Saturday, April 30, 2016

Free 1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens in 1 Week!

Our May workshop will open for entries in one week, on Saturday, May 7 at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. Click here to get the rules. I will post when it opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have author Ann Jacobus and agent Sue Miller!

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

May Guest Mentor: Ann Jacobus

Ann Jacobus writes children’s and YA fiction, blogs and tweets about it, teaches writing and volunteers weekly on a suicide crisis line. She’s published short fiction, essays and poetry in anthologies, journals, and magazines, and her debut YA thriller, came out from St. Martin’s Griffin in October, 2015. San Francisco is home to her and her family.


A troubled teen, living in Paris, is torn between two boys, one of whom encourages her to embrace life, while the other—dark, dangerous, and attractive—urges her to embrace her fatal flaws.

Haunting and beautifully written, with a sharp and distinctive voice that could belong only to this character, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unforgettable young adult novel.

Summer Barnes just moved to Paris to repeat her senior year of high school. After being kicked out of four boarding schools, she has to get on track or she risks losing her hefty inheritance. Summer is convinced that meeting the right guy will solve everything. She meets two. Moony, a classmate, is recovering against all odds from a serious car accident, and he encourages Summer to embrace life despite how hard it can be to make it through even one day. But when Summer meets Kurt, a hot, mysterious older man who she just can't shake, he leads her through the creepy underbelly of the city-and way out of her depth.

When Summer's behavior manages to alienate everyone, even Moony, she's forced to decide if a life so difficult is worth living. With an ending that'll surprise even the most seasoned reader, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unputdownable and utterly compelling novel.

available online: Indiebound Barnes & Noble Amazon Books-a-Million Powells

May Guest Agent Mentor - Sue Miller

Prior to joining Donaghy Literary, Sue interned for Bree Ogden during her time at the D4EO agency. She dabbles in writing and has edited short stories for other writers. An admitted social media junkie, Sue is always interested in the latest platforms for networking and relationship building within the industry. This led her to complete her Digital Marketing Management certificate from the University of Toronto. When it comes to her genre preferences, Sue is partial to romance, young adult, new adult and adult contemporary novels. Sue is seeking new and exciting voices as she begins to build her client list and is excited to discover diverse new author voices.

Sue's Interests:
YA – any sub genre (think Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Cynthia Hand, Stephanie Perkins, Colleen Hoover)
Urban Fantasy (think Sandy Williams, Patricia Briggs, Karen Marie Moning)
Low Fantasy/ Low level Science Fiction/ Dystopian - (think Laini Taylor, Samantha Shannon, Pierce Brown, Andy Weir)
Contemporary Romance (think Jamie McGuire, Rachel Gibson, Jay Crownover, K.A. Tucker, Colleen Hoover)

Sue's wish list:​
YA or Contemporary romance – fun, smart (not silly), heart wrenching
YA contemporary, authentic voices representing urban life (think Treasure E. Blue), multicultural (example: Canadian/Afro-Latino etc.), social change (think Heidi Durrow, R.J. Palacio)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Thank You to April 1st 5 Pages Mentors and Participants!

I am sad to say that our 1st 5 Pages April Workshop has come to an end. We had such a great group of talented writers. A big thanks to our guest mentors, author Estelle Laure and agent Rachel Burkot!! They both provided such helpful critiques. If you haven’t checked out THIS RAGING LIGHT you should - it's wonderful!

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 Melanie Conklin whose debut middle grade novel, COUNTING THYME was just published. I loved it!

Our May workshop will open for entries on Saturday, May 7, 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.

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

Happy writing (and revising!)


Sunday, April 17, 2016

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Hall Rev 2

Name: Linda Hall
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Title: Jess & Tess
Everyone thinks being an identical twin is so cool. For Jess Gardner, not so much. The double-takes, the stares, the way too personal questions. You’re a twin first, a person second. That doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a freak.
What Jess wants most is for her deadbeat father to see her as an individual. But she’s “just like her mother.” The woman who left three years ago.
Since then, they’ve drifted from house to house, town to town, job to job. When their new house pulls up in the driveway, a rusted out, backfiring RV, Jess decides that she’s done. She’s given him his last chance. She’s got one move left and it’s the one where she gets away from him.
As Jess starts making plans to save her and her sister from their carnival-like existence, they drift further apart. She has to convince her sister to come with her. But her sister has a plan of her own.

I call us the Carnies. The oddities from places unknown. We roll into town, dazzle the locals for a while, and then vanish without a second thought. We creep in usually in the middle of the night and set up the same old life with the same old story. We stay a few months - short enough to almost make friends and long enough for Dad to ruin it. When he starts combing through his peas or mash potatoes searching for answers to what went wrong, we know it’s time to move on.   
“Hopefully the next place is somewhere warm,” Tess says from behind me. She lifts the hem of my sweater and places her icy fingers on my back. The heat has already been shut off and packing has helped us stay warm except for our hands. The cardboard boxes have robbed them of their moisture and we’re left with cracked knuckles and frozen fingertips. “I doubt it,” I say as I spin around and push her hand away but my words come out as more of a giggle than the yelp she was hoping for. “When’s the last time he did anything we want?” I ask. She looks into my eyes and as if reading my thoughts, she replies, “It doesn’t hurt to dream.”
But doesn’t it, though?
Dreaming is what got us here. Dad always chasing his next fresh start. Dreaming is what took us from a nice two-story house with our swing set in the back to countless one-bedroom apartments and big city basements. “Ain’t it a dream?” is what Dad said when we pulled up in front of this trailer, the one at the back of the park, the one no one wanted. Yeah. It’s a dream come true.
The air in the trailer is thick with dust so Tess and I step out onto our one-step stoop for some fresh air. The neighborhood boys are walking down our street returning from the field next to our trailer. That was the only good thing about living here. We could watch the boys play football or soccer from our bedroom window while doing our homework. Looks like we missed today’s snowball fight, though. Tess and I are shivering standing on the stoop but the boys have their jackets slung over their shoulders or tied around their waists. As they laugh and joke, we can see their breath but they continue to make snowballs and kick ice at each other.
“Hey. There’s Brad.” Tess nudges me with her elbow. “You should go talk to him.”
“Why would I talk to him? He’s done nothing but stare at us the whole time we’ve lived here.”
She looks at me, her mouth a thin line. “Because you’ve been staring back.”
“Shut up,” I say, but there’s no force behind my words. “What’s the point, anyway? We’re leaving tonight.”
“He’s cute. What else do you need?”
“He’s a Generic Johnny, though.”
“We’re leaving tonight, remember?” she says. “Who cares?”
She’s not wrong. Brad is cute but he’s no different than any other boy in any other town. His hair the same sandy brown as a dozen others. His eyes the same blue. It can’t hurt to just talk to him, though, right? I can make a fool of myself and it won’t matter because I’ll never see him again. That doesn’t make it so bad. But as I picture myself walking over to him and think of what I might say, my heart starts to flutter and my mouth goes dry.
“Check it out, Brad.” the boy in a black T-shirt is tapping Brad on the shoulder and pointing at us. “It’s those girls.”
“Which one did you say you liked?” asks the boy kicking ice.
“Doesn’t matter,” says another one. “They look exactly the same.”
“Yeah, man.” The boy in the black T-shirt slaps Brad on the shoulder. “You can cheat on one with the other and you can’t get in trouble. It’s not your fault you can’t tell them apart.” Brad gives him a high-five but he at least has the decency not to chuckle.
Tess looks at me apologetically and mutters, “Generic jackasses is more like it,” and goes back inside. I can’t leave the stoop. I need the cold to soothe the flames in my cheeks. I lock eyes with Brad hoping he’ll show me that he’s not a Johnny and I haven’t been stealing glances with him for nothing. But I already know the answer. I’ve known it all along.
There’s a loud roar building in my ears and I hear a rattle that matches my labored breath. A high-pitched screech captures all of the boys’ attention. It is my horror when I see the object that has them so captivated. A beige and tan, two-toned, rusted out RV pulling into my driveway, the engine sputtering and knocking as it comes to complete stop. It has blocked my view of the boys but the pitch of their laughter says it all. The driver side door scrapes open and Dad jumps down. “Where’s Tess?” he asks running up the stoop and through the front door. “You guys have to check out our new home.”

I call us the Carnies. We’re the freaks in the matching sweaters and Dad, the king of the clowns.

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Pattinson Rev 2

Name: Lana Pattinson
Genre: YA Contemporary / Time Travel


Abby thinks her lying reputation is behind her…until a Highlander from the past jumps into her future.

High School junior Abby has said goodbye to her “girl who cried wolf” past. Mostly. And she reallymust finish her extra credit report, or her college dreams will be ruined.

But history comes to life when sword-wielding Callum MacGyver is sucked through a portal all the way from 1765. He lands in the library and turns her world upside down.

And the Highlander didn’t come alone. The stolen sword Callum carries belongs to an ancient group called The Serpent Society. They’re determined to keep their time travelling secrets hidden and will go to deadly extremes to get the sword back.

Callum and Abby need to figure out how to get him home before they’re caught, or the portal closes forever.

I’m all for dressing up for Halloween, but this is absurd. The costume I’ve worn all day—and the taunting—has worn thin. I have fairy wings over my pink skeleton t-shirt, blue clip-on hair extensions, and his rhinestone belt. Why did I let Javi talk me into wearing this to school? Some BFF he is.
I head to the lockers, the once-a-year-coat of blue paint already chipping from the humid Texas weather. Sarah stands next to me, spinning her combination lock. She’s got a nice boyfriend and shiny hair and if we hadn’t been friends for so long, I’d probably hate her. My green eyes have always been the jealous type.
I scan the hallway, but no one’s watching. "Here." I slip her the contraband in a brown bag.
Big brown eyes stare back at me. “Abby, what’s…?" Sarah opens the bag and laughs. "You think I need a paper bag forOutlander?
I blush. "It’s from my mom's bookshelf. There are some...intense...scenes in it." Not that Mom would notice it’s gone. She’s on call at the hospital so much, sometimes it’s like living with a roommate instead of a parent.
"Awesome." Sarah slams the locker shut, rattling my mirror. "You going to the game tomorrow?"
I stick my tongue out, mostly at my own reflection, and unclip the hair extensions. “Obviously.”
Of course I'm going to the game tomorrow. Every. Single. Friday. Because football is the main religion in Texas, and I’m a front-pew fan. Not of the game, exactly. Just one tight end in particular.
"I wish..." Sarah sings a song from Into the Woods, this semester’s musical. "Have you seen him today?" She loves teasing me about my crush. The senior football player who doesn't know I exist.
"I wish..." she prompts.
As if on cue, Austin Richards swaggers by in slow motion, like he's in a shampoo commercial, except his hair is shaved so close to his head he should be advertising shaving gel insteadHe's got his letterman jacket on, and is followed by his usual entourage of wide receivers.
I wish...
I stop myself from turning around to gawk. I’ve hardly said two words to him, and spent a year looking at the back of his blond head in Trig. But his sheer cuteness just sets my inner subwoofer pounding.
I picture him at the Homecoming dance in full tuxedo gear. He’s spotlighted from above, and I join him in the middle of the gym. He gives me his goofy grin as he crowns me Homecoming Queen, and I serenade him.
Before I can stop it, Sarah’s song escapes my mouth. "I wish...I wish to go to the festival."
My stomach plummets to the soles of my gum-ridden Converse. Oh, my god. That was out loud. Undo! Undo! Control-Z!
And my voice bounces off every hard surface in the hallway—the linoleum tile, the rusted metal lockers, the steely glares from the popular kids. Stupid, stupid earworm.
Ridiculous, foolish imagination.
Of course Austin just breezes by, no eye contact, like I'm invisible, like I’m not even alive. Which is normal for me, I guess.
The hall fills with the sound of snickers and backslaps. And I'm dead, burning up inside, my cheeks buzzing with the stings of a thousand hornets, and I wish I fit into my locker like I did in middle school. I wish.
I press my palms to my eyes, willing the song back into my head.
“Abby,” Sarah’s whisper says it all, her face twisted with pity. “We’re late for drama.”
Yeah. I’ve had my fill of drama for the day, thanks.
Long brown legs sporting huge Vans stalk towards me, squeaking against the polished floor. Khaki shorts. His FREE KITTEH shirt. Shame turns to rage as I realize Javi’s wearing Khaki. Freaking. Shorts. NOT the bottoms of my skeleton pajamas, as pinkie promised.
Javi stops in front of me and addresses the milling crowd. “What? Go find your own train wreck.”
He’s so, so dead to me. But, it works.
Javi’s long arm snakes around my shoulder. “How many times do I have to tell you? No singing in the hallway.” His hair flops into his eyes. “No singing, period.” He looks at Sarah and pretends to slit his throat.
I push him off, sling my backpack over my shoulder, and stalk towards the theater.
Javi and Sarah follow me, and he grabs my arm. “Hey.”
I shake him off. “I thought we were dressing up together.”
Javi snorts and covers his mouth. “I didn’t think you were actually listening. You never follow my fashion advice.”
He’s right. And for good reason too. His fashion blog is more like a fashion pile-up, full of crashes and drunk styling near misses, with a total audience of eight including our moms.
“Whatever.” I head into the carpeted theater. It’s new and way too nice for our school. “By the way, you’ve been downgraded. I’m taking an F off of BFF.” 
“You mean I’m the BEST. FOREVER?” Javi flops into a seat. “Don’t be mad. It’s not good when one half of the Olsen twins is upset.”
Such a ludicrous statement, cause I’m short-ish and redheaded while Sarah is tall with glossy black locks.
He runs his fingers through his hair and looks at Sarah. “Seriously…what happened? It was like Abs had just declared war. Or farted.”
Sarah bites her bottom lip and looks at me. “It was kinda funny.”
"Details. Now." Javi's hands are so animated I think they’re about to turn into birds and take flight.
"Calm down, jazz hands." I dump my bag in a seat. "I..." I look at Sarah, who’s bouncing on the balls of her feet. I give up. "Fine. You tell him."
"Abby went into her I’m-in-a-Glee-daydream mode and sang Into the Woods to Austin.” Sarah breaks into song. “I wish... I wish to go to the festival." The acoustics of the room amplify her enchanting voice, and I half expect forest creatures to start gathering. So unlike how my version sounded.
Javi gathers my hands into his, looking deep into my eyes. “Abby. Let’s be real. You do realize that you’ll never be America’s Next Top Hallway Singer?”
“I hate you sometimes.” I pull away.
“She’d probably make the Top Ten,” says Sarah.
Finally. Someone sticks up for me.
“You love me always.” Javi waves me off. "Anyway. What did Austin say?"
I shake my head. "Nothing but snickers, and I don’t mean chocolate."
Javi sits forward and rests his chin on his hands. "Did he look good at least?"
"Like an angel." I slump into the chair next to him. We ache for the same person. But Austin isn’t gay, and he doesn’t date non-cheerleaders. Maybe that's why Javi's my best friend forever. We bonded over our obsession two years ago. And ever since, the couple most unlikely to attend a football game has done just that.
“Going out tonight?” asks Sarah.
“Can’t.” I tug the zipper on my backpack. “I have a hot date with dead Scottish warriors.”
Sarah blinks.
“The extra credit report for Mr.—for your Dad?” I’m never really sure what to call him.
“Oh, that.” Sarah twirls her hair.
“Such a study freak,” says Javi.
I look at him, eyes wide. “Javi…” Dad’s been grumbling about Mom letting me run wild. One more slipup—grades or otherwise—and I’m on the next plane to Cincinnati, playing babysitter for Dad and the Stepmomster’s new spawn.

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Bea Rev 2

Name: Kimberly Bea
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Walking on Knives

Pitch: The magic that keeps the merfolk alive is dying; once fed on the sacrifice of humans, now it starves under a despot king.  When Neri, the king’s unwanted daughter, visits the surface she impulsively saves a human boy. The Sea Hag tells her the gods demand a life taken for the one spared. Neri refuses to die for this boy, but there is one life she would happily take: her father’s. Disguised by the Sea Hag’s magic, she sets off for the surface world to seek human help in her attempt at regicide. The condition: she can’t reveal her true nature until she has bound a human to her, heart and soul. As surety against this, the Sea Hag takes Neri’s voice.

Neri surfaces on the small island kingdom of Coppersea, where she encounters the very boy whose life she saved. Prince Edmund’s kindness turns to friendship then something more—but their romance is threatened by the arrival of Lady Annabel of Rosewyn, who is not only a better political match but whom Edmund believes has saved his life.  Can Neri bring him to see the truth in time? Or will her quest for vengeance cost Neri’s life?


Neri lived on the ocean floor, in a cave full of human bones. Her only companions were the Sea Hag and the bodies of drowned sailors. Not even her sisters were allowed to visit, since her father--by birth only--forbade his daughters to venture anywhere so dangerous and dark. They were princesses, after all, cherished, protected, and most of all wanted, while Neri was none of these things. But even a princess might sometimes disobey.

Neri's body cut through the water with the speed of a sailfish. She dove behind a giant rock formation with the tip of her tail sticking out. If hiding from a predator, she would have stayed behind the rocks completely, silver scales scattering light and her green-black hair waving like sea grass around her. But no predator was in her wake, only her elder sister, Twyla. Neri had every intention of being found.

But where was that girl? Neri didn’t like to waste a moment when Twyla got herself away from the palace. She scoured the murky waters for a glimpse of her sister or a shark or squid she'd have to fight off. Twyla wasn't as good a fighter as she was, despite being three years older; she had never needed to be.  If something happened to her, Neri couldn't live with herself.

She burst forth from behind the rocks, swimming like a shark pursued her--until she propelled herself straight into Twyla's arms.

Twyla giggled, silver eyes twinkling as she encircled Neri in a soft embrace.  "I caught you!"

Neri glowered and made a half-hearted attempt to shake her off. "I thought something got you." But the corners of her mouth curled up, and soon she was laughing too. Twyla had got her, all right.

The girls clung together in hysterics, then Neri pushed away slightly. "My turn now." Her tail twitched to get moving again. She longed to plunge deeper into the ocean depths, to show her sister the twilight realm few mer explored.

But Twyla kept hold of her arm. "My little Neri." She smiled and stroked the side of Neri's face. "You do worry so. I will miss that."

"Miss it? I'm not going anywhere." Neri snorted, then noticed Twyla wasn’t laughing. "Are you?"

Twyla's face was placid, like the figurehead of a ship. "I will be sixteen soon. Father wishes me to wed."

"No.” Neri set her jaw and looked away. "It can't be time yet." Hadn't they just been through it with Opal? No, that must have been two years ago. Marriage was always stealing Neri's sisters away.

Twyla sighed. "I am a princess. This is my duty."

And what did Neri care for duty? She only cared that she would be losing her very last friend. She kept shaking her head.

Twyla patted her shoulder.  "At least he will not send me away."

"Won’t he?" Father, give up a chance to use a daughter as a bargaining tool? That was unheard of. Only Neri had escaped—because he refused to acknowledge her birth.

Twyla gave a bitter laugh. "Father has chosen to keep me close at hand.” Unlike Opal, whom he’d sent to the Northern Sea, or the elder five sisters Neri had never even met.

Hope arose in Neri’s breast, then receded like the tide. “Not Megakles.” Prince of the Middlesea. The only ruler close to home.

Twyla's smile faded. "Megakles is not a kind man. He kills dolphins for sport, and swallows anemones whole. His brother died from poison. They claim it was a jellyfish, but there was no sign of a wound. Oh, Neri, he frightens me so." Her breath came in small, uneven gasps.

Neri tried not to let the panic show on her face, kept her voice quiet and calm. “Could you flee? I could hide you in my cave.” Where the sunlight barely came, and the bottom feeders skulked. “Or go to Opal. She would love to have you stay with her.” But the Northern Sea was so far, and so cold. Was Twyla hardy enough to make it up there? Would she even try? “I can take you. I won’t let anything happen, I promise.”

Twyla shook her head frantically, clearly terrified of leaving the home she knew.

Neri tried a different tack, anything to calm her down. “Father would never risk your safety, even to ensure Megakles’ loyalty. And Megakles would never risk offending the king.” She patted Twyla’s arm. "You'll charm him like you have the rest of us. Who would ever be unkind to you?"

Twyla nodded and stared down at her tail.

"And if he is, you come find me. I'll show him a thing or two."  She bared her teeth at a passing school of fish, who turned and swam the other way.

Twyla gave a weak chuckle, then hiccupped. "Tough . . . Little . . . Neri."  She wasn't breathing the way she ought to. She took in water, but it didn't come out her gills; she had to spit it out or swallow it, like a human. And when humans took in seawater, they drowned.

“Not again!” Neri put one hand on either side of Twyla's neck and massaged her gills.

Twyla gulped. “This is why—” She sputtered, spat out the water and tried again. “This is why Father— “

“I know. This is why Father wants to keep you close.” This was why Neri wanted to keep her close, too. “Don’t try to talk. Just let me help you get unstuck.”

But no matter how Neri rubbed, Twyla kept gasping and gulping. What did they do now?

Find the Sea Hag.

If the Hag was in her grotto, not wandering the ocean as she was wont to do.

Head for the surface. There the mer used lungs, not gills.

Twyla gulped water, coughed it out again, wheezing with the effort. Her gills strained to open, her skin was pale as a drowned man’s, and her eyes—her eyes stared blindly, like one of the human dead.

Neri backed up to Twyla and threw her arms over her shoulders. “You breathe, I’ll swim.” At once they began their ascent.

Up through the swaying kelp forest she swam, past floating jellyfish and clutching polyps. Neri swam ever upward, heedless of any plants or fish she passed along the way. Until at last the canopy of the surface hung above them, brighter than a school of lanternfish. And just as Neri swam towards it, strokes away from her first glimpse of unfiltered sun, Twyla whispered, “No.”

And then a huge gulp, and the sound of water pushing out her gills.

Neri released Twyla and turned to face her. Twyla's gills worked hard as she gasped and gulped. Her body twitched as it re-taught itself to function.

What mattered most is it did function again.

"Are you all right now?" Neri touched the side of her face, stroked her silvery hair. "I'll still take you up there if you need."

"No." Twyla's color was better, her breath getting back to normal. "I think I will be fine."
“We better not go exploring after all. And I can't take you back to my cave." Her home was beneath the sunlit ocean, in the twilight where the night hunters and phosphorescent creatures dwelt. Much too cold for Twyla, particularly after the scare she’d just had. "I'd better take you home."

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Wooten Rev 2

Jeff Wooten
YA Science-Fiction
Jake Tenkiller and the Widow’s Lament
Fifteen-year-old Jake Tenkiller's world is thrust off its axis when he escapes an orphanage and is kidnapped by intergalactic pirates.
Jake's anxiety skyrockets when he learns he is a descendant of an ancient alien race and has inherited powers of unimaginable wonder and unthinkable destruction. This makes him a valuable weapon, not only to the pirates, but to the five great Houses that rule the multiverse. He struggles to gravitate towards becoming the fierce warrior the pirates expect, and after many hours of training, his efforts crash and burn.
Now, the pirates become divided over whether Jake is going to be useful. While the captain has high hopes for him, the first mate would rather kill him than be bothered with earthscum – and half the vessel agrees.
Jake needs to prove his value in order to stay alive. He gets his chance when the ship is attacked by enemies, and he's confronted by another earthborn. Emily Gardner has acclimated well to life light years from her home planet, and she’s not having any problems claiming her place among the stars. Jake better find a way to master his alien skills or his life is going to be bleaker than the darkest black hole.
Emily watched the traffic through the bars of her window, trying to forget the day she fell from the sky. The hospital parking lot was filling up, and I-80 into Berkeley was thick with morning commuters. The world spun, people lived out their lives as if any of it mattered…but they were falling too. They just didn’t know it yet.
 The door opened behind her, pulling her back into the moment. It was too early for a doctor, probably the cleaning staff. Either way, Emily didn’t look. People moved out of sight, busy at some task; a hinge squeaked and something locked into place, wheels rolled on linoleum, feet and papers shuffled. Retreating steps and the shutting door told her someone had left. The creak of an office chair told her someone had stayed.
“Emily Gardner?”
She flinched at the sound of her name but resisted the urge to turn.
“Emily, would you come sit with me?” The voice was male and rang with authority. A small impatient silence followed when Emily didn’t move. “You can come by your own free will,” the man said, “or I can drag you over.”
Emily turned in her seat. An unfamiliar, dark-haired doctor sat behind a small folding table. A smile split his face, a liar’s smile, and Emily knew at once she didn’t like him.
The man motioned to the other side of the table. “And bring your chair when you come.” He riffled through a neat stack of documents on the tabletop. Emily watched him for a few seconds longer. No one had ever threatened her physically; pills and words were the doctor’s preferred method of violence, and she wondered if he would do it. He might, but not without a price.
They’d drugged her into a stupor the last time she’d lashed out. Oblivion hadn’t been horrible, but she didn’t deserve oblivion, and no sin went unpunished here, best to remember that.
She stood, picked up her chair, and walked to the table. The man didn’t look up from his papers. He thought she was powerless, weak and frail, something broken for him to fix. Emily imagined breaking her chair over his head, feeling a rush of something wild. The buzz lasted for just a second and was gone, leaving her emptier than before. She placed her chair across from him and sat. His nose was still in the papers. Who used paper these days? Was it a distraction of some sort? Did it have any purpose at all? Was it working?
Emily took a small breath. It didn’t matter.
Several minutes passed before the man found the page he wanted. He pulled it from the stack, and read it to himself. A few strands of hair fell from his brow that he absently pushed back in place. Emily guessed him to be about forty, as old as her dad. He wore a white lab coat like all the psychiatrists, and wore glasses too. Thick black rimmed glasses. Her dad wore glasses like that.
Had, she corrected herself, had worn. She was alone now, and this doctor was not her friend.
“It says that you were the lone survivor in a plane crash. Is that correct?”
Emily pressed her lips in a thin line as the man looked at her.
“Is something wrong?” A ghost of a smile crossed his face, and he examined his page again. “Your father Bruce was the pilot, your mother Nancy was with you and one more.” He went back to the stack, flipped through the documents until he found something that he stabbed with a finger. His eyes lifted. “Yes, a brother, a younger brother, Thomas. What did you call him? Thomas, Tom, Tommy?”
Emily could feel a fire igniting within her. She dug her fingernails into the palm of her hand, relishing the sharp pricks. Was he taunting her? It was clear he wanted a response. Emily dug her nails in deeper, keeping her expression neutral, determined not to let him see...whatever it was he wanted to see.
“You’ve been here for six months and haven’t uttered a word,” the man said. “Don’t you want to get out of here? A fresh start unencumbered with,” he spread his hands, “this. Fifteen is certainly young enough for that.” He watched her, shrugged, and thumbed through the documents again. After a few seconds he pulled one page out, examined it, and slid it over to her. “Do you remember taking this test?”
Despite herself, Emily looked. It was the front page only of what had been a packet, and she did remember, even though it had been months since she’d taken the test. It was a weird exam, not like any she’d taken before, and that’s what made her remember. She’d skipped questions she didn’t feel like thinking about, and answered only the ones she’d wanted too. It had been surprising how many she ended up answering. The questions about shapes and how they fit together were the best, questions with hidden pictures inside random squiggles. Brain teasers were what her dad called them. She’d thought of her dad, working the puzzles out. Maybe that’s why she’d cooperated and taken the test in the first place. It had made her remember…or forget. It was hard to tell sometimes which hurt less. She picked up the page in front of her, looked into the man’s blue eyes, crumbled the paper up into a tight ball, and placed it lightly on the table.
Her little act of defiance didn’t even register on the man’s face. “It’s rare someone scores as high as you. Did you know that?” He waited for just a second then continued. “Did you know traumatic events--physical or emotional--can sometimes alter brain chemistry? Change the way the human brain functions altogether? Cortisol reaction, serotonin and norepinephrine alterations. Most times these changes are…undesirable. Sometimes they aren’t. Were you injured in the plane crash?”
A familiar mix of emotions washed over Emily but never quite touched her. She wasn’t that girl anymore. That girl had a family, that girl had love, that girl had a future. That girl was dead.
The man’s fingers on the tabletop began to drum a steady beat. Thump-thump-thump-thump. “In all the multiverse there are only a few brains like yours Emily.” Thump-thump-thump-thump. “The genetic material must be present, of course,” thump-thump-thump-thump, “but even then few score so high. My name is Boris. Boris Halt.” Thump-thump-thump-thump. “I have come a long way to see you at the behest of the Emperor.”
He’s crazy. Emily sat up straight, staring at him, trying to see the madness that had to be there. All she saw was cold calculation. He’s not a doctor. The thought exploded in her mind, the mushroom cloud growing with her certainty. Was he a patient like her? An escapee roaming the halls? No, it didn’t fit. Who’d been in the room with him earlier? Emily pushed herself back from the table. Part of her yearned for a fight--even knowing how that must end--but inside she trembled. Don’t I want it all to end anyway?
“My question is,” Boris said, “is there still enough of you in there, or are you too far gone to be salvaged?”
The words stung, they stung more than they should. Emily’s lip twitched, and a short harsh breath, just shy of a growl, escaped her.
“Yes, there you are,” Boris said. “A thing of anger and fear, but there you are.”


1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Smith-Allen Rev 2

Name:  Rebecca Smith-Allen
Genre:  upper middle grade mystery with virtual reality elements
Title:  GAME ON!
Twelve-year-old Jared lives for video games. Science?  Not so much. So when he walks into school to find Mr. Hilliard, his geeky science teacher, handing out sunglasses, he’s suspicious. Turns out, the sunglasses run a virtual reality game that will let everyone appear as their favorite avatar over lunch. Mr. Hilliard hopes it will get kids like Jared excited about STEM. But the game is more than the teacher bargained for. Virtual skirmishes with fireballs and lightsabers take over the halls and classrooms as well as the playground, turning the school into a giant video game mash-up.
This game is Jared’s dream come true. With his skill, he can top the leader board. But his sister, Maxine, weights on his conscience. Maxine’s a bookworm, not a gamer. Her straight-A report card won’t help her fend off the ninjas and space marines. Jared turns down an epic battle to find her and get her somewhere safe. But Maxine won’t hide. She’s searching for a way to shut the game down and she expects Jared’s help. When people attacked in the game start vanishing, Jared’s faced with an impossible decision:  get his game on, or help his sister take down the Best. Game. Ever. 
Chapter 1
I stomped off the bus, weighed down by soul-crushing news and the long school day ahead of me. Aaron headed my way through the swarm of bodies, his shoulder-length black hair and ever-present smirk catching the attention of a pair of giggly girls.
That smirk was gonna disappear fast.
Aaron gave my shoulder a hello whack. “Dude, why so glum? Classes haven’t even started yet. Find your happy place.” He snorted.
Aaron thought he was hilarious.
“Dude, Worst. News. Ever.” I headed towards the unwelcoming doors of Thompson Junior High. No point in postponing the inevitable.
Aaron fell in step with me. “Let me guess.” He rubbed his chin, trying to look thoughtful. “Your mom’s on another health food kick and we’re gonna have to eat carrot sticks during our video game marathon tomorrow.”
I shoved his arm. “I’m serious.”
Aaron rubbed his chin some more. “Your sister got the new Just Dance and we’ll have to take turns on the Wii.”
“That would be bad,” I agreed. “This is worse.”
My twin sister, Maxine, walked into the school with her best friend and fellow study-a-holic, Mai. I shot the evil eye at the back of her head.
“I give up,” Aaron said.
“Maxine wanted a pat on the head for getting a 102 on the science quiz — every question right, plus extra credit. Ugh! Then Mom turns to me and says, ‘let’s see your quiz.’”
Aaron cringed. “How bad was it?”
“It was good for me!” I said. “I got a 68. That’s almost a C.”
Aaron shook his head. “Jared, my mom would kill me if I got a 68.”
“But this was science,” I pointed out. “And me. It was a miracle I didn’t fail with all the crazy stuff Hilliard asked. Label every part of a frog’s insides. What normal person can do that?”
“Your sister,” Aaron said. The duh didn’t come out of his mouth, but the eye roll implied it. “You can’t really blame Max for being happy, but…ouch.”
“Yeah. Mom flipped out and wants to help me with science tomorrow.” I made the air quotes for Mom’s key words. “So no video games until I’ve mastered frog guts.”
Tomorrow morning?” Aaron’s face twisted into a grimace. He shared my pain. Looking forward to our weekly video game marathons got me through the torture of school days. How could I survive the next seven hours knowing my agenda for tomorrow was frog guts rather than victory in an epic virtual battle?
“Forget the video game marathon,” I said. “Forget taking down the Orc boss. Forget Doritos. Instead, I get to study for a quiz I’ve already bombed.”
“Well,” Aaron said, “look at the bright side.”
I huffed. “What’s that?”
Aaron shrugged. “Sorry, dude. No clue. Just trying to cheer you up.”
“Thanks a lot,” I grumbled, then yanked open the gray, steel door. Leaving the world of sunlight and fresh air behind, I braced myself for another day of “improving my mind.”

Chapter 2
Two steps into the lobby, I froze. Aaron knocked into my shoulder, followed my gaze to the center of the space, then grunted.
Mr. Hilliard, lover of anything sciency, and frog guts in particular, stood in the middle of the lobby. He’d traded his Harry Potter glasses for rock star shades. Black ones, with mirrored lenses and frames that wrapped around the sides. They didn’t go any better with his Einstein-like ‘fro than his usual ones.
Hilliard held a second pair of sunglasses high overhead. He yelled something I couldn’t make out over the start-of-school-day chaos, but a crowd of kids stood listening to him. Max stared up with a confused expression on her face, which was particularly weird, since nothing at school ever confused her.
Rock star shades on my science teacher.
Confusion on the Teacher’s Pet’s face.
There was something odd going on.
“Yo!” called someone behind us. The next busload was on their way in and we were causing a traffic jam. I peeled my eyes off Hilliard and trudged toward homeroom. I didn’t make it far.
“Hey, Jared.” Brad walked up wearing sunglasses identical to Hilliard’s. He drew a small black case out of a bag slung over his shoulder and swept it across his smartphone, scanning the barcode. He selected my name, Jared Cooke, from a list of students, then handed me the case. “Try these.”
He repeated the process for Aaron.
In the case I found a pair those same sunglasses. I don’t normally take fashion advice from my nerdy science teacher. Looking at Brad, I shrugged. “Why?”
“Free trial of this new brand of sunglasses,” Brad said. “Mr. H. says they’re the next big thing. The only catch is you’ve gotta fill out a feedback form on how you liked them at the end of the day." With a nod, he stepped past us.
Weird. But the glasses looked cool so I slid them on. The frames fit snugly, like they were made for me.
“So?” I struck a pose, arms crossed over my chest, head cocked to one side, big attitude. “Do I look good?”
Aaron grinned. “Sure, dude. Better than Hilliard anyway." He slid on his own pair.
Good thing the giggling girls were gone. Aaron never encouraged them, but trendy sunglasses on top his usual look just might get him mobbed.
Me? I never had that problem. My superpower was killer plans for taking on a horde of bad-guy minions. Not many girls went for that.
I faked Aaron-level cool, and we swaggered across the lobby.
I turned to find Hilliard, still surrounded by students, waving me his way. What have I done now?
“This can’t be good,” I told Aaron in a low voice.
“You can’t be in that much trouble. It’s too early. Good luck.” He shot me a salute before turning toward his homeroom.
I sucked in a breath and headed over to see whether discipline for some unknown offense or science-related torment awaited me.
Hilliard waved the crowd apart. He wore dress slacks and a sports coat with his signature bow tie. I imagined his look as a pre-algebra word problem. If you take one geek and add rad sunglasses, what do you get?
…Does not compute.
“When I was offered the opportunity to run a trial for these sunglasses, I immediately thought of you, Jared,” Hilliard said.
“Me?” I blinked. “Why me?” Why would my science teacher spend one nanosecond thinking about me before or after fifth period? The thought was frightening.
Hilliard leaned back and let out a deep, throaty laugh. “You’ll see when the real fun starts at recess. In the meantime, help me out. Get your friends to try the glasses.” He handed me a big, lumpy bag just like Brad’s.
Then he pulled out a smartphone and tapped open an app. “You need to scan the barcode on each case and enter the student’s name.”
Whatever, I thought, reaching for the phone.
Hilliard didn’t let go and I glanced up. “Scan the barcode and enter the name or the game won’t work.”
“Game? The sunglasses are part of a game?” Could Hilliard have actually found something interesting?
Max eyed Hilliard suspiciously from the other side of the crowd.
Well, that settled it. If my sister thought the sunglasses were bad news, I was all for them. “Scan and enter the name. Got it.”
Hilliard smiled at me again. “I knew I could count on you, Jared.”