Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #15

Genre: Young Adult
Word Count: 61,000

The Realm is teetering on the edge of war, and there are only two who know. One has blood on his hands, and one knows something the other doesn’t. Murders strike the Realm, and the Severen Spiri—a disgusting ritual that rips a person’s soul in two—is being ruthlessly and illegally performed. Caught in the middle is Meadow Ashby who sees the miscreant’s crimes through her abnormal visions, and is immediately implicated a liar. She must choose who to trust: an old friend whose behavior has become clandestine, or a new one who is fiercely protecting a secret of his own.

White Eyes immerses the reader into Meadow’s magical world of danger, destiny, and loss as she struggles to keep the Realm from being destroyed, and the people she loves from death—or a fate far worse.
While White Eyes could stand alone, it is meant to be in a trilogy. The first draft of book two has been written—very preliminary, of course—and book three is in the planning stages.
I am currently a senior at Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS. Three of my short stories and two poems have been published in their literary journal, Lines From the Middle of Nowhere. “Being Kane” (2009), “Tuesday Nights” (2010), “Irrevocably” (2011), “Nevermore Doll Store” (2012), “Nothing to Me” (2012). My first novel, Toenail Lemonade, was published by PublishAmerica in 2010.
First 250:
They called them night terrors, products of an overactive imagination, and even a physical malady. The most decent of people thought she was confused, the cruel said she was starved of attention. Even in their magical world, visions were not normal, and to them she was a liar.
But they hadn’t seen what she’d seen.
She watched as the blood ran warm beneath the jagged blade, and the man’s desperate cries swallowed any strength of hope that this truly was a nightmare. Her clenched fists grasped the cool metal as if she were the murderer, all the while her mind shrieked in terror.
When she awoke, her palms burned with the indention of the dagger’s handle.
Since his disappearance five years ago, Harkin had been the subject of Meadow Ashby’s dreams. They’d met at the mere age of six when the Cetherwoods had moved to Winchcombe. He shyly hid behind his mother’s legs, but Meadow, being the stubborn tomboy she was, chased him until he cried. Unable to endure the shame, Harkin shoved her until she cried.
But now Meadow dreamt of the day when they sat underneath the white, puffy leaves of the Finneus Tree in her backyard, talking of the Abilities they hoped to inherit when they turned thirteen. Their backs were pressed against the rough green bark, the wind brushed dirt onto their bare legs, and the sun warmed their faces. The grass was so lush and thick that they could run barefoot through the yard without hurting their feet on sticks and rocks, and the yellow, pink, and blue sky was clear enough to see every bird that sailed above them.


  1. I'd like to see Meadow mentioned in the first line of the query. Secrets, wars, and world-building don't mean much to a reader without a character to connect them to. The query also lacks a specific driving conflict-- phrases like "caught in the middle" and "abnormal visions" are too vague to give me a real sense of what problems Meadow faces. Who are the "people she loves"? Even if you don't want to muddle up the query with a bunch of names, at least give us an idea of who is in danger and what Meadow stands to lose. Is it her family? A love interest (Harkin)? All we know is that she has "friends" and "people she loves." That could be said of almost anyone, anywhere, and tells us nothing of what is at stake for Meadow.

    Regarding the first 250: I think your preface is a stronger beginning to the novel than chapter one is. Perhaps the preface is where the story really starts? Chapter one seems like back story that could be worked in gradually. Just a thought. It was somewhat jarring for me to go from the action of the preface to a paragraph about Meadow's childhood. I don't know enough about her as a character yet to know why it's important to see what she was like when she was six.

  2. Firstly, I'll do the obligatory most prologues don't work' comment and tell you to consider cutting the prologue. Kristin Nelson and Mary Kole both have some great discussions on prologues on their blogs (er, rhymes...)

    The language of your prologue is good, but does it really add to the narrative? I'm going to take a contrary position to Susan (it's all subjective!) and say no, not in my opinion. I think the preface is a nice teaser sure, but it's in a very different tone to the start of chapter one, and I'd rather be shown that sort of stuff later on.

    To me, your story starts here:
    'Since his disappearance five years ago, Harkin had been the subject of Meadow Ashby’s dreams.'
    See, this is compelling - I like it. It makes me wonder.

    'the stubborn tomboy she was,'
    I'd like to be shown this if possible.

  3. I agree with Susan that your query might read stronger with the main character mentioned in the first line. I would also suggest defining the Realm within that first paragraph. You have all the elements and a little refining will show the world and the MC more clearly.

    In place of the middle two paragraphs, I would suggest defining a little more what the stakes are for your character. What happens if she doesn't trust the old friend? What happens if she trusts the new one? What is her goal and what is preventing her from reaching that goal? Showing all this will show the agent that you have strong stakes and it will also show the uniqueness of your story.

    As for the credentials, I think you can simply say you have been published in the literary journals for x univeristy, you don't need to state you are currently a student. I would also caution against mentioning the PublishAmerica link; from what I know that is a vanity press, and unless you can back this up with impressive sales numbers, I don't think it adds enough to your query. That space is also good for listing a comparative title, like for fans of Courtney Moultan's Angelfire series (or whatever fits your story).

    I like the lyrical quality of your first 250. The prologue is doing your opening a disservice; I would stick with showing chapter one in a contest so readers can get the most out of your first chapter. Good luck!

  4. Thank you for your advice. I wasn't sure about the PublishAmerica thing. I was young and excited about getting "published" without really knowing the ropes. (I use the term "young" loosely. Not in age, but in writing experience.) This is my first real query and since submitting to this contest, I've revised the query to be more specific, though longer. Thanks again for the advice! --J.B