Questions: I use Mary Shelley in the opening line despite the fact that she is Mary Godwin at this point in history. Do you feel like it adds unnecessary confusion when I name Percy Shelley later on as her lover (and not husband)? My second question is if I should include the information that this is a planned series of five books, is that relevant at this stage?
Dear Query Shark,
Your instinct that this is wrong are correct. Any reader who knows the "characters" here will know who Mary Godwin is. Getting historical facts wrong drives most of them up the wall. Or maybe just me up the wall. In any case, use her correct name.
The added benefit is this: if the person reading the query doesn't know that Mary Godwin is Mary Shelley, it's a nice reveal. In other words win/win.
I'm totally lost here.
If you cut the entire paragraph here, and start with the set up, it helps.
The year is 1816, and through strange weather and relentless rain, Mary has arrived at the home of the infamous poet-in-exile, Lord Byron. Together with her exuberant lover Percy Shelley, her vexing stepsister, and Byron's awkward personal physician
Don't be afraid to be plain: In 1816 Mary Godwin arrives at the home of..
And "they find equal parts etc" doesn't seem to have much to do with what follows.
They have assembled under the promise Lord Byron can explain the cause of their unremitting night-terrors, insomnia, and sleepwalking. All of these afflictions, he reveals, are the byproduct of their special heritage. They are Benendanti, an ancient legacy of powerfully lucid-dreamers able to move through the dreams of others.
In Geneva, a string of murders goes unsolved, and the shadow is cast on Lord Byron. He and the others sense the force behind these brutal killings to be not of the waking world, but a creature borne out of dreams. Mary and the new Benendanti must each confront their own inner darkness to have any hope of bringing such a monster to light. It is a race to free the ravaged mind of the killer in dreams, before his bloody hands find them first in the waking world.
The shadow is cast: do you mean suspicion is cast?
Also, the shadow implies there is only one shadow and it's on Lord Byron. A shadow means one of many. Yes, a/the matters. That's the kind of detail I notice.
And I'm not sure if "ravaged mind of the killer dreams" actually makes sense. Again: plain is good.
It's very hard to write plainly. VERY hard.
A YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER is a historical fantasy (in the vein of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) complete at 115k words with more than 50+ illustrations by the author. Thank you for your time and consideration.
50+ illustrations by the author? INSTANT NO.
Putting this in your query is a huge HUGE red flag. For starters, most adult novels don't have illustrations. Second, even if there were illustrations, there aren't going to be 50. Third, the fact that you include this makes me wonder what else you don't know. Like, there are going to be edits, and no you don't have control over the title or the cover.
If you want this book to have illustrations, most likely you're a good candidate for self publishing. Total artistic control etc etc.
To answer your other question from above: I'd leave out that you plan this to continue over five books. You'll need to get one published before you have two, let alone five. The conversation about sequels can take place at a later date.
I've had editors say no to debut novelists cause they were leery of the "it's five books total" plan. That was a brutal lesson let me tell you.
Revise this. Think plain.
Even if you want your book to be not-plain, working in the short format of a query means you have to get to the point and communicate clearly. This is not the time for your reader to wonder what you mean. That's for chapter XXIX, footnote z.