Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bouncer Post #139

MG Historical Fiction
25,000 words


Fates are altered and fortunes transformed for the thirteen young Elizabethans whose parallel lives all hinge upon an ill-fated betrothal between Lady Judith and that disreputable old codfish Lord Grimbald. Will Fortune’s wheel decide their fate as most Elizabethans believed, or will they take their own free-will (an idea which emerged in the Renaissance) into their own hands? Will Judith the Defiant escape to France to become a nun?  Does Agnes the Designing finally feel satisfaction after embroidering a not-so-nice nomenclature on to the back of Judith's wedding dress? Will Charity the Tenderhearted succeed at giving the wedding feast's main course back its freedom? Readers unravel the tangled threads of this interwoven tapestry, and come to learn much about Judith though the others’ candid (and sometimes scathing) stories of this complex young woman bound, like the others, by her station and her lot in life.

What makes “Fortune” different than most is that the first part of the book contains the thirteen fictional narratives, while the second section further engages the reader through playful, hip historical notes.  “Fortune” not only strives to entertain, but also illuminate. The third section of the book brings the story alive—literally, as it focuses on the bawdy origins of Elizabethan theater, and blithely shows how the whole first part of the book might be performed as a one-act play.   
When I’m not at the Bristol Renaissance Faire with my two lovely daughters in tow, I can be found in my garden planting Chamomile (for patience) and azaleas (for good fortune). I have a BA in English, and as my Mother says I “…do my English on the side,” by hammering out a few words whenever I find a moment to squeak it into my hectic life as a working, homeschooling mom of two.

First  250:

One:  Charity the Tenderhearted

I closed the door behind me without incident, having buttered the hinges that morning and sooth--there was no sound by which to betray me.  I crept away from the cottage leaving my parents and younger brothers sleeping soundly, though it had taken near a lifetime for John and James to quiet into their fitful childish sleep.  Sweeping soundlessly ‘cross the courtyard, mother’s dark shawl about my shoulders shrouding me from the half-moon’s glow, I made straightaway for the dovecote. Not a soul was about, the guards evidently feeling that the coops were beneath need of their steadfast watch.

They were wrong.

I intended to free them—the doves I mean. Hang the half-witted hens and the surly capons—even the charming songs of the larks left me indifferent—they were such nervous, anxious things. ‘Twas the doves alone that pulled at my heart with their gentle trills and trusting nature, gathering at my feet like innocent, hungry children as I broadcast their meal.  How could I leave them to their desperate fortune when they had given their unwavering trust to me, their jailer?  And now, would I truly be willing to disobey my father and mother--and even Lord Briarly to give them their freedom?  In truth, I would rather spend hours with my hands shrinking in freezing dishwater or have my face blister in front of the fire turning some ugly pig on a spit—that would be easy, mindless work, compared to having to work in the coops with Father.


  1. I think this could be a really fun idea for a middle grade historical- different girls whose lives and missions intertwine- but I think you need to focus more on the actual story and less on explaining the "structure" of your book in your query letter. You're just trying to get an agent's attention and make them want to read more. You can talk about details later (after they've already requested the manuscript!) Or, just make a small mention of it in the query.

    As far as the 250 go, I like the voice and I'm definitely feeling the historical vibe, but, to me, the word choice and overall writing feels a little advanced for middlegrade. I would think this better suited for a YA audience, who won't shirk from the historical words and terms. Just my two sense, though!

    I think you've got a fun concept here, and I wish you the best of luck in the contest!

    -Adrianna #142

    1. Hi Adrianna,
      Thanks for the time and consideration. Your advice was very fitting.
      ~Just Jill

  2. I agree with Adrianna. Though this is a non-traditional book, I would still find a narrative way to introduce your story, the most important characters and point out the main arc their story narratives will touch on. I'd also leave out elements like - (an idea which emerged in the Renaissance). Leave author out, keep story in, and I think it will sing.
    I love how all your characters have an attribute with their name, so I would keep that in your query. Very exciting. Best of luck, Amy (#168)

  3. Thanks for reading and commenting Amy! I appreciate your time.
    ~Just Jill

  4. Great opening line in the query. I know right away where you are going. Such a wonderful idea since learning history is much more fun through fiction and strong female characters in any time period make for a good story. I love the names! The language is fun but the "and sooth" distracted me in the first sentence so you might not need it.
    Great comments above and it does have more of a YA feel to it. What age are the girls and what issues do they face? That will help determine if it is the world of 12-yr-olds or YA.


  5. Thanks so much for your comments Debbie. "Fortune" used to be YA, but I changed it to MG after several comments recieved during a previous contest...
    Ain't that the way it goes?
    I think the target audience is 12-16.

    ~Just Jill

  6. Jill, I'm very curious to know what "not-so-nice" name was embroidered on the back of the wedding dress. Since this is MG, that eliminates a lot of words in my vocabulary of inappropriate words to put on a bridal gown!

  7. "There, amid cream-stitched rosebuds and swirling vines, (and fewer pearls), I have embroidered, very artfully I might add, one sizeable, simple word, a reminder of that quote straight from the mouth of God. I have hitherto stitched the word “Swine” on the back-side of that wretched girl’s wedding skirt, masterfully turning the letters so as to look like the most natural of twining vines and heart-shaped leaves, though no-eye but those that had been told my secret would be able to decipher it. Mother says embroidery is my best work, and verily, I would have to agree."

  8. It does sound more YA to me too. Don't give away too much in the query. #174