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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PW #346: Young Adult Contemporary Time Travel: MOM, I MARRIED A HIGHLANDER

MANUSCRIPT STATUS: Finished Mentor: Marty Mayberry Mentee: Lana Pattinson Title: MOM, I MARRIED A HIGHLANDER Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary/Time Travel Word Count: 70,000 Pitch: Abby’s extra credit report derails when a Highlander from the past jumps into her future. Callum’s bleeding, dirty, and…hot. Together, they must discover how to send Callum home before rival time travelers kill him to protect their secrets. And Abby must decide if a life in the past with Callum is worth enduring bad hygiene and possible death by plague, let alone leaving everyone she loves behind. Excerpt: Why did I let Javi talk me into wearing this outfit to school? Some BFF he is. My necktie’s too tight, my schoolgirl skirt keeps riding up, and even over a white collared shirt, my V-necked sweater’s itchy. The Halloween costume—and the taunting—have worn thin. Sarah joins me at the lockers, the once-a-year coat of paint already chipping from the humid Texas weather. She’s got a nice boyfriend and shiny hair and if we hadn’t been friends forever, I’d probably hate her. My green eyes have always been the jealous type. But her boyfriend’s my brother. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe our let’s-discuss-anything-except-boys-relationship. After making sure we’re alone, I slip Sarah the contraband in a paper bag. “Abby, what’s…?” She opens the bag and laughs. “You need a paper bag for Outlander?” My cheeks heat up. “It’s Mom’s. There are some…intense…scenes in it.” Not that Mom will notice it’s gone. She’s on call at the hospital so much, it’s like living with a roommate instead of a parent. “Awesome.” Sarah shuts her locker. “You going to the game tomorrow?” Sticking my tongue out, I unclip the necktie and wrap my frizzed-out hair into a bun. “Obviously.” Of course I’m going to the game tomorrow. Every. Single. Friday. Because football is the main religion in Texas, and I’m a front-pew fan. Not of the game, exactly. Just one tight end in...

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PW #347: Young Adult Fantasy: BONEWOOD

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Brianna Shrum Mentee Name: Emily Neal Title: BONEWOOD Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 98,000 Pitch: STRANGER THINGS meets THE SCORPIO RACES—Sixteen-year-old Miran Salek must hunt for a cure to the taint blackening her brother’s veins inside the Bonewood, a forest haunted by nightmares, before he infects their entire island. Excerpt: I pull my boot out of the heavy snow and prop my heel on my knee. Cold and wet soak my sock as I find the small split at the heel. Well, that’s just sterling. The fresh, crunchy white is bright enough to blind with the sun breaking through the naked branches. It was a beautiful morning, off the island, no chores, no helping Da cobble shoes together, but now I’ve got two hours of walking ahead of me with an ice cube for a foot. “Miran!” “Here,” I say. “Cut the shouting.” I glare at the beanpole in front of me. My stepmother Arica likes to say Konnor Mackenzay has a face chiseled by the gods, but to me he’s out of proportion. Like he stretched instead of growing like a normal boy. Konnor shrugs his coat straight, pretending I didn’t just scare him out of his trous. The black leather of his uniform is buffed and buckled and winking in the high sun, the Mackenzay crest stamped on the shoulder. His severe look doesn’t faze me a bit. Apprentice guard or no, it’s hard to take someone seriously once you’ve pushed them into a canal. “Keep up.” I’m barely four feet behind him and his long legs. “Pull that stick out of your ass.” “We’re miles from the river, eejit.” He pushes his hair back. The too long curls burn russet in the sun. “If I have a stick up my ass, it’s because I don’t want to...

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PW #348: Young Adult Fantasy: FOUR DEAD QUEENS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Mara Rutherford and Joan He Mentee: Astrid Scholte Title: FOUR DEAD QUEENS Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 87,000 Pitch: Ruthless thief Keralie becomes entangled in deadly politics after witnessing the murders of her world’s four queens, captured on disk. The information could be rewarded with lifesaving medicine for the boy she loves, but escaping the palace alive will be her greatest heist yet. RED QUEEN meets SIX OF CROWS. Excerpt: The morning sun caught the palace’s golden dome, flooding the Concord with light. While everyone halted their business and glanced up—as though it were a sign from the four queens themselves—we perched overhead like vultures, ready to swoop in and pick them apart. “That one,” Mackiel said after studying the street below from the café’s rooftop. He jerked his chin toward a woman in a burgundy dress. I snorted at the dirty footprints on the cobblestones behind her. All I’d find in an Archian’s pockets was grain and lint. “Don’t patronize me. Who’s my real target?” The air here was thick with the stench of musty water. Beyond the central square were connections across the marsh to Quadara’s four regions. Mackiel scratched at his collar with beringed fingers, a nervous habit. But I was his best dipper, slipping in and out of pockets with a feather-light touch. I’d never let him down. “Him,” he said finally, his brown eyes landing on the back of a dark-clad figure. The target was clearly Eonist. While we Torians were rugged up in layers to ward off the biting chill, he wore a tight-fitting black dermasuit, an Eonist fabric made of millions of microorganisms that maintained body temperature with their secretions. Gross, but handy. “A messenger?” I flashed Mackiel a hard look. “You sure?” He flicked a charm on my silver dipper bracelet. “Yes, luv. You’re ready.” “His comm disk?” He nodded. “And remember—” “Get in quick. Get out...

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PW #349: Young Adult Contemporary with Supernatural Elements: SHADOWS CAST BY DREAMS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name:  Heather Ezell Mentee Name: Rachel Griffin Title: SHADOWS CAST BY DREAMS Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary with Supernatural Elements Word Count: 62,000 Pitch: When a car accident triggers a series of shared dreams, Rain loses herself in a place where her memories intersect with those of the mysterious boy involved in the crash. Rain is haunted by his world of secrets, but fears a life-saving surgery will result in the only thing more terrifying than the dreams themselves– losing them, and the boy she’s come to love. Inception meets IF I STAY Excerpt: Swamp green. That’s the color Mom thinks her eyes are, which is ridiculous of course. Mom’s eyes are hazel, dark brown rings that burst into rays of brilliant gold and melt into jade. They look like planets, something you’d see through a telescope late at night. Saturn, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Laura Singer’s Eyes. I add a touch more brown to my palette, swirling it around until Mom’s eye color is in perfect paint form. My brush slides across the canvas, and soon her planet is hanging in a sea of stars. Mom’s birthday is next week, and I can’t wait to see the look on her face when I give her this painting and tell her it’s how her eyes have always looked to me, like badass uncharted territory all of humanity wants to explore. She’s been cracking jokes about crow’s feet and gray hair, but underneath all the jokes it’s clear it bothers her. The best part is that she won’t be expecting anything: my surgery is in three days, and it’s all Mom thinks about. I doubt she even knows her birthday is coming up. If everything goes well, I’ll give Mom the painting and she’ll be floored when she realizes I planned ahead. And if I die, well, Mom will find the painting in my room and likely form an unhealthy emotional attachment to...

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PW #350: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy: A MUSE DARK AND WILD

Manuscript Status: Two Weeks Delivery Mentor Name: Kelly Ann Hopkins Mentee Name: Cass L. Scotka Title: A MUSE DARK AND WILD Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy (Contemporary) Word Count: 93,000 Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Hazel is a Wild—a rare, all-powerful Muse—born to inspire humanity’s greatest achievements. When her sister kills their mother, Hazel flees to California, where her murderous sister shadows her new life. Hazel must straddle the thin line of revenge and unbridled power, risking embracing darkness or suffering the same brutal end as her mother. Excerpt: The cheerful wreath of yellow flowers rattled as I shut the front door. “Mom! Dad, I’m home.” I kicked off my sandals and tossed my messenger bag under the coatrack. “Won’t need you for the next three months.” I did a hip-shimmy of happiness. Mom flew down the hall and pounced on me, her pale blue sundress swishing around her legs. “There’s my senior girl!” “Mom, I’m not really a senior until school starts again in the fall.” I sniffed the air. “What’s that smell?” “Lilies,” Mom said with a smile. A ginormous bouquet of purple stargazer lilies dwarfed the kitchen table, towering over the bowl of oranges. Dad bought Mom flowers every Friday, but he’d gone big for their anniversary weekend. “Holy crap! That’s crazy huge.” Her bright blue eyes crinkled at the corners as she grinned, goofy and love-struck. “Your father spoils me.” The flowers’ spicy fragrance tingled my nose. “What number anniversary is this?” “Lucky number four hundred and thirteen.” Sunlight set her flame-red hair alight as she watered a pot of rosemary on the window ledge. A pang of unbidden loneliness ached in my chest as a vision of steel-gray eyes and blond hair filled my mind. Adam. My future Guardian, just like Dad was to Mom. A Muse’s other half. My soulmate throughout our thousand year lives. Like all Guardians, Adam could seek me out in my dreams.  So why hadn’t he visited my nights in over a...

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PW #351: Young Adult Contemporary Verse: SAVING SUNDANCE

Manuscript status: Finished Mentor Name: Joy McCullough Mentee Name: Liz Heywood Title: SAVING SUNDANCE Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Verse Word Count: 24,000 Pitch: Maddy’s Christian Scientist friend Hope has always used prayer instead of medicine. But when Hope develops a life-threatening infection, her mother won’t get her badly needed medical help. If Maddy betrays Hope and forces a medical intervention, it will end their friendship. But if she doesn’t? Hope will die. Excerpt: Almost-Sixteen is not too old for my friend Hope and me to turn ourselves into mustangs. White mane hairs and horse sweat mat our jeans, the high-tide mark of our bareback adventure on my live equine. Now my horse watches us sprint past. Hope is swift but she slows to let me catch her. Our hoofs thunder through the pasture. Hope gallops faster. It’s as if ears pricked, nostrils flared, she’s a prey animal scanning for disaster. The sun slants farewell. We gulp for air. Our sneakers pound ground grazed bare, a sound we own as wild filly-steeds, freed by this grace and speed fused into our nearly-sixteen-year-old bones.   Back On a November Morning before it all starts, that particular day, the first morning of deer season, the sunlight sweet-talks me into leaving my bright-red hoodie at home. The storm door bangs behind me in the anthem of freedom called Saturday. Beyond the creek, crows shout an invitation. Mom yells from our trailer. Stay out of the woods, Maddy. Her words blow away.   I Keep to the Path next door on my everyday expedition behind Jensens’ shabby farmhouse. Broken glass, rusted pipes rolls of wire are everywhere. Sunlight gleams on smashed windshields. Weeds swallow old truck bodies. Grapevines reach to wrap the back porch like tentacles of the Kraken dragging it down. The hulk of barn flakes paint the way my white horse sheds his hair every spring: by the handful. Now he waits by the gate and...

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PW #352: Young Adult Contemporary: NOT HER STORY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Brenda Drake and Heather Cashman Mentee Name: Kara McDowell Title: NOT HER STORY Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 73,000 Pitch: Cute boy, Max, doesn’t recognize Claire from her mother’s blog, so she hides her fame. When Claire poses as someone’s girlfriend for publicity, Max steps away. After uncovering her mother’s dangerous secret, Claire considers using it to end the blog and get her life and Max back–if she’s willing to take her mom down with it. Excerpt: There are more pictures of me on the internet than works of art in The Louvre. Just when I thought I’d read every insane theory the message boards have to offer, DixonDummies16 claims my image is pervasive enough to fill the world’s largest museum. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever read about myself, which is saying something. Apparently, my mouth is too big for my face, my hair always looks worse on Thursdays, and there is a small but devoted faction of people who believe that my twin sister and I aren’t really related. I shut off my phone and toss it to the foot of my bed. Maybe it’s true (the Louvre thing, not the sister thing, obviously), but I’m not narcissistic enough to have counted. Besides, there are only so many hours in a day. But the stranger who wrote it swears it’s a conservative estimate, so maybe some people have more time than I do. Let me be clear. I’ve never done anything interesting or important, like star in a movie or compete in the Olympics. I wake up every day in a sinfully boring town in the middle of the desert and go to school with three thousand other kids who are pretty much exactly the same as I am. The only reason people want to look at pictures of me is because I was born into the right family. Or the wrong family, depending on who you ask....

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PW #353: Young Adult West-African Fantasy (Own Voices): CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Ashley Hearn Mentee: Tomi Adeyemi Title: CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE Category/Genre: Young Adult West-African Fantasy (Own Voices) Word Count: 105,000 Pitch: With magic, Zélie’s family could stand against the royal guard. Her people wouldn’t live in fear. Her mom wouldn’t have hanged from that tree. Years after the king wiped magic out of Orïsha, Zélie has one chance to bring it back. To do so, she’ll have to outwit/outrun the crown prince, who’s hell-bent on erasing magic for good. AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER meets BLACK LIVES MATTER. Excerpt: When I think of her I think of rice. When Mama was around, the hut always smelled of jollof rice. I think about the way her face glowed like the summer sun, the way her smile made Dad come alive. I hear the myths she would read to me at night. Zain’s spurts of laughter when they played abgön in the mountain park. Dad’s cries as they put the rope around her neck. Her screams as they dragged her into the dark. The incantations that spewed from her mouth like lava—the magic of death that left her astray. I think about the way her corpse hung from that tree. I think about the king who took her away. CHAPTER ONE Pick me. It’s all I can do not to scream. I dig my nails into the marula oak of my staff and squeeze to keep from fidgeting. Beads of sweat drip down my back, but I can’t tell if it’s from the morning heat or my heart slamming against my chest. Week after week I’ve been passed over. Today can’t be the same. I tuck a lock of snow-white hair behind my ear and do my best to sit still. As always, Mama Agba makes this selection grueling, staring at each girl just long enough to make us squirm.                      ...

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