Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #26

Mr. Agent Name,

I know that you are looking for [personalized info here]. BLACKBIRD is a YA fantasy thriller complete at 90,000 words that is best described as "Mission: Impossible with magic."

It's always hard to fit in at high school, but especially when you're a powerful half-elf whose very existence is illegal. So when Taylor Keaton's ability to control all four elements lands her a spot at an elite school for magical espionage, she prays her years of running are finally over. However, sorcerers kill Taylor's recruitment team before she can even reach the international training school, making it clear things haven't changed a bit.

But why do the sorcerers want Taylor dead? The answer may lie in her recruitment team's final mission, a mission she's left to complete: find out what the sorcerers are trying to steal...and then break in and get it first.

The mission will require hacking the code behind a suspicious online video game, gaining entrance to a room full of secure servers, and bypassing one of the best magical security systems in the world. It'll also mean bridging cultural gaps to make friends--possibly the hardest task of all--because she can't do these things alone.

BLACKBIRD can be a standalone novel, but is also the first in a planned series. I also have a master's degree in English. You can find more information on my website. Thank you for your time.



Chapter One: A Not-so-smooth Criminal

After the years of hiding, all it took to bring me down was one slipup and an idiot with a camera phone. As the final minutes of my life ticked away in first period Bio II, I pondered the absurdity of this, my guitar pick scratching out a tuneless riff against my pants leg.

I gripped the pick, digging it into my palm until my fingers turned the color of my chipping purple nail polish. I shoved the pick into my pocket. James Loeper could be stopped--if I got the phone. I stood up, slipping a test tube and a couple petri dishes into my hoodie pocket as I did.

Getting out of class was the easy part. Mr. Mueller, like most guys, was scared to death of "girl stuff," so I just grabbed a not-quite-concealed tampon, went up to him, and said, "Umm...Mr. Mueller, can I go to the bathroom?"

Poor Mr. Mueller. Ears going pink, he mumbled to somewhere above my head, "Sure, Taylor. Fine. Take your time." I stuffed the tampon into my hoodie and walked out.

I should have been relieved, but the knot in my stomach just tied more kinks. Still, I walked down the grey and white hall as confidently as I could. The key to not getting caught was acting like you knew what you were doing. And though I had no freaking clue what I was doing, I couldn't get caught. My life depended on it.



Kim said...

Hi! Your query definitely interests me. I like the premise and it sounds cool. Consider adding a stronger hook at the end. I have also read that agents hate being told to go check out a website for any information, so you might want to consider deleting that line.
About your page, I love the first line. It makes me want to read more, but at first I think she is a guy with the guitar pick comment. Otherwise, I love the voice and would read more! Good luck!

Dana said...

I love the idea of a half-elf! Sounds like a very interesting story. Be careful of the potential "sexist" language "Mr." in your query letter. It might be a better idea to stick to just 2 paragraphs telling about your story in the query.
Your first page does make me want to read more. Good luck!

S.K.D. (author) said...

Just wanted to quickly clarify that I just randomly picked a Mr. or Mrs. for my salutation, because (personal preference here) I hate using first names in query letters. No sexism meant here, and obviously my query letter would be tailored to the particular agent (including sex and name!), reflecting his/her personal tastes, client list, etc.

erica and christy said...

Intriguing. The part about being "illegal" definitely interested me, as does the idea of espionage!

This line confused me a little. But it could totally just be me. "It'll also mean bridging cultural gaps to make friends--possibly the hardest task of all--because she can't do these things alone." I would definitely think the hardest, scariest part would be the mission (the breaking in and not getting caught or killed part), but here it puts making friends on the same level. Is it the friend-making or the goal of convincing others to join her team that is important?

For your first page, I like the set-up of your character's personality. I'd like more of a hint as to how her life is so close to being over, but I know that probably comes soon. It's hard to incorporate everything in 250 words!

Nicely done and good luck!

The Agent said...

This is a strong query. Considering that she never gets to the elite school though (or so it seems from the query), maybe you could pare down the mentions of that in the query and focus on the main action of the story?

The opening pages feel very strong too. But is it really the final minutes of her life? It's the first few lines so I am taking that literally, but it may be only metaphorically (or pessimistically) so.

S.K.D. (author) said...

Wow, thank you mystery agent for commenting!

I should really clear that up. The plot DOES center around the school, but she just gets attacked before she even gets there (which just shows you how the year goes). So I need to make that clearer here. Thanks!

Stephanie S. said...

The premise sounds fresh which I find hard to find with fantasy. I would have summarized the part when she doesn't really make it into the school. Maybe ne sentence?

I loved the whole tampon tactic, that made me smile.