Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #89

Title: City of Magi
Genre: Fantasy (Adult, Industrial-Era)
Word Count: 272,882 


Grayson Kearney is the head of a smuggling enterprise in the capitol of the free world, Dein Astos.  When a military hero is murdered, Grayson uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the stability of the nation. That murdered hero is the father of Zia Locke, a promising young officer in the Astosenian army. With her help, Grayson ties together the threads of a plot to overthrow Astosen’s fledgling democracy and restore the monarchy. They find that conspiring monarchists aren’t shy about reaching for unsavory sources of aid, even if it endangers the republic. This includes reaching out to the Valanian military, who hope to retake their former territory amid the turmoil.

Grayson isn’t Dein Astos’s most upstanding citizen, but he’s not about to let the city he loves fall back under the thumb of a despotic superpower or a power-hungry tyrant. D.A. may not be perfect, but it’s the capital of the free world and the one place where an abandoned orphan like Grayson can rise to the top.

City of Magi is a work of fantasy set in a magically-powered industrial society, and can be the start of a series.

First 150 Words:

The funeral march of Alexander Locke proceeded at dusk. Grayson Kearney watched the crowd of politicians, family friends, comrades-in-arms, and reporters walk slowly through the spidery shadows of the weeping willows lining the Trail of Remembrance. For them, it was a tragic loss: Alexander Locke, great Magi Knight, hero of the republic, leader of men, felled by a heart attack at only fifty-five years of age. He shook his head at their simple, ignorant grief. They should be outraged. Locke had been murdered.

Hundreds long, the procession came to a close at the end of Trail of Remembrance that wound its way up the cliffs overlooking the Western Sound. Grayson stood solemnly across the cemetery at the grave of a woman he never knew, watching the mostly black-clad crowd with occasional flashes of purple cloaks as they fanned out around the fresh grave. The pallbearers set the simple casket in a net over the grave, ending their burdened journey, and drifted back into the crowd.


Unknown said...

Oh, the first 150 has lots of good stuff there. Fun.

The first thing which jumped out at me, though, was the length. It's HARD to sell anything that long these days. Much as I LOVED Dune and Canticle, my impression is agents typically won't look at stories as long as yours. :-(

Here's a link to an agent's blog with some general guidelines:

The Swivet, Word Counts and Novel Lengths

What she says:
Science fiction & fantasy = Here's where most writers seem to have problems. Most editors I've spoken to recently at major SF/F houses want books that fall into the higher end of the adult fiction you see above; a few of them told me that 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. I know at least one editor I know likes his fantasy big and fat and around 180k. But he doesn't buy a lot at that size; it has to be astounding. (Read: Doesn't need much editing.) And regardless of the size, an editor will expect the author to to be able to pare it down even further before publication. To make this all a little easier, I broke it down even further below:

---> hard sf = 90k to 110k
---> space opera = 90k to 120k
---> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
---> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
---> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
---> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
---> new weird = 85k to 110k
---> slipstream = 80k to 100k
---> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
---> everything else = 90k to 100k

Suggested tightening of the third sentence:
With the help of Zia Locke, daughter of the murdered hero and an officer in the country's military, Grayson ties together the threads of a plot to overthrow Astosen’s fledgling democracy and restore the monarchy.

Watch generic statements and put in something more specific: what unsavory sources of aid? (but watch using too much of your world's jargon, it's a fine line!)

Love the upstanding citizen line, think about moving it up to AFTER the finding conspiracy part. Put the thoughts in order of occurence. He finds out, he's not the most upstanding but he's not going stand for it, he recruits help and discovers... Put the line about the lengths the bad guys would go to, then the line starting with DA (which you should spell out) at the end and see how that reads.

One last suggestion (sorry if this is confusing, but there's a word limit on comments!) The sentence starting the second paragraph should start with the winding and end with the coming to close, the order in which they happened.

Ugh, if it doesn't make sense let me know!

Michael McDuffee said...

I'm aware of the word count issue, and without too much work this could become the first two books of a series at size 150K/120K (there is a break). It was written as one story and (I think) is best that way, so I thought I'd pitch it here as such.

Thank you for the comments.

Carrie-Anne said...

I was advised to leave word count out when querying a deliberate saga. You want any potential rejections to be based on opinion of the writing and story, NOT prejudice against sagas. I was also advised to look at blurbs for long books like Gone with the Wind, The Thorn Birds, James Michener books, etc., to see how very long books are boiled down to a few concise paragraphs and hooks.

You want to emphasize huge, pivotal, dramatic events that are way up here, not down there, even if they're also important to the plot. Basically, you want the high stakes emphasized, so it doesn't seem like you just wrote a book that's "too long." The way I was initially writing queries for my superlong Russian historical novel, it was coming across like some overly long historical romance or stupid love triangle, when that wasn't what the book is about at all. I finally got it down to the basic, most riveting plot points, so now it reads like a long historical novel that just happens to include a love story.

Unknown said...

I think your query might sound better if you drop the first sentence and start with the second. I also think the next few sentences after that can be condensed into one. Otherwise I think you've done a pretty good job at describing such a long novel in such a short space. One last thing, your title should be capitalized. Best of luck :)

Nicole said...

Great opening line in the 150-word excerpt!

I liked the query as well, but it seemed to be trying too hard in some areas. I also wondered if there were other fantastical elements you could mention. Those didn't come through as much in the current query.

I actually think you can simplify the query by not mentioning the specific name of the capital, which might give you some add'l room for those other details.

The second paragraph has a lot of intriguing insight on Grayson, and I'm wondering if some of that should be woven in upfront.

Good luck!