70pit17 Adult Winners

In the pg70pit contest, judges score entries based on the strength of their writing voice. These 69th/70th pages from unpublished manuscripts got the seven highest scores in the adult category.

Agents may request queries, partials, or fulls in the comments.

The top seven scores are shared by fourteen entries.

  1. Mystery—We are more alike, my friends
  2. Urban Fantasy—Fear of my children’s handwriting on envelopes
  3. Fantasy Suspense—Death kindly stopped for me
  4. Contemporary Courtroom Drama—Not on his Payroll
  5. Contemporary—One garland of flowers, leaves, thorns
  6. Literary Fantasy—The Canals of Mars
  7. Women’s Fiction—Am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder
  8. Urban Fantasy—Darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
  9. Science Fiction—The world-spring running down
  10. Speculative Fiction—I’m the enemy you killed, my friend
  11. Women’s Fiction—Where the Sidewalk Ends
  12. Mystery—Annabel Lee
  13. Fantasy Romance—Poetry fills me with sorrow
  14. Urban Fantasy—Which taught thy felon heart to feel

We are more alike, my friends

Cassandra stared out the window towards the Edgerton lab. “What kid doesn’t have his phone within an arm’s length at all times?”

Andy banked his empty coffee cup in a garbage can free throw. “The sheriff took papers from Austin’s fraternity bedroom including a contract between Morton College food-service and a local farmer. Not exactly a clear homicide motive. We still have questions.”

More questions than answers, for sure. She frowned. “How does a food-service contract connect with a student falling down the stairs?”

He gathered their napkins and the bag, swept the bagel crumbs from her desktop and lobbed the balled-up wad over his head–two for two. “I’m not a huge believer in coincidences. I don’t know many 20-year-olds who just fall down the stairs.”

She met his gaze in the quiet intimacy of her office, wondering for the first time whether their friendship broke any rules. His right hand slowly unzipped his worn Carhart jacket and reached inside, pulling out a large yellow envelope.

After silently examining the two photos for a short while, she replaced them in the envelope, and handed it back. His chin came up a few degrees. “When you gonna tell me why you needed these?””

She swallowed hard. “V-very soon. I probably watch too much NCIS on TV and don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”

His face returned to his normal, easygoing smile. “I trust your judgment. Just know my patience has limits.” He pointed to his freshly shaved chin. “This charming smile doesn’t mean I’m a pushover.”

Word Count: 79K
Genre: Mystery
7-Word Description of Main Character: Students’ well-being over career? College is murder.


Fear of my children’s handwriting on envelopes.

I drove too fast, but I had to get home.

I’d been ready to turn my back on this whole joke of a night, if not for that damned phone call. Haybrick had watched me on the camera. He must have seen me leaving and put Patricia on the phone.

*No,* I told myself. *Patricia’s dead.*

But maybe she’d be on my living room couch, her body covered in dirt, wearing the dress I buried her in. That’s where she’d always sit, a cosmic lump doing her drugs and staring at the colors of the flatscreen TV.

“Hey!” Grace snapped her fingers.

“Huh? Oh.” I’d forgotten about my passengers. Grace sat next to me, and Ambrose shifted from seat to seat in the back, unable to get comfortable. He shed his disgustingness all over my leather.

Grace set her hand on top of mine. “Slow down,” she said.

I must have passed out, because I couldn’t remember making it to this block. The gas station and Burger Clog came up on the right. Last thing I remembered was crossing a bridge.

I slapped my cheek.

*Wake up!*

I made a sharp left and the car lurched.

“What are you expecting to find at home?” Grace asked. She curled up on the seat and played with her split ends.

“Nothing.”

*Certainly not my dead wife.*

“I don’t believe that,” she said. “You’re hiding something.”

“I’m not.” I gripped the wheel. “Okay, maybe a little. Someone robbed my wife’s grave today.”

“Which wife?”

Word Count: 86K
Genre: Urban Fantasy
7-Word Description of Main Character: Cynical, twice-widowed serial dater seeks absolution.


One garland of flowers, leaves, thorns

“Look at us,” she said finally, her hysteria disappearing with the smoke from her latest hit.

“Hmm?”

“Look. At. Us. Look at us.” She seemed more to be talking to the open sky than to him, releasing her words out the window as well.

And then they were kissing, and her back was up against the open window frame, and his body was moving of its own volition, doing exactly what it was designed to do. She perched there in a seemingly impossible, acrobatic position and took it, moaning her approval out the open window. Her blue polish left a streak across the radiator, which hissed its approval in harmony with his thrusts.

Three weeks later Tina would sign up for an email newsletter that would tell her which variety of fruit their child most resembled each week.

She made a painting of the gray expanse outside their apartment window that winter and hung it on the wall during her first trimester. That summer the sun returned, the sky like her December nails, but the painting would always remain gray. It was the last time she ever painted anything.

He thought about that on his last day of work at the university as he carried the last box out to his idling car. Spring semester had just ended, and it was warm again. Tina’s gray painting had found a new home next to a sun-streaked window at the Westin-Conley house. Tonight he would return to his home, and the Conleys’ home, and there would be cake.

Word Count: 93K
Genre: Contemporary
7-Word Description of Main Character: Cohabitating couples destroyed slowly by American Dream.


Death kindly stopped for me

*This excerpt is in the POV of the criminal my MC is trying to stop.*

Pedro decided to finish what the two plain clothes cops had interrupted: a nice walk. He’d left the house because his mother was draining his will. Losing both her children would break what little of her heart remained whole. The thought of all the heartbreak he could prevent kept him moving, but it was hard to weigh other people’s imagined sorrows against the tears he’d watched his mother cry.

He’d been too harsh with her. She only wanted to hope. When he said his sister wasn’t coming home, he might as well have shouted “Camilla’s dead. I saw her corpse.” His mother turned to the sink where she was washing dishes, and quietly cried into the warm water.

Guilt and discomfort drove him out for a walk where he discovered that at least two pairs of cops knew who he was, what he looked like, and what he’d done, which meant he couldn’t quit now anyway.

The things he needed from home could wait. Tonight the cool air and the darkness comforted him. A confidant would have been comforting too. He’d almost had that. Maybe. Whatever her angle, the police woman didn’t seem intent on stopping him, and she understood the mayor to be evil. An insider might be exactly what he needed to pull this off. Perhaps he’d find a way to contact her in the morning.

Tomorrow the mayor. Tonight, the last gasp of anonymity.

Fifth Avenue; as good a route as any. He turned off of 51st street and went south.

Word Count: 70K
Genre: Fantasy Suspense
7-Word Description of Main Character: witty, keen, kind, hard working, overweight, cop


Not on his Payroll

*This excerpt is in the POV of the antagonist.*

According to Emily’s client, the kids had heard him yelling about a boyfriend any number of times, even if they’d never seen one. If she could control Jeanette’s responses now, she could control them in a courtroom. “Didn’t your mommy have a boyfriend?”

Jeanette yanked her hand away, “I….don’t know.”

“Did your daddy ever say your mommy had a boyfriend?”

“Yes,” Jeanette admitted.

“What did your daddy say?” Emily asked.

“He said mommy was a goddam cheating bitch.”

A misstep. Juries didn’t like to hear that kind of language from an eight-year-old. And Emily had to make the phantom boyfriend real to the jury, not Mr. Witting’s anger and jealousy.

She tried another approach. “Didn’t your mommy tell your daddy she was going to leave him and go live with her boyfriend?” It was out of thin air, but the burden of proof wasn’t on her.

Jeanette curled into a ball and said nothing.

Emily played her winning card. Stroking Jeanette’s hair, she asked, “Isn’t it true that the night your mommy died, your daddy went out and your mommy’s boyfriend came over?”

Jeanette put her hand to her wounded mouth and let out a high-pitched noise – not a whine or a scream, but something unnatural and pained. Emily jerked away, but Jeanette slapped at her face.

Jeanette’s foster mother burst into the room. “What the hell are you doing to that child?”

Word Count: 83K
Genre: Contemporary – Courtroom Drama
7-Word Description of Main Character: Social worker acts unethically to save kids


One garland of flowers, leaves, thorns

“Look at us,” she said finally, her hysteria disappearing with the smoke from her latest hit.

“Hmm?”

“Look. At. Us. Look at us.” She seemed more to be talking to the open sky than to him, releasing her words out the window as well.

And then they were kissing, and her back was up against the open window frame, and his body was moving of its own volition, doing exactly what it was designed to do. She perched there in a seemingly impossible, acrobatic position and took it, moaning her approval out the open window. Her blue polish left a streak across the radiator, which hissed its approval in harmony with his thrusts.

Three weeks later Tina would sign up for an email newsletter that would tell her which variety of fruit their child most resembled each week.

She made a painting of the gray expanse outside their apartment window that winter and hung it on the wall during her first trimester. That summer the sun returned, the sky like her December nails, but the painting would always remain gray. It was the last time she ever painted anything.

He thought about that on his last day of work at the university as he carried the last box out to his idling car. Spring semester had just ended, and it was warm again. Tina’s gray painting had found a new home next to a sun-streaked window at the Westin-Conley house. Tonight he would return to his home, and the Conleys’ home, and there would be cake.

Word Count: 93K
Genre: Contemporary
7-Word Description of Main Character: Cohabitating couples destroyed slowly by American Dream.


The Canals of Mars

Sam crossed his arms. ‘You know I didn’t mean it that way. Come out and we can talk about it.’

‘No. You don’t get to treat me like that and get away with it.’

He shook his head, but I saw panic rising in his eyes. ‘You know how I get sometimes. I say things without thinking. We just started our holiday, Grace. You were looking forward to it. We can still go.’

Could we? Could I get back in the car with him? Could I endure the rest of our trip, dreading our next argument? The scared child inside me wanted nothing more than to put this behind us and move on. If only he’d behave…

‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’

Keeping the door shut, I sped up my search. Years of manual labour had strengthened Sam’s arms. Should he decide to open the phone box, I’d stand little chance of resisting. I found the right page and searched through the names.

‘Grace, I said I was sorry. Please, let’s go.’

I shook my head. Why had my vision turned blurry? I wished Sam would start yelling again. It would make it easier to focus. He tugged on the door and my arm jerked in its socket.

‘Everything okay here?’

I looked up, aware of the redness of my face. Tears threatened to flow again, but I held them in. An employee from the service station stood behind Sam with a walkie-talkie in his hand.

Word Count: 122K
Genre: Literary Fantasy
7-Word Description of Main Character: Overimaginative woman battles own mind for survival.


Am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder

Trina grins as if she’s harboring some amusing thing. We might even witness some blushing, but I can’t confirm in these lighting conditions. And she’d probably whack me with her rocks glass if I mentioned it.

I pull a bill out of my ankle boot, which doubles as my purse tonight, and order a whiskey sour. I’m perpetually on the tightest budget of the four of us, being the least experienced waitress.

But I don’t dare ask how much the drink costs this time.

I’m already on the bartender’s Low Shelf Watch List.

Audrey leans to me as the Talking Heads blare away. “Twelve o’clock,” she says in my ear. “Staring at you.”

I swivel in my ripped bar stool, stuffing showing through the cracks of the red vinyl like a reverse wound.

Audrey grabs my seatback. “*Don’t look*. He’ll know I tipped you off. He’s blond. Or…brunette-altered. Semi-Adonis.”

The bar is lined with shoulder-padded, brooding guys in brawny blazers. This attire makes all men look like they feed at the Pitt Football Training Table. When they disrobe, they lose four inches of shoulders.

“Is he one of the scary ones?” I ask.

“Maybe.” Audrey swirls the Dewar’s in her glass and swallows. “Long earring, black jacket.” Cigarette smoke clings to the air like atmosphere.

“Every guy in here has an earring and a black jacket,” I say.

“Everyone in Philadelphia has an earring and a black jacket.” Trina’s eyes dart toward the guy. “Hmm. I wouldn’t kick him.” As in, out of bed.

Word Count: 97K
Genre: Women’s Fiction
7-Word Description of Main Character: Artsy ‘80s waitress schemes to reach London!


Darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.

I kept my next question soft, treading on sacred ground. “How old were you, Trudy, when you divorced Canton?” Owen had already given me the answer. I wanted her confirmation.

“Thirty-four.”

My age. No wonder Canton hated me. I stood proxy for all he had lost while alive.

My anger billowed toward Owen. And Ryker. How could either of them believe this bedeviled ghost and I could help one another? I wasn’t that special. Weren’t guardians like Owen—disguised as imaginary friends—common?

But why reappear now after years of no contact? And pull in a demigod such as Ryker?

No. Ryker had shown up unbidden when the situation between Canton and me escalated. I got the feeling that Ryker didn’t trifle with insignificant matters.

How in the *hell*—that wasn’t right, hell had nothing to do with this. Or maybe it was the brimstone on which everything turned. How did all of us lock together? With Ryker involved, the outcome must matter more than I could grasp.

Maybe I mattered more.

With billions populating the planet, our improvisation couldn’t be the only one enacted on this playing field called Earth. How many counterparts of Owen, Ryker, and Canton walked this world? How many Sensitives such as myself interacted intimately with those who had passed on?

The enormity of some grand scheme, and my part in it, tilted me off axis. I fought to gain a semblance of control. Fortunately, Trudy misinterpreted my reaction.

She patted my hand. “Don’t worry about me, Krista. Life moved on.”

Word Count: 94K
Genre: Urban Fantasy
7-Word Description of Main Character: Broken by family. Determined to conquer life.


The world-spring running down

*This excerpt is from the POV of my MC’s aide-de-camp*

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” Looking at Rys, Jaiya realized she couldn’t abandon the investigation. She’d served him too long to run away now.

“Eh,” he said. “I’ve had about twelve cups of coffee today. I’ll sleep next week.” Forearms on the next pew, he echoed her posture. “I’m here because you looked like hell when you left, and I wanted to talk to you without a whole bunch of other people listening in.” He peered at the flickering candles. “What kind of a place is this, anyway?”

“Without people—Captain, you didn’t come without your security, did you?” She scanned the sanctuary, concerned.

“No. They’re out in the back, probably being converted. There was a determined-looking priest or something back there when we came in.”

“Brother,” Jaiya corrected.

“Now, Lieutenant.” Rys grinned suddenly, deep crinkles appearing beside his eyes. This was an expression he never wore in public—he looked about twelve. “Nobody would believe I was your brother. First Captain, and now brother. You’re having a hard time tonight, aren’t you?”

Why does he think that being a buffoon will help this situation? She realized that it was, in fact, helping. “I apologize, Major,” she said, only a little stiffly. “I meant that he is not a priest, he is a Brother.”

“Ah, I see,” he nodded. “You can call me what you like, of course. Just not ‘brother.’ Hell, you can even call me Ben, if you want to.”

She stared at him.

“I mean,” he shrugged sheepishly. “In private. If you want to.”

Word Count: 116K
Genre: Science Fiction
7-Word Description of Main Character: The Crown + 24: Prince seeks space terrorists


I’m the enemy you killed, my friend

Miiya moved through the crowd like a needle through a boil, until she reached the heap by the roadside.

Witches were striking, rather than pretty. But Sharu had been beautiful, gloriously beautiful. Her body was riddled with wounds, from many knife-thrusts, yet her murderers had spared her face.

Miiya gripped her onetime student’s still warm hand, trying to reclaim the final memories. Nothing much remained, just bolts of fury and pain.

She closed Sharu’s eyes and stood up. Standing straight was an effort, but she managed it. Then she saw the other body.

Miiya had met Sharu’s mate a few times, a human woman, short and brown haired with a serious face. A scholar or was it a weaver? Now she was lying lifeless on her own doorstep, as if she had been trying to guard her home from those who sought to destroy it. The front of her mauve robe was stained. The kitchen knife, still clutched in one hand, was stainless.

The soldiers were standing in a ring, weapons at the ready. Miiya faced them, turning counterclockwise, her eyes moving from one uniformed man to the next, until they reached the captain. He tried to stare back, failed and looked down. She sensed his fear, smelled his hatred.

He was one of ‘them’.

Those terms, ‘us’ and ‘them’, had appalled her, once. We are all citizens of the same city, she had insisted, all Sammalorians.

Not anymore. The realization unnerved her. How far down she had travelled on that intolerant road dug by Asteri!

Word Count: 95K
Genre: Speculative Fiction
7-Word Description of Main Character: Witch: persecuted, bereaved, bitter, reluctantly saves world


Where the Sidewalk Ends

She stole a glance at him and nearly gasped. With his eyebrows pressed together and his glasses dipping to the edge of his nose, she knew where she had seen his face before. Michelangelo’s David. His eyes, his nose, his mouth were all so strikingly similar to the image she’d studied in college. And she’d studied the David closely. The toned biceps, the chiseled abdomen, the intricately carved genitals…

A deep blush rushed her face, as if Eduardo might somehow know what she was thinking. But it wasn’t as though she was undressing him with her eyes. And even if she had paid attention to the wide shoulders and narrow hips that now caught her eye, it was nothing to be ashamed of.

Sarah swallowed hard. How long had it been since she had felt the warmth of desire for a man? She fanned her face. Apparently, long enough that even an innocent attraction made her cheeks burn bright.

“Are you all right?”

Sarah froze, her fanning hand in mid-flap. “Oh… yes. I’m just still getting used to the temperature here.” She pivoted around to the table, careful to keep her back toward him as she began moving papers back to her desk. “I was just wondering why you came back. Did you have a question on the materials?”

“Oh, no. I found them quite thorough. Very well written. I…” His voice trailed off. “I was just looking for a Roberta. Did you meet her yet?”

“Roberta?”

“Yes. She’s my––”

Word Count: 80K
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
7-Word Description of Main Character: Hopeless tea drinker takes job in Italy


Annabel Lee

When she struck a hard object, both her mind and body stopped. It was large. Her fingers flitted along the top. Rectangular. Solid. Definitely, man-made. A surge of excitement made her toes curl.

“I’ve got something,” she said.

The top was flat, same as a safe. Her hands moved to the sides of the object. They felt strange; like parallel bars running down into the mud.

She grabbed her light which was held snug against her left hip with a retractor cord and twisted the end until the bright beam penetrated the dark water.

“Holy fuck.” She bolted away.

At a distance, her eyes stayed on the box, even though its contents were no longer visible. Her breath came in quick gasps as she tried to process what she’d seen.

“What’s happening?” Duncan yelled.

She couldn’t answer. Her brain was still trying to understand.

“JP. Talk to me.”

She took a few deep breaths to get the hammering in her chest under control. She was expecting a safe. It was supposed to be a safe.

A splash echoed through the water.

“I’m almost to ya.”

Her breathing slowed and she found her voice. “I’m fine. Sorry. You didn’t need to come after me.”

Duncan was already at her side. “The safe?”

“No.” She pointed in the direction of the object.

Duncan swam closer to inspect it. Whirls of mud and silt floated between them.

“I think it’s a cage,” she said. “With a body inside.”

Word Count: 81K
Genre: Mystery
7-Word Description of Main Character: Lone wolf investigator with a stubborn streak


Poetry fills me with sorrow

Between the cotton in my ears and the snarling of a distant crackling fire, I vaguely recognized the hushed tones of Kost and Brutus. Eyes sewn shut, I couldn’t force my lids to open. I’d overclocked myself. Used too much power in too short a span. Kost was right, going after that beast was foolish. I’d wanted him to let up, to see that I wasn’t the enemy and that we could have some semblance of civility between us.

“How’s she doing?” Noc. Unexpected adrenaline surged through me, and I peeled my eyes open. Three shadows bled against the tarping of my tent, wavering and flickering in the orange light of a fire.

“We bandaged her hand, but that doesn’t cleanse the poison.” Kost’s clipped words sliced through the night.

*Poison?* Oh. With sluggish and clumsy fingers, I pulled back the edges of my blanket to get a look at my right hand. Poi venom. Black sludge oozed from the bandages, and an onyx matrix of darkness tracked my veins.

“Shit.”

The three shadows outside went ramrod straight before unzipping the entrance to my tent and clambering in.

My gaze fell to Noc first, and my pulse went from canter to full-blown stampede. Wild blue eyes pinned me in place. Thinly-veiled anger made his fingers twitch, and shadows from the corners of the tent flew to his side.

I sunk deeper into the blankets to put distance between us. “Hello.”

Edged words forced their way through his clenched teeth. “What were you thinking?”

Word Count: 85K
Genre: Fantasy Romance
7-Word Description of Main Character: Mythological beast tamer, black market dealer, banished


Which taught thy felon heart to feel

I suppressed my fear, swallowing it like a bulbous bug that had flown unwelcome into my mouth. “Promise that you will not kidnap, torture, or kill anyone, so long as I…” I struggled for words, glancing to his lips.

“Feed me?” He flashed a wide, amused smile. “That is much too broad. You must understand that not all of my… victims…” Dalamar reached up to stroke my cheek with the backs of his knuckles. I swatted his hand away.

“Not all of my victims are innocent. You will be saving bad people, too. Can you live with that?”

Why would he tell me this? Despite the mystery, I worried the offer would expire and hastily amended. “Then promise not to torture or kill anyone who is good.”

He leaned forward, eliminating the distance between us. His scent was heady, like incense that had been burning in a small room far too long. Like pure starlight. “Good is relative, something you will find soon enough.” He turned his head to Nora who was just as vehemently as ever shaking her head.

“Deal.” He spoke loud enough for us both to hear. “Nora, I hereby release you.”

Air from the breath I didn’t realize I held whooshed out of my lungs. Nora’s wail invaded the air like a siren, inhibiting my relief as my trembling legs gave out. I was falling, and the world around me no longer existed. Black covers lifted over my head. I didn’t scream or fight back. I just fell.

Word Count: 70K
Genre: Urban Fantasy
7-Word Description of Main Character: Aspiring journalist, curiosity uncontained. Unknown magic gained.


4 thoughts on “70pit17 Adult Winners

  1. Jackz says:

    Thanks so much Lara and everyone else for the time and the effort you spent on this. As a winner I’m doubly greatful.

  2. Whitley Abell says:

    I’d love to see more of the following entries. Please send query, synopsis, first 25 pages in the email body (no attachments) to whitley (at) inklingsliterary (dot) com. Thanks!

    1. Mystery—We are more alike, my friends
    10. Speculative Fiction—I’m the enemy you killed, my friend
    11. Women’s Fiction—Where the Sidewalk Ends
    12. Mystery—Annabel Lee

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