Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Melissa, 

Twelve year old JADEN has a lot to live up to. His father is Sudner’s greatest hero. He wants to be the warrior everyone is expecting, but Jaden prefers books to battles. When he hid in a tree as his father was captured by the fierce race of WARGAULS, his feeling of failure was compounded. Jaden sets off on a quest to redeem himself and rescue his father.

In the midst of being stuck traveling with the bully from battle school, as well as fighting off a sea monster and sorceress, Jaden discovers an even harder assignment is placed on his shoulders. He’s been called by the leaders of a hidden kingdom to become the Guardian of Sudner.  To do so, he’ll not only have to learn old magic, but somehow find the courage to defeat the Wargauls in a battle for the survival of Sudner.

THE GUARDIAN OF SUDNER is an uplifting middle grade fantasy adventure that will be appealing to reluctant readers because of its fast pace and an extended story arc for a series. Something I feel sets it apart from current fantasy is the father/son relationship theme. Throughout the story, three boys are dealing with their feelings of living up to what their fathers expect.  

I’ve enclosed the first chapter for you to consider. The entire manuscript is available upon request. It runs about 57,000 words in length.

Though this is my first novel, I have previously written for Meridian Magazine, Latter-day Homeschooling, Women’s Day, The Boer Goat, Brio, and Cleaner Times.  

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Jaden Andreist put off leaving for as long as possible, but no sudden illness had overtaken him.  It was time for battle class. Reluctantly, he put his elements book away and made his way out the castle doors.

He’d been practicing for months with Klevi, one of the top battle students, in exchange for tutoring him in runes.  A week ago he felt confident. He’d been sparring better than ever. He’d even won two of their duels. But today was different. Today was Jaden’s turn in the sparring circle.

The other boys in class loved sparring. It was the best part of turning twelve. No longer were they trapped doing nothing but endless boring drills in battle training. Now they got to show off their skill going head to head in real duels, even if they were using dummy swords. For the other boys it was a dream come true. For Jaden, it felt more like a nightmare. He preferred books to battles. If you made a mistake with a book, no one died.

“Jaden, wait up!”

He turned around and saw his friend Brandon running, his wavy brown hair bouncing. Jaden laughed and looked to see if any girls were around. If they were, they’d probably be sighing. The girls loved Brandon--and his hair.

“I thought I was the last one to head to battle training,” Jaden said when Brandon caught up.

“I wish. I was trapped getting lectured by my father about not taking school seriously enough.”


black cat said...

"Jaden Andreist put off leaving for as long as possible, but no sudden illness had overtaken him. "

- that made me chuckle (I have two kids at home, who both occasionally wish for a sudden illness)

black cat said...

"He preferred books to battles. If you made a mistake with a book, no one died."

- this is a well-done characterization, and shows the tension he feels

This sounds like a good book for my son, who I need to pry away from graphic novels on occasion, if only to prove that OTHER types of books exist. :)

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

Well...this one needs some work. The entire first paragraph is simply setup. Nothing in it hooked me, and that is the very first thing you want to do in a query. What is the most important thing to Jaden? Let's see it stated simply and clearly in the first sentence, or at least the first few sentences. Give us some stakes. "Sets off on a quest to redeem himself" is not getting us there. So he wants to redeem himself--that's a start. Now let's see that in a powerful, emotional way in the first sentence.
Condense those first 2 paragraphs into half as many powerful words.
Summary paragraph: don't use adjectives to describe your book. We, the readers, will decide for ourselves what is uplifting--or not. I do like the bit about the father-son relationships, however. That's different, so keep that.
Your next paragraph needs to be shorter and simpler. Instead of telling an agent the mss is available, sneak that into your description: "SUDNER is MG fantasy, complete at 57,000 words."
And lastly, NEVER tell an agent this is your first novel! That's the kiss of death--and frankly, it doesn't matter. All great writers had first novels. But keep the other credits.
Cut that last sentence.

In the 250 words, I'd watch the inner dialogue about Brandon's hair. As a male (who was a boy once, LONG ago :)), I can tell you no boy would think this way.
Men are simple creatures....
I hope you don't find my comment too harsh. They are meant to be useful. Good luck to you!
Spike (M.P.)

Heather said...

Great dialogue! The query I found slightly confusing - it might be that some parts are a little vague and also I had to pause to try and figure some things out - is Sudner the town, etc. Best of luck to you!

Laura Moe said...

I had trouble getting grounded in your query. I know agents don't like long query letters, but you needed more details. What other specific books compare to yours?

The sample itself engaged me, but I needed a touch more clarity. In fantasy I feel more connected if I get a sense of the what and the why of a location.but since I don't read much fantasy that may be my problem as a reader.
Good luck to you.

Julie C said...

I think the first paragraph of your query is a great hook! (I'm fairly surprised at some of the previous comments.) I think it sets up lots of tension and clearly states Jaden's motives.

In the 250 I could see starting closer to the action, maybe paragraph 3 when he runs into his friend. And the friend's line about the dad is great because it sets up more conflict. Brandon and his dad and Jaden without a dad.

Best of Luck!

Melissa Jeglinski said...

I'm sorry. I wrote comments on this project but I must not have hit publish correctly. I didn't mean to make you wait or think I had passed you by.

Query: This is a pretty good set up; you've set up character and conflict quite well.

Page: I'm not a fan of a character thinking as he heads somewhere. Just be there, in the midst of the action right from the start. Especially in MG, the reader wants to jump into the story.

Overall: I think you have a nice voice but I do think the story about a kid not being able to fill the shoes left by his father is one that has been done a great deal. In order to stand out you need the writing to be stellar and the plot to have a unique twist.