Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #49

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 60,000


When sixteen-year-old Hanley Helton discovers a complete stranger living in her garage, she knows she should kick him out. But Nate is too charming to be dangerous.He just needs a place to get away, which Hanley understands; she’s been trying to get away from her past ever since her best friend committed suicide. True, her own escape methods — vodka, black hair dye, and pretending it never happened — are more traditional, but who is she to judge?

A flawless system develops. Nate spends his days roaming and his nights sleeping next to a tarp-covered 1977 Trans Am. When Hanley sneaks out, she gives Nate blankets and food. When she drunkenly sneaks back in, he assists her with complicated concepts such as walking and using door handles. Their system includes an unspoken pact: he doesn't tell her why he's there. She doesn't tell him what she's running from. Soon, Hanley's late-night escapades don't take her much further than her own garage.

The relationship works until Hanley does the one thing sure to send this delicate balance off-kilter. She tells the truth. Nate is understanding about Hanley's past, but unwilling to open up about his own. Instead of two secrets, now there's only one. Hanley gives him an ultimatum: tell her why he's in her garage, or lose her. So Nate shares the reason he's on the run. He killed his twin brother, and it wasn't an accident. When Nate is discovered and recognized as the missing teen from the news, Hanley isn't sure which is more of a problem: that she's harboring a fugitive or that she's in love with one.

First 250:

The third step down holds my fate in its hands. There, the padding beneath the beige carpet is non-existent. The supporting boards and beams creak with age. I learned these facts the hard way back in 8th grade, after my parents discovered the word “curfew,” and once again earlier this year when I was too excited, too drunk, too something to remember the Third Step Rule.

Tonight I don’t forget. I clutch the wooden banister and pass over Third Step in favor of its silent neighbor, Fourth Step. I pause and listen. It takes a long second, but the familiar chainsaw of my dad’s snoring sounds again.

I tiptoe down the remaining stairs. The front door is before me, freedom within reach, but that door creaks too much for my needs. I inch through the foyer in the direction of the well-oiled garage door.

I pause to pick up my black knee-high boots. My sister Heather calls them “stripper boots” and steps on them every chance she gets. My parents nag me to keep them in the closet, but I need my shoes available for times like this.

I’m nearing escape when I feel it. A tickle in my nose. Shit. If I had a petite, polite sneeze like most girls, this might not be a problem. However, my sneezes measure on the Richter Scale. I obeyed the Third Step Rule and had my shoes ready to go, but now I’m going to ruin it all with a sneeze.


  1. Oh, I just LOVE this query. There's conflict from start to finish and it ends with such a feeling of being tugged in two directions--really makes me want to read it!

    And the first 250 starts the story off with such a bang. I remember those days (shhh! don't tell my parents!) of tiptoeing through the house past curfew. I loved every description and the little bits of characterization you managed to weave in there. And the voice just pops out at you.

    Fantastic job!

  2. I find this awesome. The query brings the intrigue. When I got to the end, I swear my eyebrows were raised- in a good way.

    I feel the same about the first 50. The voice is great. I was there with her. Everyone can relate to creaky floors and stairs. I'd follow this MC for an an entire novel!

  3. Oh man I love that query. I want that book. Like now. And I can really relate to the first 250. Lovely job!

  4. Really great writing- I especially love the line about his assisting her in using door handles!! In my house it was the fourth step, but I can really relate to this scene. As a mom of twins I'm a little disturbed by all the queries in this contest where one twin dies, but as a reader, I'm intrigued! The only thing I'm not absolutely in love with is the title, but otherwise, I'd read this book today!!

  5. I love this concept! Great voice and interesting hook. Good luck!

  6. LOVE it! I would read this in a heartbeat. I'm with Jennifer in that I'm not totally in love with the title, but depending on the cover, I may have picked up the book anyway (and I'd have been VERY glad I did).

  7. Aaah I got SUCH chills from the ending of that query! I would read this in a second!

  8. I remember this clearly from WriteOnCon. I'm not usually a contemp fan, but this I would read in a heartbeat! Awesome job on both the query and the pages.

  9. Love how the query shows how much conflict this story has! The last line is also a fantastic hook.

    Yep, going to have to agree with everyone else. The voice here is great. A lot of tension (and humor) in the first few paragraphs. Drew me right in! I would definitely read more :)

  10. I really, really like this. The query sets up the relationship so nicely, and I love the line "he assists her with complicated concepts such as walking and using door handles". Ha! Your first 250 pulled me right in - I think you really captured the drunken sneak-back-into the house mentality in a realistic and honest way. I want more!

  11. I totally dig this concept. It's so simple...but it's so NOT at the same time. I'd say maybe shorten the query just a teensy bit- that's only my opinion.

    As for the writing- good, humorous voice. Seems like a fun character I could learn to love REALLY quickly. Want to know what happens, for sure, with the way this story progresses. Rock on!!

  12. The query intrigued me, but then the first 250 words made me fall in love! The voice is perfect and makes me want to read more about this character! Sounds like a great mixture of humor and drama!

  13. such a great, intriguing query. Very good.

  14. Great opening scene to let readers fall for Hanley. Really want to read more.
    Best of luck!

  15. Hah, I love the voice of the narrator and the premise caught my attention. I would love to see how this book turns out 8D

  16. This is awesome. I mean it, really great. If you're looking for a beta reader on this, stop by my blog. It's I don't read a lot of contemporary YA, but this sounds right up my alley. I will be amazed if this doesn't get picked.

    Mine is entry 29 if you want to check it out.
    Good luck with it!!

  17. Great query letter! So much conflict, and the voice shines through. I would definitely want to read on.

  18. I LOVED this entry from WriteOnCon!! And I really like the changes you made to the query.

    Your first 250 totally made me laugh because I was having flashbacks of sneaking out of the house as a teen and crossing my fingers that the door didn't creak. :)

    I would definitely want to read this book. Great job and good luck!

    Mine is entry 43 if you want to check it out. :)

  19. Eeee, look at all the happy comments on this entry! You go, Erin!