#23-SWAYED (REVISED)

>Dear Secret Agent,

The morning after a literally explosive night on the town, a strange but gorgeous woman abducts you from your hospital bed, forces you to get dressed at gunpoint, then tosses you out a window seven stories up! You land, unharmed, thanks to her supernatural abilities. As she stuffs you into a getaway car, she explains that you posses powers similar to hers and she’s been sent to protect you from a secret society that is determined to see the both of you dead. That is the warning seventeen-year-old CALEB DUNNELLY receives from the mysterious Scarlet.

After being dragged to a safe house in the suburbs, Caleb demands to know just what the hell is going on. The last thing he expected to be told is that an ancient brotherhood called Libra is after people like him and Scarlet. The reason those lunatics wants his head on a pike? They actually believe he will make the choice that will decide the fate of the world in the ongoing battle between heaven and hell. That bit of cheerful news is followed by the fact that Libra has vowed to prevent the predicted Armageddon, and will mow down anyone stupid enough to get in their way.

Realizing that his childhood crush, his sister, and his best friend could all be potential targets, Caleb gets Scarlet to take him back to the city. He has no clue how to explain this craziness to everyone, especially since he hasn’t completely wrapped his head around it himself, but there is no time to try and figure things out. Libra is already on the move, and when they turn a simple downtown street into a mystical war zone, Caleb is forced to rely on a power he’s not even sure he has. What is sure of is he must save the ones he loves, even if that means siding with hell’s generals, the Seven Deadly Sins themselves. The rest of the world be damned.

I am pleased to submit my young adult paranormal urban fantasy, SWAYED. This fast-paced 89,000-word tale of romance in the supernatural will appeal to readers who enjoy the passion and paranormality of The Mortal Instruments series, with a touch of the otherworldliness of Anita Blake. I’d be happy to forward the complete manuscript at your request.

I am a freelance writer, a columnist for Writer’s News Weekly—my column is titled Fiction, from the First Draft Forward—and an active member of First Tuesdays and YA Lit Chat. Per your guidelines, I have included the first 250 words.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

*    *    *

I’m going to kill him. Caleb found comfort in that thought. And he meant it this time. It would be quick and clean, and he could leave the body in a ditch where they were widening the highway on the side of I-70 west. No one would bother to start looking for at least a month, and that would be the last place they checked.

Even if someone caught on, Caleb figured he would make a pretty sympathetic defendant. At seventeen he was a student and a public servant to boot. He could imagine the news lineup: Caleb Azriel Dunnelly, local lifeguard, was acquitted of a second-degree murder charge. Jury says they ‘would have done it too’.

“Lighten up, Azzy-baby, it’s a party!” Martin, Caleb’s best friend, and the current object of his irritation, sat there oblivious to any plots to end his life.

“Don’t call me Azzy-baby,” Caleb leveled a dark look at Martin then glanced around their sectional at the back of Confessions, the newest club in downtown Kansas City. At least two hundred people ground against one another on the other side of one-inch thick glass. “You know I hate these places…”

“Not as much as you love me.” Martin grinned. The way the black lights overhead made his teeth glow was creepy.

“If love means a desire to bludgeon to death in a back ally. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“I can’t believe I had to talk you into it.”


8 Responses to “#23-SWAYED (REVISED)”

  1. Kelly Hashway says:

    >Query: You spelled below wrong (bellow) in the first paragraph. The semicolon at the end of the first paragraph should either be a dash or a colon. The synopsis of the book is a little on the short side. I'd like to see more details to entice the agent.
    In paragraph two, don't say novel. Fantasy implies it is a novel.

    First 250:
    I liked the first paragraph, but by the third I felt like there was too much detail as far as the character descriptions. In the fourth paragraph "one inch" should be hyphenated (one-inch).

  2. Jen says:

    >Query: There needs to be more in our query to catch the reader's attention. Why are they looking for Caleb? What's so important about KC? You're first sentence is too long.

    Opening: I thought the start was good, but it jumped too quickly for me. If he is thinking about the murder in the first paragraph then I would mention it in the second or third. The descriptions of Sophie and Lois could go without sultry and luscious. Especially since it seems like he doesn't really think they look all that with spray-tanned skin and too much makeup.I think your MC has a good voice.I'm from KC, so I like that too!

  3. K says:

    >Query: Elaborate. We have NO clue why Caleb is so important. In fact, the only thing we know is that he's 17 and lacking in faith. In short, tell me more.

    First 250: Took me two reads to fully grasp the sarcasm. The pronouns make for an ambiguous first sentence, which confused me.

    Some words stuck out as awkward to me, like "ire," and a few phrases felt out of place.

    From the first 250, it feels like this story would flow better from a 1st person POV, but that would include heavy revisions, and is entirely up to you.

    All that being said, I was intrigued by the query and 250. Who is Caleb? Why is a tough, good kid letting his friend boss him around? Why is a boy who seems turned off by fake girls at a raunchy club?

    You definitely got me interested. Good luck!

  4. Tuuli says:

    >I’m sorry if my comments sound abrupt. I’m writing them as I read your query. You still need to do a lot of work on this. I could have skipped yours (and maybe you would have preferred I did), but I think yours has potential. I suggest reading the Query Tracker Blog (http://querytracker.blogspot.com) for advice on how to write queries.

    I agree with the previous two critters. This is way too short. You’re novel is 89,000 words, so obviously something more happens. You’ve given us the set up (and yes, you misspelled ‘below’) but you haven’t told us the conflicts. How is the war between heaven and hell happening? Do the humans know? Do the players look like humans or monsters. You need to be specific. And why is Caleb special? You’ve really shown us nothing about him. You’ve just told us. And what are the consequences to Caleb? Also, ‘him’ should be set off my a dash ‘em or colon.

    There’s no such thing as a YA religious fantasy novel, plus you’re narrowing down the field of agents who might be interested. Call it a YA fantasy novel. And you don’t know someone who enjoys The Mortal City of Instruments series won’t be able to put it down. I love the series, and see nothing here to make me want to read yours. Sorry. One of the reasons the series was so popular was because of the relationship between Clary and Jace. Girls ate it up. You’ve given no indication of any romance.

    Please don’t waste the agents’ time by acknowledging you’re wasting their time. Just read their blogs and their comments on Twitter to discover they don’t like the line. Also, it’s obvious you’ve never queried before. SOON is not in an agent’s vocabulary. Some might get back to you quickly, most don’t.

    250 words

    He was going to kill him. (Tell us who ‘he’ is from the beginning. You haven’t built suspense like you’d hoped). I agree that the first paragraph was good, but things started to slow down with all your breaks in the dialogue to present description. It didn’t flow as well as I would have liked. But I did like the voice.

    Good luck!

  5. K says:

    >Hmm. I thought I left a comment, but it's not showing up. Here it is again (sorry if this is a repeat!)

    Query: Elaborate. We have NO clue why Caleb is so important. In fact, the only thing we know is that he's 17 and lacking in faith. In short, tell me more.

    First 250: Took me two reads to fully grasp the sarcasm. The pronouns make for an ambiguous first sentence, which confused me.

    Some words stuck out as awkward to me, like "ire," and a few phrases felt out of place.

    From the first 250, it feels like this story would flow better from a 1st person POV, but that would include heavy revisions, and is entirely up to you.

    All that being said, I was intrigued by the query and 250. Who is Caleb? Why is a tough, good kid letting his friend boss him around? Why is a boy who seems turned off by fake girls at a raunchy club?

    You definitely got me interested. Good luck!

  6. Dorothy Dreyer says:

    >Query: I agree with the above comments, you have to elaborate – tell us how. How does he know there is a God and Satan, how does he play a part in this.

    Also, if this is set in Kansas City, I would call it urban fantasy or perhaps paranormal. Don't write that readers won't be able to put it down. An agent's first response would be, "Wanna bet?"

    Opening: I like the voice here. It shows the reader immediately the dark nature of the story. The third paragraph gets a little muddled. I know what you're trying to say, but I had to read it a couple time to place the characters and nicknames and relationships. Tighten and reword maybe.

    Good luck!

  7. Jessie says:

    >I Secret Author – I'm liking your premise, but have to agree that your query is on the too-short side. I recommend joining YALitChat and running your query through the query kick around. You'd be amazed at the help you can get there.
    The repetitious use of "yes" didn't sit well with me. Also, calling it a religious novel turned me off, whereas I'd been right with you at agnostic at best.
    Your writing is nice, but you could probably ditch the second paragraph. It's a clever way to introduce facts about your MC – I'll give you that – but it's still to early and slows you down. And I don't understand why Caleb's BEST friend is calling him by his middle name (and a wicked middle name at that), when Caleb obviously doesn't use it himself.
    I also agree about ditching the sultry and luscious descriptives. I do like your MC's "voice" though and I wish you luck.

  8. Stefanie says:

    >Query:
    I think the first sentence is a little on the long and meandering side. Maybe it's just a personal preference, but I like the initial hook to be short and punchy-like. Also, you mispelled 'below'. I like that your protagonist is different than most in that he isn't comforted by proof of the eternal; however, I don't think we know enough about the revealation to see why Caleb sees it as a sign of trouble. If they've been "duking it out since before the days of man", then what's the trouble now? And can you be more specific as to why Caleb is the one thing that can tip the scales in their favor? You don't have to give everything away in a query, but as it stands now this is a little on the vague side.
    In the second paragraph the first sentence is really long and wordy. It's always a good idea to read your writing out loud– I think if you did that here, you'd see what I mean. As it's written, it's thirty-something words without a pause (comma). Also, I wouldn't call it religious and fantasy. I'd pick one or the other– go with the reader base that's more likely to pick it up. As for the setting, you may want to consider working it into that first paragraph. To me it seems like it belongs with the synopsis part of the query, and, if nothing else, it will shorten that wordy sentence 🙂
    First 250:
    Overall, I really like the voice! The only thing I would caution you on is telling more than you're showing. For example, in the last paragraph, I would reword the sentence beginning "Here being a small…" so that it is more directly seen through Caleb's eyes. At the moment, it reads a little more like a narratative aside, kind of like: "oh yeah, and the setting is…" How is Caleb reacting (physically) to the things he sees? And don't forget about the other senses, either. I'm sure that place smells interesting 😉
    But, like I said, overall you've got great voice and smooth writing. I'd most likely keep reading.
    Good luck in the contest!