Saturday, June 6, 2015

Summer Crit Party - A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN

Thanks so much to Carissa Taylor for organizing this crit party! If you'd like to participate, stop by Carissa's blog by June 12.

Here's the query for my YA Fantasy WIP: A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN. I made a few more tweaks. Still have to think of a catchy first line...

And if anyone has a better female teen detective comp title, please let me know. (I think Veronica Mars is too snarky to work).

image by Louise Leclerc via Flickr

Revision 2
Seventeen-year-old Princess Anh has resigned herself to representing the royal family in a small border town, as per the queen's wishes. But then her sister Mai is murdered, and King Matewa, from a country far to the north, requests that Anh take her sister's place as his betrothed.

Anh couldn't be more torn. She's never forgotten that breathtaking moment—back before her sister's engagement—when the tattooed king's laughing eyes had locked with hers. But due to dyslexia and years of scholarly problems, her chances of learning a new language are slim. She's terrified of an existence where she cannot communicate.

Then Anh discovers evidence that Mai's killer came from the king's country. Like all victims of murder, her sister's ghost is doomed to walk the earth unless the killer is brought to justice. Marrying Matewa would allow Anh to seek the murderer and release her family from Mai's spirit, which grows more erratic and aggressive every day.

With a translator by her side, a dagger strapped to her calf, and magical bracelets said to protect her from harm, she makes her way to the country of her sister's assassin. But Anh hasn't even reached her new home when the first attempt is made on her life. To save her family, Anh must find Mai's killer...before he murders her too.

A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN is a YA fantasy novel with Vietnamese and Maori-inspired elements. It is complete at XX words, and can be described as Nancy Drew meets The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.
 
Original
Seventeen-year-old Princess Anh of Ong Xanh has resigned herself to representing the royal family in a small border town, as per the queen's wishes. But then her sister Mai is murdered, and King Matewa of Tokaroa requests that Anh take her sister's place as his betrothed.

Anh couldn't be more torn. Due to dyslexia, her chances of learning Tokaroan are slim, and she's terrified of an existence where she cannot communicate. But she's also never forgotten that breathtaking moment—back before her sister's enagagement—when the tattooed king's laughing eyes had locked with hers.

While eavesdropping on palace security, Anh hears of evidence that Mai's killer came from Tokaroa. Like all victims of murder, her sister's ghost is doomed to walk the earth unless the killer is brought to justice. Marrying Matewa would allow Anh to seek the murderer and release her family from Mai's spirit, which grows more erratic and aggressive every day.

With a translator by her side, a dagger strapped to her calf, and magical bracelets said to protect her from harm, she makes her way to the country of her sister's assassin. But Anh hasn't even reached her new home when the first attempt is made on her life. Anh must hurry: to save her family, she has to find Mai's killer...before he murders her too.

A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN is a YA fantasy novel with Vietnamese and Maori elements. It is complete at XX words and is a cross between The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson and the Nancy Drew books.

18 comments:

  1. It seems like an extremely interesting world for your characters to romp around in. I hope to read some excerpts from the story soon!

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    1. Thanks, Adam! The first 250 won't be ready in time for this blog hop. Still lots and lots of revising to do. :-)

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  2. I like your concept, Laura. And I'd like to say one more time how much I love the dark humor you used in pitching your other project.

    Here are my thoughts on this query:

    I think including the names of the two kingdoms in the first paragraph are a little distracting. I would leave out "Ong Xanh", and replace "Tokaroa" with "a neighboring kingdom."

    In the second paragraph, I think I'd put the sentence about the tattooed king before the sentence about dyslexia. The images that sentence evokes are much stronger, at least to me.

    In the third paragraph, I would drop the clause "While eavesdropping on palace security" and start off with "Anh discovers evidence..."

    In the fourth paragraph, you say that the magical bracelets are "said to protect her from harm" - this feels a little awkward, and invites the question of "Who says they will protect her?" Probably the simplest way to clarify this would be to just drop the "said". Finally, last sentence of the fourth paragraph, I would drop "Anh must hurry:" and change to: "Anh must find Mai's killer to save her family...before he murders her too.

    Hope this helps!

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    1. Thanks so much for the detailed feedback, Chris! It's really helpful!

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  3. This is so much stronger! It gives a much stronger introduction to the live she's about to give herself over to. But I do have a question for you to ponder :) How is the relationship between these kingdoms? Is there tension because of her sisters murder? Is the kings request for Anh to be his betrothed accepted by her own kingdom? Maybe adding a bit more urgency in her decision could help the hook.

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    1. The relationship between the countries is generally good, and a marriage will only strengthen it. I originally had a line or two about how the king's country could help to put pressure on a third country that was attacking some villages in Anh's country, but several readers told me it bogged down the query.

      Very few people know about the evidence regarding the killer that Anh discoves, and the important thing is that she and her parents believe that the king, at least, is innocent. I'll remember the comment though, in case others bring it up. Maybe the political stuff could wander back in...

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  4. Nice job with this! I think the revision is definitely an improvement. I love the idea, and it sounds like it has a lot of great conflict.

    The first line, to me, feels a bit mundane. I feel like with all this drama going on, you could probably cut or move that line and start with more of a hook.

    Also, the second paragraph makes me wonder--is her dyslexia the only thing keeping her on the fence about this betrothal? If so, that's a bit of a weak conflict, especially since dyslexia wouldn't necessarily keep her from learning the language verbally, right? I feel like you could lose most of this second paragraph anyway, though. Maybe segue from the king's request straight to her knowing her sister's killer is in that kingdom--and that it's a bonus that she already knows she might have chemistry with this king.

    I'm definitely not a query writing pro, so feel free to disagree. Hope this was some help for you! :)

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    1. Thanks so much for your feedback, Crystal! You are completely right that she can learn the spoken language despite dyslexia. The point is whether she believes she can learn it or not. I've rephrased and hope it fits better now.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Laura, I agree with much of Crystal's thoughts. The names are distracting for those of us not as familiar with the story as you.

      I feel you've done a great job helping us feel Anh's sense of urgency and allegiance to her sister. I already care about her and want her to succeed. That's an amazing feet in a short query :)

      Another thought for your last line: At XX words the story is Nancy Drew meets Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

      I will return to see any changes. Good luck!

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    3. Thanks a lot, Ellen! Oops, I thought I'd removed all country name references. I took the last two out. And thanks so much for the idea for the last line!

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    4. Better. (And, I meant *feat - oops!)
      :)

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  6. Hi Laura,

    The new query is pretty good. I think though you can tighten up your sentences a bit, and your opening line needs to grab the readers more.

    For example:
    Then Anh discovers evidence that Mai's killer came from Tokaroa. Like all victims of murder, her sister's ghost is doomed to walk the earth unless the killer is brought to justice.

    (The reader doesn't need to know all the details)

    How about something like this:
    To stop her sister's ghost from walking the earth, Anh must bring her killer to justice.

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  7. Hi Laura,

    I love your book. Such an interesting premise.

    You've improved your query a ton. It reads well, but I think there are few details that can be streamlined as Rena pointed out.

    Also, the first paragraph has too many names. I don't think we need to know the sister's name. And the first line tells us that she didn't go to the border town because she wanted to.

    Consider:
    Seventeen-year-old Princess Anh has resigned herself to representing the royal family in a small border town. But then her sister is murdered, and King Matewa, from a country far to the north, requests that Anh take her sister's place as his betrothed.

    Also, is the tattooed King the same King that now wants Anh as his wife? I would rephrase this so there's no doubt.

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  8. Hi Laura!

    Holy night, this story sounds AMAZING!!! And to be honest, I think this query is in really good shape as-is. I'd request this in a heartbeat!

    I do feel like the opening line could benefit from a bit more punch. While I kind of love the idea of a "resigned Princess" I'm not sure that it's the best emotion to put at the forefront of a query. I'm actually not sure it's necessary to include her assignment and feelings about it in the query. Maybe playaround with a version of the first paragraph that doesn't include it?

    Or maybe I'm over-thinking things. Like Diana suggested, trimming the first sentence might be just the trick to move the inciting incident (sister Mai murdered) sooner.

    Some other ideas:

    In the second paragraph, I'm wondering if it might be possible/truthful to hint at even more of a connection to King Matewa ... for example

    "She's never forgotten that summer, and that breathtaking moment--back before ..."

    Something like that to hint that she had potentially even more time spent with him off-page? I do kinda love how it's worded as-is though, so not a big deal.

    I feel like the terms "dyslexia" and "scholarly problems" could be tweaked to be more ... worldbuildy. But not knowing your world, I'm not sure how exactly. I do also think there is a benefit to the marketability of this by actually naming dyslexia. So ... yeah ... I guess I just sorta contradicted myself!

    I love the third paragraph. I think that *maybe* you might want to play around with switching the use of pronouns vs. names, if that makes sense.

    "Then Anh discovers evidence that her sister's killer came from Matewa's country. Like all victims of murder, Mai's ghost is doomed to walk the earth unless the killer is brought to justice. Marrying the king would allow Anh to seek the murderer and release her family from Mai's spirit, which grows more erratic and aggressive every day."

    I was just feeling like I wanted King Matewa's name to occur in more prominent places in the query, just so we are reminded that he will play (I'm assuming) a major role.

    I love the lasta paragraph too, and the last line is awesome! I'm really curious what her relationship to her translator is. Seems like potentially an interesting dynamic there! I do think that the first sentence of the last para could be simplified if there wasn't quite as much abotu the magic bracelets.

    "With a translator by her side, her magical bracelets on her forearm, and a dagger strapped to her calf, she ..."

    I'm also a little bit wanting to know how she's getting to the other country. If it's a cool/significant piece of worldbuilding, it might be including. Otherwise, I think it's great as is.

    You'd mentioned wanting other ideas for comps, so I'll just throw out some I can think of ... Clarity by Kim Harrington, Grave Mercy by Robin La Fever, ... even maybe Fire by Kristin Cashore? Sorry I can't be of more help here!

    That said, I don't thinkyou have anything to worry about. This is rock-awesome!!




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  9. Thanks so much, everyone! I'll be studying all the new comments when I make my next re-write. You guys are amazing!

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