Sunday, October 14, 2018

1st 5 Pages October Workshop- Kuder Rev 1


Name: Lisa Kuder
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Title: Dangerous Dreams
    
Chapter 1

Lan flipped the lock to the door of Uncle's home office and gently closed the door. Feeling light-headed and on the verge of passing out, she ran to the glass door and burst out onto the balcony, gulping in the cool, moist air that flowed off the San Francisco Bay. 

Collapsing onto a patio chair, she slowed her breathing until she had calmed herself enough to think straight. Even then, she was so flummoxed that it took her a few seconds to remember what was in the file folder clutched tightly in her hand—the folder that she had just stolen from Uncle’s office. But had she really stolen it if the documents in it were rightfully hers? 

Lan hadn't started out the day planning to go through Uncle’s filing cabinet. Ten minutes ago, she had been enjoying a cup of tea on the small balcony off the dining room of the luxury condo, watching the morning fog slowly drift westward as it played peek-a-boo with the sunlight that danced off the wind-swept waters of the Bay.  

Sitting out here, listening to the buzz of the city, and reveling in the soft breeze on her skin, the events of the past year seemed so distant and surreal. It was as if the girl who had left her rural Chinese village to live with her Uncle and Auntie in the US a year ago had been a completely different person from an alien planet.

She had been so idealistic back then, so full of dreams. Little did she know that she was heading for a life of washing, chopping, serving, and cleaning 12 hours a day at her uncle’s restaurant, punctuated by a half day off once every couple of weeks--the only bright spot in her otherwise mundane life. 

She definitely wasn't living the glamorous life of American school girls that were portrayed in the Chinese-dubbed VCR movies that she watched over and over on her family’s ancient TV set. Before coming to the US, she had spent many hours daydreaming about becoming the heroine of Mean Girls or Clueless as the cool, smart immigrant girl who would become best friends with Lindsay Lohan or Alicia Silverstone her first week at school. But that obviously wasn't going to happen any time soon, mostly because she had spent a grand total of zero days in school since she had arrived in San Francisco.

After half an hour of escape from reality, she noticed goosebumps forming on her bare arms that were exposed to the elements by her short-sleeved t-shirt.  So she went inside to get a sweater.

As she turned to head toward her room, a door in the hallway to the right of the kitchen caught her eye. It was the door to Uncle's forbidden home office, which she had been told repeatedly to stay away from. Not that she could get into it even if she wanted to – as far as she knew, he always locked the door when he left the room.

But now, for some reason, she couldn't keep her eyes off the door, as if some magnetic force was pulling her toward the office. She walked cautiously over to the door, afraid that somehow Uncle would sense that she had been in the vicinity of it. 

But Uncle was at work and Auntie was at the beauty salon. How could they possibly know? What would be the harm in just trying the doorknob? Of course it would be locked, and then she could go on enjoying the few delicious hours of freedom that she had left and put it out her mind.  

Her hand grasped the knob of the door to the office. She twisted it, and to her shock, the knob moved! She jumped back as if shocked by an electric current flowing through the doorknob. How could it not be locked? 

Lan stood there for a minute, thinking maybe it was a trap. Did Uncle purposely leave the office door open to see if she would disobey him? It seemed unlikely - he didn't seem to pay much attention to what she did. It was Auntie who was more obsessed with her following all the rules of the house. Then it dawned on her. Jing, the Chins’ housekeeper had been in earlier that morning. She was allowed to go in and clean the office, and she had probably forgotten to lock the door when she left.

Lan pushed the door gently forward and found herself standing in the doorway of a room full of sleek metal and glass that echoed the theme of the rest of the house.  A massive glass-topped desk commanded the room, balanced on top of curved metal crisscrossed legs, a high-tech office chair sitting at attention behind it. Two tall ebony filing cabinets flanked the window displaying a view of the city, and the wall to the left was lined ceiling-to-floor with glass bookshelves.

Lan shivered in both fear and anticipation. There was something thrilling about being somewhere she wasn't supposed to be. Her heart pounding, she ran a tentative hand across the smooth expanse of the desk. Like everything in the Chins' house, it looked very expensive. 

She knew she should turn around, leave the office and shut the door behind her. But she couldn't ignore the feeling that she was meant to be here. Why else would the door be unlocked the very same day she had felt undeniably drawn toward it?

Chapter 2

Henry heard his mom's voice drift up from downstairs to his second-story bedroom where he was working on Chemistry homework that was due the next day. He heard his name, but he couldn't make out anything else she was saying. 

He opened the door to his room and started down the stairs, happy for the excuse to take a break from his attempt to memorize formulas that refused to stick to his brain. 

His mom called out to him again. This time, he heard her loud and clear.

“Henry, there’s someone on the phone for you!” 

What??

Confused, he stopped on the landing one-third the way down the stairs. No one ever called for him on the landline. There was no way this was good--he was pretty sure that the school was the only place that had his home number.

Dang! He should have studied more for the Geography test. He had probably flunked it, and now his teacher was calling his parents. The last couple of years, he had been successful in maintaining a fragile balance between the time spent honing his gaming skills and keeping up with his schoolwork. School had always been pretty easy for him. But one month into his Sophomore year at his academic magnet high school, it was obvious that he would have to work harder to keep his grades up so as to not jeopardize his carefully laid-out five-year plan.

By the time he slumped into the kitchen, he had convinced himself that Mrs. Mitchell had already told his mom about the test and that his teacher now wanted to scold him directly. So he was surprised by the look on his mom's face when he entered the room. Her forehead was scrunched up in an I'm-not-sure-what-to-think expression, rather than a red-faced-I'm-going-to-kill-Henry expression.


1st 5 Pages October Workshop- Zhu Rev 1


Name: Mayee Zhu
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: THE DREAMWALKERS

Traveling by star was a sweet but sour treat. Fourteen-year-old Ari Pippin could see the universe zoom by and get to her destination faster than a speeding bullet, but hearing the mouthy stars insult her, and everybody under the sun dear to her, left a lot to be desired.

Leaning back so she wouldn’t be repeatedly smacked in the face by the star Pyxis’s billowing, platinum hair, Ari watched Earth shrink further away. Other stars sped by, their fused legs humming.

“What’s the deal with your mannish eyebrows?” Pyxis asked as they hurtled past Jupiter. “They’re like two fuzzy, overfed caterpillars.”

Stars could have passed for wingless angels if it weren’t for their smack talk. At least here in the Core dimension, stars wouldn’t flash-fry bystanders like the flaming space farts in Ari’s world.

Pyxis screeched to a halt so sudden, Ari was nearly thrown off the star’s back. The only thing that saved Ari from falling was her firm grasp on the stretchy starbone attached to Pyxis’s bicep like a horse’s rein.

Pyxis caught her breath. Silver light streamed from her mouth when she exhaled. “Twenty-seven dzaras. Cough up, ginger pits.”

“Whoa there, glitterbomb. Last week, Yesi took me twice as far for eighteen.”

“Price hike. A black hole might as well have swallowed my bank account with all these new taxes.”

“And these taxes were created between last week and now?”

The star’s golden lip curled. “Do you want proof, cheapskate?”

Impatient to see Mintaka, Ari didn’t argue further and rummaged in her knapsack for the money she had earned from foraging plants. She pulled out the glowing dzaras. The neon blue jellyfish floated dreamily in small circles above her hands.

Taking off the curved bone, Pyxis pummelled it as easily as it was pizza dough. She swept the dzaras into the makeshift bag, tied it up, and fastened her rib-rein back to her side.

Pyxis saw Ari’s brooding expression. “Don’t worry. Mintaka’s only the second most awful being I know. You’ll get along like me and your money.”

Before Ari could sarcastically thank her, Pyxis zipped away as fast as Superman on steroids.

Sitting on top of Melon Moon, Mintaka’s home loomed over Ari. A behemoth made out of rare jewels twinkled. Curved towers created serpentine shadows onto the stairs.

Ari stared. The castle then preened like a prize-winning, purebred Siamese cat. The balcony curved into a smug smile, and one of the two windows’ blinds above it shut and open, like a coy wink. Ari waved, immediately felt stupid, and began her trek up the winding, moonrock steps.

Mintaka was the youngest triplet in Orion’s Belt. Even though being Orion’s daughter made her unofficial star royalty, it was rumored she had an inferiority complex towards her two siblings.

Wheezing once she reached the top, Ari thought, ‘No one’s calling me Ari Swolzzenager anytime soon, that’s for sure.’ Though she looked asleep back in her bed on Earth, she still felt effects from dreamwalks, or as the professional lingo called it, worldhops. One time, a star didn’t dial down her rib’s heat all the way before Ari grabbed it. Ari’s hand came away with a severe burn that still ached after she woke up.

Ari rolled her eyes at Mintaka’s platinum door knockers, which were carved in the striking likeness of Mintaka, and banged both against the why-not platinum double doors. The knocks echoed throughout the house. One mini-Mintaka’s eye whirred and opened, revealing a camera microlens. It zoomed in on Ari.   

The doors opened soundlessly. Ari blinked. The interior obviously didn’t want to be upstaged by the exterior. Expensive-looking artwork decorated the walls. A jeweled chandelier sparkled from the ceiling. Ari wiped her feet on the welcome mat. It purred.

Mintaka’s satin voice slithered out the sound system: “I await you in the parlor, little one.”

“I need help finding that as this place is a tad big.”

Mintaka whistled. With a rattle, a gaunt man with a gold collar around his neck and a ball and chain around one ankle appeared so close to Ari she took a step back.

“Hello,” she greeted politely.

The man glared at her and opened his mouth. He had no tongue.

Tempted to say ‘Doooope’ instead of ‘Sorry,’ Ari settled on: “Hey, silence is golden.”

Grimacing at Ari's cheesy crack, the tongueless man turned away from her and slowly walked forwards. His iron ball and chain dragged behind him. They walked through many hallways and rooms. Ari stopped counting after she reached fifty. Two perfectly good parlors passed by.

There were absurd rooms with no clear purpose. One had two voodoo dolls in the middle of the floor. Another had only a painting of a macho star in uniform. A third had a customized dartboard that was the current US president’s face. Ari didn’t know what Mintaka’s beef with that president was, but she hoped by the end of their meeting that her face wouldn’t be used for target practice, too.

Mintaka’s slave stopped. He gestured to a room that Ari could partly see through an arched entrance. As Ari turned to thank him, he vanished.

“Don’t mind him, Oliver resents anyone young and hopeful.” Mintaka chuckled.

Stars were a diverse bunch. There were some, like Pyxis, who squeegeed through their lives by being glorified taxi drivers. Then there were high-born stars like Mintaka who foresaw the future. Whenever they had a vision, it had to do with desire or death. Mintaka gave Ari a prophecy last week.

Ari stepped over the threshold and into a room larger than her entire house. A marble fountain spewed stardust and the walls were embedded with glass displays filled with bobbing dzaras. Ari shielded her eyes when she saw Mintaka. The willowy star sparkled much more violently than Pyxis.  

“My fault.” Mintaka dimmed herself enough so that Ari could comfortably look at her chiselled face, but still be awed by the flecks of diamond light she scattered on the walls. Her robes flowed and shimmered like silk, but was opaque like frosted glass. Her pearly hair and clothes fluttered gently, though there was no wind. “Have a seat, child.”

Ari sat in an identical recliner opposite Mintaka’s. “I’ve thought about your warning since you sent it to my Core mailbox yesterday.” She pulled out a slip of paper and read, “Beware the forbidden fruit you seek, for its guardian snake lies on its cheek. Mintaka, smiley face." She looked up. "Care to explain?”

“Stars are forbidden from interfering with fate. This is even more so for me, as I need to set an example.”

Ari crossed her arms. “So you’re just going to torment me with cryptic warnings of doom and gloom.”

“I already wasn’t supposed to tell you anything. But now that you’re here…” for a second, Mintaka’s amber eyes gleamed like a polished knife, before it was replaced by her standard pleasantness. “I want you to get something for me.”

“Another palace, my queen?”

“The Heartsword from Centaurus.”

“...I understood only half the words in that sentence.”

“You haven’t heard of the Heartsword?”

“It’s hard keeping track of everything in the universe."

“The last time the sword was seen was when the hero Titus was drowned with it bound to his back, in Europa’s subterranean sea. The Heartsword was believed to be lost forever. But my source told me Kaosian Centaurus has it now."

Kaosian. Kaosian. The familiar word spun around in Ari’s head like a hamster on a wheel.


1st 5 Pages October Workshop- Chin Rev 1


Name: Shirlyn Chin
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Title: Weight of Your Legacy

Chapter 1

MICHI
CANADA



There is a short queue outside the prison clinic as usual, but today, the line is made up of correctional officers rather than sick or injured inmates. Jittery on nerves, I barely notice the difference. It isn’t until I have opened the clinic’s door that I stop myself belatedly and knock.
Inside the brightly lit office, Uncle looks up, a syringe in his hand and a frown already in place. “Michi?” he says, perplexed. He puts the syringe down. “Is something wrong?”
The CO sitting in a chair opposite from Uncle raises an eyebrow. He has his sleeve rolled up, ready for his flu inoculation shot. He smirks at the sight of me. “Harada!” he calls with false merriment. “Fancy seeing you here.” I know what Mike is thinking: come to see uncle dearest? Cute.
It is a long-running joke in the prison that Uncle – unsociable, quiet Uncle – had adopted me in a sudden fit of loneliness eleven years ago, only to realise later that the girl he adopted was as unsociable and quiet as him. A perfect match, they say, for a man who looks like he doesn’t know the first thing about being a father.
I narrow my eyes at Mike as a warning, and the twerp at least has the sense to listen. Nobody dares to piss off the doctor who is in charge of administering the quarterly government-mandated flu inoculation shots. When I first started working here at nineteen, I might have spread a rumour around prison that Uncle jabs people with extra force when he is pissed, which can render a person’s arm sore for the rest of the week. A factually true scenario, even if the possibility of Uncle being unprofessional is nil. The threat works well enough. My colleagues rarely make slights against Uncle’s awkward ways around people these days.
“Michi,” Uncle says more sternly. “Is something wrong?” he repeats.
My cheeks heat. “Nothing, Uncle,” I mumble. That’s the problem. I have barrelled to the clinic with such determination but, now that I am here, I don’t even know why I wanted to see Uncle so badly. Flustered, I thump the cup I am holding on Uncle’s table. “Just brought a cup of tea for you.”
“Thank you,” Uncle says automatically, but his eyes remain on me.  “Did you have your interview already?”
“No. I, uh.” I point to the door with a nervous finger. “I’m going there now.”
Uncle blinks once. “Oh.” Then what are you doing here?
Wishing I can get a ‘good luck’?
But Uncle is already turning back to Mike, picking up the syringe once more. “You better go then. It is impolite to be late.”
For a few seconds, I stand there, waiting for more, until Mike’s smirk turns my stomach enough that I turn to leave.  “Good luck, Harada!” Mike adds before I make it out the door. “I know you can’t wait to leave us to guard a maximum-security prison.”
Evidently, the COs lining outside hear the last remark. When I close the door, several of them shoots me dirty looks and mutters, “Yeah, good luck, Harada.”
I ignore them and proceed to the Warden’s office.
They think I’m a snob, I know, and my request for transfer only solidifies their opinion. A small part of me is proud that I’ve finally requested to transfer to Crestfield, that I am making some progress in Uncle and my plan, so I suppose they aren’t completely wrong. But most of the time, I don’t feel proud. I feel … desperate. Transferring to Crestfield doesn’t seem like a choice at all, not when failing to transfer to Crestfield is not an option.
Pausing outside the Warden’s office, I take a shuddering breath.  It could’ve been worse than enduring an interview, I remind myself. Much worse. The Warden will just be asking me about my life here, in Canada, not my life before. I am familiar with my life here. I can do this.
Raising a fist, I knock.
“Come in.” Warden Sanchez briefly glances at me as I enter. “Harada. Close the door.”
I do as instructed and make my way to the chair across from the Warden. It is a sparse office, no decorative tree or picture. The only focal point of the room is the Warden’s table, piled high with paperwork. Unsurprising, with the prison perpetually understaffed and the steadily increasing crime rate.
I keep my palms down, hoping the table separating us shield my trembling hands from view. My face, however, remains neutral, even as the Warden skewers me with his eyes, blunt and judgmental. One of the advantages of growing up with blunt and indifferent Uncle, I learn to perfect the same vacant expression when I view the world. It makes for a very good poker face. Blunt and judgmental is much easier to deal with. I wouldn’t be worrying if this weren’t the most important interview of my life – and otousan’s[1] life.
“I have skimmed through your transfer request,” the Warden begins, opening my thin file. “Your physical is decent, I suppose. But there are a few problems, as you can imagine.”
Here we go.
“Problems, sir?” I ask, all innocence.
“Your background, for one.”
“Did I miss something, sir?”
“You really don’t remember anything from when you were little? Before you ended up in Müller Home?”
A sharp, nauseating smell of toffees momentarily chokes me. Müller Home. Sometimes it is the toffees, sometimes it is the jeering, but whatever it is, I am always prepared. The onslaught is more familiar to me than any toy or residue of my childhood. If you see some perspiration dotting my forehead, it’s just the humidity.
My voice is steady as I continue. “I remember streets, having to find shelter, people pushing me.” Seeing utterly no response from the Warden, I throw in: “Some big kids chasing me with a switchblade.”
The Warden’s eyes flicker for a bit then, just a bit, but I know I’ve said the right thing to hit some compassion deep – way deep – down.
“Then, one day, I saw the … building.” The orphanage. “There were other kids there. The caretaker saw me, brought” – grabbed – “me in. She called the social workers.” I shrug. “Aside from that, everything’s hazy.”
That’s the good thing about claiming to be abandoned at birth. Not just an orphan but abandoned at birth. Nobody can ask you who your parents are without sounding like a major jerk. And even if a major jerk in an office asks you, you have no way of knowing. A clean slate. Perfect to create a new identity.   
“After two years at Müller Home, you were adopted by Dr. Harada,” Warden Sanchez reads. As if he doesn’t know Uncle already.
“Yes, sir. At age nine, sir.” That’s the official age Uncle and I settled for years ago.
“Any memory of that?”
Seeing a long grumpy face I’ve known my whole life at the threshold of Müller Home, acting the worst act in history of not knowing me. Truly, it was a miracle that the social worker let Uncle adopt me. If I were the one who interviewed Uncle, I wouldn’t have let him adopt a puppy let alone a human being. Don’t get me wrong; Uncle isn’t cruel. Uncle is just … not exactly the most compassionate person around.  
I frown as appropriate. “I remember hating Dr. Harada’s office, sir.”  


1st 5 Pages October Workshop- Rowley Rev 1


Name: Mary Rowley
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Title: The Secrets That Divide Us

Chapter 1

It was rush hour in West Los Angeles, and belching car exhaust was conspiring with an end-of-summer heatwave to suffocate me. There wasn’t even a breeze to stir the towering palms on Santa Monica Boulevard as I pedaled my Schwinn home from the library. On the up side, I was zipping past the six lanes of crawling traffic. On the down side, sweat plastered my shirt to my chest and soaked my bra. I raced across the Boulevard as the light was about to change.

“Get out of the way, kid!” yelled a guy in a beat up El Camino. 

“Sure thing!” I called back with mock cheerfulness, resisting the urge to flip him the bird. “But I’m not a kid—I’m sixteen.” I flashed him a grin, but he scowled back, gunned his engine, and drove away in a cloud of black smoke. The heat was making everyone cranky.

I had been hiding out in the cool refuge of the library all day. There were about a million reasons it had become my favorite haunt over the summer. First, unlike our tiny apartment, the library was air conditioned. Second, I was almost guaranteed not to run into anyone from Santa Monica High there. (News flash: Punching your gropey football player date on prom night does not boost your social life.) Third, I was avoiding the hella awkward situation at home with my dad and his new wife, Sonia. Okay, so that was only three reasons, but I had to go home eventually anyway. 

At our dishwater-toned stucco apartment building, I locked my bike to a pipe and trudged up the cement steps. As I reached our landing, I froze. The door to our apartment hung wide open. Our neighborhood hugged the 405 freeway and marked a borderland between the haves and the have-nots. It wasn’t Compton, but my dad was religious about keeping the door closed and locked. Arguing voices spilled out the entryway.

“You need to calm down,” demanded someone in a stern English accent.

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” my dad shouted back. 

I edged closer—they were standing just inside the threshold. 

My dad, face red and forehead vein pulsing, jammed his index finger into an old man’s chest. “You can’t show up here after sixteen years, demand I give you my daughter, and tell me to ‘calm down.’” 

Okay, what was that? Give him his daughter?

Everything about the snowy-haired stranger screamed money and power, from his tailored trousers and dress shirt to a fat gold ring and a leather briefcase leaning against the doorframe. His suit jacket was folded over his arm, and although he glistened with sweat, his hair still showed tiny precise lines from a recent combing. The man’s appearance stood in sharp contrast to our dingy apartment’s chipped plaster walls. An urge ran through me to sneak inside and throw a sheet over the recliner we’d bought at Goodwill, hiding its ripped seat cushion.

The stranger must have heard my feet scuffing the walkway, because he whipped his head around and faced me. His lips curved into a smile. “This must be Elizabeth now.”

My dad’s face turned to stone.“Lizzie, you don’t need to be here for this conversation. You and Sonia should go get dinner.”

“Why? What’s going on?” Reaching the door, I saw Sonia perched on the threadbare couch, her face pinched. She rested a protective hand on her pregnant belly, but she made no move to leave.

“It’s nothing you need to worry about, Lizzie. Seriously.” Dad’s hands gripped his hips. “You should go.”

“Elizabeth, dear,” the old man said, “It is so good to see you. You’ve grown into such a beautiful young lady. And you look so much like your mother did at your age—except Philippa’s hair was longer.” He reached out as if to stroke my head, but I shied away like a boxer ducking a jab.

“Dad, are you gonna tell me who this is?” I ran my fingers through my shaggy blonde mane. I was light-years out of the loop and needed someone to fill me in.

“He’s nobody—” Dad said.

“I am your grandfather, Archer Cavendish,” the man said at the same time.

“Oh, really?” I said it like he’d just told me he was Santa Claus. “‘Cause my grandparents all died years ago.” I distinctly remembered a conversation with my dad when I was about six. He’d said that since my mom had died soon after I was born, he and I were on our own and we needed to be a team. That had worked just fine—until Dad met Sonia last year, got her pregnant, and married her, like, two seconds later. 

“If your father told you I was dead, he lied.” Archer turned back toward my dad, eyes narrowed and lips tight.

“Is that true, Dad? Is this my grandfather?” My dad stood ramrod straight with his fists balled tight next to his body. I’d never seen him this mad—he was generally pretty chill. Although he taught English literature, he had wavy surfer hair, and he often wore board shorts and flip-flops. But, right then, he looked anything but chill.
 
“Yes—technically—Archer is your grandfather,” he said. “Your mom was his daughter. But Archer lost any right to claim you as family years ago.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Your father is angry because of what happened with your sister after my sweet Philippa died.”
 
“Wait. Hold up. What? Did you say I had a sister?” No way. There had to be a mistake. I didn’t have a sister—even though I’d always wanted one. Dad would never have kept that from me.

“No, dear, you have a twin sister called Anne,” Archer said. “She lives with me in a lovely country house south of London. Now she’s terribly ill and needs your help, which is why I’ve come.”

I looked at my dad for confirmation. He was angry—obviously. There was something else, too, though. Fear? Guilt? It freaked me out.

“Dad? What’s going on? Please tell me. Do I really have a twin?”
 
Silence. 

Each crazy new idea piled on top of another. I had a twin sister. My grandfather was alive. My dad had hidden those facts from me my whole life. Why?

“He was going to tell you,” Sonia piped up. “He planned to explain everything when you turned eighteen.” 

I glared at her. Somehow, despite the heat and her pregnancy, Sonia still looked beautiful. As stepmoms go, she treated me okay—but right then I hated her.

“Why would you keep this from me, Dad? And how could you tell everything to her?” 
Ever since Sonia showed up, I’d been crowded out of my relationship with my dad.

 “Honey, I can explain everything.” Dad tried to placate me.

“Are you kidding me? You can’t explain this away. I can’t handle you right now!” Lava shot through my veins. I spun around, ready to bolt. 

“Wait, Elizabeth.” Archer caught my shoulder with a firm hand. I jerked away and eyed him warily. “Your sister needs you, and I must tell you about her before I leave. I’ve collected a lot of information here.” He bent to open his briefcase and handed me a thick manila folder. 

I took the folder, but stuffed it under my arm, unopened. “Fine. Go ahead.”