Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Ms. Sciuto,

Gideon Hardy is eleven years old and going blind. The doctors said, “No cure,” and they meant it. No amount of money would buy a solution and no battle of wits could solve the problem. With the diagnosis, Gideon believes his days of being an ordinary kid, of hiking and stargazing, are over.

Then the sneaky shadow plaguing Gideon’s eyesight starts to whisper. Teasing him. Threatening him.

Not good.

While Gideon tries to ignore the shadow’s taunts, his parents and doctors try to help him adjust to living with a disability. But the constant concerns and corrections are too much, so he seeks respite in the only place he can: his dreams. When asleep, he meets and befriends Baku, a nightmare eater, who invites Gideon to spend more and more time in the dream world. Together they help other children escape from their darkest fears, and Gideon finds a new purpose, until Baku accidentally lets slip that staying asleep for too long might reap dangerous consequences  for human boys.

As darkness encases his vision, Gideon has to decide if he will abandon his parents and real life for his dreams, a place where he can still “see”.

GIDEON AND THE NIGHTMARE DEMON is a Middle Grade contemporary fantasy novel complete at 37,000 words. It is both creepy and heartwarming, like THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, and reminiscent of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, but for older children who are still more interested in exploring their dreams rather than chasing them.

This is my first novel. Currently, 1,485 tweeps follow my Twitter and I am a founding member of Wordsmith Studio, a writing group of 140 members. I also went to art school, so there’s that.

After reading several blog posts (stalking Twitter, whatever), I appreciate your transparency as an agent, reporting do’s and do not’s via your personal Tumblr. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. Per your instructions, please find the first 250 words pasted below.

Best Regards, 
S.T.


GIDEON AND THE NIGHTMARE DEMON

Gideon Hardy stood on the stage of a large opera house with rows of empty wooden benches gawking back at him. Thick velvet curtains hung from the fly loft, the hems nailed to the floor by rusted railroad ties, closing off any possible retreat.

Gideon scanned the house, looking for where the evil sorcerer hid. The hint of movement, the brim of a pointed hat. A wisp of black cape. Anything. 

Lightning shot across the domed ceiling, nearly missing the enormous chandelier. Thunder boomed with no delay between sight and sound. Impossible from inside a building, but then this was a dream. Gideon knew that much.

“You need me, Gideon. Become a friend of the shadows and they will gladly embrace you.” From somewhere in the second balcony, the evil sorcerer laughed. “I will embrace you as a friend.”

“No thank you,” said Gideon, his voice barely leaving the stage. Gold and grand, the opera house made Gideon feel undersized. Beneath him, the orchestra pit glowed with amber light, as if a thousand fireflies hid below the lip. 

The sorcerer cackled again, still out of sight.

“Perhaps you need more demonstration of my power?” 

Gideon widened his stance, squaring his shoulders. Warrior pose, like his mother taught him. In his right hand, he held an oak wand. He’d never used a magical wand before, but it somehow felt natural in his grasp. Familiar. 

Again, he saw a flash of lightning and heard the boom of thunder. This time the chandelier shattered.

9 comments:

Karen lee Hallam said...

Love this premise! "Baku, a nightmare eater, who invites Gideon to spend more and more time in the dream world. Together they help other children escape from their darkest fears." sounds like a fantastic tale.

And i enjoyed the intrigue of the character (evil sorcerer) hiding in the shadows. very nice work, if I may say so. :) good luck.

Andrew said...

Fascinating concept. I like it and I like that your main character has vision issues.

Good luck!

michelleimason said...

I think I may have seen this at WriteOnCon...

I love the way the shadow taking his eyesight talks to him. Overall this is a really strong query. The only thing is that it seems like it goes pretty far into the story in order to show the stakes, but if it works, do it. I like the comp paragraph, too.

The first 250 does a good job drawing me in. It does break one of the major rules--not to open with a dream--but since dreams are a vital part of your story, you should be able to get away with it. The imagery is great.

Good luck!

Wendy Parris said...

Really love this idea! Your writing is vivid and the stakes are clear. Well done!

Two tiny things: I've read that writers shouldn't/don't need to put in their queryies that they're pitching their first novel. Anyone else heard this?

Also, in the third paragraph of your query, think you mean "nearly hitting/striking" not "nearly missing."

Good luck!

ami said...

I agree with Wendy, don't mention it's your first novel--not that it's a bad thing, it's just that you're wasting words. I'd also tighten up the bio--although I did like your voice in it! ; )

Great query. I think this premise is really fun and intriguing--and everything is quite clear in the query. It seems like it'd be fun for MGers to read the stuff that's going on with Gideon in real life and in his dreams.

Good Luck!

Annmarie Worthington said...

I love the premise. It is very intriguing. I would leave "Not good" and the fact that you are a first time novelist out of your query though.

Margaret G. said...

I love this concept -- a boy going blind finding distraction/comfort in his dreams.

I was confused by the shadows that tease and threaten him. Do they have to do with his dreams? I also wondered if, in your query, diving faster into the meat of your book -- the dream world and Baku -- would tighten your query.

Like the others, I also agree that you don't need to mention this is your first novel.

I love your writing style -- especially this: "Gideon scanned the house, looking for where the evil sorcerer hid. The hint of movement, the brim of a pointed hat. A wisp of black cape. Anything."

Good luck!

Alison Miller said...

LOVE this concept! And the intrigue of the story and the first couple paragraphs of the 250 definitely hooked me! Just a few thoughts on the query...

1)Lose the part about this being your first story and the twitter followers. a) will shorten the query b)you can include your twitter handle in the signature and if an agent is curious about your platform, he/she can check it out that way. I do like that you include something about the writing group you founded. I don't know that you need a specific number of members, maybe just indicate that it has a large and growing membership?

2)I like the format of the first few paragraphs of the query, but I feel like you can tighten it up some. I'm not crazy about the way you introduce the shadow "Then the sneaky shadow plaguing Gideon’s eyesight starts to whisper. Teasing him. Threatening him.
Not good." Especially that last line. It's a tiny infusion of voice and I think if the rest of the query were consistent with that voice, it'd be fine, but it didn't mesh with the rest of the query, IMHO.

Other than that - I think this rocks! Good luck!

Agent Sara Sciuto said...

What a compelling concept! I think the idea of a blind boy taking refuge in a dream world is really interesting. I felt the query description was a tad long and could be tightened a bit. Also, even with all of the description I still wasn't clear whether the shadow/dreamworld was good or bad--they seemed like part of the same thing. Is the dreamworld his respite, but it's also inhabited by shadow creatures that are dangerous...?

I really enjoyed the creepy factor in this sample page! I love that you dropped the reader right into one of our MC's dreams, since that's what the hook is. It really feels like it sets the tone for the rest of the book. This is what you want to do--let your readers know what they'll be in for. I would want to keep reading this one!