Mar 24, 2009

Query - Embrol

A revision of this query has been posted. Click here to read it.

Olivia Ryan doesn’t know she’s a guardian of Earth. She doesn’t even know she’s not human.

After a car accident nearly kills her and takes her mother from her on her eighteenth birthday, she longs to find peace in an uncertain future. Jack Ellis, the new boy at school who is responsible for the accident, only compounds her pain. She feels drawn to him for reasons she cannot explain, but his revelation that she is an alien from the planet Hielos is difficult for her to believe. Despite her conflicted desire to ignore him and get on with her life, her mother’s journal confirms her alien ancestry, and she discovers that, like Jack, she has been endowed with many alien abilities.

She resists the idea that she could be any kind of superhero, but the appearance of a rogue Hielosian forces her to accept the responsibility. When he almost kills her friend and threatens her life, she, with Jack’s help, must find a way to stop him before he does any more damage. In the midst of all of this, she struggles to understand her feelings for Jack and fights against the only thing in her life that she knows for certain--they belong together.

EMBROL, complete at 111,000 words, is a work of YA Science Fiction. While it is a standalone novel, the potential is there to extend it to a three book series.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

1 Eighteen

“Good morning, birthday girl!”

I forced my eyes open and groaned. My mother had the video camera pointed right at my face.

“Go away.” I covered my head with my pillow. “It’s not even light outside yet.”

She ignored me, just like she did every year. “On this day, eighteen years ago, Olivia Noelle Ryan was born to Thomas and Lily Ryan in the great state of Arizona. And there was rejoicing throughout the land!” This was her favorite and most annoying birthday ritual. “Today she is officially an adult. Would you like to add anything, Livy?”

“For once, could you just let me sleep in on my birthday?” I lifted the pillow and opened one eye. “In fact, in celebration of the joyous occasion, I should probably just stay home from school. Turn the light off on your way out.” I waved my hand toward the door, letting the pillow drop back down on my head.

“Don’t be a spoilsport, Livy.” She laughed as she pulled the blanket off of me.

I reached for it too late, and it fell to the floor at the end of my bed. “Hey, it’s freezing!”

She gave me a quick swat on my backside. “Come on, time to get up. You’re going to be late for school.” Her voice still rang with laughter. “Being an adult means being responsible.”

“Seriously, Mom. Are you starting on that already?” I pushed myself up to a seated position and rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands. I wondered if she had increased the wattage in my light so she would have better lighting for her little show. “Will you please turn that stupid thing off?”

“You used to love this part of your birthday.” There was a slight downturn to her lips as she turned the camera off, but her ever present smile returned quickly. “I made you some birthday French toast, if you’re interested.”

I covered a yawn with my hand. “Tell me again. What makes it birthday French toast?”

“Because I made it on your birthday, silly girl.” She bent to kiss me on the forehead. “Don’t be too long. It’s getting cold.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I tried to smile as she turned to leave. “I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

I stumbled to the bathroom and examined my face in the mirror. I didn’t look any different. Not that I’d really expected to, but there had been a lot of build up to this day. It just seemed like there should be some noticeable difference.

I flipped off the bathroom light and followed the smell of French toast down the stairs, listening to the sound of my mother’s cheerful whistling. I stood in the doorway and watched her as she danced about the kitchen. I often wished I could be more like her, so happy all the time.

We were similar in some ways. I inherited my wavy golden-brown hair and blue eyes from her, but regardless of the countless times I had been told that I look like her, that’s where the similarities ended. She was much more petite, barely reaching five feet tall, and she was exceptionally beautiful, with small, delicate features. Despite being in her forties, she looked like she belonged in a college dorm rather than the mother of someone who would soon be there. Strangers often accused her of being my stunning older sister.

She turned to me and smiled. “Oh, there you are. Everything’s on the table.”

I sat down in my usual spot in the curve of the bay window. “Thanks for breakfast, Mom. Are you sure you don’t want me to stay home today? You could call in sick and we could go shopping.”

“Sorry, Livy. You know I can’t call in sick on a Monday. Besides, you have finals coming up. You shouldn’t be missing school right now.”

“Fine, I guess you’re right. But I don’t think missing one day would make that much difference.”

“I’ll make it up to you tonight. Maybe I can get off work a little bit early and we can go shopping before we go to dinner. How does that sound?”

“Okay, that’ll be fun.” Not exactly what I was hoping for, but it was better than nothing.
“You better hurry, Livy.” She pointed at the clock with her fork. “Amber’s going to be here in less than fifteen minutes.”

I swallowed my last bite of French toast. “Thanks again for breakfast. Love you, Mom.” I gave her a quick hug before heading upstairs to get ready for school.

She’d already left for work when I came back downstairs, but she left me a note on the front door.

Happy Birthday, Livy! Have a great day!

Love, Mom

I smiled as I shoved the note in my pocket and opened the front door. Amber wasn’t there yet. A quick look at the clock told me I was running even further behind than I thought. She was almost twenty minutes late, and thanks to her ability to drive like a deranged lunatic, Amber was never late. I pulled my phone out to call her and she honked. Somewhat relieved, I ran out to meet her.

“Hey, Livy! Happy birthday!”

“Thanks, Amber.”

“Sorry I’m late.” She tossed her ginger curls with a flip of her head. “Devan thought it would be fun to play hide and seek with my keys this morning. I finally found them in his toy box.” She flashed a metallic grin that I think was supposed to be sinister, but it only emphasized the cute dimples in her freckled cheeks. She always said they made her look like a little kid, but she just wouldn’t be Amber without them. “My mom wouldn’t let me choke him, but that’s probably good since it would have taken more time. Don’t worry. I’ll get us there on time.”

“Oh, good.” That’s precisely what I was worried about. I would rather walk the three miles to school on the hottest day of the summer, than be in a vehicle with Amber when she’s running behind. Best friend or not, her driving terrified me.

I made a mental note to bug my mom again about getting a car--if I lived long enough.


Rick Daley said...

I think this is good. You have a nice hook at the beginning, and you give the elements of the story without giving too much. the only real question I have after reading the query is regarding her superpowers...what can she do? Fly? Heal? Shape-shift? I'd like some detail beyond "many alien abilities."

I suggest changing:
"When he almost kills her friend and threatens her life, she, with Jack’s help, must find a way to stop him"

"When he almost kills her friend and threatens her life, she teams up with Jack to find a way to stop him"

I think you did a good job in positioning the series.

I liked the sample pages, and would read more.

lucy in the sky said...

I agree with Rick that I'd like to hear more about the alien abilities.

The sentence about the car accident might flow better if you tried something like: After surviving the car accident that takes her mother's life, Olivia just wants peace in an uncertain future.

The information that it happens on her eighteenth birthday is obviously important to the story, but could probably be omitted from the query.

splatter said...

the second paragraph sort of loses me as is... ("After a car accident nearly kills her and takes her mother from her on her eighteenth birthday, she longs to find peace in an uncertain future.") it contains a whole lot of "she" and "her" in there that just... starts to stack up even past that first sentence, making the writing feel a bit imprecise and cluttered (I hope that makes sense). Try using her name more frequently to break it up a bit.

I'd also change "when he almost kills her" - that "he" is imprecise, and for a moment I thought it was Jack.

And finally, I agree with the first poster who said give us some details as to her alien abilities. Let us see what she can do, and maybe her reaction to discovering the idea of power too.

Marissa said...

I think all the other posters have touched on what I too would change in the query. I really like the story concept, but more details about her powers would be nice. I also liked how you phrased the idea that the books could be expanded into a series. It tells the agent you'd like to do that, but that you are also willing to sell it as a single book, which most agents prefer from a new author.

The only thing that concerns me is the word length of the story itself. At 111k, it's about 30k too long. The YA SciFi/Fantasy genre calls for about 50-80k books. If possible, I would attempt to edit the book down in size some. You could probably slip by with 90-95k, but at 111k, many agents might not even ask to see your full manuscript... =(

Good luck! I hope to see this book on a bookshelf someday. =D

Charlie said...

I like this query a lot but I have to disagree with the other commenters. I'd rather be surprised by which powers she has. It's enough knowing that she has them.

Bottom line: I wanna read this book.

Pen Pen said...

:) I want to read it too! Someone please let me know if they notice it's been sold and available anytime soon.
I dunno if you WANT to go into the abilities since the query is just meant to get u to read more---right?! THo- I've had a crazy inner problem with my own query questions and concerns about how much to reveal or not to reveal in them int he last week. I should submit my query here.
Rick--Have u heard of any people taking other's writing ideas from this?! I would hope not-and I'm aware that I'm ultra sensitive to it...I had a story stolen by a good friend in college who denies it even now...I just get scared that my work will be ripped off.

Anyway- my thoughts on the query are that I would want to read more if I read the mini-synopsis on the back of a book in the store, and I'm not sure how I feel about the word superhero- feels cliche....tho I'm having issues with feeling cliche myself-maybe you just have to go with certain words cuz it's what the sentence has to have.

Rick Daley said...

Pen Pen,

I am not aware of anyone that has stolen story ideas or titles from this site, or from other query review sites (e.g. Query Shark, queries made public on, etc.).

Could it happen? Yes, but the probability is low.

I think someone who has the writing talent to complete a 60,000+ word novel, polish it to sellable form, contract with an agent for representation and successfully sell the book to a publisher probably has the talent to comeon up with an original story idea.

Also, what the agents all seem to agree on is that the most important element is VOICE. And that cannot be copied or stolen.

lucy in the sky said...

Just a quick comment about word count. Harry Potter and Twilight have shown that readers of YA (teens and their parents) don't have an issue with long books.

Marissa Miranda said...

On Lucy in the sky's comment:

Readers don't mind long books, but publishers are still wary of them. The first Harry Potter book was only 76k words. It was only AFTER JKR proved herself that she was able to write long books.

Twilight was an anomaly. Yes, it is long at almost 120k, but it is unique for a first novel in many ways.

Other bestselling YA novels are also short. Many of Meg Cabot's books are around 60k. The Artemis Fowl series runs to about 60k per book. Gail Carson Levine sticks to about 60k or below.

Still, you can find longer novels today. So, if you can't edit and make it shorter, then don't. But if you can, save the old version and then try just taking out as much as you can. With the publishing industry falling into economic trouble (like every other industry), agents and editors like to hedge their bets, and this includes not buying into projects they don't think they can sell...