Thursday, July 15, 2010

18 Round Four Critique Clinic - Line-by-line Contest Top 25

The results are in for the top ten finalists in our Line-by-line novel opening contest, and our generous guest judge,  Natalie Fischer, has gone above and beyond the call of duty by providing comments on each of the top 25 entries that did not make the final cut. She wanted us to let everyone know that this last round was very difficult to judge.  She also pointed out that opinions are highly subjective when it comes to writing. What may appeal to her over another entry may appeal less to another agent, or visa versa. Natalie reviewed entries based on her individual tastes and client list, and without a query letter describing the overall story direction, she often had to guess where things were heading.

Since Natalie pointed out the difficulties of judging these entries without an accompanying query, we are going to do something a little different with this week's critique clinic. First, we are going to expand critiques for the top 11 to 25 to include a full page (250 words). Second, we are going to invite those writers to include a query letter as well as the first 250. Our guest critiquers will not be required to critique the queries, but they will take them into consideration while giving their feedback on the novel opening. We also invite any of our guest authors or followers who wish to do so to  provide respectful input on the page, the query, or both together.

To participate in the clinic, please add your first page, or your query and first page, along with your name and entry number in the comments below by Monday, July 19 at 6:00 pm. We will recreate them as individual posts and open them for feedback on Tuesday morning, July 20th.

The eligible entries are posted below with Natalie's comments underneath in bold.



#1 Kat Zhang


Adie and I were born into the same body, our souls’ ghostly fingers entwined before we gasped our very first breath. Our first few years were our happiest-then came the worries: the tightness around our parents’ mouths, the frowns lining our kindergarden teacher’s forehead, the question everyone whispered when they thought we couldn’t hear.

Why aren’t they settling?

We tried to form the word in our five-year-old mouth, tasting it on our tongue: Set-Tull-Ling.

NF: The last line did it for me; I worried about having to deal with the “our” voice (possessive first) the whole book

***

#2 Creepy Query Girl

"How do you punish someone who’s already dead?" Gretchen Grey tightened her grip around an umbrella handle while she waited for her parents to arrive. Her haunted blue eyes examined the London townhouse where she had grown up. Thick green ivy cast shadow around the entrance and spread towards the outer corners, almost reaching the top floor panes.

NF: Interesting, but not sure if this is supernatural or if she’s angry at someone who’s dead; also, “haunted blue eyes” is telling, and telling right up front worries me…

***


#14 cchant

My hope of living a normal life in Lindenville faded faster than my fifteen dollar jeans the moment I got to the school bus stop. How could anything be normal after you hear you’re living with a dead girl?

"That’s Laura’s house--you don’t belong there."

I stared at the tall blonde who’d launched herself at me.

NF: Last sentence did it for me; realized this wasn’t the book I’d thought it was! Thought it was a ghost story, but sounds like she’s just moved into the dead girl’s house. Not sure what other hook there might be.

***

#20 Heather

Amidst the never-ending fires and screams of defiant terror, Abby collapsed to the ground - feet twisting inward, eyes unwilling to stay open, and desperately wishing to pass out. Exhausted from the chase, tired of the hiding. For fifteen years, she had never felt her stomach cave in from hunger like it did now; even the stench of death and decay rooted beneath her skin as if it were her own that was blackened with Consumption. Everything had changed so quickly, yet this life of fear and confusion was all she could remember now.

NF: Well-written, but at the same time, very intense; if first few sentences are this packed with adjectives, how is the rest of the book?

***

#27 salarsen

The challenge began like all the rest, although the dead corpse-look was different. Ana wished she could ignore it, pretend it didn’t exist, but that never worked. She could feel them.

The patter of loafers rounded the corner of the math wing.

NF: How does she know they’re loafers? Having q’s upfront (not just about what happens) worries me.

***

#29 Leah Odze Epstein

The day my parents tricked Rachel into signing herself into the ‘Program,’ they tricked me, too, bringing me with them as a decoy. I should have known something was off when my father called a family meeting the night before. The last time we had a family meeting, my father told us our mom needed to go to the hospital for a little while so she could stop drinking. That was five years ago, when I was nine and Rachel was twelve, and I still thought a sister was someone you followed around.

NF: Worried that the drinking/rehab is the only hook here; good opening, but if this is just about a recovery, not enough bang.

***

#30 Ebyss

Ellyssa, a.k.a. Subject 62, sprinted through the dark alley after escaping from her long-term captors who she’d thought of as family for eighteen years. Not a family in the traditional sense, but family nevertheless.

The sirens piercing the night an hour earlier had finally faded, but she still didn’t stop. Pumping her legs harder, she carried onward with the messenger bag thumping against her right thigh.

NF: Sounds very “Dark Angel,” which I love, BUT, I’ve had quite a few queries like this, so not the most original.


***
#31 Holly Dodson

Mandy Samkirk had no warning of the life-changing events about to unfold; only the lingering worry from a recurring dream that nagged at her thoughts.

She could still feel the shadow of evil that hung like an impenetrable cloud in the sky, the smell of decay. Cries for help echoed through her mind with panic so thick it was palpable. She squeezed her eyes shut to block the memory out; the cool kitchen counter beneath her arms anchored her to reality.

NF: Worried about the dream sequence; I really don’t like prolonged dream sequences, and this sounds like it hangs on the dream part quite a bit.

***

#41 Valerie Kemp

I died before I was even born.

It was April 13th, not a Friday, but it might as well have been. My mom was in labor with me as my parents’ car raced down the two-lane wooded road that passes for a highway in our part of Michigan. A thunderstorm raged, blotting out the last of the sunset.

NF: I’d thought it was heading into a more supernatural realm, but sounds like it’s just one of those catchy descriptions to introduce the character, and I don’t have a good feel for any hook right now.

***

#43 Angela Ackerman (YA)

When Mom and Dad started throwing around the D word, I never imagined an old folk’s home would become my Post Divorce Relocation. I mean as far as top choices go, it’s right up there with a land fill. The kids at my old school would say this is karma and I had it coming. And, if I’m honest about it, maybe they’re right.

NF: I really love this, but I’m worried the old folks home is the only (but certainly unique!) angle.


***
#72 PaigeC

We stood side by side in the dark, me holding a pack of matches, my best friend holding the gas can.

"Burn it." Finn’s voice was soft in the eerie nighttime silence, but full of edgy anticipation. With his face hidden in shadow under the hood of his team sweatshirt, he stared straight ahead at the school van spotlighted under the tall parking lot light.

NF: Last sentence did it; I’d been hoping for something a little edgier, maybe an arsonist book, than just a damaging school property/maybe on a dare thing.

***

#73 Angela Ackerman (MG)

Not many people look down at a dead goldfish and wonder if that’s how they looked the day they died. Then again, I suppose not many people drown and then come back to life, either.

Only four days after The Accident, I ended up crammed around a toilet with Mom, Dad and my little brother to attend Gingersnap’s funeral. Mom had told me that Derek would understand if I wanted to skip his fish's send off, which was exactly why I'd insisted on a front row seat.

NF: His stubbornness makes him un-likeable for me here; interesting set-up, but if I don’t love the character…

***

#86 Alison Wells

First off, I just want to say that I did not invite the aliens to drop into my backyard. At least not on purpose. So it's not like Ty and I were prepared to deal with the situation. Under the circumstances, I think we handled the whole thing pretty well.

NF: Sounds really fun, but the longer the “story intro” goes on, it turns me off; I really wanted to hop in!

***

#97 Annie McElfresh

Life lines. Most people think of them as options game show contestants use to help themselves win a million dollars or something else just as equally lame. Me? I know different.

NF: The “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” reference sort of dated it for me, and I wasn’t really sure how life lines would be intriguing.

***

#100 girl jordyn

In seventh grade math they taught us that a triangle is the sturdiest shape,

stronger than rectangles or pentagons or anything else. And that made sense to me. I understood, almost instinctively, what we spent multiple class periods on; I knew that three points were stronger than two, that the third corner gave the shape an added strength it wouldn’t otherwise have. That third corner, I knew, was needed.

NF: I’ve been holding on hoping that this is going to end up as a really cool metaphor, but it’s taking a while, which cues me that the pacing for the book might be a little too slow…



Entries will be critiqued by the following guest authors:
  • Riley Carney is seventeen years old and has written seven MG/YA novels. The first book of the five-book Reign of the Elements Series,The Fire Stone, was released January 2010, and the second book, The Water Stone, will be released August 2010. Riley is passionate about promoting global literacy through the nonprofit corporation that she founded because she believes that the way to help children break the cycle of poverty and exploitation is through literacy. 
  • Lisa Green is not a demon, ghost, vampire, fairy or shape-shifter*. She has, however, enjoyed reading and writing about them since the age of seven. Her short stories and poems have been featured in several online magazines and her manuscripts are represented by the amazing Rubin Pfeffer of East-West Literary.
Additional feedback may be provided by the following authors:

  • Barrie Summy writes a humorous tween/teen mystery series for Random House. Her books include I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES, I SO DON'T DO SPOOKY, the just-released I SO DON'T DO MAKEUP and the upcoming I SO DON'T DO FAMOUS. She lives in San Diego with her husband, four chatty children, a dog named Dorothy, two veiled chameleons and 83 chameleon eggs. She is addicted to the internet and licorice.
  • When Cole Gibsen isn't writing she can be found shaking her booty in a zumba class, picking off her nail polish, or drinking straight from the jug (when no one is looking). Cole's debut YA paranormal, Katana, is due out from Flux in spring, 2012.
  • Maurissa Guibord is a YA author whose debut novel, Warped will be published in January, 2011 from Delacorte. Warped is a romantic fantasy about a girl, an ancient unicorn tapestry and the threads of fate that bind them together.
  • Suzanne Young currently lives in Portland, Oregon where she uses the rainy weather as an excuse to stay inside and write obsessively. She is the author of THE NAUGHTY LIST series (Razorbill/Penguin) and the upcoming A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL (Balzer & Bray, Summer 2011), its sequel (Summer 2012) and DELINQUENTS (Razorbill/Penguin, Fall 2011)
  • Tahereh a.k.a. T.H. Mafi works as a graphic designer. Her blog Grab a Pen consistently entertains the masses. She writes YA novels and is represented by the ever-fabulous Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency.
  • Leah Crichton resides near the majestic Canadian Rockies with her husband, three children and two pets. With a teacher for a mother and a writer for a father, she had two choices: succeed or die trying. By day she manipulates geophysical data, but at night she dives head first into the different places created inside her mind because a lot of interesting people live there. Her YA debut novel "Amaranthine" will be released in November of 2010 by Canonbridge LLC
Happy critiquing,


Martina & Marissa

18 comments:

  1. Be still my heart; if thou had thought this to be true, thine heart would be aflutter but... I'm sure you meant:

    We are going to invite those "top 25" writers who wish to do so to include a query letter as well as the first 250.

    Such an open call might shut down the internet:D

    But if you're serious, just write the words and I shall be upon it.;)

    Anyway, this was a lot of fun. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks for the catch, Sangay! This is what I get for trying to do 16 things at once.

    Martina

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  3. Thanks to Natalie Fischer for her generosity in providing comments! I'd love to post my first page, but right after I posted those first lines for the contest, I realized the first 50 pages of my book were throat-clearing--it's not about rehab at all--just peripherally! Am I allowed to post my new first page, or do I have to stick to the first five lines I posted here? Thanks!

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  4. Go ahead and post your new first page, if you want to. The point of the exercise is to help you get your mss ready. :)

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  5. Thanks--you guys are truly generous!

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  7. Thanks for this opportunity. Here is a short keynote to tell you about the book, followed by the first page.

    #29
    Leah Odze Epstein
    THE STANDOUT
    A young adult novel @65,000 words


    KEYNOTE: After her older sister gets sent away to rehab, good girl Carolena Gold steps out of her sister’s shadow and unleashes her inner Standout—infiltrating Student Government, starting up Open Mic nights, and writing poems that turn into songs for the guy she likes.


    Chapter One

    The first last straw was at the beginning of the summer before ninth grade, when Becca made out with Liam on my bedroom floor. I lay on my bed in the dark, staring up at the ceiling with my ear buds in, listening to my music cranked up to top volume to block out their sucking sounds.

    She asked if they could come over to my house, since my parents weren’t strict, and if I could be a buffer zone because, “You know, Carolena, it’s hard to be alone with guys—they want so much.”

    Sadly, I didn’t know this, but I said yes, because I liked to pretend that nothing bothered me, even though everything actually did. Since when had Liam O’Rourke become a contender in her book-of-a-thousand guys? I asked her, “Why Liam?” Her answer: “Because he’s there.”

    Had Becca ever stopped to think that maybe I, who had an as-yet unwritten book of guys, liked him first? Well why would she, when I’d never mentioned that small fact to her or anyone else?

    The second was what happened with Rachel, and how my parents didn’t trust me enough not to lie to me.

    Later, I would realize that the “Rachel thing” had been the last last straw—the moment I decided, even without fully realizing it—that I was sick of being a doormat. That I wanted to be the one opening doors and stepping in, not the one being stepped on.

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  9. Thank you for the awesome opportunity and for your generosity judges and critiquers!

    #2 Creepy Query Girl

    ‘How do you punish someone who’s already dead?’ Gretchen Grey tightened her grip around an umbrella handle while she waited for her parents to arrive. Her haunted blue eyes examined the London townhouse where she had grown up. Thick green ivy cast shadow around the entrance and spread towards the outer corners, almost reaching the top floor panes. Looking at it from afar, it seemed her home rested in the palm of a giant murky green claw.


    A woman appeared in the doorway and opened her umbrella against the pelting rain. "Gretchen child! There's no reason to wait outside.”

    Gretchen tore her gaze away from the townhouse and looked up at the chambermaid. “You know that’s not true,” she answered softly.

    Mira gave her shoulder a gentle pat. The sound of heavy steps and subdued voices drifted towards them from the interior of the London townhouse before her parents emerged.

    They carried her mother's casket out first. It was a rich mahogany, etched with gold. Gretchen imagined her mother would have approved. She’d had an eye for detail that many admired.

    The group of men was followed out by a second assembly. Her father's coffin was almost identical to her mother's, though a bit longer. Her father had been a tall man, after all. Gretchen's breath caught in her throat and her hand flew up to clutch Mira's as it rested on her shoulder.

    ‘This is all my fault.'



    query excerpt:

    * Fourteen year old Gretchen Grey will grow up to be the most famous and sought after medium of the nineteen thirties and early forties. 'The Life and Adventures of Miss Gretchen Grey' follows our young heroine as she travels across the Atlantic after the deaths of her parents. She arrives into the care of her paternel Grandmother; a woman who holds a surprising perception of Gretchen's 'gifts'. This alternate history story is based upon real people and places in historical New England, including characters set within the wealthy Cheney family of Manchester, Connecticut and the little known Spiritualist Camp of Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts. The manuscript in its entirety is 102,000 words. My work should appeal to young adults between the ages of eleven and seventeen.

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  10. Thanks for the opportunity, guys! This contest was so much fun, and I'm glad I made it so far. :D



    Name: Kat Zhang


    Entry #: 1


    Title: HYBRID



    Query: 



    Fifteen-year-old Eva cannot move, cannot speak, cannot scream. In her world, two souls are born into each body. She had the misfortune of being the recessive, the one doomed to someday disappear. But Eva never did.

    She loses command of her limbs and tongue, becoming nothing more than a voice audible only to Adie, the dominant soul. Eva nearly accepts her fate. One soul fades, the other controls. Anything else is unnatural. Adie yearns to be normal, and Eva cannot deny her that.

    But Eva remains.



    Everything changes when a friend reveals a startling secret: neither of her own souls ever faded, and she can teach Eva how to regain control of her body. But when these lessons are discovered, Adie and Eva are hospitalized, forced to undergo rounds of counseling and medical tests. The doctors are convinced they are mentally ill and must be cured—using whatever methods necessary. 

    

Even if it destroys Adie’s sanity. 



    Even if it means Eva might disappear completely.



    Together, Adie and Eva must reveal the truth behind the hospital’s grisly experiments and escape. Otherwise, the doctors' knives may be slicing into them next. 



    HYBRID, a Young Adult novel, is complete at 75,000 words.



    ***



    First 250 words (I've made a few tweaks since entering):



    Adie and I were born into the same body, our souls’ ghostly fingers entwined before we gasped our very first breath. Our first few years together were probably our happiest. Then came the worries—the tightness around our parents’ mouths, the frowns lining our kindergarden teacher’s forehead, the question everyone whispered when they thought we couldn’t hear.

    Why aren’t they settling?

    Settling.

    We tried to form the word in our five-year-old mouth, tasting it on our tongue.

    Set—Tull—Ling.

    We knew what it meant. Kind of. It meant… it meant one of us was supposed to take control. It meant one of us was supposed to fade away. I know now that it means much, much more than that. But at five, Adie and I were still innocent, still oblivious.

    By first grade, the varnish of innocence began to fade. Our gray-haired guidance counselor made the first scratch.

    “You know, dear, settling isn’t scary,” she’d say as we watched her thin, lipstick-reddened mouth. “Not scary at all. It might seem like it now, but it happens to everyone. The recessive soul, whichever one of you it is, will simply…go to sleep.”

    She never hinted at who she thought was destined to survive, but she didn’t need to. By first grade, everyone believed Adie was the dominant soul. She’d move us left when I wanted to go right, refuse to open her mouth when I wanted to eat, cry "No" when I wanted so desperately to say "Yes."

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  11. Thanks for this great opportunity! I'm just submitting my first page.

    #31
    Emerald's Keeper by Holly Dodson
    YA Urban Fantasy

    Mandy Samkirk had no warning of the life-changing events about to unfold; only the lingering worry from a recurring dream that nagged at her thoughts. She could still feel the shadow of evil that hung like an impenetrable cloud in the sky, the smell of decay. Cries for help echoed through her mind with panic so thick it was palpable. She squeezed her eyes shut to block the memory out; the cool kitchen counter beneath her arms anchored her to reality.

    “We’ve got a special surprise for you today, sweetheart,” her mother said, setting the last clean plate in the rack beside the sink to dry. The bright smile on her mom’s face had been plastered there all morning.

    “What kind of surprise? Is John coming?” Mandy tried not to get her hopes up but failed miserably.

    The last time she’d seen John had been at Christmas over a year ago, and that had been the first time she’d seen him since his fight with Dad. He had really looked awful too, like maybe he had the flu or something. Mandy missed him more than she cared to admit.

    “Sorry, sweetheart.” Her mother turned to face her across the bar, a sadness in her eyes Mandy hadn’t expected. “He’s not coming. I did try to convince him but well, you know John. He sent you a letter though.” She rifled through a stack of mail on the counter and pulled out a battered envelope, “Here it is.”

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  12. Entry #100

    QUERY LETTER PITCH:
    Grayson was thirteen when her aunt and uncle died, leaving an emptiness that shattered the family. Before, Grayson and her cousins Willa and Ainsley, grew up together like sisters. After, they were torn apart as their individual families tried to move on from the tragedy.

    Grayson's been apart from her cousins for three years but now, in what promises to be a family-filled summer, she's headed back to Arizona to reunite with them. Despite her excitement at seeing Willa and Ainsley again, things quickly become tangled as Willa's grief resurfaces and Ainsley does her best to push Grayson away from her. In trying to deal with the ways her cousins have changed, Grayson finds herself developing romantic feelings for a childhood friend -- a boy who's now dating Willa -- and now she must decide how much she's willing to risk in order to restore the relationship she used to have with Willa and Ainsley.

    SITTING ON ROOFTOPS, complete at 59,000 words, is a YA novel about family and the different types of love. It's about making the wrong turn and how to put things back together when they fall apart.

    FIRST 250 WORDS;
    In seventh grade math they taught us that a triangle is the sturdiest shape, stronger than rectangles or pentagons or anything else. And that made sense to me. I understood, almost instinctively, what we spent multiple class periods on; I knew that three points were stronger than two, that the third corner gave the shape an added strength it wouldn’t otherwise have. That third corner, I knew, was needed.
    I am the third corner, the point that makes the triangle work. I knew this when I was five years playing dolls with Willa and Ainsley and I know it now, a mile in the air, on my way to reunite with them after three years away. Three years apart, the corners of our triangle spread across hundreds and thousands of miles. Seb sits next to me, comic book in hand and his Bose noise-cancelling headphones (a remnant of our parents’ divorce, one of the things he stole from my mother’s boxes when she moved out) blocking out the noise of the airplane. He’s my older brother and my best friend and right now I wish he’d talk to me instead of reading. I’m nervous and I shouldn’t be nervous. I’m antsy and I shouldn’t be antsy.
    “Seb,” I say.
    He doesn’t hear me.
    “Seb,” I say again, louder.
    He still doesn’t hear me, but the girl sitting behind me does and she kicks the back of my seat. Nice.
    I pull the headphones away from him. “Seb.”

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  13. **Thanks for this!**

    *1st 250*


    Life lines. Most people think of them as options game show contestants use to help themselves win a million dollars or something else just as equally lame. Me? I know different. I know that the schoolyard game about those little squiggly lines on your palm forecasting your life is actually real. Believe me, I’ve done the research. Which brings me to the mess I’m in. Why the hell are mine disappearing?

    Maybe it’s because of that sadistic, five-year-old soul-stealing bastard.

    This is the fourth therapist I’ve been to this year. Each one causes me to question my sanity a little more, so there’s no way I’m going to spill my guts about my newly discovered countdown-clock of death. My chart’s filled with enough crazy.

    Tearing my eyes away from my palm, I tuck my hand tightly under my opposite arm to get my mind off the creepy issue rolling through my brain. Seeing a doctor is Mom’s idea. Did I mention how much I resent being here? My last doctor kicked me out of his practice for not “trying” enough. I begged Mom to let me quit at that point and try to heal myself, but since I’m not legally an adult yet, she still calls the shots for what she deems best for me.
    As I wait for the doctor to come in, I gaze around the room and notice Dr. Fletcher’s family photos. They’re all smiling, and it occurs to me that people always seem to smile in photos. It’s like they’re always perpetually happy.

    ***Query***

    Sixteen-year-old gothic outcast Natalie Sugarman bartered her soul for her dying mother’s life eleven years ago to a boy demon that could stop time. Now, the lifelines on her palms are slowly vanishing, and she knows it’s just a matter of time before Satan’s little helper returns.

    Natalie's learned to keep the soul bargain to herself; after all, blabbing about it in the past has only landed her on a suicide watch, which was followed by a string of lame psychiatric appointments. But when the weirdness begins—snakes gathering around her, disappearing beetles—she seeks answers about her dwindling lifelines from a freaky, glowing-eyed fortuneteller. Creeped out by the psychic’s methods, she bolts from the reading and misses the warning that the demon who stole her soul is closer than she thinks.

    After some strange incidents with her new boyfriend, including a hot, levitating make-out session, she realizes he’s the grown-up version of her little nightmare and he’s returned to collect. Natalie must figure out how to win her soul back from the demon before her lifeline completely disappears—even if that means making a deal to damn five other souls to take her place.

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  14. #27

    I am humbled by this opportunity. Thank you so much. My query is not exactly where I'd like it, yet. So here is my first 250 words. (After missing the last round, I actually changed my fourth line. I hope it clears the meaning up.)

    First 250 words:

    The challenge began like all the rest, although the dead corpse-look was different. Ana wished she could ignore it, pretend it didn’t exist, but that never worked. She could feel them.

    The Three rounded the corner of the math wing, one boy glancing up, eyes black as night and hair light as the sun. Afternoon sunlight snuck through open doorways intermittently spraying his chalky complexion and erasing his zombie veneer. A halo of gold washed over him.

    Ana blinked, eyelids dipping, lashes barely touching. She glanced at the archaic-looking (and very manly) tattoo branding his lower forearm. A silent gasp rushed up her throat and slammed into the back of her teeth. Why were the weird ones so yummy? She rubbed the amulet dangling from her neckline and felt his exhale from across the hall.

    Be cool.

    She leaned on the closest locker, cold metal riding the side of her arm, suede satchel swaying by her hip. His energy came in a wave. She sighed, hating these challenges and that she was the only one taking them; Mem had taught her to focus. Keep quiet. Be inconspicuous. Her jaw clenched when the first touch had its way with her, creeping over her skin, teasing the teeny hairs on her arm.

    She scanned the boy next to him. His oversized hoodie shadowed his face from forehead to chest. He had that grungy model-look going on. A petite girl leaned against him, her cropped haircut tinted in bold brunette and one stripe of fuchsia.

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  15. Many thanks To Natalie for her feedback on my first four sentences, and thanks in advance for all comments on my first page. :)

    I don't have a query, but here's a sound bite:

    When the Moirae (The Fates) botch twelve-year-old Lexi’s death by drowning and she’s revived by mistake, it creates a tear in the Tapestry of Life. Alive as Fate never intended, she unknowingly becomes a Borrower, stealing the energy of others to remain alive. As things sicken and die, she struggles to understand she is the cause, and when the Fates’ loom attempts to weave another death to repair the damage Lexi’s non-death caused, her little brother becomes the target.

    First page (with changes as per Natalie's feedback)

    Not many people look down at a dead goldfish and wonder if that’s how they looked the day they died. Then again, I suppose not many people drown and then come back to life, either.

    Only four days after The Accident, I ended up crammed around a toilet with Mom, Dad and my little brother to attend Gingersnap’s funeral. Derek had found his fish floating topside in the bowl just after breakfast, so we decided on a quick morning send off before the bus showed up for school.

    Derek leaned against me and I gave him a squeeze. For him, I wished we didn’t have to be here or do this. Behind me, Mom shifted in the tight space. I didn’t need to turn to know her gaze was on me, even though she should have been paying attention to Derek.

    Sniffing loudly, my brother sprinkled fish food into the bowl. Multi-colored flakes swirled around Gingersnap’s corpse like street glitter after a Fourth of July parade. There was no way I looked like that the day I died. First of all, it wasn’t like anyone at the public pool had thrown fish food over my body or Maya would have told me about it later. Second, there’s a big difference between a dead goldfish and a twelve-year-old girl, even if her hair was sort of the same rusty orange as its fish scales. And third, Gingersnap had a pretty shocked look on his face, kind of like he hadn’t seen the end coming. Well, maybe we had that in common. I hadn’t seen death coming, either.

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  17. Thanks for letting me know about this! Here's my first 250.

    IMAGINARY HEART
    YA Paranormal Romance

    I died before I was even born.

    It was April 13th, not a Friday, but it might as well have been. My mom was in labor with me as my parents’ car raced down the two-lane wooded road that passes for a highway in our part of Michigan. A thunderstorm raged, blotting out the last of the sunset. They were two miles from the hospital when a speeding car slid through a stop sign and slammed into them.

    They never saw it coming.

    My dad died first, instantly, the steering column punching a hole right through his heart. Their ancient car didn’t have airbags and the seatbelt wasn’t enough to save my mom. She bled out while they were using the Jaws of Life, and since I was inside her, I died too.

    The paramedics couldn’t do anything for my mom, but they thought I deserved a chance. They cut me out, right there in the intersection, in the middle of the pouring rain. I was blue, but they wouldn’t give up. A few tiny puffs of air later, I finally gave my first cry.

    The nurses said they should call me Lucky. Gran said, “What’s lucky about coming into the world with your parents already dead?” So she named me after the reason for my sad situation. The name my nineteen-year-old mother joked about on the phone with her, before she left for the hospital.

    She named me Rain.

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  18. Sorry! Forgot to add spaces on this one.

    And here's my second one (YA)

    Between a criminal record and the social nightmare of living in an old folk’s home, fourteen-year-old Sabrina Milo has plenty of baggage to carry around. Determined to start over, the last thing she needs is a teenage stalker who’s willing to use both against her, or a graffiti scandal at her new school that sends all eyes in her direction. Cloaked in mistrust, there’s no one to turn to when Sabrina overhears the murder of an elderly woman in the apartment above her own and worse, the killer knows he left behind a silent witness. Sabrina’s only chance of finding the killer before he finds her lies in her criminal past…if she’s willing to embrace it.

    First Page:

    When Mom and Dad started throwing around the D word, I never imagined an old folk’s home would become my Post Divorce Relocation. I mean as far as top choices go, it’s right up there with a land fill. The kids at my old school would say this is karma and I had it coming. And, if I’m honest about it, maybe they’re right. But when you add this to having to transfer to a new middle school only a month before summer vacation, well, that’s not just karma. It’s the universe with a serious hate-on for me.

    As I step out of my room, I brace for the usual reek of Rub A535 cream and garlic that leeches out of the ancient carpet in the hall. This morning though, the smell is overridden by something even worse. A smoky odor of sizzling ham wafts from the kitchen where Mom is, who is clearly jazzed about sending me off on my BIG DAY.

    My mouth waters, betraying me, but my granite-stiff stomach knows better. Eating right now is not a good idea, but I drag myself along the dingy hall anyway, an inmate on Death Row heading toward her last meal.

    In the kitchen, Mom glances up from the skillet. “About time,” she says, poking some eggs. “Get lots of sleep?”

    I ignore the question. “Three words, Mom: cruel and inhumane. Come on, let me start summer vacation early.”

    “I’m done talking about this, Sabrina.” She places a cereal bowl at my elbow. "You're going."

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