Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Agent,

Thirteen-year-old Peter Holm has a list of requirements for surviving the year at boarding school. Loyal best friend? Check. Membership in a secret club? Check. Murder? Hmm, wait...

Life at the Horston Academy is about as fun as a freezing shower in winter--until Peter’s new friend, Sam, asks him to help her start a Conspirators’ Club. Her goal: to improve life for all Academy students. Her plan: to challenge Horston’s unfair rules with covert acts of rebellion.

Peter doesn’t need much arm twisting. For cool club missions like stealing back confiscated desserts, or dismantling the annoying school siren, he’s even ready to risk capture and punishment.

But what starts out as a series of exciting escapades turns grave when Peter uncovers the Headmaster’s bloody past. And when a club member suddenly goes missing, Peter is sure the Headmaster is behind it. To rescue his friend, Peter ventures into the treacherous caves beneath the school and comes face-to-face with a dangerous criminal who’ll stop at nothing to protect his secrets. If Peter’s wits and resourcefulness aren’t enough to carry him through, this mission will be his last.

THE CONSPIRATORS’ CLUB is a middle grade contemporary adventure, complete at 50,000 words.



Peter Holm took another glance around the ferry cafeteria, his mind heavy with disappointment.

Face it, he thought. Jason’s not here.

He turned and burst through the swinging doors out on deck--

And knocked straight into someone’s dad who just happened to be carrying a brimming cup of soda. With no lid on. Just his luck!

The sugary fizz splashed all over them both.

"Sorry!" Peter gasped and dashed around the corner before the man could get over his shock and yell at him. He surveyed his soaked front, then sighed, and trudged up the iron stairs to the upper deck where he knew his older brother would be.

“Find him?” Mark asked without turning. His eyes were fixed on the Horston Academy Island as it drew closer.

“I looked everywhere,” Peter said. “No luck. Of course.”

Mark shook his head in disapproval. “You and your luck. When will you give it up already?”

Peter leaned on the railing with his elbows and watched the island, too. Dense evergreens covered most of the island, running straight into vertical cliffs and windblown beaches. Except on the eastern side, where the forest yielded to the Academy, the country’s top-rated boarding school. According to some, anyway. Mostly to people who never went there.

Peter would’ve laughed to call Horston anything nice. Strict rules, severe punishments; “a floating prison” was a more fitting description. To get through a year at a place like that, a guy needed his best friend, but at the moment, Peter’s was nowhere in sight.


Luisa Perkins said...

Super fun premise, and I love anything set in a boarding school. Mischief managed!

Angie Azur said...

This premise rocks.

I love the title - great voice in the piece - fun male MC - great query letter.

I can't wait to go on the adventure with this crew --- and then murder? Wow! Very interested in reading more….

Great work!

TJ said...

First of all, I think your query is very good. You do a great job of striking that fun-loving, mischievous MG tone and (dare I say it?) it immediately puts me in mind of Harry Potter.

It's not immediately clear why Peter needs to see Jason so badly (since they're both on the same ferry, right?), but maybe that comes across in the next 250 words.

Heather said...

I love both your query and writing sample. My 11 year old son would snatch this off the shelf in a heartbeart. Seriously. My only very small quibble is the last line of the sample. I feel like the "Peter's" is a little distracting and I wonder if it might flow better just to say "his"?

Laura Moe said...

Your sample is great. Brings me right in as a reader. But your query makes me wonder what is ultimately at stake? The description made me think : Harry Potter derivative, which I am sure your book is not. What sets your novel apart from Harry Potter and others in the genre?

logansrun161 said...

Thanks for all the helpful comments, guys! There are two things I think that need to be clarified about my entry.
First, the book is not like Harry Potter at all - the two are completely different genres. While HP is a fantasy, mine is a contemporary adventure. The only common element, which is maybe causing some confusion, is that the setting is a boarding school, but even the two boarding schools have nothing in common with each other.
Also, someone was wondering why Peter needs to see his friend, Jason. It wasn't possible to fit this in the 250 sample, but in the next page the reader finds out that Jason is not on the ferry, and that he might not be coming back to school at all that year. So at that point it becomes clear that Peter's worries are justified.
Hope this helps clear things a bit. Thanks again for all your comments, guys!

Sara said...

I personally don't see the HP connection. Your story definitely stands out on its own. Great job with the query. I think the stakes are clear. This is definitely a fun, adventurous premise and I know my nephews would enjoy it (and so would I). Great job!

sa said...

I love your concept and your query! The boarding school prank thing sounds great, but then you add in the murder and it becomes interesting on a whole other level.

As for your pages, I liked the voice but after reading your reply, maybe you could make the Jason's absence clearer? Say when he last spoke to him or something, like he has reason to be concerned, just to add tension. And he's been to the school before, so how does he personally feel about going back?

Kiriojo said...

Your query did a great job of setting the stage of the adventure. Remember that a goodly number of middle grade readers have never been on a ferry, and may not even know what it is. Maybe add a phrase of sensory description to clarify right off the bat.

Secret Agent said...


I adore this premise. It’s interesting and fun and I find myself wanting to know more about the school.

Your query letter is strong. You lay out the plot in the way that reveals just enough to be interesting. And what kid doesn’t want to find proof that an evil teacher truly is evil?!


My enthusiasm waned, however, when I dove into the sample writing. It simply wasn’t as engaging as the query. I hoped to be more present. More firmly in Peter’s head. Not just having him move through a scene and describe it, which is how the sample currently feels.

As for specific examples, I would loose the phrase “just his luck” after he runs into the soda dad. It’s not engaging and Peter and his brother talk about luck in a few lines anyway. And having Peter stare off into the woods isn’t a strong opening.

Would I make you hate all agents forever if I suggested a rewrite in first person? It might solve some of the disconnect I’m feeling with Peter right now.

This, of course, is my critique based off the first 250 words, so take it with a grain of salt. But I didn’t make the connection with Peter and his world that I really wanted to.

Thank you for the opportunity to read your work.

Patrice said...

This sounds like such a fun read. Great premise.