Sunday, September 21, 2014


65,436 words
MG Paranormal Adventure


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

Jase Byrne is just trying to get through fifth grade and exert his independence, but he’s at the mercy of an overprotective mother and a classroom tormentor. When the bully traps Jase alone, he flees into nearby woods where he finds a mysterious box. The box unlocks memories of his past life, and as visions flood his mind, Jase realizes he was killed by the pirate Blackbeard to keep his treasure’s location secret.

The treasure’s clues are resurfacing. Jase is convinced finding the treasure will give him the independence he desires, and new strength to confront the bully. But with each clue he uncovers, the ghost of Blackbeard becomes more desperate. Jase must dig deep into his past and find the treasure before Blackbeard succeeds in killing him again.


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 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? I would 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 the ghosts 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 ghosts want their prey to go. Lure them into the darkness, snatch them, and cut their heads off. 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 really like your pitch—very interesting premise! In the second paragraph, I wonder if you need “and exert his independence.” It seems sort of implied with the latter part of that sentence. Also, in your third paragraph, I wonder if the beginning would read better as “When the treasure’s clues begin to resurface, Jase is convinced that finding it will…”

    Also, just a question, but is the bully a major antagonist? It just seems like Jase would need strength to confront the ghost of Blackbeard rather than a school bully. Perhaps naming the bully in the pitch would make him/her seem a bit more concrete and terrifying. It also seems like the Blackbeard storyline will be the main focus, so if that’s correct, maybe consider solely focusing on that in the third paragraph of the pitch so that you can more fully flesh it out.

    I adore Jase’s voice. It’s very clear, and you capture his young sarcasm very well. I particularly like, “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.”

    You leave off at a really interesting point that definitely makes me want to read more. Good luck!

  2. This is such a great idea for a story. Pirates, the very age-appropriate MG quest for independence, overcoming a bully, a past life--wow! I think your pitch has all the right details in it, but I wonder if you could make the verbs a little bit more active to really polish it and increase the emotional impact even more?

    I think you've got great MG voice in these first five pages. I love the way he says the box is as old as his parents and describes the bullies as bulldozers. This sentence doesn't read as smoothly as your others, though: "I examine each side of the box, the gold lock, and initials."

    I feel like Jase hears an awful lot Luke and Ross's conversation after he runs for the tunnel. Isn't he running full speed? Seems like it would be hard for him to hear it so clearly. Maybe he should just hear snatches?

    And what a great ending! It definitely creates a great cliffhanger and leaves me wanting to read more!


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