Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CAGI Entry #64

Genre: YA Light Sci-fi
Word Count: 83,000


For 17-year-old Indigo Roberts, mind tricks like telepathy and psychokinesis are a little like computers: everyone knows how to use them, and many are much better at it than she is. But for what she uses parapsychology for – being lazy at chores or talking without being overheard – she's never felt the need to stand out.

Then her father abruptly goes away, and the following weekend her mother disappears. Two days later her car is rear-ended, a hit-and-run that seems suspiciously deliberate. As she sorts through her mother’s files looking for anything that might help the police, she discovers that fifteen years ago her parents were involved in a secret research project to develop new and potentially dangerous mind tricks – and she’d been one of the test subjects. She may actually be more special than she thought.

Digging deeper into her parents’ secrets, she learns they've been keeping her hidden from an old colleague who wants something from her and will to do anything to get it. Then she receives a text warning her against telling the cops what she knows; but the police haven't been able to turn up any leads by themselves. When her best friend is abducted, Indigo's forced to make a decision: go to the police and risk her friend's and parents' lives, or respond to the hostage-taker's demands and give herself up.

First 250:

I loved Max, but there were few things I hated more than cleaning his litterbox. I stood several feet away, using my mind to open the waste bin and rake through the gravel. It spilled less if I scooped it by hand, but with mindbending I didn’t have to actually touch anything.

«I want you to know I’m cleaning the cat box,» I called up to Mom, using mindspeak to make sure she heard clearly. There was no response, but that didn’t surprise me; like most adults, Mom couldn’t broadcast far. «Unasked.» I was hoping to get out of doing the dishes tonight so my best friend Raji and I could go see a cheap Tuesday movie.

Max sat and watched, head cocked, as the scoop moved by itself through the air. As soon as I was done and had put the lid back on the bin I bent down to gather him up in my arms; he hated it when I picked him up with ‘bending. He went limp, starting to purr.

“The things I do for you,” I said. He closed his eyes contentedly.

When I came up the stairs Mom was standing at the kitchen sink, staring blankly out the window, worry creasing her brow. I paused, frowning. “Mom?”

She shook her head, composing her face as she turned, and smiled to me. “Thanks for cleaning the litterbox, Indigo.”

Max started to squirm and I set him down distractedly. It took a lot to worry Mom. “What’s wrong?”


  1. Nice premise - something I haven't seen before! Good start :)

  2. The query is great! Very clear and intriguing. The only thing I'd suggest is try to lose a few of the "then"s. It starts to read a little like "then she did this. Then this happened. Then..." You don't want that. Just reword a few of them so you don't fall into that.

    The pages I'm not as in love with. I actually like the first sentence, it gets your attention because you assume max is a guy, then you talk about his litter box. But you could show more. Don't tell us she is using her mind to clean the litter box, show the shovel moving (you do this later, but I think its more important for the early bit)
    It interesting in general but I also think you could include more conflict for a first page than cleaning a litter box. That's just my opinion though.I'd still read more though but I think it could be even better! So good job!

  3. Your premise is intriguing, but the query could use some tightening to make it come across more as a "pitch" and less as a recitation of what happens in the book. It reads more like a synopsis to me than a query.

    Regarding the first 250, I'm not loving the litter box thing as your opener. It's interesting that Indigo is doing this chore with her mind, but still... it's cleaning a litter box. Ask yourself if this is the first image you want in your readers' head. I'd like to see more about Indigo as a character, so I can connect with her right away, and less about the chore and the cat.

  4. I got a chuckle out of the litterbox opening because I have a cat and I'd love to use mindpowers to clean his box! Plus, it seems like the kind of thing a teenager would use her powers for. I do agree with Susan and Stacey, though, in that you might want to tighten up your query and have it read less like a recitation of events and more like a pitch.

    Best of luck!

  5. Great story idea with a dangerous thriller-like feel to it. I like your voice and I like Indigo and Max together.

    But I have to agree that cat litter may not be the strongest way to open. Especially since you're trying to appeal to older teens in YA. It might work if you were writing MG. I think teens will need something stronger. I don't know if mom's worried look is a strong enough hook to make us read on.

    In the query, when you say the mind tricks are dangerous, it isn't clear who are they dangerous to. To Indigo or can they be used against other people?

    I don't think you need the part about the police not finding clues for themselves here. It's one detail too many.

    But in general, I like your story and would like to read it. Good luck!

  6. I agree with everyone on tightening up the query, but I really think its just an issue of getting rid of a few extra words.

    "But for what she uses parapsychology for" was really confusing for me to read. I would say For all she uses her powers for or something along those lines. I think it would be easier to read.

    I feel like your middle paragrpah could be boiled down into a couple sentences. LIke "In the space of a few weeks, Indigo's parents disappear and she is rear-ended in a suspeciously deliberate act.Sorting through her mother's files she discovers her parents were part of a research group looking to create (be specific about the mind power if you can)--and Indigo was one of the test subjects"

    I actually did like the litter box scene. I'm 21 and would use mindpowers to scopp the litterbox. At least it got me into it.

    However, I think you could turn this phrase "As soon as I was done and had put the lid back on the bin" into a more active one by just saying. "I put the lid back on the bin after I was done."

    I like this premise! Best of luck!
    Jessica #96

  7. Thanks so much to everyone who's responded on this! There are some really super suggestions. The funny thing about the query is I posted it up to WriteOnCon a few weeks ago and put it through a bunch of revisions, with the above being the point where people stopped having much to suggest. But obviously always room for improvement! Too bad there's no opportunity (at least in this contest) to make changes prior to final judging.

    Thanks again, and good luck to everyone else!