Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Ms. Piraino,

Kyra Mavros was thirteen years old when she “lost her foot,” which is a polite way of saying that a dragon ripped it off and swallowed it whole. 

Two years later, she’s sick and tired of the pitying glances. Determined to regain her mobility and protect others from a similar fate, Kyra sets her sights on joining the Huntresses: deadly warriors equipped with solar-powered wings and a taste for dragon blood. After all, you don’t need both feet to fly...or hunt. 

When another dragon devastates her hometown of Pythila, Kyra ignores the safety brochures that insist humans without wings should avoid them at all costs. She leaps into the fight and, with her quick wit and a little luck, sends the beast packing. Impressed, the Huntresses whisk her to the floating city of Harbinger, where young nestlings must survive a grueling year of boot camp to earn their wings. But not everyone thinks Kyra deserves to be there, and they aren’t above sabotage to get her expelled. Eventually, even Kyra begins to question whether or not she could repeat the victory in her hometown. 

To make matters worse, the dragon from Pythila has nursed its wounds and is back for revenge. When the beast kidnaps one of her only friends, Kyra must rise above her classmates’ prejudice--and her own self-doubts--to rescue him...even if it means sacrificing her wings in the process.

HARBINGER is a young adult fantasy complete at 78,000 words, and has series potential. Based on your love of imaginative fantasy with strong world building, I am pleased to present it for your consideration. 

I am an associate member of SCBWI. I have also participated in National Novel Writing Month for nine consecutive years. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Sincerely,
R.F.


HARBINGER

It took two words to destroy Kyra Mavros’s life. 

She’d bartered passage to Cartha, the capital of the Meridian Isles, hiked to the acropolis that proudly housed the huntress’s base, ignored stares and whispers as she crutched to the central tower...all for the infamous entrance exam. 

The most important day of her life. And then Admiral Phebe ruined it: 

“Absolutely not.”

The twenty-six other teenagers taking the exam stopped on higher steps of the tower’s spiral staircase and stared. Although only the people nearby could have heard, it seemed like the whole building had gone silent. 

Kyra couldn’t breathe. She tried to project her mother’s confidence, to recall her brother’s advice to stand tall, be proud. 

It didn’t work. Her voice still cracked when she said, “I’m--I’m sorry?”

Admiral Phebe crossed her arms and looked down her long, thin nose at Kyra. “I said, absolutely not. I will not allow an amputee to test.” The word must have tasted awfully sour for her lips to pucker that way. 

“Told you,” that awful boy, the one who’d teased her outside, muttered, shooting Kyra a smug look from five steps up. 

Kyra’s face grew warm. Her palms were slippery on the wooden grips of her crutches, but she forced herself to meet the admiral’s haughty gaze. This woman held Kyra’s dream in her hands. And the window of opportunity was closing fast. 

She mounted a defense. 

“I--I am not my disability,” Kyra managed, feeling like she’d swallowed cotton. She’d never been more aware of her crutches than that moment, except maybe the day she’d gotten them. “I’ve been practicing. I can do anything they can.”

The admiral raised an eyebrow. “Really. Anything? On crutches, you can cross the bridge strung between our towers? You can run laps as fast as the other hopefuls? You can fight a beast without weapons?”

Yes. Maybe not as fast as the normal teenagers, but Kyra knew she could. She was her mother’s daughter, after all. 

Nevertheless, the admiral would ignore whatever she said--that much was obvious. Kyra would have to prove it during the actual exam. If she was allowed to participate, she’d amaze everyone. 

“Please, ma’am. You have to let me try.” 

Wrong choice of words. Admiral Phebe’s eyes narrowed, and she said, “I don’t have to do anything, Ms. Mavros.” 

Now their discussion was definitely attracting attention. The central tower of Cartha’s huntress base was incredibly tall, but even people twenty stories up the spiral staircase leaned over the railing to watch the exchange. During initiation week, groups of hopeful fifteen-year-olds were a common sight, but surely, none of them stopped to argue with the admiral. 

A few people even leapt off the staircase to swoop lower, as if they might hear better from five stories than twenty. In that moment, Kyra wished huntresses were normal people, not winged warriors. Eavesdropping was so much easier for someone who could fly. 

Admiral Phebe turned to the other potentials and snapped her fingers. “Eyes on me,” she said, as if they weren’t already staring. “Who can tell me what a huntress’s purpose in the Realm is? Anyone?”

A thin, mousy girl raised her hand. “Huntresses protect humanity from the dragons.”

“Correct,” the admiral’s voice was curt. “And why can’t the normal citizens protect themselves?”

Now that terrible boy from earlier replied, “Because no long-distance weapon can pierce a dragon’s scales. To kill one, you have to get close.” He was still smirking at Kyra, a cruel glint in his eyes.

“Exactly.” With a swoosh, Admiral Phebe snapped open her wings. The teenagers on the staircase gasped, and one girl squeaked in excitement. 

Like the others, Kyra couldn’t help admiring them. Her father had luminoid wings too, although his elliptical wingspan had been shorter and rounder, created for sharp turns and quick takeoffs. 

Still, hers were exquisite, thousands of lavender feathers spread into a wingspan easily five meters in width. The luminoid material glowed softly in the sunlight that streamed through the tower’s open windows. A glint of the titanium that laced her feathers together was visible when the admiral shifted. 

Admiral Phebe seemed impervious to the glamour of it all. “The Realm’s armies can fight the stupider beasts, but only huntresses can tackle the dragons on an aerial level.” 

She gestured towards the mural near the tower’s main entrance. 

It was titled The Battle of Cartha. On the far left, huntresses mobilized to tackle the biggest dragon onslaught in a hundred years. At the base, the dragons’ army of beasts--griffins and mermaids and werewolves and kraken--swarmed the streets and the harbor, eyes red with bloodlust, massacring humans and sinking ships attempting to flee. And towards the top of the painting was the dragons’ ruler, locked in an aerial battle against a female huntress with black wings. 

Damara Mavros. 

As Kyra stared at the battle that killed her parents, Admiral Phebe continued, “This war will only be won when the dragons are destroyed. That is a huntress’s calling.”

Kyra tore her eyes from the painting. Her voice sounded very small. “I know.” 

“Do you? Nestlings must endure a year of physical and mental training before they earn their wings. How do you expect to pass that year with one leg?”

A few teenagers snickered, mostly the new friends that boy had made. 

“The woman at the gates said I could test,” Kyra said, trying her hardest to stand tall. She could imagine her brother Astraeus offering an encouraging smile, telling her to beat the odds. But Astraeus hadn’t seen her in two years, not since before the attack. 

Would he say the same now? Or would he stare at her stump and her crutches and agree with Admiral Phebe? 

“The woman outside humored you because of your heritage, but I don’t believe in legacy admittance. You can’t expect to survive based on who your mother was.” The admiral folded her wings, the feathers interlocking until they compacted against her back. 

“I’m not--” Emotion surged in Kyra’s throat, cutting off her words. She hadn’t mentioned her mother to Admiral Phebe. To anyone. 

But the admiral pointed at her neck, and Kyra realized a grave mistake. Her necklace, a manufactured feather hanging from a piece of twine, had fallen from under her shirt. It dangled in plain view of everyone, and the teenagers stared with renewed interest. 

“A black luminoid feather from our late Champion’s wings,” Admiral Phebe said, narrowing her dark eyes. “Clever strategy.”

She thought Kyra was trying to invoke sympathy by showing off the feather. That offended Kyra more than the admiral’s earlier words about legacy admittance, and she quickly shoved the feather back under her shirt. 

Unfortunately, the damage was done. Admiral Phebe held her gaze, unwavering. “Huntresses rely on their squads for support in battle, and I’m simply not confident in your ability to perform. This is life or death. I will not allow other nestlings to suffer due to your shortcomings. Go home, Ms. Mavros.”

Before Kyra could stop it, one fat tear slipped down her cheek. 

“But--”

“The rest of you, up the stairs. There are other potentials to test today, and we’ve wasted too much time,” Admiral Phebe snapped her fingers. It was as if she snapped everything back into motion. The kids began climbing again, and above them, huntresses leaned away from the railing or surged upwards to their intended destination. 

Kyra stayed at the base of the staircase, shifting her grip on her crutches.

“You don’t need both feet to fly,” she whispered, choking back tears. 

But the reply was too little, too late. The group was already two stories above her.

11 comments:

Bound said...

Well done query I liked that it was to the point and gave me an immediate sense of what the book would be about! And an interesting spin on dragons being the bad guys! Very fresh and throw back to old fantasy :)

Your first pages I thought were stunning! Very good writing and you got to the point quickly. You made Kyra likeable and I want to see her succeed against the haters. Good job putting details and some back story in without info dumping as well. I'd love to read more of this!

Jeffery said...

I wasn't overall hooked by the query, which felt almost a little too book-reportish to me, but queries (I think) are so personal to the reader that you'll get a hundred different responses about what's good and bad (I'm still struggling with them).

That said, I loved the story itself. Charming, great dialogue, it moved along at a nice clip. You had a lot of back story to provide, but you did it in a way that didn't feel stilted or like an info dump, deftly weaving it into the first scene. I'd continue reading this, and enjoyed it very much. Great work, and best of luck!

Elisa Stryker said...

The query was easy to follow and gave me the info I needed to view the pages. I loved the writing and was left wanting to know more. How did she make it into testing? I'd have to read on to find out!

Well done and good luck!!

Drayton Alan said...

I Enjoyed the story also. The first part quickly drew me into the story and made me care about the MC. I would read this. Being older, I still enjoy the classic underdog story. Stories about small people making a big difference are what energize my hope and imagination. It seems a hopeful story to me, I'm so weary of the cumbersome darkness that has swept over fantasy.

Gea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gea said...

I love everything about your query and your pages. I seriously wouldn't change a thing. Your voice drew me in right away. I could 'see' the huntresses' base, the admiral's glorious wings. I felt Kyra's frustration. Well done. I'm hooked and want to read more.

Arkvander said...

The query queen has landed! I'm not even going to say anything about it because you already know. It is fantastic and I have no thoughts on how to improve it :)

As for your pages: wow. Nicely done, you've given us a good sense of your main character, her stakes, her world and the challenges before her, all while making her sympathetic and strong at the same time. And you've plunged us right into the action, which I always like. This feels both big in scope and yet personal for Kyra, so I think you've struck and important balance there. Fantastic opening.

Audrey Dion said...

Your query is superb, just one suggestion: I would definitely mention her heritage in it. That's a cruel twist of irony, and a great part of your hook.

1250:
Loved it. Dialogue was really well done, we are rooting for Kyra from the very beginning. She is strong, determined, and has so much to overcome. You 've shown us all of that. Plus, the world of your story sounds fantastic. Fighting monsters? With wings on? Sign me up.

My one quibble is that the phrase "I am not my disability" seems very grounded in our world and time, and shakes me out of the fantasy world you've created. Could you reshape the declaration - same meaning, different words - to be unique to your character in her world?

So well done. Best of luck!

Ali L. said...

Hi!

Wow, I LOVED your query - it's on point, it presents the character's well, and explains the world without being confusing while also setting up the goals / stakes / conflict. (I recognize this from somewhere, but I can't remember where haha are you an #ontheporch?)

AND the first line of the samples totally hooked me! Well done. Your descriptions are on point, the way you slip them into the story without drawing me out of the scene.

"I am not my disability." YESSSS! I can already tell this is going to be a fantastic book! Whoa. I didn't expect her parents to be dead. Didn't she refer to her father in the present tense?

My only comment: since you capitalized Huntresses in the query, should you capitalize them in the story as well? Otherwise, I absolutely LOVED your sample! It makes me want to read more to see how Kyra overcomes the prejudice of the others, and earn her wings! Fantastic job.

VV said...

QUERY: Love the hook line. Immediately makes me want to know what happened to her. Plus dragons! Second para: All great, though I do wonder what you mean by a taste for dragon blood. Do they drink it? Maybe a taste for spilling dragon blood? Also, I think you could skip the ellipsis after “fly”. I like how clear you’ve laid out her motivations right from the beginning.
Third para: Safety brochures does make me wonder what kind of world Kyra lives in. I was getting the Viking vibe, but that could totally be because of the “How to Train Your Dragons” movie. I’m wondering how this world is developed. If it’s modern but with things such as Huntresses and dragons and a hometown name Pythila, it may be better to keep us grounded in this world you’ve built. Would safety warnings instead of safety brochures work the same? I love the entire boot camp scenario. Seriously, this sounds amazing. And you’ve written the query using lovely, precise language. Could this para also include why the others believe Kyra doesn’t deserve to be there? Is it because she’s human?
Final para: Is just beautiful. Great stakes, great conflict. Again, I’d skip the ellipsis after “rescue him” though. And can you include why she would be at risk of losing her wings? Maybe like, “even if it means going against the huntresses and sacrificing her wings in the process.
FIRST 1250:
Ha! Love the first line. To keep it consistent, why not follow that sentence up with the actual two words, “Absolutely not” then continue on with everything she had to do to meet with the Admiral. Maybe once you get to the part where it says, “And then Admiral Phebe ruined it” you could say something like, “Kyra ran the words over once more through her mind, still not believing their finality. Absolutely not.”
Of course, that is completely up to you.  I love the voice shining through right away. Oh my goodness, I absolutely loved this excerpt. I already love Kyra’s character, already feel for her. Your writing is so easy to follow and gripping. The part where you describe her wings is just lovely. Seriously, so good.

The Agent [GP] said...

R.F. thanks so much for participating with me! There were a lot of things about your entry that I found interesting, primarily the concepts of Huntresses in a floating city fighting off dragons and their beasts! However, the plot as outlined in your query letter left me asking a lot of questions and I had a hard time connecting the summary with the material that you submitted. Because we only see the very beginning of your novel, be sure to strengthen the details in your query letter so that the concept is believable within the scope of your world. You're mixing a couple of different elements here--scientific capabilities to create and operate solar technology with mythological dragons and the like; make sure that both play well together and the rules of your world are fixed. My largest concern here is that although missing a foot is a difficult disability on land, as soon as Kyra is airborne, it seems it would no longer be a hindrance. As such, I’m not sure why, especially with her legacy, she wouldn’t be given the opportunity to test for the training process to determine if she can become a Huntress.

Because of this, although I thought your writing was engaging and I was compelled to find Kyra a strong character, the foundation of your story didn’t work for me within this context. However, if you were to further demonstrate how her disability were to be be such an extreme hurdle in the long run, I would absolutely have been more interested in this project.