The Raven's Daughter

Peggy A Wheeler

Book Cover

GENRE

ACTION ADVENTURE CRIME DETECTIVE MYSTERY HORROR SUSPENSE/THRILLER

    Core Theme

    SOME THINGS ARE NOT AS THEY SEEM.

    TIME PERIOD

    Contemporary

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    BONE EATER, TWILIGHT, DREAMKEEPER

    CHARACTER LIST

    MAGGIE TALL BEAR SLOAN: 40S. YUROK/IRISH CRIMINOLOGIST WITH A PAST.

    JAKE LUBBOCK: 40S. TOWN SHERIFF. HAS A LONGTIME ‘THING’ FOR A MAGGIE.

    HAPPY ORTIZ: 20S. JAKE’S DEPUTY. EVENTUAL ANTAGONIST.

    SALLY WINTERS: 30S. MAGGIE'S BEST FRIEND.

    MINGAN METCHITEHEW: 30S-40S. NEW DEACON IN TOWN. MAGGIE'S MYSTERIOUS LOVE INTEREST, BUT NOT QUITE WHAT HE SEEMS.

    DANNY SLOAN: 40S-50S. MAGGIE'S BROTHER.

    Logline

    Retired Oakland, CA, criminologist, half-Yurok/Half American Irish, Maggie Tall Bear Sloan, shapeshifts into the green-eyed raven from Yurok legend (also known as the Pukkekwerek) to track a killer possessed by an Algonquin demon, and her twin nieces fit the killer's target criteria exactly.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal,Female Leaning

    Setting

    Northern, California in a small fictional town based on Weaverville, CA

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: Dragon Moon Press

    Year Published: 2016

    Starting Description

    Story opens with Maggie feeding corn to ravens who follow her everywhere. The town sheriff brings bad news that twins have been murdered, their hearts removed, and there are no leads. He needs Maggie's expertise in criminal profiling to help him identify and find the killer, but she's reluctant.

    Ending Description

    Maggie discovers who the murderer is, and it turns out he's a trusted friend that she would never suspect. The killer attempts to murder her, but after a fight, she overpowers him and empties her Glock into him. The ravens, who recognize her as one of their own, circle above her in a great mass.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    13 p978-1-897492-98-7

    Mature Audience Themes

    Extreme Violence, Language/Profanity

    Plot - Other Elements

    Twist,Happy Ending

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain,Internal Journey/Rebirth

    Main Character Details

    Name: Maggie Tall Bear Sloan

    Age: In her 40s

    Gender: Female

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Badass,Complex,Heroic,Educated,Blunt,Skillful,Outspoken,Sarcastic,Unapologetic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Jake Lubbock

    Age: 40s

    Gender: Male

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Clumsy,Complex,Educated,Honorable,Leader,Masculine,Selfless,Strong Moral Code,Skillful,Faithful,Romantic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Sally Winters

    Age: late 30s

    Gender: Female

    Role: sidekick

    Key Traits: Charming,Selfless,Outspoken,Faithful,Gracious,Honorable,Strong Moral Code,Complex,Leader

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Happy Ortiz

    Age: 25

    Gender: Male

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Charming,Villainous,Criminal,Power Hungry,Aspiring,Complex,Secretive,Manipulative,Decisive

    Development Pitch

    The Raven's Daughter, a supernatural mystery-thriller, targets audiences from New Adult through 60s and beyond. Within the novel is plenty of fast-paced action, and the story is filled with characters who may not be as they seem. There is a supernatural element, a horror element, twists and turns, police procedure, and a lot of well-researched indigenous lore and mythology. The main character is half Yurok and half American Irish, but shuns her native half, much to the chagrin of her family and tribe. Although she shapeshifts into a green-eyed raven, known as the "pukkekwerek," the monster killer from Yurok mythology, she's a hardened skeptic with a brittle personality who firmly denies her true nature. She also has anger issues, and although she loves her family and friends with a passion, she is stubborn, puts her feet in her mouth constantly, and is anything but "sweet." She also does not fit the typical female hero; she is not particularly likable or sexy. She must accept her identity as Pukekwerek to find the killer; however, she clings to the belief that her shapeshifting incidents are nothing more than weird dreams, and as such, she stubbornly dismisses them. There is a little something for everyone in this story: some family drama, police procedure, a little romance, and an evil murderer she never suspects until minutes before she kills him. I see this story as a feature film, but I think it would adapt nicely to a series or limited series, as well.

    Genre

    SUSPENSE, THRILLER, ROMANCE, FANTASY

    Brief

    A retired, small-town criminologist with ties to both the Yurok and Irish cultures must rely on a unique, supernatural gift to track down a child serial killer possessed by an Algonquin demon. After years of being followed by flocks of ravens, even dreaming about them, Maggie Tall Bear Sloan learns how to use the birds to her advantage in her quest, and along the way discovers that not everybody is what they seem.

    Overall Rating

    FAIR

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: FAIR

    Characterization: FAIR

    Commerciality: FAIR

    Franchise Potential: GOOD

    Pace: FAIR

    Premise: FAIR

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: FAIR

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    The Book Profile represents the book quite well. It's succinct and descriptive, but leaves just enough to the imagination. However, there are a few small things to note. The About the Author section is clouded with information about the novel, and should be revised to only include information about the author. And the last sentence of the Development Pitch section is in first person, when it should be in third person. Aside from that, the Book Profile is great.

    Draw of Story

    The setup is well done, and it makes us want to stick around to see what happens next. One of the first visuals we get is Maggie surrounded by the ravens, which delivers an ominous, eerie feeling right away. We know that something sinister lurks just around the corner, and because of that we're never quite sure who to trust. The introduction to Maggie does a great job of rooting us into her world, which is ordinary to her but certainly not ordinary to us. We know she's special pretty early on, both from that first visual and her internal struggle with apparitions. She's easy to root for as the story begins to unravel and the layers of her abilities (and her past) are slowly peeled back.

    Possible Drawbacks

    There are several moments where the foreshadowing could be a bit subtler. For instance, the moment that Mingan tells Maggie that they have unfinished business gears us up for a confrontation, which we see a few scenes later. Another example is when the Gaelic singer targets Maggie and identifies her as a raven. Toning these instances down a bit could be beneficial. Perhaps Mingan doesn't need to say anything to Maggie in advance, as a way to preserve some of the tension. And perhaps the singer doesn't need to say anything to Maggie, since we've already established an odd connection between Maggie and the ravens.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    One of the biggest draws for the source material is the female-driven narrative. Experiencing the story through Maggie's lens elevates it a bit, and gives us access to emotions that we might not have access to with a male protagonist. On top of that, Maggie is having a bit of an identity crisis which makes her relatable and approachable throughout the story. There is a heaviness to her character that is engaging, and makes her easy to root for both personally and professionally. Additionally, the Fantasy element takes a typical crime drama and twists it up a bit, making it feel more unique than other stories of its kind.

    Fanbase Potential

    One of the great things about this piece is that it has crossover potential, in that it could appeal to both adult and young adult audiences. It might also appeal to those who love the Fantasy genre, fans of crime mysteries/dramas and anybody who enjoys exploring lore and/or urban legends. It could also have international appeal, since there's nothing overtly American about it. It's quite possible that there's a wide market reach here, regardless of gender, sexual identity or geographical location.

    Awards Potential

    Generally, the Fantasy genre doesn't attract attention from major Awards. But that's not to say that the source material is without merit. It's possible that there is below-the-line potential here. A piece like this would require careful, clever cinematography, great special effects and likely a well-curated score. Things like set design and costuming could have potential as well.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    BONE EATER, TWILIGHT, DREAMKEEPER

    What’s New About the Story

    The story is a nice blend of a crime drama and a fantasy piece. Both have equal weight and they co-exist wonderfully on the page. Additionally, the inclusion of lore/urban legend elevates the story and makes it feel all the more sophisticated and humanized throughout. It's clear from the very first pages that Maggie is the only one who can catch the killer, because of a very unique skillset. But her journey is suspense-ridden throughout because she has to work to understand herself and those around her before she can succeed. To make things even more unique might mean some streamlining in order to make Maggie's gifts pop a bit more. It's possible that the story is oversaturated with Fantasy elements when it likely only needs one strong one to sustain it. For instance, there's no real reason that Maggie needs to see apparitions. The ravens are ominous and eerie enough to keep things interesting, and using so many different supernatural elements could run the risk of diminishing the one that ultimately allows Maggie to complete her journey.

    Lead Characters

    From the beginning, it's clear that Maggie is the only character capable of being successful, thanks to her unique abilities. Still, she remains interesting because she's a bit jaded and cynical, both personally and professionally. She retired after her anger got the best of her, she lost an infant, and has stayed alone after an illicit affair with a professor. Her past haunts her a bit, which makes her have to work all the harder to stay on top of her game. Additionally, Maggie's relationship with Jake is high-tension, high-drama. It's clear early on that there's chemistry between them, and their cat and mouse game throughout makes us root for them. But a bit more romantic progression between them could be interesting. Putting some weight on their firsts (first kiss, first sexual encounter, first sleepover) could help keep develop even more tension and make us feel fully satisfied once they finally move in together.

    Uniqueness of Story

    Although the story has potential, it doesn't feel like a rare gem quite yet. Generally, it feels like there are some foreshadowing issues and plot conveniences that negatively impact the tension levels and make the execution feel not quite as sophisticated as the premise itself. To make it better suited for adaptation, finding clever ways to preserve the tension is likely key. Putting more weight on Maggie and Jake's romantic chemistry could be beneficial, and could maneuvering the characters in ways that feel consistent and natural throughout. Additionally, it could be worth considering streamlining some of the supernatural elements to make Maggie's relationship with the ravens shine through more. Since this is the ability that helps lead her to the killer, it ends up being the most important and as it stands, it feels like it is sometimes overshadowed by other Fantasy elements.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio, Streaming TV Series: Network, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    WORK IN PROGRESS

    Justification

    The concept itself is great, but the plot line feels like it needs a bit of polishing before its ready for adaptation. The foreshadowing feels like it's a touch too on the nose to be effective and the some of the tension feels like it is diminished by convenient plot points. Additionally, some of the character relationships could be developed more fully. For instance, Maggie's relationship with Jake has the potential to be really compelling, but it feels like it's missing some of the weight necessary to be an effective subplot. Finally, streamlining some of the Fantasy elements could help Maggie's abilities pop more on the page, which will in turn make them feel more unique and vital to the unraveling of the primary storyline.

    Tips for Improvement

    A more purposeful, careful use of foreshadowing is one thing that would help take the story to the next level. Reconsidering some of the more minor plot logic, especially in terms of character action and reasoning, is another. The premise is solid and there's a lot to like about the story overall, but it doesn't feel like this is quite ready for further consideration yet. Doing a deep dive into the Fantasy elements and streamlining where necessary could help take the compelling parts of the source material and bring them forward in a more natural, cohesive manner. While this is certainly not the most fun part of the process, it is a necessary one. And one that could be worth it to see THE RAVEN'S DAUGHTER play out on the big screen. Best of luck!

    Brief

    A retired, small-town criminologist with ties to both the Yurok and Irish cultures must rely on a unique, supernatural gift to track down a child serial killer possessed by an Algonquin demon. After years of being followed by flocks of ravens, even dreaming about them, Maggie Tall Bear Sloan learns how to use the birds to her advantage in her quest, and along the way discovers that not everybody is what they seem.

    What We Liked

    THE RAVEN'S DAUGHTER is a nice blend of a crime drama and a fantasy piece, with the added element of Native American folklore peppered in. With its flawed but compelling female protagonist, we follow along as she tries to avenge her past mistakes in the name of the greater good. A little bit of romance brings a nice subplot as our heroine learns that not everybody (or everything) is what it seems in this small-town, high-tension/high-stakes crossover.

    THE RAVEN'S DAUGHTER has definitive starting and end points, a nice blend of crime drama and fantasy and is slightly elevated by the inclusion of Native American folklore.

    Key points:
    Crossover appeal.
    Fantasy-driven.
    Well-researched.
    Twisty.
    Female protagonist.

    Synopsis

    MARGARET “MAGGIE” TALL-BEAR SLOAN (46) is being followed by ravens…. again. She receives a call from SHERIFF JAKE LUBBOCK, asking her to assist with the latest set of missing twins. Maggie refuses. In a park, she drifts off to sleep. She dreams that she is raven, watching a man with rotting flesh dig a hole.

    Maggie nearly forgets to call her brother, DANNY, to warn him to keep a close eye on his twin granddaughters. And in the chaos of the murders, Danny has to remind her about the annual Bear Dance. She agrees to attend the Native American festivities. At the Bear Dance, Maggie tries and fails to avoid Jake. As they talk, a mysterious Algonquin man, MINGAN METCHITEHEW, approaches.

    Maggie is charged with watching her grandnieces, BIRD and FLOWER while Danny and his son, JIMMY, tend to the festivities. She brings the girls down to the river, where Mingan sits. Jake responds coldly to Mingan. Soon after, a deputy, HAPPY, pulls up to inform Jake that two twin boys have gone missing. Three ravens sit on a branch above Maggie.

    While Maggie relaxes in her tub, Jake arrives to inform her that a third set of twins has gone missing. After pleading with Maggie, she finally agrees to help. Jake leads Maggie into a room to interview their only suspect, a transient named ROBERT JENKINS. She buys him a pack of cigarettes and attempts to have his DNA pulled from the filter. It comes back inconclusive.

    Maggie meets her friend, SALLY, for lunch. Maggie reveals that she retired after shooting a suspected child murderer, and not feeling remorse. Sally’s husband, JOHN, appears and threatens Sally. Maggie tries to intervene, but Sally tells her to stand down.

    Maggie arrives at Sally’s bookshop to discover that the furniture has been rearranged. Sally attributes it to the resident ghosts, but Maggie looks for an alternative explanation. She tells Sally that she’s bringing John in for questioning, because of a years ago arrest for indecent exposure to children. Sally swears that there is no possible way that John is the murderer.

    Maggie continues having raven dreams. The monster appears again, this time with two twin boys with him. The creature reaches into the boys’ chests and grabs their hearts. She awakens with a start and calls Jake. They travel into the mountains and find the dead twins.

    Mingan asks Maggie and the girls to go on a fishing trip. The night before, Maggie has a raven dream in her hammock. The monster grabs her from the sky and begins crushing her ribs. Maggie awakens on the grass with shattered ribs. Maggie still goes fishing with Mingan and the girls. Afterwards, she tells Sally about her dream and Sally tells her to take it as a warning.

    Maggie has a sleepover with her grandnieces and receives a phone call from her dead mother in the middle of the night telling her to pay attention to the signs around her. A week later, the girls go missing. Media overtakes the small town, including Hollywood writer MARIO PANETTI, and Jake assures Maggie that they’ll find the girls. Mingan shows up to offer his help and a search party is organized. Maggie takes a chance and asks the ravens for directions. They lead her north, but she is soon called back to the house to talk to the FBI.

    The FBI tries to pull Maggie off the case for having a conflict of interest, but Maggie refuses to back down. She follows the ravens’ lead and finds Flower and Bird alive down by the river.

    Mingan tries to convince Maggie to attend church with him, but Maggie refuses. Jake appears and tells Maggie that he doesn’t trust Mingan because of his violent past. Maggie defends Mingan, and Jake reveals that Jenkins was brought in on child molestation charges after Happy’s daughter told her parents that he touched her inappropriately.

    Maggie interviews Bobby Jenkins at the station, and he tells her that he patted the girl down to feel for wires, convinced she was a spy for the government. That night, Maggie dreams that she is by Bobby’s homeless encampment. The homeless men assume she is a government plant and try to kill her. Soon after, she receives a call from Jake and learns that Bobby has been murdered. His neck has been broken and his heart is gone.

    Maggie is questioned by the FBI about how she found the twin boys. Jake interrupts to tell her that another set of twins has gone missing. Maggie has a dream that proves the girls are dead.

    Maggie has her first date with Mingan and things go swimmingly, until they return to her house. Mingan kisses Maggie, but when she tries to take it further, he stops her. Maggie asks him to leave.

    Sally tells Maggie that things with John have gotten worse. Maggie has a dream that she is at the bookshop, alongside the ghosts. She looks in the mirror and sees that she is half-woman, half-raven. Maggie breaks off her relationship with Mingan. He insults her and Maggie vows never to speak to him again.

    The FBI, Jake and Maggie are trying to profile the killer when they discover a protest outside of the bookshop. Mingan leads the charge with his church, who believe that Sally is a witch who murdered the children. Maggie tells Sally to sue Mingan and the church, but Sally has a bigger issue. John has told her that he’ll kill her if she doesn’t return home. She decides to stay with Maggie.

    Maggie is having dinner with her family, when she insults Jimmy and Danny asks her to leave. Mingan arrives at the police station and threatens to take over the investigation himself. Jake threatens to arrest him for obstructing justice and offers to put protection on Maggie. She refuses. That evening, Sally takes two sleeping pills and passes out. Mingan arrives, drunk, and tries to rape Maggie. He is almost successful, but she is ultimately able to escape and grab her gun.

    Maggie has lunch with Sally and is approached my members of the church who are angry that she put Mingan in jail. Her tires are slashed and the word ‘whore’ is spray painted on the side of her truck.

    The vandals are arrested and Happy begins to believe that Mingan is the serial killer. Maggie tries to make amends with her family, and dreams that she receives another call from her mother.

    The next morning, Happy informs Maggie that Mingan made bail with the help of church funds. At Danny’s, they hear a thud. Maggie pulls out her gun and hears footsteps outside. There is an American Spirit butt on the porch, and a man running away. Maggie calls out to him, but the man disappears.

    At the station, Maggie learns that Mingan didn’t show up for his trial. Jake puts a protective detail on Maggie. Maggie loans Dawn money to buy the bookshop. Jake announces his retirement. BROCK HANLEY runs as his replacement, against Happy.

    Maggie and Jake stay late going over evidence. Sally’s car dies and Maggie gives her the truck to drive home. When Maggie and Jake arrive back at the house, the ravens alert Maggie that something is amiss. In the kitchen, they find Sally with a broken neck and her heart missing.

    Maggie begins seeing DR. JESSIE OCHOA for therapy. She struggles with returning to life as normal. John Winters is arrested for Sally’s murder, but something doesn’t feel right to Maggie. Her raven dreams return, and she knows that the monster resides in a deep part of the forest. She tries to tell Jake, but he brushes her off. Maggie begins ignoring her friends and family as she tries to track down the killer before any more twins go missing. Jake apologizes for not taking her seriously and confesses his love to her. Maggie finally agrees to go out with him.

    Jake and Happy appear at Maggie’s. The ravens descend and attack Happy. That night, she has a dream where she’s surrounded by ravens. They tell her to use her feet to follow the killer.

    Maggie and Jake begin seeing each other, and soon enough Jake moves in with Maggie. Maggie has a dream where she shifts into a raven and communicates with the others to learn that the killer is getting closer.

    Jake contemplates writing a novel about his experiences in Wicklow, and Maggie supports him. Maggie, in turn, buys the local Irish pub she’s frequented for years. One night, she’s closing up when Sally appears and tells her to listen to the ravens and her mother. That night, the ravens wake her up. Instead of waking up Jake, she texts Happy who promises to go to a cabin she’s seen in her dreams.

    Jake is called into the sheriff’s office to cover for Happy, who’s going to his fishing cabin with his sons. Maggie turns off her cell to work on the case undisturbed. Happy’s wife calls looking for him, and Jake learns that Happy lied. He cross-checks the case notes and discovers that Happy doesn’t have an alibi for any of the murders. He tries to call Maggie, but heads into the woods himself when he can’t reach her.

    Jake finds Happy’s cabin and inside is a notebook detailing years of Happy’s murders. Jake learns that he’s after Maggie next, and rushes to her. Happy arrives at Maggie’s and peppers her with questions about how close she is to finding the killer. Chaos ensues when Happy transforms into the monster from Maggie’s dreams. He chokes her, but she is eventually able to overpower him .

    Happy becomes convinced that Maggie will not harm him. She finally listens to the ravens and shoots him dead. Jake arrives just in time to comfort her in the aftermath and outside, thousands of ravens circle Maggie’s cabin.

    About The Author

    Peggy Wheeler has a B.A. in English Lit from U.C.L.A., and a M.A. in Creative Writing from CSU Northridge. At U.C.L.A., Peggy was one of twelve students (and the only undergraduate) chosen to study with Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the United States. She won first prize for two poems from an Evergreen Women’s Press poetry contest and her poetry received honorable mentions from the Los Angeles Poetry Festival and The Academy of American Poets. Her poem Du Fu was nominated for a Rhysling award for Best Science Fiction Poem. In 2018, her novel, The Splendid and Extraordinary Life of Beautimus Potamus, won a coveted Audible’s Reviewer’s Choice Award.