Come and Get It! Contest: My Last Five

As a judge for Cupid’s contest, Come and Get It!, I received my second set of five entries to judge.

If you’re interested to see the kind of feedback I gave to the second five authors on their query letters and their first 250 words, please check them out:

My feedback is in the comments at the bottom.  My lucky four (from the full ten) will be finalists and will get to be bid upon by agents.  Maybe some of these folks will go on to be agented because of this contest! :)

[Edit: My previous five entries, with links to feedback, are here!]

Come and Get It! Contest: My First Five

As a judge for Cupid’s contest, Come and Get It!, I was given five entries to judge for this week.

If you’re interested to see the kind of feedback I gave to five authors on their query letters and their first 250 words, please check them out:

My feedback is in the comments at the bottom.  After I see the next five, I’ll have to pick four out of the ten and send them on to be judged by agents. 🙂

[Edit: My next five entries, with links to feedback, are here!]

Come and Get It! Contest

Cupid’s Literary Connection is hosting a contest called COME AND GET IT!

I’m one of the judges.

This contest is for un-agented authors with polished, query-ready manuscripts who’d like a shot at getting bid on by agents, but they have to make it past the gauntlet of writer judges first. Those who get selected will have agents look at their work.

The genres we’re accepting are Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, Women’s, Romance, Historical, Thrillers, Commercial, Literary, and Memoir. Woo-hoo.

Twitter Pitch Contest: Finding Mulligan

Mónica B.W., Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake, and Krista VanDolzer collaborated to put on a contest called The Writer’s Voice Twitter Pitch Party.

Basically it involved getting on Twitter with some agents who had agreed to participate, and then trying to pitch your book in a message short enough to fit in a tweet.  Challenging, eh?  ESPECIALLY for someone as wordy as me!

I decided to take the challenge and came up with seven short little tag lines to describe Finding Mulligan.  Then I asked my pals on Facebook to vote on them and used the pitch they liked the best.  Here were my choices:

  1. If your two personalities are in love with different guys, does that count as two-timing?
  2. Falling in love with the guy of your dreams? Awesome. Finding out he lives in your head? Not so awesome.
  3. Dream guys are the best. Until you wake up. [I don’t like this one because it’s too vague.]
  4. The world’s strangest love triangle begins when Cassie’s other self meddles in her romantic life. And then it starts to get weird.
  5. Can’t a gal and her other self have a good old-fashioned reality-crossing romance anymore?
  6. Love triangle, shmuv triangle. With three guys in two universes chasing one girl with two personalities, this is at LEAST a love pentagon.
  7. Cassie’s other personality shares her life, her dreams, and all her memories. You’d think she’d be willing to share her boyfriend too, but noooo.

Pitch #1 was elected as the best, so I used it during the pitch party.  And got no attention.  Boo.

Then I re-read the rules and they’d updated them.  Turned out that since the agents would be drifting in and out of the feed all day, we could not only tweet our pitch more than once, but change it if we wanted.

I tried a few times, modified a couple of them and tweeted, but nobody nibbled.

Until finally I was feeling contrary and tweeted #5, the one nobody liked except my friend Joy.  Immediately one of the agents asked me to send her a 40-page partial.

Go fig.

So that worked out well for me.

The Writer’s Voice Contest: Finding Mulligan

Mónica B.W., Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake, and Krista VanDolzer collaborated to put on a contest called The Writer’s Voice.  It was a pretty cool contest for writers seeking agents to enter their polished novels and get a chance to have agents bidding on them to see partials and full manuscripts.  I figured I had nothing to lose, and I was lucky enough to actually make it into the competitive link pool, but then I had to hope one of the ladies above would choose me for their team.  They didn’t.

None of them are agents (as far as I know)—just other writers—but I figured if one of them picked me and I got a chance to get seen by someone who wouldn’t have otherwise seen me, it was worth it.  But since they chose other writers, I didn’t get to participate.  That said, Krista approached me after the contest, having said that she would let people know if their entries had been one of her favorites despite not being picked.  She left the following comment on my entry:

Just wanted to let you know that yours was one of the entries on my short short list. I thought the premise here was really intriguing, and your first page had a lot of mystery. I just worried that the concept would seem too similar to that new TV show Awake. I know you’ve probably been writing this since long before the show premiered, but I worried that people would find it derivative. It stinks when something steals your thunder like that.

Best of luck to you and FINDING MULLIGAN, because this is just the sort of thing I’d like to read.

I don’t actually think this concern is too worrisome, because my book is literally nothing like the premise of that show (except that they both involve falling asleep and having a different perspective), but it was still nice to hear what she had to say.  Thanks Krista.

Other nice comments:

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Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, Semi-Finals: Finding Mulligan

Finding Mulligan was cut from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition at the semi-final round.  I will not be moving on.

Here is the (again, unflattering) Publishers Weekly review:

Just quirky, or crazy? That seems to be the question at the heart of this overblown, confused romantic fantasy. Cassandra’s life pales in comparison to the extremely realistic dreamland she often visits. There she’s known as “Dia.” Unlike Cassandra, Dia is beautiful, endlessly talented, and beloved by all dreamland’s denizens. When Cassandra, a college freshman, moves into a new apartment, she grows fascinated (some would say obsessed) with the lifelike portrait of a man painted on her bathroom door. She’s convinced this man will appear in dreamland as well, and sure enough, Dia meets the man (named Mulligan) and falls instantly in love. Mulligan must have a real-world counterpart, Cassandra reasons, and so she remakes herself into a version of Dia to make herself recognizable to him. Disturbing flashbacks about Cassandra’s chronically-ill younger sister are meant to explicate her mental state; her consistently kooky behavior, however, itself more than accomplishes that purpose. Cassandra’s ultimate recognition of the “real” Mulligan bears little heft or drama and could certainly have been accomplished in fewer than 381 meandering pages.

Hm, it’s kinda offensive to say a possibly mentally ill person is “kooky” and “crazy” because some of her attempts to figure herself out seem on the extreme side. My character’s “kooky” behavior isn’t disordered and random. It follows directly from the way her reality is. Boo.

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Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, Quarter-Finals: Finding Mulligan

Finding Mulligan has been chosen as one of 500 quarter-finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.

My “prize” now is to go on to be judged in the semi-finals.  Publishers Weekly will be judging my novel—the full manuscript—and they will decide whether I get to be one of the 100 left in the semi-final round.

Rating me and recommending me were two Amazon Vine Reviewers.  Here is what they said about my first chapter:

Reviewer #1:

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
Cassie is an interesting character, and the author does a fine job of letting us get to know her and her parents. She expertly introduces the family dynamics and sets the stage for her story in an authentic and believable manner. With the exception of a couple of the introductory paragraphs, the author’s prose flows smoothly and she handles the dialogue very well. Cassie clearly comes across as a teen about to be on her own, exhibiting all the frustration, nervousness and excitement common to that age.

What aspect needs the most work?
My one problem with this excerpt was the author’s introduction of the chimes in Cassie’s head. She is introducing a very important element here, and it just seemed like a clumsy way to introduce Cassie’s alternative dream world. The story recovers nicely when Cassie begins to talk about the boy in the painting, but getting from regular teenager to girl who has another identity just didn’t fly.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
I think this was a fairly strong excerpt and I liked where the story was going. I didn’t really understand the chimes in Cassie’s head, and wish more explanation was provided. The strength of the excerpt lies in the very strong characterizations. I hope the author is able to maintain Cassie’s strong voice during her dream life sequences. That will surely make for a memorable story.

I enjoyed the author’s prose and felt that it was very readable. I liked the hints of romance to come, and am very curious how the remainder of the story will play out. Nice, original idea that will be sure to hook plenty of YA readers.

Reviewer #2:

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
It’s intriguing, well-written, with believable dialogue, and the pacing is good.

What aspect needs the most work?
I can’t think of anything. It’s not clear what Haley’s issue is, but perhaps that’s clarified later.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
Excellent.

Dude, #2 was just phoning it in like mad.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, Second Round: Finding Mulligan

Finding Mulligan advanced to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.  I am one of the 2,000 left of the original 10,000 entrants.

Now my first chapter goes on to be read by two Amazon judges.  I’ll get rated and reviewed.  If I pass, I will be one of 500 left to be named quarter-finalists.

I was more nervous this year for some reason.  Last year I’d forgotten about the contest until I got notified by e-mail that I’d passed.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, Entering: Finding Mulligan

I decided to enter Finding Mulligan in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition (again).  I’ve done some significant editing since last year’s contest; everything’s tighter, better dialogue, slightly shorter.  Anyway, this contest gives me a chance to win a publishing contract with Penguin.  The international Amazon contest stops taking entrants once it hits 10,000 people.  Each of us has to send in a pitch statement, a bio, a first chapter, and a full manuscript.

The second round will involve the 10,000 entrants being cut down to 2,000 Second Round competitors based entirely on our pitch.

This is my pitch statement:

What if you fell in love with someone who might not exist?

Cassandra Howard leads a double life. A smart, sarcastic student by day, Cassie is a different person in her dreams—literally. In dreamland, her alternate reality, Cassie becomes a happy-go-lucky, charismatic girl named Dia, and she prefers to keep her two lives separate. That changes when she falls in love.

Mulligan is the perfect dream guy, and in her nighttime paradise Dia has him all to herself, but in Cassie’s world Mulligan only exists as a mysterious painting.  Feeling left out, Cassie begins to obsess over finding the waking-world version of Mulligan.  Soon enough, Cassie tracks down two people with connections to the painting, leaving her confused as to which one of them is the man she’s looking for.  What if her two selves are in love with two different guys?

Unwilling to live in the shadow of her other life forever, Cassie tries to remake her waking-world self in the image of Dia to attract the “real” Mulligan, but her actions blur the lines between dreamland and the waking world until neither girl is sure who she is.  For Cassie, finding Mulligan—and figuring out whether he exists—might require finding herself first.

Finding Mulligan combines magical realism, identity issues, and a complicated love triangle (or is it a pentagon?), plus a dash of psychological weirdness.  While the concept is unique enough to seem fresh, the struggle for self-definition will be comfortingly familiar to teens.  It will resonate with young adults who appreciate self-aware, realistic characters, and will be enjoyed by those who like their romance without a side of fluff.  Because of its gifted but fractured protagonist, early readers have compared Finding Mulligan to stories like Life of Pi, A Beautiful Mind, and Fight Club.

 

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2011, Semi-Finals: Finding Mulligan

Finding Mulligan was cut from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition at the semi-final round.  I will not be moving on.

Here is the (rather unflattering) Publishers Weekly review:

Cassandra is looking for an apartment for her freshman year of college when she sees a painting that seems extremely familiar. She immediately realizes that the painting is of someone she knows from her dreamland. Cassandra (Dia in the dreamworld) has been visiting the dreamland in her sleep ever since she was a child. But until she sees Mulligan, the man in the painting, she’s never met another resident in the real world. Cassandra quickly falls for Mulligan and decides she must track him down. Meanwhile, she also discovers that her dreamland is not the safe, perfect place she thought it was. Finding Mulligan has a simple enough solution, one that is actually clearly described in the first chapter. Yet the author insists on explaining the world in detail through tedious dialogue in the subsequent chapters. This heavy-handed and rambling style of prose permeates the manuscript, making it a clunky and repetitive read. On top of this, Cassandra isn’t especially likable, especially when she makes a habit of taunting her younger sister (who has kidney disease).

As the author of this novel, I actually have absolutely no idea what the reviewer means by “a simple enough solution.”  There isn’t actually a “solution” of any kind in the book, so I’m baffled.  But the rest of this stuff will be taken to heart and used to revise the book for next year.  Hooray!

Also, on the positive side, my customer reviews for the first chapter on Amazon:

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