Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Agent's Inbox,

In Prince Deacon’s kingdom, getting married means an irreversible bond of mind and body. His parents want him to put duty before love and marry the princess of a neighboring kingdom, but the thought of sharing a consciousness with a stranger repulses him. He never thought he'd fall for his intended’s younger sister, Elony, a girl who has visions of the future. The problem is that Elony is in love with her childhood best friend, Caz.

When Caz gets trapped in a magical wasteland, Deacon doesn’t hesitate to help Elony save him. But rescuing him accidentally opens the door to an ancient prison, and Caz becomes possessed by a Shade, the spirit of a power-hungry king who serves the death god. For centuries, the Shade has waited to be freed so he can resume his reign of terror, collecting souls for his master.

With both their hearts on the line, Deacon and Elony must stop the Shade before it plunges the land into an age of darkness. If they can’t find a way to destroy the Shade without killing Caz, they’ll have to decide what’s more important: saving Caz, or saving their kingdoms.

CROWN OF ASH AND STARS, complete at 83,000 words, is a dual point-of-view young adult fantasy that will appeal to readers of Kristin Cashore's GRACELING and Sarah J Maas's THRONE OF GLASS.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Chapter 1: Elony

Bastian nudged my shoulder, a playful attempt to knock me off balance. “Ready to face defeat, Elony?”

I didn’t budge, the muscles in my legs taut and ready. “Not today, brother. You may be older, but you certainly aren’t wiser, or you’d know you have no chance in beating me."

His lip curled up in a smirk. “Don’t forget that I’m also stronger, faster, and going to make you eat my dust.”

On my right, my best friend, Caz, brushed a strand of raven hair from his face, looking far too at ease when we were seconds away from beginning the race. He caught me eyeing him, sizing up my competition. He winked, and flashed me a smile.

I tossed my wind swept braid over my shoulder and dug my heel into the dirt. I would not let Caz distract me. Not this time. These races were my favorite part of our training, of honing our abilities, and I was not going to let his goofy grin throw me off my game. Again.

The stone archway of the labyrinth loomed ahead of us, at least five different paths visible from where we stood. Each path twisted their way deeper into the maze, their secret obstacles waiting to trap us.

I released the block I held on my ability, letting the visions flood my mind. The future danced around the edge of my consciousness, and the familiar pull made my head pulse with effort. It sent an icy chill rippling over my skin. With only a split second passing in the present, the next few minutes played out in my mind.


Lindsi said...


I love the idea of sharing mind and body! They literally become one when they're married, which also seems terrifying. Would you really want to know everything that happens within your spouse's consciousness? Scary! I feel like your query letter gives the basic facts surrounding your story, but since the elements are so fantastical, it feels complicated. Maybe give a few more clarifying details? It also feels like there is a love square going on, haha. It's definitely different! I'm intrigued by your concept.

I think your story has a lot going for it, and the 250 words you shared made me want to read more. The labyrinth you mentioned... is it THE labyrinth from Greek mythology? Regardless, training in any type of labyrinth seems dangerous. You could mentioned what they're training for in your query letter to give people a better idea of what's going on!

My main suggestion would be to clarify certain aspects of your query letter, and maybe go into more detail to give the reader a better understanding of your world.

*I might be wrong, but I think you're also supposed to include information about yourself within your query letter. Educational and writing history, any awards or nominations, etc. It helps the reader know more about you and your background.

Good luck!
Lindsi (L.R.)

Unknown said...

I love the premise of your story! And your query and first 250 words really make me want to read more!

I get a pretty good feel of Deacon's thoughts, feelings and motivations, but Elony didn't feel as much of a main character as Deacon. And considering she's half of the dual POV, and starts off the book with her POV, I feel you should add a little bit more of her. Maybe have a paragraph after "He never thought he'd fall for his intended's younger sister." Then: "Eony, a girl who has visions of the future...(more info about her here?) The problem is that Elony is in love with her childhood best friend, Caz." <--That line sounds a little much like a statement, maybe find a way to spice it up a bit?

Also, the wording in your last paragraph makes me wonder if Caz is also important to Deacon, because "they'll have to decide what's more important: saving Caz or saving their kingdoms." Does he know Caz or become friends with him at all?

Honestly, if I read your this synopsis of the book and first few pages in a bookstore/library, I'd definitely sit down to read more!

Great job!!
Sylvia (S.M.)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Your query is quite strong. You've done a great job of introducing us to Deacon, describing the crux of the plot, and setting up the stakes. Even your title is spot-on. I guess I did wonder how he's had a chance to get to know and fall in love with Elony when he considers her older sister to be a stranger, but that's a very small thing.

As for the first page, I did find it slightly off-putting that the story starts with Elony rather than Deacon, since Deacon was the main POV character in the query, but not so off-putting that I wouldn't keep reading. (That said, if you find your request rate isn't what you want it to be, you might try rewriting your query from Elony's point-of-view or starting with Deacon instead.) I also noticed a few things I would tweak: I'd change "no chance in beating me" to "no chance to beat me"; "I tossed my wind swept braid" to "I tossed my windswept braid," one word; and "Each path twisted their way" to "Each path twisted its way." The only other thing you might want to address is that I assumed they were getting ready to spar in the first few paragraphs (though I'm not sure why--maybe just because that's what characters often do in YA fantasies?), so when Elony mentioned a race halfway through the fourth paragraph, I had to adjust my assessment of the scene. Is there some way you could make it clearer that they're standing on a starting line instead of in a sparring ring?

Good luck to you and CROWN OF ASH AND STARS!

brinestone said...

I'm amazed at your imagination! So many cool things going on. This is exactly the sort of thing I would read.

I'm not really sure what type of comments are expected here, but I'm always game for constructive criticism, so I guess that's what I'll do here.

Query first:

1. I love the first line. Love it.

2. Love quadrangle. Tough to pull off well, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

3. The second paragraph introduces a LOT of stuff. Magical wasteland, quest to save Caz, ancient prison, Caz possessed by a Shade, master (who would a Shade's master be?). I'm feeling a little untethered, like I'm not quite sure what to expect from this book. It sounds cool, but I'm not sure anymore what the central conflict is. I guess they're trying to get the shade out of Caz and back into the prison?

4. I love the first line of the third paragraph. Now I know what the goal and the stakes are. And I love the terrible choice at the end.

5. Very epic fantasy title! Good length.

brinestone said...

And now the excerpt:

1. I agree that it was off-putting to start with Elony's POV after the query dealt with Deacon's.

2. I'm not in love with this start, I gotta be honest. I know this is a tiny excerpt, but it feels like a main-character-living-her-normal-life-before-the-story-starts kind of beginning, and I just kind of want you to start where it gets good. Maybe something amazing happens before the end of this chapter, but it doesn't hook me from the start.

3. I do like that she uses her ability to help her in the maze. That's a cool glimpse of the magic right off the bat.

4. You may want to play around with writing an awesome opening line that hooks the reader and gives a sense of what the book as a whole is. (I need to listen to my own advice because my opening line also leaves something to be desired. Haha. I'm mulling it over.)

THE AGENT said...

This is a really intriguing query with a lot of cool elements, though right now, the events feel a little unstrung. Just as I'm contemplating the interesting plot point of the consciousness-melding marriages and Deacon not wanting to share a mind with a stranger, we move on to the magical wasteland, and an ancient prison, and a power-hungry king who possesses Deacon, and a shadowy master.

And the stakes--saving Caz--don't seem as compelling for Deacon, who doesn't know Caz. The query tells me he loves Elony, who loves Caz, but I'm not sure why; we don't get to know her through any detail, which makes me feel like Deacon doesn't really know her.

As cool as all of this information is, I'd refocus. Deacon is appalled at the idea of an arranged marriage which would trap his consciousness with a strangers forever (because he can't imagine loving somebody enough to want that?) Then he does, in fact, fall in love, but with somebody who wants to meld her mind and body with another. When Elony's beloved goes missing, taken by dark forces, Deacon must decide what's more important--his happiness, or Elony's?

OF COURSE, that's reductive and might not even be true of the book at all, but it's just an example of how all of the plot points in the query might relate and build toward the novel's true stakes.

As for the opening scene, it was enjoyable, but I was pretty thrown that it focused on Elony, when the query was about Deacon and his journey. It might be better to open on him.