Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Ms. Martindale,

Please consider my young adult urban fantasy, PRINCE OF CITY NIGHTS, complete at 60,000 words. I love how courteous, professional, and passionate you seem from your online interviews, and I hope my manuscript fits your tastes.

Among the glittering lights and flash advertisements of Shadowglen City, shy seventeen-year-old Tabby Green is cursed with the duty to cleanse human souls of evil. When the government discovers her secret, they kidnap her rebellious younger sister to use as bait. They want her power, and the mayor wants revenge for the murder of his wife--something he’s convinced is Tabby’s fault.

To free her sister, Tabby ventures into the outer city districts and finds more than shadows in the darkness. Special law enforcers march the streets, picking up anyone they deem suspicious and never bringing them back. Street scum hunt for easy targets, looking for more than just a meal. A beast stalks Tabby from the alleyways, stinking of rotten flesh.

With so many obstacles and only one clue to her sister’s whereabouts--follow the beast--desperation hits.

Enter Thief, a charming, well-dressed street crim who seems keen to help. Too keen. The people of Shadowglen are never who they appear to be, and Tabby knows Thief’s hiding something. The more secrets she uncovers in the search for her sister, the more she realizes it’s not the shadows on the outside she should watch out for. It’s the shadows within.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Tabby bobbed a curtsy in her Sweet Lolita dress, all frills and ruffles and lace. The closest late-night shoppers stopped to gawk. She kept her head down and resisted the urge to scuttle into the café behind her.

The pink dress clashed with her mini red plaits, she had sweat patches under her sleeves, and the café had mold on the ceiling.

None of that mattered. Frills and ruffles hooked customers, every time.

She swept her arms towards the café entrance and steadied her breath. “Evening. Anyone want an icy drink?”

It was a hot night. The crowd was tired. She was a shop greeter in a novelty dress.

The onlookers edged forward and she encouraged them with what she hoped was a flirty smile.

But oh, to be home in jeans, sipping on a nutri-drink and adding touches of paint to the newest picture on her bedroom wall. Away from the lights and the noise and the masses of people.

Her gaze snagged on a man. He was leaning against a shop window across the bustling plaza square. There was nothing overly noticeable about him, but his stare raked her dress in a way that made her shudder. His internal shadows billowed like dark clouds before a storm.

Everyone had shadows. His were worse. His needed to be dealt with.


Anonymous said...

I thought your query was very good. Your personalised opening is great. I think you sum up your story nicely, hitting on the major points. My only critique would be that perhaps it's a bit too long. Can you condense it a bit more? Perhaps cut that one sentence paragraph or combine it with the sentence above.Maybe cut the part about Thief. But really, you've done a very good job.

As for the opening, I really liked it. When I read the first line about the dress, I started to think, 'frilly dress, I don't know about this', but then the next lines drew me in when I saw there was more to this girl.By the end, you had me hooked. Great opening.

Jo Hart

Ninja Girl said...

Oh, this is definitely something I would read. Tabby's power to "cleanse human souls of evil" sounds very interesting. I get a bit confused in the sentence where the gov. kidnaps her sister as bait. I assume it's b/c she refuses to use her power for the gov? Anyway, I had to read that a couple times. I'd assumed if she was already using her power, why wouldn't she use it for the government? Also, I was a little confused about Tabby's motivation. What do the government want her to DO with her power? Is she supposed to cleanse everyone, then they'll let her sister go? Regardless, when Thief came on the scene, that's what hooked me. I love the name, the idea of him being "too keen" to help. To me, that's where the query really took off, and b/c it was at the end, it made me eager to read the excerpt--which I loved. The imagery of her in that uncomfortable dress, enticing customers, spotting the shadows in the man across the street, everything was very evocative and intriguing. I wanted to keep reading. This is just my kind of thing. If you clear up what the government is asking her to do/their goal for her (as Tabby's is obviously the retrieval of her sister), I think it'll make the query sing. Wonderful idea, loved the first 250. If I was an agent, I'd ask for more :)

Ninja Girl

Melissa said...

I feel like the query could be more focused. Personally, I'd take out the part about the mayor wanting revenge and tighten the paragraph where you describe the outer city districts.

I'm also curious about Tabby's powers. How do you cleanse a human soul of evil? How'd she get the power? And why would someone want it?

Thinking it over, perhaps that's why the query didn't quite work for me. Why do people want this power?

Finally, I know space is limited, but give me more of a sense of what Shadowglen City is like. Is it in our world? I don't think it is. If I had to guess, I'd say it's a city-state in a modern fantasy universe.

Katrina S. Forest said...

I got a bit confused by this query's opening. When you said she had a duty, I assumed it wasn't a secret. Maybe it was even a duty the government gave her. So when you say later that the government "discovers her secret," it threw me off. I keep trying to ground myself in your world as I read the query, but I can't seem to get a handle on it. The only thing I'm sure about setting-wise is that your ms has the power to remove evil and most people in authority in this world appear to be very evil.

I like the way you set the mood with the first 250 words. The line, "She was a shop greeter in a novelty dress," felt a bit forced, like you were worried the audience might jump to the wrong conclusions if you didn't say it.

If this was a book in a store, I think curiosity would get me turning at least the next few pages to see what's going on. I like stories where the protagonist is already familiar with the world and the audience gradually learns what that world is -- it's a tricky balance to strike between keeping everyone in character without leaving the readers totally confused.

Krista V. said...

By the end of the query, I was definitely interested, but it took me a few paragraphs to settle in. I immediately found myself wondering what exactly Tabby's duty/power entails and who gave her that duty. I would have assumed the government, but they don't seem to find out about her power until later. Also, why does the government want her power? Are they just interested in cleansing the city of evil, making it some kind of utopia?

If it were me, I might find some way to combine those second and third query paragraphs and give us a clearer sense of what Tabby's goal is. Is she just trying to get her sister back? Does she buy into this idea that evil shouldn't exist? And what secrets does she uncover, and how do those relate to her overall purpose?

I liked the excerpt, but kind of like the query, I didn't really get into it until the last couple of paragraphs. Granted, this is just one page, so it's not like you're moving at a snail's pace. I'm just not sure you need as many of those opening details as you have.

Good luck!

Tamara said...

Thanks, everyone, for the great feedback and suggestions. I really appreciate that extra time you've all given me.

Krista, I won a query critique from an agent a few days ago, and now the query's tightened much like you said. Good to know it's across the board! :)

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I think this is all really good, but I was also confused about "cursed with the duty to cleanse human souls of evil." Duty made me think she was working for someone (such as the government). And I'm not sure what it means to cleanse human souls of evil. Does she kill them? I think if you clear that up, it will help a lot.

Gloria Darlene said...

First off, Shadowglen is an awesome name. Awesome. Thief as a name. Also awesome.

The only critique I can give (and I hope this is helpful) is that I don’t quite understand the government and using her power. The motivation behind that is a little vague. Also, I would talk more about what her power is, just maybe a few more words, to let us know if she’s the only one or if there are others like her.

Ok, so that’s two things. But really, I’m very intrigued to see where this is going!!! Great job!!

Taylor Martindale said...

A neat concept, but I find myself confused over the world-building. What world is this? What government is looking for her? Are we in a present-day but alternative U.S.? Give us more indication of what this setting is. Also, the conflict needs to be built upon somewhat. We know that Tabby is trying to find her sister and dangers ensue, but what about the danger posed to her? Finding her sister is only the first step, so give us a clue of how she is going to be affected as the main character. I liked the first page, and it ended on a strong note. I liked that we got some strong images and good voice, and I would keep reading based on this page.
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary