Monday, January 3, 2011

I'll Show You Mine!

First off... NEWS: I met my 2010 goals, albeit about 16 hours late with the book... I had more last minute changes than I thought and when I talked to my agent, she said New Year's Eve was hardly a day they were going to be picky about. She sent a message and we agreed I'd have it there before business Monday, though in actuality, I got it in at about 4:00 Saturday afternoon. I'm glad I talked to her, as I probably would have met the deadline but missed some of the things that make it smoother. And I learned an important lesson... EDITING IS NEVER DONE! *rolls eyes* I wish there was a point at which you think 'man that's good' and everyone would just agree (and by everyone, I mean... everyone... I'm not asking for kiss-ass help... I wish the READERS would all see it as fabulous at that point, TOO.)

Now... On to the BLOGFEST!

Okay, so normally I don't do writing blogfests, mostly because I don't READ appropriately to evaluate writing via blog—I don't feel like I do the task justice, so I just opt out. But I really couldn't resist the innuendo on this one... it's too good. PLUS, being me... I sort of altered WHAT I'd be showing.

This is about sharing our NaNoWriMo, and on THAT part, I am in... but instead of a scene, I decided this would push me to get my first draft of my PITCH in order. I'm sharing TWO pitches, from both of my last two WriMos... the first, because that is the spirit of the blogfest (sharing our most recent NaNoWriMo) and the 2nd because I need a PITCH for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (and it was my JUNE WriMo) (more on ABNA tomorrow)

These are both rough, first drafts... The Player Down one isn't even all that URGENT (more a teaser) but I would LOVE help spotting strengths and weaknesses in the Kahlotus one.

Player Down

Zachary Grodin seems to have everything going for him. His grades are good. He has a string of girls wanting to date him. He is a star basketball player and a talent scout is on his way to watch him play, promising a scholarship offer. Unfortunately, Zach also has manipulated, used and mistreated one too many people.

Callie Vaughn has been drifting since she got to high school. Her classes took a more academic track than her friends from middle school, and the gossipy, boy crazy scene is just not her thing. She has maintained a close friendship however, with Paige Flannery, a girl who moved in with her boyfriend at sixteen to avoid her mom's drug-infused life. The two girls have lunch together in the woods off campus daily, and one day see something suspicious through the trees. When they investigate after school they find a foot buried in dirt and leaves, which cause the police to unearth the body of Zach Grodin.

When the school counselor is accused, Callie and Paige begin to look into some clues they think the police may overlook, finding Zach had a lot more enemies than anybody would admit and his crimes ranged from sexual pressure, rumor starting, and blackmail, to a much darker secret that threatens to expose not only other athletes, but several important adults.

When the counselor is found dead and Paige is accused of the murders however, Callie is led on a wild goose chase, and she has to wonder whether she has put her faith in the right boy.

Kahlotus Disposal Site

In the high desert of Eastern Washington, miles from anything other than a few farms, grain silos and a small cluster of modest houses, sits the Eastern Washington Hospital for the Mentally Retarded and Insane. The doors to the hospital have been officially closed since 1953 when the suicide of a resident spurred an investigation and found serious abuses in care.

Helen has been alone since then, in the abandoned institution that caused her such pain, but thankfully, her death ended the seizures and the death of the hospital ended the screams. There is other sadness, but she believes the worst is over.

When the notice is nailed to the heavy front door Helen is shocked to realize she's been dead sixty years. When trucks and workmen show up several days later; however, she realizes her death is going to change drastically. The damaged young people assigned to the Kahlotus Project have not entirely bought into the idea of a reform school. They bring with them tragic pasts, mental illness, and a vast deficiency in coping skills. They posture for dominance, manipulate each other, and, when official backs are turned, cause each other, and themselves, harm. Helen can't work out what to make of these people, but is drawn to them like a circus show.

Only a handful of the new residents can see Helen, and in the case of a schizophrenic girl, she is taken as evidence of psychosis. But the girl who really touches her is the one who seems just as surprised as Helen to be seen. Serena has spent her life alternately trying to be invisible and to be seen, always visible to those who would hurt her, unseen by the rest, unbelieved by those who should help. Perhaps this unlikely friendship can heal more hearts than just their own.

Okay!  I would ADORE constructive criticism here!

And the list of other particiapants is in the sidebar here!


Boonie S said...

Good luck with the book. And you've got an agent? Wow.

All the best, Boonie

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Catching those little things is more important than the deadline!

Old Kitty said...

The first one read like a very adult Nancy Drew mystery!! It certainly has a fiendish plot and a fabulous intriguing murder mystery and certainly a complex personal situation for the protagonist!! I'm not too keen on the police force overlooking clues so young person may prove them wrong and find the murderer type but that's just me!

Kahlotus- wow!! Now that's what I call supernatural with a heart! It's very sad and I envision a lot of character driven scenarios - poor Helen and Serena!! I do like that these two characters find each other and begin their own healing process. How is the question!!
This also reminds me of Toni Morrison's Beloved. I'd be most intrigued to see how you handle Helen's voice.

GOOD LUCK!!!!!! Thanks for sharing! Take care

Hart Johnson said...

Boonie-thank you! And yes--I do have an agent--currently just for the Cozy Mystery Contract--I've been trying to get something polished enough that I feel it is worthy of showing her so maybe she will represent me more broadly.

Alex-yeah--I just didn't know legal ramifications... You KNOW how I distrust rules!

Jenny--thank you so much! My revision on Kahlotus has found several points of 'tell not show' but I think several of my characters are pretty good. I probably need to screen Helen more carefully, as she was only supposed to be 14 when she died, so she is probably just a bit more mature than she ought to be at the moment. She's pretty intimidated with how different things are, though... that part is fun.

Carol Kilgore said...

I love the premise for Kahlotus. Perhaps touch a little more on plot here. You've given us a great concept, shown us what promise to be fantastic characters, but we don't really know anything about what will happen in the story.

Helen Ginger said...

Both stories sound really interesting.

When you look at what you've written and say, this is finally ready, that's the time to put it aside for atleast a week or two, then re-read.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Congrats on getting your book sent in!

Great stories for both manuscripts. Just glancing over Kahlotus, I'd suggest maybe leaving out the last sentence on the 3rd paragraph. I think the set up for conflict in the story is clear, but it's less clear what part the main character plays in it...maybe end the pitch with more of a teaser on the conflict (and the dire consequences if her efforts fail...I'm not familiar with the story, but something like will Serena be able to _____ with Helen's help, or will Serena ______at the hands of the other residents?)

Jan Morrison said...

These are great, Tartlette! I am especially drawn to the second one - there is something about novels set in institutions that I like. Hmm...constructive. goes:

On 'Player Down' I wouldn't start my pitch with the dead guy. I would start with Callie as she is who you want the reader to bond too. It's a mother duck thing if you get me. As well, I'm not sure I get the last line - who is the 'right guy' she's been backing?

Kahlotus Disposal Site - I like this prettty much the way it is. I might move the second paragraph to the first place for the same reasons as my last comment.
Way to go! This is thrilling.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I'm torn. I read the first one and I loved it, then I read the second one - loved it. They both have great premises.

Hart Johnson said...

Carol-HA! You are totally right... I have trouble summarizing plot, but I NEED TO!!!

Helen-I think you're right there. I am just at first rewrite on the books, so my ABNA won't get that time, but I plan on doing exactly that before I query!

Elizabeth, excellent suggestions! I am going to copy those down!

Jan, thank you so much! Love the mother duck analogy! Very helpful!

Thank you, Holly!

TreeX said...

There's a typo in the mystery one; 'here' for 'her'. :)

Also, I think you have to keep in mind that the ghost isn't 14; she was 14 when she died, but 60 years on she's now 74! Unless you think you stop maturing as soon as you physically stop ageing (for instance because you're dead); I think 60 years alone will have a rather profound effect, whether you're dead or undead :)

Katie Mills said...

wow, I really liked both premises. The first one would be something I would read because it sounds adventure packed, suspense filled with a romantic kick.
The second one sounds downright spooky but with an emotional twist. Great job here!

Colene Murphy said...

Both nice! I love the eerie ghost type one. Great job! Congrats on meeting your deadline!

Cold As Heaven said...

I liked the second, since I've always been attracted to the insane. Maybe I'm one of them (but not retarded, I hope).

I don't feel like I'm in the position to criticize; your writing is a better than mine. Good job >:)

Cold As Heaven

Helena said...

I am TERRIBLE at writing good pitches, so of course I admire you for bravely entering ABNA once more (I got shot out last year on the pitch level). Both stories really impressed me, especially the Kahlotus one. A couple other commenters here offer better suggestions than I could.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i don't really know jack all about pitches but i can tell you right now that i want to read Kahlotus. I would also read Player Down, but if i had both on my TBR pile, i'd read Kahlotus first

The Golden Eagle said...

I loved reading your blogfest entry! Kahlotus sounds like an amazing story.

Hart Johnson said...

Joris-thank you for the typo catch! and good point--she has been ALONE for 60 years, so no social growth, but LOTS of pondering time...

Katie and Colene-Thank you!

CaH--same as me, then... sort of...though I hope to avoid diagnosables...

Helena-that is where I got tossed last year, too, but I wasn't brave enough to get much help--not making that mistake this year!

Sarah-thank you! yeah... I think Kahlotus is more provocative, too--though also harder to get just right...

Golden Eagle, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Great job. Kahlotus intrigues me!

Deb and Barbara said...

I have finally started my extensive re-write of my ms, so I am pondering entering it into ABNA and/or querying. So I may yet show you mine!

As for feedback: I think these are both really strong stories, catchy themes and through-lines. The advice I would offer up is the same for both -- to carry us along more thoroughly, I would re-work some of the order of reveals. ie: let us know that Zach disappears (or something) before the dead body appears. With the kah...Project (!) -- so great btw -- I would try a different order of revelations for reader-clarity (so we're not too confused by the unusual circumstances). That said, the story beats are all super-strong.

I think you rock, Hart! B
The Middle Ages

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Congratulations on meeting your 2010 goals!

I liked the premise for both books and your pitches make me want to read them.

With “Player Down” I just had a problem with the last sentence since a boy is not mentioned with Callie before.

With “Kahlotus Disposal Site” the sentence, “The doors to the hospital have been officially closed since 1953 when the suicide of a resident spurred an investigation and found serious abuses in care.” sounds to me like the suicide found serious abuses instead of the investigation. But it may be just me.

Good luck!

Melissa said...

Congrats with the editing. I didn't know you had an agent. Thats awesome!

Chris Phillips said...

Congrats on reaching your goals.

erica and christy said...

Yeah, you know my ABNA track record :(

I need to know what your excerpt will read like before I know if it's a great ABNA pitch (talking the second one here). What's your main story line?

If I'm right (which I obviously may not be), your first two paragraphs aren't needed. Start with Helen's death (quick and to the point). Talk about the renovations to the building (quick and to the point). Talk about Serena. What are the stakes here?

Right now you represent Helen as the main character, then make the stakes a part of Serena (psychosis). I think the mc of the pitch needs to relate better to what the stakes are/climax is.

**see my disclaimer above** :)

L'Aussie said...

Hi Hart. I'd like to read both your books based on those pitches. Thanks for sharing. Happy Writing New Year!