Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Ms. Gref,

The Army doesn't want kids who are unreliable.

Thirteen-year-old Jamie Hazuki knows that. Knows the soldiers in Iraq will be counting on him to protect them, to stop the bullets with his power. That's how PILOTs serve their country, and Jamie spent the last two years training hard to become one.

He doesn't fail his final test. But he fears failing when it matters most.

Not on his first mission. That was easy. Jamie and his friends--energetic Alesia and headstrong Marie--helped Special Forces search for a missing PILOT in the hostile city of Samarra.

Not on his second mission. That was easy too. They investigated a devastating attack on an Army base that only the missing PILOT could have done.

On his third. When Jamie, Alesia, and Marie are tasked to hunt down and stop the rogue PILOT. The rogue PILOT who tricks the Army into attacking them. The rogue PILOT who's growing strong enough to destroy entire cities. The rogue PILOT who wants to bring the world to its knees before her. Every nation on Earth is looking to the three of them, and Alesia and Marie can't stop the rogue PILOT without him. Jamie has to push past the fear that freezes him. He has to. Has to...

PILOT is a YA science fiction novel complete at 73,000 words. I've used my military experience to add to the authenticity of the PILOTs' own experiences in the story. Thank you for your time and consideration.




The bullet stopped right in front of the boy's face. It stayed there, frozen in midair. His whole body shuddered as he eyed the bullet only six inches from his forehead. Gravity started to take it. The bullet didn't fall straight down, but rolled in a curve away from the boy's body. It bounced along the concrete floor of the lab's firing range, its soft tink-tink-tink easily heard. The boy watched until it stopped. He closed his eyes and swallowed what little saliva he had left in his mouth.

"Are you nervous, Jamie?" the female scientist said over the intercom.

Of course. But it wasn't the bullet. This was the big day. Test day. Jamie was only thirteen, and the last two whole years of his life would amount to nothing if he couldn't pass this test. So the bullet couldn't hurt him, oh no. He was his own worst enemy right now.

"A little," he said, looking up at the elevated observation room's big windows. The bright yellow lights inside made it a beacon in the sterile lighting of the firing range. The observation room had two scientists and a few military personnel in it, but more importantly, Alesia was there. Both of them were testing out today, and she already passed. Most kids washed out well before the test, but some managed to come this far and fail. And the Army didn't want kids who were unreliable.


Donea Lee said...

Hey ~ :)

I think this is a really interesting concept, but I may be over-thinking it a bit. While I applaud your different formatting approach to the query (Not on the first mission. Not on the second...) it sort of distracted me. I wanted to know a bit more about his world, his investment in this training, what he gains or loses, but the query seemed focused on just what happens in three missions with a rogue PILOT. And does a PILOT only stop bullets?

I guess this is where I started overthinking it - if a PILOT only stops bullets, does he stand in the trenches with the troops? How does he know a bullet is coming and from where? What happens if a whole lot of bullets converge on him from too many guns? I guess I got bogged down by the one power and why it was so important. Surely there had to be more to it?

That said, in the first 250, I did find your initial image engaging. :) Again - really interesting concept and I wish you the best of luck with it!

MeriAnn said...

First of all, thank you so much for your service. That being said, it sounds like a very interesting story idea. I would have loved to have been more engaged from the start, but not sure how you can do that. I would also like to see more information about you as the author.

GSMarlene said...

Interesting concept! I think your query is a little long - but this could be easily fixed by taking out all the negative phrasing. There is so much that doesn't happen when we want to know what does - and what the mc wants. This stood out the most with "He doesn't fail his final test. But he fears failing..." Then followed by more things that he didn't fail on.
The last pg sets up the problem - but is so punctuated with the repeated, capitalized PILOT that it's hard to read. It does set up the problem, but then ends with he has to push past fear but no "or else..." No personal stakes.
For the first 250, I really like the description of the test, well written, I could totally picture it. But I'm not sure what was wrong that the scientist thought he was nervous. Because the bullet didn't fall straight down? I'd have been happy with it curving! This is something I never noticed until one of my critique partners noted it, but often using negative language (what didn't happen) is very confusing to the reader. Tell us what did happen and how it makes the mc feel.
Sorry this was a bit long, but I hope it helps.

Rebecca Santelli said...

I can definitely see the potential in this concept and I enjoyed the first 250 words. I agree with the previous comments that the query itself could be tighter. I'd suggest taking out the paragraphs on his final test and first two missions. Focus on the rogue PILOT, why Jamie is chosen to stop him or her, and the personal stakes of him failing. BTW, a thirteen year old protagonist seems better suited to a MG audience rather than a YA audience. Also, it's hard to imagine an 11 year old being trained for battle in the US (I assumed he was in the US) (is there a particular reason they would have to train so young)? Maybe it would make sense to make the main character sixteen or seventeen.

Emily Gref said...

Hi W.M.B.,

Military scifi is definitely a rich genre rife with potential, and I think you have an interesting concept here. I also enjoy that Jamie's fellow PILOTs are all girls.

However, 13 is a bit young for YA these days - you might want to consider aging them up a bit, especially since it seems like it's contemporary and powers or not, people would have a lot to say about minors in active duty!

Rather than telling us about Jamie's missions, I want to know a little bit more about their world, what PILOTs are, and how they came to be.

Your sample is strong, but you linger a little too long on details - it takes four sentences for the stopped bullet to fall, which has the effect of distancing the reader from Jamie and his story. In a story as intense and action-packed as this one, you want to keep the tension high - even in the quiet scenes.

Hope that helps, and best of luck!

All the best,