Thursday, February 19, 2015

Entry #40: NANNY MORTO

NANNY MORTO
25,000 words
MG Magical Realism / Horror

Revised Pitch:

MARY POPPINS meets THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, in a Middle Grade novel NANNY MORTO (25,000 words).

Only Eva and Phillip see the new nanny as a freaky skeleton - smooth skull for a face, bony fingers under the velvet gloves. Forget the park and playgrounds! Trips to the cemetery and visiting antique stores to collect seemingly random items become their new routine. Even so, the children slowly warm up to their peculiar caretaker.

However, Nanny Morto holds a secret. She is here to earn her death angel wings and requires a few items in order to complete this task, including a soul of a child. Nanny Morto must choose one of the siblings, and at the end of the summer - she does.

The final result is a spooky, but not quite as grim as it sounds, novel. I envision this story highly illustrated, much like THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET.


The first page (250 words):

A clean chalk-white skull grinned at Phillip from underneath a black velvet hat adorned with a golden broche. A large beaded purse sat on the floor.

The new nanny finished the interview with Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. She answered the questions satisfactorily, provided impeccable references, and was offered the position on the spot. When the parents inquired what the children should call her, she removed her gloves, revealing skinless bony hands, and replied, “Nanny Morto.”

Phillip wasn’t the skittish type, but when the hard white finger-bones stretched out to shake his hand, he paused.

“Mom?” His raised eyebrows and wide-eyed expression should have counted for something, but Mrs. Bennet did not understand her son’s hesitation. Unlike Phillip, all she saw was an elegant young woman qualified enough to care for her two children on a last minute notice. And so Mrs. Bennet frowned and nodded with meaning, prompting her ten-year old to take the bony fingers of their new nanny and shake.

“Pleased to meet you, Phillip,” Nanny Morto said as soon as their hands met. Her velvety voice matched her hat.

The bones gripped Phillip’s hand, and moved it up and down. The boy withdrew as soon as good manners allowed. He retreated behind the yellow sofa, mumbling, “Nice to meet you,” and rubbing his hands as if they were cold. Soon after, Phillip disappeared into the kitchen, but he continued to spy on the adults from the doorway, curiosity and the sense of imminent adventure rising in his veins.

21 comments:

  1. What an interesting premise! And I love that the playground is out, in favor of the cemetery!
    (Interesting that you felt you had to assure us that it wasn't as grim as it sounded about the death angel wings, because wowzers! It does sound chilling!!!)

    I think in the first 250 I need a bit more information that the kids can see the nanny's a skeleton but that the parents cannot. I might start with the second paragraph as my lead-off, then have Phillip come face to face with the bones, and have him look to his parents for guidance. When he says "Mom?" have him look pointedly at Nanny Morto's hands--and then maybe have more of a reaction, maybe even some interior monologue along the lines of "how could his mother not have seen the grisly bones?" After all, he is the curious type!

    I think it's great that his reaction is one of curiosity and having a sense of imminent adventure. That gives me a clue that maybe he's not the most squeamish of types. He seems the perfect charge for Nanny Morto!

    I would certainly read on to see where this story goes. I can imagine some great illustrations! Good luck.
    Michael (#15)

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    1. Michael, thank you very much for leaving the feedback. I had some comments earlier that expressed concern over the grim reality of my premise, hence the reassuring comments. I'm not sure I did good enough of a job weaving them in, but I sure did try. Thanks again!

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  2. Hi,
    I love the premise! It promises an interesting read. A couple of suggestions on the query. I'll place my comments in caps)
    Only Eva and Phillip see the new nanny as a freaky skeleton - smooth skull for a face, bony fingers under the velvet gloves (NICE! TRY TAKING OUT THE WORD 'ONLY'). Forget the park and playgrounds! Trips to the cemetery and visiting antique stores to collect seemingly random items become their new routine (A BIT CONVOLUTED. MAYBE- TRIPS TO THE CEMETERY AND PROCURING WEIRD ITEMS FROM OBSCURE ANTIQUE STORES BECOME THE NEW ROUTINE). Even so, the children slowly warm up to their peculiar caretaker. (TAKE OUT THE WORD 'SLOWLY'. YOU COULD TRY SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD OF WARM UP TO. ARE THEY FASCINATED / AWED? )

    However, Nanny Morto holds a secret. She is here to earn her death angel wings and requires a few items in order to complete this task, including a soul of a child. Nanny Morto must choose one of the siblings, and at the end of the summer - she does.(YOU COULD LEAVE IT AT 'MUST CHOOSE ONE OF THE SIBLINGS BEFORE THE END OF THE SUMMER' )

    The final result is a spooky, but not quite as grim as it sounds, novel. I envision this story highly illustrated, much like THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET.


    As for the 260, I really like your writing style. I could easily find myself reading more of this engaging story. Best of luck!

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    1. I appreciate you taking the time to comment more than you will ever know. Thank you very much!

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  3. Oh, I love the premise, mixing Mary Poppins with The Graveyard Book. Suja's suggestion about leaving the pitch at "must choose one of the siblings before the end of the summer" is excellent. That would leave me even more curious to see what you do with the story.

    I didn't have any trouble following that only Phillip could see she was made of bones, instead of flesh and blood. Nicely done, it's very cleanly written.

    G. at #10

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    1. Thank you very much. It really helps to see what stands out and what appears to be extra to more than one person.

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  4. Good evening Author,
    Reading the first page makes me think of the female Jack the Pumpkin King. Anyway, There is some solid feedback up above me that I shall not repeat.
    One other thing I saw was:
    These kids need a nanny, and the language "child" means that they are young, but you say they are ten. Tweens love a good ghost story, but I am interested in how you work around a ten year old not being able to communicate away a skeleton. I have a nephew at ten and if he doesn't like something or something is weird, he has no problems telling anyone.
    Not sure why the ten year old would hid behind a couch? I picture a tween crunched up behind a couch when I read it, and had to check to see his age.
    Is this the very first 250 of the book? If feels as if it is starting a few paragraphs in.
    I agree that this book would be great with illustration.
    Good Luck!
    Fellow Contestant and writing friend.

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    1. Hah, yes! It really is the very first page. I really appreciate the feedback. The story is a little odd, and I hope that the not-telling ten-year old makes sense. It's kind of like THE WILLOUGHBYS, where it's not exactly a fantasy world, but "normal" rules don't apply, and neither kids nor adults behave in the expected manner.

      thank you for stopping by to comment!

      -L.

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  5. Being greeted by someone called "death" must be like a child's nightmare came to life. I felt shivers down my spine and I was totally charmed by the originality and the voice.
    I suggest "including the soul of a child."

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    1. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment on my entry! I'm not sure what you meant by including the soul of child... If you get a chance, can you clarify, please? I take all the feedback into consideration.

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    2. In the pitch, you said "including a soul of a child." I think it reads better if you replace "a" by "the" because kids do not have more than one soul as far as I know. Just a nitpick :)

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  6. Move over Mary Poppins. There's a new nanny in town. When reading the pitch I had to wonder why only the children saw the nanny's real form. Why didn't Phillip scream or vocalize his fears when he first met her? The premise is intriguing and the story is definitely unique. I look forward to reading more.

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  7. Your opening is both picturesque and kind of creepy. Well done. I second Gwynne's comment that it's very cleanly written. As a result, I can't think of any critiques to make, Your pitch and opening are in fine form.

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  8. I don't have a whole lot to add other than I really love this!! I hope you do great. Good luck :)

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  9. Debra, Eltsmith, and Kelly, thank you for the love. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Good luck to you too!

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  10. Most comments have given any critique I would, so I'll just reinforce the point that, in the pitch, the tension would be better served without "-she does" at the end of that line. It spoils a little of the wracked tension, like a rope cut before we were ready.

    Besides this, I love the premise! Though I am curious why the conflict is centered around Nanny Morto's decision rather than our apparent main character's. Skewing the conflict more to their point of view might help this issue. She must choose one of the siblings', and how do they feel about that? What are THEY going to do about it? They're our main characters, so its their choices that affect the conflict.

    Besides those issues, this really sounds like something I'd pick up in a second! A fascinating idea!

    Good luck!
    -#34

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  11. An illustrated, MG horror? Swoon! I'm so on board. Your nanny makes me think of the Day of the Dead-style makeup and gorgeous Gothic outfits and anime/manga Death Gods: morbid and lush and fascinating. I love how Phillip sees this skeletal woman as a vehicle for adventure, rather than a blood-curdling terror. Kids. They do love to be scared and amused. Your language is vivid and clear, but I would've liked just a bit more description of the nanny/Phillip's reaction to her (I know, 250 words is so little!). Your opening has left me with questions, and I'd definitely continue reading to find out the answers. (And to get more of this amazing, dark fantasy!)
    Best of luck!
    Katya
    #44 The Land of Joy and Sorrow

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  12. Pitch:
    Such an interesting premise! Most of it reads like the back cover of a book, which is very effective, but I'm a little thrown when you mention yourself at the end. I think the illustration idea is really cool, but I wonder if you could use the word count to further explain the characters/plot?

    First page:
    Love it. You throw us right into the action! This is something I can really see kids loving. Good luck!

    Domenic (#28)

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    1. you are right, of course. I will need to find a better way to plug the illustrated part in. Thank you for stopping by to comment!

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