Monday, January 28, 2013

Bouncer Post #102

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 96,000


Kidnapped as a child, seventeen-year-old Rose knows how fragile life as a dancing Flower can be. Forced into The Garden, a burlesque troupe of slave girls, she has learned to see dangers everywhere when a wrong word could mean losing your tongue—or worse.

When The Garden is booked to perform for the lord of the kingdom and her slave master kills a fellow dancer to keep Rose in check, she decides to break free. Her plan is simple: grab a hostage and run like hell. What she didn't count on was her hostage being the leader of a rebellion against the current ruler, and she definitely never dreamed she’d end up joining. But with her old slave master threatening to kill off a dancer a day until she returns and the kingdom looking to stamp out the rebels, Rose quickly realizes that nowhere is really safe, especially since she’s the unwilling heir to the throne.
Caught between the family she’s created for herself in the rebellion and the title she’s never wanted, Rose must decide whether her birthright is a crown of petals or a crown of thorns. Only then will she be able to rescue the other Flowers she abandoned, unite the war-torn kingdom and maybe even save herself.

First 250:

My new shackles are lined with needle-thin spikes that bite into my chapped wrists and ankles. Their constant prickling is a reminder of what my attempted freedom cost me, a warning of what another failed break will mean. My carriage, cage really, jolts to a stop and I fly off the splintered bench, landing hard on my hands and knees in the dirty straw that lines the floor. Inching up until I'm sitting, I look up at the wooden roof. A crack of light spills into the cart, its weak rays like gentle fingers on my face. It gives the illusion of hope. I turn away from it before that seed can take root in my chest and grow.

From the outside, our traveling band looks a lot like the circus that used to visit my father’s land every spring. The brightly colored carriages portray the traveling 13 Dancing Flowers, but unlike the circus, we aren’t meant to entertain the children. The paintings on the sides of our carts are meant to tantalize, each dress is brighter than the last, accentuating the curves and dips of our forms as we dance, forced to lose one petal at a time.

Sounds rise up from the crack in my wooden cage: men shouting orders, horses whinnying impatiently, cart doors being thrown back and the materials to make our temporary garden being dragged out of storage. I crawl towards the small hole in the edge of my cart and wait. The banging begins like clockwork.


  1. Wow, this has the potential to be awesome: high stakes, good voice, feminist undertones, fresh concept. Your 250 are strong and bring us right into the action. I would definitely turn that page.

    I was rolling along with your query until I hit the surprise "unwilling heir to the throne." This threw me a bit -- is it necessary to include here? It raises a whole lot more questions for me, stopping the query momentum, e.g., if she's heir to the throne, how come no one has rescued her?

    If you feel this is necessary to include in the query, I think I would prefer a little more context (was she always heir or did this happen recently somehow, e.g., she fulfilled aprophecy by escaping?). I'll admit I'm not a fan of princess stories, so making her a princess makes me less excited, but you could make it work through the Badass Princess Lea angle. Still, there's so much other drama, I wonder if this plot element is necessary. That said, I like the rest enough that you could possibly convince me by finessing the end of your query more.

    1. Greyson,

      Thanks so much for your feedback.

      I've been thinking all day about you stumbling on the "heir to the throne" thing. Would it be smoother for you if I said something along the lines of "especially since she is the long presumed dead heir to the throne" (though a bit more polished)?

      The heir thing is important to the story but not in the traditional sense. She the heir to the adjacent kingdom but I didn't want to bloat the query with a bunch of unnecessary details.

      I do my best to make Rose a badass in the novel. She is definitely not a normal princess with the experiences she's lived through.

      It is very encouraging that you'd continue to read even though that isn't one of your favorite elements in a story and I really appreciate all your honest feedback!

    2. I think even adding the heir bit in that sense throws me off. There's just such a beautiful cadence to this query, that adding another element of conflict hurts more than helps. Because it causes me to stop and and ask a ton more questions that aren't answered here, which causes confusion.

      I like the premise. :) So unique! I hope you get some offers, I'd love to read this book!

  2. FWIW, I think sexualized slavery (even if it's only burlesque) is going to be a hard sell with editors in the teen market...I could see the sexual slavery being amped up and sold quickly as erotica, though. (Plus, the market for that seems pretty hot right now.) But obviously that depends a lot on what you want to write, your comfort level, etc.

    I agree with Greyson that the unwilling heir to the throne bit threw me. But my biggest note would be to change some of these names--at least the name of the MC. Rose + Garden + Flowers is too-too.

  3. I just ran an errand and worried the whole time I was driving that the comment I posted may have unintentionally read as negative and I hope that isn't the case. I think the point I was trying to make is that...well, imagine if instead of this query being about Rose trapped as one of the Flowers in the Garden, it was Analisa, forced to perform in the Theatricam Botanicum (Theatricum Flora?), the erotic circus run by X. All of a sudden it has a cool, steampunk quality (which jibes a little better with the scary spiky wrist cuffs, imo). Just my two cents.

    1. Anonymous, it sounds as if you're trying to rewrite the author's premise, which I think is missing the point entirely.

      The Garden sounds intriguing. and based on what the author has written, I would love to read more.

    2. Anonymous, thanks for your suggestions. It seems like you really liked my premise which is good. However, the book I wrote is definitely YA and I love it that way. I do appreciate your opinions though!

      Ben, I'm so glad you think it sounds intriguing and that you'd like to read more! Made my day to read your comment.

  4. Amber, I am also intrigued and think this would be a very interesting read. The first 250 are beautifully written, and the "heir to the throne" line didn't throw me per se, but I just wasn't sure about it belonging in the query, it's kind of like the twist in the book being given away, you know what I mean? I like the query a lot before the "heir to the throne" part, but even then, I still think it's pretty solid.

    I'm #91.

  5. Hi Amber, I agree with Ben and Virginia--the heir to the throne perhaps doesn't belong in the query, as it would be a nice twist in the novel.

    And I disagree with Anonymous. The fact that it's 'sexual slavery' doesn't, in my opinion, rule it out of the YA market. Look at Lauren DeStefano's The Chemical Garden series. A very similar premise (particularly in book two), and it has been a smash hit in the YA market.

    I loved your query and your first 250. I would definitely read more. Well done and good luck! :)


  6. Well, damn. All right, everyone! I'm calling it right here. GARDEN OF THORNS will not only be allowed in by the bouncers, it will be shown the VIP lounge for a nice cocktail and perhaps a show.

    Seriously, this rocked. Congrats!

    Rhen #75

  7. I agree with Rachel, the 'heir to the throne' bit completely threw me out of rhythm, and although it's necessary in the story line, I'm not as certain it's necessary in the query.

    BUT...I have a feeling from the first 250, that the MC is aware she's the missing princess...? She does mention 'her father's land.' So I'm thinking it's not a twist to be revealed later in the story. I understand that, and if you still feel the 'heir thing' needs to be there, I'd add something to the first line as well (i.e. - "Kidnapped from a life of royalty as a child..."). That way it doesn't startle the reader so much when it comes up later.

    Other than that, I have nothing to add. You have a beautiful writing voice, strong command of the language, and a premise I would pick up in a heart beat. This story needs to be published already, because I want to read it!

    1. Lelia,

      You totally nailed it. She knows from the beginning who she is and the reader knows a few chapters later so it isn't a huge reveal. I'm going to look into slipping the royalty thing in a bit eariler so it isn't such a big surprise.

      Thanks so much for the suggestion! I really appreciate it!

  8. I agree with what others have said about the "heir to the throne," but at the same time, I don't see how you can cut it, because one of my favorite lines in your query is how she must decide between a crown of thorns or flowers. I thought the stakes were great in the query and your writing is solid in the 250. I also thought this phrasing: "...and she definitely never dreamed she’d end up joining" was a bit unclear. Is she joining the rebellion? I wasn't sure what you were trying to say there, but it might just be a matter of rewording. Good luck and thanks for your comments on mine!

  9. I don't have much to add about the query except that I was also thrown by the heir to the throne. Now - don't take offense - the query didn't entice me all that much but I'm quite certain it's just because I don't tend to read a lot of fantasy. So it's not you, it's me :). BUT, your first 250 DID interest me! Great voice - great use of first person present which can be done so so very badly if you don't know what you're doing. I love it and would read more! (Oh, and the flower names didn't bother me - this is a fantasy not a contemporary.) Good luck to you!
    Carol (#90)

  10. I love the premise and the writing in the first 250 is so strong. As everyone else has said, something must be done about the heir to the throne line in the query. I agree with the person who said you should just mention it earlier so it doesn't catch the reader between the eyes later. Good luck!

  11. I have to admit that the forced stripping makes me a little uncomfortable because that Maggie Steifvater blog that made the rounds last week really stuck with me. But setting that aside...the writing in your first 250 is v. nice, v. Rae Carson. The suggestion I'd add would be that I think it would really strengthen your query to give the reader a sense of yr MC's personal arc. You tell us what happens to Rose, but I don't know what I can expect to change about her character in order for all of these cool things to occur. And in a way, that's what your book is really about... Wld be a v slight tweak to query, but (imo) make a big diff to its impact. Good luck!

  12. Bouncer on the EdgeJanuary 31, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    High stakes and an unusual, daring premise. Well done. This was a hard call for me because sexual and exploitive slavery in YA makes me flinch. Your excellent word choices and imagery, though, made up for the riskiness of the subject matter. I'm interested in seeing how it is received in the next round. You're in!

    1. Oh my goodness! Thank you so much! This is so exciting.

      I know the topic is a little scary but The Garden is based on Geshias and Chinese history more than stripping and sexual slavery. There is a lot of violence in the book but no rape scenes and their treatment is mostly just hinted at.

      It's more of a story about how Rose grows into herself after she escapes.

      I'm just so thankful and can't wait to go in the next round! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  13. Congrats, Amber! I've been keeping an eye on this one. So glad you got in! :D