Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Ms. Smith:

I am seeking representation for OF BLOOD AND ROSES, my 70,000-word YA fantasy retelling of the Scottish folk ballad, "Tam Lin."  I recently saw your #MSWL tweet in which you expressed an interest in YA that captures the feel of music (bands, fans, etc.), and, as a singer/songwriter with a B.A. in Music, I am hoping that my music-themed manuscript, OF BLOOD AND ROSES, will strike a chord with you (Forgive me! I couldn't resist!).

Halloween brings hoards of wasted witches, drunken demons, and masked mayhem to the city of Salem, Massachusetts, but music major Maggie Mae Carter feels bored, awash in a sucky sea of collegiate drudgery. So when she hears a voice on the radio that makes her feel more alive than she has in years, Maggie steels away to The Hall--a labyrinthine rock club in the heart of “Witch City”--to meet the young man who spins folksongs into rock ‘n’ roll perfection.

But as she is plunged into the world behind the shadows of The Hall, Maggie discovers that there’s more to singer Thomas Lynn than meets the eye, and when he oh-so-casually lets slip that he’s going to be sacrificed by a band of faery folk-rockers on Halloween night, Maggie will risk everything, going toe-to-toe with the Queen of Faerie herself, to save him. With the help of a Bostonian changeling, a Japanese fox-wife with one mother of a bad attitude, and her own penchant for folk balladry, Maggie must rescue Thomas Lynn from the fey forces that threaten him. And, if she can, she must save him from himself.

Graduating summa cum laude as a music major from Salem State University, I have garnered recognition for my fiction, my poetry, and for my songwriting.  The winner of the Boston Folk Festival's Songwriting Contest as well as the South Shore Folk Club's Ballad-Singing Contest, I have spent years studying the ballad of "Tam Lin," living with it, dreaming it, imagining my own world within the fertile lines--a landscape of sex, sacrifice, and the quest for true love.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I hope to hear from you soon.



My father forbade me to go to The Hall that night.

I listened to him calmly--he was being quite rational, a welcome change--and then I went anyway.

Forbid is one of those words that makes me cringe; it’s too solid. When spoken, it rings like a door being shut, and I’m sick to death of closed doors. Well, you know what they say: when one door closes, open a window.

The copper beech beyond the glass shivered in the cool October air, and the glow from the streetlight gathered golden in the leaves. Hoisting open my window, I hiked up my ridiculously impractical (but deliciously scarlet) ’50s-style dress, narrowly avoided strangulation by my purse, and climbed down the tree’s sprawling, silver-barked branches. Climbed is too generous a word for what actually transpired. I slipped on the beech bark, which was smooth as polished stone, and, in an aerial display that I can only hope amused the lone squirrel watching, I landed in my father’s petunias. After retrieving one of my black leather flats from the hedges, where it had flown seemingly of its own volition, I swore to myself that next time, if there was a next time, I would dress more sensibly.

I wasn’t bold enough to swipe my father’s keys, which meant that my transportation for the night would be my bike.  It was fugly and small, but had silver handlebars curved like a bull’s horns, and I felt like a rapscallion when riding it, which was, I thought, worth all the hideousness.


Samantha Sabovitch said...

A couple query nitpicks:

You mention the name of your novel twice in the first paragraph. I'd use it only once.

You've also used some conjunctions that aren't necessary. "So when..." could be "when," and "But as..." could be "as."

In your last paragraph, I would drop the part about living and dreaming "Tam Lin." In its place, I would include the recognition you received for your fiction and poetry. You've only mentioned your songwriting accolades.

One nitpick about your 250 words:

You've used several -ly words. Slice them out!

I like your voice, and the story intrigues me. I didn't stop at any point but read to the end to see what would happen. You did well giving me a sense of who the character was.

I'd like to have more "movement" in the first 250 words. The only thing that happens is that she sneaks out of the house against her father's wishes. Maybe you could squeeze in the punishment she'll receive, why her father forbade her, or take out some of the sneaking-out bits to get the first (hopefully exciting) action in at the Hall.

Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about Tam Lin, but this intrigues me. I'm a bit confused about Maggie's age. You label this as YA but then mention she's in college. She also seems to live with her father. So, maybe mention her age to clear that up?

I really enjoyed the first 250, but I didn't love the first two paragraphs. The voice in the first line seems quite different from the rest of the sample. Then, the second line summarizes something we haven't seen yet. I'd almost like it to start with the third paragraph. But either way, I love how unique this is. Good luck!

Eric Steinberg said...

This has a unique premise and great voice throughout the query and first 250.

I agree with the Michelle about this not seeming YA. I got more of a NA impression. Re-reading, I see you don't say she's in college, but making her age clear would be helpful.

In the 250, the first two paragraphs do sound stilted and different from the voice in the rest.

I'd suggest a couple of edits in the paragraph beginning "The copper beech." I'd cut "and climbed down the tree’s sprawling, silver-barked branches." and take "actually out of the following sentence."

I hope this helps. Again, I love the voice and premise. I'd definitely read this.

Megan Reyes said...

You do a great job with personalizing your query! “will strike a chord with you” Tee hee. Love it.

Some quick edit suggestions: “Maggie steels away” should be “steals”
Query sounds good. Lots of dark, magical mysteries await young Maggie, which is always fun for the reader. :)

Like michelleimason, I was also confused about Maggie’s age.
As for the first 250 words:
The first line seems odd. It doesn’t seem to flow with the rest of the voice. It seems like a verb-tense shift. Going from “My father forbade me” to “Forbid is”/” I’m sick to death of closed doors” doesn’t quite seem consistent. Not sure about this though.

There might be a bit too much description of Maggie’s attire, which I don’t think is quite necessary. By the time we got to “black leather flat" I felt it was a bit overboard.

All in all, the premise sounds interesting. Good luck!

Anne Tedeton said...

Lots of good suggestions here pointing out everything else I could say, so I'll just say this--

I love your description, and Maggie's voice is definitely unique. "Rapscallion" tickled me.

I think you were also in TWV, and I remember loving this concept then, still love it now. Really hoping you'll get some bites, because I'd love to read this story.

I don't know if you've seen this, but considering this *is* a Tam Lin retelling, I figured I'd pass the info along:

Good luck!

Melinda said...

It sounds to me like Thomas Lynn doesn't really care that he will be sacrificed. The feelings/motivations here might be obvious to anyone who is familiar with the original Tam Lin story, but since I am not I feel like I am missing something.

The first 250 is fine, but could be more active. It feels like the character is telling me what is happening rather than me experiencing the scene along with her. As a result, I'm not really feeling an emotional connection to her. But this can be easily fixed with a little editing.

Overall, it sounds like an interesting premise.

Mandy P. said...

I agree with the other commenters that you need to clear up what Maggie's age is. College isn't really in the realm of YA. This might be more of a "New Adult" story.

Chalk me up as another person who is not familiar with the tale of "Tam Lyn" so if I'm missing things that should be obvious, forgive me. The biggest thing that stood out to me (in not a good way) in the query was Maggie risking everything for Thomas. How long has she known this guy? "Plunged into the world of shadows" doesn't really tell me if it's been a week or six months. On first read I assumed it was a short time and that turned me off. I'm not much into the idea of girls throwing everything away on boys they just met. But that's totally a personal preference thing on my part. I'm sure it works for a lot of people.

I really enjoyed your 250, though if it were me, I would start your story at the "The copper beech beyond the glass..." paragraph. That and the following paragraph clearly show she's sneaking out of her father's house, so I don't think the telling in the previous paragraphs are necessary. He must have forbid her if she's sneaking out!

Overall I think you have a solid concept and great writing! Good luck!

Vercingetorix said...

I enjoy urban fantasy, and the idea of a music-themed fantasy is intriguing.

The query read well.

But the first page gave me pause. I understand rebellion, but in the first 250 words, the girl defies her father's (presumably sensible) instructions, takes a foolish physical risk, and decides not to steal her father's car keys out of cowardice, not because she believes it's wrong.

Perhaps I'm a prude, but I wouldn't want my kids to read a book featuring a protagonist so quickly established to be dishonorable.

I'll acknowledge that I'm probably not your target market, despite my appreciation for urban fantasy.

Bridget Smith said...

Here’s another one that’s in my inbox, waiting for further consideration!

A very strong query, and right up my alley: clear & concise presentation of plot, vivid depiction of characters, distinctive writing sample (perhaps a few too many adjectives, but they’re well-chosen, so I don’t mind too much). I’m not sure the first line needs to be such a literal interpretation of the ballad, but perhaps I am just a bit too familiar with said ballad.