Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Mystery Agent,

The weather changes fast in Colorado, especially if something (or someone) is controlling it.

On the day twelve-year-old Hazel Jones was born, massive tidal waves and tsunamis devastated Earth. Growing up in the wrecked world, Hazel spends her days jerry-rigging broken farm equipment, scavenging through abandoned houses, weeding never-ending rows of potatoes and wondering what could have destroyed the world. But her family and friends are tired of her endless, unanswerable questions.

When a raging wild fire threatens their Colorado homestead, Hazel’s father takes her to a hidden shed where he uses a weather-controlling machine called the SnowMaker to create an enormous rainstorm and douse the flames. Hazel presses her dad about the origin of this mysterious machine, but he’s reluctant to tell her the truth. Until they find themselves in the middle of a ferocious weather war with the man who originally owned the SnowMaker. 

There isn’t time for more questions, their homestead, crops and orchards are at stake. If Hazel can't keep up a protective defense against the artificial rain, hail, and wind attacks, she will have to make a new plan. It’s time for an avalanche-style offensive to bury her enemy.

SNOWMAKER is an upper middle grade climate fiction, complete at 54,000 words. Readers who enjoy books like SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman, PARCHED by Melanie Crowder, or MacGyver's duct-tape-chewing-gum-solutions will also be entertained by SNOWMAKER.

I am a freelance writer and a member of SCBWI and Northern Colorado Writers. My work has appeared in Sierra Trading Post, Mamalode, Flash Fiction Online, Advice from Nature and local publications. My short story ‘Double Yellow’ received honorable mention awards from Glimmer Train and Molotov Cocktail and I’m currently writing it into a novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Hazel leaned on the overturned car to catch her breath. “What’s it stuck on?”

“Think it’s that side mirror?” Britt pointed and stretched her shoulders.

Jess jogged to the back of the pick-up truck. Parched grass crunched under her boots. She returned with a baseball bat. "Who wants first swing?"

Britt said, “Hazel should take it. Maybe her birthday luck will outweigh the broken-mirror-bad luck she’s about to unleash.”

Hazel spun a tire and let it drag against her hand. Bits of rotten rubber flaked onto her fingers. "Birthday luck is supposed to be good?" She took the bat from Jess and squeezed the handle. "You can't have forgotten I was born on the worst day ever."

Britt wiped sweat off her forehead. “Nope. Can’t forget that.”

Hazel tested her grip, cocked the bat over her head and brought it down hard on the car's passenger side mirror. Broken mirror fragments skittered around her boots, but the mirror still hung from the car by a few coated wires. She opened her pocket knife, sliced through them, and kicked everything away. "Let's flip this car."

“Want my help this time?” Marco yelled from his perch on top of the pick-up. Grinning, he wiped his glasses with the cleanest section of his shirt. “Knew you girls couldn’t do it without me.”

Hazel turned her back on her older brother. "No way, Marco. We got this." She looked at Britt and Jess. "Right?" The sisters nodded and tried different grips. Stubborn friends are the best.


LH said...

This is a really interesting premise! I love the idea that your MC is a girl who is into machinery and taking things apart and putting them back together.
I think you do a good job of setting up in the query that this is a semi-dystopian setting where there's been a horrible tsunami etc.
When I got to the first page I felt a little lost. There were a lot of names right away and I didn't know how anyone was connected until the end of the page. It would be helpful to slow the introductions or given them a little more context.
But, this is an interesting premise and seems like a set up for great adventures.

Mananda9 said...

Query: Love the hook of your query! But then I get a little lost in the first paragraph of your query because Colorado doesn't have tsunamis or tidal waves, so why is this relevant to your main character? The second paragraph gets really interesting again. It points out the problem in an interesting way. I don't think the last paragraph delivers the stakes with enough punch. You have the makings of a really great story here, but the query is kind of up and down. Also, "an upper middle grade climate fiction" is not a genre.

First Pages: There is good description of the settings without being too info dumpy, but you introduce a lot of characters on one page without allowing the readers to get invested into them.

Winter said...

I really like the hook in your query! Very well done and had me excited to read!

The first page felt like it jumped too quickly into names without descriptions of those people, so when I got to Britt's second line "Hazel should take it." my eyes darted back to the top of the page to see if Britt was the person who said "what's it stuck on?" or, "think it's that side mirror?" and so on, as I read.
Because of that, I feel like the beginning needs tweaked slightly to make the characters descriptions clearer. Then I think it'll keep up with the conversational introductions.

Even still, your query had me hooked so I would have kept reading past the posted page into! Very fun concept and awesome job!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I think your query is pretty great. I'm not usually a fan of taglines at the beginning of a query, but this one works because it's not trying to summarize the whole plot--it's just catching our attention. I really like the world-building details you've included, and your plot summary is specific and unexpected. I only have two tweaks for you: first, I'd change the comma after "There isn't time for more questions" to a semicolon, since "their homestead, crops and orchards are at stake" is a complete sentence, and second, I'd call this an upper middle grade fantasy, since "climate fiction" isn't a shelf at B&N.

I like your first page, too! It's interesting and also unexpected, and if I were an agent, I'd almost certainly request this. Here again, I just have two small concerns. I noticed in your query and through most of this first page that you don't use the Oxford comma, but then one pops up in the sentence just before "Let's flip this car." Either way is fine; you'll just want to be consistent. And in the last paragraph, I'd make the last two sentences their own paragraph, since that paragraph belongs to Hazel and the last two sentences show the sisters' reaction.

Good luck to you and SNOWMAKER!

Shelley said...

This is an original premise. I'm intrigued. I think your query works. I was a little confused by the statement,"If Hazel can't keep up a protective defense against the artificial rain etc." What, or who is keeping her from keeping this up?
As far as the first pages go, I hear voice and character, but I missed being on scene. Where are we? I felt a little like they were talking heads. You could narrow down the characters for right now and let us know a little of the world. Easy fixes. You've got a winner here. Best of luck,

Holly C. said...

Thanks so much everyone. I really appreciate the advice. And thanks, Krista for hosting this contest! It's fun to read the huge variety of stories that are posted here. - Holly

Stephanie Gildart said...

My two favorite lines from your query are your hook and "It’s time for an avalanche-style offensive to bury her enemy." I think you use the imagery of weather and natural disasters well throughout the query to convey the setting and central conflict. I'm a sucker for natural disaster movies, and I like the flavor.

First Page: I have to admit, I feel lost. I am not entirely sure what "it" is that Hazel is asking about in her first line of dialogue. Is "it" the overturned car? The overturned car is stuck because of a side mirror? If so, what is the side mirror stuck on? When Marco asks if they want his help this time, I gather that probably Hazel is catching her breath because she and the others have been at this for a while. I think I'd want a little more sense of place and purpose in addition to the action that you're giving us in this first page--where are these characters, and why are they trying to flip a car?

Overall, I think this novel sounds spectacular, and I wish you much success with it!

THE AGENT said...

This is a really eye catching query! I love how we're introduced to Hazel, her life, and her habit of asking questions that everyone around her has given up on finding the answers to. And I love the plot twist of the SnowMaker.

I do get a little lost in this paragraph: "There isn’t time for more questions, their homestead, crops and orchards are at stake. If Hazel can't keep up a protective defense against the artificial rain, hail, and wind attacks, she will have to make a new plan. It’s time for an avalanche-style offensive to bury her enemy."

If Hazel's key character trait is her curiosity, wouldn't she NEED to know how her father got his hands on the machine, why he hasn't used it sooner to try and fix the world, and what it's capable of? It seems like there's more at stake then just their crops, when the whole world has been compromised by apocalyptic weather. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this query!

I like the action that's happening in the opening page, but you introduce a lot of characters all at once, and I'd like a little more time to be spent establishing the scene: exactly what's happening, even if we don't yet know why.