Monday, March 28, 2016

Free 1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens on Saturday, April 2!

Our April workshop will open for entries on Saturday April 2, at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (We are no longer taking New Adult entries.) 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 wonderful permanent mentors, we have author Estelle Laure and agent Rachel Burkot!

So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!

April Guest Mentor: Estelle Laure

Estelle Laure is a Vonnegut worshipper who believes in love and magic and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theater Arts from New Mexico State University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and thinks everyone should have to wait tables or work in a kitchen at least once in their lives. She lives in Taos, New Mexico with her children.

Can the best thing happen at the worst time?

Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she's about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend's brother.

It was chosen as a 2015 BEA editor’s pick buzz book as well as a Panassus Book Club Selection.

Available wherever books are sold, including:


Add it to your shelf on Goodreads.

April Guest Mentor - Rachel Burkot

Rachel Burkot has been in the publishing industry since 2009. After completing an internship with two literary agencies, reading mostly young adult and thrillers, she then worked as an editor for Harlequin, acquiring category romance, contemporary romance, multicultural romance and women’s fiction. She has decided to transition her skills to the agenting world in order to be an advocate and champion for her authors because she loves finding new talent and helping authors’ dreams of publication come true.

Rachel’s career highlights include helping her authors achieve prestigious romance book nominations and two selective awards, including the National Readers Choice Award, and several top reviews in Romantic Times magazine for her books.

Rachel is drawn to voice-driven fiction, particularly in young adult; quirky, three-dimensional, flawed characters, including and especially secondary characters; beautiful writing; books that explore good people in morally complicated situations; and complex, detailed plots.

Rachel is interested in representing:- Women’s fiction
- Upmarket/book club fiction, i.e., Emily Giffin, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain
- Young adult (no fantasy or paranormal unless it’s very light)
- Contemporary romance, i.e., Kristan Higgins
- Category romance with unique, memorable plots, i.e., Natalie Charles
- Southern fiction
- “Dark” women’s fiction/thrillers, i.e., Gillian Flynn or Mary Kubica
- Urban fiction
- Literary fiction

Follow Rachel on Twitter at @Rachel_Burkot.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

1st 5 Pages April Workshop Opens in 1 Week!

Our April workshop will open for entries in one week, on Saturday, April 2 at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (We are no longer taking New Adult entries.) 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 wonderful permanent mentors, we have author Estelle Laure and agent Rachel Burkot!

So get those pages ready . . . we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy writing and revising!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Thanks to our March 1st 5 Pages Mentors and Participants!

I am sad to say that our 1st 5 Pages March Workshop has come to an end. We had such a great group of talented and supportive writers! And wow – did they revise! And a big thanks to our guest mentors, author Sarah Fine and agent Nicole Tourtelot! They both provided such helpful critiques. If you haven’t checked out Sarah’s books you should – they’re wonderful! I just finished THE IMPOSTOR QUEEN and I loved it!

And as always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month. Congratulations to our mentor Janet B. Taylor, whose debut YA, INTO THE DIM, was published on March 1. I adored every page of the historical time-travel adventure!

Our April workshop will open for entries on Saturday, April 2 at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (We are no longer taking New Adult entries.) Clickhere 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.

So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy writing (and revising!)


Sunday, March 20, 2016

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Sullivan Rev 2

Mary Sullivan

Young Adult

The Jade Quest

Claire has one goal: find her parents. They disappeared from her mom’s archaeology site in Belize.

Preston’s plans are less lofty. He wants to get high and snorkel until his fugitive father notices he’s gone.

This unlikely duo pair up when they meet on their flight to Central America. Preston figures helping a pretty girl on a mysterious quest is a worthier diversion from his family’s dysfunction, and Claire needs his ex-pat’s knowledge of the country. Before long, they discover Claire’s parents were hunting a jade mask stolen from the site.

They follow clues into an ancient Maya cave, to a dangerous antiquities smuggler, and through the rabbit hole of her parents’ personal lives. Nothing is what is seems, including Claire’s family story. The closer they get to the truth, the further Claire feels from her childhood. Preston can relate. The pair discover love and friendship are more enduring than any unearthed ghosts of the past.



It’s 3:45 p.m. and they’re expecting me to get off the school bus in fifteen minutes. When I don’t, the shelter will send an alert to Indiana law enforcement and school officials. It’s their legal responsibility. I’m officially a ward of the state.

But it won’t matter because by the time they figure out I’m really gone, I’ll just be another tourist or student or stranger in Belize.

I shove open the shade covering the tiny window at seat 8A. The sun is shining over the Caribbean, gleaming off waves rippling over the reef below. I peer into the water—would I even notice something floating on the surface from way up here?

My pulse rate instantly rises, so I dig my nails into the arm rest of the airline seat and smack the shade down. I need to stay calm. I should clear customs in half an hour.

After that, it doesn’t matter how many reports the shelter files. Once the paperwork’s in and they’ve covered their butts, it’ll be, “Whatever happened to that girl? The one whose parents disappeared? I hard she transferred.” Something like that.

Still, my parents’ situation is famous enough—or it was a couple of months ago—that getting through customs unnoticed might be difficult. The story was probably even bigger down here since this is where mom and dad went missing.

“You’re awake,” says the kid to my right.

I finally really look at him. Tall. Lean. He’s got a haircut that requires styling. Like a flat iron and product. And he’s got a Prada backpack. Prada backpack. On the way to a developing country. I give him a half nod and put my earbuds back in.

He’s staring. I feel it. I glance over and catch him watching me. His eyes are almost turquoise. I turn away quickly. Boys with highlights (I swear that’s what it looks like) don’t normally pay attention to me.

Which is fine.

What’s he doing on this flight anyway? It’s a school day.

The plane will be landing soon. If the school didn’t buy my excused absence story, they could have already alerted the shelter. What if passport control’s waiting for me? I’m all my family has left, and there’s no Plan B. At least that stupid freshmen yearbook photo plastered all over the news doesn’t even look like me.

“Are you by yourself?” he asks. “What are you down here for?”

This guy’s not taking a hint. I sigh. Fine, I’ll consider it a dress rehearsal. “Study abroad.” I try to shrug like it’s no big deal, but my shoulders jerk up awkwardly and my voice sounds half an octave higher.

“It’s the middle of the semester.”


“Weird time to study abroad.”

My chest feels hot. Why does he care? I’ve sat here minding my own business since I changed planes in Atlanta. I even thought he was cute, but that’s when he was asleep. And watching his movie. And silent.

I peek at the ocean again from under the shade. Just water and coral, as far as I can see.

“They” told me not to worry. Search and rescue’s on it, which I believed. I also thought the media coverage would help the cause. How often do little puddle jumper, three-seater airplanes go missing? “They” also said the charter service mom and dad hired out of Belize City had a great safety record and the pilot was top notch.

So you can imagine my surprise when “they” not only called off the search mission, but barely over a month later some a-hole judge declares them dead.

“What school are you going to?”

“Does it matter?” I snap, turning toward him. His skin is smooth and clear, his nose is straight, and I think he’d have dimples if he smiled. He looks air-brushed. I can’t turn away. His symmetry has me mesmerized. This gets on my nerves too.

“It doesn’t. I was just talking to you.”

I twist the cord of my iPod around my finger. “I’m not having the best day, okay?”

“Parents making you? Enrichment or other such bullshit?”


“Study abroad.”

“Uh, yeah.” I remove my earbuds. “Is that what you’re doing too?”

“No. I live here. With my dad. Mother summoned me state-side but now I remember why I chose to live with him.”


“He doesn’t know I’m coming back early, so I figure I’ve got five days to smoke a pound of ganja in peace before I’m subjected to his half-assed attempts at good parenting.”

“Oh.” I fold and unfold my hands. “Won’t your mom tell your dad that you left early?”

He smooths back an unseen stray hair. “Um, no. See, she wants me to do her dirty work and tell him she’s getting remarried. I don’t want the emotional backlash either, so I’m headed to the cayes.” He cracks his knuckles. “Snorkeling high is so intense. Like you’re inside an aquarium.”

This is now his second drug reference.

“So what school?” He asks again.

Here’s the thing: mom and dad came to Belize to check on her archaeology site, not to go around renting airplanes. They don’t do stuff like that. I tried explaining this. Their plane didn’t crash, it vanished. Kind of a big difference.

So what school am I allegedly going to? My mind is blank.

Then I remember the last time I was in Belize, a couple years ago. On our way to the airport, mom pointed at a building and said if she had to extend her archaeological fieldwork into the next school year, I could go there.

A flight attendant comes by with customs forms. As I reach for one, I smile at the kid next to me. It’s a triumphant smile. “I’m going to the International School. In Belmopan.”

After I lend him a pen, he finally stays quiet while we fill out our forms. The plane’s on its final descent. I put my tray table away and reopen the shade. The water’s closer now. It looks like we’re skating on it. From my side I can see Belize City, its urban sprawl hugging the coastline.

I press my shoulder blades against the seatback in anticipation of landing. The runway looks like it’s in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. I take a deep breath and almost smile. At least I’m finally doing something.

“Dude. No more than thirty days,” he whispers. With his head close to my face, I can smell his cologne. It’s subtle and nice and it annoys me that I like it.

I raise an eyebrow.

He points at my customs form, gripped between my fingers. I can’t believe he can read my tiny block letters. I’ve gottwo months written by the intended length of stay in Belize question. Big deal.

He leans over again. I can’t place the exact scent. “They only stamp you in for thirty days. They might give you shit about a visa if you say more.” He straightens up as the flight attendant walks by, as though she’s a librarian and we’re in the stacks instead of on a plane.

Panic seizes my throat, like someone’s gripping it. “Thirty days? But the semest—”

“Whatever. I don’t care why you’re really here, but I’m telling you: 30 days.”

1st 5 Pages March Workhop - Viner-Daniels Rev 2

Name: Sarah Viner-Daniels
Genre: Young adult, dystopia
Title: Landfall

16 year old Esther knows she has to look out for herself. She was born on the Arcadia, a shanty town grown from the rusting hull of a cruise ship. Life aboard can be dangerous. Resources are scarce, gangs fight for power and no one can leave without permission. At least Esther has a chance at escape. If she works hard and stays out of trouble she’ll win a place at medical school on shore, and leave the dangers and privations of her childhood behind.

Her dreams of a different life are threatened when Esther is kidnapped and forced to save the life of a teenage boy. She survives, but the repercussions of that night can’t be left behind. A gang leader puts a price on her head. She learns that her sister is determined to join an illegal rebel group. The Coalies, a brutal armed unit sent aboard by the government, have her in their sights. And the person she trusts the most is following her every move.

As government forces close in on the ship and her dreams slip further away, Esther must choose: fight for herself, or fight for her people.  


Sunday 19.00 Federal Standard Time

Gentle-moderate westerly wind


Expect small wavelets

A gust lifts the edges of my homework and threatens to blow the sheets over the rail and into the sea. That’s the last thing I need. I don't want to pull an all-nighter, and I definitely don’t want to explain to Harry why I can’t turn in my assignment. This close to graduation I can’t afford to let my grades slip.

I weigh the loose pages down with what remains of my dinner: a pile of teardrop mussel shells that rattle against each other, topped off with a crust of stale bread. Goose flesh puckers the skin on my arms so I shake out the blanket from the back of my chair and wrap it around my shoulders. It itches like it’s crawling with bugs.

The Lookout draws people in like moths whenever the wind brings icy fingers from the Atlantic. It’s the only place on board you can go for sit down food or a hot drink. The cafe is held up on a wide disc of planks, open to the sky and hanging over the water like a balcony. The coffee stinks, I’m sure they reuse the grounds. But it's the view I come for. Every butt-chilling metal chair faces the city. Tonight the sun is slung low behind the skyscrapers, creating a jagged silhouette dotted with hundreds of home fires burning. The government’s eyes, humming white drones sewn onto the sky, keep watch to see that no one swims ashore. Up here, I can forget the waves that separate me from the city.

At least I’ve got a shot. Other people are trapped here for life. My test scores were adequate. My family showed their loyalty. And the government judged me promising enough to educate. Of course I’ll never be a full citizen. Wherever I go they’ll keep track of me with a GPS implant, legged and spider-like under my skin. But it’s got to be better than spending my days here, in this shanty town that grew up from the carcass of a cruise ship.

A ping tells me I have a message waiting. A joyful noise for bad tidings. It’ll be Mum wanting to know my location. A glance at the scuffed plastic comband around my wrist confirms it. “Esther, it’s almost dark. Are you in?”     

I’ve stayed too long. Again. Sighing (louder than I’d dare if Mum was here), I wipe my buttery fingers on a napkin and tap out a lie: “With Alex, home soon.” I pull the strap of my medical bag onto my shoulder and stuff the pages of homework inside, trying hard to stamp on the irritation that’s already picking at me. Mum will moan the second I walk through the door, saying I need to be more careful. Tread quietly. Lower my eyes. And never stay out once it gets dark. Mum wraps her worries around me and May until we can barely breathe. I want to say that I already button my waxed jacket up under my chin, and that I never wear my hair loose, but it wouldn’t do any good.

I weave a path between the sticky plastic covered table tops, heading for the exit. There’s a yell from the walkway on the next level so I look up, just in time to see a pale hand clutching a small white rectangle. The rectangle swings through the air, shattering into a hundred sheets of paper that drift out and down towards the Lookout. The sheets catch the last dregs of the day’s light as they fall, making them glow.

Hands are already grabbing at the white leaves before their arcs meet the ground. Paper litters the floor and tabletops, a black and white snowdrift lined with text.

I anchor my feet to the deck. I should leave now. I shouldn’t even think about reading the message. Getting busted for possession of propaganda would blow any chance I have of getting into med school. But then, all the other customers are taking the chance. A quick glance can’t do any harm.

Crouching, I snatch a leaflet that’s laying against the toe of my boot. My hand trembles. I face the sea and hunch my shoulders, shielding the forbidden rectangle of paper from the view of anyone aboard. With a shake in my fingers I uncurl the leaflet and flatten it against my palm. It’s a photocopy of a newspaper report. There’s a blurred photo of a cruise ship underneath words in blocks of black: OASIS OF THE SEA CLEARED.

“Coalies!” someone shouts behind me.

The leaflet I’m clutching could be a cinder straight from the stove, I drop it as fast.
A whimper rises from the cafe’s patrons. People let leaflets fall from their hands. Steel chairs screech against the metal deck. Still steaming drinks are abandoned. Half eaten sandwiches are left to the yellow-eyed gulls. A crowd bottlenecks at the exit, people push each other back in their need to get away from the reams of evidence strewn over the cafe. No one wants to be caught near all that.  

A girl thuds to the ground next to me. I hear her groan and turn to help her up, but a team of Coalies hustles into the Lookout. Armoured and visored with guns the length of my arm. Panic stretches the girl’s eyes.

I’ve seen that collision of fear and resignation before. Our neighbour didn’t fight when the Coalies searched his cabin for contraband. He stood by his front door, arms loose by his sides and body slack like he was filled with sand. His eyes clamoured from face to face, looking for a clue that something would save him. He never came back.

The girl looks at me through strands of dampened hair that stick to her lips and move in time with her breath.

Don’t get caught up. Look after yourself. Let her escape, or not, on her own. 
I ball my fists and force myself to leave her behind.   

When there are three decks between me and the Lookout I slow down. I keep checking over my shoulder but there’s no sign of the Coalies. They’ll be too busy rounding people up in the Lookout to chase after the ones that scattered.

A bitter film of guilt and adrenaline coats the back of my tongue. The blurred grayscale image of the cruise ship; the wide eyes of that girl lying on the floor; the surge of the Coalies. I shake my head to dislodge the thoughts and break into a jog for the long stretch to the back of the ship. I’m almost home.

My hobnailed boots are too heavy for running, and the muscles in my calves scream in complaint after a few steps. I ignore the burning in my legs, and concentrate on the clack-clack of the nail studded boot soles against the deck. My great-grandparents wouldn’t recognise the Arcadia. Since they dropped anchor here the ship has been expanded. Barges and floating shacks carpet the sea around the rusting hull. The upper decks heave with balconies and new floors lashed together from scavenged wood. Only a few stretches survive that are long enough to sprint down, and during the day I’d have to dodge around people and the animals they let out to sun.

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Barnes Rev 2

Name:  Joel Barnes
Title:  The Zipper
Genre:  Middle Grade Fantasy
For more than 65 million years there had never been a living T.rex sighted on Earth.  Until now.  Kelly and Kevin Thomas have no idea how it showed up in their back yard.  Nor do they know why it left behind a tiny dinosaur named Patch.  Or why extinct-for-millions-of-years dinosaurs have begun invading their woods, attacking Patch and threatening their lives.  As they search for an explanation, they learn that their mother has been captured and held for ransom.
Determined to find their mom, Kelly and Kevin set out with Patch on an improbable rescue mission:  two defenseless teenagers and a miniature dinosaur plunging headlong into a menacing Cretaceous forest 65 million years in the past.  Along the way they discover they’re destined for an even higher purpose—saving mankind from a plot to wipe out the human race and restore the dinosaurs' dominance over earth.  They're the only ones who can stop the plot.  But first they must save their mom—and themselves.
Lost and scared, with lethal enemies a heartbeat away and a pack of ruthless raptors steadily closing in, they face the realization that their mission—as well as their lives—may soon be lost.
The pre-dawn blackness loomed far scarier than Kelly had expected.  A few widely scattered stars dotted the dark sky; the sliver of a quarter moon hung low in the horizon.   Menacing silhouettes—trees, bushes, a chain link fence—closed in around her.
Kelly glanced back at the house where a faint light glowed through the kitchen window.  As soon as her mom had left for work, she’d slipped out the back door.  Her mom couldn’t know.  She would never have given Kelly permission to head out into the woods at this hour.  So she hadn’t asked.
A shiver of fright shot through her stomach.  Kelly hesitated, wondering why she’d ever left her bedroom.   She fumbled with the camera slung around her neck.  The photography contest.  Capturing a portfolio of pre-dawn pictures would give her a shot at the first place prize, a to-die-for Nikon camera. 
She’d better get going.  She pulled a piece of watermelon bubblegum out of the back pocket of her shorts, shoved it into her mouth and hurried away from the house.
Kelly’s pencil-thin shadow stretched out beside her as she covered the hundred feet of patchy grass separating the shadowy house from a white storage barn.  Her ears found the sounds of the Florida night—the shrill chirping of crickets, the eerie screech of a wood owl, the distant croaking of a frog—creepy.  She passed the storage barn, and her feet met the narrow path leading into the dense woods that surrounded the house.
She had traveled this same path hundreds of times, but never before alone in the dark.  Her heart raced as a canopy of leaves closed over her and the sky faded from view.  She wished she had her flashlight.
Her fears multiplied as she ventured deeper into the thick darkness.  Dried leaves crunched beneath each tentative step.  Low hanging branches whipped across her face, stinging her cheeks.  She wrinkled her nose at the pungent odor of decaying leaves.
She reached a temporary break in the tunnel of darkness when the path curved into a small grove of short trees.  When her gaze shifted upward to welcome the glimmer of moonlight that penetrated onto the path, her sneakers caught on the rough edges of an exposed root.  Her hands shot out as she tumbled onto the path.
Her anger boiling up, she kicked the root.  She jerked the black Marlins baseball cap off her head and slammed it against the ground.
She could have been asleep in her bed, safe and comfortable like any normal twelve-year-old.  But no, normal wasn’t good enough for Kelly Thomas.  She had to crawl out of bed at the insane hour of 5:15.  And why?  To be scared out of her socks? To fall flat on her face? 
Hands shaking, she ran her fingers through her hair.  Could she go on, this frustrated and this scared, with the woods ahead looming so dark?  But, the contest.  Without the pictures she could kiss any hope of winning that camera good-bye.  No, she couldn’t leave the woods empty-handed.  She had no other choice but to suck it up and go get the shots.  This was no time for a pity party.
She walked on, determined that neither fear nor darkness would stop her from taking those pictures.
Her fears walked with her as the path twisted beneath a canopy of interlacing limbs.  To her relief, a couple hundred yards into the woods, she reached her destination, a dense thicket of short bushes intermingled with tightly-bunched saplings. 
Ahead of her stretched a sizeable clearing filled with thick clumps of grass, the grazing grounds of the white-tailed deer. She’d stopped just far enough away from the clearing so the shutter click wouldn’t spook the deer.  Adjusting the camera for the low-light conditions, she bumped up the f-stop value and the ISO setting. 
Kelly found a branch where she could stabilize her camera and made certain she had an unobstructed view of the clearing. Then she sank onto her knees and tucked herself in tightly behind the bushes.  Settled in, she crammed another wad of watermelon gum into her mouth and waited in the silence of the clearing and the darkness of the woods for dawn to arrive.
Soon Kelly noticed a tiny red glimmer hanging just over the tree-tops.  Its jagged edges gradually expanded until the sun’s first light began to penetrate the woods, sending shimmering rays reflecting off the gathered dew.  The sunlight revealed six or seven white-tailed deer grazing in the clearing.  Kelly quaked with excitement and her fingers shook as she raised the camera to snap her first photograph.
First she zoomed in on a large buck with light brown fur, surprised at the size of its antlers. Steady in your hands.  Click.  Her focus shifting to a doe, she was careful to lock in the white patches of fur covering its throat and underbelly.  Click.  A thrill shot through her when a fawn scrambled up on spindly legs from its hiding place in the grass.  Framing the shot, she captured its huge, soft eyes and the white spots that dotted the reddish brown fur.
The buck shattered the tranquility of the moment when it whipped its head around and snorted, shaking its antlers and stomping its hooves.  Then, raising its pointed tail, the white underside flashing in the dim light, it bolted into the woods and out of sight, the rest of the herd streaking close behind.  She frantically snapped in burst mode, realizing she’d probably get nothing for her trouble but blurry backsides.  Great!  Her prime-time photo op had just evaporated like the morning mist.
Kelly lowered her camera, her hopes of capturing any more deer dashed.  As she began previewing her pictures, a rustling in the foliage caught her attention.  She peered across the clearing in the direction of the noise.  Tree limbs were bending and then splintering with loud snaps and with cracks that sounded like rifle shots.
A blast of wind surged across the clearing.  A split second later a huge shape exploded out of the trees.  Kelly gasped as an immense creature materialized near the edge of the clearing, shaking the ground and stealing her breath.             
Kelly found herself staring at a beast that stood taller than a house and stretched out half as long.  The behemoth crouched on two powerful legs as thick as tree trunks.  Her gaze locked in on the huge teeth and the flesh-ripping claws.  Her shocked mind reeled in disbelief, reluctant to accept what her eyes clearly saw.  Across the clearing stood a T. rex.  As in Tyrannosaurus rex. The most feared predator to ever walk the earth.
But T. rex had been extinct for millions of years.  Millions of years.  Kelly knew one couldn’t possibly be standing in the clearing near her home in Florida.  Yet somehow it was.  The stubby arms.  The stiff, pointed tail.  The huge head bearing four-foot-long jaws packed with massive bone-crushing teeth.  There could be no doubt.
Her hands trembling, her jaws chomping the watermelon gum so hard her teeth hurt, Kelly instinctively raised her camera. As the T. rex whipped its head from side to side, scanning the clearing, she repeatedly snapped its picture.
Then its gaze turned her way.  She shrank back when the fierce eyes stared across the clearing toward the bushes that concealed her.  With a stab of terror, Kelly was sure it had seen her.  Any second it could head her way to investigate.

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Schunemann Rev 2

Name: Lisa Schunemann
Genre: YA fantasy

To Drei, merchant ships and laws are meant to be broken. Working with Mal, their friendship borne out of blood and tragic loss, they specialize in raiding and smuggling goods across the Skettion Sea and into the most heavily guarded countries. Then Mal is captured and given a proposition by Klein, the head of the Maritus, the ruling naval force of the sea. The job: smuggle themselves into a rival nation’s prison hulk ship and retrieve an individual known as the Firebird.

But after their crew assembles and infiltrates the prison hulk, dangerous complications come to light. An enemy raider from the past gives Mal information about the brutal death of his mother, and the Maritus’s involvement in it. The Firebird isn’t who they think. And the Maritus cadet smuggled in with them may be a traitorous mole. Time is running out, and Drei and the crew face an impossible task. Escaping with the Firebird will either get them the payday of a lifetime, or a bullet if the Maritus crosses them. If they can’t get off the ship, their futures will be in chains and a noose.

First five pages:
Drei kept her eyes downcast as thick fingers bit into the flesh of her chin. The sour combination sweat and spices overpowered her nose as the captain leaned in close, turning her face to each side and back. She focused on the damp floors of the hull beneath his weathered boots.

A rough thumb brushed the painful spot on her cheek. “Who bruised her up?”

“Like that when we brought everyone on board,” the skin runner said.

The captain grunted and jerked her face up. Damp fingers pried open her lips and he glanced at her teeth.

She kept her jaw clenched, deftly kept the lock pick under the back of her tongue. She fought the temptation to kick out, but let him inspect her teeth. The satisfaction wouldn’t be worth the guaranteed gag and bag on her head. She remembered that lesson from the last job.

The captain spat a wad of chew at her bare feet, his gaze calculating. He seemed disappointed when she didn’t flinch or cry when the glob slid down her leg. Drei knew what he saw – her cut feet, torn pants and stained shirt showing a bony shoulder.

“You tell your men to keep your hands off the merchandise, you hear me?” said the captain. “Sloppy records and damaged goods when we pull into Ceissames will reduce my cut.”

The skin runner scowled, the log book and ink point in his hands. “We didn’t touch her none—”

He cowered when the captain raised a fist in his direction.

“I’m not taking disrespect from the likes of you.” His yell caused a ripple of fresh tears and cowers amongst the row of chained bodies. “This is my ship. You filth should be grateful I let you hide your merchandise in my hold.”

The ship swayed on the water, causing boards to creak as they rubbed against each other. The sound mingled amidst the soft crying. A single lamp swayed from the low-hung ceiling, but the scant light was better than the pit where the rest of the human cargo was stashed.

Drei dared to glance out one of the small port holes. Anticipation churned in her stomach. How much time did she have? Two days had passed since she’d stashed herself on the merchant’s ship, lying in wait until the rest of her own crew caught up. It should have only been a day at most, but a nasty squall had hit the area after they’d crossed Faulto Passage.

Her stomach twisted, but not from anticipation this time. She remembered being stuck in the smuggler hold, crammed against bodies stinking of urine and fear while the storm raged outside. But if that was what it took to make money on the job, she’d gone through worse.

“Girl, young. Mark her as sixteen, it’s the best number. Five and a half feet.”

Drei blinked, refocusing her attention on the captain. He’d moved closer, assessing slowly.

He continued, “Skinny as a birch rod. But pretty.”

“Earmark her for the brothels?” the runner asked.

“Maybe. Lotus likes the darker-skinned ones on her roster. But that bruise better fade by the time we pull into shore,” the captain said. “Who chopped her hair off? Nobody wants a girl with hair like a boy.”

If he only knew the real reason. The length made it easier to clean out the blood and mess at the end of the day. At the same time, no strands concealed her eyes or hid the contempt she felt. Slaves bartered and shuffled across the Skettion Sea didn’t resemble anything but beaten baggage. She forced herself still as stone, not fighting when rough hands roamed over her hips and chest. It was inside, down in her soul that she raged in the cold places.

“Well, if any of them don’t want her, she’ll do housework—eh!” The captain hauled her hands to eye level and glared. “Damaged goods. Her little finger is clean chopped off.”

The finger and a small portion of flesh from her right hand were missing, a fierce webbing of scars marring her skin. Lighter than her burnt sand coloring, they stood out and drew the eye. She missed her glove at these moments, but let him look at the old wound. It let her survey her real targets.

The runner leaned closer and scrunched his nose. “No good for the brothels, then. No customer wants to pay for that touch.”

“You’d be surprised,” the captain said, squeezing the bones of her hand, hard.

He wanted a reaction? She met his leering eyes with a deadened face.

The captain pushed her down with a harsh shove. The iron shackles jerked against her wrists and ankles as she hit the bench. He threaded the chain through the shackles, his stained shirt gaping near the waist. The handle of a knife peeked out for a moment.

Drei’s fingers twitched in response at the sight of the polished wood. Nice piece. She made a mental note of it, of all the weapons hidden on bodies in the small space.

Squeezed between two other slaves, there wasn’t enough room to breathe. Her eyes remained fixed on the slimy floor beneath her toes.

The next captive, a young boy, was yanked to his feet. The process continued, each soul catalogued, priced, and guarded closely. Just like they were the same as the lifeless items crowded between the low ceiling and walls. Then they would be forced back down to the dark pit of the bilge and the other human cargo brought up.

Merchant vessels needed to be fast, but with enough space for storing wares of legitimate jobs while hiding illegal ones below. If the attack went off before she had to go back down there, it’d be a blessing. But the people below weren’t her concern. Her focus was centered on the real reason she’d inserted herself on the ship. The spices, barrels of ignition powder and wine, silks and furs on order from faraway lands. They equaled coin in a raider’s pockets. Well, if she had pockets.

She tried her best to avoid inhaling through her nose. The metal screen of the cargo hatch was bolted tight. Drei glanced at it longingly. The air was stifling in the hull, breezes from the islands unable to weave their way through wood and resin. The lack of circulation made the sweet scent of vomit almost unbearable.

An elbow nudged her side.

She locked gazes with the man on her left. Though disheveled and bruised, his eyes weren’t like the others, glazed over with resignation. A small glimmer of life held firm.

“What happened with hand?” He spoke in staggered Sedan, the common language in most of the ports and cities.

She glanced at the runners. They hated slaves talking and she could do without fresh lashes, but they weren’t paying attention. Out a meager porthole, she recognized Ezcaba’s rocky island peninsula.

They might be close enough to the hit point for her to start moving. And if Mal didn’t like it, he could take her place next time. Drei moved the pick to her front teeth.
“Tried to pet a shark. Don’t recommend it,” she muttered, about to start on the shackles.

“Wait,” he gasped. Heavy footfalls slapped on the deck above.

Her head raised as the doors to the cargo hold swung open and a bald head came into view. “We’ve got trouble! Ship approaching, running a black flag.”

She needed these cuffs off. Now.

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Marnoch Rev 2

Name: Kellie Marnoch
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Title: Bright Young People


London during the Twenties overflows with magic and secrets.

Five souls move through London, unaware of how Fate is drawing them together, into a mystery that threatens to skewer the very heart of society.

Pen, a troubled debutante, unhappily engaged, consumed by terrible nightmares, plagued by guilt over the jubilant part she played in her father’s death, feels something powerful overtaking her. Eva, a student with too much passion for the rigid society she finds herself in, out to experience all life has to offer. Mei, a blind entertainer struggling under the constraints of family obligation and hopes for more. Abby, a refugee from a war-torn America, weighed down with guilt over what she left behind. And Wally, an irreverent self-described rogue with no direction searching for a greater destiny, and finding more than he bargained for. Each representing forces greater than they know, threads within a tapestry long in the making.

As the five circle closer, as the world grows darker and more dangerous, as secrets are revealed and hearts broken, this story takes them literally to Hell...but maybe not back.

Sense8 meets Hellraiser on the set of Downton Abbey, in a story of magic, murder and mayhem.


Bright Young People

Book One
May 1926


Pen tapped her foot to the music, her palms sweating inside her elbow-length gloves, trying not to let her nervousness show. She was glad the introductions were over with, and she didn’t have to fake-smile at all these awful people judging her. No different to her other debuts, really, but it felt worse. All those sassenachs, she supposed.

“Do stop fidgeting, Penelope!” Arabella, her mother - the prime sassenach - hissed, her furrowed brows belying her assured smile.

Pen started, looking down at her now-bedraggled ostrich-feather fan. She swallowed and looked around the hot, crowded, smelly - why did everyone wear so much scent? - ballroom. She hung at the edge of it with her mother and sister, a wallflower, despite it being her ball. If only Pip were here!

She scanned the huge townhouse - one of the few left in private hands - ballroom again, barely taking in the light balls zipping about above everyone’s heads, the black band setting up, the various entertainers in different corners of the room, the side-table beladen and groaning with food, the people milling about, waiting for the real fun to start - the dancing.

“Mother, please. Of course she’s nervous!” Kitty, her elder sister, piped up from next to Pen. She felt hemmed in from the beauty. They looked like the succubus, demon of lust, they were descended from. Pen, according to her worthless, sylph-and-family-legend-obsessed father, looked sylph-like. She’d thought, at the time, that that was nonsense - they were invisible air-spirits; they didn’t look like anything.

“I was never nervous at my debut.” Her mother continued talking over her head.

“Ha! Of course you weren’t,” muttered Pen.

Her mother glanced at her out of the corner of her eye. Pen bit her lip.

“Stop that, or you’ll ruin your lip rouge.” Arabella snapped. She sniffed and strode forwards, mingling with the crowd of the cream of London high society.

Pen bit the inside of her cheek this time. If Pip were here, he would know just how to cheer her up, cracking some joke, or teaching her a new dance, or helping her break into the liquor cabinet in the library. Or perhaps, this time, proposing, like she knew he simply must do soon. Yes, he was a younger son of a viscount, and she was a duke’s daughter with a more-than-healthy dowry and more-than usual secrets, but they were in love.

She had loved him since she was six, when they had first met because their mothers had debuted together and liked to reminisce. They had been thrown together in the nursery, along with his younger sister Olivia, who, at a few years younger than them had been roundly despised as a stupid baby, and had escaped into the grounds together, getting lost for a couple of hours. She had fallen irrevocably in love. They were destined for each other. Pen knew it. She deserved a happily-ever-after with the love of her life, didn’t she, after everything?

Pen jumped as Kitty placed a hand on her shoulder. “Wait here a moment, dear.”

She sighed in relief as Kitty gracefully floated away. She loved her sister - indeed, it was hard not to, Kitty was just so nice - but when they stood together, Pen just knew people were comparing them. How could they not? Kitty was statuesque, voluptuous, with a river of jet-black hair and the most beautiful face anyone had ever seen, just like Venus, as one of her suitors had said. Pen was short, skinny, with the same navy-blue eyes and plush mouth as Kitty (and their mother) transposed onto her pointier face with the Renleigh tip-tilted Nose, with wild ash-blonde curls that no one could do anything with. She had the more fashionable figure, of course, and that was something. Kitty was always on reducing diets while Pen could eat whatever she liked. But men’s eyes didn’t follow Pen about, ever. Even Pip thought Kitty was the more beautiful, so he had said, but he had followed that up with the fact that even so, he preferred Pen. So.

Pen moved a few feet to the left, trying to look like she had something to do. Why was no one talking to her? It was her ball; she should’ve had to fight off the deb’s delights vying for a place on her dance card. It was like she was giving off some terrible smell, or aura, or something. Was it possible people knew?

Just then, Kitty came back, Pip on her arm, and Pen felt herself begin to glow, a huge grin spreading over her face.. He had come! Of course he had, he would never leave her alone at her own deb ball!

“Pip! You came!”

Kitty let go of her bounty, moving back beside Pen, a beatific smile on her face.

“Of course I did, darling! Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Pip smiled down at her as she gazed up at him in adoration. Oh, he was so handsome - tall, broad-shouldered, glossy auburn hair and peat-brown eyes.

She threw herself into his arms, hugging him close, breathing in his scent - brylcreem and something indefinably Pip, which, to her, was the absolute best scent in the world.

She opened her mouth to tell him that she’d put him first on her dance card, but he was already moving away, saying something about greeting someone else. She gaped at him as he slipped away. How could he leave her already? Pen blinked.

Kitty hissed, “I can’t believe it!” Then, her face smoothing out until she was smiling placidly again, she said, “You shouldn’t languish after him. There are other men in the world, you know.”

“What, like Henry? No thank you!” Pen sighed wistfully. “There’s no one like Pip.”

“Men like him are everywhere, dearest. That’s rather the problem."

Pen frowned at her sister, not understanding what she meant. Pip was her Prince Charming. Much like Henry was Kitty’s. If only Pip would swoop in and run away with her! Though she couldn’t understand how Kitty threw herself away on a mere barrister, especially one who looked like Henry, even if he had been a wounded soldier she had been nursing back to health, and the younger son of a marquess. It was the one thing her mother and herself agreed on. At least, the only thing they agreed on out loud.

She spotted Henry trundling over and she had to keep herself from making a face. He really was such a flat tire.

“Lady Penelope.” He barely even nodded at her, but as soon as he looked at Kitty his face softened, and Pen felt horribly jealous. Why hadn’t Pip looked at her like that? Was it possible Kitty was right about him?

She scanned the room, looking for him, as the band started up the music for the first dance. He would come and claim her for it. He simply must.

But, since he was sailing by with Lucy Montague, who was clinging his arm and throwing Pen a triumphant look, he must simply think her card was full. He would never leave her alone, not at her own debutante ball. It was unthinkable. He couldn’t be…

Someone tapped her on the shoulder and she spun around. It would be some other handsome boy and they would dance up a storm and show everyone. could be Simon, her eldest brother. Who was a double duke, but still: her brother. How mortifying.