Jenny Ambruster makes a living selling supplies to campers and other tourists in what outsiders think is simply a scenic mountain town. In reality it’s home to numerous shapeshifters. Chief among them are Jenny’s oldest and closest friend, Elijah Makepeace, the leader of the bears, and Russell Wolf, leader of the wolves, whose first entrance into Jenny’s store sets in motion a chain of events showing Jenny that she knows less about herself and love than she thought. Her slow realization that she has feelings for both Elijah and Russell only complicates matters when her hidden birth legacy makes her a target of dark witches who want her dead. She’s forced into becoming the leader of the shapeshifters when those witches bring war down on all of them. The fantasy elements are lightly woven, feeling like a natural part of the background, and the story is primarily of Jenny’s self-discovery -- both personal as well as supernatural. There is action and plenty of danger along with large doses of supernatural happenings, but the human crises, characterizations of the relationship triangle, and crisp dialogue will attract readers beyond those interested in the shapeshifters.
I will have to figure out a way to use part of that in my query letters, which I plan to start sending out in the next two weeks.
I had thought I would be terribly upset at not moving forward, but while it was a bit of a let down, it was in no way crushing. My book made it pretty far for a shape-shifter novel, especially considering how many times I've heard that the trope is dead.* The other reason I'm not upset is that the contest was simply one avenue to explore publication. I will look for an agent for this book (and the two others I have written in a different series, if the agent shows an interest). If that doesn't work out, I will consider self-publishing, though I'm not sure I want to learn how to run yet another business. One way or another, I'll make sure the stories get out into the world.
Happily, Danielle Fifer**, my critique partner, did make the cut! If you enjoy your thrillers with humor and light romantic elements, check out the first couple chapters of The Great Wall. Yes, it's set in China (mostly), and it is made of awesome. Please read it and leave her a review, as those are taken into consideration for the final judging round.
* Not to put too fine a point on it, but shape-shifter novels are never actually about werewolves (or bears, etc.) but rather about the animal nature of humans and how they manifest those instincts in relationships and social situations. Also possibly about the fantasy of remaining young and/or immune to disease, depending on how the mythology is laid out. They could also be seen as a way to allow a feminist reader to accept the notion of an alpha male being both irritating and hot at the same time, but I think that's a shallow reading.
**The blog is under her other pen name. She's the queen of funny snark.