Friday, January 31, 2014

Become an Agent #21 - ZOLTAN THE ADEQUATE

I am so so sorry guys. I don't know how it happened but I sent 21 confirmation emails instead of 20! The entrant informed me that their entry wasn't in the contest. This was entirely my mistake! So, SO sorry. This entry will be number 21, same voting guidelines. No need to vote again if you finished your 7; if not, include this one in your count :) So sorry again!

Genre: MG contemporary fantasy
Word Count: 34,000
Coming from a family of magicians, thirteen-year old Harry knows enough magic to avoid being stuffed into a locker. He's ready for the Spring Talent Show when into the picture steps Lance Blackstone, stage name “The Pendragon’, a fellow middle schooler who was always a terrible magician, but suddenly has gotten good, really good.
Practicing in an old theater where his grandpa performed, Harry and his friends find a journal full of illusions that's been torn in half and stumble on a mystery where the theater itself is alive and possibly the source of the magic. Spurred on by the theater’s caretaker who’s like a thousand years old, Harry must find the other half of the journal, outsmart the bad guys, and survive sixth grade, all before the curtain goes up. If they fail, the theater dies and the magic will stay in the wrong hands forever.
ZOLTAN THE ADEQUATE is 34,000 words of Now You See Me meets Home Alone.

First 250 words:

HARRY BLAINE IS THE WORST MAGICIAN EVER. That’s what the billboards will say after I totally embarrassed myself during my first performance. Wait, not just any billboards. I will be in the middle of Times Square and the bazillion lights from the three-hundred-and-sixty-seven electronic screens and digital billboards twinkling back at me will all be flashing those very same words so that everyone in New York City will know. And then there will be the tourists. Every tourist from every country will go back home and tell ALL of their friends, so after a short period of time, a good portion of the earth will know how totally terribly my first show ended. I think it will be kind of crappy to be twelve years old and made fun of in Cantonese.

“Harry?” a voice called.

“Harry?” it called again. I couldn’t decide if I was actually hearing it or if it was a figment of my imagination.

"HARRY!" My daydreams burst into flames as everything came into focus. Peeling paint walls. Graffitied desk. Twenty sets of eyes staring at me as this class started off a little rougher than usual.

“Mr. Blaine, I’m not sure what yourother classes are like with your head-in-the-clouds attitude,” Ms. Shufflebottom said, “but here we do our daydreaming at home. Now sit up, eyes focused straight ahead, and for goodness sake, pay attention.”

She turned and walked back toward the front of the room. The other kids started laughing. Well, Ms. Shufflebottom, I thought, this is exactly what my other classes are like.


  1. Yes.

    First I love the title. Second, your writing is good (there are a couple of tiny little typos, but that's just an issue of polish). I feel like there are a couple of places in the query letter where you made a stylistic choice for voice over grammar or tight writing, and I would urge you to look at those spots again. Other than that (and seriously, that's a minor quibble that someone else might feel differently about), this is good and I'd be interested to see more if I picked this up at a book store.

  2. I would give this one a yes, because although I didn't think the query was as polished as it could be, the first 250 made me giggle - poor kid! - and I could connect with Harry. (I hope no one minds that this is my third Yes, but I thought this entry deserved it.)

  3. Yes. I love the title. Your query is strong and tight, as is your opening page.

  4. I would say no. I love the title, but combining the name Harry with magic was a little jarring. Also the teacher name felt too Harry Potterish too. I think you could tighten the first couple lines of the query, but otherwise I thought it was good. I didn't like the long first paragraph of internal thought, but after that, I liked the voice.

  5. Yes! Loved the voice - it came through clearly and made me laugh. However, I agree with the previous entrant in that I think Harry is a tough name to use for a magician these days (and probably for decades ahead) for obvious reasons.
    And just to show how subjective this process is, I LOVED that first internal paragraph. Very clever first 250.

  6. Thank you everyone for the comments. I did need to clear up one thing though. The name Harry is appropriate in this particular ms because every name in ZOLTAN is a combination of the names of two great magicians. For example: Harry Blaine. Criss Burton. Lance Blackstone. The names in this book were all designed for just that. Thanks.

  7. No.
    The pages is pretty good so you might get some interest for that but I'm not sold on the query. Is this real magic? Because when you talk about him doing shows I think illusionsist, like tricks not real magic. What does the "pendragon" have to do with anything? I'm sure he's important to the story but doesn't seem to be in the query. I suggest jumping straight to the book and the bigger conflict (but the "possibly the source of the magic" is odd to me because we have no hint of what the magic really is.

    Depending on how strong the magic is you might be able to call this magical realism. Like if the outside world thinks them just illusionists but they really have magic and you get into how, that would be cool (and agents love them some magical realism right now) but I don't get a clear sense of that right now.

  8. Query:
    First thing I thought when I saw Harry and magician was Harry Potter. Yes, Harry’s a wizard, but it’s close enough.

    I’d change the “…stuffed into a locker” in the first sentence to “…stuffed in a locker” as “into” halts the flow.

    For the second sentence, cut “steps into the picture” as it’s a clichéd saying. What about “He’s ready to win the STS, but Lance Blackstone, a fellow middle schooler and terrible magician, has suddenly gotten really, really good”?

    The third sentence needs to be cut up and delivered in more digestible chunks. As it is, it’s too confusing (and also on the long side).

    The second paragraph seems to get to the real story, with the magical theater and all-powerful journal. This has nothing to do with Lance beating him in the STS, so why include that? If it is important (is Lance the bad guy you vaguely mentioned at the end?), make the connection clearer.

    Overall, I think your query needs more work. It’s not crazy confusing, but some of the sentences (in the 2nd paragraph) are too long, which makes it harder to read and understand. It also lacks the life and energy MG needs. Try to inject a bit of that into your query and it could work.

    First 250:
    First Thoughts: What is happening? What am I reading? Is this a dream? Oh, it’s a dream. It’s not a well-written dream. There are too many “will”s in this paragraph.

    It’s not a very unique starting point. I know you’re supposed to avoid opening with dream sequences in YA and older as it’s overdone. I assume the same applies to MG, but I’m not sure. Also, even if dreams are allowed for MG, the dreams was decent (could be funny with some work and deletion of the “will”s), but the waking up in class reminded me of a million other books/movies/TV shows where something similar happened. The first 250 have to draw the reader in and yours isn’t working for me.

    Verdict: No.

    Both your query and first 250 need work. Voice is important in MG, so I suggest starting there.

    Good luck!
    -Tiff (#3)

  9. No--The first 250 didn't grab my attention.