Oct 15, 2009

QUERY- THE EMERALD GIRL

Complete at 108,000 words, THE EMERALD GIRL is a science fiction novel that explores the effects of good intentions gone wrong and how honorable people right those wrongs.

Life on Earth suffers a toxic reaction when exposed to alien life. Agnes is a researcher sent to Earth to solve this riddle. The DNA of Melvin Humphrey holds the key. Agnes activates a dormant gene in Melvin. He can now have contact with Agnes without ill effect. Unknown to Melvin, he now emits the same pheromone Agnes does. His wife and son are exposed, suffer a severe reaction, and cling to life while Agnes and Melvin race against time to save their lives.

While working together, Agnes grows to love Melvin. She wants to melt into his mind and soul. Melvin fears Agnes may sacrifice his family to satisfy her lust.

The answer lies in the history books. The dormant gene in Melvin entered the human genome as the part of a failed experiment to modify life on Earth. The missing pieces of the puzzle will take him to ancient Egypt and Rome, and the early days of the American government. The answer he finds is impossible to believe. Yet, he must believe, or his family will die.

THE EMERALD GIRL is best described as Catherine Asaro with a bitter edge and should appeal to Ace, Baen, and Tor. I draw from my farming background for a scene where steer become infected. I am the treasurer of the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Chapter 1:
Unwelcome Guests

The glass rattles at the front door. We have few visitors, leaving one possibility: the steer are out. I can see my animals running down the side of the road, thousand pound bovines built of solid muscle, giving my insurance carrier indigestion.
I throw my book to the living room table. I wonder which neighbor I pissed off now as I rush to the door, tripping over the up-step between kitchen and hallway.
Ann is pulling laundry out of the wash machine as I pass the utility room. Mason is crawling underfoot, tripping me as I pass.
The urgency of the knock is muted when I see the woman standing on the other side of the door. She wears a business suit and loose fitting slacks. Her short black hair in messed from the wind. Her short stature matches her slim face. A black line of eye shadow, thin lips, and an aquiline nose highlight her facial strong points. I open the door praying she doesn’t hand me a pamphlet telling me ‘Jesus Loves You’.
I step back as I open the door, startled. Two men in dark blue suits stand to the side and behind the woman.
“Mr. Melvin Humphrey?” Her voice is firm, yet polite; all business. She extends her hand. I take it, feeling like a sheep ready to be sheared.
“What can I do for you?” The words catch in my throat with a click; I handle tense situations poorly.
“I’m Agent Alice Hanson with the FBI,” she shows me her badge. “This is Agent Vic Savant, and Agent Tyron Meyer.” They show their badge as they are introduced. Agent Savant is tall, thin, with a permanent five o’clock shadow; Agent Meyer a large black man, pushing the seams of his suit to the limit.
Ann checks to see what the commotions is, Mason in tow. She has a worried look on her face when she sees the crowd at the door. I appreciate Ann’s talent at sizing up a situation fast and correct. And the look on her face is concerning.
“We need to talk,” Agent Alice Hanson said. Her tone of voice is commanding with a hint of respect.

4 comments:

Stephanie Thornton said...

Interesting premise, but there are a few areas where I think you could tighten your query.

First, THE EMERALD GIRL is a science fiction novel that explores the effects of good intentions gone wrong and how honorable people right those wrongs. This is vague. You want to be extremely specific in a query. Specific is interesting, vague is not.

Also, I don't think you need to tell about your farming background where a steer gets infected. That's not something an agent will care about.


Good luck!

Erinn said...

Hi, I was going to comment in the query letter.

Complete at 108,000 words, THE EMERALD GIRL is a science fiction novel that explores the effects of good intentions gone wrong and how honorable people right those wrongs.

<---You could move this paragraph to the end of the letter. It's not much of a hook

Life on Earth suffers a toxic reaction when exposed to alien life.<---good hook. Agnes is a researcher sent to Earth to solve this riddle.<--- Who is Anges, male or female?
The DNA of Melvin Humphrey holds the key. <- who is Melvin, why is he so different?
Agnes activates a dormant gene in Melvin. He can now have contact with Agnes without ill effect. Unknown to Melvin, he now emits the same pheromone Agnes does. His wife and son are exposed, suffer a severe reaction, and cling to life while Agnes and Melvin race against time to save their lives.<----Slow down. This is important and it's a little unclear how you go from phermones to infecting his family. Does his family get effect because of Agnes activated his dominate gene. And if it's a dominate gene wouldn't it already be active?
The reader needs to care about the characters and so far your voice is very dry and it's hard for me to care right away.

While working together, Agnes grows to love Melvin. She wants to melt into his mind and soul. Melvin fears Agnes may sacrifice his family to satisfy her lust. <--If I was an agent I would stop reading now. His family is dying and he doesn't care so he can be with the person who basically killed them. That's a big huddle to overcome.

The answer lies in the history books. The dormant gene in Melvin entered the human genome as the part of a failed experiment to modify life on Earth. The missing pieces of the puzzle will take him to ancient Egypt and Rome, and the early days of the American government. <- This sounds interesting.

The answer he finds is impossible to believe. Yet, he must believe, or his family will die.<- why does he care if he's trying to sleep with the other girl.

IMO I suggest you leave the love triangle out of the query letter. It might be a big part of the story but it's a turn off for the letter.


THE EMERALD GIRL is best described as Catherine Asaro with a bitter edge and should appeal to Ace, Baen, and Tor. <- I'm not sure what these terms mean.
I draw from my farming background for a scene where steer become infected. <-I don't think this is needed. I am the treasurer of the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association.

I look forward to hearing from you.

<-- Those are only my comments and suggest. Use whatever you can, feel free to ignore anything you don't like or agree with. Good luck.

RCWriterGirl said...

Starting off a query letter by telling the agent your book explores certain themes is usually the kiss of death. I'd get rid of that, and focus on explaining your story.

As to the rest of the query, either I'm a complete and total buffoon (which I'm not ruling out) or something is missing in your explanation. I did not understand it.

Life on Earth suffers a toxic reaction when exposed to aliens??? So did everyone on earth die? And if so, who is Agnes? Is Agnes an alien? What riddle is she trying to solve--why all the Earthlings died? If life suffered a toxic reaction and died out, how did Melvin and his family survive? Is that why agnes picked him to study? And why just him, and not the entire family?

I just found this thing very confusing. I think you need to streamline this query. I found a great site that offered some questions to ask yourself when trying to describe your story. You may benefit from asking the questions, and answering them in the query:

1. What does your main character want (I assume it's Melvin)?
2. What does other main character want(I assume Agnes)?
3. What is the obstacle Melvin faces in getting this want?
4. What's at stake if Melvin does not overcome obstacle?

Answering those questions should give you a more effective, clearer query. Right now, I'm just full of confusion and questions. You don't have to explain everything in your query, but you need to write in such a way that it's not leading to more questions. You need to tell us who Agnes is an what her mission is (to find out why earthlings get sick when they come into contact with her species???). I think you gave a good explanation that Melvin works with this woman to save his family from death. But, then you digress into all this stuff about Rome and Egypt and the genome and say, "he must believe or his family will die." Believing is pretty easy to do. If that's all he has to do to save his family, then that's not very compelling literature. I would imagine, he has to not only believe but take some action, or his family will die. I think you need to get rid of all the stuff about the genome and ancient Egypt and Rome and replace it with a clear definition of what action he must take and what's at stake if he doesn't take it (life on earth, his family's life, Agnes' sex life).

I also agree that you should leave out the farming background statement. That seemed unnecessary.

Anica Lewis said...

I like this query. It definitely has stakes, though they could use some clarification.

I think I understand what's going on now, but there were some points I couldn't piece together until I had read the whole query, and some that could simply use some elaboration.

1. What exactly is happening to life on Earth because of this toxic reaction? Massive deaths among all species? Just humans? If it's killing everything, how is Melvin's family alive? If it's just made everyone sick and many are dying, you might point this out as an added tension. Melvin would be, after all, fighting to save not just himself but the entire human race, and we don't really get that from the query.

2. Please tell us upfront if Agnes is an alien.

Also, a couple of structural crits:

1. I agree with Erinn that the first paragraph, if you're going to keep it, might be better placed later in the query. You obviously need the title and length of the work, but the rest of the sentence is vague, and the beginning of Paragraph Two is a better hook.

2. You might try to vary the sentence structure in the first half of the second paragraph, as it does seem rather dry, "This happened. This happened. This happened."

3. I'm really not sure about the last paragraph. Agents know what houses they'll send to, and I have the impression they like you to leave that stuff to them. I'm also not sure the second sentence is relevant - if your whole book was about farming, yes, especially if you have an impressive-sounding way to describe your background ("I have owned and run a dairy farm for X years," etc.), but since farming isn't even part of a major plotline, I'd leave this mention out. I'd definitely include the part about the Writers' Association, though.

Good luck!