The Writer’s Voice 2015: SUN AND IRON

Query: 

Aelia is the last of her kind without chains on her wrists. She dwells deep in the forest, protecting the only remaining Soultree—the hope for her enslaved people who once drew magic from it. When the tree grows strong, it will be their savior. But only Aelia can spark the tree’s power, and after a misstep leads to her capture, that hope is lost. She is dragged into the slave quarters of a gladiator school where they force her to fight her own people to the death.

There, she meets Zenon, the undefeated gladiator, who has thirteen more fights until he can claim his freedom and be done with this life filled with violence. Never having lost a fight, he can almost taste it—until his master sets him up to fight chained together with Aelia.

She’s unpredictable, wild and weak, and Zenon couldn’t imagine a worse partner. Aelia refuses to kill her own people, and she’s the only thing that stands in the way of Zenon’s freedom. But if Aelia dies, the Soultree dies with her. Along with the hope for her people’s freedom.

Set in a world inspired by ancient Rome, SUN AND IRON is a YA Fantasy that can be described as Starz’s SPARTACUS meets Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. It is a standalone novel with series potential, complete at 73,000 words, and is told in alternating points-of-view between Aelia and Zenon.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250 words:

Sweaty hands catch my wrist, and I curse myself for coming to the market. The crowd is ideal for getting lost in after bumping into my victims and vanishing with whatever their pockets hold, but the merchants tend to get nosy.

A raspy voice calls from behind. “What’s the hurry, girl?”

I sigh, shooting one last look at the forest before pulling the hood of my cape lower over my face to turn back towards the merchant. He smiles, revealing yellow teeth in a perfectly pale face, and his meaty fingers hold me tight.

A girl stands behind him with chains on her neck and wrists, her copper skin stained with sweat and dirt identical to mine. One look at her reminds me why I have to hide day after day, and I pull my cape with my free hand even lower. I painted my face and hands white, but with the sun burning through my dark cape, I must have sweated most of it off.

“Please let me go, sir,” I plead in a small voice. I don’t have much experience sounding like a desperate little girl, but I hope he’ll buy my act. The bounty for my capture has inflated, so I’m more on edge than most thieves in the market today. “My mother is sick. She needs her medicine.”

I show up the small bag in my right hand containing the harvest of today’s pickpocket spree and hope for his sake that he doesn’t insist on opening it.

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24 thoughts on “The Writer’s Voice 2015: SUN AND IRON

  1. A nice blend of historical setting/culture and immediacy. This is one I’d love to read. Good luck!
    Connie

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  2. Hey, Aniko! I wanted to ask you a quick question? I saw that you’ve participated in a contest before with this entry–and that you got some requests. (Congrats, btw!) My question is: how many of The Writer’s Voice 2015 agents have seen your query/first page? Thank you for participating! =D

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    1. Hi Mónica! Thanks for the question. 🙂 Yes, I participated in PitchMadness back in March. Sara Megibow requested a partial from me back then, and I queried Kathleen Rushall with an earlier version of my query (but no first pages) before that which ended in a form rejection.

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  3. Hey again, Aniko! Thanks so much for answering. I think we can work with that! =D Truth is, Stephanie and I really liked your entry, but for some reason I was imagining more agents had seen this. Which is NOT something that would make me instantly step aside (as I said before, my last mentee from Pitch Wars had queried almost half of the agents of that contest, and I still took her), but it does make me more nitpicky, if that makes sense. =)

    Anyway! I love how you’ve incorporated characterization in the query, and we get to feel a bit of Aelia and Zenon there, and I love how the tree gives us a sort of Avatar vibe. (I seriously loved that movie!). I like that partnership between your characters, and I’m hoping there’s romance–the kind that starts off on the wrong foot?

    If you accept this, we’d have a few nitpicks here and there to make this even stronger than it already is. I hope you’re in! Pretty please?? 🙂

    Stephanie, my amazing guest coach, also loved this entry. I think she’s excited about the “EMBER IN THE ASHES” comp.–actually both of us are super excited about this! I hope you can join us!! Let me know if you have questions!
    We really want you on our team!
    M

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mónica!

      I’m super-duper excited about being on your team!!!! Thank you so much for picking me. I can’t wait to work with you guys to make my entry better. There certainly is romance between Aelia and Zenon, don’t worry. 🙂

      I’m IN!!!

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  4. Hey, Aniko! I’m so excited you’re excited to be on our team! I know Monica already say how awesome we think this entry is! Like Monica said, I just finished reading An Ember In The Ashes and I can totally see how this compares, but at the same time it feels like a totally different story! I am thrilled you want to be our team! I totally look forward to working with you and to seeing what happens during the agent round!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Stephanie! Thanks for your kind words, so excited to be part of your team! 🙂 I am really looking forward to working with you too, can’t wait to hear your suggestions on how to make my entry better. Fingers crossed for the agent round! 🙂

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