Pitch Wars – Young Adult Alternates (Historical Fiction, Steampunk, Mystery)

YA Entry #16

Mentor Name: Fiona McLaren
Alternate Name: Colleen Boye (writing as Gwen C. Katz)
Title: Among the Red Stars
Category: Young Adult (upper YA)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Word Count: 83,000


It’s Code Name Verity in Soviet Russia when teenaged pilot Valya faces off against both the Nazis and the perception that women can’t fight in order to rescue her boyfriend from behind enemy lines.


Valya paced around the beat-up bushplane. It was no Rodina. Not sleek and graceful, but stubby and angular. Not modern aluminum, but steel, wood, and chipped paint. And while three of the finest aviators in the Soviet Union had crewed the Rodina, this plane had, well, Valya.

Her and the chubby fourteen-year-old leaning against the door.

The boy crossed his arms. "I already did the preflight check. You don't need to do it again."

Valya continued circling the airplane, trailing one hand along the red stripe as she examined the rust-spotted fuselage for cracks and missing rivets. "How many hours of flight time do you have, anyway?"


A rookie. Great. "Forgive my lack of confidence."

"What are you even doing here? Where's Iosif Grigorevich?"

"I don't know. Not here," said Valya as she knelt on the dusty ground to check under the plane for fluid leaks. The dust tasted ashy and bitter.

"Then where's my instructor?"

Valya straightened up. "You're looking at her."

The boy gawked. He apparently hadn't expected a skinny, trousered eighteen-year-old with rubber-band-fastened braids tumbling down her back. "You're barely older than me!"

"I'm an instructor. I'm certified." She had never actually flown with a student, but the kid didn't need to know that. "If you want to help, get in the cockpit and test the controls."

Valya chewed the tip of her pinkie. She looked out over the aerodrome, a stretch of sunbaked dirt with nothing but a sun-bleached orange windsock fluttering from a pole to indicate its purpose.


YA Entry #17

Mentor Name: Sarah Guillory
Alternate Name: J.R. Dawson
Title: The Rather Prolific Adventures of the Captain and the Clockmaker
Category: YA
Genre: Steampunk Adventure
Word Count: 100,000


At the Civil War’s end, Inventor Prower and Captain Abigail steal an airship to head West. But when a family secret threatens to start the war again, Prower must return to save his father and the country. Now Abigail must decide to salvage her own freedom or save Prower from a larger trap.


For all the noise a war makes, its end is eerily silent.

The news hit the Union Airship Arabella on the morning of August 7th, 1888. The intercomera hissed in the sleepy pilot deck, bathed with a gold sunlight shining off the panels and cranks and buttons. The dawn came as dawns usually come; enthusiastically barging into a place that has not yet gotten the gunk out of its eye.

Captain Abigail Henley yawned and tried to work the knots out of her unkempt hair with one hand as she steered the ship with the other. She heard her first mate enter through the door. “Before you go asking, I’ve not talked to Dover and I don’t plan to.” She sniffed. “Now we’re three hours from the Haven. Put Barty onto fixing the logs. We’ll need three days.”

“Aye, Cap’n.” His eyes sagged from a lack of sleep. The sunlight revealed new specks of grey in his big black beard. Abigail wondered if he looked old because she was young or because he was getting worn out. “It’s gonna be rough not to talk to yore artillery man. ‘Specially round Valentine’s Day.”

“He’s an ass.” She slightly turned the helm, gently rocking Arabella back onto a straight imaginary line ahead. With her hands on the wooden notches, she felt the wind whispering on the ship’s brass skin just like it cooled her own face. Good flying day. She shouldn’t let Dover bother her.

The intercomera hissed again.


YA Entry #18

Mentor Name: Maggie Hall
Alternate Name: Kelly deVos
Category: YA
Genre: Mystery
Word Count: 80,000


When her grandfather mysteriously drowns in the Big Island’s Kealakekua Bay, half-Hawaiian sixteen-year-old Claire Wells and sexy smart-ass Sam L’ia must find the killer. If they can’t stop a cult bent on human sacrifice, they won’t live long enough to go on a real date.


Anything tossed into the sea washes up at Ka’u.

This is what my grandfather told me.

I wasn’t tossed into the sea but was still drawn to the island by a force as irresistible as the tide.

On a rainy August day, our plane rolled to a stop in front of Kona’s small airport. My little brother Charles snored in the seat next to mine. I nudged him and he woke up with a loud yawn.

A cheerful flight attendant stepped in front of us as we made our way up the aisle. She gestured to a spot in front of the bathroom and said, “Wait here kids. As soon as everyone’s off the plane, I’ll walk you down to the terminal.”

I glanced down in irritation at the Unaccompanied Minor badge hanging around my neck. I was sixteen and capable of parking my butt in an airplane seat without special assistance. But Dad thought we needed a babysitter on the flight from Phoenix.

“We’ll be fine,” I told the woman. “My grandfather always meets us at the curb.”

She fidgeted uncertainly with the orchid tucked behind her ear, but taking in the seats covered with unfolded blankets and the awful smell coming from the bathroom, she nodded. “Well, technically you’re old enough to fly alone,” she said. “Okay. Claire Wells. Charles Wells.” She made a checkmark next to our names on her clipboard.

“Aloha and welcome to Hawaii.”


YA Entry #19

Mentor Name: Jessie Humphries
Alternate Name: Jocelyn Rish
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Mystery
Word Count: 76,000


From reenacting the “Princess Bride” kissing scene to juggling hemorrhoid cream, the video scavenger hunt is supposed to be light-hearted fun. But it’s deadly serious for Veronica-Mars-wannabe Breanna, who only participates to investigate a murder everyone thinks she imagined. Unfortunately, that puts her in the crosshairs of a very real killer.


A white towel was a terrible outfit for trying to outrun a homicidal maniac. Although I had to admit, the woman racing through the dark forest made it look easy.

Until she tripped and crashed to the ground.

I leaned forward. “Get up! Get up!”

Instead of scrambling to her feet, she huddled in the leaves and whimpered.

“Come on.” My fingers dug into the worn leather couch cushion. “At least grab a tree branch to defend yourself.”

But she only cowered and screamed, “No, please, no,” while the killer stood over her adjusting his grip on the machete. Like begging would change the demented dude’s mind. 

When he swung the blade, something cold and wet touched my hand. 

I yelped before my brain remembered the psycho couldn’t crawl through the TV screen to attack me. I glared at Maximus, my seventy-pound Frankenstein mutt taking up more than his fair share of the couch. “Holy crap, Max, are you trying to give me a heart attack?” 

He chuffed in a way that sounded suspiciously like a yes and nosed my hand again.

“Really? You have to go out just when the movie’s getting exciting?” 

Max blinked like he’d never do something so obnoxious. Then he barked at me. 

I sighed, but before I could push myself off the couch, Max’s giant German Shepherd ears swiveled toward a sound that sent my heart into Riverdance mode: footsteps on the stairs.


YA Entry #20

Mentor Name: Kes Trester
Alternate’s Name: Lee Daugherty
Category: YA
Genre: Historical
Word Count: 84,000


Unlikely romance blooms between Rafe Rogan, a rambunctious pickpocket orphan, and Avis Bloom, a thoughtful seamstress who secretly longs to perform as an actor, when the pair’s lives become entwined with William Shakespeare and his theatre company. CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT might be imagined as a young adult SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE sprinkled with pirates.


I hurled the tomato onstage.  The vegetable squashed into its target, the bulbous nose of Master Will Kempe.  The actor didn’t miss a step. The reeking crowd packed into the open-air theatre erupted with laughter as Kempe primly wiped the tomato guts from his face, jigging all the while.

“You’re a naughty one, Rafe,” the wispy-haired crone tucked next to us in the crowd clucked, “but you’ll never catch Kempe off his game.”

“I know it,” I chortled. “Just giving him something to work with, aren’t I?”

I looked back at my hero. The music to Kempe’s dance was speeding up, and his limbs flailed. The raucous crowd clapped along. Kempe was the leading comic actor for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men playing company, famous for his improvised interactions with rowdy audience members. I’d smuggled a rotten tomato into today’s performance knowing he would somehow turn the vegetable into comic gold.

Spinning into a triumphant final pose, Kempe chucked the dripping remains of the tomato straight back towards me in the audience.  Cackling, I stumbled into Curtis to avoid its splat. The actor swept a grand bow, and the crowd exploded again into laughter and cheers.

As Kempe left the stage to make way for the more serious characters in Much Ado About Nothing, Curtis nudged me with a sharp elbow. 

“I think you quite added something to the scene, Rafe!” Curtis’ face, just as smudged and dirty as my own, was grinning ear to ear.


**AGENTS  & EDITORS: To make requests, enter in the comments what you’d like sent to you. Please include submission guidelines and/or additional instructions. *Since there are several entries per post, be sure to list either the entry number or manuscript title when requesting.


  1. #19 Jocelyn Rish Please follow the query instructions at www.blueridgeagency.com and mention Pitch Wars. Looking forward to reading more. Dawn Dowdle

  2. Excellent entries!

    Jocelyn Rish, I'd love for you to send me the first 50 pages of their manuscript in an attachment to laura@redsofaliterary.com. Please include a query in the body of the email!

  3. My word, this is a strong category. Kelly deVos, Jocelyn Rish, and Lee Daugherty, I'd love to take a look at each of your first 50 pages. Send them to me at jmccarthy@dystel.com, and I'll review promptly!

  4. I'd be stoked to see #18, The White Lehua, in my inbox. You can query me at query(at)deemuraliterary(dot)com and include "Pitch Wars request" in the subject line. Along with your query, please include a short synopsis, bio, and the first 25 pages.

    Looking forward to it. : )

  5. Jocelyn Rish, I'd love to see the first 50 pages of HAPPY HUNTING. Please send to querymichelle@fuseliterary.com and mention PitchWars. Thanks!

  6. You had me at "Soviet Russia" -- I'd love to see more of AMONG THE RED STARS!

    Please send your query in the body of your email, as well as a full synopsis and the first 50 pages of your manuscript (as Word documents) to ssulaiman@talcottnotch.net, and don't forget to mention Pitch Wars in the subject line of your email.


  7. #18 Kelly DeVos I would love to see more of this! Please send query, synopsis, first 50 pages to jessica@dijkstraagency.com.


    Jessica Watterson

  8. These sound amazing!

    I'd love to see:

    Title: Among the Red Stars

    Please send query (in the body of the email) with synopsis and full manuscript to Submissions at Sarah Jane Freymann dot com. Please put "#PitchWars Request" in the subject line. Thank you--can't wait to read more!

  9. I’d love to read more of #16. Please send the query plus the first 50 pages as a word doc attachment to rachel(at)lperkinsagency(dot)com with “Pitch Wars Request: Among the Red Stars” in the subject line. Thanks!

  10. Jocelyn, I'd love to see more. Please send query, synopsis and first 100 pages as an attachment to Sarah@CorvisieroAgency.com.

  11. YA #19 Happy Hunting. I loved the sample. Please send a query with 3 chapters as an attachment to queries@belcastroagency.com.Thanks, Ella Marie Shupe

  12. I'd like to see more of #16 (Among the Stars) and #19 (Happy Hunting). Please send the query and first 50 pages to mail@donadio.com, mentioning my name and the contest in the subject line. Thanks!

  13. I'd love to see more of #16 and #18, both of which were captivating! Please send the pitch and first 50 pages by email to lbiagi(at)jvnla(dot)com with Pitch Wars and the title in the subject line. Looking forward to reading more! -Laura Biagi, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc.


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