Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #37

Dear Agent,

Interfering with fate’s time line requires a choice. And for every choice, there is a cost.

Dr. Alice Whithers re-lived a day for the first time seventeen years ago. When her mother died the next morning, Alice vowed to only live the first of her todays from then on. The price of using her gift again was simply too high. But when she causes a lethal car accident, she sees no alternative. Perhaps saving the driver will balance the cosmic scales, providing atonement for her mother’s death. Or perhaps, it will require an even greater price. The only thing Alice is sure of, is that doing nothing will cost her very soul.

Tonight, she’ll choose which version of the day to keep. Tomorrow, she’ll face the consequences.

THE FIRST TODAY (82,000 words) is an adult speculative thriller that will appeal to fans of CJ Lyon’s FAREWELL TO DREAMS, and the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors. It is a standalone with series potential and is my debut. As a practicing emergency physician assistant, I have firsthand knowledge of the daily life-and-death decisions made by medical personnel. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Day 1: Take 1 7:32 p.m.

Today. No matter how many times I relive it, or how many years go by, everything comes back to that first today. Same accident. Same day. Another child without his mother. Another death I couldn’t avoid.

Splashes of crimson, a toddler’s wails, and unshed tears swarm to overwhelm my senses. As I close my eyes, car horns blare and metallic salt assails my nose. For several long seconds, I’m lost, bouncing between the past, the present, and my nightmares.

I take a deep breath, inhaling brine and exhaust. Wooden planks thud beneath my feet. The boardwalk. I’m downtown, strolling between the bay and Route 101, with my boyfriend. Walking in the last place I stood with my mom as we listened to the water lick the shore.

Why, of all days, did I agree to come here?

Because it’s time to move on. Seventeen years avoiding this place are enough.

I squeeze Michael’s hand. Having him beside me and Granny safe at home, that’s all I need. That’s all I want. And that’s enough, even today.

Michael returns the squeeze. “I saw something about a fatal accident on Newmark this morning. Is that why you’re so quiet?”

Michael knows I can’t really talk about my patients. But he also knows Coos Bay Area Hospital is the only one for almost a hundred miles, and there’s only one physician in the emergency department at a time. If the accident happened around the start of my shift or later, I cared for the victim.


JP said...


Interesting hook. Also, the para dealing with her mother's death was well done, IMO.

After that, you lost me. I don't know what's at stake with the accident. Why is it diff from the accidents she must surely see in the ER on a routine basis. In other words, personal stakes? Also, didn't get the line about losing her soul. Is this meant to be literal? Couldn't tell.

That being said, I enjoy these kinds of stories and read the excerpt. It's hard to tell the kind of story from page #1, but this was written competently enough to make me want to read on.

L.Ryan Storms said...

I like this premise a lot! I was a little confused with the way the first scene opens, but I picked up (at least, I think I did) on what was going on by the end of the 250 words. I would keep reading for sure.

I also think the query was short, direct, and to the point. It gives a very clear idea of what kind of story an agent is going to see if he or she requests a manuscript read. Nice job!

LT Shade said...

I had to read this thriller. I love thrillers!


The concept here is awesome. The first line of the query makes me a little confused. It’s starts vague. ‘The first day of her todays’ also threw me through a loop. Though I understand what you mean, I wonder if it could be said in a simpler way. Overall, I think the query can be stronger and pack more punches, a solid hook and stakes. ‘Cost her her soul’. What does this actually mean? I’m also wondering how Alice has the ability to interfere with fate?

250 words

I think the opener can be more impactful. Consider ‘No matter how many times I relive today, or how many years…’ Instead of opening with just ‘today’. The word ‘today’ has a weight for the character, but as the reader, I don’t know what it means. I don’t know how important it is, so starting there isn’t giving the reader much.

Overall, You have seriously great imagery, but I think the first 250 can be more *specific* because I feel lost. There is a lot happening but nothing that I can latch onto. How is she bouncing between the past, present and nightmares? What are her nightmares? Where is she? Who is she with that made her ‘agree’ to come? I’m curious about who Michael is. I’m also curious about the significant of this night. What is really happening here? Is there a car accident? Is this the one you’ve brought up in the query?

MJ Marshall said...

Hi there. I had to read the query opening a few times for it to make sense (and that was really only after reading the first pages). I like the premise, and other than the previous critiques about the opener, I like it, and would keep reading. But I wouldn't have taken the time to sort through what the query meant if I was a busy agent. And that would be a shame. Could you make the premise more clear? She has the ability to re-live any day, but it comes at the price of a life (written much nicer than that, of course). Best luck!

Unrepentant Escapist said...

It wasn't clear to me in the beginning of the query that Alice could choose to relive her days rather than it being a passive, ground hog day style experience . So I got a little confused. It might be clearer if you said something like: "when Alice rewinds time to fix a day go wrong, her mother pays the price. Its been seventeen years since her mother's death, and Alice has never used her powers"

How does alice know her powers cause her mom's accident? I feel like this has to be in the query because the price she pays seems to be so important to the plot/conflict.

If rewinding time is so dangerous, why does she think saving a life will help atone for her mother's death? Won't it just cause another death. It seems like she could have saved other lives earlier if that was her only concern, especially in her role as a doctor.

I like how you bring your work into your query. If the genre is thriller, I'd like to see you bring a race against the clock element or dangerous antagonist into the query. Right now, the description feels less thriller and more sci fi to me.

I like the ideas here a lot. It definitely intrigues me.

On the writing sample, I found the first two paragraphs confusing, whether the reliving was literal or not. I guess it's a traumatic flashback? The references to todays I felt were especially confusing.

I like the dialogue. I like Michael already, his quiet caring is very appealing to me. I like your character's voice. I feel a lot of sympathy for her.

The Agent said...

I like your first line! But I would like to know genre and word count...

I found this sentence very confusing: "Dr. Alice Whithers re-lived a day for the first time seventeen years ago. When her mother died the next morning, Alice vowed to only live the first of her todays from then on." - does this mean that the first time she re-lived the same day that she is currently re-living seventeen years later? Or something else? And if she's re-living the same day over and over again - does her mother die again and again? - what throws me is "from then on" - as if, after her mother dies? I'm confused. And when does she cause this lethal accident?

You do tell us genre and word count plus some pretty convincing comp titles. I'll keep reading in the hope that the voice is fantastic.

The text:

I actually find that your writing is stronger in this text than it was in the query. Definitely try to work on your query letter so that it sounds more like your writing. Your query letter is your best foot forward and it really tells us what we need to know about your book - not just in content, but also in form and voice.

Great cliffhanger! You've got my interest. I'd keep reading.