NAME: Mischa KK Bagley
TITLE: The Confession of the Panther Woman
GENRE: Modern Urban Fantasy
COMPS: Anne Rice meets Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis
CREDS: New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon calls my writing “unique in premise, strikingly phrased, well executed” and "enjoyable to read." These are quotes from the letter of referral Diana wrote me in response to the sample I showed her when we met at a writers’ conference last October in Vancouver. A former member of the Executive of the London Screenwriters Workshop in the UK, I have an Honours degree in the History of Art with Anthropology and Religious Studies components, which I mention because there are anthropological and religious elements in my novel.
LOGLINE: Tragically initiated into a secret panther-worshipping society, New York Columbia professor of Anthropology Elizabeth Chamberlain is thrust into a world of power, lust, betrayal, and supernaturalism, while longing to reunite with the only man she ever loved.
PITCH: WEEKS after her daughter’s death in a hit-and-run, New York Columbia professor of Anthropology Elizabeth Chamberlain meets Russian diplomat Alexander Karlyuk at a gourmet dinner evening. Unknown to Elizabeth, Karlyuk is the dark lord of a cult of panther worshippers. When Karlyuk places an exotic after-dinner delicacy in Elizabeth’s food, Elizabeth is unwittingly initiated into the secret cult.
Roused in ways she could never have imagined by the exotic food, Elizabeth undertakes a journey of sexual and spiritual unfolding. Her inner changes externalize as a progressive transformation toward full-blown panther metamorphosis. Increasingly alternating between human and panther, Elizabeth is unable to consummate her relationship with boyfriend Yehuda, fearing her new sexual wildness will turn her fully into a panther in front of him, and that she’ll be driven to kill him.
Determined to control and possess her, cruel but seductive Karlyuk lures Elizabeth into a world of sex-and-mysticism panther-worship centred round the ceremonial eating of the strange foodstuff and the resulting metamorphosis. Simultaneously Karlyuk manipulates Elizabeth into intimate relationships with other female panther devotees. These relationships only serve to deepen and empower Elizabeth, and deflect Karlyuk’s advances.
After a series of killings on Columbia campus and Morningside Park and the murders of Elizabeth’s faculty colleagues, as well her sister Celestine and a close fellow panther devotee/lover, Elizabeth knows she must eliminate Karlyuk to survive. But this can’t happen until Elizabeth gives in to Karlyuk’s sexual demands and pretends to love him.
When Elizabeth discovers Karlyuk’s complicity in her daughter’s death, she realizes her cult-induction was pre-planned so Karlyuk could claim the other half of a priceless sacred talisman that Elizabeth unknowingly has in her possession: uniting the halves will bring the owner domination over the cult, plus the throne of the God of All Panthers. Using all her panther powers, Elizabeth faces Karlyuk in a surprising and spectacular final confrontation in midtown Park Avenue.
FIRST 500 WORDS: ABOUT seven months ago my four-year-old daughter Jondi was sitting on a street bench near Venice Beach swinging her legs and enjoying a Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey when a coked up Lithuanian gunrunner bounced his Jaguar XKR on to the sidewalk and killed my little girl outright. I myself was clipped and hurled sideways by the car as it roared back out into South Venice Boulevard while I ran toward my shining angel. After that I felt like a woman with her womb cut out. I refused to change out of the midnight-blue summer dress I wore that day, even while in hospital being put back together after my injuries.
This was right after coming out to California at the invitation of the Sandoval Institute for Humanities in Los Angeles to give my defining speech to an audience of my peers on the findings of four years’ research; research which I titled the Doctrine of the Secret Conversation, or the idea that all evil is divinely inspired. A month prior to that, at a $1000-a-plate dinner in New York, amidst a ten-minute standing ovation, I was hailed as my generation’s leading authority in the field of the Anthropology of Religion, in honour of my research.
Despite, or perhaps because of, my tragic loss and the injuries I sustained, I insisted on delivering my lecture at the Sandoval Institute on the due date, declining the directors’ offer to reschedule. I felt I owed it to my baby; that I would at least honour my little girl’s memory by fulfilling the purpose of her last journey. Moreover I was crushed with guilt, because it was I, her well-meaning but misguided mother, who instigated Jondi’s journey to death, by taking her with me on what really should have remained exclusively a business trip. Such is the foolish ambition of mothers.
On the night of the hit-and-run, while lying in the Los Angeles hospital assessment ward, a doctor looked down at me and said:
“We have to remove your clothing, Professor Chamberlain. Sister Ramos here will help you into one of our gowns.”
Half-opening my eyes, my thoughts drifting on another coastline, I rolled my head toward the sound of speech. At the same time a nurse reached over to undo my top buttons.
At the touch, my mind went sharp and sane. I slapped the nurse off. I sat up. I backed away across the bed. I said through the medication, heavy-tongued, half-delirious:
“Where’s my little girl? What have you done with my baby?”
“I’m sorry, Professor Chamberlain,” the doctor repeated. “But it’s hospital policy for all patients to wear regulation clothing.”
The nurse leaned in again. I sprang at her like a wild thing. I grabbed her wrist.
“This dress touched my daughter’s body,” I hissed. “Don’t you dare try and take it off me.”
The nurse backed off. The doctor drew her away, frowning quietly.
It was as a broken, but proud and uncompromising, woman and mother, therefore, that I stood some days later at the podium in the vast Sandoval auditorium. I still wore my dress of midnight-blue, which was now my mourning shroud. My left arm was in a sling, and there was bruising and grazing on my cheek. And my nose was broken.
Sample Pitches from prior New York Pitch Conference--various genres.
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