Monday, September 17, 2012

Rd 1 Agent Pitch Contest #19 - DUET WITH THE DEVIL'S VIOLIN

DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN
Upper MG Magical Realism
43,000

Query:

Thirteen-year-old prodigy Miranda Harper craves the kind of perfection that goes beyond hitting all the right notes--she wants to be inside the music. Thanks to her new violin, she achieves her goal, but it's more than she bargained for. A flawless performance of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” lands her in a flying chariot piloted by a Valkyrie transporting a dead soldier.

Miranda snaps back to reality, only to battle exhaustion and a reluctance to play for several days. She decides the Valkyrie incident was a hallucination, until the magic strikes again during the "Psycho" theme at a Halloween concert. This time her world goes black and white, and Norman Bates chases her with a butcher knife. As a bonus, the scratches Miranda gets during her escape come back to the real world with her.

With each trip into the music, it’s harder to return and the side effects get worse. Miranda’s best friend begs her to stop, but she’s determined to prove she can control the violin and achieve perfection on her own terms. She’s willing to risk a few cuts and bruises, but when she discovers the violin could trap her forever in an alternate reality, she must decide what perfection is really worth.

First 150 Words:

I prepared for the downbeat, bow poised over the strings of my new violin.

Miranda Harper: concertmaster. Just thinking about it made me want to jump up and dance. But I couldn’t do that, especially not at the first rehearsal. It wouldn’t be concertmaster-like.

After a year of waiting it out as principal second violinist “so I could observe and grow,” I’d finally made it. At least we played some Mozart last season. Good old Wolfgang sometimes let the second violins outshine the firsts.

Now it was my turn to shine, and we weren’t playing Mozart today.

My fingers tingled, like extra energy ran through them.

I’d been practicing this piece--a medley from Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung--for weeks. It started with “Ride of the Valkyries,” a melody everyone recognized, either because they’d seen a fat lady singing it or watched Elmer Fudd warble, “Kill the Wabbit.”

14 comments:

SugarMagnolia said...

Thanks for participating! My plan is to read through all the entries and then begin my comments and critiques. I will give out my top ten my votes when I'm finished.

Best of luck to you, and stay tuned!

csoontornvat said...

I love this premise - it's creepy in a very good, spine-tingling way. I imagine it will be a real page-turner!

Cat said...

I like it a lot. Fun premise, concise query and intriguing sample. The only thing I'm worried about is the question whether MG readers know Norman Bates or the Valkyrie.

Dr. Milestone said...

Cool concept; a little bit of Devil & Daniel Webster (or the Devil Went Down to Georgia) mixed with Sliders. The only question I have from the query is how she got the violin; if it's really "the devil's violin", that might be important and should be at least mentioned in the query.
Good luck!

Sugar Magnolia said...

(Hi again! I plan to give out comments during this round, and then I'll give out my top ten votes as soon as I have critiqued everyone's queries.)

What a wonderful story! Your query and first 150 words shine, and I really think you have something special on your hands.

I like the struggle between Miranda's ambitions and her safety, and I love the idea that delusions often make their way into our dreams.

Very well done!

SugarMagnolia said...

All done reading, and I just keep picturing Miranda's trials and tribulations with this violin. Such a great idea.

YOU HAVE MY VOTE!

Violet said...

Before I even finished reading this entry, I was like, "Yes, please!" (I love a good paranormal). The premise is fantastically dark and creepy!

That being said, there's one problem I had with this entry--it seems more YA than MG. I'm a bit concerned that this might be a little too mature for the MG crowd. I wonder if it's a bit too dark and creepy for the 9-13 year-old group (hard to say for sure without reading the entire book).

Also, be careful with the cultural references! For example, the typical MG reader (and probably even the typical YA reader)is not going to know anything about the movie Psycho or who Elmer Fudd is.

I'll admit, this is THE entry that has been driving me CRAZY, because I love it, BUT there are the issues I mentioned above :-/ I've been going back and forth about it the past two days, and the fact is, I can't get it out of my head. I think you have a fantastic premise and great opening words to match it. Sooo . . .

YOU HAVE MY [final] VOTE!

michelleimason said...

Thank you so much for the votes!

And, Violet, I'm so glad you told me about your struggle because it clears up at least one thing for me. I'm confident I've handled Psycho and Bugs Bunny well in the actual manuscript, but if there's any chance the mention of them could turn someone off in the query or first page, then I need to take them out.

I stayed up late last night playing with this because I think if I highlight the friendship part of the story it would put the focus more on MG as well. So here's what I came up with for the query:

Thirteen-year-old prodigy Miranda Harper craves the kind of perfection that goes beyond hitting all the right notes--she wants to be inside the music. Thanks to her new violin, she achieves her goal, but it's more than she bargained for. A flawless performance of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” lands her in a flying chariot piloted by a Valkyrie transporting a dead soldier. Miranda snaps back to reality and decides the Valkyrie incident was a hallucination.

A loner since her best friend moved to England, Miranda needs someone to confide in and is thrilled when she meets Lizzie, a new girl at school--not that she’s going to share her crazy right away. But when the magic strikes again during a Halloween concert and sends her into a black and white horror movie, she spills everything, including the fact that the scratches she got during her escape come back to the real world with her.

With each trip into the music, it’s harder to return and the side effects get worse. Lizzie begs Miranda to stop, but she’s determined to prove she can control the violin and achieve perfection on her own terms. She’s willing to risk a few cuts and bruises, but when she discovers the violin could trap her forever in an alternate reality, she must decide what perfection is really worth.

I'm also going to remove Elmer Fudd from the first 150.

I'd appreciate comments from anyone on this revision. Does it work? Or was it better the old way?

Thanks again, everyone!

kiperoo said...

Ooooooh, yesyesyes! SO much better! I agree that it works fine in the actual ms (b/c I've been lucky enough to read it) but it would really take out a lot of question marks if you took it out of the query. Likewise thumbs-up on focusing on the friendship here b/c that shows how MG it is. AWESOME!

heatherriffle said...

I, too, like the changes... I haven't read the ms but trust the elements will work fine within it... Great idea to focus more on the friendship aspect. This sounds like an awesome story - spooky and fun.

Baby said...

YOU HAVE MY VOTE!

Violet said...

Sorry, I'm just now seeing your revision. It's so, so, soooo much better!! I think you made the right decision to take out the pop culture references (and to high light the friendship in the query)!

I'm so pulling for you in the next round!! Again, great job!!

michelleimason said...

Thanks, Violet! I'm so glad you stopped back by again. I made a few more tweaks to smooth it out even more. Can't wait to see what the agents think!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.