Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for LIFE AFTER LILIES, a women’s fiction manuscript complete at 70,000 words.

Dee Adams never gave second chances much thought…until she became a time-traveling dead woman.

Before she landed on cancer’s hit list, Dee was a commitment-challenged artist who wished her designs lived on gallery walls rather than cereal boxes. Also, she wished her best friends didn’t have to carry on without her, that her ex hadn’t moved on (with someone better), that she’d done more with her nearly 40 years, and that the (d***) cancer had picked someone else.

But for Dee, death is only the beginning. Forced into a play by play of her former life, she quickly learns things are not always as they seem. As she travels between her past and the present she’s no longer a part of, the life she knew begins to unravel: there are dark secrets buried inside her lifelong friendships; she’s shocked by her parents’ betrayal with her one true love; she never should have trusted that medicine woman’s prediction; and she can only blame herself for life's bitter disappointments. With regrets building, friendships failing, and no way to fix any of it from her posthumous perch, she’s left to wonder: Is it ever too late for second chances?

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Lilies. I wasn’t sure I could forgive my mother for this.

I can’t believe she ordered the d*** lilies.

The most unoriginal funeral flower and they were everywhere: on my coffin, in bouquets at each pew and in a giant wreath that encircled a practically life-sized photo of me with a closed-mouth smile. I didn’t remember the photo being taken and as I peered more closely, I had to admit it looked nothing like me. Aside from the crow’s feet that had appeared the day I turned thirty-five. Was that only five years ago? How depressing this was how I would be remembered: two-dimensional and toothless, immortalized in a lily life preserver.

As best as I could figure, I’d been dead about four days. Breast cancer. I’d been disappointed the grim reaper wasn’t arriving thanks to something more exotic, or at least harder to pronounce. Like lieyosarcoma or malignant meningioma. And I was so over the token ribbons plastered on everything from workout socks to concrete trucks. Pastel pink had no business in battle.

I had no clue where I’d been for the last four days, or what came next. But it didn’t matter. I knew my funeral was merely a stopover. I was as dead as those lilies would be by tomorrow, once the oasis dried up.

The flowers’ sickly sweet smell was getting to me, making it hard to think about anything else. Could I ever use a nap, I thought. Being dead was exhausting.


Kristy Shen said...

Nice opening line!

After reading the query, I'm a little confused about why she can time-travel. Is it because of the cancer? (kind of like the disease in "Time Traveler's Wife?")

I think the 250 words could use a bit more tension and suspense (highly based on taste so you don't have to agree :)) but I like the characterization. Nicely done!

Deserae McGlothen said...

The query has a lot of hits and misses for me. I love the voice. I love the title. I love the little phrases that let me know exactly who Dee is before I even meet her ("Before she landed on cancer's hit list..." "she wished...that the cancer had picked on someone else..."). Usually I don't like to see cursing in the query, but I actually liked this because it's like Dee's word. And if I didn't curse, personally, I would've gladly quoted that the way it was intended.

But as Kristy said, the "time-traveling" thing had me thinking of actual sci-fi time travel. What this feels like is the Scrooge kind of time travel. I don't know what to call that, but it's a pretty interesting concept that you get to look back on your past achievements, failures, loves, mistakes before moving on. So I'd word that differently. The "As she travels..." sentence seems long and there's a lot going on there. Perhaps break it up? I wouldn't use semi-colons there--- just periods.

But I'd definitely read on from the query and read on I did. I absolutely loved the first 250 and wanted to read more because Dee seems absolutely amazing. I love her voice, her perspective, her PRESENCE. And that's saying something. Seeing how she's dead.

Best wishes, Author,

Aimee L. Salter said...

See, this one's funny because the query didn't 'hook' me, per se. It was interesting, but I wasn't really clear on how anyone could get a second chance if they were dead and unable to be a part of the present.

BUT, I love the voice in the 250 words. That hooked me on it's own. If it was a book I would have kept reading. So... that's a WIN, I guess?

Leslie said...

You had me at "second chances" Haha. If I could wish for anything, it would be second chances! The time travel idea wasn't really an issue for me, I guess. I figured it would come out in the book, and to be honest, I sort of like having to think and figure things out when I read. It's part of what I love about reading.

I really liked the first 250. It's how I imagine I would be looking in on my funeral. :)

I also really like women's fiction stories, so maybe I'm on board because I'm your target audience.

Anyway, I liked it. I would read on. Good job!


CallMeKarma said...

Thank you SO much everyone for the great feedback, especially around the query confusion. I'm going to take another go at it (rendition 153 - ha!)and try to clarify this isn't sci-fi travel. It's more Scrooge - an opportunity to understand, learn and accept past mistakes etc.
Glad to hear the voice resonates - I'm a 9-year cancer survivor, so much of what Dee goes through is based on my own experiences.
Thanks again!

Nazarea Andrews said...

I'm not sold on the query. I feel like the first summary paragraph is backstory since its about her life and she's dead.
I did like your opening, although I'm not a huge fan of women's fiction, you start out nicely. Good luck!!

The Agent said...

I found this query confusing. I can tell you're trying to inject a lot of voice into it--and I love the voice in the first page, which is very funny--but the story is complicated enough that I found the voice got in the way. I found myself wishing for a slightly simpler explanation that would make it clear what was going on.

That said, my reaction to this query was a lot like my reaction to #1: I'm not crazy, personally, about afterlife stories, and when an entire story is told in flashback I worry that the plot will feel too static. In her time-travelling, can Dee change anything? If not, what's the point of seeing it again? If she can change things, I'd like to see that explained a little more in the query. Does she have an afterlife romance? What relationships are important to her after death? Because the story begins with her death, the important thing for the reader is what happens and how she changes after that--the flashbacks have to support her afterlife character arc. That probably happens in your manuscript, but I'd like to see more of it in the query.

But I did love the voice in the first page. The discussion of the lilies was really, really funny. I think this story could work with that strong voice, but again--unless the query draws me in with the concept, I'm not likely to ever get to the pages.

CallMeKarma said...

Excellent feedback, thank you. I am putting my query on the chopping block and will start fresh. Of course, right now I have a blank page in front of me : )

Thank you Krista for hosting, and thank you mystery agent for your thoughtful questions and comments!