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Please keep in mind that I'm no query guru, but I have read a considerable amount of query slush thanks to Query Kombat. (And that is a lot of repeating of the word query.) I might have an edge on what works and what doesn't. But as in all such critiquing, the suggestions are mainly subjective. Or in other words, take it with a grain of salt and see if others agree with me. SO here goes, Query #1.
Dear Ms/Mr Agent Person, This is a good sign. They've left room for every gender. *wink*
England, 1347. The Black Death, medieval surgery, a physician monk and the mortecarni. Hmm. I do read quite a bit of history, but this last term escapes me. Morte means death, but the rest? That could be a bad sign. The other parts are interesting. Good vs I'd spell this out. evil isn't always black and white. Cliche. I'm more interested in specifics. It needs a better hook.
Brother Maurice is born in Wales and his interest and talent in healing lead him to the life of a monk and physician. Which I assume means he is higher up on the social ladder as equality is a thing of the future, and we won't be getting kissing scenes. After encountering the mortecarni Again, I'm thrown. What does this mean? I hope someone can enlighten me. As an agent I probably wouldn't check a dictionary. he is summoned by the pope and asked to join a group of dedicated individuals whose members are sworn to fight these creatures. Why him? What makes him important enough for the pope.What did the mortecarni do to him? His ordeals include the discovery that a 'saint' is really an undead farmer, the bloody amputation of a young girl's leg, treatment of plague victims and a stay at a convent filled with mortecarni nuns. This is a great list, but it doesn't give me the stakes. What will happen if our monk loses to the mortecarni? Does the world implode or does our monk's head pop off?
The Mortecarni is complete at 94,000 words and is carefully researched for historical accuracy: character and place names, village portrayals and depictions of medieval life are all faithful to the time period, as are descriptions of illness and medical practices. But it is first and foremost a horror story. Nice. Word count seems reasonable. Some people may object to it taking so long to state a genre, but I doubt agents would care.
A bit about myself: I'd cut this intro. Wordy query means wordy story. And we already did wordy on the genre. my short stories have been published in Glossolalia, Polygraff, Temporary Infinity, Bareback Lit, Death Throes and Black Heart Magazines, as well as the horror anthology "So Long and Thanks for All the Brains." I have undergraduate degrees in both European History and Religious Studies, and a Masters in Creative Writing. Impressive bio. It means they're not a fly-by-night writer.
As per your submission requirements, I include the first XXX pages of The Mortecarni below. I hope you enjoy the story and look forward to hearing from you. Which may or may not work depending on whether the agents wants pages and whether they send replies. I assume this section 'may vary.'
Regards, Not the usual thanks for your consideration, but it works.
Two things strike me with this query: First, it misses giving the stakes and why Brother Maurice is crucial to saving the civilized world. Second, it doesn't give me a sense of our main character. Does he prefer peas or green beans? Okay, maybe not that, but what is driving him. He wants to be a healer, wonderful. What else drives him? I believe you need to be driven by something to face these creatures. This query has many thing I personally find interesting, but it's lacking the personality of the mc.
Now it's your turn. Don't be shy. What do you think?