Wednesday, July 29, 2009

26 Query Contest

Query: Abby Singleton is a dandelion in a family of exotic flowers. Her older sister is a tennis star and her younger sister is an art prodigy. Abby's talent? Running her big mouth. Even Abby's parents are strangely perfect. Dad is a tax lawyer who escaped from a life in the projects and Abby's mother.well, Mom alternates her time between ripping souls out of the recently deceased and making the town's best cookies.

Despite the flawless exterior Abby's family is less than perfect. A curse placed upon them long ago turns them into Reapers (the Grim Reaper's clean up crew) on their sixteenth birthdays. Problem is, Abby doesn't have typical Reaper powers. Instead of taking souls she gives them back, raising people from the dead against Death's wishes.

Angered, the Big D sends Abby to Pennsylvania, where the high percentage of old people ensures her powers will have less impact on his bottom line. Foisted upon her aunt's dysfunctional family, Abby feels like even more of an outsider than she did in her own family. At home and at school Abby tries to fit in, but a reanimated frog and her sudden appearance at a fatal accident make her lab partner, über jock Austin Holt, suspicious. He further complicates Abby's life by trying to find out what she's hiding.

Abby wants nothing more than to return to her life of being invisible in her immediate family. All she has to do is survive the next year without pissing Death off even more or having her secret discovered by a nosy kid from school. Since Abby can't seem to keep her mouth shut, that's easier said than done.

BETWEEN HELL AND OHIO is a Young Adult novel complete at 61,000 words. The full manuscript is available upon request and should appeal to fans of Tonya Hurley and Maureen Johnson.

First Page

The red letters of the Quik Stop sign reflected onto the hood of the minivan. I scanned radio channels while my mom finished Reaping inside the mini mart, wondering what was taking her so long. She was usually in and out in minutes.
I turned around when my younger sister, Claire, kicked my seat again. I gave her my fiercest glare. "Dammit, Claire, knock it off."
"But I have to pee, Abby," Claire whined, and it took everything I had not to smack her. Claire's voice was an ice pick straight through my skull. I'd been having these weird headaches all week, and today's was the worst one yet.
"Hold it."
"I can't," Claire moaned, sounding close to tears.
I sighed and gave in. "Come on, then."
I pushed open the door to the minimart. A door chime dinged somewhere in the back.
I scanned the store for the bathrooms. A handwritten sign proclaimed "Restrooms are for customers ONLY!" on a back wall by the soda coolers. I took a couple of steps before I looked down and put a hand on Claire's arm. Her nose scrunched up and I paused to lift her over the spreading pool of blood coming from the dead man lying in the chip aisle.
"Eww!" she exclaimed as I avoided the same puddle of blood. The metallic scent made my stomach sour and my headache pound in triple time. I attempted to blink away the pain as Claire tap danced in a circle, getting perilously close to the red mess.


  1. Great hook line and title :)

    You've got a nice voice as well. I do think you could tighten things up some in order to make it flow better, but nice job.

  2. I'm hooked. I loved your opening sentence....dandelion in a family of exotic flowers. It's an intriguing storyline and I like the title.

    I like your opening words as well. You hint that something is amiss, but don't spell it out in detail. Leaves me curious about what's going on.

    Love it!

    Good Luck!

  3. I agree with Claire: good first line.

    ...and I'm hooked by the second paragraph.

    Not sure I see Penn as being a high percentage of old people. Usually think of Florida for that...

    How old is Abby?

    But I am hooked by the query! On to the pages...

    And the pages hook me, too!

  4. I found the query a little long(and who is the Big D?) but interesting enough to keep reading.

    The first 250 words are definitely good.

  5. I'm hooked! Love the query, love the premise, great writing. I'd definitely read on. :)

  6. I'm hooked. Love the query and referring to Death as "the Big D" made me laugh. The first page upheld the expectations I got from the query. I definitely want to read more!

  7. Query:

    I like the family of Reapers premise... :]

    That said - wouldn't old people be more likely to die? So Abby would be a lot busier where old people live, and thus have more impact on the bottom line... uh. Right?

    Pennsylvania does have a lot of young people too... maybe zero in on a specific area where most of the people are really old. :P

    Another thing is some this make me wonder how old she is... her school problems 'nosy kid from school' are those you'd find in a MG book.

    Snippet - yes, hooked.

  8. I agree. Hooked. Great first line. And what a unique concept, too.

    I'd read more.

  9. This is the first I've read so far that really hooks me. Great concept and follow through.

    Your voice is really strong in the query, and you hooked me right away. I'd definitely read on.

  10. Hooked.
    Great first line, unique premise and fun voice. I agree that I'd like to have an age for Abby. The reason for going to PA gave me pause but I was intrigued enough to read the pages which I enjoyed.

  11. Yep, hooked. Loved your first 250. I was also confused about being sent somewhere where there are lots of old people who might die. Seems like a very unique storyline you've created.

  12. Very hooked and great voice! I think West Palm Beach has a higher percentage than Pennsylvania, but I could be wrong :)

    Good luck!

  13. I'm not a fan of long queries (but since I'm not an agent, that doesn't matter) but this one had me hooked from the beginning and kept me reading. And the 250 words had me wanting more. Love the concept. Great job!

  14. Going to join the love train. The query and the excerpt are both awesome. How soon can I read this book?

  15. Query = love. I think the third paragraph in the query could be whittled down a bit, but aside from that, all was good. Title's genius, too.

    Ditto whitneymiller. Love train all the way. This is genius. I'd buy it in an instant. I love the gruesome details that would freak out most "normal" kids but don't even phase Abby.

  16. Hooked!I assumed she only reanimated people who died before their time and that is why her power doesn't work on old people. Nice job.

  17. The query hooked me. Love that first line! The only thing I stumbled over was the description of Abby's mother. Fortunately the next paragraph offered a quick explanation.

    I like the voice in the partial. The only question I have is where is Abby's mother? If she's supposed to be reaping I assume her victim is the dead guy in the aisle. Do we soon learn why she wasn't in and out in her usual few minutes or is there a logistics problem?

    Good writing. I'd definitely want to read more.

  18. I didn't like the first paragraph. It was well written and everything, but I wasn't hooked until I read that Abby's powers are backwards. Then you called Death the Big D and I had to laugh.

    Read you 250 words. Not bad. I'd be interested in reading some more.

  19. I'm sorry to say this, but I was confused by the query. Also, is that a typo: "Abby's mother. well,"? I couldn't figure out how to read that. It sounded like her dad escaped the projects and her mother. But I think you're trying to introduce her mother. Anyway, just a small reworking could fix that. Is the "Big D" another name for Death? It might be good to call him the same thing throughout the query if he's an actual character.

    I like the premise, but I had to read too many sentences over again to make this a smooth read. The reanimated frog sentence also stopped me short and had me rereading. I think if you smooth it out a little, it'll be a great query.

    I hope this helps, and good luck!

  20. I was a bit ho-hum on the query at the very start, until you got to the bit about Abby's mother (which needs a punctuation fix but that's easy). I love that she rips souls from people and still makes the best cookies in town!

    The sample was good too. I'm hooked.

  21. The first line of the query is really awesome. Really. The rest of that paragraph is pretty cool, too, though there's a weird punctuation error in the mom's sentence.

    Watch out for saying the family is perfect...and then in the next paragraph saying they're not.

    Love Abby's problem, though I'm not sure why old people would be less of a problem for her. Can that be clarified?

    First paragraph of sample page...also good. It would make less sense if I hadn't read the query, I think, but that's not really a problem.

    Yes. I think I like this one quite a bit.

  22. Thanks everyone for the great feed back. To answer a few questions:

    Yes, PA has a huge percentage of people over the age of 65 (Florida is about 15%, PA is around 14%). It's mostly due to the lack of taxation on pensions and the huge state programs (all of the revenue from the lottery goes to the PA department of aging). My MC bemoans the fact that she could just as easily be sent to Florida in the MS.

    Abby's powers also don't work on anyone who's died of natural causes (ie old age). She can only bring back to life those who have died tragically, like a car accident or gunshot wound. This also plays heavily into the story, since she doesn't quite realize the limits of her abilities.

    Thanks for everyone for commenting, and to Jodi and Authoress for such a kick a$$ contest. You guys are teh awesome sauce!

  23. Oh, and the punctuation problem in the first's supposed to be an ellipsis. Apparently my email kung fu isn't working very well.