Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Ms. Gref,

The last thing seventeen-year-old Cyanne expects, seated on a long flight next to her reclusive former best friend James, is to fall for him all over again--just as the plane begins to fall from the sky. As it dives toward the Pacific, James gives her a sip of a strange elixir and swears her to secrecy. He tells her he loves her, kisses her deeply, and then vanishes from her arms.

Cyanne is plucked from the Pacific, the only survivor of the crash. She is desperate to understand what happened to her and whether or not James really vanished. But she’s not the only one. An ancient society has walked the Earth in secret and their use of the elixir is tied to the very existence of man. They think she has it, and they want it back. When it becomes clear James is alive and has the elixir, Cyanne realizes he’s in danger. To unravel the mystery of her survival and the tormenting feelings she has for James, she must outwit her pursuers and find him before they do.  Because the secret that saved Cyanne in the crash has the power to kill her, James--and everyone on Earth.

CYANNE’S SECRET is YA light sci-fantasy with strong romantic elements. It is complete at 78,000 words and works as a stand-alone with series potential. I am querying you because I find your agency's focus on social media appealing and because I would like to work with a newer agent interested in collaborative efforts.

During my twelve years with the Ansel Adams Publishing Trust, I worked with Little, Brown on the publication of numerous books and maintain contacts there.  I recently received runner-up in the 2014 SF Writer Conference’s Victoria Hudson Emerging Writer Prize and have stories published in Family Therapy Magazine and the Mill Valley Literary Review. I am a member of SCBWI and Left Coast Writers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



He’s not supposed to be here.

I stood in the boarding area of San Francisco’s international terminal, feeling the buzz of classmates around me waiting to board the plane to Peru for our senior trip. A toddler squealed by the windows, running from her harried mother across the mottled carpet. I inhaled sharply. Next to her, a boy with broad shoulders stood with hands stuffed in his pockets, gazing out at the airplanes in the rainy night.


James Steward was taller than most boys, so he was easy to pick out of a crowd. But he was the last person I expected to see here. I’d helped to organize this trip and James was not on the roster.

The toddler, still scuttling around, crashed into James’ knees. He smiled and put a hand out to steady her. He caught my gaze and I glanced down, past my sneakers to the stained carpet beneath. Anywhere but his direction.

White Converse. What was I thinking? They’d get so dirty on this trip.

I sucked on a lock of hair, its familiar smooth feel on my tongue as I studied my feet. Mom hated when I chewed my hair. But it was a useful habit--it calmed me and covered the sprawling tarantula of a scar on my chin and neck. As if that wasn’t enough to wow a crowd, I also sported a hobbled left leg to accessorize the scar.

Just what every girl wanted to round out her look.


etsmith said...

The query's opening line is a bit unwieldy. It might work better if the information was split into two sentences.

Other than that, I liked the premise.

GSMarlene said...

I agree the first line of the query is a bit clunky. It's also a bit cliché (the last thing she expects...) From there it does read a bit synopsisy (I know, not a word), but once it's set up, I love the concept and would really enjoy reading this.
For the first 250, I think the second paragraph takes all the tension away from the first line. After that - awesome.

Beth said...

I really enjoyed the writing sample, especially the part about chewing her hair. The query letter left me a little uncertain of the plot, though. Could you describe a little more about the elixir? Does this ancient society actually want to use it to destroy Earth? I am curious about this mysterious society.

Margaret Telsch-Williams said...

Hi M.S.,
I do have to agree that the first line of the query is a bit clunky, but I believe it's easily fixed. My suggestion is to swap the first portion with the parenthetical element to make the sentence run cleaner without losing what you have here.
I would like for us to get the name/title for this ancient society just to keep the query from sounding too vague, as well as give us some idea as to what exactly they'll do to her and what, exactly, her plan is to "outwit" them. Nothing major, but be more specific.
Otherwise, I think the query gives us enough to be intrigued, but what you want is that big hook that makes an agent NEED to know what happens. You can do that with concise, specific info. Great credentials, by the way.
As for the 250, I like what you have here. Very tight, very polished. I spotted some repeat "was"s in the second paragraph, but nothing else really stood out that I thought you could fix. To add more tension/pull, I'd show Cyanne more unnerved by James being there. As is, we know he's not supposed to be there, but we don't know how to feel about that unless we see how Cyanne feels about it. Great description of her, though. Cyanne comes across well and she's sympathetic right away.
Good luck in your querying!

Emily Gref said...

Hi M.S.,

I enjoyed what I got to see of Cyanne's voice in the sample - definitely amp that up! We don't need quite as much description as you have here - try to pare down the adjectives and adverbs, otherwise they feel like "filler".

The query felt a little generic to me, and confusing, particularly when I try to imagine that scene happening while a plane is crashing. The significance of the elixir & ancient society is also very vague, and makes me wonder about the level of world-building that went into this. Ancient societies and doomsday devices are a very common trope in SFF - you want to show why your story stands out from the rest.

All the best,

Merriam Saunders said...

Thank you to every one who commented. Super helpful and I will use it all to tighten my work. Thanks for the feedback, Emily.