Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #15

Upper middle grade adventure with fantasy elements
43,000 words


Twelve-year-old Zeb Reardon just watched his cousin Bryce disappear down a mineshaft in the smoky, abandoned town of Martinsville, PA, but nobody believes him—and that’s no surprise to Zeb. Folks quit trusting Zeb six years back, when he failed to report in time the underground coal fire that demolished Martinsville. The whole town had to relocate a mile away to New Martin, and everyone still knows Zeb as the kid who didn’t save Martinsville when he had the chance.

Since no one believes Zeb about Bryce’s fall, Zeb goes after Bryce himself…and discovers that the old coal mine tunnels around Martinsville lead to the eerie setting of his father’s fantasy novel CandleLand. In this burnt-up world of yellow sand and poison flame geysers, cruel Empress Avella threatens to destroy Bryce and all of New Martin. Zeb’s no hero—he’s proven that before. But this time he’s holding the secrets that might save everyone, right there in the pages of his father’s book. Now he just has to find the nerve to trust himself, and walk through fire.

First 150 Words:


I snapped awake standing in the dark.

Pressure. On my chest, in my lungs. Fear clawed me all over. When you wake up in your pajamas, you expect a cocoon of blankets and bedroom walls. Not the hollow hush of outside.

No good light anywhere. No lit-up house windows, no cars. Just a grainy glow from the nighttime sky. Shadowy mounds lumped up the road underfoot, like iron moles had ripped tunnels through the asphalt.

Sleepwalking again, but where—

Something moved in the gritty dimness up ahead. Four-legged, whitish. It dipped out of the woods, stepped into the ruined street, and went still. Looked right at me. A growl crawled out. Ears went flat. Hairy mop of a tail tucked and hid. Wolf? Coyote? Couldn’t be; too big, too tall. It cocked its broad head, probably able to hear my heart clattering along like a rusty pick-up.

I didn’t breathe.


Mia Celeste said...

I really like the close description and the mystery in your opening. It has me wanting to read on and figure out the situation. Nice work.

Katie Slivensky said...

Very intriguing!

Your query draws me in, despite the first part being mostly backstory. That said, I would try to shorten up the first paragraph so you have more time to talk about the plot of the story. The second paragraph feels rushed. A lot of information is given quickly, and it'd be nice if we had another moment or two to spend understanding it.

Your first 150 words give me chills! My only nitpick is that I want to see a question mark after "But where --".

Great job!

Tamara said...

I think you did an awesome job on this. I've been having a tough time picking a title for my book, so I was scrolling through seeing which ones jumped out at me. This one definitely did!!

I think the query did a great job of getting across the conflict of the story and I thought the first 150 was awesome. Sorry I don't have more of a "critique" to offer. For now, all you get from me is praise. :)

I entered the pitch polish blog hop and managed to finally get a query I like, but I still can't decide on a title. If you could pop over to my blog real quick and pick out of the top three I have up there, I'd really appreciate it!! I love your title so much that I have to ask.

Good luck with this! It sounds awesome. :)

Katharina Gerlach said...

I very much like your query despite the backstory. I think in this case, it is necessary to understand it to help understand the MC. For me, your sample works too although I've been told countless times not to start with waking up. Hmmm, maybe you're a rule breaker?

alexia said...

Cool premise - I really love that the fantasy world is created from his father's book. The query and excerpt are nicely done. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I think your query and 150 are both very good. I agree with the other commenters -there's not much to nitpick here. Great job! It seems you've broken two of the rules by giving a lot of backstory and starting the book with the character waking up. Yet it seems to work for you. Well done! :)

gailecn said...

I think your query is pretty strong. The only thing I'd suggest (same as others have) is cutting some of the backstory in the first paragraph. You could probably do that just by cutting the last sentence of the first paragraph. It's probably not necessary to know the town had to relocate. And the second part of that sentence is a bit redundant of the previous sentence. I think the second paragraph is great just the way it is.

The sensory detail in the first 150 is really good. Nice tension, too. Makes me want to read on! I love the "no good light anywhere..." part. Just be aware that starting with the MC waking up can be an agent pet peeve.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of the mine and CandleLand being connected, and that a book holds the key.

However, I trip on the second sentence. I know what you’re saying, but I had to read it twice.

I also wonder why the entire town is upset that a 6-year-old didn’t report a mine fire. He was 6! Surely he wasn’t in the mine at the time.

Good voice in the query. I especially like “—and that’s no surprise to Zeb. Folks quit trusting Zeb six years back…” That sets a nice somber, folksy tone.

Good luck!