Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Ms. Testerman,

Chase Garrety only knows his name because it was coded on a microchip found under his scalp. He remembers nothing before he stumbled across the savage landscape of the planet Trucon and into the home of a troubled orphan named Parker, who offers help with one hand and a fist with the other. A battle of wills sets the boys against each other, but when an unknown enemy attacks their planet, they must rely on each other to survive.

Traveling through space to find a man who can help them both, Chase and Parker enter an alien underworld where their choices lead them to the truth behind the Trucon attack. When Chase finally finds people who recognize him, they try to kill him, and after he runs through a solid door, he realizes that there may be more to his past than he could even guess. As the boys uncover more secrets of interplanetary corruption and betrayal, Chase must learn to use his strange ability to solve the puzzle of who--or what--he really is.

FULCRUM is a 70,000-word upper middle grade novel. I would be happy to forward the complete manuscript at your request.

Thank you for your time.



The screaming was so loud it blocked out all thought. It took a few moments before the boy realized the sound was coming from his own parched mouth, and that it was not so much a scream as a hoarse squeak.

He dragged in a great whoop of air and sat up, eyes bugging out, head jerking around like it was strung on wires. A wide yellow sky stretched overhead, but the rest of world swam around him in a hot blur. Dread fanned out in the pit of his stomach.

Something had gone terribly wrong.

He needed to get help. A black wave of pain crashed down inside his skull as he lurched to his feet, sending exploding stars across his vision. He staggered a few dizzy steps before dropping to his hands and knees, and drew in a deep, slow breath. He had to get back up. He had to stop this thing before it was too late.

A high-pitched noise rose and fell in the background. Looking around, he located a grey blob--possibly a building. He slid a hand across the scratchy ground toward it, then a knee, driven by the now-frantic, undefined fear. He could still fix this. He had to.

Light pressure landed on his back. He turned his head. Squinting, he made out the fuzzy outline of a face, the black gaping hole of a mouth flapping open and closed.


Unknown said...

I'm definitely intrigued! I will say, by the end of the query, my head was swimming a bit. If there's any way to strip it down a little, you might consider that. Sci-fi can be so hard to distill.

I'd definitely keep reading after this first page. I got tripped up in the second to last paragraph. Somehow "grey blob" made me think something small, car-sized at the most. Definitely not a building, unless it was way in the distance. It made me pause either way, and I don't think you want that. :)

Also, since you mention his knees in the third to last paragraph, I think you could switch "knee" to "leg" in the 2nd to last.

Great job, though!

Hope Roberson said...

I like your writing, your story has great description and I want to keep reading.
I was pretty confused by your query though. Maybe you're trying to put too much into those first two paragraphs. Instead possibly make it three paragraphs with clear sentences (shorter, less description) since it sounds like your story is complex.
I loved your description of Parker!
Good luck!

Elissa said...

I love your use of description in your opening page. It really makes me feel like I’m right there with the main character. As for the query, I found it very intriguing. The sentence “He remembers nothing before he stumbled across the savage landscape of the planet Trucon and into the home of a troubled orphan named Parker, who offers help with one hand and a fist with the other”, was a bit confusing to me, though. I think it’s the part “who offers help with one hand and a fist with the other” that I’m struggling with. Maybe clarify or break the sentence into two, right there. Other than that, I found the concept appealing and definitely want to read more.

Jessica Love said...

Such a cool concept! This sounds like a lot of fun, and I would definitely keep reading.

I agree with the "grey blob" comment above. Blob just seems small to me, not building-sized. But that's just a nitpciky comment. This was great!

Good luck!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Your writing is smooth and easy-to-read, and I loved, loved, loved the Serenity-like feel of this. (Serenity, in case you're wondering, is this sci-fi film that came out a few years ago. It starred Nathan Fillion and was directed by Joss Whedon, a great combination:) ) But I didn't understand the relationship between Chase and Parker as well as I would have liked to. Why does Parker want to both help him and hit him, and what's the battle of wills that sets them against each other?

In the second paragraph, I thought you could be a little more specific. What choices do they make, and what truth about the Trucon attack do they discover? Also, I wanted to hear a little more about these "secrets of interplanetary corruption and betrayal."

As for the first page, the scene caught my attention, but I thought you could probably tighten it up a bit. Your writing is quite strong, so you can stand to let your nouns do more of the work and cut some of those adjectives.

Good luck!

Jeff Chen said...

I really liked your opening 250 words - great job! You know how to set a scene and draw a reader in. That's the writer's most important job, and you did it well.

I'd suggest cutting out most of your adjectives, as they took away from the power of the scene for me. In addition to Krista's comment above, I'd say rely on your active verbs rather than adjectives. One example is the word "black". In both instances, I think your writing would be stronger by cutting the word out. As it is, it feels on the cusp of being too wordy for me to get into.

I felt confused about much of your query. The first sentence made it seem like the book was about Chase's quest to find out who he is - perfect! Then there's some alien planet, troubled orphan, unknown enemy, space, alien underworld, interplanetary corruption. I started skimming somewhere in the first paragraph. I'd love to see you cull it down to the heart of the book, which I would guess is Chase's search to figure out his identity. Cut out anything that doesn't relate to that. As it is, Parker just muddles the query in my opinion.

Best of luck!

Melodie Wright said...

Agree with the others on all the query details. I, too, started to skim where Jeff did bc I wanted to get to the stakes.
Your opening reminds me a bit of The Maze Runner, which I loved.

Maggie Hall said...

Interesting! I agree with a lot of the above comments (about the query being a bit confusing) so I won't repeat them here. One other thing I thought was that the voice of the query and of the sample sounded more YA than MG to me, but I know this is just one page, so that might change.

Overall, I'm intrigued, and would read on from the first page!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting story and I like your hook line. I do think the query is a little short on specifics. What does 'savage landscape' mean? Why is Parker 'troubled'? What form does the attack take? And I don't quite understand 'help with one hand and a fist with the other' - could that be more specific?

Incidentally that is a kick-ass title.

Kate Schafer Testerman said...

God, I hate being such a downer all the time, but I'm afraid your query was SO GENERAL, that I ended up with no information about the book at all. You use such vague terms -- a "troubled orphan," "an unknown enemy," "an alien underworld," "the truth behind", "strange ability", etc. -- that instead of building a reader's interest with a compelling hook, you left me almost playing a game of Mad Libs!

I have no idea what the title means, why this is middle grade, or anything about why I should be interested in Chase or Parker, and so I'm not. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Haha, back to the drawing board then :) Thanks for the feedback everyone! -rs