Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #30

Dear Agent,

Cursed to perpetual darkness, the once-great city of Creperi teeters on the brink of ruin. Sixteen-teen-year old Jazzlyn may live among the damned, but what sets her apart also makes her a target.

Creperi’s exiles want what Jazzlyn has--immunity from the Star’s lethal rays--and they’ve figured out a way to get it. When the exiles take her boyfriend, Tristan, hostage, Jazzlyn will do anything to save him. Unfortunately, anything includes traveling to Lumen, the mountain metropolis above the black clouds, and burgling a light-stone from Lumen’s ruler. However, saving Tristan may be the worst mistake of Jazzlyn’s life. Once she makes the trade, the clouds protecting Creperi threaten to break apart. 

Someone doesn’t want her people freed from the dark. The exiles claim they know who it is and, with Jazzlyn's help, how to stop them before the sky opens up. Except in a world ravaged by darkness, secrets claim the spaces torchlight cannot reach and everyone--the exiles, and even Tristan--have something to hide. If Jazzlyn can figure out who to trust before the sky opens up, maybe Creperi has a chance. If not, her city, along with everyone she loves, will burn.

WHERE THERE IS DARK is a 62,000 word young adult fantasy. Jazzlyn’s fight to discover her purpose in a world divided may appeal to readers who’ve enjoyed character driven fantasies in the vein of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy and the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
C.A.H.


WHERE THERE IS DARK

Mushrooms thrive in the dark, so they’re the only food that isn’t rationed. The pungent stink wafting through the house is a sure sign we’re having them for breakfast.
Again.

I blow out an exasperated breath and plod downstairs.

Mother stirs a pot of fungi ragoût that boils over the hearth’s open flames. Firelight brings out the red in her hair that’s twisted into a braid over one thin shoulder.

“Jazzlyn.” She looks up as I pause beneath the stone archway that divides the common room from the kitchen. “What took you so long?”

“I was just...” putting off the inevitable.

“Never mind. You’ll have to eat when we get back,” she says. When my face scrunches up, she sets the spoon on the counter and plants a hand on her hip. “What?”

We’re attending another birth this morning, that’s what. “Nothing.” I grab a lantern off the table. “Are you ready to go?”

She nods and we slip out the front door and into the ebony morning, where endless black clouds pulse overhead like a living, breathing thing, blocking the light out, or perhaps, sealing the darkness in. The swaying lantern casts a pale glow over rows of mortar and stone houses and their barren plots of dirt.

I scan the spaces between shadows, grasping for a sign that Father’s returned, even though logic dictates that, if he were inside the city walls, guardians would have found him by now.

13 comments:

Carolee Noury said...

Love your title, C.A.H.!

I'm curious about this world!

In your pitch, I wonder:

--How will kidnapping le boyfriend result in getting immunity from the rays? (Is this a power or is it something she can give away?) Perhaps clarify that to make it more purposeful? I.E. Mention the exiles are using him to force her to tell the secret/give her power, etc.

This line:
Except in a world ravaged by darkness, secrets claim the spaces torchlight cannot reach and everyone
I see the artistry in the sentence, but unfortunately, I think it makes in unclear. Perhaps save these for the story, but be direct, dramatic and clear in the blurb?

I read the whole sample and would love to read more. This is a book I would read.

I think the first 250 words are strong, but could use some polishing.

I.E. She nods and we slip out the front door and into the ebony morning, where endless black clouds pulse overhead like a living, breathing thing, blocking the light out, or perhaps, sealing the darkness in.

ebony morning is powerful; black subtracts from that; do the clouds actually pulse?--if they do, we need to know more about that, since it's distracting trying to figure out if it's an active metaphor for something still. I haven't seen clouds "pulse," stretch, curl, change shape, yes, but not pulse.

The last part (in that sample), I think, would be more dramatic if left alone:
More likely, sealing the darkness in.

Grammar:
Sixteen-teen-year old Jazzlyn may live (remove -teen-)
When the exiles take her boyfriend, Tristan, hostage, Jazzlyn (I don't think Tristan needs to be offset in commas)

Best of luck with this MS!
Carolee

Pen-Up Girl said...

I agree with the above comment. The writing is great, the sample is great, and I would like to read more....but the query needs to be tightened. You have a great voice in your writing that doesn't exactly translate in your query letter. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Great first pages. Work on the query...sixteen-teen is not a typo you want to make

nicoleroder.com said...

Hi there! Kudos for putting your work out there to be critiqued by strangers! It takes guts!

I also think you have a great voice, and the sample pages are interesting. In the query, you've done a good job of focusing on the main character and her stakes, which is the most important thing.

However, I found myself confused. I re-read the whole thing twice, and I'm still not clear on some of the details of your story. You say that the exiles want the immunity Jazzlyn has from the star's rays, and they've found a way to get it. What's the way to get it? Is it kidnapping Tristan? I don't understand how that would work. Do they want Jazzlyn to "hand over" this immunity as ransom for her boyfriend's return? Is that even possible? I think you might mean that this light stone that she's supposed to steal will give the exiles this immunity they seek, and that Jazzlyn is going to steal it and then trade it for her boyfriend. But it took me 3 read throughs to figure that out, and I'm still not sure. You might want to make that more clear.

If you make those changes, I think the 3rd paragraph will become more clear as well. Good luck to you!

Martha Mayberry said...

Everyone else made great suggestions to strengthen your pitch and first 250, so I won't repeat.

My suggestion would be in the Mother stirs... paragraph. The sentence structure of both of these sentences is very similar, connected with that/that's. Maybe consider changing one for flow.

Would I read more? yes.

All the best with it!

Laura Moe said...

Overall interesting description, but tell the agent something about your own writing background.

Heather said...

This is such a cool story! Others have pointed out the sixteen-teen typo and I had a similar question with respect to how they obtain immunity. The first hook paragraph of your query is very intriguing. Great job.

Anonymous said...

The repetition of sentence structure in the opening of your pages was distracting:

- Mother stirs a pot of fungi ragoût THAT boils over the hearth’s open flames.
- Firelight brings out the red in her hair THAT's twisted into a braid over one thin shoulder.
- She looks up as I pause beneath the stone archway THAT divides the common room from the kitchen.

Your opening would be stronger if you could vary these three sentences and/or eliminate as many occurrences of 'that' as possible. Otherwise, very interesting. I had the same questions as other readers. Good luck!

Kimberly VanderHorst said...

Great feedback here already! I've seen this in another contest and been really intrigued by it. I love the elements of world-building you've worked into your query and first 250, and it definitely leaves me wanting to turn the page! :)

SA said...

I found your query a little confusing-- I think you have too many terms/names floating around-- what are the stars and their rays? And the clouds protect Creperi? The darkness protects it? I think you have a great concept, it's just buried. Sometimes it's really hard to summarise and big concept story in something as small as a query, but just be careful you don't say too much-- currently the reader can see the main characters/setting but the plot isn't all that clear. Love your comp titles!


Okay, so I absolutely love your first line! The pages are a good introduction to Jazzlyn and her situation, I like them.

Patrice said...

Your voice is great, and I loved the opening paragraph of your query. It really pulled me in. However, I agree that you might have too many terms floating around. Hone in on what's key to the story, what you want to grab readers from the start and leave out the rest.

Secret Agent said...

Query:
I love the immediate tension. That they steal her boyfriend in order to get what they want from her.

I’m a little fuzzy on Jazzlyn’s actual journey. Where do her loyalties lie? Does she trust her government and gradually sees that the exiles are right? Or is she simply concerned about the people she loves and she’ll do anything for anyone in order to protect them? I would like this to be a little bit more clear in the query. Even if the lines are blurry in the book, it would help me root for Jazzlyn more if I knew the full extent of her journey.

In that thought, if there was any way you could make the politics (and maybe the geography) a little clearer without adding too much to the query, it would be good. There are two cities and one is light and one is dark but no one can move between them? It’s just a little bit unclear.

Pages:

I adore this opening paragraph. The whole opening is strong, but that paragraph really pops for me. As openings should. Well done.

Secret Agent said...

Query:
I love the immediate tension. That they steal her boyfriend in order to get what they want from her.

I’m a little fuzzy on Jazzlyn’s actual journey. Where do her loyalties lie? Does she trust her government and gradually sees that the exiles are right? Or is she simply concerned about the people she loves and she’ll do anything for anyone in order to protect them? I would like this to be a little bit more clear in the query. Even if the lines are blurry in the book, it would help me root for Jazzlyn more if I knew the full extent of her journey.

In that thought, if there was any way you could make the politics (and maybe the geography) a little clearer without adding too much to the query, it would be good. There are two cities and one is light and one is dark but no one can move between them? It’s just a little bit unclear.

Pages:

I adore this opening paragraph. The whole opening is strong, but that paragraph really pops for me. As openings should. Well done.