Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Mr. John Cusick:

Twelve-year-old Maya didn’t know she was born on another galaxy until the day she makes a near-death escape from Earth in a giant avocado.

When a man named Gorak arrives on Earth to catch Maya, she dodges him by slipping into an avocado spaceship. She plops out on Pralayan, a galaxy where humans inhabit many of the planets. Maya finds out she has a twin sister, who has been enslaved by Gorak on Pralayan, and now Gorak needs Maya to complete his evil experiment to live forever. Maya’s sense of safety on Pralayan and her hope of finding her twin both dwindle when Gorak returns to Pralayan from Earth. Now Maya is shipped off to Navkaalam, a guarded planet for Pralayan’s human kids.

On Navkaalam, Maya befriends two boys, the fainthearted Yani and the half-plant-boy named Dhroon. But Maya’s connection with her twin runs much deeper than she imagined. Her dreams are haunted by the pain her sister feels, and the scar on her palm burns and leaves her longing for her twin. When she uncovers hidden symbols of a fiery eye, she is convinced it will lead her to her twin. Despite her fear that Gorak would show up any time and snatch her up, Maya and her friends set out to uncover the powerful secret behind the fiery eye symbol. But Dhroon goes missing, and Maya and Yani steal a space vessel to search for him, only to find out it’s a trap by Gorak to draw Maya out of Navkaalam. Their space vessel crashes on a planet where Maya spots the mysterious fiery eye, an energy source from outside our known universe. Now Maya must find a way to fend off Gorak so she can save Yani, and unite with her twin sister.

THE FIERY EYE is a 51,000-word middle grade science fiction. My story will appeal to readers of Karen Sandler’s TANKBORN and Dan Krokos’s The Planet Thieves.

Your interest in a fast-paced story set in an original science fiction world has compelled me to query you. This is a simultaneous submission. Thank you for your consideration.



Chapter 1: The Glowing Man

Maya dug her hand in the seat of the police cruiser until her fingers found the coin. A quarter. She eyed Officer Mike, who was busy pulling into the driveway, before she drew the coin out and stuffed it in her pocket. Backseats of cars were the best places to find loose change, and police cruisers were always loaded. Unless, Maya thought, you got in one with hard plastic-molded seats instead of the smooth black leather. Tough luck then.

Officer Mike opened her door. 

Maya hopped out. The key chains on her backpack jangled like rusty cans.

“Do you ever take that thing off?” Office Mike asked.

“Never,” Maya replied. At least never in daylight. Why would she? Everything she needed she carried in her small canvas pack. A roll of watermelon bubblegum, two pairs of clean socks, and loose paper clips. Seventeen old key chains she had collected over the years. They didn’t make for stealthy exits but she hated making silent entrances where no one looked up or noticed. Everyone heard her jingle-jangle when she walked.

“Where was she this time?” Mother stood on the porch, her arms planted on her hips.

“Same place. Today she was napping on that unmarked grave,” Officer Mike said, as he urged Maya up the gravel driveway toward the house.

“I don’t know why she wants to run away,” mother said. “Go inside and wash up,” she ordered.

Maya stomped inside. The screen door slapped shut behind her.  I wasn’t running away.


Author Amok said...

Hi, Fellow Writer! I thought your first page was much stronger than your query. It gave me a better sense of Maya's voice. Is there a way to keep the world building information to a minimum when querying a SF novel?

Stacey Trombley said...

Your first page is great, super fun. Great job! But the query is super hard to follow.

I like your log line, but the rest is a bit confusing. Try simplifying it as much as you can so someone who has no clue about this story/world can follow it easier. First, who's this man after her? Can we get a description? "super scary minion master mind Gorak travels to earth to..." or whatever, he's just kind of random now. Plus, when he shows up later we'll have a better idea of who he is. Then, how/why does she jump into an avocado ship? (that's cute by the way). But, I mean, someone comes after her, let's go to the avocado ship? There's just not enough of an explanation. Does she stumble upon the ship by accident and just gets on because, well, it's better than scary man chasing her? If so just a few more words would explain that. If there is more to it, spend a little more time explaining.
Next, I don't think the second line is needed in the query, just too much information, keep it simple. I'd go straight to the twin.
Next... hum what? I get real confused here. I believe you're basically saying "when Gorak comes back bad things happen" but it's very confusing the way its written. Plus, these planet names, oof. I'm wondering if maybe you should just jump right to Navkaalam because going to one planet, then to another because... I'm not sure... is a lot to follow in this short description. Here, new characters are introduced and that's always a good thing. Friendship= fun. (I'm also still curious about who was on the avocado ship and how did she find out about her twin.)At this point things get much clearer so its really just paragraph one that needs the work. Simplify the right things and explain the right things and you'll be a lot better off. (Yes, I know, queries are HARD. Some stories are so much easier to pitch than others. This one seems like a toughy!)

Also, another thought, because I'm feeling super chatty tonight-- you might also be better off keeping the query SUPER simple, like not even going into the second paragraph. Just explain bad man and what he's after, avocado ship, long lost twin in galaxy far away and imply some of the overall stakes and done. Because your log line is great, your first page is great... really all the point of a query is to get them to want to read the book, you don't need to tell them all the things. You don't need to explain your entire book to a stranger. Just get then to want to read it. Take your short pitch, expand on it and and hope they get to the first page, which I think will garner requests. Anyway, that's just my random thoughts. I've talked way to0 much.

...Don't hate me :D

Reverie said...

I think your query is a little long. Also it gets confusing with all the names of planets and people. Something like "she didn't know x until in escaping from Earth she lands on A planet. There she discovers y. Has to battle villain F because of z. Will realize_____."

Jessi Esparza said...

I loved the first page. Her voice is strong and developed. The fact that she wants people to notice her when she walks in says a lot about the character, and using the keychains was an interesting way of expressing that.

The Query needs a lot of work. Mainly, slim it down to only the most important parts relating to Maya's conflict: Finding her Twin sister, while dodging Gorak. Her friend being captured, them having to steal a spaceship have and then crashing on a random planet are plot points that while interesting, are at the moment just crowding your query. Remember, your query should be as concise as possible with it still making sense. You want the agent to get down to that awesome first page.

One question, you state that Dhroon goes missing, but in the last sentence, Maya has to save Yani. If this was intentional it doesn't make sense. and if it wasn't just watch out for those types of things.

I hope this helps!

Unknown said...

I agree with what Stacey T said. Definitely need to streamline the query. If you're having trouble deciding what needs to go, you could always try to condense it into 2-line pitch or a twitter pitch. Just good practice for making you figure out what you really need and getting rid of the rest. Queries are soooo hard! Your story sounds really exciting, so good luck!

Ravina Patt said...

Thanks everyone for the great feedback and suggestions. I didn’t see the information overload earlier, but now I do. It’s back to revision and streamlining for me.

And Stacey Trombley -- I totally love you :-). Thanks for detailed ideas of what to fix. I needed that. I’ve read your posts on Middle Grade Minded in the past, and I can’t believe the person who wrote “The perfect first page!” critiqued my query and first page.

Stacey Trombley said...

Ahaha! I feel so famous! ♥ thanks for the compliment!

John C said...

I agree with the comments above that the query wants a little streamlining. Questions I had after reading the first paragraph: where does the avocado spaceship come from? Is it Gorak's? Is the ship avocado-like, or literally a giant avocado that travels in space? This is such an interesting detail, but it seems arbitrary here-- if fruits (avocados are fruits, right?) are common methods of travel in this universe, let us know!

I was also unclear why the ship takes her to Pralayan, of all places. That seems to play directly into Gorak's plans-- is this a coincidence? Further, who ships Maya off to Navkaalam, and why?

Clearing up some of these questions will help readers follow the logic of your synopsis. Also, watch out for typos throughout, e.g. "Office Mike,' "mother" not capitalized consistently, etc. Not sure about this one, but do people live "on" or "in" a galaxy?