Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CAGI Entry #72

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 92,000


Seventeen-year-old courier Kiel Reaux has one goal: pay off the debt chaining him to the Baron of Old Town and earn his freedom before those chains become a noose. One last job, the Baron tells him, but it goes balls up and lands Kiel in the hands of slavers.

Kiel is sold to Izzy, a young priestess na├»ve enough to trust him. On the run from her own problems, Izzy needs to travel through the Wild, a jungle of untamed magic where trees can kill and flowers can resurrect the dead. What’s more, she’s decided Kiel will be her guide and promises him freedom, only if he helps her.

Assassins trail Izzy’s every step, which is almost enough to make Kiel forget about the Baron, even if the Baron hasn’t forgotten about him. But while Kiel keeps everything under control, he fails to guard himself against the most dangerous power yet: Izzy herself. Her beauty and kind nature chain Kiel so tightly he starts to forget about his freedom. Now Kiel has a choice: forget Izzy and save face with the Baron, or trust in Izzy and her promise. Because unless Kiel can find a way to protect them both, he won’t have to worry about his liberty. He can’t enjoy freedom if he’s dead.

I have a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota and served as the fiction editor for 2003 Wayfarer, the literary magazine of the U of MN. I am a SCBWI member and my short story “Hole Ridden” appears in DARK MOON DIGEST Issue 6.

First 250:

I lost the package.

It should’ve been my final job for the Baron. The last delivery, and then I’d be done with him forever. But a stop to take a leak resulted in a vanished package, and here I found myself, empty-handed, back at the Baron’s ready to beg forgiveness. To ask for a final chance to pay off my debt – a final chance to be free.

I hesitated in front of the wrought-iron gates and scratched the stubble on my jaw. The Baron’s white manor gleamed in the sun. It almost looked pretty. It always looked rich.

My stomach twisted and dropped into my groin. What was that feeling called? Dread? Yeah… definitely dread.

The setting sun turned the dust from the road red, stretching our two shadows before us. The kid, Jal, stepped beside me and stared at me out of the corner of his eye. He brushed a lock of brown hair off his tanned forehead. “Why’d we stop?”

I shook myself and contained my worry. “No reason. Just thought maybe you needed a rest.”

His face flushed and his eyes widened. “Shut up, Kiel! You’re just saying that to make me mad.”

“Prove it, Kid.” I shrugged. “Now come on. I want to get through this as fast as possible.”

“You’re the one who stopped in the first place,” Jal mumbled. I ignored him. When he sulked, he looked even younger than his thirteen years. Too young and he’d attract the Baron’s attention, something I’d managed to prevent for a long time.


  1. Hi, 72!!! I really love this premise and have a few bits of feedback for you!

    QUERY: Overall, the query looks great. I think there are a few things you could trim back on and in return give us some details about time and place. I love the idea of this jungle that Izzy and Kiel need to get through. I sound like a a broken record because I've been saying this to everyone, but I would love to see some comps in your query. Example, my friend Jenny's book TRACKED was pitched as Star Wars meets Speed Racer. How cool is that? And I think you could come up with some great comps for Break Free! Also, if you decide to drop some details think more along the lines of jacket copy, because parts of this is reading more like a synopsis. (Particularly that meaty third paragraph.)

    First 250: I really liked the first 250. There were some things ("lock of brown hair") that felt a little out of voice for Kiel. But I could be wrong, you know him better than I do. I would go through and make sure every word (especially in this first 250) is part of Kiel's vocabulary. Other than that, the voice is spot on and feels great. The only sentence I had a problem with was the last one: "Too young and he’d attract the Baron’s attention, something I’d managed to prevent for a long time." Because the Baron likes 13yo boys? (Skeevy! Eeeeep!) Because he doesn't want young kids working for him? I might cut back on the word count so you can give a short (*very* short) explanation. Something like, "The Baron wouldn't stand for having a kid on his payroll." (Okay, not that. hahah But you get it!)

    Great job! Good luck!

  2. Yay! Thanks so much for the help!
    I actually do usually have comps in my query, but i left them out because i was worried they didn't fall in with the contest rules. I just figured it was better to be safe than sorry with contests rules FWIW, if you're interested, I have it comped to Pacigalupi's Shipbreaker and Young's Blood Red Road when i send it out.

    And thanks so much for the comments on the first 250! I think you're spot on, though i will say that, a few sentences later it is explained what Kiel means by the last sentence (curse you 250 word limit!)
    You rock and thanks again!

  3. OOO! Those are great comps! I would definitely include them if you get sent to the next round or in further contests!

  4. Definitely a creepy vibe from this Baron guy re 13 year old boys (the reference to 'groin' made me think the same)! I think it reads well - good job :)

  5. Yay thanks! And your creepy instincts are defintely well honed ;)

  6. I think this sounds like a fun read. I love the voice in both the query and the 250. I kinda cringed when I read the last line though. Yikes.

    Curious to know Izzy's age. Will there be a love connection? ;)

    WG (#92)