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Team Brenda #4 – THE ALTERAE

Thursday, 17 May 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 64,000
Sixteen-year-old Emma Hawthorne agonizingly hides her ability to pick up people’s emotions and memories like a radio signal. But when she discovers her best friend’s lifeless body floating in the river, her own grief makes resisting the constant bombardment even harder.
With her ability spiraling out of control and an unshakable conviction that the drowning wasn’t an accident, she launches a search for the truth. When her investigation attracts attention from an enigmatic guy, Patrick, she might have the lead she needs. But getting answers from him won’t be easy—he’s the only person she’s ever met whose emotions she can’t read and he’s just as terrifying as he’s intriguing.
In the midst of this uncertainty, her childhood friend, Alex, comes back into her life. Despite spending years apart, their connection is stronger than ever and their friendship kindles into something more. However, Alex is holding back and his rejection pushes Emma toward Patrick.
When Emma unearths Patrick’s disturbing link to her friend’s drowning, he proves even more dangerous than she imagined. Patrick, part of an underground society of supernaturally altered humans known as the Alterae, feeds on the souls of others—and Emma’s empathic soul is an irresistible morsel. If she wants to escape Patrick’s deepening hold, she’ll have to join forces with Alex and figure out how to use her ability as a weapon to fight back before she loses her sanity – or her life.

Lights flashed through the night, painting the woods in red and blue long after the sirens fell silent. Water dripped from Emma’s hair, trailing down the blanket wrapped around her and collecting in a puddle at her feet. She clutched her knees to her chest, captivated by each drip.
Her wet jeans clung to her legs and her thin tank top left her too exposed. She shivered, as much from shock as cold, and the rough wool of the blanket scratched at her raw skin.
She pulled the blanket tighter, as if it could ward off the sting of the emotions pressing against her. Her freakish sensitivity picked up the disappointment of the EMTs for arriving too late, the drive of the police officers to find answers, the shock of the few bystanders clustered behind the crime scene tape, mostly neighbors still dressed in pajamas but unable to ignore the spectacle.
Even if she hadn’t found the body, the overwhelming rush of emotions would’ve been too much. Even if it hadn’t been her best friend.
Emma snapped her head up and stared at the police officer. “What?” Her eyes burned, but she refused to cry. She couldn’t give in to her own emotions or she’d lose it completely. Better to feel nothing, to absorb nothing, than to let the emotions surrounding her take over.
“Why were you in the woods this late at night?” he repeated. Even crouching, he towered over her, the dark blue of his uniform blending with the night.

Filed: Misc

  • Gina says:

    I can’t wait to finally read more than 250 words of this! Come onnnn June!

  • Marieke says:

    I am so there with you, G! Though it’s on my Kindle now and I’ve read at least a few chapters 😀 Such gorgeous, lush writing! LOVE it!

  • Jamie Grey says:

    I *love* this opening! I immediately feel for poor Emma and am desperate to read more. Love the new query as well – great job!

  • I’m rooting for this one! Good luck!

  • Sarah Ahiers says:

    Woo hoo! This sounds so great! Poor Emma!

  • TYHatch says:

    Love what you’ve done with the query! (Props to Brenda, too.) This is such an interesting idea.

    Good luck!

  • The first lines in the query is all I need to want to read on. Poor, Emma! Good luck and great job!

  • T.L. Bodine says:

    Oh man, this packs a punch! Good luck!

  • AllieS says:

    I’ve seen this around, and it has always intrigued me!

  • So haunting. Good writing too ;o) Great job!

  • Becca C. says:

    Love, love, love it! And this is the most compelling version of the query I’ve ever seen.

  • April Wall says:

    I love a MC as an empath!

  • Leigh Ann says:

    *taunts* I got to read it…….

    Lucky CP, I got to read this TWICE! It’s truly stunning and the author has worked her tushie off for it…

    And an empath MC is every bit as awesome, unique, and original as she sounds. Not to mention the gorgeous voice….


    GO TA GO!!!!

  • MarcyKate says:

    Great work – the new query is fantastic! And love the first page too! Good luck!

  • Lisa K. says:

    The first page of this is excellent! Very compelling, tight writing, great imagery. Well done. Very well done.

  • Noelle Henry says:

    Very emotional first page. And great job on the query, too! I definitely read this!

  • I have such a good sense of Emma just from your first 250 words. I want to read more!!

  • Jemi Fraser says:

    Very nice! I remember this query from a while back and I love what you’ve done with it. Good luck with it!!

  • Alex Hayman says:

    Wow, this is so intense. Extremely compelling. Good luck!

  • Maggie Hall says:

    I love what you’ve done with the query, and this first page is SO gorgeous. Good luck!!

  • Nice job on the new query! So want to read this. Good luck!!!

  • I remember this from the first round of the contest!! It sounds awesome!!!

    Good luck!!

  • Louise Fury says:

    This was in pitch madness. wont be casting a vote because it is already in my inbox.

  • Tara Dairman says:



    From the start, this story sounded to me like a paranormal, not an urban fantasy…and then when I got to the part about Patrick being the only person whose emotions she couldn’t read, my brain started screaming “Twilight!” No matter how good your writing is, I fear that these elements are going to trip you up in your search for an agent, since this genre is a very tough sell right now.

    Nits: In the first sentence, it should be “like radio signals” since you’re comparing those to other plural nouns (emotions and memories).

    I was also going to suggest that you cut the third paragraph, because the query feels kind of long, but I guess that it turns out that Patrick is the bad guy and Alex the good one. So instead I’ll suggest pruning both the second and paragraphs. You can cut “her ability spiraling out of control” since you just established that in the last sentence. I’d also try to condense the following two sentences into one. In the Alex paragraph, you can cut “Despite spending years….stronger than ever” and just say that he comes back into her life and their friendship turns into something more (one sentence).

    First page:

    In this page, I’d really like to see her “freakish sensitivity” at work rather than be told that it’s working. If it’s her one special power—and the big hook to your story—I think it’s important that you let the reader share that experience right away. Don’t tell us it’s freakish; give us a taste of it and let us wonder what’s going on.

    I did like the image in the last sentence, of the towering cop and his uniform blending into the night sky.

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