Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hook the Editor #1: CASTERS (YA Fantasy)

TITLE: Casters
GENRE: YA Fantasy

OCD techie Lissette is used to having magic at her fingertips—there’s an app for that. Her dad made it, and she excels at crafting digital spells. But all magic has a price. When a virus infects that magic technology, she must stop it before it spreads and kills everyone she loves. RENEGADES X THIS MORTAL COIL

Dad had his filthy shoes propped on my spotless coffee table again. Every day, I found him lounging on the couch with his laptop sitting on his knees and his feet crossed, mud dripping from his soles onto the mahogany surface. And every day, I yelled at him for it. At this point, he was probably doing it to annoy me.

I stormed across our studio apartment, rounded the sectional couch, and kicked his legs off the table as an after-work greeting.

He fumbled his laptop, nearly dropping it, as he regained his balance with a scowl. “What the hell? I’m working on something really important.”

I eyed the dozen or so empty beer cans surrounding his seat like Christmas presents around a tree. Important my ass.

“Not as important as cleaning your mess. I’m not helping you this time.” Rolling my shoulders and letting my frustration out in a puff of breath, I glanced down at the laptop as he set it aside. A few different windows were open, one with lines of code, another with the software we’d created to develop casts, but one was an email from—

He threw the screen down—way to be subtle, Dad—but then placed it on the clean side of the coffee table like it was a delicate antique. “Working out the bugs of another cast.”

A cast, huh? I was no stranger to coding casts, or rather, digital ‘spells’, and he’d usually ask for help if that’s all it was.


  1. Very nice start, though I have my doubts about a sectional couch fitting in a studio apartment. You set up this cross-generational relationship purely by showing, not telling us anything, and it works, really works.

    Until the last paragraph. Where you start explaining stuff. Showing works better than telling. Instead, what about a petulant "And you didn't ask for help? Cool. Debug it yourself, and I'll apply my synapses to something actually useful." The "cast" is beautifully ambiguous (though anyone reading the cover copy will know what it is - and remember, there's always cover copy!), and it's fun for the reader to be thrown a curve once in a while, so focused on the well drawn relationship that we're surprised later when we see him, say, show her the effect of the cast on a surprised subject.

  2. Great premise and a nice start, but I also want to know what the father's main job is if he has muddy boots. Coding is a hobby he does after work? Why are his boots still dripping mud if he's been home long enough to drink several beers? I'd also be more concerned about the carpet all around him with muddy boot prints than the more easy to clean table. But obviously I'm a bit of a neat freak if this is what's bothering me. :) It sounds like the makings of a great book regardless! :)

  3. A few things:
    -You have too much backstory in your first paragraph. I would expect one sentence at most in an excerpt of this length.
    -I can't see how it could be possible to have multiple windows open on a laptop where any (let alone 3) would be large enough for her to read. Even if they were, does she really have time to look at all 3 in the split second it takes him before he closes it? Also, he should close it, not throw it, especially if we are to believe he's treating it like it's valuable.
    -This doesn't really sound like fantasy. Even the blurb sounds more Sci-Fi. It's important to set the tone in the opening.
    -Your main character is coming off as completely unlikable and her emotions are too on point. You need to work on showing her emotions in a way that helps the reader see them without them being so obvious.
    -For your pitch, you should avoid using a mental health condition as an adjective. This is generally not acceptable anymore. People have mental health conditions. They are not defined by them.

    Good luck!

    1. Not the author, but I don't think your comment about the use of "OCD" is fair. This is a pitch with a limited word count. If you check out DVpit on October 28-29, you'll see the majority of pitches are phrased with language exactly like "OCD techie" because of the limited character count.

      When I've heard people complain about using mental health as an adjective, they generally mean saying things like "I'm depressed" when they just mean they had a bad day. I've read this book, and the main character does have OCD, and so does the author. The term was not used pejoratively.

  4. I find the character kind of unlikable and that dropped "email from - " just kind of irritated me. Like he could so easily distract her by a slammed laptop that she drops the thought. I was waiting for her mind to go back to who the email was from but that never happened.

    I like the pitch and I think this could be interesting but these opening lines don't feel like they are doing it justice!

  5. As someone who's battled OCD for most of my life, I'm pleased to see someone tackling our condition through a literary channel. I wish I could see more of what specific OCD she has in the first page, though I understand that can be an impossible task. I do also agree with Holly that this feels more like sci-fi than fantasy. Again, I'm only 250 words in, but there is something to be said about nailing the genre on page one.

    There's a strong snarky quality that makes her an unlikable narrator, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some agents are looking for that.

    This is also a small, weird thing. When I read first person, I like it when I see the MC's name within the first one or two pages. When I was reading this,I had forgotten her name was Lissette. I had to reread the pitch. Giving her name right away, either by description or dialog helps ground me more in her journey.

    Overall, it's a great premise with excellent voice. I'd read more if I could. :)

  6. Unlike previous commenters, I don't see the MC as unlikeable -- not that that should matter, as publishing is veering away from cookie cutter types -- I see her as stressed. The relationship with her Dad seems complicated at best and it's a dynamic I'd be interested in reading more of.

    It's always tricky with opening pages and you can't please them all, but this was my fave so far :)

  7. Because you included the tongue-in-cheek “there’s an app for that” in your pitch, I expected the tone of this first page to be playful and lighthearted. Instead, it opens on a much darker scene—an alcoholic father and his suffering daughter. Since your pitch is a reader’s very first introduction to your book, it’s important to make sure you’re priming them for the proper tone.

    This first page allocates too much attention to the father. I recommend you stick with your protagonist a little longer and give us insight into her inner workings before introducing us to secondary characters; we need to understand and empathize with her before we can really feel indignant or worried on her behalf.

    You offer striking imagery in the form of empty beer cans surrounding the chair like Christmas presents—nice! I recommend you build an atmosphere around this that draws the reader in, then delay the on-screen introduction to the father and let the way his addiction shapes his daughter’s world—visually and emotionally—speak for itself. Perhaps more gradually, and in narration rather than dialogue.

    Well done!