Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #71

YA - Contemporary Fantasy
68,500 words

Clara Knight gets a few surprises on her 17th birthday – Mom’s a big-fat liar, her grandmother isn’t really dead and Clara might be cursed. 
When a familiar stranger causes trouble for her at school and home, Clara flees to upstate New York to meet Granny for the first time and to try to learn about the father she’s never known.  Grandma’s invitation to spend the summer with her did promise the unveiling of some secret family tradition, after all.  What she actually learns is that the curse is real, the stranger is Snow White’s immortal son, Grandma could be a “bad guy”, and her new best friend just might be a son of a witch.
When a family heirloom and moonlight whoosh her away to the prince’s hometown of Elysia, five-hundred years in the past, Clara finds a cryptic riddle – her first clue to breaking the curse, a deadly legacy that’s claimed the lives of countless relatives.  If she doesn’t want to be next, she must learn to work with the obnoxious prince and find the courage she’s never really needed.
First 150 Words:
I shared the day with the death of my dad. A fact I tried not to dwell on as I kicked back in a kitchen chair and sipped hot cocoa from his old mug. I fingered the nick in the mug’s handle. Mom told me he’d died during breakfast on my first birthday. The mug of hot cocoa in his hand clattered to the tile floor and probably should have shattered, mom said. But, it cracked only in one place, so she kept it. I’m not sure mom liked that I used it. And she never drank hot cocoa. I, on the other hand, was a hot-choc addict.
I closed my eyes and tried to picture Dad as the warm liquid satiated my taste buds and slid down my throat. No dice. I could never get a clear picture of him in my head. Sighing, I took another sip.


Jessica L. Celaya said...

The opening line is great.
There were a few spots on the query that confused me though.
Familiar stranger is confusing. If they are familiar then they aren't a stranger. How does this familar stranger cause her to flee to upstate New York. How does the stranger relate to her desire to learn about her father?
who is the new best friend that is only mentioned once?
the curse is mentioned but not explained as to how she knows or learns that she is cursed.

The 150 words reads smoothly. I was confused about the cup though. Did it kill the father or was it just what he was holding when he died? It seems strange that she is using the cup that her father had been holding when he died.

Christy said...

Intriguing! It sounds like a fun twist.
Query: I am not fond of your hook, especially since it is repeated at the end of the second paragraph. I like the second one better for a hook. Does snow whites son have a name? I think it would help if you mention him by name right of the bat. "familiar stranger leaves me feeling like I missed something. Work on the ending. If her internal struggle is to find courage, but she never really needed it, then you have no story arc (and I am certain that you do ). Also, what are the consequences? What happens if she doesn't break the curse?
The first line is interesting but confusing. Simply saying birthday instead of day would make it clear. I love how you showed me the family dynamics! I can already tell that she feel attached to her dad and a bit distant from her mother. Are you using her story as a parallel to Snow White and her parental relationships? Awesome. I love the cup. It shows that she is attached to her father. Your writing is smooth and I am ready to read on.

If you like my comment, please consider leaving one for me pitch #74. Good luck!

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

Son of a witch - that's great :) I like your story's concept, but I think you have a stronger place to start your query. Right now it's all background at the beginning. Let's get to the action right away. Consider starting it after she gets to the new land. Then show us what she wants, what's standing in her way of getting it, and what happens if she fails. Right now, it appears that she wants to discover the truth. Be specific, the truth to... her dad's death? Good stakes, though - she doesn't want to be next. I think you just need a little more focus and tweaking and you're there! I enjoyed your 150 words. I only needed a little clarification at the beginning. Instead of shared the day, maybe "shared my day" or "shared my birthday" would clear it right up. Hope this helps :) Best of luck with it!
~Shiela #69

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

I get a little confused in the second paragraph as to whether the 'new best friend' is also 'Snow White's immortal son' and 'the prince' for paragraph three. Perhaps too many titles and not enough names is the problem.

I'm not really sure what the Prince's goal in this is. What does he get from breaking the curse? What's his motivation and need for Clara?

First 150: The first sentence is confusing: Shared what day?

Some nit-picks:

I think 'used it' should be present tense as she still 'uses it'.

In one place you have 'mom' with small m and the other capital m.

I hope this helps.

Laurie Dennison said...

I think you have really nice voice in the query. I agree with the others about "familiar stranger." Maybe you could be more specific about how he causes trouble? I think you could leave out the second sentence in P2 to make room for more details. I was also unclear about whether the immortal son and new best friend were the same person.

I really enjoyed the characterization in the 150 - I might just add birthday instead of day in the first line.

Best of luck to you!

Mara Rae said...

I have a feeling there's a lot of great stuff in this novel, but I think your query could use some tweaking. My first thought was that the query read a little young for YA, but after reading the first 150, I think that just may be the character's voice. I don't think you want two lists, the one in the first paragraph and the one at the end of the second paragraph. "Familiar stranger" is too vague, but I'd start the query with the second paragraph. I thought your first 150 were well written, although you spend a lot of time on the mug and cocoa and in this kind of contest, I find it's better to get right into the meat of the story because you have the agents' attention for such a short amount of time. Overall you did a really good job and I'm curious to see where the story goes. :)
Mara (#67)

Donea Lee said...

Appreciate everyone's comments!!! Thanks, so much ~ :) I've tweaked the query - Is this any better?

When a stranger named Rion kisses Clara Knight at her 17th birthday party, her jealous boyfriend’s backlash pushes her to accept an invitation from an estranged grandmother to spend her summer in upstate New York. Even with her mom’s warning that granny is certifiable and thinks there’s a family curse.

Grandmother treats Clara more like a hotel guest than a granddaughter, so she finds solace in the friendship of neighbor boy, Neil. But even Neil’s assurances don’t stop Clara from wanting to run home, until one night when her Grandmother shows her the glass prince – an heirloom the family’s had forever. When the glass prince cuts Clara’s finger – flooding her head with strange images, Grandmother confirms what she never believed. The curse is real, it’s what killed Clara’s dad on her very first birthday, and she’s looking at the same fate if she doesn’t find a way to break it.

She knew she should have listened to her mother…

And the gravy on top? She has to work with Rion, who’s really Snow White’s son, and sort of the reason her whole family is cursed in the first place. When the glass prince and moonlight whoosh both of them away to Rion’s hometown of Elysia, five-hundred years in the past, Clara finds her first clue to breaking the curse. But breaking it won’t be easy. Rion’s fatalistic attitude, her grandmother’s questionable loyalties, and a new best friend who might just be a son-of-a-witch stand in her way.

Anonymous said...

Great hook! In fact, the pitch is very well done—though I would recommend making something clearer: you mention a familiar stranger (which sounds odd) who is actually Snow White’s son, a new best friend, and a prince (who we later find out is obnoxious). Are any of these three the same guy? It kind of sounds like they are but it is unclear.

The query has a nice flow, uses details, seems fun, and I would want to read more.

I’m less thrilled with the first 150 words of the novel simply because the first line throws me—I don’t get it. It makes sense later, but my initial impression is simply, “Wha? That’s an odd first line,” and even when I went back to read it, it still seemed “off.” I agree that beginning with the interesting tale about dad’s death and the cocoa connection is clever, but I think it doesn’t read as well as it should. I’m also wondering about her lack of emotion here. I guess it is because she barely remembers her dad, but do you want to start out with the fact that she “doesn’t care” about her dead father?

I have every confidence that you have a wonderful story. Best of luck!

-Craig # 76