About My Query: EMBROL

February 16th, 2013 • Kate

treefeetIt looks like we’re continuing the theme of aliens from last week’s About My Query. Read on to find out more:

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Ryan knows her grief has finally broken her when two boys she’s only met in her dreams show up at her mom’s funeral.

Jack, the boy she’s been kissing in her dreams, is a welcome distraction. But when she finds out he’s not only real, but he was driving the truck that killed her mom, she just wants to forget he ever existed. His claim that, like him, she’s a member of a powerful alien race, the antecedents to humans, only seals her desire to push him away.

Kole, the boy from her nightmares, has no interest in kissing her. Not yet, anyway. In his demented alien mind, Olivia is the reincarnated daughter of the universe’s creator. He believes if he can control her in the dream world, he’ll have unlimited access to her power—a massive force hidden within the earth more than 75,000 years ago. He plans to use that power to hijack the universe. And of course, when he’s done with that, she can take her place by his side as queen. Clearly, he’s a total nut job, but even if he’s the sanest man in the galaxy, Olivia’s sure he has the wrong girl. Jack and Kole both do.

But when Kole almost succeeds in trapping Olivia in a dream, she’s forced to choose. She can continue to reject her true self and risk involuntarily destroying the universe with her own hands. Or she can find a way to trust Jack, the only one with the power to protect her and train her to use her abilities. The choice should be simple, but trusting the boy who killed her mom might be beyond the capabilities of even her advanced alien heart.

Complete at 75,000 words, EMBROL is a work of YA science fiction. Thank you for your time and consideration.


This is a killer first line, but it’s a total fake out, because we never get a chance to see Olivia as “broken”. Wanting to forget the boy who killed her mother (and hey, another death by driving!), doesn’t feel like the decision of a broken girl, but rather one entirely within her right mind. As does the idea that when someone tells you you’re an alien like them, the correct thing to do is push them away.

The third paragraph seems to go back and forth between Kole and Olivia’s point of views. I believe Olivia is the one describing Kole’s “demented alien mind,” but the bit about Olivia taking “her place by his side as queen” seems to come from Kole’s P.O.V. I think you’d be better served keeping this firmly in Olivia’s perspective.

The final plot paragraph presents Olivia’s choice, but it seems to be its a lot more complicated than you lay out here. You’ve somehow skipped right over the fact that, either way, she’s accepted that she’s an alien, and that she can somehow weild this enormous power. I’d have liked to have seen more about that choice, long before the choice of whether to trust Jack comes into play.

In all, I think this is an interesting query to look at after last week’s especially for seeing how often the same themes repeat in an agent’s inbox. I’ve spoken often before about how often I see the “chosen one” theme, and how tired it feels. I’d love to see you really throw that trope on its head.

Readers, your thoughts?

Image above my Flickr user Madelinetosh, used under a Creative Commons license.

Filed Under: About My Query, Ask Daphne!

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7 Responses to “About My Query: EMBROL”

  1. Rebecca Petruck Says:

    I agree that the MC's acceptance of her alien-ness feels very missing in this query–it's a hell of a thing to have to take in when she's still in the process of accepting her mother's sudden death. I also think missing is what the MC wants and why. The end gives us her 3rd act want, but what is the goal that drives her through the entire novel? Acceptance of herself? Of the unfairness of life? Of fate versus free will? I really can't guess from this query, and without that overarching WANT and WHY she wants it, the business of who/what is in her way (the conflict) doesn't have the emotional charge it could.

  2. Rebecca Petruck Says:

    Oh, and about the chosen one business–agree, kind of over it–but what intrigued me about this query was that it didn't seem clear that Olivia IS a chosen one, so much as that Kole has decided she is. How cool would it be if she weren't any more special than Kole or Jack, but because Kole has put all his energy and belief into using her as a vehicle to create something more, she becomes more. (I hope that makes sense. 🙂 That creates all sorts of interesting issues for Olivia to deal with, just as any young woman today does. In a way, it reflects that Marianne Williamson poem–which is a wonderful idea to encourage young women to ponder:
    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

  3. Rebecca Petruck Says:

    I know this is a good story because I keep running away with ideas. 🙂 For example, did Jack fall asleep at the wheel and hit her mother's car because Olivia pulled him into a dream (unknowingly, of course)? Had Olivia been arguing with her mother and to comfort herself launched into a lucid dream in which she found Jack? Currently, the coincidence of Jack being both her dream lover and her mother's accidental murderer feels too much, but if there is a REASON and Olivia is in the middle of it…all sorts of interesting coolness opens up. 🙂

  4. Tiana Smith Says:

    I'm curious how someone in her dreams killed her mother – I'd like a little more on that. I also agree that the MC has to come to terms with her being an alien. That seems like something that would get a little more page time.

  5. callen Says:

    Completely agree with the previous comments on finding out that Olivia is an alien– we brush by this fact but I imagine that coming to terms with her identity is a big part of the book.
    I'd also like a little more tease about Jack. All we know is that he is an alien who starts out as her mother's killer and eventually becomes Olivia's only hope. I think I'd be intrigued if he morphed into a likeable character or love interest so a little more insight there might hook me, especially when we have so much information on Kole.
    Lastly, I would like to connect the title with the book somehow. What is Embrol? If it's important enough to be the title, I feel like the term should be explained somewhere in the query.

  6. Alexandra Duncan Says:

    Have any of you guys read UN LUN DUN, by China Mieville? It's a great example of turning the "chosen one" idea on its head.

  7. Rebecca Petruck Says:

    That's a really good point about EMBROL. I guessed it was Olivia's special role in her alien culture?

    I wonder about Olivia's mom, too. Was she an alien? Did the ER doctors or funeral director, notice something about the body they couldn't explain? Did Mom join a religion or have explicit instructions that did not allow much handling of her body after death? Did Mom leave a letter "in the case of her death" to explain to Olivia about her alienness, which presumably Mom was waiting to tell her when she was older? Just when the MC has the most questions and needs her mom most, she's gone.

    If Mom was not an alien, did she know that Olivia was? If yes, much of the questions above apply, including how she came to take care of Olivia in the first place. Did Olivia have other family or was it always just the two of them? Did Olivia ever wonder about that? Now that she knows she's an alien, does that answer a bunch of questions she had about why her life was so different from her friends? If Mom didn't know, how did she end up with Olivia? What about the rest of Olivia's family?

    Lots of things to cover with the alien business, which is fascinating stuff! Throw in the boys, and you've got a really interesting novel going on here!