Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Surprise Agent Invasion #40

Genre: YA historical (1850s) with a ghostly twist
Word Count: 107, 000


After a terrifying near-possession as a child, Olivia Herald rejects her powers to speak with the dead.

Years later, en route from Spain after her father's death, seventeen-year-old Olivia sets the ship Empyreal afire while escaping its murderous crew—dooming all hands aboard. She barely makes it off alive, and so does the captain who instigated the attacks on Olivia and her traveling companions.

Once she is rescued by another ship headed to the West Indies, signs that the Empyreal’s crew are not resting easily disturb Olivia’s nights. Her days are occupied with more worldly concerns: how will she earn passage back to the States from Antigua? And should she give in to her feelings for a young sailor, when their romance is complicated by her memories of the shipboard attack and her secret struggles to keep the spirit world at bay? And most importantly, will she ever see justice for her murdered friends?

When word arrives that the Empyreal’s captain not only survived the sinking, but blamed Olivia for causing it, she’ll need to return to the States to clear her name—or risk hanging. But it’s not only her own life at stake: Olivia’s neglected abilities to speak with the dead have left her with a foot in each world, and the vindictive spirits of the Empyreal’s crew can use that connection to invade the world of the living.

As the veil between the worlds becomes ever thinner, Olivia will need to overcome her fears and reclaim her powers in order to stop the sinister shades.

I am a PAL member of SCBWI whose past publishing credits include a MG short story, “Hornworms", in Hunger Mountain, a YA short story called "Ebb Tide" which took third place in the WOW! Women on Writing Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest, and numerous nonfiction pieces in such magazines as Birds & Blooms and Sierra Heritage Magazine. For a complete list of my writing credits, please see my blog at http://angelicarjackson.blogspot.com.

First 250:

Miss Werner's Female Seminary
(A Young Ladies' Boarding School)
April, 1843


"Where are you taking me?" I planted my feet, but Miss Bonney pulled me into motion again. What had I done this time? Did she find the copy of H.C. Andersen's fairy tales I hid inside the hollow oak? I was forever in trouble for removing books from the school library, but fairy tales begged to be read in the woods.

"I'm taking you to the east wing, to end this superstitious nonsense once and for all," she answered. "I will solve two problems with one fell swoop—get some use out of that room, and cure you of lying."

"But I don't lie." I tried to defend myself, my breath coming in puffs as I trotted to keep up.

Miss Bonney snorted. "I suppose you deny telling the other girls the ghost of the groundskeeper and his dog walk the gardens? Or that Tabitha's late grandmother wanted to speak with her? Some of those girls haven't slept in a week. You're nearly ten years old, Olivia, you're getting too old for such stories."

"They're not stories—there are shades all around us, all the time. And I told the others they didn't need to fear these spirits; they don't mean us any harm." I had only shared those things because I thought they would offer some comfort—like how the groundskeeper continued to protect us, even after he was found face-down in the violets last year.


  1. I really like the concept for your story. Lots of potential to create a great, chilling ghost story. I was a little confused in the query by the captain and his crew being a murderous lot, but then the captain arriving in States and going to the authorities about her sinking the ship? One might think he'd try to lay low and cover up his own criminal actions and give another story for the sinking? What did he have to gain by doing what he did and perhaps drawing her into a conflict and outing himself, as opposed to saying the fire started another way?

    Though the reason she avoids using her powers was based in a childhood event, so I knew why you were starting with her at that age, the opening paragraphs weren't the strongest choice. Discussions of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen might help set your time, but you have only one chance to grab your reader, and that opening para's not your best. The fact that she sees the old groundskeeper and his dog is much more enticing. Better still is the fact the other kids haven't slept in a week but she herself took some comfort in these presences.

    But old Bonney saying she was taking the girl to that particular room just to get some use out of it seems gratuitous if something unusual is going to happen there and it's otherwise little-used. Things should develop organically. Hope this makes sense.

    It sounds like a really intriguing historical ghost story. Good luck!

  2. Why do you have a prologue? Do you really need it?

    I think it's probably working against you, especially in just your first 250 words. But I love your premise and I find it quite easy to edit out prologues :) 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.

  3. I agree with the concerns above, and will say that I found the query a little disjointed. Also, the voice of this prologue doesn't sound like a nine year old, so not sure it's serving you well. However, there are still a lot of elements here that caught my attention -- historical fiction, Spain, ghost story, romance! -- and I'd really like to see more. Please send the first 50 pages, attached as a Word document (.doc), to submissions@fullcircleliterary.com. In the subject line, please include my name and Agent Invasion. Looking forward to hearing from you!
    All my best,
    Taylor Martindale
    Full Circle Literary