Wednesday, July 29, 2009

14 Query Contest

Dear XXX,

[Personalized section].

As if it were a choice. GABRIELA CALÍ could go into foster care three months shy of her eighteenth birthday or answer the call that whispers through her Gypsy blood. Come to Siberia.

Gabriela escapes Wilkes County, Georgia, but can’t outrun the longings that haunt her—for the flamenco dancer mother who abandoned her, for the Roma father she never knew, for a family and a place to belong. She is lonely, but she is not alone. At the Puppet Theater Hostel in St. Petersburg, she meets ANTON, the alluring but frightening green-eyed stranger who seems strangely familiar, and EINAR, the enigmatic Viking who becomes her instant ally.

A visit to the Winter Palace reveals her ties to Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, to Anton and his interdisciplinary coven of mythical protectors, to the dark SAMA’EL who wants to possess her power for his own, and to her role as The Nexus—the only hope to heal the rift that separated man and myth before time began and could ultimately destroy them both. No pressure.

Gabriela is propelled on a Transsiberian adventure to mend the rift, outrun evil, and maybe even find her long-lost family. Her choices will test not only her ability to believe in love, but her ability to believe in herself.

TRANSSIBERIAN is a 75,000 word YA Urban Fantasy. Readers who enjoy the voice of Zoey Redbird (House of Night), the historical twist of A Great and Terrible Beauty, and the exotic promise of a foreign adventure may also enjoy Transsiberian.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




I smelled her before I saw her. She obliterated the library’s comforting paper scent with her cotton candy body spray—blech. Shelby Goodwin stood in front of me at the information desk wearing a self-satisfied smirk and a sundress, surrounded by three of her ladies in waiting.

“Do y’all have any books on witchcraft?” She smacked her bubble gum between every word. Super classy.

My eyes narrowed—this prank was nothing new but Shelby had a lot of nerve trespassing on my turf. First of all, school was out for the summer and we were going to be seniors next year—wasn’t there some sort of maturity clause that should kick in here soon? I mean, the high school cafeteria was fair play but harassment at the workplace was normally reserved for underclassmen—underclassmen who played the tuba or volunteered to be hall monitors.

Not only that, but my grandmother had died two weeks ago and holier-than-thou Barbie and her copycat friends damn well knew it. A fresh pang of grief jackhammered my chest, and I swallowed hard to keep my face impassive.

“They’re all checked out right now, but if you want to stop by my place later I’ll let you borrow some of mine,” I replied dryly. I moved my hands protectively over the tickets I had been admiring—my almost-too-good-to-be-real tickets for the Transsiberian Railway—and met her glare. Trust me, this look of cool indifference might seem effortless but it’s taken years of practice to perfect.


  1. Not sure why the first sentence is "As if it were a choice." Was that supposed to link to something in the redacted paragraph?

    So...she's reincarnated Catherine the Great? That's not entirely clear to me. There's a whole lot of ethnic background and specific detail (i.e. Puppet Theater) that bogs down my understanding of the basic plot here.

    Sama'el wants to posess her power...but what IS her power?

    Although I like Russia and Catherine the Great, the pitch confused me too much.

  2. I got thrown off by all the name dropping in the query. You might consider taking two (or three) and leaving it at that. I'm also really confused on how she's getting to Russia. But it was enough of a hook to get me to read the 250 words and THAT'S where you got me.

    Your MC's voice jumps out of the pages (although the Barbie reference reeks of cliche) and I'm very curious to read more.

  3. Query: I want to like this - but it begins a little roughly and didn't seem to smooth out for me. I love the idea and premise, but the query kinda confused me.

  4. As far as the query it wasn't too bad. I thought there were a lot of names included. I just want the heroine and maybe a hero.

    The first couple of paragraphs of the story drew me in though. I enjoyed the voice of the heroine.

  5. The first sentence of the query stood out to me and not in a good way. I think the next sentence would make a stronger opening.

    The query hooked me and I read the sample. The voice in the sample is very strong, moreso than I would have guessed from the query. After reading the sample, I would suggest putting more of the character's voice in the query. While I think the plot has the potential to hook agents, including the character's voice would make it a much more appealing query.

  6. Hooked. Love the originality of Russian setting for your story. What also really hooked me were all the great little details like her flamenco dancer mother and the Puppet Theater Hostel - it just gives a sense of the richness of detail that will be inside the book.

    Loved the first 250 as well - I would definitely read more!

  7. Hooked.

    The query is strong, though still rough in spots. I agree with other commenters that we don't need to know the names of the friends. That, and the mention of a Viking confuses me.

    I don't think you need the paragraph about her being propelled on a Transsiberian adventure.

    The excerpt is excellent. Love the voice and how you brought in the grandmother's death. The first line about smelling her was rather jolting, though. That's the only bad thing I can say. The premise feels very fresh, and using Russia as a setting sounds wonderful.

  8. I read the query but it totally lost me. I like the setting, totally not your usual, and I wanted to like the plot, but I couldn't much figure out what it was.

    I read through the snippet, too (I love breaking rules), and I really liked the voice in that one. If you can get a bit more of your protagonist's voice in the query, then I think you might have an easier time of streamlining it.

    That is all.

  9. Partially hooked by query. If anything, its at least piqued my curiosity. However, I'm not sure about that first sentence. It doesn't do much in the way of grabbing me. Instead, I was slightly confused and had to read the whole paragraph several times to understand what you meant by it. (consider putting it elsewhere? Maybe at the end of the paragraph?)

    That third paragraph was a mouthful! Consider re-punctuating and clarifying how she's tied to Catherine the Great, what her powers are, and why man and myth are about to be destroyed.

    250 words
    Hooked! Her voice comes out loud and clear and I think this is definitely one MC I could really enjoy.

  10. I liked the beginning and ending of the query. Maybe think about tightening the middle? Only put in what is absolutely necessary?

    I read your sample page. Loved it. I'd read more.

  11. I thought the query demonstrated that you have a very interesting story on your hands, though it does give us a lot of details without too many specifics (eg., as those above have said, what her power is and how she's connected to Catherine the Great). I thought your sample was great and I want to read on.

  12. First sentence leaves me hanging. I love the second sentence, though. That brings in a lot of neat ideas.

    The third paragraph kind of loses me. I'm reading queries quickly, so trying to remember names slows me down and confuses me. I'm usually lucky if I can remember the main character's name. Aside from Gabriela, we have Anton, Einar, Catherine the Great, Sama'el...

    See where you can cut back and focus. I was on board until then.

    Urban fantasy is probably an accurate description for this, but it's also come to mean a very specific type of UF, like vampires and werewolves and prickly heroines. I don't think that's what you have.

    The opening pages are all right, and I'd give it a few more in hopes things would pick up.