Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Gabrielle Piraino:

BEYOND THE NORTH STAR is a YA science fiction retelling of J.M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan meets Treasure Planet. Complete at 85,000 words and told in a dual narrative between Captain Tethys and Pan. May appeal to readers of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles and R.C. Lewis' Stitching Snow. 

Tethys of planet Merus can cut a beast in half with her hooked swords, navigate the black waves of space, and break a man's pinky before he can finish his indecent remark. She craves nothing more than to captain her own vessel for the Resistance, seek justice for her family's murderer, and chart her own course amongst the stars. But when Tethys' uncle goes missing, and his ship burned to the ground, all signs point back to the Resistance she put her faith in, and she has no choice but to search for answers.

While in a neighboring planet, she comes across a crashed ship, holding the exiled Nevean prince, Pan, and a lead in her investigation. She discovers her uncle has been setting up a small rescue team, aiding the refugees the Resistance has long forgotten in their greed for land-robbing. With the conqueror of Pan's planet being the same person who killed Tethys' family and with her uncle's apparent involvement, Tethys finds herself sucked into the quest to regain Nevea--a planet just beyond the north star.

With Tethys' ancient ship able to traverse the galaxy undetected, the Captain and her new rag-tag crew land secretly in Nevea. They'll need to escape the notice of Wendowlyn Darling, the malicious Nevean conqueror, and arrive in the deadly Dark Isle where magic and danger thrive. There lies the salvation of Pan's people, an ancient rite that can either prove to be myth or a chance for Pan to gain the power to take back his planet. They'll need to battle murderous mermaids, a tribe of furry mercenaries, and the island's soil which breathes with its own mischief. But Tethys and her crew aren’t the only ones scouring The Dark Isle for its power, and soon the quest to take back Nevea becomes a fight to stay alive. 

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

V.V.


BEYOND THE NORTH STAR

Tethys: The Final Trial

It’s difficult to tell what I feel the loudest. I’ve reached the end, and it’s as if I’ve captured a breath after staying underwater too long. Yet more consuming than relief is the uncertainty of what waits for me on the surface.

The gravporter halts on the final level with a hiss of air.

This is it. Whether I’m ready for it or not, after today, everything I’ve worked for will be mine: the title of captain, the finest ship in the galaxy, but mostly the freedom of open space. 

My uncle’s voice seeps into my head. Is there freedom in the promise of war, Tethys? Will you attain it with your heart or demand it with the point of a sword?

No. I clench my eyes, shutting out the thought. I can’t allow myself to go there. If ever I needed confidence in the Acquisition, it’s today. Focus on the final trial, on your last test, and prove you’re the woman Uncle believes you to be. The door spirals open and I step forward, yanking at the sleeves of my armored bodysuit. My boots glide soundlessly over the training hall’s sleek, metal floor. 

From ground up, the domed, reflective glass panels ripple like a snake’s glossy skin to reveal the Guta Moon and the sun peeking just over its shoulder. I inhale the familiar stringent scent of a recent sterilized room. And in the hazy glow of early morning, the cavernous room atop the Acquisition Starship wraps me in the chill and quietness of deep space.

Yet nothing can still the wild thrumming of my heart.

I shift my gaze down to one of the station’s sealed, outdoor bridges. There, my ship hovers in the sea of stars--an art form of reinforced wood and metal docked in the space harbor along with the other warring vessels. She stands as the regal old queen amidst the sharks, a decommissioned ship until I came and fought for her. The sun-gold metal of the captain’s cabin crowns her stern with wide, rounded windows. And from the rigid masts, a pearly mane of solar canvas swells as if captured clouds held the vessel aloft. 

I press my palm against the cool, curved glass of the training room, and imagine I'm at the helm of my ship with nothing but silver-speckled darkness. 

“Soon,” I whisper. Soon.

With a chime, the haloscreen flashes across the window. I step back as digital numbers scroll by, announcing it’s past first call, and still this place is empty. The other trainees would rather rest before their final. Fools. Whatever the admirals have planned for us, we'll need our bodies fired and prepped--not brain-hazed and clumsy. Going by the howling madness outside my pod last night, some of them took the festivities a bit too far and I’m sure they’re paying for it now. Crashing against the walls, the clatter of dropped things outside my door, and the obnoxious, off-key singing of cross-eyed drunks. Even if they would’ve invited me, I never would have joined the brutes.

I fill my chest with a heavy dose of fortifying breath and cross over to the mats, stretching as I go. Curving along the left wall, vertical swim chambers gurgle in a fit of bubbles. Against the back wall, the runner’s platform hums, a screen of various landscapes dimmed until one is selected. Neither what I came for. 

I warm up my wrists, wickedly sore from yesterday's practice. Then I take a few moments to jump in place, firing up my blood. I suppose after today my workouts will have to be kept up during travel.

It’s a warming thought. Finally, outside of these metal walls, with its metal-hearted soldiers, and its stagnant routine of train, eat, train, fight, train, sleep, dream. Only to wake up and do it all over again. 

I place my palms on the ground and swing into a handstand, feeling the rush of blood settle over the crown of my head. It’s an effort to keep myself from quivering, breathing to keep absolutely still and in control even as my joints scream. I look for a distraction--a point of focus and shift my gaze to the window. 

It’s the same view no matter the angle I stand, not when there’s no up or down in space; there’s only mass. The moon the station’s tethered with is a sleek, silver marble rolling across the rings of its planet. From the very top of the space station and at this particular time, the entire planet comes into view from under the moon’s shadow. A giant mass of swirling blue and violet gasses sweep against each other in a spectacular dance. And every morning I have it all to myself. It reminds me what all the training is for, not just this metal sphere filled with fighters and refugees but for everything and everyone out there, for the worlds still untouched by greed. For the spark of hope. My breath shudders, from strain, from uncertainty. Maybe a few years back I would’ve believed all that, that anywhere in existence could be unsullied by greed. 

But my time here has taught me more than just lethal combat. It’s made me grow up, see things in their true light without the tricks of softness and…love. And if there’s anything to be thankful about this place, it’s that. 

Sweat stings my eyes as it rolls down the center of my chest, tumbles across my neck, over my jaw, and to my face. I keep still, and only when I hear the creak of bones do I release the handstand. My mouth twitches--half from a smile, half from a grimace--as my uncle’s sweeter words settle over my thoughts as gently as he would speak them. 

It only seems too easy because you’re not concentrating, little moon. The practice of Okinwa is all about finding the harmony between balance and endurance, as a means of fully controlling the mind and body.

After all the times I rolled my eyes at his teachings, Okinwa became my favorite aspect of training. The few precious moments of my day where it’s only myself and the reminder of Uncle’s voice. 

I go through my series of flips and cartwheels, pushing myself until I'm hovering over the floor like a forgotten spun coin. I stop in the center of the room, swirling my loosened gold hair into another tight bun. The ground and roof magnets activate as the armor at my shoulders, chest, and thighs respond to the pull and lift me. I hover. My stomach tumbles for an exhilarating second as I turn weightless, swaying in mid-air. 

"STES, activate sword sequence with weighted sensory," I say to the room.

"Trainee Tethys, good rising. Activating sword sequence with weighted sensory. Would you prefer the qualaron hooks or the matchu blades?" The training simulator's smooth voice fills the room.

"Do you really have to ask?" I always train with the same swords. Always.

"Pulling previous records--qualaron hooks preference. Activating the qualaron hooks sequence. Fruitful training, Tethys."

"Thank you, STES. Oh, and play Killer's Dream by the Lost Boys," I command. 

"Music activated." 

Breath squeezes from my lungs. My insides are liquid fire with anticipation, fluid as my limbs slice through air. The long curving beauty of twin, hooked swords flicker to life in my outstretched palms. Like the sliver of a moon. My fingers curl around a thin hilt with a daggered pommel, and my knuckles hide behind a crescent blade, the perfect length to trap someone by the throat.

8 comments:

Jeffery said...

At first, I wasn't sure what to expect. The query didn't really draw me in. But, once you get into the prose, this has a fine sense of voice that really drew me into the narrative with some lovely imagery. Tethys is an intriguing character, and the first line ("It's difficult to tell what I feel the loudest") was such a juxtaposition of concepts that I was hooked.

Great work, I'd definitely read more of this. Best of luck!

L.A. said...

I thought the query was good, but was thrown a bit by the sudden mention of a resistance when no war had been mentioned. That's all I have to say about it! The rest is strong.

Ali L. said...

Hey!

I LOVED the query! The first paragraph really grabbed me with Tethys' character and her motivations. My only comment on the query would be to change the third paragraph to include more stakes. The way it's written now, it feels like it spoils a lot of the ending (or at least the major scenes in the book) and from what I've heard, agents don't like that.

As for the story, I'd start with the line "After today, I'll get everything I wanted..." because it's the line that really caught my interest. Oh man, I LOVED the fact that the music was from the lost boys! As for the prose, I'd get to the action a lot quicker. It felt like you started doing a little bit of info-dumping after the part where she talked about other trainees getting drunk instead of focusing, and it didn't pick up again until she started doing the special training. Otherwise, I love it, and I want to read more!

Drayton Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drayton Alan said...

Loved the story but the query was a bit disjointed for me. It seemed after you told of her "craving to captain her vessel for the resistance" I got confused. I guess not knowing what or who was being resisted made the term confusing. I had to reread it to get the gist of the story. Maybe briefer and more concise query. still loved the premise and the startup.

VV said...

Thank you guys so much for all your suggestions and comments! Much appreciated and I'll keep working on the query to make it clearer.

Becki said...

QUERY:

Love the comp titles and the opening sentence, but I noticed the other two sentences are fragments in that first paragraph. Since this is your first impression to an agent, maybe consider filling them out? Also, since you alread listed comp titles in sentence 1, I'm not sure why you mention more comp titles in the last sentence of that paragraph. It might be a good idea to pick two and stick with those?

HA! Love the pinky comment. PERFECT. XD

The pitch paragraphs are absolutely awesome! Very clearly states who Tethys is, what she wants, and how she plans to get it. I think the last paragraph is a little wordy; you could probably cut out the bit about mermaids, furry mercenaries, and the island's soil and not lose much of the action. If anything, it'll make the paragraph flow faster, and keep an agent on the edge of her seat! :D

I'd love to see a bio paragraph, something of your writing credentials or yourself! :)

Otherwise, nice work!!

FIRST PAGES:

And HOLY shiznits, I need to add an addendum to my query comment. Because your writing is stellar (haha, stellar. See what I did there?), and now I'm thinking your query doesn't do it nearly as much justice as it could. Seriously, you hook me instantly with the lift to an important meeting, and the internal thought of her uncle's words are PERFECTLY placed. Everything about this writing is YES to me.

And omg, the description of the spaceship beyond the window... *le sigh* So, so perfect. Just in the way Tethys describes it, you can FEEL her desire. And because of that, you imagine yourself right next to her, sailing the stars on this ancient ship. <3

Aaand now I'm done reading, and that makes me very, very sad. Your writing is the best I've read so far, I think, and already I'm remarkably attached to Tethys and this world she lives in. Truly, truly beautiful.

The ONLY comment I have about this sample is that a simple workout is kind of boring to start a book. Your writing engaged me start to finish, but when she began stretching and stuff, I was like, "Just did this earlier today. Get to the space combat!" And then she started a simulation with swords, and I was like, "HELLS YES." XD So if you do anything at all, I'd recommend cutting down the parts where she walks into the workout room and prepares for a workout, since not much happens. But I know whatever you replace it with will be simply lovely, and way more exciting.

You're a really, truly talented writer. I mean, honestly, this is top-notch, and it won't be long before you're represented. Nice job! <3

The Agent [GP] said...

V.V., thank you so much for your participation here! I have a soft spot for both PETER PAN and TREASURE ISLAND, so I was delighted to review your reimagining. I believe there is an interesting story here, but I thought that your summary in your query letter was a tad confusing. The relationship between Tethys’ uncle, the Resistance's involvement in an ongoing war, and Pan’s planet should be clarified, especially since it seems that the majority of the story takes place on Nevea. I was lost again while trying to connect the beginning of your novel to the summary in your query letter. Is Tethys training to become a captain in the Resistance and about to take a final test? If so, I suggest noting that in your letter so your readers are able to correlate the first few pages of your novel to the premise of your story. However, the description of how Tethys works to free Nevea from Darling's rule as well as saving herself and her crew struck just the right level of interest for me.

On a separate note, I was extremely engaged by your writing and I think you did a fantastic job of integrating elements of your world building into the narrative. The development of Tethys’ character felt appropriate in the space allotted, and the only thing that felt a little lacking was the pace. Your novel could possibly be better served by a snappier opening instead of a training sequence.

A final note: with reimaginings, the most successful examples transform the source material so completely that they nearly stand as original concepts. Toe the line throughout but be careful not to employ too many details so your novel doesn't feel derivative.