Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #49

Dear Agent,

I have completed an 88,000 word science fiction YA novel entitled LOVELY, PERILOUS THINGS, and I think it might interest you.


Just the name of the mythical sea monsters strikes fear in the heart of every sisterling at The School for Sisterly Studies. But one-day-shy of sixteen, Clementine has bigger things to worry about than imaginary squidbeasts lurking outside of the island walls of Rivanna. Like that tomorrow is her Choosing, and she’ll just die if handsome Beau Langford doesn’t pick her to be one of his brides. And that her snobby sisterling Esme thinks they’re all being watched. (And she might be right.)

So what happens when weird Gideon Langford with his ugly birthmark chooses her instead? And Clementine finds a mysterious amulet and a torn up book by a missing girl that says the Saresyn are real? Inside the opulent city of Eastlanta, she learns the true price of her privilege and discovers dangerous secrets about the fate of her sisterlings and the origins of the island itself.

But when one little island is all that’s left, sometimes a girl has to take a leap of faith.

And swim for her life.

I hold an MFA in fiction from New York University and I have taught high school English and college writing. My novel can stand alone but is intended to be the first of a trilogy.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.



A cheetah crept by me in the high grass, stalking an ostrich off in the distance. The awkward bird was strutting aimlessly, its feathers plumed and totally unaware that it was so close to death. I could hear my breath, and I felt the tension in my body rise as the cheetah pounced, it’s long, powerful torso undulating into movement as it ran, fast, now faster, hunting its prey.

The African heat barreled down on me, and I wiped the sweat off my forehead with the back of my hand. I tried to keep up, wanting but not wanting to see the end of the chase. The ostrich craned its long neck and it’s legs pounded against the ground as it tried to escape. I could feel the vibrations, hear the distressed calls of the bird and the eerie silence of the big cat, as it leaped, heavy but graceful, turning this way and that, preparing to grab onto the ostrich and…

Ooomph. I stumbled, and the next thing I knew I was picking my face up from the hard rubber floor.

“What the?” I cradled my sore nose in my hand. There was only one reason the treadmill would stop in the middle of a simulation. One of my stupid sisterlings had ignored the Occupied sign. It would be just my luck that the day before the Choosing I’d break my face. Not even the medical bots could fix it that fast. And what man would choose me for a wife with a crooked nose?


Francesca Zappia said...

This had me at the words "sea monsters."

I'd definitely read more of this. One tiny nitpick is the words "one-day-shy"--there shouldn't be any hyphens between them.

As for the beginning words--I love the idea of a simulation on a treadmill. It's almost a little twisted, making her run while watching a life-or-death chase.

Kaitlin Adams said...

Wonderful query! What grabbed me from the beginning was Clementine was actually excited about the Choosing, and not bothered she would not be the only bride. Sea monsters, being watched, getting chosen by anyone other than her ideal man, mysterious clues, etc all make me want to know more. The tone is light, but with an underlying hint of danger. I also love the title!

My only suggestion would be not to say, "I think it might interest you." Be confident. No cocky, just confident. That sounds like you're not 100% sure it is a killer novel.

Leigh Ann said...

Query - I love the worldbuilding it's obvious you've worked so hard on just from the first paragraph.

I'm not in love with the format of the second paragraph - "So what happens...?" I think it's too vague. But I also think that's just a nitpick on my part. :)

I was also a bit confused - if everyone knows the sea monsters are mythical, why do they strike fear into their hearts?

Loved the first 250 words, though I'm a little worried your (beautiful) description of the sim doesn't let her voice come through enough. Giggled at the "break my face" part.

Really nice writing. Wishing you so much luck!

Jenilyn Collings said...

I really like the descriptions in the 250 words. I also really like her voice after she falls.

I had some trouble with the query, though. There are so many names--both of people and places--that it felt overwhelming. I think simplifying that down to the main issue in the book would help. Also, I didn't like the single word on a line. It's not a creature name that I recognized, so I found it more confusing than enticing. I think you could put it into the first line and it would work better.

Best of luck to you!

Don McFatridge said...

The query sounded like it was for a fantasy novel and not science fiction.

The part with the "torn up book by a missing girl that says the Saresyn are real?" is not clear as to what the Saresyb are. I'm assuming it's the seamonsters but I could be wrong.

I also suggest you drop "and I think it might interest you." as it doesn't spell confidence.

Your first 250 were fun to read and I would turn the page and keep reading. Nice job.

Jenny Kaczorowski said...

I love the sea monsters! Very different from the supernatural stuff I usually see! I loved your 250 word too. Really sucked me in!

I did think the query sounded more like a fantasy novel. I'd love to see some mention of technology hinted at in your first page in the query. I also didn't know she lived on an island or was at all privileged until then end. "Sisterlings" made me think of nuns in a convent. In a medieval village. Maybe you can work more of the sci-fi element & the setting into the beginning?

I love your title, love your sample. I think the query is close and just need a little more to make it perfect! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, all! It's actually a post apocalyptic, dystopian. I really should have submitted it here that way. Definitely not fantasy, but I see why it comes off that way without the dystopian label.

The Agent said...

I am intrigued by the mention of squids/sea monsters. Other elements of the query feel slightly at odds with that tone you've created: things like "sisterlings" and "School for Sisterly Studies" and "just die if handsome Beau Langford doesn't..." nudge me toward a light, frothy fantasy/comedy. Later aspects of the plot move back to feeling darker and more elemental. So right now I am left confused as to where this story lies and unsure how to interpret it. It's well written, but feels like it needs to be boiled down and directed a little more carefully.

The paragraphs are sharp and vivid, though again I felt a bit jarred reading them after the query as it took me in yet a completely different direction from either of the mental images I'd built up. It also feels a bit trivial to start off the whole with a rather shallow worry (and did she really break/give herself a crooked nose just by tripping?). I guess I wanted the opener to really key me in to who this character is, give me a sense of her world and her needs right off the bat, and in this particular incarnation I'm not overly compelled to connect with her as a main character.

Riley Redgate said...

I saw your pitch at YAtopia and was totally hooked. So I went to your twitter and found my way over here!

After the query, I want to read this so bad, it's ridiculous. I have a couple nitpicks for you on the first 250, just in case you encounter other grammar nazis along your way who are, you know, way more important than I am:

"The awkward bird was strutting in the distance, its feathers plumed and totally unaware that it was so close to death." This implies that the feathers were totally unaware that they were so close to death. =P I might just cut "its feathers plumed and" to clear up the ambiguity - they didn't add to the image in my mind, anyway.

"... the cheetah pounced, it’s long, powerful torso undulating into movement..." *its

"The ostrich craned its long neck and it’s legs pounded..." The second one is also *its

I also agree with the SA - it would be nice to get a stronger sense of the character on page 1. The most emotion we get from her is resentment to her sister, and that's not an attractive first impression.

Also, watch your filter phrases. In the first paragraph, "I felt the tension in my body rise" could just be "the tension in my body rose" and you'd lose nothing. Here's a fun post on filter phrases:

Best of luck! Let me know when this comes out! :]

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Those were really helpful! I cannot believe I made those errors! How many time did I revise and just passed right over them! I also agree about the "feel."I cut tons of looking and feelings. They are lazy.

My story originally began when she woke up, but I read that many agents hate stories where the characters just wake up. So I fast forwarded to the first action scene instead and then backtrack. Obviously this isn't quite working yet.

Riley Redgate said...

On the contrary, I think it's working wonderfully. The simulation is a great way to build in the world without slapping the reader in the face with it! My suggestions were truly nitpicks.