Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #5

Genre: young adult paranormal
Word Count: 77k words


Seventeen-year-old Greta Shore is dealing with a lot of crap. Her dad leaves. Her magick is MIA. Her best friend is dead and Greta believes it's all her fault. Oh, and let’s not forget she's forcibly engaged to her ex-crush turned stalker thanks to her Benedict Arnold of a mother.

At the engagement party, fed up and angry, Greta impulsively takes off, blazing a trail straight for the protection of the Red Forest. But before she reaches safety, the bloodcurdling screech of a witch's worst nightmare heralds the impending attack of a shadow demon. Seconds from destruction, she's rescued, scooped into the arms of the hottest guy she's ever seen… Paxton Craig, a unicorn shifter. She knows him—his name caught like a promise on her teeth and tongue—but she’s never met him. Greta’s whole life changes the night Pax saves her.

However, salvation comes with a price… A hefty one. Greta discovers she’s a unicorn shifter with a dark fortune. As she remembers her past life with Pax her love grows, along with the risks. Their passion is forbidden. Dangerous. While Greta struggles to understand her inner beast, find her magick and break the marriage contract, she faces an impossible choice: Kill Pax to keep all shadow demons from feasting on her coven, or sacrifice herself to save him.

RUNNING FROM SHADOWS is a finalist in the Heart of the West 2012 contest (Utah chapter of RWA). I am a PRO member of RWA, YARWA, FF&P and Backspace, as well as being active in my local RWA chapter, Chesapeake Romance Writers. My YA paranormal romance, WITCH WAY TO TURN is published through Lyrical Press.

First 250:

The giant oaks of the Red Forest loomed above me. Unease prickled down my spine. Something else was in the woods. Lurking in the shadows. Watching me. I froze mid-step, ice in my veins. Peered into the darkness with my breath caught in my throat.

Haven slammed into my back. “Greta, seriously?”

A shiver rippled through me. The thing in the shadows had taken my attention so completely I’d forgotten that my two best friends trailed behind me. What was that thing? 

Had I imagined it?

When I didn’t answer she stomped in front of me. “Don’t just stop like that.” Haven smoothed a loose strand of pink hair behind her ear. “Damn. Maybe I should take the lead.”

“Whatever, girl.” I risked a quick glance over Haven’s shoulder toward the shadowy figure.


“What are you looking at?” She followed my gaze.

Jill joined us, her blond hair swaying over her shoulders as she bobbed her head up and down. The giddy smile on her face said she might start clapping at any second. “Ooh, I hope it’s something witchy and dangerous.”

Jill was ecstatic to cast a spell with us. Haven hadn’t ever asked her and I’d never been skilled enough to lead a circle. Until now. I took a deep breath. Was I crazy for needing to do this? For wanting answers?

Part of me had always felt carved out. Missing. Today, I was hoping to find a reason.


  1. Nice work :) I like the premise here and I love the comment 'I hope it's something witchy and dangerous'! The first 250 seem to flow well.

  2. Just noticed you haven't had any more feedback since my comment. Thought I'd do you a few line crits.

    * love the use of 'loomed'

    'Unease prickled down my spine.' - perhaps consider just 'my spine prickled' or similar? 'unease' is probably redundant.

    'Something else was in the woods. Lurking in the shadows. Watching me.' I think this could be action before reaction. Maybe consider swapping these to the end? Then we get the next lines first - I think they're great emotional shows and might do better coming first.

    * Good dialogue!

    'A shiver rippled through me.' Maybe consider leaving this out? I like the second part of this para so much more and it's somewhat similar to the unease line. Maybe just stick to one or the other?

    'Haven smoothed a loose strand of pink hair behind her ear.' Like the pink hair. Maybe consider tweaking this just a little? It's a common way to describe hair colour and I think it's kind of becoming cliche. By contrast, something like 'shoved', 'flicked back' or 'bunch of hair...' might vary it a little? It might just be me - I just feel like I've seen strands of stray hair a lot lately and you want it to really stand out.

    Anyway, hope some of that helps! Nice work!

  3. Hooray, a fellow RWA-er! Those contests are really helpful, I've found. I've gotten great feedback.

    For your query, I think you can strengthen the opening by combining a few sentences. I was thrown a little by "crap." I just think you can say more by dropping that and subbing in WHAT she's dealing with rather than saving that for a new line, then we can see what she's dealing with instead of being told how to view it. With limited space I think maximizing every sentence is a goal for the query. The Benedict Arnold reference doesn't quite work for me, but I'm not an agent either. Maybe see what the author/agent critique says on that.

    The middle paragraphs have some extraneous information in there that can be dropped, but I do see the essential conflict, so just make sure it's clear and not muddled with synopsis type information. (BTW this is super hard for me to do and I'm still learning). Instead of saying the price is hefty, just say what it is and show how hefty it is. I know "show don't tell" doesn't 100% apply to queries, but you already have done most of the work and you don't need some of the extra statements framing what's already there.

    Also, unicorn shifter--I have not seen that before! I'm imagining all kinds of epic fantasy art for the cover. Especially if it has a manga feel (not sure if that's what you're going for but it would totally work).

  4. I really enjoyed your first 250. I like a good paranormal romance. I think I've read this query before?!?!? Only because the unicorn shifter jumps out at me. Unique and magical. Love it. Good luck!!!

  5. Ooooh...I love this premise and your voice is great! I have a few small concerns about the query. The first is that I'm unclear about what kind of world this takes place in -- obviously it's an alternate one, but phrases like, "dealing with a lot of crap" "magick is MIA" and "Benedict Arnold of a mother" all feel very modern, which led me to believe this was almost urban-fantasy in nature -- contemporary, grounded in a world like ours but with magic. So when I read "forcibly engaged" and "fled to the Red Forest," I was a little confused. Those seemed more historical, like high fantasy. I suspect that your worldbuilding in the pages makes it all super-clear, but you might want to include a brief line about how it's outrageous that a modern witch can be forced to marry anyone, but what's a girl to do? (Of course, you'd say it better.)

    My other concern is the casual way her friend's death is addressed -- she blames herself, but it's never mentioned again, and that feels a little off, like she's more interested in a guy than grieving. You might want to either cut that line completely, unless you can BRIEFLY tie it into the description of Gretchen's primary conflict later in the query (find her friend's killer/come to terms with her friend's death/forgive herself/whatever works).

    The second and third paragraph could use a bit of tightening, to ensure the focus is on the GMC, but it's very solid otherwise. For example, I don't think you need "his name caught like a promise on her lips and tongue" in the query, but it's a swoon-worthy line -- better to use it in the story iteslf.

    Your pages are very strong -- spooky, good dialogue, and great characterization. I was definitely hooked! Good luck!

    -- Erica

  6. gosh- I so, SO love this so far. I don't usually enjoy paranormal- I feel like it seems to be all the same- but this is different. This could really be something! :)

    I agree with Erica's comments about the language. I'd make sure you stick to a certain time period, and keep that voice consistent in both the query and the writing.

    Again- I dig it. I dig it like a shovel.

  7. Loved the opening paragraph of your query! The voice is so YA--sounds like something my teenaged daughters would say. This sounds like it will be a terrific read!

  8. What an awesome premise! For me 1st person narrative is tough to write, but you do it very well. You have nice flow and the dialogue is realistic and engaging. Wishig you the best of luck!

  9. I think you did a great job.

  10. So, what's in the woods. I gotta know.

    Kitty DuCane

  11. Thank you all so much for your comments and feedback. Definitely helpful! :)