GUARDED, YA Fantasy

Below is the pitch and first 250 words for my YA Contemporary Fantasy, GUARDED, which I’m currently querying with literary agents.  

Before Kjersten Taylor’s dad died, he’d set up everything to ensure she and her sister disappeared: safe house, fake ID’s, secured financials. She never knew why until she started levitating coffee at work.

Kjersten is an Aeon, a magical being able to manipulate elements of nature, and she witnessed her parents being killed because of it. She’d rather ignore magic’s existence, but PTSD is a constant reminder of that night. When a flashback causes her to almost dehydrate a man to death, she accepts that she needs to learn how to control her abilities.

But Celeste, an Aeon who comes to her aid, has her own agenda. She’s willing to train Kjersten, but only because she needs her help rescuing her own family. The problem is the last of Celeste’s family is held prisoner in another dimension, and Kjersten refuses to leave her sister.

As Celeste’s temper unravels, Kjersten struggles to keep her relationship with her sister from falling apart. If the sisters can’t unify against Celeste, they risk losing more than their relationship. They risk losing their lives.

Complete at 84,000 words, GUARDED is a YA contemporary fantasy where Jessica Jones meets Heir of Fire.

In 2011, I deployed to Iraq as a photojournalist for the U.S. Army. I used my own battle with post-traumatic stress disorder to create Kjersten’s character. Thank you for your time and consideration.


CHAPTER ONE – KJERSTEN

The world’s edges softened under the rain’s gentle rhythm. I cracked open the kitchen window so I could hear it. Its soundtrack of tapping on glass and trickling down drainpipes drifted in from the streets, and I relaxed into the morning ritual of preparing the café to open.

My sister, Chloe, begged me for months to apply for this job. She was convinced that we had nothing to worry about since we hadn’t heard from our parents’ murderers in over two years. I caved, of course. I always caved when it came to Chloe. She was all I had left.

Now, she snoozed in bed to wait out the storm while I placed scones in the oven. Strange what difference a year makes.

Waiting for the scones to finish, I brewed coffee. Its warm, nutty aroma mixed with the sweet fresh air wafting in through the window, and the narrow kitchen suddenly didn’t seem so small.

The last of the brew sputtered into the metal carafe as the timer chimed. I set it on the counter, turned to the oven, and opened its door. A wave of heat and steam hit my face when I reached in for the baking sheet. Drawing back, I smacked into the counter.

The coffee canister crashed to the floor with a metallic clank and I jumped. My shoulders hiked to my ears, the only place I allowed the anxiety-fueled urge to run to go. I set the scones on the counter and reminded myself when and where I was. I was seventeen, not fourteen. I was in the Beans Hallow Café in Maryland, not our backyard in Virginia.

Since my parents died, every sharp sound or loud voice or even a crowded room sent jolts down my spine. It was an exhausting loop of hyper-alertness. After a few calming breathes, I grabbed a washrag and turned to face the mess.

The rag dropped from my hand. The coffee wasn’t flooding the floor. No. It floated in a giant, flat puddle three feet above where it should be, spreading out parallel to the tile. It reached toward me. I stepped back. My heel snagged on a piece of grout and I stumbled into the wall.

The coffee continued to drift. I searched for an escape, but I had nowhere to go. I was trapped, staring at it. My pulse echoed in my ears as droplets of coffee bobbed up and down. They dipped below the thin layer then catapulted up, undecided on whether to fall or float. My heart raced, and the droplets danced faster, as if mirroring the pounding in my chest.

The bell on the cafe’s front door chimed and I tore my eyes away from the coffee. Boots clicked against the wood floor, getting louder as they neared the kitchen. The coffee still floated, its canister at my feet. Panic strangled my throat as I searched for something, anything to do. My chest heaved, begging me to move, so I reached for the carafe. When my hands wrapped around its aluminum body, the coffee raced back inside.

The air was clear. The canister full. As if the whole thing hadn’t happened.

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