Friday, September 21, 2007

Query 6: Death Comes for the Pooka

Since you represent such authors as --- and ---, you might be interested in my young adult urban fantasy novel OTHER.

Sometimes being half-pooka really sucks.

Pooka? The hell’s a pooka? Is it like a tribble?
Sure, it’s incredibly cool to shapeshift into a horse, an owl, and every other animal you can think of, but seventeen-year-old Gwen has to hide her talent. Her neighbors would freak if they knew.
That seems too obvious to mention.
Others remain a persecuted minority in America, considered deviant, infected, satanic, or all of the above.
Oh, like the xmen. Introduce the idea that there’s a secretive pooka sub-class of society earlier to avoid confusion.
Gwen hasn’t even told her boyfriend yet, and she really should, especially since they’re talking about going all the way.
Why, is there some danger of her turning into an animal while in the act? Some guys are into that, you know.
She’s also trying to stop ogling this cute new guy who seems really foxy. As in fox-spirit. He’s got to be a closet Other.
I’m trying to stop picturing pooka sex.
Thinking about doing her boyfriend while she crushes on someone else is going to translate to most readers as “slut”. Not a sympathetic characteristic.
Boy problems take a backseat when the murders start. Gwen finds the bodies of a watersprite couple, a little old man nobody knew was a leprechaun, then a dryad who was her best friend.
Holy crap, it’s a fairy land cornucopia.
All the clues point toward human hatred. The police look the other way, so it’s up to Gwen to find the killer before the killer finds her. Who can she trust? Is her semi-normal life history?
You need to get to the mystery part sooner in this summary. And I hope you’re getting to it sooner in your manuscript—like, the end of chapter 1 or the beginning of chapter 2. Don’t screw with people about what genre they’re reading.
I might actually get into this manuscript if it’s done with a sense of humor—I mean, this is absurd. But it could be a jasper-fforde-for-kids kind of absurd. It doesn’t sound like that’s where you’re going, though.
Complete at about 64,000 words, OTHER is written in first person, present tense. The story contains death, sex, and profanity, but none of it is gratuitous or excessively graphic.
My articles on writing appear in --- and ---. I am studying literature and writing at the --- College. Would you like to read OTHER? Thank you for your time.


Anonymous said...

hm. i'd read it!

another anonymous editor

angelarene said...

I would read this too.......EA, your comments are so damn funny!!!I wish somehow the word pooka could be changed too, because it's such a non-sensical word that it's easily laughable! But I think the premise of the story rocks!

Gina Perry said...

Wow. Thanks for giving me a laugh. I actually HAVE heard about pookas (is that the plural?) from an animated theme park ride I worked on years ago. I think it might be part of Irish folklore... That pooka appeared as a horse and didn't seem nearly as troubled or promiscuous!

Anonymous said...

Pooka, as I know it, is from the play, movie called "Harvey"

It is the invisable rabbit.

I think I know who wrote this query and she has guts for posting.
I hope it works out for her. She got some nice suggestions here. And funny ones to boot.

Literaticat said...

a pooka is a shapechanging creature out of celtic faerie mythology. here's the wikipedia article.

The word "Pooka" cannot be changed, Angela, unless the premise of the book is also changed - if there is a book all about a shapechanging creature that LOOKS like a pooka and ACTS like a pooka but is called a "hexor" or something ... the author is liable to get letters from the Celtic Mythology Terms of Use Advisory Board.

particularly because lots of people, particularly people who read lots of fantasy and folklore, know what it is, and don't find it laughable.

(the word can be spelled differently, however. that might help.)

and yes, HARVEY was a pooka.

and no, I did *not* write this - but i think, despite a bad query, i'd be tempted to read it.

angelarene said...

Oh for goodness sakes....There's a Celtic Mythology Terms of Use Advisory Board that would be upset if an author changed the name "pooka" to one that depicted a better sense of ancient mythology or folklore, for the average reader (not the celtic Ph.D's?}? I looked it up and you're right, even a slight change in spelling could make it seem more authentic and not remind me of a pet's name.--- The Phooka (Old Irish), (also Pooka, Puka, Phouka, Púka, Pwca in Welsh)--- So... I'm gonna have to disagree with you literacat that the premise would have to be changed if you change "Pooka" to a more serious word ? I mean this is fiction/fantasy, Right? OR are we going for historical fiction? No matter, I like the premise of the story and would read it, even if the word "Pooka" would take some getting used to! I know who wrote this too and she's good at what she does along with being brave for posting, but I really do think as an avid reader that word, whether due to spelling or whatever, detracts from the seriousness of the story and no writer wants that to happen(or any publisher for that matter).

Literaticat said...

angela: i was joking about the CMToUAB, obviously. but i don't think it takes a PHD to know that this term exists. In fact, every single thing I know about Irish Mythology has come from published children's books, including POOKAS.

JK Rowling used the terms "grindylow" and "veela", those are "weird" but correct words. the SPIDERWICK series & other Holly Black books have made hay with "brownies" and "pixies" and "nixies" and "kelpies" - the last of which, in particular, are nothing to laugh about, since they will eat you just as soon as look at you.

I just really don't think there is anything wrong with the word Pooka, since it MEANS something and it not a random made up word. Though, again, I'd probably change the spelling.

Literaticat said...

and angela - i don't you to think i'm picking on you. just playing devil's -- um, or in this case, POOKA'S -- advocate.

Anonymous said...

I've been on the recieving end of snarkiness before, and laughed at myself, but I find it hard to laugh now. There's a fine line between funny and nasty.

That said, I appreciate the input regarding the word "pooka." I'll consider tweaking it so it's less "laughable."

Author of the query

angelarene said...

How gullible am I? I really thought there was an advisory board!!! I have been humbled:)You're right about the other words like, brownies, pixies being silly sounding, but pooka just sounds too similiar to poopa, or doopa or something that I don't take it seriously. I'm so sorry to have laughed at the writer's expense but Ea's comments about guys liking animalistic sex and fairyland cornucopia were funny....and really the writer should be proud, because EA didn't even bash her writing or say the premise was beyond repair, she just wants it switched up a bit. Just an FYI, I like the spelling phouka the best:)

Literaticat said...

I hope that the author realizes that there was nothing bad said about her writing - just that the query needs to be changed if she wants it to grab the reader and make sense.

I personally LOVE the idea of "the others" as a sub-class that is persecuted, as EA says, like the x-men. I don't think that's a mean comment at all, I think that's a compliment. But I do think it needs to come earlier if we are to make sense of the rest of it.

I also think your tone - "foxy. as in fox-spirit" - is funny. But I do agree again with EA that the mystery is interesting and you need to get to it faster.

I think you are reading "absurd" as negative, when I don't think EA meant it to be. I know that personally, I would want this book to be somewhat zany and over-the-top - hello, she's a teenage crime-solvin' POOKA, she better have a sense of humor about it! - and I think that's what EA meant by "absurd", not "bad.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the main character is a "slut" for being the girlfriend of one character while having a crush on another.

Especially since her boyfriend doesn't know she's half pooka, and clearly the other fox-spirit guy KNOWS what its like to be an OTHER.

This is a classic set up. Does the MC risk her boyfriend's horror and tell him who she is? Does she chicken out and maybe take the easy road and reject him before he can reject her?

And what about the Fox guy? Does being a pooka make him a better person, or worse.

These are all interesting places that I'd want to go.

My only "advice" if you can call it that is to maybe make it more clear in the query which part of the plot has more weight. Right now they both seem equal -- murders and the love triangle. One has to be dominant, and drive the bulk of the story. I'm assuming its the murders, but I couldn't tell that from the query.

lizzy_lyn said...

Pookas are cool.

Marissa Doyle said...

I think maybe the "slut" impression comes from the fact that in one sentence the MC is contemplating going all the way with her boyfriend, and in the very next sentence is ogling the cute new guy. Would it be possible to cut one sentence or the other, or rephrase?

Anonymous said...

I'm going to decloak here to thank everybody for their input, whether I agreed with it or not. And yes, I did agree with some of it after I got past the ouch, ouch! stage of hopping around and clutching my query. I'm not sure my authorial armor is thick enough for Editorial-Anonymous-strength snark. ;)

Thanks again,

Anonymous said...

I feel like I've read this book. What's the one where the girl turns into an owl?

Anonymous said...

--Emay, do you mean OWL IN LOVE by Patricia Kindl? I've read it, and my novel's significantly different in both plot and tone.

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