Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Ms. Jeglinski:

At 12.9 years old, Kade Walker has never heard of death. Literally. But neither has anyone else he knows. Kade is one of hundreds of kids living across the solar system through the use of robotic avatars while their real bodies sleep in pods on Earth. Nothing can hurt him this way; the adults all said so. They just never said how to survive middle school when only one person on the planet will talk to him.

Kade will admit, his obsession with numbers might deter 35.7% of kids from hanging out with him. But the bigger issue is his best friend--Princess Tamika of Venus. So her mom almost let a crazed hacker take over everyone's bodies twelve years ago. The queen is locked away, and Tamika herself is really nice. Kade needs to give her reputation a serious reboot. He starts off simple: an interstellar tour using an old teleportation machine that he's reconstructed. But the machine's not rigged for current use, so when Kade fires it up, he unwittingly kills a major security wall and unleashes the same hacker from twelve years ago. Panic rating: ten times infinity. The hacker shuts off all communications with the adults and begins to take control of the royal avatars. If Kade doesn't want to see his best friend used as a puppet, he needs to stop the hacker fast--even if that means waking up on Earth to fight with a body he never realized could be hurt.

MY BEST FRIEND RUNS VENUS (45,000 words) is an MG science fiction novel. I am a Clarion West alumna whose work has sold to True Confessions, Every Day Fiction, and Highlights for Children. Thank you for your consideration.



It wasn't the first time Kade had hacked the Venusian maintenance system, but it was one of the best. If he had to put a number on it (and there was little he didn't put a number on), he'd give it a 9.7.
The 9.8 and 9.9 scores were reserved for something epic he hadn't thought of yet, and 10.0 was for the day he would finally reprogram how his robotic body looked.

Still, assuming he didn't get caught, his skills today would land him on a totally different planet. Maybe that deserved the 9.8 slot after all. If Tamika would hurry and get here, he could ask for her opinion.

Kade straightened against a metal door embedded in a burnt orange mountainside and flicked his left wing. A line of glowing text scrolled across his view: 5:03:34pm. He'd checked the time fifty-three
seconds ago, but whenever he wasn't reading data, he felt lost. The adults called it unhealthy. Healthy people could watch a sunset without calculating its luminosity every thirty seconds, but healthy
people sounded boring. Besides, the numbers comforted him. Nobody got weirded out by seeing their own hands all the time, did they? His numbers were just that--an extra set of hands. Or wings. Or

Kade froze. His sensors detected a deep clunking sound that echoed across Venus's stone-hard surface. Low volume, maybe twenty to thirty decibels. His first thought was that it was a patrol robot, but it was coming too fast.

8 comments: said...

The query makes the story sound interesting (and has a definite voice), which is of course the main goal. But it gives too much information, making it hard to follow. At the same time, it raises a couple of questions that are more confusing that enticing-e.g., they are never taught about death? I would think that would imply that they've never been taught history or literature or biology. Or in what way does doing all this improve Tamika's reputation.

Laura Moe said...

I stumbled overt the numbers at the outset in your query, and found your sentences wordy. But that may be the English teacher in me.
Interesting premise, but I think your query and sample need another round of work.

Best of luck.

Kara Reynolds said...

I thought the obsession with numbers was cute. Right off the bat I thought "Wow, 12.9 years is pretty precise, this sounds like an interesting kid." The 35.7% confirmed it. Your query is nice and voice-y, which is important for MG, but it is packed full of information which IMO bogs it down too much. Some advice I received at a writing conference was to write the query first with NO VOICE at all: Just clearly state the hook, conflict, and stakes. Then keep re-writing it until you can add the voice without making things complicated. I have no doubt you'll succeed with the adding voice part. :0)

Anonymous said...

I don't feel qualified to judge whether a query letter is good or bad, but I did find that there are too many details in this one that put together like this make your world seem incoherent, which it might not be at all. The precision with the ages in percentages is light years away from the way we currently calculate age, yet there are still middle schools? There are still princesses? Nobody in this future has heard about death? There might be completely rational reasons for these details that the reader discovers in the story but it's maybe best to stick to broad outlines that don't raise too many questions when you're writing a query. That's just me though and I don't know how to do it either.

Anonymous said...

I think others have left you good comments so far, and your premise sounds familiar from a contest earlier this year. I love the title, and the storyline sounds thoroughly middle-grade, which is great.

I just want to point out one thing: if no one has heard of death, would "survive" be the word used for getting through middle school?

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

I had trouble reading this one, and honestly would've quit in the first paragraph if I were a busy agent. There's no sense of a hook here. The second paragraph is a lot of information to take in, and only near the end do we get to what's at stake, and the protagonist's goal of stopping the hacker.
BIO and creds: Be careful here. You claim to have sold work to Every Day Fiction, which to my knowledge is not a paying market (I could be wrong). An agent might know this.
It was confusing and slow for me. In the first paragaph, I had trouble with “first” and “9.7”. I had to read it again to make the connection that the 9.7 was a rating, not the 9.7th time he’d hacked something.
But you have a killer first sentence buried in the text: "Healthy people could watch a sunset without calculating its luminosity every thirty seconds, but healthy people sounded boring."
Start with that, and work in the details later.
Best of luck,
Spike (Key to Okenwode guy)

Melissa Jeglinski said...

Query: I'm afraid this left me very confused. There was almost too much information here and I lost the heart of the story. I'd suggest trimming it and really letting me know most about your MC and the ultimate conflict and resolution.

Pages: I think you have a nice way with words but this read much older than I think your intended audience is. Your MC read much more YA than MG and I would need an opening that was more intriguing to want to read on. S

Overall: I would suggest getting more help with your query to really fine tune it and give it the focus it needs. For the pages, I'd suggest getting to know your audience better. Thanks for entering and for taking my constructive criticism.

L Gaon said...

I also was a little bit confused with what your premise is. Your second paragraph reads a little bit more like a synopsis than a query, but your writing seems strong. Perhaps revising and tightening your query would help the reader under the gist of your story better.
Good luck.