Sunday, October 15, 2017

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Willis Rev 1

Name: Latrice Willis
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

The plucking of the linti's ten strings were complemented by the slow rhythm of the drum and a melodious voice. Mika’s arms moved in tune with the words, swirling and waving with each lyrical inflection. She spun around, thrusting her arms upward, and accentuated her turns with the stomp of her right heel. Mika leaped into a split, her arms up again as she landed. The only sound from the crowd was the shifting of bodies on the crudely built benches.

Mika stepped back, now in line with her two close friends, Lewa, and Malani. She scanned the crowd in front of them. It was an intimate group of just over thirty people, all family and friends. And sitting on a bench to her far right was one of the most important people in her life, looking right at her, giving her that smile.

That smile.

The same smile that distracted her in training. The same smile that was the reason for her jitters that night. She couldn’t let her eyes linger on him too long. How could she impress him if she just stood there? Mika’s face warmed up as she forced herself to look at her friends to get back on track.

It was time.

The voices of the crowd rose and hands came together as the drum thundered. There was a cheer with each leap, foot stomp, arm movement, and body roll from the three dancers. They made use of the small area between the crowd and the musicians, rotating positions so each one had a chance to be featured. Mika blinked at the sweat in her eyes. Lewa made a series of short leaps. Dust rose from the ground around Malani's frantic feet. The drums were getting louder and louder. Mika launched herself into the air one last time.

There was a final pluck of the linti strings and a softening drum roll as Mika’s feet hit the ground. She smiled through her heavy breathing as they received a standing ovation and whistles from the group. It was their first performance in front of the crowd. It took four weeks of practice, sore bodies, and a few missed meals, but their hard work had paid off.

Mika glanced at her friends again, giving them each a slight nod. Malani backed away, leaving the two girls alone. The drum started again as the crowd died down. It was time for the most anticipated part of the routine: the rutha battle.

Mika had been ecstatic when she and Lewa were asked to perform rutha in front of their tribe. The traditional martial art was usually taught to young boys. Mika’s mother, who learned through her husband, advocated for the girls to learn along side Malani. Their tribe leader was soft-hearted, and gave in to their pleas. In a matter of four years, both girls had mastered the complex moves which incorporated dance with swift arms, elbows, kicks, flips, and cartwheels.

Mika and Lewa faced each other. The sixteen-year-olds stood about five feet three inches. They were members of a Sanga tribe, one of the nomadic groups from the south. Like most southerners, each girl had plump lips, thick, tightly coiled hair, and dark amber colored skin. But what made Sanga tribe members stand out was their bright green eyes and hair, the color of malachite.

For that night’s performance, Mika pulled her hair into a ponytail of tiny braids, adorned with beads. She spent all morning painting tribal designs on her headband. Lewa parted her hair into twelve thick braids with large white beads attached to the ends. They wore matching sleeveless cropped shirts and matching shorts. Three rows of blue and brown beads were attached to each side of the shorts.

Mika and Lewa rocked back and forth, putting one foot behind the other. Mika exhaled, and balled up her fists. Lewa gave her a knowing look and mouthed the words so quickly, she almost missed them.

“You will win tonight.”

Mika shook her head at her friend’s silly words. Though they started training at the same time, Lewa was slightly better at reading her moves. Mika was going to put her all into that night’s match, but she was a realist.

"Amijo!" Malani shouted. Lewa made the first move with a spinning kick aimed for Mika’s right shoulder and chest. She felt Lewa’s leg brush her hair as she ducked, and retaliated with her own spinning kick at Lewa’s shoulder. The series of kicks between the girls continued; a move that would make the average person dizzy. That was the choreographed part of their routine, simply for the crowd’s own pleasure. Once Lewa backflipped away from Mika, they would have to rely on their own abilities to win the battle.

The girls fought furiously, grunting, and yelping with each hit. One-handed cartwheels and flips targeted the upper body, and sweeping legs were directed towards ankles and shins. Mika's elbow clipped Lewa's chin, but Lewa got her right side with a knee. They had only been fighting for three minutes, but the girls began to slow down as their bodies grew fatigued. Mika noticed Lewa actually moving slower than usual that night. Her kicks and elbows didn’t have exactly the same fierceness as they did in training. Mika decided to take advantage of her friend’s sloppiness.

It was time for the take down.

She dove feet first, opening her legs just enough to envelope Lewa’s left leg. With the slight twist of her body, she used her weight to pull Lewa down to the ground. Lewa groaned as her back hit the dirt.

"Mika bota!" Malani declared Mika the winner. As Mika bent down to help Lewa up, Lewa gave her a mischievous smile. She narrowed her eyes as she realized why her friend’s movement had been so off.

It was because of the promise she had made to Lewa earlier that day.

“You’re gonna win tonight,” Lewa had told her a mere two hours before they were to perform. “He’ll see how far you’ve come in training. He’ll be impressed, and will have to listen. Tell him how you feel. This is your only chance. You win, you do it tonight. Promise me.”

“Sure,” was Mika’s dismissive response. It didn’t actually occur to her that Lewa would lose on purpose that night.

Now, as the girls limped away from the crowd with their arms around each other,  a mix of anger, happiness, and nervousness came over Mika. Anger for Lewa’s lack of effort in their match in order to give her the win. Happiness for Lewa’s sacrifice so she could look good in front of everyone. And nervousness as she realized what her winning meant.

That night, Mika would have to tell him she loved him.

"Mika! Lewa!" Mika’s mother, Alaya, pushed her way to through the group. "Come on girls. Let’s get you taken care of." Many people outside their tribe assumed Alaya was actually Mika’s sister. They were the same height, but Alaya’s green eyes turned slightly upward on youthful face.

Alaya led the girls to a pair of cushions near the food table. A small, overturned box with a large ceramic pot of ootuga paste, gauze, and flat string were set up next to the cushions. She anticipated slight injuries, and had the foresight to prepare the area for them.

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - McGuire Rev 1

Name: Amy McGuire
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Queen's Rook

Chapter One

Chicago. December, 2015.

The low-level tension under my skin notices him five seconds before I do.

It’s Friday, right after fifth period gym, and the crowd is thick as I exit the girls’ locker room. For reasons I can’t name I glance around, searching for something. But what?

I almost give up, prepared to ignore whatever is making me twitchy, when—there. A boy.

In that fleeting moment, I can’t help but wonder if fate is about to mess with me because (a) I usually skip gym, which, on any other day, would have placed me well outside the trajectory of his path, and (b) I’m boy blind.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see boys; I know they’re there. I just fail to perceive any great difference between them.

Not so with this boy. Though I didn’t catch a glimpse of him until he’d already passed me, his retreating back holds my undivided attention. Watching him move, I almost feel…not nothing. And I want more of it.

Before I can quite work out what that means, something inexplicable happens. I follow him. Just like that. One minute I’m heading to calculus, happy to be free of the odor and aggression of teenagers in uniform shorts, and the next I’m trailing an unknown figure down a packed hallway.

It’s a nice figure from behind.

He’s got roughly six inches on me, putting him around six-one or six-two, and he carries himself with a gravity most guys my age don’t have. He’s wearing dark jeans, black utility boots, and a navy T-shirt. The shirt has a small white graphic centered right below the crew neck on the back. I can’t make it out. I can, however, thoroughly make out how the shirt hugs him in interesting places.


I nearly groan. Not now.

“I know you can hear me, Rowan!” It’s a warning. One that won’t be ignored.

Already regretting it, I clutch my backpack straps and look over my shoulder, sifting through the sea of faces for the one I know as well as my own. Harper Boyd, best friend and pocket-sized human, is seventy feet behind me and gaining fast.

Harper and I go way back. Way, way back. Free agents at birth, otherwise known as sad little orphan babies, we’ve been hustled in and out of foster care facilities our entire lives. We haven’t always remained together, but peculiar chance keeps returning us to one another. Right now we live in a group home in Norwood Park, where we were placed within weeks of each other during freshman year. We call it The Layover: another pit stop on the way to somewhere better.

I sigh and glance at the guy I’m shadowing, not ready to let him go. But I know Harper won’t back off until I acknowledge her. Resigned, I give a sharp whistle.

It brings Harper up short. Her green eyes zero in on me, and she flashes me one of our secret signals—where are you going?

My life consists mainly of school, job, and chess, and you can set your watch to my schedule. If I deviate from it in any way, Harper always manages to appear out of nowhere to interrogate me. Every single time. Like, poof.

Most days I roll with it. Most days I got nothing to hide. But today I’m actually up to something, and no way am I telling her what it is.

Bathroom, I signal.

Rapid hand movement. Not without me.

I love Harper. Really, I do. But sometimes, swear to God, I think she’s a terminator unit sent back in time by Skynet to stick her nose into everything I do.

“Not this time,” I whisper.

I spare a look for the guy I’m following. He’s still in front of me, fast putting distance between us. A look back at Harper and she’s on the move again, drawing closer and closer.

Come on. Think!

There’s a guy standing not far from me, sporting a varsity jacket and an easy smile. Built like a rock formation, he has the smashed nose of a fighter and a shock of red hair.

“Hey, you,” I bark at him.

He glances left, then right. Looks back at me.

“Yeah, you. What’s your name?”

As he approaches me, he’s practicing some sort of football hand drill, the motion so effortless I doubt he’s aware of it. Holding a football palm down, he drops it, whips his hand around it midair, and then grabs it before it can hit the ground. “I’m Jock,” he says.

I blink. “You’re kidding.”

He grins. “It’s actually John Michael MacNab the Third. My granddad is John. He lives with us ever since my Nana died. My dad goes by Mac. And everyone calls me Jock. The name goes all the way back to—”

“Great,” I interrupt. “You see that girl back there? Blonde. Tiny. Looks like she could take you at arm wrestling?”

We turn in unison. True to form, Harper is plowing through the crowd, leaving a string of curses and pissed off faces in her wake.

“You mean Harper?” Jock says.

I pop an eyebrow. “You two know each other?”

He shakes his head, his cheeks turning pink. “I may have asked around.”

Better and better.

“She’s been asking about you too.” I nod, really selling it. “You’d be doing me a huge favor if you put her out of her misery and ask her out.”

Jock’s expression is equal parts hope and fear. “Are you sure? I’ve heard she doesn’t date.”

It’s true. She doesn’t. Harper and I have that in common. Granted, I’ve never actually been asked (my default facial expression is leave-me-alone; it’s very effective), but Harper is propositioned all the time, by all the sexes.

“She dates.” The lie comes easily. “She’s just…particular.”

He still looks skeptical.

“Oh, come on. Do it for me. I’ll be your best friend.”

“Well, there is a party tonight at—”

“Perfect! I owe you big.” And with that, I run.

Normally there has to be a compelling reason for me to take a detour between classes, like fire or free food. Chasing after some guy with no definable objective doesn’t qualify as compelling, but there’s no turning back now. I’m in it.

The Guy takes a left, disappearing down a connecting hallway. Coming around the corner after him, my nose is assaulted by body spray, some other guy in front of me evidently having bathed in it that morning. I wiggle my way around him, only to be blocked by a pair of hand-holders, their lovesick heads resting together and polluting my line of sight.

Going up on tiptoe, I scan the remainder of the teeming corridor. I have no problem finding The Guy, because he’s flickering.

Hold on. Cue the WTFs.

It can’t be. And yet I’m looking right at it. He’s flickering. Like a bad hologram, or crudely spliced film, he’s jumping all over the place, becoming brighter, then dimmer. Brighter. Dimmer.

No one is pointing or staring. Panic isn’t spreading through the immediate area. So I figure it’s just me.

I’ve read about ocular migraines, about how people see an aura, or bright flashing lights, before a monster headache sets in. Maybe I’m having one of those. I close my eyes, and when they open again, The Guy is solid.

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Harris Rev 1

Genre: Young Adult fantasy 
Title: Valista

Why wasn’t it you?

Father’s words carve through my flesh like a knife.

Kneeling beside his pallet on the floor, I blot his feverish brow with a damp cloth. His body shudders as he coughs, a wet sound that deposits blood on his lower lip. When the hacking stops, he gurgles on his inhalation. I wash the red droplets away, something I’ve done for weeks now that he can’t, and rinse the rag in a bowl of water beside me.

Why wasn’t it you?

I swipe my sleeve across my own sweaty brow, despising this shadow that haunts me still. Father only said it once, on the first full moon after the summer solstice, the day chosen to celebrate my birth, staring at me with eyes blurry from cactus wine. I was barely five, but I remember his voice, thick with alcohol and torment.

Perhaps he later regretted the lapse, yet the damage was done. I knew my father hated me. He provided the required food and shelter, but mostly he sat, eyes unfocused, accusing in his silence. He’d lost his beloved wife to childbirth, their energetic bond broken, ripping away the closest intimacy two people can share. A lethal blow. It’s just taken him sixteen years to succumb.

Staccato raps sound on our door, snapping me from my thoughts, and my heart trips. The village healer. She’s seen fit to come.

I cross the packed-dirt floor and open the door. The healer’s expression is aloof, but her emotions rifle my body as if they were my own. She’d rather be anywhere but here. I step from the threshold. “Please come in.”

My lips tighten—I know it’s sparse. I don’t need her to remind me.

I wrap my fingers around my own necklace. We all carry them, these green minerals found in the mountains far to the north. We keep them close for comfort and small healings, but the healer uses a large one, one free of imperfections. Even from across the room, its pulsing energy thumps against my skin, dwarfing the gentle throb of my own stone.

A hint of a breeze brings me the familiar smell of hay and dung from our barn. I should tend to our neglected sheep while I can. Stealing away while Father slept has allowed me to feed and water them, but there’s a pregnant ewe that needs watching.

My shoulders stay pinned to the wall, and then stiffen when the healer calls my name.

Adanya. I don’t hear the name often. It’s ironic I carry it. It means ‘Her father’s daughter.’ Father never uses it. He calls me Girl.

The healer repeats the call, her tone harsh. I don’t move, my fists tight to my thighs. She joins me outside our hut, and her face is creased in a deep frown. “It is not good,” she says.

I choke on the lump in my throat. Our relationship is not much, but my father is all I have.

She hands me the poppet. “I’ve transferred what sickness I could. Burn it to cleanse your hut.”

Clutching the doll in my hand, I wrap my arms around my stomach and enter the hut. The stench of sickness hangs in the air. A few steps take me to the fire, and I toss the poppet into the flames. It crackles and hisses when it ignites. Its smoke turns a bright green and forms a tornadic vapor that swirls out the smoke hole in the ceiling. The poppet disintegrates into ash.

I freeze at the use of my mother’s name. Before his illness, he often lamented how much I resemble her, his anguish seeping from every pore. He strokes my hair, hand trembling. “My Farai. So beautiful.”

Love flows from him in a way I’ve never felt, and I squeeze my fingers into a fist around the cloth. This emotion is not for me.

Why wasn’t it you?

This is happening more often. The lack of water in our irrigation canals has forced people from outlying areas into our village in search of food. We’ve pooled our resources, but the stress of feeding all the newcomers is forcing raids on enemy Andvari farms. We’re allowed only two warriors to do this task by the Honani leader. The rest of our young men train with her deep in the desert, leaving those of us along the border—old men, women, and children—defenseless against the Andvari.

The other warrior, Nikhil, eyes the pair, shaking his head with a smile, a scar on his jaw blazing crimson in the heat. He slaps Jai on the back and enters the chief’s hut with the bags.

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Hoover Rev 1

Name: Audrianna Hoover

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Princess of Darkness
The door crashed into the wall behind it as it swung open, letting in precious air.

Arielle pulled her face away from the tiny window, where her cheek pressed against it, and took a gloriously deep breath. The room wasn’t closing in any longer.

Creda limped in, clutching her walking stick. “The king wishes to see you,” she announced. Arielle only stared, stunned by the announcement. Her maid slammed the end of the stick onto the stone floor. “Now!”

Arielle jolted and hurried towards the door. A flare of hope tightened her chest. Maybe today was the day she would be set free.

Creda whacked the walking stick across the back of her legs, though Arielle’s gown protected her from the sharp sting it should have elicited. “Hurry, girl.”

Arielle mocked Creda silently, careful to hide the action, as they descended the stone staircase into the hall below. No matter how cruel her maid was, Arielle was sure to never let the hateful crone see her displays of contempt. If she noticed, no doubt Creda would slip enough poison into her every meal to keep her bed ridden for the rest of her life; or kill her.

With each stride towards the throne room, Arielle’s heart thudded in her chest. She crossed the threshold alone and slowed her pace until she stood at the foot of the throne. Relief thrummed through her, excitement following in its wake, as the man sitting on the throne regarded her. A moment of silence passed over the room.

“You will be presented for selection of the sacrifice tonight.”

She stared up at the king, unblinking. She could feel the despair pooling in her gut, even as the fear of what he had announced quaked through her. She wished for freedom and found death. Her eyes flicked to the king’s right, to the prince there beside him.

His hair was the color of spun gold, his eyes a solid crystal blue. His fair skin was tanned from his time outside, from training to be a warrior, which was where the lean, toned body came from. But discussing such a bleak subject, the prince’s expression held nothing but emptiness – not the slightest bit of compassion.

Her own twin did not care that their father was going to march her before a crowd of their own people and sacrifice her, should she be chosen.

If Aeron and her father were mirror images in their looks, she was the inverse. Her jet-black hair and eyes which were almost as dark proved it, but the difference of personalities between her and Aeron was the most apparent. While her brother obeyed their father without a moment’s hesitation regarding everything, Arielle suffered a terrible compulsion to rebel against each of his commands.

“Why?” she asked, drawing herself up to full height, eyes connecting with her father’s. She tossed her hair back over her shoulder casually, it’s purpose to hide the anxiety and anguish she felt. The iron bracelet around her wrist glinted in the light from the fire as she clenched her fists, the deep orange amulet inset into the metal gleaming. “You despise me so much, you would spill my blood?”

King Jerald gave her an icy smile. “You’ve been away too long. You’ve forgotten which rite this is, Arielle.”

Arielle’s eyes widened, her lips moving as she whispered to herself to count the days since she was last out – something she quit doing a long time ago. Only the castle knew of her imprisonment, the king not wanting the entirety of his kingdom to know of his daughter’s evil deed. Even then, those who knew could not say why she was locked away, nor why she sported the bracelet which kept her from hurting anyone.

She felt the blood drain from her face as her mind caught up. “The Spring Rite,” she choked out. “You’re going to give me to Haebor.”

“Of course not,” her father answered, dismissing her words with a wave. “I’m merely offering you for his assessment. If he were to choose you, it would be a way for you to redeem yourself.”

“I will not go,” Arielle said, gritting her teeth. “You cannot make me offer myself. It must be done freely.”

The king stood, menacing in his stance. The men who guarded her father stepped forward to each claim an arm. She kept her head high and proud as he approached, Aeron keeping at his heels. She glared at him and he returned the favor.

King Jerald appraised her, his lip curling. “Arielle, you will go,” he said, stepping close enough to make her want to retreat. His expression softened. “I’m only trying to save you, to save your soul. Someone must right the path you’re on. Please don’t throw away this chance to prove you’re not as you appear.”

Arielle felt the threads of apprehension wind tight in her gut as she took in the look – the one which almost seemed to say he cared for her and what might happen to her. If she could prove to him she wasn’t evil. If she could prove she hadn’t meant to defy him that day.

“It is, of course, as you say. You must offer yourself freely.” He hardened again as he looked her over from head to toe, grimacing as if the stain on her sleeve from lunch was the stain on her soul he so abhorred. The King swept back to his throne of glittering gold and black diamonds and rich rubies, but Aeron remained in front of her. “But you must choose now,” he added, reclaiming his seat.

Arielle stared up at her twin, searching for any sort of sympathy or sibling bond. Aeron’s face was cold, his hand resting on his sword. There was no kindness on his face.

“Choose,” King Jerald demanded. He leaned forward in his seat, waiting for her answer.

Arielle felt herself breaking. Her desire for redemption was prevailing over her need to be released. But consenting to the selection for the sacrifice was not a light matter.

If she were chosen, she would be bred like an animal by the god Haebor. The coupling would result in a child, as it did every year, which would tear her to shreds in the process of birthing. She knew nothing of what happened to the Spring Rite children after their birth, but the mothers always died. However gruesome a death, being chosen was considered a great honor.

There were only a few doubts of being bypassed in Arielle’s head. Haebor would be drawn to her, as she had been inexplicably drawn to him during the times she watched the selection as a child.

Arielle glanced between her twin and her father, begging one of them to withdraw the request with her eyes. Neither conceded, tolerance turning to impatience.

“If I go,” she said finally, her voice hoarse, “I will be forgiven?”

Her father grinned, already victorious. “Yes.”

Feeling bile rise in her throat, Arielle gave a single nod, agreeing to give herself. She felt shattered as King Jerald sat back with a smirk of satisfaction and waved her away.

She let her father’s men march her from the throne room and through the main hall of the castle, down the steps. She drank in the sight of the sinking sun at the horizon as they pushed her into a carriage. Haebor’s selection would happen soon. She could only hope he would overlook her for another unlucky soul.