Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Become An Agent (Beta) 2017 Post #1

Review our guidelines for critiques and submissions here!

Title: I, Aneksi
Age Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Alternate History
Word Count: 119k


To use the Black Death as a weapon, one needs the cure to shield their own — and so the undertaking of medical research becomes an act of war.

Seqenenre, an Egyptian scientist, learns a terrible secret about the plague destroying the remnants of the Teutonic Roman Empire. But before he can use it to find a cure, his city Alexandria is ransacked by an Arab General, his plans stolen, and himself held prisoner in his own home.

Haider, the scientist son of the Arab general and an ambitious Persian governor, comes into possession of Seq’s secrets. His pride recoils at the thought of using the ill-gotten spoils as a road map, but his ambition to be the first to find the cure overpowers his arrogance.

Once Seq is saved by his sister, Nilofer, and the incorporeal spirit of their thousand-year old ancestor, Aneksi; he will race against Haider to find the cure first.

Both scientists are materially aided and ethically shackled by their governments. What was once a philanthropic aim to save lives becomes the keystone to an engine of death. Battles are fought, alliance shift, and plots are hatched to give the scientists — armed with their intelligence and the scientific method — time to claw their way to a working cure. Only their mistrust for each other stands between mutually assured destruction and a chance for peace.

I, ANEKSI is a 119,000 word novel set in an early-gunpowder alternative history Egypt and Persia with some magical elements. It follows the points of view of a diverse cast of scientists, supersoldiers, nobles, and the incorporeal spirit Aneksi — she who was once a Roman legionary and now a demigod to her people — as they fulfill their own ambitions in this shifting techno-political status quo of the post-plague world.

As a biotechnology researcher, my struggles in the lab have bled through to the depictions of gritty perseverance of the scientists in the story. My short stories have previously been published in [pro-publishing market]. My experiences as an immigrant in a racially diverse country serve as inspiration as well.

This story is an ode to, and a celebration of, the ones who influence the trajectory of human advancement one failed experiment at a time.

First 250 Words (Optional):

Nilofer jumped off the sandstone wall into Nekhet Senakhtener: her family’s fortress, her home — now a garrison of the invading Sassanid-Gupt alliance.

 Her scimiset slithered down her right arm and locked into place with the tip of the wide blade an inch lower than her tallest finger. She clenched her fist and the weapon came to life with electricity coiling and spitting around its serrated edges, forming a necklace of red lightning.

 Mothernode Aneksi’s cavernous voice filled Nilofer’s consciousness: <Gupt guard to your right, coming closer>

Nilofer took a deep breath and let her synapses link with the blade. She raised her scimiset arm, cocked her head towards the guard, and pulled a phantom trigger. A bolt of red sparks leapt off the blade and struck the man’s chest with the dull crack of a whip hitting leather and the body crumpled to the floor in a soft thud. Nilofer left her arm raised, her scimiset roaring and crackling along to her thudding heartbeat.

Mothernode’s urgent command cut through the numbness of her first kill: <Southeast tower, now.>

Nilofer sprinted past the dead man’s body, smoke rising from his chest. She made a point to memorize the Gupt soldier’s face under the sheet steel helmet; she owed him at least that small courtesy. She snuck into the Nekhet’s corner bastion and climbed the spiral staircase unchallenged to the top, calming her frizzled nerves with every step.


  1. Hi hi! First of all, thank you so much for submitting (and being the first to submit, too!). It's not easy putting our work out in the public eye, so kudos to your courage!

    I really like the premise of the story and the meaning behind the query's first line. It is gripping and very interesting, to me - war being waged is interesting, but instead of focusing on the blood and guts, this story seems so much more about research and the war-like possibilities of *cures* (which is supposed to heal!).

    I do think, however, that both the query and the 250 need a good and solid rewrite. The main issues, for me, were the liberal use of new and strange words (world-building, names, etc.), the vagueness of the sentences at end of the query, and the synopsis-type feel of the query. The 250 also starts right into the action, which is great, but I know little-to-nothing about the characters to be invested in the outcome of the battle. I can give a lot more detailed feedback, but I do think a complete rewrite is necessary, which would make detailed feedback useless! I really suggest looking at the queries and 250, and their critiques, on and Learn about standard query format, read a bunch of queries and start noticing what works and what doesn't, and then start on your rewrite.

    This, of course, is all just my feedback and I'm just one person. Take what you feel is true, reject what you need to - good luck, and wishing you all the best!

    (A sidenote: If you are planning on submitting to USA agents and publishers, remember to punctuate your dialogue with quotes " " instead of < >.)

  2. I'm left confused by the hook. Read differently, what I'm taking away from it is that one needs to cure the Black Death to both shield their own affliction and use it as a weapon...I feel like I have it right but am not sure. Might you mean "prevent" over "shield"? If so, I am on board. It just needs to be worded differently. I'm with you on the introduction to Seqenenre--I like the stakes here--but I also want to know a little more about Seqenenre to empathize with him some.

    The space used to talk about Haider can be used to know more about Seqenenre instead. Matter of factly, is there more information to know about Seqenenre's relationship with his sister? Is she a lingering presence or just appears once to save him? If the former, I wouldn't mind seeing her weaved in a little more if their face these struggles together. If we see more of Haider than we do Nilofer, then I still think the space can be reserved for Seqenenre. We know his plans were stolen, so we don't need to know by whom.

    There is too much information in the bio of the story. I strongly urge you to cut it down to "I, Aneksi is a multi-pov 119,000 word novel set in an early-gunpowder alternative history Egypt and Persia. It has magical elements and a diverse cast of characters." I feel more than that might turn off agents who are on the fence.

    Format wise, it definitely needs to be a little tighter, but I think with some cutting, the format will change automatically. 2-3 paragraphs only.

    I'm a person who likes to start a book wherever the author wants it to start, and I see everything you wrote clearly without initially knowing what, for instance, a scimiset is. I saw it because of your description, so I like that. BUT I'm not an agent. They will want to care about Nilofer early, but also, this returns me to what I said about the query. If the first person we're seeing is Nilofer, she needs to be more of a presence in the query.

    This is a great effort, and I'm thankful that you stuck in with us to put your work out there! We'll see what our "Agents" will have to say shortly! :)

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