3rd SR Crapometer #80

Dear Ms Snark (snarl)

I am seeking representation for our fantasy manuscript, Potion, complete at 140,000 words.
(clunk central)

"Don't mess with River elves," Blade's elf friend had told him. "When your usefulness is finished they will spit out what is left and leave you to manage if you can. Surviving is your problem."

But the offer had been too good to refuse, and Blade Hiresword found that being retired wasn't the dream he'd expected it to be, so he had taken a job as bodyguard to Prince of Elves. The son of the man his friend hated.

(here's your lead)
It was supposed to be a simple rescue mission -- a quick trip to the Morning Land, a fast return with the Elf Prince's aunt -- but nothing in life is ever that simple. Potion is the first of two books about the Seal of Sovereignty, the ruling symbol of the Elf house of Chandra. For those who like their traditional fantasy tempered with light-hearted fun. (and their sentences fragmented)


Chapter 1

Most love potions do not work. Few mages can make them properly. They need godscurse to set, which few can afford. They are made by witches and apprentices. They have a bad reputation -- good for a few nights of lust, little else.

Braycarlia's "Definitive Guide to Love Potions".


A drop of burning liquid splashed her hand. Tegan cursed and jerked back. Too hot. (I'd be much more interested if it was too cold. I'd think maybe you were doing something fresh and interesting..but no)

She muttered a quick spell to ease the burning. Her hand itched, but she couldn't take time to do anything about it. If she stopped now the potion would be useless. She tested again half a minute later, angry at herself for giving way to impatience, angry at agreeing to this. Mixing
love potions like some witch or final year apprentice.

Someone knocked at the door. Tegan jumped guiltily. Who in the powers would call on her now, here in this run-down inn, miles from any real civilisation or place of magic? (The Avon lady--she heard you needed anti itch powder)

"Enchanter Tegan."

River of the Meadows. Young, anxious and, as from today, her new employer. She ignored him.

Would it never be ready? The stench of magic was strong; the overriding herbs of the potion clear on the air. She would have to remove all traces before elf prince Alun Sol Del Chandra
arrived. He would notice it.

Would he recognise it, though? Love potions were made by the lowest of mages. The prince was acknowledged the best mage in the known worlds. He'd probably never even heard of love potions.

Even so, she had been a lowly apprentice herself once, mixing potions for her employer, and now she knew more about them than anyone. What chance the ever-so-perfect elves had omitted that part of their prodigy's education? Not likely. Tegan whispered spells to clear the
air. Just in case.

Finally the thick scarlet liquid was ready. Now she had to wait for it to cool to blood temperature. Too hot and the godscurse would not mix. Too cold and the effect would not last.

The knocking grew louder, more intrusive.

"Enchanter. Are you there?" River sounded worried now, even frightened.

Tegan couldn't stand it any more. She stalked over to the door, hauled it open. River overbalanced mid-knock and sprawled at her feet.

"What do you want?"

He recovered quickly, more credit to him, though the undignified tumble had left him pink cheeked, with his loose blond curls disarrayed. Once he got past the awkward, gawky stage he'd turn into a polished courtier. He stood up, half bowed.

"Madam Enchanter. I was worried. Are you all right?"

"I am busy."

River looked past her to the herbs and mixtures spread out across the dresser. He didn't recognise anything, thank the powers. Not an ounce of mage in him or he would have.

"Summer and I are downstairs. I thought you might like to join us for dinner."

He talked about food, when she had a time sensitive spell half set.

River looked at her face, stepped back nervously.

"I will be down," she said, teeth clenched, "When I am ready and not before."

He flinched at her tone.

"Meantime, I have work to do. And if you disturb me again I'll turn you into a ..." She couldn't think of a punishment drastic enough. ( I can: slush pile reader)

You realize of course that your first page bears no resemblence whatsoever to what you describe in your query letter? Watching someone brew up a love potion, being interrupted in the casting of spells, being interrupted by an idiot are so cliched that even I, SFF nitwit, recognize them.

You've got my attention for ten seconds. Don't waste it bouncing your balls and spitting on your racket. Serve!


Anonymous said...

This comment may get some laughs, but, as a real wizard with magickal powers, it's amusing to see so many entries written by people who don't really know what the years of study and discipline required for true magic are about. It's not what you think it is. There are so many fantasies written that just seem foolish to me, and I just had to comment. We wizards and witches tend to like the Harry Potter books because the study of magick is at least shown, given some respect, and illustrated in such a way as to reveal that most of us are "good" people, not wanting to harm or manipulate others. It was time for me to mention this, anonymous as I need to be for the moment, and wishing that the true subject of magick could be taken with a little more maturity. I thank Miss Snark, a truly magickal lady!

Janet Black said...

River looked past her to the herbs and mixtures spread out across the dresser. He didn't recognise anything, thank the powers. Not an ounce of mage in him or he would have.

That's a viewpoint change.

2readornot said...

I don't read a ton of fantasy, but I read enough to agree with Miss Snark. This beginning sounds just like every other fantasy book I've read...which is why I don't read many, I might add. I know you have an original twist -- you must hve, or you wouldn't bother writing it! One thing I'm beginning to see here: put that twist right up front, not only in the query, but also in the book! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I didn't think this excerpt was too bad - just too slow. Is this really where your story starts? Watching a pot boil?

At what point does one of your characters realise that s/he has a problem and that s/he has to do something about it? That's where you should start the story.

desert snarkling said...

I don't read books with characters named Blade Hiresword. On general principle.

desert snarkling said...

Real mages know how to spell magic.

Anonymous said...

Oookay, a female Snape doing luuuurve potions.


According to some people I hang with love potions CAN work, and they can be dangerous. Human nature being what it is, they are also exceedingly popular with those whose hormones outnumber their braincells.

Time for more research and reading.

You are sentenced to read fifty fantasy novels by fifty different writers before sending out any more queries.

Anonymous said...

To Desert Snarkling:

The term is actually magus, and we often choose to spell it magick to differentiate it from magic tricks. I expected to get some flack.

Anonymous said...

Severissa Snape and the Magickal Boiling Pot.

Woo. Catchy.



mistri said...

It's worth bearing in mind, anonymous, that while many fantasies write about magick it can come in many different forms simply because it is fiction. What makes you think they intended to write about 'true magic' in the first place?

In my own book, magic only exists in perfume, and I'm sure you'd have issues with that too, but it's only a story :D

Anonymous said...

Mistri, I love the idea of magick existing in perfume. The sense of smell is the most important thing in a ritual. It's the incense and the perfume that links us to spirit more than anything else. So no, I don't have issues with this. I think you're onto something.

Catja (green_knight) said...

I would be wary of someone who uses the royal 'we'...

Blade Hiresword is *bad*. Lovepotions - I can't take them seriously, and the book doesn't seem to be humorous, so there's a certain dissonance.

The basic plot of the query - mercenary coming out of retirement, elvish friends, strange missions - sounds doable but boring - what's the hook?

The opening was slow, and infodumpy, and it had a fatal flaw - the blurb explained what was different about _her_ potion, and I had no interest in reading on to find out _why_ she brewed a love potion. Otherwise - the writing isn't bad, just nondescript, and she's a bit of a wet hen, constantly complaining.

I'd have stopped reading at the use of 'River of the Meadows' as a personal name.

This reads like a novel that should live in the trunk under the bed. It's a milestone on the way to publication, but not suitable to see the light of day.

xiqay said...

Don't waste it bouncing your balls and spitting on your racket. Serve!

Ah, perchance Miss Snark has been watching the US Open? Love, advantage, match.

Well, not this query/page.

In the first sentence of the query, why the use of the royal we construction ("our fantasy...")?

And as for the pages, sorry. My eyes glaze over with fantasy. I can't tell if it's your writing or just my personal aversion. Sorry, nothing more useful to add.

Anonymous said...

And anon 1, your view of "real magick" is culture-bound. Where I live, there are people who use "dark magic" including love stuff (not exactly potions) and other magic, and there are those who treat the magically afflicted. Bizarre? Ridiculous? Real? Well, who's to say.

But it certainly makes for an interesting contrast to the magic in western fantasyland.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to use a name that's as fantasy-cliche as Blade Hiresword, your story better have the best new take on fantasy since Terry Pratchett, or I'd drop this like a hot... love potion.

River Falls said...

You lost me at "Blade Hiresword."

Anonymous said...

I don't know where to begin. Hie thee to a writers' group, pronto.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see the great Elvish warrior "Broadleaf Weedkiller" make his entrance.

kis said...

If your main guy's got a name like Blade Hiresword, your prose better read like Robert Asprin's. This project reminds me of some of my first writings, things I abandoned because half-way through I realized they were a bit hackneyed.

That isn't to say that you need to abandon everything. But stories evolve just like anything else. If you were to write this story two years from now, it would look very different, I'm sure. This may be one of those stories that needs to ripen under the bed for a while.

And 2readornot, if this type of stuff is the only Fantasy you've been exposed to, no wonder you refuse to read it. Dump the Margaret Weises, Robert Jordans and Tracy Hickmans. Pick up a Guy Gavriel Kay or George RR Martin, or even a David Gemmell. There is SFF out there that is entertaining, insightful and infinitely readable. You just have to look for it.

BuffySquirrel said...

So, we start with an entry on the difficulty of making love potions, and then cut to someone making a love potion.

I'm sorry, but that's about as predictable as you can get. Something to contrast with the entry, or to make us wonder who has the potion and will it work, something, anything, but the immediately obvious.

tlh said...

Cough, I kind of liked the name Blade Hiresword. I figured, anyone ballsy enough to use a name like that has got to be a deft, experienced writer of the genre.

The first pages, unfortunately, did not bear me out. Not terrible writing, some basic mistakes but nothing overly painful -- but I'm not sure this is the genre you should be writing in.

A lot of people who write fantasy seem to do so because they really love reading fantasy. That's fine, but are you writing something new and fresh, or are you writing the same thing you read and loved?

Meh. I saw a poster for the Eragon movie the other day; fantasy as a genre has moved so far beyond what I understood it to be that I'm probably the last person who should be commenting about this piece.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Broadleaf Weedkiller

Anon, you owe me a keyboard. And a diet coke. :) Still ROFL.

Anonymous said...

My eyes bugged at "bouncing your balls..." Thank dog you did not stop there.

CabSav said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. The feedback has been excellent. Really appreciate the different views, and the chance to do something about it.

Thank you, Miss Snark, for the opportuntiy to submit; and to your marathon effort in the whole crapometer thing. Brilliant job. (And I really did know it was Miss Snark, don't know how the Ms crept in.)