Mentee NameTitle of ManuscriptMentor NameAge CategoryGenre(s)Total word count (approx.)
Tess James-Mackey Lost InsideCynthia MurphyYAThriller62000

LOST INSIDE is a Young Adult thriller complete at 62,000 words.

15-year-old Nia would do anything to win the approval of her friends, even explore the depths of an abandoned prison to honour a dare. Dark tunnels, distant noises and the creepy mementoes left behind by the criminals who once called the sprawling fortress home will all be worth it in the end if her friends finally start treating her like she’s one of the group.

But when Nia realises she’s got both herself and her little sister Kayla trapped inside, she forgets about the dare – all she wants is out. While searching for an escape route, Nia stumbles across a lair in one of the cells. The walls are plastered with disturbing artwork, including a poster of a missing girl, her eyes scratched out and DEAD GIRL written across her face.

And then Kayla vanishes from right behind her, missing just like the girl in the poster. Nia’s phone is dead, her ankle is twisted, and instead of finding Kayla, she uncovers a horrifying secret within the prison’s walls. The prison was built to lock people up forever – and someone is now hell bent on making sure Nia and her sister become its last inmates.

Good Girls Die First x Point Horror, Lost Inside is a story of toxic relationships and terror told within the confines of a few claustrophobic hours.

I am a Risk Consultant by profession and have been writing seriously for three years. As well as being part of a local writing group, I was selected for the WriteMentor Twitter programme in 2018, 2019 and 2020 with other novels, and was long listed for the 2020 Children’s Novel Award. Lost Inside is based in my hometown, where the local prison was closed down and part of it inexplicably turned into a soft-play centre for children.

I hope you enjoy what you read, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours,

Tess James-Mackey.


Prologue

He shrank away from the prowling forms circling him.

“Please,” he whispered. “Please leave me alone.”

But they wouldn’t leave, and his sanctuary, his home, suddenly felt like the prison it really was.

Their laughter echoed through the cavernous room.

The blows landed, one after another. He whimpered as his skin bruised and split beneath their frenzied attack. He reached out, imploring the only one who could help him. But they stumbled backwards, shaking their head in horror as his screams grew louder.

His glassy eyes stared up at the bars on the window above him.

And the laughter continued.


Chapter 1

An amateurish sign reading “Prison Funhouse” was blue-tacked to the crumbling brick wall. The paper had gotten wet at some point, the ink dribbling down like mascara tears.

“As if,” Nia groaned. Of all the places to spend her Saturday.

Mum was scrabbling around at the bottom of the nappy bag for change as the girl behind the counter grinned manically. Nia turned away in disgust. How could anyone be that chirpy working in a place like…this.

Nia couldn’t get her head around it. They were in prison. A literal prison. And even though it was ancient, it had been packed full of criminals only a year ago. And not just any old criminals, but the worst ones – the ones who killed people and chopped them up and stuffed their remains in the walls. And now…ball pits and babies?

“Mental,” she muttered, gazing up at the gatehouse. The wind hurtled through the archway and whistled as it passed through the iron bars of the gate. Nia folded her arms tighter across her chest. The overly-cheerful girl in the kiosk didn’t seem bothered by her working conditions, even though her nose was bright red from the cold.

“Sorry, how much did you say it was?” Mum asked as she readjusted baby Deon on her hip.

“Well adults go free, so you just need to pay for the three children,” Little Miss Pretend-to-be-Perky replied.

Nia tore her gaze away from the entrance gates to glare. “I’m fifteen. I’m obviously not here to go on the bouncy castle.”

Perky’s smile faltered and Nia felt a twist of satisfaction. “Oh, um, I’m afraid a child counts as anyone under sixteen, I think. I don’t actually know.”

Nia groaned. She was probably the only teenager who had ever been dragged here.

“Mum,” she whispered urgently. “Just let me go home, you don’t want to have to pay for me too. It’s a waste of money.” She crossed her fingers inside her pocket, hoping that the temptation to save money would be enough to convince Mum to let her leave.

But Mum didn’t even look at her as she hissed out of the side of her mouth, “No, Nia. I need you to stay here, with me, where I can keep an eye on you.”

Nia stepped back, defeated. What was it going to take for Mum to forgive her for that night?