Query Critique 87

Dear Ms. Kyra Nelson,

(Two personalization sentences). Without further ado, I would like to invite you to The Black Night Rave. This sentence seems sort of unnecessary. Just jump into the query.

At seventeen, Skyeler Anders is an exile, failed mage, and wanted for the murder of his missing best friend, who is a princess. Something about the wording on the last bit throws me off as it sort of sounds like you’re trying too hard to squeeze in extra information. Maybe instead try something along the lines of “wanted for the murder of a princess who happens to be his best friend.”

Only he didn’t kill her. To prove his innocence and find Jessica, Skyeler follows a cryptic letter to a magical rave, the deadly Black Night Rave. Again, I think the wording could be a little cleaner. Something to the effect of “follows a cryptic letter to the magical and deadly Black Night Rave.”

There he meets three other teens—the escaped freak experiment, the secretive hacker with earth magic, and the premonition-plagued actress. The four encounter the Guardians, elemental beings who reveal they are the Chosen, descendants of the hated mages who destroyed the home of all magic. I had to read this sentence several times, and I’m still not sure I know who the Guardians are or what they do or what their goals are. The teens all need something unusual and the Guardians will obtain it, in exchange for their aid.

Now Skyeler must choose. He can either help the Guardians defeat the dark mages attacking the rave or forsake his destiny to save Jessica. Either way, somebody will die. I almost like the stakes better leaving off this last sentence. I like the idea of ending the query with the main character being forced to make a hard choice.

THE BLACK NIGHT RAVE is a YA urban fantasy complete at 75,000 words. Though told in the alternating viewpoints of the Chosen, it focuses on Skyeler, who is mixed and out as gay. My novel will appeal to fans of Aimee Carter and Cassandra Clare, by taking well-known mythologies and flipping them to create something familiar, yet new.Good comp titles, but I don’t think you need the part about familiar, yet new. While I believe this novel has series potential, I am writing other novels, such as an LGBT retelling of THE LITTLE MERMAID. I would axe this sentence. Focus instead on the book you’re trying to pitch.

My writing experience includes an internship at The Dallas Voice as well as articles published with them. I’ve also interned with Paige Wheeler of Creative Media Inc. Summer 2013, I had the pleasure of was being mentored by Malinda Lo in the YA/Genre workshop at the Lambda Literary Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. Additionally, I’ve had short stories and poems published in my community college’s art and literature magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration. As per the guidelines on your agency website, my materials are pasted below. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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Query Critique 84

Baronet Brandon Shrike is in serious trouble. Too vague! Give me something specific in the hook. King Justin Capet has been poisoned and is near death. Tasked with finding the perpetrator, Brandon, the king’s trusted bodyguard, has instead gotten himself exiled. The information in this sentence is what should be worked into a hook. He knows he’s been set up by ambitious General Kalt, but Justin is too ill to listen, and Brandon needs proof.
In the north, Lady Bria Perregal’s mother has been murdered, and if her suspicions are correct, it was her father who committed the crime. This is an abrupt point of view shift. Even adding the word “meanwhile” to the beginning could help smooth it out. Earl Rostis Perregal seems poised to seize power if the king dies, but Bria has no proof, only fear and doubt. With her twin brother hundreds of miles away in the royal city, Bria realizes she must act alone in order to avoid becoming a pawn in their father’s power games. I’d like to see how this ties in to the conflict from the first part.
Major Michael LeVay has been ordered to arrest Bria on sight–to his great consternation, as he has been secretly in love with her for five years. If he is loyal to the cavalry, he must obey his orders. If he is loyal to his heart, he must defy them. On top of that, he must make his choice while facing down his old mentor–and his old nemesis–General Kalt. There have been enough people mentioned in this query that I had trouble making the connection between Kalt in this paragraph and the first paragraph. So again, I’d like to see at least a hint of how the different narratives will weave together.
Pursued by both human soldiers and monsters that look like men but aren’t, Bria flees south. Brandon, risking capture and torture, defies exile to stop General Kalt from destroying both king and kingdom. Michael struggles to stay true to himself while serving the king. Renegade baronet, rebellious noblewoman, and conflicted soldier are on a collision course as they attempt to thwart not only Kalt’s plans, but those of someone even more sinister…the supernatural Dark King. As I’ve mentioned, I’d like a little bit more indication of how these paths collide. Also, the Dark King kinda comes out of left field. We’re not given a chance to see why he’s scary, so there isn’t any real reason to fear him. Which means the ending lacks the punch it should have.
The Loyalty Factor is an adult epic fantasy complete at 145,000 words. I have a rough outline for a sequel and plan to write several books set in this world.
Thank you for your time.

Query Critique 78

Dear __________:

What if everything you wanted was at your fingertips but at the cost of your soul? I’m pretty much never in favor of beginning with a rhetorical question. This is Pita’s secret. He can get anything he wants simply by wishing it. But is the magical stone he’s found a blessing or a curse? Try reworking this into something along the lines of “Pita’s magical stone can grant him any wish, but it may end up being a curse.” The more specific and tight, the better.

According to Fijian legend, a great chief was given a sacred box by the gods, containing four stones of power – one for each element. But when Pita finds the water stone, he quickly learns of the ancient curse he’s resurrected. Can you be more specific about what the curse is? Now, he has the impossible task to find the lost stones and return them to the box and the sea — like seeking four needles in a planet-sized hay stack! The voice here seems a little off. I think it may be the exclamation point.

Then there is the terrifying matter of his obsessed ancestor who first set the curse in motion. Still alive in spirit through pure lust for the stones, he will do anything to possess them; including destroying Pita and everyone he loves.

Time is running out. The world around him is quickly deteriorating and, with his ruthless forefather hot on his heels, Pita is struggling to do the right thing. But will keeping the stone for himself really fix his mistake or will he lose himself to its power and suffer the same demise as his ill-fated ancestor? Again, I think you need to be more specific about the curse. That will give the ending stronger stakes and the rest better conflict.

MANA WAI-WATER is a fictional upper-middle grade fantasy of 56,000 words. Set in the Fiji Islands – a country rife today with enduring stories of dangerous gods and earthly enchantments – MANA WAI-WATER is weaved with magical realism, mythology and mayhem for a fast-paced Harry Potter-esque adventure. This sounds more like straight fantasy than magical realism. Also, avoid comping Harry Potter or other blockbuster books.

Having grown-up in Fiji during my ‘formidable years’, I am residing here once again after a 20-year ‘stint’ in the US. I am currently employed as a technical editor with an international non-profit organization and am a member of the SCBWI. This is my first novel.

I would be happy to provide a synopsis or full manuscript should you be interested. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Query Critique 76

Dear Agent Awesome

RIVER SPELL is a 92K word young adult fantasy based on the Russian legends of the Rusalka. Like THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, my novel shows one girl’s struggle not only against supernatural powers, but against peoples’ perceptions of who she is. RIVER SPELL will also appeal to readers of Shannon Hale and Jessica Day George. Leave your title in all caps, but put comparative titles in italics.

Seventeen year old Arresa is determined not to be a figure head in her political marriage, even if it means being a public figure instead of hiding from her problems.

Just as she settles into life at the palace, Arresa is sidetracked by dreams of a woman made of water, and by her attentive betrothed, Prince Sergei.  His actions seem connected to the woman in her dreams and, as his behavior becomes increasingly erratic, everyone blames the new girl. When he no longer shows any desire to be the next king the nobles begin to make a move on the throne. I’d maybe like a little bit more information about the water spirit. In particular, I’m interested in how the water spirit is connected to Sergei. You have the beginnings of a really strong conflict. Just flesh it out a bit.

Rejected by her prince,  Arresa must step into the spotlight, break the water spirit’s spell and free the prince she’s learned to love before she is driven from the country, and a civil war tears her people apartGood stakes.

Currently a stay at home mom of three, I graduated from BYU with a BA in comparative literature. For the last five years I have been active in the CompuServe Books and Writers Community where I conducted a monthly goals thread (2011-2012). I have been blogging for 4 years and recently started dipping my toes in the twitter stream.   Capitalize Twitter.

Your time and consideration are greatly appreciated.

Query Critique 73

Dear Agent Name,

In an ancient Rome-like world, people who once had magical abilities – the Verasians – are enslaved, forced to fight each other. This sentence reads a bit clunky. Maybe there’s somewhere else to put the Rome-like world bit? On the other hand, if you leave that out, it sounds too much like Hunger Games. Their only chance of freedom is seventeen-year-old Aelia who defeated all odds: hiding in a forest, she guards the last Soultree left on Earth – and the growing magic inside it that could free them. But she can only hide for so long… Maybe this is the idea you need to start with. Also, I’m intrigued by this Soultree, and I want to know more about it. Do the people enslaving the Verasians know it’s there? So maybe consider starting with something like “Seventeen-year-old Aelia guards the Soultree, the only chance of freedom for…”

When Saro, the owner of a gladiator school, finally captures Aelia, taking her far away from her tree, it seems all hope is lost. What does protecting the tree entail? If she’s not there, will the tree die? Or does she need to be there to harness the power? Now a gladiator in Saro’s arena, Aelia must train and fight for survival. I’m kind of thinking that this Saro character doesn’t need to be mentioned in the query. It cuts down on the number of names the reader needs to remember, and it’s sufficient to say that she’s been captured and is now a gladiator. And she has to fight while chained together with Zenon, the star of the arena. Zenon dances on Aelia’s nerves – he pushes her to train, tests her limits, and has an irritating way of making her blush. Aelia doesn’t want to kill her people to save her skin, but if she dies, the Soultree dies with her. Why? I think this is something that should be tuched upon earlier. No magic will save her now, and the hope for all Verasians depends upon her swift blade. 

SUN AND IRON is a stand-alone YA Fantasy novel with series potential and is complete at 73,000 words. Spartacus meets Snow Like Ashes. Cool comp titles!

I. M. Verasian

Query Critique 72

Ginnifer’s past vanished at five when her parents died in a fire. I think some of the stuff later in the query would make a better hook. A lot of books feature dead parents. Now sixteen, all that remains is endless nightmares and visions which she hardly can recall the next day. Other than the fact that someone is ALWAYS trying to kill her in them! The exclamation point is a little distracting. Also, the wording here could be a little smoother. I’d also like to see some indication if why these dreams seem more like visions than dreams.

Her adopted gypsy-born consider using Romani instead of gypsy family only tells her that the dreams will fade with time, but everything changes when three new students show up at school. Ginnifer is drawn to them; especially the bad boy that most parents warn about. (It’s the eyes…definitely the eyes) This little aside sort of provides voice, but I find it a little distracting. Suddenly, a girl dies at the football game: the very same girl she had a vision of that morning. It was a memory…so now she’s not a total mental case. I fail to see how this makes her more normal. I would be freaking out!

But as more deaths take hold of the town, Ginnifer is determined to find her connection to them. She learns that she’s an Abnormal, a half-mortal with a masked rare gene. This is The Big Idea of the book. I’d like to see it featured more prominently and sooner. Exploring this idea is more important than knowing the back story of how she learned this. One whose life will always be surrounded by blood. Then the bombshell: the killer might actually be targeting her. 

As if being a junior in high school wasn’t hard enough. Not only is she in a twisted gypsy protection program from someone who wants her dead, but she is torn between the life she knows and the life she forgot. Ginnifer is hell bent to find an in between. She must make a choice: either seek out the killer and fight or stay hidden. Beef up the stakes by giving us more of a reason why she wants to stay hidden, because right now it doesn’t seem like a very compelling reason.

ABNORMALS is a 94,000-word YA urban fantasy. This book would appeal to fans of The Vampire Academy and The Mortal Instruments.

Query Critique 68

Pride of Divinians, the royal family stands above all. This sentence doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Led by someone who can manipulate people and beasts alike, a coterie agrees that the royalty must go. Princess Raylene rides high on expectations. To her, the battlefield is more appealing than a courtroom. I’m a little confused by most of this paragraph. So there’s a rebellion led by a manipulator, and the Princess wants to join in? If that’s right, I want to know why she’s willing to betray her own family to join this rebellion.

The king takes a fatal fall. His shields call it an accident. Princess Raylene thinks otherwise. The empress is reluctant to pay heed to her words, and instead questions her sanity. She takes it upon herself to uncover the truth—no matter which tactic she may have to apply. She being Raylene or the empress? In a bid to keep the empire from falling, she takes over the duties of the critically injured king and the grieving queen. Is the queen different than the empress? All the while, she struggles with the scars of the past, and her feelings for her childhood friend. Scars of the past seems a little vague, and the crush on her friend seems irrelevant to the rest of the query.

An assassination attempt on the empress forces her to make a difficult choice—which sends her straight to prison. I’d like more information on what this difficult choice is. The castle is in jeopardy, with its protective wall gone, and an army of blood-thirsty monsters marching towards it. Why is the wall gone? Can you be more specific about what type of monsters? Raylene must find a way out else she’ll lose not just her place as the heir, but also the lives of her dear ones.

First in the Princess Divine YA fantasy series, UPRISING is complete at 81,000 words. If you’re pitching a series, it’s good to say how many books are in the series.

Thank you for your time and consideration!