Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Agent,

Ashmore Unbroken is a YA fiction, most relevant to the paranormal fantasy genre. It currently totals 90,000 words. Those readers enjoying such titles as Alice in Zombieland, The Vampire Diaries or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will readily identify with its style of writing. 

Sixteen-year-old Gavin Ashmore had always suspected his family was different, hearing voices and seeing “ghosts.” But after a mysterious, otherworldly girl saves him from an untimely death in a plane crash, Gavin begins to see and hear things, too, just like his family. Gavin learns that an ancient spirit named Cain has been searching for him, and now that he turned sixteen, Gavin is no longer safe. Gavin learns he bears a family curse, and it is this curse keeping Cain imprisoned between the living and dead worlds. To break free, Cain only needs to obtain Gavin’s heart.

But Gavin isn’t alone. To survive, Gavin must learn to fight Cain with the help of otherworldly beings named Seraphs. One of those Seraphs, Alina, is assigned to protect Gavin as his guardian, but even with that help, Gavin may not be strong enough to fight Cain. Gavin must decide if he will risk giving up his heart to save his loved ones, or lose everything by fighting against Cain and his relentless armies of undead soldiers. 

In trade, I am a dentist, but my heart has always been in writing. I have published several articles in various dental journals. I am a past participant in the 1st Five Pages Workshop hosted by Erin Cashman. I also maintain a blog called “Christian Quits His Day Job,” which describes my process as a writer. I am also developing a substantial base of followers, including bloggers and other authors, with whom I collaborate. However, I am seeking to do more with my passion of writing, and so I turn to you for your help to make this dream come true.

Sincerely,

C.S.


ASHMORE UNBROKEN

Chapter 1: Turbulence

I never believed in ghosts until the day I died.

The darkness, the screaming, the fires--I could replay it all as if it had happened just five minutes ago.

My eyes closed for a minute, but then “CRASH!”

My forehead rammed into the wooden surface of the school desk as my elbow slipped off the corner. Pain shot through my head and arm in throbbing synchrony. I smirked, cringing as a dozen eyes turned my direction, the class obviously distracted from the lesson on STD’s.

“Miracle Boy is looking for attention again I think--Dad has him set up for a shrink.”

I hated that name.

I glowered at the voice three desks in front of me. It belonged to Connor Sherman--perfect student, perfect child, and of course, my stepbrother.

I tried to glance away as he laughed with a couple of his thug friends, but caught my reflection in the mirror. My dusty brown hair was usually shaggy, but I looked unusually unkempt today. Dark bags encompassed my green eyes--needless to say, I hadn’t been sleeping well.

Someone two rows up from me lit something on fire as a prank and a pungent burning smell like melted steel filled my nostrils again--I almost gagged myself--it was beginning to happen more often now. 

If only it were a daydream but this was my reality.

12 comments:

Adrianne said...

I like how the narrative in your query is straight-forward and understandable. But I think the first paragraph, the info part, can be trimmed so readers/agents can get to the meat faster (maybe the bio part too). So when I see "Cain," I immediately think of the son of Adam and Eve, like Cain and Abel. And then I see seraphs? Is this Cain from Genesis? If so, maybe make that clear. Your stakes at the end are mostly clear, but instead of saying he'll "lose everything by fighting against Cain" tell us what exactly he's going to lose.

Love your opening sentence in the 250. But maybe save the physical description until later in the story, somewhere a little lower than the first 250. I do really like the contrast between class and his memories of the crash.

Jonathan Mitchell said...

I like the general gist of the query and think it sounds like an interesting story. I think your query is on the shorter side, so it couldn't hurt to add more details. I also feel that the name "Cain" and use of "seraphs" strikes a Judeo-Christian mythology here, which may or may not be your intention. Just something to keep in mind. I think the end could use some more clarification as to how the protagonist intends to fight Cain and what is at risk if Cain succeeds in his goals.

I like the 250, particularly the details of the plane crash and the gag reflex invoked by the smell. The bullying stepbrother feels a touch cliche. I would think if you had a "weirdo" family member, you'd try to avoid drawing attention to them, but that could just be me. Overall, I'd read this book.

Christian Smith said...

Thanks so much for the comments! It isn't the same Cain so maybe I can differentiate that if that's what it's coming across as.

Christian Smith said...

Thanks for the comments! I will definitely look at possibly changing the spelling on Cain to differentiate him if that comes across.

Ben Langhinrichs said...

There are a couple of query guidelines which you might want to adopt, as agents like to see them. Your first paragraph in the query, "Ashmore Unbroken is a YA fiction, most relevant to the paranormal fantasy genre. It currently totals 90,000 words. Those readers enjoying such titles as Alice in Zombieland, The Vampire Diaries or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will readily identify with its style of writing." would be better as "Ashmore Unbroken is a YA fantasy, complete at 90,000 words, with a style akin to Alice in Zombieland, The Vampire Diaries or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children." You especially want to avoid red flags like "currently totals" as they might suggest it is not finished and polished. I'd leave out the paranormal, as it suggests something different, and probably less marketable right now.

The bio would be better if you skipped the 3rd and 4th sentences. Short and simple if you aren't yet published.

The first 250 works pretty well, though I think you have the wrong word where you used smirked. I'm not sure what you were going for, but that isn't right.

Overall, I think you have a good premise and could see requesting more (if I were an agent), but tightening up the query would signal that you were more "ready", and they'd be more likely to give it a chance.

Christian Smith said...

Thank you for the input. You brought up some excellent points and you're right with the word "smirk" - I'll think it over and see how I can replace it. But thank you!

The Agent said...

Admittedly, if this had crossed my desk as a regular query, I would have stopped reading after "Ashmore Unbroken is a YA fiction, most relevant to the paranormal fantasy genre. It currently totals 90,000 words. " It is just so clunky and with another 70 + queries in my inbox, I just would not read on.
So my advice is to rework the query so that it flows better right from the beginning.

Christian Smith said...

Thank you. I truly appreciate your candid honesty :) I will rewrite that if it is a deterrent from the get-go.

Katherine T. said...

Your first sentence in your query confused me: Sixteen-year-old Gavin Ashmore had always suspected his family was different, hearing voices and seeing “ghosts.” This leaves me unclear if Gavin hears voices or if his family does. Also, if his relatives see ghosts, he doesn't just suspect they're different--he knows it.

In the end, I would also cut the line about "making my dream come true" because I've read agents tend to prefer more professional sounding endings like "Thank you for your time and consideration."

I enjoyed the voice and humor in your first 250 a lot.

winkchii said...

I fully loved the voice in the manuscript, its something I would definitely read.
That being said, the query didn't really grab my attention, but that may be because I am not too interested in the concept.
Personally I thought you got the stakes right, overall I thought it was a decent query.

HILARYHARWELL said...

Hi there - I skipped over the earlier comments, so if I'm repeating things that have already been said, I apologize. I think your opening could stand to be a little tighter and could probably go after the actual pitch so agents can get right to the meat of the query. I'd suggest the following formula or some variation of it: TITLE is a 90,000 word paranormal fantasy that would appeal to fans of X and Y.

Agents have a limited amount of time to dedicate to queries and they appreciate the ones that get to the point!

Christian Smith said...

Thanks to you three for your comments! I have adjusted the query letter to make it less confusing. Glad to hear the voice is good though:)