Friday, December 2, 2011

#59 YA Sci-Fi: Loop


When sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis botches a History midterm to the distant past, she inadvertently transports a boy home with her to the 23rd century. He claims he’s in love with her, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a pain in the arse. But after she discovers that a recent rash of time travel accidents are actually attacks, she might need her temporal tagalong’s help after all. And when those closest to Bree become the next victims, he may be the only person she can trust--her future self included.

Hitting the ground is the hardest part. Nine times out of ten, it’s dirt or gravel. But all it takes is that one time on concrete, or worse, asphalt, to send even the most experienced Shifter into a panic.

My feet slammed into cobblestone. Muskets cracked and echoed down the alley where I’d landed. Acrid gunpowder stung my nostrils, searing my throat as I fought back a cough and crouched down. The gunfire grew louder and louder, bouncing off both sides of the narrow passageway, so I couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from.

Where was I? Valley Freakin’ Forge?

If so, my dang transporter had missed the target by well over two centuries. Good grief. How hard was a 23rd to 21st Shift? Wyck must have set a new personal record. He would pay for this when I got back.

Puffs of fresh gunsmoke clouded the already dim alley. Pull yourself together, woman. I slipped behind a barrel and pulled out my QuantCom. A Virginia address and instructions popped up. “Bree Bennis, pre-Tricentennial midterm. Deposit package contents on Muffy van Sloot’s grave with following message: ‘There’s no time like the past.’”

So help me, I thought, if this is for a dead cat, heads will roll.

Dr. Quigley could flunk me for all I cared. Okay, that wasn’t even a teensy bit true. I needed an A on this test in a craptastic way. Still, I wasn’t taking a musket ball to the head for anyone.


  1. YAY time travel novels!!!

    You have a wonderful voice in the logline, and just the idea behind the book brings up ideas about our future and past selves, and how much in life is certain.

    Great first line. Just awesome.

    I really love how much info you weave into the first page here - she's experienced at this, she has equipment, and she's part of a team.

    Hilarious last line, and great character building on that one as well! This rules.

    So SO much luck to you!

  2. This is one of my top three favorites. Your last line is so great. Go, go, go!

  3. Great job!

    Love this line. "So help me, I thought, if this is for a dead cat, heads will roll."

    Great voice, I already love Bree. This reminds me a little of Quantum Leap (I loved that show). YA version of it though. I want to read this book! Good luck!

  4. You had me at time travel. I agree with everyone else. Great voice, great action. Can't think of any constructive advice. Great job!

    Good luck.

  5. I love the voice in this. And that last line really makes me want to read on to find out what happens. Awesome.

    Good luck!

  6. Love this!

    My favorite bit is, "He claims he’s in love with her, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a pain in the arse."

    You lay out the stakes clearly, and with intriguing details.

    Love your entry's opening line (pulls us right in), and last line (shows us a lot about her character).

    Three things gave me pause...With the opening spending so much time on concern about hard landings, you stop after saying her feet slammed into the cobblestone. Maybe a followup sentence on how, "yep, it hurt just as bad as she expected." And she might crounch down on numbed feet/ankles. And, she would probably pull herself / crawl behind a barrel than "slip," if she is still in a lot of pain.

    Second, "Wyck must have set a new personal record." is left dangling out there. A record for shoddy work, dereliction of duties, neglegence, malice? Give just a few more words here.

    Lastly, "Pull yourself together, woman." I wouldn't think of a 16-year old referring to / thinking of herself in terms of "woman." What about "girl" or "Bree" or "durnit"?

    I loved the message on her QuantCom, and the dead cat reference...this really injects intrigue and humor so succinctly.

    Well done! If I were an agent, I'd be all over this.

  7. I totally remember this from a previous event. Love the voice, and love the premise. I really want to read on :D

  8. I completely agree with everyone regarding voice. Wow, what a firecracker. My only problem is the "good grief" comment. That, at least to me, can only be attributed to Charlie Brown. It's too famous a catch-phrase, you know?

  9. I'm not usually into time travel, but the voice here is fab, and I'd keep reading. The first paragraph is excellent, and I really feel her disorientation as she tries to get her bearings in paragraph 2.

  10. Your logline has me drooling! I would so read this! And I love the voice, the concept, and the name Muffy van Sloot. Ha! Nice!!

  11. This sounds fun! I think you could tighten your logline a little, but the premise is awesome. Great voice. For me, time travel novels are hit or miss, but this one seems like it would work. Good luck!

  12. I love time travel, and I love this! Bree Bennis is a great name for a character.

    As other have said, this has voice in spades.

    Only two things made me quibble. How does she know the sound is from a musket, initially? I might start with gunfire, then the smell of gunpowder, and then the musket realization.

    I also found it interesting that she, a 16-year-old, addressed herself as "woman," rather than Bree (as in "Pull yourself together, Bree.")

    Favorite line: "So help me, I thought, if this is for a dead cat, heads will roll."

    By and large, a great job. Good luck!

  13. Wow. I'm biting on this one, hook, line and sinker. Fantastic voice, and great job getting the back story/necessary information in between the lines.

    Best example of that - the Quantcom telling us this is her midterm. Everything before it fell right into place at that point.

    The opening paragraph is really nice, and strong, and lets us into this character's mind - and I like the sense of humor that's already showing through also.

    My least favorite line was "Valley Freakin' Forge" because "Freakin'" felt too "2011" to me. Slang changes rapidly, and it seemed weird that she would use present-day slang if she's from the future. Any word could serve as the expletive there, so you might want to consider finding something else. That said, that's a nitpick on an otherwise really, really interesting piece.

    I would buy this if this sample had come to my Kindle, and I'm not easy to get to that point this fast.

  14. Love the premise, like the voice..but the hitting the ground thing reminded me a lot of the Time Traveller's Wife.

  15. It may just be me (and, since no one else has mentioned it, it probably is), but I'm confused by the beginning of the logline. How is a boy from the distant past in love with a future version of Bree? I can guess that her future self has time traveled there? But I'd love to know and not have to guess. It tripped me up.

    That being said, I love the voice, and agree with other commenters about the sample. :)

    Good luck!

  16. Pretty much seconding what others have said, but I do have a few notes you can take or leave.

    I felt the logline had just a *touch* too much going on, so I felt a little bogged down by the time I got to the great punch of "her future self included."

    I also stumbled when I hit the second paragraph. Since the first was in present tense, my mind was locked in for a present-tense narrative, so the "slammed" ... er, slammed me. Maybe I'm just oversensitive to that.

    The use of slang, and even the euphemism "heads will roll" is tricky. You want it to have that teen feel—it's part of the voice you've established. Since she's from the future, the language seems oddly dated, yet since she's a time traveler, maybe she's picked up some "olde-timey" talk. If the latter, mixing it up with slang that's outdated *now* and made-up slang that could be from the future might work ... or it might be overly complicated.

    I'm just rambling at this point. :) Good luck!

    Fellow Spec-Fic Writer Who Agonizes Over What Words Will Still Be Used in the Future

  17. I like the voice, and I like the concept, but the excerpt leaves me with a lot of technical questions that make me wonder about the mechanics of this world.

    1. What's a teenager doing going back in time unsupervised? From the excerpt it seems like she's pretty experienced at this, which makes it that much harder for me to suspend my disbelief. Kids can't even get a license now without something like 100 hours behind the wheel. How much time-travel has she logged, and why is she doing it so young?

    2. It seems like one of the principle rules of time travel is that the traveler should refrain from doing anything that could change the future. There's all sorts of clever ways to handle this, and I'm sure you've got one - but as soon as I see a line about a character leaving a note on a grave, it seems to me that there's going to be consequences that will be noticeable.

    3. If this is a midterm, how's it going to be graded? What's to keep her from simply transporting back and saying she finished the assignment?

    Questions are good in that you've definitely interested me enough to make me want to know more, but too many throw me out of the story.

    Good luck!

  18. (I'm prefacing this with the warning that I think I may be more of a stickler for worldbuilding than YA SF would demand.)

    I actually bounced off the beginning of this, but I'm not particularly pun-inclined. Taking "hardest" to mean "most difficult" made me wonder why the initial landing would be so -- there have got to be a million harder things about time travel.

    The analysis of different materials also struck me as strange. I assume that asphalt leads to panic because of the potential of being on a street with cars, but if a Shifter's experienced, then wouldn't she just know to get off the street ASAP without unnecessary panic? They must have some sort of basic precautionary training...

    As everyone has said, you've got a narrator with a very distinct voice. The thing is that it strikes me as extraordinarily modern-day, to the point where it doesn't really seem futuristic. Language changes; I'm not sure "freakin'" and "dang" would be the words of choice. Even "heads will roll" could be substituted with a less archaic-hailing punishment.

    Agreed with being taken about with her self-reference as "woman."

  19. I agree with Gail: this is one of my favorites! I love the concept, the logline clearly states both the stakes and conflict, and the voice is just amazing. I'd put up with a whole lot of mistakes for a fun voice, and I couldn't even find anything in this to nit-pick. Good luck! :D

  20. I really love this. It kept me reading from line one. It was quirky and funny and I so wanna read more. Great job.

  21. My favorite of all the entries. Funny, well-written, and time-traveling...who could ask for more? I will be buying your novel when it hits the shelves! Good luck! I'll be rooting for you from my computer screen!

  22. Great voice. Action packed opening. Would definitely keep reading.

  23. The logline was a *wee* bit overly complicated for me, but you totally hooked me with the first page. Great job!

    Good Luck!!

  24. The fact that the history midterm was a time-travelling test threw me. I kept trying to mentally reword the sentence so that she botched a normal pen and paper exam by travelling to the distant past. However, since no-one else seemed to have this problem I think it's safe to assume it's my problem and not yours! The rest of the logline was fine, an interesting twist on accidentally bringing someone along during time travel.

    The excerpt was fantastic: the in media res start, the sensory details, and instant conflict (holy crap, is she going to get shot? How's she going to explain her sudden appearance?). Also love the voice. The 'pull yourself together, woman' bit made me smile.

  25. My only issue is the title - which means nothing in the grand scheme - but I don't see how it ties in with the logline? It's also not very interesting, and your excerpt is waaay interesting (love it!). Just my thoughts on this excellent entry.

  26. I loved this. Loved it. I'm sure you will get some tasty bids for sure!

    I'm thinking the boy that's in love with Bree's future self means that she must go on to do something that makes her famous? Otherwise, I'm lost on that point. You might want to clarify.

    This is such a great example of how to start in the middle of the action. So many stories that begin that way focus too much on the action itself, neglecting character development and stakes. But you've done all that beautifully here. You've completely hooked me and I'm usually not a reader of this genre. Looking forward to reading this in print.

    Best of luck!

  27. I totally remember this from Writeoncon and the only thing I don't like about it is that its presence here means you haven't found an agent yet. Hopefully that's about to change!

    Honestly, I love this premise and your voice - the ONLY suggestion I might make is if anything, dial your voice down just the TINIEST bit. It leaps off the page, and abounds with awesomeness, and I almost wonder if in larger doses (ie partials or a full manuscript) if its maybe a little overwhelming. If that makes sense? I dunno. Its hard to critique awesomeness.

  28. I would certainly want to read this. I've attempted my own hand at writing time-travel, but I haven't been able to get that type of writing to work for me. The log-line and exceprt together certainly make me want to read more.

    My two cents: Typically central characters of YA are in their teens, maybe 20. I'm over the 20-mark, and I still don't call myself 'woman'. Usually, I don't refer to myself by any pronoun, so it sounds a bit odd knowing that she's young.

    Also, perhaps change the word craptastic - perhaps compaire her needing to pass the test to something that is more relatable to audiences of all ages - like needing to breathe or something.

    Overall, I think that this is very good, and I would like to read futher.

  29. Fantastic opening paragraph. Perfect and I'm hooked just like that.

    This is really nice writing and I love her annoyance at missing the target by a few centuries. Very cool! I'm surprised that Wyck is in control of that, though, if this is her History midterm, but I love that her midterm involves actually going back in time.

    The logline confuses me a little. So he's in love with a future her that has visited him before? That sounds reminiscent of Hourglass. Has he met her twice then? Does he recognize her on her first trip to the past? Sometimes time travel hurts my head. I overthink it.

    Loved the dead cat line, but would teens in the 23rd century still be using craptastic? I don't think the slang adds anything here. Same with the "Pull yourself together, woman." It didn't seem to have the same tone as everything else. (I assume it was meant to be in italics?)

    Love this and would read more.

  30. I've had the opportunity to read a bit more of this than the 250, and I'm so excited to see it here! This may be a 'time travel' book, but it's def fresh and unique.

    Best of luck in the auction today!


  32. Ah!! Who wins?? Same exact timestamp!

    (I win for asking this question, right?)

  33. LOL You win because you showed up first in the comment box!

  34. I maintain that as a "tie breaker," I WIN! ;)

    Congrats, Sarah!

  35. Congrats to the Author!

  36. #59 LOOP

    Logline: The phrase “a History midterm to the distant past” was quite confusing to me. Is the test really about History, or about time travel? Maybe the concept is clear in the manuscript, but not quite here. I’m intrigued with the layers I can see are going to be at play here – the future version of Bree that she doesn’t know but the boy from the past does… could be lovely.

    Line notes: The slanginess (see “craptastic”and “Valley Freakin’ Forge”) in this sample just isn’t working for me. I feel like a girl from the 23rd Century would sound different than a girl of the early 21st. And especially when the setting is potentially the 19th Century, it feels even more out of place, in my view.

    Overall: The sample here isn’t quite clicking for me, though I have high hopes for the concept. For example, “Where was I?” isn’t really the question in para 3 – shouldn’t it be WHEN was I? I hope the world’s realities are pervasive in the character’s awareness, voice, etc. I’d keep reading in hopes of finding the moment where it comes together.

    Best of success.