Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #10

TITLE OF MANUSCRIPT: Terry and the Folding Rule of Time
GENRE: MG Historical Fantasy
WORD COUNT: 35000


Query:

Twelve-year-old Terry Roots plays pranks on her teachers. When she soaks her substitute teacher’s chair, wet and angry Mrs. Klio raises a thunderstorm in the classroom and gives her extra homework. Terry has to find out why her ancestor immigrated to America. When she finds Mrs. Klio's folding rule (a folding measuring stick), she accidentally opens a portal in time.

She lands smack-dab in the path of her great-great-grandfather in 1866 Germany causing him to give up his plans of emigration. When Terry returns to her own time, she finds herself in Germany living with a mother she doesn't know, and none of her former friends remember her. To set things right, she has to return to the past and get her great-great-grandfather on a boat to America, or the family she remembers will vanish forever. And the only person she can turn to is Mrs. Klio, the Muse of History.

This standalone story could be the first in a series.

I am a bilingual author with an interest in history. My German novels are under contract with the agency 'yxz'. My first novel in English was a finalist in the 2010 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Contest, and my short story "Wildrose" was a runner up in 2011 in the 80th Writers Digest Writing Competition in the Genre Fiction category. Holly Lisle is my mentor and friend.

First 150 words:


Second bell for science -- I hated old Bodger on the best of days but most of all on Monday mornings. I slammed the door of my locker hard enough that it bounced open again. My magnetic name tag rattled.
TERESA ROOTS -- Mom's idea. She hated my mostly close cropped hair. Chewing on a straw-colored strand of my longer bangs, I closed the locker more gently and sauntered to our classroom. I anticipated old Bodger’s face when he plopped onto a cold, wet chair and smiled a little. Not too much. That would alert him, and he’d guess right away it was me who snuck into class before first bell. I eased into my chair, stretching my gangly legs, feeling smug until the door opened.
Old Bodger hadn't come. A pail of ice cold water ran down my spine when the principal entered instead. His slumped, mousy appearance faded from my mind as I watched the lady that came with him.

16 comments:

Jaye Robin Brown said...

I love time travel novels and combining family ancestry is an interesting idea.

I'm not sure in your first 150 what the all-caps TERESA ROOTS is referring to. Her project? Her hair? Also, is this a teacher she's known before? If not, I'm curious as to why ice cold water would run down her spine (metaphorically that is). Usually students are thrilled to have substitutes because it means they can get away with things. Unless of course, her reputation preceded her. You might work to clarify this a bit. It feels like your MC is focused on several things in this short passage and it might help to streamline it a bit.

Good luck! (BTW I love the nickname Old Bodger for a dreaded teacher!)

Anonymous said...

I like time travel stories and this one is intriguing. The word count may be a little low, though. Some notes:

Mrs. Klio raises a thunderstorm in the classroom and gives her extra homework: Terry has to find out why her ancestor immigrated to America. [ADD COLON AFTER HOMEWORK]


Chewing on a straw-colored strand of my longer bangs, I closed the locker more gently and sauntered to our [MY] classroom. I anticipated old Bodger’s face when he plopped onto a cold, wet chair and smiled a little [SOUNDS LIKE BODGER WAS THE ONE WHO SMILED]. Not too much. That would alert him, and he’d guess right away it was me who snuck into class before first bell. I eased into my chair, stretching my gangly legs, feeling smug until the door opened.

Cat said...

Thanks for the comments. I thought it was clear that the name stood on the name-tag. I'll think about that one.

Also, do I have to add that she fears the new teacher will sit on the wet, cold seat or is it enough to show her fear here and see the consequences when Mrs. Klio really sits down?

All other suggestions are great and will get implemented in the next draft. ;-)

Jayme said...

First off, I love your title. Very intriguing.

I think the first sentence of your query can go. Also, I think you can amp up your hook with something like: “When twelve-year-old Terry Roots pranks her substitute teacher, a very wet and angry Mrs. Klio gives her an extra homework assignment that changes her life. Literally.”

Then you could transition to something like: “See, Terry pranked the wrong woman. Mrs. Klio is the Muse of History, and as punishment she plants Terry smack-dab in the path of her great-great-grandfather in 1866 Germany. Terry’s only supposed to find out why her ancestors immigrated to America, but she messes up and accidentally causes her grandfather to give up his plans of emigration. She returns to 2012 to find herself living in Germany with a mother she doesn't know. [I’d leave out the bit about her friends. If she’s in Germany it would probably be difficult to contact former friends, except over the Internet. Either way, I don’t think it’s necessary to the query] If she doesn’t return to 1866 and get her great-great-grandfather onto a boat before [sunset? The week’s out? I’m not sure if you have a timeline, but adding one here would definitely up the stakes], the family she loves will vanish forever. And the only person she can turn to is [a still miffed] Mrs. Klio.”

Obviously, that’s not perfect. Just some suggestions.

Honestly, the opening of your 150 feels a little forced, like you were trying to find an excuse to tell the audience your main character’s name was Teresa Roots, that she had close cropped, straw-colored hair, and that her mom hates her hair. Personally, I think a lot of that can be worked in later. Your first priority is to hook agents/readers. I might try something like this:

“I hated old Bodger on the best of days but most of all on Monday mornings. Still, I smiled a little. Not too much. That would alert him, and he’d guess right away it was me who’d snuck into class before first bell.

I tried not to look at old Bodger’s chair, which I’d soaked with ice water. I couldn’t wait to see his face. In fact, I felt downright smug until the door opened.

Old Bodger hadn't come. Instead, the principal entered, slumped, mousy. A lady stood behind him [describe Mrs. Klio].”

When you are describing Mrs. Klio, you might be able to work in some information about Teresa by comparing/contrasting the two. For example: “The woman had flowing black hair, the exact opposite of my straw-colored bob.”

Overall, I think you have a really interesting concept. And thanks for your feedback on my entry (#5). I hope I helped you as much as you helped me. :)

jennbrisendine said...

I agree -- leave the physical description for a page or two from the opening. Don't worry about getting in her name that way. The other thing about this opening is that the slamming might turn off some readers -- gives her an overly negative, unlikable attitude. If she goes to class happily awaiting the results of the wet cushion, then we see a more likable prankster we want to follow.

Query: if you mention a series, can you give a mini-blurb about it? What will set it apart?

Good luck!

Cat said...

new try on the query - does this work better?
______________________________

When twelve-year-old tomboy Teresa Roots pranks the wrong teacher, a wet and angry Mrs. Klio raises a thunderstorm in the classroom and gives her a homework assignment that changes her life. Literally. See, Mrs. Klio is the Muse of History, and she tricks Terry into using a magical folding rule (a folding measuring stick), that opens a portal in time.

Terry lands smack-dab in the path of her great-great-grandfather in 1866 Germany. But her arrival prevents his emigration and makes it impossible for Terry to finish her extra homework, finding out his reasons for leaving his home country. Even worse, back home in her own time, she finds herself in Germany living with a mother she doesn't know. To set things right, she has to return to the past and get her great-great-grandfather on a boat to America before recruiting officers of the army draft him into service. If she fails, the family she remembers will vanish forever. And the only person she can turn to is Mrs. Klio.

This standalone story could be the first in a series, where Terry sets out to search for her long lost father with the help of her Folding Rule of Time.

Cat said...

and another try at the beginning (this time somewhat more than 150 (I inserted three stars *** to indicate where they end). Any feedback greatly appreciated.
_________________________

Second bell for science -- I hated old Bodger on the best of days but most of all on Monday mornings. I smiled a little. Not too much. That would alert him, and he’d guess right away it was me who snuck into class before first bell. I eased stretched my gangly legs and tried not to look at old Bodger’s chair, which I’d soaked with ice water. I couldn’t wait to see his face. In fact, I felt downright smug until the door opened.

Instead of old Bodger, the principal entered, slumped and mousy. A lady followed with measured steps, nearly a head taller than the principal. Gorgeous black hair flowed in waves to her waist, the exact opposite to my straw-colored bob. It framed a perfect face. I remember dad telling me that a symmetric face didn’t exist, but here it was. I forced myself to close my *** mouth, noticing that her dress looked somehow old-fashioned but I couldn't pinpoint why. Maybe it was the lace on her sleeves.

A pail of ice cold water ran down my spine when the principal pulled out the chair so she could sit down. I had to swallow not to shout a warning.

Nicole said...

I like your opening line in the 150-word blurb! The overall story also sounds intriguing, but I was a little jarred by the transition between your second and third lines in the query. I was envisioning a literal thunderstorm in the classroom (hey, it's fantasy!), but I'm guessing you don't mean that?

Good luck!

Cat said...

Oh yes, it is a literal thunderstorm and it's on the second page of the novel. I think that's close enough to the beginning, right?

Jayme said...

Haha! I didn’t realize you meant an actual thunderstorm. Cool! :)

I like this second version a lot better. I’m still not sure about the pail of ice water, but otherwise I’m sold! :)

Cat said...

I'll reconsider the ice water. I just thought the phrase goes well with what she did herself. ;-)

Jambo said...

Hi Cat
I think your query is reading much better in your rewrite and I like it very much.
One thing I would like to ask and this may be an Australian interpretation. We use the term ruler, not rule, for a measuring stick.
The folding rule of time, makes me think that Terry is going to follow a set of rules. Ie, if she does something back in time, the rule is that it can change things back in her own time, that would be considered a rule. Just a thought, it may not be used that way in the US, but I think it would be considered ruler in the UK as well. Cheers Julie

Cat said...

The thing is, that folding rules are not very common in the US whereas they are an everyday occurrence in Germany. When I wrote the story, I didn't know that. So I had to look up translations, and they suggested folding rule or folding yardstick. The second one is too much of a mouth full, so I stuck with folding rule. My US-proof reader didn't comment so I assumed it was fine this way, but I'll look into it again.

Hong said...

Hi Cat,

Your revised query and revised first 150 words hooked me :-)

Just one minor correction:

"Mrs. Klio is the Muse of History, and she tricks Terry into using a magical folding rule (a folding measuring stick), that opens a portal in time."

Take off the comma between "stick)" and "that"


I have to agree with Jayme about "A pail of ice cold water ran down my spine."

When I first read the sentence, I thought that the principal threw a pail of cold water down the MC's spine.

Maybe a chill crept her back?

Cat said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll use the chill. ;-)

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