Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #25

Dear Agent's Inbox Contest,

Thirteen-year-old Laurel can’t think of anything worse than the Salem Witch Trials--until her first day at Albert Einstein Junior High. She’s left her family’s trans-dimensional castle to go undercover as a mundane eighth-grader. And in this new, treacherous environment, she soon finds that both her supernatural skills and her snarky familiar, Twee the cat, come in mighty handy.

With a new best friend who would probably ditch her if she knew Laurel could conjure, and a sadistic P.E. teacher picking on them both at every opportunity, life in the mundane world proves trickier than expected.

But when a rogue wendigo tries to kidnap her, Laurel must put aside her middle school woes and defeat the creature before it uses her as a hostage in the otherworldly war her parents are fighting. Laurel thinks she can win, but only time--or a super fabulous farseeing spell--will tell.

Complete at 41,000 words, Miss Spelled is a contemporary upper middle grade fantasy in the tradition of the television shows Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The story stands alone, but has series potential.

Deseret Book published my conspiracy thriller The Book of Jer3miah: Premonition and Zarahemla Books published my YA dark fantasy Dispirited. I’ve had several short stories published, most recently “Seeing Red” in the Altered Perceptions anthology put together by Brandon Sanderson and coming out this month.

As specified in the contest guidelines, I have pasted the first 250 words of Miss Spelled below my personal information. The full manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I swear: I did not mean to set the squirrel on fire.

Luckily, Mr. E was there to put out the flames in a heartbeat and heal the poor little thing. I got a sigh and a stern look from my Guardian as the squirrel scampered into the dense bushes that grew up against the fence of our new backyard.

“‘Respect all heaven’s creatures’ is the first rule of magic, Laurel.” From Mr. E’s shoulder, his familiar, Quirk, croaked his agreement.

“Sorry.” I kept myself from rolling my eyes, because I really did feel sorry. Hopefully, squirrels had short memories. “I know.”

I didn’t mention that I’d known all seven Rules of Magic for ten years, and that I’d passed them off in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English--and then sworn to keep them all--at my yom kosemet ceremony back in June.

Mr. E was aware of all that. He’d been there at the sanctuary, along with my family and the rest of our house’s staff. His stern face had shone with pride and love that day, and I’d known that he loved me at least as much as my parents did. He and I had always been close--and he was the smartest person I knew--which is why I’d chosen him to be my Guardian.

My familiar rubbed up against my leg, her silky fur tickling my bare skin. “Your fire sigil is still a bit sketchy,” she observed.

“Shut it, Twee,” I said. 


Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Okay, the query is just beyond fabulous. I have a knack for nitpicking and I just can't put it into play here. It's chock full of voice, the set up and the stakes are clear, and your publishing credits are crazy impressive.

And then you start the book with setting a squirrel on fire? Brilliantly funny (is it sadistic of me to find it funny? I do hope not . . .), and promises a story full of humor and fascinating world building. Well done!

MR said...

This query had me at "Salem Witch." I love witch stories, and this sounds like a super fun ride.

Your query is very sharp, hitting all the right spots. The only suggestion I would have (and this may just be me) is that perhaps you could hint at what the war is like her parents are fighting in. And, if that's where her parents are, who is Laurel staying with in "the real world?"

Your pages are fabulous btw! I'm completely sucked in, and the squirrel on fire is just hilarious!

Overall, good job!

Rosalyn said...

I thought the query clearly set up the stakes, but I'd like to know why the Salem witch trials are the first thing she thinks of (most people wouldn't make that their first leap) and why she has to go undercover in a middle school. But I love the voice, and dispirited is on my kindle waiting for a free moment. Good luck!

Mike M said...

Great pages...great opening line. Do the same for your query. Hook it sooner. Give me some stakes in the first paragraph, or at least some conflict.

Laurie L said...

This is really good - both the query and the 250. I want to read more now! Love the first line about the squirrel.

Laura Moe said...

Love the opening line of the sample, but I agree with others here that your query needs to be ramped up just a tad.
Great voice. Middle schoolers would love this.

SA said...

I don't know much about MG, but I do know I would've loved this as a kid!

Secret Agent said...

I feel slightly beat up by the mythology in the first paragraph. Am I reading a time-travel book? A Salem Witch Trials book? A book about an immortal 8th grader? Who lives in a what? So she’s been to the Salem Witch Trials trans-dimensionally? And why does she need to go undercover? It’s all a little too confusing. I’m not saying you need to change your mythology, just the way it’s described in this paragraph.

The set up is great but I'd like to see a little more tension. More information about the “war” that’s going on in the magical world would accomplish this. Especially as it relates to Laurel’s parents. I assume this is the real driving force behind Laurel's story and I'd like to know what's happening.

Also, I don’t mind the Sabrina comp, but can you give me a MG book or two, also? And recent books, since Sabrina was on half a million years ago in TV-time. I never mind TV show comps, but I like to see books paired with them too. It lets me know the author understands the market.


I like the pages. They’re cute and you get a strong sense of who Laurel is.

Just curious, is this happening at school or is she being tutored at home? I’d love clarification in the sample.