Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1375 would like feedback on the following revision:



I am seeking representation for Hamilton Boggs, a 91,000 word YA fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of writers as diverse as Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, and Diane Duane.

When orphaned 13-year-old Hamilton Boggs comes home to find his apartment destroyed and his grandmother mortally wounded, he learns he is a young wizard with a price on his head. [Who tells him this? Does he just figure it out?] After barely escaping capture by the chimera Ruzgar, the right-hand monster of the mysterious Yellow King, Hamilton travels to Savannah, Georgia, one of the last neutral cities in the war-torn wizarding world. There, he is given refuge at Westley House, a southern manor converted into a school for magic for the refugee children pouring into the city.

But Savannah, Hamilton soon learns, is anything but safe. It is crawling with spies and mercenaries, all of them looking for a secretive monster and the terrible weapon it is said to possess. [Usually we don't think of monsters as having weapons other than their jaws and claws and laser vision and fire breath.] Befriended by Daisy Blue, the only daughter of the manor-turned-school’s scions, and Ozzie DeLillo, Savannah’s young magical genius, Hamilton begins to his own search for the monster, intent on doing what he can to fight the Yellow King and avenge the death of his grandmother. Aided by a series of unlikely allies (including a Bartleby Cat, a bad omen dealer, a Voodoo prince and the last king of the Dalwyn, a magical race banned and persecuted in previous centuries), Hamilton, Daisy and Ozzie work to find the monster before its weapon can fall into the wrong hands. 

Along the way, they unearth the duplicitous scheming of Savannah’s Mayor Wallace, discovering the lengths [how far] he will go to profit off the misfortune of the refugees. As asylum seekers continue to flood into the city, ghettoized in a camp on the outskirts of town and vilified by the mayor and his followers, Hamilton and his friends must race to secure the weapon before Wallace’s secret pact with the Yellow King can be concluded [Do they know about this secret pact? If so, it's not really secret. Also, if there's a pact, why isn't it "concluded"? They haven't signed the paperwork yet?] and the Savannah they know destroyed forever. [Why would the mayor of Savannah want Savannah destroyed forever? He's already the top dog in the city. What more does he want?]


Though originally from Boulder, Colorado, I currently live in Istanbul, Turkey, where I teach and do freelance writing and advertising work for several magazines and companies. I am a member of SCBWI. 


Notes

Hamilton's goal is to find the monster who has a secret weapon. Which is pretty much stated three times:

P3, S3: Hamilton begins his own search for the monster,

P3, S4: Hamilton, Daisy and Ozzie work to find the monster before its weapon can fall into the wrong hands

P4, S2: Hamilton and his friends must race to secure the weapon


The stakes, apparently, are that if they fail, the Savannah they know will be destroyed forever. Still not clear how Savannah is described as neutral if there's a war of sorts in progress there.

Characters mentioned in query: Hamilton, Daisy, Ozzie, Yellow King, Ruzgar, monster, grandmother, Mayor Wallace, Voodoo prince, Dalwyn King, bad omen dealer, Bartlelby cat. (Not to mention spies, mercenaries, refugees, and mayor's followers). Too many. We can do without the four unlikely allies, and if you start when Hamilton arrives in Savannah, we won't need grandma or Ruzgar.

How do these kids plan to get the monster's terrible weapon when all the spies and mercenaries in town can't do it? With their great magical powers? Hamilton has progressed from not even knowing he was a wizard to being a really powerful one pretty fast. In between their goal and what happens if they fail, we need to know their plan, what goes wrong, what they do about it. 

Is the monster working with the Yellow King, or are they on opposite sides? If you don't tell us how they're connected, maybe you should limit the query to one villain. We can assume the mayor and Yellow King are working together as one villain. But I'm not clear on what the two (or more) sides in this war are fighting for. 


6 comments:

InkAndPixelClub said...

The first sentence needs to make sense. There is no clear connection between the destroyed apartment and the dying grandmother and Hamilton's realizations that he is a wizard and there is a price on his head. The price on his head never seems to come up again in the query, so maybe it can go. But we still need to know why home destroyed + grandma dying = young wizard.

Why does Hamilton go to the nearest neutral city? I get that he's being pursued and needs somewhere safe to stay. But isn’t their a faction fighting against the Yellow King? Wouldn’t they be better equipped to protect him and give him the opportunity to avenge his grandmother?

I actually like the unlikely allies, particularly because they don’t immediately remind me of anything from Harry Potter. But it needs to be clear what kind of help they're providing.

Anonymous said...

Even if the MCs don't know what kind of weapon the monster actually has, you might want to tell us what they believe it can do as that would help us understand their motivations and the stakes.

Anonymous said...

PS - In Brit slang, bog is a toilet - is that deliberate? Might get a few guffaws from your target audience.

davefragments said...

I have a tendency to read these drafts and say to myself -- too many words. I know how terrible that brief sentence sounds.

A query is about a person and their story, or a place/organization and its story,
"Alexander Hamilton rises above a poor birth in slavery to become first Treasurer of the USA."
That's a pitch recently used.

EE points out too many names and places. I agree. That amount of detail pushes out the story and the plot. How to illustrate that:
"Harry Potter discovers that he is a wizard and at his new wizard's school, he confronts the man who killed his parents and left him an orphan."
That's plot and story in brief

This is where I think that your query should be:
I am seeking representation for Hamilton Boggs, a 91,000 word YA fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of writers as diverse as Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, and Diane Duane.

Orphaned 13-year-old Hamilton Boggs comes home to find his grandmother mortally wounded. Dying, She tells him that he is a young wizard and the Yellow King has done this evil deed. Hamilton must go to Westley House in Savannah, Georgia, a neutral city in the war-torn wizarding world.

Hamilton obeys and soon learns nothing is safe. Savannah is crawling with spies and mercenaries, looking for a monster. At Westley House, he befriends Daisy, the daughter of a school scion, and Ozzie a young magical genius. They join Hamilton in his search for the monster, intent on avenging the death of his grandmother.

Along the way, the trio meets the crooked Mayor Wallace, who is ghettoizing the magic users for the Yellow King who had Hamilton Bogg’s grandmother killed.

I am originally from Boulder, Colorado and currently live in Istanbul, Turkey, where I teach and do freelance writing and advertising. I am a member of SCBWI.


Now I guessed a connection between the Yellow King and the monster so this makes sense. I only included Mayor Wallace because he also connects to the Yellow King. Hamilton's grandmother, the Yellow King, and the Monster have to connect is some way to make the story work. Otherwise, Hamilton is wandering without aim form his grandmother's death to whatever victory he achieves at the end of the story.

Please keep in mind, you have a hero, his sidekicks, and a villain. Those characters should be the focus of your story (which I haven't read), and this query isn't going to be able to handle many more characters.





JSF said...

Riotous story. The whole gang is here. I can't get over the image of what a secretive monster would look like. What does a secretive monster look like and why would I be afraid? Does it know things about me? Does it know where I live? Otherwise, this is awesome.

Iamanoldvampirechild said...

I think Dave Fragments gave a pretty great version there. Not sure what ghettoizing is but I didn't mind too much. So long as the rest is accurate I'd use Davids. Not saying you can't manage to perfect the query - just that it read so well, that if it were me, I'd be snapping that up.