PW #330: Young Adult Contemporary: WE ARE EMBERS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Amy Trueblood Mentee: Ashley D. MacKenzie Title: WE ARE EMBERS Category: Young Adult: Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 62,000 Pitch: When fire destroys Zeida and Micah’s apartment, the sisters must choose between homelessness or an offer that means abandoning their mom. While the choice seems clear to pragmatic Zeida, she gives Micah one day to raise the funds to keep their family together. Excerpt: MICAH I tap the heart under the picture before I even look at it. I mean, I can’t not like it. My friends are at freaking Laila Winston, and they’ve been live-posting the concert all night – standing in line, making faces at the opening band, Laila holding her guitar. All of it. The mattress groans as I roll onto my back. It’s a special kind of torture to watch my girls have fun in real-time and know in another life, I could have gone with them. That, even now, I maybe, possibly, could have gone tonight. My phone beeps a warning and I shove my earbuds deeper into my ears, as if blaring the pop-rock princess while looking at what I’m missing could keep my battery from dying. But the app snaps to black and Laila’s voice cuts off. I pull my earbuds out and listen. No signs of life leak through my door – not even a cough. I drop my legs over the edge of the bed and my hand finds the soft hairs at the back of my neck. I twist them around my finger again and again until I can convince my legs to take me out of the safety of my bedroom. My sister looks up from her books on the kitchen table when I crack the door to our shared room. Her highlighter stalls mid-stroke. The doorknob digs into my hand. “Sorry, Zeida.” Zeida’s jaw ticks and her eyes send a practiced warning. “Mom’s...

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PW #331: Young Adult Contemporary Paranormal: THE WRECKAGE OF US

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Laurie Elizabeth Flynn Mentee: Mary C. Dunbar Title: THE WRECKAGE OF US Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary with paranormal elements Word Count: 85,000 Pitch: After an accident leaves him a quadriplegic and kills his best friend, Jordan must navigate the world without Taylor –until Taylor’s ghost starts haunting him. Doubting his sanity, he must choose between living with hallucinations or letting go of the boy he loves. CARRY ON meets WE WERE LIARS. Excerpt: Taylor’s empty parking place stands out among the vacant rows in the Westview High lot. It might as well have a neon sign glaring over it from the way my head pounds as my brother puts our car in park three rows down. In the midst of the deserted parking lot, someone’s drawn a huge purple and gold chalk cross and left flowers where Taylor’s Mustang is supposed to be. We should be sitting there together, waiting for the rest of our crew to arrive, but instead, I can make out his baseball and basketball numbers and a bunch of hearts sketched on the asphalt. The hair on the back of my neck prickles as a shadow crosses the parking lot, and I look away from the makeshift memorial and press my head back against the vinyl headrest, hoping to disappear. Maybe dropping out on the first day of senior year wouldn’t be such a bad move. With stiff, uncooperative hands, I take off my glasses and press my fists against my pounding temples. “Another migraine?” Jesse asks, idling the engine. He turns up the A/C and aims the vent in my direction. The day of the accident, I walked out of school a six-foot-three honors student, two-sport athlete, and student council member. Now I’ve lost my spot on the student council because I missed elections, my athletic career is over, and I’m repeating two basic junior honors classes. To top it off, I’m not even walking back...

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PW #332: Young Adult Contemporary Dark Fantasy: QUEEN OF PARTS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Stacey Trombley & Rebecca Sky Mentee: Rebecca Schaeffer Title: QUEEN OF PARTS Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Dark Fantasy Word count: 85,000 Pitch: Nita doesn’t murder monsters and sell them online. Her mother does that. Nita just dissects and packages their bodies. But when her mother brings a live one home, Nita decides to follow her conscience and help him escape — and ends up sold on the black market in his place. DEXTER meets THIS SAVAGE SONG. Excerpt: Nita stared at the dead body lying on the kitchen table. Middle-aged, and in the place between pudgy and overweight, he wore a casual business suit and a pair of wire-rimmed glasses with silver handles that blended into the gray at his temples. He was indistinguishable on the outside from any other human — the inside, of course, was a different matter. “Another zannie?” Nita scowled at her mother and crossed her arms as she examined the body. “That’s not even Peruvian. I thought we moved to Peru to hunt South American unnaturals? Chupacabras and pishtacos and whatever.” It wasn’t that zannies were common, but Nita had dissected an awful lot of them during the months she and her mother spent in Southeast Asia last year. She’d been looking forward to dissecting something new. If she wanted to cut up the same unnaturals as usual, she would have asked to stay with her dad in the States and work on unicorns. Her mother shrugged, draping her jacket over a chair. “I saw a zannie, so I killed it. I mean, it was right in front of me. How could I resist?” Her mother’s black and red striped bangs fell forward as she dipped her head and half-smiled. Nita shifted her feet, looking at the corpse again. She sighed. “I suppose you’ll want me to dissect and package it for sale?” “Good girl.” Her mother...

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PW #333: Young Adult Contemporary (in verse): LOVE AND OTHER SHARP POINTY THINGS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Helene Dunbar and Beth Hull           Mentee: Christy Goerzen Title: LOVE AND OTHER SHARP POINTY THINGS Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Novel in Verse Word Count: 33,000 Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Mercedes dreams of proving herself to her famous sculptor mother by gaining acceptance to a prestigious art school. Faced with artist’s block, a new romance, and a devastating illness in the family, she must get in touch with her artistic identity and her heart to determine what truly matters most. Excerpt: Art Class “Mercedes.” Ms. Keyes sings my name as she floats over to my desk. Mer-SAY-deeees, her voice dropping to a low alto at the s. She’ll give my hasty scribble of a Converse sneaker an A, she always does (likely out of obligation), barely looking at it. “I saw your mother in the paper,” she says. “Planning another exhibit, I see.” After class, she beckons me to her desk with a flick of her paint-covered hand. “Have you reconsidered?” she asks, opening her chaos of a top desk drawer, whisking papers around with yellow and blue-stained fingers. “The deadline is five months away. There’s still time.” “No,” I say, turning around and gathering my books before I can see the disappointment sketched on her face. It’s those looks, the sad eyes, the pity frowns, that I can’t handle. I’ve seen enough of those. Ms. Keyes sighs. I hear her drawer shut as I walk out the door. Click.  Talent Crush The other kids have photos of singers and actors taped to their lockers: guitars over shoulders, tattoos on arms, pouts on flawless faces. But in my locker, there are photos of seaweed and driftwood spirals, one hundred snowballs cradled between two trees, office chairs scattered like autumn leaves through a forest. Environmental art and large-scale sculpture. This is what floats my boat gets my knickers in a knot, turns me on, makes fireworks explode on the right side of my brain. Even...

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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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