Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Mr. Cusick,

I read in an interview on Middle Grade Ninja that you are interested in stories set "in our contemporary world with a sci-fi or fantastical twist." My YA magical realism novel THE ART OF BREAKING, complete at 90,000 words, is exactly that.

When rule-breaker Luca Grable drowns at seven years old, she doesn't go to heaven. Instead she becomes an imaginary friend. But when her best-friend-from-life Katie Tayloe is unable to get over her death, the Council of Imaginaries breaks its own rule and assigns Luca to Katie. And the girls spend the next decade growing up almost like nothing ever happened.
But now the council is considering a new rule that will terminate their friendship on Katie’s eighteenth birthday. If they move forward with The Grable Clause, Luca only has a month left before she never sees Katie again. And with her crush Wes Burnley suddenly able to see her after she saves his life--and the chance at a once-in-an-afterlife romance within her grasp--Luca is too caught up in trying to have a normal life to notice that the Imaginary world is breaking apart around her. Or that it’s all her fault.
Luca must learn what it means to be a true friend, or risk the lives of everyone she loves.
THE ART OF BREAKING will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere.
I earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. My adult magical realism romance, LOVE AND CUPCAKES, will be released in January 2014 from Swoon Romance. For the past ten years, I have worked as a marketing copywriter, proposal editor, and graphic designer.
Per the contest guidelines, I have included the first 250 words of the manuscript below. Thank you for your consideration.



The rules of summer were simple--only one ice cream sandwich per day, no swimming without appropriate supervision, and always be home before dark. On the day Luca Grable died, she broke all three. The first two were acts of seven-year old rebellion. The third was an unintentional side effect of drowning in her best friend’s pool.

But even dying couldn’t keep Luca from growing up. It was one of the perks of becoming an Imaginary friend instead of going to heaven. She got to keep aging along with her best friend as long as Katie needed her. And there was nothing her mentor Math could do about it, no matter how late she was for their weekly meeting.

He could, however, put her on bathroom duty. Again.

Luca checked her watch as she hauled a** the last few feet to the entrance of Imaginary House. Ten more minutes and not even being a few months shy of legal age could save her from scrubbing toilets and bleaching tile grout every Saturday night for the next month.

She flung herself through the front gates, gripping the smooth metal bars for balance, and shot up the sidewalk. The house cast dozens of crooked shadows on the lawn from the various additions that jutted out at odd angles from the main building. A few younger Imaginaries chased each other around the half-acre of thick grass, using the shadows as safe zones. Their laughter pierced the air. Their knees were stained with grass and dirt and remnants of melted chocolate.


Creel Family said...

You did a great job with this! I love, love the idea and your query made me want to read the book immediately. Your first paragraph is amazing! Great job and good luck!

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how you can see the difference between a writer who is just starting out and learning how to write and finding their voice vs. a writer who has been at it for a while. S.C., it is clear you have been working on your craft. This query is clean and refined, I had trouble finding fault in it. And the first 250 draws me in immediately, especially that opening line--what a great hook! Love how you develop the setting whilst the character is in action. I don't like books that take me out of the story to over describe the setting, it should flow with the story, which is what you do (good job). Only recommendation, loose the word a** from the beginning of the book. Maybe okay later to slide in a curse word for realism, but I'd avoid it in the first few chapters so as not to turn off any people apposed to seeing such words. Otherwise, freak'n awesome job!!!

Author Amok said...

Great concept. I liked paragraph one of your 250, but paragraph two covered a lot of ground in a summary. The Council of Imaginaries is such a cool idea for a fantasy novel.

Anonymous said...

Spectacular first paragraph in your excerpt. Good query, too.

A creative concept, reminiscent of "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends." It's a little boggling to know that imaginary friends need toilets.

"Legal age" and the YA designation tell us she's almost 18 at the time of the story, but you might want to emphasize this slightly earlier because at first reading it seemed like you had a young child "hauling a**."

Cindy Schrauben said...

LOVE the concept. Your query had me anxious for more. I was a bit disappointed at the beginning of the MS that we didn't get a sense of who Luca is. It seemed to jump into the issue so quickly - maybe a quick set up of who she is so we can get to know her before all the conflict??? Anyway... great job. I think you have a strong product here.

Jessi Esparza said...

Both your query and first page are really good. My only suggestion is in the first 250 it gets dropped on the reader that she is an imaginary right at the onset, and there's really no explanation as to why she became imaginary instead of going to heaven. Initially that's where my mind went, "why did she become imaginary?" but you quickly go into Luca being almost 18 and having bathroom duty. It's fine, but maybe something to look into.

This concept is awesome and super unique!

Christy Baker Knight said...

Love the simple rules of summer turning dark...very strong writing. I would buy this book!

J.P. said...

The concept is interesting and once I started reading I wanted to read more. The story flowed.

Anonymous said...

Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for your encouraging (and enthusiastic!) feedback. I appreciate the support and the tips for what can make the opening stronger.

John C. said...

I like this blend of imaginary friend / ghost story, and the writing is strong. Someone above mentioned you've been really working on your craft, and that's so clear here!

That said, to me, this concept does feel a bit familiar. The imaginary friend element adds something new, but there are so many afterlife stories on the market, and on submission, I worry editors will be reluctant to take on another. "Paranormal" is such a dirty word these days, fairly or not, and I worry this project might be lumped in with others in that genre.