Monday, April 21, 2008

#13-revisions-2nd Revision

Att: Janet Reid
FinePrint Literary Management
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10001
USA

22 April 2008

Dear Ms Reid,

I’m seeking representation for my soft science fiction novel Earth Mother, which is finished at 120,000 words.

Growing up in rural Australia, Jessica has always known she is weird: her body sucks in energy from sunlight and hot water, and releases it in dangerous uncontrolled bursts. She doesn’t know that a similarly gifted man, Daya, has watched over her all her life, waiting to train her. Jessica and Daya are two of only a handful of survivors of an ancient alien race, feared for their abilities. He has hidden her on Earth until she is old enough to be a mother for his children. That time has come. He arranges to introduce himself.

Eww. Ewww. Ewww. I'm sorry but this just makes me cringe. Surely there's a way to describe this that makes it sound less like dirty old man stalking young girl.

Also, what the heck is uncontrolled bursts? Hot words? Dervish dancing? Be specific.

One moment Jessica is travelling to a mysterious meeting with her parents; the next moment, the small plane crashes in a forest on an alien planet. At her family’s home, Daya waits in vain, realising in horror that she has been abducted by a third party; he starts a wild search for her.

Jessica is in a plane crash and when she doesn't arrive at her parent's home, Daya realizes she's been abducted. You don't need all the extra stuff. You probably don't even need this because it's all set up.


While Jessica struggles to find a way home, she finds the love and help of Iztho, a Trader from the nation of Miran. Meanwhile, visions torment her, bringing her into contact with Daya. She is shocked that he wants her as brood mare and refuses to believe his claim that Iztho’s home nation wants to use their abilities in warfare, insisting Daya is just jealous.

Ok, now I'm totally lost. What does Iztho's home nation's abilities mean? And why do I care if they kill everyone (heck, I'm hoping they smoosh ol' Daya cause I'm not all that fond of him)

Then she discovers proof that Miran has caused her transfer to the alien world. Is it too late to extricate herself from the clutches of a warmongering nation? Is it too late for Daya’s forgiveness?

What? What? Maybe it's cause I don't read this category very much, but at this point, I'm wondering who the antagonist is.

Earth Mother is a stand-alone novel, but I am working on other novels which continue this thread, as well as some independent projects.

"this thread" is cyber speak. Do you mean you're writing novels with some of the same characters? Set in the same place?


I live in Australia. I am a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre and the SF-OWW online workshop for SF and fantasy. I have published a few short stories, the most recent one in the Fantastic Wonder Stories anthology (ed. Russell Farr, Ticonderoga Publications).



Thank you for considering my work. I enclose the first three chapters, a synopsis and an SASE for your response. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely



(P.S. Enclosures etc would depend on agents’ requirements, which I would get from websites or a preliminary E-mail. This, too, depends on the agent and/or country. The Australian agents I’ve contacted tend to want the whole lot in one go.)

NO preliminary emails. Look at the agent's website. If they tell you what they want, send it. If they don't, send a query letter and the first three pages in the body of an email.

Do NOT write to ask what they want. I routinely ignore those emails.

------------------------------



Dear Query Shark:

I’m seeking representation for my soft science fiction novel Earth Mother, which is finished at 120,000 words.

Jessica doesn’t know she is a survivor of a near-extinct alien race, people whose bodies store energy from heat and light. Living on Earth, without training, she is desperate to control outbursts of power, which have already cost one life. When an accident transports her across the universe, she becomes a pawn in a game of love and war.

what outbursts of power? Hers? Does she erupt like a volcano? Spew like I do when I read Mindy Tarquini's blog? Be specific. Show me what happens, but succinctly and clearly.


When an accident transports her ...you've left me with the image of a slingshot or a balloon losing air. This is probably not the image you want me to have. In the absence of you giving me an image, I'm probably going to imagine something pretty lame (because I am an agent, not a novelist and my imaginings are limited to large advances and malleable clients)



In the occupied city of Barresh, two men vie for her attention. Daya has secretly watched over her all her life, tormented by platonic love. He is of her race, and ready to train her. However, Jessica is not impressed by his plan to use her to resurrect their much-vilified race. She is more inclined to trust Iztho, who promises to take her back to her Earth family, until she finds out that he is an agent of the occupying nation which caused the transportation ‘accident’. This nation wants to use Jessica’s and Daya’s ability to produce new weapons. Where can she turn except to the repressed population of the city, who see Jessica’s coming as an omen to rise against the occupying army?

Pare down. You don't have to describe everything here. She has to make a choice. What are the consequences of each? Focus!

Earth Mother, (120,000 words), is a stand-alone novel, but I am working on other novels in this world, as well as some independent projects.

I live in Australia. I am a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre and the SF-OWW online workshop for SF and fantasy. I have published a few short stories, the most recent one in the Fantastic Wonder Stories anthology (ed. Russell Farr, Ticonderoga Publications).

Thank you for considering my work. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely
----------------------------------

******************************************************


Dear Query Shark,

Seventeen-year old Jessica is the most-wanted person in the universe outside Earth, but she doesn’t know it, or why.

All she knows is that sparks swirl over her skin when she is angry or upset, burning anyone too close, and that this weird ability has made her an outcast in her home town in rural Australia.

She has no idea that Daya, a similarly gifted man, has hidden her on Earth until she is old enough to help him resurrect their near-extinct alien race.
She doesn’t know that when the aeroplane in which she travels crashes in a forest on an alien planet that this is not a freak accident, but a scheme by a warmongering general to capture her and use her ability in warfare.

One thing is sure: for all her alien blood, Jessica grew up an Earth girl, and when she finds out about these plans for her, she is not likely to comply with any of them. Never mind that she’s facing an entire army, protected only by powers she will need Daya’s help to master. Never mind that she's alone on a world where citizens’ rights are limited to the right to die. She’ll fight, she'll win, and then she’ll go home. If only it was that simple.

Earth Mother, (120,000 words), is a stand-alone novel, but I am working on other novels in this world, as well as some independent projects.

I live in Australia. I am a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre and the SF-OWW online workshop for SF and fantasy. I have published a few short stories, the most recent one in the Fantastic Wonder Stories anthology (ed. Russell Farr, Ticonderoga Publications).

Thank you for considering my work. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely

by george I think she's got it.

9 comments:

jjdebenedictis said...

I disagree with the shark on a few points. I think "uncontrolled bursts" is fine. A science fiction reader probably can imagine what that means, and adding more might be too much detail.

She is shocked that he wants her as brood mare and refuses to believe his claim that Iztho’s home nation wants to use their abilities in warfare, insisting Daya is just jealous.

I think the shark read this line incorrectly. I understood it to mean the Iztho home nation wants to use Jessica and Daya's abilities for warfare. That fact would be clearer, however, if you changed "their" to "her", so the abilities in question are Jessica's alone. After all, she's the one the Iztho have got; they can't use Daya's abilities.

I do agree with the Shark on a few points also, however--chiefly that Daya comes across as creepy and icky. By stressing in the first paragraph that Daya sees Jessica as a way to get children (creepy issue #1), it makes his "wild search" for her seem possessive and disturbing (creepy issue #2), and makes the line about Jessica hoping for Daya's "forgiveness" read oddly (creepy issue #3). He sounds kinda like those controlling men who talk their girlfriends into thinking healthy self-determination is somehow an affront and a wrong done to their man. Jessica only made an honest mistake, after all, and she doesn't owe Daya anything at this point, given that she's never met him outside of visions.

You could probably fix the creepy tone by altering the first paragraph. Try to make Daya sound affectionate about Jessica, and make his expectations for the future sound more like moopey romantic dreams rather than diabolical plots. Focus on his healthy emotions, and then the rest his actions will seem sweet rather than disturbing.

Good luck with this! It sounds like a nifty book, and I think your query is in pretty good shape already.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I also think "uncontrolled bursts" is fine. She sucks in energy, and it all explodes out of her at once. I agree with the rest of the issues with the vague language, however.

This query brought up a question I've had for a while. Is it generally OK to refer to your story as "soft sci-fi"? Or even something like "science fantasy"? I understand books may be marketed that way, but it seems to me that agents want the broadest possible term for the genre in the query letter, just for ease of categorization.

Josephine Damian said...

Agent Janet, thanks much for doing this. I've learned a ton already.

Seems to me queriers get in trouble when they write "meanwhile" or "and then" - that's a sure sign they're going into too much plot detail.

If there's one lesson queriers need to learn: Less is more.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm. Even as a science-fiction for many years, I have little idea what "uncontrolled bursts" means. Does she crisp everything around her? If so, how has her family survived? How has she avoided becoming conspicuous?

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, I meant "science-fiction reader". Honest. I do not think I am a genre!

jjdebenedictis said...

Kristin: I got an agent by pitching my book as science fantasy, but she's an agent who specializes in science fiction and fantasy--I knew she would "get" it.

I was hesitant to pitch the book as science fantasy to other agents. In those cases, I just called it fantasy, but I don't know if that was wise, or a case of not giving the other agents enough credit.

Miss Shark? Any thoughts on the issue?

Kristin Laughtin said...

jjdebenedictus- Thanks! That's good to know. I hope to get an agent that reps both when I start querying. My current MS is soft sci-fi and I plan to pitch it just as sci-fi, but I do have ideas for future novels that are more science fantasy.

mikandra said...

as author, thanks for all your comments. This query has resulted in two requests for partials. Out of two query letters sent, I don't think that's too bad. Yes, I think people not familiar with the genre might not 'get' it.

The PS note was for clarifcation of the last line. I always read agents' websites and do whatever the instructions are. Sometimes they want an E-mail first. Sometimes they just want the package. I think the Shark's comments on that line (which of course DOESN'T go in the query letter - duh) are a bit too focused on her agency's requirements.

beth said...

I was fine with "uncontrolled bursts," but I think in all, the whole thing was too wordy.