Writer’s Voice 2015 Contest Entry: The Stepping Stones

Yesterday, I stumbled across The Writer’s Voice, which looked like a good opportunity and an excuse to actually start posting here. Next post should be about WisCon 39, which I’ll be attending this weekend.

So here’s my query letter and the first 250 words of The Stepping Stones, for The Writer’s Voice.


Brenya often longs for the autonomy afforded the Peregrines, warriors who can cross hundreds of miles in an instant. But no woman has ever manifested the ability to travel between the monoliths called Stepping Stones. Even among men it’s a rare gift. So when Brenya dares to touch one of the Stones, she doesn’t expect to transport herself to the heart of the distant capital.

With that single step, Brenya breaks a precedent that became sacred dogma long ago. And the Lapizarium, the order that upholds that dogma, is prepared to kill her and even topple whole kingdoms to bury her transgression — or worse, forcibly strip her of the power and autonomy she’s always wanted.

With few willing to aid her, Brenya finds an unexpected advocate in Caen, commander of the Peregrines. She can’t fully fathom Caen’s motives for helping her, but suspects he has some deeper agenda. Playing pawn to his mysterious machinations could incite civil war, and would mean compromising her newfound freedom. If she stays true to herself, she risks losing that freedom entirely in her battle with the Lapizarium… a battle she has little hope of winning alone.

Brenya may be the first woman with the power of a Peregrine, but she’s determined not to be the last. Whatever the answer, and whatever her choice, she will have to fight for her right to exist and determine her own fate — and change the very nature of the Stepping Stones in the process.

Completed at 151,000 words, The Stepping Stones is epic fantasy with a human core. It stands on its own but could also serve as the start of a series. Agents at McIntosh & Otis and The Bent Agency are currently considering the full manuscript.

My short fiction has appeared in Cicada, Ideomancer, and Tales to Terrify. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Chapter 1

Brenya had never seen a cuttle-man before. Sibyl didn’t say so, but Brenya got the impression she had encountered a cuttle-man or two in her youth. They were supposed to be more common in the south.

Waves lapped the shore, marking the border between Suhrlund and the kingdom of Feyland to the north. The far coastline of Feyland was invisible in the morning fog that lay over the strait. Brenya breathed in the sea-salt air, its familiar tang tempered by the dew of early spring.

They sighted the cuttle-man along the misty beach long before they spotted his peddler’s wares, unpacked from their water-proof oilskin wrappings and laid out all around him. He looked nothing like a man. Brenya was put in mind of an etching she’d seen of a nautilus, if the illustrator had replaced a number of the creature’s wavy arms with four legs like a mastodon’s — another creature Brenya had seen only in etchings. The cuttle-man towered up twelve feet or more to the top of his spiral shell, its smooth striped surface adorned with numerous hooks for securing his goods, its weight supported by his tree-trunk-thick legs.

Above the cuttle-man’s legs and below his shell, a collection of prehensile arms surrounded a mouth like an enormous bird’s beak. Brenya counted eight arms in all, and couldn’t imagine how he kept track of them all moving independently, stretching out across his wares, arranging things, each appendage longer than he was tall.

. . .

And that’s it. Many thanks to the contest hosts for running The Writer’s Voice and giving me the opportunity to put myself and my work out there.

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  1. Nice entry. And exciting news about the agents who are looking at th full. Good luck in everything.

  2. Very strong opening! Good Luck, both in the contest and the agents checking out the full!

  3. Good luck in the competition! (Is there any way you can enable a subscription to this post, btw?)

    • Alexei Collier

      Thanks! There are ways (plug-ins) to get WordPress to allow subscribing to posts, but I haven’t set anything up yet. I’ll definitely get on that when I get back from WisCon.

  4. Well done. Good luck, Alexei 🙂

  5. Ooh, thanks for enabling the subscriptions! Catch you over on #TheWVoice :o)

  6. Michele keller

    This is good. Clean prose, excellent descriptions. It has a butcher (codex) feel to it. Epic in scale, but prose isn’t over stylized.
    Best of luck.

  7. Just testing to make sure my subscription works. :o)

  8. Connie MacElroy

    The premise here is simple, but filled with glorious implications. And from the rich and evocative beginning, I can see the worldbuilding and keen visualization will bring readers into a story that will be unmistakable and memorable. I’m completely charmed, and I’m so glad I got to read this entry. Good luck!

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