Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September Secret Agent #42

Genre: YA Fantasy

Every time I kill a dragon, it’s like I lose a piece of my soul.

The high winds rushing off of The Colony sweep a shard of my humanity away to the Thubar Plains whenever one of my arrows dances to the slowing cadence of a dragon’s heartbeat. I am not heartless. This is the way the Drákon Akademie trains me.

With a short bow in hand I narrow my eyes. The edges of the scale-less space between the Stoker dragon’s pectoral muscles and deltoids become crisp, exactly one-and-a-half inches on each side—a one-point-one-two-five square inch target. From two-hundred feet away, it’s a speck, but dragon serum coursing through my veins forces my eyes’ lenses to reshape and refocus the light. The dragon’s heart throbs beneath its thin leathery skin, the slow pulse fueled by magic.

I release the bowstring, my long braid disturbed by the fletchings as the arrow catapults over my forearm. The arrowhead cuts through the dust-infused air, the shaft quivering back and forth. The streamlined object speeds toward the metallic green dragon in my sight. My pulse kicks up a notch in anticipation of the inevitable Stoker screech when the arrow hits it target. A sound that is both glorious and heart-wrenching. The sound of death. The sound of my soul splitting. But it never comes. The arrow misses by a sliver, bouncing off the harder-than-metal scales.

Dammit, Kaliyah. No doubt this will cost me my rank.


  1. LOVE.

    Hello! As I missed my greeting in my excitement, you can bet I would definitely read on.

    There's a great sense of conflict in this -- the combination of Kaliyah's obvious pride in her skill at dragon hunting, and that opening line. '
    Every time I kill a dragon, it’s like I lose a piece of my soul.'

    That line perfectly frames everything that comes after, giving it more of a conflict than I would have expected.

    Your writing is really beautiful. I can see you go for really technical details -- this is a refreshing style choice and leads to some beautiful lines, but take care as in some places it gets a little wordy or hard to visualise.

    This line in particular (and it's a killer because it's so close to your perfect opening line):

    'The high winds rushing off of The Colony sweep a shard of my humanity away to the Thubar Plains whenever one of my arrows dances to the slowing cadence of a dragon’s heartbeat.'

    Is just too much detail for me to parse in one sentence. Each component is beautiful, but all together it's too long and too wordy. I would suggest cutting it down a bit.

    I'm also not convinced of the name 'Drákon Akademie', because I'm wary of fantasy mispellings, but if there's a good reason for this then I wouldn't mind.

    But honestly, this really drew me in. I would definitely read on. Great work and good luck!

  2. This is beautifully written and I was actually holding my breath as that arrow flew through the air. And that it missed the target she really didn't want to hit was just perfect. I want to keep reading.

    Well done and good luck!

  3. I also love the writing and the premise! Dragons are a weakness of mine and I will read the heck out of anything with dragons in it. I'm not sure of the last line, it pulls us out of the beautiful words too much. Good luck!

  4. Hello. I really enjoyed reading your first page. There was one sentence that bugged me - The edges of the scale-less space between the Stoker dragon’s pectoral muscles and deltoids become crisp, exactly one-and-a-half inches on each side—a one-point-one-two-five square inch target.- I just couldn't picture what a one-point-one-two-five square inch target looks like and it took me out of the story.

    Other than that I loved the flow and you've got a great way of bring the reader along with your words so you feel yourself in the moment of the dragon hunter.

  5. Hi there--Great voice and description here! A couple of things I would change though: Take "it's like" out of the first line and I think it will read stronger. Also, the 3rd paragraph has a bit of 'overkill' on the description--especially with the dragon's muscles and the exactness of the measurements. I don't think this needs to be quite so specific. But great job--I would read on!

  6. I love dragon stories and this one promises to be an exciting one.

    A few lines through me off. 'arrow dances to the cadence of a dragon's heartbeat' I expected this to be explained, as an arrow would pierce the heart, but that didn't happen. Perhaps it is explained later, but for this bit it seemed off. Also, the last line. Is she referring to herself or someone else. Most characters don't include their own name in an expletive so this sounded odd to me. Just my opinion. Finally, losing rank seems the least of her worries at this point. She just shot at a dragon and missed! Wouldn't the dragon react or wouldn't there be repercussions to her failure?

    I love the first line. It was enough to hook me for a number of pages.

    1. oops. threw not through. It's getting late.

  7. I'm not into dragons... but your writing drew me in. That first sentence was like magic. :)

    I stumbled at 'off of' - am never quite sure if that's even grammatically correct? I'd rework it a little to avoid that and retain your lyrical language.

    I'm also not sure about that last line... it sounds callously at odds with the tug-of-war emotions earlier in the piece.

  8. I really like this. That first line drew me into this entry, and the voice is quite strong. The third paragraph gets pretty technical, and usually that throws me out of a story, especially this early in, but I thought this worked because it felt true to the character, whose obviously trained to kill dragons. I also like the notion of the dragon serum--using the traits of these creatures to destroy them. What a nice dilemma.

    That last line also threw me off a little, however. I'm not sure what matters to this girl more: the soul-wrenching pain (literally) of killing dragons, or losing her rank in this dragon-killing army. She can't have both (maybe that is her struggle?). As a reader, I'm wondering why she feels she loses a little of her soul with each dragon she kills.

  9. Dragon stories, even for someone who loves fantasy, can be very hit or miss for me. While I really like your voice in this, what I get out of the first 250 words doesn’t hit the mark for me, sadly. Some things are at odds with each other, I find. You have a great opening line… but by the end, Kaliyah is upset she missed because it will cost her a rank. I don’t know what’s more important to her: keeping her soul in tact or killing a dragon.

    For your descriptions in the third paragraph, I’d skip the actual measurements. Most people cannot picture exactly how big one inch, let alone when you’re getting into fractions. Use something else that any reader could easily identify. Even if they don’t know the size of the thing you used, saying “a target no bigger than the silver coins that fit into the palm of my hand” we know it’s going to be small.

    One other note — I feel that you can cut your second paragraph all together. You have such a strong opening saying that it’s like your MC loses a bit of her soul, and then you repeat it and I found the arrow dancing comment confusing. I’m hoping that we’re setting up for a battle here because I can’t imagine a dragon being very happy to be shot at!

  10. I think this is a nice opening scene. My problem is that I just don’t buy her justification for killing the dragons, (It’s what she was trained to do) which make me unsympathetic toward her. If she feels that bad about it, she could always quit.
    On the other hand, if she either has to kill dragons or she’ll be killed, then it’s believable. If dragons are killing people, so she reluctantly kills them, it’s believable. If this is just a case of we have to kill all the dragons, then she comes off as a lousy individual because she cares more about her rank than she does about the dragons, her soul, and her humanity. If the moral dilemma is a major thread in the story, don’t worry about it. If it’s not, I think you really do need better justification for her doing something she doesn’t want to do. Perhaps we need to know why the dragon is being killed.

    And I’m wondering how she knows the exact size of this spot on the dragon’s chest? If there’s an explanation, tell us. Because it seems dragons would come in all different sizes and shapes, like every other living creature, and that spot wouldn’t be the same size on every dragon.