PW #306: Young Adult LGBT Fantasy: VENDETTA OF MONSTERS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentors: Sarah Nicolas & Leigh Mar Mentee: Ellie Luken Title: VENDETTA OF MONSTERS Category/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy (LGBT) Word Count: 98,000 Pitch: Raised to kill undead monsters, Zarailla is the second-best soldier in her father’s army. One of the last surviving sorcerers, Leinna grew up a hostage of Zarailla’s military—a condition of an uneasy truce. When tensions re-ignite, their families expect them to fight for their sides. But the childhood friends have fallen for each other. Excerpt: Only fools or the desperate wandered beyond the city walls by themselves. Zarailla had yet to determine which category the man on the horizon belonged to. Leaning against a wall of splintering wood to shield herself, she studied him. His bulky coat buried his body, and a fur-rimmed hood hid his face and gave her nothing useful at all. He strode up the crest of a small hill with no weapon visible. Point for fool. A few steps ahead, Janessa peeked out from what had once been a farmhouse. Paint faded, wood worn, and missing an entire chunk of wall, it was nothing but a ruin now, like everything else in the brown grass. “What do you think he’s doing, captain?” I don’t know, Zarailla thought, but that was never an acceptable answer to any question. “You should approach him and find out.” A fool they should leave to die. Someone desperate—they should find out what he ran from. Or toward. Janessa nodded. She drew her sword, slunk from behind the slouching farmhouse and jogged up the incline. Good thing Zarailla hadn’t ordered her to sneak up because the grass crunching under her feet was loud enough that stealth was a lost dream. The man stopped walking, turned toward her. His hood still shadowed his face, revealing only yellow teeth in a too-broad smile. Zarailla’s hand dropped to the hilt of her...

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PW #307: Young Adult Contemporary (Own Voices): VERA WITH A VENGEANCE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Diana Gallagher Mentee: Tracy Gold Title: VERA WITH A VENGEANCE Category/Genre: Young Adult Contemporary (Own Voices) Word Count: 84,000 Pitch: Vera Davis isn’t your typical teenage entrepreneur. She’s in the business of getting even. However, while helping a client get payback for a leaked nude picture, Vera discovers the “accident” that killed her parents and paralyzed her basketball hot-shot brother was all about vengeance, too. Now Vera must decide whether getting revenge is worth getting blood on her hands. “Veronica Mars” meets “Pretty Little Liars.” Excerpt: This creeper keeps staring at me with this little half smile, like he thinks I want his eyes undressing me. His wife is shopping for an evening gown. A good commission, if I make the sale. His face, all chin and cheekbones, reeks of always getting what he wants—women, money, free drinks in first class. I want to tell him off, but I need this job. I look at my boss for rescue. He mouths *work it.* I force myself to smile. I can only work so much after school and I need this sale for my monthly quota. Creeper’s gold smartwatch buzzes, and he glances away from me. Those watches cost ten grand. Ten grand would pay for three months of the mortgage. Ten grand could keep Reuel and me from losing the house our parents raised us in. Creeper’s gaze drifts from his watch to my boobs. Before the accident, I wouldn’t have let anyone look at me like that. Now, money matters more. “Honey, what about this?” The wife holds up a blue dress. Her thick makeup doesn’t hide her frown lines. Keeping this guy must not be easy. I can’t imagine any scenario where it’s worth it. Then his smartwatch flashes, and I almost understand. “Sexy. Try it on.” He looks at me. I’d like to try my knee in his...

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PW #308: Young Adult Magical Realism: CHIMERICAL

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: McKelle George Mentee Name: Cole Bucciaglia Nagamatsu Title: CHIMERICAL Category: Young Adult Genre: Magical Realism Word Count: 87,000 Pitch: No one ever leaves Corinna’s ghost-haunted town—until her neighbor Aidan disappears. But when a traveling carnival arrives, Corinna sees a way out to a vast and dangerous world where Aidan may be hiding. BONE GAP meets THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS. Excerpt: Five months after Aidan vanished, Corinna returned to Moon Crossing with his brother Aly. He stood on top of the bridge while she went under and overturned rocks, pretending to be hopeful that she’d find clues. She whisper-screamed into the creek. There was no answer but the soft sound of water laughing over stones. She climbed back up. Aly’s breath was loud but cracked, an animal’s huffing. “What was it like to kiss? Could I try?” Aly asked. Corinna placed her hand in his hair and pressed her mouth to his. She didn’t tell him: It was more than that. Moon Crossing was an old wooden bridge. Never had Corinna seen a car pass over it. It marked the edge of things. The apple orchards in the west and the river in the east were the town’s borders. Beyond were just hills. Corinna had never left—just knew from her parents who’d been taught by their parents that it took “time” to get elsewhere, like “time” was a ship they could step inside. The timber underfoot shook. The perennial fog beyond the bridge parted, revealing the front of a purple truck as dark as a starling’s throat. It turned just before the bridge and settled along the grassy ledge over the water. A caravan of candy-colored vehicles followed and tucked themselves around their leader. Rust, rough and textured like barnacles, ate away at their edges. It made Corinna’s teeth...

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PW #309: Young Adult Science Fiction: MONSTERS BENEATH OUR SKIN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Sharon M. Johnston Mentee: Michelle Graham Title: MONSTERS BENEATH OUR SKIN Category/Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Word Count: 88,000 Pitch: The Darkness, a fog-like entity from a failed military experiment, infects Kadey with a corruption like many others—she disintegrates any living thing she touches. No one knows how to control, or cure corruptions. But unlike other people with the corruption disease, when Kadey encounters the Darkness, she goes temporarily insane, killing anyone, and anything, she gets her hands on. Responsible for a growing death toll, Kadey finds herself with a bounty on her head. Fringe meets Stranger Things with X-Men-esque superpowers. Excerpt: I didn’t kill anyone yesterday, and this thought should make me happy. Instead, it kept me awake all night. I’m nauseated with exhaustion, but I can’t sleep surrounded by so many people. I huddle in the corner, staying as far away from the rest of the group as possible. The eight bodies scattered throughout the room are all people that might die today because of me. Trista and her toddler son. Rain and his wife, Anile. I’m only alive because they don’t know who I am. Henry’s the only one who knows my real name. But he doesn’t know the real me, not really. The monster beneath my skin. He shifts in his sleep, and I consider brushing his hair out of his eyes, but I can’t.      The boards over the window rattle, making me jump. The light of dawn creeping through the cracks between the wood brightens, then darkens. Something’s outside. My throat constricts, and my heart batters against my ribs. I stand, and the floor squeaks under my foot. Henry groans. “What’s wrong?” He reaches out, but I slide away. “I’m checking the window,” I whisper. The crack between the boards is just wide enough to peek through. If it’s a cloudy morning, we’re safe. If it’s not, I have to get out of...

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PW #310: Young Adult Speculative Historical Fiction: SASSAFRAS ROAD

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Jenni L. Walsh Mentee Name: Sarah Van Goethem Title: SASSAFRAS ROAD Category: Young Adult Genre: Speculative Historical Fiction Word Count: 75,000 Pitch: In 1924, four-year-old Ada Mae Baker vanishes from Sassafras Road and into the year 2000. Twelve years later, at sixteen, she stumbles upon Sassafras Road, where she falls through time to 1936 and into her stolen life, unlocking memories and secrets long forgotten. Excerpt: Sassafras Road isn’t on the map. And yet it stretches before me, a curving gravel snake, peppered with flooded potholes. Marking its existence, a faded, wood road sign juts from the weeds at a crooked angle, the handwritten letters weak and shaky, as if unsure of themselves. Dana’s unsure too. My best friend sighs, pulls her cell phone through the car’s open window, and rubs droplets off the screen with her sleeve. “No reception. You sure this road isn’t on the map?” “Yep.” At least not on the map my ever-practical father shoved into my bag before Dana and I left for our tour of Lambert College—and that map is brand new, 2012 stamped right on it. Dana’s eyes narrow. “Did you actually check?” The windshield wipers shriek against the glass. She knows me too well, that I’m in no hurry to get home. All that awaits me there are inquisitive parents, ready to pounce. Pick a school, Ada Mae. Pick a future. Pick something, anything. But I can’t. Not yet. Not without knowing my past. I squint into the fog. Freshly grown spring weeds poke out of the ditch banks, tangled and flattened by the storm winds. The storm that forced us off the highway and into the backcountry, where the trees soar high in the sky, whispering secrets of bygone days. I trace my finger over the foggy passenger window, copying the road sign’s letters. Sassafras. A road worth marking, but not on a map. What mysteries could be waiting, hidden in the...

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PW #311: Young Adult Historical Fantasy: THE BRIGHTEST SHADE OF FLAME

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Heather Cashman Mentee: Andrea Kjaer Title: THE BRIGHTEST SHADE OF FLAME Category/Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy Word Count: 90,000 Pitch:  When a Norseman possessed by a treasure-hungry djinni steals Anje’s mythical hammer, she chases him into the treacherous world of seafaring raiders. Attraction sparks when the two must ally against the brutal Viking conqueror who would enslave them and claim the hammer’s power for himself. Excerpt: TWELVE YEARS BEFORE Papa told me and my brother a riddle. Standing in the center of the great hall, he threw his arms out wide. “Everything on these walls is true, but one of these walls lies.” The smoke-blackened tapestries, engraved runes, and chiseled pictures covering the spruce boards of our longhouse beckoned me to untangle the half-told tales of our ancestors and gods. Their stories were so intertwined it seemed that if one of the walls lied, our whole lives might be undone. Tyrson and I ventured a few smart guesses about the lie. When we ran out of walls, Mama laughed, flinging aside the tapestry next to her bedchamber. She slipped her finger underneath a discolored wood knot and answered the riddle with a sly smile. “Everything on these walls is true, but one of these walls is false.” CHAPTER ONE How little I’d known of life’s undoing then. In the dimness of the late afternoon, I stood where Mama had that day. I read the words carved into our longhouse’s history not long after. In the year the strangers came, young Tyrson felled two raiders, saving his mother and sister. His blood still stains this hearth, may the stones ever honor his memory. It wasn’t wrong to borrow his hammer now, but the embroidered wolf on the tapestry seemed to disagree. He scowled within his woad-threaded seascape, as if warning me to leave his curtain and the hidden compartment behind it alone. I swept aside his blue-beaded glare and opened the secret cupboard....

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PW #312: Young Adult Science Fiction (LGBT, Own Voices): STEALING THE STARS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Sarah Glenn Marsh & Shana Silver Mentee: L.C. Holst Title: STEALING THE STARS Category: Young Adult Genre: Science Fiction (LGBT, Own Voices) Word Count: 95,000 Pitch: When seventeen-year-old Aria Locksley, a thief with a failing heart, botches a heist and gets her captain captured, she and the roguish ladies aboard the Siren must consort with an eccentric black-market crime boss and steal the priceless Night Diamond in order to secure the collateral to rescue her captain and replace Aria’s heart. FIREFLY meets the girl power of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video. Excerpt: Cold air. Adrenaline rising. A pocketful of jewels. This is what the night was made for, and what a night it was turning out to be. Aria Locksley pressed her spine into the rough stone wall and sank deeper into the shadows. In her dark bodysuit, she was indistinguishable from the mansion’s grey facade to anyone who might look at its upper veranda. Nothing more than a trick of the mind or a glimpse in someone’s eye. There one second and gone in a flash. She brought a gloved hand to her earpiece and switched on her mic, then spoke in a voice softer than her footfalls. “Captain, you there? I have the jewelry from the upstairs vault. Making my way along the outdoor walkway to our meeting point now. Where are you?” A moment later, Captain Olivia Lightwood’s steady voice spoke into Aria’s ear. “I’m in the master bedroom. Found the cache where the starlet keeps all the good stuff.” Aria heard the muffled scrapes and clunks of a drawer being rifled through before the captain added, “Did you know she has four separate closets? Four!” “You would, too, if you were a platinum-record pop star,” Aria said. “I’d have better taste is what I’d have. This jewelry is tackier than the knockoffs hawked in Slipshod Market.” “As long as we can fence them, who gives a flying flux what they look...

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PW #313: Young Adult Science Fiction: GHOST IN THE MACHINE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Naomi Hughes Mentee: Anthony Tardiff Title: GHOST IN THE MACHINE Category: Young Adult Genre: Science Fiction Word Count: 90,000 Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Jason is a master hacker. When the FBI busts him—then hires him to stress-test the world’s first true A.I.—he has the chance to carry out the perfect inside job and destroy Big Brother’s powerful new weapon. But “SPRITE” might be more like him than he ever suspected… Excerpt: Jason held his breath and bent over the keyboard, and each keystroke was a soft footfall, placed as surely and carefully as a tightrope walker’s feet. Silence was key. Not that he could be heard—he could shout if he liked, scream at the top of his lungs. His music was doing that anyway, pounding electronic rhythms through the earpieces attached to his netglasses, weaving a subconscious background tapestry that helped him concentrate. Sound was unimportant. But silence, the silence of emptiness, the silence of absence—that was crucial. One false keystroke could mean discovery. A whiff of something pungent made him wrinkle his nose. “Remember our agreement,” he said without looking. The odor increased briefly, then faded. If his music hadn’t been so loud he would’ve heard the sizzle of an extinguished cigar. Good. He’d been clear about the rules for his working environment. Bruno’s disregard of them was either forgetfulness or, more likely, a test. If it were a test, Jason had passed. His clients needed to know he deserved not only the payment, but also the respect, due a professional. Age was no indicator of ability in this job, but his age did make people wonder if they’d hired the right professional. At a touch on his shoulder Jason swiveled around, thumbing the control ring on his finger. The music muted and the computer windows floating in the air around him dissolved as his netglasses cleared. He smiled sweetly at the man towering over him. “You...

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PW #314: Young Adult Contemporary: LISTEN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Kristin Wright Mentee Name: Jennifer Camiccia Title: LISTEN Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 73,000 Pitch: After seventeen-year-old Emmaline’s unstable stepfather drives the family straight off a cliff, her anxiety kills the one thing she can trust – her voice. Worse, the crash destroys her sister’s health. Emmaline must find the courage to sing again for a huge competition’s prize money, or Birdy may never recover. Excerpt: The digital clock on the car dashboard mesmerizes me, as if knowing the exact minute I die will change anything. Our family drive has darkened and twisted as fast as Hank’s mood. I imagine my obituary: At 5:43 pm seventeen-year-old Emmaline Frazier’s young life was cut short in a tragic car accident. She is survived by her mother, Justine, and younger sister, Birdy. Each minute ticks by with a kind of finality. 5:44 He hugs the curves, swerving dangerously close to the sheer drop where only a flimsy, metal barrier stands between us and the Pacific Ocean. Each second I survive is a victory against my stepfather. Instead of screaming, I bite the inside of my cheek, pinch the skin along my thighs, and keep my mouth shut. 5:45 I consider opening the door and jumping, but Birdy clings to my hand and I can’t leave her alone. I don’t tell her it will be okay, because I may be a crap sister, but I can’t lie to her. My silence is one of self-preservation. I’ve learned it does no good to sob and beg for our lives. It only feeds his instability. Our tears and fear – the anti-lithium. 5:46 The back end of our Honda Civic smacks the barrier with a dull thud: our car fishtails into traffic, cars honking, people swearing. Hank occasionally strokes the thick blonde waves of Mom’s hair, smiling at her, seemingly blind to her terror. He blows her a kiss. “Love you,...

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PW #315: Young Adult Speculative Fiction: GIRL UNPLUGGED

Manuscript Status: 2-3 weeks delivery Mentor name: Austin Aslan Mentee name: Nicole Rivera Title: GIRL UNPLUGGED Category: Young Adult Genre: Speculative Fiction Word Count: 70,000 Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Natalie Turner never knows what to say. Talia Turner is a popular blogger who’s witty, insightful, and trending. You’d never know they were the same person. When a solar storm causes a catastrophic collapse of power while she’s on a class trip, Natalie is forced to confront a terrifying question: Who is she, really? Natalie, or Talia? Excerpt: Posted to TALIA’S TALES   Oct 5 @ 3:12PM I was minding my own business, peeps. Sure, I had my phone out. And, sure, we all know that’s not the way of their world here in the hallowed halls of academia, but what’s a girl to do with a phone threatening to transform into a metal and plastic brick within moments? Action had to be taken! A charge was needed! This girl required connection! I even did my best to perpetuate the fraud —THE LORD OF THE FLIES was open (and to the appropriate page!) on the top of my desk. All was well with the world. I was sure of it. I was wrong. The curmudgeon — let’s call him “Mr. G” — says, “You know the rules,” while pulling my phone by its charge cord (what disrespect!) off of my lap. Then he tells me, “You can get this back at detention this afternoon.” What?! Wait. That’s not even the best part. This guy does all of this while brandishing his own phone on some dorky-ass belt clip in my face. Is he for real? You guys all know a guy like this, right? Tell me I’m not alone. Well, actually I am. I’m in detention all alone. Surrounded by computers all tuned to some science news about the sun. Send help, my peeps. Entertain me. I am in your hands for the next hour, let’s connect. ~Talia #unplugged #helpmeimindetention #sendhelp #entertainme...

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PW #316: Young Adult Contemporary: FLORENCE LEARY’S THEORY OF FLIGHT

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Sonia Hartl Mentee Name: Annette Christie Title: FLORENCE LEARY’S THEORY OF FLIGHT Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 65,000 Pitch: Outsmarting the airlines is the only thing getting Florence through senior year. When she uncovers a loophole that’ll give her elite status with a big airline, Florence has six weeks to amass the necessary points and grab that perfect first class salve for her loneliness. She just needs her guidance counselor, her neurotic parents, and that cute-in-a-weird-way guy to stop pulling her feet back down to the ground. Excerpt: Sometimes home was a Boeing 757. Other times it was an old school Airbus. The type of craft was mostly inconsequential. The only thing that mattered was when Florence stepped over the gap between the jet bridge and the plane, she was buoyant. Free. Florence was gooooood. Goooooood with a buttload of extra o’s. On hour twenty-one of travel, bone-aching fatigue was just around the corner. She avoided it by flicking from airport vignette to airport vignette as though LAX’s inhabitants were channels on her own personal television. Florence slurped iced tea, chuckling as a nearby silver-haired fox teased his wife about the bodice-ripper she was reading. Florence downright guffawed at a three-year-old who was pointing to every stranger she saw, declaring with authority what kind of genitalia they had. Surrounded by flocks of tourists, most of whom the ghost of Walt Disney had gleefully vomited on, Florence never lacked for free entertainment. Retrieving her phone from the hidden silk pocket of her clyde red typewriter bag, she checked the time. Five minutes until pre-boarding. Thirty-five minutes until the cabin doors would be locked. Approximately forty minutes until take-off. Florence clicked her phone off and put it away, the idea of ascension melting through her brain like the sweetest meditation. Life was fine now. In approximately forty minutes, life would be really good again. Good with all those extra...

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PW #317: Young Adult Contemporary: THE BUSINESS OF BLACKMAIL

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Sonia Hartl Mentee Name: Kelsey Rodkey Title: THE BUSINESS OF BLACKMAIL Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 78,000 Pitch:   Seventeen-year-old Morgan has done her share of blackmailing, but when her ex-boyfriend turns the tables on her, she must do what he wants or risk exposing her thieving past to everyone who matters. When her newest mark becomes her newest crush, Morgan must decide whose future is more important: hers or his. Excerpt: There’s a certain etiquette one must use while ringing up personal items at Sally Sue’s Grocery Mart. For example, a cashier should greet them with a smile and never question their purchases. But no such etiquette can be followed when the customer is my douche ex-boyfriend, and he’s buying condoms. It’s a slow Sunday night at work with only one customer in the last hour, and I’m the lucky cashier stuck on register while others push carts outside or return misplaced items to the correct shelves. Tyler Murphy, asshole, walks straight at me to buy some ridiculously sized condoms, in bulk packaging, as if he’d ever have a use for that many. I arrange my features into a forced smile to hide my dread. I think it comes out more like a cringe, though. “Morgan.” His dull blue eyes avoid my withering gaze. “I see you’re still slumming it here.” “I see you’re still a prick.” I take the box of condoms off the register belt and scan it. He narrows his eyes, adjusting his thick gray coat. “You haven’t manipulated your manager into giving you a raise yet? That’s not like you.” “If I recall correctly, manipulating people was always more your thing than mine, and besides, I’ve been known to slum it every once in a while. I dated you, didn’t I?” A condescending smile slithers its way onto his face. “We could always go back in business if running your mouth gets you fired...

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