Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Agent’s Inbox:

No respectable home in Orchard Knob is complete without at least one resident specter, and most folks can’t imagine life any other way--except for Oliver. There hasn’t been a ghost in his house since long before he was born. And bein’ that Oliver’s pa is the town’s mortician, everyone knows they should have more ghosts than anyone.

So when the ghost of Elijah Banks shows up saying his niece, Lena, is dead and that Oliver’s the only one who can keep her from crossing over, Oliver is certain ol’ Elijah has gone soft in the head. Especially when Elijah claims helping Lena will also solve Oliver’s ghost dilemma.

It’s crazy talk is what it is.

But then Pa decides to train Oliver in the family business using Grandpa’s old embalming room in the cellar--on the same day Lena’s body arrives. One accident with an embalming hose later and Oliver’s seein’ things no one else can, like the dark tethers attacking the town’s ghosts at night. And if that weren’t enough, Pa starts calling him things like “sensitive.”  

Now Oliver needs answers if he has any hope of helping Elijah and Lena--and even his own family--who might accidentally be responsible for the attacks on the town’s ghosts. Before long it’s a race against his grandpa’s long-forgotten ghost machine, and a dark ghost’s monstrous plan, to keep the tethers from consuming Lena and the rest of the town’s houseghosts. And Oliver’s gonna get his answers, and maybe even save the town, just as soon as he can get up enough nerve to go back in his cellar.

OLIVER’S GHOST MACHINE is an upper MG horror novel with steampunk elements, complete at 54,000 words. I’m a member of SCBWI and currently spend my daytime hours spinning tales for my seventh grade students in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Thank you,


There are no ghosts in our house. Haven’t been since before I was born. Ma gets embarrassed if we mention it out in public but, I mean, it ain’t like everyone in town doesn’t know. Pa even says we used to be wealthy before word got out that our last houseghost up and disappeared. But without a houseghost to review Pa’s contracts and such, it wasn’t long before folks started cheatin’ him out of money. Truth is, about the only thing we have left now is this rickety old ghost-free house.

We don’t know why our houseghosts abandoned us. Oh sure, houseghosts cross over all the time. Unfinished business gets finished and all that. Sometimes they get a little fuzzy in the head too, but the worst is when their death state starts to show. That can get pretty ugly. But unless you live in my house, another houseghost is always ready to replace the last.

That’s why I was completely caught off-guard when I came nose-to-aether-wisps with the ghost of Elijah Banks in our outhouse. To be fair he didn’t look any happier about it than I was. My hair was sticking up every which way (in other words, same as always) and I was trying to scrub the sleep outta my eyes. I staggered once and pulled open that door and began to relieve myself--right on old Elijah’s lap.

“Put that thing away boy! Can’t stay long.”


MVB said...

Hi KY,
This premise sounds very original and you have a great voice that sounds like it would be fun to read. The query is very clear, but it might be a little long. Possibly you could cut the parts where you slip into your MC's voice in the query. e.g. 'And bein' that Oliver's pa is the town's mortician' or 'It's crazy talk is what it is' etc. Maybe avoid words like 'tethers' which people might not understand (I didn't) in the query.
I really enjoyed your page up until the last 2 lines. The description of a house that had been abandoned by ghosts was entertaining and intriguing. However, I'm not sure if Oliver relieving himself into the ghost's lap is the best way to introduce them.

Mike M said...

I stopped reading at bein' in the query.

Your query is not supposed to be in character.

Rosalyn said...

I think this is a refreshing take on haunted houses--I want a house ghost!

But otherwise I agree with previous comments: the query should be trimmed (aim for about 2 paragraphs) and don't use dialect in the query.

Mel said...

I love the voice in this. I think this is a case of where the voice actually works in the query—a tough thing to do—but I'm no agent. If the length is too long, I personally don't mind. It made me want to read the 250. And YES-the 250 pulled me right in. Funny, vivid and a clear world setting. Good job.

Becca said...

Very creative premise. I like the idea of the houseghosts being useful for reading contracts--another unique idea. the way he meets up with the ghost in the outhouse is really funny. "Put that thing away"--hmm. It's funny too, but I wonder if it might be a little too PG-13 for MG?
I want to know about Lena. The explanation about useful ghosts helps me understand why her uncle wants her to stick around, but I still feel curious to know more.

KRwriter said...

I love the voice in this excerpt, great job! The query is a bit long, though. I'd trim out all the unnecessary details. All you need is the goal, motivation and stakes. As for character voice in a query, Jennifer Trafton did it, and it worked. Never let someone dissuade you from a deliberate choice if it works for your novel!

The voice in the pages is fantastic. I definitely wanted to read more.

Laura Moe said...

I like the premise and the voice. While queries are not supposed to be in characters' voices, I sense as a 7th grade teacher, this is also your voice, and for me, it worked. I'm not an agent, though. So I may be wrong. Your query has all the elements it needs: description, themes, credentials.

The voice also works in your sample. I can see this being a. Great read Loud to upper elementary and middle school kids. I know some MS kids look like adults, but they are still kids, and they love, love love scary tales.

Secret Agent said...

What an interesting world. I love that you’ve flipped the typical ghost story on it’s head, making them normal, even desired. It adds a wonderful amount of whimsy to a ghost story.

Though your query is tight and reads well, it runs a little long. It would read a little better if you cut it down a little bit.

In your final paragraph there are a few loose ends. I’m not sure why Oliver’s family needs his help, nor has there been any previous reference to how his grandfather’s ghost machine relates to the story. What answers is Oliver looking for? What made him question anything in the first place? And why is he afraid to return to the cellar?


I love your voice. It’s assured and strong. Your world-building comes through very well, too. Oliver is likable and sympathetic. Well done.