Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #24

Dear Ms. Smith,

I see that you are seeking books with minority characters. While my main character is Black and his best friend is Hispanic, the book isn’t about race. Instead, it shows these boys as boys, enjoying the mysteries of the world around them.

Eleven-year-old Mike is determined to become NASA’s youngest astronaut. He daydreams of being a superhero and saving colonists from space monsters. But in reality, he tiptoes through the halls and hides from the school bully.

Then he meets Grimon, a blue alien wailing over his doomed job because he’s been called home and can’t complete his research. Figuring experience with real space creatures will guarantee a NASA job, Mike offers to help. Candies from a shiny red dispenser will show what planets humans could visit without turning orange or hiccuping forever, but they come with a side effect of temporary superpowers. Maybe even bully-stomping superpowers.

Speed, strength, and invisibility--sweet. Frog legs and belching zoo-animal noises, not so cool.

Mike records the results until creepy Federal agents show up. As a frogboy, Mike spies on the agents morphing into extraterrestrials determined to capture anyone who knows of their existence. If he wants to become a real hero, Mike must overcome his urge to hide and save his friends--and worst enemy--from a four-armed, snout-faced alien wielding the Interstellar Remote Control of Everything, or they’ll all end up frozen in a stasis field at the bottom of a haunted mine.

MIGHTY MIKE AND THE ALIEN PEZ DISPENSER is a MG Sci-Fi/Adventure, complete at 44k. It should appeal to those who enjoy the quirky humor of Nathan Bransford’s Jacob Wonderbar series.

I have a degree in Physics (both Mike and I would have loved to participate in the NASA microgravity experiment) but currently train endurance horses in beautiful Colorado.

Thank you for your time.



Mike crammed his Space Camp application and “C-” history quiz into the Tweety Bird backpack that would never be as cool as The Avenger’s Hawkeye, no matter what Mom said. The zipper jammed on the pages, so he flung the half-closed pack over his shoulder and sprinted from the classroom before the bell finished ringing. He burst through the front doors and dashed toward the community park.

Chest heaving, Mike slipped into the woods. He skidded down a bank covered with last year’s leaves and plunked onto a half-rotted log behind a massive oak tree. Pebbles followed him and splashed into a puddle.

Mike stared at the ripples. Hiding like a wimp sucked, but it was safer than being found by Brutus and his gang. The sixth-grader kept The List of Chumps to Be Pounded After School. Thursday was piƱata-Mike day.

Only outer space would be safer than Space Camp. Two more months and he’d be on his way: Space Camp, then on to becoming NASA’s youngest astronaut. Bullies wouldn’t be allowed in space, right?

After the science-fair judge labeled his zero-gravity omelet-maker as brilliant and called Mike the next Einstein, Brutus chanted Afro-Einstein for weeks. This totally baffled Mike since his close-cropped hair didn’t look anything like Einstein’s wild tufts.

The pool stilled into a mirror. A shadow loomed over Mike’s watery reflection. He leapt to his feet--right into the puddle--ready to block Brutus with his backpack.

Except it wasn’t Brutus.

Mike stumbled backward.


Anonymous said...

I love the main part of your query SO HARD, but I personally wasn't a fan of the first paragraph, which seemed a bit tell-y. I'd prefer to figure out those things myself from the ms--and after looking at your first 250, I think you did a great job showing it there. Mike's character really shines through, and I feel for him already. I'd definitely read on!

Eric Steinberg said...

I like your query and first 250, but together find them confusing. After reading the query, in mention of saving the colonists and meeting an alien (which doesn't feel like an unusual event from the query letter), I get the sense this is a futuristic sci-fi story. From the first 250 (which I did enjoy a lot), this reads like a present-day contemporary story.

Unknown said...

I love NASA stories (having grown up with NASA in my backyard and all) and yours sounds really fun.

Hong said...

I really liked your first 250 words. I could feel the MC's voice and personality.

I'd read on!

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Anonymous said...

I liked the premise but I had a hard time with the query. It was very long. The paragraphs need to be cut and combined with some of the others and keep to two paragraphs plus your information.

With the 250 we get the action of packing his bag as fast as he can and sprinting through the school and hiding out in the woods with his chest heaving, but we need to know why earlier. You mention the bully in the query but not in the 250 until the last two sentences.

It's good to start a ms with action but it can't be put in there just to start the ms with action. We need more.

Megan Reyes said...

I am a JACOB WONDERBAR fan, and this definitely resonates with Nathan Bransford's tone, so well done! This kind of story is right up my ally, and I really like your voice. It’s perfect for a quirky MG novel.

Your first 250

Great first paragraph! You revealed a lot about Mike’s character (Tweety Bird backpack—come on, mom! Haha) and I think your reveal of the bully in the 3rd paragraph is totally fine (as opposed to having it sooner). And it sounds like (with the “Except it wasn’t Brutus.”) that Mike is going to meet the alien in CH 1, so the reader is drawn in to a fun story right away.

Great job! This sounds like a really fun story (my favorite kind!).

Bridget Smith said...

This is a fun MG premise, but I’m having some sentence-parsing problems in the middle. I get the side effect of the candies, but what exactly is their intended purpose? And the federal agents: I’m getting the impression that they’re secretly aliens, but I’m not positive. On the whole, I think I’ve got the plot, but you don’t want to make an agent work to understand the query. All it would take is some restructuring of the sentences beginning, “Candies…” and “As a frogboy…”

I agree with kiperoo, too, that the first paragraph is a bit too explanatory. It feels a bit like I'm being told why I should want this kind of diversity, but I already know that I want it! I'm glad you're drawing my attention to something that I've asked for, but is there a way to integrate it naturally in the query? You've done it in the sample. Or even just move it to the end of the query, so that's not my very first impression of your book.

The sample is good, though: you lay out the important elements without making it sounds like that’s what you’re doing, and Mike is easy to like.