MENTOR: Amy Reichert
ALTERNATE: Katrina Carrasco
TITLE: The Sweetheart
GENRE: Historical Fiction
WORD COUNT: 98,000
PITCH: San Francisco, 1849. When gang violence threatens her bar, Elena hires a lawman for protection—and discovers he’s leading a kidnapping ring. She must choose between facing the gangs alone or becoming his partner in crime.
EXCERPT: Cold wind cut at Elena’s throat as she squinted at the clouds. Any gleam of sunlight would cast a shadow pointing west, but the narrow strip of sky visible from the alley was gray in all directions. She could not tell the way home.
The street ahead seethed with fog. Shapes of men appeared in monstrous pieces: a back humped with saddlebags, a torso bristling with pickaxes and shovels. If the miners were headed to the Sacramento ferries, going against their traffic would guide Elena away from the waterfront and back to the center of town. But the flow of men was stopping, reversing. Bodies jostled at the alley’s mouth. There was a bark of encouragement. The hollow clap of a punch. Someone fell hard into the muddy road, and the crowd began to roar.
Trash-filled mud shifted under Elena's boots as she moved toward the shouting. She felt a chicken bone’s brittle crack. The solid pop of a shard of glass. A fleshy grind she did not want to name.
At the side of the alley’s mouth a canvas tent shuddered in the wind. Elena paused beside it, waiting for the brawl to break up before she entered the street. Metal clanged so close and loud it left a ringing echo in her ears. A string of curses salted the air. A shout: “Put his fucking eyes out!” Then silence.
Her breath came quick and shallow. She raised a hand toward the young man behind her, signaling for him to wait. Three heartbeats. Four.
She let her hand drift down.