Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Johnson-Blalock,

Professor Beatrice Blake always figured that by twenty-six she’d feel like an adult instead of an awkward teenage PhD student. Despite all her accomplishments, the bookish girl still dominates.

A relationship with the new ski instructor, Jake, should do the trick. Athletic, light-hearted, and far outside the academic realm, Beatrice reasons he’ll bring variety to her life. Jake insists he likes her old-fashioned ways. Until her inability to even say the word s-e-x, let alone perform the act, brings them to a halt faster than her recently perfected parallel stop. Her students have more experience than their history professor. It’s time to figure out how to join the modern age.

Though, Beatrice may have her back to the whiteboard, instead of facing it, it’s the same place she’s been since age fifteen--at the University. Rather than grades and a diploma on the line it’s now performance reviews and tenure in jeopardy. The department dean is demanding her overdue research article for the academic journal. For the first time Beatrice rebels and plunges ahead with the crafting of a historical romance.

Even Grandpa, who she is caregiver for, is seeing more action than her. While her life seems like a fly stuck in molasses he is moving ahead, becoming engaged to the widow down the road.

Between conquering the black diamond run and searching through dusty tomes, Beatrice must make the transition to a woman of substance and depth or remain trapped within the insecurities of youth.

Beatrice Blake, Novice is a 76,000-word contemporary romance. It is a stand-alone book with series potential.

Thank you for your consideration.



Beatrice's hand shook and her empty glass clunked onto the granite counter. The sound rang through the silent house. She fought against the bone deep fatigue and the emotional exhaustion that came after a week of twelve hour days filled with hard labor. Only adrenaline, nervousness, and possibly the thirty ounces of Coke she'd drunk that day, kept her standing--that and the fact that this was good-bye. Beatrice looked up at Liam, her brother’s lifelong best friend and, this week, her personal savior. She loved how tall he was, that even at her taller than average height she had to tilt her head back to see his face. She realized, once again, despite trying to be conscious of it, despite knowing it was wrong, they stood too close, too close for a married man and his best friend's sister to be standing. She took a deliberate step backward.

Liam spoke in a low voice. His wife slept in the next room, her grandfather snored in the guest room down the hall. "You sure you're okay to drive tomorrow?"

"Yes, I'll be fine. I don't have much choice. I'm presenting at the university seminar in two days and classes start Wednesday. I'll push through to Salt Lake in one go. That'll give me a day to prep for the seminar and get Grandpa somewhat settled." She watched her fingers as they twisted the hem of her shirt refusing to look at Liam's hazel eyes because if she did she'd melt like chocolate left in the summer sun.


c said...

First, I love the story's title.
Regarding the query, excellent first line. Witty, especially "the bookish girl still dominates."
The writer has created curiosity and compassion for her protagonist. The character is smart but quirky--a 26-year-old virgin with a grandfather who gets more action than her. Brilliant.
I'm invested in her well-being.
Regarding the first page, the voice is strong, and I'm still invested. The protagonist is overwhelmed and on top of the stress she's enduring, we catch a glimpse of forbidden love. I foresee trouble.
One suggestion: the part, "Liam spoke in a low voice. His wife slept in the next room, her grandfather snored in the guest room down the hall. "You sure you're okay to drive tomorrow?"
I would rearrange this to:
His wife slept in the next room, her grandfather snored in the guest room down the hall.
Liam spoke in a low voice. "You sure you're okay to drive tomorrow?"

I'm impressed with the writing and I wish her the best of luck.

megster said...

The premise for this story is wonderful: the 'novice' professor (I assume you're playing on the word's nun-ish meaning?) needing to learn the tricks of another trade, so to speak, while getting over a forbidden crush on the married Liam and dealing with the pressures of academia. AND dealing with the grandfather who, unlike her, sounds like he's very much part of the modern age --. Good stuff!

My thought would be to go through the query with a super-sharp eye out for grammatical bloopers. And possibly re-arrange the first two paragraphs a bit: e.g. I'd stick the lines about the students having more experience than the prof right up there in the first paragraph. It gets a lot of information across in a witty way. I also would recommend moving the book's title closer to the beginning of the query.

One question. Is she a tad young to be a full PhD? It usually takes 6-7 years post-college to receive one in the humanities or social sciences, so unless she started college early.....

This sounds like a promising manuscript. Best of luck with it and all your writing!

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock said...

Thanks so much for your entry, N.M.W.! I think your book has all the potential for rich character and conflict. Just a bit more work on the query will help that really come through. I would give us a bit more information about Beatrice in the first paragraph--how is she already a professor, what does she teach, a tiny bit about her romantic background (even bookish people usually have sex). And then build after the first two paragraphs in the rest of the query. You set up Beatrice and Jake, but then the next two paragraphs feel a little repetitive--tell us more about the conflict. Also, I would indicate the POV since most contemporary romances are dual. I can't tell from your query if Jake has a voice or is just a character. Good luck!