Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

SVS 14: Central Avalon – Adult Horror January 23, 2014

Filed under: Blog,contest — chasingthecrazies @ 6:15 am
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Category/Genre: Adult Horror


Word Count: 94,000




My Main Character is most uncomfortable with: 



As an unwilling medium, Constance spends most of her life keeping others at a distance, and, as a result, gets squeamish when it comes to sentimentality.  If you need a sarcastic quip, she’s your woman.  If you’re pressed to find someone to threaten the too-tight pants off the landlady, she’s way ahead of the game.  However, if you try getting touchy-feely with her, that’s something she’ll try deflecting like sunbeams off a bad comb over.






Constance is used to solving problems with her fists.  Too bad for her those tactics don’t work too well up against the incorporeal.  In fact, if the twenty-two-year-old never had to see another ghost again, she might stand a chance at being happy for once in her bitter, sarcastic life….And, yet, when one of her oldest–and only–friends asks her to join his freelance ghost hunting group, she begrudgingly tags along.


The Suppressors are a hapless, hopeless crew of misfits that quickly discover just how much can go wrong when the paranormal comes into play.  As they square up against spirits of urban legend, injuries and police shakedowns make it painfully apparent that they’re underfunded, inexperienced, and ill prepared, but, hey, nothing they can’t make up for with a little ingenuity and a lot of instant coffee.  But spirits are growing restless, people are going missing, and the longer she spends with the mismatched crew, the more her once-coveted “alone” becomes the last thing she wants.  When the team eventually learns that she’s a medium that’d been trying to run from her fate, she’s okay with letting the dorks in on that side of her.  They can’t blame her for fighting that life, either–after all, losing a loved one to a malevolent spirit is enough to turn anyone off of the paranormal.


The scales finally appear to tip in the Suppressors’ favor when Central Avalon, a lofty professional parapsychological institute, requests their audience…but Constance is wary of the good news–and she has every right to be. Once inside the institute, they’re immediately entangled in a web of death and deceit, power and experiments…and, now that Constance has found her place among people worth fighting for, it’ll take a lot more than a right hook to get out.



First 250 words:





Blood on her knuckles.  Again.  The familiarity with which Constance scrubbed the red residue from her hands was borderline unnerving–to her male companions, at least.  The way she saw it, it was shaping up to be a regular Tuesday.


There was a method, a well-versed circular pattern to her rubbing that cleansed all trails from her skin.  Her precision bore a “standard procedure” air.  If she cared more, she’d have excused herself to clean up in the bathroom rather than hunker down at the sink in the mechanic’s coffee station.  If.  Were it her own blood, she might’ve put forth the effort for privacy to clean any wounds.  No, she was perfectly happy letting the scene serve as a challenge, should anyone be watching.


“Pleasant,” Ander sniffed.  To his relief, there wasn’t anyone watching; the lone pair of employees were in the garage at work, and the target of the female’s ire had ducked outside to wait in safety.


“What, you’d rather I wipe it off on your shirt?”


“No,” her superior glared, taking a half-step backwards.  He figured she wouldn’t actually act on the notion…but he’d prefer a little distance in the off chance she changed her mind.  “I’d rather you hadn’t punched that man in the first place.  We almost had a customer.  Our first.  But you decided it’d be a better idea to break his nose.”


“Wait a sec, Ander,” Constance shut off the valve when the final crimson remnants swirled down the drain.




21 Responses to “SVS 14: Central Avalon – Adult Horror”

  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. the voice in your query definitely shines through, but is this a horror with humor? If it’s straight horror I would make it less funny, but I sort of loved the funny bits. The second paragraph could be shortened, and this is a small thing, but you never refer to Constance by her name in that section either, sticking to she and her. In your 250 it’s clear Constance is more than able to take care of herself, but I want to know why she was in a fight in the first place, and who’s blood she’s wiping off. The premise is great and you have me intrigued for sure.

  3. Hey! Olivia mentor from team snow here. I just want to second the suggestions to take a close look at your genre. If it is horror, I need some scarier more foreboding stuff in there. Otherwise it sounds pretty solidly paranormal. Also, watch how many ellipses and emdashes you use. A little goes a long, long way.

    In the opening, I’m not sure I love the spelling of “gawdammit” and the third sentence of the second paragraph felt overworked/stilted after the short bursts before it. I know you should vary stuff, but I felt a bit jarred. Maybe personal taste. Otherwise I like the very noir-ish feel the voice has and you’re obviously starting in a very interesting place! Good luck in the next round!

  4. RobL Says:

    I agree with others that para 3 in your query is getting in the way a little. It’s just so chock-full of info that you get a bit lost reading it. But I think it would be easily cut down and streamlined a little. That would give you something really tight.

    Your first 250 is interesting, but I was struggling a little with POV/ the head hopping others have mentioned. Again, not a major flaw and one that’s easy to fix, but definitely something to bear in mind.

    Overall, I love the concept. Good luck!

  5. B. A. Wilson Says:

    I did it backwards and read your 250 first. I thought it was very interesting. I don’t think I’m sure what POV you are telling the story in. The “Blood on her knuckles” throws me. If it were her telling the story, I feel like it would be “blood on my knuckles.” . . . is it 3rd person omniscient, and I just don’t know it yet?

    The query itself was also well-written, but it seemed a bit long and complicated. I think you could probably say a bit less and still give us a good feel for the story. Make sure how to explain that it is horror. The last paragraph is pretty good for me, because it tells me the stakes. Maybe the 2nd one could be trimmed up a bit?

  6. Janet Wrenn Says:

    Love that you have voice in your query and it really intrigues me and pulls me in. And because of that fact, I kept reading through the query even though it was a bit long and packed with almost too much information to the point where it was hard to keep track. So I’m on board with the others that mentioned to trim down the query to the main plot points. You can still do this and maintain the voice and snarkalicious attitude of Constance throughout the query. I’m all for badassery in a heroine and this comes through very well!

    The first 250 were great. But I also caught the over use of ellipses. Throw the smack down on them. And others mentioned the comma/period issue with the dialogue tags. So I don’t have much to add other than I think the voice is great!

    This is definitely a story I’d read and it pulls me! Well done and good luck to you!

  7. CC Dowling Says:

    Hello fellow TEAM SUN member! Let’s make this baby SHINE to melt away ALL THE SNOW!

    Okay, got excited 🙂

    So, for your query:
    Gotta start by saying I LOVE this premise. It sounds like so much fun to read, even though it’s supposed to be Horror. I guess that’s my bag.

    My thoughts are: Why would Constance join a ghost hunting group is she HATES the paranormal? What’s the inciting incident?

    Your second sentence in P2 is too long. Consider breaking it up.

    Also, why does she stop wanting alone time? And, you mention that her crew eventually learns of her ability. WHAT? I thought that’s why they asked her in the first place. If that’s not why, then why would they ask her? And why would she go?

    Probably other comments have said this, BUT, your P2 is too wordy, like you’re trying to cram too much info and it isn’t streamlined. I’d go through and pluck out what’s most important, then focus on making those important points clear as the midday sky in the desert in July!

    You have A LOT going on in P3, and it seems like some of this should be introduced earlier. Why do they go to the institute? Why does the Institute want to see them? What are death, deceit, power, and experiments that you’re talking about? It’s too vague. I need some details to cling to, to hate the Institute and root for the misfits.

    Also, the stakes aren’t clear. I think you’re saying that if they don’t find a way out, they die. But it isn’t clear, and it needs to be. Focus on the “what happens if” and I think you’ll nail this.

    Okay, on to First 250:

    Love how she washes the blood off in front of others, or anyone who happens to be watching, as a challenge and a warning. I immediately get a sense that Constance is the type of person who shuts everyone out.

    When you say, “the female,” it isn’t clear who you’re referring to.

    Also, she punched a customer in front of her boss. Hello? Why isn’t he red-faced yelling at her and firing her? I know, you only had 250, and maybe we find out in the next few lines. Just giving you my reaction to the scene.

    I’m excited for your story! Best of luck to TEAM SUN!!!!

  8. suja Says:

    Query – I liked it. It drew me right into the MC’s voice and promises a superb plot.
    Opening – like the others, the POv shift threw me. I was also a little confused as to why she’s so cranky. Maybe a little hint to the source of her anger will help us connect. The writing’s tight and polished. Best of luck!

  9. I love horror too but I’m not getting a horror vibe from this. I agree that it seems more paranormal. I agree with the comments above, keep it simple. I love your premise though and I’d read it. I only want to read it from your MC’s POV though. Why is she so angry? A sentence or two about why she’s against touchy-feely would help. Good luck!

  10. Jeannine Johnson Maia Says:

    #TeamSun teammate here. Horror is not a genre I often pick up, but I read this entry through and wanted more, so that already says worlds. I was drawn in immediately by the tight, image-filled writing and the tough female character, who sounds a bit Katsa/Graceling-like. I’d definitely keep reading — and hope we get to the paranormal stuff quickly. On the 250 words, I agree with others that the POV issue with Ander threw me off, but hopefully this wouldn’t be too hard to fix. And I’d like to be clearer on where they are from the outset.

  11. Query:
    • Creepy parapsychological institute sounds creepy awesome! In fact, I think it needs more space dedicated to it in the query.
    • I’d suggest cutting the second instance of “too” in the second line – sounds repetitive and I don’t think you need it.
    • Is it square up or square off? I’ve only heard the latter, but it might be a regional thing.
    • Haha LOVE the instant coffee line! 😀
    • I feel like we should know about the malevolent spirit that offed her loved one in the first paragraph – even if it isn’t revealed until later in the book, it goes to stakes and her motivations and makes her crankiness more relatable. Also a lot of space is used to weave that in where it is now that would probably be better put towards other things.
    • It’s hard to tell from the query, but it *feels* like the book spends a lot of time building up to Central Avalon, but the part where CA comes in seems like the place where the plot really picks up. It also makes me wonder if you might be starting in the wrong place in the book. If there is not as much time spent building up to CA, then that 2nd paragraph needs to be chopped in half so that CA doesn’t feel like it comes way later in the plot.

    You’ve got some fabulous lines (the sun on a combover! *snort*) and this starts off awesome. However, we lose Constance’s POV and more importantly voice halfway through the page. She seems like such a fun character to follow from the query, but she gets lost almost immediately. However, if you can clear up those POV shifts, this first page holds lots of promise! Other notes:
    • Love the opening imagery, but I think it could be just a wee bit more punchy (hehe) if you moved the “it was shaping up to be a regular Tuesday” line to directly after “Blood on her knuckles. Again. “ Then new paragraph for “The familiarity…”
    • I’m not clear whose POV we’re in here. It starts out seeming to be a close 3rd in Constance’s POV, but about midway we’re in Ander’s head. Personally I found it jarring and from the query, I definitely expected it to be just in Constance’s POV.
    • “the female’s ire” is an odd phrase. Feels off.

    Good luck!

  12. Jennie Bates Bozic Says:

    I really loved this query. I actually skipped out around the second paragraph because I just wanted to go ahead and read your first page already. So the other mentors might be right in that it’s perhaps a bit long. The GOOD thing is that it did exactly what a query is supposed to do (grab me by the throat and make me want to just read, dammit!). My favorite part is definitely the misfits. Might want to tone down the anger part a little or at least give us a reason for Constance’s anger.

    I don’t have much criticism on the first page. The opening line hooked me just fine. I was a little confused about where she was, but that would not have kept me from reading. A line or two would fix that problem.

    The one technical issue I see is that you use actions like “glared” and “sniffed” to describe speaking. If you’re doing the dialogue right, you shouldn’t need them (and honestly, you don’t need them now). Plus, they make me giggle as I imagine someone sniffing words out.

    Good luck!

  13. amyereichert Says:

    Query: This is a fun idea, but there is too much going on in the query. Keep it simple. Give me the hook, and what your MC does about to get the story rolling.

    250: Your writing is good, but I found it difficult to figure out where we were. While you want to jump us into the story, I feel like I needed more context.

  14. S.M.Johnston Says:

    For starters, I know this query from around the traps and it’s one I have a soft spot for.


    I felt it was too long and we lose Constance’s voice in the middle paragraph. So there’s actually a POV shift here in the query. Let’s see this group of misfits through Constance’s eyes. You also talk about they and then shift to she without reintroducing Constance. I agree with other mentors that you are best served with comps in your query. Take it right back. You’ve given us an info dump about the Suppressors that we don’t really need in the query. We need to know about the death in the first par, and we don’t really need much else from the second par at all apart from the first sentence. You can then move into their luck changing the info from the third par. I think the stakes need to be a little clearer and higher. She could lose people – to what and how. It’s a bit vague for me.


    I agree with the other mentors on your POV switches. Even the fourth line isn’t really in Constance’s POV. Little tweaks can help make it hers. Remember, we need her voice shining through.

    Also watch your dialogue tags (as a former journo this is a pet peeve of mine).

    “Pleasant[.]” Ander sniffed. (You can’t actually sniff the word pleasant. He can sniff after or before he says it).
    “No[.]” [H]er superior glared
    “Wait a sec, Ander[.]” Constance shut off

    Only use a comma where you have the words said or similar after, (Wait a sec, Ander,” she said) or if you are using the dialogue verb in the middle of a sentence.

    Also – avoid ellipses where ever possible. You can use a comma between notion and but in this instance.

  15. Liz Fichera Says:

    I noticed that this query/excerpt are titled under “Adult Horror.” Is it horror as much as paranormal? Just a thought. This may be crossover.

    Regarding the query, I really liked the punch (no pun intended) of the first sentence. But then what follows, I think, could be a little tighter. For example, can you substitute “ghosts” for “incorporeal”? This kind of took me out of the query and suddenly felt a little textbookish when I think you were going for a lighter and more humorous voice. The second paragraph also needs some tightening and, for me, it’s kind of going in too many directions (e.g. you identify that she is a medium too?). What specifically is at stake for Candace and the Suppressors?

    Candace is definitely a bad-ass. 🙂 I think the excerpt compliments the query. Has a SUPERNATURAL feel.

    Thanks for sharing and best of luck with your query and writing!

    P.S. Genius visual: “If you try getting touchy-feely with her, that’s something she’ll try deflecting like sunbeams off a bad comb over.” I’m still laughing…that is hilarious. Well done. 🙂

  16. Love this! It’s like a New Adult Scooby Doo! (I mean that in a complete and utter compliment.)

    Constance is clearly pretty fun. As for the query, I’d mention her in this sentence: “But spirits are growing restless, people are going missing, and the longer CONSTANCE spends with the mismatched crew, the more her once-coveted “alone” becomes the last thing she wants.” (obviously not all caps, I just wanted to point out where I changed it.) Because on first read, it tripped me up on who “she” was.

    And like some other mentors mentioned – watch the POV shifts.

    This is so fun. I love the voice and the language!

  17. Lanette Kauten Says:

    Misfit ghost hunters sounds like fun!

    Query: I’m not getting a sense of who Constance is except that she’s an angry person. In fact, I’d rather spend time with the misfits. You need to makes us care about her and want to spend an entire book with her. One way you can do that is move the information about her being a medium and losing a loved one to a spirit up closer. Where it is now seems almost like a throw-away. But what else about Constance’s personality makes her unique? Why do we want to spend time with her? You need to figure that out and show us in the query. The other thing that gives me pause is the genre. Your query reads more like paranormal than horror. There is some cross-over between the genres, but horror should terrify the readers, and I’m not getting a sense of that.

    250: I like your first page. We see an angry Constance who likes to fight, but you also hint at her vulnerability in that if it’s her blood, she would tend to her wounds in private. Also, her being dressed down by a superior is something everyone can relate to.

  18. Hi! 🙂
    I think comparing your manuscript to other works (It’s blank meets blank) will help show the reader which direction your story is headed.

    I love stuff about mediums and the fact that she joins up with a group of ghost-hunters sounds fun. But I didn’t catch that she’d lost a love one to a ghost until it’s mentioned at the end of the second paragraph. I think the issue I have with this query is the lack of an obvious thread and seamless transitions.

    The query starts by introducing her (good job) then shows that she tags along with a group of ghost hunters. Half way through the second paragraph it seems to switch gears from a funny situation to something more serious, the spirits are growing restless. And the last paragraph introduces an institute in connection with the stakes. This seems very disconnected.

    I’m assuming the main thread of this story is her accepting her medium abilities. If that’s the case, make sure that thread is in every paragraph and every other element of the query connects to it. That thread is what will hold the tapestry of your query together. 🙂

    I also think the stakes need to be better shown. Introduce the institute earlier in the query, hint at it, so when it’s shown as the bad guy the reader accepts its place in the story. Helps with flow. The stakes mention the death and deceit, but not really the stakes. Show us the struggle she’s facing. If she doesn’t succeed then…

    About the first 250: You write beautifully. Very much so. I did wonder, though, if you meant to show two POV’s. And this is just the first 250 words, but make sure you give your MC redeeming qualities very early into the story. One of my manuscripts is told from the POV of a man-eater, so believe me, I’ve dealt with trying to balance bad behavior with redeemable qualities.

    I hope my comments have helped. Good luck!

  19. “Hapless, hopeless crew of misfits.” LOVE. This sound super fun, but I agree with Katie that it sounds more paranormal than horror. If it is horror, let us see some of that in the query. I love the voice in both the query and the first 250. That’s so important, and you’ve nailed it off the bat. Technically speaking, though, to tighten both up, I’d take a look at passive voice. Lots of use of ‘to be’ verbage in both (‘are’ in query and ‘was’ in first 250). The query should put us in the action, but the passivity takes us out of it. This is an easy fix, a search/find for these words and then revising the sentences into active voice, which will give us the action and keep us involved.

    I get the feeling this is dual/multiple pov because of what Jessika brought up about knowing Ander is relieved. I feel like there should be something in the text that lets us know it’s shifting to his pov. I thought we were in Constance’s head, and then suddenly we’re in Ander’s.

    On the whole, this sounds like loads of fun. I’m already taken with the voice and premise and would totally read on! Good luck!

  20. I love me a good ghost story. This sounds like a fun read, but comes off more as paranormal or sci fi than horror based on the query/first 250. Aside from the mention of a malevolent spirit, I’m not feeling creeped out or getting the horror vibe at all.

    Query: I love the first line, totally gives a window into Constance. In that same paragraph you mention her bitter, sarcastic life, but you’re already showing us her stand-offish personality, so it isn’t necessary to state it. Also, I found myself getting lost in your third paragraph. There’s a lot of information being shot out at the reader there and I’m afraid some of the more important parts are being glazed over by the rest. If this paragraph could be tightened up, I think your query would feel cleaner/more concise. The closing paragraph is great and gives us some clear stakes. Overall, well done!

    250: Again, awesome opening sentences – we learn so much about Constance in very few words (not an easy thing to do). I feel like we head-hop a bit in the paragraphs where her superior is talking/thinking. How would Constance know he was relieved no one was watching or that he figured she wouldn’t act on the notion or that he’d prefer a little distance? If she’s speculating or knows him well enough to read his actions, we need to understand that, but as it reads, we are obviously in her head, then in his. It’s an easy fix unless the entire story is written this way – something I have intimate experience with 😉 Other than that, it’s a solid opening and I’d definitely keep reading.

    Good luck in the contest!

  21. Katie French Says:

    Mentor Katie French here. Horror is one of the genres I write in, so I’m excited to see a horror entry. Your query is good. It grabs my attention. I wonder, though, if you might want to talk a little bit more about what makes this book a horror novel. The voice is compelling and funny. (I love the bit about the comb-over.) But the tone is more snarky, not scary. Is the book snarky, not scary? If it is, then maybe you are more sci-fi than horror per se.

    The opening pages have a strong voice that I like. I worry a little that it is going to be hard to connect to Constance. If she is too stand-offish readers will have a hard time liking her. You are going to have to work very hard early on to make us like her, or at least be interested in her. We need to understand her actions and agree with them or you will stand to lose your audience. Good luck!

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