Wednesday, July 29, 2009

23 Query Contest

Dear Jodi Meadows:

Since The Rappaport Agency has an interest in fantasy, I would be delighted if you would consider representing me and my suburban fantasy novel The Weapons of our Warfare.

Stephen is a ministry intern who has to deal with a cold war between his church and a coven heating up when a young woman who was lighting candles for the church turns out to be a mole for the coven. Even with an attempt to kidnap Beverly, the reverend’s wife, Stephen cannot cause a ruckus in the church if he wants to become associate minister someday. They find the coven outsmarting them as its power grows in ways they cannot understand, using its dark arts to impersonate church members, summon a fell beast with terrifying eyes, or even blow down brick walls.

The weapons of Stephen and his allies are limited: Self-denial in the face of temptation, the wisdom to penetrate illusions, and a willingness to endanger themselves when confronting powers beyond their understanding. The reverend is no help, so people wonder about Stephen and Beverly as they work together, though they don’t think in terms of themselves becoming a couple. And Stephen's greatest stumbling block might be his hope that the young woman who was a mole for the coven may just need someone to talk to.

The Weapons of our Warfare is complete and the word count is 99,000. I have had a short story published in the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds V anthology. I was once a ministry intern myself, and I live in the Seattle area.

Thank you for your attention.


Stephen backed the cell phone away and stared at it, searching for a way to say no to the reverend’s wife, who was alone this weekend and asking him to come over. The fact he was disrobing -- literally taking off his alb in the back room of the church -- magnified the awkward feel of the request. He had just finished performing Morning Prayer, so he reached his hand up to the dual snaps on the front of his left shoulder and undid them, freeing that edge of his white vestment. “Sorry you’re not feeling well. I did miss seeing you in the congregation.”

Beverly’s weak voice over the phone got louder, sounding surprised. “You can recognize individual faces?”

Stephen mugged a look at the acolyte, who might have heard. Joanna stopped in the midst of disrobing, her yellow sweater showing through the part in her white robe as if she were a bouquet of daffodils in delicate wrapping. The young woman motioned for him to muffle his cell phone. When he did, she gave him a mischievous grin. “Ha-cha-cha. Coven breaker. Heartbreaker.”

“Don’t be disgusting.” But the words smacked at his hesitation. This was the first Sunday since the breaking of the coven that Reverend Thompson had been out of town, so Stephen, as the ministry intern, had performed the worship service himself. Still single at age twenty-five, he wasn’t about to let this smart-alecky acolyte unnerve him.


  1. I'm not hooked by the pitch, sorry. I think it's perhaps because of the second pitch paragraph. From the first bit, I was expecting magical warfare between priests and witches--lots of excitement, etc. But the church's powers seem very weak, and there seems to be a similar lack of sizzle in the nonexistant romance. When you wrap that up with Stephen hoping to solve the problem by just talking to the young woman, it seems even more of an anticlimax.

  2. Not hooked. I was thrown off by the quick switches between details (does it really matter if we know that the mole was a young woman lighting candles?) and the broad, vague details. There's nothing here that jumps out at me.

  3. Query: Yes, hooked.

    I do think that different spots (who was kidnapping the reverend's wife?) are a little confusing.

    I do like the premise though.

    Snippet: Not quite... there were some odd word choices in here that kinda threw me off (like - 'words smacked at his hesitation').

  4. I wasn't hooked. The query had a lot of very heavy sentences that were hard to pick through so it made me feel the writing might be convoluted too. The first paragraph only has 3 sentences, but they're all complex, run-on sentences.

    I'd suggest breaking up into smaller chunks so we don't get lost in the sentence construction:

    "Stephen is a ministry intern who has to deal with a cold war between his church and a coven." << I'd end first sentence here

    "heating up when a young woman who was lighting candles for the church turns out to be a mole for the coven."
    << Turns out the lighting of candles isn't important other than maybe to use the confusing metaphor of a cold war heating up?

    "Even with an attempt to kidnap Beverly, the reverend’s wife,"
    << At first thought Beverly was mole? No. Now I'm wondering who tried to kidnap Beverly. Stephen?

    " Stephen cannot cause a ruckus in the church if he wants to become associate minister someday."
    << Okay, so he's on the side of the Church. Why is he caught between the war then?

    Try to be simple and get the ideas out clearly first. We should be able to zoom smoothly through the query and pick out unique details of your premise. Good luck!

  5. The church vs. coven sounds like an intriguing premise, but I think your query needs some work. The query's biggest job is to grab the agent and hook them, so you should start from the very first line. In other words, eliminate your entire first paragraph. You can fit the title in later. As others have pointed out, th second paragraph has some clunky, confusing sentences. What's at stake here--why is it so important to fight the coven? You need to up the ante and inject some adrenalin. And the sentence about Stephen and Beverly not thinking of themselves as a couple is confusing. Why would they, when she's married? Or is it meant to imply they actually are becoming one? If so, state that conflict more clearly.
    Not quite hooked yet, but keep at it!

  6. I liked the idea of the coven vs. the ministry, but it's unclear where it, or the 'relationship' between Stephen and Beverly are going. I wish there was more to give me an idea of the stakes--what is the coven's goal?

    The snippet begins outlining relationships early, but the interjection of 'Still single at 25' felt artless. I would probably pass, wishing there had been more.

  7. Not hooked. Like the others, I like the idea of a coven vs. church book, but the query was too hard to follow. I read your sample page anyway but stopped at the first sentence. "Stephen backed the cell phone away" read awkward to me.

  8. I'm agreeing with everyone else on this one. The premise is intriguing, but the query needs work. As commenters above have said, split up the first sentence and leave out the mention of the candles. I'd also like to know what the goal of the coven is. The line about a kidnapping attempt on Beverly and not wanting to make a ruckus confused me. If someone tried to kidnap her, why don't they just go to the police? There might be an explanation in your book, but for simplicity's sake I'd leave this line out of the query.

    I'd also leave out the line about their weapons being limited. It doesn't make the book sound very exciting. I think this paragraph can be tightened further by leaving out everything after 'together' in the sentence about Stephen and Beverly. If they're not becoming attracted to each other, then their problem is that people are wondering, which you've covered. If they are becoming attracted to each other, then state this as the problem.

  9. the Query: More commas would help the phrasing in the first two paragraphs. This threw me off and I had to read them twice to be sure I had understood them.

    The initial concept was interesting but the balance of power seems very skewed in favor of the coven. Stephen's weapons could be weilded be anyone. I would like to see why Stephen stands apart.

    I wasn't hooked.

  10. I noticed you didn't have a lot of comments so I wanted to leave you one. In terms of the query itself: The first paragraph in the main body is a bit awkward. I think it has to do with the opening line. In it you use the word coven twice, and there is a general lack of clarity. I think it can be streamlined to communicate what is going on more clearly. The last sentence is really compelling so I think you can make the first two, that introduce the concept, read more snappily.

    The questions raised by the query don't necessarily make me want to read further. For example, how can people think Beverly and Stephen are a couple if Beverly is the minister's wife? Also, is this going to be religiously preachy--and if so, am I up for it as a reader if I'm not religious?
    That being said I think if you flush out the details I might bite, but right now I wouldn't.

    As for the writing: I found the first few sentences to be a bit clunky. I'm not sure how you back a cell phone away. The clunkiness I ascribe to the writing may be due to the sentence length (perhaps vary it for flow instead of two long sentences) and also you begin each sentence with the character (Stephen backed...He had...Beverly's weak voice...). These sentences show a lack of finesse that perhaps comes later but doesn't, at present, compel me to read further. Take my comments with a grain of salt, though. I'm sure Jodi will have better things to say.

  11. Not hooked. This needs to be much more focused. I'm not feeling the full force of the conflicts and stakes here, mostly because there's so much extraneous information.

    Focus on these things: Stephen, his problems, what he's going to do about it, and *one* complicating matter. What are the stakes? What happens if he doesn't succeed in overcoming his problems? The trick is to make the reader care enough to spend $8 and sacrifice another few inches of precious shelf space, and I'm afraid I'm not there yet.

  12. Hi especially agree with Jeannie Lin and her great examples of sentences problems. I could only suggest, dropping the ands if there isn't an intense association between both sides.

    I think you have the makings of a good story, if you're willing to Harry Potter it up. If you didn't want to spice it up, why not shifht the focus a little away from "powers" and on to perhaps a Romea and Juliet theme. Not only would have the makings of a farce, but maybe the craziest romance.

    Hey, the best of luck.