Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #11

Genre: NA Paranormal
Word Count: 100K


Practical Magic collides with Romeo and Juliet in THE CURSE, a modern love story where witches time travel, jaded ghosts misbehave, and young love is tested with the ultimate sacrifice.

Execution for the crime of witchcraft is a thing of the past.  Still, in these modern times, Ophelia and her family shroud their identity.  A silence that has held Ophelia safe, until now.

Ophelia’s family has done well to hide their secret.  So well, they’ve lost touch with the ways of the witch, Ophelia’s lack of powers a testament to their detachment.  But their past pursues them.  A dead relative is tracking Ophelia, the same witch who, by cursing another coven, forced Ophelia’s family go into hiding centuries prior.  The spirit visits with a purpose: to protect Ophelia from a killer.

When Ophelia falls in love with Elwyn, she has no idea that he too is a witch or that their families share a dark history; the curse is slaying the men in Elwyn’s coven, leaving him the last of his line.  Knowing death pursues him, Elwyn has come to town on a mission – the remedy to the hex lies in the killing of a witch. Ophelia is that witch.  

When the truth is divulged, Ophelia faces a curse of her own: a choice that risks condemning a dead woman, murdering Elwyn, and ending her own life. 

First 250:

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Exodus 22:18
I was born into this life a witch – naked and pink as nature intended. And it was because of my birthright I was taken out of this world, naked just the same. Less pink. Less pure.

Hartford, Connecticut. 1652.

At the bow I sit, unclothed, not a thread of dignity left. Hunched and mortified, hands and ankles trussed with rope, all eyes are on my back. Storm clouds tumbling over head, a chill in the air, I look down at my body. My skin is gray and brown with filth, sickly and goose-fleshed, bruised and cut. My hair too is in a miserable state: matted and dangling, the red mesh of curls concealing my bare breasts.

The boat, a shallop large enough to support myself and seven others, rocks with the wind.

Along with the rocking, I receive a taste of what is to come. Beneath my bare feet washes the river water. The cold of it trickles from my toes up my spine, cursing me with a grievous shiver.

Swooped up by gloved hands, I am no longer sitting. Worn leather fingers pinch the undersides of my arms as I am hoisted off my feet and placed on the splintered edge of the shallop. Sharp wooden picks poke at my backside, sticking into my most sensitive of skin, purging a yelp from my mouth.

In an instant I am face to face with my accusers: acquaintances, the minister, fellow townspeople. 


  1. I think you should consider starting with 'At the bow...' - your opening is very strong, I like it a lot, but I just don't think the first few lines are pulling their weight. I think they're telling and almost prologue like, sort of a teaser, but it doesn't work for me. Great voice overall - well done. I know paranormal type romances/fantasies are really hard to sell but hey I'd definitely read on!

  2. The query isn’t doing it for me, but the beginning 250 drew me in. I got a vivid picture of the protagonist from the descriptions, and the fact that we are thrown into her story at a moment where she’s naked and being held prisoner... well, that’s a very intriguing opening.

    That being said, let me explain why the query didn’t draw me in. It has a lot of passive voice and passive verbs (“has,” “is”), which are very much in contrast to the vivid, active language of your excerpt. The query also contains vague statements that didn’t connect me with a particular character or conflict. For the example, the statement “young love is tested with the ultimate sacrifice” isn’t working for me as a hook because it is too general. If you can inject some of the raw emotion of your opening into the query, I think you'll be a lot more likely to get agents to read on to your manuscript pages and ask for more.

  3. I remember liking your first line at MSFV - still do. And the rest of your 250. However, your query sounds overworked - so much so that I think you've lost the thread in a forest of revision (how's that for mixing metaphors?). My suggestion only, but I think you might benefit from starting anew. I mean, really write it out from scratch.

    Back to the 250. I really like your concept here. Also you've got super stakes and huge drama right up front without having your action coming off as frenetic. A couple of little things: the "all eyes" could be less generic. A note of individuality here and there would go well (ex. some guy everybody brushed off as the village loon is leading the chant to kill, kill....and the village sewing circle are shouting alongside him).

    You say everybody is staring at the mc's back. That's a POV problem right there - and, hate to say it, but if she's naked there's a lot of people who will be looking elsewhere. On that line - if she's out in the breeze, her hair would be doing a poor job of concealing her breasts.

    I suggest you just use "sailboat" with some descriptors rather than "shallop" - I sail and still didn't know what that was. Maybe introduce the word not quite so close to the beginning. No stumbling blocks on the first page! While I love your descriptions of physical sensations, the most tender - that brings to mind areas of her anatomy I don't think you mean to indicate.

    Some words are used oddly - swooped (birds swoop, hands haul up), purging (makes me think of vomiting and how does getting poked do that?), and what is a "grievous" shiver? I'm nit-picky here, but truth is, all this is easy to fix. You've got a great story, interesting voice and from what I can tell, a great mc. You go!

  4. I agree with the others--the first 2 paragraphs in the query should be cut. I think this should be its own sentence-- "Ophelia's lack of powers IS a testament.." And in the second to last paragraph you shift POVs... I'd try to stick with Ophelia's POV (even if there are multiple POVs in the ms)

    As far as the 250--I get what you're trying to convey, but the movement of the story was lost in descriptions. I was having a hard time understanding what was happpening. I know it's good to show not tell, but I couldn't figure out if she was dead, and speaking as a ghost looking down at her body. If she's alive she wouldn't describe herself like that (how she looks). It would be how she feels (cold, scared, numb)--not what she looks like.

    I felt like an outsider. I don't want to see her from the outside, I want to see through her eyes and feel what she feels. Hope this helps. Good luck :)

  5. So helpful--thank you all for the great feedback. I'm taking detailed notes!

    And @ Heather: my query is so overworked and TIRED--I stopped counting at draft #22. I have gotten several partials and 2 fulls out of it, BUT I think it's time to start from scratch and hopefully will gain more interest.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment :)

  6. I'm glad yours made the cut--I thought I'd commented on it but it was for another contest since I remember reading this before. Queries are so tough! I feel your pain. I like the first words a lot. Best of luck with the agents :)