Sunday, March 31, 2013

#242

Dear QueryShark:

His code name: Kangaroo. His special ability: The Pocket--a unique portal into an empty "pocket universe," which Kangaroo can use to smuggle contraband throughout the Solar System for his intelligence agency employers.

The bad news: Kangaroo sucks at being a spy.


Even equipped with state-of-the-art, 22nd-century biotechnology implants, Kangaroo keeps screwing up. Now his whole department is under internal investigation, and Kangaroo's handler sends him away: mandatory leave aboard an Earth-to-Mars pleasure cruise, where the agency's auditors can't reach him.


But even on vacation, Kangaroo can't seem to stay out of trouble.

First, there's an unexplained murder on the cruise ship, and security thinks Kangaroo is the prime suspect. Then a hijacker seizes control of the vessel, threatening to crash it into Mars Capital City, and Kangaroo risks exposing his true identity to help the crew take back their ship.


When he discovers another spy on board, conspiring with the hijacker and intimately familiar with agency tradecraft, Kangaroo must face the possibility that this act of terror is an inside job. Cut off from his support team and unsure whom to trust, can Kangaroo prevent an interplanetary war--and prove he has what it takes to be a real secret agent?


WAYPOINT KANGAROO is a 115,000-word science fiction spy thriller. This is my first novel.


Thank you for your time and consideration.





Let's do something a little different today. This query is a Win on the First Try.

Tell me why. Use the comment column below.

70 comments:

Alexander Pierce said...

It immediately grabs your attention and fills you in on the details of the protagonist and the main conflict.

The voice of the author also comes through. I'd like to read it when it comes out :P

CoreyHaim8myDog said...

I thought you weren't excepting sci-fi?

Jim heskett said...

because it tells you only enough about the protagonist and the plot to make you want to know more. It entices you without being too wordy or giving away too many details. we know the basic plot, and something interesting about the protagonist, but nothing else.

it breaks a lot of the rules, but does it with style

Gabrielle Prendergast said...

Premise very clearly presented - world built in a sentence. Very simple and effective sketch of an appealing character. A classic and simple plot presented with just enough details and the ultimate stakes. Voice nailed. Nicely demonstrates understanding of the genre. Definite win.

LindaBudz said...

Love this. Solid writing, strong voice, fun premise, familiar settings but with a twist. And the MC is DOING stuff. Bottom line: Makes me want to read it! (And please tell me there is a corny Captain Kangaroo joke in it somewhere.)

Robert Polk said...

Kangaroo. Who can't help rooting for a bumbling spy with that moniker?

Deserae McGlothen said...

The first two paragraphs are extremely engaging, filling us in on the "who" in a very creative and brief way that sets a tone and hopefully voice for the story.

The third paragraph then sets us straight into the plot with a really cool description of the initial conflict which surprisingly (and what I think is the most rewarding thing about this query) is only the beginning.

The stakes are getting higher and higher as the query goes on and it's not ridiculous--- it's compelling and adventurous and if I wasn't already thinking it, now I'm definitely saying "Yes. I'd love to read this book." The query hits on important details with precision, gives us a good sense of the MC and of his character, and takes the plot to a reasonable conclusion of "After all this, is redemption possible?" showing that the story, itself, is well thought out, constructed, and (if the query is any indication) well written. For a story this complex and detailed, the word count seems great and above all reasonable to have fleshed an idea of this caliber out to its fullest potential. Nitpick comment: "unsure whom to trust" could be "unsure of whom to trust" just to keep the cadence and make the flow at the ending a little better--- gotta love those prepositional phrases!

But yeah, awesome query. Awesome STORY, actually. And really--- REALLY--- THAT'S why it's a win. It sounds like something that I'd love to be reading. Fun, risky--- an adventure with an MC who's trying to prove himself? Count me in.

Great job, Author! Fingers are totally crossed for you.

Best wishes,
Deserae

Kel Heinen said...

It grabbed me right away. Good hook and I know what the story is about. Plus, by the end, I wanted and needed to read more. This query told the story from start to teasing the finish. Good luck to the author!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Ooh, I would have missed this, but for Twitter.

It's fun and hilarious. When I started to read it, I thought "Kangaroo? Pocket? Oh yeah, I see what you did there." and read to see if it was, in fact, punny and stupid. It was not, and now I want to read this cruise-to-Mars spy thriller.

(if nothing else, the other spy names must be just as fabulous, right?)

Taymalin said...

Unique and funny with a great voice. I want to read this to see if the author pulled it off.

Christine Monson said...

I think I've seen this movie before. Only the kangaroo was Steven Segal, the vessel was a submarine, and the setting was the ocean. Tommy Lee Jones was the antagonist!

nightsmusic said...

Aside from the title, word-count and thank you, it's exactly the type of back blurb I expect to see on a book I pick up at the store. And based on that blurb, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. And I don't even like sci-fi. But I love the protagonist here.

Unknown said...

I hope you can keep us posted about what happens with this book, because I want to read it! Voice, concrete details without being over-specific, great genre blend, believable, if funny names, a flawed hero that I'm already rooting for, etc etc. Goes beyond the question of whether the book could be sold and answers the far more important question: do i want to read this book? (yes!!)

Ranee` said...

Simply put, I want to read it.

Khalid Mukhtar said...

It follows every rule (almost?) of query writing, and is Textbook with a capital T?

Maya Missani said...

Because it makes me think of the parts of 'The Fifth Element" that happened on the spaceship, which were the best parts of the whole movie.

Guzin1 said...

Hm...
Maybe it's because I'm not a fan of sci-fi. Or maybe the idea of an implanted pouch is disturbing. Or maybe I wasn't bright enough to realize this had nothing to go with a real kangaroo until half way thru (I'm lying-I'm still not sure :-) and I'm embarrassed. But I didn't love it.
Then again I'm no query shark.
Sorry...

Anthony said...

This query has an inciting voice with a snazzy plot and high stakes. I was left with the impression the plot was "Die Hard on a Luxury Spaceship," only with later Peter Sellers instead of Bruce Willis.

Win.

laurahurlburt said...

Because this is greatness! I can't wait for it to hit the shelves!

Eliza said...

Kangaroo! The Pocket! Never underestimate the appeal of fun. One thing, though, my second grade teacher told me not to capitalize solar system. Unless this Solar System is some kind of Galactic Alliance.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Voice. Humor. Weaves in an introduction to the MC and the major plot lines. Promises much odd hilarity ala Douglas Adams.

Made. Of. Win.

Terri

Geek Amicus said...

Because it makes me want to read on. If I saw this as book blurb, I'd buy it.

jill said...

First and foremost I think it's the voice that shines through. Beyond that, there's a clear introduction to the protagonist, the world, his goals, and the stakes. Add me to the list of those who want to buy it when it's out!!

Gina said...

Because it's completely out of left field but still makes sense. It's the special blend of unique and fresh without sounding like a big bag of crazy. And it makes you want to read more.

french sojourn said...

It's like a verbal ping pong game.
Good news - Bad news
Star cruise- evil plot
Stakes - Reward
Voice-Description

Well written with tempo.

Cristin Bruggeman said...

Because while cruising the Great Barrier Reef, the shark learned that kangaroos make good chum.

BonnieShaljean said...

Ten out of ten. This query not only hits all the right marks (and none of the wrong ones), it hits them in good order of introduction.

Clear, concise writing: we see both character and context immediately, in sharp focus. It has voice. It has pace. Starts with conflict, not backstory.

Tempts us with something we've never seen before: The Pocket, an intriguingly surreal feature offering endless possibilities.

Shows a well-defined obstacle which also humanises Kangaroo (with his endearingly absurd code name) and draws our sympathy. Who doesn't suck at something they want not to suck at? Who at one time or another hasn't been a kangaroo precisely when we wanted to be a jaguar? We identify with and root for him.

Highlights a compellingly energetic plot and promises us a fun journey. And - who knows? - Kangaroo may teach us something about ourselves.

Mike Ramberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kris Underwood said...

I don't know..."a perfect query" on Query Shark? That rarely happens. Plus, this was posted yesterday-the day before April Fool's. However, I could simply be too suspicious.

Kris Underwood said...

It is written well, though.

BonnieShaljean said...

Queries are meant to tantalise with unanswered questions, to pique the reader's curiosity and make them want to know more - not logically tie up every loose end, which may make that same reader feel there's now no need to read the book!

Lemur said...

Awesome! Someone mentioned April Fools Day. I hope not because I REALLY want to read this book. And it's not the usual kind of book I read. However even if Janet wrote this to give us an example of an awesome query an an exam on why, it's full of win.

Patty Blount said...

Please let this NOT be an April Fools' prank; I LOVED this query.

The first sentence: "His code name: Kangaroo" hooked me. It told me the genre and also made me laugh. What kind of spy is named Kangaroo? The second sentence corrected my first impression. This isn't just a spy novel; it's sci-fi. Now I'm even more intrigued.

By the time I got to the second paragraph,: "The bad news: Kangaroo sucks at being a spy." I wanted to click out to Amazon and buy the book.

It works because it grabs your attention, makes you laugh, makes you want to read more.

I really need to know how Kangaroo gets out this predicament.

Greg L. Turnquist said...

It is crazy, so crazy that it makes you want to read more pages? Frankly, it sounds ridiculous, but that isn't the mark of a good query. This one doesn't have glaring grammar mistakes, it shows/doesn't tell, and it wets your appetite. People just might actually read this.

nightsmusic said...

Greg, whets, not wets... ;o)

Elissa M said...

It's a winning query because it clearly shows the author has written a winning book.

Lara said...

All of the above, plus the author didn't introduce three other characters we didn't need to know yet, or have six back story subplots filling in an extra nine paragraphs.

The Writer Librarian said...

The author doesn't rely on typical science fiction tropes to carry the story. It contains a heroic, unique (and vulnerable) protagonist, believable, measurable stakes, and a compelling reason for the main character to see the plot through to the end.

Theresa Milstein said...

I wish I could write such a clear query. I don't even see what rules are broken. We've got voice. We know the protagonist and what's at stake. And we also feel his action instead of just having him be a spectator. And considering this has more to explain because it's not realistic fiction, it's not bogged down with explanation or terminology.

Kangaroo is a pretty funny name. I thought it sounded too young when I first read it, but the name has grown on me.

Who doesn't love a spy who screws up and has to uncover a big plot? Beverly Hills Cop crosses The Pink Panther.

Jennifer Kenney said...

REALLY this was an accepted one? I don't get it. We get told over an over to be serious, and follow the form. Then something like this...

OHHH and your robot thing is a pain...I failed like 5 times in a row...

Lemur said...

@ Patty Blount Exactly. Hooked me within seconds! This query is so awe-inspiring that it would take PAGES to explain exactly why the hell it works. Clarity about the character and motivations, clarity about the character's world (in SF nonetheless). A pure clear voice. A character we can root for. OMG I am just aching to hit the "click to buy" button! Only two submissions before on this site have done this to me. One was "the idiot" and the other was the fabulous one with revenge in school plaids. (Forgive me atm I don't have a moment to look up titles.) I haven't bought either yet just cause money is a problem right now, but you can darn well bet that both of them are stuck in my head and I'll be buying both (make that all 3) the first freaking moment I can afford to. LOVE the fact that the sharkives make it possible for me to go back and find these when I'm ready/able!

otterb said...

There's clearly humor in the story, but there's also a plot. What sold me was the voice. Not too much angst, not too much snark - just a nice balance. As a reader, I would read the first few pages from this blurb, and if they lived up to the promise, then I'd buy it.

BonnieShaljean said...

The revenge-in-school-plaids query (now blurb - and it had the same effect on me) was for Premeditated, by Josin McQuein.

But you can't buy it. It isn't out yet. And that's because the book she did before it (Arclight) isn't out yet. Which hasn't stopped Arclight from getting picked up by Universal for movie rights. Way to GO, team.

Angie Brooksby said...

IT sounds fantastic. The kind of book I love to read not only because of the story, my favorite, but also because you can tell it is up-beat and probably funny and not filled with gratuitous violence.

Taeryn said...

Don't normally read sci-fi, but I'd definitely look into this one. And I'd for sure watch the movie. It works so well I can't even tell why it works...

So is the Shark requesting pages -- or did she write this herself just to show us what-for? >.>

jdspero said...

Smiling all the way through...

Susan Bernhard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Cardboard Crafter said...

Because it makes you want to read the book! No backstory, just plot points. Original. No extraneous details that just confuse you... all in all, good job!

Ellipsis Flood said...

I may be a bit biased (I love science fiction), but the concept behind this, as well as the way it's presented, is awesome. The query doesn't beat around the bush, but tells us what's up with Kangaroo, and what's at stake for him.

Melissa said...

This query is a Win on the First Try because it does the primary job of a query: it entices you to read on.

Just as the goal of a resume is to get you an interview that hopefully leads to a job, the query has to make an agent want to read pages. Then, with any luck, requests for a full ms and a book contract will follow.

mike melton said...

To be honest with you, I found the plot to annoying in the sense that it is ridiculously implausible. I assume this is a children's book?

Taeryn said...

Well...I assumed it was a children's book on first go, but second para cleared that up. I get what Susan says, and partially agree, but like the others say, it does entice, and it does seem funny. At least the MS deserves a read for that. While, like I said, I don't normally go in for sci-fi, I put that aside to read the query fairly... and it IS cute. Even though the name Kangaroo is long, not quick to say, and actually means, (I heard) in Aborigine, 'I don't know what you're saying.' (Because the settlers asked what those big hopping things were.)

BP said...

Because...chills!!! :D

And goosebumps are NEVER WRONG.

Plus, Kangaroo. Which is an awesome name for a book character.

So let me know when this sells or anything. I'll just be here waiting with the patience of a starved jackal.

BP said...

Oh, PS - NOT an April Fool's Day joke...so sad that a good query is so rare that...well...lol

The author: https://twitter.com/curtiscchen

(only posting this b/c he tweeted it, personally!!!)

UnEdOpinion said...

Any query you read that you can instantly see as a movie trailer works.

I see this in the same vein as True Lies, serious thrills but with a strong undercurrent of humor and comedy.

Crystal Charee said...

I REALLY want to read this. You had me at code name Kangeroo, but I love everything about it.

David Shain said...

Because 'Win', 'First', and 'Try' shouldn't be capitalized?

Jennifer Kenney said...

I would really like to see an equivalent update on what Agents want to see. If this is ideal then who can you tweak your own work in this direction.

My work is equally unique, and complex...but my query just does not show that because it is so HARD to put something like this into the form I have heard repeated ad-nauseum.


So does it matter more what your present than, what the agents say they want?

CavalierdeNuit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sbjames said...

This is a Win because it does everything a query is supposed to do(character,conflict,voice,genre, word count, entice) without wasting a single word which is amazing considering it's got to world build too. Great job!

PS I'm not a big sci-fi fan-but I don't find any of this confusing. If you've read any good sci-fi, say Ender's Game, you can visualize this world based on the bits the query gives- I'd read this. My husband would love it. I hope it makes it to print, soon.

pcwrites said...

The author puts the protagonist front-and-center in simple terms, describes the challenges he faces, and hints at the potential consequences if he fails. Period. No extraneous backstory or subplots, no superfluous details, no character soup.
I don't like sci-fi personally, but I don't have to like it to understand why it's a great query.

tomalanbrosz said...

@Taeryn: according to the author's Twitter, QS requested the full about a week ago.

pegjet said...

At #62 in comments, I have nothing new to say, except...I want to read this one!

Cool gadget and sucks at being a spy? I know he is going to learn how to be a spy, and I want to be along for the ride.

I may not quite get every word that made this a win, but I want to read this story, and that is, if I've read the archives correctly, the point of a successful query.

B Henwood said...

The rules are to help you achieve one goal. When you boil it all down only one thing matters. She want's to read more.

The fact that this person ended with a question, uses a lot of colons, or may not have chosen the perfect word in every instance - immaterial.

Get the reader to want more. Period.

CavalierdeNuit said...

I deleted my comment because it sounded too negative, and I had no intention of being negative. My query has been getting rejections so I have no room to criticize(I am in the midst of reworking it). Congrats on getting a winning query!

Kim Kouski said...

I would say, it catches your attention, tells us what actually happens in the story, and tells us there's an antagonist. I like it and I want to read the book. Publish please. :)

ojo said...

Sorry, but no thanks. Yes, I see that this query grabs ones attention and is well written, but I don't read sci-fi. Why? Because such a plot is too exaggerated and ludicrously improbable. And "Kangaroo"? I would be chuckling while I shoved the book back on the book store shelf.

At 115,000 words, this ain't no pocket novel!

remedypeter said...

Ok. I'll bite - I'd like to hear Query Shark's reasons why it's a win.
Thank you.

Jeff Shanley said...

It's straightforward, plot-centered, and simply well-written.

Kenneth Lafo said...

Immediately, I notice this does not follow the format of query letters as regimented by the forums. But, it STILL works. Why? Because it makes you want to know more. And the quirkiness tells you the author is witty and concise enough to make long explanations with few words. This is a good lesson on how you can be yourself in your query and still win.