Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Free #1st5pages Writing Workshop Opens June 1 w/Lit Agent Kristy Hunter and Author Nikki Katz!

Our June workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, June 1st at noon, EDT. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kristy Hunter of The Knight Agency as our guest agent mentor and Nikki Katz as our guest author mentor!

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 the guest author as well as least one and usually two traditionally-published published or agented authors from among our permanent mentors 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 is reviewed by our mentoring literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the pitch 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 (@eliza_daws@etcashman) 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.

May Guest Literary Agent Mentor: Kristy Hunter 

As a graduate of Vanderbilt University and The Columbia Publishing Course, Kristy Hunter began her publishing career in New York City—first as an editorial intern at Bloomsbury Children’s Books and then as a book publicist at Grove/Atlantic and Random House Children’s Books.

When she moved to the agenting side of the industry, she was closely mentored by Deidre Knight, president and founder of The Knight Agency, and her first co-agented project sold at auction soon after. As an associate agent, Kristy enjoys being able to bring a unique perspective to her clients, thanks to her diverse publishing background.

When she’s not curled up with a fantastic book or manuscript, she can be found kickboxing or hiking with her dog.

May Guest Literary Author Mentor: Nikki Katz

Nikki is a recovering rocket scientist, author, editor, freelance writer, and social media stalker. THE MIDNIGHT DANCE is in stores now and THE KING’s QUESTIONER is set to be published 01.20 (both novels by Swoon Reads | Macmillan).
A busy mom of three crazy active kids, Nikki is the Managing Editor for and a Scribe for Scribe Media. She has published articles on a variety of topics and her work has appeared on Storia,, iVillage,, and dozens of other websites. She is also the author of four nonfiction puzzle and games books. Previously, Nikki was a project manager and management consultant, and she has a B.S. in aerospace engineering.

You can find Nikki  online at:



When the music ends, the dance begins.

Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate – and in the only life Penny has never known.

But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.

Where to Buy: 
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Sunday, May 19, 2019

1st Five Pages May Workshop - Duperre Rev 2

Name: Amber Duperre
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The Golden Lake


Sixteen-year-old Arabella Adler has unwillingly and miserably lived with Nana since her dad disappeared three years ago. When she learns there’s a way to find her dad, she believes she can get her old life back.

Arabella transports to Tipoua. In a world where animals and humans coexist peacefully, she lands in the middle of a war. A powerful witch, on a quest to rule Tipoua, is controlling animals via dark magic. She is also closing in on the human village and killing anyone that defies her. Arabella, who discovers elemental magic inside herself, is introduced to ancient mermaids and a handsome warrior who will teach her to use her abilities. She is promised that for helping defeat the witch, she will be brought to her father.

Arabella rebels. Defeating a tyrant wasn’t on her agenda.

She has a change of heart when she grows to care for people and animals on Tipoua. But her world is upended when Arabella learns that her father has died. The witch offers an enticing bargain: if she works for her, she will bring Arabella’s father to life. Now Arabella has to decide: get her family reunion or preserve life and culture on Tipoua.


My life changed forever the day the hummingbirds showed up.

In upstate New York, seeing hummingbirds in the summer is a normal occurrence. Not for Nana and me. Every year, we filled and hung twenty hummingbird feeders in her square backyard- one of the many chores she made me do. Every year they went untouched. Until the third anniversary of Dad’s disappearance. That day, they came.

“Arabella,” she yelled from the backyard.

“I’m coming,” I answered, and rolled my eyes. Carrying the last feeder I’d just filled into the backyard, I was happy because I was finally finished. I could go visit Mom.

I found Nana standing in the hot summer sun in her favorite brown leather dress that stopped two inches above her knees. I thought of my friends’ grandmas. The friends I had before everything changed three years ago. Some of them knitted, some clipped coupons, but none made and wore short leather dresses. None were as physically fit as her either.

A buzzing sound permeated my head. Like a hundred bees at once. I screamed and ducked. The bird feeder slipped and I quickly supported it with my left hand just before it plunged to the grassy ground.

Nana stretched her arms out like Frankenstein’s monster. Twelve ruby-throated hummingbirds perched on her arms, their green and red feathers shimmering in the sun’s mid-afternoon light. She turned her head to look at me.

I jumped, spilling sugar water onto my shoe. Nana’s eyes, her piercing green eyes that reminded me of the conniving nature of some household cats, were full of joy. She was smiling. That never happened. “Arabella, they finally came,” she said, sounding relieved. She turned her attention to the birds, her back facing me.

Hoping for a better look, I walked around to Nana’s front. Her eyebrows were drawn together and her mouth made an “O” shape. She nodded, as if the birds told her something important.

“Are they…. Are they talking to you?” I asked, running my hand through my long brown hair over and over again-- my nervous habit. This was too weird. Her bright eyes stared deep into mine. I didn’t look away like usual. I was too stunned.

“It’s about your dad.” She turned her head back toward the hummingbirds. Like she’d given me enough information. Like she hadn’t just dropped a bombshell the size of Texas on me.

“What are they saying?” What I really meant was, what’s going on with you? Birds don’t talk to humans. All I heard was chirping. Is Nana losing her mind, too? I can’t handle that. “Is it about his disappearance?”

No one knew much about his disappearance. What could birds know about Dad? He disappeared by the river on the other side of town three years ago. It made no sense because he’d never gone to that river before and he had no reason to, as far as Mom and I knew. After that, he was never seen again and he left no trace, no explanation. Eventually, the cops stopped looking for him. It became a cold case. I didn’t think he was dead. He was alive; I could feel it in my bones. His body never turned up. And Mom… She was never the same after he disappeared.

“I know you and I haven’t gotten along these last three years,” Nana said. I let out an exasperated huff sound. Understatement of the century. “And I know you have questions I never answered. About your father. About his disappearance. But I had good reason. I was protecting you, and I hope someday you will understand.”

The next words out of my mouth came louder than necessary. “Protecting me from what? Of course I had questions. There was a chance he was alive.” My voice cracked on the last word. I paused, feeling like I would hyperventilate if I didn’t. I paced back and forth, forcing my body to take slow breaths. “But you didn’t care. All I needed was some guidance. We could have found him. But you wouldn’t help. You shut me out at the worst time in my life.”

All the emotions I felt back then came rushing in. Like an angry dark cloud engulfing me and dragging me down to the ground. Losing both my parents, pushing away all my friends, being forced to move in with Nana, who treated me like a stranger and a maid. I took more slow, deep breaths. A drop of sweat ran down my cheek. A lump formed in my throat. I cleared it and continued. “I will never understand.”

“Let me explain. The hummingbirds said I finally could.”

“The hummingbirds? Are you kidding me?” I thought about turning and walking away. Going to sit with Mom at the home like I did every day and forgetting this ever happened.

Though I didn’t believe hummingbirds could tell Nana what to do, I couldn’t help but wonder what she would say. Curiosity and the need for some kind of explanation, any kind of explanation, got the better of me. I stayed put.

“I was prohibited from explaining certain things to you three years ago. But I also didn’t know everything. That’s what the hummingbird feeders were for. I was trying to learn more, so I could give you something, anything, to ease your mind. And they finally came.” Her eyes moved from me back to the birds and she smiled the most genuine smile I’d ever seen. I hadn’t known the frown lines on her cheeks could make that shape. A tear ran down to the corner of her upturned mouth. “Today is the day, Arabella. On the third anniversary of his disappearance, you can find him. You can be reunited with your father. He needs you.”

I drew in a quick breath. I was silent for a minute, absorbing the information. “Huh?” Nana’s words swirled in my mind like chunks of fruit in a blender while my brain tried to comprehend them. “He…he is alive?” I asked, tears welling up in my eyes. I felt dizzy.

“Yes. And you need to find him. I can’t leave. I have more work to do here. That leaves you.” She paused, searching my eyes. “Your first task is to visit your mom. Bring your cell phone. I’ll give you instructions from there.”

“How do I know you’re not lying?”

She turned her attention to the birds. “The hummingbirds said to tell you, ‘They say that blood is thicker than water. But water has always run through my veins. You and me, my darling girl, we’re thicker than blood and water.’ They said that would convince you.”

My legs wobbled and I almost dropped to the ground. How did she know that phrase? Dad always said that to me. But that was our thing. It was private. It never made sense but he’d said it to me my whole life. When you’re young you don’t always question things. When I got older, I just took it as a phrase of endearment. No one else knew that phrase, not even Mom. Definitely not Nana.

 “Okay. I’ll go,” was the only thing I could say. Dazed, I turned and started walking back toward the house. I unscrewed the lid on the feeder I was holding and doused a small cooking fire Nana had built. Skewered over the fire was something small. It looked like a charred squirrel. God, I hoped it wasn’t squirrel.

1st Five Pages May Workshop - Miles Rev 2

Name: Melissa Miles
Genre: Middle Grade contemporary
Title: Carina of the Southern Sky


Eleven-year-old Carina can’t remember much about the night her mama was taken into police custody, landing her in foster care. What she can’t forget is that it’s all her fault. She’s the one who called 911. Now, Carina has to start middle school in rural Jefferson Davis County—miles from her Atlanta home. 

When a grandmother she barely knows shows up with secrets from the past, Carina’s grip on her tentative new life threatens to spiral out of control. Trusting a person Mama chose to cut out of their lives is risky—but doing nothing could mean never getting Mama back. So, Carina promises her grandmother she’ll work hard to uncover memories that can help Mama’s legal case.

With the help of a quirky new friend and a foster mom who’s not nearly as cool as she tries to be, Carina works to recover buried memories, no matter how painful they may be—even if it means breaking rules and taking risks. Otherwise, she may never get her old life in Atlanta back. More than anything, Carina wants Mama back. She will do whatever it takes to make that happen.


I was the one who called 911.
No one else knew it, but Mama was gone because of me. If I could remember more about the night Mama got taken away, I wouldn't be so scared. But the harder I tried, the more that night played back in my head like a movie—with the important parts blacked out. 

I’d shown up in the middle of the night to live with my foster parents, Andy and Jodie, during summer break. I was too numb to worry about school or much of anything at first. The one thing that stuck with me was Jodie saying, “You’re safe here, Carina.” For some reason, those words mattered. A whole lot.

The night before the new school year started, Jodie gave me a back-to-school pep talk. "So, your schedule’s all set,” she said. 

I didn’t care about my schedule. It wasn’t my school, with my friends. At the end of last year, we’d made a middle school survival guide as a joke—sort of. Most important, Mama wouldn’t be there like she’d always promised. People really shouldn’t make promises they can’t keep. 

I was about to say something to show I was listening, when a meatball zoomed past Jodie. Her mouth fell open, and Andy snatched it out of mid-air before it could ping off his forehead. 

We all froze for a minute. “Good catch,” I finally said. 

“Ninja reflexes,” Andy said, grinning. Then he caught Jodie’s look and said to no one in particular, “No throwing food. You know the rules.”

Jodie cleared her throat. “Carina, could you excuse me just a minute?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” I said, grateful for the break. I didn’t want to talk about school. I wanted be alone.

Jodie threw down the “I mean business” look on her sons, Greg and Thomas. “Unless meatballs have sprouted wings without me noticing, one of you better explain.” I saw them shrug, but didn’t want to stick around for the lecture. Gracie and Quez, the youngest foster kids in our house had thrown everything off their highchair trays and had taken to pounding their round little fists like drummers. The room pressed heavy on me. The noise, the lights, the people—it was all too much. 

“Excuse me,” I said, pushing back my chair. 

“Carina,” Jodie called to my back. I didn’t answer. The screen door slammed behind me. I heard Andy’s voice say, “Give her a minute.”

Without looking back, I walked far enough to clear the landscaping shrubs and concrete walk. I dropped onto the lawn, and searched above me. Millions of stars twinkled through drifting clouds. “Hey up there,” I said to the clouds. “I’m drifting too.” 

I blinked back tears remembering all the nights Mama and I had sprawled out in our yard back home and pointed into the dark night, trying to be the first one to holler, "There she is! Carina of the Southern sky!" 

At the thought of Mama, all the annoying things she used to say played back in my head. Don't ever ask a woman if she's expecting a baby. Don't lick your fingers when you're eating. For heaven's sake, Carina, don't tell your teacher you don't have a father. Of course you have a father—he's just not around anymore. Even though I'd been real irritated back when she’d said those things, it didn't make the missing her go away now. Nothing did.

The door creaked open on the porch behind me. "Carina, come on in now. It's getting late. Tomorrow's a big day." 

I didn't move. I needed something familiar to calm me. My stomach clenched at the thought of going to that school and trying to blend in with the kids who belonged. 

"Carina, honey. Did you hear me?" 

I knew I couldn't ignore Jodie forever. I took a slow deep breath and let it out. "Can I have just a few more minutes?" I squeezed as much polite as I possibly could into my voice. 

"What're you doing out there anyway?" 

I rolled onto my belly to see Jodie squinting at me in the semi-darkness of the porch light. Her face was dotted with freckles when you looked at her up close, but from here it looked like solid white marble. 

"I'm looking for my star, that's all. The one I was named for." 

Jodie tilted her head to the side. "I guess it's alright. But just for a few more minutes. There's no need in you being tired out for your first day of school tomorrow."

Not trusting my voice to come out steady, I waved to let her know I’d heard. 

I flattened back out on the grass and tried to find where I'd left off. Even with the clouds wandering past, the sky was scattered with more specks of light down in South Georgia than I'd ever seen in Atlanta. I forced myself to tune out everything else—the chirp of crickets, the dampness of the ground under my back, and even my fear of snakes. The Spanish Moss dripping off the low branches looked like ghosts in the dark, but I looked beyond them, refusing to be afraid. 

I finally found “Carina”—shimmering like she was wiggling on purpose to grab my attention, and wondered if Mama could see the sky from where she was. I made a promise right that minute. “I’m going to find a way to bring you back home, Mama. I swear it.” It was all that mattered. But, how was I supposed to bring her back when I couldn’t remember most of why she was taken from me in the first place? I’d just have to try harder, that’s all. 

When I walked into the large open kitchen, Jodie winked at me. "Find what you were looking for?" She was wiping down the long wooden table that held all of us for meal times. 

“Yes, Ma’am,” I said. 

Jodie walked over and gave me a pat on the arm, like she does when she doesn't know what else to do. "Maybe you could show me your star sometime. I'd like to see it."

Before I could answer, she dropped her rag and lunged at Gracie. “Good heavens, don’t eat that!” Gracie had pulled up on a chair and chewed the corner off Greg’s favorite superhero trading card. Jodie examined the mangled card with a frown, before wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. 

"Okay, I'll show you," I said, as soon as Jodie had put the card down on the counter, out of Gracie’s reach. 

Jodie's eyes found mine. They were kind of unfocused at first. Sometimes she got so distracted with all the kids in the house, she'd lose track of who she was talking to and what she'd been talking about. But she must have remembered, because she said, "That'll be real nice. What I know about stars would fit in a thimble."

I opened my mouth to answer, but the sudden blaring of shrill sirens made me grab a chair for support. The kitchen disappeared, replaced by flashing blue lights. I was right back there—the fear, panic and guilt of that terrible night filling my insides all over again. 

“Carina, honey. It’s just the TV.” Jodie appeared at my side. I blinked, and her face came into focus near mine. “You’re trembling like a leaf.” 

“I’m okay,” I lied, sure my heart was suddenly too big for my chest. “I should get to bed.” 

1st Five Pages May Workshop - Macur Rev 2

Name: Franziska Macur
Genre: Middle Grade; Magical Realism
Title: Magic by Any Other Name


With the death of her beloved owner, an orphaned cat fights to save her life and carve out her own future.

The only name she’s ever know is “My Cat”, but when the “My” dies with her owner, Cat is lost without an identity. When the owner’s son returns, Cat’s struggles worsen as the son plans to sell the house in the next week and to bring Cat to an animal shelter where certain death awaits. But running away would betray her owner’s number one rule of never leaving the house.

With the help of a nosy mouse and a shy neighbor girl, and by challenging her own assumptions, Cat has a chance to save her own life and find out who she truly is.

Chapter 1

My old woman was dying. 

I knew.

She acted as if she didn’t notice that her movements slowed, her skin paled, and her words quieted. She tried to hide that life was leaving her, even though she and I were the only ones to witness. 

She still got up in the morning, but her breathing was rattly and loud, and her hands trembled like the mailbox during a strong wind. She still got dressed and put on her healing stone necklace, but her breakfast stayed untouched or only nibbled on, and she retired soon to the couch, paging through an old battered journal filled with photographs.

I slinked around her legs, curled up in her lap, or set myself up as a neck pillow. I was there for her. My greatest gift to give was time. 

Every so often, I got up from the couch and stretched my legs and did other necessary cat things. In those moments, I’d strut back and forth between the couch and the cookie jar and the place where my old woman charged her phone, begging her to make the call I knew she wanted to make. 

But she didn’t. Not even a text. Even though the dark cloud hung very close to her.

A nurse came in the morning and then at night. With each visit, the son’s ears should have been ringing enough to bring him home. 

And then my old woman died, her head resting against my warm, velvety body. 

She became cold very fast.

I didn’t move until the nurse returned that night.

I didn’t move when the nurse double-checked that there was no heartbeat.

I didn’t move when she folded my old woman’s hands and gently placed a flower beneath her palms.

I didn’t move when she called for my old woman to be picked up.

But when the men arrived to carry my old woman away, I moved to the loft and surveyed the great plain below.

The nurse waved for me, but I didn’t come. This was no time for company.

My old woman was no longer mine. I was no longer my old woman’s. You can’t be called “My Cat” if you don’t belong to anybody.

I sat with that thought for a long time.

And then I realized what should come next. It was almost too easy. Too obvious. Too logical. I wanted to go with my old woman. I lost my place in this world the minute she left me. 

I was not having any premonitions of my own death. But I could be wrong. 

When the house had gone dark and quiet, I climbed down. 

The mouse sat in the middle of the kitchen. She didn’t hide. She didn’t startle. She didn’t even tremble. Her confidence irked me. This was my house. I shushed her back into her hole. 

She understood.

My food was set out; I didn’t touch it.

I settled onto the couch where my old woman had spent her last days, and curled up into as tight a ball as I could. Her smell was woven into the cushions. Part of her hadn’t left yet. A devious trick that played tug-of-war with sadness and false hope inside of me. I would stick to my decision to stay on the sofa for as long as it took. Some undefined feeling, possibly—dare I say it—even magical, had left this place with my old woman. And for as much as I resisted believing in magic, I did feel its absence.

The next day, the house stayed still.

I stayed still.

The numbers on the clock showed 3:24.

I stayed still.

I didn’t see the girl walk by but I was certain she did. I quenched the urge to move to the window. The only activity in the house came from the mouse foraging through the pantry, and even she seemed to act more somberly.

The day after, the son arrived. When his car drove up, I moved back to the loft. I’ve heard that cats in the wild perch in tall trees in order to see the movement of prey and foe. I didn’t want to hunt or be hunted. The only thing I wished for was stillness, to not have my journey to follow my old woman disturbed. But it couldn’t be helped. 

I had met the son several years ago. He was short and stout, with a round nose. His hair was still wavy, but now it was quite grey. He was wearing his uniform. His shoulders drooped and dark rings shaded his eyes. 

He walked around our little house, every so often placing his hand onto a book, a piece of art, or some other keepsake. He studied the pictures of my old woman and me, and me and the girl. There was no picture of him. I recalled the times when my old woman would stare at his photo in the album and I’d jump to the mantel. She understood, but still didn’t acquiesce. He bit his lip as if he was copying my thoughts.

He didn’t stop at the cookie jar as I had hoped; instead, he sat down on the rocking chair, staring into the cold fireplace.

I wanted him to leave. As much as I had wished for him to come when my old woman was still alive, there was no sentimental need for him to be here now. Formalities didn’t require residence. What he needed, this place could not give him.

I wanted this house to stay undisturbed for my own sake.

But not everything was about me. 

I climbed down.

This house still had one official inhabitant; co-owner, I’d dare say, but when it came to legalities I knew that I had no signature on anything. It was still my duty to greet guests.

I slinked through his legs. He startled. 

“Oh, it’s you,” he let out a heavy breath. He ran his hand over my back like a stiff brick. Petting an animal seems to be comfort for people. He wasn’t as skilled at it as his mother or the girl, but I figured he needed practice. I could tell that he meant well. Meaning is always the first step. After the third stroke, it already felt more like a smooth wooden block.

I let him indulge in petting my silky fur, even though it didn’t gleam as decadently as it used to. It gave me the time to get my mind and body ready. Ready for what I considered was my last duty toward my old woman. 

I jumped up to the cookie jar, carefully circled around it on the narrow side shelf.

I jumped back down to the son’s feet, stared at him.

Back to the cookie jar.

Back to the son.

It tired me quickly after long hours of no movement.

He thought he understood. “She made cookies, did she? And you want one, too?” he mumbled.

But my old woman hadn’t made cookies since the last time he had visited, many years ago. It just now occurred to me that I missed the sweet cookie smell from my kittenhood.

He heaved himself out of the chair and patted my head in an absentminded gesture. “I’m sure glad she had you,” he said.

That was a kind thing to say. And it was true, but not all people acknowledge the truth, especially when it doesn’t reflect favorably on them.

He opened the cookie jar and gasped.

1st Five Pages May Workshop - Hill Rev 2

Name: Laurel Hill
Genre: YA Supernatural Thriller
Title: The In-Between


Sixteen-year-old Ashton finds out the evil souls of extra-terrestrials have been haunting him for many lifetimes. Death and despair follow him wherever he goes. The alien tribe invaded earth shortly after its discovery to mix their DNA with the peaceful Enlightener colony. In an effort for world domination, they continue to influence their descendants to commit evil acts.

Mintaka, an alien working for the White House, finds Ashton to tell him his girlfriend, Cali, is the First Daughter no one can know about. He's encouraged to repair the damaged relationship with his famous father whose music can increase positive vibrations and kill negativity. Ashton uses social media to promote the concert tour, but the aliens retaliate by making him look like he's one of them, reminding him of a time where he was lonely and misunderstood. They also possess a couple to kidnap Cali and hide her in a deathly hazard where descendants kill just for fun.

Mintaka reminds Ashton it's his destiny to awaken his supernatural powers to find her. Stress, fear, and doubt slow the search. If he doesn’t hurry, she'll be taken to the In-Between – a realm between life and death – where she'll stay stuck forever.


Harley hid behind one of the pine trees closest to the back deck of Ashton's house. He cursed under his breath as he watched his favorite jacket ride the back of his worst enemy and disappear into the woods. He noticed Ashton left the sliding glass door to his bedroom wide open and quietly thanked him. It would be easy to sneak in and hopefully find the rest of the stuff stolen from his school locker. He heard the mom call out for her son from the front of the house and hurried over to the side to spy on her.

There was no denying she was beautiful as she stood in the driveway looking frustrated over Ashton's disappearance. The sight of her large bra size took him to a familiar dark place in his mind, stirring his desire to have her no matter what the cost. He didn't care anymore about his missing things. Now he just wanted her. Age didn't matter. He'd already been with women who were older and knew it would only take his gorgeous good looks to get her to do whatever he wanted. After she went back inside, he hopped over the deck's railing and tip-toed inside Ashton's bedroom to find her.
Ashton sat at the top of his favorite tree he'd been climbing since the first grade and took out his phone to call his dad.
“I'm in the studio. Why are you calling?” The sound of drums pounding in the background warned he wouldn't have long to talk.
“Can I hang with you for a while?” he asked politely.
His dad burst out laughing as if it was the most ridiculous question he'd ever heard. “No!”
“You know exactly why!”
He listened to all the reasons he couldn't join his famous father on tour despite the fact he had a 4.0 GPA and could finish the last month of school online.
"Whatever," he mumbled.
“What did you say?”
He ended the call wondering how his father would choose to keep him a secret from the media but have no problem parading around his two-year-old half-sister, Star. Her mother was famous in her own right; a top-model-turned-clothing-designer who only went by one name - Elle. But she had no idea Ashton and his mom existed. He was sixteen-years-old now and feared he'd spend the rest of his life hiding in the Pocono Mountains while Star enjoyed all the amazing private-island vacations he could no longer attend. He looked at the phone's blank screen and whispered, "I'm your son."

Something glowing above him caught his attention and he looked up to see an orb the size of a small plane. It was completely silent and looked a lot like the one from his favorite show, The Truth. They had video footage of UFO sightings happening all over the world. Petitions for government disclosure on extra-terrestrials were filling up quickly.

A peaceful feeling caused him to close his eyes and relax against the tree trunk until the sound of a loud squawk and flapping feathers startled him. He grabbed a branch to keep from falling and looked up to see the orb gliding across the sky. It eventually disappeared along with his awe and wonderment. He didn't care anymore about what he just witnessed – a common report from others.

He looked down at the time displayed on his phone. Two hours had passed since escaping the confines of his bedroom where his mother had expected him to stay grounded. Dead man walking, he thought. But what could she do? Extend his sentence? Life wouldn't be much different than his current circumstance where he had no friends to show him all the fun he was missing out on. They had all abandoned him after his ex-best friend, Jake, told everyone at school he worshiped the devil after he started playing with a homemade Ouija board. They had found it in the rubble of a burned down country house. It was amazing to him that the wood survived the fire but his fascination was temporary. He ended up burying it in the woods, but it didn't fix the friendship he had since pre-school.

He didn't care if his mom took away his phone or computer. Who was going to call him? Social media was the last place he wanted to visit since he found a page created to make fun of him. 666 Ash – a place where everyone from school posted hateful GIFs using pictures they secretly took of him in the hallways, classrooms, and even more embarrassing – the gym's locker room.

He carefully made his way back down the tree and followed the trail leading back to his house. He prepared himself for what to say to his mom. Stress from hiding their identity was slowly tearing their bond apart. He felt bad for her. She didn't have any friends and never experienced a real relationship with his dad. She was just another aspiring fashion model who got mixed up with the celebrity and unfortunately got pregnant. In return for a fancy house and unlimited funds to raise him, she had to sign a contract agreeing to never reveal their truth to anyone except her mom. His other grandparents died long before he was born and his parents didn't have any siblings, so their connection to fame was easy to conceal. She did her best to make sure he could still have a social life despite the constant reminder to keep his mouth shut whenever someone asked where his dad was or what the man did for work. He used to struggle in his younger years to stay quiet. If ever a playdate brought up the question, he'd just shrug his little shoulders and say he didn't know but it sure did keep him busy.

He made it to the driveway and saw three police cars and a white van. "Really, mom? Really?" he whispered. The argument they had before he snuck out was bad but not enough to call the cops. A heavy, numbing sensation overcame him as he watched two men emerge from the front door carrying a stretcher with what looked to be a body bag on top. The loud, screeching noise from the metal legs folding up as the men carefully loaded it into the back of the van made his teeth chatter.

The driver noticed him standing at the end of the driveway and quickly approached. "Are you Meredith Jewkes son?”

He nodded slowly and managed to squeak out an answer. “Yeah.”