Saturday, July 23, 2016

Thank You to the Mentors and Participants of the July 1st 5 Pages Workshop!

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our July 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! We had such a nice group of talented writers. So talented, in fact, that there were 2 workshop winners! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, author Amy Nichols and agent Tanusri Prasanna. Both provided fantastic critiques. And as always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

Since many of our mentors are also mentors for Pitch Wars, we are taking a hiatus for August. The workshop will open again on Saturday, September 3rd. And if you have a finished manuscript, do consider entering Pitch Wars – run by our lovely 1st 5 Pages Mentor, Brenda Drake. For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer critiques on how to make the manuscript shine. The mentor also critiques his/her writer’s pitch and query letter to get it ready for the agent round. Submissions are open from August 3-5. You can learn more here.

Happy Writing (and revising!)


Sunday, July 17, 2016

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Stringfellow Revision 2

Name: Lisa Stringfellow
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: Dark Tide


12-year-old Kela never imagined, “I hate you,” would be her last words to her mother and after her death, Kela would do anything to take it back. Powerless to change the past, she only finds solace in jewelry-making and the sea. While scuba diving, Kela salvages a mysterious box containing a beautiful hair comb. When she touches it, a magical connection opens to a dangerous mermaid named Ophidia. The comb is Ophidia's soul, the immortal spark she took from a human long ago, and without it, she will dissolve into sea foam.

Bound by rules of magic, Ophidia offers Kela a wish in exchange for her comb’s return. With only three days to return the comb, Kela accepts and wishes her mother back from the dead, but soon learns that magic has consequences. Overjoyed at her return, Kela watches her mother sink into depression, the aftermath of being torn away from her soul. But before Kela can help her or keep her end of the bargain with Ophidia, the comb is stolen. As time runs out, Kela must find the thief and brave the mermaid’s wrath, or risk losing her mother again.

Chapter 1

Kela leaned forward slightly, resisting the heavy tug of the bright yellow scuba tank.

“Are you ready?” Her father’s strong, ebony hands rechecked the straps of her equipment.

“I think so, Pop.” She released her grip on the gunwale of the boat and flexed her stiff fingers.

“Just like old times then. Take your time and lean back when you’re ready.” He squeezed her shoulder. “I’ll be right behind you.”

Her mask felt warm and familiar as she put it on and took a steadying breath. It’s not going to bring her back. The little voice inside protested as it had this morning when she found another note from Pop asking her to come diving. But staying away hadn’t made the hurt go away. Tucking her chin and holding onto her mask and regulator, she let the weight of the tank flip her backwards into the warm Caribbean.

Panic grabbed her at impact. The dizzying somersault lasted only a moment but not the sensation of being dragged down. Years of practice couldn’t stop the impulse of her arms and legs to fly out, to refuse being swallowed. She willed herself to stay calm, not to fight, and relaxed her body into the sea’s embrace.

Exhaling long and slow, Kela emptied her lungs and felt her body drop. She adjusted her speed and repeated the process until the dive computer on her wrist displayed the right depth.

Fish darted like silver bullets through the mirror world beneath the surface. Fifty feet above her, the ceiling shimmered of glass and light, and she basked in the absence of sound. No splashing or shrill gull cries pierced this side of the water. Nothing intruded except what she brought with her: the movement of her body through the water, the rhythmic intake of her breathing, and the percussion of her heart.

An underwater forest pulsed in a kaleidoscope of color and texture. Reefs were a living boneyard; coral polyps wore their skeletons on the outside and built their homes on the backs of their ancestors. Her throat tightened at the beauty she had missed.

When she was little, Kela learned to snorkel with Mum and Pop in shallow reefs off the coast. Even when she was old enough to help Pop run trips with tourists, diving reminded her of family. Now, she wasn’t sure anymore. Pop beckoned her towards the reef, trying to close the void between them. Even below the water, this seemed the way of things. She conceded this time and moved closer.

Despite two months away, her body remembered what to do. She twisted slightly towards the sea floor. A jagged cluster of rocks jut from the reef, broken coral scattered. Earthquakes weren't uncommon in this part of the Caribbean and Kela remembered the strong tremors just last week. A rumble had rattled the windows and walls in the house and she had looked up in time to see the picture in freefall. With her arms around Kela and her broad smile frozen in time, the photo of her mother exploded in glass and wood as it hit the floor. Kela now looked at the sad shattered pieces of coral and wished she could put them back together too. But you can’t, the little voice hissed.

Kela swam on.

Pop pointed to a spotted cleaner shrimp picking its way across the tentacles of an anemone and scavenging food. Other citizens of the reef weaved in and out among the formations; flying gurnards with their large eyes and winglike fins, sandpapery filefish with neon scrawls across their flanks, and sharp angled jackfish prowling for prey.

Kela looked for shells. She needed more for her jewelry-making but thinking about Mum made her search harder for the one that would complete their collection. Normally reefs were great for collecting, predators casting the leftovers of their meals outside their holes, but not today.

A sound penetrated the silence, a faint warbling hum. Barely audible, but Kela could definitely hear it. Her eyes scanned the shadowy waters, but she wasn’t sure from where it was coming. Or if it was even real. Pop swam just ahead and didn’t seem to notice anything.

Kela kicked away from the coral forest towards open sea, making sure Pop could still see her. Safety required they stay within each other’s line of sight, but she thought she’d have more luck searching away from the reef. Careful to avoid stings from urchins or scorpion fish concealed in the sand, she searched the sea floor. A glint of blue finally caught her eye.

Her heart sank. It wasn’t a shell, only tinted sea glass with edges smoothed by the tide. Its translucent color made it a rare find. Kela tucked it in her dive bag. She picked up a small brown shell and watched spindly legs and antenna pull back out of sight. She stroked its smoothness then gently put it back. She hated divers who killed creatures just for their shells. It meant there would be fewer for everyone to find in the future. A life should be worth more than a pretty trinket.

The warbling sound thrummed louder and more insistently. Kela’s head snapped up. She noticed an angular shape in the sand a few feet ahead. It didn’t look like rocks or trash that had settled to bottom. It was small but definitely out of place.

She glanced to see where Pop was. He moved just beyond the rocks and broken coral. As she turned back to the shadowy shape, the water felt unnaturally cold. Her skin pricked underneath the neoprene wet suit as she kicked forward. Her hand floated undecided for seconds before finally pulling it from the coarse grit.

The hum stopped.

It was just a box. A little bigger than the size of her hand and completely battered. Nothing but barnacles and sea-worn wood, its hinges oozed a rusty red. A tiny keyhole stared from its center.

She turned it over in her hands and shook but nothing betrayed its contents.

Kela looked back. Her father was still exploring the reef, but getting closer. There were rules about what you could take during a dive and until now she had never questioned them. Shells were fine in this area, but salvage items were different. She wondered if the earthquake had dislodged it from wherever it had been buried.

Small and crumbling, the box seemed harmless, but she wanted to know what was inside. Kela’s brow creased. Pop wouldn’t like it, but he was the one who had pushed her to come. Adrenaline pulsed as she hesitated then quickly shoved it into her bag.

A sudden pressure on her shoulder forced her to take a sharp intake of breath and she jerked around. Pop squeezed his hand into a fist next to his chest, his gesture indicating he was getting low on air. He then made a thumbs up. It was time to surface.

In matched strokes, they kicked up towards the boat. Just like with Mum. It’s always what you want, the voice whispered. Kela tried to ignore it, but guilt still pinched. No matter how hard she wished, words could not be unsaid or choices taken back. As she followed Pop’s long shadow towards the bright ball of light above, she hoped she had made the right one this time.


The light faded as Ophidia plunged her arms into every murky corner, her tail fin thrashed in her search.

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Ratcliffe Revision 2

Name: Christian Ratcliffe
Genre: Middle Grade; Steampunk
Title: Blackwood's Swamp

Eleven-year-old William Kelley dreams of inventing a time machine to discover his past. When a mysterious visitor gives William an instruction manual for building a time machine, William may discover more than he bargained for.

The time machine transports his uncle’s houseboat through time and space to the world of Ventoria, a place where inventors are able to change dirt into any fantastical whim of the mind. Instantly, William feels at home amongst all the gears, steam, and inventions galore. The problem is, William can’t even get dirt to wiggle.

William also has no lineage to speak of, a societal no-no in Ventoria. If William doesn’t create a fake lineage soon, he will be sent to a prison work camp as a feared criminal.

William’s attempts to create a fake lineage instead lead him to uncover his real one. William soon believes he is the lost heir to the House of Wimberly — the only house in Ventoria with the power to remove evil inventors from their mysterious world. The closer William gets to the truth, the more William finds himself in perilous situations, like at the end of a flying alligator snout.

Someone wants to keep William from claiming ownership of the House of Wimberly…someone with a terrible plan to enslave hundreds of inventors, including William’s best friend. William must learn to invent to save the House of Wimberly and his best friend.

April 18, 1955
Mr. Albert Einstein,
My name is William Kelley, and I am trying to build a time machine. I would really love to come to Princeton and meet you, and, if Princeton accepts 11-year-olds, I would really like to study there, too. If you don’t accept 11-year-olds, then that is okay. I can still be your assistant.

There’s been lots of articles written about you, and I’ve read most all of them. I’m glad you think time travel is possible. The kids at school think its stupid, but they aren’t Einsteins either. I think we could build a machine. I could work in the small spaces, even though I’m not too small for an 11-year-old (I only got wedged once this month).

I have lots of good ideas, like making a protective bubble to keep you from becoming a space blob when you travel really fast. And seat belts, that’s a necessity to keep you from flying out when you have to suddenly stop at the year you want. Those are my best ideas. But, I still don’t understand some stuff like the math of time travel, and I hope you can help me understand them.

It’s very important that I build a time machine, as my parents died in a boat wreck when I was a baby, and I would like to go back and keep it from happening. I know that’s being selfish, with the wars and all, but if we go back and save my parents, then someone else can go back in time and save people from the wars.

Mostly, I really want to meet you. If you would like to meet me, please write me back at the address on the envelope.

June 19, 1955
Dear Mr. Kelley,
Thank you for your letter. I regretfully inform you that my respected associate and great friend, Albert Einstein, has passed on from this life to his next great adventure in another life. I am very sorry to hear about your parents. While Albert did believe time travel could be possible, he imagined the possibility in the distant future, and only for traveling forwards, never backwards.  Maybe one day you will be the next great mind to solve the issues Albert saw in time travel. Until then, I’ve enclosed a copy of ‘The Meaning of Relativity’ and a photo of Albert sticking out his tongue. If he were alive, he would have sent it himself (he once sent me one as a greeting card). I’m sure Albert would want you to have them both. Best of luck understanding the deepest mysteries in the galaxies.
Dr. Otto Nathan

July 18, 1955
Dear Mr. Kelley,
I’ll be arriving on April 18. Tune in at 8:22 in the morning.

July 25, 1955

William Kelley stared at the ceiling of Uncle Ed’s houseboat, waiting for 8:22 in the morning. The mysterious visitor, CQ, would arrive in only a few hours, and he had been unable to sleep from the possibilities his mind imagined.

Part of William hoped Dr. Otto had given William’s letter to someone else at Princeton, someone who knew about time travel. Maybe the visitor would help him build a time machine. Princeton probably didn’t want everyone to know how to build a time machine, or everyone would always be going and changing history or creating new worlds. But, if they knew William wanted to use the machine for good, then maybe they would help him.

A loud stomping of boots came from the front porch. The visitor!

William jumped up from his sofa bed, heart thumping, and searched the ground for his only pair of jeans. He didn’t want the visitor catching him in his undies. In the back corner of the sofa, he found his jeans. As he placed one leg in his pants, the front door swung open. William froze.

Uncle Ed stood in the door, wrapped in his trapping gear. His silver hair and beard were splattered with mud and sprawled around his tan face like a bird’s nest. Behind him, Troubles, William’s grayish blue Great Dane, jumped around the front porch, trying to lick a butterfly.

Of course, it wasn’t the visitor, it was too early in the morning. William sighed in relief and finished pulling on his pants.

“That dog near scared all the fish and frogs outta the swamp. The water would move and off he’d be tryin’ to lick whatever it was. Even tangled a few of my nets.” Uncle Ed dumped his trapping gear on the table.

Uncle Ed’s sleeves were rolled above his elbows, revealing most of his tattoos, several of them a bit faded. One tattoo, in particular, stood out, it was a red flower with four petals, tattooed across an old scar on his hand. Uncle Ed told William it was a Daphne flower. The flower didn’t match any of the other tattoos on Uncle Ed’s arms, which were mainly constellations. Uncle Ed’s body was one big star map.

Uncle Ed whistled, and Troubles bounced into the houseboat, his legs sliding underneath him and his ears flopping. Troubles was caked in mud, and his tongue hung out, dripping slobber. He shook his body, scattering dirt, and pounced on top of William, almost knocking him to the ground. Troubles gave William several slimy licks. William laughed and pushed Troubles off him.

“I managed to get a few frogs though. Took ‘em to Dock Giffin.”

Dock Giffin owned the only store in Swamp Hollow, except, it wasn’t just a store - it was also a restaurant, post office, and hotel. So, Dock Giffin would be the first to know if a stranger was in town.

“He gave me something for you.” Uncle Ed searched his pockets till he found a crinkled envelope in his back pocket. He held it for a moment, then said, “Another letter for you.”

The envelope was plain, similar to the envelope William received a week ago. William tore into it, nearly ripping the letter in half. He unfolded a piece of paper and read it aloud.

“Remember 8:22 in the AM. Build your own, or I will know. CQ.”

“Build my own what?” The first letter made little sense, and now this letter made even less sense.

William’s books and magazines littered his desk. He pushed his copies of the Time Machine and The Chronicles of Narnia off a wooden box. Inside the box, the first letter, crinkled and dirty, laid on top of several newspaper clippings, broken watches, and the picture of Albert Einstein.

The handwriting on both letters looked the same. The envelope from the first letter had a postage stamp from New Orleans, unlike the letter from today. William whooped. Whoever left him the letter was in Swamp Hollow.

“Did Dock say who left this?” William asked eagerly. “Anyone new in town?”

“Dock did mention there was a new houseboat. Came in yesterday eve.”

“What?” William navigated around his time machines plans covering the floor, trying not to scatter them, and pressed his face to the dockside window. He peered down both sides of the dock looking for a new houseboat, but all the boats were old and familiar. He didn’t remember seeing a new houseboat last night either.

“Boat left early this morning. Dock said he thought it was a woman.”

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Lollis Rev 2

Name: Dan Lollis
Genre: Middle Grade Sports
Title: Scratch

Scratch - Pitch

Twelve-year-old Win Moore lives and breathes mini-golf, but his real dream is to ditch the putter and master “real” golf at the exclusive local country club. Short in stature, but big in imagination, Win scores a summer caddying job that turns from dream to nightmare as he’s fired by the country club’s snobby president.

With his access to the course and opportunity to practice gone, Win is given a second chance to learn and play when the country club’s bitter and washed-up greenskeeper, Mr. Boozer, a disgraced ex-golf pro, hires him as an assistant.

Win works with Mr. Boozer, on the course and off, to prepared for his ultimate goal — the annual end of summer Junior Club Championship. As Win learns and questions the crazy techniques, ideas, and strategies Mr. Boozer shares with him, he discovers that things aren’t as they seem. Like, maybe Mr. Boozer isn’t washed up, and maybe being short isn’t that big of deal, and maybe every shot, even the little putts, count.

Scratch - Revision 2

Ladies and gentlemen, it all comes down to this putt.

I looked down at the golf ball, licked my lips, and spread my feet.

If he can make this putt, Win Moore, the pint-sized 6th grader, will become the youngest champion in golf history.

I lined up the putter and tightened my grip.

The hushed crowd waits in anticipation.

I let my mind go blank, pulled back my putter in one smooth motion, and then brought it forward. The putter made a satisfying PING as the ball jumped off the turf and shot towards the hole 25 feet away.

And the putt is away. Moving a little left-to-right. This ball has a shot.

I loosened my grip and leaned to the right — willing the ball to move in that direction.

Win Moore likes his putt. But does it have enough speed?

“Come on. Get legs,” I whispered under my breath.

Almost there! But will it make it? The—ball—is—

The ball slowed to a stop, froze on the edge of the hole, and seemed to debate whether to move another fraction of an inch and fall in.

“Drop,” I whispered.

The ball shifted slightly and then—CLINK.

It’s in the hole! He made it, ladies and gentlemen! Win Moore has won the championship with that amazing putt!

I jabbed my putter toward the sky and karate chopped the air in front of me, as I ran to the hole and grabbed my ball. After kissing it, I held it up for all to see.

“Hey, kid? Are you done yet?” asked a dad with two little kids.

I turned around mid-celebration, mouth open and golf ball held high, and snapped back into the real world.

“We paid for the 18-hole early bird special.” He leaned against the rainbow-colored windmill and crossed his arms while his two bratty kids swung their mini-golf putters like swords and hit each other.

I swallowed. How long had they been standing there? Was I so into my game that I didn’t notice them? I wanted to crawl behind the fake rock surrounding the hole and hide.

“Sorry, didn’t see you there,” I mumbled and ran away without making eye contact. I gripped my putter, crawled under the fence, and ran into the clubhouse. The bell on the door jingled as I went inside. Mom sate behind the cash register — head buried in a book. The phone rang once, and she grabbed it.

“Good morning. Thanks for calling Putt Putt Palace, home to 36 holes of putt-erifc miniature golf and the best—”

Mom stopped mid-sentence, frowned, and half-slammed the phone back on the counter.

“They hung up,” she said. “Guess they didn’t want to hear about the free ice cream cones today.” Mom smiled at me, took a gulp of coffee, and shoved her nose back in one of her battered mini-golf maintenance manuals. “You’re out practicing early today. How’s the course?” I never understood how Mom could read and talk at the same time.

I glanced around the clubhouse. At the duct tape holding together part of the cash register. At the piece of cardboard over the broken front window. And at the flickering neon sign above the golf ball dispenser that read “PRESS BUTT    FOR BALL”. The letters O and N burned out last summer, and Mom said that they were super-expensive to replace. I wish she would just turn it off.  Do you know what teenagers do when they see a sign like that?

“The windmill isn’t spinning — again. And something is wrong with the fountain on number three. Instead of nice blue water, it’s spewing brown foam that smells like sewage.” I gagged a little at the memory. “I know you love this place, Mom, but it’s old and you can’t fix it all yourself.”

Mom plopped her book the counter. “I know it’s old and seen better days,” she said. She scanned the clubhouse and scratched her chin. “It just needs a little—work.” Mom nodded and changed the subject. “How did you putt this morning?”

She never wanted to talk about the million things wrong with Putt Putt Palace. I shrugged my shoulders. “Okay—I guess.”

“Did you win your championship?” Mom asked with a smile.

My face reddened, and I pulled my cap down low.

“Oh come on, Edwin! I see you talking to yourself out there and jumping around like a maniac when you make a long putt. You think you’re the only one that ever pretended to be a sports star?”

“It’s stupid,” I said as I shoved the putter back in the rack and threw my ball into the giant “PRESS BUTT” ball dispenser. “Besides, it’s just putt-putt. It’s not even a real sport.”

“Gold is a real sport,” Mom said. She grabbed a screwdriver and tightened the heads of a few putters that had seen better days. “ And any professional golfer would tell you that putting —”

“Putting is part of a real sport,” I interrupted. “And not even the fun or cool part. Smashing a ball 300 yards off the tee is exciting. Tapping a putt three feet into a hole is a game for little kids.” I waved my hand toward the window so Mom could see the two screaming, putter-sword fighting kids on hole nine. “See?”

Mom frowned and squinted her eyes. “Those kids are not getting their free ice-cream cone.” She turned her attention back to me. “Every shot counts, Edwin. The three-foot putt is as important as the 300-yard drive. It’s not always about how far you hit it.”

“It is when you’re the shortest kid in school and can’t even drive the ball to the fairway,” I mumbled. Why couldn’t she understand that being good a putt putt was like being the best kazoo player in the orchestra or being the best tricycle rider in a bike race.

I grabbed a water bottle and my sack lunch from the fridge behind the counter. “I gotta go,” I said. Mom tried to reach over and give me a hug, but I ducked under her outstretched arms and shot toward the front door before she could grab me.

“You’re never too old for hugs from your mom,” I heard her shout as I opened the front door and literally ran into two teens and the steps outside. They were thick as a brick wall, and I fell flat on my butt. The door slammed behind me.

“Watch it, munchkin! You almost made me spill my drink,” one of them said as he fumbled with his soda can.

“Uh—sorry,” I said and propped up on my elbows. “I didn’t see you.”

“Short and blind,” the other one sneered and nodded toward the door. “Maybe your mommy can give you a hug and make it all better."

The other one closed his eyes, wrapped his arms around his back like he was hugging himself, and make wet kissing sounds. “Smoochie. Smoochie. My little boy,” he said in baby talk.

Both teens burst into laughter, opened the door, and went inside.

I grabbed my water bottle and smooshed bag lunch. I took a quick peek — PBJ, flattened banana, and crushed chips — delicious. I wanted to follow them and throw my ruined peanut-butter and jelly sandwich at one of their faces. It’s bad enough to get picked on in gym, or on the bus, or in the cafeteria, but now I was getting it at the Putt Putt Palace? That’s just not fair. I imagined for the millionth time what it would be like to be tall. No more teens knocking me down. I would be able to see over the heads in front of me in the movie theatre. And I would be able to hit a golf ball a mile.

I should have followed the teens inside to convince Mom to kick them out, but what good would that do? I knew we needed all the business we could get. This place has been a money pit since Mom took the business over from Grandpa a few years ago.

The alarm on my phone buzzed, and I got a flutter in my stomach. If I was late, Mr. McManus would fire me. I stood, dusted myself off, and looked at the potholes in the parking lot, the beat up orange cones that kept customers from parking in front of the dumpster, and the crooked Putt Putt Palace sign begging customers to “TURN HERE FOR FUN-CREDIBLE, FUN-BELIEVABLE MINI-GOLF.

I closed my eyes and and imagined myself on the tee box at Pebble Beach. Green grass and tall palm trees instead of faded astroturf and fake plastic shrubs I gripped my imaginary club and took a big swing.

And Edwin Moore crushed his drive, ladies and gentlemen! How in the world does the little guy do it?

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Gabriel Revision 2

Name: Kimberly Gabriel
Genre: YA thriller
Lia Finch isn’t delusional or some neurotic conspiracy freak. But when she uncovers the details of the next Flash Mob murder, the Chicago Police dismiss her as unhinged. For them, her father, the city’s District Attorney, was the mob’s final victim ending the decade-long reign of terror. Even two years later, city authorities still blindly pretend his death wasn’t targeted. Lia knows better.
Desperate to prove them wrong, Lia heads to Navy Pier alone to document the impending attack. When dozens of teenage mobbers suddenly emerge from the crowd to swarm the next unsuspecting victim, amateur vigilante Lia finds herself trapped. It’s a grey-eyed mobber that saves Lia from her own rash impulses by throwing her off the pier. It nearly kills her, but it saves her life.
Now this self-professed loner and Flash Mob survivor suddenly becomes the city’s golden child. The media wants to exploit her. The mayor wants to parade her around as the poster child for a safer “New Chicago.”  And mobbers want her dead. If Lia’s going to finish what her father started and prove these attacks aren’t random or gang affiliated, she’s going to need help – even if that means trusting a fame-hungry reporter, and the mysterious gray-eyed mobber that keeps turning up in her life. Someone big is orchestrating the attacks. Now if only she can stay alive long enough to prove it.
1st 5 pages:
The damp air scrapes my throat and burns my lungs every time I inhale. It’s heavy and unusually cold for this time of year – not that anyone else here seems to mind. Instead, hundreds of tourists taunt me with their perfectly capable lungs as they flock about Navy Pier like it’s the only acceptable place to celebrate Labor Day Weekend.
Their impulses are flawed like that. They come from places like Plainfield, Iowa and Hartville, Ohio where I’m sure they lead normal lives. But here, tourists become hoarders of magnets and sweatshirts and shopping bags all plastered with the New Chicago emblem. Even the ones trying to blend in amble along with the same blithe expression, marveling over the city’s height and the way its buildings shimmer on a gray day like today. They eat their Dot’s ice cream and take pictures of the Rejuvenation mansions along Lake Michigan, while ignoring their immediate surroundings and the warnings about walking in groups fewer than four.
They’re easy targets.
My breath hitches, and my chest tightens just enough to push the air back out of my lungs. I glance at my purse slumped beside me on the weathered slats of the bench. As tempted as I might be to reach for my inhaler, today is not the day to show that kind of weakness. I pull the sleeves of my sweater as far over my hands as they will go and pick up the Truman Capote book lying face down in my lap. I begin to reread the same paragraph I’ve read at least a dozen times in the two hours I’ve been here. But before I finish the second sentence, I’m already distracted wondering which of these tourists is about to die.
The lanky guy with the red stubble and flannel shirt, sporting a designer trucker’s hat that cost more than my entire outfit. Or the pudgy woman wearing pantyhose, tennis shoes, and a blue monochrome outfit. She’s easily the adult version of Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka after turning into a giant blueberry. The second I mark them as potential victims, I envision their beatings and how they will begin. A fist in the back of the neck, an uppercut punch in the gut. The first hit comes out of nowhere – a seemingly random attack from a guy in the crowd. Then within seconds, dozens of teenage mobbers materialize, swarming the victim like a colony of flesh eating ants – hitting and kicking to death.
Like they did to my dad.
I pinch the bridge of my nose, burying the images, and remind myself to stay vigilant.
On a clear day, I should see the arch above the dock street entrance a half-mile away. Today’s too gray to make out much past the Ferris wheel in the middle of the pier. Still, my bench tucked into the pier’s far corner like an architect’s afterthought allows me to watch at least half the pier’s promenade.
I skim the crowds looking for police officers, a SWAT team, for some kind – any kind of back up, but I don’t see any reinforcement. I’m not sure why I bother to look. I know they aren’t coming. When I reported the Tweet I’d found to CPD, the operator dismissed me like a delusional sixteen-year-old kid schitzing out over some random comment she found on the Internet. I didn’t even need to tell them I was Lia Finch. She assured me she’d pass my note along to a detective before condescendingly remarking the Flash Mob Era is behind us. For the last two years, every city official has denied any implication the mob has been lying dormant, waiting for the right moment to reemerge into society.They act like the nickname “New Chicago” will make tourists forget the attacks, mostly aimed at them.
People are able to convince themselves of just about anything to feel safe.
My breath hitches again, making the inhale shallow and unsatisfying. I close my eyes, relax my shoulders, and curse the weather for changing too quickly this year. I breathe slowly and methodically – a lame attempt to convince my body it really isn’t that hard.
A phone chimes next to me.
My head snaps toward a girl as she walks up and sits beside me on the bench. She’s nineteenish. Bronze skin. Copper colored hair slicked back in a tight ponytail. Her oversized scarf conceals her neck and half of her face. Sunglasses. Clearly a local. Likely hiding her identity. She could easily be a mobber. I jerk my glance away and take another deep breath.
Grabbing the pendant on my necklace, a tiny four-leaf clover imprinted on a silver disk, I start twisting the chain around my finger. Forty or so feet to my left, a captain, a first mate, and another crew member stand at the end of carpeted ramp leading to a mini-cruise ship. The captain and first mate greet each tourist climbing aboard with a reassuring, artificial smile. The third crew member stands at ease, though he hardly looks it. His head jerks back and forth, no doubt looking for any sign of disturbance.
There’s a hotdog vendor hamming it up for each customer with a fake Italian accent, while the popcorn vendor next to him takes money and scoops popcorn in one sinuous motion. His eyes never leave the crowd.
Not everyone is foolish. Even though it’s been two years and seventeen days since the last attack, most locals remain cautious and skeptical. We count on it for protection. I briefly consider if the crew member and the vendor know about the mob’s return today before quickly dismissing it. If anyone else knew about the attack, they wouldn’t be here. Not without reason.
I pick up my phone and check its battery life before chucking it back in my bag. If someone were to record the start of an attack and everyone on the pier in the moments before it broke out, it would lead to convictions – maybe even the start of annihilating the mob’s existence. I know it would. No one’s ever caught enough footage of an attack to incriminate anyone in it. With CPD acting so complacent, it’s the only choice I have.
My eyes flicker twenty feet to my right where a teenage boy sits hunched over at the base of some monument. Eighteenish. Broad-shouldered. He jams his hands inside the pockets of an oversized New Chicago hoodie like he wants to be mistaken for a tourist. Headphone wires disappear beneath his hood – a hood conveniently concealing his facial features. He’s been sitting like that for over an hour. Even though he seems to be alone, he fits the profile of the attackers. I can’t stare at him longer than a few seconds at a time without getting a piercing pang in my gut.
“Will you sign a petition to preserve our city’s parks?”
Again, my head snaps to my left to find a short pixie-like girl holding a clipboard tight against her chest where she stands addressing the copper-headed girl sitting next to me. Copperhead doesn’t look up. She’s wearing headphones. Conveniently. Something I wish I had right now.
By the time I bury my face in my book, Pixie Girl has already turned towards me.
“Do you like our city’s green space?”
I keep my head down cuing her to move along but Pixie Girl is undeterred.

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Smith Rev 2

Name: Christian Smith
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Ashmore Unbroken

Sixteen-year-old Gavin Ashmore had always suspected his family was
different, maybe even insane to the point of hearing voices and seeing
“ghosts.” All of that begins to change after the plane crash, when a
mysterious otherworldly girl saves him from his untimely death.
Following the accident, Gavin begins to see and hear things just like
the rest of his family.  Gavin learns that an ancient spirit named
Cain has been searching for him and now that he turned sixteen, Gavin
is in grave danger because he bears a centuries-long family curse.
This curse is what keeps Cain stuck between the living and dead
worlds, thus imprisoning him in-between worlds.  However, there is
still one provision to break Cain free - that lies within the very
heart of Gavin Ashmore.

To survive, Gavin must learn to fight Cain. He can only do it with the
help of otherworldly beings named Seraphs. As Gavin trains, he learns
that he has his own unique ability to manipulate spirits, a talent
only one other in history has possessed - Cain. Gavin himself must
decide if he will destroy Cain or take his place as one of the most
powerful beings on the planet.


Chapter 1 – Turbulence

I choked against the thick smoke filling the air. What little oxygen I
could grasp just burned in every inch of my chest.

Glancing up the aisle, the only thing I noticed was sheer panic as the
other passengers sitting single file in front of me gulped and snorted
for oxygen – That is, except for the old woman who sat in front of me
quietly humming to herself as she wore an eerie smile and calmly
looked out the window with glazed eyes.

A man and woman sobbed a few seats in front of me, telling each other
how much they loved one another while holding hands between seats. One
of the businessmen yelled fiercely at a shaking flight attendant,
desperately pleading for a way off the plane and offering money for a

I was going to die. I wasn’t even sixteen and I was going to die.

I shut my eyelids. The smell of gasoline and burnt steel twisted in a
sickening, pungent combination. My stomach lurched and my fingers
burrowed deeper into the armrests.

The seat belt light overhead blared at me angrily. Like that little
piece of fabric was going to help.

I looked to the front of the plane where the smoke had come from. I
wondered what happened to the pilot.  He had been yelling something
just minutes before the smoke crept under the cockpit door.

The engine sputtered on my right side as it completely gave out.

The plane dropped ten feet.

The flight attendant fell sprawled on the floor, spilling a box of
masks she was about to hand out. A tall figure reached down for her,
pushing her hastily to the vacant chair in front.

It was as if someone had taken the fastest roller coaster in the world
and placed it on top of Mount Everest. My stomach was sitting on the
ceiling by now. The plunging motion sickened and exhilarated me all at
the same time.

I looked down at my Ramones t-shirt. My dad had introduced me to them
– And for a split second I just breathed heavily as realization and
acceptance sunk in. At least I would go out of this world wearing my
favorite shirt...

I felt a wrinkled old hand wrap itself around my leg, a dry, creaky
voice piercing through the din. It was the old woman who had been
sitting in the seat in front of mine, muttering prayers or chants.

“Give me your hand my boy,” the woman said. “Such a sweet child like
yourself shouldn’t have to die this way. Beautiful brown hair, just
like him…”

She trailed off.

As her hand reached through the air, her sleeve lifted and I saw a
faint outline of a tattoo, now worn and wrinkled like an old map. A
large emerald ring on her finger glinted with metal serpents wrapping
themselves around the green glowing gem.

Something about her – the voice, the texture of her wrinkles, the
smell of spice cake and flowers - had reminded me of my own nana, for
whom I had boarded this deathtrap to help out after she had fallen and
hurt her hip.

Even though old people creeped me out I gripped her hand tight and
whispered back. “Thanks…I think..”

“What’s your name young man?” She asked dryly.

“Gavin. Gavin Ashmore.”

“Ah yes,” replied the old woman with a sense of recognition.
“Ashmore…Ashmore...Something special about that name…Can’t remember
though…it’s been far too long for my memory. I’m not- I’m not who I
used to me.  You see, I am -”

Another loud crash rang through the air as something mechanical failed
and stole my nerves away.

More screaming.

More crying.

More shouting.

A loud voice rang over the speakers, struggling to eek out words.

“Errr…This is…your captain. “I – errrr,” he gasped. “I will not give
in…AHHHHHHH….they are coming…HE IS COMING….I…I am sorry Gavin Ashmore.
YOU WILL DIE…I-I-am sorry…we will all die…”

Then nothing but static.

The captain mentioned me by name. I wanted to gasp but the suffocating
air bore down on me.

The other engine sputtered and gave out, replacing the tumult with a
grave silence that reverberated death.

No screaming.

No crying.

Not a single shout.

The plane tipped downward, and I felt weightless. The steep motion
thrilled my senses, but at the same time crushed the remaining breath
out of my lungs.

The other passengers must have passed out by now, or given up I figured.

I would die soon also.

I tried to gasp one last breath out, but it was stifled like a flame
choking out. Rolling my eyes back into my skull, I gave into the
darkness that welcomed me.

I heard one more deafening crash.




A faint light danced in front of my face. I would’ve reached out and
grabbed it if I even had an arm. It felt like my consciousness was
just floating somewhere in –between worlds. Time had no meaning – I
could’ve been staring at this thing for the past century and I
would’ve had no idea.

The light exploded in the darkness where I now existed, only to be
replaced suddenly by a small figure - a girl in fact.

A glowing, fiery ring appeared before my view. The girl held it
without getting burned.

She must have been something from another world, because she was
singly the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on. In stark
contrast to the chaotic rush before the darkness, she stood calmly
looking down at me. Her skin was porcelain white, while her hair sat
in tight, jet-black ringlets on her head. Her eyes were the purest
blue that could have been created. Flowing white wisps surrounded her
as her dress enveloped her body.  She looked down at me, frowning with

I tried to reach her, but without an embodied hand, I just watched
silently. She spoke, almost singing as she did so. Though she looked
in my direction, it didn’t seem like she was speaking to me, but
calling out to something…or someone.

It sounded like some kind of Latin to me.


She repeated it over again, as she reached out her gentle fingers. A
glowing ball of light appeared at the tip of her index finger, and she
placed it where my forehead should have been.

She spoke again, “I have been watching you Gavin Ashmore…you must not
die. You are far too important for this world.”

A blast of radiance engulfed my consciousness. I was instantly sucked
back into my body like a vacuum.

My eyes shot open, but it was still pitch black.

I labored to breathe – something stifled me like a plastic bag. Sweat
trickled down my forehead, making my eyes sting. I could hear distant
voices muffled through whatever was wrapped around me.

I reached out my now embodied hand and pushed the plastic away from my
face. I scratched and pinched at it until I felt an ice-cold metal
object against my hot skin.

I closed my fingertips around it and pulled the zipper down hard–
Daylight exploded into my vision and blinded my eyes like a flash

I bolted up from a black body bag, thrashing and kicking at it to free myself.

“Over here!” Someone shouted. “There’s a live one!”