Aug 30, 2010

Query - Bond of Darkness (Final Revision)

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

Thanks to all of the comments who have pushed me to an MC-driven query. I hope you all enjoy this last version.


When a voice in Valence's head warns him of a coming war, he ignores it. His ignorance only lasts until he realizes he's faced this adversary before--as a young boy when he killed a friend. The act cast him into exile from the Lunata and he's forced to live among the other races, all of which fear his kind.

Traveling through his homeland, Valence sees the spread of the Darkness. It infects, claims, and ultimately destroys its victims. While he flees the infection, its influence grows. Creatures hunt him, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible.

As the Darkness' grip on the land tightens, Valence is determined to stop it. He must shed the stigma of his race, but more importantly, do so while he attempts to unify a nation against an enemy they cannot see.

BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods. I have been published in the Stockpot, an undergraduate literary journal and the Sentinel, a county-circulated newspaper. I am currently working on a sequel.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Justin W. Parente
Writing as J.W. Parente

11 comments:

Dominique said...

This query is much stronger. I now feel like I understand the character, his motivations, and his problems.
One small note: I believe you to be using 'ignorance' incorrectly.

Anonymous Author said...

This is much clearer than previous versions. However, I hope it's not really your last version because there are a few things you still ought to tweak.

In the first paragraph, did Valence kill his friend *because* of the voice? If not, he loses major sympathy points. If yes, you should make it clear.

I'm confused by all the references to "race". What is Valence's race, and why is it stigmatized?

Most of the verbs that show decisive action-- hunt, destroy, cast-- are actions committed by someone other than Valence, while with the exception of "killed," all the verbs showing what Valence does are more passive. You probably want to show him taking more decisive action (or else explain why he doesn't).

In the fourth paragraph, there should be a final s after the apostrophe: "Darkness's" because it is not plural.

Lastly, the various websites that discuss query letters all say that you shouldn't mention any publication you weren't paid for. Just passing that along.

Zee Lemke said...

Here's my paraphrase of this query, just to see if I'm reading it right:

When Valence, a Lunata, was a little boy, he killed a friend and was exiled to live among the non-Lunata races who hate and fear Lunata. Now, because he hears a voice in his head telling him there's a war coming, which may or may not be the same voice that made him kill the friend, he is trying to organize a socio-religious movement to stop the Darkness, which may or may not also be the voice in his head, since it's a mind-control disease that has caused an evil conspiracy to try to take over the country.

Here's my issues:

Is "Lunata" a place you can be exiled from (France) or a descent-based ethnic group that can symbolically ostracise you (Chassidic Jews)? I initially thought the former, but then decided it must be the latter if Valence can "wander" his "homeland" without returning there first. Either way, explanation is worth the word count.

Is there more than one nation in the world? Is the coming war an outside invasion or some sort of coup or civil unrest? Does the voice specify, or is it being annoyingly vague? Where are the soldiers and weapons for the aggressors coming from? Is the voice tricking Valence into starting the war himself? (Okay, don't answer that last one.)

Why is Valence able to persuade people to do anything? You don't need to say much about it, just like three words' worth of his connections or public speaking skill or magic power or whatever gets people to listen. Also, this version doesn't make it clear why he's being hunted or why he matters at all. You don't have to bring back the Pearls by name, but you might consider giving Valence an "ancient artifact" or something that lets him... whatever it is the Pearls let him do to the Darkness. Please please please tell me that.

Whose servants? Are the creatures also servants? Why is the word "servants" even here? Are those clauses just redundant? Is the evil conspiracy the cause or the effect of the Darkness? I assumed it was the effect, since it's growing "larger" as the darkness spreads, and I tend to associate that word with mass movements, not cabals manipulating politics. However, you state pretty clearly that the conspiracy is causing the Darkness. Some characterization of the conspirators here would be extremely helpful. Not names, just positions--judges, generals, priests, whatever. Then it's (presumably?) their servants attacking Valence as he tries to expose him, not just creatures hunting him. (Those creatures could be hungry pumas right now.) You might bring in Mithrus here, especially if the end of the book is Valence getting rid of the Darkness by killing Mithrus.

Zee Lemke said...

Here's my paraphrase of this query, just to see if I'm reading it right:

When Valence, a Lunata, was a little boy, he killed a friend and was exiled to live among the non-Lunata races who hate and fear Lunata. Now, because he hears a voice in his head telling him there's a war coming, which may or may not be the same voice that made him kill the friend, he is trying to organize a socio-religious movement to stop the Darkness, which may or may not also be the voice in his head, since it's a mind-control disease that has caused an evil conspiracy to try to take over the country.

Here's my issues:

Is "Lunata" a place you can be exiled from (France) or a descent-based ethnic group that can symbolically ostracise you (Chassidic Jews)? I initially thought the former, but then decided it must be the latter if Valence can "wander" his "homeland" without returning there first. Either way, explanation is worth the word count.

Is there more than one nation in the world? Is the coming war an outside invasion or some sort of coup or civil unrest? Does the voice specify, or is it being annoyingly vague? Where are the soldiers and weapons for the aggressors coming from? Is the voice tricking Valence into starting the war himself? (Okay, don't answer that last one.)

Zee Lemke said...

continued...


Why is Valence able to persuade people to do anything? You don't need to say much about it, just like three words' worth of his connections or public speaking skill or magic power or whatever gets people to listen. Also, this version doesn't make it clear why he's being hunted or why he matters at all. You don't have to bring back the Pearls by name, but you might consider giving Valence an "ancient artifact" or something that lets him... whatever it is the Pearls let him do to the Darkness. Please please please tell me that.

Whose servants? Are the creatures also servants? Why is the word "servants" even here? Are those clauses just redundant? Is the evil conspiracy the cause or the effect of the Darkness? I assumed it was the effect, since it's growing "larger" as the darkness spreads, and I tend to associate that word with mass movements, not cabals manipulating politics. However, you state pretty clearly that the conspiracy is causing the Darkness. Some characterization of the conspirators here would be extremely helpful. Not names, just positions--judges, generals, priests, whatever. Then it's (presumably?) their servants attacking Valence as he tries to expose him, not just creatures hunting him. (Those creatures could be hungry pumas right now.) You might bring in Mithrus here, especially if the end of the book is Valence getting rid of the Darkness by killing Mithrus.

Zee Lemke said...

Forgive double post. Got error message first time. Dropping words in frustration.

Donna Hole said...

I didn't read the other two Justin - I haven't been around this site for a while. I'm going to just comment on the strength of this one, mostly because I think it is very strong. (Sorry I didn't see the other two sooner.)

A few minor points only.

1. "When a voice in Valence's head . ." I'd like to see first and last name for Valence, and a position/career that explains why he "hears" the voice. I need to see his title/profession and race. Where/what is his world.

2. "Traveling through his homeland. ." Is there some other world/land he could go and why is he wondering about? What makes his "race" feared?

I like the line "Creatures hunt him, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible." However, I have no idea what "The Darkness" is, or what kind of threat it poses. And why Valence is the only one who knows of the conspiracy.

This is Valence's nemesis, and needs as much development as the hero.

3. "He must shed the stigma of his race," but we don't know what that could be. If you explain this (just a little) in para 1 with Valence's character description, it is a powerful statement, and would fit well right where you have it as an obstacle to overcome.

". . while he attempts to unify a nation against an enemy they cannot see." Does ANYONE else perceive this danger? Does he have a support system, allies? What are the consequences if he fails?

4. The last paragraph is perfectly worded - in my unprofessional opinion. (Of course, this whole critique is my unprofessional opinion). Probably leave out that you are working on a sequel though. As you are an as yet unknown author, they're only focused on this one novel. (I've read a few agent blogs myself, and what I've gathered is if they are interested in THIS novel at all, they will ask about your future writing plans.)

You might want to put "BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods." at the beginning, depending on how your personalization line reads, but there is so much controversy about that out there you may want to leave it right where it is. On that score, you just need to research the Agent you have in mind to query, and a lot of times Agency's have basic submission guidelines and examples posted on their website.

The last thing I'll comment on is your credentials. I think they are excellent. There are as many opinions on what you should/should not mention in credentials as there are on whether to put your novel's word count at the top or bottom of the query.

Unless those publications amount to some form of "self publishing" there is no reason not to include them just because you were not paid. A lot of nationally recognized publications do not pay their authors. Its a stepping stone into commercial publication. Something to put on your query letter that says someone in the publishing world has read and approved your work.

You're on the right track here Justin. This is concise, and nearly tells enough about your character and the plot of the story.

........dhole

Donna Hole said...

I didn't read the other two Justin - I haven't been around this site for a while. I'm going to just comment on the strength of this one, mostly because I think it is very strong. (Sorry I didn't see the other two sooner.)

A few minor points only.

1. "When a voice in Valence's head . ." I'd like to see first and last name for Valence, and a position/career that explains why he "hears" the voice. I need to see his title/profession and race. Where/what is his world.

2. "Traveling through his homeland. ." Is there some other world/land he could go and why is he wondering about? What makes his "race" feared?

I like the line "Creatures hunt him, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible." However, I have no idea what "The Darkness" is, or what kind of threat it poses. And why Valence is the only one who knows of the conspiracy.

This is Valence's nemesis, and needs as much development as the hero.

3. "He must shed the stigma of his race," but we don't know what that could be. If you explain this (just a little) in para 1 with Valence's character description, it is a powerful statement, and would fit well right where you have it as an obstacle to overcome.

". . while he attempts to unify a nation against an enemy they cannot see." Does ANYONE else perceive this danger? Does he have a support system, allies? What are the consequences if he fails?

4. The last paragraph is perfectly worded - in my unprofessional opinion. (Of course, this whole critique is my unprofessional opinion). Probably leave out that you are working on a sequel though. As you are an as yet unknown author, they're only focused on this one novel. (I've read a few agent blogs myself, and what I've gathered is if they are interested in THIS novel at all, they will ask about your future writing plans.)

You might want to put "BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods." at the beginning, depending on how your personalization line reads, but there is so much controversy about that out there you may want to leave it right where it is. On that score, you just need to research the Agent you have in mind to query, and a lot of times Agency's have basic submission guidelines and examples posted on their website.

The last thing I'll comment on is your credentials. I think they are excellent. There are as many opinions on what you should/should not mention in credentials as there are on whether to put your novel's word count at the top or bottom of the query.

Unless those publications amount to some form of "self publishing" there is no reason not to include them just because you were not paid. A lot of nationally recognized publications do not pay their authors. Its a stepping stone into commercial publication. Something to put on your query letter that says someone in the publishing world has read and approved your work.

You're on the right track here Justin. This is concise, and nearly tells enough about your character and the plot of the story.

........dhole

Donna Hole said...

I didn't read the other two Justin - I haven't been around this site for a while. I'm going to just comment on the strength of this one.

1. "When a voice in Valence's head . ." I'd like to see first and last name for Valence, and a position/career that explains why he "hears" the voice. I need to see his title/profession and race. Where/what is his world.

2. "Traveling through his homeland. ." Is there some other world/land he could go and why is he wondering about? What makes his "race" feared?

I like the line "Creatures hunt him, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible." However, I have no idea what "The Darkness" is, or what kind of threat it poses. And why Valence is the only one who knows of the conspiracy.

This is Valence's nemesis, and needs as much development as the hero.

3. "He must shed the stigma of his race," but we don't know what that could be. If you explain this (just a little) in para 1 with Valence's character description, it is a powerful statement, and would fit well right where you have it as an obstacle to overcome.

". . while he attempts to unify a nation against an enemy they cannot see." Does ANYONE else perceive this danger? Does he have a support system, allies? What are the consequences if he fails?

4. The last paragraph is perfectly worded - in my unprofessional opinion. (Of course, this whole critique is my unprofessional opinion). Probably leave out that you are working on a sequel though. As you are an as yet unknown author, they're only focused on this one novel. (I've read a few agent blogs myself, and what I've gathered is if they are interested in THIS novel at all, they will ask about your future writing plans.)

You might want to put "BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods." at the beginning, depending on how your personalization line reads, but there is so much controversy about that out there you may want to leave it right where it is. On that score, you just need to research the Agent you have in mind to query, and a lot of times Agency's have basic submission guidelines and examples posted on their website.

The last thing I'll comment on is your credentials. I think they are excellent. There are as many opinions on what you should/should not mention in credentials as there are on whether to put your novel's word count at the top or bottom of the query.

Unless those publications amount to some form of "self publishing" there is no reason not to include them just because you were not paid. A lot of nationally recognized publications do not pay their authors. Its a stepping stone into commercial publication. Something to put on your query letter that says someone in the publishing world has read and approved your work.

You're on the right track here Justin. This is concise, and nearly tells enough about your character and the plot of the story.

........dhole

Donna Hole said...

I didn't read the other two Justin - I haven't been around this site for a while. I'm going to just comment on the strength of this one.

1. "When a voice in Valence's head . ." I'd like to see first and last name for Valence, and a position/career that explains why he "hears" the voice. I need to see his title/profession and race. Where/what is his world.

2. "Traveling through his homeland. ." Is there some other world/land he could go and why is he wondering about? What makes his "race" feared?

I like the line "Creatures hunt him, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible." However, I have no idea what "The Darkness" is, or what kind of threat it poses. And why Valence is the only one who knows of the conspiracy.

This is Valence's nemesis, and needs as much development as the hero.

3. "He must shed the stigma of his race," but we don't know what that could be. If you explain this (just a little) in para 1 with Valence's character description, it is a powerful statement, and would fit well right where you have it as an obstacle to overcome.

". . while he attempts to unify a nation against an enemy they cannot see." Does ANYONE else perceive this danger? Does he have a support system, allies? What are the consequences if he fails?

4. The last paragraph is perfectly worded - in my unprofessional opinion. (Of course, this whole critique is my unprofessional opinion). Probably leave out that you are working on a sequel though. As you are an as yet unknown author, they're only focused on this one novel. (I've read a few agent blogs myself, and what I've gathered is if they are interested in THIS novel at all, they will ask about your future writing plans.)

You might want to put "BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods." at the beginning, depending on how your personalization line reads, but there is so much controversy about that out there you may want to leave it right where it is. On that score, you just need to research the Agent you have in mind to query, and a lot of times Agency's have basic submission guidelines and examples posted on their website.

The last thing I'll comment on is your credentials. I think they are excellent. There are as many opinions on what you should/should not mention in credentials as there are on whether to put your novel's word count at the top or bottom of the query.

Unless those publications amount to some form of "self publishing" there is no reason not to include them just because you were not paid. A lot of nationally recognized publications do not pay their authors. Its a stepping stone into commercial publication. Something to put on your query letter that says someone in the publishing world has read and approved your work.

You're on the right track here Justin. This is concise, and nearly tells enough about your character and the plot of the story.

........dhole

Donna Hole said...

I didn't read the other two Justin - I haven't been around this site for a while. I'm going to just comment on the strength of this one.

1. "When a voice in Valence's head . ." I'd like to see first and last name for Valence, and a position/career that explains why he "hears" the voice. I need to see his title/profession and race. Where/what is his world.

2. "Traveling through his homeland. ." Is there some other world/land he could go and why is he wondering about? What makes his "race" feared?

I like the line "Creatures hunt him, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible." However, I have no idea what "The Darkness" is, or what kind of threat it poses. And why Valence is the only one who knows of the conspiracy.

This is Valence's nemesis, and needs as much development as the hero.

3. "He must shed the stigma of his race," but we don't know what that could be. If you explain this (just a little) in para 1 with Valence's character description, it is a powerful statement, and would fit well right where you have it as an obstacle to overcome.

". . while he attempts to unify a nation against an enemy they cannot see." Does ANYONE else perceive this danger? Does he have a support system, allies? What are the consequences if he fails?

4. The last paragraph is perfectly worded - in my unprofessional opinion. (Of course, this whole critique is my unprofessional opinion). Probably leave out that you are working on a sequel though. As you are an as yet unknown author, they're only focused on this one novel. (I've read a few agent blogs myself, and what I've gathered is if they are interested in THIS novel at all, they will ask about your future writing plans.)

You might want to put "BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods." at the beginning, depending on how your personalization line reads, but there is so much controversy about that out there you may want to leave it right where it is. On that score, you just need to research the Agent you have in mind to query, and a lot of times Agency's have basic submission guidelines and examples posted on their website.

The last thing I'll comment on is your credentials. I think they are excellent. There are as many opinions on what you should/should not mention in credentials as there are on whether to put your novel's word count at the top or bottom of the query.

Unless those publications amount to some form of "self publishing" there is no reason not to include them just because you were not paid. A lot of nationally recognized publications do not pay their authors. Its a stepping stone into commercial publication. Something to put on your query letter that says someone in the publishing world has read and approved your work.

You're on the right track here Justin. This is concise, and nearly tells enough about your character and the plot of the story.

........dhole