Monday, September 18, 2017

Son Of A Pitch #8: THE SILVER GATE

Son Of A Pitch #8

Title: THE SILVER GATE
Category and Genre: YA  Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 95,000

Query:
When 17-year-old Nora gives CPR to a stranger on the beach, ancient magic awakens in her blood, making her a target of the goddess of magic. Her plan to finish senior year, leave her hometown, and escape the terrifying visions that haunt her when she is there shatters when her parents reveal she is half-magical shapeshifter, from a hidden land where gods, magic, and mythical creatures exist.

Rule number one when living a double life is don't get caught, but Nora finds herself distracted by a new student who can hear her thoughts. She tricks him into revealing he is also a shapeshifter in hiding.. They’re drawn to each other but fear the gods may be using them as pawns.  

 To make matters worse, Nora begins dreaming of a stranger killing everyone she loves, one-by-one. The stranger, working for the goddess of magic, will make Nora’s nightmares a reality unless she complies with his demands. Nora must decide if she is strong enough to protect everyone, or if she will follow him through the Silver Gate and take her chances with the dangerous unknowns of the hidden land.


First 250 Words:

All I’d wanted was a quiet walk. My parents and I had just spent a month in our tiny, remote mountain cabin during summer break, and I missed my beach. I parked in the sandy pull-off as heavy raindrops dotted my windshield. A few of the regulars made a run for the dry shelter of their cars, but I ignored the cold drops speckling my skin and started walking. The beach was alive when it rained.

Strolling towards the shoreline, I inhaled the heady mixture of salt, sand, and ozone, and smiled as the beach emptied. All mine. My smile fell when I spotted a hand sticking out from behind a large piece of driftwood.

The body was face down on the sand. White sea foam bubbled around faded blue jeans and muscular arms. His skin was pale, too pale, almost translucent. Not a good sign.

I crouched down, praying I could see a slight tick in his jugular. My pulse hammered through my veins and pushed against my skin, but I couldn’t see similar movement against his. I knew what to do, but I really didn’t want to.

My hand shook as I placed two fingers on his carotid artery. His skin was soft, firm, but lacking the thump, thump, thump I so desperately hoped to find.

Sadly, the beach near my hometown was known for bodies washing up. Steep cliffs rose close to the shore, and too many times, people on dares, drugs, or ego thought they could beat the odds at cliff diving in shallow waters.

12 comments:

  1. Before I get started, I’d like to preface my feedback with the disclaimer that what you do with your query and first page is totally up to you. Take what’s useful from my suggestions, and ditch the rest as you see fit.
    Query:

    This query is strong as it is. Just to nitpick a bit, I’m always concerned when the inciting incident involves a complete stranger. I worry that providence is going to be a bigger player in the novel than choice, so it’s always something to consider. Also, is it actually important to mention that it’s a stranger? If it is, great, if not, consider losing it. There are a lot of strangers holding places in YA novels who don’t really need to be there. Also, it seems like there’s a lot of information in that first sentence. She saves a stranger with CPR at a beach, wakens her latent magic AND draws the IRE of a goddess. Consider breaking that up into more manageable pieces.

    There are two periods at the end of “She tricks him into revealing”

    “Nora begins dreaming of a stranger killing everyone,” makes me think it’s the same stranger from the beach. If it is, awesome. If not, you’ve used stranger too many times. I’m also concerned when someone’s choice is about their strength, inner or outer. That’s a very inner conflict, and typically, a query focuses on external conflicts with only mentions of internal conflict. If that’s the biggest conflict, then you shouldn’t mislead in the query.
    First 250:

    I love your line that the Beach was alive when it rained. I’d try to maybe eliminate the was. Maybe go for “The beach breathed when it rained.” Or something to get rid of the use of was. It’s a good verb for existing, but you’re talking about the beach coming to life, seems like the verb should match. It’s only so obvious because you do such a good job using active verbs in other parts of your query.
    I’m worried that there isn’t a lot of staging between the initial observation of the body and the placing of her hand on the carotid. I feel like we should get there, spotted from a distance and run/walk, something to transport us to the body.
    I really like the shaking of the hand to check for the pulse, the color of the skin. The only thing I’d like to know is if this is common enough that she’s seen it before and knows to look for other signs like bloat, discoloration, smell, stuff like that.

    If you have any questions, or want any clarification about my statements here, feel free to drop me a line.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kathy from #TeamRarity here! My comments are my opinions only. Please take what inspires your brain and ignore the rest.

    When 17-year-old Nora gives CPR to a stranger on the beach, ancient magic awakens in her blood (How does she know? What happens?), making her a target of the goddess of magic (How does she know? Does the goddess pop in and say hey, I don't like you?). Her plan to finish senior year, leave her hometown, and escape the terrifying visions (Visions of WHAT??!!?!) that haunt her when she is there shatters when her parents reveal she is half-magical shapeshifter, from a hidden land where gods, magic, and mythical creatures exist. (Just a suggestion, but the first line has a lot of info, then going into the second sentence was a bit jarring. 17-year-old Nora plans to finish senior year, leave her hometown, and escape the terrifying visions-give us a detail of these- that haunt her. When she gives CPR to a stranger on the beach, ancient magic awakens in her blood-tell us what happens, what she feels. Then does she go to her parents and tell them? Why do they reveal the secret? Why is she there instead of in the hidden land? Hidden how? On Earth somewhere or another dimension?)
    Rule number one when living a double life is don't get caught, but Nora finds herself distracted by a new student who can hear her thoughts. (Oh! NEAT!) She tricks him into revealing (tricks him? A bit vague.) he is also a shapeshifter in hiding.(*.)<delete They’re drawn to each other (This is vague...How?) but fear the gods may be using them as pawns. (How do they know this? What is happening to them?)

    To make matters worse, Nora begins dreaming of a stranger (stranger? A bit vague. What does he look like? A man in a yellow coat for example...) killing everyone she loves, one-by-one. (This is different than the other visions?) The stranger, working for the goddess of magic (How does she know this?), will make Nora’s nightmares a reality unless she complies with his demands (which are what?). Nora must decide if she is strong enough to protect everyone, or if she will follow him through the Silver Gate and take her chances with the dangerous unknowns of the hidden land. (Okay...I know she loves her family...but GO THROUGH THE SILVER GATE INTO THE UNKNOWN LANDS THAT SOUNDS COOL I WANT TO SEE. Sorry... Ummm...goos stakes! A big decision!)

    I know I asked way too many questions. I know queries can't be book length. I just want to know that what is happening is caused by the mc and her choices and not just happening to her. I feel like the gods thing is there, but I don't know what it means to the story. The boy, the new student is there, they are drawn to each other, but then no mention of him later. Is he important?
    Give details, if it's too vague then it's forgettable.
    Does she learn what the goddess of magic wants from her through the stranger? Obviously the goddess wants her to enter the gate...why? What happens if she does go through the gate? What is that other choice? Who are her parents? Do they come from this other land?
    I know too many questions, but on the bright side that means I'm interested! However, I worry I'm being unhelpful.
    Focus on the main story. Let the query unfold as the story does.


    ReplyDelete
  3. First 250 Words:
    All I’d wanted was a quiet walk. My parents and I had just spent a month in our tiny, remote mountain cabin during summer break, and I missed my beach. I parked in the sandy pull-off as heavy raindrops dotted my windshield. A few of the regulars made a run for the dry shelter of their cars, but I ignored the cold drops speckling my skin and started walking. The beach was alive when it rained. (Nice!)

    Strolling towards the shoreline, I inhaled the heady mixture of salt, sand, and ozone, and smiled as the beach emptied. All mine. My smile fell when I spotted a hand sticking out from behind a large piece of driftwood.

    (Transition here. I need more here. She sees the hand, makes sure she isn't mistaken, like the wood just looks like a hand...panic...fear...uncertainty... running for the driftwood, hoping it isn't a person, not a hand and her initail reaction when she sees the body...grossed out? scared? sad?)The body was face down on the sand. White sea foam bubbled around faded blue jeans and muscular arms. His skin was pale, too pale, almost translucent. Not a good sign.

    I crouched down, praying I could see a slight tick in his jugular. My pulse hammered through my veins and pushed against my skin, but I couldn’t see similar movement against his. I knew what to do, but I really didn’t want to. (good! We're getting emotion and thinking after the initial shock...)

    My hand shook as I placed two fingers on his carotid artery. His skin was soft, firm, but lacking the thump, thump, thump I so desperately hoped to find.

    Sadly, the beach near my hometown was known for bodies washing up. Steep cliffs rose close to the shore, and too many times, people on dares, drugs, or ego thought they could beat the odds at cliff diving in shallow waters.
    I like this first page! Just missing a bit of transition, but a dead body on the beach! Quite the opening. I want to know what she'll do!
    Thanks for sharing your words!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, Rena - your comments are great and well received. The two strangers in the query are different people, so I definitely need to fix this. The first one has a much larger role in the story and is revealed in later chapters. I need to reconsider how to phrase this because it is her interaction with this person that awakens her magic. All of your input is very helpful and I can see where you are coming from. I'll get to work. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you Kathleen! So many good questions. :) I have a lot going on in my story and this query has (to be frank) been kicking my ass. I've taken a risk and tried to implement changes with a change in voice as well. Updated query is below. Will post update 250 words after.

    UPDATE QUERY

    When 17-year-old Nora experiences an overnight growth-spurt and accidentally communicates telepathically with a new student, life starts to get weird. She’s about to ask her parents if they found her on the side of the road as a baby, when her father confesses he’s a magical shapeshifter from a hidden land of gods and mythical creatures in hiding because of Nora. Her goal of graduating high school and skipping town so she can leave the freaky, apocalyptic visions that have been plaguing her for years, is now forgotten. Instead, she must learn how to use her magical gifts before she accidentally exposes her family.

    The new student, not to mention hot new guy in town, is also a magical shapeshifter in hiding. Nope, not a coincidence. At least that's what they both suspect due to the unusual connection that literally ignites between them whenever they touch. Oh, and the vision that said hot guy has inferring he and Nora are betrothed in the hidden land is a big clue too.

    Instead of being limited by her secret identity, Nora’s finally starting to have a life – she’s hanging out with friends, has a boyfriend, and her visions have taken a vacation. All is good, till she starts dreaming of a man who loves to smile as she watches him kill her loved ones, one-by-one. The man, sent by the Goddess of Magic, needs Nora to follow him through the Silver Gate and into the hidden land, so he can use her blood to free the goddess from her prison.

    Afraid the man will make her nightmares a reality, Nora must decide if she will risk the man targeting her family and friends, or is she must follow him through the Gate, and take her chances with the dangers of the hidden land.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When 17-year-old Nora experiences an overnight growth-spurt and accidentally communicates telepathically with a new student, life starts to get weird. (Maybe not 'starts to" but 'life gets weird.' And weird is right!) She’s about to ask her parents if they found her on the side of the road as a baby, when her father confesses he’s a magical shapeshifter from a hidden land of gods and mythical creatures in hiding because of Nora. Her goal of graduating high school and skipping town so she can leave the freaky, apocalyptic visions that have been plaguing her for years, is now forgotten. (Do we need to know of the visions? could be simpler without this) Instead, she must learn how to use her magical gifts before she accidentally exposes her family.

      The new student, not to mention hot new guy in town, is also a magical shapeshifter in hiding. Nope, not a coincidence. At least that's what they both suspect due to the unusual connection that literally ignites between them whenever they touch. Oh, and the vision that said hot guy has inferring he and Nora are betrothed in the hidden land is a big clue too. ( HUH? That sentence reads a bit awkward. And we do need to know of the visions, so forget my previous statement. LOL!)

      Instead of being limited by her secret identity, Nora’s finally starting to have a life – she’s hanging out with friends, has a boyfriend, and her visions have taken a vacation. All is good, till she starts dreaming of a man who loves to smile as she watches him kill her loved ones, one-by-one. (CREEPY SMILING MAN!) The man, sent by the Goddess of Magic, needs Nora to follow him through the Silver Gate and into the hidden land, so he can use her blood to free the goddess from her prison.

      Afraid the man will make her nightmares a reality, Nora must decide if she will risk the man targeting her family and friends, or *is* if she must follow him through the Gate, and take her chances with the dangers of the hidden land.

      Better! Yes! I think you want to focus on the goddess and the smiling man and the gate...that seems like the main story and it was shoved in at the end of the query.

      Delete
  7. First 250 Words: UPDATED

    All I’d wanted was a quiet walk. My parents and I had just spent a month in our tiny, remote mountain cabin during summer break, and I missed my beach. I parked in the sandy pull-off as heavy raindrops dotted my windshield. A few of the regulars made a run for the dry shelter of their cars, but I ignored the cold drops speckling my skin and started walking. The beach came alive when it rained.

    Strolling towards the shoreline, I inhaled the heady mixture of salt, sand, and ozone, and smiled as the beach emptied. All mine. But, my smile fell, and steps faltered when I spotted something sticking out from behind a large piece of driftwood. Please, tell me that’s not what I think it is.

    Hesitantly, I stepped up next to the large log, and my hand shot over my mouth once I confirmed it was a body. He was face down on the sand. White sea foam bubbled around his faded blue jeans and muscular arms. Had his skin not reminded me of a hypothermia patient, I would think he was just a guy taking a nap in the sand after one too many.

    I crouched down, praying I could see a slight tick in his jugular. My pulse hammered through my veins, but I couldn’t see similar movement against his skin. I knew what to do, but I really didn’t want to. My hand shook as I reached to place two fingers on his carotid artery.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nice! That works much better! Wow...that really messes up her day.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Crit from Cari:

    Title: THE SILVER GATE
    Category and Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
    Word Count: 95,000

    Query:
    When 17-year-old Nora gives CPR to a stranger on the beach, ancient magic awakens in her blood, making her a target of the goddess of magic. (love this opening) Her plan to finish senior year, leave her hometown, and escape the terrifying visions that haunt her when she is there (haunt her when she is there reads really awkwardly. I’d reword this. Shorten it) shatters when her parents reveal she is half-magical shapeshifter, from a hidden land where gods, magic, and mythical creatures exist.

    Rule number one when living a double life is don't get caught, but Nora finds herself distracted by a new student who can hear her thoughts. She tricks him into revealing he is also a shapeshifter in hiding.. They’re drawn to each other but fear the gods may be using them as pawns. (What about: When he reveals he’s also a shapeshifter in hiding, Nora is drawn to him, but worries that the powerful goddess of magic might be using them as pawns [to what?]...)

    To make matters worse, Nora begins dreaming of a stranger killing everyone she loves, one-by-one(you don’t need this). The stranger, working for the goddess of magic, will make Nora’s nightmares a reality unless she complies with his demands. (What about: When the stranger, a henchman for the goddess of magic, threatens to make her nightmares a reality, Nora must decided if she’s strong enough to fight the goddess of magic, or if she’ll surrender her freedom to protect those she loves.) [the stakes need to be really clear here, and these extra words can be cut. If these aren’t the stakes, then change it, but I’d consider shortening this last bit.]Nora must decide if she is strong enough to protect everyone, or if she will follow him through the Silver Gate and take her chances with the dangerous unknowns of the hidden land.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Crit from Cari:

    First 250 Words:
    All I’d wanted was a quiet walk. My parents and I had just spent a month in our tiny, remote mountain cabin during summer break, and I missed my beach. I parked in the sandy pull-off as heavy raindrops dotted my windshield. A few of the regulars made a run for the dry shelter of their cars, but I ignored the cold drops speckling my skin and started walking. The beach was alive when it rained. (Love this sentence. Tells me so much about her. Like this opening paragraph too. So much is said in so little a space.)

    Strolling towards the shoreline, I inhaled the heady mixture of salt, sand, and ozone, and smiled as the beach emptied. All mine. My smile fell when I spotted a hand sticking out from behind a large piece of driftwood.

    The body was face down on the sand. White sea foam bubbled around faded blue jeans and muscular arms. His skin was pale, too pale, almost translucent. Not a good sign.

    I crouched down, praying I could see a slight tick in his jugular. My pulse hammered through my veins and pushed against my skin, but I couldn’t see similar movement against his. I knew what to do, but I really didn’t want to.

    My hand shook as I placed two fingers on his carotid artery. His skin was soft, firm, but lacking the thump, thump, thump I so desperately hoped to find.

    Sadly, the beach near my hometown was known for bodies washing up. Steep cliffs rose close to the shore, and too many times, people on dares, drugs, or ego thought they could beat the odds at cliff diving in shallow waters.
    (I am in love with this opening. Well written. Well done. I connect with the character, the setting, and I WANT MORE!

    Best of luck!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please thank Cari for me. You ladies rock!

      Delete

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