Son of a Pitch Entry #6 – Trading Stitches

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Title: Trading Stitches

Age and Genre: YA Dark Thriller

Word Count: 89,000

Query:

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is nothing more than a motivational saying for most people, but for Marc Cheeks, it may be his only hope for surviving his teen years.

Since his mother died, Marc has heard his troubled father repeat the cliché. During his recovery from a near fatal stabbing, Marc suspects the cliché is family fact. He becomes physically stronger, but strength comes with a cost. Anger consumes his father. Insanity holds his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him.

When his dad inexplicably takes his own life, Marc races to understand his father’s final words: “Find your kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.”

 Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, and a local bartender to decipher clues left in a journal written by Marc’s dad. Despite offers to help Marc, his institutionalized uncle yields more questions than answer.

As the curse continually places Marc in harm’s way, he begins to doubt his ability to escape his fate. His desperate search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer, leads him to two girls in his life: the girl next door and the creepy teen occupying the cell next to his uncle in the insane asylum.

Unfortunately, not everyone Marc wants him to succeed. One or two even want him dead. Marc is forced to risk his own life plus the lives of all those helping him only to discover that pesky, old curse might not be his alone.

He must decide not only how many lives, but who’s life is worth the answer to his father’s final words.

First 250 Words:

I thought it was a rule people didn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them. I guess my dad didn’t get the memo.

“You’re using too much starch.” I tugged my collar. The fibers ran their scratchy fingers along the back of my neck.

Dad scrunched his face and stared cockeyed. “What?”

He yanked the wheel sharp left and the balding Michelin tires squealed. Heads turned as our rusty Nissan pulled into the school’s gravel parking lot.  The rickety fender clung to the truck. A painful daily reminder of the past four years. It begged to be fixed, but Dad ignored it.

“We’re learning about starch in Home Economics,” I said. “Does this shirt even need it?”

He rolled his eyes, “I don’t know, Marc. That’s a question for your mom.”

I hated when he did that. A car accident ripped her from us four years ago, but he only mentioned her when he didn’t want to answer a question.

“Do other dudes know you’re learning this stuff.” My dad wiped down his scruffy face. “It’s going to get you beat up.”

“How’s that different than any other day?” I scoffed.

“Guys still pestering you?”

“It’s called bullying.” The peeling latch jiggled in my palm. “Like you care.”

His fist slammed the faded dashboard. “I do care! Besides, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?”

“No one believes that, Dad.”

“I do. Your grandfather did,” he said. “One day you will, too.”

Dead grandfather card for the win.

21 thoughts on “Son of a Pitch Entry #6 – Trading Stitches

  1. –I’ve changed the last few sentences in the query. The previous one needed more at the end.

    Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is nothing more than a motivational saying for most people, but for Marc Cheeks, it may be his only hope for surviving his teen years.

    Since his mother died, Marc has heard his troubled father repeat the cliché. During his recovery from a near-fatal stabbing, Marc suspects the cliché is family fact. He becomes physically stronger, but strength comes with a cost. Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him.

    When his dad inexplicably takes his own life, Marc races to understand his father’s final words: “Find your kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.”

    Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, and a local bartender to decipher clues left in a journal written by Marc’s dad. Despite offers to help Marc, his crazy uncle yields more questions than answer.

    As the curse continually places Marc in harm’s way, he begins to doubt his ability to escape his fate. A desperate search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer, leads him to two girls: the girl next door and the creepy teen occupying the cell next to his uncle in the insane asylum.

    Unfortunately, not everyone Marc wants him to succeed. Marc is forced to risk not only his life but the lives of all those helping him, only to discover that pesky, old curse might not be his alone. Can he find his Kismet before it’s too late for both of them and prove his father correct?

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  2. First, my disclaimer: All suggestions are IMHO and are meant to be thought provoking. Take ‘em, leave ‘em. This is your rodeo, so it’s up to you.
    Second … you changed…something? … No sweat. I dropped what I had last night into Word and am going to put my feedback here. I’ll take a look at that last line in a wee bit.

    Query:
    So after I read the query, I was left with questions. Your words say a lot but I need to get most important aspects and understand the conflict and stakes. I tinkered to see if I could help hone it and perhaps help you think about different phrasings and plot points to add/subtract. Who is he? What is the conflict/drama? What are the stakes?

    XX year-old Marc Cheeks is tired of hearing “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Since Marc’s mother died, his troubled father repeats the phrase too many times/over and over/?. But as he recovers from a near fatal stabbing, Marc becomes physically stronger. **The newly acquired strength comes with a cost and he’s forced to consider the saying/ the implication/the cause? (here is where your list family member afflictions but how they are connected to Marc’s recovery? Why does he think so? I saw your pinned tweet with this being Captain America meets Thinner, so I think I get it… Need a line for connection? ) Anger consumes his father. Insanity holds his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him. (Were his relatives super strong too?)

    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s journal, Marc’s desperate search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer, begins. (His crazy uncle tries to helps but …)

    As the curse continually places Marc in harm’s way, he begins to doubt his ability to escape his fate? But two girls in his life,the girl next door and the creepy teen occupying the cell next to his uncle in the insane asylum, have XXX impact on him/ are xxxx his mind/keep reappearing/suggest they play a role/insert something here ☺.

    Unfortunately, not everyone Marc wants him to succeed. One or two even want him dead(Isn’t he just looking for love? Is there something sinister about his powers? Snippet to reveal this and origin of dark forces?). Marc is forced to risk his own life plus the lives of all those helping him only to discover that pesky, old curse might not be his alone.(so – as far as the stakes go – what happens if he doesn’t find his kismet?

    He must decide not only how many lives, but whose life is worth the answer to his father’s final words.

    Digging the plot and I get that a lot goes on… look for ways to streamline.

    First 250 Words:
    I thought it was a rule people didn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them. I guess dad didn’t get the memo. (Could shorten to be a little punchier… Isn’t it a rule that people shouldn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them? Dad didn’t get that memo. But I love the intro.)
    “You’re using too much starch.” I tugged my collar. The fibers ran their scratchy fingers along the back of my neck.
    Dad scrunched his face and stared cockeyed. “What?”
    He yanked the wheel sharp left and the balding Michelin tires squealed. Heads turned as our rusty Nissan pulled into the school’s gravel parking lot. The rickety fender clung to the truck. A painful daily reminder of the past four years. It begged to be fixed, but Dad ignored it.
    “We’re learning about starch in Home Economics,” I said. “Does this shirt even need it?”
    He rolled his eyes. “I don’t know, Marc. That’s a question for your mom.”
    I hated when he did that. A car accident ripped her from us four years ago, but he only mentioned her when he didn’t want to answer a question.
    “Do other dudes know you’re learning this stuff?” My dad wiped down his scruffy face. “It’s going to get you beat up.”
    “How’s that different than any other day?” I scoffed.
    “Guys still pestering you?”
    “It’s called bullying.” The peeling latch jiggled in my palm. “Like you care.”
    His fist slammed the faded dashboard. “I do care! Besides, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?”
    “No one believes that, Dad.”
    “I do. Your grandfather did,” he said. “One day you will, too.”
    Dead grandfather card for the win.

    So, I super dig your first 250. (killer last line too 🙂 Strong voice, subtle intro to the past, good dialogue with dad – yep, I think well done. I’d keep on reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This gives me some great ideas for revisions on my query. I knew it was a bit of a hot mess with potential. Many thanks! Will post revised query soon.

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  3. Query Reboot:

    15-year-old Marc Cheeks resents hearing “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

    Since his mother died, Marc’s troubled father repeats the cliché every chance he gets. During his recovery from a near-fatal stabbing, Marc becomes physically stronger. Historically, the men in his family demonstrated superhuman strength but suffered for it. Strength for a price. Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him when he realizes the cliché is family fact.

    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc’s frantic search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer, begins. His crazy uncle offers help, but their conversation yields more questions than answers.

    As the curse repeatedly places Marc in harm’s way, he learns he is doomed without his Kismet and begins to doubt his ability to escape his fate.

    Marc’s escalating desperation forces him to risk not only his life but the lives of those helping him. Unfortunately, not everyone wants Marc to succeed. One person would greatly benefit from Marc’s death while another seeks to manipulate a Kismet-less Marc and harness his new-found power for nefarious activities.

    Success gives Marc a chance at happily ever after, but failure will mean certain death for his Kismet and his friends, and the end of his life as he knows it.

    Trading Stitches is an 89,000-word young adult dark supernatural thriller with series potential containing similar elements to those found in the works of Madeleine Roux or Will McIntosh.

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  4. Here we go: round 2 🙂
    Let me to begin with… wow, you really turned this around. Now, let me take a closer look… and tinker, I’m going to tinker –

    First, to consolidate the first two sentence because while they are both important, part is back story and I want to get into the now…so here goes.

    Since 15-year-old Marc Cheeks’ mother died, his troubled father has repeated one phrase every chance he gets. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The echo/repeat/cliche gets on Marc’s last nerve. But when he gain significant strength after recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, Marc’s not so sure his dad’s just blowing smoke, rattling phrases, spouting off anymore? All the men in his family (all the Cheek men) have demonstrated superhuman strength. Before Marc can classify that as cool (or lucky), he also recalls they all have horrible misfortune. Is it strength for a price? Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him when he realizes the cliché is family fact.

    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc’s frantic search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer, begins. His crazy uncle offers help, but their conversation yields more questions than answers.

    As the curse repeatedly places Marc in harm’s way, (So wait, clarify something for me…is he constantly getting hurt but getting stronger every time?) he learns he is doomed without his Kismet and begins to doubt his ability to escape his fate. (If the answer was yes to my question…. The curse throws some serious deadly curveballs to amp up Marc’s strength and he wonders if Kismet doesn’t exist or if his fate is already sealed. …If the answer was no, forget the prior sentence)

    Marc’s escalating desperation forces him to risk not only his life but the lives of those helping him. (But how? I’m not sure I get how they are at risk? Does the range of the curse grow to eclipse those around him in the danger zones?) Unfortunately, not everyone wants Marc to succeed. One person would greatly benefit from Marc’s death while another seeks to manipulate a Kismet-less Marc and harness his new-found power for nefarious activities. (Can we throw a hint about a nefarious bad guy in earlier? Any chance Marc’s uncle warn him about this and it can be hinted at back in the crazy paragraph?)

    Success gives Marc a chance at happily ever after, but failure will mean certain death for his Kismet and his friends, and the end of his life as he knows it.

    🙂

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    • I call this Query – Ramping the Stakes to an Eleven
      —my only worry is it reads too much like a synopsis and needs to be trimmed

      Since 15-year-old Marc Cheeks’ mother died, his troubled father repeats one phrase every chance he gets. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The saying gets on Marc’s last nerve. But when he gains significant strength after recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, Marc realizes the cliché is family fact. All the Cheeks men have flashed superhuman strength as adults. Marc refuses to get too excited as he also recalls the horrible misfortune of each man. Is the strength cursed? Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears he cannot avoid what awaits him.

      After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc’s frantic search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer, begins. His crazy uncle offers help, but their conversation yields more questions than answers.

      As the curse repeatedly places Marc in harm’s way, he narrowly sideswipes death time and time again to grow even stronger. Marc’s uncle warns Marc he is doomed without his Kismet and the local bartender, who happens to be the uncle’s Kismet, will seek to manipulate Marc, harnessing his new-found power for nefarious activities. He will even go as far as killing Marc’s Kismet to obtain Marc’s power. Without knowing who to trust, Marc begins to doubt his ability to escape his fate.

      Marc’s desperation forces him to risk not only his life but the lives of those still helping him in an effort to recover his dad’s journal when the bartender steals it. After a brutal fight, a battered Marc returns alone to his uncle only to discover his uncle hasn’t been completely honest with him. Can Marc survive one final family reunion and find his Kismet or has he been playing into his uncle’s hands the entire time?

      Success gives Marc a chance at happily ever after, but failure will mean certain death for his Kismet and his friends, and the end of his life as he knows it.

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      • I get what you’re saying – it’s complicated 🙂 and now it’s getting longer
        it’s hard from this vantage point (at times… like this one) to help without knowledge of the plot because I don’t know where this is going.

        And I understand you don’t want to reveal too much.

        I’ll start with Ramping the Stakes version tomorrow morning and see if we can cram back in some of what’s been coaxed out. (Personally, I understand the storyline better with each revelation. Maybe I should have started with tell me everything first. 🙂

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  5. I hear what you’re saying. Since I still know the story best. At least, I think I do. I do, right? Dang, it’s late. I tried a more matter-of-fact version cutting the length 40%. I realized a few of the details fit much better in the synopsis.

    A much shorter version of the query:

    Since 15-year-old Marc Cheeks’ mother died, his troubled father repeats one phrase every chance he gets. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The saying gets on Marc’s last nerve. But when he gains significant strength after recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, Marc realizes the cliché is family fact. Strength for the men in his family has always come at a price. Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him.

    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc’s frantic search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer to the curse, begins. His crazy uncle offers help, but their conversation yields more questions than answers.

    As the curse repeatedly places Marc in harm’s way, he continually sideswipes death growing ever stronger. Marc’s uncle warns him that he is doomed without his Kismet and the local bartender, who happens to be the uncle’s Kismet, will seek to kill Marc’s Kismet and manipulate Marc, harnessing his power for nefarious activities.

    After a brutal fight with the bartender, a battered Marc discovers his uncle hasn’t been completely honest with him. Can Marc survive one final family reunion and find his Kismet or has he been playing into his uncle’s hands the entire time?

    Success gives Marc a chance at happily ever after, but failure will mean certain death for his Kismet and the end of his life as he knows it.

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    • Getting better each round. I tinker with the last half to see if you could pull back some details without revealing too much and here’s what I landed on…

      He continues to sideswipe death and grow strong as the curse’s hold/effect/impact grows stronger too. Marc discovers that while he’s trying to control his fate, someone wants to control him and his budding power for nefarious activities.
      Marc’s crazy uncle might be more dangerous than crazy and the Kismet hunt reaches desperate levels. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” only applies if he and his kismet aren’t dead.

      (Perhaps a hair misleading… but that’s okay.)

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  6. Because you can’t hone your craft by giving up:

    Since 15-year-old Marc Cheeks’ mother died, his troubled father repeats one phrase every chance he gets. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The saying gets on Marc’s last nerve. But when he gains significant strength after recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, Marc realizes the cliché is family fact. Strength for the men in his family has always come at a price. Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him.
    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, his crazy uncle Lester, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc begins his frantic search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer to the curse.
    Even after the journal is stolen, Marc continues to sideswipe death and grow stronger as the curse cements itself to him during the Kismet hunt. While fighting to control his fate, Marc discovers someone wants to control him and his budding powers for nefarious activities.
    When his desperation reaches its peak, Marc makes a final plea to Lester only to learn his uncle hasn’t been completely honest with him and may be more than dangerous than he is crazy.
    Marc realizes “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” only benefits survivors and he’ll have to risk everything he knows if he wants to remain one.

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  7. Query…draft #? Lol!
    Since 15-year-old Marc Cheeks’ mother died, his troubled (troubled how?) father repeats one phrase every chance he gets. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The saying gets on Marc’s last nerve. But when he gains significant strength after recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, Marc realizes the cliché is family fact. Strength for the men in his family has always come at a price. Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him. (I love this!)

    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc’s frantic search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer to the curse, begins. (His crazy uncle offers help, but their conversation yields more questions than answers.- Do you need this?)

    As the curse repeatedly places Marc in harm’s way (How?), he continually sideswipes death growing ever stronger. (What exactly happens? A bit of detail about avoiding death…how his strength grows…) (Marc’s uncle warns him that he is doomed without his Kismet and the local bartender, who happens to be the uncle’s Kismet, will seek to kill Marc’s Kismet and manipulate Marc, harnessing his power for nefarious activities.- There’s a lot of info in here and names…Simplify? Maybe go into the meat here of his uncle’s Kismet finding a way to harness Marc’s power, use it for evil…If he found Marc’s Kismet first…Choose the main plot line and follow it! I think you’re trying to put too much info in…I do the same thing.)

    After a brutal fight with the bartender, a battered Marc discovers his uncle hasn’t been completely honest with him. Can Marc survive one final family reunion and find his Kismet or has he been playing into his uncle’s hands the entire time?

    Success gives Marc a chance at happily ever after, but failure will mean certain death for his Kismet and the end of his life as he knows it. (I’m left a bit overwhelmed.)

    ~What is the main story line? What is the main problem? What does Marc want and what is in his way? Marc is getting stronger each time he survives some event that could have/should have killed him. Start with the cliche, with the bit of how he survived a stabbing…to set us up. Then give us that this has happened to all the men in his family…just the men, right? Insanity, death, suicide…Marc needs to find a way to stop it before he ends up dead or insane or who knows what. His father’s final message, and cryptic journal, makes him think finding his Kismet, a soulmate, will save him… Problem and what he wants… Okay, so what keeps him from getting it? Doesn’t know who his Kismet is. And crazy bartender intent on using his powers (what drives him I wonder?) then…the stakes…what happens if he doesn’t find his Kismet or if the bartender finds him/her? What is the climax, where the choice must be made? Can he feel his body or mind giving out from the power he gains? He fears he’ll die. He fears his Kismet will die.
    You’ve been working this thing so hard! SO many revisions. Overthinking is the enemy. And queries are so subjective. Keep it focused and simple. You got this!

    First 250 Words:

    I thought it was a rule people didn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them. I guess my dad didn’t get the memo. (I really like this, but then I expected to see right away how his father uses his dead mother against him, so was confused when that didn’t happen.)

    “You’re using too much starch.” I tugged my collar. The fibers ran their scratchy fingers along the back of my neck.

    Dad scrunched his face and stared cockeyed. “What?”

    He yanked the wheel sharp left and the balding Michelin tires squealed. Heads turned as our rusty Nissan pulled into the school’s gravel parking lot. The rickety fender clung to the truck. A painful daily reminder of the past four years. It begged to be fixed, but Dad ignored it. (good description)

    “We’re learning about starch in Home Economics,” I said. “Does this shirt even need it?”

    He rolled his eyes, “I don’t know, Marc. That’s a question for your mom.” (Yeah…I almost want the opening sentence here…)

    I hated when he did that. A car accident ripped her from us four years ago, but he only mentioned her when he didn’t want to answer a question.

    “Do other dudes know you’re learning this stuff.” My dad wiped down his scruffy face (with what?). “It’s going to get you beat up.”

    “How’s that different than any other day?” I scoffed.

    “Guys still pestering you?”

    “It’s called bullying.” The peeling latch jiggled in my palm. “Like you care.” (Is he dying to get out of the car? Why doesn’t he just get out of there? Is he hoping for Dad to say something, do something?)

    His fist slammed the faded dashboard. “I do care! Besides, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?”

    “No one believes that, Dad.”

    “I do. Your grandfather did,” he said. “One day you will, too.” (How does he say this? And if he is suffering from the curse…would his super strength show here, dent the dash?)

    Dead grandfather card for the win. (Wow. Go Dad.)

    ~I love the father/son exchange, full of unsaid emotion. Full of so much backstory, that I want to learn. The idea for this story is intriguing!

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    • Love my opening lines and a little worried about bumping them down a few spots, but I do understand they flow better after the confrontation. Just wondering if I can leave them at the beginning or need option 2 of placing them 4-5 sentences in.
      ___

      I thought it was a rule people didn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them. Dad didn’t get the memo.
      “Does this shirt even need starch?” The fibers of my collar ran their scratchy fingers along the back of my neck.
      Dad fluttered his lips. “I don’t know, Marc. That’s a question for your mom.”
      It drove me crazy he only mentioned her when he didn’t want to answer a question.

      ———————————–OR—————————-
      The fibers of my collar ran their scratchy fingers along the back of my neck. “Does this shirt even need starch?”
      Dad fluttered his lips. “I don’t know, Marc. That’s a question for your mom.”
      It drove me crazy he only mentioned her when he didn’t want to answer a question.
      I thought it was a rule people didn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them. Dad didn’t get the memo.

      ———–CHANGES TO REST OF THE 250—————–
      “Do other dudes know you’re learning this stuff.” My dad pinched the wrinkled bridge of his nose. “It’s gonna get you beat up.”
      “How’s that different than any other day?” I scoffed.
      He yanked the wheel left and the balding Michelin tires struggled to keep our rusty Nissan in the school’s gravel parking lot. The rickety fender clung to the truck. A painful daily reminder of the past four years. It begged to be fixed, but Dad ignored it.
      “How’s that different than any other day?” I scoffed.
      “Guys still pestering you?”
      Dad sought comfort in denial.
      “It’s called bullying.” The broken handle jiggled in my palm as I struggled to open the door. I let my attitude run free. “Like you care.”
      “Wait a minute!” His fist slammed the faded dashboard before sucking in more of my oxygen. “I do care. Besides, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?”
      I rolled my eyes. “No one believes that, Dad.”
      “I do. Your grandfather did,” he said. “One day you will, too.”
      Dead grandfather card for the win.

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  8. I shall post my FINAL version here and we can disregard all the other mumbo jumbo from me 😉

    Title: Trading Stitches

    Age and Genre: YA Dark Thriller

    Word Count: 89,000

    Query:

    Since fifteen-year-old Marc Cheeks’ mother died, his troubled father repeats one phrase every chance he gets. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The saying gets on Marc’s last nerve. But when he gains significant strength after recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, Marc realizes the cliché is family fact. Strength for the men in his family has always come at a price. Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what awaits him could be even worse.

    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of his best friend, the girl next door, his crazy uncle Lester, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc begins his frantic search for his Kismet, a soulmate thought to be the answer to the curse.

    Even after the journal is stolen, Marc continues to sideswipe death and grow stronger as the curse cements itself to him. While Marc fights to control his fate, Lester reveals someone wants to control Marc along with his budding powers for their own evil endeavors. When his desperation reaches its peak, Marc makes a final plea to Lester but is shocked to learn his uncle has been playing him and may be more than dangerous than he is crazy.

    Marc realizes “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” only benefits the living and he’ll have to risk losing everyone and everything he knows if he wants to remain one.

    First 250 Words:
    The fibers of my collar ran their scratchy fingers along the back of my neck. “Does this shirt even need starch?”

    Dad fluttered his lips. “I don’t know, Marc. That’s a question for your mom.”

    It drove me crazy he only mentioned her when he didn’t want to answer a question.

    I thought it was a rule people didn’t use a kid’s dead mother against them.
    Dad didn’t get the memo.

    “Do other dudes know you’re learning this stuff?” My dad pinched the wrinkled bridge of his nose. “It’s gonna get you beat up.”

    “How’s that different than any other day?” I scoffed.

    He yanked the wheel left and the rusty Nissan’s balding Michelin tires struggled to maintain traction in the school’s gravel parking lot. The rickety fender clung to the truck. A painful daily reminder of the past four years. It begged to be fixed, but Dad ignored it.

    Dad sought comfort in denial.

    “Guys still pestering you?” His stare followed a pair of tight jeans.

    “It’s called bullying.” The broken handle jiggled in my palm as I struggled to open the door. I let my attitude run free. “Like you care.”

    “Wait a minute!” His fist slammed the faded dashboard before sucking in more of my oxygen. “I do care. Besides, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?”

    I rolled my eyes. “No one believes that, Dad.”

    “I do. Your grandfather did,” he said. “One day you will, too.”

    Dead grandfather card for the win.

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  9. Thank you for participating in SOAP this week and sharing your work. I’m amazed at your efforts and talent (and perhaps concerned about your lack of sleep 😉 – Marc’s story is great and I have no doubt you’ll be sharing lots of success stories… you will be sharing … right?

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  10. Last and Final (Again. Maybe)
    Since fifteen-year-old Marc Cheeks’ mother died, his troubled father repeats the phrase, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
    When Marc gains significant strength after recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, he realizes the cliché is family fact. Unfortunately, superhuman strength for the men in his family has always come at a price. Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what could await him.
    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of friends, his crazy uncle Lester, and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc begins a frantic search for his Kismet, a curse-ending soulmate.
    From the journal, Marc learns how to sideswipe death and grow stronger as the curse cements itself. Lester reveals the bartender wants to control Marc and his budding powers to increase his own wealth and power in the town. After the journal is stolen, Marc’s desperation to find his Kismet reaches its peak. He makes a final plea to Lester but is shocked to learn his uncle may be more than dangerous than he is crazy.
    Marc realizes “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” only applies to the living and he’ll have to risk losing everyone and everything he knows if he wants to remain one now that Lester wants him dead.

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  11. Here I am, finally giving you your promised critique!!! Let’s do this.

    Since fifteen-year-old Marc Cheeks’ mother died, his troubled father repeats the phrase, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

    ~This feels like a pretty flat Hook. Your next sentence feels much stronger and should be the hook. His significant strength increase is what gets my attention.~

    When Marc gains significant strength after recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, he realizes the cliché is family fact. Unfortunately, superhuman strength for the men in his family has always come at a price. Anger consumes his father. Insanity institutionalizes his uncle. Cancer stole his grandfather. Marc fears what could await him.
    After his dad takes his own life, Marc enlists the help of friends, his crazy uncle Lester, (hahaha like the Addams family!) and a local bartender to decipher his dad’s last words: “Find your Kismet. It doesn’t have to be a curse.” Left with only his dad’s secret journal, Marc begins a frantic search for his Kismet, a curse-ending soulmate.
    From the journal, Marc learns how to sideswipe death and grow stronger as the curse cements itself. Lester reveals the bartender wants to control Marc and his budding powers to increase his own wealth and power in the town. After the journal is stolen, Marc’s desperation to find his Kismet reaches its peak. He makes a final plea to Lester but is shocked to learn his uncle may be more than dangerous than he is crazy.
    Marc realizes “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” only applies to the living and he’ll have to risk losing everyone and everything he knows if he wants to remain one now (one what? Alive?)that Lester wants him dead.

    ~~Excellent revisions. Just a couple of tweaks, and strengthening that hook and you should be ready to go. Interesting concept, too. I’d like to read it once you get that book deal! Good luck!~~

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