Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #2


Title: THE CARNELIAN LEGACY
Genre: YA
Word Count: 87,000

Query:

After her father dies, eighteen-year-old Marisa MacCallum sets out to get as far away as possible from their hick Oregon town. She just never imagined she’d wind up in a parallel universe.

Ignoring her father’s warnings to stay out the woods of Gold Hill, she goes out riding and becomes injured when a freak storm slams the forest. She meets Darian Fiore, an arrogant young man on a diplomatic mission. Learning she has entered a parallel dimension and her only hope of returning home is to locate a scientist from Earth, Marisa must learn from Darian how she can survive attacks from Saquatch monsters, maniacs, and medieval knights. Falling in love was the last thing she needed.

When she discovers Darian is locked into an arranged marriage, Marisa’s heart shatters. After Darian’s cousin Savino offers her a future as his queen instead, Marisa is faced with an impossible choice: marry the archenemy of the man she loves or return to an empty life alone. As one man vies for her affections and the other fights for her life, Marisa is caught in the crossfire between two noblemen battling for control of an alternate dimension. Her only chance of escape rests in discovering the secret of an ancient legacy in time – one that will use all means possible to claim her life in the end.

First 250:

From the Journal of Alice MacCallum
Sunday, August 6th, 2000 9:34pm
I know I’ll be dead within the hour and nothing can save me.  While my life is ending, the man I trusted walks free. My body is paralyzed with a stinging pain but it can’t eclipse my feelings of guilt knowing what will happen tomorrow. I refuse to think about the unfairness of it all in the precious minutes I have left.

My dearest Alan, I’ve loved you since the day we met in that meadow all those years ago. I could have spent eternity with you but instead take those beautiful memories with me now. Please promise me you’ll protect little Marisa and baby Mark and give them extra love. Never let anything happen to them.  I wish I could hold you all just one more time before…

CHAPTER ONE - JACKSONVILLE
Marisa MacCallum wiped the tears blurring her vision, refusing to accept the fact that her father was gone. Closing her eyes, she could still see his bright blue eyes and infectious grin, teasing her about something. Slipping her arm under her uncle’s, she realized that while he could never take the place of her father, he was all she had left. She gazed up at autumn foliage surrounding the gravesite, reminding her that her eighteenth birthday was only two weeks away. After everything that had happened, a big celebration was the last thing she wanted.

32 comments:

  1. I actually really enjoy time travel/alternate reality romances. This one sounds really interesting. My only critique is that the last paragraph is your query was slightly confusing to me (although it could be just me!) What I'm taking from it is that the two men are fighting each other...and one is fighting for her love, while the other is fighting to save her life from the one fighting for her love? Is that right? (Because that is what confused me, why the guy that loved her would also be trying to kill her.) Other than that...I really liked it!

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  2. Hi Jodie - thanks so much for commenting - I appreciate your critique. I can see how the last paragraph can be confusing and I'll work on changing it. In a nutshell, Marisa loves Darian but he is unavailable. Savino is Darian's cousin and wants to marry her, but he is also Darian's archenemy. So, if she marries Savino, she'll become Darian's enemy too (something she really doesn't want!)

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  3. I love your writing. Journal entries are always intriquing to see how they fit into the story.

    I like how you begin. My only confusion is that your query starts out that she wants to get away from Oregon after her father's death, yet Chapter One begins in Jacksonville.

    Because you date the journal entry, I'm curious to know if Chapter One is in the past, and if so, how long before the journal entry?

    Of course I'd figure that out for myself if I read the story, so good job--I'm intriqued!

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    1. White Gardenia - Thanks for posting! Yeah, I guess not too many people have heard of Jacksonville, Oregon -- which only reinforces the fact that it's a small hick town! :0) Chapter one is set in the present when Marisa is eighteen. (The journal entry was her mother (she writes about "little Marisa" and was written in the past - year 2000.) Thanks again for your comments!

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  4. Nice work, I like the voice here, and it's a compelling premise. I also wasn't quite sure on the time, but I'd keep reading.

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  5. I don't usually like prologues, but this one is done well and it is short, so you don't lose the readers attention. It has a nice flow as well. Nice. :)

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  6. 'I know I’ll be dead within the hour and nothing can save me.'
    I like this line. And 'what will happen tomorrow' is compelling. One thing I'd consider though is whether the opening/prologue really furthers the narrative. I find the beginning of chapter one more compelling, even though it's in letter form. I think maybe the combination of the letter and prologue slows things just a little. I'd love to see the prologue reworked into action if it's a MC. What comes after the letter out of interest?

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    1. Hi Jess - thanks again for your feedback and I can understand your confusion. Clarification: the "letter" you're referring to is actually still part of the same journal entry. In the MS, the journal entry is handwritten in italics but I couldn't show that here in the blog format. After the journal entry, it dives right into chapter one.

      Basically, the book is suspense but by presenting snippets of Marisa's mother's journal (which is important to the plotline) it gives the reader "clues" along the way. But unfortunately, it's probably not apparent here in such a small sample of writing.

      Thanks again for your suggestion - I'll go back and see if I can make it flow better! :0)

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  7. I would recommend that you ditch this prologue. It's so short that I don't know that it adds anything essential, and for me it's offputting for one reason: it reads like the opening to Twilight. And however you may feel about the rest of Twilight, so many people have used this type of opening since then that it feels done to death for me.

    Of course, there's always the chance that this is just a pet peeve of mine and others may not feel as strongly!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this, Angelica. I can see your point and I would also be curious to know if others thought the same thing.

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    2. Angelica - dunno why, but my comments keep disappearing in this thread! Thanks for your advice and I'll consider ditching the prologue. Thanks!

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  8. I'd love to see Ch 1. If you post a bit here (not sure if that's allowed but I don't see why it wouldn't be) I'm happy to crit!

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    1. Jess - just sent it to you in an email! :0)

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  9. For some reason I don't view the journal entry as a prologue, although technically it is. I suppose it's your call; I think the journal is a useful approach (and at least it's not a dream sequence prologue which is a real No-Go with agents). In the end you'll need to determine whether to keep it or not.

    I'm curious on your genre; I think YA can still involve an 18-yr-old, but the overall premise, with the marriage proposal and all, feels a little older. Since this is a short excerpt, I don't know additional details, so you might have other elements of your story lending to more of a YA feel. And really, it's writing for a YA audience with characters they can relate to, so if you keep that in mind it can definitely work.

    As for your writing, there are some spots you can pare down filler words (like "that" in some instances or "the fact that" which is wordy and not needed). Look for filters too: She saw, she felt, she heard, etc; most of those aren't needed and you can retool the sentence to just show those things (which you mostly do already).

    Best of luck to you! I like the fantasy concept a lot.

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    1. Stephsco - thanks for the thoughtful commentary, I'll go back and remove some of those filler & filter words you mentioned - great tip! Yay!

      The genre is actually New Adult, and I totally understand your concern in questioning the content to fit the correct age category. The marriage concept may seem out of place here, but trust me, it is pivotal to the plot (can't give it away - it would ruin the ending!) but she lands in an ancient parallel dimension where everything happens at a VERY different speed, and that includes marriage. Basically, she's not ready for it which serves as a major conflict!! :0) Thanks again for the comments - very helpful!

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  10. I really liked this too. Funny, my book starts on a parallel world and ends on Earth. Yours is the other way around. :) My only confusion was with this paragraph:

    As one man vies for her affections and the other fights for her life, Marisa is caught in the crossfire between two noblemen battling for control of an alternate dimension. Her only chance of escape rests in discovering the secret of an ancient legacy in time – one that will use all means possible to claim her life in the end.

    So, does she want to escape from both of them and go back to Earth now? The return to Earth kind of feels like it's been put on the back-burner. Or does escaping from them entail something else? And are the two men battling for control of the alternate dimension she's already in, or a different alternate dimension? Also, I wasn't sure what the last sentence meant. I didn't understand how a legacy (which is pretty much the same thing as a prophecy, right?) would use all means possible to end her life. That almost made it sound like the legacy was a sentient being who could hurt her, so it confused me.

    Anyway, nobody else mentioned that last part, so its very possible it's just me. :) I haven't had enough coffee today.I really like the character and I love parallel world premises. Good luck with this. Mine is number 29 if you want to check it out. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Tamara!

      Thanks for offering your feedback -- it really helps me know what I have to work on. There's a lot of useful critique for me to use here, so I plan to go back and re-work it.

      The very last paragraph of the query (the one that is confusing to you and others) has proven to be the hardest for me to write because of the surprise twist at the end of the story. How do you tell enough without giving it away? IDK. Thanks again for your feedback. BTW - I already commented on yours -- great job! :0)

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  11. Hi, Cheryl!

    I am a huge fan of alternate universes and time travel, so this premise is right up my alley! Your query has a lot of intriguing elements and great hooks, and I think they'll stand out even more if you can tighten up the prose in both query and sample pages. Your first paragraph is great, but the second one starts to lag -- you might want to consider trimming it to focus on her goal (getting home) and the beginning conflict (hot medieval boy). That being said, your voice shines through this query -- it's spot-on for the kind of story you're telling.

    In the next paragraph, you start off strong (love the heart shattering line!) but I get lost quickly, because I don't understand why she'd consider marrying Savino if he's the archenemy of the guy she loves, especially if she's still looking to get home. I suspect it's very clear in the story itself -- it's just a question of summing it up properly -- preferably in one or two sentences.

    The other concern in this paragraph is that you give a lot of attention to the conflict between Darien and Savino, but only one sentence to the ancient thing trying to kill her. At the very least, that should be just as important as the love triangle. By tightening up the part about Darien and Savino, you'll have room to emphasize her quest to return home and the big bad that's out to get her.

    In your 250, I like the idea of using journal entries to give clues about the story -- but opening with the murder of Marisa's mother draws attention away from Marisa herself. And on a more nitpicky note...if her mom's body is paralyzed by a stinging pain, how is she able to write such a poetic, nostalgic journal entry? And why isn't she naming her killer? Those two questions were enough to bring me out of the story, and took away the emotional impact of your heroine burying her father just a few sentences later.

    That being said, I'm absolutely fascinated by the premise, and it's clear that you've put a lot of thought into both your worldbuilding and plot -- it's simply a matter of making sure your query reflects it! Good luck, and thank you for sharing!

    -- Erica

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    1. Erica - THANK you so much for the time you took to offer such valuable tips - so much useful information here! I will go back and re-work my query to incorporate the changes both you and others suggested. I really appreciate your input that will help remove any confusing elements. I want my query to POP! :0)

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  12. I purposely didn't read the other feedback so I apologize if I repeat anything.

    I really like the mood of the language in the excerpt. For some reason that mood doesn't come across in the query. Also, the second paragraph of the query confuses me. Has Marissa excepted that she has to live in the parallel universe or can she bring the guys with her? It just seems as if the focus changes. I don't know which one she wants- the guy or to go home.

    I like the writing itself and the whole idea of a parallel world. The only thing is, it was confusing to go from the query to a POV other than Marisa's. I had to go back and make sure I had the MC's name correct. Since you talked time in the query, I even thought maybe you were beginning with the end.

    Anyway, good luck!

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    1. Hi RaeChell, thanks for your feedback! Unfortunately, a query can't explain the many facets of a 87K novel in three short paragraphs, but if the reader is confused as to the MC's prime motivation, something is wrong with the query. I will go back and hone in on the main points. Thanks again!

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  13. good, solid writing. great premise! I actually thought it was kind of fun seeing the journal entry from someone else, and then going to Maria's. Just my opinion! :)

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    1. Hi Lindsay! Thanks for stopping by! It appears that the journal entry at the beginning is receiving mixed reviews and may be a matter of personal taste. The story contains lots of suspense and the journal plays a pivotal role so I am hesitant to remove it, but will if it distracts the reader. Thanks again for your comments!

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  15. I like this premise a lot, and I love the name Darian!

    I'm a fan of the journal entries :)

    Good Luck!

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    1. Hi JennaDanielle - thanks for your comments! I like the name Darian too -- it just screams "strong but silent type" doesn't it? :0)
      Thank again!

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  16. Hey Cheryl,

    Happy to finally stop by your entry and give you my POV :) I haven't read any of the comments above so this will just be my take.

    I loved your query, it's tight and focused and the three paragraphs show what you feel is most important for your pitch, and so I like how you've kept it simple. Opening line is great, shows conflict and premise, you should keep this in no matter what. My only comments on the second and third paragraphs are on the flow... it seems to move from an adventure into a world of wonder to a place that she's got to escape, to a place that she wants to stay in (as she's in love), to a place that she wants to both save and leave again.

    So in my opinion, I'd maybe focus paragraph two on the world and Darian, maybe adding more details about what this world might be like (I only really got that it was maybe medieval), and then focusing the third paragraph in the trouble she finds there and what she must do to get out of it.

    For your first 250, I'm on the fence. I too am a big fan on non-linear story-telling, flash forwards and flash backs, as well as a mix of styles (Journal entry vs. 1st person present tense). In fact, ONE FIFTY ONE (#30) starts with a flash forward, with the POV of the villain as he faces off against the MC. I've been having trouble with it as the starting point for my story, too—but structurally, I love it and it fits well with the rest of the manuscript and how it ends. So if you have big plans for her mother's journal, and know how it will fit in throughout the MS, then keep it.

    That said, while the first journal entry is a bit general and confusing (though intriguing), the first line paragraph of the real story is riveting. It pulls you into the scene and I love it. So maybe the journal entry can come in a bit later, rather than right off the top.

    Thanks and hope this helps!
    John
    #30

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    1. Hi John,

      Thanks so much for your feedback -- lots of great tips to work off of here! I will try to tighten the paragraphs up and focus the query on the points you suggested. Good idea to move the journal entry further back into the story so it doesn't interfere with the opening.

      Thanks again for the time you put into your comments - I appreciate it very much!

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  17. Hi Cheryl!

    Thanks so much for your feedback on my pitch!

    I have to say that I love this all. You have such a great voice! I think the only thing that stood out to me was "Falling in love was the last thing she needed." I'm not sure if I'm sold on the word needed for this. Though expected is not such a great choice either. Hmmmm.

    But I loved your 250 too. I wouldn't change a thing! You probably already have crit partners, but if you ever need a reader for this, I'm totally game!

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    1. Hi Tif, thanks for stopping by! Yeah, I'm still trying to figure out how to make the sentence you suggested better, but it's a tough one. If you think of something else, definitely let me know! :0) And although I do have a couple of crit partners already, I might just take you up on your offer! Good luck with CAGI!

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