Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #22

Dear Ms. Sarver:

Red hair is already a curse--those afflicted are either hunted by Serpents or killed by citizens to keep the curse away. So red hair that suddenly comes alive and decides to fight back just cemented the world’s last redhead on the genetically doomed list.

Red, a naïve sixteen-year-old girl, lives protected from these truths until the day she is seized. Removed from her island. Quarantined. Put on trial. Almost executed for the forbidden color of her hair. Spared only because her captors believe she holds crucial information needed to win the Serpent War.

The problem: Red knows nothing of any war-changing secret.

The bigger problem: Red’s hair is no longer just red. It's now alive. And it makes her want to do things. Things her sheltered mind can't even begin to comprehend.

The biggest problem: The salacious strands have targeted James, her kidnappers’ greatest asset against the demon Serpents.

Forced to help her abductors by trying to remember information she never had, Red faces the possibly her capture was no accident. Is she an innocent victim caught in the crosshairs of war or the oblivious weapon of the Serpents, designed and delivered for destruction? No matter the answer, survival hinges on escaping before her captors discover the secret of her living hair.

Which presents her with the culmination of all her problems: James. She can't control her lascivious locks when he's around. And he's always around.

At 100,000 words, RED: ROOT TO SOUL, spikes fantasy with age appropriate erotic romance in high-concept YA fiction. I'm a University of Richmond Law School graduate and family law practitioner. Although my writing credentials may extend only as far as understanding the power, and sometimes danger, of a good hair day, I am an avid reader and writer of fiction.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The screeching sliced through air, practically boxing my ears with its intensity.

Son of a--

I stumbled from the water and raced naked to the cabin, cursing loudly. I could do that--curse loud and run naked--Simon was gone. Not that I enjoyed running naked through the forest, but when the screeching started, I knew to run.

Ignoring the towel on the rail, I scrambled back into my dirty clothes and plunged my hand into the container by the door, not pausing until the muddy mixture covered every inch of hair and exposed skin. Only then would my heart begin to settle. I wasn’t afraid of Outsiders anymore; it was the manic screeching that wound me up.

We had an agreement with our screechy cohabitants. Well, Simon did. Or so he claimed. I viewed it along the lines of taking advantage of serendipitous behavior. We lived alone, sharing the island with the monkeys. Turned out they spurned Outsiders, too. More, if you took into account their shrieking. Seriously, the sound could scrape the skin from the insides of your ears. And when the monkeys screeched, we were warned. Serendipitous …once you got past the whole inner ear peeling problem.

Based on the screeching going on now, Outsiders had definitely arrived. Which meant I smeared myself in muddy gook and ran. It was a Rule. An Island Rule. And breaking this Rule before had provided a glimpse of Simon’s wrath--not a scene to revisit willingly.


Laura Edwards said...

Being a natural redhead, I just had to comment. Your query grabbed my attention right away even if the genre is not my cup of tea.

Mim said...


Interesting concept about the hair being alive. I'm trying to picture this--does it talk to her, actually move on its own, does it control her? I'd love to know a few more details about this concept.

I don't know that I'd mix erotic romance and YA. It'd work if labeled as New Adult though. You may want to adjust this based on the agent you are querying.

I think the 250 words are interesting, and I'd read on, but with all of the focus on her red hair in the query, we don't see it at all in the first 250. I would keep reading however.

Good luck!


Caryn said...

I found the concept unique and the info in your query hooked me right away. As I mentioned on another project, I just attended a pitch conference and the panel of agents said never to give your opinion about your own story, let it sell itself. So, I'd drop that sentence about it being a mix of erotic romance and YA. And, as mentioned in the previous comment, not sure that's a selling point. I've pitched to a number of YA agents and unfortunately they're much more conservative than I wish they were.
Also, it's redundant to say "fantasy" and " fiction".
One other point, 100K is way high for a first novel in YA. I've been told by several agents that they won't even look at one that big. Most are looking for around 75K. I found that difficult because mine was that big and I struggled to cut it down to 76K. Now, however, I find the story is better, tighter and moves faster.

I liked your first page. The writing is punchy and very tactile. I was definitely inside Red's head.

Good luck!

Jessica Peterson said...

The concept of your story is fantastic and I think you're query is pretty good. I do think it needs a bit of tightening though. My main issue was that I wasn't quite sure how her hair was coming alive. Like another commenter, I was unsure if it moved or just controlled her... If you clear this up I think you're query will be even more captivating.

I thought your 250 was good as well. However, when she dipped her hand in the mud, it wasn't quite clear that she was covering her entire self. At first I thought she had extremely hairy hands/arms, maybe she was some sort of werewolf. Also, your second to last paragraph was a bit confusing for me. I'm sure this information is important so maybe just tighten it up a bit.

Best of luck.

Riley Redgate said...

I agree with previous comments -- you've certainly got an original idea, but the problem is I have no idea how this fantastical element of "living hair" actually functions. Phrases like "salacious strands" and "lascivious locks" just end up frustrating me, as well as feeling a little too tonally cute when compared with the pretty serious stuff in the first half of your query.

3rd to last paragraph - "faces the possibility," not "possibly." Careful.

4th to last paragraph -- "targeted" James ... by this, do you mean like sexually targeted him? Because I'm totally picturing them like wanting to strangle him or something, I dunno.

I'd cut the last paragraph. If you clean up the earlier reference to James and make it clear he's an unavoidable love interest, you can end with the much more stakes-appropriate line, "survival hinges on escaping ..." etc.

I'd simplify your genre. "YA fantasy romance." Done. Cut the rest -- not relevant to the ms.

First 250 -- in the fourth paragraph, when she plunges her hand into the container, I'd clarify that she then starts smearing the mud onto her body. As it is, it's ambiguous; I thought she was just covering her hand.

I'd cut "Seriously, the sound could scrape the skin from the insides of your ears." That ground is covered by the last quip in the paragraph and feels a little redundant.

The rest is solid. I like the flow of your voice, and the tension is great to start with.

Best of luck,

Melissa Sarver said...

I think this is a great, fresh concept and I'm curious to see how it is executed (like others said above - how does this hair come alive exactly? But I don't need to know how in the query.) I think the query could be tightened and a greater focus on a few key elements - her hair coming alive, her captors thinking she holds a secret which she does not, and her complicated relationship with James. Make it clearer that this is romantic complication. You say at the end of the query that there is age-appropriate erotic behavior, which is a good statement to make, but I'd like to know earlier there is romance/lust, etc.

The opening page was a bit confusing to me - is Simon gone for good? I'd love to have indication right away that she's got red hair and that this is unique and/or significant since it's going to play a key factor in the story later and sets her apart.