December 18, 2012

I got picked as an alternate in PitchWars!!! :)

I have been busy click-clacking away on my laptop, trying to get my latest WIP into tip-top shape. I'm still not sure whether to label this as MG dark urban fantasy or MG horror. For now I've labeled it horror.
When I heard about PitchWars and the chance to have a mentor read through my entire ms, I jumped at the opportunity. I figured I wouldn't get picked, I never get through these contests, but I was hoping for some feedback and critique on my query. Well, when I got an email, a few days into the contest, asking for more chapters (because I was one of Brenda Drake's favorite entries) I passed out, then jumped up and did a jig, then went, oh crap--my chapters aren't ready! My ms isn't ready! I didn't think I stood a chance. REALLY!
Needless to say, I worked on my opening chapters, polishing them like crazy, ALL NIGHT LONG. You see, I've kind of been in limbo with cps. I only had a couple to start with, but they have both become too busy and so this brand new ms hasn't been critiqued yet.... or beta read!! But I did my best and somehow I got picked as Brenda's first alternate (basically, her second pick out of who knows how many MG pitches)
So, I didn't win the full ms critique from her, but I did earn a pitch, query, and first three chapter critique from her before my pitch goes live in January in front of agents. As of right now, this is what I've come up with as my pitch and opening chapter--but it could change once Brenda gets her brilliant hands on it :) 
(I will be posting again soon about editing techniques and what I've learned over the past month)
(Oh, and when the time comes, I'd love a few middle grade readers. There is violence, but with lots of biblical truths and twists. I personally grew up on Goosebumps books and I would let my twelve-year-old read ithis in a heart beat, because there are some great Christian truths in it--but in a fun, original, non-preachy way.)
PITCH (still work in progress!!!)
Ryder’s had premonitions about demons murdering his mom since his twelfth birthday. There’s no way he’s gonna let that happen. So he learns the family trade: demon hunting. But demons aren’t his only enemy.


I knelt beside the short, brick wall surrounding St. Mary’s Hospital for the criminally insane. The full moon hung in the sky like the giant spit wad on the ceiling in the boys’ bathroom at school. It wasn’t helping my situation. There was way too much light. Mom always said to stay in on full moons, but there was no way I was leaving her in this place.

I crouched low and sprinted across the grass. Lamps lined the front sidewalk, leading to the dimly-lit main entrance. That’s why I was going around back. As long as I stayed out of the light, I wouldn’t be seen. Hopefully.

I scaled the side wall. There had to be another way in somewhere around here. The wall dipped in behind me and I knew I’d found what I was looking for. I stopped, reached into my pocket, and pulled out my pocket knife and micro-sized flathead screwdriver then felt for the knob. Even with the bright moon, the shadow from my body made it impossible to see what I was doing. It was a good thing picking locks was all about touch and sound, otherwise I’d be screwed. I flipped open the small blade and went to work.

Picking locks took practice and patience. I had both. What I didn’t have was a plan—at all.

With the last click, I torqued the key hole and the knob twisted in my hand.

I hadn’t thought this through. I wondered what they did to people who broke into asylums. They probably got locked up with the rest of the crazies. Only an insane person would break-in to an asylum.

A thrill rushed through me as I entered a large, dark room. It was kinda fun doing something so crazy.

Everything was black. After a few minutes of standing still, my eyes adjusted and I was able to see enough of the shadows to weave in and out of the tables. This must be the cafeteria.

I tiptoed out the doors. Cold air slithered under my clothes. Goosebumps rose, covering every inch of me. This place gave me the heebie-jeebies in a major way.

I walked down one hall then turned onto another that looked exactly the same. I felt like a friggin mouse. There was an endless maze of dark hallways with nothing except a few lit exit signs to guide me. Hadn’t I already been this way?

I stayed to the side, looking at the room numbers.

The ceiling above my head rattled. I jumped back. My heart went into a seizure, convulsing out of control. The vent settled and whooshed out a puff of warm air.

I took deep breaths, holding my chest. I’m such an idiot.

Finally I found the stairs. I took several steps at a time.

Footsteps echoed down the hall from the first floor. At least two pairs of feet walked my way.

Crap, what do I do? I scrambled up the remaining stairs and ducked around the wall. I felt like a two-year-old, hiding right out in the open. If they came up the steps my only option was to run. But for now I figured the ‘be still and shut up’ choice was the best.

My heart pounded so loudly my ears pulsed.

The footsteps came closer.

“I hope he does come,” a woman said. “It’s been so long.”

“You don’t mean that,” a man replied.

“The hell I don’t. I’m so bored sitting here, babysitting. I say we just eat her and be done with it.”

My mouth fell open. Craptastic. I should’ve known there’d be demons in this place. It was perfect for them. Who’d believe a bunch of nutcases when they cried monster?

A flash of last night’s dream came to mind. Two demons held Mom by her biceps. She screamed, “Run, Ryder,” just as the demons ripped her arms from her shoulders.

I shivered as the image vanished from my mind. There was no way I was gonna let that happen.

“Okay, and what are you going to do when he finds you and kills you? You know angels always get their revenge,” the man said.

“Pfft. I’m not afraid of him.”

The footsteps continued on until I couldn’t hear them anymore. Now was my chance. I needed to move fast. I figured they were talking about Mom, but I wasn’t sticking around to find out.

I walked as quickly as I could. I wanted to run. But I needed to get Mom out of here without being seen or heard. I should have brought one of Uncle Al’s weapons. What was I thinking? All I had was this stupid pocket knife and flathead screwdriver. I reached room 212. The door was locked. Great. At least my rinky-dink weapons had some use.

After a few minutes with my tools, I got it open. I crept inside in ninja mode. There was one barred window which let in just enough moonlight to see the bed. I tiptoed over and knelt beside it.

“Mom,” I whispered and reached out to shake her. I touched the blanket.

My stomach dropped to my feet. The silhouette crumbled under the weight of my hand. My eyes shot wide open. No, no, no! I jerked the blanket back and reached out. There were pillows and more blankets mounded up. I flung them and felt all over the bed. My chest squeezed. I couldn’t breathe. Flashes of my nightmares swam through my mind. Mom! Where was she?

My ears pricked. There was a faint swishing noise behind me. I whipped around.

A shadow sprung through the air and tackled me to the floor. Something cold and hard pressed into my cheek.

I got my arms and knees between us and pushed out.

“Ryder?” The shadow stopped suddenly and sat up. “Is that you?”

“Mom? Jeesh. Are you trying to kill me?” I whispered, heaving heavy gulps of air.

“Well, actually, I was. But this wouldn’t have hurt you—only them.” She held up her hand. I could just barely see the shadow of something short and blunt. “Why did you come here?” She grabbed my shoulders and squeezed. “You know it isn’t safe?” Her eyes were huge.

I flashed to an image of my first premonition last week, the night of my birthday. Mom had been poisoned and was vomiting blood. She had the same wide-eyed expression then that she did now. I shook off the thought. “There was no way I was gonna leave you here.” I couldn’t believe she was giving me crap for trying to get her out of this place. She would’ve come for me if the roles were reversed.

She reached out and ran her hand along my cheek. “I love you so much, but you have to—”

A deep voice interrupted, “You really should have told him to stay away.”

Mom and I leapt to our feet. The shadow of a large man stood in the doorway. The moonlight reflected off his red eyes.

“You’re confused. He’s nobody. He’s just some kid who wandered in from another room,” she said, her voice shaking. She stepped in front of me.

He inhaled loudly through his nose. “Nice try. I smelled him the second he came in. I just thought I’d let you two have one last goodbye—before I ate him.” He lunged forward.

I jumped back just as Mom charged him. “Run, Ryder,” she shouted, leaping onto the man.

It was just like in my dream, her telling me to run just before she was ripped to shreds. I needed to do something, but my body wasn’t working. My feet locked in place. What do I do? I stood motionless, watching.

There was a sizzling sound, like bacon in a frying pan. The man screamed. His scream sounded like a hundred men. The piercing shrills were like knives jabbed in my ears. My brain felt like it would explode. I pressed my hands to my ears and squeezed.

She hung onto the man by his neck, her hand shoved into his face. Under it was a red light as if her palm was on fire.

He fell backwards. His body crashed into the ground, and on impact, disintegrated under Mom. She dropped hard onto the pile of dust the body had become.

She jumped up, covered in the man’s remains, grabbed my wrist, and jerked me into motion.

It was like someone hit the slow button on the DVD player. We ran out of the room and down the hallway. I felt like I wasn’t moving fast enough. Every second lingered. My feet were bricks. My legs were noodles.

Mom was on her A-game though. She was way cooler than I gave her credit for. She was like a superhero without all the spandex. I’d come to rescue her, but here I was a useless meat-suit being dragged around by her. I’d be rurally embarrassed if I weren’t too busy trying to stay alive.

Two, dark figures stood at the end of the hall, blocking our exit. We skidded to a stop, our feet screeching against the tiles. We spun and ran in the other direction. Behind me the men charged after us.

We made it to the top of the stairs, but the sound of footsteps racing up from the bottom made us stop. We were trapped.

“Get behind me.” Mom pushed me back me until I was sandwiched between her and the wall. She stood in front of me, facing out. “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues,” she chanted.

The red eyed creatures threw their hands to their ears and hissed.

All my life I’d known demons were real. Still, it wasn’t like I’d imagined. Seeing them in person was even worse. I didn’t know how Mom and Uncle Al did this on the regular. She was way hardcore.

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them,” Mom continued over their shrieks.

Even her words made these monsters cower. If I lived past tonight she was gonna have to teach me her tricks.

“Preach all you want, Seer,” the female demon screeched. They dropped to their knees and doubled over, holding their heads. “You can’t talk forever,” she wailed.

Mom kept chanting, but I stopped listening. A new sound caught my attention—the sound of someone running. Heavy feet pounded up the stairs. Someone else was coming. Someone large. Someone fast.

I stared in the direction of the noise, terrified to see what it might be, but too scared to look away.

A light bounced up and down, growing bigger and brighter with each booming step closer. Before I could even guess what the light was, he was at the top of the stairs, sprinting toward us. My stomach did summersaults. I’d never been so happy to see my uncle in all my life.

Uncle Al charged the two figures closest to him. With each stride he soared high through the air as if he were walking on the moon, but at an Olympic speed. In his hand he clutched a glowing sword. The light radiated ten feet in every direction. Black writing was etched all over the two feet of gold blade.

He came close enough to the figures that the light shone around them. Now I could see the nurse uniforms of the blonde woman and dark haired man. Their eyes glowed red and under their translucent skin they looked like lizards—big, ugly lizards.

“N—” One of the demons yelled.

Uncle Al whipped his sword across the man’s torso, slicing him from side to side. He spun around and caught the woman across the throat then charged past, leaving them standing there, wounded.

A second later both figures behind him moved. “Lookout!” I shouted.

Since Uncle Al had walked past them, they were shadows again. I couldn’t tell what they were doing. It took me a second and then I saw. My fears changed to horror as I watched the top half of one shadow separate from its lower half and topple to the ground. A second later its detached lower body tipped over. The other shadow’s head made a slurping sound as it slid off its neck. It smacked loudly when it hit the tile like a bowling ball. The body went limp and tumbled forward.

I turned just in time to see Uncle Al do the same move to one of the guards on the other end of the hall. His sword went through the body, but before he spun, the last guard shanked him from behind

“No,” I shouted, finding my feet and running toward him.

The guy must have missed. Uncle Al didn’t even flinch. He turned and with one quick swipe of his sword, detached the guard’s head.

Mom rushed past me. “Are you okay? Let me see.” She reached for his side.

“I’m fine. Are you two okay?” He brushed her off. His voice was calm and low.

“We are thanks to you. But we’d better get out of here. This place is crawling with demons.”

“We’ll find you wherever you go,” a male said. The severed head near Uncle Al’s feet was laid over on its side, talking.

“What the hell!” I squealed like a girl and jumped ten feet in the air.

“I’ve sent word that the boy’s been found. We’ve seen his face. We know his smell. You can’t hide,” the head said.

“In the name of God, I send you all back to hell.” Uncle Al lifted his arm up and let it drop.

The body parts burst into flames. The fires burned so brightly I had to use my arms to shield my face from the light. Within seconds the crackling fires silenced. I blinked hard, seeing spots.

On the ground were ash piles where the body pieces had been—eight, dark piles. It smelled like burnt popcorn. I thought back to the man in Mom’s room. It wasn’t dust after all. It was ash.

Uncle Al waved his arm for us to follow. Mom tugged my hand.

“Wait.” I pulled away. “What was he talking about? Why do they want to kill me?”

“There’s no time. I’ll explain later.” Uncle Al walked up to me. He put two fingers to my forehead.

Everything went black and I slipped into sleep.