Apr 6, 2009

Query Revision: HOUND IN BLOOD AND BLACK

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the second revision.

Dear Agent,

All Kumari wanted was to live and die without becoming a monster; for Heaven, the child slave, there was nothing worth living for in the broken remains of a world lost to the undead – a place where men are more twisted than the walking corpses roaming the inland. Clean water and peaceful sleep are things of the past. After all, a barricade of rusted metal, broken glass and mercenaries with guns isn’t always enough to keep the dead out. And for some, it’s all about letting them in.

Kumari is a wrangler, a poacher and a gambler who catches undead and fights them against one another in the pit as gladiators. When she wins a dangerous gamble against her greatest rival, Kumari finds herself in possession of Heaven. Granting the girl freedom is the catalyst for a series of dangerous events, one of which forces Kumari to face the death of a treasured friend after she pulls the trigger. From there, mere survival becomes much more complicated.

As Heaven struggles between the acceptance of misery and the chance to live for herself, Kumari stares in the maw of her greatest fear when she is bitten by an undead and the death she believes so strongly in is threatened.

HOUND IN BLOOD AND BLACK, 101,500 words, is dystopian fiction with horror, thriller and science fiction elements. It explores a new kind of future where existing isn’t just about running from and killing zombies, but about the struggles humanity faces after the dust has settled and the world has died.

In January 2009, my short story Savage was published in Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror by Permuted Press. I have samples of both my professional writing and fiction posted on my blog at http://www.thescreamingguppy.blogspot.com/.

Thank you for your consideration,

E. Anderson

10 comments:

lucy in the sky said...

It's a little confusing. It would probably be good to specify your undead are zombies at the beginning instead of the end.

I think you could leave off the whole paragraph: "As Heaven struggles between the acceptance..." It doesn't really add any compelling information.

The second paragraph is where things get interesting, you might consider starting with that.

Rick Daley said...

I agree that the second paragraph sounds like a better starting point. The first paragraph is more exposition, but not really plot. I think the prospect of a zombie wrangler pitting her catch in gladiatorial combat is a cool hook, too.

To me undead and zombies are synonymous, so that didn't bother me.

I still get tripped up a bit with the name Heaven. Maybe try to use Kumari as the only character mentioned by name, and describe Heaven as a slave girl but not name her in the query?

Some of the description is still a little confusing. Focus on the main conflict and leave the sub-plots out. Kumari is a zombie wrangler, life is tough, and it may never end after she gets bitten and faces eternal damnation...

I don't know what the market is for dystopian fiction, that may not be the best way to position this story, especially with the addition of horror, thriller, Sci Fi descriptors. I think you should just pick one common genre.

Belinda Frisch said...

In the last paragraph, you say, "It explores a new kind of future where existing isn’t just about running from and killing zombies, but about the struggles humanity faces after the dust has settled and the world has died".

This is the "when", which is almost as important as the "who" since you're creating an alternate reality.

I'd say that you should *start* with the when and where. What year is it? Tell us up front that this is after the world has died. And how did Kumari survive?

Bringing us to the "who". In the first two sentences, you introduce Kumari and Heaven. Which is your protagonist? If its Kumari, I say don't mention Heaven until para two when Kumari wins her.

It's confusing, as Lucy pointed out, for someone unfamiliar with the story.

What is the end goal? And who is trying to achieve it? Your query should give us the when, the who, the conflict, the things standing in the way of resolving that conflict, and the result of the journey. Pretty much in that order.

Cut extras, like this bit, "Clean water and peaceful sleep are things of the past. After all, a barricade of rusted metal, broken glass and mercenaries with guns isn’t always enough to keep the dead out. And for some, it’s all about letting them in" in favor of details.

You are vague and from this query I have no idea why Heaven is struggling with misery (para 3)? She is free. She should be ecstatic.

And why does Kumari kill someone she considers a treasured friend (para 2)?

And why does she "believe so strongly in death"? Why is that even in question? (para 3)

I think you have a good premise and this sounds interesting, if you can clear up all the smoke screen you've created with an elusive query.

scott g.f. bailey said...

The first paragraph is totally unnecessary. You could do something like:

"In the broken remains of a world lost to the undead, Kumari is a wrangler, catching zombies for gladiatorial combat. When she wins a dangerous gamble against her greatest rival, Kumari finds herself in possession of a child slave. When Kumari grants the girl freedom..."

Though it sounds like Heaven is more of the B plot than the A plot, and you might concentrate more on Kumari and how she's bitten by a zombie? Is Heaven a zombie? It's unclear. There isn't enough specific information here; we have to sort of figure it out as we read. It sounds like a good concept, though. But like Belinda says above, you should tell us the central conflict of the story. I still don't know what Kumari is doing in this tale. I know what her job is and that she frees a slave girl, but that's not so much conflict. What's at stake?

I hear a lot that agents don't like to read stuff like "It explores a new kind of future where existing isn’t just about running from and killing zombies, but about the struggles humanity faces after the dust has settled and the world has died." because you're explaining your book and not pitching it. They want to know who/where/why in a punchy manner they can talk to editors about. I also read comments by agents that they don't want to see links to our websites in queries.

storyqueen said...

Hi,

I really like your opening line..."All Kumari wanted was to live and die without becoming a monster."

If it were me, then I would have that line stand alone....no paragraph following. (Yeah, I know, that's not what the query bibles say to do, but then that's just me.)Then, I would go into with paragraph 2, leaving it as is except add the words "a slave child named" before Heaven (so that we know who she is.)

The rest of the query I would leave as is, except maybe the dystopian part. I would probably consider it a sci-fi thriller (but of course,I haven't read it....)

I think is is great that you have raised so many questions in your query, questions that beg for answers and can only be answered by reading the manuscript! Well done!

You have described the premise. You have a great hook. You have provided glimpses of several types of conflict......

Let us know how it goes.

Shelley

The Screaming Guppy said...

Just wanted to drop a thank you note for all the great and detailed feedback so far.

:)

Dominique said...

I feel as though there isn't quite enough information in here. I didn't actually have a problem with the first paragraph, but I happen to like backstory. It was a little long, but I think that some of the information in it was useful.
The second paragraph started well but it sort of went off part way through. "Granting the girl freedom is the catalyst for a series of dangerous events, one of which forces Kumari to face the death of a treasured friend after she pulls the trigger. From there, mere survival becomes much more complicated." That's what you said. What I heard was, "well, there are a lot of things happening, none of which I'm going to share with you." I think you've got a good story in the book, and sharing some more of it wouldn't be out of line.

Lady Glamis said...

I would have liked to know that Kumari was female right up front.

The second paragraph is what started to hook me.

You have some great feedback here already. I can add that as far as word count goes, you can say approximately 100,000 words if it's that close. I just got that advice from an agent's assistant. :D

I'm still interested in reading this, but I'll have to let you know when my schedule lightens up a bit. Good job! I think this query is getting tighter.

galvin said...

This is pure dystopia, which is fine for the genre, but I'd like to see a glimmer of sunlight so that it isn't all set in the doom. I think I heard once that "The soul of tragedy is optimism." A serious, positive goal snatched away would seal the horror.

But would a query have room enough to plant that seed if you wanted it? Maybe.

Mia said...

The bit that makes me stumble reading this is "Kumari is a wrangler; a poacher and a gambler" I don't like the rhyming rhythm there, perhaps you could change it to "Kumari is a wrangler; a gambler and a poacher" or even stretch the description out a little something like "Kumari is a gambler, poaching zombies from (wherever) and wrangling them in a gladiatorial ring".

Good luck, I cannot wait to read this book :) You know what might be fun? To get together a bunch of writers to do a short story anthology based in this world. Honestly after reading your premise description my imagination has been running wild with possibilities hehe