Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Surprise Agent Invasion #30

Genre: middle-grade novel
Word Count: 52,000


While vacationing at the ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru, 13-year-old Miranda
finds herself mysteriously plunged 500 years into the past, at the time of
the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Miranda must choose between
finding her way home and using her knowledge of history to save the life
of Chaska, the Inca girl who befriended her.

Miranda becomes separated from the tour group and awakens in a moonlit
village, she is more lost than she knows. Evading capture by Inca guards,
she realizes that she has been transported into the distant past. An
aristocratic couple befriends her, mistaking her for a stranger from
another village, but the couple's daughter, Chaska, is jealous. Although
shy, Miranda rises to the occasion, and after saving Chaska from a deadly
snake and makes a friend of her former enemy, along with Kusi, Chaska's
cute brother. Miranda also befriends Pikichaki, a scrappy peasant boy,
flouting cross-class taboos.

As Miranda searches for a way home, she learns that Spanish invaders are
approaching Machu Picchu. The Inca townspeople are desperate to defend
their village at all cost, even believing human sacrifice will appease the
gods and help the Incas defeat the bloodthirsty Spaniards. An extremist
Inca priest selects Chaska to be killed. Miranda feels torn. Miranda’s
knowledge of history may be enough to save Chaska, but it could cost
Miranda’s only chance to return to her own time and family.

Though the characters are fictional, the setting is historically accurate.
The appendices include a brief history of the Incas, a glossary,
bibliography, discussion guide and maps.

The market is ripe for adventure stories, shown by the success of Rick
Riordan’s best-selling series combining modern kids with mythology of
ancient Greece and Egypt (Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Kane
Chronicles series.) Also, my novel ties into the middle-school social
studies curriculum covering the Incas.

Furthermore, there are relatively few books with Latina protagonists,
although there are 50 million Latinos in the U.S.

Travels with my husband, who is Peruvian-American, sparked my interest in
the Incas. I have 15 years of experience as an award-winning newspaper
journalist and dietitian, and am a member of SCBWI. I work well with
editors and am eager to promote my novel.

First 250:

I steadied myself against a tree trunk a safe distance from the cliff’s
edge and inhaled the scents of eucalyptus and the peppery hothouse smell
of the Peruvian jungle. My first view of Machu Picchu unfolded below me,
even more amazing than I had expected.

The city perched on a mountaintop, surrounded on three sides by a steep
gorge, and blue river, and ringed by even taller mountains. A ribbon of
mist swept over the ruins—rows of roofless grey stone houses, grassy
lanes, and a pyramid piercing the clouds. I froze, stunned by the beauty
of it. Until I heard a pinging sound.

It was Brandon, the hot guy from our tour bus, throwing stones. He was my
age, about 13. He aimed at a furry, grey animal no bigger than a rabbit—it
looked like the chinchilla I had seen in my guidebook. The animal
scrambled through a clump of flowers on a narrow ledge below the cliff.
Why had I thought Brandon was such a hunk?

“Good shot,” Stella crooned from Brandon’s side.

Brandon ran his square fingers over a jagged chunk of granite, eyes on the

“Next, I’ll nail the rat!”

“Please, leave it alone!” I stepped toward them. “Chinchillas are harmless.”

“Chinchilla?” Stella raised her eyebrows. “Like the fur coats?”

Brandon grinned and wound up his arm like a baseball pitcher.

“No!” I ran toward them, flailing on loose gravel. I slammed to my
stomach, skidding across the stones to edge of the cliff.

1 comment:

  1. I do enjoy a stories that explore little-used locales and time periods, so this is definitely high on that scale. I also agree with you that a time/travel adventure story set during the European conquest on the Incans could have a lot of potential.

    The voice, though, didn't quite seem suited to a great middle-grade adventure. It seemed too adult, too stiff and formal. The scene unfolding beneath her, the 'peppery, hothouse smell of the Peruvian jungle', her freezing, stunned by the beauty of it all.

    I hope my comments make sense. It's a really intriguing concept. Good luck!