Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #69


TITLE OF MANUSCRIPT: Day of the Not So Dead
GENRE: YA Multicultural Fantasy
WORD COUNT: 60,000

QUERY:

Fifteen-year-old Valerie is the newest curandera in her family’s long line of folk healers. She's always known about healing sinus infections and warding off mal de ojo (evil eye), but when her nana suffers a stroke, she learns about the part of her calling she’s never heard of. The spirit warrior part. 

Nana’s stroke is no mere medical condition. A Demon Lord with a Don Juan complex, who’s always had his lusty eye on Nana, has stolen her soul. Though unskilled, Valerie accepts her supernatural role, sending her own soul into the Underworld of her Aztec ancestors to save her nana. But the Underworld isn’t what she expects. Sure there’s the Demon Lord and a horde of his half-demon sons who want nothing more than to send her body and soul into Hell’s Gate. But there are others, animal-human beings who represent every person in her small town. Some need her help as much as her nana. But every time she stops to offer healing, she loses precious time as her nana’s comatose body continues to die. If Nana dies without her soul, she will be forever lost. 

Help comes from unexpected places; her autistic brother who can see her in spirit form, a guy from her new school who has read Lord of the Rings too many times, and two of Demon Don Juan’s sons. One tells her he can help if she’ll bring him back to her world and reunite him with his human mother. The other warns her that there’s a darker plan at work she needs to focus on, that her nana is only a distraction. Valerie’s desperate and time’s running out. If she ever wants to feel her nana’s loving arms around her again, she’ll have to decide whose help she can trust. But trusting the wrong person in the Underworld can mean not only death, but eternal damnation. 

FIRST 150 WORDS:

My hands twitched. I crouched, ready to spring in whatever direction the ball went. Breaths came deep and slow as I tried to quiet my mind. Not the easiest thing with a thousand eyes on me. Even harder when none of those eyes belonged to my parents. But to block this kick, my body needed to take control. Something that hadn’t come easy since we moved here. More twitching. More breathing. Kick already!

Then the moment came. Along with a soccer ball at a good forty mph. Time for a huge life decision. Left. Or right. I wanted the block so bad, I ached.

Of course, I failed. Went left instead of right. My body wanted to go right, but at the last moment, a dark smoky shadow popped into my periphery. My left periphery. That’s all it took to pull me in the wrong direction. The ball sailed to my right and disappeared into the net along with any delusions I had about not being a loser.

10 comments:

Mara Rae said...

I really loved this query! Very unique and great voice. "Demon Lord with a Don Juan complex" is awesome. I would change "forever lost" to "lost forever" (nitpicky, I know), I'd add "The" before "Lord of the Rings," and I'd change the last sentence to something like: "Because in the Underworld, trusting the wrong person can mean not only death, but eternal damnation." (Just to get those two "buts" out of there).
In the first 150, I was a little confused at first because it seemed like contemporary sports YA, but you did get that paranormal element in there, which I think is important in the first page. You might consider starting with something relating to her nana or an indication of her culture, just because that seems really important in the query, but this is such a short excerpt it's hard to judge. Overall really great job!
Mara (#67)

Laurie Dennison said...

Overall I think this is a really strong query right now. I love the opening paragraph. I think you could trim the whole thing down a little, mosting cutting from the second paragraph.

Here's an example, starting after "stolen her soul. Valerie accepts her supernatural role, sending her own soul into the Underworld of her Aztec ancestors to save her nana. The Demon Lord and his half-demon sons want nothing more than to send her body and soul into Hell's Gate. But help comes from unexpected places;" and go into the next paragraph.

I also really liked the 150; I'm fine with her being in the real world, so you can get a sense of who Valerie is before her journey.

Best of luck to you!

Donea Lee said...

Nice! You've got a great voice in both the query and the first 150 words. I think your concept is strong and has a lot of fun, unique elements. The Aztec ancestry is particularly cool to me. I do think you could trim it down just a bit. I like the specifics and the fun details - but, you've intro'd 7 characters here, plus a village of half human/half animal people in the underworld. Make sure it's all absolutely essential to the query. Otherwise, cut it.

And the 1st 150 words are great. Tension and voice and a good intro to your character and her "normal" world. Boy is she in for a surprise! :)

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

I thought the first two paragraphs of the query were great,but then the third sort of goes offtrack and heads toward synopsis. Perhaps consider condensing some of it.

In the first one-fifty, everything flowed right along until the last sentence. It might go better if you change to 'delusion I had about being a winner.'

Alexandra said...

I really like the voice in this query! LOVE "Demon Lord with a Don Juan complex" and I'm really digging the way it draws on the Aztec ancestry. I agree with the others that it could be trimmed a bit. I'd leave the first paragraph as is and trim mostly from the second and perhaps a little from the third.

For example, I don't think you need "though unskilled" or even "accepts her supernatural role"--if you just say Valerie sends her own soul... it will be assumed she's accepting the role.

You could also delete "Sure there’s the Demon Lord and a horde of his half-demon sons who want nothing more than to send her body and soul into Hell’s Gate. But." You could also delete "as her nana's body continues to die." and just go from "she loses precious time. If Nana dies without her soul..."

For the first 150 words, I was a little surprised at first (though I guess soccer before she said it!) but I liked them. It's a tense start and it shows her a lot about her character, about how she doesn't want to be a loser, how she wants to get this right. And there's a slight hint at the supernatural. Almost like a magical realist start. Good job!

Christy said...

Your query is interesting and clean and your writing reads smooth. Nicely done!
I love the Aztec Underworld premise! And the biggest thing that jumped out to me was the Autistic brother who can see her in spirit form. Wow.
I am not the greatest at commas, but I think there are a few comma issues in the query. Have a trusted copy editor check it to be sure. Great job in setting up the stakes and the consequences.

I like the 150 words. I also agree that it's great to have a hint of the fantasy right away. Nice job working in the fact that her parents aren't at the game. The last line is a bit awkward and needs rewording.

Nice job and good luck! (#74)

Jessica L. Foster said...

The voice of the query is great! I love the tie ins to the culture too.
The big o block of texts for the query made it a little difficult to read though, especially to my tired eyes. Is there anyway you can break it up a bit into smaller chunks? (keeping what's there there of course because as I said the voice is awesome and it read smooth once I got over the block o text).
I was a little confused at the start. Maybe mention earlier that she is playing soccer so as a reader we aren't trying to guess what she is doing.

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

Thank you all so much! Your help has been so valuable. I've revised and would love more feedback. Thanks again so so much!!

REVISED:

Query:

Fifteen-year-old Valerie is the newest curandera in her family’s long line of folk healers. But when her beloved nana suffers a stroke, she learns there is a whole lot more to being curandera than healing sinus infections or warding off the evil eye. Like a whole Underworld more.

Nana’s stroke is no mere medical condition. A Demon Lord with a Don Juan complex, who’s always had his lusty eye on Nana, has stolen her soul. In order to save her nana, Valerie risks her own spirit by sending it into the Underworld of her Aztec ancestors. Once she arrives, the Demon Lord and his horde of half-demon sons want nothing more than to send her body and soul into Hell’s Gate.

Help comes from unexpected places: her autistic brother who can see her in her spirit form, a guy from her new school who has read Lord of the Rings too many times, and two of Demon Don Juan’s sons. One says he can help if she’ll bring him back to her world and reunite him with his human mother. The other warns that there’s a darker plan at work, and Nana is only a distraction.

Valerie’s desperate and time’s running out. If she ever wants to feel her nana’s loving arms around her again, she’ll have to put her soul on the line and decide whose help she can trust. Because trusting the wrong person in the Underworld can mean not only death, but eternal damnation.

First 150:

My hands twitched. I crouched, ready to spring in whatever direction the soccer ball went. Breaths came deep and slow as I tried to quiet my mind. Not the easiest thing with a thousand eyes on me. Even harder when none of those eyes belonged to my parents. But to block this kick, my body needed to take control. Something that hadn’t come easy since we moved here. More twitching. More breathing. Kick already!

Then the moment came. Along with a ball at a good forty mph. Time for a huge life decision. Left. Or right. I wanted the block so bad, I ached.

Of course, I failed. Went left instead of right. My body wanted to go right, but at the last moment, a dark smoky shadow popped into my periphery. My left periphery. That’s all it took to pull me in the wrong direction. The ball sailed to my right and disappeared into the net along with any delusions I had about not being a loser.

Tracy Bermeo (A2Z Mommy) said...

Sheila- I love the premise and concept and your first 150 words!
In your revision though, I miss the Spanish words. I feel like they set the ms, and culture, apart from other works. (My husband is from Ecuador so I've heard all about the evil eye and I love that you used it as an example in the pitch).
I think you could still tighten the pitch though. Can you go from 4 paragraphs to 2?
Gramatically speaking; in the first paragraph, I'd take out the word "like" that starts your last sentence- it sounds too teenagerish.
Maybe consider editing the last sentence of the second paragraph- I feel as though it's logical that the Demon Lord wouldn't want her there. Don Juan's sons seem much more important.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

Thanks, Tracy. It helps a lot :) I'm dropping the "like" and putting mal de ojo back :) Am still to tighten, really get down to what's standing between her and her goal. Easier said than done, right :) Thanks, again!