Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Jennifer Johnson-Blalock,

Based on your interest in diversity and contemporary middle-grade, I am submitting to you my upper middle-grade mystery with light fantasy elements CODE X: DA VINCI’S SECRET. It is complete at 48,000 words and is told from a dual POV. Lockwood & Co. meets the Wells and Wong Detective Society in this stand-alone book with series potential. 

Twelve-year-old Jack Nash lives in a house full of weird things: a rare Da Vinci journal and a ghost who communicates via Post-it notes. 

When a supernatural being invades Jack’s home shortly after his dad purchases the Codex Hammer, he doesn’t lose any sleep over the off-key phantom. But he won’t leave Jack alone, torturing him with non-stop karaoke and nagging-by-sticky-note to find his killer. 

Adventurous Piper McHenry moves into the secluded historic district where nothing ever happens, and the only other kid her age is Jack, a boy in a back brace. There goes adventure. When Jack asks for Piper’s help in solving the ghost’s murder so Jack--and the ghost--can rest in peace, he doesn’t have to ask her twice. After another person drops dead, they must learn to work together and unlock the mystery of the Codex in order to find out who is next on the killer’s list.

I am a member of SCBWI and Children’s Book Insider and am actively involved in their critique groups. This manuscript won third place in the Diversity contest (September 2016). 

I have pasted the first 250 words of my manuscript below. My manuscript is available in part or in full upon request. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warm Regards,


Our house was rigged with 24/7 security, but not because of the ghost. I pressed the eight-digit code, jack0315--my name and birthday--into the keypad on the front door. After I slipped inside, I expected our Rent-a-Cop’s usual frisking or another background check. I live here. It gets old. I searched the living room where the weird artifacts hid behind bulletproof glass. No sign of the security guard or my dad or the supernatural being haunting my house.

In the kitchen, I threw a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Without the annoying ghost around, this might be the best night ever. But as the seconds ticked down, yellow squares of paper popped onto every surface. I’d never heard of the dead communicating with sticky notes. 

You’re out of T.P.

Did you locate the smoking gun?

Try watching Law & Order or Matlock or CSI.

My dead neighbor had yet to convince me he was murdered. Who was Matlock anyway? Franklin was such a drama ghost.

As I ignored the rest of the notes and headed into the living room, the floor lurched beneath my bare feet. I stumbled and dropped my bag of popcorn. A cold sensation swam up my spine, or was that my back brace? My dad thinks all the bizarre things happening lately are a direct result of living in an old house. Wrong. I blamed the ghost and his endless pranks and tricks, like the lights blinking on and off.

“Boring,” I yelled.


R.E. Cranney said...

Oooh... I love a good mystery. And ghosts! Great idea.
Your 250 is captivating. A house rigged with 24/7 security immediately grabbed my interest, and I had no choice but to continue reading. If I had pulled this book off a bookstore shelf, I would probably buy it on that alone. :)

I was a little confused reading the query, particularly when you introduced the ghost. You have the paragraph "Twelve-year-old Jack..." mentioning a ghost who communicates via Post-it notes, but then you introduce a "supernatural being" in the second paragraph who nags with sticky notes. Is this the same ghost? If so, I suggest merging these two paragraphs.

Best of luck!

Unknown said...

I LOVED the part of your query that says "a ghost who communicates via post-it notes." You combined the strange with the mundane, which always makes for an interesting plot.
However, right after you introduce this ghost, you introduce a 'supernatural being'and I'm not sure if they are the same character until later in the second paragraph. I think I'd rather see the second paragraph altered a little so THAT's the hook.

I loved every bit of your 250! Especially his relationship with the ghost. I found myself laughing several times.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely a book I would buy. I love that Jack sees the ghost as a nuisance rather than a threat. It tells me he's ready for any peril he might face as he delves into the mystery. Piper is intriguing as well. It seems she agrees to be involved in the mystery out of boredom. From your query and your first 250 words, I can tell she won't be bored for a minute.

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock said...

Thanks so much for entering, J.L.H.! I love how specific and fun your ghost is, and your query is well written. I would readjust your paragraphs, though, to make them evenly distributed between Jack and Piper. With Jack, you have two paragraphs, and it's a bit confusing because the second one doesn't contain new information but instead elaborates on the first. Then Piper just has one paragraph. I would balance that. I'd also think about your genre. A ghost isn't fantasy so much as paranormal, and it sounds like he plays a major role in the story, so it's more than a "light" element. I know the p-word isn't always preferred; you could say a "ghostly middle-grade mystery" or something to that effect. Personally, I'm sticking to the realistic realm for now, but there are definitely agents out there looking for this sort of thing, and I wish you all the best with it.