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Pat McCaw

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  1. Emily blames her father for her mom’s death, but when he’s mauled by a bear in the remote Canadian wilderness, she must forgive the past and connect with her despised stepsister, Skylar, or they’ll never survive. 16-year-old Emily usually looks forward to a week at Loon Lake for her yearly father-daughter fly-in fishing trip – but not this year. She’s stuck in the remote Canadian wilderness with her 19-year-old diva stepsister, Skylar, and with the father she blames for her mom’s death. A bear breaks into the cabin and mauls their dad to the brink of death. Emily and Skylar wound the bear and escape, but their entire food supply is decimated. They find a dusty satellite phone and send out a message before it stops working, but their rescue plane crashes into the forest before their eyes. Now, they’re stranded with no contact to the outside world. Out of desperation, Emily hikes through dense forest to the crashed plane hoping to find survivors, while Skylar remains at the cabin to keep their dad alive. Emily retrieves a broken radio and returns to the cabin just as the wounded bear returns for its revenge. Emily and Skylar must fight together and forgive past secrets, or they will never survive. Comparables: FRENZIED is a YA novel complete at 72,500 words. It is a modern-day HATCHET with girl power and family drama. It will appeal to fans of I AM STILL ALIVE by Kate Alice Marshall and THE OTHER SIDE OF LOST by Jessi Kirby, as well as to fans of the television series THE WILDS on Amazon. Sample pages: FRENZIED Chapter 1 Emily “Nature in her green tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions.” – John Muir An entire week without electricity, running water, or Wi-Fi, on a private lake packed with walleye . . . Paradise. Dad and I travel to the same cabin, in middle-of-nowhere Canada, every year. We fish in the rain until our fingers grow numb and cook fresh filets over an open fire. For most of my sixteen years, it’s been our special trip. Not anymore. As our plane gets closer to Loon Lake, the carpet of trees hasn’t changed, but life sure has. It’s hard to spend a week with the man I used to idolize when now my stomach turns whenever he’s around. Dad presses his nose to the airplane window and scans the landscape. My breath quickens. Normally, I’d be babbling about my excitement to go on hikes, eat shore lunch, search for wild asparagus, and fish until dark, but I turn toward the window. Silent. Dad nudges Skylar hoping that his enthusiasm will rub off. “What do you think?” Skylar, my new stepsister, grips her Gucci purse with white knuckles and dry heaves over her glossed lips. Our small four-passenger plane bounces through the clouds, but the princess is too pretty to puke. She chokes it down. “I’m going to toss my scone if we keep getting jerked around like this!” She prances around like her mother. At least she’s not here – one diva is enough. Ignoring them, I yell over the plane’s engine. “Hey Chuck, how’s fishing been at the lake?” Chuck lowers his radio. “You’re the first ones up this season, Emily. I’ll need your fishing report at the end of the week.” He smirks. “Ice out was only two weeks ago, so they may be slow to bite, but I know you’ll find ‘em.” He holds his hands wide. “You still hold the record for biggest walleye caught on Loon Lake. A beauty! You should see the faces of the other fishermen when I tell them you’re a girl.” I can’t help but grin. Yeah, I can out-fish any guy. Any day. Chuck’s awesome – even if he’s a Cardinals fan. (Cubs rule). He reminds me of a cowboy who’s been riding the range in the blazing heat for too long, but Chuck’s hardened edges come from whiskey. He flies us to our cabin every year. He manages the property at Loon Lake for the Westons, the old couple who owns it. Dad and I won’t consider other fly-in fishing trips. Who needs a lodge with a flushing toilet? We prefer Loon Lake. It’s tradition. “Even if the fishing’s slow, we’ll find ‘em.” Dad and I know every fishing hole. We’ve never had a bad year of fishing on Loon Lake. “We eat fish every day, so they’d better be biting. Otherwise, that’s a lot of peanut butter and jelly!” “What did you just say?” Skylar bolts upright in her seat. “We’re eating fish, like, every day?” She covers her mouth with fake fingernails and practically stabs her nose. “I can’t stand fish.” Good thing Dad brought her on a fishing trip. I can’t even look at him. I wonder if he realizes that I haven’t spoken to him since we left Iowa this morning. Bio: I earned my MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University, and I practice family medicine in Iowa. I am an active member of SCBWI, and I teach classes to educators through the Area Education Agency on using picture books in a classroom and fun ways to teach creative writing to youngsters. I've written online blog content for GILI sports about paddle boarding. I won a short story contest in January 2020 for Our Iowa magazine, and I was a top 20 finalist in a Writer’s Digest short story contest.
  2. @Adam Fout This is powerful and instantly draws you into the darkness that's all around. You have some vivid descriptions and characterizations. I have to preface this to say I don't write memoir.... but I would love to hear/see more of the protagonist's characterization in the opening scene. We see everyone around him/her but we still know nothing about the storyteller. About 3/4 the way through at "I wonder what they used to be like...." this takes us out of the scene - for three paragraphs the protagonist seems to be preaching - it's powerful statements and I love them - but maybe move it later in the story once we are settled into the characters and setting more so we have some idea who the protagonist is and what he wants. Great writing! Vivid and powerful
  3. @Brenda Ferber I think you did make it clear that assigning the number made the victim to say something as well - but since we don't SEE that scene and the extra level of cruelty it must have been for the victim to realize she was 1104, then I think it might not be necessary. If you include it as a scene - that's different! (And might be an excellent add) Because then we can see the layers of the bullying. again - love it no matter what!
  4. @Cara Cilento I really liked how we dive into the scene. The short, choppy sentences seem to mimic how her schizophrenic brain works to stay on track and focus. I like the mystery as to the mysterious donor, the past assault, and her mental illness. You end the scene on the name Vivenne Thibodeau but we have not heard that name yet in the ms - it's hard to know what to make of that name? Is it a good or a bad person? I like how the title represents the many sounds in her head and we see that with the music, humming, and sounds in the scene.
  5. @Brenda Ferber Wow - I love this! The scene starts out so innocent and normal but takes a HUGE turn. The Sopranos on the TV in the background is great symbolism to the daughter holding the knife. I truly want to read more. My only comments as to what threw me out of the scene was why the bullied girl needed to be assigned a number? It sounds like the teacher and class ultimately knew who the targeted girl was without big event of needing to connect the number to her - so why can't it be overtly directed at her without the filter of 1104? That is obviously a minor detail. I love this story! Would love to read more. Pat
  6. Thank you @L A Wibberley and @Brenda Ferberfor your responses! I truly appreciate it!
  7. What a nice start to a novel. I like the mystery as to what happened to Danny and why she feels guilty. I think you could even amp this up more? That hint of suspense and mystery breaks up the somber tone of the beginning. I really like your vivid descriptions and characterization. Is her sorrow related mostly to her guilt or the loss itself? You mention a speculative component, but I don't know that I get much of that yet. Making a wish on a star doesn't put me in that realm yet. I'd also like to know if "Nantucket" is a novel thought to her or a familiar place? It is the big ending to the scene but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to feel about it. Is Nantucket where she grew up? Does it have something to do with Danny? Has she ever been there before? Maybe if we see/feel her own reaction to wishing for Nantucket it might help us to know whether she's simply wishing for a vacation or if she is baffled as to why she thought of Nantucket? I hope that makes sense. Your writing is beautiful and I love that this story keeps haunting you and driving you to write more! That can only mean that it's meant to be written! Good luck to you and beautiful writing. Pat
  8. Hey everyone! This is the opening scene to my YA Survival novel (the title likely getting changed soon). Each chapter alternates the POV of the stepsisters, Emily and Skylar. The opening scene is from Emily POV and sets up the remote wilderness setting and the personal relationships. The formatting of the paragraphs and spacing is off after I copy and paste the pages... Sorry about that. Chapter 1 Emily “Nature in her green tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions.” – John Muir An entire week without electricity, running water, or Wi-Fi, on a private lake packed with walleye . . . Paradise. Dad and I travel to the same cabin, in middle-of-nowhere Canada, every year. We fish in the rain until our fingers grow numb and cook fresh filets over an open fire. For most of my sixteen years, it’s been our special trip. Not anymore. As our plane gets closer to Loon Lake, the carpet of trees hasn’t changed, but life sure has. It’s hard to spend a week with the man I used to idolize when now I my stomach turns whenever he’s around. Dad presses his nose to the airplane window and scans the landscape. My breath quickens. I’d usually tell him how excited I am to go on hikes, eat shore lunch, search for wild asparagus, and fish until dark, but instead, I turn toward the window. Silent. Dad turns to Skylar hoping that his enthusiasm will rub off. “What do you think?” Skylar, my new stepsister, grips her Gucci purse with white knuckles and dry heaves over her glossed lips. Our small four-passenger plane bounces through the clouds, but the princess is too pretty to puke. She chokes it down. “I’m going to toss my scone if we keep getting jerked around like this!” She prances around like her mother. At least she’s not here – one diva is enough. Ignoring them, I yell over the plane’s engine. “Hey Chuck, how’s fishing been at the lake?” Chuck lowers his radio. “You’re the first ones up this season, Emily. I’ll need a fishing report at the end of the week.” He smirks. “Ice out was only two weeks ago, so they may be slow to bite, but I know you’ll find ‘em.” He holds his hands wide. “You still hold the record for biggest walleye caught on Loon Lake. Such a beauty! You should see the faces of the other fishermen when I tell them you’re a girl.” I can’t help but grin. Yeah, I can out-fish any guy. Any day. Chuck’s awesome – even if he’s a Cardinals fan. (Cubs rule). He reminds me of a cowboy who’s been riding the range in the blazing heat for too long, but Chuck’s hardened edges come from whiskey. He flies us to our cabin every year. He manages the property at Loon Lake for the Westons, the old couple who owns it. Dad and I won’t consider other fly-in fishing trips. Who needs a lodge with electricity and running water? We prefer Loon Lake. It’s tradition. “Even if the fishing’s slow, we’ll find ‘em.” Dad and I know every fishing hole. We’ve never had a bad year of fishing on Loon Lake. “We’re eating fish every day, so they’d better be biting. If not, that’s a lot of peanut butter and jelly!” “What did you just say?” Skylar bolts upright in her seat. “We’re eating fish, like, every day?” She covers her mouth with her fake fingernails. “I can’t stand fish.” Good thing Dad brought her on a fishing trip. I can’t even look at him. I wonder if he realizes that I haven’t spoken to him since we left Iowa this morning. Skylar’s a Barbie doll that expects everyone to kiss her feet while she buffs her nails. She just finished her freshman year at the University of Iowa, but, unfortunately, she’s home for the summer. We couldn’t get on the road this morning until she’d curled her hair, changed her outfit three times, and painted her face. Then she waltzes out of the house in a pink romper covered with sequins and – get this – rhinestone-studded sandals. And Dad said nothing. He leans toward Skylar. “We eat fish while we’re here, Sky.” Sky? Dad uses a sickening voice as if he’s reasoning with a three-year-old. “We can’t pack a lot of food because the plane can’t hold much gear. We eat what we catch.” She bats her eyelashes at Dad. My dad, not her dad. “Can’t I eat something else?” I squeeze the armrests of my seat with both hands. My ‘are you fricking kidding me’ vibe ricochets around the plane. If he gives in, I’m jumping. Dad stammers and knows better than to look at me. We’re in the wilderness of Canada, not some beach resort. We eat fish. When I create the menu, it accounts for one fish meal a day. Dad leans towards Skylar. “We have plenty of peanut butter. We’ll figure something out.” He adds under his breath with the courage of a worm, “Maybe you’ll like the fish.” Skylar crosses her arms over her chest to pout. I can’t wait for Skylar’s first trip to the outhouse – my camera will be ready. My Canon Rebel EOS dangles from my neck and travels with me everywhere. It was a gift from Mom. She would pore through my photos as if they were worthy of National Geographic. I lower my camera onto my lap because it suddenly feels too heavy to hold. I miss her so much it hurts. My chest gets heavy, and fog fills my brain. I try to swallow the lump in my throat, but it doesn’t move. After a deep breath, I wipe the tears and hope that Skylar doesn’t see. I’ve become skilled at driving the hurt deep into a compartment of my brain that’s filled with the thoughts I can’t handle, but t’s nearing capacity. I snag a picture of the horizon cloaked with trees and try to think about photographing the sunrises, the loons, the flowers, and the fish I’ll catch. Chuck yells over the airplane’s rattle, as the engine sputters and threatens to die. “We’ll land in about five minutes. The wind has picked up so make sure you’re buckled.” My stomach flips, but I can’t give Dad the satisfaction of seeing my excitement. It would be easier if I didn’t love this place so much. I crane my neck for the first peek at Loon Lake. If only I could be dropped off alone for a week without drama. Nothing stirs in the mass of trees below. I haven’t seen another clearing or sign of life for the last ten minutes. The Westons’ cabin is the only property on Loon Lake, so we have it all to ourselves. Untapped fishing potential. Chuck drops the plane to the treetops. He wrestles the wind and we’re tossed around like flies in a hurricane. We wobble back and forth as Chuck fights the controls to find horizontal. I scoot closer to the window because Skylar’s going to hurl at any minute. Over the tree line, Loon Lake’s unique Y-shape stretches across the horizon. Our cabin is in a tiny clearing at the fork of the Y. My insides do a loop-de-loo from the turbulence mixed with the thrill of seeing Loon Lake. I see the same glimmer on Dad’s face. Skylar leans forward in her seat, scans out the window with wide crazy eyes, and tightens her seatbelt five times. “Where’s the runway?” I burst out laughing. Dad flashes me a knock-it-off. Dad’s syrupy voice returns. “There’s no runway. Chuck lands on the lake. The plane has pontoons for landing gear. It’s great!” As if he will convince her. Skylar’s face turns ghost-white leaving red streaks of blush and painted lips to stand out like a clown. As the plane lurches, she moans and pulls her knees to her chest. Chuck pats the dashboard of the plane. “Come on, Lou. Take us down easy.” A gust of wind shoots the right wing upward and I hit my forehead on the back of Chuck’s seat. He yells, “Damnit, Lou!” He sits up tall and counters with the stick to level the plane. The engine sputters… and then stalls. “What’s happening?” Skylar screeches – her specialty. We float through the air as the pine trees draw near. Silently falling. We plummet so fast that I can see the waves rippling on Loon Lake. We’re going to crash. I take a deep breath and scan the land below looking for the nearest clearing. Is there a place to land? Will someone call for help? There’s no sign of life for miles. Skylar’s nails dig into Dad’s arm. She steams up the window as she bawls. “Eric, do something! I don’t want to die!” She sprays snot onto his arm. I’m glued to the window. Frozen. Trees are so close that I can tell the elms from the maples. “Chuck?” Chuck’s voice cracks and he plasters on a fake grin. “It’s all good, it’s all good. I got this.” He pounds the dash of the airplane with his fist and flips switches off and on. “Lou’s just being a bitch.” With another flip of a switch, the plane’s engine stutters and then starts up again. I blow out a whoosh of air and realize that I’ve been holding my breath. Chuck regains control and the plane levels. I should never have doubted him. “Thank, God!” Skylar hugs Dad’s arm for comfort, and I clench my teeth so hard that my jaw pops. Skylar’s father ditched her when she was four. Yeah, I know that sucks, but it doesn’t mean she moves in on my territory. Skylar dotes on Dad constantly and he loves every minute. I’m sure Dad hopes that trapping us together in the woods for a week is going to make me and Skyler BFFs. Think again. I break my silent treatment to bust up their moment. “Hey, Dad. Look!” I point to the lake. A pair of loons dive for fish. Dad leans forward and breaks Skylar’s hold. Mission accomplished. “The loons are building their nests for the spring.” It’s hard to beat fishing for walleye and hiking through the forest, but I could lay on the dock and watch the loons all day. Loons mate for life. They patrol the water to protect their nest and would do anything for their babies. My loon pictures were Mom’s favorite. I focus my lens and snap a picture out the window, but they’re too far away. When we land, I’ll zoom close enough to see the fine black and white lines that circle the loon’s neck and capture the glint in its red eye. I can already hear their songs echoing across Loon Lake to drown out everything else. With one last wobble and lurch of the plane, Chuck hollers, “Hold on!” He wrestles Lou onto the lake with a thud and a splash. Water pelts the windows. After we settle onto the water, Chuck and Lou get along. We cruise down one leg of Loon Lake’s Y toward our dock. The plane sputters once more and then stalls – again. Chuck laughs it off like it’s part of his plan. He opens the airplane door, grabs an oar, and paddles until he gets close enough to lasso the dock with a rope. “We’re here! Welcome to Loon Lake!” Dad slaps Chuck’s shoulder as he steps off the plane. “Interesting landing, Chuck.” Dad can’t hide his clenched jaw as he grins through gritted teeth. “Might be time to upgrade Ol’ Lou.” Dad’s bulging neck vein is about to burst. Chuck pats Lou on the wing. “This girl’s got lots of life left.” He ties off the plane and offers me a hand as I step onto the dock. “Welcome home, Emily.” He pauses and then fakes a smile at Skylar. “I bet you’ll love it here.” I’ll take that bet. -------------end of chapter 1
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  17. Pat McCaw 1. Story Statement: As their father clings to life in the isolated Canadian wilderness, stepsisters Emily and Skylar must overcome their mutual hatred and forgive family secrets if they hope to survive. 2. Antagonists: (Dual POV) The novel is Dual POV with alternating chapters of each sister. Emily and Skylar are stranded at a remote cabin in the Canadian wilderness after their father is brutally attacked by a bear. The primary antagonist is the wilderness itself. The girls are tested physically and emotionally by the terrain, the need for food, by lurking predators, and accidental injuries. Without food or any contact with the outside world, Emily must hike through the forest in hopes of finding help while Skylar stays at the cabin to care for their dying father. The wilderness antagonizes Emily's hopes of rescue by inflicting injuries, illness, and hunger as she battles inner demons. She's risking her own life to save the father who is responsible for her mom’s death. (personal conflict for Emily) Emily's secondary antagonist is Skylar. Skylar represents Emily's father's poor decisions and she's a painful reminder of her mom's death. Emily must rely on Skylar to stay at the cabin and keep her father alive when Skylar knows nothing about the outdoors, and the thought of dirt under her fingernails makes her ill. Emily does not believe Skylar has the knowledge or skills to survive, but with no chance of rescue, Emily's only option is to hike for help. Skylar's primary protagonist is also the wilderness. She is forced to stay at the cabin to care for her stepdad while Emily hikes for help. Skylar must mend Eric’s wounds and ward off infection, find food for them both, keep the fire burning, and stave off predators that lurk at the forest's edges. Nature is a daunting antagonist for Skylar as she fights to keep her only chance at a "real family" alive. Secondary antagonists to Skylar are Eric and Emily and her new family. The notion of family comes into question when Skylar discovers Eric's deep family secret that makes her question his love for Skylar and her mother. Emily lacks respect for Skylar and refuses to see her as family. A secondary antagonist for Skylar is the family of raccoons that live underneath the outhouse. She battles the raccoons but they eventually form an unlikely alliance. 3. Break out title: When the Loons Call (metaphor - current title that needs changed) - The loons recur throughout the story. The reader learns that loons mate for life and will do anything to protect their young - this represents Emily's parents and their secret pact to protect Emily. The Only Option: Survive No Hope For Rescue Survival is the Only Option 4. Two comparable novels: I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby Both comparison novels are YA survival novels that deal with the protagonist’s fight for survival as well as their underlying emotional journey. 5. Logline: Stepsisters must overcome their mutual hatred and confront deep family secrets if they hope to save their father and survive an unrelenting wilderness. 6. Protagonist’s inner conflicts and secondary conflict: (DUAL POV) EMILY: Primary conflict: To survive the wilderness. They have no food and their father needs medical help or he will die. They have no contact with the outside world, no food, and no chance of rescue. Secondary conflict (personal conflict): Emily’s convinced her dad caused her mom’s death, but now he might die. She's torn between grief for her dead mother and the impending death of her father - her only remaining family. Interpersonal conflict: Emily is scared because she must leave her dying father with her clueless stepsister who knows nothing about the outdoors. Emily must hike for any chance of rescue, but she has no confidence or respect for Skylar's ability to find food, to help her dad, or to survive. SKLYER: Primary conflict: (The wilderness) Skylar knows nothing about the outdoors, fishing, or first aid, but now she’s left to tend to her stepfather after he’s mauled by a bear. She’s clumsy, scared, and has no skills, but she must find food and keep her stepfather alive. Secondary conflict: Skylar must adapt to her surroundings and step up to help herself or she will fail everyone around her. She must put aside her co-dependent traits and rely on her own strength and intelligence that she often hides. Interpersonal conflict: Skylar’s own father abandoned her as an infant and now her stepfather might die. On his death bed, she’s tormented to learn the family secret that changes everything. Eric married Skylar's mother as a dying wish to ensure Emily has a future family. Skylar now questions Eric's love and wonders if her new family is a sham. 7. Setting: Settings: A broken down cabin, the dense forest, a broken down airplane, on a boat in the lake. The setting of the novel is the isolated Canadian wilderness with nothing but dense forest in every directions. There's no electricity, no clean water, and their food supply has been decimated. The wilderness provides tranquility with loons, flowers, and fresh pine air, but it challenges every move that Emily and Skylar make. Their isolation increases their desperation to get help as their father lay bleeding on the floor of a dilapidated cabin. · The novel begins with stepsisters, Emily and Skylar, on an old, sputtering airplane with their father/stepfather, Eric. They are being dropped off at a remote cabin in the Canadian wilderness for a fishing trip. The plane nearly crashes on arrival - (foreshadows future rescue attempt.) Upon their landing, the vast endless tree line stretches for miles without hint of civilization. · The old, broken-down cabin is surrounded by forest and located on a secluded lake with no other inhabitants for miles. There is no electricity or running water at the cabin. They use an outhouse, use fire to cook, carry in their food by plane, and layer their clothes for warmth. They rely on catching fish as part of their food supply. Loons call from the lake as the male and female stick together to protect their nest. Loons symbolize Emily's dead mother because of the deep family secret that her mother sacrificed her own happiness to keep Emily safe and happy. · The cabin is filled with cobwebs, mouse poop, and the roof leaks. A bear and her cubs break down the cabin’s front door looking for food. Their father, Eric, is severely injured. The girls throw food to lure the bears away. Their only food supply is depleted. · The satellite phone doesn’t work, and their rescue plane crashes as it approaches the lake. They have no contact with the outside world and they have no food. Their father needs help, or he will die. The forest closes in and a storm begins. Darkness and rain represent their hopelessness. · Emily ventures into the dense wilderness alone to find the crashed plane. She hopes to find survivors or a way to contact help. She has no food and is uncertain if she will find anything at the plane. She is uncertain of the right direction and climbs trees to find landmarks to locate the crashed plane. She searches for water and must build a fire to have safe water. A rolling river provides relief and water, but also is the source of a severe leg injury when Emily falls. · Skylar stays at the cabin to care for her stepfather, but she must tend to his injuries and find food. The dark cabin smells like rotting flesh. Raccoons live inside the outhouse and challenge Skylar. · On Emily’s journey, she faces a severe ankle injury, sickness from contaminated water, and comes upon the plane crash. She must make fire, forage for food, and avoid getting lost. The wilderness closes in and challenges her hope. · Skylar tries to go fishing and hikes to find wild berries. Many scenes at her stepfather’s bedside demonstrate his declining health and injuries as the reader experiences the smells, oozing wounds, and his bouts of delirium. · Emily returns to the cabin just as the bear and her cubs return – Emily and Skylar battle the bears together. · Final scene – the girls and father return to the cabin site the next year as a family after they’ve bought the cabin as their own. The cabin is repaired and fresh. The clearing is now an inviting scene and the cabin is home.
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