Monday, February 22, 2016

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Lambert Rev 2

Summer Shadows
Jeannie Lambert
Young Adult

Belonging to a group is so 10th grade.  That explains Jessie’s obsession.   Her mantra is "must-join-anything," even the Boiling Springs Rescue Squad. Finding a patient off-grid during a search earned her guarded praise.  She may have the presence of a poodle, but her gift for search and rescue is on par with a blue-tic hound.

Rescue callouts happen all of the time. Hiking in the Appalachian Mountains is like spinning in a Maytag washer with undulating hills snarled by rhododendron.  She uses her hiking staff much like a water divining rod – she learned old soul nature logic and navigation – map and compass not GPS style - from Grammy.  Jesse won’t let herself lose her way, she has done that once.
Jessie’s crisis began by lying to her dad in order to keep a guilty secret. Now she is isolated in her own tower of skin and bones.  No matter how many lost people she chases after and finds it will never make up for the one man she abandoned.        
The right side is not to tell a lie.  LEFT SIDE OF THE TRUTH is what Jessie will tell you now.

Tones go off announcing a BOLO.  The Rapid Beep Tone is a high priority call that alerts my rescue squad that we’re needed. 

“Jessie we’ve got a call, listen while I go pee,” said Aunt Celia.
The annoying alarm stops briefly for a rapid information dump from Tony, our dispatcher.  I resist the impulse to toss the pager out the window.  Trust me, it is tempting.  Turning up the volume all I catch is “… point last seen is Graveyard Fields.”  I wait, the best way to imprint the instructions is to listen with my eyes closed.  Completely still, I mentally tattoo everything I hear to my eyelids.  I have learned so much this summer. I’m getting directions for the middle of nowhere, yet I don’t find that weird.  Or at least I hope I’m not weird, I smile weakly. 
“Be on the Lookout for a missing person, possible runaway.  Meet at the Looking Glass trailhead for assignments.  Come prepared with 24 hour pack.”  Back in June, my reaction to the tones included an adrenaline dump.  I used to rush around getting ready for a call, but I totally spaced out on details like where I was supposed to go.  Now I deal with chaos differently.  I turn my hand up and reach to feel my pulse, about 110 beats per minute.  While my heart rate is pumping, I deliberately slow down.  I have changed sometime over the summer.  Now I know how to override that impulsive me.
I belong to the Boiling Springs Rescue Squad so they gave me the black box that can’t play music, text, or snap chat.  No one checks, but I have proof in my wallet.  The clear plastic pouch holds my driver’s license on one side and my EMT certificate on the other.  I might be the only high school student who gets to drive an ambulance.  Tonight I get to tromp around a dense forest looking for one little person lost and alone.  Sleep isn’t going to be an option, I should bring an extra stash of emergency chocolate. With all of my gear on I may blend in with the guys, but my squeaky voice gives me away.  I’m the only one on the team with a 1000 curfew; it’s waived for the summer.  I retrieve my pager from its charging station and zip it up in my backpack. 
“Aunt Celia let’s go already.”  I’m spending the summer with my aunt because my dad sent me to help out after she hurt herself.  I think it’s a conspiracy.  He wants to cure me from a bad case of teenageritis. 
The door to the solar composting toilet bangs shut.  That is my clue to start the car.  It cranks on the third try.  I go over my mental list of things I need: 
I want to make sure that I’m prepared.   
“Jessie, let’s go already,” Aunt Celia doesn’t notice that I’ve been waiting on her.  She begins to pull items from around her and stuffs things into her empty pack.  She doesn’t keep lists like I do.  She’ll build her pack on the way to the call.
“Crap on a cracker, Jessie.  Can you believe I forgot my Nalgeen?  Do you have a spare bottle?” 
“Sure Aunt Celia,” She doesn’t know that I plan for her to forget things.  I bring plenty of essentials for the two of us. 
“This is ‘citing,” I hope I get assigned to the dog team.”  Aunt Celia turns up the volume of the radio, heavy metal music notes spill out of our open windows.
“Aunt Celia we’re supposed to be the First Responders, not the loud responders.”  
Our Ricky Red light is attached at a jaunty angle to the car which allows us to legally speed along the rural road, I’m not scared.  I don’t expect to meet any one else along the way.  This is a small town.  Our motto is: “Boiling Springs we know where it is.” 
I’m glad that the emergency is not my own, this time. Four months ago, I was the BOLO.  I ran away.  It is hard to believe…I made a mistake, and then ran away.  I was desperate.  When I find the lost person, I can honestly say, “I know how it feels.”  It is easy to return to that moment back at Devil’s Cellar.  I wasn’t thinking about anything.  I remember…
I turn off my cell phone and tuck it into my back pocket.  The last text, “Jesse where are u.”  It’s over. I am on my own.  There is no do over button in life.  Trust me if there was, then I wouldn’t be standing here…at the top of Devil’s Cellar. 
I’ve never seen a bottomless hole for real.  I’m afraid of it, or more so what it signifies, an unknown in the category of quick sand and wild lobsters. Despite the absence of light, I am certain that if there is a bottom, then I’ll see it. 
I must get closer.  Crawling, I peer over the edge, demanding to see what the inside looks like.  Surely there is an end.   I toss a pebble and turn my ear inward to listen for it to hit bottom.  Nothing,…really… seriously?  Standing, darting around I find a hefty rock to toss in.  Heaving it lateral…
“Hey, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”  Interrupting my toss, the momentum of the rock carries me.  Stumbling I catch myself just before going over the edge.
“What the-“
“Don’t jump.” I hear a voice.
“You scared me, I almost fell in.”
“Isn’t that what you were trying to do?” asks a boy, draped in a poncho, he stepped away from the camouflaging wall of rhododendron.
“I wasn’t going to… jump or anything,” faltering, not sounding very convincing.   “I was trying to hear if my rock could hit the bottom.  It is bottomless, don’t you know?”
“Don’t lie, you know you want to.  Why else would you come up here? Don’t think I haven’t thought about it myself.”  Sinking to a moss covered perch, a few steps from nothingness; I squirm away from the question and vision of me tumbling head over heels.
“I need to get away…but I’m not ready for forever,” I said.
“Me too, that’s why I’m running away.”  He’s running away too?  I’m not the only one so tortured and misunderstood. I’m running away from my problems, but they followed me up here.  I wish I could toss them over the edge, but they have impaled me and I can’t go anywhere without taking them along.
“You’re running away too?  Where are you going?”
“That’s what I am here to figure out, hold this,” he said, handing me a rope.
“What’s the rope for?”
“I’m going through Devil’s Cellar.  Do you want to come?”
“You’re going in Devil’s Cellar?”  I almost said, “Is that safe?”  I never got to wear the sash, but I was a safety patrol want-to-be.  I’m so desperate to get away from my problems that I contemplated ending it all, or at least something, right here.  I’m not being very safe right now.  Awkwardly fatal I know, but that is why I need my list.
“Yep, that is my plan.”
“That’s not possible.  How are you going to get back?”
“Back where?  There is nothing left at home for me except problems.  I have to get away.  What about you?  What brings you up here to the capital of Doom and Gloom?  Considering we are both on top of Devil’s Cellar during a lightning storm I’ll bet there isn’t a lot of Kumbaya at your house either?”
“That’s true.” How does he know me so well when my family missed it entirely?
“I’m fixing to rappel down and go out the other end.  Wanna come?”
“No, that's crazy.”
               “Then at least I’ll know.  Make yourself useful.  Shine this light for me while I tie a couple of knots.  Bowline goes something like… make a hole, and then the bunny goes around a tree and back through the hole.”
               “Yes, I will go with you,” drawn into this boy’s conviction, I didn’t want to be left alone.  Running away plays out much more exciting and glamorous in my head.  I’m left dodging raindrops and micro monsters.  “No, I can’t go.”
               “You are confusing me.  Which is it?” he demanded, while shrugging his shoulders.
               “I can’t decide, because I’m such a mess.  Look at me.  I am this,” pointing to my orange hair.
“You are useless at shining the light where I need it, but no, you are not your hair.” Shaking his head, he takes the light from me, sticks it in his mouth and shines it on the rope spaghetti in his hands.
“Seriously I am a walking disaster.  I ruin everything.”
Handing back the wet-gloppy-saliva coated flashlight he said, “I think that will work but just in case, I’ll tie a couple of extra knots on the end.”
Flinging the saliva off my hand, I watch as the flashlight follows.  It catapults up, and then flops end over end beyond my grasp.  We both lean over and watch the light disappear.  Circling the drain, cloud vapors funnel around that hungry, gaping hole.  The flashlight is flushed beyond our grasp.  Shoulder to shoulder we lay down with our heads leaning over superman style.  It feels like we are flying above the gruesome shadows that replace the darkness.  A dim glow appears.
“That’s good to know.  It’s not my plan, but it works. I was going to lower the light in a controlled descent. I’m glad your way didn’t break it with the bounce.”
“Sorry,” I said wanting to take it back, everything back that I’ve done.
“That’s okay.  You didn’t mean it.  Let me know when you make up your mind because this train is leaving soon as I set up an anchor around one of these pine trees.  I can’t stop you from being a walking disaster.  That’s up to you.  I’m not joining your pity party.”  He walks his rope to the sturdiest looking tree.  The weathered, scrappy trees cling to any crevice.  I too continue to cling, hoping for a do over.  He is deliberate and sure, all I live with now is doubt.
“Rock,” he cups his hand and delivers a warning before heaving the rope into the hole.  The rope unfurls, whipping around the disappearing coil, faster and faster.  That is some deep hole.  A taunt tail remains behind, bending over the rough edge.  He sits with his legs dangling over what is in no way a pool.  Up above a light casts its net across the infinity edged sky, drawing back a catch of cumulus clouds. The light is strangely soothing.  But I could do without the…clenching my fist, pickling my eyes tight, I wait...KaBoom!  A hand grazes and comes to rest over mine.  He gives me a squeeze, a lifeline pulling me back into the present.  I link hands, feeling a smooth ring around his index finger with a rough, frayed border. Squinting from behind my closed eyes, I notice that it is a ring made up of that disappearing camo duct tape – weirdness.  The sap and scales from the pine tree transfer over to my hand bonding us momentarily, leaving a residue. The muffled sounds diminish in the distance.  And I peer over at his hand just as he withdraws.  Evidence remains in the warmth radiating through me – a palpable connection.  It is a gift I didn’t know that I needed.     
“That works better than I thought.  Piece of cake, do you want to go first or should I?”  I don’t deserve it but I crave his company even though we just met.  I don’t want him to leave me.
“The storm is getting closer,” I am the queen of stating obvious information gleaned from the simultaneous flash to crash ratio of lightning to thunder (my list does work sometimes when I stay off my phone and pay attention in Mr. D’s science class).  Surrounding us, that last strike came from the ground up.  This destination is shifting into a seriously scary place.  The hole on the other hand not so much.
“Maybe so, up here it is hard to tell because the storms circle.  We’re a perfect target for lightning.  That’s why I don’t carry an umbrella, too much metal.”
“What about all those climbing clippie things, aren’t they metal?”
“You’re talking about these carabineers?  I guess you’re right, didn’t think about it that way.  Come to think of it, I’m safe; because you and your braces can act like my lightning rod.”
“I’m not scared.  Lightning used to be one of my heebie-jeebies.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Clark Rev 2

Name:  Mari Clark
Genre:  YA Mystery


When Travis’s father, an expert on electromagnetism, is lured to Barbados to research whether a bizarre particle accelerator that a billionaire built is linked to a plane crash and other anomalies, Travis begs to tag along—for surfing, not science. The only waves sixteen-year-old Travis cares about are ones he can ride.

After arriving on the island, Travis hears a disturbing rumor: The billionaire was conducting brain-wave experiments on his autistic teenage son to “cure” him. No one knows for sure since the billionaire died in a troubling accident and his son vanished.

Travis, believing his father is being lied to and is in danger, teams up with the attractive daughter of an island businessman and a West Indian surfer to help find their missing friend, the autistic teen. Besides possessing first-hand knowledge of the machine, the billionaire’s son knows what really happened to his father. Problem is, the colonel in charge of the investigation is also hell-bent on finding the boy to unlock his brain and discover how to turn his father’s invention into a military weapon. 

Travis and his friends must find the teen first before the nefarious colonel gains the power to unleash a tsunami of destruction. 


When I’m on my board waiting to catch a wave, I don’t care how buoyancy counteracts gravity to keep me afloat. If I launch myself into the air for a jump shot, I’m not concerned with the mechanics of lift. And if I’d been a passenger on Flight #111, I wouldn’t have spent my last seconds wondering which one of Newton’s three laws of motion was responsible for plummeting my plane into the Atlantic. 

Three weeks ago, Flight #111 from London to Barbados went down—and I can’t stop thinking about it. When my time comes, I hope my final wipeout is aboard my custom-made Firewire because that’s how I want to go out. My father, on the other hand, will probably be calculating pitch angles and contemplating g-forces on his deathbed.

My dad’s a good guy. His ability to solve complex electromagnetic wave problems is the reason we’re in Barbados. The strange anomalies on this island are a career opportunity for him and good luck for me—he’s letting me tag along to surf.

“Come on, Travis. The ocean will still be there on the other side of the airport.” My father drops a hand on my shoulder and turns me away from the water.

An orange-vested worker directs us inside the terminal and that’s when the emptiness hits me. The line at immigration? We breeze through. Shops and kiosks? Half of them are shuttered. The only movement is a lone baggage carousel snaking around, readying itself to spit out luggage. 

Despite the doomsday feeling, I’m not worried. Lack of tourists is expected after a psycho billionaire builds a weird-ass machine that causes a plane to crash.

Finally, an official-looking suit scurries up with two others trailing behind. The Minister of the Interior and his entourage have arrived. “Apologies, Dr. Hutchinson. Last minute political shenanigans,” he says, pumping my father’s hand. 

One of the two men shadowing comes over and picks up my duffle, and the other one grabs my father’s laptop case and carryon. The two men are much younger, maybe not even that much older than me. I offer up a fist-bump to the one closest. “Thanks, dude, but I can manage.”

The guy flashes a crooked-tooth grin. “No worries.” He eyes my Warriors jersey and mimes throwing a ball into a basket. 

For a sixteen-year-old, I’m tall. And unlike the rest of my family, sports are my thing. “Yep,” I say. “I play b-ball. You play? Who’s your favorite? Please don’t say LeBron.”

The guy shakes his head no to my first question and answers “Jeremy Lin” to my second. Only, it sounds like “Jar-uh-me Lean.” 

I love this accent. Back home, girls would be all over this. More importantly, Jess would be on it. I wonder if I’ll pick it up while I’m here. “He’s great. By the way, I’m Travis.” 

“Nigel,” he says, sticking out his hand. The other guy introduces himself as Alastair. 

“Cool. Uh, excuse me a minute,” I say, spotting a sign for the men’s room.

As soon as I enter the empty bathroom, I take out my cellphone with a slight nagging of guilt. I’d been lectured ad nauseam by my mom about limiting my texting and downloading. 

I text Jess anyway. 

Instead of getting on my case, my mom should be thankful I even have friends since she and my dad moved me and my sister across the country in the middle of my junior year!

I’ve only made two real connections since moving from Cali to Boston. Here’s hoping one of them—Jess—isn’t “just a friend” much longer.

Me:  This place as happening as Griffith Park Zoo. Or Dodger Stadium postseason.

Jess answers right away:  Wha? Where r u?

I shake my head, amused. Jess doesn’t always get my SoCal references. Good thing she’s so damn adorable.

Me: Ocean looks amazing. Epic waves. Can’t wait to surf. 

Jess:  Send me pic of beach so I can drool.

Me:  Only if u send one of u so I can drool. 

Hesitating a moment before adding Lol, I hit send. 

I rub my fingers over the fake tattoo on my wrist—ocean waves, circled by a short, cryptic poem. Jess drew that last night after she showed up at my house while I was packing. I’d spent the better part of our flight here trying to decipher its meaning, figuring if I stare at it long enough it’ll tell me whether we can take this relationship past the friend zone.

After our bags arrive, we breeze through customs and exit the terminal, heading for the deserted parking lot. Nigel piles our bags and my board in the back of a black SUV while Alastair takes the right-side driver’s seat. 

We pass miles of green sugarcane fields. When I spot a sign for Soup Bowl, my heart flip-flops. According to Surfline, my go-to guide, the foamy break known as Soup Bowl is unpredictable. Sometimes you get decent sets. Sometimes you get close-out waves. But it’s a notorious spot I’ve been wanting to surf forever. 

The Minister says something to Nigel, who turns and hands the local island newspaper with the headline “Devil’s Playground” splattered across the front. 

My father skims the newspaper article, while I subtly read over his shoulder. I catch a few key words and phrases—Satan’s sinkhole, baffling billionaire, mysterious magnetic machine—before my father folds the paper and passes it back to the Minister. 

We cruise by half-built houses and colorful shacks. We pass a rum shack, a stone church, a cemetery, and a chicken farm. A Rastafarian sitting alongside the highway leans against a Coca-Cola billboard, waving at cars—stoned out of his mind or friendly. Either way, I’m digging this. Occasionally, my nose is assaulted by the burned-toast smell of cane fields on fire. I recognize the aroma from our Hawaiian vacation a few years back. 

A few minutes later, the Minister announces, “We’re here.”

Awesome. We’ve arrived at the wacko billionaire’s compound. I lean forward, anxious to finally see what’s left of Peter Knightsbridge’s crazy-ass machine.

My father notices my excitement. “I’ve never seen you so enthused about a reception,” he observes.

“Reception?” I repeat, like an idiot.

“Weren’t you listening?” He takes off his glasses and frowns. 

No, not really “Uh, sure.” I’d been too distracted by the Soup Bowl sign, picturing myself riding some epic waves. “The reception’s here?”

He shakes his head in exasperation. “This is the home of Ian Van Stiles.” My father finishes wiping the lenses and looks at me like I’m supposed to know who that is.

 “I’m not sure that name sounds familiar,” I slowly say the words, gauging my father’s reaction as to how pissed he is I wasn’t paying attention.

“He’s one of the wealthiest men on the island.” When I continue looking puzzled, he adds, “He’s funding the investigation.”

“Sorry, drawing a blank.”

My father rolls his eyes. “The Minister mentioned he has an attractive daughter about your age.”

“Oh, yeah?” 

“Van Stiles is throwing a shindig to welcome us to the island.” He cuts his eyes to the Minister. “Isn’t that nice?”

Unlike my mom who uses sarcasm as a weapon—when she says something she means ironically, you damn well know it by the tone of her voice—I can never tell whether my dad is serious. I’m guessing . . . not. 

I shoot a thumbs-up sign to the Minister anyway. “A party. Great.”

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Meyn Rev 2

Name: Colleen Meyn
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Magical Assignment Ceremony

It is the first book in a trilogy that explores life as a Little Person, or leprechaun, with mischief dominating the day.

Dave’s Magic Ceremony revolves around a hyperactive young leprechaun whose emotions are a fizzy mixture of excitement, hope, and dread on his fateful ceremony day. He dreams of glory and adventure, but when his sister suggests that he could be a cobbler, Dave is haunted by images of being trapped indoors, holding still all day.

Determined to prove that he is capable of any job, even the coveted gold hunter job, he uses an unpredictable magic spell to find a pot of gold; but when he finds it, mayhem breaks out as his leprechaun magic collides with water sprite magic.

Dave gets in trouble once more when he is caught red-handed disrespecting the sacred fairy mound by Fairy Brighid, the ceremony conductor. She is boiling with fury and she holds the power to determine his fate… suddenly nothing is certain.

This story is set in the rolling hills of Ireland, and runs about 15,000 words. It is a fantasy story geared toward young readers in 1st-3rdgrades. 

Dave’s stomach growled. The familiar smell of hot black tea and oatmeal tormented his empty belly. He ran down the hall to the small oval kitchen.

Dave the leprechaun lived with his family in the hollowed out base of an old oak tree.  He loved to listen to birds chirp in the nest high above him.  The tiny kitchen window allowed the sound to carry easily into the kitchen, creating a musical background every morning.

“Finally, I get to go through the ceremony! Today it’s my turn.” Dave said to his heroic big brother, Sean. The magic assignment ceremony fascinated Dave.

Sean looked up from the table and grinned, “Tired of waiting?”

His sister Morgan tossed her fiery red hair and smiled, “It only took 325 years.”

Dave nodded, too nervous to laugh.

He stretched his skinny arm over the counter to grab a bowl of steaming hot oatmeal. He sprinkled some brown sugar and butter on top. His stomach rumbled again. Dave shot a look at the table, and then sprinkled on extra sugar when no one was looking. 

His emotions were a fizzy mixture of excitement, hope, and dread.  He looked at his brother and sister sitting at the table and said, “You don’t think I’ll be a cobbler do you?” 

They laughed at his comment. Sean’s laugh was full of life and confident as usual; but, Morgan’s laugh come out much too loud and shrill, as her throat constricted with remembered dread. The traditional job as cobbler haunted active leprechauns like a wild mustang captured and put into a stall would be trapped without freedom to run, without sunlight, without the comradery of his herd.

Morgan raised one eyebrow in enquiry and crossed her arms.  She said, “Why not? You’d be good at making shoes.”

Dave frowned. A
 small seed of doubt crept into his mind. He started sweating.
“Really? Me? Stuck inside all day making shoes…”

Dave trailed off and looked at Sean for support. The possibility of being pronounced a cobbler at the ceremony tonight was eating him alive.  

His adolescent voice cracked into a childish, high-pitched whine as he said, “It’s boring work! Never seeing anyone or doing anything fun.” 

Sean furrowed his brow in concern as he watched him struggle; the blood drained from his tan face and his eyes were wide with fright.

Dave imagined the cobblers he knew: they were pale, with scraggly beards and their bellies were round as a pot from sitting all day. Dave shuddered as he imagined himself forced to work indoors forever.

Sean felt sorry for his little brother, “Nah, not you. Ma named you after the famous American Leprechaun.”

Dave exhaled. “Whew.” He leaned back in his chair. “Yeah, he traveled to America and worked with the Irish immigrants, right?”

Sean nodded; his thick brown hair fell over his eyes.

Dave sat up straight and squared his shoulders. He said, “Maybe I’ll do that too.”

At this outrageous statement, they all burst into laughter. Dave the American leprechaun had been the only leprechaun to leave Ireland, but it was fun to imagine one of them famous like him.

Dave took a big bite of oatmeal and chomped noisily on it.  His right leg jiggled restlessly and rocked the table; and the bowls to rattled making an awful racket.

Sean punched Dave’s leg, “Stop it.”

Dave smiled and instantly obeyed. He asked, “What happens during the ceremony? Does it hurt when she uses magic to determine the job?”

The magical assignment ceremony fascinated Dave. Ever since Sean went through the ceremony, Dave had dreamed of going through it too.

Dave said, “I’m dying here.” He put his spoon down. “Tell me something!”

Morgan said, “For the hundredth time Dave, it’s a secret. The only thing you are allowed to know is that Fairy Brighid will use magic to determine your job.”

“Come on Morgan! Everyone knows that!” Dave leaned forward and stared intently at Morgan for a few moments.

She broke eye contact and stared at the table; sympathetic with his desperation, but forced into silence by the magic enchantment at the end of the ceremony, she was frustrated.

Sean smacked Dave, “Drop it.”

“OW!” Dave rubbed his neck and glared at Sean.

His stomach rumbled. He gulped down his breakfast and imagined what the ceremony would be like. The Fairy Glen would be vibrating with magic, a deep gut-throbbing sensation that would make him feel stronger and more powerful. It would have magnificent black horses or gleaming white unicorns, a gold throne, and a center of magic like a fairy ring too.

Dave’s chomped on his oatmeal while a goofy grin covered his face.

Sean interrupted his thoughts, “You have that look again.  Are you dreaming of chocolate?”

Dave laughed, “Yeah. I was imagining a river of chocolate milk and bags of chocolate hidden at the magic ceremony.”

Sean and Morgan exchanged looks and burst into laughter. They laughed until their sides ached. Then the clock chimed 8 am. They stood up,  and headed towards the door, ready go to work.

Dave hurried to finish breakfast. He pushed back from the table, and his chair scraped across the wood floor with a screech.

His brother and sister crowded around the wood door, which had good luck runes carved in the shape of Celtic knots. The runes protected the house from discovery by the Fear Mor, or humans, as the leprechauns called the big men.

Sean ruffled Dave’s messy hair, “Up to no good Rascal?”

Dave smiled, “You know it!”

He ran outside, and then skid to a halt, confronted with a leprechaun’s worst nightmare. A deep footprint from a Fear Mor, or human, was in the mud right outside of the door. The tread was slowly filling with rain. The footprint was as long as Dave was tall, a little over twelve inches. It was deeper than his fingers were tall.

This footprint was huge.  It must be a man, thought Dave.

Dave looked around, trying to see through the heavy fog. It was no use. The fog cloaked the terrain, hiding everything from sight. Thoughts raced through Dave’s mind. Was he still near? Did he hear us talking?

Dave crouched by the giant footprint and held his breath. He closed his eyes, and listened for any unusual sounds. Nothing. Not a single sound, not even the birds chirped.

Frightened, Dave leapt inside, knocking Morgan over as he burst through the door. Safely hidden the protective runes on the door, Dave exhaled.

Morgan scrambled to her feet and shoved Dave. “Watch out!”

Dave’s hand shook as he pointed at the footprint and whispered, “Look.”

Instantly, the atmosphere in the house changed as they all looked out the door.  Sean quietly closed the door.

He asked Dave, “Did you see him?”

Dave shook his head, “No. I couldn’t hear anything either.”

Morgan looked at Sean. She asked, “Should hide?”

They all feared a life of slavery to the Fear Mor. Their Ma had been captured when Dave was very young. She had never returned. The threat loomed over their daily lives.

Sean walked to the window and looked out. “We better wait for a bit, then go to work. The birds will let us know when it’s safe to come out.”

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Boyce Rev 2

Amanda Boyce
YA Fantasy
Dragon Slayers

Jayde has been taught to hunt and kill dragons from the age of eight—she is a Dragon Slayer, and the first female of her kind. As protectors of their realm, Slayers should be respected by humans, but after centuries of peace from dragons their reign is failing and the people cry out for the first human king in millennia. War is coming. And dragons have returned to the land of Celedonia, burning towns and killing human and Slayer alike.

When she first meets Kail, a Slayer with a rare case of amnesia, Jayde has no idea how her life is about to change. She never expects to have the possibility of a normal life. She never expects to learn a startling new truth about dragons—or about a powerful dark magic brewing in the land.

1st 5 Pages:
A forest was ablaze with dragon fire, the air choked with belching smoke and the aroma of burning wood. Chaos reigned as people tried to find cover from the dragon's destructive wrath. Jayde watched from above in alarm, almost missing the six Slayers below the trees until they began shouting orders, trying to protect as many humans as they could. They stood their ground as a blood red dragon the size of a small house came into view, its spiked snout and multicolored scales glimmering in the moonlight.

She had no idea where in Celedonia they were; the wooden structures that peppered the trees like ornaments, connecting tree to tree were unfamiliar. A pang of shock coursed through her when she caught a glimpse one of the Slayers through the dense canopy of leaves, his radiant grass green eyes that rivaled her own shining up at her. She wanted to call out to him, tell him to run, but there wasn’t any time and she knew he would never hear her in the uproar surrounding them. Each Slayer took aim with an arrow just as the dragon shot a torrential jet of flames in their direction, blocking all from Jayde's view.

Screams of pain and horror resounded in her head and all went black. She opened her eyes to an entirely different scene: she was eight and Caius was teaching her to use a bow. The wind caressed the trees, bringing the sweet sent of blossoming magnolia and cherry to Jayde's nose before sweeping through her long auburn hair. She nocked an arrow and took a deep breath as she pulled the arrow back to her cheek. Her aim was good, the arrow whistling the sixty yards and embedding its tip in the center ring of her target.

A thought nagged at her, an idea. She let fly another half a dozen arrows then stopped suddenly to look up at Caius. His long grey beard danced in the wind. He looked down at her, waiting as though he expected her next words.

"I had another dream about a dragon," she said, confessing. "Is it wrong that I don't want to kill them?" She gazed up at the blue sky. "I want to fly with them."

The corner of Caius's mouth twitched. "Do you think it's wrong?"

She shook her head as the words, "But I'm a dragon Slayer," came tumbling out of her mouth. "How can I love dragons and kill them?"

His eyes like opals watched her for long minutes, never wavering.  "Perhaps you'll do both."

Jayde woke with a start, lurching upright and gasping for breath. She felt as though she was still in that forest with the dragon--clearly just a dream--even though her unconscious mind seemed to have conjured a nearly forgotten memory of Caius and shooting a bow in an effort to calm her. Why that memory? she wondered. And why had he been so kind in her dream? In her waking memory he was never so loving.

It hardly mattered now. She was already reliving the first dream, the vivid smell of smoke, the roar of flames and screams in her ears, and Micah's green eyes.

She shuddered.

Normally she relished her dreams of dragons, but this one, oh, Gods. Micah’s appearance had to be a coincidence. He'd been on her mind almost daily after his letter a month ago, and she'd dreamed of him plenty of times before. But this one felt different, more real somehow. Unable to bear the thought of anything happening to him, she shook the horrible vision from her mind and took a deep breath thankful the morning air smelled smoke free.

Her heart slowed as she focused on the mountains in the distance bleached of color in the pre-dawn light, Gabriel’s house a short walk away, small plumes of smoke emanating from the chimney, peaceful in its familiarity. A sparrow announced the day from one of the trees overhead; she always slept near trees when she could. It was a habit she formed early on with Caius even though her mother liked to remind her she had a perfectly good bed in her room. Caius never asked her to, but he slept outside so she slept outside. Now she almost felt claustrophobic sleeping indoors. She closed her eyes and dug her fingers into the damp earth--one of Caius's remedies to ground her after a nightmare.

She thought of Micah, his reassuring smile, his strong jaw, his comforting voice. He'd written that he had exciting news and he wanted to see her, to tell her in person. She could imagine him telling her he had requested to switch hunting teams to be with her, that he wanted to start a life with her. Daemyn stirred nearby, popping her fantasy bubble. She opened her eyes slowly.

"Another nightmare?" he guessed, his dark hair sticking up at the back of his head. She nodded and explained about the red dragon and the Slayers.

He stared at her, nonplussed. "Sounds like Cathal's team," he finally said. Daemyn was a few years older than she was, but she still felt like she might as well be his third older sister.

"Don't worry," she said. "I'm sure it's not real. It's just a dream." But then, Jayde didn't have normal dreams. Daemyn, along with the two leaders of their team, Matthias and Gabriel, had never witnessed one of Jayde's dreams come to fruition, but they all knew from Caius's explanations the previous year it was only a matter of time.

"It couldn't be real," she said more to herself than to Daemyn. "I mean, a dragon attacking U'Aste; it's not possible." The idea of a dragon openly attacking and burning down a city anywhere in Celedonia seemed absurd. Such an event hadn't happened in a century. There were still occasional sightings, of course, but the last one had been over eleven years ago when it killed Jayde's father. Caius had been the one to tell the then five year old Jayde and her twin brother Aiken that their father was never coming back.

"Why is it," she asked Caius once, "that we have to be trained as Slayers if there aren't any dragons to slay?"

He didn't respond immediately and Jayde thought she might have insulted him somehow. To her relief he set aside his bow which he had been polishing and he answered, "There will always be dragons, good and bad. There will always be some sort of threat, and humans will always need protecting. Slaying dragons is not our only duty." He paused, picked up a small pebble, and began smoothing it between his fingers brushing away the dirt, his pale eyes gazing ahead lost in some unknown recess of thought. "Do you remember what your mother said about her crops yesterday?"

"That they lost their taste," Jayde said immediately. She only remembered because she hadn't noticed a difference in the taste of the potatoes and vegetables on her plate until her mother said something.

Caius looked down a the pebble in his hand. "There may come a day when not just the people of Celedonia need protecting, but also the land itself. Healing this land may require magic only the dragons have. We'll want them on our side. They'll know whether we've passed on our knowledge generation to generation; whether we've used these gifts we've been given. Do you think they'd appreciate the waste of not using the strength and the speed and the healing abilities that their blood passed along to you?"

Jayde had never thought of her abilities in such a way before and she did well never to forget the blood of dragons ran through her veins. Only shortly after their conversation Jayde's body began to change, forever marking her as "other", making it impossible to forget where half of her blood came from, especially when she had a twin. "Your ears are pointed!" Aiken noticed one day, aghast. He reached out tentatively to touch the tip of her ear. "Like father's."

"And like Caius's," she said. "He told me my skin will change too. It will get thicker and tougher like his." She'd been excited then, but it was only the first of many changes that slowly separated her from her brother.

Daemyn cleared his throat, scattering her thoughts. "Well, even if it hasn't happened, it might still happen in the future, right?"

Jayde shrugged and brushed the dirt from her hands. "That was Caius's theory." She pulled parchment and a quill that contained a store of ink (one of Caius's inventions) from her bag and began recording her latest dream.

Months after he began her training, Caius voiced the suspicion that Jayde's dreams were prophetic. Over time they both realized that like Caius, Jayde had visions of the future. Though less intrusive than Caius's abrupt visions, Jayde's dreams were also not as obvious or as easy to remember, so Caius instructed her to keep a record of her dreams. Each of her collections of parchment were a testament to the fact that most of her occasional prophetic dreams were personal in nature--how their cat died, Aiken getting caught for stealing at the market, Caius coming to visit when she and Aiken were eight. (At the time she thought he was there to train Aiken. No one was more surprised than she was to learn she was the first female dragon Slayer.) She was not accustomed to far-reaching dreams involving places in Celedonia she'd never seen and people she'd never met. She had to admit, however, that a prophetic dream of Micah was just as personal as one of her brother, and as she finished writing all she could remember her stomach twisted painfully at the thought that there was a possibility her dream might actually happen.

She hoped to the Gods it never would.