Here’s the Thing: Not Everyone Finds It “Easier Than Ever” to Make a Living as a Writer

Can I just take a minute to discuss the statement that I often see that “it’s easier than ever to make a living as a writer”? I saw it pop up again this morning and am still mulling it over. Because, let’s be honest — nine times out of 10, that statement is referring to self-publishing. And I’m beyond a fan of self-publishing — I think it’s great — but to put it out there like, “Well, there’s self-pubbing, so you can just do that and make a living” is so very very flawed.

Self-publishing is awesome and has given a lot more writers the opportunity to write full time, but it is absolutely 100% not the solution for everyone please stop. Consider:

  • That not everyone writes in genres that thrive in self-publishing at the moment, which mostly favors adult markets with a lot of commercial flair
  • That not everyone can handle the entrepreneurial and marketing elements you need to manage to find success; in fact, for some that shit is a total muse-crusher and would result in them being mentally and emotionally worse off
  • That not everyone has the extra money in the bank that it takes to put out a decent quality book — by which I mean, some proofreading, a not totally shitty cover, etc.; I’m talking basics here. A lot of writers have budgets scraped so thin that even $50 upfront for their cousin’s friend to do a cover on MS Paint means less food in the pantry or no money for transportation
  • That not everyone even wants the self-publishing life and tossing this reasoning at them isn’t at all helpful because your goals are not their fucking goals

So while, yes, it might be easier than ever for you or your buddy Joe to put your super-awesome books out yourselves and make a living, before you throw that sentiment out at someone who’s talking about the difficulties of making ends meet as an author…just stop. Tuck this particular privilege back into your pocket and keep walking.

#PitchMadness Mario Kart Edition: GAME ON!

Bowsers Castle

Welcome to Team Bowser’s Castle! It’s been a long week of reading through all the amazing pitches. Our wonderful readers have narrowed the slush, and your game hosts have chosen sixty-four pitches for the game. To meet the slush readers, go to this post here. And you can find out more about the amazing agents playing the game on this post here.

thunder cloudFor those of you not familiar with Pitch Madness, it’s a contest where agents compete in a game against their peers for pitches and you can find the rules and instructions of the game here.

For this Pitch Madness game, we’re playing Mario Kart. bob-omb

See below for all 16 picks for my blog or click on the links to each post on the right.




gold coinGo to all the hosts’ blogs to read more winning pitches…

Rainbow-road-n64Rainbow Road on Summer Heacock’s site




Bowsers CastleBowser’s Castle on Rebecca Coffindaffer’s site




moo moo meadowsMoo Moo Meadows on Sharon Johnston’s site



Yoshi Falls on Brenda Drake’s siteYoshi_Falls_Overview_-_Mario_Kart_Wii




Comments are set to moderation so the agents won’t see their competitors’ bids. Please no comments other than those from the agents. After the game, we’ll release the moderation and let you all comment on the entries.

donkey kongWe’ll reveal the agent requests on March 11 at 12:00PM (that’s noon) EST.

Please note: We will email submission details for all requests by the agents. After the contest, agents will make requests to us for the pitches they loved and did not win.

All the twitter fun will happen on the hashtag #PitchMadness! mario and bowser

bullet billCongratulations to those who’ve made it into the game! For those who haven’t made it (and whoever else wants to join us), we are hosting a Twitter Pitch Party on March 17 from 8AM to 8PMEST on the hashtag #PitMad.

How do you twitter pitch? You can find all the details here.


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 74,000

Pitch: When four teens’ nightmares force elemental powers to emerge, the search for answers takes them to Paris, where the truth of their connection and a dark mage threaten to destroy the City of Lights.

First 250 Words:
My world boiled down to a dizzying wash of green and grey, throat-coating cigarette smoke, and nauseating country music. Harsh light from the overcast clouds struck my eyes, leaving me squinting, and the music and driver’s off key singing made me wish for headphones. But both my sunglasses and headphones were broken. Some bloody git stepped on them during the flight from Bermuda. Given that I didn’t have American money yet, replacing them would have to wait until I reached the court-determined destination. As far as days went, this one left much room for improvement. Doubly so considering it was my seventeenth birthday.

I rolled down the back windows, desperate for some clear air. Sticky, humid air assaulted me and the cabbie shouted, his thick Southern drawl making it hard to understand what he meant. Whatever he’d said, the driver’s tone wasn’t unkind, simply matter-of-fact. He rolled the windows up as we turned onto a street and then slowed to a stop in front of two-story, red brick house. Gooseflesh prickled over my arms and neck, and a shaky breath escaped me. Movement from a window captured my attention. The front door opened and two people walked out. I squinted, trying to place them, and then glanced at the moustachioed driver, his gaze meeting mine in the rear-view mirror questions written all over my face.

Who are they?

A man—tall, with dark skin, and a build that comes only from the military—wore a pair of dress slacks, and a button up shirt that hugged his body.


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Word Count: 91,000

Pitch: Xochi loves her fairytale job: live-in companion for tween genius Pallas. She’s trying not to screw things up, but the polyamorous tribe of musicians that share the family’s San Francisco Victorian are hard to resist.

First 250 Words:
On the night of the Vernal Equinox the sky was clear, the moon nearly full. Arching above an ancient Hawthorne, the tower of the white Victorian rose like a sister moon to meet the last hours of night. Defeated revelers straggled down the hill toward Haight Street, mascara-smeared and nearly sober. Xochi’s taxi swerved to miss them, turning up the steep drive to deposit her at the garden gate.

Ambient music leaked from an upstairs window, the soundtrack to the after-party’s demise. Xochi shivered, bare arms sticky with spilled beer and sweat and unlocked the back door. Sometime in the past few weeks, she’d learned this part of the house well enough to navigate in the dark. Laughter trilled up from the basement studio. The after-after party? Xochi wasn’t even tempted. All she wanted now was a hot shower and clean sheets. She trudged up the servant’s staircase, legs aching as she climbed the final flight.

The attic door was unlocked. Pallas sat hunched in the window seat, feet tucked under her long white nightgown, a cigarette in one hand, a teacup in the other. A real live smoking twelve-year-old.

“Pallas?” Xochi switched on the light. She felt the anger in the room now, goading her to react. “What’s up?”

“What does it look like?” Pallas dropped the butt of the clove cigarette into the gilded teacup. It hissed when it hit the liquid inside.

“Are you OK?” Xochi kept her tone neutral, careful not to look Pallas in the eye. Like a moose, she thought. Or a bear.


Age Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 136,000

Pitch: Tantoska, a reclusive sculptor of magical clay, must teach her grief-stricken liege lord control of his magic while conniving barons, ancient evils, and murder force them into an unlikely alliance to save the kingdom.

First 250 Words:
I spent the morning harvesting blue. Overflow from the stream had washed away the dirt covering a vein of token clay. Open to sky during the last magic storm, the magic imbued the clay with all shades of blue sky from palest dawn to sapphire noon to indigo midnight. While I filled up buckets with my lucky find, my mind mused over the possibilities. Would this shovelful of clay become the sweep of a hawk’s wing, the delicate petal of a flower, or scrap on my work chamber floor? My fingers itched to sculpt something beautiful, right there at the edge of the stream.

My back twinged in complaint at the heavy labor. I paused to stretch the kinks out of my creaking spine and to kilt my skirts higher before the mud stained the hem bright blue. This clay deposit was about a mile upstream from my cave, near the blackberry patch where a fallen redwood tree left a gap in the thick forest canopy. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of my hawk constructs as they circled overhead keeping watch for wolves and mountain lions. Birdsong and rustling grasses added counterpoint to the burbling stream, and the wind held a promise of winter’s chill.

I took up the shovel and drove the blade into the ground. No matter how hard I tried to lose myself in the work, I could not escape Parle’s words. I had not heard Parle’s voice for so long, only read his writing on the message tablets I’d made for us, but his words hounded me as if he whispered his pleas into my ears.


Title: VICES
Age Category: Adult
Genre: Speculative Thriller
Word Count: 97,000

Pitch: Don’t trust Glory Jones. She’s a liar, a manipulative screw-up. She sees the way people die? Sure. Now her sister’s in trouble? Yeah, right. Only, this time, it’s true. Alone, Glory must stop the killer.

First 250 Words:
My earliest memory is of my sister trying to drown me in the tub. She must’ve been about four. There was a noise. The doorbell or a ringing telephone. The warmth of my mother’s hovering hand left my back. Hurried footsteps. I can recall my sister’s outstretched arms, and then the wavy view of drifting suds. I was less than a year old. People say I couldn’t remember such a thing. But I do. I remember my starfish hands and the sweet scent of baby shampoo. No more tears.

I showered this morning. Not an easy feat when you have to be on the road by five-flippin-thirty in the AM. Today, I am Ivory Soap fresh, scrubbed raw enough to conjure Cynthia and that long ago bath. It’s funny how scents can do that. Take you away.

The Carhartt jacket I’m wearing, on the other hand, it brings me back. There’s nothing fresh about it, it hasn’t been washed. It smells like Knox. A bouquet comprised of a once familiar musk: linseed oil, loose tobacco, frayed twine, and overpass breeze. All with a sprig of magic. Like a whiff of moon dust. I shouldn’t think about him. Goddamn. I should burn the jacket.

It’s hard to forget Knox. He’s the only person who ever understood me and believed my secret. I wouldn’t have met him if I were normal. Normal. That’ll keep my mind occupied for the rest of the drive. What would normal be like?


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 81,000

Pitch: Isobel, a prodigy portrait artist paid in enchantments, invites catastrophe by painting sorrow in an immortal prince’s eyes. Their doomed romance spells death, unless she sacrifices her talent—or wields her art as a weapon.

First 250 Words:
My parlor smelled of linseed oil and spike lavender, and a dab of lead tin yellow glistened on my canvas. I had nearly perfected the color of Gadfly’s silk jacket.

The trick with Gadfly was persuading him to wear the same clothes for every session. Oil paint needs days to dry between layers, and he had trouble understanding I couldn’t just swap his entire outfit for another he liked better. He was astonishingly vain even by fair folk standards, which is like saying a pond is unusually wet, or a bear surprisingly hairy. All in all, it was a disarming quality for a creature who could murder me without rescheduling his tea.

“I might have some silver embroidery done about the wrists,” he said. “What do you think? You could add that, couldn’t you?”

“Of course.”

“And if I chose a different cravat…”

Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. Outwardly, my face ached with the polite smile I’d maintained for the past two and a half hours. Rudeness was not an affordable mistake. “I could alter your cravat, as long as it’s more or less the same size, but I’d need another session to finish it.”

“You truly are a wonder. Much better than the previous portrait artist—that fellow we had the other day. What was his name? Sebastian Manywarts? Oh, I didn’t like him, he always smelled a bit strange.”

It took me a moment to realize Gadfly was referring to Silas Merryweather, a master of the Craft who died over three hundred years ago.


Age Category: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Word Count: 129,000

Pitch: In Renaissance France—where a woman’s selling her words is as scandalous as selling her body—one poet’s groundbreaking quest for publication ignites a deadly frenzy of recrimination and revenge.

First 250 Words:
It has been mine for two months, but still this name confounds me: Giuseppina. Giuseppina Guillaume. My tongue stumbles over its unfamiliar syllables; my hand, as I sign, hesitates, threatens to trace instead the pattern of my other name, my other self. My husband calls two, three times before I respond; my ear, accustomed to the harsh staccato of my childhood name, catches not the languid softness of this new one. Giuseppina.

Not for me, the simple exchange of family names, father’s for husband’s. The name bestowed on me at baptism, the standard of my shriven soul, was token for this trade. In its place a rustic pennant droops, spattered and besmirched. I drape its folds about me, but it does not hide my shame.

Far from home, I bear the name of the patron of the hearth. San Giuseppe, protect me, sinner though I am! Each dawn the graying light scrambles the fragments of my foolish dreams. The stranger beside me stirs and wakes; the sight of my swollen belly spurs him, clumsy and discomforted, from bed. Tomaso, too, has paid a heavy price for his devotion. Was it greed or pity that prompted his assent to these neat plans? Pity is but another stone hurled at my head; greed, at least, makes us equals in disgrace. Would that he felt something more, that I might slip love’s uncertain chains! But duty holds his passions fast. In truth, I should welcome his stiff courtesy.

I call my husband stranger, yet it is I who am unknown, foreign even in this city of nations.


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 84,000

Pitch: Trans, broke, and miles from home, Aldonza makes one stupid mistake (well, okay, four) and gets her family cursed. To undo it, she must finish an investigation that someone’s trying to stop. With bullets. Great.

First 250 Words:
The way folks in town went on and on about the Edwards, you’d think their mansion would be harder to break into.

I gripped the ivy on the gate, half-expecting the leaves to turn to dust and the vines to snakes. Or for the whole plant to be an illusion—who actually has gates twined with ivy? But the vines held firm. The leaves were slick with rain, but steadier than my cold-numbed hands. On second thought, maybe ivy was how mistreated servants helped thieves.

I got one leg over the top, then the other, and teetered. The grass was too overgrown for me to tell if I was in for a soft landing or a tangle of thorns. All the plants in the garden had spilled out of their original places, now too tall or too old or too dead.

I forced my fingers to unclench and dropped, aiming to land in a crouch. Instead, I ended up with my nose in the grass and my hand caught on a thorny branch. Cat burglary: maybe not my calling.

The stinging from the thorn cuts sliced through the numbness of my hands as I spat out a wet leaf and clambered through the garden. The plants that weren’t shriveled and brown gleamed green-black. Colors in New England looked wrong in the daylight, without the gold glimmers the sun cast back home, but everything looks similar in the dark.

When I reached the carved wooden door, I shivered. From the cold, mostly.


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction (Diverse, LGBTQIA)
Word Count: 93,000

Pitch: Three months ago, Jane Deu had her memories voluntarily erased. Tonight she has a lightgun in hand once again, but her target is begging her to pull the trigger. THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS meets JUPITER ASCENDING.

First 250 Words:
It was finally over. The choice didn’t matter.

One of them would murder him tonight.

Pietro crouched behind a buckling brick beam, hands buried in a mix of soot and snow as he waited, listening. All was silent that night in Third Quadrant, along with the rest of Old Glasgow. There were no cars, no sirens, nothing—nothing but the falling snow, Pietro, and now three Exterminators. With his cheek to the sidewalk, he peered beneath the beam.

“I’m told this is the second field orientation for the both of you. Or is it?” asked the Instructor, a pint-sized girl a head shorter than the other two. The blond boy flashed a hand at her, raising four fingers in reply. “*Oh?* Well then, Lancaster. Repeat the rules for us.”

Lancaster threw his white-gloved hand up in salute, straining against the seams of his ill-fitting uniform. With his Instructor’s help, he stuttered through a numbered list that sounded straight out of a textbook, turning beet red all the while.

Pietro didn’t need to hear their rules. He knew them well enough. Don’t go out unarmed. Don’t leave your team. Altercations with civilians are an instant failure. Never forget who the real people are.

Pietro wasn’t “real people,” not to them. That was the price of being born somewhere else, outside their world. All his life with Viola he lived in panic, knowing a bunch of green-clad, thunder-booted murder machines could tear down the door at any moment.


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 55,000

Pitch: When seventeen-year-old adopted Liberty learns she may have ALS and might have to give up her art, she sets out on a secret road trip to find the brother she lost.

First 250 Words:
Everything changed at 6:42 on a Tuesday night. Pat Sajak woke me out of my TV stupor when he attempted a lame joke, telling that malnourished Vanna White he wasn’t a primate. Um, Pat, I wanted to shout at the TV. Humans are primates! My right thumb, poised to turn the channel and flee the spinning wheel, lost strength when I tried to push the button. If my digit were battery-powered, then the Energizer Bunny chose that second to stop beating its bass drum. My thumb twitched as if possessed, and I watched with mild curiosity. Not a big deal under normal circumstances. But after the letter I found from my birth mom concealed in my mom’s underwear drawer, it possibly means the end of me. For twelve years I’ve managed to lock my birth mother away, but here she is again, forcing me to slip back into a past I want to forget.

Now I sit cross-legged on my bedroom floor in front of my mirror, my dad’s clippers in hand. Today is the last day of junior year, and there’s no way I’m going to waste it worrying about shit I can’t control. That will come later. Or sooner. I have no idea. I raise my right arm toward the ceiling and stare at my hand, wiggle my fingers, pretend I’m holding a paintbrush as I swipe an imaginary canvas. I’m healthy. I’m fine. Breathe.

But what if…


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/LGBT
Word Count: 89,000

Pitch: As the daughter of its two male leaders, 17-year-old Blue’s life revolves around maintaining the safety of her LGBT Compound. When the guards suddenly invade, she finds herself juggling stray bullets, raids, and angry mobs.

First 250 Words:
I was born to a woman who never loved me. I’ve pictured her many times, stumbling into the Children’s Bank with the residue of my afterbirth still clinging to her leg. I can ignore how she turned me over only hours after I was born. It’s the fact that she didn’t bother to give me a name which made me resentful. But no child with big blue eyes stays an orphan forever. Baby 214 was adopted within days. My life was forever changed by my new parents and the name they gave me; Blue Stevens. For five years, we lived happily in our little green house in the Pink District.

Then, they came for us.

If I close my eyes, the events of that night return to me in slow motion. They’re always there, in the back of my mind, ready to make a reappearance. It was the lights that first woke me. They crept along the walls in blues and reds, smashing together to form momentary purples. My little fingers poked through the holes of my crochet blanket. Even at five-years-old, I knew if the sirens started, we’d have to hide in the basement. It would be a pathetic attempt to avoid them. The officers took what they wanted. Three pops and a puff of smoke was all it took to make my little adoptive family disappear forever.

Footsteps trotted up and down the hallway. White light danced against the black darkness of the ceiling as people moved outside bedroom.


Title: RIVEN
Age Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 90,000

Pitch: They made her run, made her hide, murdered her parents, kidnapped her sister. With fake ID and genetically engineered animal spirit, twenty-two-year-old Asha arrives in Mumbai to dismantle the lives of those who decimated hers.

First 250 Words:
Of all the costumes I’ve donned since my thirteenth birthday, the lace and sequined confection squeezing the air from my lungs was the torturous culmination. The new kid, the orphan, the outsider, the genius, the rich-bitch; I’d spent nine years blending those personalities, creating a new background, a new history for myself, in order to return to the country where my life had first gone wrong.

I passed my lace and gold embellished invitation into the hostess’s perfectly manicured hands, stood still while she tap-tap-tapped her rings against the sapphire glass. With a quick glance she judged the Louboutins killing my toes, the fist-sized fire opal caught in a net of silver and gold threads against the open back of my dress, my expertly coiffed dark hair.

Most people didn’t notice my deep brown contact lenses. They couldn’t guess I wore smoke lensed glasses to smother the unnatural iridescence of my hazel eyes. They saw a taller than average girl wearing a designer dress, showing some leg, and wearing an expensive jewel because that’s all they wanted to see. They didn’t know that beneath those yards of silk was evidence of the animal genetically engineered to share my body.

My parents called the dragon-shaped stain on my skin Vahana’s mark: a symbol of my animal spirit, my totem, my “spiritual guide.”

More like my constant pain in the ass. The beast hadn’t ceased grumbling on the nonstop from New York to Mumbai.

Just one more minute, beast, and she’ll pass me through the gates into hell.


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 81,000

Pitch: A sly black-market trader with the ability of creating bottled emotions embarks on a spy mission in the jungle with the arrogant cadet who arrested her for selling euphoria.

First 250 Words:
The thick string of dark red fury slips out of my fingertips in quick waves. The flame inside the oil lamp next to me flickers, its light glimmering in the rope of emotion snaking inside the bottle. Pure perfection. The fat streak fills the tiny vial in seconds, and I slide my finger over to the next one before it overflows.

A knock on the door interrupts me, and I set aside the vials before answering. The wind of the sea lightly strokes my skin, and a stray dog’s barking breaks the silence of the evening. Niol stands on the doorstep, his white shirt contrasting nicely with his rich brown skin.

“I’m almost done,” I say, leaving the door open for him and going back to cork the bottles. “How many orders for today?”

He snakes his arms around me from behind, his fingers gently brushing the sides of my hips. “Oh, Kia, always business.” Spinning me around, he unties the tidy bun sitting atop my head and runs his fingers through my loose hair. “Relax a little.”

“I don’t have time to relax.” I brush him away, turning back to my working station. He follows me right away.

“Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for this?” He strokes my naked arms, sending shivers down my spine. My olive skin looks almost pale compared to his. He cups my face between his palms. “Look at these warm eyes. One would actually think you have a heart.”


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 75,000

Pitch: When her dead father is linked to a missing actress, a lonely teenager heads to New York to find the parallel world they’re hiding out in. At least that’s the story she’s telling people.

First 250 Words:
It all happened on the same day: Will Friese appearing, Claire Harlow going missing, and the hard, painful bump on my chin that was likely to erupt into a giant zit by evening. The third thing maybe wasn’t so important, but things happen in threes is all I’m saying.

While I weighed the pros and cons of going to class or blowing it off to put lemon juice on my face, my dad’s voice echoed in my head. “A hatchling, Ingrid. What are you going to do with it?”

A hatchling sounds like something wet and squawking and covered in slime with bits of shell stuck to it, but it’s actually a split in time. At least according to my dad. There are always options. We choose one and live with it, but what about the others, the ones we didn’t choose? They go on without us. So, in this reality, while one Ingrid goes to class, in another, different world, Ingrid skips class and enjoys a relaxing afternoon watching an entire season’s worth of television while drying out her chin. And each Ingrid, each world, never knows of the other’s existence.

Most people thought my dad was crazy. But he’d made a whole career out of trying to prove these other worlds exist. Until he was murdered last year. Vehicular homicide. That’s what it’s called when the murder weapon has four wheels and an engine. But it is murder nonetheless. And for six long months I’d been left alone with just my mom to wonder what he was doing crossing the street in New York when he should have been at home in Toronto.


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 82,000

Pitch: Victory should mean peace, but for asexual knight Lavie it means fighting PTSD and trying to avoid court life. When assassins attack, she must discover who is undermining the new reign before it crumbles.

First 250 Words:
The darkness at the bottom of the dungeon steps ebbs like water. It’s safe, I remind myself. The war is over. He can’t do anything more to us. An itch crawls up my spine as I turn away, memories of the battle skittering through my mind. I turn back. I need to understand why he did what he did.

The steps disappear, eaten up by gloom. My foot slides on their damp surface, slowing my descent to a crawl. Dank air swirls around me. I wrap my arms around my chest to smother my shivers.

“Who goes there?”

Hurried footsteps accompany the voice and a guard emerges. His hand drops from his weapon and he smiles when he sees me.

“Oh, it’s you, Sir.”

As our army grew, what to call me caused some consternation. Lavie was too informal for one so close to the prince, but any man who called me Lady would earn a swift kick for his trouble. So they call me Sir, or sometimes Sir Knight, after Prince Brendan touched my shoulders with his sword following the Battle of the Bloody Waterfall. It’s more than a title. It’s who I am. No longer a girl playing with a blunted tourney sword, but a practiced killer.

The first time I killed a man, the very sound of it made me retch. The second one turned my stomach, but I’d kept down my food. Same with the third and fourth. Somewhere along the way I stopped counting and stopped caring.


Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 96,000

Pitch: A girl with ever-changing tattoos must navigate an enchanted forest to save her town from a force that’s reversed the clocks. If time stops, so will every heart in Weir.

First 250 Words:
Every town has a tradition. In Weir, they give us keys.

Crafted from iron, they are called watchkeys, and we don’t keep them on rings or buried in our pockets. No one ever loses a watchkey because they are strung on necklaces that are fused and clasp-less. The pendants only come off for the coffin.

Iron is important. It absorbs magic, which is forbidden, but the keys don’t protect us. Instead, they act as individual barometers that tell the key-checkers if a wearer has been in the presence of magic. I’ve worn a key for eighteen years and I used to like it back when I thought it was jewelry. Way back when I wore my hair in pigtails.

I don’t wear pigtails anymore.

Nerves flare as hot and unpleasant as vomit, but I’m used to them. For the last few years I’ve had to worry about every key check. Every person. Tension is part of who I am. Even my heart skips ahead of my footsteps as they make their way down the Hinterland Road. Hardly anyone travels this pitted mess. Roots have risen above the dirt and there are crowns of flat-topped boulders. The woods on either side are just beginning to sprout leaves. Soon they’ll grow big and shiny, and there will be enough of them to hide almost anything.

The road stretches, deserted and thin. It joins my house to Weir proper and I’m only on it for one reason. The sign nailed to that sawed-off oak.


Age Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 57,000

Pitch: Sam creates worlds with each map he draws—worlds he can step into. Fantastic. But when another mapmaker threatens to kill Sam’s sister and friend, Sam must use his mapmaking skills to save them.

First 250 Words:
It only took Sam three seconds to annihilate the whole town. He’d timed it. That’s how bored he was. He flicked eraser dust off the page. At least the Badlands looked better. Badlands should be bad. Barren. They shouldn’t have a dinky town plopped in the middle.

He set down his eraser and pushed away from the awkward, built-in desk. This wasn’t a map-drawing desk. The one he’d had back in Los Angeles was big enough to spread out his largest maps. Even though it was only a piece of plywood on cinderblocks, it had been perfect. But his dad said it made no sense to bring pieces of junk like that with them—especially when there was a perfectly serviceable desk built into this room.

Sam kicked one of the desk’s legs. Serviceable. What a dumb word.

He smoothed the edges of his map of Rior. Usually working on it was his favorite thing. Rior was his world. His. Every tree, mountain, city and stream he’d thought of and drew.

What would a face on the side of a mountain look like? Interesting maybe. He was putting tiny crosshatches on the ocean-facing side of Mount Junda, when the bedroom door banged open, making his hand slip. Instead of a face he had a big fat crevice. “Sasha!” he yelled at his sister.

“What?” Sasha tried—and failed—to look innocent.

“You made me—” Sam didn’t bother finishing. He stared at the mistake wondering if he should leave it or erase it.