Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Ms. Taylor Martindale:

Fifteen-year-old Angel Morgan has a choice to make--remain human or remain alive.

After an accident leaves her with a partially-robotic brain, Angel doesn't exactly feel human. In fact, she doesn't feel much of anything until one incredible day when her dormant emotions begin flowing back to her.

At first, Angel enjoys her slowly-emerging emotions. But when she's transferred to an all-cyborg school, Angel's databank is not prepared for the frustration and fear that ensue. It's barely been 2.15 days when she intercepts wireless messages about school experiments being conducted on a student--her only friend there. While logic tells Angel it's too dangerous to get involved, her emotions insist that she rescue her friend, even at the risk of her own life. If this is what it means to be human, Angel isn't so sure she wants the job.

UPGRADE (75,000 words) is a complete YA science fiction novel. I am querying you based on your interest in "unique voices" in this genre. I am a Clarion West alumna whose work has appeared in True Confessions, Purpose, and is forthcoming in Highlights for Children. I have also received three Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future Contest. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
M.S.


UPGRADE

Angel's parents were having "the discussion" again. She could tell because the decibels inside the car had risen by 9.5 for the third time. Also, her mother's use of the phrase "too expensive" had signifigantly increased. Angel tried to calculate what factor might have raised the frequency of these arguments. Perhaps she had done something wrong again.

"And what do you get for that money?" her mother asked, throwing her arms up. "Bigger computers."

"You get experts on how cyborgs think, that's what." Angel's father slammed the brakes, almost missing a stop sign. Angel leaned forward with the momentum. It must have been her. Although she'd followed her etiquette protocol flawlessly, that did not always make people happy with her. In the case of her parents, it often had the opposite effect.

"She doesn't need more experts," her mother said. "She needs to socialize with other teens. She can get that anywhere."

"Yeah? Maybe with less than a year left, I don't want to send her just anywhere." Angel's father fell silent as he checked for traffic. Her mother did not wait for him to continue.

"Well, let's try to get Angel's opinion."

"Please don't ask her again. She'll just--"

"Hush." If the interruption upset her father, Angel saw no indication in his facial gestures. Her mother smiled and tried to rotate herself a full 180 degrees, but the seatbelt only allowed her 97.

"Angel, dear, what do you...?"

Person speaking to me--feign interest, Angel thought.

9 comments:

Gina said...

Hi there,

I think you have a great concept here. I'm not so sure about the line, "If this is what it means to be human, Angel isn't so sure she wants the job." Being human isn't really a job, in her case it's more a choice.

I get that she is conflicted between the cut and dry emotionless cyborg part of her and the emotional human, and I think if you change that sentence it will help convey it with a little more oopmh. Hope that helps!

Ru said...

I seriously love this, especially the 250 words.

My immediate response to the query: I am not 100% clear on the stakes -- I love that she says logic tells her it's too dangerous, but that her emotions say to help her friend.

Where I'm unclear is your first line: "remain human or remain alive." My initial thought was that this meant if Angel gives up her robotic half, she'll die (because it's keeping her alive?), but then the third paragraph makes it more clear that she's just in danger. (Unless the first reading is correct?)

I don't know if this gives you any helpful feedback, but I figure I'd offer my immediate reactions to the query so you know how someone who has never read your book takes it.

Tamara said...

Love this concept!

Your query letter is great, but I agree with Ru about the first line. I'd probably just cut it out and start with the next line.

Also, if you could slip in a hint of what would happen if she's caught trying to help her friend, it would have us feel the urgency you're probably hoping for.

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I love your concept and your pages are intriguing. I'm a bit confused about the query though. I think you should start with the bit about cyborg school, which in my opinion, is where the query gets really original and interesting. What are the problems she faces there? Is there a romance? Maybe more info about her only friend (does she not get along with the other cyborgs)? And then can you tell us a bit more about the school experiments and what the stakes are?

Karen Akins said...

I'm not crazy about your first line. Cyborg school is your hook. I'd start there.

Melinda said...

I love this. The premise reminds me a little of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, though the voice/story itself are completely different. I would definitely read on.

I like the first line, but I agree that it needs to be supported/clarified by the rest of your query. I wouldn't change the first line though; I'd just make sure the specific stakes are spelled out in the last paragraph. Maybe just by specifying what she does that risks her life.

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I agree with Melinda. It does remind me of The Adoration of Jenna Fox. If you haven't read it, do. It might give you something to use as a comparable title. That said, the story definitely goes in a different direction, so you're pretty safe that way.

I liked the first page. Especially the use of the numbers. Calculations. That really illustrates the difference in a cyborg mind for me.

Sandra Cormier said...

What a great concept! The protagonist's dilemma is clear, and the opening pages reminded me of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Maybe he's half cyborg!

Great job!

Taylor Martindale said...

I thought this query and first page were fantastic. The query had the right details, built good tension, and set up nicely the pull between machine and emotion. The first page was great too, with strong voice that gave us a really nice picture of the main character and the beginnings of what her family is struggling with. I would absolutely request based on this query.
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary