PW #114: Adult Upmarket fiction with elements of suspense and magical realism: ONLY WHEN I FALL

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Kristen Lepionka
Mentee Name: Ernie Chiara
Category: Adult
Genre: Upmarket fiction with elements of suspense and magical realism
Word Count: 80k


Tristesse, a homeless but talented artist, is out of second chances–until Mia, his drug-dealer and ex-girlfriend, secretly enters his painting into an online contest. The image goes viral, sparking a widespread search, but not everyone chasing Tristesse means him well. With his pursuers closing in, he battles his addiction while Mia fights to save the man she wishes she didn’t love.


The Museum of Fine Arts was humming. Patrons clopped around on marble tile toward the new Vermeer exhibit, loners sketched landscapes in spiral pads, and tour guides directed groups between potted ferns from the European galleries to the Americas. An odd tang of coffee and parmesan wafted from the café.

Mia wiped down table five, the edge of her full-sleeve tattoos peeking out from the black uniform shirt cuffs buttoned at her wrists. She brushed a strand of pink hair behind her purple glasses. As she rushed to take an order from a customer at the next table over, a different kind of customer stepped into the café.

She saw Tristesse out of the corner of her eye. He was hard to miss.

His dirty blonde hair was matted and fell past his shoulders like a neglected houseplant, its tendrils winding their way through his overgrown beard. Glancing around the room, he found an empty chair and slid into it. Their eyes met and she raised a finger for him to give her a minute.

Finishing up with her customer, Mia approached.

“Hey, Tris. Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

He sat hunched over the table, his eyes unreadable. “No thanks. Just a fruit cup.”

A thin sigh escaped her lips. “How about a muffin or something?”

“Not today.”

She knew he didn’t care about the fruit. He came for the heroin she slipped inside.


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