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.

 

Results of Querying: Bad Fairy 2011

I only just started querying for Bad Fairy in November of 2011, so this isn’t going to be a big update, but this is how I’m doing on queries so far:

Agents queried: 9.

  • Query rejections: 6
  • Non-responses (so far): 3

One of the guys I queried had actually represented a fairy tale retelling I particularly enjoyed, so I mentioned it in my query.  He said this to me:

I appreciate your thinking of me, but I actually don’t normally care for fairy tales, or for works with the basis feel of a fairy tell, or retellings.  Mercedes Lackey is an exception because I just have an affinity for her work and I’d be happy to read her grocery lists, but otherwise, this book is probably not a good match for my tastes.

Heh, “happy to read her grocery lists.”  Maybe someday someone will say that about me?

Planning to continue the querying streak in 2012!

Ready to Query: Bad Fairy Trilogy, Book 1

Editing Bad Fairy has been a complete nightmare, but I got it down to 146,000 words, and I had a lot of help.  Especially from Jessie.  Thank you to the following people who helped me in the test audience:

These people read the whole thing and gave comments: Jessie, Victor, Mike Lee, Amanda K., Alicorn, Laura, Michael, Joy, Patricia, and Laurel.  These people read part of it and gave comments: Brianne, Fred, Jeremy, Jeaux, Reeny, Elle, Jaron, Mikaela, Andi, Jessica, darkchime, Jack O., Clare, Shelby, Mandy, Michelle, Amanda W., Susan, and Jordan.

My basic query letter (with personalized agent stuff at the beginning, and modified if needed):

What happened before Sleeping Beauty slept?

Delia Morningstar is a precocious and inquisitive half-fairy girl whose great talent and drive mark her for a promising future. But she has some peculiar interests: What is she learning when she dabbles in forbidden “dark magick,” and why does she have such an interest in the afterlife? Shunned by popular society, she struggles to make a living, but when one of her attempts to help her kingdom is misunderstood, she is ultimately held responsible for a curse on baby Aurora, her kingdom’s beloved princess.

Now forced into hiding, Delia must live in disguise as a typical fairy and continue to work toward a surprising goal: Saving the princess from death. While tweaking destiny from behind her mask, Delia discovers unexpected aspects of both herself and her enemies. Though she eventually succeeds in her original goal, she finds that dealing with who she’s become is a battle she’s only beginning.

In addition to writing fiction, I work as a copyeditor/proofreader, run several websites, and have five published nonfiction articles.  My other long fiction projects include adult science fiction and YA magical realism.

 

Bad Fairy: Class Picture Day

I don’t do much in the way of visualizing characters when I’m writing, but I think most readers are more visual than I am, and they tend to appreciate at least a little description.  But except for the major characters, I hadn’t done much description of anyone in the book, and there were a ton of minor characters whose names were probably mentioned once—primarily Delia’s classmates in her fairy school.  So I decided I should try to draw them so I could get an idea of what she’s seeing every day.

So here’s my “fairy class picture day,” ignoring of course that they lived in a time without cameras. Haha.

The teachers are the ones standing on the stage, and the fairy students are all on the ground—I drew the graduating class of that year.

Fairies are obviously a pretty homogenous bunch, given how consistently they seem to have curly blonde hair and light skin.  A few of them have a little more red or a little more brown in their hair, but it’s rare.  So you can see why my protagonist sticks out a bit.  (That and she’s tiny because she’s four years younger than the next youngest student.  And, well, a few other things.)

I had a lot of fun figuring out what everyone looks like.  It lets me flesh them out more when I write about them in the book.

Completed New Novel: Bad Fairy Trilogy, Book 1

Finished writing the new version of Bad Fairy!

Genre: Fantasy (fairy tale retelling).

Length: 40 chapters/550 pages/~170,000 words. (Oh no.)

Tag line: “What happened before Sleeping Beauty slept?”

Keywords: FANTASY: Fairy tale retelling, medieval period fantasy, Sleeping Beauty, fairies, magic, magick, dark fantasy, reincarnation, elemental magic, identity issues, quirky narrators, epistolary, autobiography (character).

Protagonist: Delia Morningstar.

POV: First person, past tense.

About:

Bad Fairy is the story of a famous half-fairy named Delia Morningstar who unintentionally inspired the story of Sleeping Beauty.  As the “bad fairy” in the story, Delia has found herself immortalized in this fairy tale many years after the fact, and has decided to write her autobiography in order to set the record straight.  She announces her intent to seek closure through writing her memoir, ridding herself of an undeserved bad reputation.

This first volume of the trilogy depicts Delia’s young life as a fairy child.  Her story begins with infant Delia discovering her world and coming to terms with her half human/half fairy ancestry.  She has an atypical appearance, very like a notorious relative in her family’s distant past, and she vows to avoid becoming another source of shame.  As a toddler, she prematurely manifests the talent of magick, which qualifies Delia as a fairy by society’s standards.  She is therefore expected to attend circle, the fairy version of school, and is enrolled at the early age of six.

At first, Delia struggles to keep up with her classmates, most of whom are nearly twice her age.  Delia quickly discovers that her magick is “dark”—it doesn’t glow and it works differently—and because of that and her mixed blood, the other fairies find it difficult to accept her.  But before long, Delia is recognized as a precocious magickal prodigy, drawing the ire of another class front-runner: Beatrice, along with her sisterhood members Chloe and Livia.  The three “good fairies” declare a vendetta against their peculiar classmate.  As they compete to win the role of Circle Mistress—class valedictorian—Beatrice finds herself regularly outclassed by Delia, and retaliates by trying to turn others against her.

Delia acquires tentative allies and pioneers her own studies in “black magick,” but the older she gets, the more her differences manifest and the more difficulties she has fitting in and finding a place for her talents.  By the end, despite the astounding achievement records she’s able to set, she’s still at a loss as to how to be regarded as a fairy adult when she looks like a preteen human and pursues her passions in unrecognized black arts.  When she finally butts heads with her three enemies, she finds she may have underestimated them, and this sets a precedent for a life of frustration and disappointment. . . .

Markedly disillusioned but still ready to revolutionize her world, this hopeful preteen fairy begins to plot.

Next up: Lots of editing! Thanks to everyone who’s volunteered to help.

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:

Continue reading

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.