Thursday, February 19, 2015


58,000 words
MG Fantasy


Ark and Swanette are under a curse that most parents would wish for—
they cannot tell lies. While this curse should keep them out of
trouble, it's a recipe for fleeing town when you're thirteen-year-old
magi descended from the Salem witches.

With witch hunter Tribulation James hounding their trail, the twins
escape to Boston to hide within the metropolis. Instead, they uncover
a plot to blackmail New England's magi: any witch caught supporting
the patriots will have their name released to the public. Knowing the
terror of being chased first hand, Ark and Swanette cannot abandon
their fellows to such a fate.

As Tribulation and the redcoats attack the patriots, Ark and Swanette
must form an alliance with Abigail Adams, leader of the Boston
witches, to save New England's magi. Because when witch hunters are
coming, it's one if by land, two if by sea, and three if by air.

First 250:

At dusk I’m scheduled to burn at the stake. I don't like to brag, but
I'm really good at it. This will be my third time. It’s made me
something of a celebrity around New England. While burning magi has
always attracted large crowds, I like to think I’ve taken the
spectacle to a new level.

Thanks to my reputation, the villagers have packed the town square
despite the short notice. A local baker rambles through the crowd,
hefting a food tray overhead. "Cookies and smores! It's not a bonfire
without your favorite foods."

I’d wave the baker down, but I’m chained to the stake atop the log
pyre. Instead, I hop in place to rattle the steel chains. "Do you have
any oatmeal cookies?"

The baker raises his bushy eyebrows. "Kid, no one likes oatmeal cookies."

"Well, I do."

He shakes his head. "In that case, no one but you likes oatmeal cookies."

I let out a huff that turns to fog in the cold air. "I’m surrounded by

They form a crowd that stretches toward the horizon until their faces
begin to blur in the fading light. I can see latecomers scrambling up
ladders to reach the nearby rooftops. A few have even taken the time
to bring telescopes.

Comparing the town’s size to that of the crowd, every person in the
region must have come to find out if I can honestly survive being
burned alive. Thank Goodness. If everyone is watching me, no one is
searching for my sister and cousins.


  1. Hi! I LOVE your first sentence and opening paragraph! Good luck!

  2. I love the concept and, as Shari said, the first paragraph. Awesome!

    I was a bit confused by the references to the colonial times and the modern language. It might help to clarify your time period up front. I know...150 word pitch. So tough!

    Best of luck!

  3. This is a really cool concept and I love the voice!

    I agree with Rebecca's comment I wasn't sure if this was supposed to have a historical element or not.

    But over all I'm hooked.

    Good luck in Pitch plus one!

  4. Likewise, I found the pitch a little confusing. I wasn't sure if there was a historical element or not and I found myself wondering about the difference between magi, witches and patriots or if there is one.
    But I loved the first page... Great opening and pace...

    Best of luck,

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    The pitch's setting ambiguity was something that concerned me. Between setting, characters, and plot, I crossed my fingers and cut the setting information to get the pitch to 150. It does take place in 1775. The story aims to be a secret history retelling of Paul Revere's Ride.

    The magi/witch distinction in the pitch is primarily to avoid repeating the same word in each sentence. In the story, magi is also used as a collective noun to refer to both wizards and witches at once.

  6. Eltsmith,
    Completely understand wanting just a few more words to keep it under a number!
    Thank you for the clarification on the Magi and all the distinctions because I also was thrown. Small fix!
    I think you are on to a really good thing here. One teensy adjustment I would make is the multiple references to the crowd. (Large crowd, packed town square, rambles through the crowd, formed crowd, crowd description, latecomers, town's size compared to the crowd) You almost bookend information in your first page(though hidden well). Besides the baker exchange my focus is drawn to and from the crowd description. Could possible detail the town a bit more verses the crowd.
    Good stuff! Good Luck and Happy Writing Adventures
    A fellow contestant and writing friend

  7. I really love your concept and love love love the first and last lines of your pitch.

    The last sentence of the first paragraph of the pitch confused me. Took me a minute to get what it was saying I wonder if you said: "magi descendants of the Salem witches."

    I think all you need to clarify the setting is change the word "metropolis." Maybe call it the colony or the town.

    The first line of your first page is killer. Love it! I so want to read this book!

  8. PS. Would love to connect with you so give me a follow on twitter and I'll follow you back :)

  9. The pitch confused me on everything. I wasn't sure about the time period, the events, everything. (sorry)
    I almost feel like you need to start over and focus.

    The first page - wow, it is great! You have voice, and sense of humor, and a likable character.

    -L. (#40)

  10. This is wonderful, right from the first line. My only confusion is what era you're writing in. Is this contemporary? Because witches certainly aren't burned in modern times, but s'mores are a modern snack. Also, I'd like to know if the MC is a boy or girl. Maybe, if he's a boy, the baker could call him "Son" instead of "Kid". Otherwise, fabulous job and I can't wait to find it on bookstore shelves.

  11. Thanks again! It's quite great to see what a wider audience thinks of my pitch and opening. It makes it so much easier to improve, especially the full version.

    Now that it's been pointed out, I'd agree that the usage of metropolis carries too much of a modern feel. I should have seen that one.

    Although historically inaccurate (Technically, colonists could have made close variants of smores), I mentioned smores because of their association with family-friendly campfires. I wanted to use them to lighten the mood of the otherwise dark scene where someone is in danger of being burned at the stake. You're right that it does worsen the issue with identifying the time period though.

    Likewise, it's a good point about specifying the character's gender. I choose 'kid' because I thought it had a friendlier tone than 'son' or 'boy,' which goes back to making the scene as lighthearted as possible. His name is included in the chapter title of the manuscript. Hopefully, that will alleviate the issue somewhat.

  12. Hello there! First off, your opening and closing lines are wonderful. Excellent job getting your hooks in the reader and bookending your first 250 with intrigue. The idea that this person is being burned at the stake (for a third time!) in order to protect his/her family sets up a nice emotional investment that's typically pretty hard to do in the first 250. I think you also have a unique voice here - especially considering the time period - but there's a spot or two where I think you can reign it in a bit. Jenny already mentioned the 's'mores,' but I'd also be careful using the word 'celebrity.' Your MC's attitude is welcome, but I'd triple check words and references as you proceed.

    In your final paragraph, as much as I LOVE that last line, I was a little confused by the one that preceded it: "Comparing the town’s size to that of the crowd, every person in the region must have come to find out if I can honestly survive being burned alive." I understand what you're trying to say here, but I think there's a more concise way of saying it. In a related note, I had a problem with the following bit of information: "I’d wave the baker down, but I’m chained to the stake atop the log pyre. Instead, I hop in place to rattle the steel chains." I don't typically give a thought to the action I would take if a situation were different (I'd wave the baker down, but…). In other words, you're forcing information you want to give is into this character's head and it ends up slowing down your momentum and tripping up your voice. I would just assume he/she's not waving BECAUSE he/she's chained to the stake. I think cutting right to the action tells us everything we need to know.

    Last thing - your pitch. In one of your comments, you said that, "The story aims to be a secret history retelling of Paul Revere's Ride." I think that's a fascinating and welcome detail that might help clear up some of the confusion about the where/when of your story. Your pitch includes mention of Ark and Swanette and magi and witches and Tribulation James and Boston and New England and redcoats and patriots and Abigail Adams - that's a LOT of people and places and ideas to introduce in such a short amount of time. From my limited experience, you should really dial that thing down to the essentials. Who you want us to care about, why we should care about them, and what's at stake in your story. As mentioned before, your first 250 introduces the idea that this person is letting themselves be burned in order to protect their family. I don't feel that emotional power in your pitch and I'd really like to.

    I know I've said a lot, but I wouldn't have commented if I didn't think you had the makings of something unique here. Best of luck and thank you for sharing.

  13. I agree with all the previous comments--love the concept, but the language needs a bit of refining to feel like it's 1775. I totally understand your desire to lighten the mood in an otherwise dark scene (since our MC is about to be burned at the stake), but I wonder if you could do that in a more time-period appropriate way? I think the parts where MC is talking about how he's survived being burned at the stake twice before could offer that levity AND tell us a little bit about his powers, since they appear to be significant to the story.

    I agree with working the Paul Revere retelling into the pitch--that's such a great concept. Of course I love the Abigail Adams as a witch angle too...Best of luck!

  14. Thank you both for taking the time to comment.

    The Paul Revere retelling line was cut from the full query to reach 150, but since it seems to be well-received I'll certainly try to sneak it back in if I make it to the next round.

    It's true there's a lot being introduced in a short space, so it makes sense to try and remove any stumbling blocks that might distract the reader. I'll definitely look for a colonial alternative to S'mores.


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