Monday, September 8, 2014


48,000 words
Upper MG Fantasy


Life for twelve-year-old River is dodging rabid forest gnomes and his evil cousin Rot, staying out of the deadly sunlight (because who really wants to turn to stone?), and trying not to disappoint his father, the fierce and mighty Troll King.

When his botched spy mission gets him captured by the enemy fairies, River expects death, but gets the truth: River isn’t a troll, he’s a fairy, given to the Troll King when he was born.

When the troll army comes for him, the supposed traitor, River can go home and become even more of a misfit (hopefully a living one), or betray his people, stay with the fairies, and try to unearth secrets the Fairy Queen and Troll King have tried so hard to hide. One path leads to death, the other to war, and River’s choice will change the forest forever.

First Five:

It had to be the mushrooms.

It’s the one thing I can’t resist, and Rot knows it. Not juicy blackberries, wild onions, or any other tempting forest delicacy. Nope. Mushrooms.

And the worst part? I didn’t even taste them. Not a lick.

I mean, yes, it’s kind of bad that I’m hanging upside down from a tree, but I can get over that.
Now the ruined fungi are scattered below me in pieces on the ground, their perfect white skins marred by the scuffle only moments ago.

Looking back, maybe I was too obvious in my search for a meal. Trolls don’t exactly forage for food from the forest floor. Yes, trolls; nasty, ugly creatures that live in caves and under bridges. It’s what we do. Well, it’s what the other trolls do when they’re not torturing me. We guard bridges, take tolls, and occasionally grind bones to make our bread.

I’m kidding.

Well… sort of.

Even the trees are laughing at me, the scratchy sound of rubbing bark echoing the grumbling laughter of my captors below. At least the wind seems to be on my side. A strong gust gives me a boost and I start swinging. I stretch my bound hands as far as they will go. If I can just…reach…


The branches have gone from laughing to screeching as I twist and turn to free myself, but it’s not going to happen. If I was the size of the other trolls, this slender tree wouldn’t even be able to hold me.

I’m not, though, and everyone knows it. I guess you could call me the black sheep of the family. Maybe not a sheep though, since my family eats those…I’m pretty sure they don’t want to eat me. I’m a vegetarian, which doesn’t sit well with them at all because the main staple of troll life is bone-bread. Made from…you know…bones.

Kind of like the one being shoved in my mouth at this very moment. I grit my teeth, but it’s no use. “Here you go, little River. I know you missed breakfast.” Rot says, inspiring roaring laughter from the other trolls. I bite down in anger, but I think a tooth just cracked, so I try to relax and settle for glaring. At least the bone has been boiled clean. The last time I wasn’t so lucky.

I try not to puke at the thought.

Truthfully, I prefer to eat things that didn’t scream in fear when they died. Like berries, mushrooms, and whatever I can poach from the farmer’s crops at the edge of the forest. I’m not proud of stealing the food, but at least I’m not trying to eat the farmer. One night I took my baby sister, Ivy, with me, and things got a little ugly. She’s three, and big for a troll of her age. Anyway, the farmer’s dogs chased us out of the tomato patch, and, well, my sister was hungry.

Let’s just say the farmer has one less dog now.

I won’t make that mistake again.

I just wish I could say the same thing about my current situation. Unfortunately the mistake I keep repeating involves breathing, according to my exceptionally foul-tempered cousin.

“Line ‘em up, boys.” Rot’s deep, grumbling voice says from behind me. His sausage-like fingers grab my sleeves to steady me, and I wonder what I am to be used for today.

“It’s a good day for bowling, eh, River?”

Great. I would reply and say something clever just above his intelligence level, but I can’t speak around the bone. I settle for rolling my eyes like I don’t really care.

I do care, but letting him know only makes it worse. I’ve learned to endure it, because I can’t seem to avoid it.

Sludge and Mire, Rot’s most loyal cohorts, gather nearby, trying to painstakingly place whatever targets they have gathered in a small pile. I hope it’s mushrooms since I’ve missed breakfast, or something soft that won’t leave a mark on my face. When the hulking, lop-sided trolls finally move, a patch of knee-high angry forest gnomes stand glowering, tied up more tightly than I am. They’re tired and filthy. No doubt Rot has had them trapped for a while, awaiting this special occasion.

One of them bares his teeth at me. He looks hungry. Or rabid.

I cringe as the gnome snaps those teeth. This day is going downhill fast. As the rest of the trolls line up on either side of my intended path, I see flashes of silver and gold. They’re taking bets and it’s not even past breakfast.

Rot pulls me back, his dark chuckle close to my ear. “See that little one in the middle? I saved him ’specially for you, River. He’s a hungry one.” Rot steps back again, taking me with him. The vines creak in protest. I’m pretty sure my body does too.

The trolls lean in for a better look, their crooked faces making a grey, mottled patchwork against the deep green forest. They’re probably betting on whether or not I’ll scream.

It’s a definite possibility.

I close my eyes, steeling myself against the inevitable. Those gnome teeth are really going to smart. What would my father think if he knew the heir to his throne is currently being used as a hanging bowling ball?

Probably that I deserve it for eating something other than bone-bread. As if looking different isn’t bad enough.

Rot lets go and I’m flying through the air, and none of that matters anymore. The trolls cheer, stomping their blocky feet against the moss-covered ground. The gnomes cringe, realizing too late what’s about to happen to them, not that any of us can do a thing about it now.

Here it comes. This is so going to hurt.

And just as quickly as I started, I suddenly stop.

I’m a hair’s breadth away from snapping, yellow gnome teeth. It would probably offend him if I told him he needed to clean them. Forest gnomes aren’t known for their social graces, not like the tamer garden gnomes that live in the farmer’s crops.

I hear an irritated sigh and look up, only mildly surprised to see my twin sister, Peat, staring down at me.

I smile in relief.

She frowns.

“That’s twice this week, brother.”

I shrug, waiting for her to notice I can’t speak. She doesn’t seem to care.

“Enough, Rot. This has got to stop.” She swings around to stare at our cousin, her flame red hair flying around her like some wild huntress of the forest. “River’s done nothing to you. Father won’t be pleased when he hears about this.”

“Oh? And who’s going to tell him?” Rot walks slowly over to Peat, eyeing her like a dragon eyes a sheep, which my sister is anything but.

“I am, you big oaf. This is ridiculous.” She waves her arm, “All of you should be on duty right now, guarding against the fairies, but here you are, gambling and tormenting innocent creatures.”

The trolls laugh, but I don’t care what she calls me, just as long as she gets me down. She pulls her dagger and slices it across the vine holding my feet.

I fall head first onto the ground. Thanks, Peat.


  1. I really enjoyed the humor in this one. River has a great voice. I could see my 8 yo reading and enjoying something like this.

    I thought the query was pretty strong--it clearly lays out the inciting incident and the stakes. There were a couple things I wasn't quite clear on: how does staying with the fairies look like treason? And if he *can* go home, how does that path lead to death?

    In the pages, I didn't realize other trolls were present until about half-way through--I initially thought he'd been alone when he got strung up. So maybe a hint or two at the beginning? It makes his predicament so much worse if he's surrounded.

  2. I think both your pitch and your pages are really strong, and the voice is definitely there. One thing about the pitch, though: I wasn't sure why the troll army would be coming for River, or why they would think he was a traitor. Didn't the Troll King know that River was a fairy? So why would he be a traitor?

    And my one comment for the pages: I would like to see what the trolls look like, and what River looks like. There are so many versions of trolls out there, I don't know which one to go to for this story. And since River is actually a fairy, I was wondering if he looked like them or not.

    Good luck!


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