Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Women's Fiction Winner . . . and the Romantic Suspense Contest!

I don’t know why, but I’m still surprised when Jessica and I compare notes and find that we have very different picks. In the end, though, we were still able to come up with a definite winner and two runners-up. (For the record, the delay in this post was never due to a hung jury . . . but to travel schedules.)

I was really pleased with the entries in this category. There was a lot of great writing, but also attention to hooking the reader. I think that once we move out of the narrower genres, such as romance and mystery, writers sometimes think that it’s not as important to leave the reader in suspense. Truthfully, it’s always important to keep your audience hanging in some way. Withholding information keeps those pages turning. And from these entries, it seems like a lot of you understand that. We were impressed.

That said, let’s get to the winner. . . .

Anonymous 2:10 pm -- UNTITLED

I wasn’t sure at which point I’d be crossing that line I promised Daddy I never would. When I picked up the envelope of crisp hundred dollar bills off her desk? Or when I stuffed it in my pocket. Maybe when I walked out the door with it, onto my new life; when I was officially stealing Marcy’s dream and replacing it with mine.

I liked the heft of those forty bills in my hand. Brand new from the bank. I fanned them out like a poker hand. Daddy always liked new money. “It ain’t stealing, Noreen,” he’d tell me.

Jessica: When reading these women’s fiction entries I realized that what really grabbed my attention, besides writing and voice, of course, was potential. Where did this author leave me and what was the potential for this book? I liked this voice a lot and I definitely liked all that it left me wondering about. I’m anxious to know more about her relationship with her father, Marcy and her dream, and of course Noreen and where she’s headed. Well done and congratulations!

Kim: I just love the writing. Another example of very lean, efficient prose. On top of that we’re being introduced to a very intriguing character. Noreen is certainly flawed, but she also seems to come with a lot of baggage, which somehow makes her more sympathetic. She also clearly recognizes the gravity of her actions. She knows that she’s sacrificing her friend’s dream for her own. So what has led her to do something this desperate? I’m hooked!

Nice work, Anonymous! When you’re ready for us to critique your query letter, synopsis, and first chapter, please send them to us via the blog’s e-mail link.

On to the runners-up!
Anonymous 3:00 pm -- Lifeline

I decided I didn’t believe in lifelines when a palm reader in Tampa refused to read mine. She frowned and pushed my hand aside. “Too short,” she said, pushing my money back toward me. “I don’t deliver that kind of news.” I rolled my eyes and left.

But I reconsidered the possibility, looking down at my bloody body on the gurney, putting out a flat heart rate. “Damn,” said the tired young doctor. He sighed. “I’ll call it. Time of death, 4:20 pm.” I died on August 9th. 34 years old. I studied my palm. That is a short lifeline.

Jessica: Of course I like the paranormal element in this. I confess, I’ve always had a thing for dead people. Again, what a great setup, and there’s so much potential here for what’s going to happen next. Great voice too. As we all know, it’s all in the voice, and this book definitely has that. I really liked it.

Kim: I liked that this entry threw me for a loop. It’s not like I haven’t read books/submissions with dead narrators before. But I liked the way this one was introduced. Because the voice had a certain energy and angst in those first few sentences, it surprised me to learn he/she was no longer alive. The book could go anywhere from this point on, and I’d be eagerly turning the pages to find out what direction the author takes.

Shirley — With This Ring

Amy Kerrigan struggled to remain calm. One glance at her estranged husband made that almost impossible.

Although no longer the shy, insecure girl who came to Darkhaven as Brody’s bride, Amy feared the impending meeting. It lay over her head like the sword of Damocles.

Up ahead was Gaelen’s house, nestled in its grove of oaks.

The car turned into the avenue. The last leaves of autumn clung to the trees. Fallen leaves lay in mouldering heaps against the railings, and beneath the sod, bulbs waited for spring.

As did the malevolent secrets of Darkhaven.

Amy shivered, suddenly very afraid.

Jessica: This opening has a great gothic feel to it. I love the description, enough to give a really strong feeling for what Amy is seeing and experiencing, but not too much that it overtakes the story. And again, I love the potential for where this story might take me. Is it going to be creepy, emotional? What is going to happen with her and that house? Really, great voice and great setup.

Kim: Ummm . . . I think I’ve mentioned once or twice (or a hundred times) that I’m a sucker for gothics. This entry feels almost like an updated Rebecca. I would eat up any women’s fiction with that creepy, gothic feel, but that tackles bigger, more mature issues than just the suspense story. I’m hoping that since this entry is in women’s fiction instead of one of the romance categories that this is just where it’s leading!

Congratulations to the runners-up! Amazing work! We’ll be posting our honorable mentions tomorrow.

Now it’s time for our very last genre contest!


Here are the rules — READ THEM!
1. We’ll only accept entries that are posted in the comments section of this blog article. No e-mailed entries will be considered.

2. Include your title and the first 100 words of your book. Now, we’re not saying to leave us hanging mid-sentence here. Stop wherever the previous sentence ends, but do not exceed 100 words.

3. The same work cannot be entered in more than one genre. If you think your book straddles more than one genre, you’ll have to pick one. We will, however, accept multiple works from the same author in the same or different categories.

4. Once the material is entered, it’s your final entry. We won’t allow revised versions of the same work.

5. We’re accepting excerpts of both finished and unfinished works.

6. The deadline is tomorrow, April 11th, at 9:00 a.m. EST.

And in case you’ve forgotten, the prize is a critique of the query letter, synopsis, and first chapter of the winning entry! The winner will e-mail us the additional material and we’ll provide our notes privately, not on the blog. We will, however, discuss what we liked about each winning 100-word entry on the blog, and will pull out a few honorable mentions to highlight other excerpts that came close and why.

We’ll post the winners in a few days and then recap the entire contest!!