Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Gabrielle,

Seventeen-year-old Ian Hill, the first male in a long line of witches, is a dud. His sixteenth birthday came and went, along with his hopes for a power. Any power. He would’ve settled for levitating pencils.

Used to being a disappointment, Ian resigns himself to a boring suburban existence, running errands and taking out the garbage at his mom’s pagan supply store. Until he meets Violet. The talented witch not only saves Ian’s life, but mysteriously awakens his weird powers, and some normal teenage hormones, too. Welcome to the world of telepathic trees, killer shadows, and ghost pet cats.

Ian’s new tree whispering Gift isn’t just unique; it’s practically extinct. But having loyal leafy allies with unmatched wisdom, protection, and healing abilities isn’t enough for Ian. To impress Violet, Ian “borrows” her treasured book of spells and tries a shortcut to master more magic. His attempt ends in a wildfire, and Violet, betrayed and hurt, disappears from his life.

While nursing a broken heart and gnawing guilt, Ian learns he is a target of the Dark Soul Stealers. Feared by the whole witch community, these powerful occultists seek to unleash denizens of demonic realms onto the world. Ian’s powers may be the missing ingredient they need to succeed. Without Violet’s training, Ian fails to prevent the destruction of his hometown and his mom falling gravely ill. As he races to save his mom and to find Violet, his adversaries present him with an impossible deal: his mother’s and Violet’s lives in exchange for his soul.

MOLFAR is a 92K YA Contemporary Fantasy that will appeal to readers of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES and THE RAVEN BOYS.

I grew up in Western Ukraine with stories about mystical individuals who lived in the Carpathian Mountains. They could call up storms and cure even the gravest of illnesses with medicinal plants and the power of their word--Molfars. Inspired by the tales from my childhood, I created MOLFAR, where Ukrainian folklore and Slavic mythology are incorporated into the modern world to give it international appeal.

The first 1,250 words of my manuscript are pasted below as per submission guidelines.

Sincerely,
L.K.


MOLFAR

When your mom is a walking lie detector, you master the art of withholding the truth.

Sitting under a shady oak, I grab the closest sack full of herbs and tie it tightly with a twine. A little too tightly. Applying unnecessary force feels cathartic. Mom’s got to stop canceling my plans every time a high holiday rolls around. There are eight of them! My social life won’t survive it. Midsummer--Litha, as witches call it--may be in a few days, but Rick’s graduation party is tonight. Mom knew I’d be missing it when she sent me on a three-day plant harvesting trip to Gram’s cabin in The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Poconos.

That’s why tonight I’ll drive back to Chornohora and attend Rick’s party against her wishes.

Binding the sacks together, I hoist them onto my right shoulder, two in the front and two in the back for a perfect balance. My phone vibrates in my jeans pocket. I fish it out with my free hand and read the text message from my buddy Tommy: Rick’s confirmed it. Sam will be there tonight. I grin and reply with a smiley face.

Samantha Lawrence is the reason I’m breaking the rules today. As far as I’m concerned, she’s worth the risk. Day one of senior year’s French class, when Sam waltzed over and sat in the chair next to mine, I knew I was a goner. She threw her long, honey-blond hair over her shoulder and said, “Bonjour.” I’m pretty sure time stopped for a while. She’s been on my mind ever since.

Paul’s coming too. You better not be late, man, Tommy’s second text says.

My jaw tightens. Paul Carter, that filthy-rich, self-absorbed, gym-dwelling, and hair-gelling moron. He’s got muscles to make Schwarzenegger jealous, a wallet full of cards with six digit limits, and zero brain cells. Naturally, girls fall at his feet. When Sam didn’t, he got interested.

I haven’t seen Sam since graduation, with my crazy work schedule and all. Rumor has it Paul’s been making progress in my absence. But tonight, I’ll change his luck. And if I incur Mom’s wrath in the process, so be it.

Tucking my phone into my backpack, I head out of the oak grove. White clouds drift across clear skies, and warm summer wind hisses between the rocks. It’s a beautiful day that promises a perfect night for a party.

The two-hour, one-way drive means no evening plant harvesting, but I’ll have two more nights to catch up. Sleep can wait, and Mom won’t know a thing. And in the unlikely event she does find out, the worst she can do is make me work overtime at her pagan supply store. I practically live there already, so what’s a few more hours?

In the first clearing, the wind snatches my baseball cap and hurls it into the thorny brush. Crap. With a grunt, I place the sacks on the ground and climb into the prickly bushes to get my stupid hat. Then I freeze. Swaying in the breeze beside my worn blue baseball cap are tiny scarlet flowers with fuzzy purple leaves that resemble the wings of a Phoenix.

I’ve only ever seen drawings of this flower, but the distinct shape of its leaves can never be confused for any other--it’s one of a kind. All those botany lessons Gram forced on me no longer seem like a waste. If only she were here to see this.

My hands shake as I position my fingers an inch above the ground level and snap the precious stem. The worth of one little flower can sponsor my entire college education. And there are a few dozen more here.

I’m going to be rich. I won’t ever have to work at The Moon Goddess store again. My college tuition won’t be a problem. Richy Rich Paul Carter will have nothing on me.

Giddy laughter erupts from my throat. I’ve never been lucky; haven’t even won a dollar playing the scratch-off lottery. I can’t believe I’m holding it--the mythical, powerful plant rumored to be extinct for centuries--the Phoenix Flame. This is every witch’s dream, and I’m the one who gets to live it. Me. The guy who was skipped by his family witch gene.

I place the scarlet flowers in my baseball cap and roll it up. Then I hide it inside my shirt. There’s no way I’m parting with it, not even for a second. If Gram’s lore isn’t bogus, this plant can unlock the body’s ability to heal itself, even if one is an inch from death.

Hoisting the sacks over my shoulder, I hurry out of the woods, grinning. My steps and spirits are light until I reach the meadow.

A powerful gust of wind makes me take a few steps back and then lean forward to keep my balance. Dark, massive clouds swarm the skies, blocking out the sun. Angry lightning bolts slice through them and echo with ear-splitting thunder. Where did this storm come from?

I scan the meadow for a shelter and spot a protected area between the rocks. But then I remember the party. If I get stuck on this mountain for hours, I’ll miss it. Images of Paul Carter kissing Sam invade my mind, and all of a sudden getting to the party becomes more important than dodging lightning bolts.

Ignoring all self-preservation instincts, I press my treasure-filled baseball hat tighter to my chest and dash for the path that snakes down the mountain.

The heavens open, releasing a torrential downpour. I slip and slide on quickly-forming mud. When I pass a boulder that resembles a turtle, I know the ledge is dangerously close. Swearing loudly, I latch on to a young oak and come to a halt. But the ground under my feet breaks off, like a piece of soft chocolate cake, and slides down the mountain, taking me with it.

My heart drops into my stomach. Frantically grabbing at plants and roots, I struggle to slow my fall. Sharp rocks cut into my skin, and dull waves of pain rush through my ribs and knees. The next bump knocks the wind out of me and sends me airborne. Gasping for air, I hover for a second in a state of weightlessness and then land on a large stone. A dull thud from my head smashing against something hard echoes in my ears and then everything goes black.

#

I awake to pain tearing through my body. When I open my eyes, everything swims in a gray haze. Slowly, the shapes come into focus. Dancing flames on wax-dripping candles cast shadows on dark mud walls. Plants hang suspended from the ceiling in bunches. Nothing about this place is familiar. My heart starts pounding. Where the h*** am I?

I lift my dead-weight head, and a sharp pain shoots down my back. Moaning, I let my head fall back onto the rickety cot.

“Don’t make any sudden moves,” a soft voice says. A pair of eyes, which belongs to a girl about my age, locks with mine. “You aren’t healed yet.”

Staring at the biggest eyes I’ve ever seen on a human being, I swallow my growing panic. I clear my throat and croak, “What happened?”

The girl tilts her head, regarding me with curiosity. Her long hair spills over her shoulder like a waterfall. “You fell.” She presses a mug of bitter-smelling concoction to my lips and tilts it. “Drink.”

5 comments:

Jeffery said...

You know, I'm wondering if maybe you give away too many plot points in your query. Just something to think about, it was generally fine but I felt like you were telling me the story in detail at times.

The writing itself was wonderful, I really dug this excerpt and would have read on if there had been more. From that rich first sentence about human lie detector, I was sold on the voice and the premise. Keep up the great work, and best of luck!

Elisa Stryker said...

I like the premise of this story, but the query seems more like a synopsis with the play-by-play. As for the pages, I enjoyed it and want to read on. It's well written and filled with voice. Great work, and good luck!

Ellie Firestone said...

Excellent work, CP mine :) Reading this query made me fall in love with MOLFAR all over again.

I just have a couple of suggestions. First, instead of saying "weird powers," I'd recommend being specific and saying that he's a tree-whisperer up front. Second, the thing about the Dark Soul Stealers seems to come a little out of nowhere -- maybe you can mention it a bit earlier? (don't sweat it if that would wreck the flow, though.)

Congratulations on a kick-butt query!

Becki said...

QUERY:

Your hook is awesome and hilarious!! In a few sentences, I'm fully engaged!! :D Ian seems dry and sarcastic and hysterical, and I love that in an MC. Poor guy!

The first few paragraphs hooked me, but I feel like the last paragraph is too much info. If you can end with Violet leaving, and hint at the destruction to come, that might be a more powerful ending of the pitch paragraphs. :D Already, I love Ian and how he's such a teenage boy--getting powers, finally, but they're not enough, he needs more..... except oops, now he's ruined everything. LOVE that idea. Very realistic!

And LOL, I was thinking this reminds me of Raven Boys. Nice comp title!! Also, your credentials for this novel are indisputable; there's NO question you're the person to tell this story. :D And the incorporation of Ukrainian and Slavic folklore only make it more interesting in my mind! Nice work!

FIRST PAGES:

FANTASTIC first line. LOL. Not telling the truth. "Withholding." Speaks volumes about Ian's character before we even get started!! But I will say the second paragraph had me a bit disoriented, struggling to connect his outdoor adventure with his mother. You brought me right back to it further down, but a transition between the opening line and that second paragraph would be nice. :)

I absolutely adored the description of Sam and Paul. And LOL to Ian's reaction: "Tonight, I'll change his luck." He's such a persistent kid. Love that!

I feel like there might be too much description about what's to come in this story. There are a lot of paragarphs in the very beginning where nothing happens, and it's interesting information, but.... nothing happens. Ian stands, then finds the flower six paragraphs later. :P When the flower was found, I initially skimmed over it because I didn't realize we'd transitioned back into action. From there, BOY was I engaged!! The flower, the storm, and the mysterious girl... all AMAZING.

Beginnings are hard, and you're so, SO close to something truly remarkable. If you can speed up the action, the tension, in those first paragraphs, you'll have an unforgettable first chapter here.

Also, the world you've created is already so unique! I can't wait to see more of Ian and his interactions with this new girl. I love her: "You fell." Oh, the sass. XD

Awesome, awesome job!! This story is unique and interesting, and witches are super popular right now. Can't wait to see what'll happen with it! <3



The Agent [GP] said...

Hi L.K., and thank you for participating! Immediately, my attention was piqued by your integration of Ukrainian and Slavic mythology. This is something that I personally don’t know a lot about, but I love stories with global reach. I’m really invested in building a client list that may develop interest in other regions of the world and possibly be considered for translation deals!

That being said, I wanted to know more about what is driving Ian through the whole story: is it simply a desire to find his power and fulfill what he thinks is his role in the family tree of witches, or perhaps he's looking to make his mother/family proud, his ego to win Violet, or ultimately the need to protect his family? Once you dig into that and get to the heart of Ian’s emotional and mental focus, the impetus to the story itself will help drive the narrative. As of now, it seems that Ian is reacting to things in the moment and doesn’t have an underlying reason for his actions.

However, I think that Ian’s voice was demonstrative of his character (though again, it’s in first person present tense, which you might have seen from my comments that I’m not a huge fan of) and your description of the setting was evocative. Tweaking the story so that Ian has a stronger reason to propel him forward would serve to make this story much stronger.