Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #28

Dear Agent:

Seventeen-year-old pianist Grace Armstrong tells at least three lies every day. She tells herself the monsters she sees in reflections are just pictures under glass. She tells the molten-skinned beasts they don’t scare her anymore. And she tells herself that she wants nothing more than to be sane. But sanity means the monsters are real, and there’s no way to be okay with that.

When a boy replaces the monsters in her bedroom mirror, Grace decides nothing's crazier than falling for one of her hallucinations. But as Grace and Luke trade messages through the glass, Grace’s lies transform into truths. Luke makes her want to be sane, the monsters don't scare her half as much as falling for him does, and accidentally touching one of the beasts destroys her theory that the monsters are nothing more than products of her twisted imagination. But love is a truth she can’t afford to tell yet, not even when her grandpa finally teaches her just what her strange connection to mirrors means. Armed with a vague understanding of her ability to travel through reflections, and more lies and mistakes than she can keep track of, Grace hurls herself across the void between worlds to reach a suddenly endangered Luke.

But the monster waiting on the other side of the glass wears a human face and Grace has to tell herself the best lie she’s ever told: she can stop him before he kills again.

Complete at 80,000 words, WHAT LIES BETWEEN is a YA Contemporary Fantasy that will appeal to fans of Lisa Mangum's The Hourglass Door and A.G. Howard's Splintered. I am a member of SCBWI, the founder/leader of my local writers’ guild, and a two time winner of the LDStorymakers First Chapter Contest. I have included the first 250 words as per your submission guidelines.

Best wishes,


Silence fell in a slow wave as I pulled away from the keys, the final chords of my newest song slipping into the quiet. Morning sunlight bathed the piano and made its edges soft. I slid a hand across the lip of the key bed, loving how the worn wood didn’t shine with the threat of reflection. The threat of monsters.

Mom shuffled into the room, bleary-eyed and yawning. Steam rose from the glossy black mug cradled in her hands. “That didn’t sound like Chopin, Gracie.”

I caught a whiff of coffee and smiled. “And that doesn’t smell like your decaf.” 

She and Dad were doing some sort of cleanse--her idea--and caffeine was forbidden. 

Mom leaned in, the scent of hazelnut heavy on her breath. “Don’t tell your father,” she whispered. 

“Only if you don’t tell Mr. Lee I’m ditching Chopin today.” I crashed out a few upbeat chords. “I swear, if I play one more audition piece, my brain’s going to leak out of my ears.” 

“One day off from audition work and then I crack the whip. I don’t want to get in trouble with Mr. Lee either.”

Mom laughed and caressed my cheek. The heat from her coffee-warmed fingers sank into my skin as rare Vancouver sunlight poured through our condo’s windows. I tensed when the light found her mug, hating how the dark curve of it warped my reflection.

But I hated even more how my distorted face stared back at me for only half a second before the monsters replaced it.


Luisa Perkins said...

Perfection. Wow. Awesome voice, super cool premise, dead-on writing.

Emily Dunn said...

Love the premise and your beginning. Good luck!

Rosalyn said...

Oh, I love this query. I love the play of lie and truth and how you manage to convey so much of the story. And of course, I love the voice. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

The first paragraph of your query is awesome!

The second takes away from that by being solid, but not as great. I would work just a bit on are so close to a killer pitch.

Kimberly VanderHorst said...

Thanks for the encouraging comments everyone (I'm commenting so follow-up comments will come to my inbox. I'm a genius like that)!

Anonymous, I so agree. I've been workshopping the query in the WriteOnCon forums the last couple days trying to address that very issue and am finally making progress. Definitely too muddled and clunky as is. :)

Melissa Mires said...

It's a little long however I love the voice! I want to read this!

Carolee Noury said...

Love this, Kimberly! I think your query does the job it's supposed to: I was so fascinated by the story, I forgot I was reading a query.

Read the whole sample and loved it--plenty of insight into the MC and plenty of hook. Well written!

Best of luck with this!

Mike M said...

Hey. I was anonymous above. I would love to take a crack at that second paragraph.

Sorry I was anon. I couldn't figure out how the comments worked. Yes. I'm a moron. But I think I can help, and I honk the rest of your stuff is great.

Hit me on twitter @michaelmammay if you are interested.
If not, try this off the top of my head:

Start par. 2
Then she falls for one of her hallucinations. Luke replaces the monsters and suddenly grace's lies are truths. She wants to be sane, and she's no longer scared. But love is a truth she can't tell yet. She has too much to learn. She's connected to the mirrors in a way she can't understand, and she doesn't have long to figure it out. Luke is in danger, and there's one more truth: The monster waiting on the other side wears a human face.

To meet it, grace will have to tell herself the best lie ...

Sorry, this isn't quite it.

Mel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mel said...

This is fab. I read the whole thing with ease and didn't need to concentrate to understand. The query kept me hooked and I wanted to read the 250—which was also fab! Great voice, great story. I care about your MC and I'm pulled in to read more. Good job!
If I were and agent, I'd say YES!

Martha Mayberry said...

Great query and first 250, Kim!

You know I love your story. All the best!

HLDavis said...

I've watched this query and opening evolve over a bunch of contests and it is really on target now. The bit of physical detail about the monsters is great and knowing her grandfather has some expanation is also helpful. My favorite thing about this is her struggle with sanity/insanity. Very intriguing. Great work!

Heather said...

Wow, this is very compelling! My only suggestion would be to figure out a different way to say the boy "replaces" the monsters. At first I thought you meant he was controlling it behind the scenes and replaced one monster with another. But what you really meant was that he took the place of...
In any event, the query is awesome and the writing is top-notch!

SA said...

I love this idea! The structure of your query is great-- the three lies and then the three truths. But I do think the writing could be a little cleaner-- go through it slowly, line by line, and make each sentence as straightforward/simple as you can. Read it out loud-- that sometimes help you pick up on stuff you'd miss, otherwise.

As for the pages, I like the voice! You get in there and mention the monsters very early, but it doesn't feel forced-- the slow scene with Grace and her mother makes it more natural, and I like that.

Joseph Miller said...

Intriguing premise and good first page. You do an excellent job of creating a believable relationship between Grace and her mother.

The only thing I wish... is for more of a description of the monster she sees... but that's probably in the next 250. ;)

Best Wishes,

Secret Agent said...

I see a lot of queries with main characters who see monsters. So I’m less interested in the monsters than in the Grandfather’s explanation of them and what happens to her after she knows. You spend a lot of time on the set-up in the query. I think you could loose some of that. Also, what outward affects does she have from seeing monsters for her entire life? Grandfather would have never noticed this before and stepped in?

What I would like to know in this query is Luke thrown into peril? A twist on the damsel in distress is great! I think you could flesh out this story line a little bit and the query would work much better.

Also, I would like to know if her musical ability plays into the story at all in the future or if that’s just an ornament to her character. If it’s something she’s really passionate about, I would like for it not to get lost in all the paranormal love happening in the rest of the book.

Great comps. Please capitalize.


I love Grace’s mom. Their interaction is wonderful.