My name is Jeff Evans. Thanks for checking out my Kickstarter project, which is all about getting my book, Riverlilly, off the ground.
That's the cover art. I think it says a lot about what type of book this is. Imagine The Life of Pi meets Prince Caspian meets The Phantom Tollbooth, then wrench it like you're wringing water out of a wet sponge.
My dream is to see Riverlilly in bookstores everywhere. The first step of that plan is to self-publish 150+ copies and send out as many of them as I can to select agents and publishers in order to give them a better vision of this story than a traditional query letter can provide. More to the point, I believe if I can put an essentially 'finished product' in the right hands--and with a little luck--Riverlilly can make the jump to a bigger stage.
Donations will go directly to the print-on-demand costs (which I will record in the Updates page so everyone can see where their money went) and the associated shipping costs. I don't know if this approach will work or not, but that's what my project is all about. Such a major element of being able to sink into a good story is holding that book in your hands, fanning the pages with your thumbs while you read, feeling your arms grow tired as the hours slip by...
So what is Riverlilly about? Does it really have a chance amid such a crowded market? Hmm. Good question. I guess I have to write that killer pitch after all...
(In a deep, gravelly voice): When runaways Jai and Ceder flee from a life of slavery and a three-day-countdown to being fed into their master's furnace, the two children are forced to set sail on the open sea to seek their freedom. Danger and discovery ring in every choice, every encounter hints at what has been and what will be; faced with a thousand years of boiling history bubbling to the surface on all fronts, Jai and Ceder soon learn that that farther away they try to run from their old life, the closer they draw full-circle back to the beginning.
You can find a bit more of a summary over at my Smashwords page (the link is in my bio; Smashwords is a website for online self-publishing for all kinds of eReaders: Kindles, iPads, etc; you can download the first 20% of the story for free, too, if you want to see if the writing is up your alley.) But in the meantime, may I present:
The Top Ten Things Every Kid Will Love About Riverlilly (drumroll, please...)
10. The cover hooks you.
Selling a kid on a book with a dull cover is like baking a cake and then serving it in a dirty shoebox—no one is going to take a bite. Despite years of advice they receive to the contrary, young readers will always judge books by their covers. There are a million to choose from and you can only read one at a time—why waste even a minute on something that doesn’t immediately promise, “This author believes in this book; they took their time, and they did it for you. It’s worth opening up.”
The art for Riverlilly is overflowing with details that spark curiosity the moment you see it: What is the big purple creature in the sky and why is there a bird inside of it, and a butterfly inside of the bird? Who is the girl in the water? Who is the fisherman and why does his eye shine gold? Why do the waves in the background look like crab claws? Why are the boy and girl hugging—are they in danger? Where are they going? Where have they been? The cover prompts a dozen questions in the blink of an eye, and the more you look, the more you see.
9. Chapter titles tell a story of their own.
Adults may have more important things to worry about, but kids pay attention to chapter titles. They scour the Table of Contents to look for clues to what’s in store next. When you begin to notice that every chapter title in Riverlilly casts multiple interpretations on the following scenes, offering clues to questions past and present, a new, subtle level of intrigue is introduced into the race to finish each chapter and begin another. At the end of the book a surprise crescendo awaits—every title is stitched together into a final poem which pays tribute to the overall story while shedding new light on how the individual pieces fit the pattern.
8. Mini-chapters: you can always read one more…
It’s 2 a.m. and you’re wondering whether or not to read just a few minutes more; you don’t want to flip ahead and find out the next chapter is 37 pages long. Every chapter in Riverlilly is divided into two to five sections, each with its own theme and arc, and of course its own title—kids love chapter titles! Every mini-chapter bears a name culled from its body of text, yet taken out of context to offer a new perspective on that section, or sometimes as a bit of misdirection to keep you on your toes.
Young readers will love guessing what each mini-title means and then reading on to discover that formative line in the story and seeing how it fits in. Riverlilly has 18 chapters and 64 mini-chapters, the majority running less than 5 pages, each one whispering, “You can stay up another couple of minutes. Just a few more pages. Just one more section. It’s only a few pages…”
7. Alternating timelines hotwire your brain.
There is more than one storyline/timeline to follow in Riverlilly, but it is not immediately evident to the reader if, when, or how those lines will cross. The 18 main chapters occur in the year 999, but between every chapter is a “flashback” section that details events from between the years 1 and 999, often no more than a page or two so that the jump doesn’t become a distraction. As the “flashbacks” begin to creep closer and closer to the main storyline, tension builds and you begin to see exactly how all the disparate elements first originated and evolved. When the timelines finally begin to touch, kids will fly from the end of one chapter, through the ensuing “flashback,” and on to the next chapter with the swelling comprehension that everything is weaving itself together at last. However, when events from the present begin to suggest that they predate events from the past, young readers will realize that telling time by the numbers alone in Riverlilly is about as useful as a compass that only points to water when you’re lost at sea.
6. Epic scenery rolls by like a runaway wagon wheel.
A wishing well in the middle of the open sea. A castle made of living, rainbow-colored coral jutting out of the water halfway to the heavens. An endless desert of blood-red dunes made from the ashes of an ancient demon. A forest where time stands still and the river itself runs in a perfect circle. A thicket of thorns and nettles that blot out the sun.
Riverlilly transports readers to a host of settings that have never been put to the page before, locations so vast and colorful they might not even fit inside less imaginative kids’ heads: Coral Wing, the Sands of Syn, the Soridwood; adventure abounds in the Land of Lin and you never even have to get out of the boat.
5. Animals. Kids Love Animals.
This one goes without saying: kids adore animals. From Redwall to the inhabitants of Narnia to the pets at Hogwarts to Despereaux, Abel’s Island, Fablehaven, and back again, kids will read just about anything if it has a few cute critters. Riverlilly is packed to bursting with magical creatures. Take tiny Why, a bearded purple butterfly born from the West Wind, or gigantic Ghazahg, a glowworm grown large enough to strangle the entire Land of Lin. Cliff is a brilliant blue jesterfish who lives inside a glass ball; Seaweed is a cutthroat merman who will do anything for a ripe, red apple. There’s a white lion with a mane of dangling moss (this is a sea-horse, actually) and wild stallions that roam the seafloor stirring up silt with their iron-shod hooves (these are sea-lions, of course.) There are octopi with silver hooks and wooden peg-legs on every tentacle, El fish and Dwor fish (but no elves or dwarves in this story, sorry,) and dire wool fish (but no wolves.) Not to mention the King and Queen of the open sea, half dolphin, half unicorn, only ever half-seen. But the animal which young readers will fall for the deepest is…
4. Astray, a cub with the heart of a lion.
Rescued from a near-drowning and given over to Jai and Ceder’s care at the outset of their journey, this pint-sized cub stays with the children until the end of the story. Astray is playful and affectionate, resourceful and dangerous. Jai and Ceder don’t know where the little cub comes from or why he is always staring at the prophetic comet in the sky. They don’t know why he is black as pitch on the first night or why glowing white patterns begin to cover his body as they travel on, but they don’t love him any the less for it.
Astray’s presence grounds a story that takes place almost entirely aboard a boat. He gives Jai and Ceder an outlet for their awkward emotions whenever the children’s close-quarters start to feel cramped. Of course, in the world of Riverlilly, appearances can be deceiving, and every reader will have their own guess as to who this mysterious cub really is.
3. The Fisherman is an island.
Every good story needs a wise old man: Gandalf. Dumbledore. Aslan. Yoda. Some names are more familiar than others, some aren’t even human, but the archetype is the same and it’s one of the most beloved in literature.
Meet the Fisherman, who has never caught a fish. Meet the Fisherman, who is not a man at all, whose face is made of smoky glass and whose eyeless gaze glows with golden light. He is as old as the sea but recalls no history. He can whistle like the wind, catch birds with his fishing pole, vault atop towers, and read a compass that only points to water. He can overcome a thousand years of obstacles without breaking a sweat. He is old indeed, and very wise. In fact, the only thing he can’t seem to do is smile. When Jai and Ceder meet the Fisherman they expect him to save them from their doom, but the children soon realize it may be the other way around.
2. Jai and Ceder are just two kids in a boat holding hands.
Jai and Ceder’s relationship is the crux of the story. On a dark night they are forced together on a desperate journey across the sea, given no choice but to share a small boat and make the best of it, come what may. They don’t know that a thousand years of history are boiling up underneath them, they have no understanding of the awesome powers clashing overhead, and no clue to the true identities of their companions, Astray and the Fisherman.
Every kid in the world wonders one thing in common: When will I have my first kiss? Who will it be? Before it happens, this is the single greatest mystery in the universe. Will it be at camp? Will it be on the schoolyard, out beyond the apple trees? Maybe a warm summer night when everyone is staying out late to catch fireflies? Uncertainty mixes with wonder, fear, anticipation, imagination, dread, and hope.
Riverlilly is Jai and Ceder’s story. The rest is only details.
1. The twist is a perfect circle.
Like a whirlpool trapped inside an hourglass, this story never stops or slows.
When I was a kid I used to quit reading books right before the last few pages because I felt endings—yes, all of them—were predictable and disappointing. “Stories have to end,” they all seemed to be pleading. Characters grow old and die because we grow old and die. Even if some authors didn’t come right out and say it, I always knew that’s what would happen in the last few pages or beyond; it doesn’t really matter if it's written out or not, every character eventually grows old and disappears from the world. “The knights are dust,” it has been said, “and their good swords are rust.” Everything ends.
Well, not anymore it doesn't. Riverlilly has already begun. There is no end.
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