Jul 31, 2009

QUERY - Vampire Vacation - URBAN FANTASY

Dear Agent,

What do you get when you combine a marriage between a 580-year-old female vampire and a human husband with a resort for the undead? A sexually charged, sardonic relationship between a vibrant woman and a confident man with a never ending cast of unique characters.

Meet Vivian, the supernatural equivalent of Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island, who channels her mental powers of projecting illusions into creating the perfect vacation spot for vampires - in Alaska! Upon a routine check of the guest rooms, Vivian stumbles across a murdered body, one that is neither an employee nor a guest. She and her husband, Rafe, hide the corpse, convinced they can track down the killer without alerting their customers.

Orchestrating the sexual escapades of some guests, while unsuccessfully questioning others, proves too much for her. Vivian listens to Rafe’s suggestion, and for the first time in hundreds of years, she agrees to involve and trust an outsider for help. Knowing she may wind up having to kill to keep her secrets safe.

My name is C.J. Ellisson and I’m a passionate married woman who thinks it’s time an urban fantasy series focused on hot monogamy. I’ve completed a 90,000 word novel titled Vampire Vacation and I would like you to consider being my agent for it. At Nationals I had four editors request the full manuscript, and thought it would behoove me to have an agent represent me to speed the process along. I’m contacting you because your agency represents name here, whose work I have enjoyed for many years.

I have won a flash fiction writing contest for a horror entry, received third place in an erotica contest, and recently placed second for my rough draft of chapter one of Vampire Vacation in a Romance Writers of America sponsored contest. Not only have I joined RWA, but also Sisters In Crime and several sub-chapters of each. My novel already has a fan base of 1,000 on Facebook. Please, stop by and see what some of the reviewers from my private reading group have to say about my work:

http://www.facebook.com/c.j.ellissonfanpage

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my query, I appreciate it,

C.J. Ellisson
XXX-XXX-XXX
cj_ellisson@yahoo.com

7 comments:

gj said...

The premise of a resort that caters exclusively to vampires sounds like a lot of fun, but I'm confused about the actual story.

You're trying to jam too much into each sentence and perhaps the query generally. Simplify.

Look at the complexity of the first sentence -- you've got two different "and" clauses, which makes it difficult to comprehend. There's the "marriage between vampire AND human," and then there's the resort, so the reader has to go back to the beginning to figure out how the resort fits into the sentence. Simplified, you'd have something more like: Vivian is a 580-yo vampire married to a human, and together they run a resort that caters to the undead.

Forget the commentary on the book -- "sexually charged, sardonic relationship between a vibrant woman and a confident man with a never ending cast of unique characters." -- you need to show that in the query, not simply tell the agent that it exists.

Then, figure out what matters. Does it matter that the resort is in Alaska? If so, why does Alaska appeal to vampires? If not, skip it. Does it matter that the corpse is found in a routine check, rather than some other check? If not, skip it. Does it matter that the corpse is neither employee nor guest (don't be coy -- tell me who it is, not who it isn't)? If not, skip it.

Stick to what matters. Vivian finds a corpse and can't call the police (b/c of who the corpse is, or b/c of who the guests are?), so she and her husband hide the corpse and ... what do they do to find the killer? How are the guests' sexual escapades related to the search to find the killer? If it isn't related, then cut it.

And so on, through the rest. Choose what matters to the core of the story, and be specific about what is happening.

C.J. Ellisson said...

Thanks GJ - yes you're right, it's too wordy.

Yes, the Alaska part is important. It's dark all the time and the vampires are up around the clock. If it was anywhere else they wouldn't be able to do that and ultimately, wouldn't come to vacation there ; )

The sex needs to be mention b/c it's an erotic urban fantasy and I'm querying agents that know the genre well. And it ultimately is how they discover whom the killer is.

I went back and cut a lot. Did my best to cut everything that slows it down. Let's hope the re-write is a keeper. I sent it in to Rick a little while ago.

One critiquer on another page wants me to lead with the four MS requests, but it seems really odd to just state that and then open with the book hook. He said the requests are their own hook and it needs to be at the top.

Thoughts?

Bane of Anubis said...

It's like Clue for S&M vampires :) -- CJ, I agree w/ GJ -- show, more than tell... hook that agent quickly with the meat of the story...

After that, you can do a bit of explaining -- I think your 2nd paragraph reads well; I'm not familiar w/ Mr. Roarke or FI, but if the agent is, I think this is a nice characterization.

Your 3rd paragraph could be a bit stronger... e.g., your 1st sentence "proves too much for her" - is vague... show us how (e.g., sends her to vampire psychotherapy... if there's no real breakdown point, change the sentence)... The second sentence (like some others throughout the query) can be shortened - e.g., cut the "Vivian listens to Rafe's suggestions, and"... This sentence also needs to read stronger to counter the last sentence, which needs to be unfragmented and given more weight, IMO.

Your bio paragraphs are okay -- you do a nice job of selling yourself -- but they're a bit too long and some of the sentences are clunky, IMO.

Consider shortening to something like this:

"VAMPIRE VACATION, a 90,000 word paranormal romance about hot monogamy, received four editor requests at Nationals. I have won a horror flash fiction contest, received third place in an erotica contest, and recently earned second place for VV's first chapter in an RWA contest. I'm also a member of RWA.

Thank you for your time and consideration...


(Is Nationals a common/known term? - I'm not familiar w/ your genre so much. If not, ax it. Also, unless your writing is like the agent's client you mention, you can probably leave it out -- if it is, you need to make the connection stronger. I'm conflicted about the facebook presence... it seems like a good thing to point out numbers like you did... perhaps others have insight. If the contests you entered are larger/better known/ recognizable, include their names, if not, you can probably leave as is). Hope this helps, and, as always, TWAGOS.

Bane of Anubis said...

Cross-posted -- Nationals sounds formidable then... I'd lead w/ the MS requests w/o a doubt. If an agent knows editors are interested, this'll get them interested (whether they'll take you on is a different matter, but one step at a time)

Bane of Anubis said...

Went and read your updated query -- reads better and smoother. Still think you can trim the bio section and lead w/ the manuscript requests.

C.J. Ellisson said...

Thanks Anubis! You must be very young to have not heard of Fantasy Island, or geez, I'm really dating myself!

Hopefully, most of the agents will be over 32 ; )

I went back and cut my resubmittance and posted again with the lead in of the MS requests.

My crappy long version of the query that I sent out yesterday just got a request back from the one agent I sent it too. So all's not lost! I'm glad they were able to read through my minutia and see the gems.

With the superb one you're both helping me to craft, I'm sure to get additional requests in the weeks to come (of course, I have to email them out first) ; )

Thanks guys!

Bane of Anubis said...

Very young at 31 :) -- heard of it, just never saw it. Yeah, I'm thinking you're gonna be getting lots of agent reqs just from the editor requests alone... Best of luck and hope you land your top agent.