Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Ms Piraino,

Fifteen-year-old Lucy Nightingale has always suspected that the world hates her, from her parents’ divorce to the stupid freshmen who keep sticking gum all over her bike handlebars. But then the world goes and proves it, when her own dreams start trying to murder her in her sleep.

Every night, Lucy must face her Dreamon--a shapeshifting physical manifestation of all her darkest thoughts. Not only that, but she must come to grips with the new rules which govern her dream world, such as the warped laws of physics, the random explode-y things, and the fact that she can't wake up until dawn. Not that real life is much better. After attacking her best friend at school, Lucy is confined to her room, with no outside contact.

Then there's Uri, another being in her dreamscape who claims to know all about Dreamons. He refuses to answer personal questions, lies by omission, and talks in riddles, but he's good at keeping Lucy away from danger. That works fine for her. If she can't stay away from the Dreamon, she's screwed.

But Lucy can't keep running from her nightmares forever. As the line between dreams and reality begins to blur, she must venture into the deepest corners of her own psyche to defeat her Dreamon before it takes over for good. Otherwise, she'll never wake up again.

THE DREAMON is a 65,000-word YA contemporary fantasy. It is a standalone with series potential. When I'm not writing, I work at my local library, swim, and (of course) read. I do have nightmares sometimes--this book was inspired by one--but thankfully none of them have tried to eat my soul yet.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The last thing I saw before my life turned into a nightmare was a rubber monkey head.

It was one of those little joke erasers that you get in craft stores for ten cents each. It had big cartoony eyes, a tiny nose, and a smile which was supposed to be cute but looked creepy instead.

Hey there. Can I eat your brains? Golly, thanks a bunch. You're my best friend! Snarf snarf snarf ...

Imagining scripts for a homicidal monkey eraser was a pretty boring thing to be doing, but at least it was more interesting than the economics class which I was supposed to be paying attention to.

“...thelawofsupplyanddemandisheavilyinfluencedbythevelocityofmoney ...” Blah, blah, blah.

I glanced at the clock above the whiteboard. 4:04. Six more minutes to go. Maybe I could last that long, if I was lucky.

I tapped the monkey head against the surface of my desk in a rhythmic pattern. Lots of monkeys seem to be named after me. Lucy the human-ape fossil. Lucy the chimpanzee who learned sign language and started to act like a person. Even my Aunt Jean named her marmoset Lucy, though she says I shouldn't take it personally.

As such, I decided that my eraser should be called Lucy, too.

Hi there. I'm Lucy the mad scientist monkey. Let me tell you my evil plan. Much like economics, it involves velocity. Of a pencil. Aimed at an unsuspecting economic teacher's head.

My mind was too numb to come up with an exit strategy for Lucy the monkey eraser, so I set her down on my desk. She grinned back at me with her syrupy smile.


Oh, just shut up already. I slapped a piece of scratch paper on top of her and shoved her underneath my textbook.

My eyes flicked to the left. Keisha, my best friend, was watching the teacher with what seemed like interest. Just beyond her, my other best friend, Cassie, looked like she was as bored as me. Her pen flip-flopped in her hand as she drew lazy circles on her notepaper. When she saw me watching, she pointed two fingers at her temple, miming a gun, and made a “pfff” noise.

I raised my eyebrows and nodded. I get you, Cass.

The clock's minute hand inched towards the 2, vibrating as it struggled towards the end of its journey. The anticipation was almost too much to bear. I wrapped a lock of my chocolate-brown hair around my finger, round and round, round and round, until it tugged at my scalp.

Come on, baby, come on ….


At the sound of the bell, we all shot up out of our chairs. The teacher stopped in mid-drone. He started saying something about homework for next time, but most of the students, including me, had already gathered our stuff and were halfway out the door.

I paid a quick visit to my locker to pick up the rest of my homework, and then headed straight towards the main entrance of Springville High.

Another day over. Another day survived.

Or so I thought.

I stepped outside, squinting into the bright September sun. Just then, Josh Feller barged through the crowd and bumped into me, knocking my backpack off of my shoulder. He flashed me a smirk as he slid down the railing. I was about to yell some choice words at him, but Amy Rourke picked up my bag and pressed it into my hand with a smile. An unfamiliar dark-haired girl, who was probably a senior, shot me a sympathetic look as she passed by. Cassie gave my arm a light punch and swept off into the crowd, yelling, “See you tomorrow, Lucy-bear!”

I scanned the ground to see if anything had fallen out of my bag. A couple of pencils, a tube of ChapStick, and...Lucy the monkey eraser, smirking up at me like the Cheshire Cat.

Come on. Retrieve me, my minion! I want my brains!

I decided to leave her there. I could deal with evil plans and an appetite for internal organs, but being called a minion was the final straw.

After I'd gotten the rest of my stuff together, I started down the stairs. I was the last one out. I just hoped that Josh, stupid freshman that he was, hadn't taken this opportunity to stick gum all over my bike handlebars again. But, you know, if he had, I had my own ways of getting revenge.

Four steps from the bottom, I froze again. Now that the sun's glare had cleared from my eyes, I could see a woman standing at the bottom of the steps.

She was tall and bony, with short platinum hair that stood straight up in gelled spikes. She wore a hideous jumpsuit patterned with squares of black, yellow and neon pink. A pair of slim sunglasses, tinted red, covered her eyes.

And as far as I could tell, she was staring straight at me. Her gaze seemed to pierce right into my mind, into my soul.

A trickle of sweat dripped down the back of my neck, and the hairs on my arms stood up. I backed all the way up to the top of the steps, heart racing. The woman didn't move a muscle. She might as well have been a statue.

Maybe she was a statue.

Stop it, I told myself. Stop it, you're being stupid. It's just a woman. Someone's weird mom, probably. Since when are you scared of someone's mom?

I took a deep breath and walked down the steps, past Ms Creepo, to the bike racks. Josh had been merciful today--my handlebars were clean. Shoving the key to the bike lock in the back pocket of my jeans, I swung myself into the saddle and started pedaling.

It's kind of annoying that I'm not old enough to drive by myself yet, but it's not a major disadvantage because my house is only a mile away from school. I've cycled that route so many times that it's become an automatic process for me to get home. Go down 5th, turn onto Sunset, Lamar, University, Los Alamos, and voilĂ ! Dinner, shower, social media, bed.

5th is a nice road, because it has a dedicated bike path down the middle of its landscaped median. Sunset is just a small side street, with a subdivision wall on either side. On the left is the natural limestone of the River Bend neighborhood, and on the right is the pre-fabricated fake red brick of Eagle Ridge. Two of my good friends live in Eagle Ridge, but I don't know anybody from River Bend, because most of those kids are farmed out to fancy private schools in the suburbs.

When I turned onto Lamar, which is the road leading into Eagle Ridge, I pulled up short. There in front of me was a gray brick wall, stretching fully across my route. I mean, it completely blocked the road, running up over the sidewalks and forming a right angle with the red pre-fab walls on either side.

I swallowed hard. This could not be right. I pulled my bike into a U-turn and cycled back to check the street name.

There it was, the sign on the corner, written in firm white letters. LAMAR.

I dismounted and wheeled my bike along the sidewalk, back to the wall, trying to keep my breathing steady. I reached out to touch the bricks. The wall was real, all right, but something was wrong.


RobRoy McCandless said...

I like your query letter, but I feel it’s missing some key information: title of your book, genre, and word count are customary to assist the agent/publisher.

“Dreamon” is a really clever play on this concept and very quickly sets up our expectations.

I was immediately sucked into the story and world you’ve created. You cleverly show the reader the main character’s name, background and most of her life without it being blatant and obvious. The “evil monkey” eraser is hilarious.

Everything felt real here, and your character felt like she had depth. My main issues were for your query letter which doesn’t seem to convey this same set of concepts. I’d strongly recommend that you review some examples of query letters to bring yours more in line with what is an excellent teaser to an interesting concept story.

Gea said...

I love both the query and the pages. Beaucoup de voice and humor! I just have a few small suggestions for QL.
You need title, genre and wc somewhere in your query. Comps can be helpful as well.
Now on to the content.
"After attacking her best friend at school, Lucy is confined to her room, with no outside contact." I think it may be helpful to mention why Lucy attacked her best friend. Because the phrase raises questions. You don't need to go on about it either. Simply mentioning that the violence and frustration from her dreams seeps into her daily life, changing Lucy into her worst version is sufficient.
"Then there's Uri, another being in her dreamscape who claims to know all about Dreamons." I'd recommend calling Uri 'a boy in her dreamscape'. 'Being' makes him sound a bit too... alien. For all his mysteries, Uri is still a boy Lucy meets in her dreamworld. Additionally, classifying Uri as 'a being' may give away more than you want.
That's it. I know it's not much, but I feel there's nothing more I can contribute to your entry. Awesome job!

Ali L. said...

Hey Ellie! :D

Holy cow, your first paragraph packed a WHALLOP of a hook! Great job! It had me interested from the first line haha. Can we get a little more clarification on how and why she attacks her best friend? It feels a little abrupt, but it definitely piqued my interest.

As for the author bio, I think you should capitalize on the library. What's your job? Do you work in the children's department at all? Agents would love to know that because it means you'd be a good help with self-promotion / marketing.

LOL the first line of your pages made me snort with laughter. Well done! The pages had such great voice, I felt like I was there! The ending was so creepy, it made me want to keep reading! I don't have any comments / suggestions (I'm sorry!) on the pages, other than to say I WANT MOREEEE!

Becki said...


This sounds awesome!! I love the "Dreamon." Oh my god, that's so incredibly creative; I laughed out loud reading it. XD The stakes are clear and the tension is definitely there, but I feel like you need to explain WHY she attacked her best friend. As readers, we need to like Lucy--to want to follow her for 65k--and without details, this doesn't really imply she's a heroine we'll root for. Now, if her best friend was bullying someone else, and Lucy stepped in to stop it, and things escalated... well, there's a character we love! Just add some details about that one instance, and I think you're good to go!! <3


Loved the first line! Very snappy, very engaging!! Right off the bat, her voice captured me; the homicidal monkey was pretty funny. :) I'm wondering what kind of school lets out at 4:10pm... that seems pretty late for a high school. But maybe that's just me in Arizona, knowing Arizona release times.

Favorite line: "Even my Aunt Jean named her marmoset Lucy, though she says I shouldn't take it personally." LOOOOL. XD XD

The voice is truly incredible. You're very good at engaging a reader, making us relive that boring time in high school! I will say that from what I've read, first pages that start with a school scene (especially a boring class) don't tend to grab much attention. I want to know what Lucy's stakes are right off the bat; otherwise, why start in class rather than when she sees the strange woman at the base of the stairs?

Also, the street names in the end were a great world-building tactic, but they got confusing quick. I was trying to make a mental map of her route home, and then I had to stop reading to reference the street names again, and when she found the brick wall, I was too distracted by WHERE she was to wonder why it was there. So maybe take some of those out...?

Otherwise, LOVED it. :D Your voice and spirit really capture the reader, and Lucy isn't NEARLY as angsty as she seemed in her query. (Maybe rework the first line of the query, too, since she seems more snarky than depressed...) This is truly fantastic, and you're a really awesome writer. :)

Keep up the good work!

Jessica said...

I really liked this!! I have no new suggestions (everyone basically said what I wanted to say). I'll reiterate that she needs a reason to attack her friend (I'm assuming the dreamon has something to do with it). Also I LOVE the concept of a dream demon (excellent wordplay), and I'm rooting for Lucy to succeed!

As far as the pages go, I loved the voice! Maybe you can inject some of that into the query? It's so unique and fun, it's a shame we don't get it in the initial letter. Also, the street signs thing felt too tell-y and too confusing. I'd cut the entire paragraph starting with "5th is a nice road." We can get that info later, and it slows down the action. other than that, great job!! Good luck!!

The Agent [GP] said...

E.F., thanks so much for participating! Your letter checked all of my initial boxes--you tell me about the concept and protagonist (interesting, if the term ‘dreamon’ was a tad derivative), confirm how you’re positioning the novel, and give me some details about yourself. The first thing that caught my attention was the word count; 65k is perfectly serviceable, but seems on the short side for YA fantasy simply because you have to juggle more elements. When I dive into the first pages, my first instinct here was to judge how well you manipulated your world and if you’re painting a complete picture for the audience.

Your introduction to the story was a bit rocky; although the thought process is very typical for a teenager (or adult) counting down until a mandatory task is done, I didn’t find myself engaged with the story or Lucy's voice. Because you only have a few pages to really grab your audience's attention, it may be more beneficial for you to pick a different starting point for your story. I would suggest starting the novel on Lucy's way home, though it should be extremely clear from the start that the Dreamons only exist in her nightmares and at the outset it doesn't mix with her life during the daytime hours if the story does begin in her first Dreamon-nightmare.