Wednesday, July 29, 2009

51 Query Contest

Dear Ms. Meadows,

Stone Kissed, an 85,000 word paranormal romance, tells the story of how a witch who brings statues to life finds love with a treasure hunter who has a heart of stone.

Delia Forrest talks to statues--and they talk back. She is forced to abandon her business in restoration, cleaning and placement of marble and granite statuary when her ancestral home is damaged by arson, with her father inside. The Forrests can't afford to pay for either his medical care or the reparations to the historic house. When Delia's childhood fantasy returns as very real man with an offer to buy Steward House, he seems like her only hope. Delia's heart and power are seated in the house. To this dismay of the stone faces, marble busts and granite graveyard statues that make up her adoptive family, Delia commits herself to do anything she can to keep the estate--anything Grant Wolverton wants.

Wolverton has a knack for finding the rough diamonds and the treasures in the trash heap. He has built his family's antiques concern into one of the largest auction houses in the country. In Steward House Grant sees a haven for his younger sister and him to retire and find stability. The eccentric and innocent Delia Forrest is an added bonus: To gain her love and trust, he simply must pretend to believe her outrageous claims that the statues of Stewardsville are coming to life--walking in the night, singing in chorus and even making love.

Grant and Delia aren't the only ones vying for control of the Steward Estate. Delia's distant cousin Cecily has dark powers of her own. The succubus will lie, cheat, seduce and steal to possess the Steward Estate, hoping its unlimited powers will remove her need to seduce men to death.

In 1995, I completed the coursework for an M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Arizona. Since then I have been writing professionally: In addition to grants and other contract work, I write fitness and wellness articles for my own business, Radiant Fitness. Through my membership in the Ohio Valley chapter of Romance Writers of America, however, I have found the support and education to tell stories of the power of love.

"Yes. Right there, again, please!” The marble satyr moaned his pleasure as Delia gently scraped away bits of lichen from the groove of his outer thigh.

“Just shut up,” she said, smiling as she reached for her boar’s hair paintbrush. She had been cleaning the lewd little flirt for two hours now, and he was relentless--as were most statues, she had found. This satyr was four feet tall with beautiful lines. He had been sculpted mid-leap, his arms outstretched for the nymph who stood on her own pedestal five yards further around the turn in Mrs. Hansdorf’s garden maze. He was doomed to chase the nymph forever, and her voice taunting him through the hedge didn’t help matters.

“Hurry, Delia. I’ve got an itch,” the nymph called back, forever giggling over her right shoulder.

“You shut up, too,” Delia laughed and returned to the task at hand. The enormous task: from what she could remember of sex, this fellow was disproportionately large. Where Mrs. Hansdorf had found these particular reproductions she didn’t know, but Delia suspected she had commissioned them privately. They were less than forty years old, but already showing the signs of damage from the elements. She knew it would ruin the lines of the maze, but she simply had to convince Mrs. H. either to move them indoors or to build a pergola to shelter them. Delia could get most of the streaks off, but the silver-gray marble was more fragile than it looked.

When her cell phone rang out Mozart’s “Minuet in G” it took Delia a moment to answer.


  1. Your hook was awesome. A witch who brings statues to life finds love with a treasure hunter who has a heart of stone? Great, sigh me up. But then, you lost me pretty fast, especially when it didn't feel like Wolverton had a 'heart of stone'.

    Plus, what does Delia get out of talking to statues? From your sample page, the statues can't move. So why does it matter that she talks to them? I really need to know what the 'unlimited powers' of the Steward Estate are.

  2. I like the premise, but your query could use a bit of work. For example "She is forced to abandon her business in restoration, cleaning and placement of marble and granite statuary when her ancestral home is damaged by arson, with her father inside." That's a pretty tame description for someone setting your house ablaze. You seem to rein in the interesting parts of the story too much in your query.

    You also write "Grant and Delia aren't the only ones vying for control of the Steward Estate." but I don't get the sense of anyone fighting for any sort of control, especially since you state pretty early on Delia will do anything Grant wants to keep her estate. But isn't what he wants to buy the house?

    I liked the first page, though, and I would keep reading based on the premise and the first page's writing.

  3. Wasn't hooked- the query confused me- too much jumping around; especially in the first paragraph. Try to shorten/tighten the whole thing as much as possible to allow the tension to carry the read through your query and on to your sample pages. I didn't want to read anymore by the time I got to paragraph 3.

  4. Not hooked. Was pulled out by the detail-laden paragraph two. Restoration, cleaning and placement of marble and granite statuary started my eyes glazing a bit. Not very exciting but I think the potential is there if you rework it.

  5. Wow!
    When I got the e-mail saying #51, I thought, "Oh, well..." didn't realize that you'd be so kind as to let me through. So thank you!

    And to the commenters: Keep them coming. This is amazing feedback and I really appreciate the critiques.

  6. The hook was awesome -- I could definitely see that as tagline on a cover. But then you lost me in the muddle of the rest of the query. Sometimes, less is more. Tighten up the three paragraphs describing the book into 1-2 short ones (250 words max), and you'd have a winner.

    Because the hook did indeead "hook" me, I read the first page. It sounds fun and quirky (and I love quirky), so I'd want to read more.

  7. I like the concept, but it does need tightening. For the query, I don't think you really need that hook in the first paragraph because you repeat and expand on the story in the rest of the letter. I agree with the other commenter that the arson isn't worded strongly enough. "Delia's childhood fantasy returns as a real man..." confused me. Wolverton wasn't real?

    The idea of statues making love strikes me as a bit of a turn-off, but that's just me.

    Your bio doesn't need to describe what you learned in your RWA chapter. The agent knows what the chapter does. Just say you're a member.

  8. Query: Ooooh. I love the idea of bringing statues to life. Though it reminds me a bit of Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    Snippet: Yes, still hooked.

  9. OH MY GOD! I want to buy this book! Someone publish it!

    Seriously, I love the idea with the statues and the whole plot of the novel. Good writing too.

    You've defiantly got me hooked!

  10. I was hooked on the concept of animated statues alone... the actual query came across a bit flat, and considering the wonderful storyline you have here, you could certainly do it justice by jazzing up the query a bit i.e. animate it a bit
    The sample page was okay, writing is solid and good, and I'd read on if there was more, but to really keep me reading to the end, I think I'd want a little more to the speaking statues. Do they have souls? Are they in fact previously living creatures that were cursed? Do they move and can they be set free? I'd read on to enjoy the ride but also to see if my questions get answers that keep me hooked.

  11. Greak hook line.

    Query: Why does she quit her job when she needs money? (If she's caring for the father, then say so--but as it is now, she quits her job, and then the family can't afford medical aid.). "This dismay" should be "the dismay." There are some rough parts of the query, but the concept of talking to statues is unique enough to make me read more.

    Not bad. I'd read on.

  12. I found myself working too hard through the summary, although the hook was neat. The query--not hooked. The pages, yes hooked!

  13. I like the initial hook but I got lost in the first paragraph. There was too much extra information and it confused me.

  14. I thought there were way too many details in the synopsis. How about just saying that circumstances forced her to consider selling the home?

    I'm also a little confused about the statues moving around in the synopsis. If they can move, shouldn't the satyr be able to clean his own hoof? Maybe even catch the nymph one day? Does something change to make the statues more animated?

    I like the concept of a woman who can make statues speak and I enjoyed the writing sample a lot. Even though the letter didn't hook me, I want to read more now that I've seen the writing.

  15. I think the sentence about her father being inside the house when it was set alight needs more of a focus on on her father being injured. At the moment he appears as more of an afterthought. Also, you mention that Grant and Delia are fighting for control of the house, but she's willing to do anything for him and he's happy to have her there. It doesn't seem like there's a struggle from your query. These details would make me less likely to read your sample, though the hook of being able to talk to statues intrigues me.

  16. I agree there was too much happening in the query and that it would benefit from tightening up - as others have amply described.

    I love the premise though and the chat between the MC and the statues. I would love to read more of this, especially if the statues are able to move around as well as talk.

    I have to admit it puts me in mind of the old joke about the two naked statues, one male and one female, who come to life after years of staring longingly at one another, taking the opportunity of disappearing hand in hand behind a hedge, then coming out minutes later saying 'OK this time you hold down the pigeon and I'll sh*t on it.'

  17. I love the joke! I'm going to keep that.

    I'm also enjoying the comments. I want to bring you all home with me and feed you queries, synopses and manuscripts to review.

    I'll keep you in margaritas, I promise!

    Thanks again.

    (Captcha is "mooming," as in, "Keri is mooming over all the useful feedback.")

  18. I was hooked by the premise. But after the first line hook, the query got a little muddled. Nothing a polishing can't fix. I like the sample, too. I was interested to read more. After reading the opening scene, I'd venture to bet that there's some great stuff in store for the MC.

  19. The first paragraph doesn't work for me. Love with someone who has a heart of stone? Even if that's not literal, most people with a heart of stone...that's generally not a good thing. If it's literal, I'm not sure what to think.

    I like the idea of talking to statues, but I felt like the query jumped around too much without getting into the meat of the story. I didn't feel the emotion in it.

    You mention Delia's childhood fantasy returning as a real man. That's a bit confusing.

    While I liked the sample page better than I liked the query, I don't think this is for me.