Friday, September 23, 2016

Free 1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens on October 1!

Our October workshop will open for entries on Saturday, October 1 at noon, EST. We'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) 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 Anne Pillsworth as our author mentor, and Shannon Powers as our agent mentor. So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy writing (and revising!)


October Guest Mentor: Anne Pillsworth

Anne lives in New England, which informs much of her fiction. One day she hopes to find Lovecraft's portals to his mythical towns of witch-haunted Arkham and Kingsport, shadowed Innsmouth and accursed Dunwich. Until then, she'll just have to write about them. She’s a member of SFWA and HWA and a rabid Austenite. Apart from writing, she likes gardening, swimming, king cobras, jumping spiders, and cats. No cobras or cats at the moment, but the jumping spiders are always with her. In spite of maintaining a mental age of between twelve and sixteen, she just married her partner of more than thirty years.


Sean Wyndham has tried to stay away from the lure of magic—the last time he tried to dabble in the dark studies, he inadvertently summoned a blood familiar, wreaking havoc on his town and calling the attention of the Elder Gods.

Still, Sean has been offered the chance to study the occult with a proper teacher and maybe gain a handle on his tempestuous callings. And it seems like a safe choice—overseen by Helen Arkwright, a friend of Sean’s father and heir to an ancient order of much power, founded to protect New England from that which lurks in the coastline’s unseen depths. But will learning theory be enough, when there is a much greater magical secret hidden in Helen’s vaulted library? 

Accompanied by his best friend, Eddy, and their enigmatic new friend, Daniel, Sean wades out deeper into mystical legend and shadow. With hints and secrets buried long in family lore, they turn to the suspicious Reverend Orne once more for assistance. But as Sean deepens his understanding of his power, the darkness is waking.

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October Guest Agent Mentor:Shannon Powers

Shannon is a graduate of New York University. She began her career in publishing at McIntosh and Otis as an intern in 2011, and then went on to intern at The Book Report Network and W.W. Norton & Company. She has also worked as a bookseller. She returned to M&O in 2014, where she assists Shira Hoffman and Christa Heschke and is also looking to build her own list as a junior agent.

Shannon is interested in representing a range of both adult and children's genres. Above all, she looks for projects with a strong hook, smart plotting, memorable characters, and an addictive voice. She is open to both lighter projects and projects with a darker edge. For adult, her reading interests include literary fiction, mystery, horror, popular history, and romance. In YA and middle grade, she is searching for mysteries and thrillers with high emotional stakes, projects with romantic elements (whether fun or angsty), horror, light sci-fi or fantasy, and contemporary with a unique premise.
Twitter: @S_E_Powers / Blog: Spine & Page

Monday, September 19, 2016

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Perry Rev 2

Matthew Perry
The Outanders

The Outlands is a fantasy novel that tells the story of a nomadic people whose peaceful lives are thrown into chaos by a sudden invasion by an alien race. This catastrophic event scatters the survivors to the far reaches of their old homeland where, in ones and twos, they come together again in a small group of refugees who must chart new lives in a changed world.

In particular, the novel follows the course of one young man and one young lady who find their lives increasingly intertwined. Each of them is gifted in one particular way and it becomes their joined destiny to travel into the heart of the alien nation to find a solution to their people’s doom
The Outlands combines adventure and romance with a classic quest by two heroes who must get along with each other before they can join forces to fight their common enemy.


They found the Reavor’s trail on the final day of the graduation patrol.
“What do we do?” Bazz was young enough that the possibility of Reavors loose in the Outlands was interesting. Here was yet one more problem to solve for the head of the class.
“Damn.” Peir was older by a few hundred years. For the past few weeks he’d been seeing his family in sudden dreamy reveries, hearing their voice when he was on the verge of sleep. It’d been a year. “How far ahead?”
Bazz was only twenty but he possessed an acute sensitivity to the eaithar. He dropped from the saddle and looked south where the grass ran on and on forever to the sea. Tilting his head back just slightly, he looked beyond the Here and Now, into the code of the universe as it adjusted itself in constant infinite quantum calculations. “Not too far.” He turned and grinned. “Maybe an hour.”
“Damn, damn.” Reavors loose in the Outlands this late in the year? It didn’t make sense. He risked a look to the northwest where the mountains faded in an out of heavy cloud cover. He read it in the eiathar: the pass home would be buried in three days.
Bazz was climbing back into the saddle. “What do we do?” Like it was nothing.
Peir leaned and spat and wiped his mouth with the back of his gauntlet. There was only one answer and the boy knew it. It had been like this all year. He pulled his horse around to address the other four scouts. “Okay, lads – this is it. Button up all your gear. We go fast but we go quiet.” He couldn’t miss how their faces struggled between dread and anticipation. Like Bazz, they were twenty years old and they gaped at each other with foolish smiles. Action at last!
 Peir felt the weight of responsibility settle in his solar plexus like he’d swallowed a stone.
They rode south, their horses plowing the dense grass with their chests, the sun always on their right shoulder. In this way, hidden in the holocaust of sun glare, they rode up upon the flank of Reavors without being seen.
“Those are Reavors?” Peir and Bazz stood on the crest of a hill with the sun behind them. Peir drew the eiathar close about them like a cloak so they were not seen.
The aliens rode south, devouring distance with the same singular devotion to steady progress as wolves. They bristled with weapons and appeared neither rushed nor concerned about riding up on anyone. Even from this distance they could see their peculiar skin tone like old snow; their pale hair streamed from beneath their metal caps.
“That’s them.”
“We don’t have them in the south.” Bazz was of the Evening Star people. “Sometimes pirates raid the coast though.”
Peir gave the boy a hard look. “Pirates? Look at those Reavors, boy! Have you ever seen anything so strange and brutal? Half your height but twice as broad – they can snap you in two. Hands the size of plates, boy!  See those axes they carry? Cut a man in half.” He turned to gesture at the shadow of the Great Dyrian Forest that hemmed in the northern horizon. “And there are millions of them up there, beneath that canopy. No one knows how many!”
“Okay,” Bazz said. That was the most irritating thing about him, he was always so agreeable.
“Pirates are nothing, boy! These Reavors come down into our homelands with one thing on their minds: murder and looting.” That was actually twothings and Peir knew it and it made him even more irascible. “Why do you think we’re even here?” He slapped one hand in the palm of the other to emphasize his point. “Do we spend every fifth year of our lives, away from our families, patrolling the southern coast for pirates?”
Bazz kept his eyes on the Reavors as they passed on beneath the leaden autumn sky. His expression was placid. “No sir.”
“Let me ask you: do we take all you twenty year olds away to the south for your warrior initiations? No, we do not, and here’s why: pirates can’t compare to Reavors for pure evil. That’s why I’m here with you and those other four instead of in my wife’s tent.”
“Yes sir.” He turned and looked around. “Don’t you think we should be going, sir? Report to the Warlord?”
Peir girt his sword belt a little tighter around his waist. “Reavors passing by just an arrow show away and he’s talking about pirates.” He took a breath and gathered his wits. “We need to give an accurate count to the Warlord. We can’t just go racing back with scary stories to tell.”
“I figured three hundred, sir.”
“Three hundred?” Peir shaded his eyes with his hand. “That’s two Reavor troops. Why so many?”
“I think we should go, sir.”
“Why are they headed south this late in the year? All of the northern tribes have moved to Winter Camp by now. There’s nothing to steal.
Bazz tapped him on the shoulder. “I think we should go now, sir.”
Peir shrugged him off. He turned to speak his mind about propriety but saw that Bazz was looking off to the northeast. When Peir followed the boy’s gaze he saw a line wavering on the horizon like summer lightning. “What . . . is  . . .that?”
Bazz was backing off the hill. “Riders, sir!”
Peir glanced at Bazz, then back to the horizon as the flickering figures resolved themselves into a vast body of mounted soldiers, stretched like a net from horizon to horizon. He was confused. The rest of the patrol?  Why are they coming here?
Then he saw their code in the eiathar: these were not the patrol. These riders were not riding like an Isthilia patrol on long-legged steppe horses – these riders were mounted on heavy, thick horses and the great mass of them was encased in plates of armor that shifted the low light in fractals like river water. The ground began to rumble at their approach.
“Sir?” Bazz was halfway down the hill but reaching towards Peir as if he might stretch and grasp the older man’s hand and pull him along.
“Impossible,” Peir said. “Those can’t be Reavors! They can’t be.”
There were thousands and they were driving forward, harrying them into what now Peir could see was the advance party. “We’re pinned!” Then it dawned on him. He sprinted down the hill and grabbed Bazz as he passed him. “We’re pinned! We have to ride!”

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Heartford Rev 2

Name: Romany HeartfordGenre: Middle Grade - HistoricalTitle: Devil’s Born
Deformed from birth, he is known as Devil’s born.
England 1562 and the superstitious people of Berwick blame the arrival of the plague on a 12 year old boy. Born with a disfigured face, his presence is considered a curse. Left with no other choice, he runs away to seek a cure, but wherever he goes, the accusations always follow. 

In Scotland, he finds an apothecary with a reputation for miracles. Although in return for the promise of a remedy, he is ensnared in a plot against the Queen.  
If he is to have a chance of the normal life he longs for and of returning home, he must first convince the people of his innocence. Not an easy task, when you’re without friends and chained to a post in the castle dungeon.

Chapter 1
The possibility
Berwick 1562
As dusk fell on the town of Berwick, Will watched his shadow spread across the path. For the first time, he noticed how it’d grown to near enough the length of his father’s. Pausing, to slide a hand inside his cloak, he raked his fingernails where the sweat had gathered.
“Get a move on;” his father jerked his head forward.
Will nodded and they hurried on, passing the closed doors of the feather shop and the fishmonger’s. Round the corner, his stomach rumbled at the sight of a figure in the baker’s window kneading dough.
“I’m hungry,” he said.
“I’ve got a wife to nag me, and her mother too.” His father replied, eyeing the crowd up ahead, as it gathered outside the tavern: “I’ll not be pestered by you as well, boy.”
“But can’t we just stop for some food…”
“Enough, I said. Your brother is sick and needs this.” His father’s fingers went to his belt, feeling for the weight of the medicine bottle. “You can eat when we get home.”
Footsteps fell on the cobbles behind them, and to the side, in a stream of people heading for the noise and smoke of the tavern. A few raised their hands in greeting and Will pulled at his cloak, checking the hood still concealed his face.
“Are you coming in for a quick one, John?” A man reached out his hand, skin roughened and red, to clasp his father on the shoulder. And lowering his voice, he said: “You’ve heard about the Queen – I dare say?”
“No, I’ve been at work all day. What are they saying now?”
Will scuffed his foot over the ground; it was all right for his father to stop for a chat but a different matter when he wanted to. And he tried not to listen as his father leant in to have the tittle-tattle poured into his ear. Whatever the Queen was up to, it made no difference to him.
He lifted his head when the pitch of his father’s voice cut through the other noise:
“God’s tooth. We’ll have another Protestant on the throne if she doesn’t get a move on.”
“Come John, let’s have that drink.”
“Oh, I wish that I could,” his father shook his head and Will closed his eyes to stop himself from rolling them. “But Jo’s sick at home.”
“Oh. I thought that that was Jo.” The man turned towards Will, his face growing a shade of red to match his hands, as he tried to peer within the hood. Will’s mouth dried. People always wanted to see and yet they didn’t want to see. “You mean,” the man lowered his voice, “that’s the one they call…”
“Yes, that’s William. Come on now son, your mother will be wondering where we are.”
The man fell back and was watching them still, when Will glanced over his shoulder.
“Father? He’s staring…”
“What Henry? That old gossip! You’ve nothing to fear from him, boy. Just keep your head down and people will take no notice of you.” They threaded through a dark passage into the next street, leaving the sounds of drinking and chin-wagging from the tavern behind. “We’ll be safe in our beds, before we know it.”
It grew hot and sticky under the cloak and Will rolled his shoulders back and forth, trying to relieve the itch. When nothing he did gave any relief and with his father’s gaze set in the distance, he lowered the folds of the hood. His lips parted in a sigh as a trickle of air darted about his face.
Night’s darkness thickened, until even moonlight was shut out in places where the overhanging rooftops of opposite houses touched. The street was empty now of the pedlars and market stalls that lined it during daylight hours. Will’s stomach growled at the thought of his favourite pie stall and of sinking his teeth through a crust of buttered pastry. They paused below the flame of the street-lamp so that his father could light the torch he’d been carrying.
“William Fletcher!”
He winced at the clip of his father’s hand against his good ear: “What did you do that for?”
“Get your hood up boy.”
“But it’s got dark and you said…”
“You think because there are people more nosey than they are spiteful - you can start showing yourself off?”
“No,” he swallowed and rubbed where his father had caught his ear. “Sorry.”
“Come on,” his father flicked his hand at the hood. “I never took you for a fool.”
Will dragged the thick wool back over his face, the weight of his heart growing heavier with it.
While rats squealed about their business in the midden-heap nearby, he chewed the inside of his cheek, knowing well why his father wanted him to hide his face. That didn’t stop him from hating the cloak, on a hot day. His hand crept under the hood to touch the web of ulcerated skin that distorted the left side of his face, stretching from his nose all the way to his ear hole. Devil’s born people called him. When the goodwife who birthed him had seen his deformity, she’d offered to drown him, as a favour to his mother.
“Watch out!”
A hiss of falling liquid accompanied the cry from the window above their heads.
“God’s tooth!” His father said.
Will leapt sideways but the day had slowed his wits and the contents of the chamber pot splattered over the ground, spraying his boots.
“Zounds!” He recoiled at the salty stench of urine.
“Now don’t look like that.” The previous sternness left his father’s face as he tried to suppress a chuckle. “It’s not so bad.”
“It is.” Warmth spread from the leather of his boots, to seep in between his toes. “It’s very bad.”
“It could have been worse.”
Will snorted.
“Think about it. There could have been floaters in there as well;” his father smiled. “Besides there’s some that say it’s good luck.”
“People say stupid things.”
Subconsciously, he passed his hand back inside the hood to prod the swelling that marked his face. Rough, red lumps and ridges prickled beneath his fingertips. Other people could worry about who would sit on the throne next or what church to go to on Sundays, while all he thought about was how to be rid of this disfigurement. Sensing his father’s raised eyebrow, he snatched his hand away.
“How can I live a normal life with this thing on my face? People hate me.”
“Self-pity’s never the answer.”
“What is then?”
“God will help you find it one day, son.”
“You think it’s possible…” Will’s throat tightened: “to remove this thing from my face.”
“Who am I to say what’s possible or not? Although Heaven knows we’ve tried…”
Despite having had these conversations before, he couldn’t help but raise his face up, hope swimming through his eyes.
And Will held his breath while his father shuffled his feet: “Look - your Aunt did mention an apothecary in her last letter. She seems to think he can perform miracles but,” he paused: “Now you listen to me boy, don’t get your hopes up.”
The church bell rang in the distance, tolling the hour of nine and his father began to hurry onward:
“Come on.” he said. “It’s late.”
Candle flames guttered over window sills, making dark shapes shift and sway along the path. And Will vowed to himself, his feet squelching in the blackness, that one day soon he would find his aunt’s apothecary, this miracle man, and make his face normal. When just before the turning to their road, his father pulled him to a stop.
His ears strained to catch the clatter of sound building behind them. A steady swell of horses’ hooves and the creak of a wheel.
“Pray to God, boy, that’s not what I think it is…”
Will felt the shudder run through his father’s body while he knelt on the cobbles, to roll the torch beneath his boot and extinguish their light. The beat of his heart pulsed at his throat while the approaching rumble grew to a thunderous pitch.
“Shhh. They’re coming.” 

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - McMahon Rev 2

Name: Kathie McMahon
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Title: Road Trip With Crazy Grandma

“Watch out, Indiana!” I yelled as the boulder thundered down the passageway in the Temple of Doom. Legos flew everywhere as I rescued the figurine from the scene just in time.

“Nate?” A tired voice drifted up the stairs. “Dinner’s almost ready and you need to set the table.”

I sighed and picked up my Indiana Jones book that I had been using to create the Temple of Doom out of Legos. I tried to follow the descriptions exactly, every little detail. I was just getting to the good part of the story, too.

“Nate!” Dad’s voice got louder, with more of an edge to it. The kind of parental tone that makes you jump.

“Coming!” I tossed the book onto my bed and bounded down the stairs.

Smells of garlic filled the kitchen. Dad stood over the stove and stirred his prize-winning spaghetti sauce as he hugged his cell phone between his ear and shoulder.

“No, I haven’t mentioned it to him yet, Lou. I plan to talk to him about it at dinner.” Dad glanced up, his lips in a grim line. “Okay we’ll see you in a bit.”

“What’s up?” I asked, as I got the silverware out of the drawer. “Who was on the phone?”

Dad continued to stir the sauce with one hand as he dumped the spaghetti into a colander in the sink. “Grandma Lou. She’s coming over in a little while. She has something she wants to show you.”

“Oh, yeah? What is it?” Grandma Lou loved to surprise me with all sorts of unusual stuff, like an arrowhead she found or a collectible comic book.

Dad didn’t say anything as he struggled with the pasta like it was a huge ball of twine that he scooped onto two plates. I winced as he ladled the sauce sloppily onto each pile of noodles. I would have to get a separate bowl for my salad and ranch dressing. I hate it when different foods touch each other.

“There,” Dad said as he plunked both plates down on the table. “Grab the salad and napkins and we’re good to go.”

I slid the chair out and carefully laid the napkin on my lap. “So what’s Grandma Lou coming over for?”

“There’s something I want to talk to you about,” Dad said.

Uh oh, this can’t be good. Parents never start a sentence that way when they’re planning on taking you to Disneyland or buying you a cool video game. They only want to “talk” when there’s bad news, like a phone call from your teacher, or the movie you can’t go see, or . . . someone is sick.

“What’s wrong?” My stomach lurched at the thought that Dad might be sick, or maybe something had happened to Grandpa Don or Grandma Lou.

“Nothing’s wrong, really.” Dad tried to force a smile. “We need to talk about what you’re going to be doing this summer until I get my vacation in July.”

“I think I’m old enough to stay home alone this year.” I grabbed my fork and started swirling my spaghetti around the tip, careful not to splash any sauce on my clean shirt.

“I know that’s what you want to do,” Dad said, “but I’m afraid that’s not an option.”

I slammed my fork down a little harder than I meant to, spaghetti sauce spilling over onto the table. “Why not? All the other guys do! I’m almost eleven, you know.”

“I’m well aware of that,” Dad said. “But I’m not comfortable leaving you here by yourself yet.”

“Well, one thing’s for sure – I’m NOT going to Boy Scout Camp again!” I picked up my fork and stabbed at my salad. I had told Dad about the crafts and the fossil hunt and a few other things that I did at camp, but I didn’t tell him about the bad stuff, like throwing up while horseback riding or almost drowning in the creek.  And I definitely didn’t say anything about the bully Oliver.

“It’s too late to sign you up anyway,” Dad said. “About the only thing left is Kids Kamp.”

“No!” I jumped up from the table, causing my glass of milk to wobble back and forth and splash onto the placemat. “All the kids are younger than me and they play a bunch of baby games. I want to stay home and read my books and build things with my Legos and stuff like that. If Mom were here, she would trust me enough to let me stay here alone!”

“That’s enough, young man. Sit down.” Dad bit his bottom lip and I could see redness creeping up his neck, which happens when he’s about to explode in anger. Something that seemed to be happening a lot more lately. I took my seat, careful not to spill anything else.

“It’s not a matter of trust, Nate,” Dad looked me in the eye.  “Your mom was a teacher, so she had the summers to spend time with you. I wish I had her schedule, but I don’t. I would like to take you to the museum, go bike riding to the park, have picnics and make movies with the video camera like she did. But I can’t.”

Dad sat up a little straighter. “So I have another suggestion,” he said. “How would you like to go on a road trip with Grandma Lou?”

I nearly choked on a piece of lettuce. “But, Dad, Grandma Lou is SO weird!  I mean, I love her and everything, but most grandmas bake cookies and take their grandkids to the museum. How many grandmas do you know that see how many marshmallows they can stuff in their mouths and dress up like Elvis Presley?” My memory drifted back to Grandma Lou lip-syncing You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog at the Parent Night talent show. So embarrassing!

Dad chuckled. “Nate, your grandma may be a little unusual, but she really wants to take you on this trip. Who knows what exciting adventures you’ll have?”

I visualized myself hanging from a cliff, Grandma Lou reaching out to grab me before I plummeted to the ground below.

Dad concentrated on cutting a meatball.  “Grandma thought this would be a good experience for you to get away from the house and all the . . . reminders of summers with your mom.”

“But we’ll miss the anniversary,” I said. “I won’t be able to put daisies on her grave. She always expects me to do that.”

“What she expects from you is to live your life. She would want you to move on.”  Dad wiped his mouth with his napkin and set it next to his empty plate.

“Is that what you’ve done?”  I glared at him.  “Is that why you took down all the pictures of Mom after she died and never put them back up?  Have you moved on without her?”  My throat got tighter as the anger boiled inside me.  “Do you want to move on without me, too?  Is that why you want to get rid of me?”

Dad’s face paled and his mouth hung open.  For a minute, he could only choke on the words he tried to get out.  “What . . .?  Where did you . . .?  How could you possibly think that?”

“Well, I refuse to go on a stupid trip with Grandma Lou and her crazy ideas.” I left the table and stomped up the stairs to my room.

It all started with a scrapbook. “Things I Want To Do Before I Get Old” was printed on the front. A collection of pictures and drawings stored in one place by ten-year-old Nate’s mother. Dreams that would never come true. You see, cancer took Nate’s mom away long before she finished the adventures in the scrapbook.

Nate loves adventure, but finds them in his books and imagination. Fear gets in the way of trying new things. What if he gets hurt? What if he can’t do it? What if he . . . dies?

Grandma Lou is no ordinary grandmother. She tries something new every day and isn’t afraid to do outlandish things like enter a pie-eating contest or skydive out of an airplane dressed like Elvis.

So when Grandma Lou introduces Nate to his mother’s childhood scrapbook, the two of them decide to head out on a cross-country trip in a turquoise Cadillac named Lucille. Their crazy adventures take Nate out of his books and into reality, and Grandma Lou reveals a secret she’s never told anyone.

Road Trip With Crazy Grandma is a middle grade novel about overcoming fears, building relationships, and completing dreams.

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Gnann Rev 2

Name: Richard Gnann
Genre: Young Adult
Title: Rain Delay
200 word pitch (171 words)
"Playing catch is a way of getting to know another guy without talking, better than you would if you talked."

With an untouchable fastball, Jimbo Warren is the cream of the state’s pitching crop. But, one year ago, Jimbo’s father died and baseball hasn’t been the same since.
After blowing the north side rec championship, Jimbo’s plans for travel baseball are crushed when he and his mom are forced to move to the one-red light town of Peterson, Nebraska. Jimbo leaves behind his two best friends - the girl next door for his whole life, Joni, and Tony, the only catcher he’s ever known. A dressed up hayfield takes the place of elite travel ball tournaments, and the enthusiastic Vince and the bully Larry re-start Jimbo’s rain delayed summer.
Rain Delay is a contemporary young adult baseball tale of a boy escaping from his past into the present. When Jimbo learns to play to win each baseball moment, he is released from Peterson and returns to Atlanta to fulfill his dream.

Name: Richard Gnann
Genre: Young Adult
Title: Rain Delay
I stood on the mound and watched Ed Reese propeller his bat around twice before leaning way over the plate. Same old Ed. Same old hotdog act.
I had two strikes on Ed in the bottom of the last inning in the North Side Rec Championship. With a man on first, if Ed hit one out of the park, he wins the game for the Astros. Ed was swinging for the fence.
 “Go with your best pitch.” I could hear my dad’s voice in my head. That’s something I would never forget.
“Reach back Jimbo.” Tony Sparrow was my catcher and I was his pitcher. Mom called us Batman and Robin, and Tony jerked my mind back into focus.
“Gotcha on radar, Jimbo.” Tony always said he was ground control guiding in a fighter jet. He gave me the same target I had been throwing to since we were nine years old.
My fastball sizzled and I watched it carve a slice off the back corner of the plate. “Strrrrrrrrrrike three. You’re out!”
Ed slammed his bat into the ground and shook his hair like a wet dog. He dragged the bat behind him and stared at the umpire, then turned away to spit on the ground toward me.
“That’s ok Ed, another bad call.” Ed’s dad always pulled one of those old-man lawn chairs up close to the screen near home plate and slurped boiled peanuts the whole game. “You would’ve smoked anything close.”
I knew his last words were for me and the back of my neck got hot.
“Get the next batter!” My mom had on her lucky Mets cap and her lucky big round red sunglasses. She clapped her hands in front of her chin twice. It was her lucky clap. “Come on, Jimbo, next pitch!”
No one wants a mind reading mom, but she did set me back on track. I needed one more out for the Championship.
Tony pounded his catcher’s mitt.  “Finish, Jimbo.”
I just blew the doors off the best batter on the north side. All I had to do now was get out a thirteen-year old Punch and Judy hitter, Billy Pepper. I would get the out, my Mets would be North Side champs, and I would start travel ball next week with Diamond Elite, the best travel team in the state.
I could see Coach Perno in the afternoon shadow raise his index finger to wag it at Tony. “One.”
I stepped off the rubber.
“Time.” Tony was beside me on the mound before I wiped the sweat from my forehead. “Coach Perno said throw your fastball three times.”
I just stared at the baseball, studying it like it could tell my fortune.
 “What are we crazy thinking about? Throwing your fast ball’s a no-brainer.”
I laid two fingers inside my glove for Tony to see.
Tony slapped his mitt. “You sure?”
The doubt in Tony’s face was honest, but my mind was set. “I’m sure.”
“Ok Jimbo, I’m in. Let’s crazy do it.”
Tony jogged back into the shadow behind the plate and set the target. My curveball dove from the letters to the knees, but snapped inside for ball one. Billy’s eyes were big as hubcaps. His bat didn’t flinch.
I kicked the dirt. The red dust cloud floated on the late afternoon breeze toward right field. I was now behind in the count and for no good reason. You don’t get points for fooling the batter. The idea is to get outs.
I came back with a fastball. Billy took again. “Strrrrrike one.”
Tony’s throw back stung my hand. “Just like that!”
Tony’s message shivered its way up to my elbow, but my mind drifted. Billy was young, but he had seen my pitches before. Time for a changeup.
The pitch stayed high. I saw Billy close his eyes, and he lucked into a dribbler foul up the first baseline.
The Astros dugout exploded like Billy had powered a single to center.
“That’s it!”
“You can hit him.”
The pine trees leaned over the third baseline fence and the American Legion field scoreboard lights shined bright in their shade.
Mets 3            Astros 2
strikes 2         outs 2
inning 7
Screams from parents and friends caused my neck to tingle. My heart was racing the last hundred yards of a marathon heading for a photo finish.
Billy tapped the plate once with his bat and loosened his shoulders with a level practice swing. Everyone could see that Billy now believed he could win this game. I shoved the thought away. Everyone knew Billy had about a one in a thousand chance of catching up to my fastball, everyone but Billy. His coolness became a trickle of doubt rolling down to my fingers causing me to grip the ball too tight. I didn’t hear the usual sizzle. Instead of carving off the corner, my fastball split the plate down the middle.
Billy’s eyes were open now and he swung as hard as he could. It was just hard enough to pop a lazy fly into right field. The ball was going to come down for an easy out and I started jumping up and down.
Then I stopped.
Because the road passed close to the ball field, the right field fence angled sharply back toward the infield the last two feet of fair territory. That made the foul pole T-ball distance. The pounding in my ears drowned out the screams of the crowd when Billy’s harmless fly turned into a cruise missile rocketing fair toward the fence.
A thousand to one chance to touch my fastball and a thousand to one chance to land fair over the fence. That’s a million to one chance that came home for Billy Pepper when the ball bounced fair off the high chain link beyond first base and tapped the hood of a passing convertible.
From the mound, I had a perfect spot to watch the Astros push Billy to the ground and pile on top. I turned away to see my own teammates trudge off the field after losing the Championship because of my stupidity. They didn’t even stop in the dugout before shuffling to their speechless parents.
“Tough one, Jimbo.” I hadn’t seen Coach Perno walk out to the mound. “Let’s go, ok?”
He turned to lead me across the infield.
Then he stopped and turned back. “You’re one heck of a pitcher. And I know your dad would have been proud of you.”
Maybe, but never I had been brainless picking pitches when my dad was here. I never had any doubts when Dad was here.

I knew Coach Perno wanted to say the right thing, but his last words carved a hole in my chest. “We would have all given anything to have your dad here.”
It was the second worst day of my life.
When I saw Diamond Elite head Coach Mickey Wells shaking Ed’s hand, I knew it would get worse.

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Guthrie Rev 2

Name: Melissa Guthrie
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Title: The Shadow of Death

The summer of 1863 was a summer of extremes in a country divided. The Shadow of Death focuses on two male characters and their intertwining lives against a backdrop of the American Civil War.
Gabriel Hewitt is an orphan who may have killed his last remaining relative. He is searching for a place to call his own while struggling to hide a mysterious ability, one that threatens his future. His life is complicated by time spent with Henry Clemmons, a boy with dark secrets of his own.
Henry Clemmons is seventeen. He wants to go west in search of his own destiny. He was fifteen when his brother Jacob enlisted and has spent the first two years of the war working both as a store clerk and jack of all trades alongside Gabriel. He has earned a great deal of money while ignoring the demands of his family and those of his friend Anna, whom Jacob promised to marry before he left to fight. When Jacob returns, Anna and Henry’s lives are turned upside down.
This is a story about love and family, and lies. The Shadow of Death is nearly complete at 80,000 words.
Chapter 1
Falmouth, Virginia
June 21, 1863
In the beginning, there was a revolver. It was a beautiful piece of American manufacturing, composed of metal that didn’t show wear, as if it were blessed. It nestled into Ira Wonsettler’s hand and made a home there. A perfect fit.

“Confederate,” Ira said. He was pale, as if all the blood had drained out of him during surgery. His legs were both gone from the knees down. 

Jacob Clemmons leaned his good ear towards Ira. His heart pounded as his mouth went dry. This felt like battle: thick smoke in his eyes as the earth shook beneath his feet.
Outside, voices spoke, their words echoing in Jacob’s mind. He shivered.

“I said, you musta’ stole it from some Reb,” Ira said. He patted Jacob on the shoulder and looked the revolver over. His thumb, stained with dirt and black powder, caressed the back strap of the gun.

“Burial detail,” Jacob said.

The man Jacob had taken the gun from was older than he. By the time he crossed the field with a spade over his shoulder to separate the Union dead from the Confederates and give his men a decent burial, the man’s fingers had been bloated to twice their normal size.

Jacob hadn’t pried the gun from the man’s hands. No, he separated the man’s index finger from his hand with a thrust of his shovel. Bones crunched, satisfying and loud among the moans of the not yet dead.
Only a demon would desecrate the dead like this, but that thought didn’t stop Jacob. He was a demon dressed in blue, same as the man in gray he once stood over in the killing fields Chancellorsville, Virginia. Jacob took the man’s shiny gun. When Ira requested it, Jacob provided.
The voices outside the tent grew louder. Jacob slapped himself in the head. The pain there, it didn’t go away. When he was in camp and all was quiet, his head hurt. He imagined hornets in his mind, chewing on his brain as if it was a rotten apple.
But that was just plain crazy. There were no hornets in his mind.
“What’d you want it for?” Jacob asked.

“My mama,” Ira said, “it’s for my mama.”

Then he placed the revolver between his lips and pulled the trigger.
Jacob hit his knees and screamed until the world went black.
Hewitt Town, Ohio
July 4th, 1863
When Henry Clemmons opened his eyes in a bed that was not his, the first thing he saw were hand hewn beams high above his head. He wondered if he had fallen asleep in a barn, but no. He knew right where he was.
The night before was a blur. There was gin involved.
Whiskey, too.
And possibly dancing.
Henry moaned and covered his eyes.

“Ah,” a voice said. “You’re finally awake.”

On the other side of a doorway, Gabriel Hewitt stood beside a workbench, dressed in the same dark pants he wore the night before. His feet were stained black, his dark hair brown with sawdust. He held a cigarette between the first fingers of his right hand, the scent of tobacco heavy in the air.
Henry climbed from the bed to find his clothes lying haphazardly on a trunk. He slipped a hand into his jacket. The telegram was still there, the paper creased and wrinkled. The news contained within never changed, nor did the feeling that accompanied the news. The telegram remained out of sight and mind until Henry’s hand brushed the paper and he was reminded.
Then, he couldn’t forget.
Next to the clothing was a mug, half-full of something- liquor, hard cider, perhaps even water. It didn’t matter. He drank the contents down and discovered it to be tea made with peppermint and willow bark, meant to take the edge off the headache and nausea that came after a long night of intoxication.
Perhaps Gabriel cared about him, Henry thought. Or, maybe, he just wanted his business partner to be in tip-top condition for their day spent together.
“Did you sleep at all?” Henry asked. He pulled his drawers on, and looked up to see Gabriel watching, a smirk on his lips.  

Gabriel sipped from the tin mug that seemed permanently affixed to his right hand, and swayed a bit with exhaustion. He glanced around the workshop, shocked to see that the sun had risen.
“The Welk baby died late last night,” Gabriel said. “I wanted to get a start on things. This week might be busy…”
Henry eyed his jacket again. “So you didn’t sleep?”
Gabriel rubbed his forehead with the same hand that held the cigarette and shrugged. He yawned and braced a hand on the work bench, his light eyes flickering closed. Henry knew men who smoked pipes and cigars on an hourly basis but Gabriel wasn’t one of them, or hadn’t been before this week.
“Just pull yourself together and eat something for breakfast. The Widow up the way sent biscuits and I found some berries,” Gabriel said. The hand that held the cigarette gestured to the far corner of the workshop which held the makings of a kitchen. It was little more than mismatched cabinets and a woodstove, but it was where Gabriel prepared his meals.
Henry cleared his throat, as if just the thought of the widow’s dry, crumbling biscuits were enough to make swallowing a chore. Gabriel brought the old woman meat and provisions from town. She repaid his efforts with baked goods best suited as doorstops and called it kindness.

“You really want me to eat, don’t you?” Henry asked.

“I can’t have you wasting away.”

“What’s the catch?”

“The Welk baby died last night,” Gabriel said, again, “and we have to go get measurements.”

Henry looked around the shop, at the stacks of wood, all projects half finished.
A coffin made of hickory wood leaned against the wall closest to the door, a simple cross carved into the lid. A brass name plaque nailed beneath the cross awaited an engraving. Gabriel had finished the coffin at close to midnight the night before, just as Henry arrived.
Henry’s palms went sweaty. He was no stranger to death- it lurked in the shadows of his mother’s home. Death was sudden and unexpected even to people who knew they were on its doorstep. It made hands cold and joints stiff even during the heat of summer. Death changed a human being from the moment it first stole across their eyes.
“Yes, we,” Gabriel said. He drank the last of his coffee and flung the tin cup towards the kitchen. The cup rang against the floor, and sent a jolt of pain through Henry’s mind. He crossed the room to retrieve the cup.
“You’re certain you need my help with this one?” Henry asked. He poured some black coffee into the same cup Gabriel drank from and added a measure of goat’s milk. There was no sugar; there hadn’t been white sugar in over a year. Gabriel struck a match and lit another cigarette hands cupped around the flame. Two fires burned, briefly, in his eyes. “It’s just a baby.”
“Just a baby, yes,” Gabriel said, without removing the cigarette, his talent with his lips undeniable. Henry blushed at the thought. “Generally, when a baby is dead, it doesn’t come back to life. Of course, there are some cases, in which…”
Henry’s eyes widened as the creamy milk floated to the surface of his coffee.