Thanks to Brenda Drake, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, Kimberly P. Chase, and Elizabeth Briggs for organizing The Writer's Voice! Here's my entry.
Seth Halloway knows the religious books have it wrong. He and his team of Sifters live on Earth, marking morally corrupt humans for the Voidmaster. After their Earthly deaths, most souls move on to life in the haven. Sifter-marked souls end up in the void, waging a centuries-long war on the haven's automated defense system in an attempt to gain entrance.
Seventeen-year-old Neve has been identified as the future destroyer of the Voidmaster's team of Sifters. So no task is more important to Seth than convincing her to join the Voidmaster's side. When every method of corruption his team devises falls short, he's forced to spend night after night with her, searching her dreams for her weaknesses, and it's not long before her wit and care breathe life into his long-believed dead spirit.
Despite the fact that his continued dream visits put Neve's sanity at risk, Seth can't stop, even if he wanted to. Failure to condemn Neve would mean banishment to the eternal battleground for him and his loyal team. But to succeed, he'll have to break the girl he spends every night with...and his own heart.
MARK OF THE SIFTER is a YA contemporary fantasy novel told from the points of view of both Neve and Seth. It features a multicultural cast and is complete at 82K words, stands alone and has the potential for a companion novel.
First 250 words
Deep in my chest, I could feel it: the girl was asleep. The itch to jump into her dream almost overpowered me, but I lingered in the arched entrance hall of Rainthorpe Manor, the mansion we'd used as home base on Earth the last twenty years. A new recruit had died this morning, and Beatrice would bring her by any moment to meet me. Not even the peaceful glisten of snow through the leaded windows could curb my urge to depart, and I leaned around the corner to check the grandfather clock again.
Beatrice and an older woman with brown, wind-toughened skin materialized in front of me. I nodded to both of them.
"This is the Head Sifter, Seth," Bee said, gesturing in my direction.
The new Sifter's eyes flicked to Bee and back to me.
"Welcome." I didn't ask her name. The details of her former life had been included in her contract.
Her voice wavered as she asked, "Are you the one shielding it?"
I gave a short nod, and her hard face looked like it might crack. "Thank you. It was horrible."
Bee caught my eye and raised a finger to show she understood my impatience. "I'll introduce you to your partner," she said, drawing the woman from the hall. "And we'll go over some of your duties."
"Thank you!" the woman called over her shoulder, but I was already fading out, diving into the dream world of the destroyer.
It was time to find the problem.