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Author Topic: Shades of Darkness -- I will gladly return the favor by critiquing your query!  (Read 15294 times)
Denisa
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« on: November 04, 2014, 11:02:07 AM »

Latest revision on page 4 post # 56


Dear Agent,

Carla Dubrov was born immortal, but she, more than anyone, knows there is no such thing as true immortality. Eternity is a long time to make enemies, and sooner or later, everyone gets killed.

Carla herself has taken many lives, but the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given. Two hundred years ago, Anthony D’Cartey, the man she loved, gave his life to save hers. Now, she plans to repay that debt by saving his brother, Jason.

Not long after she arrives in Lake Forest, Jason’s friends start dying off, and it becomes clear that her enemies—the same enemies who killed Anthony—have tracked her down. And because of his connection to Carla, Jason is a target as well. She must find a way to keep him alive, but Jason wants nothing more than to see her gone from Lake Forest. He suspects she was involved in Anthony’s death, and he accuses her of luring the killer to his hometown. Carla cannot argue with that. All she can do is try to find and stop the killer before he or she strikes again. But, despite her best efforts, she always seems to stay one step behind.

The instincts that have kept her alive for so long are telling her to run, but she has no guarantees that the killer won't stop to finish Jason off before following her. She can’t leave him behind. She has grown to care about Jason, in spite of his animosity and mistrust. But staying has its own consequences that could lead to her own death.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a contemporary fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Denisa M
« Last Edit: May 05, 2015, 07:01:24 AM by Denisa » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2014, 11:23:42 AM »

I think there is some really good stuff in here. I'd take a look to see if you can combine your first two sentences into one, because it doesn't seem important that she was born immortal (as opposed to any other way of becoming that way) "she, more than anyone" seems unnecessary, "no such thing as true immortality" is great, so is the whole second sentence. I think if you could combine that part of the first with the second sentence, you could have a great, super clean hook that just screams STAKES and CONFLICT.

"the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given" is another great line. I don't know that you need the character's name, though. One place I think you could improve the outline is by explaining how she plans to save Jason. Well, more accurately, what the peril facing Jason is and how she knows about it (because it currently reads like she just goes to Lake Forest to hang out and wait for him to need saving).

"friends start dying off," sounds like what happens in an old folks home. I'm willing to bet they are being murdered, which is way more exciting than dying off. Splatter some blood on your query. Smiley

"He suspects she was involved in Anthony’s death, and he accuses her of luring the killer to his hometown" is probably the most important sentence in the query. It conveys the information fine, but lacks some of the flair from your earlier lines that really managed to convey the flavor of the book. Since I'm urging you to put your own spin on this (based on your demonstrated ability to do so in those earlier sentences) I think line-by-line suggestions will do more harm than good.

Now here is a HUGE suggestion, based only on the query and one that may be way off base. This looks marketable as HELL to me as a YA book, even if that takes some tweaking (I mean, your MC is hundreds or thousands of years old, so her age isn't really a factor). The YA folks on this board will know more than me on this, but I'm willing to bet you will go from a tough sell as adult contemp fantasy to a (relatively) easy sell as YA if you tweak the book as/if needed and market it that way.

This is also an all-call to the YA aficionados who might actually know what they are talking about.
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Pandean
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2014, 12:13:08 PM »

I think there is some really good stuff in here. I'd take a look to see if you can combine your first two sentences into one, because it doesn't seem important that she was born immortal (as opposed to any other way of becoming that way) "she, more than anyone" seems unnecessary, "no such thing as true immortality" is great, so is the whole second sentence. I think if you could combine that part of the first with the second sentence, you could have a great, super clean hook that just screams STAKES and CONFLICT.

"the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given" is another great line. I don't know that you need the character's name, though. One place I think you could improve the outline is by explaining how she plans to save Jason. Well, more accurately, what the peril facing Jason is and how she knows about it (because it currently reads like she just goes to Lake Forest to hang out and wait for him to need saving).

"friends start dying off," sounds like what happens in an old folks home. I'm willing to bet they are being murdered, which is way more exciting than dying off. Splatter some blood on your query. Smiley

"He suspects she was involved in Anthony’s death, and he accuses her of luring the killer to his hometown" is probably the most important sentence in the query. It conveys the information fine, but lacks some of the flair from your earlier lines that really managed to convey the flavor of the book. Since I'm urging you to put your own spin on this (based on your demonstrated ability to do so in those earlier sentences) I think line-by-line suggestions will do more harm than good.

Now here is a HUGE suggestion, based only on the query and one that may be way off base. This looks marketable as HELL to me as a YA book, even if that takes some tweaking (I mean, your MC is hundreds or thousands of years old, so her age isn't really a factor). The YA folks on this board will know more than me on this, but I'm willing to bet you will go from a tough sell as adult contemp fantasy to a (relatively) easy sell as YA if you tweak the book as/if needed and market it that way.

This is also an all-call to the YA aficionados who might actually know what they are talking about.


self-declared YA aficionados here.


I think this would work well for a YA or an adult book--or even NA. I think it would probably depend on the content matter and what she decides to do with it--if we're looking at Trilogy, YA might be better--if we're looking at 4+ books, usually you'll find that in Adult Urban/Contemporary Fantasy.

Right now, the market in Urban Fantasy for both adult AND YA is bloated and moving as slow as a slug with about as much repulsion, so I would say the bets are 50/50 whether one would sell better than the other. Fantasy is hard to break into--especially urban fantasy. I DO know that Women-centered Urban Fantasy with splashes of romance and shiz seems to do pretty good in the adult market. But there are a lot.

In Urban/Contemporary fantasy the main thing right now is for it to sell it has to be INCREDIBLY different.
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Denisa
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2014, 03:20:09 PM »

First of all I want to thank you for your very helpful feedback and advice. The book is ya in my opinion as well (the MC is two hundred years old, but Jason’s barely eighteen, a high school senior) I wasn’t sure it could pass as a young adult novel because of the MC’s age.

I think the book is different from most ya fantasy novels, because it doesn’t feature vampires or werewolves, witches, demons, angels, shape shifters. The characters are inspired by my sleep paralysis condition. The episodes are terrifying and I started to write about the ‘entities’ from my nightmares as treatment; I gave them names and faces, hopes and dreams, I made them laugh and cry. It gave me control over my fears.

I used "friends start dying off’’ and not killed, because the killer doesn’t actually murder them, but compels them to commit suicide. You are definitely right, I should explain this part better.

Thank you so much!
« Last Edit: March 31, 2015, 07:52:16 AM by Denisa » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2014, 03:37:45 PM »

First of all I want to thank you for your very helpful feedback and advice. The book is ya in my opinion as well (the MC is two hundred years old, but Jason’s barely eighteen, a high school senior) I wasn’t sure it could pass as a young adult novel because of the MC’s age.

I think the book is different from most ya fantasy novels, because it doesn’t feature vampires or werewolves, witches, demons, angels, shape shifters. The characters are inspired by my sleep paralysis condition. The episodes are tariffing and I started to write about the ‘entities’ from my nightmares as treatment; I gave them names and faces, hopes and dreams, I made them laugh and cry. It gave me control over my fears.

I used "friends start dying off’’ and not killed, because the killer doesn’t actually murder them, but compels them to commit suicide. You are definitely right, I should explain this part better.

Thank you so much!


if your MC is physically 18 or younger, she could definitely be a YA protag.

As for your sleep paralysis, I used to get that a lot when I was a child. It was awful. I totally feel for you.
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2014, 06:55:46 PM »

Hey guys! Any feedback you can offer would be most appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Dear Agent,

Carla Dubrov was born immortal, but she, more than anyone, knows there is no such thing as true immortality. Eternity is a long time to make enemies, and sooner or later, everyone gets killed.

Carla herself has taken many lives, but the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given. Two hundred years ago, Anthony D’Cartey, the man she loved, gave his life to save hers. Now, she plans to repay that debt by saving his brother, eighteen-year-old - though that begs the question of how someone who died 200 years ago HAS a brother that young... just going by the other post on hereJason. I think you should put whatever threat he faces right here, otherwise, I don't blame him for assuming she's the reason his friends are dying off

Not long after she arrives in Lake Forest, Jason’s friends start dying off make more vivid - if they are compelled to commit suicide, say so, ideally with some specific detail[/color], and it becomes clear that her enemies—the same enemies who killed Anthonyhave tracked her down. And because of his connection to Carla, Jason is a target as well. She must find a way to keep him alive, but Jason wants nothing more than to see her gone from Lake Forest. He suspects she was involved in Anthony’s death,jumping into his POV, otherwise and he accuses her of luring the killer to his hometown. Carla cannot argue with that. All sheCarla can do is try to find and stop the killer How? What does she do, or need to do? before he or she strikes again. But, despite her best efforts, she always seems to stay one step behind. Why so? Maybe an example of what she tries and fails to do - show, rather than tell

The instincts that have kept her alive for so long Such as? are telling her to run, but she has no guarantees that the killer won't stop to finish Jason off before following her. She can’t leave him behind. She has grown to care about Jason why?, in spite of his animosity and mistrust. But staying has its own consequences that could lead to her own death.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a contemporary fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Denisa M


Although you have a 200-year old MC, this reads as YA or possibly New Adult to me - it's partly the voice, here, and it just feels on the younger side. Maybe it's me.

While there do seem to be some unique elements, a lot of it is very vague. It's not clear what she does, specifically, to save Jason, or what draws her to him beyond a sense of obligation to her first love.

I had sleep paralysis too, but never faced any entities - just frustrating physical symptoms where I had to learn how to relax and fall back asleep rather than freak out and try to hit the wall or something.
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Denisa
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2014, 07:06:26 AM »

Dear Agent,

There is no such thing as true immortality. Eternity is a long time to make enemies, and Carla Dubrov knows that sooner or later, everyone gets killed.

Carla herself has taken the lives of many immortals, but the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given. Two hundred years ago, the man she loved gave his life to save hers.
Now, his brother’s reckless search for the truth behind Anthony’s death has attracted attention that is almost certain to turn deadly. But Carla plans to repay her debt to Anthony by saving his brother, Jason, from an enemy he lacks the experience to fight on his own.

Hoping to get to Jason before a dangerous killer can, Carla rushes to Lake Forest. Shortly after her arrival, one of Jason’s friends hangs herself not far from his home, and another cuts his wrists in Carla’s bedroom. With hundreds of years of experience dealing with deadly adversaries, Carla knows that things are never as simple as they appear. Jason’s friends have been compelled to commit suicide, in order to send a message: her enemies—the same enemies who killed Anthony—have found them. And the stronger Jason’s connection to her, the more danger he is in. Desperate to find a way to keep him alive, Carla’s plans are frustrated by the fact that Jason wants nothing to do with her. He’s convinced she was involved in Anthony’s death, and he accuses her of being responsible for his friends’ deaths as well, by luring the killer to his hometown. Unable to argue with that, all Carla can do is try to find and stop the killer before he or she strikes again. But for reasons she can’t begin to fathom, she always seems to stay one step behind. 

The instincts that have kept her alive for so long are telling her to run, but she has no guarantees that the killer won’t stop to finish Jason off before following her. She can’t leave him behind. She has grown to care about Jason, in spite of his animosity and mistrust. But staying also has consequences, one of which could very well be her own death.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a young adult fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Denisa M
« Last Edit: November 05, 2014, 07:15:51 AM by Denisa » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2014, 05:12:31 PM »

Dear Agent,

There is no such thing as true immortality. Eternity is a long time to make enemies, and Carla Dubrov knows that sooner or later, everyone gets killed. cool hook

Carla herself has taken the lives of many immortals, but the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given. Two hundred years ago, the man she loved gave his life to save hers.
Now, his brother’s reckless search for the truth behind Anthony’s uhhh who's Anthony? death has attracted attention that is almost certain to turn deadly. But Carla plans to repay her debt to Anthony by saving his brother, Jason, from an enemy he lacks the experience to fight on his own.

Hoping to get to Jason before a dangerous killer can, Carla rushes to Lake Forest. Shortly after her arrival, one of Jason’s friends hangs herself not far from his home, and another cuts his wrists in Carla’s bedroom. With hundreds of years of experience dealing with deadly adversaries, Carla knows that things are never as simple as they appear. Jason’s friends have been compelled to commit suicide, in order to send a message: her enemies—the same enemies who killed Anthony—have found them. And the stronger Jason’s connection to her, the more danger he is in. Desperate to find a way to keep him alive, Carla’s plans are frustrated by the fact that Jason wants nothing to do with her. He’s convinced she was involved in Anthony’s death, and he accuses her of being responsible for his friends’ deaths as well, by luring the killer to his hometown. Unable to argue with that, all Carla can do is try to find and stop the killer before he or she strikes again. But for reasons she can’t begin to fathom, she always seems to stay one step behind.   This paragraph is a lot. Can you whittle it down to like three sentences and then be done with the query? Maybe the realization that the suicides were compelled would be a nifty breaking point Smiley

The instincts that have kept her alive for so long are telling her to run, but she has no guarantees that the killer won’t stop to finish Jason off before following her. She can’t leave him behind. She has grown to care about Jason, in spite of his animosity and mistrust. But staying also has consequences, one of which could very well be her own death.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a young adult fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Denisa M

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Denisa
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« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2014, 04:26:28 AM »

Thank you, everyone! Your feedback and suggestions are much appreciated. I'm currently revising my query, and I'll post it soon. 
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Denisa
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« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2014, 12:41:42 PM »


Dear Agent,

There is no such thing as true immortality. Eternity is a long time to make enemies, and Carla Dubrov knows that sooner or later, everyone gets killed.

To survive, Carla has taken the lives of many immortals, but the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given. Anthony, the man she loved, sacrificed himself for her. Now, two hundred years later, she can finally repay her debt by saving his brother, Jason. The boy’s reckless search for Anthony’s killers has attracted attention that is certain to turn deadly. No one knew Anthony had a living brother—not even Carla—and for Jason’s own sake, that secret should have never been revealed.

When two of Jason’s friends are compelled to commit suicide it becomes clear that Carla’s enemies—the same enemies who killed Anthony—have found them. Carla’s plans to keep him alive are frustrated by the fact that Jason wants nothing to do with her; he is convinced she was involved in Anthony’s death, and he accuses her of luring the killer to his hometown. All Carla can do to protect him is try to find and stop the killer before he or she gets to Jason. Despite all of her efforts, her adversary is always one step ahead. As the deadly game unfolds, it becomes clear that Carla is the ultimate target. Jason is simply the means to making her suffer.

The instincts that have kept her alive for so long are telling her to run, but she has no guarantees that the killer won’t stop to finish Jason off before following her.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a contemporary fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Denisa M
« Last Edit: November 10, 2014, 12:58:13 PM by Denisa » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2014, 10:25:45 PM »

Quote
Dear Agent,

There is no such thing as true immortality. Eternity is a long time to make enemies, and Carla Dubrov knows that sooner or later, everyone gets killed.

To survive, Carla has taken the lives of many immortals, but the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given. Anthony, the man she loved, sacrificed himself for her. Now, two hundred years later, she can finally repay her debt by saving his brother, Jason. The boy’s (he doesn’t sound like a boy. Is he really? Or is he a young man?) reckless search for Anthony’s killers has attracted attention that is certain to turn deadly. No one knew Anthony had a living brother—not even Carla—and for Jason’s own sake, that secret should have never been revealed. (I think you can tighten this all down to something like, “Now the one who killed Anthony is out to kill Jason.”)

When two of Jason’s friends are compelled to commit suicide it becomes clear that Carla’s enemies—the same enemies who killed Anthony—have found them (I think you can take the part of Jason’s friends out. I think you can just say that the enemies have found Carla and Jason. I think that’s all we need to know). Carla’s plans to keep him alive are frustrated by the fact that Jason wants nothing to do with her; he is convinced she was involved in Anthony’s death, and he accuses her of luring the killer to his hometown. All Carla can do to protect him is try to find and stop the killer before he or she gets to Jason. Despite all of her efforts, her adversary is always one step ahead. As the deadly game unfolds, it becomes clear that Carla is the ultimate target. Jason is simply the means to making her suffer.

The instincts that have kept her alive for so long are telling her to run, but she has no guarantees that the killer won’t stop to finish Jason off before following her. (This may just be my opinion, but I feel you can add one more sentences to end this off with a punch and leave the agent on a cliffhanger.)

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a contemporary fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Denisa M

Hi, I think you’re close! Just a bit if tweaking, and you’ll be there. I hope my feedback helps. Good luck!
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Denisa
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« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2015, 04:39:08 AM »

Hi guys! I have a new draft for my query and would love to hear your opinion. I will gladly return the favor if you leave a link to your work, or the title of your novel.

Dear…,

Carla Dubrov has taken the lives of many immortals, but the one that will forever haunt her was not taken. It was given.

Bad blood has always run between the Dubrovs and D’Carteys. The Dubrovs and their kind, the Shadows, can alter a human’s mind, forcing them to kill, or hurt themselves and others. They feed on human misery, and it is the responsibility of the D’Carteys and their kind, the Luminaries, to make sure no innocent dies at the whims of their enemy. When Carla falls in love with Anthony D’Cartey, her father condemns her to death. Anthony gives his life to save her, but his murder starts a war Carla’s father has long yearned for.

After two hundred years of heartbreak and guilt, Carla learns that Anthony has an eighteen-year-old brother, Jason. Jason has been digging into his family’s past, and once his identity is revealed, Carla’s father sends an assassin to Lake Forest, Illinois. Her father wants nothing more than to bring D’Cartey to his knees by killing his second son as well. Now, Carla can finally honor Anthony’s sacrifice by saving his brother.

Soon after Carla arrives in Jason’s hometown, her father’s assassin compels two of Jason’s friends to commit suicide. The killer could be anyone, but its ruthless game suggests it’s someone with a personal grudge against her. With no other suspect, Jason holds Carla responsible for the death of his friends. Proving herself innocent is no easy task, but when her own life is threatened, and Jason discovers she is the girl his brother loved and died for, he sets aside his resentment and starts trusting her. Carla is the only one who can tell him what happened to Anthony, the brother he never knew.

As the deadly game comes to an end and the assassin reveals its true identity, Carla realizes she has always been the target. Caught in her father's trap, Carla is given three choices: run and let Jason die for her just as Anthony did two centuries ago, or right her wrongs and join her father’s war against the Luminaries. The third isn’t much of a choice: stay, fight, die and bring Jason down with her.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a young adult contemporary fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Denisa M
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« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2015, 10:20:25 AM »

Personally I liked the first one. 

You seem to be going in a different direction with the last one and I think only you can decide what feel you want to give the query.

For the first few additions I got the impression that Jason knew who she was and has damn good reasons for mistrusting her, but she is determined to save him anyway. Yet, in the last one he doesn't know who she is when she arrives and once he knows he now puts his trust in her.  I know that you will only be presenting one of these scenarios to the agent, and therefore they won't see the inconsistency that I see, but one of them is an accurate representation of the novel and one of them is not.
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« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2015, 12:13:28 PM »

I think the last one sounds like you just got finished bingeing on Highlander.

I hope you take this as the food for thought I intend it to be. The immortality card has been played almost as much as the vampire card. You need to play up the difference between yours and the others.

The hardest part of immortality is holding on to your sanity. Carla Dubrov isn't sure all of her two hundred years have been sane. It is good to be able to outlive your enemies. Outliving you friends and lovers is something else. Ans so on.
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« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2015, 01:40:11 PM »

I also think the first one was better. This one starts with a big chunk of backstory and really tells you more than you need to know in a query. I also agree that you need to do a better job of selling what's unique about your story; a lot of this is either stuff I've seen before or drawn in very broad strokes (people who feed on misery versus people who protect the innocent).
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