Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Agent:

Jimmy Holiday never really believed in demons, not even before he was defrocked. Now that his collar is a thing of the past, the last thing he expects is an old friend to beg for his help with an alleged case of possession.

Jimmy heads for his old friend's house--that is, haunted mansion straight out of Flowers in the Attic--to see his little girl. Lucy's ill and looks abused, but Jimmy's not about to fall for the old line: "The demon made her hurt herself." Until a witch he knows is unable to ward the attic room. Until Lucy exhibits every single sign of true possession: speaking in languages she could not know, finding lost objects, and exhibiting strength unusual for her size. Until the choice is get back into harness or Lucy dies.

Jimmy knows the ceremony, but it's belief that matters. And if a demon is using a little girl as a meatsuit, his faith had better be strong enough to kick it back to Hell. Otherwise, he might damn them both.

SORROW’S POINT is a 75,500 word Urban Fantasy.

In February 2010, my short story, “Papap’s Teeth” was published by Dailey Swan Publishing.

Thank you for your time and consideration,




Sheriff O’Dell popped his head out of his office. His wavy white hair seemed like a halo to Mable.

“Whatcha need, Mable?”

Mable patted her coiffed brown hair and got up from her desk. She smoothed her skirt over her hips that were a little too large for her frame. Although she didn’t think she looked all that bad, she couldn’t help be feel subconscious around the sheriff. She walked into his office and handed him a pink message slip.

“Doris McClusky’s been calling all afternoon,” she said. “Guess there’s a disturbance up at Blackmoor.”

The good sheriff took the slip and thought for a moment. “Old Doris calls about once a week about Blackmoor.”

Mable put her hands on her hips. “Well, Doris says this time is different. She says she heard a scream.”

O’Dell sighed. “Guess I better mozy on out there.”

“Guess you better,” she said.


O’Dell drove up the hill towards Blackmoor. What was left of his hair was blowing in the wind. It was just too d*** hot to have the windows up. With the extra weight he’d put on over the last few years, summer seemed hotter somehow, but it’d been an unusually hot summer. He’d lost count the amount of times he had to yell at kids for messing with the fire hydrants.

O’Dell pulled into the drive of Blackmoor and parked the car. He looked up at the monstrosity before getting out of the car.


Janice Sperry said...

Your query talks about Jimmy but your first page is the sheriff. Is he Jimmy? I'm a little confused. In queries, I'd avoid terms like the last thing he expects. Of course it's the last thing he expects. If he expected it, the story would be boring. Your query could use a little tightening, but it's good otherwise. Your plot is solid and you do a great job showing the stakes and the mc's goal.

It's your first pages that left me confused. I think you could find a better place to start. The whole sheriff's office and a lady named Mabel feels cliche to me. I wanted to meet Jimmy. He sounds like an interesting character.

Tory Michaels said...

I have to agree with the first person's comment about being a little confused with the disconnect. My first thought (and it may be entirely wrong) is either the excerpt is being used to show how the house got the reputation for being haunted, or the entire book takes place in 1950.

If the latter impression is correct, the reference to Flowers in the Attic (which made me smile, btw) is probably a bit anachronistic.

I like the voice that comes through in your query and would probably read a few more pages to see if this is a prologue or how you connect the story to the query.

Elaine said...

What a great idea for a book. Here are my suggestions:
I think a couple of your name choices-Mable and Jimmy Holiday-almost seem stereotypical. Flowers in the Attic didn't work as a reference for me. Maybe I'm not familiar with the terminology, but "Until a witch he knows is unable to ward" and "get back into harness" didn't make sense to me. If you're going to use the word "damn" in the query, you might as well spell it out in the first page rather than using the asterisks. I think Mable would feel "self conscious" rather than "subconscious" about her looks. Maybe too much hair description for a first page? I agree with the other commenters that it might be nice to start with Jimmy and come back to this.
Overall, I thought this was a very cool premise and would like to meet your MC. Best of luck!

Krista V. said...

I think your concept is fantastic. I especially love the last pitch paragraph in your query, the one about Jimmy's dilemma. Sounds like he's going to have to deal with some serious emotional conflict, and this is an interesting way to address the issue of faith.

I did think the sentence fragments at the end of the second paragraph were kind of jerky and broke up the flow a little. Also, I didn't understand what you mean by "get back into harness." Is that some kind of slang term about retaking his priestly vows?

As for the sample page, I, too, didn't like the fact that we didn't start with Jimmy. I already felt really invested in him as a character after reading the query, so it was jarring to start with someone else. I assumed Blackmoor was the old friend's house you mentioned in the query and that you're giving us some back story on it, but the mansion is a lot less interesting to me than Jimmy himself.

Good luck with this!

The Agent said...

Right off the bat, I have a question: Why does Jimmy believe in witches, but not in demons? I would think belief in one would at least lend some credulity to the other.

Two pet peeves of mine in queries are cliched phrases and overly fanciful character names. Take "The last thing he/she expects is..." When you think about it, this over-used phrase doesn't even make much sense. Why would the character be expecting this thing at all? And, as cool a name as "Jimmy Holiday" is, I have a hard time believing that anyone--much less a onetime priest--would have it on their birth certificate. With a name like that, your protagonist sounds more like a card sharp or a used-appliance salesman than a burned-out clergyman.

On the other hand, I do like your voice, e.g., the reference to Flowers in the Attic and your use of the word "meatsuit." It's chilling, vivid, and irreverent. If you can emphasize your unique narrative tone more in the query, it will get a lot more hits.

Your opening paragraphs need a bit more tension added to them. The characters are so laconic about the disturbance at Blackmoor that they are literally mozying. Add some urgency here to draw your reader in. You might have a great latter-day exorcism story here, but I'm not seeing it yet in your initial pitch. Keep at it!