Sunday, September 21, 2014


90,000 words
YA Science Fiction Thriller

150 word pitch:

To escape dying Earth, seventeen-year-old Lesha and her little brother take passage to Eris, a newly-colonized planet halfway across the galaxy. The spaceship crashes in Eris’ wasteland, stranding her far from civilization with only a few survivors... including the man who stalked her on Earth, Riley.

If lack of supplies doesn’t kill them, flesh-eating snakes that erupt from the sand just might. Fellow survivor Malik swears he’ll get the group to safety or die trying. Lesha lived through famine and riots back home. Malik might be cute, but no way will she let a hot-shot military dude with a savior complex tell her what to do.

But after they find a boy’s mutilated corpse in a sick desert shrine, it’s clear something stalks them. Something predatory. Something else. To protect her brother, Lesha must work with Riley and Malik, before their alien hunter picks them off one by one.

First five pages:

Screams erupted from the televid when I entered our room at Bunker Number Four.

“It’s happening again, Lesha.” My eight-year-old brother huddled on his bed, brown eyes focused on the screen mounted on the cinderblock wall. He clutched his worn, stuffed rabbit to his face and dented his lower lip with his thumb.

I stared at the scene, and the backpacks I’d retrieved from the storage unit thumped on the floor. “Riots.”

Joe’s thumb slid into his mouth.

A roving camera flew above the protesters racing through the streets, zooming in, highlighting the lines of fear on their faces. From the buildings nearby, I recognized an area near us in South Boston. So close.

Tear gas canisters tumbled on the ground, spewing chalky smoke. Police dressed in full SWAT gear stomped behind the protesters. Deportation vans hovered in the distance, ready to haul those caught to some undisclosed location.

Never to return.

I’d shut the vid off if wasn’t so mesmerized myself. I fidgeted with the end of my braid, and the inky strands coiled around my fingers. Like I was five again, I gnawed on the tips.

The televid cut to a ReGreen commercial and a dreamy, computer voice drifted through the room.
“First the bees died. Then much of our plant life. Thirty percent of our animal species are extinct. But this doesn’t mean the end of our world.”

The leaders of ReGreen needed to stop sniffing the hovercraft fumes.

“Never fear.” The words burst through a crescendo of uplifting music. "This is just a phase in our planet's never-ending life cycle." A vid from Earth’s history played on the screen. Lush, green vegetation swayed in a light breeze, nestled under a clear, blue sky.

What a joke. No one had seen blue sky for years.

“Call it whatever you want,” I told the screen. “A phase. Global warming. Life cycle. Giving it a name doesn’t change what’s happening.” Years of floods were followed by endless drought. Wildfires burned whatever remained, leaving next to nothing for plants to take root in. Or kids, for that matter.

“We must be patient,” ReGreen reminded us.

I snorted. Done with that.

The Group’s slogan flashed on the screen, signaling the end of the vid, and my voice chimed in with the computer’s. “The Recovery is at hand.”

My wrist com beeped. “We need to leave for the spaceport soon, kiddo.” I nudged Joe’s shoulder. “Turn off the televid. Go wash. Put on a clean durasuit.”

He groaned. As he stomped past me toward the bathroom, I ruffled his kinky hair. He swatted at my hand, but I couldn’t resist. He looked so cute when it stood on end.

In our old life, he’d have slammed the washroom door to punctuate his irritation. An electronic panel took the zap right out of his laser gun.

Sitting on my bed, I opened my bag.

Tonight, we’d board a starship to Eris, a planet halfway across the galaxy, to join a colony settled ten years ago. The Relocation Project drew Joe and my name in the lottery just before I turned seventeen. Our parents had been dead a year, and we lived with Uncle. When the lists came out, he dumped us at the Bunker with one bag between us. We hadn’t heard from him since. No loss there. Uncle liked heavy-handed discipline. Among other things.

On Eris, we’d make our own family. Joe and me.

A sad smile twisted my lips as I lifted the digital picture frame off the nightstand. The short vid clip projected our family’s last fine moment before an accident upended our world.

Dad had his arm around Mom’s shoulders, and they giggled and smiled more at each other than at the camera. I stood beside them, a gangly, fourteen-year-old jumble of skinny arms and legs, black hair hanging in my eyes like wet seaweed. Joe danced by my side, a goofy grin on his brown face.

I stroked their faces before wrapping the frame in three of Dad’s t-shirts and tucking it into my pack. Since our Instructors told us we could only bring one bag on the ship, I weighed each possession like gold.

Essentials first. I couldn’t live without my digi-journal and stylus. If I didn’t write before bed each night, I’d lose my mind.

My first aid kit.

Mom’s dress. It was all I had left that was hers. No way would I leave it behind.

A glolight and my jacket bulged the sides of the pack.

We didn’t need to bring clothes. They’d stored cases of durasuits in the ship’s hold. Woven from nylatec, they lasted forever. Impervious to stains and tears. In fourteen different styles and twenty-seven shades of the rainbow. That’s what the televid commercials said.

I set my orange treds aside to wear later. I’d scored my favorite footwear at a reclamation warehouse. Despite their age, they showed little wear. The splurge had meant a tight budget for weeks, but every girl needed something bright in her life, especially when her planet had fallen to pieces. And I was a sucker for anything orange.

Zipping my bag closed with trembling fingers, I stared at the flecked grout lines between the blocks on the wall above Joe’s bed.

A heady mix of excitement and trepidation muddled together inside me. I wanted to go. Who wouldn’t? Most people outside the false insulation of the Bunker would kill for the chance we’d been given.

“Eris.” The name of my future home slipped past my lips like a prayer.

Why did this traitorous, bittersweet mix of sadness and joy flood my soul?

Not cool, brain. I needed to cut it out. Joe and I had to escape this dying, third rock from the sun before it imploded. Or exploded. Or whatever it planned to do.

The bathroom door flew open. Joe jumped out, looking pretty snappy in a light blue durasuit. He posed in the doorframe, hands on his hips, a red suit knotted around his shoulders so it hung down his back like a cape. “Ta-da. I’m Superboy Space Cadet.”

Smoothing my face, I pointed to his bag. “Your mission, Cadet, is to pack what you can’t live without.”

“Yes, Sir.” He grinned, spoiling his stiff-soldier image.

“I need to bring Tiff her bag.” I’d also told my best friend I’d wake her. That girl could sleep. “Be back in a few.”

“Sir, yes, Sir. I’ll begin packing immediately.” Joe saluted as I left our room.

Slipping Tiff’s pack over my shoulder, I jogged to the North Corridor.

Hundreds of years ago, a well-organized doomsday community had built bunkers underground. When the Relocation Project got underway, the government took them over and retrofitted them for orientation and housing.

Long, gray cinderblock halls without a single window. Flickering, coverless fluoros shedding just enough light to see where you were going, but not enough to catch the roaches lurking in the corners. And freaking cold. They piped in heat during the winter months, but the ancient boilers barely brought the place above see-your-breath range.

Dark, gloomy, and damned ugly. Not that people preparing for the end of the world cared much about ambiance, but they could’ve given the place some color. Fluorescent orange came to mind.

I knocked, my fist creating hollow thumps on Tiff’s door. As expected, she didn’t answer. Lazy bum. I keyed in the code on the touchpad, and her door slid open. Darkness enveloped the room. “Tiff, get your ass up.”

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting premise. Your descriptions create a unique world that I’d like to read more of someday! A couple of minor constructive comments…

    I think the first paragraph of your pitch might end with more umph if you reworded the last bit to “including Riley, the man who stalked her on Earth.” Just a thought!

    I also wonder if the second paragraph of the pitch could be tightened up a bit. Perhaps try: “If lack of supplies doesn’t kill them, flesh-eating snakes that erupt from the sand just might. Fellow survivor Malik swears he’ll get the group to safety; Malik might be cute, but no way will Lesha let a hot-shot military dude with a savior complex tell her what to do.” You may be able to use the extra word count gained to further explain Riley and his stalking. You also use the term “stalk” twice in the pitch, and I wonder if you’d be able to replace one with a different word?

    I really like the edits you’ve made to the first five pages—they read really well and leave the reader wanting to know more!

    Good luck!


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