Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Paranormal Romance/Fantasy Honorable Mentions

So, once again Jessica and I proved that we have very different tastes. We’re hoping that by posting these entries and detailing what we liked about them, we’re not only giving these authors the recognition they deserve but also providing some insight into whether we might be the right target for your own work.


I think it’s hilarious that so far Kim and I are two for two when it comes to picking a winner. In each contest so far we’ve picked our five top choices and only one was a match—we dug deeper into our favorites for the runner-up.

So here are my honorable mentions. I think you’ll see that I tend to gravitate toward a darker voice and more suspense, but of course there is always a surprise in there. I don’t like to be too predictable. Oh, and by the way, these are in no particular order, except, well, the order you submitted them. . . .

Aj -- Wings of Desire

(Fantasy with Romantic Elements)

Lorelei froze when she saw the envelope on the mantel.

She’d known it was coming, despite her denials; foretold by a prickling restlessness, an itch in her joints, a preoccupation with sex – and a premonition of flight. Though something rose joyfully within her bones at the thought of flying, she remained torn.

The invitation that must not be refused had arrived. She would have to decide.

She fingered it thoughtfully, unsurprised to see it had been opened. Although it concerned her fate this summons bore her mother’s name, not her own.

Dragons were not only traditional, but matriarchal.

I like this setup a lot. It’s dark, but yet has a touch of humor. I like that she had the premonition that this horrible letter was coming and I really like that she’s a dragon. That grabbed my attention, but I also want to know more about this letter. I want to know what’s in it and what’s going to happen next and that’s certainly key.

Harris Channing -- Witchy Woman (Paranormal Romance)

The mat read, "Welcome". Unfortunately, nothing else about the house offered a cheerful greeting. Peeling paint, pollen tinted windows and the musty smell of rotten wood spoke of aged neglect.

With tentative fingers, Stella Campbell grasped the tarnished brass doorknob to her aunt's house. Thirteen years ago, she had fled through this door, vowing that she'd never return. Thirteen years had passed, the memory of that horrible night still haunting her every waking moment. Thirteen years had slipped away since her aunt held her down and sacrificed her virginity to a demon.

Wow! I thought this was so powerful. And so very creepy. I have a feeling that this is one of those times when the last line, the aunt holding her down to sacrifice her virginity, could backfire on you. Don’t change it, though. It’s one of those things that just might catch the wrong agent the wrong way. It’s great, though. It’s intriguing, it’s dark and, like I said, it’s very powerful. It leaves me dying to know more about Stella and what brought her back. I love the atmosphere you’ve created and your setting. Terrific work.

Anonymous 12:11 pm -- Hex Appeal (paranormal romance)

As far as Sara Wardwell was concerned, J.K. Rowling could bite her.

Harry Potter wannabes hadn't annoyed her until four months ago, when her assignments from the Witches Council had directed her to start tracking teenagers with no sense of self-preservation. If she had to run in one more hormonal teen for dabbling with dangerous magic or performing an illegal spell, she might sell off what little she owned and move to Mexico.

She stood under the limbs of a tree darkened by moon-cast shadows and watched five hooded teenagers, their black robes swaying in a faint onshore breeze.

Obviously this has a very, very different voice from the previous two entries, but I liked it. Of course the fact that J. K. Rowling could bite her might have everything to do with it. Who didn’t laugh out loud at that comment? I thought this was funny and it left me wanting to know more about Sara’s anger toward Harry Potter.

Chessie -- Chains of Honor

“Damn it, Hatch! This is war. If you can’t handle it, get your ass back to the transport.” Cyani slammed her back against the tunnel wall as the shattering explosion of a K-bomb shook the ground. Fine pebbles and dust crumbled over her head, illuminating the laser sights streaming from her team’s eyepieces. She scanned her men to see if any of them were beginning to panic. They couldn’t lose focus.

“I’m fine, Captain,” Hatch shouted back. He cringed as another blast rumbled in the distance. “Don’t like tight spaces is all.”

Earthlen, they could be so damn unpredictable.

My enjoyment of these 100 words might have everything to do with my earlier stated love of things like task forces and special teams or units, but I liked this. I thought it had a great dry humor to it. You also do a really good job of setting the stage and weaving in that this is not your typical military mission. The use of the word "Earthlen" is really what pushes it over the edge. It shows in one simple word that this is something different. Good work.


Anonymous 11:00 am -- Gargoyle Alliance

Death didn’t improve the looks of a gargoyle. Or the smell.

Lyana wrinkled her nose as she scanned the scattered remains of at least three of the creatures. There didn’t seem to be any live ones nearby.

Davios gave a protesting whine. I’ve been in swamps that smelled better. His complaint rang in her head.

Sorry. Lyana choked back a surge of nausea, breathing through her mouth. It must be worse for you. Your nose is more sensitive than mine.

But you’re closer. Happy to leave this one to you, boss.

I realized after I picked this entry that I made some assumptions about it that could very well be off the mark. When I first read the scene, I got the impression that Lyana was some type of investigator or forensic specialist in the supernatural. Reading back over it again, I see that that’s not necessarily the case. But what I like about the excerpt is the image of these dead otherworldly creatures. (What can I say? I’m morbid.) It reads like a supernatural crime scene. I like that Lyana has some sort of mysterious, magical partner that communicates by thought. And since this world seems so familiar to Lyana, I’m interested to find out if she is magical too.

Anonymous 11:14 am -- Untitled

When I was younger, I used to think our next door neighbor--bent, gray, cackling Miss Ravenwhistle--was a witch. It wasn't until I caught her dousing our doorstep in holy water that I realized she thought my mother was one. I even asked my mother about it once, when I was about ten. She laughed. I laughed. But she didn't say yes or no.

Like all the women in our family, uncanny luck follows Mama wherever she goes. But luck takes two forms: good and bad.

Today, we fought against the bad.

I liked the surprising turn this entry took in the second sentence. I’m thinking, “okay, yeah, the old lady next door is a witch.” Then it turns out that the mother may be the real witch. I also like the interesting mother-daughter dynamic this sets up. A suspicious daughter. A secretive mother. And finally, we’re left with that great feeling of suspense. What’s the bad luck? I’d definitely keep turning the pages to find out!

Laura — Untitled or A Comedy of Witches

The Committee of the Disaffected met every week for personal growth and enlightenment. This usually involved tequila and always involved a debate.

Tonight’s featured discussion was the yoga class they had decided to take together at the town rec center. When they soon found themselves in the emergency room in hopes of having Diana extricated from a difficult Astravakransana pose, The Committee of the Disaffected knew it was time to implement plan C.

After an infinite number of med students and an adequate supply of muscle relaxants were employed to rescue the woman from her predicament, they retired to a nearby restaurant to discuss their options.

I liked the light tone of this entry. The voice is terrific and I feel like it holds the promise of a lot of great, quirky characters. I think what drew me to this excerpt is that it feels that it’s more about the relationships between these women. It reads like the beginning of a witchy women’s fiction, and I find that extremely intriguing.

Alex Adams — Family Ghouls

William Jollybanks was dead. I knew this because he was walking up Main Street, frank 'n' beans dangling out through the slit in his pajamas. They were the same blue-and-white checked bottoms he was wearing last month when a silver BMW crushed him.

That had ended badly for everyone involved. Missy Caper ended up with a broken nose and a busted bumper, and William was chopped in two. His walker had done zip to protect him.

Yeah, William definitely got the worst deal. And Missy? She got a new nose which made her pretty damn happy, from what I hear.

I just loved the voice of this entry. It’s funny and very conversational. Part of the charm is that we’re immediately introduced to a ghost, but we don’t dwell on the apparition or go on to descriptions of him in infinite detail. (I mean, do we want to see any more after we’ve seen the “frank ‘n’ beans” anyway?) Instead, the narrator goes on to tell us what happened to the other victims in the crash and about Missy’s nose job. I can see from the first 100 words that this manuscript promises a good laugh.

That wraps up the paranormal/fantasy category. Thanks to all who participated and congratulations to the honorable mentions!


Rebekah said...

W00t, next contest! Nothing else to say--getting to grin before going to bed after a Monday is priceless.

Aimless Writer said...

Love the way you sum up the entries. Gives us great insight into what will grab you.

Chessie said...

Thanks for the nod, Jessica. It means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

"Though something rose joyfully within her bones..."

(from the first entry)

I'm sorry but this just...sucks. It's really bad writing, in my opinion.


Sindee Sexton said...

Congrats to my gal, Harris Channing for getting Honorable Mention.

I'm just curious how AJ came up with the title "Wings of Desire"


RT said...

What interests me about this is the importance of individual taste. For what it is worth, here's the list of openings that I'd be willing to keep reading. Only three were also chosen by the BookEnds Agents. Interesting.

Seventh Son
*"Cackling Miss Ravenwhistle"
*Hex Appeal
*Out of the Shade
Papa Legba and Sabbath Queen
Somebody tell Aunt Tillie she's dead
Dreams in the Dragon House
Deadly Temptation
Chronicles of Laura

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or are agents and publishers going to overflood the market with dragon based paras?

I have nothing against them, but in the writing world of, let's have something new, it seems to get old kinda fast.

I'd love to know if bookends thinks this is the new trend?

Angie Fox said...

I have to say this was my favorite contest so far. There were some fantastic entries and, heck, I just love paranormals. And yay to my critique partner, Chessie, for making Jessica's short list.

The rest of Chessie's story is just as gripping as the first 100 words. It's just a matter of time, girl!

Kim Lenox said...

These were all excellent! Lots of talent.

Marianne Harden said...

Congrats to the winner, first runner up and all the honorable mentions

(a private nod to my pal, Harris Channing. Happy to still be in your corner, my friend.)

Everyone is writing such wonderful prose, putting their work out there, and taking a chance.

I've enjoyed reading the work, the competition, and the insight gained.

Thank you, Kim and Jessica

DeadlyAccurate said...

I liked Hex Appeal and Anon 11:14's entries, but my favorite was Family Ghouls. Great voice.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the chosen authors!

I thought May Day! was the best, personally -- though I did have Dragon Born in second place.


Chessie said...

There were a ton of entries in this one, and there were so many that had such strong gripping openings.

This was probably the stiffest competition in a writing challenge I have ever seen.

To everyone who entered, there were so many gems out there. Paranormal writers rock!

MRasey said...

I have to agree with previous posters, I was really impressed with the caliber and quality of writing overall.

I remember back in the good ol' days when Miss Snark did this kind of stuff and most of the entries would make me cringe. The online writing community has been paying attention and it shows. Bravo to everyone!

PS. I too am wondering based on the winners if dragons are the next hot thing to flood the market.

Renee said...

Congrats Harris for making the short list.

Chessie said...

Dragons have already entered the market in a big way. They seem to be the shape-shifter du jour at the moment.

Cindy Procter-King said...

LOL, I loved A COMEDY OF WITCHES and FAMILY GHOULS. I always enjoy a humorous voice, and those two nailed it for me.

Karen McCullough said...

Kim -- I'm the author of GARGOYLE ALLIANCE. Thank you for choosing my entry as one of your honorable mentions.

I wanted you to know that you read the entry exactly right. Lyana is a witch with a specific sort of power that makes her an effective supernatural investigator, and she is looking over a crime scene.

Harris Channing said...


Thank you so much for listing WITCHY WOMAN as an honorable mention. I appreciate the nod, it's come at a wonderful time!


Wordsmith said...

Wow. I LOVE this contest. So many amazingly good entries. As a reader, if I was browsing a bookstore, I would have to buy a large percentage of these books, from the opening paragraph alone. I really hope they go on to be represented by someone, so that I can get to read them some day. And thank you RT, for saying that Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead was one of your picks.

Anchored Away said...

Wow! When I saw the amazing entries, I honestly didn't think mine had a chance. Thank you, Jessica, for the awesome praise for Hex Appeal.

Diane said...

Good morning everyone. I'm Diane.

Thank you Jessica and Kim the opportunity, your vote and comments for Out of the Shade it means so much to me.

Congratulations to Shannon and to all the honorable mentions also! I completely enjoyed reading all the entries. Keep up the good work everyone!


Anonymous said...

All I can say is wow! There are some very strong and talented writers out there. These entries are very good.
I'm preparing my 100 words and I'm wondering, can we submit more than one entry in one catagory? I have two that are in the same catagory.
Vicki L.

Laura said...

Thanks for the "honorable" Kim, it was an honor. It's good to know that the tone of the book came over in just the first 100 words. I truly appreciate the feedback.