Today on my blog, I’m hosting the cover reveal for Cheat Code (2018 Immortal Works), a YA Sci Fi novel by Aften Brook Szymanski. Get a sneak peak by reading the opening passage. You can also find an interview with Aften about being a querying writer here.
The illuminated words in bright green letters light a path where an EXIT sign should be. The words are the only source of light in the room. I stare up from the dark entry, unsure where I am or how I got here. Or who I am, for that matter. Not feeling the whole ‘welcome’ vibe at all. Yet, it’s not particularly weird as people press around me in a direction toward the sign. Nothing pricks my ‘no worries, this is normal’ nerve, so I don’t follow. I also don’t run.
I might be an idiot. Right now, I’m guessing I’m a total-amnesiac-moron.
Lack of light isn’t the only sensory hole in this space. Sound shuffs away into the darkness like an anti-chamber.
Instead of shutting off my senses, I’m on fire, desperate for information. I seek out the light bits and sound parts for guidance and security. All around me people behave with pattern-like confidence, moving toward the lighted words, shuffling samely together. The little sparks of sensory information, all too eager to lead me along with the rest, offer no alternative to ‘welcome’.
The phrase shines seductively, directs me forward. It casts distorting shadows over the people packed around me. The difference between them and me is they walk like they know where they’re going and are eager to get there. I have no idea what’s ahead. And I’m not at all thrilled about the word ‘donor’.
Illuminated arrows diverge from the greeting, leading people in two directions. ‘Ads’ one way, ‘Game of Life’, the opposite. The rest of the group presses forward, like they’ve studied for this decision.
How am I without a plan? I’m a girl of action—that I know. Or a girl not of dis-action. Alright, I know close to nothing about myself and I want to believe I’m awesome. Please, be awesome.
I stand, dividing the crowd that presses toward the lit words. I don’t know which way to go, but I do have an overwhelming urge to bite the person nearest to me. It might be an overreaction. It’s hard to know in a room full of strangers when I can’t even remember my own name. Then again, biting people might be my best course of defense. I don’t yet know …
Stop. Before I sink my incisors into some dude’s arm. Don’t be a psychopath.
GenE is one of millions of organ donors on a list competing for eternal life in a high-stakes virtual reality game, or so she thinks. In a game where players must complete challenges on different game-scapes, failure means death. Teaming up with competitive gamers increases GenE’s chances of surviving the challenges of each level, until she realizes her most trusted ally is using her. And rules? Rules are made to be reprogrammed, along with everything else.
Aften made her publishing debut in 2016. She’s a member of SCBWI and the Storymakers Guild, as well as a literary intern at Golden Wheat Literary. Aften lives in Wyoming with her husband, three kids, and two female cats named Hamilton and Edgar, where they’re being cryogenically preserved for all time in the friggin cold. Also, she’s pretty sure the Wyoming climate is morphing her into Jadis (the White Witch of Narnia) because anything over 60 degrees Fahrenheit is like molten hell fire of death existence.