Mar 5, 2009

QUERY- FATE'S GUARDIAN

A revision of this query has been posted. Click here to read it.

Attn: Mr. /Ms. Agent,

Gil Jacobs must die in order to save his soul. After living through dozens of lives spanning hundreds of years, the events of Gil's distant past are catching up with him, and he is powerless to prevent it.

It is Gil’s destiny to die in a car crash, but a malicious ghost who blames Gil for the tragedies that ended its life hundreds of years ago seeks retribution by attempting to prevent the fatal accident. If Gil lives, he will not be able to cross over when death eventually claims him, and his soul will be ripe for the taking. If Gil dies, he will escape to his next life and the ghost's chance at vengeance will be lost.

Gil is unaware of the danger he is in or the fate that awaits him. Fortunately, Gil is not alone in his fight. The soul of a friend he lost as a child watches over him, and she alone has the capacity to keep the ghost at bay long enough for Gil to die, even if it means sacrificing her own soul. For Gil Jacobs, she is Fate’s Guardian…

Fate’s Guardian is complete at 120,000 words. It is a supernatural thriller directed toward a commercial fiction audience, and first in a series titled Destiny’s Will.

I have been writing professionally for the past eight years, although admittedly not in my preferred style or market. I welcome the opportunity to embark on a career as a novelist.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

Rick Daley


Prologue- Columbus, OH 1995

The Mustang sped down Riverside Drive. The driver glanced at the clock. “Come on,” he muttered under his breath.

Down the road, an eighteen-wheeler rumbled toward him. A long, straight stretch of road, he could see the truck off in the distance but he paid it no mind. His thoughts were on his family, specifically his daughter’s birthday party, which started fifteen minutes ago.

He missed her birthday last year. He had worked late, as always. He didn’t mean to. He loved his wife and both of his daughters, but when you are CEO of a growing corporation, balancing work and family is a daunting task, and time is a precious – and rare – commodity. Nevertheless, he promised her he would be there this year. “Cross my heart and hope to die,” he said.

The truck-driver reached into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He flipped the box open and fished one out. He held the butt in his lips while he grabbed his lighter from the seat beside him. He lit the end and took a deep drag, holding the smoke in while he cranked the window down a little bit.

He exhaled, blowing the smoke toward the open window. As he brought the cigarette to his lips to take another hit, the wind caught the glowing embers at its tip and carried a hot piece of ash toward his face and into his left eye.

He flinched and jerked the wheel ever so slightly. His truck edged across the double yellow line in the middle of the road.

The Mustang accelerated slightly, its driver accidentally hit the gas while he reached for the birthday card that fell to the floor in front of the passenger seat. As he sat back up he turned the wheel, just a little bit, and the Mustang veered across the center of the road.

The truck driver rubbed his eye with the heel of his hand. He stopped and looked back at the road, his left eye in a tight squint. He saw the Mustang racing toward him, left of center, and he tried to cut the wheel to the right. It was too late. He slammed on the breaks and his rig started to jackknife.

The Mustang plowed into the corner of the truck’s grille. The driver never saw it coming. The force of the impact broke the back of his seat and he fell backwards as the back of his car spun to the right.
The two vehicles came together like long lost lovers in an impassioned embrace. The Mustang slid under the belly of the trailer. The roof caved in, and the interior of the car was hidden from view. The truck slowly skidded to a stop, the Mustang grinding along the asphalt underneath it.

The truck driver was dazed but unhurt. But the man in the Mustang, the one who crossed his heart and hoped to die? It remains to be seen how prophetic those words actually were.

Chapter 1- Southern France, 1287 A.D.
Death was in the air. Its foreboding almost took a visible shape, an effect heightened by the flicker of the campfire. It was the bitter end of a lover’s quarrel, and it already claimed one life. Now two more lives were on the line.

It started to rain. It was a misty drizzle that added weight to the darkness of night. The shadows danced through the trees as the rain hit the burning logs of the campfire, sizzling as it landed and lending a new voice to the choir of insects that sang the night through.

The Troubadour stepped quickly to the base of the oak tree and grabbed the mandolin leaning against it. He picked up his songbook and wrapped it in his leather satchel along with his instrument.

He turned to her. She was still so beautiful, even after all she had been through. After all he put her through. Even the dull, wet glow of the waning fire could not cast her in a bad light. Her body flashed as she swung back and forth, drifting through light and shadow.

He loved her, there was no doubting that. He loved her as much as he loved his own mother. His love is what drove him to this point. It drove him to madness. It drove him to murder.
She swung back and forth. He smiled as he watched her. He thought back to the first time he saw her. She looked so elegant then, almost ceramic in her beauty, like a porcelain doll. Only that was a different place. A different time.

What was most intriguing about her, what fueled his desire, was her smile. It revealed her pain. And through the strained smile he felt the pain, too. He wanted to help her. Everything he did, it was because he wanted to help her. Now the smile was gone, and he was sure she would not live long enough for him to see it again. And it was all his fault.
Her body was broken. She was as quite fortunate, though, because it all happened so quickly. He hated to hurt her, but he could not stop himself. Now more than ever she reminded him of his mother, the only other woman he truly loved, and the first person he ever killed.

“I want to be with you forever,” he said as he reached out to steady her. Her hands and feet were bound behind her back and she was suspended face down, swinging from a rope tied to one of the higher branches of the grand oak tree.

She lifted her head and tried to focus her eyes on his face, but she could not find the strength. She let her head drop.

“I have no love for you,” she whispered.

“My dear, I have enough love for us both, don’t you see that?”

“I see only the blood on your hands,” she spat back. “And this time it’s mine.”

The Troubadour looked down at his hands. “But I do this out of love. Your husband abused you all those years. I had to take his life. I love you too much to watch you suffer at his hand any longer. Right now I know how strong my love is for you, and I will prove it to you.”

He withdrew his dagger from its sheath. “You are broken. Even if I wanted to save you, I could not. I can join you, though.”

He turned the point of the blade to his left breast and without hesitation he plunged the dagger deep inside his chest. This time she found the strength to lift her head and watch.

The Troubadour felt the tip of the blade penetrate his flesh, cutting deep into his chest. He felt his heart deflate like a balloon, and he staggered as the blood filled his chest cavity. His fingers tingled and grew cold. His body folded forward and he crumpled to the ground as his legs gave way. His world went black, and death claimed his body.

The Troubadour’s soul lifted from his lifeless remains, rising into the air. He saw his body, the red stain seeping into the ground beneath it. He saw her, head lifted, eyes focused, staring at his body. And smiling.

Smiling! Not just smiling, but laughing at him. Rage filled him and he swiped at her, but his hands made no contact with the physical world. He circled her. She would die soon, and he would be waiting. At last he would have her.

She stopped laughing and the smile faded as she slipped from consciousness. He thought she would die right away, but she did not. He felt something pulling at him, and he turned to see a small point in the distance grow to be a huge white light. As the light came closer, a tunnel appeared in its center. He was drawn to it. The urge to go through the tunnel was almost irresistible. Almost.

He turned back to her. Her heartbeat was slow, her breathing shallow, but she lived. He waited. The light behind him vanished.

He kept his vigil as the hours passed. Eventually she did give in. The Troubadour watched as her soul lifted from her body. She looked at him and smiled. He reached out to her, but she turned away.

The light appeared off in the distance, and the tunnel became visible in its bright center as the circle of light grew. This time the Troubadour did not feel drawn to it. Desperate, he reached out and grabbed her. He struggled to go into the tunnel with her, but he felt a force pushing him away. He watched, helpless, as she slipped from his grasp and crossed over to the other side. The light in front of him vanished. She was gone.

20 comments:

Carley said...

Rick, I love this idea. I'm going to steal a few minutes this weekend and try and give you a worthwhile critique. I'm tempted to send you my attempt at a query as well; I would love to pick it apart. Again, great idea.

ryan field said...

I didn't get a chance to read everything, but I will later this weekend.

Nice idea.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks, I'm eager to hear your full feedback!

scott g.f. bailey said...

I like the concept, but I have some quibbles. First, the query seems longer than it needs to be, with perhaps too much backstory. Maybe condense things?

Gil Jacobs does not know it, but he has lived and died dozens of times. In one of those lives, Gil made an enemy, an enemy who has stalked him across hundreds of years, seeking retribution.

Then two more sentences, the first one about how the ghost or spirit enemy has found a way to harm Gil, and the second about the guardian angel? Anyway, that's what I'd try. I think you drift from the cool stuff by trying too hard to explain it.

For the sample pages, I wish you'd name some of the characters. In the prologue, both of the drivers are called "the drivers." I had to back up and re-read a couple times. I'd give the 13th-century folks names, too. I'd also start that chapter with "The Troubadour stepped quickly to the base of the oak tree..." and move the first two paragraphs back, after that. As Faulkner said, begin with you characters doing something, even if it's just drinking a glass of water.

Your prose is very terse and action-y, which is cool.

Crimogenic said...

Rick, you already know that I think the story has an interesting concept. I suggestion you try to trim down the query. I'm going to try to take a look at it again and give some suggestions later today or tomorrow.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks for the feedback so far. Scott, that's a good way to streamline it.

When I did the query critique on Nathan Bransford's blog, he had me sum up the plot in one sentence:

Three souls that knew each other in past lives meet again after hundreds of years, rekindling forgotten memories and triggering a fight for one man's soul.

The main stop where I'm torn is that I love this line:
Gil Jacobs must die in order to save his soul.

Crimey,
Is the query too long, or is the length because the sample chapters are included?

Thinking from an agent perspective, we all want them to read our first few pages, but here you can see that that may be a lot of reading. Especially if you get 50-100 of these every day.

Just_Me said...

I read the query and I'll come back for the rest. If the female ghost is the MC though I think you might want to make her the focus of the query rather than Gil.

Interesting concept. I will read chapters later :o)

ryan field said...

Rick, you already know I love the way your write. It's a given. And I love your voice!!

The only thing I worry about is that the query itself might be a little long. But I'm not an expert in that department, so I don't want to offer any bad advice.

And this..."I have been writing professionally for the past eight years, although admittedly not in my preferred style or market. I welcome the opportunity to embark on a career as a novelist."

I'd re-write this. I hate to see anything negative in a query; it's just me, especially since you have such a positive, strong voice. And, you're querying an agent with a novel, so it's a given that you want to be a novelist. They know that, so don't waste precious words.

It could read: I have been writing professionally for the past eight years,(this is what I write). List some examples of what you've written. I'd be curious if I were an agent. I'd want to know what you write, without going into too much detail. Keep it short and simple, but offer something...even a general idea.

Aside from all this, I like the storyline. I really like it. It's the kind of book I would read.

Rick Daley said...

Just Me,

The story covers lives past and present, so the female in the prologue may have deeper ties to Gil than you think...

Ryan,

Thanks for taking the time to read this and for the feedback. I think this genre is where my voice comes across best.

Jen said...

I think you should leave the first line, that's the hook. Don't delete the first line!

But I agree with the others who have mentioned that the query could be a little shorter. Probably best to aim for 2 paragraphs, short and punchy. Actually, reading through it, you could probably just lose the 3rd paragraph completely. That paragraph doesn't really describe much more of the plot, only introduces a character.

Other than that, I think your query is really well written, the wording is good, and you convey the tone of the novel well. This is something that I would pick up and look over in a bookstore, definitely.

Within your prologue, my suggestion is to make the first line more hooky. You have a good first line in chapter 1, but don't forget that a prologue is, for all intents and purposes, chapter 1 itself, and the first thing people read. I tend to skim prologues, to be honest, so I think having a really strong, kicking hook as your first line would make a big difference.

Hope this helps!
Jen

Rick Daley said...

Jen,

I agree that the first line needs to have punch. The text that is now chapter 1 was once the prologue, but I switched that recently.

Your input is valuable. I hope some others will offer queries and sample chapters up for review, too.

Crimogenic said...

Rick,

The query isn’t necessarily that long. I think a little longer than average, but nothing out of ordinary in length.

I think you have all the essential information in the query, but it's a bit long-winded. I made the following suggestions for the first two paras, I think the third is fine as written:

Gil Jacobs must die in order to save his soul. The events of his past lives have caught up with him, and he’s powerless to prevent (add in something here?)

Gil’s destined to die in a car crash, but a malicious ghost who blames him for a tragedy that happened hundreds of years ago seeks to interfere. If Gil doesn’t die at his appointed time, his soul will became vulnerable and the ghost will take it. If Gil dies, he will escape to his next life and the ghost's chance at vengeance will be lost.



On a side note: It also feels like the query should be following his friend's soul. Whose pov are you in throughout the novel? The query should follow that person. I hope this make sense :)

Rick Daley said...

The POV shifts between Gil, the Troubadour, and Julie.

The main storyline follows Gil's life, and his death is the climax. I've toyed with queries using the Troubadour as the main character, but Gil is really at the heart of it all.

Mira said...

Rick - it's a good query. I like the last two paragraphs, by the way. I know those are easier to write, but you did a good job.

One thing - you left out the paragraph targeting the particular agent. Perhaps that's something you want to add later depending on the agent. I tend to be all about writer's rights, etc., but it's also good to know when to play the game. So, I might include it.

Your book sounds fascinating, and original. I love sci fi/fantasty, and I LOVE stories about afterlife and death. I'm your target audience, and you've definitely peaked my interest.

In terms of the summary, I like it, but I agree about shortening it and punching it up. I'd make it pop out of the page if you can. You're talking about life and death and saving souls here. See if you can grab the agent emotionally. Go for the gusto.
:-)

I could give specific suggestions, but I wasn't sure how detailed you wanted the feedback.

Okay, hope that's helpful.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks Mira. I do add in a personal introduction to the agent, about two sentences to show familiarity with their preferences. I didn't add one in here because of the general nature of the posting.

Your feedback is helpful. I'm going to post a re-write pretty soon. I've received a lot of good suggestions.

Mira said...

That's great, Rick. Good luck!

I'll look forward to seeing the re-write.

Jabez said...

Rick, thanks for the site and good luck with it.

I have a few comments on your query (I haven't gotten to the pages yet).

My first reaction is that the idea sounds cool and very saleable. So great work there.

My second reaction is that the way you've written the query makes Gil very passive. He's in danger but he doesn't know it. You say he's in a fight, but you don't actually show him doing any fighting. You even say he's powerless to prevent his fate. It seems that it's the vengeful ghost against his guardian, and Gil is just a pawn. I don't think you want your MC to come across as a pawn. You want him to be a prime mover.

I also would suggest that your voice might shine through more if you shorten the remove between your narration and Gil's perspective. What action starts the story off (not backstory, but the present-time action)? What happens to Gil? How does he feel about it? Is he on the run? Is he looking for answers? I think you should try making this more about Gil -- i.e., his viewpoint, his feelings. You've told us what the stakes are for him, but you haven't really shown us him as a character.

My final suggestion is to try and increase specificity in general. You've got language like "the events of his past are catching up with him," "his soul will be ripe for the taking," and "has the capacity to keep the ghost at bay." Those phrases are okay, but a little vague. I'm not sure I understand exactly what they mean.

But overall, your query is professionally written and well presented, and you do a good job trying to convey a lot of the rules of your world in just a few words.

Carley said...

Rick,
Let me start with, where can I buy this book? It's not the type of thing I usually read, but I want to read it. Ok, all that aside.

IMO, the query wasn't nearly as good as the pages you posted. There wasn't as much voice in the query as in the book, none actually. It felt so formal, where as the book was mysterious and intriguing.

Now, I stink at writing queries, so keep that in mind. In the query I would be more specific about the type of writing that you do, toot your own horn a bit if you know what I mean. I also love the summary sentence you did for Bransford, I'd maybe start the query with that, the add your pet sentence, "Gil Jacobs knows he has to die...." I think that flows pretty well. The length of the query has been in question, and it could probably use a bit of trimming, or tightening up.

Now, as to the actual book. It was really good.It has great voice. I liked the actual book better than the prologue, which needs a bit of work. There were a few spots where I stumbled as I read, that need editing, and if you wantto let me know and I'll make my suggestions. But over all, it was very captivating, and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Hope this helps some, I know how hard it is to see what our writing really looks like, as we are just way to close to it. Thanks again for doing the blog, it's a great idea. Kind of like a little crit group! Best!
Carley

T. Anne said...

You have that run away from the pack mentality that makes your novel a good prospect for success! Now slice and dice that query and your on your way! Have you considered small presses as well?

Rick Daley said...

T. Anne,

Thank you for the kind words. I haven't considered small press yet. I'm currently working a revision of the MS, trying to contain it to revision and not full re-write. I think there are several parts in the first 100 pages that are not well written. Afterall, this is my first novel and those were my first pages.

I will still revise the query and post it here, though. I'm just not sure when ;-)