Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Ms. Sciuto,

Born a Demon Charmer, fifteen-year-old Kin has the ability to speak to yokai, monsters who plague the land. Even though she uses her ability for good, it doesn't undo her secret shame. The people of Kyo have long feared Demon Charmers, after the last one defied the Emperor and chose to side with a dragon. Her own birth parents abandoned her in fear. It isn't until Kin finds a home with Yugao, the girl sent from the Moon, that she feels part of a family.

The Moon returns on Yugao’s seventeenth birthday and tells Kin she has one year left with her sister. Yugao is the first person who loved Kin for who she is despite the risks. Kin can’t bear the thought of losing Yugao, but her sister doesn't see another choice.

Against her sister’s wishes, Kin travels to the tallest mountain in the land to convince the Moon that Yugao should determine her own fate. First, she must face Oni Forest, the yokai’s dwelling place surrounding the mountain. There, Kin must accept her own fate as a Demon Charmer--or lose her sister forever. 

Complete at 82,000 words, KIN is a young adult fantasy inspired by Japanese folklore, as well as my travels to Kyoto and Tokyo. It will appeal to fans who admire a sister’s sacrifice in DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier and the coming into one’s power in Cindy Pon’s SILVER PHOENIX. I have a B.A. in English, specializing in Creative Writing, from Minnesota State University Moorhead. I’m an active member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and feel free to contact me with any questions.



Six Years Earlier

The Tsukimi, the moon viewing festival, brought Kin to the grassy edge of the river. It was a yearly tradition ever since she came to live with her family. She and her siblings formed a neat line in front of their uncle while their parents’ laughter faded through the purple silhouettes of leaves rattling in the wind. The sun fell behind the mountains hours before, and now they waited for the moon’s face to break through the last batch of clouds in the sky.

Kin hung the lantern on a pole. A glint of metal caught her eye. Her uncle tucked a scroll into the sash of his kimono. She recognized the scroll right away. It was the one he brought with him year after year, but he never showed them its contents. Her uncle let her read any scroll she wanted in the library. Why hide this one from her?

“Are you going to ask him?” her sister said in a loud whisper.

“Shhh,” Kin replied. She avoided glancing at the scroll. But it called out to her, like it belonged to her “Not now.” Kin sat down, folding her red kimono to cover her dirty feet. She ran her fingers through the tangled dark strands of hair.

“You’re more patient than I.” Yugao flipped her long hair over her shoulders. The silky strands fell like a curtain gently touched by a spring breeze. Yugao’s smoothed the fabric she designed for her birthday kimono.


Jamie Krakover said...

In your query you had me at Born a Demon Charmer, but I started getting confused at the last sentence in the first paragraph. Some of this may be me not knowing much about Japanese lore, but when I saw The Moon I wasn't really sure what it was other than a floating body in the sky.

The mention of a sister confused me in the second paragraph. I'm assuming you are referring to Yugao but I wasn't sure. Are they real sisters, or is she more of an adoptive sister. Clarifying that I think will help.

In your first 250, starting with 6 years early is a bit of a red flag for me. It says back story incoming. Despite that, you've woven some good mystery surrounding the scroll in with some interesting descriptions. I'm curious to see how this scene ties in with what is to come in Kin's future. I'd consider ditching the 6 years earlier and then when you get to the part taking place more in the present say six years later.

I wish you luck moving forward with this :)

Ambiguous_A said...

Hey! So here are my thoughts.

Query: I agree that things got confusing for me in the second paragraph. I wasn't sure if the Moon was a place, a person, or an actual personified moon, so I would try to make that a little clearer. I think the second paragraph could be more concise and focus more on Kin, because with the way it is phrased it seems like you're unintentionally switching the focus to Yugao. Also, I wish you tied in the Demon Charmer aspect throughout more of the query, because it's such a part of her identity.

Firs 250: I didn't have a problem with starting six years earlier, and I thought the imagery was beautiful. My one issue is it's a lot of description, and I wanted to know more about your MC.

Good luck!

-Ambiguous A

Zainab Khan said...

I had to reread your query letter.

I enjoyed reading the first 250 words. I am curious to know what is written in the uncle's scroll. I like the painted image in my head.

Good luck.

Kaye M. said...

Go, Iron Keys, go! I've already read this, so I have no problem with keeping up. After you streamlined the descriptions, the language is positively gorgeous.

Keep up the awesomeness, girl! <3


I LOVE the premise. Demon Charmer. Yes. It's refreshing to not see the word slayer. I did get a little lost in the query, but it's such an easy fix. Just keep it straight to the main plot and focused on Kin. It would stink to lose agent's interest for something fixable, especially when you have a great high-concept and multi-cultural thing going on here.

The sample from the ms is well-written and I feel Kin's sense of self in the way you use body language.

Best of luck to you.

Perrie said...

The beauty of your story shines in imagery and detail!

The comments so far are incredibly insightful.

I agree with keeping Kin the focus of both the query and 250.

I'd like to see the 250 end on a stronger note... more concrete.

Your story is clearly original and deeply layered.

I'm excited for you! :)

Agent Sara Sciuto said...

This is a great query! When I first saw the word "demon" I was concerned as angel/demon books are pretty saturated now and can be a tough sell--but when I realized it drew more from folklore I was really excited to read on. It sounds like a really interesting and unique world and I love that it takes inspiration from Japanese folklore.

I enjoyed the sample pages as well. They had a great sense of setting as well as character. The writing voice also had a wonderful lyrical quality that I really enjoyed. I also appreciated that you were able to introduce some tension with the mysterious scroll that our MC isn't allowed to see. I would want to keep reading!