Wednesday, July 29, 2009

13 Query Contest

Dear Ms. Meadows:

Supernatural police woman Arianna Walker has spent her adult life pitted against the slimy underbelly of paranormal Memphis where there’s not a monster alive or undead that she can’t skewer, roast and serve with a liberal helping of A1 steak sauce. But when a new breed of cannibalistic wraiths begin stalking her, and her friends are attacked by a magic-wielding assassin, it’s going to take all her hunter prowess—and one helluva Hail Mary—to bring the perpetrator to justice. There’s just one hiccup. The closer she gets to finding the assailant, the more she risks exposing the secret that makes her the Guild’s prized Enforcer, a secret that will cast her in league with the very horrors she kills. In order to save her identity, she'll have to turn her back on everything she believes in, but to seek retribution, she'll have to reveal the truth about herself, and risk losing everyone she loves. Either way, there's going to be hell to pay.

Dark Scion is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance complete at 94,000 words.

I am a life-long native of Memphis, currently working at the University of Memphis as student support for our continuing education program.

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

Best Regards,


The December wind whistled down the busy street and I hunkered down in my black pea-coat, cinching the tie at my waist. Anything to keep the blasted cold out.

“Ri, are you okay?” Ryan asked as I lingered a little longer in the doorway of the warm movie theater.

I shrugged and stepped out onto the street. “Just peachy.” Chill bumps raced across my skin as icy tendrils of air crept through the fabric of my jeans. God I hated winter in Memphis.

“Well, what did you think?”

I grinned up at him and noticed the way the wind tousled his short, dark brown hair. My fingers itched to do the same. “You’re lucky I like action-packed, kick-a** movies, with lots of babes baring everything God gave them—and some that He probably didn’t.”

Another gust tore through the parking lot and I tried to suppress the shivers that ran up and down my spine.

Ryan walked on, as comfortable in the frosty temperature as the feline predator within him. He turned his head, his delicious mouth curved into a grin. Warm sapphire eyes danced in delight. “I know. It was enough to make a gentleman thoroughly sick. Only sheer politeness kept me from retching on you,” he said, placing a strong hand against my back as we moved through a pair of cars.

I tried to ignore the butterflies his smile incited. “Right. I can see how young blondes with big, firm breasts would make any man lose his lunch.”


  1. Like the tone and voice in the first paragraph.

    The query has hooked me.

    Although I didn't really like Ryan's physical description (feline predator, sapphire eyes...seems a bit over the top to me), I liked the voice enough to read more of this.

  2. The writing in the query didn't do much for me but your 250 were great! I like how your MC's voice came through and I immediately got a mental picture of the kind of person she is.

  3. Query - Yes, hooked.

    One thing though the query from "There's just one hiccup" was a little confusing (for whatever reason) at first read. I went back and read it a couple times before I got it. Could be the effect of having a big block of text going on.

    Snippet: Not my thing, but otherwise hooked.

  4. This query is great. It's clear, concise, and compelling. I get a clear sense of voice, and I have no questions about the conflict. I'm hooked. Possible area of improvement: I think your hook section, beginning after "just one hiccup" could be stronger. I had to read the Guild part a few times and then wasn't sure if this was the name of the supernatural police force or some other darker organization to which she belongs. In addition, I think the construction of "In order to save her identity, she'll have to turn her back on everything she believes in, but to seek retribution, she'll have to reveal the truth about herself, and risk losing everyone she loves" could be punchier. Try rewriting it a few different ways--the concept is powerful but the way it reads kind of runs on and therefore steals the punch.

    As far as the first 250 words...I thought they were very good. That said, some areas of consideration are:
    1. Having "Ri" and "RYan"...while I get that her name is Arianna and so the vowel is pronounced differently, I read them both as "Rye"...this is confusing and also I'll find out at some point that I've been pronouncing it wrong and I have to "reset" my image of the character. I'd think about ways to mitigate.
    2. I thought the weather descriptions were good, but too many of them. It's icy, frosty, gusty, and blasted cold--all good descriptions, but pick a few. I get it...tell me something new.
    3. I found the dialogue a little oblique...confusing. Maybe it was just all the descriptions that came between the exchanges, or maybe it was the lack of context for the movie they've just seen...either way, and especially since it's the first page, I'd take a second look at revisions.

    This is an excellent query, a superb beginning, and I would definitely ask for more! Good work.

  5. I enjoyed the query, especially the strong voice, but can’t help thinking how much better it would be if you revealed the secret. So many protagonists have these generic secrets and dark pasts, which could be anything from accidentally drowning their siblings as children from being axe-murdering sociopaths. If you leave it as just a generalised secret, it becomes a cliche. If you reveal the truth, it would be so much more compelling. (I assume that the secret actually *is* compelling and not as cliched as you’re making it sound.)

    Ditto for the first 250 words re: enjoyment and strong voice. I’d read on: I’m hooked.

  6. I think the query was very good, although I would break that first paragraph up into two paragraphs.

    The first 250 didn't thoroughly hook me. While I enjoyed the voice, starting a book with two characters discussing a movie didn't feel terribly compelling. That being said, I would read a few pages more to see if things picked up.

  7. Hooked.
    Liked the voice of the query and understood the conflict. I'd break up the block of text to make it more readable.

    250 Words
    I enjoyed the dialogue and got a good sense of the characters but hope that some inciting (and exciting) event happens soon.

  8. Overall good and hooky but a few things pulled me out of the query. First, the opening line is great but then the paragraph becomes quite dense. Also, from your description, I can't tell if she's immersed in a world of monsters that only she knows about or if "paranormal Memphis" is the setting itself. I'd start paragraph 2 with the line, "there's just one hiccup" though I have to say, hiccup, as a word choice, doesn't make me want to read further. Hitch maybe, problem yes, hiccup, no.

    Love the Memphis setting and the writing below is good. I think with a little more work the query can be just right.

  9. I'm completely hooked! Love that it's set in Memphis rather than one of the more common big cities, love the idea of cannibalistic wraiths and magic assassins, love that the heroine is hiding the fact that she has something in common with the monsters she's hunting.

    I only had two suggestions:

    1) Why not just say "steak sauce" instead of giving a specific brand? Does the fact that it's A1 matter to the story?

    2) Could you break the blurb into two paragraphs, so that it's easier to read?

  10. The query is very strong and the writing is very strong. I think this could sell as it is. Personally, I am not hooked but only becaus I've read one too many novel of a kick-ass sexy heroine with many lovers skewering demons and am now looking for something a bit deeper. But that's just me and there is probably a huge market for this.

  11. Even though urban fantasy paranormal goodness aren't usually my cup of tea, I did enjoy reading the query. I thought your voice was great, and it looked like the book would be a fun read.

    That being said, add more blank space in that first paragraph. It's a bit overwhelming. Find some way to break it up.

    Writing's solid.

  12. Hooked and anxious for more! The query feels like it could be shortened up a bit, but the first 250 has enough mystery and hints of upcoming scenes to keep me interested. Good luck!

  13. Query:

    I agree that you could mention the secret in the query, though I know that would mean re-wording the main paragraph. Despite that, I am thoroughly intrigued. I want to know what her secret is, and why it will cause her to lose everything. Also, I love the voice; I hope the story has the same wit as the query. (Though I do agree, does it have to be A1?)

    250 Words:

    The first 250 don't tell much about the story, since all we see is the heroine and a potential love interest discussing a movie in the bitter cold. However, I like the voice here also, and your descriptions of both the setting and Ryan and Ri's actions. (Ryan's humor made me chuckle.) I would definitely read on at least a few more pages to see if the real action picks up and the paranormal underbelly begins to show itself. The writing seems pretty solid, and I think this shows real potential.

    Hooked. :)

  14. The excerpt hooked me whereas the query didn't. I only read on cause it's a paranormal woman, my favorite.

  15. I like the voice at the beginning of this query, as well as the fact that it's set in Memphis. Different from the usual places.

    It starts rambling at the end of the first paragraph. Yay stakes, but try to focus them. What's the most important? Stick with that. The voice also left around this part.

    That said, this is a pretty familiar UF premise. UF has to really be different for it to grab me, and I'm afraid this just isn't. There's nothing *wrong* with it, but the query and first page didn't excite me enough.

  16. I really liked your query, but the sample didn't grab me as much. I guess two people talking after a movie isn't that exciting. Having said that, it's only 250 words. I know the action doesn't start in mine until a little later. If this was really an agency, you'd have five pages, so as long as the conflict starts soon I think you'd be ok.