Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #24

Dear guest agent,

THE MALATHION EFFECT is a 67,000-word young adult/speculative fiction riff on The Dead Zone and Jay Asher/Carolyn Mackler’s The Future of Us.

Fifteen-year-old Cameron Riker struggles to master a mysterious illness that allows her to see glimpses of the future. Bad ones. She’s both excited and overwhelmed by her new powers. How far into the future can she see? And more importantly--who can she save? 

As Cameron tests her limits, the illness threatens to destroy the health and sanity of her childhood friends, two brothers who have the same strange abilities. When one brother unravels completely, the three confront the gritty reality that to stay alive, they have to stop trying to save the people they see in their visions. But can they live with themselves if they do? 

Cameron and the brothers race to understand why they share the debilitating psychic powers amid family secrets, suicide, and the sparkling swimming pools of their Southern California suburb. Ultimately, they must uncover whether their actions are predetermined and if they have an obligation to help others even though they are victims, too.

A bit about me: I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. I previously worked as a prosecutor in Northern California, a political press secretary in Sacramento, and a newspaper reporter in Southern California.

Per your submission guidelines, I have included the first 250 words below. I appreciate your time and consideration.



People say the Bellamy brothers will end up dead or in prison long before they reach adulthood, and some part of me thinks that might be true. Michael is my age and seems like he could float away at any moment, as if the earth’s gravity isn’t strong enough to hold him. I look to my right and catch the mischief-maker grin that lights up his face. His eyes are the color of Colgate toothpaste--the overly sweet blue gel kind my mom keeps buying even though I’ve told her not to. Gabriel is the opposite. He’s only two years older, but he walks around with his jaw tight and his shoulders sloped, as if he carries mankind’s sins on his back. I sneak a glance to my left, but he’s staring out the window of my brother’s VW bus as we drive up Highway 18 to Devil’s Creek Campground for a late-spring camping trip.

Michael tugs on my ponytail. “I’m glad you decided to come with us, Spammy Cami.” He has this thing where he likes to rhyme my name with ridiculous sounding words and I want to hate him, but I can’t. He’s the closest thing I have to a best friend. 

“Of course,” I say. “Someone has to keep you guys out of trouble.”

I lean into him, my head resting on the narrow, birdlike shoulder poking through his dirty gray T-shirt. I look down at my own clothes and feel grateful: clean jeans and a warm sweatshirt that smells like Tide.


Unknown said...

The Dead Zone was an underrated show, your take sounds fun. I thought the description of Micheal' s eyes (akin to toothpaste) was great.

Ashton said...

I'm not sure about your comp title but I think that's just me not being too familiar with them, could be goo comps. The query is clear and concise, I understand the MC's stakes/goals and the conflict pretty well. I was confused for a moment as to who "Spammy Cami" was but I get now that she's not related to the brothers even though they share the same gifts .. so I'm really curious to find out how that works, why it is these friends share the same psychic powers.. Over all this is VERY good i could see it in an upcoming list.. although for some reason if feels more MG than YA, even though your MC is 15.. could she be younger? I just feel like something like this would maybe be easier for an agent to sell in a middle grade market.

Pages were awesome and voice drew me right in.. just again I felt like the voice was a little Middle Grade.. just my feelings though. Well done !

Ben Langhinrichs said...

I liked the query quite a bit, but it left me with a couple of thoughts you might want to address. One is, it isn't entirely clear whether this is single-POV or dual/multi. I'm guessing it is just Cameron's POV. Another is, the stakes seem a little muddled. The sentence "Cameron and the brothers race..." sounds like it is getting there, but then the next sentence makes it look like it may not matter what they do or don't do. If you could rephrase that to say WHY they must uncover that, or suggest how they may be hurt if they don't, it would make the stakes clearer.

I like the first 250 a lot, though I'd skip the brand name references to Colgate and Tide. Maybe just say "color of toothpaste" and "smells like laundry soap". There's nothing wrong with using a brand name if it actually tells us something specific or gives is a specific sense of place or time (like the VW bus). Otherwise, it feels a bit jarring.

Nice job, overall.

The Agent said...

There is nothing wrong with the query. I just have seen too many queries with "seeing into the future/vision/illness" tropes that I am just not into it for that reason alone. I strongly suspect that another agent will jump at this in no time.

Jessi said...

I found the query a little hard to follow, but I really liked your first page. What a great voice and opening line!

Unknown said...

Nice use of senses and visuals in your first 250! Since this is written in 1st person, watch your filter words ie. I look. <== I noticed because I do this too. :)

I would read on and I love this premise!