Monday, January 14, 2013

Bouncer Post #7

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 77,000


My YA Fantasy UNDER A BURNING SKY, complete at 77,000 words, is set in a world based heavily on ancient Sumer (a region in modern-day Iraq).

Sixteen-year-old Erishti misses the days when people smiled at her. When she'd drag herself up the side of the ziggurat at an ungodly hour to make an offering, the priestess would pat her on the shoulder and beam in pride. The other cooks in the palace kitchen would offer sympathetic grins when she'd get chewed out by the head cook. Her best friend, Rehat, would laugh when she'd tell him the head cook should get eaten by a goat.

Then they discovered her deepest secret: she's the illegitimate byblow of the late king. Now her serving friends in her strictly class-based society are afraid to so much as look at her, lest her royal gaze strike them down. All except Rehat, a scribe-in-training, with whom she thinks she might finally be able to have a future.

Until she discovers the queen wants her dead.

To save her life, Erishti flees to the only place no one will follow: an enchanted prison housing her land's seven ancient gods, locked away a century ago by a king sick of their propensity for mayhem and ruin. The twisted gods offer to help Erishti get her life back, but at a price: she must release them, loosing them onto her people and everything in the world she holds dear.

Including Rehat.

UNDER A BURNING SKY should appeal to fans of accessible high fantasy like Leigh Bardugo's SHADOW AND BONE and Rachel Hartman's SERAPHINA. Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

One of the two things Princess Gemeti and I had in common was that we were born under skies that cried fire. The priestesses, high and mighty atop their golden ziggurat, said the fistfuls of flame that rained upon us those two days were good omens.

Maybe the burning sky was lucky for Gemeti. She entered this world swaddled in silk and flurried with kisses from everybody in the palace complex of Kish, a feathered headdress already crowning her tiny head. The entire kingdom sang her name, from the fishermen on the banks of the great river to the peasants in their mud-brick hovels.

On the other hand, maybe it hadn't been so lucky for Gemeti, because now she was dead. Don't ask me how—I don't want to start off by having to lie to you.

It certainly hadn't been lucky for me, or for my mother. She'd nearly bled out over the dirt floor of the slave infirmary, howling into a pillow as not to disturb the free patients in the next room. The thatch roof above her head kept igniting and showering ashes over her face, choking her with the taste of charred wood. She had only a few hours to pet my head and coo into my ear before she handed me over to a wet nurse. She had to get back to her work in the kitchen.

The only thing lucky for me about that sky was that, underneath, I was born free.

This morning, I woke again to a burning sky.


  1. I think your premise is very intriguing, but I think you can clean up your query a bit (FYI, I got the same comment multiple times about my query). Yours started to pique my interest in the 3rd paragraph, so maybe start there and then do a little world building. I also don't think you need to mention the similarity to ancient Sumer, it'll come across in your writing (like when you mention the ziggurat).

    That being said, I really enjoyed your 1st 250 words. They pulled me into the story right away. The only sentence that felt a smidgeon out of place w/ your voice was, "Don't ask me how—I don't want to start off by having to lie to you." That sentence comes across a little snarky, but your protagonist didn't feel snarky before that. Just a thought. I would definitely keep reading.

    I'm entry #19, and I wish you lots of luck!!

    1. Thank you for your comments! :) And congratulations on making it to the next round!!

  2. Your first 250 SO well written! Love the juxtaposition of the first and last lines. That last line hooks me and I want to keep reading. Good luck! I'm entry #2.

    1. Thank you! :) Good luck to you too!

  3. I agree with Jenny! Your first 250 words are beautiful, and very intriguing. Your writing style reminds me a bit of Daughter of Smoke and Bone (which I adore). I would totally keep reading.

    I liked your query, but I think it might be a little stronger if you let us know why the queen wants Erishti dead.

    Good Luck!

    1. Thank you! I'm honored to be compared DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE - I LOVE that book!

  4. What a neat choice of setting! And a great 250 words; strong and really well-written, I thought. My only comment is sorta repeating what others have said about the query - I felt that adding info about why the queen wants her dead, and also more about what the gods will do for her and why she wants it (I mean, other than the obvious not-having-to-run-from-assassins thing) would be helpful to understanding her decision. And as well as I think they establish the setting, I think you could probably also trim down the first body paragraph of the query to just a couple of sentences to make the whole thing read a bit more quickly.
    Good luck from entry #1!

    1. Thank you for your notes on the query - they'll be so useful when I return to whip it into shape. Good luck to you too!!

  5. (Drumroll please)


    You're In! :-D

    I have to say I just love love love your first 250 words. Love them. Your query, as others have mentioned, is a bit rough, but I kept coming back to your words. You made me choose your entry! And there were so many wonderful ones to choose from. It was hard to pick only three. But yours just wouldn't let me not choose it. Wonderful job.

    Now about the query. It is too long. We don't need you to tell us it's set in Sumer. Trust us to figure it out for ourselves. Also, whoever said you should start the query somewhere in the vicinity of the third paragraph is absolutely right. I don't mind not knowing why the queen wants her dead, but I would like to know more about the gods' intentions and motivations for destruction. Also, I'd like for Erishti to have more of a compelling motivation for loosing mayhem on her people than just to get her life back (is something more at stake? was she tricked?), but those 250 words give you a lot of rope in my book. As a reader, I trust you to keep me believing in your MC.

    1. THANK YOU! :D You've totally made my night (I may have danced a little or a lot as I made dinner...). I can see exactly what you mean with the query, and will do my best to wrangle it into shape. My mind is already buzzing!

    2. You're so welcome! You definitely earned it with that awesome opening. Good luck in the agent round! I'll be rooting for you from the sidelines. :-D

  6. Let me be the first to say, Congrats!

    And I loved your first 250. Totally sucked me in. I agree with tightening your query but it made me want to read the whole thing and isn't that what we all want?


  7. Oh WOW! Loved your first 250 words! Starts off with such a bang! Congratulations!

  8. LOVE "skies that cried fire." And CONGRATS! :)