Award-winning Writer of Poetry and Fiction

Writer’s Voice 2013!

“The Writer’s Voice” is a multi-blog, multi-agent contest hosted by Cupid of Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake of Brenda Drake Writes, Monica B.W. of Love YA, and Krista Van Dolzer of Mother. Write. (Repeat.) I’ve won the Rafflecopter lottery to submit my query and first 250 words to the contest. Should be fun!

Query for The New Eden Chronicles:

Mana Aquino and Eve Thomas have no business speaking to one another. In New Eden, unauthorized contact between non-natives and citizens is punishable by death—but execution is the least of their worries.

Nineteen-year-old Mana is desperate to destroy the bishop who murdered his sister and who treats all non-natives like slaves. Nine years ago, when his parents won the lottery to leave the Ghostlands and work in New Eden, he had no idea it would lead to the deaths of everyone he loved.

Eve dreads her seventeenth birthday, when she must choose between marriage, joining the sisterhood, or government service in a far-flung settlement. Haunted by a freakish photographic memory and the strange tics that accompany it, Eve’s life in paradise becomes even more ugly when her little brother shows signs of a genetic disorder that’s been killing local children. Because interference with nature is a sin, treatment is forbidden.

Then Mana stumbles on the secret of Eve’s memory and makes a bold offer: he’ll bring illegal medical treatment to her brother, if she’ll serve as his human camera, gathering information that could bring down the bishop in a world where technology is sacrilege.

Though Eve hates having to trust a non-native, Mana is her only hope. If she accepts his offer, she’ll place her entire family in jeopardy and become entangled in an uprising that could leave New Eden in ruins. If she says no, her brother is as good as dead.

Neither one expects to need the other for long—or plans to fall for the enemy.

Told by Eve and Mana, THE NEW EDEN CHRONICLES is complete at 118,000 words. This dystopian romantic thriller combines the quiet intelligence of Matched with the Romeo-and-Juliet tension of Under the Never Sky.

I hold an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University and have published a book of poetry that won the 2007 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. My poems have appeared in numerous journals, such as Cream City Review, Gargoyle, Poet Lore, Puerto del Sol, and the Sonora Review. I’ve also published several reviews of children’s books in The New York Times.

First 250 Words:

Theresa’s a kicker. Mama and I struggle to keep her down so the medics can find a vein and fill a vial with her blood. I feel like a monster, wrestling a seven-year-old while her hot-poker screams skewer the space between my ears. But once the needle’s in, the thrashing subsides and her hazel eyes glaze over. The thin red stream shooting up into the glass is beautiful. As we let her go, I tap the back of the chair four times so the results will be negative. Theresa stumbles to her feet and stalks off. In a few minutes, she’ll be bragging to everyone about her ordeal.

Just 12, Sarah would rather die than act like a baby. She practically jumps into the chair, though her arm quivers. She closes her eyes and turns away, her lips mashed together as the needle finds its mark. When the medic caps the full vial, she beams in that self-satisfied way she’s adopted. Four-year-old Rachel doesn’t understand enough to be afraid. We promise sweet treats and a new dress for her ragdoll if she’ll behave and it works like a charm. In his cradle nearby, David sleeps through the commotion, too young to be tested. Because I’m 16, I’m past the danger zone. To my siblings’ disappointment, there’s no big sharp needle for me.

Josh’s blood is the last to be collected. His calm amazes me. Instead of looking away or crying, like most 10-year-olds would, he watches the medics with curiosity.

34 responses

  1. Nikki Trionfo

    Way to get started right away with action and voice. Good luck in the contest!

    May 2, 2013 at 5:25 pm

  2. You have a lovely strong voice here. Great opening! Good luck 😀

    May 2, 2013 at 10:44 pm

  3. AHHHHH YOU GOT IN!

    HEY! HEY! COACHES AND AGENTS!

    PICK THIS UP SO I CAN READ THE REST OF IT SOOOOON.

    (sorry for all the caps. I’m just super excited for you 🙂

    May 3, 2013 at 4:39 am

    • Thanks again for this post!!

      May 4, 2013 at 2:27 pm

  4. I’m not to sure but the query might be too long but the first page… whoa. I feel like I’m there with your characters feeling everything they feel. The descriptions are wonderful. Best of luck to you. 🙂

    May 3, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    • Thanks, Anoosha. I agree that my query is a bit long. Will trim for next contest!

      May 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm

  5. The 250 does a great job of introducing the players, showing a glimpse of the world, and raising a few questions. All excellent things. A tightening of the query would def help out. Here’s hoping you score a coach to help out with that part. 😉

    May 4, 2013 at 2:39 am

    • Thanks!! Just read your entry and LOVED it. There are not that many I have fallen in love with but yours is one. Good luck to you too.

      May 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      • Awww, thanks for that. The encouragement around these parts will make an excellent ‘parting gift’ for that 76% who don’t land a Coach. Of course, 100% of us *want* a Coach. 😉

        May 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm

  6. Amy K.

    Loved your opening scene of your novel. It has a great voice. Good luck to you.

    May 4, 2013 at 4:09 am

    • Thanks so much–love yours too–it’s quite different than the others I’ve seen.

      May 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm

  7. Like everyone else, I am definitely drawn in by your first page. You have me hooked and I want more. Way to go! And good luck!

    May 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm

  8. Wow! I love the premise, the comp titles, the intrigue in your first 250 words! Best of luck to you 🙂

    May 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm

  9. This is amazing. I didn’t find your query letter too long at all – probably because it read so well. Really, really wish that I could read more! Best of luck to you!

    May 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    • Jennie: Thanks. I feel like I’ll never be done tweaking the query so nice to hear it reads well.

      May 6, 2013 at 11:21 am

  10. Wowza. That beginning is phenomenal. Great voice, great introduction to the world. I’m very eager to read more of this and get deeper into what is going on here. That first line is just great!

    I’d suggest focusing the query a bit more as I got confused with all the elements and wanted to be focused mainly and succinctly on Mana and Eve’s objectives and why they may dislike each other.

    Again, LOVE the first 250 words. I’d read again and again.

    May 4, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    • Jenn: Thanks for the suggestion! And the support. Cheers!

      May 6, 2013 at 11:22 am

  11. Terrific first page. I would definitely keep reading.

    Good luck!

    May 5, 2013 at 1:21 am

  12. The first 250 pulled me right in. Love the tone and the premise. Good luck to you. 🙂

    May 5, 2013 at 1:36 am

  13. Your 250 is super, super solid. You did an awesome job. 🙂

    May 5, 2013 at 2:08 am

  14. I’d read this in a heart beat. The query laid out the stakes so well and I love Eve’s motivations. The first 250 read smooth and polished. So when can I see this in print?

    May 5, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    • Thanks, Amber. Hope we all get into print soon!

      May 6, 2013 at 11:23 am

  15. odetoblogging

    Got sucked right in!! Love the idea of being used as a human camera… nicely done. Good luck!

    May 6, 2013 at 3:49 am

  16. Thanks for commenting! What is your name? I want to go read your entry!!

    May 6, 2013 at 11:24 am

  17. Hey there,
    Popping in for a little first page/query critiquing

    Overall I really like your concept. I think you do a good job of setting up the conflict and the character’s desires but the query is a bit wordy and I think you might have too much detail in places you don’t need it.

    I’m struggling with the flow between the first and second paragraphs.

    In the second paragraph you might consider flopping the first and second sentence to read something like:
    When his parents won the lottery to leave the Ghostlands and work in New Eden, Mana no idea it would lead to the deaths of everyone he loved. Now nineteen, Mana is desperate to destroy the bishop who murdered his sister and who treats all non-natives like slaves.

    In the third paragraph there’s a lot of details that aren’t seemingly connected to one another. I’d consider cutting the first sentence. While it tells a little bit about the character’s struggle, it doesn’t seem to play into the rest of the query and I’m not sure how the details are important. I’m also wondering if her upcoming birthday is really important or if you should just say soon to be seventeen-year-old or just plain sixteen-year-old Eve.

    Maybe say something like:
    While sixteen-year-old Eve’s life as a citizen should be paradise, she’s haunted by a freakish photographic memory with strange tics. Even more ugly, her little brother is showing signs of a genetic disorder that’s been killing local children. As much as Eve wants to save her brother, interference with nature is a sin meaning treatment is forbidden.

    In the next paragraph, I think you need a tad bit more detail, how do Mana and Eve meet. Something like when Eve is out doing whatever she stumbles upon Mana… or however it is that they meet.

    This sentence: “he’ll bring illegal medical treatment to her brother, if she’ll serve as his human camera, gathering information that could bring down the bishop in a world where technology is sacrilege.” is a bit wordy, you might consider tightening it or breaking it into two sentences.

    The last big paragraph is pretty good. It sets up the stakes really well. The last line however throws a wrench in things and i don’t think its helping your query.

    “Neither one expects to need the other for long—or plans to fall for the enemy.”

    The first part removes the mystery from the query, in the previous part you gave a choice with one line you removed the choice and said they agree to help each other. The second part brings in the romantical element which is nice but no where else in the query do you mention a possible love interest between them. If there is, and it’s not a secondary plot to the story then that needs to be introduced in the query sometime after you mention them meeting and woven in seamlessly to the end.

    As for the genre dystopian romantic thriller seems like a long explanation for the genre. And I’m not sure its the right explanation for your story, if it is, it’s not coming off well in the query. I don’t think this sounds like a thriller at all so I’d cut that. The only hint I got to it being a dystopian is that the natives are oppressed and the one line about Eve being forced to make decisions. So I think you are on the right track with that but the details need to be filled out a little better.

    As for your first 250, I really like the voice. That said I think you are starting in slightly the wrong spot. I think you are headed for her brother’s inevitable diagnosis with the blood draw which is good, but introducing her sisters first as well as all the other siblings is too many characters at the start of the story. I’m not sure they are all important to the story. If the story is mostly about her and her brother’s disease since he’s mentioned in the query, I’d start with him and the MC and leave the rest of the siblings out of the first 250. Let me get to know you MC and her bond with her brother. That seems critical to the progression of the story. The rest while interesting, isn’t crucial right off the bat. It can be woven in later.

    As with any critique don’t feel obligated to take everything (or anything) I say. Use what works for you and ditch the rest. I do hope you find this helpful though. I wish you luck with the future of your story. 🙂

    May 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm

  18. Oh man, critting this one will be hard.

    This concept is fabulous. And Matched meets Under the Never Sky? Awesome. But I think the two things that are against you most are

    -The overflow of dystopians in the YA market right now
    -Playing up what makes your story different within the query.

    I totally got the Under the Never Sky vibe from your 250. The writing is fantastic. And I love the hints in the query at the Biblical underpinnings–“New Eden,” “Mana,” “Eve,” “Thomas/Aquino,” “Ghostlands.” Those are the standouts for me. The trick of it, I think, is how to make them SHINE in the query and really pop out.

    That’s the real draw for me–a setup that sounds almost like a retelling of the Fall of Man? Okay! And a sort of forbidden love there, too? Yes!

    My biggest selling points from the query are

    –The religious allusions. That’s my biggest one. I don’t think I’ve really seen that played out THIS strongly in a dystopian yet, and I love the implications, especially the mental picture I’m getting of New Eden versus the Ghostlands. Maybe the trick is to paint a picture here to highlight that…? I feel like the world here and its settings are almost characters all by themselves, and I’m deeply, DEEPLY curious about them. I’m slightly more curious about the setting than I am the characters :/

    –Two people forming a forbidden alliance. Yes, yes, you see this all the time in YA, but God, am I a sucker for it.

    –The potential love story. Yes to “fall”–oh, man, there is so much cleverness here I can barely stand it. But…how can you translate this to the general market? What’s going to draw them in? What’s the hook? If the romantic subplot is a big draw, play it up! Use that “fall” allusion for all it’s worth 🙂

    But, to go back to the query…I’m so distracted by the setting and the conflict that…I’m not fully grabbed by either Mana or Eve :/ I understand their motivations, yes, and I totally get the parts they’ll play in this overall conflict. I see where they have to cooperate with each other to get what they want. But where is the chemistry between these two? Why might they fall for each other? Lead me with a little relationship potential here, and I’ll bite.

    That’s my big three. I wish I had a clearer map of EXACTLY what to dismantle here. I agree with most of Jamie’s suggestions about rearranging some of the info in the query to tighten it up a bit.

    I think this is very, very, very close. I’d snap this up in a heartbeat, dystopian market flood or no. Keep at it.

    May 11, 2013 at 4:28 am

    • Ruby petals, who are you?? I want to return the favor but can’t figure out who you are. Thanks so much for the feedback…it is really giving me some new ideas for how I could rewrite this freakin query. I can’t decide if I should focus on the love story, which is central, or the setting, which is part of what makes it unique. I might play up the idea that Mana is going to seduce her into falling. In this world, New Eden is a closed, all-white society that has been able to flourish after environmental collapse and global war, because its founder discovered the secret to unlimited solar power. He basically found a way to recreate photosynthesis with very little sunlight. But he also built up a religion around himself and made himself a god. So they worship him as The Healer and their religion grows out of the Christian tradition. New Eden is ruled by a theocracy that considers technology a sin even though they use solar power. The rulers don’t let regular citizens use much technology because during the Waste Ages (our time), it led to almost total self-destruction. So, regular citizens are supposed to live very humbly and all products of the Waste Ages (art, literature, music) are banned and are not supposed to exist. Outside of New Eden, most of the world is barren, scarred by drought, floods, and war. Mana comes from the Ghostlands that surround New Eden, where living conditions are difficult much like in 3rd world countries. His family won the lottery to get into New Eden and work as a kind of indentured servants. He hates being a slave and can’t do anything to stop the death of his parents and sister at the hands of a corrupt Bishop. This is not anywhere in my queries, but he also is able ti influence the thinking of other people–this ability is subtle and doesn’t always work but is a mutation caused by all of the chemicals and radiation in the Ghostlands. He wants revenge badly and then finds out about Eve’s memory from a sympathetic monk who is working with an underground revolution against the government of Holy Elders. Because there are no cameras, Eve’s memory is very valuable. Mana is also sleeping with a wealthy matron who pays him in coins he uses to buy info and weapons to use in his quest. Meeting Eve changes him and he changes Eve. Sorry for all the details but trying to figure out what aspects of the story to highlight is tricky. I think the story is a bit different than a lot of dystopians–I just haven’t figured out how to convey that in the query yet. Thanks again for your help!!

      May 11, 2013 at 2:55 pm

  19. Okay, here’ s new version:

    Four hundred years after environmental collapse, there’s no place on Earth as beautiful and undamaged as New Eden, where The Council of Holy Elders guards the secret to unlimited solar power. But for sixteen-year-old Citizen Eve Thomas, life in paradise has never been easy. Haunted since childhood by a freakish photographic memory, intrusive thoughts, and strange tics, she’s never felt comfortable in her own skin. When her beloved younger brother contracts a disease The Council refuses to treat because interference with Nature is a sin, the tics and bad thoughts escalate. She begins a desperate search for anything that could save her brother’s life.

    Ten years ago, nineteen-year-old Mana Aquino and his family won the lottery to leave the barren Ghostlands for work in New Eden. He had no idea it would lead to the deaths of almost everyone he loved. Now Mana lives for one thing: to destroy the Bishop who murdered his sister and treats all Non-natives like slaves. When a monk plotting revolution tells Mana about Eve’s memory, Mana uses his considerable charms to make a bold offer: he’ll bring illegal medicine to Eve’s brother, if she’ll help gather information that could destroy the Bishop, serving as Mana’s human camera in a world where advanced technology is banned.

    But everyone knows Non-natives are unclean savages who can’t be trusted, especially this one with his slanted eyes and infuriating arrogance. Mixing with a Non-native could also get Eve permanently exiled or worse. If she accepts his offer, she’ll fall hard, breaking almost every law she’s ever known and placing her entire family in jeopardy. If she says no, her brother is as good as dead.

    Complete at 118,000 words, The New Eden Chronicles, is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story with cross-cultural romance at its heart. The novel combines the quiet intelligence of Matched with the Romeo-and-Juliet tension of Under the Never Sky.

    May 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    • I like the intro–it definitely sets the stage, and from the first sentence, the reader can tell that this is a story with Biblical allusions.

      However…

      I’m still not getting a feel for the chemistry between Eve & Mana. All right, so he uses his considerable charms, and Eve will fall hard. But why…? Is it because Mana is handsome? Does she begin to form feelings for Mana in the course of their partnership? “What started as a partnership to benefit both parties becomes much more”, something along those lines, you know? And tossing in some positive or attractive descriptors could benefit your query more than neutral/negative ones (slanted eyes, arrogance)–I’m guessing from his considerable charms that Mana is attractive and has a seductive nature. Clarify that a little more and it’ll strengthen “fall hard” while adding to the Biblical allusion.

      I think this one is much closer. My vote is to try it out on the AQC and QueryTracker forums, see what the response is.

      Hope my comments help!

      May 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm

  20. I think this query is much stronger, but as rubypetals stated I’m not feeling the chemisty between Mana and Eve. I think the first two paragraphs are stellar, they setup the story, the tone, the stakes, but the third paragraph needs work. This is where you can say mana is untrustworthy but also where I’d throw in the juxtaposition on the romance. What is it about him that makes Eve want to agree to the deal. We know it’s dangerous and her brother’s life is at stake but throw in the romantic element to complicate it even further. I think after that first sentence in the third paragraph you need a sentence or two explaining the romantic element, how does she start to fall for him or how does he start to fall for her. What is is about the other person that draws them together. If the romance is central to your story it needs to be front and center in your query. Otherwise the reader will feel deceived when they read your manuscript. I don’t think it will take much to pull in the romance but if you are labeling it as a romance it needs to be present in the query.

    May 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm

  21. Latest revision below. Thanks to all who have commented!!

    Four hundred years after environmental collapse, there’s no place on Earth as beautiful as New Eden, where The Council of Holy Elders guards the secret to unlimited solar power. But for sixteen-year-old Citizen Eve Thomas, life in paradise has never been easy. Haunted since childhood by a freakish photographic memory, intrusive thoughts, and strange tics, she’s never felt comfortable in her own skin. When her beloved little brother contracts a disease The Council refuses to treat because interference with Nature is a sin, she begins a frantic search for anything that could save his life.

    Nineteen-year-old Mana Aquino and his family won the lottery to leave the barren Ghostlands for work in New Eden 10 years ago. He had no idea it would lead to the deaths of almost everyone he loved. Now he’s desperate to destroy the ruthless Bishop who murdered his sister and treats all Non-natives like slaves. When a monk plotting revolution tells Mana about Eve’s memory, he spies on her, fascinated, then makes a bold offer: he’ll bring illegal medicine to her brother, if she’ll serve as his human camera, gathering information that could bring down the Bishop in a world where technology is sacrilege.

    If Eve accepts Mana’s offer, she’ll place her entire family in jeopardy, break almost every law she’s ever known, and become entangled in an uprising that could leave New Eden in ruins. If she says no, her brother as good as dead.

    Though Eve knows better than to trust a savage and angry outsider, something too powerful to name is drawing her to the charismatic boy with the dark sun eyes.

    May 13, 2013 at 6:46 pm

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