Thursday, August 7, 2014

Become an Agent #10

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 66,000

Lanphier High School freshman Frank Williams might be the last to disappear but, if he’s not careful, he’ll be the first to die.

History is Frank’s favorite subject. It’s equal only to French, because he’s très bien at that too. So when history teacher Xavier Byrnam brings a red suit of armor to class, Frank can’t help but feel drawn to the statue.

Fifteen high school students in his city have gone missing, but Frank still takes his cat for walks, unsupervised. At the site where a girl was last seen, he discovers an invisible, penny-like residue in the air that only he can taste – but life goes on as normal.

Until his cousin vanishes.

Something’s happening at Lanphier, and the police have it all wrong; his cousin would never run away, and Frank suspects the other students didn’t either. Now, only he can follow the coppery breadcrumbs to discover the truth behind the disappearances. But what he finds may cost him his life, because Mr. Byrnam’s knight is more than just red-tinted armor ... it’s blood-tainted terror.


“Kick his ass, Frank!”

Frank Williams dodged the first blow of the fight. With strength he didn’t know he could muster, he managed to catch the second. The strike stung his palm and jolted up to his elbow, but he preferred a hurt hand to a black eye. He raised his own fist, upper cutting the other in the jaw. It sent him backwards, but he stayed on both feet.

“I don’t wanna fight,” Frank said as others around him booed his words. The other teen stared him down, not saying a word. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Scott,” said the other as he walked in a circle, attempting to fake Frank by feinting left then punching right.

“Fine, Scott. How about we just — ?”

Frank’s offer fell flat when Scott tackled him, the two landing on the sidewalk near Lanphier High School. Scott held both of Frank’s wrists down to restrain him, but Frank wouldn’t be so easily defeated. He lifted his head, butting Scott right in his pig-like upturned nose. The kid’s shaggy, greasy Jewfro shook from the impact, and he fell backwards, off Frank.

“Are you going to stop?” Frank asked once he stood up, looming a foot over his face as though he would stomp on it. Scott threw his hands up over his head, and made a muffled yell. “Fine.”

Frank picked up his book bag from the concrete, moaning as he did so. “Damn it, he scuffed my new shoes.”


  1. I like the query. It's quick, hook-y, and tells me what I need to know. While the first 250 is good, I don't know anything about Frank, except that he's fighting someone. Why? Try stepping back and starting just before the fight. Then, we'd get a little more of the hero and some context.


  2. I really liked your hook, but as for the overall query: No, I wouldn't read on. Sorry. In your query, you made statements that didn't make sense to me or felt inaccurate. Since these occur more than once, I would figure these would occur in the manuscript as well. You say the teacher brings a suit of armor but then call it a statue. A real suit of armor is an outfit not a statue, unless it is a statue made to look like a suit of armor. Also you used "penny-like residue" which doesn't make sense. Penny's don't have residue. Later when you said copper, I realized what you meant. In your opening hook, which I liked, I think the commas are off. I think it should go before but, not after. But I'm not the grammar expert, so I could be wrong.

    For your 250, you said the mc managed to doge the first blow be catch the second. To me that sounded like he was hit, but then after reading more, it sounds like he did the blow. I would assume from your query and this that confusing wording would be throughout the story. Also, there is so much description in with the dialogue that it slows down what should be a fast and tumble fight scene. Natural dialogue flows faster.

  3. Sorry, forgot to give my post number. I'm #11

  4. The query sounds interesting--I would likely open a book with that on the back cover--but the first 250 doesn't do anything for me. I don't know who these people are, and watching them fight doesn't tell me much about them or make me interested in them. Maybe try jumping ahead a little in the story and starting there--perhaps where the teacher brings in the statue and he's fascinated by it?

    No - 16

  5. While the premise sounds interesting, this is a No for me. A few reasons why:

    * I'd cut "THE GODSEEKER SAGA" from your title. Right up front, with Saga, you're asking an agent to commit to multiple books, which will make them wary.

    * In the query, the paragraphs seem a bit disjointed from each other, not flowing smoothly together to form a narrative. You might want to edit to create a smooth arc of rising tension.

    * I think you need to hold back less and give us more details to tease us. What sort of threats and challenges does Frank face? What does he have personally at stake, besides his life? Anything you can do to specifically rachet up tension and make this stand out from other similar books is great.

    * I think you might want to pick a different starting place. We don't know anything about Frank before he gets in this fight; we have no idea why they're even fighting; and his opponent seems like a caricature. (Speaking of which, "Jewfro" might alienate some readers, so you might want not to throw that out there on the first page.) Even Frank doesn't seem invested in this fight, so I haven't had a chance yet to get invested in him.

    I think if you clarify the query and pick a different starting point, this sounds like it could be a cool creepy, adventurey story. Good luck!


  6. The queries confusing to me. It jumps around too much. Why is Frank the only one who can save his cousin? What's up with the armor? And how is he the only one who can help the missing students if, as mentioned at the beginning, he's one of them?

    "Jewfro" also throws me off, because I know almost nothing about this main character, but I think he's racist. And that doesn't make me want to hang out with him. Suddenly, I'm kind of hoping the other kid wins the fight, since I don't know Frank yet and have no reason to root for him.

    This would have to be a no.

  7. The query is strong. So are the 250. You may very well have the genre correct, but the query suggests more of a fantasy thriller than urban fantasy. It feels a little too dark, but that's not a good enough reason to vote no, so I give you another:

    First, I don't do swear words. But most agents don't have that issue so I'll have to find another reason:

    The sentence "...Frank said as others around him booed his words." hits my pet peave. They can't boo Frank's words as he says them. They can only boo the words after he says them. But that's seems really nitpicky so let's see if I can find another reason:

    The copper breadcrumbs confuse me. Wasn't it a copper residue in the air (from the paragraph before)?

    So, I'm voting

    NO (from the audience)

  8. Hi, it's a no from this audience member. I think the query could read smoother. The paragraphs don't flow and seem to talk about several disconnected issues. As for the 250, I'm not sure you start in the right place. Also phrases like "strength he didn't know he could muster" and "wouldn't be so easily defeated" fall flat for me so early. We know nothing about Frank so his opinion on how much strength he has/doesn't have doesn't add to the story. Both phrases are also telling. I don't think you need them, and the story would be cleaner without.

  9. To give you an idea of my own “agent” so you can understand why I am commenting the way I am:

    If it is YA, I am hoping that it is intelligent YA. One of the best series that falls in the category for me is Harry Potter. Twilight and Divergent, to me, are trite and treat the reader as less intelligent than they are. The concepts, ideas, and language can be more complex. That is what I am looking for in all areas. BTW 30% of YA books right now are read by women in their 30s. Just sayin’.

    NA? It better be intelligent and deal in some type of social commentary. Think of The Catcher in The Rye. This NA romance trend right now, to me, is appalling. Are scratching your head asking why The Catcher in The Rye? It still sells 50,000 copies per year, that’s why. The Lovely Bones fits in here for me as well, although it tracked well with females aged 13 - 20, which would make it more YA than NA.

    Adult, This better deal with complex issues regardless of the genre, and doesn’t need a happy ending. Authors here? Stephen King, John Grisham, etc.

    MG? I read To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, and The Hobbit in the middle grande range. That would be the level of work I am looking for here.

    Agent #12:


    There is a disconnect in the query for me. A great description of Frank, and then a jump to the set up. Each part seems well done in its own right, I would just like to see a smoother transition between the elements in the query.

    The first 250 is written okay for me, but just okay, I’m just not sure why we are starting in the fight and the character of Frank turns me off of the character of Frank due to his voice and use of slang. Like some other mentioned, is he racist?

    My 2 cents.

  10. Opening sentence in query is okay but confusing - how is he the "last to disappear"? Plus a red suit of armor turns into a statue at the end of the sentence, which is head-tilt inducing. Overall this is interesting and I can feel the idea of the story is in the query even through the problems, but it feels not quite there/ready. The title is also an instant no, in that it's asking the agent to immediately invest in a trilogy, rather than selling a standalone "with series potential". It makes it sound like you are querying for 3 books not one - although the word count for first book is solid.

    Opening 250 words don't let me connect with the MC in some way. Good dialogue, but there is some passive word use that could be tightened to be more active and assertive, for example 'he caught the second' instead of 'he managed to catch the second'. I like the use of 'jewfro' (I'm ashkenazi on one side, I'll let myself have a chuckle because my hair turns into a big fuzzy monster occasionally). It's "voicey", giving a peek at the MC and it's easy to forgive slang like that in a kid, especially an angry one. My only trouble I see with vocabulary is the MC using the word "scuffed" - I mean yeah I can expect some maturity with kids - his age isn't given but it says freshman so I assume 13? but scuffed feels too mature and elaborate a word for an agitated 13 yr old boy. Like he's the kind of boy who has other kids go, "you're one of them READING BOOKS kids aren't you".

    I think there is a story here and a good one, but I can't feel enough of the conflict, so I'm going to give a reluctant no.

    No. (#5)

  11. The query was pretty good as far as having a hook.

    The first 250 really didn't do it for me. From how it's written, it sounds like we're about to learn that the MC has a set of previous unknown powers. It's also hard to start in the midst of action. I know people talk about that, but sometimes we need to start with getting to know the character, and it's hard to build character while throwing punches.

    I'm passing because I didn't connect with the MC. Sorry.

    No (#20)