Wednesday, July 29, 2009

31 Query Contest

Teen searches for her missing brother and uncovers a startling conspiracy in the magical underbelly of New York City.

With some beyond-the-grave assistance from her dad, eighteen-year-old MIRANDA CUNNINGHAM, telekinetic expert and kick boxer turned private investigator, searches for missing persons in Kroy Wen City, the magical underbelly of Manhattan. She joins forces with an attractive Samson-like strong man and a ditzy antiquities expert to uncover just what technicians are draining from the city’s young people and why.

My writing experience includes short stories published in PALM PRINTS, the University of South Florida’s writer’s journal and online at RIVERWALK; first place in paranormal romance category, the Virginia Romance Writers of America; attendance at several writers’ conferences; participation in creative writing courses, and membership in online fantasy and mystery critique groups.

THE MISSING is a young adult urban fantasy complete at 92,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.



The hush that settled over the late night crowd when I stepped into Turtles nightclub should have tipped me off.

The smells of stale beer and rank body odors pushed their way up my nose, and the sound of my heels clicking across the gritty floor echoed in my ears.
I’d come to Turtles for an appointment, venturing into the magical underbelly of New York City called Kroy Wen. Private investigators have to take a lot of risks. Comes with the territory. At least that’s what my dad taught me.

I peered through the darkness. Somewhere inside, my client should be waiting for me. Good thing I looked older than my18 years or I’d be thrown out, investigator on a case or not.

“What are you looking for?” The deep voice had that nonhuman quality of paper rattling against a drainage pipe.

“Trouble,” would have been my response with friends. Here, I could feel the tension in the room building, so I held back.

I took a few steps toward the voice, hoping he really wanted to help, but worrying he didn’t. “Manasuko?

“Come straight ahead. Ask the bartender.” In the dim light I saw a hand or what could pass for one waving me on.

He had to be Seducca, a clan of nasties that had been taking over this part of the city.

They played by their own rules but I had a few ways to defend myself.


  1. I think you'd be better off leaving off the first sentence and integrating it into the next paragraph, perhaps also adding in more of the personal consequences for Miranda and what is being drained from the young people.

    Although I think the query needs a little more detail, the plot is clear, so I'd read on.

    The pages were well written IMO. This would be something I'd read.

  2. I'm actually a fan of starting queries differently, and in my opinion, anything that helps to hook the agent is good.

    In other words, I like that you started your query with a tag line. My one criticism would be to say "A teen," or "A teenage girl," rather than just "Teen."

    The query hooked me and I read the first 250 words.

    You have a great voice, and the 1st person was a good choice for that character. I'd read more.

  3. Not hooked. From the second paragraph, the protag doesn't sound like a teen. The query comes off feeling unfinished and rushed. I'd like some more detail and more voice.

  4. Not hooked. I see what you are trying to do with the query, and admire concise to-the-point queries, but I agree that this feels a bit unfinished. Therefore I'm pulled out of it.

  5. Not hooked by your query, which is unfortunate, because I love your voice in the sample. It reminds me of a gritty Mickey Spillane, Maltese Falcon, Nero Wolfe novel. The voice is perfect in it.

    But the query? Not so much. More detail and more voice. Why are these Shadow people doing what they're doing? What's the result of their action? What's the main objective of the protagonist?

    In fact, I would like to read the query as if it was written by the protagonist, with more details on why she was called in on the case. Since the voice fits the setting so well, I'm thinking it would work just as well in the query.

    Just my opinion, for what it's worth.

  6. Correction: Disregard my statement regarding the Shadow people. I had that aspect remaining in my head from a previous entry. Sorry.

  7. This is a definite maybe from me. It's hard to picture an eighteen yr old PI...but what do I know...a real agent would know immmediately. Noticed some typos, but I'm sure you kicked yourself of luck.

  8. Not hooked. You condensed a 92,000 word novel into a paragraph that didn't really tell me anything. We know who the players are but none of the story.

  9. The query is missing something big: conflict. Okay, her brother is missing and there is a conspiracy. What does that mean for your character? What is at stake for her?

    Character names are usually capitalized in the synopsis, not the query.

    Attending conferences, classes, and critique groups doesn't make you stand out from the crowd. The agent will hope everyone has made an effort to network like that.


    That said - I think you need a littl moree than 'technicians' for baddies. Is this a big bad organization, or... med techs...?

  11. The query should have taken us to where the conflict first starts -- to where Miranda finds something has happened to her client, or where she discovers the conspiracy.

    The snippet is great. You have a real ear for voices.

    Mark in the Seattle area

  12. The Query: I would recommend personalization in greeting and maybe a sentence as to why you choose a specific agent.

    The first headline is catchy and the main paragraph describing the story is interesting. I'd like to know a little more about what challenges the MC will face and identify the conflict more clearly.

    I noticed that "magical underbelly" was used twice and think there might be more impact to change the second instance to some other description.

    I was hooked though.

    The Sample: Great start with the indication that something was not right immediately in the first sentence. The MC has a good voice. I would have turned the page to read more.

  13. I would ditch the first sentence, the logline, which you don't need.

    I liked the one-para query--every word counts. I would shorten your credentials to eliminate the attendance of conferences and participation in courses, etc.

    The snippet would have lost me, though. Too telly. (I'm referring to the telling us about the magical underbelly--why would you rob us of the privilege of discovery--and also the 'He had to be Seducca...')

  14. I'd recommend getting rid of the hook line since it repeats what the main paragraph says. Also, I'd include more details in the main paragraph of the query about what's happening. Another sentence won't hurt it- a three sentence pitch is ideal, I think.

    The writing sample was great. No crits there.

  15. Query--you need to find another way to say "magical underbelly."

    I had no idea that the PI was 18. I pictured a much older person and wondered why it was a YA book. I went ahead and read the 250 and figured it out, but it should have been clarified in the query.

    The excerpt has a great voice.

  16. Your first sentence didn't make your book sound special to me. In your second paragraph, I was really thrown off by an 18 year old being a PI. I read on, and then was confused by 'technicians'.

    The main reason I'm not hooked, though, is the age thing. You're writing for young adults. Yes, 18 is a teenager, but she acts like an adult, gets into bars which shouldn't allow under 21, she has a full time job. This 18 year old IS an adult.

  17. The first sentence is a bit awkward. Remember, this is the first sentence of your pitch, not a newspaper headline.

    The query is unclear. Miranda's a PI, and gets help from her dead dad. There's a new guy with muscles, and yet another person -- a ditzy antiquities expert.

    This isn't a premise. This is a cast of characters. This isn't useful for helping an agent understand what the book is about.

    Who is Miranda? What's her story? Why should I want to read about her? How does her missing brother fit in? (Does he? Right now, I'm not convinced, but I should be.)

    The writer mentions this is a YA, but aside from the first sentence, the rest of the query gave me no indication. She's a PI -- that's an adult job -- and she's 18, which is legally an adult most places.

    Onto the sample page. Watch out for favorite phrases. "Magical underbelly" was used twice in the query, and here's a third.

    The writing isn't drawing me in. We've come to a nightclub, right? But I don't feel like I'm there. I'm not grounded into Miranda's point of view.

    There are some cool ideas in here, but they weren't set up enough that I'd *need* to read. So I'm not hooked.