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.

I’m also kinda tilting my head sideways at all this “she’s crazy with crazy behavior!” nonsense. The “kookiest” things Cassie does during this book are trying to transform herself into looking like a different person, running around without her shoes on, trying to cast a spell in her living room, dyeing her hair without permission, and giving away muffins for free. I don’t know any seventeen-year-olds in college who try to reinvent themselves and start acting weird, do you?

It’s okay with me if people don’t like it. ^___^ Guess I’m kind of just getting a glimpse of how non-mainstream my writing is, which isn’t good if I’m trying to win a contest put on by a major publisher. I understand the criticism about my book being too bloated. But I don’t agree with or accept that the central issue of the book should be something else. Anyway, Publishers Weekly gave Eragon a pretty good review, so I probably shouldn’t care what they think. 😉 Ahaha, just kidding.

Anyway, my plan is to take a look at the book again soon, see if I can do some more tightening and cutting to make it a more reasonable length (or at least short enough that someone who wants it even shorter wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the task of editing it down), and then I’ll actually try querying again. I’m done with this contest when it comes to this book.

Next year, if I enter, I’ll be entering a different book, which is the book I’m about to finish writing.

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

From Stephen Matlock:

The premise was intriguing, and then it hooked with the idea of a character that may – or may not – be real interacting with the main character.

And the opening chapter is really, really good. Good, solid writing, very believable characterizations, good description of the hallucination, VERY GOOD SENSE that something is going to happen between Cassie and her hallucinatory friend.

Nice solid beginning.

Now a comment on how it can be strengthened:
The main plot _seems_ to be that Cassie, moving into a strange apartment, has a mysterious “other” who is attractive to her, and who seems to appear to her. There is some mystical bond and experience with him.

Then the chapter goes into great detail about an ordinary leasing experience with Cassie and her parents. I wanted to see how Cassie would react with Door Boy, but he disappears from the story for a while.

You really, really had me in your opening paragraphs. I thought it was an extremely strong hook. The meandering about the parents and the leasing rep got me pushed off the hook, and I’m telling you that I really, REALLY wanted to hear Cassie’s story take off.

Please take this as an extremely positive review. I can’t stress enough how strong and vibrant your writing is, and I want to see this chapter just knock me flat.

From Mr. P. Reid:

I loved the hook on this excerpt. I’m not really into teen college stories, but I liked this one very much indeed. The steady drip feed of hints and info was well handled and gave us just that bit of info we needed to know, but no more. I think the plunge straight into seeing the strange guy, followed by the sudden slow up as the appartment is examined, works really well, and then you finish on the huge hook that she has a totally other persona in another world. And this guy could be the link between it.
Yes, really liked this one.

From Joy Harwood:

I want to read the whole story, and not just because the ghost apparently ‘lives’ on a bathroom door portrait. While such quirky details draw me in, I’m also fascinated by the protagonist’s attempts to hide her psychic abilities, even when the story hasn’t yet revealed too many details of her experiences. Add the additional twist of a complete alternate dream world, and I’m hooked.

Every word of dialogue rings true. The author provides a wealth of loose ends, each of them enticing. Now let’s move on to the magic, the real paranormal meat of the story. I am impatient to move beyond the hints.

Keep writing this, because I can’t stop reading it!

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