Sunday, January 31, 2010



Dear Mystery Agent,

By the time sixteen-year-old Emma Riley realizes her life is in peril, she’s at the bottom of a canyon two thousand miles from home.

Like any self-respecting overachiever, Emma is thrilled when she’s invited to attend a small private school a few weeks into her junior year. She was recently dumped by her boyfriend (for her ex-best friend) and she’s ready for a change. The recruiter from Desert Mountain Academy is convinced of Emma’s aptitude, though he’s evasive about the exact qualities that make her a desirable candidate. He also fails to mention one pertinent detail about her new school: it’s a training facility for future intelligence operatives. Emma quickly suspects as much when classes include cryptography, document forgery, and serious instruction in martial arts. Despite the intimidating curriculum, she’s determined to make the most of her opportunity. Unfortunately, Emma renders herself unconscious with a tranquilizer gun on her first field trip—not the great start she was hoping for.

Her situation worsens when the students learn that a double agent has infiltrated the school. As it turns out, the girl Emma replaced didn’t die in a car accident—she was murdered. The administration quietly suspects Emma: she is the new transfer. Did she kill someone to secure her own position at the Academy? Emma discovers she’s under investigation after she catches her gorgeous and popular new boyfriend, Jack Cavanaugh, breaking into her room. She finds out that the academically-driven senior was assigned to spy on her and that he has found evidence implicating her as the double agent.

Emma is being framed, and she’s desperate to clear her name. It will take all of her courage and intellect to unmask the traitor who threatens the integrity of this elite CIA training program. The real double agent will stop at nothing to protect his or her identity—including an attempt on Emma’s life.

WHEN THE TIGER SMILES is a young adult suspense novel, complete at 85,000 words. The story is set near Phoenix, Arizona and takes place over the course of one semester. My own training in martial arts and outdoor survival lend authenticity to Emma’s experiences. My writings garnered first place in a scholarship contest and received honorable mention in the 2008 Writer’s Digest 77th Annual Writing Competition.

Thank you for your consideration.



  1. It looks like you have a great high-concept story full of action and adventure and you are a strong writer; however, to me, your query feels more like a synopsis. You need to tighten the focus and just give the reader a glimpse of what your story is about.

    Best of luck. I LOVE your title.

  2. This is a great query, and you've done pretty much everything right. But I will echo what the first poster said. It does need to be tightened. :)

    Good luck!

  3. Wow! Great concept and the writing is stellar, but it's sooooo long. You really need to condense this - a lot.

    The one comment I've read over and over is that if your query is overwritten, then an agent will assume the same of your novel. You somehow have to show her/him that you can get to the point.

    I wish you the best of luck with this. Maybe other posters will disagree with my comments.

  4. This sounds like a great story, but I think it's probably a little long for a query. Maybe tighten it and only have four paragraphs.

    Good luck!

  5. I love this idea! I really want to read about what happened with the tranquilizer. How funny!

    I don't think it's too long (and a lot of the others were even longer). It says what it needs to. I'm hooked!

    Good luck!

  6. I really liked this query, and while I agree it was a little long, i think it works here. I wouldn't change a thing. The only thing I did have a problem with was in your credentials section. I would state what works received honorable mention. Was it this one? If so, make sure to state it. If not, state the name of the books. In this case, it's a good thing to mention the other works..


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