I’m very excited. I think Hilary is going to flip over these. I had to resort to a tie-breaker judge, the competition was that stiff. I always like going with a consensus instead of leaving the final round up to one judge. They did not disappoint!
Ladies your hard work and months of nail-biting and hair-pulling have not been in vain.
You have two weeks from today to get me the first ten pages of your story beginning with your first line. Either Courier or Times Roman 12 pt font, 25 lines per page. Email your pages as an attachment to Karin@KarinTabke.com. I will send you a confirmation. Last year we had an entry get stuck deep down in my spam dungeon. So, if you send your pages and do not hear from me with 24 hours, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
To everyone who participated, my compliments to you. What you did takes guts. It takes courage to put yourself out there. Harder still is to read the judge’s comments in a public forum. You should all be proud. For those of you just beginning, I hope this contest was a learning experience for you. For those of you veterans out there, I hope it was a learning experience for you as well. It always is for me.
To my fabulous judges? Once again, you did a stellar job, and this year your willingness to go beyond merely culling to giving sound, detailed, professional advice to me was priceless. Thank you again.
I would like to apologize for being quasi MIA during this competition, but it could not be helped. My writing must always come first. But I also learned a valuable lesson throughout this endeavor. I can write like a madwoman when I have to, and write some really fabulous stuff under the gun. It’s good for me to now know exactly what I am capable of. I could not have done it without the support of my husband and family, my friends and all of you here for being so patient with me. My thanks.
So here we go: The fabulous final five:
1. There was only one coherent thought in Francesca’s mind as she huddled on the closed toilet seat, twisting her hour old wedding band. She needed to get the hell out of there, and fast.
“Easy said, harder done,” she muttered, the sound of her own voice bolstering her flagging courage.
Walking out of the reception with her head held high, lace veil floating behind her was worth a try, but she doubted she’d make it as far as the manicured lawns, let alone the wrought iron front gates. Marcus Airedale wasn’t going to willingly let his new bride just waltz off his estate, with enough evidence to finally convict him of murder.
She managed a lopsided smile as she patted the USB flash drive tucked into her French lace bra. It was all there and short of him strip-searching her in front of their wedding guests, he’d never find it. Now all she had to do was get it out of the country without anyone else dying.
As the outer door opened letting in a blast of music and laughter with a waft of all too familiar scent, Francesca froze, one slim silver shoe dropping off her foot. She held her breath, watching the door handle slowly turn until it came up hard against the lock.
“Fran, how much longer are you planning on hiding for?” Carla asked through the solid door, concern tightening her voice.
Francesca knew that tone of voice and sighed in capitulation, wriggling her toes back into her shoe as she replied, “Just as long as it takes me to figure a way out of this mess.”
2. I stared at the nine men of my supposed dreams. Of my nightmares, more like, and theirs too judging by their stunned expressions as they stared back at me.
The show’s host said, “What’s wrong, Princess?”, the overdone innocence in his voice making it clear: this was no accident.
Horror and impotent fury spun through me, mingled with hatred of him for making me reveal the filthy trick the show had played on me.
“I’ve dated all of these guys,” I said, speaking with a calm I didn’t feel, not wanting to show him or the cameras how shaken I was. “And you knew that, Peter, since I listed them all on my application form, soâ€“”
Peter said, “No, I suppose you really can’t be on a dating show with your exes” in a tone suggesting he’d never thought about it quite that way before and what a fascinating world view I had. Then he smiled and said, “Madeleine-Cora, gentlemen, we haven’t quite been honest with you. You’ve been given various explanations for why you’re here, but now it’s time for the truth: the ten of you will spend the next twenty-one nights on an island at a secret location. You will live together and fend for yourselves, building a shelter and scavenging for most of your food. There is a prize of a million dollars to the winner, and as the days go on we will explain what you need to do to win. Princess, gentlemen, the game is on.”
3. “Ever heard the phrase ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’?” Dan muttered as we stared at the huge black mirrored doors.
“You know, that’s what I love about you, always the optimist,” I said, trying to convince myself there was no reason for my reflection to look so nervous. Beyond the doors subterranean bass pounded, vibrating through my chest like a warning. A warning I had to ignore.
“We can still leave,” Dan said, sounding calm but looking grim.
“This will get me off the hook with Lord Marco,” I reminded him. And, frankly, repaying a debt to the oldest vampire in Seattle was the only reason good enough to get me to walk through these particular doors. Into Maelstrom â€“ darkest of the city’s dark clubs â€“ and, worse still, into a meeting with the vamp who owned the place.
Dan frowned, rubbing the fading scar on his right wrist. “It will get you off one hook.”
Like I needed the reminder that this favor wasn’t all I owed Lord Marco â€“ after all, Dan and I had been fighting about my other debt for six weeks now. And the fact I owed blood to an Old One wasn’t exactly easy to forget.
4. Lissa, Princess of Horvald, waited for Death. She stood, still and silent in the dank chill of the Great Hall, determined to meet her fate without cowering in fear. But fear hovered, beating against her mind like moth wings, relentless and inescapable.
Her father, the self-proclaimed King of Horvald was gone, swallowed up in the vicious cycle of victory and defeat. Now there was no protection for her, no way of avoiding the steady creep of defeat as it seeped through the walls and curled under the doors, like a foul, poisoned miasma.
He wanted her, this Warlord called Death.
He’d killed her father and now demanded she appear before him to beg for mercy.
But she would not beg. Nor would she come at his call, like a whipped dog. If that meant her life was forfeit, then so be it.
A crash in the outer hall momentarily pierced her defiance, sending a cold finger of terror up her spine. She had no illusions about how this Warlord would use then kill her, but couldn’t stop a dark, skittering panic flood her body when she realized his touch, full of hatred and violence, would be the last touch from a man she would ever feel.
5. “Ah, baby, that’s it…just a little…um, yeah…” he urged, his low ragged moan changing to a satisfied growl. Sweat droplets beaded around his receding, yet still dark hairline, and if he opened his eyes to look at her on top of him he would think she was enjoying herself as wellâ€“she’d slid her lips into a sexy smile to hide her revulsion.
Crumpled satin sheets clung in damp patches around her knees; her muscles quivered like a lioness ready to pounce, but she cautioned herself to wait, knowing the outcome of this planned encounter even if he didn’t. To temper her impatience she brought to mind the refrain from “Another One Bites the Dust,” letting it run through her head in a slow easy beat.
“You like it when I do this?” she asked, and increased her rhythm in time to music only she heard; faster, harder, squeezing him with her inner muscles, bringing him to the edge, denying him.
He grabbed her hips with his bony, surprisingly strong hands, trying to buck his way deeper inside, and her resistance changed the sex into a struggle for dominance. How fitting that this time she wielded the power, and he would lose.
His determined dance for domination ended moments later when he lost control; his body stiffened, then pumped wildly beneath her. The force of his orgasm subsided, but with the need to keep him distracted, she used her breasts to full advantage, massaging them against his age-sunken chest.
Still humming to herself, she slipped her hand beneath the pillow, her fingers searching, then closing over what she sought. With experience born of practice, she used her palm and drove the six-inch long antique cloisonnÃ© hatpin deep into his ear; and as his body jerked again, this time in a death spasm, she said softly, “Goodbye, Mr. Senator.”
And another one bites the dust.