Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Ms. Piraino,

Reincarnation can be a b****, especially when a mad goddess keeps killing you. 

Seventeen-year-old Saekina hasn’t had a place to call home in years. Every family member or friend who has stood at her side has abandoned her or died. Alone in the massive city of Dennin, she relies on her blades and a strange, ethereal energy to survive the demonic assassins that have hunted her since childhood. 

Then she stumbles across others hunted by the same creatures and wielding the same energy: a shapeshifter, a priestess, and a brawler. Along with eighteen-year-old Idani, a mischievous thief, the five of them band together to fight their hunters. For the first time in years, Saekina has friends and a girl she sort of likes, and she isn’t about to let anyone hurt them.

But the goddess who wants Saekina dead is willing to murder all her friends too, no matter how many times they reincarnate. And this time she's hell-bent on killing them for good. Saekina’s blades are ready, but first she must find a way to defeat a goddess. If she can't, more than just her life is at stake. Her friends could be picked off one by one, leaving her utterly alone once again.

ALL IS DARK is a 90,000 word LGBT young adult fantasy with series potential. I am entering An Agent’s Inbox due to your interest in strong world building. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Saekina had nothing but shadows for company. The only light came from the moon orbs lining the cracked, cobbled streets. She turned into the alley, passing dumpsters overflowing with reeking food and, discarded magical trinkets. 

Eagerness fluttered in her chest. Information on slavers never failed to earn at least one gold coin.

She pulled open the hotel's dented door. The owner looked up from his bottle of ale. He'd be passed out within the hour. "You again." 

He'd invested a lot in making his shitty little hotel safe for less-than-legal operations. Plenty of back entrances and large vents hidden by glamours. She’d have to ditch this place before people realized he'd been playing both sides. She slipped him the usual payment. "We good?" 

"As long as the money keeps coming." He counted the coins before adding them to his purse. "Room seven. You have half an hour until they arrive."

Saekina forced her lips into a tight smile. Smiling is good for business, she reminded herself. "Nice working with you." 

Allies would be nice. Not friends though. Never friends. 

All Saekina had was herself.

She wrinkled her nose as she climbed the stairs. The hotel--and she used that term loosely--reeked of mold.

Room seven’s door stuck on the carpeting, and she had to kick it open. It looked like the rest of the place: s*****. 

The problems were the charmed utilities. The moon orb, well, she’d be fine in the dark. No one bothered to think of ungifted people when building. People less magically gifted could, at the least, turn on an object already pre-charmed as long as they had the incantation. It was just as well; she’d had years of experience with finding ways around her lack of ability. 

She reached up, removed the grating on the air vent and climbed inside, the covering clanking back into place. She’d paid the owner well to show her each glamoured vent, otherwise she’d never have known they were there.

The cover clanged against the metal as Saekina angled it back into place. Her hot breaths in such a small area dried her mouth out. This part tanked. If she filled up on water beforehand, her bladder would torment her. If she abstained, dehydration set in, but she could deal. 

The slavers trickled into the room fifteen minutes or so after she’d tucked herself away--the owner never got the time right. The moon orb flicked on with a snap of one woman's fingers. Lucky bastards.

“Did you do a sweep?” asked the oldest of the group judging by her graying hair and wrinkles.

“Stopped by earlier. We’re good.”

Saekina smirked. Thank the gods for built in glamours. To them, her cozy little vent didn’t look large enough to squeeze a hound into, let alone a person.

“How much stock do we have this time?” asked a man.

Saekina leaned forward, ignoring the hard metal pressing against her elbows. “Twelve. Five of them skipped out on their indentured servitude,” the woman said. “No one will come looking. The rest are lower than sewer rats. We’re bringing two of them in from across the sea. One nagwaal from Ralanth. We caught the mongrel thieving. Oh, and a mundy, poor ungifted bastard.”

Some of what they discussed was what she’d expected to hear: where they'd captured the slaves, where they were being held and where they would be taken. 

Worlds, these guys like to talk. The desire to do anything but listen to these scumbags drone on grew with each passing second. But she needed the reward money and she’d been lucky enough to find them first. 

Why did scum like them get to sleep safe in their beddings at night? Why did they get the normality she’d been denied?

Whether the authorities or a bounty hunter arrested them, the slavers would end up rotting in a jail cell. Indentured servitude wasn’t unusual, but slaves, that was forbidden. 

The vent shook. Saekina snapped to attention. The hairs on her arms rose. No. Not now. Please. A low growl spread through the room. Where is it? Her eyes darted around, settling on the wall across from the vent. 

The slavers muttered amongst themselves, trying to figure the noise out, readying swords and spells.

A massive fist burst through the room’s wall and peeled the stone apart like paper. The demon or UpperSpawn, or whatever it was, peered through, a vicious smile plastered on its bulbous, veiny head. Its ribcage heaved against ashen flesh with each breath it took, lumbering towards them on triple-jointed limbs. 

Jaundiced eyes locked on Saekina. A rancid, decaying scent invaded her nose. The creature grinned, the muscle tendons stretching by its mouth. 

The slavers screamed. With a cry, a woman led the charge. Saekina wanted to shout at them to run. She didn’t. Some part of her hoped it would forget about her if she remained silent. It was there for her. It wanted her dead.

The woman’s head exploded in the demon’s claws. A second smaller set of arms uncurled from its back, and grabbed another slaver, lifting him into the air for before throwing him across the room. He hit the wall with a sickening crunch. He slid to the floor, not moving.

Saekina wriggled in the tight space, hoping to grasp one of her daggers from its sheathe on her boots. She couldn’t. She tried to push herself deeper into the vent, desperate for a way out that didn't bring her into contact with the demon. She needed a weapon.

No. No way am I going to die here. Not like this, helpless and unable to fight. I’m not starting my next life with that baggage.

The demon rose onto its hind legs to reach its full height. Its head bent awkwardly on the ceiling, and strode toward her.

She inched backwards again, in the vain hope she’d get out of its reach.

It tossed another woman away. Saekina’s chest tightened so much she thought she’d die.

She snaked her arm lower and her fingertips somehow--miraculously--found the handle. She pulled a dagger free.

Meaty fingers curled around the vents’ grating. The pressure spread up into Saekina’s throat. Snot and tears dribbled down her chin. The iron groaned before bending to the beast’s will. An arm filled the small space and wrapped around her forearm. The metal scraped against her limbs as it dragged her out.

Saekina burrowed her dagger into its eye. The demon shrieked and wrenched its hands to its face, dropping her. The second she hit the ground, she rolled to the side and pulled her other blade free. Before she’d made it to her feet, a fist was already heading toward her. She barely had enough time to cross the daggers in front of her to brace for impact. The attack hit, the force of it sliding her against the ground. 

Someone whimpered from beside her. One of the slavers. Tears, snot, and blood ran down his face. He may be a horrible person, but he doesn’t deserve to die. Not because of me. 

A fist clobbered Saekina’s face, and white spots danced in her vision. She pushed back her nausea.

The demon threw a hunk of stone at them. She jumped in front of the man, shielding him from the attack. Her grip on her blade tightened. Her knuckles heated, a tingling sensation growing. This must be what using magic feels like.

Saekina drove it toward the demon’s head. The world dissolved in a flash of blue.


Gea said...

I like the premise of your story, the diversity, and the action in your first pages. I am a bit confused by the magic system and how reincarnation fits into the story. You don't really explain how each works in the world you've created. Your query especially could benefit from a bit more as far as both concepts go. What is this 'ethereal energy' Saekina possesses? Also, who is the goddess and why does she hate Saekina so much? You don't need to go into details there, but give us something to work with. If reincarnation is a big part of Saekina's world, how can this vengeful goddess disrupt the way the world works and stop Saekina's friends from being reborn?
I also noticed a few punctuation and grammatical errors in your pages. Like, for example, in your 1st paragraph. "She turned into the alley, passing dumpsters overflowing with reeking food and, discarded magical trinkets." There's no need for that comma before 'discarded'. The same goes for your sentence structure. "Its head bent awkwardly on the ceiling, and strode toward her." This sentence makes it sound like the creature's head strode toward Saekina. A round of line edits would make your pages shine. Hope at least some of my suggestions are helpful. I wish you a lot of success with this ms.

L.A. said...

@Gea I'm not sure how those comma typos keep coming back. My comp must be possessed with the amount of things I'm sure I fix (and then save), but are somehow later there.

In therms of the energry, goddess, and the why, those are some very big spoilery things for query. A synopsis, no problem, but a query...

Ali L. said...


The hook of your query had me laughing out loud. Nice! First, do you think you could describe Saekinda with just a few words so we get a sense for her character? Next, I like how you create a band of others around her, but let's add a bit more emotion! Does she feel accepted for the first time? Especially since it's a huge stake for her to lose, I'd try and flesh out the relationships between characters a bit more.

I like how you lay up the setting in the first paragraph of the pages! Is there any way you could add in a good hook as well? Maybe start with the sentenced, "Information on slavers never failed..." It's a pretty solid hook.

I'm slightly confused. Who says, "You again?" The "allies would be nice" line feels a little abrupt. I'd include some sort of transition between "Nice working with you" and that line. I like the world-building with regards to the moon orb and people with non-magical abilities! Also, I don't think abstaining from a few hours of water would cause dehydration...unless they live in a desert?

The line, "snot and tears dribbled down her chin," caught me off guard. I hadn't realized she's started crying. I'd make that obvious sooner. Also, I'm confused by her motivation. She hates the slavers for what they do, and their stability in life, but she's willing to defend one of them against the demon. It doesn't seem to add up. Can you clarify that at all?

Otherwise, it was very compelling, and made me want to read on! Nice job :)

Gea said...

L.A., vagueness in a query is not your friend. You need to give as many details as possible without opening all your cards. If the details I mentioned are part of your plot twist then, no, do not reveal them. But you still need to throw in some tidbits. if you can't reveal what exactly 'ethereal energy' is, maybe describe it as energy that doesn't fall into any known category of gifts. This way we know it's a mystery that will eventually be unveiled. The same goes for the identity of the goddess. If you can't tell us who she is in your query, then say she is a mysterious goddess. Please, keep in mind this is just my take on your sub. You're the writer and it's up to you what you disclose and what you keep secret. For me, there were fuzzy areas that I would've liked to get more clarification on to understand your world better.

Becki said...


Oooh, LOVE this query! Very succinct, very enticing. :D I have a few questions at the end, mainly WHY this goddess is willing to undergo so much stress to kill Saekina. Also, the fact that her friends share hunters implies the goddess sent them all--otherwise I want to know why the hunters are, well, hunting Saekina, if they're not linked. If the goddess is hunting them all, then why does Saekina think it's her fault if they die? They were already being hunted, right...?

These are pretty minor questions, though. Ultimately, you establish her goal: stay alive / keep friends alive, the stakes: being alone again, and the premise: girl fights against a goddess for survival. It's has loads of promise!! Nice job! :D


Ooh, love the first line!! Awesome job. There's a comma out of place in that first paragraph, but otherwise it's a great hook!

It's a little confusing that you mention "information on slavers never failed to fetch at least one gold coin," and then three paragraphs later Saekina slips payment to the man. I understood later it's for a hotel room, but if you could introduce that sooner, you'd clear up some of my initial confusion. :D

I absolutely adore that she's ungifted. That's a great way to set the scene for some serious badassery--I'm now wondering how she's going to make up for her lack of ability! Through awesome fighting skills? Clever gimmicks? Subterfuge tactics?? The list is endless!!

I also love how casually you reference the magic in this world. It's FANTASTIC world building!!

And the action at the end, whew!! What an amazing way to snag the reader by the face and NOT LET GO. Truly spectacular; the action was tempered with enough internal thought to keep us grounded, and keep us reminded of the stakes at hand. And I loved how even though they were slavers, Saekina is still sympathetic of them dying. That speaks volumes about her character!!

Really, if you clear up the beginning, you'll be golden. I wasn't immediately sure what she was doing at the hotel, or why, and confusion in the beginning of a story is sometimes dangerous. A confused reader is a frustrated reader... Just a one or two sentence clarification should be totally fine to get us back on track and into that amazing action!

Awesome, awesome job. Truly great work, here! You're a stellar writer. :D

BW said...

I love the concept here and the strength Saekina shows. There's also really good description, particularly of the demon.

In terms of the query, I found "strange, ethereal energy" slightly vague - is there a clearer way to say this without giving too much away? Also, until you described it as LGBT, I wasn't 100% sure whether Saekina likes this girl romantically or not. Perhaps that's me being dense, but there's no harm in making this clearer, especially as I think it would be good to know a little more about their relationship (it's definitely part of the hook of the story). I'd agree with what's previously been mentioned too: why is the goddess after her? Even a vague hint would do, like "Saekina's past mistakes get her hunted by a goddess" (not those words at all, but just to give you an idea of what I mean).

I read the whole of the first pages and I'd definitely have kept reading if I could. I found her envy of the woman using magic interesting, because she's obviously skilled in other ways. Just a couple of things I noted:

- I'm not sure you need the line "All Saekina had was herself." as the previous paragraph already hinted at this very neatly.
- I was surprised by "He may be a horrible person, but he doesn’t deserve to die. Not because of me." because she seemed quite cold and calculating up to this point, with the whole "smiling is good for business" and how she really seems to know what she's doing. Not a bad thing, but maybe show some more of her warmth; how she only does what she does because she has to to get by?
- "Some of what they discussed was what she’d expected to hear: where they'd captured the slaves, where they were being held and where they would be taken." To me this implies that she hears some things that surprise her?

Overall, this is definitely a book I'd buy. Good job :D

The Agent [GP] said...

L.A., thank you so much for participating in the contest! The first line in your letter was fantastic and your description of Saekina is exactly what I love in a protagonist--badass, confident, and mold-breaking. That being said, when you utilize characteristics such as reincarnation, there are details that need to be clarified from the outset, all connected to the central question: how does reincarnation work in your story? When Saekina reincarnates is it always the same body and does she continue to age? What type of magic in the universe allows her to do so, and if she is the only person to have this gift, why? Further, what has Saekina done to deserve the wrath of the goddess hellbent on destroying her? Once you know the answer to these questions, incorporate them into your story as appropriate per timing (if you haven’t already) and consider integrating them into your summary as well. Personally, I'd rather be less surprised while reading and have a better sense of the plot/pace so as to more effectively analyze your novel.

Despite this, your writing itself was punchy and gripping. The pacing from the outset catapulted your audience directly into the story without losing focus on the world building and setting the stage for the main story arc. The details that you wove into your story created a firm sense of setting and world building, which I would expect to see throughout the rest of the novel.