Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Agent,

Nineteen-year-old Warren King has been protecting his brother from bullies ever since he decided to wear a top hat to the third grade. So when his brother is kidnapped, Warren heads out to bust some faces. But Warren didn’t expect the bully to be the King of the Texas Empire. Warren learns that he and his brother are some of the last members of the Texas royal family, in other words, the descendants of some seriously bad dudes. Now the new King is hunting down his relatives before the true heir decides to say, “Hey man, you’re in my seat."

Warren must save his brother and avoid capture himself all while dealing with a supernatural energy that gives him access to his ancestors’ violent memories. This energy doesn’t add to his charm when he meets the first girl that ever made him want to do things like iron creases in his pants. She’s ready to help him take on the King, but since she’s an anti-monarchy activist dating the son of the President of the United States, he’s not sure if she’s going to kiss him or shoot him. Gone are the days when choosing a major was a big deal. Now he must embark into a West that stayed wild and choose to be King, follow a King, or die before he can retire his fake ID.

THE CHARGE is a 75,000 word upper young adult science fiction novel set in an alternate timeline where a dictator took over the Republic of Texas in 1836 and built his own empire in the West. I am a member of the Texas Writer’s Guild, She Writes, and YaLitChat and have been published in small press literary magazines such as Nerve Cowboy.



Warren’s mother had taped his old Star Wars comforter over the patio door of their apartment. He didn’t pause too long to wonder why. His mother suffered from what his brother called, “severe eccentricity,” and blacking out the windows with old sheets for no obvious reason wasn’t out of character. All in all, she had done better than he had expected in her first year with both of her sons out of the house. Just in case that didn’t last, Warren always came back home when she asked him too. But if she had called him because she had forgotten how to use the dishwasher again, he was heading right back to campus to enjoy the day after finals the way it was intended to be enjoyed--drunk and poolside.

He wiped his feet like he had been taught even though their revolting brown carpeting didn’t show much. He kind of missed the crappiness of their apartment, although he didn’t know why because his new apartment in Eugene was equally as crappy. Still, there was something about the smell of the pine trees in the courtyard and apartment pool chlorine that let Warren know that he was home.

His mother stood in their kitchen next to their yellow 1980s stove, peeling fake wood countertops, and a refrigerator that always looked too small next to Warren and his other super-tall family members. She held a box of uncooked spaghetti and didn’t respond to his presence right away.


Kelley Lynn said...

I really like this concept though I was slightly thrown by the dictator took over Texas in 1836. It made me wonder if we were in 1836 or the present. I believe we're in the present though, right?

I love the voice. I laughed out loud at the "Hey man, you're in my seat." part. So funny.

And the voice continued into the first 250 words. I'm not sure you have to say 'upper young adult' or 'alternative timeline'. YA Science Fiction where a dictator took over the Republic of Texas would work just fine I think.

Good luck!

An Agent Intern said...

This query is fantastic, but I wanted something to happen in the first 250 words. I'd keep reading.

Anonymous said...

The agent intern loves your query, and I would definitely take that opinion over mine, but I do have a couple of comments anyway.
I also think your query is really good. In the very first sentence though, I had a moment of pronoun confusion. Not sure if Warren or his brother wore the top hat to school, though I'm guessing it's the brother.
Love this line, "...the first girl that ever made him want to do things like iron creases in his pants." So clever and unexpected, and that is certainly not the only witty surprise in your query. I was a little thrown by "choosing a major" since that is the first mention of anything college-related, but I caught on soon enough. "Now he must embark..." is a wonderful conclusion, summarizing the whole conflict so cleverly.
Although I thought your query was very well done, it doesn't sound particularly like something I would want to read. (Just not my cup of tea.) However I was really drawn in by your first 250! I think the writing is beautiful and the characters and atmosphere you've created in this scene really intrigue me. Wow.

Elaine said...

Awesome query. I'd actually start out with your third paragraph in this case "THE CHARGE is..." because I found myself skipping to it to find out why we had a Texas Empire. I think it's easier to just enjoy and appreicate your two-paragraph synopsis if we know that background info. I love that the voice of the query seems to be consistent with the voice of the MC.
I thought the first 250 were strong, but maybe not as strong as the query. Too many adjectives? This sentence seemed a little confusing: "But if she had called him because she had forgotten how to use the dishwasher again, he was heading right back to campus to enjoy the day after finals the way it was intended to be enjoyed--drunk and poolside." I had to read it a couple of times to figure out what you were actually saying.
Great work! Good luck with this!

Ambiguous_A said...

I agree I had some pronoun confusion in that first line, and I wish you'd mentioned the "alternate timeline" earlier, but other than that it's a stellar query. Great voice all around. I did lose interest though in the 250. I just wish something had happened aside from Warren walking inside the apartment. I do love the Star Wars comforter taped over the patio door, though.

Sharon Bayliss said...

Hello all!

Thank you so much for your feedback. It is very helpful.

Agent Intern - Just the word "fantastic" will keep me smiling for a week. Thanks for that.

You all made great points, especially about the 1st 250 words. I had it previously set up where the conflict was introduced in the first 250, but got feedback that the reader was grounded enough in the setting. So I added more detail, pushing the conflict about a 100 words out of the first 250. I didn't really think about that until you brought it up.

Thanks all! Good luck in the contest.

The Agent said...

The voice in your query and opening paragraphs is great! That said, I think the world building in your query could be more focused.

I do love a good alternate history, and you've certainly set up an original one. There is some implied causality in the first paragraph, however, that isn't currently working: How does Warren's discovery that his brother's bully lead him to realize that he is a scion of the Texas royal family? It should be an easy fix, just a quick additional line... but it will make a world of difference in strengthening your hook.

Another complication is that you open a whole can of subplot worms with your casual reference to the "supernatural energy" that gives Warren access to his predecessors' memories. Now, you don't want to add too much to the query's body -- it's a good length now -- but I could use at least another sentence or two further explaining this energy, or you might consider cutting mention of it from the query entirely. Also, this element reads more like fantasy than science fiction. (Or is the simple fact that this is alternate history what makes THE CHARGE a sci-fi tale?)

It's hard to judge the opening paragraphs, because certainly not much has happened yet, but you're doing a fine job of setting the scene before introducing all your speculative elements. I would read on to see how you introduce your alternate world.