Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Agent,

Oddly, for Mike Fitzroy, it's trying to avoid the popular crowd that gets him into trouble.

To Mike, St. Brigid High, despite its elite reputation, was just another stop on a long, wandering road. He figured it wouldn't be any different from any of the others he's been in and out of over the years.

Boy, did he call that one wrong.

Initially offered a chance to join the in-crowd, Mike instead falls for the wrong girl (twice), makes the wrong friends (the Lepers) and ends up on the wrong side of Lee (the sophomore class's golden boy and lead bada**). And all because Mike breaks his own rules--head down, don't get involved, and wait 'til Dad moves the family again. Caring makes life complicated.

But when Lee and his Six Stooges start pushing, Mike can't push back. He made a promise--no more fighting. The last time cost way too much.

So now he's stuck. Defend himself and his friends by breaking his word or give up, take the beating and try to go back to following his rules? Can he live with either choice?

WELCOME TO THE LEPER COLONY, a contemporary YA novel, is complete at 94,000 words. It can work as a standalone novel, but is meant to be the first in a six book series.

Thanks for your time and consideration.



Chapter 1: At Least the Natives Are Friendly…

Some days just aren’t worth waking up for. High school seems to have a lot of them.

“Hey, Snowbird, think fast!”

Like today.

There's the soft thump of shoe-on-soccer ball, followed by a loud whistle of air. And from the Doppler shift of the whistle, it's heading right for me.

I glance up from my book and lean right. The ball hurtles past my head, ricochets off the palm tree behind me, and flies back.

Looks like their aim's improving, if not their hospitality.

The ball clips the top of the low retaining wall in front of me (the one that marks the drop-off to the main field where the rest of the herd roams), angles up enough to hit one of the goons in the chest, staggering him back.

I go back to my reading as whichever one it hit yells, “You're dead, loser.”

Don’t they ever get tired of this? Apparently not.

“Nice moves, Snowbird.” Sounds like Lee, the local King Bada**, at least for the sophomore class. And since this is the underclassman’s lunch, that seems to make him the big dog here.

But if Lee’s offering even sarcastic compliments, I guess it didn’t hit one of his boys.

More’s the pity. No, I'm not going there any more. Better to just let it go. Too bad. Whatever, it’s too hot anyway.


Janice Sperry said...

94,000 words seems really long for contemporary YA.

I don't understand your first sentence. Doesn't avoiding the popular crowd usually result in trouble? They're like vultures watching the weak hide in the back of the herd.

One line in your query says that caring makes life complicated. Then in the last paragraph he has to choose to defend his friends? Who are his friends? i thought he didn't want to care about other people.

I like his voice but I'm trying to figure out what his real goals are. What does he want? What are the stakes? It's not to be left alone. There has to be something deeper. I'm sure it's in your MS. You just have to bring it out in your query.

Susan Fields said...

First off, I really like your title - it caught my attention immediately and made me want to read your query. I like the voice and I thought it came through clearly in the query as well as the sample. Really, the only suggestion I'd make is the line "It can work as a standalone novel..." To me, that sounds like it can work, but not very well. I would change it to something more positive, like "has strong series potential."

Tricia said...

I like how he knows when to duck. It shows how everyday the harrassment is.

I like the first 250. It's the query I think that needs improved. There is no stake other than getting involved. Perhaps reveal the consequence of breaking his own rule/s.

Also, I suggest making a comparison to another published book or movie to give the agent the tone of it.

By the writing sample, I would read on.

staceylee said...

Nice voice. I'm still not sure what this is about, though - it's a little vague in the query. Too much backstory and not enough conflict there. Plus, I thought bada** was bada-bing! when I first read it. Love your title; sounds like a good analogy to high school marginalization. I also think it's quaint to have chapter titles - love that. (But I would watch your use of parenthesis and italics.)

Anonymous said...

I like your first 250. Great job creating a character, a setting, and a taste of conflict.
The query seems to indicate that the main conflict is choosing whether or not to fight bullies at school, and, to me, this doesn't seem like enough of a conflict for a novel. I get that his family moves frequently, that the MC has had problems with fighting in the past, and that he's developed a strategy of not becoming involved with others which is now threatened, but what is really at stake here? Isn't he just going to move again anyway? What makes fighting--or caring--such a big deal? In what way did fighting "cost way too much"? And why does he care enough about these new friends to break his "rules"? I think you need to be more concrete with what is at stake. "Can he live with either choice?" is vague.
Also (and this was probably stupid of me) when I first read "the lepers" I wondered if they were really lepers and if your novel was historical or perhaps dystopian.
I think the writing in your first 250 is really strong, though.
Anyway, that's my two cents for what it's worth. Best of luck!

The Agent said...

Your query could use some honing, as the main conflict is unclear. It seems at first that the story will be about Mike being reluctant to make connections thanks to his family's nomadic lifestyle, but toward the end of the query you allude vaguely to his self-made promise not to fight anymore because "the last time cost way too much." If Mike's violent past has something to do with his being in and out of other schools, you should bring this up earlier.

Your opening paragraphs quickly pain a believable high school scene, with a weary but witty first-person narrator. I would probably read more of your sample, but a stronger query, with a more specific allusion to Mike's dilemma, would help make this stand out more and give me an idea of where the story is headed.