Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #21

Dear Mr. Taylor,

I read in your 2016 #MSWL that you're looking for YA Fantasy with powerful and searing voice. With that in mind, I'd love for you to take a look at my YA fantasy novel, BLOOD OF ASGARD.

Most teens spend their high school years trying to fit in, Raven spends hers trying not to kill anyone...again.

With an uncontrollable power to manipulate the elements through her emotions, seventeen-year-old Raven Lundberg has worked hard to feel, well, nothing. Her only comforts are vacations spent in Norway with her mom and grandma.

But when Grandma goes missing and Mom literally fades to nothing before her eyes, Raven learns the impossible: her family’s disappearance is the first sign of Ragnarok, signaling the end of the world. Now she must travel back in time to the brutal Viking Era to save her ancestor and stop Loki, the trickster god, from invoking the other events of Ragnarok.

When her ancestor’s Viking village is attacked by The Midgard Serpent, Raven must team up with the local blacksmith, Kol, to set a trap and kill the beast. The more time Raven spends with Kol, the more torn she is about going back to her own time when her mission is over. But in the world of the Norse, the line between hero and villain is much more muddled than she ever realized, and although Raven is willing to die to save her family, her life may not be the only one she must sacrifice if she’s going to save the world.

BLOOD OF ASGARD, complete at 86,000 words, will appeal to the many fans of the hit show Vikings and Rick Riordan’s newest series, MAGNUS CHASE.

I live in Chandler, Arizona, with my husband, four kids, two dogs, and cat. I’m a member of the American Night Writer’s Association and have served on the board of directors and as conference committee chair. With a passion for history and archeology, I traveled to Norway for the research of this novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Chapter 1: Huginn & Muninn

When I was thirteen, I killed a man with a lightning strike. That’s when I knew I was different, and dangerous. Since then I’ve made changes to keep everyone around me safe, because if I allow myself to feel--to get worked up and emotional--bad things happen.

So, today, like always, I sit in the center of the crowded lunch room, feeling utterly alone. The combined smells of various different foods and teenage bodies in one area turns my hunger to nausea. I pick at my apple with no intentions of eating it. Loud conversations echo off the linoleum floors: a white noise of high school gossip interrupted only by the occasional bark of laughter. I know everyone’s name and they know mine. I eat with them at lunch, see them in class, exchange smiles, and sometimes even the occasional small talk, but that’s the most I can offer. Because there is no place more full of drama than high school, and with drama comes heightened emotions, which for me, equals danger. High school is basically the worst place for me to be.

A hand waves in front of my face. It has orange cheese bits stuck to the finger tips and smells like Cheetos. “Raven! Hel-lo, earth to Raven,” Sarah from my math class says from beside me. “Did you hear anything I just said?”

I usually get through lunch with only a few hi’s and how are you’s.



Oh this sounds amazing! Your query is really strong, outlining the conflict and stakes well. I'm a huge fan of Norse mythology, too. Good luck!!

JMWeibel said...

I like this, it sounds interesting. I would only recommend changing the line "the more torn she is about going back to her own time when her mission is over." Sounds like she was ordered there and kind of hick-ups the query. Maybe something more along, "The more time Raven spends with Kol, the less she desires to return to her own time." or something close to that.

CJ Hill said...

I'm imagining hot viking guys already. Sounds great!

Amy Eversley said...

This sounds super interesting. I think your query letter was strong too. Good job

Ben Lacy said...

When I first read that mom literally faded away, I thought you meant figuratively but then realized you probably really did mean literally. Other than that, your query is easy to follow and gives the reader a good understanding of the story.

The sample starts well though I thought her saying she killed a man with a 'lightning strike' sounded very much like a move someone would use in a video game rather than how someone would describe actually killing them.

catherine eastman said...

You had me at Ragnarok. I love viking and Norse stories, so I was definitely intrigued by the query.

I think the query was strong and I was immediately pulled into the ancient time/world you've set up. I want to know how this story continues.

I think you do a good job of portraying Raven's disinterest and lack of connection in the opening paragraphs. The only thing that struck me as odd was the line "I know everyone's name and they know mine." Do they really? If she works hard to stay disconnected from her peers and only gives them the "occasional small talk" would they really know who she is, let alone her name? Is it a small school, so not a lot of students? I went to a large high school and was in the middle popularity wise, not super popular, but not a loner either. I didn't know half the people in my grade by looks, let alone names. That sentence took me out of the story for a moment, because I didn't believe that was possible.

But, overall I like the way you captured high school in just a few sentences. The varying smells, the noises, the drama. Great job and good luck!

Sarai Henderson said...

I too have been dabbling in Norse mythology. I love the Ragnarok and all things viking so of course this stood out to me. I think your query is strong. It shows me character and stakes. I also love your opening line, its very intriguing. I want to read more to find out how she killed someone.

Good Job!

Lm Hersch said...

First off, I like the concept of a girl struggling not to kill the people around her with a power she has little control over. Really neat concept.

Now, onto your query... it's LONG. REALLY LONG. Read : too long. You have GOT to shorten this. You can save most of this for a synopsis. Synopsis = what your agent may request to read so that they can have a clear concept of the plot. The query = how to explain to your agent the CONCEPT of the book. Think of it like this - the query is what you read on the back of the book. Would you read over a page of explanation to figure out if you want to read the book?

I would argue that that first sentence is not needed at all, or at least move it to the end where you explain your project (i.e. BLOOD OF ASGARD, complete at 86,000 words, ect. ect). The very first thing you want to hit your agent with is a hook. Reading something they've already said may interest them, but you are fishing. You must use the best hook.

Your second sentence is PERFECT. Personally I feel like the "...again." slows down the tension. Just take out those ... and you'll be fine. But then again, nothing about your query suggests that any of your story takes place in a high school. If it doesn't take place in a high school, I'd suggest just saying "most teenagers spend years trying to fit in, Raven spends her time trying not to kill again." (I'd remove 'anyone' as it's assumed she killed someone).

I've got a personal problem with someone who controls the elements with their emotions. It screams Elsa of Frozen, and I'm not sure if the comparison would hurt your project.

As the query continues, I started to get confused. Are family trips to Norway essential to the plot? How? Do Grandma and Mom vanish ONLY because they are in Norway (as in, they couldn't have started Ragnarok until they got to Norway?). WHY must she travel back in time? What can she accomplish back in time that she can't accomplish in the present? HOW does she do this? But mostly I'm confused as to why.

HOW does Mom and Grandma disappearing signal the start of the end of the world? WHAT ancestor? We literally don't know that the ancestor was in danger, why it matters or what was at stake if they didn't get saved. And then the "ancestor" is never mentioned again. So did they matter? Why waste time in a query as long as this explaining this?

Why does Raven team up with a random blacksmith? Are they the only ones in this Viking village full of Vikings that can trap the serpent? You mentioned at the start of your query Raven's got these amazing powers... and then never mention those again either. Did they serve a purpose? Then you need to make a point to mention WHY her powers matter, and WHAT they put at stake. You mentioned she struggled to control them... and then that initial character struggle is not so much as hinted at again. If that's your initial character problem, you need to demonstrate why these powers matter. Sure, she might have to give up other lives to save the world - WHICH lives? Her Mom? Her Grandma? Her new ancient boyfriend? WHY does it matter which lives may be lost TO the character?

I would suggest removing the show "Vikings" from your comparisons. You're writing a book, not a TV show, and although the stories may be similar, most people who like TV shows don't like them because they read the screenplay. Movies/TV are vastly different from books.

I would further suggest making your query three paragraphs. It is certainly possible. Get the heart of your story - NOT the plot, but the actual character struggle. Focus on what is at stake for the character - what does she want, what stands in her way, and what happens if she gets what she wants and what does she lose by not?

Brent Taylor said...

I would have stopped reading at around the fourth paragraph. It was unclear to me where these time travel and war elements came from -- and it all just felt a bit overwhelming.