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The Saturday Slash

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 13 May 2017 · 142 views

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.    

Warrior, wizard, slave: no matter how powerful Andre Hawthorne becomes, he knows only death can set him free. Not a bad hook, but the last part of the sentence feels like it's shading the first three words as ascending levels of power, but I feel like the last noun cancels that out? He is the property of Mara Tsaryov, the ruthless Witch of Shadowfall, named for the Lithuanian forest where she was born. Mara bought Andre as a child, bonded him to her with magic, trained him to guard and protect her—and now that he’s grown into a charismatic young man, Mara has fallen in love with him. So he's a slave in the sense that he's her servant and unable to unbond from her because of magic? Also, is Mara ageless or is she a cougar? But in 1790, an aristocrat of New Russia would never permit herself to fall in love with a black slave, a living piece of her property who doesn’t even desire her. Mara despises her feelings, and she longs to kill Andre to rid herself of her shame. Interesting. I think you can get these ideas across in less words though. Look for easy cuts, or different phrasing.

But this particular slave is too useful for Mara to kill, and her political schemes would be impossible without Andre’s skills. His magic protects her chateaux in the Carpathians, Mara’s favorite home and the seat of her power. Frustrated with Andre’s indifference, Mara decides to enhance her physical appearance, and dress to inspire his lust, in order to regain control of herself, and of him.

So when a gifted seamstress in Kiev loses her husband, and must sell herself into slavery to keep her family safe, Mara is only too happy to acquire this slave. A Mongolian witch raised by Cossacks, Sienna Katyev will never be as powerful as Mara—but Sienna has her own kind of indomitable strength. As she works alongside Andre inside Mara’s chateaux, the two become friends, and then lovers. If Mara knew how they felt, she would kill Sienna, so Andre begins using his magic to free her. The more secrets Andre must keep from Mara, the more perilous freeing Sienna becomes, as political intrigue and love bring Andre toward a violent confrontation he knows he can’t win.

The Shadowfall Witch (100,000 words) will appeal to fans of historical fantasy such as Juliet Marillier’s Heart’s Blood and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

This is actually quite good, just overly wordy. You also mention multiple times a political intrigue that sounds like it supplies a lot of the pacing (just guessing) but I have no idea what that might be. Right now it reads like a magical realism historical romance, which, while that's really cool, you need to hint more about what exactly that is, without lengthening the query by much. I made some slash throughs above as examples of where you can cut wording and still maintain your meaning. Look for similar places in the query, make the cuts, then get the political angle in there with a sentence or two.

Your word count raises questions about length. While your genre allows for such a hefty WC, the fact that there are multiple examples of unnecessary wording in your query, I have to wonder if the same is true of the manuscript. Read through it with this in mind to trim down that WC.

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