Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #70

Genre: YA fantasy 
Word Count: 81,000 words 


When a not-so-sweet sixteen spurs artistic, self-conscious Etta to “borrow’’ her dad’s truck for a night of freedom, she ends up trapped in Middeah -- a civilization that twisted away from North America a thousand years ago. The crisp air and upside-down trees make Etta feel like she’s stepped into one of her paintings. But if the tribe discovers she’s a trespasser, she’ll become their next human sacrifice. When one native learns her secret, Etta survives his attack and flees with a haunted, strangely familiar boy named Graham. 

Etta doesn’t need Graham’s cat-green eyes and cryptic silences clouding her judgment, but she does need his help to conceal her identity. Together they discover what Middeah gains from its brutal offerings. The tribe has no sickness. No pollution. No technology, and no need for it. If Etta forsakes her past for an eternal life in hiding with Graham, they could ruin the pristine world. If they follow the clues toward the only way home, back to the father Etta misses more than she ever expected, they risk losing both their necks on the altar stone. 

TRESPASSERS was inspired by the real ancient American civilization that abandoned the Cahokia mounds near St. Louis. Told from alternating points of view, this 81,000-word YA fantasy is The Wizard of Oz meets The Girl of Fire and Thorns, with more subtle religious undertones. 

First 150: 

Brakes squealed as the truck turned into the driveway outside. Etta bumped her palm against her forehead. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Her dad was always home from work at six on Mondays. And she had about three minutes until he walked through the back door. 

She tossed the paints in her supply basket, grabbed the brushes in a jumbled handful, and sprinted to the bathroom. Blue, green and silvery white swirled beneath the faucet as she rinsed them, twisting into a smoky turquoise. Still dripping, she dropped them into their cup and stashed the whole basket under the sink.      

The rattle and thumb of the engine dying sounded through the hall. Two minutes. 

Back in the kitchen she stole one last look at her piece, a bridge that hinted at metal towers on one side, with hungry, overgrown trees and vines reaching across on the other. She grabbed a black plastic garbage bag and slid the canvas inside, hoping the tacky splotches wouldn’t stick.


Christy said...

Your 150 words catch my attention. I already have a sense of her character, her wishes and her relationship with her dad. There are a few confusing spots. The first paragraph confused me a bit. Perhaps put Etta and her paints in the first sentence to give me an idea of what is going on. Then I will relate to her panic. I think you meant thump instead of thumb :) I love the description of the painting. It lets me know that I'm going to see some great description later on, and also hints of conflict with the wild trees and metal towers.
It makes me want to read more. I am intrigued by Graham and the conflicts and romance that are sure to come. The civilization sounds awesome. You have some unnecessary details. You don't need to tell us that she is artistic or self conscious. Also, it took me a few tries to figure out what you meant by sweet sixteen. I don't understand how the world twisted away. Does that mean its an alternate reality or a time warp? I also don't understand the relationship between the tribe's welfare and the sacrifices. How does her presence there endanger the world? Can she take Graham back home with her? That's a great conflict so nclude it if that is the case.

If you like my comments, please stop by pitch #74 and leave me one. Good luck!

Mara Rae said...

I really enjoyed your first 150 as well. I thought the description of the paint swirling down the sink was beautiful and I agree that it gave a good insight into her character. I wasn't confused by the query, but I thought you could give it a little more voice - I didn't get a great sense of the main character from the query (and I think that's why I liked the first 150 better). Over all, I thought this was a very clean pitch with excellent writing. Just a little more oomph and I think it will really stand out. Good luck!
Mara (#67)

Donea Lee said...

I think you've really nailed the voice in your query and your 1st 150 words - there's a sublte artistic elegance to both, which reflects your artistic MC. Nicely done! I do wonder about the stakes for your MC, however. Why would anyone choose an eternal life in hiding? Also - the line aobut "Etta doesn't need Graham's cat-green eyes..." makes me think that she's not so in love with Graham at the moment - he's just the only other person there who can help her. I guess I need more motivation for her to stay and have to make a choice about staying or going home.

And again - love the artistic, lyrical quality of your 1st 150 - the one thing that tripped me up was this paragraph: "She tossed the paints in her supply basket, grabbed the brushes in a jumbled handful, and sprinted to the bathroom. Blue, green and silvery white swirled beneath the faucet as she rinsed them, twisting into a smoky turquoise. Still dripping, she dropped them into their cup and stashed the whole basket under the sink." You use "them" twice and I couldn't figure out if she was washing her hands, brushes, or paints. Just a little clarification and your'e golden!

Lovely work - best of luck to you! :)

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

I really enjoyed your writing! Way to start with conflict right off the bat in your first 150. That's such a struggle for us writer types and you totally nailed it. I think you could tighten it just a bit by dropping a few modifiers. For example, you could drop "through the back door" and simply say "walked in." You have nice tension going and you don't want to lose any of it to extra words.
I also loved the ending of your query - made me say "whoa!" :) The begging confused me a little. A not so sweet sixteen what? At first I thought you mean a guy, but after reading it a few times, I think I understood that it was a bad birthday. Problem is, an agent won't read it a couple of time to get its meaning. Just say it like it is, or don't say it at all. You could simply start with "When sixteen year old Etta "borrows" her dad's truck..." Just my thoughts :) Hope they help. Best of luck!
~Shiela (#69)

Tamara said...

Your writing and voice are strong. I did read the second paragraph in your query two or three times and I'm still not sure I follow you, so may need to simplify (or it could just be me:) I love the concept and how it was inspired.

First 150- I like your writing and the images you create w/ the paints. As for the action, I wanted a little more of what was happening or about to happen. I'm not sure why her Dad coming home is an issue. Maybe that is intentional? As it is, I would keep reading.

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

A little confusion on the query. I thought 'sweet sixteen' referred to a person and not an event. Maybe add 'birthday' to it. 'Losing both their head' would sound better in the second paragraph or 'putting both their necks on the altar stone'.

'Thump' not 'thumb' I assume in the query. Comma after 'kitchen'.

Sounds like this one has a bit of romance in it. :)