Friday, November 28, 2014

(17) Epic Fantasy: THE SWORD AND THE SKULL

TITLE: The Sword and the Skull
GENRE: Epic Fantasy

When the witch he loves becomes slave to an evil demigod’s plan for conquest, Ryn Ruscroft must steal a sentient sword to save her. But this doomsday weapon accepts no master, and its thirst for victory could leave Ryn guilty of mass murder.

Ryn pulled the silver hand vase from the desk drawer and waited. The cathedral’s bells would soon deal out their daily punishment. He didn’t want to be near Josalind when they did.

The vase held the Durassi sand lily he had cut the night before, after Josalind was asleep. Two years of cursing and fussing to coax just one flower from half a dozen plants. A green thumb he wasn’t. The bloom was as broad as his outstretched hand—hundreds of petals arranged in lazy arcs, shaded purple, violet, and indigo.

He cradled the lily under his nose—spicy sweet, like mulled cider and strawberries. Thanks to the sorcerer’s enchantment upon the vase, it would never wilt or fade.

If only it were so easy to protect everything rare and precious. Their work as bonedealers demanded Josalind touch a dead soul almost every day, and each time he wondered how often she could wander the Netherworld before it claimed her. She would sometimes try to explain what it was like to read a soul passed for centuries from an old relic or bit of bone, but words weren’t enough.

A sudden breath sounded at his shoulder, giving him a start.

“Hmm, smells like berry tarts, dearest,” Josalind said. Her milky gaze was fixed upon the flower as if she could still see.

Damn. “Scamp—I asked you to wait,” Ryn said.

“Did you, now?”

Josalind snatched the lily from his hand with an accuracy that never failed to surprise him and waved it beneath her nose as if sampling the bouquet of a fine wine.


  1. Gorgeous writing, well imagined. Details that caught me were the cathedral bells dealing out "punishment." Interesting word choice. The fact that he's no green thumb, though it took him two years to "coax just one flower." That shows incredible persistence and we wonder to what purpose. The entire fourth paragraph would draw me into this tale by itself, even though this is not a genre I normally read. You've created many wonderful details. I hope you find an agent for your genre. Good luck.

  2. This leaves me with lots of questions, which I figure is a good thing, because I would want to read on and find out the answers. I wish I had a little more detail from the logline to have a better idea of what I'm getting myself into, but these first 250 are well-written.

    good luck!

  3. There was great detail in the opening and beautiful writing! The only thing I wished were clarified is Josalind's relationship to Ryn. I think adding that to the phrase "Their work as bonedealers demanded Josalind [insert relationship here] touch a dead soul almost every day" would help clarify the situation to the reader.

    Very intriguing though! Good luck!

  4. I actually had trouble with the details in this one. I didn't know, for example, what a hand vase was. When it became clear it was a flower vase, I wondered why it was in a drawer.

    I liked the idea of it being enchanted so that the flower would never die. Very inventive. (And his following wish that there could be an enchantment like that for other things was suggestive of trouble to come). I liked the way Josalind seemed unimpaired by her blindness. Makes her more intriguing.

    But in reality, for an opening, this seems like a lot of fuss about a flower and I don't know why it's important.

  5. The beginning confused me. With so much emphasis on the vase, it must be a focal point for the plot, but I don't see that in the logline. I don't understand how bells could be a punishment, and I don't understand why a vase with a flower would be kept inside a drawer. He'd only picked it the night before, so why did he need an enchanted vase to keep it alive? A regular vase with water would have done just as well overnight, unless this particular species of Lily can't survive a moment after being picked. The use of this magical vase feels contrived to me.

    Rosalind appears to be an interesting character. The bonedealer vocation fascinates me and I found the entire 4th paragraph utterly compelling. I love the evocative descriptions, and the writing is lovely. I only with this opening scene hadn't confused me so much.

    Good luck!

  6. I actually disagree with one of the critiques above in terms of clearly identifying Ryn and Josalind's relationship. I thought it was clear when he says “Scamp—I asked you to wait" that she's special to him. The nickname itself is playful.

    There is a lot of focus on the flower, how it looks and smells, so maybe a line about why it's important would be beneficial since the entire first 250 is pretty much dedicated to it. I want to know immediately what's so great about it in order to get a better sense of the world you're building.

    Good luck!

  7. I'm probably the only one here who has read the whole thing so you all should know that IT IS AWESOME!!!!!!!

  8. 50 pages. You're going down, Rena!

  9. CLOSED! Full goes to Danielle Burby.

  10. We want it. We wants the precious.