Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Mr. Cusick,
I recently read your interview with KidLit network where you mentioned you'd love to see something "scary in a fresh environment", and your example was very close to my MG urban fantasy (kid trapped in a cave). Hopefully, you'll find DARCY DARKLING AND THE FORGOTTEN CITY to be what you're looking for.
Twelve-year-old Darcy is bored of her city, with its high walls, fake grass and a whole lot of sameness. That is, until she finds a secret tunnel leading to an abandoned underground city. Every night she sneaks away to explore more of the winding tunnels and empty streets of The Forgotten City.

Her very own secret.

The underground seems empty at first, but the creatures who live in the dark don't appreciate a little girl poking her nose in their business. They don't trust the "sun-dwellers," a.k.a. humans. But Darcy refuses to stay away. She belongs to the dark, whether they like it or not.

When the creatures push her too far, Darcy gets lost in the labyrinth of tunnels and doesn't make it home by sun up. Now the humans know she's missing and they're coming after her--into the underground.

Because of Darcy, the forgotten race of goblins will come face to face with humans for the first time in two hundred years. An old feud turns into a fight over a girl who belongs nowhere and everywhere at once. Half human, half goblin.

DARCY DARKLING AND THE FORGOTTEN CITY is complete at 45,000 words. Thanks so much for your time.


The best place in the whole world is a mile below my feet.
Damp sludge drips from the stone walls of the underground tunnels, surrounded by darkness so thick it's like a living, breathing thing. There are new adventures everywhere. Every turn is a new secret waiting to be uncovered. I've found my share but I plan on finding a whole lot more.
Too bad I'm not supposed to go there, and if I was ever caught I'd be a lot worse than grounded. So right now I'm stuck above ground, in my boring apartment, doing my boring homework just waiting until I can sneak back to the tunnels.
It's my secret. No one can keep me away, not even Mom.
“Darcy!” Mom calls.
“What?  I’m doing my homework, just like you said.”
She walks into my room carrying a pair of muddy tennis shoes. “Explain to me how these got so dirty.”
Whoops. She wasn't supposed to find those.
I shrug, playing it off. “I was playing bee with Joe.”
I hold up a Frisbee. Lucky for me it’s got some dirt on it too. Otherwise she might suspect I’m not telling the truth.
“Leave it to you to find the only dirt in the whole city."
Here we go.
"Why do you think they did away with those parks I played in as a kid? They were dangerous. Stick to the astro-turf, okay?"

She says it so serious that I can't help but roll my eyes.


Creel Family said...

I love this! What a fun idea! The query reads well and your first page has an amazing first line, great voice, and I love Darcy right away. Good job and good luck!

Author Amok said...

I get a good sense of the human half of the setting from your query and first page. Loved mom's comment about the unsafe parks. Should the "half-goblin, half-human" moment come earlier in your query letter?

Molly Shaffer said...

Wow! I love the research you did on the agent. It is done tastefully. I love your opening sentence of your ms. It peeked my interest immediately. The only thing that concerns me is the verb tense. Are you writing it in present tense?

Rena J. Traxel said...

Your query is pretty good. I did have to re-read because I wasn't sure if you were saying Darcy is half goblin and if that's case: "She belongs to the dark" - maybe here let us know she's half goblin or let us know she isn't aware she's half goblin. I thought that would be the perfect place to clue us in vs. the end of the query. The moment I figured out she was half goblin I was intrigued.

Your first sentence is great! Maybe give us hint of why she isn't allowed underground. Is it dangerous? Haunted? To tighten things you could delete the "bee?" and go straight into her holding up the frisbee which btw was clever way to explain a foreign term to the reader.

Jessi Esparza said...

The query is very good, but one critique is that it gets a bit vague in the middle. As mentioned above, saying "she belongs to the dark" hints that there is something special about her, but not enough to confirm it. The line "when the creatures push her too far," implies more of an emotional struggle than a physical one, which I assume it is the latter. Otherwise, really great, and a very cool concept!

The first page was engaging and Darcy's voice is very strong. You can hear the boredom in her voice, and the itching anticipation to get back underground.

Anonymous said...

I love the concept and am a big fan of the voice in the first 250 as well. The only part in the query I might take a look at is the first paragraph, "a whole lot of sameness". I understand the idea you want to convey, but the wording isn't as strong as the rest of it.

Love it! Good luck.

hlynn117 said...

I loved your query and your hook. UF is my favorite genre, and I hope you get a request!

John C. said...

This sounds like a great concept, and yes, definitely in line with what I'm looking for in middle-grade. One thing that raised a red flag in your query: to me, the plot really kicks off when Darcy gets lost in the tunnels. At that point, we have real conflict and tension. Your query makes me question whether the story doesn't take too long to reach this point. I worry Darcy's initial explorations might not, in and of themselves, provide enough tension to get us hooked on the story. Darcy getting lost is really the inciting event-- before this, is it mostly world building?

I'd like a better sense of Darcy's deep motivations here. What does she want? Go deeper than her curiosity. Why *must* she explore the caverns? What do they mean to her on a deep emotional level? When the humans discover the goblins, what does that mean to Darcy?

As is, Darcy's role feels like a bit of a catalyst to the actual conflict. Because of her explorations, a war ignites . I want to know what role Darcy plays in that war, and what is at stake for her in its outcome.