Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear John Cusick:

Obsession reigns in ROYAL TRIAL, a 85,500-word YA novel that combines dangerous friendship with madness, opulence, intrigue, and--of course--sword fights. 

King Andonel of Danri inadvertently banished his childhood sweetheart, Lena, five years ago. Though returning to Danri means certain death, Lena’s obsession with getting revenge on Andonel drives her to surreptitiously return. Within two days, she's committed treason, created a national crisis, and rejected the king’s marriage proposal. Andonel repeatedly attempts reconciliation, but he is thwarted again and again by his scheming council. Convinced that Andonel has set her up to die, Lena attacks him, adding another treason charge to her already-marred record. Humiliated, Andonel allows the council to charge and try her, not realizing they have already decided to sentence her to death and depose him if he tries to interfere.

I am a debut novelist, and I currently volunteer as an assistant for Brenda Drake. I have taken creative writing classes and work in the writing program at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. I thought you would enjoy ROYAL TRIAL because of your preference for vulnerable villains and bad decisions made with the best of intentions. Both of the protagonists suffer from terrible decision-making skills, though the male protagonist always does so to help someone else. Also, my villain is very much a relateable, likeable individual who is arguably the most sympathetic character in the book.

Thank you for taking the time to review my query. Should Royal Trial spark your interest, I would be delighted to send my manuscript for your consideration.




The market had always been loud. Now it was deafening.

Lady Lena Zan Aurin skidded to a stop, paralyzed by the cacophony. Although she vaguely acknowledged the flashy new shops, she struggled to reconcile the market she remembered with the tumult around her. Her thoughts were as frenzied as the shoppers that scurried from stall to stall.

Taking a deep breath, the slender nineteen-year-old clenched her fists and drifted through the bustling multitude with an uneasy familiarity. Her dark traveling attire, bulging knapsack, and five-foot frame let Lena blend in with the unusually large crowd. Andon must have--

No. She wouldn’t even think that name. Not yet.

Lena tried to distract herself with the wares of the many vendors, but to no avail. The scene was much too odd for her to feel entirely at home.

Home. That made sense. Lor and Alessa would hide her until she’d exacted her revenge. But everything else had changed. They were probably gone, too.

No, she couldn’t think like that. They would never abandon her.

Lena strode in the direction of the Zan Aurin manor, as eager to reach her old home as the insatiable crowds were to buy the merchants’ wares.

“Delicacies and pastries sold here!” The smell of caramelized sugar and yeasty dough wafted by.     

“Fresh fish, caught in Da’an Sea!” Pungent brine and oil assaulted her, salty but familiar.

“Fine cloaks and gowns of all fabrics! Furs from the north!”

“A necklace for you, Your Ladyship?” The appeal rang out close by. As the blood drained from Lena’s face, one of her hands instinctively flew to her neck where a delicate silver necklace hung beneath her tunic and the other grasped her short sword.


Kim Van Sickler said...

Hi R.C.,

Looks like a fun story with the potential for lots of action (involving swords and hearts!)

If you insert something in the first sentence to let us know that your book takes place in an old timey kings court, then the "of course" comment about swordplay will be right on the money. In your query I'm having trouble understanding how a king can inadvertently banish someone yet propose marriage when she shows up, certain she's going to die. I'm getting the feeling that he's a pawn of the Council, and if so I'll need a good reason why he allows this or doesn't know about it before I can empathize with him.

The second treason charge doesn't strike me as significant in and of itself. One treason should be enough to warrant her death. What about the second charge adds to her problems?

Why is the king referred to as Andonel in the query and Andon in your first 250 words?

I like the merchants yelling about their wares in your first 250 words, but I'd rather meet your Lady in her banishment first, so I can see what type of circumstances she escapes from and why she's compelled to return. Although a colorful intro, I'm not seeing or identifying with her as she's introduced.

You have a nice flair for the dramatic. My comments are more about clarification than anything.

Author Amok said...

Great first page -- I know immediately what kind of world I am in. You did a great job embedding character description in this line: "Her dark traveling attire, bulging knapsack, and five-foot frame let Lena blend in with the unusually large crowd."

I agree with Kim about your query. It's a bit confusing. Could you focus your descriptive paragraph on Lena's POV?

John C. said...

What a great opening line for your query. Love it! Pulled me right in :)

I do wonder from your query about the ages of Andonel and Lena. Are they teens? The banishment, and dealings with the counsel, suggest an adult character, to me.

I think you can unpack the initial inadvertent banishment a bit, as it's the inciting event of the story. What exactly *happened* here? WIthout this information, Andonel and Lena's motivations aren't entirely clear (e.g., why does Lena think Andonel deserves her vengeance? Why isn't he able to convince her otherwise?). It's easy to go into too much detail in a synopsis, but I'd like a bit more here, to better understand the events of the story.


Unknown said...


Yes, Andon and Li are teenagers. And thanks for the suggestions! I'll work on those.

- R