Jul 1, 2009

Query for Eden's Gate

Zander Jaden hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in three years. Ever since his mother’s death, the minute the sun goes down, he feels eyes on him, watching him, and waiting. In a desperate attempt to get some rest, he swallows an entire bottle of prescription sleep-aids. After his supposed suicide attempt, Zander is committed to Edensgate State Psychiatric Hospital, a massive sprawling building in the Kirkbride style, now mostly defunct.

He meets Rafe Nazario there, and the two boys become fast friends. Zander confides his problems in Rafe, and in turn, Rafe details the reasons he finds himself there in Edensgate. As they grow closer, their routine is interrupted by the arrival of Dominick O’Brennan, the son of an infamous mafia family from Boston. Dominick despises Rafe and Zander from the start, and does everything he possibly can to make their lives miserable, up to and including stealing Zander’s file from the hospital and taunting him with information. After Rafe and Zander have a fight, however, Dominick moves in, and Zander falls into bed with him.

After Dominick is released from the hospital on the word of his family, Rafe and Zander are finally free to explore their own relationship, with the ever present night-watchers a constant irritant. As Zander tries to find a way to free himself of his curse, he begins to delve deeper into the history of Edensgate – in fact, history presents itself to him clearly in the form of a girl who died there sixty years ago! – and he discovers the powers within him, passed down by his mother, that will help him be free of the night-watchers once and for all.

The only thing standing between Zander and total freedom is once again Dominick – after his family found themselves unable to deal with him, they recommit him to the hospital, and this time, he’s not so forgiving. Knowing Zander’s paralyzing fear of the dark, Dominick nearly kills him when he locks him in the unlit basement for three days.

Time is running out when Zander recovers from Dominick’s mischief, however, for he knows that the power of a solar eclipse on Halloween night will give the night-watchers exactly what they need to obtain their goals – to leave their bleak home and overrun the Earth. Dominick’s acting strangely, Rafe is concerned, and Zander just wants to get some sleep. With the help of the ghosts of Edensgate and a doctor who works there, the two boys work to stop the night-watchers before they can use the hospital as a launch-pad for the destruction of the human race.

The fate of the world is resting on the shoulders of one young man in a mental hospital, and all Hell’s about to break loose at Eden’s Gate.


Kori said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kori said...

Haha, guess the genre. Oops. *shifty eyes* Paranormal suspense.

Written by me! First real query, second novel. Please feel free to take it apart and give feedback; I'm still new to this whole 'novel' thing.

Also, thank you! That was so fast. OO;

Rick Daley said...

Hi Kori,

I updated the label from Guess the Genre to Paranormal, Suspense.

You always want to include the genre and wordcount in your query.

Overall, you have a very creative story, but this is more of a synopsis than a story description for a query letter.

My advice is to target 250 words for your description. Rather than start cutting away at items from this version, start again, but summarize your entire plot in one sentence. Something like "Protagonist must do X, but if Antagonist does Y, then Z will result."

Zander must battle the night watchers before they take over the world, but he is confined to a mental hospital and another patient is trying to incapacitate him.

Once you have that simple explanation of the plot, expand it to 250 words. Don't mention sub-plots or minor characters. You want the focus to be on your protagonist and his struggle.

Scott said...

This needs to be condensed quite a lot.

First off, you need to develop a hook and it should be the very first sentence. What is the crux of your story? How is the destruction of the world connected to Zander ... why is he the one that can stop it? Develop a good hook first and summarize the story from there.

Your summary must be condensed ... only include the most important elements. Remember, you have only got about 250 words to work with. Also, the purpose of the query is to make the Agent want to read more to grab them ... not necessarily to share every last detail about the novel.

John said...

Just a nitpick: Solar eclipses are only visible in the daytime. Lunar eclipses happen at night.

Bane of Anubis said...

Agree w/ what everyone else is saying. Writing seems pretty solid, but too many details/names - on a good note, having specific details is important to a query - now it's just a matter of figuring out which ones those are :)

Kori said...

First, you guys rock. Thank you SO much for your advice. Rick, I know I need to include genre and wordcount in the query when I send it to an agent, but the wordcount is jumping right now because I'm in the midst of heavy revisions on the story, and the forgetting-the-genre thing here was just my own rookie mistake.

I hadn't even realised it was more of a synopsis; I've always had such trouble with synospes before, and when this just flowed out, I didn't think of it that way, as I was trying to get the important bits across without thinking of how much was too much.

This doesn't need to be posted anywhere; I'd just like to prevail upon the good people of this blog for their opinions. I rewrote it, and dropped the wordcount from 460 to 230, as well as harvested some of the junk:

Zander Jaden hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since his mother died three years ago. What he’s not aware of is the reason behind his insomnia – Cassie Jaden was a powerful psychic, and she passed both her talents and her curse onto her son. The minute the sun goes down, Zander feels eyes on him, watching and waiting in the dark. In a desperate attempt to get some rest, he swallows an entire bottle of prescription sleep-aids. After his supposed suicide attempt, Zander is committed to Edensgate State Psychiatric Hospital for treatment, and it’s there that he meets Rafe Nazario and Dominick O’Brennan.

Rafe is friendly enough, but Dominick hates them both on sight, and spends his days doing everything within his power to make them miserable. Through it all is the ever-present threat represented by the night-watchers, who want to claim Zander’s power to throw open the gates between their world and Earth. Zander realises their time is running out, for just before sundown on Halloween, a solar eclipse is scheduled to block out the sun, and the metaphysical energies of both the auspicious day and the eclipse are what the night-watchers are waiting for to tear down the barriers holding them in check. With the help of his friends, Zander must overcome the watchers and prevent them from escaping the bowels of hell to overrun the Earth.

(To answer specific comments that were raised in my original, I'm trying to keep it from becoming character soup, but Rafe and Dominick are essential to the story, which is why I included them again in the re-write. Something I've heard a lot about queries is that the main protagonist needs to be there, as does the main antagonist, but there's the crux of my story: both the night-watchers and Dominick, separately and together, compromise the antagonists of the story. I'm still aware that this isn't as good as it could be, which is why I'm looking for hints and critiques on it. Thank you again for your swift help, you guys are amazing.)

Rick Daley said...


This is a marked improvement from the first version, good job in tightening it up! Even though it lacks the detail you put int he first version, you really ratcheted up the intrigue.

One piece of advice though (and this comes from personal experience)...if you are in the midst of heavy revisions, focus your energy on that, not on the query.

I don't want to lose you as a participant here, but many of us get so excited to finish an early draft that we start to query prematurely. You can have the best query in the world, but if your MS is not ready, it won't matter how good the query is.

Good luck, you have a really creative premise.

Kori said...


Thank you! The query is a result of a brick wall in the revisions; it's my way of getting around myself. I'm not working directly on the book itself, but I'm not completely slacking off; the query is an integral part of landing an agent, and if I get a good solid base for it now, it's easier to work with than sitting and staring at a list of agents and a blank screen, wondering what I'm going to tell them.

I think that the details will present themselves either in the sample pages (if the agent so requests- is it standard to include three/five pages with the query, or is it more acceptable to send the query and wait for a request for partials?) or the partial if it's requested; isn't the whole idea behind a query just to get the agent interested?

I was very encouraged by your remark that the intrigue was 'ratcheted up' - it makes me think that if you can see that, then an agent might find it worth asking for more, and that's the soil the seeds of book deals are sown in.

Rick Daley said...

Many agents will accept 4-5 pages with a query, but you always want to look for their blogs or other websites to see if they have any unique submission requirements.

If this is your first novel, and your getting stuck working with revisions, what you may need to do is not revise, but re-write. That's a hard pill to swallow (I have a lump in my throat from one now) but if you do, you will probably impress yourself with how much better your novel is. Kind of like the difference between your two queries.

For my first novel, the writing improved the further I got into the story. After 120,000 words, my voice was honed and my storytelling much tighter. Problem is, the latter half of the book was very different from the beginning.

I'm in a re-write now (and starting a 2nd WIP) and my goal is to get the 120,000 words down to 80,000.

I hate that it takes so much extra time, but it greatly increased my chances at getting published. Agents and editors are swamped with submissions these days, and they can be very selective in picking the best of the best of the best.

Suzan Harden said...


I'm jumping in late here (just got home from work), but I can't stress enough how right Rick's advice is. In editing your story, you may find a lot will change. And premature querying can cost you some opportunities.

Not trying to be a negative Nellie, but this was a lesson I learned the hard way. I had a fabulous idea, lots of requests for the full based on an equaly fabulous query--and no takers because the ms stunk.

You have really unique concept here. Take your time and make it the best it can be. I want to see it on the booskhelves!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Nothing to add about the query that hasn't already been said. I just wanted to give you a little kudos for doing something writerly when you were stuck on your editing.

Oh, and good job on tweaking for the second go-round on the query. =o)