PW #359: Young Adult Historical Fantasy: FAMINELAND

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Names: Katie Bucklein and Megan Lally Mentee Name: Julia Darcey Title: FAMINELAND Category: Young Adult Genre: Historical Fantasy Word Count: 105,000 Pitch: In an England where World War I never ended, chemical weapons have created an army of mutant cannibals fighting to enslave humanity. Cannibal hunter Kimae is determined to defeat them with her father’s weapon: a poison that kills maneaters, and leaves humans alive. But to find it, she must unite with the one “person” who knows where her father died: the cannibal who devoured him. Excerpt:  Kimae fought the air. Landing blow after blow, she battled an imaginary maneater in the narrow canyon between her bed and the wall. Sweat beaded on her skin as she struck again and again with a knife she didn’t have but remembered so well she could feel the hilt, warm in her palm. Training in secret had paid off: her jabs came as fierce and fast as they had a year ago, when they brought her here from the wilderness, barely alive. The bonelicker fell in an arc of blood, and she stood over him, breath ragged. Muscles twitching, she cranked open the window and let the cold sea air sing over her slick skin. With the breeze came a sudden longing for the hunt, for the hush of the Blight falling in the woods, blown back by the billows of her fire. She craned her head out the window, eyeing the dull gray of the cobblestones below. Fifteen feet, perhaps. A drop she could survive. In the Institute, she was just another orphan. Out there, she’d been a cannibal killer. After a year of hiding from revenge, it was finally time to chase it. This time, she told herself, she’d find the cannibal who murdered her father. This time, she’d sink her father’s knife into his neck. This time, she wouldn’t end up half-dead in a pool of her own...

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PW #360: Young Adult Historical: DANGEROUS ALLIANCE

Manuscript Status: Three weeks delivery Mentor: Tobie Easton Mentee: Jennieke Cohen Title: DANGEROUS ALLIANCE Category/Genre: Young Adult Historical Word Count: 99,000 Pitch: Impetuous seventeen-year-old Victoria Aston wants nothing more than to live a pastoral existence on her family estate in Hampshire. But when her sister escapes an abusive husband, Vicky has no choice but to find a husband of her own who will keep her brother-in-law from laying claim to their lands. Amidst the glittering ballrooms of Georgian London’s high society, Vicky must choose between the boy who broke her heart and the man who loves her now, all while keeping herself from falling into a DANGEROUS ALLIANCE. Excerpt: The lichen-kissed stone dropped onto the rock pile with a hollow clack. Lady Victoria Aston rested her aching hands on the rough stone. She wiped her muddy palms down the front of her thighs, smearing muck onto her father’s old tan breeches. When attempting to save the lives of a particularly bothersome flock of sheep, one had to make sacrifices. With two more sizeable stones, she would close the gap in the wall. Then she could scour Oakbridge’s 6,562 acres for the estate shepherd. Vicky narrowed her eyes at a shaggy old ewe: one of many she’d found out of bounds in the neighboring pasture. They’d jumped over the crumbling gap and gobbled a patch of indigestible clover. Soon, their bellies would bloat, and without the shepherd’s aid, they would certainly perish. Inhaling the clean morning air, redolent with the perfume of freshly drying grass, Vicky bent for another rock. Movement far in the distance caught her eye. Vicky squinted. Amid the emerald green fields on the other side of the wall, a rider in a russet coat and dark top hat cantered adjacent to a short hedgerow. She couldn’t see his face, but his bearing looked familiar. She blinked. No. It couldn’t be him. Not Tom Sherborne. Fate wouldn’t be so cruel....

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PW #361: Young Adult Contemporary LGBT: EVERYTHING IS EPHEMERAL

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Judi Lauren Mentee: Alice Reeds Title: EVERYTHING IS EPHEMERAL Category/Genre:  Young Adult Contemporary LGBT Word Count: 87,000 words Pitch: When boyfriends Joey and Benji embark on their first European tour promoting their debut album, Joey’s happiness slowly begins faltering as he struggles with inexplicable sadness and negativity. Insecure, he keeps it hidden from Benji, until Joey passes out on stage during their London gig. Now he must face his diagnosis—severe depression—and learn to accept and manage it or else he and Benji could lose everything. Excerpt: Ever since Benji and I were twelve, we dreamed of becoming rock stars. We’d find our way onto the radio, get interviewed by some famous radio DJ, and show the world that we were the shit. But when our manager, Cody, pushed open the glass doors leading into the BBC Radio building, all I felt was anxiety, fear, and the ice cold need to run. Inside the building, I stopped to look at a 3D screen showing videos of the different DJs working. One of them walked toward the camera, stuck his tongue out, and then twirled out of the camera’s view. “Joey,” Benji said, his hand wrapping gently around my wrist a second later, pulling me away from the screen and toward our impatient manager standing near the elevator. As we walked I looked at him, into his beautiful brown eyes and the reassuring smile he gave me. Slowly, it calmed me down. A little. I was excited, of course I was, we’d been waiting for this chance for years, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be there, that I didn’t deserve to be there. But wasn’t this the outcome of the hard work Benji and I had put into our music since we were ten? It took us eight years of tears, anger, frustration, and dedication to be here, so why did I feel this...

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PW #362: Young Adult Historical Fantasy: SONG OF SULEIMAN

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Charlie Holmberg Mentee: Heather Elliott Title: SONG OF SULEIMAN Category/Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy Word Count: 93,000 Pitch: NATIONAL TREASURE meets ALADDIN when sixteen-year-old Israelite Peni discovers an ancient mystery hidden in the Song of Solomon. Desperate to escape her abusive betrothed, she disguises herself as a leper and travels the Persian Empire hunting King Solomon’s magic ring. Succeed, and she’ll win her freedom. Fail, and evil fire spirits only the ring can control will burn her world to ash. Excerpt: If I hadn’t almost died for Josef’s stolen lamb, I never would have met the Persian or learned of Suleiman’s lost scroll. Josef stopped me just outside the market in the Israelite quarter of Samaria City. The afternoon heat transformed the stench of the livestock pens into acrid steam, and even though I wore a linen gown, sweat trickled down my back. Josef dragged the toe of his frayed rope sandal through the road dust and refused to look at me as he muttered, “Mistress, my lamb was taken from her pen this afternoon. I was away. My wife did not see the thief.” I tensed, looking to see if anybody in the narrow street could overhear us, but the bawling from the sheep pens drowned out our conversation. Reassured, I glared at him in a way most disrespectful for a young, unmarried woman. Sixteen is not young when you have yet to bear children, Leah’s voice whispered in my mind, but I ignored it. I had a lot of practice doing that. “What do you expect me to do?” I hissed, although I knew what he expected—for me to find his lamb. I also knew my neighbors might kill me if I tried. Even so, longing parched my mouth. The mystery beckoned to me like a stream of fresh water to a woman lost in the desert....

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PW #363: Young Adult Contemporary: NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Manuscript Status: Six Weeks, Maximum Mentor: Dionne McCulloch & Fiona McLaren Mentee: Megan Peterson Title: NO PLACE LIKE HOME Category/Genre: Young AdultContemporary Word Count: 72,000 Pitch: 17-year-old Piper isn’t just the beloved daughter of a freak show family; she also wants to be its main attraction. When she’s kidnapped and held prisoner by a woman who insists Piper call her “Mom,” her world shifts. Imagined and repressed memories surface and she must untangle them or risk never finding her family again. But the only thing worse than never going home is the fear she may already be there. WE WERE LIARS meets LIVING DEAD GIRL. Excerpt: A bed. A window seat. A chipped desk with daisy stickers on the drawers. These things belonged to me, I’m told. “Belong,” the woman emphasizes. “You chose the daisy stickers yourself.” She takes me from the room and down a hallway, the walls so close they want to crush me. She wears all beige and not a stitch of make-up. She’s probably in a religious cult that thinks only whores wear color. My bladder aches, and I can’t remember the last time I peed. Her shoes squeak against the floor, her skirt rustles. My ears ring from the roar of it all. The woman pushes open a door. “Go on in.” The white walls and floor blind me, and I blink until my eyes adjust. “I’ll leave you alone. There are clean towels in the cabinet and soap in the shower. Use whatever you like. This is your bathroom now.” She looks at me expectantly. Finally, the door closes, and the click echoes around the room. The urine soaks through my pants before I can get to the toilet. I stick out my middle finger, make sure whoever’s watching can see it. Mom told me this might happen. “The world can be an evil place,” she said. “I’m the only one you can trust. Me and your father. Never forget that.”...

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PW #364: Young Adult Fantasy: STARS AND REEDS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Kip Wilson Mentee Name: Sam Taylor Title: STARS AND REEDS Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 82,000 Pitch: Falsely accused of killing a wealthy merchant, Jameelah faces life in bondage unless she clears her name with star magic, a power inaccessible to Marsh Dwellers like herself. Her only hope of acquiring magic is to escape prison and ally with her childhood enemy Rashida, a star magician—and the merchant’s real murderer. Excerpt: Hazine finds me among the other sinners at the temple gates. She jostles through to my side and, with a wink, presses something smooth into my hand. “Want to try another spell tonight?” “Quiet down! You piping coot.” I glance around, but the guards are busy herding more prisoners to the temple. Still, I put my back to them before studying the stone on my palm. Hazine grins. “I’ve made new starstones.” That she has. I curl my fingers around the white ball of clay, my heart racing while my stomach knots. Then a guard stomps too near and I stuff the rock down my sleeve. “In line, Marsh Girl!” The man swings a staff toward my face. “The rites of penance are about to begin. Though I don’t know why the gods would care about a killer like you.” Heat flares in my chest and I clench my hands into fists. That brute is more killer than I. The remaining criminals emerge from squat work sheds; mud-brick huts squished together like segments of a wasp’s nest. Guards shove them into the crowd around the temple. I groan as someone elbows my back, aching from another day hunched over a loom. “Jameelah. Shall we try a spell or not?” Hazine nudges the stone in my sleeve. Her brown fingers are spotted with clay from an afternoon spent making pots. “Isn’t it magnificent? I have a dozen of them. I think we can summon some real magic...

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PW #365: Young Adult Science Fiction (Own Voices): EARTH TO LIA

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Isabel Davis Mentee Name: Christy Chao Title: EARTH TO LIA Category: Young Adult Own Voices Genre: Science Fiction Word Count: 75,000 Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Dahlia Yang-Lee is catapulted back in time and must outsmart space pirate Callum Davis to reclaim the artifact that’ll send her home. Historically, Lia knows Cal’s story doesn’t end happily. With time working against her and Cal’s looming death, Lia must defy history to save the pirate she’s falling for before her chances of returning home vanish. Excerpt: The gun clicks and I grin. So much for acting like a professional. The charcoal black pistol fits perfectly in my palm. Sleek. Dangerous. Classy. The complete opposite of the grinning intern wielding a microfiber polishing cloth. The last cake of dirt comes off with a gentle swipe and crumbles into smaller fragments. I duck my head, pretending to search for a soft bristled cleaning brush before the security cameras catch me beaming at dirt. Again. I zip my jumpsuit higher as I lose another battle with goosebumps. It’s always a brisk 20.5 degrees Celsius in lab – great for the artifacts, not so much for the warm blooded non robots who work at the Smithsonian. But I shouldn’t be complaining. This is still a comfortable step up from the -270 degree environment outside our space station. My fingers uncurl reluctantly from the artifact when I set the gun down to enter Male_A077’s data into my glass tablet. “I’ll bet he never imagined the contents of his pockets would be so thoroughly analyzed.” I look up from my notes. My mentor, Sara, holds out a museum inventory tag. I attach the sticker to the pistol’s trigger. “Makes me wonder what kind of impression I’d leave on a future scientist studying the 33rd century if they found the half eaten granola bar stashed in my bag.”...

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PW #366: Young Adult Contemporary: LOVE LETTERS AND BROKEN THINGS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Jeanmarie Anaya Mentee: Erin Brambilla Title: LOVE LETTERS AND BROKEN THINGS Category/Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Word Count: 60,000 Pitch: Tori’s supposed to feel thankful. A horrific accident left her boyfriend Sanjay miraculously alive. But she wants to go back. Before the drunk driver and the traumatic brain injury. Before Sanjay was forever changed. Before she met Jude, whose kindness made her forget all she’d lost. And before she started lying—so she could keep them both. In heartfelt letters penned to each boy, Tori will come clean, even if it breaks everything she loves. Excerpt: Dear Jude, It is highly possible you’d be the love of my life, if only your timing wasn’t unfortunate. Not bad, or poor, or even awful, because being with you is none of those. Those words put the fault on you. This isn’t your fault, Jude. If the timing were different, I’d ship our names and write it hundreds of times in swirly cursive instead of writing this letter. But it’s not. So I won’t. We’re better off on our own. Just Tori Biggs. Jude Appleton. Without even an ampersand to connect us. You’re probably home by now. It’s been fifteen minutes since you closed my car door. Sixteen minutes since I refused to hold your hand. And seventeen minutes and six months of reasons for me to know this will never work. We can’t be together, Jude. I, specifically, can’t. I know evidence thus far points to the contrary. You deserve so much better than me. Somebody unbroken. Somebody whose heart is free to be yours. You deserve to hear the truth, because all I have ever done is lie to you. It will take hours and hours, but I’ll write you a letter for every time I lied. Until I tell you everything. It starts with a boy named Sanjay. It ends with a boy named Sanjay. And you fall somewhere in between.  ...

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PW #367: Young Adult Fantasy: COURT OF GLITTERING CRIMSON

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Lynnette Labelle and Destiny Cole Mentee Name: Meghan Jashinsky Title: COURT OF GLITTERING CRIMSON Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 75,000 words Pitch: Princess Skylla is a nightmare from which her kingdom will never wake. She’ll use their bones to clean her teeth and wear their intestines like ribbons. It’s the least they deserve after what they did to her family the night of the Slaughter. But the rebel leader Ariadne and her people refuse to continue living in fear. They must overthrow the princess, and this time, they’ll get it right. It’s THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER meets THE YOUNG ELITES. Excerpt: That imbecile got blood on my crown. I should have Ero’s fingers cut off for this. He’s worked for me long enough to know the consequences. Still, it’d be a shame to disfigure a body that impressive. Besides, this isn’t one of his usual responsibilities. I’ll give him one last chance. “I’m sorry, your Majesty.” He casts his dark eyes to the blood-stained floors. “You should be,” I say. “Fix the hem. It’s uneven.” He stumbles to the back of my train and gives me a look mingled with terror and awe. It sends a thrill down my spine. Days away from turning sixteen, the orphan princess has managed to strike fear into her own Captain of the Guard. They cower in my presence. I love it. I grin at my reflection, my teeth brilliant behind my black silken veil. Ero dips a syringe into one of the many buckets stationed around my dressing room, sucking up the thick blood....

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PW #368: Young Adult Contemporary: BETWEEN NEVER AND ALWAYS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: RuthAnne Snow Mentee Name: Tosha Sumner Title: BETWEEN NEVER AND ALWAYS Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Word Count: 83,000 Pitch: Track star Callie has spent her whole life outrunning rumors that her late father used performance enhancing drugs. Callie knows who her dad was—an honorable, fierce competitor. But when an injury derails Callie’s plans to attend an elite training camp, she’s not only stuck at home, she’s confronted with evidence that her father might not have been the hero she’s believed in after all. Excerpt: I could do anything for fifteen seconds. Ignoring the burning sensation engulfing my thighs and lungs, I pumped my arms and concentrated on staying two steps behind Reed Barkley as we rounded the last turn of the sunbaked track. “Go, Callie!” my teammates screamed from the infield. One hundred meters to go. Sweat from Reed’s soaked hair splattered my cheek. Running intervals with this smelly pack of guys was punishment for being the best high school miler in North Carolina and one of the top ten girls in the country, but every torturous millisecond would be worth it when I finally won States. “Forty-eight, forty-nine,” Coach Torpey yelled from the finish line. “Last one. Pick it up!” This was the point where most people would consider quitting. I dug deeper, focused on outrunning the “Whitfield Curse” that would haunt me until I won that elusive State title. False start freshman year. Tripped on the final lap as a sophomore. This would be my year. Or I’d die trying, because I’d heard the whispers, seen the tweets, and read the comments on MileSplit about me being doomed by a bad streak of luck that someone thought deserved a special name — the annoyingly harsh Whitfield Curse. Zach Rigsby glanced over his shoulder as Reed passed him, probably wondering if he could hold me off. “Shit,” he gasped as I overtook him with twenty meters to go....

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PW #369: Young Adult Fantasy (with LGBT+ elements): A BOUNTY OF RUNAWAYS

Manuscript Status: Six Weeks Delivery Mentor Name: Jamie Pacton & M.K. England Mentee Name: Nicole A. Brake Title: A BOUNTY OF RUNAWAYS Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy (with LGBT+ elements) Word Count: 70,000 Pitch: When lady bounty hunters Annora and Hellion add wanted-dead-or-alive Carina to their trio, they inherit her problems, too: the vengeful husband she fled and the rival bounty hunters he hired. The solution? Find the ultimate bounty—the one who got away, who crippled Annora’s hand, who’s worth enough to buy Carina out of her marriage and fund the trio’s adventures for life. Unfortunately, he joined a royal tournament granting immunity to all competitors. He’s untouchable—unless they join, too. Excerpt: Annora was in no mood to hunt scoundrels. Every inch of her body ached like a giant throbbing bruise following their last job, and if the last eight months had taught her anything, it was that you can always find new ways to hurt. Channeling her frustrations into her heels, she hurtled through the narrow alleyway. The bazaar pulsed around her, with rowdy vendors boasting of teas to quench the desert’s thirst and street children squabbling over shady stoops—prime real estate in these forsaken parts. Another cruel day in the Borderlands: bloody scrapes, sweaty mayhem, and dry, cracked lips. Another day of trying to keep up with Hellion, who chased the most wanted siblings in Gaurida like it took no more effort than climbing from her bed in the morning. “Quit dawdling,” Hellion called, amusement in her voice. Sweat was only now starting to break on her brow. “Gods, you’re smug.” Annora failed to keep the breathlessness from her voice. “Keep your eyes on the twins. Don’t even blink. ” Sweat pooled in her gloves, inching its way along her remaining fingers. “Not my first time, Nora.” The steel blades strapped to Hellion’s hips glittered under the sun’s unrelenting gaze as her golden brown limbs cut short, sharp movements through the alleyway. “Damn it! They’re heading to the pits.”...

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PW #370: Young Adult Alternate History (Diverse): A COURT OF MIRACLES

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Names: Rosalyn Eves and Erin Summerill Mentee Name: Kit Grant Title: A COURT OF MIRACLES Category: Young Adult Genre: Alternate History, Diverse Word Count: 95,000 Pitch: Retelling of both LES MISERABLES and THE JUNGLE BOOK via Six Of Crows. The French Revolution has failed. In the violent jungle of a Paris divided between merciless royalty and criminal guilds, a cat-burglar must protect her sister from a ruthless slave lord. Excerpt: I watch Ettie out of the corner of my eye. Father will beat us if she doesn’t learn fast. And she is not a fast learner. The inn is roasting, too many bodies in too small a space. Voices merge into a dull roar. The air is thick with the scent of stale beer and sweet smoke from the pipes of the dreamers in the corner. Carrying drinks means navigating a maze of legs, wandering hands, and lecherous grins. Ettie knows to avoid the ones with the tattoos. Those are the ones you don’t want to trip over. Ettie struggles beneath the weight of an iron jug. Water sloshes with her unsteady steps. She wobbles. A large hand grips her shoulder, steadying her. “Not used to waiting on tables little one?” says a rough warm voice. My heart sinks into my boots. No, no, no… I drop empty tankards onto a table, ignoring the protests of the customers, and push through the crowded floor towards her. The man reaches for the jug of water and Ettie, relieved, lets him take it. Don’t look at him. She looks up, a golden curl escaping from her cap. She’s small and he is a giant of a man. He’s tanned, with yellow eyes, and hair bleached orange-blond from years spent on ships. The long, cording scars that cross like stripes from his forehead to cheek don’t take away from his magnetic charm. He smiles at Ettie, a smile that is all teeth, and god forgive her, she smiles back....

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