Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

SVS 13: Infinity – NA Paranormal January 23, 2014

Filed under: Blog,contest — chasingthecrazies @ 6:14 am
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Category/Genre: NA Paranormal


Word Count: 72,000



My Main Character is most uncomfortable with: 



Jane Lamb was twenty-one when she was killed by a drunk driver in the dead of winter. A fresh layer of snow covered the roads as she took her last, gasping breath. Does Jane blame the driver? You bet. But does she also blame the snow? Every last flake. Now, reincarnated and living as Liv Hartley, a contracted soul reaper for the Otherworld, she prefers the sunny climate of Southern California. If she wants to see snow, she’ll Google it.






When college senior Jane Lamb dies in a car crash, she’s offered a second chance at life as a Conduit—a reincarnated human, with the memories of past lives, contracted to reap souls. The pros: She gets six lifetimes to prove she’s not a loser. The cons: If she screws up, or reveals her true identity, her soul will be destroyed.


Now, living as seventeen year old Liv Hartley, she has everything she wants—a new college, a new life, and David, a new love interest. That is, until Asher Knight, a Conduit several lifetimes Liv’s senior, steals her first assignment, landing her in hot water with her afterlife caseworker. When her attempts to redeem herself go awry, Liv’s life is threatened, and Asher is forced by a higher power to bind his soul with hers to protect her. That’s when Liv discovers there’s more to Asher than his bad boy attitude and movie star looks—or the fact that his touch is a drug Liv craves.


Even though Liv is falling for David, she can’t shake the feel of Asher. David is kind, gentle, and considerate, qualities Asher will never have. But when Liv gets her toughest assignment yet—to reap David’s soul—she must decide whether to follow through with the contract or risk forever losing her soul…and Asher’s.



First 250 words:



Dying wasn’t what I expected.


It was more sudden, less painful, and not nearly as scary as my fears led me to believe. Tires screeched against snow-covered asphalt. Headlights blinded me. It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to swerve, or brake, or scream.


“Next!” The disembodied voice thunders from overhead speakers embedded in the lobby walls. It reminds me of a ritzy hotel, or the entrance to a Fortune 500 company, with level upon level of balconies that stretch on forever.


The line, with more twists and turns than a crowd control line at Disneyland, moves a few inches. I step forward. The soul in front of me doesn’t. Before I realize what’s happening, I’m standing in him. “Sorry.”


I step back and shake off the squishy, Jello-like feel of his energy. That’s when I spot the balding Dean of Accounting, Professor Burstein, in his penny loafers and plaid sweater vest, stalking toward me like I’d cheated on a test or taken the last cookie at a student-faculty mixer.


“Mr. Burstein?” I can’t keep the surprise, and disgust, from my voice.


On Friday, he’d given a pop-quiz. Governmental tax law. If he’s dead, I’m guessing a fellow senior retaliated against his self-aggrandizing soap box speeches and appearance based grading pyramid.


“Not exactly, Ms. Lamb. My name is Marvin. I find it’s easier on transitioning souls when I appear as someone they recognize.”


I push a lock of frizzy brown hair from my eyes and stare at his gnarly sweater vest. “You can look like anyone?”



25 Responses to “SVS 13: Infinity – NA Paranormal”

  1. Kalinda Says:

    Team Snow #6 here to wish you good luck in the upcoming mentor round! I’d love to connect on Twitter, so I can keep up with you after the contest! @kranky_crow

  2. I really liked your query. I’m wondering if this would be better as YA since the MC is seventeen? That’s the only thing I see issue with. Love your 250! I don’t necessarily need to see Jane die, but it’s a personal preference.

  3. Your answer was awesome!!!!! I haven’t even read the query. *takes a look*

    Wow. High stakes much? The first paragraph is awesome. And then the stakes get even higher.

    On your first 250: I’d play around with it. Lots of ghost-y/death books start with the moment of death. It might be interesting to see her waiting in line behind another “soul” which would clue us in and then maybe give us a rewind. I don’t know, I think you have great stuff, it might be fun to try to pull us in without starting off with the death.

  4. RobL Says:

    You can add me to the ‘I think you handled the death scene just right’ crew! I like how it was matter-of-fact, over and done with, etc. I’m more interested in what happens after. That’s the meat and drink of it, after all. Very nicely done! I love your MC’s voice. The premise is superb. I would read more, if only I could!

    The query is slightly more confused to my mind. Others have given great advice already, so I won’t repeat them, but I think perhaps just streamlining some of the stuff you currently have in re. Asher and Liv would help, while giving you some leeway to add in the details others have mentioned.

    Good luck! I’m not particularly familiar with NA, but this would definitely make me start reading some!

  5. Jeannine Johnson Maia Says:

    #TeamSun teammate here. I enjoyed reading this and hope to see more. I laughed at your “If she wants to see snow, she’ll Google it” and would be happy to hear more from this voice. I’m also intrigued by the six lives concept — I bet there are some interesting experiences in those, and she probably learns a lot about herself in the process. Like some of the others, I found the transition from the first to second para in the 250 words a bit jarring — did she just die and get transported into this line (in which case I’d like to see a more shocked reaction) or is the death scene just a memory (in which case that, and the time elapsed, could be clearer)?

  6. michelle4laughs Says:

    Very vivid descriptions in your 250. Good luck!

  7. I love that is is NA Paranormal! I was just on a NA Twitter chat and many people were clamoring for NA paranormal. It’s great to see diversity within the category 🙂

    I love the premise and the sample showed great voice. I would echo the other comments regarding her age- I was a little confused about why she died at 21 but came back at 17. I would keep her the same age in her reincarnated state if it still works within the story or age her up a year or two in her reincarnated state.

    I also like that you didn’t focus on the death scene in the first 250 words- it’s not where your story starts, so great job getting the reader right into the action.

    With the query I would have liked a sentence or two more about David in the beginning. He’s mentioned in the first paragraph but the second is all Asher. By the time I got to the third paragraph and saw David’s name again I’d honestly forgotten who we was.

    This sounds really interesting!! Good luck!!

  8. CC Dowling Says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who left a comment for this story. I truly appreciate your time and insights.

  9. What to say that hasn’t already been said…hmm. I’d definitely just move her age up a year or two if you want to keep it NA. And I also like that you only briefly mention that she died and go straight for the “Beetlejuice” inspired after death stuff. Great!

    Only part of the query that I feel could be tightened up is the part about her life being threatened and Asher needing to bind himself to her. It was a little bit vague. And on your first 250 I’d cut down the sentence about Mr. Burstein…”If he’s dead…” It pulled me out of story.

    Love the fresh voice/spin on your paranormal! Good luck from fellow TeamSun mate!

  10. Janet Wrenn Says:

    Great premise!! The query is solid and gives me the stakes and makes me want to root for your MC. Your voice is fantastic and I already love and attach to her right away in the 250. My only issue is the tense switch after your second paragraph, which others here have mentioned. I got pulled out of the story because of it and had to reread to find out which tense it was meant to be told in. After going back I realize it was a flashback/memory as she was waiting in line. So I agree something in there to differentiate that would do it some good.

    I’m torn on the “keep it as is or put in more about her death” issue going on in the comments. I’m leaning more towards leaving it as is because we don’t know if further on in the chapter you go into her death or the events leading up to it. So I almost like the idea of there not being “backstory” and that we’re jumping right into the here and now and hoping you’ll fill in the details as we go. I think the voice and the questions the story leads us to ask will keep your reader interested in wanting to find out all the answers.

    Good luck to you!!!

  11. martymay Says:

    As a CP, I wanted to stop in and tell you how much I enjoy this; you’re going to rock the agent round!

  12. suja Says:

    Hi there, I really love the opening. There’s been quite a few stories starting with an accident and the MC dying. But you put a totally different spin on it, and added humor and beautiful writing to make me want to read more. I agree with the YA, rather than NA, though. Best of luck.

  13. Katie Bailey Says:

    VERY NICE! I’m a huge fan of the paranormal, so that definitely piqued my ethereal interest!

    The query seems fairly solid, but it sounds almost like a YA Paranormal romance to me. Would that be more along the lines the genre?

    To get into the 250…You have a nice handle on voice and pacing, but the opening is a bit jarring. I know what you’re going for with the jump from death to after life, but the tense shift and abrupt conversational shift may pull the reader out of the scene for a moment there. If the death portion is meant to be reflection of the death while waiting in line, a simple addition along the lines of “The disembodied voice thunders from overhead speakers embedded in the lobby walls, PULLING ME FROM MY REVERIE,” would smooth out the shift.

    Also, on a minor note, would you want to hyphenate “appearance based”?

    Excellent job! I’m hoping to see a lot of love coming your way with this!!!

  14. I think it sounds fun and I love Greek mythology so there you go. Good luck!

  15. Query:
    I feel like there’s a lot going on here and you’ve got great stakes, but I don’t quite have a handle on how it all connects. It’s a little confusing and I’m left with a lot of questions. I’m also not entirely sold on this as NA – it reads like YA to me, and their ages seem to fit that too.
    • I’m confused about the book’s category and the MC’s age. NA is for MC’s that are 19-early 20s. 17 is YA. If this is NA, why is she reincarnated as 17? Is it really necessary or can she be college age again? Or the reverse – could she be a high school senior when she dies?
    • What is her first assignment and why does Asher steal it? What does he have to gain?
    • Who threatens her life and why? How will Asher’s soul-bind protect her mortal body from dying?
    • I’m a little confused how risking her soul is risking Asher’s?
    • Now that I’ve read the whole query, I’m not quite seeing why this is labeled NA. The MC is 17 and it reads like paranormal YA to me. If it really is NA, I think that needs to be made more clear.

    Not a lot of nitpicks here – great voice! It really feels YA to me, but others may certainly disagree.
    • “Before I realize what’s happening, I’m standing in him” – I kind of love this line! Nicely done showing how discombobulated she is!
    • This opening kind of makes me think of a ritzy version of Beetlejuice. I dig it!

    Good luck!

  16. Jennie Bates Bozic Says:

    I love the voice here and it sounds like you have a great story. The writing flows really well in the first 250, with the exception of the complete about-face from the description of her death to present day. That left me really confused for a moment. I think you need more of a transition in there, otherwise the death description is just a disconnected fragment.

    I like the query, but it felt to me like it took too long to get to the real stakes of the plot. It glosses over this huge conflict that unites her with Asher and I’m not really sure it’s necessary to bring that up unless you’re going to further explain it. However, I do love the caseworker line a whole lot.

    Overall, the writing is great!

  17. amyereichert Says:

    Query: Interesting premise and solid opening paragraph. Ha! an afterlife caseworker – that reminds me of Beetlejuice (am I dating myself?) This sounds great! It gets a little muddled in the middle paragraph, so see if you can streamline it a bit.

    250: Great opening. Love the “Next!” Love it all. I want to read this now. Your voice is fun, your writing is tight and playful. Keep it up!

  18. S.M.Johnston Says:

    I’ve mainly only got technical issues with this query.

    Now, living as seventeen[-]year[-]old Liv Hartley,

    I do have a couple of questions, and I’m not sure if they need answering for the query, but they may be things agents will ask.

    1) Why would Asher steal an assignment?
    2) What did she do to try and redeem herself? (this is the main one that may need attention in the query as it’s best not to be vague).
    3) What is the higher power?
    4) Why would they be forced to bind their souls?

    The stakes are really high. You know how to torment your characters.

    And nothing to add for the writing.

  19. Liz Fichera Says:

    This query is pretty tight. I like! That said, I also think that first line (which is so killer important!) could be a little tighter. It needs a little more zip? Maybe tighter like this: “When college senior Jane Lamb dies in a car crash, she’s offered a second chance at life as a Conduit—a reincarnated human contracted to reap souls.” I love what follows.

    Regarding the excerpt, I love how you open right into the action with very little back story.

    Well done! Best of luck with your writing and query!

  20. OH. MY. GOODNESS. I don’t even know what to say because this premise is AWESOME. I love the whole idea. I love the voice. There even seems to be a touch of humor with is fabulous.

    The actual stakes in your query are GREAT. I mean, what is she going to decide? I DON’T KNOW AND I WANT TO KNOW.

    I’m actually going to disagree with the other posters. I feel like a lot of “afterlife” plots begin with a dying scene and frankly, I don’t need to read about it. I like that you just shove her right into the other world. I think it’s cool and different and we get your voice/dialogue right away.

    I do agree with Lanette though – I do need at least one more sentence to transition between the death scene and “next!”

    This is amazing. I wish you the best.

  21. Lanette Kauten Says:

    Everything about your submission is dripping with a funny, awesome voice. I love it!

    Query: You had me at “afterlife caseworker”. It’s really hard to break into the paranormal genre right now, so to do that you have to bring your A game. And honestly, I think you have. Your query is very strong, and I love that you show strong stakes in your hook paragraph. The only thing I’m confused about is “memories of past lives”. I assume all of her previous past lives? If so, put the word “her” before “past lives” to make it clearer.

    250: Funny opening, and once again, I love the voice. Some of the mentors think you should linger more on her death. I always hate having the dissenting opinion, but I don’t think we should have pages of her death. I really like how you’ve started it, and I don’t want to take away from that. My only quibble is the transition between the first and second paragraphs are too jolting. See if you can add a few words to smooth it out or maybe switch the first and second sentences of the second paragraph to ground us in the scene better.

  22. As far as story premise/concept, I. AM. SOLD. I love a good love triangle, especially with high stakes! I agree with Katie, though, you want to find a way to make it stand out from what’s been done.

    For the query: great hook with high stakes! I agree with Jessika, though, about wondering whether or not to classify this as YA or NA. If much of this takes place with the mc as a 17 yo high schooler, I’d call it YA too. Easy fix to either call it what it is or age her up to keep it NA. Doesn’t have to change the story at all.

    First 250: I’m going with Jessika again. The whole first chapter can be her death if you want, with Jane dying at the end. Give us a sense of who Jane was as Jane before turning her into Liv. If a chapter is too much, then I’d say at least let us have that first page be her death because dying is a huge deal. You could have her die in the first page and at the end of the 250 “wake up” as Liv. Is she immediately reincarnated as a 17 yo, having to live from birth as Liv? How does a lifetime end for someone who’s already dead? I know you can’t do a lot in just a first page, but our Liv’s personality comes from her being Jane and having just died as Jane. Giving us a little more of that before she’s officially dead will hook the reader even more. But this sounds freaky good. Good luck!

  23. Hi! 🙂 Your query is great. Well done! I’ve noticed love triangles done before, as well as reapers and second chances at life, but the fact that she can remember all of her past lives is what sparked the intrigue for me. I don’t think I’ve seen that element before. I really hope you let that element shine in your ms, and it may help if you accentuate it more in your query. It’s always a good idea to find what makes your story unique and show it off.

    First 250: Again, so very well done. You write beautifully. Keep everything you have here, but I agree with Katie, show more of the dying scene. Make the reader’s heart wrench from their chest and immediately cling to your MC.

    Hope my comments help! Good luck. 🙂

  24. Again – I love me a good ghost story! I’m definitely digging the premise here. Like Katie above said, it has the Beetle Juice vibe going for it in the beginning (a good thing). One nitpicky question: I know when she dies she is 21, but I assume for the majority of the book she’s 17 which would fall more under the YA umbrella. Also, isn’t 17 a little young for college? I know it happens, but for NA I think you might need an older MC. Again, a very small issue 😉

    Query: Opening sentences are great – you hook us and give us stakes in one concise blow – well done! You outline the main points/main characters of the story well and everything is pretty clear cut and intriguing. One thing, in the last paragraph you explain Liv will have to choose whether to reap David’s soul or lose both her and Asher’s forever. These are some seriously BIG stakes. You tell us Liv is “falling” for David, but for her to risk her soul/everything she’d better be head-over-heels-crazy-in-love with the guy and we need to know/feel that to believe it. 😉

    250: Nice opening, but we need more dying!!! Allow us to feel her emotion, let us into her experience! It will totally pull your reader into Jane/Liv’s world. After all, that one experience catapults her into all of the events of the story – pretty significant. I loved the rest – super cute and funny. We get a great taste of her voice and her personality and are exploring her new world with her which is intriguing in the least. I’d definitely keep reading this one.

    Best of luck!

  25. Katie French Says:

    Mentor Katie French here. First of all, great premise. You’ve got everything you need to hook a reader into taking a look. Be careful with love triangles though. They’ve been done a million times and it is hard to keep them fresh.

    The first 250 words have some real gems in them. I love the hook where she is dying, but you leave it way too fast in my opinion. Here is a real chance for us to connect with her and feel her pain. If we can be with her as she dies, man, there is no better way to make us sympathize. I would do sevearl pages on her death. Then you can move on to the Beetle Juice-esque scene in line. It’s cute, but won’t hook us in like watching her die. Good luck!

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