The Synopsis Skirmish 2023—3rd Place
Congrats to Kevin Kennedy for winning third place in the Synopsis Skirmish 2023! Here's what our judge (Michelle Barker) had to say:
The voice in the DESOLATION SEER synopsis was delightful from the first sentence. Again, the novel feels structurally sound, and I liked how the author forces characters who don't like or trust each other to work together. I could sense the potential for sparks to fly, which made me want to read the novel.
Hoot Wilder ain't much of a cowboy, at least not these days. He traded in his spurs years ago for a rusted shovel and a grave robber’s moral ambiguity—after all, virtue and integrity don’t serve much purpose buried three feet down. He’ll sell his foul cargo to whichever ghoulish knave is paying the most coin among the fragmented settlements that dot the remains of the frontier. It’s not the most comfortable life, but hell, Hoot’s not the kind to require much—if he can dodge the occasional bullet aimed his way, avoid the werewolves lurking in the forests, and keep his tagalong nephew Sam alive and kicking, he’ll keep taking the lucky breaks as they come.
When Sam disappears and is found murdered at the site of a ritual sacrifice, Hoot's luck finally runs out. Questions begin stacking up faster than any leads, and the local sheriff ain't inclined to aid a bottom-feeder like him. Was this meant as a sinister message from an enemy? The bloody work of a doomsday cult seeking to open portals to elder gods? Does Hoot owe Sam vengeance—and can he live with himself if he doesn’t seek out the truth?
A chance encounter with the shapeshifting seer Eyssa reveals the score—Sam was sacrificed in an arcane blood ritual. What's more, Eyssa herself conducted the dark rite, coerced by the infamous outlaw Kid Dillon and his murderous gang into performing the ritual in exchange for her life. This dark magic severed Sam’s soul and harnessed his astral being, forcing it to transcend space and time in search of an answer. The question? Kid Dillon wants to know the location of the legendary lost city of Cibola and its vast treasure.
It's too late to save Sam—his soul is already slipping through the seams between worlds, in search of the desert city. Powerful magic has tethered them, and now Eyssa and the Kid will be shown the way. If Hoot wants revenge, Eyssa's the means. Her life is on the line once more, unless she helps Hoot track down Kid Dillon. But can Hoot stomach partnering with the witch who murdered his nephew, even if it’s the only path to avenging him? Can Eyssa trust this doomed thief to spare her long enough to untangle this mess and somehow come out on top?
They'll need to cooperate, racing across the hardscrabble plains in pursuit of the Kid, attempting to solve the kaleidoscopic fever-dreams channeled from Sam’s detached soul, guiding them ever closer to the hidden city. Their journey will span the mutated, violent West, past crumbling towns, around volcanic lakes, and into perilous chasms where otherworldly horrors await. Every dusty step brings them closer to Cibola and to a bloody resolution—vengeance, fortune, and the discovery of something even more dreadful and unimaginable.
Kevin Kennedy is an occasional entrepreneur, outdoors enthusiast, former trombone player and horror movie buff. He's been frostbitten, sunburned, stung by jellyfish and chased by coyotes on countless adventures and misadventures. He drinks two cups of coffee every morning. Kevin resides in Richmond, Virginia with his marvelous family, whom he adores, and an assortment of other creatures, whom he tolerates.