Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Mr. Taylor,

Those who meet fifteen-year-old Amira Starrling call her quiet and gentle, but Amira can use her psionic abilities to shatter trees.

Psionics take years of practice to manage, and it’s an understatement to say Amira's are unpredictable. If you consider her neighbor’s shuttle--still wrapped around a pole from the last time she lost control--she borders on dangerous. While her backwater, outer-rim planet is a safe place to hone her skills, she’s not learning to manage them. When she’s invited to attend KungorumAcademy, an elite school for the training of galactic citizens with similar abilities, Amira’s determined to use this experience to finally gain control.

But on Amira’s first day, a deep-space shuttle crashes into her classroom, bringing with it an alien only she can see. Desperate to eliminate Amira before she stops it, the alien targets her mind. After she fights the creature off, it resorts to using other students it can control against her. Amira loses control of her abilities and destroys anentire floor of an Academy building when her friends are forced to fight her and each other. While her actions nearly get her expelled, she at least freed her friends and eliminated the creature.

Or so she thinks. But the alien escapes, and now Amira hunts for clues that will reveal what the shadowy intruder is really after at Kungorum. Amira must stop it. Because if she’s sent home, she risks losing herself to her powers, and the creature will be free to release its ancient brethren and drag the galaxy into war once again.

STARRLING is a YA Science Fiction novel of 70,000 words. It is a stand-alone title, but planned as the first of a series. I have a short story titled ELLA published in the online magazine FAR HORIZONS.

I am a strong believer in diversity in everything I create. So I make sure a varied range of human races and sexual orientations exist throughout STARRLING including within the main characters’ group. The main character, Amira, is of East Indian descent if such a place existed in the story’s universe.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

J.M.W.


STARRLING

Amira Starrling sat on a small hill and watched the sun slowly drop behind the distant mountains. Before them yellow fields of grain swayed gently in the late evening breeze like ocean waves lapping at a shore. The sky had turned purple as twin moons rose up over the horizon behind her.

Drawing a deep breath Amira held her hand open before her, letting the small stone roll still in her palm. Staring at the rock she focused her mind and willed it to lift freely into the air. A simple enough task she did not normally have problems doing.

Slowly the stone twitched then lifted a few inches above her palm. Amira smiled and took another deep breath, increasing her focus. Straining her mind, the rock started to shake and rotate, quicker and quicker until it exploded into a cloud of dust.

Amira gradually un-scrunched her eyes and turned to look back at her hand. She coughed and waved the dust cloud from her face before brushing off her clothes. With a heavy sigh she dropped back onto the side of the small hill overlooking her grandparents’ farm. The stars blinked to life and the sky-elevator’s lights lit up as the planet turned and the sun retreated further away.

Boxy super-haulers drifted about the edge of the sky, waiting their turn to dock with the station at the top of the elevator. They, like all larger star faring ships, could not land planet-side and still be able to fight against their own weight to take off again.

8 comments:

Kristina Ruth said...

In the query, the way the powers are explained leave me a bit confused. It's stated that her power is to shatter trees, and then her causing a shuttle to be wrapped around a pole, and finally shattering an entire floor. This also extends to the first 250, as she's trying to make a rock float and then explode. What exactly does she do? I'm having a hard time connecting them all together. Also, if it takes psionics years of practice, what kept her from being able to control her powers? There's something there that I feel is very interesting and telling about her character.

There's a lot going on, and includes information I'm not sure we need. It reads almost like a synopsis rather than a blurb. It's hard to follow and keep track of every event that's happening. This query would be leagues better if it were tighter. You could leave it at an alien appearing, cut the majority out of paragraph 3, and merge that with the final paragraph.

This sentence is contradictory: "It is a stand-alone title, but planned as the first of a series." It can't be both a stand-alone and a planned series at the same time (unless we're talking companion novels). You could phrase it as "While is is a planned series, the novel can stand on its own." Or something similar.

On a typo note: there are a couple of words that aren't spaced. "KungorumAcademy" in paragraph 2, and "anentire" in paragraph 3.

In the 250: Your imagery is nice, It's easy to picture where she is. I don't have much to say. I like seeing the magic up front, and while that makes me think it's fantasy, the rest of the 250 makes me realize it's more cross over than anything else.


JMWeibel said...

I see what you mean. I'll have to clarify her abilities are mainly telekentic, and clear that us some as well.

I'll re-work it to tighten it up some, I can see the synopsis-like run of it now that you mention it.

Yes, how you put it "While it is a planned series, the novel can stand on its own." is exactly what I was trying to convey, thank you. I slipped on finding the right way to get that across and you're right about the way I had it.

I'm not sure where those typos came from. My main copy doesn't have them. I'm going to have to be more careful with transferring to email in the future.

Thank you, this is all great help.

J.S. said...

It’s an interesting premise. I know I would definitely want to read it! However, the way you describe her powers are a little unclear. What exactly is it that she can do? Why does the alien target her mind, especially if she’s in a school of people with similar powers? Why her? The first 250 is very good. The character is relatable and I was drawn into the world immediately. Good job and good luck!

Lm Hersch said...

Okay, that first sentence has me confused. I don't even know WHAT psionic abilities are. Maybe other agents do, but err on the side of caution. Is her only power shattering trees? Or is it more? The way it reads now is that she's an environmentalists' worse nightmare.

Second paragraph - nix that second sentence. The agent will assume from your first sentence that there will be episodes in the beginning of the book or some kind of narration explaining past fubars. That third sentence is good, though, but WHY isn't she learning to manage them? What's the conflict so far? That she doesn't have control over her powers? I'm still not completely sure.

You could probably streamline your query a lot if you remove that first sentence altogether and just start with "Psionics takes years of practice to manage, and it's an understatement to say Amira's abilities are unpredictable. So when she is invited to attend the elite Kungorum Academy, Amira hopes she will learn how to finally gain control."

The third paragraph initially surprised me (ooohh, aliens no one else can see!) and then dropped in lostville. It falls into plot point after plot point that surprisingly doesn't increase any tension. Almost nothing in that paragraph is necessary except "now there is an alien only she can see." We have NO idea what tension this causes FOR the character (NOT for the plot), we don't know why it matters, or what is at stake.

Why does Amira try to hunt it down? Because she nearly got expelled? Why wouldn't she leave well enough alone and go back to her life? I have no sense of why she cares. I see you trying to make an attempt at a "this is what is at stake" at the end of your fourth paragraph, but again, most of your second/third loses the tension. Why do we only know at the VERY end of your pitch what the alien plans to do???

Another commenter said your book can't be a "stand alone with series potential." This is not correct. Nearly every agent will say to express your novel is a stand alone with series potential. Please do not change this.

Okay, I admire your closing paragraph, but you can simplify it to "my story features diverse characters." Also, please don't say "if such a place existed in the story's universe." This is obviously science fiction. You'll need to be careful using other cultures in places not at all tied to Earth and it's history. Though I'm sure you have, just make sure your East Indian characters can develop a culture that is uniquely un-affiliated with Earth history to do it justice.

JMWeibel said...

I've updated my query to address all the good points made by everyone, but I don't know if posting the updated version here is allowed or not. So I'm not going to unless told otherwise. But thank you all for making this query much better so far.

Lm Hersch said...

Could you post it as a comment?

JMWeibel said...

I suppose I can, it can always be deleted if it shouldn't be.

Those who meet fifteen-year-old Amira Starrling call her quiet and gentle, but Amira’s telekinetic abilities can pulverize stone.

Psionics take years of practice to manage, and it’s an understatement to say Amira's are unpredictable. While her backwater, outer-rim planet is a safe place to work on her skills, she can’t figure out why she still hasn’t learned to manage them. When Amira’s invited to attend Kungorum Academy, an elite school for the training of galactic citizens with similar abilities, she’s determined to use this experience to finally gain control.

But on Amira’s first day, a deep-space shuttle crashes into her classroom, bringing with it a dangerous alien only she can see. After students start going missing and others become violent, only Amira can perceive the connection to the creature. When the shadowy intruder discovers how much power Amira really has and her lack of control, she becomes its next target. Now if Amira can’t find out why the alien is really at Kungorum she risks losing herself forever to its influence. With her, the creature’s path will be open to releasing its ancient brethren from a forgotten prison that will drag the galaxy into war once again.

Brent Taylor said...

Although, as noted above, some parts here were unclear, for the most part I had a very easy time following along. If this were in my inbox I would have read the full query and dipped into the pages, but I'm not sure I would have requested the material; it's difficult for me to connect to Amira. She wants to gain control of her powers and...what else? I typically have this hang-up with SFF submissions where I want a fast-paced story, but I also want the characters to be dimensional and with agency.