Friday, March 30, 2018

Free #1st5pages Workshop Opens April 7 - and Mentor News!

The Free 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop will open on Saturday, April 7. 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!

We also have exciting mentor news!

Congratulations to Pintip Dunn - SEIZE TODAY (FORGET TOMORROW #3!) was nominated for a Romance Writers of America RITA® award! I loved this book - and the entire series!


WELCOME HOME by Martina Boone! This book sits on the fine line between fiction and non-fiction—plenty of fact, but a liberal dose of just good storytelling mixed in. I loved it!

PHOENIX FIRE by Sarah Grimm! You don't want to miss this fresh, heart-pounding YA fantasy - I ripped through the pages!

Make sure to add these mentor books to your TBR list!

FALLING INTO PLACE by Stephanie Scott will release April 17. Part of the multi-author Summer at Falling Pines Lake series, I'm looking forward to reading this sweet romance about second changes.

EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE by Christina June comes out May 1st. A modern tale inspired by the classic Red Riding Hood? Yes please!

THE DEVIL'S THIEF - the sequel to THE LAST MAGICIAN by Lisa Maxwell - I adored THE LAST MAGICIAN so I can't wait for this one!

SVEN CARTER AND THE ANDROID ARMY by Rob Vlock! I adored this hilarious, middle grade, sci-fi adventure!!!

And I'd love it if you added my contemporary YA fantasy, UNCHARTED, to your shelf on goodreads!

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 will be published on September 4, 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, March 23, 2018

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

Thank you to all of the participants who trusted us with their pages, and worked so hard during our March 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop - and congratulations to AJ Vanderhorst, our workshop winner! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Heather Smith Meloche as our author mentor and Lynnette Novak 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 April workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, April 7 at noon, EST. 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, March 18, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Edwards Rev 2

Name: Sophie Edwards
Title: Mage: The Guardian’s Oath
Genre: YA Fantasy


On the third day of the harvest month, Clara Vedette was born. Again.

Her life lies within a village surrounded by an invisible, exit-less wall. She spends hours watching the forested outside, longing to escape. So, when a way out appears in the midst of a rainstorm, she leaps at the chance to explore.

But the wall protected her, and beyond the borders of her village, her gifts expose her to raging power and growing corruption.

Meanwhile, an army amasses on the wasteland ready to fight for pure magic – power that wielded wrongly would subject all to eternal misery. Outnumbered three-to-one, only one thing can stop the cunning controller: the weapon Clara hid eighteen centuries ago. But with no memory of her past, she must figure out where it is before the hunters seeking her life can claim their prize.

When the lines of right and wrong merge, she can no longer tell who her true enemies are. Does she have the courage to dip into the darkest magic? Or will she risk losing her freedom and everything she loves?


I had never seen the wall surrounding my village, although I wandered the length of it countless times. Rain soaked me, its needles numbing my skin, but I didn’t falter running my fingers along its clear surface. The wall was smooth and cool under my fingertips, but without a reflection of the two moons, only touch proved its existence.

It wasn’t glass. In the village, when I pressed my nose against my cottage window, my eyes stared back at me, but when trying it against the wall not even a flicker showed.

Someone could walk right into it, but all the villagers avoided it, and I’d never seen a glimpse of anyone outside no matter how fiercely my curiosity pressed.

I pounded my fist against the surface and stared at the forest beyond.

The wall protected us. It cloaked us.

Yet after eighteen years, the village felt more like a prison and the dangers nothing more than a myth. We were trapped, denied any chance of adventure or exciting prospects.

I breathed in the musky scent of thorny ferns growing nearby, perhaps warning of dangers that supposedly prowled beyond the border’s safety. I’d never seen any of those either, and with no way out, the rumours couldn’t be disproved.

I tore my eyes from the wall and focused on the muddy path. My obsession with the outside landed me in trouble on more than one occasion. If Matriarch discovered me out here again she’d send me to train with Griff – a fate I’d rather forgo, but the need to find Lallana spurred me on.

I pressed on over the slippery ground, protected in my boots, and allowed the moons’ light to guide my way. Both full and bright, they lit up the path with ease.

A shimmer of light hair confirmed my suspicions, and I frowned at the sight of Lallana perched on a branch, sheltering under the thick canopy. Her tear streaked face shone in the moonlight, and it struck me that she was fourteen now. She appeared far younger, though had grown so much from the young child who followed me everywhere. Being four years older than her, I hadn’t expected to become so close, but with her persistence at clinging to my side and our shared training, our relationship blossomed, and we became sisters.

I glanced back along the path and smiled at Charlie, jogging to catch up. Even at his young age of fifteen, he cared too much about Lallana to stay in bed. 

I sidled toward her and hopped on to the branch, glad to be out of the rain.

She startled and sniffed. “How did you know I was here?”

“Don’t I always know how to find you?”

She gave me a little smile and wiped her cheeks with her sleeve.

“Matriarch won’t be pleased you’re out so late,” I said.

Her eyes widened. “You won’t tell her, Clara?”

I raised my eyebrows, and she giggled.

“No one has seen you since the training session,” I said.

Her gaze dropped to her knees. “I was humiliated.”

“It’s easily done.”

“When was the last time you stepped on Ruben’s robes?”

Ruben, easily the kindest of the three village Elders, made Lallana’s embarrassment all the worse. “They’re long,” I said. “Anyone could have tripped on them.”

“I tore them off him! Everyone saw … everything.” She shuddered.

I held back a rising giggle. “I suppose it didn’t help that he’s rather old.”

Charlie laughed and clambered up beside me, rain dripping from a mess of brown hair. His eyes shone in the moons’ light and dimples chased his grin. He arrived through the night eight years previously, scratched, bleeding, and bruised. No explanation was offered about his mysterious appearance, and his refusal to speak of the outside prevented any chance of satisfying my curiosity. Matriarch asked me to keep an eye on him, and as the only three children in the village, we quickly became family.

He nudged Lallana. “Look on the bright side. You needed to defend yourself. Pull off anyone’s robe and you’re bound to have the upper hand.”

Her expression softened then. “It’s a silly class.”

“It’s important,” he said.

“Is it?” I wondered. “We’re completely safe in the village, and with no way out …” Not for the first time, my desire to know how he got in danced on my tongue.

“There’s the dangers, though,” he said.

“You believe that, do you?”

“Of course.”

I thought, at first, the dangers caused his injuries, but he insisted it was simply the journey through the forest. Sharp terrain, he said. Then, he closed up again.

“We don’t even know what the dangers are,” I said. “Our training might not be any good against them.”

Charlie flapped a stray hair from his eyes. “Well, when you’re in charge, you can decide what to teach.”

“I don’t want to be in charge.”

“Why not?” Lallana asked.

Because I didn’t have that kind of strength. Or the will to be responsible for so many people. Why would anyone look up to me? I spent more time watching the outside than I did in the village. Taking place as an Elder would remove that freedom for good. “There are others far more capable of that.”

“They chose you,” Charlie said.

“With no apparent reason.” I had nothing to offer, more likely to mess up than make the village better. My strength lay in working in the fields. Even combat and leadership held nothing in my skills or interest. Besides, being in charge wouldn’t help sustain the population.

On the other side of the wall, shadows shifted below the trees, unreachable by the moons’ rays.

A papilion flew beneath the canopy. Lallana reached out with gentle speed, tenderly grasping the palm-sized creature. Its glowing wings and feathered antennae gleamed through the shadows with the same silvery light as the moons. She placed it on her knee, using her neck-tie to wipe the heavy raindrops from its wings. Its low purr flitted through the night.

I watched it silently, wondering if it, too, felt trapped within the border.

“Clara?” Charlie frowned. “You okay?”

I sighed and dropped from the branch. Another night staring at a desired future. Another night where nothing changed. “Come on. Time to get back.”

Charlie and Lallana exchanged a glance.

“What?” I asked.

Charlie hopped down beside me. “Happy eighteenth.” He reached out a balled fist and placed their gift in my palm: a single, clear crystal, carefully attached to a piece of frayed string.

“Is this the string you keep in the box under your bed?” I didn’t know its significance. He treasured it. Something from his past, before he came to the village, but I’d given up questioning him years ago.

He nodded. “We needed something to tie the crystal to and … I wanted you to have it.”

A lump rose in my throat. I didn’t think he’d part with it for anything.

He watched me with wide eyes. “Do you like it?”

“It’s perfect, Charlie. Thank you both.”

Lallana beamed.

He grinned. Much shorter than me, he needed to stand on tiptoe to tie it round my neck.

The string grated against my skin but was oddly comforting. The weight of the crystal felt unusual against my chest, and for a moment, it tingled.

Then, the whole world shivered, and the rain shifted.

Raindrops parted, cascading like a waterfall in the shape of an arch, exactly where the wall stood.

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Dunn Rev 2

Name: Loie Dunn
Genre: YA fantasy
Title: EVREN

Seventeen-year-old Evren isn’t afraid of the roiling waves and whipping storms of the high sea. With the power to navigate the ocean without a compass, she has nothing to fear out on the water—except for the Sea Queen. Only the Sea Queen with her army of water nymphs and sea serpents can disrupt Evren’s hidden magic and send her straight into the eye of a whirlpool. So, when Captain Sa’av, a handsome but secretive pirate, rows up to her dingy asking for her help to find the queen’s lair, Evren laughs in his face.

Until he offers her exactly what she’s always wanted: safe passage out of the kingdom and a chance to escape the cursed pirates hunting Evren to steal her eyes.

Evren agrees to Captain Sa’av’s request, but as soon as she’s on deck, the ship sails into darker waters and the Sea Queen begins whispering threats to Evren on the wind. After a side trip to the capital, the king reveals something to the two: the kingdom is dying. A rare disease is sweeping through the population, stealing the breath from the lungs of thousands. Captain Sa’av is convinced that Sea Queen holds the only cure. 

Faced with the Captain’s love for the kingdom—and her own changing heart towards him –Evren suddenly finds herself torn in two: She can face off with the Sea Queen, the only person she’s ever feared, and help the man she’s growing to love save the kingdom, or she can flee with his ship and claim the freedom she’s dreamed of her whole life.

Chapter One
Something wasn’t right with the sea.

Evren scrutinized the batch of red-eyed fish that hung from her long silver wire, their bellies abnormally bloated. That morning she had gone down to the edge of Ionoke Island’s best fishing nook, and found more fish washed ashore, limp and pallid.

She gazed out at the glittering water surrounding the island. The breeze flurried off the sea like invisible threads, tickling her face. Stepping into the water, white foam lapped at her boots and Evren leaned down to dip her fingers into the sea. Warm? Warmer than usual. Wrinkling her nose, she inhaled the tangy salty air. Everything looked fine from the outside.

The fish, however, told a different story: their home was in trouble.

Her neck prickled. Whirling on her heel, she turned to see if someone was there. The murderous pirates - the Naja - were looking for her. They wanted her eyes. Told her they were special. But she wasn’t going to meditate on that too long.


All I need is enough money to fly across the seas with the wyverns and leave this wretched place and the Naja behind.

Straightening her back, Evren gritted her teeth and peered down the main drag of Ionoke. It was busier than normal. She shot a glance up to the beaming orange sun. It was their sun goddess’ – Amataru – festival.

The shale cobblestone stretched forwards unevenly, rocks jutting out here and there. Evren shook her head, a sigh escaping her. She knew that in the capital, the inhabitants wouldn’t put up with the dismal surroundings. On Ionoke, poverty seemed to overshadow everything, like an invisible illness dragging down people’s spirits.

 Her eye caught the state of the local businesses. Little ochre and red brick shops dotted either side of the road, some roofs dilapidated, shingles peeling off in the blazing sun. Owners hollered across the street at each other, bargaining for better prices on dried fruits, leather, and spices. Some stalls were quickly whipped together with blue canvas to guard against the blazing sun.

She peered down the road and sighed in relief.

The old fisherman was all set up for the day. He would have that stall, hell or highwater, and that’s one thing she respected about him. It was a makeshift box, built together with scraps of driftwood and held together by ancient rusted nails.

“Olly!” She slammed down the string of fish on his table soaked with fish guts and blood, wincing as a silver scale dug into her palm.

“There ye are, the strange one with the sea-green eyes who always brings me fatter fish than the others.” The old man had crinkly black eyes and wild white hair that stood up in every direction. She noted one of his fingers was missing from his left hand. All that was left was a bandaged stump. That was new.

He peered closely at her find, the tip of his nose almost touching one of the bloated fish. “What the feck is wrong with them?”

“The wench brings you rotten fish, did she, old man?” someone snarled from behind her.
She swiveled on the heel of her leather boots, not removing the placid expression on her face.

Ugh. Parta. He was a real piece of work. Fellow navigator out of work. The supposed man of the town strutted around in his long velvet cape and boasted of great sea adventures he had been on.

“They aren’t exactly rotten,” she drawled, the wind pulling at the violet scarf tied tightly around her face, hiding everything but her eyes. “Rusalka wouldn’t let that happen.”

He frowned, eyes bulging out of a tanned face, copper curls wet with sweat and glued to his forehead.

“I overheard you saying you can get to Rusalka’s Lair.” Evren raised a dark eyebrow at him.

“No one can find her lair.”

 Evren turned to Olly and the old fisherman winked at her with a bushy gray eyebrow before busying himself with something below his stand.

“Well why were you telling Ms. Lemon the other day that you could?” Evren grinned as heat skittered across Parta’s cheeks. Ms. Lemon was the island’s lovely baker and supposedly, admired by him. Poor woman.

“Obviously that was a bit of an exaggeration. I can get to the Cove of Dreams and through to the Second Sea. But not Rusalka’s. No one can. She’s hidden.”

“I can.”

“No, you can’t.” Parta folded his tanned arms in front of his chest.

 The Sea Queen reigned over the ocean. Rusalka could call on her nymphs to lure men and women alike with their seductive ways to the cold watery depths of the sea. No one dared to go to Rusalka’s Lair nor would they ever be able to find it.

 Evren straightened and felt a small secret smile break across her lips as he continued to list the reasons why one couldn’t find Rusalka.

“She’s magicked her cove, so no one can find it. She has illusion spells hiding it from the most cunning pirate. I even heard she sends Deblonsk, the sea monster after anyone who gets close to her cove.” Parta finally folded his arms and scowled. “So, you see, what you heard was a lie. I cannot get to Rusalka’s Lair. You cannot either!”

Evren just shrugged. “Yes, I can.”

She could navigate to Rusalka’s Lair. Not without treachery and sea monsters and blood.

But she could, she was the best. That’s what the best did: they did the impossible. Evren wasn’t the type to go about boasting out loud of her great prowess in navigating. If only she had some of that expertise when it came to making friends, then maybe she wouldn’t be so lonely. Navigating was the one thing that brought her joy. Sadly, it seemed no one was hiring.

As if knowing she wouldn’t budge, he blurted, “Look at the fish you’ve brought.”

“Stuff it, Parta. These aren’t even fish, by any comparison. It’s all I could find. Oh - ”

Evren turned on Parta, his cavernous mouth opening to retort against what she had just said but paused.

One of Ionoke’s inhabitants dressed in all silver drifted past, hundreds of glistening candles floating behind her, bobbing up and down as if they knew they had a great mission to partake in.

Amataru’s Sun Festival.

“If I were a mage I would do more than play around with magic.” Shaking her head, she stared after the mage and the bobbing candles. “What a waste.”

“What do you mean? It’s for Amataru.”

“I think Amataru would be fine if we didn’t spend so much time and effort on decorating the island, and instead tried to help its inhabitants who are starving.”

Evren’s gaze followed the bobbing candles down the cobblestone road, children pausing from their game of catch to point and laugh at the mage in silver.

“That’s heresy!”

“Like the King is around to hear what I’m saying.”

“What’s heresy?” A cheerful tone interrupted their conversation.

 Evren whirled around, her hand instantly on her blade. “What the – “


 The young man behind the music bowed suddenly, a wild laugh escaping him. Dust particles and light lingered in the air around him. Dark brown fingers toyed with the silver flute decorated in tiny painted red roses. Evren checked him over, not sure what to think. He was adorned in a suit of shimmering sapphire silk.

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Vanderhorst Rev 2

AJ Vanderhorst
Middle Grade Fantasy


Mostly-invisible eleven-year-old Casey Grimes feels stuck in the wrong life. Turns out he’s right. When he discovers a cloud-scraping fortress in woods where monsters prowl, he learns he’s been trapped on the wrong side of a magic border.

Casey and his little sister Gloria investigate, and discover Trickery School—a dangerous secret academy hidden from suburbia. Classes are life-threatening, the forest has eyes, and battles are as commonplace as breakfast…but for the first time in his life, Casey makes friends. If only he wasn’t an illegal.

The community gets even more dangerous when a vicious breed of monster swarms the Trickery campus—faery demons, who haven’t been seen for a hundred years. Guided by a snaky-haired girl with a secret, Casey discovers the horrifying truth: They’ll all be eaten alive if he can't find a way to wake the protective Sentry Trees. But that will be difficult, since in Trickery, magic is so last century—and Casey Grimes doesn’t officially exist.

1st 5 Pages

Casey Grimes was mostly invisible.

He stood on the corner under a STOP sign, jogging in place as his school bus sped down the street. It slowed to roll through the intersection and Casey sprinted alongside, smacking the door as his pack jounced his spine. “Open up!” The driver squinted through the smudged glass and Casey banged harder, until the accordion doors whooshed open.

“Where’d you come from?” the driver asked.

“Same place I always come from,” Casey gasped. He jumped into the moving bus and the driver shrugged and floored the accelerator.

The other two kids on Casey’s route always sat together in the back. He waved but they didn’t notice, so he took his usual seat by the window, clenching the armrests with sweaty palms. Calm down, deep breaths, he told himself. Things might still change later.

But they reached Vintage Woods Middle School and nothing was different.

Nothing at all.

“You new here?” A kid asked as Casey opened his locker.

“Of course not,” Casey said. “You’re Lydia and we sit next to each other in—”

But she’d already started talking to someone else.

Manuel walked past—they’d had a five second conversation once—and Casey whirled. “Hey Manuel.” The boy’s eyes paused for a millisecond and slid away like they were magnetized. “I’m over here, by my locker!” Casey’s face felt hot as the kid strolled off. “Not again.”

During study hall, Casey did what he always did—sat in a group of chattering kids who occasionally bumped him and said things like, “Oh, didn’t see you there,” and “Dude, where’d you come from?” Casey fought to stay calm. Today that meant covering his face with both hands and taking deep breaths. He spent the period crafting animals by carefully folding old homework. Month after month, the zoo in his locker kept growing, the creatures more and more lifelike.

Casey wasn’t sure how he’d become made of glass. When he looked in the mirror, he saw a boy with wide blue eyes and a handful of freckles, not a freak show. It went way beyond being uncool, and it had been this way for at least two years, ever since his family’d moved to Vintage Woods when he was nine.

After school, Casey stepped into his bus and the driver raised a hand. “Wrong route, buddy.” Casey opened his mouth to argue, but one of the other kids turned in the aisle, looking Casey dead in the eyes. Recognize me, Casey thought. Do it, you know who I am.

“You’re in the wrong place, loser,” the boy said. “Get out so we can go home.”

Casey stumbled to the curb, chest throbbing like he’d been punched. Laughing kids jostled past like water eroding a chunk of dirt. Doors whooshed shut. Buses rumbled away.

“Gotta get out of here,” Casey whispered. Eyes hot and heavy, it took him forty-five minutes to walk home. He’d been planning to wait until summer break in two weeks, but he couldn’t hold out any longer: It was time to launch his Vacation Plan.

First, clean out the garage and shock his parents. Next, the whitewater rafting flyer under his pillow. He’d settle for anything, though—a lake or mountain, fantastic. A marsh or prairie, cool. He’d even take a desert. Anywhere but Vintage Woods, where no one knew he existed.

On the front porch he paused, took a deep breath, and reached for the knob. As his fingers touched it, the door flew open. Mom pulled him inside and hugged him, ruffling his brown hair.
“WELCOME HOME, HONEY!” she sang out.

Casey took a half-step back, mouth open. She hadn’t had this much energy in…months? Years?

“Dad and I just got some amazing news!”

As if by magic, Dad appeared, sloshed down a pint-sized mug of coffee, and did a very basic dance, stomping and throwing his fists in the air. “Don’t ask me how, but we’ve won an instant vacation to Jamaica!”

“We’ve already started packing!” Mom clapped her hands and laughed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” A kaleidoscope of butterflies took flight in Casey’s gut and soared toward his heart. He stood up straighter.

Five-year-old Gloria skipped into the hall, glitter dotting her face, blonde ponytail bouncing. “Isn’t it wonderful? Mom and Dad get to go on vacation and they’ll bring us back presents!”

“OHH…” Casey said. “Oh, wow. Dad and Mom, that’s great. Really, really great. It’s been forever…” He rushed upstairs and fell on his bed, pressing his knuckles to his eyes. The tears got out anyway, and he punched his pillow. “How could they?”

Downstairs, Casey’s parents giggled as they leafed through cabana brochures and dive schedules. They didn’t realize how miserable Casey felt because they didn’t realize how miserable they were—and this was partly Gloria’s fault. Always bright and cheerful, she made the rest of her family feel happier than they really were.

Upstairs, a tree brushed the roof outside Casey’s window, and he sat up, wiping his face. He held his backpack upside down, shaking out every last paper clip and sheet of homework. “I’m coming,” he whispered.

Casey’d climbed every tree in his yard, especially the ones by his bedroom. High above the ground, he felt alive and not alone, close to birds, squirrels, tree frogs, and the trees themselves. Sycamores, beeches, elms, oaks…the names of friends. These friends didn’t say much—but they knew he was here. When he stood on the shoulders of leafy, wind-tossed titans, life seemed like it could be different.

Down in the grass, greenish mist snaked the ankles of the forest giants. Branches bent like muscular brown arms, twiggy hands grazing the house. If Casey half-closed his eyes and squinted, even taller trees towered over the murk, deep in the hollow.

He stood in the deep shade, backpack jangling with gear from the garage. Mushrooms and ferns covered the ground and dirt paths led in all directions. Casey marched into the shadows, jerking his pack straps and kicking at rocks. After awhile, the ground sloped away and he stood on a hill like the inside of a giant bowl.

“Haven’t seen any of you before…” Casey turned in a circle, looking for the tallest and most interesting tree. High above, clouds sailed across a patch of blue.

Enormous, gnarled branches framed the sky like a thousand fingers.

A chill fell on Casey as he took in the size of the oak. His whole sixth-grade class, holding hands, wouldn’t be able to wrap their arms around this monster. A slice of its trunk could’ve roofed a room. The bark made deep ridges like dinosaur skin—and the trunk felt warm. The branches quivered, leaves whispering in the breeze.

“Are you for real?” Casey’s heart beat a little faster.

He grabbed a whorl of bark, and another, and put his feet in seams. Scaling the knotted trunk was easy, until the bark got brittle. Maybe he needed a rope. As he hung there, metal gleamed in the shadows—something silvery, shaded by vines. Like railroad spikes, but bigger, hammered into the oak. A whole line of them, flecked with rust, twisting up and out of sight.

“No way.” One corner of Casey’s mouth tugged up.

The spike ladder rose lazily into leafy shadows.

“Let’s see what you’ve got to show me.”

Casey scrambled over and put a foot up.

Icy steel tingled his palms as he climbed.

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Femia Rev 2

Charles Femia
Middle Grade - Urban Fantasy


Obsessed with his father’s murder, Leonidas discovers he’s a descendant of legendary monster hunter Abraham van Helsing. The revelation of his dad’s death, and those responsible, clues Leo into a personal danger, the same monsters– werewolves, vampires, and witches – are coming for him. His grandmother whisks Leo away to a secret school nestled deep in the Adirondack Mountains.

Despite his reluctance, Leo taps into the family legacy aided by several mentors, including a vampire and werewolf, and begins to develop unique talents.  He’s the first of the Order to show any ability at controlling the mind of a vampire, let alone communicating with a werewolf during a full moon!

But when the sanctuary of the school is infiltrated by the minions of the Count of St. Germain, an evil Master Lord vampire, the Order’s safe haven is thrown into chaos. Leo’s forced to use his acquired skills in spite of his fears. Penetrating the mind of a captured enemy, he unveils the location of St. Germain’s hidden castle. Leo must confront the Master Lord if there’s any hope of saving his uncle and uncovering the answers to why humanity’s losing the war with the immortals. If he can stay alive.

1st Five Pages:

Leo glanced out the bedroom window, checking to make sure the driveway remained empty. He crossed to the bed and dug out his father’s sweatshirt from under the mattress. Slipping it on, a faint trace of cologne enveloped him. Details of the memory flashed through his mind. A dark coffin lowered on creaking chains into a hole in the earth. The scents of decaying flesh and something like pickle juice mingled together. Leo’s stomach turned. He’d never see him again, or talk to him. All the possible never agains ran on a loop in his head. What if I forget what he looks like? 

He pushed the thought away, deep down in a corner of his mind. Leo picked up his basketball and paced laps around the nearly empty room, tossing it from hand to hand. Its tacky orange goose bumps sticking to his fingertips.
Sinking on to the bed, he peered at the clock for the third time, propped on the carpet between unpacked boxes. They could stay that way forever for all he cared. Leo wanted to forget about this house in Upstate New York and go back to New Jersey, where his friends and basketball team would welcome him back with a standing ovation.
He tossed the ball against the wall. The thumping against the drywall and the slapping back into his hands created a rhythm to distract him. Clouds of plaster dust mushroomed out with every bounce. He stole another peek at the clock. Where is he? Vikram Singh had agreed to bring over his laptop. Leo huffed a deep breath, puffing his cheeks like a blowfish.
Hurricane season hurled major storms through the area for the two weeks since the move, preventing anything from being turned on in the home. Life for a twelve year old without TV or internet access proved to be no life at all. Rumbling thunder rattled the windows as though on cue, mocking him.
A knock on the door made him jump. Leo dropped the ball amid the boxes and tugged the sweatshirt off. He folded it on the comforter, glided his fingers across the smooth fleece and returned it under the mattress. He went to open the door.
A thin boy in a sky blue Columbia hoodie smiled, freeing himself from his backpack straps. “Hey, dude. Sorry I’m late.”
“Vik, where you been? Did you bring your laptop?”
“Relax, man. Yeah, I got it. I was helping your Mom unload some decorations and pumpkins from her car. Some son you are.” Vik laughed and punched Leo in the arm as he entered the room.
Leo pushed the door closed. “I didn’t even hear her pull up. I must’ve zoned out. Did you find anything?”
Vik shook his head and pulled a fully-rigged laptop out of the backpack. “Not a whole lot, besides what you already told me. Good thing our power came back on so I could charge this. I don’t know how you been living without anything this long.”
“Tell me about it. I’ve got nothing to do here.” Or anyone to hang out with, he thought. He missed his friends. At least on the day of the move, he was lucky enough to have spotted Vik waiting for an archery lesson from the old woman next door. Leo bee lined across the lawn to introduce himself and check out the bow Vik held. The boys hit it off right away and hung out every day since. “So what did you find?”
Vik kneeled, placing the laptop on the bed and reached to flip it open, but stopped. He turned to Leo. “Is it possible you’re obsessed with this?”
Leo tilted his head. “What?” He squinted. “What’d my Mom say to you?”
Vik opened and closed his mouth several times. “Nothing. Just...she’s worried. Can you blame her?”
“I’m not obsessed. She thinks I’m a little kid. I can—“
“Dude.” Vik cut him off. “I’m on your side. But, this is heavy for anybody. Your Dad was... murdered.”
Leo winced. The word carried an almost physical weight. He tried to swallow but his saliva had disappeared. His tongue bumps raked across the roof of his mouth. The clouds of pain threatened to swarm in again.
“And considering everything else you told me?” Vik paused. “I mean, why would he think you’re in danger?”
Leo hesitated. “I didn’t tell you everything.”
Vik looked up at him but didn’t speak.
“Me and my Mom…we didn’t know anything about this house. We only found out from his will.”
“Whoa. That’s crazy. He must’ve made a lot of money to own two houses at once.”
Leo shook his head. “That’s just it. He was only a translator.” He plopped down on the bed and stared off into space, struggling with how his Dad could’ve kept it a secret from them. The look on Mom’s face when they found out, haunted him. Her dropped jaw and shaking head, especially after hearing it was for Leo’s protection. From what?
“Leo?” Vik asked. “You Ok?”
Leo blinked several times. “Yeah. I’m good. Really. Look, I’m not obsessed, and I’m not crazy. I just have to know what happened to him.” He pointed at the laptop. “What’s it say?”
Vik watched him for a beat and shrugged. He lifted the screen. A silver bracelet dangled about his wrist as he punched the keys. A newspaper article popped up on the screen in Italian. Two commands later, it enlarged and translated into English.
Leo looked on and his heart battered against his rib cage like a piston. He read the headline:
American Slain in Hotel Room
Roma- An American man on business was found murdered early Thursday morning in his hotel room. Investigators have yet to positively identify the body, but believe it to be the man to whom the room was rented. Police were alerted when the Nike employee failed to appear for several meetings. Upon entering his hotel room, police found a body submerged in a tub full of water.    
“Apparently the body had been placed there for several days which is why we can’t yet ID the body,” Bruno Marchetti, a Commandante Generale said. “We have been able to match blood found in the room to the DNA of the American...
Leo blinked the sting out of his eyes. He recognized the article. “Is this all you found?”
“Have some faith, dude. I told you. I’m the techie geek wizard.” Vik fired away at the keyboard. Multiple screens flashed at once until finally resting on a police report. Vik lowered the screen of the laptop and turned to Leo.
Leo’s eyes widened. “What’re you doing?”
Vik took a deep breath and let it out. “Dude. You sure you wanna see this?”
“Yeah, why? What’s it say?” Leo reached his hand toward the computer.
Vik pulled it away.
Leo jumped to his feet. “Vik, I’ve gotta know.”
Vik stared at him for a second and lifted the screen. “Ok. But this is pretty harsh. I was able to backdoor into the Italian police server. The cop that wrote this said that the wounds seemed to be made by an animal. In fact, if this didn’t happen in his hotel room, he would have stated it was a wild animal attack. Plus, there was no forced entry. Like whoever did this was already in the room, or knew your dad.”
Leo tried to control his breathing as the room started spinning. He fought off the wave of nausea.
“I’m so sorry, man.”
Leo nodded. He didn’t want to hear anymore but couldn’t help himself. “What else?”
“That’s pretty much it, so far."
Leo kicked his basketball into a box, crushing in its corner.  “It just doesn’t make any sense. I have more questions now than before.”