Monday, September 8, 2014


65,436 words
MG Paranormal Adventure

Dying once at the hands of one of history’s most notorious pirates is bad enough, but a second time?

Eleven-year-old Jase Byrne doesn’t want that. He already has the unfortunate distinction of being the smallest kid in his class with a tormentor who reminds him daily. When Jase stumbles upon an old metal box and an unlikely ally, visions of his past life are unlocked and reveal clues to a hidden treasure. Jase is convinced finding it will give him the validation he desires, and the long sought peace his ally desires.

But can he succeed when the ghost who killed him once aims to kill him again?

First Five Pages:


I can never resist a find. Something stuck in the mud may look like a piece of junk, but to me, it has potential to be a treasure.

Please be something awesome. I cross my fingers for luck and walk to the edge of the lake for a better look. My sneakers sink into the mud and the bottom of my jeans are wet, but it’s all in the interest of exploration. At least that’s what I’ll say when my parents complain. What do they expect when they force me to play outside?

I reach in, pull out a box, and rinse it off in the freezing water. It’s silver metal, tarnished, dented, and really, really old, probably as old as my parents, but still worth keeping. My fingers tingle when I think of what could be inside.

I examine each side of the box, the gold lock, and initials. Too bad they aren’t JB because everyone would think it’s for my name, Jase Byrne. I trace the ET engraved on top; a coldness touches my fingertip, then creeps through my hand and up my arm. An icy breeze tickles my neck, and I whip around. No one’s there.

I’m fumbling with the lock that refuses to open when a booming voice invades my peaceful afternoon. My hands freeze.

It’s the enemy.

“Hey Jase, let me ask you something. Are you sure you’re eleven, because my five-year-old cousin is bigger than you,” Luke taunts.

“Yeah, and can beat him up too,” Ross says and laughs like his friend is some big comedian.

There they are, near the street, in faded jeans that sag so low, if they bend over, they’ll show things no fifth grader wants to see.

“Ha ha, you’re so funny.” I turn and stuff the box in my pocket. Don’t they have candy to steal from little kids or something?

Luke and Ross stand there, two bulldozers ready to dig a hole and bury me. I clench my hands and picture myself charging Luke and knocking him to the ground. Can I do it? Maybe if it wasn’t two against one. I sigh. Who am I kidding?

Time to find an escape route. First choice is the street toward my house, but they’re blocking the way. I can swim across the lake to someone else’s backyard, but even though the sun is shining, it’s still January in North Carolina, and that brings up the issue of freezing to death.

Luke and Ross step toward me.

I back up and consider my options again. The street and the lake. Then the breeze whispers a third choice.

“Hey Jase, you wanna go swimming? What do you think Ross, you take his arms and I’ll take his legs?”

“Yeah Luke, great idea. In the lake,” Ross says.

“There’s nowhere else for you to go, Jase.”

Even Luke doesn’t want to think about choice three.

No one goes there.

The tunnel.

My stomach churns at the thought. The tunnel itself isn’t the problem; it’s where it ends up that worries me. The woods. Where ghosts and zombies live. At least that’s what the rumor is. I heard it from my best friend’s sister, who heard it from her boyfriend’s cousin. Supposedly, there’s a headless girl in there searching for a new head, and a coal miner with a pickax. I haven’t believed in that kind of stuff since I was a little kid. But, what if I’m wrong?

The boys inch closer; their claws ready for action.

My feet start to freeze in the lake. There’s no other choice. I zip my jacket all the way up and put the hood on to hide my head. A kid can never be too careful. I scamper out of the lake as fast as my soaked jeans will let me and scoot along the edge into the tunnel’s entrance.

“Hey, where are you going?” Luke yells.

Except for the squish of my sneakers, I don’t make a sound. I don’t even breathe. I focus more on the path than who’s behind me, or what’s in front. I step over jagged rocks, use the concrete walls for support, and try not to look at the spray-painted pictures of women on them. Except to make sure my hands don’t land on a place they shouldn’t. Maybe they’ll slow Luke and Ross down, but chances are they’ve already seen stuff like this.

“We’re going to follow him in there?” Ross asks.

“Yeah. You can’t let him be braver than you.”

I’m running into the woods instead of fighting two eleven-year-old boys. I don’t think anyone would accuse me of being brave.

“Relax, Ross. Look at this lady, she’s beautiful,” Luke says.

I let out my breath. He’s so predictable.

“Quit it,” Ross says. “How can you make jokes? Aren’t you scared?”

I peek over my shoulder. Luke’s practically drooling, probably with the idea of pounding me into the ground. It’s too late to turn back so I look toward the woods hoping to see something inviting. Sunshine, flowers, anything. But it’s dark, and most of the trees are dead. My stomach’s doing flip-flops now. The cement walls are closing in. I have to get out of here.

I run through the tunnel and stop at the end. The path leads deeper into the woods, probably the way the zombies want their prey to go. Lure them into the darkness, snatch them, and suck out their brains. I pull my hood tighter, put my hands in the pockets, and take a deep breath. Then I step on to the path.

The rocks turn to leaves and twigs, and I bolt like a racehorse. I leap over logs. Dart around trees. Dodge hanging vines. Behind me are muffled voices. I look back, expecting to see the boys, or maybe the headless girl, but no one jumps out. Still, I run faster, alongside a creek and past groups of rocks. Deeper into the woods, where the sun won’t go and a blue fog floats through the trees.

There’s a bush full of leaves and I collapse behind it. I take deep breaths to calm myself and try to blend in with the ground. It’s not the best spot, sharp rocks poke all the wrong places and beetles give me the evil eye. I ignore it all, settle in, and peer through the branches for any sign of my enemies.

“Do ya mind, kid? Yer squatin’ on me grave.”


  1. I enjoyed your first five, so I'll focus on your pitch here.

    I love the opening line but it drops off with the slightly generic "11-yo JP doesn't want that". Maybe spice it up with more voice?

    For some reason, the following line throws me off: He already has the unfortunate distinction of being the smallest kid in his class with a tormentor who reminds him daily. Maybe you could rephrase it to: He already has the unfortunate distinction of being the smallest kid in his class, let alone a tormentor who reminds him of it daily. Although that sounds odd as well. Maybe someone else will have a better suggestion.

    The most intriguing thing about your pitch is the "unlikely ally". Can you reveal who this is? If the ally is "unlikely," and "desires peace" (which leads me to think the notorious pirate ghost?) it could add to your stakes to reveal this.

    If you're looking to save words, you could take out the history part, making that line: Dying once at the hands of a notorious pirate is bad enough, but...

  2. Your pitch is great, and sets up the story nicely. I tripped up on this part, though:

    "When Jase stumbles upon an old metal box and an unlikely ally, visions of his past life are unlocked and reveal clues to a hidden treasure. Jase is convinced finding it will give him the validation he desires, and the long sought peace his ally desires."

    This part is kind of vague--"unlikely ally," "hidden treasure," "validation he desires," "long sought peace his ally desires." I'm not sure what any of this has to do with the fact that a ghost is trying to kill him. Who's the ally? Why does Jase need validation? Why does the alley need peace? Perhaps being more specific will help tie these story elements together.

    Still love the last line of your pages :) Good luck!


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