Apr 12, 2010

QUERY: OF POETS AND ANGELS

Dear [Agent],

A murder in the corrupt and polluted city of Lambria sends a poet on a desperate chase for an ancient artifact

Ethan has a rare gift. His poetry can do more than captivate audiences: it can command thoughts, or even alter reality itself. As Ethan struggles to control his new abilities, he stumbles upon a grisly murder that threatens to attract the attention of the dreaded Inquisition, if he doesn't solve it first. Ethan's investigations reveal much more than a simple murder, the victim was an operative of the Inquisition. Sent to retrieve a dangerous artifact from a hidden shrine, the murdered agent was betrayed by his partner, and now the artifact is missing. Without the artifact, Ethan's home, once a safe haven from the bustle and pollution of the city, is suddenly fraught with misfortune and danger. At first trying to avoid trouble and stay out of the hands of the Inquisition, Ethan seeks only to further his poetry career. But with his friends in danger and Ethan pursued by the Inquisition, he can no longer remain uninvolved. Forced to confront his own cowardice, Ethan must make a choice: continue to hide in coffee shops and gin-dens, or learn to control his gift and find the artifact before the home he loves is torn apart.

My novel OF POETS AND ANGELS, is a 96,000-word SteamPunk-Fantasy, that will appeal to readers of China Mielville and Bruce Sterling alike.

Thank you considering my submission, the manuscript is available upon request.

Sincerely,

C. Scott Morris

7 comments:

Bane of Anubis said...

I like this -- short, succinct, and different. I'm not sure I'm sold on the tagline opening("A murder in..."), but I think that's just personal preference.

Kourtnie McKenzie said...

I think this is a really strong query. I love fantasy, so it might be my personal tastes coming in, but I think you're definitely on the right track to getting an agent. :)

I only have a couple suggestions for it:

A murder in the corrupt and polluted city of Lambria sends a poet on a desperate chase for an ancient artifact [I'd just start off with the paragraph below.]

Ethan has a rare gift. His poetry can do more than captivate audiences: it can command thoughts, or even alter reality itself. [I would remove "Ethan has a rare gift" and start it "Ethan's poetry can do..."] As Ethan struggles to control his new abilities, he stumbles upon a grisly murder that threatens to attract the attention of the dreaded Inquisition, if he doesn't solve it first. Ethan's investigations reveal much more than a simple murder, the victim was an operative of the Inquisition. [paragraph break here; makes some white space that's easy on the eyes in your email query :)]

Sent to retrieve a dangerous artifact from a hidden shrine, the murdered agent was betrayed by his partner, and now the artifact is missing. [I would reword the order of events in the last sentence so you only need to use one comma; that way the agent only has to breathe/pause once instead of twice and the query flows a little faster.] Without the artifact, Ethan's home, once a safe haven from the bustle and pollution of the city, is suddenly fraught with misfortune and danger. At first trying to avoid trouble and stay out of the hands of the Inquisition, Ethan seeks only to further his poetry career. But with his friends in danger and Ethan pursued by the Inquisition, he can no longer remain uninvolved. Forced to confront his own cowardice, Ethan must make a choice: continue to hide in coffee shops and gin-dens, or learn to control his gift and find the artifact before the home he loves is torn apart. [I would remove "Forced to confront his own cowardice"]

My novel OF POETS AND ANGELS, is a 96,000-word SteamPunk-Fantasy, [YAY! Steampunk!! :D] that will appeal to readers of China Mielville and Bruce Sterling alike. [I would remove "alike," just in case you run into an agent that likes/knows one of these authors but not both of them; "alike" is clumping two different voices/writers together. :)]

Good luck with your querying! Your novel sounds awesome!

Amy said...

I'd remove the opening paragraph. I know it's meant to be a quick tagline that gives an overview of the whole novel, but searching for an ancient artifact is a common and overused plot device, thus the tagline is not emphasizing the more unique and original aspects of your story.

Ethan has a rare gift. His poetry can do more than captivate audiences: it can command thoughts, or even alter reality itself.

I like this part.

As Ethan struggles to control his new abilities, he stumbles upon a grisly murder that threatens to attract the attention of the dreaded Inquisition, if he doesn't solve it first.

Here I started to get lost. The Inquisition? This is the first setting clue you've given me, but I can't tell if this is a novel set during the time of the historical Inquisition, or it's some fantasy world with a made-up Inquisition. I think that needs to be clarified--or give us an early setting clue (and/or the genre of the novel) so that it's obvious what you mean by the Inquisition.

Also, what does he care if the murder attracts the attention of the Inquisition? Does that affect him in any way? Why can't he just walk away and forget about it?

Ethan's investigations reveal much more than a simple murder, the victim was an operative of the Inquisition.

run-on sentence

Also, you need a paragraph break somewhere in there. Long paragraphs with no white space in them are difficult and tiring to read.

This is a pretty typical fantasy plot--hero with unusual magical abilities must learn to master his gift and find a powerful artifact before the bad guys find it (or him). What makes it different from the typical fantasy novel is the fact that the hero is a poet, and his magic is based in poetry. So you might consider emphasizing that a bit more and giving us some more details about his gift. Part of me is thinking, "Oh no! Is this novel going to be full of poetry I have to read?"--because I am not a poetry fan! But another part of me thinks it's an interesting twist.

By the way, what about this novel makes it steampunk? None of the query details gave me a steampunk vibe. I was surprised when I got to the genre.

John said...

This has some intriguing aspects, but I'm confused. Ethan stumbles on the murder, so he must not be the murderer. So why is he afraid of the Inquisition getting involved? The artifact was in a hidden shrine, but later we read that Ethan's "home" has become dangerous because of the absence of the artifact. Is the hidden shrine his home? At first I thought his "home" might mean the city, but his home is a refuge from the city. Why would the Inquisition be after him or his friends? How can his powers help recover the artifact, and wouldn't his ability to recover it just convince the Inquisition of his guilt?

Also, I'm not expert on steampunk, but to me this sounds more like something set in an earlier era, e.g., medieval.

C Scott Morris said...

First, thank you all for your advice. It has been helpful. This site is a goldmine!
To be honest, my novel is not really a steampunk. Not to a purist, anyway. It IS, however, set in a steampunk setting. I do not rely on any of the standard steampunk literary mechanism to move my plot, so some do not consider it 'real' steam punk. I do have a mad scientist with a death ray, massive calculating engines, steam powered automatons, and even steam powered suits of armor worn by a despotic police force. Any mention of those, however, are often critiqued as not necessary, as they are secondary to the main plot. I will likely delete that word when submitting to an agency that does not specifically want steampunk.
As for Ethan's trouble with the Inquisition: He was branded as a child for blasphemy, with a Rune of Silence which should have rendered him mute. Using a forbidden magic, he changed the rune to Voice instead, and now his poetry can blah blah blah. Also critiqued as unnecessary back story.
I believe that Inquisition is foreboding enough. But you tell me, that's why I'm here.
Again, thank you all for you advice.

C Scott Morris said...

Update: Signed with an agent yesterday, using the query as posted.

Rick Daley said...

CONGRATS!!!

Best of luck as you go through revisions and submission to publishers.