Thursday, February 19, 2015


47,000 words
MG Contemporary Mystery

Eleven-year-old Avery’s life-long wish has been to meet her dad, but he died before she was born. That’s what she’s believed, until she typed his name into the library computers. Not only is there a record for his diaries, but it has no death date.
Faced with this mystery, Avery investigates the college campus where her dad taught while she’s attending summer camp there. When she discovers a passageway down into the archives, she digs into his ‘off-limits’ collection.
But the library has more mysteries than Avery expects. Yearbook photos and day planners reveal huge family secrets: her recently-deceased mom is not her mom and the FBI is on the case.
Frightened of this new future, Avery must find and confront the father who abandoned her. It’s the only way she’s going to be able to keep the woman who raised her as the mom her heart has always known.
First 250:
I bit into my lip as my knee hit the underside of the table with a whack. It was already hot in the computer lab, but my cheeks flushed up to a brighter shade of red. I checked around the room; everyone was too busy to have noticed. They wouldn’t have understood anyway. It’s not like they knew there was supposed to be a death date listed for him: my dad.
My stomach got weird, like it did on taco day at school. Maybe the librarians here didn’t know how to do things. Why else would the library record be wrong?
According to Wikipedia I was officially an orphan, since Mom was gone now too. Kids at school used to whisper about my “orphan-hood,” like I couldn’t hear them. Remembering back made my stomach weirder. It was wishful thinking, I know, but in this one moment I wondered about what if I didn’t have to be an orphan? Blinking hard, I looked back at dad’s information. 
“Avery, did you find anything?” Claire whisper-blurted, bopping me with her elbow. It startled me and I ripped out this huge scream.
Some camp counselors shushed us and I frantically checked around again. It was the third day of Coyote Kids Camp and we were at the library playing “Research Olympics.”
“Oh, score. You got one,” Claire said looking at my screen. She tapped Shahad’s arm. For question eight we had to find a book with an author of the same last name as one of our group members.


  1. Hi! I had to come over and comment right away. :) I'm totally a fan of your premise and opening. Plus, anything in a library and I'm hooked. Good luck to you!

  2. Yes, library settings are fun!

    Pitch: I would consider simplifying the first sentence to read "Eleven-year-old Avery (last name?) would have loved to have met her dad, but he died before she was born."
    I'm not a librarian, but the lack of a death date in a library catalog wouldn't necessarily trigger my suspicions. Is there something else?
    The final sentence confused me. Is there another mother? Or should it read something like "the only way she’s going to be able to keep alive the memory of the woman who raised her as the mom her heart has always known."

    First 250: I liked her ripping out a scream, and the camp counselors shushing her. I also like the way the extract ends, with Claire about to put Avery on the spot! Page turn right there!!

    Good luck with this!
    Michael (#15)

  3. Avery is considered an orphan which had me wondering who is taking care of her since her mom died? The mention of another mother was confusing. Could her real mom also still be alive? I suspect these are some of the family secrets that Avery will unearth later. Shahad - who is she? I like your premise with more questions than answers. Library setting is a plus.

  4. Good Afternoon Author!
    I am a mystery guy, so I really like digging in with these. Most of my questions I am sure are answered in the book, but here goes!
    Why is her families history hidden in a college campus?
    Is it according to Wiki's definition that she was an orphan, or was her name in Wiki, and next to it was -orphan.
    Do libraries keep record of personal diaries on hand? Do you mean to say Memoirs?
    Wouldn't the death record be more with the county clerk?
    I think I am falling more in line with what Mike was questioning about the 'trigger' to her suspicions.
    The last sentence of the Pitch give a lot away, in a foggy way. (I now know that the dad is really alive because she has to confront him) What's from keeping me from skipping a few chapters and starting where they meet?
    My overarching idea here is that it has some details that are way to much, and then little details like who is Shahad? I am assuming she is a Coyote Camp team member, but is a Middle Grader going to be able to make that connection right away?
    Oh and do her friends go on this adventure with her or is this solo?
    Good Luck!
    Fellow Contestant & Writing Friend #35

  5. Pitch: I really like this premise. My main question has to do with the mom: you say she is recently deceased and yet the stakes seem to be that she wants to keep the mom who raised her as her mom-do you mean that the internet shows her real mom recently died and now she's wondering who the woman she's always called mom is? I don't think it's a big deal that you say she always thought dad was dead, but discovers he apparently just abandoned her because it seems like the big mystery is how she wound up with someone who is really her birth parent and why she had to find her real history out from a library. Cool premise if you can make more of the details clear.

    250: Voice seems pretty good. I would just say "date of death listed for my dad" instead of using the colon. Saying "kids at school used to whisper about my orphanhood" makes it seem like Mom's been dead for a while, yet the sentence before that makes it seem that Mom just died so one or the other should be reworded. And I agree with Michael G-G in that this is written so that the reader is confused about who she's being raised by now. Unfortunately, your 250 ends in a spot that raises confusing questions about what's happening (who's Shadad?) though I think her friend means she found an author (MC's own father) who shares a last name with the MC. Still, it's nice if you can end on a bit of a cliffhanger note rather than a head-scratching one. Lots of potential with this premise and in your writing, though. Good luck! (#38)

  6. Pitch:
    Wow, cool story! I think the pitch is overall well-written and intriguing. My criticism would be to cut "While she's attending summer camp" there as it's not completely necessary, and to use the word count to flesh out your final line. I was a bit confused as to what exactly she wants.

    First Page:
    You drew me in! Wish I could read page 2--good luck! =)

    Domenic (#28)

  7. Thanks everyone for your great comments. I've made some pitch changes already. :) To answer a few other questions, Shahad is her friend, like Claire, and I'm not talking about the county records, but a death date on a library record, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1967 - 1957. I also didn't include the word count in my pitch here since it took up space. :P It is in my real query. Good luck to all of you! I'm having fun reading through the entries.


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