Free writing workshop for aspiring authors of young adult and middle grade fiction. The first five pages may be all that agents, editors, and readers read, so get them right with the help of three authors over the course of three weeks. During the third week, an agent will also critique your pages and your pitch and pick a workshop winner - the prize is a partial request!
Name: Devyn B. Makin Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy Title: JAKE DORIAN AND THE KISMET OF THE PARAIBA STONE (Alternate New Titles: LOAD 9 or KISMET OF LIGHT)
A storm was coming. The heavy, graying clouds were an unusual sight for California summers, but it was no match for what was brewing in Jake Dorian’s mind. He came to a sudden stop. His broad chest heaving as he stood under a street lamp—flickering on, forming a small orb of light, radiating its unnatural, orange glow. For the second day in a row, Jake chose to run the long route that circled around his cookie cutter neighborhood.
He glanced at his watch. A quarter after six. Ten miles just under forty minutes, a new record, but anything past thirty he knew his dad could calculate which route he took. Routine is what predators look for in their prey. He could already hear his dad lecturing him. The same lecture he’s heard since he was five. But now at seventeen, his dad’s warnings didn’t control him by fear, but reverberated as a constant nagging of what Jake was doing wrong.
Jake pulled out the half crumbled envelope stuffed in his sweatshirt pocket. Even after opening the letter for the hundredth time, his fingers still trembled just the same as the first time. He began reciting the few lines, his photographic memory kicking in, even before he managed to crinkle the letter open.
Hey Kid, This year I'll bring you your gift in person. It’s time for us to meet. And tell your dad to breath.
IN. PERSON. These two simple words had set off countless, heated fights between Jake and his dad for the past week. Telling his dad to breath was an understatement.“He won’t be coming.” His dad had said looking over Jake’s shoulder. Jake had snatched the letter away before his dad had a chance to pluck it out of his hands. Jake took a mental note of his grandfather’s cleverness, to have sent the letter the same way all the previous odd, relic-like-birthday gifts he had sent over the years—in a brown box with no return address and never posted from the same place. Jake knew in his gut if his dad knew it was a letter, he would have never seen it.
He snapped the letter closed, breaking out in a flying run, letter in fist. He flew passed rows of endless homes with identical black front doors, white shutters, and pointed roof tops—like his own personal world’s most boring carnival ride.
His dad’s voice kept rubbing his nerves raw. “He is not welcome in this house. Blood may be thicker than water, but you don’t have to let it stain your life.”
“So damn bullheaded. And why does he always have to talk in riddles!” Jake yelled. He picked up his speed. His exhausted muscles ached, burning down to his bones, which he welcomed. He wished he could just run forever, but home was inevitable.
Jake reached his front doorstep, pulling off his hoodie. His dark, overgrown hair spilled over his eyes in a jumbled mess, which his dad called unbecoming. Jake’s flat out refusal to get a haircut was his first taste of not stepping in-line with his dad. And it felt good. He survived that?
In that moment, he swore to himself that he was going to follow his dad like a damn shadow, until he tells him the truth. —Why do you hate grandfather so much? What does he do? What has he done? Where in the hell does he live?
Jake went to open the door when he heard his dad yell and he jerked to a stop. "Artemis, this isn't your choice!"
Grandfather’s here? A burst of a feverish chill swooped through Jake’s body. His pounding heart lurched into his throat and he froze, listening.
"How dare you have the audacity to barge in here and expect me to roll over and give you my son?” Jake’s dad said.
Bells went off in Jake’s head.
Take my son?
He pressed his ear harder on the door making the hinges creak.
A heavy graveled voice drunk in an Irish accent spoke. "Look, it's just for a few months. Let’s just tell him the trip’s my birthday gift…Anyways, the kid's gotta’ know. You’re acting like I'm a stranger."
"You are a stranger.” Jake’s dad raised his voice. “You haven’t seen him since he could barely walk. And that kid hasn't even gone out of town with his school because he doesn't like being away from home.”
Jake felt his eyes roll into the back of his head, hearing about school trips. He remembered every single one; science camp Nickawagra sixth grade, Honors Washington D.C. trip eighth grade, Varsity Future Olympian swimmers retreat this year, little Billy’s sleepover kindergarten…Jake remembered them all. He didn’t go to a single one because he felt guilty leaving his dad home alone. So, he had told his dad he was scared and to this day, his dad happily accepted it. No question.
Jake’s dad spoke again. “How do you think he's going to do, to hop on a plane, fly clear across the Atlantic… and what? Stay in a dilapidated castle with you?"
Jake gripped the doorknob tighter, knuckles popping. Castle? Dad grew up in a castle? Questions flooded Jake, jamming his heart to a stop.
"Whoa…you grew up there just fine and I've done some upgrades.” His grandfather gave out a low chuckle.
"That’s not the point! And you know what I mean…. None of thisis any of your concern.”
“How’s this not my concern, Frederic?”
"Family matters are for people with family that matter. And that for us only includes a son and a father.”
"Look,” His Grandfather’s voice slowed like an idled engine. “I'm not here to start trouble. But just because you dropped your post, it doesn't mean he shouldn't be given the same chance you had. It's his birthright."
"I said no! Now leave, before he gets back.”
"You know…it’s really not your choice, Son. He's of age. And who knows...maybe he's even started visions of dream sequences. You started them at sixteen. But you probably don't know because you haven't asked the boy."
"Don't you lecture me…"
"Like it or not, it's going to happen. So why not show him…before it's too late."
Silence fell into the room. Jake thought he could hear his dad's heavy breathing, causing his own to follow suit in harmonious fashion. He pressed harder on the door, making the wood groan—like it was resisting the pressure to indent a permanent cameo of his profile.
"Or maybe, the Paladin Council will drop him a line..."
"Don't you threaten me!” Jake’s dad yelled.
"I said no!"
Jake couldn’t stand hearing them argue anymore with their odd words—What birthright? Was Paladin a city? And why are they concerned about how I sleep?
Who cares. All Jake wanted right now was one thing, to get away from his dad and Artemis was the answer. Jake was exhausted of drowning in his dad’s fears. His paranoid absorption of prepping each minute detail—from combing his hair from left to right, never walking the same route to school more than one day, and planning your life in decades—because only bad things linger around every corner of the big, bad, monster called life.
Jake was exhausted, trying to be the good son. The son left to care for the father that lost his wife too soon. She died and Jake was tired of living like they were going to die too.