The Writer’s Voice: EXPIRATION DATE Query + 250

QUERY:

Dear Agent,

According to Treyton Staub’s birth certificate, his heart will kill him exactly a month after his sixteenth birthday. No one outlives their expiration date. His best friend Hunter’s gravestone is all the proof he needs of that.

Hayleigh, Hunter’s twin sister, is unconvinced. Her neighbors are suing their pediatrician for giving their healthy 11-year-old daughter Charlotte a false expiration date. Hayleigh is sure that Charlotte and Treyton will survive their expiration dates—and that Hunter’s suicide at 11:58 p.m. was pointless. She and Treyton embark on a last-minute road trip to find a mysterious shaman who claims to know death dates, not just expiration dates.

Instead of getting the positive answers he seeks from the shaman, Treyton learns his cause of death will not be an enlarged heart, but instead a predicted date of suicide due to insanity. This insanity manifests as Hunter’s ghost, whom Hayleigh cannot see and who haunts Treyton with constant requests to end his life. When Charlotte proves she sees Hunter’s ghost, too, and Hunter demands her suicide as well, Treyton is determined to keep her alive. But no one’s ever won a court case about expiration dates before, and the ghost that haunts them might be nothing but evidence of their insanity.

EXPIRATION DATE is a YA contemporary sci-fi novel complete at 52,000 words. I am a regular contributor to the QueryTracker blog. My essay “The Dark Lord’s Descent” will be published in Harry Potter for Nerds II in summer 2015.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

FIRST 250:

My best friend’s funeral is so predictable I shouldn’t have bothered coming. Everyone wears black. No one cries. No one except Hayleigh, who’s sitting in the front row where she can’t hide it. Her shoulders shake and her head is bowed.

In front of the cross, Pastor Locklear takes another deep breath. I bet he’s about to start on Jesus. How Jesus embraced his expiration date, and everyone else should, too. How Hunter was a Good Christian for pressing that gun into his chin.

Not that anyone but his family and me knows how he died. The obituaries come out a week in advance.

The pastor doesn’t even open his Bible. “In John 7:30, it says…” Here it comes. I grab my phone from my pocket and open the file called “Notes for My Funeral.” For the love of God, don’t mention Jesus, I write. I’m aware of the irony. While I write, Pastor Locklear drones on. “‘No one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.’ Jesus always had his enemies. But his expiration date informed the actions of those who hated him, and Hunter, too, was spared until…”

I don’t know why they always read this verse at funerals. It doesn’t even apply. For one thing, Hunter’s hour has obviously already come. For another, it’s not like people don’t have accidents. They get run over by buses. They find out the hard way they’re allergic to peanuts or bee stings. Those funerals are sad.

Comments

  1. WHY IS NO ONE COMMENTING ON THIS

    This is beautiful and I want this on the CW right NOW. PLEASEEEEE.

    I love it sooo much 🙂 Awesome query, got my heart racing. Beautiful. Nice job.

  2. absolutely killer…and the voice is exceptional. you already know how I feel about your writing! keeping everything crossed. <3

  3. Ok, I love it when a book makes my head spin. I’m not sure I can even type a coherent thought, but I sure as Hell want to read this book.

    YEah. Wow.

    I’d wish you luck, but honestly–you won’t need it.

    Great job!

  4. Hi, Rochelle. Just wanted to let you know that EXPIRATION DATE was one of the entries I seriously considered adding to my team. I’ve seen similar premises before, but I thought the legal action you hinted at toward the end of your query was an intriguing twist.

    If you’d like some additional feedback on your query and first page, feel free to e-mail them to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. I won’t be able to take a look until I get my teammates’ entries squared away (which will probably take a few weeks), but I’d be happy to share a few more thoughts.

    • Krista, thank you! Being so close is tough, but the entries this year were so good it doesn’t surprise me. I will email you now, but please feel free to take your time. Go #teamMaries!

  5. Hi Rochelle! This was on my short list too, because I also really liked the legal aspect of this and your writing/voice is really strong. There were two things that held me back and made me concerned the book itself might not be ready. One, it’s short for YA sci-fi at only 52k, which makes me wonder if the book needs to be expanded on and the setting needs to be explored more thoroughly. Two, I was totally on board with this and you were in the Yes pile, until the ghost showed up in the query and then it got moved to the No pile sadly. That completely threw me off and took me out of a gritty legal sci-fi drama and into paranormal territory. My suggestion is to see if you can find a way to revise the book so that you remove all of the ghost/paranormal elements and keep it strictly sci-fi. Like, is there a way that the character could have left a video journal before they died? Could they be working with a sibling instead? Something that feels more sci-fi and realistic and less like ghosts, which are pretty overused these days anyway. I think if you look at these two issues with your book and work on them you might get a lot more requests from agents… but of course this is just my opinion, so feel free to take it or leave it. 🙂

    • Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth! I am working on expanding it as I tend to write sparsely–it’s 55k now and my goal is 60k.

      Since the ghost may or may not be real or just evidence of the insanity predicted, there really isn’t another way to do that. Reading a diary entry wouldn’t make him feel like maybe his doctor was right, etc. I don’t know how best to describe it to make it more psychological than paranormal. I’ll definitely be showing these critiques to CPs who’ve read it so they can help me write a query that best describes my book.

      Thanks again for taking the time to leave a critique! I really appreciate it.

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