Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Agent:

THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE is a 101,000-word adult fantasy novel with series potential.

The Olympians were supposed to be confined to nineteen-year-old Ava’s textbooks, but it’s hard to believe they aren’t real when Artemis shows up at her house. No less of a shock is the news that the Muses have chosen her to stop Ares on his rampage across the Middle East--and she has to do it fast, before he gains a foothold in the human world. But Ava has no special powers. She could barely handle her home life; defeating the god of war is hardly a skill on her resume.

All Ava has ever wanted is a real home. The Olympians offer her one, and they seem to care about her more than any human ever has. Ava is as unprepared as they come, but she’s willing to fight for them. Learning how to use a sword and ride a pegasus is only step one, but Ares is marching toward Yemen. If she can’t defeat Ares, he’ll destroy both her new-found family and her world. She just isn’t sure how a girl like herself can defeat the god of war--especially when she discovers her selflessness is why the Muses chose her.

Because of its base in mythology, magic, and history, THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE could be described as Shadow and Bone meets American Gods. I’m an intern with Entangled Publishing and a high school English teacher. I have written three short films, each placing first at the Prairie Grass Film Challenge. I earned my B.A. in English writing under award-winning author James Calvin Schaap.

Thank you for your consideration,



After the war, the neighbors would whisper, “We saw how it started, you know--we were there when she was born.” The child’s mother--lovely woman, really--had loved entertaining. But then came the child, and after that, the wasting illness. When the illness left, it took the mother with it, leaving the child--a girl named Ava--the motherless daughter of a red-faced, small-eyed man.

That man never should have had a child. The neighbors all knew it. When they stopped by to say how sorry they were about the mother’s death, he wouldn’t answer the door, nor would he return their phone calls. Most unforgivably, he left the casseroles on the steps until the wild cats ate them. No one was surprised when Ava was sent to live with her mother’s parents.

For a while, the neighbors forgot about her. But one summer evening, six years after the toddler left, a rusty Toyota sputtered to a halt near the house.

Ava, now an eight-year-old child, had been sent back to her father. Her grandparents had died now, too. The girl wasn’t crying, wasn’t screaming. She simply held on to her seatbelt and refused to get out of the car. She clutched a picture frame.


Unknown said...

This sounds really interesting. I'm a fan of mythological stories set in the real world, and tying this into the conflict in the middle east could be an interesting twist.

The last line of the query "She just isn’t sure how a girl like herself can defeat the god of war--especially when she discovers her selflessness is why the Muses chose her." really threw me off. I know it sounds like a nit-picky complaint but the two parts to that sentence don't connect, so it almost makes it look like you are purposely masking something. A little mystery is good, but being vague just leads to confusion. I think, in that instance, just some rephrasing will clear it up, but I feel like that's a really important sentence as it's where the query ends, and I want the query to end on a high note.

The only other thing is, this sounds more like YA to me than adult fantasy. In the query, you consistently refer to the MC as "girl" rather than woman, and she's in search of a home, a place to fit in which is a common YA theme, and then your actual manuscript starts when she's a very young girl. I assume this changes very early on, but maybe at least rework some of your query to make her sound more grown up. That's just my opinion from this short passage, though.

Unknown said...

Your writing style is really unique and lovely. I love the line "the motherless daughter of a red-faced, small-eyed man." Not to take away from its merit, but it reminds me of a Taylor Swift lyric "made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter" Anyhow... not really the point!
In the following paragraph something about "That man" versus "The man" took me out of the voice for a moment (sounded sort of like the way the nosy town gossip would say it rather than the impartial narrator's voice I'm hearing in my head up to that point) but otherwise I was immediately drawn into the story. Had a little bit of an echo of the Harry Potter opening to it.
In the query, one minor issue I had was with the line "was hardly a skill on her resume" because it didn't fit into the YA mold for me. Although it conveys the meaning well, not many teenagers have a resume yet, so it was a detail that detracted for me.
I'd read on!

Kristy Shen said...

Love the opening line in the query!

Your story has nice tone and makes my think of the "Percy Jackson" books.

Love Greek metrology. Very cool.

Deserae McGlothen said...

I'm going to agree that this seems more YA than adult fantasy, but thinking of it as a YA has helped me like this query all the more. I'm always interested in seeing more MG and YA Greek mytho-spin-offs, but what I especially adore about this one is that it seems to be in a FOREIGN SETTING! That's so fun for a Cali girl who's never been farther than the "Welcome to Las Vegas!" sign and back. Not that I'd KNOW or anything...

The last line of the second paragraph in the query definitely needs to be rewritten for clarity, and as is, I'm getting the sense that her "new family" has chosen her to be some sacrificial lamb in this battle. My question is why do a hoard of Olympians need a girl to take down one dude? So he's the god of war... They've got Artemis and Athena! The two of them could wipe him out with a flick of the wrist on a good day, I'd think. So perhaps yeah, we might want to see more on why Ava is "the one." Other than that the query looks good.

The first 250 didn't do much for me. It sounds like a prologue that has a bunch of backstory that will probably be addressed later in the novel. I want to get a feel for Ava because right now I don't know who she is. I know she's unsure, too, but instead of seeing her birth, then six year old, then eight year old her, it might be nice to jump in with present day her if we WILL see these memories addressed at a later time.

Best wishes,

Nazarea Andrews said...

I like the first 250, but the query didn't hook me. There wasn't anything specific about it that I disliked about it, it just didn't grab me. So that's probably a personal taste thing. Good luck! :)

Robin said...

Wondering why it's Adult if she's in school (textbooks in query), but like the idea of Shadow and Bone meets American Gods

The first 250 felt like a distant 3 POV. Is this prologue and you zoom in on Ava in the book? I'm hoping so because I didn't connect with her here.

I loved the line about the dad leaving the casseroles until the wild cats ate them.

Good luck and impressive resume:)

The Agent said...

I think there's some interesting stuff going on in this query.

I like the idea of a more adult, more literary (based on the first page) Olympian story. But I found this query was a little too vague. I wanted to know more about Ava--why does she want a real home? (And why is that desire buried in the second paragraph?) What does her selflessness have to do with the Olympians? What happens? What skills does she learn? Is there a love interest among the Olympians? The query repeats the basic conflict multiple times--Ares coming across the Middle East--and I'd rather see that space used to tell us more about character relationships and Ava's growth into a heroine.

Is this a myth retelling? If so, let me know what myth it's based on, because that will also help fill in some of the gaps in the description.

I think the first page has an interesting, literary voice. Your writing is beautiful. That said, the vagueness of the opening, along with the vagueness of the query, makes me worry we'll never really get a close POV of Ava. But I think that's more an issue with the query than the page. I'd read further to see where the narration and story are going.

Charlie N. Holmberg said...

I really like the idea of Aries marching on the Middle East; that was probably my favorite part of the query. But while I was reading, I kept wondering, “Why Ava?” Why is she is the one the Olympians choose?

For the 250 words, I think it might read better to start right at present day and reveal the woes of Ava’s life bit by bit. I admit I’m not an omniscient-narrator fan, so my views are tainted that way. But you’re definitely setting up for a sympathetic protagonist.