Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #35

Genre: YA Fantasy with SF & historical elements
Word Count: 105K


Raven and her two sisters are born into a life of privilege and seclusion, their aristocratic brown eyes veiled from unworthy peasants. The girls flee onto the floating walkways of their city when the king discovers their parents hide a son who beloved by the gods (autistic) – all such children are entombed in the temple walls. After murdering his own sons because of their commoner blue eyes, the king wants Raven and her sisters to secretly bear new heirs.

Although the king captures her sisters, Raven escapes with her brother and joins the rebels. She becomes a spy in the palace posing as a neutered slave, one of many brown-eyed bastards of the aristocracy. Along with her street urchin friend, Raven depends on a fugitive prince to guard and transport her to a safe house in the marshes. He claims to love Raven, but he betrays her identity to the king.

Raven must flee the city of her birth and retreat to the mountain wilderness. She finds she can still spy on the king’s soldiers as she learns to pilot a glider. After an aerial battle, the soldiers shoot Raven down and take her prisoner. However, when she eludes the king’s clutches once again, she discovers his fatal weakness, and who truly betrayed her. To save her sisters from slavery and friends from tyranny, Raven must stage a coup in the heart of the king’s temple, but will fail unless she sacrifices the one person she vowed to protect.

Some of the adventures in this novel are informed by my work as an evolutionary ecologist and experience as a hang glider pilot. Please note the main character's name changes in the course of the story from Veldt to Raven.

First 250:

My brother had no name. He was our secret. Until the night we were betrayed.

Mother towed me along with such speed that I soared between impossibly long steps. Her dress wrapped around me; the cloth billowed and flowed like jewel colored clouds. I felt her fear as we ran for our lives. Even though I was small for twelve summers, I slowed her flight.

“Hurry Vellineuvia!” she hissed at me between gasps for breath. “They’ll find us!”

My side cramped with pain.

I looked over at my brother in the evening light. Mother clutched his hand too. He was taller than I was and could keep pace. He grinned and giggled. Sometimes he would talk, but only to me.

“Veldt,” he would say, “Veldt, Veldt, Veldt.”

That was his name for me.

Mother and Father just called him “our lamb.” He had never been allowed outside; even the courtyards of our home were too exposed. My sisters and I had seen little of the world either. Before going out, my nurse would shroud our faces in veils that were supposed to hide our mahogany-colored eyes from unworthy peasants.
That day, I had no gauze to smudge the city of Ursing into opacity.

My two older sisters ran together behind us over the decrepit floating walkways that united the marsh city’s many islands. I don’t think I had ever seen them hold hands before.


  1. The first thing that pops out to me is the veiling of the eye color and I wonder about the deeper tones that it could possibly represent in this novel, so that catches my brown peepers. But the query reads more like a synopsis in the first two paragraphs. A query should have a hook to start off with, an elevator pitch type of one sentence that hooks the reader in.Look at it this way. It should have 3 parts: opening, introduction of conflict, and what does the character have to gain or lose.

    The last paragraph has more of a query flavor, a sense of suspense and action. The first two paragraphs, while the information is necessary to the story, reads like background information. The concern there is that an agent may worry that the manuscript will also start off with a lot of background information and not with the inciting incident that propels the story forward. Start to the query off with a hook and then move into what gets the story going.
    Here is a suggested generic revision. The point of this is to show how to tighten the query, kick off with the inciting action and tell the gist without giving away important plot points (like the prince).

    Use to a life of privilege and seclusion because of her aristocratic brown eyes, Raven must flee the city of her birth and retreat to the mountain wilderness once the King discovers that her parents hid a child blessed by the gods.

    While her sisters are captured by the King, she escapes with her brother and must rely on a fugitive prince she’s not sure she can trust to protect her. Once she discovers the King’s one weakness and her truly betrayed her, she learns the only way to save her sisters from slavery and friends from tyranny, Raven must stage a coup in the heart of the king’s temple, but will fail unless she sacrifices the one person she vowed to protect.

    See how it went from 249 words down to 123? And you have plenty of room to add more things in.

    The query and the first 250 show a strong command of writing!

    1. Ooh, I bow down to your query chops :) Yes, that extra room will allow me to squeeze in more "cool stuff." Thanks! Anonymous writer (I'm supposing this is the appropriate thing).

  2. Your 250 reads really well - I enjoyed it. One observation - the genre description is a little much. I've been seeing this a lot lately, and sometimes it makes me do a double take. Maybe just stick to 'fantasy'.

    1. Ha! You are so right about the genre thing. Mostly I'm trying to say this isn't straight epic fantasy, but the query itself should do that. Thanks! Anonymous writer.

  3. Jennifer's thoughts on your query are good - this is an entry where the sample is MUCH stronger than the query. I love the first 250, my only nits to pick are these:

    jewel-colored should be hypehnated.

    As in any form of address, there should be a comma in “Hurry, Vellineuvia!”

    1. Particular thanks for stopping by as I'm not one of your entries. Yes, I really appreciate Jennifer's take. This query writing is a whole different skill. Thank you also for your picked nits (now combed and squished) and kind words. :)