Free writing workshop for aspiring authors of young adult and middle grade fiction. The first five pages may be all that agents, editors, and readers read, so get them right with the help of three authors over the course of three weeks. During the third week, an agent will also critique your pages and your pitch and pick a workshop winner - the prize is a partial request!
When sixteen-year-old Mel cracks the lid of Pandora’s Box, ancient magic spills out. It turns the small town of Belleview into a prison and traps all the newly transformed townspeople within the magical boundaries. Now everything from witches to unicorns to ghouls walks the streets. Horrified by, Mel hides the box, vowing it will never be opened again.
When Mel’s finally secret comes out, someone decides they want Pandora’s Box for themselves. To get it they take the one thing that matters most to Mel: her best friend, Milt. So when Milt’s life is threatened in exchange for the box, she has to make a choice—save the world from potential destruction or save her only friend in the world.
Having been told only she could open Pandora’s Box, Mel hands it over, confident she can get it back before any real damage can be done. She doesn’t consider that she’s been lied to, that there is someone else that can open the box. Desperate to close it once again, Mel teams up with some unlikely allies in a battle for Pandora’s Box. But with the magic already spreading beyond the boundaries of Belleview, it may be too late.
First 1250 words:
I flipped open the box of Della’s Donuts sitting on my lap and pulled out a plain glazed. My fourth donut of the morning. Despite eating enough sugar on a daily basis to satisfy a horse, my figure hadn’t changed. Not since the first time I died.
Not changed much, anyhow.
Rubbing a hand across my stomach, I plucked at the t-shirt pulling a little tight across my middle. Didn’t matter. When I died again—and that’d probably be soon considering who I just robbed—I’d come back looking exactly like my half-starved sixteen-year-old self of three years ago, with the worst haircut of my life.
I glared through the film of magic rippling along the town border, between me and the buyer’s car. Three hours and he still wasn’t back.
Rockng forward on the bus stop bench that no buses ran to anymore, I peered down the empty road. The direction the buyer had gone
Just a rusty sign warning outsiders that they’d crossed into Belleview. As if the dingy gray unicorn scratching its rump against the post didn’t give that away. Baring big square teeth at me, it heaved from the sign post, and clopped away.
Shaking my head, I continued to stare down the empty road.
Since cars didn’t work in Belleview, the buyer headed into town on foot to meet with my business partner and BFF, Milt, hours ago. What could be taking so long?
Worry needled me. Pulse thumping a little faster, my heart knocked against my ribs, like a moth trapped in a jar. What if the deal went sideways? Could something have happened to Milt?
No. What had gotten into me?
I did the dirty work for a reason. Dying sucked, but I’d come back. Not Milt. He didn’t have my not-so-fun party trick. If something ever happened to him, he’d be gone forever.
An icy breeze raked its way across my bare arms, feeling like frozen fingernails. Cold by Florida standards, normal for the magic-altered weather patterns of Belleview. I tucked my legs closer to my body, folding them to sit cross-legged.
I’d give the buyer five more minutes, that was it. Feeling around in the half-empty donut box, I grabbed another.
Jaw freezing mid-chew, I turned toward the voice and slumped in relief. Just the buyer. I’d been so distracted I hadn’t heard him coming. A mistake that could’ve cost me big time.
Had it been Tomas, the Corpse Witch enforcer, chances were I’d already be dead.
My question came out with a mouthful of crumbs, “Payment made?”
“Yeah,” the man croaked, nerves clogging his throat.
Licking powdered sugar from my fingertips, I extended my hand. Sugar-free fingers wiggling impatiently.
“Oh, sorry.” The man fumbled a walkie-talkie from his jacket pocket and scooted close enough to hand it to me before scurrying away. He pulled out a yellow-silk handkerchief and dabbed it along his receding hairline.
I didn’t blame him for being twitchy. He either had to have huge titanium balls or no brains to be here, a regular human with no way to protect himself, trying to steal from the Corpse Witches—witches whose magic dealt with the dead.
My money was on the no brains thing.
Whatever Twitchy here and his employer planned, it wouldn’t work. It took Reaper Weed and a Corpse Witch to raise a ghoul. Since they’d never find a Corpser outside of Belleview, the world wasn’t in danger of being invaded by ghouls.
“Are you…” he stuttered, the question not quite rolling off his tongue.
I arched a brow. “Am I what?”
Leaves crinkled beneath his loafers as he rocked from foot to foot. “I heard you were a zombie.” The man’s unsettling pale blue eyes traveled from the frizzy mess of Crayola-red hair on my head, down to my crossed legs, and back. He stilled. “You don’t look much like a zombie.”
“That’s because I’m not.” Scowling, I tried to run my fingers through the snarled mess on my head.
“So, what are you?”
“Not dead.” I gave him my best crazy girl grin.
There wasn’t a word for what I was, all because of the magic trapped inside Pandora’s Box that spilled out when I cracked the lid. The magic Turned or killed everyone it touched—it did a bit of both to me.
“But I heard…”
Knowing Tomas could show up any minute I cut him off. “Didn’t you know anything about this place before your boss sent you here?”
“Sure, but come on. Who’s going to believe it without seeing it?”
I snorted. “Stupid people that come here and get themselves killed. Or worse, Turned.”
My finger mashed the little black button on the side of the walkie before Twitchy could ask anything else. “Milt?”
If he left the walkie behind and went to Imogen’s for lunch without me, we were gonna have words
“Milt?” I spoke into the walkie again.
Still no answer.
I rolled my lower lip between my teeth. The job felt wrong from the start and this solidified my feelings about it. Milt always answered.
Protocol was to check in with Milt and make sure everything went alright. This would be the first time I’d left a job without doing that, but I had to get back and check on him. He should be at the warehouse by now.
I slid off the bench, slipped the walkie into my back pocket, and tucked the donut box under my arm.
“You can’t leave yet!” Twitchy shouted, but I was already walking away. “We had a deal. Where’s my stuff?”
“In the tree next to the bench,” I answered without turning to see if he found it. Either he would or he wouldn’t.
The fwip, fwip. fwip of Twitchy’s slick soled loafers slipping on the tree trunk, along with some creative cursing, told me he’d spotted it. I widened my steps, moving faster, leaving the sounds of the man’s struggle to climb behind.
Before long the road fell quiet, just the crunch of fall leaves beneath my feet and the harsh rasp of my breath from the pace I’d set.
“Mel.” Milt’s muffled voice crackled from my back pocket.
Relief rolled through me and I tugged the walkie from my jeans. “Geez, about time. I’ve been having a panic...”
“Boomerang,” He wheezed out his nickname for me, cutting me off mid-sentence. Usually all sunshine and laughter, my best friend sounded desperate and out of breath.
My hand clenched the donut box, crumpling the cardboard sides.
The crack of flesh connecting with flesh came through the walkie before it went dead.
I didn’t need to see the action to know what that sound meant. A distinct sound I’d heard—and felt—plenty of times before. Jolting into a run, my feet kicked up a cloud of leaves and gravel, terror driving me faster than I’d ever moved before. I leaped over fallen trees and barreled through overgrown shrubs.
Close. Less than a mile from the warehouse. He just had to hang on til I got there. Had to be Corpses Witches. Payback for stealing their Reaper Weed. Milt didn’t steal it, but that wouldn’t matter if they found out we were working together.
As a null, Milt didn’t have any magic of his own, but magic couldn’t hurt him either. Magic raised the ghouls from the grave. If any ghouls touched him, they’d drop like flies. So he had a chance.