First of all, if you are a super cool literary agent who found my blog link in a recent query, I am beyond ecstatic that you are here! Thank you so much for reading all the way to the end of my email! :)
If you’re an equally super cool literary agent (or anyone in the book biz – editor, publisher, intern) who has not yet received a query from me regarding my recently completed middle grade novel, Frances Grubb, and by some beautiful stroke of fate you stumbled across this blog in search of a talented, hardworking, debut author with an exciting, character-driven novel about an unlikely heroine, please let me know so I can send you more info right away!
As an agent or publisher, you may want to know: What’s unique about this book series? Why does it need to be written, and what’s marketable about it? Well, here’s my answer! While there is no shortage of MG/YA series with magical/fantasy elements out there, there is a severe lack of female protagonists, and especially female title characters! Popular series like Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and Percy Jackson include token females as helpers to their heroes, but I believe girls and young women deserve to be the champions of their own stories. Themes like shapeshifting and fairies have been written about as well, but they have not been combined is this way, nor do I believe the market is yet saturated with them (at least not as much as vampires, for example). Lastly, I’ve worked very hard to keep my story as character-driven as possible, placing the most focus on Frances and her emotional reactions to events happening around her and using shapeshifting and other magical elements only as mediums with which to enrich her universe. So even though Frances discovers she’s a powerful shapeshifter descended from an ancient line of Faerie royalty, as a young teenager navigating the storms of middle school, hormones, and complex relationships, our heroine is as relatable as she is resourceful and courageous!
Also, please view my RÉSUMÉ page for information about the experience I will bring to marketing myself and promoting my work.
I’ve got high hopes for Frances and her friends, and even though I’ve technically “finished” writing the first book, my cluttered brain has certainly not stopped thinking of new ideas! I’m continuing to sort through them to decide which things I may add to this book and which ones will go into subsequent books in the series. For now, a synopsis (*with spoilers*) is below the photo, and if ANYONE would like to read the full manuscript, especially if you are between the ages of about 11 and 16, your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Just comment with your email address, and I will happily send you the book! (Comments are emailed to me for approval before they are published… I will NOT publish your email address.)
Below is a complete synopsis. It contains plot summary of the beginning, middle, and end, so DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS! :) This one is about 6 pages when double-spaced. I also have a much more detailed synopsis posted here, and of course sample pages are available upon request.
Twelve-year-old FRANCES GRUBB is half-way through the seventh grade in Shreveport, Louisiana. After an already miserable week at school, Frances gets stuck in the rain while walking home on Friday afternoon. To make matters worse, her MOM and her mom’s fiancé, TOBY, tell her they’re expecting a baby. Why is everyone trying to ruin her life?
After a brief tantrum and a good cry, Frances is feeling better, even about the baby. That night, however, Frances has strange vivid dreams of being covered in scales and feathers, and she wakes Saturday morning to discover her body going through some rather unexpected changes. Puberty, she could handle. Menstrual cycles? Armpit hair? Bring it on. But they’d never talked about webbed feet or striped fur or feathers in health class.
Frances’ great-grandfather, PAPAW, arrives and explains that his grandmother, HELEN, was a powerful shapeshifter who could transform into any type of animal at will. The next day, they meet with a shapeshifter guide named FLETCHER and his two other apprentices, GRAY and BRIGID. Frances learns that she is the youngest person to ever have started shifting, and by the end of her first day of training, she has shocked everyone with her extremely advanced abilities.
Frances learns that shapeshifting is hard work and that it takes many years to master. She isn’t sure everyone should expect so much of her, but by the end of her first week, her life has changed forever. She’s transformed into all kinds of animals including an aquatic bird, a cat, a mountain lion, and a rhinoceros. In front of her bathroom mirror the night before she is to return to school, Frances practices shifting her hair, eyes, and face. She adds inches to her height, melts away some of the fat around her middle, and blinks zits from her chin. She starts thinking maybe school won’t be so bad any more.
Once at school on Monday, Frances becomes a little less confident about being able to control her newfound abilities. After a few shapeshifter mishaps including bird-croak hiccups during a math quiz, backwards knees in gym, and streaks of pink in her hair during French class, Frances decides to sneak out of school early. She shifts into a rat, and escapes through the walls and ceiling, but not before falling through a loose ceiling tile and landing among a mob of screaming students.
At training that afternoon, Frances tells Fletcher about her day. She is convinced she’s not ready to be back at school, but Fletcher points out that most young shifters don’t have anywhere near the amount of control that Frances has. She returns to school, and by the end of that week, Frances is feeling confident again. On Friday, however, a near-shift moment causes her to spill chili all over her personal bully, TIFFY. The two girls get into a fight, and later when they serve detention together, Frances’ face shifts into the beak of a toucan right in front of Tiffy.
On Saturday, Frances goes to the mall with her best friends, and she experiences a strange and sinister moment in the bookstore. She feels her skin prickle as if someone is watching her, and when the power goes out, she hears the hum of a nearby shapeshifter and feels something brush past her foot. But when the lights return, no one is there.
Then, on the following Monday when they meet at Frances’ swimming pool for training, the worst happens. Frances is practicing swimming in the pool when she accidentally shifts into a catfish. After a while, she loses all sense of her human self, and swims aimlessly in circles, unable to remember who or where she is. Fletcher enters the water as a second catfish, but Frances doesn’t recognize him and becomes defensive. When Fletcher transforms into a crocodile in an attempt to scare Frances back to her senses, she shifts into a massive hippo, still unaware of who she is. Frances-the-hippo angrily charges through the side of the pool and nearly tramples her terrified mother to death. At the last possible second, France realizes what she’s about to do. She quickly shifts into a bird, and flies away, overcome with anxiety and guilt about what just happened.
Fletcher finds her atop a tall building, and, though Frances is hysterical over the fact that she almost killed her mom and adamant that she won’t be shapeshifting ever again, Fletcher is able to talk her into going home. They do no more training that week, and by Friday Frances finds that she has quickly become bored with everyday life. Though still worried about losing control while shifting, she is eager to meet other shapeshifters on an upcoming camping trip.
At the campsite that weekend, Frances meets many other shapeshifters, including another young teenager, ERIC, who has also only been shifting a few weeks. On Saturday morning Frances awakens to two large stags charging each other and crashing antlers together, an orangutan doing yoga, half a dozen squirrels playing freeze tag, and Fletcher as a centaur. The electric buzz of so many shapeshifters around her seems to tug at her own molecules, urging them to reorganize, and when she sees a hawk take off into the sky, Frances realizes she wants nothing more than to shift into a bird and fly after it.
Fletcher tells Frances not to be afraid to shift, and he encourages her to show everyone what she can do. During their first warm-up of the day, Frances releases all inhibitions and explodes into a colossal mammoth. The group then plays games involving things like kangaroo high jumps and raccoon tree climbing. They have a relay race and even a literal game of “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Frances has a great day with her new shifter friends, and after dinner, the group is split into teams for “Capture the Flag,” in which they are not allowed to shift at all.
During the game, Frances and Eric get separated from the rest of the campers and end up deep in the woods. A large, angry bear appears and charges toward them. They run toward a clearing, and Eric trips and sprains his ankle. As the bear closes in, Frances suddenly remembers she is a shapeshifter, but before she has a chance to shift into something useful, she realizes she can hear the hum of the bear’s shifted molecules. She thinks the bear is one of her shifter friends playing a joke and confronts it. But Frances recognizes that even though it is a shifter bear, it is not her friend.
As the bear gets closer, Frances suddenly feels a surge of electric power flow from the top of her spine throughout her whole body. As it reaches the tips of her fingers, she somehow knows what to do with it. She grabs the bear’s foot and forces the charge through it until it begins to change into a human foot. The forced shift continues violently and painfully throughout the bear’s body, and when he is a fully human man, he runs away into the woods. Fletcher and Gray find Frances and Eric and take them back to camp. When Frances and Eric tell everyone what happened, they leave out the part about Frances causing the bear to shift to human.
That night, Brigid gives a dramatic telling of a story about The Fae, an ancient magical people with shapeshifting and healing powers. According to the legend, the powerful Faerie princess EILIDH fell in love with the human fisherman, MAON. When the Faerie Kings and Queens learned of Eilidh and Maon’s forbidden marriage, they sent warriors to kill the human. Eilidh used her shapeshifting powers to defend Maon and killed all the warriors except for one named BAIN. Before Eilidh had a chance to heal the injured Maon, Bain shifted into a snake and bit Maon over his heart, killing him instantly. Eilidh summoned lightning from the sky and focused the power through her and into Bain, causing him to return to Faerie form and cursing him. The princess was so distraught over Maon’s death, that she planned to hurl herself from the cliffs into the sea. But when she realized she was pregnant, she hid until the baby was born. Eilidh was found and brought before Bain who sealed her in a fissure and sentenced her to remain there for 3,000 years. But before Eilidh was caught, she had given birth to a baby boy and hidden him with a human family. The child became known as the first part-Faerie, part-human shapeshifter from whom all modern shapeshifters are supposedly descended.
Frances is mesmerized by the Faerie story, and she feels a magical connection to it. She recognizes the striking similarities between Eilidh’s powers and her own. That night, she has dreams of shimmering winged creatures with golden eyes, but she doesn’t remember them in the morning.
Back at home on Sunday evening, Frances logs in to the shapeshifter web forum for the first time, and she is immediately overwhelmed by the number of messages from the shifter community. They are all welcoming and encouraging, and many shifters tell Frances stories about their first shifts and offer to answer any questions she may have. She reads stories from older shifters who knew her great-great-great-grandmother, Helen, and she sees articles with headlines like “Helen Carter Reese Descendant Shifts at 12 Years!”
Frances reaches a turning point and feels that she is finally able to accept her new life. She wants to embrace her role as the descendant of a great shapeshifter and live up to the high expectations of the shifter community. Frances then sees the first message in her mailbox. The simple note states: Helen had enemies. You will too. Exercise caution. Frances is intrigued, but also a little dismayed by the ominous tone of the message. When she sees something flutter away from her window, she makes sure her window is locked, closes the curtains, and climbs into bed.
She reflects on everything that has happened to her in the last three weeks. She still can’t erase the vivid image of her mom’s terrified face when Frances-the-hippo lost control and nearly trampled her, but Frances is now intensely in love with shapeshifting. She realizes that she feels different after the “power-surge” moment in the woods. She feels super in control and that nothing can touch her. She drifts off to happy thoughts of new friends and adventures, and that night she dreams of flying through the open air, the sun warm on her feathered back.
Copyright © 2016 by Angie Tonucci.