Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Ms. Smith:

On a dark and rain-slicked road, there's a car crash, one that changes the lives of three teens forever.

Seventeen-year-old Hailey Steele killed her boyfriend in a car wreck, which fills her with guilt and self-loathing. So when Eli Carter enters her life, Hailey persistently denies her attraction and developing feelings for him. It is wrong to like someone else when your boyfriend is dead. It’s easier to cope in other ways, like changing schools and using alcohol.

Meanwhile, Jeremy McClure--not realizing he’s dead--waits in the cemetery for his girlfriend to arrive. He’s certain they agreed to meet here. The last time Jeremy saw Hailey they were cruising a dark and drizzly road after an underage party.  What he doesn’t expect is an encounter with someone else.

Eli Carter has a jaded past. His junior year was full of skeletons, and his closet thrown wide open for the entire high school to see. But he manned up, and still got burned. With new girl Hailey, Eli has the chance for a fresh start, someone who knows nothing about his past. That is, if she’ll ever give him the time of day.

HAUNTED, my young adult contemporary novel--complete at 83,100 words--shows the intersecting lives of three teens who are trapped in the most unusual of love triangles--one that crosses the boundaries of death. Told in alternating points of view, the novel poses the questions: Can we continue to maintain love through the boundaries of death? And, can new love find us after loss?

To date, I have written and published three novels, along with a book of short essays. Additionally, I have been published at The Fertile Source, in Cliterature Journal, and online at The Daily Beast. In 2009 and 2010, I worked at Inside/Outside Magazine, penning the magazine’s “With the Kids” column. I co-write the YA blog, Moxie Writers, with fellow young adult novelist, Rebecca Green Gasper. I recently completed a travel memoir about my family’s year on the road and my unexpected pregnancy, the marital strain that resulted from the news, and the devastating birth of our youngest son during the trip.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
S.O.


HAUNTED

Hailey

It’s raining, so I shouldn’t have agreed to be the designated driver. But here I am. There are no alternatives. I take the keys from Jeremy and dash toward his Subaru. The earthy smell of water soaking into the dirt and pavement rises around us. Jeremy ducks down as if walking between the raindrops, as if he will live forever within their spaces.

“Let me drive,” he says, though his speech is drowned in grogginess.

“I’ve got it,” I say as we scramble for the car. “Just relax. Get some rest,” I say even though I teeter on the edge of sleep, too. But I want to take care of him.

I fire up the engine and crank the heat. Jeremy slips into the passenger’s seat, pulls his door closed, and immediately turns the stereo to our song. Before taking off, I eye him briefly: his bangs hanging limply in his face as he tugs his plastered shirt from his chest. He pushes his head into the back of the headrest and closes his eyes.

As the music plays, Jeremy lifts his lids and reaches out to finger the ends of my hair. His eyes mingle with mine for a moment, then he grabs my hand. “Love you, Hailey.”

“Love you, too.”

“I’m so drunk.” Then he lets go and balances between sleep and wakefulness.

I turn on the wipers and try hard to focus on the blurry road ahead.

7 comments:

Janelle said...

To me, the strongest part of the query is the third paragraph (Jeremy's). It has concrete details and gets at the ghost aspect of the narrative. The para before & after feel a little too familiar: "changing schools", "using alcohol", "jaded", "give him the time of day" are non-specific and can cause someone to skim right over your writing. What is unique about these characters and this story? Show that.

That said, there are bits there that make me want to know more, like how Eli got burned.

Further down in the query, I don't think the bit about the travel memoir is not relevant, unless it is published. Also, I get the impression the first three novels are self-published? Nothing wrong with that (and sorry if I'm incorrect in this observation), but I've heard that, unless your books sold very well (which maybe they have! Again, I don't know), they need not be included in the query.

Your first 250 has some nice phrases & foreshadowing: "in between the water drops as if he will live forever" being one. And I like that we see Hailey is a care-taker.

Karen Clayton said...

I liked your query. It drew me in and made me interested to read more. The concept is both spooky and fun. Hot right now. I like the bit about you having a blog - I think agents will like that too.

Your writing style was pleasant and your voice was strong. I'd read more.

If you want to check out our story, we are post #29. Happy writing and best wishes!

Kathleen said...

This sounds interesting. I'd put more of the three POV's in the first 250 words. Maybe include the crash too. I love that Eli is a ghost waiting for his girlfriend to show up. Love the voice too.

Alexa D. said...

You have the beginnings of a good query here, anchored by a strong 250. I see several places you can clean up the prose in your query to make it stronger. I would tweak the first line: On a dark and rain-slicked road, a car crash changes the lives of three teens forever.

Then in paragraph two, don’t repeat car wreck. In fact, I think you could probably tighten paragraph one so it’s only 1 sentence (it’s a bit repetitive), and then combine it with paragraph three (Jeremy’s). Paragraph 4 (Eli’s) is perfect as-is. Instead of “using alcohol” I would say “turning to alcohol” or “a dependence on alcohol.”

If one of your MC POVs is a ghost, this is not straight YA contemporary. Depending on the execution, you might be able to get away with YA magical realism, but it may be YA paranormal. Or, if you’re trying to avoid the YA paranormal stigma, you might be able to get away with YA contemporary with a paranormal twist. Or just call it a YA novel :)

Your conceit sounds a lot like the YA trilogy Shade/Shift/Shine. It’s about a girl whose boyfriend dies and everyone under a certain age can sees ghosts, so she ends up in a love triangle with her boyfriend-as-as-ghost and a new boy in town. I would use this trilogy as a comp, acknowledging it, so the agent knows you are aware of it. I’m fairly certain there are many YA paranormals involving a girl who has to choose between a ghost and a real person (I’ve read the reverse, too, the Ghost and Goth series by Stacy Kade). So I wouldn’t call it an unusual love triangle in that first sentence, and I would add some YA comps.

Cut this completely (it’s a bit heavy-handed): the novel poses the questions: Can we continue to maintain love through the boundaries of death? And, can new love find us after loss? Just tell the agent your word count, genre, comps, the POV thing and whether it is a standalone or a series.

Echoing what someone else said: don’t mention published novels unless they were with a (indie or otherwise) publisher or, if self-published, sold really well. Cut the last part as it is irrelevant to the agent unless it is published.

Anyway, I enjoyed your 250 a lot -- it has a strong voice and the prose flowed really nicely. I would read on.

Anne Tedeton said...

Alexa nailed it. I don't really have any new insight to add, other than that I liked this premise. I'm a sucker for a good love triangle, and one with a ghost seems about my speed. Hope you get some bites, because I wanted to keep reading!

Natalie Rompella said...

Query: Interesting plot! Would love to read the book. I liked your para about your experience, but I agree with Janelle, too.

250: I'm not sure what we're supposed to think from the start. Maybe add something that he wants to care for her too and that's why he wants to drive?

Bridget Smith said...

The introduction of the three characters here is effective, and I like the idea of a girl struggling to move on from her boyfriend’s death when his ghost is still around. It’s been done, but not so many times that it can’t still work. What I’d like to see in the query is a bit more about what happens after the three characters collide. Where does the plot take us? That would affect what genre it falls into, as well.