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PAPfest Entry – CURSEBREAKER

TITLE: CURSEBREAKER

GENRE: YA Urban/Modern Fantasy

WORD COUNT: 80,000 words

QUERY:

Cursebreakers are the first responders to the devastation left by the magic of angry creatures of myth. Morgan is the only born Cursebreaker in the region and she thinks of it as more of a janitorial position where she’s hired to do clean-up. She runs an agency with her Gramps, but business is on the rocks. It’s hard to make a living in the modern world when your clients don’t have bank accounts.

Nicholas, her latest client and a prince who thinks he’s really charming, becomes her assistant when he can’t pay off his debt and creates more problems than he fixes. To make matters worse, her snake-turned-boy childhood friend, Sadler, is suddenly acting suspicious while the official supernatural police force is interfering with business.

Now the Collector, a hunter who kills and drains his victims for their magic, plans to add Morgan’s ability to his already expansive collection of powers. Morgan doesn’t know who to trust when she finds out that Prince Nicholas has secrets of his own, and a close connection to the Collector despite being asleep for the past 1000 years.

CURSEBREAKER is an 80,000 word humorous urban fantasy for young adults told from multiple perspectives. It incorporates fairy tale elements and folklore to tell an unconventional romance of a heroine and her prince in distress.

I’m very active in the Boston writing community as an associate of the Boston Public Library, a member of SCBWI and PEN New England. I received my Bachelor of Arts from Simmons College in English Literature and Writing in 2008. My favorite hobby is studying old fairy tales.

FIRST 200:

The witch had telekinesis. That hadn’t shown up in Morgan’s research.

Morgan hit the ground hard, barely missing the three latte mugs flying at her. They shattered harmlessly against the wall as the witch’s face contorted in rage. Yeah, the lady was pretty pissed.

The polished floorboards of Six Swans Coffee were strewn with large white feathers. Turning the owners into swans—You had to admire the witch’s sense of irony.

Making sure her leather bag o’ supplies was still with her, Morgan ducked behind the counter, dodging another flying ceramic. There they were, six large white swans honking softly. One of them saw her first and the rest twitched their heads to her in unison, beady eyes watching her expectantly. “I have those shirts you ordered, guys,” Morgan said softly.

Morgan hadn’t brought proper supplies for defeating an angry witch, but she had some stuff to at least ward her off temporarily. She quickly lined the counter with a brass bell, a quartz crystal, and a clove of garlic from her bag. The witch dove after her too late. Wards and charms were great for minor offensive magic, but it wouldn’t hold for long.

PAPfest Entry – HIDDEN DEEP

TITLE: HIDDEN DEEP

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

WORD COUNT: 84,000

QUERY:

HIDDEN DEEP is complete at 84,000 words and won the 2012 Maggie Unpublished contest in the YA division. It is set in a version of our present world where beautiful and powerful Elves use glamour enhanced by modern technology to cover their existence and get whatever they want.

Sixteen-year-old Ryanne Carroll has just run into the guy who saved her life ten years ago. You might think she’d be happy to see him again. Not exactly. She’s a bit underdressed (as in skinny-dipping), and he’s not supposed to exist.

After her father’s affair, all Ryanne wants is to escape the fallout of family implosion and find a little peace. She also wouldn’t mind a first date that didn’t suck, but she’s determined to make sure she protects her heart and never ends up like her mom: vulnerable, betrayed, destroyed. Ryanne has recently moved back to her childhood hometown in rural Mississippi, the same place where ten years earlier she became lost in the woods overnight and nearly died.

She’s still irresistibly drawn to those woods. There she encounters the boy who kept her from freezing to death that long ago winter night and was nowhere to be seen when rescuers arrived. He’s still mysterious, but now all grown-up and gorgeous, too. And the more she’s with him, the greater the threat he poses to Ryanne’s strict policy– never want someone more than he wants you.

Seventeen-year-old Ladd knows the law of his people all too well: Don’t get careless and Don’t get caught. It’s allowed the Light Elves to live undetected in this world for thousands of years, mentioned only in flawed and fading folklore. Ladd’s never been able to forget about Ryanne since that night ten years ago. When he sees her again, his fascination re-ignites and becomes a growing desire that tempts him to break all the rules. He’s not even supposed to talk to a human, much less fall in love with one.

And the timing is atrocious. The Assemblage is coming, the rift between the Light and Dark Elves is widening. Ladd may have to trade his own chance at happiness to keep the humans, especially Ryanne, blissfully ignorant and safe.

I envision Hidden Deep as the first part of a triology, though it can stand alone. I think readers who enjoyed the fated love vs. forbidden love story of Unearthly and the mysterious contemporary fantasy elements of Beautiful Creatures and Evermore will respond to Hidden Deep.

My previous writing samples were broadcast daily to thousands of people (though the word count was considerably lower!) through my work as a news anchor and reporter in Mississippi, Tennessee, California, and Rhode Island.

FIRST 200:

NOT HYPOTHERMIA

The first time I saw him, everyone convinced me he was a hallucination caused by hypothermia. It was the second time that really messed me up.

* * *

It was only mid-morning, but I couldn’t wait anymore. The need to get out there had grown stronger each day since we’d returned. With everything my mom had going on today, maybe she wouldn’t give me an argument this time. The screen door slammed behind me with a loud creak and double-bouncing bang.

“Ryanne? You going out?”

I exhaled loudly, then turned and faced my mother as she followed me out onto the back porch. She was dressed in her new red interview suit, a face full of going-somewhere makeup, and her hair up in clips where she’d been straightening it in sections. She’d rushed to the door in her stocking feet, causing a fresh run to start near her big toe.

“I left a note on the counter. Just going for a walk—you know.” I shrugged. No big deal. I glanced down and nodded toward her foot. “You’d better change those.”

“Shoot!” She hiked up her skirt and started ripping off the pantyhose.

PAPfest Entry – DOUBLE-CROSSED

TITLE: DOUBLE-CROSSED

GENRE: MG Adventure

WORD COUNT: 55,000

QUERY:

Stray has just blown his sister’s chance at the scholarship of a lifetime, and their father’s old pirate stories may be the only way to set things right. One stolen death certificate, a caged research assistant (he totally had it coming!), and an unearthed grave later, Stray faces his first real challenge. His sister wants to join the treasure hunt. Along with three friends—and one reluctant enemy—the siblings inch closer to a stash long dismissed as legend. In turn, two modern-day pirates hunt a prize of their own. Stray. And they’ll gladly kill anyone who tries to stop them.

DOUBLE-CROSSED (55,000 words) is a middle grade adventure rooted in the history and legends of my hometown, Amelia Island, Florida. This tiny island has flown eight different flags, including two hoisted by pirates who changed the course of Florida history. Following in these illustrious footsteps, I routinely pillage the local library and procured a degree in Modern Treasure (a.k.a. Finance) after forcing its previous owner to walk the plank.

Like THE GOONIES and the more recent SUPER 8, DOUBLE-CROSSED is driven by character relationships, which are illuminated—and tested—by each plot twist and danger. I hope the sample below leaves you wanting more.

FIRST 200:

CHAPTER ONE: STRAY MESSES UP. BIG TIME.

In 1817, notorious con artist Gregor MacGregor set sail for Spanish Florida, where he conquered the quiet island of Amelia. Scallywags and thieves immediately overran the tiny port, filling MacGregor’s coffers with their ill-gotten spoil. As U.S. troops closed in, determined to restore order, MacGregor fled, but not before meeting with fellow pirate Luis Aury.

To this day, no one knows what occurred during this meeting aboard Aury’s ship, the Congresso Mexicano. All anyone can say for sure is that, when the U.S. finally arrived, Aury claimed to be destitute – and MacGregor’s loot had vanished.

Two zillion and eleven.

That’s how many times Amee had repeated that story to sunburnt tourists at her dad’s Amelia Museum of Piracy.

But never again. Not after today.

All she had to do was ace the Ramirez Sporting Goods scholarship contest, and she’d be free. She glanced over at her biggest competition, beach-bum Greg Johannsen. His genius idea for community improvement was park benches made out of old surfboards.

Amee had this in the bag.

Amelia High’s air conditioner labored against the May heat, sounding like a dragon snoring on the roof. News cameras flanked the walls, all trained on the Ramirezes.

PAPfest Entry – THE STONETALKER

TITLE: THE STONETALKER

GENRE: MG Fantasy

WORD COUNT: 57,000

QUERY:

Birthdays shouldn’t be this tough.

But ever since his dad died, Asher thinks they’d be a heck of a lot better with him around. On his 13th birthday his mom gives him a pretty unusual present. An old pin that belonged to his father.

And that’s when everything changes.

Strangers start showing up at his school. Objects begin moving around on their own. Mysterious creatures keep lurking around every corner.

And when Asher gets chased into a world called Eden Worn through his school’s boiler room, he finds out why. It’s because his dad’s not really dead. He’s being held prisoner by Lord Balor. A madman who wants something of Asher’s. Something Asher doesn’t even know he has: the key to using the magic from the ancient Stones in Eden Worn.

Asher has to make a decision. If he leaves Eden Worn, he’ll never see his dad again. But making a deal with Lord Balor could mean the end of both worlds as he knows it.

Nope. Birthdays shouldn’t be this tough.

I am an award winning screenwriter and a member of SCBWI. By night I’m an avid fiction reader and writer. By day I teach at a public school where I keep an eye on our own boiler room door. I haven’t discovered any worlds beyond the mass of old desks and tables that lie behind it.

Yet.

FIRST 200:

Asher ran his thumb across the blade.

It was sharp. Really sharp.

The light reflected off the edge and the steel sliced right through it. He smiled. Even the light didn’t stand a chance against the weapon in his hand.

His eyes narrowed and he leaned in for the attack. His heart pounded in his chest. He raised the blade and took a deep breath.

“This better work.”

And then he struck.

Asher dragged the razor blade down his cheek. A trail of freshly shaved skin appeared beneath the thick layer of shaving cream. This was way easier than he thought it was gonna be. He put the blade under the running water to knock off the bunched up foam and went in for round two. He pulled the blade down again. A white-hot pinch of pain seared his chin.

Asher sucked in a sharp breath and dropped the razor in the sink. A bead of blood welled up under his lower lip. The sting was a whole heck of a lot bigger than the tiny cut. He splashed water all over his face and watched the shaving cream swirl down the drain.

He looked at himself in the mirror.

Contest Woes: I Feel Your Pain

Tomorrow morning, the PAPfest entries will go live on my blog as well as Mindy McGinnis’s and MarcyKate Connolly’s.

If any of the entrants are reading this post, I imagine some of you are old hands at such contests, while others may be contest newbies. Either way, I want you to keep my own contest experiences in mind.

Some blog readers may remember that last spring’s Writer’s Voice contest was a big part of the big, crazy frenzy that resulted in me signing with my agent less than two weeks later. I had several requests from participating agents, lurking agents, and through a handful of queries I’d sent just before the contest went live.

Super-awesome, right? Dream come true, right?

Yes.

But.

I almost didn’t enter.

I’d tried another similar contest for two years straight (different manuscripts) and nary a peep from an agent either time. Not so much as a request for five measly pages. There’d been a “preliminary” round beforehand, and I’d gotten through that both times. Someone had at least sort of liked my work.

Hard to remind myself of that with the silence surrounding me.

The silence hurt more than any number of query rejections. Mindy can tell you about talking me off the ledge those days.

But I did come down off that ledge. I kept writing, kept learning, kept working, and eventually it all came together. (Now I have the same old insecurities in whole new ways, but that’s another story.)

I’d love it if every entry tomorrow gets requests. I hope that happens. But if it doesn’t, those of you who receive the silence, I understand. It’s okay to be bummed and let it hurt … for a little while. A good critique partner will let you wallow in it just long enough, and then they’ll remind you it’s not the end. You’re still awesome. That awesomeness can only come out if you keep putting it out there, one way or another.

Send some queries.

Revise some pages.

Work on a new project.

Just keep going.

Does It Matter If You Ever Use It, Specifically?

“When are we ever going to use this?”

Every math teacher’s probably heard this at least once, and during some units, at least once a day. (There were years where I never heard it. How I long to go back to teaching that way. But I digress…)

Here’s the answer I’ve taken to giving my students. It’s three-part.

First, you may think right now that you won’t use this specific math concept, or any math other than basic percent calculations with money. You may think you know what career you’ll go into, and it’s not one that involves math even a tiny bit. But when I was your age, I said the very last thing I would be was a teacher. When I passed my AP Calculus exam so my general math requirements for college were taken care of, I said, “Yes! I never have to take math again!”

Moral #1: It doesn’t hurt to keep your options open. The more you learn—in all areas—the more doors you have available to you in the future.

Second, no, most of you will never have to do a geometric proof after finishing high school. You may never factor another quadratic equation after that, either, or sketch another box-and-whisker plot. But how often in life do you need to bench-press a hundred-pound barbell? Rarely if ever? So, why do so many people do weight training? To strengthen muscles so they will be able to use them in various other ways when needed.

Moral #2: Math builds up a part of your brain that might otherwise atrophy. Logical reasoning skills are always useful, and just like Chris Hemsworth’s biceps, they don’t magically appear from nowhere.

Third, why are you asking this in the first place? Are you really concerned with whether this is something you’re going to use specifically in your everyday life? I’m pretty sure if you isolate specific tasks in most of your other classes, you’ll find they don’t mirror the activities of most adults. (I promise I haven’t written a five-paragraph essay since high school.) I think you’re really asking because I’m presenting you with something that isn’t instantly easy for you. Your instinct, therefore, is to avoid something that requires effort unless you can see a direct need for doing it.

Moral #3: There is value in struggling. Many things are only worth the effort they require, making easy things pretty worthless. As for the direct need for doing it, see Moral #2.

This is a little ranty, but there’s been a silver lining to these conversations lately. I rarely get through more than a sentence or two of one of my reasons before another student in the class pipes up with why they think it’s important for them to learn the concept, even if it isn’t obviously applicable to “real life.”

Bless those long-sighted teenagers.

P.S. To be fair, I also have some students who ask the same question, but in a different way. They sincerely want to know the applications of a particular mathematical concept, because they like to see the bigger picture, to get an idea of how it’s all connected. And that’s always a question I’m happy to answer.