Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Mystery Agent,

Since your identity is a secret, I can’t begin my query with the reasons I chose to query you, but since one of the genres listed in the competition brief was YA contemporary,  I thought you might be interested in CHASING THE TAILLIGHTS, my 87,000 word contemporary YA novel told in alternating POVs.

Lucy and Tony share only their genetic code and a love of rock music. Tony’s the driven high achiever, the champion diver destined for greatness. Lucy’s biggest concern is getting Cute Guy from the burger joint to ask her out.

After a car accident kills their parents, Lucy and Tony are forced to rely on one another--and decide whether to reveal their secrets. Tony has a crush on Jake, his best friend, while what Lucy knows about the accident is so devastating it sends her into a spiral of self-destruction.

As the siblings struggle to overcome a lifetime of past conflicts and jealousies, they discover they might have more in common than they ever thought.

My short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Residential Aliens, Cutlass and Musket: Tales of Piratical Skullduggery, and Rapunzel’s  Daughter: After the Happily Ever After, among others.

Per your submission requirements, you will find the first 250 words below. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Teetering on the edge of consciousness, wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I struggle to keep my wits about me--what’s left of them--fighting the darkness threatening to drown me. Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.

The ground?  Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of…gas? Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.


Leigh Ann said...

Query - Great query, nice and tight, really get a sense of the story.

Please please tell me Lucy doesn't have a crush on Jake, too. :( (See? I already care!)

First page: Wonderful writing. Just wonderful. I really get a sense of the scene, and it's terrifying.

I wonder, though, from your query: is this really where the story starts? Obviously I haven't read the whole thing, but it sounds like your story is about what happens AFTER the accident. (take it with a chunk of salt. :))

Awesome job!

amber said...

Hello, run-on first sentence :) I know you wrote this just for this blog, but you should really watch out for this moving forward.

And, OH! I've read both of tehse elsewhere and didn't realize these came from the same story! Nice :)

Tatum said...

I don't love the first paragraph of the query. I do realize it's just for this purpose, but still.

I do love the writing. I felt it. Good job.

Jo said...

I like the premise of the query and your writing, but there I feel like you spend too much time introducing back story. I was waiting for the conflict to be elaborated on, and it seems you smushed it all at the end. I was waiting to see what stakes their were for their secrets, what the ticking clock was. Being opposites isn't compelling enough for me, but that is personal taste. I just think a little oomph would really kick this query out of any slush pile, versus relying on your sample (which all agents don't request). Good luck :D!

Princess L said...

The writing in the sample is excellent.

I liked the query too, but it feels like it's missing a sentence or two. It needs just a tiny bit more to explain what the conflict is. I get that they're very different siblings that learn to get along after their parents die- but what is the specific plot-is there something that brings them together and saves Lucy from her self-destructive behavior and/or helps Tony with his sexuality? I think one or two more sentences would make your good query even better.

erica and christy said...

I know I've read this page before, and I liked it both times! Good job!

I would like a little more meat to the query - make the stakes a little higher than just that the siblings haven't gotten along in the past. (just an opinion, of course!)

Melanie Stanford said...

I thought the query was great- a perfect teaser without revealing too much.
The page was excellent writing but... I don't think I'd read much more when a book starts like this. So awful what's happening that I'd probably just give up. But that's just me.

Laura C. said...

I think your first lines are fine--it's obvious you're just approximating because you don't know who the agent is.

I'd flesh out the third para more to make the stakes more obvious, like how the differences between the two (and their secrets) are affecting their new relationship--what are the goals of each and the stakes?

The writing in the 250 is fantastic! I love it!

Good luck!!

Melissa said...

I like the query. I agree that the first paragraph would probably be altered had you known who the agent is, etc. I'm not sure you need to list every single place where your stories have been published (that paragraph seems long) but that's my non-agent opinion. And I like your voice. it's very detailed. I would, however, make sure not to add so much detail that you take 1,000 words for something that could have been written in, say, 600 words - still having your voice and message conveyed. Anyways, you are beautifully descriptive.

Perri said...

I love the first page-- though perhaps, because of the level of detail, it moves too slowly(?) I experience the same disorientation as the character-- well done, though I am not sure this is what you want first off.

After the query, I already like the characters and sort of feel like I understand them. But I don't quite get the conflict. I know what the story is about, theme-wise. But what happens in it, conflict-wise?

The Agent said...

K.L. - I think your premise has potential, but prevents me from wanting to request this is that the query isn't convincing. The 1st paragraph after the introduction doesn't draw me into the story, and while the 2nd paragraph offers glimpses of something deeper, it's largely glossed over. I think if the query began w/ "Lucy knows what really happened..." or "Tony has a secret..." then I'd be more likely to want to read on. As for the writing credentials, unless you've been published in particularly noteworthy places, you can just say "published in various 'zines."