Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Ms. Sarver,

The day before she died, Nora Clark danced with her husband of thirty years. When she wakes up in what appears to be a cheap hotel room of the afterlife, Nora doesn’t know how she got there or where her husband and sons are. Her confusion grows when, out of all the arrivals in the afterlife that day, she is the only one who doesn’t receive a new responsibility.

After frustrating meetings with a not-so-heavenly psychiatrist and seeing people floating while she is planted firmly on the floor, Nora accidentally discovers she can interact with strangers still living. She knows she should have approval before interacting, but her contact is helping both the strangers and her family. Finally assigned as a guardian for her husband, Charlie, and their sons, Nora is determined to keep the previously established connections.

When one of Nora’s connections reveals his powerful return to alcoholism, she is convinced her previous life experience is the best guide. She remains determined despite her best friend confessing a love for Charlie and him agreeing. But the rules of heaven still have consequences, and Nora’s actions could jeopardize not only her family’s happiness, but her own place in heaven as well.

TRANSCEND, women’s fiction with magic realism, is complete at 86,000 words and would appeal to readers of Susanna Kearsley and Alice Hoffman. I currently teach high school English.



The day before I died, Charlie and I danced to B.B. King.

My sons, both taller than me for several years now, were mimicking us, alternating which one was a woman with pouty lips and batting eyelashes.

I sighed. “I thought by this point, they would be showing up at these kinds of things with their own dates instead of still pretending to be each others.”

Charlie just shook his head. “They’ll figure it out someday. At least they are friends again.” Charlie put his hand on the small of my back and pulled me closer, redirecting all my attention to just him. “I love you Nora,” he whispered. As the song ended, Charlie took my face in both his hands and kissed me amid the applause.

I’m not sure what I expected from life after life, maybe a big golden gate, a bearded man in a white robe demanding names, verifying quality of character and dates of death on some sort of massive database, ushering in lines of people.

I did not expect to wake up in a bedroom.

Blinking awake, I sat up and noticed I was on a bedspread complete with a big floral pattern with a color combination that would only be seen inside a cheap hotel. The corners of every strip of wallpaper were turned up and the light fixtures were probably intended to look gold. Then, I felt a peace start in my heart, slowly spreading from within me with a just-right warmth.


Lanette said...

"cheap hotel room of the afterlife"- I love this line! If I were an agent and into afterlife stories, I would request pages based on that line alone.

Your writing is beautiful. The only thing I would suggest is to smooth out the transition from dancing to death. It was too abrupt.

Jenna Lehne said...

Your query is great.

I love the part about the best friend confessing her love. It made me choke on my coffee and mutter, "oh no she didn't." at my desk.

I would have liked to get a little more of the dancing scene, or perhaps a few sentences about her death, rather than just BAM. Dead.

I'd request more - I love afterlife stories :)


M H-L said...

Your premise is both interesting and powerful. Afterlife stories are fascinating, and yours promises lots of great complications.

I am a bit confused, however, by some of the wording in the query. For example, you call the people she is assigned to both responsibilities and connections-- both terms could mean other things. Perhaps clarify the spirit- living relationship.

I love your first line of the 250 words. Have more fun with that motel, though. Show more what makes it cheap ( bedspread fabric, for example).

Jessica Peterson said...

First off, I LOVED your 250. You had me smiling and so into it. My only qualm is that the jump from dancing to death was a bit abrupt. I loved the last line of your 250.

Your query, I found a bit confusing. I loved the part about the friend being in love with the husband though. It seems like there is so much to your book that makes it interesting, I would definitely love to read it. I think what makes your query confusing are the words 'contact, connections, and guardian' I think Nora is assigned to be her family's guardian but I'm not sure what the 'connections' are. Just a bit of clearing things up and I think you've definitely got a winner.

Best of luck! :)

Riley Redgate said...

I'll second the suggestion that you smooth out the transition between Charlie kissing her and the sudden musings on the afterlife.

Everything reads easily, which is great. But take a look at your last paragraph -- there's a noticeable buildup of passives. "I was on..." "that would only be seen..." "were turned up..." "were probably intended..." And then you've got the filter verb "I felt," instead of just saying "a peace started in my heart." I'd go back and actively hunt for passivity, try to make everything as strong, active, and dynamic as possible.

As for the query, I'd cut the first sentence. The hook works better without it, in my opinion. Right now it feels like we're grasping for some sort of contrast between dancing and dying that isn't inherently apparent. I'd also clarify "a new responsibility" at the end of the hook, as I'm not sure what it could entail. The rest works well, save one nitpick -- I'm pretty convinced this isn't magical realism. She's an actual guardian angel. Doesn't that classify as paranormal, or even light fantasy?

In any case, best of luck!


jdspero said...

Very cool concept. I would read on.

Your query is well written, although I think it could use a little more punch.

I would revise this line: She remains determined despite her best friend confessing a love for Charlie and him agreeing.

Do you mean, he loves her too? I think it could be reworded with more impact.

I liked your first 250 and hate to say anything about your story because it is such a small sample, but I do think you could establish conflict or stakes that's mentioned in query - even if it's just a hint/foreshadowing.

I was a high school English teacher too, before baby #3 came along. I miss it! Good luck to you!

Melissa Sarver said...

Your sample material is very strong - good pacing, nice details. I'd want to read more. The query really confused me, though. I would tighten the story into 3 sentences in the query. I don't think you need to try and describe the whole plot. Watch the changing tenses in the first paragraph of the query. The switching makes for a confusing read. How light and/or funny is your novel? I caught glimpses of that in the query but wasn't sure. Explaining all the "rules" of afterlife in the query doesn't work - focus on what the central conflict is for Nora. You can hint at some of the conflicts currently in current paragraph three in one sentence, in list form. Good comps, though Alice Hoffman can be pretty dark so I wonder if it is the right comp for your work.