In the pg70pit contest, judges score entries based on the strength of their writing voice. These fourteen 70th pages from unpublished manuscripts got the highest scores in the middle grade category.
The fourteen winners are divided equally between this blog and JD Burns’ blog. Agents may request queries, partials, or fulls in the comments.
On JD Burns’ Blog:
- Fantasy—Shine Bright like a Diamond
- Contemporary—I want to fly like an eagle
- Fantasy—She’s so good at being in trouble
- Fantasy—A Lionheart
- Science Fiction—Smiles returning to the faces
- Mystery—I’m still looking up
- Fantasy—Once there was an African Love Song
- Science Fiction—Look at that sky, life’s begun
- Mystery—Another One Bites the Dust
- Fantasy—We Will Walk Careless
- Contemporary—In an Octopus’ garden in the sea
- Fantasy—We’ve Got Magic to Do
- Fantasy—Are we Dancer?
- Contemporary—We say nothing more than we need
Look at that sky, life’s begun
7 Words for your Main Character: Dark Ages girl who dreams of knighthood
***This excerpt is the POV of the main characters accidental traveling companion/crash-landed alien***
Odd scoffed. Of course he was telling Fiona. Of course he was. He couldn’t have a moping, downtrodden minion after all. If he could lift her spirits she would make a much more efficient slave.
“Human minio—uh, sorry—Fiona?”
Her raspy reply sounded eerily similar to a Gronkmonger’s mating call. On closer inspection he discovered she had fallen asleep, and the grating sound was just the snarl of her snores.
Odd chuckled in spite of himself. He settled back down next to the fire. For an instant, he considered activating Si, but only for an instant. Everything was quiet, serene, peaceful. He decided not to ruin the moment with Si’s nasally motor mouth.
He softened the ambient light inside his armor to better see his surroundings. How strange this planet Earth was? Spongy, and wet, and alive absolutely everywhere he looked; just about as different from Demowogg as could be. He should’ve been disgusted by it, but he wasn’t. At least not entirely. Something about the puny planet was beginning to grow on him. Sort of like a fungus, he supposed, but a not entirely unpleasant one.
Odd hadn’t slept outside a hybernatrix in orbits, but as he gazed up at the twinkling sky, listening to the strangely soothing sound of the obstructed air movement in Fiona’s respiratory structures, he found his eyelids growing heavy. He yawned. He turned the ambient light off inside his armor altogether, and with a creaking stretch, leaned back against a chunk of driftwood and fell into a deep, untroubled sleep.
Word Count: 48K
Genre: Science Fiction
Another One Bites the Dust
7 Words for your Main Character: Broken back–no problem. Cranky ghost–HELP!
*This excerpt is in the POV from the other MC (Dual POV)*
“This way.” Jack led us to a stack of yellowed papers in a glass case located next to the security guard who stood up from his post.
“Stan the Man, these are my friends, not experienced art thieves,” he said.
The guard scowled and backed up, letting us pass.
“What is this thing?” I asked.
Jack cleared his throat. “It’s the Leicester Codex, also know as the Codex Hammer. A rare journal written by Leonardo da Vinci.”
“It’s Hammer time,” I said, giving Jack a high-five.
Stan shook his head.
“What’s Hammer time?” asked Seth.
“A famous song from the rapper MC Hammer,” said Jack. “My dad’s into ’80s music.”
“So’s our dad. How did you get this thing?”
“My dad’s company bought it from Bill Gates at the cost of thirty million.”
Stan narrowed his eyes and flexed his muscles, as if one of us was about to break the bullet-proof glass with our bare hands and make a run for it.
“You live here and your dad works here?” asked Seth.
“Yeah, he hosts auctions here, but we own the house.”
“Uh, you mean haunted house?” I said, locking eyes with a ghost hovering above the chandelier. His eyes gleamed silver.
A sticky note appeared on my forehead. Jack peeled it off and read:
“Franklin, be nice,” said Jack.
Another Post-It note poofed into existence.
“The ghost has a name?”
“And an attitude. Meet my dead neighbor, Franklin Graves. That’s why we’re here–to solve his murder.”
Word Count: 47K
We will walk careless
7 Words for your Main Character: Boy discovers war between ghouls and ghosts
‘Now, before we begin, I think it’s important for you to know that I am very smart. And so – because of my smartness – it’s very easy for me to forget things. Imagine my brain as a large house with lots of rooms and floors and buildings and such things. It would be easy for something to go missing in such a house, wouldn’t it? It would be easy for something to get lost. Especially compared to a smaller, less developed house such as yours.’
Tommy groaned. ‘I’m not an idiot, Fenecious. You didn’t forget. You just didn’t want to tell me. I saw the way you were all fidgety up here. I knew you and the other ghosts were up to something. I’ve been trying to find out what it is for the last few days. But there’s no point lying anymore. I almost died the other day, so you might as well just tell me the truth.’
Fenecious blanched. ‘Ah, that might be true, but it was with good reason we tried to keep such things from you. We didn’t want to tell you because we wanted to protect you. We didn’t want to scare you with things supposed to be none of your concern.’ He glanced at the other ghosts, who seemed to beckon him to continue. ‘We didn’t want to worry you about things you’re not even supposed to see.’
A coldness crept across Tommy’s skin. He shifted in his seat. ‘You’re talking about the monster?’
‘That’s right. Although, technically, it’s a ghoul.’
Word Count: 60K
In an Octopus’ garden in the sea
7 Words for your Main Character: PTSD, determined to prove he’s not wimpy.
They put up the sails and headed southwest around the tip of Stockton and up between Oak and Manitou. When they were settled on a northeast heading, he texted Rosie.
Sorry. Couldn’t answer when you called.
She texted back almost right away. You ok?
Yup. I have yr rock in my pocket, eagles in my mind. Does this mean I’m superstitious?
Means you’re a sailor. 🙂
A few hours later they anchored off the lee side of Otter for the night, protected from the wind. The sun dropped into the lake like a big fireball. Far in the distance Sam saw the outline of a laker steaming toward Duluth. The cargo boat was as big as 25 houses, but from this distance it looked like a toy. Soon the Milky Way was smeared against the black night, an arch over them. The wind died down, and the only sound was the gentle slap slap of the waves against the hull.
Sam sat alone on the bow, stared at the sunset.
“Do not take me lightly.” There it was again. A whisper. Sam twisted around, looking for where the voice came from. Dad and Pete were talking quietly in the cockpit. Sam looked out onto the vast expanse of the lake and listened to the waves brush against the hull of the boat, the sound soft as a breath. Rosie had said the lake talked to her mother. Maybe he wasn’t crazy.
Dad called to him. “Let’s review the emergency radio signals. We’ve got a lot of open water ahead of us.”
Word Count: 29K
We’ve Got Magic To Do
7 Words for your Main Character: Neophyte magician learns ropes on the run
Gabe’s eyes flicked to the wall behind them. No, not the wall—the window.
Although it felt like madness, Sam flung the window open wide. As the men charged into the bedroom, Sam and Gabe jumped into the night sky.
They plummeted. Wind blew Sam’s hair straight up, and their pajamas billowed around them. Somehow, her stomach plunged faster than the rest of her body, like it was trying to win the deadly race to the ground.
They were going to crash. Become pancakes. Probably die in Aunt Jo’s azaleas.
In her last seconds, Sam reached for those little crackles of magic flooding through her veins. But their magic was missing in action. If Sam and Gabe were on solid ground, they would break their hands apart and wait for that unmistakable burst of magic when their palms connected again. Unfortunately, they were hurtling through the air. Sam couldn’t let go of Gabe if she wanted to—he was wrenching her arm out of its socket.
So Sam did the next best thing. She hurled her other hand towards Gabe and latched onto his upper arm.
Magic, warm and wonderful magic, sizzled through her fingers. She clung to that feeling with all her might and screamed, “Up! Please, please up!”
Not a moment too soon, they jerked to a halt three feet above the ground. Suspended in midair, Sam grinned. “We’re flying!”
This was a slight exaggeration since they had only managed to stop falling. Still, they weren’t splattered across the garden. That was something to celebrate.
Word Count: 72K
Sub-genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Are we dancer?
7 Words for your Main Character: Bookish, kind, witty, loyal, adventurous.
‘Oh I don’t know.’ Peg ambled in, wiping her hands on a rag. ‘You might be skinny, but you could give a caber tosser a run for his money.’
‘Fine then,’ Maggie said, ‘I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw you. Is that a better analogy?’
Peg flashed a cheesy grin at her and sat at the table. ‘Right! Who’s making the tea and who’s fetching the biscuits?’ She winked at Annie.
Maggie huffed and swished her wand. Crockery flew from shelves to clatter onto the table. Annie ducked to avoid the low-flying biscuit tin.
‘What was that Phil called you, Aunt Maggie?’ said Annie.
‘Megram,’ said Peg, ‘and my real name’s Peggala.’
‘Unusual names,’ said Annie.
‘They’re from our world,’ said Maggie. ‘We changed them to blend in here.’
Annie leaned over Peg to lift the chopping board.
‘Eurgh, what’s the whiff?’ Peg flapped her hand at her nose.
‘Oh, I think it’s me,’ said Annie. She rubbed at grey splashes on her t-shirt and jeans. ‘You might have let me bring a change of clothes. How long are we here for, anyway?’
‘Ah, well, I suppose you’ll have to know,’ said Maggie.
‘Know what?’ said Annie.
‘We can’t go back to the cottage. It disappeared.’
‘What do you mean, “disappeared”?’
‘Exactly that. It vanished on Saturday, while you were in the village and we were in the woods.’
‘Don’t worry – we know where it is,’ said Peg. She scrunched her face. ‘Probably.’
Word Count: 58K
We say nothing more than we need
7-words for your MC: Girly girl camps with bully and witch
Mrs. Greenly taps her ear. “You’re going to think the old girl’s cracking up, but I swear I hear ‘The Chicken Dance.’ And I think I see a mammoth chicken on that truck.” She rubs her eyes.
I hear it, too. And honestly, that song along with the clucking, plastic chicken would normally embarrass me. But tonight, after the day I had, that stupid bird makes me so happy. “You’re not cracking up,” I assure Mrs. Greenly. “My family owns the Chicken Barn Restaurant, and that’s the company truck.”
Wings flap, beak claps, my rescuer—my hero—my dad has come to save me.
He pulls his truck into the circle drive and powers down the chicken. He barely steps down onto the gravel when I fly into his arms. “Daddy.” I can’t say another word. His shirt smells good like fried chicken and biscuits. I cry like a baby, and my dad doesn’t ask why. He holds me tighter.
“Thanks for giving us a call, Mrs. Greenly.” He rubs my back. “I know one little girl who’s going to sleep well tonight.”
“Take care, Stella!” Mrs. Greenly waves. “I’ll see you Monday.”
“See you Monday.” I wave back. “And please don’t forget what you promised.”
“I remember.” Mrs. Greenly winks and nods.
My dad gives me a boost up into the passenger seat. I buckle up. I barely remember thanking him for coming to get me. Next thing I know, Mom’s caressing my cheek to wake me and take me up to my room.
Word Count: 21K