Polish your entries for the “Like a Virgin” contest!

virgin_widget1If you have a completed, polished YA/NA manuscript, and have never entered a contest with it before, then the Like a Virgin contest is for you!

The Like a Virgin contest starts on July 12th at 6AM EST and is hosted by Kristina Perez and Rhiann Wynn-Nolet. If you meet the aforementioned requirements, then I would definitely get in on this awesome contest. Click here to learn more about the contest in general and what the various rounds entail. Lastly, click here to read up on all the details on how to enter and how to format your entry.

Now, on to what this post is for! I’m not personally entering this contest (I don’t have a manuscript to do so with!), but I know how tough these contests are. The first round is a first-come, first-serve deal for 50 entrants. After that, five judges will be picking only 2 entries each. That means only 10 people will be passing on to Round 2. So you want your query + 250 words to be as polished, tight, and jam-packed with awesome as possible to catch their eye.

So I want to help you make your entry as polished as possible. I have experience entering contests and having the good fortune of being chosen by judges to pass on to the next round. I’m an editorial intern, as well as a submissions intern. I’m also getting published next year. I want to put my experience to good use in the writing community.

If you’re entering this contest, then feel free to post either your query letter or first 250 words (or both!) as a comment to this post and I will critique it. If you have the time and are willing, I would also ask that you help critique your fellows in the comments section as well–this is not a requirement, merely a courtesy.

Lastly, good luck to everyone entering Like a Virgin!

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14 Comments

  1. what an awesome idea! Here is my query:
    Having an eccentric father includes moving into a house where living conditions are a grade above homeless. That’s what seventeen-year-old Casey’s life has been like following her dad around from one renovation project to the next. Neither of speak of their odd circumstances, and with one more move under her belt, and less than two months left of high school, Casey’s ready to break free from her dad’s personal brand of crazy. Just as she makes peace with her non-existent relationship with her father, her Indian grandparents, people who haven’t spoken to her since her mother’s funeral eight years earlier, show up at her front door with a suspect amount of luggage, and ideas on how a young lady should act that put women back fifty years. In the midst of the havoc, Casey starts a romance with her high school crush, the boy who also happens to be working for her dad, and keeping it under wrap gets more difficult with her nosy grandparents in the picture. As Casey starts to spend time with her grandmother, certain truths from the past come to light and she is forced to face the truth- that maybe her dad isn’t the only one guilty of keeping their relationship at a distance, maybe she’s at fault too. Just as things seem to get back on track, a secret her dad has kept for years comes to light, threatening to undo all the work Casey has put into repairing her crumbling life. Restoring Casey follows the story of one girl caught in a cultural divide as she falls in love for the first time and learns that holding onto the relationships she thought she could live without is braver than running away.

    1. You’ve got a lot going on in your query. It reads more like a synopsis than an actual query. It also runs on the long side. The general consensus on how long a query letter should be is 250 words max (preferably even shorter than that!). Since your C&P of the query letter didn’t carry over the paragraphs being broken up, I made my best guess at where you had paragraphs starting.

      Having an eccentric father includes moving into a house where living conditions are a grade above homeless. That’s what Seventeen-year-old Casey’s life has been like is stuck following her dad around from one renovation project to the next. Neither of speak of their odd circumstances, and with one more move under her belt, and less than two months left of high school, Casey’s ready to break free from her dad’s personal brand of crazy. (I’m not being SHOWN why Casey’s father is eccentric/crazy. It just sounds like a job that requires tons of relocation. Is there another detail to add that would help support this? Otherwise, I’d remove the “crazy” part.)

      Just as she Casey makes peace with her non-existent relationship (This came out of left-field. I’d suggest instead of showcasing her father being eccentric or crazy, show us that he apparently neglects/ignores Casey i.e., does she have to steal clothes for herself at charity drop-offs, scrounge for food?) with her father, her Indian grandparents, people who haven’t spoken to her since her mother’s funeral eight years earlier, show up at her front door with a suspect amount of luggage, and ideas on how a young lady should act that put women back fifty years. In the midst of the havoc, Casey starts a romance with her high school crush, [the boy who also happens to be working for her dad, and keeping it under wrap gets more difficult with her nosy grandparents in the picture] (Everything in brackets: why does it matter he’s the boy working for her dad? Why does she want to keep the relationship hidden? Use specifics to make this more interesting, but keep a close eye on wordiness!). As Casey starts to spend time with her grandmother, [certain truths from the past come to light and she is forced to face the truth- that maybe her dad isn’t the only one guilty of keeping their relationship at a distance, maybe she’s at fault too. Just as things seem to get back on track, a secret her dad has kept for years comes to light, threatening to undo all the work Casey has put into repairing her crumbling life.] (Everything in brackets for this section: too vague. Vagueness is a rejection sentence for query letters. You need specifics here to make this be appealing, to get it to pop. Telling me there are “certain truths” and a “secret” ultimately tells me nothing. Be as specific as possible w/o getting wordy. Give enough detail to hook the reader, but not give away the whole story.)

      Restoring Casey (all caps for the title of your manuscript) follows the story of one girl caught in a cultural divide (at first, I had the “Indian” stricken from the above paragraph, but now I see this book is supposed to be about cultural divides. That isn’t shown, or even really hinted at, at all in the query letter. You need to find a way to highlight this by giving specifics. I’d say the part where the sentence reads “ideas on how a young lady should act that put women back fifty years” is a perfect spot to work in detail on what this cultural divide really is.) as she falls in love for the first time and learns that holding onto the relationships she thought she could live without is braver than running away. (Don’t forget to include the category [YA] and genre [Contemporary] and word count in your query letter.)

  2. Otherselves (YA fantasy)

    Born illegitimate, Leah has always hungered for recognition from her father, Duke Ruben. Her chance comes unexpectedly when a dragon threatens their valley on Fire World. The sorceress Qeturah uses illusions to drive away the dragon, but in return she asks the Duke to foster his daughter with her. The Duke forces Leah to impersonate his legitimate daughter and to act as his spy.

    Under Qeturah’s tutelage, Leah discovers she has otherselves on the True World and the other three Mirror Worlds: Air, Stone and Water (our world).

    While spying, Leah stumbles across Qeturah’s son hidden away in a secret room. Leah falls in loves with Gideon–only to discover that he’s cursed. Every nightfall he turns into a dragon.

    To break the curse, Leah takes over her Water otherself, Holly, and helps Qeturah cross into our world. But Qeturah has her own dark purpose: to shatter the Mirror Worlds and drain them of their magic.

    1. this is a good start, but I feel like it’s more of a summary in parts and doesn’t build on the intrigue. Maybe start with “Leah has always hungered for recognition from her father, Duke Ruben. Born illegitimate, her chance to prove herself comes when a dragon threatens their valley and the sorceress.. ” This next part confused me a bit “The sorceres Qeturah uses illusions…to act as his spy” why did the sorceress want his daughter? Maybe work in what leads to that decision and why the Duke wants Leah to be his spy. I’m also confused by the world, there’s Fire World and True World, what are the differences? Maybe you could start the query by introducing Leah’s world with a little background info and then work into introducing her as the character. I love the idea of a boy turning into a dragon. Actually I just love dragons in any form. The story sounds great but the query needs clarification.

    2. There are a lot of specifics in this query letter which, while interesting, really muddle up the story and make for a confusing read. Which is the last thing you want for a query letter. I focused on streamlining the content, trying to keep the elements that make this story unique, while paring down some of the content that led to confusion. I hope it helps!

      Born illegitimate, (I’d suggest stating her age here to help establish if this is NA or YA) Leah has always hungered for recognition from her (Could you give a single adjective that’d sum up her father very well? Such as: Machiavellian, cruel, apathetic, etc.) father, Duke Ruben. Her chance comes unexpectedly when a dragon threatens their valley on Fire World (I’d reorder this sentence for cause-and-effect: When a dragon threatens their valley, Leah’s chance arrives). The sorceress Qeturah uses illusions to drive away the dragon, but in return she asks the Duke to foster his daughter with her (Can you give a specific reason why the sorceress would want the Duke’s daughter?). The Duke forces (How does he force? Some stakes here would be good.) Leah to impersonate his legitimate daughter and to act as his spy.

      Under Qeturah’s tutelage, Leah discovers she has otherselves on the True World and the other three Mirror Worlds: Air, Stone and Water (our world). (Normally, specifics are great, but in this case, I feel these details are too complicated for the query letter. You need to find a way to keep certain specifics to avoid vagueness, but not delve too deeply and cause confusion. Right now, I feel like this query letter is a bit too confusing with all the different planes of existence. I’d suggest trying to pare it down just a little. Example: Under Qeturah’s tutelage, Leah discovers she has a doppelganger in a parallel world.)

      While spying, Leah stumbles across Qeturah’s son hidden away in a secret room (Out of curiosity, is Gideon locked in this room? Is he in manacles? How is this room “secret”, is what I’m driving at. If you can include more detail w/o increasing the wordiness too much, go for it. This is a great opportunity to immediately make the reader feel sympathy for Gideon, as well as see Leah in a heroic light.) Leah falls in loves (This feels a bit sudden. One sentence she’s discovering him, the very she’s in love. I’d suggest throwing a sentence in between these two to help show why Leah falls in love, what it is about Gideon she likes.) with Gideon–only to discover that he’s cursed. Every nightfall, he turns into a dragon, the very same one rampaging across the land. (I don’t know if he’s the one mentioned earlier, but if he IS, then this helps tie everything together.)

      To break the curse, Leah takes over her Water otherself, Holly, and must helps Qeturah cross into our world the parallel world covered in water (No idea if this is accurate, but this should help better show the point of being specific without muddling it up with confusing details). But Qeturah has her own dark purpose: to shatter the Mirror Worlds and drain them of their magic drain the world of its magic, thus destroying it. (I realize a lot of detail was cut from your query letter, but it all read slightly confusing. A query letter just doesn’t afford enough word count to get into the real nitty-gritty of the manuscript. I tried to keep the plot of a(n) alternate world(s) existing, while at the same time streamlining everything a bit more.)

  3. Otherselves first 250 words:

    Two men-at-arms threw Leah, trembling, at Duke Ruben’s feet.

    She risked one terrified glance up, but could glean no clue as to her crime from the Duke’s grim mouth, crooked nose, and scowling black eyebrows. She stared blindly down at the polished floor of his private study.

    The castlefolk counted themselves lucky in their duke –the Grumbling Man, the Volcano Lord of their valley, listened to him–but Duke Ruben also had a reputation as a hard man. Leah’s mother had often warned her to avoid him.

    Did he know? she wondered, not for the first time. Did he have any idea who Leah was?

    The senior man-at-arms cleared his throat, his red sideburns bristling. “The weaver’s daughter, my lord.”

    He must know, then. There was no reason to ask for the weaver’s daughter unless he remembered his long ago liaison and knew the weaver had borne him a child.
    In wild hope, Leah raised her eyes, but the Duke ignored her and walked over to his desk. He made an austere figure, dressed all in black, as he pressed his seal to a lump of wax. He handed the paper to the older man. “Make haste and deliver this to Lady Qeturah.”

    “Yes, my lord.” Bowing smartly, the man left.

    “Send Duchess Yudith to me.” The Duke waved a hand, and the second man-at-arms backed out of the room, leaving Leah alone with her father.

    Black boots moved into her field of vision, and then Duke Ruben tilted her face up. Leah stared fixedly at the piece of red sky visible through the window. He grunted. “You do resemble me. The question is, does your blood run hot or cold?”

    1. Overall, your first 250 words is great! It starts with an awesome scene filled with tension. I just edited to remove instances of passive voice, telling, as well as trying to deepen the POV. I hope this helps!

      Two men-at-arms threw Leah, trembling, at Duke Ruben’s feet. (Great opening line.)

      She risked one terrified glance up, but could gleaned no clues as to her crime from the Duke’s grim mouth, crooked nose, and scowling black eyebrows. She stared blindly down unseeing at the polished floor of his private study.

      The castlefolk counted themselves lucky in their duke –the Grumbling Man, the Volcano Lord of their valley, listened to him–but Duke Ruben also had a held the reputation as a hard man of a callous man (This is just an example. I’m just showing that this is written in passive voice and needs to be edited into an active one.). Leah’s mother had (Is Leah’s mother dead? If not, revise this into active voice.) often warned her to avoid him.

      DidDoes he know? she wondered, not for the first time. DidDoes he have any idea of who Leah I was am?

      The senior man-at-arms cleared his throat, his red (I struck this because unless the man-at-arms is featured often, the color of his sideburns really doesn’t matter.) sideburns bristling. “The weaver’s daughter, my lord.”

      He must know, then. (I italicized this, because it reads more like an internal direct thought.) There was no reason to ask for the weaver’s daughter unless he remembered his long ago liaison and knew the weaver had borne him a child. (Passive voice. I suggest revising this sentence to be a direct though to get that sense of tension and hope amped up, as well as get this into an active voice.)

      In wild hope (This is telling. You need to SHOW the emotion.), Leah raised her eyes, but the Duke ignored her and walked over to his desk. (You could easily add a detail here showing Leah’s disappointment.) He made an austere figure (Telling.), dressed all in black, as he pressed his seal to a lump of wax. He handed the paper to the older man. “Make haste and deliver this to Lady Qeturah.”

      “Yes, my lord.” Bowing smartly, the man left.

      “Send Duchess Yudith to me.” The Duke waved a hand, and the second man-at-arms backed out of the room, leaving Leah alone with her father.

      Black boots moved into her field of vision, and then Duke Ruben tilted her face up. Leah stared fixedly at the piece of red sky visible through the window. He grunted. “You do resemble me. The question is, does your blood run hot or cold?”

  4. Rachel thank you so much for your time and all your help.

    Query:

    I thought you might be interested in reading my NA Fantasy, IN SEARCH OF REDEMPTION.

    Twenty-one-year-old Scarlett is a princess who has taken flight from her impending nuptials and raced into the darkness during a storm. She knows what she wants and her formerly betrothed Prince, is not it. But even with all of her self-preservation skills, she still doesn’t know how to deal with Devon, a mysterious stranger who suddenly appears and saves her from a pack of wolves as she takes safety in his part of the forest.

    He’s polite, chivalrous, at times even a little charming, and he gives Scarlett the kind of attention that she relishes . . . until she discovers his secret. Devon is a dragon, living under a curse that had been cast ages ago. Now he must protect both himself and this runaway princess from the evil left at the altar Prince who would prefer to leave them both dead before he would ever leave them happy.

    IN SEARCH OF REDEMPTION is 72,000 words of Beauty and the Beast, if Beast were a fire-breathing, village-terrorizing, under-a-curse dragon and his Beauty was a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners warrior with evil Prince left at the altar issues.

    First 250

    Scarlett trembled with fear.

    Scurrying alone through a forest shrouded in darkness, she managed to carry nothing but the tattered dress that clung to her already bruised and scraped body. She glanced up to catch glimpses of the moonlight as it fought its way through the branches that hovered above her, tumbling and disseminating, but staying strong enough to show her at least a few feet in front of her at a time.

    She ran with her arms wrapped around her, trying to keep whatever warmth there was close, as she was not only scared, but terrifyingly cold, as well. She kept looking for a place she could stop, rest, and, ultimately, hide for the night.

    Every little sound that was out of place in the forest startled her. Even the sound of her own steps crunching the twigs and pine needles under her worn, leather boots made her more anxious. She could only hope that her fortune was about to change . . . compared to what had been endured so far.

    1. Overall, your query letter has a good start, but it needs more tweaking. It had a lot of unnecessary detail, extra wordiness, and didn’t really highlight how Scarlett is supposed to be a strong, warrior-like woman who can handle herself. As for the first 250, keep a close out for telling, wordy/awkward sentences, and passive voice. I hope this critique helps and good luck!

      I thought you might be interested in reading my NA Fantasy, IN SEARCH OF REDEMPTION.

      Twenty-one-year-old Scarlett is a princess who has taken flight from her impending nuptials and raced into the darkness during a storm. She knows what she wants and her formerly betrothed prince is not it. But even with all of her self-preservation skills, she still doesn’t know how to deal with Devon, a mysterious stranger (Cliché phrase.) who suddenly appears and saves her from a pack of wolves as she takes safety in his part of the forest.

      He’sDevon’s polite, chivalrous, at times even a little charming, and he gives Scarlett the kind of attention that she relishes . . . until she discovers his secret. Devon is a dragon, living under a curse that had been cast ages ago. Now, he must protect both himself and this runaway princess her from the evil left at the altar Prince who would prefer to leave them both dead before he would ever leave them happy. (Very awkward, long sentence. The very last half doesn’t read correctly either. I think there’s a word missing in there somewhere. I would revise this sentence to make it read more smoothly.)

      IN SEARCH OF REDEMPTION is 72,000 words of Beauty and the Beast, if Beast were a fire-breathing, village-terrorizing, under-a-curse dragon and his Beauty was a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners warrior with evil Prince left at the altar issues. (I’m not getting a sense of Scarlett’s kick-ass, take-no-prisoners warrior-ness from this query letter at all. First, she needs rescuing from wolves. Then, she needs protection from the evil prince. Show the reader somewhere in your query letter how she’s supposedly kick-ass, because from what’s summarized in the query at the moment, she seems like a helpless princess who needs a man to take care of business for her.)

      Scarlett trembled with fear. (Telling. Show us that she’s frightened.)

      Scurrying alone through a forest shrouded in darkness, she managed to carry carried nothing but the tattered dress that clung clinging to her already bruised and scraped body. She glanced up to catch glimpses of the moonlight as it fought its way through the branches that hovered above her, tumbling and disseminating, but staying strong enough to show her at least a few feet in front of her at a time. (Very long, wordy sentence. I’d recommend breaking this up into shorter sentences to help build tension.)

      She ran with her arms wrapped around her, trying to keep whatever warmth there was close, as she was not only scared, but terrifyingly cold, as well. (Telling. Show us that she’s scared. Show us that she’s cold.) She kept looking looked for a place she could stop, rest, and, ultimately, hide for the night.

      Every little sound that was out of place in the forest startled her. (Passive voice.) Even the sound of her own steps crunching the twigs and pine needles under her worn, leather boots made her more anxious. (Telling. Revise the sentence to show us this. Example: describing the sound of twigs crunching beneath her feet and her jumping at the noise.) She could only hope that (There are several uses of “that” in your first 250. If your sentence reads smoother without the word “that”, it’s only cluttering up your writing.) her fortune was about to change . . . compared to what had been endured so far. (Telling and passive. Revise to show her inner thoughts more and bring this into active voice.)

  5. Hi. Thanks so much for any help you can offer!

    Dear Agent:

    Jonah’s life events, in order of appearance: poor family, berating peers…hot older girl next door…love? Life just got a hell of a lot harder.

    18 year-old Jonah Malachi de la Garza doesn’t have a lot going for him.

    He’s a poor, strange looking kid from the South Bronx trying to make it in a rich school he doesn’t belong in. He’s too busy worrying about helping his mom make the rent, and keeping their stomachs full to really connect. He’d never admit it, but he just wants to feel like a valid person.

    Enter Raysa: the hot, secretive older girl.

    She moves in to the apartment next door, and using nothing but charm and a smile, she manages to knock Jonah’s sarcastic defenses on their ass. To his dismay, he reluctantly starts to fall for her.

    Just as Jonah starts to think that life doesn’t quite suck, the shit storm comes rolling in.

    His cousin starts harassing him to take part in a half-assed crime, his one friend forces him to accompany him on a trip with his female nemesis, and worse yet he finds out Raysa’s married to a douchebag cop who won’t grant her a divorce. Oh, and she may also be wanted for arson.

    STRONGLY WORDED LETTERS is a humorous young adult romance novel complete at approximately 75,000 words.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    1. Overall, you’ve got a good start to a query letter here. Mostly, it had unnecessary wordiness and was vague in a few areas. I would suggest throwing in some specific details in those vague areas I highlighted to help make your query stand out from everyone else’s. I hope my feedback helps!

      Dear Agent:

      Jonah’s life events, in order of appearance: poor family, berating peers…hot older girl next door…love? Life just got a hell of a lot harder. (I cut this because I don’t feel it does much for your query letter. This is up to you though as this is purely a personal opinion! I just feel there are better examples of your novel’s voice in the rest of the query.)

      18 (Always spell out a number at the beginning of a sentence.) Eighteen-year-old Jonah Malachi de la Garza doesn’t have a lot going for him. (Telling. I’d cut the underlined portion and find a way to join the below paragraph with the beginning of this sentence.)

      He’s a poor, strange looking (Too vague. How is he strange looking? Can you give one quality that’d define him? Does he have buck teeth, for example?) kid from the South Bronx trying to make it in a rich school he doesn’t belong in. He’s too busy worrying about helping his mom make the rent, and keeping their stomachs full, to really connect (Vague. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this phrasing. It could mean a ton of different things, really.). He’d never admit it, but he just wants to feel like a valid person.

      Enter Raysa: the hot, secretive older girl.

      She moves in to the apartment next door, and using nothing but charm and a smile, she manages to knocks Jonah’s sarcastic defenses on their ass. To his dismay, he reluctantly starts to fall for her.

      Just as Jonah starts to think that life doesn’t quite suck, the shit storm comes rolling in.

      His cousin starts harassing harasses him to take part in a half-assed crime (What type of crime? Robbing a bank? Identity theft? Jaywalking?), his one friend forces him to accompany him on a trip with his female nemesis, and worse yet, he finds out Raysa’s married to a douchebag cop who won’t grant her a divorce. Oh, and she may also be wanted for arson.

      STRONGLY WORDED LETTERS (I’m curious about the manuscript title: does Jonah write strongly worded letters to some people at one point? If so, I’d make mention of this somehow to help tie the theme together!) is a humorous young adult romance novel complete at approximately 75,000 words.

      Thank you for your consideration.

  6. Hi again.

    I wanted to include my first 250* words. Thank you.

    *250 would cut off a sentence, so this is actually 266. I hope that is fine?

    ———————————————————————————————————————————
    The smell of fried foods clung to me, and my skin had that oily uncomfortable feeling that made me look as disgusting as I felt. I was the dishwasher-slash-busboy, but you’d think I was the one standing over the grill at ‘McFadden’s’.

    I wiped my soapy prune hands on the dingy towel, and punched my card. Exactly 11:30 tonight. At least there hadn’t been a last minute run like every other “Thirsty Thursday” this month. I popped my head through the swinging door to say goodnight to anyone still in the dining room. Cal glanced over at me and propped his broom against the wall.

    “You done for the night?” he said.

    “You say that like I haven’t been here long enough.”

    “Try bein’ here thirty years then complain.”

    He used his fingers to comb through his facial hair. What Cal lacked in hair, he made up for in proud sheriff ‘stache. He switched off the lights. Without the overhead light, his eyes looked more hollow and his cheeks more sunken. Cal had the look of a tired Italian that had owned his Irish bar way too long.

    “Retire then. Close up and get out of this shit hole.”

    “Hey someday, when I’m good and old, but what would I do with myself without this place?”

    “What every other old guy with a couple bucks does: get yourself a twenty-something girlfriend and move to Florida.”

    He laughed. “What about you, Jonah? Where’s your lady?”

    I felt my face turning red. “I don’t exactly have my pick. I gotta get out of here though. School night, remember?”

    1. Overall, your writing is strong! There wasn’t that much to mark up. However, I’m not sure you’re starting your novel in the right spot. You need your first page to stand out, to really grab the reader/agent/editor and make them HAVE to request this manuscript from you. Opening with Jonah tired and getting off late from work doesn’t have any tension, showcase what’s unique about your story, and it’s not enough of an attention-grabber. I really think you should try opening a bit later into the story to address these issues. However, this is just my opinion and ultimately YOUR story. Good luck with the contest!

      The smell of fried foods clung to me, and my skin had that oily uncomfortable feeling that made me look as disgusting as I felt (Passive voice. Example of revised active voice sentence: […] and oil coated me, leaving a disgusting slickness to my skin.) I was the dishwasher-slash-busboy, but you’d think I was the one standing over the grill at ‘McFadden’s’.

      I wiped my soapy prune hands on the dingy towel, and punched my card. Exactly 11:30 tonight. At least there hadn’t been a last minute run like every other “Thirsty Thursday” this month. I popped my head through the swinging door to say goodnight to anyone still in the dining room. Cal glanced over at me and propped his broom against the wall. (I’d shunt this down as a new paragraph to use as an action beat to his dialogue. Then you can remove the “he said”.)

      “You done for the night?” he said.

      “You say that like I haven’t been here long enough.”

      “Try bein’ here thirty years, then complain.”

      He used his fingers to comb through his facial hair. What Cal lacked in hair, he made up for in proud sheriff ‘stache. He switched off the lights. Without the overhead light, his eyes looked more hollow and his cheeks more sunken. Cal had the look of a tired Italian that had who’d (I changed this from “that” to “who”, because Cal is a person, not a thing.) owned his Irish bar way too long. (I feel like an internal narrative thought from Jonah is missing. Seems like there’d be an offhand remark here, making fun of the fact that an Italian runs an Irish bar. This is purely my own personal opinion however!)

      “Retire then. Close up and get out of this shit hole.”

      “Hey, someday, when I’m good and old, but what would I do with myself without this place?”

      “What every other old guy with a couple bucks does: get yourself a twenty-something girlfriend and move to Florida.”

      He laughed. “What about you, Jonah? Where’s your lady?”

      I felt my face turning red. “I don’t exactly have my pick. I gotta get out of here though. School night, remember?”

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