Thursday, February 19, 2015


92,000 words
YA Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Smadar never imagined that a flea-market find would lead her back to a magical world, sung into existence by the race of Elementals. Now its once-glorious cities lie in ruins, overrun by Lord Jogganath's monstrous hordes.
When an ambush leaves Smadar dying, a young mage’s forbidden mantras kindle her life. But beautiful, lethal Halle guards a shameful secret – he’s not a mage or a warrior, but a slave without memories, bound to a vicious master. And Smadar is the coin to buy his freedom. Only she refuses to be bought or sold.
As Jogganath’s power is growing, the pair gets caught in a brutal war, and the severed threads of their destinies entwine, weaving a tale of star-crossed love and ancient betrayal. To ensure a future for her people, Smadar must seek answers in her own past, embracing a destiny extraordinary even in a land of magic and curses.
First Page:
Smadar glared at the ornate bronze clock by the pier. So Tammy was running forty minutes late. Unusual, but not such a tragedy. She knew her best friend would never miss their monthly bargain hunt in the tightly-packed rows of Trash or Treasure flea market. Some things were sacred.

She tried to ignore a group of girls, who had been staring and snickering at her for the last few minutes. If only people could be fined for staring – the longer the stare, the heavier the fine. She fought the urge to smooth down her black, wind-tangled hair, then shrugged and let it beat around her shoulders, long and thick as afternoon shadows. By now, she should’ve been used to the gawking, but Smadar was ashamed to admit the unwanted attention still bothered her. Over here as well as over there.

Familiar bitterness settled in her chest. And in that moment her whole life seemed so grotesquely, sickeningly unfair.

I wish I was normal, she thought wistfully, or better still, what I was born to be.

The girls giggled louder, and she tugged at the corner of her well-worn, lapis-blue scarf, filled with the need to cover up. The scarf, bright as a blue jay’s wing, warm and soft as a kitten curled up against her chest, had been one of the few reminders of Eden she was allowed to keep, the only splash of color in her black-on-black-on-gray clothes.


  1. I have spent some time digging in this one.

    Big fan of Flea Market treasure hunts that lead to adventure!
    Good premise.
    I also like hidden secrets that lead to a powerful love story.
    Love me a good 'destined to do great things' book!

    Some questions I have that I'm sure will be answered soon. (outside of 1st 250)
    Where is 'Over here and well as over there?'
    Tammy is BFF, who/what is Eden?
    Why does the bad guy always bring the once beautiful city to rubble... Bad guys like nice things right? (I digress in my own thoughts not directly related to this tale)
    Are you saying she is unattractive in real life that causes the girls to snicker? In the pitch she falls in love with what seems to be a pretty hot dude. Beauty and the Beast in reverse, or more of a beauty behind the glasses story?

    Don't want to be to harsh because I like the pitch you have there. I'd read it.

    1. Thank you for your comments! Great questions. Eden is the garden. Or, rather, the entire land (Of Joy and Sorrow). Your bad guy observation made me chuckle. Because -- so true. This particular villain has little concern for nice things. He's been plotting his revenge for millennia. Hint: A wasteland where rock has been smelted into glass, called a Sea of Tears. (Lord Jogganath wasn't the one to do this.) Smadar IS pretty, just different. Think, beauty with a dagger. :)
      Ooh, I love your Beauty and the beast in reverse idea. Must write it!

  2. The pitch and opening give Daughter of Smoke and Bone feels (exchanging angels with elementals), which is, needless to say, a great way to begin.

    The opening does leave me wanting to know what exactly is causing her to be stared at. Although the answer isn't something that has to be included in the first 250, so I'll chalk that down as "makes me want to read more."

    1. Thank you! I'm so, so flattered by your comp. You find out the reason for all the stares very soon. Hint: lightening. :)

  3. Pitch: I totally agree with the Daughter of Smoke and Bone comparison--good call! It might help to clarify where she's drawn back from. Another possible clarification: Is Halle the one who saves her after the ambush? In general, there are big, sweeping brushstrokes that would work well as a cover blurb, but it might help to include a few details about what the obstacles/stakes are. We know there's a Big Bad. Do the MCs have to fight him physically? Do they join a rebel alliance? Something that gives some clues about the roles they'll play would help.

    First page: I agree with the other commenters that I'm now very curious why the girls are staring at her. Oh, for a page 2! I like the intriguing hints that she's from somewhere else, born to be something else.

  4. Oh, thanks so much for your feedback (not sure if it's okay to chat with my critics, but what can it hurt, right?) Your comments are spot-on! There IS a reason why Smadar is being ogled. And why Halle is after her (yes, he is the one who saves her life). It has everything to do with magic. I'll give you a hint: Mahabharata.

  5. The Mahabharata! I love the idea. It's really nice to have someone take a Indian legend like that. The query is very well written. It flows well and promises a fascinating world. The excerpt raises questions, but in a good way. It makes me want to read more. And also because I'd love to see what you've done with the story.
    Best of luck

  6. The pitch and opening have an incredible sense of place and really engage the senses on all levels. From the color of her scarf, to the way she glares at the bronze clock, I already identify with her sense of displacement. Based on the pitch, I do expect the scene to start with a less contemporary-sounding tone: the name Tammy threw me for a loop. So maybe mention in your pitch that Smadar is at a flea-market at a real/fictional location. Love the star-crossed lovers theme and want to read more!

  7. Reading the pitch and the 250 words I come out liking the 250 words more than the pitch. (Of course, that's probably what you always want, but I think the pitch doesn't quite get there). I think my issue with the pitch is that you are trying to cram too much of the book into the short hook. I think you need to go to another level of abstraction and include less of the concrete details of the world. Yes, I know, that goes against writing norms, but I think in this case that is warranted. It could mean either using fewer personal names, dropping the last bit about the larger plot of the war. If you could reduce the number of subjects then the sentences would flow more smoothly.

    You have an interesting premise and the book's writing is strong. Just try to broaden the pitch a bit so its a bit easier read and I think you've got a winner : ).

  8. Katya, I've taken the liberty to tweak your query--and a tweak is really all it needs. Feel free to have Smadar throw a virtual bottle at my head if I've overstepped my bounds. Here's my rewrite:

    Seventeen-year-old Smadar never imagined that a flea-market find would lead her back to Eden, a world sung into existence by the race of Elementals. Now Eden's magical, once-glorious cities lie in ruins, overrun by Lord Jogganath's monstrous hordes.

    When an ambush leaves Smadar dying, a supposed mage’s forbidden mantras rekindle her life. But beautiful, lethal Halle guards a shameful secret – he’s neither mage nor warrior, but a slave without memories, bound to a vicious master. Smadar is the coin to buy his freedom.

    Except, Smadar refuses to be bought or sold.

    As Jogganath’s power grows, Smadar and Halle get caught in the conflict. The severed threads of their destinies entwine, weaving a tale of star-crossed love and ancient betrayal. To ensure a future for her people, Smadar must seek answers in her own past, and embrace a destiny extraordinary even in a land of magic and curses.

    First 250: Very assured writing here. I love the images created: the clock tower, Smadar's black and wind-tangled hair, and the scarf as bright as a blue jay's wing. I love that the friend is late (and that this is unusual--which sets up some anxiety for the reader.) And yes, staring and snickering girls should be fined--or put in the stocks. Smadar's internal monologue and reactions ring so true. Good work--and good luck!

    Michael (#15)

  9. Michael, thank you so much for your time! I love and appreciate your tweak!! You've EARNED a virtual bottle of the choicest Erbay wine. (Made from honeyweed, naturally. :)

    1. You're welcome! Erbay wine sounds delicious. (What a great world you've created in your novel!)

  10. I'd nearly forgotten how much I love your writing style! The way you describe your characters and their surroundings is beautiful. The only thing I can compare it to is "The Book Thief," which I love!

    I, too, liked the first page more than the pitch, but I think Michael's minor tweaks help a lot :)

  11. Think Michael's tweaked version of your pitch works very well. For me, coming fresh to your story, it has greater clarity and makes more sense. If it was possible to also include a hint as to why she left Eden in the first place (did she escape, was she exiled/banished?) I think that would add an extra element, but it mightn't be that simple, particularly if the reasons she left are complicated.
    In your first page, the main focus, apart from her friend running late, is on her disfigurement/unusual looks. I would like to know what exactly this is and I think you have enough space to get it in there. If you could end your first 250 on this note, I think it would make a strong and compelling hook.

    Great work and best of luck,

  12. I'll be the first to admit I'm not much of a reader of high fantasy, but what I really like about your first 250 is that to me, it reads like a study in contrasts. There's the black-on-black-on-grey of the clothes against the blue of the scarf. There's the sense of foreboding against the giggling gaggle of girls (I did that on purpose). Then there's the hint about Eden. I like it! I would read more of this one.

    As far as the pitch goes, I love that the magical world is re-entered as the result of a flea market find, and the whole "sung into existence" bit is so intriguing that I wanted to know more about it. Sorry to be so late on the comment, but nicely done!

    G @#10

  13. I'm quite the fan of your first 250! I love the descriptions (especially about Smadar's hair. Afternoon shadows. Brilliant!), though I do admit her internal thinking was a bit confusing. It seems a bit awkward, a little forced, but I like the intention. Perhaps revising it to not be so, perhaps, obvious. It just comes off odd for a girl to be thinking about why she isn't normal or hasn't fulfilled her destiny yet when she is, apparently, just a normal girl for now. Either way, this descriptions are fantastic, and the tension and weaving in of backstory make this a good place to begin.

    As for the pitch, I like the stakes, but I found myself getting lost. This happens often with high Fantasy, but the amount of people mentioned and the many actions taking place made me wonder what the one I should be focusing on is. Perhaps strip it down to the bare minimum, avoiding synopsis-like depiction of events, and following only the main conflict's vein.

    Sorry about the late comment! I've been to the neurologist and, well, recovering form a concussion. Takes it out of you ;) Seriously, good luck, katya!!! I'm rooting you on, and Smadar is officially on my list after that "as long and dark as afternoon shadows" line. Gorgeous!


    1. First things first -- I hope you are well and resting and wish you the speediest of all recoveries!!

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback (and for liking Smadar's hair :) It plays a part in the story.) I am revising my pitch, based on the comments received, so...
      Fingers crossed! For both of us!!


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