Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Ms. Nelson,

SAUL AND ALYSSA (Working title) is a futuristic romance complete at 71,000 words. It is the first in a series of four books, each focusing on one couple as the story unfolds.

Alyssa is a rank-and-file soldier in the Earth Army; Saul stands to inherit the opposing Shadow Empire throne. They meet on the battle field where he falls in love with her power and the freedom she represents. He defects, leaving his sadistic younger brother in line for the crown. Together, Saul and Alyssa fight the hordes of the Shadow Army and discover a safe place in each other’s arms. Until the day comes when Saul’s brother murders their father and the Empire falls into the hands of a madman.

In a strategic power play, The Earth Army convinces Saul that he should return home and claim the throne. They reason that if Saul can ascend to the highest position in the enemy camp, then he could sign a peace treaty and bring the war to an end. Accepting responsibility, Saul and Alyssa sneak into the Shadow palace to confront Fen, Saul’s brother. The plan succeeds and Saul regains his rightful place in the spotlight, but the Shadow government has no interest in peace. Cast into the roll of a puppet on the throne, Saul must make a choice between abandoning the Empire to a monster or becoming a monster himself.

It is not really a choice, and Saul and Alyssa flee once more to take up residence as the power couple within the Earth Army. Officially married by the Earth Army general, they dedicate their lives to the war against Fen and his forces of evil.

Thank you for your time spent reading this email and I hope you have a wonderful day!



The first born son of Emperor Janus Ry’all, Saul spent his childhood learning battle techniques from the Shadow Army generals. He is the golden child; beloved by a government steeped in corruption and violence. Finding solace in marching with the common soldiers, Saul encounters Alyssa and her friends on the battlefield and falls instantly in love.

A soldier all her life, Alyssa struggled through the loss of her parents to become a mid-level liaison in the Earth Army. When she catches the eye of the Shadow prince, the higher-ups encourage her to flirt. Her suspicion blossoms into true love when she discovers how large Saul’s heart is.

King of the officially neutral planet Bejania, Zon Valerian dreads a Shadow victory. He reasons that once released from its conflict with the Earth Army, the Shadow Empire would seek to expand into Bejanian territory. In a show of solidarity, but one that would provide plausible deniability, he disguises himself as a defector and leaves home to assist the Earth Army.

King Zon’s general and bodyguard, Thamelia travels with her regent to take up arms against the Shadow Army. When Zon is killed by Fen’s henchman, her world falls apart. In disgrace and unable to go home, she enlists in the Earth Army and is sent to the front.

The youngest son of Janus Ry’all, Fen spent his life in Saul’s shadow. His hatred turns outward and he begins experimenting with torture, on animals first and then people. As Saul is drawn further into his father’s inner circle, Fen collects a posse of madmen and one particular courtier who envisions him on the throne. Fen is instrumental in assisting Saul to escape, thereby leaving the path open for his own ascension. He murders their father and descends on the imperial office with his thugs. In desperation, the remnants of the Shadow government turn to Saul for help, but they are unwilling to discuss peace. It becomes clear that Saul will be a figurehead, a beloved mirage with no real power. Saul appeals to Fen one last time for help escaping from the prison the palace has become, and Fen is crowned in his place.

The Romance
Saul turns his back on his inheritance to seek Alyssa out. He finds her at the Earth Army base and pledges allegiance to her and her friends. In a series of battles, Alyssa discovers that while Saul harbors no love for his family, he is unwilling to kill even the most offensive Shadow officer. Worn down from a lifetime in the trenches, Alyssa finds Saul’s kindness both enchanting and infuriating. When he is asked to resume his place on the throne and attempt to forge a peace, she travels with him. The Shadow government is seeking a love story, as the only explanation as to why their beloved son would abandon them. Alyssa agrees to marry the man she has fallen in love with, and sit on the throne with him so long as they remain Earth Army in spirit. Saul tries to play both sides, to be everything to everyone, to remain the gentle soul Alyssa depends on, and the strategist the Shadow Army remembers. He returns to her arms in despair when he discovers the Shadow Army wants nothing to do with peace. Together, they flee the Shadow palace, leaving the monster to his war machine.


Unknown said...

This sounds like a really compelling story. The query reads more like a synopsis though. Reading through the query Shark archives REALLY helped me write a concise teaser without getting too bogged down in then this happened then this. Also while your characters sound awesome, that's not what is going to interest the agents right off. (Or your reader.) start with the great writing, show us your great character in a compelling scene and we'll be excited to learn more about them. This chunk of exposition would go great at the end of your book as a reference guide. And even if your publisher decides to put that first, it's not what the agents want to see when they ask for first pages.
Also, I'd take out the "working title" disclaimer. That's what agents expect your title to be. They won't have any qualms about changing it for you. Lol
Good luck!!!

Unknown said...

My understanding is that it is NOT good to say your book is the first in a series (from an agent's perspective, what happens if the first book tanks?). Sequels are something to be discussed if your book takes off--otherwise, mention that the novel can stand alone.

Also, since you mention Saul first in your title (and, by default, your query), you need to mention him first in the following paragraph. As an added bonus, his plot seems to be driving the story, so set the tone by diving in to his storyline. I'd cut out the sentence "Together, Saul and Alyssa . . . . in each other's arms." I'd also cut some of the loaded adjectives and phrases like "strategic power play".

Personally, I like ending with "Saul must make a choice between abounding the Empire . . . or become a monster himself." To me, that's the part of the story that grabs me. I don't want to know in the query if he overthrows his brother--keep that for a synopsis if the agent asks. Again, I'm a fan of this conflict--so keep me guessing!

Finally, I'd get rid of the character synopses at the end and get your writing in there--let us enjoy your story telling!

Unknown said...

The premise of your story seem great, but I agree that the query could be significantly streamlined. (The Query Shark archives are indeed a great resource.) With your hint of a series, I've seen it phrased as follows, "a futuristic romance with series potential complete at 71,000 words." Another specific suggestion to tighten things up might be to skip most of sentences three and four in your second paragraph, as follows, "He defects, until the day comes when Saul's brother...."

Overall, I suggest getting the basic set up of your book into one big paragraph, probably not more than four or five sentences long. It doesn't (shouldn't) give away the ending, but should give us an idea of what's at stake, and why it is important.

I, too, suggest the 250 words you show us are more appropriate as end pages, if they are even necessary. You need to show the opening page of the actual story in this selection.

Good luck!

Leslie S. Rose said...

I'm intrigued by the complexities of your world. Romance in the midst of turmoil and rising stakes have me ready to dive into your story.

Patricia Nelson said...

Since you don't call this YA, I'm guessing this is for an adult audience? For adult romance, I only represent contemporary and historical single-title romance, so this would be a pass for me just based on the fact that sci-fi romance is outside the scope of what I represent. That said, I would second the above comments encouraging you to start your sample pages in a different place - what you have right now reads like a synopsis, whereas it's much better to start us right at Chapter 1, where the action starts. When I'm looking at sample pages, I'm mainly looking for two things: 1) Am I compelled by the voice? and 2) Am I pulled in by the story?, so you want to make sure you're starting page one with showing detail that puts us right in the scene with your main character.