Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Jeglinski, 
I am writing to seek representation for my novel BY A CHARM AN  A CURSE. Complete at 65,000 words, it's a standalone Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy told from two points of view.   

A walking, talking bundle of low self-esteem, seventeen-year-old Emma is seduced by the boy in a carnival fortune-telling booth, and kisses him. But with the kiss comes a curse, and immediately Emma’s skin petrifies until all she can feel is a brutal cold. The next day, deprived of her family and friends, she learns that the only way she can free herself is by passing on the curse to another rube. 
Thanks to the charm protecting LeGrand’s Carnival Fantastic, apprentice carpenter Alan is preternaturally lucky. He has never experienced any hardship, much less heartbreak. When the new girl shows up, he desperately wants to help her, but doing so means putting himself at risk of being the next recipient of the curse. 
Alan and Emma are convinced they’ve found a solution--break the curse.  But when the charm begins to weaken as a result, endangering everyone who calls LeGrand’s home, they have to decide if the cost of their own freedom is worth the destruction of the carnival.  

I am a graphic designer for the University of Houston’s College of Education. I live in the suburbs of Houston with my husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I have a weakness for makeup, nice paper, and good chocolate. 



Jules can’t sing for s***.  But there she is, howling a painfully off-key song to the boy in the box, making a fool of herself.  It’s cringe-worthy, but then, most of the things that Jules does are mortifying, so this is really just par for the course.

“Jules!” I have to yell to be heard over screaming children and the rush of the roller coaster running on questionably assembled tracks nearby.  I tighten my coat, a small measure in a losing battle against the cold.  “Leave the guy alone, he’s just doing his job.

And it’s a lame-a** job at that.  The carnival has set up a wood and glass booth to look like one of those old automated fortunetellers.  The bottom half is ornately carved wood painted a fiery red that almost glows, and the panels of glass making up the top half are covered in swirling gold paint proclaiming Futures seen!  Fortunes told!  Small bulbous lights line the ceiling of the booth, filling it with a warm light, but it doesn’t hide the fact that the paint is chipping and the glass is covered in sticky, child-sized fingerprints.

Inside, the poor schmuck in question stands at attention, arms held out in awkward angles like he’s going to start doing the robot at any minute.  His face is painted white, with rosy red circles dotting his cheeks and dark powder shaping his eyebrows into wry arches.  His glossy, plastic-y black hair has been styled into a slick wave that makes me think of a 1920s soda jerk.  He’s seriously cute.  But I’m here with Jules, so I don’t stand a chance.

12 comments: said...

I like the way the query sets up the double point of view. I'd like a bit of a further explanation of why she's "deprived of her family and friends" - it makes it seem more fantastical and less contemporary. Fix the "an" in the title and the "howling a painfully."

Most of the advice I read is not to include the details like you do in your bio, but I'm sure it's agent by agent.

Jaime said...

Thanks for the input, Waugh. Unfortunately, the typos come from me sending my entry from my phone and not double checking it before hitting send. :/

Laura Moe said...

Interesting premise, but I don't believe Alan has had NO negative things happen to him. Makes him sound one dimensional. Unless he ISN'T real?
You have a typo in the title of your query letter.

I like Emma's snarky voice, but some readers might be put off by profanity in the first sentence. I know it is Emma's voice, and it's necessary for credibility of character, but maybe not the first line.

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

You've got some work to do here on the query. The sample is much better, but if the agent won't read through the query, you're sunk.
Te begin with, you have a typo in the book's title! That's an instant reject.
SECOND PARAGRAPH: this is really confusing…how is she deprived? Is she frozen and can’t speak? You could condense this: “A wayward kiss from the boy in the fortune-telling booth leaves seventeen-year-old Emma with more than tingles down her spine. This mysterious boy’s kiss comes with a curse, one that petrifies Emma’s skin and leaves her cold as stone.” (I can’t write more, because I don’t know the story)
THIRD PARAGRAPH: "Thanks to the charm protecting LeGrand’s Carnival Fantastic, apprentice carpenter Alan is preternaturally lucky."
So then if he’s lucky because of the charm, then he’s NOT lucky! There was an intervening force at work, right?

BIO: As nice as this sounds, nobody cares that much until you get published—then put that on your Amazon author page. Instead, give us any writing credits, along with comp titles.

The sample ended on a good tense note for me. I wanted to read on.
Best of luck,
Spike (M.P.)

Spike Taterman (M.P.) said...

Didn't mean to leave the above as anonymous! That was me, Spike. My entry is #12, so feel free to rip me to shreds...

Jaime said...

No worries about the anonymous part.

I entered the contest from my phone because of a power outage, and missed the typo in my title, which, I'd like to assure everyone, is not in my real query. :)

Annmarie said...

I found your premise really interesting. I was a bit turned off by the profanity in the first sentence. I know it is YA, but most people in my circles would avoid it for that reason. Other than that, I loved your character's voice.

Julie C said...

I loved it. I found the premise interesting and the first 250 great. I like the voice and swearing in the first sentence feels authentic.

I've read some on querying, but have not studied it to the extent others have but your last sentance in the query feels authentic, like your character, so I think it works.

Best of luck!

CHadge said...

I'll try to not repeat too much of what has already been said, but I really enjoyed the voice of your MC. This was more out of curiosity than anything else - what year is your MS set? (I know you put "contemporary" in the query.) Knowing that, the comp titles I'd suggest are THE NIGHT CIRCUS or even GHOST BOY (which is set in a traveling carnival and might have a similar tone to your MS).

Good luck!

Jaime said...

Thank you, everyone, for your feedback! And thanks, C Hadge, for the comp title suggestions. I feel NIGHT CIRCUS doesn't quite work (though I'd love to be able to compare my book to that one!), because the magic system in NC is much more overt than mine and mine is set in the present day. I've never read GHOST BOY, though, so I'll check it out. :)

Melissa Jeglinski said...

Query thoughts: I like the set up but am not really sure what to expect from the actual plot; details are just too broad. How does one break the curse? Also, bio is too personal; avoid mention of family and pets. If you don't have much to say about writing credentials, it's fine not to mention anything at all.

Page: I didn't feel this was a teen voice; sounded much more adult, especially the use of the word "schmuck." It did move at a quick pace and I'd read on.

Overall: there's something compelling here; would just need to know more about the project. The writing entices me but I'd suggest a more compelling query letter.

Jaime said...

Thank you, Ms. Jeglinski! I appreciate the feedback.