Wednesday, July 29, 2009

27 Query Contest

I am submitting for your consideration The Incredible Tie-Dyed Talking Horse. Thirteen year old Corey Quaid’s life shifts to the fantastic, when Big Blue, an Arabian stallion on the Quaid Horse Farm gets hit by a humongous bolt of lightning. Not only does it change the stallion's blue roan color to look more like a tie-dyed T-shirt, but now Big Blue can talk! In fact, he won’t shut up.

When Big Blue discovers the Quaid's hired hand is mixed up with a gang of horse thieves, Corey and his two best friends investigate and chase down the rustlers. Just when they think the case is solved, kidnappers seize the trio. Disaster licks their heels at every turn!

The 18,000 word, middle grade, magical realism novel brings adventure, fantasy and mystery, particularly to those who have enjoyed Phantom Outlaw At Wolf Creek by Sigmund Brouwer.

My writing credits include: winning fourth place for The Incredible Tie-Dyed Talking Horse in the West Virginia Writers competition (children’s category); first place for The Abbyville Angels in the West Virginia competition (children’s category); and an honorable mention for The Town Dump Mystery in the Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition (children’s category). I am a member of SCBWI and The West Virginia Writers, Inc.

Thank you for considering The Incredible Tie-Dyed Talking Horse. I would be pleased to send you my complete manuscript.

“Blue! Get your butt over here.” I shout into the darkening sky. Darn horse, running off like that. “Come on! It’s gonna rain.” Why didn’t he stay in our holler? Safe.

Thunder rumbles through my West Virginia Mountains. I lean over Neon’s neck and pat him. He trembles under me. “Easy boy,” I whisper and watch his ears swivel back, listening. He chomps on the bit, eager to go.

Lightning crackles and zigzags above us. One humongus bolt splinters into a zillion pieces lighting the whole sky. I spot Blue standing on the ridge above and watch in horror as a silver netting of electricity settles over him. In the brilliant flash he glows like a jewel. His long mane and tail stand out straight from his body. Then his legs buckle. He’s down!

I forget safety. I forget everything, except Blue and push Neon into a gallop. We charge up to my old pal. He’s sprawled in the dirt not moving, head twisted. Odors of burnt hair and flesh fill my nose.

I jump to the ground and wrap my arms around his neck. “Blue, wake up!” Raindrops mingle with my tears. Our farm’s prize-winning stallion. More rain falls, buckets of it. I hunch over his head keeping the water from his nostrils.

When the storm rolls away rain still spits from the black sky. Blue’s eyes flutter open. Deep in his pupils a weird yellow light flickers. I look closer. Wow! They’re glowing like fourth-of-July sparklers.


  1. The plot sounds intriguing and cute for kids. I'm not sure about the word count: is that normal for MG?

    On to the pages...

    There's some good description here that I think would entertain kids a lot (like the fourth-of-July sparklers in the eyes). And while this is fast paced, it's almost too fast paced. You move pretty quickly from the storm to waking Blue up, but I think you miss the opportunity to explore the narrator's emotions there.

  2. I'm gonna agree with beth. The concept is intriguing, and the last line of that first paragraph, "In fact, he won't shut up," made me want to read more.

    You use a couple of exclamation points, which (in a query) probably ought to be replaced with simple, boring periods.

    The sample didn't pull me in, mainly because it moved too fast for me to get a grip on what was happening. It just threw me off balance as I was reading. Not hooked, not unhooked.

  3. Not hooked. But I'm pretty sure that's personal preference. It does sound like something I might have read as a kid, though.

  4. 18,000 words.... might be quite a bit short for MG, I think.

  5. Hooked by the query but then the writing falls just a tad flat for me. I'm not completely buying the voice as being thirteen in this sample. Probably just a little tweaking because it's a great idea. Great title, too.

  6. I'm hooked. I liked the voice. You did a great job reflecting that in the query. That's not easy.

    Good luck!

  7. The query sounds pretty good, and the credits certainly pumped it up, but the word count is pretty low. As an agent, I'd look at the first page wondering if it's low because you're targeting early-middle grade, or if it's low because you haven't developed the story fully.

    Then I read those 250 words, and I decide it's the second. You've gone so quickly from danger and worry to disaster to recovery, all without giving us a chance to get to know the main character. If this is typical of the rest of the book, you could probably double your word count and have a more engaging book.

  8. I liked the premise and was hooked enough to keep reading through the well written query. I agree with MsJudy, though, that the partial moves too quickly and we don't get to explore the emotions or meet the character adequately.

    This is one of the better entries that I've read so far. Well done!

  9. I think this might appeal to little kids. This is too short and too young for MG, I think. This might appeal to fans of Hank the Cowdog. Are those types of books classified as "children's books"? Maybe they're called "chapter books"? Whatever they are, it's not MG.

  10. the Query: I'm tickled by the way Big Blue can not only talk but won't shut up. Being a sucker for horses, I was hooked.

    On the other hand, 18,000 words may be on the low side for word count.

    the Sample: Good voice with action going from the very beginning. I would suggest another pass through to check grammar for things like commas. While there are good descriptions that add to the overall voice, it couldn't hurt to do a little more in terms of how the MC feels about what he's seen. It would tie me, as the reader, into the MC more.

  11. Talking horses sounds like younger than middle grade, and hasn't it been done a lot? (I used to watch Mr. Ed on TV when I was a kid). Maybe add another nuance to separate your book from the crowd.

    Didn't read on to the pages...

  12. Sorry, 18k isn't a novel. It's a novelette, which we don't represent. Even as a MG novel, it should be longer. 40k, at least. If this is a chapter book (think Beverly Cleary and people), we don't represent that either.

    The premise doesn't hook me; I don't feel connected to the characters enough to form an emotional attachment to them.

    There are some punctuation errors in the sample page; you may want to double check on the rules for punctuation in dialogue, particularly in the first sentence. Present tense is also a tough thing to pull off, and should be as invisible as third when it works well. This, the stream-of-conscious narrative, distracts me.

    I'd generally say it's unwise to wrap one's arms around a horse who's just been struck by lightning. Even if the horse manages to get up, he'll be wild and frightened and not terribly concerned about a human's safety.

    Sorry, this just didn't hook me. Young readers would probably love the premise, but it's not for me.