So, it gives me great pleasure to announce the winner:
Pais, email me your snailmail and what book you'd like signed, and I'll get one to you as soon as possible.
Here's Pais' winning entry:
Laura raced down the stairs, envelope in her hand.
“Mom! I'm going to the post office, I'll be back in a few minutes.”
Her mom walked out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. “The post office? Why don't you just put it in the mail box and let the mail man get it tomorrow.”
“Because,” she grabbed her keys and purse from the table beside the front door, “It needs to be postmarked by today, or....” she glanced at her watch. 3:50! The post office closes in ten minutes! “I gotta go!” She turned, giving her mom a hurried wave and flew out the door.
She threw her purse and the envelope into the passenger seat of her car, strapped herself in, put the key in the ignition, and turned it.
Laura narrowed her eyes, and turned the ignition again. The car still wouldn't start. She sighed heavily and popped the hood , then flung the door open and walked towards the front of the car. Reaching in she grabbed the oil dipstick and pulled it out, looking at it. She scowled and rammed it back in, then slammed the hood closed. She looked at her watch again. 3:52.
Laura grabbed her purse and the envelope and ran back to the front door. She opened the door a crack and popped her head in. “Mom, my car won't start, can I take yours?”
Her mom's voice floated out of the kitchen. “Sure, honey! The keys are right there on the table.”
Laura grabbed her mom's keys and slammed the door shut behind her, running full speed towards her mother's car, parked right beside hers.
She sat down, buckled in again, and turned the ignition. The car purred to life and Laura smiled. She put the car in gear, and backed out of the driveway, then turned around and took off down the road.
A few minutes later, Laura sat at the second red traffic light. She ran her hands through her hair and rubbed the back of her neck. Only two traffic lights between my house and the post office, and they both had to be red. Her eyes darted to the clock. 3:57.
She scowled again, and glared at the red light. Turn green, turn green, turn green!
The traffic light changed to green, and Laura waited impatiently for the person in front of her to move, then followed it. She was on the homestretch, the final leg of this race to the post office! She smiled again. I might actually make it in time.
She turned the final corner, and pulled into the parking lot, just as her clock ticked to 4:00pm. She parked in front of the post office and looked up at the door with a heavy heart.
Pais Charos: Using the time limit mechanism was genius. Nothing ups the frustration like feeling time slipping away. Every obstacle--each one annoying by itself--was amped to the next level with the addition of time. Cool.
Honorable mentions go to:
Patrick: devastating story hook. I was all over this. I'm still wondering how the king was beheaded. Hmmm...
Cecilia: If you'd given your protag something besides a birthday, something that she REALLY wanted or needed--something the readers could buy into--yours might have won. If she was looking forward to that night because her mother was at last due to be back in the castle after years of separation, and it happened to fall on the night of the attack--now what would have been gut-wrenching frustration. Still splendid work.
Amy: Brilliant stuff. He was trying so hard to get out of the kingdom and then to run into the boy with the mysterious past...awesome.