Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Sara,

I am currently seeking representation for my YA fantasy REDHUNT, and your interest is stories with a gritty narrative and darker themes encourages me that you will connect with my book. 

The end of the war will change seventeen-year-old Olethea Parker’s life forever.

In the Lands, a gritty otherworld ruled by the Tribunal’s wonderworking power, Reds have always been hunted, the minds of the people have long been controlled, and unnatural Beasts and Carriers destroy anyone who opposes their makers. Olie is a Red, one marked by red hair and immune to the Tribunal’s power. As her Colony falls, her life is desperately close to ending, but Olie's mother sacrifices herself so Olie can live.

Olie's survival is imperative, because she alone has the power to end the Tribunal's bloodthirsty reign. With the aid of rebels, Olie is hidden beneath the nose of Regime soldiers on a farm in the East. There, Olie discovers a revolution brewing. One that hinges on her and a prophecy foretold in wonderworking-made Tales. When Hunters--blood-trackers bred by the Tribunal to kill their adversaries--come for her, Olie narrowly escapes with a boy trained to protect her.

Hunted across the East, Olie begins to uncover a power she never dreamed she possessed, and the secrets her mother had long hidden. But not even the Hunters stalking her, or the dangers that litter the Eastern landscape, are as perilous as falling in love with a boy who would die for her.

REDHUNT is the first novel in a planned trilogy that will appeal to fans of the unique fantasy world in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, as well as the dark twisted elements present in Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series. Lindsay Cummings, author of the forthcoming The Murder Complex and The Balance Keepers has already given my novel this terrific blurb: "Redhunt is an epic tale of love and betrayal, with writing so gorgeous I was devastated by the time it was all over."

Before REDHUNT, I wrote both stage and screen plays, which were locally produced. This is my first foray into YA, and recently I completed a workshop with Nova Ren Suma through MediaBistro. You can find me on Twitter and the blogosphere, where I’m busy building my author platform, and always, ardently writing or reading something.

Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoy reading Olie’s story, as much I enjoyed writing it. 

My best,


The sweat pooling between my knees and the crooks of my elbows wakes me, but it’s the shrieking of the Watchers hawks through my open window that jolts me from bed. One swoops past our cottage, sounding its call, and then darts high in the sky and away to safety. They come from the boundary of Green Mountains. These cries are a warning. We can run but we will not win. Soon our colony will be invaded, the very guts of it ripped apart until the pieces can’t be assembled again. Soon, all my hiding will be over.

Momma skitters across the living room like a harassed mouse chased by a broom, her shape is a blur to my still sleep-filled eyes. She’ll be punished for having a daughter like me, and it’s too late to change that.

As she passes my doorway again, I see why I’m sweating. The fire in the hearth blazes, being fed by stacks of paper and twine, its heat thickening the air of this late summer night. On the other side of the room, her trunk is cast open and mostly emptied. She grabs out another handful of paper, sending buttons and thread-spools falling to the floor beside her feet.

“We need to go. What are you doing?” I ask, pressing into the doorway and lifting the hem of my gown off my sweat soaked thighs. After a few beats with no answer, I move from the doorway into her path.


Andrew said...

Very cool! Nice energy in the opening. Makes me want to read more. :D

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hey R.F,

I'm a sucker for great book titles and for some reason REDHUNT really appeals to me. The fact that it also serves to underline the subject matter in a simple yet evocative way also made sure I grasped your concept straight away.

You've also done a great job of establishing tension from the outset, reeling the reader in.

A minor niggle I found in your query was that you repeat Olie's name quite a lot. For example in the sentence 'As her Colony falls...' you use it twice within the space of a few words. Perhaps try alternating it with 'she' a bit more particularly in the fourth paragraph, I know its nothing but even the smallest thing can make a huge difference in the query process.

Best of luck,


Anonymous said...

Okay, here we go. DISCLAIMER: These suggestions are just that, suggestions. I am no query master, in the least.

The Query: Overall, it's a bit on the long side. With one paragraph as an opening, three paragraphs about the story, and two paragraphs about the manuscript itself (somewhere in there should be the word count) It's about three paragraphs too long.

A "formula" I've heard several agents and editors suggest for writing a query--and I use the term formula loosely--is they want to see three paragraphs.

*The hook, what gets them excited about the story.

*The book, what happens in the story.

*The cook, a little bit about you.

The intro paragraph is fine, I don't think it counts really, and you added a personal touch for why you're querying this particular agent. Nice.

Your opening line about the end of the war isn't the one that grabbed my attention, though. Nor was it the one about the Lands. You made me lean forward in my chair, literally tilt toward my screen, when I got to "Olie is a Red, one marked by red hair and immune to the Tribunal's powers." That is cool. If I were you, I would lead with that, and then mold the rest of the query around that.

You start with the otherworld, and the Tribunal and the Reds being hunter, but I don't know who the Tribunal is (not saying you have to explain it) or what a Red is. THAT you do have to explain, and you go on to, but the explanation should come first. Plus the explanation line is just killer.

You mention Beasts and Carriers, but they don't seem to be the major player here. The Tribunal is the threat. The other stuff is dangerous, but we might not need to be told about it in the query. Especially when we have these rebel forces and the Regime to get into. There's a lot going on in this query, probably because there's a lot going on in the story, it is a fantasy after all, but you don't want to bog the query down with all the details. That's what the synopsis is for.

Hook, book, cook, get in, get out, leave them wanting more.

And I wouldn't say how anyone else loves the book or has already given it a blurb, unless it won awards.

The 250: First line, the shrieking isn't what wakes her? I can empathize, it sucks trying to sleep in heat, but I would think the Watcher hawks would be the kicked, especially if the Watchers aren't a good thing.

The line, we can run but we will not win, confuses me. Running implied retreat. If you retreat, you automatically don't wind. Maybe trade win for hide? But then that's kinda cliche... Just a tweak there, win doesn't make much sense.

Last line. "Soon, my hiding will be for naught" or something, instead of will be over. Be over doesn't have any BAM, and the paragraph so far is leading up to some serious BAM. Nice.

Second paragraph, the sentence about momma being punished for having Olie seems out of place. All of this description, actions, go go go. The brief contemplation on this might fit elsewhere. Maybe after the third paragraph, where it would work as an emphasis for momma's rushing.

I'm intrigued, and want to see what Red's can do that has the Tribunal all shook up. I'm glad the 250 was here, because I liked the excerpt a lot more than the query, to be honest. While the premise in the query is promising, it's the 250 that pulled at me. Good stuff right there.

Right now, the query doesn't do the story justice in my opinion, but with some polishing I'm sure it will shine.

Alison Miller said...

I love so much about this! The title, your descriptions, THE FIRST 250. It's intense from line one and just moves from there and I want to move with it. I would love to read the rest!

And while I love, love, love the first 250, am definitely pulled in, and am intrigued to read on, I have to agree with another commenter, I'm not getting enough feel from the query to urge me to read more. There are things in there that INTRIGUE me and already make me feel for the main character (the mother sacrificing herself - heart-rending already!) and I LOVE the last line, but I think you could give the two opening paragraphs a little more punch and emotion. I don't think you need the first line. And I'd watch so many starts to sentences like this: "With the aid of rebels, Olie is hidden beneath the nose of Regime soldiers on a farm in the East." Sometimes I think simple, short, concise sentences can contribute to the urgency I felt in that first 250.

BUT, man - you rock the credentials! Go you! And please know that this is one amateur opinion. :) Feel free to ignore me. Good luck!

Katy Upperman said...

I'm so intrigued by this concept! I love that you compared this to the GRISHA trilogy. I just read the first in that series and anything similar to it definitely interests me. Your first 250 words were really well done too. Best of luck with the contest!

Anonymous said...

As a reader, the words draw me in with the promise of impending danger and adventure. Love the visceral feel of your word choices. The first 250 have me salivating already!

Good luck!

Agent Sara Sciuto said...

I was hooked when I read "fantasy", "gritty", and "dark". Though, for the query description, I found it too long (as I often do for fantasy queries). For fantasy or high sci-fi projects where the world is really complex and totally unfamiliar to a new reader, I find it's usually best to keep the descriptions on the shorter side. Keep the plot details to a minimum and just focus on the premise of the world and what the central conflict is going to be. Too many plot details can just be really overwhelming to someone who's not familiar with your world.

I was excited to see the Leigh Bardugo reference as I'm reading SHADOW AND BONE now and loving it! I was eager to get to your sample pages.

For the sample, I wasn't getting as strong a sense of the character as I wanted to. Rather, it felt like there was a lot of cryptic references to her character hiding, etc. The first paragraph also felt odd to me--it seems like a huge war's breaking out at that moment (which is kind of an intense moment, yet we don't even know the character yet); and further, I didn't notice any desperation or anxiety in the voice. The tone didn't match the event and it confused me. I like the idea of the world though and the project has potential.