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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » THE BARD'S GIFT Query

   
Author Topic: THE BARD'S GIFT Query
Meredith
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Time to get working on getting the kinks out of this one. [Smile]

Old Version:

quote:


Sixteen-year-old Astrid keeps mostly to herself, finding companionship in the stories her grandmother used to tell. She's too shy even to talk in front of Torolf, the young man she secretly dreams of. Then the Norse god of eloquence appears in Astrid's dreams and forces her to drink the Mead of Poetry. Suddenly, she's compelled to tell her stories. In public. Even in front of Torolf.

She is rewarded by the discovery that Torolf likes her, too. They've barely enjoyed their first kiss when the seeress makes a prophecy that splits them apart. The gods have chosen Astrid to bring her people to a new future in the part of the map labelled "Here be dragons."

Torolf must sail in the opposite direction to obtain the supplies that will allow the fledgling colony to survive. That leaves Astrid alone, with only her stories for a weapon, against enemies within her people, hostile natives, and the very dragon-like guardian of their intended new home.

THE BARD'S GIFT is an 83,000-word young adult historical fantasy incorporating elements of both Norse and Native American folklore, set in fourteenth century Greenland--and beyond. I have enclosed [whatever the agent wants].

Thank you for your time.

Current Version:

quote:
Sixteen-year-old Astrid keeps mostly to herself, finding companionship in the stories her grandmother used to tell. She's too shy even to talk in front of Torolf, the young man she secretly dreams of. Then the Norse god of eloquence appears in Astrid's dreams and forces her to drink the Mead of Poetry. Suddenly, she's compelled to tell her stories. In public. Even in front of Torolf.

Her reward is the discovery that Torolf likes her, too. They've barely enjoyed their first kiss when the seeress makes a prophecy that splits them apart. The gods have chosen Astrid to guide her people from starvation in Greenland to a better future in Markland, in a place legends claim is the abode of dragons. Torolf can't go with her on this journey. The new colony will need supplies Greenland just can't provide. He must sail in the opposite direction to Iceland and back.

That leaves Astrid alone, with only her stories for a weapon, against enemies within her people, hostile natives, and a thunderbird that looks a lot like a dragon to a girl raised on stories of Norse heroes. Of all of them, only the thunderbird has the potential to be an ally, if Astrid can figure out how to appease him. The answer to that may lie in her stories, too.

THE BARD'S GIFT is an 83,000-word young adult historical fantasy incorporating elements of both Norse and Native American folklore. I have enclosed [whatever the agent wants].

Thank you for your time.

Current Pitches: Pitch Madness is coming up next week. [Smile]

quote:
Astrid's gift for storytelling is the key to a new future where the map, if there was one, would read "Here be dragons". YA Fantasy #PitMad
quote:
Astrid's gift for storytelling is key 2 a future in a new world. It's also the only weapon she has 2 defend that future. YA Fantasy #PitMad



[ May 26, 2013, 11:58 PM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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mayflower988
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Okay, I don't know anything about querying, but that book sounds absolutely amazing. I'm sold already. May I go ahead and reserve a copy? :)
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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by mayflower988:
Okay, I don't know anything about querying, but that book sounds absolutely amazing. I'm sold already. May I go ahead and reserve a copy? [Smile]

[Big Grin]
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Corky
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What mayflower988 said.

However, in the third paragraph, you say "Astrid must sail..." and I think you should mention whether she's doing that alone or with her people.

Also, is "Here be dragons" where the "fledgling colony" will be started?

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Corky:
What mayflower988 said.

Also, is "Here be dragons" where the "fledgling colony" will be started?

Sort of. At least something they initially identify as a dragon. The natives call it a thunderbird. [Smile]
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mayflower988
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Thunderbird...wait, isn't that a car?
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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by mayflower988:
Thunderbird...wait, isn't that a car?

Used to be. But this one is more like what the car was named for--a very large, eagle-like bird that controls thunder and lightning. [Wink]
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Native American symbol--the Navajo Code Talkers used it to refer to bombers, if I remember correctly. Really boggled the minds of the Germans who were trying to break their code.
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Grumpy old guy
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Germans? I thought the Navajo code talkers were Pacific theatre only. Again, I'm probably wrong.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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A Commanche group were European theater code talkers. Prior to World War II, German agents had already learned parts of the Navajo language.

I owned a Thunderbird turbo coupe for a decade. It had a little four-banger motor. Not much thunder in her. Mechanics called her a thunder chicken. She did all right by me before I retired her to a salvage yard.

The Thunderbird of North American Native Nation mythology is a sky spirit who causes thunder and strong winds. The myths are part of Algic, Siouan, Inuit, Yupik, and several other Pacific Northwest culture groups.

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Meredith
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Um. Not that all this isn't interesting. Does anybody want to say something about the query?
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Huh! I always understood that they faked out the Germans (stories my father told me), but http://www.navajocodetalkers.org/ says Pacific.

Thanks for the clarification, extrinsic.

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Grumpy old guy
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Sorry for starting that detour Meredith, I'm a bit of a pedant -- and mostly wrong. So, I've extensive experience in apologising.

Phil.

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Estee
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I like the first two paragraphs. The third starts to lose me. I want to know more about Astrid's motives and desires. Does she sail off because she's forced, or is she determined to save her people? What does she have to do there? I didn't like the fourth paragraph at all, but I think the sentence:

She has to learn to trust herself and her stories to keep her people from repeating past mistakes and hold off a take-over attempt that could doom their only chance.

is an excellent ending.

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shimiqua
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Sixteen-year-old Astrid keeps mostly to herself, amusing herself with the stories her grandmother used to tell. She's too shy even to talk in front of the young man she secretly dreams of, Torolf. Then the Norse god of eloquence appears in Astrid's dreams and forces her to drink from the Mead of Poetry. Suddenly, she's compelled to tell her stories. In public. Even in front of Torolf.

Gold. Don't change anything before this.
This has the unexpected benefit of allowing her to actually talk to Torolf--and find out that he's interested in her, too. I don't love this, too many words for the amount of info, imo, but I don't hate it.Things are looking up, until her father consults the seeress, who proclaims that Astrid's gift for knowing the exactly right story to comfort, inspire, instruct, or warn is the key to leading her people from starvation in Greenland to a new future. WAY too much info in one sentence. I'd say add a period in here. Split that baby up.

Astrid must sail to the part of the map labelled "Here be dragons", This might be a good place to show a bit of Torolf's motivation for travelling. while Torolf makes a hazardous voyage in the opposite direction, to Iceland, to supply the fledgling colony. Without his support, she has to learn to trust herself and her stories to keep her people from repeating past mistakes and hold off a take-over attempt that could doom their only chance. Could you say this stronger? Nothing wrong with the first half of the sentence, my main issue is "hold off a take-over attempt." There has to be a clearer way to say that.(look up Coup_d'état)

Ultimately, the new settlement will need both her stories and Torolf's inventiveness. Astrid has to believe that Torolf will overcome all obstacles to find his way back to her. This, I think, is giving too much information. I'd suggest adding a bit of a hook here. Also, saying "Astrid has to believe Torolf will solve all her problems for her," really weakens the whole trust in herself theme that I dig so much.

THE BARD'S GIFT is an 80,000-word young adult alternate history. I have enclosed [whatever the agent wants].

Thank you for your time.

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Meredith
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Thanks. New version above.
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micmcd
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quote:
Then the Norse god of eloquence appears in Astrid's dreams and forces her to drink from the Mead of Poetry. Suddenly, she's compelled to tell her stories.
This line felt a little dry to me, like a simple plot item list. "When the Norse god of eloquence appears in Astrid's dreams and forces her to drink from the Mead of Poetry, her life turns around and she is compelled...," or "Only a god could get her up in front of people talking. Unfortunately for her, one does..."

I'm not a huge fan of either of my versions... just wanted it to get more exciting in the way it's laid out.

[ February 10, 2013, 03:07 PM: Message edited by: micmcd ]

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shimiqua
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Much better. The only thing that threw me from the revision was this line, "At the same time, Helga and her husband and sons want to control Astrid's abilities and status for their own purposes."

I had no idea who Helga is or who she is in regards to Astrid, so the casual mention felt jarring to me. I'd suggest mentioning how she relates to Astrid, like "Astrid's sneaky neighbor", or "councilwoman Helga", just a brief introduction of who Helga is, and how she has the power to thwart Astrid.

Also "Helga and her husband and sons" feels a bit clunky to me. I'd suggest either losing the mention of the hubs and sons, or say Helga and her family, or clan.

But good work. It sounds great.
~Sheena

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Meredith
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Thanks. Second revision above.

I just added an adjective in front of Helga's name. I can't think of a brief way to describe her connection to Astrid--wife of Astrid's father's cousin (and heir, after Astrid). Helga is also--to a very limited extent--Astrid's substitute mother. Very limited, as in very, very little affection either way, but Helga has taken over as the woman of the house (a situation that is about to lead to conflict now that Astrid's growing up.) Open to suggestions on that one.

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Meredith
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Newer (and shorter) version above.
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Silverwolf691
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Mead is a drink, so shouldn't it be "forces her to drink OF the Mead of Poetry"? Unless "Mead" in this instance is actually a glass, which I won't discount. If so, maybe it would be better to use "Chalice" or "Goblet", something more easily recognized as a vessel for liquid.
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Meredith
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Current, slightly shorter, query above, along with a one-sentence pitch. I'm really bad at one-sentence pitches.
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Bruchar
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quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:

[QUOTE]Shy Astrid's gift for telling the right story is the key a new future for her people where the map reads "Here be dragons"--for good reason.



Hi Meredith,

The one sentence pitch starts good but gets bogged down in too much detail.
Maybe simply stating something like ....when they're forced to move to the land of dragons. would be smoother?

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Christian Behr
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She's too shy even to talk in front of the young man she secretly dreams of, Torolf."
Hi, Meredith. My two cents on your 'current version':
1. People are usually extra shy around their secret crush, so I would reword sentence two to something like: She is particularly shy around Torolf, the young man she secretly dreams of.
2. I might reword your one sentence as: Shy Astrid's story-telling gift is the key to establishing a new home for her people in the land of dragons.
3. I would be happy to read more. Email me your first chapter at christianbehr2@gmail.com

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Meredith
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Like MattLeo, I'm convinced authors are the worst judges of their own queries. We're just too close to the story.

Time for a rework of this one.

Ready. Set. Rip, tear, shred. [Smile]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Meredith, I don't think I can tell which is the rework you want comments on (in your first post, right?)

Perhaps if you dated the revisions?

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
Meredith, I don't think I can tell which is the rework you want comments on (in your first post, right?)

Perhaps if you dated the revisions?

Ah, like most queries, too many versions. In this case, since it's been a while, I'll just go back and delete all but the last two. [Smile]
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:
Current Version: (This is the one I currently need feedback on. Thanks.)
quote:

Sixteen-year-old Astrid keeps mostly to herself, finding companionship in the stories her grandmother used to tell. She's too shy even to talk in front of Torolf, the young man she secretly dreams of. Then the Norse god of eloquence appears in Astrid's dreams and forces her to drink the Mead of Poetry. Suddenly, she's compelled to tell her stories. In public. Even in front of Torolf.

She is rewarded by the discovery that Torolf likes her, too. They've barely enjoyed their first kiss when the seeress makes a prophecy that splits them apart. The gods have chosen Astrid to bring her people to a new future in the part of the map labelled "Here be dragons."

Torolf must sail in the opposite direction to obtain the supplies that will allow the fledgling colony to survive. That leaves Astrid alone, with only her stories for a weapon, against enemies within her people, hostile natives, and the very dragon-like guardian of their intended new home.

THE BARD'S GIFT is an 83,000-word young adult historical fantasy incorporating elements of both Norse and Native American folklore, set in fourteenth century Greenland--and beyond. I have enclosed [whatever the agent wants].

Thank you for your time.

Current Pitches: Pitch Madness is coming up next week. [Smile]
quote:
Astrid's gift for storytelling is the key to a new future where the map, if there was one, would read "Here be dragons". YA Fantasy #PitMad
quote:
Astrid's gift for storytelling is key 2 a future in a new world. It's also the only weapon she has 2 defend that future. YA Fantasy #PitMad


The adverbs "mostly" in the first sentence and "secretly" in the second sentence express less How clarity than I think is preferred for adverb usage. On the other hand, stronger commentary would mean stronger, more meaningful adverbs.

Similarly, the gerund verb "finding" in the first sentence is not as significant as I think is ideal. I feel like the meaning of the gerund clause is that Astrid prefers to be by herself. This raises a why question. Something keeps her apart; that is, her living in the legends and folk tales of her grandmother instead of her here and now. That's an empathy-worthy bridging complication, subtle and profound too. She's isolated and turns to creative outlets that further alienate her from her community, yet she's a bit off kilter mentally too, both characteristics of social isolation and alienation.

I'm not too drawn in generally by the diction, feels too everyday conversational to me. "young man . . . dreams of." "Then," "Suddenly," "compelled to tell her stories." And sentence fragments "In public." and "Even in front of Torolf." I feel like a more creative diction and perthaps syntax would liven those up.

A central dramatic complication I feel is lost in the menagerie of a social isolation, a love interest, a visitation by the gods, a budding talent, a hostile community, hostile neighbors, and a dragon. Also, I feel the second paragraph gives away part of the plot instead of raising further tension, empathy, suspense, or curiosity.

Consider focusing on one dramatic complication and how any of the others might be raised through the one. I'm inclined toward an implied one, that of Astrid's emerging storytelling abilities aiding her want to be more accepted, especially by Torolf, to see fruition at great personal cost through problems causing her maturation. This is an Initiation story (opening anyway), I believe, one of a Visitation by the gods (again, opening anyway).

Both pitches I feel focus partway on the strongest central dramatic complication of Astrid's personal struggles but the other parts defuse their impacts from expressing external world motifs, which I feel ideally should imply how and why they complicate Astrid's personal journey of maturation.

[ May 24, 2013, 02:37 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Meredith
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Thanks, extrinsic. I'll have to give some thought about how I can narrow the focus.
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Melanie Vera
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I think it would be great to know Astrid's stories and the stories her grandmother told her. I think this might bring light into who she really is or not. Just my insight on the first part of your query. I do feel this story can be broken up into a series, because of all the different elements going on such as her love interest, her isolations, the stories she has to share, etc.
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Meredith
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I don't think I've addressed extrinsic's concerns yet, but maybe I've at least added a little detail to make it more interesting.

Thoughts?

Rip, tear shred.

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