Monday, February 20, 2017

#SonofaPitch: Query #10: The Deserved

For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for. My normal musings will return next week.

For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.

We're Team Hera! Because here on Balancing Act, we're both bad-ass and warm and nurturing, and we'll fight to bring out the best in our crew, um, team. :-)

You can check out other teams on the other hosting blogs: Elsie Elmore (Team Droids), Elizabeth Roderick (Team Leia), Kathleen Ann Palm (Team Darkside), Rena Rocford (Team Rebels), and of course, our organizer and Grand Poobah, Katie Hamstead Teller.

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Title: The Deserved
Category and Genre: Adult Fantasy
Word Count: 127,000

Query:

Myran is deadly hot, the ground is cracked open and rays of lethal light flash through the city every day. But nothing worries Donovar as much as the constant threat of attack.

When he was a soldier, Donovar never imagined he’d be ruling the empire. He hates it. Despite holding a third of the voting power, he’s never felt so powerless to make any real change.

He supported the war in Shense to hunt down and capture the Selsahn rebels, but then they went underground. Disappeared. And when they started targeting civilians, everything changed. Now magical attacks ravage the empire, people keep dying in impossible ways and they’re no closer to stopping the rebels than they were two years ago. There’s only one option he can see: give up and pull out of Shense. Bring the troops home.

But the council won’t stand for it. As long as this war lines their pockets, they’re not pulling out. And the public are so angry, so driven by fear, that even the suggestion of surrender would brand him a coward and a traitor. He’d be kicked out of the Diarchy in the blink of an eye. Donovar’s a war hero, after all. He should be stronger than that.

No - Donovar’s going to have to work in secret. He’ll have to do everything he hates: lie, cheat and backstab his way through the politics and the bureaucracy. If that doesn’t work, he might even need to get out the old sword. Because he’s running out of time. He’s beginning to suspect there’s more to these attacks than meets the eye and, if he can’t find a way to end it soon, the next might be the one that kills them all.

First 250 Words:


The wretch wiped spit from her cheeks. A figure loomed over her, anger distorting the bronze wrinkles on his face.

“Get back, filthy Shem!”

He spat again, this time at her feet. Curling herself inwards, she scuttled away, keeping low to the floor. The man stamped after her – but only until she had scurried back into whatever dark hole she had come from. After scratching out a quick warding sign on the dusty red wall to his right, he turned back to his goods muttering,

“Bloody wide-eyes, can’t a man make an honest living…” 

The wretch lay waiting round the corner and pressed to the floor until he was out of earshot. She looked at her spoils. Brushing orange dust from the single bronze drachm she clasped between her bony fingers, she sighed. It was pointless: she couldn’t eat it and nobody would sell to a Shem. 

Nobody honest anyway, and she daren’t risk trying to buy from anyone else. Letting the coin drop into the dirt, she made herself small and hurried away, clinging to the walls of the buildings for shade. The farmer had let her go, but the harsh sun would not be so forgiving.

It was approaching Hardlight and she had still not found food. This was the second day running, and if she did not eat tonight she would not have the energy to search tomorrow. She would starve. She would probably die.

#SonofaPitch: Query #9: First5

For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for. My normal musings will return next week.

For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.

We're Team Hera! Because here on Balancing Act, we're both bad-ass and warm and nurturing, and we'll fight to bring out the best in our crew, um, team. :-)

You can check out other teams on the other hosting blogs: Elsie Elmore (Team Droids), Elizabeth Roderick (Team Leia), Kathleen Ann Palm (Team Darkside), Rena Rocford (Team Rebels), and of course, our organizer and Grand Poobah, Katie Hamstead Teller.

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Title: FIRST5
Category and Genre: Adult Fantasy/SciFi
Word Count: (93,000)

Query:

The Inhikiod, a winged race living high in their mountain cavern hives, never bother to look down. Their life is flying the skies. As a star competitor in the Inhikiod flying competitions, nineteen-year-old Hikala lives only to fly and win accolades for herself and her Inhikiod family. After an irresponsible challenge resulted in permanent injuries to her flying partner and best friend, Hikala is banished to the planet’s surface for a year, forbidden to fly.

Never having set foot on the surface, Hikala must come to terms with her own race’s millennia old history of enslaving the planet’s indigenous race, the non-winged Dawk. Only knowing the Dawk as servants in her hive, Hikala struggles to enmesh herself in their culture and survive their hatred while dealing with the surface’s bi-annual flooding and predatory creatures.

Tid, a Dawk who sees more in Hikala than just being Inhikiod, helps her navigate the surface challenges. But as their romance grows, so do the rumblings of a revolution. The Dawk want Hikala to become a linchpin in their fight to free themselves from their Inhikiod masters. But if Hikala stays to help, she must give up flying forever, ripping out her soul. If she returns home, she’ll break Tid’s heart and abandon her new friends to the vengeance of the Inhikiod.


First 250 words:

Cradled by wind and sunlight, Hikala spun through the sky, a mirror to her partner’s flight. The air whistled through her wings, sounding a harmonic note to balance the wind-song created with each stroke of Sarwa’s violet wings. A final double flip merged flashes of blue and violet and ended their sky dance to screams of approval from the observers scattered across the sky.

Blue wings cupping the air beneath her, Hikala floated on her back and shouted her exhilaration to the wind. Always more reserved, Sarwa hovered at her side and only laughed in response, a wide lopsided grin spread across his dark brown face. Hikala sighed when the same thought she had after every perfect sky dance crossed her mind—to forget the world and keep flying with Sarwa forever. But they had finished their doubles routine and needed to return inside for their score; a score that would determine the winner of this year’s Inhikiod Games.

There were many competitions throughout the year, but these Games were the pinnacle of them all. Not much interested the Inhikiod other than their flying competitions and socializing, so the Games were highly anticipated and the best races were dissected over dinner tables for the rest of the year.

Sarwa offered his hand and he and Hikala flew back to the King’s landing pad, the staging area for the Games. As they lightly set down on the crescent-shaped entrance platform to the huge cavern carved into the mountainside, raucous cheers erupted.

#SonofaPitch: Query #8: Empathy: Imminent Dawn

For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for. My normal musings will return next week.

For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.

We're Team Hera! Because here on Balancing Act, we're both bad-ass and warm and nurturing, and we'll fight to bring out the best in our crew, um, team. :-)

You can check out other teams on the other hosting blogs: Elsie Elmore (Team Droids), Elizabeth Roderick (Team Leia), Kathleen Ann Palm (Team Darkside), Rena Rocford (Team Rebels), and of course, our organizer and Grand Poobah, Katie Hamstead Teller.

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Title:
EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn
Category and Genre: Adult Sci-fi
Word Count: 110,000

Query:

EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn is the story of art-school dropout Chandra Adelhadeo, who, in a desperate effort to communicate with her comatose wife, enrolls in the first round of human trials for an implant that will give her access to the internet in her mind.

Though Chandra is elated when she becomes the first for whom this technology functions, the study takes a sinister turn when dozens of patients begin to seize and go missing. Trapped on the research compound without answers from EMPATHY’s pioneer as to whether the nanochip will let her speak with her wife once she, too, has it implanted, Chandra must take action if she’s to ever see her wife again. By teaming up with an amateur programmer and an on-compound administrative assistant, Chandra fights to save the study from itself… before she, too, disappears.

First 250 Words:

Chandra Adelhadeo ran her fingers along the scar as she sat in the post-install waiting room.

So much hinged on the conversation she would have on the other side of the door at the end of the hall. Had the install gone as planned? How soon would the implant start to work? When could she use it to speak with Kyra?

Any minute now they would call her name and—ugh. Chandra cringed. She was doing it again.
She curled her fingers inward, grasping tightly at the grit of the charcoal pencil in her hand. The advice of her pre-study therapist came to her.

Draw. Write. Focus on something you can control. 

Chandra eased in a breath and opened the sketchbook on her knee to a fresh leaf.

Kyra, 
I’ve felt miserable for abandoning you since Ratan dropped me off. That’s not the right word, though: abandon. I did this for you, for us, and when this is all over we’ll be closer than we have been in a long time. 
As soon as EMPATHY is working for me, I’ll make sure you get it as well. No matter the cost, I will make sure this works for us. We need it. I need it. I—

“Chandra?”

Her attention shot toward the receptionist. A bleary-eyed participant emerged from the back room and passed between them.

“The doctor will see you now.” 

Chandra bit her lower lip. “Thanks.” A stunted breath escaped as she stood.

#SonofaPitch: Query #7: Playing God

For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for. My normal musings will return next week.

For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.

We're Team Hera! Because here on Balancing Act, we're both bad-ass and warm and nurturing, and we'll fight to bring out the best in our crew, um, team. :-)

You can check out other teams on the other hosting blogs: Elsie Elmore (Team Droids), Elizabeth Roderick (Team Leia), Kathleen Ann Palm (Team Darkside), Rena Rocford (Team Rebels), and of course, our organizer and Grand Poobah, Katie Hamstead Teller.

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Title: PLAYING GOD
Category and Genre: Adult, Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 106,000

Query:
Sworn off family in-fighting and rivalries, Apollo has spent the last decade in Portland, Maine, incarnated as research scientist Dr. Paul Archer. Family’s not the only thing Apollo’s sworn off — he’s also done with women (of the mortal ilk), and most of all, Pantheon, a chess-like game the gods play with human lives. So when Venus drops by unannounced, demanding that Apollo repay a debt dating back to the Trojan War by helping her pull off a move in the game, Apollo’s intention is to execute the move, wipe the slate clean, and get right back to work in the lab.

What Apollo doesn’t expect is how this game and its pawn, college senior Theresa DiPaulo, revive his long-buried feelings of guilt and failure stemming from his mother's deicide at the hands of his stepmother. Nor does he expect how compelled he feels to intervene to save Theresa from the same fate. As the game unfolds, and the parallels to that long-ago round of Pantheon mount up, Apollo gets sucked deeper and deeper in, until he can no longer run from the intrafamilial conflict he left behind when he abdicated Olympus and took refuge DownEast. Apollo’s got a plan — if only Theresa would open up and let him in, if only she’d stop trying to protect him, if only she loved him back, pulling it off would be so much easier.

First 250 Words:


“Hold still.” I closed my eyes and, my hands flat on the bare skin of the boy’s chest, forced a surge of energy into him, feeling it spread through his frail body with the beats of his heart. My strength gushed out of me, like I’d cut a major blood vessel. A minute later, when I opened my eyes, my head swam and my legs shook.

The kid was staring at me. I withdrew my hands, and disconnected the IV. Then I sat on the foot of the gurney, fighting the tunnel vision and nausea.

The door opened. The jingle of bracelets told me it was my assistant Demetria. She pressed a Gatorade into my hand and passed another to the boy. I heard the boy’s gulps. I couldn’t open mine, my fingers too weak to grip the cap and twist. Demetria extended her hand for the bottle, and opened it with the same cruel matter-of-factness with which she’d snap the neck of a lab rat.

“Good thing for Connor his parents had him transported here, instead of Maine Med.” Her dry tone belied her words. The boy would have died at the hospital. In surviving to five, he’d already beaten the odds. Demetria wasn’t happy that the boy was still alive. No, that was harsh. She wasn’t happy that I’d brought him back from the edge. It was an important distinction.

I took a couple sips of Gatorade and pressed the damp bottle to my cheek.

#SonofaPitch: Query #6: Killer's Day Off

For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for. My normal musings will return next week.

For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.

We're Team Hera! Because here on Balancing Act, we're both bad-ass and warm and nurturing, and we'll fight to bring out the best in our crew, um, team. :-)

You can check out other teams on the other hosting blogs: Elsie Elmore (Team Droids), Elizabeth Roderick (Team Leia), Kathleen Ann Palm (Team Darkside), Rena Rocford (Team Rebels), and of course, our organizer and Grand Poobah, Katie Hamstead Teller.

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Title: KILLER'S DAY OFF
Category and Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 84,000

Query:

Eleven doesn’t feel like killing the President of the United States today. Every other profession gets sick days, so why not genetically-enhanced android super-assassins? Unfortunately, that’s not how his owner/creator/father-figure, Simon Cordova, sees it. A few threats, a little brainwashing, and Eleven is off to the White House.

Only when he gets there, he finds that Simon has lied to him about Eleven being the only android around. Sure, meeting this other guy doesn’t stop Eleven from killing the president, but it certainly raises some questions, such as ‘Why has Simon lied to me?’ and ‘What am I?’ and ‘Why the hell am I being brainwashed?’

Except those answers need to wait, because this job didn’t end in DC. No, it followed Eleven home and found where his friends live.

Now Eleven has to protect those around him while working through a budding existential crisis. But none of that will stop him from finding answers to every one of his questions, even if it takes a few explosions, abundant violence, and at least one hostage situation to do so.

First 250 Words:

“What?” Agent Olsen’s voice hissed through the telephone. “You’re calling out sick from assassinating the president?!”

“Yeah, sorry about that.” I nestled the phone between my head and shoulder while I pulled the bag of Cheetos open. Olsen probably heard it, but who cares? “I’m just feeling a little under the weather.”

“Under the weather?!” Olsen screamed. Static screeched over the line, the cords and tubes of the phone company cracking under the pressure. “You’re a genetically modified android, Eleven. You can’t feel under the weather!”

“Oh, did I say I felt sick? Meant to say tired.” I kicked my shoes off and fell backwards onto the couch. “Didn’t sleep very well last night. Etcetera.”

Static hissed through the phone again before Olsen’s voice simmered down enough to be heard. “—any idea how much time and money and planning went into—“

I pulled the phone away from my ear and glared at it. I had nearly four years of perfect attendance under my belt, and they couldn’t give me just one damned vacation day? Sometimes people just weren’t up to the task of going outside and being productive—or, in my case, murdering politicians in cold blood. Today was definitely one of those off days for me.

Hopefully Agent Olsen and his boss could understand that. If not, then my status as a badass super-assassin earned me some other undeniable privileges.

#SonofaPitch: Query #5: Beneath Green

For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for. My normal musings will return next week.

For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.

We're Team Hera! Because here on Balancing Act, we're both bad-ass and warm and nurturing, and we'll fight to bring out the best in our crew, um, team. :-)

You can check out other teams on the other hosting blogs: Elsie Elmore (Team Droids), Elizabeth Roderick (Team Leia), Kathleen Ann Palm (Team Darkside), Rena Rocford (Team Rebels), and of course, our organizer and Grand Poobah, Katie Hamstead Teller.

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Title: BENEATH GREEN
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Word Count: 64,000

Query:

Aev, a Journeyman Architect, hides from invaders terraforming her authoritarian planet, discovering it’s better to die on the surface than rot underground.

Launching world-evolving mists, the terraformers turn Aev’s homogenous white world green. It’s genocide, and she’s lost everything—her family, her home. Now, in the shadows underground, she cowers. From her own desperate people. From the enemy.

To subsist, she scavenges food, water, a place of her own in the catacombs under the city. Slaughtering to survive. As her people burrow deeper, she knows the only way out is up. She has to escape the new green planet, or become a part of the terraformed world. So when her enigmatic mentor asks if she wants “off this rock,” she must trust a cutthroat with a crippled ship.

Otherwise she’ll be left to rot in the dark.

First 250 words:

She saw the stars, the planets. Crystallizing. Unmoved. Microscopic incandescent white voids in the dark sky. Shining far from her. The black-hole ships retreated. The invading fleet ebbed into the obsidian sky. She stood under the reformed surface of her planet, watching from a small entrance not collapsed by the bombs.

Hope burned in her chest. Like the ember of a fire on a damp night, barely smoking. There was much to do before the remaining occupying forces started hunting survivors.

Aev waited quietly in a darkened corner for the dust to settle. The wailing. To stop. But that might take days. When the sick in her stomach passed. The squeezing in her chest released. She rose and walked to the nearest exit out of Underground. The green mist the invaders released hovered outside. Wrapping her world.

She only knew drawing. Buildings. Bridges. Graphite and paper. Lines and geometry. She didn’t know. Death.

A thought twitched in her head. Dark. Cold. Green.

Rebirth.

She didn’t know. Survive.

She needed food. Water.

Her shoulder still screamed red with the pain of dislocation. Something had broken when she set it. The thin bone across her chest. The collar bone. She couldn’t lift her arm.

A crowd gathered. To stare at the banks of green mist outside the door, burning away the smooth white polystone bombed into rubble. Creating layers of dust. The mist boiled in the breeze, thinning.

The stars shone above the mist. Bits of broken blue silcryst in the sky.

#SonofaPitch: Query #4: A Tulip in Winter

For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for. My normal musings will return next week.

For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.

We're Team Hera! Because here on Balancing Act, we're both bad-ass and warm and nurturing, and we'll fight to bring out the best in our crew, um, team. :-)

You can check out other teams on the other hosting blogs: Elsie Elmore (Team Droids), Elizabeth Roderick (Team Leia), Kathleen Ann Palm (Team Darkside), Rena Rocford (Team Rebels), and of course, our organizer and Grand Poobah, Katie Hamstead Teller.

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Title: A Tulip in Winter
Category and Genre: Adult/Historical Fiction
Word Count: 90,000

Query:

An orphaned Dutch girl, a warlord about to lose his lands and a bold adventurer are brought together in the twilight era of the samurai.

Why must this happen to me, as brutal hands born to untie sashes slid the kimono from my pale shoulders. I was so obviously made for other things.

For a chance to win her freedom, Miyako must embrace the samurai way and change everything about herself. Sailing into the land of snow and pine, the sole-survivor of a doomed ship, she could never envision the future as a warlord's concubine. This man will hold her captive. This man she will loathe like no other. Luckily, Dutch mettle comes in handy when she realizes she has been handed a unique situation. There’s plenty of scheming and intrigue to go around as the other women will do anything to stand in her way.

But a man is a samurai first, the blade is his lover. One magical winter, a bold adventurer arrives on a Russian ship offering Miyako more than a warlord’s empty promises. She’s a woman who has struggled so long against prejudice to find her purpose. She’s fought against enemy concubines but Miyako finds her greatest challenge yet-hiding forbidden love in a land where dishonor is a breath away.

Suspicions are aroused but a surprise from the shogun will force more secrets to go public. When the warlord takes the Russian ship hostage, grabbing her greatest happiness or the freedom she craves collides because no concubine should look at another man, unless she wants to be hung high from a turret at dawn.

First 250 Words:


It’s not that I could forget about the killing.

If I stopped for a second, I’d remember.

The ripe dirt shoved deep under broken nails.

Bruised knees perched at the edges of an open grave.

He hadn’t slept in weeks-now he’d sleep forever.

The sound of the blade popped in my ears, the weapon tore flesh, shattered bone. My hand opened, and the shiny hilt slid from my fingers. He was still staring into my eyes when he dropped and slumped on his side. I shrieked into my hand, the dagger buried within his chest. And all that blood, shimmering crimson under the shadow of the moon.

I had to pull the blade out.

“Go away. Don’t,” he murmured, red gurgling down his lips.

I trembled, hard.

His hand sought the hilt and drew the steel from mortified flesh; a sucking whir spit back squishy ooze.

He looked so deeply into my eyes that a flash of that old feeling stirred.

“Oh, my God.” I wept, clutching my stomach next to his lifeless body.

The black shadow of that castle all that had been my heaven and my hell loomed large. My life as a warlord’s concubine shouldn’t have happened. Courtesans rise by select methods, not by accident. I left on a ship that sank off the coast of a far-flung island. The beauty and glamor of a concubine is celebrated, their praises sung. I was exotic and homely to them. And I didn’t look well in kimono.