Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Ms. Nelson,

Michael Flynn and Shelly Miller, the main characters in my contemporary YA novel, BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA (Merit Press, 2016,) started appearing in my dreams, leading me to write what has become a three book series. Part two of the trilogy, THE LANGUAGE OF THE SON, is 65,000 words and ready to ensnare readers further into Michael and Shelly’s story.

In the first book of the series, Michael’s quest was to find his father, a man he has never met because Michael’s mother refused to reveal his identity. With his girlfriend Shelly’s help, Michael unburies the secret of his origins. Now that he knows the man’s name and where to find him, Michael needs to decide what to do with that information. Will bringing up the past send Michael’s emotionally fragile mother further into an abyss? 

Now a recent high school graduate, Michael is granted a life changing opportunity to participate in a summer workshop taking place in Seattle, the same city where his father lives. Yet it’s also where Shelly ex-boyfriend Theo resides, and they will be staying with him during the early part of the journey. Suddenly Michael feels overwhelmed. He has left behind everything and everyone he loves, and as much as Michael wants to bond with Theo, he’s threatened by Shelly’s intimate connection to him. 

Will the ever increasing conflicts between Michael and Shelly cost them their relationship? How will knowing his father enable Michael to complete the puzzle of his identity? And if he meets the man he has yearned for all his life, will that man welcome him or reject him?

I am a former high school teacher now writing full-time. Enclosed are the first 250 words of THE LANGUAGE OF THE SON. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.



My girlfriend Shelly insists I take the window since it’s my first flight, so I’m crushed against the wall on this claustrophobic jet and more than a little freaked out. Pretty much everyone knows I’m headed to Seattle for a five-week summer writing workshop. It came with a full scholarship, so how could I pass up the deal? But only a select few know the real reason I’m going there: to meet my father. Problem is, until four o’clock this morning he didn’t know he was my father.

“Statistically, flying is the safest way to die,” Shelly says, and grins at me.


She bumps her shoulder into mine. “I’m teasing, silly. It’s statistically the safest way to travel.”

“I hate you so much,” I say. I turn my face toward the window. Below me guys in neon yellow vests are loading bags onto the plane.

“Yeah, but you can’t live without me.” She wraps her hands around my bicep and snuggles against me. Muffled chatter, the click of seat belts, the slam bang of bags stowed overhead, a baby crying, and the acrid odor of jet fuel surround us. If this is the end of my life, are these the last things I will remember before we explode mid air? I take a hard swallow to keep my breakfast down.

My mother used to say bad things didn’t happen on sunny days, but I have learned my mother is not a reliable source.


JFC said...

I like the core of this story, and I think the query sells it well. The main conflict (son confronting recently-discovered father) sounds promising, but I wonder if you've given away the lion's share of the conflict in the synopsis. That is to say, Michael plans to confront his absentee father, who doesn't know he's coming. And? I'm sure once readers are into the book they'll be invested enough in the characters to want to see the confrontation play out, but at first blush the situation lacks fresh intrigue. Is there something unusual about his father that promises a unique twist? What is the "secret" of his origins? Is there more at stake than preserving mother's fragile nerves? Is the writing workshop in Seattle tied into the main conflict centrally, or is it just an excuse to get him where he needs to be? The Theo connection seems like a good complication in the romantic relationship. It offers the potential for real complexity in Shelly.

I'm not an agent, but I've heard agents decry the use of rhetorical questions in queries. It may be a matter of personal taste, but it's something to keep in mind.


Laura Moe said...

Thanks for the input. I'd much rather write a 3000 page novel than a query. sigh. It;'s something I still have not mastered.

JFC said...

I feel your pain. Thank God for people like Kristen! :)

JFC said...


Katherine T. said...

Here are my suggestions:

In the query, I'd leave off "appearing in your dreams." It doesn't quite ring professional to me.

Paragraph three: "Shelly ex-boyfriend" should be Shelly's. Also, some points I'm unclear on: why does Michael want to bond with Theo? And why is Theo threatening his relationship with Shelly? Sure, he's an ex, but in the query he hasn't done anything yet. Like the previous commentor, I think more clear stakes would help me.

Your first 250 words is pretty good! Minor detail: I've never been able to smell fuel on a plane. Mostly the air just smells stale.

Good luck!

Leslie S. Rose said...

I LOVE the last line of your sample. I wonder if you might tinker with it as your lead line. I'm already worrying about Michael and Shelly's future and want to yell, "Don't stay with Theo."

Unknown said...

I agree about not sharing your dream. It's kind of creepy. lol. Also, I think the fact that this is the second in a series would be a huge turn off for an agent. (I mean unless your first became a best seller.) it would be next to impossible to sell a sequel (unless it stands alone?) unless it was to the same press who did your first one, and why would you need an agent for that? If the story stands alone don't mention its relation to book one. If it doesn't, you need to be subbing this one to Merit Press and writing a new stand alone to snag an agent. Even with the query problems, the first page was very well written. You mentioned hatred of queries. I used to share that before query shark. It was literally the only way I could finally figure it out lol.
You've got a strong entry here. And it's obvious you can write. Just don't scare off the agents by telling them your MC appeared to you and told you to write this story ;)
I think you'll do well, at any rate.
Good luck!

Laura Moe said...

Thanks for the comments. Funny how most of us can write complete novels and even enjoy the process but when it comes to the query. ugh! It's not my first rodeo, but I'm no better at it thn when I began submitting. There should be a service that writes them for us so we can concnetrate on story rather than elevator pitches.

Leslie, yes, staying with Theo is a really bad idea....that's why they're doing it.

Patricia Nelson said...

As a published author, you're in a bit of a different situation when querying - you'll want to be sure to include a little more background info (what month did your book publish? Did you recently part ways with a previous agent?) and more context on what's next (has this next book already sold? If not, I assume it's an option book - are you ready to submit it?) If you're looking for an agent to negotiate the contract on an option book for which you already have an offer, you'll likely find takers; if you're looking to move to a new publisher and want an agent to submit a sequel widely, that could make things tougher. Either way, I would include this info in the last paragraph of the query.

Beyond that: the voice in the sample pages is great and I'm always a sucker for a Seattle setting, but I personally am not completely compelled by the stakes of the story based on this query - and I'm generally a tough sell on male POV YA to begin with, so I don't think this is quite the right fit for me.

Laura Moe said...

Thank you for the comments, and taking the time to read all of our submissions. Yes, this is a different situation for me from my previous novel. You gave me some things to consider when seeking an agent.