Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #43

Dear Agent,

Somniloquy isn't uncommon, but what Abby's saying in her sleep certainly isn't normal.

Soon after seventeen-year-old Abby moves from Memphis to Heraldsgreen House in the Scottish countryside, she starts walking and talking in her sleep. Every night, Abby's words are captured by the voice recognition software on her computer. Every morning, Abby wakes to read a new chapter of a story about an artist who loses the woman he loves and tries to find love and inspiration once again. And if dictating a story isn’t strange enough, the style of language Abby uses is from two hundred years ago.

The complex world of Regency England comes to life with every chapter of her dictation, but Abby’s own world is falling apart. Heraldsgreen is getting creepier every day and her father looks at her like she might be a little crazy. Only Liam, the apprentice stonemason with the hypnotic Scottish accent, is a bright spot of normal in Abby’s life.

When Abby's nocturnal behavior escalates from the strange to the dangerous and she burns herself in her sleep, her father is convinced she needs some serious medical help. With Liam’s assistance, Abby must find out what the story is and why she is telling it. If she can’t prove to her father that it is something in the house--and not in her head--causing her strange actions, they're headed back to Memphis and she’ll lose both Liam and the home she loves.

SOMNILOQUY is set in two time periods, present-day Scotland and Regency England, and is complete at 78,000 words.

Sincerely,
J.W.


SOMNILOQUY

I eyed my pillow like an enemy. It beckoned, white and smooth, the promise of oblivion. And yet I dreaded sleep. The fear that it could happen again, that I might wake up wandering somewhere in the house, or even worse, outside on the grounds, kept me from closing my eyes.

From my perch on the window seat, I turned to stare out into the fading day. Though it was well past eleven, the last threads of light lingered on the gardens and the flat green lawn surrounding Heraldsgreen House. In Memphis, it would have been dark by this time, but June nights in Scotland were so short. And yet they seemed so long.

Five nights of interrupted sleep. My head, heavy and leaden, dropped against the window and I rolled my forehead on the cool glass. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how many books I nodded into or songs I blasted through my headphones, I couldn’t stay awake forever. I unfolded the massive wooden shutters across the window, struggling against hinges gummed up by centuries of paint.

When I crawled beneath the covers, the bed was cold, the sheets slightly clammy. The glow from my laptop screen lit my room, which still looked wrong and unfinished. I stretched out, lying rigid with my fists clenched, fighting. But exhaustion won in the end.

The sound of screaming woke me from a deep sleep. And then I realized I was the one making that terrible noise.

6 comments:

Roxanne said...

I really like the concept of your story, but there was something about the voice that made it hard for me o get into it. I just didn't see a modern day teenager speaking quite so eloquently. When I talk to myself, I don't usually use words like "lingered" and think about the "fading day." I feel like the language would have worked better in third person, rather than first. But I love the last line. It's very gothic.

Kaitlin Adams said...

I love the story idea! You do a good job of keeping the query simple, yet intriguing. The query make me want to read the book because I can already sense the girl's urgency to figure out these "clues" and her panic when her father starts insinuating she's crazy.

I agree with Roxanne on the voice of the actual story. It sounds way too formal and bogs down the reading. Again, the story concept is intriguing, but the voice of the story must hold its weight.

On a side note, you do a great job of getting the reader to relate with the main character as she tries hard not to fall asleep.

Lori M. Lee said...

I love the concept, but I do have some questions. First, how can the computer capture everything she says if it's sitting on her desk and she's wandering outside? Does she finish orating her chapter before she even leaves her room? Also, you said Heraldsgreen is getting creepier every day and there's something about the house that's making her have these dreams, and yet she doesn't want to move away b/c she loves it there.

I had trouble reconciling these contradictions, but having said that, I still think it's a pretty cool premise and one I'd definitely read the pages for.

carrieannebrownian said...

I love the premise of this one. I don't see a major issue with a teen narrator using non-colloquial words, since I probably used language like that at that age (being a big reader and reading a lot of old books), but I agree it could seem a bit incongruous unless that kind of language fits with who her character is.

Escape Artist said...

I've read this one before. What hits me is the language seeming too old, or perhaps too formal.

'From my perch on the window seat, I turned to stare out into the fading day.'
It just doesn't sound YA. It sounds more like a grown woman, thoughtful and staring, looking back on her life.
I love the concept, but I'm bogged down with what I just mentioned above.

You'll work it out, I'm sure. Best of luck!

The Agent said...

This is an intriguing premise, but the big logic question that hits me upon reading this story is whether she would really wait that long without seeing a doctor or trying to delve into what is the problem and why she is having this issue. It's obviously a clear problem since she is speaking coherently and concurrently, so I feel like she may need a stronger reasoning to keep her from trying to get help if she really thinks she may be losing it (or that darker forces are at work).

The opening paragraphs are intriguing; a little bit talky, but compelling enough (coupled with the storyline) that I'd read on to see what happens.