Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Agent,

Solving the murder of your drug-dealing best friend can be difficult, especially when you’re only sixteen.

Blake Farmer’s suburban neighborhood in North Carolina has always bored him. The only crime the neighbors knew of was a cat hit and run. But one summer night after the tenth grade, Blake’s father is murdered following a car jacking. A suspect is never found, and despite his mom’s efforts to get Blake to see a counselor, he buries his emotions by working at a skateboarding park and getting high with best friend, high school drug dealer Kyle.

But when Kyle misses too many days of school without letting Blake know, Blake becomes suspicious. At first, he believes the text messages from Kyle--he’s just under the weather and he even trusts the updates that Kyle’s boyfriend gives him. Eventually, responsible Kyle doesn’t show up for too many commitments and Blake knows something is wrong. With help from an unlikely source, Margo--the target of Blake and Kyle’s teasing in middle school--Blake tries to figure out what’s happened to his best friend.

Not wanting to rely on the police who let him down before, Blake and Margo start their own investigation. They both become entangled in a long-standing drug war that Blake had no clue was happening right under his nose. Confused about new feelings for Margo and the real reason for his best friend’s death, Blake becomes overwhelmed as he uncovers an entire underground drug ring and makes enemies out of people he never thought twice about before.

THE BLUES is a contemporary young adult mystery about the violence, drugs, and betrayal that ensues when trying to get to the bottom of a small town crime.

I am currently a secondary history teacher and a member of SCBWI and AWP. I am working toward my MFA at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) and I read for the FDU Literary Review Magazine. I have included the first 250 words below per the contest guidelines. Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
M.H.


THE BLUES

Henry Knight was found bludgeoned to death early this morning.

I’m pretty sure I was whacking off to one of those phone sex commercials at the same moment that someone bashed his head in. The worst part about all of this…I mean, worst than his parents losing their kid, is the fact that it sucks he won’t be around to get high with me. Henry was a good smoking partner. I’d light up with him and we’d try to name all of the members of the Avengers, or the order of the people kicked off of that karaoke singing competition on TV. Who would I do those things with now? And who is gonna help Kyle make all of his money?

“We will watch a video on the beginnings of World War Two.” Mr. Kim grits his teeth as he pushes buttons on his laptop. His loud booming voice pulls me out of my trance.

“We always watch videos!” someone calls out.

Me, Mr. Kim, and everyone else looks around. There are only ten of us in the class but Mr. Kim is nearly deaf and blind so he’ll never find the culprit.

“Who said that? Blake?” Mr. Kim has his eyes all squinty as he glares at me.

I lift my hands in defense and Mr. Kim fixes his eyes on my classmates, looking for someone to verbally murder. The image of Henry Knight’s yearbook picture from the news this morning flashes in my mind. Who would kill poor, defenseless, Henry?

8 comments:

Chelsey said...

I like how edgy your piece seems, but I have to admit I'm not too willing to read on in Blake's head if all he thinks about losing his friend is losing a smoking partner. I know it's probably him wanting to appear callous, but a few more details about the loss might allow the reader to sympathize with him more.

The Agent said...

You include too many elements into the query that aren't necessary. And most of them just raise more questions. The main conflict, and the romance aspect, gets lost in all of the details.

Sample Page: You're concentrating so heavily on the voice that you're forgetting one crucial part: sympathy. The reader is unable to connect with Blake.

Ru said...

"Henry was a good smoking partner."

None of the people I know who smoke pot would ever refer to someone as a "smoking partner." It just seems unrealistic, especially for a teenager. If you went from "the fact that it sucks" to how he won't be around to "light up with me and try to name all the members of the Avengers" or something, it seems more realistic and sympathetic. He's not just sad he won't have someone to get high with, he's sad that he's going to miss a friend he has some great (if drug-influenced) memories with.

Agree with "The Agent" (it seems so James Bond) that there are a lot of details in the query I don't care about. If it were the back of a book I was choosing to buy, I don't care that Kyle is responsible or gay, I don't care that Blake used to tease Margo - I can find all of that out later. It's easy enough to say, "But when Kyle misses too many days of school, Blake knows something is wrong." (Or something.)

Otherwise, I think it's an interesting idea, I'm pro mysteries. :)

Emily said...

Based on the rest of the information of the query I'm not sure the first paragraph is needed. Focus more on the main plot. I would do something like:

Blake Farmer's drug-dealing best friend Kyle is missing. Kyle's phone has been sending text messages but there's no way he would miss (specific commitment).

Blake is tired of being lied to and teams up with nerdo Margo of all people to find out what's going on. When Blake and Margo become caught in a long-standing drug war he makes enemies of people he never thought twice about.

I'm not sure what else to put. What other action does Blake do? What are the stakes? At the end you should talk about: What is the consequence of Blake's action and what does it have to do with Kyle's death?

Also "the real reason for his best friend’s death" This seems abrupt, until this point I did not know his friend was dead.

At the end:
THE BLUES is a complete (word count) young adult contemporary mystery about violence, drugs, and betrayal.

or some other wording of that.

Sample Page:

I'm not liking the first or last line of this excerpt (by first line I mean the second line I guess, the one about jacking off). I think if I opened a book and read that first line I would close the book set it back in the shelf. I doubt that's the first thing that would cross his mind. It would be better even if he had the thought later:

First line:
Henry Knight was found bludgeoned to death.

The news headline this morning was all I could think about (in the mean time something happens in classroom)
The worst part about all this (etc)

then last line:
The image of Henry Knight’s yearbook picture flashes in my mind. What was I doing while someone bashed his head in? Probably whacking off to a phone sex commercial.

TW said...

Got right into the query then had to re-read when I hit the part about text messages from the boyfriend. Maybe it was just that I wasn't expecting the twist but also I wondered how many 16 year old boys are openly best friends with another boy who is gay (it would be tough for most boys in that age group I would have thought), unless they too are openly gay, which would be important and which wasn't already mentioned. Can you see why I read twice? But, other than that I thought this was fast paced and engaging and you opened it well with the succinct first sentence then shortly after the funny cat bit.

Sorry, but at the whacking off I stopped reading. I'm not offended just not that interested. I'd prefer this particular type of action to come later, when I got to know the MC a bit better :)

TW said...

Since posting my reaction I discussed your story with friends. I was outnumbered. Your second line was a hit. Someone commented that it would draw in young male readers who didn't usually bother with books. Nice! And I still love your voice!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Just a small typo I noticed: it should be "worse than his parents losing their kid," not "worst."

I stopped reading after the whacking off part. Tmi too soon, imho. But, of course, others may feel differently. :)

Best of luck!

Amy

Nicole Zoltack said...

You don't need to get some detailed about Blake's background. Focus on the plot - in this case, Kyle's death. I also thought it odd to refer to Kyle, a drug dealer, as responsible.

Solving the murder of your drug-dealing best friend can be difficult, especially when you’re only sixteen.

At first, Blake believes the text messages from Kyle--he’s just under the weather. Eventually, Kyle doesn’t show up for too many commitments and Blake knows something is wrong. With help from an unlikely source, Margo--the target of Blake and Kyle’s teasing in middle school--Blake tries to figure out what’s happened to his best friend.

Blake and Margo start their own investigation. They both become entangled in a long-standing drug war that Blake had no clue was happening right under his nose. Confused about new feelings for Margo and the real reason for his best friend’s death, Blake uncovers an entire underground drug ring and makes enemies out of people he never thought twice about before.

Don't forget to include the word count.

As for the excerpt - there's great voice here. But I was thrown off when the focus switched from Henry to the classroom. I had thought that Blake was watching the news or reading the newspaper or something like that, so that was jarring for me.