Friday, October 23, 2015

Free 1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens October 31!

Our 1st 5 Pages October Workshop has come to an end. We had such a great group of talented and supportive writers! A big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, author Lanie Bross and agent Saba Sulaiman! They both provided terrific comments and suggestions. And as always, thank you to all of our fabulous permanent mentors! Two of our mentors had books come out this month that you should check out – TOUCHING FATE by Brenda Drake and TRUST ME I'M TROUBLE by Mary Elizabeth Summer!

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, our November workshop will open for entries on Saturday October 31, 2015, at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. Click here to get the rules. I will post when it opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to our permanent mentors, we have author Jenn Thorne and agent Kirsten Carleton!

We usually fill up in under a minute, so get those pages ready and good luck!


Sunday, October 18, 2015

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Caldwell Revision 2

Name: Alicia Caldwell
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: Failed Innocence


Seventeen-year-old Bree Moore thought graduating a virgin would be easy. But “easy” is all anyone thinks about Bree after the night of her drunken promiscuous debut, even if it wasn’t her choice.
After Ethan Long has his way with Bree at a party that gets out of hand, she wonders if she brought this on herself by not living the religious life her mother and church hammered into her head. If she hadn’t been such a sinner, maybe her boyfriend Tristan wouldn’t have dumped her, maybe she would still have her best friend Kendra, and maybe she wouldn’t have to commit the ultimate sin, murder. 
The only ones who can help Bree come to terms with what happened and stop her from her own self destruction are Gwen, a girl who witnessed what Ethan did, and Cole, her real best friend. But Bree’s guilt has her in stuck in denial that is not only blocking out the memories from what happened, but also the only chance she may ever have at real love.    

1st Five Pages:

A shadowy face hovering above me, and pain, is all I remember about last night. That small memory spark is enough to send shivers up my spine. I fidget with the clasp on my purse, glancing every now and then at the strange girl in the driver’s seat, trying to conjure up anything containing her name, her face, or that purple hair. As soon as I’m about to give up, I clasp on to an image. She was driving then too, but moonlight streamed in instead of the harsh morning sun that now glares and stings my head with every passing car. I recall being hunched over in the passenger seat, face in my hands, crying.
As I touch my fingers to my cheeks and feel the dryness left from my salty tears, a wave of regret and embarrassment immediately washes over me. I can’t bear this unsettling silence any longer. I have to say something.
“Um, thanks, for, ah, letting me crash at your house.” I reach over and take the travel mug out of the cup holder, hoping a sip of coffee will wash away the hoarseness in my voice.
“Oh, no problem at all.” She waves a hand at me. “It’s not like I could let you go home alone in the state you were in.” The light turns red and she twists sideways to face me. “I was really worried that you had alcohol poisoning. You threw up like five times at the party.” Vague images of vomiting in the bathroom, in the gutter, in the grass, flash through my mind. It's not like me at all to get rip roaring drunk at parties. The few parties I do go to, I usually hide in the corner, sipping the same beer all night, waiting until my best friend, Kendra, is ready to leave. How did things get so out of hand?
I wait until the light turns green to ask, “I’m sorry, but what is your name again?”
“Gwen.” She smiles, not appearing upset at all that I had forgotten.
I want to ask her if she knows what happened and if there’s a reason for this sense of dread I’ve had in the pit of my stomach all morning. I’m already humiliated about crying and kind of hope she doesn’t know either. Maybe she was just as drunk as I was and just as clueless today. Then she can’t tell me anything, and my memories can remain in the dark confines of my mind. But since she was able to drive us back to her house after the party, I know she was lucid enough to see whatever horrible things my drunkenness brought on.
“Um, sorry for the cry fest.” Since that’s one of the few things I recall, I decide to plunge right in. No point in putting it off. I have to find out how pathetic I really acted. Face it and move on. “I don’t remember a whole lot. What was I going off about?”
Gwen side glances at me. “Really? You don’t remember?”
I shake my head, slowly, scared of what’s coming next.
The Honda Civic speeds over the inclined parking lot entrance to Burger King, jostling my already sensitive stomach and reminding me of the unfamiliar soreness I’ve had between my legs since I woke up. Gwen shifts the car into park and kills the engine. When she turns to me with her lips pressed together and her eyebrows drawn I know I shouldn’t have asked. I should leave last night in the murky shadows, never let it see the light.
Slowly and carefully, Gwen says, “You, ah, kept telling me how you, um, wanted to graduate a . . . ” Her pause is long, too long. Eventually she continues. “A virgin.” She stops again, studying my face. “And you almost made it.” She says this in a congratulatory way, the same way someone would tell you that it’s okay they came in last, it’s the effort that counts.
Almost made it? My stomach thinks I just stepped off a three-story building. The feeling is so real, I clasp the sides of the seat to have something solid to hang on to. Suddenly I hear my mom’s voice in my head, chanting her religious warnings. Sex before marriage is the second worst sin, just after murder.
“Bree?” She reaches over and touches my arm gently with her purple nails. “Are you okay? Ya know, it’s huge to make it to seventeen. You should feel good about that. And besides, last night didn’t really count anyway.”
With each word, I feel like she’s shining a flashlight on those dark confines I thought were safe to hide my memories in. But she’s forcing them out of hiding.
My first thought is it had to have been my on-again-off-again boyfriend. We met at church last summer. Two months after dating he started pressuring me. Until I met him, I really thought I might actually be able to save it until marriage. Even though my mom constantly reminds me how sinful sex is, I know that’s not realistic. Graduating a virgin is a more reasonable goal I came up with after meeting Tristan. Last night I must’ve given in to him. Somehow he convinced me to give it up in my drunken stupor. The second I think it, I know the mysterious body hadn’t been Tristan. It was someone else entirely. Involuntary shakes start in my shoulders and quickly spread down my arms. I grip my biceps with my quivering hands to get them to stop. But they won’t stop. My entire body is trembling.
I had assumed when I was crying to Gwen it was about Tristan and my inability to leave him because every time I try to he turns around and becomes Mr. Wonderful again. Right now, more than anything, I wish that had been the case instead of this. Anything except this.
“Ethan is such an asshole,” Gwen blurts. The name makes goose bumps pop up all over my arms and legs followed by more uncontrollable shudders. “I can’t believe he took advantage of you like that. He’s not gonna get away with it. You know that, right?”
I want her to stop. Stop talking. Stop telling. I take it back. I don’t want to know. But it’s too late. I can’t stop the memory from revealing more and more of itself. A big chunk of the puzzle snaps into place and the picture that’s forming makes me want to jump out of the car and throw myself in front of a truck.
The bright, blinding moon.
The repetitive, thrusting pain.
His hot breath on my face.
His cigarette flavored tongue shooting in and out of my mouth.
No no no no no no no. It didn’t happen. It couldn’t have. This is just a horrible nightmare. I reach over and pinch my arm hard. That’s not working. I’m not waking up. Instead of pinching, I dig my nails into my skin. Nothing. My reality doesn’t change.
Something’s squeezing my throat. My stomach wants to give up the coffee. My body’s shaking even more. I squeeze the seat tighter as I unwillingly remember.
Ethan had been the one holding my hair while I threw up in the back yard. He began kissing me . . . after I threw up. It was his tongue forcing it’s way into my mouth. 

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Jacobs Revision 2

Name: Elisa Jacobs
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: A Better Shape


When 17 year-old Hannah Fischer tears her ACL, her promising soccer career is brought to a screeching halt with a loud pop. Sidelined from life as she knows it, Hannah's injury leaves her feeling bitter and isolated from everyone, including herself. 

So when Hannah meets Ryan Benson at physical therapy, she couldn’t care less. In fact, she can’t stand him. As Ryan tries to befriend her, Hannah assumes it’s because he feels sorry for her, and she blows him off. Hannah isn’t a charity case. But then Hannah learns about Ryan’s involvement in a tragic accident. He has lost even more than she has, and she can’t help but feel like she misjudged him. When Hannah gives Ryan a second chance, he helps her feel whole again, and even though she worries that they’re too broken to be together, she falls for him. 

But just as their bond begins to deepen, Ryan’s past comes back to haunt him, and he spirals into depression. When Hannah tries to help him, he reacts spitefully and lashes out at her. After his relapse, Ryan begs Hannah to forgive him, but Hannah is shaken, and must decide whether they’re better off together, or apart.


The sound was innocuous enough, like knuckles cracking or bubble wrap bursting, but it still managed to haunt me. Even though it had been almost a month since I tore my ACL, the sound of my ligament rupturing still echoed in my ears. I’d be eating lunch, or brushing my teeth, when all of a sudden: POP!


In a way, the sound was worse than the pain that followed. I was able to deal with the pain, and if it became unbearable, there were pills I could take. But there was nothing I could do to drown out the noise in my head. 


I blinked myself out of my daze. “Sorry, what did you say?” I shifted uncomfortably on Dr. Levy’s taupe couch. Everything in her office was beige except for the magenta orchid on her desk. I couldn't decide if the lack of color was calming or depressing.

Dr. Levy studied me as she adjusted her dark-rimmed glasses. “I was explaining the difference between talking about trauma and processing it.”

Right. My so-called traumatic experience. “What is there even left to process at this point? We’ve already rehashed what happened, and the story never changes.” The score was tied. I was about to kick the ball down field when a player from the opposing team ran into me. Hard. I heard a loud pop, and then I collapsed into a heap on the cold, spiky grass. “My body failed me. End of story.”

“It’s not about changing the story, Hannah, it’s about changing your emotional response to it.”

Even though I’d been seeing Dr. Levy for almost a month, I still didn’t understand how talking about my feelings was supposed to help my rehabilitation. Someone hadn’t bullied me, a 140-pound girl had tackled me.

Dr. Levy gazed down at her yellow notepad. “You mentioned that your body failed you. Do you feel like a failure, Hannah?”

I shrugged. It was kind of hard not to feel like a failure. Junior year was peak time for college recruitment. Some coaches had shown interest in me last year, and had wanted to see me play again. But now, not only was I out for the rest of the season, I was damaged goods. Nobody buys a bruised apple on purpose.

“You know, Hannah, it’s not uncommon for athletes to become depressed after experiencing a significant injury.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m not depressed. Not being able to play soccer has just been...” I paused, struggling to find the right words, “an adjustment.” I started playing soccer when I was five. My mom had initially signed me up for ballet lessons, but when it became clear that I couldn’t stand still long enough to pliĆ©, she exchanged my ballet slippers for cleats, and signed me up for youth soccer. After I scored my first goal, I was hooked.

Dr. Levy nodded. “Do you still feel like your friends don’t understand what you’re going through?”

I looked down at my leg, which was still purple and swollen. After my surgery, my two best friends, Em and Hayley, had jokingly called me the Bride of Frankenstein on account of the screws in my knee. At first, I laughed along with them, but then I burst into tears. Even though you can’t really feel them, having screws in your body is like having a permanent reminder that you broke and couldn’t put yourself back together again. “I guess,” I muttered, sinking into the couch.

Dr. Levy looked out the window and thought for a moment. “Would you ever consider participating in group therapy sessions? Some of my other clients have found them helpful.”

I jerked my head back, a little insulted. In movies, group therapy sessions always seemed to take place in mental institutions or rehab facilities. “Uh...who else would be in the group?”

“Teenagers struggling with various issues, like depression or anxiety.”

I pictured myself sitting in a circle with the types of kids you see on the covers of those “Troubled Teen” pamphlets. I frowned. “I already told you that I’m not depressed, and now you want me share my feelings with a bunch of cutters, addicts, and anorexics?”

She gave me a tight-lipped smile. “Group therapy can be beneficial for people who feel isolated. But you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. It was just a thought.”

I already had my own sob story to contend with. I didn’t need to hear a bunch of strangers tell theirs. One was more than enough.


“So how’d it go?” my mom asked as she drove me home after my appointment.

I shrugged as I watched the palm trees flash by my window. “Fine,” I said curtly. It was unlike me to be short with my mom, but I was tired of talking. Talking about my feelings had become so exhausting, I sometimes found myself wishing that I had torn a ligament in my jaw instead of my knee.

But my mom wasn't getting the hint. “Did you and Dr. Levy talk about anything in particular?”

I exhaled loudly. "I don't know. Not really. We talked about group therapy, but I'm not going."

She eyed me sideways, like I was a bear who had wandered into her backyard and she wasn’t sure if she should wave her arms and yell, or keep perfectly still. "Are you sure you don't want to at least try it?"

I clenched my fists. “I’m not going to group therapy. There’s no way I’m hanging out with a bunch of kleptomaniacs and glue sniffers. I’m not one of those people. I was going to play college sports! I’m not some girl who eats her feelings and hides donuts under the bathroom sink.”

My mom frowned, as if to say, “don’t use that tone of voice with me.” “I’m sure plenty of perfectly normal teenagers go to group therapy.”

“I’m already seeing Dr. Levy one-on-one,” I said, raising my voice, “what more do you want from me?” My mom booked my first appointment with Dr. Levy after I compared the sound of my ACL tearing to a funeral bell. I wasn’t suicidal or anything, but we had just read For Whom the Bell Tolls in English, and it seemed like an apt analogy. I tried explaining this to my mom, but she didn’t believe me because 48 hours after my “For Whom the ACL Tears” speech, I was sitting in the waiting room at Dr. Levy’s office.

She let out a sigh. “It was just a suggestion, Hannah. No one's making you go to group therapy."

I flushed, embarrassed at my outburst. “I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean to yell.” I shifted my gaze downward. “It’s just that these stupid crutches are driving me crazy. But once I start physical therapy on Monday, I’m sure I’ll feel better.” I wasn’t sure who I was lying to: my mom or myself. Starting physical therapy wouldn’t make a difference. Come Monday, I’d still be on crutches, and I’d still be sidelined from life as I knew it. Surgery may have fixed my torn ACL, but I still felt like I was in pieces. I was a scrap of a person.

She gave me a tired smile. “It’s okay, honey. I know it hasn’t been easy.”

I tried to smile back, but I couldn’t - I was too worn out. If there’s one thing that’s more exhausting than talking about your feelings, it’s faking a smile.

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Cushing Revision 2

Name: Emily Cushing
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure


With her parent’s bank account drained, twelve-year-old Maggie McCoy and her family will be forced to move away from the prestigious Renaissance Academy of Arts and back to her former, bully-ridden school. So when Maggie gets the chance to go on a cross-country trip with her Grandpa Jim and cousin Jake to search for gold hidden by infamous bank robber Butch Cassidy, she jumps on the bandwagon, or in this case, a beat-up Winnebago.

Less than two hours into the trip, Maggie’s worried she’s made a mistake. The perfect adventure she envisioned crumbles in the face of reality with cousin Jake’s “anger bursts”—a side effect of his parent’s divorce. But with her home on the line, Maggie is determined to find the treasure, even after they discover dangerous thieves are also after it.

With only each other to rely on, Maggie and Jake must decipher clues about Butch’s life to solve the mystery. Because this just may be Maggie’s last chance to save the home and life she loves.

A middle grade adventure complete at 50,000-words, RACE TO BUTCH CASSIDY’S GOLD follows both present-day Maggie McCoy and the legend of Butch Cassidy until mystery and history collide.

First Five Pages:

June 1st 

Whenever Mom and Dad point to the couch and say, “Sit down, Maggie, we need to talk,” I’m like, Please, no. Because I know when I hear those seven little words something terrible is coming.

So tonight when they motioned to the couch and asked me to sit I was like, “I don’t think so.” I knew what they were up to and I refused to play that game. I figured if we weren’t sitting we couldn’t have a Sit Down.

Guess what?

I was wrong.

You don’t have to actually be sitting to hear bad news. Even if you’re standing (and even if it’s in the kitchen—super far from the couch), they still tell you.

Dad rubbed his short beard and rested both palms on the glass kitchen counter he had hand-blown. “There’s something important we need to tell you.” 

I jumped into panic mode. They were moving forward with the Sit Down even though I had refused to sit. I needed a Plan B. Fast. I hummed loudly and scanned the kitchen for anything that might stop him from talking. My eyes landed on a bag of microwave popcorn. Maybe if I couldn’t hear him, he wouldn’t be able to tell me. I opened the microwave, threw in the popcorn, and slammed the door, loudly punching each button as I turned it on.  

Mom pulled her hair into a messy bun, securing it with a pencil. “Maggie, please listen.”
I scrunched my face, cupped my ear, and shook my head. “What? Can’t hear you.” I pointed at the microwave. “Popping noises. Too loud.” 

Dad’s mouth formed a straight line and Mom folded her arms. “We can wait,” she said.

“All night,” Dad added.    

I sighed and hit the stop button on the microwave. “Fine.” I slumped onto a wobbly wooden stool. “Let me have it.”

I held my breath and waited. Dad glanced at Mom and she gave me one of those you-know-we-love-you-but-this-is-going-to-hurt smiles. “It just hasn’t worked out, Sweetie. We’re going to have to move back to the city.”

My chest tightened and my eyes darted to Dad, hoping he’d say it wasn’t true, but his shoulders dropped. “I talked to my old boss at the accounting firm and they have a position opening up on June 19th.” 

I bit down on my bottom lip and focused on the colorful photos on the refrigerator, trying to hold back tears. This could not be happening. Not now. Grandpa Jim just hung a tire swing in our backyard, Jake and I had summer passes to Wild Waves Waterpark, and I was supposed to attend Renaissance Academy in the fall—one of the best art schools in Missouri. I was one of only 50 seventh graders who had been accepted to their six-year program. 

But the very worst part about returning to my old school in the city was bullies like Harriet Nerdin. I hated Harriet, but even more I hated myself for never standing up to her. 

Like in fifth grade when I was going through my “cowgirl phase” and was completely obsessed with all things old West-y. When my school held an art competition to draw, paint, or sculpt a historical figure, I chose Butch Cassidy, famous outlaw of the Wild West. As part of my character study, Grandpa Jim gave me the special binder of famous Americans Grandma June had made when she was alive. I read all sorts of facts and stories about Butch from her book. 

After a month of studying his life and taking sculpting lessons from Dad, I completed my sculpture of Butch riding his getaway horse with sacks of stolen loot hanging off the side. I knew I had the contest in the bag and the first place prize, a new bike, was all mine. In fact, on the way out the door that morning, Mom patted me on the back and said, “You’ve got this, kiddo.”

When I arrived at the bus stop, Harriet eyed my sculpture and rolled up her poster of Justin Bieber. “What artsy fartsy thing did you make?” 

Everyone at the bus stop laughed. I swallowed. “It’s Butch Cassidy.”

Harriet rolled her eyes. “Never heard of him.”

“He was a famous outlaw,” I stammered, but she and her friends had already turned their backs. I moved closer to the bus stop so I could hurry onto the bus once it arrived. 

Just as the bus pulled up, there was whispering and laughter behind me. And then a shove. A hard, deliberate shove that sent my sculpture of Butch flying out of my hands and into the gutter, where it broke into a hundred pieces. 

Not one person stopped to help me pick up my broken sculpture. They just stepped over or around me as they got onto the bus. 

That one incident pretty much summed up my entire life in the city. 

One of the greatest days ever was last summer when we moved to Hollister—the best small town this side of the Mississippi—and Mom and Dad started the whole one-year experiment to see if they could get a commission for their sculpting. 

Commission: when an artist gets paid to sculpt. 
Super big deal for them. Super good move for me. But they still haven’t gotten a commission, which is crazy because their sculptures are crazy good. 

I shifted my eyes from the fridge and stared at my parents. “I’ll give back my Snap Cam.” It was a camera like those old fashioned-y ones that gives you the picture right after you take it. I had been begging for one for months and they finally gave me one yesterday for sixth grade graduation.

Mom shook her head. “It won’t help, Sweetheart.”

I puffed out a large breath of air. “Well then, what can I do?”

Dad reached for my hand. “There’s really nothing you can do, Maggie.” He squeezed. “Just try not to worry, we’ll take care of it.”

Heat flushed through my body and I pulled my hand away. "Of course I’m going to worry and of course I’m going to try to help us stay. I’m not a baby—I’m twelve. I can come up with good ideas, too." I pushed back the stool and stood. "In fact, you’re the ones that don’t have to worry. Because will figure out a way for us to stay.” I marched to my room and slammed the door. My class schedule for next year flew off my magnet board and onto the floor. I crumpled it, opened my bedroom door, and threw it into the hallway. “I guess I won’t be needing this anymore!”

I have to find a way for us to stay. I just don’t know how. Ugh!

What am I going to do?

June 2nd 

I know what I’m going to do! 

I’m going to find Butch Cassidy’s hidden gold coins! I didn’t leave my room once last night. Which seemed like a good idea until my belly ached with hunger and my bladder felt like it might explode, but it gave me the chance to formulate a plan. 
Grandma June’s Famous Americans binder says Butch hid gold coins somewhere in Utah and gave clues to his family leading them to where the coins might be, but they’ve never been found.

It’s a total long shot, but we only have 18 days, so it’s worth a try. The coins have got to be worth a ton, which means we’ll never have to leave Hollister. Ever.

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Tardiff Revision 2

Name: Anthony Tardiff
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Willow and Eagle


16-year-old foster child Petunia long ago accepted that the impossible memories of her parents and childhood are merely a protective shield against the trauma of her abandonment. That’s what everyone says, and it makes more sense than the fairy tale in her head. But then she meets Avery, and the mysterious, dark-eyed boy sparks memories that hint that her parents really were loving — and that her unremembered childhood hides a secret even more terrible than abandonment. But can she trust Avery? He shows a dashing concern for her, but darkness follows him. The memories he stirs intrude on her waking life, building to an attack on her school by department store mannequins animated by a sinister force.

Escaping, Petunia finds herself in a world that is entirely different, yet familiar, a world that matches the fantastic fragments of her memory. She carves out an independent life for herself in this half-remembered land, with new friends as close to her as family. But Avery is out there somewhere, in danger or a danger, and so is the darkness that still hunts her. Pursuing the truth about the past that she and Avery share will mean giving up her new life for a life of danger and responsibility, a life in which the fate of many others hangs on her choices.


Petunia had to crane her neck back to see the whole school. “It looks like a haunted house.”

Laura frowned at her. “They keep it in very good shape,” she said.

“Not that kind of haunted house,” Petunia told her social worker. She studied the sharp gables and sprawling wings. The place even had a tower. This wouldn’t be a rickety, falling down haunted house, but a rambling, gothic one, the kind with ornate staircases and faded wallpaper and corners shadowy with history.

“We’ve talked about your imagination,” Laura said as she started up the path towards the doors. 

“I know.” From long habit, Petunia slipped her hand into her pocket and pulled out the old, faded memo book, the one she saved for special occasions, big changes. Leather covers, cream paper, three-quarters filled with thoughts, dreams, frustrations, and, most of all, advice from a dozen past lives. The first item read, as always, “Accept reality.” Petunia didn’t really need the reminder: she had mastered that skill long ago. Laura would know that if she’d paid attention to the more recent years in Petunia’s file. But that was the problem with uneventfulness. It didn’t stick in the memory.

“Come on,” Laura said over her shoulder, and Petunia took a deep breath and stepped forward. The tower loomed over her, dark against the gray sky, and then she was under the awning and Laura was pushing open the ornate double doors. Petunia told herself she was grateful; this was what she wanted. But her uniform felt strange, the blouse starchy and stiff, the skirt brushing unfamiliarly against her legs as she stepped inside. 

The foyer was a marvel of brass and marble. Two staircases rose on either side of the room and joined on a balcony that stretched around the second floor. Beyond, a tarnished, unlit chandelier hung in the shadows under the high peaked ceiling. Petunia looked at her memo book again. Item number four on her list read, “It’s a school like any other.”

Was that really true? It wasn’t just that the building was a repurposed estate house, over a hundred years old. This was Canfield Mountain School, the most exclusive prep school in the county. She didn’t belong here.

But when had she ever belonged anywhere? She squared her shoulders and joined Laura in the middle of the room, just as a friendly voice said “Welcome!” and a woman came out of a door tucked under the soaring staircase on the right. Bustling noise and voices escaped behind her and were stilled when the heavy door swung shut again. “Petunia, right?” She was a plump woman with a cheerful face, and her hand when she shook Petunia’s was warm. “I’m Mrs. Gilner, Dean of Students. We’re so glad you can join us.”

Oh good, Petunia thought. She’s the motherly type, not the business-y type.  

“Pretty neat, isn’t it?” Mrs. Gilner said, seeing that Petunia’s eyes were still drawn to the opulence around her. “We’ve tried to keep the foyer as close to its original state as we can. Impresses the parents.” She winked. “Typically students aren’t allowed here. Tomorrow you’ll come in the side entrance. It’s not as fancy, I’m afraid.”

“Thanks again for this,” Laura told Mrs. Gilner. “On such short notice, too.”

“Oh, we’re glad, so glad to help. And we’ve had a prior good experience, as you know. I’m sure Petunia will be another welcome member of the family.”

That would be a first, Petunia thought. “I should get to class,” she said. Her first subject, Ancient History, started in ten minutes, and she didn’t even know where she was going. Her stomach twisted in either antipication or nerves. Probably both.

“Did you get settled into your room okay?” Mrs. Gilner asked. “I’m sure this is a bit of a whirlwind for you. Laura’s a real dynamo.” She smiled at Laura, who smiled tightly back and actually tapped her foot. “When she gets an idea in her head, stand back.”

Petunia nodded. She was not exactly settled, but all her stuff was in her room, and there’d be time later to unpack and look around at what would be her home for, hopefully, the next two and a half years. And then college, where everyone was new and your past didn’t matter. College, independence, a life of her own directing.

She was grateful to Laura for getting her firmly on that path. Mostly grateful, anyway. Okay, and just a touch resentful. True, her old social worker had not understood her very well, and when she had retired two weeks ago she had said with a sigh, “You’re a tough one to figure out.” Laura, if not more understanding, was at least more active. On her first day with Petunia she had had asked her life goals, and when Petunia had told her Laura had sprung into motion. Deals were made, scholarships obtained, and here Petunia was, moving in and starting classes all in the same morning. So yeah, she was grateful, but she also felt a little like she was just a box to be checked off of Laura’s to-do list.

“Great,” Laura said briskly. “Well, Anne, if you’ve got it from here, I have a lot to do.”

Petunia stood awkwardly as Laura and Mrs. Gilner said their goodbyes. She half-expected Laura to brush her hands off as she left, but of course she didn’t.

When Mrs. Gilner turned around again she looked surprised to see Petunia there.

“Um. Ancient History?” Petunia said.

“Oh, I’m sorry! Right through that door, first classroom on your left.”

Petunia followed her finger to the heavy door Mrs. Gilner had come in from. She pushed it open and a wall of noise hit her, stopping her in her tracks. 

Students filled the narrow hallway, jostling for access to the lockers that lined every spare inch of the walls. They all wore the Canfield Mountain School uniform — skirt and blouse for the girls, slacks and dress shirt for the boys, each with the Canfield crest embroidered on the breast pocket — but everyone had augmented it in some way. Bright socks flashed in the sea of feet. Long keychains swung from hips, and miniature toys dangled from backpacks. Petunia, in her unadorned uniform, felt suddenly underdressed.

A book lobbed good-naturedly by one boy at another almost hit her. She stepped aside as he retrieved it, and looked at her list. Item number eight read simply, “Mingle.” She looked up again and her heart dropped. Wade into that mess? She didn’t even know which locker was hers. And the classroom was right there, steps away to her left. Without some purpose she would look foolish pushing down the hallway. And the noisy environment wasn’t the place for conversation, anyway. So she put her head down and didn’t look at anyone as she walked stiffly across the hallway and ducked into the classroom. She tried to ignore a twinge of guilt, but she couldn’t stop herself glancing at her list. Item number three was, “You are a new person here. So be a new person.”

Not the best start.

There was only one other student in the classroom, a dark-haired girl sitting by the window. Her uniform was neat and strictly to regulation, no neon socks or backpack tchotchkes. Her books were arranged tidily on the desk in front of her, a fresh page open for notes. 

1st 5 Pages October Wokshop - Bryan Revision 2

Name: Patrick J. Bryan
Genre: Middle Grade: Speculative Fiction/Adventure
Title: The Brothers Kincaid and the Quantum Crystal


The Brothers Kincaid and the Quantum Crystal is a completed middle-grade adventure running approximately 67k words in length. The story could be described as having a Spiderwick meets Star Trek feel. I believe this book would find a place in the libraries of readers who enjoy The Sisters Grimm, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and Artemis Fowl.

Nathan Kincaid stands transfixed at the edge of an empty field. A sphere of blazing light rips through the air in front of him. He watches as a group of ghostly figures materialize. His younger brother Hank prepares to help Nathan answer the one question that nags at him most. Is he crazy or is there something extraordinary going on in his mind?

Treated as an outcast for as long as he can remember, Nathan hopes that once his family moves to the eccentric town of Faraday Falls he can leave behind his branding as a spacey misfit find the answers he seeks. But instead of support from the tech-savvy community, Nathan finds a madman, Hugo Helsingborg, who wants to exploit Nathan's unique ability in his personal quest to collect powerful objects from throughout the galaxy.

Working with their new friend, genius inventor Addelaide Grace at their side, the brothers Kincaid use their wits and nerve to unravel the mysteries of the Helsingborg’s Quantum Crystal while evading hordes of crocodogs, armies of mandroids, and giant sand-vipers.

Second Revision

A spark of blue light caught Nathan’s attention. It started small as it always did. The light flared and demanded his focus. He stopped walking; it became difficult to move when part of his world vanished. Everything but the light melted away and the sphere of dazzling color expanded before him like a supernova until it stopped and the world beyond came slowly into focus.

“Are you seeing it now,” asked Hank, Nathan’s younger brother.

Nathan tilted his head, his body rigid and his stare fixed. He stood at the edge of the dirt lot that was the Kincaid family backyard. Weeds of varying heights spotted the landscape. When they were flowering, they almost seemed pretty. Though Nathan wasn’t here to look at weeds. He was staring far out into the treeless landscape. A wasteland that was once farm. Now there was nothing for anyone to see but weeds and dirt. Anyone except Nathan Kincaid.

“There is something. It’s almost in focus.” Nathan remained frozen, spellbound, staring into what seemed empty space, but not to him.

“Are the ghosts back?” Hank glanced at the empty lot and back to his brother. Nathan didn’t turn to look at him, he continued to lock his gaze somewhere toward the middle of the field.

“There are people now. At least I think they’re people,” Nathan replied.

“Nate?” Hank’s voice trailed off to a whisper. “When you see these other places, and the people, do you ever see mom?” Nathan dropped his head before he spoke. He tried not to snap at Hank. While he was nearly as tall as Nathan and acted fairly mature for a nine-year-old, he was after all just a kid. Nathan pictured tears welling up in his little brother’s eyes.

“I’ve told you Hank, they're not ghosts,” said Nathan with a hint of frustration.

“I know,” said Hank with an affirming nod. “I just wish...” There was silence between the brothers as Nathan gazed through the tear in space hovering before him. Hank sniffled then pulled the sketch pad out of his pack and flopped down into the dirt.

“So these people, what are they doing?  Do you think they can see you? Tell me everything, I’m ready to sketch,” said Hank.

“You mean doodle,” said Nathan with a smile.

“Hey, my drawings are better than yours.” Hank kicked dust in Nathan’s direction.

About twenty feet from where he stood a sphere of blue light cut through Nathan’s field of vision. It hovered just above the ground; a hole about as large as a movie screen. The edges were so bright he couldn’t look directly at them.  Then bit by bit people appeared in the center of this hole in space.

“It’s almost in focus now. When it’s all clear, I need you to help me with the spectral camera.”

“I have it here but I don’t know if it’s gonna work,” said Hank. He pulled a jumbled mess of wires soldered to tiny circuit boards, harvested from old computers and digital cameras, from his pack. A massive camera lens stuck out from one side of the wiry bird nest.

“Just hand it to me when I tell you. Ok?”

Nathan let out a deep breath and tugged the ends of his blue scarf. It was once his mother’s. The three crescent moons embroidered at one end were part of story she used to read.  As he played with the scarf in his fingers he remained spellbound on the specters in front of him.

“You know what this thing looks like Nate? I think if a computer and a telescope had a baby, and the baby had a dirty diaper, this is what the diaper would look like.”

Nathan threw a weak punch in Hank’s general direction.

“There, I can see it all now. Hand me the spectral camera.” Nathan set the nest of wires on his head and pulled the camera lens over one eye. He flipped a small red toggle switch on the side of the lens and a high pitched whirring sound radiated from the gadget.

Having these visions scared him. They scared him because sometimes he saw terrible images; creatures and nightmarish landscapes. But what scared him more was not knowing if he was sick, if he was insane, or if these visions were real. If he could capture an image he would know it was real. And if it was real he would know he wasn’t going nuts.

“You better get out some colorful pens, Hank. These guys are like human-sized birds with long cloaks. And I think they’re gardening.”

At first glance Nathan recoiled, unprepared to see the bare scaly legs that bent in the wrong direction.  He gradually became enchanted by their peaceful movement and flashes of plumage. The long robes of the birdmen hid most of their features. Yet as they moved, flashes of a leg or arm became visible; an arm covered in short colorful feathers. The curve of a beak stuck out from under their straw hats; as wide as umbrellas. Yet their faces were hidden.

“These guys are amazing Hank. But what they're doing is odd. They have these cutting tools and are shaping tall bushes, like sculptures.  The shapes are incredible.”

“What kind of shapes? Do any look like animals? I want them to make one that looks like a whale.” Hank screwed up his face for a moment and continued. “But not the ones with teeth, they seem mean. The ones with those big filters for catching shrimp.”

“You mean the baleen whales?”

“Yeah, baleen. What a weird word. Are they making baleen whale shapes?”

“No. The sculptures curve and spiral, they point in weird directions. You know what they remind me of? Bowers. Do you remember that nature show we watched with the birds building fancy houses of sticks to attract their mates? They decorated them with colored flower petals, shells, and trash. That’s what these guys could be. But sort of strange human-like alien birdmen instead of actual birds.”

“Cool,” said Hank as he scribbled feverishly in his vision journal. Whenever Nathan would let him in on what he saw during a vision, which wasn't that often, Hank would turn it into art and record the details Nathan would narrate. Today Nathan hoped to capture an image of his own, one that would prove he wasn’t crazy.

“You have to tell me more about the Bowerbird-men. All the particulars,” said Hank. He liked saying particulars and mimicked a British accent whenever he spoke the word.  Nathan fixated on the image that only he could see. His eyes darted around, tracking the activity. Hank watched Nathan and glanced to the empty field between scribbles, hoping for something interesting to appear.

“Whoa. There’s something new. Animals,” said Nathan.

“Animal sculptures?” asked Hank.

“No, these are actual animals. Their bodies are like tigers but they have pointed tails, pointed like spears. And they’re massive. Bigger than the Bowerbird-men. I’m not sure if they’re pets or guards. They seem different than the Bowers, darker, threatening.”

“I wish I could see them too,” said Hank.  Nathan’s face contorted.  His expression soured and he shut his eyes.  He slouched forward and shook his head from side to side.

“Why do you say that Hank? You know how everyone treats me. You don’t want that do you?”

Hank stopped drawing feathers and looked up at Nathan, then back to his book. He thought of the taunts Nathan endured. People who saw him staring at nothing, sometimes shouting in fear or trying to speak to people who weren't there. Freaky Nate, is what they called him.

“No, I guess not. But what you see sounds so amazing sometimes and this place is, well, not.”

Nathan tuned his attention back to the otherworld. While he adjusted the camera lens an electronic beep pierced his focus. The memory card was almost full, he thought. Altering his focus back to the Bowerbird-men, he found them working with a rhythm.  Their garden structures were separated by tens of feet, yet the men moved in synchrony, as if they were dancing.  Nathan imagined they were hearing music and trimming the shrubbery to the beat of a tune. Watching their movements, he could almost hear the rhythm of the song.  It calmed him. He continued to narrate the image to Hank who began adding red spotted mushrooms to his sketch and a twisted wood arch extending over one bower structure.

A final long beep came from the camera. “The memory card is full. Here, rewind and take a look. Tell me what you see.” Nathan was hopeful. He removed the nest of wires and camera parts from his head and handed it to Hank. Hank set down his pad and focused on the small screen attached to the side of the home-made camera helmet. He frowned.

“Well?” asked Nathan.

“Sorry Nate. It’s just the field. Dead grass and sky. Nothing.” Hank tugged his right ear; a sure sign he was upset. He believed in his brother and wanted to be like him, even if it meant being a freak too.

Nathan let out two forceful sighs before he ignored the failed equipment and continued describing the vision to Hank as if he wasn’t completely devastated.