Saturday, May 27, 2017

1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop Opens Saturday, June 3rd w/ mentors Lit Agent Connor Eck and Author Becky Wallace!

Our May workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, June 3rd at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Becky Wallace  as our author mentor and Connor Eck as our agent mentor! (See below for Connor's background and query preferences!)

The workshop is designed to help writers struggling to find the right opening for their novel or for those looking to perfect the all important first five pages before submitting for publication. Why the first five pages? Because if these aren't perfect, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is!

Why is the First Five Pages Workshop a GREAT Opportunity?

  • You are mentored by at least two traditionally-published published or agented authors for the duration of the workshop. These authors have been through the trenches and know what it takes to get a book deal, solid reviews, and sales.
  • In addition, you receive feedback from the four other workshop participants.
  • Feedback is given not just on your initial submission, but on two subsequent opportunities to revise your manuscript based on the previous feedback so that you know you've got it right!
  • The final revision will also be reviewed by a literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the one that may eventually become your query letter or cover copy.
  • The best entry from among the workshop participants will receive a critique of the full first chapter or first ten pages from the mentoring agent, which may, in some cases, lead to requests for additional material.

How It Works

Please see the complete rules before entering the workshop, but in a nutshell, we'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) Click here to get the rules. We will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman, @MelissWritesNow), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to the rotating team of our wonderful permanent author mentors, the final entry for each workshop participant will be critiqued by our agent mentor.

June Guest Literary Agent Mentor
Connor Eck joined Lucinda Literary in 2016. He brings a multifaceted literary skill-set, having experience in both the editorial and marketing spheres—for GOLF Magazine, CBS Television Studios, and The Weinstein Company, among others. Connor graduated with a B.A. in English from Union College in Schenectady, NY, where he was quarterback and captain of the football team. His thesis, a feature-length screenplay, was selected in 2016 as a finalist for the 25th Woods Hole Film Festival. Connor has a passion for writing, nurturing literary talent, and for bolstering the careers of fellow writers. He most enjoys reading fiction, for all age ranges. To query Connor directly, email connor@lucindaliterary.com.



June Guest Literary Author Mentor
In second grade, BECKY WALLACE had to sit in the corner because she refused to write anything besides princess stories and fairy tales (and because she talked too much). Her time in isolation gave her plenty of opportunities to dream up the fantasy worlds she's been dabbling with ever since. She was lucky enough to find her own, real-life prince charming. They have four munchkins and live in a happy little town outside Houston, Texas.




About THE SKYLIGHTER
Johanna and Rafi are in a race against time to save their country before a power-mad Keeper destroys everything they hold dear in the “enthralling magical world” (Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles) introduced in The Storyspinner.

As the last of the royal line, Johanna is the only person who can heal a magical breach in the wall that separates her kingdom of Santarem from the land of the Keepers, legendary men and women who wield elemental magic. The barrier protects Santarem from those Keepers who might try to take power over mere humans…Keepers who are determined to stop Johanna and seize the wall’s power for themselves.

And they’re not the only ones. As the duchys of Santarem descend into war over the throne, Johanna relies more than ever on the advice of her handsome companion, Lord Rafael DeSilva. But Rafi is a duke too, and his people come first. As their friendship progresses into the beginnings of a tender relationship, Johanna must wonder: is Rafi looking out for her happiness, or does he want the throne for himself?

With war on the horizon, Johanna and Rafi dodge treacherous dukes and Keeper assassins as they race to through the countryside, determined to strengthen the wall before it’s too late…even if it means sacrificing their happiness for the sake of their world.

Where To Buy:
Amazon Barnes & Noble Indigo

Add It On Goodreads!







Friday, May 26, 2017

Thank You to the Participants and Mentors of the 1st 5 Pages Workshop!

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our May1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Kit Alloway as our author mentor and Hillary Jacobson as our agent mentor! They both provided terrific critiques. And as always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

The June writing workshop will open on Saturday, June 3, at noon EST. The workshop is designed to help writers struggling to find the right opening for their novel or for those looking to perfect the all important first five pages before submitting for publication. Why the first five pages? Because if these aren't perfect, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is!

Why is the First Five Pages Workshop a GREAT Opportunity?
  • You are mentored by at least two traditionally-published published or agented authors for the duration of the workshop. These authors have been through the trenches and know what it takes to get a book deal, solid reviews, and sales. 
  • In addition, you receive feedback from the four other workshop participants. 
  • Feedback is given not just on your initial submission, but on two subsequent opportunities to revise your manuscript based on the previous feedback so that you know you've got it right! 
  • The final revision will also be reviewed by a literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the one that may eventually become your query letter or cover copy. 
  • The best entry from among the workshop participants will receive a critique of the full first chapter or first ten pages from the mentoring agent, which may, in some cases, lead to requests for additional material.

How It Works
Please see the complete rules before entering the workshop, but in a nutshell, we'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) Click here to get the rules. I will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to the rotating team of our wonderful permanent author mentors, the final entry for each workshop participant will be critiqued by our agent mentor.

So get those pages ready, we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy Writing (and revising!)

Erin



About the Author

Erin Cashman is AYAP's  1st 5 Pages Workshop coordinator, and a permanent mentor. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three kids, and an energetic rescue dog.

Her YA fantasy debut, THE EXCEPTIONALS, was named a Bank Street College of Education best book of the year. For up to date information about the workshop, you can follow Erin on twitter here




Sunday, May 21, 2017

1st 5 Mages May Workshop - Stryker Rev 2

Name: Elisa Stryker
Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy
Title: IMMUNITY HUNTER

Pitch:

Seventeen-year-old Sasame’s city is at war. The enemy is horrific; tentacle-tongue, zombie-like mutants with leathery skin and violent impulses threaten everyone’s safety. But unlike “everyone,” Sasame can actually make a difference. As an Immunity Hunter, she does the dirty work for her agency, kidnapping those immune to the mutation virus so they can create a stronger vaccine. 

Though she doesn’t love the work, Sasame trusts her boss, Omi, and his vision for the future of their city. But that's before she meets Konan, a persistent teen desperately trying to figure out why people are vanishing. Sasame shouldn’t be attracted to him—her boss forbids romance and caring leads to heartache—yet his dedication to the city reel her in. As the missions leave her with horrible nightmares, she uses Konan as a distraction from the madness. That distraction turns into wanting more than a quick fix.

Omi isn’t pleased with this turn of events. His Immunity Hunters are well-oiled machines, and petty romance is just gunk in the gears. After forcing Sasame to watch the murder of another hunter's secret girlfriend, Omi presents her with a choice: kill Konan to prove her loyalty to the cause, or face the same fate.


Pages:

As soon as this guy looks up from his phone, I’ll knock him unconscious. I’ve followed him through these deserted streets for what feels like a mile. His face has been glued to that small, bright screen this entire time. This’ll be an easy hunt. Forget sneaking. Short of yelling his name, he won’t notice me. 

Downtown turns into a ghost town this late at night. Few people live close to the oversized buildings towering just high enough to see the top of the wall surrounding our city. Most people are locked away in their cozy beds. 

Luckily for me, my target is an idiot. I follow him past decorated storefronts with painted windows and dull office buildings. The faint scent of pastries and coffee still lingers in the midnight air from another busy day. As far as prey goes, he's terrible. Usually, they notice, or at the very least care. He hasn’t turned around or taken his eyes off the screen. I could’ve taken him down at any point during this seemingly endless trek through the empty downtown streets, but his attentiveness to the phone has me intrigued. Does he know I’m here and is he leading me into a trap? No, there’s no way this fool could tell I’m following him. I made sure not to wear any perfume or use the fancy soap that makes me smell like roses. A good hunter doesn’t leave an identifying scent.

His file states he has no special abilities. Perfect for me, the last thing I need to deal with is someone that can easily fight back, like a Lightning Rod. They already have electricity running through their veins. My stun gun won’t faze them. 

A chilly wind blows between the empty skyscrapers, picking up the day's litter and swirling my hair. Everything is silent and dark, with the fresh scent of death on the breeze.

I take a slow breath; hold it and then release. A hint of regret crosses my heart as I visualize this poor soul's fate, but I erase it. Regret will make me lose focus, and I can't afford that. 

I jog up behind him before he passes a set of knickknack shops and jab the spikes of my brass-knuckle-shaped stun gun into his ribs, the power up as high as it'll go. His phone drops to the ground as his body stiffens.

After a swift kick into the jagged brick wall, he's knocked out cold. The kick was harder than I expected. Hopefully, the impact of his head slamming into the concrete doesn't kill him. The Organization needs him alive, and I refuse to let someone die by my hands. I kneel beside him to make sure I didn’t end his life. He's still breathing—for now.

“Idiot. Pay attention to where you're going,” I mutter, standing over his limp body.

The distant rumble of a truck engine gets closer. That’s when I realize we’re on the route of the after-hours produce delivery. I could slap myself for not following my own advice and watching where my target was leading me. With both hands and every ounce of my strength, I grab my prey by the foot and drag his limp body into the alley next to us before headlights appear on the street. This mission would go a lot smoother if my bra strap weren't cutting into my skin. Almost exhausted, I sit on a flat, dirt-covered piece of cardboard beside him, stun gun at the ready in case he wakes up.

I take my phone from my backpack and lean against a stack of water-stained crates. A rat crawls out covered in grime and scurries away. Gross. I dial the three-digit code for The Organization's extraction team. As I wait, I stare up at a metal fire escape doodled with graffiti, trying to convince myself that of all this is for the better. All these hunts are wearing me down, but I can't stop now. The antidote is more important than my mental state of mind. 

The pungent smell of rotting garbage and old motor oil drags me back to reality. At least it covers the constant stench of rotting flesh from the Konadai outside the wall.

Right on schedule, the extraction team shows up in an ambulance to collect the target. Two men, dressed as paramedics, climb out of the front seat and rush over to the unconscious guy and me. They lift him onto a gurney and wheel him into the back of the ambulance. Neither of them pays me any attention, they hardly ever do. Within seconds, they're gone. 

Another name crossed out of my notebook and The Organization is one step closer to finding a stronger antidote to the Konadai virus. They better be happy. I've worked for them for two years, yet they always seem to need more donors.

“Good job, Sasame.”

I spin around to see an Insider—one of The Organization’s spies—standing behind me.

“Is there a reason you’re following me tonight? I did my job,” I respond.

She grins with her long, tight curled lizard green hair covering one eye. “That mouth will be the end of you one day. What would your parents think?”

I ball my fist as fire burns in my eyes, but I control it. Fighting an Insider is stupid, there’s a reason they’re The Organization’s snitches and not out here doing the dirty work. As quick as they are, she’ll dodge any attack I throw at her.

“Leave my parents out of this, snitch.” How dare she bring them up? They sacrificed themselves for the city just as I’m doing now. I swear if she wasn’t a direct line to my superiors—

She shakes her head and chuckles. “Oh little girl, The Organization never could fully break you.”

“Whatever,” I mumble. I remove my backpack, unzipping it to put my stun gun inside. She vanishes before I look up. They’re supposed to watch all Hunters, but I’m their favorite. I get it; The Organization wants devoted Hunters. I’ve proven my loyalty before and will continue until I finish my assignment. My parents are off limits. 

I sling the backpack over my shoulder and walk out of the alley erasing any thought of that Insider—and my parents. As I walk home, my mind wanders to the dreadful summer festival I’m forced to attend tomorrow afternoon. Lynn—my foster mother—thinks it’s a good way to help me blend in more with ordinary people. Just because she raised me these last few years doesn’t give her the right to change who I’ve become.

It takes a while to get back to my townhouse, but the quiet walk makes up for it. Being alone with my thoughts can be scary; tonight it’s sort of peaceful in a way. As I enter the front door, I’m greeted by cheerful Lynn. 

“Welcome back. So how did your mission go? Well, I assume.”

Without speaking, I jog up the wooden staircase to my bedroom. Why is she so happy? My missions aren’t jolly walks by the ocean. If it weren’t for my training, I would’ve broken down months ago.

My wooden bedroom door creaks as I push it open. I throw down my backpack and kick off my sneakers. Within seconds I’m out of my street clothes and into a soft, long shirt. My tired body slumps onto my plush bed. I lay there, still and quiet, lost in my thoughts.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Vogel Rev 2

Query:

Thirteen year old farm-girl Ellie Bauer is about to hear the biggest and best kept secret in all of humanity. No, humanity is too small a word. This information predates us by eons. Only five people, including a few well known historical figures, have been entrusted with this knowledge. It’s a secret that comes with great responsibility.

Ants, the little six-legged kind, have been evolving for a hundred million years longer than humans. It's a staggering advantage. They live in advanced hierarchical civilizations, cultivate crops, and employ aphids and caterpillars just like humans use livestock. Ants are masters at manipulating other species for their own benefit, and they don’t stop at caterpillars. 

The ants have chosen Ellie to steer the fate of our entire planet — a role critical to the survival of all of Earth’s creatures. This mandate is a tremendous honor, but it ejects Ellie from her carefree childhood and hurls her deep into adulthood in just a few short weeks.

Join Ellie as her tiny ant ambassador pulls back the curtains on the true path of human history. Accompany Ellie as her faith and her comprehension of what it means to be human become unfathomably challenged.


Week 3 Draft:

Name: Zack Vogel
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: Our Mother Not in Heaven

Chapter 1:

"Oh God no Gita. You must pronounce that one correctly," Kenna snapped.

Gita’s body segments tensed up. "What did I say?"

"You said 'nucular'."

"That's what you said Kenna, 'Nucular'." Gita shot Kenna a fierce look that went unseen. All looks went unseen in their pitch black chamber two feet below the surface. Living in complete darkness most of the time works wonders for the brain and the non-visual senses. Their sightless communication evolved over millions of years into a rich bouquet of smells, vibrations, and sounds.

"Nuclear, nu-cle-ar, NUCLEAR! Look, I think we should call it a day. We're both getting tired, and the sun has nearly set."

Gita cracked her stiff neck from side to side to release some tension. She gazed and clawed at the dirt floor buried beneath the labyrinth of earthen tunnels above. "I guess you're right, but bzaenim..."

"Stop! You have to stay in English. Think in English. You're perfectly fluent. This is no time to revert," Kenna admonished. She normally oozed calm, but time was running short and the whole world hung in the balance. It would fray anyone's nerves.

"Right, right, sorry. I was going to say we should go over that again tonight, but maybe you're right. I am exhausted, and I guess, a bit nervous," Gita admitted, returning to the careful enunciation of her English words.
 "That's totally natural," Kenna responded. Her antennae had stopped nervously twitching. As part of her multifaceted role she fed Gita a quick bite of loamy mush. "You're fully prepared. I know you don't feel like you've done anything yet, but you've already proven yourself to me. We'll rest now, but there will be time to review a few things in the morning before you embark — like nuclear — that's an important one!" Kenna never stopped working.

"Thanks Kenna," Gita sighed.

The two, six-legged, exoskeleton clad females marched down the moist dark tunnel to their sleeping quarters. The reek of fear pheromones from an afternoon scare had been sponged up by the porous walls of soil. The community drifted into its familiar nighttime tranquility.

Gita tossed and turned on her bed. “Nuclear, nuclear, nuclear,” she thrummed to herself, mandibles twitching. Her mind scratched away at one last pre-slumberous thought in English, punctuating her tiring eve. “I hope Ellie can handle this. I hope the queens are right about this human child.”

Gita's nearly massless body sank deeper into the wet dirt, pressed by the weight of enormous responsibility.

Chapter 2:

Elita Bauer, Ellie for short, jumped off the school bus and ran down the long dusty driveway to her family's small but stately red-brick farmhouse. The Bauer's waist-high wheat stretched in all directions toward the unbroken horizon separating earth from sky. Like strands of a shag rug stroked by the hand of a child, each thin stalk of wheat did its part to sway in the breeze, yet remained indistinguishable from the whole. Not Ellie. She would be asked to stand out above the rest. Ellie blissfully knew nothing of her fate. And, she certainly never had any reason to think twice about ants.

Ellie darted in through the backdoor and tossed her backpack onto the chunky, weathered kitchen table of red oak. It had been built to last forever, hand-crafted by her grandfather decades before she was even conceived. Ellie downed a tall glass of water without taking a breath and ran back outside.

Pent up excitement had whipped her into a Christmas-morning-like frenzy. She yearned to see that her new tree house withstood the day's moderate wind while she sat bored and distracted in the hot classroom. Ellie built the tree house with her own two hands, and a smidgen of guidance from Dad when the power tools came out. Just like grandpa with his table, the accomplishment made her proud. It was erected as a place to play just as she was maturing beyond such childhood trifle. The shack on a limb would serve a wholly different, unexpected purpose. Unfathomably weighty secrets would soon be divulged within its modest four walls.

Ellie's older brothers contributed to the tree house in their own special way. They doubted her capabilities loudly to her face. She had no lack of self-motivation, but her siblings’ sneers assured the project's success. Anything Ellie was told she could not, or should not accomplish, became an immediate possibility, a likelihood. That trait rubbed some adults the wrong way, but in certain situations it equaled power.

In contrast to her farm-destined brothers, Ellie aspired to things beyond her family’s small patch of soil.

Just as she barreled back outside through the creaky screen door, a loud bang rattled the center pane of the kitchen's plate glass window. The crash stopped her in her tracks. Sadness gripped her immediately. She had heard these thuds before. They were on the rise ever since Dad replaced those little panes with that big one. This was the third, sudden and tragic interruption of flight this month.

There in the mulch between the house and the flowering inkberry bushes, lay the comatose body of a male robin. The sight of the grounded bird's red-breasted body injected Ellie's sadness with a dose of excitement. A travesty, yes, but also an opportunity given her dreams of becoming a veterinarian. She had a new patient.

Ellie sprinted away toward the back corner of the main barn. She slid to her knees in the dusty dirt, skidding to a stop beside her humane animal trap. She tilted it on end, dumping the day-old cubes of cantaloupe into the groundhog hole at the base of the barn's foundation. "I guess you get a free lunch today,” she hollered toward the empty hole.

The trap, once again, would be called on to double as an ambulance for an injured bird. Then, fingers crossed, a safe place for the robin to regain strength before beating wings for the sky.

Trapping was the original purpose for the galvanized metal box. It was the only gift Ellie admitted wanting — to insure its receipt — for her thirteenth birthday. It came with a contract. A truce really. Dad agreed that anything Ellie trapped could be released alive. Farm intruders too smart to be lured in, would continue to be shot.

Ellie would halt the animal rights protests. Dad would be spared the drama surrounding each and every death. On those days when she came home from school to find the trap occupied, mostly by gullible groundhogs, she would toss a towel on top, bungee it to her bicycle rack, and pedal back to school. There, behind the ball fields, her chubby brown friends could roam free in the shade of the woods.

Dad and Ellie both knew that the school grounds, eight miles away, wasn't always far enough. Dad was too tired to reopen the negotiations, and Ellie secretly longed for reunions with her bucktoothed deportees. Her chest burned with a deep love for all things feathered or furry. Ants, needless to say, are neither.

Ellie made it back to the house in seconds. The bird hadn’t budged. She placed the empty trap down in the mulch at the robin’s feet, and swung her braided blonde pony-tail over the back of her shoulder. Her cupped hands formed a gurney and slid beneath the delicate avian frame. She would have made a darn good veterinarian if the world had been different, and if the ants hadn’t spied her potential for something critically bigger.

She glided the bird into the cage, steering clear of the sensitive trigger-plate, and carefully lowered the trapdoor. Little could be done to help this bird, but she longed to be there by his side if and when he came to.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - McDermott Rev 2

Name: Arran McDermott
Genre: Young Adult paranormal
Title: Supra/normal

Pitch:
Sixteen-year-old Julie Jackson can punch through brick walls and shrug off knives and bullets. The only problem is using these powers is a crime that could land her in prison for the rest of her life, or worse.

A generation after the Supranormal War shook the world, Julie lives in hiding with a group of other gifted teenagers, called Supras. They try to stay one step ahead of the Normalizers—a ruthless police force immune to their powers. 

Julie decides to break their cover by rescuing a frightened young Supra called Steve. His rare powers, which can counteract the Normalizers' immunity, could be the secret weapon they need. But first Julie must face her greatest fear and discover the truth of their origins. If they succeed in their desperate mission, they may finally become the heroes the world told them they could never be.

SUPRA/NORMAL, complete at 78,000 words, is a YA paranormal novel with diverse characters and series potential. It will appeal to fans of the X-Men or Supergirl.
Chapter One

I walked up to my class that morning and saw the mandatory blood test list posted by the door. They only ever tested people to decide if you were normal, or a supra. If your blood came back positive, you were pretty much screwed.

I scanned the list quickly. Two of the names on it were students I barely knew, both in lower grades than me. The last name was mine. I was scheduled to report to the nurse’s office at ten-thirty the next morning. They normally tested us at birth, and again when we reached puberty. Somehow I had slipped through the cracks. Until now.

I stood in the school hallway as the others kids passed back and forth, wishing I could reach through the glass and tear up the sheet. If this was a story, I’d be one of those teenagers desperately hoping to get chosen for something special. But having powers the average person could only dream of was no gift. If you had the cursed gene, your options were to run and hide or turn yourself in to the authorities. I already knew what the result would be. What really scared me was everyone else finding out.

I am a supra. I had kept that secret since I was twelve years old.

I sat with my friend Journey at lunch shorty after seeing the list, my mind still reeling from the news. We were both sophomores at Kurtzberg High, and she was the only person I was close to. It was a perfect relationship. She didn’t seem to notice how little I talked about myself as long as she had someone to discuss her weirdly erotic anime dreams with.

For once I wanted to talk about myself, to tell her about the test the next day and get some reassurance that it was nothing to worry about. But I was afraid to even bring it up.

I looked around the lunchroom as I ate and noticed Steve Peterson heading our way. He was a star athlete in the same year as me, and my latest and most intense crush. He had shaggy hair that looked perfect for running fingers through, dreamy hazel eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and a nice smile. I spared him an appreciative look, even though dating fantasies were the furthest thing from my mind.

“Hi,” he said cheerfully as he passed our table. I gave a half-smile, but said nothing. He sat down at a table with his loud buddies. Normally my gaze would have stayed with him for a while, but not that day. Journey did look over, though.

“Girl, he is cute,” she said, in between chugging milk. “I can see why you like him. But he’s kinda weird.”

“What do you mean?” I didn’t really care why she thought he was weird, but any conversation was a welcome distraction from my impending doom.

“He never hangs out with anyone outside of school or games. I’ve known a whole bunch of girls that have asked him out, but he always turns them down. He’s quieter than you, even.”

“Maybe he’s just shy.”

She pulled her glasses away from her dark brown eyes, giving me a dubious look. “For real? Dude’s a basketball star, and he ran for class president once. Shy ain’t part of the package. I think he thinks he’s better than us. He’s a snob, you know?” She shrugged. “But if you wanna try asking him out, you go right ahead.”

Yeah, right. A girl like me dating the most popular guy in school. A girl who’s probably going to be in jail by this time tomorrow.

I fell silent. Journey gave me a serious look, finally catching on to my mood.

“Why you so down, girl? Normally dream boy puts a smile on your face for hours.”

I checked no one close by was listening and told Journey my fears about the test. She laughed at me.

“A supra test? That’s what you’re worried about? I took mine a couple of years ago. It wasn’t no big thing. You’re the most norm person I know. If your life was any more boring, you’d be dead.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

“So why you freaking out over this? Everyone has to do it.”

“Well, I hate needles. And what if they find something else in my blood? Not supra powers but something else . . . bad?”

She wrapped a braid around one of her fingers and grinned. “You been doing drugs or screwing some guys I don’t know about?”

“No. Maybe I’m being paranoid.”

“Look, if it’s that big a deal, there’s ways to get out of it, at least for a while. Just pretend to faint or throw up or something. Hell, tell them it’s that time of the month. Almost anything will work.”

“Really?”

“Just try it.”

I spent the rest of the day thinking about which of Journey’s suggestions I would attempt to get out of the test. None of them sounded very hopeful, and I was drawing a blank on any better ideas.

When school got out, I walked home as slowly as possible, giving myself time to think. The dirty, crumbling buildings around me looked like they hadn’t been repaired since the Supranormal War. But we just accepted that living in the projects. 

I passed a piece of graffiti that I had seen many times before. Someone had stenciled a flying superhero on a brick wall and spray-painted a red ‘no’ sign over it. No supras had been seen in public for years, but the hatred was still strong. Why had I never thought about that until now? It was amazing what having your own head on the chopping block did for your outlook.

My mood didn’t improve when I got back to our tiny, rundown apartment. My
brothers were eating junk food while my loser stepdad snored on the couch. He drifted in and out of our lives like an alcoholic wisp, usually only showing up to make trouble. My mom had probably asked him to watch the boys until I got home, not that he had any parenting skills.

Right on cue, as soon as I had finished eating, he stumbled out of the apartment, mumbling, “Say hi to your mom for me.” He would go bar crawling or whatever he did while she worked her night shift. It might be days before he returned, which was fine with me.

I tossed and turned for hours that night while my two brothers snored loudly in the bedroom we all had to share. Privacy was not part of my life. But I would gladly spend the rest of my life stuck in a room with them if it meant getting out of the test. I needed them, but more importantly they needed me. There was no one else to look after them.

I thought about how all my good grades and efforts to stay out of trouble at school would soon count for nothing. Once the authorities found out my true nature, they would send me off to a special prison or God knows where. I had read stories of it happening to others before.

In the morning I barely ate while my brothers shoveled marshmallow cereal into their mouths. The kitchen was really more of an alcove next to the living room, and an iron girder running overhead made it seem even more cramped. I looked over at the sink piled up with dishes and realized that wouldn’t get cleaned until I came home from school. If I came home.

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Garrett Rev 2

Name: Catherine Garrett
Genre: Young Adult | Urban Fantasy
Title: Randa Rune and the Erie Street Witch

PITCH:

Boring Rhyming Randa, that was me. | Until I walked inside a tree.

Fifteen-year-old Randa drifts through life; a high school outcast named Rhyming Randa with only her rhymes. That is until a confrontation with Asher Eastwyke, a reputed bully, leads inside the haunted house of Erie Street to a dead witch’s grimoire. Little does Randa know that the unrevealed contents of the grimoire will propel her on a perilous quest to find an ancient witch and save all witches from a terrible fate.

On Randa’s sixteenth birthday, she enters the bewitching realm of Sobelow where new friend, Alazne Cauldron, helps her accept that her rhymes are her gift. While Randa secretly grapples with falling in love, she and her new friends begin to unravel the mystery of the grimoire. A magical story of self-discovery, love, and learning that sacrifice often provides the greatest rewards.

REVISION 2:

In the snow-covered front yard of the haunted house of Erie Street, I stand with a tree branch in my hands.

Street lights illuminate the crumbling house with gaping holes in its siding that expose a wooden skeleton beneath. On the sagging roof, cedar tiles stick up like jagged teeth. The attached conservatory’s dome of stained-glass panels is soiled from time and neglect.

My breath drifts upward in frosty white pillows; my gaze following to the peak where three ravens rest. They always squawk when anyone draws near. Now they are as silent as death.

A rhyme slips into my thoughts:

There is a house on Erie Street,
Where ravens, and spiders, and rodents creep.
The man who lives there is a witch you know,
With gnarled fingers and a crooked nose.
     
“Quit stalling and smash a window, Rhyming Randa,” says Asher in a sharp tone.

The most feared guy in school wants me to break a window in a neglected conservatory, and a nickname I hear fifty times a day is all he’s got? The only reason I’m still standing here is because he decked a senior jock. Not just any jock, but the biggest quarterback in school. Plus, Asher has my rhyme journal. So, bolting to the street is not an option, but neither is breaking a window just to appease a bully.

“Break it yourself.” I pitch the branch on the snow hoping he’ll abandon this foolish idea of proving the house has a magic spell cast on it by a witch.

“Do it, and you can have your journal back.” His unblinking eyes peer at me from beneath black eyebrows like a bird of prey calculating the precise moment to strike.

I fetch the branch. Behind me, an old oak’s limbs sway in the wind; its shadow splayed on the snow around me like twisted fingers summoning me to escape.

I resolve to get this over with, so near the arch of glass. My long blonde hair whips across my face as I take aim at a single pane and swing.

When the branch hits my mark, the impact stings my hands and vibrates up my arms. However, nothing happens; not a fracture, nor a shatter, or even a dull thud. I pitch the limb aside and move back seconds before a spray of glass rains onto the snow accompanied by Asher’s cry of victory.

“Booyah!”

Before my brain can register the peculiar pause that took place before the glass exploded, sparkling green vapor seeps from within the conservatory. It curls around the edges of the pointy shards, followed by finger-like slithering vines.

As the vapor drifts around us, I detect a sweet fragrance, perhaps flowers, but remain fixed on the creeping plants filling the jagged gap. Asher’s mouth gapes as wide as mine. I glance back at the window and gasp.

The vapor and vines are gone. The glass has reappeared.

I inch near the window. Not a mark nor a crack is visible, so I slip off a mitten and bravely tap the glass.

“There’s a window by the veranda,” says Asher.

I shriek at the sound of his voice, then I shout, “Did you see that? The window…how did that happen?”

“Be quiet. You just proved there’s a spell on this place. Come on. I think we can see inside the house.”

“I’m not snooping in windows,” I exclaim, which sounds dumb after smashing a window.

The wind tousles Asher’s straight black hair with indigo streaked bangs. A glimmer of amusement dances at the corner of his lips. Asher Eastwyke is cute, in a mysterious sort of way, with a heart-shaped face and generous lips. It’s his eyes throwing me off; iris’ so black they’re nearly impossible to look at.

“You are, and we will. You broke the window, so your part of the plan now,” says Asher.

“What plan?” I laugh. Not a hearty, cheerful laugh, but one that stems from nerves on overdrive. I know quite well what he means. My thoughts are a muddled mess, but not so scrambled I can’t figure out why Asher needs me. I’ll be the one who takes the fall if his ridiculous scheme goes sour.

Grabbing onto the hood of my coat, Asher hauls me behind a barren bush, where we crouch below a window beside the front porch.

“Stay down,” he says before standing to look through the window. Then he pops back down, leans against my arm, and states, “I can’t see anything.”

The veranda light flicks on.

Asher and I gawk at each other with owl-like eyes as the door screeches open. I slam my eyes shut.

On the wooden veranda stretching the entire frontage of the house, footsteps echo and stop directly beside us. Inside my mittens, I dig my fingers like daggers into the snow to remain still. A hard object jabs my right palm, so to suppress a yelp, I pinch my lips tight. The footsteps retreat into the house and the door creaks shut.

While Asher sneaks another look through the window, I whip my hand up and find the bottom half of a silver skeleton key poking through my mitt. I tug it out. The top is a flat circle engraved with two duplicate leafless trees, their roots joining them one above the other.

On my cheekbone, something tickles, so I strain my eyes left just as the black needle-like appendage of a spider flexes and extends toward my eye. As the glossy black body comes into view, I catch a glimpse of red on its abdomen and fear fires through me, churning my stomach into a tense cramp. My first reaction is to scream, but instead, I clamp my mouth shut, terrified the spider will crawl in.

My brain is a mental soup of conflicting orders; freeze, run, scream. However, the overruling thought is ‘get it off my face and get the heck away from the hideous thing as fast as I can.’ Petrified to touch it, but horrified that it’s about to creep directly over my left eye, I flick the vile thing with a mitt, then bolt from behind the bush.

The shrieks caught in my throat spill over my vocal cords as I whack at my legs, arms, and torso. The spider is still on me somewhere, I’m sure of it!

Asher’s hand wraps around my mouth stifling my squeals. With an elbow into his stomach, I stagger onto the sidewalk, still frantically hunting for the spider.

“What’s up with you?” Asher scoffs, his eyes ablaze.

Still hopping around like a jumping bean, I bellow, “A ginormous spider was on my face. I hate spiders.” I bat at my hair and scurry in circles.

“You’d think you were being attacked by a swarm of bees, not just a little spider.”

I catch Asher roll his eyes. That’s it—I’m out of here. I start down the street toward home.

“Where do you think you’re going? I didn’t say you could leave,” he seizes my arm.

“Let me go,” I pull free. “Keep my journal. Show everyone my rhymes,” I yell.

From his pocket, he shoves my journal toward me. “Go ahead, take it,” he says. “For what it’s worth, your rhymes are good…for rhymes.”

He’s just saying nice things to manipulate me. “What do you want from me?”

“You saw what I saw. A witch lives in that house, and we’re going to get inside and figure it out.”