Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #29

Dear Ms. Smith
Who knew that national parks could save a person's life?  Certainly not eleven yearl old Mason Davis.  But Mason soon discovers that junior ranger badges have a secret power that will help him defeat his evil Uncle Ted.  Now Mason and family have less than two weeks to strenghten their nephilim powers, find the stone of storms, and rescue their cousin all before their uncle comes for them too.  Mason isn't so sure they can do it though.  His two younger brothers are so annoying that he would rather face down a band of blood thirsty pukwedgies than put up with their antics--like when Reese mooned a werewolf--now that was embarrassing!  Never moon a werewolf by the way!  Really not a good idea!  Mason realizes that if they are too be successful, then they need to learn to work together.  Not an easy task.  The fate of the world rest not only in his hands, but also in the small, but often times sticky hands of his gross little brothers.  Heaven help us all.  Connor can't even tie his own shoes and the only thing Reese is good at is burping his ABCs. 
Mason Davis and the Rise of the Storm Makers is a 50,000 word middle grade urban fantasy adventure with a touch of coming of age boy humor.  It is a Percy Jackson meets Good Luck Charlie kind of book that celebrates all things boys like how they smell so bad that no self respecting monster will come within ten feet of them.  Who needs garlic when you've got BO?  By no means are the characters angels, but they do all have good hearts and are ready to save the world.  Watch out because the littlest one even has a pretty lethal left hook.  Thunderbirds, windigos, and even Bigfoot have no idea what coming to them.
I am a stay-at-home-mom of three boys, thus I am all too familar with my target age.  I have also taught High School English.  I have a BA in anthropology from Baylor University and I even co-authored an article with my religion professor.  The article was published in Biblical Illustrator.  My thirteen year old son co-authored the book.  He is heavily involved with Boy Scouts, football, Tae Kwon Do, and theatre.  He even had the lead in the last two school plays and was in the paper for his part in helping with a school fundraiser.
We have self published our story and it is available online at Amazon.  If we can raise enough money, we'd like to donate money to the Red Cross in order to help victims of storms.  We are currently working on books two, three, and four of the series.
Thank you for your time and consideration.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
K. and M.C.


Chapter One: Connor talks with Dolphins.
Since my family and I have unusual powers, odd things happen to us. Sadly, it is just part of my life. Still, I wanted to die from embarrassment when all the dolphins at Sea World's petting zoo in San Antonio swam over and started yammering at my little brother.  I didn't understand a word of what they were saying, but apparently Connor did. I stood in horror with my hand slapped to my head as I watched Connor lean in closer to the tank and nod at different dolphins.  I was uncomfortable because everyone was staring at us.  They didn't understand anything either, but it was still weird that dolphins would swarm a five year old boy.
Strangers pointed at us and said things like "How did you do that?  Are you guys trainers?"
I didn't know what to say, so I merely shrugged and fidgeted with the end of my shirt.  My fingers sparked against my sweaty palms like they sometimes did when I got nervous. I could smell that sulphery odor that comes after a storm and I knew my electrical powers were running amuck.  I could feel the uneasiness in the pit of my stomach.  I sucked it up though and tried to act normal.  What else could I do?


Anonymous said...

I lik the premise. I think your query needs to be a little tighter focusing on several things that we should know about. Why is Uncle Ted evil? Who is there cousin and why is he important? Why does the world need them to save it? I would like to see a little more of who Mason is and where his powers come from.

Hong said...

I think it's wonderful that you've written this book with your son! Congratulations!

I like the last part of your title "Mason Davis and the Rise of the Storm Makers."

There are several things that are unclear in your query letter. Why is Uncle Ted evil? How are wolves related to him or secret powers?

Do they play an important role in the story?

Good luck!

Megan Reyes said...

Good job setting up anticipation in the first line. Overall, I enjoyed the tone and voice. It seems like a great “boy” voice, which makes perfect sense with you being a mother of three boys (I am a mother of two boys, and so can appreciate all things ‘boy’)

I did feel a little bit confused in the first paragraph. Why is their uncle evil? What is the uncle doing, exactly? Also, I was thrown off when you mentioned the family having two weeks to “strenghten their nephilim powers” because up until that point I assumed Mason was just human. Perhaps mentioning the “nephilim” thing sooner would be helpful (I know you lead with this in the story, which is great).

Quick edits: “strenghten" is misspelled. Also, “Mason realizes that if they are too be successful= “too” should be “to.”

There were a few lines that I particularly enjoyed. “Never moon a werewolf by the way!” made me laugh :) Also, “but often times sticky hands of his gross little brothers. Heaven help us all.” was fun too!

Overall, this sounds like it could be a fun story, but I would like to see more specifics in the first paragraph. How is the family supposed to save the world? Why is the world in trouble in the first place? And how do national parks tie in to everything? Perhaps consider delving into a bit more specifics about the major plot conflicts.

Christine L. Arnold said...

Hey there!

I think the voice in your query is really great. It really read "young boy" to me. That said, I agree with some of the above comments that the query overall could use some tightening. Focus on why Uncle Ted is evil, what he's trying to do to the boys, and what will happen if the boys don't succeed. Keep in some of the characterization, but maybe try to keep it to one sentence per boy, just because as nice as it is, it's sort of drowning out the plot. There are a few spelling/grammatical errors that another once-over would help with, too.

Your first page is pretty good, starting off with an interesting action. I can't really tell though if the story is written in past or present tense. The first two sentences are present, and the rest past, which sort of makes me think that we've fallen back into a past story, just as an example of their cooky abilities. If that's the case, you might want to think about changing the scene to whatever is happening in the present, otherwise it feels like the story isn't really "starting" yet.

Karen Clayton said...

Thanks for the tips. Glad to hear them. Looks like I need to spend a bit more time on the plot in my query and watch my tenses too. Always glad to have those extra eyes. You want to learn more about us or our story check us out on Amazon. Happy reading!

GSMarlene said...

Love the idea of a story set in a national park!

For the query, it is a bit long, over 470 words. You might want to pare it down.

The first paragraph is a big block and I've heard agent comment to break things up. There might be too many names - 2-3 at most are recommended. You can refer to Connor and Reese as "brothers".

There are some cute things - never moon a werewolf! I think adding some details about Uncle Ted and tightening other areas will make this an easier read. In the second paragraph, I'd suggest stopping after the X meets Y sentence.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...


I like the overall tone of the query, since its a MG story about a boy. I'm sure you're well-versed in how boys that age talk and interact.

I think the query gets bogged down in details. The query should say what the stakes are, and the choice the protagonist faces to get the outcome he wants. I'm not exactly sure what's at stake here.

The first paragraph of the book reads classic "telling not showing" to me. This is a problem we all struggle with!

There were some typos and punctuation problems that are minor but could indicate to an agent that the manuscript hasn't been thoroughly proofread. For instance, "Mason realizes that if they are too be successful" - it should be "to" not "too."

I'm curious to know why you're seeking agent representation if you've already self-published on Amazon. I have been under the impression that unless you pull a "50 Shades of Grey" situation and you're earning a kajillion dollars, they're not keen on currently self-pubbed authors. Dunno.

Best of luck to you though!

Anonymous said...

I read your query and I was intrigued to read more. I went on to read your first page and I am happy to say that I wasn't disappointed. I will have to buy this book now so I can learn more about this Mason character.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I want this book too!

Karen Clayton said...

Thanks for everyones comments. As for the question about querying agents with a self published books - well that's a long story. Here's my best shot at keeping the answer short. A PR friend of mine has several friends who have self published and they all suggest finding an agent to help with branding. This book is the first in a series. Book 2 is in revision and books 3 & 4 are half way written. My son is currently plotting book 5. We are still debating on whether to have a book 5 though. My middle child is writing a spin off series as we speak. Hope this answers your question. Just trying to follow the advice of what has worked for others. May not work for us though. Still it has been fun writing with my sons.

Lauren Monahan said...

Love the premise (National Parks are such a cool idea for a twist), the fun boy voice, and humor (never moon a werewolf!). Sounds like one of the most MG Boy books I've seen in a while, and it's so cool that you had the opportunity to write it with your son. Will have to check it out. :)

Bridget Smith said...

I’m not quite clear on what the story is here. You’ve got a lively, energetic voice, but I think the pitch needs some tightening and clarification. There are some fun details in here, but they should be secondary to the plot description. In addition, there are a number of typos and grammatical errors, so you might want to double check that before sending it out.

It’s great that you wrote this with your son! Sounds like a cool project. However, you should know that if a book was previously self-published, it will probably be very, very difficult for an agent to sell unless you’ve already sold thousands of copies. It’s still a worthwhile endeavor for you and your son, but it might be difficult to transition to traditional publishing.