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  1. Prologue 13 Years Ago 7:08 PM Liz Liz hated sunsets. And the late September sky was already awash in bruised hues, outlining rows of gnarled apple trees against the slash of dark horizon. She knew most people enjoyed the colorful blurring of day into night, but those same people had clearly never hunted—or been hunted—by dragons before. They were deadliest at dusk, when mottled dragon scales became nearly invisible in the riot of color. Somehow, creatures with wingspans larger than most commercial aircrafts were rendered almost undetectable. Liz was hot beneath her fatigues; sweat pooling at the base of her spine as she lay flat, propped up on her elbows, rifle pressed into her left shoulder. She had orders, like the half dozen other strike teams peppering the ridge overlooking the valley on either side of her. Whatever they were looking for tonight was supposed to be big—big enough to warrant pulling most of her class out of training for a rare demonstration. She blew out a slow, measured breath. “We probably won’t see anything anyway,” Joseph grumbled. Her older brother sounded listless, agitated even. She settled deeper into the shadow of the nearest apple tree, peering through her scope, ignoring the sour smell from rotting apples strewn about her. “You ok?” she asked instead. He sat just a few feet from her, back pressed against some of the large rocks that formed their cover, rifle laying placidly in his lap. His gaze drifted down into the valley too, but he didn’t look happy about it—also unlike him. Joe loved the hunt, and he’d been waiting for an opportunity like this his whole life. But his hazel eyes were faintly glazed with ... boredom? Worry? She was used to him being assured—the oldest, the best of them. Her skin tingled, and she shifted her weight nervously, repositioning her sights. She concentrated on her elbows sinking into the damp earth, the sound of the wind rustling leaves around them, and the steadiness of her own breathing. The orchard trees were getting murkier by the second between the dark and fog that seemed to be drifting in. She frowned. The fog was moving in fast. Too fast. Something snapped to their left, and their bodies simultaneously sharpened with motion. Liz swung her legs around and focused her rifle, wincing as her headset crackled to life in a too-loud gurgle of static. Her hand flew up to her ear to silence the garbled commands struggling to coming through. Static flared painfully, and then the line went dead. “What the—“ She looked back, and paused. Her brother’s face had formed a sort of wordless question, eyes wide and mouth parted slightly. “Joe?” He launched to his feet without a word—and without his gun—bolting through the tangle of branches behind them in a frenzied burst of motion. She didn’t wait. She should have waited. He’d always been faster than her—damn him—but she ran anyway, ducking fruit laden branches and slipping on slick, smushed apple beneath her boots. He wasn’t even trying to be quiet. They were trained to cover ground quickly and quietly, but Joe was crashing through branches and trees. They might as well have been shining a spotlight on their location. It didn’t make any sense, and the full realization of what that meant slammed into her as she rounded the trunk of a particularly large tree and barreled right into Joe’s broad back. Siren Song. Her brother was standing in the middle of a small clearing, face turned skyward, gaze cloudy. They’d always been decently matched for height and strength, but even as she threw both arms around him and shoved him towards the treeline, he scrambled away from her. “I’m here,” Joe shouted upward, the fog curling around them. “I’m sorry,” he said, but not to her. She tried to wrestle him towards cover, ignoring panic sluicing through her at the noise, at Joe’s Siren-addled brain, at the way the orchard seemed to writhe and breathe around them with every sound they made. “Don’t listen to them—Joe, it’s a Siren Song.” Only one kind of creature sent out a Siren Song, robbing you of reason right before the kill. She raised the butt of her rifle, prepared to knock him out if it meant saving him—but then he was looking at her, eyes clear and confused. “Liz?” he asked hoarsely. She opened her mouth to respond, but never got the chance. Pain exploded above her knee as something big and sharp pierced her leg. Her vision went white – shit, shit, SHIT as she hit the ground hard and felt a sudden warmth saturating her pant leg. And she was bleeding …. dragging … dying … against pebbles and something was pulling her towards the trees. She writhed and clawed at exposed roots but she couldn’t catch her breath, couldn’t catch hold of anything as her nails split and fingertips muddled, couldn’t wriggle around to see what had a hold of her, even though she knew—she knew. Blood streamed down her thigh and pooled at her stomach, fire streaking through her veins, as she managed to finally stare into the face of a dragon too large to have crept up silently behind her. But there he was, his dark snout streaked with her blood and his toothy grin clamped firmly around her thigh. Green eyes the size of saucers gleamed in the coming dark. He hoisted her up several feet into the air before she even had a moment to draw a dizzy breath, acid burning in her throat. She’d dropped her gun. She reached weakly for the Dragonsbreath grenade attached to her belt. She looked down the nose of a grinning marbled grey and black dragon, whose pointed snout and hand-sized teeth were sunk firmly into her leg as he beat his powerful wings and rose into the air. Class 3. Young Male. He rumbled in his throat, but he hadn’t roasted her, which either meant he couldn’t manage a strong enough flame to reignite his sparks so quickly, or he didn’t want her dead … yet. She groaned as she tried to reach up and beat at his nose, gasping as his bite tightened, blurring her vision. She was going to throw up. This was all wrong. Her brain still rattled off the stats anyway: Wingspan 30 feet. Controls weather patterns. And, in a moment of blinding clarity, she realized: you’re too small. You’re not the dragon we’re looking for. The dragon rumbled again, in a gurgle that almost sounded like laughter. She hung five feet off the ground—ten—as her reaching fingers finally closing around the Dragonsbreath. Her hands shook as she met the Class 3’s glare—her fingers slick with her own blood as she yanked it free and pulled the pin. Green eyes narrowed. “Boom.” she hissed. All of her was screaming—burning—as she wrenched her arm back and hurled it towards his stupid grinning face. B O O M. She hit the ground hard, gasping. She could hear the furious roar of the Class 3 overhead, watched as the Dragonsbreath’s green fire climbed up the side of his maw, the acid burning through scale and bone as it raced up snout to spine. She watched until he drifted out of focus, the glow of the green fire illuminating the frantic beating of his wings as he tried to escape the flames. Breathtaking. She just watched the dragon burn, his agonized screeching splitting the night. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever heard. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see straight. She lay gasping, aching everywhere—her ears ringing. She blinked once, twice, trying to clear her head as the Class 3 drifted hazily out of focus. Her limbs were leaden, and her hazy vision was abruptly replaced by the alarmed face of her brother. “Liz? Liz?” His dark hair was askew, eyes wet and wide. She’d never seen him cry. His hand was heavy on her thigh, pinching and tearing; his face tightened in horror, “Your leg—” She didn’t know specifics: specifically where she was hurt, specifically where fire coursed through her, specifically where residual Dragonsbreath acid was eating through her own clothing. Everywhere was pain and fire—acid and burning nausea building in her chest, and she would be sick ... she would be sick and— He pressed a finger to his mic, calling for help that roared to dullness in her ears. She wouldn’t be conscious for long. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, to her this time, yes. She tried to grasp the hand that had wrapped around her own, his fingers tightening. Joseph was screaming again for help, for backup, for anybody, and then there was another shattering roar, one she felt as much as heard through her entire body. But it didn’t matter. Joseph never even saw it coming. In one snap of too-large teeth, his entire torso disappeared in a maw that emerged from the fog and engulfed. Dragon saliva hissed as it sprayed the ground. Teeth the length of her forearm, three times bigger than the Class 3’s, missing her by inches. Its immeasurable form darkened the too-bright sky—incomprehensible. Impossible. No matter how much she tried after, she couldn’t recall what happened after. Did she reach for him? For her gun? Her radio? Did she scream? She must have screamed. Did she just lay there and wait to die? She wished she knew. Would it make a difference if she knew? All she could recall was how her brother’s legs had dangled as they drifted, almost lazily, before disappearing into a muddied swirl of a sherbet-colored sky. She didn’t remember the moment when he ceased to be. She couldn’t seem to forget when she realized he was gone.
  2. Name: Rose Eggert Title: A WOMAN IN THE RIVER or RECKLESS RIVER Genre: Literary Fiction, Commercial Fiction Comps: The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali meets White Teeth by Zadie Smith and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx Hook line: After the accidental drowning of her youngest child, Joline Delaney refuses to speak for years, until an old flame turned homeless vet blows a hole in the hydro dam, releasing the baby’s bones and Joline’s tongue. Pitch: The story begins in 1973. It is the time of the ERA, a Women’s March on Washington, and troops are standing down from the first televised war. Yet, Joline Delaney is stuck in a trailer with 4 hungry kids awaiting the return of sailor-husband, Jacky from war. When the children chase a cat wearing the baby’s baptismal bonnet onto the ice-covered river, Joline falls through and the unbaptized baby drowns. And there is Jacky Delaney hitchhiking home for Newport News to surprise her with big plans. When the surviving children overhear Joline say she “shouldn’t a’ had a’ one of them”, those are the last words Joline will speak – until a homeless vet and former love interest – blows a hole in the dam, releasing the baby’s bones and Joline’s tongue. The aftermath spans decades and lives in a story about fate, choice, action, and love, as Joline’s adult children later return armed with clashing versions of who was to blame for the tragedy. Prose Sample: The following scenes are from Part 1 - A Goddammed Woman - March 29, 1973 In Joline’s tiny kitchen, four hungry kids. Iris, Warren, Rita – the baby eating cereal from the floor. Rita feeding bread to a minnow gasping in the empty money jar. “Put the fish back in the river,” Warren said, reaching for her glass, "Or the cat gets the milk.” "No," Rita said, "The kitty run’d away in a hat." “Ran away in the baby’s hat,” said Warren. The baptismal bonnet! Iris pretended not to hear. She was engrossed in a book about a mother who kissed children and cooked. Joline disappeared. The children were not at all frightened by the slamming door. Soon enough she appeared, pale and spectral, cotton gloves covering her raw hands, slippery with the salve her sister, Vera had brought. Joline kissed each of them on the cheek. The children, accustomed to her tirades, were frightened by such tenderness. Joline grabbed the startled baby and vanished out the door. Spotting the cat in the puckers dressed for baptism, she went down the slippery path, hair flying, baby dangling like a puppet. Iris, Warren, and Rita followed her down, the sad fish in the money jar held out like a beacon. Joline stopped. Stomped at them. “Get dressed for Church!” she cried. Everyone knew it was Saturday. “Iris,” she hissed, the shrillness of her voice sending Iris and Warren scurrying to do as they were told. Rita and the sloshing minnow took a direct route to the river. The steepness of the riverbank, a few tentative steps. Jackie’s rubber boots not even buckled, Joline went sliding down. The children found their mother on the ice, nightgown billowing, face bleeding. Cotton gloves, slippery salve. The squirming baby. Rita with the minnow sloshing. The cat on a branch frozen into ice. A crack like gunshot. Rita jumped, took a step. "Stop," said Iris, holding her breath. She and Warren were watching from the riverbank. Iris touched her brother’s shoulder, holding him back. "Rita,” she called out, “Go get Mumma's lipstick.” "I have to do this," Rita lisped. She held out the jar. Another crack, a boom like thunder. Joline crying, baby held high. Rita running jar rolling minnow spilling into running water. Iris sliding down, down, trying to grab her mother’s hand. Warren pulling her back. Iris grabbing Rita, the sad minnow flopping, the jar rolling. Joline’s face a silent act of weeping. Disappearing beneath the ice. Stillness, confusion. The shock of living upon her. Joline held her breath, until she must let go, surrendering to water and all she was not. The baby slippery as birth leaving in a cloud. A traveler a river a murky glimpse. A face imprinted upon her soul. Swallowed by darkness. It was Saturday afternoon, just hours after Vera left Joline and the kids. This was supposed to be her day off. But she told Old Jimmo she would come in after she got the groceries over to her sister. Jacket on over the meat apron, she was wrapping meat like there was no tomorrow. Piles of raw beef clattered down the line, a rattle of chains. Owen and Frenchy were jabbering away over the saws. Vera could not make out what they were saying, but she yelled out to them anyway, “Awe, shut up, Owen, you don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about,” knowing full well this would get something rolling, besides the meat. Old Jimmo was taking a special order for a customer wanting ground lamb for her poodle. “Come on, Jimmo,” Vera said through a mouthful of beef, “We ain’t got all day.” “Hey, Vera,” said Jimmo, “Ain’t this your day off?” As if she did not know this already. “Yours too, ain’t it, wiseass?” “She’s the talk of the day,” Frenchy shouted over the noise of the saw. “Who? Poodle Lady?” “No, dumbass: that girl with all them kids.” “If she’s got kids,” Vera replied, “she’s a goddamned woman.” “Okay. A goddamned woman with four kids.” “Who’s gonna take care of the kids?” “Their father is, nitwit.” “No-sah! Ain’t his mother-in-law comin’?” “What’s he gonna’ do after she leaves?” “Dance a jig.” The boys split a gut over this one. “What the hell was she doin’ anyways?” “She went through the ice. Holdin’ a goddamned baby.” “Nobody in their roight moind would go out there onto that ice, so close to the dam.” “What?” Vera said. “Some girl who don’t know her ass from her elbow,” said Frenchy, “over in that trailer park t’other side of the bridge…” “A goddamned woman,” said Owen. Vera ran out the door still wearing the bloody apron.
  3. Author: Rose Eggert Title: A Woman in the River Genre: Commercial Fiction, Women’s Fiction Comps: The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali meets White Teeth by Zadie Smith and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx Hook line: After the accidental drowning of her youngest child, Joline Delaney refuses to speak for years, until an old flame turned homeless vet blows a hole in the hydro dam, releasing the baby’s bones and Joline’s tongue. Pitch: 1973. ERA. Women’s March. End of War. Joline Delaney is stuck in a trailer with 4 hungry kids awaiting the return of sailor-husband, Jacky from war. When the children chase a cat onto the ice-covered river, Joline falls through and the baby drowns. Joline refuses to speak for years – until a homeless vet blows a hole in the dam, releasing the baby’s bones and Joline’s tongue. The aftermath spans decades and lives. Joline’s adult children return armed with clashing versions of who is to blame for the tragedy. Prose Sample: The following scenes are taken from Part 1 - A Goddammed Woman - March 29, 1973 ﻝ Beans roiled in the pot like little lost souls, coming to a viscous simmer. Joline stood at the stove, potlids hissing, children fighting at her feet. She turned to shoo them from the sizzling skillet, grabbing the handle, burning her wrist, instead of a small head. She cried, tried to find the salve. It was not safe for children to be where she frothed and churned. She would not cook. In the next room, four kids in need of something she could not give. Bread and milk. She could not bear another day of fighting over what was left. It was snowing, fat splats on the stoop. Driving anywhere seemed impossible. Even if she could get the car started. Even if she had the money. Joline and ice melting down. The trailer court still cloaked in darkness, fog encroaching from the river, she made her way across the road to the pay phone, clad in her nightgown, an old sweater, and Jacky’s rubber boots. Arms clasped tight against the cold, she let the phone ring twice and hung up. This was the signal to her sister to call her back. She waited, bare toes curling inside the cold boots. Yes, Vera would come. Joline slipped back in darkness, crossing before a sanding truck, eyes like dark moons in the headlights. The startled driver crossed himself, cursing softly, hazard lights pulsing on silted snowbanks like tired souls. Kitchen lights were winking on. Early risers making coffee. Others were out scraping ice from windshields for first shift. No one seemed to notice Joline there swallowed by darkness. She crept back into bed, shivering and dizzy with children and bed sheets smelling of ammonia. ﻝ Vera was unpacking groceries. A jar of peanut butter, two loaves of bread. Butter. Milk. Baby cereal. The children all loved the sweet thickness of it. The baby with the mouth like a bird. Joline too, mouth half open, spooning mouthful after mouthful, recounting Jacky’s letter. Troops were standing down, she told Vera. Jacky was probably back aboard ship already, making cash by cutting hair. “We’ll buy new clothes for the kids – for the baby’s baptism,” said Joline. “God. If there is one, doesn’t give a rat’s ass if this baby is baptized or not,” Vera said, “Save your damned money for food.” “I’ll pay you back,” said Joline. “This isn’t about money,” said Vera, “It’s about God.” Having more babies under the circumstances made no sense to Vera at all. She begged Joline to do something to save herself before Jacky got home. As for Vera, she would have kids when hell freezes over. She snapped clean sheets, reminding the kids to always use the bathroom before bed. “You’re in hell already,” Vera told her, “There’s a sin in there somewhere, sister.” She left for work. Aggravated. ﻝ In Joline’s tiny kitchen, four hungry kids. Iris, Warren, Rita – the baby eating cereal from the floor. Rita feeding bread to a minnow gasping in the empty money jar. “Put the fish back in the river,” Warren said, reaching for her glass, "Or the cat gets the milk.” "No," Rita said, "The kitty run’d away in a hat." “Ran away in the baby’s hat,” said Warren. Iris pretended not to hear. She was engrossed in a book about a mother who kissed children and cooked. The bonnet! Joline disappeared. The children were not at all frightened by the slamming door. Soon enough she appeared, pale and spectral, cotton gloves covering her raw hands, slippery with the salve Vera had brought. Joline kissed each of them on the cheek. The children, accustomed to her tirades, were frightened by such tenderness. Joline grabbed the startled baby and vanished out the door. Spotting the cat in the puckers dressed for baptism, she went down the slippery path, hair flying, baby dangling like a puppet. Iris, Warren, and Rita followed her down, the sad fish in the money jar held out like a beacon. Joline stopped. Stomped at them. “Get dressed for Church!” she cried. Everyone knew it was Saturday. “Iris,” she hissed, the shrillness of her voice sending Iris and Warren scurrying to do as they were told. Rita and the sloshing minnow took a direct route to the river. The steepness of the riverbank, a few tentative steps. Jackie’s rubber boots not even buckled, Joline went sliding down. The children found their mother on the ice, nightgown billowing, face bleeding. Cotton gloves, slippery salve. The squirming baby. Rita with the minnow sloshing. The cat on a branch frozen into ice. A crack like gunshot. Rita jumped, took a step. "Stop," said Iris, holding her breath. She and Warren were watching from the riverbank. Iris touched her brother’s shoulder, holding him back. "Rita,” she called out, “Go get Mumma's lipstick.” "I have to do this," Rita lisped. She held out the jar. Another crack, a boom like thunder. Joline crying, baby held high. Rita running jar rolling minnow spilling into running water. Iris sliding down, down, trying to grab her mother’s hand. Warren pulling her back. Iris grabbing Rita, the sad minnow flopping, the jar rolling. Joline’s face a silent act of weeping. Disappearing beneath the ice. Stillness, confusion. The shock of living upon her. Joline held her breath, until she must let go, surrendering to water and all she is not. The baby slippery as birth leaving in a cloud. A traveler a river a murky glimpse. A face imprinted upon her soul. Swallowed by darkness. ﻝ It was Saturday afternoon, just hours after Vera left Joline and the kids. This was supposed to be her day off. But she told Old Jimmo she would come in after she got the groceries to her sister. Jacket on over the meat apron, she was wrapping meat like there was no tomorrow. Piles of raw beef clattered down the line, a rattle of chains. Owen and Frenchy were jabbering away over the saws. Vera could not make out what they were saying, but she yelled out to them anyway, “Awe, shut up, Owen, you don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about,” knowing full well this would get something rolling, besides the meat. Old Jimmo was taking a special order for a customer wanting ground lamb for her poodle. “Come on, Jimmo,” Vera said through a mouthful of beef, “We ain’t got all day.” “Hey, Vera,” said Jimmo, “Ain’t this your day off?” As if she did not know this already. “Yours too, ain’t it, wiseass?” “She’s the talk of the day,” Frenchy shouted over the noise of the saw. “Who? Poodle Lady?” “No, dumbass: that girl with all them kids.” “If she’s got kids,” Vera replied, “she’s a goddamned woman.” “Okay. A goddamned woman with four kids.” “Who’s gonna take care of the kids?” “Their father is, nitwit.” “No-sah! Ain’t his mother-in-law comin’?” “What’s he gonna’ do after she leaves?” “Dance a jig.” The boys split a gut over this one. “What the hell was she doin’ anyways?” “She went through the ice. Holdin’ a goddamned baby.” “Nobody in their roight moind would go out there onto that ice, so close to the dam.” “What?” Vera said. “Some girl who don’t know her ass from her elbow,” said Frenchy, “over in that trailer park t’other side of the bridge…” “A goddamned woman,” said Owen. Vera ran out the door still wearing the bloody apron. ﻝ
  4. The Art of Fiction 1. How did it help me as a writer? Throw away details that are not necessary. Even as a writer who dislikes excessively long books, it's easy at times when writing our own stuff to have fun "playing" with details in the story that might bore others. 2. Two or three major lessons I learned from it? Writing is like any other art form, break the old, traditional rules if you can do it in a way that makes the art more beautiful. And the idea of not overexplaining what a character is thinking. THAT is something that's very easy to do when writing in the third person, and it's a good reminder to show, not tell, even in third person POV. 3. Anything not aligned with this program? Maybe the aforementioned breaking the rules idea - because I really feel breaking the rule in this program of "third person being best" is not 100 percent true in my opinion. Not only because I feel like my own writing comes to life more in the first person, but I also enjoy READING first person more most of the time. But I digress - I'd add that with the plethora of books out there now on writing, a more contemporary one would probably be more useful to the modern writer. I disliked some of the snobby attitude in parts of it. Writing the Breakout Novel 1. How did it help me as a writer? (I love this book!) It helped as an overall reminder of things I read in various versions throughout the first couple years I was writing but expanded on it in many ways, and was nice to read an agent's perspective. This was a more comprehensive and easier to approach book on the basics, too. 2. Lessons I learned? Keep going one more level. If you think you have an okay concept, how can you make it better? And after that? How can you raise the stakes further? And make it more original? Basically, taking ANYTHING in a novel (a character, the conflict, the setting) all of it, and pushing one step further. And then even further, to make it better. I love this idea. And also, "if you must go out on a moral limb, anchor your readers in a sympathetic character." This is not something I cannot remember reading in any other book on writing, and yet it's SO helpful for someone who writes fiction on the slightly darker side. Not just with the novel I used in this program, but in other novels, I've dabbled in topics some readers might consider touchy moral ground. I learned a lot from this one. Too many ideas to list. 3. It seemed very aligned with this program. Probably the most of the four books. Write Away 1. How did it help me as a writer? Discussing what keeps a writer in their seat, and not feeling guilty about something taking a long time (as a writer coming off a sort of hiatus for the past year). I need both of those concepts right now. To not feel alone in the idea that I can take time away, and also a reminder of what will keep me seated and writing, now that I'm back at it. 2. Lessons learned? That I really do prefer breaking literary fiction rules to write grittier fiction with more voice. And that your setting isn't just about it feeling like you're really there, but that it should also cause a mood, an emotional response. 3. Nothing I can think of seemed drastically out of line with the program. The Writing Life 1. How did it help me as a writer? This may sound off, but honestly, it helped me see how melodramatic we can sometimes be as writers. Everything must be a struggle! The drama! (Yes, I'm being a bit sarcastic about writers, myself FULLY included in that.) When I read this book and thought of how difficult some people have it in the world (and to be honest how crappy some of the stuff I deal with in my day job is) it made the "writer" side of me feel a bit humbled about the moments when I do this "oh the struggle is so hard" kind of stuff. It helped me realize that it's pretty silly to have such a beautiful hobby that, sure, I'd LOVE to turn into a full-time career, but even if I don't, how many people in the world create full books? The author's attitude made me realize that I don't want to have that long-suffering artist perspective so much. 2. Lessons it taught me? Many of the same basic ideas as in the other books, such as sympathetic characters being important. In addition, that there are, in fact, people who actually are writers who make a living as authors in the world - those elusive, mythical creatures. And that I'm correct to hate the idea of small airplanes (nothing to do with writing, but I felt further justified in my fear of them after reading this). 3. It seems a bit in conflict with this program in the snobbish taste in literature. We are trying to "write to market" here, correct? Otherwise, nothing major.
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