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Spring Query Extravaganza #6

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 April 2014 · 19 views

It's here!! I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques in the next few weeks to celebrate spring. Right now I have no spots open. Keep watching and it's likely I'll reopen near the end of the month. 

Participants must comment on other Spring Query entries to pay it forward. If I notice someone not leaving comments, their query will get skipped.

Now to the fine print:

All query critiques are subjective. And rabbits don't come out of my hat, but I'll do my best. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Buy one and I'll throw in a set of free steak knives, just pay separate shipping and handling fees. Plus, you know, I'm leaving pink comments in celebration of spring so you have to be able to tolerate pink.

As sent to me:



In Nyarteme, a world ruled by Muses and Artists, art is both beautiful and deadly. Words can cut you, songs can control you, and a play can imprison you forever.

But Merrick is no Artist. He is only a carnival man, blessed with nothing but a perfect memory and thieving fingers. His life is simple, safe, and artless - until he is forced to steal one of the mirrored masks of Propa, Muse of Acting. Within days, he is in the city of Syduire, seated at Propa's play, the mask within reach.

Then his childhood love Eanna puts it on. 

Her eyes darken. Her hands extend. And with only a mirror for a face, she begins to strangle him.

He rips the mask away, but it is a temporary reprieve. Every day, the mask returns, and every day, the real Eanna slips farther away. An actress of Propa has taken her place, intent on creating the performance of a lifetime - with someone else's life. She knows every look and every lie that can hurt Merrick the most, and she will stop at nothing to return the mask to her Muse. Not even murder.

And she is not the only one who wants the mask. Merrick soon learns what he really stole - the first weapon in a war between the Muses themselves. Pursued on all sides with Eanna's time running out, Merrick scours the artistic world for a way to save her. His perfect memory may hold the key, but the difference between knowing someone and merely remembering them is greater than he imagines.

Artists of the Body is a literary high fantasy combining the style of Name of the Wind with the unique world-building of Brent Weeks' Lightbringer trilogy. It is complete at 125,000 words. Though it is a standalone novel, it is also the first in a series, and subsequent books are underway.

With my crazy comments:


Merrick lives In Nyarteme, a world ruled by Muses and Artists, where art is both beautiful and deadly. Words can cut you, songs can control you, and a play can imprison you forever. (I'm not sure if this is figuratively or literally. Do you mean art can get you in trouble with the government, or some kind of magic is at work?)

But Merrick is no Artist.(And we get to the MC. Ideally you want to lead with the MC and not the worldbuilding. See if you can't weave Merrick into the first paragraph. I made a rough attempt above. Then you can add this first sentence to the 1st paragraph and it can be a small hook.) He is only(I'd cut 'only') a carnival man, blessed with nothing but a perfect memory and thieving fingers.(hardly nothing) His life is simple, safe, and artless - until he is forced to steal one of the mirrored masks of Propa, Muse of Acting.(Why? Why he is forced to steal would be his motivation. We want to see his motivation. It's what moved him to act. Are they treatening to kill his love? Does he need the money?) Within days, he is in the city of Syduire, seated at Propa's play, the mask within reach. (This is a minor detail we don't need to know.)

Then his childhood love Eanna puts it on. 

Her eyes darken. Her hands extend. And with only a mirror for a face, she begins to strangle him. (You've slipped into writing mode instead of query mode. You aren't describing the book anymore. You're reliving it. Try something like: Then his childhood love Eanna beats him too it, puts it on and becomes a killer, attempting to strangle him.)

He rips the mask away, but it is a temporary reprieve. Every day, the mask returns, and every day, the real Eanna slips farther away. An actress of Propa has taken her place, intent on creating the performance of a lifetime - with someone else's life. She knows every look and every lie that can hurt Merrick the most, and she will stop at nothing to return the mask to her Muse. Not even murder. (Your focus is wandering. Decide what is important. Merrick stealing the mask is not the plot. Trying to get it away from his girlfriend seems to be the plot. The query is about 50 words over the average length. Keeping the focus honed in will help with the length. Distill it down.)

And she is not the only one who wants the mask. Merrick soon learns what he really stole - the first weapon in a war between the Muses themselves.(Good. This ups the stakes.) Pursued on all sides with Eanna's time running out, Merrick scours the artistic world for a way to save her. His perfect memory may hold the key(I like this aspect. It's unique. Don't be afraid to play it up and maybe even add how it can save them.), but the difference between knowing someone and merely remembering them is greater than he imagines. ((That last part is very vague. I don't know what it means, which makes it fall flat as a stake.) And same here with the distilling. Agents want to see that you can condense and get to the heart of the plot. Something like this:


Merrick lives in Nyarteme, a world ruled by Muses and Artists, where art is both beautiful and deadly. Thanks to magic, words can cut you, songs can control you, and a play can imprison you forever. But Merrick is no artist.

He's a carnival man who happens to be blessed with perfect memory and thieving fingers. When his grandmother is kidnapped, he’s forced to steal one of the mirrored masks of Propa, Muse of Acting. He succeeds only for his childhood love Eanna to don the mask and become a killer.

Before she can strangle him, Merrick rips the mask away, but every day it returns. Knowing each look and lie to hurt Merrick, Eanna will stop at nothing to return the mask to her Muse (and what?) and put the power to blankblank in the goddess' hands.

Others also seek the mask. It’s the first weapon in a war between the Muses themselves that can grant (blank). Merrick’s perfect memory may hold the key to saving Eanna and humanity or (bad thing that will happen).  

Artists of the Body is a literary high fantasy combining the style of Name of the Wind(One of my favorites) with the unique world-building of Brent Weeks' Lightbringer trilogy. (All very long works. But it's usual for a debut author to get this word count.) It is complete at 125,000 words.(Maybe just a touch high for high/epic fantasy.) Though it is a standalone novel, it is also the first in a series, and subsequent books are underway. (A standalone novel, it also has series potential. or A standalone novel, it is intended as a series.)

Condense. Distill. Trim down to the crucial parts. Tell us what will happen if Merrick fails and what power the mask can grant.

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Spring Query Extravaganza #5

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 22 April 2014 · 21 views

It's here!! I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques in the next few weeks to celebrate spring. Right now I have no spots open. Keep watching and it's likely I'll reopen near the end of the month. 

Participants must comment on other Spring Query entries to pay it forward. If I notice someone not leaving comments, their query will get skipped.

Now to the fine print:

All query critiques are subjective. And rabbits don't come out of my hat, but I'll do my best. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Buy one and I'll throw in a set of free steak knives, just pay separate shipping and handling fees. Plus, you know, I'm leaving pink comments in celebration of spring so you have to be able to tolerate pink.

As sent to me:


Dear Agent:

Years of living in the sewers beneath Elite City have hardened seventeen-year-old Sylvia to all manner of creepy-crawlies. She never really got used to the giant, flesh-eating bugs, though.

The sewers are the only place safe from the Cull, nocturnal bugs that wander the overgrown city streets above. During the day Syl scavenges for food among the abandoned skyscrapers, but at night the Cull come out looking for a meal of their own.  She thought gene splicing died with the war a century ago, disappeared with the scientists and their rusted machinery. She thought the bugs could be exterminated, the city rebuilt and the population replenished. She was wrong.

Whoever engineered the Cull isn't done playing God. Syl is abducted and tortured in horrific experiments that result in her DNA being spliced, slowly turning her into one of the bugs. Now she must find a cure and stop the person who violated her body before every remaining man, woman, and child is transformed into the abomination they fear.

SPLICED is a 65,000 word YA science fiction novel. It is a standalone with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

With my crazy comments:

Dear Agent: Just right! :-) Starting off easy.

Years of living in the sewers beneath Elite City have hardened seventeen-year-old Sylvia to all manner of creepy-crawlies. Interesting. Immediately I'm wondering why she lives there. But that's a good kind of question. It's curiosity. She never really got used to the giant, flesh-eating bugs, though. Was hoping for something with a little more punch. This is subjective, but I've never been a big fan of tacking on 'though.' And I'd define 'giant' with something comparable. Tank-sized, flesh-eating bugs hunting her day and night--not so much. 

The sewers are the only place safe from the Cull, nocturnal bugs that wander the overgrown and abandoned city streets above. Ah. So that's why. I'd probably get in that the city is abandoned earlier. During the day Syl scavenges for food among the abandoned (empty, derelict, unsafe) skyscrapers, but at night the Cull come out looking for a meal of their own.  SheSyl thought gene splicing died with the war a century ago, disappeared with the scientists and their rusted machinery. She thought(This seems more of a hope.) the bugs could be exterminated, the city rebuilt and the population replenished. She was wrong.(Consider cutting this last sentence and letting us form our own conclusions. I know you're going for voice, however this is a bad form of telling. Just add 'But' down below.

Or another possibility would be to say something like nobody is stepping up to take on that task. That would allow you to get in more world building to detail what their technology is like now.)

Whoever engineered the Cull isn't done playing God. Syl is abducted and tortured in horrific experiments that result in her DNA being spliced, slowly turning her into one of the bugs.(And you hit us with a twist! Increasing the stakes.) Now she must find a cure and stop the person who violated her body before every remaining man, woman, and child is transformed into the abomination they fear. (A picky point but 'they fear' could be interpreted as head jumping. I'd consider 'man, woman, and child is transformed into fearsome abominations.' You got an intense set of stakes defined.)

SPLICED is a 65,000 word YA science fiction novel(It has the hallmarks of a dystopian. Heavy sigh because dystopian is such a hard sell nowadays.). It is a standalone with series potential. (Maybe a short sentence about yourself.)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, (Same with this closing as the other critiques. It's not really needed if you have the thanks above. Your call.)

This query sets out the plot and stakes quite clearly. The sentences connect really well, flowing from one to the next in a neat progression. The 3rd paragraph rackets up the tension. There's not a whole lot of Syl's personality being displayed here,  so be sure it's in the opening pages. A strong query. Most of my comments are subjective and should be taken as such.  

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Spring Query Extravaganza #4

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 21 April 2014 · 13 views

It's here!! I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques in the next few weeks to celebrate spring. Right now I have no spots open. Keep watching and it's likely I'll reopen near the end of the month. 

Participants must comment on other Spring Query entries to pay it forward. 

Now to the fine print:


All query critiques are subjective. And rabbits don't come out of my hat, but I'll do my best. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Buy one and I'll throw in a set of free steak knives, just pay separate shipping and handling fees. Plus, you know, I'm leaving pink comments in celebration of spring so you have to be able to tolerate pink.

As sent to me:


Dear [agent name],

My YA fantasy novel, Dragonflame, is complete at 113,000 words. I am querying you because […].

As dragons invade her homelands, young mage Naya seeks an exiled dragon to stand with her against his own kind.

15-year-old Naya has just escaped from her homeland where the king persecutes girls with magic and sends them to prison. So when her rescuer, venerable mage Mariyana, learns the king plans an invasion, Naya is eager to join the adult mages in the defence of her new home.

As the enemy turns out to include a host of dragons set on revenge, the mages scramble to find a way to stop them, for they lost the ability to kill dragons many generations ago.

Following hints from reckless young mage Evulon, Naya discovers an exiled dragon could help them win over the powerful mages of Numara island, only to find he will not join a lost cause.

Yet when Naya suddenly holds his life flame in her hands, she has to decide how to use this dragon’s power.

DRAGONFLAME is a standalone novel with a potential for sequels following Naya’s and Evulon’s adventures in the Western Lands and beyond.

I am a trilingual management assistant and translator living in Paris. I am a member of the SCBWI and have attended several writers’ conferences and workshops. Dragonflame is my first full-length novel.

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

Sincerely,

With my crazy comments:

Dear [agent name],

My YA fantasy novel, Dragonflame, is complete at 113,000 words. I am querying you because […]. This is a big word count for YA. We don't want to scare anyone off. I'd probably save this information until the end. Try to let your query hook agents first. 

As dragons invade her homelands, young mage Naya seeks an exiled dragon to stand with her against his own kind. (This is a stronger hook than last time I saw this.)

15-year-old Naya has just escaped is saved from her homeland where the king persecutes girls with magic and sends them to prison.(Maybe a little smoother to use: where girls with magic are persecuted and sent to prison.) So when her rescuer(Confusion. I thought she'd escaped by herself. This makes me think twice about Naya as an active MC.), venerable mage Mariyana, learns the king plans an invasion, Naya is eager to join the radult mages in the defence of her new home. (Try leading with Naya and keeping her the key role here. Don't let another character take center stage. Naya is eager to join her rescuers, including the venerable mage Mariyana, stop the king's planned invasion.  If Mariyana is not mentioned again I'd delete her. Maybe go with ,including venerable mages,)

As the enemy(This confuses me again. They are Naya's enemy, that means they are working with the king? Try: One of the king's allies) turns out to include a host of dragons set on revenge, the mages scramble to find a way to stop them, for they lost the ability to kill dragons many generations ago.

Following hints from reckless young mage Evulon(I doubt we need this information about Evulon.), Naya discovers an exiled dragon could help them win over the powerful mages of Numara island(We don't know where this is or who these mages are. You're getting into a name lalapalooza. Don't let that happen. Stick to the basics. One or two characters with names. If you're going to name someone else, I'd go with the dragon. Every detail of how the story enfolds does not have to be included. Sometimes writers are too close to see what to leave out.), only to find he will not join a lost cause.

Yet when Naya suddenly holds his life flame in her hands, she has to decide how to use this dragon’s power. Right now the sinker line isn't setting up a choice or moral decision. We also don't see do this or this bad thing will  happen. Keep the focus on her and the dragon. The rebels give Naya the task of recruiting a dragon to switch sides, but how? Their honor prevents it. When Naya suddenly holds the exiled dragon Firebreath's life flame in her hands, she has to decide whether to keep the dragon's power for herself or respect him as an individual and allow him to choose. OR STRONGER she has to decide whether to keep the dragon's power for herself or let him free and allow the king to win and keep girls imprisoned forever.  


DRAGONFLAME is a standalone novel with a potential for sequels following Naya’s and Evulon’s adventures in the Western Lands and beyond. I'd leave Evulon out of it or make him important from the first paragraph. Replace him where Mariyana is now if you want to keep him and include why he is important.

I am a trilingual management assistant and translator living in Paris. I am a member of the SCBWI and have attended several writers’ conferences and workshops. Dragonflame is my first full-length novel. (Good.) 

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

Sincerely, (Same here as with the other writer and the closing. You don't really need 'sincerely' with the thanks already there.)

I feel this query veers offtrack in a few places with a character soup and unimportant details. Sure world building is great but keep the focus tighter on Naya and what she needs to do. Beef up your stakes. There's nothing in here about what bad things will happen if the king succeeds. How will the king's winning hurt Naya? Show us what she struggles against. We saw a little of this with girls being confined. Is she fighting to help free girls? Maybe bring that back around to the ending line. 

Source


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Submission for Pitch Slam

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 19 April 2014 · 31 views

The submission window opens tomorrow for Pitch Slam, Battle of the Bands. It's a great contest where everyone get chances to revise before sending their final pitch and 250 words. In the first submission window you'll send only your pitch. The next window is for only your first 250. Then the final window is for both. The first two windows will include feedback from team managers and talent scouts.

Quite unique, eh? Here's where you can find all the submission information. And here are the executives from Literary Records who will make requests. 

I'll be there reading the slush as a team manager with my good friend and CP Carla as my talent scout. We draw our inspiration from the smooth, some say soulful sound of Pop Rocker Gavin Degraw. Who I just happened to see in concert last week! Team Sweeter! You know I've got an eye for talent and Team Sweeter intends to find the best!




I'd better see you there. 

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Valuable Links: New Release Books for Free

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 18 April 2014 · 27 views

If you love to read and you don't want to spend a fortune on new books, I've got the link for you.

The review site Net Galley offers free ebooks to readers who will post reviews online at Goodreads, Amazon, or your own blog. All you have to do is create an account and browse the list of offered books. Request the ones you like and wait for publishers to approve you.

The more books you review, the more likely you are to be approved.

In many cases these are fresh from the presses new releases or advance copies. And you'll find some big name authors here as well as debut ones.

If you're a published author, Net Galley is the place to offer your book to increase your number of reviews. They have various packages available, but I'd recommend seeking out alternative co-ops as Net Galley is pricey. (Ask me privately and I can recommend some co-ops.)

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Spring Query Extravaganza #3

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 17 April 2014 · 9 views

It's here!! I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques in the next few weeks to celebrate spring. Right now I have no spots open. Keep watching and it's likely I'll reopen near the end of the month. 

Participants must comment on other Spring Query entries to pay it forward. 

Now to the fine print:

All query critiques are subjective. And rabbits don't come out of my hat, but I'll do my best. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Buy one and I'll throw in a set of free steak knives, just pay separate shipping and handling fees. Plus, you know, I'm leaving pink comments in celebration of spring so you have to be able to tolerate pink.

As sent to me:


Eleven-year-old Sylvie is angry at everyone. After her mother pulled her from school and relocated her and her sister to a stinky RV in a Louisiana campground, Sylvie gave up on making new friends. She'd rather hang out with the campground critters than explain her unusual hobbies to kids who'd only be around to make fun of her for a few days anyway. 

When a mysterious fox leads her into the woods, Sylvie mistakenly frees a mystical, vengeful woman. She soon finds herself trapped in a new land with her little sister, a talking fox, and an annoying boy she can't ditch. They discover the evil woman is attacking them as part of her plan to make those who trapped her suffer. Sylvie must now confront the Raven Queen to find a way home or remain trapped in this new land forever.
 
 Inspired by dark fairy tales and trickster tales, REVENGE OF THE RAVEN QUEEN, a 40,000-word MG fantasy, is my first completed novel.

With my crazy comments:

Eleven-year-old Sylvie is angry at everyone. Okay, that's pretty clear. You've characterized her here and I want to see that carry through the rest of the query. Make the query sound angry. After her mother pulled her from school and relocated her and her sister to a stinky RV in a Louisiana campground, Sylvie gave up on making new friends.I'm wondering the why behind this. And maybe more anger. She never asked to be pulled from school and relocated to a stinky RV in a Louisiana campground just so her mom could study mosquito populations. She'd rather hang out with the campground critters than explain her unusual hobbies to kids who'd only be around to make fun of her for a few days anyway. 'Unusual hobbies' catches my attention, but I don't see any details. And as it doesn't come up again in the query, maybe you should cut it. Either expand or cut. She'd rather hang out with campground critters than explain why she's collecting used silly putty to kids who'll just be gone tomorrow.  

Also it may be better to end with the critters as that leads us into the next paragraph with the fox. It's not like she can make friends when everyone leaves after a week anyway. She'd rather befriend the campground critters. (And if you're trying for upper MG maybe change critters to wildlife. Don't want to talk down to kids.)

When a mysterious fox leads her into the woods, Sylvie mistakenly frees a mystical, vengeful woman.(Frees her from what? Is she under a rock? In a stream? Some kind of magic container?) The adjectives make the villain kind of generic. When a mysterious fox leads her into the woods, Sylvie mistakenly plucks a mystical rose and frees a woman with revenge for 100 years of captivity on her mind. She soon finds herself trapped in a new land with her little sister, a talking fox, and an annoying boy she can't ditch. I assume the Raven Queen took her there. But isn't this exactly with Mom did to Sylvia? You've got a second relocation. Wouldn't that really peeve Sylvia off? The vengeful Raven Queen drags Sylvia, her little sister, and an annoying boy she can't ditch, along with the talking fox to a new land. But no one relocates Sylvia against her will a second time--especially if they aren't even family. They discover the evil woman is attacking them as part of her plan to make those who trapped her suffer.(But that wasn't Sylvie so why take it out on her? It might be better to avoid the questions this raises. This also seems like a weak plan for a powerful person. Would the Raven Queen want more than revenge? Some kind of power grab is the usual style.)  Sylvie must now confront the Raven Queen to find a way home or remain trapped in this new land forever. Come back to your first sentence. Sylvie must redirect her anger to confront the Raven Queen and rescue the four of them or be trapped forever. 
 
 Inspired by dark fairy tales and trickster tales, REVENGE OF THE RAVEN QUEEN, a 40,000-word MG fantasy, is my first completed novel. (Good word count. All the ingredients are here.)


In this query I see lots of opportunity to repeat the themes you've established in the first paragraph. The themes of anger and of Sylvia not being able to control her life. Best of luck!

Source


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Spring Query Extravaganza #2

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 16 April 2014 · 17 views

It's here!! I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques in the next few weeks to celebrate spring. Right now I have no spots open. Keep watching and it's likely I'll reopen near the end of the month. 

Participants must comment on other Spring Query entries to pay it forward. 


Now to the fine print:

All query critiques are subjective. And rabbits don't come out of my hat, but I'll do my best. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Buy one and I'll throw in a set of free steak knives, just pay separate shipping and handling fees. Plus, you know, I'm leaving pink comments in celebration of spring so you have to be able to tolerate pink.

As sent to me:



Blood Reign is a YA Fantasy retelling of Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz set in a medieval world.


Seventeen-year-old Alice never considered herself the suicidal type. That is, until she finds herself cornered between the men who killed her mother and a five-hundred-foot drop. Rather than facing the killers’ dark plans for her, Alice jumps.


Instead of falling to her death, Alice wakes up in the middle of a blood-soaked battlefield, where men in metal armour are slaughtering peasants. Alice flees from the battle and encounters an old seer, who believes Alice is destined to save this world from the evil queen and the tyranny of her army.


Refusing to believe she can save anyone, Alice sets out on a journey to find a witch with the power to return her to her world. To protect herself from marauders preying on women, Alice disguises herself as a man. Aided by a gorgeous runaway slave and a physician, Alice must survive the ongoing war between the evil queen and the rebels—even if it means killing people to get home.


BLOOD REIGN is my debut novel. Complete at 76,000 words, it works well as a standalone and also has a series potential. I hope it would appeal to fans of the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,

With my crazy comments:

Blood Reign is a YA Fantasy retelling of Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz set in a medieval world. I see this is missing a word count. You'll need a number when you actually query. Leaving it off can be a warning sign to agents. 


Seventeen-year-old Alice never considered herself the suicidal type. Concise and to the point. Be interesting to know what type she does consider herself. That would give more of her personality. This doesn't tell me what makes Alice be Alice. For instance: Seventeen-year-old Alice likes trying on dresses and afternoon tea, she never considered herself suicidal. Now we know she's a girly girl. That is, until she finds herself cornered between the men who killed her mother and a five-hundred-foot drop. I like that the details are specific. One other detail I might like to know is how long ago did they kill her mother. I bet you can sneak that into this sentence. Rather than facing the killers’ dark plans for her, Alice jumps. That does tell us more about Alice. We can judge her on her choices.


Instead of falling to her death, Alice wakes up in the middle of a blood-soaked battlefield, where men in metal armour(Using a GB spelling instead of American.) are slaughtering peasants. Alice flees from the battle and encounters an old seer, who believes Alice is destined to save this world from the evil queen and the tyranny of her army. (Okay but it's trending toward the synopsis side now. I like her for jumping/taking action. I want that activeness to continue. Also try and give it a little voice. Instead of becoming a pancake, Alice wakes on a blood-soaked battlefield, where crazies in metal armour are happily slaughtering peasants. Alice says poo-poo to that insanity and jets, but encounters an old seer, ...) 


Refusing to believe she can save anyone, Alice sets out on a journeys(Why not just use 'journeys' to save word count?) to find a witch with the power to return her to her world.(A little awkward at the end. Maybe--to return her home.) Here is Alice's motivation. She wants out. Now we need to see what's stopping her. To protect herself from marauders preying on women, Alice disguises herself as a man.(This seems to be getting lost in a trifling detail. It's not a huge deal compared to the rest of the query. Plus it doesn't lead and build to the next sentence. It doesn't say what's stopping Alice from her goal. Cut and go for something more important.) Aided by a gorgeous runaway slave and a physician(I can see this is the love interest but we don't have any other context to judge these guys. They are just sort of flat. Maybe cut.), Alice must survive the ongoing war between the evil queen and the rebels—even if it means killing people to get home. And sorry but splat. You've gone generic. There are no nice juicy specifics here to make me want to read. Why can't she just hide from the queen and the rebels and creep to the witch? I'm guessing something makes her fight, but it's not here. Also what happened to her mother's killers? Does this world tie back to what happened with mom? The last sinker sentence is the perfect place to mention it! Shake Shake! Mention it!

Alice intends to creep under the radar, find and bribe the 'ya-right' witch, and get out of  this weird version of Dodge. Then she discovers the evil Queen is behind her mother's death. Now she'll blank or blank will happen.

BLOOD REIGN is my debut novel. Complete at 76,000 words, it works well as a standalone and also has a series potential. I hope it would appeal to fans of the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce. (Ah, here's the word count. I would combine this with the first sentence and put at either the top or the bottom but not both places. It's taking up room. BLOOD REIGN is a YA Fantasy retelling of Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz set in a medieval world. Complete at 76,000 words...)

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Sincerely, (If you want to get picky, then you don't need both the thanks above and this sign off. Query Shark has recommended just going with thanks for your consideration.)

This is a query with all the details there, but it just needs a better sum up of the stakes. Also giving Alice a stronger voice will make an agent pay attention.

Source


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Spring Query Extravaganza #1

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 15 April 2014 · 25 views

It's here!! I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques in the next few weeks to celebrate spring. Right now I have spots open, but that will change fast. If you'd like a spot contact me on twitter quickly and be willing to leave comments for others.

Participants must comment on other Spring Query entries to pay it forward. 


Now to the fine print:

All query critiques are subjective. And rabbits don't come out of my hat, but I'll do my best. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Buy one and I'll throw in a set of free steak knives, just pay separate shipping and handling fees. Plus, you know, I'm leaving pink comments in celebration of spring so you have to be able to tolerate pink.

As sent to me:


Dear Agent Awesome:

At seventeen, Tashira has spent most of her life exposed to the underbelly of Kaiou. She grew up with her mother in one of the few places people can go and not be overheard by the Shulloran who control the sea with their voices. Through prayers and song, they keep the deadly Kryannians trapped at the bottom of the sea, but they’ve forbidden singing, a crime now punishable by death.

When a cabin boy is accused of singing—of risking everyone’s life should the Kryannians escape—no one comes to his aid. As Tashira watches, the boy proves his guilt by unleashing his voice in song. Instead of Kryannians rampaging through the bay of Kaiou, the guards’ armor turns to stone. The Shullorans never mentioned that songs could affect stone, and Tashira knows lies are never lonely. She finds the Shullorans have plans to break a wall in the mountains holding back another sea. They hope the extra water will keep the Kryannians farther from the surface, adding a layer of protection between the world and the monsters of the deep, but the extra water would flood Kaiou. If Tashira stops the Shullorans, she might unleash the Kryannians, but if she doesn’t, they will flood the city, killing thousands.

THE LAST STORM SINGER, a YA fantasy complete at 80,000 words, is similar to a cross between Avatar the Last Airbender and Pirates of the Caribbean.

With my crazy comments:

Dear Agent Awesome: Yes, they're all awesome! (Here comes the pink.)

At seventeen, Tashira has spent most of her life exposed to the underbelly of Kaiou. (Got it. She's poor. It's rough. She's tough. Good characterization.) She grew up with her mother in one of the few places people can go and not be overheard by the Shulloran who control the sea with their voices.(That's a lot of ideas for one sentence. Not really sure we need to know the mother part. It might be the wrong kind of info. Maybe break it up. She grew up in one of the few places people can't be overheard by the Shulloran. Through song and prayers, the Shulloran keep the deadly crab monsters trapped at the bottom of the sea, but forbid anyone else to sing.)  Through prayers and song, they(I'm having some pronoun confusion. :-( Is this they the Shullorans or Tashira and her mother?) keep the deadly Kryannians(This doesn't give me an idea what they actually are. Better to define them as I tried above.) trapped at the bottom of the sea, but they’ve(Again I'm confused. Who is singing and who is forbiddening it?  I think what you're saying is the Shullorans can sing but no one else can.) forbidden singing, a crime now punishable by death.

When a cabin boy is accused of singing—of risking everyone’s life should the Kryannians(It would help to know what the Kryannians are.) escape—no one comes to his aid. As Tashira watches, the boy proves his guilt by unleashing his voice in song.(Seems kind of stupid of him.) Instead of Kryannians rampaging through the bay of Kaiou, the guards’ armor turns to stone. The Shullorans never mentioned that songs could affect stone (Affect? They affected the metal armor, didn't they? Changed metal, not stone.  Or to stone. Technicalities, right. Also what happened to the boy? His punishment would be a warning to Tashira.), and Tashira knows lies are never lonely.(Isolated? Solitary? I like this sentiment!)  She finds the Shullorans have plans to break a wall in the mountains holding back another('Another' may just muddy the waters. Might not need this additional info.) sea. They hope the extra water will keep the Kryannians farther from the surface, adding a layer of protection between the world and the monsters of the deep, but the extra water would flood Kaiou. If Tashira risks beheading to sing to stops the Shullorans, she might unleash the Kryannians, but if she doesn’t, they city will flood the city, killing thousands. (Nice stakes! I am wondering how she can stop the Shullorans? By singing I'm guessing.)

THE LAST STORM SINGER, a YA fantasy complete at 80,000 words, is similar to a cross between Avatar the Last Airbender and Pirates of the Caribbean. (That's some blending! I want to read that!)



I think this query just needs a little cleaning up to clarify who is doing what or forbidding what in the first paragraph. 

I'm not exactly sure how 'not being overheard' really comes into the rest of the query. And if they can't be 'overheard' how did they hear the cabin boy? Maybe 'ignored' is a better way to introduce this part. They were ignored until the Shullorans forbid singing and a cabin boy sang out. 

This query does have great stakes that sets up a unique concept.  

  




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Interview with Danielle Jensen, author of STOLEN SONGBIRD

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 14 April 2014 · 22 views

One of the recent fantasy releases I've really enjoyed is STOLEN SONGBIRD. I love fantasy and so many books of what's considered fantasy lately has been strong on the romance and light on the fantasy, to the point where the fantasy is pretty iffy. Not so with STOLEN SONGBIRD. This book has a full and inventive fantasy world.

I'm so happy that the author Danielle Jensen had time to answer a few questions for us.



For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

So much about Stolen Songbird is unique. The underground city. The magic of the trolls. The addition of repressed half-bloods. But did you base some of it on a certain fairy tale or fable?
Danielle: I didn’t write Stolen Songbird as a retelling, but a lot of people have made comparisons to Beauty and the Beast. I think certain themes, tropes, and plot lines are extremely prevalent within literature, and it is pretty rare to see a completely original idea. I really like retellings – I’m reading Cruel Beauty right now – but I haven’t had an idea for one worth pursuing.

I think this is a book that will appeal to fantasy and romance readers. Most fantasy readers (me) like a little romance, but you’ve beefed up the romance without it feeling like the romance is taking over. There’s a nice balance of the two in Stolen Songbird. Was that intentional?
Danielle: I wrote the novel to create a balance of romance, fantasy, and political intrigue that suited MY tastes as a reader. But there isn’t a balance that suits ALL readers. Some people tell me there is too much romance. Some people tell me that there is too much politics, and that they skimmed those parts. Some people tell me that the balance was just right. That’s one thing you learn quite quickly as a writer – that it is impossible to please everyone.  

As a main character, Cécile holds her own in this book, being a strong female character. I admire that she may be in love, but she’s still her own person. There’s room in her head and heart for more than a man. What is your favorite trait of Cécile’s that you might even envy a little?
Danielle: Her optimism. She sees the best in people and circumstances, and I…don’t J

He’s not mention in the blurb, but I have a soft spot for Marc, the hero Tristan’s right hand troll. His is a sad backstory. I’d plug for him have a Happy Ever After in the sequels. Who’s your favorite character and why?
Danielle: Everyone loves Marc, and I’m no exception. I adore him because even though his life has been NOT GOOD, he still has such a kind heart. You mention his sad backstory – I actually wrote a love letter from him to his dead sweetheart, which you can read here [http://bewitchedbookworms.com/2014/03/big-love-letter-event-dear-penelope-marc-stolen-songbird-danielle-l-jensen.html]  It’s my first love letter, so you all have to tell me how I didJ

There is a very rich sense of world-building in Stolen Songbird. I felt like I was actually confined underground while reading it. Why an underground city, and what research did you use to fill in all the details you invented? Is it based on any real places you’ve visited?
Danielle: Stolen Songbird was inspired by a dream I had about a city buried in rubble, and the bulk of the world-building is stuff that wandered out of the bottomless pit that is my imagination. I did draw some inspiration from France (as you may have guessed), and I had Versailles in mind when I wrote about the palace. Forsaken Mountain is based on a very real mountain in the Canadian Rockies that really did break in half. I’m writing a post about that which will be out in early April, and once the snow quits falling, I’m going to do a video post starring me at mountain.  

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the book was the specific sense of history to the trolls. You gave them a very detailed past and a layered political structure. How did that come about, and I have to know if you have a soft spot for books with political overtones. 
Danielle: I love intrigue, and politics is a great way to insert intrigue into a novel. So yes, I have a big soft spot for it.
One of the questions that runs through Stolen Songbird is whether past behavior predicts future behavior, and that is something that Tristan and Cécile really bump heads over. Because that question is so important, I, by necessity, needed to put a fair bit of thought into the trolls’ history. What happened in the past is really important to these books, and if I took out that detail, a lot of the plot would dissolve.  

Many of my readers are also writers themselves. Would you share some of your publishing journey with us? What path led you to being published with Angry Robot?
Danielle: Stolen Songbird is the forth novel I completed, and the third novel I queried. All my queries were rejected, but my pitch and first 250 words made it into the MSFV Baker’s Dozen contest, where my agent ‘won’ my manuscript. She read it, and told me if I was willing to revise certain aspects of it that she would look at it again. It took me about six months to make those changes, but not long after I resubmitted, she called and offered me representation. We then went through another five months of revision, and in January 2013, it went out on submission. It sold to Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in March 2013.  

Pantser or Plotter?
Danielle: Pantser.

What are you working on now?
Danielle: Stolen Songbird’s sequel.

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I live, work, and write in Calgary, Alberta, primarily in the company of my quirky labradoodle named Elmo.
Unlike many writers, I didn’t grow up imagining a future where I would closet myself away for hours writing stories. Although I have always been an avid reader, after high school I decided to go to business school and ended up with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Calgary in 2003. I spent the next six years toiling away in the oil and gas industry, but it was also during this time that a friend and co-worker suggested writing a romance novel. After all, how hard could it be?
Really hard.
In 2006, I started several epically-terrible category romance novels before eventually turning to my favorite genre, fantasy. I slaved away at it during my free time, but refused to tell anyone what I was doing. Needless to say, it came as a great surprise to everyone when I finally confessed that I was nearly finished writing my first novel (in goes the wine, out comes the truth). That was in December, 2008.
By April, 2009, I was sending out my first query letters and coming to grips with the fact that while writing a book was hard, getting it read was even harder. It was also during 2009 that I was forced into a position that caused me to re-evaluate what I was doing with my life.  At that point, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but it was also clear that writing wasn’t going to pay my bills.  I decided to take a leap of faith, and registered to go back to university to get an English degree. To make it happen, I took a job as a waitress at a sports bar.
For almost three years, I juggled going to school full-time during the day and working full-time at night, writing during my very limited bits of free time. In June of 2012, I graduated from Mount Royal University with a Bachelor of Arts English (Honours).  A little over two months later, I got THE CALL, and accepted representation for my YA fantasy novel, STOLEN SONGBIRD. After more rounds of revisions than I care to count, STOLEN SONGBIRD finally went out on submission to editors in January 2013.


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Pictures from Arizona

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 11 April 2014 · 41 views

Visiting the Grand Canyon is not so easy for someone with fear-of-heights issues, but it gave me an opportunity to face the sort of fears I force on my characters. Here's a picture from the edge. It doesn't seem real, does it? Just so much vast size to take in. The river is buried down in that crevice in the center.



In this shot you can see the switchback trail going down from the South rim. And the tiny dots near the bottom of the first section are people. (There's also a small piece of trail visible below it.) I couldn't believe how many people and mules used this trail to get down to the river. My hubby was eager to try it, but we didn't have time and I didn't have the nerve. 


I like the sections where you can see parts of the Colorado river. It helps give perspective and the color contrast is beautiful.  See how it corkscrews around on the left.



Built to look old, the WatchTower gives a great view from the eastern side of the South Rim. The North Rim was still closed for the winter. 



We also stayed farther south in Tucson where it's much warmer. My dad winters there. This is a saguaro bloom, one of only three we found blooming. Over 15 years in Tuscon and my dad had never seen one before as they always bloom while he's heading like a snow bird back home.

Hearing how dry it is there doesn't adequately substitute for actually experiencing the hot, dry weather for yourself. Now I can truthfully place characters in such a situation having lived 1 percent humidity. Nothing like experience to make a book feel real.



The views aren't bad in Tucson either! Lots of tall saguaro's in this picture and the smaller cactus too. 



On the cute side, a visit to the Desert Museum gave me this shot of a hummingbird on its nest.



And what would a vacation be without some BOOK RESEARCH!!! My wip is set in a Spanish theme, perfect for Arizona. We got to visit a restored 200 year old Spanish mission church that is still in use. San Xavier gave me lots of ideas. 



You can't see it so well, but the top figure on the right has a knife in their chest. How can that not spark a story!




Beautiful amid the thorns, that's my memory of Arizona! It's given me loads of inspiration!




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