Thursday, September 25, 2014

October First Five Pages Workshop Begins 10/4/14 -- Plus We're Adding Agents to the Workshop!

Hi all, this is Erin Cashman, one of our permanent workshop mentors. And I'm pleased to announce that I'm also the new permanent workshop coordinator!

I have to admit, I am sad to see our September First 5 Pages Workshop come to an end. This group really worked hard and did a fabulous job not just revising, but supporting each other as well. It was fun checking in on our Facebook group, and seeing the great suggestions and improvements! And a huge thanks to our guest mentor, Melissa Grey (I can’t wait to read THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT!) and also to Becca Puglisi, who filled in for us in an emergency and will be our guest mentor in April. I keep a copy of THE EMOTION THESAURUS by my laptop while I write and revise. And thanks to our own Lisa Gail Green, who took over for Melissa for week 3.


OCTOBER WORKSHOP STARTS 10/4/2014

Our October workshop will open for entries at noon on October 4, 2014. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have the talented Paula Stokes, author of THE ART OF LAINEY, as our guest mentor!

Click here to get the rules!




WE'RE ADDING AGENTS TO THE WORKSHOP!

And we have some very exciting news! We’ve revised the format of our First Five Pages Workshops, and we will now be adding an agent to help give the last revisions of the month a final polish. It will be a different agent each month. We are thrilled to announce that Jordy Albert, of The Booker Albert Literary Agency, will be our guest agent for October! See below for Jordy’s bio!

OCTOBER GUEST MENTOR

Paula writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She believes in second chances and happy endings, both in life and in books. 

Paula got her start writing historical novels for a book development company. Then she wrote a fluffy YA romantic comedy called THE ART OF LAINEY. After that, she wrote a dark and twisty mystery called LIARS, INC., followed by VICARIOUS. She has four books out and another six on the way, and her writing has been translated into nine different languages!

In addition to being a writer, she’s also an RN, online instructor, and freelance manuscript consultant. When she’s not working, which is rare, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands.

ABOUT THE BOOK


The Art of Lainey
by Paula Stokes
Paperback
Harper Teen
Released 5/20/2014

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is used to getting what she wants, and when her boyfriend Jason breaks up with her for no reason, what she wants is to win him back before the start of their senior year. Lainey and her friend Bianca check the interwebz for tips and tricks, but the online dating advice is all pretty lame.

Then the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. Didn't someone once say that love is a battlefield? Jason isn't going to stand a chance once Lainey and Bee go all Zhou Dynasty on him...

Old school strategy and subterfuge meet modern-day dramarama in the story of a girl who sets out to win at all costs and ends up discovering what's really worth fighting for.


Praise for THE ART OF LAINEY

A satisfying and sweet story." -Publishers Weekly

"Love. Drama. Subterfuge. This one has it all." -Teen Vogue

"...a modern mashup of classic teen movies...Stokes does a good job with the sports subplots as well as the familial relationships. Lainey is a driven athlete who focuses on her passion, which is a refreshing change of pace..." -School Library Journal

"Romantic, witty, and unexpectedly deep. For anyone who has ever had their heart broken, life-plan turned on its head, and future suddenly in question, this book is for you." -Rachel Harris, author of A Tale of Two Centuries and Taste the Heat

Purchase The Art of Lainey at Amazon
Purchase The Art of Lainey at IndieBound
View The Art of Lainey on Goodreads



OCTOBER GUEST AGENT

Jordy Albert is a Literary Agent and co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She holds a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University, and a M.A. from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the L. Perkins Agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. Jordy also works as a freelance editor/PR Director. She enjoys studying languages (French/Japanese), spends time teaching herself how to knit, is a HUGE fan of Doctor Who, and loves dogs.

She is looking for stories that capture her attention and keep her turning the page. She is looking for a strong voice, and stories that have the ability to surprise her. She loves intelligent characters with a great sense of humor. She would love to see fresh, well-developed plots featuring travel, competitions/tournaments, or time travel. Jordy is looking for:

*ROMANCE (contemporary, New Adult, erotica, or historical--soft spot for Regency).
* YA: Open to pretty much any genre; however, she's looking especially for YA that has a very strong romantic element.
*Middle Grade (action/adventure, contemporary).




Monday, September 22, 2014

1st 5 pages September Workshop - Zoltack Rev 2

Name: Nicole Zoltack
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure
Title: A Royal Treasure Hunt

Chapter One - A Royal Adventure
Princess Cassandra's horse thundered along the blue grassy path. With a whoop, she glanced over her shoulder. Far behind her, like always. Probably worried they'd get caught adventuring with her instead of doing their chores on their father's farm. But what could be more fun than finding a phoenix?

She stopped her horse. "Come on, Kylie, Vance!"

"It's not fair," Vance grumbled. "Our horse has to carry two of us." He tsked with his tongue. "Horse thief."

Sitting behind him on their horse, his sister covered her mouth as she giggled.

"I'm not a thief. I'll bring the horse back like I always do." Cassandra crossed her arms, still holding onto the reins. "Hurry. We don't have all day."
She wished they did. If she was late for the midday meal again, her mother would be furious and might even follow through on her threat to take away Cassandra's bestiary. After all, the reason why she and her friends sneaked out of Sun Haven so much was because they wanted to see all of the creatures in Bouldergazer's Bestiary: A Compendia of Magical Creatures. Half a year and no signs of an imp or golem anywhere. They'd never give up though. Looking was just too much fun.

Well, sure, they'd see a few fairies and pixies, but they were common. The other creatures were far more elusive and that much more alluring.

Flicking her wrist, Cassandra urged her horse forward and weaved through the trees until the forest of black-trunked trees ended. She pulled back on the reins. Below, the green water of the Falls churned through the narrow gorge.

Today was far too glorious a day to be wasted watching water flow. She called over her shoulder, "Let's race to see who can find a magical creature first."
"Hurry, Vance," Kylie begged.

"Sh," Cassandra warned. "We don't want to scare any away."
She glanced at the water again. A long slender emerald tail broke the surface of the foamy crashing waves. Too large to belong to a fish, almost longer than her, the tail flicked toward her, as if waving. It quickly disappeared beneath the teal water again.

She gasped. Could it be? A mermaid?
"Come." Cassandra tried to guide her horse down the graveled terrain, careful to avoid the jagged rocks intricately carved by her ancestors eons ago. Stones scattered away from her horse's hooves, their progress slow, her mount constantly backed up. Impatient, she halted her horse and waited for her friends to catch up. "I saw a mermaid."

"Mermaids aren't supposed to swim near here," Vance scoffed.

Cassandra put her hands on her hips. "I know what I saw."

"Where was she?" Kylie asked, her blue eyes sparkling. Even Vance was grinning.
Cassandra pointed. "Do you think we can convince her to give us a tear?"

"Maybe the tear'll allow us to fly," Vance wondered. Their workhorse did not appreciate the steep descent down the side of the Falls either, and the siblings slid off.

"Or breathe underwater," Kylie guessed. She was Cassandra's age, twelve, but Vance was three years older. Despite their age difference, the siblings looked enough alike to be twins with their red hair, blue eyes, and fair skin that sunburned during the summer months. Even their stances were identical: standing tall with wrinkled noses, crossed arms, and matching smiles.
"Or…" Cassandra trailed off as she spied another horse, this one farther down the path. It moved about with ease. When it turned toward the water, she saw its head. And its horn.

Vance and Kylie were still guessing what a tear might do. She tapped their shoulders and pointed.

"Oh," Kylie breathed. "It's beautiful."

The unicorn looked as if it had been dipped in silver. With strong legs and a flowing mane, the unicorn was the most beautiful creature Cassandra had ever seen.
The horned animal watched Cassandra approach and did not back up as her trembling hand brushed against his fur. So soft, so smooth. Perfect.

"Are you sure it's smart to touch a unicorn?" Vance asked from behind her.

"We should have brought the book with us," Kylie said.

Cassandra ignored them. The unicorn made a sound almost like a purr. He lowered his head. Its silver spiral horn called out to her, and she reached to touch it.

Before she could, the unicorn reared up onto its hind legs, its raised legs churning, more restless than the waves. She froze until Vance shoved her out of the way.

But he didn't move fast enough.
The unicorn came down onto all fours, on top of Vance. He screamed. Pebbles tumbled around them as his cry bounced against the rocks. After swinging its head, the unicorn raced away.

Oh no! Cassandra climbed to her feet—Vance had knocked her into a bush in his haste to save her—and ran to his side. Each pump of her heart felt like a punch to her chest. "Vance, I'm sorry. We never should have come down here. I never should have touched the unicorn… I'm so sorry."

Vance's body looked broken. Through his torn clothing, she could already see bruises forming on his chest and stomach, and his one leg seemed swollen. He maneuvered himself up into an almost seated position, turned to the side, was sick, and lay back down again.

Kylie tried to help him up once more. Vance screamed again. Sweated covered his forehead. He closed his eyes, his lips a straight line.

Cassandra wiped her tears away and stood beside Kylie. "Don't worry, Vance, we'll bring you home."
Vance's pale skin was whiter than normal. His freckles seemed to jump off his nose as he jerked his head from side to side. "I… just want…" His voice was breathless.

"Vance!" The fright in Kylie's voice made Cassandra want to start crying again.
A few tears trickled down Vance's face, his eyes closed, and she had to glance away. She had never seen him cry before, never wanted to see him cry again.

Cassandra patted his hand then hurried to her horse. In her haste, she stumbled over a tree root. Dirt covered her mouth, and she spat it out. From a saddlebag, she removed a blanket and rushed back to Vance's side.

"Here." She handed one end to Kylie, and they laid the brown blanket onto the ground. It took the girls several tries before they could shimmy a sweating, screaming Vance on top of it.
His left leg puffed up, as if someone had blown air into it. It turned inward, like the lame beggar who walked in the marketplace, with his leg trailing uselessly behind him.

He reached toward the injured leg. "I can't feel it. Or move it."

Cassandra and Kylie shared a worried glance.

Before they could respond, he struggled to sit up once more.
"Let me help," Kylie offered.

"I'm fine!" Vance snapped, but he swayed and started to fall back onto the blanket. Kylie caught him. He glanced at her sheepishly.

Cassandra bit her lower lip as more sweat formed on his face. Kylie used a large leaf to wipe his face of vomit and dirt. He was so pale, too pale.

"We have to get you to the Healers," she said.

Vance snorted. "We don't have enough copper to pay them."

The princess nodded miserably. The kingdom's Healers were the best in all of Sun Haven. Gold, silver, jewelry—their services came with a steep price.

If only I had something to pay them with!

1st 5 pages September Workshop - Meehan Rev 2

Name: Melanie Meehan
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Title: Dancing in the Rain

“Hold still and don’t breathe,” the lady in the light blue cotton pants said.

From the cold table underneath the x-ray machine, I watched her enter the station that attached to the dim room where I was lying, concentrating on staying still. Holding my breath, my lungs tightened and demanded air. The lady looked down and pushed some buttons. The machine above my leg whirred and clicked.

“Okay, Kelly,” she called. “You can breathe.”

I took a couple of quick breaths until my lungs stopped complaining, studying my legs sticking out from the heavy sheath they had put over me. With the bump on my shin, they seemed even skinnier than usual.

“We need some additional angles,” the technician said. She touched my shoulder. “Let’s turn on to your right side.”

When I turned, she lifted my leg up to slide a plate underneath it. Pain surged up my shin and I bit my lip hard. How many pictures did they need to see the inside of my leg?

“I’m sorry, honey,” she said. “You okay?”

I nodded. I didn’t trust my voice.

“Hold your breath. No moving.” She disappeared and I waited for the whir and click, counting silently in my head. Sometimes, counting calmed me down.

My mom got to come back into the x-ray room when they were checking to make sure that the pictures were clear enough. She leafed through a People magazine, pointing out stories that she thought might interest me. “I tried to find a magazine that you would like,” she said, “but Highlights seemed a little young for a 10 year-old, and I didn’t think you’d like the Cooking Light magazines.”

“Thanks, Mom.” She was trying to be funny, but I was in no mood for laughing.

“Do they really think that my leg could be broken?” I asked. “When Alec Maccarone broke his leg at recess, it was because he fell in our soccer game and it twisted. Max’s bat didn’t even hit me that hard and it definitely didn’t twist my leg or anything.” My six year-old brother had thrown a plastic baseball bat because he was excited to hit the ball. As luck would have it, I was standing in the way of the twirling plastic bat and it hit my leg. Not hard, though. No one could figure out why it hurt so much and left such a bump, even after 24 hours of ice.

“I guess so.” She shrugged. “They don’t really know.”

“What did Dr. Sylvester say to you?” Earlier today, she and my regular doctor had whispered in the hallway, leaving me on the paper-covered cot in the examining room. I had wanted to ask her about their conversation when we were driving from Dr. Sylevester’s office to this different x-ray place, but Mom had been on the phone, and then had been concentrating hard on the navigation system telling her directions.

“What did he say to me?” She always repeated my questions when she didn’t want to answer them.

“Back at his office, the two of you talked in the hallway,” I said. “He never does that. He always talks in front of me. And your mouth was twitching when you came back into the room. You twitch your mouth when you worry. What did he say?”

“They made a wreck of your ponytail,” Mom said, moving behind me and pulling the elastic out. She combed her fingers through my thick red hair. “You really do have enough hair on your head for five people.”

“Mom.” I made my voice sound sharp.  “what did Dr. Sylvester say?” The fact that she was trying to distract me by braiding my hair made me want to know about the conversation even more.

“He thought it was strange that the ice and Motrin didn’t make it feel better, especially after 24 hours, so he wanted to make sure that nothing more serious was going on besides a bump on your leg.” She finished the braid and wound the elastic around it, then returned to the People magazine.

“Like what?”

“He mentioned some different possibilities.” She held up a picture of Taylor Swift on a paddleboard. “Cute bathing suit, isn’t it?”

I ignored the striped bathing suit. Did Mom really think that she could distract me with a bikini? “Like what, Mom?”

“Kelly, I don’t want to get into it with you, at this point.” Her mouth twitched. “You’re relentless.”

She and I stared at each other, my brown eyes locked into hers. I raised my eyebrows and tilted my head.

“Fine.” She took a deep breath. “There are some types of childhood diseases that they want to rule out.”

Just then, there was a knock on the door, and another woman with a long complicated last name on her badge entered. “I’m Dr. Surya Radpathi.” She extended her arm to first Mom and then to me. “I’ve had a chance to look at Kelly’s X-rays. Mrs. Reynolds, would you like to speak in the hallway for a moment.”

“No,” I blurted out. I had had enough of hallway whispering. “My mother was just telling me what could be wrong with my leg before you came in. I want to hear.”

Dr. Radpathi directed her gaze toward Mom.

“Kelly should be part of the conversation.” Mom nodded, but her voice was tight, her face pale.

“Not all parents feel the same way.” Dr. Radpathi smiled and nodded. “My own daughter would be as strong-minded as you, Kelly. I think that it’s better for children to hear the conversations, so that they are not scared by what they imagine.”

I liked the lilt of her voice, but my mouth was suddenly dry and my stomach flipped.

She flipped on a light behind the X-ray, and I could see the outlines of my bones.

“The good news is that there is no fracture,” she said, pointing to the area which matched where my leg was swollen. “But we do have a concern about the gray area here.” She pointed to a shaded area around the bone.

“This gray area concerns me,” she returned to pointing to the X-ray. “Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that is consistent with what you are presenting, Kelly.”

She continued to talk, explaining tests and procedures that would need to happen sooner rather than later to figure out what was causing the gray area on my X-ray. Her words blurred, with only one that stayed crystal clear.

Cancer.

1st 5 pages September Workshop - Silva rev 2

Name: Jessica Silva
Genre: Young Adult sci-fi
Title: Untitled

Cleo Clemens found the hidden basement lounge was full of secrets
hiding in cigar smoke, wine glasses, and rolling laughter. She stepped
inside with a welcoming smile, familiarity tickling her skin. Gavriel
gave a snort near her ear, but he had a dimple in his cheek all the
same. One that said she hadn’t made a mistake in bringing him.

A young boy played the porter, and he welcomed them to the retirement
party with a polite bow. When he asked for an invitation, Cleo passed
him one addressed to her dearest mother. Surely, that woman wouldn’t
notice another wax-sealed envelope absent from her pile of discarded
mail on the coffee table anytime soon. The boy bowed again, as
formalities required, and handled their greatcoats with considerable
care.

“This place hasn’t changed,” Gavriel said, offering his arm to her.
His gaze drifted around the dark room. Under the amber glow of
low-hanging chandeliers, tipsy professors slurred humor and hubris
alike.

“Aren’t you glad it didn’t?” As her eyes followed his, she imagined
her father and his rasp of a voice joking his way through the crowd,
slicked-back blond hair perfectly in place. The professors here had
all been her father’s advisors, colleagues, and friends.

She set her hand in the crook of Gavriel’s elbow, her heart in her
throat and her chest tight. “Let’s just hope Marity hasn’t changed,
either.”

“Nervous?” His tone held a playful lilt.

“Of course not.”

She led him into the standing crowd to exchange greetings, toasts,
introductions, niceties, and small talk with practiced elegance. They
slipped from one professor to the next until they reached the bar in
the back where a dull murmur of lies and taunts replaced the laughter
and cheer. Professors sat around lion-footed tables, betting on their
good fortune and their hand of cards in a game of Rojagat. Her
father’s favorite table was near the fireplace, and his former mentor
sat with her back to the false flames, her gold ringed-fingers waving
Cleo over.

“Come join me, young Clemens.” Professor Anka Marity left no
opportunity to refuse. Just as expected. Perhaps she hadn’t changed.

Cleo and Gavriel had watched her father play many times with Marity
from their perch on his knees. I let them think I’m not any good, he’d
whispered to them once, and then I steal the game with a single hand.
They think it’s luck. When you two are old enough, I’d like to see the
look on her face when you do the same. They had every intention of
saying goodbye to her father’s mentor in just the way he would’ve
wanted.

She sent Professor Marity a glowing smile in response to her
invitation. Hopefully it looked as though she was excited and not as
though she was about to con the woman out of a sizable sum of money.

As they neared the professor’s group, Gavriel gave a soft chuckle.
“Look at the fortune in the middle of the table.” He stood taller.
“You spoil me.”

“Consider it your escort fee,” she answered under her breath.

“You know I’d never charge you for my services.”

“Always so kind. Maybe one day I’ll take you up on that.” Together,
they dipped into a quick bow in front of the group. “Good evening,”
she greeted.

The professors acknowledged her with gracious nods. These were women
and men of enormous power—the most well respected professors of
science and philosophy and history in the world. They were involved in
the whispers of the parliament, in the details of the army’s giant
piloted bipedal robots, and in the protection of the Teir, the world’s
greatest treasure and deadliest weapon. They lounged with gin, rum, or
whiskey glistening in heavy lowball glasses next to their
black-and-gold polymer cards.

“And of course,” Cleo said, “congratulations on your retirement,
Professor Marity.” The woman was one of the scientists protecting the
Teir, as Cleo’s father had been and as Cleo wanted to be as well.

“Sit, sit,” Professor Marity said. She had an impressive stack of
reals in front of her. The pot easily had more than double that. “Play
with us. Both of you. Yes, you—you’re that scrawny thing who used to
follow the older Clemens around like a second son, right?” She flicked
her hand, and space cleared for them.

“That would be me.” Gavriel flashed the professor a charming grin, the
kind he used on the kitchen ladies when he wanted an extra slice of
apple strudel, and bowed again. Cleo took that moment to sit, and he
followed in form. She expected no less of her best friend. He always
had been good at playing the part of the perfect gentleman. Too good,
perhaps.

“I apologize for not introducing myself earlier,” he said. “My name is
Gavriel Eng. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“I’m sure you don’t need us to play,” Cleo said, maybe a little
quickly. They just needed to seem innocent and nervous and hesitant
enough to be overlooked. The nerves, though, weren’t far from the
truth. “We don’t want to interrupt. We can just—”

“None of your stupid formalities.” Marity scowled from across the
table. She had the same warm bronze skin as Cleo’s grandmother, but
none of her refinement. Cleo liked Marity’s messy dreadlocks, and she
liked Marity even more. “Why watch when you could win? Get the kids
some cards. I’ll put in their ante. No arguing. I’m retired now. I can
do what I want. Do you two know how to play?”

“Dad taught us,” Cleo said. Her hands twisted the hem of her shirt.

A smirk danced across Marity’s face. “Too bad your father was a
terrible Rojagat player. Didn’t know a good hand from a bad hand.
Let’s play, then. Good luck.” From an ashtray on her left, she fitted
a smoking cigar between two fingers and added more reals to the pot.
Too many to count.

The dealer slid a card toward Cleo’s awaiting hands, then one to
Gavriel. The dealer had a queen of diamonds in front of her already,
regal in red and gold robes. A queen of spades peered back at Cleo in
the dim light—a winner if only she didn’t intend to fold. She didn’t
bother hiding the tremor in her hands when she tossed the card into
the muck. In Rojagat, the winner took all and the losers of the round
had to each replace the pot. Anyone stood to win or lose a lot of
money. All Cleo and Gavriel had to do was fold a half dozen times,
then wait for one of them to have a winning hand.

Gavriel nursed his card, pretending to check and recheck the dealer’s
queen, then chewed on his lip and folded. Snickers circled the table
as the real game started, the smoke-thick air buzzing with the thrill
of gambling.

One professor raised the bet, and Marity called without hesitating.
Perhaps she was feeling lucky on her retirement night. Another
professor raised again. A few more professors folded. At the end, only
Marity and two other professors remained. The dealer flipped their
cards—a ten of hearts, an ace of clubs, and Marity with a ten of
spades—then placed the final card next to the queen of diamonds. A
jack of spades gave Marity the win with a two-suited straight.

“Ha!” Marity slapped a hand on the wood table. “I should’ve retired sooner!”

A hard, hollow round of applause started behind Cleo, then a familiar
hand fell on her shoulder.

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Fife Rev 2

Name: Dustin Fife Genre:
New Adult Science Fiction
Title: The Nexus

Quincy Sturgess—dead. My wife and child—gone. Humanity is without intellect. What else must I suffer to atone for my careless comment? But I can’t give up. Quincy died for this.

Journal Entry from Gene “the Ancient,” dated four years after the Genetic Apocalypse.

July 12th, 2246

President Akram of the Malkum marched down the hallway, traveling with the vitality of a much younger man. People would guess him to be half his age. Or less, for the man was 243 years old. Frozen in time. An immortal among mortals.

He grazed the concrete walls with his fingertips. The florescent lights flickered and buzzed, and flickered and buzzed, like a damned firefly. Spencer Burton sat in a plastic chair in front of a door, munching on potato chips. Akram cleared his throat.

Spencer flinched, nearly spilling his bag of chips. Akram tightened his fist. After centuries, he grew tired of people like Spencer—men who coasted, waiting, reacting. Two-hundred years ago, when the world was at war, Akram acted—releasing the virus that crippled the intellect of those not vaccinated.

The world was quiet now. He had saved humanity. Spencer stood with a grunt.

“Sir.” Akram nodded toward the door. “Custodial closet?”

“Yes, sir.” “I assume you didn’t summon me to inspect maintenance records.”

“No, sir.”

Spencer waddled into the room. Akram followed, brushing aside cobwebs.

“Sorry about the dust.” Spencer hacked. “This room probably hasn’t been touched for centuries.” 

Akram side-stepping a toppled shelf, empty cleaning bottles, and a desiccated mop. The stale air smelled of molding carpet and insect carcasses, garnished with a dash of mouse crap.

“I hope this has a point.”

“You’ll want to see this, sir.” Spencer pointed to the vent.

“A vent?” “It’s what’s behind it that’s interesting.”

Spencer fumbled with the gridded cover before dropping it with a clank. “Sorry,” he muttered under his breath. Wiping his face with his shoulder, he shone a flashlight down a dirt tunnel.

Akram crouched, and cocked his head. The light disappeared into darkness. “What the hell?”

“It’s about 100 yards long. It leads to a room with computers, electrical cords, blueprints,” Spencer wheezed, “journal entries. But the strangest thing was the newspaper clippings. These clippings—they’re centuries old.”

Akram raised an eyebrow.

“And…” Spencer grabbed a spiral-bound notebook. The wires were bent, and the cover had nearly separated from the binding. The faded ink bled into the yellowed pages. Spencer thumbed through the book and pointed to text.

 April 18th, 2042. The rebellion begins.

 Akram blinked. Sergeant Drakes—had he been right after all? The man possessed evidence of a rebellion—one that began shortly after Akram released the virus—one that had remained dormant. 

Until now.

For weeks, Malkum soldiers had combed the planet for these rebels, based on nothing more than Drakes’s testimony. But this tunnel changed everything.

“It seems that Sergeant Drakes was right,” said Spencer. “After his…you know…we started searching the compound and found this.”

Akram shook his head. It couldn’t be. The whole story was too unlikely. And he’d worked too damned hard to see the world fall to ruins again. Another rebellion meant more war, and more war meant death.

He thought of those he’d chosen to forget. Over centuries, the sting of their deaths hadn’t diminished—Paul, Jeanine, Skyler.

And Adam Gianni.

Ancient friends and family members who had died in the war—killed by weapons developed using his damned research.

War wouldn’t come again.

His mobile rang. It was his secretary. Akram looked at his watch. 8:05. Dammit. 

“Hello?” he said.

“Mr. President, I’m calling to remind you—”

“Yes, I know.” Akram rubbed his eyes. “Cancel my meeting with the council. Apologize for my absence.”

His secretary paused. “Uh…sir?”

“Tell them something urgent has come up.” Akram hung up. There would be hell to pay later. His relationship with the council was already precarious. But this was far more important than petty politics.

Akram stood. “How long have you known about this?”

“Couple days.”

“Why haven’t I heard anything before?”

“We…” Spencer rubbed the back of his neck. “We wanted to be sure.”

Akram’s eye twitched. As Spencer shifted his weight, he resembled an elephant side-stepping a rodent.

Akram charged toward the hallway. “Where’s Sergeant Drakes?”

Spencer followed, struggling to keep up. “H-he’s been detained. At level one, sir.”

“I want to see him. Now.”

“Yes, sir.”

“In the mean time, search the tunnel and room for anything that will help us hunt down this rebel group. Do a background check on everyone who worked here 200 years ago. Search security personnel, scientists, janitors, everything. And double the number of men searching for this rebel group.”

“Um sir, I believe we’ve exhausted recruits from Fahrquan.”

“Then recruit outside Fahrquan.” Akram stopped walking, bending toward Spencer. “I want a hundred choppers in the sky in one hour.” 

Akram turned and marched down the hallway.

“President?”

Akram stopped and lifted his head without turning to face him.

“Sir, did you want us to destroy the tunnel?”

“No. Let them think their secret is safe.”


Cole lay on the grass, gazing at the rising sun. The orange light peaked over the evergreens, casting long shadows across the meadow. He inhaled the crisp morning air. Something hummed in the distance—like cicadas, only deeper. And more ominous.

But what—?

Suta jumped on his back.

“Get up, Coe.”

Cole grinned. “It’s Cole. Collllllllllla.”

“Coe…la.”

“No. Colllll.”

“Coe…” The boy cleared his throat. “…el.”

“Close enough.” Cole spun and lifted the little villager. The boy giggled. 

“Wets count,” Suta said.

Cole chuckled. “You wanna count, huh?”

“Yeah.” Suta hovered above him. The sunlight reflected off his green eyes and illuminated his olive skin in warm light. Like the rest of the villagers, dirt caked his tattered clothes.

“Alright,” Cole turned to lay face-down. “Let’s count.”

The boy jumped on his back. Not for the first time, Cole half-regretted teaching the boy to count this way. It had been fine when he could only count to ten.

But now?

“You ready?” Cole asked.

The boy wrapped his arms around Cole’s neck.

“Not too tight,” Cole said. His voice sounded like a frog with a cold.

“Go!”

Cole began doing pushups. “One. Two. Free.”

Suta giggled. “Faster, faster!”

“I’m getting tired, buddy.”

“Seven. No yer not. Eight. Nine.”

“It hurts!” Cole said.

The boy giggled. “Tenty. Tenty one. Tenty two.”

“Twenty,” Cole shouted.

“Tee-wenty free. Tee-wenty four.”

Sweat dripped from his face.

Never once had Cole failed the boy—as high as he could count, that’s the number of pushups he did. But Suta was learning to count faster than Cole’s body could keep up. 

“Fody-free. Fody-four. Fody-five.”

Cole would wait a bit until he taught him to count by two’s and three’s. He paused at the top of his pushup.

“Go wazy bones.”

Cole laughed.

“Seventy-one. Seventy-two…”

Cole gasped. How high would the boy go today?

“Jump it!” the boy said.

Cole leapt with his hands, clapping between pushups.

“Seventy-nine…” The boy paused. “Ummm…”

“You can do it, buddy.”

“Eight-deeeeeeeee.”

Cole laughed. The boy knew the pattern—another ten pushups would be guaranteed.

“Eighty-nine!” Suta clapped. “You take a break now.”

Cole collapsed to the ground. The boy had done it. It was quite a milestone. None of the adult villagers made it past five, and even then they were probably guessing.

But Suta—that boy was different. Somehow he’d escaped the effects of the Genetic Apocalypse. Soon, they’d have to start hiding the boy from the Malkum raids. His intelligence was becoming more visible—dangerously visible.

Monday, September 15, 2014

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Fife Rev 1

Name: Dustin Fife
Genre: New Adult Science Fiction
Title: The Nexus

Quincy Sturgess—dead. My wife and child—gone. Humanity is without intellect. What else must I suffer to atone for my careless comment? But I can’t give up. Quincy died for this.

Journal Entry from Gene “the Ancient,” dated four years after the Genetic Apocalypse.

#

July 12th, 2246

President Akram of the Malkum marched down the hallway, traveling with the vitality of a much younger man. People would guess him to be half his age. Or less, for the man was 243 years old. Frozen in time. An immortal among mortals.

Akram cleared his throat.

Spencer Burton flinched, nearly spilling his potato chips. Akram tightened his fist. After centuries, he grew tired of people like Spencer—men who coasted, waiting, reacting. Two-hundred years ago, when the world was at war, Akram acted—releasing the virus that crippled human intellect.

The world was quiet now. He had saved humanity.

Spencer stood with a grunt. “Sir.”

Akram nodded toward the door. “Custodial closet?”

“Yes, sir.” Spencer waddled to shift his massive frame.

“I assume you didn’t summon me to inspect maintenance records.”

“No, sir.”

Spencer hobbled into the room. Akram followed, brushing aside cobwebs.

“Sorry about the dust.” Spencer hacked. “This room probably hasn’t been touched for centuries.”

Akram coughed, side-stepping a toppled shelf, empty cleaning bottles, and a desiccated mop. The stale air smelled of molding carpet and insect carcasses, garnished with a dash of mouse crap.

Akram scowled. “I hope this has a point.”

“You’ll want to see this, sir.” Spencer pointed to the vent.

“A vent?”

“It’s what’s behind it that’s interesting.”

Spencer fumbled with the gridded cover before dropping it with a clank. “Sorry,” he muttered under his breath. Wiping his face with his shoulder, he shone a flashlight down a dirt tunnel.

Akram crouched, and cocked his head. The light disappeared into darkness. “What the hell?”

“It’s about 100 yards long. It leads to a room with computers, electrical cords, blueprints,” Spencer wheezed, “journal entries. But the strangest thing was the newspaper clippings. These clippings—they’re centuries old.”

Akram raised an eyebrow.

“And…” Spencer grabbed a spiral-bound notebook. The wires were bent, and the cover had nearly separated from the binding. The faded ink bled into the yellowed pages. Spencer thumbed through the book and pointed to text.

April 18th, 2042. The rebellion begins.

Akram blinked. Sergeant Drakes—had he been right after all? The man possessed evidence of a rebellion—one that began shortly after Akram released the virus—one that had remained dormant.

Until now.

For weeks, Malkum soldiers had combed the planet for these rebels, based on nothing more than Drakes’s testimony. But this tunnel changed everything.

“It seems that Sergeant Drakes was right,” said Spencer.

Akram shook his head. It couldn’t be. The whole story was too unlikely. And he’d worked too damned hard to see the world fall to ruins again. Another rebellion meant more war, and more war meant death.

He thought of those he’d chosen to forget. Over centuries, the sting of their deaths hadn’t diminished—Paul, Jeanine, Skyler.

And Adam Gianni.

Ancient friends and family members who had died in the war—killed by weapons developed using his damned research.

War wouldn’t come again.

His mobile rang. It was his secretary. Akram looked at his watch. 8:05. Dammit.

“Hello?” he said.

“Mr. President, I’m calling to remind you—”

“Yes, I know.” Akram rubbed his eyes. “Cancel my meeting with the council. Apologize for my absence.”

His secretary paused. “Uh…sir?”

“Tell them something urgent has come up.” Akram hung up. There would be hell to pay later. His relationship with the council was already precarious. But this was far more important than petty politics.

Akram stood. “How long have you known about this?”

“Couple days,” Spencer said.

“Why haven’t I heard anything before?”

“We…” Spencer rubbed the back of his neck. “We wanted to be sure.”

Akram’s eye twitched. As Spencer shifted his weight, he resembled an elephant side-stepping a rodent.

Akram charged toward the hallway. “Where’s Sergeant Drakes?”

Spencer followed, struggling to keep up. “At level one, sir.”

“I want to see him. Now.”

“Yes, sir.”

“In the mean time, search the tunnel and room for anything that will help us hunt down this rebel group. Do a background check on everyone who worked here 200 years ago. Search security personnel, scientists, janitors, everything. And double the number of men searching for this rebel group.”

“Um sir, I believe we’ve exhausted recruits from Fahrquan.”

“Then recruit outside Fahrquan.” Akram stopped walking, bending toward Spencer. “I want a hundred choppers in the sky in one hour.”

Akram turned and marched down the hallway.

“President?”

Akram stopped and lifted his head without turning to face him.

“Sir, did you want us to destroy the tunnel?”

“No. Let them think their secret is safe.”

#

Cole lay on the grass, gazing at the rising sun. The orange light peaked over the evergreens, casting long shadows across the meadow. He inhaled the crisp morning air. Something hummed in the distance—like cicadas, only deeper. And more ominous.

But what—?

Suta jumped on his back.

“Get up, Coe.”

Cole grinned. “It’s Cole. Collllllllllla.”

“Coe…la.”

“No. Colllll.”

“Coe…” The boy cleared his throat. “…el.”

“Close enough.” Cole spun and lifted the little villager. The boy giggled.

“Wets count,” Suta said.

Cole chuckled. “You wanna count, huh?”

“Yeah.”

Suta hovered above him. The sunlight reflected off his green eyes and illuminated his olive skin in warm light. Like the rest of the villagers, dirt caked his tattered clothes.

“Alright,” Cole turned to lay face-down. “Let’s count.”

The boy jumped on his back. Not for the first time, Cole half-regretted teaching the boy to count this way. It had been fine when he could only count to ten.

But now?

“You ready?” Cole asked.

The boy wrapped his arms around Cole’s neck.

“Not too tight,” Cole said. His voice sounded like a frog with a cold.

“Go!”

Cole began doing pushups.

“One. Two. Free.” Suta giggled. “Faster, faster!”

“Four, fife, six.”

“I’m getting tired, buddy.”

“Seven. No yer not. Eight. Nine.”

“It hurts!” Cole said.

The boy giggled. “Ten. Weven. Twelf. Faster, faster!”

Cole pushed faster.

Suta squealed. “Tenty. Tenty one. Tenty two.”

“Twenty,” Cole shouted.

“Tee-wenty free. Tee-wenty four.”

Sweat began dripping from his face.

“Firdy. Firdy-one. Firdy-two.”

Never once had Cole failed the boy—as high as he could count, that’s the number of pushups he did. But Suta was learning to count faster than Cole’s body could keep up.

“Fody-free. Fody-four. Fody-five.”

Cole would wait a bit until he taught him to count by two’s and three’s.

“Sixady eight. Sixady nine. Seventy.”

Cole paused at the top of his pushup.

“Go wazy bones.”

Cole laughed.

“Seventy-one. Seventy-two…”

Cole began gasping. How high would the boy go today?

“Jump it!” the boy said.

Cole leapt with his hands, clapping between pushups.

“Seventy-nine…” The boy paused. “Ummm…”

“You can do it, buddy.”

“Eight-deeeeeeeee.”

Cole laughed. The boy knew the pattern—another ten pushups would be guaranteed.

“Eighty-nine!” Suta clapped. “You take a break now.”

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Silva Rev 1

Name: Jessica Silva

Genre: Young Adult sci-fi

Title: Untitled



As usual of retirement parties at Tousieux University, Cleo Clemens found the hidden basement lounge was full of secrets hiding in cigar smoke, wine glasses, and rolling laughter. She stepped inside with a welcoming smile, familiarity tickling her skin. Gavriel gave a snort near her ear, but he had a dimple in his cheek all the same. One that said she hadn’t made a mistake in bringing him.



A young boy played the porter, and he welcomed them with a polite bow. When he asked for an invitation, Cleo passed him one addressed to her dearest mother who surely wouldn’t notice another wax-sealed envelope absent from her pile of discarded mail on the coffee table anytime soon. The boy bowed again, as formalities required, and handled their greatcoats with considerable care.



“This place hasn’t changed,” Gavriel said, offering his arm to her. His gaze drifted around the dark room, tipsy professors slurring humor and hubris alike under the amber glow of low-hanging chandeliers. “Not at all.”



As her eyes followed his, she imagined her father and his rasp of a voice joking his way through the crowd, slicked-back blond hair perfectly in place. The professors here had all been her father’s advisors, colleagues, and friends.



She set her hand in the crook of Gavriel’s elbow, her heart in her throat and her chest tight. “Aren’t you glad it didn’t?” She didn’t miss his answering smirk. “Let’s just hope Marity hasn’t changed, either.”



“Nervous?” His tone held a playful lilt.



“Maybe, but that’s why you’re here.” She patted his forearm, then headed into the standing crowd to exchange greetings, toasts, introductions, niceties, and small talk with practiced elegance.



They slipped from one professor to the next until they reached the bar in the back where a dull murmur of lies and taunts replaced the laughter and cheer. Professors sat around lion-footed tables, betting on their good fortune and their hand of cards in a game of Rojagat. Her father’s favorite table was near the fireplace, and his former mentor sat with her back to the false flames, her gold ringed-fingers waving Cleo over.



“Come join me, young Clemens.” Professor Anka Marity left no opportunity to refuse. Just as expected. Perhaps she hadn’t changed.



Cleo had watched her father play many times with Marity from her perch on his knee. I let them think I’m not any good, he’d whispered once to her, and then I steal the game with a single hand. They think it’s luck. When you’re old enough, I’d like to see the look on her face when you do the same. She had every intention of saying goodbye to her father’s mentor in just the way he would’ve wanted.



“You’ve been beckoned,” Gavriel whispered into her curls. “As popular as ever.”



“Don’t sound so disappointed.” She sent Professor Marity a glowing smile in response to her invitation, one she hoped looked as though she was excited and not as though she was about to con the woman out of a sizable sum of money.



As they neared the professor’s group, Gavriel gave a soft chuckle. “How could I be? Look at the fortune in the middle of the table.” He stood taller. “You spoil me.”



“Consider it your escort fee,” she answered under her breath.



“You know I’d never charge you for my services.”



“Then I suppose it’s a friendship bonus.” Together, they dipped into a quick bow in front of the group. “Good evening,” she greeted.



The professors acknowledged her with gracious nods. These were women and men of enormous power—the most well respected professors of science and philosophy and history in the world. They were involved in the whispers of the parliament, in the details of the army’s giant piloted bipedal robots, and in the protection of the Teir, the world’s greatest treasure and deadliest weapon. They lounged with gin, rum, or whiskey glistening in heavy lowball glasses next to their black-and-gold polymer cards.



“And of course,” Cleo said, “congratulations on your retirement, Professor Marity.” The woman was one of the scientists protecting the Teir, as Cleo’s father had been and as Cleo wanted to be as well.



“Sit, sit,” Professor Marity said. She had an impressive stack of reals in front of her. The pot easily had more than double that. “Play with us. Both of you. Yes, you—you’re that scrawny thing who used to follow the older Clemens around like a second son, right?” She flicked her hand, and space cleared for them.



“That would be me.” Gavriel flashed the professor a charming grin, the kind he used on the kitchen ladies when he wanted an extra slice of apple strudel, and bowed again. Cleo took that moment to sit, and he followed in form. She expected no less of her best friend. He always had been good at lying. Too good, perhaps.



“I apologize for not introducing myself earlier,” he said. “My name is Gavriel Eng. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”



“I’m sure you don’t need us to play,” Cleo said, maybe a little quickly. They just needed to seem innocent and nervous and hesitant enough to be overlooked. The nerves, though, weren’t far from the truth. “We don’t want to interrupt. We can just—”



“None of your stupid formalities.” Marity scowled from across the table. She had the same warm bronze skin as Cleo’s grandmother, but none of her refinement. Cleo liked Marity’s messy dreadlocks, and she liked Marity even more. “Why watch when you could win? Get the kids some cards. I’ll put in their ante. No arguing. I’m retired now. I can do what I want. Do you two know how to play?”



“Dad taught us,” Cleo said.



A smirk danced across Marity’s face. “Too bad your father was a terrible Rojagat player. Didn’t know a good hand from a bad hand. Let’s play, then. Good luck.” From an ashtray on her left, she fitted a smoking cigar between two fingers and added more reals to the pot. Too many to count.



The dealer slid a card toward Cleo’s awaiting hands, then one to Gavriel. The dealer had a queen of diamonds in front of her already, regal in red and gold robes. A queen of spades peered back at Cleo in the dim light—a winner if only she didn’t intend to fold. She didn’t bother hiding the tremor in her hands when she tossed the card into the muck.



In Rojagat, the winner took all and the losers of the round had to each replace the pot. Anyone stood to win or lose a lot of money. All Cleo and Gavriel had to do was fold a half dozen times, then wait for one of them to have a winning hand.



Gavriel nursed his card, pretending to check and recheck the dealer’s queen, then chewed on his lip and folded. Snickers circled the table as the real game started, the smoke-thick air buzzing with the thrill of gambling.



One professor raised the bet, and Marity called without hesitating. Perhaps she was feeling lucky on her retirement night. Another professor raised again. A few more professors folded.



At the end, only Marity and two other professors remained. The dealer flipped their cards—a ten of hearts, an ace of clubs, and Marity with a ten of spades—then placed the final card next to the queen of diamonds. A jack of spades gave Marity the win with a two-suited straight.



“Ha!” Marity slapped a hand on the wood table.