Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CAGI Entry #80

Genre:  YA Fantasy with Paranormal elements
Word Count:  95,000


Seventeen year-old senior, Kyra Siefert races toward two goals - a full track scholarship to college and defending her state cross-country title.  However, things change when a man attacks Kyra during a run and steals her necklace, a treasured heirloom that's been in her family for centuries.  Now trying to forget about the mugging becomes priority number-one.  Until she falls for Aidan, the too-chivalrous-for-his-own-good guy who sits next to her in Calc.

Eighteen year-old Aidan MacGregor might be immortal, but he's not invincible.  Grieving and guilt-ridden over the death of his twin almost two years ago, Aidan uses his expressive drawings as an escape.  Until he falls for Kyra, but since he's bound by a strict code of honor, Aidan can't tell Kyra he descends from a Highland Clan of Celtic immortals, guardians of an ancient Masonic treasure trove.

In this Romeo & Juliet meets Highlander, Kyra becomes the pawn for one rogue immortal pursuing a sacred artifact protected by Aidan's clan, and another seeking to settle a centuries-old blood feud.  Aidan must make an impossible choice:  betray his family or protect the girl who's claimed his heart.  However, Kyra's hiding a secret that has deadly consequences for her family, and the boy she loves.

FORBIDDEN SECRETS weaves contemporary teenage life with the danger of forbidden love and the enchanting intrigue of Celtic legend and will appeal to fans of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely or Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush Hush series.  FORBIDDEN SECRETS was a finalist in the 2011 Windy City RWA Chapter's Four Season Contest.

First 250:

I always failed at ordinary.

Ordinary wouldn't have weird, freaky, come-true dreams or a scar that ached when something god-awful was about to happen.  Ordinary wouldn't have guilt hanging over my head like an anvil.  And ordinary would've snuggled under the warmth of my down comforter, especially on a rain-soaked Sunday.  Instead, I dashed down the hardwood stairs, runner-ready with iPod in hand, prepared to shave at least ten seconds off last week's time.

Mom sat at the kitchen table, reddish-blonde curls pinging in all directions.  She squint-scowled at the newspaper and squeezed her forehead, like trying to stave off a tension headache.  Without looking away from the Asheville Citizen Times, she handed me my cell phone.  "Sweetheart, do us both a favor.  Humor your father with a response."

Dad's text read:  Love the hills and they'll love you back.  Before I'd finished reading, the phone chirped again:  Be one with the mud.

"What's with the text message pep rally?" I asked, dropping the phone on the table.

Mom pointed to the headline of the Sports section:  WMSU Football:  Coach Siefert Under Fire after 23-3 Loss.

Tiptoeing around his mood, I tapped out a quick reply:  Got it Dad.  Have a safe flight.  Love your mud-loving, puddle-jumping machine.

As I twisted my hair into a ponytail, pins and needles prickled the two-inch scar between my thumb and wrist.  Dr. Gruen said scar tissue after my surgery caused arthritis; but I'd connected the dots - my scar only hurt when something dreadful loomed on the horizon.


  1. This looks fun! Romantic and adventuresome. Insofar as the query, you do a great job of laying out the hook. A couple of suggestions: I needed more of a link between the necklace/mugger and artifact/bad guy. It took me a second reading to connect the dots. It also reads like a dual POV - fine of course, but if that isn't true you might want to clarify. I'm not wild about the "However, Kyra... " line - after Aidan's clearly spelled out dilemma, it comes off as vague.

    For your words, I was swept into the story. Your mc feels like a real teenager. The dialogue sounds authentic. I really liked the first line. However, you personify "Ordinary" and that came across as a bit strange to me. Perhaps, "ordinary girls"? It's a particular problem in the third & fourth sentences.

    Nit: "runner-ready" did not indicate to me on the first read that the mc is an athlete. That can mean so many other things. If I hadn't read the query I'd have been totally at sea. Suggest delete those words and put something specific like "5K run" in front of "time."

    Cool description of the mom's hair (makes me suspect her personality is similar), but "ping" is a sound. You don't need squint-scowl since you go on to show that action.

    I could use a mc thought to clarify what the hills and mud texts are about. It took me awhile to get it was about the mc's run, not something going on for himself. I was a bit confused about the pep rally thing and how it relates to her dad. Is he the coach?

    I wanted a bit more of an emotional reaction between the scar prickling and the explanation.

    Nice work and good luck!

    1. Thanks so much Heather. You had some great suggestions. Thanks soooo much. :) Yes - it's dual POV, so I'm trying to give them equal billing in the query. Would this sound better for the last line in the query? I don't want to say what the secret is...just provide the hook. Or do you think I really need to give her a concrete dilemma?

      But Kyra’s hiding a deadly secret that may cost her the boy she loves; unless she can trust Aidan with more than just her heart.

    2. Well, I'm no expert on queries. I kinda failed on mine (35). But what I've heard as general advice is you want to be as specific as possible. If your ms sounds like a million other stories, it's likely to get passed over. Insofar as your revised line, I can't tell whether "the boy she loves" is the same person as Aidan. Maybe if you don't actually say what the secret is, but are more clear about the consequences. Who could die?

  2. I really like the first 250 words. I agree with Heather that the mugging needs to be more clearly tied to the artifact. I also would like to see more of why Adian suddenly pops up. Other than that, I like it a lot :)

  3. I'm a bit confused by the texts. I suggest cutting "Before I'd finished reading" because if she hadn't finished reading something she wouldn't know what it said. I might be dense, but I didn't connect her pep rally comment to her dad's texts--the reader isn't going to assume a dad who isn't in the same room knows she's about to go running. I thought he was talking about something else entirely. Maybe the mom needs to set it up better for us so we know her dad is texting because he knows his daughter's routine even when he's not there.

    Just one more criticism before the praise: I'm not in love with the idea of "dropping" the phone on the table. I think it's a pet peeve of mine when characters drop things when they're really just setting them down or placing them somewhere. If she has an iPod, chances are she has an iPhone, and if you drop that iPhone on the table that screen's gonna crack. :)

    Otherwise, the 250 are solid. I think it's a good starting point. We're in the action, we're being shown this character's world, and we sense something big about to happen. And it has a great YA feel. I'm such a sucker for Romeo and Juliet stories--they NEVER get old! Good luck!

    Kay (#76)

  4. Well... everyone's covered any issues... I just wanna say I think this sounds awesome! I like the query and the 250 words drew me right in... I hope I get to read more one day! ;)