Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Face-Lift 1100!


Guess the Plot

The Duplices

1. Times are changing five billion years ago, even if Single-Cell Congress will not come together on a bill that would recognize multicellularity. No matter what President Amoebama proposes, those that want to duplicate themselves always cause a split.

2. Life in the city was more than the buxom farm-raised Collins twins were prepared for when they moved into the building they'd inherited from Uncle Andrew. Noisy pipes, frozen plumbing, traffic . . . then again, visits from the ultra-hunky Major twins next door made it all worth it. Also, a ghost who makes wishes come true.

3. Rhoda buys four old duplexes (or as she insists on calling them, duplices)planning to fix them up and rent them. When an arsonist burns the whole complex to the ground, Rhoda races to find a deadly secret hidden among the charred ruins before she's charged with setting the blaze herself.

4. Duplexes? Duplexii? Duplices? Two gay real estate agents argue over the wording of a want ad; an arcane inscription on an ancient Roman ruin is deciphered; a game of Scrabble ends in murder. Seemingly random events lead to an age-old conspiracy that may change everything we know about the history of Western Civilization. Also, a didactic lexicographer

5. In 2110 no humans breed. In a last ditch effort to preserve humanity, the Earth Alliance embarks on a wholesale cloning operation. Side effect? Every second clone is a homicidal maniac.

6. A veterinarian discovers that for the past decade she's unknowingly been inhabiting the body of a warrior (aka a duplices) every night while sleeping, and fighting off creatures to protect an alternate world. No wonder she's always so tired in the morning.




Original Version

The youngest of three, working as a veterinarian in the family clinic, Raven had her life drama all figured out. ["Life drama" doesn't sound right. She had her future planned out? Raven's future was set?] With a hateful half-brother and a manipulative stepmother on her heels, her biggest problems were the occasional arguments and the Sunday family lunches. [If that's as much as we're going to get about those two characters, let's drop that sentence from the query.] Till she found out she’d been leading not one, but two distinct lives for the past ten years. [I'd go with "then" rather than "till."]

Every night when she laid [lay] in here [In where?] asleep, the day started anew for her in the Essentia. In this whole new world, energy is the life giving force and balance is key to its existence. [That's pretty vague. What exactly do you mean by "energy"? Balance is the key to energy's existence?] As a shielder, her job is to fight Creatures, whose sole intent is to take hold of the Essentia and its energy supply. [If they've been trying to get this energy supply for ten years, and they still don't have it, and they're still alive, maybe energy isn't the life-giving force everyone thinks it is.] And for that, they’ve gone to war.

Only it [What is "it"?] awakened her into a duplices, one of the seven, each with a set of combined skills to be used on the front lines of the Essentia guard. In the midst of battle, she gains awareness of both her lives and must now face an enemy she once called her own. [Her own what?]


THE DUPLICES is complete at 62,000 words. It’s a young adult novel available at your request. I’m a Brazilian, an English teacher and this is my first novel.

Your attention and consideration are highly appreciated.

Sincerely,


The title comes from the main character's abilities in the other world. It's latin for double. [My research (what little research can be done without leaving my chair) indicates that "duplices" is the second-person singular present active subjunctive of duplico. That, alone, is enough to convince me I was right not to ever take a Latin class. Further investigation reveals that duplico is a verb, meaning to double. Of course I will bow to your greater knowledge of Latin (as mine is limited to ipso facto, which I've heard said but don't know what means) and assume duplices can be a noun, which is how you are using it. But even so, I would have to ask why the title is in Latin. You want a title that catches people's interest. Something like Double Jeopardy or I Was a Teenage Warrior Woman--and Didn't Even Know It!]


Notes

The plot keeps shifting between past and present tense. Do the whole thing in present.

What exactly are Raven's powers? Tell us.

If she gets wounded in battle, does she wake up with the wound? If so, how does she explain it? If not, how does she know she isn't just dreaming Essentia?

This is all setup. Raven discovers that when she's sleeping in our world, she's fighting Creatures in another. Now what's the story? Does she want to continue? Does she want out of one of her lives? How does she plan to get what she wants? What goes wrong? The energy and balance paragraph isn't telling us anything about what happens.

Don't just tell us who your main character is, make us care about her.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Beginning 989


The anti-depressant Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor indicated for outpatient management of depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (when combined with cognitive behavior therapy). Adolescents on Zoloft have increased risk of suicide.

My doctors: Zoloft = Wonder Drug

Mom + (me + Zoloft) = suicide watch

Me + Zoloft: Eh

As in: Someone: Lottie, your hair’s pretty. Me: Eh.

Lottie, we want to skip you forward in school. Me: Eh.

Lottie, your beloved Grandpa died. Me: Eh.

Those tiny, superabsorbent, emotion-sponges soak up all the joy, all the pain, all the feelings that are part of being alive. Sometimes feelings hurt—maybe even way more than they should—but when you can’t feel anything you’re dead. Right?

Good thing not all emotions are sponge-worthy. I still have greed, sloth, envy . . . And of course gluttony. Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor with major munchies as a side effect.

Me + Zoloft = no Oreos for you


Opening: Veronica Rundell.....Continuation: IMHO

Monday, January 28, 2013

Face-Lift 1099


Guess the Plot

Snatched

1. Benjamin, a goliathus beetle growing up too quickly on the scalp of a squirrel monkey, is pinned between finger and opposing thumb and transported toward a row of gnashing teeth. 

2. Emma Brown has been snatched... by Aliens. To save the lives of all the people on Earth, Emma must outplay creatures for whom cheating is a way of life, and win the Galaxy Go Fish Championship.

3. When your little sister's been snatched by shifters, mister, it's revenge time. Time to get your gun and take out every shifter you see. Assuming your sister finished cleaning your weapon before she was snatched, the brat.


4. Rogue government agents abduct Bill and spirit him to a secret lab. He awakes in a hospital, aware that he's been through major surgery, but strangely it is his emotions that feel most different. Only when Bill tries to use a bedpan does he realize that things are not as they used to be for him her.

5. In the woods practicing her Wiccan rites, Helen is abducted by aliens. Seems the Grand Chief would like to add a witch to his harem. Although her powers are diminished when away from Earth, she isn't giving up without a fight. Now if she could only get to her wand.

6. For Erika, Monte Carlo's all sun, surf, and shopping on Daddy's credit cards until she's snatched from the lobby of her hotel. In the hands of international arms dealers, Erika learns just how Daddy's fortune was built. Can she use her martial arts training to save herself, or will she become yet another casualty of war?



Original version


Dear Agent X,

 
The shifters stole Kara’s parents away when she was ten, leaving her and Lizzy to fend for themselves. For kids underground? That meant signing up with the military. [When Kara was ten? And her sister even younger? (I looked ahead.) What good would they be to the military? No one's gonna want to lead a squad of seven- to ten-year-old girls in taking some hill.] [Wait, I know: Kara, Lizzy, there's an army of Ken dolls heading this way. We need you to lead your Barbies into battle.] At seventeen years old, all Kara’s got left is her dad’s cottage, a heightened sense of paranoia and her kid sister. Until she spots the shifter on her first surface patrol. [That word "until" suggests that spotting the shifter has somehow changed what Kara has left.] Slate gray eyes empty of emotion and spiderlike arms [Their arms are like spiders? If these are shapeshifters, I would expect them to have arms like swords or sledge hammers or cobras.] that would rip her apart in a heartbeat, it was everything she’d imagined in her nightmares. These were the monsters that pushed humanity underground and made them terrified to step topside. [Earlier you implied that being a kid underground had something to do with the need to join the military. Now you're basically saying everyone's underground. Get rid of "For kids underground?" ]

And once one shifter is sighted, there’s [there are] more to follow.

The sergeant drops Kara on the roster of unlucky soldiers heading to the surface. [She was already patrolling the surface.] All that honor stuff is crap, but the adults lay it on heavy anyway, trying to justify sending folks to their deaths. Have to protect the borders if they want to survive. Not so easy to break to Lizzy though, that she might not come back. She heads home, expecting to find her sister curled up reading a book and not cleaning her gun like the brat was supposed to. Kara walks into an empty house.

They took her folks. They took her best friend. Now, the shifters snatched Lizzy. Fighting them isn’t enough. Kara wants revenge. [Isn't fighting them the way to get revenge? Does she have something else in mind?
]

"Snatched" is an 84,000 word YA science fiction.

Regards,


Notes

If humanity has been driven underground, how is it that Kara and Lizzie have a cottage? Do they have a white picket fence? It seems likely that if humanity were driven underground, they would put all their resources toward taking back the surface, where they can grow food, rather than settling in, building underground houses, etc.

Sounds like you've got a good tone for describing this plot, but it's a bit disorganized. Every sentence should follow logically from the previous sentence. A few of yours seem to just be tossed in at random. Tighten it up.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

Bye Bye Bluebird

1. After 26 years, Blueville's local high school basketball team, the Bluebirds, finally have a shot at the state title. Coach Matheson is thrilled—until he learns his star forward is screwing his trophy wife. Can Coach Matheson keep his cool and win the game of his career?

2. When the world's birds come under the influence of the super-villain known as the Albatross, and strive to wipe out the entire human population with bird flu, little Jimmy Thompson must decide whether to sacrifice his pet bluebird to prevent a pandemic.

3. When the bluebird of happiness becomes depressed and suicidal and is kidnapped by the Illuminati, the Government turns to Master Sergeant Algernon Bottomside to free the bluebird and return humor to the world.

4. The mascot of the Sioux City Bluebirds minor league baseball team is nowhere to be seen, and the championship game's about to start. Everyone figures he's drunk again, until the relief pitchers head out to the bullpen and find it full of blue feathers. Looks like baseball fan/detective Ron Dixon will miss the game.

5. Jessie throws aside her childhood nickname "Bluebird" when she embraces the occult and joins the Children of the Night as "Raven". But will passionate sex, unlimited power and endless chocolate make up for the loss of her innocence?

6. After encountering a man known only as the Vulture in her mirror, Ceah starts seeing bluebird feathers. Is it her imagination? Apparently not, as she also develops the ability to fly. Then she takes a cruise, but her ship sinks and she ends up in a strange new world where her parents are wanted criminals. Didja ever have one of those days?



Original Version

Dear Evilest of Evil Editor:

Ceah Chordata expects to be dead when the cruise ship she and her friend Lea are on sinks in a violent August storm. [No lifeboats! That's what I get for taking the cut-rate cruise.] [If only she knew how to fly like a bluebird.]

But her situation is a tad different. [From what?] In the week before the cruise, Ceah has encountered a man in her mirror who calls himself the Vulture, [If I encounter a man in my mirror, I'm not hanging around long enough to find out what he calls himself.] [But if by chance I do hang around long enough to find out what he calls himself, and that turns out to be the Vulture, I'm taking a sledgehammer to my mirror.] been locked in a room that materialized out of nowhere, and discovered a stone called the Lis. [How does she know it's called the Lis? Can it speak? And if so, did it pronounce its name Liss or Liz?] She is sure her parents know something but they absolutely refuse to say a word. Her dad has been acting strangely. She is seeing bluebird feathers. To top it all off, she saves herself from falling off the stairs and breaking her neck by flying [Aha! She can fly. Why doesn't she fly away when the ship is sinking?] and is very shocked despite the conspicuous connection between this avian ability and her last name. [Wait a minute. Even though her last name is Chordata, she's shocked to discover she can fly?

1. When a person develops flight ability, it's shocking news, no matter what their name. I'm sure if Marty Fish discovered he could breathe under water he'd be shocked.

2. Chordata refers mainly to vertebrates, which includes fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds and a few others. That's over 100,000 species of which no more than ten thousand are birds. Or bats. So even if your last name determined such things, I would expect no more from someone whose last name was Chordata than a backbone. 

3. Maybe her last name should be Aves. But even then I suspect she'd be shocked at discovering she can fly.]

Indeed, when the ship sinks, Ceah and Lea leave this world and enter another. However, it is not one filled with fluffy clouds or flames of damnation; instead, the friends find themselves in a world called Sialia, where the treachery of Ceah’s parents lingers heavily in the air. [Ceah, Sialia . . . Please tell me her father's name isn't Cialis.] It doesn’t take Ceah long to realize that this unspeakable crime her parents once committed seems to curiously boil down to two things: the Lis Stone and herself. [Clever. You don't want to reveal their crime, so you call it unspeakable, figuring that gets you out of talking about it. Wrong.]

Meanwhile, dark forces are at work. V.E.D., an illicit organization with ties to the black market, is also after the Lis Stone. [Also? Who else is after it?] Jackie Lato, who is strangely obsessed with possessing it, is beginning to be suspected (correctly) by other members of personal, ulterior motives. [In my opinion one is either not suspected or suspected. It's not a progression from not suspected to beginning to be suspected to somewhat suspected to full-blown suspected.] V.E.D.’s pursuit brings them into Sialia as well, where Ceah, calling herself Raya Lye, is stepping on some very thin ice. [Which surprises her, even though her last name is Lye.]

Bye Bye Bluebird is my first fantasy novel with a word count of 134,000.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

We should know how old Ceah is.

I hope there's more to your title than the fact that Ceah sees bluebird feathers. If not, she should see blackbird feathers so your title is the same as the song.

Doesn't the story really begin when Ceah gets to the new world? Stuff like the Vulture and the mysterious room and the bluebird feathers is taking up space that could be used to tell us about this world. Where is it? Can she get out? How did the V.E.D. get in? What's the unspeakable crime? Most importantly, what's the Lis Stone, who has it,  and why does everyone want it?


Selected Comments



Blogger fairyhedgehog said...This sounds like something I might want to read. It reminds me of some of Charles de Lint's work.

I felt a bit confused as I read through, although some of this was due to letting myself get distracted by EE's comments. (I nearly choked when I read, "Ceah, Sialia . . . Please tell me her father's name isn't Cialis.")

I didn't understand what Ceah's parents had done, or why their treachery hung heavily in the air of Sialia. I didn't understand who then came into Sialia - was that VED or Ceah's parents?

There seemed to be a lot of names to take on board, too, especially as Ceah goes under an alias. Some of them were difficult to pronounce and slowed me up. I had no idea what Chordata meant, until EE enlightened me. Maybe you explain this in the book itself?

I felt much more gripped by the Vulture than by the Lis stone - maybe I needed to know a bit more about it.

I really like the idea that I might get to read this some day.


Jamie Hall said...Your chronology is not doing your query much good.

Here is your problem:

First, you tell us about the cruise ship sinking without telling us anything else to anchor us.

Next, you take us into the past, with a fact dump where a bunch of previous events are presented to us in an unconnected-feeling way. Only a few of these events are interesting (I would say "The Vulture" appearing in the mirror is the most interesting).

Then, you take us back to where you started, the cruise ship, and tell us that the main character entered a different world.

Then, you drop a bunch of hints that something sinister is going on, but instead of feeling mysterious it just feels frustrating because you are too "hinty" and not really saying anything that stirs interest.

What I've written up to this point is what it feels like to read your query letter.

How do you fix it? I'd tell you to rethink your back-and-forth chronology (query letters do not need flashbacks) and don't mention any events or characters you can't tie to the main theme. I assume your main theme is Ceah entering another world where she finds some nasty secret her parents have been hiding from her.

If I were writing your query, I would write something vaguely like this (I've made up details I don't know):

"Ceah thinks she's going insane. She has good reason to think so after talking with a man living inside her mirror who calls himself "The Vulture," seeing bluebird feathers everywhere and seeming to fly when she stumbles on the stairs. Ceah seeks a change of scene by going on a cruise with her best friend Lea, but the two of them get sucked into a portal in the sky when the ship sinks. The two friends find themselves in the world of Sialia, a place made entirely of pink cotton candy. Here, Ceah learns that she is really the princess of the bird-people and that her parents were exiled to earth for trying to steal all of earth's cotton candy. Even worse, it is clear Ceah's parents are trying to re-start their sinister scheme. Can Ceah stop her parents and claim her throne?"

Anyway, what I've written isn't a very good query, but the underlying structure of my query is an improvement. You want to write a query that sounds similar to what people put on the back covers of books, where the most interesting and relevant pieces of the plot are quickly summarized in a way that both wraps around the main theme neatly and where each thing mentioned fits with the other things.


pacatrue said...To echo, I got lost as well in a lot of interesting sounding ideas but that didn't seem to cohere into a plot. What is the climax of the story? Defeating someone? Clearing her parents? Overcoming her family history? Is the Vulture related to this? If he is critical, maybe start there and then show how she continues to interact with him. If he's not, drop him from the query and start with the sinking and going into the new world. If you need some background before the new world stuff, probably 1 or 2 sentences listing the flying down the stairs, bluebird feathers, and maybe the Vulture should do the trick. If you don't want to reveal the actual climax of the book, re-orient the query such that we know it is headed there.


Dave F. said...I'm getting lost in all the oddness of the story. First off, the names distract, sorry author but the names distract. And they distract bad. It's like I'm thinking at the end is when she calls herself Raya Lye, does she have a sister Orah Lye because every time you take vaccine, take it Orah Lye, the hypodermics hurt.

Two, If the world is called Sialia, then I expect it to be filled with anthropomorphic bluebird/human hybrids or something like that. It's not as subtle as the blue feather popping up everywhere. Just say "During a storm in the mid-atlantic, Ceah Chordata discovers that she is is not entirely human but part bluebird. And Earth is not her home, the bird-world of Sialia, is."

Three, discovering that you can fly and saving herself from drowning, ought to be happy events. Even finding herself on her home world (the bird planet). But this is not the case, Her parents are pariah and she is (let me guess - abomination), and when they created Ceah Chordata, her parents messed up and despoiled Sialia. And I'm guessing that Ceah Chordata feels guilty and wants to put everything right. IF that's so, then that is her fantasy quest.

3. What is VED? I don't want to guess for fear of guessing something truly awful and offensive. Look we already have the major elements of a fantasy quest, The Unsuspectin Hero, the pre-existing tensions and now, the Villain. That must be the role of the VED or maybe the role of the Vulture.

3b - Who is Jackie Lato and why do we care about him/her?

4. Unspeakable -- Is this unspeakable like "Faces of Death" where we get to giggle and laugh at the dead? Or like Saw 1,2,3,4, SAW - where we get to see people killed in horrible ways with oodles of red blood pouring out of their bodies? Or Nabokov's Lolita - underage sex?

My point being that whatever is unspeakable needs to be foreshadowed and all that. And most likely (I've been around EE's blog enough) to know that you really might have a gee-whizzies, slam-bang horror, but you need to reveal it to your agent. I have watched CHARADE with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn and almost know the dialog, but they are so good and the movie so well done that the final thrills are still thrills.


BuffySquirrel said...People in the UK whose surname IS Cialis went to court to prevent it being used. They failed. And now you're laughing at them.

The horror.


ray said...That was funny. And totally worth it. Thanks EE!

Yes, firstly, there's a LOT more to do with the title than just bluebird feathers. Sialia sialis = eastern bluebird, and that's just a tiny part of it.

I've gotten suggestions saying I shouldn't put the wordcount in, because it's quite a large novel, apparently, and I would like to hear what anyone else has to say about that.

I think I'll take out the second paragraph and jump right into the Entering Sialia part.

Thank you, again--for the laughs as much as the advice.


Phoenix said...Bye Bye Bluebird is my first fantasy novel with a word count of 134,000.

What are the word counts of your other fantasy novels?

Sorry. Couldn't resist. It was the only opening EE left. Back with real comments in a bit.


Moth said...Random thoughts as I was reading through this query:

134,000 words? Really? Hmmm...
To quote Kristin Nelson's blog: "Fantasy can push up to 110,000 [words] but for a debut, it’s going to be a tough go if the word count is higher." You might want to look at your manuscript and pare down. Your book might be brilliant but the word count is going to make it that much harder to sell. Why handicap yourself with the word count right off the bat?

"Ceah"? How do you pronounce that? I'm curious. Could you spell it phonetically?

It seems to me that your hook should either be the flying or, more likely, the journey to the new world. What is the Big Idea of this book? Why is it special? Do the one sentence exercise. If you had one sentence and only one to describe your book, would it be the cruise ship sinking?

"She is sure her parents know something but they absolutely refuse to say a word. Her dad has been acting strangely..." So, only the dad is acting strangely but she suspects both her parents? Why?

Ok, here's my two cents about the last name thing: my grandmother's name was DuBois but did anybody expect her to be an insane, fluttery Southern Belle? Not really. You seem to be setting up that the world Ceah leaves is like our own world. So why would her last name being associated with birds make her think it’s not weird she can fly? I’m missing the logic there.

VED- What does that stand for? You might want to tell the reader because my brain immediately went to some kind of STD and I’m pretty sure that’s not the association you’re going for.

Lastly, the best friend doesn’t really need to be in the query at all. You don’t mention her doing anything except going with Ceah so I’m not sure you really need to mention her at all. Also, Jackie Lato comes out of NOWHERE, tell us how she ties in with Ceah’s journey instead of just tacking Jackie's dilhemma on at the end.

Sorry for the length of this. It was slow at work so I had some time for in depth dissection today.


Moth said...Just because I can't resist. Does VED stand for "Very Evil Dudes?"


talpianna said...I'm afraid I agree with everybody else's strictures on length, confusion, and names. Why don't you just drop the cruise ship entirely and have the Vulture yank her through the mirror? What's the point of her best friend, who doesn't seem to have any function in the plot? If it's just to be killed gruesomely, or kidnapped, or seduced by the Vulture, or some such, you could have her meet someone else in Sialia (a cousin?) who could do all that.


ray said...I may just have to change the names...
Jackie Lato and VED are important to the story.
And I don't know why people are thinking Ceah's "home world" is Sialia; it's not. And she's not half bluebird :] Maybe I'll change "Sialia" too. Actually I think I will...
I'm going to post a revised edition here.


ray said...Okay, Second Version. Please forgive the names, I haven't had time to think new ones out yet.

Ceah Chordata expects to be dead when the cruise ship she and her friend Lea are on sinks in a violent August storm.

Indeed, when the ship sinks, Ceah and Lea leave this world and enter another. However, it is not one filled with fluffy clouds or flames of damnation; instead, the friends find themselves in a world called Sialia, where the treachery of Ceah’s parents lingers heavily in the air. Ceah soon discovers many things about her situation, like the fact that she’s trapped in Sialia by the Isolation that surrounds it. Or maybe the part about her parents, who stole the Lis Stone, which was used to mark the founding of Sialia. Then there’s a shadowy figure calling himself the Vulture who is after her. She can fly at will. Also, the little blue rock she came across in a spare room the week before just happens to be the Lis Stone, which also happens to be trapping an ancient soul—the soul of a bluebird. She’s incredibly adaptive for a thirteen year old.

Meanwhile, dark forces are at work. V.E.D., an illicit organization with ties to the black market, is also after the Lis Stone. Jackie Lato, who is strangely obsessed with possessing it, is suspected (correctly) by other members of personal, ulterior motives. V.E.D.’s pursuit brings them into Sialia as well, with the aid of a Dagger, where Ceah, calling herself Raya Lye, is stepping on some very thin ice.

Bye Bye Bluebird is my first fantasy novel with a word count of 132, 000.

Thanks!!!!


pacatrue said...Hi Ray,

Definite improvement. The query did raise several questions still, but I'll concentrate on just two things. First, what is a 13 year old doing on a cruise ship by herself (BFF doesn't count) or are her parents there? More importantly, I still don't have a sense of what sort of novel you've written. The voice is clear, but the plot direction isn't.

Is this just the setup for Ceah's amazing adventures as Raya? Is she trying to escape this world and get home? Is she trying to find out what happened with her parents and the Lis Stone? Does she join rebel forces to kill the Vulture? Or is she just wandering around and the cool things you've thought up happen to her (the most common first novel)?

You certainly know the answer, but I'm not getting it yet in the query.


fairyhedgehog said...Sorry, Ray, for me it still doesn't flow and you've missed out some of the good bits. I liked the Vulture appearing in the mirror and the blue feathers. They were interestingly weird.

At the moment your second and third paragraphs seem disconnected.

I also felt uncomfortable with Ceah "expects to be dead". For one thing, it doesn't seem to be the main point of the story and it comes right at the beginning. For another, it would sound more natural to me to say "thinks she is going to die", or similar. (But I'm a Brit, so it may just be me.)


Sarah Laurenson said...Hi Ray,

Here's my suggestions:

Ceah knew when her dad started acting strangely, blue feathers appeared in the weirdest places and some strange guy named Vulture talked to her from inside her mirror that this was not going to be an ordinary month. In fact, she learns more in this one month than she has during the rest of her thirteen years. She can fly. She can leave this world and enter the world of Sialia. Her parents are wanted for treachery for stealing the Lis Stone which was used to mark the founding of Sialia. Vulture is not a nice guy. And that little blue rock she came across in the spare room last month just happens to be the Lis Stone, which also happens to be trapping the ancient soul of a bluebird.

Once inside Sialia, Ceah changes her name to Raya Lye to disassociate herself from her family. Blah, blah about what happens in Sialia with the bad guys.


Dave F. said...Step back Ray, step back from the story. You are still standing in the middle of the forest describing trees.

Start out with Ceah and stay with her:
Rather than drowning when her cruise ship sinks, Ceah Chordata finds herself alive in the parallel world of Sialia.

That begins the fantasy with a bang. Now what is Ceah's next discovery?
When Ceah discovers that her family is despised on this world for having imprisoned a living soul in the all-powerful Lis Stone and fleeing to Earth, she resolves to "make things right".

Now that's too cliche to actually use in a query but it gets us into a linear storyline about Ceah. What you need now, is a statement about the bad guys.

However, others want the Lis Stone and the power it represents. Jackie Leto and the Vulture want the power and are willing to do (what?). .

And the last element of the story is:
How does Ceah beat them and how does she restore her family name?

That's the short of it. I think her using a pseudonym is too much detail. The knife might also be too much story. Keep the English plain as Ceah is only 13 years old and I presume she doesn't discuss Proust, Nietsche or Camus. (sorry, I'm trying not to be a smartass. Those names just snuck in). You do tend to write upscale. I'm not sure if that is good or bad, really not sure.

But, this sentence is upscale: However, it is not one filled with fluffy clouds or flames of damnation; That's a great thought in other circumstances, but not in a query. It forces the reader to think of heaven and hell when you want their attention on Sialia. Don't use that type of "aside" if it draws attention away from your story. And if upscale is the wrong word, sorry. But don't distract from your story with your cleverness. Make every word and sentence focus on your story.

This is a list that isn't helping you:
1) Then there’s a shadowy figure calling himself the Vulture who is after her.
2) She can fly at will.
3) Also, the little blue rock she came across in a spare room the week before just happens to be the Lis Stone,
4) which also happens to be trapping an ancient soul—
5) the soul of a bluebird.
It's hard to recognize as a list but that's all it is. A good guide might be that if you feel the need to make a list, then you should rework the story's description to avoid the list.


Anonymous said...Got to be honest -- if there's a character named 'Ceah' I'm slamming the book shut, especially if the next character is Lea.


Nancy Beck said...134,000 for a first-time fantasy is usually a no-go with most agents.

While fantasy stories are allowed larger word counts, we're talking more in the 80,000-100,000 range, with about 120,000 tops.

So I think I'd cut about 20,000 words from your story.

If you can't figure out where to cut, consider putting the first chapter (or part of the first chapter) up on one of the crit sites. There's one at the Absolute Write forums (Share Your Work, password: vista), or you can try Electra's Crapometer (http://crapometer.blogspot.com). These might give you an idea of what needs to be cut.

As to the revised version...I'm still not getting it, sorry. I think you need to focus, focus, focus on Ceah (although I wondered, too, about a 13-year-old being on a cruise ship by herself, even with her friend; there has to be someone around who's at least 18 to look after her).

FWIW. Good luck! :-)


Anonymous said...I'm assuming there's some sort of connection between Ceah, Leah, and the name of the new world: Sialia. Am I wrong? Should this connection be mentioned in the query? Gotta admit, all the names (and their similarities) turned me off. The idea of the book may be great, but if your readers are thrown every time they read a new name, they aren't likely to finish the damn thing.

Most of the time, odd names can be replaced with normal ones with no adverse effect on the story itself. I know you're trying to throw in bird references, but it's likely unnecessary.

Let us know when you have a revision... I look forward to reading it.


ray said...Version Three!

What would you do if you could fly?

Aged thirteen, Ceah is a human who has recently acquired this ability. She’s also started to see some bluebird feathers pop up here and there, met a man in her mirror called the Vulture, and found a little blue stone called the Lis, which means a lot to the Vulture and, strangely, her parents as well.

But there’s still some normality in Ceah’s life. She hasn’t been whisked away to a parallel world, for instance. And her parents are simply her parents, without shadowy pasts, not exiled from a different world. Right?

Wrong.

The Lis Stone brings Ceah into Alisia, where she assumes an alias just for fun. But her alias is much more useful than she could have imagined. Ceah soon discovers that Alisia is the home of her parents’ shadowy pasts and secrets—her parents, who were exiled for stealing the Founding Stone. Thanks to her alias, she is not killed immediately by the peaceful folk of Alisia. The Founding Stone contains the soul of a bluebird which was shot during its first flight, its sacrifice meant to spread the gift of flight throughout Alisia. The ones who are born with this gift are given the title “Fated to Be”, and Ceah just happens to be one of these. And the Lis Stone? The Lis Stone and the Founding Stone of Alisia are one and the same.

The Vulture is outraged. He feels he must have the Lis Stone at all costs. He decides to declare war, as Ceah refuses to surrender the Lis. The day before he declares this, however, three yachts sweep into Alisia containing the members of V.E.D., an illicit association that wants the Lis as well so they can sell it, and also bring along Ceah’s dear mom and dad as hostages. Ceah’s parents take a look at the situation and decide to tell Ceah everything. “Everything” includes the fact that the Vulture became possessed by part of the Lis’s soul (it wasn’t very happy about dying for a world) when he touched it, and that the Vulture is really Ceah’s grandfather.

Meanwhile, many people are trying to kill Ceah’s parents and figure out a way to avoid being killed by the Vulture's mysterious Army. And Ceah—can she free the souls of the Lis and her grandfather and set things right between the people of Alisia and her parents while staying in one piece?

It's double the length of the previous 2 versions, but I don't know what to do about that. The ending is pretty cheesy as well. I keep expecting to hear a voice bellow: "READ 'BYE BYE BLUEBIRD' TO FIND OUT!"
Again, thanks for all your advice!


Anonymous said...Much better, author. It seems that you're getting the idea of 'the hook'. Remember, you don't need to tell the whole story. You don't need every detail. You definitely don't need to tell how it ends. That's for the synopsis. All you need to do is make it interesting enough to get asked for more.

Although no agent has bitten after requesting partials or fulls from me, I get lots of requests for them because I learned to write a good query with a strong hook.


Min Yin said...Ray, thanks for posting the last version of the query. I know it is long, but it satisfied my curiosity far better than the earlier versions.

Here's one possibility, made up almost entirely of a subset of version 3. It's definitely not great, as I am not an experienced query writer, but it might give you ideas how to make it a bit shorter:

What would you do if you could fly?

Aged thirteen, Ceah is a human who has recently acquired this ability. She’s also started to see some bluebird feathers pop up here and there, met a man in her mirror called the Vulture, and found a little blue stone called the Lis, which means a lot to the Vulture and, strangely, to her parents as well.

But there’s still some normality in Ceah’s life. She hasn’t been whisked away to a parallel world, for instance. And her parents are simply her parents, without shadowy pasts, not exiled from a different world. Right?

Wrong.

The Lis Stone brings Ceah into Alisia, where she assumes an alias just for fun. But Ceah soon discovers that this world is the home of her parents’ secrets — her parents, who were exiled for stealing the Lis, which has its own history here.

Thanks to the unexpected protection of her alias, she is not killed immediately, which allows her to try to find a way to make things right between the people of this world and her parents. This is more dangerous than she anticipated, as the souls of the Lis and the Vulture are both bound up with her parents' fate. Ceah must struggle to free these souls -- while staying in one piece herself -- as war over the stone comes to formerly peaceful Alisia.


Sarah Laurenson said...If the query is any indication, you can cut from your ms fairly easily. You've got a lot of extra words in your query. Not to say you need to cut your book savagely, but it does seem you can trim it down to a manageable level.

Here's my suggestion for tightening the latest query.

Aged thirteen, Ceah has recently acquired the ability to fly. She’s also started to see bluebird feathers pop up here and there, met a man in her mirror called the Vulture, and found the Lis, a little blue stone which means a lot to the Vulture and, strangely, her parents as well.

The Lis brings Ceah into Alisia. She discovers that Alisia is the home of her parents, who were exiled for stealing the Founding Stone, which contains the soul of a bluebird shot during its first flight. Its sacrifice spreads the gift of flight throughout Alisia. The Lis and the Founding Stone of Alisia are one and the same.

The Vulture declares war, as Ceah refuses to surrender the Lis. Three yachts sweep into Alisia containing the members of an illicit association that wants the Lis so they can sell it. And they’ve got hostages - Ceah’s mom and dad. Ceah’s parents decide to tell Ceah everything, which includes the fact that the Vulture became possessed by part of the Lis’s soul when he touched it, and that he is Ceah’s grandfather.

Many people are trying to kill Ceah’s parents and avoid being killed by the Vulture's Army. All Ceah wants to do is free the souls of the Lis and her grandfather and set things right between the people of Alisia and her parents while staying in one piece. Right.


ray said...THANKS YOU GUYS!

I do you have a question though, is a query like a teaser, sort of? Or is it like a short synopsis?


Evil Editor said...It's a one-page business letter that includes a short synopsis.


ray said...Yes, I'm back. I've shortened the query to 344 words, which is still too long. Anyways, here it is. Again.


How would your life change if you could fly?

Aged thirteen, Ceah Tearsen has recently acquired this ability, and her answer is “drastically”. But then, she’s also met a man in her mirror called the Vulture and found a little blue stone called the Lis, which means a lot to the Vulture.

Thankfully, there’s still some normality in Ceah’s life. She hasn’t been whisked away to a parallel world, for instance. And her parents are simply her parents, without shadowy pasts and dark secrets. Right?

Wrong.

The Lis Stone brings Ceah into Alisia, where she assumes an alias just for fun. But her alias turns out to save her, at least for a bit: Ceah soon discovers that her parents are notorious among the Lisians. They were exiled to Earth after stealing the Lis Stone, the most valued object in all of Alisia. It contains the soul of a bluebird which was shot during its first flight, its sacrifice meant to spread the gift of flight to certain people throughout Alisia. Assuming that the Lisians wouldn’t be exhilarated with her if they knew who she is and what she has, Ceah guards her secret while looking for a way back to Earth.

One person knows her secret, however. The Vulture. As Ceah refuses to surrender the Lis, he declares war and the Lisians must put off killing Ceah to defeat him. Then three yachts sweep in from Earth containing the members of an illicit association who want the Lis for money. They also bring hostages—Ceah’s parents, who take one look at the situation and decide to tell Ceah everything. “Everything” includes the fact that the Vulture is really Ceah’s grandfather. Which raises some moral issues in Ceah’s conscience.

Meanwhile, people are hatching plots to kill Ceah’s parents and avoid being killed by the Vulture’s army simultaneously—which doesn’t work well. As all begin to come together, Ceah realizes that the key to everything depends on one soul, one stone. But how does one go about setting the trapped soul of a bluebird free?

One particular problem. "Assuming that the Lisians wouldn’t be exhilarated with her if they knew who she is and what she has, Ceah guards her secret while looking for a way back to Earth." Is there something wrong with tense there? It's awkward, but I can't place if it starts at the "wouldn't" or "they knew"...

Thank you so very much


Anonymous said...Not a synopsis. This revision is good but you've still got way too much plot detail. You don't need to tell everything that happens, and you're not obligated to tell how things turn out (that's for the synopsis).


fairyhedgehog said...This is coming on but you still need to cut out some of those details, I think.

I've suggested what you might cut by putting it in italics below (my few added words or suggestions are in brackets):

How would your life change if you could fly?

Aged thirteen, Ceah Tearsen has recently acquired this ability, and her answer is “drastically”. But then, she’s also met a man in her mirror called the Vulture and found a little blue stone called the Lis, which means a lot to the Vulture.

Thankfully, there’s still some normality in Ceah’s life. She hasn’t been whisked away to a parallel world, for instance. And her parents are simply her parents, without shadowy pasts and dark secrets. Right?

Wrong.

The Lis Stone(which) brings Ceah (her) into (an alternate world called) Alisia, where she assumes an alias just for fun. But her alias turns out to save her, at least for a bit: Ceah soon discovers that her parents are notorious among the Lisians. They were exiled to Earth after stealing the Lis Stone, the most valued object in all of Alisia. It (which) contains the soul of a bluebird which was shot during its first flight, its sacrifice meant to spread the gift of flight to certain people throughout Alisia. Assuming that the Lisians wouldn’t be exhilarated with her if they knew who she is and what she has, Ceah guards her secret while looking for a way back to Earth.

One person knows her secret, however. The Vulture. As Ceah refuses to surrender the Lis, he declares war and the Lisians must put off killing Ceah to defeat him. (I haven't any suggestions here, as I didn't understand why he declares war to get the Lis, but he's not on the side of the Lisians.) Then three yachts sweep in from Earth containing the members of an illicit association who want the Lis for money. They also bring(ing) hostages—Ceah’s parents, who take one look at the situation and decide to tell Ceah everything. “Everything” includes the fact that (who tell Ceah that )the Vulture is really Ceah’s (her) grandfather. Which raises some moral issues in Ceah’s conscience.

Meanwhile, people are hatching plots to kill Ceah’s parents and avoid being killed by the Vulture’s army simultaneously—which doesn’t work well. As all begin to come together, Ceah realizes that the key to everything depends on one soul, one stone. But how does one go about setting the trapped soul of a bluebird free?

(I don't know if this is any help, but it's just one way of looking at it.)


Moth said...Author, are you thinking about cutting the MS itself at all?

Also, you've left off the genre and word count in the latest draft. You really do need those in there somewhere. (Agents will only be suspicious if you leave the word count out of the query).


ray said...Moth-

Well I'm not going to be like "Oh they won't accept it if it's too long so chop chop chop" and cut out parts. I'm going to try to shorten it, but if I really can't, then I'm not going to ruin it just so an agent will be more willing to look at it.


Dave F. said...But Ray, if you make it too long and too detailed but still perfect, the agents may not even read the query.


Moth said...Thank you, Dave F! We finally agree on something. :D


Moth said...Ray, you could also split it into two 65k books and flesh it out to get them up to 75K each.

I'm sorry to keep harping on the word count but I just want you to get what a handicap 134K is going to be to you.


ray said...Moth-

Thank you, I didn't doubt you, but I havent actually sat down and edited it a million times yet. Once I'm through with it *MUAHAHA* I suppose it will be in reasonable shape. 110K and below is OK, right?

LATEST QUERY VERSION AT 252 WORDS~!

Dear

I am interested in sending you a fantasy novel with a word count of [ ]

How would your life change if you could fly?

Aged thirteen, Ceah Tearsen has recently acquired this ability, and her answer is “drastically”. She’s also found a stone called the Lis, which brings her into Alisia. In this parallel world, she discovers that her parents were exiled to Earth after stealing the very same one she found. The Lis Stone contains the soul of a bluebird which was sacrificed, thus bestowing the gift of flight upon certain people throughout Alisia. Assuming that the Lisians wouldn’t be exhilarated if they knew the truth about her, Ceah guards her secret while looking for a way back to Earth.

One person knows her secret, however. The Vulture. He wants the Lis, but Ceah won’t give it up. The Lisians don’t want him to have it either, and in order to defeat him, they need Ceah. Yachts then sweep in from Earth with members of an illicit association who want the Lis for money. They bring hostages, Ceah’s parents, who take one look at the situation and decide to tell Ceah everything. “Everything” includes the Vulture’s true identity: Ceah’s grandfather.

As war is declared and all begin to fall into place, Ceah realizes that everything depends on the bluebird’s soul. All she needs to do now is set it free, preferably while staying alive.

Bye Bye Bluebird is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Jellycat said...You might be able to boil this down further? Maybe:

Thirteen year old Ceah Tearsen has mysteriously acquired the ability to fly. Not only that, she’s found a stone with the power to transport her to the parallel world of Alisia.

There, Lis uncovers a secret. Her parents are Alisians. And thieves. They were exiled to earth after stealing the Lis Stone, a magical object which contains a bluebird’s soul and can bestow the gift of flight. The very same stone Ceah found.

Ceah guards the secret of her parentage as she searches for a way back home. But one person knows her true identity. The Vulture. He wants the Lis, but Ceah refuses to give it up.

The Vulture isn’t the only one seeking the Lis. Yachts from Earth arrive in Alisia. Aboard are members of VED, black marketers who know the Lis’s true worth. VED demand the Lis in return for the lives of two hostages- Ceah’s parents.

Ceah realizes that the lives of her parents and the future of Alisia depend on the bluebird’s soul. All she needs to do now is set it free, preferably while staying alive.


ray said...Okay, a totally new look. I like it better, but it's a bit long. But I cut the manuscript length down to 108 000!!

Dear Evil Editor:

Disclosed is a letter to our prized potential client, Ceah Tiercen.

We would be honoured to present to you the ideal formula for a drastic change in lifestyle, the twist every fourteen year old girl dreams of.

First, acquire a stone called the Lis. Aside from trapping a bluebird’s soul, it also grants you the ability of flight and takes you into a world called Alisia. The next step is to discover that your parents are not the mundane people they appear to be—they have a hidden past. They were exiled to Earth after stealing the treasure of Alisia, which just so happens to be the stone you found—the Lis.

Meanwhile, you mingle with the Lisians, habitants of Alisia. Assuming that they wouldn’t be exhilarated if they knew the truth about you, you play the part of an innocent girl while looking for a way back to Earth.

One person knows the truth. Regrine, the plotting antagonist, who wants the Lis. But the Lisians don’t want Regrine to have it, and, though displeased when your secrets are revealed, they need you to fight him. Yachts then sweep in from Earth with the members of V.E.D., an illicit organisation who want the Lis to sell. They bring hostages—your dear parents, who take a glance at the situation and tell you everything. “Everything” includes Regrine’s true identity: your grandfather.

But! There is a way to resolve all problems! Everything depends on the trapped bluebird. The last step is to set it free, preferably while staying alive.

And just how do you set about doing this? We’ve written out your new life for you, Ceah. Your destiny awaits in Bye Bye Bluebird, a fantasy novel complete at approximately 108 000 words.

Caution: this is our first formula. Some technical difficulties may occur (especially with explosives). Not suitable if you are acrophobic.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


writtenwyrdd said...The info is better presented but I don't like the gimmicky letter to the main character. It's like one of those choose your own adventure novels as a query.


ray said...Wait--so there have been queries like that before? Formatted as letters to the main character? O__O


Dave F. said...That sounds good, very good. It has what it takes. It's trying to draw the reader into the story.

If I were you, I'd drop the first two sentences and open the query with
First, acquire a stone called the Lis.

Change the line The next step is to discover that to
Second, discover that...

and then change the next paragraphs opening line from Meanwhile, you mingle with the Lisians, habitants of Alisia. Assuming that they wouldn’t be exhilarated if they knew the truth about you,
to Ceah Tiercen travels incognito among the Lisians. She hides her heritage...

See how I changed it? I took it away from 2nd person but I retained your meanings.

That next paragraph where you mention Regrine and the VED are like being hit in the head with a 2x4. You have to say something on the order of ... Regrine (the evil wizard) and a gang of thieves, VED, desire the LIS stone too ...

The sentence "yachts then sweep in" is too unexpected. You need to give a transition like "But someone else is looking for the LIS stone" or something like that. Ooops, I said that twice.

The idea is great and if you can get if all to work. It's well over half there. Gigantic improvement over the original. This does sell the novel.


ray said...To Dave:

You said the idea was great--which one? Because the whole letter to main character has to be in first person...and that doesn't seem to work, right?...

Thanks for your comments! It eases a LOT of the awkwardness. Um, any opinions about the ending? Too cheesy/ not funny?


Phoenix said...Wait--so there have been queries like that before? Formatted as letters to the main character? O__O

Ray, google "query letter gimmicks", read a few of the resultant sites, then make the decision if this is the direction you're set on taking.

This version is clearer in what happens, but to be honest, I'm still looking for what sets this story apart. There's a talisman that's also a portal to another world, which is wanted by the antagonist. In this version, it sounds like there will be a one-on-one fight to keep the antagonist from gaining the stone. Yet your earlier versions indicate it's to be all-out war. While those are predictable stakes, they are at least higher stakes. In this version, though, it's not at all clear why Ceah must fight the Vulture. Is there a reason the Alisians must put their fate in the hands of a 13/14 yo?

Let me say, too, that some of your word choices and misuse of words in each version of your query give me pause. Is this indicative of your writing style in the ms? Have we seen any of the book posted in the New Beginnings? Big-time kudos on getting your word count down (yay! I know editing your baby can be tough and that's a truly celebration-worthy accomplishment!!!); now let's take a peek at a couple of your chapter openings and make sure they are the "right" words.


150 said...Wow, this is dreadful. Go back to the way you had it. Your shtick is destroyed once you describe her parents' reactions, which the letter-sender shouldn't be able to predict, and your first sentence doesn't make immediate sense. I'm afraid this whole letter will just make people think you're crazy.

Otherwise, it does a much better job at explaining what happens, so if you stick it in a normal format and be sure to include both causes and effects, you should be in good shape.


ray said...Wow, I'm sure geting a variety of comments here.

However from what I can conclude, the letter thing isn't working...


Jamie Hall said...Don't give up on the letter format. I like it a great deal better than the earliest version. The letter only needs a bit of tweaking to make it right, while your earlier effort needed a great deal of tweaking.

Do delete everything before "First, acquire a stone called the Lis." and make sure you keep in in first person throughtout.


Phoenix said...Oh jeez, did my other comment get eaten? It was long and, of course, quite brilliant. And said a lot of what 150 said, only hers got posted and mine didn't. I shall recap:

Please Ray, google "query letter gimmicks" before making the decision to continue in this direction.

This version does a better job of laying out the plot, but quite honestly, I'm still looking for the thing that sets it apart. Girl finds talisman that is also a portal. Winds up in another world where she must save the day. Or, according to this version, must fight Vulture one-on-one for some unexplained reason so he doesn't take the talisman that has some significance about flying. What happened to the war mentioned in the other versions? While predictable, that at least upped the stakes a bit.

But predictable stories get picked up because it's all about execution, right? However, to be blunt, I worry that the writing may not be as sharp as it can be based on the number of wrong and not-best word choices used in every one of your versions. Have you submitted any of your chapter openings so we can see if your writing does indeed trump the quality of your query letter?

On the positive side, major, major kudos for cutting the word count like you did! Editing your own work is tough and slashing up the baby is definitely a celebration-worthy accomplishment! Yay!


talpianna said...You have never addressed the thing that's been baffling me from the beginning: WHY did Ceah's parents steal the stone? What was in it for them? And why won't she return it to the Lisians (or whatever you're calling them this week)? It seems that would be righting the wrong of the original theft. If it's because they want to keep it, and she wants to release the bluebird, when did she find out that this was a good idea? Because if she didn't know from the beginning, it seems that she WOULD have handed it over.

I think the ending should have Ceah, Lea, and Raya marrying Huey, Louie, and Dewey.


ray said...Uhm...I'll just not say anything to the "Ceah, Lea, and Raya marrying Huey, Louie, and Dewey" thing... (and the Lisians have always been Lisians; Raya's now changed to Ashlyn, and Lea is no longer in the query)

It might just be me, but I feel it is utterly impossible to explain all Talpianna's questions in a query letter of 250 words. Let me pour forth the story behind it and see if anyone can compress it and fit it with the query letter in 250 words.

Why did Ceah's parents steal the stone? Ceah's mother (Asen) was a Lisian. One day, Ceah's father (Dai) stumbled into Alisia from Earth and they fell in love. This caused the jealousy of Finn, exceedingly rich and in love with Asen. Finn ridiculed, humiliated, and insulted Dai in front of everyone so Dai ran off to steal the sacred treasure of Alisia--the Lis. However the Lis traps a bluebird's soul, which resents its captivity and wants freedom. This it attempts to achieve by possessing all mortals (non-Fated. Ceah's Fated). So Dai became kind of possessed by the Lis (only kind of because he only had it for a day). So after that, basically, Regrine (asen's dad) became possessed by the Lis (he stole it in fury at Dai's crime, wanted to return it but got possessed instead), and all hell broke loose. Asen and Dai decided to escape to Earth. They need the Lis for that, so they stole it back (Asen could touch it cause she was pregant with Ceah) and they escaped. That is how they came to steal the Lis.

Now why won't Ceah give it back. When they arrived in Alisia Finn was freaking out, saying that "history would repeat itself" and that they should be killed or locked up somewhere--and they did NOTHING. So...if she admitted that she had the Lis--she'd be dead before she could say sorry.

Wow...I'm sorry if this made NO sense at all...


ray said...I've just submitted its opening to EE as well.


ray said...sorry--i'm back again. I googled query letter gimmicks and these "gimmicks" are like sending flowers/gifts and spraying your letter with perfume...none of which I plan to do.

There wasn't much on unusual ways to write your queries, but one site recommended not to be "overly cutesy or clever". -_-;; I personally don't think of the newest version as clever...and hopefully not cute...

Any opinions?


Evil Editor said...I think it's an attempt to be clever, which might occasionally work, but I don't think you've pulled it off. It's not clear who has Ceah as a client and is writing this letter. Why would someone providing the "formula" to Ceah tell her she must discover that her parents have a hidden life, when they're telling her right there in the letter? Why aren't inhabitants of Alisia called Alisians? The plot's confusing. If her parents are hostages, how do they have access to Ceah to tell her everything? I'd go with standard query format and try to make the plot more clear.


ray said...I have figured out my problem. To fully describe the novel, I need more information. And I'll need explanations for everything to make sense. But I can't fit that in. So here's the latest query rewrite. The information that I don't know how to put in but needs to be there is at the bottom of the query.

When Ceah Tiercen arrives in Alisia with the stolen Lis Stone, nothing huge happens because due to her pseudonym, no one knows that she’s Ceah Tiercen or that she has the Lis Stone. It’s a different matter when VED arrive, bringing Ceah’s parents as hostages. The truth is exposed. Chaos explodes. Regrine declares war, as Ceah won’t give him the Lis. On the surface, that’s what’s happening…

Many events are churning under this surface to drive the story to its peak. The Sagets and the Nadirs are two groups of teenagers in Alisia. Leo has broken off from the Sagets after trying to harm them to help a stranger, Dante. When Dante abandons Leo, he turns to the Nadirs. Meanwhile Aura, another of the Sagets, is working a trade. She owes the Nadirs a debt, and the perfect opportunity to repay it arrives when Kyce Talo employs her to spy on Dai, who’s been imprisoned. She requests a jet and tireswings for herself and a rare drug, for the Nadirs.

Oblivious to all of this, Ceah is struggling with her own dilemma. Regrine’s true identity is revealed to her by her parents; he’s her grandfather. And as if that isn’t enough, the Lisians who hate her because of her heritage want to kill her. She’s only saved by a tireswing and a jet. Ceah realizes that the key to everything lies in the bluebird’s soul. Now all she has to do is figure out how to set it free, preferably while staying alive.

NOW WHAT I NEED TO PUT IN...
The Lis Stone is the stolen treasure of Alisia. It grants the ability of flight to certain individuals—Kamehamen (the Fated)—and it also traps the soul of a bluebird that yearns for its freedom.

Regrine is a man possessed. In its longing for liberation, the Lis takes over non-Fated. Part of its soul has taken over Regrine, and it has grown so strong that the real Regrine is almost completely gone. Now the possessed Regrine is after the Lis, so it can at last be freed.

Asen and Dai are Ceah’s parents. They fled to Earth after stealing the Lis Stone. [explanation for why they stole it in an earlier post]

VED: an illicit organization after the Lis Stone. Jackie Lato leads them into Alisia; he’s also a Lisian (Kyce Talo) who escaped during the war.

Fourteen year old Ceah Tiercen doesn’t know that Alisia or the Lis exists, much less that she is the Kamehamen, until one day…


ray said...Version Fifty Billion. 265 words.
--Sorry if I'm not supposed to post this many revisions--

Dear:

Truth isn’t always pretty.

Fourteen year old Ceah Tiercen discovers this when the cruise she’s on sinks and she arrives in Alisia. She discovers that her parents fled to Earth after stealing the sacred treasure of Alisia, the Lis Stone, which traps a bluebird’s soul. She discovers that the Lis Stone is the same stone she found in her house. She discovers that she’s a Kamehamen—one of the Fated whose souls are linked to the Lis’. She discovers that an old man called Regrine is after the Lis Stone, which is the only thing that can grant him his freedom.

And that’s just the beginning.

VED, an illicit organization who want the Lis Stone to sell, also arrive in Alisia with hostages—Ceah’s parents. They decide that it’s time to tell Ceah everything. “Everything” includes Regrine’s true identity: Ceah’s grandfather.

Then Regrine declares war as Ceah refuses to give up the Lis Stone. The Lisians, who need Ceah to defeat Regrine, fight with her. Little do they know that Regrine’s army will be something beyond their most horrifying predictions.

Under the surface, events are taking place to drive the story to its peak. VED get involved in a Lisian plan to kill Ceah’s mother, which backfires and results in the Lisian commander being shot. A spy hired to spy on Ceah’s father is paid with a jet and tireswings, which will have an unexpected part in the grand scheme of things…

Bye Bye Bluebird is my first novel, a fantasy complete at 104,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Moth said...You don't need to say 104,000. You can say 100,000 or even 100K to save lots of space. Good job getting that word count down.

"Fourteen year old Ceah Tiercen discovers this when the cruise she’s on sinks and she arrives in Alisia. She discovers that her parents fled to Earth after stealing the sacred treasure of Alisia, the Lis Stone, which traps a bluebird’s soul. She discovers that the Lis Stone is the same stone she found in her house. She discovers that she’s a Kamehamen—one of the Fated whose souls are linked to the Lis’. She discovers that an old man called Regrine is after the Lis Stone, which is the only thing that can grant him his freedom." New word choice! Please! I hope this was deliberate. It doesn't read well, though. If it is a stylistic choice it's an ineffective one. Parallel structure has its limits. Change all but one of the discovers and vary your sentence structure a bit.

This version is much clearer than the first draft was, but now you're falling into the trap of just listing events without engaging the reader. "This happens and then this, which triggers such and so..." I don't connect to your characters or the story at all.

So, there's your next step. Make me want to spend 100+ words getting to know these people and their world.


ray said...Alrighty.

The truth isn’t always pretty.

Fourteen year old Ceah Tiercen discovers this when the cruise she’s on sinks and she arrives in Alisia. There, she finds that her parents aren’t who they seem to be. They fled to Earth after stealing the Lis Stone, which traps a bluebird’s soul. It happens to be the same stone Ceah has with her after finding it in her house. There’s also Regrine. He wants the Lis Stone, for purposes stranger than Ceah can fathom. And Ceah finds that she isn’t who she thought she was either. She’s a Kamehamen—her soul is linked to the Lis’.

That’s just the beginning.

After reading this first paragraph, are you kind of feeling like "WHAT?!?!?"

I don't want to lose anyone that soon.


Julie Weathers said...Ray, I am not educated so take my advice with a grain of salt. I'm just giving you my impressions and someone else can correct me if I'm wrong.

Fourteen year old Ceah Tiercen discovers this when the cruise she’s on sinks and she arrives in Alisia. There, she finds that her parents aren’t who they seem to be. They fled to Earth after stealing the Lis Stone, which traps a bluebird’s soul.

How does she get to Alisia from a sinking cruise ship?

Don't need "that" in second sentence.

I'm not trying to sound flippant, but if a stone could capture a soul, why on earth trap a bluebird? I mean I like bluebirds, but they aren't exactly rare and magical. Why would a trapped bluebird's soul be such a treasure?

It happens to be the same stone Ceah has with her after finding it in her house.

I'm not sure this is relevant. If it were me, I would write something about, "Ceah, carries the interesting stone around with her as a good luck rock, little does she know..."

There’s also Regrine. He wants the Lis Stone, for purposes stranger than Ceah can fathom.

Leave off, "There's also." Just begin with a brief introduction and his purpose. If I am a fourteen-year-old just transported to another world, all of this is going to be stranger than I can fathom.

"And Ceah finds that she isn’t who she thought she was either. She’s a Kamehamen—her soul is linked to the Lis’."

I begin sentences with "and" and "but" although it isn't proper. I don't think I would in this case, however. So her soul is linked to the bluebird's soul?

That’s just the beginning.


talpianna said...A CRUISE doesn't sink. A CRUISE SHIP sinks!


Jeb said...I'm coming in very late to the whole thread, but this letter is still very wordy. And list-y. And not exciting. And full of extraneous details.

You really need to pare down to the essentials, and to tell them in such a way as to fire the agent's imagination and make them want to learn the details, which they'll only get by requesting pages from you.

Here's what would attract my attention (excluding my bracketed editorial comments):

"Trapped on a sinking cruise ship (exciting!) and facing imminent death, fourteen-year old Ceah is jolted into a different world, a land called Alisia. (the 'big change') Here she discovers her parents are Lisians and, worse, that they stole a Lisian national treasure before fleeing to Earth. (not only are her parents liars, which all kids can identify with, but they're also CROOKS! Big selling point for the kiddies and those who pander to their tastes, and also points up something that makes your story different from the very many tales that end with some version of the parents being 'right')

The treasure, called the 'Lis', is a simple blue stone Ceah has been carrying in her pocket 'for luck', and it bestows - or awakens - Ceah's ability to fly. (that it does so to a select group of 'Fated' folks is irrelevant at this point)

Ceah isn't the only one interested in the stone's powers. There's the Vulture,' who only appears in mirrors, and a seemingly harmless old man named Regine. Then there's the VED, a black-market cabal that offers Ceah a simple exchange: the stone for her parents' lives.

Almost before she can blink, Ceah is embroiled in a brutal civil war between the Lisians, the VED and Regine, who, it turns out, is not only Ceah's grandfather but controls an other-worldly army too terrible to imagine.

While the adults around her cross and double-cross each other, Ceah must uncover the other secrets of the Lis stone and figure out how to return safely to Earth, with or without the folks she is beginning to fear aren't her real parents at all. (the metaphorical journey of self-discovery)

Bye Bye Bluebird is complete at 100,000 words. (no need to say it's your first novel)

Thank you for your time and consideration."

Sincerely,"

You may have use of this query letter (or any phrases contained therein) for free, but if your manuscript has the same verbosity as your queries, your first page will shoot you in the foot just as surely as your latest query letter would.


ray said...Wow, you guys are amazing. Thanks Jeb, for your suggestions. I've been trying to follow the 'pare down to the essentials' advice but that example gave me a very clear impression on how to do it.

Yes, I've realized that the same problem occurs in my manuscript and thanks to EE and his minions, the first page is already much better. I'm going through the manuscript again to cut back on the wordiness.

Again, thanks, thanks, thanks.


ray said...I like the idea with starting the query with the cruise ship sinking. However, it's almost 6,500 words into the story when the cruise ship actually sinks.

So is it okay to start the query with the ship sinking and Ceah arriving in Alisia?


Moth said...Or maybe just start the book with the cruise ship sinking.


ray said...I've considered, but that won't work, because she has to find the Lis, fly once, meet the Vulture, and know that her parents know more than she does before she can go into Alisia.


Jeb said...The query is not the story. The query is merely a fishing rod to lure the unwitting agent into your net. Use what works.

In this instance, what works is a cruise ship sinking. Or a girl flying. Just a girl finding a stone will not do it.

But the manuscript, when the excited agent requests it, must deliver SOMETHING exciting on page 1, so if it isn't the cruise ship sinking, it should at the very least be young Ceah flipping out at her mother and storming off to the spare room determined to wreck one of her mother's prized heirlooms (where she stumbles on a stone that lifts her momentarily off the ground and shakes her out of her pubescent rage)... or some such dramatic moment that will impel the hapless agent into turning that crucial first page.

Without that, you got nuthin'.


ray said...Hmmm....the first page is New Beginnings 514, the edit at 2:19.


ray said...ANOTHER VERSION!!!!! YAY!!!!!

Dear:

Trapped on a sinking cruise ship, fourteen-year old Ceah Tiercen is jolted into a world called Alisia. Here, she discovers that her parents stole a Lisian treasure before fleeing to Earth. The treasure, the Lis, is a plain blue stone Ceah keeps with her and which grants her the ability of flight.

As is characteristic of treasures, the Lis is wanted by many. There’s Regrine, a strange old man, and there’s VED, a black-market cabal. VED arrive from Earth and offer Ceah a simple exchange: the Lis for her parents’ lives.

Before she knows it, Ceah finds herself in the midst of a war between the Lisians and Regrine, who, it turns out, is not only Ceah’s grandfather but also controls an army that surpasses anyone’s most horrific predictions.

Apart from uncovering the secrets of the Lis, staying alive. and confronting her grandfather, Ceah now faces two choices: fleeing safely like her parents back to Earth, or trying to set things right in the world she has come to love.

Bye Bye Bluebird is a fantasy novel, complete at 97,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


talpianna said...Much improved! I think this would work.

Now all we need is a title....


benwah said...I'll give you points for persistence.

I vaguely recalled the orginal query, and I skipped down to the most recent revision this time and found myself confused. So I sifted through the entire thread. I see how you arrived at the current iteration, and it's certainly well pared down, but there are certainly areas that require leaps of logic.

"Trapped on a sinking cruise ship, fourteen-year old Ceah Tiercen is jolted into a world called Alisia." The two parts of this sentence are obviously related in your story, but for the purposes of the query...being trapped on a capsized boat and entering a new world seem incongruous. Perhaps "after miraculously escaping a sinking cruise ship?"

"Here, she discovers that her parents stole a Lisian [treasure] before fleeing to Earth. The [treasure], the Lis, is a plain blue stone Ceah keeps with her and which grants her the ability of flight. As is characteristic of [treasures], the Lis is wanted by many."

Space is at a premium. You don't need to continually repeat that the Lis is a treasure. You can lose "As is characteristic..."

You've got lots of names here. Fewer than before, but still a bit of a clutter. And then you tell us Reggie is also Ceah's grandfather. Not sure that's entirely necessary.

For our own edification, would you please, please share what the VED acronym is? Somebody up there (last February I think) suggested "The VED" made them think of "STD." Personally, I though LED and wondered a moment if the blue stone powered blinky lights. The eye tracks to the capital letters, but if you're not explaining the acronym, you might just refer to the black cabal. That's shadowy enough.


ray said...Oh, yes, THANK YOU...I really really need some help with the acronym too...

When I started writing this, quite a while ago, I gave the cabal the name "the VED" as a joke...and I haven't gotten around to changing it. Wow, with rewriting the query and cutting down the manuscript somehow that totally slipped my mind.

Well -yes, you may laugh heartily- right now they are the Void of Eternal Desolation. There you go.

trouble is, I'm really not sure what to refer to them as. I think I'll just refer to them as "the black-market cabal" in the query, but they'll need a name in the story.


Anonymous said...VED = Vacuum Erection Device.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

A Glitch in Time

1. When Glynda mistaken- ly adds time to a spell calling for thyme, she has no idea what will happen. But when bubbles start forming in the space-time continuum creating holes in history, she realizes she must fix her mistake or risk having her very existence snuffed out.

2. Lemuel Morkwort, master criminal from the future, has come back in time and threatened to blow up everything with his superbomb, unless he's made supreme ruler. Can cowardly Bill and dim bulb Walter save the world, or are we all doomed? Also, telepathic crabs.

3. When Time Magazine intern Carly Vixen accidentally replaces all references to President Bush with "Mister Poopy-Head," the vice president invites Time's Editor-in-Chief on a hunting trip. Hilarity ensues as Carly crashes the hunting party to try and save her boss from getting shot in the face.

4. Rawle Penderton finally finished coding on the top-secret Welles Project, but before he can relax, he's pulled back in. A bug has resulted in a scientific expedition being lost somewhen between the Crusades and the Revolutionary War. Now Pendleton has to go against military brass, the software management team, and a sexy saboteur as he tries to find one misspelling in fourteen million lines of code.

5. When 1 million solid gold Rolexes are made with thirteen hours on the face, quality control overseer Robyn's afraid she might be out of a job--until she starts a hot new romance with ad exec Edwin. Will their "There Aren't Enough Hours In The Day" campaign convince the world to change for them?

6. Physicist Ronnie Tate discovers that a glitch in the space-time continuum will cause November 4, 2008 simply not to exist. When he tries to alert the press, he's whisked off by the Secret Service to Area 51. Can Ronnie--aided by scientist Cindy Bigguns--escape and warn the populace?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Two twelve-year old boys find that traveling through time is not a straightforward matter in A Glitch in Time, a novel for readers in the 10-13-year-old range. [That would be a better hook if it were generally assumed that traveling through time is a straightforward matter. As it is, it's like trying to hook us by saying A teenager discovers that Canada is North of the United States in my geographical coming-of age novel, Searching for Saskatchewan.]
Walter and Bill are best friends, despite having little in common. Walter is an ace student, prone to thinking deeply before doing anything. Bill is an obsessive baseball fan, and likely to act without doing any thinking at all. [This is too general to be interesting. "Doing anything," and "likely to act," tell us little. Specific examples would get the point across just as well. Consider the lyrics to The Patty Duke Show theme song:

Meet Cathy, who's lived most everywhere,
From Zanzibar to Berk'ly Square.
But Patty's only seen the sights
A girl can see from Brooklyn Heights — What a crazy pair!

Where Cathy adores a minuet,
The Ballet Russes, and crepes suzette,
Our Patty loves to rock and roll,
A hot dog makes her lose control — What a wild duet!

See how, through specific examples we get the point that Patty and Cathy are one pair of matching bookends, different as night and day? Do you think that show would have lasted more than four episodes if the lyrics had been

Meet Cathy who deeply thinks things through,
Whenever there's something she must do.
But Patty doesn't think a lot;
She always acts without a thought — What unstraightforward opposites!

Also note that the song contrasts dances with dances, foods with foods and homes with homes. You contrast scholarship with baseball obsession. It's like saying they're different because one likes chocolate ice cream and the other likes basketball.] [Trivia note: Robert Wells, lyricist of the Patty Duke Show theme song also wrote  the lyrics to "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).


Their story, told in alternating first-person chapters, begins one summer morning, when they find a strange contraption that turns out to be a time machine. Soon the two of them are traveling backwards and forwards in time, and getting into all sorts of unlikely adventures. Bill finds himself tangling with British spies during the American Revolution. Walter gets captured by giant telepathic crabs in the far distant future, [This makes it sound like they're using the time machine one at a time. What's Walter doing while Bill is tangling with spies?] and is nearly thrown into a giant soup pot. [Giant telepathic crabs have notoriously bad aim. Which makes one wonder how they become the planet's dominant species in the future.] However, there is more going on than fun and games and being eaten by crustaceans. Lemuel Morkwort, a power-mad criminal from the future, is also using the time machine. [How can Morkwort get access to the time machine when the kids are zooming all over time in it?] Morkwort also has a terrible weapon -- a bomb that can blow up everything -- which he intends to use to blackmail the world into making him the supreme ruler. [Anyone can claim to have a bomb that blows up everything. Proving that it works is the hard part.]

When Bill and Walter manage to steal the bomb from him, [You'd think a bomb capable of blowing up everything would be too heavy for two kids to carry. Apparently not.] [Also, I was happier when the bomb was in the hands of Morkwort rather than a kid "likely to act without doing any thinking at all."] Morkwort retaliates by kidnapping Bill’s sister, Jenny, and taking her back to the age of the dinosaurs, where he will keep her unless he gets his weapon back. [I've got a better idea, Morkwort. Use the time machine to go back to before the kids stole your bomb, and tell yourself to put it somewhere where they can't find it. Not only is it more efficient, you don't have to worry about getting eaten by an Allosaurus.] In order to rescue Jenny and defeat Morkwort, the two boys find they have to do the impossible: Walter will have to be brave, and Bill will have to be smart. [According to my dictionary, the word "impossible" doesn't come with much wiggle room. They'd better come up with a plan B.]

Time Twist is a 80,000-word novel, [Whoa! What happened to A Glitch in Time? You forgot your own title already? Do we need to come up with a new set of GTPs now?] and the first in a projected trilogy of books about Walter and Bill. Its mixture of humor and adventure will make it appealing [will appeal] to middle-grade readers who read Lemony Snicket. It is my first novel, but I have had my short play "The Little Death" published by Heuer Publishing of Cedar Rapids.

Thank you for your consideration,


Notes

Was Morkwort just abandoning Jenny in the time of the dinosaurs?

Possibly a better hook than time travel isn't straightforward would be to mention that the boys must stop a power-mad criminal from the future from blowing up the world.

I'd start this when they find the time machine, and end the plot portion with what they specifically need to do. Being brave and smart is vague. Besides, it goes without saying that heroes should be brave and smart.

I assume there's an explanation for why the time machine is sitting there waiting for Bill and Walter to find it.


Selected Comments

Kiersten said...Nitpicky things--instead of saying your book will appeal to 10-13 year olds, just say middle grade.

Also, maybe you are actually aiming for young YA, because 80,000 words is pretty long for middle grade.

I'd jump that information up to the first paragraph so that your last paragraph can focus on you and personalization you want to add for specific agents.

You might want to be wary of comparing my book to Lemony Snicket, as this sounds nothing like his books. I know you're comparing the appeal, but I'd still avoid it. You've already said what age group it's for; the reference to Snicket is unnecessary.

Also, in the bio paragraph you have a lot of passive verbs. "I have had my short play 'The Little Death' by..." should be "My short play, 'The Little Death," was published by..."

And did anyone else read the names Walter and Bill and think Grumpy Old Men? Maybe that's just me.

But the story sounds fun and definitely action-packed.

Also, I hear that geographical coming of age stories are really hot right now...

(Loved the commentary on this one, EE.)


Sarah Laurenson said...I immediately thought of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, so maybe you should change the names to something that is not reminiscent of this or Grumpy Old Men.

It sounds like it could be a great action adventure, but there are a lot of plot holes in the query (as EE so nicely pointed out).

And you aren't leading with the strongest hook. Time travel on it's own is no big deal. Saving the world from the futuristic madman while bouncing around in time is much more interesting. Though that reminds me of Time Bandits.


pjd said...I agree with all that's said, especially the bit about "good job EE."

Downplay the time travel as it seems adventure is the crux of the book, and as EE's comments point out, focusing too much on time travel might get people distracted by the theoretical aspects of it. You want them drawn in by the adventure.

Also, unless your style and voice are very much like the Lemony Snicket series, you might want to steer clear of that. Just because a couple of kids who liked that also like your manuscript, that doesn't mean they should be compared.

Otherwise, Kiersten and Sarah make good points. And listen to the wise sage (or rather, read his blue text with great attentiveness).


writtenwyrdd said...I think there are some cool elements here, but it sounds like you have three time machines and the characters don't interact. I'm sure this is not the case, so perhaps revise the plot description so we know something of what goes on in terms of plot complications. The need to rescue the sister is fine; but what about the sister? Is she really small and helpless or can she act on her own as a not-helpless victim?

I also agree with what others said about calling it a middle grade book and not comparing yourself to Lemony Snickett.

Good luck in the revisions.


pacatrue said...
Others have covered my query thoughts already, so I'd just like to add that I prefer Time Twist to A Glitch in Time, just because the latter is way close to A Wrinkle in Time. Though this could let you name the last one FUBARed in Time.


BuffySquirrel said...Maybe it's just me, but going from threatening to destroy the whole world to keeping a little girl trapped in a primordial swamp is something of a...well. Anyway, it all strikes me as highly implausible.


Julie Weathers said...I pretty much agree with what's already been said, so no need beating a dead horse.

The bomb that will blow up the world has been done so much. I'm getting visions of Boris and Natasha here.

Having said that, setting kids off on wild adventures is fun. It's just up to the writer to make them wild and interesting as well as different.


talpianna said...I agree with the critiques here and would add that there seem to be too many adventures for one book, unless it's at least as long as a Harry Potter. I'd cut a few of the gimmicks and save them for possible sequels. Maybe getting the time machine away from the villain in this book; holding the sister hostage in the next one; and the bomb in the third one. You then have the option of a recurring villain or an assortment.


Bonnie said...Shoot, I was hoping it was going to be Glynda messing with the thyme. That sounds like fun.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Face-Lift 1098


Guess the Plot

Wild Hunt

1. Two college roommates meet a girl on spring break, and take her camping to impress her. Turns out she's a crazy murderer who drugs them and hunts them down for sport. Best spring break ever.

2. It’s the late 1960s and four coeds from Northwestern head to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. They’ll meet half a dozen frat boys from various colleges. It’s a frolicking sexual romp until young Ted Bundy arrives with a different hunt in mind.

3. Marine biologist Shane Staller discovers the ruins of Atlantis. Wait, they aren't ruins--Atlantis is a thriving civilization whose favorite pastime is the Wild Hunt, and Shane is the latest target.

4. Jill wakes in a strange forest and discovers she's being hunted by the undead. She escapes, but then finds that a bunch of thugs are trying to kill her. Has she stumbled out of one Wild Hunt and into another?

5. 16 year old Kenley Gingerbloom knew a summer on her uncle's Texas ranch would be a social disaster--rodeos, line dancing, cattle roundups. But when feral hogs injure Uncle Joe, can she and hunky cowboy Alex hunt them down before they overwhelm the ranch? Also, cute Mexicans.

6. Every spring the Wild Hunt meets in Napa, and the prey is a disgraced programmer who has to outrun the dogs and horses or suffer death, skinning and dismemberment, not necessarily in that order. Can Chaz Pacheco survive, or will his 'tail' end up on Anita Cho's wall--with all the others?

7. Nathan Gordon runs a canned hunt operation in Ararat, Texas, where his clients "hunt" surplus zoo animals and cast-off exotic pets. But when a shipment of animals arrives from a bankrupt genetic engineering company, Nathan discovers karma ain't a bitch, it's a beast.

8. A survey suggests that Bluegrass musicians Harriet, Hannah, and Henrietta Hunt are sliding in popularity. But when their wild little pole-dancing sister Heidi joins the group and adds some swang to the twang, poles immediately begin to rise!

9. In a well-armed dystopia, every public gathering place becomes a target for crazed killers. Can a well-meaning but overly-placating president face down a powerful lobby of nutty gun-strokers to save the day?



Original Version

Dear Agent,

Jillian Nicnevin wakes up in the middle of a forest, no memory of how she got there, but doesn’t have the time to worry about that. A girl identical to her, [Is she a clone? If she's a clone, call her a clone. A clone is a major hook.] and a host of undead fairies known as the Wild Hunt are in the forest, trying to kill her. [If they couldn't kill her while she was sleeping, they're never gonna pull it off now that she's awake.] She barely escapes the forest, [See?] and soon after a group of thugs make another attempt on her life. [The average thug is convinced he can take out one girl on his own; needing help from other thugs would be humiliating.] [Though not as humiliating as teaming up with other thugs and still failing to kill the girl.]

A human private investigator, Randall Caldwell, [Normally we don't bother declaring the species of a character unless he isn't human.] helps her escape, but his assistance wasn’t random. He is investigating the disappearance of Nancy Landry, the lookalike [clone] from the forest, whose disappearance may have been Jill’s fault.

To make matters worse, Randall’s son Taylor finds out she’s half-elven and wants in on the adventure, [When thugs and undead fairies are trying to kill you for no discernible reason, the degree to which Taylor wanting in on the adventure makes matters worse is negligible.] but this isn’t the place for an inexperienced human. [Inexperienced at what? It's not like Jill is experienced at being a target of thugs and undead fairies.] Attempts are made on her life from every direction, while the person responsible remains in the shadows. Her girlfriend betrays her, her family disowns her, [Why?] and the one person willing to help her is kidnapped, the ransom her life for his. A price that, if she can’t figure out how to save him, she’ll have to pay. [Why? It's not like it's her fault he's been kidnapped. As you said, his assistance wasn't random.]

Wild Hunt is a YA urban fantasy novel of 85,000 words, and the first in a planned series, but it could stand alone.

I am a member of the SCBWI living in Dallas, TX.

Thank you for your time



Evil Editor –

I have a few questions. Should I mention that my main character is a lesbian? It’s a fairly minor plot point, but maybe it would be more important to an agent (a couple other, hopefully well-meaning, people have told me gay young adult fiction doesn’t sell)? [Minor plot points don't need to be in the query. The fact that Jill is half-elven seems important. But it would sound weird to open the query, Half-elven lesbian Jillian Nicnevin wakes up in the middle of a forest. And admitting that you've named your main character Jillian Nicnevin is enough weirdness.)] 

Also, I’m sixteen. Should I mention that in a query letter? My parents thino so, and I’ll be the first to admit that admitting I’m a kid is a pretty fast way of getting special treatment, but maybe I should let the work stand alone? [Telling the agent you are sixteen will have one of three possible results:

1. I was going to request the manuscript/send a rejection slip, and learning that the author is sixteen changes nothing.

2. I was going to reject this because it isn't exciting me, but now that I know the author is sixteen, I will take it on because hey, it's a kid. Surely I can convince some publishing company to spend tens of thousands of dollars publishing it for that reason alone.

3. I loved this query so much I was planning to request the manuscript, but now that I know the author is sixteen, what are the chances the book is any good? Heck, I reject 99% of manuscripts from people with college educations and decades of life experience, and even if the kid can write, she'll be going off to college in a year or two, where she'll discover boys and never meet another deadline. Her parents probably wrote the query letter anyway.


Notes

We need the plot. The story. You've provided the main character's situation. She wakes up in a strange place and discovers that everyone and his brother are trying to kill her. Who is she? What does she plan to do about her situation? Who is the villain in the shadows? Does the detective give her any idea what's going on? Does everyone trying to kill her think she's Nancy Landry?

That Nancy Landry is identical to her is an interesting point, in that Randall knew of Nancy's existence before he ran into Jill, while Jill's family is now disowning her. If Nancy/Jill is the main plot, focus on that. Running into a private investigator who insists that she's someone named Nancy Landry is more intriguing than being hunted by one group and escaping only to be hunted by another.

How does Randall come to believe Jill isn't Nancy? If I'm searching a specific area for Nancy Landry, and I find her, and she says, There must be some mistake; my name's Jill Nicnevin, not Nancy Landry, I'm not taking her word for it. I'm taking her to the person who hired me to find her.

Establish the situation quickly, and then take us through what happens.