Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Melissa,

I see you're specifically looking for YA magical realism. As such, I think you may find interest in my YA magical realism novel, THE RIDDLE OF LEGEND, which is based around a legend I grew up hearing, and is set in the forest named for that same legend.

The legend says no one spends a night in Tate’s Hell and comes out alive--but seventeen-year-old Delia Ray and her best friends are going to be the first.

With enough supplies packed to last a week, Delia and her friends are going to celebrate the end of high school by facing the legend of Tate’s Hell. This trip is exactly what Delia needs to get her mind off her feelings for Keler, and to finally confess the secret that she’s been keeping from everyone: she is dying.

But the discovery of a waterfall inside the forest changes everything.

Delia starts seeing and hearing things that no one else can see. Then, her group starts attacking each other in the nighttime, only to have no memory of it in the morning. When they try to leave the forest, they can’t get out--every path they take leads them straight back to the waterfall.

Maybe Delia’s nonsensical hallucinations are the key to saving everyone. But she has to solve the riddle before it’s too late because whatever is trapping them there has no intention of letting them out alive.

I am a member of YALitChat and SCBWI. I also blog at

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Six weeks to live. Brain tumor. Inoperable. The words can’t be real.

I can’t be facing the same tumor that killed my mom.

College starts in eight weeks, and I won’t be alive.

My little sister will have lost her mother and sister both to cancer.

This isn’t happening.

How will I tell my friends?

A flash of movement and a whimper in the corner of the changing room has me whirling around to see who could have snuck in. But no one is there. I blink and rub my hands across my face. It must have been a trick of the light.

Maybe my brain is already failing.

Dad is at the door in an instant, guiding me by the shoulders down the hall toward the elevator. Toward what little life I have left.

The murals on the walls that seemed cute and cheerful before now have a darker tinge. The teddy bear’s gaze is somehow foreboding, where before it was delighted.

That sensation of being watched follows me. Maybe people can sense that I’m dying. They all see a dead girl walking. Or maybe it’s my imagination.

When Dad and I reach the elevator, he presses the button while keeping one hand on my shoulder. It dings a moment later, the doors swishing open to reveal one of the last people I want to face right now: Blair.
We both freeze. In this moment it doesn’t matter that we’ve been best friends our whole lives, because I wish she’d disappear.


ChunkyMonkey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenna Lehne said...

LOVE your query.

The stakes are high and your log line is awesome. I love that this is a legend you grew up hearing. I already believe that Tate's Hell is the last place I'd want to be.

The sentence, "Then, her group.." took me a few passes before I understood it.

I love the voice in the first 250. I was instantly hooked. The mural/teddy part was my favorite.

Now i'm crossing my fingers that this waterfall has healing powers and Delia will pull through.

If I were an agent, and I SO wish I was right about now, I'd be requesting this in a heart beat.


Anonymous said...

This query drew me in. The stakes are clear and I love that it is based on a real legend. Too cool!!

Your first 250 had strong voice but I worried that your opening was a little too generic. I did love the voice so I'd keep reading even though it felt a little overdone to me.

Good luck in the contest!

Entry #29

Amy W said...

I read the 250 words first. I really like how you give the reader a sense of her age and her upcoming challenge. (Secretly hoping she is cured from the forest.)

So when Blair comes to visit her in the hospital...doesn't she know that Delia is dying? You mention in your query that Delia has kept her cancer a secret from her friends.

Really like the voice. Nice job.
A.W. #19

Anonymous said...

I'd move the first paragraph of the query to the end, if you need it at all. Start right in with "The legend says..." That paragraph is a great hook.

Your first 250 words are great.

E.L.S. #25 said...

Solid query here and your logline is excellent!

I love the idea your story is based off a real legend - it screams Blair Witch to me, which right there, would have me reading on without hesitation.

Your opening / logline is excellent and does a great job summing up what we're about to face. And then you through in the hook that she's dying, which ups the ante.

Your last paragraph could be tweaked slightly, to add in more suspense - suggestion:

"Maybe Delia's nonsensical hallucinations are the key to saving everyone. But she has to solve the riddle before it's too late...because whatever's trapping them there? It has no intention of letting them out alive."

Otherwise, solid query letter!

250 Submit:

Immediately, you draw me in. Inoperable brain cancer - the same thing that killed her mom, and now she's facing it, too.

I was a little confused on why her BFF Blair shows up - but I'm sure that gets explained on the next page / a little further in, so it doesn't bother me.

Net/net: your voice is great and your premise is definitely intriguing. I'd for sure read on and would request more pages based on what I've seen here.

Best of luck in the contest!

S.M. #12 said...

I loved this query!! It's original and exciting. I especially enjoy that it's based on a legend you're so familiar with.

However, I would start the query with "Legend says no one..." because it's such a strong hook. I'd add the part about how you relate to this legend toward the end, when you give your credentials.

The first 250 were strong. You give the reader an immediate sense of Delia's character and her compelling struggle.

I'd love to see this in a bookstore... good luck to you!

Elizabeth said...

I love your query and your 250 words. I immediately know what's at stake, and who I'm rooting for. Also, as a cancer survivor, this story appeals to me on that front.

I love that she and her friends want to test their limits by going on the trip. I can see how it appeals to teens, and especially to one who has just heard her death sentence.

I also like how it's not just a cancer survivor story; the focus is on their escaping from the forest. Great name, too!

A couple of questions:
1- Are her hallucinations tied to her brain tumor? If so, I liked that you alluded to that in the first 250 words. It might be good to tie that in your query, if that's the case.

2- You say, in your query, "The legend says no one spends a night in Tate’s Hell and comes out alive." That's really intriguing, but what started that legend? Did somebody really disappear? It would be good to have a sense in the query of what started the legend.

But I love the clean, tight writing and wonderful premise!

Post #6

Jessica Peterson said...

Great query! I think because you have such a strong query you should throw your first paragraph at the end. Also, in that first paragraph there were a few words that were a bit redundant.

I enjoyed your 250 as well, but it got me questioning the hallucinations. From your query, I thought they were brought on from the waterfall in the forest. But at the hospital, I'm thinking it's because of the tumor. Also, if her friends don't know about her impending death, why would her friend show up at the hospital?

Overall, this was excellent and I hope to be able to read the whole thing some day. Best of luck!

Melissa Sarver said...

Your query builds suspense nicely and the story seems to have many different elements that are present in other YA novels but not all together (cancer novel, paranormal elements, thriller elements, etc). I'd tighten the beginning - you don't need to tell me you know I'm looking for magical realistic stories. Launch into what your novel is, knowing that you've done your research and that it's a genre I'm looking for.
I didn't know what exactly Tate's Hell was - be clearer earlier they are going to the forest (though if you could be more specific that would be better).

I'd start with the second paragraph and then the second sentence could be something like "THE RIDDLE OF LEGEND is YA magical realism based on a legend from my childhood that says tktktktk." The following 4 paragraphs need to be tightened into one or two (preferably one).

I'd like to see the novel open with the protagonist and her friends heading to Tate's Hell and revealing to the reader later that she's dying of cancer. The current intro seems too obvious to me and it's been done before - also the short sentences did't pack the punch I know you were going for. Just a suggestion to start in a different place and reveal this later. It's not a cancer novel - it's an action-packed novel so start off on the right note building dramatic tension right away.