Monday, January 29, 2018

This time, last year, Beth Turley was a workshop participant. Now she's a #1st5pages success story.

We were so excited to hear the news that 1st5pages alumni, Beth Turley, sold her debut novel IF THIS WERE A STORY. She stopped by to answer questions about her workshop experience and her path to publication.

Beth, how long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story when I was in kindergarten. It’s called “The Cat and the Dog” and my parents framed it for me as a gift last year. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a writer. When I found out I could actually get degrees in that field, I knew that nothing else was going to make me feel more complete, and that’s how I ended up with an MFA in Writing.

When did you participate in the 1st5pages?

I participated in February 2017. It’s hard to believe it was almost a year ago, because it was such an essential part of my journey that it feels like it happened yesterday. My debut novel started in a different place when I entered the workshop. Because of feedback I received from my mentors and fellow participants, the novel now starts in a different place. That advice was so, so spot on and important.

How long did you query after the workshop before signing with your agent?

This workshop really gave me the confidence and technical advice to query my book, and I signed with my agent, Zoe Sandler at ICM, about a month after participating in the workshop. (Query her, she’s wonderful).

And how long were you on submission before getting your deal?

I was on submission for about a month. I am extremely grateful for my short submission process, but I don’t think any amount of time on submission is better than another. I’m a big believer that things happen the way they’re meant to happen.

What is your writing routine like? Do you write at home or in a coffee shop? Listen to music?

Late 2017/ early 2018 has been the time of routine for me. I sit at my desk, put on “Instrumental Chill” Pandora, and write. I am an adjunct instructor/ university employee which has been a great balance to my writing routine. I might end up with 400 words in a day, or 2,000. I’m happy with getting a single word on the page per day.

Was there an AHA moment on your road to publication when felt like something suddenly sank in
and you felt like you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

My AHA moment was coming to the realization that pretty sentences do not make a book. I’ve always had a serious love for beautiful prose, but it took some time to realize that beautiful prose was not everything. That’s when I learned about plot and craft and dialogue and theme and all those other details that make a book a book.

What would you like to pass along to other new writers?

Don’t give up. No querying process is without its share of sadness. I know how badly every writer wants their dreams to come true. Even now, months from my debut, I can tap into that feeling so vividly. I would want to tell every writer that there is always a new story to be written, other happiness to fill in the gaps, and some way to persevere.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a draft of my new middle-grade project, and am at work on a third. I’m always planning or drafting or revising in some way, but right now the focus is on my second book. Book #2 syndrome is a real thing, but I’m fighting it.

Thanks for answering our questions, Beth. We're super excited to announce that Beth will be joining us as a 1st5pages mentor next month!

January 2018 Agent Interview

Agent Mentor for January 2018

The Lark Group

Abby Saul, our Agent mentor for January, has stopped by to answer a few questions. She will also be available to answer your questions on Jan 3rd in our first twitter chat of 2018! Pop in on #1st5pages and ask a literary agent specific questions for your project. In the meantime, the questions we asked Abby are below! 

Abby, when reading a query/pitch, what makes you want to request the manuscript?

I get about 200 queries a week, so the queries I request really have to stand out! The first thing I notice is if the author has done a professional job with their query, which means they have followed guidelines and sent an error-free message. After that, I respond to a query like a reader considering a book at the bookstore: Does this description make me want to read more? Am I dying to know what happens? Does it make me want to spend time (and thus $$) on it? And finally (if we've gotten this far!), I respond to a query like an agent: Is there a market for this book? Does the author bring anything extra to the table (awards, publishing history)? So the best queries -- the queries that make me request the manuscript -- are professionally written and edited, follow submission guidelines, and describe a book that I'm eager to read and that I think I can sell. (Bonus: queries for a funny project make me laugh, queries for a serious project don't!)

What makes you reject on a query or pitch?

As I mentioned above, the first thing I notice is whether submission guidelines have been followed and if the query is well-written (and error-free!). A single typo in a query will not mean I reject the project, but pitching a genre I don't represent, forgetting to include the word count, or writing with bad grammar (etc!) will lead to a rejection. I also reject projects that haven't "sold" themselves to me well -- the description is lackluster or, honestly, not very well written. After that, there are many reasons I might reject even a very good pitch: the book itself doesn't catch my attention as a reader (it has an overdone or staid plotline or setting, for example), I have recently had difficultly selling a similar project so I don't want to try that again just now, or I simply don't like it. Personal preference plays a huge role, and it has to! I am looking for projects to fall head over heels in love with, so I have to be picky. I am positive that I have passed on some fabulous books because the query didn't do its job well -- so remember, writers, you owe it to yourself to spend time perfecting your pitch! (I actually just did a big Twitter thread on why I reject queries -- check it out for even more on this topic!

Are you an editorial agent?

Absolutely! I play a big role in editing my clients' work and helping them at all stages of the writing and rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting) process. When I submit a project to editors I want to be sure I am giving them no excuse to say no, which means the manuscript has to be pretty much near publication ready. So I usually do at least two rounds of editorial with my clients, and then a smaller copyediting/clean-up pass, before a project goes out on submission. I also am often the first beta reader and editor for clients as they work on Book(s) 2 (3, 4, etc), helping them troubleshoot and conceptualize their latest projects. I love editorial work!

What genres are you drawn to the most?

I love all sorts of projects but am most drawn to -- and thus limit my wishlist to -- literary, mystery/thriller, historical, and women's. Within those, I am open to almost any storyline as long as the writing is smart and compelling, but am particularly a sucker for dark secrets, crumbling mansions, nostalgic grownups, and charm (in settings, characters, or writing). I am fine with crossover! I tend not to like magical realism, political/CIA thrillers with lots of running and explosions (Jack Reacher is not for me), or books where the protagonist could be described as a "dude" (male protagonists are fine! Just no dudes). On the historical side, I am looking for new eras (so no WWII books right now), and would love something set "between the wars" or in some other overlooked but vibrant period. I like dark dark dark mysteries and thrillers but Agatha Christie mysteries (and to a lesser extent, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh whodunits) have always been, and still are, my comfort reads, so I have a soft spot for smart cozies and Golden Era throwbacks as well.

What do you like to do for fun?

Read, of course! (Seriously! I am always reading.) But also hike, cook, watch the latest best thing on Netflix, and -- since the birth of my first child in September -- sleep!

January 2018 Workshop

Welcome and Happy New Year! Our first Workshop for 2018 kicked off on Saturday, January 6th. and although the participants have been selected, that doesn't mean the learning opportunities have stopped. The First Five Pages Workshop is here to help writers find their manuscript's best possible opening with the help of two of our permanent author mentors and a featured guest author. The Workshop runs over the course of three consecutive weeks. In the final week, a literary agent will review the pitch and final draft of the pages. Not only will the agent provide notes, they will also offer a partial request and critique for at least one selected winner.

And that's not all! The workshop is not just for the writers who have submitted manuscripts. For any writer, seeing how each manuscript evolves with the help of our mentoring authors and literary agent can be an unparalleled learning experience in how publishing really works and how professionals and readers read. 

Follow along with the workshop! The links below will be updated throughout the workshop to let you read the comments and see the transformation on each of the workshop manuscripts: what worked, what didn't work, and why. This page will always have the most recent workshop displayed with additional workshops linked below. Additional workshops are also available in chronological order on the site sidebar.

Guest Mentors

Author: Christina June,
author of:

Literary Agent: Abby Saul
 of The Lark Group

Assigned Permanent Mentors

Holly Bodger is the author of  5 to 1 (Knopf, May 2015). She was a finalist in the YA category of the 2013 RWA Golden Heart and has been the logline guru for Miss Snark’s First Victim for several years. She owns too many hats, eats too much cheese and spends too much time complaining about the Canadian weather. She is represented by Lauren MacLeod of The Strothman Agency.

Martina Boone, the workshop founder, loves reading and writing romantic books set in magical places for adults and young adults. She is the award-winning author of COMPULSION and the Southern Gothic HEIRS OF WATSON ISLAND trilogy for young adult readers from Simon and Schuster/Simon Pulse, and the Celtic Legends Collection for adult readers, including LAKE OF DESTINY and BELL OF ETERNITY. She is also the principal blogger at our sister site,, a three-time Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers site, and the founder of

Heather Cashman has a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, but the lab reports always lacked the fantastical element Heather's imagination demands. Hypotheses turned into taglines and novels that range from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Speculative Fiction. Agent Intern. Assistant to Brenda Drake and all things #PitchWars #PitMad #PitchMadness. Member, SCBWI. 
Learn more about our permanent workshop mentors here. 

Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and all-around lover of words and those who create them. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, COUNTING THYME, was published by Putnam & Sons in April, 2016. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs.

Stasia Ward Kehoe is the author of YA novels THE SOUND OF LETTING GO and AUDITION, both published by Viking. She grew up performing at theaters along the eastern seaboard, then shifted from stage to page and has been writing fiction, marketing copy and educational materials for almost two decades! She holds a BA in English from Georgetown University and MA in Performance Studies from New York University, is represented by Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management, and still enjoys choreographing the occasional musical.

Lisa Gail Green, workshop co-founder, writes paranormal and fantasy. She is the author of THE BINDING STONE, the first novel in her DJINN series, and SOUL CROSSED, the first book in the OF DEMONS AND ANGELS series. She would most definitely have a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic.

Sheri Larsen is a writer, reader, and Maine-iac ice hockey fan, who has watched more hockey games than she could ever count. She loves books that open up secret passageways and hidden worlds to inspire and challenge the heart. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, MOTLEY EDUCATION (Leap Books) is now available, and her debut young adult novel, MARKED BEAUTY, is set for release October, 2017; both are written under S.A. Larsen.

Stephanie Scott writes Young Adult for teens and those young in spirit. Her debut ALTERATIONS is set for release by Bloomsbury Spark. Her writing is also featured in WELCOME HOME, a YA anthology focused on adoption themed stories. Stephanie is an active member of Romance Writers of America and its online YA chapter YARWA, and a current writing mentor in online pitch contests. She enjoys dance fitness and cat memes, and Pinterest is driving her broke. One current life goal is to cosplay Hoth Leia from The Empire Strikes Back. Born and raised in Kalamazoo where there are no zoos, she’s a Midwest girl at heart. She now lives outside of Chicago with her tech-of-all-trades husband.

Wendy Spinale is the author of EVERLAND and UMBERLAND, both from Scholastic. She's a published professional journalist with the AOL/Patch Media’s Pleasanton Patch and an active member of both the California Writers’ Club and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A former Disneyland Cast Member, she is familiar with the world of "make believe."

Rob Vlock is an author trapped in the body of a struggling jazz musician who, in turn, is trapped in the body of another, somewhat shorter author. (It’s complicated. And kinda crowded.) Rob’s debut middle-grade action/comedy series kicks off with SVEN CARTER AND THE TRASHMOUTH PROTOCOL, which comes out on October 3rd. (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). When he’s not writing, Rob can be found somewhere in the greater Boston area trying to make his trumpet sound like something other than a dying goose. It’s a work in progress.


Workshop Entries

The Mark by Kirsten Boswell
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Mentors: Christina June, Sheri Larsen, and Wendy Spinale
     Original Submission with Comments
     First Revision with Comments
     Final Revision with Comments
     Agent Comments

Tourist Attractions of the Upper Midwest by Emma Evenson 
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Mentors: Christina June, Melanie Conklin, and Stasia Kehoe
     Original Submission with Comments
     First Revision with Comments
     Final Revision with Comments
     Agent's Comments

Lauren's Light by Sophia Moskalenko
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Mentors: Christina June, Martina Boone, and Lisa Green
     Original Submission with Comments
     First Revision with Comments
     Final Revision with Comments
     Agent's Comments

The First Witch by Mandy Welch
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Mentors: Christina June, Holly Bodger, and Heather Cashman
    Original Submission with Comments
    First Revision with Comments
    Final Revision with Comments
    Agent Comments

Words in the Sand by Haleigh Wenger
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Mentors: Christina June, Rob Vlock, and Stephanie Scott
     Original Submission with Comments
     First Revision with Comments
     Final Revision with Comments
     Agent's Comments



Previous Workshops

      (Use sidebar links for earlier workshops)

Enter Your Own First Five Pages    

Interested in participating yourself? See here. But even if your own manuscript isn't in the workshop, seeing how the manuscripts evolve over three weeks with the help of our mentoring authors and literary agent can help you make HUGE leaps forward with your own manuscript.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Free 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop Opens Saturday, February 2nd w/ mentors Lit Agent Laura Crockett and Author Kelley Armstrong

Our February workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, February 2nd at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kelley Armstrong as our author mentor and Laura Crockett of Triada US as our agent mentor! (See below for Laura's background and query preferences.) And, we are having another twitter chat on Wednesday, January 31, from 8-9! Please join us with any questions, or just to follow along, using the hashtag #1st5pages.

The workshop is designed to help writers struggling to find the right opening for their novel or for those looking to perfect the all important first five pages before submitting for publication. Why the first five pages? Because if these aren't perfect, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is!

Why is the First Five Pages Workshop a GREAT Opportunity?

  • You are mentored by at least two traditionally-published published or agented authors for the duration of the workshop. These authors have been through the trenches and know what it takes to get a book deal, solid reviews, and sales.
  • In addition, you receive feedback from the four other workshop participants.
  • Feedback is given not just on your initial submission, but on two subsequent opportunities to revise your manuscript based on the previous feedback so that you know you've got it right!
  • The final revision will also be reviewed by a literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the one that may eventually become your query letter or cover copy.
  • The best entry from among the workshop participants will receive a critique of the full first chapter or first ten pages from the mentoring agent, which may, in some cases, lead to requests for additional material.

How It Works

Please see the complete rules before entering the workshop, but in a nutshell, 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. We will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman, @MelissWritesNow@charlotteclg ), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to the rotating team of our wonderful permanent author mentors, the final entry for each workshop participant will be critiqued by our agent mentor.

February Guest Literary Agent Mentor: Laura Crockett

An Associate Literary Agent at Triada US, Laura Crockett is a bookish bookworm and book hoarder. She is interested in contemporary realistic fiction (such as study abroad experiences, strong female friendships, falling in love, mental health, diversity, LGBTQ) and fantasy (particularly with excellent world-building, authentic characterization, fantasy inspired by fairytales and other cultures' mythology, and historical fantasy). Some favorite titles include Fangirl, The Lie Tree, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, All the Bright Places, Shadowfell, When We Collided, Anna and the French Kiss, A Shadow Bright and Burning,The Star-Touched Queen, and The Winner's Curse.

To query, please include the first 10 pages of your novel in the body of an email and send to:

February Guest Literary Author Mentor: Kelley Armstrong   

Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers' dismay. She's the author of the NYT-bestselling "Women of the Otherworld" paranormal suspense series and "Darkest Powers" young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets. 

                               ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~


When Casey Duncan first arrived at Rockton, the off-the-grid,
isolated community built as a haven for people running from their pasts, she had no idea what to expect. There are no cell phones, no internet, no mail, and no way of getting in or out without the town council's approval. She certainly didn't expect to become the town homicide detective. But, the very last thing she expected was for the council to drop a dangerous criminal into their midst without a plan to keep him imprisoned. And she never thought that she'd have to be responsible for him. 

Buy It At:
Barnes & Noble


Saturday, January 27, 2018

1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop Opens 2/2, and Mentor News!

The 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop will open on Saturday, February 2. Please note, we now require that all participants have a completed manuscript. We have had an overwhelming response by agents, and many ask for full manuscripts. Remember, we usually fill up in a minute, so get those pages ready!

In the meantime, we have some wonderful mentor news to share! We have four wonderfully talented authors joining our team of mentors!!!

New Mentors:

Candace Ganger is a mother, blogger, contributing writer for sites like Teen Vogue, TWLOHA, Bustle, Romper, XO Jane & Hello Giggles. Her debut YA novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH, is out now via St. Martin’s Griffin, and she’s part of a YA mental health anthology, LIFE INSIDE MY MIND, out April 10th, 2018 via S&S. Her forthcoming YA novel (from St. Martin’s Wednesday Books), FALLEN LOVED ONES AWAITING TRANSFER (#float) doesn’t have a pub date yet, but will soon!

Christina June's debut novel, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, was released in May 2017, and a companion, EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, will be available in 2018. She was also part of the anthology NEVER BE YOUNGER, collection of short stories based on the works of Shakespeare.

Shannon M. Parker, author of YA novels THE RATTLED BONES and THE GIRL WHO FELL and contributor to WELCOME HOME, an anthology of short stories focused on adoption, has also collected 37 stamps in two passports, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and to the top of the Andes, and has degrees from Saint Michael’s College, University of Massachusetts at Boston and University of Southern Maine. When she’s not writing, she helps at-risk families gain literacy and citizenship skills. She likes you and chocolate chip cookies.

A year ago Beth Turley was a participant in the workshop. Soon after, she signed with an agent, and soon after that, she signed a two book deal with Simon & Schuster! She was mentored by Ron Smith and Melanie Conklin, and her middle grade novel, IF THIS WERE A STORY, comes out this year! Please add it to your shelf on Goodreads for more updates, and look for her interview with our wonderful manager, Charlotte Levine-Gruber, on January 29th!

We also have exciting new mentor releases for you to check out!


Happy book birthday to REIGN OF THE FALLEN by Sarah Glenn Marsh which released January 23rd. Featuring a bad-ass bisexual main character, this novel has it all: unique world building, tight pacing with plenty of plot twists, characters you love and hate, and somehow it is dark and yet hopeful at the same time. I was lucky enough to read this epic YA fantasy early, and believe me you don't want to miss it!

LOCK AND MORI, FINAL FALL, by Heather Petty, is the epic conclusion to this fabulous series, a modern-day adaption of Sherlock Holmes, and it was an absolute nail-biter from start to finish! I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

BLACK PANTHER, THE YOUNG PRINCE by award-winning author Ron Smith released January 2nd. With plenty of intrigue and mystery, a great school setting and realistic friendships, I ripped through this action packed middle grade adventure!

MAGIC OF WINTER , the latest in the CELTIC LEGENDS series by Martina Boone, was a delight to read from start to finish! I loved every page of this heartwarming story of love, redemption, and second chances. The entire series is charming and beautifully written!

And don't forget to put the ASSASSIN OF TRUTHS by Brenda Drake on your TBR list! I adore this NYT bestselling fantasy series, and can't wait for the conclusion which I know will be EPIC!

Happy Reading, Writing, and Revising!


About the Author:
Erin Cashman is AYAP's 1st 5 Pages Workshop coordinator, and a permanent mentor. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three kids, and an energetic rescue dog. She writes YA fantasy. UNCHARTED is coming fall of 2018, and THE EXCEPTIONALS, a Bank Street College of Education best book of the year, is available now. For up to date information about the workshop, you can follow Erin on twitter here

Friday, January 26, 2018

Thank You to the Participants and Mentors of the #1st5pages Writing Workshop!

Thank you to all of the participants who trusted us with their pages, and worked so hard during our January 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop - and congratulations to Emma Evenson, our workshop winner! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Christina June as our author mentor and Abby Saul of The Lark Group as our agent mentor! As always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

The workshop is designed to help writers struggling to find the right opening for their novel or for those looking to perfect the all important first five pages before submitting for publication. Why the first five pages? Because if these pages aren't compelling, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is! Our February workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, February 2nd at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kelley Armstrong as our author mentor and Laura Crockett of Triada US as our agent mentor! So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy Writing (and revising!)


About the Author:
Erin Cashman is AYAP's 1st 5 Pages Workshop coordinator, and a permanent mentor. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three kids, and an energetic rescue dog. She writes YA fantasy. UNCHARTED is coming fall of 2018, and THE EXCEPTIONALS, a Bank Street College of Education best book of the year, is available now. For up to date information about the workshop, you can follow Erin on twitter here

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The January Workshop is in Progress

Our five manuscripts have been selected, but that doesn't mean the learning opportunities for aspiring authors and editors are over this month! We invite everyone to follow along by reading the entries and mentors comments and watching the revisions transform the pages. See for yourself what worked, what didn't work, discover why, and how to make improvements. You're also welcome to make comments yourself about what you feel is working and what isn't. And you can ask questions of our mentors about their comments as well.

Want help from a literary agent and our published, award-winning, and best-selling authors to get your own first five pages and pitch ready for submission or jump start your novel? The February workshop will open at noon on February 3rd. We always accept manuscripts on a first come, first served basis so your chances are as good as anyone else's. All we ask is that your pitch is no more than 200 words, your submission (overall) is no more than 1200 words, and that both are formatted correctly, free of typos and grammar errors, and that you've worked through your story idea to make sure it can be written as presented into a full-length novel.

Need help getting your pitch and manuscript ready? Click here for writing help and submission tips

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Evenson Rev 2

Name: Emma Evenson
Genre: YA contemporary
Title: Tourist Attractions of the Upper Midwest


Sixteen-year-old Jonah Palmer knows that his best friend is a douchebag. Parker is the kind of guy who openly rates girls’ asses and describes everything he hates as ‘gay.’ And it’s not like Jonah— who actually is gay— is cool with it. But he gives Parker the occasional pass, as his oldest friend and the only person who didn’t treat him like a freak after he lost his leg in a childhood car accident.

When Parker’s girlfriend moves away without explanation, Jonah expects Parker to flip the hell out. But Parker is fine with it—and that’s almost scarier. The rumor mill makes it clear there’s a story there, but the last thing Jonah wants are details. All he wants is to avoid newly-single Parker’s attempts to hit on girls.

But when Parker assaults a girl, Jonah becomes complicit in one of the worst things Parker has ever done. Now Jonah has to choose between his oldest friendship and his desire to do the right thing in a situation where he has no clue what ‘the right thing’ even is.

Week 3 Revisions:

As soon as Parker tells me he likes Jenna’s hair, I know we’re on the brink of a major disaster.

“What?” he asks, feigning innocence. Feigning it pretty ineffectively, since Parker can’t act or lie to save his life. He’s always the person who gets cast as a tree or a rock in school plays, and even then he usually finds a way to fuck things up.

“Do not say something awful--” I start, but it’s already too late.

Jenna Price climbs up the stairs of the bus. She’s oblivious, talking animatedly to my sister, playing with the ends of her now fire-engine-red hair.

I knew this was coming, because the dye job happened at our house, in our bathroom. It looked like they killed a clown in there by the time they were done. Approximately six hundred thousand commemorative selfies were taken in our living room. And the entire time this was going on, I was having flashbacks to everything gross Parker has ever said to me about redheads.

That process took up a good two hours of my life.

So I already know how this is going to end. I consider taking some preventative measure, like covering his mouth with my hand, except there’s a decent chance he’d bite my palm.

He straightens up in the seat we’re sharing, and I slump down accordingly. Pretty much my number one goal in life is to avoid being the center of attention, which is difficult when your best friend has the self-control of a rabid dog.

“Hey Jenna,” he calls out, “I like your hair.”

To a normal person this might sound like a compliment, but Jenna wasn’t born yesterday. She flips him off without so much as looking in our direction.

“Who do you think makes a better redhead, Jenna or Alice?” he asks me, which practically counts as a philosophical question coming from Parker. But I am the single worst person he could be asking.

Guy-redheads, I want to say, but can’t. For fairly obvious reasons.

“They’re both okay,” I shrug.

Parker completely ignores me. “Jenna, definitely. Let me just--”

“Absolutely not,” I say, grabbing his arm.

Unfortunately he’s wearing a sweatshirt, which he sloughs off like a second skin as he shoves past me, and slides into the seat directly behind Evie and Jenna.

I hardcore don’t want to follow him. But as soon as he taps Jenna on the shoulder, my sister’s head pops up over the seat and she gives me the kind of look people give you when your dog shits on their lawn and you don’t pick it up. Which forces me to get up and move, because I prefer it when Evie doesn’t hate me.

“So did you dye all your hair?” he asks loudly. “Everywhere?”

I groan. I was pretty sure that’s where this was going, but you know. A person can hope.

A bunch of the guys sitting behind us laugh. Our bus driver even laughs. It’s completely disgusting on a million different levels and it makes me wish I were a different type of person. A person who would get up and punch Parker and those guys in their faces.

Or at the very least, like, pinch them.

But me? I feel the way I used to feel during our Department of Natural Resources assemblies about preventing forest fires. Some nature-police-type-guy would be up there showing us videos of a bunch of burning forests and explaining how to use sand or willpower or whatever to stop the fire.

And I’d be sitting there thinking, I would definitely just give up if I was confronted with a forest fire.

But it’s not like that’s even a real option, because everyone would be like, ‘screw that guy who let the whole forest burn down.’

In this case, I suspect my sister will have some pretty choice words for me if I don’t do the right thing. My sister is super-Christian, so she’s up on the Clydesdale of all of high horses when it comes to morality.

“Stop being--” I start, but Jenna interrupts.

“Leave. Me. Alone.”

“I’m just curious,” he says. “It seems like that would be complicated—”

I lean forward so my face is pressed against the back of the seat in front of us, which is pockmarked with those weird little shapes that form when you press a lit lighter against the seat. The grimy plastic threats to suffocate me, and I kind of wish it would.

Jenna stands up. “Actually,” she says, grabbing her backpack, “I don’t have to listen to this crap.” She storms to the front of the bus and the bus driver actually pulls over and lets her off, despite the fact that we drop all the farm kids off first and we’re basically in the middle of nowhere.

“Jesus. Overreact much?” Parker says.

I roll my eyes so hard they practically fall out of my head.

“If only Rachel were here to witness this,” Evie says sarcastically, narrowing her eyes at Parker before turning to glare at me in a way that makes me want to crawl under the seat.

It’s not like I didn’t try to stop him.


It actually is kind of a miracle that Parker’s girlfriend is on another bus route, because if she heard a quarter of the things he says they probably would have broken up years ago. At the very least, he usually knows better than to mess with Rachel’s friends.

Rachel is the one person who has the power to make Parker act like a semi-normal person, which makes her tantamount to a wizard in my mind.

So when I say, “You might want to, like, apologize. Because Jenna’s hardcore going to tell Rachel what you said,” Parker looks like he’s actually considering it.

“Okay,” he says finally.

It makes me want to write Rachel a card or something, which my mom is real big on. Our next-door-neighbor gave me a bag of laundry detergent and some deodorant last year for Christmas, and my mother made me write a thank you card for that, even though Mrs. Friedman was clearly mocking my personal hygiene.

Dear Rachel, thank you for having sex with my best friend and for scaring him into occasionally trying to be a better person.

I seriously cannot imagine what Parker would be like if he were single.

It would be the actual end of the world.

“So Jonah.” Evie’s voice floats over the top of the seat, her tone frigid. “Ever considered finding better friends?”

This sounds like an insult, but it’s the kind of thing you get used to hearing when everyone thinks your best friend is a total douchebag.

But it’s not nearly as simple as she makes it sound.

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Moskalenko Rev 2

Name: Sophia Moskalenko
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Lauren’s Light


In 17th century France, money buys pleasure, religion peddles bliss, but magic is a gift that sends Lauren’s heart soaring even as it wrecks her life. 

Witch hunts are ruthless and routine. Lauren barely escapes execution. Then her hideout is discovered. She must run--again. When a Parisian perfumer, Andre de Dinan, offers her money and marriage to cure his leprosy, Lauren gives up magic for safety, thinking she’s found a sanctuary.

But courter’s intrigues are as deadly as villagers’ pitchforks. Drunk, Andre reveals Lauren’s powers to his business partner, Ismail, a scientist. Ismail has the formula for a happiness elixir that would disrupt the church’ influence. Except the elixir is cursed, its side-effects deadly. Threatening to bankrupt Andre, Ismail demands Lauren lift the curse.

The church, wanting the elixir for their own miracle, spy on Ismail, steal the formula, and will kill Lauren’s daughter unless Lauren delivers the fixed elixir to them.

As soon as men in power get their scientific breakthrough or religious miracle, they will get rid of Lauren. She can follow her talent into almost-certain death, tackling the elusive magic of happiness, or lose everything she lives for. 


Oh, no.

Lauren picked up the lifeless lark from the doorstep.

“What happened, baby?” She held the bird in her cupped hands. “Were you fleeting a hawk?” The bird did not stir, toes curled, a wing draping down. Lauren took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and blew out a stream of shimmering blue air, a translucent cloud settling over the lark, shifting with the breeze, then fading. Magic was powerless. The bird was dead.

Such a bad omen… Inside, Lauren felt a chord stretch taught, its tremors spreading to her fingertips.

A dead bird fell by the door once, when Lauren was eleven. Two days later the door splintered under fists and feet, and Lauren’s life split into “before” and “after.” “Before,” sunlit and spring-colored, smelled of Mama’s potions, fresh hay, and honey. Before, specks of dust danced in the orange rays of sunsets framed by the window, as Lauren watched Mama tend to patients. Before, warmth--of sour-smelling cinder-smudged bread, of Mama’s hands brushing Lauren’s hair--filled their quaint world.   


In 1658, flames engulfed “the witch’s lair,” Mama and Lauren’s house, and their world burnt to the ground, reduced to smoldering coals before it turned cold and grey. Grey were the stones of the village square, listless grey dust covered the street leading to Aunt Symonne’s house, gray figures shuffled by-- Mama’s killers, Lauren’s neighbors.  

The gray almost swallowed her. Until, out of her misery and loneliness, she conjured the blue light--her own magic, a connection to Mama that colored Lauren’s “After.”

Blinking memories away, Lauren carried the lark down to the creek. She ripped a curved strip of bark from an uprooted willow, and set the makeshift raft with the tiny body afloat. A moment later, the current swept it downstream. “Carry the bad luck away with the omen,” Lauren begged the water.

“Everything had been fine,” she thought, climbing a curvy path up the creek’s bank. “Luke scouted this place for its safety, far from the village, from roads and hunting grounds, deep in the woods.”

She came around a rickety chicken coup and past a fenced vegetable garden. The door handle that four years ago left splinters in Lauren’s fingers was now smooth, polished.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” she said out loud. But under her ribs the chord, struck by the sight of the dead bird, still trembled.

Lauren busied herself, crushing dry mushrooms and poppy seeds, sorting them into small boxes. She could navigate the house with her eyes closed: two steps to the right—a table where the boxes gaped, waiting to be filled; three steps —the fireplace, a shelf over it crowded with flasks and boxes; turn around, two steps, and Lauren was back by the windowsill.

“LAUREN… LUKE,” a call rang over the clearing behind the house.

The taught string inside Lauren’s chest snapped.

Her heart caught in her throat.

“I’VE MISSED YOU,” the voice—a woman’s--was closer.

Paralyzed a moment ago, Lauren sprung to the fireplace, grabbed a poker for a split second, then shoved it back, zipped to the table, snatched a knife. Then she froze again, cheeks hot, heartbeat in her ears.

She considered the knife she was clutching, took a deep breath and placed it back on the table. Another deep breath, and Lauren closed her eyes. She inhaled one more time, opened her eyes, and swung the door open.
Tall grass rustled in the clearing surrounded by birches and willows. Pine trees on the edge of the forest swayed in the breeze.

A stone’s throw away, Annie, Luke’s younger sister and Lauren’s cousin stood, statuesque, a haughty smile on her face. Not men with pitchforks--but it was not a pleasant surprise.

A few paces behind Annie, a wide-brimmed hat obscured her brother Matty’s face. Matty swore to secrecy. He was only to come in case of a disaster. "Maybe that’s the dead bird’s warning," Lauren thought, "Aunt Symonne is sick?" 

“Lauren, my dear,” Annie explored the range of her melodic voice, “How you’ve grown! It’s been too long! And what’ve you done with my big brother? Have you” --Annie made a horrified face--“have you sent a plague on his poor head like you did all those other people?”

Ignoring Annie’s performance, Lauren turned to Matty. “Matty! Is everything alright? Is Aunt Symonne well?”

Matty shriveled to half his size while Annie answered for him, “Mom’s fine. Matty here couldn’t refuse me when I begged him to visit you. He’s such a good brother. Aren’t you, Matty?”

Holding her power at the ready, Lauren folded her arms.

“Alright,” Annie said, “I see we won’t have a nice conversation like I wanted. Are you going to invite me in? And where’s my big brother, I asked you?”

“Luke’s hunting.”

“Ah!” A barely audible sigh of relief. “It’s too bad. Next time, then. Tell him I came by, won’t you?” Annie made a few steps forward.

Lauren spread her arms wide by her sides, tense fingers outstretched, “Stop right there.”

Annie kept right on walking.

“Annie, stop!”

But Annie marched straight on.

With two fists, Lauren jerked her arms to the sky, and Annie felt her feet yanked up from under her. Her back met the ground with a loud thump.

Breathless, Annie sat up, gawking at Lauren over the grass, then burst with giggles, rubbing her backside.

“I told you, Matty!” She mocked Matty’s voice, “’She’s only healed a couple of times… She’s not that strong…’ D’you see it? She’s a natural witch.”

Matty started to back away, but Annie shouted after him, “Where’re you going? Sit down and wait right here. I won’t be long.”

With disarming confidence, Annie walked up to Lauren, grabbed her elbow, and pulled her into the house. Inside, she looked around, nose crinkled, lip curled--an expression Lauren remembered too well. Snatching a glass jar from the windowsill, Annie demanded, “what’s this?”  

Lauren ignored her, collecting flasks and small wooden boxes from the table and setting them atop the shelf over the fireplace. She pulled the jar from Annie’s hand, adding it to the row.

“What do you want, Annie?”

Annie smiled, examining Lauren from up-close. “You grew up pretty, cousin… I knew about you even before the plague.” Annie paused, baiting for a reaction to the accusation that nearly cost Lauren her life. “I watched you once, when you went into the woods at dawn. After Luke helped you escape, it was bad for us. I don’t know if Matty told you… We were blamed for letting you leave.” Lauren tried hard to keep her face still. Annie continued, “Anyway. I’m still glad you ran away. You’d be dead, for sure. And I need you alive.”

At the back of the room, between two sparse beds, Annie noticed something glitter—a small mirror in a gilded frame. “Oh, that’s nice. Where’d you get that?”
“Someone gave it to me. I…” Lauren looked straight into Annie’s eyes. “I healed her child.”

Pushing past Lauren, Annie peered into the mirror, adjusted a strand of flyaway hair, turning her head from side to side. “I’m seventeen, you know. I want to get married. I could have any guy in the village. But I don’t care for them. They’re disgusting pigs. I want something better. I want a better life. I deserve it. Look at me!”

Annie was striking, and fully aware of it. She had the same large eyes as Lauren, though hers were brown, not blue, and instead of Lauren’s pensive expression, Annie’s were sharp and curious. A natural blonde streak in Annie’s auburn braids framed her face like a wreath. 

“There are these merchants that come to the village once or twice a year. Real rich, everyone on a horse. Some ride in carriages, even! Expensive clothes, jewels on their necks, on their fingers. They tell stories about places they see—Paris! Bordeaux! Lauren, I want to go there! I want to see the world. This pathetic life in pathetic Lorraine is not for me! You’ve got to help me.”

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Welch Rev 2

Name: Mandy Welch
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The First Witch

In the kingdom of Falder it’s believed women shouldn’t have magic. So Aviana hides her abilities, only using them to help at the family bakery by freshening old ingredients and baking breads to perfection.

But when she turns sixteen, she shortens her name to Avi, disguises as a boy, and, with the help of her friend Gavin, enrolls at the kingdom’s university. If she gets caught, she and her family will become outcasts. If she doesn’t, she could spend years crafting magical objects, experimenting with potions, and learning from the best professors in the realm.

But as her time at the University progresses, Avi stops worrying about getting caught and starts wondering if she should reveal her secret. She’s freely using her gift while others like her live in hiding. Women are given a second-class status because they supposedly lack magic. Gavin’s sister is locked up due to her abilities.

If Avi reveals she’s truly Aviana, she risks her new life and her family’s place in society. But maybe people will finally understand women have magic as men do. Maybe Gavin’s sister will be set free. Maybe witches will finally be able to stop hiding.


“No lumps please,” Aviana said to the ingredients she was mixing. “I want a smooth batter.”

Smells of fresh bread and pastries wafted over from the table of cooling goods next to her. The cinnamon bread was especially fragrant, reminding Aviana of Sunday mornings in the kitchen with Father. Cinnamon bread had been his favorite, and it was one of the first things she asked to make after he taught her the basics. He’d be happy to know she still used his trick of asking the cinnamon to create pictures in the bread. The townsfolk loved it.

It had taken her seven tries before she got it to work. Waiting for the bread to cool enough before slicing had been painful, but Father didn’t allow her to rush, and she was glad for it in the end when she sliced the loaf to reveal a slightly wobbly leaf sketched in the bread.

Aviana poured the smooth batter into a waiting pan and slid it into the oven. “Cook well. Don’t burn.”

When was the last time she burnt something? Asking things not to was one of the first things Father had taught her. Right after telling her to start recipes by asking the flour to not make a mess. That had saved her a lot of cleanup over the years. She wiped her hands on her apron and saw that a dusting of flour still covered them, the white powder paling her light brown skin. Asking nicely didn’t guarantee perfect results.

Walking back to the worktable Aviana grabbed Father’s old cookbook, her cookbook now. They had always planned to write one together, but now writing her own notes alongside his recipes was the closest she’d get.

They had planned to do a lot of things. He was supposed to teach her how to use her gift once she turned sixteen. The University of Greenwood’s Bakery, he called it, just like the University of Elleer. She laughed. Not exactly. Nothing could compare to the University. Students came from across the kingdom, across the realm, to attend.

Aviana sighed. Male students. Attending the University had never been an achievable dream, not as a girl, but learning from Father had been. And she’d been silly enough to think it might still happen, even now that he was gone. She’d spent the past years hoping, thinking maybe he’d planned something for her, left her notes to follow or his old books to read through, but her sixteenth birthday came and went without any big surprises.

The worst part was Mother knew Aviana was disappointed. She’d been acting strangely ever since, not wanting to talk about Father or his time at the University. Not that she ever enjoyed discussing his time in Elleer.

Aviana flipped the cookbook open. She needed to work, but maybe she could have a little fun, do some practicing. That wouldn’t hurt would it? She turned to the pantry. “I need flour, eggs, sugar...” As she read the rest of the list, ingredients began hopping off the shelves and into the room. They stopped their march when they arrived on the table in front of her. “Very good. Thank you.”


She jumped, her stomach dropping.

“You know you aren’t suppose to do that.” Mother stood in the kitchen doorway, hands on her hips.

Aviana’s face burned. Yes, she knew she wasn’t supposed to, but watching the ingredients parade across the kitchen was so much more fun than carrying them across herself.

“I’m sorry, Mother.”

“You promised. Only little magic, nothing noticeable."

“I know. I know,” she said, tugging on her braid. “I’ll stop.”

“I’m just trying to protect you, honey.” Mother shook her head, making Aviana’s face burn brighter. “Take a break and let me fix your hair. You have flour in it.”

She walked over and undid Aviana’s long braid, gently finger combing the straight hair before slowly twisting it to form a plait. Aviana didn’t mean to make her mad; she just wanted to use her gift. It was part of her, and part of her that came from Father.

It wasn’t fair. If he were here, he’d teach her. If she were a boy, she’d be studying at the University. Instead she was stuck trying to teach herself. Father couldn’t come back, but people could change. He used to talk about it, that maybe someday people would accept female spellcasters.

“Why can’t people understand that we have magic too?”

Aviana sighed. There seemed to be endless reasons why people thought females couldn’t. And a whole slough of excuses they’d use if a female did show herself to have the ability. She’s cursed or ensorcelled, controlled by someone else. She got her magic in some evil way. Aviana rolled her eyes. The list went on and on.

She knew it was dangerous to use her abilities where people might see. She did. But she couldn’t just hide it. She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life in the bakery, talking to ingredients and pretending it was just an eccentricity. There had to be something else. She loved Mother and she loved the bakery, but she wanted to learn more, to see more, to meet more people than the townsfolk she’d grown up with.

Mother finished braiding Aviana’s hair and turned her around. “Let’s bake something. That always puts you in a better mood.”

She was avoiding the question, avoiding the conversation. Maybe because Aviana knew the answer, or maybe she still didn’t want to talk about magic. But Aviana had just been scolded, so probably she should just go along with it. “Okay. I’ll go put the sign up.”

After putting up the sign telling customers they were in the back, she picked Mother’s apron up from the counter. Something rumpled under the fabric. An envelope, crumpled from where she had grabbed it. Smoothing it out she saw it was Mother’s handwriting, and it was addressed to Nero Greenwood. A relative? No one she had heard of before.

Aviana froze. Elleer. The address was in Elleer. Who did Mother know there? It was a big city, sure, but it was best known for the University.

She hurried back to the kitchen. “What’s this?”

Mother looked up, eyes widening as she saw what Aviana held. “A letter.”

“It’s addressed to someone in Elleer. Are they associated with the University?”

Mother reached to take the letter, but Aviana backed away. They never kept secrets from each other. What was she hiding?

“Give it to me, Aviana.”

She handed it over, but didn’t give up her questioning. “Do we have a family member in Elleer?”

“A great uncle. Your father’s.”

What? How had she never heard of him before?

Mother looked down, turning the letter over in her hand. She was acting so strangely; it had to do with the University. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“He’s a professor at the University.”

He worked there. Did that mean he could train her? Had this been Father’s plan? He wasn’t here to train her, but his uncle could? “Why are you writing him?”

“Your father said I should contact him when you turned sixteen.”

This was it. This was his plan. She hadn’t been silly for hoping. But why was Mother keeping it from her? And why did she still have the letter? “I turned sixteen weeks ago. Why haven’t you sent it yet?”

“I planned to. I just can’t convince myself.”

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Boswell Rev 2

Name: Kirsten Boswell
Genre: YA Fantasy  


Orphaned, and desperate to do what others told her she’d never achieve, Lily dreams of joining the ranks of H1 – a highly-skilled and male-dominated army. She is mentored by Captain Wall, who Lily dreams of succeeding as Belham’s head captain.

One night, while Lily is practicing with her training partner, Tane, the sky above her city bursts into flames. Her feelings for Tane have grown recently but the relationship becomes strained when Captain Wall takes Tane with him to discover what’s causing the fire in the sky. Lily is left behind.   

While guarding her city, she is lured out of her home and falls into a trap set by their greatest enemy: fire-filled Cranks. They place a mark on Lily. The silver mark bursts with the evilest of magic and destroys her strength and her memories. Her personality begins to fade. When the mark is finished, only her talent and skill will remain, leaving her a blank canvas ready to be filled. When she is bare, her mind will be born again as the leader of her enemy.

Lily must embark on an epic journey to free herself. Or, become the very creature she vowed to protect her people from.

Chapter One – Belham:

Lily reached out and pressed her hand against the lime-green shield. The power from it buzzed against her palm and it even hummed against the soles of her feet where it disappeared underground. She released her breath and felt her shoulders drop.

It was still here.

She’d pulled her blanket from her bed last night and sat by her window all night, making sure she could see the glow high up in the sky. After yesterday’s news, she couldn’t look away.

Every time she thought about what would happen to her city if it failed, frost flourished in her chest.

She took a deep breath. Don’t stop. Whatever happened yesterday, she stared through the subtle glow at the world it kept out, don’t let it in.

The shield glowed brighter and a whisper in her mind replied: You’re going to be late. He doesn’t like it when you’re late.

She pulled her hand away and studied the sky for a moment. “Oh, blade!”

She turned and left the boundary line. She sprinted down the wood-chipped path and back to the centre of Belham. The crystals hanging from her belt clinked off each other and she shot out of the Eastern Forest. 

“Sorry.” She dodged around groups of people all heading back to the Housing Area, their shadows growing long behind them as the sun neared its resting place. Usually, conversation filled the centre and children would be running around her. Not tonight. Not after what happened the day before.

She slowed her strides as she passed the wooden staircase that led up to the Leader’s Room high up in the branches of the four great oak trees that marked the centre of Belham.

Captain Loch thumped down the last of the wooden steps. Above him, other captains milled around the open door to the Leader’s Room, their low rumbled conversation catching her attention. She’d never seen the captains so uneasy.

“Ready for tomorrow, young blade?” Captain Loch’s voice rumbled in his throat, the deep set wrinkled around his eyes reaching up his face to disappear into his grey hair.

She grinned. “More than ready.”

Captain Loch laughed and called after her: “You won’t be saying that when you’re out there beyond the shield, kid.”

Lily turned and, as she marched along the path, she saw the fiery summer sun slide behind the mountains beyond the boundary line. Melting violets and pinks of sunset darkened into nightfall and, as the green haze of the shield grew bolder, the colours began to fade behind it. She couldn’t remember a day in her life when the vibrant, lime-green shield hadn’t boasted its power high above her home. No magic and no creature could harm them while the green glowed.

She followed the path and stepped through the wooden gate into the Teaching Grounds. A low grey-stone wall circled the flat, open grounds and tall pine-trees lined the inside of the wall. The fresh scent of pine always perked her up for training.  As she stared out at the plains she saw groups of fellow H1 humans practicing. Swords scraping mixed with a low murmur of conversation. 

Tane sat on the low stone wall. Alone.

She looked around. “He’s not here?”

Tane shook his head. “He’ll be held up in the Leader’s Room but he’ll be here soon. He’d never let us out of a training session. Even if the city is on the brink of a shield disaster.”

Lily dumped herself down on the wall beside him and balanced her sword on her knee, the handle clinking off her belt of crystals. She looked up and over the trees at the snow-topped peaks of the Kris-Kra that were just a few miles away from her city’s boundary line.

“I heard your parents arrived in Demem,” she said. The last of the sunlight bounced off her sword. Her blade was a mirror and every time she looked into she saw the lie. This lie was everything. When she held it, none of the other stuff, like the feeling that something was missing, mattered. She could pretend she was who she wanted to be.

“Yeah, they got there last night.”

“D’you wish they were here to see you off tomorrow?”

Tane shrugged. “They had to go. It wouldn’t look very good for the head councillor and the councillor in charge of defence to not go to the biggest shield disaster in history.”

She nodded. Yesterday, the shield that protected Demem, a smaller city in the far west, had failed. The city had been exposed for over two hours. The Belham councillors, a group of humans from all the armies, had taken half of Belham’s H1 army with them to Demem. Even with half of their H1 missing, as the world’s largest human settlement, Belham still had nearly two thousand H1.

“D’you want to know what I’m looking forward to the most?” said Tane.
She thought for a moment. “There’s lots to look forward to.” Lily looked up at her training partner. “Anything could kill us when we leave the city tomorrow. There’s the pressure of the magic that could make our heads implode, creatures to strip us of our skin while we’re still alive. Dehydration, poison –“
“Blade, Lily, I meant when we come back,” said Tane.

“Oh. Okay. If we do make it back, what’re you looking forward to the most?”

“The day we get back, I’m going to build my own home.”

Oh blade, there he goes again.

He was always planning a life within the city. He really did seem to forget that they were part of the H1 army which meant, in comparison with the other armies, there was only a five percent chance they’d reach the age of thirty. She wouldn’t let herself make such plans.

“How can you think of building a house when we have the world waiting for us.” Lily spread her arms. “We’re going beyond the shield. If we succeed in this mission we’ll be fully qualified H1. We’ll be leaving all the time.”

“And if we do, and risk death with every trip, I want to return to my own home that I built.” Tane leaned back against the stone wall, propping himself up on his elbows.

Lily didn’t know how to reply. Death didn’t scare her. It was returning home she feared.  

Her fingers ran along the bronze handle of her sword. It was a tad old fashioned but in her memories, though it could just be her dreams, her father had had a bronze-handled sword. When she’d crafted her own weapon, on the day of her inauguration into H1, a highly trained human army that went beyond the safety of their city and out into the world, she was the only one to use bronze. 

Lily couldn’t really remember her parents. Her mother was lost but there were a few foggy memories of her father. Like them, at eighteen she’d joined the army. She’d finish what her parents had started. Even if it meant, like them, she’d never return. Nothing mattered more than keeping her home safe from what lay beyond the shield. She wouldn’t let them down.

“Five years of training and the day is finally here,” said Lily.

Tane grinned. “There were a few times when I didn’t think we’d make it. Well, not really ‘we’, more you.”

“You had a few trips to Flint, as well, young protégé.”

“How many times have I told you not to call me that?”