Sunday, July 5, 2015

First 5 Pages July Workshop - Pendleton

Melanie Pendleton
Middle Grade Contemporary
Truth, Lies, and Bucketball


I hear the crowd chanting my name.

“Jerome! Jerome! Jerome!”

This is my chance. I have to stay focused. I can’t psyche myself out.

I eye the target. I shoot. I watch the ball soar through the air. It goes in!

The crowd goes crazy. They gather around me. They’re about to lift me up. This is the best moment of my life. I am the bucketball champion…

Brrrrinnng!

The sound of the bell jolts me back to reality. I take a second to come out of my daze and I look around the classroom. Everyone else is packing up. Too bad. I was digging that daydream. I shut my geography book and stuff it in my backpack.

“Okay class,” Ms. Maguire says as I head for the door. “Get your continent reports on your way out. Some of you need to put forth more effort in your assignments. Mr. Morris…” My teacher raises one eyebrow at me as I take my paper. I guess that means she’s talking about me. I look at my paper and huff. C minus. Dad is going to flip. I can just hear the lecture I’m going to get about how I didn’t do my best. Maybe he’ll believe me this time when I tell him I really did try.

I move through the halls crammed full of students and I think. There are two things I know for sure. Bucketball is the best thing in the world. Reading is the worst. It’s just too hard. I don’t get it. Sometimes I wonder, what’s the use in trying?

“Hey, Jerome!” I feel a slap on the back.

I turn to see Cliff and I smile. It never fails. Cliff is always in a good mood.  He struts down the hall like he rules the world. He’s been my best friend ever since elementary school when he sat behind me in Mrs. Williamson’s class. My last name is Morris. Cliff’s is Murphy. Sometimes you gotta love the alphabetical order thing.

“Hey, Zane,” he shouts to a group of eighth-graders standing in the hall. “Good bucketball game yesterday!”

The eighth-graders turn and look at us. They freeze. Suddenly they seem ten feet taller. Their fists look like rocks. Their shoulders look like they’re
wearing football pads underneath their t-shirts.

Marcus Zane is the worst one of all. He glares at us. I hear my own gulp. But Marcus nods one time and turns back to the other guys. I sigh in relief. I don’t know how Cliff does it. In the neighborhood, we’re all equal. At school, the eighth-graders talk to other eighth-graders and the sixth-graders talk to other sixth-graders. But me and Cliff, we’re different. We can talk to the older kids without getting pounded. They never say anything but the all-important head nod is a surefire sign of approval.

“So where ya’ headed?” Cliff asks coolly, like talking to Marcus Zane is no problem. He winks at a group of girls standing at their lockers. They giggle and run off in the opposite direction.

“Language Arts with Higgins,” I grumble.

“Ugh! I’m lucky I didn’t get him this year. I’ve heard he’s tough.”

“He is.” I frown. “And he hates me.”

“He hates everyone.”

“These teachers are a lot different than last year.”

“Welcome to middle school,” Cliff says. Then he smiles. “Well, good luck, buddy.” He gives me another slap on the back and runs off. I let out a huge sigh as I head to my class of doom.

I always like my teachers. I’m not the star student or the teacher’s pet but I never get in trouble. And my grades aren’t bad. Of course Dad thinks I can do better. But they don’t scare me. Until now. Until Higgins.

When I walk in, Higgins is standing at the board writing what looks like a book. I shake my head. He’s just so old. He’s been teaching longer than I’ve been alive. He has white hair. He wears glasses and button-up shirts that look like they’ve been one too many times in the washing machine. He’s big around the middle and he always has a sour look on his face. I figure if he is that unhappy, why doesn’t he just retire? Nobody should have to put up with his bad mood.

He stops writing for a second. He pushes up his glasses, wrinkles his nose, and chuckles. What a dork. Then he continues writing like his hand is on fire. I shake my head some more and go to my seat. Class with Higgins is torture. It’s going to kill me before the year is over, I just know it.

“Hey there, Jer.”

“Hey, Darcy,” I mutter.

“How’s Cliff?” She chews on the tip of her pen and grins. Her bangs cover her eyes so her hair moves every time she blinks. She doesn’t seem to notice.

“You know, Cliff is Cliff.”

“Hmmmm,” she croons in the sing-song voice she gets when she talks about Cliff. I roll my eyes. Sometimes girls can be weird.

“What do you see in him anyway?” I ask her.

“What are you talking about? I mean, what’s not to like? His curly hair, gorgeous green eyes, cute little dimples…”

I snort. Darcy glares at me. “C’mon. You really like that mop on top of his head? Half the time it looks like he’s just been hit by lightning. And he’s so white he could glow in the dark.”

“That’s not very nice, Jerome. You wouldn’t think he’s your best friend by the way you talk about him. Maybe you’re jealous.” She turns away and pouts.

“That’s messed up.” I pretend to be offended but I don’t care. Yeah me and Cliff are different, besides the fact he’s white and I’m black. He’s the one to go to for a good laugh. He always tells good jokes and knows what funny thing to say at the right moment. He has a laugh that makes everyone around him laugh too. He’s fearless and will stand up to anybody. Cliff is the one who gets all the attention. It's been that way from the beginning and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

“Good afternoon, class.” Higgins turns from the board at the sound of the tardy bell.

No answer.

“Today we will begin reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  You will each find a copy already on your desk. I expect you all to pay attention and participate. This will be a significant part of your grade for the semester.”

Darcy raises her hand.

“Yes, Ms. Lake?”

“I’ve heard that this book has bad words. Should we be reading it?” Sometimes Darcy can be real goody-two-shoes.

But Higgins gets a pleased looked on his face. “Thank you for asking. You all should be aware this book was written a long time ago. The setting takes place when slavery was prevalent in this country. It does contain what we consider to be derogatory language. But I want you all to look past the language and think about what the book means. As we move forward, we will have many discussions about its themes as well as its historical and cultural implications.”

I groan to myself. It’s bad enough teachers make us read books. Why do we have to talk about them afterwards?

“I would like everyone to please turn to the first page and we will take turns reading out loud.”

Uh oh. I wasn’t expecting this.

First 5 Pages July Workshop - Murphy

Julie Murphy
Young Adult
I Hate My Life

I hate my life and I hate myself for cutting. Mom would be so mad if she found out.
Lexie held the razor blade tightly in her left hand and looked at her soft inner thigh. She made a tentative scratch. No blood came and she pressed deeper until the scratch began to bleed. Sighing with relief, Lexie closed her eyes and relaxed with the pain. She sat on the toilet absently rubbing the cut. Five minutes later, she wadded up the bloody toilet paper, checked the cut once more and flushed the paper down the toilet. This was the deepest cut she had made in two months.

Settling on the bright green and purple bedspread, Lexie randomly typed in numbers on her iPhone and pressed Send. She looked around the detritus (a favorite new word from English class) of the room she shared with her sister, Angel. Scattered crayons, random papers, and Angelina Ballerina books littered the desktop. Lexie shuddered as she looked at the open door of the closet: cluttered shoes and sweaters and dresses never hung up. She crinkled her nose and sniffed.   It smelled like dolls and baby powder.

She looked for her drawings from art class but realized they were buried under Angel’s books. Sighing, she gave up the hunt for another day.

She sat cross-legged, as still as a Buddha, and mentally reviewed the newest reason why she hated her life: Kelsey, her best friend, had not returned her calls or texts since Friday. I’ll bet Kelsey hates me; I have no friends; I have no one. I feel so alone.

Lexie walked to the dresser, opened the third drawer, and reached under her underwear to grasp a parquet box. She lifted its lid and picked up the old newspaper article on top. It was dated March 3, the day after her birthday. The front-page headline read: Baby Girl Abandoned at Local Hospital. Lexie unfolded the creased paper. She slid her fingers over the page, pausing over the crinkles to smooth them out. She mouthed the words memorized from so many years of reading the article:

Baby Girl Abandoned at Local Hospital

Hospital officials report that a baby girl less than thirty minutes old was left at the emergency room door of the Winston County Hospital. The infant weighed seven pounds eight ounces. She was wrapped in a tattered Virginia tee shirt. “Although the umbilical cord was still attached,” a hospital spokesperson, Marie Lucas, reported, “the baby is healthy and doing well.”

Local police are asking citizens to help find a car seen speeding from the parking lot. It was identified as an old dark colored car missing a taillight and the right rear passenger window. Officials are also asking the mother to come forward, stating that she will not be prosecuted for abandoning the baby.

Lexie whispered, “What kind of mother abandons her newborn baby like that? She must have been a monster.” That baby girl was her, Alexis Suzette Wren, who had been placed in foster care two days later.

Mom’s voice intruded, “Alexis, supper is almost ready. Come set the table.”

“Why do I have to set the table? Her majesty, Princess Angelina, never sets the table,” mumbling, walking into the kitchen.

“What did you say?” asked her mother in that sharp voice Lexie hated so much.

“Nothing.” She grabbed four plates.

She stopped at the high chair to greet Damon, her adopted baby brother. “Hi, Bubba,” she cooed at the two-year-old who looked back at her with solemn black eyes. She rubbed his thick wavy hair, then patted down her own bushy dark hair.

Damon burst into a chorus of gibberish, gestured to Lexie while she placed the plates and silverware on the table. She handed him a spoon and he began to bang on the tray of his high chair. The kitten darted from under the table and ran into the other room. She grinned at the laughing baby. “Baby Bro, when will you learn to speak English so we can understand you?”

“The people at the orphanage spoke only Haitian Creole to him, so it may take him more than two months to learn English.” Mom laughed. “By the way, I have a doctor’s appointment for him on Wednesday. I need you to watch Angel for me when you get home from school. It’s so hard to take her with us. Get the blue bowl for the corn, please.” Oh, sure, Princess Angel gets to stay home and I have to play with her.

Lexie stood on tiptoes to reach the bowl. She dropped to her feet, slammed the cabinet door, and banged the bowl on the granite counter top. She winced at the loud noise and glanced toward her mother. She quickly poured the corn and placed the bowl on the table.

Mom chopped the carrots with such force that ends flew off the cutting board. She grabbed them and threw them in the sink. Not looking up, she said, “Ask Kelsey to come here. She can stay for dinner, and I’ll rent you a movie.  And she can sleep over.” Mom added the carrots to the salad and pushed back a strand of blonde hair off her round freckled face. “I haven’t seen her all weekend. Anything the matter?”

“I don’t want her to see my messy room. I hate having Angel in my room.”

Mom’s blue eyes flashed as she let out a sigh. “Lexie, give me a break. We’ve talked about this a million times. The people at the orphanage thought it best for Damon to have a room close to ours. Taking Angel’s room was best because it’s next to ours and you have the other bath. Turning the bonus room into a bedroom for you will take time and money.”

The beat of Damon’s spoon on the tray matched the throb of Lexie’s headache. Her voice droned – yada, yada, yada, and Lexie tuned her mother out.

At dinner, Angel babbled about being a princess and riding her new Princess bike with her friend, Amanda. Lexie grimaced thinking of those two blonde, blue-eyed girls in their matching pink outfits riding their matching Princess bikes. Lexie must have groaned out loud. Dad’s voice rumbled, “Are you okay?”

She smiled weakly into her dad’s big blue eyes, “Yes, Dad, I’m fine.”

"Sweetie, you’ve been quiet all weekend. Where’s Kelsey? She usually comes over.” Dad scratched the top of his bald head with one hand and shoved the last of a chocolate chip cookie in his mouth with his other.

“Kelsey has something else to do,” Lexie lied.

Her issues with Kelsey started on Wednesday at the church supper. Lexie filled her plate with fried chicken and mashed potatoes and grabbed a bowl of banana pudding. Rushing to the back of the fellowship hall, she arrived just in time to see Logan and Kelsey claim the only empty seats at the table.

“Sorry, Lexie,” Kelsey mouthed.

“Let’s go to the last table.”

“We’re here. See you in class.”

Lexie stomped to the nearest table and ate so fast she didn’t remember chewing. After she cooled off, she decided to forgive Kelsey and saved her and Logan seats at the meeting. Logan sat between Kelsey and Lexie; Kelsey talked to Logan, not her. Fuming, Lexie silently vowed to herself she would never save Kelsey a place again.

First 5 Pages July Workshop - Wheeler

Name:   Eric Wheeler
Genre:  Middle Grade
Title:  Olivia Boogieman

The cursive letters on the white board might as well taunt me as I mouth “Family day.” My family have a tendency to be scatterbrained and I hope they forgot about today even though I saw it this morning on our calendar written clearly in red ink, circled, underlined, and in hieroglyphics.  

My homeroom teacher, Miss Santiago, sits at her desk.  She wears a white turtleneck sweater, cute jeans with a bedazzled butt, and shiny, black, high heel shoes.  Oh, I wish I could dress like that, but my parents would never let me. All I’m allowed to wear are these well-worn flats that are bulging at the seams.
  
Because I’m early, there is nobody in the classroom besides Ms. Santiago and myself. She smiles but I break eye contact and I stare at the glossy, red apple on her desk, which is probably a gift from Tattletale Tessa Thompson.
 
When the starting bell rings it startles me because I’m pretending to work silently at my desk. The other kids file into the classroom, laughing and having a good time.  They make their ways to their desks and continue to talk with each other.
  
Now that we’re in fifth grade, the chairs with desks coming off to the side are getting too small for us. Gordon has already outgrown his desk and sits at the art supply table in an adult chair.
  
“Quite down students,” Ms. Santiago says. Once everyone takes their seats, she opens the door and the parents parade in. Most of the students brought their mothers but there are a few single dads shuffling in like clueless zombies. Gordon’s parents are the last to come through the door and I sigh with relief when I don’t see my family.  Maybe they did forget.
 
A woman with short brown hair, that matches her eyes, pulls up a seat next to me. “Hello, I’m Tessa’s mom.” She pushes her chair so uncomfortably close I smell the coffee on her breath. When she speaks, all I can see is her tongue stained white from the excessive cream.
 
“I’m Olivia Boogieman.” I scoot back to give myself room.
 
“What a peculiar surname.” Mrs. Thompson lifts her nose in the air as if she’s sniffing my pedigree.  If she wants to see peculiar, she should meet my family.
 
It’s like she wants to keep the conversation going because she keeps talking to me, leaning in closer with each word she speaks. “I’m a social worker. What do your parents do?”
  
“A, A, A,” I stammer. I feel the blush rise in my cheeks.

“Why don’t we get started?” Miss Santiago leans against her desk. I imagine the words “Family Day,” dancing behind her on the whiteboard.  The thought of my parents in my class made my stomach turn summersaults all morning.  My family is a bunch of monsters and I don’t mean they do awful things but they are literally monsters.  My mom is a mummy from ancient Egypt and my dad is a hairy, scary, howl-at-the-moon werewolf.  If that’s not bad enough my brother is a shape shifter, but not just a shape shifter but a troublemaker also, which makes living with him impossible.  To round out our family, my little sister is a skeleton. It’s too big of a burden for a normal girl like me.
  
“Olivia, are you with us,” Ms. Santiago snaps her fingers in front of my face. She’s my favorite teacher at Middlebury Middle School because this is her first year at the school. She’s young, fun and best of all; she’s never had my brother in any of her classes.
  
Tessa’s mom leans into her daughter, brushes back the hair away from her ear, and whispers. “It’s a shame when a child’s parents don’t care enough to come to family day.”
  
“Welcome to our annual family day,” Miss Santiago says as the door opens.  Daisy gasps, Emily weeps, and Mrs. Thompson covers Tessa’s eyes, which can mean only one thing, my parents are here.
   
“Sorry we’re late. I couldn’t find a thing to wear.” Mom lies.  The same dirty white rags she’s been wearing for centuries dangle from her zombie-like arms.  My father waves at me with his furry arm, he holds my sister’s boney fingers with his other hand.  I sink into my chair, why couldn’t I’ve been born invisible.
    
“It is very nice that you could join us.” Miss Santiago’s eyes dart from my parents to me probably wondering how I became part of this family. “If you’d like to stand next to your student we can begin again.”

My mom stands behind me while my dad flops on the ground and scratches the fur on his back with his rear leg. “Fleas,” he says to Mrs. Thompson, whose lips turn down into a frown.

“Dad, please stop,” I plead.
 
He climbs back on two feet; his claws scrape across the floor sending goose bumps up my arms. Mom scratches his belly and his leg moves.

“As I was saying, welcome…” Suddenly a loud cough interrupts Miss Santiago. It’s just a lone cough at first and then a full-fledged coughing fit echoes through the room. Daisy covers her pink, lip-gloss covered mouth and giggles and I don’t even need to see whom she’s laughing at while Dad continues to cough, hack, and finally spit up a wad of fur onto the floor causing a slimy hairball to splat onto Tessa’s black Mary Jane shoes.
  
“Gross.” Tessa gasps kicking back her foot, sending the hairball in my direction.
   
“Don’t worry, I got it.” Mom clutches the hairball, as it squishes between her fingers. She shoves the hairball deep into her knockoff Coach handbag.
 
Miss Santiago grabs the trashcan filled with wadded papers, a paper airplane, and a few pieces of gum stuck to the side of the liner. She carries it to Mom.
 
“Heaven’s no, I collect these.” Mom reaches into her purse and pulls out the hairball where she displays it like a trophy.
 
“I am pleased so many parents could be here today.” Miss Santiago places the trashcan next to her desk with a shudder. “You’ll follow your student throughout the day so you can get a sense of what a typical day at Middlebury Middle School is like.”

My school has a panther for a mascot, and is home to a large population of feral cats.  As my father raises his nose and sniffs the air, I grasp at his collar before I see the orange, black, and white calico pass the doorway. Dad jerks against my hold, drops to all four paws, and gives chase.
  
“No bad boy,” Mom scolds Dad as he races out the door with me attached to his collar. He drags me on the blacktop my knees scrape against the concrete. The cat jumps onto a picnic table and my dad runs under the bench chasing it across the playground. I hold tight as he drags me through the dew stained grass drenching me to the bone. The cat stretches its claws and digs into the bark of a nearby tree. It climbs the tree with no effort, while Dad stands at the base of the tree howling. I yank his collar but he digs his feet as he scratches the tree trunk. The cat smiles down at Dad with a big, white toothy grin, like that cat from Alice in Wonderland. “Cats don’t smile,” I mutter. The cat morphs into my brother, Vinnie. 

First 5 Pages July Workshop - Joesephson

Name: Kalyn Josephson
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The Underground

            In situations like this, the best thing Ross could do was stand as still as possible and filter out every single word her father spoke. Unfortunately, she’d never been very good at it. She made it all of ten seconds before seizing an empty beer bottle from the kitchen counter and chucking it at his head. Ericen ducked with all the grace of a dancing hippo, which was more than Ross expected considering he could barely stand upright.

            The bottle shattered against the far wall, joining a growing collection of dust and hair on the floor. “I swear to God.” Ross’s voice was more of a growl than anything. “If you say one more word about mom, I’m going to kill you.” It wasn’t the first time she’d threatened her father’s life, but each time she felt more and more like she meant it.

            Ericen collapsed back against the wall, his normally pale cheeks full of color. He’d been a handsome man once, before his wife had been kidnapped and he’d tripped and fell into an unending pool of liquor. Now Ross loathed their resemblance, the amber eyes and brown hair alight with red.

            “I’m not saying it was her fault!” he snapped. Six beers in and he still didn’t slur. Considering drunk was his natural state, it wasn’t surprising. “I’m just saying she shouldn’t have left that night! She knew the people following us were close by.”

            Ross had read once that if you focused on your breathing, you could control your anger. Too bad she couldn’t calm down enough to try it. “She left to meet with your contact!” She slammed her hands down and rose from her seat at the counter. “You should have been with her. And now she’s trapped in Haven, and we’re out here doing nothing.”

            Every muscle in Ericen’s face went rigid, his hands curling into fists. “Trapped?” he demanded, staggering off the wall. “You think she’s trapped, Ross? Your mother’s been gone for two months! She isn’t trapped. She’s dead.”

            “No!” Ross swept her hand across the counter, sending a week’s worth of dishes clattering across the floor. There was a reason she’d traded out the ceramic set for plastic. “You’re wrong. I know you’re wrong, and I’m going to prove it.”

            Ericen’s voice followed her through the arch to hallway. “You can’t go to Haven, Ross! They’ll kill you!”

            “Like you give a shit!” If there was a door there, she would have slammed it. Instead she trudged up the stairs with the heaviest footfalls she could manage, only stopping when she approached the orange tabby sitting on the top step. He eyed her with a flat gaze, his tail flicking from side to side.

            “Oh, don’t look at me like that.” Ross slipped past him onto the landing. “I can’t stay here another minute.” 

            “I wouldn't ask you to.” The cat’s voice floated through her head.

            Ross stopped, turning back to look at him. Tom had been the only thing keeping her sane since her mother’s disappearance, and if he thought leaving was a good idea, there was no way in hell she was sticking around.

            “Will you come with me?” she asked. For her entire life, Ross and her family had been running from the same people. She wasn’t too keen on facing them alone, especially on their territory. Haven City was a safe place for supernatural creatures, and while Ross had never been there, she knew quite a lot about it. Still, having a native of the place along for the ride couldn’t hurt. And although she wouldn’t admit it, the idea of leaving Tom behind made her chest ache.

            “Already packed.

            Ross grinned and slipped into her room. It was so empty and plain it looked uninhabited, but she’d gotten tired of packing everything up long ago. It was much easier to move on a moment’s notice when everything you owned fit into one bag.

            The first thing she grabbed were her knives. As much as they reminded her of her father, who’d given them to her on her twelfth birthday, they were the only set she had. So she strapped the sheathes on her forearms and tried to pretend they had nothing to do with him. It was easier than thinking about all the time they’d spent together training with them.

            After stuffing some of the essentials into a shoulder bag, Ross dug up her hidden stash of money from under her mattress. It wasn’t long ago that she’d caught her dad trying to pilfer it for a liquor run. She pulled the stack of bills out, setting aside the American dollars and Russian rubles but pocketing the Euros. Not that they would do her any good once she was in Haven. Despite the fact that the city was in Ireland, it had a currency all its own.

            Tom waited for her at the door, trailing after her as she jogged down the stairs. The sound of the television filtered in from the living room and Ross made a point of walking right past it. Ericen’s armchair let out a creak as he fought to his feet, calling after her as she opened the front door. 

“Rossalyn!”

            She froze with her hand on the doorknob. No one besides her mother called her by her full name. Coming from him it was like a slap in the face. She turned slowly to look over her shoulder at him. “Don’t ever call me that again,” she said, and slammed the door behind her.

            The walk down the dirt road into town was long, but the adrenaline running through Ross’s veins made the overgrown grass and ancient trees pass quickly. Tom said nothing as they walked, knowing better than to try and calm her down. By the time they reached the bus stop, she’d cooled to her usual degree of just above room temperature. 

            It was later in the evening, and the bus was empty except for an old man asleep in the back. They took a seat in the middle so they could talk without being heard.

            “How far is Haven from here?” Tom asked.

            Ross slumped down in the seat and folded her arms across her stomach. “Not far. Like an hour maybe.”

            “And what exactly is the plan when we get there

            “Please stop being practical.” She closed her eyes. Now that she’d stopped moving, the last remnants of her adrenaline had begun to fade. In its place were her father’s words on repeat: she’s not trapped, she’s dead.

            Tom climbed into her lap and sat down facing her. She cracked open an eye to see if he was indeed staring at her as hard as it felt like he was. Letting out an exasperated sigh, she unfolded her arms and turned sideways on the bench so her legs dangled out in the aisle. Tom balanced on her chest with ease.

            “Look, all I know is the people who took my mom are big supporters of Haven’s slave trade, and my parents did something to screw with them.” She spoke quietly so not to be overheard. “If they’ve already killed my mom, there’s no reason for my dad to come back. I think they’re keeping her alive hoping he’ll come save her.”

            What they didn’t know was that both of her parents had made the other one promise never to come after them if one of them was taken. 
 

First 5 Pages July Workshop - Dyer

Name: Jennifer Dyer Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Tittle: Blue Serenity

Earth of Old date: 2417 AD

Some events require full body armor and defensive weaponry. Before night’s end, I would wish for both. Better yet, to have canceled my coming-of-age ceremony altogether. But no one offered me that choice.

If only I’d insisted.
I pushed open my balcony doors and breathed in the scent from thousands of roses. Already the palace gardens drowned in a floral invasion. White blooms smothered the tables, fence railings, and hillside patios that sloped down to the lake. Like my people, roses weren’t natives of Shelazon. We all languished on a foreign world, relics of our Homeworld, the place the humans called Earth before the telepaths destroyed it.

Below, a small banner on one of the garden gazebos read, “Wellness and peace to the king’s daughter.”

The king’s daughter. That’s how the Nadiv healers thought of me. Not as Serenity. Not as Princess Serenity. Not as one of them.

I was a nameless entity belonging to the king, but it was better that way. If the others discovered my secret, there wouldn’t be a grave deep or dark enough for me and the few people who’d made the mistake of protecting me.

On one of the patios, a healer elder named Jasen paced, hands crossed over his bony chest, black silk robes swishing. The setting sun slashed red across his face. He barked instructions in his usual nasal whine. “No. Sweets in the garden. Savory on the terrace.” He glared toward my quarters on the third floor, face scrunched up like an old man’s gnarled fist. “What a waste, throwing a party for that half-breed mongrel.”

Another diminutive healer stomped past him, yanking on tablecloths, slamming down silverware. She paused to pat around her bun, as if the strain of decorating caused her black hairs to stray. A canine trotted around her and sat, eyes on me. I pretended I didn’t see it, but I could feel its gaze, hear its thoughts calling to me. It barked, demanding I connect to its mind.

The healer stilled, watching the canine watching me. My insides tightened. I scooted back, out of her sight line, but I could hear her high-pitched voice over the dog’s barking. “She’s unnatural, that one. Deviant and destructive. Takes after her mother’s people. Mark me, she’ll do something to to ruin—”

The noise outside went silent. Master Eli, my protector, teacher, and sometimes warden, stood in my doorway, hand lingering over the audio shield switch he’d activated. His wide shoulders filled the wooden door frame. “What have I told you about listening to those healers’ poison?”

Not waiting for my answer, he strode past the iron fountain in the center of my room toward my desk, footfalls silent on the stone floor, posture as stiff as his forest-green warrior uniform. He looked over my bed, probably making sure I’d pulled the covers military straight. A band secured his platinum hair in a tight tail and a broadsword loomed over his shoulder. Unlike the healers who thought of carrying a sharp pencil as living dangerously, Nadiv warriors accessorized with weapons, the deadlier the better.

Master Eli didn’t need weapons to look imposing. His stern expression and muscular stature towering eight inches taller than my five-foot-six frame took care of that. He glared out the window. “I have no idea how a people gifted with the ability to heal by touch can be so intolerable.” He glanced my way. “Present company excluded.”

But the healers’ words rattled in my head: unnatural, deviant, mongrel. “We both know they’ll never accept me, the half breed.”

“You’re worth more than a legion of them.”

“I think they suspect. You didn’t see—”

“Ignore them. Elder Jasen’s been ill tempered since humans commenced with using electricity, and celebrations make healers irritable.”

“Why?”

“Reminds them of too much.” He nodded toward the gown hanging on my closet door.

“You should be dressed.”

The gown’s sapphire hue matched my eyes and complimented my dark hair. The shiny blue fabric distracted from my too-dark-to-be-a-healer cinnamon skin. Father said I would look beautiful. It was the perfect dress for the perfect healer princess.

More like the perfect imposter.

Needing something to do with my hands that didn’t involve punching, I straightened my bookshelf filled with volumes about famous warriors. Lord Teomir’s handsome face stared back at me from one of the covers. “This ceremony is a bad idea.”

Eli raised a finger, a sure sign a lecture followed. “What have I taught you in warrior training, apprentice? Free your mind. Focus. Face the enemy.”

“Certainly. I’ll storm out there tonight in combat boots and swing a sword around. The pacifist healers will be thrilled.”

“Your father told you to cease your worries about the oath.”

Eli had a talent for not only getting to the point but also stomping on it. The squeeze of discomfort in my chest ballooned into a tourniquet. “No, Father said, ‘Duty first, worry second.’”

“Then you should listen.”

A shiver slithered down my neck. I rubbed it away. “I can’t explain it, but I have a feeling tonight will end in disaster.”

Behind my desk, Eli smoothed the indigo silk banner hanging on the wall—one of the few prophet relics I possessed from my mother. I sensed rather than saw solemn waves the same color as the banner billowing from Eli’s mind—my deviant brain’s way of giving color to his emotions.

I blinked to clear away the intrusion. Sensing emotions in colors wasn’t a healer or prophet trait. Instead, this extra ability was one of my deadly talents I had to conceal if I wanted to live.

Eli stared at the banner, but seemed a million light-years away. A blast of crimson crashed into my mind. Was he angry? If I were a full telepath, one that could read people’s minds, I’d know, but if I were a full telepath, I wouldn’t have survived this long.

“I wish your mother still lived.” His words came out rushed and hushed, as though he spoke to himself. “She could help you. Perhaps this feeling is your prophet instincts. Some can sense the future through visions.” He released the banner, as though touching it burned his fingers and cleared his throat, back in the room, back in his role of stern master. “But most prophets are just big wind bags.” He parted the curtains and grunted. “Marvelous. That nature-tender’s been eating mushrooms again.”

Outside, a vine smacked the backside of a healer. A few patio levels down, a lanky male swished his finger around in the air. The same vine, weaving like a charmed snake, yanked on the healer’s hair. He snickered. She scowled. The audio shields were still on, so I couldn’t hear her retort, but by the way she stomped on the plant, it wasn’t nice. Two tall warriors headed toward the troublemaker.

I couldn’t stop my chuckle. “I rarely see the nature-tenders in action. They’re amazing.”

Eli pinched the bridge of his nose. “That one’s a tree-talking nightmare. I’d better get out there before he makes more trouble.” At the door, Eli released the audio shields and speared me with one more glance. “I’ll be back in half an hour. Be dressed. No excuses.”

Arguing with a warrior was as useful as debating with a rock, but I called after him anyway. “I might as well be dressing for my funeral.”

Friday, June 26, 2015

Free First 5 Pages Workshop with author Ava Jae and agent Patricia Nelson opens July 4!

The First Five Pages June Workshop has come to an end.  What a great group of talented writers! The participants worked so hard, and did a great job with their revisions. A big thanks to our guest mentor, Shaun Hutchinson and our guest agent, Tina Schwartz, both of whom provided terrific comments and suggestions, and of course to all of our fabulous permanent mentors!  

Our July workshop will open for entries at noon, EST, on Saturday July 4, 2015. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements.  Click here to get the rules. I will post when it opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing  and on twitter (@etcashman), with the hashtag #1st5pages.

In addition to our talented permanent mentors, we have Ava Jae, author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE RED, and Patricia Nelson of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. So get those pages ready!

June Guest Mentor – Ava Jae

Ava Jae writes YA and NA paranormal, Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels because she loves writing about self-discovery and the complicated worlds of young people. Her debut novel BEYOND THE RED will be published in hardcover and e-book by Sky Pony Press in March 2016. She is also an Assistant Editor at Entangled.  You can find her online here:  tweet/blog/tumbl/post/vlog/instagram 


A feud on a distant, crimson planet with established nanite technology creates a violent uprising that threatens the reign of a teenage queen and forces her to turn to her rebel half-blood bodyguard for help, before the planet's human population is destroyed at the hands of her power-hungry twin brother.

Add it to your shelf on Goodreads!

June Guest Agent – Patricia Nelson

Patricia Nelson joined Marsal Lyon Literary Agency in 2014. She represents adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction, and is actively looking to build her list. In general, Patricia looks for compelling, well-written stories featuring complex characters that jump off the page. On the adult side, she is seeking women’s fiction, historical fiction, and accessible literary fiction, as well as contemporary and historical romance. For YA and MG, she is open to a wide range of genres, with particular interest in contemporary/realistic, magical realism, mystery, horror, and fantasy. She is interested in seeing diverse stories and characters in all genres.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

First 5 Pages June Workshop -- Manning Revision 2

Name: Katharine Manning
Genre: MG contemporary
Title: THE WILDCATS

Chapter 1 - Hailey

Hailey tore down the field, soccer ball bouncing in front of her. Her cleats made divots in the soft grass and threw mud behind her as she ran.

Ebi came at Hailey, challenging her for the ball.

“Not this time,” Hailey said. She faked right and went left. Ebi fell for it. Hailey smiled and kept charging the goal like a freight train.

Next up was Jessie, the last defender.

Grace called to Hailey, giving her support. She was open, but there was no way Hailey was giving up this ball.

Hailey slowed, waiting for Jessie to come at her.

Slow. Slow.

There. Jessie jumped at the ball. Hailey popped it past her. Now it was Hailey and a wide-open goal. She tapped it into the net, easy likeSunday morning, as her dad would say.

“Yes!” Hailey whipped her head back and forth in an Egyptian lady dance, her beaded braids clattering in her ponytail. With a huge grin, she high-fived Grace.

Coach Shulman blew his whistle and clapped, with his clipboard tucked under his arm. “Nice practice, girls. I like that ball control, Hailey, but don’t forget to use your teammates. Grace was wide open.”

“That’s okay,” Grace said quickly to Hailey, as they headed back to the sideline. “You had an awesome run.”

The team gathered around Coach Shulman. “Take a knee, everyone,” he said. Jessie was the only one who did. Grace and Hailey sat on the ground leaning on each other, and Skyler actually lay down on her back with her knees bent, her long brown hair circling her on the grass like a halo.

“So, you know we’ve been short a player since Megan moved to Ohio. I’ve got some exciting news. We have a new player coming in and she is something. Her name is Alexandra. She’s been the star of her league in Florida, and her dad just got transferred up here.”

Hailey and Grace exchanged looks.

“What position does she play?” Hailey asked.

“She’s a center forward, Hailey.”

Hailey’s eyes narrowed. That was her position.

“But hold on,” he said, raising a hand to stop her argument before she even got it out. “I’ve got a great idea. We’re moving to a four forward offense.” He looked around as if he expected them to gasp, or cheer. They all looked back blankly. “Two center forwards! Four players scoring goals instead of three!”

Hailey’s mouth dropped open. What?

“It’s a much more offense-focused style of play, but I think you girls are up to it,” Coach went on. “Hailey and Alexandra will be unstoppable!”

“Wait,” Ebi said, from the other side of the circle. Her pink barrettes sparkled in front of the two little puffs she always wore in her hair. “Where’s the other player come from? How do we get four on the front line?”

“Well, we go from four defenders to three.”

Ebi and the other defenders spoke up instantly. “Three defenders?”

“What? How?”

Coach Shulman chuckled, the afternoon sun glinting off his Harry Potter glasses. “Hang on a minute, girls! You have to let me finish! You know we’ve been without a keeper. I think I know just the person for that job.” With the smile of a magician revealing his best trick, he turned to Jessie.

Jessie eyes widened. “But-” she started. “I- I can’t.”

“Of course you can,” Coach Shulman said heartily. “You’ve been a fantastic sweeper for two years now. Goalie is basically the same position, but you get to use your hands! You’re going to be a stellar keeper...”

Hailey tuned him out. He expected her to share center forward? Center forward was not meant to be two players. Hailey hoped it wouldn’t cut into her goals. Rocky, her older brother, had twenty-five in one season when he was in the under-12 league. Hailey was still in the under-11s, and if she kept at it, she could catch him by next year. This Alexandra girl better not mess her up.

Coach blew his whistle again. “Nice job today, everyone. All in!”

They all scrambled to their feet and reached in a hand. “Go, Wildcats!”

 

Hailey walked off the field with Grace. “Coach Shulman is crazy.” Hailey said. “How are we going to have two center forwards?”

“I don’t know,” Grace answered automatically. She shot Hailey a sympathetic look. “I’m sure it’ll be okay. See you at school tomorrow?”

“Unless Rocky gets me first!” Hailey headed to her family’s minivan, where Mom sat in the driver’s seat grading a paper.

“Hello, Harriet,” Mom said. “How was school, sweetheart?”

Hailey winced at the use of her full name. “It’s Hailey,” she said under her breath as she climbed into the backseat. “Fine,” she said, louder.

“How did your Time Test go? It was the sevens, right?”

“It was okay.” Hailey hated Time Tests. She never won those things.

“And Harriet, I really wish you could be more proud of your name. Harriet Tubman was such an amazing woman. Talk about brave! When I think about her, after she’s already free, going back into slave territory--”

“I know, Mom,” Hailey interrupted. “She went on thirteen missions and saved seventy people. She led the uprising at Harpers Ferry and was a spy during the Civil War. I know all of that. But Harriet isn’t the best name, Mom. I like Hailey.”

“Humph,” her mom said. Hailey started asking to be called “Hailey” last year in fourth grade. No one called her Harriet anymore, except her parents.

“Is Rocky home?” Hailey asked, to change the subject.

“He should be. He got a ride home from football with Denny.”

“What’s for dinner?”

Mom pursed her lips. “I don’t know, Harriet. We’ll have to see what I can come up with.”

The Xbox was blaring from the den when they walked in, so Hailey went back to see Rocky. He was fifteen, and enormous. His long legs stretched halfway across the living room, and he somehow took up almost the whole couch with his top half. The video game controller danced in his huge hands, and he didn’t look up as Hailey walked in.

“Hi,” she said. He ignored her. “I said, hello.”

“Hey, dork.” His eyes never left the screen. He was shooting some aliens.

Hailey sighed as loud as she could, but didn’t leave. As much as she told her friends that Rocky was always bothering her, the truth was that he hardly paid her any attention at all. She kicked his legs.

“Cut it out, squeak.” He still didn’t look at her. She wasn’t going to get anywhere with him. Rocky was a star football player, already on the varsity team even though he was only a sophomore. He was a big shot now and ignored his pipsqueak little sister.

With another sigh, Hailey got up and ambled to the kitchen, where her mother was dashing from fridge to cabinet to stove like a pinball.

“What’s for dinner?” Hailey asked.

“Can you hand me that box?” Mom said, pointing to the pasta on the counter. “Spaghetti and meatballs.” Hailey passed over the box and Mom ripped it open and poured it into the boiling water. “Can you set the table, sweetheart?”

Ugh. Hailey knew coming anywhere near Mom just before dinner was going to get her a job. She started collecting silverware and plates. “Is Daddy going to be home?”

“Not tonight, honey. He’s got a big brief due this week.” Of course.