I had the privilege of co-hosting Lara Willard’s #pg70pit contest this weekend (check out her blog here to find the top winners). I read all of the entries in the adult category, searching nearly 200 entries for examples of strong voice.
It wasn’t easy—a lot of the entrants clearly had great manuscripts in progress, and the success of a writer’s voice can be pretty subjective. In fact, the other readers and I even disagreed over saves on both lists of winners.
To those who are listed below, congratulations! I hope that agents see the same potential that I did and give some more of your pages a chance. To those who aren’t listed below, take heart! There were some really interesting pages in the slush, and with a little more revision, your voice will shine, too.
Without further ado, here are my seven picks:
Code Name: Tears That We Will Weep Again Tomorrow
Your 70th Page:
Next, Ray guided me through the placement of her hairline, eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth. He worked quietly, his expertise presenting as a sort of relaxed intensity. I’d never witnessed a more impressive performance. Twenty minutes earlier I had been unable to articulate the set of the woman’s eyes, the height of her cheekbones, the thickness of her lips. Now, my mental image of her – minus the blemish – lay rendered in charcoal. I stared, speechless.
“Now,” he continued. “Let’s talk about distinguishing features. Scars, birthmarks, that kind of thing. I leave those to the end because people often have trouble seeing past them. You mentioned an eye?”
I nodded, and described the woman’s flecked amber irises, along with the teardrop-shaped pupil that had extended to the edge of the left one. Ray started to nod partway through my description, but waited until I finished before he spoke.
“Coloboma of the iris.” He brought the sketchpad to his face, and made a few quick strokes before turning it around again. “Like this?”
“A bit wider at the side,” I said.
He adjusted the picture, and presented it to me once more.
“Yeah, that’s it. That’s her.”
He set the sketchpad on the table. “There was a high-profile case, eight, ten years ago,” he said. “A little girl with the same eye defect went missing. That’s how I know about it. It’s very rare – one in ten thousand people or so – and people notice it. If anyone knows your woman, they’ll recognize her from the description, with or without my sketch.”
Word Count: 96k
7-word description for your MC: Abrasive, socially awkward curmudgeon with a conscience
Code Name: The Stars Look Very Different Today
Your 7oth Page:
What did I want?
I wanted to forget the blood on my hands, and in my dreams, the game of hide-and-seek with the soldiers on the roofs of sleeping houses.
I wanted to forget the road; it seemed infinite, and I didn’t believe that one day I would find my sister.
Only I had to be realistic.
“I want my own house,” I told Helgi. “A place, where I would feel safe. I want a bed. With a real pillow and clean sheets.”
“Linen is nice,” he said softly. “Silk’s too slippery.”
I wouldn’t know; my family couldn’t afford such luxuries, but I’d take his word for it.
“I want a bath, and to know that I’ll have enough bread tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow… and not just bread.”
“Meat, too.” Helgi agreed. “Quails glazed in linden honey. Pies with lamb and leeks. Pork chops baked in crust of golden pastry.”
The highlight of our evening menu was a stringy crow garnished with wild chestnuts, which were already beginning to dry out, so I didn’t mind fantasizing about honeyed quails and other delicacies.
“My clan is wealthy. I will give you a house,” said Helgi.
“Don’t worry about it.”
His false promises couldn’t bring me comfort.
“Let’s take care of you first.”
I closed my eyes, trying to weave a healing net – it was like crocheting lace, only trickier. I never excelled at lacework, and now the filigree of my magic tore, looking heavy and crooked. Well, better than nothing.
In the end, I was only half Fey.
Word Count: 95k
7-word description for your MC: Uncomfortable in her skin, growing into it.
Code Name: You’re a Sky Full of Stars
Your 70th Page:
The colors were more vibrant here—the lake more turquoise, the leaves more green. The world around them had taken on a glossy sheen as though Tara viewed her surroundings through a telephoto lens.
“This is beautiful,” Tara breathed.
Brooks studied her for a moment, his brown eyes searching her face. “It is, isn’t it?”
He climbed the steps to a log cabin and set her bags by the door. “This is you,” he said, handing her a set of keys. Their fingers touched briefly. She jerked her hand back, not liking the twinge that radiated deep in her belly, like a tiny spark igniting a dwindling flame.
Brooks raised an eyebrow as one corner of his mouth turned upwards. Tara tried to avoid his eyes as an embarrassed flush crept up her neck. She pulled at the collar of her sweater, suddenly aware of the heat between them.
“So what now?” she asked, her gaze settling on the railing behind him.
Brooks shrugged. “That’s up to you. You’re on your own.” At her surprised look, he continued. “Until the morning.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s way past seven, which means I’m now off duty unless we’re camping overnight. And since I found you this luxurious lodge to relax in, I’m free for the next twelve hours.”
He smiled his crooked smile and Tara suddenly had an overwhelming desire to slap him. Why did it feel like he was trying to dump her at any reasonable opportunity?
Word Count: 85k
7-word description for your MC: Sassy, successful attorney learns to be adventurous
Code Name: We Can Be Heroes Forever and Ever
Your 70th Page:
Peck Costa pulled a few bills from his pocket and stuffed the money along the seam where the Ford’s body split from the hood. He started for the pier, and the Cuban shirt he wore, trimmed in black scallop, fluttered out like a sail. This style of dress separated the Capiani Shadows from the revamped Gophers.
As he walked, Costa observed sailors and longshoremen moving between anchored steamers, watched as the water shifted behind the men like liquid curtains opening and closing across unseen rods. Though the early-morning scene was melancholy, Costa was not soothed. The stench of fish and salt was, for the first time, unpleasant.
When he reached the pier, he could no longer see the kid or the Ford; the steep grade leading up was too great. It occurred to him that the boy might be driving away.
No, I would have heard the car start.
Costa felt his mistake regardless, felt it keenly—leaving his car with a kid who had the key and likely the brains to simply drive away. But the boy hadn’t given him time to sort through the situation, to weigh scenarios, to plan accordingly.
After a few minutes, Costa turned and started back as he’d been instructed.
The kid had a death wish.
And none of this was fair.
Friday around noon, I’ll bring my gun…
Costa reached the car, and the outer-shore was still empty. The boy was gone, but the key jutted from the Ford’s hood seam, in the very place where Costa’s money used to be.
Word Count: 95k
7-word description for your MC: Brilliant mouthy male masterminds borough-wide crime subjugation.
Code Name: That’s Some Hot Dish! Fondue for Two!
Your 70th Page:
Penny Lane was my friend, killed in Sam’s apartment. If there had been any doubt that the deaths were connected to our family, that doubt disappeared from my mind. We were being targeted, and nobody associated with us was safe.
“You have to get out of here,” I whispered.
“Forget it. I’m not leaving you.”
“Stop it. I don’t need a knight in shining armor. I need a friend who’s going to live through the night. Just go to the Waiting Room. You’ll be safe there.”
“And if they really are out to get you and Samael?”
I blinked back tears. “Then the bastard better be ready for a fight, ‘cuz I’m not going down without one.” I pushed him away. “I’m begging you, go where you’ll be safe. Not your home, but where other Angels are. Nobody’s going to try anything with Azrael so close.”
He tore a page off Sam’s page-a-day calendar and wrote his number on the back. “If you get in trouble…” he started as he handed me the note.
“I won’t hesitate to call,” I finished for him.
He stayed a moment longer, then said, “Good luck,” and teleported away.
I checked to make sure he really was gone, not invisible, and two seconds later, I had my phone in hand to call Sam again. When it went to voicemail, I hung up. If Sam was in hiding, he wouldn’t want me to keep calling. And I wouldn’t allow the possibility Sam wasn’t in hiding.
Word Count: 62k
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
7-word description for your MC: Death’s daughter, kinda bad at her job
Code Name: As the Sun Burns the Ground
Your 70th Page:
Nerix said, “Are you offering better?”
“Your freedom, if you go with me to the mines.”
“Freedom does us no good–not from you, not as long as Espere is in command.”
“Take me to the mines and he won’t be in command much longer.”
“You mean to go to Modigne with evidence?”
“I mean to go to Choiro.”
Nerix’s face was blank in a practiced way. He said nothing.
“What do you care about the mines?” Miro said. “It’s such as you making a profit of them.”
“Then it’ll take such as me to right the wrong. I swore I would, in Modigne.” He peeled off his glove and held up his hand so they could see the half-healed gash splitting his palm. “I don’t break my word.”
They considered his hand, silently. It was not a hostile silence now, but it was an uncertain one. Then someone said, “It’s a better chance than we’ve got from Espere.”
“Either way it goes,” said Nerix, “it’s got to be all of us or none of us. I’ve had enough of killing our own.”
“I’ve had enough of being used,” said Miro, “by Espere or otherwise.”
“He’ll be at our mercy on the Road–going and coming, unless he’s an uncommon quick learner.” Nerix’s eyes were cool on Torien’s face. “Tell me which of us is using which.”
It was a clear, bright night but a windless one. Even after the sun had gone down beyond the rim of the desert the heat pushed up into their faces from the sand.
Word Count: 92k
Genre: Historical Fantasy
7-word description for your MC: “Caution has never been your greatest strength.”
Code Name: Dreams of You Are Hard to Erase
Your 70th Page:
“It’s a miracle,” Jesse said.
“You never seen clothes cleaned before?” Myra asked with a sudden smile; the expression made her face look new and fresh. Jesse had forgotten she had freckles.
Myra tipped the contents of the bucket to rinse the clothes and handed Jesse a shirt to wring dry. He didn’t bother to catch the rinse water over the tub. Why should he, when the bucket collected it faster than he could conserve it? If the Egans were right, the bucket was gathering what he wrung right from the air as it fell.
Jesse watched in wonder as, once again, the sides of the funnel beaded with water, and rivulets flowed down to meet the water rising to gloss the top. Myra took the clean clothes to the line, and Jesse carried the rest of the washwater out again for the vegetables. They’d perked up already, their leaves out like umbrellas and the vines hopeful.
He upended the washtub, then leaned against the clothes line. “We should tell someone.”
“And have them think we’re crazy?” She shook the wrinkles a little too forcefully out of Jesse’s work shirt.
Jesse thought of Wes Turnbull’s empty cup. “Seems wrong to keep it to ourselves.”
“We’ll have to.” She shoved the pin on his shirt so fiercely that the line jogged toward the ground. Her clean skin belied the grit that had kept her alive in Gershom to begin with. “We make sure there’s enough for us first. You haven’t even watered the fields. You haven’t even filled Edie’s trough.”
Word Count: 82k
Genre: Magic Realism
7-word description for your MC: Desert orchardist wants water, gets too much.
Are you an agent? To request, comment with the code names, how many pages you’d like to see, and your contact information.
See the other #pg70pit entries here.