Friday, December 2, 2011

#56 YA Steampunkish Urban Fantasy: The Stars Fell Sideways

TITLE: The Stars Fell Sideways
GENRE: YA Steampunkish Urban Fantasy

Alison Arroway’s a teen stunt double. While filming in Portugal, their boat shipwrecks and Alison and pampered teen actress Pomegranate find themselves on the lost island of Atlantis. Only one problem: now that they know the secret of the island, the Atlanteans don’t want them to leave. They're stuck with corsets, strange steam-driven contraptions, and a ruthless army Captain. They'll go through a mountain, literally, to find the Book of Blue, that will explain how to make the 'stars fall sideways' in order to save the day and earn their freedom. 

Where did the casting director find this guy? Villians-R-Us?

I grunted as I hung from the cliff, my fingers barely holding on to the plastic edges fifteen feet above the soundstage.

Aragno laughed again and stomped away. I watched his saggy belly sway above the ridiculous codpiece as he strutted down the back ramp and over to the nearby table. He took a quiet drink from a large Nalgene bottle and winked at me, the feathers in his hat blowing madly from the force of the wind machine beside him.

Refocusing on the ledge, I started swinging my legs up, trying to get a foothold. The sharp plastic edges dug into my fingers, but I pushed down the pain. I had been hanging for nearly five minutes now, and my muscles were definitely burning.

“Need a break?” The director said from below me.

“No!” I yelled back, voice shaking with the effort. Pull it together. Pull. It. Together.

I gave my legs another swing and finally found purchase. I gripped the plastic and rubber grass for all it was worth, and heaved myself up and over the edge, where I landed with a thump in the fake dirt.

“Cut! Alright, Pom, you’re in.”

A girl dressed exactly the way I was approached me from the right. “You could have been more graceful, you know. Everyone’s going to make fun of the way I did that.”

I stared up at her. “Pomegranate, I—”

“Really,” she interrupted. “Get out of the frame.”


  1. What a fun premise! I'd read on. I love Alison's feisty personality and relish the upcoming conflict between her and spoiled P.

  2. Logline: If I picked this up in a store, I'd put it right back down. I have no interest in hollywood, I don't know why they want to leave Atlantis, and I'm not even sure 'saving the day' entails anything other than leaving.

    Opening: Okay. If someone shoved this book in my hand, and I just started there, I would read it. The first paragraph hooks me, I love her descriptions of everything (and everyone), and I want to smack Pom. But if, after reading that, I looked at that logline, it would go back on the shelf. Maybe I'd get it out at the library...

    Good excerpt, but work on the logline a bit!

  3. Love the voice in this! I even love Pom, she's so bitchy.

    I agree with Alaina, I think you can condense the logline. It just needs to be more...short and sweet, ya know? I do like the elements you present in the logline and I LOVE the premise.

    I'm a bit biased having read part of this story, but I adore the opening to this. The dialogue snaps and the voice shines.

    Great job & Good luck ;o)

  4. I like the premise of this. I agree with Erica about the dialogue & the voice shining. The contrast between Alison and Pomegranate (great name) suggests there will be some fun tension/pulling together in this story.

    The excerpt is wonderful, but I think the logline needs tightening a bit.

    Great job. Good luck :D

  5. This is a very different story line. Very intriguing but I agree the logline needs some help. Short and sweet would work brilliantly.

    Love the first 250 words. I'm hanging on that ledge with her.

    Though I will admit, the name Pomegranate gets me. I get what you're going for by naming her that but it kind of takes me out of the seriousness of the story. Unless you're going for wild and wacky. Then again, I'm not a fan of the name Katniss or Primrose or Peeta in the Hunger Games (even though I love the series) so take my opinion for what it's worth.

    Great story start.

  6. I like Alison's voice, and I love that she's a teen stunt double. That feels fresh to me. The obvious tension between Alison and Pomegranate (that is such a great name lol) is also really nice, because I'm assuming they team up and become good friends once they need to get out of Atlantis.

  7. So, without the logline, I'd continue reading this. Really unique premise, but the logline really makes me worry that this is just going to be spread in too many conflicting directions.

    Agree on the Pomegranate, sorry.

  8. I like the premise but I don't think your logline does it justice. It sounds scattered.

    Love the opening though. I'm hanging on the ledge with her. Just watch for word repeats. I think I saw the word 'plastic' in there about 4 times....

  9. I adore the premise. I didn't have an issue with the log line, but after reading the comments, I'd suggest switching things up a bit - what about, after the first two sentences, ending with "...They're stuck with corsets, strange steam-driven contraptions, and a ruthless army Captain. Only one problem: now that they know the secret of the island, the Atlanteans don’t want them to leave," and leaving out the bit about the mountain and Book of Blue?

    As Authoress said, the first 250 are more important than the log line, and I think you nailed them. The very hint of conflict with Pom has me wanting more.

  10. LOVED this! The title is gorgeous. The opening line of your 250 made me laugh out loud! Villains-R-Us, bahaha!! I was completely entrenched in your writing. I love whole concept, and I want more! :D Nicely done.

  11. Oh, and for the record, love the name Pomegranate! ;)

  12. I'm joining team Pomegranate too! Steampunk. Stunt girl. Conflict. Love it! <3

  13. This sounds amazing! Atlantis + steampunk? Awesome. I agree the logline is a little long, but I think an easy way to condense would be to just take out the line about corsets, steam-driven contraptions, etc. I think all of that is to be expected from the genre. Most importantly, though, the writing is great and drew me in from the very first (witty) line. Good luck!!

  14. Jumping onto the Pomegranate train. I love the name, especially if the girl is the daughter of an actor/actress.

    I really enjoyed this entry. I'd like to get to know your MC and Pomegranate. You've set up an interesting relationship between these girls and I'd read on to see how it pans out.

    Unfortunately, I was a little overwhelmed by the logline. It felt sort of scattered. Maybe you can streamline it a bit, focus in on the meat of the story. Or not. This is all so subjective

    Either way, I think you'll do well in this auction. Great work!

  15. I liked this one and would definitely buy it based on the opening.

  16. Oooh, I'm a sucker for stories about stunt doubles and (I'm guessing?) two unlikely friends becoming besties. Actually really refreshing that it's not a boy she'll be bonding with (not to say I'm not guilty of that...*ahem*)

    Aaaanyway. I do think you can axe the whole second-to-last sentence in your logline. Story has enough intrigue without it, and all it really tells us is that your story is steampunk, which is in your genre anyway. But that's neither here nor there, really, unless you're using this paragraph for your query.

    You paint a great picture in your first 250. I can totally visualize the whole scene. And I lurrrve Pom.

    Let me know when it's published so I can beg you for an ARC! #TeamPomegranate

    (Good luck.)

  17. While I like the writing very much, I'm stuck on the fact that teens are never used as stunt doubles (or stand ins) due to union regulations. To double a teen, they'd just use a short, slim woman (or even a man in a wig). Good luck anyway.

  18. I really like what you have written here! Steampunk + Atlantis = Fun!

    The logline is a bit long, but it is very clear, so I didn't mind it. You could cut out reference to Portugal as that isn't where the plot takes place. The line "they're stuck with corsets, strange steam-driven contraptions" seemed there only to establish the steampunk elements of the genre. This concerns me a bit, because there is more to steampunk than just a cool aesthetic. If you could weave the steampunk elements in in a way that makes them more key to the plot, I think it would be stronger. You don’t want steampunk fans thinking you just glued some cogs and corsets on your novel to take advantage of the genre’s popularity. (Which I am not saying you did, only that you don’t want anyone to think it!)

    The name Pomegranate is goofy, but that is sort of the point, non? ;-) I would keep it. Only nit on the 250 words (which were great) is that you overuse the word plastic.

    Great job!

  19. Oh I loved the name Pomegranate, too! :D

    And I like that they will end up in Atlantis and that they'll have to wear corsets and all.

    But as some said above, I also thought the pitch was a bit scattered. I think that you can tighten it to the main conflict.

    Nice 250, though ;)
    But as Laura said, I wonder if really a teen could be a stunt double?

    Oh, and I forgot to say I love the title too. ;)

  20. As mentioned previously, the log line needs work. A better sense of the stakes and the consequences. Why are they saving the day? As written currently, it seems more important for your MC and Pomegranate to leave than to save the day.

    Also, there's a valid point in whether a teen stunt double would be used in a film.

    I do like the voice of your MC though. Your opening drew me in and I would read more.

  21. I loved the voice right away. The line about Villains-R-Us made me smile. :) Seems like a fun read! Good luck with this!

  22. I love the idea of Atlantis as a steampunk city; it's very different to the 'lost tribal civilisation' motif. I didn't mind the mention of the steampunk elements in the logline as others did, but I do agree that you could show the stakes more-- why do they want to leave a place that sounds so awesome? Is it just to get back to family or is there a boyfriend? Or does she just want to get away from Pomegranate, a hard thing to do as the only other foreigner on a secret island?

    I remember the excerpt from another blog, and I still love it-- the voice, meeting the MC literally hanging off a cliff (demonstrating a unique and interesting career) and getting right into the interpersonal conflict. Wouldn't change a thing.

  23. I think the logline could probably be re-written completely to just, as others say, make it short and sweet. I don't think you need the word "literally" for starters, and maybe just try to tighten it up. You've got all the info in the logline that I think is necessary, but I think you could rephrase it to make it snappier.

    But the 250 words - awesome!! I love the premise, I love the idea of a spoiled Hollywood starlet plopped into a steampunk world (which I've never been a huge fan of or know much about, but I have to admit, this twist makes it seem more entertaining), and most of all, I think you've got a fantastic voice with just the right amount of description. Very visual. Your description of Aragno brought him to life immediately. Great work!

  24. I remember this from WOC! Loved it then too, been hoping to see good news about it. I absolutely LOVE your MC, your voice, the fact that she's a stunt double, Atlantis, steam punk, everything about this really is fresh and new. The only critique I can offer is the last line of your logline - you say finding the book is the only way they can save the day and earn their freedom....but given that the only real conflict you've described is the Atlanteans not wanting to let them go that seems redundant. Is there a different problem at stake that requires saving the day, or would it be enough to just say 'that will explain how to make the stars fall sideways and earn their freedom'?

  25. Woot, Steampunk and Atlantis in one go! I'm not sure exactly of the conflict in the logline. How are they saving the day by making the stars fall sideways? I thought they just wanted to get home to their families.

    I'm not sure about the Pomegranate name. I realize it could be a crazy stage/celebrity name, but I find it jarring. Pom works all right, I guess, but I hope the full name isn't used often.

    I actually got confused by the first line. I wonder how it would look if you opened with the second paragraph, and then snuck the Villains-R-Us line after Aragno laughing and stomping away. I like how he winked at her from the table--he seems like an interesting char and I hope he'll be shipwrecked with them!

    Other than that it's an interesting and fun scene, and I like that Alison is the stunt double instead of the actress. I think she might be in for situations where she'll have to push her skills to survive, which will be awesome to watch. Good luck!

  26. Mixed feelings here - I love the idea of a stunt double heroine and would probably pick up the book on that basis alone. (Though I also wondered if a teen one was plausible.) I also like the steampunk thing. I find it a little difficult to wrap my head around a story that encompasses both; maybe it sounds a little gimmicky. BUT the excerpt was cool enough that I would definitely read on. I'm a sucker for Hollywood!

    I found the Villains-R-Us thing a bit self-conscious-teeny; you throw that line in there but then don't really tell us anything about the villain or the story he's filming. I understand you're focusing on Alison and her sarky voice, but I do expect the first line to be significant and it seemed like you moved on from him very quickly, and it took me out of context for a moment right at the beginning.

    I also find the name Pomegranate a bit self-conscious, but can see what you're doing with it and willing to be won over! ;)

    I'm being picky, but I REALLY enjoyed the excerpt and I wish there was more of it to read!!

  27. ============================


    I just wanted to clear some things up before the auction goes up today.

    1. Thank you soooo very much to all of you who left comments. Your insights were thoughtful and graceful and you made some really excellent points that I will definitely take into consideration.

    2. Yes, the logline sucks. I've really struggled with it, and almost feel like it's the hardest part of writing the entire book. Some versions were too short and confusing, some too long and bogged down... finding that perfect middle ground is so difficult. But again, you guys gave some great ideas and I'll definitely be re-writing it with your suggestions in mind.

    3. Yes, technically you can't be a stunt double if you are under 18. But this *is* fiction and Alison does a quick explanation about why her circumstance is the way it is. Vamps and demons and volcano goddesses live in other books, an underage stunt double lives in mine.

    4. A HUGE thanks to Team Pom!! I'm glad the name conjures up ridiculous movie star baby names. That's exactly what I was going for, and that's exactly what Pom is. Also with this, I think I refer to Pom as Pomegranate maybe twice in the entire book. So all of you that were worried about it being jarring, it's totally not. :)

    5. Atlantis is steampunk-ish. There are corsets, clockworks, handy-made things, steam contraptions, wind-powered vehicles, subversive thinkers, evil madmen, and lots of butt-kicking. There's revolution, gears, rebellion, a bit of politics (mainly underground vs. oppressive military), shipwrecks, cave exploration, and one giant contraption powered by a tiny book. It might not be 100% steampunk cannon (nor should it be in my opinion) but it's definitely not gimmicky.

    Again, HUGE thank you's to all of you that took the time to leave comments. I'm sooooo freaking excited about today, I barely slept last night! Best of luck to all of you who also have entries in today's auction!


  28. Yay! Good luck in the action today. And even though, I know technically someone under 18 can't be a stunt double, it really didn't bother me. This is fiction. :) I thought that part of the premise had a Meg Cabotish feel to it (in the best possible way).

  29. Oh my goodness, you could not have possibly picked a better name for that character than "Pomegranate."

    Wishing you so much luck in...oh...ten minutes!!!

  30. @C.A. - actually, I work in the film industry, specifically with kids, and there are a few stunt kids out there. I met one when he was 12. Both his parents are stunt people, it's a whole stunt family. It's rare, as "regular" kids are not allowed to do stunts. Although, I'd have to look it up, I think they can't be called stunts, but "special skills" lol.

  31. Thanks, Danika! That's nice to know! That's actually what Alison is, part of a stunt family :)


    Logline: In general, I’m not clear on the stakes here. What about Atlantis do they need to save? Why them?

    Line notes: I guess I just don’t know what’s fantasy, what’s realistic, etc. Steampunkish Urban Fantasy is a lot of labels to put on a novel. Are these girls in our world, and then find themselves in another when they wreck?

    Overall: I’m confused by this opening scene. Filming? Not filming? Why has she been hanging from a cliff for five minutes, with cast members coming and going, in pirate costumes and observed drinking from Nalgene bottles? I’d rather this feel like it was in scene (with stakes) and then “cut” (and change our awareness of the situation) to reveal it’s not real. I think you can take more control of the narrative, rather than just showing us everything that Alison sees.
    What’s good here is that I can feel the frustration with Pom – what a selfish pain in the butt!
    I think you can probably do some interesting things with the layers of the world of the film they’re shooting and the shipwreck/Atantis fantasy they’re about to enter.

    Best of success.