Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Agent,

Lanterne excels at three things: arithmetic, arranging furniture, and manslaughter.

With the ability to spawn teeth from her skin at will, she’s an impenetrable wall for would-be assassins. Illegally hired to protect one of the few noble houses remaining in Armaze, Lanterne prowls the city to prevent others like herself from killing her employer in a bloody battle for the king’s seat.

In the beginning, Lanterne is complacent standing by while her city falls apart. But when she discovers the sudden murder of the one person she trusts, Lanterne realizes her greatest enemy may not be assassins lurking in the dark, but a reigning priest who will stop at nothing to convert a “heathen” people--even if it means awakening a centuries-old plague to drive them to his gods.

CITY OF TEETH is a 101,000-word adult epic fantasy. I hold a degree in English and editing from Brigham Young University and currently work as a technical writer and editor in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.



He killed Tamus.

Lanterne paused at the end of the hallway, eyes flickering between the fallen guard and the Scion who had murdered him--a young man with narrow shoulders and a third arm protruding from his chest, the hand of which gripped a bloody dagger. Tamus’s kerosene lamp glinted against the floor, not three inches from his lifeless hand.

The Scion smiled and sucked his third arm back into his exposed chest, passing the dagger to his right hand as he did so. Oddly early for an assassination--Lanterne had only been on patrol half an hour before hearing Tamus’s shout. She didn’t recognize the Scion before her, even as he stepped over the guard’s body and into the light. He was new.

He was stupid.

Lanterne reached for the kama on her back--small crescent scythes with jagged blades--and the Scion charged, spawning a new arm under each of his own. Lanterne ran to meet him, shoulder sliding against the left wall. He tried to grab her with the left spawned arm as he slashed with his natural right. She ducked, blocked the blade with the handle of a kama. Where were his other knives? No arm-spawning Scion would bring only one weapon.

And she was right; he reached for a sword at his left side; a poor choice, in these closed quarters. A poor choice, to start a fight wielding only one dagger. The breeders had gotten stupid with their training.


Arianna said...

Wow! This sounds so interesting! I'm at camp do I'm going to keep this short and sweet. I'm a big superhero-action-adventure-dystopian junkie so this is up my alley. Since I only have a bit of your fight scene I can't say I'm super impressed with it, but I'm excited to see where it goes. I'd like more details but once again, with only 250 words I'm happy with it.

Good luck in the contest!!

Kristy Shen said...

I love your opening line. It grabbed my attention right away! Concept is great too.

Just a couple of things:

1) "With the ability to spawn teeth from her skin.."
Not sure this gives the right image. Does the teeth fly out at her enemies? Is she able to "bite" them with those teeth?

2)The 2nd paragraph is bit wordy. I got lost a bit when reading this sentence "But when when she drive them to his gods". I suggest breaking it up into several sentences. It's hard to figure out what's going on when there's so much being conveyed all at once.

Overall, the query is quite strong. It grabs my attention and the concept sounds unique.

250 words:
Good scene. Sentences could be shortened a bit and tightened up. But then again, that's just my preference. I have a crippling short attention span :P

Ashley Turcotte said...

I really liked this query. If this was the blurb on the back of a book, I would flip to the first page to see if I liked the writing style. No question.

I like the voice of your 250, though I think you need to shorten the first sentence of your second paragraph. Or split it up. But as it is, it's incredibly long. I found the very beginning of this scene a little jarring, since I don't know who "He" is, and I don't know who Tamus is. Also don't really know who the MC is or how she knows Tamus. But after that, I had no trouble getting into the scene. I would definitely keep reading, because I really like the premise.

Deserae McGlothen said...

The query, though short and to the point, confused me. To me, there seems to be two plots and I'm not sure which is our main struggle: Lanterne's fight to keep her employer safe or Lanterne's decision to save "heathen" people and her city. I wonder if these two things are connected somehow. Is she protecting the man responsible for this madness or did she discover all of this while out on patrol one night and decide to save the city on the side?

Perhaps there isn't (or doesn't need to be) a connection. I'm just unsure of how I feel about this one. Lanterne seems like a strong female heroine and I really want to root for her, but I don't understand her motivation to fight. Someone she trusts is murdered, but why does that suddenly make her want to be involved? Is she seeking revenge or just doing a job? Where's the struggle for Lanterne as a character--- or at all?

That's it. I don't see the tension in this query, the part that tells me Lanterne's going to have the fight of her life. I get a lot of facts, a lot of good and yes, relevant information. But to me, the plot is in the struggle. May that be internal or external, I don't see where Lanterne is being challenged and why it's imperative that she prevails. Sorry I had to talk to myself to get to this rather dull and unhelpful conclusion, but I think you've hinted at the problems she'll have to face without actually addressing what she'll be coming up against and what the stakes are if she fails. Try being a little less vague about the plague about the priest about what's going to test her because that's what's going to hook me. That's what I'm going to care about when I finish the book, anyway.

I enjoyed the first 250 and am really okay with your sentence structure and variation. The different lengths sound rhythmic to me, and purposeful. My only concern is the language. So far so good but I sense spawn is going to be a commonly used word in the manuscript and it's not one I hear often so that'll definitely stand out as "repetitive" (even though I get it--- spawned is really one of the only words I can think of for protruding limbs off the top of my head).

Sorry for my ramblings, Author, and wishing you luck,

Nazarea Andrews said...

I like this. The mental image of 'teeth at will' is a little jarring, and I feel like the third paragraph of your query starts in an odd place. But I like the premise.

The opening grabbed me. I'd keep reading to find out how the fight ends. I would like a description in the first few pages of WHY they spawn arms and teeth and what have you, but I would give it a chapter or so before it bugged me that I didn't know. Good job, and I'd keep reading :)

Kristina said...

This is great. It's totally the kind of book I would read. Whenever I meet an arm-spawning Scion I will make sure to check for more weapons :-) No major notes. There's a small typo in the query--I think it should be "complacently" and also another one in the em-dash. I do agree with one of the other comments that I'd like to know a bit more about the world and the dueling religions up front in the query. Also, if there's a love interest, I might mention that. Great job!

The Agent said...

Epic fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and I think there are some very cool ideas within this query and page. But my concern is that the query falls into one of the pitfalls specific to fantasy: not giving enough background for the ideas to make sense.

I love the first sentence of the query, but I wanted to see how Lanterne's skills at arithmetic and arranging furniture played out later in the story--it sets up a world that seems sort of domestic (like a Mary Robinette Kowal story), but the rest of the query doesn't hint at that at all. In a short query for epic fantasy, you don't have space for extraneous details; everything has to help me have a picture of the world you're building. I also had trouble picturing the spawning-of-teeth: based on the first page as well, it sounds like being able to spawn extra body parts is a common ability in this world, and if so I'd like to know that.

I do think the focus on Lanterne is good--often epic fantasy queries have too many characters, and the focus on Lanterne made me care about her. I would have liked to see more specific details about the person she trusts, and why it's her job specifically to stop the plague--the end seems a little vague.

The writing in the first page is smooth, but by the time we're into the fight I'm already having trouble picturing things. Because there are so few rules in a fantasy setting, it's especially important to take your time explaining what things look like, even in the midst of action, so that the reader doesn't get confused.

I think this has great potential, but I'd like to see more specifically-chosen details to make it stand out from other epic fantasy.