Monday, September 8, 2014


YA magical realism
77,000 words


Evan Evans is one in a million. Literally. Only one in every million people is diagnosed with his rare liver disorder. But his symptoms have been under control for years, and he’s tired of his illness defining him. On his eighteenth birthday, he takes a few drinks to prove it doesn’t.

Evan could anticipate the morning-after stint in hospital hell. Messed up dreams of this jerk from the party dying? Not so much. When the vision comes true five days later, exactly how it happened in his nightmares, Evan panics.

It’s crazy to think his subconscious desires somehow caused the tragedy, and doctors say Evan needs experimental treatment to fight the delusions. But if he really can drink and dream the future, maybe this time he can change things for the better, even if it wrecks his liver and his mind.

First Five Pages:

Chapter 1

No one at the party knew it was my birthday.

Well, no one except Colton. These beach parties were just a regular Saturday night thing. After dinner and cake at home, I told my parents we were headed to see Old School at the dollar movie. I wouldn’t have minded going there instead, but I decided my eighteenth birthday deserved at least a symbolic celebration.

We snuck into Hanna Park, where dense forest secluded the beach from the traffic on A1A and the condos farther south. The park closed at dusk, but the loose chain on the staff entrance gate never stopped my classmates. We followed the trail through the palmettos toward the ocean, and Colt’s flashlight beam bounced on the sand.

“Happy birthday, Evan.” Colt clapped a hand on my shoulder. “Want me to make everybody sing?”
I grimaced. “Let’s not broadcast it, okay?”

We reached the top of the dunes. The usual jumble of bodies circled the bonfire down the beach, and a bad playlist blared from mini speakers. A shadow shaped like Colt’s girlfriend broke away from the group and started toward us.

“You hunting something in particular tonight?” Colt flipped the handle to me.

“Not really. Go on, I’ll catch up.” I grabbed the light and waved him off. Colt came to these parties for the people. I went for the salt water.

“Are you sure you’re feeling alright?” He cracked his knuckles and eased down the dune. “We can still make it to the movie.”

“I’m fine.” I sighed and raised my eyebrows. My liver’s shot from this genetic disorder called Moiraitis, and Colton was probably the only person at the party who knew that, too. He’d had to call Mom the first time I collapsed, when we were kids. It was like he kept expecting it to happen again, even though my symptoms were under control.

He held up his palms and bowed his head. “Okay. You’re the boss.”

Colton met his girlfriend half way and joined the others.

I kicked off my loafers and walked to the shoreline. Up close the night was all black water and white moonlight catching on the breakers. Memories of coconut sunscreen clung to the breeze. I imagined rogue lionfish lurking beneath the surface, fascinating and toxic, invading the Atlantic like an army.
I pointed the beam down, zigzagging between broken shells while I walked. The beach wasn’t the worse place to spend my eighteenth birthday. But it felt the same. I felt the same. All day I’d waited to feel something different. Relief. Excitement. Something.

The tide stretched higher, wetting my feet. The light caught on a perfect circle sticking out of the sand. My hands tingled in anticipation. I stuck the flashlight between my teeth, knelt down, and pulled out a greyish disc. I’d searched for an intact sand dollar for months. I reached in the pocket of my board shorts, where I’d stuffed a plastic bag in case I found something for my aquarium. But the sand dollar tickled my palm, and I sucked in a breath around the narrow handle in my mouth.

It was still alive. The tiny, hair-like cilia brushed against my fingers as it tried to get back to the sea. I’d hoped to find an empty shell for my rock formations; I’d never held a live one before. I imagined it burrowing in the sand bed back home, but the victory quickly evaporated. My tank was too small. The little guy would never survive.

I left the bag in my pocket and lowered my hand to the water, admiring the perfect star pattern before letting it wash away into the night. I sighed, cut off the light, and slipped it in my empty pocket.
Jake Morgan jogged out of the shadows behind me, dragging a piece of driftwood toward the fire. His footsteps padded a dull rhythm in my direction.

“I thought I felt my gaydar going off. What’s up, Evan?” Jake’s high pitched laugh rang in my ears.
His knuckles jabbed me in the back, sharp and quick.

I gritted my teeth. “If you were a man, I’d punch you. I’d punch you in the mouth.”

Jake laughed harder, and I doubted it was because he got my Anchorman reference. Not that I cared what Jake thought about me. He was the shortest guy in our class, and his dark, gel-spiked hair reminded me of a tuxedo urchin.

I shoved my damp hands in my pockets and stared at the crashing waves. Eighteen years and I’d never had a girlfriend. Not that I didn’t want to date. But asking someone out required the confidence to talk to her in the first place.

I turned my back on the water, following Jake’s footprints to the party. My classmates’ faces glowed in the light of the fire. Voices muddled together in excitement. They looked the same as they did every weekend: happy. I’d never minded walking the beach while they partied, listening to the whispers and roars of the surf or hunting shells.

But they always left in pairs. And even if I was a designated driver with a car packed full, I still left alone.

Across town, Old School was playing in the theater, and “Frank the Tank” was drunk and streaking through the streets. In almost every one of Will Ferrell’s movies, his characters had an epiphany after a night of drinking. He never had trouble talking to women. And he didn’t waste time walking alone at the beach.

I’d expected to feel different at eighteen, but maybe I needed to stop obsessing and just do something different. My tests hadn’t shown so much as a blip in two years. What if for one night, I forgot I had Moiraitis? What if I was the Evan I could’ve been, if I’d never been diagnosed?

A switch flipped in my head, and channeling my comedic hero seemed like the perfect birthday present to myself.

I cut through the crowd and surveyed the makeup of the group. Upperclassmen sat around the fire in camp chairs, including Colt with his girlfriend and a place left empty for me. Couples groped and kissed near the dunes. Some girls danced closer to the water’s edge. And standing off to the side by herself, snapping pictures with her phone, was sophomore Sally Ryan.

Her short, blonde hair swung around with each click, and her skirt was so short I could see what color her panties were. (Yellow.) Sally was more than long legs and a coy smile. She sang in the chorus at school, and she always smiled at me. Guys should’ve been lining up for a chance with her.

I took a deep breath and sidled up to Sally. I pulled my hands from my pockets to wipe the sweat on my shorts. The plastic bag stuck to my right hand, and Sally turned at the sound of crinkling. I ripped it off to shove it back in the other pocket, but the wind caught the bag and blew it into Brad Dixon’s back. Heat surged in my cheeks.

“Hello.” Sally giggled. She snapped a picture of the baggie, stuck to the back of Brad’s maroon button-down.

I swallowed and dug my toes into the sand. “I—I noticed you from across the party, and I felt compelled to tell you something.”

“Oh?” Sally slipped her phone in her pocket and put a hand on her hip.


  1. I love how vivid the setting is here--and I like how the opening action reveals so much about the character and his motivations. I have a couple of minor suggestions: I've heard agents suggest before that you should be able to pick up the genre within the first couple of pages. Here, if I hadn't read the genre, I wouldn't know it was magical realism. Is there anyway to suggest that? Maybe descriptions that border on something magical?

    Also, at the end of the pitch, I want to know a little more of the stakes. What kinds of things does Evan think he can prevent that are worth messing up his liver? Are we talking about deaths? Why should Evan put the deaths of someone else (even if tragic) before his own life? I guess I want to see what makes the stakes so high that it's worth risking his death to prevent them.

  2. Your pitch is written really well, and it conveys some voice too. But I don't see what the main plot is. Most of the pitch is stuff that happens in the first five pages, so I don't know where the story is going--other than knowing that Evan is going to keep drinking and seeing into the future. How exactly is he going to use that for good and/or evil? How much can he take before his liver breaks down? What does he want to change "for the better"? I needed to know a little more.

    I feel like I have a better sense of Evan in your pages, and his relationship with the others. I agree with Rosalyn that a little hint of the magic realism element could be included in the first few pages, but if you get to it within the next couple of pages, that would be fine too.

    Good luck!


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