Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Query Extravaganza #12

So you know the drill. Contact me on twitter if you want your query showcased. Comment on the query before and after yours. 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. 

Daughter passed her driver's test today! The relief has given me a headache so, hopefully, I can still think straight. We'll find out. And email did strange things to this query. 

Carys, did not expect to be entombed under a cemetery, trapped in the Cretaceous,or to traverse the veil between life and death. She just wanted the time/space continuum-altering birthday she was promised. This last sentence confused me. I mistook the hyphen for a dash. My fault. 

Hollow History is an 89,000 word novel about a young women woman named Carys Barbour who lives in Pole Cat Hollow, a glen hidden deep in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Treacherous mountain terrain, and the putrid skunk odor surrounding the hollow’s parameter, keeps the region cloaked, but now Carys must prove, through a series of trials,that she can protect the family’s secret. Usually the word count sentence goes at the end or first thing. And I don't see a genre. I think you could sum up the important parts in one sentence and move the word count and title to the end. Living in skunk-stinking Pole Cat Hollow among the Appalachian Mountains, Carys must prove she can protect the family's secrets. Then down below you show the trials she has to undergo and spell out the stakes if she fails them. 

Her plans to prove herself as a preternatural leader take an ill-timed turn when she and her best friend, wannabe witch, Wren, discover that vile Leonard Smith, her father’s most trusted employee, has become too curious about what her family really does in the basement of their ancestral home, Skunkies. Too many names. Try and hold it to two or maybe three in a query. We don't need to know her best friend's name or the name of their home. And I'm not seeing anything about time/space continuum. Is time travel her family's secret? She discovers her father's trusted employee is too curious about her family's basement. 

Carys, Wren, and the initially pesky but evolving love interest, Buck,stalk Leonard and find themselves caught in a time loop which tests the natural survival skills and confidence of mathematically challenged Carys. Is the time loop in the basement, because otherwise it springs out of nowhere. And so far this is all really generic. I mean by that there is nothing for me to grab onto. No details about what you mean. Stuck in skunk-stinking Pole Cat Hollow among the Appalachian Mountains, Carys has to help hide her family secret of guiding lost souls to a peaceful rest. Only big-nosed Leonard, her father's favorite employee, keeps lurking around the basement, trying to ferret out the truth. When she tries to block him, they're all knocked spinning into the time threshold and end up entombed under a cemetary. Making matters worse, her deceased ancestor won't quit with the cryptic warnings. This is not her idea of a great birthday. Time to stop relying on parents and friends, she has to be the leader. If she can't prove her courage and cool under pressure and get them all will happen. 

 To make matters more complicated, in the midst of her trials, Carys is haunted by the voice of a deceased ancestor, whose exasperatingly cryptic messages warn her that she is not focusing on her true role as the guide for lost souls. Oh, is this the secret?

Still reliant on her friends and parents, Carys fears that too much dependence on others may lessen her credibility as a leader. She must find the courage to take charge, ultimately proving to her patronizing community that a girl can lead both the living and the dead with confidence, despite having only a conceptual understanding of the Theory of Relativity. You've got the 'she must' part but it is missing the 'or else' part. She must show leadership or they will cast her out forever. 

I grew up in a rustic home in the wooded mountains of Luray, Virginia and have inside knowledge on the secretive families that still thrive in the hidden hollows of the Appalachians, making a living however they see fit in them thar hills. I have degrees from both Virginia Tech and Hollins University and currently teach high school English in Roanoke, Virginia. I can see where this could be relevant.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.

Again I think this query is full of details of the wrong sort. We need to stop worrying about hiding what our books are actually about. Don't be afraid to spell out those secrets. That is the only way to entice. Show us what makes your story unique. 

I'd say location plays a part in the uniqueness of this story. Now flesh out the rest and don't forget the genre. 


  1. I like the premise that you're working with for this query, but I wonder if you've gotten lost in the nitty gritty of your world. I recommend that you take a step back and look at the basic conflict of your novel: Main character wants X; if she doesn't get it, consequences. Usually this has some details that need to be explained first, and that's where the rest of your query letter comes in play. If your main character's goals don't make for enough interest, add in the antagonist for the formula: Protag wants X; antag wants Y; if protag doesn't stop antag from Y while also getting X, consequences will ensue.

    The reason I'm pulling back to such basic advice is that you've presented three pieces of conflict, but I have no idea which one is really important. Pick one, give us more details about it, and that should be all the time you have for your query letter. For the synopsis part of a query, you only get about 150-200 words, so you don't need to cover every subplot.

  2. Thank you both for the advice. I think the thing that I have struggled with, in the selling part of this process, is that my protag has one main conflict (with complications) until she realizes that, THAT conflict wasn't really the problem at all. She has something bigger to deal with, and she doesn't learn what it is right away, though it's hinted at via deceased ancestor's cryptic messages. So, I agree that I really have to step out of the story a bit and look at the big picture.

    The genre is YA. In the letters, I already sent to agents, I included the genre in my sentences regarding why I chose to send my letter to them, based on what they are looking for individually. I just didn't include it my sample here.

    I will definitely pull out the names and move the word count to the bottom. Actually, I plan to implement all the changes suggested. :>

    Thank you Michelle and Rena!

  3. In case anyone is curious, I've updated my query here: