Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 8: QUEEN FOR ALL SEASONS

soap-FINALTitle: QUEEN FOR ALL SEASONS  

Category and Genre: YA/NA 

Word Count: 76,000


Query: 

After insulting her older sister’s suitors at a banquet, High Princess Tarakanova’s father decrees that she must marry the first beggar who comes to the door. High spirited and haughty, she refuses to apologize, and finds herself married, against her will, to Atrejo, a lowborn musician. Although she insists it’s a mistake, their clandestine marriage is binding and she must journey with him across the distant mountains to his village in the far away kingdom of Epicha.

When Tarakanova learns that the village is near the palace of one of her father’s allies, she formulates a plan to have Atrejo hung for kidnapping her. While serving as a palace kitchen maid she is recognized by her older sister, who is the king’s honored guest. The new queenly qualities Tarakanova developed are tested as she must decide whether to rid herself of Atrejo in order to be restored to her former high status. Can she condemn an innocent man to death in order to get her life back?

 First 250 Words:

Like countless young women, Tarakanova used to dream of her perfect wedding day. It would take place in late spring when flowers were plentiful and the roads leading to the imperial city of Tarsecor were easiest to travel. The exquisite bridal gown would take months to be custom-made by the best dressmakers in the land. The guest list would include the highest noble families and luminaries of the seven kingdoms. The ceremony would be short, but the feasting and revelries that followed would continue for days with fireworks, music, and dancing into the wee hours of morning.

Her father’s subjects would commemorate by waving flags and cheering as she and her groom – no doubt the most eligible and handsome of princes, rode through the streets in an open carriage surrounded by dozens of uniformed guards. The dazzling sight would be spoken of for years to come and if she were truly fortunate, it would eclipse the wedding of High Princess Kilmeny, her older sister.

Tarakanova spent little time fantasizing about her future life-long companion. What need was there when her father would choose only the finest candidate with the best pedigree, impressive qualifications, and excellent prospects to be her spouse?

In reality, though her marriage had taken place in spring and while the ceremony was astonishingly short, alas, there was no finely-worked gown of silk or white veil in Tarakanova’s silver hair. Nor had High Princess Tarakanova envisioned a husband anything like the one she now found herself in possession of; coarse and lowborn.

10 thoughts on “Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 8: QUEEN FOR ALL SEASONS”

  1. Query:
    This is a hooky concept. Anti-heroine romance. I love it!

    I’m confused why she thinks the marriage is a mistake, and why it wouldn’t be binding in the first place. I think you can take these concepts out, and show the subtleties in the pages.
    In the second paragraph, I don’t know how her sister recognizing her ties in…is that one of the only reasons Tarakanova hesitates to set up Atrejo? Because her sister would be onto her? I also wasn’t clear before that Tarakanova had lost her status as part of the deal.

    The stakes here are thin for me – I would prefer the stakes of her having to decide whether she should give up her status for the man she’s come to love, because otherwise she’s VERY unlikable (willing to kill someone just to keep her privileged status), and I don’t have enough of her voice in this query to hook me on an unlikable MC. You CAN hook me on an unlikable character (I actually enjoy them), but you have to show me her wonderful cunning-evil-awfulness, or whatever, right away.

    250
    First paragraph – You can take out “custom made” – it’s implied.
    Second paragraph, I’d say “commemorate the event”. And set off both sides of the aside with em-dashes (and you can remove the “no doubt”) “—one of the most eligible and handsome of princes—”
    I’m hoping that, right after this, you take us directly back to the incident where she insulted her sister’s suitors and was condemned to marry the musician— in real-time, and not as a narrative. This would be a good, grounding prelude to that scene, but I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t get to see it firsthand, because I’m guessing it’s an awesome scene 🙂

    Thank you for the wonderful entry!

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback, Elizabeth. Having readers who are not familiar with my project helps to give me fresh perspective. My critique partners all know that this is an expanded retelling of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale but told from the POV of the Princess, ala Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl. Now I can see where mentioning her sister in the query might lead to confusion. I will have to work on that! To address your questions and concerns:
      The very next line in my story is the opening dialogue and brings us right into the action where we find Tarakanova in a small convent—with no idea how she got there—protesting her marriage because she was never asked to consent to it. She argues with both the cleric and the groom who both believe her to be a lowly casket girl as well as mentally unstable. It is widely believed that the princess is away on a foreign tour so neither believe her claims to be Tarakanova. She is forced to leave with her new husband and take a long journey to his homeland. This takes many weeks allowing her plenty of time to demise plans to rid herself of Atrejo. Her ideas about lowborn people and marriage are challenged along the way.
      When they arrive at his hovel Tarakanova must help provide for them by taking various jobs in the village. As in the original story she attempts to keep bees, weave baskets, and sell pottery before ending up a kitchen maid in the king’s palace. Three months have passed by the time she meets her sister again and Tarakanova has become a different person who is no longer willing to kill a man just for her crown. As you say, it does become about the decision to give up her status for a man she is coming to love, but the choice may no longer be hers to make.
      Tarakanova starts out as a very unlikable and spoiled princess and evolves into a ‘queen for all season’ as she overcomes adversity, learn compassion, and appreciate true love. The hate-to-love trope works well here in this take on taming a shrew and creating a new definition of happily ever after.
      PS: The insult-the-suitors scene is my all-time favorite part of the story—both in the Grimm Brother’s original and in mine. I kept true to original material and made the insults rhyme but now we know what provokes this behavior.

      1. I wasn’t familiar with that fairy tale – nice! So yes, I would change the stakes slightly “must choose between her privileged status and the man she’s coming to love…though the choice may no longer be hers.” Something like that is more hooky for me.

  2. Query…
    After insulting her older sister’s suitors at a banquet, High Princess Tarakanova’s father decrees that she must marry the first beggar who comes to the door. High spirited and haughty, she refuses to apologize, (Ah, a mean girl! It reminds me of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast when he’s cursed) and finds herself married, against her will, to Atrejo, a lowborn musician. Although she insists it’s a mistake, their clandestine marriage is binding (she can’t beg or plead her way out? Does she try?) and she must journey with him across the distant mountains to his village in the far away kingdom of Epicha. (What does this mean to her? What does she want? How is this going to affect her life?)

    When Tarakanova learns that the village is near the palace of one of her father’s allies, she formulates a plan to have Atrejo hung for kidnapping her. While serving as a palace kitchen maid (How’d she get in there doing that? And why?) she is recognized by her older sister, who is the king’s honored guest (what does being recognized mean? Does it mess with her plans?). The new queenly qualities Tarakanova developed (developed when? How? Why is she changing? What is doing it?) are tested as she must decide whether to rid herself of Atrejo in order to be restored to her former high status. (How is having a man killed going to help her achieve that? She can’t go back to her father and say, “Honey, I’m home!” right?) Can she condemn an innocent man to death in order to get her life back? (If she condemns him to death…can she do it?…how can she get her life back? How has she changed that suddenly the thought of him dying bothers her? I am intrigued by the mean girl turned nice, or nicer, story, and I want to know more about the change, the emotional journey. )

    First 250…
    Like countless young women, (I’d get rid of the first part and start…>)Tarakanova used to dream of her perfect wedding day. It would take place in late spring when flowers were plentiful and the roads leading to the imperial city of Tarsecor were easiest to travel. The exquisite bridal gown would take months to be custom-made by the best dressmakers in the land. The guest list would include the highest noble families and luminaries of the seven kingdoms. The ceremony would be short, but the feasting and revelries that followed would continue for days with fireworks, music, and dancing into the wee hours of morning.

    Her father’s subjects would commemorate by waving flags and cheering as she and her groom – no doubt the most eligible and handsome of princes, rode through the streets in an open carriage surrounded by dozens of uniformed guards. The dazzling sight would be spoken of for years to come and if she were truly fortunate, it would eclipse the wedding of High Princess Kilmeny, her older sister. (I feel like I know her…always wants the best, thinks she deserves the best…)

    Tarakanova spent little time fantasizing about her future life-long companion. What need was there when her father would choose only the finest candidate with the best pedigree, impressive qualifications, and excellent prospects to be her spouse? (And she doesn’t care about love as much as prestige)

    In reality, though her marriage had taken place in spring and while the ceremony was astonishingly short, alas, there was no finely-worked gown of silk or white veil in Tarakanova’s silver hair. Nor had High Princess Tarakanova envisioned a husband anything like the one she now found herself in possession of; coarse and lowborn. (Ha! I like this look into her head. I am looking to be grounded in a place, sights, sounds, and smells…to know where I am. Do we get to see the wedding to Mr. Not-Good-Enough? I would love to see her reaction to that!)

    1. Hi Kathy. Thank you for the excellent and helpful feedback. I agree that Tarakanova is a lot like the Beast and you have a good understanding of her personality in the beginning – entitled and a bit apathetic. I took one of Michael Hauge’s workshops about the inner and outer journeys our MC take. It is often driven by a wound or a need. Tarakanova definitely has some personal demons she needs to conquer and I love being able to show how an unlikable character can also be relatable and evolve from erroneous identity to their true essence as Tarakanova does over the course of this story (about 6 months.) Atrejo’s unconditional love and patience begins to heal some of her wounds and slowly earn her trust. To answer your questions:
      The very next line in my story after the 250 words is the opening dialogue where she tries to argue her way out of the situation, the marriage having just taken place without being asked to consent. She tries several different times before realizing, by law, the only way out is the death of one of the partners and thus, Atrejo must go – especially when she discovers he is the awful man who has written popular and unflattering songs about her! Yes, we get to see her reaction to many unforeseen twists and turns. Tarakanova’s temper has a tendency to get the best of her at the most inopportune of times—thus the insulting of her sister’s suitors that landed her in this situation to begin with.
      The tagline of my book is “Impediments on the road to happily ever after.” Traveling thousands of miles to Atrejo’s remote village in another kingdom is fraught with hardships which alternately bringing them closer together or driving them apart. Tarakanova knows she can’t expect to keep her title when marrying so far beneath her station. She’s known other demi-princesses who become mere commoners and shudders at the thought of sharing their fate. When no rescue comes she has little choice but to take matters into her own hands and feign cooperation until reaching the king who can assist her. Even that goal is postponed when she discovers the bridge from the village to the palace is unfinished.
      Upon reaching Atrejo’s village and taking up residence in a disgusting hovel, Tarakanova is required to help sustain them. She tries various methods of employment – beekeeping, weaving baskets, and selling pottery before being sent to work as a kitchen maid at the palace of the king. (This is a retelling of a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale so I kept these original elements but worked to give more meaning to the framework.) Each of these experiences and her interactions with the villagers allow her to hone her queenly skill set and learn compassion, humility, and the difference between good leadership and dictatorship.
      As mentioned, several months have passed by and Tarakanova is sure that by now her father will have learned of her disappearance (she is presumed to be visiting her sister’s new kingdom for the summer when she is forced into the clandestine marriage.) The local king is holding a large celebration and Tarakanova’s sister is one of his many guests. Tara—as she is known among the villagers—risks humiliation and disownment to reveal herself and her marriage to her sister, the future High Queen of the entire continent, who will not be pleased to have a lowborn for a brother-in-law. Tara must choose a life in exile with a man she is beginning to love or his death in order to accept the offer of marriage to the local king’s son, which would restore her to her status. High stakes worth the read! Thank you again for your encouraging words and your time.

  3. After insulting her older sister’s suitors at a banquet, High Princess Tarakanova’s father decrees that she must marry the first beggar who comes to the door. High spirited and haughty, she refuses to apologize, and finds herself married, against her will, to Atrejo, a lowborn musician. Although she insists it’s a mistake, their clandestine marriage is binding (how would it be a mistake and is it binding exactly? And I want to know how Atrejo feels about and what kind of person he is) and she must journey with him across the distant mountains to his village in the far away kingdom of Epicha.

    When Tarakanova learns that the village is near the palace of one of her father’s allies, she formulates a plan to have Atrejo hung for kidnapping her. (this is so devious and I love it) While serving as a palace kitchen maid (why is she doing this?) she is recognized by her older sister, who is the king’s honored guest. (This part about the sister is interesting, but then you don’t explain how it affects the rest of the plot – you just say her sister recognized her and then she isn’t mentioned again) The new queenly qualities (what qualities are these and how did they develop while she is being a kitchen maid?) Tarakanova developed are tested as she must decide whether to rid herself of Atrejo in order to be restored to her former high status. Can she condemn an innocent man to death in order to get her life back?

    First 250 Words:

    Like countless young women, (I would take out the first part and just say “Tarakanova used to dream…”) Tarakanova used to dream of her perfect wedding day. It would take place in late spring when flowers were plentiful and the roads leading to the imperial city of Tarsecor were easiest to travel. The exquisite bridal gown would take months to be custom-made by the best dressmakers in the land. The guest list would include the highest noble families and luminaries of the seven kingdoms. The ceremony would be short, but the feasting and revelries that followed would continue for days with fireworks, music, and dancing into the wee hours of morning.

    Her father’s subjects would commemorate (the event?) by waving flags and cheering as she and her groom – no doubt the most eligible and handsome of princes, rode through the streets in an open carriage surrounded by dozens of uniformed guards. The dazzling sight would be spoken of for years to come and if she were truly fortunate, it would eclipse the wedding of High Princess Kilmeny, her older sister.

    Tarakanova spent little time fantasizing about her future life-long companion. What need was there when her father would choose only the finest candidate with the best pedigree, impressive qualifications, and excellent prospects to be her spouse?

    In reality, though her marriage had taken place in spring and while the ceremony was astonishingly short, alas, there was no finely-worked gown of silk or white veil in Tarakanova’s silver hair. Nor had High Princess Tarakanova envisioned a husband anything like the one she now found herself in possession of; coarse and lowborn.

    I love this concept – VOTE from me 🙂

    1. I love this concept – VOTE from me

      Thank you, Andrea. That’s truly the nicest compliment on my writing ever! This particular project has been a work of love for over thirty years. I was twelve when I decided that my favorite Brothers Grimm fairy tale King Thrushbeard needed an explanation for the spoiled princess’s shrewish behavior and the resulting punishment. I quickly learned that I lacked the maturity and writing skills to tell it at that time and set it aside for a while. Over the years, the world building and characters evolved until I had enough to create a series based on less popular fairy tales.

      I am very pleased with the results of waiting and continually refining my craft. I hope that this measures up to works like Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl or Robin McKinely’s Beauty—both of which I admire for their timeless feel, beautiful prose, and fully evolved characters. I’m a big believer that in order to have a happy ever after there has to be some suffering and lessons beforehand. It’s why the tagline of my story is “Impediments on the road to happily ever after.”

      I will work on clarifying things in my query—especially pertaining to the sister’s role and how Tarakanova learns these traits through her time and interactions in the village. I wish I could reveal how Atrejo truly feels about things but it gives too much away. However, I do a great job of showing you what kind of person he is. My goal was to make the reader fall in love with him along with Tara so that when she has to face the choice of killing him to regain her title or living a life in exile the stakes and emotions are high. I love a good book that can make me laugh and cry and hope that this has all the feels for my readers.

  4. Title: QUEEN FOR ALL SEASONS
    Category and Genre: YA/NA
    Word Count: 76,000
    
Query:
    After insulting her older sister’s suitors at a banquet, High Princess Tarakanova’s father decrees that she must marry the first beggar who comes to the door. (Ha, that’ll teach her – love it)High spirited and haughty, she refuses to apologize, and finds herself married, against her will, to Atrejo, a lowborn musician. Although she insists it’s a mistake, their clandestine marriage is binding and she must journey with him across the distant mountains to his village in the far away kingdom of Epicha. (Despite T’s protests, the clandestine marriage is binding. She accepts her new station and must journey with her new husband across the distant mountains to his village in the far away kingdom of Epicha. Was mainly toying here to vary sentence length. )
    When Tarakanova learns that the village is near the palace of one of her father’s allies, she formulates a plan to have Atrejo hung for kidnapping her. While serving as a palace kitchen maid she is recognized by her older sister, who is the king’s honored guest. The new queenly qualities Tarakanova (when/how did she develop these in the kitchen?) developed are tested as she must decide whether to rid herself of Atrejo in order to be restored to her former high status. Can she condemn an innocent man to death in order to get her life back? (Those are serious stakes for a strong willed woman – awesome)
    Totally enjoying the plot and your voice. Great job.
    First 250 Words:
    Like countless young women, Tarakanova used to dream of her perfect wedding day. (It would take place in) Late spring would be ideal when flowers were plentiful and the roads leading to the imperial city of Tarsecor were easiest to travel. Her? exquisite bridal gown would take months to be custom-made by the best dressmakers in the land. The guest list would include the highest noble families and luminaries of the seven kingdoms. The ceremony would be short, but the feasting and revelries that followed would continue for days with fireworks, music, and dancing into the wee hours of morning.
    Her father’s subjects would commemorate by waving flags and cheering as she and her groom – no doubt the most eligible and handsome of princes, rode through the streets in an open carriage surrounded by dozens of uniformed guards. The dazzling sight would be spoken of for years to come and if she were truly fortunate, it would eclipse the wedding of High Princess Kilmeny, her older sister. (Great flow and love the details – great thought on Princess T’s behalf means amazing though on yours.)
    Tarakanova spent more time planning the wedding itself than fantasizing about her future life-long companion. What need was there when her father would choose only the finest candidate with the best pedigree, impressive qualifications, and excellent prospects to be her spouse?
    In reality though, her marriage had taken place in spring. While the ceremony was astonishingly short, there was no finely-worked gown of silk or white veil in Tarakanova’s silver hair. (Before she skips to her husband I was anticipating the mention of a few more contrasts of what she’d hoped for –fireworks, music – and what she was given. Not necessary, just a thought. Her voice, rich with privilege, is so great.. I just want more ☺ Nor had High Princess Tarakanova envisioned a husband anything like the one she now found herself in possession of; coarse and lowborn.

    Great start. For me, you nail the voice and intro as well. Based on the query and start, I’d want more of this. Good stuff!!!

    1. Thank you for the encouraging and helpful feedback, Elsie. Good call on varying the sentence lengths. I will pay more attention to that in the future. Queries are my Achilles’ heel despite having read practically everything on Query Shark. I’d rather write synopsis! I’ll also elaborate on Tarakanova’s queenly traits and how she ended up as the lowly kitchen maid, Tara.
      I think you’ll be happy that I stopped the contrasts when I did and jumped immediately into showing you. The next line is the opening dialogue where she is protesting the marriage and learning some unpleasant truths about herself and her new spouse. I hope you’ll get the chance to read this retelling of my favorite Brothers Grimm fairytale King Thrushbeard. I’ve crafted it with a lot of humor making Tarakanova a character that you’ll love to hate and then come to appreciate as Atrejo does.

  5. I love this. I love the fairytale it is based on (I am a fairy tale junkie.) I have only read the original- but i think you could tighten the query a bit–but it hooked me. My only real critique would be that your first line doesn’t do the coming story justice. Play with your opening line a bit.

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