Fear of Ice (literary urban fantasy)

Sample Pitches from prior New York Pitch Conference--various genres.
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Joined: 24 Sep 2007, 02:46
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Fear of Ice (literary urban fantasy)

#1 Post by erinsheley » 25 Sep 2007, 18:18

NAME: Erin Sheley

TITLE: Fear of Ice

GENRE: literary urban fantasy

COMPS: Margaret Atwood meets Neil Gaiman

I studied English literature and classical mythology at Harvard (from which I hold two degrees), and have scholarly publications in those fields. I am also a regular contributor to the Weekly Standard magazine, and a co-editor of an interdisciplinary anthology on environmental studies forthcoming from Yale University Press this winter.

Fear of Ice follows the flight of a dead goddess out of ancient mythology into a modern-day police investigation where, in search of a missing child, an aging authoress and young detective become trapped in a living myth of abduction and rebirth.

Katherine Hughes is a prisoner of New England winters she can’t escape and memories of a dead girl she doesn’t know. Still tormented by the fiancé she betrayed twenty years ago, Katherine feels tied to the bohemian world of Harvard Square, despite a paralyzing fear of walking on ice, which turns her winters into hell. But when two little girls in her neighborhood disappear one autumn, Katherine gets drawn into the police investigation after finding clues linking the abductions to the ancient rituals of the Greek goddess Persephone and her captivity in the underground kingdom of the god Hades. Soon after, Katherine begins to have visions of a child’s broken legs trapped under water and discovers a window into a mythological underworld which comes, increasingly, to encroach on her own reality.

Meanwhile, Detective Brian Connor, emotionally alienated from his pregnant wife, seeks escape in the bizarre world of the crime and Katherine’s strange theories about it. Together, they embark on an investigation ranging from local goddess cults to the Harvard Classics Department to find the abductor before another child is taken. Before long, they begin to wonder if the culprit they seek is really a god turned to flesh, with devastating knowledge of their own past crimes. And, just as Connor recognizes his attraction to the older, troubled Katherine, they both discover that she herself may be involved in the deaths of the girls, and that the myth they’ve been exploring may have taken on a life of its own.

On the porch, tasting the air for October, Katherine felt the dead woman in her garden. She glared at the three flowerless violet plants spaced too evenly against the stoop. A red geranium crouched next to a half-hearted orange rose bush. Liver-spotted hands had unwrapped pastel foil from the pots, shaping earth into wombs for the stillborn tangles of roots. Holiday after holiday, grandchildren must have delighted in this honoring of doomed drug store life. For how many years had the woman coaxed these offerings into bloom?

Katherine lifted her head. A police car idled across the street. Not an unusual sight in this neighborhood—picturesque, yet girded by city. She did not note that it was 9:06 a.m. when she gathered the library books and locked the townhouse. It was one of those bitterly blue fall mornings that made her nauseous with anticipation. Like the day of the terrorist attacks. Or when she met Edward. Mornings of punctuation.

“But always it is the same afterwards,” she said out loud, because the universe would not fool her again.

In two months’ time these green clouds of leaf and sunlit brick buildings would disappear into her imagination. Invisible ice would turn the sidewalks and streets against her, drive her away from the library and the tea shop and condemn her to the online grocery service and its rotten produce. Yet she could take her feet for granted on days like this and walk briskly down the street. Any number of library trips seemed possible; she could swallow this one as carelessly as Cleopatra’s pearl.

The first time she had felt the ice fear was in the late eighties, on the evening the man behind the bank counter had asked her to come to dinner. The snow had begun falling as she left home, but she imagined it dappling her red hair and the velvet wrap around her shoulders and the idea pleased a reawaking vanity. As when a dreamer unquestioningly acts the part of a stranger, she had bought coral colored shoes with then-fashionable spiked heels and ignored the cold in expectation of tasting a man again. Yet as in dreams, that core of authentic self watches it all with a certain malignance, waiting to jerk the body between the sheets awake and call the whole thing off.

She had made it halfway to the Square that evening when her foot slipped slightly on the snow beginning to coat the sidewalk. She froze. She was suddenly conscious of how far away her feet were—two tiny points of contact with a sloping planet. She took another tentative step, intuitively moving towards the wall of the nearest apartment building which loomed, impossibly out of reach. The whitening expanse of sidewalk threatened to tilt the whole world forward and to slide her out into space. Snowflakes floated diagonally in a dizzying meteor shower. Her fingertips strained for mortar. She placed another foot forward. Her new shoe sole glided against the ice and she stopped moving. If she lifted her other foot, she knew she would lose her balance. A crowd of teenage boys roughly parted around her. Just the brush of their jackets against her body nearly toppled her. Her knees clenched in the cold; her calves trembled. Her toes could only cling to the insides of her evening shoes.

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