Friday, July 24, 2015

#YayYA Entry #7

Name: Laura Valín

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Title: NILE

35-word pitch: When universe-jumper Nile woke up in Haleos, a realm that resembles Ancient Egypt, the last thing she expected was to fall in love with the young Pharaoh… or to start a multi-dimensional war.

First 500:

Fate is an enigma only a few can decipher, the ancient duality between light and darkness.  Some believe in destiny, others believe in serendipity; I believe in both.

I choose light, but I also choose darkness.

‘Gold’, read the little plaque near the mailbox. The view of the family house was intimidating. I had never been able to explore all its rooms, and the most intriguing fact about the place was how it had ended up in my father’s hands. 

Babysitting my dad. What an awesome way to spend my twenty-third birthday.

Upon noticing my derailed train of thought, a driver raised his finger through the car window as I pulled over in front of the main entrance. Kindly enough, I smiled back and thanked his gesture by ironically lifting mine.

Men had no idea how difficult driving became when one was wearing a long white skirt. If a fairytale princess had to drive all the way to her castle dressed in a gown that got stuck between the pedals of her car, the prince would have gotten tired of waiting. I always rooted for the evil queen, anyhow. 

I stepped out of my convertible and rushed across the infinite gardens until I glimpsed the ivory double doors of our mansion. I knocked on the front door out of respect for my father. Who knew what Eckron might be doing in there.

He didn’t appear to be home, because no light could be seen through the windows. Screw it, I’m his daughter. I’ll just use my secret keys.

Every lamp had been shut off, even the enormous chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

Anyone can hide from light, but there is no way to run away from darkness. I remembered the mantra he used to tell me when I was a kid.

I groped my way towards the ebony spiraling stairs, careful not to touch or break anything that might cost a disgusting amount of dollars.

My father, Sir Eckron Gold, born in England, came from the ancient bloodline of a wealthy family who lived in the Middles Ages. He had inherited vast quantities of properties, art collections, hallows and a bunch of antiquities. Nobody had ever claimed their part of our treasure, so I assumed that either our relatives were tremendously altruistic or just non-existent.

As if Eckron and I were playing hide and seek, I searched the entire house, finding nothing but crippling silence. No sing of him yet.

He always disappeared the week before my birthday. He just vanished out of existence. I knew why, it was the anniversary of my mother’s death, but I had long since stopped caring or asking where he went. After all, Eckron Gold posed more mysteries than he solved. Anyhow, I had news to announce, and this time my father had stepped over the line of solitary confinement. 


  1. Forgot to add my Twitter handle! I'm @lauravpvp

  2. Hi Laura!

    Remember all my comments are subjective so if anything I say doesn't work for YOUR story, feel free to throw them out the window.

    Excellent pitch, just make sure it's in present tense. Even if your book isn't, pitches and queries should always be in present tense.

    Your first 500 is good. You establish your MC quickly. However, 23 is kind of old for YA, unless this is a side character who is having a POV spot. If that's the case, which I doubt, then I recommend starting straight off with the MC.

    Comments on some of the lines:

    "Upon noticing my derailed train of thought..." I'm not sure how he would notice this.

    "Men had no idea how difficult driving became when one was wearing a long white skirt" this should be "Men have no idea how difficult driving becomes when one is wearing a long, white skirt."

    You misspelled sign as sing in No sign of him yet.

    Also, I don't believe this is epic fantasy. Epic fantasy is almost always separate from our world entirely. Perhaps since romance is a major subplot, romantic fantasy?

    Otherwise I have nothing more to say!! Happy Writing!! :D

    1. Rachel, I think you're totally right. You've highlighted the same things I struggle with. I used to pitch it as NA (MC is, in fact, 23) but some agents pointed out that it didn't fit into the NA standards, so they suggested I pitch it as YA with Adult Crossover appeal or Adult with YA appeal.
      I normally label it as just Fantasy, but since 90% of the book takes place in a secondary world, I thought I should specify a little and call it Epic Fantasy, although after giving it a second thought I'd rather stick to just Fantasy, or Romantic Fantasy, as you suggested :)

      Thanks for pointing out the typo. I just picked up on that :)

    2. You're most welcome! And I know how hard it is to pick an age category, my book that I'm entering into #PitchWars has a similar problem but reversed: YA aged heroine in a story with more Adult appeal. So I feel you!

  3. Hi Laura,
    I agree with the previous comments and will add a few of my own.
    If they tell you it deals with YA themes I would think about resetting the age of the MC to 18, the upper end of YA and then you can avoid any NA confusion.
    The first paragraph and the first private thought feel disconnected from the rest, and it therefore sounds like a prologue.
    As much as I love the exchange of the finger with the other driver, it was a confusing way to describe it. On the first pass I thought he pointed at her and then went no, why would he do that? Also in that paragraph the "ironically" doesn't need to be there and takes away from the funny pairing of the finger with a smile.
    I absolutely love the image in the next paragraph, it's hilarious.
    In the next one why is she rushing until she sees the doors? Is she trying to get this over with? Then she wouldn't stop rushing when she saw them, she would when she got there.
    In the next paragraph the sentence about the lights not being on is passive and doesn't make sense with the babysitting dad comment earlier. Does she think he's trying to make it look like he's absent? The next line about the secret keys is weird. She's his daughter, aren't they just her keys, or does he not know she has them?
    I like the not hiding from darkness and the disgusting cost, but I would say amount of money, dollars is awkward.
    "In the Middles Ages" has a typo, should be Middle Ages.
    In the following line I've never seen Hallows used in that way, but there is a missing comma before the and, and you don't need "bunch of."
    In the no sign on him line, you don't need the yet. It takes us out of the moment.
    I really like the last line and want to know her news, but the anyhow isn't needed.
    The only other note I have is to be careful how many times you use his name, we don't usually use people's names that often and his stands out.
    You have managed to give us some humor along with a creepy feeling of waiting for the bad stuff to start. I like what you've done and want to read more.
    Jacqueline Eberli #6

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  5. Hello Laura!!

    First off, I want to say your story sounds amazing. Anything with an ancient Egypt theme, I'M THERE!! So kudos! Overall, I think your first 500 is great an engaging. There were just a few sentences I had to reread for clarity, and that's something you need to avoid in the first pages to ensure your reader is grounded and craving to read more!

    - ‘Gold’, read the little plaque near the mailbox. The view of the family house was intimidating. I had never been able to explore all its rooms, and the most intriguing fact about the place was how it had ended up in my father’s hands. [This sentence for some reason gave me difficulty. It could also have been my lack of caffeine :-) But, I would maybe see if you could reword the first sentence. For example: The little plaque near the mailbox read 'Gold'. Or something like that. The other sentence about how she never explored the rooms in their entirety before. For clarity, maybe try: The view of the family house was intimidating, with dozens of room, most of which I had never been able to explore. And the most intriguing fact about the mansion was how it ended up in my father's hands. Just a thought, you can disregard if these if they don't even come close. :-) Cool her father has a mansion!!!

    I like the sentence when she's knocking on the door out of respect. It gives us an idea of her relationship with her father as well as a glimpse into what her father may be like. Good job.

    He didn’t appear to be home, because no light could be seen through the windows. Screw it, I’m his daughter. I’ll just use my secret keys. [I would maybe tighten this sentence more. Example: He didn't appear to be home; the house was dark...(you could weave some description about what the outside of the mansion looks like here, really draw us in!) Also be careful in how you use the MC's internal thoughts. Try not to use it as an info dump. Already from her internal thoughts we found out her age and she tells us she's Eckron's daughter. We already know she's related to him by describing the house as the family house.]

    I do agree with using the father's name less. And it looks like the other comments found the two typos I found.

    As if Eckron and I were playing hide and seek, I searched the entire house, finding nothing but crippling silence. No sing of him yet. [This is my favorite sentence. Great!]

    I'm intrigued and I would want to read more. The comments before mine really hit the other areas I thought might make your first 500 clearer. You are heading in the right direction! Great job!

    Monica H. Hoffman #12

  6. Hi Laura! I'll start from the top!

    Genre: I think what you're looking for is "Portal Fantasy". Since the story starts in our world and goes to another it's not necessarily High. Epic tends to be for things that, like the greek poems before them have a very wide scope (a person's whole life or a huge event involving many POVs)

    I think you would benefit by tightening up the focus. You're trying to tell the whole story in 35 words you're better off sacrificing pieces of the story and focusing in on the elements that make your story special. If you choose to go YA, definitely focus in on Nile's story, what kind of path she's taking, and make it sound like her. If you go Adult you can focus on the relationship with the Pharaoh and what they'll face together.

    An example to help you understand why I think you'll want to focus in... my first MS has my MC starting a trans-dimensional war as well, but that's the plot. Her STARTING the war. There's nothing about the results or even who it's between. The story is about her coming into her power as a goddess of fate. I tell you this because I've used those same words, and I'm pretty sure your story is NOTHING like mine. Hopefully hearing that you'll think of three ways you could describe your story so I'd know exactly what ways your story is totally different. THAT's the kind of stuff to focus on in your pitch.

    First 500:

    OK, it sounds like you're at a crossroads. The choice between categories is a rough one. And one you totally need to make on your own, but as the story is right now I'd position it Adult. Adult Fantasy is used to having younger MCs, and the voice you have right now leans toward Adult fantasy. NA is still more of a genre than a category, so unless you've got some intense romance going on and are using the NA tropes you wouldn't have to change much to just relabel as Adult.

    If you do want to go YA, you're going to want to revisit this section, this character, and target it specifically at the YA audience. That means a strong voice, bringing us closer in, and re-casting the emotions as those of pre-college (looking forward to escaping) versus post-college (kinda dreading both going back and going forward). It won't require you to change too much about your scenario, it's just as easy having her sent to her dad's by her divorced mom or something equally realistic, BUT go read some of the YA books you'd be marketing with and get a sense for the voice that resonates in YA and make it your own.

    Now, regardless of which you choose, consider taking another stab at these scenes. And not, sit down and revise based on the specific examples above, but throw it all out and write the exact same thing again. It's something I had to do with my MS after I'd subbed it over and over and got specific notes and hints that took it word by word, paragraph by paragraph in different directions.

    I feel like I'm ALMOST seeing your character in here, but you went micro on the words for so long you may have wandered away from your vision. I think, if you do something like this, you may find your answer on whether or not you want to go Adult or YA, because the answer is the voice.

    Your story has so much potential, it seems super cool, and you obviously care and believe in it so much you're willing to put in the work. My hope is that by saying these things I've been able to give you a separate way of looking at it. I also hope you say, "No, she has no idea what I'm trying to say, what I really want to do is..." and do something way cooler than I could ever imagine, because that's what a good perspective shift does for a person.

    I hope I've been of any help at all! Best of luck!

  7. Hi Laura,

    This is Jen Fulmer, entry #9. I love your premise! A few notes for you.

    - I love your opening lines, but the transition into the action is jarring. Why is your character thinking these particular thoughts in this particular moment?

    - I’m not getting as much sense of the setting/place in your opening paragraphs as I would like. If you could, I would try to work in the fact that she’s in the car into the first action-paragraph. And I would love some more details about the house. When you say it’s intimidating, do you mean because it’s beautiful and huge and luxurious? Or is it intimidating because it’s in horrible disrepair, falling down, and a danger to anyone who enters it?

    - I’m not sure how someone can notice a “derailed train of thought”? And I don’t understand what’s going on between your character and the driver in the rest of the paragraph.

    - The bit about fairytale princesses and rooting for the evil queen feels like an unnecessary tangent. I think you mean for it to be characterizing, but without knowing why your character would root for evil queens, and how it applies to her life (is she being sarcastic? Or does she aspire to evil-queen-dom?), it feels kind of forced.

    - Logistically, why would she have to go through the garden to get to the doors? Typically front doors are easily accessible, and when I think of mansions I think of huge drives where everyone can see who’s pulled up.

    - Instead of saying “secret keys” could you tell us how she got them/why she felt she needed to have a set of keys to her father’s house that he didn’t know about?

    - I think you could condense “the ancient bloodline of a wealthy family who lived in the Middle Ages” into “an ancient, wealthy family”.

    - Can you clarify what you mean by “hallows”? The technical definition is “saint” but that’s clearly not what you mean. Also, I think you could cut “a bunch of” in front of “antiquities”.

    - I don’t understand the line “Nobody had ever claimed their part of our treasure, so I assumed that either our relatives were tremendously altruistic or just non-existent”. If her family is old and wealthy, wouldn’t she just assume it was things they had acquired over the years and were theirs by rights?

    - It feels a little odd to me that she refers to her father by his name. If you wanted to include more information as to why their relationship is so strained, that would be great. That might help us understand why she thinks her father would do something like play “hide and seek” with her, which seems kind of petty and childish.

    - Your last paragraph seems to be in conflict with your character’s thoughts at the beginning of this passage that she was going to be “babysitting” her father. If she knows he always disappears, why is she showing up at his house and surprised he isn’t there? And I don’t understand what you mean by “my father had stepped over the line of solitary confinement.”

    I hope that helps! As always, remember that writing/publishing is subjective. Take the notes that resonate with you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

  8. Hi Laura,

    This is Kiernan from #4. I haven't read the other comments to avoid being influenced, so apologies if I repeat something you've already heard.

    I think your pitch is really strong and wouldn’t change a thing. I love the premise and this is absolutely the kind of book I’d read and enjoy.

    I’m not sure about your opening line; it’s one of those ambiguous statements that is intriguing but also doesn’t necessarily tell us anything critical about a character we don’t yet know. So I’d consider leaving that and the sentence that follows out, and perhaps starting with a line more like, “The view of our family house was intimidating.”

    I was surprised you have a 23-year old MC for a YA novel?

    This line felt awkward: “Kindly enough, I smiled back and thanked his gesture by ironically lifting mine.” Lots of adverbs and somewhat contradictory statements—can she be both kind and ironic at once?

    LOVED the whole “men had no idea” paragraph – that was so fun and gave great insight into your MC.

    For the line “every lamp had been shut off”, since I wouldn’t think of a huge chandelier of a lamp, per se, maybe say something more like “every light in the house was off.” You could then merge that paragraph with the one above since they’re covering similar territory: “He didn’t appear to be home. Every light in the house was off, even the enormous chandelier hanging from the (maybe mention which room?) ceiling. Screw it…etc.”

    I thought your last paragraph was great, the only thing I’d change is removing the line “He just vanished out of existence” since I think you cover that with the previous sentence.

    I hope some of this is helpful!

  9. Guys, thank you all! I'm working on it right now. Adding details, removing unnecessary bits...



    K I'm going to try to stop being cool now.

    When universe-jumper Nile woke up in Haleos, a realm that resembles Ancient Egypt, the last thing she expected was to fall in love with the young Pharaoh… or to start a multi-dimensional war.

    Thoughts on pitch. It's too big for me to care about. Also the "woke up," makes it sound like it has the wake up cliche, which might be off putting to some agents. I want to know about Nile. I want to know more about her flip the world off with a smile personality. I want to know what her problem is in specific. How does a multidimensional war affect her personally. Who, or what, does she care about enough to not be destroyed?

    Also the line last thing she expected, is a cliche and takes up too much word room. In general it seems like things are happening too her, rather than she is actively involved in moving the plot around. How does she meet the Pharaoh? Can you describe him? What are her goals? Give us a hint of that, and we'll be asking for more, because falling in love with a pharaoh in a world like ancient Egypt, is a Yes, Ma'am thank you very much.

    First 500:
    I'm not in love with the first sentence. It seems to loose to the world without any understanding for it to grab me, personally. I'd move those sentence to a place where they make more sense in context. Have someone say something about fate, and then put these lines in.
    The story seems like it actually starts with the mailbox saying Gold. That's a cool way to start it. I want to know more about why she is there. Why she is looking for her dad on her birthday. It seems kind of obvious, it's her birthday, but if she knows he always disapears on her birthday, then why would she be looking for him?

    Also, I think the 23 is problematic. Could she be 18 and the plot still work? If so it's going to be a thousand percent more sell-able. I'd suggest changing it, and if you can't change it, then I'd suggest self-publishing it. Readers don't care that much about the rules of labels, but agents and publishers do.

    Hope this helps.
    ~Sheena #11

  11. Hi Laura!

    I’m Allison (entry 8). Thanks for letting me read and comment on your writing!  I haven’t read the previous comments, so I apologize for any potential redundancy.

    I think you have a good start here. I didn’t have any trouble envisioning the house, the gardens, or the staircase, or feeling like I was enveloped in darkness. I wonder about the MC’s age for YA though. Age 23 might not be Young Adult, but I’m not sure. It seems a bit old for this age group.

    A stronger start might be to remove the first line and just start with “Some believe in destiny, others believe in serendipity; I believe in both.” The original first line, while intriguing and thought provoking, makes me think a little too hard right off the bat. Maybe you can still use it somewhere else in the story? It’s a good line. It actually sounds like a quote.

    Your MC has a lot of inner dialogue, which somewhat distracts from the flow of writing. I’m not sure you even really need it since your MC is the one telling the story to begin with. Or, perhaps consider changing some of it so it doesn’t appear in italics, and is more narrative instead?

    Now to the really easy-to-fix stuff: possible grammar typo= Middles Ages (and) No sing of him yet. --I think you mean “sign”. ;-)

    Lastly, I’m curious about the inciting incident. Is that the news she wants to convey to her father and we just haven’t gotten to it yet? Why has he stepped over the line this time versus all the other times he disappeared the week of the MC’s mother’s death?

    Like I said, good start! I wish I knew more and I’m curious to see how this turns into an epic fantasy. :-)

  12. Hello! This is Maddie from entry three :)


    I really like the pitch and your story makes me think of Doctor Who :D ooooh this could have a lot of epic plot lines and seems like a story that focuses on the bigger picture. If I recall correctly, I believe pitches are supposed to be in present-tense. And this seems to be in past-tense. Maybe you can add a little detail to the "why" behind the "multi-dimensional" war line?

    First 500 Words:

    -"Fate is an enigma only a few can decipher, the ancient duality between light and darkness. Some believe in destiny, others believe in serendipity; I believe in both."- I think the first sentence could be removed and the second-sentence would be a better beginning point. The second-sentence sounds like it's in present-tense, too, and the rest of the 500 words is in past-tense. So it threw me off a little bit while reading.
    -"‘Gold’, read the little plaque near the mailbox."- Single-quotes are used inside quotes I believe, so I think you could either italicize Gold or use regular quotes.
    -I like the voice so far :) I was pulled in and felt connected to Nile immediately. I really am intrigued by Nile and her father's relationship. I think you can possibly start at another point in the story?
    -"Babysitting my dad. What an awesome way to spend my twenty-third birthday."--This line made me want to get to the scenario where Nile is babysitting her dad right away. This might just be me being subjective though.


    The premise is super awesome and I'd want to read the whole thing :)

  13. Hey. Been following you on twitter for awhile now, but knew you as Nile. Now I know its the title of your book. I used a title of one of my book for my twitter handle. I'll do what I can to add something different.

    You've got an interesting story brewing. I am eager to see what's up with your MC's father. Much what I can think of has been addressed by others. In addition, your paragraphs seem to be separate islands of thought, lacking connectedness. An example would be the first and second. While the first paragraph is quite poetic, and seems profound, what is it actually saying? Fate, destiny, and serendipity are near synonyms, with shades of connotation. You speak of accepting two elements as if they are contradictory. Then you transition into the second paragraph and speak of 'choosing' both light and dark or (as I am understanding) you MC is choosing both destiny and serendipity. Yet, fate, destiny, and serendipity are, in a sense, the antithesis of choice.

    Sorry, a hint of my philosophy major nerdiness has come out. I feel a Laura Croft element to this work, it will be fun to see how it turns out.

    1. Oh! sometimes I use Nile as my pseudonym :)
      I've fixed the problem with the first lines by adding them before the first chapter and then starting chapter one with "Gold, etc.", although I've also adressed the problems other people pointed out, so it looks much better now. Thank you all!