Friday, October 28, 2016

November 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop Opens November 5!

Our November workshop will open for entries on Saturday, November 5 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 Nancy Ohlin as our author mentor, and Tracy Marchini as our agent mentor.

We will be taking a hiatus for December, opening again in January, 2017! So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!

November Guest Mentor: Nancy Ohlin

Nancy was born in Tokyo and divided her childhood between there and Ohio. She received a BA in English from the University of Chicago. She is the author of the YA novels CONSENT, BEAUTY, and ALWAYS, FOREVER (Simon Pulse).  As a ghostwriter/collaborator, her credits include several New York Times-bestselling novels as well as nearly a hundred other books for children and teens. She lives in Ithaca, NY. 

CONSENT

In this sexy and intriguing novel, an intense—and passionate—bond between a high school senior and her music teacher becomes a public scandal that threatens the reputation of both.

Bea has a secret. Actually, she has more than one. There’s her dream for the future that she can’t tell anyone—not her father and not even her best friend, Plum.

And now there’s Dane Rossi. Dane is hot, he shares Bea’s love of piano, and he believes in her.
He’s also Bea’s teacher.

When their passion for music crosses into passion for each other, Bea finds herself falling completely for Dane. She’s never felt so wanted, so understood, so known to her core. But the risk of discovery carries unexpected surprises that could shake Bea entirely. Bea must piece together what is and isn’t true about Dane, herself, and the most intense relationship she’s ever experienced in this absorbing novel.

Get a copy!
Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository IndieBound

November Guest Agent Mentor: Tracy Marchini

After four years as a Literary Agents Assistant at Curtis Brown, Tracy Marchini left to pursue her own editorial business and to earn her MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. Her editorial clients have gone on to secure representation, sell books to traditional publishers, win awards and become bestsellers in the UK. She’s looking forward to being able to work with her BookEnds clients throughout their careers and to (hopefully!) see them grow as authors in the same way.

Tracy is looking for picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts across most genres, including contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, magical realism, historical fiction, and non-fiction. She is not a good fit for YA horror, true crime, hard sci-fi, or high fantasy. At this time, she is not looking for board books or early chapter books.

You can contact Tracy at TMsubmissions@bookendsliterary.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TracyMarchini.





























Friday, October 21, 2016

Thank You to the Mentors and Participants of October's 1st 5 Pages Workshop!

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our October 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Anne Pillsworth as our author mentor, and Shannon Powers as our agent mentor! And as always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

Speaking of our wonderful mentors, we have exciting mentor news!

ILLUSION by AYAP and 1st 5 Pages founder, Martina Boone, comes out on Tuesday, October 25! I loved this YA fantasy, a swoony southern gothic, so you won't want to miss it!

FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP by Sarah Glenn Marsh was published on October 11. I couldn't put down this atmospheric historical fantasy!

MOTLEY EDUCATION by S.A. Larsen is a perfect fall pick for middle grade readers. Fanatasy, mystery, and a great friendship - this book has something for everyone!

CURSING FATE, the sequel to Brenda Drake's fabulous YA fantasy, TOUCHING FATE, will be coming out in November! You can add it to your shelf on goodreads!

And check out the cover reveals for Janet B. Taylor's sequel to INTO THE DIM (which I adored!) SPARKS OF LIGHT and Stephanie Scott's YA contemporary, ALTERATIONS! I can't wait to get my hands on them!

Our November workshop will open for entries on Saturday, November 5 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 Nancy Ohlin as our author mentor, and Tracy Marchini as our agent mentor.

We will be taking a hiatus for December, opening again in January, 2017! So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy writing (and revising!)

Erin 




Sunday, October 16, 2016

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Milton Rev 2

Name: Michelle B. Milton
Genre: YA Gothic Dystopian
Title: Trigger Warning
 
[PITCH]
 
Killdeer Saskatchewan sits on the blurring American/Canadian border, transformed over the decades from a little farming community to a diseased industrial city.

The Fletcher’s, industrial leaders in metal made products, run Killdeer with two other families: the Harts and the Quinns. These three families once struggled for control over the city, until the night of a horrific murder that Brooke Fletcher and sole Hart survivor, Victoria, narrowly escaped.

Nearly twelve years after that horrific night, sixteen-year-old Brooke is still harassed by the ghost of the youngest Hart child, Leo, who was once her closest friend. When an old flame tries to kill Brooke and is found dead the next morning, Brooke begins to receive texts from a non-government sanctioned cell number. Then, a strange boy moves into the Hart house with Victoria, and Victoria begins to act very erratically. When Brooke begins to uncover new evidence in the Hart house, she begins to question whether or not the real orchestrators of these heinous crimes had been caught.

In order to survive in the shadow of a civil war, Brooke must uncover the city’s best kept secrets, as childhood friends threaten to return from the dead.
 

[CHAPTER 1]
 
<i>Killdeer, Saskatchewan<i/>
 
<i>5:00PM<i/>
 
I was often visited by Leo Hart, even long after his funeral.

It was the last day before exams, and according to the clock on my cell Leo had been dead for 11 years, 344 days, 4 minutes.

A thick layer of smog had sunk down, and the last light of the sun filtered through the trunks of long dead quaking aspens, boxing in my birthday party. I stood by the lake, shivering and feeling sorry for myself. Micah said this would be ‘a year of firsts’; I had suffered enough firsts already; first broken bone, first F on a test, first dead body, and worse, first heartbreak.

The deep red lake lapped gently against my shoes. In front of me, cherubic Leo lay face up in the water. Red-gold sunlight flickered on his brown arms, like I was looking at him through a slatted door.

In the blink of an eye, the lake became the green kitchen. Blood streamed from two cavities in Leo’s chest, feeding into pools of blood on the checkered tile. He turned his head towards me and opened his mouth in silent question, his every breath a loud gurgle. Leo started crawling towards me, leaving a slow bloody trail streaking behind him. I didn’t take my eyes off him, my heart pounding. He had never reached me before; but this time he might.

As he struggled closer, the air grew cold. I watched as his hands moved from olive to lime tile as he pulled himself towards me. I didn’t move, except when risking small,

controlled,

breaths.

“Hey!”

The icy air dispersed. The green kitchen turned to pebbles and rotted logs. Leo was gone; there was nothing but the viscous water and the rocky bank of Copper Lake Park. I rubbed the goosebumps on my arms.
 
“I’m talking to you, Brooke. I’m starting to think you really are just my lame cousin.”
 
Beside me, Micah squinted at the lake in the dying light. He’d mastered the art of looking purposefully disheveled; and paired with the distressed jeans and the acoustic at his feet, Micah fit the part of working class Romeo perfectly, though he’d never worked a day in his life. In this light, his skin practically glowed, a look I certainly didn’t inherit from the family.

Back when we were five, Micah was inseparable from Leo, even more than I was. I never had the courage to ask him if he ever saw Leo too.

Micah sat on a nearby log.

“Come here,” he said, and I joined him. “Look around! I delivered. This will be the best party of the year; just make sure people remember it’s yours, not mine. Do something interesting.”

He swept his arm theatrically towards the party. My terror was replaced with shame.

Last week I’d begged him to help me out, and in exchange, I ghost wrote his now infamous A grade essay ‘Breaking the Final Chains of British Rule: Pharmakon’s Emancipation of Canada’. I had wanted this party <i>that<i/> bad.

And Micah had delivered. The speakers on the beach were finally pumping out music from the deep archives. Illegal bonfires were erupting all over the lakeside. Ten cases of soda, twenty cases of non-alcoholic champagne, seven cases of non-alcoholic beer… and the opportunity to get Riichi Cole alone!

This party was secret, exclusive, and well worth the risk of terrorist attacks. And as for the authorities, any academy classmates who blabbed would be discarded from Micah’s social life.

But despite all this, I wasn’t in the mood. And not just because the police crashed the party an hour ago, and I had to bribe them, or that Leo was forcing me into rigged games of red light green light: I’d recently learned that perfect, kissable Columbina Adams didn’t want me around if I didn’t put out. Nothing about our relationship was right. I ended things; then she stopped coming to school.

Micah’s ‘can do’ attitude fizzled out as we sat in silence. Maybe Columbina was right: I was impossible to please.

“I need to say something.” Micah rubbed both his hands on his face. “Things aren’t good between Bean and me. It’s our three-year anniversary–  I haven’t heard from her in two days– and I can’t believe she’s missing your party!”

My eyes watered.

“Maybe she got lost,” I shrugged.

I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and texted Riichi, casually wiping the edges of my eyes:

<i>*Are you here yet? *<i/>

Between Leo and Columbina, the Chairman should change my name to Waterworks.
 
“Let’s just enjoy your party, okay?” Micah said, punching my shoulder gently. He had zero clue that Columbina was my first everything. I forced a smile.

“I don’t know. Tonight’s sucking hard: you promised no supervision.” I said, pointing to Executioner Hart, sitting just past the furthest bonfire.

The twenty-three-year-old sat in the dark, illuminated by the light of her cellphone. She was never in a party mood; someone from the city council must have forced her to babysit Micah and I. She wasn’t even bothering to keep an eye on us, but the police stationed around the park certainly were.

Micah rolled his eyes; “I’m not the one who told Riichi I outsourced my essay. I bet you he’s the one who told your granny-”

“The Chairman,” I corrected, “and I doubt it.” Riichi was terrified of the Chairman ever since he came over to study that one time.

“Whatever- the police knew where to find us. Riichi’s a rat: he’s dead to me.”

Text Message from: RIICHI COLE

<i>*On the dock. What’s up? If its about Micah, you know how serious I am about being Valedictorian. There can only be one; hashtag sorry. *<i/>
 
Micah put his hands on my shoulders as he normally did when he was going to impart some piece of useless wisdom.

“Listen,” he said in an undertone, “there’s a blind spot in their surveillance at the shed. Have fun tonight. Please.”

“Ok,” I said. Micah gave me an over-enthusiastic high-five.

I quickly spotted Riichi skipping rocks on the surface of the lake. Micah would makeup with him within the week. I replied:

<i>*There’s a shed on the other side of the lake. Meet me there ASAP. *<i/>
 
“Yeah virgin, go to the shed with someone gross so you have a chance.”
 
It was the first time we’d heard her voice in days, and it sounded off.

Columbina stood in front of us, arms crossed over a black sequined party dress, with a smoke and ash eye shadow that left me uncomfortably aware of her eyes. She was wearing black! She always wore bright colours; she said dark colours were only to be worn at funerals.
 
“Bean!” Micah said, getting up. “I was getting worried!”

“Don’t touch me,” Columbina pushed him away when he tried hugging her. “Who were you texting, Brooke?”

“I’m glad you made it,” I evaded, hopeful I could smooth things over.

“No you’re not,” she said sharply. She then gave Micah a passionate kiss, glancing up to make sure I was looking.

I really hated her.

Text Message from: RIICHI COLE

<i>*I’ll be there. *<i/>

I could hardly look at her. I stood up, anxious to leave.

“I’m going to take a walk. You’re not invited.”

“We’ll be here!” Micah said, kissing Columbina again.

Columbina avoided him, looking back at the dock. Large air bubbles jostled the water as I turned away.
 
Eat shit, Columbina Adams.

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Cruz Rev 2

Name: Erik Cruz
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Title: Bloody Trails

Pitch:

Trekking deep into the untamed jungles of Africa’s Gold Coast, fifteen-year-old Gaspar de Faro has two goals: collect riches for the Portuguese Crown…and steal enough of them to buy his own ship. After all, he deserves it since he’s the one risking his life against dangerous beasts and unfriendly natives. And as the peasant child of a Muslim and a Jew newly converted to Christianity, he can’t expect anyone else to help him.

But when the stakes rise, the self-taught dreamer may have to be more than just a thief to follow through on his plans. Though Gaspar always wanted to explore, he never thought he’d have to become a soldier in the War of Castilian Succession—or a murderer to hide his own crimes. He faces a choice between giving up the last piece of his soul to reach his dreams and returning home to work his family farm. He’s sacrificed enough already, so he must push forward, even if it means leaving a bloody trail wherever he goes.

Chapter 1

Outubro 1474
Trekking through a jungle of towering ebony and mahogany trees, I spot a black snake and creep towards it, slowly withdrawing my colhona from its wooden scabbard.

“Gaspar, what are you doing?” Simão Rodrigues yells.

Within seconds, the snake, several feet in front of me, uncoils, showing me the yellow markings on its underside and spits in my direction. Instinctively, I raise my arm to cover my head, shielding myself from the venom. My fellow explorer tugs my shoulder and drags me away.

“What’s wrong with you, boy? That spitting cobra could have poisoned you.”

“Anything in this jungle could kill me.” I rub my itchy hand and notice that most of the venom landed on my green doublet sleeve. As much as I want to kill that snake, I know that Simão won’t allow me, so all I could do is dejectedly stash my sword in the sheath at my hip.

“I promise you, keep being reckless and it’ll happen.”

When I left the peaceful Açores ten months ago, my family, friends and neighbors warned me these jungles would bring me closer to Saint Peter. They heard the Gold Coast holds deadly beasts and diseases, poisonous man-eating plants and spear-wielding natives. Every time, I smiled and responded“But there’s gold waiting for me. Don’t worry. I have my gun and sword for protection.”

Still in one piece, I march toward the nearby sparkling waterfall. How badly I want to go under it, close my eyes and feel the soothing water rush over my filthy brown hair. But I can’t, because I need to stay vigilant. There’s always the chance that a crocodile or hippo is lurking around. My swollen legs carry me forward until I spot numerous pink round-petalled flowers containing melegueta pepper, the spice that fuels Fernão Gomes’s African Gold Coast trade. I stop briefly and snatch five of the bright red pods, stashing them in my bag along with some gold and red hog ivory tusks.

We continue our trek past the thick evergreen canarium trees, ripe with brown and purple fruits reminiscent of grapes—though slightly bigger. It takes a lot of restraint on my part not to reach for one. But Simão has swatted them from my hands several times already. He thinks they’re poisonous and wasn’t too pleased when I told him that trying them was the only way to find out. Considering I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve upset him throughout the months, I decide against it. And I did promise my mãe, my little brother and Sofia that I’d be careful and return safely, so it’s best to rein in my trouble-seeking tendencies from time to time.

I kneel over the water's edge, splash some of that clear water on my face and refill my canteen. Before rising from the ground, I inspect my matchlock’s slow match and discover it’s been extinguished yet again. Slinging the strap over my shoulder, I know I can only rely on my colhona. I’m not even sure why I carry that gun around. It’s as long as my sword, weighs even more and it’s not nearly as reliable.

“We’re lost, aren’t we?” I ask, rejoining Simão.

“What do you think?” He glares at me and notices my smile. “Stop enjoying this.” Even after five months of exploring with him, I’m not used to that fatherly tone of his. Pai died eight years ago, so my ears barely remember it. I suppose Simão can’t help it. I’m fifteen, the same age as his daughter back in Lisboa.

I stare into the sea of cedar trees and chuckle. “I can stop smiling, but I can’t stop relishing this moment. We’re standing in lush jungles hearing the parrots’ caws and the buffaloes’ bellows. I’ve always wanted to explore. I’m here, so I may as well enjoy these sights and sounds.”

“Who cares about the dumb animals? We’re carrying tainted treasures. We have to get back to camp soon. We’ll be in trouble with the captain if Fernão asks him questions.”

“It’ll be fine. We’re only siphoning a little of the haul for ourselves. Fernão should be happy someone searches the jungles for gold.”

He shudders. “What if he finds out we’re keeping a tenth of it?”

“They probably wouldn’t flog us. They might toss us overboard, though.” Why is he so nervous? I’m the child of New Christians. My head would be the first to roll, probably sparing his in the process. “Stop worrying. Fernão doesn’t know us, and Captain Pêro de Sintra probably thinks too little of us. Never would he imagine that we’d keep even a single gold pebble.”

Simão snorts and marches up to me. He snatches my canteen and takes a swig from it. “You’re crazy. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. After years of honorably sailing for King Afonso V, I’m stealing from him.”

“Don’t think of it as stealing. Instead see it as a small fee for the dangerous work we do for the Português Crown.”

He fights it, but can’t help but smile. “Gaspar, how do you always answer so fast?”

“Well, I’m used to everyone disagreeing with me, so I’ve learned to answer criticism. It comes naturally now.” I chuckle. Seeing as how Simão is in a good mood, I know it’s the best time to ask about trekking further. “Should we go deeper along the river basin?”

“No. Stop being crazy. We barely have enough food to last the trip back. I know we didn’t get as much treasure this time, but that doesn’t mean we act stupid.”

Ah, another tongue-lashing from the experienced sailor. I should probably listen more carefully to him. It has been four days since we left our ship in Cape Coast. Our supplies rarely last more than a week. As much as I hate to admit it, his voice of reason is correct. “Fine. How far do you think we are from camp?” 

“Close to fourteen leagues.” He looks up at the cloudless sky, as if seeking heavenly guidance.

“We can do that in two days. What’s the plan?”

“We backtrack and hope to God we find our old path. We need to stay close to the beaches and the Fante tribe.”

I look around my surroundings and it angers me that I have no clue where the way back lies. Sometimes it frustrates me how little Captain de Sintra helps or cares about our well-being. We shouldn’t be out here without navigational tools. If we stray too far into the jungles, we run the risk of stumbling upon unfriendly tribes. I prefer seeing danger and then facing it, rather than it finding me by chance.

“If only we had a dry compass. It would make it easier to map out these parts. Simão, you do know why they don’t give us one, right?”

“It’s damn expensive.”

 “Yes. They’re considered valuable…unlike us lowly explorers. We’re immediately replaced and forgotten the moment we die, just as I replaced that page ten months ago, after he died of dysentery. That poor, faceless sailor-in-training never had the opportunity to be promoted.”

Not even Simão’s thick beard can hide his cheeks turning red. “Shut up, boy. I’m trying to get us back to Cape Coast. Shut your mouth or—” he clenches his teeth, clutches his wooden crucifix and continues his rant “—I swear on His cross, keep chirping and I’ll leave you behind in the jungle.”

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - DLE Rev 2

Name: DLE
Title: Harvey the Bedazzler
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary with Magical Realism

Pitch

Eleven-year-old Sydney thinks her only problems are losing her best friend to the most popular girl at school and overhearing her parents say something about a divorce. But when her family travels to Florida to attend the funeral of a grandfather she barely remembers, things really begin to unravel.

For the first time, Sydney hears stories about Grandpa Harvey’s too-incredible-to-be-true adventures. Like the tale about how her grandpa was rescued by a giant turtle when he was in Vietnam. And one where her grandpa entered a pig in a dog show—and won.  And another about how he made repairs on a witch’s house in exchange for directions out of the swamp. But Sydney’s dad, who’s still holding a grudge, thinks they’re all lies and wants to bury the stories with his father. 

Sydney, with the help of her new friend, Nick, has only days to find proof and convince her dad that the stories are true. Along the way she might find the courage to have an adventure of her own and finally get to know her grandfather. And just maybe she can help fix the hole in her dad’s heart and save her family from falling apart.


Chapter One

It’s weird to go to a stranger’s funeral, especially when it’s your grandfather’s. But there we were, headed to Amelia Island to “pay our respects” to a man I’d only seen once when I was a baby and again when I was five. Pay our respects…what a strange thing for Dad to say, seeing as how he didn’t seem to respect Grandpa Harvey all that much.

At least Mom let me sit up front with Dad so my younger brother and I were separated for the almost six-hour drive from Atlanta to Amelia. Will had a way of getting on my last nerve, and according to my parents, I had a way of making him pitch an annoying fit.

I turned around to Mom. “I can’t believe you’re making me go. I didn’t even know him.”

She ignored me.

Mom didn’t care that I’d already planned my first week of summer. And it involved spending it at the neighborhood pool trying to win back my former best friend, Jenna, not 400 miles away at a funeral.  

Then I reminded her about the two-page seventh grade gifted summer reading list and how she’d forgotten to get the books from the library. “It will take an average of 19.5 pages each day, including weekends, to finish before school starts again,” I said. “I should’ve been at the library checking the books out. You guys could have still gone.”

Mom sighed. “We weren’t about to leave an eleven-year-old girl home alone while the rest of us went to Florida.”

“But I’ll be twelve in thirty-seven days!”

“Drop it, Sydney,” Mom said.

“Yeah, drop it, Sydney,” Will echoed.

Mom gave me a disappointed look like I should be ashamed for complaining about going to my grandfather’s funeral.

She was right. I was a horrible person.

I shifted in my seat, trying to see Dad’s expression. He hadn’t said much since he’d gotten the call from Uncle Bennett saying Grandpa Harvey had died in his sleep of a brain aneurysm. Mom told me that’s when one of the arteries in the brain ruptures and causes a stroke. She said some people can survive a brain aneurysm and a stroke if they get help right away, but Grandpa Harvey had been alone.

I leaned against the headrest and stared out the window while Dad thumped the steering wheel to the beat of the song playing on the radio. In the side mirror I could see Will with his head on mom’s lap. She stroked his hair like a mama baboon. Her nine-year-old, two-ton baby.

“Did you pack your bathing suit?” Dad asked.

“What?” I shook my foot. It had fallen asleep and felt as heavy as a backpack full of rocks.

“Your swimsuit,” he said. “You can’t be this close to the Atlantic Ocean and not get in.” 

But this wasn’t a vacation. “I didn’t bring it,” I said. I waited for him to make a suggestion. No problem, we’ll pick something up at Walmart. Or You can swim in your shorts. He was always loaded with solutions. He taught college calculus and solving things was his job.

But he looked straight ahead at the road.

“There’s always skinny dipping,” I said, trying to be funny.

“You could do that,” he said, straight-faced like he hadn’t really heard me.

What was Dad thinking? He must be sad. I should be sad. But it’d been so long since I’d seen Grandpa Harvey. Six years to be exact.

Dad propped his elbow on the door and his pointer finger rested on his lips. The conversation vault was locked so I fluffed my pillow and leaned against it as the mile markers went by.

“He loved the ocean.”

“What?” I sat up. “Who?”

“Your grandfather,” he said softly. “The ocean, traveling, and telling stories,” he added. “Only not in that order. Storytelling was definitely an obsession.”

“Stories?” I leaned in closer. This was good—Dad was going to tell me about Grandpa Harvey. I’d get to know him just in time to miss him, but still, it was something.

“We ate it up, too,” Dad said, still staring at the road. “Bennett and I would wait for him to come home from being out of town, working who knows where. Mom would fix him something to eat and we’d all sit at the table, ready to hear about the bear he’d wrestled, or the bank robbery he’d foiled, or how he’d saved a bunch of people from a burning building.”

Why didn’t I know this? Grandpa Harvey was a hero. This was exactly what I needed—stories to impress Jenna and the other middle table people in the cafeteria once school started again. It’d be good-bye to hiding behind a book and hello to saying something that was actually interesting.

“People would even stop him on the street,” Dad said. “‘What do you have for us today, Harvey?’ they’d ask, wanting to hear one of his tales.” Dad paused. He had a faraway look like he was back in time. “It was all so—” His forehead wrinkled.

“Awesome?” I asked. “Exciting?”

Dad turned to me. “I was going to say embarrassing.”

“Oh.”

“He’d made it all up,” Dad said. “Lies. Stories to make himself seem big—important.”

My heart ached for Dad. And maybe a little for me. But it’s not like I’d ever be brave enough to tell a story at lunch in the seventh grade. Or ever.
           
“You and Will never have to worry about that,” Dad said, raising his hand off the steering wheel. “The whole truth and nothing but the truth.” He pushed the scan button until he found a sports talk station. “With me, what you see is what you get.”

I nodded. The problem was, what I saw, I didn’t get. Not anymore. He’d been different the past few months; I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

We passed a highway sign telling us there were only 30 more miles to Amelia and the only thing standing in our way was a huge four-lane bridge. It stretched for miles over the Intracoastal Waterway.           

Mom and Will were sacked out in the back, their mouths wide open. They looked like twins, born thirty years apart.

People said I resembled my dad. I didn’t see it, especially now that he’d grown THE BEARD. It scratched my face when I hugged him and Mom hated it. Maybe she was right. Maybe he’d grown it like a fence, to keep others out. That’s what she’d told my aunt anyway, in a conversation I wasn’t invited to.

“Stay right on A1A,” the GPS lady said once we reached solid ground again. Dad turned up his phone. It was probably so he wouldn’t miss any important details. Grandpa Harvey had retired on the island and Dad hadn’t been there any more often than I had. My dad was super smart, but sometimes he accidentally took the long way to places.

“In five miles, turn left at Sand Dollar Avenue,” the lady navigator said, waking Mom and my brother.

“Can we take a dolphin cruise?” Will asked as we passed a billboard advertising them.

Okay, if he was getting a dolphin cruise, I was going to ask for a side trip to Disney World. It was only 175 miles from here. I’d looked it up before we left home, and it’d be the only way to salvage this whole trip.

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Bynum Rev 2

Name: Karen Y. Bynum
Genre: MG Fantasy
Title: THE LUCK EXCHANGE

Pitch:

Twelve-year-old Madelece desperately wants to fix her broken luck, so she’ll be loved by her perfect mother, the Mistress Gardener.

In the elven afterlife, the mystical power of luck is used for everything from hatching offspring out of pumpkins to frivolously changing a red rose to blue. One day, Madelece successfully uses luck but accidentally catches a thief. There's sadness, or anger—hard to tell with boys—in his eyes, and she lets him go. She discovers the boy is luckless and was stealing rice to feed his younger sister. Despite his protests, she befriends him—but has to keep it secret or risk being isolated by her mother.

As their friendship grows, Madelece witnesses just how much those with luck fear and distrust those without. And she realizes it’s a privilege to have luck, even if it doesn’t always work properly. Except, that isn’t good enough for the Mistress Gardener, and when her mother starts working on a mysterious cure, offspring go missing. Soon, but not soon enough, Madelece sees the Mistress Gardener for who she truly is and learns that Mother’s love comes at a price.

Pages:

When elves die by sword or sorrow,
Owls make certain they see tomorrow.
Their souls are planted and reborn.
With pasts erased, they do not mourn.
But compassion fades and hearts harden
As rumors take root and poison the Garden.

Earthworms of anxiety knotted in Madelece’s belly. She’d barely slept the night before, as on so many nights lately. If only she could, then her luck would replenish itself. Somehow, she had to find a way to ask her mother permission to visit the healing place.

After taking a deep breath, she got out of her canoe and pulled it onto the sand. She scanned the plain oak canoes anchored to the shore by luck, until she spotted Mother’s, smooth and tan with the faint black stripes of orca wood.

She turned back to her canoe. “Madelece says, Stay.” Her voice was strong and sure. She reached down and gave the boat a small test push, and it scooted back into the water. Jinx! Thank the Owls no one was around to see her failure. Quickly, she grabbed the edge before it floated away. Her maple tea was in there—and she would need every drop of sugary goodness to get her through this—along with the cloak her papa had made for her.

Father, she reminded herself. Not Papa. Mother liked her to call him Father.

Once she found the in-case-of-no-luck rope she kept hidden under the seat, she tied it to a nearby tree, securing her canoe. She shivered and shook down her hair over her shoulders—it was cooler in the valley than where her papa lived on the fringe of the isle. A lance of sunlight turned copper waves to bright orange; she shoved them back, out of sight.

Madelece gathered her satchel and took a long drink of her maple tea. If the healers could cure her sleeplessness, she’d be fixed. And if afterwards, at last, her luck worked properly, she could make Mother proud of her… But, it would mean staying with her papa during the Rite of Names ceremony, and Mother wouldn’t like that.

With effort, she forced the thought aside. Okay. She could do this. At least, she had to try. She pushed a low branch out of her way, and it swatted her bare legs as she passed.

The path snaked through the woods. Early morning sunlight dusted the forest floor. Familiar raven ca-caws echoed around her, and rabbits scurried into their burrows as she walked by. Despite this, and the closeness of hundreds of trees, the woods felt empty.

The trees began to thin out when she neared the clearing. At the edge of the open field were three giant pine trees. The one in the middle was perfect for climbing because of its evenly spaced branches, but the one on the end was perfect for hiding things.

After a quick glance around, she ducked under the boughs. She pulled open the drawstrings of her satchel, got out the cloak, and hung it over the highest branch she could reach.

When she stepped out of the forest, she practically walked into a wall of flowery perfume. The too-sweet smell of roses stuck to the inside of her nose, like snot she couldn’t sneeze out.

To her right was the pumpkin patch filled with orange, luckfull pumpkins. From here, she couldn’t tell if there were any silver ones, but there were almost always luckless hatchlings. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be many this harvest. The afterlife wasn’t exactly easy on the luckless, and even harder on the forgotten. But, they wouldn’t know if there were any forgotten until the hatchlings were ready for delivery. Then, the storks would either deliver them, or not.

On the other hand, she’d find out how many luckless pumpkins there were either later today or tomorrow when the harvest began. She’d taken part in the harvest since she was five, so this would be her sixth year.

Directly in front of her stood Mother’s small stone cottage, surrounded by a hedge of roses as blue as forget-me-nots. Only powerful luck could grow them in that color—the roses were one of Delora's few splurges.

The anxiety in her belly tightened as she gripped her satchel and walked around the side of the cottage to the front door. In the distance, golden rays peeked over the mountain top. The dirt road in front of the cottage was busy with villagers going into town, and gardeners heading to the Garden.

Madelece wanted to slip inside unnoticed and have another cup of maple tea before beginning the day. It’d been an early start this morning, leaving Father’s house and then fighting without luck the can-never-make-up-its-mind-which-way-to-flow river.

She raced up the stairs and reached for the door, just as it swung open. Jinx. Mother’s booming voice made her jump, and the last sip of her maple tea sloshed out of her travel mug.

“Ma-da-lease!” she called. “Sweet girl. You’ve returned!” The tall woman pulled Madelece into her bony embrace. “How are you, my love?” She continued without actually pausing long enough for a reply. “Did you have a smooth journey? From your last pigeon, I expected you home later this evening.”

Madelece’s cheeks grew warmer as she caught glimpses of villagers gawking at the reunion. Just what she wanted.

Mother finally loosened her hold and took in the sight of her daughter. Madelece fidgeted with the hem of her tunic. It wasn’t quite as loose as it had been a month ago. “My goodness, dear girl, your father certainly fed you well.” Delora released Madelece completely and smiled sweetly to someone on the road. She waved. “Good morning, Otto.”

“Good morning, Mistress Gardener,” he replied.

“My daughter has returned! I’ve missed her so. I may be in late this morning.”

Her mother always made it sound like Madelece had run away from home. She started to say she was fine and for Mother to go to work whenever she needed, but Otto replied with, “Take your time. Offspring are a blessing from the Owls.”

“That they are.” Her mother turned back to Madelece and herded her toward the door. “I’m sure you’re starving, Maddy.” Once inside, she gestured toward the kitchen. “Delora says, Prepare a breakfast feast.”

They walked on to the den. It was a cozy room with a fireplace, a bookcase built into the back wall between two windows, a small couch, and two fluffy chairs. Everything neatly in its spot. Immaculate. Just like her mother. They passed through an archway into the kitchen and sunroom where pots and pans clanked out of the cupboards and eggs floated from the icebox, along with boar slices.

“That’s all right, Mother. We can just go to the Gar—”

“Nonsense, dear girl. You need to eat. I wouldn’t want your father telling people I don’t feed you.” She smiled and smoothed an invisible wrinkle from her apron before taking Madelece’s satchel and unloading each item onto the oversized dining table. It barely fit in the sunroom, but after Madelece’s parents parted ways, Delora had insisted on keeping it. Didn’t make sense to Madelece—the table had been in Crale’s family for centuries—but she did like having something of her papa’s close by.

“I’ll wash and press your clothes later. I don’t have the time right now.”

Madelece had hoped Mother would notice how wrinkle-free and orderly they were—arranged by color and thickness—because Madelece had used luck packing the clothes.