Monday, February 4, 2013

Bouncer Post #128

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 50,000


When a ritual backfires and a vortex sucks fifteen-year-old Lily's family through their dining room floor, she's left with a house surrounded by ink monsters, a dwindling food supply, and half of Grandma -- though at least it's the talking half.

Lily's always been the useless, non-magician in her family, but as her parents' rivals close in to take the territory, she discovers she can cast forbidden malasangre magic. That's seriously bad news since it consumes you from the inside and sends you crazy (not rocking-in-a-corner-quietly crazy, more the eating people/ world destruction sort).

With the magic, Lily can follow her parents into the vortex, into the middle of a recurring story of death and betrayal, peopled by golden-lipped fish, nightmare guards and malevolent tree roots. Lily's got a pack of cereal bars, 10 ballpoint pens and a torch to navigate the treacherous land, find her family, and escape with them before the magic eats her from the inside out.

First 250:

The ballpoint is sharp against my skin. It makes me feel safe, like I'm in control. 
I've drawn all over my palms (it took practice but now the pattern on my right hand's pretty much the same as the left) and I'm outlining the bones on my wrist. Above them, there's a wide band of black with jagged peaks facing inwards.

At the front of the room, Mr Cobley's droning on about simultaneous equations. His pen squeaks on the whiteboard but hardly anyone's looking. It's last period and they're bored, staring out the window at the playing fields, which are darkening as the sun sets. Shona Brown's biting off her split-ends while Paul Kaufmann watches from the other side of the room, his expression mingled fascination and disgust. No one's looking at me, though, so I put my head down and concentrate on drawing the letters right up to my thumbnail -- better to have them spaced properly. When I raise my head again, Mr Cobley's back at his desk and everyone's packing their bags.

The class clatters out of the door, laughing and pushing. I slip the pen into my pocket and tug my sleeves down so no one'll see what I've done. I'm not supposed to draw the patterns. I'm not really supposed to have pens -- the teachers got sick of sending me to wash the ink off -- but I lifted a boxful from Mrs Carnie's office this morning. I'm well stocked. That's another reason I'm feeling safe.


  1. Wow, I absolutely love this! Here's hoping you get through!

  2. Thank you so much for saying so!

  3. I really like your first 250 and would love to read more. Best of luck!

  4. I felt like it was more upper middle grade than YA. I like the premise. I really like the line about Grandma, cracked me up. Good luck! I'm entry #111.

  5. Thank you, Laura!

    Kathleen -- that's an interesting point about the query feeling more upper MG than YA. Things get rather darker later on. I'll definitely take it into account for the query's next iteration!

  6. Your query grabbed me, as did your first 250. The whole "only non magic in magic family" has been done, but I liked the tease of the world-building details you gave (I'm super intrigued by the ink/ball point pen detail). I got the impression that your world has some nice, unique points to it. For some reason, I'm getting a Guillermo del Toro vibe from this -- which is a good thing, for me.

    Regarding the upper-MG vs. YA thing, I do agree that I can see the upper-MG aspect of the query. Usually it's romance that sets apart MG and YA, so maybe work in a reference to whatever the romantic conflict is? I hope you get through!

  7. This is excellent! I was so glad that I finished swallowing my tea before I read that last line in the first paragraph of your query because it made me laugh. Love your voice - and it's evident throughout. I don't care whether this is labeled upper MG or YA, I would love to read more!!

    Best of luck!

  8. I really like your little-bit-messed-up heroine. The half of grandma thing is brilliant.

    In your query, I'd like a better view of your antagonist. The ritual backfiring seems too convenient & vague of a trigger for the story. If the rivals caused the problem - say so! I'd like a wee bit more info about the recurring story - this seems like something that is unique to your story. Don't be coy!

    "Eats from the inside out" is used twice in such a short space - suggest reword one of them (perhaps leave the last since it's a great last line).

    I had trouble with: peopled by golden-lipped fish, nightmare guards and malevolent tree roots. The guards might be people, but not the fish or roots.

    Is "torch" used in the American or British sense? Love the last line BTW.

    Insofar as your 250 - the "sharp" pen at first made me think this was about cutting. If not, better reword. Generally though, I am impressed. The split ends detail is great.

    Good luck!

  9. Thank you very much for your lovely, helpful comments!

    Oops! "torch" is a flashlight. I'm Scottish (so's Lily) and it didn't occur to me to change it. Thanks for pointing that out.

  10. Okay, I LOVE this! Your voice is great and the humor in the query really grabs me! I like your setup with the first 250. It leaves me wanting to read on and find out why and what she's writing on her hands!

    Excellent work!

  11. Just saw your comment that Lily is Scottish. That's as much of a drawing card for me as your query and your first 250 words, both of which I enjoyed! Best of luck in the contest!

  12. That's a great point, Erin. Thank you! (I *loved* your query and first 250 -- must make my way over and say so on your comments).

    re "peopled" -- it wasn't accidental (though it may have been misguided!). The roots and fish are sentient and I was trying to imply that(perhaps not so cleverly).

  13. And, Danielle -- thank you for your lovely comment.

  14. Bouncer Queen of HeartsFebruary 6, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    Your 250 really sold me! Great writing and an intriguing character. Your query could benefit from a bit more focus. While I love the voice (and the talking half line!), the conflict is a bit vague because you introduce so many elements it's tough to understand what's important. Work on that, though, cuz you're in!

  15. .......!

    Thank you!

    I need to go and lie down somewhere. And breathe.

    (and thanks for the comments on the query -- I'll beat it into shape).