Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #28

Dear Ms. Sarver,

Sixteen-year-old Olivia doesn’t think she killed her dog, but her blood soaked pajamas say otherwise. If the death of her pet wasn’t bad enough, now someone is tormenting her through cryptic e-mails and a painted locker that screams “Murderer”. At first she writes it off as a cruel prank, but after her drama teacher accuses her of stealing and her crush, Smith, swears they hooked up, Olivia starts to wonder if someone is set on destroying her life or if she’s doing it to herself.
When her mom is attacked and hospitalized, Olivia is sent to the Royal Alexander Center for Mental Health. After a psych evaluation rules out paranoid personality disorder and a video tape catches someone who looks eerily similar to Olivia torching a school shed, she is released from the Center.

Armed with a taste for revenge and Smith, who moonlights as a hacker, Olivia’s out to clear her name and get some payback. But each prank escalates and the price of her revenge could be the lives of the people she loves.
BEAUTIFUL MALEVOLENCE is a young adult thriller completed at 50,000 words. My novel will appeal to fans of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS by Sara Shepard and Jenny Han’s BURN FOR BURN.

My debut novel, Second Hand Lace, is due for release April of 2013 by Turquoise Morning Press. My name is J.L. and I live in Calgary, Alberta with my husband and 2.5 dogs.

Thank you for your time,

I have to bury my best friend today.

Right now, Dad is outside digging a hole next to the oak tree in the backyard. Mom is on her knees at the head of the hole; she doesn’t even look bothered that she’s ruining her new linen pants. She won’t stop adjusting the hastily thrown together wooden cross; she looped Tobin’s collar around it but it won’t sit right. I should go down there and help but I’m not sure if I’m welcome.

Mom can’t even look at me without crying.

She thinks I did it.

I don’t blamer her. They found Tobin in my bed, his golden fur matted with blood, and the butcher knife in my hand even though I was asleep.

I don’t remember a thing, and I don’t think I did it, but it doesn’t matter.

Tobin is dead and Mom hates me.

“Olivia, honey, do you want to come downstairs?” Dad calls from the kitchen.

Dad isn’t mad at me--he knows I’d never hurt Tobin on purpose. He thinks maybe I was sleepwalking or something. They’re taking me to the nut house tomorrow to talk to some shrink.

I climb off my bed, thankful Mom put clean sheets on the rust-colored mattress, and shuffle through my door and down the stairs.


Katrina S. Forest said...

The opening paragraph of your query really drew me in, but I got confused mid-way through. The Center thinks Olivia set fire to a shed, and then they release her? That seems like a reason to keep her to me. I also thought for most of the query that Olivia's main goal was trying to find out why these things are happening, but then that problem is solved. So now I'm left wondering how far into the book I'd need to read before her main quest, if you will, begins.

I personally had not heard of Turquoise Morning Press until I read your query, so I'm not sure if it's a relevant credit or not.

Your opening line makes me think a person died. I realized it was a pet in the next sentence, so I'm glad you didn't try to lead the audience on too long, but it did make the situation seem less dire than I originally thought.

The mom comes across as a total jerk to me, like an evil stepmother type of character. Maybe you mean for her to be that way, but I'd hope any parent who finds their child sleepwalking and stabbing animals would be scared for their child's well-being rather than angry about the dog.

The writing itself was solid and there wasn't any place my attention waned or anything like that. I'd keep reading the next couple pages, if nothing else just to see how she interacts with her parents right now.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above poster... When your query states that Olivia is found on tape and then is released made my eyebrows raise. I think it'd be cause for them to KEEP her in until she was well (or could prove it wasn't her).

Your writing is strong and the voice solid and I'd certainly read on. :)

entry #29

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

Okay, so I'm going to disagree with the other two comments. :)


When I read your query, to me, it seemed as though while she was in the hospital, someone else that looked like her set the fire - leading the hospital to realize it hadn't been her all along.

And I would leave the bit in about being published by Turquoise Morning Press - just because I haven't heard of them, doesn't mean I can't look them up...and you're still getting your debut published, so congrats to you!

The only part of the query that was slightly confusing for me, was your last paragraph: "Armed with a taste for revenge and Smith, who moonlights as a hacker..." Here, I'm not clear if she's wanting revenge in total, revenge against Smith, or both. I'm assuming you mean he's going to help her - but after reading the first paragraph where he accuses her of hooking up with him, I'm not sure. Just a little rearranging of your words will help, so it's not too big of an issue.


I like how this opens up - leaving the reader unsure of who died.

I'm curious to find out how - if she didn't kill her dog - he ended up dead in her bed and she didn't wake up!

You've got my interest piqued so I'd definitely want to read on and I'd request more pages.

Best of luck in the contest!

Laura Edwards said...

Liked the query. Grabbed my interest. I do not write YA fiction, so don't know if my next comment concerning style is relevant. Every single sentence in your 250 word submission began with a pronoun or persons name. Mix it up a little. I used to do the same thing until a critique partner pointed it out. Otherwise, very fluid writing.

Ru said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ru said...

Sorry -- deleted for a typo.

I agree with the third poster - I got it, but if it's creating this much confusion, maybe a re-phrasing is in order.

The other comment I had for your query was the phrase, "taste for revenge and Smith, who moonlights as a hacker," is confusing. I would add in another word before Smith, eg, "Armed with a taste for revenge and aided by Smith, who moonlights as a hacker" ...

Finally ... dead dog? That is grim. Hope some comeuppance is in order.

Connie Mayo said...

During my read of the first sentence, I thought, are the stakes going to be high enough? I'm a pet lover, but still.. then I soon enough found out that other stuff is happening. Not sure if anyone else felt that.

She has a crush on a guy named... Smith?

My assumption about the shed torching was that it happened while Olivia was in the hospital so they knew it couldn't have been her. But if I was right, I guess it wasn't clear enough to telegraph that to all readers, hence the previous comments.

I don't understand the sentence "Armed with a taste for revenge and Smith" - she has a taste for Smith? I know he's her crush, but this seemed out of place here!

Overall I like the idea and I think you communicate it pretty succinctly. I know how hard it is to boil down your MS into these little nugget sentence and I think you did a good job of cutting to the chase. I am a little puzzled by how her revenge could come at the cost of the people she loves - that just didn't seem to make sense.

2.5 dogs?

Amy W said...

Hi J.L.,

Congrats on having your first book published. I have a few comments on your query for this contest. I was a bit confused by this sentence: ... but after her drama teacher accuses her of stealing and her crush, Smith, swears they hooked up, Olivia starts to wonder if someone is set on destroying her life or if she’s doing it to herself.

Did Smith hook up with the drama teacher? Or did Olivia and the drama teacher hook up?

Why was Olivia sent to the mental hospital after her mom was attacked? You may want to add that Olivia is being questioned for these strange violent acts more clearly.

The character of Olivia is mysterious and has the voice of a teenager. Nice job.
A.W. #19

dianelashdecker said...

I like you writing - the 250 words are strong. I'm such an animal lover that it was hard for me to plow through the query w/out wishing the dog was alive. I was also confused about her being released fom the hospital after she was seen on the tape. I'm sure there's a reason, but it's unclear. Good luck.

Jessica Peterson said...

I thought your query was great! Your last paragraph I did find a bit confusing though, especially the line others are struggling with. I really like your concept, your 250 is strong, and I would definitely read on.

Ann Noser said...

Overall, I thought both the query and the excerpt were great. I'm just going to point out two parts of the query which confused me.

1)but after her drama teacher accuses her of stealing and her crush, Smith, swears they hooked up

***PROBLEM: perhaps I read too fast, but the first time I read this, I thought the teacher was accusing her of stealing her crush--which led me off in a totally different direction. I had to read it 3 times to get it.

2)and a video tape catches someone who looks eerily similar to Olivia torching a school shed, she is released from the Center.

***After reading this 2-3 times, I figured the person was someone ELSE, but it would be clearer on first read-through if you just said so.

Otherwise, even though I have a hard time when pets die in books or movies (softie-haha, it's not like they are REAL pets)this REALLY intrigued me--BEST of luck!

tarak said...

I definitely like your premise. Like others have stated, however, a few sentences in your query were confusing. Smith swearing they hooked up is one of the events that makes her think someone is out to ruin her life. But then she teams up with him to find out what's going on. I'm wondering if you could leave out the part about them hooking up. Between the dead dog, nasty emails, and accusations of thievery, I think you've more than enough for a reader to know something isn't right. I assumed Smith was the MC's crush, not the teacher's. But I can see why the sentence is confusing. Just mention Smith's relationship near the end where he's brought in as a sidekick, and it should clear things up.

Melissa Sarver said...

Your query is strong and builds suspense in the same way I'd want the novel to. I'm intrigued to read more.
I didn't have the confusion some others did here about the video tape. She's in the hospital so it's clear if someone out there is breaking into a shed, it isn't her.
I do wonder why she isn't more upset by the death of her dog but also that she has no recollection of being in her bed with a butcher knife (and possibly being responsible for killing her dog)?

The first line of the third paragraph of your query doesn't make sense. Is Smith armed with a taste for revenge? Is she armed with Smith?
Also, is she really out for REVENGE or is she trying to get to the bottom of what's been happening? Those are two different conflicts.

Otherwise, the flow and structure of your query are spot on and the opening paragraphs of the ms are working well also. I like the details of the poorly constructed cross and her mom having changed her sheets.