A Kiss of Blood and Gunpowder


Kosoko Jackson


YA Thriller

Word Count:

83,000 words


Seventeen-year-old James Mills has to spend his senior year in God forsaken, cold-as-heck Kosovo. That’s what happens when your parents are USAID workers more interested in helping the “needy” than fixing their marriage.

Through letters to his older sister enjoying her freshmen year at Yale, James describes his days navigating a new country, a crumbling parental unit, and Tomas, the son of a Brazilian sanitation engineer. While his sister reads about the sweet romance developing with Tomas, the reality is much worse.

Ethnic tensions between the Albanians and Serbians have boiled over, and James is trapped far from his family, and struggling to survive in a new world saturated in war. Far from the smart-mouthed, American he started out as, James must decide if he’s willing to do anything–or become anyone–he needs to in order to survive.

A KISS OF BLOOD AND GUNPOWDER is a YA thriller complete at 83,000 words. Told non-linearly through a mix of first person narrative and epistolary styles, it will appeal to fans of Code Name Verity and Girl At War.

I am currently in the process of becoming a foreign service officer and have 2 personal essays published on The Advocate.Com and Thought Catalog, as well as two literary journal contribution publications under my belt. I am an African American Homosexual male.

First 300 words:

September 18th, 1997



I hate you.

Hate is a strong word. Too strong a word.

But still—I hate you.

Would it have killed you to postpone college one year? Let me guess, you’re rolling your eyes right now. Yes, we went through this a hundred times. And yes I can hear you saying right now ‘if you were in my shoes, James, I wouldn’t be asking you to postpone college.’

But we’re not the same person. And you left me with mom and dad. Alone. That’s a fate worse than death. I wouldn’t give that to anyone. Even, I dunno, a hypothetical soulless ginger who followed me around all through Russia and then tried to use me to see if you were interested in him.

Sound familiar?

Sure, I’m exaggerating. But you don’t understand how overbearing mom and dad are. Don’t start with that “I was in your shoes 2 years before you and had to suffer through them alone too” crap. You don’t remember those years, no matter what you say.

I’m old enough to remember EVERY. SINGLE. THING. THEY. SAY.

And I swear they’ve gotten worse! Especially the arguing. Jesus, the arguing. Our parents fight more than any other couple, I swear. You’d think picking a country would be a fun, family-wide event. Like some Hasbro game. Not in the Mills house.

And who decided Kosovo was a good choice of country, huh?

I bet they sat in a hotel, pondering “Harris, dearest. What country can we come up with to make completely ruin James’ life?” and Dad was like “I have an idea! Kosovo!” and Mom was like “Brilliant! I thought I married you for the right reasons!” And then they clinked their wine glasses together, threw back their heads and laughed.


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