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R. Heath

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  1. The Pirate of Souls Pitch Document The Pirate of Souls can stand alone, but it also the first installment of a planned historical/fantasy series. Genre: Historical/Fantasy High Middle Grade Book comps: The Traitor’s Blade by Kevin Sands (Book 5 of The Blackthorn Key series, Aladdin Books, 2021), Deeplight by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2019) Media comps: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Pirates of the Caribbean Hook: A 19th century abandoned boy joins a crew of sailor-magicians to rid the world of a legendary pirate sorcerer out to ravage Europe. Word count: 62,700 words Pitch: Thirteen-year-old Senan MacCulloch is starving and living alone on the streets of 19th century Portland, Maine. He won’t survive the approaching winter unless he can find a job. One morning, British Captain Arthur Tremayne, a pirate hunter, finds Senan being berated by members of his crew for sleeping in their rowboat. When the captain discovers that Senan is half-fae with latent magical power, Tremayne offers him a position in his crew. There, Senan will help Tremayne make the Atlantic Ocean safer from bloodthirsty raiders. Senan learns that the captain and his crew use magical weapons and potions to aid them in their travels and battles against pirates, sea monsters and wicked mermaids. Senan begins studying magic in addition to combat and seamanship. He comes to see Tremayne’s ship as his new home, and his shipmates as his new family. Tremayne and his crew acquire a map from a ship they sink near North America which reveals the location of his ultimate adversary: Black Roy, a fae sorcerer-pirate who aims to drive all humans out of the United Kingdom. Senan and his motely shipmates are in for the hardest fight of their lives. He will do everything he can to help them prevail against Black Roy or die trying. Alternate title options: Songs of the Mariners, The Mariner’s Tale, Tales of the Mariners Prose: Chapter One “Come all you young fellows that follow the sea.” “Am I going to die on that thing?” Senan wondered, riding with the mariners as they rowed back to their ship. He did not have even a smidgen of professional sailing experience, and it was hard to avoid thinking of all the ways he could perish at sea. He could fall off a mast and break his neck. He could drown in a storm, be eaten by shark or get a horrible disease or infection, just to name a few. “Cut it out,” Senan scolded himself. “Be grateful. There’s no other choice. I’m no match for winter on the streets, so I’ll try the ocean.” Back on shore, Senan had no work, no home, and no family he knew of that cared about him. Winter in Portland, Maine, the city he had just left behind, was harsh and long. It was summer now, yet he was barely surviving without any shelter or reliable sources of food and fresh water. When he lifted his shirt, he could faintly see the outline of the underside of his ribcage through his skin. The arrival of winter would sentence him to death via exposure or starvation. The sooner he could chart a different course for himself, the better. Senan did not want to leave this world as a frostbitten corpse before he had gotten the chance to make something of himself. To find a purpose and claim a role in society on his own terms. And so, despite the fact that he had only met this crew of pirate-hunting mariners and their captain that very morning, Senan was now about to begin working as an apprentice sailor on board their ship. Said ship was a schooner named the Kelpie. She was named after the mystical water-horse of Scotland. These water-horses were said to by hypnotically beautiful, but also deadly. They would drown whoever had the audacity to touch them. “Personally, not the name I would have chosen for my ship,” Senan thought. “But what do I know?” The Kelpie had three masts, the foremast at the front, the mainmast behind it, and the mizzenmast at the rear. Each mast was the same height and had one large sail and a smaller topsail above it. There were four jib sails at the front of the boat, fastened to the bowsprit and the foremast. The Union Jack flag flew from the foremast, and an arrow-shaped weathervane was on top of the mainmast, with a crow’s nest directly beneath it. A raging horse figurehead (or rather, a kelpie, Senan figured) was carved into the underside of the bow of the ship. Its nostrils were flared, and its mouth wide was open, revealing sharp teeth belonging to a carnivore. Its front legs were reared up, ready to crush anyone or anything in its way. The ship was well-constructed and in excellent condition. But Senan was alarmed to see that it didn’t seem to have any cannons. “How does a pirate-hunting mariners’ ship survive with no cannons? What do they fight them with?” Senan asked himself. Well, there was yet another way Senan could perish at sea: murder at the hands of a pirate. He gulped and wiped his sweaty palms on his trousers.
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  10. One of the main antagonists in my book is a man with the ultimate goal of saving his race from oblivion. What helped me get into his head was reading and thinking about how various past and present leaders have justified horrifically evil acts with the belief that "the end justifies the means." I also often find myself thinking that "the end justifies the means" in various situations, so getting into his mindset was not too hard. I tried to make it clear that he is at least partially motivated by a genuine ardor for and love of his people and a desire to save them. I imagined myself in his shoes: as a member of a race staring that is staring extinction in the face and with few options to avoid it. I wondered what I would do if I were in them. But what makes my antagonist evil is the fact that he is so stuck in his belief that "the end justifies the means" that he ignores the value of the lives he ends and ruins in pursuit of his goals. He also has only one vision of what he thinks the future should be. He cannot imagine any other and will do whatever it takes to reach it. All in all, I like writing antagonists. Writing antagonists helps me refine my understanding of what separates good from evil and how actions are justified for better and for worse. https://www.instagram.com/rheathbakewrite/
  11. Songs of the Mariners (Upper Middle Grade Historical Fantasy) 1. First Assignment (Story Statement): Get off the streets and aid the Captain in his efforts to defeat pirates and sea monsters and make the ocean safer for everyone. 2. Second Assignment (Antagonist): The two main antagonists of Songs of the Mariners are pirate Captain Black Roy and privateer Captain Arthur Tremayne. Black Roy is a sylph, or air fae. He hates humans and lives in an island castle north of Scotland, killing or driving away all humans who trespass in his territory. He wants to reconquer the United Kingdom and Ireland for his race. Black Roy is a powerful magic-user and can call the winds. He has wings and can turn invisible while flying. He commands demons with a cat o’nine tails made from bones. On the surface, Arthur Tremayne is a valiant and skilled sea captain. Respected by his peers, he is a sorcerer who uses magic potions and hunts the most brutal pirates and collects the rewards for their capture. Tremayne acts benevolent towards his crew, but he also has a manipulative way of needling them about their insecurities and reminding them how lost they would be without him. Tremayne is also secretly a water fae who shares Black Roy's goal. He is using his human crew as guinea pigs to see how well they can fight against other humans with the potions he has developed instead of modern human weapons. 3. Third Assignment (Breakout Title): Songs of the Mariners (Part One of the Songs of the Land and Sea tetralogy). I chose the title Songs of the Mariners because of the strong emphasis on music in the book. Each chapter contains a lyric from a nautical folk song that is relevant to the content of the chapter in some way. I wanted to show how music influences the characters and colors their experiences and process their emotions. The music helps give story and its setting depth and culture. I wanted this book and series to have a fairytale-like, operatic feel, and I think that the title Songs of the Mariners helps show that. Alternate title options: The Mariner's Tale; Tales of the Mariners 4. Fourth Assignment (Comparable Titles): Because Songs of the Mariners is historical and fantasy mashup, I have chosen one comparable title from each of those genres. A. The Traitor's Blade (Book Five of The Blackthorn Key series) by Kevin Sands (Aladdin Books, 2021). Historical Fiction. B. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2019). Dark fantasy. I adore The Blackthorn Key series because of its earnest, plucky-yet-still-vulnerable and relatable protagonist, enjoyable and interesting setting, heartwarming ride-or-die friendships, and dark yet neither bleak nor senselessly violent story. I made an effort to give Songs of the Mariners all of those things as well, so I think that people who enjoy The Blackthorn Key series may also find Songs of the Mariners to be within their tastes. Meanwhile, Deeplight by Frances Hardinge is a work of high fantasy with beautifully scary sea monsters. I really like fantasy books that are deeply emotional and make the reader empathize with the characters and get into their heads. This book is no exception to that, and I hope that I managed to give Songs of the Mariners those qualities, too. I think that the target audience for these books are readers in grades 5-8 or 9 or thereabouts, and that’s what I am aiming for as well. 5. Fifth Assignment (Hook Line with Conflict and Core Wound): A malnourished homeless boy, abandoned by his mother and desperate for work and shelter, joins a crew of magician-sailors to battle pirates and monsters on the high seas. 6. Sixth Assignment (Protagonist's Inner Conflict and Secondary Conflict): Thirteen-year-old Senan's inner conflict is that he wants to be self-reliant, but he also wants to be a useful part of a community. He feels that he is basically worthless as he is and wants to prove that he isn't. He also has a hard time trusting others and especially with asking for help. For instance, if Senan were to be stung by a sea urchin while walking on a beach with his shipmates and looking for shellfish to eat, he would insist on taking care of the wound alone. He would rather be left behind by the group to take care of himself than feel like he was being a burden and slowing everyone down. These feelings stem from his mother's abandonment of him and of his father choosing alcohol abuse and violence over his family. Senan also spent a short time working at a mine and was unable to do the work that was expected of him. Other workers had to pick up the slack for him, which made Senan feel very ashamed and guilty. Senan's character arc in Songs of the Mariners has to do with him learning that trust is a two-way street. If he wants his shipmates to see him as reliable and trustworthy and be part of their crew, he must trust them and ask for their help when he needs it. He also has to keep his heart open and not assume that he can't trust anyone he meets right off the bat. At the beginning of the story, Senan is homeless and unable to find work to support himself. Senan's desires to escape this life and be self-reliant (but also a useful part of a community) are what compel him to join Captain Tremayne’s crew in Maine. He agrees to help them hunt down a pirate ship off the North American coast. When they defeat these pirates, they acquire a map from them that reveals the location of Black Roy. They decide to sail across the Atlantic and go after him. During this voyage, Senan bonds with his shipmates and comes to trust them like a family and feel accepted as a mariner. But these feelings of self-acceptance are threatened when he encounters some mermaids (one of whom he befriends) and learns that he may have fae blood. Unfortunately for Senan, the duplicitous Captain Tremayne figured out that Senan has mixed heritage before he did. He told his crew that he is leading them to Black Roy’s island to defeat him, but his real plan is to deliver Senan to Black Roy. Senan is half-sylph and half human. If Black Roy kills him, he will receive a dark blessing from the demon lord Balor. Balor hates humans and human-fae hybrids and will give great demonic power to a fae who kills a human-fae hybrid child. But only if that child is half whatever type of fae the killer is (e.g. a sylph like Black Roy must kill a half-sylph like Senan). When Captain Tremayne and his crew finally have Black Roy’s island castle in their sights Captain Tremayne orders Senan to stay behind with Gavin, a navigator (who is secretly a human-fae hybrid and also wants the Fae to reconquer the United Kingdom), to guard the Kelpie while he leads the others to Roy’s castle. When they are alone, Gavin casts a spell to reveal that Senan is half-sylph (which involves his left eye turning grey, his ears changing shape, and him growing a pair of wings that he can make appear and reappear at will) and then abandons him to be found by Black Roy. (Side note: In Songs of the Mariners, Gavin is introduced as Senan’s ill-tempered, bullying rival, but he evolves into the main antagonist over the course of the Songs of the Land and Sea tetralogy. He is the son of a fae king and wants to reclaim his royal birthright. I thought it would be fun to make the “long lost heir who is fighting to get their throne back” trope character the villain instead of the hero.) Senan escapes after calling out to the aforementioned mermaid he befriended earlier (whose name is Mairead) for help. He reunites with the rest of his shipmates and they defeat Black Roy and Captain Tremayne together. After this final battle, they return to the Scottish mainland, shaken but resilient. Senan knows that he wants to go on another sailing adventure with his friends. The climax playing out in the way that it does shows that Senan has grown in a positive way. In spite of how devastated he was by Captain Tremayne and Gavin’s betrayal after he placed his faith in them, he does not relapse into his previously untrusting ways. Rather, Senan retains his trust in and platonic love of Mairead and his friends, asks for their help and works together with them to win the final battle. 7. Seventh Assignment (Setting):Songs of the Mariners takes place on the ocean in a bygone era, and is more similar to Pirates of the Caribbean than Master and Commander. I am striving less for the historical accuracy of the latter and more for the eerie, rip-roaring, epic, mythical adventure of the former. As such, Senan and his shipmates encounter real creatures like sharks, whales, and giant squid along with fae, mermaids, kelpies (hypnotically beautiful carnivorous water-horses), sea serpents, cait sith (soul-stealing magical cats), and ghost sailors and their ships. Songs of the Mariners takes place during the 19th century because that was the heyday of the nautical folk music that features so heavily in the book. It opens in Portland, Maine, and that is where Senan meets Captain Tremayne and his crew and joins them. They then sail to a (fictional) unoccupied island off the coast of Maine, and from there to Edinburgh, Scotland and its surrounding waters and islands. Much of the story takes place on the Atlantic Ocean and on Captain Tremayne's schooner, the Kelpie. In addition to being their primary means of transportation, the Kelpie is the mariners' home and where they eat, sleep, and enjoy each others’ company. Thank you for reading.
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