TITLE: The Salter's Son
GENRE: YA Fantasy
Dear Miss Snark’s First Victim,
Mummifying the dead wasn't ever Paolo’s aspiration, but it’s the work he got. Now folks won’t hardly come near him for fear of catching the plague. He’s a teenaged refugee with no family and no money in Secco, a dust-choked mining camp where the sun is relentless and the sweat stains run as thick as the debts. For Paolo there is no way out from under his indenture. Until he discovers the impossible.
In Secco all the beasts are reptiles. From cart-pulling beasts of burden to twitchy-eyed mounts, life depends on the heat of the sun. That is, until Paolo discovers a new way of warming the reptiles. His discovery means Paolo alone can ride into the mountains even with winter approaching to pursue Secco's quickest source of coin--the skinning trade. It's a chancy endeavor that could buy him out of his indenture and then some. But it's not long before Bento, a moneylender as dried out as a chili and twice as mean, catches wind of the discovery and wants it for himself. Soon so will every cutthroat with a musket or a knife. To stay alive and win his freedom, Paolo will have to partner with the only person willing to give him a chance, a woman old enough to be his mother and who drinks so much she pees herself. Worse, she might just be a cutthroat as well.
The Salter’s Son is a YA fantasy, complete at 81,000 words. It's a tale of trust and betrayal on a brutal frontier, a True Grit set in a world of reptiles.
I am a member of SCBWI. I have a concentration in literature and history from Baylor University and a law degree from Harvard Law School. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m usually burning my mouth on Mexican chilis or sleeping out-of-doors in the landscapes described in this manuscript.
I have included the first 250 words below. Thank you for your consideration.
There wasn't but the sound of the sea moving as I tied the nartak to the hitching block. The moon was bright but low in the west, and all its glow was swallowed by the cliffs above me. Where I stood, everything was dark. I knew miners were digging in their cliffside tunnels and fishermen were straining at their nets, but I couldn't see a one of them. In the dark I could still pretend it was just Constanza and me. That's what I called her, our oldest nartak. The Salter would have branded me a fool for wasting a name like Constanza on her, but she was a fine creature, far too fine not to know such a name. I reached out my fingertips to scratch behind her horn, in the spot where her scales were softest, but she butted me away. The night was stealing her heat, and she was testy.
"We'll get you warm, girl. I promise. I'll be quick."
I adjusted her warming blanket as best I could. I pulled in deep breaths of sea air as I moved, trying to hold the smell of it in my nose. I gave her a final pat on the neck and turned towards the cliffside streets of the Squalors. With shaking hands, I slid on my gloves.
Even in the dark, finding the house wasn't any bother. The air around it was thick with smoke. For seven days they'd burned tallows, sage and whatever they could find for incense. But all I smelled was rot.