Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #9


Title: Thunderbird Dreams
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fantasy
Word Count: 47,000

Query:

Twelve-year-old tomboy Christine Miller doesn’t believe in spooks, ghosts, or spirits. She can’t, ‘cause if she did, she’d have to worry about her Mom coming back to haunt her. Nope, no ghosts for her. So, what is that wailing white figure pointing at her in the middle of the night? And who is playing mysterious tom-toms in the coal mine? Not ghosts, that’s for sure.

She sets out to prove it, ending up in a chase with the local boys that leads her to Native American ruins. Inside the old granary, she finds a strange stick that her new friend, Tate, swears was not there yesterday. When she picks it up, drumbeats pound through her and her feet are set on the path of an ancient quest to save the Thunderbird trapped inside the mountain. The stick is a warclub, and she must use it to send him home.

Chris couldn’t save her mom from drowning, but she will save the last Thunderbird. Even if that means pretending to be a boy to get inside the mine, defying her dad when he finds out, and facing the mine boss in a race to get to the Thunderbird first. Chris wants to free the Thunderbird. The boss wants to trap the Thunderbird here forever by stealing his power. If the boss wins, he will destroy the lives of everyone she has come to care for. If Chris is to win, she will have to let go.


THUNDERBIRD DREAMS, complete at 47,000 words, is a middle grade historical fantasy. An author and an illustrator, I am at home in the kid lit world. My short story, SASSY SLIME SLIDER was purchased by Highlights Magazine. My black and white illustrations can be found inside New Moon Magazine and my colorful art on the cover. My digital style artwork was used in a series of Bible story cards for International Masters Publishers, and my digi-traditional art fills the pages of the picture books DADDY DID I EVER SAY? (10 to 2 Children’s Books, 2007), and CANDY CANES IN BETHLEHEM (Pauline Books and Media, May 2012). I am a member of SCBWI and participate in regular critiques with my wonderful crit buddies.


First 150 words:

Not that I’m afraid or anything, ‘cause I’m not, but when a high-pitched wail rises in the chilly night, I pull the quilt up to my eyeballs and scooch closer to my sisters. “Did you hear that?” I whisper.

“It’s a coyote, Christine. Go to sleep,” Bethany mutters. She rolls over and yanks the quilt away. Megan keeps on snoozing in the middle of us, hugging that dang stuffed bear of hers.

“That’s no coyote,” I mutter. We’ve been in this flea-bitten middle-of-nowhere mining town for almost a week now, I know the difference. I shiver and tug my corner of the quilt back. What I heard sounded like a ghost from one of old Jeb’s stories. But he’s far away now and that ghostly sound was nearby.

Another caterwaul, and I sit up. Twelve-year-olds do not believe in ghosts. I don’t. I can’t. 

8 comments:

Erin said...

1st Paragraph: I love the way this query starts. "Twelve-year-old tomboy Christine Miller doesn't believe in spooks, ghosts, or spirits. She can't, 'cause if she did, she'd have to worry about her Mom coming back to haunt her." Not only does it set up the problem, but it gives us a sense of Chris' voice. Be careful, however, of using questions in your query. Some agents can't stand them.

2nd Paragraph: "When she picks it up, drumbeats pound through her and her feet are set on the path of an ancient quest to save the Thunderbird trapped inside the mountain." This sentence is passive and a little confusing. What about something like this: "When she picks it up, she's sent on an ancient quest to save the Thunderbird trapped inside the mountain."

Also, in this sentence, "The stick is a warclub, and she must use it to send him home," "him" is ambiguous. I'm assuming it refers to the Thunderbird.

3rd Paragraph: Make sure that you're giving us the plot and not a series of events. The plot is Chris' task (to save the Thunderbird), what will happen if she succeeds, and what will happen if she fails. I'm a little confused about what you mean when you say, "If Chris is to win, she will have to let go." What will Chris have to let go of, and why will that be difficult?

Anyway, I hope my comments help! Good luck on your query, and keep up the good work!

Cat said...

This is a great query and an even better beginning. I'd clarify the "him" in this sentence: The stick is a warclub, and she must use it to send him home.

This is so good, I'd love to start reading right away. Hope you'll get an agent and a publisher soon.

Jayme said...

Your query and 150 have a really great voice. I agree with Erin’s suggestions. Maybe for the last sentence you could say something like: “If Chris is to win, she will have to let go of the guilt that’s been haunting her more effectively than any ghost for [however long her mom’s been dead].” Otherwise, I think you have a real winner here. :)

Katie Slivensky said...

Hey! I remember this from WriteOnCon!

It's great to see it again, and to see all the improvements!

I know people sometimes pick out questions in queries (AGENTS DON'T LIKE QUESTIONS, etc), but in here they work great. I think because you give us your MC's answer to them. :)

I agree with the posts above that the last two sentences of the second paragraph could be fiddled with a bit to be more clear. For the first sentence, I think just cutting "her feet are set on the path" and rephrasing to "drumbeats pound through her and she's sent on ancient quest to save the Thunderbird trapped inside the mountain"...or something like that. Also, clarify who "him" is for the other sentence.

I love your third paragraph. Love it. It really pulls me through the story and makes me curious to see how it'll play out. Great job!

And your first 150 are awesome. You have such a strong voice! It's great!

Best of luck!

amycavenaugh said...

A very strong beginning, great voice and interesting premise. My only suggestions would be to tweak the wording here to something like this:
"When she picks it up, drumbeats pound through her and she is set on the path of an ancient quest..."

Also, as others have pointed out, not sure what Chris has to let go of at the end of the third paragraph? Her guilt about her mom? The Thunderbird? But it's a great story and would love to read more. In fact, it's one I would recommend to my kids. :) Good luck!

Nicole said...

I really enjoyed the voice in the query and the opening. One question, though: You've listed this as historical fantasy - is it historical because of the Native American connection, or are the main characters also in a previous time period?

The opening makes me wonder if the MCs are from another era, and if so, the dialogue seems too modern.

Also, I really love the opening paragraph of the query. However, it made me wonder why Christine wouldn't want her mother to haunt her. I got a little distracted from the actual story, because I was expecting the mom to be some kind of evil factor in the story.

Nicely done!

gailecn said...

The voice in both the query and the first 150 are so well done! The idea of a historical fantasy is really intersting, too.

I think you could trim the first paragraph of the query without losing anything too important.

I think someone else mentioned this, but I don't really have a feel for when this story takes place. I'm not sure if it's nineteenth century or depression-era or...maybe drop a hint somewhere in the query.

No one else has said this, so I might be the only clueless one, but I don't know what a thunderbird is (except a car! haha). You might consider dropping a quick explanation in the query.

Traci VanWagoner said...

Thanks everyone for your great comments! You've helped me polish my query to something I think I might actually like. I hope agents will like it too.