Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear The Agent,

Sixteen-year-old Tabby Weber doesn’t want to murder anyone, but in Griffin Kessler’s case she’s willing to make an exception.

In the year 2018, nineteen-year-old science prodigy Griffin Kessler created a virus that nearly wiped out the human race. A decade later, dictator Alexander Zika keeps survivors imprisoned in concentration camps while brutal gangs roam the deserted cities. Tabby, her siblings, and her best friend, Murphy, live in hiding while they complete her father’s time machine. Their goal is simple: travel back in time and kill Kessler before he can finish his virus.

When Tabby and Murphy return to 2018, Tabby falls quickly for Kessler, who’s smart, sexy, and as desperate to protect the virus from Zika as she is. As Tabby’s relationship with Kessler heats up, Murphy confesses his own feelings for her. But Tabby’s love life is the least of her worries. With Murphy still determined to kill Kessler, she doesn’t know how to stop him, or if she even should.

KILLING KESSLER, a YA science fiction novel, is complete at 60,000 words. With a strong heroine and healthy doses of adventure and romance, I believe KILLING KESSLER will appeal to fans of Suzanne Collins’s THE HUNGER GAMES and James Patterson’s MAXIMUM RIDE series.

Sincerely,
S.F.


KILLING KESSLER

Our hiding spot is less than ten feet from the boy. An overhead floodlight blazes against the predawn sky, so bright I see the sweat falling from his hair and the clumps of dirt on his shovel. He has stubble on his jaw and a muscular chest and arms, but he looks young, maybe sixteen like me.

I glance at Leila. My sister’s over-glossed lips are stretched into a wide smile, her brown eyes even bigger than normal. I reach out to her with my mind. Forget it, Leila, I think. He’s locked in the Village.

We’re watching him through the witch hazel bushes outside the Village fence. The electric fence, twenty feet of razor wire crowned with another five feet of spiked coils, surrounds Pitman Air Force Base. The base was once the heart of Wexler Falls, until Alexander Zika’s henchmen transformed it into the concentration camp we know as the Village.

Leila’s expression doesn’t change, but I know she heard me. We can shut off our thoughts as easily as closing our eyes, but if she were blocking me out, I would feel it.

Seriously, it’s not like he’s going to break out of there and take you on a date, I add. Leila knows this, of course, but that won’t stop her from doing something stupid. She turned fourteen last month, and all she thinks about is boys. I work a heavy dose of exasperation into my tone, but the truth is, I feel bad for her.

13 comments:

Ru said...

I think this sounds really interesting and I love your sample. I would totally read this book.

My one suggestion is that this paragraph is a bit awkward:

"When Tabby and Murphy return to 2018, Tabby falls quickly for Kessler, who’s smart, sexy, and as desperate to protect the virus from Zika as she is. As Tabby’s relationship with Kessler heats up, Murphy confesses his own feelings for her. But Tabby’s love life is the least of her worries. With Murphy still determined to kill Kessler, she doesn’t know how to stop him, or if she even should."

All I could think is, "Ugh, she falls for a madman? This takes 'bad boy' complex up a notch." ;)

I think if you start out with Kessler's redeeming qualities first, and then show some struggle on Tabby's part (she falls for him "quickly"? You would think she'd maintain perspective for awhile), it's more interesting and Tabby remains likeable. And I'd take out the part about their relationship "heating up," since that implies she spends time getting close to him. Why would she do that if he's responsible for the deaths of billions? There has to be some reason why Tabby and Murphy don't kill him as soon as they have the chance, and I think you should probably mention that in the query because it just leaves me confused about Tabby and Murphy's motivations. If it's because Kessler is trying to make a cure, great. If it's because they have second thoughts about killing a (currently) innocent person, great. If it's something else, great. But I think it's a little confusing that Tabby would consider even briefly abandoning her mission just she can snuggle up to the hot teenage scientist.

And like I said, I still really want to read this, so even a little confusion in that paragraph doesn't really throw me. I seriously do love your entry and would love to read your book, good luck!

Kelley said...

The query confuses me due to all the names, but then I skipped to your first 250 and am interested so I would keep reading.

My suggestion for the query:

Sixteen-year-old Tabby Weber doesn’t want to murder anyone, but in Griffin Kessler’s case she’s willing to make an exception.

In the year 2018, nineteen-year-old science prodigy Griffin Kessler created a virus that nearly wiped out the human race. A decade later, survivors are imprisoned in concentration camps while brutal gangs roam the deserted cities. Tabby lives in hiding while they complete her father’s time machine. Her goal is simple: travel back in time and kill Kessler before he can finish his virus.

Tabby returns to 2018 with her best friend Murphy. She falls for Kessler who’s smart, sexy, and as desperate to protect the virus from the wrong hands as she is. But her best friend is determined to kill Kessler. Tabby doesn’t know how to stop Murphy, or if she even should.

KILLING KESSLER, a YA science fiction novel, is complete at 60,000 words. With a strong heroine and healthy doses of adventure and romance, I believe KILLING KESSLER will appeal to fans of Suzanne Collins’s THE HUNGER GAMES and James Patterson’s MAXIMUM RIDE series.

The only other thing I would be careful of is comparing your work to THE HUNGER GAMES. To make a bold statement like that you better be certain your work is super duper awesome. :)

And like I said, the first 250 words would keep me reading.

Good luck!

AllieS said...

I liked the query, but like Ru, I also had trouble believing that she "falls quickly" for a guy who's responsible for a virus that killed a lot of people. I don't think you need the name of the dictator in the query, and one thing made me wonder: you say they're living under a dictatorship where survivors are imprisoned in camps, yet Tabby's sister can still buy lip gloss? For some reason that stuck out to me and bothered me.

The first pages were good, and I'd probably keep reading!

An Agent Intern said...

I thought the story would be about Kessler because so much time is spent on him. Filter the first paragraph through Tabby's POV: "Tabby lives in hiding while she and her siblings complete her father’s time machine. Their goal is simple: travel back in time and kill the man responsible for a virus that nearly wiped out the human race before he can finish it. Because of his virus, all the survivors have been forced into concentration camps while brutal gangs roam the deserted cities. Tabby will fix her world even if it's the last thing she does." Then proceed into explaining how the task isn't as easy as she thought, because Kessler hadn't ever meant for the virus to kill anyone (I'm assuming that's what the line "desperate to protect the virus from Zika" means). I'd keep out Murphy and his feelings and stick to the virus as the main conflict.

I would not compare your story to THE HUNGER GAMES and MAXIMUM RIDE. If anything, say it will appeal to fans who lived certain and specific qualities in both books, like the fast pace and strong heroine.

I'd keep reading this, though.

Patrick O'Leary said...

I liked the sample, though I'll agree that the "overglossed lips" comment made me pause. If it's an important character aspect to her sister, then be prepared to explain it. But the idea of a post-apocalyptic world where a 14 year old girl has the time and energy to spend on overglossing her lips is a bit weird. In most of these worlds, people have trouble bathing.

Other than that, the sample was good. The telepathy was a surprise, but I could go with it quickly enough. However, the idea of powers was left out of the query.

Which leads me to the query itself. Not sure what to add about that. It is too many names and too confusing on MC. As I've said before, this one also seems to spend too much time on backstory. I'd suggest getting straight to the trip to the past and the mission to assassinate the scientist.

Also, I'd agree with getting to the scientist's good qualities before going into how she falls for him. Maybe tell us he wasn't what she expected, that he was trying to protect the virus himself. Although, if he's not a bad guy, why'd he develop it in the first place? Was it a mistake? Was he misled about what it would do? Did he think it was the first step to finding some cure? I'd look forward to seeing those answers in the work itself.

So I think you have a good start here. I'd probably ask for the first 2-3 chapters, mainly based on the sample. But I think you can improve the query by focusing more on the basic questions: who is the MC, what is the big dilemma she faces, and what are the stakes? Also, make us care about the answers to these questions. I think you're on the right track. Just a bit more polishing.

Theresa Milstein said...

I'd read this book!
I like Kelley's suggestion to tighten the query. In your version, I'm into the premise, but it begins to read like a synopsis. Patrick O'Leary tells you to answer the same questions that Query Shark does. Give us a little more info about Tabby. Who is she?

You're going to get a lot of interest with this one. Good luck!

salarsenッ said...

I love the creativity of this idea! Nice!!

The first sentence of the query is also a good hook.

I'm not sure towards the end of the first paragraph if you need to name any other character other than Tabby. Keep it simple and direct.

Maybe in the second paragraph, eliminate the mention of Murphy and just say, "When Tabby and her friends return to 2018, she falls..." Then, for the next reference of Murphy, just use 'her friend confesses...'

Seriously, I really like the sound of this. Intriguing! Nice job.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I love the premise of this and the first 250 words are definitely engaging. I don't really have much to add to the other comments - I agree about removing most of the names in the query letter. Other than that, this sounds like a great read!

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Great first page! I'd definitely keep reading. Your premise sounds very intriguing, too.

Christine Danek said...

I don't have much to add. I definitely would keep reading.

Anonymous said...

I did not assume that Kessler was a "bad guy." I assumed that he had good or at least neutral intentions when he created the virus and so I didn't have a problem with Tabby falling for him. Nothing else to add that hasn't been said.
Very interesting premise!
-SGF

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

So I've read the whole manuscript...
I think you need to start with the second paragraph. I think you tell in the third paragraph about her dilemma. I do think it is very fast paced and does compare to Hunger Games. I haven't read the other book...but like I said Killing Kessler is fast paced...

Good luck with it Susan. It's a great manuscript!!!!

The Agent said...

Okay, here's an example of a query that breaks the rules and I DON'T CARE. Yes, there are quite a few characters mentioned in this query, but for me it worked. I got who everyone was and their significance in the story. The first sentence of the query hooked me, and I read straight through, barely pausing before I started the opening paragraphs. I simply needed to know how this plot got started!

Yes, you should probably cut the word "quickly" from "Tabby falls quickly for Kessler," or at least elaborate on his positive qualities before you show our heroine falling so helplessly for his charms. Comparing any book to THE HUNGER GAMES (or Harry Potter, or TWILIGHT...) is generally a no-no. These are all easily fixable things. But they didn't stop me from reading on, which is the end goal.

The sister's "over-glossed" lips in the second paragraph of the manuscript gave me pause. Surely there is some way to show Leila's hormonal imbalance without raising questions as to how she ever managed to gain access to lip gloss in this blighted world! The casual introduction to sibling telepathy also threw me briefly, but I would absolute keep reading. The query is tight and compelling enough that I want to see how this continues.

Great job!