Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #88


The Lokana Chronicles
Fantasy
99,953

Query:
When Vegin’s parents are murdered, he assumes his new role as King of Lokana.  With his beloved wife, Lipei, at his side, he fights to rid the kingdom of corruption and lead their people through the worst famine in Lokana’s history.  Just as they begin to make progress, a threat from Balil, the High Priest, forces Lipei to flee with her daughter in tow.

Left to rule Lokana alone, a devastated Vegin finds himself in a power struggle with Balil.  Locked in a bitter feud, tensions grow steadily worse over the years.  When Vegin’s daughter, Anná, suddenly reappears fifteen years later, the situation explodes. Caught up in a war she doesn’t understand, she must defeat Balil if she is to help her father save their kingdom.

First 150 Words:

Filthy peasants.  Can’t even get an honest day’s work out of them without them clamoring for lower taxes or more wages!  Tol closed his eyes in irritation.  “I’ve heard enough – if you can’t pay your taxes, then you’ll simply have to work off your debt.  Guards, take him away!”
“Father, I have this under control,” Vegin growled under his breath.  “You’re only supposed to observe, remember?”
“But your Highness, please!” the old farmer protested.  “My family – without me, they’ll starve!”
Tol stared at his son, disbelief etched on his face.  The nerve!  What does he think this is, an almshouse?  “I’ll deal with you in a moment,” he said, glaring daggers at Vegin, who rose from his seat and stormed out of the room.  “As for you,” he bellowed, returning his attention to the old farmer, “you should’ve thought of your family before you decided not to pay your taxes.”


12 comments:

Aldrea Alien said...

Query:
I think, because it ends up having his daughter gone for 15 years (an act that I would've thought would have whatever other authority pestering him to look for a new wife and child) that you should expand a little more on the threat and how the situation explodes once Anná returns.

1st 150 Words:
I get an inkling here that Vegin is a little more sympathetic than his father. Tol sure comes across as an ass.

Brittany Pate said...

I really like this query. That's something I would pick up in a bookstore. The only thing I would change in that there seems to be a lot of names in the query. I would drop Lipei and Anna in the first paragraph, replacing it with 'forces his wife and daughter to flee.'

Other than that, I think it's really great! Your first 150 really put me in Tol's head. Great job!

Jessica Peterson said...

I think you did a really good job with this query. I think you've described the story quite well and drawn the reader in. I have no suggestions. Best of luck :)

Nicole said...

Ooh, I sense the making of an epic fantasy. *claps hands*

I like the query, and think you could make it even stronger by anchoring it in a specific POV. It seems like Vegin is the main character, but based on the query, Lipei or even Anna, could be as well. Pick one and stick with 'em (at least for the query).

You could tweak it to something like: "Vegin assumes the kingship of Lokana in the wake of his parents murders, but with his wife Lipei at his side, he's confident he can lead the country through anything, even the worst famine in history. Until a threat from the High Priest Balil drives Lipei out of the country."

I'm guessing Anna is an infant in the first paragraph of the query, but you might want to clarify.

Good luck!

Jayme said...

This sounds like it’s got some great political intrigue, but your query left me a little confused. I agree with Nicole that it’s unclear who your main character is. Is your book told from multiple points of view? If so, you might want to devote a short paragraph to each. If not, I’d focus on one character. For example, if Anna is the main character, you might try:

“While still an infant in arms, Anna is forced to flee the kingdom that is her birthright. When [event that forces her to return] forces her to return fifteen years later, her father is barely clinging to control, and the High Priest who’s been eyeing his throne isn’t happy about the princess’s return. He made her disappear once, and he plans to do it again. And, this time, he plans to make it stick.” [Then you can transition into how Anna is hunted and caught up in a war she doesn’t understand, etc.]

I haven’t read your manuscript so I’m not sure this is accurate. Just some suggestions about how you can focus on one character.

Kay Kauffman said...

@Aldrea: Tol is definitely an ass. :)

other authority pestering him to look for a new wife and child
In Lokana, the king is it. No parliament/congress/whatever. Also, remarriage is forbidden by their religion and I get into that in the book. ;)

@Brittany: Yay! I'm glad you like it. I think "...forces his wife and daughter to flee..." could be a bit confusing since Balil is mentioned in the same sentence. What about "...forces the queen to flee..."?

@Jessica: Thank you!

@Nicole: The book is told through multiple POVs, but roughly the first half of the book focuses mainly on Vegin and roughly the second half on Anná, which is why my query is divided the way it is - half on Vegin, half on Anná.

At the beginning of the first paragraph of the query, Anná hasn't yet been born but when her mother takes her and flees, she is nine years old.

@Jayme: Yep, multiple POVs (see above). I like your ideas about Balil, though - are you sure you haven't been peeking at my hard drive? :D

Traci VanWagoner said...

Your query switches points of view from Vegin in the first paragraph to his daughter in the last of the second paragraph of your query. Okay, your comment just showed up and explained it, but it is still confusing to a reader who knows nothing about your story. I'm really not sure how to deal with two pov stories in a query. It would help to not have started the second paragraph from Vegin's pov and then changing to his daughter's. Perhaps give us two completely different povs in each paragraph.

I like Brittany's suggestion for the first para. I think your second paragraph needs more specific detail. You've got some great suggestions for that.

I love your sample, although I am wondering if it would make more sense to help ground us in the MC pov to have the story start with Vegin and then show us his father. After reading the query and the sample, I was confused as to who I would be investing my emotions in.

This is really solid overall, just a bit of tweaking to make it really shine. The idea is intriguing. I love a good fantasy. Good work!

Kay Kauffman said...

@Traci: I'll have to give that some thought. I'm super tired today, so I feel like I'm a brick wall at the moment. Maybe it'll click overnight and suddenly make sense in the morning.

Jayme said...

Haha, nope. Just lucky, I guess. ;)

Maybe you can mention the two POVs upfront so agents aren’t jarred by the transition. Maybe something like: “The Lokana Chronicles is told from the POV of two young rulers – separated by nearly two decades – who fight to free their kingdom from the corruption it has always known.”

Then you could transition into a paragraph for each:

When Lokana’s heartless king dies, his son, Vegin, sees it as an opportunity to make up for his father’s burdensome taxes and corrupt regime. But it’s hard to institute change with High Priest Balil jockeying for the young prince’s throne [or something along these lines]. When Balil forces Vegin’s wife and young daughter into hiding, his task becomes even more difficult… [then finish his story]

Twenty-four-year-old Anna knows she’s a princess. She was nine, after all, when she was forced to flee the kingdom that is her birthright. But she never plans to rule. Not until [event that forces her to return] forces her to return… [then finish her story]

If possible, I’d try to give each paragraph a very distinct feel to show agents you can pull off dual points of view.

Thanks again for your help on my query. :)

Rebecca Enzor said...

I have to agree with some of the others - that's a lot of names to take in for the query. We don't know any of these people or places yet so the names mean nothing to us. Pick only the most important and generalize the rest.

And while this sounds like a sweeping history of a family, the sudden change to the daughter as the main character in the last sentence really threw me. Everything before that is Vegin's, and suddenly the query ends with Anna. Either expand on Anna a bit more, or keep the whole query about Vegin and how he reacts when she returns.

Other than that, it sounds like an interesting world and an epic story that I would definitely read :) The first 150 words are great.

I'm #79 if you'd like to rip apart my query.

Ellie Heller said...

I'm finding I'm suggesting this more and more (and I definitely need to go back and do this myself!!) but... to give the query a bit of the flavor of your writing 'voice' think about how your main character would tell the outline of the story. One thing to note is you start out in the father's voice so you may want to include something about the corruption at the very start. Also, adjectives - use them! - not al over the place, but you need to give the query some flavor.

This is just a suggestion/example. You'll need to put this in your own words and give it your own flavor.
Query:
When Vegin’s parents are murdered, he assumes his new role as King of Lokana. With his beloved wife, Lipei, at his side, he fights to rid the kingdom of corruption and lead their people through the worst famine in Lokana’s history.

His parents murdered and the corruption his father encouraged oozing through all levels of government, newly crowned King Vegin fights to bring justice and equity back to his country. He could not do it without the support of his wife Lipei, whose clear vision and love help guide him and their people through the worst famine in..... But not everyone is happy with the new (rules? order? something) and when Lipei and their daughter Anna (say what happens here - are blackmailed, whatever) they flee, knowing staying in the capitol will only lead to their deaths (or whatever the threat is). A devastated Vegin is left to rule alone.

Then make the part about the daughter a separate paragraph and stronger. She has, from what you've said, half the book. Give her a full half of the query.

Anna returns to her father's house fifteen years after she and her mother fled for their lives. Her father's rule is in peril by the same people who threatened her and her mother. Caught up in a war she doesn’t understand, she soon becomes aware it is up to her to defeat their leader, or... (etc) You might want to also add that she has the same idealism as her father and it's not just for her own power she's saving the kingdom, it's because how poorly people will be treated under a new regime, if that is indeed the case/a reason she acts as she does. The other thing you need to point out is what makes your story unique from other stories like this (and yes, I've seen them, Sherwood Smith for instance, has several). Find that new and unique element from your story and be sure you put it in your query so an agent can see it's different from already published works.


First 150 Words:

My only suggestion here is put the thought AFTER you make clear this is in the father's POV. After the query I expected this part to be in Vegin's POV and was absolutely thrown by the statement and voice being so incongruous from what I gathered in the query. Actually, given you tell us you have a major POV switch I'm not quite sure why you're in a third POV here at all - esp as we know this character isn't around long.

Tol closed his eyes in irritation. Filthy peasants. Can’t even get an honest day’s work out of them without them clamoring for lower taxes or more wages! “I’ve heard enough – if you can’t pay your taxes, then you’ll simply have to work off your debt. Guards, take him away!”
“Father, I have this under control,” Vegin growled under his breath. “You’re only supposed to observe, remember?”
“But your Highness, please!” the old farmer protested. “My family – without me, they’ll starve!”
Tol stared at his son, disbelief etched on his face. The nerve! What does he think this is, an almshouse? “I’ll deal with you in a moment,” he said, glaring daggers at Vegin, who rose from his seat and stormed out of the room. “As for you,” he bellowed, returning his attention to the old farmer, “you should’ve thought of your family before you decided not to pay your taxes.”

Kay Kauffman said...

Thanks again everybody for taking the time to leave comments! I spent the morning trying to incorporate some of the query ideas into a revised query for the agent pitch contest. I don't know if I made it better or worse, but I guess I'll soon find out! :)