Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #21

Dear Agent,

When Andy gazes through his catcher’s mask and flashes the fastball sign to his brother during a high school baseball game, little does Andy realize it’s the last communication he’ll ever have with him.

Andy, a solid defensive catcher with a weak stick, is fortunate to have a spot on the talent-packed varsity baseball team in his senior year at a new school; whereas his younger brother, Daniel, still a junior, is the team’s ace. With his 88-mile-per-hour fastball and six-foot-two frame, Daniel has Major League scouts drooling.

Andy and Daniel share a messy bedroom, a passion for playing baseball, and a pact to always be best buds. They also share painful memories of their dysfunctional childhood. Andy, however, is the one burdened by issues, including low self-esteem and anxiety; a shaky relationship with his father; and the hideous scar covering half of his face, a result of his now-absent mother having steam-pressed his face with a clothes iron when he was a toddler.

Midseason, Andy and Daniel are trying to close out a no-hit game when a batter belts a comebacker that nails Daniel in the head. Daniel collapses on the mound. Shortly after being airlifted to the hospital, he passes away. While Andy is on a leave of absence from school--his emotions raw: grief, denial, anger, confusion, guilt, and loneliness--his team advances to the championship game. Andy is sure Daniel would have wanted him to go back to school and play in the big game. But can Andy find the strength?

BATTERY BROTHERS is a 52,000-word young adult novel with a strong sports theme. I have 12 years of experience as a professional copywriter, and my in-depth knowledge of baseball comes from my own experience as a college team player. Thank you for your consideration.



“Give the ball a ride, Andy!” Daniel rested his tall, wiry frame against the brick schoolyard wall.

I assumed a batting stance--knees slightly bent, knuckles aligned, right elbow cocked, eyes glued on Jason Huckabee, the pitcher.

Jason spit on the blacktop and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Jason was about six foot, stocky. Me, I was just a regular-sized seventeen-year-old.

I twirled the stickball bat, my breath clouding in front of my face.

Jason planted his gorilla-sized sneakers on the chalk-drawn pitcher’s line. “Two down. Nobody on. Seven to three--good guys.”

“Bring it,” I muttered. A gust of wind slapped the scarred side of my face, making my left eye twitch.

If Daniel had been pitching in today’s two-on-two, brothers vs. brothers stickball game, our cousins Jason and Nathan wouldn’t have any runs. No bull. Daniel’s 88 mile-per-hour heat would have done the job. But Daniel doesn’t pitch tennis balls. Not anymore. Not after being tagged a phenom and scouted by the pros. The risk of him throwing out his holier-than-holy arm at the age of sixteen was too great.

Jason wound up, a herky-jerky motion. The pitch smoked in high and tight, forcing me to backpedal.

“In the box?” I asked, grinning at him.

“Just missed,” Jason said, scooping up the rebounding ball. The pitcher, having the best view of the 32-by-24-inch box sprayed on the wall, got final say on balls and strikes.


amber said...

Well, I feel like you have something special here that wants to get out ... but your query is really slow to start. I like the use of jargon -- shows you have an idea what you're talking about, but can you condense and reorder the query to get the important bits near the top? The plot right now is buried at the bottom.

Definitely a book for boys. Hopefully there's a market!

Kelley said...

I'm a sucker for sports stories, so this one gets me right away. :)

The end of the first sentence in the query could be reworded, I think, something like, 'during a high school baseball game, he doesn't realize it's the last communication they will ever have.'

In the second paragraph I think the first sentence should end at new school. Then just start with, 'His younger brother'.

When you state, 'Andy, however, is the one burdened with issues', I don't quite connect with this. They are both burdened with issues, right? One just deals with it better than the other? At least that's the impression I get because you said they both had a dysfunctional childhood.

I like how you close the query.

kfillius said...

Au contraire, I feel the first line of your query is powerful. It's perhaps a bit wordy, is all. Try to give it the "umpf" it needs to do its job.

It's a book about boys, but I'm a girl...and I'm interested! I read eagerly, and would continue on.

Lori M. Lee said...

I love this. In the query, I'd condense the details of Daniel's death to one line and move it up to start the third paragraph. Then go on about how hard it is for Andy to deal with the grief b/c of these things they shared as well as their difficult childhood (which you should also condense). And then go on to mention the stakes.

You've got strong writing and I see a lot of personality in Andy. I don't even know Daniel yet, but I already feel for the brothers. Great job.

Jeanne said...

I think you've got the makings of a great story here, but the query is holding you back. I would cut the second paragraph completely. This is all character history and backstory. A query needs to introduce the main character, the problem, and the stakes.

In the third paragraph, cut to the chase right away: "When Danny is felled by..." We don't need to know all of the details of how he was airlifted and died. We just need to know that the brother's death is a game-changer for Danny.

The opening scene is strong and really captures the feel of a baseball game. I love the subtle reference to his scars. Nice touch.

Melanie Stanford said...

I feel like a lot of the query is backstory. The first paragraph of your query makes it seem like the story starts at or just before Daniel's death. If this is so, pretty much all the query is backstory. I'd cut paragraph two as well, put the last paragraph next, and then rewrite the third paragraph to show how all of these things- low self esteem, shaky relationship with dad, scar, etc- affect Andy along with Daniel's death.
The writing was really good but I'll admit all the baseball stuff made my eyes glaze over (but that's just me). I especially loved this bit:

“Bring it,” I muttered. A gust of wind slapped the scarred side of my face, making my left eye twitch.

The Agent said...

S.C. - I really like this story and think the query does a fine job setting it up. The only thing I'd delete is the 2nd paragraph of the query, which doesn't tell me anything about the story, and the 3rd paragraph does a better job telling me about the characters. I like the baseball terms used, but the writing can get a little too technical. This will attract sports fans, of course, but you don't want to risk alienating non-baseball fans readers who want to read about the relationship between the brothers.