Friday, November 29, 2013

(51) YA Fantasy: HEART OF SPARKS

TITLE: Heart of Sparks
GENRE: YA Fantasy

A duty-driven princess hiding a forbidden magical gift must decide between the crown and her heart when she falls in love with the defiant, horse-training sister of the prince she's supposed to marry.

The door of my carriage clicked open, and a gust of hot summer air beckoned me to meet my future husband. I took as deep a breath as the bodice of my dress would allow and stepped down onto pale flagstones leading up to the gatehouse of a castle. As my shoes touched the ground, I silently scolded my heart. It ignored me, hammering in nervous double time against my ribs even though my life since the age of six had been a constant rehearsal for this moment.

Colorful banners hung from the battlements of the gatehouse, alternating the plum of my homeland with the deep blue of Mynaria. Behind the gatehouse the rest of the castle loomed, a massive structure crowned with square towers that jutted up into the blue sky overhead. Though the building was grand, and massive, it looked naked to me without the twisting spires that crowned the castle where I had grown up.

A line of horses adorned in full barding awaited me in front of the entryway, their polished armor glinting in the afternoon sun. Even from several paces back I could tell that their necks arched well above my head. A breeze fluttered the dark blue embroidered silk that hung from their reins. Though I’d read about the warhorses of Mynaria, such massive creatures were beyond my imagination. The carriage horses seemed diminutive by comparison, and they had frightened me badly enough when I’d first seen them at the foothills of the northern mountains I called home.


  1. I really like this. I like the description of the story from the logline, I like the descriptions in the 250.

    My only critique is that I wish something was happening. We're mostly inside your MC's head, observing what she's observing - which is mostly scenery. I wish that there was a bit more interaction - a herald announcing her arrival, the looks on the faces of the people lined up for a glimpse at the princess, something.

    But otherwise, I think this is really well done. Good luck!

  2. I like the description of the horses, and it feels like things pick up a bit there.

    The "full barding" felt like you were trying to teach vocabulary when you follow up with the explanation of what barding is. That's a pet peeve of mine in reading. (I love seeing words I don't see often, but want people who don't know the meaning to have to look it up. I am, apparently, kind of mean ;-).)

    "It ignored me, hammering in nervous double time against my ribs even though my life since the age of six had been a constant rehearsal for this moment" felt heavy to me. I'd cut "constant," and probably also "against my ribs" to lighten it a bit.

    When you describe the castle, I love that it looks naked compared to hers, but I think the sentence before that is partly unneeded--it sounds just like any other castle, massive and looming with towers. (You also repeat massive "a massive structure" and "was grand, and massive.") I'd change it to:

    "Behind the gatehouse the rest of the castle loomed. Though the building was grand, it looked naked to me without the twisting spires that crowned the castle where I had grown up."

  3. I like the premise outline by the logline, but confess it took me three or four reads to make sure I had it all. Maybe break it into two sentences?

    Likewise the entry. While the language is lovely and the writing flows, I never quite found the hook into the story I was looking for (except for the brief mention of her nervousness). Is she happy? Sad? Longing to flee? Excited? I guess I'm looking for more internal reaction beyond just the physical.

    Best of luck with it!

  4. You made me think of Mercedes Lackey :) Very nice first person voice.

    I agree about needing a slight change to hook the reader faster. I know you need some world building right at the start to understand what's happening, but could you start within the carriage just before they arrive -- with someone lecturing/conversing with her?

    I think the logline could be tighter. E.g. I don't think you need 'must decide between the crown and her heart when she'

  5. This one sounds like it has a lot of promise. The premise sounds great--although the focus seems to be on the contemporary rather than the magical storyline.

    I wish the first 3 paragraphs weren't all prose and had some dialogue and more innner monologue in here to break up the text. It was hard for me to relate to the character because it reads as all description (although very detailed) so far.

  6. There's a lot of description here, and it's nicely done, but that's all there is. Perhaps intersperse the description with her reactions to it. WHen she steps out of the carriage, is she happy to be there, scared, defiant? What does she scold her heart about?

    In parg 2 the castle is described, but all it does is present a typical castle. Is the castle forboding? Is it more run down than hers? More extravagant? Does it seems a happy place? The words you use in describing the castle can create a mood.

    The parg about the horses could possibly wait a bit, and instead give us a few lines of dialogue. Is anyone there to meet her? Are they pleasant, cold? Does her future husband show up, or maybe the sister or both?

    The description can work as an opening, but try to make it do more than it's currently doing.

    Good luck!

  7. The descriptions are executed really well -- I enjoyed the craft in them, although I wondered why the height of the horses really mattered that much. (Yes, carriage horses would be smaller, but even they have heads much higher than a human girl's.) It was in the third paragraph of description that I wanted to hear a voice. Someone calling for a salute. To see the MC raise her hand and wave at the soldiers assembled to greet her. Some action or sound to break up the inner monologue.

    I love the premise, and though I agree that there is a contemporary edge to it that may seem unfamiliar in the fantasy genre, that's what I like about it. A back cover blurb that teased me in a way similar to this logline would get me to keep reading past the description, I think.

    Good luck!

  8. I love the premise of this story. Perhaps you could solicit opinions of others on this as well, but would SPARK be a better fit for a title? Only say this because the description indicates that this is bound to be an edgy story (SPARK sounds like an edgier title to me that HEART OF SPARKS). Again, a subjective preference though, so feel free to ignore. Either way, I would love to see where this story goes. Good luck!

  9. I agree with the comments posted about interspersing more dialogue & emotion with the description in the first 250.

    The premise is intriguing, and I'm curious as to what her magical gift is and why it's forbidden, especially since, based on the first 250, it feels historical, not fantasy. (Though I'm sure you bring in the fantasy elements soon.)

    However, in the logline, you could remove "hiding a forbidden magical gift" and it would still make sense — which poses a problem. I think we need to know more in the logline about how this gift is related to or intertwined with the duty-vs-love conflict.

    As a reader, I'm definitely anticipating her seeing the prince's sister for the first time (since she's the horse-trainer, I'm hoping that she'll be with the warhorses!), so I want to keep reading!

  10. A fantasy lesbian love story - I love it! I liked the detail about the huge horses (horses can be scary - hello, Scorpio Races!).

    Your descriptions are lovely, and I like the writing style. I would keep reading.

    Best wishes!

  11. I like the descriptions and want to be there at that castle!

    I felt the description of the horses was over done, the line about "such massive creatures were beyond my imagination" makes it sound like a literal giant race of horses, and this being fantasy I don't know if they are or if she is just exaggerating.

  12. The description does a great job of setting us in the period, but I don't feel drawn into the story. Like others, I think that's because the first 250 is almost entirely description.

    Is the MC alone? If she's a princess, I would imagine she would be traveling with all manner of companions. Do none of them have anything to say about the sight of the castle or why they're there? Is no one there to greet her when she arrives? I think of castles as having all kinds of guards and attendants on hand. Her arrival wouldn't go unnoticed, I wouldn't think. Other than the MC's heart betraying her, we don't know much about how she feels coming to this new situation. (I'm sorry to say this, but I've read through most of the YA entries and the hammering heart appears by the third paragraph in every other one, so this comes across as cliché.)

    But I love the premise for this story and would like to read more.

  13. I so wanted to love this. And I do actually like this a great deal...I just wanted to love it more. These 3 paragraphs could almost be 3 pages. Add dialogue and action to the glorious descriptions as she rides off to meet her groom-to-be and it'd be impossible to put this down.

    I just wanted to see more, to hear and feel and taste more. More of her, more of the long, lonely carriage ride (even surrounded by her retainers) as her duties and responsibilities take over her life. That's gold there to be mined.

    Other than little things like 'against my ribs' (which isn't needed), every word and sentence of this excerpt are wonderful...there's just so much more that can be done with it. And even though I loved this, I love what it can become even more.

    I adore the fact that she notices the horses so deeply, frightened of them as she is, as I can only imagine how drawn she'll eventually find herself to their trainer. That's just brilliant. But i wanted more, maybe to see her fall back from them or something. Just some type of action or device that shows us their size, rather than tells us. (ok, this one line I could have done without: 'Even from several paces back I could tell that their necks arched well above my head' but maybe that's just me)

    Good luck!!

  14. Great premise and excellent descriptions here. I agree with Peter that the opening paragraphs could be interspersed with action and dialog and expanded into pages. Right now it's all description and feels too slow to me. When she says that the massive creatures were beyond my imagination, shouldn't that be "had been beyond my imagination" since she's no longer imagining them, she's seeing them? Give me more action and I'm hooked.

  15. I love the description here, but I agree that it could be even stronger if you wove in even more about what she's thinking, and perhaps had her interact with someone during this scene--as Alison said, if she's a princess she wouldn't be travelling alone.

    The mention of meeting her future husband at the end of the first line felt forced to me--as if you were trying to fit that information in to pique the reader's interest, but it isn't really a natural place to include it. It's not as if he's right there to meet her as she steps out of the carriage, is he? So why not just show us what she's experiencing, and let us find out why she's there as we go along?

    I also wanted to say that I didn't think the details about the horses were too much at all--but then I'm a horse person, so I might be biased.;) In any case, I think that when someone is anxious about something, especially when they're in a new place, it's natural to focus intently on something they're seeing that intrigues them to help them feel more grounded and less overwhelmed, so that felt right to me.

    I really like the premise, too; it's refreshing to have a princess who's not like every other fantasy princess who's bound to end up living happily ever after with the prince. And I like the title as well--though it sounds romantic, it's still a little different as it makes you wonder what exactly is meant by 'sparks', and that makes it intriguing.

    Good luck!

  16. Hi there!

    This is so cool to see—a Princess falling in love with the sister of the Prince she’s supposed to marry? The number of LGBTQ novels in the market continues to grow steadily (which is a wonderful, beautiful thing!) and I would love to see more fairy tales included amongst them. I would love to hear more about Prince’s sister (she would also be a Princess then, correct?) and what makes her so defiant. Is she open about being attracted to women? Or does their attraction catch them both by surprise?

    Make sure that both siblings are fully fleshed out characters. If you’re going to make this a love triangle, then make sure that both characters are equally compelling in their own way.

    It’s great that you have such a vivid mental image of everything your princess sees (what is her name, btw?) but you use quite a few descriptive adjectives. Editors say this a lot—but don’t tell me, SHOW me! A little goes a very long way—make sure to leave some room for the readers’ imaginations to fill in a few blanks.

    There’s such potential for a book like this in the market. I can’t wait to see where you go with this!