Announcing Our Pitch Week XXVIII Finalists!

Erik Tolley, Beneath a Sky of Stone

In Erik Tolley’s science-fiction book, Beneath a Sky of Stone, Ryan Shaw awakens in a strange hospital, badly injured but miraculously alive, and learns that he has fallen 17 kilometers (10 miles) into a crevasse in the Earth’s crust. He finds that he is trapped in the Republic of Inner Earth, an underground civilization formed by scientists who fled the surface in 1898 and sealed themselves into massive underground caverns prior to the First World War. The society had been idyllic for decades before fracturing into conflict, espionage, and war, with the free people—Echoans—living in Echo City and the totalitarian Guild of Electricians—Tricians—in the City of Ünterreich.

Shaw, the only “surfacer” to ever survive the fall into the underground, heals quickly and is recruited into the Special Branch of the Echoan Secret Service, a small team formed by a mad scientist, his mechanical butler, and an escaped Trician slave. The team is charged with locating scientists who had created an artificial star to produce heat and light in the underground years before. The star had begun to diminish, and the creators, or their project data, were required to repair the failing energy source. Four of these scientists remained to be found, and Shaw, with his knowledge of technology and other advancements from the surface world, proves to be instrumental in finding the missing developers and their valuable data.

The Tricians are powerful enemies and are also hunting for the means to create a star of their own, with devastating possibilities should the technology be developed into a weapon.Trician spies lurk throughout the Republic of Inner Earth, sowing chaos and fear through the free caverns. With no way back to the surface, Shaw must battle his own inner demons and grief to survive in this world of strange machines and stranger weapons, where few things are as they seem and nobody knows who to trust.

Sara Jenlink, Stone Cold Murder

In Sara Jenlink’s Stone Cold Murder, an adult murder mystery, Tanzy Stone has struck out to follow the footsteps of her great-aunt for whom she is named. Raised on a Kansas farm, she wants to travel the country before settling down. But risk is lonely, and hard, as she discovers when she lands in Prescott, Arizona and opens the door to murder.

As a substitute teacher, Tanzy drops into a toxic situation created by the deceased woman. Suspects are plentiful. She is now in danger from a drug ring, and her own rising feelings for the detective working the case.

As they work the drug ring angle, the unseen dark actions of the killer are developing. Logical reasoning is Tanzy’s strength; passion is the killer’s. Protecting his own moral code, the killer vows to make a difference for the love of his life, even if she says no. Tanzy must stop him.

Mary Keating, Recalibrating Gravity

Welcome to the world of Mary Keating, a quick-witted, fun-loving paraplegic. (Note, however, that she cringes at being labeled.)

When life becomes overwhelming, Mary jokingly pretends she’s trapped in a bad B movie waiting for a new director. 

Her poetry collection reminds us that no matter how hard life may seem, grace, love, and humor will save us from despair and allow us to live our best life under any circumstances.

Fifty years ago, Mary’s wide-open world instantly contracted at age fifteen when she was a passenger in a car that hit an oak tree at maximum speed. With a wheelchair as a permanent accessory, she was no longer seen as “hot” or one of “in” crowd. She found herself transported into an alternate reality—defined now by her disability.

As her best friends, along with her boyfriend, drifted away, she found poetry the perfect companion to explore the complexities of life, stereotypes, and human existence. Using form, rhythm, and sound, each of her poems is carefully crafted to bring you right into her heart. We realize nothing is ever simply black or white but falls in between these two extremes.

Using her knowledge of English, Religion, and Law, Mary adapts her poetry to life’s situations as she has adapted to an existence now riddled with lack of access—something she once took for granted. Her poetry shows us the importance of equality, diversity, and inclusion—

reminding us that we are all on life’s journey together. Yet, Mary’s poetry is neither preachy, dark, nor remorseful. It is infused with love, faith, and humor.

Pamela Martin, Dancing With Loons

Life doesn’t run smoothly, but in the end, it’s who is willing to take that journey with you: who is willing to guard your secrets, even when they have consequences. But even the best of friends can’t always rescue you from the choices you make.

Dancing with Loons by Pamela Martin is a contemporary novel of love and sisterhood between friends. In the summer of 1974, Lizzie, Maeve, Thea, and Charlotte have just graduated

from high school. Before heading to college, they gather at Thea’s cottage on a lake in Northern Minnesota. That last summer night, they meet on the dock where they form a contract to be there for one another, no matter the time or distance. No matter the reason.

Ten years later, the first call comes. Though their lives have diverged, the pack will always come together to rescue one of their own. Through the decades, a friendship forged in a childhood schoolyard strengthens as they navigate life’s challenges. But what if love and happiness are an illusion, not reality?

While some people are meant to pass us by, some friendships will last a lifetime.

Mara Schiffren, The Mistake

One young man, two identities.

In Mara Schiffren’s historical novel, The Mistake, from Marcus’s birth in wealthy Sardis in Asia Minor, his unwed parents compete for his love. He inherits a genius for fighting and strategy from his father, Julius, a Roman centurion; from his mother Miriame, daughter of a merchant family, a fascination with Jewish ethics and lore.

At a time of deepening tension between the Jews and their Roman overlords, Julius’s cohort is relocated to Caesarea, the Roman Capitol of Palestine. Onto this scene steps Jonathan, the charismatic brother of Miriame, a trader and spy from the eastern reaches of the Roman Empire. With Julius away, Jonathan takes Marcus on a trip to teach him about trade. Marcus encounters a society steeped in family warmth and mysticism that beckons to him, more enticing than the hard military world in which he was raised.

As Julius feels his authority over Marcus slipping, he becomes more controlling at home, triggering a vicious cycle in their relationship and a fallout that will reverberate in history.

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