Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Mystery Agent:

I submit to you my YA historical fiction, SECRETS IN THE STONE, which is complete at 72,000 words. It is piloted by an impetuous anti-heroine and contains elements of gothic mystery similar to Kerri Maniscalco's HUNTING PRICE DRACULA.

In Edwardian England, 18-year-old Estella Ripley prepares for Paris where she will meet her mother's family for the first time. But just before she departs, Estella is dumbfounded to learn that she has inherited her late grandfather's eerie island manor where she resides. Estella's plight worsens when she discovers that her fiancé, Edward Maxwell, is scheming to control the vast manor after throwing Estella in an asylum. Unable to face the betrayal of the only person she trusted, and intent on following the clues her grandfather left behind, she flees the island.

Escaping to a remote forest, Estella discovers an unknown glen where a group of Irish fugitives have hidden for nearly a century. She sees the glen-folk as the family she always wanted but never had, and through keen perception of the glen-folks' stories, Estella discerns that the glen is part of her inheritance. But when Edward Maxwell discovers the secret glen, he threatens to expose them and sell the glen if Estella does not return to marry him. Estella must determine how to protect the glen from Edward's vain thirst for power before her inheritance and her future are stolen.

I have a master's degree in English education (grades 7 through 12) with a concentration in writing and musical theatre. Currently I intern at literary agency in NYC reviewing YA manuscripts and preparing Reader Reports. I currently maintain a blog that hosts a small collection of humorous parenting woes.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
S.R.


SECRETS IN THE STONE

I jumped from the third floor balcony and imagined my blood splattering the sky-blue hydrangeas below, like the first drops of spring rain. It would have been a triumphant display of divisionism, albeit a bit macabre, but I did not wish to die, not even in the name of art. So when I landed safely on the second floor roof, I huffed in relief.

I lifted the hem of my dress to make sure the tips of my toes were even with the roof ledge. Slowly, I released a finger from the window frame and balanced against the sea breeze. A teasing gust of air tugged my hair from its tortoise shell pins and I swear that wind was playing with me.

"Mind your own business," I mumbled as I lowered myself to a seated position on the terracotta-tiled roof. With the grace of Pablo Fanque on the tightrope, I teetered on the roof as I carefully removed the parchment from my bodice and smoothed its creases, then flicked my wrist until the sterling silver chatelaine's pencil was tight in my fingers.

My pencil flitted across the parchment and the drawing began to take on a personality I had not anticipated. I had already drawn Polly's hands that encompassed the flower (Polly was one of my young maids who had the most perfect skin tone), but the drawing hadn't been really unique until now, when this hydrangea seemed to become cerulean even from pencil-grey scratches.

6 comments:

Holly Collingwood said...

Hi S. R.
I really like your query. It's easy to understand the people and their motivations. I already hate Edward. He's a slime. The setting of the the eerie island manor and forest glen are intriguing.
The fact that your character is an artist should give her an interesting outlook on her world. In the first 250 we really learn a lot about her already.
Sound like a fun story. Good luck!
H.C.

Kathi said...

I But just before she departs, Estella is dumbfounded to learn that she has inherited her late grandfather's eerie island manor where she resides. Estella's plight worsens when she discovers that her fiancé, Edward Maxwell, is scheming to control the vast manor after throwing Estella in an asylum. Unable to face the betrayal of the only person she trusted, and intent on following the clues her grandfather left behind, she flees the island.

Hi,
I am wondering what will make your MC an antiheroine. I am a big fan of island settings and the story sounds full of action and conflict. At first I was confused and inferring from the "escape" theme in the query that she was escaping by jumping off the third floor balcony, but she's just being adventurous, right? I love that she's an artist and hope that art figures into the story
Your second paragraph of the query confuses me. Does Estella already live in the island manor when she learns she inherited it? What happens to her mother's family in Paris? Will they be important?Is she escaping an asylum or an island or both? Is the Glen on the island?
I like the atmosphere in these first pages and would keep going!

best,

Kathi

Shelley said...

Exciting HF with a strong and personable MC. I like the idea of inheriting the island manor, the glen, and low-life Edward Maxwell. Just to be clear: She inherits the island manor she already is living on? But Edward is able to cast her into an asylum? Love the Irish glen folk (Is she in Ireland?). And what about the family in Paris? Does she ever meet them? The sentence: Estella's plight worsens... doesn't really make sense because up until this point she only inherited her home which I would think a good thing.
Your first page works. Estella is a plucky proteg I would be willing to follow into this adventure.
Best of luck.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I think your query's almost there. You've done a good job of summarizing the plot and setting up the stakes, but I would have liked to get a better sense of Estella from the outset. Instead of telling us that she's about to leave for Paris (which it sounds like she never does), you might use that space to tell us something about HER. For instance, you could tell us how she feels about the manor or her soon-to-be-dead grandfather. I'd also tweak the second sentence in that second paragraph--"her late grandfather's eerie island manor where she resides" is a little hard to follow. Maybe something like "her late grandfather's eerie island manor, which is where she's lived since ____" instead? Lastly, I caught a couple of typos in your query: HUNTING PRICE DRACULA should be HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA, and you're missing an "a" between "at" and "literary" in your bio paragraph.

As for the first page, I really liked it. It's interesting and unexpected and tells us a lot about Estella right off the bat. I did trip over the wording in the first half of the last sentence, but that's an easy fix. You might consider changing it to something like "I had already drawn my maid's hands in a cupped position (Polly had been blessed with the most perfect skin tone), but the drawing hadn't been really unique..."

Good luck to you and SECRETS IN THE STONE!

Stephanie said...

In your query, I get a good sense of the overall plot and conflict of SECRETS. I understand Edward is scum without you actually outward stating it because you describe his actions and schemes so clearly. (My mental image of him is, like, Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.)

One thing I wonder is how important the trip to Paris is. It's not mentioned except for a note that she happens to be preparing for it so she can meet her mother's family in that first sentence of plot synopsis. Her mother's family isn't mentioned anywhere else in the query. Is it the first thing you mention because it is plot significant? If so, what can you add to show that significance? If not, how could you adjust your first sentence to put more emphasis on something that is significant to the plot as a whole?

Your first page has immediately given me a sense of this character, her voice. You blend together action and description neatly and show who she is. I get a sense of where she is, and I feel pretty confident in my interpretation of what she's doing by the end of that fourth paragraph. The first paragraph is the one that feels off to me, but I can't quite put a finger on why. All I can tell for sure is that from the second paragraph on, I feel like I get a clear sense of the narrator's emotions and actions, and in the first, I feel unsure of her. Maybe, for me, I want a little more sense of the purpose of her jump from the balcony--the motivation or the aim of it--to underscore that her destination is not the hydrangeas?

Overall, this query sounds delightful, and I wish you luck!

THE AGENT said...

This is an intriguing query letter! I like your comp novel, establishing this as a historical thriller. I do think there's an awful lot of plot contained in the second paragraph, and it's a bit overwhelming and raises some questions. For instance, is there a reason Estella has never met her mother's family before--are they reclusive, or estranged from her mother? Is this trip totally unrelated to her grandfather's death (is it her mother's father? I suppose not since she lives there and has met him.) How did her fiance know that she'd inherited the manor if she didn't, or does this betrayal take place some time after the discovery? It seems fairly immediate from the query. I don't quite have a handle on how all of these events are connected yet.

The third paragraph feels similarly disconnected from the second; she finds the glen and then realizes Irish fugitives live there, and immediately considers them family, though it hasn't been established that she felt she had no family before. I think that needs to be firmly stated in order to convince me that she would consider giving up her freedom and fortune to protect them.

I love how much personality there is in your opening page! The description is purposeful and really sets the time and place, and I love that Estella's voice is somewhat dramatic :)