Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Patricia Nelson,

In a world where America no longer exists, where a new, corrupt government rules with an iron fist, sixteen-year-old Telila Togia thinks she’s a nobody. Insignificant. But she’s about to lead a revolution.

After being arrested for a crime she was forced to commit, Telila is taken to The Compound--a military training camp and prison. It’s a death sentence. But having been instilled with a warrior’s heart from her disabled Samoan father and the will to overcome from a mother who abandoned them, Telila refuses to give up hope that she’ll make it back to take care of her destitute family. 

But The Compound isn’t what she expects. Prisoners are forced to fight each other in mock battles, testing experimental weaponry. These are the Toy Soldiers and Telila becomes one of them. Fighting to stay alive, the Toy Soldiers plot their escape, but Telila must choose between obedience to the government and security for her family or the revolution her people are screaming for. While betrayal threatens to tear her apart, she must find a way not only to hold her heart and family together, but to save her country.

TOY SOLDIERS is an 87,000-word YA tale of young love, betrayal, and survival. Fans of Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT and Suzanne Collins’ HUNGER GAMES will enjoy similar elements and a strong teen voice.

I have published five books with Clean Teen Publishing, The Ransomed Souls Series--RELUCTANT GUARDIAN-2013, THE ELEMENTALIST-2015, and THE UNDOER-2016. And the Into Terratir Series--THE EYE OF TANUB-2014 and THE CELESTINE SWORD-2014. I am querying you at this time because I’d like to try my hand with an agent, to go bigger, so-to-speak. I am a member of LDStorymakers and used to write a column for the Tremonton Leader, a local newspaper.

Thank you so much for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.

M.J.C.


TOY SOLDIERS

The United States is gone.

Taken over by other, more powerful countries that let us keep this little edge of the continent to ourselves. The war is over, but I can still hear the bombs falling, whistling through the night sky and crashing like thunder on my unsuspecting city. These visions fill my nights with terror and the memories fill my days with sorrow.

They keep us afraid and are always watching.

They are NUCA. The New United Coalition of America, and they span from what used to be the state of Oregon, all the way down through half of Mexico, and then east to the Rocky Mountains.

But I can’t help wonder if it’s better on the other side--the old central and southern parts of the United States--the Outlands.

Anyplace is better than here.

I check my watch. It's 8:56 p.m. It’s almost dark and exceptionally warm for April. I've been out after nine before, scuttling around, from shadow to shadow, to secure black market supplies for my family, but I don’t do it often. It’s dangerous.

If I’m caught doing something wrong--like being out after curfew, trading for food at the black market, or reading books that have been outlawed--I run the risk of being turned in by a neighbor… if they catch me. And then I’d be arrested and taken to The Compound. Nobody ever escapes The Compound.

I stick to the shadows and try to blend in, wearing and slate-colored clothes, maintaining a low profile. Most of the time the soldiers’ gazes slide right over me as though I’m invisible, which is what I want, to keep anyone from looking too long in my direction.

6 comments:

RC Hancock said...

Loved the query. (Although I'd cut the first paragraph as it seems a little too general.) the idea of kids testing weapons on eachother sounds AWESOME and original. Agents have told me before not to compare my books to the mega-hits, so id take that out. I think Patricia actually mentioned somethin about that in an interview.
I love that the girl is Samoan. Great diversity.
The pages felt a little flat after such a great query. I think too much exposition at the front is the culprit. Also the backstory sounded like pretty generic dystopian. You want to catch the reader right away with what makes yours different and exciting. (Like the experimental weapons, or the MC's Samoan culture.)
Still, this is a really cool concept.
Hope you do well!!

Ranee` said...

LOVE your concept. I agree with the commenter above to cut the first paragraph of your query. You've explained well the stakes (I'd suggest cutting the last sentence of the third paragraph, however. You expertly tell us how she has to choose between a better life for everyone and taking care of her family, and that's BIG stakes. It's perfect without the addition.)
I would also cut the line, "I am querying you at this time because I’d like to try my hand with an agent, to go bigger, so-to-speak." It's obvious you're querying because you'd like an agent, since you ARE querying.
For your pages, I'd skip the explanation and let that come out in the story, and instead start with "I check my watch. It's 8:56..."
Altogether pretty awesome. I'd read more.

G. Elhassani said...

I don't read much YA, but this sounds fabulous! I think your background speaks for itself, and your publishing credits prove your ability to write for this audience. The first 250 words really flow, your voice is accessible. I think you've managed the ultimate goal of allowing your narrative to speak for itself. Great job!

Leslie S. Rose said...

Your line, "They keep us afraid and are always watching," gave me the chills. From the get go I'm rooting for your MC to get out of such a dismal situation and reunite with her family.

brett mount said...

I'd start the query with "Telila Togia thinks she's a nobody. Insignificant. But she's about to lead a revolution."

In the third paragraph, I'd cut out that these are mock battles. Just say, "Prisoners are forced to fight each other, testing experimental weaponry." That sounds more high stakes and exciting to me.

I agree with the previous comments NOT to denigrate yourself with "I am querying you at this time . . . ." Cut it from your query.

I also agree that the story starts with the line "I check my watch. It's 8:56 p.m." Everything before that is an info dump that we don't need--at least not at this part of the story. I want to be on this black market supply run and feel her anxiety as she tries to take care of her family.

Good luck!

Patricia Nelson said...

Unfortunately, because publishers overbought YA dystopian in the wake of the massive success of the books you mention (DIVERGENT and THE HUNGER GAMES) it's become almost impossible to place YA dystopian with the major houses right now. This is a nicely-crafted query, but to me the premise just feels too familiar and too tough in the current market, so this would be a pass for me. The market is cyclical, so dystopian may very well come back around in a few years, but for now, with limited time, I have to devote my energy to projects I think I can sell, and that means that I'm not currently taking on anything in this genre.