Thursday, February 19, 2015


91,000 Words
YA Fantasy


When a sorcerer abducts two of his classmates, seventeen year-old Sam Gordon heads a rescue mission that thrusts him into a world where people travel through magic mirrors and clashing bandits vie for power. The sorcerer orders Sam to locate the Lost Pearls of Indarnini: jewels containing the root of all magic. Legend says that only Earth-born children can unite them, and Sam has three days before he loses his friends forever.

Accompanied by his feuding clique and a six foot-tall elf with no sense of humor, Sam finds just surviving in this world to be a daunting task. Between shape-shifting witches, scheming chimaeras, and demons with possessive capabilities, Sam will be lucky to make it home alive. And unbeknownst to him, his stepbrother, Cody, becomes the sorcerer’s newest ally. Sam doesn’t know where he is or what to do: only that he must save his friends or die trying.


Sam Gordon stood a safe distance away from Mr. Adalrich’s dilapidated townhouse, careful not to step foot onto the jungle that was his lawn.

Each day, Sam took a walk around the block, his own way of living up to a resolution to start exercising. And each day, Sam stopped cold in front of the old man’s home, unable to quell the curiosity and anxiety that the property triggered.

Mr. Adalrich had lived here for as long as Sam could remember. Most neighborhood kids spent countless hours of their childhoods daring each other to see how close they could get to the house, some reaching the front porch and occasionally even ringing the doorbell. But no one had seen the inside. Rumor had it that one unfortunate child made the mistake of trying to peddle a magazine to the old man; he was never seen or heard from again. Sam, now seventeen, figured that Jimmy’s family had probably just moved away, but the old man still gave him the creeps.

Today, more so than most days, the house seemed particularly foreboding. The rest of the road was bright and sunny, yet above the roof hung an assembly of dark clouds that cast shadows into the sidewalk. The crooked shutters creaked back and forth, and the refreshing breeze transformed into a violent rush of wind. Stray leaves danced upon the front lawn.

And then, just out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw the old man scowling through the front window of the house.


  1. Pitch: Lots of great details that create interest (e.g., elf with no sense of humor). It’s clear what the story question is: Will he find the pearls in order to save his friends? It might help to clarify a few things: How does he get to the other world? Who goes with him? I wasn’t sure what his “feuding clique” was. Is it that he literally doesn’t know where he is or that he’s in a strange place?

    First page: Some great scene-setting. It really conjures up a sense of creepiness.

  2. Nice setup; the stakes are clear, the clock is ticking, and your pitch promises plenty of action. I'm curious to know why Sam has been chosen, what makes him special. I also wonder if three days is enough time to accomplish such a quest. But these questions will definitely make me want to read on.
    Great reworking of your earlier draft!!
    Good luck!

  3. Good Morning Author,
    I like the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone meets Liam Neeson in Taken feel here.
    At the end, if he is in the magic world saving his friends; why would he need to know where his brother is? Not sure how that comes about. As I read it... Brother becomes bad guys ally and MC doesn't know where he is... but maybe you mean to say.. Brother becomes bad guys ally. Period new thought... He is totally lost with no idea what to do next? Little bit confused as to which way to go there. Leaning second but it was a pitfall when I first read it, because I read it in the first scenario.
    I too am wondering why MC and his clique were chosen to go on this mission. What powers does he posses that a teenager is picked over say an adult powerful wizard? Example: Harry Potter was picked because he was the only one to ever survive the spell. What makes your MC the best person for the job? I am sure you explain that in the first few chapters though.
    I like the description of the old mans house. I get a real sense of what he is looking at, but then I was thrown when he caught the old man out of the corner of his eye... how close was he to the house? I was imagining him being on the sidewalk a distance where you could see the whole house, but to see him out of his peripheral made me think he was standing right up against the porch. Simple word change from out of the corner of his eye to maybe something like 'Hidden amonst the hanging tapestry's, he was astonished to see the old man scowling... etc. It helps you eliminate one of those pesky 'just' words and cleans up any confusion.
    Good start, I feel like I am reading the beginning of that animated movie 'Monster House'
    Good Luck & Happy Writing
    Fellow Competitor & Writing Friend #35

  4. Thanks so much for all of the feedback! Will definitely take this all into account when I start editing. MPEagles, I love the HP/Taken comparison, and I always liked Monster House :)

    Will be returning the favor shortly!

  5. This sounds like an amazing read! You've come up with a great new twist on the concept of a character's quest to save his friends. Nice.

    Pitch: What is the "feuding clique"? I realize we only have 150 words but this is a bit vague. I like the idea of a "six foot-tall elf with no sense of humor". Throwing in his step-brother as an antagonist really ups the stakes.

    First 250: Your descriptions are very vivid and I feel like I can get a good picture of the house. The neighborhood kids ringing the doorbell and running is a great detail. You mention someone named Jimmy but I have no idea who that is. Did he live in the house a long time ago? Is he one of the abducted friends?

    Your writing is good, but I feel a little distant from Sam. I realize it's trickier in 3rd person to have a close connection with the MC but it can be done. Try eliminating phrases like "Sam saw" and "Sam remembered" because in his POV, his seeing and remembering is implied.

    I hope to see this in bookstores soon. Good luck!

  6. MUCH better revision of the pitch! The conflict is clear, there aren't too many things to confuse, and all the details serve as stakes rather than alternate conflicts. Great reworking :)

  7. The pitch conveyed both a great sense of adventure, as well as a sense of fun! (I mean, who doesn't love a six-foot elf without a sense of humor?!) [Great title too, by the way.]

    First 250: I tend to say "set foot" into--although I googled "step foot" and learned it is a newer usage. What about "careful not to stray into..."?

    Here's where that nice sense of humor comes to the forefront: "Rumor had it that one unfortunate child made the mistake of trying to peddle a magazine to the old man; he was never seen or heard from again." [Again I did get that the said unfortunate child was poor Jimmy.]

    Are shadows cast onto something or into something? Also, what about finding a more foreboding verb than dancing for the leaves? Twitched, staggered--reaching for my thesaurus...

    The upshot: this is some very engaging writing, with a sense of humor I enjoyed. I would most defintely read on.

    Good luck!
    Michael (#15)

  8. Hi Domenic,

    I think you've got a strong premise here, and the first 250 does a nice job of introducing Sam and a sense of supernatural foreboding. I agree with Michael, that it is engaging off the bat. As for the pitch, you might consider letting us know what it is about Sam that makes him the one to lead the rescue mission into this strange world. Is he living in "our" world, i.e. the real world? I kind of got the sense that this occurrence with the sorcerer isn't so surprising to him or his clique. Am I getting the wrong impression? Do he and the others have some kind of secret ability that he is (or isn't) aware of? And what about Cody? Is there something that was passed down to these kids? Does the elf live in Sam's world? Just trying to get a sense of where Sam starts. As we know, it's tough to include all the details in a 150-word pitch. However, from your first 250, it seems like Sam is living in the real world before all the craziness happens.

    So, there's my two cents, good work and good luck!


  9. I love your concept and your 250. I think you do a fantastic job of world building and setting the stage for your story to take off. My only note on the 250 is that I'd like it if you could find a more organic way of introducing Sam's age.

    On the pitch, I suspect you're in the same position as me and trying to juggle what you can include within the word count. The first sentence could use a bit of clarity since from a grammar perspective "his classmates" could refer either to Sam or the sorcerer. Other than that, I think it's just a matter of experimenting until you can get the right details in and stay under the word count.

    Great concept and pitch! Good luck in the next round :)

  10. You got me with the "accompanied by his feuding clique and a six foot-tall elf with no sense of humor". Love it! I also like the limited time frame - three days. It gives us tension right away.

    But I find myself wanting more of this voice in the 250 and the pitch, too. To me, the MC and pitch reads a lot younger than 17. Maybe finding a way to work in that distinct humor right off the bat would up the age a little bit. For example, I guess I don't really imagine a 17 yr old boy walking around the block and thinking it was exercise unless he had physical reasons - asthma? an aversion to sports? I'm getting a real The Lightning Thief feel and I'm guessing that is not what you are aiming for. But if so, pitching it as TLT for an older age group could work!

    But seriously, if you titled this SIX FEET TALL ELVES HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR I'd snatch it up right away! The title right now seems like very serious fantasy.

  11. Pitch:
    -Great first line – intriguing, unique, and exciting
    -Love the elf with no sense of humor
    -Great twist with the stepbrother
    -Clearly outlined stakes and well written – great job!
    First page:
    -Very well written. The only thing I can think of is maybe trying to get a little more action in the first 250? I'm torn on even that because I liked your description of the house and I feel the foreboding dread, and I know something's going to happen. If I were a reader picking up the book, I would have definitely continued reading.
    Great job! Best of luck!

  12. Hi, Domenic-

    HA - I love that you and I were both drawn to the magic of an old house to start things off! It's a nice, effective hook and I definitely enjoy the mood you've established here.

    Pitch: I think your first paragraph is really solid. Like the other comments before mine, I too am curious why Sam's the guy for the job. The second paragraph is where I get a little overwhelmed. Again, echoing the comments above, who is the, "feuding clique"? The elf is gold (obviously) but I think the, "Sam finds just surviving in this world to be a daunting task" is a little clunky. I keep wanted to manipulate that in such a way that it begins with, "Just surviving in this world is…" The same idea - that Sam could have trouble surviving here - is repeated a sentence later when you say that, "Sam will be lucky to make it home alive." I'm definitely interested in the twist with his brother, but I feel like the idea is kind of crammed in at the end.

    First 250: Again, the mood here feels good. Echoing a sentiment above, Sam feels a little young and the idea that his walking around the block will count as exercise seems a little strange, unless - like Rose suggested - he's got asthma or he's overweight or something. In which case it's fine and a nice little detail, but I think it needs to be included. That third paragraph is really fun. "The crooked shutters creaked back and forth, and the refreshing breeze transformed into a violent rush of wind." If you're limiting the eerie descriptions and weather to the actual house, it sounds like the violent rush of wind is something that's moving beyond the house and into the street with Sam. I'd consider saying something about how there isn't a breeze on the street and yet the shutters creaked back and forth with a mysterious breeze. That's not worded very well, but hopefully you get the idea. I like the old man's appearance in the window, but I'd consider revising the description in accordance with MPEagle's note.

    Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

  13. Thank you all SO MUCH for the comments. This is so incredibly helpful :)

  14. Your pitch is great. I love the tall brooding elf, and I assumed by feuding clique you meant he's with a party of cohorts that don't get along (I might've played a little too many video games with warring factions in the party). The stakes are high, and there's already a wrench thrown into things with Cody. Nicely done!

    The first 250 seem like they're meant to lull us into a false sense of security... and then the house. With regards to getting in the detail about Sam's age, you can always have him remembering that when he was fourteen, Jimmy disappeared without a trace, and finding it hard to believe that it happened three years ago, something like that. Then it's not so much of an outline on Sam's description and more an interactive part of the storytelling.

    Well done. I'd like to read more. Also, thanks for your comment on my story.


  15. Hi, returning the favor.
    I love the pitch. It's concise and does what it's supposed to - hook the reader. The voice is great.
    In the excerpt, I found a couple of spots which had a more mature voice. Also, the way you state his age was telling. But the humor trumps everything and I'd read this in an instant.

  16. Hey Domenic! Your pitched hooked me right away, but I too was confused by the feuding clique reference. I'm also very curious to know why Sam's brother decided to become the sorcerer's ally, and what Sam needs to do to get these stones. And won't something terrible happen if this sorcerer gets these jewels? So you set up a pretty cool dilemma. I must admit that I'm not quite feeling this line: "Sam doesn’t know where he is or what to do." I don't think it really helps the pitch.

    I loved your first 250; it was pretty creepy and made me want to keep reading.

    Good luck on going to the next round!


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