Title: The Dust
Entry Nickname: Grocery Store Zombies
Word Count: 92K
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Nineteen-year-old Lex Hightower has two of the worst jobs in Alabama: part-time grocery store employee, part-time corpse killer. In the six weeks since some lunatic bombed the South, she’s spent most of her time beating back the radioactive dead and reluctantly helping the useless survivors at the store.
When she learns there’s a safe zone on the edge of the Tennessee-Kentucky Line, she’s not thrilled about walking two hundred miles on sore cashier’s feet. But when she discovers the food reserves in the store are almost gone, she makes up her mind: time to get out of Kroger and on the road.
Armed with a few packs of cigarettes and a metal bat, Lex grabs the two survivors who annoy her the least and sets out on her journey. Ex-friend, ex-meth addict Brian and naïve-but-well-intentioned Tony aren’t ideal travel companions, but she’s not dumb enough to head into a corpse-riddled wasteland by herself. A two-week trip on foot? Easy.
At least it would be if the corpses weren’t getting stronger and smarter every day. Or if a mysterious group weren’t carving Xs on buildings and people. Or if the fallout wasn’t just changing the dead, but the living as well.
Brian offers me a cigarette as the corpses circle the edge of the store. There are two of them, a man and a woman this time; the man’s bloated gut stretches out of its ripped sweater, exposing its gray skin, and the woman isn’t wearing any shoes. Who kicks off their shoes when they’re running from something trying to kill them? Dumbass.
“Lex, take it,” Brian says, shoving a Marlboro in my face. An unlit one dangles from his mouth.
“Damn, you’re annoying.” I take the cigarette and flick it into the ravine at our feet, my eyes on the corpses in front of us. One is on its knees, pawing at the gap that separates the store from the parking lot. It’s deep, but not wide; it could jump across if it wanted. Luckily the corpses are dumb as shit and haven’t figured out the concept of jumping. Hopefully they never do.
I sigh, my breath making a small white cloud in the air. It’s bitterly cold for an Alabama September. I’m not sure if the uncommon cold or the thick gray clouds that blot out the sun has anything to do with it, but bright green flecks of dust constantly rain down from above. I’ve only ever seen snow a handful of times, but the dust looks just like it—silent flurries that coat everything in green ash. We’re sitting under an overhang to avoid it, though. If it touches our skin, it burns.
Title: The Switcher Chronicles
Entry Nickname: Switcher
Word Count: 96,000
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Cade Hightower is about to go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit—in other words, business as usual for a professional body switcher. For his best client and double his normal fee, he’s willing to take on the occasional illegal job like this, but mostly he manages to keep on the right side of his own moral line, no pranks, no lie detector tests, and no switching bodies without permission.
Cade’s sister Daphne is an Arcanist, a practitioner of the art of injectable magic. She can give a politician a shot of Charisma or help a perpetually dieting starlet with a syringe-full of Will Power. Her clients are rich or powerful or both, and they count on Daphne’s discretion.
Daphne left home for her Arcanist training when she was sixteen, and Cade never told his big sister how bad life got after that. Instead, he’s been shielding Daphne from the truth—and resenting her ignorance—for ten years.
When Daphne decides to repair their estrangement by moving in with Cade, he isn’t sure how long he can keep his bitterness hidden. At the same time, they discover that not all body switchers are as scrupulous as Cade. Someone’s using that rare talent to swindle rich old people out of their fortunes and their lives. That someone is the uncle Cade hated, Daphne loved, and they both thought was dead. Now Cade and Daphne need to clean up the mess their own family has made without destroying their fragile relationship in the process.
I had been back in my body for twenty-four hours, and the mosquito bite between my shoulder blades itched like a rhino’s hide in a drought. If clients kept taking my body camping while I did trust falls at a corporate retreat in theirs, I needed to add a bug-spray requirement to my standard contract.
But ignoring little—or medium-sized—annoyances was part of my professional skill set, so I focused on the job in front of me—washing the bus. When the phone rang, I was balanced on an over-sized tire, trying to reach the middle of the giant windshield. I dropped the squeegee and jumped to the asphalt to take the call. The screen said, "Private Name Private Number." I got that a lot.
“Cade Hightower,” I said.
Harlan Ambrose’s voice on the line was deep and quick. “Cade, bro, what’re you doing?”
“Washing the windows on the bus, sir.”
“Hey, do me a favor and go inside.”
“Inside the bus, sir?”
“Yeah. Inside the bus.”
I kicked the garden hose that snaked from the bus to a faucet sticking out of the grass.
“Sir, I’m in a high school parking lot on a Sunday. I might as well be on the moon.”
“No, I mean it. Inside. Got a job for you.”
I held the phone away from my mouth so he wouldn’t hear me grumbling and climbed the three steps into the school bus I’d turned into my home.
Judges can reply with their feedback and vote here.ReplyDelete
These are both so good!Delete
GROCERY STORE ZOMBIES:
I think this query is nearly flawless. I had to re-read it three times to find something to really pick on, and all I could was the "But when she discovers the food reserves in the store are almost gone, she makes up her mind: time to get out of Kroger and on the road." I'd assume that, since she's been in the store, she'd have been noticing the food situation. Personally, I'd replace with "With the food reserves in the store almost gone, she makes up her mind: time to get out of Kroger and on the road."
The first page is also pretty great. The one thing that had me raising my eyebrow was that the MC tossed a cigarette away without smoking it. She's ARMED with those cigarettes! This is a Zombie apocalypse! She'd probably be hoarding those cigarettes like a treasure, not throwing them away! Like, even if she doesn't smoke, it might be valuable currency!
Other than that, it's a near-perfect entry, IMO.
I really liked the concept on this one! But the first paragraph in the query threw me off. I think it can be solved by some re-arranging. For instance,
"For his best client and double his normal fee, Cade Hightower is willing to take on the occasional illegal job. For most of the time, he manages to keep on the right side of his own moral line: no pranks, no lie detector tests, and no switching bodies without permission. And now he's about to be thrown in jail for a crime he didn't commit."
Then, you have the sister, who wants to repair their estrangement by moving in. But if Cade's about to be thrown into jail, how is she supposed to move in with him? My problem here is the lack of connection between your first paragraph and the rest of the query. I'm assuming the sister helps him avoid jail, and if that's the case, it should be made clearer. Connect his narrative to hers.
As for the first page, I don't have a lot to say. The author does a great job of introducing the world. If anything, I have a grip with "If clients kept taking my body camping while I did trust falls at a corporate retreat in theirs, I needed to add a bug-spray requirement to my standard contract" in that the structure confused me a bit. I suggest re-wording it. Maybe "If clients kept camping while with my body while I went to corporate retreats in theirs, I needed to add a bug-spray requirement to my standard contract."
Really good job for both of you, though. It's hard to choose, but on account of how more polished the Query and First Page are... VICTORY TO GROCERY STORE ZOMBIES!
Excellent query and really good opening page. I love the concept and would be interested in reading this book. The only thing I'd say is it does sound a little too close to the walking dead story line with the X on the head. You're already going to be close to any other zombie story, but having the same details like that can cause problems.
I really like the concept here and the opening line of your 250 sold it for me. The query is a little confusing though so I suggest you stick only to Cade at least as far as abilities goes. Having more than one character in a query can be too much, but having more than one and having to learn the special abilities of more than one is almost more than I'd be willing to do if I was reading this at an agency.
These are both excellent entries and I wish I could put both of you forward. However, I cannot, so I have to go with the one that sold me in that first line: Victory to SWITCHER!
Thoughts on ZOMBIES:Delete
- I think this query is well-written and I enjoy the little humorous bits you throw in.
- Unfortunately it reads just like THE WALKING DEAD for me. While I imagine there’s a market for this, given the show is so popular, I need to know what’s different about your book and why I want to read it instead of rewatching episodes.
- The 250 is solid. For some reason, I like that it’s cold and that the “snow” is green.
- Nice job telling us what the danger is in the very first sentence.
Thoughts on SWITCHER:
- I’m intrigued right away by this concept of body switching.
- I might omit the “perpetually dieting starlet” in favor of a different phrase.
- How bad did life get while Daphne was gone? This is probably important to Cade’s character.
- Great stakes!
- I really like that this is a brother/sister story. I’m a sucker for complicated family dynamics.
- I love that your 250 is funny!
- Is Harlan Cade’s boss?
- I get a good sense of Cade right away, the voice is excellent.
Both of these writers are talented and this is a hard decision, but I’m going with my preference on concept for this win – victory to SWITCHER!
Critique: Grocery Store ZombiesDelete
Fantastic! My only real substantive critique is to revise: “A two-week trip on foot? Easy.”
I would likely drop it to the next paragraph and say something like “Before the fallout, a two-week trip on foot wouldn’t have been easy, but it could be done. However, with….” A two-week trip on foot would have seemed hard before the fallout and presumably Lex is probably still able to remember that feeling, and that is an interesting detail (it shows how new this horror still is.) If she isn’t able to remember it, that’s an interesting detail too. Either one seems better than what’s there now. I know that’s overly picky, but honestly your query has so much going for it, it’s really the only thing I could critique! You should get a book deal based on the sentence: “time to get out of Kroger and on the road.”
That being said: while your query and page are both great. I fear for the future in this contest solely because you might need to revisit it to make it clear this is different from a novelization of THE WALKING DEAD. While I think this story sound lighter and more fun than that show, it's got a lot of similarities.
First 250 words:
All of this is great, except I’ve got one question. What’s going on with the cigarette? Is he giving her one that’s over/done? She throws it away, the second she takes it, so why is he giving it to her? It’s a tiny detail to quibble about, but again, tiny details are the only issues to critique here. It’s a strong query and page!
This Query has some holes in it. I know it’s Urban Fantasy, but I can’t tell if the universe it takes place in is vastly different from ours or not. You do a good job of not getting bogged down in the details of how all this stuff works. Please keep that up. That being said, is what Daphne does different from Cade? I couldn’t really understand. Also is she actually injecting them? Arcanist makes me think magic, buy syringe makes me think alchemy? It’s not overly important, but it did confuse me a bit,
My other main issue is that it’s unclear why Cade and Daphne have this conflict. Why is he “shielding” her from this? Are their parents dead? Why is this uncle so problematic and presumed dead?
First 250 words:
I like this. It has a good pace and gives the audience of some idea of what is going on. Though I’d encourage you not to shield/hide things from your reader intentionally. I understand you are also trying to avoid a bunch of info dumping (and you should continue to do that!) but if there is a more steamlined way that Cade might talk about what is going on, I’d use it.
Verdict: The winner is clearly Grocery Store Zombies for me. I like Switcher, but they are up hard hitting competition right in the first round.
WINNER GOES TO: Grocery Store Zombies
Grocery Store ZombiesDelete
A very strong premise and voice. Definitely grabs attention. In terms of revisions, however, the stakes need to be clearer and the hook stronger. Give details. What specific threat are smarter zombies posing? Some detail on the mysterious group? How is the fallout changing things? Also, the current hook is generic (zombies are dangerous). Make it more personal. And on a minor note, watch for repetition (e.g. the word “corpse,” etc.).
First 250 Words:
Again, great narrative voice. It immediately draws the reader in. Watch for repetition here too (corpses, jump, etc.).
I really like the voice in this one too. But it feels disjointed, like it’s trying to go in two directions. Each of the first two paragraphs feels like it’s setting up an entirely different story. I would either focus more on whichever character is the more prominent, or if it’s a dual POV story then maybe describe them more in relation to one another (instead of as though they’re completely separate, as now).
First 250 Words:
Another solid opening. My main critique is that it seems to assume the reader knows what body switching is all about. A cold opening is okay, and obviously you don’t want to info-dump, but even a single sentence somewhere in the first page that fills the reader in might be helpful.
This is a tough one. While I feel both queries need more revision, I enjoyed the opening 250s equally. But I have to pick one, and I do feel one presented a slightly stronger premise. So it’s going to be victory to GROCERY STORE ZOMBIES!
Replying as Chief Doodler!Delete
Grocery Store Zombies:
Really great and polished query! No gripes here except to say that I kept thinking of THE WALKING DEAD when I was reading it. I would just take care to add in your own unique details to the world to make it fresh and original!
The writing sample was excellent, but it read a tad repetitive. I think because it starts with Lex eyeing the corpses, then it goes to a couple lines of dialogue, than back again to eyeing more corpses. You could omit the first paragraph altogether and we wouldn't have missed anything. That's my only gripe. Otherwise, excellent writing.
Holy great premise! Really cool. :) My one question: why does Cade refrain from telling Daphne about how hard life has been? There has to be a good reason, and I think a quick line will make your query stronger. Otherwise, it's great!
Really enjoyed the writing sample!
Winner goes to SWITCHER!
GROCERY STORE ZOMBIES QUERY CRIT:Delete
I dig both your query AND your 250. I think your query is nearly perfect but could use a little cleaning—which some of the judges have assisted with insofar as sentence placement and structure, clarifying a few things that would leave a new unfamiliar reader curious.
My only add would be that we need to know just how desperate Lex is to reach the safezone. She's so cavalier and I get that that is the point of who she is—flippant, aloof, devil may care chick. I like her a lot. Get major WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE feels. But give me stakes or give me (living) death!
THE SWITCHER CHRONICLES QUERY CRIT:
I like this premise a lot. I think your 250 is really voicey and I get an excellent sense of your character. AND ALTHOUGH THE QUERY IS ARGUABLY SOLID—I wonder if the MS is dual POV? you give us a lot of Daphne in the query and if she isn't the MC or getting her own POV, I'd tone down her appearance there just A LITTLE in order to give Cade more agency.
ALSO: If they're estranged, why does Daph feel it would be at all comfortable to move in with him? That was one thing that I literally asked myself out loud when I first gave this a read-thru.
VICTORY GOES TO: (omg this is so hard) SWITCHER
Another 2 great entries. Nitpickings follow:ReplyDelete
Entry Nickname: Grocery Store Zombies
Isn’t Corpse killer an oxymoron? – how can you kill a corpse?
Beating back the Radioactive dead – what’s the connection between a bomb exploding and the dead becoming radioactive zombies? I think (hope!) a bomb explosion does that by default, so I feel like an explanation here is needed.
Kroger – I had to google it – if it’s the name of the grocery store, it might be a good idea to introduce it in the first line (part-time Kroger grocery store employee, maybe?) – I’m not in the, so if that’s a widely known store, please feel free to ignore me here.
corpses weren’t getting stronger and smarter - I’m struggling with the word "corpses" here, thinking "zombies" might be more accurate – "corpses" is fine in your 250 words because there you have context, but in the query you’re limited in space to every word has to carry as much meaning as possible.
Entry Nickname: Switcher
Cade Hightower is about to go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit – What’s the length of his sentence? That might be important in terms of the time line.
Cade never told his big sister how bad life got after that – How bad did it get? Do you mean he didn't choose to become a switcher and instead was forced to?
Instead, he’s been shielding Daphne from the truth – The truth that he’s a switcher? She doesn't know?
First 250 words:
Nicely done, but I have a bit of trouble with this line: "But ignoring little—or medium-sized—annoyances was part of my professional skill set, so I focused on the job in front of me—washing the bus."
Why mention medium-sized?
Wasn’t his job switching bodies, why is he now washing a bus?
Later I found out he lived in a bus. Is that where Daphne plans to move in with him?
I’m curious why Harlan calls Cade bro and Cade calls Harlan sir, but I think the next few lines might clarify that.
I really enjoyed both of these and I see some of my own questions have been asked by the above two comments, so I'll get to the point.ReplyDelete
I actually found the query for Grocery Store Zombies to be the most polished of the two. However, Switcher Chronicles premise seemed more unique. I agree that the first paragraph of the query needs some polishing and clarification about the jail sentence, but I feel like that can be easily remedied.
Choosing between these two was very difficult because I found Grocery Store Zombies to be technically better and Switcher Chronicles more unique. And when I have the choice between the two, I have to go with unique.
Victory goes to Switcher Chronicles!
Grocery Store ZombiesReplyDelete
Query: The first paragraph is on point. The phrase "reluctantly helping the useless survivors" gives us a good sense of the way Lex thinks. In the second paragraph, you can tighten "on the edge of the Tennessee-Kentucky line" to "near the Tennessee-Kentucky line" or something similar. I like that you said "get out of Kroger", because it has a nice ring to it; I know some people aren't familiar with Kroger, but to me, the line seems to make sense because of context. But if you like, you can replace it with some kind of dry grocery store joke, i.e. "hang up her smock and hit the road." The last sentence ("Or if the fallout...") doesn't make logical sense to me. Is the fallout changing both the dead and the living? The phrasing is awkward. You might want to re-word that whole paragraph.
First 250: Hilarious, especially at parts about the zombies being dumb. I don't understand why Brian wants Lex to have a cigarette if she doesn't want one, but maybe that becomes clearer in the next few pages. In the last paragraph, after "clouds that blot out the sun", "has" should be "have". Excellent entry!
Query: I really like the first two paragraphs. The third one is vague. How did life get bad? Did the uncle do something that made it that way? I'm not saying you have play all your jokers in the query, but I'd say make it a little more specific. For example, "she had no idea how bad Cade's gambling addiction became" or something. Without that, it's hard to get invested in the last paragraph, imo. You've set up a great concept.
First 250: I like that you start with a mosquito bite, because that's relatable, but I'd recommend a different analogy. Comparison to a rhino doesn't help us understand the itch, because no one reading this has ever been a rhino. Then: "If clients...I needed..." "Needed" is the wrong verb tense. "I was going to have to..." might work. You might want to change around that whole sentence, though. The part about trust falls is unclear. And this may be just me, but if I were him and had been subjected to other people's mosquito bites more than once, I'd be much to annoyed to settle for a bug spray clause! How about an "I'm not down with OPMB" clause? (Maybe not that, because the song reference, O.P.P., is old, but I suggest something forceful like that.) Maybe a per-bite surcharge? Insurance pay-out, since they've damaged the body? I mean, I'm guessing they can't go break his limbs or anything, right? I digress. I'm just saying, play up his annoyance a little.
In the second paragraph, the phrase "dropped the squeegee" implies that the reader already knows Cade has a squeegee, which is not the case. "My squeegee" or "the squeegee I was holding" would work. Or just add "with a squeegee" to the previous sentence, and leave "dropped the squeegee" as is. Just like Maria, I'm wondering about "bro" and "sir". Why doesn't Cade want to go inside the bus if he lives there? Is it hot? Can you give a hint as to why he's so hesitant? I also don't understand why he kicks the garden hose. Maybe you can tighten the whole first page so that the action can pick up sooner. However, I do like that we know Cade is washing the bus before we know it's his home. It makes me want to ask why. The things I've pointed out are small; your entry's already really intriguing.
*Too* annoyed. My mistake, lol.Delete
Grocery Store: This query was awesome. One line bothered me a bit "A two-week trip on foot? Easy." This didn't quite fit with the last sentence where she was gathering traveling companions because the trip would be difficult alone. Also, in the second paragraph you repeat "when" twice. But overall this voice was really strong and enjoyable! The first 250 were very good. You start us right in the action, and I love the details like toxic snow.ReplyDelete
Switcher: I liked your first sentence: "Cade Hightower is about to go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit—in other words, business as usual for a professional body switcher." However, it didn't quite seem to go with the rest of the query, since he's clearly not in jail and it's also not clear why he's getting paid to go to jail. Overall, the premise was really interesting. The first 250 is funny and fun.
Hi there! Fellow Kombatant here. Take my advice with a grain of salt. :) Good luck to both of you!ReplyDelete
Grocery Store Zombies
First off, way to pack voice into a query! That's amazing and can be a bit difficult at times. Woot woot! I don't have a lot of feedback on your query, to be honest. It does a fantastic job at setting the stakes, and I'm eager to read the rest of the book.
I love that you drop us in right away with them confronting a zombie. Great start! Most of my thoughts have already been echoed by other commenters, so I'll just paraphrase here:
- Tossing of the cigarettes vs. armed with cigarettes (in the query)
- You might be able to tighten that last graph just a tad. "Cold" repets twice in two sentences, so WC or restructure (your choice).
Love how you introduced what a switcher was so neatly -- great job! Just a few nitpicking things here and there:
- You can probably combine the second and third paragraph. Also, does Daphne know he's a switcher? Wouldn't there be some implied knowledge of what that entails? What, exactly, is he shielding her from? If she's got rich and powerful clients, she likely isn't relying on him to provide for the family, so what's the shielding accomplishing?
- Scrupulous body switchers: This brings me to an interesting point of contention. In this world, are there laws/mandates for people with powers? Not saying you need to explain those in the query, but if being a switcher is common, I'd argue that there are a lot of bad people with questionable ethics, so I'd imagine body switching with the rich would be more frequent. Are there ways to prevent this? Mandate switchers? Also, how do they find out the uncle has been switched? Is there a calling card? It could be as easy as saying, "But Cade recognized the signs of a switched body ..." You can probably come up with something better -- it's your story after all. :)
- Why are they cleaning up the mess? I'd think if the uncle is dead, that'd be left up to the police or something. When you say "their mess," it makes it sound like the uncle was up to something they didn't want the public to know about -- which you can totally use to up the stakes if need be. Otherwise, I'm a little lost on the stakes. Are they in danger of falling prey to the switcher next?
I'm so intrigued! Your world is clear, and I love the voice. My only complaint is that the "boss" (presumably?) greats Cade with a "hey bro," but then Cade is formal in response, referring to him as "sir." This sets up a bit of a dischord. If the boss wants to be treated informally and it's in Cade's nature to be formal, this could be solved with the boss saying something like, "No need for formalities," or "Don't call me sir." Other than that, though, I don't have much!
Really great job, both of you.
Query: The "corpse killer" confused me at first because I don't read zombie novels. I too wondered how you kill a corpse. Although the second sentence does clarify this for me, perhaps lead with the radioactive dead in place of "Corpse killer"? Also, "Or if the fallout wasn’t just changing the dead, but the living as well" confused me. How are the living changing?
First 250 edit:
-gap (that<-remove) separates(<-change to separating) the store.
-clouds that (<-remove) blot (<-change to blotting)
*I loved the gray dust comparison to snow! Good imagery.
THE SWITCHER CHRONICLES
Query: "how bad life got"...for me, this could mean so many different things and you don't want your reader determining for you when you might mean something specific. I'm confused about who the MC is. I thought it was Cade but then you talked about Daphne. Is this an alternating POV story? If so, you might want to mention this in your query.
-"rhino’s hide in a drought" <- while this made me giggle, I wonder how he would know how this feels.
-hose that(<-remove) snaked (<-change to snaking)
*I love the switching bodies concept. And I'm intrigued.
GROCERY STORE ZOMBIES:ReplyDelete
Query - First, love the nickname. You definitely hook the reader with the first paragraph. Is her job as a corpse killer something that a lot of people do or is she special in some way? I like the voice that's coming through in your query - it definitely seems to match the voice in the first 250, which I love. It seems like the two guys she's traveling with will probably be important to the story, and since "Brian" is the very first word of your book, it seems like mentioning him earlier and giving more info. about him the query might be a good idea. I also agree with the other comments that the X thing sounds like The Walking Dead. I've only seen a few episodes, but I remember the X thing. The last paragraph confuses me a little bit, maybe just add some more detail so the reader gets a better picture of the challenges the MC faces.
First 250: Again, love the voice. Very sarcastic, love it. I think you do a really nice job of combining dialogue, action and a description of the setting in a short period of time. It also provides the reader with more info about the bombing and subsequent fallout, which I was a curious about after reading the query. Very nicely written.
Oh, just a side note: Are there Kroger's in Alabama? I live in Ohio and they're all over the place here but whenever I head down South there's always Publix or Piggly Wiggly or something.
Query - I think starting out with the comment about Cade going to jail is a nice segue into a description of his career, but then I'm expecting that issue to be a large part of the story and it's never mentioned again. I'd love to hear more about Cade's problems with his family after his sister left rather than as much detail about her. I'm also wondering if this is a dual-POV book. If so, it should say so in the query. I don't read a lot (or any) urban fantasy, but should there be more explanation of the world they live in? Does everyone have magical sorts of jobs or is it just certain people? I guess I'm wondering if Cade and his sister are special in some way, or if their world is one where having abilities like theirs are common. I'm guessing common from what I gather in the query. The body switching thing is an interesting concept - I'd almost like to hear more about that if it's super important to the book, which I assume it is.
First 250: Thoughts as I'm reading:
- Why is he cleaning a bus? The following line: "But ignoring little—or medium-sized—annoyances was part of my professional skill set, so I focused on the job in front of me—washing the bus," makes it sound like cleaning the bus has something to do with his job, but I'm not sure on that.
- I agree that the rhino simile is creative but threw me off a little. Maybe think of a different way to describe that annoyance.
- Why doesn't he want to go inside the bus?
- Is more world-building necessary at the beginning of urban fantasy? I don't have much of a picture in my mind of his surroundings.
At the end of your 250, I'm kind of curious to read more, but not extremely curious. Maybe adding some more tension into the scene, like details on why he doesn't want to go into the bus or why he's living there might help.
Both interesting concepts! Good luck!