Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Taylor:

I've read that you’re drawn to character-driven stories, and I hope you’ll consider representing my novel DUSTED, a young adult urban fantasy set in modern-day San Antonio.

For sixteen years, tabloids nationwide have maligned Brina, the infamous human-pixie hybrid. Both humans and pixies find her odd, but not even Brina knows how odd she really is. Though she’s always envied how the pixie royal family can produce all eight kinds of dust, she’s never imagined doing it herself. But then…

When Brina wakes up with multicolored sheets the morning after her brief kidnapping, an ancient secret begins to unravel. Soon, Brina attracts the attention of a group of ruthless rebels, who’ve been snatching at the edges of the secret for years, and are convinced she can help them tear it wide open. She’ll need her wits and her wings free and clear to contend with the rebels, dodge high school dust addicts, learn some dust control…and decide if a certain handsome human is too good to be true.

Because the rebels are right, and Brina’s blood could start a revolution. Worse: no one who knows it, no one who can prevent it, can even breathe a word of it. Compulsion spells are a b****.

Fans of WINGS by Aprilynne Pike will enjoy the blending of the real and the supernatural in DUSTED, which is complete at 98,000 words. The first 248 words are attached below.

As a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve learned about the drug trade directly from traffickers and addicts. I’ve published a paper on the juvenile death penalty, but this is my first novel. The death penalty paper was easier.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

R.W.


DUSTED

Brina knew better than to go out in public looking less than her questionable best. But she was late, it was rush hour, and home was thirty minutes away by car…but only ten by air. So she left her human-sized purse and car keys with her best friend Moira and launched her mouse-sized self out the palace window into the sweltering air of San Antonio, Texas.

The first flash came from her left and, like an idiot, she twisted toward it. Which is how the photographer’s zoom lens caught her: eyes opened wide, long braid slicked back from her face with her own sweat, and limbs sticking out at startled angles from her workout tank and short-shorts. All of it glowing softly brown in the dusk.

As a special bonus, the magazine’s cover photo captured the moment her four bright white wings froze in shock, sending her plummeting a few feet downward. The resulting portrait could have been entitled “Freak, Falling” but instead the headline proclaimed: “Human-Pixie Hybrids: The Last American Taboo.” That worked, too.

Naturally, the cover was taped to her locker first thing Tuesday morning. It hadn’t been torn carefully, and a jagged gash ripped halfway through Brina’s right wing. As if she needed help looking ridiculous.

Brina stopped in the middle of the hallway and forced herself to breathe. Stretched her lips into a slight smile. Pressed her head to the side, as if pondering a pleasant surprise. Ignored the churning in her stomach.

8 comments:

Stephanie Thornton said...

This sounds intriguing!

I was a little confused about the line "Brina wakes up with multicolored sheets"-- at first I thought this meant colored bed sheets since she just woke up. A word or two to clarify could help.

I'm also not sure you need the paragraph about being a lawyer as it doesn't really relate to a book about pixies. Most agents seem to only want bio information that's related to the story.

I love the line about launching her mouse-sized self out of the palace window!

Riley Redgate said...

Ooh, wow, this is fun. I'll be honest - the query didn't draw me in. But the writing was really clean and easy to read.

The query:

Dear Taylor: I don't know about this. Queries are business letters, not buddy-buddy emails.

I've read that you’re drawn to character-driven stories, and I hope you’ll consider representing my novel DUSTED, a young adult urban fantasy set in modern-day San Antonio.

For sixteen years, tabloids nationwide have maligned Brina, the infamous human-pixie hybrid. My problem with this starter is that the focus isn't actually on Brina. It's on the tabloids. I'd look into rewriting this to be more from her 3rd-limited perspective - the sentence also feels weirdly stiff. Might be the whole 'maligned,' 'infamous' thing. Sounds like a news report. Both humans and pixies find her odd, but not even Brina knows how odd she really is. Though she’s always envied how the pixie royal family can produce all eight kinds of dust, she’s never imagined doing it herself. But then…

When Brina wakes up with multicolored sheets the morning after her brief kidnapping, an ancient secret begins to unravel. Okay, yeah, I was hoping the dust would be explained, but it wasn't. Philip Pullman's Dark Materials novels also focus on a supernatural material called Dust, so I would clarify ASAP what yours is, what it does, and what the ability to manipulate it suggests. Soon, Brina attracts the attention of a group of ruthless rebels, I don't really know what this means. Are they her age? What are they even rebelling against? who’ve been snatching at the edges of the secret The "secret" thing makes me wince, because it's just so vague I have no way to get a grip on it. I don't know what 'tearing it wide open' would entail if the secret got out, because I don't know what's at stake. Is it a secret about her? About pixiekind? for years, and are convinced she can help them tear it wide open. She’ll need her wits and her wings free and clear to contend with the rebels, dodge high school dust addicts, This is a really neat teaser at what dust is. But it just makes me wish more that you'd explained what it is. learn some dust control…and decide if a certain handsome human is too good to be true.

Because the rebels are right, About what? Still don't know what they're rebelling against. and Brina’s blood could start a revolution. Worse: no one who knows it, Vague pronoun. No one who knows what? no one who can prevent it, Prevent WHAT? can even breathe a word of it. ... you know. Compulsion spells are a b****.

I'd add one last paragraph to tie it back to Brina. Feels odd to end end on something that doesn't even seem to involve her.

Fans of WINGS by Aprilynne Pike will enjoy the blending of the real and the supernatural in DUSTED, which is complete at 98,000 words. The first 248 words are attached below.

As a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve learned about the drug trade directly from traffickers and addicts. I’ve published a paper on the juvenile death penalty, but this is my first novel. You don't need this. Best foot forward. The death penalty paper was easier. Hahahah. I like this.


So ... yeah. Lots of nitpicks on the query. But your page - I wouldn't change a thing. Loved it. If I picked it up in the store, I'd totally read on.

I love the pixie angle. Feels really unexplored, not that I'm an expert on the genre (sci-fi writer here :P).

Best of luck!

Melinda said...

Interesting! Seems like a really unique premise, but the query left me with several questions. What kidnapping? What secret? What exactly is dust? I was assuming it was something that allowed the pixies to do magic, but the addiction mention makes me think it's a drug. Is it both?

The references to the drug trade in your bio make me think this is supposed to be relevant to your story, but I'm not entirely seeing the connection to what otherwise seems like a lighthearted novel.

The references to rush hour/car/purse in the first paragraph had me picturing her as a 20-something. When I reached the part about the locker, I had to go back and check the query to see if this was supposed to be YA. Also, can she change between human and mouse-sized? That wasn't completely clear to me. I would read more though because this seems like a really unique idea.

Donea Lee said...

Love the title! ;)

I agree that you should start with "Dear Ms. Martindale". If this is your first communication with her - you haven't yet established whether she's ok being addressed more casually. You can usually glean that by how she initially replies. (or so I've been told...)

I also agree that the opening paragraph still doesn't necessarily establish YA. She could be an adult who's just had the tabloids on her case for 16 years. I'm sure you meant to indicate that she's 16-years-old, but the rest of the paragraph doesn't necessarily lend to that. You could take it either way. If I were reading this for the first time, I don't really know for sure it's YA until the "dodge high school dust addicts," line, which is at the bottom of the 3rd paragraph.

I also think you might be trying to cram too many unique ideas/details into a short query and it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It also makes your query a little vague, which could make it hard to follow. Riley's critique really hit on this.

Brina should be the focus, throughout. Touch on the most unique aspect of her and of the story and be specific. You can sprinkle hints about the rest - if they are relevant.

For me - her notoriety as the only human-pixie hybrid is interesting. The pixie dust as a drug angle is interesting. So - what do these two things together do to get her in trouble? Why? What challenge is she faced with? What does she have to lose?

SUCH a fun premise!! Keep tweaking - the query will get there. :) Best of luck!

Krista V. said...

I love the tone of the query, but it left me with a lot of the same questions the others had. What's up with the multicolored sheets? Are these bed sheets or something else? What's the ancient secret? And how can Brina's blood start a revolution? I think you're relying too much on the mystique of the world building and not giving us enough good, solid plot points to sink our teeth into.

I think the first page is a lot stronger than the query itself (which is the most important thing, anyway). Once again, though, I'm going to agree with the commenters who mentioned that some of the details in the first two paragraphs give us the impression that Brina is older. Maybe she could leave her backpack or messenger bag and car keys with her best friend instead? Just a thought.

Good luck with this. I love that it's set in San Antonio, by the way. I lived there for a little more than a year as a kid, and it's a beautiful city. I'd love to go back someday.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Wow, a lot of good input here. Since I'm really new to the query thing myself, I tend to miss things that seem obvious when other point them out.

As I read that it occurred to me that Brina's got a lot of stuff going on, a lot of conflict potential. Perhaps you need to pick one and focus all your efforts on that.

Taylor Martindale said...

There are some nice elements to this query, and I like the general premise, but I was confused in the query. What does it mean by her brief kidnapping? What is it that the rebels want, and who are they? The pixie dust is also playing a big role in the query, but we don't know anything about it. The first page also raises some similar questions. The description of "mouse-sized" body was confusing, and what palace? I also would have liked to see a stronger voice in this first page. I'd probably read another few pages because I like the concept, but would need the voice to be stronger and these kinds of confusions would need to be cleared up.
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary

Robin Weeks said...

Thanks, Taylor, and everyone else for your helpful comments. I'm gonna get this right eventually.... :D

Taylor, especially, thanks so much for taking your time to help us out. Personalized insider tips are invaluable.

Thanks also to Krista, of course!