Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Free #1st5pages Writing Workshop Opens July 6 w/Lit Agent Emily Keyes and Author Steven Parlato!

Our July workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, July 6th at noon, EDT. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Emily Keyes of Fuse Literary as our guest agent mentor and  Steven Parlato 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.

July Guest Literary Agent Mentor: Emily Keyes 

Emily S. Keyes joined Fuse Literary in 2013. Previously she worked at the L. Perkins Agency as
a contracts manager and associate agent. Before entering the world of agenting, she worked in the contracts department of Simon & Schuster, Inc where she handled copyright, reversion of rights and assisted with author contracts. In 2008, she graduated from New York University’s Center for Publishing. She uses her knowledge of contracts, copyright, and the publishing business to benefit her clients and the Fuse team.

Emily loves reading books that make her feel like she is entering someone else’s brain. Voice and emotion are very important to hook her on a project. She loves all types of young adult and middle-grade books. Her #MSWL right now includes a diverse YA fantasy in a non-western setting, particularly those based on real historical periods, middle grade stories that kids will WANT to read (if your goal is to “teach kids stuff”, I probably don’t want to read it), upmarket women’s fiction, and unique science fiction and fantasy.

July Guest Literary Author Mentor: Steven Parlato

In addition to writing, Steven is an Associate Professor of English, an artist, and occasional actor. He lives in CT with his wife and two children. Along with Graphic Design, he's taught all levels of English, from Creative and Developmental Writing to a 200-level literature course of his own creation, Studies in Young Adult Fiction. In 2012, Steven was recognized with a NISOD Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in May 2017, he received NVCC’s Presidential Medal of Honor at commencement.
Steven's debut young adult novel, THE NAMESAKE, won a 2011 Tassy Walden Award for New Voices. It was released January 18, 2013, by Merit Press, an imprint of F+W/Adams Media. His editor, the original Oprah’s Book Club Author, Jacquelyn Mitchard, called THE NAMESAKE “masterful.” Steven's newest novel, THE PRECIOUS DREADFUL, was published in February 2018.

You can find Steven online at: 



Teddi Alder is just trying to figure out her life.

When she joins SUMMERTEENS, a library writing group, she’s only looking to keep herself busy, not go digging around in her subconscious.  But as she writes, disturbing memories of her childhood friend Corey bubble to the surface, and Teddi begins to question everything:  her friendship with her BFF, Willa, how much her mom really knows, and even her own memories.  Teddi fears she’s losing her grip on reality—as evidenced by that mysterious ghost girl who emerges from the park pool one night, the one who won’t leave Teddi alone.  To top it all off, she finds herself juggling two guys with potential, a quirky new boy named Joy and her handsome barista crush, Aidan, who has some issues of his own.

As the summer unfolds, Teddi is determined to get to the bottom of everything—her feelings, the mysterious ghost girl, and the memories of Corey that refuse to be ignored.

Where to Buy:
Currently on sale for $2.99 at
Add it on GOODREADS!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Butler Rev 2

Name: Susan Butler
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Title: George Meets Middle School


GEORGE MEETS MIDDLE SCHOOL is the humorous and heartfelt tale of an autistic boy’s journey into middle school.
George Wilson is notoriously misunderstood. He doesn’t understand social cues or sarcasm, making him an easy target for bullies. That’s why he’s so excited when he meets Adam on the bus. George feels like he has finally found someone who accepts him for who he is, quirks and all.

George believes his new best friend has a learning disability, but Adam won’t hear of it. George wants to help, but his interference causes a rift in their friendship that may never be repaired and George’s already precarious world begins to crumble.

6th Grade

The first day of school is always tough. The first day of middle school, well, there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe everything I felt. My insides were doing roller coaster loops. Actually, that’s a pretty good way to describe my first year of middle school. Lots of ups and downs. Even some twists and turns. The first part of the year seems to drag on forever, but it’s over before you know it.

My mom’s a teacher, so she’s always bugging me to write more. She bought me this journal so I could put my feelings on paper. It has a cool looking tiger on the front. I love all animals, so that was a dirty trick on Mom’s part. She knew I couldn’t help but love it.

Mom says middle school is a fundamental part of child development. I’m pretty sure that’s just an adult way of saying it sucks. For me, sixth grade was terrifying and exciting at the same time. Middle school meant a new school where no one knew who I was. For someone like me, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was a chance at a fresh start. Maybe things wouldn’t be as bad as they were at my last school.

In fifth grade, I was the socially awkward kid, a.k.a. the weirdo. The kid people moved to the other side of the hall to avoid. Truthfully, it’s been happening most of my life. I’m autistic, which means I don’t think like most people. My brain is wired differently. Most people don’t understand what it means to be autistic. Not even my teachers. I get in trouble a lot. I’ve gotten used to being in detention. I don’t even mind it. It’s really quiet in detention and usually there’s only one or two other kids around. I treat detention kids like bees. They don’t bother you if you don’t bother them.

Sixth grade started out full of potential. It was a brand new beginning. I didn’t have many friends in fifth grade. I’ve never had a best-friend before. I’ve never been to a sleepover and I don’t get invited to hang out at other kids’ houses. But this year was different. I met Adam on the first day. He and I really hit it off. Adam didn’t seem to mind that I was autistic. I thought I had finally found a best-friend. Then I had to go and screw it all up, like I always do. I better start at the beginning.

The Halls

“Hello. I’m George. You’re a neurotypical. I’m not. Mom says I’m not supposed to call people NTs because they might get mad. But sometimes it’s difficult to be good. I feel like I have a natural tendency for mischief. Do you ever get into trouble for something, yet you can’t help but do it anyway?”

“Actually, yeah.”
“It happens to me all the time. Sometimes I get the most overwhelming urge to say something and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t hold it in. The words come spewing out of my mouth like lava. My volcano mouth usually lands me in detention.”

“I got detention a lot last year, too. Mr. Watkins and I were pretty close by the end of the year.”

“Really? What were your offenses?”

“Mostly being late to class. Speaking of which, I gotta go.” He held up two fingers like bunny ears as he turned to leave.

“Okay. It’s really loud in here, don’t you think?”

I guess he didn’t hear me over all the noise. I watched him disappear into the crowd, his red backpack bouncing onto his denim jacket vest. It was an interesting wardrobe choice to say the least. Why would anyone wear a jacket with no sleeves? I forgot to ask him where the English hallway is located. This looks like the history wing. That would explain the world maps plastered all over the classroom walls. I suppose I can ask someone else. I approached a girl wearing a navy pleated skirt under a white blouse. I counted six buttons, not counting the top one that was left open and two for each sleeve. She looked like she had just transferred from Carlton Prep, the fancy private school on the other side of town.

“Hello. I’m George.”

“Aren’t you that Aspie kid?” She looked at me like I was a cockroach she would squish if she wasn’t afraid to mess up her shoes. I guess maybe she wasn’t a transfer. Or else, word got around fast in middle school.

“No. I’m George.” I watched as she flipped her long red hair over her shoulder and clicked her navy pumps on the hard-tiled floor as she walked away. Click-clack, click-clack. I counted twelve steps until I could no longer distinguish her footsteps amid the thousands of feet padding through the halls. I wondered exactly how many feet there were. There are six hundred forty students attending Sydney Holmes Middle School this year. I know because I asked the guidance counselor this morning. That would mean twelve hundred eighty feet assuming everyone showed up for the first day, no extra students registered at the last minute and there were no amputees among the student body. And that didn’t account for the seventy-five teachers and thirty-two other staff members.

My thoughts drifted away from my calculations and back to the Aspie comment. I don’t like it when people call me an Aspie, but that’s never stopped anyone before, not even my teachers. Aspie is short for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Someone like me. In case you didn’t know, Asperger’s is a form of autism. Aspie is probably the nicest thing people call me. It would be inappropriate to repeat all of the other names.

I’m twelve. Well, almost. But, what’s a couple of months when you are in middle school? I would like to have high hopes for this place, but Sydney Holmes Middle School doesn’t seem like the greatest place for an exemplary education. The dingy cinder-block walls are as bleak as my expectations.

I’m not looking forward to another round of educators. Especially if this year’s lineup is anything like the teachers I had last year. They always got mad at me when I corrected them. Like it was my fault they weren’t prepared.

“Are there any classes other than history on this hallway?”

“Nope. That’s why it’s called the history hallway.” The boy flashed a toothy grin at me and ran his fingers through the shaggy brown hair covering his bony shoulders. I wondered when he had last washed it.

“I hope we learn a lot in history this year. It’s my favorite subject. But I get really irritated when everyone in my class believes the textbooks tell you the whole story. You’d think they could take the time to watch a documentary or two on The History Channel. By the way, how often do you wash your hair?”

“Yeah, totally. Documentaries are the coolest.” He ignored my hair question. I wonder why he keeps rolling his eyes. Was it something I said? Oh well. At least he’s still standing here, even though he’s currently staring at his checkered Converse. I resisted the urge to count the squares on his feet and attempted to keep the conversation alive.

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Larkindale Rev 2

Name: Kate Larkindale
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: Standing Too Close


Seventeen-year-old Blue Lannigan has a plan.  It isn’t great, but it’s all he has: drop out of school, work full time, and the day he turns eighteen he’ll have saved enough to move out of his mother’s crappy apartment, taking his two younger brothers with him.

But when he comes home to find one of them bruised and bleeding (again), the other cowering in terror (again) and their mother drunk off her ass, blaming all three of them for her tanked singing career (again), Blue decides they can’t wait any longer to leave.

Without anywhere to go, they hole up in one of the summer houses at the lake — just until they can figure out what to do next. Things get more complicated when the owner of the house arrives unexpectedly.  Especially when Blue realizes the unconscious woman he’s tied up on the couch isn’t a stranger after all.

Standing Too Close is a 69,000 word contemporary YA novel about loyalty, love and family.


The bell rings as I empty my locker. After so many years, I’m conditioned, and jump, ready to close it and run to class. All around me people rush in every direction, voices raised to be heard over the chatter and banging of locker doors. I should be among them, hurrying to get to bio, on the second floor.

But I don’t hurry. Because I don’t need to worry about being late to bio or to French or English or any of my other classes anymore.  As of ten minutes ago, I’m no longer a student at Milton High.

The thought makes me dizzy and I sag against the lockers. Something swims through my midsection but I can’t tell if it’s nerves, excitement or terror. Probably a mixture of all three.

 “You coming, Blue?” 

 I turn and find Sacha McLeod looking up at me, her violin slung over one shoulder as always.

“I’ll catch up,” I tell her, diving back into my locker.  I bump my head on the shelf inside, the same way I have at least once a day since school started.  Whoever designed these things didn’t have guys my size in mind.

“Well, okay,” she says. “But hurry. You know how mad Mr. Farnsworth gets if you’re late.”

She runs off and I rub the sore spot above my eye while I watch her join a group of other kids at the base of the staircase. My head feels light and not from banging it my throat thick. I am not going to get emotional. It’s school and it’s my choice to quit.

Well, that’s what I keep telling myself. If I don’t, I’ll rip up the piece of paper the principal just signed for me and take the detention Mr. Farnsworth will no doubt give me for being late again.

I shove the last of my things into my backpack and sling it over my shoulder. It’s surprisingly light. But why wouldn’t it be?  I’ve returned all my textbooks. All I had to clear out of my locker were a handful of dead pens, some stinky gym clothes and a binder full of papers I’ll probably never look at again. Papers I sweated over and stayed up all night writing in some cases. And for what?

The halls are empty now and eerily silent. I slam the empty locker closed, enjoying the way its clang echoes through the corridor. I picture teachers frozen in front of the their classes, heads cocked at the noise, kids, straightening up in their chairs, eager for whatever is going on outside the door to take them away from the boredom of conjugating verbs or solving quadratic equations.

“Sorry, peeps,” I mutter as I march down the center of the hallway toward the double doors at the far end. “Nothing to see here.”

I push through the doors and squint in the bright, morning sunlight. Despite the sun, it’s cold and I zip my jacket to my chin, turning the collar up in the hope it might keep my ears warm. The bus stop is outside the school grounds. I just have to make it across the parking lot and I’m out.

I glance back at the hulking brick building. Sage is in there somewhere. Hopefully not in a classroom on this side of the building.  Or if he is, not looking out the window.  I didn’t tell him where I was going when we got to school this morning.  Didn’t tell him about the form in my pocket on which I’d forged Mom’s signature. Telling my brothers I’ve dropped out isn’t going to be easy. 

Cringing, I step off the grass verge and onto the parking lot. Wiley won’t be so bad. He’s too young to really understand the seriousness of what I’ve done. Sage though…  Well, Sage will know. And he’ll know why. I only hope I can keep him from blaming himself.

A car barrels into the parking lot, going way too fast.

“Hey!”  I leap out of the way, back onto the verge that is damp and slippery from the morning’s frost, now melted. The heel of my work-boot hits a bald spot and skids across slick mud. I stumble, falling to one knee as the car pulls up and stops a little past me.

The click, clack of heels hurries toward me. “Are you okay?” 

I get up, brushing at the mud and grass-stains streaking the right leg of my jeans. Great. A meeting with the boss at noon and now I look like I’ve been playing football or something. I sigh. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Blue?”  The woman’s voice is hoarse, but familiar. I look up from my ruined jeans and find myself looking at my English teacher. She hasn’t been in school the last few weeks and she looks thinner and paler than I remember. Something happened. Something terrible. I just can’t remember exactly what it was. People whispered about it in the hallways, but like most school gossip, it drifted over me without sticking.

“Hi, Mrs. Applegarth,” I say. “No classes this period?”

“I could ask the same thing of you.”

I shake my head. “No. I don’t have a class. I won’t ever have a class again.”

Saying the words aloud makes them real.

Fuck. I don’t ever have to suffer through a boring lecture again. I don’t have to do homework again. I don’t have to deal with Coach Gary constantly trying to recruit me for his football team.

My throat thickens again. Not having to do homework or dodge overzealous football coaches sounds good, but I know as well as anyone that doing this will limit my future.

“Blue?”  Mrs. Applegarth looks curiously at me. “Is everything all right?  What do you mean?”

I like Mrs. Applegarth. Her class was fun. She never asked us to dissect books or asked dumb questions about why certain characters do the things they do. People do stupid things. It’s a fact of life. The same way people hurt the ones they’re supposed to care about the most.

“I gotta go,” I say. “See you around, Mrs. A.”

“Blue.”  She touches my arm as I step off the grass and back onto the slick driveway. “What’s wrong? Please tell me.”

I shake loose. “Nothing’s wrong. I dropped out this morning. Now I have to go get the bus.”

Mrs. Applegarth gasps. “You dropped out?  You?  Oh, Blue, why?”

I bite at my lower lip, scraping my teeth across the just-healing split in it. It’s not visible because the worst of the cut was on the inside, but I can feel the scab, scraping beneath my teeth.

“Talk to me, Blue.” She sounds tired. I look at her and realize she looks tired too. Exhausted. She’s put make-up on, but it isn’t enough to hide the dark rings beneath her swollen, bloodshot eyes.

“Are you okay, Mrs. A?”  I ask. She looks like she’s been crying all night. “You look…Well…”

I trail off. Probably not a good idea to tell your teacher, even a former teacher, she looks like shit. Especially a teacher like Mrs. Applegarth who always seemed so pulled together.

She gives a bitter, humorless laugh. “Am I okay?  No. I’m not. But we’re not talking about me. Why would a smart boy like you drop out?”

Way to deflect, lady. She’s smooth. I’ll give her that. But if she’s not answering me, and I’m not answering her, I guess we’re at an impasse.

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Crisci Rev 2

Name: Kim Crisci
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary (with Sci-fi elements)
Title: All the Time in the World

Seventeen-year-old Derek has seen his future a million times. He's going to play professional baseball, have a gorgeous wife, 2.5 kids, and live on the beach. As Astoria High's popular second baseman, Derek is on his way towards achieving that dream. The only thing left? Win the heart of his best friend, Corinne. But Derek's life is upended when he meets Jordan and Deirdre, two stranded children with a big secret: they're his future son and daughter. To make matters worse, Derek learns he's not married to Corinne, but to his abrasive, overachieving rival, Michelle, and their marriage is falling apart.
Forced to play house, a reluctant Derek and Michelle must work together to balance life as teenager and parent, all while searching for a way to send their children home. Along the way, Derek grows more attached his imperfect family, ultimately changing from a carefree jock to a father of two. His emotions conflict further when he realizes he's also falling in love with Michelle.
Derek is now torn between the life he envisioned and the life he never saw coming. He better pick a path soon, because little does he know, someone else wants to choose for him.   

Chapter One
Deirdre Lyttle has all the time in the world.
Sometimes, it’s a terrible burden. 
They say time is a relative concept, used to push the world along, a measurement of self-worth and importance. Deirdre closes her eyes, feeling the clock at work.
April 3rd, 2029. 7:20 pm.
She has a day planner, a watch, an alarm clock, a daily routine, all tools to keep her life in order.
Except time isn’t natural. Animals don’t use planners. Trees don’t wear watches. Fish don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve. Only humans chart the days ahead, which means they recognize someday, printed on a distant calendar, that their lives will end, and they’ll be gone.
But the question will remain: Did they make the time count?
Deirdre thinks about her mother, a woman who uses her time well. There’s rarely a moment where Michelle Lyttle hasn’t locked herself in the drafty basement, beneath the light fixtures that blink and buzz, welding panels together, so her employer’s exploratory rover can withstand Mars’ frigid temperatures without cracking.
Michelle says being a good engineer requires hard work and vision. But to be a great engineer, you need perseverance. And time.
Which is why Michelle keeps busy, making dinner for her family but never eating, foregoing date night with her husband to install new wheel cylinders in her model, skipping movie marathons with her children and meteor showers beneath the Oregon sky.
And that’s why, when her twelve-year old daughter invites her to a game of chess, Michelle usually declines.
Mom’s working. Don’t bother her. Deirdre pushes aside the loneliness, the slow shattering of her heart and focuses on the game.
She has Michelle’s ambition, evident by the two dozen Astoria Chess Club ribbons tacked to her pinboard.
White pawn is exposed. Black bishop to B6.
The checkered board sits flat against her bed. Deirdre plays on a wooden set, one of those five-dollar boxes you buy for kids who always lose the pieces. Her father bought her a pewter set for her tenth birthday, featuring kings and queens dressed as wizards, pawns wielding shields and a walnut board.
She doesn’t use it.
Take the black knight. White bishop to F6.
Deirdre drags the bishop to its new square, pulling out the black knight. The white bishop is now flanked in both corners by black’s queen and black’s pawn. She picks up the queen, runs her thumb over the coronet. Then she picks up the pawn.
Who should take the bishop? Queen or pawn?
Play the queen, the easy route says. She can do anything, move anywhere. Yet, the pawn can be anything, go anywhere, leave a bigger mark on the board.
Deirdre’s door swings open. She doesn’t look up; she knows who’s standing there. The irregular breathing, the patter of small, hurried feet treading on her carpet, the snort of phlegm tells her more than words ever could.
“Hey, Dee—”
The young boy stops. “I didn’t say anything.”
“I don’t care, Jordan,” Deirdre says to her pieces. “You’re supposed to knock before entering someone’s room.”
“Oh. Gotcha.” Dutifully, Jordan closes her door and taps gently on the jamb. “Knock-knock.”
“You have to leave before—ugh, never mind.” Deirdre sets down her pawn. “What do you want?”
“I got something to show you,” he says, round cheeks swelling with cheer. He lifts the paper in his hand.
This is routine with him, barging into his big sister’s room with something he has to show her, the zeal and giddiness moving through him like tremors, eyes gleaming with anticipation. But an eight-year-old’s attention span typically opens itself to unbridled curiosity, and before Deirdre knows it, Jordan has something valuable of hers in his hand, waving it around like an airplane, adding engine revs and gunner noises for full effect.
“I’ve already seen it,” Deirdre says.
“Nuh-uh.” He waves the folded note in the air. “This is new stuff.”
Jordan hoists himself onto her bed, crawling on hands and knees to his sister’s side. The chess set ripples, the larger pieces tipping into their neighbors. Deirdre works quickly to upright the pieces, her teeth clenched in a grimace, body hunched defensively over the board.
Jordan eyes Deirdre’s attempt to restore order. “What’cha doin’?”
“Playing chess,” she answers mindlessly, returning the white bishop to F6.
“Ooh! Let me play. I’ll be the black guys.”
“No, Jordan. I’m in the middle of a game.”
“You’re playing by yourself.”
“I’m playing against myself.”
“That’s dumb. You need another player.” He reaches for the rook at C8, but Deirdre’s quicker on the draw, pulling the piece away with one hand while clasping his wrist with the other. “Hey! Let me go!”
She spots a dark powder stuck between the gaps in his fingers. “What’s on your hands?”
Jordan freezes. “I dunno.”
“Smells like potting soil.”
“I dunno.”
“Were you playing in potting soil or not?”
He averts his gaze. “I tried to ride my bike.”
“Mom said you’re not allowed to practice by yourself.”
“She was busy and Dad wasn’t here. I have to get good before Mason’s party.”
“So why is there potting soil on your hands?”
“Um. I crashed into the plants. Don’t saying anything.”
Mom’s going to notice. She notices everything. “Fine.” Deirdre releases his wrist. “But I’m serious about the chess pieces. Hands off.”
“Come on, let me play. I promise I’ll—” Jordan arm bucks the board. His eyes widen, hands reaching to catch some of the pieces in mid-fall, but they slip like water through his fingers and tumble to their sides. “Oops.”
Sixty minutes down the drain. What a waste of time.
“Great. Thanks, Jordan.” She grabs the box from her nightstand and dumps the pieces with careless apathy.
“Deirdre? Can I ask you something?”
“Mason’s mom is having a baby,” he says. “If she swims in water, does she turn into a submarine?”
Deirdre pauses. “What?”
“Well, cause, you know, she’s got the baby inside her, and if she swims, it’s like she’s a—”
“—Why are you here again?”
“Oh. I made a drawing.”
Jordan shoves the crinkled paper in Deirdre’s face. Apparently, the bubble rule isn’t taught in third grade. She sets the chess box aside and snatches the note.
Her eyes land on a young boy she knows immediately to be Jordan, from the messy hair colored black, to the triumphant hand-on-hips he does after successfully sliding down the banister. He’s wearing a mechanized suit, red and gold with stars to emphasize the glow off his chestplate.
“It’s us as superheroes,” Jordan says. “You, me, Mom and Dad. We protect Astoria from villains.”
Mom’s easy to spot. Jordan drew her with her dark-framed glasses, which makes sense considering he’s rarely seen her without them. She’s wearing an armored red and blue dress with a golden W belt around her waist. Their father, undoubtedly Batman, stands with squared shoulders, a scribbled darkness cast over half his body. Deirdre wonders if Jordan understands the symbolism.
Then there’s her character. Bulky, nearly twice the size as everyone else, with grotesque muscle features. She’s walled in a fiery aura, indicative of an anger featured prominently on her face.
“I’m a monster,” she says flatly.
Jordan blinks. “You’re the Hulk. See? Green.”
“He’s still a monster.”

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Kells Rev 2

Name: KD Kells
Genre: Young Adult fantasy/gothic fantasy
Title: The Witch Maid


Evie Wilkins doesn’t believe in witches. With her once respectable family destitute, she has enough worries without listening to the rumours about her new employer, Lady Black. Then Lady Black’s cat tricks her into releasing a hundred demons on the town, and keeping her family off the streets becomes the least of her problems.

The witches of the Black family have been protecting the balance between the human and demon worlds for centuries. A balance Evie has just jeopardised. If she recaptures all the demons, Evie will be rewarded with more than enough to restore her family’s fortunes.

Now Evie’s stuck with magic she can’t control and an arrogant cat demon as a partner. With a disarmingly attractive human form and an agenda of his own, Nero has no interest in helping a weak mortal. His missing memories might be the key to stopping a demon invasion and saving Evie’s family from enslavement, if they can learn to work together. But Evie will have to overcome a few demons of her own first.


It was too early to be up. Mama always said a lady shouldn’t rise before nine and the sun hadn’t yet pierced the coal smog hanging over town, but here I was, hugging myself against the cold autumn morning on a stranger’s doorstep. And not just any stranger’s – Lady Black’s. I sucked in a deep breath and knocked.

Rows of darkened windows encrusted with cobwebs glowered back at me as I waited. Maybe no one was home. Maybe they’d all died. It was possible – when was the last time anyone had seen Lady Black in person? If it hadn’t been for the bottles gleaming with fresh milk on the step, and the letter in my pocket, I could almost have convinced myself to turn around.

No, the family was just private, as all the best families were. Papa had said that was why there were so many rumours about them. Jealous lies spread by people without proper breeding. Would he have been so dismissive if could see me running to Lady Black for help?

Overgrown plants engulfed the garden between the house and the outside wall, and long dead vines wound up the crumbling turrets above me. I leaned over withered bushes to peer in the nearby window. Should it be taking this long? Something rustled through the leaves below me and I jerked back, my heart racing. It had been a long time since I’d believed in anything as childish as magic or flying broomsticks, but as the wind fluttered through the cobwebs, it wasn’t Papa’s assurances that filled my head. It was the other whispers.

“I heard she grinds up the bones of babies to use in spells.” Patty had insisted one lunchtime. The teachers were at the other side of the dining room, but she’d kept her voice low. “That’s how she’s still alive. They say she’s over 200 years old!”

“I heard she captures the souls of any young men that wander too close to her estate. That’s why there’s no eligible bachelors in town.” Melody agreed.

“She’ll make you a love potion for five pence, but they only work on the boys you don’t like.”

“Her daughter ran off with a demon.”

“She has a black cat.” Jacinta had said as she drowned her roast beef with gravy. When her opinion was met with silence, she looked up. “What?”

“Oh Cinny, owning a cat doesn’t make you a witch.”

“A black one does. They’re bad luck you know.”

We’d all burst into peals of laughter, and Miss Bloom had scolded us for being so unladylike. But that had been before, when I’d had friends and a future...

No, I couldn’t let my mind go down that path. I had a job to do and there was no use moping around. This was life now, suck it up as my sister, Liliana, would say. I took a steadying breath and tried the bell, pulling hard on the rusted chain. The sound echoed through the house, far longer than it should have. How many rooms must there be inside? Dark despair threatened to swallow me just thinking about it.

Without warning, the door swung open. A woman stood there wearing a flour-spattered apron and wielding a wooden spoon. I hadn’t heard any footsteps, how had she got there so quietly?

She was shorter than me, though that wasn’t hard, with arms muscled from a lifetime of hard work, and grey hair tucked in a braid under a colourful kerchief. This was not what I had expected of Lady Black. She should have been someone refined and elegant, someone befitting the largest estate in Sinwillow, even if it was a run-down old wreck.

“Yes? What is it you want? I am in middle of making vatrushka!” The woman demanded.

Not Lady Black then. Her voice was thick with an accent I couldn’t place and I’d certainly never heard of...what had she said again? Vatrushka? In all the rumours, there’d never been one about Lady Black having foreigners in her house. That would have been intriguing in itself, Sinwillow wasn’t exactly known for being a hive of immigrants.

“I’m Evie... um, Evelyn. Wilkins.” Drats. Mama would be so disappointed if she’d heard that. It was uncouth to introduce oneself with a nickname. Well, I supposed it wasn’t like it mattered anymore, we’d lost our claim to being genteel along with everything else. When the woman shot me a blank look, I had to add, “the new maid?”

“Oh yes, yes, Adeline said new girl comes today.”

The woman’s dark eyes bored into me down that hooked nose, taking in every detail of my appearance. My last good dress, the one that brought out the green in my muddy eyes, felt like a rag under the scrutiny. At least my hair was behaving today. I’d tamed the thick brown mess into two braids at the base of my neck. Liliana had even lent me a hat for the occasion, and all in all, I’d thought I was rather presentable under the circumstances until the woman tsked loudly.

“No, no good. You are too skinny. We will have to fatten you up.”

Liliana would have laughed herself silly at that suggestion, I’d never been accused of being too skinny in my life, not next to the slender willow of my sister. I was more like our father – tall, solid, and prone to freckles over my nose. Yet another reason to be grateful for this job, it was far enough away from home that Mama wouldn’t have to look at me every day and see him.

“Come then, Adeline want to see you.” The woman strode off down the hallway.

I took one last look down the hill, at the town below and my old life. I could still turn and run, go back to school and... and then what? No, this was the only way if I wanted to protect my family. The door thudded behind me with a thunderous finality.

“My name is Ludmila, you call me Mila. I am the cook,” the woman said as she led me through a labyrinth of rooms.

I don’t know what I’d been expecting, but this wasn’t it. There were no cauldrons of skulls or scurrying rats, no shelves housing mysterious vials. It was like every other grand house I’d been to, if a little more shabby. The few rooms I saw in to had white sheets thrown over the furniture and the closed, mildewy smell of a house shut up for too long lingered in the air. Everything was covered with a thick film of dust, even the gas light fittings.

“You not bring much with you.” Ludmila gestured at the small case in my hand.

“Oh. I guess I didn’t think I would need to.”

That much was true. My uniform, bedding, shoes, all that would be provided by Lady Black. I didn’t want to tell this woman that pretty much everything else I owned was in the case. There hadn’t been much left to pack after the move, and so many things had been sold off.

“Smart girl. Not good to form unnecessary attachments. Ah, here we are.”

Ludmila stopped so suddenly I almost crashed into her. The black door at the end of the hall was just like every other one we’d passed – the only difference was the doorknob looked like it had actually been polished in the last fifty years.