Sunday, July 6, 2008

#50-REVISION

Dear Query Shark:

Lilith fled Eden to live in exile, heartbroken from Adam's treatment of her. Only the unicorns followed her into exile, her dearest friends, who stayed with her through the long lonely years. 1300 years after the birth of the Nazarene, the eldest of the unicorns is dying. Lilith knows that were she to feed him the fruit from the Tree of Life that once grew in Eden, he might live. But it is still forbidden to her. Desperate, she seeks the help of the children of her rival, and five women respond, risking their lives, and their souls, to reach the Tree of Life where it was hidden by Saint Issa in the Garden at the Roof of the World.

What rival? You've got so much spent on set up that you miss the important stuff.

Lilith accompanies these women disguised as a mischievous crow who befriends them and helps guide them on the right paths. The dangers are formidable, and eventually Lilith must decide if she will let her friend die and the errand fail, or sacrifice her own immortality so that one of these descendants of her hated rival might reach the Garden and save the life of her friend.

I'm confused. Lilith is disguised as a crow? And she's immortal cause she didn't eat the apple?

The Garden at the Roof of the World is complete at 143300 words.

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you.


Sincerely,


Maybe this is just me, cause as we all know I don't do fantasy, and I think this is what this is, but I don't have much of a sense of what this book is. It sounds like a quest novel, but the rival is so unfocused I don't have a sense of what challenges Lilith faces. And is this Lilith's story or the five women?

When I have this many questions in a query letter, I send an auto rejection. I really want a clear sense of what this book is about. (and yes, I know it's damn hard to write these things!)


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

Lilith fled Eden, choosing exile over service to Adam. Only the two unicorns followed, her dearest friends, who stayed with her through the long lonely years. Lonely in no small part because the descendants of her rival, Eve, have shunned her. Many believe the lies spread about her being a mother of demons, a devourer of infants, but most don't even know she ever existed. 1300 years after the birth of Jesus of Nazereth, the eldest unicorn, one of the pair who followed her into exile, is dying. Immortal, Lilith knows that if he dies, she will face the endless days of her exile alone, for none of his descendants have stayed with her, choosing to live in the wild places of the world.

Lilith knows that were she to feed him the fruit from the Tree of Life that once grew in Eden, he might live, but it is still forbidden to her. Her only hope is that she might convince some who are ignorant of who she is, to try to journey to the Garden at the Roof of the World, where St. Issa hid the Tree of Life.

Five women from different parts of the world, each with her own reason for trying to save the life of the eldest of unicorns, agree to take on what they consider to be a work of charity. Not trusting these women to find the hidden garden and achieve the state of grace needed to enter paradise, Lilith accompanies these women in disguise.

The medieval world through which they journey is filled with temptations and dangers to body and soul. To Lilith, the greatest danger is that the women with whom she travels discovers who she is, for in their travels they learn the lies that have been told about Lilith. She is convinced that they would never believe the truth.

Eventually Lilith must decide if she will let her friend die and the errand fail, abandoning the women to a monster beyond their strength, or reveal herself and risk her own immortality, and the betrayal of these women. Lilith must learn to love, and to trust that one of these descendants of her hated rival might reach the Garden and save the life of her friend.

The Garden at the Roof of the World is a modern medieval romance, blending myth with history to create a story that is at once a journey through medieval Europe, the Near East, and India; and a spiritual journey of reconciliation.

The Garden at the Roof of the World is complete at 143300 words.

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you.


well, by George I think you've got it!

13 comments:

talpianna said...

Your first problem is going to be a lawsuit from paranormal author Lilith Saintcrow--unless, of course, you ARE Lilith Saintcrow.

In Jewish folklore, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, created independently of him. When she refused to obey him, she was driven out of the Garden of Eden and replaced with Eve, made from Adam's rib so she'd be subordinate. Lilith married a demon and became a vampire preying on children and young virgins. This presumably is why she's immortal.

So the rival would be Eve, and her daughters would be all human women.

I named my beautiful lost kitten Lilith, but for the Sumerian Lilith, who was a goddess and the rival of Inanna.

The rest of the plot seems to be borrowed from THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW, a C.S. Lewis Narnia book that hasn't been filmed yet.

Clare said...

I thought it was fairly obvious that Lilith's rival was Eve--but then, I am a fantasy fan, interested in mythology, and have read the Narnia books many times. I don't know if referring to human women as "daughters of Eve" goes back to before Lewis, but even if it does, it's still pretty strongly associated with him by now.

The plot sounds to me like a cross between The Last Unicorn and bits of The Magician's Nephew. I'm interested from this query, but I'd still want to read the first few pages and see if I could figure out who the story actually is about..

Just_Me said...

I do like fantasy, I'm not sure I'd pick this up. Lillith doesn't sound sympathetic and we have no clue what the other 5 women are like or why we should care.

When you rewrite try to explain more than "We are on a quest!" and show us why the reader is going to love these characters and want to read the book.

Lehcarjt said...

Hmmm.... Why is the old unicorn's death a bad thing? Death is normal. Why is this one not normal, and why should I care?

Also... 1300 years after the birth of the Nazarene means what? Since this is Judeo/Christian Fantasy, I'm thinking that is means 1300 years after the birth of Christ. Which puts this entire story in the future. A sci-fi story with unicorns?

Kim W said...

I can't get past the fact the Lilith is not a good person by any stretch of the imagination based on what happens after she refuses to be Adam's wife. A mother of demons who preys on children.

It's not the name (and you certainly aren't going to have a lawsuit from Lilith Saintcrow from using her first name otherwise no one could ever be named Lilith - even if associated with a crow) - it's the fact you are using a character that has such bad connotations associated with her. Christopher Golden did something similiar with his Menagerie series - Eve the mother of vampires was thrown out of Paradise but she was totally redeemable.

For me to be interested, you'd really have to play up the whole redemptive factor.

Oh, and since Unicorns are associated with purity and innocence - I don't get the connection.

This definitely wouldn't work for me.

Brigid said...

I guess I'm not getting what's at stake. So there's a bunch of women risking their souls, but why? Wouldn't they be loyal to Eve, especially since the unicorns were only connected to Lilith and not their mother? What is so special about this unicorn, especially since it sounds like the rest of the unicorns are still around somewhere.

Oh, and lehcarjt, wouldn't 1300 years after the birth of Christ be in the Middle Ages?

xerarch said...

The query flowed smoothly for me, since I immediately knew who Lilith’s “rival” was. Seeking out the forbidden tree, all these millennia later — how intriguing. And the five women who respond must never have outgrown that girlish stage of unicorn infatuation, because here they are ready to risk their souls to save one. I imagine them as a troupe of idiosyncratic misfits and dreamers.

Personally, I liked that Eve was never mentioned by name — it conveyed to me just how much Lilith hates her, that she can't even bear the sound of the name — she’s just “The Rival.” But clearly it’s an impediment to any reader not familiar with the Lilith folklore.

Things that didn’t work so well for me: The first sentence reads awkwardly. A possible alternative: “Lilith fled Eden to live in exile, heartbroken by Adam's rejection.” I was also somewhat daunted by the fact that Lilith spends much of the story as a crow. Did I understand that right? Now I’m commenting on the story rather than critiquing the query, but I have to admit it did dampen my enthusiasm a bit as I wondered how she could fully participate in the action in that guise. Can the Lilith-crow talk? Also, the crow is described as “mischievous,” which seems to bring a wrong note to a paragraph that goes on to speak of formidable dangers, sacrifice, and death.

Forgive the nitpicking, author, but I liked this and would like to see it succeed. I hadn't imagined I'd ever, *ever* see a story with unicorns that looked appealing, but here it is. Next thing you know, I’ll be wanting to read about elves… Nah, it’s not going to happen. Shoot me if it does. :)

Janet mentions she doesn’t do fantasy, so if you haven’t already, you might want to run this past some folks who are familiar with the genre. I hope she won’t mind if I recommend for Evil Editor’s blog.

Lehcarjt said...

Okay... That was a total DUH moment. 1300 years... Christ lived ~2000 years ago.

I hereby crown myself idiot of the day. (hopefully the tiara doesn't fit well.)

Brigid said...

Don't worry, lehcarjt, that tiara often seems made for me.

talpianna said...

Clare, I think the "Son of Adam and Daughter of Eve" comes from the ARABIAN NIGHTS, or at least from 18th century Orientalist fiction: it's how djinn address humans.

Other works of fiction that feature Lilith are "Lilith, Stay Away from the Door" by Avram Davidson, a mystery short story set in an Orthodox Jewish community that won the Ellery Queen Award; and Charles Williams's DESCENT INTO HELL, where she appears as "Mrs. Lily Sammile."

Brigid said...

Okay, so the new query at least outlines a good story, but THE TWISTED SENTENCES ARE DRIVING ME NUTS.

"To Lilith, the greatest danger is that the women with whom she travels discovers who she is, for in their travels they learn the lies that have been told about Lilith."
"The greatest danger to Lilith is that her traveling companions might discover who she is, for along their journey they learn the lies that have been told about her."
My version isn't as pretty as the original sentence, but the first version took me a bit to understand! Listen to Thoreau and simplify.

Ruth said...

Hey, did anything ever come of this story? It sounds exactly like something I'd love to read! There should be some tag to link to if this book ever makes it to being published.... :)

elfarmy17 said...

I love the premise of Lilith and the women, but I'm not so crazy about the unicorns.
@talpianna I thought Lilith visited young men and had sex with them in their sleep. And don't children count as young virgins?

I thought it was obvious the rival was Eve, but for someone who's not familiar with the concept of Lilith...

And 1300 years after the birth of Christ doesn't put the story in the future. It puts it in the past. This is 2010 Anno Domini (the year of our Lord, meaning the year he was born).