Saturday, February 28, 2015

Free First 5 Pages Workshop Opens in 1 Week!

The First Five Pages February Workshop has come to an end.  This talented group worked so hard on their revisions, and it showed! A huge thanks to our guest mentor, Chelsea Pitcher  (I adored THE LAST CHANGELING) and to Shelby Sampsel, our guest agent/editor, and of course to all of our fabulous permanent mentors! You can check out the final revisions here:  First Five Pages February Workshop 

Our March workshop will open for entries at noon, EST,  on Saturday March 7, 2015. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Patricia Dunn as our guest author mentor, and Kimberly Brower as our guest agent mentor.  So get those pages ready – click here to get the rules!

March Guest Mentor - Patricia Dunn

Patricia Dunn has appeared in, The Christian Science Monitor, the Village Voice, the Nation, LA Weekly, and others. With an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she also teaches, this Bronx-raised rebel and former resident of Cairo settled in Connecticut, with her husband, teenage son, and toddler dog.  Patricia loves visiting class rooms – for more information about virtual visits, click here 

A fresh and authentic coming-of-age story set during the early days of the Arab Spring.
All Mariam wanted was a vacation. What she got was a revolution...
It’s tough fitting in, especially when you have super-traditional Muslim parents and are the only Egyptian at your high school. So when Mariam and her best friend and fellow outcast, Deanna, get arrested after an ill-fated night of partying, she knows that she is in big trouble.
Convinced they need more discipline, their parents pack Mariam and Deanna off to Cairo to stay with Mariam’s grandmother, her sittu. But Mariam’s strict sittu and the country of her heritage are nothing like she imagined, challenging everything Mariam used to believe.

 When a girl named Asmaa calls on the people of Egypt to protest against their president, Mariam and Deanna find themselves in the middle of a revolution, running from teargas, dodging danger in the streets of Cairo, and falling in love for the first time. As Mariam struggles to reconcile her rich Egyptian heritage with her American identity, she finds that revolution is everywhere, including within herself.  

You can order here: 

We are thrilled to announce that Kimberly Brower, of the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency, will be our guest agent for March! Kimberly fell in love with reading when she picked up her first Babysitter’s Club book at the age of seven and hasn’t been able to get her nose out of a book since. Reading has always been her passion, even while pursuing her business degree at California State University, Northridge and law degree at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. By joining the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency in 2014, she has been able to merge her legal background with her love of books. Although she loves all things romance, she is also searching for books that are different and will surprise her, with empathetic characters and compelling stories. Kimberly is interested in both commercial and literary fiction, with an emphasis in women’s fiction, contemporary romance, mysteries/thrillers, new adult and young adult, as well as certain areas of non-fiction, including business, diet and fitness.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

First 5 Pages February Workshop - Thompson Rev 2

Dear Ms. Sampsel,
I am hoping you will be interested in my 100,000-word YA fantasy novel, THE KEYS TO MIST AND LIGHT.  It is the first in a planned trilogy about a “messiah” who refuses to sacrifice herself to save her world. 
Lockrey Margathom, daughter of the clan chieftain, struggles with the limitations of her life: the all-encompassing religion that rejects her for being half-nymph, the clan leaders who ignore her because she is a woman, and the man who will marry her to become chieftain, but will want nothing more from her than an heir.  When she learns a demon is destroying her world, she accepts she must give her life to save Mavornia… unless she discovers some worlds are meant to die.
The manuscript combines the philosophical exploration of His Dark Materials with the stylistic accessibility of The Lorien Legacies.  I am querying you because you expressed an interest in relatable protagonists in YA fiction.
While studying at Cornell University, I interned for the Irish parliament during the peace process, where I learned first-hand how religion colors political and socio-economic issues.  I worked for James Fallows on his book Breaking the News, How the Media Undermines Democracy and briefly at U.S. News and World Report
Nicholas Kristof published my poem “The Doorbell” about the Iraq War on his New York Times blog (available by searching my name and the title) and I contributed a chapter to the first two editions of Skyhorse’s Cutting Edge Therapies for Autism.  I have material ready for a sequel.
Many thanks for taking the time to consider representing me. 
Meghan Thompson
Name: Meghan Thompson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Lockrey sat straight on her bed, her heart pounding against her ribs.  She couldn’t see.  There was no light through the window.  No shadows.  The embers in her fireplace were dead.  She reached out to grab a candle, but misjudging where it was, felt it fall away from her fingertips. 
Instinct told her to scream, but she fought to calm herself.  She was eighteen star cycles old – not a child who called for her mother because she was scared of the dark.  Besides, she wouldn’t give the tower gossips any more reasons to talk about her.
A slight movement on the edge of her bed felt like someone sitting down.  “Hello?” she said, but she couldn’t hear her voice – the word was swallowed by the dark.  Lockrey’s pulse raced and beads of moisture formed on her temples.
Then, she felt the cold.  Tendrils of iced air touched her feet.  She kicked, curling her toes underneath her.  It reached her knees, like some small creature crawling up her body.  She slapped at her legs and jumped up, then tripped, falling hard onto the flagstone floor.  She stayed still, steadying herself like she used to when she was a small child lost in the elvgrove forest. 
A freezing vapor engulfed her and when next she inhaled, it scratched her throat and burned her lungs.  Her body shuddered and her limbs thrashed.  She coughed and clawed at her face as if to remove a mask. 
Something was inside her.
Unable to move, she heard in her mind a voice edged in hate.  It whispered, “Are you… Are you the Redeemer?  I will find you… your soul.  It will all be over soon…” 
Lockrey’s mind filled with thoughts that weren’t her own and her body convulsed, as though rejecting her.  The room dissolved and images flashed before her, like she was flying fast to another land. 
Suddenly, she was in a cart next to a boy, perhaps four star cycles her junior and a girl, no more than eight.  She tried to scream and reach for the children, but they ignored her like a ghost in the wind. 
What is happening?  Where am I? Why can’t they see me?  Fighting to anchor herself, Lockrey quieted her thoughts and observed all she could of her surroundings.  If she discovered where she was, perhaps she’d find a way back.
The boy next to her sat tall, his chest puffed out and his eyes alight.  His dark-green skin told Lockrey he was from the Eastern Edge and the way it stretched tight over his lanky frame told her he needed more food.  The tiny girl, who shared his features, watched his every movement with large almond eyes.  Both children reeked of neglect: straggly hair, threadbare robes, distended bellies.  Brown dust kicked up by the army that marched all around them was ground into their every pore.
The army, Lockrey now noticed, consisted of cressl beasts, which stretched in every direction.  Their moss-colored bodies, covered in spikes and scales, required no armor.  Their five-clawed feet stomped the ground in time to a quick-paced drum. These beasts served one purpose, destruction, and were the minions of the kings of the Eastern Edge.  She tried to shut out the sight of them, but had no eyes to close. 
As the clan chieftain’s daughter, she had been well educated, but she’d never been beyond Mythenrock’s borders.  She’d never truly grasped the scale of this vast, desert-like plain.  Lockrey understood now why her father said the Eastern Edge was nothing but a hard land, lived in by violent people and deadly beasts.
Turning her attention back to the children, she saw the boy glance down at the little girl, his mouth curving wide, revealing brown, crooked teeth.  Reaching to the floor beside him, he opened a bag and pulled out a robe.
“Sister, put this on,” he said, handing her the heavy fabric.  The girl pulled away, wrinkling her nose against its bitter smell. “Come now,” he said, “it’s not for very long.  And by wearing it, you will earn all the pleasures in the world.”  She hesitated. He leaned in, adding to the incentives, “And you will see mother again!”
She accepted the robe with a hint of a smile.
“Look!” said the boy, pointing toward the horizon.  “That’s the village we’re going to.  We’re nearly there now!” 
Just as he spoke, the drumbeat increased to double time and the cressl began to run.  The synchronized pounding of their feet was too loud for the little girl, who covered her ears and ducked her head into her brother’s arm.
As Lockrey looked in the direction the boy pointed, she instantly found herself floating, it seemed, at the head of the army next to a man wearing a fine, blue cloak over a silver tunic.  She assumed by his attire and position he must be the army’s captain.  His skin was lighter green than the boy’s, but his body was far better fed and accustomed to battle, judging by the scars that covered him like twisted ropes. 
He sat upon a raysol, a giant rodent with sunken eyes and hairless limbs, which he rode with abandon.  Racing ahead of the army, he entered the village the boy had seen.  
Lockrey wondered where the people were.  They couldn’t have been gone long – doors to tight-packed cottages swung loose on hinges and smoke still curled from chimneys. 
The captain glanced around the nondescript hamlet and said aloud, talking to himself, “They haven’t gone far.”  He looked down the length of the central road that ran parallel to the Mavornian Ocean, just visible in the distance, and whispered, “What are we meant to dig for here?  Warriors cannot work in riddles.  I need more information.”
He started to head back to the army when something caught his eye.  Lockrey noticed it, too: a reflection.  He lifted the reins, leading his raysol toward the temple in the village green.  The captain’s jowls twitched and his eyes narrowed.  “Oh, they make this so easy,” he said and rode back to his deputies.
“They have locked themselves in the temple,” he told them.  “Destroy it.”
“Shall we take the men for labor, first?”
“No, waste of time.  Burn it.  We will capture men from Mythenrock’s army; if we need more, I’ll request a slave transfer from Vardra.”
“It’s made of crystal; does that burn?” one of the deputies asked, tentatively.
“That’s what the girl-child is for.  Let her brother handle it.”
With that, Lockrey was again riding in the cart, which sped along, throwing the children from side to side.  The cressl around them bawled, their fanged faces contorting with naked hunger.  As they reached the farmland on the outskirts of the village, the army halted, though the beasts were like coiled springs, scratching at the ground. 
Through their lines, a man, who, Lockrey guessed, was the captain’s second, approached the cart and said, “Is the martyr prepared?”
“Yes, Marshall Dregna,” said the boy, standing to attention.  “I have taught her what to do.  She is ready to be received by the eternal kingdom.”
“Good.  The time has come.” 
He waited while the children clambered onto the back of his raysol, then rode, with Lockrey hovering beside them, through the lines of cressl to the edge of the village.  With a nod from the captain, Dregna put them down again and they walked toward the temple, holding hands. 
When they reached it, the boy held out a tentative fist and knocked.

First 5 Pages February Workshop - Bradley Rev 2

Lisa Bradley
Query Letter
Young Adult Mystery

Dear Ms. Sampsel,

To hold onto her childhood and prove love exists after her parents separate, a sixteen-year-old becomes embroiled in solving a mystery about a missing heiress and an abandoned castle that locals would rather keep quiet.

Tessa Teabold retreats to her grandparents’ cottage in a sleepy river town in upstate New York. Her plan is simple: a summer job to help save for art school while her parents work on their marriage.

Tess meets local golden boy Ryan Cafferty, the boss’s son, who’s determined to clear his brother’s name after an arrest. A series of suspicious forest fires draws Tess and Ryan into a fifty-year-old mystery involving a castle on a nearby river island. Caught trespassing by the island’s reclusive groundskeeper, they are forced to flee. Using obituaries, recollections from town elders, and an old treasure map, Tess and Ryan unravel the connection between Temple Island and Ryan’s family. The discovery results in a fiery showdown at the castle that might cost Tess and Ryan their lives.

I enjoyed your interview posted on Adventures in YA Publishing and understand you are seeking YA with a strong voice. ISLAND SHADOWS is a YA mystery with strokes of magical realism, complete at 80,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road and Jessi Kirby’s Golden.

ISLAND SHADOWS won the Cape Cod Writers Center Writing Contest judged by Sara Pennypacker and was a finalist for the Beacon Award (2014). Thank you for your consideration.

Name: Lisa Bradley
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Title: Island Shadows

The tickets in my hand are softened and creased, the text nearly rubbed off in spots. I trace their faces with the underside of my thumb.

Three tickets.

“Maybe later today we’ll go fishing, Tess.” Gramps meets my eyes and then drops his gaze to my hands. “Like old times.”

“I’ll probably draw in my sketchbook.” I slide the tickets back in my sweater pocket.

Gramps’s Oldsmobile ‘88 heads toward town for my morning shift at Cafferty’s General Store. For two weeks now this has been our routine.

Leaning my head against the window glass, I follow the river as it hugs the highway. I can barely see across to the other side, which is Canada, because a dozen wooded islands crowd my view.

I bought the art museum tickets thinking I’d surprise my parents for their anniversary. I’m three-hundred miles away now, and I’m still holding onto them.

“Tessy, I hope you know none of this is your fault.”

I’m afraid Gramps will say something else, but he doesn’t.

My fingers begin to creep toward my sweater pocket, but I make a fist instead.

I count five fishing boats bobbing on the water, reminding me of the mornings when Dad, Gramps and I used to troll for stripers. We’d be up with the sun, nibbling donuts, waiting, trying to lure fish with our sticky crumbs.

I wonder if the people on the boats are feeding the fish.

On the highway ahead, flashing lights pull my eyes away from the boats.

Gramps hits the brakes and we stop beside a young-ish looking police officer standing in the middle of the road. Gramps lowers his window; a smell like burning leaves curls inside. “What’s all this, Officer?”

“Another fire.” The policeman leans toward the window. “Just making sure it’s contained. Keep your speed down the next few miles and stay out of the woods.”

Gramps meets the officer’s eyes and nods once, his face tight. He pushes the button, and the window rolls up.

“Dry these last few days.” Gramps grips the wheel. The freckled brown spots on his hands are darker than I remember, and his blue eyes seem glassier too. “Predicting a shower for tomorrow.

We pass a ladder truck and a fire and rescue vehicle farther up the road, their lights spinning but no sirens.

Growing up in the city you’d think I’d be used to flashing lights, but for some reason this bothers me. Silver Head seems so untroubled. It’s hard to imagine anything bad ever happening here.  That’s one of the reasons I came back.

When my sophomore year ended, my parents agreed to let me spend the summer at Gran and Gramps’s cottage along the Silver Head River. Thought it might help me “deal with things.”

On the highway, the burning leaves odor seeps in the Olds’ air vents making my nose itch. The police cruiser and fire truck lights continue to spin in the side-view mirror until the road curves and I can’t see them anymore.

I don’t know what my face looks like but Gramps must see something there. He clears his throat, the burning leaves must be getting to him too, smiles weakly, but his expression seems rolled up like the window.

We pull in a parking spot across from Cafferty’s. The summer job isn’t the local library like I’d hoped, but Mike Cafferty pays me decent money for helping him and his sons.

“Sorry you have to keep dropping me off.”

Gramps waves his hand like it’s no big deal. Town is too far a walk from the house. Even though I passed my driver’s test earlier this year, there’s only the Oldsmobile to share between the three of us.

After saying goodbye, I cross the street and head toward Cafferty’s. The windows are wallpapered with yellowed ads and fliers. Paint peels along the edges of the windows.

Mike Cafferty’s in the center of three people on the sidewalk, probably exchanging tidbits about the fire or the weather.  He salutes me and smiles, his dark eyes crinkling at the edges.

The familiar sounds of bells rattle against the glass as I open the front door. Ryan Cafferty, Mike’s youngest son, who’s about a year older than me, glances up from behind the counter. His sandy-colored hair is a few shades darker, probably still damp from his morning swim. “Mornin’, Tessa.”

Mumbling hello, I stash my backpack in the staff office behind the front counter and get to work.
My drawing pad and pencils go everywhere with me, even though I haven’t sketched in weeks. The block is temporary. I’m sure I’ll be back to it in no time. Money I earn at the store this summer is going straight in my art school abroad fund.

Every morning, except weekends, I ring up Tootsie Pops and bouncy balls for frazzled parents whose children pull at the hems of their Bermuda shorts. I used to be one of those kids. For ten days every summer, my t-shirts smelled like peach juice, bug spray and diesel fuel. Five years ago, when I was eleven, we stopped coming to the river. Right around the time Mom quit painting and took a job at a bank in mid-town.

“Tess,” Ryan calls.

My eyes pivot from Ryan to the register in my little corner of the shop. Crap. The register’s jammed up again. Paper is choking out of the receipt slot and the machine starts beeping. Ryan puts down the produce box he’s hauling and jogs over.

A woman and twin toddler boys stare at me from inside the enclave of the gift shop. The twins are already sucking on their Tootsie Pops.

“Sorry,” Ryan mutters to the mother. He slides behind the counter beside me where it’s already cramped. A familiar not unpleasant whiff of spice mixes with something potent, probably chlorine. Same scent as every morning, not that I notice.

Ryan jabs a few buttons on the cash register and pulls a stream of register tape off the machine. The whole thing takes about three seconds, and while he’s working, I follow his fingernails which are unnaturally white.

The woman pays, and after a curt smile, she guides the children away.

Ryan leans his long torso against the counter, wadding up the wasted register tape in a ball. “So,” he says, dunking the ball in a nearby wastebasket, “what’s with the sweater every day?”

“I—I get cold.” I play with a loose button.

“This. This is warm.” He raises his arms and gives me a hundred-watt smile I bet all the girls fall for. “It’s eighty degrees.”

Bells rattle, and Mike summons Ryan to carry a bag of charcoal bricks out to a customer’s car. “Later,” he says.

My fingers fumble with the button. What I don’t tell Ryan Cafferty is that I prefer the weight of my sweater.

Running my hand down my side, I slide out the three tickets. Shuffling through them, I wish I’d thought to leave them home, two at least. Under my parents’ lamp on the nightstand or on the cork board by the telephone, somewhere they’d find them. Dad wouldn’t let the tickets go to waste.

A part of me wanted to stay in the city and scream, stomp my feet and say they couldn’t do this to our family. But a larger part of me wanted to leave.

Turning toward the wastebasket, I consider tossing the tickets in the trash beside the ball of register tape. Instead, I stuff them back in my pocket and get back to work.

First 5 Pages February Workshop - Levy Rev 2

Sheri S. Levy
YA- (10-14) Contemporary
Starting Over

(Note - Sheri has a publisher so she is not posting a query)

On the hour, my eight-week-old Labrador woke with bouts of squeaky yelps. My legs swung over the edge of the bed as if on autopilot, sending my frizzy hair across my face. I collected the mass into a ponytail and staggered across the hall. “Colton, I’m coming.
Flicking-on the overhead lights in the laundry room, I blinked and Colton ducked his head. “Hey, little guy. I’m sorry you’re lonesome.”
His wispy, black tail whipped back and forth as he strained to set his short, front legs at the top of the baby gate. Like a prize fighter he tried again, and again, until he collapsed on the floor, whining.
I climbed over the gate, sat, cradled his-plump body, and buried my face in his fuzz, inhaling his toasty puppy smell. Two years ago during a school assembly about service-dogs, I had a brilliant idea. If I became a Puppy Raiser, I’d have puppy after puppy and never another old dog. But this plan had one flaw. I never thought about getting attached.
Yesterday, I had an eighteen-month-old qualified service dog, Sydney. Today, I mended my heart by choosing to train again. Tonight, anxiety filled me-
We stared into each other’s eyes. “Are you going to be waking this often, every night?” Colt’s ears drooped and I stroked the velvety softness. Memories of Sydney flooded my thoughts. When his family moved away from South Carolina, Syd became my first six-month old-puppy, already trained in his basic needs, and slept all night.
But Colton was a blank slate. And-I’d be his first, and only, foster momma until he turned eighteen months old.
His warm, chocolate-brown eyes melted the cracks of my heart.
I surveyed the newspapers covering the floor, scrunched my nose, and shook my head. If I had known how much work was involved would I--? I sucked-in my cheek. Yeah! I nodded. I’m almost fourteen.-I’ll figure this out! I wadded up the messy papers and spread new ones on the swirled beige and rust colored tile floor. “All done! Let’s go outside.”
After a quick romp with the sensor light going off and on, I placed him and a handful of kibbles inside his crate. “Night-night. Ple-a-s-e go to sleep.”
His face lay in the opening of his crate, and he fought to keep his eyes open.
If I could get a little more sleep, it’d be an easier day tomorrowWhat I am I thinking? It’s already tomorrowI pictured chasing Colton in the muggy air, teaching him new words, cleaning his messes, and then snuggling together. Before long, the sun leaked under my eyelids.
A whiff of coffee jolted me out of bed and told me my parents were up. Was Colton still sleeping? Twisting a curl tickling my neck, I scurried into the kitchen, and scanned the room.
Mom leaned her head. “Hey, Trina. Sounded like a rough night?”
I nodded, rubbing my face. “Yep. Is he still sleeping?”
Dad set his coffee cup down. “We heard you two all night, but we promised to stay put.”
Grabbing her purse, Mom said, “Dr. Mayer called early this morning and needs my help at the clinic. She has a sick dog coming in. Since I was up, I played with little Colt. When he wakes, he’s all yours!
“Wow! Thanks for the help.” Before finishing my cereal, howls pierced the silence. I rolled my eyes, grinning. “Okay. I’m back on duty!”
#               #              #
In the yard, Colt’s ears raised at the clunk, clunk, of Mrs. Brown’s golf cart driving up the path to her paddocks next door. As I collapsed in the shade, Colton stared toward the clatter, and for safety, scrambled over my crossed legs. I whispered in his ear. “Mrs. B is bringing in the horses. You’ll get to meet her soon.”
He looked toward the hidden racket, lost interest, and charged through the woods. The sun simmered overhead and brought a wilted pup onto my lap. I carried him to his crate, and he crumpled into a small heap. “Whew--Finally!”
I bounced into the recliner and texted my once again best friend, Sarah, since we’d patched our friendship while on vacation.
Instantly, she texted. “How’s Colton?”
“Too much to text. Meet me in 10!”
Sarah texted three smiley faces.
I threw-on yesterday’s clothes and rushed up the path to the old oak tree, anticipation bubbling through my veins. I needed to see Chancy, the barn-schooling horse. Heather cared for her while I was gone, and I worried she’d decide to buy her.
Seeing Sarah arrive in her fresh, cute outfit and her blond-hair French-braided, I tucked loose strands of red-hair into my ponytail. She looped her arm through mine, and jabbered about Peyton’s texts, her first time boyfriend from our beach trip. We inched forward, me nodding and smiling. I had made friends with his brother, Chase, and might have shared about our texts, when a grumbly, loud noise like a cement truck grew closer and interrupted our conversation.
Sarah squinted. “What’s that noise?”
“Sounds like a big diesel truck. Let’s get closer.” Behind a wide tree trunk, we spied the silver-gray, dually-truck pulling a white two-horse trailer with matching five gray-hearts interlocked along the sides. “That must be the new boarder. I forgot she was coming today.
The truck shifted, grinding its gears, and slowed onto Mrs. Brown’s drive.
Sarah screamed over the noise. “Do you know how old she is?”
“Mrs. B said she’s in the ninth grade.” As the commotion lessened, I added, “And, she’s supposed to be a REALLY good rider!”
The engine turned off, and a tall, dark-skinned man leaped from the driver’s side. At the same time, a long-legged, skinny girl in black riding pants and shiny black boots stepped down from the front passenger door. The sun shined on her round brown face, poufy bangs and ponytail, and flashed on her dressage whip waving in the air as if it were a sword.
We froze behind another tree.
The girl’s harsh voice boomed through the trees, “Dad, why’d you stop here? You’re too close to the barn. What the?--”
Without saying a word, her father opened the trailer’s top half doors and latched the panels to each side. From the rear of the trailer, a stately, black horse kicked and neighed. Standing on opposite sides of the trailer, they each pulled a clip out of the lock and set the ramp on the ground.
The girl climbed in a side door to untie the horse. He put one hoof a couple of inches behind, and then took another step. With a frantic snort, he blew air from his nose and lurched forward.
She screamed at the horse. “Knight, walk. Get-off-the-trailer.” Her whip slapped at the air. “What’s wrong with you?”
Without warning, the horse threw his head and bolted backwards down the ramp. The whites of his eyes showed as his head shook, wildly. White foam lathered his shiny chest.
Her voice raised an octave. “Dad! He’s getting away.” Then she shrieked, “Move!-You’re no help!”
Holding my breath, I clutched Sarah’s arm.
The father rushed over and pulled the whip from the girl’s hands. “Morgan, Quiet down. You’re frightening Knight. Give him a chance.”
She jerked the lead line. “Knight, you stupid horse. You know better.”
I scrunched my face, shook my head, and huffed, “Oh My Gawd! I could never be friends with someone who treats her horse like that. What’s she doing at my barn?”

First 5 Pages February Workshop - Taylor Rev 2

Name: Carissa Taylor
Genre: YA sci-fi


Dear Agent:

Sixteen-year-old beekeeper Violet Everman is only cyborg on the outside, but it’s enough to make her the ship’s resident freak. No one looks past her silver skin and ultraviolet eyes to see the girl inside. That’s okay, she prefers it that way. On a generational starship bound for New Earth, she doesn’t have time for anyone else.

When a hunt for a rogue beehive goes awry, Violet is trapped in a secret chamber, where she finds Act – cute, charming, and not wholly opposed to silver girls. Problem? Besides the fact that he’s completely getting in her way, she’s never seen him before, and on a ship this size, that’s impossible.

Rushing to free themselves from the chamber, they make an astonishing discovery: what they’d always believed was the entire starship is just one arm of it. Act is from one arm. Violet’s from another. As their two worlds collide, critical supplies vanish from her side of the ship. And Act gets the blame.

Violet does a little sleuthing of her own, and now she’s not so sure he’s guilty. If what he says is true, the enemies are more than just petty thieves. They won’t stop until nothing’s left. But tracking the real culprits could put her own life at risk. It would mean delving into an unexplored arm of the starship: one where the inhabitants were engineered for war.

FARLIGHT is a YA sci-fi complete at 95,000 words, and written as a standalone novel but with series potential. It should appeal to fans of space-based mysteries in the vein of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and INSIDE OUT, and the social identity themes of CINDER and MILA 2.0.

I have a PhD in Sustainability from Arizona State University. My research on the cultural inaccessibility of sustainable development inspired some of the underlying themes of the novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Carissa Taylor

First Five Pages:

Inching forward on my stomach, I craned my neck into the darkness of the vent. Bitter dust filled my nose and my hands faltered in the dim light. I paused, flicking the lavender-green light of my beam against the void. It flared back at me, tracing the impurities in the ductwork in spidery streaks of yellow and blue. Soon they’d grow into cracks, then fissures: a lacy web out of which the air would seep. Away from the ship’s cycling system.

But air wasn’t the resource I was here for. My charges were less predictable.

I dragged myself onward. Wrist, forearm, shove; wrist, forearm, shove; every movement calculated and heavy against the press of the walls. The air was stale with the scent of over-clocked computers and fried autorations. Humid and oppressive. Someday, chasing after these stray beehives was going to be the death of me.

Back on Earth there’d been keepers who’d just let a few swarms go free. Let them set up a new hive and a new life somewhere else. But here on the starship Asteris, we couldn’t afford to sacrifice a single pollinator. And a fire-scrub was set to sweep the ductwork in less than 72 hours, incinerating everything in its path. One bee might be explained to the Council, worked off in a month of rations sacrifice. A whole colony reduced to baseline? Disaster. It wasn’t like I could put in an order to Mech level for 30,000 bees. Breeding took time and resources, and meanwhile, I’d have to pollinate Ag sector five by hand.

I adjusted my sensor glove, the webbing dark against the dull gray sheen of my outstretched hand. Beyond it, past the safe semicircle of lilac glow, a blackness so long I couldn’t see its end. I double checked my light. If something went wrong and– my throat hitched. I pushed out a slow, measured breath. Calm. I could do this. Jesry had done it, and he was seventy years old.

Only Jesry hadn’t had any reason to be afraid of the dark.

At the next intersection, I saw the first signs of the bees. Tiny flickers of pollen dusted the duct ahead in a path of farlight that no one else on the starship would see. No one but the bees and I. 

I was only cyborg on the outside – and by the strictest definition, my skin wasn’t even cyborg… just metal-infused - but that was exactly enough to matter to most people. It was why I was here and not a GenPure. My ability to see in ultraviolet was the reason – they said – that I’d been assigned the job of beekeeper. But it wasn’t the real one. The real reason wasn’t about my strengths at all. It was about my weakness.

Gold dust streaked the walls and floor where the bees had brushed by on the way to their new home. Clumsy little things. Sometimes I wondered how they managed to survive, bumping around like that. As if to prove me wrong, one sailed over my left shoulder, executing a perfect turn in the bend of the vent.

I narrowed my eyes at it. Now I had them.

Another bee. And another.

They were coming faster now. A group must have left the hive at around the same time.
I edged to the right, trying to leave passage for the bees.  My light flickered, the tunnel in front of me wavering.

I froze. A vision flashed: me, alone, in the dark, with a swarm of bees.

“Amelia?” I said, activating voice commands. “Vitals.”


My lungs clenched. I had to stay calm. To think rationally. My light wasn’t out … yet.

The blood pounded in my temples. I could almost hear the bees massing.  Waiting for their moment.

 “Amelia?” I tried again. “Vitals?”

Her voice flooded my earpiece with the incredible calm of the pilot that was her namesake. Heart rate: elevated. Core temperature: 97.6 degrees. Blood levels: normal. Need anything else, Violet?

 “Amelia: set vitals to auto-report in 5 minute intervals.”

Of course.

Normally Amelia only reported to the MedBay on an hourly basis, but in here I needed to be more cautious. In here, there was no way of knowing whether or not I’d been stung once, twice, or a thousand times. I’d never realize until it was too late. 

I stared at my hand, its pale silver hue luminous beneath the stringy black webbing of my sensor gloves.  Without the gloves I didn’t feel anything. All my nerve endings were buried deep beneath my titanium-enriched skin.  On that level, me inheriting the job of beekeeper made sense. Sure. It made sense unless I was stung by fifty of them at once and my windpipe collapsed. Which, coincidentally, was a scenario becoming more and more likely by the minute.

I scooted up a few inches and flicked my light around the corner. The glare fractured and bounced back at me. A split. There was no way of knowing which way the bees had gone.

I sat back and waited. And waited.

My flashlight flickered again. If the light went out, I wouldn’t be able to see my hands.

I’d be touchblind.

People take for granted the importance of sensation. Most kids take two years to learn to walk. I took seven. There were certain movements I knew by heart now. I’d practiced them over and over in front of a mirror until I could do them with my eyes closed. Sitting. Standing. Walking. Lying down. Getting up. Lacking the sensation to feel what I was doing, I made checklists. Which muscles to activate and coordinate, contract and release. I could jump, step sideways, push my hair behind my ear.

But there were certain things I didn’t have a checklist for. I didn’t, for example, have a procedure for “trapped in the dark in the air vents, need to back up and around corner to escape.” I don’t know. For some reason it wasn’t included in my copy of Holden’s Physical Therapy for the Neurologically Challenged.

If I couldn’t see, I wouldn’t know how to move.

The beam wavered again. Instantly, I reached back, groping the thigh pocket where I kept my spare light.

All I felt was smooth bioprene against my leg.

I checked again, running my fingertip sensors along the inside of the pocket, digging into the corners. My chest clenched. Nothing.

I groaned. It must have fallen out. And because my family couldn’t afford a whole body sensor-suit, I hadn’t noticed. I’d crawled right over it and left it somewhere back there in the abyss.

Heart rate: rising. Blood levels: normal. Amelia reminded me, as if I wasn’t acutely aware of this already.

The dark seemed to well up around me, a black wave waiting to surge.

I clicked off the UV, switching to Vis-only: less power drain.

I was just about to choose a passage at random, when a bee buzzed by my ear and into the right-hand tunnel. I wrenched myself forward contorting my body around the tight angles of the ductwork. According to my handheld, I was nearly on the outer perimeter of the starship.

“You’ve got no place left to hide,” I said, gritting my teeth as I wriggled around the bend.

But I was wrong.  As I shone my light down the corridor, ten meters away, the beam flashed back at me.

A dead-end. A dead-end and no hive.

This. Was not. Happening.