Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #33

To whom it may concern, 

Sometimes the toughest enemies to defeat are those that fight by your side. 

The Order of the Key is a work of edgy Young Adult Urban Fantasy complete at 98,000 words. The novel contains a unique power system which faces off with a world working parallel to ours. Though the book can stand alone, I have plans for a potential six book series. While The Order of the Key can be classified as YA, it has been written for an audience of YA readers who have grown up; it has crossover appeal.

Jacklyn Madison is the girl with her nose stuck in a comic book and her heart captivated by stories of heroes and villains. When a mysterious beast attacks her near her New York City home, she quickly discovers her own origin story--she’s the long lost member of The Order of the Key, a group of humans with unique gifts that protect humanity from creatures spilling through inter-dimensional rifts. She and her family join the Order in exchange for protection and a chance to allow Jacklyn to understand her birthright. However, when she questions some of the Order’s out-of-touch views, she lands herself in the center of a power struggle between the group’s leader, Lavinia, and her idealistic son, Kyp--the boy who is slowly turning from her childhood best friend to her possible teenage romance. When Kyp asks her to join a rebellion against his mother, she agrees and finds herself entangled in a world of suspicion, deceit, and death. Viewed as a target on one side and a weapon on the other, Jacklyn must prevent the Order from being overwhelmed by Lavinia and the inter-dimensional threat or it’s her loved ones who will face the consequences.

I am a multi-genre writer living in Bronx, NY, with my husband, son, and a cacophony of cats. My short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Things You Can Create and Best New Writing 2017, as well as Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Greenwich Village Literary Review, The Holiday CafĂ©, and Twisted Sister Literary. I received the Editor’s Choice Award for my work in the Best New Writing anthology. 

In addition to being a contributor to the website All The Way YA, I maintain a semi-monthly blog at [redacted] where I discuss my adventures in juggling aspects of my life such as motherhood, writing, and the very serious businesses of fangirling and multiple forms of geekery.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

J.M.


THE ORDER OF THE KEY

Chapter 1: Just That Quickly 

I just wanted to go for a walk. Just a moment to cool off and forget what a crappy day I was having. What I got was a real live monster standing down the block from me--silver, saliva-dripping teeth glinting in the light of a nearby street lamp. Its teeth were the only part of the creature clearly visible in the dark alley. The rest was little more than oil dumped over a sack of bones. It was broad, and the tight space of the alley slowed its stride to a shuffle.

A monster, like the kind I read about in the stacks of comics I’d been collecting for as long as I could remember. Except not constructed of paper, ink, and a sprinkling of imagination. 

Everything within me screamed, telling me to turn and run before it saw me, but my feet were rooted to the ground. When I finally did manage a step, it shrieked, a sound shrill enough to leave my ears ringing long after the scream ended.

My eighteenth birthday had been one big disappointment. Nobody at school remembered, my mom missed my first track win of the year, and I returned home to find my siblings baking the cake Mom had promised she’d make for me. So what did I do? I left the apartment so I could return calmer, ready to enjoy the surprise Gana and Morgan had whipped up. I went for a walk.

6 comments:

hashtagwrite said...

I love your query. I easily get a sense for your character. I'd break it into two paragraphs.

In the opening paragraphs of your scene, it's telling - show us instead. You've got great voice, use it to give a sense of urgency. Also the story jumps from being attacked to talking about her eighteenth birthday. It's a huge leap and takes us away from the tension.

Strong writing!

Tom N said...

I love the premise of the comic book fan finding herself in a comic-like struggle in real life.

The second sentence of the query left me wondering whether there are two realms in addition to regular human reality, or just one. Reading on, I think there are two, the Order and the interdimensional monsters. A complex set-up, which I think makes for an interesting story, but also requires a lot of world-building. How you demonstrate the rules of the interactions between the different life forms will be crucial I think.

I agree with the previous commenter about the opening 250. The birthday disappointments come first as readers should experience them first, thus developing sympathy for the protagonist and understanding her state of mind when she gets attacked.

In the query, I'd drop the adverbs quickly and slowly. Also, more specificity about the nature of the attack and how she survived it, as well as the possible consequences her loved ones face, will make the query more enticing.

Good luck, sounds like quite the tale!

Ally O said...

I love the premise of this, and the worldbuilding is laid out so nicely in the query :)
I feel like the opening perhaps goes a little too quickly to the monster - but I do like how it's intense immediately. But as this is (presumably) something that's not normal in Jacklyn's world, it'd be nice to have a little bit more build up and a bit more of her confusion.
I love the voice of the opening though!

Good luck :)

Carolyne T said...

Super! Your query is strong, not only because of the pitch, which sets up Jacklyn's world nicely, but because of your credentials and voice that shine through. Could you combine last 2 bio paragraphs for visual tightening? Otherwise, the only thing I'd edit out is the line "the novel contains a unique power system..." around start. As you state it's an urban fantasy and then explain the world in the pitch, it's not needed.

For the opening lines, again, I love the edgy voice and the whole "Sixteen Candles"-like set-up where her birthday is a let down. I agree that flipping birthday to start then moving into monster scene might flow better and allow readers to get to know Jack a bit more before she finds herself confronted with monster. Also, as I assume it's a pretty big deal, a little more time on internalization/showing would help bring us into scene and her visceral sense of urgency. Otherwise, it's great how you jump right into the thick of it! This sounds like a fantastic read :)

Unrepentant Escapist said...

In your query, I don't understand what you mean by edgy YA. That could mean anything from uses a lot of swear words to borderline erotica. You word count is high for your genre. You could explain why you think your book has crossover appeal (like by using comp titles) rather than telling me it does. As it stands, your query comes off as a little arrogant to me.

Also, if one of your selling points is the unique magic system, I'd like to see more about what makes it unique. I've seen interdimentional monsters before. What makes yours different?

Traditionally, when citing books you've been published in, you include the publisher and date in parenthesis afterward, i.e. (Tor, 2007). If the books are self-published and have good sales numbers, you might want to mention this.

On your writing sample, I like the descriptions of the monster, but your character doesn't show any signs of fear or shock until paragraph three. She seems more excited to me. And then she jumps from being terrified to complaining about her 18th birthday. It doesn't flow for me.

The Agent said...

I don't know if you need the first line here. It feels extraneous to me.

You give me all the information I need in your first paragraph here - well done! But I would cut this line: "While The Order of the Key can be classified as YA, it has been written for an audience of YA readers who have grown up; it has crossover appeal." - just say instead: "The Order of the Key is a work of edgy Young Adult Urban Fantasy with crossover appeal, complete at 98,000 words."

Hmm. I would tweak the first sentence of the next paragraph:

"Jacklyn Madison's nose is always stuck in a comic book." - that's enough. The rest is obvious. Similarly, cut: "she quickly discovers her origin story" and say: "she discovers that she's the long lost..." etc.

This was unclear to me: "Kyp--the boy who is slowly turning from her childhood best friend to her possible teenage romance" - if she just met him how could he be her childhood best friend? and I would not use "teenage romance" - say: "turning from a friend into something more..." etc.

But all in all it's a good description - even though it needs some tightening, and I'm intrigued to read on.

In your next paragraph I wouldn't say: "I am a multi-genre writer" - just say that you live in the Bronx with your husband etc. the writing credits are great, as is the mention of your blog.

The text:

Watch for the use of "just" - it often creeps up as one of those words we use too often. I like where you start this but would prefer for it to be a bit more immediate. "I was walking home from school when..." etc. - something like that, rather than narrating it as though it happened already.

Again, instead of saying: "Everything within me screamed" - just say "I screamed!" - make it more immediate.

And your last sentence feels repetitive. This story has a great premise! But so far the voice doesn't feel quite special enough. Try to work on making your text more immediate and present - it will go a long way in drawing readers in.