Monday, September 17, 2012

GUTGAA Entry 35: Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh


Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh
YA Historical Romance Fiction
90,000

Query:

The crazed Pharaoh Akhenaten, desperate for an heir, sent men to take a woman from among the Hebrews. So Naomi stepped in to protect the ones she loved from the cruel and perverted life of the palace.

She is given the Egyptian name 'Kiya' after being degraded and humiliated by the Great Queen Nefertiti. She finds herself instantly thrust into the intrigues of the royal family as the Pharaoh announces he was given a dream from his god, the Aten, that she will bear him his heir. But she is afraid of her husband, he's deformed and emotionally unstable.

Kiya finds herself allies with the powerful and calculating Commander Horemheb who teaches her about palace life and spends day in and day out tutoring her. He drives her to the highest ranks among the wives, while Nefertiti and her father scheme to destroy her.

She struggles within the monotheistic city of Aten, while she yearns to live according to her Hebrew customs, and with her feelings for the gentle Hebrew guard Malachi. But the more she is pushed upward by Horemheb, the more danger seems to find her. She is Nefertiti's biggest threat, and when she finds herself with child, Nefertiti's true cruelty and powers of manipulation are channeled against her. But the deadly game must be played carefully, and losses are sustained on both sides of the silent battle of wills and struggle for who will one day inherit the crown.


First 150 Words:

I sprinted through the dusty, narrow streets. My two younger sisters were hot on my trail, their footsteps sliding in the dirt as they took the corners, their hands occasionally slapping the mud brick walls for balance. I took a sharp turn and headed for the abandoned temple district. 

I rounded a corner and came face to face with the grand gates to the Temple of Bast, where I paused. It had been only a few years since we Hebrews had not been allowed into that part of Thebes. We were considered a lower race to the Egyptians, near slaves in status, and blasphemous for our belief in the one god, Elohim. But then, Amenhotep IV rose to power. It seemed like a normal succession at first, until suddenly he began worshiping the sun disk god, Aten, exclusively.

The Egyptians abandoned Thebes for his new city, and we were left behind.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I proof read this and it is one of the most page turning novels I have ever read! I never liked history, so I was reluctant to read it for my friend, but Kiya did it for me. Good luck my friend who told me to comment but not to say her name here!

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of historical novels. I love the juxtaposition of a fictional or enhanced character placed in a historical setting.
It is refreshing to read a novel with a strong female character who maintains her identity, strength of character and standards amidst pressure from opposing forces.
The authors descriptive passages help you feel like you are a spectator to the events as they unfold.

Stephsco said...

Putting a YA spin on ancient Egypt is a really cool idea. From the query, I can tell you have a grasp on historical details. You do a nice job writing in some backstory while something is still happening--the pause at the gates feels genuine. I hope you find agent attention for your entry, it seems like a great story. :)

Anonymous said...

OMG thank you so much! I have been watching all the posts and seeing all the comments others have gotten and have felt so unloved! (The previous comments were some of my BETA readers I asked to have a look for me.) I put months of research into this so you just made my day!
<3 the Author :-)

Adriana Ryan said...

I love Egyptian historical fiction even though I'm not generally a fan of the genre. It seems so magical to me. Your 150 words capture that magic perfectly. Lovely. :D

Dr. Milestone said...

I also really like the concept of a strong young woman in Egypt, and the first 150 starts out great by showing action and setting; I am a little unsure though of why Kia's sister is chasing her. Although I imagine this comes out later, for the first 150 it's a little unclear and I don't know if there is supposed to be tension at this point or if they're just running somewhere for fun. Just something to think about.

As far as the query, it's more like a synopsis than a query. There's so much detail here it's hard to get a sense right away of what is Kia's goal and what stands in her way.

You might want to try shortening this when you query agents. The very first sentence should identify your main character and what she wants to achieve. Then identify what stands in her way, and finally describe what decision she must make and what is at risk if she fails.

Take what you have here and save it under "synopsis" so you can build on it later, but I think if you craft a more concise query, agents will want to eat this up. Good luck!

leighstatham.com said...

This story sounds fantastic! I love YA HF and write it myself. Never thought to jump into Egypt though! What a great idea. I love that you've tapped into the Hebrew/Egyptian struggle for this story. Sounds a bit like a retelling of Ester (which is a great thing!)

My only advice would be to rework your query a couple more times if you end up having to query this book again. I would lead with something like "When the crazed Pharaoh Akhenaten seeks a new wife from among the Hebrews, Naomi steps forward to protect the ones she loves from..." Use present tense instead of past to make it feel more immediate. GOOD LUCK! Wish I could read the whole thing!

Darci Cole said...

Well, if I'm being honest I think your query could use some work to be a bit more... exciting. You've put in details that I think may not be completely necessary. And I think the things that *should* be in there can be presented in a more intriguing way, so as to draw in the reader a bit more.

I love this story, (read and edited for the author) and I'd LOVE to see an agent snag it up. Especially because I know the author has invested in professional editing and everything. The MS is amazing! Somebody needs to grab it and sell it!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks! This is all stuff I'm looking for! Some good nitty gritty feedback on my query. This is stuff I can really work with!

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Gosh- I think you have some great elements in here. I think the setting in Egypt is very unique (especially since it's historical and not set in the mythology).

A strong female characters in a historical setting is definitely a great hook (I know I love it).

The main issue I have with your query is that there's a lot going on (as in a few people mentioned). It's so hard to boil down a 90k book into a few paragraphs, but try to keep the focus on Naomi (and only mention maybe one other character) and what conflicts/stakes there are surrounding her story. Don't hesitate to shoot me an email if you want someone to go over your query sometime! julianalbrandt[at]gmail[dot]com

Anonymous said...

I think I'll take you up on that. Thanks!

kiperoo said...

I agree with Dr. Milestone and Darci Cole about your query (more on that in a sec), but first, I have to tell you that you have a great beginning! You've given us a nice balance of action and information there, and by starting with your MC and her sisters, I actually CARE what everything you say in the second paragraph has to do with her. Nicely done!

My recommendation would be to put in a bit more of that personal feel in the query (specifically in connecting us to your MC) to give us the same emotional connection so that we're pulled to read more. Overall, I'd still want to read more after that beginning though. :-)

Anonymous said...

Well I am looking for BETA readers/critique partners!

Anonymous said...

So I've taken ALL of your advice, and have compiled a new version of the query letter. Let me know what you think, the more input the better!

When the crazed Pharaoh Akhenaten seeks a new wife from among the Hebrews, Naomi steps forward to protect the ones she loves from the cruel and perverted life of the palace.

Naomi finds herself instantly thrust into the intrigues of the royal family as the Great Queen Nefertiti perceives her to be her greatest threat. But Naomi refuses to submit to her torture. She allies herself with an influential young Commander who protects her by driving her to be beloved by the Pharaoh, while Nefertiti, furious with jealousy, schemes to destroy her.

But the deadly game must be played carefully, and losses are sustained on both sides of the silent battle of wills and struggle for who will one day inherit the crown. When Naomi does bear an heir, she must fight to protect him as well as herself from Nefertiti who, upon being demoted as a result of the child's birth, is out for blood.

Laurie Dennison said...

Hi! What an awesome concept! It reminds me a Philippa Gregory novel, only set in Egypt. I think you've made lots of progress in this revision. I still have a few questions, though. How does Naomi stepping forward protect her loved ones? Could you maybe start by giving us a one-liner about Naomi, showing us who she is before?(I'm just thinking maybe you should start with Naomi instead of the pharaoh.) And then say something like, "When the crazed Pharaoh Akhenaten selects Naomi to bear his heir, she is thrust into the intrigues of the royal family. Furious with jealousy, Queen Nefertiti schemes to destroy Naomi." I might try shortening some of the sentences, just for clarity. I think your pitch is almost there!

Anonymous said...

How about something like: When Naomi, the favored oldest daughter of the Hebrew chieftain, is faced with her sisters being abducted to be wives to the crazed Pharaoh, she intervenes to protect them from the cruel and perverted life of the palace.

Is that too long?

Anonymous said...

Hey judges, I'm not expecting you to cast a vote, but could you please tell me how I can improve? That would be much appreciated.
Author

Yappy said...

I will be going around every entry tomorrow to give my thoughts :)

Jeanmarie Anaya said...

Hi there!

I'm a fan of Egyptian history and remember that Kiya is supposedly King Tut's mother, right? If so....WOW! And if not, WOW anyway! I think you have a great concept here, strife with conflict from the get-go.

I love your 250 words. The sense of immediacy and danger really hit me. And I loved the descriptive elements, like the mud walls and footsteps sliding in the dirt as they ran. Great images.

Your revised query is much, much improved. I agree with others that your previous version read more like a synopsis (which is great to use as such--as another poster suggested). The new query has more drama and more punchy language. I like it. One thing I would watch out for in some of the longer sentences is the confusion of pronouns. For instance, in this one: "...the Great Queen Nefertiti perceives her to be her greatest threat." The "her" refers to two different hers. It might read better as "....the great Queen Nefertiti perceives Naomi to be her greatest threat."

Also, I'm not entirely sure you need to include Horemheb (the Commander) in the query specifically. I think it might be enough to say that she becomes the Pharaoh's most beloved wife, much to the jealous Nefertiti's displeasure. And then, I was also interested as to *how* exactly Nefertiti tries to destroy her. I know that we have such little precious space in a query and it's hard to talk about everything, but I do think that that sounds like such an exciting part of your story--it would be great to fit a quick one or two-phrase example in there. That way, we have an even better sense of what a wench Nefertiti was. LOL Maybe if you edit out the Commander part and flesh out Nefertiti's schemes to destroy Naomi, you'll have enough room.

Best of luck with this. I'd love to reread it if you revise another version.

Anonymous said...

yup she is the mother of Tut. He is the 'heir' she gives birth to.

I'll look through it again and implement your suggestions :-)

Yappy said...

First, I think your first 150 are written very well. I can tell you are a very talented writer. What makes me pause is wondering if you started in the right place. A lot of times we throw our readers right into action thinking it draws them in, and that's true, but there's a fine line between action and conflict. I want conflict. I want voice. I want to know the character before something happens to them so I care when something does.

With your first and second paragraph, it seems like we are in the midst of something, but then it pauses to give us info. I think that's okay, as long as there is a panicked voice behind it. Right now it sounds sort of 'by the way', if that makes sense. What if you started with her gazing at the Temple gates? Pour some emotion into it... glances over her shoulder if she's being chased, holding her sisters' hands and tugging them close... small things that show us they are in the middle of a conflict, and the gate itself is something to fear or be excited about, right now, I'm not sure which it is.

For the query, it sounds a bit like a synopsis, but I don't think you need to change too much. I love the concept, it's something very unique and different. It's the voice that's missing from it, which is probably what's making it sound synopsis-like. What I suggest is try writing it from first person, using the voice of your character, then switch it back to third. Start with her, her conflict, and her choice she needs to make.

I see a lot of good things in this, including a really great concept that's backed up by great writing. Good luck!

Judge MacGuffin said...

Your new query is MUCH better, and I actually really like your concept. I can tell you the exact reason I didn't vote for you: the backstory/telling in the 2nd paragraph of your 150 words. I'd like to see something more subtle - she sees the guards and thinks "uhoh" or "those jerks" or something (obviously in your own voice ;). Show us how she feels about these guards, instead of telling us. And then later on you can give us the backstory on why she feels this way. I hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... those are some good thoughts. I'll have to look over it again and see what I can do.

Brenda Drake said...

I love the premise and that it's set in Egypt. So cool! Your revision is really good. I'd make a few changes (I liked the idea of the gentle Hebrew guard0 I'd do something like this ...

When crazed Pharaoh Akhenaten, desperate for an heir, sends his men to take a woman from the Hebrews, something-year-old Naomi steps forward to protect her people/family/loved ones.

Once in the palace, Naomi is forced to live as an Egyptian, giving up her beliefs and her feelings for the gentle Hebrew guard, Malachi. She’s subjected to the cruelties of the Great Queen Nefertiti who degrades and humiliates Naomi at every opportunity. She soon finds herself allied with a powerful and calculating commander who teaches her about palace life. With his help, Naomi rises to the highest ranks among the Pharaoh’s wives. But the more Naomi is pushed upward by the commander, the more Nefertiti’s position is threatened.

When Naomi finds herself with child, Nefertiti's true cruelty and powers of manipulation are channeled against Naomi. With hers and her baby’s life at stake, Naomi must carefully play the commander’s deadly game as the silent battle of wills between Naomi and Neferiti, and the struggle for who will one day inherit the crown, becomes a match to the death.

*** The first 150 start out great. I get that they're rushing to something. That they're late or something. But then you pull me out of the scene with the information. Maybe shorten it and keep us in the action. You can sprinkle in this information throughout your story as we need to understand things.

In this excerpt, I would keep the part where she pauses and keep this .... "We were considered a lower race to the Egyptians, near slaves in status, and blasphemous for our belief in the one god, Elohim." .... Then get us back with Naomi and her sisters - show us what's going on in this scene. Keep us in the action.

I hope this helps!

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