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“There were no alarms to wake up to in the afterlife. Time came and went as it pleased; it was a construct lost on the dead.
Unfortunately, the lack of an alarm did not mean Sam wasn’t running on a schedule.”

Hi Lorettakate. 

I really like the opening but agree with Kaperton about triple negatives impeding flow.  I'd also delete one of the alarms.

Reading it several times, I think you risk diluting impact... "Time came and went as it pleased; it was a construct lost on the dead. "  First lines are crucial so I would pare it down.

You might consider "time was irrelevant to the dead" instead of "time was a construct lost on the dead..."    This is imperfect and I apologise for slashing :) but gives you an idea of how much more gripping your opening could be.

There were no alarms to wake up to in the afterlife.  Time was irrelevant to the dead and yet Sam was still running on a schedule." 
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Query Review / Re: The House on Holten Street Paranormal Literary
« Last post by kaperton on Yesterday at 08:47:36 PM »
Let me start by saying that I write (and mostly read) romance, so this is not my genre at all. So if my comments help you, great. If not, ignore them and listen to someone who knows more about paranormal stuff.

I know how hard it is to get a 76K-word story across in 300 words or so, and I'm sure there's a lot more to your story than you're able to fit in a query letter, but I'm not seeing anything that makes this story jump out at me as unique from any other ghost story. Ghosts of previous residents are haunting an old house...a child is the only one who can see them... What makes your story different? I have no doubt that there are plenty of details that make it stand out, but we're just not getting it from this letter.

The handprint under the wallpaper was a great image, and intriguing. Also, the fact that it's set in the 1960s sounds cool--how is that important in the story? What is it about the 60s that made you choose that era as opposed to the present time? If you could inject those kinds of details, I think that would help a lot. 
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I absolutely love it. I would read this.
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I know most industry professionals recommend against starting a book with waking up unless it’s twisted. My question is this twisted enough? I really love this introduction, but it can still change. What are your thoughts??

“There were no alarms to wake up to in the afterlife. Time came and went as it pleased; it was a construct lost on the dead.
Unfortunately, the lack of an alarm did not mean Sam wasn’t running on a schedule.”

I really like it, but the kind of triple negative (lack of...did not mean...wasn't) in the second sentence was hard for my brain. Not that I didn't get it, but it slowed me down a little because I had to reread it. I don't know if that's what you want for your 2nd sentence. Then again, that could just be a me problem.
 
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Writing Contests / Re: Clash of the Query Letters
« Last post by Talean on Yesterday at 04:03:49 PM »
They've picked their shortlist of queries.

Claudette Manzanares—Don't Say Anything
Michael Juge—Smells like Time Travel
Michelle Westlake—A Field Guide to Dragons and Other Exotic Animals
Alexander X. Travasso—Rehearsing for Death: A Memoir
Christine Wade—A Charm of Finches
Synte Peacock—Project Iceworm
Anneliese Schultz—After This World
Mathew Kellerman—The Awakening
Bruce Byfield—The Bone Ransom
Lindsey Anderson—The Brightest Light on the Horizon

Decision to be made in a week or two.
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Query Review / Adult Psychological Fantasy/Horror DEATH’S RECEPTIONIST
« Last post by Lorettakate on Yesterday at 01:26:10 PM »
Thank you in advance for your help!!!!!!!

Dear Agent XXX:

[Personalized Introduction] DEATH’S RECEPTIONIST is a dual POV Psychological Fantasy/Horror of about 75k words. The story blends literary and commercial fiction elements and follows two dead souls, with a tone similar to Leigh Bardugo’s HELL BENT meets V.E. Schwab’s VICIOUS.

Moira, the deity embodiment of death,  has needed a vacation since the 1300s. A few centuries later, she has finally decided to take one. But when she fails to return by the expected date, her receptionist, Sam, fears the worst: the oldest deity in all planes and worlds has abandoned them all and sought solace someplace else. To make matters worse, souls are disappearing from the afterlife as though they never existed in the first place. Ill-equipped and under-prepared, Sam must act as Death and discover why souls are going missing or risk destroying the afterlife.

Death, however, has not abandoned her post. While on a peaceful hike, she is deity-napped from the trail. She wakes up to an underground world ruled by a cult that sacrifices human lives to extend their own. Suddenly the mysteries that have been haunting the afterlife for months are starting to unravel. The only problem is: Moira had to give up most of her power in order to leave the afterlife, leaving her stranded with a nearly mortal body and no way of escaping.

I am a legal assistant and victim advocate for a County Attorney’s Office in Arizona. [Personalization regarding previous books/requests] I have included [personalized] according to your agency’s guidelines. The full and polished manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you
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I know most industry professionals recommend against starting a book with waking up unless it’s twisted. My question is this twisted enough? I really love this introduction, but it can still change. What are your thoughts??

“There were no alarms to wake up to in the afterlife. Time came and went as it pleased; it was a construct lost on the dead.
Unfortunately, the lack of an alarm did not mean Sam wasn’t running on a schedule.”
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Lemme know what you think!!!!

“Death is deity-napped by a bloodthirsty cult on her first vacation in eternity, leaving her unaware receptionist in charge of the entire afterlife.”
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Welcome New Users / Re: Hello from Minnesota!
« Last post by emilyrpf on Yesterday at 11:37:10 AM »
Greetings and salutations!

I wish you all the best, and hope your query experience goes better than the majority of us here!

Thanks Talean! It doesn't feel quite right to say I hope so too? Lol, but I do hope it goes well! This is the second novel I've queried, I gave up on the first one and am doing a complete rewrite on it now.

Welcome, Emilyrpf! I'm a writer of romance as well, but in the YA genre.

Hi kaperton! Thank you! Always good to meet other romance writers!
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Query Review / The House on Holten Street Paranormal Literary
« Last post by JacquesD on Yesterday at 10:22:46 AM »
Hello everyone, and thank you in advance. I've been sending this novel out a bit and haven't been seeing the bites that I'd hoped for, so I decided to tweak the query a bit. I'd love some feedback on this.

The House on Holten Street is a 76,000 word paranormal literary novel set in the 1960’s.

Young Jan Moreau’s mother has almost entirely shut down, and her once warm father is now distant and argumentative. To top it off, Jan begins to notice signs of a watchful spirit pervading every corner of their quaint New England house—a house that her father had once lovingly restored. Inspired by an assignment given in school and the desire to help her parents get back to how they once were, Jan goes in search of answers. Little by little, she uncovers details of others that have lived in the house, and learns that her mother isn’t the first to be plagued by this strange affliction. Spurred on by a scrap of wallpaper that’s peeled off to reveal a hidden handprint, and shadows of the past, Jan struggles to be heard by her parents, who see her only as a child, naive of the world of adults. While Jan's mother knows that there is something lurking in their house, her father angrily refuses to admit that it is anything more than a fantasy.

Time goes on and supernatural phenomena become both more frequent and more threatening. An inevitable catastrophe looms like a storm cloud on the horizon. Jan only has her best friend, a ouija board, and clues left by the house to prevent the ghost of a past inhabitant of the house from ripping her family apart. This novel could be compared to works like The Upstairs House, and would appeal to fans of Stephen Graham Jones, and Karen Russell.

After receiving an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in 2021, I began working as an adjunct lecturer teaching first year writing at Merrimack College. My stories have appeared in Hobart, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere, and I occasionally publish craft essays in Writer’s Digest. In addition to adult and short fiction, I write YA and children’s books. Beyond writing and teaching, I am a member of SAG-AFTRA, and have a black cat named Evie after Rachel Weisz’s character in The Mummy.
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