Tuesday, October 25, 2022

October 2022 Pass or Pages Entry #2

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Michelle Hauck and Ernie Chiara for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 2: The Dragoneer

Genre:  Adult Fantasy


For twenty years, Keire Salazar has fought wars from[MH1] the backs of dragons enhanced with metallic forelimbs and permanent armor. She lives for the fight, and every day is a good day to die[EC1].

But when a crash kills her crew and leaves Keire with a twisted knee and half a hand, she faces a greater terror: discharge and civilian life. Smothering her grief, she jumps at the chance (figuratively, of course, since her bad leg won’t let her do more than limp) to prove she can still fight, when she is assigned[MH2] to the crew of Alvaric Andressa, a captain with a burning anger at the world and a deep love for his dragon. Their mission is to bring down the enemy’s most dangerous dragon, Crocodile[EC2]. Success means Keire’s redemption. Failure means discharge.

What Keire quickly realizes, though, is that[EC3] they were never meant to succeed. Andressa is disgraced, and the upper brass want him dead. Keire and the rest of the misfit crew were selected precisely because they are expendable liabilities[EC4]

For Keire, civilian life is the antithesis of her identity, a torture on top of the daily pain her injuries bring. It means losing her sense of self and facing her grief. But continuing after Crocodile means fighting on behalf of people who want Keire dead, with a crew Keire doesn’t trust, and a high likelihood that Keire herself will be the one to get them killed[MH3].

As Keire always says, it’s a good day to die.[MH4]

THE DRAGONEER (116,000 words) is a military fantasy where Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series meets Robyn Bennis’s The Guns Above[EC5].


Michelle's comments:
[MH1] Okay. Good. But someplace in the query we need to know what they are fighting over. Why are they at war?
[MH2] Delete "when she is" and start new sentence with "Assigned". When reading a ton of queries, long sentences are more likely to becoming confusing. So shorter sentences are more likely to get through tired brains. 
[MH3] Much of this paragraph is a recap of things we already know. I like that you show us her choice but I’m unsure of the stakes beyond death. Also unclear why they are fighting in the first place. I’d like to see more of a character arc in the query. What is her flaw that needs to be overcome. It’s not all about plot, I like a sense of how the character changes to be hinted at in the query. [Possible rewrite of this paragraph - Retiring is unthinkable, but fighting on behalf of people who want Keire dead, with an untrustworthy crew and a high likelihood she’ll cause their failure and deaths isn’t much better.]
[MH4] I'd cut this line.
Ernie's comments:
[EC1] Off to a great start. You've got my attention with the metallic forelimbs, and the sentences are well crafted.
[EC2] This paragraph is well done. I'm invested in Keire as a character and want to know more. But "Crocodile" as the dragon's name is underwhelming.
[EC3] A bit awkward here with the phrasing.
[EC4] Missing a period at the end of this sentence.
[EC5] Series names should be italicized and book titles should be in all caps.

First 250 Words

The cannons boomed like a distant lullaby.

        “A good day to fly,” said Ordego.

        “A good day to die,” replied Keire, as she always did.

        Ordego snorted. “Ever the motivator.”

        At least he didn’t seem to be holding last night against her. Maybe in the predawn light that caressed the surrounding scrubland, his argument seemed less relevant. Weaker in the face of the upcoming fight[MH5]. Keire shrugged, checking that her harness was snug over her jacket. Her revolver rested secure in its holster on her hip, her knife in a sheath on her calf, and her rifle on a strap across her back. Spare ammunition sat in a pouch at her waist. The pressure of the various straps was the embrace of an old friend.

        “If you’re gonna go,” Keire said, “would you rather have it any other way?”

        “Aged hundred and five. In my seaside mansion. Servants waiting upon my every need.”

        “You know you’d beg me to shoot you long before then.”

        “But I can dream. It’s better than thinking about this shit war.”

        That was where they differed, Keire and Ordego. She dreamed of nothing else[MH6].

        The fifteen dragons of the squadron crouched in the brush around them, forty-foot beasts of scale and steel. None so much as twitched, like any good enhanced dragon. Keire and Ordego’s dragon, Vanquish, rested closest, head held above metal forelimbs[MH7]. To the south, the river crawled along silent and brown[MH8][EC6].


Michelle's comments:
[MH5] I would delete this sentence.  In previous sentence, consider "their" argument.
[MH6] I’d suggest elaborating so we can get to know her better.
[MH7] I would like her to do some action that shows her emotions toward her dragon. I’m not getting much emotion here.
[MH8] I would have to pass as I do already have a military science fiction client and I’m unsure of the larger conflict here.
Ernie's comments:
[EC6] As a fan of the Temeraire books and of Robin Hobb's novels, I'm a sucker for dragon riding.

[If you receive a "Pages!", click on the agent's name at the top of this post for submission instructions.]

Michelle - Pass
Ernie - Pages! Please submit the query and first 20 pages to QueryManager.com/ErnieChiara with PassOrPages in the referral box. Thank you.

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