12.20.2006

HH Com 227 (223)

Sage Ferryman’s life is as dry and dead as the summer of 1949. All she wants for her fourteenth birthday is to look like Elizabeth Taylor, be Levi Aubrey’s girlfriend, and have her mother come back from the dead. Instead, she gets a pomegranate tree, a sack of hoodooed horehound candies, and a strange visitor—a boy who offers her a silver coin from his mouth and asks for directions to Elisia.

Sage learns he is one of the Hollow Bones—the dead children who wander the mountains surrounding Sticks Creek Gap. They call Sage the Messenger’s Child and say she must lead them to Elisia, their resting place on the other side of Sibyl’s Hill. If she doesn’t, the snakes of the Poison-Skull clan will possess their bodies when the next blood moon appears.

Sage has no desire to save souls. Then the snakes attack Levi and he becomes one of the Hollow Bones. Sage can’t bear to see him suffer inside his dead body. She ventures into the mountains, determined to follow the creek and find Elisia. But what she discovers there will also expose the secret her father has kept for ten years concerning the night her mother drowned, and Sage must risk everything—even her own life—to save her father from the icy waters of Sticks Creek.

SNAKEBREAKER is a 50,800 word juvenile novel. I’d love to send you the first 750 words if you are interested. Thank you.

I'm not sure "juvenile novel" is a phrase I've ever seen used to describe category. Generally i's middle grade, or YA depending on the target audience.

Your first paragraph made this think this was going to be a funny cute novel. Then you brought in snakes (ewwwwwwww). Then the undead. The tone doesn't match what I was expecting so it's jarring.

You've also suddenly tacked on this thing about her dead ma, and drowning pa. Another shift that's jarring.

Figure out the focus of the plot: saving Levi from becoming a snake, and what will happen to HER if she doesn't.

20 comments:

Writerious said...

Some interesting cultural bits here -- the silver coin in the mouth (which was once put in the mouths of the dead so they'd be able to pay the ferryman to take them over the river Styx into the underword) and a pomegranate tree (Persephone ate the six pomegranate seeds in Hades and so had to spend six monthsof each year there), plus some hoodoo and snakes and all. Sounds spooky, in a Neil Gaiman sort of way. Could be very interesting.

Inkwolf said...

I assume you mean she wants to look like a YOUNG Elizabeth Taylor. :p

Nice title, and the story sounds exciting. What happens when the Hollow Bones children are possessed by the snakes?

acd said...

I'm intrigued. I'd borrow this if I saw it in the library.

223 said...

Thank you Miss Snark. I'm sorry that mine ended up being just another slosh in the slush. However, your critique has been helpful! I've rewritten this query so many times (like about 50 gazillion) that I've lost focus. Thanks for whopping me with the clue stick.

xiqay said...

No, Inkwolf, she wants to look like Elizabeth Taylor (as she looked in 1949 when the story is set).

But who named their children Sage in 1949?

223 said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. You've also given me some things to think about!

And yes inkwolf, it's definitely the young Elisabeth. :)

Anonymous said...

Very cool. I'd read it.

Anonymous said...

This hook was enough to make me want to read this book. There's a ton of symbolism, as someone previously mentioned.

December Quinn said...

I think it sounds pretty awesome, actually. I'm not crazy about the snake aspect but the rest of it sounds wonderfully creepy.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was totally creepy and awesome. I loved it.

skybluepinkrose said...

I agree that the symbolism here made me sit up and take notice. Also agree that the name Sage sounds like today rather than 1949. Unless another thing she wants for her 14th b-day is to be named Linda or Debbie, and you give her REALLY creative parents. Not many guys named Levi then either. I'd read this.

Anonymous said...

I liked it also--followed it just fine and did not find it jarring. unique and very far from cliche. I'd read it for sure.

thraesja said...

Levi works, it's a biblical name so anyone with religious parents might have chosen it. As a name, Sage is a bit out of time, but makes great symbolism. Many cultures considered it a ward against death, and useful for spiritual purification.

This sounds interesting, but I agree with Miss S in that the paragraph changes were jarring. I'm not sure about the snakes...but that's probably because I couldn't get Samuel L. Jackson out of my head. Unfortunate.

That being said, i'd at least try out the first few pages. Good luck #227.

Rachel said...

This sounds a really gripping read. I don't think the first line works, but from then on the hook rocks along.

From the last para though, it does sound like the major problem for Sage is risking her life to save her drowning dad - when really I'd think it was the whole 'being possessed by evil snakes' thing that was the main issue here!

Hypergraphia said...

Levi Aubrey? I have a good friend who has a son named Levi and a daughter named Aubrey....coincidence??

I do feel you could turn this into "something." I would read! good luck!

Anonymous said...

If you decide that "Sage" is too modern a name, you might consider "Sharon" as an alternative.

Rei said...

I liked the first para.

The rest, not so much. I'm not into horror, and that's what this sounds like.

Demented M said...

Perhaps not the best hook, but I liked a lot of the elements and I bet the story is really interesting. Just need to advertise it better.

Good luck.

M

dana p said...

Huh, I guessed wrong here -- I was sure Miss Snark would love this. I think it sounds eerie and powerful, and nothing about it struck me as jarring. I'd love to read the book.

223 (actually 227) said...

Wow. I am grateful for everyone's comments!

Anon #5, I've considered the name Sharon (a play on Charon, which is why I'm sure you suggested it).

I've had a partial and a full requested since I started sending this out to agents; no takers so far but I've had some very positive comments which give me hope that it will one day get an offer for representation. I just have to keep working at it.

While in the shower this morning I was mulling over Miss Snark's critique. I believe my biggest mistake is that I am guilty of over-writing the query. I'm not even sure if I need to use 250 words to write a hook--it's like giving me more rope to hang myself. I wanted to make a good impression and, well, I overdid it.

So if Miss Snark was trying to teach us something, I'd say in my case she succeeded. :)