Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Query 44

Timesurfers

Fifteen-year-old Cate is lamenting a sucky ‘We R Ova’ text from her ex when things get weird, then terrifying. She witnesses four teenagers appear out of nowhere, disarm a bomb, commit a gruesome murder and demonstrate some freaky supernatural gifts before vanishing into thin air. Even freakier, everyone around her is frozen at the time, oblivious to the crime.

When the teens appear at her school, heads turn, girls sigh and jaws drop. But everyone knows them. Only Cate sees them for the strangers they are and she wants to know why.

She discovers they’re Timesurfers. Warriors from the future charged with protecting history, good and bad, from magical manipulation. She is enticed deeper into their secret world by a fascination with Austin, a Timesurfer with whom she forms a seductive and addictive bond.

When Cate realises there are two different types of Timesurfers she has a choice to make. If she chooses Austin she relinquishes her destiny to be an awesome, evil Timesurfer. When those closest to her reveal their loyalties, she’s left pondering whether good and evil are merely illusions. Her gifts make her indispensable to the evil Timesurfers. She’s like the chosen one for Team Evil. If she chooses good, her gifts are useless. She’ll be ordinary, back living her vanilla life, totally alone, except for Austin.

Doing the right thing and getting Austin should make her decision easy. However, being a super-cool badass suddenly becomes more tempting than Cate could ever have imagined.

TIMESURFERS is a 72,000 word YA urban fantasy, packed with action, laced with sexy and sprinkled with humour. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration

Comments

I like the fact that you're going for voice here. An authentic teen voice is sooo critical to YA. But I do think the voice in the query is a little uneven. I'm betting that's because you're serving two masters in the query: conveying information in an artificial, less-than-storytelling way and trying to do it in the style of your story. Striking the right balance is hard.

Fifteen-year-old Cate is lamenting a sucky ‘We R Ova’ text from her ex when things get weird, then terrifying.

That uneven voice pops up for me right off: "lamenting" and "sucky" don't feel like they belong to the same voice. I'll defer to others on 'We R Ova' but I'm not sure kids would capitalize, and I had to reread ova twice. Would 'we r ovah' work?

She witnesses

"witnesses" seems to break voice. I would just delete "She witnesses" altogether since it's obvious from the context that's what she does.

four teenagers appear out of nowhere, disarm a bomb, commit a gruesome murder and demonstrate some freaky supernatural gifts before vanishing into thin air.

OK, as a reader, I'm lost. I know what these teenagers are doing, but I don't know where they are (at school - no, the teens appear at school later; the mall; in Cate's house?) and 'freaky supernatural gifts' doesn't help me see what those gifts are. Not sure that Cate would refer to them as "gifts" either since she doesn't know what they are. I also understand from Cate's perspective it's a murder, but you as the author could help the reader here by saying something like "shoot/knife some dude in a hoodie and raybans."

Even freakier, everyone around her is frozen at the time, oblivious to the crime.

When the teens appear at her school, heads turn, girls sigh and jaws drop. But everyone knows them. Only Cate sees them for the strangers they are and she wants to know why.

In P1, the teens appear and everyone's frozen in time. Now the teens appear again and the results are quite different. Consider not using "appear" both times. Are all four of the teens guys? How does everyone know them? It seems like they just showed up, so that statement is very confusing to me. And then Cate seeing them "for the strangers they are" only adds to my confusion.

She discovers they’re Timesurfers. Warriors from the future charged with protecting history, good and bad, from magical manipulation.

I would combine the first two sentences. I think this is a good place to introduce the two types of Timesurfers. By bringing up "magical manipulation," the reader will be asking who has the magic to manipulate? Of course, in the incident above, it seemed like some terrorist had planted a good old-fashioned bomb -- I didn't get even a hint of any "magical manipulation" happening there.

She is enticed deeper into their secret world by a fascination with Austin, a Timesurfer with whom she forms a seductive and addictive bond.

This breaks the YA voice completely. It's the author giving the reader information. Can you find a way to put this in your YA voice?

When Cate realises there are two different types of Timesurfers she has a choice to make. If she chooses Austin she relinquishes her destiny to be an awesome, evil Timesurfer.

You're getting a little ahead of yourself here. Right now, we have no idea that Cate has a destiny to relinquish so we don't yet understand there is any choice for her. It might help for us to know, too, how choosing Austin means she relinguishes her destiny. Does choosing Austin ALSO mean she's choosing good over evil for her own life?

When those closest to her reveal their loyalties, she’s left pondering whether good and evil are merely illusions. Her gifts

We don't know she has gifts. Are they the same as those "freaky supernatural gifts" above?

make her indispensable to the evil Timesurfers. She’s like the chosen one for Team Evil.

You're calling attention to the voice here. Choose either the telling sentence before or this last one in voice.

If she chooses good, her gifts are useless. She’ll be ordinary, back living her vanilla life, totally alone, except for Austin.

She has gifts, but they can only be used for evil? Help us understand how the gifts differentiate between being wielded for good or for evil. I'm also not sure why she can't become a good Timesurfer like Austin.

Doing the right thing and getting Austin should make her decision easy. However, being a super-cool badass suddenly becomes more tempting than Cate could ever have imagined.

With just a little more information as to why "suddenly" badass is tempting, this is a very good hook to end with.

TIMESURFERS is a 72,000 word YA urban fantasy, packed with action, laced with sexy and sprinkled with humour. This is my first novel.

Most agents want you to show the action, sexy and humour within the body of the query rather than being told it's there.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

7 comments:

fairyhedgehog said...

I really like the sound of this and I love the title. Phoenix's comments are as usual spot-on but I wanted to add a few thoughts.

I was less fazed than Phoenix by the lack of setting but it would be good to know where this happens. I had Cate sitting at a cafe table but that might not be what you intended at all!

I'd like details about the murder and the gifts - the paragraph goes from detailed to vague here.

I really agree that you need to explain about Cate's gifts and why they only apply to the Evil side a bit sooner. Otherwise it doesn't make sense for me.

I really like the idea that she can be badass and use her gifts, or goodie and get her guy. It sounds like something I'd like to read.


Good luck with the revision!

vkw said...

I actually didn't think this query was bad at all. I understood what the story was about and sparked some interest. (I don't care for YA so that is saying something).

I do see/understand Phoenix's comments about the uneven voice.

"Lamenting" does seem wrong.

I would try something like . . . "when suddenly the world freezes". Here is my reasoning . . that is the first thing Cate would notice, if only because that would be the easiest to figure out. She wouldn't notice a series of events and then then everyone being frozen.

P2. . . the voice is uneven again. Cate next sees the teens at school and everyone seems to know them. (heads turning and jaws drop an imply attractiveness but also weirdness and stranger danger). You may want to clarify.

How does she discover they are Timesurfers? I imagine she confronts them? We need to know if this is a big part of the plot.

"seductive and addictive bond" is wrong. That just doesn't fit.

She becomes more fascinated with this secret world as her relationship with one of the surfers develops.

If I am getting this right - the plot is Cate is torn between doing the right thing and becoming a nobody (but she gets the boy) or becoming a baddie.

What are the advantages of being a super-villian? And that leads us to what is the point of the baddies trying to change time to begin with.

I get Hitler and Napoleon and their followers wanting to change history. Actually every loser in history probably wants to rewrite history but why would anyone else?

vkw

Anonymous said...

Hi Pheonix,

Thanks heaps for such a detailed and useful critique. I do want the voice to be stong and it's damned hard to get a balance between that and getting the info in. I struggle with it. Will reflect on your comments over a bucket of coffee and a few days and then take another crack. I feel it will be one of many. I'm sending you a big high five from the land Down Under. Tess

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments FHH - love that tag. I'lll greatfully take them into consideration as I continue with the process. Cate was actually at a bus stop. An uninspiring setting - yet required.

Will work on fleshing out the murder - head being torn from boys body by Timesurfer - and gifts.

Great and useful comments.
Tess xx

Anonymous said...

Thanks vkw for your thoughts - all appreciated and useful. Tess

Anonymous said...

Hi Tess,
Great voice, just a few wrinkles on the road to query perfection - as others point out so well. "We R Ova" is a little too down under for me. You know "cah" (car) "mahket" (market) if you are going to pitch in N.A. I'd use "over". Small tiny point, depends on where you want to go.
I'll bet it is a fun read.
Bibi

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback Bibi. I do seem to be showing my Aussie slang. So weird, the things that do and don't translate. Appreciate the positive words. Tess