Thursday, February 19, 2015


105,000 words
YA Magical Realism/Horror-Comedy

It’s not even 9:00 am and sixteen-year-old RETTA has already dealt with a mutilated cat, complaints about her grandmother filling bathtubs around town, and one signature she maybe/probably forged. Just another Wednesday. But in seventy-two hours, Retta will be on her way to basketball camp and one step closer to a life-changing scholarship. All she has to do in the meantime is manage her family’s shenanigans. Easy.

That is until her recently paroled brother gets accused of murder and disappears from police custody. Then a mutant, mole-looking creature pops out of the ground and swallows a ferret whole. When the mutants start eating her neighbors, Retta’s basketball dreams must take a backseat to saving her bumbling family from a full-blown attack, and mutant-fighting would be a lot easier if they didn’t try to “help”. Veronica Mars meets Shaun of the Dead in this homage to campy horror-comedies of the 80s.

First 250:
The Uiterwyks’ cat was clearly dead, but that didn’t make it Granna’s fault or Retta’s problem.

The corpse lay curled around the garden gnome, cooking in the sun reflecting off the Uiterwyks’ trailer. It was only 8:54 a.m. and already hot. Retta wrinkled her nose. This was not how she had planned to start her day, but being a member of a family like the Holkers, she had learned not to make plans.

Guts spilled in the grass like Spaghetti Os, the mangy animal was cut in half as if someone had dropped an axe on its stomach. Only, the bloody fur was ripped ragged in a way that suggested coyote or some other hungry thing.

Certainly not Retta’s 74-year-old grandmother.

But this was the accusation Brandi Uiterwyk had flung at her over the phone when she demanded Retta come two trailers down. Now.

Brandi huffed, just as impatient in person. “It’s not like we killed our own cat—”


“—and it is the second time your grandmother has broken in here and filled the bathtub,” she finished as if one crime implied the other.

Still, that one was not an accusation. It was a fact. Granna had been filling bathtubs all over town. Last week she broke into Trudy Gunnarson’s and filled not only the bathtub but every pot in the house. Just left them around. On the counter. In the closet. Next to the TV. But she had yet to kill any pets.

“Unless the cat drowned before something ate its lower half,” Retta said, “Granna didn’t kill your cat.”


  1. Love the pitch but just wondered why the mutants are attacking her family?

  2. Pitch: main question I have is what is the relationship between her brother's problems and the mutants. I assume perhaps they might have some connection to his disappearance? If so, try to allude to that.

    250: Wow, love the revisions you've made since I read it on your blog, much tighter, more clear chronology. Nice way to preview what's in store if we read on: you have the crazy family, the horror elements, the humor, and Retta's personality. Love it!

  3. Good afternoon Author,
    Not sure how filling bathtubs is related to the mangling of a cat, but I guess neither does Retta. I like that 'huh?' ambiance in this one. I do am a little confused as to the dot connecting of the brother, crazy, grandma, and bad brother. If brother is a parole and murders someone.. is he living at home? You say family... is there more than just grandma, and if so why was Retta having to solve the cat issue? What makes her the best person to be fighting mutants? Does she have special powers?
    All of the above are questions that arose while reading the Pitch, which is good for someone to be interested in what is coming!
    The only change I would make in the pitch is the signature part. If she already forged it, it's no longer a problem. Maybe instead say, 'and a signature that would need to be forged'.
    Does granny have a long history of B&E's?
    Anyway! Fun book. If I were into the horror genre I would pick it up.
    Good Luck!
    Fellow Contestant & Writing Friend #35

    1. correction*
      connection between crazy grandmas water fetish, bad brother, and mutants. I was eating soup and sucked at thoughts at that moment.

  4. I love the pitch. It does an amazing job of setting up very personal stakes that mean more than life or death.

    I really love the opening. The only thing that I was missing was context for Brandi. You don't need a whole lot, but an loaded word that gives her context to Retta? Older? Similar age? Same age daughter of the owners? Something to help frame Retta's state of mind as she confronts this woman who is familiar to her but a stranger to us.

  5. Pitch:
    Wow, this is really well-written. I think the only thing that stood out to me as awkward was the bit with the ferret. I think the pitch would be stronger if it were worded as: And when a group of mutant, mole-looking creatures pops out of the ground and start eating her neighbors...

    First Page:
    I want to read this book! I love the voice and the fact that you don't shy away from the gory details. Good luck!

    Domenic (#28)

  6. Pitch: Love the premise and the humor, which really comes through in the pitch. I agree with other commenters that it would help to know if there’s a connection between the brother disappearing and the mutants appearing. If not, maybe include him as yet another one of the problems she’s already dealing with in the first paragraph. I also agree that if the ferret isn’t important, you might get straight to the neighbor-eating. It would help if there’s any way to work in a bit more about what’s up with the mutants. When you compare them to moles, I picture small, mole-sized creatures.

    First page: Great place to start, with a specific conflict that immediately starts introducing us to the MC’s situation and some of the bigger picture.


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