PW #334: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy (Own Voices): SURRENDER YOUR SONS

MANUSCRIPT STATUS: Three weeks delivery Mentor: Lisa Amowitz Mentee: Adam Sass Title: SURRENDER YOUR SONS Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Fantasy (Own Voices) Word Count: 95,000 Pitch: In this LOST-inspired thriller, sixteen-year-old Marcos Major is spending his summer vacation at camp—one that wants to turn him straight. Sent to Nightlight, a gay conversion camp on a secluded island, Marcos endures their program in the hopes it will “cure” his real problem: the electricity that shoots from his hand when he’s anxious. Which is basically all of the time. As Marcos navigates treacherous campers and sadistic staff, dark secrets lurk in the jungle surrounding Nightlight. Someone wants more than to turn Marcos straight. They want his power. Even if it means killing him. Excerpt:   Chapter 1: Trouble in the Blood I have to tell my favorite teacher that she’s going to die. She’s not going to die right away, so I’m not a bad person for finishing my funnel cake first. I’ll let her enjoy the church fair and the sunshine and her granddaughter peeling the cornmeal casing off her corndog. But only for a minute. Her blood whispers to me that there’s not much time left. Mrs. Penn’s blood isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Her granddaughter’s blood babbles uneventfully through her tiny, overall-clad body. Her husband’s blood rattles like a snare drum, but it still flows in the proper direction. But Mrs. Penn’s blood crashes against the lobes of her brain, flooding all available corners as it hisses in my ears like a tea-kettle. The blood sound—the invisible electric fingers that send the town’s heartbeats whispering through my skull—finds me even at church. It always finds me. I squat on a church pew—the one chucked outside until someone fixes its busted leg. It’s high noon on Saturday during Hometown Days Church Fair and an open seat is worth more than gold. “Hey, Major, your fat ass crack that pew in half?” somebody...

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PW #335: Young Adult LGBT Dark Fantasy: DEVIL’S CARAVAN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Jessie Devine Mentee: J.K. Smejkal Title: DEVIL’S CARAVAN Category: Young Adult Genre: LGBT Dark Fantasy Word Count: 88,000 Pitch: When Celia escapes the service of a false deity named Diavala, she must use her forbidden ability to ink magical tattoos to protect the roving theater troupe she calls family or watch Diavala destroy them. GRISHA at the MOULIN ROUGE. Excerpt: Another question mark bloomed on Celia’s forearm, bigger and bolder than the others. The ink unfurled in an oily black, stretched-out tentacle, wrist to elbow, the dot on the bottom a furious splatter. An hour ago she’d still been trying to cover Anya’s messages by tugging her shirtsleeve down until the marks had faded. An hour ago she’d still cared that she was in a packed shisha lounge surrounded by people who might ask their own questions. But lovely absinthe made cares like that disappear even quicker than her friend’s angry writing on her skin. Celia pressed her finger to the angry splotch on the bottom. I’d tell you where I am, she thought, if only I knew. Huzzah, absinthe! She sat alone at a table, surrounded by clusters of pretty people doing flirty things: chatting and sighing, enjoying their drinks and smoke, unwinding after a busy day of whatever normal people did. Vibrant fabrics hung in plump folds from the ceiling, matching the cushions around low tables. Everything fluttered: colorful sleeves, loose pants, long hair, light from a hundred candles, jingly jewelry hanging from ears and wrists and necks. Celia didn’t belong there, judging by the lounge owner’s fluency in scowls. With her black everything — short hair, suspenders, tie, top hat — she stuck out like a monochrome stain amid all the color and life. Not bothering to right her awkward sprawl, she smiled as he approached. Or maybe it wasn’t a smile, but a frown. Whichever way was up. Whichever way was...

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PW #336: Young Adult Contemporary: LOOK NO FURTHER

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Emily Martin Mentee: Amelia Diane Coombs Title: LOOK NO FURTHER Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 80,000 Pitch: Zoe’s journey to Graceland isn’t about Elvis—she’s tracking down her bio-mom, even if it requires traveling with an outlaw motorcycle gang. After witnessing a heinous crime, she escapes with Johnathan, a young, karma-touting ex-biker with a weakness for quirky roadside attractions. But when she discovers the real reason behind Johnathan’s exile, starting over may mean saying goodbye to the boy she loves. Excerpt:  These are the nights I lie to myself. String together deceptions and convince myself I have the guts to run away. Stranded in a podunk town without a car—or license—isn’t ideal, but opportunities to escape guys like Levi Cadge are rare. I hover near the motel bathroom clutching my JanSport backpack and study the cadence of Levi’s rising chest. The slow, slurred way he breathes when he’s blacked out. Earlier at dinner, I was vigilant with my task of getting him drunk. So drunk he brawled with townies, got a solid punch to the nose, and passed out before eleven. “Levi?” I whisper hoarsely. Nervous sweat pricks my skin, my tongue coats with salt. The nauseating snores continue, and I say his name again, a decibel louder. He doesn’t stir. My gaze settles on the Rolex clasped around his wrist. Pawning the watch could fill my empty wallet. My combat boots leaden my movements, but I tiptoe to the bed where Levi’s facedown. He’s young compared to the other Free Riders, but at twenty-eight, he has a decade on me. Shirtless, his expansive back tattoo is on display—the inked eagle skeleton linking him to a brotherhood of outlaw motorcyclists. Levi’s left hand dangles off the edge of the mattress, blood and dirt shoved under each fingernail. One wrong move and that hand will lunge for my throat, wrapping tight until the world turns...

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PW #337: Young Adult Historical LGBTQ: A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Kip Wilson Mentee Name: Kosoko Jackson Title: A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER Category: Young Adult Genre: Historical (LGBTQ) Word Count: 59,000 Pitch: For seventeen-year-old James Mills, traveling to Kosovo with his USAID parents is bad—but without his older sister, Anna? That’s cruel and unusual punishment. The letters James obsessively sends her share snapshots of his courtship of Tomas, a Brazilian expat. But it’s not until he and Tomas find themselves fighting for their lives in the midst of an ethnic cleansing that James unearths the truth Anna’s been hiding about their family. Excerpt: For the first time since I got here I find myself thinking, I’m glad Anna isn’t here. Here, meaning Kosovo. Specifically, under this tree. Anna would be good—no, great company. But Anna would’ve died days ago. This war would’ve made sure of that. At least she’d be one of the lucky ones, her life snuffed out instantaneously. Something tells me the longer you stay alive, the more painful your death will be. Talk about twisted survivor’s guilt. The form sprawled out on my lap shifts, as if to say, That’s enough, James. Morbid time’s over. Tomas stirs, his body coiling around itself like a Mobius strip. I’d give anything to be like him, to be intertwined with him. In his bed again, teasing each other with our frozen feet and threatening the dumbest things between snickers. To be back in a world where jokes taken too far were the biggest fear. Now I’m not even sure if I’ll make it out alive. My cracked and bleeding fingers on my right hand move down, slithering through his coarse dark hair, raking against his skull, just enough to soothe his torment-filled sleep. If I had one wish, it wouldn’t be to whisk us away, but to give him one peaceful night’s sleep. Tomas deserves that much. But for now, this will have to...

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PW #338: Young Adult Science Fiction/Horror: IN FLESH, WE DROWN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Cat Scully and Kim Graff Mentee: Ariane Felix Title: IN FLESH, WE DROWN Category: Young Adult Genre: Science Fiction/Horror Word Count: 75,000 Pitch: Donnie Darko meets The Matrix. Jodi throws a party to forget her girlfriend’s disappearance, Jake plans to deliver his love letter to Jodi, but after a night of smoke and flickers, they wake up two days in the past. Visions of meat walls and people with no faces chase them into a spiral of madness. As they draw closer to the truth of their abduction, they must accept their new reality or bloody their hands to survive. Excerpt: I puke my soul into the toilet. The tiles on the wall undulate like waves in the ocean, slipping in and out of focus. The world feels surreal, like a fresh painting, as if I could smudge it with my fingers. My body tingles, a cold sensation scratching under my skin. It grows from my chest, my lungs, and spreads to my arms and legs. A scream grows inside of me, pushing against my skin, but I hold it back. I feel wrong. Someone is knocking on the door, and they can go to hell because this is my house and I’m puking. I swallowed a shot or two or three, and the edges of the world smoothed out. But I shouldn’t get this sick because of pot, a little vodka, and a gulp of beer. Never mix drinks, my mom used to say. Her voice seeps into my mind, viscous and silky. Some bastard spiked my drink, I decide. I’ll find him, cross the guy off my invite list, and poison his lunch so he can puke his goddamn soul out. That’s what I tell myself, even though the idea sounds ridiculous. The only people here are friends and friends of friends, people I can trust. But anger fills me up, helps me focus on something other than my trembling...

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PW #339: Young Adult Science Fiction: DONOR

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Brian Palmer Mentee: Adalyn Grace Title: DONOR Category: Young Adult Genre: Science Fiction Word Count: 82,000 Pitch: Analeigh has been gifted a new set of eyes by the Donor Center, a corporation that breeds and supplies human-like organ donors. Black is a donor who’s been raised on a lie: the Center releases its patients on their eighteenth birthday. When the two discover Donor is more sinister than anyone dreamed, they must team up to expose its dark truths before Black is harvested for the next buyer.  THE ISLAND meets UNWIND. Excerpt: I couldn’t listen to the constant drumming of the Operator’s fingertips against the limousine’s leather seats any longer. The man sat curled in a corner, his beady eyes observing the faces of the four remaining passengers without blinking. He scrutinized each of us, though his stare held mine longer than necessary. “While you will be spending nearly a month in their presence,” he said, “remember that no bonds should be formed with the patients. Despite their appearance, the patients are far from human. They exist for one purpose alone.” Each word was enunciated like a sentence. I glanced at my father, knowing he wouldn’t appreciate being treated like he was unforgivably inept. “I assure you, that will not be an issue.” My father’s voice cut through the air like a whip. “We are well informed on the patients. I am, after all, one reason Donor exists in this capacity, Charles. And don’t forget my wife’s work here is the other reason.” He spoke with the obnoxious sort of pride he liked to use when attempting to sound official. Every time I heard it, I gagged a little. Charles, the Operator, gave a meek nod as his tiny body wilted into itself. “Of course, Mayor Hampton. My apologies.” His fingers never stopped tapping.  Why, I wondered, was he worried about us meeting the...

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PW #340: Young Adult Space Opera: THE LAST RELIC

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Monica M. Hoffman Mentee Name: Mikki Tolley Title: THE LAST RELIC Category: Young Adult Genre: Space Opera Word Count: 110,000 Pitch: Princess Lusi has a secret. She lacks the Calm—a power to spread peace the League of Nine Worlds depends on. Her plans to escape her legacy are thwarted when a vengeful warlord storms the palace, taking over her planet with his cyborg army. Now Lusi must forgo her freedom when she’s forced to strike a deal with exiled rebels to save her empire and prevent a catastrophic war. FROZEN meets STAR WARS. Excerpt: I stared at the thick steel door across from me, palms slick as I gripped the armrests of my chair. They were finally going to let me out. Any second now, my parents would come for me, releasing me from a lifetime of restless confinement. The guards at the exit adjusted the pulse-rifles in their hands, as if sensing my focus. Their presence clashed with the elaborate white flower arrangements balancing on delicate tables beside them. But their job in the princess quarters of the imperial palace was simple: prevent my escape and report any suspicious behavior. Even on the night of my crowning. “Your Majesty?” said a timid voice. I glanced down at the stylist kneeling before me, paintbrush in hand. She pointed at my leg with a rueful grimace. My knees knocked together, smudging the elaborate artwork peeking through the high slit of my dress. “Sorry,” I said, cringing. Flexing my muscles, I held still in spite of my jitters. The body art for my public debut was a ridiculous custom. It covered every inch of my visible limbs, and the sharp smell burned my nostrils, leaving me with a dull headache. As the paint dried, my skin began to tighten and itch in a furious way. It doesn’t matter, I reminded myself, forcing a deep breath. It will all be worth it after...

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PW #341: Young Adult LGBT Contemporary: LOVE, CHAI & CONFESSIONS

MANUSCRIPT STATUS: Finished Mentor: Natasha Neagle Mentee: Sabina Khan Title: LOVE, CHAI & CONFESSIONS Category: Young Adult Genre:  LGBT Contemporary Word Count: 83,000 Pitch: When seventeen-year-old Rukhsana is caught kissing her girlfriend, her conservative Muslim parents whisk her off to Bangladesh in the middle of her senior year. Desperate to safeguard their honor, they arrange her marriage. Now, separated from her girlfriend by thousands of miles and surrounded by family who can’t know the truth, she must fight her way back to love and freedom. Excerpt: Fragrant tendrils of cinnamon and cardamom tickled my nose as I cradled a warm cup of chai. I inhaled deeply allowing the warmth to seep through me. I’d better savor this moment. The second hand on the enormous wall clock above the doorway ticked away, blissfully oblivious to the drama about to unfold right in front of it. It was almost five o’clock, almost time for me to get ready for the party tonight. I couldn’t wait to be with Ariana again, to hold her and feel her soft lips on mine. But first I had to convince Mom to let me leave the house. She walked out of the study after her Asr prayer, absent-mindedly rolling up her prayer rug as she walked into the kitchen. I took a long sip of my tea before placing the cup on the kitchen counter. “Mom, don’t forget, I’m going to Jen’s house in a little bit.” She removed her head scarf and draped it over the back of a chair. “Again?” she asked, deepening the worry lines on her forehead. “Why, Rukhsana? You just went the other day.” She poured herself a cup of chai and took a careful sip before returning her gaze to me. Fear clenched my heart. Was she suspicious? She couldn’t possibly know about Ariana and me. We were so careful. But what if… But I wouldn’t let myself think of that.  ...

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PW #342: Young Adult Fantasy: WE ARE MULTITUDES

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Kim Graff Mentee: Ashley Leath Title: WE ARE MULTITUDES Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 100,000 Pitch: Years ago, a girl disappeared into an impenetrable fog called the Void, and halted its growth. Now society gives the Void one volunteer a year to keep it stagnant. Mac’s convinced it’ll be him. But it picks Mega Namura instead. Now Mac’s falling for a girl destined to die and must decide: embrace this second chance at life, or find a way to take Mega’s place before the Void claims her. THE MIST meets THE RAVEN BOYS. Excerpt: MacCauley’s parents stood on the train platform, a colorless pair in a sea of the same. He watched them through the window of the cabin as the rest of the kids gifting their names boarded. “Don’t be scared,” MacCauley shouted through the glass. “I’m not.” His dad forced a smile, but his mom’s gaze darted to his tie. MacCauley’s pride flamed. I ironed it, he mouthed. Her lips thinned, and she fingered her pearls. God, he hated those pearls. Nothing said “over-the-mountain spoiled” like pearls. I did, he stressed. He couldn’t hear her response, but her tone crushed him through her piercing gaze. The way she always said his first name carried enough disappointment to cut out his heart. Arthur. ARTHUR. The train lurched. MacCauley waved to his dad as his nerves clawed up yet another headache. He was part of an unlucky group affected by the Void-tainted air everyone breathed. His doctor once likened it to an allergy, which made his mom snort derisively. A MacCauley, allergic to the Void? Ridiculous. MacCauley downed a pill and glimpsed his reflection in the window. He shook his head. As if he’d mar the greatest day of his life with a wrinkled tie. Five years he’d waited for this day, and though it felt inconceivable—it felt impossible—it was...

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PW #343: Young Adult Contemporary: DAMAGE OVER TIME

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Phil Stamper Mentee: Jenny Howe Title: DAMAGE OVER TIME Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary  Word Count: 76,500 Pitch:  For Caity Hopkins, slaying monsters as Caelyssa—a fearless Ranger in the multiplayer online game, Unholy Realms—is her only freedom from the anxiety that crushes her in real life. But Caelyssa’s daggers and arrows can’t help Caity choose between her lifelong crush, who unexpectedly kisses her, and the boy from Realms who has stolen her heart. To make that choice, Caity must step out from behind her keyboard and find her voice or risk losing them both.    Excerpt: Alexis Redman: Just found a lime on my dog’s bed. No idea where it came from. There might be a margarita buried in your couch, Caity typed into the comment box below Alexis’s post.  Her computer mouse hovered above the SEND button as she read the words over. Then she shook her head and jabbed her finger at the keyboard, deleting them. Ha! she wrote instead. And deleted that.  After another second, she settled on lol, only to delete that as well. By the time she hit LIKE, four other people had already commented, and every one of their responses, Caity realized, was far funnier than hers. She scrolled through the rest of the main feed, her stomach clenching every time something new appeared. Words came so easily to everyone else. To her, though, thinking of something to say was like typing on a broken screen. Slow, painful, and she usually got it wrong. Her computer dinged with a new update.   Kyle Lucas: I’m bored. How can we fix this? Caity shoved her thumbnail in her mouth and bit down so hard it cracked. Not that this stopped her from chewing on it. Really, it was amazing she had any nails left to speak of thanks to Kyle...

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PW #344: Young Adult Fantasy: ABOVEWATER

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentors: Mónica Bustamante Wagner & Kerbie Addis Mentee: Amaris Glass Title: ABOVEWATER Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 68,000 Pitch: When sixteen-year-old Rilla’s twin brother disappears from their small island, the outcast girl risks waking forbidden legends to find him, but soon it’s clear she’s stirred up more evil than good. Now, to appease the vengeful darkness that’s arisen, the Islanders are demanding a sacrifice–Rilla’s own life. Excerpt: The night chilled me with faded starshine and wet breezes. Shivering, I cursed the restlessness that had driven me outside. I’d lain awake for hours, tying my sheets in knots as memories elbowed me in the dark. Finally, I gave up trying. Joss disappeared a year ago today and I had to go searching, one last time. The maze of Island paths spread out before me, behind me, around me. I began to run, trying to build a fire in my belly. Stars bit into the sky, scattered freckles of light that did little to show the way, yet I never stumbled, never took a wrong turn. The scent of olive leaves, the cry of the sea, the weight of the air on my skin––all of this fit into place inside me. I had a map etched in my bones and it never stopped speaking. I was the girl who couldn’t get lost. Joss found this maddening. He lost his way just by turning around too quickly; navigating the paths tangled him in knots only I could undo. I spent our first sixteen years feeling the steady pressure of here I am when we were together, the come find me when he was lost, the fist-squeeze of panic when he was in actual trouble. Maybe we’d shared one heart that had split in two when we were born; maybe that’s why we could never really be separated…until now. Now, Joss was the boy who couldn’t be...

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PW #345: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy: THE BLOOD KEY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Jamie Howard Mentee Name: Kristen Clouthier Title: THE BLOOD KEY Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Word Count: 90,000 Pitch: Charlotte’s life revolves around digging up and smuggling rare artifacts—until she uncovers a calling more treacherous than desecrating tombs. She’s the key to destroying a parasitic entity, but fighting its corrupting influence means she’ll have to sacrifice either the man who raised her or the boy who loves her. INDIANA JONES meets THE DARKEST MINDS. Excerpt: The package Elijah overnighted sat on the bed like Christmas morning. Or Halloween. Some holiday where gifts came from someone six feet under and decades past their expiration date. Given I’d spent the last week sharing a pay-by-the-hour motel with a rat colony suffering from boundary issues, the payday waiting inside the box was better than anything Santa could’ve stuffed down a chimney. I ripped open the flaps and dug around for the note.  On good days, I’d find used napkins; on average ones, I’d pull out a stack of fresh toilet seat covers. This time he’d turned the greasiest take-out menu I’d ever seen into his scratchpad— courtesy of Wait a Millet. Lines of red cracked along its creases and yellow splatters stretched from front to back, giving off the scent of chili peppers and onions. I held it like a dirty diaper and set it beside my half-eaten TV dinner and an empty bottle of hair dye. The blue Sharpie Eli used to scribble out a series of cryptic numbers across the menu’s pages bled all the way through to the lunch specials. I choked down a spoonful of lumpy mashed potatoes and went to work on the code— no cipher needed. At least not yet. His first instruction never changed and I could’ve recited it frontwards, backwards, in Latin, or in Greek. The sequence: 12.23, 34.15, 7.18, 4.8. Don’t take it...

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