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.

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Meehan Rev 1

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

The spiraling bat connected with my shin just below my knee. Thwack. Was it a hard throw? Not really-- it wasn’t like my six year-old brother could hurl a plastic bat with that much force. But, somehow, that bat hit my leg in such a way that I couldn’t breathe because my shin throbbed so hard.

At first, no one noticed that I had crumpled. Max was running to the makeshift first base in our back yard. Dad and Uncle John pretended that they couldn’t hold onto the ball and the rest of the kids cheered and whooped for Max. Even my mother and Aunt Michelle clapped for Max from their patio seats. I clutched my leg on the grass behind home plate.

“You’re ten,” I said to myself, blinking away tears. “You’re too old to cry.” But those tears pushed right through the walls of my eyes and streamed down my face, leaving dark circles on my pink Red Sox t-shirt.

I tried to block them with my hands, but I needed to keep my hands around my leg because I didn’t want it to move.

“You okay, Kelly?” my cousin, Jack asked. He had been catching, so he was closest to the collision of my leg and the bat.

I nodded, but I couldn’t speak. He held out his hand to help me up, but no way was I ready to move. Whack, whack, whack, someone was hammering on the inside of my leg with a sledgehammer.

“C’mon, Kel,” Dad said, jogging across the yard. “You’re up at bat. Shake it off.”

I squinted up at him. The late afternoon sun blinded me and red spots appeared when I blinked. Words still got stuck in my throat.

Dad’s brow furrowed and he turned toward Jack. “Did the bat hit her that hard?”

“Not really.” Jack shrugged. “Max just tossed it behind him. It wasn’t like he whipped it or anything. Plus, Max uses the plastic one.”

Dad knelt down. “Can you take your hands off so I can see?”

I lifted my hands, wincing as my leg shifted.

“That’s from the bat?” Dad’s voice sounded surprised. A bump was purpling underneath my hands.

I nodded. Then, when Dad went to touch it, I hit his hand. I didn’t mean to. My hand just jumped up and blocked him, swinging as it went.

“Don’t touch it,” I said through clenched teeth.

Max remembered to call time out and jogged over from first base.
“What happened?” he asked.

“You can’t throw the bat after you hit,” Dad answered. “You whacked Kelly in the shin. See the bump?”

Max blinked. The veins stood out on his neck and his shoulders tightened. “I’m sorry, Kel.” His voice cracked.

My cousins sauntered toward home plate. I hated having everyone gather around me and my face burned, so I was relieved when they seized the opportunity to get drinks. But my leg still pounded too much to stand up and walk away.

“How’d she get that big a bump from Max’s toss?” one of them asked.

“I think she’s legit,” Jack said. “Her leg has a big bruise.”

“He didn’t even throw the bat. She just wants attention.”

I recognized Tyler’s voice and he was lucky that I couldn’t get up and punch him. He hated the fact that we were the same age and I could play most sports as well as he could. I could hit a baseball farther, a tennis ball harder... I could run faster, do more push-ups... How dare he suggest I was faking it?

“Can you walk?” Dad asked.

“I’ll try.” I wanted to get out of that circle of people staring at me. Dad helped me hobble to a chaise on the patio, away from the baseball game. Mom brought me some ice.

When she saw my bump, her eyebrows lifted high. “That’s from the plastic bat?” she asked. She turned to Dad. “How close are you letting the kids get to the batter?”

“She wasn’t that close,” Dad snapped. He took a breath. “She was several feet away. And it was Max. It’s not like he can throw that hard. Doesn’t make sense, really.”

“Hm.” I thought Mom would say more, but she just tucked a pillow behind my back and placed the bag of ice on my leg.

The game didn’t last much longer since dinner was ready. After hamburgers and hot dogs and ice cream cake with candles for my cousin Will, the kids put in a movie and the grown ups gathered around my leg. Dad had carried me to the family room sofa.

“Let’s see the leg, Kel,” Dad said.

The four of them stared.

“You can’t break a leg by having that sort of a hit,” Uncle John said. He had been watching from the batters’ box on the steps. “She didn’t twist it or anything.”

“But it’s a pretty good bump, though,” Aunt Michelle said. “And a nice color, too.”

“I still think it must have hit a bruise that she already had,” Dad said. “Sometimes when you whack an old injury, it hurts twice as much.”

Mom just made that hmm sound again and the four of them moved into the kitchen. I could tell that they were still talking about me because they kept looking in. Mom’s eyebrows kept raising and Dad’s forehead kept wrinkling.

Max snuggled against me on the sofa. He pulled a blanket over the two of us, placing it gingerly over the ice pack.

“How’s your leg, Kelly?” he asked.

“I’m okay, Max,” I said. “It feels better.” I wasn’t telling the truth, but he looked at me with such wide sad eyes that I didn’t want him to know that my leg still pounded if I moved. “Let’s just watch the movie.”

He continued to stroke my arm as we all watched the first Harry Potter movie.

“What were you talking about?” I asked Mom when she came in to check the ice and give me some motrin.

“What do you mean?”

“I know you were talking about me with Dad, John, and Michelle. What were you saying?”

She glanced at Max. His eyes were glued on the flying brooms that Harry Potter and his friends were riding.

“We were just debating about whether to take you to the emergency room,” she whispered. “I called Dr. Sylvester and he thought it would be okay to wait until tomorrow to see how you are.”

“Emergency room?” The only time I had ever been to the emergency room was when I was three and couldn’t stop throwing up. The nurse had told me that they would put a needle in my arm and sugar water would get into my body that way. When I saw the size of the needle, I ate the orange popsicle even though I hate orange popsicles. The place buzzed with crying kids and beeping machines. I shuddered at the memory. “It’s not like I’m going to die or anything. We can wait.”

“I’m sure you’re fine.” She smoothed my hair away from my face and kissed my forehead. “We’ll see how you feel in the morning.”

As it turned out, whether the ER trip had happened that Saturday night or Sunday morning, it wouldn’t have mattered. My parents were much more scared of what the doctors said about the gray image on the X-ray than they had been about the bump on my leg.

Monday, September 8, 2014

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Meehan

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


When my brother let go of the baseball bat and it boomeranged around home plate before cracking my shin, he saved my life. Thwack against my shin. It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did, but I couldn’t stop the tears from breaking free of my eye walls and streaming down my face.

“What happened?” Max asked from first base. He was oblivious to the fact that the bat he had been wielding had twirled its way right into my leg. In his 7 year-old head, he had finally hit the ball against all of his older cousins and father. When batters hit, they throw their bat behind them and race for the base.

The game had stopped as my dad, cousins, and neighbors took a break from the field or approached from the waiting box that were the steps from the deck.

“You can’t throw the bat after you hit,” Dad answered. “You whacked Kelly in the shin. See the bump?”

A welt was growing on my leg just below my knee. If it looked angry on the outside, then there was a tantrum going on inside. At that point, none of us had any idea just how important and devastating that tantrum was going to be.

I knew how sorry Max was from the sound of his voice.

After a little while, I hobbled to the steps and the game resumed. Actually, I’m not sure that you could even call it hobbling since Dad pretty much carried me. Mom brought me some ice and tried to touch my leg.

“Don’t touch it.” My arm darted in front of my leg, preventing her from even seeing the welt, much less touching it.

“Did it hit you that hard?” she asked. “You weren’t that close to him, were you?”

Was she accusing me of faking?

I pulled my arm away and she saw the bump that was growing.

“Rick,” she called to my dad. “Did you see Kelly’s leg?”

Dad was in the outfield and my cousin Jack was up. Jack was the best hitter of all of the cousins, and even with the squishy ball that we were using in the backyard, he was liable to hit over everyone’s heads, except maybe my father’s.

“Rick,” she called again.

“It’s okay, Mom,” I said. “The ice helps. Let Dad try to get Jack.”

She sat down next to me and the two of us watched Jack pummel the ball almost to the far fence. Dad had backed up, arms outstretched to try to catch, but the ball sailed just over his head, and Jack rounded the bases.

“Now come over and look at your daughter’s leg,” Mom said.

Dad came over and I took the ice off. I could tell he was impressed because the wrinkles showed up in his forehead and his mouth got small.

“The bat did that?” he asked. “You didn’t hurt your leg in school or somewhere else?”

I shook my head.

“It didn’t just whack against another injury?”

“No,” I said. Looking at my leg, I agreed that the bump was bigger that you would think a bump should be from getting hit by a bat. It would be one thing if Max had wound up in front of me and cracked my shin, but I had been pretty far away.

“Can she walk?” Dad asked Mom.

“I don’t know,” Mom said. “You were the one who was out here when it happened. DId she walk off the yard? How did she get to the steps?”

Dad looked at me. “How did you get to the steps, Kel?”

I hadn’t exactly walked and the thought of walking right now made my stomach flip.

“We’ll keep the ice on it.” Mom didn’t wait for me to answer.

The game kept going, I kept sitting, and my leg kept throbbing.

After hamburgers and hot dogs and ice cream cake with candles for my cousin Tyler, the grown ups had a meeting and the hot topic was me and my leg. I still hadn’t moved too much, I still didn’t want anyone touching it, and I still had insisted on fresh bags of ice whenever the one on my leg got too watery.

I strained to hear what they were saying.

“You can’t break a leg by having that sort of a hit,” Uncle John said.

He had been watching from the batters’ box on the steps. “I saw the bat hit her and it wasn’t that hard.”

“But why is there such a bump?” Mom asked. “And why can’t she walk?”

“I still think it must have hit a bruise that she already had,” Dad said.
“Sometimes when you whack an old injury, it hurts twice as much.”

“You asked her that, Rick.” Mom was definitely the most concerned of the adults. “She doesn’t remember anything. If something hurt that much, wouldn’t you remember it?”

“We can watch the others, if you want to take her to the emergency room and have it looked at,” Aunt Michelle offered.

Mom looked at Dad.

The conversation continued for a while with the four of them trying to figure out if I was being over-dramatic (possibly), if there was any way that a 10 year-old kid could break a leg from getting hit not very hard by a twirling baseball bat (unlikely...even highly unlikely), if they should wait until tomorrow to see if I was any better (maybe), or whether the emergency room would be full of drunks on a Saturday night (probably). Listening to them talk about the unsavory people that hang out in emergency room waiting rooms on Saturday nights decided it for me.

“Is it feeling any better, Kelly?” Mom asked when the four of them came up for air from their analysis of whether to take Kelly to the hospital.

“A little,” I lied.

“I’d wait until tomorrow,” Aunt Michelle said, and Mom and Dad agreed.

As it turned out, whether the ER trip had happened that night or tomorrow or the next day, the gray image on the X-ray would change all of our lives. Especially mine.

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Zoltack

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. Her friends never could keep
up with her. They only had an hour before their father would be
looking for them to help with the farming chores, and she couldn't
risk being late for the midday meal. Again. It was now or never. 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. Ever since they had decided to find all of the
creatures in Bouldergazer's Bestiary: A Compendia of Magical
Creatures, they'd been sneaking out of Sun Haven every chance they
could. Four long months and no signs of a fairy or a phoenix anywhere.
Hopefully, today would change all that. How lucky she had been to be
born in the Land of Wonder! Humans of the Seven Continents thought the
creatures she and her friends sought were only myths.

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, seemingly desperate to escape.

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 urged.

"Sh," Cassandra warned. "We don't want to scare any away."

Before she could urge her horse forward, she watched the foamy
crashing waves for a moment longer. A long slender emerald tail broke
the surface. 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. No matter how
she urged the horse, the going was slow, and he constantly backed up.
Impatience grew within her as she halted her horse and waited for her
friends to catch up. "I saw a mermaid."

"Oh!" Kylie sat up straight in the saddle.

"Mermaids aren't supposed to swim near here," Kylie's brother scoffed.
"Are you sure you saw one?"

Cassandra put her hands on her hips. "Yes."

"Where was she?" Kylie asked, her blue eyes sparkling. Even Vance was grinning.

Cassandra pointed. "Down there. Do you think we can convince her to
give us a tear?"

Mermaid tears were said be magical, with each tear having a different
property even if shed from the same eye.

"Maybe it'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. This one moved about with ease. It turned
toward the water, and she gasped. A horn. Not a horse, but a unicorn!

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.

Her gaze on the unicorn and not her feet, she made her way to the
creature. He watched her 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 from side to side, the unicorn raced away and
soon disappeared from sight.

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 suggested a race or touched
the unicorn… It was a stupid idea. 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 head rolled to the side, and his eyes closed.

"Vance!" The fright in Kylie's voice made Cassandra want to start crying again.

A few tears trickled down Vance's face, his eyes still 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 didn't look right. Already bruises were forming and it
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 you," Kylie offered.

"I'm fine!"

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Silva

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

As usual of retirement parties at Tousieux University, Cleo found the
hidden basement room was full of secrets hiding in cigar smoke, wine
glasses, and rolling laughter. Tipsy professors crowded around
lion-footed tables, betting on their good fortune and their hand of
cards in a game of Rojagat. 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 boy too young to attend classes 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 as
his gaze drifted past the bar and toward the back of the dark room
where the real games of Rojagat were waiting for them. “Not at all.”

She set her hand in the crook of his elbow. “Aren’t you glad it
didn’t?” she asked and didn’t miss his answering smirk. As they moved
under the amber glow of the chandeliers, she imagined her father and
his rasp of a voice joking his way through the crowd, dimples in his
cheeks and slicked-back blond hair perfectly in place. Only this time,
she needed no introduction.

Every professor here knew her as the young Clemens, daughter of the
late Professor Clemens. They greeted her with bows. Such a pleasure to
meet her, they said. Some of them also knew her as the messenger for
the Vice-Premier’s secret society. They greeted her with hugs and
twinkling eyes. Steal a few sips of wine, they said. She and Gavriel
returned every bow, every hug, and every smile with practiced
elegance.

They slipped from one professor to the next, from one table to
another, until they reached a second room in the back. The smoke-thick
air buzzed with the thrill of gambling. A dull murmur of lies and
taunts replaced the laughter and cheer. Professors lounged in tufted
leather armchairs instead of wooden chairs. One quick sweep of the
room, and Cleo caught sight of Professor Anka Marity’s gold
ringed-fingers waving her over. Just as expected.

“Come join me, young Clemens.” The woman left no opportunity to
refuse, but even if she had, Cleo would’ve headed to her table all the
same. This was Professor Marity’s retirement party, after all, and
Cleo wasn’t here for the Rojagat. Marity had been her father’s mentor
when he’d earned his doctorate. He’d have wanted Cleo to say goodbye
to her. Even more, he’d have wanted Cleo to steal a win from her.

As they neared the table, Gavriel gave a soft chuckle. “Look at the
fortune in the middle of the table,” he whispered into her curls. “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 table. “Good evening,” she greeted. The
professors at the table acknowledged her with gracious nods and gentle
smiles. They lounged with gin, rum, or whiskey glistening in heavy
lowball glasses next to their black-and-gold cards. The professors all
wore the same embroidered cassock. Cleo’s father’s was still hanging
in the closet. “Congratulations on your retirement, Professor Marity.”

“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 at her table cleared for them.

Only Marity would refer to Cleo’s father as the older Clemens.

“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. She expected no less of her best
friend. He always had been good at lying. Too good, perhaps. Cleo took
that moment to sit, and he followed in form. “I apologize for not
introducing myself earlier. 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.”

To her right, Professor Ros Toivonen gave a hearty chuckle, a wisp of
white hair falling across her forehead. “Not until the end of the
year, my friend.” She raised her kind brown gaze to Cleo, a card in
her weathered hands. Just last night, Cleo had delivered a message
from the Vice-Premier to Professor Toivonen in Caviglia Library’s
hidden passages. “Do you two know how to play?”

“Dad taught us,” Cleo said. He’d loved Rojagat, and she’d watched him
play many times at this same table 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.

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.”
From an ashtray on her left, she fitted a smoking cigar between two
fingers and added six hundred reals to the pot. Cleo thought maybe
Marity was feeling lucky on her retirement night. Maybe she was trying
to bluff her way to a win. 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.

The dealer at the end of the table 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 winning card if only she didn’t
intend to fold. Luck indeed.

Gavriel folded first, then went to tie his long black hair into a bun.
He leaned into Cleo’s side, offering his wine glass to her as he
watched the calls roll in. “So how many rounds are we folding?” he
whispered under the snickers circling the table as a few of the
professors tossed out their card. She took a sip of his
wine—Caseillais wine, to her satisfaction—and the taste rolled on her
tongue for several seconds, sweet and crisp. A familiar hand fell on
her shoulder before she could answer.

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Fife

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.

#

President Akram of the Malkum marched down the hallway, his stride long and brisk, traveling with the vitality of a much younger man. People would guess him to be less than half his age. Or less, for the man was 243 years old.

Frozen in time--an immortal among mortals. Gray peppered his slick, black hair, yet he looked young—smooth skin with a hint of wrinkles, blue eyes with an intense gaze, and the build of a lightweight boxer.

Akram cleared his throat.

Spencer Burton leaped from his chair, nearly spilling his potato chips. Akram clenched his teeth. After centuries, he grew tired of people like Spencer—men who coasted, waiting, reacting. Had Akram reacted 200 years ago when nuclear winter threatened the world, Spencer's progenitors would have died, leaving no chance for this plump little man to live.

Spencer wiped perspiration from his blond eyebrows. “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, pushing 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 removed the gridded cover and shone a flashlight down a dirt tunnel. Akram bent. The light disappeared into darkness.

He furrowed his brow. “What…?”

“It’s about 100 yards long. It leads to a room with computers, electrical cords, blueprints, 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’s eyes widened. Sergeant Drakes—had he been right after all? Could there be a rebellion?

“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.

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

“Couple days.”

“And why haven’t I heard anything before?”

“We—” Spencer cleared his throat. “We wanted to be sure.”

Akram scowled. As Spencer shifted his weight, he resembled an elephant side-stepping a rodent.

“Need I remind you, there’s only one man who was alive when they formed their little rebellion?” Akram threw his hands in the air. “Dammit, Spencer.”

He paced the dusty room. A rebellion? It was impossible. The entire world was dead of intellect. But if it began from within? And they escaped unnoticed?

He stopped pacing. The faint outline of a memory tugged at his awareness—an event, long forgotten. Escaped unnoticed. Yes, there was a man once—a man who had died trying to escape, or so they had thought. Yet he returned, only to die again. What was his name?

He shut his eyes, focusing on the thought. Two hundred years of memories flitted through his mind, like a swarm of bacteria-infested flies. Attempting to retrieve one thought among the billions was—

His breath caught. He smiled. “Quincy Sturgess!”

“Pardon, sir.”

“Quincy Sturgess. He’s our dissenter.” Akram marched toward the door. Spencer remained frozen, his mouth gaping.

“Where’s Sergeant Drakes?” Akram asked.

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, find out everything you can about Quincy Sturgess. And 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. “This group must be found.”

Akram turned and marched down the hallway.

“President,” said Spencer.

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 grunted as Suta jumped on his back.

“Wake up, Coe.”

Cole stretched. “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.”

Cole gazed at the rising sun. The orange light peaked over the evergreens, casting long shadows across the meadow. He inhaled the crisp morning air.

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

“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…

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September 1st 5 Pages Workshop with Mentor Melissa Grey

The September 1st 5 Pages Workshop will open for entries on Saturday, September 6th at noon EST. Check out the rules and get your entries ready!


Melissa Grey, our September mentor,  is a writer of young adult fiction powered entirely by candlelight and cups of tea, represented by the fabulous Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management.

Her debut novel, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, will be published by Delacorte Press in Spring 2015.

She can also ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time, for what it’s worth, which is not much at all.

If you’re into zany nonsense, you can find her on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Instagram.




Along with Melissa, workshop participants will be mentored by our usual cast:

Martina Boone, the workshop founder, 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 InsidersCOMPULSION, the first book of her Southern Gothic HEIRS OF WATSON ISLAND trilogy, will be available Fall 2014 from Simon and Schuster/Simon Pulse. You can reach her at AYAPLit [at] gmail dot com, on Twitter via@MartinaABoone or at http://www.martinaboone.com/.

Lisa Gail Green 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. Find her at http://lisagailgreen.com or on Twitter as @LisaGailGreen.

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. (Simon Pulse – Simon & Schuster, October 30, 2012) Stop by and see her on her website or on Twitter.

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. Stop by and say Hi on her blog or Twitter.

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. She lives in the Midwestern US with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or Twitter. Her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, as well as the prequel, A DAWN MOST WICKED, and the sequel, A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY, are now 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.  Say hello on his blog or on Twitter.

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. She lives in Oregon with her husband and her cat. Find her on her blog or on Twitter.

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. Currently she teaches in the 5th Grade trenches. YA fiction is her happy place for both reading and writing. Visitors welcome on Twitter and her blog: Yes, This Will Be on the Test

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. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children. Be sure to catch her blog and Twitter feeds.

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-my team YA site. Catch her on Twitter and on her blog.

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! She holds a BA in English from Georgetown University and MA in Performance Studies from New York University, is represented by Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Managedment, and still enjoys choreographing the occasional musical. Stasia lives in western Washington state with her husband and four sons.Visit her online at on her website or Twitter

Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and all-around lover of words and those who create them. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, Counting Thyme, will be published by Putnam & Sons in 2016. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs. She's on the web at her website and on Twitter.

Kimberley Griffiths Little is an award-winning author of several Middle-Grade novels with Scholastic and her Young Adult trilogy FORBIDDEN will launch this Fall with Harpercollins after selling in a "significant" pre-empt. She grew up in San Francisco, but now lives in an adobe house on the banks of the Rio Grande with her chaotic, messy family. Please find her on on her website or on Twitter.




About the Book

For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants … and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.


Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, August 18, 2014

1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Allen Rev 2

Name: Kathleen S. Allen
Genre: YA dark contemporary
Title: SHATTERED-REV 2


I don’t do well in crowds.

The shoving and jostling, sends me into panic mode. I should be able to get through this, no one else is panicking about their first day of high school. Old friends embrace one another, lockers bang, laughter rings out but it all fades to a distant echo as my heart speeds up and my palms sweat. Eager to get away from the crowd, I spot an open door up ahead.

Please don’t let me pass out.

The bubble of panic lodges in my throat and swells. Footsteps echo behind me. Through the door is the sweet scent of rain.

Holding my bag in front of me like a shield, I rush out. My gaze darts searching for a place to hide. The rain-soaked air cools the hot bubble. The bell rings for first hour and I breathe easier.

Welcome to the first day of high school, Zoey. Congratulations, you made it a whole ten minutes.

Careful not to get too wet, I duck under the eaves to watch the rainwater gush from the ends of the half-broken gutter pipe onto the dirt making muddy puddles at my feet. Glass panoramic windows afford me a view into the school. But if I can see in, my classmates can see out. I catch the gaze of a girl staring at me and I duck to scoot around a corner.

I jump when I encounter a boy who smiles the kind of smile I wish I could keep in my pocket. I blink, caught in its brilliance. Frozen deer-girl, blinking stupidly at this boy. His smile deepens and his bright blue eyes mesmerize me.

The overhang doesn’t afford much shelter. A sharp crack of thunder in the distance draws my attention. I don’t notice him reaching for me until he already has the strap of my leather satchel in his hand, tugging on it. I’m tempted to give it to him, all he’ll find in it is an empty wallet with the picture of a girl I like to imagine is my sister and my book of Poe poetry. Still, I’m not sure why he’d want it, so I tug back. He pulls harder, jerking me closer to him.

My gaze drifts to the ground wondering what this boy wants. Lifting my eyes to his, he smiles.

“Stay out of sight,” he says. “Or they’ll find us.” His soft, soothing voice surrounds me like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer. I long to cocoon myself inside his words. My grip tightens on the strap of my bag and he finally lets go. I stagger backwards and press myself against the wall of reddened-bricks. And my heart beats so loud I’m sure he can hear it, but he gives no sign he can.

His tall, lanky frame lounges against the building. “I like the rain, too. It doesn’t rain much here so we have to enjoy it when it does.”

I press my back into the rough texture of the cool bricks and relax my hold on the strap.

The rain pummels the overhang and gathers into fat red drips at the edge. “It was night and the rain fell; and, falling, it was rain, but, having fallen, it was blood. And I stand in the morass among the tall lilies, and the rain fell upon my head-and the lilies sighed one unto the other in the solemnity of their desolation.’”

“Edgar Allan Poe,” he says. “And the red is from paint on the roof.” He inspects me as if he’s never seen a Poe-spouting girl before. “Do you write it or read it?”

“Both,” I say.

He opens his mouth like he’s about to say something. Instead, he runs a hand through dark curly hair too long to be considered fashionable, unless he’s in a rock band. His gaze sweeps from the top of my head to my muddy Doc Marten’s and back up again to rest on my eyes.

I blink and his grin expands. “Freshman?”

“Yes.”

“From?”

“New York.”

I’ve already shared more than I usually do. Does he know about me? Do I have a scarlet letter emblazoned on me like Hester Prynne? Yes, I’m the same girl you saw in the news, I’m that Zoey Walker. Maybe I should’ve changed my name along with my address. My hands shake more than usual as I wait for the question everyone asks: what was it like to be kidnapped and held prisoner for six months? But instead, his eyes turn back to the now-muddy parking lot. My shoulders relax.

He doesn’t know about me.

The scent of the rain seeps through my skin and I want to keep it there as a memory for future rain-starved days. His cool gaze is on me again. His intense stare rattles me and my eyes dart to the left side, but there’s only another building, another brick wall. A nook carved prison just big enough for a small goth girl. I search his face as he scrutinizes me.

“Hold still.”

He reaches out a hand to my hair. I freeze and close my eyes, anticipating the first touch of his long fingers. I shiver breathless as he swipes at the top of my hair. A finger flicks at my cheek.

“Got it,” he says. I open my eyes blurry with visions and he shows me a tiny insect. “This critter was in your hair.” He puts the bug in the grass and it skitters away grateful for a stay of execution.

“You didn't kill it.”

He steps back and leans against the wall again.“Why should I? It’s not its fault your hair got in its way---.” He smiles. “---I’m Rowan.”

He expects me to say my name but I remain silent. When you know a person’s name, you have control over them. And no one has control over me.

Not anymore.

He leans one foot on the wall. My hand aches with longing. One touch. One touch and I’ll be lost. I make a sound halfway between a gasp and a moan. His gaze is kind on mine.

“You okay?”

I try to keep it inside but I have to get out of here or I won’t be responsible for my actions. This can’t be happening again.

I promised.

He turns toward me, blocking me in. I reach out a hand wanting to feel his skin against my palm. Needing to feel it. But before I connect, the door opens. We tip our heads to the side like dogs listening for their master’s voice. A youngish teacher with black-framed glasses too big for her face peers at us from around the corner of the building.

“I thought I saw someone come out here. Back inside, both of you. The bell for first hour already rang.” Her nasal, high-pitched voice grates on my nerves.

The rain plasters her hair to her head. Her curls droop like her expression. Little does she know she’s my savior. Breathing a sigh, I nod.

Rowan shrugs. He takes his time extracting himself from his position against the building. In a leisurely stride he walks to the door. I rush past him to stand in the hallway, breathing hard to focus on calming down.

“Get to class.”

She reaches up to smooth her wet hairdo and makes a face. Her brown and white flower-print dress hangs on her frame. She pushes her too heavy glasses up with one finger. “Well, why aren’t you going?”

Neither one of us moves. She sighs and holds out a palm to me. “Schedule.”

I reach into the top of my right boot and pull out the folded piece of soggy paper and hand it to her. She holds it between two fingers as if it’s contaminated and squints at it. “Library is down the hall, Miss Walker. Find it.” She gives the schedule back and I refold it and stuff it back inside my boot.

I’m not sure if I’ve been dismissed or not. I hesitate and glance at Rowan. His crooked grin shows his amusement.

1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Leun Rev 2

Name: Garrett Vander Leun
Genre: YA - Urban Fantasy
Title: MONSTER TOWN - Revision 2

Henry had thought about killing his dad before. Hell, he'd wished it on candles.

Henry picked apart a fistful of foam from the hole in his seat, watching through the windshield while his dad got his special driving outfit all sorted out.

A pink gardening hat with a brim big enough to blot out twenty suns.

Yellow plastic kitchen gloves, cinched around his wrists with hair ties.

Orange snowboarding goggles, wrenched down so tight that his pasty face screamed pink mercy all around the edges. And then there was the shirt. A vintage, loosey-goosey Hawaiian shirt just because. Because he liked the way the flora made his soul sing, just like he liked the way his leather sandals tickled his toes, just like every little thing he did seemed calculated to piss Henry off.

Henry's eyes shifted over to a green, wooden gardening stake on the work table in the garage. What would it take, two seconds to climb out and grab it? Five more to plunge it through his dad's vegetarian, vampire heart? Henry smiled. Blood would spurt all over the concrete, his dad would drop, and the wonders of his weakness would do the rest. His dad would probably gurgle out some sort of wheezy last words, too.

But I loved you, Son!

Total bullshit. It was Henry's release day - one more test to prove he was a human and then he'd get good and gone forever - and his dad hadn't said one word about it. Sometimes his dad would get so lost in his little nocturnal world of secret research at the library and his clandestine meetings at the hardware store that Henry would have to bang on the blackout chamber door and remind his dad that someone in the house still depended on real food to survive.

Anton climbed inside the car with a thermos full of the bright orange liquid the government supplied for his cravings. The entire van reeked like fish as soon as he took a sip off the top.

There was a pen inside the cup holder that could serve as a stake in a pinch. Maybe Henry could use it on their way to the hospital that night. Ram it into his dad's sternum and slap him across the face when the death rattle crept up his throat. Hey, he'd yell, stay with me! I got something to say on my last day, something for mom. This is for chasing her off when I was three, for leaving me with nothing but a faded yellow picture and half a bottle of her favorite perfume. This is for flushing it down the toilet when you caught me spraying it in my bedroom.

Anton looked at Henry. "Something on your mind?"

Henry answered with a turn of his middle finger.

Anton sighed and stabbed the key into the ignition. "You know what?"

Henry never would know 'what' because his dad loved to let an empty threat dangle. Cowardice was the lifeblood of Section 671, the reason all those minor monsters ended up between those four giant walls when The War was over. Their monster kids played the same game, too; anytime they wanted to work their vengeance against humanity out on Henry, they simply made it look like an accident.

Scratches, scrapes, scars - every single report went to the sheriff station with a box marked 'accident' and the government never thought to ask otherwise. Henry still walked with a limp from the time a centaur 'accidentally' stepped on his foot and shattered three metatarsals. Every time he shaved his head, the scar from a gnome's overthrown dirt clod left a moon-shaped circle behind his ear.

The pinky finger was the one the other kids stared at. The little feeding accident involving one of the half-shark selachs. Henry grabbed onto the nub and waited for the van's engine to start up. You could hear their van coming from blocks away, a sound like someone playing basketball with a typewriter. It was one of many things Anton was going to take care of just as soon as he was done obsessing over himself.

Anton took a sip off the top of his mug and shivered. "Well, here goes..." He held his breath while the car rolled backwards, waiting to see what bit of skin he'd forgot to cover.

"Your forearms, Anton."

"Ah-ya-ya!" Anton's exposed flesh crackled like bacon as soon as the sun hit.

"Jesus." Henry grabbed the cuffs of his dad's long-sleeve t-shirt and pulled them out from under the short-sleeved Hawaiian one. His dad's constant flirtation with death-by-stupidity was the only thing that required physical contact between the two of them.

"We're good - I'm good - everything's good." The car pummeled the neighbor's bushes and laid waste to most of their lawn before everything was finally good. Anton steered the van out on the open road and choo-choo'ed his pain through the back of his teeth. "I asked you to lay off his name."

"Who? Jesus Christ?"

His dad moaned through a wave of nausea.

"You realize Arbo messed with me every time you destroy their yard?" Their neighbors were plant elementals; they felt every green, growing thing in town like it was their own skin.

"So tell Arbo it was an accident, he'll understand."

Henry shook his head. Not even the monsters understood his dad.

He'd disbanded his gang of vampires before Henry was born and gone vegetarian shortly after that. Henry came along right about the time The War was coming to an end and his dad was the only supermonster to sit it out. In a town full of minor monsters, his dad was treated like a disease. Henry had never even seen his dad sprout a single fang or batwing despite years of begging.

It cramps up my arms, Hanky Panky!

Between that and all the Cat Stevens music, Anton was about as human as a monster could get.

Anton pushed the cassette tape in and, true to form, Peace Train came blaring down the tracks. Henry gave it about two seconds before he popped it back out.

"Don't start - it's my week, Henry."

"And it's my release day, Asshole."

His dad's face went paler than pale. It went translucent. "I didn't forget. I was thinking about it this weekend, you know." He looked at Henry. "I was going to plan something, but I was up 'till sunrise last night, doing some work and..."

"Where?"

"The library."

"Doing what? What could you have possibly been doing that made you forget about today?"

Anton's eyes bounced around the mirrors. "Work."

Henry turned out towards the window. "Awesome."

Anton sighed. "Come on, I know this is a big deal. This is a big deal." He cleared his throat. "Happy birthday."

The town outside Henry's window moved by like an endless, tattered rainbow. Yellow was the color of the weeds in the ghouls' yards, because they were too dead to care. Black was the color of the oil stains splattered in the driveways of the ghosts, because they were too immaterial to scrub it. Brown was the color of the burnt and brittle dirt in the centaur paddocks, because those proud little ponies would never be forced into running behind a fence.

Every time another color disappeared behind them, Henry told himself it was the last time he was going to have to look at it. That it was going to be the last day he lived in a world built on hand-me-down human relics.

By tomorrow, everything's going to be new, he thought.