Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Ms. Johnson-Blalock:

Paris Escala is the perfect progeny for an aspiring Republican Presidential candidate: straight-A student, star basketball player, Ivy League shoo-in. Except Paris has a secret that even his sister Rose doesn’t know. It’s not Julia Capua--his ideal political partner--he’s attracted to, but her forbidden boyfriend, Montae Romero. Still, dating Julia would put an end to all of the rumors about Paris, and might finally make his control-freak dad proud. 

But a nosy reporter from the Washington Post is doing her best to get a Pulitzer by investigating Paris’s family; his sister is struggling with managing her diabetes and her love life; and his best friend is starting fights that land him in the hospital. Paris has to deal with these problems and decide how to keep his life from becoming a tragedy.

Complete at 58,000 words, A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES is a contemporary Romeo and Juliet with a twist of House of Cards. It will appeal to fans of Shakespeare and WHEN YOU WERE MINE by Rebecca Serle. A full manuscript is available upon request.

I graduated from Vassar College and have worked as an intern for Inklings Literary Agency, though my full-time job is as an elementary school librarian. In addition, I am a member of SCBWI and Scribblers of the Eastern Time Zone, an online critique group. I have been published in Cobblestone magazine and Flash Fiction World-Volume 4. My debut YA Paranormal Romance, THREE WISHES, was published in April 2014 by Astraea Press/Clean Reads.

Thank you for your consideration.



My palms were moist. I’d never been able to control my nerves completely, despite the number of appearances I’d made alongside my dad. I took a deep breath to steady myself. Yup, smelled like money--like all of these events we attended.

Trying to focus on my role as official sidekick, I surveyed the scene from the top of the ballroom stairs. It was then that I caught my first glimpse of him mingling below: he was pure young hotness, sharply contrasting with the older, fleshier crowd. I couldn’t ignore the color rising in my cheeks and the sudden twist in my stomach; part dread, part anticipation, and part something I couldn’t--wouldn’t--name.

I struggled to compose myself and straightened my tie again. My dad brushed by, the odor of his cologne enveloping me, distracting me from my reverie. His aide, Sam, standing at attention, asked, “Ready, Mr. Secretary?” 

Picking at imaginary lint on my sleeve, Dad examined me one last time, then nodded and gave a thumbs-up. “Born ready, Sam.” Dad let out his trademark guffaw, beaming as he began his descent down the marble stairs to the ballroom below, strutting in his custom-made designer tuxedo and Italian shoes. Music boomed from the speakers hidden around the room while lights glistened off the beadwork on the women’s fancy dress gowns.

Carefully, I trained my eyes away from that spot below where I knew Montae Romero had last been standing. He was forbidden fruit in more ways than one.


c said...

Wow. I'm impressed with both the query and first manuscript page. Here we have a complicated and fleshed-out character, high stakes, and a lot of tension. The query was tight, creative, and hints at a story/characters I'm immensely curious about. I was a tad confused and had to reread the query/first page due to sex (male/female) references, but figured everything out quickly.
Paris is a unique protagonist and the writing is fresh. What a concept, such scandal. Well done.
And this line:
"He was forbidden fruit in more ways than one"
was an excellent "hook."
I'm definitely invested in the story and want to know what will happen to Paris/Montae.
By mentioning the Romeo/Juliet parallel, I foresee an unhappily ever after...
I wish you the best of luck. This was very well-written.

Unknown said...

I love it, but maybe I'm partial because you went to Vassar. :) Is Paris a high-school student planning his path toward presidency? I take it his family is so powerful and rich that someone that young can dream so far ahead. Perhaps clarify that from the start, although it generally makes sense. It also reminds me a bit of Dangerous Liaisons.
This is great, and good luck!

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock said...

Thanks for your entry, D.K.! I really adore this concept, and your query is very well written. My only critique is that I got the tiniest bit lost because I initially skimmed over the word progeny and thought Paris was running for office--then I got to the word count and comps and was like, wait a minute. The words "political partner" added to that impression as well. I'd make it crystal clear in the first paragraph that Paris is the high-school-age son of a candidate. It's all there, but agents tend to read queries quickly, and the easier you can make it on us, the better.

Anonymous said...

PS said... Your modern Shakespearian twist is intriguing and very topical. The family, social, and political issues ramp up the stakes. I was hooked right away. The only suggestion I have is that you let the reader know Paris's gender sooner in your narrative.