Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Ms. Testerman:

I'm excited to query the agent of both Ransom Riggs and Maureen Johnson. Your list is a wonderful mix of contemporary, suspense and fantasy and I hope SAVING ANDROMEDA, an 85,000-word YA contemporary mystery based on a true story, would be a fit.

On the day Emma Hudson graduates from high school, a mysterious note leads to three shocking revelations: Emma was adopted. Her biological father is internationally famous rocker, Michael Stryker. And her birth mother is convicted killer Andromeda Bain, who has sent Emma a lifetime's worth of letters from prison.

Emma ditches her summer job to meet her parents and track down her roots. As she travels from her home in southeast Alaska to California and Nova Scotia, Emma discovers a family tree loaded with unknown relatives, hidden relationships and simmering feuds. Andromeda's letters reveal her passionate romance with Michael and raise questions about her murder confession nineteen years ago. Emma's hunt to discover who Andromeda was really protecting clashes with her new family, who'd prefer to sweep these secrets under the braided kitchen rug. Finding the truth is as elusive as filling a jar with fog, and the real killer is watching Emma's every move.

My family comes from Nova Scotia, where secrets shroud and family trees tangle. A second cousin told me the story of this murder, which occurred in 1960s Nova Scotia. Rumors along the shore hinted that the lights we saw at the cottage down the road were the ghost of the murdered man. I hope SAVING ANDROMEDA reflects some of this intrigue. For thirteen years, I was a journalist for papers in Minnesota, Washington, and the Anchorage Daily News. I'm now a teacher and co-host a news blog covering my small Alaskan town.

The first 250 words are below. Thanks for reading,



I think I knew long before discovering the letters that my real name wasn’t actually Emma Hudson.

There were the repeat dreams of answering to a different name, of looking in a mirror and seeing someone else’s face. For years, I’d dreamt of drowning, struggling to breathe in a body that wasn’t mine, of wandering through my house to find room after room hidden under floor boards or in closets that unfolded like paper dolls.

I just figured they were the normal dreams of a teenager. If you’d asked me who I was in the weeks leading up to high school graduation, my answer would’ve been a list: basketball player, high school senior, daughter of Jud and Claire, resident of Resurrection, Alaska and Sam’s girlfriend.

The problem was, only some of that was true.

The mystery note came in the mail the week of final exams, along with a pile of late college brochures and other junk I’d been getting since my junior year. Mom put it all on my desk but it wasn’t until graduation day that I had time to sort through it.

The envelope looked like the others with my name written in neat handwriting across the front. I opened the flap and a piece of folded paper slipped out.

Ask your mother about Andromeda. Open the green chest in the basement. It’s yours.

It wasn’t signed. There was no return address.


Mint Juleps 'n Muddin' said...

Very intriguing.

Vicki Tremper said...

The excerpt is creepy and intriguing, and I love the real story hints you give us in the query.

Good luck!

Kelley Lynn said...

This story is totally intriguing. (And I'm biased towards the main character's name as it happens to be mine as well :))

A few things:

I'd move the 'sales pitch' to the end. It was a little wordy and it's always nice to jump right into the query.

The 'lifetime worth of letters' confused me because it sounds as though she's gotten them throughout her life. But you said that she didn't know about them until graduation...

I totally loved the first 250 words. I'd definitely keep reading.

Well done!

K. L. Hallam said...

True ghost stories, rockers and murder...what's not to like. I want to open the green chest in the basement now.
looking forward to reading more...soon. ;)

Stephanie Diaz said...

The story concept definitely got my attention. The only thing I'd suggest changing in the query is moving your initial paragraph to the end of the summary section. Also, maybe put "Find the truth is as elsuive..." on its own line, so the cliffhanger packs more punch.

The first 250 words make me wanna keep reading. Good job, and good luck :)

Write Life said...

I love that you brought a true story into this.
Will pop back after work to take another look.

Unknown said...

Intriguing. I'd definitely keep reading. I actually saw this page over at MSFV, and I'm glad I got to read the query and get a better idea what it's about.

Write Life said...

Hi! I believe you're over on my site, Write Escape, participating in logline crits, so I was very happy to see an excerpt. Look I love the idea of this, and the fact that it came from your cousin telling you about this story.
I love the idea. The only thing I wondered about was the note at the end. I almost expected this would have happened when she'd been doing a bit of digging around, trying to find out a bit more about her mother, and then the note arrives. Just a thought, but whatever reason, I really wanted to see her sneaking around, doing her own bit of digging first. Great job!

Hope Roberson said...

I thought this was excellent! I liked the crazy intermingled background and am curious how it's all going to fit together. I would keep reading, great job!

Kate Schafer Testerman said...

Ooooh, I like this! I see a lot of manuscripts about teens searching for the truth about who they are, but this one has a definite hook that's unique, and the "true story" aspect is a great marketing angle.

In terms of the sample, great opening line, though I'm less interested in dreams, and I'm confused about what you mean in saying "the envelope looked like the others" -- is this a reference to all the other letters you refer to in the query, or are you saying it looks like all the junk mail -- in which case, would it really with a handwritten address?

But that's nitpicky. This would definitely compel me to read more.

Kate Schafer Testerman said...

I should add -- though you mention ghosts haunting the shore in the part about this being based on a true story, I'm crossing my fingers that there's nothing paranormal about this.

Melodie Wright said...

Thanks all for your comments! I was dithering over removing the first graph down to "If you asked me..." to have my first hook be "but only some of that was true." And I need to delete the handwritten mention on the envelope - none of my betas caught that and neither did I.
And no paranormal in this story. :)

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Oh, a very worthy winner! I loved the phrase "like paper dolls." And such an intriguing premise. It's hard to define what good writing is, but I always know it when I see it. This looks great!

Hope Roberson said...

Congratulations and good luck!!