#SonOfAPitch – ENTRY #10 – CASTER’S FLAME

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Title: Caster’s Flame
Genre: YA/NA Fantasy
Word Count: 89,000

Query: 

Refugees say the Dragon Stone is dead, but McKenna disagrees. So she steals it.

With the stone in her possession, 18-year-old McKenna Alder flees the caverns of her refugee city. She seeks freedom in the upper world. Instead, a traveling circus, active in the legalized trade of sorcerers, snatches her and strips her magic, promising a life of performance.

Running away doesn’t work in the upper world, particularly when the rumored assassin with the king’s ear wields magic and wants McKenna dead. With flames at McKenna’s fingertips, dragons at her call, and a court murderer on her trail, McKenna’s mistakes leave at least one person dead. 

Still, the shape-shifter, Nikolas Kresh, stands with McKenna–even if he’s arguing about the sanity of her choices. When the assassin kidnaps him, McKenna must decide if she’s willing to barter for Nikolas’s life too.

First 250 Words of Chapter 1: 

McKenna never wanted to be a thief. Yet as the torches burned low and her people slept, she ventured to the heart of the underground city to steal the Dragon Stone. 

A pyramid of light flickered over her open palm as she struggled to sustain the simple magic. She sighed in annoyance, allowing the weak light to extinguish. What was the point of being a caster if she could hardly light her way through the tunnels? She grabbed a torch from the cave-wall and continued down the sloping tunnel.

McKenna crept past guards dozing open-mouthed and slack-necked. She rolled her eyes. She trained far too hard to become one of them. She rubbed her sore bundle of shoulder muscle. So what if she couldn’t win a sparring match if nothing would be expected of her?

McKenna rounded the corner and paused. She stood before the gates of the Crystal Lake. Her stomach flipped. The iron curled and twisted from floor to ceiling and the glassy lake shimmered just beyond. Dreams of stealing the dragon egg plagued her ever since she came to Targaia as a child. No one believed the egg lived, but McKenna could feel the magic trapped inside. They were wrong. She exhaled and bolted into the chamber.

McKenna shoved the canoe into the water and leapt into it, playing out each movement as she had done in so many dreams. Stalactites dipped beneath the surface, while a steady drop of water plunked, echoing in the silence.

***Note: Please do not comment on other entrants’ posts, only your own. You can bribe, coax, share, tweet, and do whatever to your entry, but you cannot comment on anyone else’s.***

5 thoughts on “#SonOfAPitch – ENTRY #10 – CASTER’S FLAME

  1. Pingback: Son of a Pitch Contest – Week 2: My ten entries | Elsie Elmore

  2. There’s much potential here for tension and a strong plot but your query confuses me a times.
    Who is the protag what is the conflict?: McKenna – she seeks freedom and she stole a stone and she’s taken by a circus. The conflict feels muddy to me. If she is running away to find freedom that she didn’t have, maybe insert a few key words into the intro sentence. And what role does the stone play? Is this why dragons are at her call? Is that a good thing?
    What are the stakes/ choices? So, her mistakes have left someone dead – what were her mistakes? What else is she going to barter for?
    Try backing out and answering those two questions, then go back and add the words and the jazz hands. There seems to be a lot going on in McKenna’s life, I just need to know why I’d root for her.

    First 250
    McKenna never wanted to be a thief. (One of my favorite first sentences.)Yet as the torches burned low and her people slept, she ventured to the heart of the underground city to steal the Dragon Stone.
    A pyramid of light flickered over her open palm as she struggled to sustain the simple magic. She sighed in annoyance, allowing the weak light to extinguish. What was the point of being a caster if she could hardly light her way through the tunnels? She grabbed a torch from the cave-wall and continued down the sloping tunnel.
    McKenna crept past guards dozing open-mouthed and slack-necked. She rolled her eyes (at the way they failed at performing a simple task as watch men? With just a few words you could divulge a personality trait or closely held belief here). She trained far too hard to become one of them. She rubbed her sore bundle of shoulder muscle. So what if she couldn’t win a sparring match if nothing would be expected of her? (So was she not allowed to become a guard…?)
    McKenna rounded the corner and paused. She stood before the gates of the Crystal Lake. Her stomach flipped. The iron curled and twisted from floor to ceiling and the glassy lake shimmered just beyond. Dreams of stealing the dragon egg plagued her ever since she came to Targaia as a child. No one believed the egg lived, but they were wrong. McKenna could felt the magic trapped inside.. She exhaled and bolted into the chamber.
    McKenna shoved the canoe into the water and leapt into it, playing out each movement as she had done in so many dreams. Stalactites dipped beneath the surface, while a steady drop of water plunked, echoing in the silence.

    Okay, so while the query didn’t win me over immediately, your first 250 TOTALLY did. And points for a killer first sentence 🙂

    Best of luck! if you have questions, give me a yell. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for all your advice! Sounds like I need to rework my pitch, which is great to know! I really appreciate your advice. Also, I’m glad my first 250 are working. I’ll definitely look at your advice for those as well. 🙂

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  3. Good morning!
    Query: I like the opening line, but I’d change “dead” to something more descriptive, because we have no idea what the dragon stone is yet. I don’t know, “impotent”? NO. DON’T USE THAT. Um…well, I get the feeling that you’re meaning it has no magic left in it…so, don’t use flaccid, either. Anyway, there’s probably a better word (or two words, maybe), and if so you should change it. Also, I want to know right off WHY she’s stealing the flaccid thing (please stop me if I’m being too inappropriate because I surely don’t meant to sexually harass or trigger people, but, you know, It’s 3 a.m. and I got 3 hours sleep…), maybe a hint as to WHY she thinks it’s not…dead. If you can incorporate those things & still keep your tagline, do. If not, you’d probably do better to incorporate it with the first paragraph (though, of course, keep it punchy).

    1st paragraph has a lot of good world-building & I’m even getting a sense of the character for some reason, all stuff I LOVE in a query. I am confused about how they “strip her of her magic” – give us a hint of how, and the “promises” part – that’s not the right word, unless she actually WANTS to have her magic taken from her and enter a life of performance. “Condemn” probably hits closer to the mark, right?

    “Running away doesn’t work in the upper world” – this is confusing. Why doesn’t it work? Is there some magic that makes it so? Or are you just trying to say she’s unsuccessful at it? Tries and fails? “Her escape is complicated by the magic-wielding and ominous confidante of the King, who wants her dead…” why? Because she stole the stone and he wants it for himself for [insert reason here]? Hint at this, because I don’t know why she wants it in the first place, and I thought everyone believed it spent. And even some hint as to WHAT magic he’s using to thwart her would be good. Keep that worldbuilding going. And wait, where did her dragons and the flames at her fingertips come from? I thought they stripped her of magic, and I wish dragons would show up on my doorstep and call me Khaleesi. I’m super glad this is all happening for her, but you have to get me there so I’m not startled by it all at once. “her mistakes leave more than one person dead”. I really like this tantalizing tidbit, but I can’t picture it unless I know why the court assassin/King’s too-powerful cabinet minister is after her, what kind of magic he’s using.

    I really love the last paragraph, but I don’t know who this shape-shifter is, why they’re together, what he wants, and why they’re able to do battle together when I thought she was still a magic-less captive. You have some great hooks here, but no bait…but you will have bait when you make all the characters’ goals clear, as well as the STAKES – what happens if she loses the dragon stone and/or is killed. Death isn’t big enough stakes in a fantasy, usually. I mean, if Frodo had died, that would have sucked lollipops but the REALLY shitty thing is that, if he’d died, Sauron would have gotten the Ring and taken over, and they would have paved over all of Middle Earth and put in Wal-Marts. THOSE stakes are really what keep us reading.

    250- I like this opening. Especially because I still want to know WHY, but you don’t have to tell me in the pages quite yet.

    “…hardly light her way through tunnels,” change this to “cast a simple fire spell” or something. If there are torches, I don’t know why she’s doing it in the first place…

    Why is she so lucky to meet only sleeping guards? And why is she blasé enough about it to roll her eyes? There’s no tension here, when there definitely should be.

    “So what if she couldn’t win a sparring match…” I’m not sure what this sentence means. Not sure what the paragraph means, really. Why was she training so hard to be a guard, if she didn’t want to?

    Okay, last two paragraphs, I’m really happy because I know something of WHY she’s on this mission, and I like the WHY. I still need to know something of what the stone/egg DOES, and pretty quickly. “…dragon egg plagued”…this is my pet peeve, though: taking out the continuous tenses AT ALL COSTS because IT’S A WRITING RULE, even though the meaning would be clearer and the flow better if you used it. Put “had plagued” and that’s the correct tense in this situation.

    I know these comments sound harsh…I’m looking over them and hating myself. It’s because my 3 a.m. sense of humor doesn’t translate well. I am really intrigued by your world and characters, and you will draw lots of people in with some tweaking of your query & opening, believe me.

    Thank you for your entry 🙂

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  4. I’m hooked! I love dragons! Just a bit of tweaking and you’ll reach your goal here. Great work! Good luck and congratulations on your participation in Son of a Pitch – your hard work speaks volumes regarding your courage and willingness to follow your dreams and achieve your goals!

    Like

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