Thursday, August 7, 2014

Become an Agent #15

Title: Blood Reign
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 81,000

Seventeen-year-old Alice finds herself trapped between the men who murdered her mother and a five-hundred-foot drop. Rather than face the killers’ dark plans, Alice jumps.

But instead of death, Alice wakes up in a blood-soaked battlefield in an unfamiliar world, where armoured men are slaughtering peasants. Terrified, she flees and encounters a seer, who reveals to Alice that the only way back to her world is by seeking a witch with the power to transport her back.

In this alternate reality, Alice is forced to disguise herself as a man to protect against marauders. She must survive the war between the queen and rebels while battling the flesh-eating monsters stalking Wonderland. She needs to find her way home, fueled by a lust to avenge her mother’s murder.

As Wonderland falls into chaos, Alice finds herself drowning in violence and bloodshed. Struggling to keep her sanity, she discovers that slaying monsters has its price. If this world falls apart before she can return home, Alice risks becoming the worst monster of all.


I’ve been fighting with a sword since I was eight. It was the only way to feel alive; to feel the blood running in my veins. I stalked my prey, eyeing him from behind my mask. My ragged breathing amplified inside the white fencing suit, drowning outside noise. The suit was supposed to protect me, yet it served to protect him from me.

Strike him. Go for the throat.

I dodged his attack and lunged forward, stabbing the blade toward his heart. The sports hall exploded with cheers as blood sang in my ears. Victory rushed through me, echoing the sweet, sharp metallic twangs of clashing swords.

“15-8! Southampton college—champion of the Summer Duel!” the words boomed. And just like that, it was over.

I pulled back, my jaw ticked with irritation. Too soon. I should’ve stalled rather than pouncing for him like a homicidal maniac.

I clenched the sabre, curbing myself from giving in to the roaring hunger. One reason I hated local tournaments was that many opponents were hardly worth fighting. But it served to kill time whilst waiting for the regional games. My opponent grabbed his mask and yanked it off. Sweat streamed down his face, skin flushed.

“Nice game.” He saluted me with his sabre, expression sullen.

My classmate Leona flanked me immediately, her face smug. "What do you expect? Our captain’s the best fencer in the region. Probably in the whole world."

I pulled my mask free, blond hair escaping the hairband to tumble down in long waves.


  1. #10 I'm gonna say no. I feel like the last paragraph is too full of cliched phrases, and that doesn't give me a clear representation of the true stakes. Overall I like the feel of the story so rephrasing your last paragraph might be the key.

  2. This one is really hard for me to be impartial about, because I recognize the story and also because I love fantasy with badass female protags! Bearing in mind that I may be overcorrecting for those things, I'm going to go with a very close No.

    The sole reason is that I don't have a good enough sense of what in Alice's character balances her bloodlust. From the query and 250, the only thing I really know about her is that she's driven by a thirst for violence. I feel like there's something really interesting going on there -- maybe something to do with the people who killed her mother? Does she have some kind of curse, or is this just a personality trait? What made her like that? And you seem to hint at some kind of inner conflict where she has to struggle against that, but I feel like it could be called out more directly.

    I'd also love to see some kind of hope or positive goal, or even some specific horrible outcome she's working to avert -- a clearer sense of her goal as she wades through her sea of blood.

    So, I guess more specificity about stakes, and a clearer sense of character!

    Good luck!!!


  3. The concept is interesting, and I like retellings. What I don't get from this is a connection to Alice. The first 250 shows me that she's a good fencer and likes fighting, but I don't get why--I don't know why I should care about her. Maybe start with something that shows her vulnerable side instead of her aggressive side?

    No - 16

  4. I remember seeing this in a twitter post, something about Buffy instead of Alice in Wonderland. From that, I love the idea. But here, your query isn't making that idea shine like it should. As I read through the query, I kept thinking this was historical and jumping off a cliff was a cheep way of getting her into the past. But once I realized this was the Alice in Wonderland idea, it made sense. I think you need to mention wonderland much earlier in the query to really let the agent know this is a retelling of that. Then they can get excited about Buffy in Wonderland. Then all the wackiness makes sense and would draw me in rather than make me say "What?"

    As for the opening, I felt cheated. It sounds like a girl going for her first kill. My first thought was, this better not be an animal she's about to kill. I was glad when it wasn't, but cheated when it was only a fencing match.

    No. (#11)


  5. Query:
    Love last line, but the overall query could be a bit tightened. I think you're trying to say a little too much and it reads a little choppy.

    First 250 Words
    Your actual writing is stronger than the query in my opinion. I love the description and the introduction of Alice. Definitely strong, though I'm personally not a violence king of gal. I think this has great great potential!

    No (#13) Good luck!

  6. Yes!

    I love the modern-day retelling of Alice in Wonderland (though, since it's so obvious that's what it is, maybe you call it something other than Wonderland, or some twist on it).

    I love that she's a fencer, and the opening at first leaves us wondering exactly what time in history we're dealing with. I love punchy openings, so I'd begin with "Strike him. Go for the throat." I think that would really catch the reader's attention!

    I definitely want to read more of this, and I want to know how the mother's murder weaves itself into the story in the "wonderland."

    Great job! (#18)

  7. PS: Based only on the title, I'd never pick this up. It sounds very gruesome...maybe you can think of a title that is some twist on Alice in Wonderland...

  8. I've seen this one a few times, and I feel like the query is much improved, but I've seen it a lot.

    In it's current form, I feel like the stakes are muddled up. We know that Alice could turn into the worst monster of all, but we don't know why she's hunting monsters. I feel like this query could be taken to a more basic feel to clarify what's going on: Alice is in another world. She needs to get home or else (this should be spelled out). We need to know why it's hard for her to get back.

    My bigger concern with this piece is that the market is pretty saturated with Alice in Wonderland retellings right now. I was in the bookstore and there were five different Alice series. That's a lot. The other retellings had really great twists: Alice was an Alchemist in one, for instance. My concern is that I don't see a twist here except for the murder and Alice deciding she'd rather commit suicide (which botches up the survival drive for when she's in wonderland). If I were an agent, I would say no based on market alone, but the query isn't as clear as I feel it really needs to be to stand out.

    I love where you start the story, and I love that your Alice is a fencer. Those are awesome points. I feel like you could make this really kick butt, but the market and the query are why I say No. I'm so sorry that's the case because I'm really into Alice.

    Good luck (#20)

  9. I LOVE the first paragraph of the query. There's stuff happening, it's interesting, and I'm hooked. And, actually, all the rest of the query is awesome, too. So are the first 250.

    I'm supposed to be constructive. Um.... In the second sentence, don't use as. It's not the best way to connect those two clauses. Personally, I'd put the singing blood first, then just use a semi-colon (or a period).

    YES. When can I read this?

  10. I'm voting No, and I'll tell you why:

    I've read a lot of Alice in Wonderland retellings, and I'm tired of them. This isn't a "not my genre" no. This is a "I think the market has too many of them at this time" no. That said, if you find the right agent and you have a great manuscript on your hands, then you could end up looking back at this comment and laugh.

    NO (from the audience)

  11. In the query, it reminded me a bit of Warriors of Virtue, only for me to have a forehead slapping moment when I realized that it was a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. That being said, I had a good time reading your first page. My only complaint is that I got confused as the part where she wins. Her irritation made me question whether she had been caught off guard and lost during her reverie. It was quickly righted, but be warry of stuff that pulls your reader out of the story, especially this early.

    Yes. (#19)

  12. No from this audience member. I too have seen this query before, and it's gotten a lot better, but I'm not sure of the Wonderland connection other than her name is Alice and she wakes up in a new world. Is that enough to be a retelling? I honestly don't know. I think I'd actually like it better if it was completely separate from Alice. Also, I'm not sure of the stakes and how/if it connects to her mother's murderers.

  13. I liked the opening paragraph of the query, but some of the following language felt a bit clunky. Suggest trimming out one of the two uses of 'back' in the 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph. Perhaps reorder the following?: '(She needs to find her way home,) Fueled by a lust to avenge her mother's murder, Alice will do anything to find her way home. In the first 250, the line 'my jaw ticked with irritation' pulled me out of the story as I tried to puzzle what that meant. Suggest trimming out the telling portion in the following: 'I clenched the sabre (curbing myself...hunger).' Small note -- I think the c in Southampton College needs to be capitalized. An interesting idea, but a No from me (#9).

  14. No,
    The query has the right genre and word count, but I think a lot of the comment to tighten it would help.
    Plus, there have been a lot of alice in wonderland retellings recently, and I don't really get what makes yours a retelling? Besides her name? Either work some of those details into the query, or consider dropping the retelling?
    Also, is it an alternate reality (like some Doctor who episodes?) or another world (aka portal fantasy?)
    I do like the first 250, although this line "I stalked my prey, eyeing him from behind my mask." really threw me, as it sounded like she was hunting an animal.
    She does come across as a really unique MC, though! I think with a critical eye on the market, this could really work out well :)


  15. I feel no connection to Alice that makes me care about her. She feels too much like a violent narcissist - irritated that she can't inflict more damage on her opponent, and highly aware of her own loveliness as if she wants to remind the reader that she's very pretty. However the first 250 words are strong, probably stronger than the query. I would want to hit the "buffy in wonderland" concept right off the bat, in the query. I can't help but feel like this is definitely a good story and that I'm just not seeing it very well in the query, or the first 250 words, which doesn't quite make her sympathetic enough for me, even though it is a strong opening. I LOVE Alice in Wonderland, it's always been a favorite story of mine, and I really want to feel drawn to this, but for some reason I'm not.

    No (reluctantly). (#5)