Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Agent,

In SIMON GREY AND THE MARCH OF A HUNDRED GHOSTS (MG historical fantasy, 45,000 words), twelve-year-old Simon goes to sea to flee from his “gift” of seeing ghosts--and finds, when marooned in Tokugawa Japan, that only what he fears most can save him.

London, 1620. Simon Grey signs up as a cabin boy on a ship bound for Japan, hoping that a long sea voyage will provide some relief from the ghosts he sees wherever he goes on land. But a shipwreck leaves him stranded alone on the shore of Japan--which, under the new Shogun, is now a much more dangerous place for foreigners. And when the Shogun’s advisor, the sorcerer Daima, learns of Simon’s ability, he imprisons him, determined to extract his “secret” by any means necessary. With the help of yokai (quirky spirits from Japanese folklore), Simon and his fellow prisoner Yukiko Winter, daughter of an English sailor-turned-samurai and a yokai snow woman, escape and try to find a way home. But when Daima kidnaps Yukiko’s father, and Yukiko surrenders herself as a ransom for his life, Simon must persuade the yokai to help rescue them from the Shogun’s stronghold of Edo Castle.

Yokai will be familiar to readers of Kathryn Tanquary’s THE NIGHT PARADE, or fans of the “Yo-kai Watch” video game and anime series. The success of this franchise (with over 400,000 units of the video game alone sold since its U.S. release last November), along with the “Pokemon Go” boom and the recent theatrical release of “Kubo and the Two Strings”, all suggest that Japan-themed fantasy is experiencing a new surge of popularity, and Simon Grey stands poised to ride the crest of this wave. The book could stand alone or inaugurate a series (the second book is already in progress).

My debut short story, “Let This Cup Pass from Me”, is due to be published in New Rivers Press’s American Fiction #15 anthology in November. Other manuscripts of mine have won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Award (Action/Thriller, 2013 and 2016) and made the finals for the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association literary competition (Mystery/Thriller, 2013), the Killer Nashville Claymore Award (2013) and the Adventure Writers’ Competition (2015). When not writing, I teach English at a Japanese university, dividing my time between the suburbs of Tokyo and Mount Desert Island, Maine.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.

Best wishes,


It was time. I couldn’t stay in London any longer; I had to go to sea again.

I went down to the docks at Rotherhithe on that fateful summer day in 1620, hoping for a ship with an awe-inspiring name like Red Dragon or Scourge of Malice. But the only vessels anchored there were an East Indiaman called the Nutmeg and a cargo fluyt called the Mayflower. The names didn’t leave much to choose between them.

I tried the Mayflower first. “Excuse me, sir?” I called to the captain, dressed all in austere black except for his white ruff and stockings. “Could you tell me where this ship is headed?”

He gave me a cursory glance. “Southampton to take on some passengers, and then America. To start a colony in New England.”

“Do you need a ship’s boy, sir?”

He looked hard at me, and I could tell what he was thinking. Why does this boy want to go to sea? He looks a bit too well-kept for one of the usual cases: orphaned, or running away from cruel parents, or sent away to make one less mouth to feed.

And he was right, but I wasn’t about to tell him the real reason just yet.

“Very well, then,” he finally said.

I stepped aboard. I hesitated to ask another question, but after my last voyage, I had to be sure.

“Sir, I hope you won’t think I’m mad, but…has any of your crew ever said anything about ghosts?”


The agent said...

Though I don't like or encourage to write for trends, by the time the actual manuscript is sold, and published, the trend will be over, this reads well. It is not quite for me, so I would likely advise the writer to query a colleague of mine just in case.

Jessi said...

I found this query a bit dense to wade through, but after re-reading, it really intrigues me. I love the title and the concept.

Also, congrats on your first short story sale!

Angela D'Ambrosio said...

This has a great premise, full of promising suspense and scares. I suggest cutting down the telling and give us short punchy sentences so we get a sense of voice and tension.
Also, consider rewording your logline which had a lot of rhyming words: sea, flee, see.

Your first 250 words really pulled me in and I wanted to read on.

I look forward to reading this with my kids!