Sunday, November 19, 2017

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Fohlin Rev 2

Name: Michelle Fohlin

Title: Daughter of the Forest

Genre: Contemporary/Historical with fantasy elements

After her family makes a cross-country move, eleven-year-old Jemma can’t seem to navigate her new middle school. She wants to belong but is ostracized for reasons she can’t fathom. Even worse, her beloved twin brother Jaxon has replaced her with baseball. When she befriends a quirky classmate and a yarn bombing septuagenarian, life doesn't seem so bad anymore. But she still wants to get her brother back.

Searching for a way to do just that, she takes Jaxon to check out a crumbling stone wall in the woods behind their house. After toying with a rock that suspiciously looks like a key, they hurtle through time and land in Revolutionary Massachusetts. With only each other to rely on, they discover a cryptic note that gives the means to their return home—they must foil a plot to destroy the United States. But a smallpox outbreak might derail their plans and pirates deliver an ominous message: they must escape the King’s plot to sell Jemma into bondage or they’ll be stuck in this dimension forever.

If Jemma knew rekindling relationships would have so many complications, she might just have learned to like being alone!

PROLOGUE

April 1755, Princeton, Massachusetts

The forest is a funny thing: it’s full of peace and yet, if one is unlucky, menace lurks within it.

And Lucy Keyes was having a particularly unlucky day.

“Patty! Anna!” she called to her two older sisters, but neither girl responded. The elms on either side of the leaf littered path seemingly swallowed them up, leaving Lucy stranded. And the longer she wandered through the woods looking for them, the farther she got from her home.

She tugged at a plait the color of a fawn’s hide, fingers trembling. Maybe she shouldn’t have followed them out here after all, but they could have let her follow them to the lake. She would be ten soon enough; she could look after herself without spoiling their fun.

Lost and alone, she could do nothing to stop a fat tear from coloring a rock at her feet. Somewhere to her left, a single blue jay’s call cut through the still air. It sounded like it was laughing at her, so she grabbed the rock, wet from her tears, and threw it towards the bird. The stone didn’t get very far, but she was satisfied as wings flapped away.

But satisfaction soon gave way to fear. In every direction there were trees, no matter how many times she turned around. She couldn’t see the path she took to arrive there, the one that would lead her home. Nor was there a path to her sisters.

Oh pickles, she thought. What have I done? The milk she drank for breakfast sourly turned in the bottom of her stomach and she stuffed her first into her mouth in a poor attempt to settle her nerves.

“Patty? Anna?” The hesitation in her voice was clear, as she knew there wasn’t much hope they would hear her through all the trees. She paused to listen, but her voice disappeared in the evergreens. Not even her echo called back.

Great Jehosephat!

A twig snapped in the distance and she turned her head to see who—or what—it was. She couldn’t make out anything, but more sticks broke under someone’s—or something’s— feet. Oh I hope I hope I HOPE it’s not a bear. Her heart beat faster, in time with her shallow breaths.

“Mama?” Please let her have realized I snuck out. Please let her have found me.

A large figure came into view, but it wasn’t her mother and it wasn’t a bear. Instead, a neighbor, roughly twenty-years-old and hair flapping up like crow’s wings, stomped closer. She couldn’t remember his name, but knew he held a bitter grudge against her father. He thought Lucy’s family had stolen some of his land.

And he looked at her as though she was nothing but dead flies in his sugar pot.

Like he hated all children and wanted them all gone.

“Hello? Mister? Can you help me?” Lucy tried her sweetest girl-eye face on him as he came closer, breathing like an angry bull. Sweat wafted off his dingy brown overcoat.

Why wasn’t he answering her? She balled her fists, squeezed her nails into her palms. “Can you help me find my Mama and Papa?”

Still he said nothing. Run, Lucy, said the tiny voice in her head, but her feet were frozen to the earth, even though her legs shook.

“You did me wrong, Robert,” he finally said, and that made no sense, because Robert was her father. I’m Lucy, I don’t look like Papa at all. She tried to scream, but it was nothing but a bubble stuck in her throat.

He came closer still, and raised his fist as if about to strike.

Oh Jesus deliver me!

A thousand thoughts fluttered through her mind and as his arm lowered—oh so quickly!—toward her head, the last lingered like a winter breeze, chilly and forbidding.

Why did my sisters abandon me?

CHAPTER ONE—FOOTPRINTS

December, Present Day, Mount Wachusett, Princeton, Massachusetts

Jemma blew a plume of frosty breath. Good grief, Massachusetts was cold. It had been a year since her family moved here from Hawaii, and she hated it. Sure, the snow was cool the first time she had seen it, but nothing beat air perfumed by plumeria and year-round temps that hovered in the 80s. A lifetime in the tropics taught her that. Even though her lifetime was only eleven years.

But she had to remember she was here for Grandpa Ted.

She adjusted her gloves and the knit band keeping her ears from freezing off her head, cinched her hood tighter around her chin. Then she gripped her poles as her twin brother, Jaxon, flew past her. Trust him to master skiing after a single lesson while Jemma wobbled around looking like a newborn giraffe.

“Come on, Jem! You’ll be great!” he called after her, white powder spraying her goggles.

Yeah, great. Like a great big ol' lump of awful

Skiing had been her dad’s idea. He wanted his family to become involved in one of his childhood loves in the hopes it would soften their uprooting. Everyone, even her four-year-old sister, Nora, got the hang of it. Everyone, that is, except the baby giraffe.

“Be there in a sec!” she shouted, though only Mother Nature heard her; Jaxon was nearly halfway down the hill. Alright, you goofus. Easy peasy, hugs and squeezies. You got this.

With a final inhalation that chilled her lungs, she set off down the hill, praying that she wouldn’t end up rolling like a tumbleweed to the bottom. You got this. She needed to make one of these runs side by side with her brother. If she could prove she could do something, anything athletic here, she might have a chance of getting them to hang out again like they always did as little kids. Ever since they moved, and especially since they started middle school and he joined every team he could, she and Jaxon drifted farther apart.

She gained speed and her heart beat a persistent thrum in her chest. She was doing it! Her knees wobbled a couple times, but she hadn’t fallen yet. Ha! She loved winter! She was killing it!

And then a high feminine scream cut through the night, followed by a keening wail that sounded more wounded animal than human. Terror shot through her stomach, worse than her nerves on the first day of school and she lost all balance. Her imagination ran wild: did she just hear an attack? Did everyone see her fall? Geez, how horrible am I that I’m worried about myself goofing up over someone being hurt? She careened down the rest of the hill on her side, skis askew in the air, the unknown woman’s grief providing the soundtrack to her embarrassment and fear.

When she landed at the bottom of the run with an unsatisfying slide on her bum, she hustled to her feet—as quickly as she could, given the awkwardness of her skiis—and turned to face the hill. She saw nothing ominous, only fellow skiers. Nothing to identify the source of the scream, and no one in distress.

Her brother sidled up next to her and she startled at his laughter.

“That was brilliant Jem! It looked like you meant to go down that way!” He doubled over, holding his stomach, giggling like she was his personal comedian.

She ignored him. “Didn’t you hear that?”

“What? Other than you barreling down the hill?”





1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Sorensen Rev 2

Steph Sorensen
Young Adult Contemporary, with some magical realism
Shook

Pitch:

The Homestead Cooperative Community seems innocent enough, if a little weird. A band of hippie farmers living at a former children’s summer camp site, working together under the direction of their charismatic leader, Deacon, to escape the temptation and pain of modern life, and to become one with the land. The community offers refuge for those who wish to escape—junkies come to get clean for good, and victims to flee their abusers.

Colt’s family is there hiding from his violent father. But dark visions during Colt’s epileptic seizures suggest that Deacon may not truly be the benevolent figure that his followers see.

Peach, fifth of Deacon’s seven wives, thought she loved the community. Though only sixteen, she’s considered an adult, ready to find her own path. If she can only figure out where it’s supposed to lead.

Alara, shut down by grief over her mother’s death, was dragged in with a bag over her head.

Together they must uncover the dangerous secrets hidden by Deacon and his flock, and whether this supposedly virtuous community is really a cult, being shepherded toward destruction.

Pages:

Colt

The day Colt died started off the same as the rest, muggy and still. Mom said she was just running out for a refill cartridge of her raspberry vape drops. But he knew she’d be gone an hour at least, doing whatever she was actually doing and not saying. He was left in charge of his little brother, as usual. Being six years older basically made him the fallback parent.

“Can we swim?” JoJo pleaded, giving Colt the sad little boy eyes, although at nearly ten he was just about too old for them to work anymore.

“You heard Mom,” Colt answered blandly, picking bald spots in the Astroturf flooring of the sunroom and waiting for a breeze to blow through, but it didn’t come. “We’re not supposed to be here, so we can’t let anybody see us hanging around.”

JoJo stuck out his lower lip. He’d thrown his swim trunks on as soon as Mom had left, and his round kneecaps jutted like lollipops on his skinny stick legs. “They won’t know we’re staying here just because we’re swimming. We could sneak over to the beach through the trees down the road a little.”

Colt knew the answer was supposed to be no. Summer just had that pull though. Or the lake did, anyway. Colt guessed it was the combination of the two. He could just see the flicker of the sun off the lake through all the trees like it was sending signals. Come on boys, it would whisper in its watery voice made of light. Come swim.

They’d been at the little lake cottage more than a month without swimming once, and that was just wrong. Once might be okay, if they made it quick. Colt had outgrown his swimsuit last year and Mom hadn’t gotten him a new one. She hadn’t gotten him a new anything, not in a long time. He gritted his teeth. His cutoffs would do fine.

“Let’s go,” he said, grinning at JoJo’s yip of joy.

The first splash in was a shock and Colt made a sound, like oh! Like his body was remembering cold after so much heat. And then under, and the muffled crunching that splashes make in underwater ears. The chill was a shock that made his whole body clench up, but the release that came after was worth it. Colt was never one to wade in. The lake was fed by underwater springs so it stayed cold all summer. Except the surface, black water heated by the sun.

Colt had only just broken back through the warmed skin of the water when he felt it coming on, and tried to head back toward the shoreline. The fear followed fast, and he thought this was what it would feel like if he’d just spotted a shark in the water. But it was only a lake.

He wasn’t too far out, his toes could just touch the muck on the bottom. He made it a few strides closer and then his muscles tensed. In that last second he could accomplish a lot, even if he couldn’t really do much of anything about it. Colt curled his tongue back behind his teeth, that was habit by then. And he tried to spot JoJo while his eyeballs slid up inside his skull. He couldn’t catch sight of his brother, but he saw some splashing off the side, and that would have to do. The last thing he felt was the coolness of water on the back of his neck as he slipped under, and the tight choke of fear.

It always started with a feeling of falling. A lot of the time he was actually falling, although if he got the feeling early enough he had time to lie down, and that saved some bruises later on. After that he just wasn’t there. He’d been told how it looked from the outside though. His whole body tensed up, his back arched sickly, he shook and drooled and sometimes moaned a little.

At least, up until that day that’s how it was. But he’d never seized up in the water before. He’d never died during one before. Colt’s best guess was that the drowning’s what did it, switched something on inside him that he wasn’t supposed to be able to see.

It was like watching a slide show in school. Murky, dirty images flickering past, some holding, others just a flash and then gone. A field of brown and yellow grass. A falling-down wooden barn. Mom prone on a sofa and a man leaning over her, hands reaching for her throat. And then a girl. She was blurry and yellow-green and made him feel like she was reeling him in by a hook through his chest. And he didn’t know whether it was bad or good.

And that was it. When he came back around it was with a screeching headache in a hospital bed.

Peach

Another August, another wedding. Peach was supposed to be with her sisters helping Celia ready herself mind body spirit but found she was more distracted by concerns of the flesh. Those concerns being in this instance the scratchy yellowing lace of her dress and the flesh referring uncouthly to her armpits. She had blossomed quite a bit since last summer’s wedding, and all that blossoming was causing her dress to pull uncomfortably across her chest and under her arms. Not to mention it was just too hot for a wedding day.

“Peach! Come away from there and help with this braid,” her sister Ella called, making little effort to hide her annoyance.

Peach sighed and forced herself to leave the window. The breeze was hot too but at least the air was moving over there. As she approached the tall, swiveling chair where Celia was being made ready, Peach made an attempt to smile at her new sister. Celia looked so young and small amid the lacy poofs at her shoulders and hips. Or where the hips would be in a few years.

Ella shoved an unraveling braid into Peach’s hands, eliciting a small yelp of pain from Celia. “It’s an in-between year for you, Peach. You should be helping the ceremonial girls get ready, not daydreaming in the corner. Why am I always stuck making sure nothing’s missed?”
Peach understood Ella’s irritation. It was her receiving year, after all. And Ella’s own hair was still tied messily atop her head. But she was only stuck managing the other sisters because she chose to. There was no real hierarchy between them, beyond helping meet the needs of the pregnant girls, and minding the small children.

Ella huffed off to sort out her hair situation, and Peach unwound Celia’s locks slowly, tugging on the small knots that had formed. She caught Celia’s dark eyes in the cloudy mirror. The girl looked frightened. Likely just overwhelmed. Peach remembered her own wedding day, just two summers earlier. She’d been so nervous she had thrown up. She looked down at the small brown stain on the bottom hem of her dress. That day it had been dragging on the floor, tripping her. Today it fell above her ankles.

“It’s easy to become overwhelmed,” Peach spoke softly above Celia’s ear while her hands worked on arranging the girl’s long waves. “Better to focus on the smaller things. Won’t it be nice to cut all this hair off tonight?”


1st 5 Pages November Workshop- White Rev 2

Name: T.K. White
Title: The Mirror Maker
Genre: YA High Fantasy

Aeris, the notorious Prince Charming, is a smooth-tongued con man with a penchant for causing trouble. He’s earned quite the reputation of woo’ing unsuspecting princesses whilst stealing away in the middle of the night, leaving behind trails of broken-hearts…and empty vaults.

One day, Lila, a fairy fighting her own demons, lands herself in none other than Prince Charming’s treasure-filled cave. With her life on the line, Lila scrambles to save herself, offering a deal she knows Charming won’t be able to resist: the con of a lifetime.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle has no idea she’s been served up on a platter for Prince Charming’s next con. The stench of death closes in on the fierce princess’s kingdom, leaving no room for distractions. When she learns about the existence of a mirror - one that might be the key to unlocking the mystery surrounding her kingdom’s demise - Gabrielle spurs into action, determined to find this mystical object.

Little does the princess know an evil queen is hunting for the same mirror, which she's convinced Prince Charming stole. But who really has the mirror? And once it’s found, will Lila, Aeris, and Gabrielle have the courage to face whatever might be lurking inside?

----------------------------------------------------------------

Aeris was in trouble. He cursed himself as he watched the princess stretch, waking from her deep slumber. He had given her a strong potion, one that should have made her sleep for hours.

A cool breeze brushed through the air, and little goosebumps peaked across Aeris’s arms. The window. Aeris hadn’t shut the window. A rookie mistake. No doubt the gust of air was what now roused the princess awake. Aeris gently closed the door on his view of the princess, retreating further into his current hiding spot.

Normally, after the princesses fell asleep, Aeris would grab any jewels or trinkets of value and high tail it out of there. But this Princess Gria just had so much. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, Aeris could see the shelves lining the walls of the room, which was easily the size of a peasant’s house. On the shelves gleamed iridescent pieces of jewelry. Over the past few weeks, Princess Gria had mentioned this room - her jewelry room - a beacon of pride, many times. It contained her rarest gems, fetching quite the price. Say, the cost of an entire village’s grain supply for a month.

Aeris had felt like if he didn’t grab as much as he could carry, it might be the difference between life and death. Trina was sick. Again. A relentless raspy cough that made Aeris’s insides curl each time he heard it. The healer had given a grim outcome: without the expensive medicine she needed, she might very well be dead within a month. Ysara had grown out of all her clothes and had nothing for the harsh winter months, soon approaching. She might freeze to death if she didn’t get appropriate outerwear. All the orphans in the realm of Neleque were far too skinny, their bones jutting out, their bellies swollen from hunger. The innocent faces had played through Aeris’s mind with each jewel he grabbed, and he had become lost in his determination to save every orphan he could. Now, he was stuck with a bag full of jewels and no way to escape.

“Aeris, my darling?” Aeris heard the princess’s voice through the closed door. It started off sweet enough, but when there was no reply, it turned sharp and sour like a tart berry. “Aeris, where are you?”

Flattening himself against the back wall of the room, Aeris frantically looked for a place to hide. The room was entirely closed, it’s stone walls a barricade. There was only one way out: the window, which lay directly next to the princess’s bed.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall…” Gria’s voice trailed off. She must have been sitting in front of her mirror, vain princess that she was. Her laughter pealed through the air. “I don’t need a mirror to tell me who is the fairest of them all.” Aeris held back a snort of disbelief.

“Esmerelda!” Aeris heard the beautiful princess call. Esmerelda was a dark-haired younger girl. From the immediate sound of sweeping skirts against the floor, he imagined she was right outside Princess Gria’s chamber waiting for the moment she might be summoned.

Esmerelda’s shy voice sounded. “Yes, m’lady?”

“Have you seen Aeris? Did he leave my quarters?”

“No m’lady, I haven’t seen him at all.”

“Why are all of my servants so useless?” Gria whined.

While the two women discussed his whereabouts, Aeris tried to imagine the distance to the window. If Esmerelda distracted her long enough, if her body was angled away from the jewelry room, maybe Aeris could stealthily find his way to the window and escape.

“Esmerelda,” Gria’s voice crackled through the air like angry lightning about to strike. “Where are my makeup brushes? My golden makeup brushes?”

“I-I don’t know Mistress. I haven’t seen them!” The serving girl’s voice faltered just enough to raise suspicion.

A chair scraped across the floor, and footsteps padded heavily. Aeris’s heart quickened its pace, and he hoped the footsteps weren't headed in his direction. “If you don’t tell me where my makeup brushes are, I’ll cut that shy tongue right out.”

Anytime Gria had been unkind to Esmerelda, Aeris had always made it a point to give the poor girl a smile or a wink so she knew there was someone on her side. Right then, he wished he could do just that. But instead, his only hope was that Gria would find the white rose he left behind. Long ago, Aeris had witnessed a servant come under blame for his thievery. Ever since then, he left a trademark white rose, so there was no question about who had struck. It had actually gained Aeris quite a bit of notoriety, and a nickname he didn’t entirely hate.

A long silence stretched out. Then, “What is this? Where did this rose come from?......But, impossible.....the thief!” A crumpling of paper followed Gria’s proclamation.

Well, she found the rose with the note attached. Now, there was no telling how quickly he would be found.

Crash! Bang! Clink! “M’lady, please, there’s no need to ruin your beautiful furniture.” Esmerelda pleaded with her mistress who screamed out in rage. A loud crack banged against the door to the jewelry room, spurring Aeris into action. He tried to find any crevice he could to sink into.

 “Check this entire room! NOW!” Gria roared, followed by a mess of sobs and angry mumbling about her irreplaceable jewels.

Light flooded into his temporary sanctuary and Esmerelda jumped to see Aeris crouched in the corner, bag full of the very stolen treasure Princess Gria searched for. She bit her lip, like she was faced with an insurmountable decision. A determined look spread across her face as she cleared her throat, “Princess!”

Aeris cringed, waiting for the inevitable.

“What?” Gria groaned from the other room.

“I think I just saw him, in your powder room!”

A distressed shuffling sounded and faded. Esmerelda stepped aside and held open the door, motioning her hand for Aeris to move. Taking the invitation, Aeris darted out of the room, treasure bag clanging behind him.

“I don’t see him anywhere!” The princess’s voice rang out, spiked with panic.

“What if he’s on the ledge, outside the window?” Esmerelda replied. She whispered to Aeris, “Go, this is the only chance you have!”

Aeris swung one leg over the windowsill, he looked back to Esmerelda’s young face. “Why are you helping me?”

“You deserve it....and so does she.” Her voice darkened as Esmerelda emphasized the ‘she.’ With that, Aeris was out the window, and on the ledge.

As he leaped from the sill down to the shadowy gardens below, Gria shrieked out a note of fury. A Promise. “You’ll pay for this Prince Charming! You will pay!”

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Peterson Rev 2

Name: Alanna Peterson
Title: CAPTAIN VALENCIA
Genre: Young Adult Mystery

Pitch:

Valencia Roberts, Shaved Ice Hut employee and aspiring gastroenterologist, can’t wait for the all-night company retreat at Seven Seas Water Park. Not only will she be able to spend time with her co-worker/girl-crush Carmen, but she'll also get the chance to prove to management that she’s supervisor material.

The only downside: her nemesis, the lifeguard Bryce Dawson, will also be there. Which might give Val the perfect opportunity to exact revenge for what he did to her sister the previous summer... as long as she can avoid getting caught by his dad, who happens to be the general manager.

But when her register comes up $100 short, Val is suddenly in danger of losing the job she depends on. Convinced that Bryce is trying to sabotage her, Val becomes determined to prove he took the money. During a team-building treasure hunt that soon spirals out of control, Val’s plan unravels as secrets are revealed, uncovering an even bigger mystery—one that could have life-changing consequences for them all.


Pages:

I love my job, but today has been brutal. It’s way past my usual break time—when will someone rescue me? As the shaved ice machine spews snow into yet another cone, I glance past the counter to the water park beyond.

That’s when I notice Bryce Dawson. He stands in his lookout spot at the wave pool’s edge, flaunting his impeccable pecs, his blue eyes squinting at the waves.

The pool is so crowded that I can’t even see the surface of the water. It’s just this sea of people and inner tubes rising and falling, rising and falling. It’s hypnotic, but not relaxing. In a pool that full, it would be way too easy for someone to drown.

If it has to be somebody, I hope it’s Bryce.

The whirring blades of the shaved ice machine slow to a stop, and I shape the fluffy mound with my gloved hand. But as I drizzle cherry syrup on the cone, the sharp blast of a whistle startles me, and I turn just in time to see a flash of Bryce’s red trunks as he dives into the water.

My stomach clenches. I stare at the pool, waiting for him to come back up, wishing I hadn’t been thinking about people drowning.

The red syrup overflows, leaking out of the white cone onto my glove. I set the bottle down, then jab at the stainless steel counter with a paper towel, still keeping an eye out for Bryce.

Finally, he emerges. He’s carrying someone up the pool’s sloped ramp, but when the crowd parts, I see that the “victim” is actually a bikini-clad teenager. Her arms are wrapped around Bryce’s thick neck. It looks like she’s about to kiss him.

He sets her down, letting his hand linger on her arm, and they start talking—flirting, from the looks of it. My initial relief flares into anger. Does he think this is all just a game?

I wish I could report Bryce for abandoning his post, but that wouldn’t do any good: he only works here because his dad is the general manager. To Eric Dawson, and everyone else, Bryce can do no wrong.

I’ve had enough. That girl smiling up at him has no idea who he really is, and this will just keep going on and on, unless…

Unless I do something about it. And at the retreat tonight, I’ll have the perfect opportunity.

Tonight, he’s going to pay for what he did to my sister.

But my revenge plotting will have to wait, because right now, I’ve got a job to do. I finish up the snow cone and hand it to the wet-haired little kid on the other side of the counter. She doesn’t look pleased when I place the red-and-green-and-yellow cone into her outstretched hands.

“It’s supposed to be rainbow.” She sounds semi-heartbroken, as if her whole afternoon at the water park has been ruined by the shaved-ice girl’s inability to keep blue syrup in stock. 

I probably shouldn’t care. But something about this kid yanks at my heart. Maybe it’s her chunky little torso, the way the swimsuit fabric stretches taut against her belly. I want this to be a good day for her. “I’m sorry. We’re out of blue raspberry.”

It’s been at least an hour since I radioed the kitchen asking for more. I’m also out of churros, and about to reach mission critical on nacho cheese stock. Pretty soon everyone in line will start revolting, demanding their amusement park snacks. Maybe they’ll get so angry that they’ll force me to climb to the top of the highest slide tower and walk the plank. That’ll teach the kitchen staff to forget about me! They’ll feel so terrible about my untimely demise that they’ll erect a tombstone for me in the faux-graveyard out by the shipwreck in the jungle. Here lies Valencia Roberts, the best Seven Seas employee ever to shave ice.

Luckily, it doesn’t come to that, because right then I notice Carmen in the distance. Yes. They sent Carmen! She’s pushing a cart piled high with supplies: churros in their foil-covered steel pan, three bags of nacho cheese, a fresh bottle of blue raspberry syrup.

The little girl is turning to leave, but I call to her, “Wait!” even though I should be helping the next person in line. I point to Carmen, our savior. “More’s coming! Hold on a sec and we’ll fix up that rainbow!”

I unlock the back door to the hut and Carmen steps inside, the squishy silver bags of nacho cheese cradled in her arms. I grab the blue raspberry syrup from the cart and screw the pour-top on. Then I give the little girl a generous drizzle. She skips away, satisfied.

“Who’d you murder?” Carmen asks, eyeing the red syrup pooled beneath the shaved ice machine.

“I’ll never tell.” I shoot her an enigmatic smile before helping the next customer in line, a mom in gigantic sunglasses who orders a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

The fragrance of citrus fills the entire hut when I crank the lemon squeezer. “Thought you guys forgot about me,” I say to Carmen, careful to keep my tone light.

“We’ve been slammed all day, too.” She opens the nacho cheese dispenser and replaces the empty bag. “You can go take your break now.”

“In a minute. If you want to help the next person, I’ll clean up a little.” Though I can’t wait to eat, I don’t want to leave Carmen yet.

After finishing up the lemonade, I pile the churros into the warming oven, inhaling their cinnamon goodness. If only I could have one for lunch! Those crispy ridges, sandy with sugar; the soft interior, flaky and sweet… closing the door on that oven is literally the hardest thing I’ve done all day.

“Hey Val, could you get me a large Diet Coke while I make this shaved ice?” Carmen asks.

“Aye aye, cap’n.” I regret my dorky response almost immediately, but to my surprise she snort-laughs as she loads more ice into the machine.

After we fill the order, there’s a brief lull when we have no customers. Carmen rips off her gloves and tears the ponytail out of her black hair, re-fastening it into a messy bun that somehow looks elegant.

I tuck a strand of my own short brown hair behind my ear and ask her, “So, are you going to the retreat tonight?”

She turns to me, surprised. “Yeah. Why?”

“I am too! I saw another sleeping bag in the office when I brought mine in, and Vince said it was yours. Why do you think they asked us to come? I mean, we’re not supervisors. I think all the other people coming are either supervisors or managers.” She’s looking right into my eyes as I talk. Her intense focus makes me nervous, which tends to give me a touch of logorrhea. (Like diarrhea, but with words. I learned this very useful term while helping my sister study for her medical terminology course, back when she wanted to be a nurse.)

“Don’t know. Guess we’ll find out,” Carmen says.

“Do you think they’re, like, testing us or something? Seeing if we have what it takes to get a promotion? Since Aidan quit, they must be looking for a new kitchen supervisor.” I try to say it casually, even though I want to become supervisor just as badly as I want to get revenge on Bryce Dawson.

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Weems Rev 2

Name: Sue L. Weems
Genre: Middle grade, historical mystery
Title: GHOST TOWN DIARIES: STANTON’S SHADOW

Pitch:

Gold! That’s what everyone’s chasing in the Arizona territory in 1890—everyone but Rebekah “Reb” Harden. Reb’s father disappeared six weeks ago on his way to settle an inheritance from a man who died in a wagon fire, and Reb’s determined to find out what happened before they lose their land.

When she and her best friend Sammy set out to look for clues, the ghost of Junior Junior, who died with his father in the wagon fire, offers to help in exchange for bringing his killers to justice. The clues lead Reb and Sammy through danger in ghost towns and mining camps, where they have to sift through dilapidated buildings, unreliable ghosts, and an abandoned mine to find the truth.

But when Reb is caught by the Varga gang, she discovers who’s behind the land grab and how far he’ll go to own a mountain. He offers her a deal: her father and railroad tickets back to Kansas in exchange for their land and her silence—a choice that will certainly leave Stanton a ghost town and crush her father’s dreams.

Can Reb escape in time to alert the town, save her father, and avoid becoming the next ghost?

Pages:

1890, the Arizona Territory, Stanton

“Nobody wants to smell the six-day-stink on a miner on their birthday or any other day,” Reb grumbled. Her momma plaited Reb’s hair, the gentle pull and tug somehow irritating tonight.

“I can’t cancel breakfast. It’s our only income,” her momma said. “I’m not taking in boarders with your father away.”

“Except Corky.” Reb smiled thinking of the gray-haired, peg leg man who lived downstairs and filled the lunch pails every day.

“Corky isn’t a boarder. He’s practically family, and we couldn’t run the place without him.” Her mother finished the braid with a torn piece of muslin.

Shadows flickered in the kerosene lamp’s glow as Reb picked at the worn yellow quilt. “Still no word from Daddy?”

“No.”

Reb knew it wasn’t entirely true. She’d seen Momma and Corky huddled over a letter that had come in the morning’s post. She’d pretended not to notice but snuck into her mother’s room to read it while Momma fixed dinner. It was a letter from the land claims office in Prescott. One line had formed a lump in her stomach that wouldn’t go away. “Sorry, your husband has not visited our office this month.”

He’d left six weeks ago!

“Maybe we should ride over to Prescott and check to see what’s holding him up,” Reb said.

“Reb, this boardinghouse that J.R. Martin left us is all we have. We’ll lose it if we leave. Daddy’ll be back once he’s settled the paperwork.”

“I don’t see why ol’ Mr. Martin had to leave us this boardinghouse. It’s not like we’re related.” Reb thought back to the morning when news had come in about the Martin family dying in a wagon fire two miles outside Stanton. Her family had only been boarders at the time. The  men spoke in hushed whispers, and Reb had caught mention of the Varga gang and land disputes. A whole family dying in a wagon fire was no accident and everyone knew it.

“Hush. Don’t speak ill of the dead.” Her mother stood and stretched her back. “Corky said he’d send a message to some people over in Prescott. Hopefully we’ll hear back soon.”

“Corky also said he’d take me to his mine claim for my birthday and we’d find a vein of gold.”

Her momma laughed. “He did not. Stop with your stories.” She hugged Reb and pulled the thin sheet over her. “Night, lightning bug. Keep shining.”

“Still no lightning bugs in the Arizona territory,” Reb said.

Her mother’s smile sagged, and Reb felt a pang of regret. “Night.”

She rolled over on the scratchy sheets and stared out the window at the last dim streaks of day. She wished Corky had told her he’d take her to his mine, maybe they could stop in Prescott on the way and take a look around. She stared up at the rafters wondering how she could find her father.

A whistle sounded nearby.

Reb stepped softly from bed and opened the window to see her best friend Sammy perched in the branches of the maple outside. He was nestled against the trunk a few feet away, his black hair rooster-wild in the glow of dusk.

“Already in bed?” he asked. “Sun just went down.”

She leaned out the window and rolled her eyes. “Momma said I’m not twelve until tomorrow.”

Sammy didn’t reply. He’d probably never had a bedtime.

Tomorrow she’d be twelve. An idea flashed in her mind. “Sammy, let’s go out to the wagon ruins tomorrow.”

Sammy frowned. “What for? I don’t like it over there. Besides, your Ma won’t let you go.”

“I’m not gonna ask her! You ride all over the territory and nobody bats an eye.”

Sammy snapped off a twig and twirled it in his hand. “That’s different.”

“Naw, it ain’t. You’re only five and a half months older than me. Why’s everybody trying to keep me cooped up at the boardinghouse all the time?”

“It’s cause you’re a girl.” Sammy pointed at her and grinned, knowing his barb hit its mark.

“Do you want me to jump out there and shake you down from that tree? I can shoot better than you!” Dishes clattered in the kitchen below and they both froze as they heard the back door open. Reb stepped back from the window, listening.

She heard the slosh of dishwater splatting against the gravel below, followed by crack of the back door closing again.
She crept back to the window, lowering her voice, “Sammy, we gotta go out to the wagon ruins tomorrow.”

He sighed. “It’ll take us til lunch to get out there and back. And it’s haunted. Panners say they seen the dead walking out there.”

“You scared?” She knew Sammy wouldn’t back down from a dare.

“Scared of missing lunch,” he said.

“I’ll bring Momma’s biscuit sandwiches. Please, Sammy? For my birthday?”

Sammy kicked a boot at the air. “Oh all right. Since it’s your birthday.” They made plans to meet after breakfast and Reb watched as Sammy shimmied down the tree before she climbed into bed.

Twelve will be different, she thought, hope rising like the moon beginning to peek into her room.

 The next morning, Reb rubbed her eyes. Light was just dawning over the edge of the canyon through her window. Her birthday! She sat up, delighted to see not one box, but two sitting on the edge of her bed. She already knew the first box was boots from back East— the one thing that her momma splurged on each year. Reb opened it and inhaled the new leather. Tucked down the side of the box was a book of blank pages. On the inside was an inscription:

“Things start to change at twelve, but I know you’re ready. Write down your days to share with Daddy when he returns. We love you so much. Keep shining, Momma and Daddy.”

In the bottom of the box was a quill pen and little glass bottle of ink. Reb set it aside.

She opened the second box and frowned, suddenly glad she wasn’t opening it in front of her mother. Clothes. Reb held up the cream colored shirt, a single simple ruffle along the button line. There was also a calico skirt and underthings.

Reb scowled. She supposed this was her momma’s way of letting her know she was going to be a grown up soon, but Reb wasn’t trading in her pants. Not now and maybe not ever. She pulled on a her favorite trousers with a plaid short sleeve button down shirt, and she tugged on her new boots.

In the stairwell, the gruff voices beneath her rumbled like storm clouds.

“But what’s she doing running around in pants? Ain’t right…”

Corky’s voice was crisp. “Shut it, Varner. None of your business.”

Anger rose in Reb’s chest. Dumb old men in dirt-stained shirts with grizzled uncut beards and hair, the black dirt permanently buried in their fingernails and ears—wanting to tell her how to dress!

Reb tiptoed back up the stairs and made a point to stomp down loud enough to wake the dead. Corky shouted at the men.

“It’s Reb’s birthday, ya filthy animals. Try to be respectable!”

Reb jumped down the last two steps, landing with a bang just outside the main dining room.

“Here she is!” Corky yelled. All six tables full of men hollered “happy birthday” along 

Monday, November 13, 2017

The November 2017 Workshop is in Progress

Our five manuscripts for November 2017 have been selected, but that doesn't mean the learning opportunities for aspiring authors and editors are over for the month! We invite everyone to follow along by reading the entries, the mentor's comments and watching the manuscript transformation over the course of the workshop.  Changes that worked, those that didn't work, and more importantly--why--will help in your own manuscript.  You're also welcome to make comments yourself about what you feel is working and what isn't. And you can ask questions of our mentors about their comments as well.


Want help from a literary agent and our published, award-winning, and best-selling authors to get your own first five pages and pitch ready for submission or jump start your novel? There is no December workshop, but the January 2018 workshop will open at noon on January 6th. We always accept manuscripts on a first come, first served basis so your chances are as good as anyone else's. All we ask is that your pitch is no more than 200 words, your submission overall is no more than 1200 words, and that both are formatted correctly, free of typos and grammar errors, and that you've worked through your story idea to make sure it can be written as presented into a full-length novel.

Need help getting your pitch and manuscript ready? Click here for writing help and submission tips

Sunday, November 12, 2017

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Peterson Rev 1

Name: Alanna Peterson
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Title: CAPTAIN VALENCIA

The wave pool is so crowded today I can’t even see the surface of the water. It’s just this sea of people and inner tubes rising and falling, rising and falling. It’s hypnotic, but not relaxing. In a pool that full, it would be way too easy for someone to drown.

If it has to be somebody, I hope it’s Bryce Dawson.

He appeared at the edge of the pool while I took today’s billionth shaved ice order, and settled into his lookout spot as I placed a wad of damp dollar bills into my register. Now he stands there, flaunting his impeccable pecs, his blue eyes squinting at the waves.

The shaved ice machine’s whirring blades slow to a stop, and I shape the fluffy mound with my gloved hand. But as I drizzle cherry syrup on the cone, the sharp blast of a whistle startles me, and I turn just in time to see a flash of Bryce’s red trunks as he dives into the water.

My stomach clenches. I stare at the pool, waiting for him to come back up, wishing I hadn’t been thinking about people drowning.

The red syrup overflows, leaking out of the white cone onto my glove. I set the bottle down, then jab at the stainless steel counter with a paper towel, still keeping an eye out for Bryce.

Finally, he emerges. He’s carrying someone up the pool’s sloped ramp, but when the crowd parts, I see that the “victim” is actually a bikini-clad teenager. Her arms are wrapped around Bryce’s thick neck. It looks like she’s about to kiss him.

He sets her down and they start talking—flirting, from the looks of it. My initial relief flares into anger. Does he think this is all just a game?

The whole thing makes me want to puke, or at least report Bryce for abandoning his post. Not that that would do any good: he only works here because his dad is the general manager. To Eric Dawson, and everyone else, Bryce can do no wrong.

It isn’t just little stuff like this, either. He gets away with everything. Including what he did to my sister.

I’ve had enough. That girl smiling up at him has no idea who he really is, and this will just keep going on and on, unless…

Unless I do something about it.

And tonight, I’ll have the perfect opportunity.

But my revenge plotting will have to wait, because the line at my hut is getting longer. I finish up the snow cone and hand it to the wet-haired little kid on the other side of the counter. It’s way past my usual break time, and I’m very tempted to take a bite out of it. I restrain myself from slurping up the juicy ice, but she doesn’t look pleased when I place the red-and-green-and-yellow cone in her outstretched hands.

“It’s supposed to be rainbow.” She sounds semi-heartbroken, as if her whole afternoon at the water park has just been ruined by the shaved-ice girl’s inability to keep blue syrup in stock.

I probably shouldn’t care. But something about this kid yanks at my heart. Maybe it’s her chunky little torso, the way the swimsuit fabric stretches taut against her belly. I know what that’s like, and want this to be a good day for her. “I’m sorry. We’re out of blue raspberry.”

It’s been at least an hour since I radioed the kitchen asking for more. I’m also out of churros, and about to reach mission critical on nacho cheese stock. Pretty soon everyone in line will start revolting, demanding their amusement park snacks. Maybe they’ll get so angry that they’ll force me to climb to the top of the highest slide tower and walk the plank. That’ll teach the kitchen staff to forget about me! They’ll feel so terrible about my untimely demise that they’ll erect a tombstone for me in the faux-graveyard out by the shipwreck in the jungle. Here lies Valencia Roberts, the best Seven Seas employee ever to shave ice.

Luckily, it doesn’t come to that, because right then I notice Carmen in the distance. Yes. They sent Carmen! She’s pushing a cart piled high with supplies: churros in their foil-covered steel pan, three bags of nacho cheese, a fresh bottle of blue raspberry syrup.

The little girl is turning to leave, but I call to her, “Wait!” even though I should be helping the next person in the endless line. I point to Carmen, our savior. “More’s coming! Hold on a sec and we’ll fix up that rainbow!”

I unlock the back door to the hut and Carmen steps inside, the squishy silver bags of nacho cheese cradled in her arms. I grab the blue raspberry syrup from the cart and screw the pour-top on. Then I give the little girl a generous drizzle. She skips away, satisfied.

“Who’d you murder?” Carmen asks, eyeing the red syrup pooled beneath the shaved ice machine.

“I’ll never tell.” I shoot her an enigmatic smile before helping the next customer in line, a mom in gigantic sunglasses who orders a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

The fragrance of citrus fills the entire hut when I crank the lemon squeezer. “Thought you guys forgot about me,” I say to Carmen, careful to keep my tone light.

“We’ve been slammed all day, too.” She opens the nacho cheese dispenser and replaces the empty bag. “You can go take your break now.”

“In a minute. If you want to help the next person, I’ll clean up a little.” Though I can’t wait to eat, I don’t want to leave Carmen yet.

After finishing up the lemonade, I pile the churros into the warming oven, inhaling their cinnamon goodness. If only I could have one for lunch! Those crispy ridges, sandy with sugar; the soft interior, flaky and sweet… closing the door on that oven is literally the hardest thing I’ve done all day.

As I scrub the syrup spill, determined to forget the churros, my thoughts wander back to Bryce Dawson. I wish this were a chemistry lab, and these bottles were full of poisonous reagents instead of syrup. Maybe I could concoct a potion that would knock out his potency. Heh. If only shaved ice syrup was that powerful.

But even that isn’t what I really want. I want to pull out the ugliness lurking inside him and put it on display for everyone to see. I want him to be ashamed. Humiliated.

I want him to understand what it was like for my sister.

“Hey Val, could you get me a large Diet Coke while I make this shaved ice?” Carmen asks.

“Aye aye, cap’n.” I regret my dorky response almost immediately, but to my surprise she snort-laughs as she loads more ice into the machine.

After we fill the order, there’s a brief lull when we have no customers. Carmen rips off her gloves and tears the ponytail out of her black hair, re-fastening it into a messy bun that somehow looks elegant.

I tuck a strand of my own short, mousy-brown hair behind my ear and ask her, “So, are you going to the retreat tonight?”

She turns to me, surprised. “Yeah. Why?”

“I am too! I saw another sleeping bag in the office when I brought mine in, and Vince said it was yours. Why do you think they asked us to come?"

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Weems Rev 1

Name: Sue L. Weems
Genre: Middle grade, historical mystery
Title: GHOST TOWN DIARIES: STANTON’S SHADOW

Shadows flickered in the kerosene lamp’s glow as Reb picked at the worn yellow quilt.

“Nobody wants to smell the six-day-stink on a miner on their birthday or any other day,” Reb grumbled. Her momma plaited Reb’s hair, the gentle pull and tug somehow irritating tonight.

“I can’t cancel breakfast. It’s our only income. I’m not taking in boarders with your father away,” her Momma said.

“Except Corky.” Reb smiled thinking of the animated gray-haired, peg leg man who lived downstairs and filled the lunch pails every day.

“Corky isn’t a boarder. He’s practically family, and we couldn’t run the place without him.” Her mother finished off the braid with a torn piece of muslin.

Reb turned. “Don’t you think we ought to try to go to Prescott to check on Daddy?”

“We’ll lose the place for sure if we leave. He’ll be back once he’s settled the paperwork J.R. Martin left. We’ll see about your breakfast request.”

“I don’t see why ol’ Mr. Martin had to leave us this boardinghouse. It’s not like we’re related.”

Her mother stood a stretched her back. “Hush. Don’t speak ill of the dead.”

Reb was tired of being hushed and tired of serving miners meals and tired of waiting for her daddy to get back.

Her momma continued, “Corky sent a message to Prescott with some miners last week. Hopefully one of them will come back with news.”

Reb doubted it. Her momma had said that every week for six weeks. “Corky also said he’d take me to his mine claim for my birthday and we’d find a vein of gold.”

Her momma laughed. “He did not. Stop with your stories.” She hugged Reb and pulled the thin sheet over her. “Night, lightning bug. Keep shining.”

“Still no lightning bugs in the Arizona territory,” Reb said.

Her mother’s smile sagged, and Reb felt a pang of regret. Her momma’s life wasn’t easy either. “Night.”

She rolled over on the scratchy sheets and stared out the window at the last dim streaks of day. She wished Corky had told her he’d take her to his mine. Maybe she could sweet talk him into it. A whistle sounded nearby.

Reb stepped softly from bed and opened the window to see her best friend Sammy perched in a tree. His black hair was rooster-wild in the glow of dusk.

“Already in bed?” he asked. “Sun just went down.”

She rolled her eyes. “Momma said I’m not twelve until tomorrow, so I still have an early bedtime.”

Sammy didn’t reply. He’d probably never had a bedtime.

“Listen, there was something strange tonight out at the big boulder fork.”

She leaned out to hear him. “What was it?”

“Junior Junior’s ghost.”

Reb shivered. “That ain’t funny, Sammy. He’s dead.” Those darn Martins again. She thought about the scrawny Martin boy her age who’d died in the wagon fire this past spring.

“Reb, I swear it! And he mumbled something about your daddy.”

The hair on her arms stood straight up. “What’d he say?”

“I dunno. I high-tailed it outta there.”

Reb sputtered. “But if he said something about my Daddy, then we got to talk to him. Will you show me where tomorrow?”

“It’s at the wagon ruins, past where you’re supposed to…”

“I’m twelve tomorrow, Sammy. I can go where I want. Let’s just keep it quiet, y'hear?”

They made plans to meet after breakfast and Reb watched as Sammy shimmied down the tree.

 The next morning, Reb rubbed her eyes. Light was just dawning over the edge of the canyon through her window. Her birthday! She sat up, delighted to see not one box, but two sitting on the edge of her bed. She already knew the first box was boots from back East— the one thing that her momma splurged on each year. Reb opened it and inhaled the new leather. Tucked down the side of the box was a book of blank pages. On the inside was an inscription:

“Things start to change at twelve, but I know you’re ready. Write down your days to share with Daddy when he returns. We love you so much. Keep shining, Momma and Daddy.”

In the bottom of the box was a quill pen and little glass bottle of ink. Reb set it aside.

She opened the second box and frowned, suddenly glad she wasn’t opening it in front of her mother. Clothes. Reb held up the cream colored shirt, a single simple ruffle along the button line. There was also a calico skirt and underthings.

Reb scowled. She supposed this was her momma’s way of letting her know she was going to be a grown up soon, but Reb wasn’t trading in her pants. Not now and maybe not ever. She pulled on a her favorite trousers with a plaid short sleeve button down shirt, and she tugged on her new boots.

In the stairwell, the gruff voices beneath her rumbled like storm clouds.

“But what’s she running’ around with that boy for, Corky? Ain’t right. Somebody’ll…”

Corky’s voice was crisp. “Shut it, Varner. It’s none of your business.”

Reb froze. One more person trying boss her around. It wasn’t the first time she’d overheard people talk about her best friend Sammy. Reb didn’t understand, except she thought maybe people were nosy since Sammy’s dad supposedly struck it rich and left him and his Ma behind. She couldn’t see how that was Sammy’s fault. No accounting for adults.

Reb tiptoed back up the stairs and made a point to stomp down loud enough to wake the dead. Corky shouted at the men.

“It’s Reb’s birthday, ya filthy animals. Try to be respectable!”

Reb stifled a giggle and jumped down the last two steps, landing with a bang just outside the main dining room.

“Here she is!” Corky yelled. All six tables full of men hollered “happy birthday” along with a chorus of whistles and hoots.

“Thanks, everyone,” Reb said.

“Morning, Corky.” She hugged him round the waist, noting that he must have bathed. He didn’t even have crumbs in his beard.

He grinned. “I’ve got the breakfast shift. We set up a table for you out back. Sammy’s gonna come by in a bit so you can go quail hunting. How’s that sound for a birthday treat?”

“Corky!” her mother emerged from the kitchen with a tray. “We said if she wanted to, remember?”

Corky’s eyes glimmered, and he stomped his peg leg and cane at once. “Kay Harden, nobody said she had to, nobody said it! Why’d she want to go outside when she could stay in here slopping around?”

Kay gave him a warning look and waved him back to work. She led Reb outside.

On the back porch, there was a milking stool with a handkerchief over it. On top, she’d arranged some scrub daisies in a square.

“Thanks, Momma.”

Reb plopped down on the wood planks and dug into breakfast, thankful for the breeze free of miner sounds and smells.

Her fingers were sticky with her third cake when Doc Robbins startled her.

“Well, how’s the birthday girl this morning?” He had a finger stuck in the pocket of his vest like he was about to fish out a coin that never materialized.

“Fine.” She’d learned a long time ago that one word answers cut conversation short, something that came in handy in a mining town.

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Fohlin Rev 1

Name: Michelle Fohlin
Title: Daughter of the Forest
Genre: Contemporary/Historical with fantasy elements

PROLOGUE

April 1755, Princeton, Massachusetts

Lucy Keyes is farther away from her house than she’s comfortable with. “Wait for me!” she calls to her two older sisters. They haven’t yet realized she’s close behind them.

The girls turn to her and Patty, the oldest, heaves a sigh. Lucy is sure they’ll say something about not wanting to watch after a little baby, that she’ll spoil their day. But she can take care of herself. She’s not that much smaller than they are. And why should they have all the fun at the lake while she stays at home watching Mother spin wool?

Anna, tugging at a plait the color of a fawn’s hide, speaks. “You shouldn’t be here, Lucy.” She says it softly but it’s laced with a firmness that makes Lucy’s heart lurch. “Go back home to Mama.” They turn around and continue on their way, without a backward glance. The elms on either side of the leaf littered path swallow them up, leaving Lucy stranded. She expected them to argue with her about having followed them into the woods, but she didn’t expect them to just leave her.

She lets her arms flop to her sides and her head droops. Her sisters’ laughter trails back to her and it makes her eyes sting. She doesn’t want to cry, she’s not a baby, but there’s nothing she can do to stop a fat tear from coloring a rock at her feet.

Patty and Anna are out of sight, and she can’t tell what direction they’ve gone. Somewhere to her left, a single blue jay’s call cuts through the still air. It, too, sounds like it’s laughing at her. She grabs the rock, now wet from her tears, and throws it towards the bird. The stone doesn’t get very far, but she’s satisfied as wings flap away.

Her vision is still blurred, and she wipes the tears with an angry swipe. But clarity doesn’t make her feel any better. Her stomach flips. In every direction there are trees, no matter how many times she turns around. She can’t see the path she took here, the one that would lead her home. There’s also no path to Patty and Anna. She can’t see her sisters, can’t hear them. Why didn’t they just let her accompany them to the lake?

Oh  pickles, she thinks. What have I done? The milk she drank for breakfast sits sourly in the bottom of her stomach, and it threatens to make another appearance.

“Patty? Anna?” She hears the hitch in her voice. Is that what panic sounds like? She doesn’t know why she’s calling for them, there’s no way they’ll hear her through all these trees.

Pickles!

She waits, listens. But her voice is lost in the evergreens. Not even her echo calls back.

PICKLES!

A twig snaps in the distance and she turns her head to see who—or what—it is. She can’t make out anything, but she does hear more sticks breaking under someone’s—or something’s— feet. Oh I hope I hope I HOPE it’s not a bear. Her heart beats faster, in time with her shallow breaths.

“Mama?” Her voice shakes.

A large figure comes into view, but it’s not her mother and it’s not a bear. It’s a neighbor, but she doesn’t remember his name, only overheard snippets of a secretive conversation between her parents.

“Martha, he’ll stop at nothing to get back at us,” Papa had said. She strained to hear her mother, but only a sigh reached her ears. Papa’s answer was barely a whisper. “He thinks we stole his land.”

And now he’s looking at her as though she’s nothing but dead flies in his sugar pot.


“Hello? Mister? Can you help me?” Lucy tries her sweetest girl-eye face on him as he comes closer, breathing like an angry bull.


She balls her fists, squeezes her nails into her palms. “Can you help me find my Mama and Papa?”

Still he says nothing. Run, Lucy, says the tiny voice in her head, but her feet are frozen to the earth, even though her legs are shaking.

“You did me wrong, Robert,” he says finally, and that makes no sense, because Robert is her father. I’m Lucy, she thinks, I don’t look like Papa at all. She tries to scream, but it’s nothing but a bubble stuck in her throat.

He comes closer still, and raises his fist as if about to strike.

Sweet, sour pickles!

A thousand thoughts flutter through her mind and as his arm lowers—oh so quickly!—toward her head, the last lingered like a winter breeze, chilly and forbidding. Why did my sisters abandon me?

CHAPTER ONE—FOOTPRINTS

December, Present Day, Mount Wachusett, Princeton, Massachusetts

Jemma blew a plume of frosty breath. Good grief, Massachusetts was cold. It had been a year since her family moved here from Hawaii, and she hated it. Sure, the snow was cool the first time she had seen it, but nothing beat air perfumed by plumeria and year-round temps that hovered in the 80s. A lifetime in the tropics taught her that. Even though her lifetime was only eleven years.

But she had to remember she was here for Grandpa Ted.

She adjusted her gloves and the knit band keeping her ears from freezing off her head, cinched her hood tighter around her chin. Then she gripped her poles as her twin brother, Jaxon, flew past her. Trust him to master skiing after a single lesson while Jemma wobbled around looking like a newborn giraffe.

“Come on, Jem! You’ll be great!” he called after her, white powder spraying her goggles.

Skiing had been her dad’s idea. He wanted his family to become involved in one of his childhood loves in the hopes it would soften their uprooting. Everyone, even her four-year-old sister, Nora, got the hang of it. Everyone, that is, except the baby giraffe.

“Be there in a sec!” she shouted, though only Mother Nature heard her; Jaxon was nearly halfway down the hill. Alright, you goofus. Easy peasy, hugs and squeezies. You got this.

With a final inhalation that chilled her lungs, she set off down the hill, praying that she wouldn’t end up rolling like a tumbleweed to the bottom. I got this. She needed to make one of these runs side by side with her brother. If she could prove she could do something, anything athletic here, she might have a chance of getting them to hang out again like they always did as little kids. Ever since they moved, and especially since they started middle school and he joined every team he could, she and Jaxon drifted farther apart.

She gained speed and her heart beat a persistent thrum in her chest. She was doing it! Her knees wobbled a couple times, but she hadn’t fallen yet. Ha! She loved winter! She was killing it!

And then a high feminine scream cut through the night, followed by a keening wail that sounded more wounded animal than human. Terror shot through her stomach, worse than her nerves on the first day of school and she lost all balance. Her imagination ran wild: did she just hear an attack? And was it bad she thought it worse that an entire mountain full of people watched her fall? She careened down the rest of the hill on her side, skis askew in the air, the unknown woman’s grief providing the soundtrack to her embarrassment and fear.