Friday, May 2, 2008

#18

Dear Super-Cool Agent Person: (ha)

THE CAIN LETTERS is a completed novel of 74,000 words, aimed at the horror/thriller audience. Merging a religious drama dynamic (a what?) with the thrill of vampire action and intensity, this dark thriller about a fierce God-fearing vampire hunter named Alexandra Glade takes the vampire premise and the Christian fantasy-philosophy to a completely new level. She uncovers the secret of vampirism, the origin of it all: the biblical figure, Cain. Against all her training as a hunter, she must do the unthinkable. To save the world from God’s wrath, she must save the awakened, unredeemable Cain, the greatest vampire in history, from his eternal sin.

First leave out all the telling. "thrill of vampire action and intensity" is a movie trailer voiceover, not a hook. Start with the character. Tell us what she does. Talk about what's at stake (not the vampire silver stake!)



THE CAIN LETTERS is a completed novel of 74,000 words, aimed at the horror/thriller audience. Merging a religious drama dynamic (a what?) with the thrill of vampire action and intensity, this dark thriller about a fierce God-fearing vampire hunter named Alexandra Glade takes the vampire premise and the Christian fantasy-philosophy to a completely new level. She uncovers the secret of vampirism, the origin of it all: the biblical figure, Cain. Against all her training as a hunter, she must do the unthinkable. To save the world from God’s wrath, she must save the awakened, unredeemable Cain, the greatest vampire in history, from his eternal sin.

What's so special about God's wrath? Is He getting impatient now? What's at stake here right now?

I am a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago; I have a B.A. in English. My goal with this manuscript is to stretch and challenge the genres in such a way that it redefines them. I believe I’ve done that with this manuscript.

No, it isn't. Your goal is to write a gripping story that leaves readers begging for more and your publisher throwing money at you. All that stretching the genre stuff is best left to Michiko Kakutani's review of your book in the Times.

Thank you for your consideration. If you would like to see more, I will be happy to send a synopsis and/or partial or any other materials.

18 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm not saying this is your case, but I've seen a lot of claims to reinvent/redefine/re-whatever genres from people who haven't read in them. It's not a phrase I'd use :).

talpianna said...

Psst! Wooden stakes are for vampires; silver bullets are for werewolves. Wouldn't want you to be caught with the wrong weapon...

I'm not sure that this will work for the horror/thriller audience, with the stress on the religious element. That would appeal more to a Christian reading audience. As for the "completely new level," Cain as the ancestor of monsters is mentioned in Beowulf.

jjdebenedictis said...

I think agents/publishers get excited about a book when they believe they can make lots of money selling it, rather than when they think the writer has stretched, challenged and redefined a genre.

I think it's great you're striving to do something original--readers love courageous, mind-expanding books--but I don't think this is an effective sales technique for you. I'd suggest focusing on the plot, and how exciting and accessible the story is. You want to make the book sound saleable, not ground-breaking.

Merc said...

I kinda doubt "Cain is the ancestor of [insert evil of your choice here]" is anything new. ;)

I'd actually like to see you stretch this a little more--oh, sure, Cain has all that juicy, dark prestige of being the first murderer, but why does that make him the vampire ancestor?

Seems like he gets picked as the "start of [evil of the day]" and so many intriguing possibilities are ignored.

I've always been curious whether the Tower of Babel could have done more than change the languages. You know? What if that was the start of the different races (like vampires or weres or whatever)?

If you're playing with Biblical characters and themes, I'd like to see more obscure or unusual twists on it. *shrug*

But that's me as a reader.

Good luck!


~Merc

Lehcarjt said...

The idea of dealing with an awakened Cain has appeal to me. The way you described this brought to mind Kostova's The Historian

My red flag is the word length. To do all the things you've described and do them justice (uncover the secret of vampirism, save the world, find Cain, save him from sin (side note: Isn't it Jesus Christ that saves people from sin in the 'Christian fantasy/philosophy' anyways?), stretch genres, etc.), I'd expect the book to be twice as long.

Isn't 74K about the size of a series romance? I just can't see reading a story this big that fast and feeling satisfied when it is over.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

All that stretching the genre stuff is best left to Michiko Kakutani's review of your book in the Times.


Thank you for saying that out loud.

Jinx said...

Something similar has been done before in Christopher Golden's Shadow Saga. That was my first thought as I read this query. The first book, Of Saints and Shadows ends with a character named Lazarus. Oh, but it couldn't be the Lazarus, could it? In the second book, Angel Souls and Devil Hearts (that should be a clue right there), Lazarus reappears, and we are introduced to a character who goes by the name JC. Hmm, I wonder who that could be? Guess what he turns out to be?

I agree with lehcarjt about the word length. It seems a bit short to tell such a complex story. I'd read a bit more in the genre to get a better idea of how to go about this one. It's an interesting idea, though. Mine rules out Christianity altogether and delves into mythological gods and goddesses. But even Nora Roberts wrote that one 8 years after I finished mine.

Good luck!

jjdebenedictis said...

Isn't 74K about the size of a series romance?

74,000 words is approximately 300 pages. That's not a short book.

Jess Melton said...

The first thing I thought of when I read this is that the author is going to get sued by White Wolf publishing.
White Wolf has a long history of suing individuals who even slightly infringe on their story ideas, see the UNDERWORLD suit.
However, like Merc said you could change the vampiric source to another biblical event and perhaps get the same flavor.

jjdebenedictis said...

White Wolf has a long history of suing individuals who even slightly infringe on their story ideas

I'm thinking White Wolf Publishing loses most of those lawsuits. You can't copyright a story idea; I don't think you can even consider a story idea a trademark.

Probably best not to scare a new writer with dire-but-unlikely possibilities, hmm? It's not like they have to worry about this until after they're published.

beth said...

I had a problem with the tone of the letter. Like in this sentence: "Merging a religious drama dynamic (a what?)..." I REALLY didn't like the "(A what?)" part of the letter. (I'm assuming that's what the author wrote, not what Ms. Reid wrote...am I wrong?) Anyway, it just seemed a bit silly to me. If you're going to write something like "a religious drama dynamic," you don't need the cute little parenthetical phrase--makes it seem like your talking down to the reader, IMO. Either I get what you're trying to say (I do, consequentially) and I don't need the parenthetical or I don't get what you're trying to say and you should rephrase.

I'm cool with the Cain as original vampire premise--I actually quite liked it. There are two aspects of the query/story that need clarification for me. 1) the wrath of God thing that Ms. Reid mentioned and 2) the use of "unredeeemable" as an adjective for Cain. If he's unredeemable, then there's no point to the MC trying to save him. If he can be saved through the MC's efforts or otherwise, then the adjective is incorrect.

Basically, I liked the idea, but I think the query needs to focus on being clear instead of clever and get to the point quicker.

jjdebenedictis said...

I think the "(A what?)" was from Miss Shark and she forgot to put it in blue text.

Lehcarjt said...

74,000 words is approximately 300 pages. That's not a short book.

It may not be a short book, but it isn't a beefy one either.

When I look at my bookcase (and I noticed in doing so that I personally have a preference for 700+ page books), the 300 pagers are my YA's and romances. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are books in other genre's with low word count, but I stick with my original thought: To really explore all the themes and accomplish all the goals in this query and do so in a way that is satisfying to the reader, I'd expect more pages.

Jamie Hall said...

If you're claiming you're doing something new in the vampire genre because the very first vampire in your fictional world is Cain, then your query letter is going to make you look bad to anyone who is familiar with vampire fiction.

Cain, Lilith, Cain and Judas has all been the very first vampire in multiple works of fiction.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea. I'm just saying that by presenting it as a new, groundbreaking idea, you just end up making yourself look like someone who hasn't read very widely in your chosen genre.

Phoenix said...

The red flag for me is the same as for other commenters. Your story -- as presented here -- is basically "female vamp hunter must find and redeem male vamp." Um, OK. That's the plot of umpteen paranormal romances and dark urban fantasies. Oh, the vamp is Cain. OK, google "Cain vampire" and you'll see that premise is far from unique.

How then does YOUR story stand out? Don't tell us it bends genres -- show us how it does. As written, you haven't given us enough to validate that it stands above in the crowded field of vampire novels.

Beth said...

74,000 words is approximately 300 pages. That's not a short book.

Actually, that's barely past novella length (which runs up to about 65K). For a novel, it's definitely on the short side, especially compared to many fantasies these days (George RR Martin, Kate Elliott, Tad Williams, to name a few). Martin's third Ice & Fire book probably ran 400K. At least. Elliott's Crown of Stars volumes were in the 250-350K range.

As to the premise, it sounded a bit confusing to me. Ms. Reid echoed my own questions about it. I think clarification of exactly what's at stake could help.

Josephine Damian said...

a religious drama dynamic (a what?)

Translation: another DA VINCI CODE rip off.

Aimless Writer said...

Soon you will begin to receive queries that say "My goal is to leave readers wanting more and publishers throwing money at us." hahahaha...
And whats wrong with Dear Super-Cool Agent Person? How about: Dear Agent of my dreams?