PW #357: Young Adult Southern Gothic: THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES

Manuscript Status: 2 weeks delivery

Mentor Name: Amelinda Bérubé

Mentee Name: Amelia Denyven Ross


Category: Young Adult

Genre: Southern Gothic

Word Count: 63,000


In Meadowview, bones whisper secrets, lightning conducts magic, and a murderous Shadow stalks the woods. When sixteen-year-old Fern discovers the Shadow is the key to her mother’s mysterious, traumatic past, she must harness the lightning—braving the threshold between life and death—to defeat the Shadow forever.


A wall of fog looms before us on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Tree shadows stretch the wrong way, towards the setting sun, towering over us in dark gothic spires. Electricity races up and down my arms.

I need to keep Mama grounded, but it’s hard to sound casual through a clenched jaw. “Fog must look different at this elevation.”

“Not like this.” Mama digs her fingernails into the dash and twists to look over her shoulder. “He loves fog,” she whispers. “Wraps it around himself like a cape.”


She tests her seat belt, pulls and lets go. It thwacks against her chest. “Welcome home,” she murmurs.


She holds a finger to her lips. “Ssh.”

And it’s happening. No time or way to intercede. Mama stares straight ahead and stills like a doe meeting the eyes of a predator. I pull over on the shoulder. “Mama?”

The cicadas saw out their warning song. Mama’s breath escapes in shallow puffs. I snap my fingers in front of her eyes. She doesn’t move.

I reach over and flip the old-school manual lock. Mama could still escape, but not as easily when she’s immersed in a flashback; and if she bolts, anything to slow her down will help.

Mama’s shoulders shake beside me.

I brace. Let her be angry, not scared. I can handle her lashing out. I can’t handle her running—not in these never-ending woods.

The fog creeps closer and covers the hood of our car and I lock my door, too.


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