Monday, April 14, 2014

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Litwin Revision 2

Name: Laurie Litwin
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Title: Bee Stadium


Harrison Templeton has a big fat head. Thankfully I sit right behind him. When I slouch, Mrs. Cooper, my seventh-period Language Arts Teacher, can't see a single hair on my entirely proportionally-sized head.

My right knee taps in time with each second - thirty minutes to go. I've been waiting for-freaking-ever for the first day of baseball practice. This year we might go all the way to the Little League World Series.

"Can anyone tell me from what point of view the Red Badge of Courage is written?" Mrs. Cooper asks, pacing in front of the white board wielding a dry erase marker like a bayonet.

Ugh. I'd rather eat moldy broccoli than read this book.

They should let us read something cool, like The Boy Who Saved Baseball or The Wild Pitch. Heck, I kind of even liked Holes. All this talk of themes and symbolism makes me want to poke my eye out with my number two pencil.

I duck out of her line of sight. She's going to call on someone to read out loud soon.

“Jake?” Hearing my name shouted shakes me out of my thoughts.

“What?” My voice comes out high, like a girl. I push myself upright and shrug my shoulders.

Next to me, Kyle Filbert snickers, his black hair flopping forward and covering one of his eyes like a pirate's eye patch. I shoot my arch-enemy a dirty look and ball my hand up into a tight fist under my desk. Sometimes I really want to punch the jerk in the face. But Mom would be super mad at me if I did.

“I asked you to read the first paragraph of chapter three out loud to the class,” she says slowly, lifting her eyebrows at me. Or, should I say, eyebrow. She has one thick brown eyebrow that crawls across her forehead like a caterpillar.

She picks on me because I have a harder time reading aloud than the other kids. It’s not fair.

I sigh as loud as I can and tap my hand on my leg. Praying for time to speed up so I can get out of this nightmare.

"Henry ... uh .. himself ... I mean ... he ... wal ... k ... walked by ... him ... self into ... uh ... into the ... uh ... dark ... nessss ... darkness." The words are jumping around as I try to read them. I wipe my palms on my jeans.

I peer two inches to the right, around Harrison's watermelon head, at Mrs. Cooper. His hair is sticking straight out on one side, like he battled with the hair gel and lost.

"Continue, Jake."

I take a deep breath, fiddling with the baseball hat in my lap. I have to keep it hidden under my desk because Mrs. Cooper won't let me wear it in class. Last week she kept it for a whole day when I forgot to take it off before I walked into the classroom.

"He ... he ... down ... um ... I mean ... he lay down ... in ... uh ... in the ... in the grass ... sorry ... no ... and ... felt ... sorry ... for ... uh ... him ... self ... himself." I'm sweating so much I could fill a bucket.

"Thank you, Jake. Kyle, please start where Jake left off." She paces back and forth.

My shoulders slump forward and I drop my head.

As Kyle reads, I turn my head and look out the window. If I squint my eyes enough, I can see the baseball diamond on the other side of the big grassy field.

The smell of fresh cut grass fills my nose and I can hear the ump yelling "Batter up!"

I tune out as kid after kid reads out loud and twenty excruciating minutes later, the bell rings.

As I'm standing up, Mrs. Cooper calls out, “Pick one of the major themes in The Red Badge of Courage and tell me how it relates to your life – I want one typed page by Monday morning. And the practice spelling bee will be tomorrow. Don’t forget to study the word list I handed out last week.”

I freeze in my seat, like I got sucked into a black hole.

The spelling bee?

NO!

I hate spelling. I hate spelling bees even more. Last year I got the easiest, girliest word ever: Tulip. Of course, I spelled it T-O-O-L-I-P. Everyone laughed. I wanted to hurl.

I can't put myself through that kind of humiliation again.

I pull my baseball hat free from my belt loop and shape the bill between my palms, the field is calling me.

Batting seventh ... Number 11 ... Jake Evans.

I forget all about the bee. Until I get two steps from the door.

"Jake!"

I stop so fast my sneaker squeaks on the floor. My momentum propels me forward and I flap my arms like a bird so I don't fall on my face.

When I turn, Mrs. Cooper's holding a sheet of paper in front of her. I shuffle my way to where she's standing and take it from her. There's a red D glaring at me.

My stomach drops into the basement.

I stuff it in my backpack, groaning.

Mom's going to murder me and feed my insides to the seagulls.

"I understand today's the first day of baseball practice," she says, putting one hand on her hip and jutting her chin out to the side, toward the baseball field.

"Uh, yeah." I take a step backward toward the door. I wanna jet outta here so bad.

"You're very close to failing my class. If your grade falls any lower, you won't be able to play baseball."

My breath gets caught in my throat and I croak, "Huh?" I try to swallow, but it's like there's a huge wad of bubble yum stuck there. "No way," I squeak.

My face burns hotter and hotter the longer I stand here.


She stares at me so hard I'm surprised I don't combust.

"The school has an understanding with the little league program. A failing grade means no baseball," she repeats, saying the words super slow, like I'm hard of hearing. I can hear her fine, I just don't like what she's saying.

"Is there anything I can do. Extra credit, or something." My voice rises. I probably sound like a girl.

As she pauses, the caterpillar above her eyes wiggles.

"I'll tell you what. If you place in the top three in the classroom spelling bee next week you'll advance to the school spelling bee.

If you do that, I'll give you enough extra credit points to raise your grade one level."

My heart stops beating and I feel dizzy. I grab a desk to steady myself.

"Is there anything else I can do?" I barely eek the words out. Please say yes. "I'll volunteer to read out loud every day for the rest of the school year." I pause. "Anything but spelling. The letters jumble up in my brain and I have a hard time getting the order right."

"Study harder. Make flash cards. Have a friend quiz you. Also, put some thought into today's assignment. You're a good writer, so write a good essay. That'll help you out, as well. Otherwise, winning the spelling bee is your only option for extra credit."

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Mayberry Revision 1

Name: Marty Mayberry
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Title: 100 Kisses

First 1250 words:

The only thing standing between me and the most perfect summer of my life was a stupid airplane. Thank God for Dramamine.

I dragged my suitcases into Boston’s international terminal and stopped beneath an overhead monitor to compare the schedule to my itinerary. Alitalia Flight #615, departing at 10:40 p.m. Rome before noon, assuming the plane didn’t nose dive into the Atlantic along the way. I shuddered.

After checking my luggage at the desk, I breezed through security without an unpleasant strip search. I shifted my carry-on to my other shoulder and headed toward the gate to meet up with Nat and Cat.

Natasha and Catherine, my twenty-one-year-old, identical twins cousins, planned to spend the summer with their father in Rome while I participated in the dig. I hadn’t seen them since my high school graduation, three years before. As I drew near the gate, I didn’t need a text message to find them. Their boisterous laughter drew me in.

A grin bloomed on my face as I snuck up on Nat. Or was it Cat? I tapped her shoulder and deepened my voice. “Excuse me, Miss.”

Scooting sideways in her plastic chair, her jaw dropped. She sprang up and slapped her hands to her cheeks. “Oh. My. God. Maddy. You’re skinny!”

People sitting nearby gawked as she rushed around the end of the aisle on five-inch heels. We hugged, and she kissed my cheeks in bobbing European fashion before holding me at arm’s length. “You look absolutely gorgeous.”

“She always looks gorgeous.” My other cousin joined us, her green eyes sparkling. “How you been, hon?”

“Great, umm . . .” My gaze flew between them, trying to determine who was who. Each sported nose rings, although they wore them on different sides. Their black hair stood on end, adorned with fluorescent pink tips. It lent their pointed features an elven appearance. Our mothers were sisters, and I’d inherited the same pale skin and black hair, although I wore mine longer.

The cousin I’d hugged pouted. “I’m Cat. Can’t you tell?”

I gestured to the blue jewel winking in her nose. “Keep that, and I’m set.”

“We wanted piercings, and I made her get hers in the right,” Nat said. “People should be able to tell us apart. Especially guys.” She glared at Cat. “Nothing’s worse than finding your sister hefted on the sideboard, her lips cemented to your boyfriend.”

“I couldn’t help myself.” Cat drooped against Nat and fluttered her eyelashes. “We’re talking Louigi here.”

I hugged Nat. “It’s wonderful to see you.”

“You look amazing.” Awe gushed in her voice. “You’ve lost so much weight.”

“I took up running.” My face heated, but their flattery sent elation swirling through me. I smoothed my hands over my hips and struck a diva pose. One hundred pounds down, and only twenty left to go. I promised myself I’d take the last off by the end of the summer.

“I need to get a little exercise.” Cat frowned as she pinched the muffin top smooshing above her designer jeans.

“You can run with me anytime,” I said. “I do forty, fifty minutes a day.” More if I ate too many cookies.

Nat elbowed Cat. “You’ll never stick with that.”

Cat growled. “You saying I can’t do it?”

Nat laughed and stuck out her hand. “Here’s betting you can’t.”

“Wait a minute.” Cat yanked hers back before they connected. “I know you. Spill it. What are the consequences?”

“Besides needing a bigger size?” Nat smirked and nibbled a nail. “How about . . . you have to kiss Joseph.”

Cat’s shoulders slumped. “Jeez, Nat. Why Joseph?”

“Who’s Joseph?” My gaze slid between them.

“The gardener.” Nat’s mouth twitched. “He has a wart.”

“What, a wart?” I blinked. “Where?”

Nat scrunched her nose and pointed to the scarlet bow of her upper lip. “Right here.”

Cat cringed. “And he’s old. At least forty.”

“There’s nothing wrong with older men.” Nat thrust her hand forward. “You ready to take my dare?”

“No way.” Cat wiped her fingers on her jeans and tucked them into her back pocket. “I’m not kissing Joseph.”

“Ha. Almost caught you.” Nat and I shared a grin.

Cat sighed and rubbed her belly. “Now that Maddy’s here, can we finally get something to eat? I’m starving.”

They grabbed their carry-ons, and we headed to a restaurant. As I wove my way across the terminal bustling with travelers, my phone cheeped. Stopping near the wall, I tapped into my email. A message from Dr. Giordano, my long-distance mentor: The final details for your internship at Monte Testaccio are in place. The Project Managers expect you on Monday.

Giddiness rushed through me every time I thought about the internship my Uncle Peter, a world-renowned archaeologist and Nat and Cat’s dad, had arranged for me. An entire summer piecing together amphora shards to reveal clues from an ancient civilization’s past.

While I longed to shriek and dance on the linoleum, I unearthed a scrap of dignity and replied instead: Thank you for all you’ve done for me. I’m looking forward to finally meeting you.

After my Uncle introduced us via the internet in December, we’d exchanged emails daily. The charming old man took time from his busy schedule to send notes about the project I’d participate in, support before a big test, and insider tips that gave me a considerable edge over my USM classmates. Grinning, I tucked my phone into my purse and followed my cousins into the restaurant.

As I studied the menu, I nibbled the inside of my lip. The salad choices were slim, but the jalapeno turkey burger sounded yummy. Since I’d run fifty minutes today, I could splurge if I substituted a salad for fries.

“You’ll knock Raffaele completely speechless,” Nat said.

“Who?” I peered over my menu, my brow wrinkling. “Oh, you mean Dr. Giordano?”

“Dr. Giordano?” Nat shared a blank look with Cat. “We just call him Raffaele.”

“I could never be so forward with an esteemed colleague.”

Nat laughed and fiddled with the salt shaker. “Just how old do you think the good doctor is?”

I shrugged. “We never discussed it. From his formal way of speaking, and his extensive knowledge, I’d say . . . sixty?”

They shook their heads in unison. “Try again,” Nat said.

“Sixty-five?”

“Close enough.” Nat grinned. “Raffaele’s not a doctor.”

“He’s your father’s partner.”

She frowned. “Is that what he told you?”

“No, I just assumed,” I raked my hand through my long hair. “This wasn’t Match dot com. We mostly talked about archaeology.”

“He’s Dad’s assistant.”

“I see.” Maybe it was a retirement hobby for him, rather than his lifelong career.

“Since he doesn’t have a PhD, I guess he’s just a Mister.” A sly look danced across Nat’s pretty features. “Mr. Giordano.”

My cousins smirked at each other, and their eyes did that crazy, silent twin-exchange-thing they’d perfected at five. Frowning, I wondered where the joke came in.

Cat’s eyes twinkled. “Once you two started chatting online, he pestered us for your picture.” She waggled a finger in my face. “Nothing on Facebook. You lose a ton of weight and kept it hidden. What’s wrong with you?”

I shrugged. While I had a Facebook page, I kept forgetting to visit it, let alone post updates. And I still had a few pounds left to lose before I shared.

“We gave him one of your graduation pics.” Cat said.

“Ugh. You didn’t.” I thought I’d destroyed all the evidence.

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Chiang Revision 1

Name: Sylvia Chiang
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Title: Cross Ups

Chapter One

Jaden hammered the buttons on his controller. “Holy crap, this guy is fast! C’mon Kaigo…”

Kaigo was Jaden’s main when he played Cross Ups IV. He was the dragon-cross so he had the most awesome projectile of all the characters: instead of throwing fireballs, he breathed them. How cool was that?

Of course, it was only cool when the fireballs actually hit their target. On screen Kaigo whiffed three combos in a row when his opponent managed to jump out of range.

“Aw, dude, you almost had him,” his friend Hugh called from the couch.

“Not really.” Devesh chuckled, then added, “No offence, Jaden. But this Knight Rage guy is good.”

The three boys were in Jaden’s living room. Like most of their gaming sessions they had started out playing each other and ended up watching Jaden battle random people on-line. No one had beaten Jaden in four months. But then he had never played Knight Rage before.

“Who is this guy, anyways?” Devesh asked.

“I see him on-line all the time,” Hugh said.

“You ever play him?”

“No way. You know I refuse to play anyone who uses Blaze.”

“You mean you’re scared to play Blaze.”

“No…”

“Would you guys shut up? I’m trying to concentrate here.”

WHAM! The screen flashed a burst of gold and Blaze transformed into a phoenix, flapping huge golden wings that sent shock waves into Kaigo.

“Holy crap! How’d he hit me with that atomizer combo? I was blocking!”

As soon as he was out of hitstun, Jaden played Kaigo’s dragon fire special.

“What the?” Jaden dropped the combo when Blaze, disappeared briefly and reappeared attacking behind Kaigo.

“How’d he do that cross up? Can Blaze teleport?”

Kaigo breathed a fireball in his opponent’s face. Blaze jumped out of range and threw another atomizer.

“Aaahhh! I can’t get any moves in.”

Jaden pushed the back button to block the next string of atomizers, but Kaigo took the punishment from the phoenix wings anyways.

“Why isn’t my block working?”

“Your health meter is critical. You’re going to die from chip damage at this rate.”

“Thanks for your support, Devesh.”

“But hey, your super meter’s full,” Hugh cheered.

“You’d better make something happen soon.”

Jaden worked his controller, trying for Kaigo’s biggest super. “Come on…”

Panic made him do something he hadn’t done in ages – a total button mash.

Miraculously, Kaigo transformed into his dragon side and a grey cloud of smoke swirled like a tornado across the screen through his opponent. Jaden watched in shock as Blaze crumpled and his health meter dove. Now both opponents were one hit from defeat.

Jaden immediately played his bread and butter combo: two crouching light punches back to back, followed by dragon breath.

K.O.

“Whaaaaaaat!?!” Behind Jaden, his friends screamed and jumped up from the leather couch.

Devesh pointed to the TV on the wall. “No way! You did not just do that!”

Hugh sprawled his hefty form onto the carpet at Jaden’s feet, bowing and chanting, “You are the master.”

Jaden remained frozen on the couch, mouth open, eyebrows raised. His straight black hair fell over his left eye. “Am I dreaming?” he asked softly, letting the controller drop to the floor. “No, seriously, am I asleep? Someone hit me now.”

Devesh and Hugh piled on top of their friend, pummelling him with good-natured jabs.

“I’ve never seen that super,” Hugh said, settling his glasses back in place.

“That’s because I’ve only ever hit it one time. The timing is crazy hard.”

“We’ve got to start streaming your battles. That was Godlike!” Devesh helped Jaden up off the carpet. Then his phone binged and he pulled it out of his pocket. “I gotta go. I was supposed to meet my dad 10 minutes ago. He just texted me from the car in all caps.” He grabbed his bag and sweater and walked backwards out of the living room.

“Hold up, I gotta go too, dude. Think your dad will give me a ride?” Hugh grabbed his things and ran after Devesh, breathing hard by the time he got to the end of the hall.

“You live on the other side of town. Why you always asking me for a ride? Train your parents better.” Their voices trailed off until the door slammed shut behind them.

Jaden sat staring in disbelief at the TV screen, his arm muscles twitching as if he had physically done battle. On the screen, Kaigo’s muscles rippled through his black kung-fu uniform as he celebrated with fist pumps. His win quote at the bottom of the screen read, “You need more confidence to beat me.”

It was 6:27. Jaden was cutting it close still having the game on. His thumb was descending on the power button when a message popped up on the screen.

G00D GAM3 JSTAR

Players didn’t usually message after a fight, unless they were friends. Jaden hesitated then wrote back: THNX

Within seconds another message: CAN U D0 1T AGA1N?

Could he? He had no idea how he’d pulled off that final move. But there was no way he was going to admit that. He typed: ANY TIME

BATTL3 @ T0P T13RS 1N 2 W33KS?

Jaden hesitated, his thumbs rapidly tapping the controller. A real gaming tournament? He often watched footage of his favourite gamer, Yuudai Sato, playing at big events like the EVO Championship Series, but he’d never thought about actually going. It wasn’t an option.

He wrote back: NO THNX

Y N0T? W3’LL WA1V3 UR F33.

Jaden’s curiosity battled with the ticking clock. 6:30. His parents could be pulling into the driveway. Quickly he typed: WHO RU?

The answer seemed to take forever. When it finally came, it raised more questions than answers. JUST R3G1ST3R - SAY KN1GHT RAG3 S3NT U.

A key turned in the lock. Jaden went into his shut down routine, quickly powering off the TV and game console and sliding the controller under the cushion next to him. He flipped open his math book and tried to act bored, hoping his parents wouldn’t notice his shaking hands.

Knight Rage’s question pulsed in his mind.

Why not?


Chapter Two

Mr. Efram wrote on the blackboard at the start of math class: The Problem of the Day.

“Yeah,” Jaden whispered to Devesh and Hugh, “You have two parents who refuse to let you play any violent games, and one invitation to a way cool video game tournament. What do you do?”

The three boys formed a group as they had done daily since meeting each other in math on their first day at Layton Senior Public School.

“You have to go,” Devesh whispered back. “You can’t back out of a challenge. You think Yuudai Sato would back out of a challenge? If you want to be the best, you have to show everyone you can bring it.”

“Yeah, maybe if I build a time machine and skip ahead eight months to my thirteenth birthday,” Jaden dropped his head to his desk in despair. “I looked up the tournament on-line. Since Cross Ups IV is 13A, I’d need my parents to sign a consent form. That’s not going to happen.”

Mr. Efram finished writing on the board, ran his hand over his bald spot, and turned to the class. Like every day he pointed with his thumb to the poster of the Justice League on the wall showing the problem solving steps. “Remember - be a user of USAR. Understand, Strategize, Attack and Reflect.”

The problem of the day was: A wizard has counted…

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Conner Revision 1

Name: Candice Marley Conner
Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism/ Fairytale Retelling
Title: THE WILDNESS IN MELLIE FEYE

A guy’s following me.

Thigh-deep in Sand Blast Bay, with the strong Florida sunlight bouncing off the water, I focus on a scallop I’m about to snatch up to reach my quota for the day. Still, I know he’s there. I keep my back to him, irritation prickling my skin so that I can’t enjoy the warmth of the water and the faint balmy breeze. The hip-hop reverberating off the bay means he’s not here to fish. Or if he is, he has no clue. A party boat.

I touch the oyster knife strapped to my leg. It’s sharp enough to do more than just pry open shells.

The sapphire of scallop eyes flash in the grassy, brackish water. I submerge victoriously, blinking to clear my eyes as I push the bay grass aside to follow it. The scallop clicks its two shells together, an underwater butterfly, propulsing away and deeper into the mucky bay floor. I grab it. Then standing, blinking to clear the salt from my eyes before the sunlight makes them burn, my head smacks into something hard. I topple back underwater with a splash.

“What the—?” The scallop sinks into the now cloudy water. Floundering, the guy looks as dazed as I feel. Anger at losing the scallop and that he closed the distance between us so quickly helps me recover faster. I didn’t realize I was underwater for so long. Pulling the oyster knife from my leg sheath, I hold it out between us. I can’t stop myself from wondering if he could end my curse so I can go home. My hand tightens on the grip.

He touches his forehead. “What did you hit me with?”

“Excuse you?” I spit, my bagged scallops clacking furiously.

He regains his footing as I blink to clear my eyes. Without the glare, this guy is gorgeous. Even observing him with the sun to his back, he has golden skin stretched taunt over muscular shoulders, pecs, abs, and lower… oh, sweetcrabmeat!

“You’re going to gut me after you gave me a concussion?” He winces as he runs a hand through his hair.

“You hit me on my head,” I shoot back, annoyed at him for being so hot and myself for noticing. I twist the edges of my Fish Shack tee shirt to wring out excess water.

“That was your head?”

The surprise in his voice makes me seriously consider gutting him, but instead I glower. If I draw blood, it’ll just attract sharks and then I’ll probably feel bad.

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I lie, though a headache began throbbing immediately. “Why did you head butt me?” I should go, disappear into the marshes but this spot, about two hundred yards from the shoreline, is shallow and relatively clear. It’s been a favorite of mine for the past couple of days. Something makes me want to stay and talk to this sunshine-outlined mystery guy. Maybe it’s the flutters in my stomach like fish nibbling my toes.

“I didn’t mean to. I tried to get your attention. Figured maybe you were looking for something that flew off your boat? Then you went under so fast, I thought something got you.”

The bay water is still, reflecting pinks and oranges from the setting sun. “Do you see a boat near me?”

“Well, I… no. That’s why I thought you needed help.”

“Oh, you were coming to rescue me. How sweet.” The sarcasm might be a side effect from the blow to the head. Or, maybe it’s part of my charm.

He steps back and a teeny, tiny part of me regrets being so harsh, but really my head is killing me. I’m irritated at myself for turning my back to him and letting him get so close. Usually I can feel things moving in the water; that’s why I’m good at scalloping. I hold up my dive bag. “I’m looking for these.”

“You’re not a tourist?”

I shake my head, then immediately regret it.

“I just figured you were with the um, green hair. Haven’t seen you around.”

I hold the knife between my teeth and brush my wet, yes, green hair into a ponytail, knotting it. I dyed it bright green after Mama kicked me out of the house. “I’m from the Cape,” I respond once the knife is in hand again. Just those simple movements make me woozy. Not good.

“But even Cape kids go to Bayview High.”

“Home-schooled,” I say, uneasy at how personal our conversation is getting and how dark the world is growing.

“You don’t look so good…”

“You look beautiful.” I drop my oyster knife in the bay water as I clap my hand over my mouth, too late to keep those embarrassing words safely inside.

“What?” He grins and scoops up my knife, sliding it back into my leg-sheath. Where his hand touches my skin jolts as if I stepped on a sting ray barb. I jerk back in surprise and he does too.

The space between us grows heavy and dark as he stands there, his eyes going from his still outstretched hand back to me. I want to sink into the water and disappear. Everything’s getting shadowy and now there’s a loud buzzing in my ears as if a hundred motor boats are coming at me. I sway and he catches my elbow. There’s the electricity again. It grows fainter as I slip into the darkness.


Air whipping past revives me. The buzzing sound is louder, from an actual boat motor now. The sky is darker, but a normal, sun-about-to-set dusk rather than a black-out kind of darkness. I’m in an unfamiliar boat with an unfamiliar beach towel covering my still damp t-shirt and shorts. The ties of my swim suit top dig uncomfortably into my spine. Rising to rest on my elbows makes my head spin.

“Hey, Ray? She’s up,” an unfamiliar masculine voice says.

Footsteps approach the padded bench I’m lying on. An electric current zings through the air so either a summer storm is about to strike or I didn’t just have a really bizarre, embarrassing dream. I’m hoping for a bolt of lightening to strike before I open my eyes.

“I put your scallops in the live well.”

I peek, one eye at a time. Now that the sun isn’t as harsh, his facial features are clearer. Long gold lashes frame bright green eyes with light freckling on his nose. His lips are salt puckered and as they curve into a grin, I realize that he’s watching me stare in approval. I yank the towel over my head. “Thanks, but can you just throw me overboard?”

“You head-butted me—at your own expense—drew a knife on me and electrocuted me as I’m standing in water, so no. I’m not getting rid of you until you at least tell me your name.”

“Mellie.”

“Hi Mellie of the Bay, I accept your apology. I’m Raymond. And now we— that’s my buddy, Paul, captaining the wheel— are taking you to get your head checked out.”

I pull the towel down to glare at him. “I never apologized.”

“I’m sure you meant to.”

“I don’t need to get checked out.” I try sitting up again. I can’t go to the hospital because I don’t know how Mama’s curse has changed me. Fighting against waves of nausea and apprehension, I look around the boat for my water shoes.

He puts a hand out as if to hold me down but doesn’t touch me.

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Im Revision 1

Name: Christina Im
Genre: Young Adult Steampunk
Title: On the Midnight Streets

Twenty-two ticks of a clock - the closest I’ve ever come to being daring, and yet still a little too far from it.

The envelope waiting on the table has corners sharp enough to cut me. I hesitate and let my heart shrink in my chest as I stare at it. Strained light coming through the boardinghouse window just barely lets me notice the creamy sheen of the parchment.

It’s a letter, Chantilly. The worst it can do is nick your fingers.

I reach for it before I have a chance to talk myself out of anything. It’s far too smooth to be anything less than Upper City material, so thick that it sets me on edge. I turn it over to break the seal when I see it: the emblem of the king and crown, Clarabel’s dagger overrun by thistles. My breath stills and grows stale in my mouth - the crown’s crest is a rare sight here in the Middle City. This knife, these flowers, belong on the other side of the looming stone wall that keeps us away from the wealthy.

And when the crest comes to a family like mine, the news is never good.

My first thought is that this must be some colossal prank, but as I open up the flap, the words that jump out at me are too sure of themselves, too crisp. A needle of doubt pierces its way into my mind. Did I remember to hand in the rent to our landlady the week before last? Have I forgotten to pay our monthly tithes to the royal coffers? No, no - I do all that out of my own pocket, and I remember scarcely bypassing the paperwork. Our records, if a little dusty, aren’t stained in the slightest. The king should have no quarrel with us.

The floor sags behind me with a creak, and I nearly spring out of my skin. Mother steps into the room, disheveled and groggy.

“Tense, aren’t you?” she says, smiling. “I would say good morning, but you look as if you’ve been up a while.” Her eyes amble over to the letter, still clutched in my hand, and gradually become more alert.

“Oh.” I force my limbs to loosen and wave the paper in her direction. “The post came for you.” And as the page unfurls before me, its greeting really is addressed, albeit stiffly, to Mother:

Salutations to Miss Diane Rosewater -

We truly regret to inform you on this most unfortunate day that your esteemed relative, His Grace the Duke of Fellonsley, Reginald Harneld, has passed away due to a severe bout of consumption. We will, of course, be quick in our numerous assurances that Lord Fellonsley took leave of this world peacefully and painlessly. On behalf of His Majesty, our illustrious King Alastair, we would like to extend our sincere condolences for this most dreadful loss, as well as a congenial invitation to attend a solemn service in His Grace’s highly honored and cherished memory on the first day of the coming month, at precisely three hours past noontime, on the hallowed Harneld plot of Peralton’s finest Upper City burial grounds.

When I read the passage out loud, Mother lets out a soft, dry laugh, like rustling papers. “They’ve certainly gone to a fine bit of trouble,” she muses. “Is there any more?” I clear my throat to go over the rest of the page, and her brow furrows before smoothing itself out again.

As His Grace’s nearest surviving relations, you and any family members have inherited and lawfully acquired the duchy of Fellonsley, its corresponding Henlow House, all affiliated staff members and household appurtenances, and the full and uncorrupted contents of the duchy coffers, totaling to a monetary sum of approximately fifty million arors. Due to the utmost necessity of the presence of an estate head and peer whenever possible, a carriage is planned to arrive at this place at ten o’clock tomorrow morning in order to convey you, your family, and the sum of your possessions to your new domicile in the Upper City.

Cordially,

His Majesty’s Residential Council

I don’t notice how badly I’m shaking until the letter lands helplessly on the floor and I glance down at my hand, fluttering like a leaf in a gale. My vision bleeds into itself. All around me, splinters hold me down: half-finished mending, worn fabric and old promises, draped over our only table; the rush of air that leaves me as I collapse into a chair; Mother’s wide, wide eyes that I’m sure must mirror my own.

Try as I might, I can’t begin to fathom the weight of an estate on Mother’s hands, or mine. Who would Chantilly Rosewater be without a rent to pay, without work to pay it? I ought to be glad, I know, of something to ease our stretched-tight expenses, but all I can find inside myself is a clammy feeling of loss. My pulse is slowing, I note dimly, but it’s not been a moment before it ratchets up again, like a faulty cog in an automaton.

After a moment, I become vaguely aware of a finger of almost-sunlight creeping through the window. Sunlight? My mind drags itself into order. Then what time...?

“Oh, stars.” I groan, and Mother gasps as she realizes the time.

We flurry into motion, tossing a loaf of hard bread and a small mountain of odds and ends into my satchel without even a word to spare. I get dressed and straighten out my sleeves like clockwork.

Mother shoos me out the door a little too quickly, and my mind won’t let me ask about the letter. “This,” she says with a condemning sigh, “is the latest you’ve ever been in your life.”

I nod, pull the door open with a rough yank to steady myself. Questions shuffle back and forth in my head, tumbling over one another to be the first out of my mouth, but instead I blurt, “Make sure you get Chamomile and Velvet up.” Mother blinks in understanding; in the mornings, my younger sisters are harder to move than mountains.

I half-run down the stairs of the boardinghouse, not bothering to soften my steps. Turning the doorknob and striding out is one thoughtless, mechanical gesture, and then there’s rain, rain, rain, clawing at me from all sides.

This early in the day, mist tends to make visibility poor, so the Middle City is gaslit. Thick sheets of rain pound the cobblestones, and the air breathes chill with fog. The streetlamps glow a dull orange above the people, and above those, the occasional airship drifts lazily across the sky, smearing black smoke onto a patchwork of clouds.

What little light there is has been thrown to the ground in desperate pockets. As I expected, people are already roaming the streets. Some walk with a clear destination, like me, while others meander, with an arm sometimes raised as a makeshift umbrella. I shiver and gaze up at the sky. It’s a stubborn whitish-gray, and I’ll wager that won’t change until the sun goes down this evening.

It’s all so beautiful.

Monday, April 7, 2014

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Im

Name: Christina Im
Genre: Young Adult Steampunk
Title: On the Midnight Streets

When things like stars or kingdoms or fates collide, even the worst novels give their heroines prophetic dreams for a week in advance - at the very
least.

If I were the heroine in a novel, I’d feel something coming. It would be as clear to me as if there were grim, thunder-laden clouds clustering around my head, and I would know it, better than anything I ever have. I would get a stirring in my chest, maybe, or a choice sentence or two of foreshadowing.

But I’m standing in my family’s boardinghouse room, not in a book, and it’s quite plain that the blood running through my veins is the common red rubbish and not ink off of a printing press. And it's even plainer that I don’t know what's in the wax-sealed letter on the table any more than I know what I'll look like thirty years from now.

The clock on the wall ticks twenty-two times while I decide to make a move. The waiting envelope has corners sharp enough to cut me. I hesitate and let my heart shrink in my chest as I stare at it.

It’s a letter, Chantilly. The worst it can do is nick your fingers.

I reach for it before I have a chance to talk myself out of anything. It’s far too smooth to be anything less than Upper City material, so thick that it sets me on edge. I turn it over to break the seal when I see it: the emblem of the king and crown, Clarabel’s dagger overrun by thistles. My breath stills and grows stale in my mouth - the crown’s crest is a rare sight here in the Middle City. This knife, these flowers, belong on the other side of the looming stone wall that keeps us away from the wealthy.

My first thought is that this must be some colossal prank, but as I open up the flap, the words that jump out at me are too sure of themselves, too crisp. A needle of doubt worms its way into my mind. Our records, if a little dusty, aren’t stained in the slightest.

The floor sags behind me with a creak, and I nearly spring out of my skin. Mother steps into the room, disheveled and groggy.

“Tense, aren’t you?” she says, smiling. “I would say good morning, but you look as if you’ve been up a while.” Her eyes dart to the letter, still clutched in my hand.

“Oh.” I force my limbs to loosen and wave the paper in her direction. “The post came for you.” And as I start to scan the page, I see that its greeting really is addressed, albeit stiffly, to Mother:

To Miss Diane Rosewater -

We truly regret to inform you on this most unfortunate day that your esteemed relative, His Grace the Duke of Fellonsley, Reginald Harneld, has passed away due to a severe bout of consumption. We will, of course, be quick in our numerous assurances that Lord Fellonsley took leave of this world peacefully and painlessly. On behalf of His Majesty, our illustrious King Alastair, we would like to extend our sincere condolences for this most dreadful loss, as well as a congenial invitation to attend a solemn service in His Grace’s highly honored and cherished memory on the first day of the coming month, at precisely three hours past noontime, on the hallowed Harneld plot of Peralton’s finest Upper City burial grounds.

When I read the passage out loud, Mother lets out a soft, dry laugh, like rustling papers. “They’ve certainly gone to a fine bit of trouble,” she muses. “Is there any more?” I clear my throat to go over the rest of the page and see her brow furrow before smoothing itself out again.

As His Grace’s nearest surviving relations, you and any family members have inherited and lawfully acquired the duchy of Fellonsley, its corresponding Henlow House, all affiliated staff members and household appurtenances, and the full and uncorrupted contents of the duchy coffers, totaling to a monetary sum of approximately fifty million arors. Due to the utmost necessity of the presence of an estate head and peer whenever possible, a carriage is planned to arrive at this place at ten o’clock tomorrow morning in order to convey you, your family, and the sum of your possessions to your new domicile in the Upper City.

Cordially,

His Majesty’s Residential Council

I don’t notice how badly I’m shaking until the letter lands helplessly on the floor and I glance down at my hand, fluttering like a leaf in a gale. My vision bleeds into itself. All around me, splinters hold me down: half-finished mending, worn fabric and old promises, draped over our only table; the rush of air that leaves me as I collapse into a chair; Mother’s wide, wide eyes that I’m sure must mirror my own.

After a moment, I become vaguely aware of a finger of sunlight creeping through the window.
Sunlight? My mind drags itself into order.
Then what time...?

“Oh, stars.” I groan, and Mother starts as if she’s never heard my voice before. She shakes her head, frowning, and then gasps in realization.

We flurry into motion, tossing a loaf of hard bread and a small mountain of odds and ends into my satchel without even a word to spare. I get dressed and straighten out my sleeves like clockwork.

Mother shoos me out the door a little too quickly, and my mind won’t let me ask about the letter. “This,” she says with a condemning sigh, “is the latest you’ve ever been in your life.”

I nod, pull the door open with a rough yank to steady myself. Questions shuffle back and forth in my head, tumbling over one another to be the first out of my mouth, but instead I blurt, “Make sure you get Chamomile and Velvet up.” Mother blinks in understanding; in the mornings, my younger sisters are harder to move than mountains.

I half-run down the stairs of the boardinghouse, not bothering to soften my steps. Turning the doorknob and striding out is one thoughtless, mechanical gesture, and then there’s rain, rain, rain, clawing at me from all sides.

This early in the day, mist tends to make visibility poor, so the Middle City is gaslit. Thick sheets of rain pound the cobblestones, and the air breathes chill with fog. The streetlamps glow a dull orange above the people, and above those, the occasional airship drifts lazily across the sky, smearing black smoke onto a patchwork of clouds.

What little light there is has been thrown to the ground in desperate pockets. As I expected, people are already roaming the streets. Some walk with a clear destination, like me, while others meander, with an arm sometimes raised as a makeshift umbrella. I shiver and gaze up at the sky. It’s a stubborn whitish-gray, and I’ll wager that won’t change until the sun goes down this evening.

It’s all so beautiful.

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Conner

Name: Candice Marley Conner
Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism/ Fairytale Retelling
Title: THE WILDNESS IN MELLIE FEYE

There’s a guy following me.

I try to ignore him but as I’m the only one wading out here, thigh-deep in Sand Blast Bay, it’s hard to do. His stride is unfamiliar so I glare at him even though the strong Florida sunlight bouncing off the water makes it pointless. He yells something that I can’t make it out, so I turn my back to him. Maybe it’s not the smartest course of action, but I want him to know I’ve got more important things to do like getting my quota of scallops for the day. He can just make his way back to those party boats he came from, the stereo loud enough that he and his buddies aren’t out here to fish. I touch the oyster knife strapped to my leg for reassurance.

The sapphire of scallop eyes flash in the grassy, brackish water and I submerge victoriously, blinking to clear my eyes so I can see to push the bay grass aside. The scallop clicks its two shells together, an underwater butterfly, propulsing away and deeper into the mucky bay floor. It can’t escape me though and I grab it. Standing up, blinking to clear the salt from my eyes before the sunlight makes them burn, my head smacks into something hard. I topple back underwater with a splash.

“What the—?” I screech, surfacing and sputtering, the scallop sinking into the now cloudy water. The guy flounders, looking as dazed as I feel though anger at losing the scallop and that he closed the distance between us so quickly helps me recover faster. I pull the oyster knife from my leg sheath. Holding it out between us, I can’t stop myself from wondering if he could end my curse. My hand tightens on the grip.

He gingerly touches his forehead. “What did you hit me with?”

“Excuse you?” I spit, my bagged scallops clacking at this interloper in admonishment.

He regains his footing as I blink furiously to clear my eyes. Now that I can see better without the glare, this guy is gorgeous. Even observing him with the sun to his back, he has golden skin stretched taunt over muscular shoulders, pecs, abs, and lower… oh, sweetcrabmeat!

“You’re going to gut me after you gave me a concussion?” He winces as he runs a hand through his hair.

“You hit me on my head,” I shoot back, annoyed anew at him for being so hot and myself for noticing.

“That was your head?”

The surprise in his voice makes me seriously consider gutting him, but instead I glower. If I draw blood, it’ll just attract sharks and then I’ll probably feel bad.

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I lie, even though a headache began throbbing immediately. “Why did you head butt me?” I should just go, turn heels and disappear into the marshes but this spot has been a favorite of mine for the past couple of days and oddly enough, something makes me want to stay and talk to this sunshine-outlined mystery guy. Maybe it’s the flutters in my stomach that feel like fish nibbling my toes.

“I didn’t mean to. I tried to get your attention. Figured maybe you were looking for something that flew off your boat? And then you went under so fast, I thought something got you.”

I look around at the still, flat water. Into the setting sun, the boats he walked over from are still pulled together. “Do you see a boat near me?”

“Well, I… no. That’s why I thought you needed help.”

“Oh, you were coming to rescue me. How sweet.” The sarcasm might be a side effect from the blow to the head. Or, maybe it’s part of my charm.

He takes a step back and a teeny, tiny part of me regrets being so harsh, but really my head is killing me. I’m irritated at myself for turning my back to him and letting him get so close. Usually I can feel things moving in the water; that’s why I’m good at scalloping.

By way of apology, I hold up my dive bag so he can see. The scallops inside clap their bivalves in reproach for being pulled out of the water. No matter, they’ll be in batter and hot oil soon enough. “I’m looking for these.”

“You’re not a tourist?”

I shake my head, then immediately regret it.

“I just figured you were with the um, green hair. Haven’t seen you around.”

I hold the knife between my teeth and brush my wet, yes, green hair into a ponytail, knotting it. I dyed it bright green soon after my mom kicked me out of the house for taking revenge on a father I thought for sixteen years was dead. “I’m from the Cape,” I respond once the knife is in my hand again.

“But even Cape kids go to Bayview High.”

“Home-schooled,” I say simply, uneasy at how personal our conversation is getting and how dark the world is growing.

“You don’t look so good…”

“You look beautiful,” I slur then drop my oyster knife in the bay water as I clap my hand over my mouth to keep those embarrassing words safely inside.

“What?”

But I can see by the grin on his face that he understood me just fine. He scoops up the knife and slides it back into the sheath on my leg. Where his hand touches my skin jolts as if I stepped on a sting ray barb. I jerk back in surprise and he does too.

The space between us grows heavy and dark as he stands there, his eyes going from his still outstretched hand back to me. I want to sink into the water and disappear. Everything’s getting shadowy and now there’s a loud buzzing in my ears like a hundred motor boats coming at me at once. I sway and when he reaches out to catch my elbow, I feel the electricity again, but it grows fainter as I slip into the darkness.


When I come to, the buzzing sound is even louder but I realize it’s from an actual boat motor now. The air whipping passed revives me so that I see the sky has grown darker, but a normal, sun-about-to-set dusk rather than a black-out kind of darkness and that I’m in an unfamiliar boat with an unfamiliar beach towel covering me. Rising up to rest on my elbows makes my head spin.

“Hey, Ray? She’s up,” an unfamiliar masculine voice says.

Footsteps approach the padded bench I’m resting on and an electric current zings through the air so either a summer storm is about to strike or I didn’t just have a really bizarre, embarrassing dream. In that case, I’m hoping for a bolt of lightening to hit me before I have to open my eyes.

“I put your scallops in the live well.”

I open one eye at a time. Now that the sun isn’t as harsh, his facial features are clearer and they go along perfectly with everything I saw earlier. Long gold lashes frame bright green eyes with a light freckling on his nose. His lips are salt puckered and as they curve into a grin, I realize that he’s watching me stare in approval. Squeezing my eyes shut, I pull the towel over my head. “Thanks, but can you just throw me overboard?”

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Mayberry

Name: Marty Mayberry
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Title: 100 Kisses


Spotting my ipod on the coffee table, I tugged it from beneath my roommate’s legs. I tapped my foot on the frayed carpet while I dialed up a pavement-slapping mix of U2, Beyonce, and Taylor Swift.

“Going for a run?” Charice stared at the TV, transfixed with a bare-chested man brandishing a spear. She tore her gaze from the Survivor rerun long enough to glance my way, her deep brown eyes widening in her caramel face. “Girl, you look smokin’ in those black, stretchy-leg things. I should take up exercise. Might meet some cute guys.” The package by her side crackled, and she lifted a cookie to her lips. “I’m porkin’ out here.”

“Perseverance, Charice. You start with one run and somehow find the will for another.” I grinned and nudged her thigh. “Before you know it, you’re proud to sport spandex.”

“That’s too much effort.” Grabbing another cookie, she peeled it apart, revealing the thick, creamy center. Her pink tongue darted out to lick the frosting, and a blissful expression suffused her face.

I groaned.

Forget it, Madison. Don’t risk falling down the slippery slope of cookie overindulgence. Like a junky in need of a fix, you’ll stuff your mouth in a blind blur, only to wake with your nails scrambling along the bottom of the package, crumbs dusting your chest, your stomach churning from carb overload. You’ll have to run for hours. Forty minutes is bad enough.

“What time does your flight leave tonight?” she asked.

“10:40. I’m meeting my cousins at Logan.” I wanted to collapse to the ground every time I thought about my upcoming archaeological dig in Rome. I’d scored an opportunity my fellow USM classmates would kill for, even if the stipend would barely pay my fall tuition. An entire summer piecing together amphora shards to reveal clues from an ancient civilization’s past. Nirvana.

Even better, I’d finally meet Dr. Giordano, my long-distance mentor. My uncle introduced us via the internet and we’d exchanged emails the past six months. The charming old man took time from his busy schedule to send notes about the project I’d participate in, support before a big test, and insider tips that gave me a considerable edge over my peers.

I’d packed my bags, tucked my itinerary into my purse, and cleaned out the local Rite Aid’s Dramamine supply. I cringed at the thought of flying. While I knew my chances of dying were greater in a car, I could barely rein in my panic.

“I can picture you now, tiny paint brush in hand, elbow deep in dirt as you reveal some dead person’s trash. You’ll be in heaven.”

I laughed. “Can’t wait.”

“Lots of hot Italian guys in Rome.” She wiggled her eyebrows.

My jaw dropped. “Italian men in Rome? You don’t say.”

“I read they pinch asses every chance they get, so watch out.”

“Guess so.” I doubted anyone would pinch my ass.

“You’ll see.” She waved the remote my way. “Wear those slinky things, and they’ll be all over you like peanut butter on jelly.”

“Sounds yummy.” Chuckling, I locked the door behind me.

After stretching, I speed walked along Exchange Street. Casco Bay sparkled in the distance, a quilt of assorted blues, adorned with white-capped frills. A crisp breeze blasted my face, trailing goose flesh across my arms with its icy caress. The sea-leaden air ruffled my long, black hair, driving stray chunks into my eyes. I restrained it with a headband.

Taking my usual route toward Commercial, I strode past moms pushing carriages with well-bundled babies strapped inside, and window shoppers who stopped in the middle of the sidewalk without a care for anyone around them.

I popped in my ear buds and stretched my legs to a steady jog. My pink Nikes obeyed my command, and I picked up my pace, grooving to the beat of Bootylicious. As I passed DeMillo’s Restaurant, the palpable aroma of the fryolator sank into my pores. My taste buds surged, blasted with a tantalizing mix of onion rings, burgers, and local lobster with piping-hot butter. I put the Bay to my back, and forced myself up Franklin. Surging down the other side, I puffed past the traffic stopped at the lights on Marginal Way. I took the long way back to the Old Port, adding five more minutes to my run so I could have a few cookies.

Staggering to a stop outside my apartment, I braced my hands on my knees and panted. Sweat trickled down my face and glued my sports bra to my chest. My phone cheeped, and I pulled it from my back pocket.

An email from Dr. Giordano: The final details for your internship at Monte Testaccio are in place. The Project Managers expect you at the dig on Monday.

While I longed to shriek and dance on the sidewalk, I unearthed a scrap of dignity and typed a reply instead: Thank you for all you’ve done for me. I look forward to finally meeting you.

##

A security guard winked as I passed him at the airport. Hiding a grin behind my curtain of hair, I dragged my suitcases, stuffed to the gilpies with my new clothes. I’d dressed in capris, a red top, and strappy sandals with three-inch heels my parents purchased. I hated it when they spent money on me, because dairy farms paid nill. Mom insisted, citing my lost weight as a valid reason for a shopping spree. Now that the deed was done, I had to admit, I enjoyed wearing something that fit for a change. Hell, when I scrutinized my reflection in the mirror before I left Portland, an entirely different girl smiled back at me.

I paused under an airport monitor and compared the schedule to my itinerary. Alitalia Flight #615, on time. First class seats and a direct, overnight flight, courtesy of Uncle Peter.

After checking my luggage at the desk, I breezed through security without an unpleasant strip search. I shifted my carry-on on my shoulder and headed to my gate. When I drew close, I didn’t need a text message to find my way. Boisterous laughter announced their presence from a mile down the hall.

Natasha and Catherine, aka, Nat and Cat, my twenty-one-year-old, identical twin cousins. I hadn’t seen them since my graduation from high school, three years before.

A grin bloomed on my face as I snuck up on Nat. Or was it Cat? I tapped her shoulder and deepened my voice. “Excuse me, Miss.”

Scooting sideways in the plastic chair, her head cricked, and her jaw dropped. She sprang off her seat and slapped her hands to her cheeks. “Oh. My. God. Mady! You’re skinny!” Tottering around the aisle on five-inch black heels, she rushed me. We hugged, and she kissed my cheeks in bobbing European fashion before holding me at arm’s length. Her eyes widened as they traveled down my body. “You look absolutely gorgeous.”

“She always looks gorgeous.” My other cousin joined us, her sapphire-blue eyes sparkling in her lightly tanned face. “How you been, hon?”

“Great, umm . . .” My gaze flew between them as I tried to determine who was who. Each sported nose rings, although one wore hers on the left, the other on the right. Their black hair stood on end, adorned with fluorescent pink tips. It lent their pointed features an elven appearance.

The cousin on my left pouted. “I’m Cat. Can’t you tell?”

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Litwin

Name: Laurie Litwin
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Title: Bee Stadium

Harrison Templeton has a big fat head. But it's a good thing. When I slouch in my seat behind him in seventh period Language Arts, Mrs. Cooper can't see me. At least, I don't think she can.

Today I scrunch so low, my butt isn't even on the chair.

My right knee taps with each second - thirty minutes to go. I've been waiting for-freaking-ever for this day. Or eight months, which is practically forever. The first day of baseball practice.

We have a shot at making it all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport this year. That would be the most awesome thing ever. Well, not as awesome as A Rod showing up at my house. But still awesome.

I peer two inches to the right, around Harrison's watermelon head. His hair is sticking straight out on one side, like he battled with the hair gel and lost.

"Can anyone tell me from what point of view the Red Badge of Courage is written?" Mrs. Cooper asks, pacing in front of the white board wielding a dry erase marker like a bayonet.

I hate this book. I'd rather eat moldy broccoli than read this book.

I don’t understand why we can’t read something cool. Like The Boy Who Saved Baseball or The Wild Pitch. Now those were good books. Heck, I kind of even liked Holes. All this talk of themes and symbolism makes me want to poke my eye out with my number two pencil.

I duck out of her line of sight. She's been droning on the entire class period about the book. She's going to call on someone to read out loud soon. And it better not be me.

I hate reading out loud. I see the words, then they jumble up like a puzzle when I try to read them.

Drumming my fingers on the desk, I turn my head and look out the window. If I squint my eyes enough, I can just make out the baseball diamond on the other side of the big grassy field.

I can hear the ump yelling "Batter up!" in my mind.

“Jake?” Hearing my name shouted shakes me out of my thoughts.

“What?” My voice comes out high, like a girl. I push myself upright and shrug my shoulders. I have no idea what Mrs. Cooper just asked me.

To my right, Kyle Filbert, my arch enemy, snickers, his black hair flopping forward and covering one of his eyes like a pirate's eye patch. I shoot him a dirty look and ball my hand up into a tight fist under my desk. Sometimes I really want to punch the jerk in the face. But Mom would be super mad at me if I did.

“I asked you to read the first paragraph of chapter three out loud to the class,” she says slowly, lifting her eyebrows at me. Or, should I say, eyebrow. She has one thick brown eyebrow that crawls across the top of her eyes like a caterpillar.

She picks on me on purpose. I know it. Because I have a harder time reading aloud than the other kids. It’s not fair.

I sigh as loud as I can and then tap my hand on my leg, stalling. Praying for the bell to ring so I can get out of this nightmare.

"Henry ... uh ... wal ... k ... walked by ... him ... self into ... uh ... into the ... uh ... dark ... nessss ... darkness." My palms sweat more and more with each word I read.

I stop and take a deep breath, fiddling with the baseball hat in my lap. I have to keep it hidden under my desk because Mrs. Cooper won't let me wear it in class. Last week she kept it for a whole day when I forgot to take it off before I walked into the classroom.

The final bell rings as I open my mouth to continue.

Safe!

“Saved by the bell, Mr. Evans.”

My shoulders slump forward and I drop my head, defeated.

She looks away from me and addresses the class. “Pick one of the major themes in The Red Badge of Courage and tell me how it relates to your own life – I want one typed page by Monday morning. And the practice spelling bee will be tomorrow. Don’t forget to study the word list I handed out last week.”

I stop, frozen in my seat, like I got sucked into a black hole.

The spelling bee?

NO!

I hate spelling. And I hate the spelling bee even more. We had to do one in class last year and I got my first word wrong. Tulip. The easiest word ever. Not to mention a total girl word. And I got it wrong. I spelled it "T-O-O-L-I-P." Everyone laughed at me. I wanted to hurl.

No way can I put myself through that kind of humiliation again.

I pull my baseball hat free from my belt loop and shape the bill between my palms, putting the spelling bee out of my mind. If I concentrate hard enough, I can hear the baseball field calling my name.

Batting seventh ... Number 11 ... Jake Evans.

I bolt outta my seat my seat and head for the door. I'm two steps from freedom when Mrs. Cooper shouts my name.

"Jake!"

I stop so fast my sneaker squeaks on the floor. My momentum propels me forward and I have to flap my arms like a bird so I don't fall on my face.

When I turn and look at Mrs. Cooper, she's holding a sheet of paper in front of her. Taking tiny steps, I shuffle my way to where she's standing and take the paper from her. There's a red D at the top of the page.

My stomach drops into the basement as I stare at the glaring red letter.

I stuff it in my backpack, groaning.

Mom's going to murder me and feed my insides to the ducks at the duck pond downtown.

"I understand today's the first day of baseball practice," she says, putting one hand on her hip and jutting her chin out to the side, toward the baseball field.

"Uh, yeah." I take a step backward toward the door. I wanna jet outta here so bad.

"You're very close to failing my class. If your grade falls any lower, you won't be able to play baseball."

My breath gets caught in my throat and I croak, "Huh?" I try to swallow, but it's like there's a huge wad of bubble yum stuck there. "No way," I squeak.

My face burns hotter and hotter the longer I stand here.

She stares at me so hard I'm surprised I don't combust. I ball my hands into tight fists, fighting the urge to flee.

"A failing grade means no baseball," she repeats, saying the words super slow, like I'm hard of hearing. I can hear her fine, I just don't like what she's saying.

"Is there anything I can do. Extra credit, or something." My voice rises. I probably sound like a girl.

She pauses, thinking. The caterpillar above her eyes wiggles a little as she considers my question.

"I'll tell you what. If you place in the top three in the classroom spelling bee next week you'll advance to the school spelling bee.

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Chiang

Name: Sylvia Chiang
Genre: Middle Grade
Title: Cross Ups


Chapter One


No one had beaten Jaden at Cross Ups IV since before Christmas. That was four months ago and he wasn’t planning to give up that record today.

Whoosh! Jaden back dashed Kaigo to avoid a fireball.

Kaigo was Jaden’s main. Most people didn’t like playing Kaigo, the dragon cross, because he was hard to master. Jaden had trained for months to pull off his timing-sensitive specials. Now he loved the power of summoning those moves that transformed Kaigo into his dragon side.

He also loved that Kaigo looked like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. His muscles were so huge they rippled through his black kung-fu uniform. Plus he had the most awesome projectile of all the characters in Cross Ups IV: instead of throwing fireballs, he breathed them. How cool was that?

As Kaigo, Jaden could own anyone he met on-line.

WHAM!

Well, almost anyone.

Holy crap! How did he hit me with that atomizer combo? I was blocking!

As soon as he was out of hitstun, Jaden played Kaigo’s dragon fire special.

What the?

Jaden dropped the combo when his opponent, the phoenix cross, disappeared briefly and reappeared behind Kaigo.

How’d he do that? Can Blaze teleport?

Jaden tried again, but he wasn’t fast enough. Blaze grabbed Kaigo, whipped him into the air and juggled him.

Aaahhh! I can’t get any moves in. This guy’s too fast.

Jaden pushed the back button to block the next string of atomizers, but Kaigo took the punishment. His health meter dropped to critical.

My super meter is full. Too bad I’m going to die from chip damage at this rate. Why isn’t my block working?

Kaigo breathed a fireball in his opponent’s face. Blaze jumped out of range and threw another atomizer.

I’m running out of life. I’ve got to make something happen soon.

Jaden worked his controller, trying for Kaigo’s biggest super.

Come on…

Panic made him do something he hadn’t done in ages – a total button mash.

Miraculously, Kaigo transformed into his dragon side and a grey cloud of smoke swirled like a tornado across the screen through his opponent. Jaden watched in shock as Blaze crumpled and his life meter dove. Now both opponents were one hit from defeat.

Jaden immediately played his bread and butter combo: two crouching light punches back to back, followed by dragon breath.

K.O.

“Whaaaaaaat!?!” Behind Jaden, his friends screamed and jumped up from the leather couch.

Devesh pointed to the TV on the wall. “No way! You did not just do that!”

Hugh sprawled his hefty form onto the carpet at Jaden’s feet, bowing and chanting, “You are the master.”

Jaden remained frozen on the couch, mouth open, eyebrows raised. His straight black hair fell over his left eye. “Am I dreaming?” he asked softly, letting the controller drop to the floor. “No, seriously, am I asleep? Someone hit me now.”

Devesh and Hugh piled on top of their friend, pummelling him with good-natured jabs.

“I can’t believe you did that,” Hugh said, settling his glasses back in place. “That guy is unbeatable, Dude. I see Knight Rage online all the time, but I’ve never heard of anyone defeating him.”

“I’ve never seen that super.” Devesh helped Jaden up off the carpet.

“That’s because I’ve only ever hit it one time. The timing is crazy hard.”

“We’ve got to start streaming your battles. That was Godlike!” Devesh’s phone binged and he pulled it out of his pocket. “I gotta go. I was supposed to meet my dad 10 minutes ago. He just texted me from the car in all caps.” He grabbed his bag and sweater and walked backwards out of the living room.

“Hold up, I gotta go too, Dude. Think your dad will give me a ride?” Hugh grabbed his things and ran after Devesh, breathing hard by the time he got to the end of the hall.

“You live on the other side of town. Why you always asking me for a ride? Train your parents better.” Their voices trailed off until the door slammed shut behind them.

Jaden sat staring in disbelief at the TV screen, his arm muscles twitching as if he had physically done battle. On the screen, his avatar celebrated with fist pumps and high kicks. Kaigo’s win quote at the bottom of the screen read, “You need more confidence to beat me.”

It was 6:27. He was cutting it close still having the game on. His thumb was descending on the power button when a message popped up on the screen.

G00D G4M3 JSTAR

Players didn’t usually message after a fight, unless they were friends. Jaden hesitated then wrote back: THNX

Within seconds another message: 7HINK U C4N D0 1T 4G41N?

Could he? He had no idea how he’d pulled off that final move. But there was no way he was going to admit that. He typed: ANY TIME

4LR1GH7! B4TTL3 @ T0P T13RS 1N 2 W33KS & PR0V3 1T

Jaden hesitated, his thumbs rapidly tapping the controller. A real gaming tournament? He often watched footage of his favourite gamer, Yuudai Sato, playing at big events like the EVO Championship Series, but he’d never thought about actually going. It wasn’t an option.

He wrote back: NO THNX

Y N0T?

Jaden’s curiosity battled with the ticking clock. 6:30. His parents could be pulling into the driveway. Quickly he typed: WHO RU?

The answer seemed to take forever. When it finally came, it raised more questions than answers. R3G1ST3R & T3LL 3M KN1GHT R4G3 S3NT U – TH3Y’11 WA1V3 UR F33.

A key turned in the lock. Jaden went into his shut down routine, quickly powering off the TV and game console and sliding the controller under the cushion next to him. He flipped open his math book and tried to act bored, hoping his parents wouldn’t notice his shaking hands.

Knight Rage’s question pulsed in his mind.

Why not?



Chapter Two

Mr. Efram wrote on the blackboard at the start of math class: The Problem of the Day.

“Yeah,” Jaden whispered to Devesh and Hugh, “You have two parents who refuse to let you play any violent games, and one invitation to a way cool video game tournament. What do you do?”

The three boys formed a group as they had done daily since meeting each other in math on their first day at Layton Senior Public School.

“You have to go,” Devesh whispered back. “You can’t back out of a challenge. You think Yuudai Sato would back out of a challenge? If you want to be the best, you have to show everyone you can bring it.”

“Yeah, maybe if I build a time machine and skip ahead eight months to my thirteenth birthday,” Jaden dropped his head to his desk in despair. “I looked up the tournament on-line. Since Cross Ups IV is 13A, I’d need my parents to sign a consent form. That’s not going to happen.”

Mr. Efram finished writing on the board, ran his hand over his bald spot, and turned to the class. Like every day he pointed with his thumb to the poster of the Justice League on the wall showing the problem solving steps. “Remember - be a user of USAR. Understand, Strategize, Attack and Reflect.”

The problem of the day was: A wizard has counted 14 animal feet in his home. He only has werewolves and bats. What are all the possible combinations of werewolves and bats the wizard might have?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Announcing the Free April 1st Five Pages Workshop with mentor Lori M. Goldstein

Our April workshop will open for entries at noon EST on April 5, 2014. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements.

Click here to get the rules!

And we have some very exciting news!

As some of you may know, Lisa and I have been really struggling to keep up with the workshop on top of our own writing and various other responsibilities at Adventures in YA Publishing and elsewhere. In addition to going through the final stages of publication on the first book of my trilogy, I'm writing the second book, and I was honestly struggling with the decision to have to close the workshop  down. But we have had such success and so many great participants come through the workshop, that I really hated that idea.

Fortunately, a number of amazing authors have stepped up to give us a hand here as permanent mentors who will each take one participant per month through the initial entry and two revisions so that each workshop participant will receive a critique each week (time permitting) from the guest mentor and two permanent mentors.

We'll always have the updated mentor list here, but so that you know how it is going to work, here is the full current list.

FOUNDING MEMBERS:

Martina Boone (little old moi), loves reading and writing books about beautiful, vicious, magical worlds that intersect our own. She is the principal blogger at Adventures in YA Publishing, and the founding member of YA Series Insiders. COMPULSION, the first book of her Southern gothic trilogy, will be available Fall 2014 from Simon Pulse – Simon & Schuster.

Lisa Gail Green (aka Lisa the Great) writes paranormal and fantasy. She is the author of THE BINDING STONE, the first novel in her DJINN series. She would most definitely have a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic.

AND OUR NEW MEMBERS:

Kimberly Sabatini is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for three and four year olds. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys. Kimberly writes Young Adult fiction and is represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. TOUCHING THE SURFACE was her debut novel from Simon Pulse – Simon & Schuster.

Julie Musil is represented by Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. She writes Young Adult novels from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go.

Susan Dennard is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels–and not novels about fish, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues. Her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, as well as the prequel, A DAWN MOST WICKED, and the sequel, A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY, are available from HarperTeen.

Ron Smith writes television commercials for an ad agency in Chicago. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He’d rather be writing fiction full-time, and exploring worlds of wonder and imagination. He writes YA and MG fiction and is represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services.

Miriam Forster is a recovering barista and former bookseller who's obsessed with anthropology, British television and stories of all kinds. Her debut fantasy CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS was published by HarperTeen in February 2013.

Leslie S. Rose was an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre at UCLA for many years where several of her plays were produced. Her short stories appear in the ongoing Journeys of Wonder series and the anthology Paramourtal 2 by Cliffhanger Books.

Erin Cashman's debut YA fantasy novel, THE EXCEPTIONALS, was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book. She primarily writes YA and middle grade fantasy while eating chocolate and drinking tea.

Sheri Larsen is a lover of the otherworldly, and her sweet spot is writing for the average tween/teen who's not so average. But she write picture books and middle grade as well. She is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary, and is also the creator of #WS4U!-a Facebook writer support group, and co-collaborator for Oasis for YA.

Stasia Ward Kehoe is the author of YA novels THE SOUND OF LETTING GO and AUDITION, both published by Viking. She grew up performing at theaters along the eastern seaboard, then shifted from stage to page and has been writing fiction, marketing copy and educational materials for almost two decades.

Melanie Conklin is a MG & YA author represented by Peter Knapp of Park Literary Group. In between books, she spends her time doodling and chasing after two small maniacs. She is also the founding member of Kidliterati.com, a group blog that gets to the heart of kidlit.

 
APRIL GUEST MENTOR


Lori Goldstein is one of our workshop success story alumni. As a young girl, Lori would make a tent with her bed sheet and clasp a flashlight in one hand and a book in the other. She’d read into the wee hours, way past her bedtime. Turns out, the habits you make when you are a kid do become lifelong. And evolve. Now, not only does she read past my bedtime, she writes past her bedtime.

And waking up tired has never felt so good.

She is represented by Lucy Carson of The Friedrich Agency. Her debut novel, a Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy, currently titled Becoming Jinn, will be released by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s, in Spring 2015. The sequel will follow in Spring 2016.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


ABOUT BECOMING JINN

Wishing doesn’t make it so, Azra does. Turning sixteen opens the door to Azra’s Jinn ancestry and her new life as a genie. But receiving her powers isn’t exactly what Azra would call a gift. Her destiny is controlled by the powerful Afrit who rule over the Jinn world, and she must keep her true identity a secret from all but her fellow Jinn.

As she forms a friendship with the human boy across the street and an attraction to the lifeguard with the underwear model exterior and sweet, shy interior, her attachment to the human world begins to strain her ties to the Jinn. With her attention divided, she skirts the rules, and her genie mistakes begin to mount, along with the consequences. As Azra uncovers the darker world of becoming Jinn, she realizes when genies and wishes are involved, there’s always a trick.

Goodreads

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Ziegler Rev 2

Name: Allison Ziegler
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Aeternium

A cat watches a girl in front of a magical door.

It stands in chip-paint disrepair, nestled in a vestibule safe from prying eyes. It is one of many secret doors scattered across Allegheny City, but they all lead to the same place. Magic has little regard for geography.

Hazel Congelier has little regard for geography, either. She roots through her shoulder bag. She isn't precisely neat, and it takes her a moment to find her prize--a wrinkled page bearing a single word: "open." At least, it would look like a single word to most people. To Hazel, there are swirls of visible energy woven into ink and paper, a framework for a spell. It's a flimsy thing, nothing like the ancient tome her master uses, a toy for an apprentice not yet empowered with a book of her own. Hazel knows the Church wouldn't find it so insignificant if they caught her using it, and besides, a trickle of magic is better than none at all.

Ping.

The cat and the girl whip their heads in unison. A dingy alley stretches toward a city locked in afternoon bustle--newsboys shout and trolleys squeal and spidery Crawlers clang in front of their trundling carriages. A well-dressed working girl barely older than Hazel whistles by, and her t-strap toe connects with a rock. Ping. It hits a nearby gutter.

Hazel lets out a shaky breath. The alley is empty; there are no priests or policemen rushing to drag her away. Hazel bets the other girl, with her swinging skirts and carefree gait, wouldn't panic over a kicked pebble. In her experience, the magic in Hazel's fingertips has gifted her more fear than power.

The cat gives an impatient flick of his inky tail.

Hurry, he says. We're late. This is no time for philosophy. His name is Soren, and he is Hazel's familiar.

With one last glance at the empty alleyway, Hazel grabs at the magic that hovers over her bond with Soren. Their illicit partnership is the reason she can do magic, the reason she will be able to go through this door. All the energy needed for casting spells buzzes between them. The letters on the page glow yellow, casting opaque light into sooty shadows. Hazel raps the door three times and takes three...deep...breaths.

"Open," she says. The world goes black for a split second, and Hazel wills the spell to take shape. In an instant, it's over. The door opens, and she steps through to the other side of reality, faced with a hidden city in miniature for the fantastic things the outside world has declared undeniably and wholly evil. Dozens of makeshift structures line the walls and form cramped alleyways, stacked three high into teetering towers. The air here is clean, free from the heavy smog outdoor streets. The magic users and familiars that roam its creaky corners breathe deeply and speak freely.

A large wooden sign, hanging on the nearest second-story platform, reads "A SANCTUARY FOR FAMILIARED CITIZENS." Hazel takes a moment to absorb this place, called simply "Sanctuary" by those in the know. She's been here before, on a visit to the city. That was four years ago. Four schools ago, four homes ago, four lifetimes ago. Or is it five? The various lives and identities of Hazel Congelier blend a little at the edges lately.

She picks her way to the back the ground floor, all the way to a brick building with a massive mural on the front, painted in blinding-bright colors. A dragon waltzes in a rumple-front ball gown with a monocled turtle, each holding mugs of frothy beer. The top reads thusly:

THE DRUNKEN DRAGON: FOR WHEN A TIPSY TURTLE JUST ISN'T ENOUGH

I forgot how garish it was, Soren says. He bristles as they walk through the door.

"It's better than I remember," Hazel says.

Inside, a pianist with a beagle at his feet pounds out a bright tune, and a man lounges atop the gleaming upright. People dance in a gap between the tables and the bar. They are as varied as the people outside--well-dressed and fraying, men and women, old and young. Few are quite so young as Hazel, though. Magic is generally an adult game.

"Hazel, dear girl! There you are!" calls the man on the piano. His name is Nixby Glass, and the

Drunken Dragon is his natural habitat. He is the owner of Sanctuary, and the overseer of magic in Allegheny City. He is also Hazel's grandfather, after a fashion. He hops down in pink-shoe sprightliness. Purple suspenders poke out of his suit jacket, and a red-and-green parrot takes up residence on his top hat. He is short, only inches taller than Hazel's rather meager five-feet-no-inches, but his voice and presence dominate the room.

"Hello, Master Nixby," Hazel says. He pulls her into a tight hug, and his white whiskers scratch her cheek. She glances over his shoulder, eyes searching for her teacher. Master Sorcerer Astor Congelier glowers at her from a table against the wall, his bearded jaw carrying an impatient edge. He and Soren have similar opinions on lateness.

"Look at you," Nixby says, "Almost a little woman! It's a good thing you came. I have a birthday present for you." He produces a tidy gift box and presents it to Hazel with a wink. She pulls her eyes from Astor's plain disapproval. "How old are you, again? Forty-three? Eight-eight? One hundred and six?"

"I'm seventeen, Master Nixby. Don't you think I'm a little old for you to keep pretending it's my birthday every time I see you?"

"So young as that? I think you can still indulge an old man who likes to dote on you, no?"

Excuse me if I don't watch this charade, Soren says. He fades into the crowd, and Hazel lets him go.

This sort of greeting is a charade, one that they've acted out a hundred times before. Hazel loves the familiarity of it--between constant moving and constant hiding, she's had precious little sameness in her life.

"I suppose for another few decades, I'll be young enough for that." She takes the box and pulls open the bow in one smooth motion. Inside is a heavy silver pendant, an oval bearing a delicate rose. It's a necklace for a grown woman, for someone older and more accomplished than not-quite-grown Hazel
Congelier. "It's beautiful," she says.

"Well? Turn around so I can put it on you. Hurry now," Nixby says.

"Hurry now, Hurry now," Nixby's familiar echoes from atop his hat. Nixby calls him Luck the Liar, and he is the only familiar Hazel has ever known to speak out loud.

"Absolutely stunning," Nixby says as Hazel turns with a little film-star flourish. "Now, I have to attend to something in the back, but it was so good to see you, darling. Welcome home." With that, Nixby rejoins the crowd, a king among his people. Home. After only three days in the city, Hazel isn't sure she can properly lay claim to the word.

She glances back at Soren, who sits at the feet of her master's massive familiar, an Irish wolfhound named Lady. Astor taps the table with an impatient finger.

Hazel makes it halfway to the back of the room when The Drunken Dragon's front doors slam open. She freezes alongside the bar's dancers and drinkers and talkers and laughers. The piano clanks to a discordant finale. A newcomer stumble-foots in. He looks up through fringes of graying hair.

"Paladins," he says.

Monday, March 17, 2014

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Schafer Rev 2

Name: Jennifer Schafer
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: BITS & PIECES

My favorite family photo was snapped by a night nurse. She nearly cut off my dad’s head in her off-kilter focus. No matter. The absolute adoration on his face for the tufty-haired bundle in his arms transcends the two dimensional. I’ve felt nothing less in the seventeen years since, despite the woman who bore me and disappeared without the first glance.

Her absence made honorary membership in my best friend’s two-parent, five-child family quite natural. Hence, my presence as designated photographer at the Donohue family reunion, and the reason Zoe and I sit side by side this afternoon on her screened porch with my Canon EOS DSLR camera connected to her laptop.

“You’re a real pro, Bits,” Zoe says as she scrolls through the images. “I love this one of my grandparents.” She grins. “I can hear their laughter.”

“Thanks. I’ll pick a dozen or so for my AP portfolio. Your family won’t mind, will they?”

“Are you kidding? They love you.” She pauses and clicks. Several images overlap on the screen of a tall, lanky teen on a grass volleyball court. “And I’d say you have a thing for my cousin.” Her raised eyebrow dares me to contradict her.

“If you notice,” I reach for the touch pad, and she blocks me. “I took pictures of everyone at that game.”

“Um, hmm.” She continues to preview the photos.

A low rumble up the street diverts our attention. A large moving truck pulls in front of Zoe’s house and backs into the driveway across the street.

“Uh, oh.” Zoe reaches for my hand. “Let’s go inside.”

My dad lost his job five months ago. Twelve weeks of dead end interviews sapped his confidence, and he put our home up for sale. Today, the new family moves in.

“Bits, come on.” Zoe moves the laptop to the chair next to her. “Don’t be morbid.” She stands and tugs on my arm.

On my feet, I shake her off and move toward the half wall of the porch. My fingers itch for my camera. A crew of movers unload the new neighbor’s furniture. I frame the scene in my mind’s eye.

“I could totally use this for Photo.” I say more to myself than my friend.

I’m not a stalker. Really. I always ask permission before I take pictures of strangers. When I explain about my Advanced Placement Photo project on families, people are usually happy to help. Especially when I produce an Elizabeth Callahan, photographer business card and offer them access to the JPEGs.

Zoe disconnects my camera, snaps her laptop closed, and moves next to me. She holds her hands to frame the scene across the street, one eye squinted closed. “If you say so. All I see are a bunch of sweaty guys in baggy pants who need to shave.”

The small army of professionals empty the super-sized truck in about half an hour. A man and a woman arrive and work together with practiced communication to back a smaller moving truck into the drive. Each imagined photo I take captures the undercurrent of excitement in their conversation. They tease, they get it done.

“They remind me of your parents,” I say.

The man jumps out of the truck and gives his wife a feet-off-the-ground hug.

“Yeah.” Her reply comes warm and smiley. “They kind of do.”

The dad swats the mom on the butt in passing. She laughs and pays him in kind. My heart makes a sudden and very violent U-turn. So stupid that something nonexistent, like the four molars I never grew, can hit a nerve. My mother’s absence sucks at my soul like a piece of space dust into a black hole. Right now I want nothing more than my own mom to partner with my dad. I bet I’d still live across the street.

“Earth to bits.” Zoe hangs my camera around my neck. “Are you going over there or what?”

A late model SUV parks in the street and a young teen girl appears from the passenger seat.

“Hands to self, children.” The girl comments with the inflection of an eye roll.

The driver of the SUV lifts the rear gate and calls to the girl. “Hey Brooke, come help me with these clothes.”

“Oh. My. God.” Zoe nearly chokes on her surprise. “Is that Chase Dobson?”

No way can I go over there now.

Chase Dobson, can’t catch me star running back. Straight no chaser, party every weekend. All about the chase, no girlfriend just an entourage wherever he and his teammates congregate.

“Where’s the Cro-Magnon Clan?” Zoe scans up and down the street. “You’d think they’d jump at the chance to show off their brute strength.”

“Football practice maybe?”

Zoe’s gaze sticks to Chase’s solid six foot frame as he loads clothing on hangers into his sister’s arms. Brooke waddles under her load into my—her house.

“What a weird thing to do, move your senior year. It can’t have been far. They’ve lived near the golf course as long as I can remember.”

“Weird to move your senior year eight blocks with your dad to a tiny apartment, too.”

“Not when your dad spends three solid months on the wrong end of every interview.” Zoe throws an arm over my shoulder. The scent of her strawberry lip gloss tickles my nose. “I just wondered what caused Mr. All-American’s change in scenery.”

“Not that you mind.” I give her a sly smile. “The view.”

She squeezes me close, the natural rose on her cheek spreads. “Hard not to appreciate a fine form, my friend. You’ve got to go over there. Now.”

She releases me toward the stairs, but I resist.

“I don’t know.” Chase Dobson? It’s one thing to follow him on the football field with my camera for the school newspaper, another entirely to invade his family, regardless of the photographic possibilities.

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Zoe moves around to get in my face. Her voice gains volume, so much so I’m afraid she’ll blow our cover. “This is a perfect opportunity.” She flings one arm toward the boy voted least likely to notice my existence. “Look how human he acts without the rest of the team around.”

Chase gathers a closet full of clothes to his chest, but not before a large, black coat slips to the ground.

“Hey, Mom.” He calls. “I dropped my coat. Can you grab it?” He leans his head to indicate the coat. “My hands are full.”

Mrs. Dobson appears out of the back of the moving van parked in the driveway and walks toward the SUV. “Sure, honey.”

“Thanks.” Chase strides after his sister.

His mom bends to pick up the letter jacket laying partially open on the ground. Crouched halfway, she hesitates, then lifts the coat as if it might bite her. She braces herself against the vehicle with the other hand and slowly collapses onto the bumper. The coat swings around, with the back toward me and Zoe. A sob escapes Mrs. Dobson’s throat. In unison, Zoe and I catch our breaths.

Stitched in two-inch high, all caps across the back of the wool and leather jacket is the name MITCHELL.

“Oh, my God,” Zoe whispers from behind her hand. “I forgot.”

“Me too.”

Across the street, Mr. Dobson trots toward his wife and folds her into his embrace.

Zoe hugs herself as she turns away.

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Rothschild Rev 2

Name: Peggy Rothschild
Genre: Young Adult – Mystery/Crime
Title: Flame

October 1977
From the first moment I saw him, I wanted Denny Beech. Tall and lean, his wheat-colored hair curled over the collar of his blue shirt, while a spiral of smoke drifted from the side of his mouth. I wanted to trade places with the cigarette perched on his lower lip.

Not quite nine o’clock on a Saturday night and the patio thermostat still read seventy-eight degrees. But the Santa Ana winds, blowing since daybreak, had softened. A film of ash from the brush fire east of town coated the walkway and the air smelled of wood smoke. Andie and I paused to inspect our reflections in the sliding glass door. Kim Bellman’s parents traveled a lot and she hosted most of the parties. We all wished the Bellmans would adopt us.

A quick crowd scan told me I knew everybody in the backyard – except for one. Most of us had grown up together. A few new people joined our bunch when we entered high school. But by junior year, our set didn’t welcome many new faces. But Denny’s face demanded welcome. Not a pretty boy, age had already burned away the puppy fat to show off high cheekbones and a strong jaw.

I pulled a cigarette from my quilted purse and nodded toward the newcomer. “Who’s that?”

Andie shrugged then looked at me. “Nice to know someone can still catch your eye.” She dug a lighter from her pocket.

I held back my waist-length hair and bent to the flame, then posed, grateful my period ended two days earlier, taking the bloating and zits along with it. “Is it me or is he drop-dead gorgeous?”

“He’s OK.”

“OK?” I glanced up and caught her staring at the new guy. “Oh, you mean like Jeff Jones was just OK? Or Paul Mathers was just OK?”

Andie chuckled. “You got me. Hand to God, that boy is smokin’.”

“Let’s go talk to him.”

She lit her own cigarette. “What’s gotten into you?”

I centered the Ankh pendant between my breasts. “I’m ready for something different.”

David Bowie’s ‘Stay’ began to play. Andie closed her eyes. “God, I love this song.”

I tugged the sleeve of her gauze top.

She shook her head in mock disgust. “The guy’s not going anywhere.”

“Neither’s the song.”

“Like you’re gonna do anything with him.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

She raised an eyebrow. “You and Randall are really over? For good?”

“We are.” Randall and I’d gone steady – off and on – since we met in ninth grade. For over two years, he’d been the center of my world, with most our ‘off’ times resulting from fights about sex. After last year’s Harvest Moon dance, everyone at school thought Randall and I finally sealed the deal. I hadn’t even told Andie that, once again, I’d shut him down. In spite of his lies to the contrary. I met Andie’s gaze and shook my head. “It’s over.”

“You’re not gonna take him back? Again?”

“No way. Not this time.”

“We’ll see.” Andie stared at the group of boys. “But, if you wind up running back to Randall,” she pointed her cigarette at me, “I call dibs on the new guy.” She started walking across the Tiki torch-lighted yard. “Hell, if you didn’t need some post-break up fun – and hadn’t spotted him first – I’d take the guy behind the Bellmans’ barn tonight.”

“Guess I’ve got something to thank Randall for after all.”

Andie grinned at me. “This’ll be fun. It’s been awhile since I got to play pimp.” She pantomimed adjusting an imaginary hat. “You ready?”

“Yeah.”

Andie strode with a self-assurance I only pretended to own. Maybe because she’d actually slept with a few boys. I took a deep breath. By the time we reached him, we held the new guy’s attention, plus the two others standing with him. I nodded at Chris and Jason, grateful Randall wasn’t hanging out with them tonight.

“Hey,” Andie said.

The guys gave a chorus of heys. Chris said, “Get you a beer, Foss?”

I turned to him. “Thanks.”

Andie held up her hands and shot him a wide-eyed ‘what-the-hell’ look. “Hello,” she sing-songed. “I’ll have a beer, too.”

“Shit, Andie, I knew you’d want a beer.” Chris slouched off toward the ice-filled tub.

Jason signaled for me to give him a cigarette. I dug one out of my purse.

Andie smiled at the new boy. “I’m Andie Greeley. This is Beth Foss.”

“Denny Beech.” He nodded first at Andie, then me.

I gave him a half-smile and waited for Andie to continue carrying the conversational ball.

“You new around here?”

“I’m visiting. Staying with my aunt and uncle.”

“How long?”

Before Denny answered, Chris returned with beers for Andie, Jason and me. “What’d I miss? Anything earthshaking?”

“Nah.” Jason grabbed a can, “Andie’s grilling Denny. Getting all the dope.”

“Speaking of dope,” Chris said, “one of the guy’s is bringing some Maui Wowie later.”

“Excellent,” Andie said. “Now, let me get back to work. I believe we’d gotten as far as: How long will you be here? In spite of Chris’ interruption of our quiz show, there’s still plenty of time to win valuable prizes.” She winked at me.

The way she emphasized ‘valuable prizes’ set my cheeks aflame. The whole idea behind our pimp routine was to talk up the ‘pimpee’– without looking too obvious.

Denny shrugged. “It’s on a ‘we’ll-see-how-it-goes’ basis.”

My stomach gave a tiny flutter. The guy didn’t live at home. He was definitely older. I’d never gone after someone who wasn’t in high school. I tried drowning my nerves with a swallow of beer.

Andie pointed at Denny’s companions. “How’d you hook up these jokers?”

Chris spoke up. “You and Foss writing a book or something?”

“Oh come on. When’s the last time somebody new came to one of Kim’s parties?” Andie turned back to Denny. “So, how’d you meet them?”

Denny smiled. His face transformed from good-looking to movie star handsome. I snapped my mouth shut and tried not to look like I’d started to drool.

He flicked his cigarette butt into the Bellman’s rock garden. “I work with Chris at the Hen House.”

“We love that place,” Andie said. “Part of that’s ’cause we love leaving a mess for Chris. I guess we gotta start acting tidier if you’re bussing tables, too.” She smiled then gave a quick hair toss.

“I’m back in the kitchen. Mostly washing dishes, but I get to run the griddle sometimes.”

“I’ll be sure to order the pancakes next time. I’d love to taste your handiwork.”

I widened my eyes at Andie. She’d abandoned her imaginary purple hat in favor of a shark fin. Best friend or not, I needed to speak up. Soon. If I didn’t, Andie would charm him and Denny would think me simple or mute. “How long have you been in town?” I faced him, both barrels visible, the only way for sure I could best Andie.

“Four weeks now.” Denny’s attention shifted to about eight inches south of my chin. “Came up at the start of September.”

I nodded. “Like it so far?” Denny grinned and my insides melted. Then his gaze met mine.

“I like it better now.”

Denny never looked back at Andie. Or any other girl. After about thirty minutes hanging out with the group, he took my hand and led me to one of the log benches set back from the light and the heat of the fire pit. There Denny leaned forward to kiss me and I met him halfway. His lips touched mine and a spark warmed my heart and stomach then made a beeline to my crotch. I pulled away and looked at him. One kiss and I was already hooked.

“So, why Ventura?” I said when I caught my breath.

“Huh?”

“Why’re you here instead of living with your folks?”

Denny raised my palm to his lips and kissed the fleshy area at the base of my thumb. “Got into a little trouble at home. This is supposed to be my ‘big chance at a fresh start’ – or something like that.” He squeezed my hand. “Why don’t we go for a drive? There’s something I’d like to show you.”

I left Andie at the party without a backwards glance.