Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Ms. Jeglinski,

When fifteen-year-old David O’Reilly passes out in English Lit, he wakes to find things different. His classmates carry swords at their hips, and Magical Aptitude has replaced Algebra. Even his town has changed. The pavement has turned to cobblestone and half the homes have gone from vinyl siding to wattle and daub. 

David’s bouts of unconsciousness don’t stop there, and neither do the changes to Ithaca, PA, which is becoming more and more Medieval. Soon David’s coal miner dad undergoes a strange transformation that leaves him dwarfed in height and incredibly strong. When he and the other miners heed an irresistible call down to the depths of the earth, David must find the one responsible and put a stop to it. Ideally before these coma-inducing temporal shifts send Ithaca back to the Dark Ages. 

All the clues lead in one direction: Town Hall and a mayor who has closeted himself behind spear-wielding guards. David decides to break in, or he would if he could make it through the week without being harassed by school bullies who now carry lethal weapons. When David manages to penetrate Town Hall, he finds the mayor dangling by strings from the ceiling; a puppet literally and figuratively. From the mayor’s animated lips comes a mocking voice. “Stop me if you can, David, but isn’t this the way the world should be?” 

My first novel, MYTHACA, is a 55,000 word upper MG contemporary fantasy with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration.



It felt kind of like a granny squeezing your cheeks, except instead of just squeezing, she pulls your face in three different directions and pushes on your eyes with her thumbs. My body felt disjointed too, like I’d lost all my bones and was being twisted into a tight knot.


The bones slid back into place, but granny was still having her way with my face.

“What’s wrong with him?”

I opened my eyes a little. The world stopped spinning long enough for me to tell where I was. At first, all I saw was the underside of my desk, pink globs of dried up gum and little indentations that had been drilled into the particle board with the tip of a pen. I noticed that most of the class was crowded around, staring down at me.

“I’m alright. I’m good.” I sat up and gripped the edge of my chair in case the floor decided to smack me again.

“Was that a seizure?”

“Do you smell burnt toast?”

I sat down at my desk and tried to sort out my hair, but the red curly fuzz ball did what it wanted. The other kids were still staring at me, probably wondering when I would flake out next. I held out both my hands to show that they weren’t shaking. 

“See, solid as a rock.”

The show was over. Starting with a few of the more popular girls who didn’t want any of my weirdness to rub off on them, they all headed back to their desks.


CHadge said...

The opening line is fantastic and I think readers can definitely relate - we all have that type of relative!

Your MS sounds like a contemporary spin on Twain's A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT, which is a fun read.

The voice is solid in the opening 250 words, but my one suggestion for your query is rework the closing tag with the mayor's quote and maybe bring in more of the personal stakes for David.

Good luck!

Katrina S. Forest said...

I was just glancing over the other entries, and your 250 words pulled me in before I even had the chance to read your query. It's an odd event described in an original way and it makes me want to keep going.

The query didn't pull me in quite as much until the end. It sounds at first like you're setting up a portal fantasy, and it's only when the query ends that I realize it's a bit more complicated than that.

Overall, though, it sounds like a fun read. Best of luck!

Patrick said...

Thanks for the comments you guys! My opening has actually caused me some worry because I was trying to subvert a trope. I'm glad you like it.

Ann Noser said...

Great premise!

Two suggestions:

David decides to break in, IF HE CAN GET PAST THE school bullies who now carry lethal weapons. When David manages to penetrate Town Hall, he finds the mayor dangling PUPPET-LIKE by strings from the ceiling.

Sorry to disagree, but I had to reread the first 1-2 sentences of your 250 a couple times to orient myself. After that, it was great, but I needed more than "it" to start me off.

With the rest of the 250, I got RIGHT into the MC's head, and wanted to read more.

Best of luck!

Patrick said...

For the record, I had a bit of a snafu when I posted my query. *facepalm* My MC is really thirteen, which is more in line with upper MG.

Thanks for the comment, Ann!

Laura Moe said...

I love your opening line. We've all had grannies and weird aunts squeeze our faces too hard. And the premise is cool. I think MG and YA readers will enjoy the adventure.

One thing on the query: discuss some of your merit as a writer. Even though it is your first novel, what shorter publications do you have. Or have you paryiated in any notable workshops?
Good luck to you.

Kara said...

Patrick, did you ask Krista to change the age of your MC? Because reading 15 and MG together threw me off big time. I'm sure an agent would raise their eyebrows as well.
Mythaca is a brilliant title, I love it! I think the query could be improved with a little more information about why David is passing out (if he has it) or more of the confused helplessness he experiences if he doesn't. Also, the query makes it seem like things in the town have changed from the first time he passes out, but then we don't see that in the first 250. You'd think he'd definitely notice swords right off the bat.

Patrick said...

I have asked her. She justly decided that allowing me to revise my query would open up a hornets nest of requests. I have to just chalk it up to being more careful in the future, and perhaps a missed opportunity here.

Kiri Jorgensen said...

In your query, consider eliminating the 3rd paragraph. Leave off with a focus on the stakes David personally faces. I like the beginning, and this looks like a good MG voice. When does he start noticing the changes? I was thinking they would be immediate. I wonder what those popular girls will look like... Nice job!

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson said...

I love love love your opening paragraphs. You've got a lot of really strong voice here, and the title is brilliant.

I would consider changing the word "Medieval" in the second paragraph. It sounds more like a fantasy world than a Medieval one, and that threw me off.

Good luck! This is great!

Patrick said...

Thanks so much!

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

Overall, the query is solid. What I really like is the uniqueness of the story idea. It's offbeat, yet interesting.
PARAGRAPH ONE: I suggest you tighten a little. Try "When fifteen-year-old David O’Reilly passes out in English Lit, he wakes to find his classmates carrying swords at their hips. And he’s not in English Lit. He’s in Magical Aptitude—whatever that is."
PARAGRAPH TWO: Gets really interesting here! A unique story idea, well-presented with few details.
BIO: Don't reveal this is your first novel.
SAMPLE: Very nicely done! This is a great opening. I got the voice right off, and definitely wanted to read on.
You have talent.
Best of luck,
Spike (Key to Okenwode guy)

Patrick said...

Thanks for the comments, Spike. I keep going back and forth about mentioning it's my first novel. I've had lots of writers tell me not to put it in, but I've also had a few agents tell me that they like to know. It tells them that I'm still a debut author, and they don't take it to mean that these are the first word's I've ever barfed onto the page. *scratches head*

TC said...

I really love the premise of this book. I’d read more based on that alone. The first sentence of the query was a little flat. I thought combining it with the second sentence might be an improvement ("When fifteen-year-old David O'Reilly passes out in English, he wakes to find his classmates carrying swords..."). Also, the part about the mayor-made-puppet was interesting but I thought another sentence would clarify things more (maybe a hint as to who is holding him hostage).

I liked your 250 as well. I had to re-read the last sentence twice, so that might need some tweaking but other than that, good job!

Melissa Jeglinski said...

Query: The concept is quite interesting but it's all set up. What happens NEXT? Your main character is 15? Then this isn't a middle grade novel. 13 is really the max age for a MG protagonist. This is lower YA. Know your market before you query because this would be an immediate pass at that first line. (Being honest, that's what you want, right? :) )

Page: You have a nice way with words but I was utterly confused by this opening. Sensations are a tough way to start and just leave the reader wondering where they are.

Overall: I think this reads much older and I'd suggest changing to a young adult especially as the voice reads older.

Patrick said...

Thanks for your insight, Ms. Jeglinski. Looks like I have some work to do.