Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Agent:

Lia Lewiston hasn’t had a peaceful night’s sleep since she was orphaned as a child. Chased through the woods by a hunter and his ruby-hilted knife, she believes her nightmares are the product of her tragic past--until she meets Colson Vane.

Now, Lia doesn’t know what to believe. At night he kills her in her dreams, but by day Colson becomes the one person she connects with the most. Drawn to him, she longs to reveal the truth about herself--about the family of exotic pets she was given at her christening. The rambunctious and adoring pixies who each presented her with a gift: music, wit, dance, grace, song, and beauty. But these are secrets she can never tell; not to someone she knows is keeping secrets from her. When the terrifying queen of the faeries appears in her dreams, Lia’s beliefs are again changed. Because the truth about why the hunter kills her night after night is worse than she imagined. Doomed to die on her sixteenth birthday, to keep a faery prophecy from coming true, Lia now has to fight for her life or the danger of her nightmare will become the reality she feared.

SLEEP, a YA romantic suspense retelling of Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty tale, is complete at 72,000 words. While intended to be first in a fairy tale quartet, SLEEP is a stand alone novel.



I see the black clouds first, puffing from the trees and trailing up like wispy smoke. My palms prickle, because I know what happens next. He’s coming. Same as he has in a thousand other unchanging dreams.

A shiver bristles from the base of my spine to the top of my scalp as trees beckon with pointy fingers. I keep my gaze forward. Pretend not to notice their hollowed eyes in burl faces. Their wide grinning mouths as they reach for me. I need to run but I’m rooted in the middle of a gravel road. The crooked sign ahead must be some kind of subconscious joke. CAUTION, it warns. As if I need the warning.

My stomach jumps to my throat when I hear it--the crunching of gravel paces ahead.

Crunch. He moves closer.

Crunch. Closer still.


The hunter moves into sight, fingers clenched white around the ruby encrusted hilt of his knife. My heart bursts, screaming for me to run, and when my feet pull free of the road, I whip around and pitch forward. The grinding behind me signals the chase is on. I’m fast, flying down the road, and even though I know what happens next, I pray that maybe, just maybe, this time my dream will change.

But the hunter is faster than me. He reaches out, grabs my arm. Hooks my leg with his foot and I fall face first. Then he is on me, breath warm on my neck.


A.E. Martin said...

I like the premise, but your first paragraph didn't make me think the story was fairytale-esque so I was a little thrown when I got to the second paragraph. I'd also like to know what makes her connect with Colson when he kills her in her dreams since I'd think she'd be terrified and want to stay away from him. What about him draws her in even though she knows she should probably stay away? I also wonder why no one can know the truth about her, what will happen if someone knows? Is it a world where fairies and magic are unknown? I wasn't sure if the story was a completely fairy tale world or if it was a modern world where magic/pixies/etc were not known to everyone. Does Colson come across as a normal guy to her?

With your 250, I heard some good advice from an agent once who talked about using phrases like "palms prickle" "heart bursts" and "stomach jumps to throat" bc even though those phrases are for emotional effect the fact that your palms, heart and stomach can't actually do those things makes the phrases weaker than they need to be so you should try to convey her fear by using different phrases.

Nicole Steinhaus said...

I love the tension in this sentence: "Now, Lia doesn’t know what to believe. At night he kills her in her dreams, but by day Colson becomes the one person she connects with the most." But it does arouse questions like in the comment above. As long as there is a believable/valid reason that she can connect with Colson, it would work, though.

As far as the query, it's a little confusing. I, too, didn't expect it to go the fairytale route. The character and world aren't explained enough to give me a clear idea of how this story plays out. Is she a fairy? Or a fairy in her dreams? And where does this story take place?

I've also heard not to start out with a dream, but I think b/c the premise is so centered around this dream, it long as it's not too long, just a snippet of the dream.

Maria said...

I like the details in the query but would love a little more of "why" she connects with Colson. Like others said, a little more to make clear what "world" the story is set in.
Nice sense of suspense in the last 2 paragraphs.

Dee said...

Ditto Maria- otherwise very nice and your writing has a clear, resonant quality. Good Luck!

An Agent Intern said...

Not bad, but I didn't see anything that felt unique/different than the other fairy retellings right now. I'm sure your book is definitely different, so maybe focus a bit on that in your query/first few pages? I'd continue reading at least until I met the love interest, and I'd be curious how much of the book takes place in her dreams rather than reality.

Julia K said...

I loved everything about this. If I were an agent I would definitely ask for more :)

Heather Kelly said...

I would love to feel connected with the voice of our protagonist right away in the query--the first line about being orphaned seemed too normal. I would start with something more unusual.

I loved the juxtaposition of the guy terrorizing her dreams, who is in fact her love interest in her waking life.

And the first 250 definitely hooked me!

The Agent said...

It is unclear in your query why Lia is drawn to Colson Vane. If he is the person who is killing her over and over again in her dreams, there's got to be something INCREDIBLY compelling about this guy, so she doesn't run away screaming the first time she sets eyes on him.

I also have no idea of when and where this story is set. Is this a modern day retelling, or is your story set in a fairytale world? Are pixies and faeries commonplace, or do they appear only to Lia?

Lastly, a prophecy dooming you to die on your sixteenth birthday is a big deal. As such, this story element should not be buried at the end of the query. If anything, it should be the opener.

As I am not seeking paranormal romance, I would not be inclined to read further. Another agent interested in that subgenre might feel differently, but you would do well to more firmly establish why Lia is attracted to the one person she seemingly should avoid.