Monday, March 26, 2012

Surprise Agent Invasion #13

Title: A Light in the Window
Genre: YA Historical
Word Count: 66,000 words


Seventeen-year-old Catherine McBride has a head full of modern ideas and a heart full of love for the mysterious new farmhand Patrick, neither of which gives her strict family any pleasure. Rumors about Patrick’s past as a drifter swirl and she is forbidden from socializing with him. But Catherine’s instincts compel her to go against all warnings, and even her own responsible nature, to meet with him secretly. 

When a gang of criminal vagrants and three mysterious messages endanger not just Catherine and Patrick’s secret love, but also his reputation and her safety, Catherine realizes the worst thing she can do is let fear keep her silent. It falls to her to bring everything she knows about Patrick to light before the wrong man goes to prison, the true criminal gets away, and another victim is found dead.

I am a teacher with a degree in social science and a concentration in history. A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW is a YA historical romance set during the Depression era. The opening chapter won first place in a contest held by Writer’s Type. 

First 250:

A train’s whistle wheezed, and steam pummeled into the sky like an erupting volcano. It had been a long walk to the train station in the downpour, but the Depot Manager, Mr. Cooper, expected me. I wiped water from my face and walked faster, anxious to catch him before he got too busy with the incoming locomotive to trade with me.

The remains of the engine’s smokestack swirled and blended into the gray two-story station building. A wooden platform jutted out to meet the tracks. It remained dry thanks to a generous overhang. Two denim-clad depot workers stood on the platform near the incoming train. One worker had gray hair and a creased brow. He elbowed the younger worker standing next to him and pointed to a nearby freight car. The door of the boxcar lay open, but I couldn't make out its darkened contents.

A line of dry, well-dressed passengers exited from further up the train. I peeked down at my rain soaked dress. With hair plastered around my face and clothing clinging to me like a second skin, I appeared more waterlogged rodent than young woman.

But racket from the open boxcar distracted me from worrying over my appearance. Yells, cracks and thuds echoed. Nervous passengers glanced side to side. They clasped luggage under their arms and shuffled between the workers and me.


  1. I enjoy historicals for their ability to transport me to another time and place, but I found this query a bit confusing. When you say 'the wrong man', are you referring to Patrick (in which case you should just say before Patrick is wrongly convicted). You say 'another person victim is found dead' yet you never mentioned a first death. You mentioned the gang endangering their love and Patrick's reputation, but he was already considered a drifter, so a tarnished reputation didn't seem like very high stakes. I couldn't make heads or tails of this story. The conflict is completely external, her parents' disapproval, which might be realistic but doesn't create a lot of emotional conflict and suspense in the relationship. Shouldn't they have their own conflict, as well?

    I hope my comments make some sense. You might address these in the actual manuscript, but I'd advise you revise the query to reflect that. Thanks, and good luck!

  2. Forbidden love and a hot young farmhand, huh? OKAY! I am a bit confused by how you presented the almost seems like the heroine will have to betray her love in order to keep the wrong man from going to prison. Unless it is Patrick who might be going to prison--I was thinking possibly that Patrick might be the bad guy in which case, way to increase the tension! I think probably that he isn't the bad guy, though. I agree with Gina that as a drifter, the possibility that Patrick will get a tarnished reputation doesn't seem like very high stakes. With all that said, I was really intrigued by this--any confusion I have may be entirely due to a too-short blurb and everything may be totally clear in the ms. I'd love to see the 1st 100 pages + synopsis in hardcopy. My mailing address is on my website

  3. I also found the query slightly confusing, but I would love to take a look at this.

    Could you please email the full manuscript in .doc form to suzie at nancycoffeyliterary dot com. And if you could paste the query into the first page of the document and put REQUESTED MATERIAL in the subject line of the email, that would be perfect.

  4. I agree with the other ladies that this query didn't present your novel quite as well as it should have. But I'm also really interested and would love to see the first 50 pages. Please send the partial to, attached as a Word document (.doc). In the subject line, please include my name and Agent Invasion. I look forward to hearing from you!
    All my best,
    Taylor Martindale
    Full Circle Literary