by Dani Frank (@Dani_is_Frank)
Editor: Michelle Rascon (@editorrascon)
Adult Paranormal Romance
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SUNSETS AND OTHER DANGEROUS THINGS is an 81,000-word adult paranormal rom-com told in dual POV. This novel will appeal to readers of Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur for her f/f opposites attract romance with fake dating, and viewers of What We Do in the Shadows will enjoy it for the humor of old vampires in juxtaposition with the modern world and vampire families.
Ashley needs to join a vampire family or it’s back to hiding in cornfields from vampire-hunting witches. Joining is simple: complete a year of undergrad without drawing attention to the fact that she’s a vampire. Except she’s already failed—twice. After a five-year reset from her last disastrous attempt, she’s ready to try again. So, of course, she’s falling head over feet for her professor’s prickly and very human graduate assistant.
Esther just wants to finish her master’s program and never talk to people again. With a history of giving advice that turns out for the worse, she’s a walking bad luck charm who finds solace in following the rules and regulations of her archive internship and GA duties. When Esther is asked to help Ashley with a class project, Ashley pulls Esther into a whirlwind romance she did not ask for. Soon, she’s flying halfway across the country, pretending to be a vampire’s girlfriend, and questioning her sexuality as her attraction to Ashley grows.
But the witches have their own plan brewing. They’ve created a cure for vampires that will give Esther a chance at a new life with Ashley by releasing Ashley from the forever-life she regrets. All Esther has to do is betray Ashley by giving the witches what they need to complete the spell, and all Ashley has to do is choose between the stability of the vampire family or a happily ever after that will only last a few decades.
I am the “small-town girl moves to the big city” trope with a BA in Anthropology and MS in Museums and Digital Culture. SUNSETS AND OTHER DANGEROUS THINGS won the annual #RevPit contest by Revise & Resub in 2021.
Thank you for your consideration,
First Five Pages
This was Ashley’s year, she could feel it. It just needed a little bit of color.
Reaching to the bag by her feet, she dug through to the bottom and grabbed a handful of loose pens among the rubbage. A pink one, perfect. She removed the cap and set to work coloring in the bubbled title of her list.
ASHLEY’S RULES FOR SUCCEEDING IN UNDERGRAD
Rule 1: Do not discuss your roommates
Rule 2: Do not do weird stuff where others can see you
Rule 3: Do not make friends
or obsess over you-know-who
She was not obsessing. If she were obsessing, she would write about it in a notebook. But see? She crossed it out, and therefore, she was not obsessing.
“Would anyone care to summarize the reading from last week?” Professor Jenkins stalked the small lecture hall of Anthropology 101, hunting for prey. The old, wooden floors creaked beneath her kitten heels, growing louder as she approached Ashley’s desk.
Ashley kept her eyes firmly on her list. Best to avoid eye contact in these situations. Maybe she could disguise the crossed-out bit with some flowers or a decorative border.
She uncapped another pen.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t done the reading. She’d glanced at it—something to do with cultural relativism? But then her roommate heard about this party they just had to go to, and she lost track of time. And of course, she hadn’t meant to sit at this desk, but because she got to class so late, all the good seats were taken, and she had to sit in the front row, aka The Danger Zone.
The floor in front of Ashley creaked again, followed by a long-suffering sigh from Professor Jenkins. Ashley tensed, letting her curtain of blonde hair shield her face while she mentally collected a list of buzzwords that might sound like she’d at least thought about the reading.
“Esther, I know this isn’t your job, but would you like to share your thoughts on the reading? Just to get us started.”
Without permission, Ashley’s eyes traced to the seat at the opposite corner of the room. The seat Professor Jenkins’s hot graduate assistant always sat in. Not that Ashley was keeping track of where Esther Green sat. That would be something someone obsessive would write about in a notebook somewhere, and Ashley wrote nothing of the sort.
She couldn’t see Esther from this angle, another pitfall of the front row. Not that Ashley knew which seat had the best view of Esther—two seats back and three over.
“I guess a part that stood out to me was the discussion on cannibalistic practices and the different approaches to it.”
She didn’t think Esther wore glasses, but something about her matter-of-fact tone had Ashley picturing her pushing them up her nose as she spoke.
“You have the spiritual with Christian communion in holy human sacrifice versus the militaristic eat-your-enemies-and-reduce-them-to-waste approach. But I really liked the description of cannibalism as a communal funerary practice. I suppose this is a bit of a personal take, and probably borders on moral relativism, but the idea of your ashes being put in a stew and then consumed by your closest friends and family so that you are literally carried with them, even in death, sounds poetically beautiful.”
Was she serious? A shiver ran down Ashley’s spine as a slew of dirty jokes about eating her ran through Ashley’s head. She leaned forward, trying to catch a glimpse of Esther’s face, but her view was blocked.
While forming friends was off-limits, Ashley took pride in her ability to remember names. She’d run into at least half the class while out on the weekends. Flexing her memory muscle, Ashley identified the classmate leaning forward as Fadl and the one leaning back as Taylor. Could they pick a direction and not a blockade?
“Thank you, Esther. And that also segues into our discussion on what Franz Boas meant when he used the term cultural relativism and how it differs from moral relativism. Would anyone else care to give us a quick definition?”
When Taylor leaned forward over their notes, Ashley performed a casual backward-stretch-and-lean to catch a quick view of the woman on the other side of the room. Esther wore a white shirt today, and…suspenders? Or maybe black overalls. Esther’s lower half was out of view, so it was hard to tell. Ashley wanted to sink her fingers into the dark, brown silk of Esther’s hair and lose herself in their murky depths.
Ashley dropped her arms and whipped her head back to where Professor Jenkins stood waiting. Crap. What was the question again? “Cultural relativism…is culture…relative to…other cultures?”
“Their own culture. Relative to their own culture, Ashley.”
Professor Jenkins continued up the center aisle into the heart of the classroom in search of her next prey. “Would anyone else like to continue the definition?”
Ashley sank back into the chair and picked up her pencil. She could at least pretend to take notes. She turned to the far side of the room again. If she slouched back just right… Esther’s hair had shifted, revealing a touch of pale, sharp cheekbones and bloodred lips. Deep-set eyes outlined in smoky coal side-eyed back at Ashley. Jesus, I’m in trouble. Esther was gorgeous. She had the aura of Winona Ryder from the early nineties. Ashley would do unspeakable things just to get a blush out of her.
Taylor chose that moment to lean back again, blocking her view. The snap of Ashley’s pencil breaking in her fist startled her back to the moment. Someone in the back of the class was eloquently discussing Franz Boas’s work in the growing field of Anthropology and how racist views of the time shaped and emphasized the novelty of his research on Inuit culture. Ashley took this monologue in like the cold shower she needed.
This was her last chance to join the Family and finally build the sense of security she had hunted for the past decade. She just needed to buckle down and finish this one school year without letting her impulsive tendencies grab the wheel and careen her off the road to happiness. She most definitely did not need any distractions like pools of deep, brown eyes calling to her growing track record of falling into insta-love.
“Thank you, Charlotte. That was quite thorough.” Professor Jenkins’s smile looked genuine for the first time since class started. She returned to the SMART Board at the front of the class and clicked to the next slide. “All right, let’s discuss your assignment for next week. We’re doing ethnographies focusing on everyday rituals. Making dinner, putting on makeup, making the bed. Big or small, as long as you can fit it within the—”
The high-pitched scatting of The HampsterDance Song filled the classroom, echoing off the ancient wooden floors and matching wood-paneled walls, traveling all the way up the vaulted ceiling and sharply contrasting with the neo-gothic look of New York’s Plattsburgh University. The floor groaned as everyone shifted in their desks to face the front corner of the room, where the source of the sound emanated from the bag by Ashley’s desk. Ashley couldn’t recall ever wishing to be smitten from the earth more.
“Ashley, could you please silence your phone?”
She dove for her bag as her phone encouraged everyone to stomp their feet and clap their hands. Everything inside fell to the floor—loose gel pens, her favorite Lisa Frank notepad, a flyer for a party this weekend. Finally, at the bottom, because of course it would be the last thing she found, she grasped the hard rectangle and frantically flipped it to silent. She flopped back into her seat and dropped her phone onto her desk, mortified.
“As I was saying,” Professor Jenkins continued, “the assignment will be—”
Ashley’s desk vibrated under her fingers, her phone dancing across the surface as if to mock any hope of ever having a positive standing in this class.
“Ashley,” Professor Jenkins hissed. “Please take that outside.”
Ashley grabbed her phone and scampered from the classroom, leaving a whispered “sorry” as she passed her teacher.
She followed the corridor to the common area where the last dregs of daylight lit the stained glass and coated the room in a deep orange. She was less than shocked to see her mother’s name in the missed calls. Closing her eyes and taking a calming breath, she took a seat and called her back.
“Hi, Mom. Did you need something? I just started work, so I can’t really talk right now.”
“Hey, sweetie. It’s mom.”
Ashley held the phone away from her face so it wouldn’t pick up her sigh.
“I won’t keep you,” she continued. “I just wanted to know your Christmas plans.”
This was not a quick conversation for the middle of a school day.