Monday, January 28, 2013

Bouncer Post #72

Genre: YA mystery
word count: 60,000


The small Michigan town of Mason has been sixteen-year-old orphan Tara’s home since her aunt adopted her. But its rustic beauty hides an ugly truth, something dark that happened ten years ago and cast a terrible shadow on Tara and her aunt.

When her cousin was bludgeoned one chilly autumn night, it was the start of a horrific murder spree. Over the next few years, the three girls who’d bullied her were killed and dumped in the lake, their murders coinciding with her cousin’s death anniversary. Though suspicion fell on her aunt, it went no further.

But the events have left her aunt traumatized and Tara fiercely protective of her. With time as a gentle healer, the shadows start to fade – until Tara herself falls victim to a cruel prank at school. When the girl who bullied her is beaten to death, Tara realizes that the past has followed her. Now she has a choice – either find the killer, or watch her town get destroyed all over again.

First 250:   

Tara dropped her backpack on the sofa. “Aunt June?” She raced up the steps two at a time. Her aunt’s room was empty. And so was the rest of the house. 

Oh God, not again! Her mouth dry, she locked the door behind her and took off down the long, winding road to the lake.

The spells were getting more frequent and unpredictable. Normally her aunt would take off for the lake only on Beth’s death anniversary, or her birthday. But now Tara often returned home from school to find the door ajar and her aunt missing.

Halfway down the leaf-strewn dirt path through the woods, she heard the sobs.

A gentle breeze blew ripples over the lake’s surface. Aunt June’s sobs rose and fell. She kneeled on the rocks, her fingers threading through the water. As though caressing the tresses of her murdered daughter.

Tara’s chest tightened into a vise. Drawing her jacket tight against the November chill, she hunkered down next to her aunt and slipped her arm around her shaking shoulders, averting her gaze from the murky water. If she looked closely, she could still see her cousin’s long, blonde hair tangled in the dirt, the pale, freckled face smashed in.

“Shhh, Aunt. Let’s go back home. It’s getting cold.”

Shadowed grey eyes turned to her and widened. “Beth? My Beth?”


  1. I love your first 250 and your query is pretty solid.

    The only thing I'd suggest is you re-work your hook. As it stands now, it's vague and kind of more of an intro to your second paragraph, which really piqued my interest. I also think that "orphan" could be moved somewhere else, as having it after "sixteen-year-old" makes the sentence sound awkward when I read it aloud.

    Best of luck!

  2. Exciting and sad first 250. I agree with Jennie's comments.

    Some other things to think about. The sentence "When her cousin was bludgeoned one chilly autumn night, it was the start of a horrific murder spree." This sentence is heavy on the passive voice and a perfect candidate for rewriting. Something to be aware of as there are a few other instances. It's a good exercise to take a chapter and rewrite all instances of passive voice into active just to see if you like it better. Grammar girl has an excellent article on passive voice and how to identify it.

    On my first couple read throughs, I thought the three bullies harassed Tara. I finally realized you were referring to her cousin being bullied by them. So that could be clarified.

    The more I read your query, I get the sense that the first two paragraphs are backstory that will be revealed as I read the story. The more interesting stuff is in the last paragraph, which gets jumbled together. My suggestion would be to condense the first two paragraphs into a sentence or two that introduces us to Tara, her traumatized aunt, her murdered cousin, and the mystery of who is committing the murders.

    Then expand on the final paragraph. As the people who are dying are people who hurt Tara and her family, why does she feel compelled to find the killer? Why not leave it to the authorities? What is at stake for her if she doesn't find the killer?

    Lastly, what do you mean by "gentle healer." Is Tara healing, does she have powers or just patience?

    I like how you set up in your first 250 that something is wrong with Tara's aunt. That seems a nice place to start the story after you've set up the grizzly past in the query.

    Good luck!
    Amy #73

    1. Thanks so much. Excellent suggestions on the query.

  3. I really liked your query. It definitely made me want to read your book. You have high stakes and I think the fact that the bullies are being murdered was an interesting twist. Your 250 didn't draw me in quite as much. I was confused at first as to what was going on. With the word, "spells," I was thinking of a mental breakdown, but I'm not sure if that's the case here. I also wonder if you might want to start with something that affects the protagonist more, not just the aunt.
    Good luck!

    1. Yeah, that's what I need to work on. I did do that with my revised version, but after I sent it in here. Go figure.

  4. I agree that your query was strong - I was intrigued by the repeated deaths (and you had me at the word "bludgeoned," even though this isn't my usual kind of book) and curious about the mystery.

    For some reason I wasn't pulled in by your first 250, and I'm trying to figure out why. I think it might be that Tara doesn't really have a voice to me at first? Maybe find a way to individualize her a little? I know it's hard with only 250 words. Loved the last sentence about her cousin, though.

    Lisa (#85)

    1. Thanks, Lisa. i agree on the 250. I'll cut the backstory and work on showing Tara's voice :)

  5. Sounds interesting. I don't read enough mystery, which is sad because there's a lot of good mysteries out there.

    I'd agree pretty much with the others' comments. I too, wondered if a lot of the query was backstory. If it is, I'd cut back and concentrate on the present. If not, ignore this comment.

    My only other comment is that neither of your first lines hook me. Query or first 250.

    In the first 250, I really think the 3rd paragraph would be a good place to start. That first line. Then weave in some of the above two paragraphs and go from there.

    Good luck!


  6. The idea of bullies being bludgeoned is fantastic!

    You've received great feedback already, and I agree with the others' comments, especially on the first paragraph of the query not being as strong as the second and finding a way to convey who Tara is a little faster (hard to do, I know) so that we connect with her immediately. Okay, that was a long sentence.

    One thing that tripped me up was "cousin's/Beth's death anniversary" instead of the more expected "anniversary of her cousin's/Beth's death" It just felt awkward and it's used in both the query and the first 250. It's a little thing, but it stood out.

    You've raised the stakes with your query and I truly feel for Tara's aunt; now give us a little more about Tara and you're all set.

    Great stuff! Good luck!
    Bonnie #88

  7. Sounds fantastic so far! I agree with the above comments,however I think the first paragraph of your query is necessary (esp. the fact she is an orphan)--maybe you could integrate that into the second paragraph?

    Good luck!
    Lisa #95