Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #25

Dear Mystery Agent:

DANGER TASTES DREADFUL is a middle grade fantasy, complete at 34,000 words. Think of the gentle humor and friendship in Eva Ibbotson's THE GREAT GHOST RESCUE with the classic adventure style of the NARNIA books. The novel stands alone, but has series potential.

Ten-year-old Bernie is a troll, and trolls should be fearless. At least, that’s what Bernie’s dad says. But before Bernie gets a chance to prove himself, giants stomp into the forest and steal his parents. Now, the timid, always-hungry Bernie and his mischievous, rock-obsessed best friend, Tish, must travel together across the barren lands to Mount Dreadful and find a way to keep their loved ones from becoming the main course in a giant feast.

Inside Mount Dreadful's smoky caverns, Bernie and Tish discover the giants have enemies of their own who may prove even more dangerous than the giants. Bernie and Tish must figure out who is friend and who is foe, rescue the captured trolls and escape the mountain, all without getting squashed or roasted or eaten alive.

I have published short stories in several small press SFF print anthologies, as well as stories and poetry for both children and adults in magazines such as Beyond Centauri, Strong Verse, and Enchanted Conversation.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




To a troll, trouble had its own spicy, cinnamon smell. Bernie recognized it because a faint whiff always hung around his best friend, Tish. But the tang in the air smelled much stronger. He bent down, close to the ground. His green, sweaty feet stank, but it was something else. He sniffed again, then stuck out a thick, stubby tongue and licked the dirt path.

It tasted bitter, though somehow familiar. Bernie thought about where he might have tasted it before, when he felt a beetle wriggling on his tongue. He spat out slobber-covered twigs and leaves across the path, but caught the beetle and munched on it, enjoying its crunchy flavor.

Bernie stopped chewing. That bitter flavor was the taste of danger! He looked around, but didn’t see anything unusual. No footprints on the path. No looming shadows under the trees. No beady eyes peeking out from behind a bush. Nothing moved except the leaves which danced in the gentle breeze.


The loud noise echoed through the forest. Bernie stared in the direction of the mysterious sound. He knew what he should do, what his dad would do. He should investigate, find the trouble, stop the danger. After all, trolls were tough and feared nothing.

At least, that’s what his dad always said, but Bernie didn’t feel tough. His knees wobbled, his ears lay flat and his heart hammered like a woodpecker in his chest.


Christian Smith said...

Excellent query letter! I feel like you stated the characters, conflicts, and stakes very clearly! I particularly like the descriptive imagery you create with the trolls, and it makes me want to read more to see what's going to happen with our troll friend. It does make me curious if these are big, ugly trolls (ie LOTR) or cute little ones (ie Frozen) but I'm sure this comes later. Great job though! I would read it!

Elizabeth Jaeger said...

I really liked the query letter. I got an excellent sense of what the story was about. Based on the query I am definitely interested. However, I thought the first 250 words fell a bit flat. I am not as invested in the characters as I was reading the query.

Ben Langhinrichs said...

Thanks for the feedback, Christian and Elizabeth. Glad the query is working, and I'll certainly look at how I can add some spark to the first 250.

The Agent said...

The query is adorable. I really really liked it. I have to (sadly) admit, though, that the sample leaves me cold. It reads a bit old-fashioned, I don't know. I like it, but don't love it. So I would pass, but the query alone would have made me request it.

W. Tomczyk said...

I loved this query letter! Really cute and painted a great picture of what this story would be. I thought the 250 were really solid, though I agree with the above assessment that it's missing maybe the something that would make me get comfy to keep reading. Best of luck to you!

Jessi said...

This is a cute concept and I thought the first page was fine. It was a lot of description for me (I tend to read for character), so I wanted more feelings, but to each their own.

I did wonder if you could come up with closer comps? I don't know The Great Ghost Rescue , but this first page reminds me nothing of Narnia and I wonder if there's something more contemporary that may serve you better?

Ben Langhinrichs said...

Jessi - Comps are always a challenge. The other one I use besides THE GREAT GHOST RESCUE is RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN, but it is always a hit-or-miss proposition whether an agent will know a particular book, unless you pick a bestseller in which case they don't seem to like that. I use Eva Ibbotson for anybody Canadian or British, both because I adore her writing and want to write like she does and because she is better known in those countries. I will certainly look around at other possible comps, though Narnia is actually pretty good for the adventure side of the story.

Ben Langhinrichs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne Warr said...

Have you considered using Shrek as a comp? This story has that flavor (haha) to it.

I really loved the query, and enjoyed some aspects of the pages--such as his focus on tasting--but felt the voice was uncertain and may have missed. Nailing voice in MG is so difficult!

Suzanne Warr said...

Have you considered using Shrek as a comp? This story has that flavor (haha) to it.

I really loved the query, and enjoyed some aspects of the pages--such as his focus on tasting--but felt the voice was uncertain and may have missed. Nailing voice in MG is so difficult!