Wednesday, July 29, 2009

40 Query Contest

Dear Mrs. Meadows,

Discarded as an infant, Paul's miserable existence of begging and
thieving is turned inside out when he takes on the identity of his
mentally handicapped twin, the Crown Prince, but finds that his skill of
going unnoticed is now his greatest liability.

When his father the king is kidnapped by a vengeful sorcerer set on
destroying the royal family Paul learns fast how to take control putting
his life on the line repeatedly.

Time runs out after the sorcerer unwittingly unleashes an uncontrollable
ancient evil everybody thought banished for many generations. Paul has
to surpass himself to start and end a war in order to free two kingdoms
without losing the most important people in his life: his family.

My stand-alone MG-novel "Thicker Than Water" is complete at 70,000
words. It is a Historical Fantasy with the background based on 12th and
13th century Europe. Details about everyday life in the Middle Ages add
authenticity to the story.

By all I read about you, you seem to be devoted to finding new voices
and I do hope you'll like Paul's.

I am a published German author but this is the first novel I wrote
exclusively in English. Several of my short stories and a historical
novel were published by small press publishers in Germany. I also
translated my historical novel "Ann Angel's Freedom" and self-published
it in the US. Since it was only intended for the main character's
descendants, I was surprised and excited to receive praise for it by
Fantasy-author Holly Lisle.

I included a sample chapter and a one page synopsis (in this case 250

Thank you for taking the time,

Chapter 1: Mother’s Day

Paul woke with the town’s outer wall against his back and wolves gnawing
at his intestines. That was nothing new to him. Last week he had had a
lucky day. First Lilla had given him a whole loaf of bread then he had
been able to steal another. Yesterday, he had eaten the last, moldy
slice. Now he wished that he hadn’t. He pulled his skinny legs closer
until the pain subsided, then he sat up and looked at the other kids of
his chosen family. Beggars and thieves like himself, they were sleeping
on the bare ground beside him. All of them were skinny and unkempt and
smelled of stale sweat and dirt.

Seraphina’s wound was still festering. She hadn’t been able to use her
leg for two weeks now. Her nimble fingers and fleet feet had been sorely
missed, since she was one of the best providers of the Gang. Her wound
smelled nasty. In the early morning twilight Paul could hardly make out
the grubs eating the rotting flesh. The girl clung to her sister Amanda
as if her life depended on it, their auburn and brown curls mingling on
the ground. Seraphina moaned in her sleep and Paul’s heart ached at his
inability to help her. He knew that the flies’ larvae would do a much
better job at cleaning the wound than he could.

Maybe, I can find her something to eat. Another pang of hunger made him


  1. I think the problem I'm having with the query is that it's vague. Vengeful sorceror, ancient evil, prince who has to save the kingdom...that's not really grabbing me. I'm fascinated about Paul having been abandoned as a baby - you don't necessarily have to explain that here, but surely the reasons behind it would affect a) Paul's attitude towards his family and b) his family's attitude towards Paul (once they figure out he's not the real Crown Prince, of course).

    I'm seeing some events that happen. I'm not seeing the *story*. It could just be the way the query is constructed.

    Also, unfortunately, there are enough bobbles in the language that you might want to get a native English speaker to have a look. A few examples:

    Discarded as an infant, Paul's miserable existence - Paul was discarded as an infant, but this structure indicates that his *existence* was discarded.

    with the background - with a background

    Fantasy-author - fantasy author

    This sounds as though it could be an intriguing riff. Good luck!

  2. QUERY: Immediately hooked by first paragraph, with the twist of mentally handicapped twin describing the Crown Prince. Great title as well.

    2nd paragraph could use a couple of commas, and "uncontrollable ancient evil" is very generic. You can drop the line "Details about everyday life..." as those would be expected in a historical. The rest of the query is intriguing enough for me to read pages.

    I'm especially impressed by the quality of this query as this is your first English novel.

    250 WORDS: I think the writing could be polished a little more, but there's enough potential that I want to read more. You quickly draw me into Paul's world, and I care about him because he cares about his gang.

    Good luck with this!

  3. I know a lot of agents say not to mention self-pubbed work, but I think it actually works here.

    My biggest question from the query is: what happened to the original Crown Prince? This really bothered me. Has he died? Did Paul do something with him?

    Then you say the father is kidnapped, and that the most important people in Paul's life is his family. But didn't his family discard him as an infant? Why does Paul care about them when they threw him away?

    With the right clarification to these questions, I might be hooked.

  4. Query: I like this. Pretty cool.

  5. I decided to act like some agents, who are very busy, and make a partial form letter and then personalize it. I’m in this contest because I have difficulties writing queries, so my simple critique has to be taken with a grain of salt. I’m not going to address grammar or style, because, usually the agents don’t and you know who you are. I know what I like and am not sure of, so . . . Well I'm semi-hooked! The query I fear for your sdake was a bit too long. I read the 250 and found myself strugling with the wolves chewing on intestines, but not being an agent, I have to stick to...I'd read on.

  6. Partially hooked. The query raises a few questions that I think ought to be answered, like what happened to the real Crown Prince, or why Paul feels his family is so important when he was abandoned by them. If those issues were clearer, I'd definitely be interested in the sample pages.

  7. The query was good enough to make me curious about the sample page. I liked the sample page, so I'd definitely read more. I think, though, that you should work a bit more on the query so more agents will take a look at your pages. Maybe it's the vagueness of it like someone else mentioned? I mean, it was all right, just not stellar.

    I do like your book, though, so you did something right. :-)

  8. I have lots of questions from the query. Why would the family abandon the one who wasn't mentally disabled? If he was abandoned, how does he know who his twin is? How is this different from THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER? How/why does he change places with his twin? Why does he care that his father was kidnapped, if he was abandoned? How is a kid going to start and end a war, and why would he want to?

    I could keep going. As it is, this query doesn't quite hang together. I'm more confused than interested.

  9. Not hooked. I stopped reading in the second paragraph. The sentence structure made it very hard for me to follow and I stopped trying after that.

  10. Very impressive for your first work in English. I immediately thought of The Prince and the Pauper though. Your 250 was very good. Graphic for sure. I felt like I walked into Paul's world and cared about him and his gang. I'm assuming when you are talking about his family in the query, you are talking about them, not the ones who abandoned him. If so, you need to make that clear.

    With some polish, this could really work.

    Good luck!

  11. I've always loved Twain's "Pauper and the Prince" and would love to see a fantasy take with a twist on it like you've created. So, I'm hooked.

    Query: like the first line, agree on the comma usage, and would tighten.

    250---confused like an idiot with the wolves in the first paragraph, but help me not feel like an idiot with a slight clarification and I'm with Paul all the way.

    Question that I think you should address upfront in your query. Twins, so why did he 'disappear'. It's okay to let the agent know this little bit, even if it isn't related until late in the story. Do Paul know?

    Also, I'm biased as I love the 12/13th century Europe!

  12. Even though the query didn't hook me, I did glance at your writing sample because you're a published author.

    Stopped when I read the wolves were gnawing at his intestines and his was nothing new to him. Honestly? Stretches the imagination too far.

  13. Sorry for the confusion with the wolves. In German it's a figurative phrase describing hunger. I'll change it to "and hunger gnawing like a wolf at his intestines." I think that should make it more clear.

  14. There are some intriguing bits about this story: Paul being discarded as an infant, mentally handicapped twin, strengths turning into weaknesses.

    However, there are enough language problems, I wouldn't continue reading this, purely because I wouldn't have the time to go through this sentence by sentence and help sort out grammar and punctuation problems.

    In the query, Paul is discarded (I assume because he's a twin and succession is easier with just one son), but then when he takes his brother's place, his family (the one that didn't want him) is the most important thing to him. I'm having some trouble with that motivation.

    Also, the premise is pretty familiar. If that's on purpose, you might say so (retelling of The Pauper and the Prince). If it's not, you need a way to make this stand out. As it is, it's not hooking me enough.