Friday, November 29, 2013

(14) Urban Fantasy: WITCH WAY DOWN

TITLE: Witch Way Down
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

A practicing psychic and struggling witch, Grace Taylor is using her psychic gifts to help the New Orleans Police Department solve monster-related crime when her picture makes the newspaper and she’s outed as the NOPD’s secret weapon. Now, every monster in the city worth its weight in body bags knows how to get away with murder—take Grace out of the picture.

The choking stench of burnt flesh filled the air. It sat on the back of my tongue and slid down my throat. Standing with a hand clenched over my nose and mouth didn’t help; it just made me look like I didn’t belong. Hands shaking and jaw clenched, I shut my eyes as I fought through a wave of nausea. Crap. I couldn’t decide which would be more humiliating: puking all over the crime scene or passing out and taking a nosedive into the human remains at my feet. I knew which one would never wash off.

“Grace, you okay?” March asked with what sounded like genuine concern. March was Sergeant Robert Marchand of the New Orleans Police Department and the lack of his usual sarcasm threw me. I didn’t like it.

Holding up a hand to cut him off, I forced my eyes open but I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t trust what might come out of my mouth. Nearly a year since I’d been roped into helping with monster-related investigations, it should’ve gotten easier. If March could stand here looking all calm and collected, I should be able to do the same. I needed to work on my magic, figure out a spell to make a rotting corpse smell like strawberry jam, or pine trees, or dog shit—anything else really.

The six-foot circle of charred grass at my feet held the remains of at least three people. I stared down at the gruesome mess and tried to force my brain to stop counting body parts.


  1. The logline on this one really grabbed me, and not just because I have an abiding fondness for New Orleans. I have not read much Urban Fantasy, but I'm not aware of others in the genre using that setting. Which seems odd when you think about it.

    The opening is kind of in the middle of things, but it has a good grounding in sensory detail. The character's voice comes through, and you do provide a sense of the other character, March/Marchand. I was a little confused as to whether the corpses in question were burnt or rotting, since she thinks about a spell to make rotting corpses smell like something else, but the overwhelming description up to that point was charring/burnt type of thing. It could be both.

    Either way, I'm probably off barbecue for a week. Not super familiar with the genre, as I said, but I would have kept reading if there had been more. A page isn't a lot, but in this case I get a sense of the character's voice, and that stuff will probably happen quickly. It seems promising.

  2. Seconding Oliver's comment, especially the good glimpse into March's character. And I liked the humor about the corpse's stench.

    One thing I will say though is that Urban Fantasy is a tough market, and the paranormal detective-ish figure examining the body is a beginning I've grown rather weary of. I'll keep reading because the writing is quite excellent, but I'd want to see the X factor soon--what makes this novel different.

    Good luck!

  3. Like the others, I'm in at the logline.

    You write fluidly, as well, which is a plus -- your sentences don't contain extra parts or ill-fitting words -- but you might consider spending a little less time on her trying not to vomit. It takes up space that could better be spent getting us into new territory more quickly.

  4. I absolutely love the "worth their weight in body bags" line.

    The introduction (of sorts) of March's nickname struck me as a little clunky -- it could be brought into use in whenever she first speaks to him, and that would remove an extraneous bit of exposition from these first few paragraphs.

    The last line of the selection is great, and would definitely get me to keep reading.

  5. Great pitch, and great glimpse into the book. I'd read more. I'm not very familiar with the genre, so I didn't have the same reaction as lookingglass; I felt like it was a very familiar opening to a crime/police procedural/mystery book, which I do read quite a bit of, but with some fun fantasy twists that make me want to keep reading. So if you're looking to entice traditional mystery readers over to this genre, you've got me ;)

    I really agree with the other comments here. The sensory details are excellent (and truly gross, so well done), but I also wondered about burnt vs rotting bodies. And Kevin's note about the intro of March's name is spot on - it really stood out to me as the author's voice and not the MC's, which in first person POV can be jarring.

    It's well-written, though, and intriguing, and I want to know more about Grace, so I'm definitely in :)

  6. My only issue with this is the set up feels a little overly familiar. Other than that, it seems to do the job and the logline sets up an interesting situation.

  7. Nice flow. Easy read. I'd definitely keep reading.

    'monster-related' seems out of voice--more detached than it should be.

    You might consider changing 'rotting corpse' since the charred bodies aren't really rotting yet.

    I would shorten the logline. You don't need psychic twice, or her name:
    When a picture outs a struggling witch as the New Orlean's Police Department secret psychic weapon, every monster in the city worth its weight in body bags tags her as their next target.

  8. Good, tight writing. Excellent in capturing the MC voice. I agree with others above that the introduction of March was clunky. I normally don't read this genre, but I'd keep going based on this. Great job!

  9. I'm not a reader of this genre but the premise quickly hooked me. Clean writing and I liked the MC right off the bat. I would definitely read more. Good luck!

  10. This is a great example of a pitch and opening that the author knows their genre. I immediately got a grasp of what type of story this was, reminding me of Karen Chance's UF books or some of Charlaine Harris' other series.

    Most of my comments are really minor nitpicks, maybe a few lines felt a little wordy like "Holding up a hand..." Maybe split that up. "I held my hand up to cut him off. I didn't trust what might come out of my mouth." The sentiment is all there, just make sure it doesn't get burdened with too many actions crammed together.

    One more thing, I immediately answered her question of what would be more humiliating--it's puking on the crime scene because then the evidence is ruined and NOPD will no longer work with her. It's a funny visual, but playing her as more horrified at the thought of potentially ruining a crime scene might give this a more realistic edge. TV often gets this stuff wrong with pretty investigators tromping around crime scenes in stiletto boots and blowouts, but those beauties need to put on a pair of gloves and pull that hair back if they're that close to evidence! Watch the details.

    All that said, this is awesome and makes me want to pick up an urban fantasy!

  11. The opening is kind of cliché. I see this opening over and over again. My thoughts here were that she's been doing this for a while, and I'd think she'd be used to the smell and past the puking aspect by now. It could still be unpleasant, but it seems she'd have found a way to deal with it by now.

    I also would have liked something more than explanation. You've opened on a murder scene. SHow us the body/bodies. Give us some dialogue that tells us what might have happened, maybe even start with her doing something psychic or witchy. The logline is great and I wanted to get involved in that story.

  12. The logline is strong and the opening makes a reader confident that the author has thought through what a psychic on a monster crime scene would think and feel. Good going!

    My points are I think you could pull back a tiny bit on the fighting off vomiting in first graph, it is getting repetitive.

    And I would like to know right away if anyone else can "see" these horrible remains/body parts at her feet? It's not clear.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  13. First off, love the title. Likewise the logline. And yeah, basically the entry as well.

    "I knew which one would never wash off" made me laugh.

    The only thiing that comes to mind is that with a narrator this good, I think there's a snappier opening line to be had. Nothing particularly wrong with now, but a stronger thought or line from this character could take this from a decent opening to a real grabber. Just a thought.

    Best of luck with it!

  14. The writing is great and I'd read more on that alone--but if I didn't see something unique soon, I don't know how long I would last. As others have said, this is something we've seen a lot of in UF. Why is yours different? That needs to be in the logline, too.

  15. I love, love, love the premise for this. Psychic on the run from monsters? In New Orleans? You had me at hello!

    I think you do a great job of introducing the character with the inciting incident. However, I think the opening becomes bogged down with minor details. You could tighten to get to the action sooner--the imagery of the bodies, mangled and horrific. Otherwise, the tension lessens as we review repetitive information and wait to find out why she's there to begin with. Regardless, I'd want to keep reading due to the awesome premise! Good luck!




  18. I'm still bitter about this one. It was BOLDED in my spreadsheet.

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