Thursday, February 19, 2015

Entry #45: The Hunt for the Heavenly Horse

The Hunt for the Heavenly Horse
69,700 words
YA/Historical fiction

The Hunt for the Heavenly Horse is a YA novel set along the ancient Silk Road. It’s about a determined boy named Tagan who sets out to recapture his horse from the Chinese army after they seize 3,000 prized horses from his kingdom. After Tagan is taken hostage by the army, he begins planning the rescue his horse. But before Tagan can escape with his horse the army is divided in half and sent on separate routes back to China. Tagan can’t rescue his horse until the armies reunite, but can he survive the sandstorms and near starvation on the journey? More brutal than this is Tagan’s treatment by his guard, Shan, who regards him as a barbarian. Tagan earns Shan’s grudging respect through his skill with horses and for his knowledge of the desert. As the depleted armies reconnect, Tagan waits to learn the fate of his horse.

First Page: 
104 B.C.E
Central Asia
            Tagan had imagined himself and his horse winning the game of Kok boru many times, but he never knew how hard it would be to steady himself on the bare back of a galloping horse while desperately trying to hold onto a goat carcass by one leg. He and Kutcha had practiced on the open grassland with Kutcha galloping in wide ovals and cutting quick turns while Tagan carried a sack weighted with sand. He had never considered how heavy the goat would be even though it had been gutted before the game began. The goat had also been skinned, making the carcass slick and hard to grasp. Tagan had never dreamed that his horse, Kutcha, would be spooked by the goat’s other three legs that jangled against her side. Tagan had hoped to hoist the goat onto his lap the way the older experienced riders did, but instead he gripped a slippery leg above the hoof as the rest of the carcass thumped against his horse. Kutcha mistook the prodding against her ribs as Tagan spurring her to run faster. Kutcha would have galloped harder anyway to keep ahead of the pack of riders on horseback coming up behind her. Even though Kutcha needed to stay ahead of the avalanche of mounted horses closing in around her Tagan was tipping to one side and was about to slide off of Kutcha’s back.
            Give up the goat and stay on your horse, Tagan told himself.


  1. I would delete the title and genre from your pitch and use the extra words to describe the book in more detail. Usually in pitches there is space above for title/genre, as there is in this case. The POV should be that of your main character, not of you, the writer so don't start with "MY". Also cut "It's about" and just start with "Tagan sets out to recapture his horse from the Chinese army" because that's interesting! And you want to interest your reader from the first word. "Tagan waits to learn the fate of his horse" - always best to have characters ACTING, not WAITING. Slows the story down. Be careful of overusing the word "had" because it slows the action. I like the idea of a book set on the Silk Road. Best of luck!

  2. This sounds like a historical Asian Black Beauty, and an unusual premise.

    I agree with deleting the title and genre. You can still say "Set along the ancient Silk Road as the beginning of the next sentence and you've given us time and setting. I would change the question to a statement-"...but must survive the sandstorms and near starvation on the journey first." Definitely make your last statement about the stakes-what choice does your MC need to make that could affect the outcome? I agree with above comment about revising to eliminate the "had"s. Make the action real time, even in past tense. That one fix will make this a nice opener, showing the close relationship between the boy and his horse. Good luck! (#38)

  3. Good Evening Author,
    Three votes for deletion of title in Pitch
    Tagen is more of a traditional German name or word which roughly translates to dawning, or daybreak.
    I like the focus of 'get the horse at all cost'.
    How is he getting all of his info on where to look for his horse?
    What happens with the relationship with Shan? It kind of leaves it hanging in the Pitch.
    If he is captive? Was he not Chinese before? I am struggling with how he is captive but able to get all of this info on the location of his horse? If he isn't Chinese and is simple a POW how can he communicate/get info.
    Very good story line, and I'm sure that you answer all my questions in the pages after your first.
    PS Grammar people correct me but shouldn't there be " " around Give up the goat and stay on your horse, because he 'told himself'?
    Keep up the great work!
    Fellow Competitor & Writing Friend.

  4. I agree with the above statements about the title and the usage of "had." The POV in the first page also confuses me, as it switches between Tagan and Kutcha. I think it may read more smoothly if it's just through Tagan's eyes? Just a thought though, as this is only the first page!

    This story reads "War Horse" to me in a good way. I think tightening up the action verbs will really compell readers to find out what happens.

    Good luck!


  5. Pitch: I’ll just add to what others have helpfully covered. Consider ending with only two more sentences after the armies divide. One sentence for the difficulties Tagan must face (sandstorms, starvation, brutal treatment) and another for why it’s worth it for him to persevere in order to save his horse. I do think there’s a need for more historical fiction, especially set in Asia. But I also think you should make it clear why this is YA since it could easily be MG instead.

    First page: I love the first sentence (holding a goat carcass by one leg!) and think this is a great scene to start with. Great way to introduce us to the time and place, as well as the character and his connection with his horse.


Please leave your courteous and professional comments for the writer! We'd love to hear from you! : )