22 January 2014


MENTOR: Jen Malone
ALTERNATE: Chris Bailey
CATEGORY/GENRE: Middle Grade Mystery
WORD COUNT: 32,000

PITCH: When Ellie McCoy’s dog snuffles up a severed human finger among the palmettos, the twelve-year-old is scared breathless—until she realizes that solving a real mystery will turn a same-old summer on quaint Maydock Island into an adventure worthy of Nancy Drew.


Madog strains against his leash. He’s snuffling after something hidden beneath low palmetto fronds near the center of the garden.

“Leave it,” I command, snapping his leash just like the trainer showed me. But Madog isn’t listening. He pulls me off balance.

“Bad dog!” I grab for his collar. Whatever he’s found is tucked inside his mouth. It could be something that would kill him. Part of a chocolate bar, or a half-chewed piece of sugar-free gum, or a splintery rib bone. I put my hand over his muzzle and squeeze his lips against his teeth until he opens wide. The thing drops out. I catch a glimpse as it falls into a clump of irises. Definitely something icky, white and pink and meaty, about the size of a chicken wing.

“Leave it,” I command again, tugging backward. I’m undersized for twelve, and when he goes into four-leg drive, I can’t control him. He plunges his nose into the iris leaves. A couple of searching sniffs and one chomp later, the thing is gone. All that’s left is a shiny red bit hanging on his black lip. I try to pick it off, but he smacks that part up, too, just as I realize what it is. What it was.

A polished pinky fingernail.

For about three blinks, I’m scared breathless. Then I turn and race toward home as fast as I can.

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