Friday, November 29, 2013

(46) YA Fantasy: THE FIDDLER KING

TITLE: The Fiddler King
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Eighteen-year-old King Lesandro and princesa Anna-Maria are destined for an arranged marriage, until assassins attack Lesandro and Anna-Maria is accused of his murder. When Lesandro turns up alive, disguised as a minstrel, the two of them must learn to trust one another as they try to outfox the new Regent’s forces and reclaim Lesandro’s throne.

Lesandro d’Orsino eyed the black knight bearing down upon him. He shifted to the left, but knew he was cornered. He was the lone white piece left on the board and there was no way he could keep his tiny black and white kingdom.

“Check and mate.” His cousin, Taddeo, spoke precisely as he nudged the black bishop forward. The light of the campfire flickered on the polished ebony. He made a disappointed sound. “When will you open your eyes and start using the board to your advantage?”

Lesandro’s jaw tightened. It wasn’t as if he were trying to lose, yet Taddeo trounced him every night since they’d left home. One hundred and three times, to be exact. Somewhere, his cousin had gotten it into his head that if Lesandro could develop tactics on the chessboard, it would translate into a talent for useful things like court intrigue and leading a kingdom. “I haven’t your gift for strategy.”

“You do when a sword is in your hand.” His cousin’s voice took on the lecturing tone that was becoming more common. “As soon as you sit down at a chessboard, you become as intelligent as a straw-headed practice dummy. Look, here.” He brought Lesandro’s attention back to the remnants of the game. “Use your queen more. She could have taken my knight four moves back, yet she only sat in her square bower, listening to gossip.”

“Exactly why I have no use for a queen. Why should I shackle myself to a girl like that?”

22 comments:

  1. First off, LOVE the title. I would pick it off the shelves on that alone. Actually the whole plot sounds awesome.

    I think there are a few spots where the wrting could be tightened:

    He shifted to the left, but knew he was cornered (you could cut the "he knew" here. It's a bit of telling)

    It wasn’t as if he were trying to lose, (might sounds smoother as He wasn't trying to lose)

    But i absolutely LOVE the setup of the whole scene, and how you used chess to dive right into the idea of having a queen beside him.
    I'd definitely keep reading.

    Super good luck!!

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  2. I really like this opening. It initially gives the impression he's being attacked by a real knight. In fact, I think you could draw that aspect out a bit longer, if you so wished. Also, Lesandro's comment at the end sets us up nicely for conflict to come.

    The story sounds interesting, although I admit I'm curious as to how we're presumably going to lose our initial POV character midway into the story (i.e., according to the logline he disappears, and implies we'll be following Anna-Maris at that point).

    Possibly "yet Taddeo [had] trounced him every night"?

    Best of luck with it!

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  3. Love the clever chess game opening and how it introduces the characters and conflict! I have only minor nitpicks (wanted to add 'had' as Wade White suggested and I would be tempted to change the disappointed sound to a sigh or something specific), but overall I think this is well done! :)

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  4. I really liked this opening as well. It's quiet, but you do an excellent job of introducing the characters and hinting at trouble to come. This is a great example of how starting with action doesn't have to mean bloodletting or dramatic chases.

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  5. This is such an excellent, creative opening. I already like both Lesandro and Taddeo and their bantering relationship. I'm curious as to whether Taddeo is a bit older and wiser and therefore takes a teacherly type of role with his cousin or whether they are they same age. Perhaps a tiny descriptor or two to give us a better visual, but it works this way too. Love the brilliant last line about the queen/girls. Well done.

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  6. I like the title, and the chess game opening, and the way you've used it to introduce the problem gives me faith in what's to come.

    Perhaps cut - 'I shifted to the left and knew (Keep, I was cornered.)

    You might also cut - 'He made a disappointed sound.' The dialogue that follows makes his feeling evident.

    Change - Somewhere, his cousin had gotten it into his head that if Lesandro could develop ... TO - Somewhere, Taddeo had gotten it into his head that if he could develop . ..

    Good luck!

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  7. I agree that the chess opening is clever, though I think you could draw it out a bit. Make us think this is perhaps a *real* knight attacking and a *real* battlefield before we pull back and see it's a game. That will also do a good job showing us your world--ie: that this is a world of knights, kings, etc. The set-up of chess game to talking queens is great for conflict. Good job!

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  8. I'm actually going to disagree with everyone who is recommending drawing out the illusion of actual battle in the beginning. I think two sentences is perfect! I love the imagery of "his tiny black and white kingdom."

    Excellent and interesting setup for the first 250.

    One recommendation for visual clarity — if Taddeo is telling Lesandro to look at the board to show the missed opportunity with the queen, I think he should replace the pieces on the board as they were four moves back. Asking L to look at the remnants of a board when L's pieces are all removed isn't very helpful. (That is ridiculously nitpicky, I know. But that's how much I like this scene!)

    Regarding the logline: I would specify that Anna-Maria is accused of plotting or orchestrating his murder, since no one would think she's one of the assassins.

    It probably didn't fit into the confines of a logline, but it also made me wonder if she's imprisoned or exiled or at least under constant watch for her possible treachery.

    Great job!

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  9. Neat start to a well-written story. I see people are split as to whether the chess motif should be drawn out more. I liked it as is. More might feel like the writer was too present in the story, having fun and being overly clever. You can always make another reference to close the chapter for a book-end effect. Nice flow. I would keep reading. Best wishes with this!

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  10. I wouldn't drag out the beginning, I hate being tricked. What you have is just tolerable enough. Other than that, I like the characters so far and it seems like a very enjoyable story to come.

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  11. Author, just FYI, now that I have finished reading all the entries I just wanted to come back and say yours was my favourite.

    Now I am not an author, agent or editor, just a reader, but your characters and story have stayed with me and I want to read it the most! Good luck!

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  12. This comment is exactly what I was thinking:

    "Wade White said...
    I really like this opening. It initially gives the impression he's being attacked by a real knight. In fact, I think you could draw that aspect out a bit longer, if you so wished. Also, Lesandro's comment at the end sets us up nicely for conflict to come."

    So, please just pretend I said that too, thanks.

    I love this one, so very much, and it's absolutely something I'd pick up...but not off the log line.

    I haven't been mentioning the log lines in my comments simply because I've chosen to pretty much concentrate on the excerpts since I think those are of far greater import. However there is something in the first sentence of your log line that worries me because if you do the same thing in the manuscript any agent/editor who requests a partial or full will see red flags if you don't fix it.

    So, here is your first sentence of your log line:

    'Eighteen-year-old King Lesandro and princesa Anna-Maria are destined for an arranged marriage, until assassins attack Lesandro and Anna-Maria is accused of his murder.'

    One VERY small nit: Princess should be capitalized, right (as well as having 2 's's')? Or king not capitalized. I think...

    Anyway, that's not the problem. The problem is the repetition of their names. I'm pretty much the last author to nitpick repetition as it's something I use with very specific reasons in mind. In a log line (especially the first line) it is like a big speed bump in an otherwise 100mph paragraph. Especially when it's fairly easy to fix:

    Eighteen-year-old King Lesandro and Princess Anna-Maria are destined for an arranged marriage, until assassins attack and she is accused of his murder.

    That's shorter, snappier and loses the repetition. Which is also helpful advice as your revision process for the entire manuscript continues.

    All in all, I adore this excerpt and really hope to read more of this.



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  13. Just to add another viewpoint. One that's more critical. Sorry.

    In hindsight I don't mind the opening, but when reading it the first time I felt cheated too. It seemed like he was waking from a (day)dream which isn't usually a good start. I know that's an issue with my perception not your wording, but I still thought I should share.

    The ebony and (I assume) ivory chessboard bugged me too. It seems a tad extravegant when they aren't playing inside a tent. I know I'd learn more as I read more but is their group travelling fashionably or for distance?

    A couple of minor things:

    'made a disappointed sound' is a bit too telling

    There should be a 'had' in front of 'trounced'

    'for useful things like...kingdom' changes your voice and tone, as if you shy away from complicated politics. I.e. it feels like you are talking down to the reader. It might work as a dismissive thought by the MC, but not in 3rd person.

    Okay. Here's where I hesitate. There's nothing bad about your logline, but it reminds me of too many other stories. I'm not sure how this book will stand out from the rest of the shelf enough that YAs will give you a read. Even with a great title.

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  14. danielle is AwesomeDecember 3, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Whatever, Brooks. 45.

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  15. Shoplifting is a crime, Danielle. 65.

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  16. danielle is AwesomeDecember 3, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Not if you really really want something, Brooks. 85.

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  17. BIDDING IS CLOSED.

    THE FULL GOES TO DANIELLE CHIOTTI!

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  18. I both hate and love you a little right now, Danielle. You have shoplifted my heart.

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  19. I GET A HOT COCOA and COME BACK TO THIS! My Heart!

    ReplyDelete