Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #6

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 63,000


Seventeen-year-old Melia Dawson has been in and out of the Royal Alexander Center for Mental Health since she was six years old. Convinced she can breathe underwater, Melia has spent the majority of her young life waiting to complete her transformation into a mermaid. What her parents think are multiple suicide attempts, are actually Melia’s way of trying to begin her life, not end it. When a stunt at the local pool lands her back in the Center, she meets fellow patient Kass Mercer. To Melia, It seems like the stars have finally aligned; not only does Kass believe that she can breathe underwater, Kass thinks he can fly.  Somewhere between broken curfews and lame horror movies, Kass and Melia fall in love. Together they explore the boundaries of their supernatural abilities through skydiving lessons and late night swims, all while appeasing their therapist, Rick.

When a fellow patient dies unexpectedly, Melia begins to question whether she and Kass are special, or just sick.  Meanwhile, in hopes of curing Melia of her delusions, Rick sends her on a surprise trip to the ocean, where she can finally complete her transformation. When the experiment doesn’t go as planned, Melia sinks into depression, dragging Kass down with her. Together they teeter between reality and delusion as they struggle to accept themselves for who they truly are, before one of them pushes their limits too far.

My debut novel, Second Hand Lace, is due for release this April from Turquoise Morning Press.

First 250:

Scaling a chain link fence is a lot harder than the police shows make it out to be, I think as my flip-flop slips out of the narrow diamond gap for the second time. I look down at the ground only a few feet below and contemplate giving up, but the subtle scent of salt keeps me going. Two minute later, I make it to the top of the fence and swing my leg over. I pause, hovering over the twisted points along the top of the fence, and scan the outdoor pool to make sure no one else is around. It’s empty. I bring my other leg over and drop down to the concrete deck.

I peel my t-shirt off as I walk and drape it over the lifeguard tower, followed by my shorts. The second my sandals are off my feet, I sprint toward the pool and dive in.

My legs look better underwater, I think as I float directly in the middle of the McLaren outdoor pool. They swapped out the chlorine for salt water last year, and I haven’t worn goggles since.

I hold my waterproof watch in front of my face. 7:15. I have at least ten minutes before even the earliest of birds arrive at the pool. I break the water’s still surface and look around again, just to be sure. The deck is empty, and the gate is still padlocked. I smile and dive down toward the deep end, the water muffling the sound of a car pulling into the lot. 


  1. Yes, I want to read more. The query intrigued me and I connected with the voice in the 250. I'd like to follow Melia along her journey.

  2. I don't usually go for contemporary, but your query drew me in and held me there. Fantastic voice and great premise! Good luck!!

  3. This query just REALLY intrigued me. I had never heard anything like it before. I would definitely read this! Good luck!

  4. I would critique this, but I really couldn't find anything that needed to be changed. It's just enough to keep me wanting more :) great job. Good luck!

  5. I already raved about this one in XMas in July but I'm just gonna go ahead and do it again - LOVE THIS.

  6. I love your concept - it's really compelling. Nice work!

  7. This is a really compelling story. I typically don't read contemp, but I would make an exception here. I really loved your first 250! I found your query a bit hard to get into, but it's really hard to pinpoint why. Its obviously a very strongly written query, but I think it lacks Melia as a person. I def have this problem in my query too, I think, and I am at a loss in how to solve it. Maybe it's just me being nitpicky, because obviously everyone loves it. I think I am just sort of rambling now...mostly because I am confused...I am pretty sure none of this makes sense. ANYWAYS, I love your first 250 and I would keep reading it!

  8. Query is intriguing. I really like the idea.

    I think your first sentence could be stronger if you put a period after "make it out to be" delete the thought tag, For the second time, ...

    That I think would tighten your first para. Good stuff though. I like it.

  9. This is SUCH a compelling premise -- I was completely hooked! You've done a great job of setting up the premise and the conflict, of making Melia & Kass's relationship seem genuine, and of showing the stakes. I'm super-impressed!

    There's two things you might want to consider changing. The first paragraph is a little draggy - why not start out with the idea that even as a little girl, Melia knew she was really a mermaid, and that she belongs in the sea. She's convinced she can breathe underwater, and all she wants is to complete her transformation. That way, we start off with her perspective instead of the outside world's, which helps us identify w/her even more. Then you can point out that her parents think she keeps attempting suicide (I LOOOOVE the line about beginning her life, not ending it), and move into the rest of the query -- everything from "When another stunt..." is great as-is.

    The other change is an incredibly minor one -- I don't think you need the therapist's name. Just "her therapist" in the two places he shows up. By keeping him anonymous, you keep the focus on Melia and Kass.

    The pages are incredible -- great voice and characterization and tension! My only quibble is this: if she hears the muffled sound of a car pulling up, wouldn't she be worried? She thinks she's alone, she knows she's sneaking...maybe end with something hinting at her goal in this scene. "This time, it will work," or something similarly hooky. That way, assuming the driver of the car is going to catch her, she'll be genuinely surprised.

    Love love love this!

    -- Erica

  10. You've got a great premise here, and I love your writing. I'd read it in a heartbeat! Good luck!

  11. I have one problem with this, and it's based on the premise (or at least the backstory) - you can't, actually, deliberately drown yourself. Your body's instincts will always take over, and so unless your MC gets knocked unconscious in water or disoriented enough that she's no longer in control, she can't affect anything serious enough to be considered a suicide attempt by merely holding her breath underwater.

    If this is taken into consideration and explained better in the ms, then fine. But it's the kind of thing that would keep me from reading on.