Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #49


MOONHILL
YA Gothic
70,000-words

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Anie Freemont never believed the stories her papa told about their ancestral home, Moonhill. Mystical rings which eat souls, genies in jars . . . she figured the frightening tales were simply another of her antique-dealing Papa’s eccentricities. That is, until Papa’s diagnosed with dementia and she’s forced to take him back to Moonhill and the estranged family they fled when she was three-years-old.

All Anie wants is to help Papa get better so they can leave as fast as possible. But from the moment they arrive, she’s isolated from him by their family. She notices disturbing things too, including human-shaped shadows in Moonhill’s gallery and a pentagram under her bed. When Papa turns violent and Anie discovers he’s not seeing a doctor like she was told, the deceit leads her to a decade-old mystery surrounding her mother’s death in Moonhill’s graveyard. A mystery she must unravel if she wants to find the root of Papa’s illness.

But to separate truth from tale, Anie will have to use every trick she learned while dealing antiques with Papa to outwit a family who prefers to keep her in the dark—and an entity which is far different than the Christian demon she first suspects. If she fails, Papa will end up institutionalized for life--and she may never escape Moonhill, unless it’s in a body bag like her mother.
Complete at 70,000-words, MOONHILL is a YA gothic with an atmosphere reminiscent of classics by Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. It will appeal to readers who enjoyed the con artist main character in Holly Black’s WHITE CAT.

First 150 Words:

It began in an abandoned church.
I was kneeling on the dust-coated floor, rolling up an antique tapestry of a shepherd driving his flock toward a blood-red horizon. Papa was nearby, picking the lock on the sacristy door.
Given a stiff wire and a narrow screwdriver, Papa could unlock pretty much anything. This time, however, it shouldn’t have been necessary. We’d dickered with the priest for the church’s contents and paid him upfront in cash. Whatever lay in the room beyond the door rightly belonged to us.
A waft of mildew and stale incense puffed up from the tapestry. I stopped working to rub a sneeze from my nose and looked at Papa. 
The sunlight, rippling through the stained-glass windows behind me, smeared the back of his old leather flight jacket with purple and blue. He glanced over his shoulder at me, the colored light now bruising his face.

10 comments:

Mia Celeste said...

You've got me. I'd read this. :)

Anabel González said...

I really hav enothing to say but this is really good and I don't find anywhere you can improve. Good job!

T Y said...

Let me start off by saying that I LOVE your premise. My entry is a YA gothic as well (I'm your neighbor: Entry #48), and we've touched on some of the same topics: sinister family secrets, demented father figures, deceased mothers + mysterious deaths, curses, ghostly apparitions. I am extremely intrigued to see which direction you take your gothic novel.

I liked your query. Love the ancestral home. You did a wonderful job of conveying the gothic-y atmosphere. There are spots, however, that could do with a bit of tightening. For example, "But to separate truth from tale" --> I'd try to find another word for 'tale.' A more alluring word, perhaps?

I was confused by "Anie will have to use every trick she learned while dealing antiques with Papa"...what tricks? I don't think you've ever mentioned it and then it left me wondering, what tricks does one learn from dealing antiques can you use to outwit secretive family? Then I read your stats paragraph and was like 'oh, CON tricks!" Maybe hint at con tricks in the paragraphs above for clarity sake.

150:
Great writing. I'd just change "I was kneeling" to "I knelt" to eliminate passive voice.

I'd find a better word for 'bruising' his face. The colored light 'danced' over his face?

All in all, I think you have a great story and you better believe I'd read on. Good job and good luck!

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet said...

Greetings Neighbor (I'm over at #50) and fellow Gothic-enthusiast!
I ADORED your 150 and want to read the book.
I think your query didn't capture your voice which is a shame because it's great (and I think I have the same problem with my query maybe it's endemic to Gothic, IDK).
I thought your query was a bit too long, and by tightening it up it will be more effective (i.e. we cold probably do without "fled when she was three years old" and just use "their estranged family"). I also got confused about the tricks she is using so that might need some clarification. Otherwise very intriguing. Now come take a stab at my pitch, pretty please.

Liana Brooks said...

Reading and commenting as I go...

--- Query ---

Is gothic a genre? I'd guess horror or paranormal might work better. I haven't seen a recent novel marketed as Gothic.

Why is a 17yo in charge of grandpa when there are other relatives alive? Wouldn't child services take her?

Anie thinks Papa is going to get better from dementia? Does she have any reason to believe this is possible?

A pentagram is a star, it's not necessarily freaky in and of itself.

I think you can cut the first paragraph down to a sentence and merge it into the second paragraph. Anie is normal, but Papa gets suddenly ill and insists Moonhill is the only cure. They go ... things get weird... that's the query.

--- First 150 ---

I like the opening 150. Good work.

--- Overall ---

I think you probably have a great story, but the query isn't pulling it's weight. Revise.

- L

Heather M Bryant said...

Seventeen-year-old Anie Freemont never believed the stories her papa told about their ancestral home, Moonhill. Mystical rings which eat souls, genies in jars . . . she figured the frightening tales were simply another of her antique-dealing Papa’s eccentricities. That is, until Papa’s diagnosed with dementia and she’s forced to take him back to Moonhill and the estranged family they fled when she was three-years-old.[THIS SENTENCE FEELS TOO WORDY]

All Anie wants is to help Papa get better so they can leave as fast as possible. [GET BETTER? FROM DEMENTIA? AND WHY WOULD MOONHILL HELP WITH THIS?] But from the moment they arrive, she’s isolated from him by their family. She notices disturbing things too, including human-shaped shadows in Moonhill’s gallery and a pentagram under her bed. When Papa turns violent and Anie discovers he’s not seeing a doctor like she was told, the deceit leads her to a decade-old mystery surrounding her mother’s death in Moonhill’s graveyard. A mystery she must unravel if she wants to find the root of Papa’s illness. [THESE TWO SENTENCES TOGETHER FEEL FRACTURED. MAYBE IT NEEDS MORE TRANSITION]

But to separate truth from tale, Anie will have to use every trick she learned while dealing antiques with Papa to outwit a family who prefers to keep her in the dark—and an entity which is far different than the Christian demon she first suspects.[LOOOONG SENTENCE] If she fails, Papa will end up institutionalized for life--and she may never escape Moonhill, unless it’s in a body bag like her mother.
Complete at 70,000-words, MOONHILL is a YA gothic with an atmosphere reminiscent of classics by Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. It will appeal to readers who enjoyed the con artist main character in Holly Black’s WHITE CAT.[MY SUGGESTION - DON'T COMPARE YOUR MS TO THE CLASSICS. IT WOULD BE BETTER NOT TO COMPARE AT ALL]


Your first 150 words are great. I really don't read as much thrillers/gothic/scary books as I should. Reading some of these queries reminds me how much I love them.

Jadzia Brandli said...

I think this is an interesting idea and I'd ask to read more from the query. I don't know how I could suggest improvements there. I loved it. The first 150 are good, as well. Your first line got me, simple but interesting. It grabs me. I think you should watch out for passive voice. It's not always bad, but sometimes it's best to make those sentences active. "I knelt" instead of "I was kneeling" is an example that someone has pointed out already. But, based on this, I'd read more. Good luck!

alexia said...

Sounds cool and creepy! I think the query and excerpt are both very strong. I assume the use of outdated language ('papa' instead of 'dad', 'dickered') is intentional for the genre and/or time period. I'm not super familiar with gothic. Good luck!

Nicole Zoltack said...

Oh, this sounds interesting! I'm wondering though about her age. Like someone else mentioned, wouldn't the state take her away from her father because he's not fit to take care of her because of the dementia? Or is that why she returns to their ancestorial home and their estranged family? If so, you might want to make that more clear in the query.

~Nicole
#47

Tamara said...

I second Nicole that I might mention Anie's age, but other than that, I thought this was one of the best queries I've read on here.

Very easy to follow, laid out the stakes/conflict perfectly and definitely intrigued me to want to read more. If I was an agent, I'd definitely request this. (Not that I know how agents think;), just saying)

I think you did a really great job on this!!

Nice to meet you btw. I just started a new blog I'm trying to get up and running. I'm always looking for new friends in the writing world, so I'd love it if you'd stop by. I wish you luck with your pitch!!