Wednesday, July 29, 2009

4 Query Contest

Dear Ms. Meadows,

The Darkfall Council has enforced the peace between vampires and humans for three centuries. Now under threat, the Council is harnessing all resources to protect itself – resources such as human "Adepts" like Kate Hayden, whose clairsentience allows her to "read" others through touch telepathy and determine their guilt or innocence. Council member Gabriel de Castelnau conscripts Kate, taking her from her safe life in a pacifist colony along the California coast to the crumbling city of New York. Enlisted in a war she knows little about, Kate helps a group of vampire and human profilers find and stop those threatening the Council. An innocent in a world of deception and danger, Kate must decide who to trust among the many factions in the battle over the mortal realm, and most importantly, help prevent Darkfall, when vampires rule over humans.

DARKFALL is a 112,000 word paranormal romance set in a near future alternate reality where vampires and humans have been locked in a cold war for centuries, each group hoping to be victorious, using adepts like Kate as their weapons. It explores how the war affects one young woman as she learns the truth about the world into which she has been thrust and struggles to decide which side to take and who to love.

I have published two works of short fantasy fiction at online markets. As well, I have a non-fiction article published at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction website. Darkfall is my first novel. I see it as part of a trilogy and am currently working on the second novel. The third novel is in outline form.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

The man in black emerging from the cover of the redwood forest was undead.

Even from a distance, I knew by the paleness of his face in the moonlight and the way he moved with unnatural grace. Gabriel -- once a priest in the Inquisition, now a vampire on the Darkfall Council.

He'd come for me.

There was no escape from my cliff top eyrie. In the distance, lightning danced among the storm clouds, forks of burning white flashing in the night sky. Below me, waves crashed against the rocky shore, the ocean a mass of whitecaps. A path led to the house just inside the thick redwood forest.

Even if I did run, it would be futile. They'd find me with the hounds in no time, no matter where I went.

He'd find me.

Uncle Dan joined Gabriel and argued with him as they approached. My uncle reached my side first, holding his wide-brimmed hat against the wind, his voice straining above the roar of the surf.

"You remember Monsieur de Castelnau?"

Gabriel bowed. “Katherine.”

He was as I remembered, with fair hair below his collar, gray eyes, pale skin, unnaturally sharp canine teeth. I dreamed of him before – nightmares in which he ascended from some hellish otherworld, his skin and hair flaring bright red in the heat until nothing remained but bleached bone and blackened cinders.

Uncle Dan's voice shook. "You know why he’s here?”

Of course I did. I’d been dreading this day for years.


  1. Clairsentience? Perhaps you'd be better off if you just described the ability without naming it.

    I think there needs to be more focus on Kate--who she is, what are the personal stakes for her?

    I tend to look at a novel in two layers: the internal conflict and the external conflict. The internal conflict is what's at stake for the main character personally, the external conflict is what's at stake for the world (whatever that world may be). Here, I get a lot of external conflict--but no internal conflict.

    I'm not hooked, but it's close. If the pitch had been a little more personal, and I'd gotten a better sense of who Kate *was* as a person, and what's at stake for her, I think I would be.

  2. You lost me at vampire.

    Now, that's totally personal opinion and the query is really well-written. I guess this falls into the realm of "it's good but it's not for me."

  3. Query:

    I'm hooked, might want to break up and trim that paragraph a little. Big block makes mind block.



  4. QUERY: I found this query too vague for my tastes. It starts off with backstory and world-building, and when it does move to the protagonist, everything remains very generalised. The problem with generalising everything is that on a very basic level, all stories are alike, and the more general you get the more cliched and familiar it sounds. I wonder how many protagonists in paranormal romances could be described as “an innocent in a world of deception and danger”, who “must decide who to trust” in “the battle over the mortal realm”.

    There's too much explanation of the novel, I think. For example, you say it's “set in a near future alternate reality where ...” -- this and everything else in that paragraph is obvious from the query.

    FIRST 250: Is the first line a deliberate reference to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, which famously also begins, “The man in black ...”? My mind leapt immediately to King.

    I feel like you’re trying to build up suspense with all the scary undead stuff, but there is no suspense for me because I already know from the query why Gabriel is here (and it’s not a very scary reason).

    OVERALL: I liked the excerpt but not the query. I’d read on a little further to see how the story shapes up.

  5. This query hooked me. Although it did niggle that innocent Kate was thrown into the war without us knowing why she had no choice in it. I'd suggest you throw in a line to clear that up, that whatever dire reason/past takes the choice from her. This didn't put me off, and I got the sense in the sample pages that she's being pulled into this war without a choice, but if an agents on the fence, having that upfront in the query might be a deciding factor

  6. Query and concept intrigued me, though I was a little put off by the word "clairsentience" and the fact that Kate was "innocent" (it seemed to make her one-dimensional). It was good enough however for me to read the sample and after reading that... I would ask for more.

  7. Not hooked because of the crushingly long first paragraph reading like a synopsis. Could be good with more work but didn't incite me to read further.

  8. Query: Too much emphasis is placed on Kate's innocence. The last two sentences of the first paragraph say essentially the same thing. Where is the romance here? Is it Gabriel? If so, the romance has to be an integral part of the conflict.

    The second paragraph is redundant. The only information we really need here is the word count and genre.

    I'd say to name where you have published online since that is really an asset. Also, don't ever mention it is your first novel.

    First 250-words: Okay, the fact that she has an Uncle Dan really amused me because I have an Uncle Dan of my own. But then I was completely baffled that she was on top of a cliff during a thunderstorm. Wha?

    I'm not into vampires at all, but the concept here still interests me. I'm kind-of hooked.

  9. Hooked at "Darkfall Council." Query was a touch longer than it needed to be, but I'd ask for more.
    Humans. Vampires. Cold War. Bam!

    I don't mind the glut of vampire stories if they're done in an interesting way or have a fresh approach. And good writing is an obvious must. In my opinion this query/novel shows all of the above!

  10. I read through your query and thought it was good, but then I thought, "Did that say romance?" and went back. Then I started liking it less because there's nothing about romance in there. If you're writing a crime novel, etc., maybe you can leave out details of the romance in the query, but certainly not if the genre is romance! At the moment, the query is too much focused on the war aspect. If that reflects the story, then perhaps you should rethink the genre. If it really is a romance, then you need to rewrite the query to reflect that. We need to know who the romance is with for a start. I'm guessing Gabriel?

    I really liked the writing in your sample though.

  11. Vampires. Council. Centuries old peace coming to an end.

    Hard sell for me.

    I didn't feel like I got a clear picture of Kate, either from the query or the sample. She's too passive. They take her away and make her help. They're the ones with all the agency. Even in the beginning, she doesn't fight for her own life; she just accepts the vampire (who isn't very scary) is going to take her away because she's seen it in a vision. (Or however she knows.) If a reader is going to spend 112k words with this character, she needs to take charge of her own life. She needs to move the plot forward. Otherwise, it's not her story.

    This is clean and well-written, which isn't always a given, unfortunately, but I wouldn't request it. I simply wasn't given enough reason to *care* enough.

  12. Thanks so much to everyone who commented and especially to our guest Jodi Meadows and Authoress! I learned a great deal through your crits and hope to be able to rework the query and first pages to better hook a slush reader/agent.

  13. Query:
    Lucky fact that the subject is vampires and not an obvious YA (Personally, I'll forgive it for being Romance, even, over YA.)

    That said, IMHO, I think it could use a little tightening up. The second paragraph seemed to state everything I needed in a much more concise manner.

    Well written: flowed well with good description. I found myself caring for the characters and wanting more. I was even frustrated that it ended where it did! (^_^)