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  1. What happens when your vocation as an Executioner keeps you from finding love? Finding happiness while lopping off heads sends this unusual woman into a partnership she never saw coming. This is a 79,000 word Speculative Romance. Maigrede is proud to follow in her family’s footsteps to act as the Executioner, but it is forbidden for women to perform the task so she must keep her identity a secret. One day, she arrives at her hidden home to discover Philip, an injured nobleman. Against her instinctual need for isolation she finds herself falling in love with him. All is well until he discovers the truth about her job. Forced to make a choice between her heart and her duty she chooses her life’s work and loses the man. Left alone and with child she breaks her code to rescue a woman she is supposed to execute. The woman becomes a friend, helpmate, and then lover. Together, they raise Maigrede’s child and build a family until war enters their balanced existence. Once again, Maigrede faces choices which seem impossible. She struggles to understand her role in a fractured land. Comps include: Sistersong by Lucy Holland and The Princess and the Odium by Sam Ledel
  2. J.T. Strand Finding Lucifer Speculative (supernatural horror) COMPS: The Hunger by Alma Katsu and You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce HOOK LINE: Tormented by nightmares, a young professor must stop a shadowy figure, who achieved immortality through cannibalistic ceremonies, before he is consumed by it. Ben is a young professor who has just moved to the countryside, while his girlfriend, Jen, is on fellowship abroad. Coping with loneliness, Ben experiences episodes of sleepwalking and sees a shadowy figure in his dreams which turns all pleasant memories into wicked ones. While up nights, he befriends raccoons by leaving them scraps of food. Sleep-deprived, he decides to let the raccoons nibble on his arm, only to wake up to the worst pain of his life. Finding Lucifer is a dark tale of a man resisting an ancient evil, threatening to overtake him. As the pain worsens, Ben grows to understand that only through murder can he relieve it. Ben’s love for Jen helps him combat the urge, at least for a while. After a couple people have been killed, Ben discovers a hidden room containing the skeleton of a child and gnostic texts dating back thousands of years. When a peculiar stranger shows up looking for a missing person, Ben learns that only he can face down an evil that has claimed thousands of lives. Now Ben must thwart the shadowy figure before it consumes him and uses his body to continue a cannibalistic killing spree. SAMPLE: “I’m not exactly sure, but it would probably look to you like a jewelry box that‘s strangely marked.” Franco’s gaze didn’t waver. “Maybe a music box?” I said taking a step inside. “C’mon, I’ll show you what I found.” I was halfway to the root cellar door when he called out. “I can’t go in there…” He croaked. I turned. He seemed smaller and somehow weaker from inside the garage. His eyes had lost their serenity and he became a normal person without any special presence or empathy. Instead of a man of steel hiding untold amounts of wisdom he now appeared more like a desperate drug addict hoping to score another hit of oxy. “Unless you want to see my whole body burn up like my hands did on Saturday,” His voice was weaker and almost pathetic in its tone. “He’s done something to protect it from those like me.” “I’ll bring it out.” I went into the cellar and made a beeline towards the silver music box, not taking my eyes off of it for fear that I would see the boy’s ghost, or maybe even the priest’s. That thought made me tremble—the mad priest becoming a ghost that perpetually haunted the place, spouting off Latin as he hit me with an ancient book. After grabbing the box, I practically jogged out of the cellar, then the garage, not wanting to even glance at Franco’s diminished state. Once I joined him outside he immediately snatched the box and opened it. The discordant rhythm began instantly. We both stared as it played. I was now somewhat accustomed to the sound’s perverse symmetry. Yet the longer Franco stared at it, the wider his eyes and the more dilated his pupils became. His mouth contorted into a jagged grimace that was somehow visually appropriate to the melody. His face froze in this position for a moment before it began to turn red, then purple. It was like he couldn’t breathe. He started shaking and emitting a crinkling sound as his eyes filled with fire. I thought of Father Grisholm’s rapid decline to madness and was about to remove the box from his grasp when I noticed his white knuckles and a depression in the metal. He was trying to crush it. “Franco.” I wanted to do something, but felt helpless. His face was now a mixture of red, blue and purple. Around his neck, the color was so deep that it was almost black. “Franco.” I repeated, still unable to tell if he was breathing. The crinkling sound intensified. “Franco.” I said louder, shutting the box as I spoke. The instant the music stopped he threw it into the garage. It ricocheted upward off the rear of the Subaru before crashing to the ground at our feet. He took deep gasping breaths—his eyes burning with fire and his mouth still contorted. With the color slowly fading from his complexion, he kicked the box under the car. After swallowing with difficulty, Franco looked up and down the length of the house before turning away in disgust, still breathing heavily.
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