Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #23

Dear Amazing Mystery Agent,

Since you’re generous enough to participate in Krista’s contest, and I’m sure you represent some very talented authors whose books resemble mine, I think my manuscript would be a good fit for you.

Sixteen-year-old burn victim Rissa McCall expects sand and sun when she’s shuffled off to Egypt with her little brother Andy during their mother's honeymoon. But while staying with older sister Sophie, Rissa barely has time to enjoy the luxurious resort before a man is killed and someone locks Rissa and her brother in a burning building. The only non-sucky part of the vacation is when she meets seventeen-year-old Rutgar. He ignores her scars and treats her like a ‘Normie’ (a non-burned person). At first, she’s totally psyched a hottie is interested in her, but crashes back to earth when clues point to him being the murderer.

The resort community is hiding a dark secret, but so are the McCalls--each sibling has special powers. When barracudas attack divers and dead birds fall from the sky, Rissa discovers a fabled pharaonic artifact, the Black Ankh, is behind many strange events in the seaside town. She must decide who to trust and outwit enemies who are determined to gain the Ankh's power. If she manages to find the ancient relic, she must re-bury it--unless the whispers in her head can tempt her to use it, which will damn her soul forever.

I’m seeking representation for THE BLACK ANKH, a 70,000 word YA Dark Fantasy/Mystery. I’ve traveled, worked, and lived in Egypt for the past twenty years and use these experiences to write novels set in this exotic and ancient country. I’m planning a platform site based on Egyptian lore and history. THE BLACK ANKH stands alone, but has series potential. My short stories have appeared in such publications as: Beyond Centauri, Niteblade, Spaceports and Spidersilk, and such print anthologies as: Pill Hill Press: Rotting Tales, Blood Bound Books: Rock is Dead, and Whortleberry Press: Christmas Anthology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The Normies were staring again.

Rissa fiddled with her fork and avoided their eyes. Even in an Egyptian resort where everyone was a stranger, she was the strangest.

Music crescendoed, and she glanced up as her older sister sang a clear, high note. Beneath the spotlights, Sophie glowed like a golden-haired angel--if angels wore stilettos, mini-skirts, and showed cleavage.

Rissa’s fork banged onto the plate. She couldn’t leave until Andy came back. He was her responsibility, not Sophie’s, no matter what their mom said. Maybe he was lost again. She rose and wove between candlelit tables. The nearest guests paused between mouthfuls, so she tugged her sleeves down, hiding scarred flesh.

Dancing couples parted before her, and she hurried into the garden where crickets chirped their own romantic ballads. Ripe dates from overhanging palms lay scattered on the path. Her boot heels smashed them into the concrete. At the Red Sea Divers sign, she turned toward the restroom building, eyeing the surroundings. Her eleven-year-old brother was nowhere to be seen. How did a kid who could see the future have such a bad sense of direction?

She knocked on the men’s room door. “Andy? It’s been fifteen minutes.”

A high-pitched scream shattered the cricket concerto. She spun and searched the darkness. Sticks snapped as something blundered through the bushes opposite the bathrooms. She shrank back against the wall.

Andy burst through the hedges, his face pale. “Rissa!” He grabbed her hand, dragged her through the underbrush to a shed, and pointed through the open door.


Kelley said...

I love the start of your story. Its got me wanting to read more.

For the first line in the query... there is sun and sand in Egypt, right? I think you could just get rid of the first sentence and start with 'While staying with her older sister Sophie'

You might want to elaborate on the special powers, because you have me wondering if they are important to the story or not as we don't know what they are.

Its great that you're writing about a country that you have lived in.

amber said...

WOW -- I really dislike that first paragraph. No offense meant – I'm all for being pleasant to agents, but that was some serious, see-through butt kissing – in the 'not good' way. I almost stopped reading.

Aside from that, I think the story idea is interesting, but you WAY buried the lead. She has special powers? What are they?! You never say. The first paragraph could def. be condensed without losing much -- there's a lot of backstory in there that isn't really necessary: Her mom's honeymoon, her brother, sun and sand.

I like the word 'non-sucky' -- it shows voice. Do more of that.

The barracudas are an interesting touch, but they kinda come out of nowhere.

In the final graph, I'd take out the 'I'm planning ...' becuase if you haven't done it, it's not relevant.

Hope this helps!

Mark Fenger said...

Your query has one spot that really jars me. You jump from the lead with her brother in a burning building. To me it seems like being trapped in a burning building is something to end the query with or explain further. To jump from that to "oh but she met a cute boy" really distracts my attention from everything that follows. It's like the joke of a news-announcement "The world will end at 10:00 tonight! We'll come back to that story after the weather and sports."

I wanted to feel more of the setting. I know from reading your query that you're familiar with Egypt, but I'm not. How does the night air feel? Is it cool, or warm? How does it smell? Does she get city smells, do the dates give the air a sweet smell or are they rotting? I didn't even know she was outside until her brother dragged her into the underbrush.

I liked the story, and found it interesting, but you didn't really transport me there, and a few simple details would do that.

Tatum said...

One a personal note, I would ditch the first paragraph of the query.

Other than that, I thought the query was great. It got me interested in the story, I wanted to read the whole thing, and I love the personal connection to Egypt (I assume agent's would too).

And I think the writing is great. I love some of your word choices and would definitely read on.

Tatum said...


elizabethreinhardt said...

I think L.C.'s first paragraph is the best you can do when anonymously trying to say, "I learned about you in X blog contest and loved books Y and Z which you represent. I feel my book has a lot in common with those." Because it's anonymous, it sounds odd, but would work if you used specifics and addressed an agent you had been able to research.

I agree with Marc's query-jar. I was thinking, "Wait! Burning building! How did they get out?! Are they okay?". Love is good, but burning buildings need immediate attention!

Kate Larkindale said...

The query has me very intrigued. I love the setting and the story sounds action-packed and exciting. There's nothing like having a girl fall in love only to discover the object of her affections might be a murderer...

Love your writing too. It really brought the Egyptian night alive. I've never been there, but I felt like I was there through your words.

Perri said...

I thought the query was intriguing. Though I, too, wondered about the burning building. The special powers surprised me for a second, and then left me wanting to know more. (I do love the line in the page about the brother's power)

I love the first line of your page, too. Not so much the line about the sister looking like a "golden-haired angel". This seemed a little predictable to me and the rest is so fresh and well-stated.

i wonder if you might slow down a bit-- describe the scene a little more before throwing us into the action. I know people always say to start with action. But an Egyptian resort is such a unique and interesting setting... and Rissa is unique and interesting as well.

erica and christy said...

Your query maybe has a little too much in it - it's this big thing, then this big thing, and oh yeah, this big thing, too - and it could cause some confusion. Maybe pick the most important (Rissa's in Egypt, meets a cute boy, ties him to a local murder, special powers/artifact) and cut the smaller things (most of the 1st paragraph could go - the info. about mom's honeymoon, the siblings, resort information). Just a thought - good luck!

Melissa said...

This is difficult for me because I have a hard time doing my own query. That being said, I like the idea of your novel and you are very descriptive. I like that. But my first impression, reading the query, was I was a little lost. There was a lot going on in the details. I had to re-read the 2nd paragraph after the 3rd to make sure I got it all. I think it's close and if you can find a way to take down some of the details while keeping it in your voice, that would be great. No kidding, right? Lame advice, I know. but as a reader, I felt a little overwhelmed with details and had to re-read it a couple times to make sure i followed. Hope that helps. And I agree with most others, I like the voice.

The Agent said...

L.C. - I'm going to assume the 1st paragraph of the query is just for the contest's benefit, so it's fine. What made me stop reading was "The only non-sucky part of the vacation is when she meets 17 year old Rutgar." I was already confused why a burn victim would want sun and sand, since I'd assume the sun is bad for her scars and she wouldn't want to show them off on a beach. Then I was intrigued by the burning building, but the "non-sucky" phrase and being psyched about being saved by a hot guy made it seem like she wasn't taking her situation seriously. Knowing this is a fantasy novel makes it stranger still, and I'd be much more interested in a burn victim as the MC in a dark thriller. Unfortunately, Rissa doesn't seem to be the character I'd like her to be.

The Author said...

I can't thank the Mystery Agent and all of you enough for the tremendous feedback. It's helped so much. I'm taking all the suggestions and writing a new query.
I think my mc isn't the dark character the agent is looking for. The ms is equally horror and romance, and as much as Rissa wants to conquer the Black Ankh--she also wants to get the guy!