Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Son the Senior Citizen (and a plea for help)



The senior citizen in question (and 1/3 of me)
So somewhere around 2005 the AARP lost an old guy named Samuel Johnson. But never fear. If the AARP loses you, they will find you... or some near approximation. About my son's 9th birthday they started sending us stuff. Offers for magazines, life insurance (really A LOT of life insurance), assist beds and chairs... Never mind that his dad didn't qualify until last September...

When they would call us asking for him, my husband would lecture them on his age. But we've never done anything about the mail. Heck, sometimes they send us discounts. And more often, it is just really funny to think about my teenage son getting these Bizarro World offers.

[Note I am 5'11. You can see in this photo my 14 year old has passed me by more than a wee bit)

So last night I got the mail and there is a letter. It is that weird type that might be type, might be handwritten, but since it's addressed to my son, I do the magnanimous thing and pass it on, explaining it might just be an ad...

Me: So what was it, Bud?
Him: They want to help me with my ear wax.

*dies *

Oh, to be fourteen and treated like 64.


MEDIUM WRONG Pitch for Feedback...

So the Amazon contest starts in 5 days, right? And the first cut is based on the pitch... so here is my current pitch and I would LOVE feedback... 2 things: After reading the pitch would you want to read the book and do you see ways to improve it?

MEDIUM WRONG



Amanda Harden has anticipated summer break and her brother’s return from college since Christmas. She’s been biding her time, trying to stay under her volatile father’s radar. Within minutes of Asher’s return; however, she learns he’s flunked out of college and their father throws him out of the house.

Worried as much about Asher’s self-destructive response as her own well-being, Amanda insists on tagging along on the road trip he plans as an escape. He resists, but then decides on a plan that can use her. They learned the con young, under their father’s constant example, and Asher believes Amanda can help him run a doozy to pay for their trip. Amanda will bring messages from the dead to their loved ones ‘for peace of mind and profit’.

The plan seems to go well... until the dead decide their stories need more accuracy and detail and start talking to Amanda for real.  Amanda suffers vivid dreams and lurid visions, not to mention the puking and the headaches. But mixed in are messages that are much more personal about a series of lies and cover-ups. There is a wrong that needs to be righted—one that could change everything.

At 75,000 words, MEDIUM WRONG is a young adult novel that combines a road trip, a family mystery and the love-hate struggle siblings do so well.

I would LOVE feedback!!!

18 comments:

Tundiel said...

What is it with earwax today? (Note - see my FB status from this morning).

I like the pitch, but it feels a little flat at the end. I think it's the 'siblings' bit that feels a little awkward and just needs a rephrasing. Something like age-old sibling rivalry, or something. It's the 'do so well' bit that bothers me, though I don't know why...

Not much help, sorry, but I'm half asleep. :(

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh, that's crazy! Ha! Senior citizen...right. :)

Pitch sounds good to me. Might say "devises a plan for including her" instead of "then decides on a plan that can use her." But the other way works, too.

I might consider dropping the "until the dead decide their stories need more detail and accuracy" for "until the dead decide to start talking to Amanda for real" for more punch.

Sounds like a great story, Hart!

Alison DeLuca said...

Love the title, and the plot sounds fantastic!

Meanwhile, if the AARP still wants to do something for someone with earwax, Poppy could use a hand. Just sayin.

The pitch is very clear, and I totally get the direction of the novel. I do have the feeling, though, that the main part of it is spent on background - an info dump - and not the meat of the story which, I would imagine, begins when the journey and the convos with the dead start going awry.

But, perhaps I'm completely wrong on that point and you have it the way you want it. IN any case - GREAT storyline. I would def. buy this book.

Thanks for sharing the pitch with us!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

When they send information for free trials of rocket powered wheelchairs, say yes.
Yeah, what the other two ladies said. Needs just a little more punch.

j welling said...

"Amanda Harden has anticipated summer break and her brother’s return from college since Christmas. She’s been biding her time, trying to stay under her volatile father’s radar. Within minutes of Asher’s return; however, she learns he’s flunked out of college and their father throws him out of the house."

Hart, I read this then I read the Paradise Lost excerpt on the inside cover of _The Azalea Assault_. One compels me. One interests me. That's the difference. Compels, interests.

I would suggest "fading in" a touch more to use a visual edit guide. Where to open the movie you are playing in my head ? A sweeping city vista of tenament flats row on row terminating on a crowd of blues standing around something on the ground or "boom" the WeeGee image of the dead guy on the sidewalk with a couple of pairs of polished shoes just poking into the frame to show a crowd of cops ?

I know it is a query but I have to get that tone of "compelling" in to, too.

Personally, put me in the scene a little more for a contest. YMMV.

Facts :

---------
It's early summer and school is out.

Amanda Harden's father is on a tear,always. He's a beast.

Amanda was anticipating her brother's return from school. Maybe she's been more than anticipating. Maybe she's needed his return. Maybe she needs someone and he's it right now.

Her life is broken when her brother is revealed to have flunked out of school and is banished by Papa Grizzly Bear (Does he wave a gun ? Threaten to kill the boy ? Or just throw him out with a verbal ? [Meh] Just wondering because you can "kill" two birds in that description to show the "breast" if he waves the gun. Just saying ... ) .

Now - the twist : the family are (amateur) grifters.

Brother is setting out.

Amanada is tagging along.

Amanada is given a role in a scheme of her brother's.

The plan is a "false medium" schtick [ is there a name for this like "the beaver game ?" or "buck and a wing ?"] with Amanda as Madame Zelda.

Twist: The Madame Zelda routine reveals a too real connection with the newly departed. Oops - didn't see that did we ? Bwaaaaaa.

-------

These are GREAT facts. Golden. Wow. Just awesome.

Now, get a cup of coffee. Tell me these facts as if I'm your son and you know you have to compel me to read the story. I'd do it if you asked ...reluctantly (jeeze, Mom - ok) but you want me to tear into it with the same gusto I'd use running to the phone if you called out that Jenny Cheerleader is on the line and "really wants to talk to you."

How fast would he run ?

Get that into it. One on one. I don't think the current query would be how you'd accomplish that goal.

You've got all the chops for it. You write compelling.

This query is good. (I'd read on) but then the judges will be looking at 100 in this tone. I want this story to stand out - put us in with these awesome facts.

I'm with Elizabeth on this. Bloody great story. Awesome facts.

I'd say , they are so good they deserve a more compelling pitch.

Don't let "The Russians are attacking" get caught up in the tone of the normal daily report to D.C. Make sure the desk guy understands that tanks are rolling over the border and it looks desperate (desperate - right ?) for the home team. You'd send it with as its own dispatch with a four-bells header.

I could be full of crap, too. These are pretty exciting facts.

All the best. Can't wait to buy it.

Teresa Coltrin said...

I love this book. I hope it gets through.

I was thinking the same thing as both Elizabeth's and Tundiel's input.

Good luck!!!

ViolaNut said...

The story sounds like something I'd definitely read... until you get to "puking and headaches" and I'd put it right back down. Weak stomach. :-P I realize that that's insanely picky, but hey...

Johanna Garth said...

All I took out of this post was that you're 5'11" and I'm insanely jealous!!

Sarah Ahiers said...

i would keep reading, but there were a few things that fell a little flat for me, or pulled me out.
I think it might help if you would mention up front that their dad is a con artist (you can do it with the "volatile" description) because the way it i now, when i got to the "they learned the con" bit, i had to to go back and reread to make sure i hand't missed something.
Also, somone above said the end fell a little flat and i agree. I was with you up until the vague "there's a wrong that needs to be righted" bit. Since that's how it ends, i'm left asking "what is it?" But not in a way that would make me keep reading. I'd rather see something more specific or some more details (is it a killer on the loose? etc).

I hope that helps and good luck!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yes, a little flat. Needs a little more zing.

And like Johanna, I am jealous. I'm 5'3" - barely.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I cracked up over the whole earwax/AARP thing.

I agree with Elizabeth on the wording and her suggestions to give it more punch and the comments on the ending paragraph. You want to hook them not give blah for a good story!

Laura Diamond said...

Ear wax is a big problem. LOL!

I like your pitch. If you're looking to tweak, perhaps consider introducing your main character a little more? We see how much she cares for her brother and so I feel like I "know" him better than her. IDK, just a thought.

Good luck!

Hannah Kincade said...

I agree with everyone else. The only bit that struck me odd is "They learned the con young, under their father’s constant example, and Asher believes Amanda can help him run a doozy to pay for their trip. Amanda will bring messages from the dead to their loved ones ‘for peace of mind and profit’." And what Sarah said about moving the bit about their father earlier, would help a lot. Thanks for sharing with us!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

It sounds great! I totally agree with what Elizabeth says.

Kathy M.

LTM said...

OK, first--ew! Earwax! Ew!!! Why AARP, why??? :D

Now the pitch... Me LIKEY! Just a few tweaks:
-maybe "off her volatile father's radar"
-just a comma after return (no ;)

...

You've got a lot of feedback already. I do think they learned the con early is bumpy, but I disagree with losing "until the dead decide..." That's a funny bit! :D

Heck, I read it straight through. I love this pitch! I think it's awesome! Yaay!!! :o) <3

Hart Johnson said...

Thank you so much, fabulous friends!!! Sorry I haven't been around... home stuff yesterday and then making up for it at work today... GAH! That's how it goes, I suppose...

Helena said...

I was about to comment on a couple points in your pitch but it looks like a lot of the people before me have already made good suggestions. One tiny one from me: the word "Christmas" in the first sentence made me instantly, almost subconsciously assume this was a Christmas tale (the story comes full circle during the year, etc.), but it isn't. The tough thing about pitches is that every single word counts.

Good luck with this!

Tamara said...

I agree with a lot of the comments and don't have much to add. I thought Sarah Ahiers made a particularly good point, because the mention of the con threw me and I had to go back and re-read. I'd try to work that in there more smoothly.

Also (this is SOOOO picky, but i'm looking to say something nobody else has. haha) The line: Amanda insists on tagging along on the road trip he plans as an escape. He resists, but then decides on a plan that can use her.

Insists and resists sound really similar, and it almost trips up the tongue. My brain wanted to read it as the same word. And I did warn you that it was a super-picky point, but I thought I'd mention it.

Good luck, Hart!! I'm entering for the first time this year and hoping I do everything correctly!! :)