Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #43

Dear Agent, 

Fifteen year old Connor Gray is registered as a Guardian, gifted to protect the Ungifted, but genetics have other plans. Though he should only have one gift, he has telepathy and telekinesis and his parents say he might develop more. With a power hungry Councilman after Connor for control of these gifts, he must remain hidden to protect himself and his family. When the council send a cursed bounty hunter after him, Connor is forced to risk exposure to save his friends, family, and life itself. Facing blood cursed beings, shady genetics projects, an all-seeing A.I. system, and worst of all, puberty, Connor fights for what's left of his family. On the run, he discovers how to protect the world from a will-enslaving spell that threatens to destroy the gifts for their own good.

GUARD OF THE UNGIFTED: THE FLIGHT OF CONNOR GRAY, is complete at 90,000 words and ready for your consideration. 

In addition to having a B.A. in Creative Writing from Texas A&M University, I have been published in a small, non-profit magazine. Upon your request, I would be more than delighted to send you the entire manuscript. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warm regards,


Connor Ellis squinted at the Law of Nations inscribed in golden letters over the red brick entrance of Hunter High. 

...No Gift shall be elevated above the rest…

Nice sentiment. In theory. But in practice?

Wind rippled the green National flag in front of the words, carrying the suggestion, but not the conviction, of winter. Connor flipped up his jacket collar against the cold, adjusted his glasses, then followed the crowd toward the school, eyes still on the cursive letters. A few feet ahead, a senior, Max Anderson, shoved a smaller student to the ground. 

“Watch where you’re going, junk-genes.”

Flinching at the hissed phrase, Connor stopped short. If a teacher overheard the genetic slur, the offending party would’ve gotten kicked out of school without question or argument. Then again, most of them loved Max, particularly the coaches.

Connor cracked his knuckles and glared at the bully. Muscles stood out along his neck and arms, tense beneath tan skin, tight along his jaw. As a Guardian, Max should’ve been protecting the Ungifted but didn't seem to grasp this fact with all his brain cells. Instead, he jerked the kid up by his collar.

Don’t call attention to yourself. Connor clenched both hands in his hoodie pockets and scanned the crowd near the front of the school. Most teachers and APs stood close to the entrance, ushering students inside or directing air traffic into the parking lot. 

Don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve almost made it an entire month under the radar...


Ellen Mulholland said...

Great premise! (possible comps: DIVERGENT meets THE GIVER)

Your query is well-done. I suggest:

1. break up the long paragraph into two (@ When the council..[and is that council sends bc it's one entity?)

2. Add your age group and genre to the paragraph on word count (YA Science Fiction??)

First 250:
Lovely imagery and opening to help us immediately empathize with Connor (junk genes threw me at first, but bc I had the query, I understood it...wondering what readers will think?)

Italicize Connor's thoughts since this is third person, Don't call attention to yourself...

Good luck!!
-Ellen #30

Lonna Seibert said...

I do not write SF/F so don't know all the rules, but I have heard that you should avoid using terms in your query that agents wouldn't know unless they'd read the book. So, for me, although I think I can understand what a Guardian and what an Ungifted is, I don't know for sure and I stumbled a bit when reading that.

Absolutely loved, "and worst of all, puberty." Everyone knows puberty is definitely the worst and we can empathize!

I am not clear whether Connor is being hunted because he has more than one Gift and you're only supposed to have one, or if everyone with a Gift or Gifts is being hunted. First you say someone wants to control Connor's gifts, then you say someone wants to destroy all the gifts. Are both things true, or only one? Confusing.

I would put the part about sending the entire MS with the sentence that lists the title and word count. You should also include the genre and age of your MS. When you mention your magazine publication and then immediately say you'll send the MS, it sounds like you're offering to send the MS of what was published in the magazine, which you aren't, so these need to be in separate paragraphs.

When I read the first sentence of your 250, I thought it was Connor's first day at this school. So I was confused when he already knew Max's name and further confused when I realized he has been at school for awhile. You might want to consider making that more clear. When Connor cracks his knuckles and glares, the next sentence is ambiguous. Does the bully have muscles and tan skin, or does Connor? It could really go either way.

Finally, when Connor is thinking, you might want to find a way to indicate that in the text, either with italics, or with a dialogue tag.

Sounds interesting! Good luck!

Melissa C said...

For the query, I think you could tighten it up a bit. For example, in the first sentence, remove 'gifted', as you explain he's gifted, and how, in the 2nd. Also, you say that he's risking exposure for friends, family, life itself, then repeat that again in the next line. You could also delete the 'Upon your request' as I've read on Query Shark and other places that it's not needed, since you wouldn't be querying an agent if you weren't willing to send your ms. You also don't say what genre or age group the novel is intended for.

I think it's an interesting plot. If I were your beta reader/CP, I'd suggest reordering your 250. Opening with either, "Don't call attention to yourself" or "Watch where you're going, junk-genes" to hook your reader.

You've got some great descriptions happening, and I think a bit of rearranging could really strengthen it, in terms of hooking the reader.

Good luck!

Melissa C #15

Ally O said...

I thought your query was strong, and nicely succinct. I would just maybe take "gifted" out of the first sentence, as having ungifted already implies that he's gifted.
You also have "cursed" twice, which I know is hard to find a synonym for but maybe try to find another way to put one of them?

Your opening is also strong. I like that we immediately get a good sense of Connor's voice. One thing that confused me was that he's referred to as Connor Ellis, not Grey in the first line?
Also the para that starts "Connor cracked his knuckles.." I got confused who was being referred to in the second sentence - if it's Max, maybe add in his name?

I like the little bits of worldbuilding you've got in there already ("junk-genes etc.) and I'd definitely be intrigued to read more.

KEM said...

Great premise! I would agree that the first paragraph of the query could be broken up rather than have a big chunk of writing. Perhaps, start a new paragraph with When the council send... It would make that sentence stand out more.

Your first 250 gave a good sense of place and character

Nice job and best of luck!

Perrin said...

Not wanting to be redundant, I'll state that I pretty much agree with Melissa's comments above. The premise of special gifts pulled me right in. The last sentence about a "will-enslaving spell" came out of left field for me. Does it come from the power-hungry Councilman or elsewhere? Perhaps make this more clear.

I also agree to rearrange your opening and place Connor's thoughts at the beginning to give it more punch and raise immediate questions for the reader to keep them reading. I would place your last two paragraphs at the beginning, then launch into the details about the high school, etc.

Good luck!

Courtney Lott said...

Thanks guys! Split up my query for pitmad yesterday. So glad I got some advice on the letter!

I actually tried starting it with the junk-genes line at one point and was told it was a too confusing to start there and that there needed to be more build to the line. Think I'm getting too hooked on the prose though. I'm going to mess with it and see if flipping the thoughts around will work

Thank you all!!!

Courtney Lott said...

Oh! And Ellen, those were the exact comps I was thinking! (plus Avatar the Last Airbender :P)

Courtney Lott said...

Saw some others posted a cleaned up 250 words and thought I'd do the same (If anybody's still looking :))
For the record, when I post it's taking away all the italics I have :P So the internal dialogue is italicized in my actual piece.

Don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve made it an entire month under the radar; gotta be a record. Connor flipped up his jacket collar against the cold, adjusted his glasses, then followed the crowd toward the school. Overhead, air traffic thickened. Connor eyed it with an arched brow. Only the most well off could afford a flying car and that suited him fine. Heights weren’t bad, but a potentially fatal fender bender? Not enough government safeguards in the world.
“Watch where you’re going, junk-genes.”
Connor flinched at the hissed phrase and stopped short, hands clenched in his jacket pockets. A few feet ahead Max Anderson shoved a smaller student to the ground. If a teacher overheard the genetic slur, the offending party would’ve gotten kicked out of school without question. As a Guardian, and a senior, Max should’ve been protecting the Ungifted but didn't seem to grasp this with all his brain cells. Instead, he jerked the kid up by his collar. The tips of his shoes swung inches from the concrete.
Don’t call attention to yourself. Connor scanned the crowd at the front of the school. Most teachers and Assistant Principals stood near the entrance. Some ushered students inside, others directed air traffic into the parking lot. Don’t call attention to yourself. Keep walking. Keep walking...keep… Connor’s muscles made the decision for him and he veered through the crowd. “Come on man, leave him alone.”
Green eyes narrowed in his direction. “Excuse me?”

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming this is YA SciFi because your character is 15 and it's about genetics? Though the genre isn't mentioned at all. Also, consider cutting the sentence about "genetics have other plans" - I don't think that genetics really have plans...

This is also a long paragraph - break it up a bit.

I'm not sure I understand enough about Guardian;s yet to know why there is a council or why I should care about it. Perhaps add more explanation? Also about Connor's family? And what does genetics have to do with telepathy and telekinesis?

It would also be helpful to see some comp titles...

The text:

Your writing is strong! The text here is better than the query - I'm intrigued.

But in the end I'm not sure I'd read on here. It's an interesting concept and well written, but I just didn't find myself terribly compelled. Perhaps consider starting with more of an active scene?