Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Agent,

Aiden Milligan knew his life wasn’t normal, but it took breaking into the school gym to hunt for spell sigils to realize how far from normal his life really is.

The only thing Aiden didn’t screw up while drifting through the foster system was his grades. When his exceptional scores open the door to the distinguished Covington Academy, seventeen-year-old Aiden sees a way out of his hellhole and doesn’t look back--until his past catches up. Members of the basketball team end up comatose a day after an altercation with Aiden, making him a detective’s prime suspect.

Aiden is determined to clear his name, even if it means teaming up with fellow student Jessie Rivas, a wannabe journalist whose theories are as outlandish as her wardrobe. When people start collapsing into comas all over the city, and bizarre symbols are found at the scene of the incidents, Jessie’s occult conspiracies start sounding more plausible than the police reports.

As Aiden begins to receive visions that tie him and the incidents to something larger, he realizes he may be more involved with the case than he thought. With police ready to lock him up, a coven out for blood, and the incidents showing no signs of stopping, Aiden may not be able to save his reputation or the victims--or even his life.

THE MORTAL COIL is a YA urban fantasy novel complete at 73,000 words. As per the rules of the contest, my first 250 words have been pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Aiden Milligan spent so much time in Covington Academy’s hot seat, he kept expecting them to engrave his name on it. Even his shadow dragged its feet as he trudged to the principal’s office, repeating that all-too-familiar question.

What had he done now?

Aiden made a point to stay detached from most people at Covington Academy. He’d become well-acquainted with Principal Hadley, however, during the two years he’d attended--in all the worst ways. Most of the students and faculty avoided him at all costs, but Hadley either didn’t get the memo or took it as a challenge. In his seventeen years, Aiden had never met anyone who could match him in bull-headed determination. The man was going to churn out the future world changers for which Covington Academy was renowned, like it or not.

Aiden begrudgingly admired that on some level. He’d appreciate it more if it wasn’t directed at him.

“Well, Aiden, thank you for coming,” Hadley said as he entered the office.

Aiden stared at the dirty-blonde, balding man behind the impenetrable oak desk and raised an eyebrow. They both knew he wouldn’t be there if given the choice. But Hadley was the poster boy for pointless formalities.

Aiden looked down at the uncomfortable wooden chair in front of him. No engraving yet. Shame. He plopped down and took interest in a spot over Hadley’s shoulder.

“Yes, well,” Hadley continued, moistening his thin lips. “To business.”

He folded his hands on his desk, eyes narrowed.

“This morning, there was an incident.”


Bruce Pollock said...

So far this is the first query and set of pages I've been drawn to comment on. The query makes the story sound compelling, filled with interesting plot twists and a great potential for suspense. I'm guessing the m/c and the journalist will eventually hook up after meeting not so cute. I think the first 250 words could use some tightening up, although it ends on a promising note. I'd definitely read page two to see what kind of "incident" took place.

Jonathan Mitchell said...

I'm not sure if we're supposed to comment on feedback, but thanks for your thoughts! The MC and journalist actually develop a platonic friendship.

Bruce Pollock said...

If it's YA you may have to keep the sexual tension going right until the end.

Elissa Hunter said...

The first 250 words are really strong. It leaves me wanting to read more, and I love the snarky tone of Aiden's thoughts.

I think the query is generally pretty strong. It gives the right amount of backstory and sets up the stakes. I've gone back and forth a couple of times now about whether I would cut the first sentence or not. I kind of like the idea of the query starting with the second paragraph, setting Aiden up at school and then getting into the paranormal stuff. Either that or keep the first sentence of the query and then tighten up the second to get to the paranormal stuff quicker.

One last thing: urban fantasy generally takes place in a big city. Is this where the story takes place? If not, maybe refer to it as "contemporary fantasy" instead.

Jonathan Mitchell said...

Thank you for the feedback! I've heard advice to go straight with the second paragraph as well, so I might consider that.

As for the setting, it takes place at a boarding school in a large city. Most of it takes place at the school, but the city is a more prevalent location as the (intended) series goes on. I've actually struggled with whether to classify this as urban fantasy or paranormal, as it has elements of both.

The Agent said...

There is nothing really wrong here. But it also does not grab me. I get a lot of queries that make me feel this way. They're fine, but they don't compel me to want to read more. This is such a subjective business: a query that leaves me cold may make another agent fall deeply in love and vice versa.

Jessi said...

Throwing in my 2 cents: if you're struggling between urban fantasy and paranormal, I don't think you'd be off to call it contemporary fantasy, since that has fewer negative connotations.

Also, have you read Holly Black's White Cat series? It reminds me a bit of your pitch/first page and she refers to her work as contemporary fantasy.


Jonathan Mitchell said...

Thank you for the feedback! I haven't heard of that series, but I'll have to look into it.

Katherine T. said...

I enjoyed your query letter a lot. The main characters both seem like interesting people I want to know more--the kid escaping a bad past and the quirky journalist.

The 250 words were also good. I like your first sentence. The only quibble I have is that there's a fair bit of explaining in the second paragraph and overall. Some of it might be better moved later and spaced out throughout the chapter.

I like this story and your voice.