May 31, 2010


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Dear Mr. Agent,

Emma is a mayor's daughter in a frontier America full of magic. Humans  hold power over machines, while sprites--evil spirits forced into hiding by humanity's wards--can manipulate nature. When Emma fails her magic test and turns out to have sprite magic, the sprites claim her as their savior in a battle against the elves and brownies of England.

As Emma learns to use her magic, she also learns that the sprites' fight with the English fae has ties to the United States' increasing aggression against England and uneasy coexistence with the neighboring French colony of Louisiana. She finds herself increasingly in sympathy with the downtrodden sprites and repelled by the human world of politics that her father's bid for governor propels her into. But as she learns more about the sprites and their plans, the more she suspects she's being deceived.

When Emma discovers that the help she's giving the sprites is actually provoking the United States to go to war with England, exposing their flanks to Louisiana, she refuses to help them anymore. But the sprites can't fulfill their plans without her, and if she won't help them, her murder--supposedly at the hands of English spies--will.  Emma must save herself and outwit the sprites to keep her father and her country from an onslaught on three fronts: England, Louisiana, and the sprites themselves.

Age of Steel and Stone is a fantasy novel complete at 112,000 words.

This is my first novel. Thank you for your time.

Best wishes,
Jennifer Shafer

       Mr. Chambers opened the door to the examination room, and Emma knew she had failed. His face was too kind, his mustache too rumpled from furious rubbing, for any other conclusion.
       Her heart felt hollow, and her hands cold despite the weltering heat.  She was surrounded in magical debris, but she had allowed herself to hope that perhaps the onslaught had been part of the test. What will
Daddy say? she thought, followed by,  What will Michael say? Her older brother had passed his test with one of the highest marks possible.
Everyone had expected her to do the same. She had expected it, until the objects on the examination table had started flying around the room and she had been unable to stop them. What had gone wrong?
       "Thank you, Miss Pierce," Mr. Chambers said, then hesitated. "Shall we join your parents so that they can hear the results?"
       She followed him with her head carefully erect, shoulders straight, face calm. She would not embarrass him or her family by breaking down. The dark, narrow walls of the corridor, smelling like damp wood in the
heat, were a comforting presence flanking her. She felt exposed when they entered the town hall in the center of the building, where her parents sat waiting.
       "Mr. Pierce," said Mr. Chambers, with a nod, and Emma wondered how he felt, delivering such bad news to the mayor. "Mrs. Pierce. Your daughter has completed her magic test."
       "Completed?" her father said, half rising. "Not passed?"
       "I'm afraid not," Mr. Chambers said, and patted Emma on the shoulder without seeming to notice what she was doing. "I've never seen anything like it before. At first she seemed to have a good grasp of magic, but when presented with the test objects she was completely unable to manipulate them."
       "What does that mean?" her father said, on his feet now, his dark eyes locked on Mr. Chambers's.
       "I don't know," Mr. Chambers said, but of course he did. Everyone could work magic, except for the disabled and the very stupid. Emma was far as she knew.
       Her father dismissed Mr. Chambers and gave Emma his hand. "You can retake the test," he said. "Michael can help you practice. I'm sure it was just nerves."
He kept up a stream of comfort all the way to the carriage, which Emma hardly listened to because she was watching her mother. Her mother didn't look surprised, or suspicious, or sad. She merely looked thoughtful, as though she had learned nothing new today but only been reminded of something she had known long before.  But she said nothing on the drive home, and nothing when they entered  the house, and in having to face Michael's politely kept back incredulity and her younger brother Bobby's confusion she had no chance to ask.

Click here for the discussion thread.  


Amanda said...

Intriguing premise, but I think you put too much detail in some areas, and too little in others. For instance, simplify your discussion of the issues facing America (you mention twice that Britain and Louisiana are in on it- find just one place to mention it, I think it works better in the 3rd paragraph), and expand your description of the exact danger the US is threatening. Included in that- what does 'power over machines' mean? Can they make machines do the macarena? Expand on this (just a little) and in the process you can show the reader what exactly are the stakes.
Also...for some reason I'm not crazy about the phrase 'frontier America'. I don't think it shows the setting the way you think it does. Some people might think you mean she's simply in what once was the frontier instead of that time period- I would just make sure that you make this point really clear.
And lastly- capitalize your entire title!
Good luck!

K.D said...

Nice concept. I love this kind of story. The language in the query could be tightened up a bit and I agree with Amanda, I would like to know just how human and sprite magic works. I think you captured the emotions of your characters pretty well.

I couldn't understand these last couple lines.
'and in having to face Michael's politely kept back incredulity and her younger brother Bobby's confusion she had no chance to ask.'

Rick Daley said...

I like what you did with the setting, blending fantasy and frontier. I was a little confused with the different magic elements...Does Emma have Sprite magic, or human magic that works on machines? For the latter I imagine something like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, having brooms sweep for him.

I liked this line in the sample pages:
His face was too kind, his mustache too rumpled from furious rubbing, for any other conclusion.

It's cool the way you made him opposite of what would be typical (dour, sad, etc.).