Thursday, August 7, 2014

Become an Agent #8

Title: Forever Young
Genre: YA sci-fi retelling of Peter Pan
Word Count: 70 000


Sixteen-year-old Callie Winters ran away from home in London and ended up on another planet. She was just trying to find the mother who abandoned her and her father without a goodbye. But when her first steps out the door lead to trouble, they also lead to Zane Cross, the pilot of a stolen spaceship. He is everything Callie knows she should avoid: secretive, arrogant, and a thief. But none of that matters when he helps her evade the police and their only option is to escape to the undiscovered planet Zane has been using as his hideout.

Forced to abandon her search, all Callie wants is to get back to Earth. But Zane is not what she expected. The strangely charming criminal intrigues her, the quirky band of misfits he is hiding with welcomes her, and the mysterious planet enthralls her--until Zane's shady past catches up with them.

A prison spaceship containing dozens of convicts from Earth crash-lands in the planet's ocean. And their ill-timed arrival isn't an accident. Their unstable leader is trying to unlock the secret to immortality, and he suspects Zane has the key.

When Callie gets trapped in the dangerous cross-fire she is forced to make a choice: betray Zane so she can return to the safety of Earth and continue the search for her missing mother, or fight for the planet--and the thief--that have stolen her heart.


Three minutes. That's how much time had passed since I'd been crammed into the pitch-black stairwell. Since the door swung shut, and trapped us inside like prisoners. Since I'd started to panic. I'd tried to do everything I could think of to calm myself. Focus on something else. Count to ten. Take deep breaths. But the others were pressed so tight against me that even taking shallow breaths became difficult.

This was without a doubt the worst idea I'd ever had.

"I don't think anyone saw us," a girl in front of me whispered. Her delicate voice echoed off every concrete wall in the enclosed space, and even though I knew they couldn't hear her on the other side of the door, she was still taking the risk.

I was not that brave.

Someone jabbed their boney elbow into my ribs, thinking it was me that had spoken up, and I had to bite my lip to keep from crying out.

"Shut up," Nora hissed to the real culprit. Even though this was my idea, my new friend Nora had been the one to pull it off. She'd come to me with a problem, and me with my never quiet, over-thinking brain had offered up this solution to her on a silver platter. Then she had put my plan into motion. She was a doer. I was not. So I couldn't completely blame her for the predicament we'd managed to get ourselves in. "Callie?"

"Over here." I wheezed.


  1. The query doesn't grab me. I think it can be made a bit succinct. I like the first 250 better.


  2. The first 250 sounded more interesting than the query. In the query, the mc seems passive. Things are happening to her and around her, but I don't get a sense of what choices she makes and actions she is taking. There is more about Zane than her. From the query, I'd say no. The first 250 was interesting, but seemed to be taking a while to get why she is in this stairwell, and crammed so tight. That must be a lot of people to fill a stairwell so tightly, but I have no sense of why they are there. Again she sounds passive in that she admits it was her idea, but she's not the one who pulled it off. I would not want to spend a lot of time reading about a character that sounded passive from both the query and 250.

    No. (I'm #11)

  3. I'm a HUGE fan of re-tells and, been though I've more than completed my required picks, I wanted to read this one because of the Peter Pan re-tell.
    You query is not doing what it needs to do. I didn't get a feeling of excitement or adventure. It's a tough call (I know), but it's almost even more vital when you are doing a re-tell as people have pre-conceived ideas of what the characters should be/act like.
    I very much liked the setting, but I also (kind of) got the feeling you simply replaced the island in the traditional story with outer space... I didn't get a clear understanding of the re-tell aspect.

    1st 250
    your sample page is stronger than your query (in my opinion) but it needs some culling to make it sharp. Again, pre-conceptions are double-edged sword. On the one-hand people know the concept of your characters so you don't have to work that hard to explain them. But on the other, people know the concept of your characters so expect short, sharp, witting, dry-humour, cheeky.

    Overall, I wasn't drawn in as I wished I had been.

    NO - #7

  4. I liked the humor in the opening line of the query along with the irony of Callie presumably doing the same thing her mother had -- abandoning her father without a goodbye. But the first 250 didn't draw me in the way I would've liked. I found the "Her delicate voice...risk." line a bit contradictory. In such a short excerpt, the two uses of 'even though' also jumped out. Suggest trimming a few of these things so the reader doesn't stop and rockets through the text.

    No - #9

  5. Something in the pacing of the first paragraph puts me off the query. It's hard to put my finger on it. But I've been saying this all day, so - add some shorter sentences to break it up. When you string a lot of long sentences together, my eyes glaze over. From the second paragraph on, you're pretty much golden. It's much better.

    LOVE the first 250. You've set the scene, introduced me to the main character, and shown me her voice. There's enough going on to make me curious about what's going to happen next. And what makes it all even better is that I was actually not into the beginning of the query and not that excited by the Peter Pan retelling - and I want to read it anyway.


  6. I read "A Sci-Fi retelling of Peter Pan" and immediately thought of "Peter and the Star Catchers" Your book doesn't sound anything like that, but I wanted you to know about that red flag.

    In truth, your query didn't sound anything like a retelling of Peter Pan. I can't place any of the original characters in your plot. It would almost be stronger if you just called it YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy and leave it in that genre. Otherwise, I need stronger clues to the retelling. If Peter Pan were reimagined as a girl, for example, you could call her Petra.

    I like the voice in your 250 and it really pulls me in. But unfortunately, my vote is

    NO (from the audience)

  7. This catches my interest. The writing is solid, and I like the concept. I think you could make your pitch stronger. In the query, focus more on the immortality/never aging aspect since you're going with the Peter Pan thing. Is the bad guy a space pirate too? That would be fun. You also need to bring out more how all these events affect the MC, otherwise, Zane seems to be the real star of the show. The writing in the 250 is good and I want to know what they're doing and what's going to happen, but you could probably do more to heighten our attachment to the character--she comes across as a bit weak, which again makes me think Zane's going to be what the story's really about. Still, I would say YES to more pages to see if it lives up to its potential to be a fun adventure.

  8. 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:


    Cool, Peter Pan is one of my favourite stories and it is fun to go through your reimagining and the uniqueness you put on it. I’m okay with the query, but would like to see a bit more of an emotional connection with the MC. Everything else about it is clear to me.

    Like most of the previous comments, the first 250 for me is better, solid. If the query was a bit tighter, this would have been a yes for me.

    My 2 cents.

  9. Hi, it's a no from this audience member. As I commented on another retelling entry, I don't see the Peter Pan connection from your query. At all. To me if it's a sci-fi Peter Pan retelling, then your query should be screaming that and should be obvious. It wasn't for me. I also think it's a little long. I think you can shorten the Zane part. She says he's secretive, arrogant, etc. but would she know all that right away?

    As for the 250, I think it might take a little long to learn why she's there. I'm wondering if that could be brought up sooner.

  10. I like your concept, but I feel your writing could be tightened up. I've said that a lot, but it's a common problem. Still, I feel like there's something here.

    I like the concept enough to request--that's a Yes--but I'm concerned that I won't get very far before the writing pulls me out. My recommendation is to tighten your writing to eliminate things like "that" and "of". Be specific and try not to use vague terms. For instance, you say "someone elbowed me..." Try to attach that elbow to a name if you have one. "Betsy elbowed me, not realizing it wasn't me who spoke" is more direct. The reason I get anxious around the vague words is that I wonder if your whole novel is like that. Is it always going to be something? Confusion is fine but only in limited doses. Save it for the important stuff.

    Yes. (#20)

  11. I would have liked this as a science fiction adventure starring a 16 year old girl, but the second it turned into a YA romance I lost interest. It sounded like a science fiction adventure, but ended on a "will she choose love, or " which makes this feel mislabeled - like it should be classified as YA romance with scifi elements. I also remember what I was like at 16 and can't help but frown like grumpycat at a kid hooking up with a grownup space pirate (but 16 year old me TOTALLY UNDERSTANDS HER).

    This also does not at all feel like a Peter Pan retelling. It feels like a story is there, but just not quite yet ready/there and needs more something - revision/edit/polishing of query letter maybe. If the story can justify the romantic elements and make the female YA adventure scifi heroine stuff strong enough, I'd absolutely be interested.

    Query letter gives the impression that she "discovers space travel is real" if that makes any sense. It's how the query begins - it sort of gives this feeling of radical change enough that it gives the impression that it's sort of a portal fantasy, rather than a universe where space travel is an everyday fact of life. But I can't quite tell if that's what I'm supposed to understand it as? So the query set-up paragraph seems to not quite lay out the setting in a way that I can understand; it may mean that it needs to more clearly state out in the open the portal fantasy element that makes it a Peter Pan retelling, where the kids are transported to that other place, and how she is transported to another universe where space travel exists/discovers space travel exists but that no one on earth knows about it.

    16 years old. Space pirates. Older sexy space pirates? Yeah, 16 year old me would eat this up like caramel fudge ice-cream.

    No (reluctantly). (#5)