When a literary agent suggested a few months ago that I start my story earlier and give a sense of the characters' daily life before they set out on their adventure, I added an extra scene to the beginning of the novel. It seemed enough at the time, and I was still getting requests from other agents. Fast forward to my The Writer's Voice entry. Liz's advice resonated with what that first agent said. She encouraged me to add an extra chapter and suggested the hanging I mentioned during the dinner conversation as the opening scene.
The panic of attempting to write a chapter in a week lasted until I woke up in the middle of the night with the scene taking form in my head. The new chapter spilled out in two days, and I even had time to gather comments from my critique partners before I needed to send revision for the contest. This new chapter also gave me details to strengthen other scenes in the novel, making the revised version stronger and whole.
I could not have asked for better coaching. My revised query and first page were well received during the contest, and I am including it here to show the difference mentorship can make.
Seventeen-year-old Sophia de Paula would rather drown like her brother than wed a conqueror who keeps trying to take her by force. Since these fair-skinned men arrived from across the sea, they’ve been wedding native women like Sophia’s mother to recruit laborers for their sugarcane fields. And the one after Sophia has the audacity to call himself her cousin.
To escape her arranged marriage and save her rainforest tribe from the conquering Easterners, Sophia sings awake the Water Goddess Ig. But Ig is more interested in Easterner fashion than the devastation of the rainforest and the tribes. Her advice is to seek another deity, the powerful Air Goddess who can bring freedom to the land.
With the help of her childhood friend Gavin and armed with the songs her grandmother taught her, Sophia braves the rainforest the Easterners keep burning. As they climb the equatorial snow-capped mountain in search of the Air Goddess, Gavin and Sophia's relationship warms as the temperature drops. But now marriage to her so-called cousin is the least of her worries. If she fails, Sophia’s tribe will perish at the hands of the conquerors who married into her family.
SHROUDED GODDESS is a 74,000 word YA fantasy set in a world that mirrors South America during the Portuguese colonization of the sixteenth century. This story will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.
Only Uncle Hector would hang a man then go fishing.
The giant jatoba tree, where the noose is set, shades the corpse but doesn’t protect it from the heat. Winter is more merciful than the hellish summer of this land, but only slightly. Noon is fast approaching, and a stench of emptied bowels permeates the village like early morning fog. I press an arm over my nose and quicken my pace to the bakery ahead. At least there is some advantage to being forced to wear long sleeves in this weather.
Vultures circle the cloudless sky above the tree, but not even they dare to defy Uncle Hector. Why did Aryeea send me to the village now? I glance over my shoulder at the fortress’s four-story tower spiked on the Igjommi Hill. The fluttering white cloth, billowing like a sail in the valley breeze, can only be my grandmother’s skirt. Of course she’s watching me from the balcony.
I find the bakery door closed, so I shut it behind me. The warm scent of dough helps me ignore the heat. Steps approach from an inside room, and the baker’s rosy face beams at me as he ambles through the doorway.
“Lady Sophia.” He wipes his hands on his tunic. “What do you like today?”
I’d like someone to cut down that man and bury him before he rots. But if I voice the request, the baker will feel obliged to carry out the order. No need to tempt another hanging.