Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #40

Dear An-Agent's-Inbox Agent,

Maggie Morris spent every night of her childhood by her bedroom window, waiting for a flying boy who never came. Now eighteen and at the cusp of her society debut, Maggie is dismayed to find that becoming an adult isn’t as adventurous as she hoped it would be. Corsets pinch, afternoon teas bore, and the handsome suitor her mother picked out is nothing like the heroes in her favorite books. Just as Maggie fears true love and happiness only exist in fairytales, in flies Peter, finally ready to whisk her away to Neverland. Once there, she discovers life on the island is wildly different from her grandmother’s stories. The Lost Boys are long gone, victims of a mysterious tribe of Shadow Eaters and Peter’s forgetfulness leaves her in peril more often than not. Captain Hartfield is not a pirate at all but a handsome, hooked naval officer and Peter’s twin brother. He sees beyond Maggie’s beauty to appreciate her curious mind and hunger for knowledge. They fall in love but their life together is threatened when the King of the Shadow Eaters fixes his attention on Maggie. Will Maggie ever be able to grow up on her own terms?

At 108,000 words, my debut YA novel, Grasping at Shadows, is Once Upon a Time meets Downton Abbey and will appeal to fans of Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty.

I have a BFA in Theatre Design and Production from the University of Michigan and after working in the nonprofit arts world for many years, I am adept at actively promoting my own work.

I believe Maggie’s dilemma is a fresh take on Peter Pan that has not been told before. I am prepared to send the full manuscript upon request. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
E.A.C.


GRASPING AT SHADOWS

I wish he’d come tonight.

Maggie opened her eyes to stare down the cluster of flickering candles dotting her birthday cake. It got harder and harder every year to blow them out in one breath, but she knew she must to have any hope of her wish coming true. She swept her gaze across the long banquet table, acutely aware of the number of guests watching her. Maggie took a deep breath but was stopped with a pointed look from her mother.

“Not yet, darling. Your father wants to make his speech first. Bertram?”

Though her mother’s voice was light and even, Maggie could tell she had disappointed Jane by not knowing the order of events. Blood rushed to her cheeks. How embarrassing to have so many people see her mistake. She looked down the long table to where her best friends, Freddie and Cecil sat. The girls offered back sympathetic smiles.

There were so many rules to follow now that she was eighteen! It was her first time attending a dinner party with so many of her parent’s friends and she’d hope to get everything right. Instead, she’d jumped ahead to make her birthday wish, exactly as a little girl would. Though she looked the part of an adult now, with her hair pinned up in the latest fashion and her new, longer dress, she felt miserably uncomfortable, an imposter.

Across the dining room, her father picked up a flute of champagne and cleared his throat, quieting the crowd.

11 comments:

CMiller61408 said...

LOVE your hook and opening line. I literally went "ooh!" when I read it. I think your question at the end of your opening paragraph is a strong one. Well done!

I believe you could be more specific with the Maggie's dilemma statement at the end. Maybe: Maggie's love of a pirate is a fresh take on...

Good luck! I'd read this!

Deborah Drick said...

Hi! This story sounds awesome! And your query is very good – it definitely made me want to read more.  I have offered a few suggestions:

Maggie Morris spent every night of her childhood by her bedroom window, waiting for the flying boy who never came. Now eighteen and at the cusp of her society debut, Maggie is dismayed to find that becoming an adult isn’t as adventurous as she hoped. Corsets pinch, afternoon teas bore, and the suitor her mother picked out is nothing at all like the heroes in her books.

Just as Maggie is ready to give up on love, Peter swoops in and transports her to Neverland. However, she soon discovers things are vastly different than her grandmother’s stories. The Lost Boys are long gone, victims of a mysterious tribe of Shadow Eaters. Peter’s forgetfulness leaves her in peril more often than not. And Captain Hook is not only a handsome naval officer – he’s Peter’s twin brother! Most importantly, he sees beyond Maggie’s beauty, appreciating her curious mind and hunger for knowledge.

When the King of the Shadow Eaters fixes his attention on Maggie, her life (AND HAPPINESS? LOVE?) is threatened. (Will Maggie ever be able to grow up on her own terms? -- I’M NOT SURE WHAT TO SAY HERE, BUT I THINK THIS IS A BIT ANTICLIMACTIC AFTER SUCH A GREAT BUILDUP….)


K. said...

I love all of your comp titles! And a Peter Pan retelling? Already got me hooked! :)

Query: I think you should rephrase this "Just as Maggie fears true love and happiness only exist in fairytales". It doesn't connect well with the second part of the sentence. As for the final sentence, I want higher stakes. What else does she stand to lose?

250: The MC calls her mother 'Jane'. Is this common? Why doesn't she just call her mother?
There were so many rules to follow now that she was eighteen! It was her first time attending a dinner party with so many of her parent’s friends and she’d hope to get everything right. - I think you can show this rather than tell us this.

Very strong opening and query though! Good luck! :)

Carrie Scott said...

What a fresh take on an old bed-time story. Great hook!


Query: Your comparison to Downtown Abbey really set the stage for me. And, I got a picture of old-world money. With this image, the one sentence in which Maggie references heroes in her favorite books seemed a little out of place for me. That gave me a more modern reference.

Your opening was very strong. It pulled me in right away. And I found it interesting that you used the mother's name, Jane, when Maggie is thinking about her. That tells so much about their relationship without you putting it into words.

Good luck to you!

Perrin said...

The concept feels fresh with the new twist on Peter Pan. Pulled me right in. I do agree with Deborah's comments above regarding the query. Her suggestion tightens and focuses the reader on the important points the reader needs to know.

Prose: I love how you open with the wish! A couple of spots stopped me with the passive: "Maggie took a deep breath but was stopped with a pointed look from her mother." => "Maggie took a deep breath. One pointed look from her mother forced her to exhale." And why didn't her society mother tell her the order of events ahead of time? Did she, and Maggie forgot? Or did mother Jane forget to tell her on purpose to make Maggie look the fool? A little clarification here would help the reader understand the dynamic and deepen tension.

Overall, I want to grab this book off the shelf and start reading!

Courtney Lott said...

Query:
I love the pacing and beginning of your query. Strong diction and great character descriptions. What a fun twist on the Peter Pan story! My only advice would be breaking up the paragraph and maybe trying to get the word count below 100K (Mine started at 120 and everyone told me that debut YA needs to be shorter).

First 250:
Love the part about it getting harder to blow the candles out in one breath.
The beginning is interesting, but I'd like to feel these things a little more. Like, does she perspire when she gets nervous? I'd just like some more visceral reactions.

Good work!!

MJ Marshall said...

First off--love the idea of this, and you have a great way with the words you've chosen. I do feel a little cheated, though, that I didn't find out that she has a romance/thing with the "not" pirate captain Hartfield until the end. Is this one of the major plots? All of the backstory is very good scene setting, but maybe not perfect in a query about a romance with Wendy's granddaughter and Peter Pan's not evil twin. Also, the stakes could be a little clearer, though I like the turn of phrase you used "growing up on her own terms". Just not sure if a romance with someone *not* grown up is the right tone.

Your opening scene is well-done (all your words are full of life and pictures), and I got the tone you were going for. Hope this makes sense!

Unrepentant Escapist said...

Fabulous query. Your word count is a little long for ya. I'd take out the bit about being prepared to send the full manuscript on request, because you probably wouldn't be emailing an agent if you weren't willing to send them a full. I love the title?

In the sample, I was a little confused by Maggie's switch to thinking of her mom on a first name basis. Freddie and Cecil are the girls, I presume?

I wonder if we could get more historic details to anchor us in time. what made their birthday parties different than ours? I'm genuinely curious and would love some more historic set pieces. I'd think 18 would be a bit old to be transitioning to adulthood--I thought that happened at a much younger age in the 1500s, but I don't know for sure.

Unrepentant Escapist said...

I don't know where I came up with 1500s, I think that was a different query. Sorry.

Jessica said...

This is really great!! It sounds like a fun and interesting take on Peter Pan. Already hooked (pun intended :) )

Everyone has already said everything I had, but I want to reiterate Deborah's comment. You should break the query up into a few paragraphs. Also, you should end the query with just "thank you for your time and consideration." No need to say that the complete MS is available (because ou wouldn't query if it wasn't!), and the "I look forward to hearing from you" can come off as pushy. But really, great work! I can't wait to read this someday :)

The Agent said...

I love this premise! Though it would be great to know age-range/genre and word count up front. This is a long paragraph, I would try to break it up. There are a lot of Peter Pan retellings out there so it's hard to find one that feels fresh, but I'm intrigued enough to keep reading, especially since your comp titles are strong.

However, 108,000 words is quite a lot for YA - almost bordering on too long. If the prose is strong enough, I will read, but be aware that it's a concern.

The text:

This is well written and I'd be willing to keep reading. However, the way you started the query, I was expecting to first see Maggie waiting by the window...

I also wonder if 18 is too old - the voice feels a bit younger.

I would definitely keep reading.