Monday, September 18, 2017

Son Of A Pitch #6: ODRIEL'S HEIRS

Son Of A Pitch #6

Title: Odriel's Heirs
Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 90,000

Query:
As the Dragon Heir, seventeen-year-old Kaia inherited the power of flame to protect her homeland from a demon Necromancer’s resurrected army of Lost.  But after centuries of peace, the ancient Necromancer has faded to myth, and the Dragon Heir’s formidable power is feared by normal folk. Persecuted as a child and cast out by paranoid villagers, Kaia struggles to embrace and control her seemingly useless gift while confined to her family’s secluded sheep farm.

When the Necromancer’s Lost terrorize the land once again, the elder Dragon Heir, Kaia’s father and mentor, calls for her to join him in battle. Kaia leaps at the chance to escape exile and seek adventure. It doesn’t take long though before Kaia learns just how unprepared she is to battle not only demons, but the prejudiced Okarrians she's sworn to protect. When Kaia’s father sacrifices himself to his sadistic nemesis for Kaia’s freedom, Kaia is sucked into a downward spiral of despair and doubt.

With her father dead, the handsome but unsympathetic Shadow Heir and a snarky, cursed cat offer their aid. The three reluctant companions cross the land to intercept the Necromancer’s impending army before he engulfs the land in darkness. On the way, Kaia must figure out how to regain control of both her confidence and her fire in time to save Okarria. If Kaia is to protect her home, she will have to embrace the gift that has always tormented her. If she fails, she will sacrifice her family, her new friends, and the enchanting world she has only just begun to see.


First 250 Words:

The brave, empowered with fire,

Raged like a dragon.

The cunning, veiled from the world,

Walked like a shadow.

The gentle, blessed with life,

Healed like time itself.


Burning rivulets of blood and sweat stung his eyes. Torn boots sunk deep into loose sand. Muscles cramped with ruthless intensity. Legs buckled in near collapse. Deep in a fugue of despair, Guardian Jago Brigg was only dimly aware of these difficulties as he grunted under the load of his father's broken body. With grim determination, he lurched forward in a wobbling trot to flee the carnage behind him.


Dirty smoke, stinking of charred flesh, billowed into the desert night. Cackling flames towered in searing pillars that cast an orange pall across the sky. Amid the fire and smoke, a cacophony of agonized screams, panicked shouts, and desperate pleas rose above it all.

Jago shifted the body on his shoulder and glanced back at the chaotic ruin of Moorvale.  In truth, the Lost had taken the village before the Time Heirs had even arrived. Nonetheless, the Heirs had fought alongside the townsfolk, healing as many as possible in a futile bid to forestall the inevitable. When the Lost breached the hall in a savage rush, Jago's father was caught with his yanaa completely spent. Surrounded by a horde of howling Lost, his father held them off for only a few moments before disappearing under their frenzied attack. When Jago finally fought his way to his father’s aid, the horde had moved on.

10 comments:

  1. Before I get started, I’d like to preface my feedback with the disclaimer that what you do with your query and first page is totally up to you. Take what’s useful from my suggestions, and ditch the rest as you see fit.
    Query:
    Ack! I almost spit out my tea! Kaia is the name of one of my beloved D&D characters! (named after Kaia in Avatar Legend of Korra!).

    Okay, enough fan girling over your awesome choice in names! On to the critique!
    The first thing about this is that there’s a ton of background, and I wonder, is this really where the book starts? I’m concerned because we want a character summary in a query to be really fast, like a sentence or two. Unless your books spends time having her tossed out of the village by the paranoid villagers, we should cut to the chase more quickly. Maybe something like “Kaia was thrown out of her village before she learned to wield the power meant to save them.” (but better)
    “With her father dead” makes me wonder if this is the actual start of the book summary and all the rest is back story. If so, consider cutting. We really don’t know much about Kaia at this point other than she has a fire gift and is distrusted by others. Consider leading with more of what distinguishes her and her desires. Always go with the basic formula Character wants X and Villain is trying to stop her because Y. If she can't overcome villain, then Z. Especially in High Fantasy because without knowing what the MC is doing to change her fate, it starts to feel like the Fantasy World is Making It Hard for Character. IN the query letter, you really have an opportunity to show otherwise, to show your MC's Agency. Don't pass it up.

    If you rewrite this and post it in the comments, I will give you more feedback, if you'd like.

    First 250:

    Ack, I’m lost. Who is the he? The only he in the query is Kaia’s father, and he doesn’t even get a name. So, I’m thinking this is either a prologue or a multi POV, and I’d have liked to know that in the query letter because who is this?
    “Torn boots sunk deep into loose sand” is passive. Same with the next sentence. They are made confusing because they are boots without any feet in them, so they aren’t attached to anything like a person (whose name we don’t even have because we don’t get it until the third paragraph). If you want to give us suffering (which I assume you want because of the stinging eyes), it’s helpful to root us in this POV, like “Lord Jago, First of His Name, and Greatest Maker of Scones knew that one day it would come to this.” Again, better than that, but you get my point: it’s hard to feel the pain of a character when we have one reference to the character (a vague his) and already we have muscles cramped and boots sinking in sand. I go on about this, but it’s the sort of thing I see a lot in high fantasy. Sometimes we need some concrete details to ground us (especially when this person isn’t even mention in the query and you start your narration with him).

    If you have any questions, or want any clarification about my statements here, feel free to drop me a line.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for the feedback! Yes, the story begins when Kaia's father sends the magus to retrieve her after the Time Heir (Jago) goes missing. But looks like I'll have to do some mulling on what information needs to be shared in the query. And my first 250 words were from the prologue, but with your comments, I definitely think I can make it stronger. Thanks again!

      Delete
  2. Hello, it's Kathy from #TeamRarity! My comments are my opinions only. Please take what helps and forget the rest! It's your show.

    As the Dragon Heir, seventeen-year-old Kaia inherited the power of flame to protect her homeland from a demon Necromancer’s resurrected army of Lost. (Nice! Love this!) But after centuries of peace, the ancient Necromancer has faded to myth (Oh...so no fighting demons?), and the Dragon Heir’s formidable power is feared by normal folk (So she goes from hero to monster in a few sentences...). Persecuted as a child and cast out by paranoid villagers, Kaia struggles to embrace and control her seemingly useless gift while confined to her family’s secluded sheep farm. (she doesn't have control of it? She hides? I think we need to know right off that she has powers that are unnecessary. I thought the story was going one way...then it changed on me and I was confused. She has a power...a power no longer needed because the threat has faded to myth...)

    When the Necromancer’s Lost terrorize the land once again, the elder Dragon Heir, Kaia’s father and mentor, calls for her to join him in battle. Kaia leaps at the chance to escape exile and seek adventure. (Where do they have to go?) It doesn’t take long though before Kaia learns just how unprepared she is to battle not only demons, (she didn't learn, because she never thought she'd need it?) but the prejudiced Okarrians (Can we learn this name earlier?) she's sworn to protect. (Battle the people how? Wouldn't they be glad she's around?) When Kaia’s father sacrifices himself to his sadistic nemesis for Kaia’s freedom (Her freedom? Why, did she get caught?), Kaia is sucked into a downward spiral of despair and doubt.

    With her father dead, the handsome but unsympathetic Shadow Heir (Who is this?) and a snarky, cursed cat offer their aid. The three reluctant companions cross the land (Had she crossed the land with her father?) to intercept the Necromancer’s impending army before he engulfs the land in darkness. On the way, Kaia must figure out how to regain control of both her confidence and her fire in time to save Okarria. If Kaia is to protect her home, she will have to embrace the gift that has always tormented her. If she fails, she will sacrifice her family, her new friends, and the enchanting world she has only just begun to see.
    Just wondering where the ms starts...She wants to hide at the beginning. Do we start with her just wanting this power to go away...is she in training and refuses to learn...her father hadn't been caught up in the whole Necromancer-is-a-myth thinking and knows how to control the power? Did the people hate him too? Does he hide? How does she feel about him that when he says, we have to go fight, she says YEA LET'S GO!


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kaia's story starts with her wanting to embrace her heritage but having no real use for her gift and chafing at the isolation/bullying it earns her. The whole "struggling to control her gift" thing has to do with her hereditary rage problem, but her father has trained her to use the gift. But obviously I need to make my explanations a little more clear. Thanks for the feedback!

      Delete
  3. First 250 Words:

    The brave, empowered with fire,

    Raged like a dragon.

    The cunning, veiled from the world,

    Walked like a shadow.

    The gentle, blessed with life,

    Healed like time itself. (Pretty cool poem!)


    Burning rivulets of blood and sweat stung his eyes. (Him who?) Torn boots sunk deep into loose sand. Muscles cramped with ruthless intensity. Legs buckled in near collapse. Deep in a fugue of despair, Guardian Jago Brigg (Ah! A name, but who is he?) was only dimly aware of these difficulties (Was dimly aware of these difficulties...too passive and if he isn't really aware, why does it matter?) as he grunted under the load of his father's broken body. With grim determination, he lurched forward in a wobbling trot to flee the carnage behind him. (What carnage? What is going on?)


    Dirty smoke, stinking of charred flesh, billowed into the desert night. Cackling flames towered in searing pillars that cast an orange pall across the sky. Amid the fire and smoke, a cacophony of agonized screams, panicked shouts, and desperate pleas rose above it all. (Nice description)

    Jago shifted the body on his shoulder and glanced back at the chaotic ruin of Moorvale (where?). In truth, the Lost (Oh...I know this name!) had taken the village before the Time Heirs (Wait...what are Time Heirs?) had even arrived. Nonetheless, the Heirs had fought alongside the townsfolk, healing as many as possible (Healers? Oh...the poem...) in a futile bid to forestall the inevitable. When the Lost breached the hall (What hall?) in a savage rush, Jago's father was caught with his yanaa completely spent (What had he been doing that he was spent before the Lost arrived?). Surrounded by a horde of howling Lost, his father held them off for only a few moments before disappearing under their frenzied attack. When Jago finally fought his way to his father’s aid, the horde had moved on.

    Ummm...I expected to hear about Kaia...so, I'm not sure what to do with this. Really good description. Interesting world. If I had started this without having read the query...I would still be confused. I want to be set in the character's head...I want to know his name and who he is right off. He's carrying his dead father, that's sad, but I don't know enough about them to be upset. They were attacked, but I, again, don't know enough to care. Though the Lost sound cool. Slight disconnect here.
    Thanks for sharing your words and I hope this helps...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah this is the inciting event that makes the dominos start to fall in Kaia's world. Would it help if I mentioned this in the query? When the Time Heir goes missing... then her father summons her kind of thing? You're definitely right about getting more in Jago's head though- I think that'll make it a lot stronger. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw that the first 250 are from the prologue...you want the query to reflect the main story of the ms. Though giving us a hint might work. If her father is mentioned in the query and you let us know who he is in the ms...we won't be so confused.

      Delete
  5. I was going to ask if this was a prologue, because the character seems different than anyone named in the query. I don't have a problem with this prologue. It's good world-building, and I felt grounded.

    Prologues are out of fashion, and that's something to consider when you're pitching a book, but you did a really good job in this sample, and I wanted to make sure you knew that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Crit from Cari:

    Title: Odriel's Heirs
    Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
    Word Count: 90,000

    Query:
    As the Dragon Heir (dragon heir of what?), seventeen-year-old Kaia inherited the power of flame to protect her homeland from a demon Necromancer’s resurrected army of Lost (Wow. That’s like a lot going on. If you read the sentence out loud, I think you’ll discover the issue. There’s too much happening, that doesn’t make sense, in a run-on sentence.). But after centuries of peace, the ancient Necromancer has faded to myth, and the Dragon Heir’s formidable power is feared by normal folk. Persecuted as a child and cast out by paranoid villagers (wait, is she a dragon, or a villager? I’m not sure what’s happening), Kaia struggles to embrace and control her seemingly useless gift while confined to her family’s secluded sheep farm. (now I’m super confused. Why is the heir to a dragon throne living on a sheep farm?)

    ( I think I might start this query a bit differently--keep in mind I don’t have all the information on what your book is about. So some of this might be wrong. But here’s a suggestion:

    Seventeen-year-old Kaia, heir to the dragon throne of Made-up-name, catches things on fire. A lot. It’s happened to lots of other keepers of the sacred flame too. Probably. Not that there are any left to ask. Catching things on fire also doesn’t go over well with the local villagers, who shun and persecute Kaia for her useless gift. Her father tells her it isn’t useless. That the sacred flame is important to fight a powerful Necromancer no one’s seen in a thousand years. All Kaia wants to do is get within a thousand yards from someone who doesn’t run the other way.)
    (So, obviously, this is my voice, and I’m making things up. But you get the gist? That her power is an annoyance to her, but important, comes out naturally, all while showing the query reader who Kaia is as a person.)

    When the Necromancer’s Lost(is this a group? Because I don’t know what you mean, and it’s weird to read written this way) terrorize the land once again, the elder Dragon Heir, Kaia’s father and mentor, calls for her to join him in battle. Kaia leaps at the chance to escape exile and seek adventure (you could also bring it back to her desire to have her gift be something other than useless). It doesn’t take long though before Kaia learns just how unprepared she is to battle not only demons, but the prejudiced Okarrians she's sworn to protect. When Kaia’s father sacrifices himself to his sadistic nemesis for Kaia’s freedom, Kaia is sucked into a downward spiral of despair and doubt.(This is good. You’re sticking to the main plot points, and putting lots of info into a short space)

    With her father dead, the handsome but unsympathetic Shadow Heir and a snarky, cursed cat offer their aid. The three reluctant (why are they reluctant, if they offered their aid?) companions cross the land to intercept the Necromancer’s impending army before he engulfs the land in darkness. On the way, Kaia must figure out how to regain control of both her confidence and her fire in time to save Okarria. If Kaia is to protect her home, she will have to embrace the gift that has always tormented her. If she fails, she will sacrifice her family, her new friends, and the enchanting world she has only just begun to see. (Yes! Stakes clearly set, and very high. Well done. Overall, I think this query could use some work to be more clear and precise. But the concept is fun!)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Crit from Cari:

    First 250 Words:

    The brave, empowered with fire,

    Raged like a dragon.

    The cunning, veiled from the world,

    Walked like a shadow.

    The gentle, blessed with life,

    Healed like time itself.


    Burning rivulets of blood and sweat stung his eyes. Torn boots sunk deep into loose sand. Muscles cramped with ruthless intensity. Legs buckled in near collapse. Deep in a fugue of despair, Guardian Jago Brigg was only dimly aware of these difficulties as he grunted under the load of his father's broken body. With grim determination, he lurched forward in a wobbling trot to flee the carnage behind him. ( I like this. Well written, and I really get a sense of what the character is feeling)


    Dirty smoke, stinking of charred flesh, billowed into the desert night. Cackling flames towered in searing pillars that cast an orange pall across the sky. Amid the fire and smoke, a cacophony of agonized screams, panicked shouts, and desperate pleas rose above it all. (Yes! Using all the senses to pull me in. Well done!)

    Jago shifted the body on his shoulder and glanced back at the chaotic ruin of Moorvale. In truth, the Lost had taken the village before the Time Heirs had even arrived. Nonetheless, the Heirs had fought alongside the townsfolk, healing as many as possible in a futile bid to forestall the inevitable. When the Lost breached the hall in a savage rush, Jago's father was caught with his yanaa completely spent. Surrounded by a horde of howling Lost, his father held them off for only a few moments before disappearing under their frenzied attack. When Jago finally fought his way to his father’s aid, the horde had moved on. (Interesting start. I like the senses used, and the world building. Is this a prologue, though, because it feels like this starts in the wrong place.

    Really like the concept and writing. Overall very strong. Best of luck!)

    ReplyDelete

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