In the pg70pit contest, judges score entries based on the strength of their writing voice. These fourteen 70th pages from unpublished manuscripts got the highest scores in the adult category.
The fourteen winners are divided equally between this blog and Lara Willard’s blog. Agents may request queries, partials, or fulls in the comments.
On Elizabeth Buege’s Blog:
- Historical—I Should’ve Worshipped Her Sooner
- Science Fiction—Coming at you like a dark horse
- Mystery—Trade Your Heroes for Ghosts
- Contemporary—The waking up is the hardest part
- Romance—Love isn’t all that it seems
- Thriller—The price of my love
- Fantasy—Take your life and make it right
- Fantasy—I do the best imitation of myself
- Contemporary—We’re not broken, just bent
- Fantasy—I am Music
- Thriller—The Music Is in My Blood
- Fantasy—Only then I am human
- Romance—Cool Wind in My Hair
- Romance—I know Right Where I Went Wrong
I do the best imitation of myself
7-words for your MC: Anxious, kind-hearted, fighting terrifying family traditions.
Alan shifted in his seat. Even though his transformation made him short enough to fit in the limo, he still felt the need to keep his head ducked down. “Uh, Mother?”
She grit her teeth and exhaled. “What?”
“Can, I, uh, ask you about something from earlier?”
Her eyes narrowed and she checked the dark divider between them and the driver, something she’d already done a half dozen times since they got in the car. “All right, what is it?”
He twisted his hands in his lap. The image of the dying waiter flickered in his head. Every scrap of self-preservation he had was screaming at him to leave well enough alone, but something inside him wouldn’t let it go. “About that waiter who called you the wrong name-”
“Tread carefully, Alan.” Without taking her eyes off him, his mother reached into the liquor cabinet in the door and withdrew the crystal decanter of Cognac. The familiar scent flooded the limo as she poured herself a glass. She lifted it to her lips and paused, glancing over the rim. “Now speak.”
“Er, the waiter, is he…” Alan swallowed a lump in his throat. “What do you think happened to him?”
She rolled her eyes in a dramatic motion. “I don’t know, a brain aneurism or something. These things happen all the time. Bad genes, probably. Most of life’s problems come from that.” Her gaze flicked up and down the length of his torso. “I hope you haven’t been taking your illusion off.”
“No, never!” he stammered.
Word Count: 115K
We’re not broken, just bent
7-words for your MC: Deaf teen determined to defy cultural expectations
“Mum. The money.”
She turned vacant eyes toward me. “Huh?”
We could play this for hours. I’d beg, and Mum would deny any knowledge of the money. I’d insist, and she’d vacillate between defensive and offensive. There’d be tears and taunts and promises and accusations. And then it’d end the same old way, it always did. My pay would barely cover necessities, everything else added to a mounting tab until, eventually, welfare stepped in, bailed us out and reset the account to zero. And then the humiliating cycle would start again.
I didn’t want to live like this anymore.
Forgetting where she shuffled to, Mum turned back to the kitchen. “I’m leaving.” Unusual clarity brightened her eyes, quickly snuffed out by the yellowish tint of liver disease.
“And where will you go this time?” Why did I bother to ask? It was a game to her. I was supposed to beg her to stay, pretend I needed her.
She straightened her back, briefly meeting my gaze. “I’m moving in with Billy.” Her hand stroked at her hair again. I knew why. I’d seen the photos. She’d been beautiful when she was young, deep auburn hair contrasting with green eyes. Now the strands hung lank and greasy, streaked with grey. But she didn’t notice. She lived in her memories.
“Billy’s your cousin.”
“He loves me.”
“He doesn’t love you. He loves your pension check. Is it all gone? Go back there now, tell him there’s no money, then see how much he loves you, Mum.”
Word Count: 78K
I Am Music
7-words for your MC: Magical virtuoso has powerful voice. Too powerful.
A week later, Billie heard the whistling again. This time she didn’t hesitate, and hurried up the staircase to the hotel’s resident halls.
The music felt the same as before: unnatural, invasive, a foreign object inside her body. As she approached a corner, the pull grew fiercer. All her muscles tensed, rebelling against the way the whistling told her to relax and just flow. The music was leading her not to some place, but some purpose, and instinct told her to be afraid.
Billie stepped around the corner only to make a stumbling retreat. Cheeks burning, she shook her head at the security camera in the ceiling. Somehow, not one guard had noticed the couple about to get busy in the middle of a corridor.
The music became so sharp just then, it might have pierced Billie’s eardrums. The source had to be close.
Then it clicked. That frisky pair down the hall was the source.
Fear scratched at the back of Billie’s neck. Pressed to the wall, she peeked around the corner.
Some guy had a girl pinned, and it was all very… nauseating. There was something violent about the way they were making-out, almost as though it wasn’t a “they” at all. Like the girl wasn’t being kissed, but conquered.
As Billie watched, that music stabbed and stabbed at her. It made her think of scraping metal now, of a knife being sharpened on a whetstone. And she just knew – in that terrifying, secret part of herself – that this guy was the knife.
Word Count: 115K
The Music Is in My Blood
7-words for your MC: Uncomfortable with leading NYPD team, proving himself
Why would they broadcast their presence on American soil if they’re planning to shoot up another seven substations? They have to know repercussions will come.
Tollett voiced the same concern. “I know they’re bold and all, but why let America know they’re here? Why not wait until we’re in the dark for eighteen months?”
“I don’t know, but our guy,” Carter nodded toward the kitchen, “is Russian as well.”
Tollett shrugged and leaned back on the couch. “At least we can connect him to the substation attacks.”
Mrs. Sirko returned with a tray of four cups with tea, another cup with sugar cubes, and a final one with milk. She set it on the coffee table after shaking her head at Carter as he tried to help her. “I am not an old woman,” she said matter-of-factly.
Fields returned to his seat on the white couch.
“My husband collected those for a long time,” she said, nodding to the guns.
Carter scooted forward in his seat. “Those guns are actually why we’re here. We need to talk about Savvo.” He picked up one of the cups and plucked out two pieces of sugar.
“Savvo?” she asked, a confused look on her face.
He nodded, sitting back in his chair. He’d seen this reaction before: denial mixed with surprise. Nothing had started flashing on his criminal record when he’d pulled Savvo’s file up earlier, so she probably wasn’t used to cops coming around asking about him.
Word Count: 81K
Only then I am human
7-words for your MC: Nomadic young widow seeks truth, chases predators
*This excerpt is in the POV of a mute huntsman who recently met MC*
With his blade ready, the Kid slinked down into the trench and dropped onto the balls of his feet. Inside, he saw her.
At the same time as he recognized the profile of her willow-like form, he became strangely aware of his own visceral response to her presence. His mouth salivated. His palms tingled. His nostrils flared and sucked, needing to take in her evergreen scent, if only at a distance. She was standing alone, her rucksack by her feet, staring into emptiness. Uncertain of her state and not wanting to frighten her, he tucked away his knife and angled the sunpod for a better view.
She was covered in caked mud, as if she had bathed in a pit of clay. What little clothing she wore stuck stiffly to her figure and her hair, sheared in uneven clumps, stood upon her head like a crown of brier. Sensing his presence at last, she looked up at him. In the glow of the sunpod, her eyes were iridescent dewdrops, bright and alive. The Kid’s blood spiked in answer to her wild gaze. He was not sure if she recognized him, but then she spoke.
“They took them.” Her voice was flat. “Will you help me find them?”
The Kid hadn’t a clue who was taken, but it mattered little to him. He understood her request. And with her return, he understood why he’d remained here for a fifth moon. He’d been waiting for her all along. The Kid nodded. He would help Symphony find the poachers.
Word Count: 98K
Cool Wind in My Hair
7-words for your MC: A mystery, a quest, illicit love — Morocco
Omar and I stand outside a plain, whitewashed building next to the mosque. A hand-painted sign reading Douches Publique hangs over the door. On the left, men sit on a covered terrace drinking orange juice and watching European football in French on a large plasma screen television.
“Wait here,” Omar says.
“What…?” But he has already disappeared into the public showers.
I hover in the shadows and try to make myself inconspicuous. I lift my T-shirt away from my soaking bra. A couple of the men glance over at me, but when the television commentator’s voice rises in the anticipation of a goal they quickly turn back to the screen. A collective moan when the player overshoots the goal.
Two men rush out of the showers. One is still drying his hair with a towel; the other clutches his wet shower bag against his red shirt, a damp circle spreading across his chest like a wound. Omar stands in the doorway beckoning me to enter.
I watch the receding backs of the men as they rush down the road. “Are you sure it’s okay?”
“Mashi moshkil, Adi. It must be for you to have a hot shower. I don’t like your clothes been wet a long time. I insist for it.”
“Did you chase those men out of the shower?”
Omar folds his arms across his chest. “They don’t mind. I tell them a European lady need to have a shower. They were frightened for that. They ran away.”
Word Count: 108K
Sub-genre: Upmarket Women’s Contemporary Fiction
I know right where I went wrong
7-words for your MC: Woman with a past meets secretive prince
“What kind of wine is that?”
A smile curves his mouth. “This is a Cabernet Sauvignon. Your preferred type of wine, yes?”
“Yes, actually. How did you know?”
He swirls a glass, placing two fingers on the base. “You were drinking this at the Opening Ceremonies party.”
His words linger between us, at once a buffer and catalyst to the emotions swelling within me. Who remembers something like that after just meeting? The tiny flame in my chest amplifies, refusing to snuff out.
“Well, I’m ready to begin our language exchange when you are,” I say, taking the other glass. “What did you have in mind?”
“A wine lesson en français. On y va?” Ready? He clinks his glass to mine.
I smile and let us start over, allowing the fantasy to carry me away to luxury-lines of wine and first-class everything else. He retreats to the kitchen then returns with several bottles of white and red, and a half-dozen more glasses. With each taste test, he explains in French the qualities of the wine and the food it complements. I offer my opinion, learning the words for tannic and vineyard from Alexandre. For a brief few seconds, I stop listening and instead absorb the beautiful sound of his French. The way his lips curl to expel a vowel and his tongue swallows to make a consonant. Audio heaven.
He lifts another glass to me, only a few centimeters of red. “What do you think this is?”
Word Count: 71K