Screen Queens is the clever, action-packed tale of three girls vying for prestigious internships through a tech incubator summer program. Only, once they’re in, they discover all is not what it seems at the company they once dreamed of working for.
Basically, we’re HERE FOR ALL THE SCREEN QUEENS.
No, silly, not Scream Queens!
We mean Screen Queens.
Excited yet? Us too.
Filled with secrets, humor, betrayal, love, and girl power, Screen Queens will be making its way to the tops of TBR lists and shelves this summer!
Are you ready for this cover? Yes?
And if THAT isn’t exciting enough, just take a look at this first exclusive excerpt below!
(Silicon Valley’s belief in new tech or ideas that engenders doubt from those in the outside world)
Four. Still. Only four.
Lucy shifted in the hard wooden chair across from her mom’s desk and clutched her phone tighter. She swiped up and down with such force that her Caribbean Blue Baby fingernails would have scratched the glass had she not been diligent about using a screen protector.
Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, Facebook . . . Swipe, swipe, swipe. The likes, favorites, followers, friends . . . she had enough. Enough for her ranking on the Pulse app to be higher than four.
Swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe.
The pink plastic bracelet the bouncer had secured around Lucy’s wrist danced up and down the same way she had last night, after name-dropping her way into the hottest new club in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. The fact that she didn’t actually know Ryan Thompson, founder of Pulse, was a technicality that would soon be remedied.
Her ♥ our fingers are on the pulse ♥ tee only given to Pulse employees opened doors closed even to most of Silicon Valley’s elite. She’d snagged it from a hipster-preneur six months ago at a party in Fremont. He was so busy claiming he left Pulse of his own accord (uh-huh) because his eco-friendly (read: nonprofitable) idea was going to change the world (i.e., drain his bank account) that he scarcely knew what he’d lost. All it took was a deftly spilled cocktail, an exorbitant dry cleaning bill, and Lucy’s favorite tank (note: pomegranate margaritas don’t come out of silk), but it was worth it.
Soon she’d have one of her own.
Soon she’d have one of her own.
And she’d no longer be a 4.
The likes on her Instagram story from last night alone should have bumped her up to a 5. Thumping. But here she sat. Still at 4. Still Thudding.
She stared at the string of hearts on her Pulse profile knowing that, somehow, this was all because she was wait-listed at Stanford.
And that, Lucy knew the exact “how” of: Gavin Cox.
Freaking Gavin Cox.
She shouldn’t have done it, but her blue fingernail moved on its own, navigating to his profile.
Level 6. Throbbing. Gavin Cox was Throbbing and she was Thudding. If only she possessed a male member and a wingspan like Michael Phelps, she’d be Throbbing too. But now that high school was over, winning state would no longer be a crutch for Gavin, and his Pulse would plummet. He’d be lucky to be Beating—a measly 3.
Lucy was tempted to knock her mom’s expansive cherry wood desk. But Lucy Katz didn’t believe in luck. Lucy Katz didn’t hope. Lucy Katz didn’t dream. Lucy Katz did.
She knew what she wanted.
And it wasn’t this.
Thudding and wait-listed and this drab third-floor office in this mud-brown building in this sad little Sunnyvale office park.
So it wouldn’t be.
Tired of the edge of the chair digging into the soft underside of her knees, she scooted forward until her wedge sandals reached the floor.
Her mom was twenty minutes late.
Lucy knew enough to show up for their scheduled lunch a half hour after its start time, but she was on time.
Lucy planned like other people breathed.
Which was why she wasn’t nervous about Stanford. It was a blip. A minor inconvenience. Nothing that an internship at Pulse wouldn’t wipe away like a hard reset on her MacBook Pro.
She stared at the gently tanned skin of her exposed ankles and wiggled her toes, enticing circulation to resume after being dangled two inches off the floor despite her heels. She pulled her pink-and-white-striped notebook onto her lap and leafed through the pages, refreshing herself on all the notes she’d taken thus far on ValleyStart, the summer tech incubator program she was about to begin. The five-week competition ended with one team winning an internship at Pulse. If she succeeded (please), she’d spend the rest of the summer at Pulse with Ryan Thompson. And Pulse, well, not even Stanford could ignore a pedigree that included Pulse.
Satisfied it was all already committed to memory, she closed her notebook and stared at the shiny gold L floating on the center of the cover—the only Hanukkah gift she’d received last year, sent in a FedEx envelope from her mom’s assistant.
She tucked it under her arm and stood, passing by windows that looked out on row after row of blue, red, black, white, and green hybrid cars lined up like Crayolas in the parking lot, the closest the office came to having a pop of color. A four-by-six double frame propped beside her mom’s three monitors was the only personalization in the room.
One side held Lucy as a baby, swaddled in her mom’s arms with her dad looking off to the side, toward the London office he’d soon head. The second photo once again displayed the three of them, this time on graduation day, just a few weeks ago. Her dad had scheduled a week of meetings before and after in order to attend.
Two milestones in Lucy’s life, as if nothing had happened in between, with the frame leaving no room for anything to come.
The graduation photo hung crooked in the frame. She could just see her mom hurriedly shoving it inside with one hand, typing an email with the other, while on a conference call with Singapore, Melbourne, and Dubai.
Lucy set her phone on the desk. She pulled off the cardboard backing to straighten the photo and out fell the slip of paper behind it: a smiling baby—not Lucy, simply the picture that had come in the frame. How long had her mom kept that other child beside Lucy? Long enough to forget to print one to take its place, long enough to no longer notice that she should.
On the desk, her phone vibrated and lit up with a text.
ValleyStart: Team assignments are in! Meet Your Mates!
Lucy’s arm shot out like a rattlesnake and her notebook fell, knocking into one of her mom’s monitors.
“Lucy!” Abigail Katz entered the room and rushed forward in her expensive flats.
“Got it!” Lucy’s tennis-trained reflexes saved the monitor before it took down the others like dominos.
Considering Lucy had read and re-read the acceptance packet about a thousand times and been waiting for the past two months to see who she’d be spending the next five weeks with, her restraint in not jumping on the ValleyStart portal instantly was extraordinary.
It’s actually happening.
Her pulse quickened, and she was almost dizzy as she circled one way around the desk, back to the hard chair. Her mom rounded the corner from the opposite direction, adjusted the tilt of the monitor, and sat down in front of it.
With the seven-inch height difference between them, Lucy could only see her eyes. And the tiredness in them.
Lucy would never deny that Abigail Katz worked hard.
But that was all she did.
“I’m sorry, Lucy.” Abigail smoothed the ends of her chin-length bob. The barest hint of gray dusted the roots—a constant battle, waged every three weeks as she colored it back to brown. “They needed some guidance in a branding meeting that wasn’t on my schedule.”
“Right,” Lucy said.
Abigail reached into the top drawer of her desk and pulled out two protein bars. “Just a quick lunch, then, okay?”
Peanut butter. Lucy hated peanut butter. “Sure.” She peeled back the wrapping. Not even peanut butter could ruin her ValleyStart high.
“All set for tomorrow?”
“Packed the car this morning.” She bounced (just a little) in her seat.
Abigail stopped chewing. “Not an Uber or Lyft?”
“It’s ten miles.”
Half the number of fender benders Lucy had been in. Who has time to spend learning to be a perfect driver?
“Fine. Whatever.” Lucy pretended there was no judgment in her mom’s question and forced a bite of the peanut butter. “I’ll leave the car.”
“Better plan. You won’t need it anyway.” Abigail set her own half-eaten bar down. “You have to focus. Palo Alto High School may have been competitive, but ValleyStart’s in another league. The top startup incubator for high school graduates in the country with only sixty accepted out of—”
“Three thousand applicants, I know.” An acceptance rate of only two percent. Two. Stanford’s was four. The sole explanation . . .
Freaking Gavin Cox.
The only other applicant from her high school to make it into ValleyStart.
Lucy pushed her heels into the floor and all thoughts of Gavin where they belonged—in the past.
“I’ve been focused, Mom. I’m certainly not going to stop now.” Top ten in her class, 4.8 GPA, tennis all-star, two marathons under her belt, and still a lecture on being “focused.” Lucy regretted the bite as her stomach churned.
“Nothing wrong with reminders,” Abigail said, just as one dinged on her computer and phone in unison, the sound as familiar to Lucy as the squeak of her bedroom door.
“Wait. It’s just . . .” Abigail’s eyes slowly drifted from her three monitors to Lucy’s expertly draped off-the-shoulder tee and perfectly cuffed dark-wash jeans. “I’ve always given you freedom because you’ve shown that you can handle it. Up until now.”
Now meaning not getting into Stanford.
“But with this, with this new world you’re entering, well, I just want you to be aware of the pressures and the importance of how you present yourself.”
“Present myself? I’m not a poodle in some dog show.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Then what do you mean, Mom?”
“Letting off steam in high school is one thing, but now you’re an adult.”
“So I’ve heard.” Her mom had repeated the same phrase ad nauseam since Lucy’s eighteenth birthday three months ago.
“Believe me, Lucy, it’s no secret how little you’ve wanted to heed my advice lately. If and when that changes, you know where to find me.”
Right here in this same baby-poop-brown office you’ve lived in since I took my first steps . . . which, naturally, you missed.
Heat rose in Lucy’s chest, and all she wanted to do was give her mom a reminder: that the phrase was “work hard” and “play hard.” And the playing bit could yield the same—if not better—results as the working. Connections made things happen. Just ask her Pulse tee.
“Sure, Mom.” Lucy brushed her hand through her long dark hair, forgetting she was still holding the brick of peanut butter. She picked a crumb off a strand by her chin and watched as her mom slipped on her computer glasses and turned the world right in front of her eyes crystal clear, blurring everything else beyond—including Lucy.
Lucy headed for the door. “Just one small thing . . . in order to give me freedom or anything else, you’d actually have to be around.”
She didn’t wait for her mom to look up; she simply wrapped her hand around the metal knob and closed the door behind her with barely a sound, making sure she “presented herself” properly.
How am I even related to her?
Lucy only made it halfway down the hall before she slowed, leaned her head against the crap-colored walls, and tried to stop her heart from racing.
Level 7. Seven hearts was Racing.
Like everyone her age, like everyone in the world, Lucy knew the Pulse levels as well as her home address. “What’s your Pulse?” were the first words off of anyone’s lips upon meeting, the first background check determining worthiness for everything from friend to blind date to party invites, probably even job offers.
The brainchild of Ryan Thompson when he was only a year older than Lucy, the app amalgamated an individual’s likes, favorites, views, thumbs-ups, and more from every major social media platform, translating it to a simple Pulse level, ranking you from zero, Dead, all the way to ten, Crushing It. Over time, as the app evolved, Level 10s became top influencers, the people everyone wanted to be or be seen with. Advertisers and the entertainment business soon realized that Level 10s’ smiling faces could increase sales and media coverage. Now, 10s got complimentary everything, from the newest iPhones to dips in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. To be a 10 was to live with all the perks.
Once Lucy and her team won the ValleyStart incubator, Pulse would be her second home for the rest of the summer. The prize of an internship at the most successful tech company in the past ten years was worth more than any amount of money.
She’d use it to her advantage. Starting now.
Lucy opened the Stanford portal and did what she’d wanted to do for weeks, since she was accepted into ValleyStart. She requested a second alumni interview. She knew it was irregular, but she explained that she had new information she was delighted to share—namely the incubator.
Lucy then lifted her chin higher and straightened her top. As she passed by the largest office—a suite—she ran her finger along the three little letters on the nameplate: CEO.
Pulse would secure that future.
At the elevators, Lucy logged into the ValleyStart portal to find not just the names of her teammates but her assigned mentor: Ryan Thompson.
For the first time since arriving at her mom’s office, Lucy smiled.
Screen Queens will be ready to hop onto your summer reading list starting on June 11, 2019!
Need some awesome reads to distract you until Screen Queens comes out? Join us for our Fall Into Fantasy Readathon starting November 18th!