Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

SVS 8: Morlander: The Pirate’s Daughter – YA Historical January 23, 2014

Filed under: Blog,contest — chasingthecrazies @ 6:07 am
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Category/Genre: YA Historical


Word Count: 64,000



My Main Character is most uncomfortable with: 



Life on a pirate ship is nothing but half-rabid rats; rancid, rotting food; and the stench of an unwashed crew. Add snow to the mix, and seventeen-year-old Jenny might decide to walk the plank. But her mother, the Red Lady pirate, plans to sail them all to warmer waters and calmer seas — if she can avoid the hangman’s noose. No, it’s sun all the way for Jenny.






1533-Tudor England


Seventeen-year-old Jenny dreams of becoming a pirate. She knows the pirate’s code by heart: Never go back on your word, honor your captain, share your bounty, kill your enemy, and eat, drink, and be merry, because today may be the day you die. But when the Red Lady–an infamous pirate Queen and Jenny’s long lost mother—returns to Jenny’s sleepy English village to train her as her successor, she realizes a life on the high seas isn’t as romantic as she thought it would be. The food is awful, the crew reeks, and the king wants them to hang from the yardarm.


Jenny’s mother reveals her plan to use stolen goods to barter pardons for herself and her crew before they sail for warmer waters. She makes Jenny swear to captain the crew and stay the course if anything happens to her. When the king’s guard captures her mother and part of the crew, Jenny must decide: break the pirate code and let them hang or rescue them and be branded a pirate.



First 250 words:



The stench of unwashed bodies drifts around me as I weave my way through the tavern crowd. My boots stick to spilled ale, scraps of leftover meat and the tacky residue of vomit. The inn is packed with loud, drunken soldiers and their companions. I hope to see one soldier in particular but he is notably absent. Worried he might be indisposed, I approach a group of his fellow soldiers.


“Where’s James tonight?” I yell over the din.


“Ah, Jenny fancies our captain.” Robert snickers. “She misses him.”


“I just wondered, since he’s been here every night.” I balance a tray of drinks on one hip.


“Back at camp,” Robert says.“Join him there later, I bet he’d welcome the distraction from guard duty.” He guffaws, elbowing one of the other soldiers who spills his drink on his uniform.


Hiding a smile, I nod.  A captain who does guard duty? Unusual but not surprising. James is the type to do whatever his men need him to do. I deliver the drink to the next table over with a big smile plastered on my face even though my feet ache. One more night then they’ll be gone for a year. One more night waiting for James to ask me to be his wife.


“Jenny,” Meg yells from the doorway of the kitchen. She points. A soldier leans on the inside of the front door and vomits on the floor. I sigh. Couldn’t he have made it outside?  “Clean it up!” she demands.




24 Responses to “SVS 8: Morlander: The Pirate’s Daughter – YA Historical”

  1. I love the idea of a female pirate–I’m confident that this can turn into an awesome tale of heroism. What caught my attention, though, was the disconnect between the query and the first 250 words. From reading the query, I get the sense that Jenny is a strong, independent young woman. From reading the first 250 words, I get the sense that this novel is essentially a love story with a pirate ship thrown in. This might indicate that the novel starts out as a love story and evolves into a tale of heroism, but I can’t be sure.

    Looking forward to seeing this published some day!

  2. Kalinda Says:

    Team Snow #6 here to wish you good luck in the upcoming mentor round! I’d love to connect on Twitter, so I can keep up with you after the contest! @kranky_crow

  3. suja Says:

    I’ve seen this before and loved it then, too. I think the query’s great. It’s clear and concise. With the 250, you’ve done great with descriptions without making it wordy. Scene setting is great, too. I guess I’m sort of curious about her relationship with James. She wants him to propose before he leaves for a year, but I can’t sense that feeling from her. It’s more of a friendly, slightly annoyed, vibe from her when she’s thinking of him.
    I really like the MC and this is a book I can easily see myself buying.

  4. Jeannine Johnson Maia Says:

    #teamsun member here. This looks like a lively romp. Hope to see it on the bookshelves one day. Lots of vivid, image-provoking details in the bar scene — very nice. In the query, I would like to know why she dreams of being a pirate but doesn’t want to be branded as one. And in the 250, I agree it would be nice to have more internalization/emotion. If she’s at the point where she’s expecting a marriage proposal, her comment that “I just wondered, since he’s been here every night” seems a bit odd, as if she’s trying to be too casual. Or maybe they’ve been hiding the romance and so she doesn’t want to be seen as too keen on him? Otherwise, really loved this idea. Good luck with it!

  5. michelle4laughs Says:

    I like how she goes from barmaid to pirate! Awesome change of employment. Good luck!

  6. You had me at pirate! Love Pirate stories, especially if the Pirate is a kick-butt lady. Your query does need a few details, I didn’t feel a sense of urgency with the stakes, if you could more about how Jenny grows closer to the crew or how it personally affects her if something happens to them, it would add a nice touch. Loved your 250, didn’t see anything I would change. Awesome job!

  7. CC Dowling Says:

    Okay, commenting to show my CP some love. You will ROCK this ship! Arg! Lots of agent love for you. Go TEAM SUN!!!

  8. RobL Says:

    While I love everything about your premise, I think the query’s just lacking a sense of time and place. Others have suggested getting it in right at the start (Tudor England and…) and I think I agree with them.

    Other than that, it just sounds like a whole lot of fun! You probably have some opportunity to play up the romance element, if you want to, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

    The first 250 reads really well. One small suggestion: I might try and work her age in there somewhere. Perhaps at ‘another night waiting for James to ask me to be his wife’. You could put in something like ‘I’m already seventeen, for goodness’ sake! Most girls my age would have been married for two years by now!’ That’d also allow you to get a touch more of your character’s voice in too.

    Those are only minor point, though. All in all, I think it’s great! Good luck in the agent round!

  9. martymay Says:

    As a CP, I know how much you’ve worked on this and it truly shines, almost as bright as the sun, but that belongs to my goddess, Pandia, since her half-brother is Apollo – 🙂

    You’re going to get so many requests with this! Can’t wait to see them roll in during the agent round.

  10. Fellow #teamsun person here. Since my book is also about pirates, I had to read this one. I have to say, I’m blown away. I agree with the others, though, that from the beginning it sounds like there could be a romance going on and, if so, you should definitely mention that in the query. A bit of romance could really add to the story even if it’s just a subplot. In the query, I actually like the mention of the pirate’s code, specifically the part when you say today could be the day you die. To me, it adds a very adventurous tone. I also agree that the mc should react internally to when she’s accused of liking the captain.

    Other than that great job. Hope you get tons of requests! 🙂

  11. EM Castellan Says:

    A YA Historical about pirates, I had to comment 🙂 I agree with what your mentors have pointed out about your query: you don’t need the pirates’ code. Instead, I would work the time and place into your first sentence (eg: “It’s 1533 in Tudor-ruled England” or something like that. Then I would use your sentence from “My Main Character is most uncomfortable with” because it has voice and a cool wording. The rest sets the plot and stakes well.
    Good luck in the agents round!

  12. livibuglady Says:

    Love this and want to read it!

    Query: Tight and concise! Great work.

    250: I love Jenny’s voice, but I agree that I am missing her emotion.

    Definitely let me know when this gets published and I will run to the bookstore.

  13. Query:
    I kind of love this. One question- where’s Jenny’s father? Otherwise, this is a tight query, and has great, clear stakes!

    • Nitpick – have you ever waitressed? I did for 8 years, and I’ve never seen anyone balance a tray on their hip – at least not without spilling most of the drinks! I’d suggest simply saying “balancing a tray of drinks” without specifying the body part 🙂
    • Nice setup, good sense of place and character, but would love to see a bit more of the conflict in her.

    Good luck!

  14. S.M.Johnston Says:

    I recognize this query. I am so surprised it hasn’t been picked up already, but finding that perfect match can be hard.


    The query is very tight. I only have two thoughts on this.

    One: What are the stolen goods that she intends to barter? The items would need to be pretty significant to grant pardons so I would mention it in more detail than just ‘goods’.

    Two: Is there any romance? If so I think it would really add to this query.


    Great opening sentence. You really put us there. Consider the word ‘stick’ in reference to the boots as it implies she is stuck and therefore not still walking.

    Try to get rid of passive speech. ‘is packed’ is passive speech (is, are followed by a past tense verb is passive speech). You can eliminate this by switching the sentence around. So ‘Loud, drunken soldiers and their companions fill up every inch of the inn.’ I’d also be putting a comma before the word ‘but’ in your sentences (in this instance) as when I read through I’m pausing before the word but.

    Apart from this, very enjoyable opening.

  15. Query: Lots of great stuff in here. My only real beef is that there are several really long, run-on sentences. I’m not sure that the pirate code belongs here in its entirety.

    250: Loved it! Really lovely writing. I don’t have any criticism here.

  16. You hooked me at pirates! 😉 Sounds like a fun premise.

    Query: Your query was well laid out and concise. No confusion here and stakes are clearly stated. A little more voice would be nice – I’d love to hear more of Jenny within those paragraphs. Also, would the term ‘reeks’ be used in the 16th century? It just kind of stood out for me.

    250: It was fun, but I felt a little let down. It didn’t really hook me or grab me like I’d hoped it would. We get to see a little of Jenny’s character, but I’m not connecting right away (I know it’s only 250 words, so she could totally captivate me within the next 250). I mean, the vomit is good, the fact she has to clean it up makes us feel for her (and cringe) and we know she’s been waiting for a soldier to propose. But how does she feel about these things? I’m missing her emotion. Quick fix. Also the description of the floor is disgustingly wonderful.

    I’d definitely keep reading!

    Best of luck!

  17. amyereichert Says:

    Query: While I kind of like the idea of including the Pirate’s code, query space is too valuable. I’d suggest cutting it. I love the voice in the last sentence of the first paragraph. In the second paragraph, the first and last sentences seem a little wordy. I think you do a good job of setting up the conflict and stakes.

    250: Present tense – bold choice, but it seems to work well here. I think you’re writing is great. Your dialogue is well done and I love the sense of humor in the last paragraph. (note – they never make it outside or to the toilet).

  18. Lanette Kauten Says:

    Oh, yes. I want to read this, which means that you’ve done your job. You have enticed me to read it.

    Query: You set up the character, her situation, and her wants very well. I love that you haven’t completely romanticized the pirate life and show the harsh realities–something Jenny didn’t expect. I believe that’s the reason she doesn’t want to be branded by the king as a pirate, but that took deduction. It should be clearer.

    250: I like your first page. The writing is strong, as is your MC, and Jenny’s attraction to the captain is a nice touch.

  19. This query is top notch. I was smiling the whole time. You set up the whole plot really well and succinctly. The query shows you can write and most of all — I want to read your MS! Awesome premise. I freaking love pirates.

    As for your first 250. Great description. My only thing is this line of dialogue: “Ah, Jenny fancies our captain.” Robert snickers. “She misses him.”

    “I just wondered, since he’s been here every night.” I balance a tray of drinks on one hip.

    Either before or after Jenny talks, I want her to react internally to what Robert says. I want to know right away what she’s feeling about him. Does she miss him? And also, I think I’d bet rid of the been. “He’s here every night.” The been kind of threw me off.

    I hope that helps, and it’s so nitpicky because honestly? The query is awesome. I’m rooting for you because I’d love to read the whole thing!

  20. Ahhhh! Pirates. AWESOME. I mean…I like pirates.

    I don’t have a lot to critique, but I’ll chime in with not seeing what the stakes are at the end of the query because Jenny wants to be a pirate, right? That’s what the first line of the query tells us. Another question I have is whether or not Jenny knows her estranged mother is a pirate or if she just romanticizes the pirate life because she knows nothing about it. I really want higher stakes. Is there a love story? We see her pining for James in the first page. If there’s some pirate love in the main story, definitely let us know in the query and how that plays into the stakes. Can I say stakes more? I just want to know what Jenny really has to lose.

    I LOVE the first 250. Great hook. I’d definitely keep reading. Just to clean it up, I’d look for where you use the same word in close proximity and vary word usage. Last three sentences of first paragraph all have the word soldier(s).

    That’s it, really. Some easy fixes. Best of luck!

  21. I love this premise, and I’m not really into pirate stories. But calling her mom the Red Lady and the whole girl pirate thing is really intriguing. You’ve taken that unique element of your story and put a spotlight on it. I think your query looks great. After I read it a second time I wondered why it’d be breaking the code to leave her mom, when that’s what her mom instructed. I may be reading into it too much. 😉

    Also, your first 250 were great. Perfect. Good job and good luck!

  22. Liz Fichera Says:

    I thought the first paragraph of the query was damn near perfect. Great voice, concise writing, snappy tone. The second paragraph was good but then I got confused by the very last sentence. Doesn’t she want to be a pirate? The sentence made it sound like being “branded a pirate” was a bad thing??

    The excerpt was fun. Jenny seems cool. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your writing and query! Good luck!

  23. Katie French Says:

    Mentor Katie French here. Wow. What a premise. What a beginning. I am picturing a girl version of Pirates of the Caribbean. Very exciting. You executed the opening page very well. I could see and smell and nearly taste everything, Your character came off as likable and there were inherent tension with her desire to see James and want him to ask her to marry him. My one thought was girl pirates? Did they ever exist? Maybe they did. Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, you’ve got a great start here. Keep up the good work.

    • Yes, they did. The Red Lady pirate was a pirate during the time of Henry VIII. She was known as The Red Lady because of her red hair. She had a beautiful singing voice and used to go into taverns and sing as a distraction while her pirate crew pillaged.

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