Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #4

To Emily Gref:

THE FREEZER is a science fiction novel with a literary perspective similar to works by Ray Bradbury or Ursula K. LeGuin. It’s about 71,000 words.

Thane Ryder would move mountains to keep his daughter happy during her final days, but six-year-old Mandy wants more.

A rogue planet is on a collision course with Earth. A few thousand people can evacuate on ships destined for a new world. Thane’s wife Dawn piloted one of the first ships. Thane and Mandy were supposed to follow her.

But the Evacuation Authority disqualifies Mandy, dooming her to die with everyone else. Thane gives up his place on a ship to stay with her.

But Mandy isn’t content waiting to die--she wants to be with her mother again. Nothing short of that will make her happy, so Thane plays along with her plans and builds a spaceship from their old chest freezer.

Then Thane's former boss, Daniel, asks for help finishing up a real spaceship and offers them both a ride. Mandy doesn't want to take it. Daniel’s ship is bound for Mars, not the planet Mommy went to. Mandy claims Mommy told her to use the freezer spaceship instead.

Thane's goal to keep his daughter happy conflicts with his obvious wish to keep her alive. It's a no-brainer which should take precedence--until Thane also hears Dawn's voice.

As evidence grows that the voice may be real and Daniel’s promise a lie, Thane is torn. He can take either a rational step to the hellish red planet, or a leap of faith to a reunion with his wife.

I have a degree in English and work as a technical writer for a robotics firm. I’ve never seen the end of the world, but I have experience raising little girls.



Mandy sat in the middle of the living room with a balloon in her mouth, her small round face turning red as she tried to blow it up. It sputtered away. She gave me a look that resonated with my thoughts and threatened to shatter my composure. I turned away.

It was Mandy’s sixth birthday. Two years since Dawn left, two years of single-parenthood, and two years of swallowing tears. When Dawn flew away, Mandy was four. She’d be sixteen before I saw my wife again, touched her face, felt her breath. Someday…

For now, she was gone, piloting a ship named Hope, the Esperanza--alive out there, but dead to me.

Mandy had helped me clean the house that morning. We vacuumed, washed windows and dishes, did a real good job. We emptied it of dust and dirt, of fingerprints and smells. Now it was full of emptiness, vast and draining.

“Daddy,” Mandy called behind me. “I need help.”

She thrust the spitty balloon toward me and blinked tearful brown eyes. If ever a girl could wrap me around her finger, it was my Amanda. She got that from her mom.

I gathered and banished the grief from my face and hurried over to her, avoiding her eyes, hoping she wouldn’t see my feelings.

“It helps if you stretch it out a bit first.” I wiped the end of the balloon.

Mandy nodded, watching me.

“I’ll get it started for you.” I put a little breath into it, enough to get past the first part, the hardest part. “Now you finish it up.”


Merriam Saunders said...

I like your opening, it is well written and pulls my interest with the little info you give about the absent Mom, so I already feel for your MC. And I already like Mandy because she helped her Dad clean. I love that you call Mom's ship Esperanza.

Overall I felt the query did a good job of giving me the stakes. The only part I found off-putting was when you describe Mandy as not being content to die, or "wanting more". It doesn't sit right, because it seems like an unreasonable expectation. I think it will work better if you take that part out. We understand that a little girl might want to get to Mom, and we can sympathize with her around that. As written, she almost seems bratty for wanting it, which is probably not the intention.
Good luck!

Rebecca Kagan said...

You've intrigued me with the idea of a spaceship freezer.
I do agree with the comment above about 'wanting more' and not 'waiting to die', I think those are not quite right for a six year old.
While the query made me want to read more, the first 250 didn't catch my attention as it should. Could there be a place to start that might be better--maybe with the fridge: something either creepy, or fascinating showing us something odd or mysterious about it or what it means, or maybe start it when they get the notice that Mandy can't go on the ship.
Good luck!

Danielle La Paglia said...

I absolutely love this. I've read through everyone of these entries and yours is the only one to strike a chord with me. I can feel the sorrow and how torn he is. Parents will do anything for their children and I would love to read how his struggle between survival and believing in his child plays out.

I felt the query was a bit choppy. It didn't flow well for me, but it got more interesting as it went along and the first page really drew me in. Good luck!

Beth Adams said...

The query letter did not get me excited for the book. I feel like it needs to be a bit more concise, and I agree that it read a tad choppy. I was also bothered by the "wants more" in your hook. More...what? I'm left feeling a little disoriented by the sentence. I did love the line "I’ve never seen the end of the world, but I have experience raising little girls." I have a little girl, so that really resonates.

I'm glad that I read your first 250. Your writing is clear and full of lovely visuals. I get a good sense of the father's conflict, and I'm left wanting more. Great job!

M.T. said...

This is very strong.

I agree that there is no need to explain Mandy wants to see her mom, of course she would. I think it's enough to say that Thane wants to keep Mandy happy but he wants her to live. At the end of your first paragraph you say that Mandy wants more, and I think you could leave this out. I think it's enough to say he would move mountains for her. This shows how much he cares for her.

I read to the end. No matter the small details, your query makes me care about your characters and your story.

Emily Gref said...

Hi B.S.,

This feels like a very classic SciFi premise to me - which is a good thing! But outside of the high-stakes plot, I'd like to get more of a sense of *who* Mandy and Thane are as characters. The only clue we have in the query is that Mandy is demanding, but really she doesn't seem that unreasonable - who wants to be left behind and doomed to die? (I'm also not sure how much of a grasp Mandy should have on that as a 6 year old?)

Your opening is strong, though I see a bit of a tendency to tell Thane's grief rather than show it. Otherwise, well done!