Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Agent,

In Velkenshire, magic use by the Wandering folk (Romany Gypsies) is illegal. When twelve year old Lumin Donato accidentally transforms a charm bracelet into gold coins and uses them to buy food for her starving family, the city guard arrests her. Her father offers to serve the jail sentence in her place, making Lumin the sole caretaker of her blind younger brother, Olek, as well as their dog, horse, and wheeled home.

Learning that Pa has been transferred to Prince Jarron’s dungeon, Lumin decides to seek the aid of the legendary Shuvanis, or Romany witches, who are in hiding and rumored to be plotting against the Prince to save their people. But even if she finds the Shuvanis, they’ll expect her to use her powers, and magic is how she ended up in this mess in the first place. If she doesn’t, Pa faces execution with the rest of their kin. 

THE SHUVANI’S SPELL is a middle grade fantasy, complete at 48,000 words. This novel was a finalist in the 2013 and 2014 RMFW Colorado Gold Writing contest. I recently sold my first short story, also featuring Romany characters, to Penny Dread Tales IV.

Thank you,


No one expects to be duped by the blind beggar child with tears welling in his eyes. While Olek distracts the unsuspecting merchant woman with his well practiced act, I strike like a viper, swiping a trinket or bauble from the wares strewn across the counter and slip it into my hip bag. This time I spy a bracelet made of delicate golden charms linked together. It should be enough to trade for a plump bag of potatoes in the next town. Then, turning on a theatrical smile, I shout my brother’s name and run towards him with open arms. Grabbing his hand, I apologize to the lady and lead Olek away in haste before she notices the empty spot on her table.

The marketplace is a hubbub of shouting merchants as Olek and I weave our way through the crowd, passing by stalls of fine silks and silver pendants that cost more than Pa’s wagon. Scarves of indigo and amethyst swirl like smoke in the gentle breeze, catching my eye, but I duck my head and hurry past. I will never get to wear a pretty silk scarf in my knotted black curls. Pa says there’s no sense in admiring luxuries if you can barely afford a loaf of bread to feed yourself. To our right, a rotund seller shouts over his table covered with toys carved from pinewood, vying for my little brother’s attention. Not that Olek can see the miniature menagerie of animals anyway. 


Pen-Up Girl said...

I like your premise. It's super intriguing and has a lot of potential. Based on your first 250, I'd want to read the rest of the chapter. Good luck!

Mike M said...

This confuses me in the query. Her dad is serving her sentence, but then is up for execution? I got lost there.

Your first words...I like the start, but you make it generic. She explains what she does...have her just do it.

Nobody expects the blind child...etc. I use the distraction and swoop in like a viper, snagging a bracelet.

Just an example...your words are better than mine here. But jump into the action.

You get the same effect with one less sentence.

Rosalyn said...

I'm already sold on the gypsies(my story has them too) and I thought the excerpt had nice voice and lovely imagery. My only concern is that opening with a gypsy stealing things ( even if she's very sympathetic, which I think she is) might come across as stereotyping. When I lived in Eastern Europe, I was always being warned away from gypsies because they steal, and the prejudice made me sad.

Becca said...

The wheeled home at the beginning caught my attention. I love the Romany background--it makes your story unique.
Your first page does a good job working in little details without overt telling. We know she's a girl with black curls by her longing for a scarf, and why she can't have one tells the reader plenty as well. And we know Olek is blind, or close to it, with the detail about the menagerie.
I enjoyed reading this, and would want to read on.

Laura Moe said...

I don't mean to be cruel, but your syntax is wordy and I found myself stumbling through reading both the query and the sample. Tighten the diction.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Your premise sounds interesting and you do a good job making your MC sympathetic in the query. I'd read on to see where this story leads.

In the first paragraph of your query, it says her father offers to serve her jail sentence, which led me to believe he'd be imprisoned for X number of years, and then be released. But in the following paragraph he faces execution. Is there a way you can clarify that? Is the execution for something that happens while he's serving the sentence?

Best of luck with this!

Kiriojo said...

I like your premise. Your paragraphs are doing a fine job of telling us what is happening - but I would much rather be a part of the action. Give us a play by play, with motion, dialogue, senses, timing of the heist. Bring the reader into the swipe, don't just tell us about it.

Angie Azur said...

I very much like this idea --- your query made me want to read more, but then the paragraphs told the action instead of showing it.

I think this could easily be revised….get us in the middle of it happening in the now --- I want to hear the market, smell the smells, mouth water for food, taste the dust….then get caught by a sad girl -- actually hear her tiny voice --- and then your character does the thieving….

I think this idea is great --- and I'm sure in these first 250 words it's difficult to get so much across…but this is a good start.

Secret Agent said...

Personally, I’m a sucker for a pickpocket opener. It’s a challenge to make a thief a sympathetic character, but you’ve done so with Lumin.

I am a little confused about the sentencing for Lumin’s crimes. Is he serving a sentence or waiting out an execution? If the prisoners are simply being rounded up for genocide, please make that clear in the query. The tension is confusing. It could be helped if you add that Prince Jarron hates the Romany and wants to wipe them out. (If that is, indeed, his motivation.)

Also, by no means am I saying that all MG needs to be humorous, but your query comes across a little heavy. Is there anything you could do to lighten the tone slightly? A quirky sidekick maybe?


Though the blocking and plot come though very clearly, I’m not seeing the level of sensory description I would like in a crowded market. You have ample opportunity here to describe smells and sounds and textures. I would just like to see things a little bit more immediately in Lumin’s skin.