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Cat and Crow (Middle Grade Fantasy) Crits Returned

Middle Grade Fantasy

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#1 Kimseal

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Posted 24 August 2018 - 10:14 AM

Crits returned!

 

 

Crow hatches to an empty house. Where's Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with? Where's the rest of her family? Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond. If he doesn't bond, he'll not only miss out on love and magic, he won't get to share the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years. Crow doesn't want to die a teenager!

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape), they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder.

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch. But Crow's discovered a witness to the attack--a snail saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. The risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs. Only Crow, together with Cat, can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again.

 

The Unfamiliars is a 32K middle-grade fantasy which is stand-alone but leads naturally into a series. Comps. Creds. Etc. 



#2 Bibliophyl

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Posted 25 August 2018 - 12:27 PM

Crow hatches to an empty house. Where's Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with? Where's the rest of her family? [I've heard you should avoid questions in queries.] Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond. If he doesn't bond, he'll not only miss out on love and magic, he won't get to share the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years. Crow doesn't want to die a teenager! I like this, but I think it could be streamlined a bit. When Crow hatches, he expects to meet the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with, but she's nowhere to be seen. If he can't find her, he'll... (that's not very good, but hopefully you get the idea--basically I think you could get this paragraph across in two or so sentences)

 

The only one in the house is Cat, [earlier you said the house was empty] the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape) cute!, they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder. [is death/murder too dark for MG? You probably know better than I do, just a passing thought]

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch. But Crow's discovered a witness to the attack--a snail saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. The risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs. Only Crow, together with Cat, can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again.

 

The Unfamiliars [title should be capitalized] is a 32K [this feels short but I have no idea about MG word count standards] middle-grade fantasy which is stand-alone but leads naturally into a series. Comps. Creds. Etc. 

 

This story sounds super cute! I used to love animal stories as a kid. Good luck.



#3 Uncommon Decency

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Posted 25 August 2018 - 01:51 PM

Crow hatches to an empty house. Where's Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with? Where's the rest of her family? Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond. If he doesn't bond, he'll not only miss out on love and magic, he won't get to share the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years. Crow doesn't want to die a teenager!

 

Crow hatches, ready to meet Periwinkle, the 11-year-old witch he’s supposed to bond with (or to…or something? “With” seems incorrect). Instead, he finds an empty house with no sign of Periwinkle or her family. Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond; otherwise he misses out on love, magic and sharing the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years; he doesn’t want to die a teenager (cute)!

 

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape), they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder.

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother (was Cat just born?). Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape) (like it) they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder!

 

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch. But Crow's discovered a witness to the attack--a snail saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. The risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs. Only Crow, together with Cat, can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again. (this sounds great!)

 

I think some of the sentences could be cleaned up a bit and the explanation about Cat (was he just born? You said the house was empty) made more clear...but I like the premise of your story. 



#4 Kimseal

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Posted 25 August 2018 - 03:59 PM

Thank you both very much for your crits! Really appreciate your suggestions and taking the time to look at it.



#5 bookgirl_kt

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Posted 25 August 2018 - 04:29 PM

Here are my suggestions:

 

Crow hatches to an empty house. Where's Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with? Where's the rest of her family? Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond. If he doesn't bond, he'll not only miss out on love and magic, he won't get to share the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years. Crow doesn't want to die a teenager! Great hook and stakes. However, you could probably get the exact same information across in half the sentences.

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape), they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder.

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch. Why? And why ditch him back at the house, then? Is this sentence needed? But Crow's discovered a witness to the attack--a snail saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. The risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. I think you should mention this sooner. Until this point I was wondering why he hadn't just bonded with her immediately. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs. Only Crow, together with Cat, can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again. Great stakes and ending, and I liked the voice in your query.

 

The Unfamiliars is a 32K middle-grade fantasy A bit short which is stand-alone but leads naturally into a series.

 

Hope I've helped! A link to my query is below.



#6 Kimseal

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Posted 25 August 2018 - 04:59 PM

Thanks! Good suggestion on streamlining. Agree I can probably take out that second sentence in the second paragraph. Got to cut that word count!



#7 Wayfarer

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Posted 25 August 2018 - 05:53 PM

Crow hatches to an empty house. Where's Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with? Where's the rest of her family? (I like the questions, as it's playful and fits the MG vibe for me. But I'm not sure it's the "correct" way to add these points in a query. Perhaps stating them as fact, along the lines of: "Crow hatches into an empty house that should have been full. Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he was supposed to bond with and the rest of her family are missing." I don't know if this is necessary, just a point I thought I'd bring up.)Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond. If he doesn't bond, he'll not only miss out on love and magic, he won't get to share the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years. Crow doesn't want to die a teenager!

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape), they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder.

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch. (Just a little confused here, is his mother Peri? If so, it's not directly obvious to me. I'm also not sure I understand the intent in this sentence. Are you saying that she wants him to bond with another which in a "go on, be free, let me die and don't take yourself with me" way? If so, I think you should expand on that ever so slightly, as it's not plain to see as is.) But Crow's discovered a witness to the attack--a snail who (for whatever reason the 'who' just fits better for me. Maybe it's a tense thing? I'm not sure. I just know that this sentence doesn't read correctly on an instinctive level, but adding the 'who' fixes it for me.) saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. The risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs. Only Crow, together with Cat, can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again.

 

So my actual criticisms where very small, and mostly just suggestions to consider, but aren't anything fundamentally wrong. I understand the story completely, the motivations of your characters, and the stakes of their quest. Crow goes > Crow finds > Crow hits bottom when he realizes he might die if he bonds, but could save Peri if he does and extend his own life > end of query. So you've shown us up until the "Abyss" of the Hero's Journey, which is just right for a query. Nice work.

Also, thank's for your critique on mine, I appreciate your time!



#8 Kimseal

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Posted 27 August 2018 - 09:52 AM

Thank you! Really appreciate you taking a look at it.



#9 Cez

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Posted 27 August 2018 - 10:44 AM

I like Uncommon Decency's notes, and this is probably a funny thing to do, but I'm going to critique someone else's critique.

 

 

 

Crow hatches, ready to meet bond with 11-year-old witch Periwinkle, the 11-year-old witch he’s supposed to bond withInsteadBut all he finds is an empty house with no sign of Periwinkle or her family. Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond; otherwise he misses out on love, magic, and sharing the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years; he doesn’t want to die a teenager.

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape) they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder! This paragraph is pretty good.

 

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch It's a bit odd to introduce his mother here. Perhaps cut this and just make it; Crow is frantic to bond with his young witch, but and he's Crow's discovered a witness to the attack--a snail saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. But there's a risk/ a huge risk/ a catch The risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! this is funny and well written. Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs Hilarious. Only Crow, together with Cat/together with Peri? You made it sound as if the bond with Peri would help him solve the mystery. Perhaps give more detail as to how Cat is going to help. can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again.

 

A very cute query. I can picture Crow tearing his feahters out.

Thank you for your notes on my query.



#10 Kimseal

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Posted 27 August 2018 - 11:04 AM

Thanks for taking a look at this! Good suggestions, especially the edits to the first pargraph. It cuts the word count without losing the meaning, which is exactly what I need.



#11 HarlequinWriter

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 09:03 PM

Crow hatches to an empty house. Where's without Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with? Where's the rest of her family? Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond. If he doesn't bond, he'll not only miss out on love and magic, he won't get to share the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years. Crow doesn't want to die a teenager!

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All Cat she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's excellent in-shell education book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape), they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder.

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch. But Crow's discovers discovered a witness to the attack--a snail saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. The risk is risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs. Only Crow, together with Cat, can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again.

 

The Unfamiliars is a 32K middle-grade fantasy which is stand-alone but leads naturally into a series. Comps. Creds. Etc.

 

This is really solid and I didn't even have any questions! Best of luck~



#12 Dollophead

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 10:17 PM

Thanks for editing my query! I don't have a lot of experience with middle grade but here goes!

 

Crow hatches to an empty house. Where's Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with and ? Where's the rest of her family? Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond. Otherwise If he doesn't bond, he'll not only miss out on love and magic, he won't get to share the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years. Crow doesn't want to die a teenager!

 

I read something about agents not liking queries in the voice of your characters. While yours does work (and is cute, cute, cute!) it might be a risk to keep it in Crow's voice. 

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason how?--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape), they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill is he sick or is he injured? and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder.

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch. But Crow's discovered a witness to the attack--a snail saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. The risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs. Only Crow, together with Cat, can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again.

 

The Unfamiliars is a 32K middle-grade fantasy which is stand-alone but leads naturally into a series. I would leave out the series potential details Comps. Creds. Etc. 

 

You definitely lay out the stakes and the way your characters carry the plot. Well done! Just tweak the details, maybe fine tune the wording. then voila!



#13 Patomac

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 09:24 PM

I'm just going to say before I start that I think this story idea is adorable. The overall tone of the query does feel a little bit young, though, like it's meant for a chapter book more than a MG story. That said, you wrote it, and MG is not my thing, so I assume you know the market better than I do.



Crits returned!

 

 

Crow hatches to an empty house. Where's Periwinkle, the eleven-year-old witch he's supposed to bond with? Where's the rest of her family? Crow's so anxious he could tear his own feathers out. Familiars only have until midnight before they lose the ability to bond. If he doesn't bond, he'll not only miss out on love and magic, he won't get to share the lifespan of his witch. Regular crows only live about seventeen years. Crow doesn't want to die a teenager!

 

The only one in the house is Cat, the familiar assigned to bond with Periwinkle's twin brother. Cat hasn't seen anyone either. All she knows is that it looks like the family left in a hurry. They discover the reason--Peri's been rushed to the hospital. Using Cat's street smarts and Crow's book-learning (he had an excellent in-shell education via Birds On Tape), they trek across town. When they arrive, they find Peri is deathly ill and it wasn't just an accident. It was attempted murder. [so I think you could tighten this up a little bit. I love your detail and the voice, but the first 4 sentences feel like a rundown of a particular scene. Revise a smidge?]

 

Crow's mother is frantic for him to bond with a new witch. But Crow's discovered a witness to the attack--a snail saw it all. If Crow bonds with Peri, he'll have enough magic to find the snail, investigate the crime, and discover why Peri's not getting better. The risks are huge--if they're bonded, Crow will die when Peri does. Forget dying a teenager--Crow might not live until tomorrow! Still, no one else can do it. Human police don't even have snail-sized interrogation chairs. Only Crow, together with Cat, can solve the mystery and save Periwinkle before the attempted killer attacks again. [I love this query, and I don't have a lot of notes. My one niggle is this: why can't Crow bond with another witch and then solve Peri's murder? I didn't notice it the first time I read, but now that I have, it feels like a plot hole.]

 

The Unfamiliars is a 32K middle-grade fantasy which is stand-alone but leads naturally into a series. Comps. Creds. Etc. 



#14 Kimseal

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 08:37 PM

Just wanted to thank everyone for their help! 

 

I got an agent :). 

 

Really appreciate the help in cutting down the initial wordiness and helping me focus on what was important in the query. 



#15 Dollophead

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Posted Yesterday, 08:05 AM

Oh wow, congratulations! That's awesome!







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