Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #27

Dear Agent,

For as long as anyone could remember, the kennels of the sky planet Rem have always supplied the great military fleets with pilots bred to be sharp enough, fast enough, and psychic enough to fly the two-man fighters needed to defend their world against the forces of the rogue planet Rom.

A Dog of War at the top of his line, Oz was ready for the latest wave of a thousand year war, when a crippling injury ruined his chances of a brilliant flying career.

Now serving as a medical officer on a rest station, a second chance comes to Oz in the form of Akita: the sixteen year old veteran of Rem's most decorated fleet; a top-bred pilot haunted by the death of his previous partner. Volatile and damaged, Akita has refused three previous replacements, but Oz is determined to fly again.

As Rom draws closer, the Dogs of War are expected to fly, but there is more to Akita than just shell-shock, and more to the kennels than Oz has ever been told. The next invasion may come sooner than anyone expects.

CRY HAVOC is a 100,000 word young adult science fiction novel inspired by an interest in WWII ace pilots and a love of the common dog. I've enclosed the first 250 words of the manuscript. Additional materials are available upon request. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks again,


The launch ship tore through the upper cloud level and downwards, a silver line against the swirling purples and reds of Rem’s greatest storm. Ahead of them, the enemy was just a dot against the next layer of clouds, some thousand feet down. Through the slim strip of his windshield, Akita could catch only the barest glimpse of their exhaust plumes, but he knew he could catch them. He adjusted the thrust with one flick of the burn switch. Beneath him, the launch came alive from out of its sleeping dive. The vents roared. The burners rumbled. The cockpit jolted and jounced like it was ready to come apart, but like any Dog of War worth his contract price, he knew his ship. Noreaster fell like a comet from the sky. The enemy plunged into the next strip of cloud and Akita plunged with them. The world through the plexi became nothing but a red and purple mist.

“Shiba, what have we got?”

“They’re four lengths ahead of us,” said his Shepherd, priming the charge cannons with a flex of her hands. She sat in the rear Shepherd’s seat. In the mirror set up beside his console, Akita could see the sharp, distant look in her eyes and the gleam of her psychic dampeners as she gazed out past the walls of the cockpit and into the skies beyond. It was said that a well-bred Shepherd at their peak could see a stretch of sky ten miles out from their starting point. Shiba was a fourth season vet, like Akita, and very close to it. “Three and a half lengths. Akita, we’re not maxed. Put on some thrust. We can take them.”


Jenilyn Collings said...

I liked the 250 words, especially after Akita shows up. You really know your world and that comes through here. I would suggest breaking up the first paragraph though, since that's a pretty dense chunk of prose to start the story out.

Your query has a lot of names in it and, especially with two so similar as Rem and Rom, it got confusing for me. I would focus in on the two characters rather than the planets. In fact, I think you could cut the first paragraph and start in with Oz.

Good luck!

Jenny Kaczorowski said...

I really like your concept. Rem & Rom made me think of Romulus & Remus from Roman mythology and I did pick up on the WWII themes before you mentioned that in the query. "The latest wave of a thousand year war" was a little unclear to me. Maybe: the latest wave in a war stretching over a thousand years" or something like that?

I loved your first 250 words too. I think you could break up the first paragraph a little, but it wasn't too bothersome for me. I was a little confused that we started with Akita when the query is really about Oz. From the query, I'm guessing this is a prologue and if that's the case, I'd start with chapter 1 when querying. Keep the prologue but don't send it as a sample. I actually rewrote the first two chapters of my book to start with my MC instead of starting with a prologue.

Hope that helps and good luck!

The Agent said...

The query feels like it could be more polished. The first single-sentence paragraph is hard to sift through for meaning. I'm also not clear about Oz: is he a teen or an adult? It sounds like he's older, but leading in the query like this he sounds like the main character; but in a YA book, it's unlikely that an adult would take that role. I'm also concerned about the 100K word count; that's almost enough to stop me from reading further right there. 60K is average for YA fiction; up to 80K is acceptable. Beyond that is rare-to-nonexistent. I would strongly suggest that you do a tightening revision slashing down the word count before querying.

With that said, your paragraphs are extremely strong and I would absolutely want to read further, though hopefully at a later time when you have pared down the overall length somewhat.

Mandy P.S. said...

Can I just start by saying I absolutely love your title? I presume its alluding to the Shakespeare line ("Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war") which is very clever and appropriate for your book. Bravo.

That being said, it concerns me that in a book where your characters are dogs and most of your characters seem to have names that aren't the names of dog breeds, one of your main character's name is a dog breed. Is Akita an akita? It just strikes me as odd.

I'm also not used to seeing books with animals as characters targeted to the YA market. That doesn't mean it doesn't work. To this day I still read Redwall books (going strong at reading them for twelve years now), but it might be something that causes some people hesitation.

I love your prose and the description of the dog fight. Very good job. Based on your 250 words, I would definitely keep reading. My favorite books as a kid were the X-Wing books and they had a ton of stuff like this, and I ate it up. Still do. And you did a great job. (Though I agree. You can break up the first paragraph).

Good job. You've got me hooked. :)

Rosalyn said...

I like the first 250 words--the world-building seems solid and interesting.

I wanted to second the earlier comments and say that all the mentions of Oz threw me off. Since this is targeted at YA, it seems like the main character should be Akita, who only shows up as a secondary character in the query. I'd like to see more focus on Akita in the query: what his role is, what he wants, what's at stake for him in this story.

Stephanie S. said...

Yeah, some good old sci-fi! I love the premise!
The query's first sentence was SO long. I think it could be split in two.
The name Akita (though I like it) confused me a little because it sounds female to me, not sure why.
Your second paragraph could use some polishing to make Akita's role in Oz's future more pinpointed.

Your text was great. Awesome detail and description. I was surprised to started with the Akits angle because your query focused on Oz's perspective but it was good regardless.

Lori M. Lee said...

I'm totally hooked. I like your query a lot and I'm very interested in knowing more about Akita and Oz, and whether or not they'll get to fly together.

Best of luck b/c this is one story I'd love to be able to pick up and read one day!