Monday, 5 March 2012

Pitch Pitch - two novels today

Two pitches for novels today and, as last week, I have no time to add my comments as I’d wish so, it’s over to you, readers. You should know the form by now but if not, scroll down to last week’s pitch or put the words Pitch Pitch in the search box on the right.

Constructive comments, please, and don’t forget to say whether you are normally a fan of this genre.

The Apprentice – a historical novel by Zeba Clarke, who writes as Madeleine Conway
A young woman avoids the convent by masquerading as her brother at the decadent court of Henri IV. Young Apollonia, apprenticed to her uncle, a court painter, is ensnared in the intrigues of Henriette D'Entragues, the King's mistress. D'Entragues is determined to marry the King. But he opts to marry the Duke of Tuscany's daughter, rich, pretty Marie de Medici. The two women become bitter rivals, each jockeying for power and precedence.

When her uncle is accused of murdering one of the King's many lovers, Apollonia risks everything to save him, including her own identity and the respect of the man she loves, to identify which of the King's women actually instigated the murder. 

The first in a trilogy following the life and love affairs of Apollonia Ghiselli, successful artist and spy, as she travels the courts of Europe, caught between the demands of her work and the desires of the two men who love her.

Reparation – a crime novel by Joanne Michael
Two women battle for supremacy, not only against each other but over their inner darkness.  Only one knows the face of her adversary.

Returning to North Wales, in an attempt to put her husband’s infidelities and betrayals behind them, Jenny Richards, a former poster girl for the Met., tries to rebuild her shattered family and self-confidence.  As she delves deeper into the cold cases of six missing, elderly women, an insidious sense of foreboding and danger threaten to destroy what is left of her family and her sanity.

Laura Collins; a.k.a. Libertine, an ambitious reporter; has her own closely guarded demons to purge. Suffering a childhood littered with abuse and indifference from those in authority, she watches as Jenny inexorably moves toward her.  As Laura’s carefully maintained mask begins to crumble, her primal instinct to protect her deeply loved sister ignites.  Laura has to stop Jenny.  Permanently.

Comments? What do you like/not like and what could be improved?


JO said...

I'd read both of these - so feel a bit less floundery than usual commenting on these. (Having said that, I don't know much about pitching!)

The Apprentice - looks like a great historical romp, which has the potential to be great fun.
I'd like a name in the first sentence - I had to go back to see who you meant by 'a young woman'. A shame, as the woman-dressed-as-man thing should set things up well - but then she's apprentice to her uncle? How does that work?
I had to read this several times to work out what the story is - partly, I think, due to the complicated names. And odd bits of info that don't seem attached to anything - like 'respect of the man she loves' - we don't know anything about that, and her being a 'successful artist' - where does that fit in? and who are the two men who love her?
Once I unpicked this, I can see it has the potential to be a great read. And it may be that someone who is accustomed to working with pitches gets it instantly!

Reparation. Again - this looks like a great read. My thoughts here are about your sentence structure - too many subordinate clauses beginning sentences, so the reader has to wait for the main clause and the punch line (eg As she delves deeper into .... Laura Collins; a.k.a. Libertine, an ambitious reporter; has her own closely guarded demons to purge.) I wonder if this can be punchier if you have shorter sentences.
I dont like 'battle for supremacy' - it sounds too much like politics, and that's not what you're getting at.
But you've a great story here.

Good luck to both of you.

Kate Dunn said...

I think both pitches perfectly illustrate the dilemna of wanting to attract readers to your novel, while trying not to sound too formulaic. Like Jo I found the first slightly confusing and thought both were a little over-written. Is there a risk of ending up sounding too much like PR blurb? I bet there are excellent books lurking behind these pitches.

Elizabeth Dunn said...

I read both genres and like the ideas in both these novels.

I think The Apprentice hits the reader with too many people and names in the first parag - woman, brother, Henry, Appollonia, uncle, Henriette. The Query Shark would scream bloody murder, I fear.

The second paragraph is clearly stated. The third mentions the man she loves which is probably a bit too late. If it is central to the plot, it should be added at the beginning in place of 'avoiding the convent.' I would cut the third paragraph after 'man she loves' to avoid lengthiness and confusion. Hope that helps a little.

Reparation. I agree with Jo. Battle for supremacy sounds a bit like Star Wars to me.

I think it might be better to start directly with 'Jenny Richards, a former... after her husband's infidelities.' And I wondered why she is delving into the cold cases. Does she work for the police? Is that the Met reference? Sorry, bit slow. Another moment of confusion - are Laura and Jenny sisters? Or is the sister a missing woman? If it's not me being dumb then maybe we need some clarification. Good luck Joanne and Zeba.

E.Maree said...

Completely agree with JO, both of these are fresh and interesting stories.

The Apprentice – I'd cut the full names here, keep it to first-names only so it's clearer to read. No need to say 'Young Apollonia', you've already said she's a young woman. Change 'he' to 'the King' for clarity.

Which of 'The two women' are rivals? I can't see any reason for Apollonia and Henriette to be rivals, but if Henriette and Marie are rivals that pulls the focus away from your main character.

How do Henriette and Marie link to the murder, are they suspects?

Love the concept of a female artist and spy in historical Europe.

Reparation – Brilliant opening paragraph.

You use a surprising amount of semicolons, as well as commas. I'd reword the opening for paragraph 3 to: Ambitious reporter Laura 'Libertine' Collins has her own closely guarded demons to purge.

Is Laura the killer of the elderly women? As it's hinted she's capable of murder, I'm assuming she's the villein of the story... but how would killing elderly women help her protect her sister? I'm missing the link here.

This feels like a really fresh concept, I love the originality of a cat-and-mouse came with two female main characters. If I read this on the back cover of a book, I'd pick it up.

SofaJudgeJo said...

Firstly I'd like to thank Nicola for giving me this wonderful opportunity.

Thank you also to those who have left comments they are much appreciated. In direct response first to JO, I agree re 'Battle of Supremacy', it doesn't fit at all. Why did I not see that?

Thanks Kate, I hope the book is far better than my pitch. I found writing the pitch much harder than creating the story!

Elizabeth, you also picked up on that weakness regarding supremacy, so thank you too. No, they're not sisters, they are adversaries but both have been betrayed and both are damaged. A little like good and evil twins of circumstance.

E.Maree, Haha I do show too much love for semicolons and probably misuse them dreadfully. I will try to curb my affection. Your advice for paragraph three was spot on. I'm taking it!

Yes, Laura is a killer but only of one of the victims (so that's okay), her younger sister is mentally ill, Laura is her only family and will do anything to defend her right to protect her.

I really enjoyed writing two women lead characters. Jenny and Laura will both headline two more books...

Again, sincere thanks to you all for the encouragement but also for the very constructive critique.

Zeba Clarek said...

Thank you very much for the comments - those are really useful and I'm really grateful. Condensing without confusing is tough!

I've printed out the comments and am going to work through them to try and cut the confusion, simplify and clarify.

Johanna Nield said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johanna Nield said...

I don't have anything constructive to add as all my points and questions have been covered, but I'd like to say that although I wouldn't normally read anything from either of these genres, I'd really like to read both of these books!