Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2011, 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?
Pretty well-done and realistic, Cassie and her parents finding her first college apartment for her, her sister Haley whining about having been left home alone, all intelligently handled. Good treatment of the family situation and dynamics, and of the winning apartment. Unfortunately, no description of campus, or college town, or of the family home, no setting, not actually much description of apartment. Many high school girls will be going away to college, they might identify with the story this exerpt tells.
What aspect needs the most work?
I don’t see why this story has to have a supernatural element to it, why it can’t be a plain straightforward going away to college story. Am not very sympathetic to supernatural element, not interested in Cassie’s REAL nighttime self, think it’s a mistake, doubt author has the writing gifts to mesh supernatural tale with ordinary coming-of-age going away to college story.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
Author has lost me, I don’t want to know about Cassie’s alleged REAL life and existence, or her supernatural powers, have no patience for this sort of thing. Pity, because otherwise, author writes competently and intelligently, and has created intelligent character in her protagonist Cassie.

So, in other words, “I hate this genre and I wish you’d written something else because you write well.”  At least this reviewer must’ve given me good marks since I advanced.

Reviewer #2:

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
All the elements are there for an interesting book. We know we are going to college with Cassandra. We know there is going to be a fantastical story ahead and that there are some above average characters.

All the technical elements are there, too – grammar, punctuation, word choice, sentence structure. The excerpt was a pleasure to read.

Wow! Finally, someone can write a YA novel that says “my parents and me” rather than the other way around (or even “myself and …”. Thank you.
What aspect needs the most work?
Unless Haley is a major part of the book, get rid of her (nicely). Just her brief interruption in the excerpt was annoying.

Not every story needs such a character. The secondary storyline is not mandatory if you have enough main story to keep the book rolling.

If you must keep her around, try to not stereotype her as a normal bratty attention seeker. That’s been overdone.

And, don’t feel required to have every element of society depicted .

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
You are breaking the mold for YA novels, and I like it. You have a father (alive), a mother (alive). They not divorced and seemingly getting along with one another. It seems neither assaults their two daughters and, I’m betting, neither is out on parole.

Your ability to write well is a significant plus and the entire excerpt was very well proofread. I don’t doubt that the entire book is as technically well written. The “my parents and me” spoke volumes about your attitude toward writing – in the best way possible.

The story is interesting and the excerpt was far too short. I’m sensing an interesting take on some paranormal relationships. I wanted to keep reading.

Should you not advance in the contest, please don’t rush to self-publish – this has too much going for it. Work hard to find an agent or mainstream publisher.

And, keep writing. I read dozens of debut, mainly international, authors yearly. This was as polished a beginning as the majority of those I’ve read in the last several months. None of them was self-published. Good job.

Yep, Haley’s essential to the plot, #2; I can’t get rid of her.  I’m glad this reviewer liked what I wrote and said all that stuff about self-publishing.  Yeah, I wasn’t considering it.  🙂

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2011, 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.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2011, Entering: Finding Mulligan

I decided to enter Finding Mulligan in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.  It 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.