Friday, November 28, 2014

(5) Fantasy: BLOOD AND SALT

TITLE: Blood and Salt
GENRE: Fantasy

Far from home and treated as a pariah, Azetla has carved a precarious life for himself in the Imperial army. When his battalion is sent to catch a devil, he discovers that the mission is part of a rebellion against the Emperor. Deemed untrustworthy by both sides, Azetla must ally with the caught devil—who has ruthless aims of her own—to shape the uprising into something he can survive, and even wield.

The wind was briefly warm and pungent as it dove down, twisted through the narrow alleys of south city, and pushed softly at Azetla’s back. It blunted the teeth of winter. It was early in the year for the desert to be driving its scent up through the Imperial capital, but Azetla took comfort from it, letting it prod his strides towards the northern half of the city. The heat and tang did not bother him. They carried hints of home.

“Spare some blood, jackal?” a boy chanted as Azetla passed. “Show us your innards! Throw yourself into the river!”

The pale child seemed pleased with himself as he rocked on his heels, trying with all his small might to provoke a reaction. When the boy threw several pebbles with a wild arm, Azetla simply leaned out of the way and moved on. The boy was a beggar and thin as a pike, but even had he been otherwise, it wouldn’t have been worth the price of bread to respond. Especially not today. Azetla had almost become immune to such things.

The streets turned from dust to stone as Azetla reached the carved archways leading to the capital colonnade. The beige columns were already draped with scarlet cloth. By the end of the day everything in the city would have a celebratory tinge of red to it: wine and animal blood left at the feet of the temple statues, crimson dye splashed in the streets, and roses in the river.


  1. Excellent start. :)

    The logline is intriguing and the begining well-written.

    I think it would be stronger if you removed 'Azetla had almost become immune to such things.' though -- or moved. It's unnecessary and weakens the effect of the rest of the paragraph.

    I'd definitely keep reading.

  2. I concur. Great start, both in terms of introduction of character and setting of scene. I also agree with the suggestion of trimming that one sentence.


  3. I like this start. It's cleanly written, and you get an idea of Azetla being self contained and homesick in just a few paragraphs. The wind at the beginning is my only stumbling block. The first sentence tripped me up- the wind was only briefly warm? Or it provided brief warmth? I think you could make this more succinct to get to the action faster. But be sure to leave in the part about blunting the teeth of winter. That's a powerful sentence you don't want to lose. Good luck!

  4. I really like the voice in this. It's distinctive and has a fantasy flavor. Good job!

    I think your first paragraph is working too hard to create an atmosphere that puts too much emphasis on a wind that's warm and pungent, twists through alleys, pushes softly, blunts winter, drives its scent, has heat and tang, and does all this in the first paragraph. I advise against giving the wind so much power unless it plays a roll in the plot.

    There's a lot of world building, which is great, but you might think about weaving more plot in as well. It would be good to know if Azetla is running from something or running toward it, because he hints of his home gives the impression he misses it. He's taunted by a child and that doesn't bother him, which is fine, but why is this important for readers to know on the first page? What's on Azetla's mind and why should we care?

    Maybe your first page could work more to establish the character and his motivation. He reports what he sees in his environment but appears not to interact with it. How does it make him feel? Is he apprehensive about this celebratory theme of blood that assaults the city he's visiting? Does he feel welcome? Is he worried, anxious, fearful, bored excited? I need to know more about Azetla and his connection to what's around him if I'm to invest time in his story.

    Good luck!

  5. I really like the way you're conveying the feel of the place. I can practically taste the dust and heat. I also really like the last line.

    I do think you could tighten your writing, to avoid telling, eliminate "was" in places, and use a closer POV. For example, the first sentence could read "A warm and pungent went dove down, twisted through the narrow alleys of south city, and pushed softly at Azetla's back." And you could eliminate the "did not bother him" as that is more telling.

    Similarly, in the third paragraph, instead of saying "when the boy threw" just have him throw them and Azetla respond. "The boy threw several pebbles with a wild arm. Azetla leaned out of the way and moved on." Some revisions like this would eliminate distance between the reader and Azetla.

    Definitely have me curious about what's going on and why the city will go red.

  6. Good premise, nice writing. I agree with all of the above, especially that tightening up the first 250 would make room for more plot development. I really want a hint of what the celebration is and what Azetla's role in it might be.

    Unlike some readers, I don't need the first sentence of a novel to blow me away in order to hook me. I wonder, though, how this scene might work if the first line is "Spare some blood, jackal," leading into the next paragraph showing Azetla's reaction to the boy and his stone throwing. Not only do I think that line is more attention-grabbing, but I think it's a more interesting characterization of Azetla -- the name-calling, Azetla's nonresponse, etc. -- than anything we get in the first paragraph. That's not to say you should cut the first paragraph. Though I think it could be smoothed out and tightened up a bit, I like what you're doing there, especially the bit about blunting the teeth of winter. I just wonder how that 1st paragraph would work if you moved it to fall in front of the last paragraph.

    As a last note - I agree that you can cut "Azetla had almost become immune to such things." The way he handles the situation implies as much and does it with more finesse. Hope I get to read more of this sometime!

  7. I felt the same way about the first paragraph as some of the other commenters. Don't get bogged down setting the scene. It's better to scatter that out throughout instead of all at once. That's one of the biggest mistakes writers make (myself included). It seems logical to set the scene but more is needed to capture the attention of the reader. Jump into the conflict as quickly as possible.

    The first page/chapter should really answer the question, "What does the main character want?" Then spend the rest of the story detailing how they get/don't get it.

  8. Intriguing premise.

    I liked the log line, but the story seemed more like a 'day in the life'. I would like more urgency which would heighten the tension. Bring the camera a little closer to Azetla and it will be more powerful.

    I'd like to read more.

  9. I love your premise, so on that I would pick this book up if I saw it in a store.

    I do agree with some previous commenters that this first page seems to be too bogged down with setting the scene. I would love to learn more about Azetla's character and what motivates him, Maybe get a hint at the plot as well.

    Good luck!

  10. I enjoyed many of the details in this opening -- the image of the pervasive red coloring left by the various rituals is particularly provocative. And I have to disagree with the idea that there's too much scene-setting going on; you can't expect to reveal everything about the character's situation and motivations in the first 250 words in any case, and I think that starting with a focus on painting a picture that transports the reader to the character's world is perfectly appropriate, especially in a fantasy novel.

    But I agree that the writing could be tidied up a bit to make it stronger. For instance, it doesn't sound quite right to say the wind was 'briefly warm'. If it's a desert wind that 'blunts the teeth of winter' (and that is a nice line!) it simply is a warm wind. My suggestion for reworking the opening sentence would be something like: "The wind that pushed at Azetla's back as it twisted through the narrow alleys of south city was warm and pungent." And I think Neicole's suggestion about tightening the line about the boy throwing the pebbles is right on track.

    You have a strong premise here, and those kinds of small edits that make the writing cleaner will go a long way toward making the scene even more evocative and compelling.

    Good luck! :)

  11. Inconceivable! (And apparently I don't know how to count...)

  12. You keep using that word! I don't think it means what you think it means.

  13. CLOSED! Full goes to Jennifer Udden.

  14. One day I shall win the entirety of this auction. ONE DAY.

  15. I don't have much to say on this because it is has all been eloquently said above. The key thing I look for in fantasy when reading slush is to not be bogged down. It is my least favorite of all three of the genres we publish. What I don't like about fantasy? When an author puts so much detail in the writing that I have no clue what is going on. You are doing great here. I'd just like to see more clarity in where we are at, and in what the character is doing.

    I was confused about what season we were in or the location in the first paragraph. The imagery is great though.

    Good luck! I'd read this.