Wednesday, July 29, 2009

9 Query Contest

Born with an overwhelming healing power, Celeste Reed has lived for
thirty years within the confines of her ability. The slightest
contact with her bare skin pulls her awareness into another’s body and
compels her to heal, whether the injury is a paper cut or a subdural

Then one morning, Celeste awakens and her power is gone. She’s normal.

Abruptly unemployed and ostracized from the guild of super-powered
peers, Celeste remains a curiosity to the government authority that
honed her skills for their benefit. For her, the consequences are
personal: a confrontation with the parents of the dying child she was
supposed to heal, a mortgage that needs paying, and abandonment by
most of her friends and comrades. However, being normal is not
without benefits, including less federal interference and the
introduction of true, unencumbered human touch for the first time.
But when a fellow guildsman suffers from a similar loss of power -
this time fatal – the government reasserts control of her life.
Whether or not her curative touch returns, Celeste isn’t willing to
let go of her new-found freedoms so easily- even if it means never
healing again.

NORMAL is a 93,000-word near-future urban fantasy novel. My various
publication credits include Niteblade Fantasy and Horror Magazine,
Crossed Genres, Six Sentences, and runner-up in the WOW! Women on
Writing Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. Nonfiction works include
The Ultimate Cat Lover (HCI Books) and the forthcoming Chicken Soup
for the Soul: What I Learned from the Cat.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sometime within the next thirty minutes, Acacia Levine’s new heart
would arrive in a small commuter plane and touch down at a local
airfield. Toted in a warm, oxygenated portable chamber, that heart
would provide a dying ten-month-old girl with a real chance at life.
Acacia was probably already prepped for surgery and waiting. This was
the big day.

The notification call had knocked me out of a deep sleep at
sometime around five in the morning, just as the first sunbeams set my
bedroom blinds aglow. The hospital never seemed to confirm donor
organs at a sensible time of the day - not that I really minded. I’d
been on call for the Levine case for over a month now and visited the
little girl several times. Almost a year old, and she had never known
life outside of a hospital. Every tremor of her little heart depended
on the intravenous medication that kept her ductus open and
functional. I had soothed her with my touch and bolstered her frail
body as best I could, but she wouldn’t last much longer like this.
She needed that heart. Everything depended on the success of the
transplant operation today; that meant that everything depended on me.
And there I was ten minutes after the phone call, still sprawled in a
tangle of sheets and staring up at the ceiling. I needed to snap out
of my daze and get the day started.


  1. HOOKED by the query! Totally intrigued!!!

    On to the pages:
    I feel there's more focus on Acacia than the narrator (and understandably so), but I wish there was a bit more of the narrator, a few more personal touches of *her*.

    BUT...I'm hooked. I love the concept of this one and would love to read more!

  2. I agree with beth. I'm totally hooked. If I were an agent I'd request at least a partial if not a full.

  3. I'm hooked. Your concept it totally unique and your voice come through in the query. The sample page is very well written (and, again, your mc's voice shows up wonderfully).

  4. I was hooked until the line about never healing again. I thought she couldn't heal again - what does that have to do with the government wanting to take back over her life?

    You don't explain - did she get back her healing powers? Why does the government want her?

    I think a better close and you've got a winner.

  5. Query:

    Hehehehe. I like your premise. It's so different from what I expected when I read the first paragraph.

    YES. Hooked.

    Snippet: Yes, I'd read more.

  6. Love love love the premise. I really want to read about how Celeste adjusts to being normal in a culture of superheroes.

    I think the query maybe needs to go a step further and explain what Celeste *does* about everything. I’m not sure what the central conflict is here - the government “reasserts control of her life”, and Celeste’s not happy about that, but what *happens*? The government sticks her in a lab to run tests, and she grabs a gun and busts out? The government stalks her, and she exposes them to the media? What?

    Not a fan of starting with the protagonist waking up, which is both cliched and passive. I’m sure you can provide a punchier, more active and unique opening than this.

    Nevertheless, I’d read on for the sheer awesomeness of the premise.

  7. The query left me borderline hooked. I worry that the novel is going to be about the glory of being normal, which is a tough sell. But there's originality in the concept, there's a hint of a mystery, and the society may be intriguing.

    Still, I worked my way to the snippet, but I would not have read after that. Too much telling me what happened. If the narrator thinking those thoughts, she wouldn't be lying in the bed in a daze.

  8. I will never stop loving you for this premise. It's lovely.

    I would absolutely be hooked - the query shows a lovely premise and good writing, and the good writing continues in the first few paragraphs. However, I do have to agree with several of the above comments. The query is a little non-specific near the end, and the stakes aren't quite shown. Is there really a choice here? Why does the government reassert control of her life, and what does this entail for her?

    I'm also in agreement with the comment about the start of the chapter, both the disconnect between her thoughts and that she's supposedly in a daze, and that you can probably start her off in a more interesting/direct scene.

    I realise how important it is that she suddenly wakes up and it's gone, but is there a more interesting way of showing this? Even if it's just her running on her way to the hospital because she's late and having her be extra careful to avoid skin contact with other people in the hallway/on the street or somethign to that effect... Just throwing some thoughts out there.

  9. LOVE the premise! Was totally hooked by this query!(Though I don't think I'd add publication credits that had nothing to do with promoting your skill in the fantasy genre).

    Solid writing in the first page, but I think starting with full-force action (maybe with that Whoa! moment when she encounters someone and nothing happens)would grip readers and keep 'em hooked as you weave a little backstory...

  10. I realize this is a twist on the "person struggles to adapt to new powers" story, but I think I'd prefer to read about someone getting new powers than someone losing powers, even though that might be a good thing. I wouldn't read more because it sounds depressing.

  11. I was pretty dang hooked by the query. I really enjoyed the premise, especially how freeing it can be to be "normal" (a good message for people today, I think), and I also enjoyed the setting. If I'd read it in a bookstore, then I'd pick it up and flip to the first page to see how I like the writing.

    However, the snippet stopped me short. Something about the writing just made it difficult to read through. Part of it is I think there needs to be more blank space, but, as someone noted above, there's also a great deal of telling, which may have been what lost me.

    That being said, if I were an *agent* I'd probably keep reading through a few more pages, to see how the pace picks up. As a reader, though, looking at six to ten dollars, I'd put it back.

  12. Query hooked me all the way. Unique concept and total turnaround, instead of suddenly discovers powers, the mc suddenly loses them... and then there's the mystery as to why and is it possibly fatal. Great!
    Sample chapters: the writing is solid and great, but I was bitterly disappointed. The MC is supposed to start off as this wonderwoman, so why can't she heal the girl's existing heart? To me, this sounded to much as if there'd be a cop out, and the MCs power is not nearly as much (and therefore the stakes are not nearly as high) as I'd supposed. So, would probably not read on

  13. Absolutely hooked. Instead of a 'normal' becoming a 'super' you've flipped it around. Intriguing.

    I'm also interested in the layers you add: difficulty dealing with powers, then dealing with the loss of said powers and the problems that occur, then hinting at a much larger life-threatening conspiracy. Very well done. Though I enjoyed your query more than the opening 250!

  14. Some days you get multiple Mars queries, or Atlantis queries, or whatever, even if you hadn't gotten any for months. Today is the healing powers day. :)

    Mostly, I'd say this one is a yes. I like the premise, and it's presented in a way that makes what the book is *about* easy to follow. It offers the character, her situation, and the conflicts. The focus is in the right place. Extras are kept to a minimum, and not given names. (The little girl. The government. Another guy with powers.)

    Things that didn't hook me: The title. (Sorry.) It's just kind of bland.

    The last line of the blurb left me a little confused. Are they going to try to put her powers back?

    The sample page promised decent writing, but it didn't go places fast enough. She's lounging in bed while a little girl's heart is on the line. Can't she be rushing into the hospital or something that lets the reader know this is *really* important to her?

    Less backstory about Acacia in the beginning paragraph, more about Our Heroine.

    I'd definitely read the remaining sample pages if this was in my inbox. If they held up, I'd request a partial.

  15. I really love this query, but I am disappointed that the novel starts when she wakes up and finds her powers gone. I would love to experience her powers before they leave her. But I would definitely read more.

  16. I love that she's lost her powers, because so many stories seem to start with people discovering they have powers, and healing seems to be a common one. It was unexpected and hooked me. I liked your sample too, and I was cringing the whole time because I knew baby Acacia wasn't going to get saved today.