Critique blog hop

For those who weren’t chosen in the New Agent contest, Michelle started a blog hop we could join to have our queries and first 250 words critiqued. (I welcome critiques from those who didn’t join the blog hop too!) While I’d like to think that my entry wasn’t chosen purely for marketability reasons, I’m certain I can improve the query and first 250. Thanks in advance for your input!

[Edit: I’ve added strikethrough marks to indicate revisions but retain the original text.]

Title: Night Watch The Measure of a Monster
Word count: 70,000
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

Revised query:

When a grisly murder occurs in downtown Portland, the lives of a monster and a monster hunter collide. Reluctant supernatural expert Detective Ian Rinaldi arrives at the scene to find the victim’s body torn apart by a creature with the claws of a lion and the mouth of a shark. That’s about par for the course for a manticore attack. What’s not is that the manticore fled before finishing its meal.

Human-monster hybrid Blake Winters, a community college instructor determined to hide her paranormal heritage, believes she’s the only witness to the murder. By day, she uses her cover identity to aid Ian in his investigation. By night, she risks exposing her secret to stop a sudden influx of monsters before they claim more lives.

Then a second case puts Ian in the line of fire. Blake’s decision to protect him reveals her inhuman abilities. Amidst mounting evidence that the manticore attack and this new case aren’t so random, Ian must choose between relying on Blake or ridding the world of one more monster.

Meat of the query (revised since entering the contest):

Between the decapitated corpse and the half-eaten head, Detective Ian Rinaldi blames a manticore for his latest murder scene. Except it fled before it could finish its meal. Few monsters can scare a beast as powerful as a manticore.

Human-monster hybrid Blake Winters wants nothing more than to pass as a normal human. After settling into life as a community college instructor, she stumbles upon a manticore seconds too late to save its victim. Despite the risk of exposing her true identity, she chases the monster down.

Drawn to Blake’s interest in folklore, Ian remains unaware of his new friend’s inhuman abilities until he discovers them on display. Then a new case connected to the one he never solved motivates him to patch their broken friendship. Amidst mounting evidence that her family has been watching her all along, Ian must choose between trusting Blake or making the world a better place by ridding it of one more monster.

First 250 words:

April 5

11:27pm

Blood, diluted by rain, steadily dripped trickled into a nearby storm drain. It originated at the stump of a headless corpse sprawled across the asphalt. The head lay twelve feet away, the head twelve feet from the body. Rows of shark-like teeth had devoured most of the man’s face.

Detective Ian Rinaldi tried to wipe away the rain that dripped into his eyes as he surveyed the murder scene, yet his damp sleeve merely smeared the water over his clammy skin. He shivered.

“This is your specialty, isn’t it,” Officer Kendall said. It wasn’t a question.

Detective Ian Rinaldi wiped an arm across his forehead, but his damp sleeve merely smeared the water over his clammy skin. HeIan understood what Kendall meant. Everyone on the force knew of his so-called specialty, and they thought him crazy for it. He refused to give in. “What makes you say that?”

“Don’t play dumb with me. They sent you even though your shift ended hours ago.”

“Perhaps I was in the area.”

Kendall snorted. “Out here? At this time of night?”

“It could happen. Who reported the body?”

“Don’t know. Dispatch got an anonymous tip.”

“An anonymous tip?” Ian glanced back at the carnage. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. She only gave the location and the state of the body.” The officer shuddered. “I heard she seemed pretty calm. That’s insane. I sure would’ve been freaked out if I’d seen this. Any normal person would’ve.

Ian bit back a curse; He didn’t want to confirm Kendall’s suspicions. He also didn’t like his own. Thus far, the evidence – particularly the half-eaten head – The evidence implied that a manticore had been chased away by something. Something that could mimic a human. Something that made a manticore look as intimidating as a house cat.

Something that could call 911.

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an independent girl

For this Weekend Writing Warriors entry, I’m sharing the introduction of one of my two MCs from my CampNaNoWriMo project. That means it’s on the rough side, but it’s the project that reinvigorated my writing a few weeks ago when I was struggling with insecurity over my most revised WIP. I’m hoping that sharing a glimpse of Noelle will inspire me to persevere in writing it: my word count has slowed due to life responsibilities, and I’m no longer confident I’ll make it to 20k by the end of the month.

For context, the story is YA fantasy, the first YA I’ve ever tried to write.

Noelle hated turning seventeen.

Seventeen marked her as a woman. Seventeen made her eligible. Seventeen sent her parents foraging for husbands.

She didn’t want one. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

She could hunt just as well as all the unmarried young men in the village. She could hit birds with her arrows – flying ones. She could skin a rabbit faster than any of them except Amos or Cale or her older brother, Neil.

a little more authenticity

I have a website!

Lynn Forrest

It’s sort of a placeholder, a central location for my social media links and such, but at the same time, it’s my first author website. Look, world, I’m on the internet!

I should apologize to the Weekend Writing Warriors for not contributing this weekend. I had academic responsibilities and some self-doubt creep up on me, and I couldn’t find the motivation to pick a snippet. (I’m not sure I’m going to be providing consecutive entries nor stick with the same project; I have multiple WIPs!) I hope to read multiple posts, though!

Weekend Writing Warriors

This is my first post for Weekend Writing Warriors. It’s a group of writers who post 8-10 sentences from their WIPs on their blogs every weekend (between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning). Click the link to see the home page and the full list of people involved. I’m looking forward to reading other entries!

Today’s snippet is from Night Watch, the quasi-complete urban fantasy WIP I complained about in my last post.

Three steps back onto the lawn, only the muscular flap of leathery wings announced the arrival of death.

The two of them instinctively dove in opposite directions, rolling in the grass. The ghoul’s claws raked deep furrows in the ground where they’d just been standing. As soon as her feet fell flat on the dirt, Blake pushed herself upright and brandished her knife.

Wings?! Since when do ghouls have wings?! Ian exclaimed into the recesses of his mind. But there wasn’t any other description for the beast that stood a head taller than him. From what little Ian could see in the dim lighting, the thing’s grotesque form – deformed head, bulging muscles, wrinkled skin – looked every inch a ghoul aside from the giant flying limbs attached to its back, its wingspan wider than it was tall.

did I write the wrong book?

Twitter’s #MWSL hashtag and the related site Manuscript Wish List are brilliant. They give agents and publishers the chance to post brief overviews or short descriptions of the genres and/or types of books they want to see cross their desks. They can be inspiring, random, and even laugh-out-loud funny.

Those posts also make me wonder if I wrote the wrong book.

I expected my first completed novel to fall into the science fiction genre. As a scientist who’s loved science and attempted to write fiction since a single-digit age, it made sense. However, my imagination — and, potentially, my stress — had other plans. I finished my first novel as I finished my PhD and entered the world of full-time research. While the world of this novel had a set of rules it followed, it wasn’t sci-fi. It was fantasy. Urban fantasy, to be specific. I discovered things about myself and my perspective on the real world through the eyes and experiences of the two main characters. I’d expected it to be a tragedy, but beta readers had better ideas, and now I’m developing a sequel.

Unfortunately, I frequently see comments about the current saturation level of the urban fantasy genre, and that dumped water all over the fires of my passion to get it published. Many of the agents I’ve queried have echoed this with lines like “this isn’t what I am/the agency is looking for right now” even as they compliment my writing style or approach to the story.

I’ve ripped apart the first chapter to change my first 250 words (which apparently still need more work…). I’ve revised/edited the entire novel three times now. I’m preparing it for upcoming contests aside from Twitter pitches. And I’m starting to feel the burnout.

I’ve heard various forms of advice that boil down to the same thing: write another book. I didn’t think I could write another one, not one different enough from my urban fantasy novel for it to “matter” (that is, for it to do a better job of piquing the interest of agents). And then a new idea hit me in the face on Thursday. A young adult fantasy. Something that’s just for fun, that’s different, that has a voice that’s more silly than serious. Rather than laugh it off, I’ve decided to run with it. I’m using it as my CampNaNoWriMo novel, and the more I think about it, the more excited I get.

So, perhaps I did write the “wrong” book. The wrong book for the current market. The wrong book for the agents who have rejected it.

But it’s not the wrong book. Not for me. It’s the book I wanted to write, the book I needed to write. It’s the book that taught me that I’m capable of finishing a novel, of revising a novel, of improving my writing craft. Thanks to academia, I have July off from work. Perfect timing for Camp. Perfect timing for a new novel idea. Perfect timing to get a lot of writing done before my next job — as excited as I am about it — steals all my time and energy and creativity.

I started this post needing support — which I’ll always accept! — but now I feel like I should offer some as well. Keep writing. When the going gets tough, just keep writing. Chase those ideas you love. Play with the weird ones that fall into your lap. Revise your drafts, send the polished versions to agents, participate in contests, and when all of that fails, write another book.

Eventually, you’ll find the right one. My hope is that each and every one you write is the right one for you.

This post is part of the July series from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.