Thursday, August 26, 2010

9 Pitch Entry #39: Carrie Dair

Title: CONTROL LINE


Genre: YA contemporary

Kate McCormac's life is out of control. And her summer doesn't look too promising either. When fire steals the life of Kate's father, it takes more than its fair share, forcing Kate to move from the lush beaches of California to the barren desert of Panaca, Nevada where she'll be living with her Grandma and a herd of cows. Kate must now rise to the challenge of starting life anew while dealing with the horrors of her past. Especially those she has held secret from the last summer she spent with her Grandma.

Betrayed by the government and haunted by the memory of her father, Kate's one hope seems to lie in her friend Grant who knows her better than she does herself, but there's only one problem. He's a fire fighter, just like her father. And his attempts to save her life just might result in her final undoing. Can Kate find hope in a world that's quickly falling apart? And can she resist her feelings for Grant before they both lose control?

9 comments:

  1. I liked it until the end. I'd take out "Can Kate find hope in a world that's quickly falling apart? And can she resist her feelings for Grant before they both lose control?" and just leave it at "... her final undoing." that way it ends with a bang, not a question. The questions pull me out of the query.

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  2. Kate McCormac's life is out of control. And her summer doesn't look too promising either. (Nice)

    When fire steals the life of Kate's father, it takes more than its fair share, (erm, because just her father would have been fair, but forcing her to relocate, that is just too much? awkward) forcing Kate to move from the lush beaches of California to the barren desert of Panaca, Nevada where she'll be living with her Grandma and a herd of cows. (the 'fair share' comment really kinda irked me toward your protag, and the way Grandma's is presented so unfavorably - barren, 'and a herd of cows'... my father died when I was six and left me with an unstable mother and a lot of baggage. if I was given the chance to relocate somewhere peaceful and potentially stable? would not have the ungrateful attitude that's coming off here. maybe that's a knee-jerk reaction based on my history, but you might consider playing with the tone here, and at least chop the fair share phrase?)

    Kate must now rise to the challenge of starting life anew while dealing with the horrors of her past. Especially those she has held secret from the last summer she spent with her Grandma. (what's the secret? I like this para.)

    Betrayed by the government (huh?) and haunted by the memory of her father, Kate's one hope seems to lie in her friend Grant who knows her better than she does herself,(how does her hope lie in him, and how does he know her better than himself?) but there's only one problem.

    He's a fire fighter, just like her father. And his attempts to save her life just might result in her final undoing.(why does her life need saving? I mean, in a manner that he can do anything about? how would this undo her?)

    Can Kate find hope in a world that's quickly falling apart? And can she resist her feelings for Grant before they both lose control? (These last two sentences are generic and also what does having feelings for Grant have to do with overcoming her past?)

    I want to know the secret and how it fits in.

    Good luck!

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  3. Kate McCormac's life is out of control. And her summer doesn't look too promising either. When fire steals the life of Kate's father, it takes more than its fair share, forcing Kate to move from the lush beaches of California to the barren desert of Panaca, Nevada where she'll be living with her Grandma and a herd of cows. (And…here’s your hook, buried way in here. Your first sentence is too vague, and I don’t care. I might stop reading there. Your hook has to do two things: 1. Sum up your novel in one sentence and 2. Propel me to read more. So you might consider reworking this a bit. Maybe to something like, “When Kate’s father dies in a fire, she’s forced to move from the lush beaches of California to the barren desert of Nevada, where she’ll be living with a herd of cows—and her Grandma.” I also have another thought: Where’s her mother? Why is she going to live with her Grandma instead of staying with her mom, or moving in with her mom. I’m not saying you need to answer it, but it’s the first question that comes up. Also, and you might hate me, so I’ll duck afterward, but I’ve seen a lot of “my father died” stories. Not saying you should change it, I’m just saying it. I’ll back away slowly now.)

    Kate must now rise to the challenge of starting life anew while dealing with the horrors of her past. Especially those she has held secret from the last summer she spent with her Grandma.

(I have no idea what these two sentences are getting to. I’d cut them both.) Betrayed by the government (what? What does this mean? I’m intrigued, and I hope you answer it.) and haunted by the memory of her father, Kate's one hope seems to lie in her friend Grant who knows her better than she does herself(.) – and then combine the next part into “There’s only one problem—he’s a firefighter, just like her father.”) , but there's only one problem. He's a fire fighter, just like her father. And his attempts to save her life just might result in her final undoing. (I don’t understand this sentence. When I don’t get it, my first instinct is to cut.) Can Kate find hope in a world that's quickly falling apart? (I have a strict (very strict) no question rule in queries. NO questions. Because I can answer both of these (yes and no) without reading the MS. It doesn’t trigger me to request. And that’s the whole point of the pitch. So you should take these questions and turn them into strong consequence statements instead. Something cliffhangery that will make the agent/editor salivate to read your book.) And can she resist her feelings for Grant before they both lose control?

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  4. I'm thinking that "her life is out of control" is that what her secrets are about? No? IS she spinning and THEN, when she needs him, her father dies? IF this is the case, maybe be a tad clearer on that. I'm going on a limb, because I know with queries often EVERY word means something. If not, then I agree with the others. What is the inticing event? Let us hear it! I'm guessing, also, that the gov't thing has to do with the father...

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  5. Kate McCormac's life is out of control. And her summer doesn't look too promising either. (I would delete the first two sentences and start here.) When fire steals the life of Kate's father, it takes more than its fair share, (I would write this line more straight-forwardly: What Kate's firefighter father dies in a fire...)forcing Kate to move from the lush beaches of California to the barren desert of Panaca, Nevada where she'll be living with her Grandma and a herd of cows. (The herd of cows thing gives a comic flavor, which doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the novel.) Kate must now rise to the challenge of starting life anew while dealing with the horrors of her past. Especially those she has held secret from the last summer she spent with her Grandma.

    Betrayed by the government (What are you talking about here? Betrayed how?) and haunted by the memory of her father, Kate's one hope seems to lie in her friend Grant who knows her better than she does herself, but there's only one problem. He's a fire fighter, just like her father. (This is a YA, right? And aren't firefighters adults? Is this allowed in YA fiction? And his attempts to save her life just might result in her final undoing. Can Kate find hope in a world that's quickly falling apart? And can she resist her feelings for Grant before they both lose control? (As I mentioned before, sounds like a content problem here: teen/adult.)

    I like the overall premise of the novel--but worry about the age gap. Maybe this isn't a YA novel but more adult.

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  6. Firstly, I love the title, if I'm understanding the implication correctly. A control line is the line of fire laid down by firefighters to head off the spread of a wildfire, right?

    I like the first sentence, I'd lose the second because it seems almost redundant. I mean, if her entire life is out of control, why would her summer ever look good to start with?

    The loss of Kate's father is obviously vital, but saying that fire 'stole' him bothers me, and adding that it took more than it's fair share comes across awkwardly. My family is full of firefighters and they all refer to fire as if it's a sentient being. But unless that's going to be a prominent point in the story, I wouldn't say things that projected any sort of personality on the fire lay folk would only get confused.

    I think maybe you could tell us that Kate's a city girl without making her grandmother's place sound like something out of Deliverance. The secret past is tantalizing, but I'm confused by the idea that she obviously dislikes her grandmother's place, and yet has secrets from the last time she spent the whole summer there. Or are those secrets WHY she hates her grandma's place?

    The government betrayal comes out of nowhere. I assume that there was a cover up of some sort in regards to the fire that killed Kate's father, but if so, you should hint that it was suspicious when you tell us he's dead.

    I'm a bit thrown by Grant's age too. Unless he's apprenticing as a smoke jumper or volunteering or something, it seems like he'd be older. Simply clarify Grant and Kate's ages.

    Why is Grant saving Kate? Didn't she just start life anew? And we know her life is out of control, why is it falling apart?

    The last sentence sends me straight into some sort of hotsy romance novel. Like the forest is going to burst into flames if they can't keep their hands off of each other.

    Overall, I like the story idea and I'd check it out. I'd like to know what sore of firefighters are involved (is Kate's dad a city man, and Grant a smoke jumper, since her grandmother lives in rural Nevada?) I think if you can tighten up your pitch you'll be good to go!

    Good luck!

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  7. Thank you so much everyone and to A. Grey, who I'd love to interview sometime seeing as how she's lived the life I'm describing. :) You're right about the smoke jumping. Grant's not an invalid or some cradle robber. He's just very good at fighting fires and has made his way into the wildfire ranks early. The fact that he IS already an adult is part of the problem (in her Mom's eye-hint hint) but not the biggest one there is. Getting the tone right has been the hardest part seeing as how Kate loves this small town, but not the circumstances that have brought her here. Obviously. That fine line of showing her pain and anger without making her out to be a whiner is tough. Keep the comments coming everyone. I just love the feedback. It helps.

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  8. Okay. Here's a second go at this based on everyone's comments. :)

    Kate’s life is out of control—and she’s wondering who to blame. When seventeen year old Kate McCormac’s father dies fighting a house fire, she knows her life is in ruins, confirmed when the government questions the means to his death and challenges her family’s claim to financial compensation. Emotionally and financially drained, Kate’s family is forced to leave the lush beaches of California to the barren desert of Panaca Nevada where her mother’s childhood home promises to do more than give them a fresh start and reveal the secret Kate’s held for almost a full year. It could destroy what’s left of Kate’s life—literally.

    Betrayed by the government and the decisions of her mother, Kate suddenly finds herself hostage to painful nightmares and past memories, making things feel even more hopeless. But there’s a young fire fighter named Grant who is not only interested in helping Kate overcome her challenges, but in securing Kate for himself. His attempts begin to succeed and force Kate to make a decision. Accept Grant and the dangers his lifestyle could present to them both, or ignore him and risk being stuck in the past forever.

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  9. I really like how it sounds! I think you can get it even tighter though.

    Seventeen year old Kate McCormac's life is out of control, and she's wondering who's to blame. When her firefighter dad is killed in a house fire, her life, along with her father, is left in ashes. The government makes things worse by questioning the circumstances of the fire, and refusing her family's claim to financial compensation. Broke and emotionally drained, Kate's family is forced to relocate from the sunny beaches of California to the barren desert of Panaca Nevada where her mother was born. But the move does more than give them a fresh start. It also reveals a secret that Kate has kept for nearly a year, a secret that could destroy what's left of her life.

    Feeling betrayed by both the government and her mother, Kate finds herself a hostage to painful nightmares and memories. Only the young, talented smoke jumper Grant can push Kate's hopelessness aside. He's not just interested in helping her overcome her emotional trauma, he also thinks that she's the girl for him. Grant's companionship and love succeed in helping Kate, but they leave her facing one final decision: Accept Grant and the inherent dangers of what he is, or defy the bond they share and risk being trapped in the past forever.

    I fiddled with some of the wording but tried to keep close to what you had.

    I think that you could leave out the 'who's to blame' part. It presents the idea that there's a conspiracy not only to cover up the fire, but to initiate it as well, indicating that her father was a target. But that idea isn't covered any farther, and it doesn't necessarily have to be to make things interesting.

    I'd call Grant a smoke jumper right from the off. Even people who don't know what a smoke jumper is will likely be intrigued because, well, it just sounds like something awesome. I changed the part about securing Kate for himself because it came across a little like he was staking territory, not putting the moves on a cute girl.

    I'd love to talk fire with you although I'm not sure I've 'lived the life'. Frankly, I'm terrified of fire! :) I've just spent many a night lying on my grandmother's braided rug listening to my dad, his brother and their uncles talk about various fires they've fought. Between them, and fire fighting friends (one who traveled west to train as a smoke jumper before returning to east coast and joining the police force) I've been exposed to a lot of fire tales. They fascinate me even though I fear the element. :)

    Love the changes you've made thus far and I'm super excited to see how your pitch continues to develop!

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