Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Face-Lift 1174

Guess the Plot

The Cobweb Tree

1. No Grandma! You can't make a Christmas tree out of fake cobwebs from Halloween! But Grandma did, and strung it with lights, and Jake and Alyssa loved their grandma's cobweb tree until it started eating stuff. Now it's trying to eat them.

2. The sun shines bright
And the winds blow free
And Charlotte nests safe
In The Cobweb Tree

Then the sky turns dark
And the air sooty
Tiny Charlotte coughs
In The Cobweb Tree

Poor Charlotte takes wing
Flies to new safety
And at night she cries
For her Cobweb Tree.

3. Wanda is the coven's newest Wiccan candidate. To prove her mettle she must raise awareness and funds. She tried a bake sale and a warlock walk to no avail. The town's founding father's have taken notice and built bonfires at Wanda's newest idea. Hilarity and death ensue when Wanda starts her own "gifts to the poor" Cobweb Tree.

4. Katie is thrilled when Finn asks her out, but not so thrilled when he abandons her deep in the forest where the first person she meets tries to put her to work for his credit agency. She escapes, but can she also escape the mysterious and unmentionable . . . cobweb tree?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor (may your shark's grin never blunt)

Sixteen[-]year-old Katie Harrison has had only one thing on her mind for the past two weeks: new boy Finn O’Malley. The most exciting thing ever to happen in her chocolate-fuelled, [fueled] bookworm life, he’s mysterious as a cattall and dark and utterly gorgeous. Katie is sure he’s interested in her, and when he asks her to meet his family, it seems that all her fantasies are coming true. What she didn’t expect was for Finn to tell her that he and his family are actually sidhe—wild, magical beings from an other [another] world. [Is it really necessary to tell us she didn't expect this? No one would expect this. And if it happened, who would believe it? Reminds me of the time when Get Smart and The Man from Uncle were popular shows and I phoned one of my classmates I had a crush on and told her I was a spy and needed her help on my next mission. She not only didn't buy it and agree to help me save the world, she also gave me a wide berth for the rest of my college career.] And none of her fantasies included Finn abandoning her in the never-ending sidhe forests to save his own skin.

The sidhe otherworld is treacherous and secretive, full of unwritten rules and protocol that Katie has no idea how to handle. Just introducing herself is dangerous, as she discovers when she accidentally binds herself into the thrall of the druid Cahal. Katie can’t believe that Finn would desert her like this, [Already said; see last sentence of previous paragraph.] but [and] in the end, only blind chance saves her from a lifetime of slavery. With no sign of Finn and no food, no toilet paper or hand sanitizer, just rain and trees and creatures that howl in the night, Katie is desperate to get home. Too scared to trust anyone after Cahal, the only thing she can think to do is to try and get to the edge of the forest. So she starts walking. 

But the forest is full of dangers, and a growing number of creatures are curious about Katie’s involvement with Cahal, who, she discovers, was far more than just an ordinary druid. [Considering how little is known about the druids by us, not to mention Katie, how can she tell if a druid is ordinary or not? It's like a spaceship from another galaxy lands on Earth, and when the first being exits we immediately declare it no ordinary space alien.] Her connection with him puts her at the heart of a massive network of curses, promises, debts and secrets; and all of the people involved are now looking to Katie to write off their debts, fulfil their favours and tally up their credit. [Cahal is no ordinary druid; he manages a payday loan agency.] Katie’s never so much as killed a spider before, but in the forest, weakness is something to be exploited and ignorance is no excuse. No one believes her protests of ignorance; bluffing her way through the business transactions complicates everything; being kind only creates more problems, and things start getting bloody very quickly. With werewolves, ghosts and sidhe hunters on her trail, and the threat of dysentery, mortal injury and starvation, Katie's going to have to learn fast if she wants to live to see tomorrow, never mind get home in one piece. 

THE COBWEB TREE is a YA fantasy novel of 75,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Finn has too big a role in the query. He's here only to explain how Katie ends up in the forest. 

Bad enough that Katie Harrison's secret crush turned out to be sidhe; now he's abandoned her in the treacherous sidhe forests to save his own skin. Seeking a way out, she meets Cahal, the sidhe equivalent of VISA, who wants to enslave her as his collections officer. Katie escapes, but now everyone in the forest is after her to write off their debts, and if she can't bluff her way through a few business transactions, she may not live to see tomorrow, much less her home and family.

That's your setup, and it leaves plenty of room to tell us what happens. What's Katie's plan? What goes wrong? What's her new plan? Does she have an ally? Make sure you're telling a cohesive story, not just listing a few random things that happen. One thing leads to another. Cause and effect.


Unknown said...

Hey author!
Sounds kinda fun. Having a few twitches over the tone of the book, however. Is it humorous? It could be, with the notes about not having TP or hand sanitizer, but then it gets gory, so I'm not sure where the balance is.

Could you tell me the value in a nobody-know-nothing assistant for a powerful Druid? Because it seems a waste of his efforts for Cahal to subjugate young Katie.

Do teen girls find cats mysterious? I had a beloved cat as a child. Not once would I compare Snowy to a boy I fancied...which leaves me questioning language choice in the novel. It's YA. The language needs to be teen-voicey. And I truly can't feel that in the query.

What is Katie's objective? Surviving? Getting home? Stringing Finn up by his pointy ears and hitting him with a broom? She seems like a dufus pencil-pusher in the Sidhe, so how can she ever break out of her captivity?

Essentially, as a reader, I need to know what Katie can do to save herself from the nefarious Cahal. I have an inkling it has to do with her bookwormishness, but I feel she's very dangled out and flailing through this experience. You need to convince me that she's a worthy heroine--someone I want to spend hours learning about and knowing...

Right now she sounds naive and unfortunate, and filthy. I can't really get behind her plight. If she's more assertive in the book, translate that into the query, please, because a weak protag doesn't appeal.

Also, the query's far too long and employs too many trite sayings for me to think the book will read fresh. It's fantasy. Be creative. And add a sense of urgency, because it appears Katie may face her own mortality here.

Best of luck!

khazar-khum said...

I could get behind a humorus book about a teen girl who's forced into handling a group of monsters who behave more or less like the girls at school. Especially if she's had to negotiate the minefield of shifting alliances, reservoirs of hate, and general viciousness that fills the girls' lives at a high school. Done right, she could end up ruling these cretins. Isn't that how all evil queens are born?

J.M. said...

Author, I agree you should funny up your query so that we're in no doubt about the tone of the book (assuming we've got it right). As it is, your query wanders from humdrum imitation-Twilight romance to survival thriller to, presumably, what most of the book actually is. Your query is quite lively where you describe Katie's dilemma. Make your whole query like that.

SB said...

Based on this query, it seems like if I started reading the book, I'd start wondering where the boy is a little while after he abandons her. Then when he continues to not show up again, I'd get bored, wonder why she's just running around the woods getting attacked, wonder where this story is even going, and then give up.

You set up two guys, and then neither of them appear to go anywhere. I don't even see a real building action after the part where for some reason people start coming after her. It sounds like just a meaningless string of attacks.

I have to agree with Veronica, too, that the "mysterious as a cat" thing is a bad simile. I don't think many cat owners would agree that they're mysterious, and I think there are a lot more accurate and interesting comparisons you could use.

CavalierdeNuit said...

I don't read YA, but this does sound unique and very creative. I would do what EE and the minions said, and keep at it.

Anonymous said...


I'll quote Evil here:

What's Katie's plan? What goes wrong? What's her new plan? Does she have an ally? Make sure you're telling a cohesive story, not just listing a few random things that happen. One thing leads to another. Cause and effect.

I'll say no more except read the archives. Then try again.

Good luck,

Wilkins Mac Queen

Kelsey said...

There's a way to make your MC bumbling and totally clueless AT FIRST, but she's got to be mighty endearing in other ways (she's funny, she's insightful, she's self-aware about her uselessness, etc.) Also, she shouldn't spend the whole novel buffeted around by the actions of other characters. Her growing out of her weaknesses can be part of her character arc, but right now that's missing from the query.

I'm also wondering why there's no mention of the cobweb tree in the query, or even anything that would hint at it. That tells me that either the cobweb tree isn't important enough to be the title, or that the query isn't telling us Katie's core goal or complication (which, presumably, involves a cobweb tree).

Good luck and keep at 'er.