Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5 #43 Angela Ackerman

Query Synopsis:

Between a criminal record and the social nightmare of living in an old folk’s home, fourteen-year-old Sabrina Milo has plenty of baggage to carry around. Determined to start over, the last thing she needs is a teenage stalker who’s willing to use both against her, or a graffiti scandal at her new school that sends all eyes in her direction. Cloaked in mistrust, there’s no one to turn to when Sabrina overhears the murder of an elderly woman in the apartment above her own and worse, the killer knows he left behind a silent witness. Sabrina’s only chance of finding the killer before he finds her lies in her criminal past…if she’s willing to embrace it.

Chapter One

When Mom and Dad started throwing around the D word, I never imagined an old folk’s home would become my Post Divorce Relocation. I mean as far as top choices go, it’s right up there with a land fill. The kids at my old school would say this is karma and I had it coming. And, if I’m honest about it, maybe they’re right. But when you add this to having to transfer to a new middle school only a month before summer vacation, well, that’s not just karma. It’s the universe with a serious hate-on for me.

As I step out of my room, I brace for the usual reek of Rub A535 cream and garlic that leeches out of the ancient carpet in the hall. This morning though, the smell is overridden by something even worse. A smoky odor of sizzling ham wafts from the kitchen where Mom is, who is clearly jazzed about sending me off on my BIG DAY.

My mouth waters, betraying me, but my granite-stiff stomach knows better. Eating right now is not a good idea, but I drag myself along the dingy hall anyway, an inmate on Death Row heading toward her last meal.

In the kitchen, Mom glances up from the skillet. “About time,” she says, poking some eggs. “Get lots of sleep?”

I ignore the question. “Three words, Mom: cruel and inhumane. Come on, let me start summer vacation early.”

“I’m done talking about this, Sabrina.” She places a cereal bowl at my elbow. "You're going."


  1. This is one of my favorites. I think the query is stellar! And I LOVE the voice and pace and I think it sounds very unique. Can't wait to read it someday (soon).

    Wish I could be more constructive, but I can't. I think it's great.

  2. I was intrigued by the setting here from the get go, and now I find out it's a murder mystery! Awesome. Besides the unique setting, you have given us hints at a character we will feel for and be rooting for (she wants to start over, her parents are divorced, new school, etc). The tension of a murder mystery, the MC's inner conflict, I would pick this up in a flash.

    One small thing stood out for me on the query, and that was the line about carrying around baggage. That sounded cliche to me and you could probably think of a fresher way to write that sentence. But other than that, I agree with L.J., this is great.

  3. Okay, first off, I really enjoyed reading this. I loved the voice. Wonderful job. My biggest issue (which really isn't all that big) is with the transition to the second paragraph. I felt that jarring associated with switching tense. Now, I understand the first paragraph is about what's already happened but a simple fix like, this is karma and I HAVE it coming would solve the whole thing. One little word. How do you like that for an in depth critique?? :) Use that great teen voice of yours to find a better and more age appropriate way to say that baggage line in the query... GOOD LUCK!!

  4. You do an excellent job in the first paragraph of conveying the situation and Sabrina’s emotions without over-describing. You give a very clear idea of the Sabrina’s voice and the obvious dread and frustration that she feels. It feels very genuine and relatable, and I think that it captures the teen persona very well. There’s even a nice touch of sarcasm, without taking it too far and making her unlikeable. The exchange between Sabrina and her mom feels very natural. I think that your descriptions are evocative, but at some points they can be little confusing, like when you refer to the stench rising form the carpet and her “granite-stiff” stomach. This passage is intriguing and compelling, I felt an immediate connection with Sabrina, and I’m very interested in her story. Nice job!

    The first half of your query is a little confusing and convoluted. I feel like you’re trying to pack too much information on each sentence. I think that if you simplify the descriptions into shorter sentences and infuse it with your great teen the voice from your passage, you could have a very strong query, as well.

  5. Thank you all for the kind words and feedback. I really appreciate a clean look at this as it's hard to be objective when you've started at, tweaked and word-wrestled for so long.

    All the best,

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse


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