Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Awesome Agent,

Jumping off a bridge was supposed to kill Blair. Unfortunately, the grim reaper won't take him.

Now, he's trapped on an island in the river Styx, where the souls of comatose people hover between life and death. Everyone makes a choice: cross with the reaper to death, or sail back to life and wake up. Except Blair. Blair can't choose, because the rules are special for suicides.

Suicides can't cross. They can't leave. When their comatose bodies die, they don't go to the afterlife. They wind up in the Styx--lost. Damned. For eternity.

So when a lost soul named Yuki tells him she knows a way for him to wake up, Blair seizes the opportunity. But there's a catch. Yuki wants him to take her with him--and she's been dead for more than fifteen years. Springing a lost soul from the Styx doesn't just mean bending the rules--it means shattering the rules, dueling the grim reaper, upending the very balance of life and death itself, all before his comatose body draws its final breath.

If he succeeds, he'll give her the greatest prize of all: her life. If he loses, he'll forfeit the only thing he hasn't lost already: his soul.

ISLE IN THE SEA OF GHOSTS is a YA contemporary/supernatural story that will appeal to readers of Libba Bray's GOING BOVINE or Michael Thomas Ford's SUICIDE NOTES. It is complete at 68,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Blair Samuel Sommers didn't plan his fatal leap.

Sixteen hours earlier, he was about as far from death as he had ever been, having a fairly normal day at his fairly normal job, which was a part-time gig at an ice cream shop. A pack of giggly tween girls held up the line of customers, requesting their sixth flavor sample. Blair took a wooden taster spoon and scooped up a bite-sized portion of rocky road.

"Utinam coniurati te foro interficiant.*" He handed the spoon to the blonde leader.

Above the register hung a framed sign: Clamo, clamatis, omnes clamamus pro glace lactis. It translated to "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream." The ice cream shop's owner had gotten it on eBay, and Blair had initially griped about having to explain its meaning to each and every customer--until it had given him the idea to use more colorful Latin phrases while serving frozen desserts. He was taking a Latin class in his junior year of high school, so he considered it a good faith effort to practice.

"What did you just say?" asked the blonde.

"Enjoy your ice cream," he replied sweetly.

She popped the taster spoon into her mouth and then handed it back to him. It stuck to his plastic glove in a salivatory mixture of caramel and marshmallow. Frowning, he tossed it out and his plastic glove with it. All right, girls. We have a miniature cute plastic trash can for that. You've killed a small sapling, and I've got a line.

*May conspirators assassinate you at the mall.


Delia said...

Hi Krista! I like this. It's an interesting concept, but I'm left with a few questions. The biggest is, if Yuki knows a way back, why doesn't she take it herself? I'm sure it's explained in the book, but I don't think it would hurt to put it in the query.

At the beginning of the query, you say the grim reaper won't take him and I immediately wonder why. I think it would serve you better to move the explanation (he's a suicide) closer to the original statement.

Oh also, there's a latin word for mall? And is the footnote thing something that's continued throughout the book, or just the once? Or did you just do that for our benefit? If it's a continued thing, nice. I like how you're playing with form. If not, you might reconsider whether you can work it into the text.

I really do like the tone you've set, with the bored, condescendingly aloof kid. He seems far from the type who'd pitch himself off a bridge, which bears out your first line. Very nice.

Best of luck!

Delia said...

Oops. I meant to say Hi, GBS! How embarrassing. Sorry, GBS!

SStokes said...

Hi GBS! I really like this, and unfortunately don't have anything constructive to add. To me you do a nice job of setting up the plot and the stakes, and the concept feels like on I haven't seen before. Your first 250 do a nice job of introducing me to your character, and your opening line leaves me curious to know what exactly happens to lead to his "fatal leap." Nice job.

Cminor said...

I really like that query, it sparks interest and tells a lot without giving away too much. I would read the novel.

CallMeKarma said...

Definitely intrigued! Query reads well, but think it would benefit if tighter. I agree with Delia - I think it would flow better if you changed the second line of the query to something like 'Unfortunately, the grim reaper won't take him, because there are different rules for suicides.'

And I'm also confused why Yuki can't leave if she knows a it because she's been dead for so long? Was she also a suicide?

I would definitely have kept reading past the 250 words - only thing that stopped me was the Latin phrase when he hands her the ice cream. For a second I thought we were in some alternate world with a language other than English, and that thought took me out of your story.

Robin said...

I read this query on WriteOnCon this week:) I'm still intrigued.

Reading the 1st page though I got bogged down in the Latin (and I took 4 years in HS-not that I remember it 15 years later) Also, I have an ice cream counter scene in my 1st chapter with HS girls.

Loved the gooey spoon coming back to him with saliva, caramel and marshmallow:)

Good Luck!

Jennifer Malone said...

Very good voice in the 250. The concept is really interesting- I immediately thought of the movie What Dreams May Come, with Robin Williams traveling to the underworld to save his wife after her suicide. I was a little confused after reading in the query that he committed suicide to then get to the first line of the MS, which states that his death wasn't planned. I'm sure it gets explained as the story goes on, but it threw me a little. I also had a question within the query about his motives for going back- perhaps life in the in-between realm is so miserable that anything would be better, but didn't he just commit suicide to escape his life. Has he suddenly realized he didn't have it so bad? I picture someone who could do such a thing as being completely despondent and ambivalent about the life they chose to give up. Again, I'm sure it gets explained in the story but it might help to add a bit about it in the query so we see why he's suddenly had such a change of heart about living.... I'm intrigued though!!!

Kristy Shen said...

Wow! I love everything about this. The concept, the characterization, the high stakes, the writing.

There's no doubt in my mind I'd read on. Probably into the night and 'till dawn...

The scene you depicted in your 250 words is really strong and sticks in my mind.

Hats off to you, my friend, hats off. :)

A.J. Locke said...

I really like your concept, and I also wondered why Yuki knows a way but can't go herself, but I'm sure it's explained in your book.

Your opening scene was good, but the Latin did stumble me a little, maybe instead of writing the "I scream..." phrase out in Latin you can just mention that there's a Latin sign that says "I scream, you sceam..." that way there's only one Latin phrase in the opening. But you know, that's kinda nitpicky and I did like the scene =)

Kristina said...

I love the premise. Very intriguing and I love Greek and Roman mythology. I think you might just want to explain why Blair goes to the Underworld and not Purgatory, but I may be too much of a nerd ;-) I was also wondering if there is a love story going on between Blair and Yuki and if there is then I would make it more clear as that's a selling point. I also really like the Latin quotes at the beginning (again, because I am a nerd) but I worry that it might be a little off-putting for a teen right on the first page. Anyway, great job!

Meredith said...

Loved this at WriteOnCon! Good luck!

Deserae McGlothen said...

I had no particular qualms with the query or first 250. Well a few really nitpicky ones that I don't think are going to make or break the submission. I find Blair's predicament to be interesting but haven't quite connected to him yet as a character. I'd read on to get more of a feel for him and to understand what pushed him over the edge.

Warm wishes, Author,

Nazarea Andrews said...

I like the concept! I want to know why he kills himself, and I'd love to keep reading--your first 250 were great. I don't actually have any feedback on the query, I thought it was really good.
Best of luck! :)

Kate Brauning said...

The query made sense to me- good job explaining what sounds like a complex story. The stakes are clear as well. I'm actually pretty excited about a story like that- but the ice cream scene was almost a let-down after the query. It was normal and everyday enough that I just wasn't interested. The writing was competent and I had no problem with it- I just wasn't pulled onward. Can you find a way to add more tension and hook in that first page? Then I'd totally read more.

The Agent said...

I found myself confused by this query. It took me two readings of the query to understand that Blair wasn't dead when he woke up in the Styx. There's a lot that needs to be explained--the reaper, Blair's suicide, why he can't choose to go back. And since the urgency comes from his coma, I'd like it to be made clearer that he's not dead yet. I also wanted to know more about Blair. Why did he jump? Especially after I read the first page, and it became clear this wasn't intentional suicide, I found the query confusing.

I also didn't have any emotional connection to Yuki--she seemed more creepy than anything--so it wasn't entirely clear to me why Blair would risk everything for her.

As with the other afterlife queries we've seen this week, I worry this is too static. An island in the Styx doesn't give a lot of room for action. Is there a wider underworld Blair will explore? Does he go back to the real world? You've done a good job explaining the premise and the setting you have, but I need to see more to be convinced that this setting is an interesting place where I'd want to spend an entire book.

I liked the first page a lot, although it felt like part of another book. I wanted to learn more about this snarky, Latin-quoting boy--I'm just not sure I want to learn about it after his death!

Charlie Holmberg said...

Oh, I really like the twist of Yuki in the premise—she’s been dead 15 years. I like the ideas here. I think the query itself could be a little more succinct and to the point. Love the title.

Interesting to use Latin in your story; makes me wonder if it will be important later, or if Blair is just a quirky sort of guy. I’m interested to know why he jumps if it wasn’t planned, so I would keep reading for that. ;)

G.B. Skye said...

Thanks so much for the feedback, Agent! It's really helpful to know what seems confusing and what information is missing that would make the premise clearer. :-) Thank you for the kind remarks on the opening page, too!

And thank you everyone else for the additional feedback! It's been really great. I appreciate it! Y'all are awesome!