Sunday, March 28, 2010

#151-revised 11x

Dear Query Shark,

When sixteen-year-old Aine O'Shea kills an innocent boy, her half human, half fey self is thrust into adventures that hardly leave her time to breathe.




A guardian is assigned to train her, to keep her alive, and it's easy enough to protect her against the Unseen creatures of the Faerie realm who won't stop until she is dead. But, her body needs constant doses of human feelings to help feed her human DNA that fights her immortal DNA to keep her body functioning. Ronan is forbidden to express emotions, and when Aine discovers herself falling for the very arrogant, very aloof, devilishly good looking Ronan, Aine must dig deeper to uncover the restrictions holding his emotions back, or risk more than she can handle.


A close member of Ronan's band of guards catches the two embracing, the betrayer reveals his true loathing of half-breeds and leads demons to kill Aine. Without Aine, there is the threat that the wall between Earth and Faerie will crumble, and then she and the humans will be killed. Aine must find the strength to fight those who want her dead, and her emotions must find a way to open the guard's feelings or she can never have him.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

 You've got the pieces in the right place, but the writing still isn't publishable in the general trade market. 

I'm going to just repeat what I said below:


First, don't worry about the query any more. You need to get down to some basics: the writing. 

One way to learn good writing is to absorb it. Not just read it: absorb it. As far as I know there is only one way to really do this and it's hard to do.  You write out an entire book. Not YOUR book, but one of the books you think is a comp for yours. Or better yet, more than one book. 

And by write out, I mean you type them into your computer word for word. The action of writing/typing as well as reading will get this into your brain more deeply than reading alone. 

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Dear Query Shark,


Sixteen-year-old Aine O'Shea likes to think she's a normal teen the day her aunt lets her go on her very first date. She is but instead of ending in a kiss, flames consume her date.

Her dreams of being ordinary are crushed when she learns she's a half-breed sent from Faerie, where half-breeds are put to death. No longer safely hidden in the human world, her mother, the Queen, sends a guard named Ronan to offer Aine the one thing she doesn't want: protection.

With her protector, she lacks her independence. However, as much as she hates relying on someone, Aine comes to understand the need of others for touch/emotion and it's essential for her survival.

Ronan isn't fey or human, but he's the only one Aine is able to touch without injuring, and that touch becomes a need for Aine. Ronan is an enigma and turns away from Aine's attempts at touch, and cracking into Ronan's feelings makes breaking into Fort Knox easy. But when she's in dire need of either or both, he's there unexpected, like a typhoon.

When a quintessential member of Ronan's crew secretly despises half-breeds and is an assumed close friend to Ronan, catches the two embracing he deceives them by leading demons to kill Aine. Without Aine, there is threat the wall between Earth and Faerie will crumble, and she, then humans, will be killed. Aine must find the strength to fight those who wish her dead, and her emotions must find a way to open the guard's feelings or she can never have him.

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will enjoy Lovely Dark Fallen.
My young adult novel, Lovely Dark Fallen, is a standalone Dark Paranormal Romance with series potential complete at 89,000 words. My story features two alternating points of view.

I am a member of YALITCHAT.org <http://yalitchat.org/> , Romance Writers of America, and Society of Southwestern Authors. I hold an MBA in Accounting, teach a yearly class on Finance for writers at yalitchat.org <http://yalitchat.org/> via Skype, and have taken classes via writer's digest on learning the craft.


DO NOT INCLUDE URLs or links. It's one fast way to end up in the spam folder. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

You've got the pieces in place but the writing is still awkward and clunky. I know you can't see this or you'd have fixed it.

First, don't worry about the query any more. You need to get down to some basics: the writing. 

One way to learn good writing is to absorb it. Not just read it: absorb it. As far as I know there is only one way to really do this and it's hard to do.  You write out an entire book. Not YOUR book, but one of the books you think is a comp for yours. Or better yet, more than one book. 

And by write out, I mean you type them into your computer word for word. The action of writing/typing as well as reading will get this into your brain more deeply than reading alone. 

One of the best ways to memorize poems is to write them down. Then try to write from memory.



 --------------------
Dear Query Shark,

Sixteen-year-old Aine O'Shea accidently kills her first date. At the touch of her hand he burst into flames. Nothings left but a head full of ashes and a singed dress.

Head full of ashes? Her head is full of ashes? Her head is a bucket?   EVERY word. You have to look at EVERY word.

"At the touch of her hand he bursts into flames" is awkward. Consider: he bursts into flames at the touch of her hand. 

You've got to learn to recognize awkward writing and get rid of it. Everyone writes this way on their FIRST draft, but you fix it on subsequent drafts.  You're on #9.  This should stand out to you now.

Aine is a target. Her mother, the Queen of Faerie, sent her to live on Earth for her safekeeping. Now the Queen sends Ronan to defend her, Aine doesn’t want protection. She only wants to be able to touch another human being. Aine learns from him she’s a half-breed sent from Faerie.

You've gone from the ability to set people on fire (an ability I covet) to "a target." They're not connected.  If Her Maj the Q had sent Ronan to Earth with asbestos underpants and a fire extinguisher to keep Aine from setting BoyToy #2 on fire, we would see the linkage.  As it is now, there's no connection between paragraph 1 and paragraph 2.

Ronan relocates Aine from Ireland to America after an attack by Fomori, water demons, that manage to poison her. If the poison is not removed, she’ll die. Ronan’s crew searches for a cure but when a core member deceives them, a cure seems unlikely. Without Aine, the wall between Earth and Faerie will crumble, and humans will be enslaved.

Core member? That smacks of gov-speak, the awkward beyond words writing of government bureaucracy.  Have you EVER called a friend or cohort or companion in crime a "core member?"  No you have not.
"Seems unlikely" is a tepid way to phrase anything. You've got to use red-meat words that drip blood. Leave the vegan words for someone else.

"The wall between Earth and Faerie will crumble and humans will be enslaved."  Ok, this plain just does not work as the stakes of the novel. It has to be something that happens to the characters themselves.  "Humans" are not characters although some of the characters may be human.  What are the stakes for Aine? For Ronan? For Her Maj, the mother of all fire-setters?



Lovely Dark Fallen, a young adult Dark Paranormal Romance is a stand-alone novel complete at 89,000 words. It has series potential.

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will like Lovely Dark Fallen.
I am a member of YAlitchat.org <http://YAlitchat.org> , RWA, and SSA.

Don't include links in a query.  It makes it much more likely your query will get flagged as spam.
And what is SSA?  When I google it, I'm pretty sure you don't mean Social Security.

This is MUCH improved but you're still not seeing some of the basics.  Time to go back and read the archives again. Really REALLY study the changes people make that get them to yes.  


Let this sit awhile for your eye to get sharper about making paragraphs flow smoothly.



-------------------
Dear QueryShark

Sixteen-year-old Aine (Awn-ye) O'Shea accidently kills her first date. He bursts into flames upon accepting her hand, and she can hardly believe her luck. After all, it took a promise to clean the house and cook for an entire month in order for her aunt to allow her to go on the date in the first place. And what does she have to show for it? Nothing but ashes and a singed dress.

I've never understood why queriers put pronunciation guidelines or nicknames ["Elizabeth (Liz) Lemon"] in queries. Call her Liz Lemon. And honestly I'm not planning to recite this. In other words, like everything else you absolutely do not NEED to have--leave it out.

This paragraph is in the wrong order. He's dead, and you're working backward to how hard it was to get a date. We know that however hard it was to get a date is NOT NEEDED cause the guy is now dead, and she's figured out she killed him.

Unfold your story in the right order. And better yet, leave out all the backstory. He's dead. That's the big thing.



Then Ronan emerges from the smoke right after with the trees still blazing and he terrifies Aine. And he still approaches and she finds him immune to her fire with a touch of his hands on her. He replaces her pain with a desire dangerous for the both of them.

And now we're back to Cinders the dead date. A query letter is too short form to do much back and forth. Organize your sentences simply both internally and externally. Subject, verb, object/clause. The first event is mentioned first. Then the next one.

This gives you the correct form. Once you have the correct form you can edit. Editing incorrect form gives you mishmash. Editing correct form gives you elegance. You've got to train your eye to recognize the difference.

Aine learns from him she’s a half-breed sent from Faerie. Hher mother, the queen, sent her to live on Earth for her protection. When Aine’s power of fire awakens and she became a beacon to those who want her dead. tThe Queen of Faerie sends Ronan to train Aine and be her guardian.

At this stage I hate to quibble about names and I'm not the best resource on names in urban fantasy books but "Faerie" is something I've only seen to describe a kind of being, not a place. Commenters might have different information; you should pay attention to that.  I'm wrong.

Also you can see I've taken out Everything You Do Not Need and adjusted the rhythm of the sentences.  You've got to be able to hear how clunky things sound and then fix them. Everyone writes clunky stuff. The trick is to recognize it and edit it out.  


Part of the training is to remove Aine from Ireland and take her to America. Before Aine can leave she is attacked by three Fomori, water demons, that manage to poison her. If the poison is not removed, she’ll die.

Is there a lot of moving around here? Faerie to Earth, Ireland to America. You really need to focus on the stakes. What's important is WHY three Fomori attack her, not when it happens. What does the antagonist want and how is Aine keeping him from it?

You can't put everything in a query. You shouldn't put all this info in a query. It muddles the point.

Ronan’s crew searches for a cure to save Aine’s life. He stays behind but when their forbidden love is discovered, Ronan is put in a coma. She’s left alone and one of Ronan’s trusted team has deceived them all. The betrayer leads the Fomori to Aine where she is tortured. If she dies, the walls will crumble between Faerie and Earth.

For breaking the one rule the Queen had restricted Ronan to not break, he must face the tribunal for sentencing. But he chooses to risk their persecution by staying with Aine. Together they can close the wall of Faerie forever.


Leave out all this stuff or you end up with synopsis NOT an enticement to read more.
Focus on what's at stake.

Lovely Dark Fallen, a young adult Dark Paranormal Romance is complete at 89,000 words.

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will like Lovely Dark Fallen.


Don't edit this. Start over. Write each sentence with subject then verb then object/clause. Make sure the events flow in chronological order. When you do that, you'll have the framework.  THEN edit to make it pretty and graceful.

You have to practice at the barre for hours before you get to put on the tutu and toe shoes and swoop elegantly around the stage.

And if there's one thing we sharks now about it's dancing:


----

Dear Query Shark,

Sixteen-year-old Isis O'Shea never meant to kill her first date. All she wanted to do is hold his hand and he burst into flames. That’s when she discovers her curse.

Leave out that last sentence so that you really start with a (pardon the pun) bang. You cover the curse stuff later, and that's the best way to do it.


She’s distraught, but when Shadow Man emerges and she finds him immune to her fire, he replaces her pain with a desire dangerous for the both of them.

I'm confused here. Shadow Man emerges from the immolated first date? He arrives later? Also, this is the only time you mention him. Remember, if you put him in the query right after you introduce Isis, I think he's a major character. I expect to see him as part of the story.  If he's NOT, he doesn't belong here.

Ronan is a mercenary under contract by the Queen of Faerie and tells Isis learns she’s a half-breed sent from Faerie. Her mother, the queen, sent her to live on Eearth for her protection. That changes wWhen Isis’s power of fire awakens and she became a beacon to those who want her dead. (what happens??)

(this is what happens:) The Queen of Faierie sends  Ronan is to train Isis and be her guardian.

Part of the training is to remove Isis from Ireland and take her to America. Before Isis can leave she is attacked by three Fomori, water demons, that manage to poison her. If the poison is not removed, she’ll die.

Ronan and his crew are to search for a cure to save Isis’s life.

And right here you have the first part of a pretty good query. What you're missing is WHY we should care if Isis croaks.  What Bad Thing will happen if she dies? What Bad Thing (or even better what Worse Thing will happen if she lives?)  That's what I mean when I beat you over the head and mouse about What's At Stake.

It's a race for Isis to decipher lies and truths and discover her true path of destiny to save the world from eternal darkness by demons that suck energy. She has to find who leads them before saving herself from death. She does love Ronan, but she's afraid he’s more of a threat with the ability to erase minds.

Here's where you go splat. This is mushy, with no specifics and no sense of which world she's saving. Eternal darkness by energy sucking demons isn't really very interesting.  It's too general. Give us a good blood curdling terrifying bad guy that we think is very hot, and you've got yourself some delicious evil.


FALLIN', a young adult Dark Paranormal Romance is complete at 89,000 words.

Well, romance...hmmm...I sure didn't see anything here that looked like a romance. 

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will find like  FALLIN’ in a similar style of storytelling. 

"will find FALLIN in a similar style.."  you don't find in. You find to be: "readers will find Fallin to be a similar style of storytelling."  This is the kind of clunky writing that bodes ill for the manuscript.  If I see this in a query, it's almost always an instant rejection even if I Love Love Love the concept.  I don't want to have to edit a manuscript down to the verbs to get it ready to show an editor. That's YOUR job.  You've absolutely got to do this right.



I hold an MBA, teach a yearly class on how to treat writing as a business at yalitchat.org, via webinar, have taken classes via writer’s digest on learning the craft. I am a proud member of YAlitchat.org, RWA, and SSA.

This version, while not perfect, is SoMuchBetter I feel like giving you a big shark kiss.
How could you resist?







Revise. Resend. You're on the right track.

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

Dear Query Shark,

Bitch. She has to be. Not a choice but a must.

This isn't a log line.  It's also really off-putting if (like me) you don't particularly warm to the idea of tough females (of any species) being called bitch.  You're better off to delete this.

Sixteen-year old Anaroha just wants to be held without burning the one at the other end.

Other end? That's a very strange, and not particularly illuminating way to describe someone touching you.  Unless you're a boa constrictor, in which case it makes sense.

When malicious water demons try to kill her and she expels a flame from her hands stopping them, she begins to understand why she's so hot.

The construction here is off balance.  When malicious water demons try to kill her is not a complete clause. The means you don't have an "and" with another clause following it.  
You've got to develop an ear for this kind of thing.  This is the level of writing I see in first drafts. Everyone writes with a tin ear then.  It's the revisions that polish it up. 

Then, Ronan appears after the assault and shows her she is not a freak by a simple caress. As the school year comes to an end, Anaroha has doubts she will ever know what a simple hug, hell, even more, feels like from Ronan as he distances himself from her.

At this point, I don't understand a single thing that's going on.  You've got events but no plot. No choices, no stakes.  And it's not polished.
Here's where I stop reading. 

Between being trained by RonanAnaroha uncovers a shocking secret about her new world - a secret that binds her fate to Ronan's in a way neither could have ever anticipated. He is summoned by the Faerie court and she will have to decide to follow or stay.

There are places for long ass sentences. A query letter isn't one of them.  

Staying she loses him but will be safe, alone, without contact. If she goes, Anaroha will never regain a normal life but may discover the cure to gain control of her heat. But here's the catch, she goes, the fey will kill her.

FALLIN', a young adult Paranormal Fantasy is complete at 100,000 words.

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will hopefully find FALLIN' in a similar style of storytelling, geared towards young adults.

I am a member of SSA, IWWG, and YAlitchat.com

Thank you for your consideration.

I said this on the last revision:
I don't have any sense of the specifics of this story. Start over. Write short concise sentences about the problems and choices that Anaroha faces.

It still applies.





Also, stop doing everything you're involved with that's publishing related. Get a critique group, or a writing group. Focus ONLY on your writing.  You aren't close to being publishable yet.  Every minute you spend on anything BUT improving your craft is an unwise use of scarce resources.

You've revised six times, and this is still a mess. That means your novel is too.  You're not ready to query.  


------------------
Dear Query Shark,

Faerie has a whole different meaning to sixteen year old Anaroha when malicious water demons try to kill her.

I don't understand this sentence.  I know what a faerie is.  I know what water demons are. Why doesn't Anaroha?

The first time she stops them, she begins to understand why her body temperature runs high all the time and no one can touch her.



Your sentence reveals information in the wrong chronological order: her body temp runs so high no one can touch her; she understands why after the water demons try to drown her.   You have to tell us the problem before you explain the solution.


Before she can absorb the new reality she is forced from her provincial ocean town in Dingle, Ireland to the deserts of Arizona. Anaroha's biggest challenge is accepting the changes within herself. As the school year comes to an end, Anaroha has doubts she will ever know what a simple hug feels like from a loved one.

Forced? why? how?  And what changes? And if she has doubts she'll ever know what a simple hug feels like, how will she know to want it, or even understand she's lacking something.  I can't fly so I don't feel the lack of wind beneath my wings.  
This is all jumbled and unfocused.  We're two paragraphs in and I have no idea what's going on here.


Between being trained by Ronan, an unemotional warrior, and the only one she knows that doesn't burn from her contact, who she stupidly allows herself to love, and her life being threatened, she will find the strength to face her enemies or die trying. Anaroha uncovers a shocking secret about her new world - a secret that binds her fate to Ronan's in a way neither could have ever anticipated.
FALLIN', a young adult Paranormal Fantasy is complete at 100,000 words.

You've just dropped Ronan in here as though we know who he is. Who's threatening her? The water demons? 




Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will hopefully find FALLIN' in a similar style of storytelling, geared towards young adults.

I am a member of SSA, IWWG, and YAlitchat.com

Thank you for your consideration.


I don't have any sense of the specifics of this story. Start over. Write short concise sentences about the problems and choices that Anaroha faces.

---------------
Dear Query Shark:

Inaroha Rein just wants to swim. Heart pounding against her chest, threatening to burst through, terror freezes her feet to the sand of the southwest Irish shores when three fomori, water demons, emerge and plague the beach with horror. They snatch three children unlucky enough to be snared into their tentacles. Hearing the chaos of the people all around Inaroha faces her first baptism of fire.

What does chaos sound like? Think about this for a second. Chaos isn't auditory. Chaos is visual. What does she actually hear?

And it's not clear to me who the subject of that sentence is. Is it Inaroha who hears the chaos, or is it someone else who hears the chaos of the people surrounding Inaroha who then faces her first baptism of fire.

If I don't know who you're talking about, it's a very bad sign.

Simplify. Simplify.


After a fierce battle in the ocean, a stranger that has haunted her dreams becomes visible. Ronan is not from earth but from the ancient world of the fairy realm. He looks human. Acts human. His eyes show the truth. He tells Inaroha she must leave and go with him to the deserts of America to train with him.

What happened to the water demons? And if Inaroha just wants to swim, and some dude shows up talking about the desert, why doesn't she just say "later alligator" and swim off? Even fantasy has to make sense.

The summer before her junior year, she is alienated and immersed into the southwestern American culture where she finds her strength from Ronan and his guidance. Forced to accept the truth about the world she’s from, the fairy realm, she must chose to return and fight in the war or stay and be stalked by the fomori.

This is so general and unspecific as to be boring. Also, it's not the story. It's the prelude to the story. Nothing remotely resembling a plot has shown up yet.


Mean while, Inaroha struggles with emotions for Ronan as he continually rejects her even though she knows underneath his staunch face he feels the same. The feeling of being alone and rebuff Inaroha’s father disappears.

Staunch face? What the hell is a staunch face?


Fallin’ is a young adult novel approximately 120,000 words that follows Inaroha through physical and emotional fights as she begins to finally take the responsibility to solve the mystery of her life before it destroys her.

On a side note, I am a member to IWWG, WD, AZ authors association and YAlitchat.com .

A member to?

Thank you for your time.


There's no plot. There are no specifics. This is still a mess.






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

Dear Query Shark,

Inaroha remembers only Ireland as her place of birth. A contemporary story, 77,000 words, of a modern day Jean D’Arc meets the mystic world of Irish mythology.


She is not French, nor Irish. Born from the goddess Belisama

If she's not French or Irish why did you mention Jean D'Arc and Irish mythology?

The clause "fathered by a mortal she does not know her birthright" doesn't make sense. You're missing a word or some punctuation or something. Does her mortal father give her some sort of special right or privilege (ie birthright)? Otherwise, why would she not know?


She meets her mother, whom she mistakes as an angel. She is presented with a gift disguised as a scar on her body in the shape of a black rose.

These are events, not plot. "She meets her mother" raises more questions than it answers. If she doesn't know either of her parents, where is she? And it's "mistakes for an angel" not "mistakes as an angel."

On her sixteenth birthday she is attacked.
Why?

Saving her little cousin’s from a near drowning from three sirens wakens her mystical powers.
What happened to the attack? Cousin's is not the plural of cousin.

You've got three sirens added to the mix now, and some mystical powers. In other words, you've got way too much going on here. Focus on what happens to her and what choice she must make.


Powers buried under the rose.
I'm sorry, but wtf? This doesn't make sense to me.
Oh wait, buried under the scar shaped as a black rose?
I still don't get it.


She must leave her town.
What town? Why?

Leaving will keep her family safe…for now.
Why? I thought she didn't know her parents?

Three sirens are tracking her movement and are out to kill her.
Yea, well, me too. This is really the first time we get a sense of any conflict.

Inaroha has attracted the attention of three malevolent sirens who want to eat her for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That's the start of the query.


Accompanying her on this journey is Ronan, a guardian from another realm.
Another realm? Like France? Another dimension? The Fifth perhaps? Be specific.

He looks human enough. Acts human enough. His eyes show the truth.
This, finally, conveys a sense of character. More of this. Less of everything else.

Like a kaleidoscope they change color to reveal hidden emotions on a facade void of human expression.
Yea, less of this kind of sentence, which undercuts the simplicity and clarity of the three sentences before it.

Ronan marches into her life to save her from herself.
And here I thought the three sirens were the problem.

He has trained as a warrior where there was no space or time for emotions.


He must protect her and direct her to accept the throne even if it means his death.
What throne? And why does it mean he's at risk other than the usual warrior stuff?

Hunted and on the move to try and stay safe.
Sentence fragment that doesn't work.

He must keep his emotions buried.
I thought he didn't have any?

He must not fall for her because it will interfere with his military vow. Breaking the vow can lead to expulsion and punishment.
Expulsion from what? And maybe he wants out!


Inaroha’s in the dark about Ronan’s true intentions.
What does she think he wants?

Always ending in a fracas she quarrels with him to get the truth about events happening and the war she witnesses.
Where are the malevolent sirens?
This sentence is so badly organized it almost doesn't make sense. What you need is this: She quarrels with him to get the truth about unfolding events. See the difference?


One step ahead of the enemy may provide a false sense of hope.
This doesn't make sense.

She must train and face trials to lead the men in battle with the use of her gifts to save her world.
This sentence is as awkward as a baby giraffe on ice.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Probably not, but I like your optimism.

Best Regards,


This is better, but it's still a mess. Focus! Focus! Short, declarative sentences.
Leave out the backstory. Tell us what the heroine must choose and what she risks in choosing it or not.


------------------------------------
Dear Query Shark,

FALLIN’ a 77,000-word contemporary YA paranormal fantasy about unveiling sinister lies shoved down our throats as the truth.

You're missing the verb in that sentence. It's also not the most enticing thing about your book. Yes you need the page count and the category, but they should come at the END of the query.

INAROHA’s heart hammers loudly, raucous screaming in her ears as the pounding threatens to crack her chest cavity. New challenges in the twilight hours terrorize her psyche as visions reveal bloodcurdling events.

You need less about some specific fear and more about the main conflict. Don't capitalize the names of the characters, that's for film scripts.

Inaroha faces a choice. What is it?
What are the consequences of that choice?
What are the stakes?
Why does it matter?

Those are the questions that should be answered in the first paragraph of the query.

RONAN marches into her life to save her from herself. He is a guardian from another world but Inaroha’s in the dark about his true intentions. He’s a trained warrior where there’s no space or time for egocentric emotions.

This is better, but we still haven't seen the main conflict.

Ascertaining her dreams as potential reality she pieces together a harsh fact of warfare occurring in another multi-verse.

This sentence literally makes no sense. I'm not sure why you're not using basic sentence structure here (noun/verb/object) but you should.

Keeping a grasp on her sanity she learns she’s the cause of the conflict.

These two clauses don't connect.

There’s no easy choice. Rejecting her responsibility leads her to unequivocal death or recognizing her position and living with unbelievable hardships.

Because this follows sentences that don't make sense, we really don't know what you're trying to do here.

Simplify. Write basic declarative sentences. Leave out every single adjective and adverb. Those are the bones of your query. When you have those, you can add the sinew and muscle of adverbs and the haberdashery of adjectives.




I thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,


Form rejection.

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








Dear Query Shark,

Inaroha Rein De’Arc knew she was an excellent swimmer from a young age.

It really helps your reader (me) if there are not three unusual names to remember right from the get-go. Use one name.

Her world was turned upside down when she is forced to leave her life in Ireland behind due to a horrendous paranormal event she can’t begin to understand.

This sentence has nothing to do with the preceding sentence. Thus, it's jarring.

I She will soon discover a war in another dimension and she is the reason for the conflict.

I She? Either you've introduced a new character with the worst possible name, or this is a typo.

Here's where I stop reading.

Those who side with her, see her as a savior. Those who oppose her believe she’s an abomination. Her life is in danger and she has a destiny to save the paranormal and her world. Inaroha will face new challenges in her life beyond that of a normal young lady and battle with trying to understand who and what she truly is.

This is so general as to be cliche. It doesn't give us any sense of specifics.

Ronan was sent to guard Inaroha, unbeknownst to her, to save her after the paranormal event.
He is tasked to guild and train her.

task is not a verb. I know you see it like this sometimes (like gift) but it's just not. You don't task someone with a mission. You give/assign/force someone on a mission.

I also think you mean "guide" not "guild" If I hadn't stopped reading before, I'd stop here. This is just careless.

Ronan was trained for over 600 years as a warrior where there was no space or time for human emotions, especially love. An emotion he closed off and saw as chaotic, imbalanced and weak.
Will there be room for the both of them to survive in her world?

I'm sorry, but this does not make sense to me. If you're talking about a 60o+ year old guy (geezer?) who doesn't have space or time for love, surely the question you want to ask is whether he's going to fall for the heroine, NOT whether there is room for them both to survive. Clearly they HAVE survived.

FALLIN’ a series of paranormal fantasy book one ending at 77,000 words.


This sentence does not make sense. This is again, I hope, sloppy proofreading. If you did proofread this letter, and thought this sentence worked, there's a bigger problem.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


And to top this letter off you sent it on a green background with the pretty pictures you see here.

The problem is threefold:
(1) it makes your query harder to read;
(2) the query shows two "attachments" when it arrives (the pictures);
(3) it demonstrates you are clueless about one or both of these:
(3a)how to manipulate your email program;
(3b)how to read directions for queries.


Queries need to be black font on white background. NO fancy email stationery, I don't care how much you love it or think it makes you stand out. It does make you stand out, but not in a way you want.

This is form rejection.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

#150-Revised twice to a win

Dear Query Shark,

An Arab-American sailor in custody in a Detroit jail is spirited away to the Norfolk Naval Air Station to face charges of desertion, only to be gunned down by a sniper as he steps onto the tarmac. Mike Hayes, the sailor’s escort, is suddenly in the hottest water of his career.

The Chain Locker, a 110,000 word military suspense novel features Agent Michael Francis Hayes of the Naval Investigative Service, the same organization known under a slightly different name in the long-running CBS series, NCIS.

Furious, the admirals want Mike court-martialed; outraged, the politicians want his head. Mike, his fellow agent Charlie Thornblade, and Roya Solomon, the talented but testy Iraqi-American assistant to an ambitious Detroit congressman, form an uneasy alliance to get to the bottom of the killing.

Set in the run-up to the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq, The Chain Locker traces the mystery to the deadly heist of a million dollars of base exchange receipts in the Neapolitan countryside, and the killers to the bowels of a deserted aircraft carrier in the Norfolk shipyards, where Mike and Roya confront the killers and the stolen cash in the bone-chilling cold of the ship’s chain locker.

As a former naval flight officer home-ported in Tidewater, Virginia, I’ve used my knowledge of aircraft carriers, the service and the region to ensure the authenticity of shipboard and regional scenes. I currently live in Detroit – home to the nation’s largest population of Arab-American citizens – and have seen firsthand the tension between the Arab and non-Arab communities, which informs the motivations of Roya Solomon, the female lead.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,


Why am I not reading this?
This works.
I'm gonna be damn snappish if one of my slithery competitors reads this before I get my jaws on it.




-----------
Dear Query Shark,

An Arab-American sailor in custody in a Detroit jail is spirited away to the Norfolk Air Station in the middle of a cold, January night to face charges of desertion, only to be gunned down by a sniper as he steps onto the tarmac. Michael Francis Hayes, the sailor’s escort, is suddenly in the hottest water of his career.

So begins The Chain Locker, a 110,000 word nautical suspense novel featuringfeatures Agent Mike Hayes of the Naval Investigative Service, the same organization known under a slightly different name in the long-running CBS series, NCIS, and its spinoff, NCIS: Los Angeles.


Take out everything you don't need. If someone watches NCIS:LA they know about NCIS: the original. Also I have a particular loathing for the phrase "so begins".

Furious, the admirals want Mike court-martialed; outraged, the politicians want his head. Mike, his fellow agent Charlie Thornblade, and Roya Solomon, the talented but testy Iraqi-American assistant to an ambitious Detroit congressman, form an uneasy alliance to get to the bottom of the killing.

Set in the run-up to the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq, The Chain Locker traces the mystery to the deadly heist of a million dollars of base exchange receipts in the Neapolitan countryside, and the killers to the bowels of a deserted aircraft carrier in the Norfolk shipyards, where Mike and Roya confront the killers and the stolen cash in the bone-chilling cold of the ship’s chain locker.

As a former naval flight officer home-ported for five years in Tidewater, Virginia, I’ve used my knowledge of aircraft carriers, the service and the region to ensure the authenticity of shipboard and regional scenes. I currently live in Detroit – home to the nation’s largest population of Arab-American citizens – and have seen firsthand the tension between the Arab and non-Arab communities, which informs the motivations of Roya Solomon, the female lead.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

And I'd still read it, you haven't shot yourself in the foot yet.





----------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Query Shark:

I am seeking representation for my novel, The Chain Locker. The Chain Locker, is a 110,000 word military suspense novel featuring an agent of the Naval Investigative Service, the same organization known under a slightly different name in the long-running CBS series, NCIS, and its spinoff, NCIS: Los Angeles.

Put this stuff at the bottom of the query.

The novel is pitched at an audience that appreciates the combination of suspense and a hint of politics in a military setting. The story features an ex-fighter jock with a haunted past as the male protagonist, and a strong female Iraqi-American lead, one of the few that I have seen in the suspense genre.

You're telling, not showing. And any agent worth their salt in the crime novel game knows about the dearth of strong female leads of any persuasion.

The novel takes place in the run-up to the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Start here, with what the novel is about.

An Arab-American sailor in custody in a Detroit jail is spirited away to the Norfolk Air Station in the middle of a cold, January night to face charges of desertion, only to be gunned down by a sniper as he steps onto the tarmac. Michael Francis Hayes, a former Navy pilot and the sailor’s NIS escort, is suddenly in the hottest water of his career. Humiliated, the Navy brass wants him fired; outraged, the politicians want his head.

Mike, his fellow agent Charlie Thornblade and Roya Solomon, the talented but prickly Iraqi-American assistant to an ambitious Detroit congressman form an uneasy alliance to get to the bottom of the killing. The action moves from Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest navy base, to a derelict cabin cruiser on the Carolina coast to the decaying steel towns of Pennsylvania.

Why is this hopscotch of locations important? Plot is the most important thing in a query.

Their attraction a two steps forward / one step back affair, Mike and Roya trace the mystery to the deadly heist of a million dollars of base exchange receipts in the Neapolitan countryside and the killers to the bowels of a deserted aircraft carrier in the Norfolk shipyards where the two of them confront the killers and the stolen cash in the bone-chilling cold of the ship’s chain locker.


As a former naval flight officer who was assigned to the USS Independence - the aircraft carrier at the heart of the story – and home-ported in the Tidewater, Virginia area for five years, I’ve used my knowledge of the ship, the service and the region to ensure the authenticity of the shipboard and regional scenes. I currently live in Detroit – home to the nation’s largest population of Arabic citizens – and have seen firsthand the tension between the Arabic and non-Arabic communities, which informs the motivations of Roya Solomon, the female lead.



If you would be interested in reading the first three chapters of the book, or the entire manuscript I will be glad to forward either a paper or electronic copy.

Thank you for your time and consideration. (I know you want me to read the manuscript)

I can be reached at (email redacted)

Kind regards,




Format problems: This arrived as a Big Bloc O'Text. Not impossible to read, but queries like this get skimmed, not read. Can I say "white space" often enough. Apparently not.

Bottom line: is this a book I want to read? Yes.
Is this a book I want others to read? Well, we'll see. I'd ask for the manuscript here.



This isn't the best written query we've ever seen here at QueryShark, and the voice is a little flat, but this is a classic example of right agent/right time. I love NCIS the tv show (although I watch it on iTunes on my computer). I'd rather take a chance by reading what may turn out to be a flat novel, than miss something. I think a lot of my ilk are like that.


Even though this isn't a great query, the writer set down the basics of the plot, the reason the characters are involved, and stayed focused. In other words, he didn't shoot himself in the foot. Sometimes that's all you need!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

#149-revised

Dear Query Shark:

Twenty-four year old English teacher Pete Nicely has been waiting for a student like Charlie Novela.

This kid is immediately sharp and sarcastic. He’s amused by his classmates’ attempts to intimidate him. And he even knows how to scan the back covers of books as if shopping in a bookstore.

But in the Zero-Tolerance aftermath of the Columbine massacre, Charlie goes too far.

“If things get too bad,” Charlie says, “I’ll put on a trench coat and take care of things.”

Now Pete has two choices. He can follow new school policy and report Charlie, possibly branding the boy as a psychopath. Or he can try to help Charlie himself.

But he has to do something.

WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME is a 69,000-word novel about good intentions gone wrong.

Thank you for your time,
Name misspelled





holy moly, you REALLY fixed this.

I'm not sure we've seen this degree of turn around since good ol #148's first and second efforts.

What I like: there's a compelling, energetic voice.
There's an interesting problem.

What I really like: you sucked up a real sharkstorm of critique and made this a whole lot better.

What I don't like but's easily fixed: the names of the characters Nicely and Novela.
I think this works now.
I'd read the first three pages with a query, and if that voice holds up AND it doesn't start with dreaming/driving/showering or some other static formulaic thing, I'd keep reading.

Good job!

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



Dear Query Shark:

At twenty-four, Pete Nicely is the youngest teacher in an inner-city school that loses a fifth of its faculty every year.

Yet despite daily dealings with apathetic students and useless administrators, Pete still thinks he might be able to save the world and impress Riley Merritt—social studies teacher and the only
registered Communist he’s ever pleasured himself to.

But when the Columbine massacre sends a wave of zero-tolerance hysteria across high schools all over the country, everything changes.

And here's where you abruptly lose me. There may indeed have been a wave of zero-tolerance hysteria after the Columbine shootings, but most of the people who read this query are going to sympathize with it. People aren't rational about the idea of their kids getting shot in school. Do you want them to be?

You need the reference to post-Columbine, but you need a more measured tone.

When the Columbine massacre led to zero-tolerance policies at high schools all over the country, everything changes. Not the most elegant of sentences, but see what I'm getting at here?

Now all Pete, and his mom, can think about is murder. One wrong word and he’s sure guerrilla warfare will break out in his classroom.

I lose all sympathy for Pete here. He sounds like the hysterical one now. One of the most common thing you hear from people after these kinds of events is "I never thought this could happen here" not "we were just one wrong word away from guerrilla warfare."

Only Riley manages to make any sense. “Don’t fret, Nicely. They’ll chew you up if you fret. Just try to save one or two in each class, if you can. And don’t worry, nobody is counting.”

Coming after the reference to Columbine, it looks at first blush as though Riley is suggesting Nicely save one or two kids from a massacre. I'm hoping that's not what you meant.

Pete is on the verge of his daily nervous breakdown when Charlie Novela interrupts his sixth period. Charlie is immediately sharp, sensitive—and gay. All qualities that will make his life difficult if not impossible in a school dominated by a football team that’s led the league in gaybashing for nine straight seasons.

Basically, Charlie is doomed. And if Pete can save him, then he can save anyone. Even Riley would agree.

However, Pete’s slightly heroic plans are crushed when Charlie quickly confesses some slightly homicidal feelings. Now Pete has a choice he’s not prepared to make. Either he destroys Charlie’s trust and turns the kid in, or he risks the lives of every human being on campus,
including his own.

This is a false choice. If Charlie is confessing normal teenage feelings, no one is in danger. The only reason Pete would ever be in trouble is if Charlie actually DID something...why does Pete think he would?

WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME!? is a 69,000-word novel about the constant humiliations that can make high school a very dangerous place.


You're asking us to buy into the idea that constant humiliation makes people murderous. I'm not sure that's true other than on television. Constant humiliation makes people litigious, or makes them drop out of school.

Thanks,
(and in a nice touch, you spelled your name wrong which makes me laugh only because I'm always hitting the wrong key when I sign my emails too)


The tone is off here. If you're looking for a serious exploration of the high wire act faced by people who are legally required to report things they hear, you can't also have flippant things like "daily nervous breakdown." You're also relying on a very dated trope: gaybashing football team, sensitive student. I'm sure a lot of that still exists in real life, but novels have moved passed that. This story doesn't need it, because what's interesting is the burden placed on teachers after the post-Columbine zero-tolerance policies. And those apply to any student. You don't need tired old tropes. Make up some new ones.

Form rejection.