Thursday, February 19, 2015

Entry #23: VANISHED

78,000 words
YA Contemporary Thriller
Sasha’s father made a career out of pilfering jewels from the world’s richest families, and he taught her every scheme he knew. After his death Sasha attempts her biggest heist ever: the theft of a priceless sapphire. When one disaster follows another, she ends up without the sapphire and framed for its disappearance.
While searching for the real thief, she stumbles upon her father’s darkest secret. Old newspaper articles surface, telling the story of an abducted child, and an identical twin left behind. Her father stole more than jewels. He stole Sasha as well.
A case of mistaken identity leaves the twin Sasha can’t remember detained for taking the sapphire. Her sister’s freedom in jeopardy, Sasha must unravel the tangled knots of their father’s past to find the missing jewel. Meanwhile Sasha’s brother, also her partner-in-crime, has reasons of his own for making certain some family secrets stay buried.
First 250:
My brother Raj and I stood amongst the trees at the edge of Signora D’Agnelli’s driveway watching her limousine disappear into the dusky evening. A breeze swept in off the sea, filling the air with a marshy, damp scent. In autumn the terrain on the Italian coast was perpetually wet, but by the time anyone thought to scout around for footprints in the muddy earth, Raj and I would be long gone.
When we could no longer see the taillights, Raj shot me his sly grin. Rather than force a smile in return, I picked up one end of our ladder. He grabbed the other end and we jogged up the gravel driveway towards Signora’s villa.  
We’d both dressed in black. Jeans, sweatshirt, gloves, boots. My hair was in a tight braid, dyed from blonde to brown. Raj had pulled his dark hair into a ponytail and removed all his earrings. The sweatshirt hid a tattoo on his left bicep of the Chinese characters for genius.
On the patio by the pool Raj took his laptop from his backpack. He would hack into the website for Tele-Italia and override Signora’s alarm and motion detectors, which ran on old-fashioned landlines.
“She’s practically inviting us inside, Sasha,” he said in French.
“Right. She probably left out champagne and caviar.” I rested the ladder against a stone pillar. We planned to scale the walls of the villa to reach the balcony outside a third floor room. Unless it rained, the sliding door was always left open a few inches.


  1. I absolutely love the premise for this and the opening page! I'd love to read more! I can't wait for this to be on bookshelves one day!

    Best of luck in pitch plus one!

  2. I love the complexity in the pitch, and the mixture of casual and cautious in the first 250. This looks like a well-thought-out story.

  3. This pitch is pure genius, and the subtlety in the first 250 is wonderful. I'm not easy on people, but this is pretty tight. Good luck with this! Not that you need it ;)
    #34 :)

  4. Jenny,
    The stolen daughter caper has a great ring to it. It makes me want to dig into the questions of how she stumbled on news paper articles of a thief. Most times I thought that they kept things on the DL, and kept out of the public eyes. Definitely a point that made me want to pick it up.
    Only out of place things in the first 250 which some might say is a little nit picky, but I like to put myself into the position of the character. Jeans caught my eye; when I think woman doing a heist, I think of something a little less... constricting. Second; running up a gravel drive with a ladder is probably pretty loud and slightly obvious. I want some stealth here! (or at least a descriptor that this villa was a little more remote and the security guards were on a coffee break). If there is muddy footprints that could be found: did it just rain, and therefore the sliding glass door would be closed for fear of more rain?
    Just some heist details that can quickly be fixed! Good stuff! Best wishes!
    A fellow contestant and friendly writer!

  5. Lots of great feedback here already. I agree with everyone else that it is a very well-constructed and presented pitch with an exciting premise.

    First 250 is strong but you could cut the line "In autumn the terrain on the Italian coast was perpetually wet, but by the time anyone thought to scout around for footprints in the muddy earth, Raj and I would be long gone," without the story losing any momentum. Raj is coming across as the dominant character and Sasha appears a little uncomfortable with the heist. I'd love an insight into whether this is down to nerves before the job or because she's feeling coerced by Raj. When she describes his tattoo, it would be great to have an indication of how it makes her feel about Raj. Is she envious of his cool tattoo or does she think he's always showing off?
    My feeling is that she's kind of irritated by Raj but I'm not at all sure if that's the right interpretation...

    Great work and best of luck with it!


  6. Love this! Would love to connect with you so give me a follow on twitter and I'll follow you back :)

  7. I remember this from the first 5 pages workshop! I love the concept, and your writing. I do kind of miss the earlier opening, where Sasha and Raj were at the cafe. I liked the sibling dynamic there, and getting to see Sasha's fascination with Signora. I can see the benefit of starting closer to the action, though. Best of luck!

  8. LOVE!

    1) Takes place in Italy = cool!
    2) Sensory details are wonderful--you even get the sense of smell in there with "marshy, damp scent."
    3) Great interplay between Raj and Sasha. (Bonus points: they speak French!)

    This has cool caper written all over it. I feel I'm in the hands of a skillful writer, and boy am I eager to go on this particular ride.

    Great job, and good luck!
    Michael (#15)

  9. I echo what everyone else said about your premise -- what a fantastic concept! A kidnapped kid raised to be a thief! This is a mystery in itself. And then the heist. You've established a great voice! I love Sasha's sarcasm and wish I could hear more of it. Her relationship with Raj -- Her stepbrother? Another kidnapped kid? -- makes me really curious, and now I'll wonder what secrets he might be hiding from his sister/partner. You characterizations are masterful; a few lines, and I picture a cocky, confident boy (a "genius" tattoo - LOL) and a snarky girl, trying to do her best, despite being nervous and uncomfortable with the situation.
    Would read this and beg for a sequel. :)
    #44 The Land Of Joy And Sorrow

  10. Writing, concept, and pacing all great. POC characters? Not sure with the names and descriptors, but if they are, in today's market it's worth mentioning in the pitch because agents are putting out a call for them on MSWL. I would also mention setting because agents are specifically asking for settings outside US. Last two sentences of first paragraph seem a bit clunky in comparison to the rest of the smooth writing. ("When one disaster follows another, she ends up without...")

    Raj is an interesting study in contrasts - Indian name, Chinese tattoo, multiple piercings, and speaking French. I think, because so many of these first words are dedicated to striking descriptions of him with no tied significance to the MC, I have no emotional connection with the MC in the 250, at least not like I did in the pitch. I wonder, why did the MC dye her blonde hair brown? I suspect there's something emotional to uncover here.

    Not sure about either the feasibility, practicality, or physicality of carrying a ladder in this neighborhood and then up a gravel driveway without being caught. Only other suggestion I have is to properly describe the mundane things like jeans, sweatshirt, gloves, boots, laptop, tree, champagne, caviar. What kind of jeans? Are they cheap or expensive? What kind of tree - palm, date, olive, birch, aspen, ginko, oak, maple, etc.? Those particulars will enrich the already lovely narrative and allow the reader to form a more accurate picture of setting and character. Nicely done!

    1. Forgot to mention, I'm #43 The Other Side of Normal

  11. Pitch: Excellent! Just the right amount of details to set up an intriguing story. I especially like the correlation between stealing jewels and stealing Sasha. There aren’t enough read-alikes for Ally Carter’s HEIST SOCIETY and this could definitely be one. Just one thing you might clarify: would it be a “frame” if it was a theft she was actually trying to commit?

    First page: Great place to start, great intro to the characters. You might keep in mind “Signora” means “Mrs.” Otherwise, it’s a great opening scene of a caper I’d like to read more of.

  12. Wow, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm hooked! Great work--good luck!

    Domenic (#28)

  13. Loved it the first time I read it, love it more now. :) I like that it starts with a heist. Only bone to pick is with the pitch - Raj comes in way at the end, and I think he'll be a central character, so I'd consider working him in earlier. Unless it will Sasha's story completely.

    One thing that confuses me - in the pitch it says "an identical twin was left behind" and "Meanwhile, Sasha's brother...." I'm guessing Raj is not the identical twin, but the way it reads, he could be. Maybe consider clarifying how Sasha and Raj are related.

    Otherwise, awesome! I can imagine the book cover already. :)

  14. Pitch: I like the changes you made, really hooks the reader!

    250: The Italian setting is a bonus. Excellent start showing Sasha and her brother working together. Very nice! Good luck! (#38)


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