by Michelle Donovan (@michelledonovancreates)

YA Fantasy
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I am submitting for your consideration SCALES OF FATE, my YA Fantasy novel complete at 78,000 words, with duology potential. It will appeal to fans of Isabel Ibanez’s Together We Burn and Adrienne Young’s Fable.

Fifteen-year-old Vivian Matthews has a secret she yearns to be free of: her rare magical ability to spin dragon silk. Confined to living a sheltered life, only using her ability to bolster her family's magical armor business, Vivian longs to explore the world. When she intercepts a cryptic letter intended for her father, she finally finds her way out.

The catch? She is forced to team up with her estranged brother to ensure their horde of dragons haven't escaped. If they fail, their family's business will be ruined. Not long into their journey, they discover the dragons are fleeing south—into territory ruled by ruthless dragon hunters.

Racing to find their dragons, the siblings encounter an even more dangerous foe: Marcus, a dragon hunter who wants to capture Vivian for her magic. Determined to understand why she is being targeted, Vivian uncovers a dark truth her father wished to keep hidden. A truth that not only tests everything she thought she knew about her family but forces her to question her rare abilities. Reeling from her father’s betrayal and desperate to right his wrong, Vivian must dip into her magic’s dark potential. But her choice comes at a cost to the very dragons she is trying to protect.

In the end, Vivian must decide what line she is willing to cross in the name of family.

I am an alumna of Adrienne Young’s Writing With The Soul workshop and a member of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. In May of 2023, the first chapter of SCALES OF FATE won GoScribbler’s First Chapter contest. I live in coastal Maine with my family. When I’m not lost in my fictional worlds, I can be found playing board games, crocheting, or using my sewing skills for charity.

First Five Pages

Chapter 1

The Freya loomed in the distance. The battered ship rested at the end of the pier, with its familiar patched sails and worn paint, waiting. Vivian reached for her pocket watch, the ticking hands reminding her of what she already suspected.

Tick, late.

Tick, late.

She cursed Billy under her breath as she shoved the watch deep in her pocket and vacated her usual spot overlooking the harbor as she stepped down to the wharf. Alone. Again.

Vivian wove through the swarm of merchants, passing her father’s guards patrolling the docks, as she made her way to the last slip where the Freya’s captain, Thomas Wilson, waited. His long, dark navy coat looked heavy and too warm in the mid-morning sun. He tipped his hat to Vivian, his expression masked behind his full gray beard.

She arrived late and flustered, no thanks to Billy, to her most important job of the week: collecting the precious cargo of dragon scales being delivered for her father. Vivian winced as two men slammed a solid oak crate onto a nearby cart and made their way not to collect more from the ship, but instead off the dock, into town. Her stomach tightened as she counted the crates.

All pleasantries escaped her as she said, “This can’t be right. Where’s the rest of our shipment?” Wilson removed his hat, wiping sweat from his brow with a handkerchief. “That’s all there was to collect.”

Vivian closed her eyes and inhaled. How could this be? She counted the crates once more, foolishly expecting a different result. The cargo was short.


“I don’t understand.” She let out a shaky exhale. Father was not going to be pleased. “Did you run into trouble along the route?”

“Everything went as expected—aside from how many crates we loaded.”

Vivian raised her chin and met his sharp gaze. “My father expects a complete delivery. Why would you show up without the full shipment?”

Wilson let out a low whistle as he slipped his hat back on. “I had two options. Show up with what I had or not at all. Figured your father would be more concerned with what caused it to be short and would know I wouldn’t be foolish enough to be responsible. The other…” His voice trailed off as he slowly slid a thumb across his neck.

“I know you wouldn’t steal from my father,” she conceded. Thomas Wilson was as reliable as they come, which was why her father trusted him with their most valuable cargo.

For now.

After handing over payment and bidding him goodbye, Vivian motioned to her father’s guards who started moving the shipment along to its next destination. She stood at the edge of the pier, heart hammering in her chest, as her thoughts raced through what she was going to do about the missing cargo. Normally this task brought a sense of order and predictability to her life on the island.

The Freya accomplished the exact opposite today.

Perhaps if she were allowed to leave the island, to join the ship’s crew, she wouldn’t be in this position…worrying over missing scales and what it meant for her father’s armor business, and her key role in it. She silently cursed Billy for abandoning her. Again.

“Hope there wasn’t trouble with the captain.”

Vivian stiffened. This could not be happening today of all days. “What have I done to deserve the pleasure of your company, Alexander?”

“That’s not the kind of welcome I was expecting.” He clutched at his chest as he came to stand beside her at the edge of the pier, the golden tassels and buttons lining the seams of his cobalt captain’s garb glimmered in the sunlight.

She sighed, folding her arms, and steeling her emotions so he wouldn’t read into the situation she faced. “What are you doing here?”

“Can’t a brother come by to visit his only sister?”

“Didn’t realize you were making a special trip to port just for me. I’m touched.” She caught a glimpse of the cart nearing the end of the wharf. “Today is a busy day, so…” “I’m in town for some business of my own. Nothing that concerns you.” He kept his eyes trained forward.

Everything you do here concerns me,” Vivian remarked.

“Careful.” Alexander’s hazel eyes locked onto hers. “You’re starting to sound just like Father. How is the old man these days? Has he finally decided you don’t need a babysitter? Or did Billy beg for a new position?” His lips curved up as he delivered that last question.

Vivian’s chest tightened as she clenched her fists, digging her nails into her palms. “I have no time for your games. You want to know how Father is? Go see him yourself. Just be sure to stay out of my way while you are here.” She shouldered past him and rushed off the pier to catch up with the shipment.


Hurried footsteps approached behind her as she followed the curve of the harbor, cutting down a short alley leading into the warehouse district.

“Nice of you to finally show up,” she called over her shoulder, not bothering to slow down her pace as Billy jogged to catch up.

Vivian shook her head as she took in his attire, no doubt yesterday’s. His brown hair disheveled. His jacket crumpled in his hand. Her nose wrinkled the closer he got. “You know, if you actually wore the coat it would hide your stained shirt.”

“Look, I’m sorry, I—"

“Don’t want to hear it. When my father finds out you didn’t show—”

“What makes you think I wasn’t doing exactly what he wanted me to do,” Billy countered.

“No job is more important to him than this shipment. Besides,” Vivian waved her hand in front of his whole body,” I can’t imagine my father would send you anywhere dressed as you are.”

They caught up to the cart as it arrived at the first brick building in the district, the largest and closest warehouse to the wharf. Vivian instructed the guards to stand watch as Billy pulled the crates through the massive double oak doors. The smell of musk and stale salty air hit her as she stepped inside the dimly lit, wide-open space and barred the doors behind her.

“Did I see Alexander on the docks? What is he doing in Brimstall?” Billy asked.

“I don’t know, being a thorn in my side before he disappears again.” Vivian pried open the oak lids of the crates, revealing spices, herbs, and parchment packed inside. Father used them for payment and trade with the local merchants. They were also the perfect decoy for the real treasure underneath.

“What happened to the shipment?” He started to collect each item from her, sorting them into the empty storage crates. “It looks like we’re missing half of it.”

“Great question,” she huffed, “maybe if you bothered to meet me this morning, you could’ve helped figure out what was going on.”

“What did Wilson have to say about it?”

Vivian shook her head. “Nothing useful.”

Once the goods were accounted for, she pried open the false bottom, revealing several items twice the size of her hands. Billy leaned in closer, their heads touching, causing her heart to race as she removed one of the dragon scales. The lightweight iridescent scale felt cool like metal on Vivian’s skin. As she cradled it in the dim light, the shimmer cascaded across the scale’s surface. Dread churned in her stomach as she thought of the missing scales. What if something happened to the dragons they were protecting, or worse, someone found their island of dragons or the secret to her father’s business?

They made quick work of separating the rest of the goods from the scales and updating the inventory ledger. Most of the mundane objects were sorted throughout the warehouse with a few high-end crates by the door waiting for Billy’s personal delivery around town. The crates of scales were stacked at the back of the warehouse, along a section of oak paneled walls, waiting for Vivian to attend to once she was alone.

“I think we should go straight to your father,” Billy blurted out.

Vivian stilled for a moment, his suggestion catching her off guard. That was the last thing they should do. “That’s a terrible idea. What are we going to tell him? We have nothing to say except the shipment was halved.”

“It’s our job to let him know there is a problem. Keeping this information is not a good idea, Viv.”

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Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

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