PW #113: Adult Historical Fiction, Own Voices: BEYOND THE CARVED WALLS

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Holly Faur
Mentee Name: Hema Penmetsa
Category: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction, Own Voices
Word Count: 98,000


Sold by her family into a Muslim harem, Hindu girl Sundari must rise in power, even at the cost of losing herself, or be crushed by the harem’s brutal politics.



Hindu scriptures say forsaking one’s life for another is the highest form of sacrifice. Few humans are granted the gift of this ultimate redemption. I remind myself of this, clutching the Hanuman figurine to my chest, as keys rattle at the iron bars. I can’t tell how many days it has been since I was thrown into this dungeon, which stinks of feces and urine, slimy green mold breeding along its walls.

I rise, roll the piece of mat and set it next to the water pot.

“It be time.” A fat soldier in a dirty salwar-kameez lumbers inside. He grabs my arm, swamping me with the stench of stale wine and sweat.

“I’ll follow you, sipahi.” I shrug off his hand. “No need for roughness.”

He looks fully into my face—an insult for any respectable woman—with an insolent sneer and shoves me toward the doorway. I stumble against the iron threshold but right myself and step into the soft light of dawn. My eyes crinkle at the brightness; it’s more light than I’ve experienced in days. As a velvety breeze caresses my cheeks, I raise my face and inhale.

A high, circular wall hems us, and I crane my neck to see a bowl of clear, blue sky at the top. A flight of stairs coils upward to the ramparts of the fort. I’m obviously in one of the round watchtowers that had so fascinated me when I first saw them.

“Climb.” The soldier pokes my ribs with a spear.

Sweat breaks out on my forehead. I know what’s at the top of these stairs.


Author: Heather Cashman

With a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, the lab reports always lacked the fantastical element Heather's imagination demands. Hypotheses turned into taglines and novels, so she's going back to college for a Creative Writing degree. Her novels range from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Speculative Fiction, she dabbles in picture books, and is currently seeking representation. ~Member SCBWI

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  1. Hi there! I’d love to read this full manuscript! Please send them to rena (at) thedeborahharrisagency (dot) com with your query pasted in the email and the manuscript attached as a word document.


    – Rena Rossner
    The Deborah Harris Agency

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  2. I’d love to have a look. Send the manuscript along when you have a chance. A Word doc is most preferable if possible.

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  3. Hi Hema,

    This sounds fascinating. I’d love to take a look at the full manuscript. When you have a moment, please send as a word doc attachment with the query letter in the body of the email to with subject line: #PitchWars Requested: [TITLE].

    Very much looking forward to diving back in!



    Annie Hwang
    Folio Literary Management

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  4. This voice is lovely. Please send the full manuscript (as well as a synopsis if you have one) to with “Pitch Wars: [YOUR TITLE]” as the subject line. Please also include your query in the body of the email. I look forward to reading!

    -Lauren Spieller, TriadaUS

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  5. OMG, this had me jumping up and down at my desk! I’d love to read the first 100 pages of this if you would please send as a Word attachment. You can email me directly at carrie(at)prospectagency(dot)com. If you would put PITCH WARS in the subject and the query in the body of the email that would be great. Excited to read more!!

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  6. I would love to see more of this! Please send a query (in the body of the email) plus the full manuscript as a Word doc attachment to, and make sure to put “Pitch Wars Request” and the title in the subject line.

    Looking forward to reading!

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  7. I’d love to see the full manuscript of this. Please send query letter and synopsis in the body of an email, and the manuscript as a Word attachment to: margaret(at)inklingsliterary(dot)com. Please put PITCH WARS in the subject line. Looking forward to reading this! ~Margaret

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  8. Hi Heather,
    I’d be delighted to read a query and three chapters, sent to submissions at stonesong dot com.
    Emmanuelle Morgen

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  9. I love this! Very excited to see this pitch and cannot wait to read your story. Please send the full manuscript attached as a word document and your query in the body of the email to use email subject Pitch Wars -TITLE- genre. Looking forward to reading your story!

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  10. I love this! Please send it as a Microsoft word document with “Pitch Wars manuscript” in the subject line, including your query letter in the first page of the document. Suzie at newleafliterary dot com.

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  11. Hi Hema! I can’t wait to see this shiny polished beauty–looking forward to it! You know where to find me 🙂

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  12. Hema–I love this! So evocative, and right up my alley. Please send the manuscript and a synopsis as Word doc attachments to I can’t wait to take a look!

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  13. Very much want to read more. Please send the first fifty pages or so (as a Word attachment) and a query letter (in body of email) to Please put Pitch Wars Request in subject line. Thank you.

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  14. I’d love take a look at the full manuscript. Please feel free to send it along as a word document to andrea [at] with “PitchWars Requested Manuscript” in the subject line. Thanks! I’m looking forward to reading.
    Andrea Somberg
    Harvey Klinger Inc.

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