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Mustela Nigripes (YA fantasy)


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#1 PlumPudding

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 12:55 PM

Dear [agent],

Fourteen-year-old Alek has always dreamed of being a hero, although he never quite had the talent for it. The bravest deed he’d ever done was lose a fistfight. However, when the tests to join a traveling mammal conservation group roll around, Alek has the chance to fulfill his dream. He could be famous enough to win the reluctant love-of-his-life’s heart, wealthy enough to buy a loaf of bread every week for his mum, and heroic enough to save the black-footed ferret species from extinction.

Unfortunately for Alek, things don’t go according to plan. He finds murderers, traitors, and vengeful aristocrats where he should have friends. He becomes famous only to his enemies. His money is stolen. And as for the ferrets, Alek’s attempts at heroism might be the very thing that destroys their species altogether.

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in a land reminiscent of ancient Poland and strewn with elements from traditional Polish folklore.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Hannah

(any feedback would be appreciated! :) )

#2 the transylvanian

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 02:01 PM

Hi PlumPudding!I would advise you to trade paragraph two with one, sense that one seem more intrguing to me, or combine them and build a good hook from there. I do not think that his dreams and wants are as important as a hook as much as his actions; leave that for later. Good story but I am curios about the title, it got my atention but what does it represents in relation to the story?

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#3 Cat Woods

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 02:04 PM

Ms. Plum, I'm not going to touch this. Your voice shines through. Your query is enticing. I'm all ready to turn to the front page to see if your back-cover promise carries through. If it does, I'm taking this to the end of the line at my favorite bookstore. With luck I'll have the first chapter read before I get to check out!

Fabulous job.

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#4 galaxyspinner

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 04:32 PM

Dear [agent],

Fourteen-year-old Alek has always dreamed of being a hero, although he never quite had the talent for it. The bravest deed he’d ever done was lose a fistfight. However, when the tests to join a traveling mammal conservation group roll around, Alek has the chance to fulfill his dream. (This is something that appeals to me; I like proactive heroes, as opposed to that variety of goobers who are only heroes because some "destiny" says they are) He could be famous enough to win the reluctant love-of-his-life’s heart, wealthy enough to buy a loaf of bread every week for his mum (You're doing well to endear us to this kid), and heroic enough to save the black-footed ferret species from extinction.

Unfortunately for Alek, things don’t go according to plan. He finds murderers, traitors, and vengeful aristocrats where he should have friends. He becomes famous only to his enemies. His money is stolen. And as for the ferrets, Alek’s attempts at heroism might be the very thing that destroys their species altogether. (I'd like to see more concrete facts here)

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in a land reminiscent of ancient Poland (Maybe a slightly pedantic point, but I'm fairly sure the black-footed ferret is a strictly American species) and strewn with elements from traditional Polish folklore.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Hannah

(any feedback would be appreciated! :) )


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#5 Cheryl B. Dale

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 06:15 PM

Dear [agent],

Fourteen-year-old Alek has always dreamed of being a hero, although he never quite had the talent for it. The bravest deed he’d ever done was lose a fistfight. However, when the tests to join a traveling mammal conservation group roll around, Alek has the chance to fulfill his dream. He could be famous enough to win the reluctant love-of-his-life’s heart, wealthy enough to buy a loaf of bread every week for his mum, and heroic enough to save the black-footed ferret species from extinction.

Unfortunately for Alek, things don’t go according to plan. He finds murderers, traitors, and vengeful aristocrats where he should have friends. He becomes famous only to his enemies. His money is stolen. And as for the ferrets, Alek’s attempts at heroism might be the very thing that destroys their species altogether.

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in a land reminiscent of ancient Poland and strewn with elements from traditional Polish folklore.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Hannah

(any feedback would be appreciated! :) )


I think this is an excellent version to work with. Make everything present tense: ...Alek dreams of being a... though he doesn't quite have the talent... and so on.

I do see unnecessary stuff that may cause an agt/ed to reject. My advice is to hone your words so that there isn't a single unnecessary one in here.

The voice is there, the details are there, the story's different. Just polish up the query.

Just my opinion. Hope it helps.

#6 JMB

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 03:09 AM

I liked the first 2 paragraphs very much. The title threw me--I have no clue what it means/has to do with your story. And then the Poland setting/Polish folklore reference completely lost me. The story of your quirky hero reads great without that so why make an agent scratch her head at the unexplained connection.

Finally, this sounds Middle Grade (ferrets and fistfights), not YA, but that is just my opinion. I would consider making your MC a few years younger and your book a little shorter. I think you'd really have something of strong interest for the MG market. Would love to know what the Juvenile Junction moderator thinks is the target age group.

#7 Petal65

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 02:01 PM

I like this too, but think there's a couple of things missing. Incorporate or at least hint to the meaning of your title in your query. This isn't always neccessary but right no there's no connection between your query and your title. Even if you book was called "Alek and the Mustela Nigripes" it would make more sense, you know?

Also there needs to be a less awkward way of revealing your setting than the bit about ancient Poland. I wasn't sure where Alek was in time - mammal conservation is a very 21st century concept (ancient people had no interest in conserving mammals - that's why the European megafauna is extinct) but working all week for one loaf of bread is very medieval (NOT ancient - ancient Europeans didn't buy bread as such. There were no bakeries)

Other than that, this has a lot of voice and seems fun. I think it's more MG than YA too though.

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#8 Stephanie Diaz

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 02:51 PM

I think this is an excellent query. Fabulous voice. I would like to have some idea how the title ties into the story. But honestly, I'd read this as-is. Great job.

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#9 PlumPudding

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 07:35 PM

Haha, I've kind of spun myself into a trap, here, I think.
First off, Mustela nigripes is the scientific name for black-footed ferrets but after reading your reactions I'll probably change that. Or at least find some way to explain it . . .
And "ancient Poland" was all sorts of wrong, but I just needed to incorporate some sort of setting. Let's try and be a little more honest with that last paragraph:

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in part of a fictitious world that is reminiscent of 19th century Poland and bursting with modern elements.

-----

Do you think I need to mention what elements those are? There's batteries and aeroplanes and a lot of modern concepts (like animal conservation).

#10 Stephanie Diaz

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 07:43 PM

Haha, I've kind of spun myself into a trap, here, I think.
First off, Mustela nigripes is the scientific name for black-footed ferrets but after reading your reactions I'll probably change that. Or at least find some way to explain it . . .
And "ancient Poland" was all sorts of wrong, but I just needed to incorporate some sort of setting. Let's try and be a little more honest with that last paragraph:

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in part of a fictitious world that is reminiscent of 19th century Poland and bursting with modern elements.

-----

Do you think I need to mention what elements those are? There's batteries and aeroplanes and a lot of modern concepts (like animal conservation).


I think that works, in the last paragraph. "Modern elements" does the trick.

Honestly, I really like your title. Perhaps the first time you mention the black-footed ferrets, you could change it to: "save the black-footed ferret species--mustella nigripes--from extinction." I think that would get it across.

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#11 JAPrice

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 09:17 PM

It's a really tight, succinct query that does the job. I must say that personally the title would scare me off. But that's just me, and I suck at coming up with decent titles myself. Maybe the title could be related to where this all takes place, or a phrase that suits the MC since the story is more about him than about the animals.

#12 Moonshade

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 10:58 PM

I think this definitely sounds interesting, but I have to wonder why we should care about black-footed ferrets? You've done a good job of making it about Alec and his growth as a person, but I'm still curious as to the heroism that's involved in ferret-preservation. Is this Whale Wars: Poland?

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#13 PlumPudding

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Posted 23 June 2011 - 11:24 PM

Dear [agent],

Fourteen-year-old Alek dreams of being a hero, although he doesn’t quite have the talent for it. The bravest deed he’d ever done was lose a fistfight. However, when the tests to join a traveling mammal conservation group roll around, Alek has the chance to fulfill his dream. He could be famous enough to win the reluctant love-of-his-life’s heart, wealthy enough to buy a loaf of bread every week for his mum, and heroic enough to save the black-footed ferret species—Mustela nigripes—from extinction.

Unfortunately for Alek, things don’t go according to plan. He finds murderers, traitors, and vengeful aristocrats where he should have friends. He becomes famous only to his enemies. His money is stolen. And as for the ferrets, Alek’s attempts at heroism might be the very thing that destroys their species altogether.

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in part of a fictitious world that is reminiscent of 19th century Poland and bursting with modern elements.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Hannah

Okay this is the draft I've got going now. The whole heroism involving the ferrets takes a little more time and deals a lot with politics between two countries so I didn't really want to throw that in the query, I was worried it would be a little hard to swallow.

And I've been trying to think of other titles (they really are one of the most difficult bits) and all I can come up with is CURSE AND BLESS or A CURSE AND A BLESSING. Neither of which are particularly engaging . . .

#14 RileyRedgate

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 12:01 AM

Hi Plum! Your title caught me by surprise - I wrote a short story involving black-footed ferrets a while back, so I actually knew what Mustela nigripes referred to. XD

Anyway. That aside.

You have a nice, clean, short (so short! :DD) query. The thing is, I don't understand how it's a fantasy, and I don't understand the Polish elements. The things you show me are great. It's just that the things you tell me don't seem to fit in with what you've shown me. I can see this being a great contemporary novel - I'm not seeing the fantasy, or the historical setting. The closest I get to the historical feel is the aristocrat bit and the buying of the loaf of bread. Feels sort of manorial. Am I getting that right? A sort of feudal system? I'm not familiar with 19th cen. Poland.

But the fantasy needs to be more prevalent. I can't advise where or how to slip it in, because I simply don't understand where it stems from.

The above is just one opinion, of course. Best of luck!

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#15 PlumPudding

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 12:30 AM

Thanks for replying!! Haha, and I'm interested in this short story of yours! :)

I put in the "like Poland" bit because I wanted a little bit of the culture to show through. Many names are Polish and I use some actual Polish words, as well as the folk costumes and the cuisine, etc. I just wanted to mention it because it's a bit unique, but it might just be confusing, haha!

You got the feudal system right! Except the Lords are replaced by Mystiks, people who rose to power once diagnosed with a chronic illness called bless. It allows them to have a sort of "healing magic" so to say, which is where the fantasy comes in (very, very light fantasy, though). I had an earlier draft of the query that was mostly about this bless but it was not immediate enough and it didn't have Alek at the heart of it so I scrapped it. I might try and work it in somewhere but I'm worried about destroying the rhythm with the two paragraphs . . . maybe I can replace some of the info in the last paragraph with a little bit of this. What do you think?

#16 Cat Woods

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 07:33 AM

Plum,

I continue to enjoy your writing and the evolution of the query. I see Ant's point, but I'm not bothered by it. What you have is done so beautifully, that I'm inclined to read anyways. At least the first ten pages to see if your novel is as engaging as your query and deilvers what it promises.

You could tighten your last paragraph--even as you many want to expand it to include some of Ant's commentary.

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in part oftakes place in a fictitious world that is reminiscent of 19th century Poland and bursting with modern elements.

I have all the confidence that you can pull it together to make a rockin' query.

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#17 Cheryl B. Dale

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 02:27 PM

I pretty much agree with Cat. Here are some slight alterations I'd make if it were mine.

Dear [agent],

Fourteen-year-old Alek dreams of being a hero, although he doesn’t quite have the talent for it. The bravest deed (too formal) thing he’d ever done wais lose a fistfight. However, w(a little stilted and unnecessary) When the tests to join a traveling mammal conservation group roll around, Alek has the chance to fulfill his dream. He could can be famous enough to win the reluctant love-of-his-life’s heart, wealthy enough to buy a loaf of bread every week for his mum, and heroic enough to save the black-footed ferret species—Mustela nigripes—from extinction.

Unfortunately for Alek, things don’t go according to plan. He (unnecessary telling what this next part shows)finds murderers, traitors, and vengeful aristocrats where he should have friends (unnecessary; this might be a good place to mention Mystiks; eg, ...vengeful aristocratic Mystiks.) He becomes famous only to his enemies. His money is stolen. And as for the ferrets, Alek’s attempts at heroism might be the very thing that what destroys their species altogether.

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in part of a fictitious world that is reminiscent of 19th century Poland and bursting with modern elements.

Thank you for your time.


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#18 Grumpy Llama

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 03:08 PM

Dear [agent],

Fourteen-year-old Alek dreams of being a hero, although he doesn’t quite have the talent for it. The bravest deed he’d thing he's ever done was is lose a fistfight. (Keep it the same tense throughout the query.) However, when the tests to join a traveling mammal conservation group rolls around this is a mouthful, try something like "when the chance to join a conservation group", Alek has the chance to fulfill his dream. He could be famous enough to win the reluctant love-of-his-life’s (I'm not sure this needs to be hyphenated) heart, wealthy enough to buy a loaf of bread every week for his mum, and heroic enough to save the black-footed ferret species—Mustela nigripes—from extinction. (I'd strike this because I think you need a new title.)

Unfortunately for Alek, things don’t go according to plan. He finds murderers, traitors, and vengeful aristocrats where he should have friends. He becomes famous only to his enemies. His money is stolen (this sentence needs more - more detail, more oomph). And as for the ferrets, Alek’s attempts at heroism might be the very thing that destroys their species altogether.

MUSTELA NIGRIPES, a young adult fantasy novel complete at 68,700 words, is set in part of a fictitious world that is reminiscent of 19th century Poland and bursting with modern elements.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Hannah


I hope my ideas help, at least a little. I do think you need a new title. Maybe use the name of the world you've created? I don't know. Perhaps someone who's read it might be able to help you work on title ideas.
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#19 Grumpy Llama

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 03:10 PM

One more thing. This is a short query. You've got room to spice it up, add some detail.
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#20 RileyRedgate

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 03:12 PM

If the fantasy elements are light, then I'd advise sticking closely to the version you have with maybe just a snippet of the fantasy (maybe sneaking some in to flesh out the undernourished 'his money is stolen' line?). Cat's right - your query is well-crafted as is. Not much else to say. :happy:

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