Sunday, May 01, 2016

Face-Lift 1315

Guess the Plot

The King and the Mount

1. King Robert loves his horses. Some of them he loves a little too much.

2. The King of the Horses is an important and regal king. Yet he is lacking in one important thing, a mount. Follow this stallion in his quest to find a mount worthy of his royal equine nature. 

3. Mt. Mik-Mak-Malady has been the choosing grounds for the dwarves of Granicrag for over three millennia. But, when Prince Salmi tries to take the throne, there are three problems: 1) he's not a dwarf, 2) the old king's only mostly dead, 3) the spirit of the mountain wants its minerals back. 

4. The king wanted a horse and traded his kingdom away for it. Now his new mount will take him on an extraordinary journey that will make him rue the day he uttered the words "my kingdom for a horse."

5. An evil king out to destroy the world. A boy who's never been away from his home on the side of a mountain, and whose only talent is whittling. Can the boy whittle a weapon capable of bringing down the king and his army in time to save us all?

6. Elvis enters his horse Blue Suede in the Kentucky Derby, planning to watch the race from Colonel Parker's box. When Blue Suede's jockey comes down with measles, can the King take the reins and ride his mount to victory in the run for the roses?

Original Version

Attn. Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation of my fantasy/adventure novel, The King and the Mount: The Missing Traveller.

Alister never thought his name would be significant enough to earn a place in the histories, but now it looks like the fate of the Union rests in his hands.

In the Union, a civilisation perched on the side of a mountain, [I tend to think of a civilization as encompassing a wider expanse of land than the side of a mountain.]  a travelling merchant has gone missing. His cryptic message to Alister, a young whittler, leads the boy [How old is this boy? Knowing whether he's seven or fourteen would be more helpful than knowing he whittles.] on a journey across the Union to find him. Along the way, he realises the merchant's disappearance is far from the most important matter at hand, because the message tells of a world-ending plot. [If I'm sending a message warning that the world is in danger of ending, I'm 1. not making it cryptic, and 2. sending it to someone with a better chance of saving us than a boy whose chief claim to fame is that he whittles. Just saying.]

For all the years Hawk, the travelling merchant, told Alister about the cities around the Union, he never imagined he'd have the courage to leave his home and explore them. [If these cities are all on the same mountainside, Alister could probably walk to the closest one in an hour. Does that really take great courage?] But when he commits a horrible deed, [He whittles an image of Mohammed.] Alister has no choice but to run away. [First you said Alister embarked on his journey to search for Hawk. Now you say he's on the run because he has no choice.]

His guilt and grief might have overwhelmed him [Guilt and grief over the horrible deed? What, specifically, did he do?] if not for Hawk's message, which instead stacks [places] the burden of the Union's future on his shoulders. He finds himself up against Baudouin, the unnervingly charismatic king responsible for Hawk's disappearance. The king has a history of great evils, and plans to regain his "rightful" reign over the Union, at any cost. [What is he the king of, currently?]

Any hope of ending Baudouin's plot lies with Hawk. On his way to find the missing merchant, Alister uncovers the mysteries of the Hawk's past, ["The" Hawk makes him sound like a superhero.] participates in an illegal glider race, accepts the help of people throughout the Union with questionable backgrounds, and finds himself wondering how far he should be willing to go to stop the ambitious king.

With a level of fantasy and adventure akin to The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan, The King and the Mount is aimed at teenage fantasy readers, but could also be enjoyed by young adults. [Young adults are teenagers.]

Thanks for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is complete at 119500 words and is available upon request. As per your submission guidelines, attached are the first two chapters. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


When I saw the title I assumed the mount was a horse. Apparently others did too. Maybe you should call it a mountain, as you do in the query. Actually, the title sucks either way. I suggest one of the following:
Alister Crowley and the Scelerate King
Enter the Whittler
Saving Proprietor Hawk
Return of the Ranger's Apprentice

Most of these fantasies have one teenager with no skills who has to save the world by himself, which is hard to swallow, so I'm pleased to see that your teenager can whittle and has the assistance of a traveling salesman, if he can find him.

You say the fate of the Union rests in his Alister's hands, but all Alister is doing is looking for Hawk. You also say "Any hope of ending Baudouin's plot lies with Hawk," but Hawk puts the burden of the Union's future on Alister's shoulders. It's not clear from the query what the merchant or the whittler can do to save the world. If I had to guess, I'd say Alister plans to swoop in on the glider he whittled out of a pine tree and rescue Hawk, who will then transform into the superhero known as The Hawk, and defeat the king's army with his iron beak.

I recommend you focus on one character and his goal, and provide more specifics. For instance, what's the name of the mountain, what's the horrible deed, what is Baudouin's plot, how did the king become not the king in the first place, what does the cryptic message say, what's the biggest mystery of Hawk's past, how is the burden of the Union's future on Alister, why is glider racing illegal, what is the plan, and what is Alister's super power that will allow him to defeat the evil king? (If it's whittling, change his name to The Whittler.)

That reminds me of The Whistler, an old radio mystery series which was adapted into several movies. Which reminds me of an old Smothers Brothers bit. I can't find the full song online, but here's a link to a place where you can listen to the part of the song where Tommy Smothers (as usual) interrupts the song to go off on a tangent. "Lonesome Traveler" is the track.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This just doesn't grab the reader. A boy must save the Union sounds like it should be set in the American Civil War, but other than that, it sounds like a lot of other stories. Being more specific might help.

120k is long for a debut YA fantasy.

Anonymous said...

Try to limit yourself to max ten sentences organized in three paragraphs. You need the story here, not a blow-by-blow of the plot.

What does the character want? <- other than to find Hawk, no idea. Is that his overall story-worthy goal? If not, what is? If it is, we need more of a reason than an unspecified cryptic message.
What obstacles are in the way? <- mountainous terrain, lack of information about Hawk's location, and possible pursuers?
What's at stake, specifically? <- the fate of the world? I can't tell if this is meant in a literal fashion and have no idea what the threat to the world is, or how and why whittle-boy is the required hero

A book where the ex-ish king is summoning a fire demon to turn the mountain into a super volcano is going to be different from a book where the king is going to unleash a plague of lawyers and tax everyone to death. This is why we need specific details.

khazar-khum said...

Alister and Hawk--someone played a lot of Dragon Age.

Even if it's a coincidence, it's likely someone else will recognize the names, assume this is fanfic, and file it accordingly.

Matt said...

This sounds like it has potential. I'm curious to see how the revisions go.

AA said...

It brings up too many questions. Many of these have already been mentioned. I'll mention the ones that popped into my head while reading.

What makes Alister uniquely qualified to save the world as opposed to, say, the guy in the hut next door? Sure, he's good at whittling, but does he have a spark of determination or some other quality that makes him seem like a good bet to Hawk?

You make Alister sound uniquely lacking in courage. I'm guessing instead that it's unusual for people to want to leave their hometown in this world. Is traveling treacherous? Don't expect the reader to just assume Alister is one of many who don't travel rather than the only one who doesn't travel because he's a scaredy cat.

Of course- what is this terrible deed?

What does the king have against traveling salesmen?

I wasn't wondering why a glider race would be illegal so much as why somebody who is scared to travel beyond his hometown would even consider participating in one without years of training.

Anyway, don't answer these questions. Only address the ones that move the plot forward. Everything else just gets the reader off on a rabbit trail.

I would definitely follow the advice of Anonymous 12:16. Focus on the main character, what he wants to achieve and what obstacles he must overcome. Make the stakes clear.

Following up on KK's comment, I googled Alister and Hawk and got Alistair and Hawke from Dragon Age. Basically just the spelling is different. You will want to change those names or at least one. Search and Replace will do this quickly, but you might want to choose similar names because you'll still be thinking of them as Alister and Hawk.

Please post revisions.

Anonymous said...

Dear author - - Just FYI, my boys loved the Ranger's Apprentice series when they were about 10-11 years old. They devoured all the books, quoted from them and so on; they have since moved on to the Lord of the Rings and suddenly find RA a bit stale...and they're now aged all of 12 and 14 years (yes, I have a successful nerd breeding program).
My point is that RA is not YA material, it clearly falls within the MG reader age group.
And if you have no idea what I mean by YA and MG - please do your homework. This stuff matters.

AA said...

Something about the way this is written sounds like middle grade to me. A lot would depend on the details.
Fantasy/sci-fi readers tend to be a bit precocious. 12-14 was when I discovered so-called "hard" sci-fi and started reading adult novels.