rises to move her, when she falls over, dead.

  139. He’s Her

    The tall, slim, well-endowed broad walked directly towards him. Damn! He didn’t want to share this bench with anyone else, even a classy chick like her. The last few hectic days had taken their toll. He needed to catch his breath and unwind. Alone!
    She smiled and continued to head toward the back of his bench where a luxurious bush full of wild roses spread its splendour. Rhett watched her extricate tiny, garden clippers from her shoulder bag. He supposed she was pilfering roses and he wished she’d get on with it and leave him to his peaceful sanctuary.

  140. “Don’t go out there!”
    Startled by her coworker’s outburst, Gabriella slid to a halt, her hand poised on the swinging door leading to the smoking lounge.
    “Why not? I have to start my shift.”
    Ruthy hurried forward, her hand at her throat as though holding back the words. “There’s an investigator asking a lot of questions. He’s already grilled the rest of us but he doesn’t know you’re here. If you lay low he should be done and out of here soon.”
    “Questions? About what?”
    “Illegal cigars,” she whispered. “He said someone filed a complaint.”

  141. One More Night

    “Celeste, he’s here, now! Come quickly! I don’t want you to miss him.” The phone line fairly crackled from the excitement in the old lady’s voice.
    “Aunt Clara, I’m in the middle of an appointment. Can it wait?” Celeste smiled an apologetic nod across her desk at the man frowning back at her. New clients were always uneasy and disruptive phone calls had a way of magnifying the tension.
    “No! Suppose he gets away? This might be our only chance to talk to him. I read the cards, they say now’s the time.”

  142. Dark Night

    The men moved quickly, efficiently. They knew what they did. They had done it before.

    The lone figure in the dark trench coat had been surprised. Carolyn has seen the man jerk into reality when they had first struck him. They had struck from behind. A coward’s attack. Taken him down. Dragged him into the dark. Four on one. Cowards. Cowards. Cowards.

    Had the man been day dreaming? In this part of town? Caught off guard? Vulnerable? She had been given no chance to scream a warning, to scream for help. What if she had? Her cell phone was dead.

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