Sunday, September 21, 2014


94,000 words
YA Fantasy


A forest where it always rains. A six-foot tall elf with no sense of humor. A beast that is half-wolf, half-human, and completely disgusting.

Sam Gordon never thought this would be his life until two of his classmates are abducted. Intent on rescuing them, he travels across dimensions where a sinister being demands the Lost Pearls of Indarnini in return for his friends. Formed by the first witch, the Pearls hold the key to all magic, and Sam is the only one who can retrieve them.

Now he must decide how far he will go to protect those he loves. If he does obtain the missing jewels, he cannot fathom surrendering them to a kidnapping sorcerer. Yet if he keeps the Pearls, he may never see his friends again. Sam faces an impossible decision, but he knows at least one thing; he must either save his friends or die trying.

First Five Pages:

Elisia’s bloody feet ached, each step resulting in excruciating pain. Her wrists, bound by rope that dug deep into her flesh, lurched forward as the men sped faster, and she lost her balance, tumbling onto the jagged gravel. Her dress tore, and stones clawed at her skin, leaving behind rivers of sticky blood, yet the men dragged her further. The cloth sack over her face shrouded her vision, but the sound of a falling drawbridge and the touch of the cold marble floor confirmed her arrival at court.

“Stand up, wench, and do not bleed in the presence of your king.”

The girl wanted to inform the knight that she had an unfortunate lack of control over when she did and did not bleed, but she held her tongue.

A firm, calloused hand cut the bindings and pulled the sack off her face, and the hall’s golden light seared at her eyes. Elisia looked down at the tattered remains of her clothing and covered herself as best as she could.

“You will bow in the presence of your king,” commanded a cold and sinister voice.

The girl’s knees buckled and smashed against the rock-hard surface as she was pressed to the ground, and a lightning flash of pain drove up her thighs. She stared down at the ground as a rush of anger surged through her veins.

“Look up and face me, girl.”

Slowly raising her head, she took in her new surroundings. To both sides were single rows of black columns that fed from the back of the hall. Behind them lay narrow passageways that undoubtedly branched off into deeper corridors of the castle. The giant hanging chandelier, fashioned completely of white antlers, held dozens of brightly burning candles that fully illuminated the room.

At the other end of the hall hung a blood-red tapestry, the only color in the whole grim place. Sewn in the brightest of yellow threads was a bustling fire; three flames licked upwards with tiny sparks floating above. His Grace had chosen his crest as a warning to all; everything can burn, and those who stood in his way would surely do so.

King Irsad was seated on the most disgusting chair ever created; the rumors did it no justice. Lining every crevice of the throne were the skulls of dead kings, the rulers of ages past. Elisia could only wonder at the identities of those unfortunate enough to spend eternity under their descendants’ backsides.

“What is your name, girl?” The king smiled slyly, his sausage fingers tangled in the stringy hairs of his ratty beard.

“Elisia,” she replied, her proud voice reverberating through the hall.

“And do you know why you are here, Elisia?” The king placed extra emphasis on her name.

“I do not.”

“You will refer to our liege as Your Grace.” A warm breath crept upon the back of her neck, and Elisia could taste its foul scent. If only this guard knew what she could do; perhaps then he’d know better than to anger her.

“I do not…Your Grace.”

“You take me for a fool,” the king said. “Word spreads like rapid-fire throughout my kingdom; there is little I do not know. Tell me, girl, do you wish to overthrow me, or do you merely take pleasure in performing your tricks in the Sylvára Forest?” She did not answer, and the king snarled.

“I care not for waiting,” he spoke, “as I am sure you will soon realize; I urge you to confess.” Elisia looked up defiantly, her eyes ablaze. She said nothing.

The king stood and hobbled a few steps forward. “Well gentlemen, it seems as though we may have some fun after all.” He tottered, and the guard grabbed Elisia by both shoulders and hoisted her to her feet. The king was but inches from her face, and their eyes were parallel. His crown, inlaid with three white pearls, lay askew, nearly falling off of his head; he did not move to fix it.

King Irsad put a sweaty hand to her cheek, and Elisia spat in his face, almost instantly feeling the backside of his hand whip across her skin. Her jaw snapped in pain, and she could taste the metallic liquid forming within her mouth. He smacked her again and grabbed hold of her chin, squeezing her cheeks together.

“All you need to do is show me, girl.” His voice was a hoarse whisper. “Move a chair across the room. Tell me the name I think in my head. Take me to see what lies ahead in the future.”

He coughed, his breath soaked in a thick layer of wine.

“It…it is not that simple, Your Grace. I cannot…command it.” She winced when his grip on her face grew tighter, but she would not cry. She would not cry. No, she would end this.

“Then tell me,” he urged, “what provokes it?” His face was crazed, and he did not flinch when blood began to drip from her mouth and onto his hand.

“E…extreme emotions, Your Grace.” His grip tightened. Her lips could barely move. “Joy. Excitement. Anguish. Fear.” She paused. “And anger.” She growled the last word.

It was happening. The power, the fury. She no longer felt the bruise on her cheek, the cuts on her feet, the rope-scars on her wrists. She was whole again. A low cackle gurgled upwards out of her throat, and she grinned savagely, hoping that her bloodstained teeth made the king’s stomach lurch. The game was reset. Now she was the terror. Now she was the monster. Now she was the witch.

She threw her hands in the air and the king flew backwards. The blood on his hand turned to fire, and it raged, consuming his entire limb. Cries of “Seize her!” and “Help me!” could barely be heard through screams of agony. The nauseating scent of burning flesh quickly filled the room, but Elisia did not flinch.

A horde of guards sprang towards her, and she clenched her fists together, hurling the men backwards; they fell to the ground like their burning king.

There was a distinct crack as the knights’ armor began to shrink, squeezing their innards as iron and steel puckered and bent. Elisia relished in their pain and did not cringe when the first bone snapped. Instead she laughed a shrill, crazed cry, for these monsters were being eaten alive by their own defenses. Pleas of mercy and shrieks of pain rang in her ears, but there was no mercy to be had. These men had kidnapped her, beaten her, threatened her. She was neither cruel nor evil; she was just.

Elisia stepped to the knight who’d dragged her into this godforsaken place and lifted the visor of his helm. His face had turned yellow, and huge red vessels formed upon his skin. His eyes bulged, and the top of his nose started to break. Elisia stared deep into his bloodshot eyes, making certain that she would be the last thing he ever saw. His pupils dilated, offering one final plea for humanity, and then he was gone. Soon the shrieking and the screaming ceased, and the girl turned back to her sovereign king.

His arm had burned black and crisp, and a bone stuck out through charred flesh. He held his good hand over his face and shuddered. Elisia stood over him in all her broken beauty and promised: “You will never again lay a hand on me.”


  1. Your pitch is intriguing. I like the first paragraph. In the second, where you have “he travels across dimensions where” I think you need a “to.” Maybe “he travels to a dimension where,” or if there are actually multiple dimensions, maybe reword a different way.

    I know you’re at 150 words. If you were writing a query and could go to 300, I’d love to know why Sam’s the only one who can retrieve the pearls and/or why he must save his friends or die trying. Is it somehow his fault that they were taken?

    Your pages are very strong, first drawing the reader’s sympathy for Elisia and then shocking us with her power and vengeance.

    If I were going to nitpik, I’d say I had a little trouble with the banner “at the other end of the hall” only because she’s been told to look at the king and he’s on his throne (presumably) at the near end of the hall. So she’d be able to see peripherally, but not the opposite end of the hall. Maybe I’m imagining his throne in the wrong place. And after snarling, I expected something a little sharper from the king, like “Confess!” rather than “I urge you to confess.”

    I’d read more! Good luck!


  2. Very interesting pitch. It is well written, but left me with some questions. Who is Sam, why is he the only one who can rescue his classmates, and why is he intent on doing so? I know there is a word limit, but maybe there is some way to include a few words about this. I think, even in the query, if I knew more about Sam and his motivation, I would cheer for him more.

    Your first pages are also very interesting. I was surprised that the query was about Sam and the first five pages were about Elisia. She is a great character and I love how she starts out in a submissive situation and turns it around with her vengeance and abilities. My only comment is that I would like to know more about her, possibly through internal dialogue or statements made by the guards. Her true nature comes out toward page five and I would have liked a few hints about her way before that.

    Great job! Thanks, Halli

  3. I like the contrast between the first and second paragraphs of the pitch: The contrast between fantasy and mundane life is intriguing. A couple of questions for the pitch (I know the space was so tight!): I noticed that the description of the elf included something of his personality (no humor), but the beast was all physical description. Maybe make those more parallel?

    I want to know more about Sam, too. For starters, how old is he? Who abducts his classmates--and why? (I'd like some idea of how the villain matches up with the characters you introduce in the first paragraph). Why is he the only one who can find the pearls? And what happens if he actually gives the pearls to the villain (I'm guessing something bad, but I'd like to know).

    Is Elisia the first witch who made the pearls? If so, you may want to mention her by name in the pitch, so that the connection between the pitch and the pages is more explicit.

    The opening pages were very descriptive. I could visualize well what was going on. I loved the little flickers of humor, too, like "Elisia could only wonder at the identities of those unfortunate enough to spend eternity under their descendants’ backsides." I also liked how strong she was, even in the face of pain and torture.

    One small thing I noticed: the king commands her to look at him, but we have two paragraphs of description before she does. I'd either have her look at him first and then study the background, or make it clear that she's studying her surroundings first as an act of resistance (i.e., she won't obey instantly).

  4. I'm going to echo Halli and Rosalyn; I was confused about why the pitch followed Sam but the first five pages centered on Elisia. I like her: she's powerful; she's got a great voice; she's strong even in the face of someone who probably means to kill her. But the story's not about her, she's a backdrop against which Sam's story is set, which really makes me sad because I want to see more of her.

    With that in mind, if we're not staying with Elisia then would it be possible to start with Sam, with what makes him so special or a slice of his life before everything goes wrong? If not, can this section be clearly tagged as a prologue or otherwise separated from the bulk of the text? It sets me up for a completely different story than what the pitch makes me expect, and the premise you present is too neat for it to be lost on just a misrepresentation.

    Best of luck!

  5. Thanks, everyone, for the comments! Even though Sam isn't in the first 5, Elisia does recur throughout his story, so I chose to use her section as a catalyst for his adventures. My story alternates between 10 different perspectives, so while everything revolves around Sam's story, he's not always at the forefront of it. I appreciate the criticism though--it's definitely something to think about. Good luck to all!!!


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