Deep in the Query Trenches

After 17 months of hard work on my most recent MS, The Obsidian Pyramids, I sent out my first round of queries seven weeks ago; four rejections so far, but I’m still waiting to hear on four others. I also decided to enter #QueryKombat last minute. We’re supposed to hear who made the cut (64 out of 428 entries will make the tourney) next Friday.

I’ll try to keep track of my query adventures here, starting by posting the current version of my query and the first page of my MS (this is essentially the submission to #QueryKombat).

Query:

Dear [Agent],

Twelve obsidian pyramids have stood since before memory, conferring arcane powers upon those who seek them out. Most who pursue them become Endowed, acquiring one of twelve special abilities. But a few unlucky initiates are instead marked – physically and spiritually – as Accursed, and are treated as little more than animals, thought to possess stained souls.

Alaeric Helskor is one of those unlucky few. After years traveling lost and alone, he’s visited by a mysterious shadow-woman who grants him the unique ability to temporarily siphon Endoweds’ powers – but only after he’s slain an Endowed of matching ability. Promising him redemption, she convinces him to travel to Lake Celes, where a self-proclaimed prophet named Ben Tobagho has taken control of ancient ruins that contain the secrets of the pyramids and their creation.

After an Endowed poisoned his daughter years ago, revenge sparked in Tobagho’s heart; he now plots the destruction of the pyramids and the end of the Endowed, playing on the fears and jealousy of normals – men and women who’ve never visited the pyramids. When the shadow-woman prompts Alaeric to steal a mystical artifact from within the ruins, he quickly makes himself Tobagho’s enemy.

As Tobagho’s vitriolic message spreads and his power grows, Alaeric becomes caught in the middle of the ensuing war between Endowed and normals. To save the pyramids, and the shadow-woman who granted him his powers, he must expose Tobagho as a fraud. But the prophet holds all the cards, and Alaeric must decide if redemption is worth his life.

THE OBSIDIAN PYRAMIDS is a 110,000 word adult high fantasy that melds the western-style setting and innovative magic of Brandon Sanderson’s THE ALLOY OF LAW and the morally flawed yet likeable characters of Scott Lynch’s THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES.

I work as a portfolio manager for Crabel Capital Management, and I earned my B.S, M.S., and Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Marquette University. My greatest writing influences include Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and Jim Butcher.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,
Kevin Indrebo

First page:

Alaeric pressed his body against the rock outcropping that concealed him, fingers wrapped around the hilt of his sword. He controlled his breathing, keeping it slow and calm. The eerie silence of the late afternoon was loud in his ears.

Below, the woman who’d been tracking him picked her way along the gully. Her blood-red hair stirred as a slight breeze picked up, and she glanced around, eyes wide and alert for anything – not the look of someone who assumed she was alone. Days since he discovered her, this was the first time he’d managed to gain the advantage and get a good look at her.

She was quite striking. Beautiful, even. She wore tight, black leather pants and a matching jacket, with a small bedroll strapped to her back. She walked with an otherworldly grace, one that made her appear out of place among the stunted plants and rocky, dry terrain. Like a thorny, vibrant flower in a dying, unkempt garden.

A Dancer. No doubt about it. She floated over the uneven ground Alaeric had stumbled and struggled his way through a few hundred heartbeats earlier. A high-level Dancer, at that. Too high for Alaeric to sense how many pyramids she’d seen.

This complicated things. For a time, when he first noticed the signs, he’d wondered if he was imagining the woman’s presence in his wake. The djinn knew he was having a fuck of a time distinguishing real threats from fake these days. But even when he’d convinced himself someone was tracking him, he’d still held out hope it was a simple brigand. Simple, but persistent. Alaeric may not have looked like much of a target, but out here, in the lonely and vicious Miraji Desert, some folks were desperate.

The Epic in Epic Fantasy

A few weeks ago I had the flu. I had it bad. I get sick somewhat frequently, partly because I fly a lot, partly because I drink too much and that probably weakens my immune system I can only assume. But I haven’t had the flu much since I was a kid. This was definitely the worst I’ve had it since I turned 18.

I couldn’t get out of bed for 3 days except to go to the bathroom. Could almost eat nothing.

It was also hard for me to sleep during the day, feverish and sweaty that I was. Fortunately, I had one little piece of luck on my side. Something that made it easy to get through. OK, not easy, but possible. I was reading Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer (Stormlight Archives 3) at the time.

Now, I read a lot of big books (I love big books and I cannot lie). Epic fantasy has always been my thing. I used to go to the bookstore and randomly choose books from the fantasy section based on which one was the thickest.

But I’m pretty certain this is the longest book I’ve ever read. Over 450,000 words. More than 1200 pages in hardcover with basically no margins. That’s about four Kevin books in one.

The final sequence, which involved about a thousand threads converging on each other in an epic confrontation, was the equivalent of a normal-sized novel. And holy shit was it emotionally exhausting.

It was incredible, and the only bad part about it was: I was sad it finally came to an end. 450,00 words and I wanted more immediately.

I want to be able to write like that. To create something so epic, so gripping, so dramatic, an epic fantasy reader can read the longest book she’s ever read and think it was too short.

But I can’t. Or at least, I can’t imagine ever getting to that level. I’ve learned more from Brandon than any other author, and I think a lot my strengths as a writer are similar (though not as good by any means) to his. To do what he did in this book, though? I just can’t imagine ever having that ability.

But it doesn’t mean I won’t try. I just finished the fifth draft of my seventh novel, The Obsidian Pyramids. Shortly after publishing this post, I will be embarking on one of the scariest, most painful, frustrating experiences a young(ish-in-a-way) writer can have. I will be sending out the first round of queries.

Pray for me. If you do that sort of thing. I’d say have a drink for me if not (or if so!), but I will be having plenty for myself this weekend, so I think I have that covered.