pitch wars

Pitch Wars 2018: Kai’s Mentor Wishlist

Pitch Wars Adult Mentor BadgeHi, Pitch Warriors, I’m Kai! Now I know you’ve got a lot of mentors to sift through, so I’m gonna offer a little tl;dr up front, and then if you’re intrigued, you can keep reading.

[Aside: If you’re not here for Pitch Wars, feel free to skip this post. I promise things will return to cat photos and word count metrics shortly.]


I’m a debut fantasy author with an eye for structure, character arcs, and Cool Stuff. Looking for adult second world fantasy.

Bonus points for:

  • f/f,
  • grim without the dark,
  • honestly anything QUILTBAG,
  • hopepunk / grimhope
  • cool magic,
  • villains you’re uncomfortably rooting for

Candid Pic of the Author Having Her Face Smooshed by a Small HumanAbout Me
I’m thirteen squirrels shoved into a gator suit –

Wait. No. Let’s try again.

This is my first year mentoring and you’ve probably already read my official bio – transient author who’s a jack of all trades and master of none – so let’s skip that. I write fantasy, I read every genre, and my debut The Perfect Assassin – murder! historians! dangerously high heat index! – comes out from Tor in March, 2019.

As for me as a person… I’m a type A Virgo mom with high anxiety levels and a penchant for baking and running. One, unfortunately, does not entirely outdo the other. If I’m not freaking out about a deadline, I’m usually curled up on the couch with two cats and my wife, watching the Great British Bake Off and crying because Sue is so perfect. I also have a small human, who has most recently unlocked Serious Side Eye and “blueberries!”

I still secretly pretend that one day I’ll have time to game again. Although at this rate, that will coincide with Valve releasing Half-Life 3 (see: never).

Why Me
I know my genre like the back of my hand – that is, with relative confidence until someone actually asks me to pick my hand out of a line-up, and then I get all flustered and start to question myself. I did my time in the query trenches (three projects over four years) and also interned at a small agency and read their slushpile, so I’ve seen what agents get and can gently talk you down from the terror cliff that queries always somehow summon.

I’m very good at picking things apart and putting them back together again and making sense out of chaos. Also deadlines. I love deadlines. There’s beauty in having a ticking clock to guide you through uncertainty.

I’ve also, you know, written a few books under contract and deadline, and I’ve gotten my fair share – and given my fair share – of crit. I understand what’s useful and what’s not and I love talking through plot tangles.

What You Can Expect from Me
A thorough yet concise edit letter and lots of ridiculous comments in your manuscript. I won’t shy away from pointing out where the plot loses steam or doesn’t make sense, or where characterization goes off the rails. I’m not one for line-edits, but I will point out anything egregious/repetitive. I’ll also give you deadlines and work with you on a realistic schedule and offer generous heapings of encouragement along the way.

I am absolutely up for hashing out plot problems over chat/email. But fair warning: I can be pretty chatty.

Okay Cool, But What Am I Looking For
Adult, second world fantasy with rich, fully-realized worlds that are just as full of diversity and life and complex choices as our own, where just as much care is taken building the people as it is the magic system(s).

Think: Mistborn, Tiger’s Daughter, and the Traitor Baru Cormorant.

BUT ALSO worlds that are a closer mirror of ours, that are not our own, but could be with just one or two variables shifted.

Think: Amberlough or Vicious.

  • I want blurred lines between protagonists and antagonists, where one could easily be the other if you just switched POV.
  • I can’t do straight up grimdark anymore, but I still love some grim – murder and demons and blood magic are right up my ally.
  • I want hope. If you’ve got hopepunk, GIVE IT TO ME. If not, just enough hope sprinkled throughout or at the end will do. Is grimhope a thing because yes, please.
  • I want queer, preferably f/f, but honestly anything QUILTBAG (and yes, the ‘A’ stands for Ace, not Ally). Also, I want there to be more than just the single queer character/pair – after all, we travel in groups. Just one obvious queer isn’t a dealbreaker, but be aware I will ask for more in revisions.
  • I want magic. Even if it’s just on the margins, I like my fantasy full of the fantastical, thank you very much. If you’ve got a cool magic system like in the Rithmatist or Elantris, yes please. If you’ve got a world that is so real that it might as well be magic (see: Amberlough), I’ll be content.

So basically: magic and murder and mayhem!


What I’m Really Not Looking For:

  • Straight up heroes and villains.
  • Grimdark
  • Anything over 150k words (unless you’re willing to chop hard)
  • Rape
  • Violence toward children (see further clarification in comments)
  • Unquestioned/gratuitous violence
  • Urban fantasy
  • Science fiction
  • Medieval European-esque settings that don’t do something new/fresh/interrogative

I realize I’m being pretty open and vague here (except with the No’s, which are definitely hard no’s), so if you’re not sure, don’t self-reject. If you have any questions, feel free to find me on zee Twitterz (@KA_Doore) or comment below. I reserve the right to come back and update this with clarifications as need be.

Good luck, y’all!
Head on back to the main Pitch Wars Bloghop Master Post or select another mentor’s blog below!






































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Querying, The Impossible Contract (Book 2), Writing

Hey What About Your Query, Kai?

A picture of a cat, not a query letter.

As some of you already know, I’ve joined this year’s Pitch Wars mentor crew. For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, this means that one (not-so-)lucky writer will get the chance to have their manuscript beaten (literally and figuratively) into shape by me. But to get to that point they – you, possibly – will have to first write a query.

If there’s one thing all authors/writers/agents/human beings can unilaterally agree on, it’s that queries were devised to torture storytellers. You spent what feels like a million words (by that 24th revision it’s probably been more) carefully building a story and now someone wants you to do it again in – *gasp* – 250-300 words. Mon dieu!

Thankfully that’s not really what a query’s meant to do. All it’s gotta do is entice. And to do that, you just gotta distill your plot down to a few lines, pick out some awesome details, snag the voice, do the Macarena, assemble the Avengers –

Wait. No.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but I’m sure an example is worth just as many. So, here – have one successful query letter that just happens to be mine. It’s been a few years (*cough3cough*) and if I could I’d change a few things, but I’m going to resist and let you see the exact query that led to pages being requested that led to a full that led to a call that led to an offer and so on.

[Side note: This query was for The Impossible Contract, which is now Book Two (and if you want to know that story, go here). I don’t think there’re any spoilers for The Perfect Assassin (aka Book One) in here, but you have been warned if you care about those things.]

Dear Agent –

THE IMPOSSIBLE CONTRACT is a fast-paced adventure fantasy complete at 128,000 words. I’m sending this query to you in particular because I noticed you expressed an interest in LGBTQ stories in any genre and this novel includes a lesbian romance.

In the desert city of Ghadid, assassination is a family business. To learn the trade, Thana trained with her older cousins for years, but she’s still nervous when it’s her turn to take a contract. But it’s not just the responsibility: it turns out that her mark is the Empress’ own marabi, a highly skilled and powerful priest. Any qualms Thana might have had about killing a holy man, though, are soon put to rest when she learns the mark is involved in the blasphemous practice of binding souls.

The contract should have been straightforward: steal into the mark’s room, circumvent his magical protections, and slit his throat. Except that someone else wants the marabi dead. Before Thana can deliver the killing blow, a half dozen men break into the room and attack them both. Even outnumbered, the men should have been no match for fast and lethal Thana, but they have a key advantage against her knives and garrote: they’re already dead and someone – another blasphemer – has bound their souls. Thana barely escapes with her own life, let alone the mark’s.

The mark is determined to discover what these men are and who sent them. Thana is determined to follow the mark and finish her contract, even if that means leaving home to cross the desert. If she fails, not only will her family be shamed, but Thana’s life will be up for contract. But along her journey, Thana learns of the ancient evil behind the dead men and bound souls and realizes that the price of her success may be the destruction of all she holds dear.

Aside from writing, I also practice photography and weightlifting while living in the Sonoran Desert. I have the writer’s prerequisite small but significant cat collection and caffeine addiction, as well as a number of chickens, a degree in Classics, and way too many (never too many) knee socks.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Here’s a few things to note:

First off, you’ll notice I front-loaded the query with the title and wordcount and a little personalized intro for that specific agent. Typically, you’ll want to go straight into the query proper, but if you have a reason you’re sending this to a specific agent, it can help to put that up front.

In this case, my query doesn’t have room for the romance in it, but since I knew the agent was specifically looking for queer fic, I pointed that out as part of the personalization.

Second… this is a little long for a query. Related, that wordcount is about 30k too long. I got dinged a lot for that, by the way (multiple agents specifically cited the wordcount in their rejections), and part of signing with my agent meant cutting as much as I could – and then cutting more once I signed with Tor. So take it from me, you really want to stay within the acceptable word count ranges for your genre (this has a good rule of thumb btw).

On the positive side, it still worked. So.

Third, I know a lot of writers worry about not having any pub credits to their name to rattle off in the bio section. You’ll notice I, too, had no prior publications nor anything really of note, so instead I used that space to add a little more of my own personality.

But wait, there’s more! Don’t just take my word for it – you can read a breakdown by another agent over at the Weekly Workshop as to why, exactly, my query worked for her.

I’d also recommend taking a deep dive into the Query Shark archives as well as reading all the queries the other mentors have put up in the last few days.

So there you have it. Just be short and honest and bleed a little on your keyboard and you’ll do just fine.