Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hook the Editor #5: PERSEPHONE'S WALTZ (Fantasy)

Title: Persephone's Waltz
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Holy Maiden Ysabel has four months left to live. Then she stops the assassination of Dark Lord Kaine, a trans man leading a rebel army. In gratitude, he rescues her from becoming a human sacrifice—by kidnapping her. Hades X Persephone meets the humor of Terry Pratchett and the world-building of N.K. Jemisin.

I have four months, three weeks, and two days left to live. Yet here I sit, wasting a precious hour in a meeting with the Council of Cardinals. I need a smoke or a stiff drink. Not both; I learned from bitter experience on my knees in the outhouse that redleaf and alcohol do not mix.

While my eyelids droop, Cardinal Rakir finishes, “…As the maid said to the bishop.” All four cardinals laugh.

“What did you think, Holy Ysabel?” Rakir smirks.

I widen my eyes. “Oh, it was dreadfully entertaining, but I fear the Sun God has not blessed me with a wit equal to you gentlemen. Why did the bishop tie up the maid? Did she do something wrong?”

Rakir laughs even harder. I keep a vapid smile on my face. Just tied hands and a blindfold? At least take advantage of the increased reactiveness from sensory deprivation with a bit of hot wax and ice. Amateurs.

When I first dug up a dusty document proving that as a Holy Healer, I was entitled to join the council, the cardinals found the presence of a woman made it awkward for them to brag about their conquests during worktime. So I pretended to be too virginal to understand sexual innuendo if it mugged me in a dark alley. I’m still being excluded from the wheeling-and-dealing in their drinking sessions, but they don’t “forget” to tell me when to show up at the Cardinal’s Chamber to cast my vote.


  1. Intriguing voice and character that makes me want to read on. I know early backstory is acceptable in this genre, but - to me at least - acceptance does not equal enthrallment. The paragraph beginning "When I first dug" tells me stuff rather than showing it to me, and does so before I've fully formed an attachment to the character that provides context for this info.

    Perhaps also the "Sun God" needs a name. Cultures with multiple deities name them in addition to ascribing them a function. Now it's possible there's a "true name" thing going on, that if she speaks the true name of the Sun God, she gains some sort of power over that deity, at some terrible price. But otherwise, the failure to name (and identify later) feels like translating for us rather than eavesdropping on her first-person thoughts. Perhaps something like: "...but I fear Ozymandias" -- she attempted the requisite sign of respect with her shoulders, her hands not being available -- "I fear Ozymandias has not blessed me..."

  2. I am ready to read. Your comps are perfect, and I love a conniving woman that play dumb even though they are the smartest in the room. My only question--though maybe it is answered as we read--She laments wasting her time with the Cardinals, but then it seems like she inserted herself there on purpose based on some obscure law? Curious about the backstory on that

  3. I really like your opening!

    "Rakir smirks" should go before he speaks. People generally react physically before they form words. It also makes more sense to the reader.

    "Just tied hands and a blindfold?" -- This doesn't make sense where it is. Is she commenting on the story we didn't hear? I think you need to make that more obvious or find a better transition. I had to read this paragraph several times before I could tell it was inner monologue.

    Good luck!

  4. I really like the voice and the potential of this is great! I'm a sucker for hades x persephone.

    The only thing is, it gets a bit too telly towards the end. And her comment about the story they told but we didn't hear left me a bit confused -- she clearly knows her stuff but without context to apply it to it jarred me from the flow of the story.

    She seems interesting as a character, though!

  5. You’ve crafted a really intriguing pitch. There’s some great marketing positioning thanks to your comps, and it sounds like you’ve hit upon an inventive retelling of this myth, which is hard to do!

    I will say that in my experience, first person is a harder sell in adult fantasy than YA. That said, you’ve done a good job of infusing personality into your narrative voice, and you’ve peaked my interest in seeing how this scene progresses. I recommend you take another look at this dialogue, as it reads a little elementary. Can you age it up and take it to the next level?

    Well done!

  6. I'm sorry I'm late to this! Your comps were fantastic--I'd pick it up based on that concept alone--however I found the pitch itself confusing because some of the details were more distracting than helpful (for example, rebel army? who are they rebelling against? And having the hero be transgender is interesting, but it's more distracting than helpful in such a brief space. I don't think you need that to sell the story unless you have room for a longer pitch). I think it's just the difficulty of pitching fantasy. There's just so much information to squeeze in such a small space.

    As for the first page, I generally really liked it. Ysabel sounds like a fun character and like I said, I really like the concept. Two things that tripped me up: the punchline for the joke doesn't read like an actual punchline (jokes don't usually end with "the ____ said") and the paragraph that starts with "Rakir laughs even harder" confused me because I hadn't seen anything about tied hands and didn't know if Ysabel's hands were tied or if it referred to the character in the joke.

    I think if you clarify those things, it will be much stronger.

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