Title: FOLLOW THE SUN
Entry Title: Nowhere Land
Word Count: 78,000
Genre: #ownvoices historical YA (MC is biracial w/ black father, white mother)Query:
In 1969, Rett syndrome is unheard of. But come hell or high water, seventeen-year-old Jackie is determined to discover the reason why her little sister suddenly lost the ability to speak and control her hands.
Jackie’s four-year-old sister, Evie, has an unknown and mysterious disability. Her parents accept their small town doctor’s generic, “I dunno,” diagnosis that Evie was born with physical and mental impairments and will remain “slow” her entire life. Jackie doesn’t buy it. Evie wasn’t born that way; she regressed just before turning two. Unbeknownst to her folks, Jackie spends months secretly mailing letters to various doctors around the country. She’s convinced that if she can find one expert with an explanation for Evie’s ailments, it will force her parents to choose a path aimed toward a cure rather than blind acceptance.
That’s a lot to handle, though, and no amount of getting drunk with her flower child friends, flirting with a guy who’s caught her eye, or fighting with her June Cleaver-ish mother keeps Evie’s troubles from constantly gnawing at the back of her mind. When a reclusive old lady from Europe reveals her knowledge of a doctor in Austria who might have an answer to the riddle that is Evie, Jackie’s world begins to brighten. But, Evie’s disability becomes too much for her mother and father to handle, and they make plans to remove Evie from Jackie’s life.
Perfect timing; disgusted with her parents’ cruel plan, Jackie takes off on a trip to the Woodstock music festival with her friends. What they don’t know, however, is that she has no intention of returning home with them when it’s over. But, the idea of being separated from Evie weighs heavily on her mind. As Woodstock ends, Jackie must decide to either find a new life elsewhere or return home to be an advocate for her sister and fight against her parents in a decision that she knows is not hers to make.
Woodstock Music & Art Fair, August 1969
Day One – Late Afternoon
I inhale scents so thick of lost inhibitions disguised as weed and booze it’s as if I can reach out and touch them. Literally get a contact high. After hours of waiting, the music’s finally started, but time has no place here. You simply exist. You are here. It is today. The time is now. And it’s all good. But my mind flickers like the flashes of a camera between photos of the before and the after. The past and the present. The agony that brought me to this point and where it might lead me in the future.
Between Evie and this field full of strangers.
The odors surrounding me vanish, replaced by the memory of more comforting aromas: cookies and apple juice. I smile, in spite of myself. But those thoughts angle my mind toward others that curdle my stomach, like Evie at the supper table with my parents, her hands wringing all over themselves. I’m not there as I should be, and she doesn’t understand why. The image of her face in my head makes each beat of my heart push my chest one notch higher on my personal threshold of pain. Like some great chasm has cracked along my sternum, leaking a burning fire through the rest of my body.
I ache to see her, but I can’t go back home. Not after what I found out. Not after what I learned.
Entry Nickname: My Dad Bought Me this Tattoo
Word count: 75K
Genre: YA Thriller
When she’s arrested for peddling drugs in school, seventeen-year-old, Antoinette (Toni) Martali learns her American mother fled Mexico with her when Toni was a baby and has been living in hiding from Toni’s cartel father. Instead of landing in juvenile detention for her bust, ex-DEA Agent Jo Flynn offers Toni a new identity and an opportunity to help bring her father—a dangerous man wanted for drug-trafficking, and now, the death of Toni’s mother—to justice in lieu of disappearing into witness protection.
Agreeing to Flynn’s offer, Toni holds her thirst for vengeance close as she is introduced to the other teens in Flynn’s diverse posse—all of whom have lost parts of their lives to the murderous Mendoza Cartel. Together, this cast of criminal teens will train to infiltrate Toni’s family and secure the revenge they seek—if they don’t kill each other in the process.
The living room curtains block the early morning light, shrouding the sofa in shadows. It’s been more than a year since my mother slept in her own bed; months since the cancer allowed her more than the briefest moment of comfort. She has retreated inside herself, a ghost of the woman who raised me with love.
“You’ll be okay, Mama?” I hesitate in the doorway with her steaming cup of tea, holding still until I see her stir. My greatest fear is finding her in this hell-hole of a room on the day I wake up and she doesn’t.
Her breath fills her lungs on a loud inhale, roughened at the end. The room smells like old food and cigarettes blended with the ripe odor of a withered body and blankets that need washing.
“Is it morning, Toni?” she asks thickly beneath her pain and the ever-increasing dose of meds that do nothing to mask it. I frown as she reaches for a pack of cigarettes. “Heading to school?”
I set the tea on the table within her reach, covering the rings from past cups with the pristine white mug. “Yes.”
She adjusts her hips on the concave sofa cushion, hissing through her teeth. “Be careful, mi chica.”
I smile sadly at her pet name for me. Mama used to live in Mexico, as a nanny and teacher for a wealthy family. It was where she met my father, but we don’t talk about him anymore.