Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Guess the Plot
The Shadow's Edge
1. After his family moves to the deep south, Julien is treated like an outsider. He has no close friends. And just when he thinks things can't get any worse . . . Hitler invades! The shadow of the Third Reich has a long reach.
2. Hank Horowitz always thought of his shadow as an out-of-focus, benevolent figure that followed him around. But when he finds his shaving cream replaced with denture adhesive, and discovers he’s unable to go half a block without encountering a banana peel, he realizes that fuzzy shape’s got a definite mean streak.
3. Jim's friends all say that it's impossible to step on your own shadow's head. But Jim has recently become aware of an amazing celestial phenomenon: the sun moves in the sky! He issues a challenge to the nay-sayers: "Meet me on the playground by the swings at high noon." Jim will crush the puny psycho-religious beliefs of the other four-year-olds.
4. At the Shadow's Edge there is a town of peg-leg men and parrots, where all the dogs are named Millie. Is there something in the Shadow's Edge that robs men of their legs and their imagination? Now, one man dares to name his dog Bob. Can Javis avoid the Shadow and keep both his legs? Or will the mysterious drunk woman chasing him with a chainsaw claim more than his love.
5. Postal carrier Mark Kingman doesn’t worry about getting mauled by an untrained dog on his route. He fears sunny days—and the shadows they bring. Demons lurk in the shadows. When Mark trips while sprinting from a front porch to his mail truck, will he be trapped in the darkness . . . forever?
6. The Planet Xanth has a Light Side and a Dark Side. Rotating on its axis as it swings around Beta Centauri, one side of the planet faces away from the sun in eternal night. No Xanthan dares enter there--except one intrepid Xanthling named Grol. What terrors will Grol find beyond . . . the Shadow's Edge?
Dear Evil Editor,
In The Shadow's Edge, set in France during the first two years of World War II, a school rivalry becomes a matter of life and death for two Jewish refugees.
Fifteen-year-old Julien is angry. His family has moved from Paris to his father's hometown in the deep south, [This makes me think Mississippi rather than the south of France. I'd name the town instead of saying the deep south.] where the guys at school stare at him and won't let him in on their soccer games. His family's new boarder--German, Jewish, nerdy, and in his class--isn't helping. Nor is the fact that Hitler has invaded Poland, and France has declared war. [This seems to imply that Julien blames Hitler for his troubles at his new school. That may be the case, but the order of magnitude of the causes of his problems is so different it sounds like a joke: I'm not making friends because I'm new in town, there's a nerd living in my house, and Hitler invaded Poland. It's like saying Jeff is afraid to ask Millie to the prom because he's shy and he wears braces and the Zorgon fleet is attacking Earth.]
But nothing happens on the border for months, while Julien, through grit, soccer skills, and a near-death experience in a snowstorm, finally wins over most of his class--except for class leader Henri. Then Germany invades. [Don't you just hate it when a genocidal megalomaniac bases his military decisions on how best to screw up your social life?]
As his country falls in a matter of weeks, Julien's world changes drastically. School closes, there's not enough food, no one can believe this is happening. Profoundly relieved when surrender terms name the south as an unoccupied zone, Julien gradually realizes all is not well: [Your country just surrendered to Hitler; "all is not well" is an understatement.] the new Vichy government is collaborating with the Nazis. As school resumes he sets up a rivalry with Henri over the new fascist flag-salute; Henri's power is eroding, his belief in Vichy growing unpopular. Julien is gaining ground. [He thinks, If Belgium would just hurry up and surrender, Henri would be toast.]
Then two teenage refugees get off the train: Gustav and Nina from Austria. Henri's father, the stationmaster, looks at them and smells trouble; he offers them a ticket back out of town, and Julien witnesses the scene. They refuse; Nina is very sick, they need help desperately. Julien guides them to the pastor's house at their request. But Henri's father has called the mayor, who tells the pastor's wife these "illegal immigrants" have a choice: to leave town quietly or be sent to a Vichy internment camp. She says they'll leave. Julien helps to hide them in town.
Then Henri tells Julien he knows they're not gone, and asks where they're staying. Now Julien has to convince him not to tell his father--if he fails, Nina may die.
But who has ever listened to his enemy?
The story of Gustav and Nina's journey from Austria is also told, in short vignettes between chapters. As Nina's father lay dying of TB in the summer of 1939, he told her:Leave Austria, you and your brother. Burn your papers. Find a place where you are safe. But a narrow escape from a stranger who offered to help them cross the border makes Nina wonder: did her father understand what kind of world he was sending them out into? Or is her uncle right, who told her to stay put, that there is no safety, that everywhere there are evil men? This question haunts her as she and Gustav make their uncertain way across half of Europe, wondering if there will ever be a place for them. [Their story sounds more exciting than Julien's.]
Complete at 88,000 words, The Shadow's Edge is a Christian historical YA novel for teens who like a good life-or-death story and for parents and teachers who want to enrich their kids' school study of WWII and the Holocaust. It is loosely based on the true story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, the only town to be honored by the state of Israel for rescuing Jews during the war.
I won contests for poetry and creative nonfiction in college. The Shadow's Edge is my first novel. My mother, Lydia Munn, and I are the co-authors.
This too much detail for a query letter. The Gustav/Nina vignettes paragraph can go. The nerd boarder can go. The pastor can go.
I assume the main plot involves saving the refugees. This is more compelling than whether Julien gets to play soccer. Possibly the story lies in Henri and Julien realizing there are more important things than the school pecking order? (The story might be even more compelling if Julien weren't on the rise and Henri on the decline already.) In any case, focus more on saving Gustav and Nina, and less on Julien's problems. We just need to know Henri and Julien are rivals, so we can appreciate how their relationship affects the bigger picture.
It seems like it would be hard for the Nazis to round up Jews in the south if the south was unoccupied. Not they were trustworthy, but if you want to give the impression you aren't occupying the south, infiltrating every town looking for refugees is going about it the wrong way. No wonder they lost.
If this is for a Christian market, are you sure you don't need a little something about the religious angle? There's no indication the pastor does anything to help the refugees. The stationmaster and mayor don't strike me as typical Le Chambon-sur-Lignon heroes.