Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bouncer Post #163

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 95,000


In seventeen-year-old Rachel's world, casting magic on another person is more intimate than a kiss: if you're not sure how you feel, the spell won't work.

As they plummet from the highest tower in the city, tumbling through the rushing air, Rachel's losing her grip on Stefan Hart -- the man who rescued her from prison, who she saved from agonising death, the man who forced her to oppose a deadly cabal of magicians -- and her spells aren't working.

She needs to decide how she feels about him. Before they hit the ground.

First 250:

The stink of smoke and decaying leather. A dark sky low over empty fields. I sat in the dull compartment, knees together, gloved hands in my lap, and managed not to cry.

Dania's dead, the train chattered. Dania's dead, Dania's dead, Dania's dead.

It didn't say I'd killed her, but enough people were saying that already.


They came at breakfast time: two members of the University Guardia in their grey coats. The older one raised the seal of the Chancellor so we could all see it.

"Rachel Aeyrs, please come with us."

Ella, who'd opened the door, didn't meet my eyes. Dittany stared at the seal, her mouth open. Neither of them spoke. I stood, my legs uncertain beneath me, smoothed my skirt to hide the trembling of my hands.

The younger guard frowned. "Dr Aeyrs?" He glanced at Ella and back at me, clearly expecting someone older.

"I'm Dr Aeyrs," I said, pleased by how calm my voice was. "Ella, you'll need to unlock the lab." I passed her the key chain I wore around my waist, and let the Guardia take me to the Circle Room.

Five people -- all professors -- sat behind the long table. I was relieved to see Professor Samson, but when I looked at him, he looked away. Professor Napier, in the centre, frowned until I sat down.

"The student died, is that correct?"


  1. I really like your query, I especially like the last line and the stakes shown in it. The voice is strong in the query, too.

  2. Love this! Good job. Only nitpicks here. Query, I would say "If you're not sure about your feelings" versus "how you feel" - seems stronger. Great 250. Only note is you are introducing a lot of people by name right away, maybe wait to name them until they play a part? (ie Dittany and Ella). Amy (#168)

  3. Bouncer Colonel MustardFebruary 11, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    I'm going to wait until Thursday to announce my top 3, but I'm going to give everyone some feedback in the meantime.

    First, the query itself is super snappy and fun. I can see someone being interested in this concept.

    Second, some tweaks, in the second paragraph you start with the pronoun "they" without ever first telling us who the "they" refers to. Name them first, then use a pronoun. Basically I'm saying take everything in the second paragraph and rearrange the order of the sentences. Also, you may want to rethink the title. "Dark circles" is commonly used to describe the dark shadows under people's eyes….unless that's the image you were going for. Finally, check your spelling of "agonising." : ) Stay tuned!

  4. Thank you, Jo, Spaced Out Gal and Bouncer Colonel Mustard!

    Thank you for the suggested tweaks, too -- the story *is* about eyes (though sadly not in the first 250), so I am delighted that 'Dark Circles' conjurs that image for you.

    "Agonising" is the UK spelling of "agonizing". I'm British and it's very good to know that that sort of thing makes US readers twitch!

    I was clearly trying to be too clever in the first 250 by making the reader guess who came for her. That's fantastic feedback. Thank you.

    @SpacedOutGal -- I know what you mean about all the people! I was thinking the same thing the other day. Thanks for the comments.

  5. I'm intrigued by your query, and I love your first 250. However, I did feel like your query was for a scene in your book, and not the whole book. Basically this line: "She needs to decide how she feels about him. Before they hit the ground."... it's a great line, but it makes me think "so is the whole book about her falling out of a tower, about to die?"

    This might not bug agents, but as strong as the query was, it made me wonder what the book was actually about. I want to say that it reads more like book jacket copy than a query that tells me what the book is about. So maybe not for this contest, but when it comes to sending a query to agents, I might rework this to have a wider scope (even though what you have is very clever and interesting). That said, who knows -- it could be the exception that proves the rule.

    Personally, I am all for British spellings and Briticisms, so I say keep them. :)

  6. Hi Alexa!

    You're absolutely right -- this query focuses on one strand of the book -- the choice Rachel makes at the climax of one of the storylines ('casting is more intimate than a kiss').

    I'm often uncertain about how much of the story the query is meant to cover (although actually there's a fair bit of the story cunningly pushed into the middle of this -- he forces her to serve the police and oppose the scary bad guys etc.) I've even read some agents like queries that read a bit like jacket blurbs.

    Oh, the confusion.

    I will absolutely look at redoing this query to cover more of the story. Thank you :)