Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #39

Genre: YA Gothic 
Word Count: 62,000


Eyre House is a YA gothic mystery that recasts Jane Eyre in a sleepy southern island town, but keeps all the ghost stories.

All seventeen-year-old Evan Richardson wants out of his summer is an escape from the foster system that’s run his life, and an early release from the last in a line of families that don't care. A summer job at Eyre House, on sleepy Edisto Island, SC, seems like the perfect solution. But the plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast has a lot more to offer than freedom and employment. The island is full of ghost stories, and Eyre House seems to have more than its fair share of secret passages and things that go bump in the night. The tough part is telling what's ghost and what's story.

Ginny, whose family has owned Eyre House since before the Civil War, seems like the perfect person to help him figure it out. She’s sexy, confident...and, as the owner's daughter, completely off limits. Except that Ginny doesn't take no for an answer. She's way more interested in distracting Evan than in ghost hunting, especially when he starts uncovering ghosts of her own. Still, Ginny is hard to resist - and Evan's not sure he really wants to. Even waking up to find his bed on fire isn’t enough of a deterrent, especially after she saves him. But when he wakes in the night to the sound of his motorcycle jacket being shredded, Evan knows the ghosts must be after him. He’s also pretty sure Ginny’s hiding something behind those honey-gold eyes.

Unfortunately, Ginny’s ghosts are growing more and more unruly. When one of the Eyre House guests is shoved down the stairs, and her ex-boyfriend is found dead in the pool, Evan knows he’s got two choices: figure out what’s going on, or become the next ghost to haunt Ginny Eyre.

First 250:

The blasting staccato of rain against my helmet didn’t quite drown out the deep rumble of my bike’s engine. Lightning highlighted the rural road ahead of me, and the marshes that surrounded it. It was hard to believe it wasn’t even six yet. The clouds rolling up the coast were dark as hell. Even with the right gear, I was cold, wet, and tired. I swore under my breath for about the millionth time since leaving Charleston.

I had wanted to leave early, make Eyre House by midafternoon. The Gages had never hidden how little they cared about me, but they sure as hell had done their best to keep me from leaving today. They’d delayed me until just before the storm hit, leaving me to make the hour ride in torrential rain.

Personally, I suspected the loss of my foster payment was to blame. Fucking assholes.
So much for arriving early to make a good impression. Instead, I’d be lucky to get there before dinner, and all bets for being presentable were off. I urged my bike faster and swore under my breath again. At least the road was empty. Seemed I was the only one stupid enough to be out in this weather.

Lightning cut the sky again, and my headlight glinted off a sign that announced the start of the McKinley Washington, Jr. Bridge. Once I crossed the mile long stretch of concrete, I’d officially be on Edisto Island. I’d be free. No more foster families, no more foster system.


  1. Strong voice and clear writing. I still love the idea of a modern Jane Eyre even if I didn't like the original. Good luck with this one!

  2. The first 250 are great. The query could be stripped a tad, but after reading the 250, I was like - who gives a crap about the query, the words completely won me over! Good luck, I think you're going to get some agenty love.

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  4. Lucky, lucky CP here to say that this is a smart, thoughtful, faithful, and beautifully written retelling of the original. The main characters are so vibrant, and it's definitely unputdownable. Can't wait to see the agents fall all over themselves for this one! <3

  5. Like @Feaky Snucker said (love that name), the query wanders a bit into synopsis territory in the later paragraphs, so you could cut some of the "and then this happens" and keep it to broader story arcs. Having said that, The opening is strong and the voice is so clear. I like the male POV for a new twist. I actually liked your second paragraph as a starting point; I wonder if you could start ther and add in some of the rain details within it.

    Nice job and great concept.

  6. Very strong voice here, I really enjoyed reading. I do think it slips into telling just a little - e.g. we could maybe get the backstory delivered later. Overall though, this is one of my strong favourites so far and an intriguing premise to boot.

  7. Love the setting, love the gender swap, love the wild-woman LI... the only I don't love is the source material and funny how that didn't matter for a second when I read this manuscript! <3

  8. I remember this from Write On. This was one of my favorite entries. Just wanted to tell you good luck with your agent!! I think this will do really well.

  9. Hi #39! This is your first-round judge comment.

    Comments on your query:

    First paragraph: I’m not sure why the “but” in “but keeps all the ghost stories.” Because that suggests that keeping the ghost stories would be unexpected or contradicting something that’s already been established, and I’m not seeing it. Reimagining Jane Eyre is a cool idea, though. That would get my attention. I love Jane Eyre. It’s one of my favorite books.

    Second paragraph: Really liked the first sentence until the last bit. I think you could easily either cut or condense the “families that don’t care,” because honestly you’ve already said Evan wants to escape the foster system and it’s already clear that something is unsatisfactory about it, so we don’t need too much detail (and you’ve got to make some choices about these details so we don’t end up with overloaded sentences). Please be aware that both your first and your second paragraphs use “sleepy” as an adjective, and it’s too evocative a word in this context to use twice.

    “The tough part is telling what's ghost and what's story.”—Very good. Keep this no matter what you change. Also, this paragraph (except for the bumps I mentioned) does an excellent job sucking us in, and YA readers will be intrigued by what Evan is running toward just as much as they are sympathetic about what he’s running away from.

    Third paragraph: Good establishment of the romantic possibilities. Forbidden love, and—what’s this? She wants him? Ooh! I like the setup here, and I like that they’re attracted to each other in the midst of some weird occurrences, but the last line seems like it’s trying too hard. Though the image of “honey-gold eyes” is nice, I think it’s over the top in a query. I actually like it better ending with the image of the ghosts being after him.

    Last paragraph: Can you be more specific about whose ex-boyfriend? The phrasing almost sounds like you’re saying it’s the injured guest’s ex.

    I think the query is a tad too long and that you may benefit from trimming some of the middle details. Giving us the big picture of “romantic stuff + possible ghosts + Ginny is suspicious” in fewer words would benefit you.

    Language notes on the query:

    * “especially when he starts uncovering ghosts of her own”—I did a double-take. He starts uncovering ghosts of her own? I’m gonna guess “he” was supposed to be “she.”

    * I recommend checking out a usage guide on the difference between hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes, and applying what you find globally. You have used a hyphen where you’re supposed to use an em dash.

  10. Comments on your first 250:

    I might like the opening paragraph better if it started with the last sentence. (Up to you, though.) You paint a good picture, visually, but when you connect us to Evan at the end with him being miserable and swearing, it feels less organic, so I find myself wanting his mental state to be part of this scene from the first sentence.

    The second paragraph fills in exposition and I feel like it’s just too early in the book for simplified motivation. It feels a little too much like a narrator is telling me history. I would love to see Evan cursing the Gages for preventing him from leaving on time, but we don’t really need to know everything about why they suck right now. I’d also cut the third paragraph’s opening with “personally.” And most of the details. Evan shouldn’t be quite so aware of readers listening to his thoughts that he’s willing to attach convenient exposition to the situations he’s bitter about.

    I like the line about how he’s the only one stupid enough to be out in that weather. Silver lining, indeed.

    Language notes on the first 250:

    * Uh-oh. Comma splices. “I had wanted to leave early, make Eyre House by midafternoon.” This might not be common in your writing—I can’t tell after reading so little of it—but if you aren’t aware of the dangers of comma splices, check out some resources online and make sure you aren’t using them.

    * “the mile long stretch”—I’d hyphenate this. “Mile-long stretch.”

    * You write well and don’t seem to struggle with phrasing. Your narration is easy to read and it seems like you’re a natural with first person.

    Overall, my sense of this project is that Evan is going to be quite a character—I can sense that he’s bitter and been hurt too often, but that he has motivation and a little optimism going on there. His sarcasm and hard-luck hero vibe is compelling. Deciding what details to throw at us when might be your speed bump to getting the reader’s attention ASAP.

    Please feel free to reply or contact me privately if you have any questions about my feedback. I’m honest but I don’t bite. Good luck!

  11. P.S. Could you possibly take a look at mine? I'm entry 29 I haven't gotten any comments yet. Thanks!

  12. So....I hadn't thought about the query being synopsis-like at all until I read through the comments. Taking another look, I see where you could probably cut out a bit of the events listed in the query. (And you know I suck at queries but I'd be happy to help.)

    I love your prose so much.

    I want to make out with Evan.

  13. I love Evan. Head over heels love.

  14. So glad this made the cut! Nice work.