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Author Topic: Adult Fantasy, FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL  (Read 416 times)
Sabreur
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« on: June 13, 2018, 02:13:38 PM »

Please tear this apart: I’m REALLY tired of form rejections. Thanks a bunch.

Dear _____,

(I’ll skip the intro, which is tailored to each agent.)

FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL follows Artis t’Aris Sheron, younger son of an emperor, who unwittingly and unwillingly becomes the pivotal character in a struggle between the Seven Gods and the forces of chaos. The tale is narrated by Artie himself, several generations after he became the Grand Emperor and the greatest mage in history.

As the story opens he does not appear to be the stuff of heroes. A dabbler by nature, he is an indifferent scholar, an inadequate swordsman, a gifted but undisciplined mage, and wholly disinterested in affairs of state. He also tends to let his mouth run merrily along without restraint, which often leads to trouble. He is more than reluctant to play any sort of significant role in the events of his time, and as he sets out to save—not just a world, but an entire universe—he is convinced a mistake of preposterous proportions has been made somewhere along the line.

FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL is a debut Adult epic fantasy. While the protagonist is male, there are also strong female characters, who can both kick ass and keep a man sane when needed. It is book one of three, and is complete at 110k words. Book two is also complete, at 112k words, and book three is in progress, at 48k words.

For myself, I am a PhD neurochemist, fencing instructor, and seventh-dan black belt in karate—which isn’t germane, but is unusual. Aside from this project, I have self-published a modestly successful Regency romance in three volumes:______ _____ (15,000 volumes sold, average price $6.43). I know—a black-belt-fencing-instructor writing Regency romances, but I warn you: you laugh at your peril. I work at writing. I am also malleable, given reasonable criticism.

The first five pages follow. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 03:01:01 PM »



FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL follows Artis t’Aris Sheron,  younger son of an emperor, who unwittingly and unwillingly becomes the pivotal character in a struggle between the Seven Gods and the forces of chaos. ( I crossed some out as personally found sentence too long. ) The tale is narrated by Artie himself, is the younger son of the emperor, but it's been several generations since he became the Grand Emperor and the greatest mage in history.

Agents don't like the 'this is a story', 'this is narrated by' type of stuff. I crossed out the title as on QT people tend to put the 'housekeeping' down the bottom, at least when posting. Not sure why

As the story opens he Artis does not appear to be the stuff of heroes.( I like that line
Smiley)  A dabbler by nature, he is an indifferent scholar, an inadequate swordsman, a gifted but undisciplined mage, and wholly disinterested in affairs of state. (  I think this is a bit long. Maybe try to break the different aspects of him up a bit, as I love what you are saying but it's reading too fast as the list that it is and I'd personally like you to drag it out somehow. I know not always easy/possible in a query so perhaps limit list to three if you can't weave some of these things into the query ) He also tends to let his mouth run merrily along without restraint, ( I like this )  which often leads to trouble. Unfortunately He is more than reluctant to play any sort of significant role in the events of his time, and as he sets out to save—not just a world, but an entire universe—he is convinced a mistake of preposterous proportions has been made somewhere along the line.  ( I don't mind the last line. ( It's a little vague at first but ends with a nice voicey character thing )  but I think you need more plot in-between what you have and the last line.

After 'events of his time' I'd add a 'but when' and then explain how he is dragged into a journey or quest etc.


I really love the sound of your character. Query just needs more plot and twists and stakes and stuff but as far as I'm concerned you achieved the hardest part already, making me care.

With the first sentence I couldn't help but think of the term 'piggy in the middle' but I'm guessing that tone is all wrong for the query  but I think it needs something.


Your bio 'you laugh at your peril' made me laugh  Grin

« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 03:13:41 PM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
Sabreur
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 03:19:54 PM »

Thanks so much Pineapplejuice: this is the sort of thing I need. Karma for you!
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Munley
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 05:41:55 PM »

I'll focus on the story part of the query. I see as a major problem that this section barely even hints at events/plot, but includes:

-- the situation Artis he's facing (reluctant ruler/hero, a role he doesn't appear to be suited for). Not a bad start.

-- a list of Artis t’Aris Sheron's personality traits and attitudes and thoughts

-- a statement that he has some vague sense that some mistake had been made somewhere along the line

The reader gets no opportunity to come to their own impressions of Atis based on what he does because he doesn't do anything (in the query. I'm sure he does things in the book). You supply all of the impressions for the reader. Any narrative, in my opinion, is more engaging when readers get to observe something going on and have some of their own Aha! moments when they realize something about the character.

It sounds like you have the makings of a very interesting book and a unique main character, but the query needs to introduce him in a less static way, not just tell us where he stands on matters. So he thinks this or feels that, but what does he do, given how he thinks an feels?
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Sabreur
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2018, 05:57:02 PM »

Thanks, Munley! The obvious certainly is obvious once you see it, isn’t it? Would you believe I have read every single critique on QueryShark, as well as Patrick’s advice, and I still make all the mistakes there are. Darn. Thanks again.
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mgmystery
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« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2018, 08:48:57 AM »

I'm going to use quite a bit of strike through here, but please don't be offended. Agents get a ton of queries, so most of them prefer short and businesslike. Like you mentioned in an earlier comment " My advice is worth what you paid for it,"  Grin but I hope it helps!

FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL follows Artis t’Aris Sheron, younger son of an emperor, who unwittingly and unwillingly becomes the pivotal character in a struggle between the Seven Gods and the forces of chaos. The tale is narrated by Artie himself, several generations after he became the Grand Emperor and the greatest mage in history.

As the story opens he does not appear to be Artie is notthe stuff of heroes. A dabbler by nature, he is an indifferent scholar, an inadequate swordsman, a gifted but undisciplined mage, and wholly disinterested in affairs of state. He also tends to let his mouth run merrily along without restraint, which often leads to trouble. (I like this introduction of Artie  Smiley) He is more than reluctant to play any sort of significant role in the events of his time, and as he sets out to save—not just a world, but an entire universe—he is convinced a mistake of preposterous proportions has been made somewhere along the line.

You need a paragraph here that describes the plot. What happens that makes Artie become the guy to save the universe? What is his biggest obstacle? What specifically happens if he fails? It's important to add exact details to this paragraph so agents will realize why your hero saves the world story is unique.

FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL is a debut Adult epic fantasy. While the protagonist is male, there are also strong female characters, who can both kick ass and keep a man sane when needed. (I understand why you included this, but it could do more harm than good.) It is book one of three, and is complete at 110k 110,000 words. The story is makes a great stand-alone, but has series potential.Book two is also complete, at 112k words, and book three is in progress, at 48k words. (Agents often suggest that you don't continue spending your time on a series when the first book isn't a proven sale. These books might be great, but now is not the time to tell your potential agent about them. Maybe after they read the full and you get The Call.

For myself, I am a PhD neurochemist, fencing instructor, and seventh-dan black belt in karate (Do any of these things add expertise to this story? Only keep what's relevant and maybe mention how it relates.)which isn’t germane, but is unusual. Aside from this project, I have self-published a modestly successful Regency romance in three volumes:______ _____ (15,000 volumes sold, average price $6.43). I know—a black-belt-fencing-instructor writing Regency romances, but I warn you: you laugh at your peril. I work at writing. I am also malleable, given reasonable criticism.
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Sabreur
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« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2018, 09:07:35 AM »

Thanks, mgmystery: excellent advice. But quick question--this is NOT a standalone, and cannot be. What is my best course, do you think?
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maryj59
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« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2018, 02:45:13 PM »

Oh, ouch! I can sympathize, since I have a sequel to my middle grade written already and don't yet have an agent for the first book! However, unlike me, and like Tolkien, who taught so much to so many of us, it sounds as if you have a single story in three volumes. And, compared to Tolkien, your book is long. Honestly, The Lord of the Rings is remarkably brief by today's standards.

Is there a way you can revise slightly so that your first volume could stand alone, yet still lead in to the sequel? That's probably the safest way to go.

As to the query, I agree with the others that I very much like the way you introduce your main character, but that we need to see more of his dilemma. What are the stakes? Again, I know from experience it can be easy to leave them out!

Good luck.
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mgmystery
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« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2018, 07:29:57 AM »

Sabreur, I honestly don't know. I know it's very common for fantasy to be part of a trilogy or a series, so I'd think there's an expected way to go about this situation in a query letter. Maybe post the question in query help so everyone can see the question aside from your full query.
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Munley
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Mr. Fluff -- from the SPCA


« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2018, 07:42:27 AM »

I typed "querying a fiction series" in a Google search and got quite a few hits, some from literary agents, some from other writers. No idea which of those hits might be most helpful to you, so it's probably best for you to sample them and see what you think.
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Denisa
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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2018, 07:39:05 AM »

Hi! Thanks for your feedback on my query.

As for your query, I think you do a great job at describing the MC. What you're missing is the plot. Though we get a good idea of who he is, we don't really know what he's facing, what is at stake for him. And we need to know that because that's where the story is. I'll keep an eye out for you revision, hopefully I'll be able to help more, do a line by line critique.
Oh, and about your bio, it isn't really relevant unless it's relevant to the story you're writing. For example G. R. R. Martin is a medieval historian, so that would be relevant for the Game of Thrones because GOT is set in a medieval setting. So unless you book is about some mysterious brain disease, or martial arts, it's not really relevant.   
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markparker1690
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« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2018, 09:52:37 AM »

So I've not really critiqued a query before but here goes. . .


FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL follows Artis t’Aris Sheron, younger (1) son of an emperor, who unwittingly and unwillingly becomes the pivotal character in a struggle between the Seven Gods and the forces of chaos. The tale is narrated by Artie himself, several generations after he became the Grand Emperor (2) and the greatest mage in history.

As the story opens (3) he does not appear to be the stuff of heroes. A dabbler by nature, he is an indifferent scholar, an inadequate swordsman, a gifted but undisciplined mage, and wholly disinterested in affairs of state. He also tends to let his mouth run merrily (4) along without restraint, which often leads to trouble. He is more than reluctant (5) to play any sort of significant role in the events of his time, and as he sets out to save—not just a world, but an entire universe—he is convinced a mistake of preposterous proportions (6) has been made somewhere along the line.

FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL is a debut Adult epic fantasy. While the protagonist is male, there are also strong female characters, who can both kick ass and keep a man sane when needed. It is book one of three, and is complete at 110k words. Book two is also complete, at 112k words, and book three is in progress, at 48k words.



1. A real nitpick here, but ‘younger’ doesn’t quite read right. If he’s the youngest, state that. If however, he’s like the second son out of three or something, I would go with that personally.

2. What is his reason for telling the story now? Why has he waited so long?

3. I would also start with ‘He does not appear. . .’

4. As there is such limited space in a query, I would think carefully on using adverbs. I fall into the same trap!

5. I would take care not to overdo the reluctance angle. You've already mentioned that he is disinterested in affairs of the state. Too much and I start to wonder why I should root for such a passive character.

6. What is this mistake? I’m assuming this is the story’s first major plot point?



I agree with mgm mystery in that you need a paragraph explaining the plot, perhaps using the mistake as a starting point. Who made it? Why does it matter? How does it change/affect Artie's life?

As for your standalone vs. series issue, I am in the same boat (my series has five! :S). However, unless I can convince someone to take a chance on my first book on its own merits then the next four won't see the light of day. To an agent, those four don't exist. So I'm not even making light of the fact that there will be others. If the first one is strong enough, an agent/publisher will expect to see a next installment, particularly for my epic fantasy genre.
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Sabreur
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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2018, 12:41:10 PM »

My thanks to everyone. I don’t suppose it’s just me, but I find writing queries MUCH harder than writing novels. I went through the advice, which was all excellent, as well as another review of Patrick’s basics. With regard to the question of trilogies, the best advice I found was here: https://tightenyourquery.com/2017/07/13/hook-me-lead-with-your-inciting-incident/. I plan to start a new topic under Query Help to kick off a longer discussion.

New version:

Artis t’Aris Sheron, second son of the Emperor, knows things are going badly wrong when his mentor, Materius, calmly announces that he has lost the struggle with the unknown magical force Artie has gone to investigate, and that he is going to blow up the mountain Artie is standing on. On the count of three: one … two … three …

When Artie wakes up days later, he finds he has unwittingly and unwillingly been selected by the Seven Gods to act for Them against Their Enemy. This was his first brush with It. To defeat It, Artie will first have to best the greatest swordsman in history in a duel, and learn to control magic that would challenge the Gods themselves. 

Artie, however, doesn’t see himself as the stuff of heroes. A dabbler by nature, he is a sometime swordsman, an undisciplined junior mage, and an indifferent scholar. He also tends to let his mouth run merrily along without restraint, which often leads to trouble. He has these particular qualities in mind when he tries, with regrets, to decline Their nomination. But he learns that if he does, everyone he loves—everyone he knows, in fact—will die, or worse. He accepts, having no choice, but is certain that a mistake of preposterous proportions has been made somewhere along the line.

His first task is to survive long enough to attempt the other two. He flees the Citadel in company with a small group to help face his challenges, including as guide and advisor Materius’ own mentor—who has a woefully adolescent sense of humor. They do keep him alive—at the cost of another chunk of the mountains, a detour to another reality, and deadly confrontations with the Enemy’s allies. An adventure is the worst time you've ever had, once you're safe at home.

FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL is a debut Adult Epic Fantasy, the first of a planned trilogy, and complete at 110k words. Book two is complete at 112k, and book three is currently at 48k.

« Last Edit: June 18, 2018, 12:43:58 PM by Sabreur » Logged
mgmystery
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« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2018, 07:33:18 AM »

I get why you changed the order of things here, but I liked your original opening. I'm not always a fan of "passive characters" but Artie seems like a fun guy that doesn't take life too seriously. Being introduced to him in this way makes me want to root for him. Hearing the same info later makes it sound like an excuse. (Sorry for making your job even more difficult by going the opposite direction here--cause yep, queries can be harder than novels!) I changed up the order below. I like your third paragraph, but I'm torn as to whether you should have more specific detail. Hopefully others will weigh in.

Artie, the youngest son of the Emperor is not the stuff of heroes. A dabbler by nature, he is an indifferent scholar, an inadequate swordsman, a gifted but undisciplined mage, and wholly disinterested in affairs of state. He also tends to let his mouth run merrily along without restraint, which often leads to trouble. Things go badly wrong when his mentor, Materius, calmly announces that he has lost the struggle with the unknown magical force Artie has gone to investigate, and that he is going to blow up the mountain Artie is standing on. On the count of three: one … two … three …

When Artie wakes up days later, he finds he has unwittingly and unwillingly been selected by the Seven Gods to act for Them against Their Enemy. This was his first brush with It. (I understand the mystery here, but I think you need to be more clear. Either explain how Artie doesn't know what It is, or let us know what terrible beast he's facing.) To defeat It, Artie will first have to best the greatest swordsman in history in a duel, and learn to control magic that would challenge the Gods themselves. Knowing he's not the man for the job, Artie tries, with regrets, to decline Their nomination. But he learns that if he does, everyone he loves—everyone he knows, in fact—will die, or worse. (What is worse than death?) He accepts, having no choice, but is certain that a mistake of preposterous proportions has been made somewhere along the line.

His first task is to survive long enough to attempt the other two. He flees the Citadel in company with a small group to help face his challenges, including as guide and advisor Materius’ own mentor (I feel like if you mention the advisor, the others should be mentioned too. FWIW, the earlier mention showed Materius' humor.)—who has a woefully adolescent sense of humor. They do keep him alive—at the cost of another chunk of the mountains, a detour to another reality, and deadly confrontations with the Enemy’s allies. An adventure is the worst time you've ever had, once you're safe at home. [color=orange(I like this  Smiley)[/color]

FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL is a debut Adult Epic Fantasy, the first of a planned trilogy, and complete at 110k words. Book two is complete at 112k, and book three is currently at 48k. (I read the post and I think you could leave out the word counts for books 2 & 3. Currently drafting makes sense, but the word count for book 3 sounds like you're stuck. Querying is a long process, so hopefully that number will be changing constantly.)
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Sabreur
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« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2018, 08:47:32 AM »

Thanks so much, mgmystery. What I have been trying to keep in mind is the earlier comments about plot, the advice from agents’ blogs about not querying based on the plot for the whole trilogy, and keeping my MC’s character in the forefront. He is a Ferris Bueller sort of character, and the lightness of the work is one of the key elements in setting it apart from the rest of the genre. Re-working your thoughts, this is what I came up with:

Artis t’Aris Sheron, the second son of the Emperor, is not the stuff of heroes. A dabbler by nature, he is a sometime swordsman, an undisciplined junior mage, and an indifferent scholar. He also tends to let his mouth run merrily along without restraint, which often leads to trouble. His life takes a turn for the terrible when his mentor, Materius, calmly announces that he has lost the struggle with the unknown magical force Artie is investigating, and that he is going to blow up the mountain Artie is standing on. At the count of one … two … three …

When Artie wakes up days later, he finds he has unwittingly and unwillingly been selected by the Seven Gods to act for Them against Grankarash, the ravening embodiment of chaos. The mountain was his first brush with It. Until now, he had been unaware It existed, or even that the Gods were real, so this comes as rather a shock.

To defeat Grankarash, Artie will first have to best the greatest swordsman in history in a duel and learn to control magic that would challenge the Gods themselves. Artie tries, with regrets, to decline Their nomination. But he learns that if he does, everyone he loves—everyone he knows—will die; or worse, become fodder and breeders for the monsters Grankarash uses for soldiers. The honor and responsibilities of his House send him forward, but Artie is sure a mistake of preposterous proportions has been made somewhere along the line.

His first task is to survive long enough to attempt the other two. He flees the Citadel with a small group for support. Between his friends and the Gods, he does survive—at the cost of another chunk of the mountains, a detour to another reality, and deadly confrontations with the Enemy’s allies. An adventure is the worst time you've ever had, once you're safe at home.

FLIGHT FROM THE CITADEL is a debut Adult Epic Fantasy, the first of a planned trilogy, and complete at 110k words. Book two is complete and three is in progress.
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