Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CAGI Entry #83

YA paranormal murder mystery
95,000 words


At Warwick Hall Academy, the living and the dead both have secrets. Cassie has been waiting two years for her body to be found. She can’t remember how she died but she knows something is with her in the darkness--something from which even death is no protection.

Sophia Cross is a new student at Warwick Hall. Her father has taken up a teaching position at the school and they’re looking for a fresh start after a car crash left her mother dead and Sophia in a month-long coma. She doesn’t know where she was as she hovered between life and death, but she can still sense the darkness.

When Sophia moves into Cassie’s house, the girls learn to communicate via Magnetic Poetry. Cassie and Sophia will have to work together if they are to unravel the mystery behind Cassie’s death and the menacing presence that haunts them both. The answers are hidden somewhere within Warwick Hall, where everyone is a potential suspect and trusting the wrong person could get you killed.

WARWICK HALL is a cross between a Victorian Gothic novel and a teen detective story: Veronica Mars meets The Woman in White

First 250:

It was a beautiful day to be dead.

Cassie lay in a bed of leaves on the riverside. The sun peeked out from behind a cloud. She couldn’t feel it, but she imagined it to be warm.

She found herself waking up here more and more often. Cassie had been waiting almost two years for her body to be found. She didn’t know if this was Hell, but it sure wasn’t Heaven.

She shook the foliage out of her hair––to a passerby it would look like a sudden, isolated gust of wind. Cassie could never actually move anything when she wanted to, of course, but sometimes her energy brushed against the Living world.

She meandered back toward Warwick Hall, the prep school where her father had been the chaplain. She spied a doe taking a drink from the river, cool and sweet. The animal tensed as if it knew that she was there. The deer locked eyes with her and startled, loping off like it had seen, well, a ghost.

Cassie threw her hands in the air in frustration. The only sentient creatures that could see her were afraid of her. They sensed she shouldn’t be there, that she’d stayed too long at the party.

But she had no idea how to “move on” or “go into the light,” or whatever it was restless spirits were supposed to do. She couldn’t even have any fun haunting anyone because she didn’t know how to make the Living hear or see her.


  1. This is very good!
    I’d suggest with starting the query off with “Cassie has been waiting two years for her body to be found. She can’t remember how she died but she knows something is with her in the darkness--something from which even death is no protection.” Drop the academy part because so many YA books take place in a private school, boarding school, etc. Not a big deal, but I wouldn’t put that out there. Otherwise, really good query.

    Good luck!

  2. I agree with Jennifer that the opening line of the query is probably unnecessary. Thought the rest of the query was strong, though.

    I liked the voice in the first 250. I am a little confused about how she can move magnetic poetry when on the first page it says she can't deliberately interact with the Living world, but I'm sure that becomes clear as the story goes along.

    I did sort of feel the action here was a tad rushed; that you said things in one sentence that might have been better if said in two or three. For instance, the sentence: "She spied a doe...". I think it would draw the reader in more if it was (and this is just a quick example; obviously you'd write your own): "The river curled through the forest, twisting back and forth through the trees as it headed for Warwick Hall. She followed its edge, listening to the sounds of the water tripping over the rocks. As she rounded a bend she came across a doe drinking from the cool, sweet water." I think it would help to give your reader a better sense of the location, the atmosphere of the story, would tell us more about Callie via the things she notices or does.

    Interesting premise, though, and promising opening! Good luck!

  3. I really love the premise for this book! At first I didn't understand the transition between Cassie and Sophia in your query, but as I read on I understood. The only real problem I had with your first 250 was the line "She spied a doe taking a drink from the river, cool and sweet." I understood it, but I had to read it twice because it is a structure you don't see very often in modern writing. I would consider rephrasing this somehow. Other than that, I really liked it! You captured my interest and I definately really wanted to keep reading.

    Best of luck!
    Jessica #96

  4. I thought your query was pretty much spot on -- it made me eager to scroll down and read the opening, and anyone who combines Veronica Mars and The Woman in White pretty much has my attention anyway. (LOVE both.)

    My only qualm is the phrasing that Jessica mentioned above -- if this takes place in modern times (which it seems like it does, because you mentioned a car crash and Cassie waiting only two years for her body to be found), the word "spied" is a little out of context. That's an easy fix though, and might even be stronger if you just said something like, "Nearby, a doe took a drink from the river, cool and sweet."

    I think you've got a strong opening and an intriguing query. AND it's a good length. :)

  5. Thank you for your feedback, everyone! I will implement it as I revise. Kristina x