Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Face-Lift 1039


Guess the Plot

Cassandra of the Crescent Moon

1. You won't find a house of ill-fame with a better reputation than The Crescent Moon. That is, until Kitty Kimberly decides to start throwing in free fortune-telling with her other services, and the prophecies start coming true with alarming regularity.

2. When your mom is half-vampire, half-werewolf, your dad is part were-tiger, part were-whale and part-nosferatu, 'that time of the month' takes on a whole new meaning.

3. Cassandra is 1/4th werewolf. This means she becomes a disgruntled dog on the night of the crescent moon. After her werewolf grandmother dies Cassandra  becomes the pack leader. Can she lead a pack of over 100 werewolves when she isn’t really one of them?

4. Cassandra is a witch, which is against the law, so she lives in isolation. But she'll have to expose herself if she wants to rescue her grandmother from kidnappers. Although her grandmother's also a witch, so maybe she can rescue herself. Also, a talking dog and cat.

5. For months Nina's been trying to warn Crescent Colony that Earth plans to take over their profitable Moon base, but no one will listen. Is her only recourse to perform classic Greek tragedy in the cafeteria?

6. Every new moon, Althea gets a true vision of what's going to happen over the next month. It never involves Karten falling in love with her. Can she use a steam clock, a brass hygrometer, and pixie dust to convince Karten a) her visions are true and b) he should ask her out?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When twelve year old [12-year-old] Cassandra Kelly wakes after the car accident that killed her parents, she finds herself in a strange house in the woods. [Was she in the car when the accident occurred?] Cassie is stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no TV, no internet, [Internet] no phone, [Kill me now.] and no one but a strange old lady (seriously, who doesn't have a phone?) [You gotta have a phone. In an emergency you gotta be able to reach Dominos.] to keep her company.

The strange old lady is Nan, the grandmother Cassie never knew existed, and, as Cassie soon discovers, the two of them share a family secret. [You wake in a strange house in the middle of nowhere and a strange old lady says, "Your parents are dead. You can call me granny. I know you'd like to confirm what I'm saying, but I have no means of communication and your cell phone gets no bars out here." And you accept this?]

This secret is the reason for their isolation. Nan and Cassie are witches, in a place where witchcraft is not only illegal, but witches are hunted down by a secret group known as the Alchemists. [You'd think if it's illegal, they'd be hunted down by an out-in-the-open group known as the Authorities.] When a fellow witch betrays their location to the Alchemists, Nan is kidnapped and Cassie is left to make the dangerous journey to town with only the help of Nan's pets – a cat and dog who can talk to witches.

[Cat: The foodgiver's been kidnapped. Who's gonna feed us?

Dog: We must rescue the foodgiver. Wait, maybe the newhuman can be the foodgiver.]

Once in town, Cassie must harness her growing magical powers to find the traitor and rescue Nan before anyone else gets hurt. [Anyone else besides...?]

CASSANDRA OF THE CRESCENT MOON is a stand alone MG realistic fantasy, [Yes, it has witches, talking animals and an old lady with no TV, but other than that it's realistic.] with series potential. It is complete at approximately 71,000 words.

I am an associate member of SCBWI. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

Why didn't the kidnappers take Cassie?

What's dangerous about the journey to town?

Does Cassie know her parents are dead? 

I assume Nan is a more experienced witch than Cassie, so why can't she make the kidnappers disappear or turn them into toads?

Most of these questions can be answered by adding a few words to a sentence. It'll add specificity to the query.

Nothing is gained by calling this realistic.


30 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Cut to the chase.

First sentence: Okay, but with fuzzy POV. How does she know her parents are dead if she just woke up?

Let's move closer into Cassie's POV:

The last thing Cassie Kelly remembers is the screech of brakes and a crash. Now she's stuck in an old house in the middle of nowhere with a crazy lady who claims to be her grandmother-- and a witch.

Or

When Cassie Kelly's parents are killed in a car crash, she finds herself living with Nan, her crazy old grandmother. Nan claims she and Cassie are both witches, and that witchcraft carries the death penalty in Ohio. Cassie has her doubts.

Or somesuch. The stuff about witches is much more likely to interest readers than the details about how she found herself in this unusual situation. The only mention of other witches comes when Nan gets betrayed. Is there a whole coven or somesuch? Other witchkids? (Don't answer my questions, they're just thoughts for your revision.)

What's the central conflict here? Is it between Nan and the Alchemists? If so, focus on that.

Things we don't need to know: that there's no tv, that Cassie never knew her grandmother existed, that this is your first novel.

(Now I'm going to sit back and wait for someone to say it sounds good enough for middle grade.)

BuffySquirrel said...

Are you sure Cassie wasn't removed from her parents for child abuse? Does anyone ever believe anything this kid says?

Goal.
Stakes.
Obstacles.
Dilemma.
And go....

(oh and EE? the cat/dog dialogue? priceless!)

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the book could have two possible plots. Is it a story about the shock of finding out that you’re a witch and getting to know an unexpected grandmother, with the kidnapping at the end to show Cassie making the commitment to accept her new world and Nan? Or is it a story about a young witch on a quest/journey/thing to save Nan/the witches/the world?

The first needs more emotional oomph - Does Cassie just take Nan's word for things or is she suspicious? Does being traumatized by losing your parents, then your grandmother, make it hard to do magic?

The second needs more about cool witchy magic and the perils of the journey.

If it's both, you may be better off picking one and focusing on it.


When 12-year-old Cassie Kelly's parents are killed in a car crash, she ends up living with her crazy old grandmother. Nan claims she and Cassie are both witches, and that witchcraft carries the death penalty in Ohio.

Cassie has her doubts. But it's true that Nan's house in the middle of nowhere has no TV, no Internet and no phone, but talking cats and dogs and [something really cool and magical]. [Nan and Cassie get along how with obstacles what].

Just when Cassie thinks she can trust Nan, masked men throw her grandmother into a padded van and drive off. Cassie has to decide whether to turn herself in to the foster care system in hopes of getting a non-crazy guardian, or to trust Nan's story and attempt a rescue– even though [her magical powers have these problems].

Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly is a witch. But while [cool witchy skill a and cool witchy skill b] is fun, it's also illegal. That's why Cassie's Nan, a witch herself, keeps her granddaughter and Cassie's talking cat and dog out in the middle of nowhere, with no TV, no Internet, no phone.

But when a fellow witch betrays their location to the anti-witch vigilantes, Nan is kidnapped. Now being stuck out in the woods is a liability – Cassie and her pets must [face cool peril a and cool peril b] on their own to make it to Scaryville, find the traitor and rescue Nan before [something happens to Nan or to Cassie or better yet to all witches, so you show Cassie's adventure has a wider scope].

Author (KC) said...

Thanks everyone. I really needed the help - especially from people who are farther removed from the story than I am.

EE - all your questions are answered in the book, but they do leave the query vague - thanks for pointing them out.

Alaska - thanks for the POV comments.

Anon - I've been struggling with how to say basically what your second query did - thanks for nailing it for me. I'm working on a re-write now. Hope to post soon.

Ezzie said...

This has a classic fairy-tale feel to it, which is very popular right now (and I love fairy tales, so I found it intriguing). I agree, though, that the conflict was muddy and the whole query was vague. Specific details should sharpen it and make it more engaging.

I was positive the book was going to be about werewolves.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I really think you could leave out the parents' deaths altogether. Start with "When 12-year-old Cassie Kelly finds out she's a witch..."

Author (KC) said...

OK, here we go again. I know I should probably sit on this longer, but I'm anxious to get all the feedback I can. Thanks in advance for all your help, everyone.

Revised Query:

Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly is a witch. But while predicting the future and becoming invisible is fun, it's also illegal. To make matters worse, anti-witch extremists calling themselves the Alchemists have started attacking and kidnapping anyone suspected of witchcraft.

Unable to use their magic against others, the witches of Celeste are forced to hide rather than fight. Cassie and her grandmother Nan think they're safe living in the middle of nowhere, but when a fellow witch betrays their location to the Alchemists, Nan is kidnapped.

Now Cassie is stuck alone in the woods and only Nan's pets, a cat and dog who can talk to witches, can help her face the wolves, quicksand, and hostile forest that lie on the path to Celeste. Once there, they must team up with other witches to discover the traitor and rescue the captives before the Alchemists find them first.

CASSANDRA OF THE CRESCENT MOON is a stand alone MG fantasy, with series potential. It is complete at approximately 71,000 words.

I am an associate member of SCBWI.


Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

Evil Editor said...

Isn't this the plot of X-Men, First Class?

All in all, I think it's a big improvement.

Witches can't use their magic on other people, even if those people are attacking them, because...it's illegal? If you magically make a killer's gun jam as he's pulling the trigger to kill you, do you go to jail while the killer goes free?

Cassie knows it's fun to disappear and to foretell the future, so apparently she's been willing to break the law for fun but she won't to defend herself?

I don't like "To make matters worse..." Worse than what? It's like if I said: Robbing a bank is illegal. To make matters worse..."

Author (KC) said...

Thanks, EE.

Technically the witches *can* use their magic against people, but there's a karmic retribution-type deal that makes it not worthwhile.I thought it would simplify things for the query to just say "they can't," but maybe I can make it clearer.

The law is supposed to be unjust, which is where the "to make matters worse" came from. Less of an "it's illegal to rob a bank" situation, more of an "it's illegal to say 'Gesundheit'" and to make matters worse, vigilantes are attacking anyone who even witnesses a sneeze.

I'll re-work the query again and hopefully have another revision tomorrow.

Thanks for all the help.

BuffySquirrel said...

Still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What's Celeste? A town, a county, a field? Why does the traitor betray Nan and not the other witches? If Cassie and Nan live so far from Celeste, what is their connection to it? How do they know they were betrayed (and by whom)?

Author (KC) said...

Help me minions!!!

I'm trying to re-work the "Unable to use their magic..." line to read that it's the magic's fault it can't be used against people (as opposed to EE's thinking it's illegal). I just can't seem to word it that way without making it a run-on sentence that has no punch. Any suggestions?


Also, Buffy, I understand that I don't want the query to come off as vague, but I'm not sure how to answer all the questions without writing a whole synopsis. But, in answer to your questions:

Celeste is a town surrounded by forested areas. Nan & Cassie live about 15 miles away, but still within the town's boundaries (I lived in an area like this when I was a teenager). The reason the journey is so long and dangerous is that the forest creates obstacles, preventing them from travelling quickly.

Cassie finds out about the traitor both from the talking cat who witnesses the kidnapping (the Alchemists talk about a witch telling all) and from a vision.

The traitor has betrayed others and Nan was trying to discover his/her identity, which is why the traitor betrays Nan.

The story is told in limited third person (Cassie) but I thought a query was supposed to be more of an omniscient third in order to supply enough information in such a short space.

Thank you everyone for all your help!

BuffySquirrel said...

Lol, no, we don't want to turn the query into a synopsis. But sometimes answering these questions helps us help with the queries.

You could just put the explanation for why they can't defend themselves with magic in a different place.

(although why the anti-witch group call themselves Alchemists when alchemy itself was a form of magic....)

Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly enjoys predicting the future and becoming invisible, and can't understand why being a witch is illegal. Or why extremists The Alchemists persecute anyone suspected of witchcraft, even though magic can never be used to harm others.

Cassie and her grandmother Nan think they're safe in the forest miles from witch refuge Celeste, but then a fellow witch betrays them to the Alchemists and Nan is kidnapped.

Now Cassie is stranded with only a cat and dog who can talk to witches, and must make her own way to Celeste so she and the other witches can join forces, unmask the traitor, and rescue Nan. Yet the forest itself is hostile, generating wolves, quicksand, and (third obstacle) wherever Cassie turns.

Now we need a paragraph about Cassie's dilemma.

Author (KC) said...

Thanks, Buffy, those are great suggestions.

Now back to query revising.

Author (KC) said...

Oh yeah, and in answer to your question, ancient alchemists laid the foundation for science and medicine, so the Alchemists in the book named themselves after "the men who replaced magic with science."

Author (KC) said...

All right, let's see what you think of this one.

Thanks for all the input that's help me come this far.

Revised Query:

Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly knows the first rule of witchcraft is never use your powers against others. But that hasn't stopped the town of Celeste from making magic illegal. Nor has it stopped an extremist group known as the Alchemists from hunting down anyone even suspected of witchcraft.

Cassie and her grandmother Nan think they're safe living in the woods outside town, until a fellow witch betrays their location. When the Alchemists kidnap Nan, Cassie is stranded with only Nan's talking cat and dog to help her navigate through the miles of shifting landscape and hostile forest that lie between her and Celeste.

Once in town, Cassie teams up with other witches to root out the traitor and rescue Nan. But as they investigate, Cassie comes to realize that the traitor may be closer than she thought. With more witches disappearing every day, Cassie must discover which of her new friends is helping the enemy before the Alchemists capture them all.

CASSANDRA OF THE CRESCENT MOON is a stand alone MG fantasy, with series potential. It is complete at approximately 71,000 words.

I am an associate member of SCBWI.


Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I think it's getting much better.

The opening line is good, but it's a set-up for a dilemma which then isn't delivered. "But..." in the second line should be followed by a reason for Cassie to want to use magic against others.

Evil Editor said...

I think what follows the "But" is okay, but what precedes it needs to make it clear (I assume this is the situation) that magic can't be used to harm another. Not that it's a rule, but that it's impossible.

Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly knows that witchcraft can't be used to harm others; magic just doesn't work that way.

You're pretty much good to go.

Author (KC) said...

EE: the problem is that it is possible,(and in fact it happens in the book) but they have to pay a high price for doing it.

How about: 12-year-old Cassandra Kelly, like all witches, knows not to use her powers against other people: the cosmic consequences are just too high. But that hasn't stopped the town of Celeste from making all magic illegal...

Evil Editor said...

What are these cosmic Consequences?

For someone who didn't even know she was a witch a while ago, she knows a lot about the rules and consequences. How did the conversation go?

Nan: By the way, you're a witch.

cas: Excellent, there are a lot of people I want to turn into toads.

Nan: No, you must never harm another or . . . What? If the consequences are that bad, telling us what they are will show us why she would never use witchcraft to harm another.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

How about: 12-year-old Cassandra Kelly, like all witches, knows not to use her powers against other people: the cosmic consequences are just too high. But that hasn't stopped the town of Celeste from making all magic illegal...

KC, if that was in response to my comment, then I'm afraid it constitutes missing my point. EE may disagree with my point, but I'm bloody well sticking to it.

12-year-old Cassandra Kelly, like all witches, knows not to use her powers against other people: the cosmic consequences are just too high. But the non-magical townsfolk aren't following the rules, so why should she? Especially when her Grandma's been kidnapped... etc.

Otherwise it's as if I was saying:

My 12-year-old beagle/Rottweiler mix, like all dogs, knows biting people is wrong. But that doesn't stop the town from passing a new leash law.

where it would make more sense to say

My 12-year-old beagle/Rottweiler mix, like all dogs, knows biting people is wrong. But that pudgy postman is just too good to pass up.

because the two sentences are actually in contrast, as suggested by the "but", instead of only tangentially related, as in the first example.

Still, whatevs. It all comes down to whether they want a book about a 12-year-old witch or not.

Evil Editor said...

The difference is that in the world the author has created, all witches do know that using their power to harm others has dire consequences.

Whereas in our world, all dogs do not know that biting people is wrong.

I'm certainly not claiming that your followup to "but" isn't perfection, merely that the author's is okay--more analogous to Like all vegetarians, Cassie knows eating her vegetables won't hurt anyone else, but the town of Celeste has made it illegal!

Author (KC) said...

Ok, I think this version may finally cover al your questions.

Alaska - with my last versions I went with EE's opinion over yours, but I think this new one manages to capture both your suggestions, although I've saved the dilemma for the end. Thanks for the help.

Revised Query:

Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly, like all witches, knows never to use her powers against another person: witches who've dared to have all ended up sick, hurt, or even dead from the rebound effect of negative spells. But that hasn't stopped the town of Celeste from making all magic illegal. Nor has it stopped an extremist group known as the Alchemists from hunting down anyone even suspected of witchcraft.

Cassie and her grandmother Nan think they're safe living in the woods outside town, until a fellow witch betrays them by revealing their location. When the Alchemists kidnap Nan, Cassie is stranded with only Nan's talking cat and dog to help her navigate through the miles of shifting landscape and hostile forest that lie between her and Celeste.

Once in town, Cassie teams up with other witches to root out the traitor and rescue Nan. But as they investigate, Cassie comes to realize that the traitor may be closer than she thought. With more witches disappearing every day, Cassie must discover which of her new friends is helping the enemy, even if it means using magic on them to do it.

CASSANDRA OF THE CRESCENT MOON is a stand alone MG fantasy, with series potential. It is complete at approximately 71,000 words.

I am an associate member of SCBWI.


Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

Tk said...

KC, I want to say the same thing to you I'm saying to Princess Sara (#1038) - I've learned more from seeing your revision process than from reading any 50 other queries in the archives. It's been an eye-opener. Thank you very very much for bravely rewriting in public.

Also, I love this latest version; it ties together really well! It sounds polished and coherent and it makes the story sound exciting. Hope to hear that you're sending out requested fulls and partials soon.

Evil Editor said...

I'm not thrilled that you've gone with my version now that I know the consequences could be that the witch gets sick. Even with the death penalty people still murder, so making witchcraft illegal makes sense unless the cosmic consequences are that the cosmos will be destroyed.

I think we can totally do without most of the first paragraph. If you open:

The town of Celeste has declared witchcraft illegal. But that isn't good enough for the vigilante group who call themselves the Alchemists. The Alchemists have made it their mission to hunt down anyone suspected of using witchcraft.

Cassandra Kelly and her grandmother Nan think they're safe...


you avoid getting involved in rules and consequences. I can live with Cassie waiting till paragraph 2 to appear.

BuffySquirrel said...

If the traitor's closer than Cassie thought, then readers will expect it to be one of the characters who've already been introduced. If it is, then fine.

It's the dog, right?

This version is a bit too wordy for me. Needs paring down if it's not to give the impression of a wordy book.

Evil Editor said...

No, it's obviously the cat.

Author (KC) said...

TK, thanks for the words of encouragement - I need them.

I'm thankful for all the help everyone has given me, but ye Dogs (to quote Miss Snark) this can be frustrating.

EE: yeah, the consequences definitely came off as not harsh enough. They're illustrated better in the book than I was able to condense them for the query. Part of the difference between them and the death penalty (in your comparison) is that the death penalty only comes in if you're caught and convicted, while the karmic consequences are a given.

Buffy: you're so right. This version is way too wordy.

I've managed to write 2 different versions, and I'm not sure which is better. I'd like to post them both for feedback. I feel #1 addresses more of your concerns, but I'm not sure if I like it. I prefer #2 because it shows Cassie's dilemma better, but it still has some of the issues you objected to.

Thanks for all the help I can get!

Revised Query Option #1:

Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly and her grandmother Nan think they're safe. After all, they're hidden miles outside of the town of Celeste, where magic is illegal and vigilantes are hunting down anyone even suspected of witchcraft.

But then a fellow witch betrays their location and Nan is kidnapped. Now Cassie is stranded with only Nan's talking cat and dog to help her navigate through the miles of shifting landscape and hostile forest that lie between her and Celeste.

Once in town, Cassie teams up with other witches to unmask the traitor and rescue Nan. With more witches disappearing every day, Cassie must discover which of her new friends is helping the enemy, before they all end up as captives.


Revised Query Option #2:

Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly knows the first rule of witchcraft is never use your powers against others. But that hasn't stopped the town of Celeste from making all magic illegal. Nor has it stopped an extremist group known as the Alchemists from hunting down anyone even suspected of witchcraft.

Cassie and her grandmother Nan think they're safe living in the woods outside town, until a fellow witch betrays their location. When the Alchemists kidnap Nan, Cassie is stranded with only Nan's talking cat and dog to help her navigate through the miles of hostile forest that lie between her and Celeste.

Once in town, Cassie teams up with other witches to root out the traitor and rescue Nan. With more witches disappearing every day, Cassie must discover which of her new friends is helping the enemy, even if it means using magic on them to do it.

Evil Editor said...

In version 1 I would delete "magic is illegal and"

The legality is a minor point compared to the Alchemists, who are your villain.

You can also tack on to the end: "Even if it means using magic on them to do it."


In version 2 I would delete "Twelve-year-old Cassandra Kelly knows"

They didn't make magic illegal because Cassie knows the rule; she has nothing to do with the law.

With that change I like v2. Of course you can always send both versions and collect data on which gets better results.

Author (KC) said...

Thanks, EE.

Do you think it would be better to start v2 with "Like all witches, 12-y-o Cassie knows..."

or

just cut it and start "The first rule of witchcraft..." leaving no mentionof Cassie until paragraph 2?

This process has been amazingly helpful.

Evil Editor said...

The latter makes more sense to me.