Apr 26, 2011


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

The temperature is the only cool thing about Jason’s trip to the North Pole with his father, but things heat up when they discover a book buried deep in the ice.  This is no ordinary book, mind you. For starters, it was written by an Elf. And if that’s not enough, the book proves the existence of Kris Kringle – you know, Santa Claus.
Born human but abandoned as a baby, Kris is rescued by Elfs and grows up among them…but he doesn’t really fit in. Kris embarks on a quest to find his true family among the humans by delivering presents on Christmas day. There’s a catch, though: the High Council of Elfs is convinced humans are wicked at heart, and Kris can’t return to his Elfin home unless he can prove otherwise.

His journey takes him all the way to the legendary Great Northern Glen, and from there to the town of Oldenton, where he finds two orphans who are about to lose everything they have to a greedy uncle.  With only days before Christmas, Kris must try to help the kids, deliver his presents, find his family, and prove that human virtue does exist…even in the most unexpected of human hearts.

THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is a 35,000-word novella written for anyone who has ever believed in Santa Claus.  This story-within-a-story explains everything from the origins of Santa’s white hair and red suit to his ability to fit all those presents in one sack.  It also has a streak of action and adventure…think "Santa Begins."  It should appeal to the reluctant boy reader.


Anonymous Author said...

Rick, this reads fairly professionally but still has the snag I remember from the early version.

The first paragraph talks about Jason, and the rest of the query about Kris. I'd try scrapping Jason, at least from the query, and just writing about Kris.

The story-within-a-story is always tricky because it requires the reader to get emotionally involved with one character and then drop them for another. When it works it seems like it usually works as a flashback of the same character, a la Titanic.

Anyway, it's a multiple POV situation, so you should probably follow Janet Reid's advice for multiple viewpoint queries.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks for the feedback Anon. What would you think if Jason is not mentioned per se, just that a book is found under the ice? I think that element of the set-up is important.

This story-within-a-story follows more along the lines of The Princess Bride than Titanic. Jason has a bigger story arc, though, i.e. he overcomes greater challenges than a simple aversion to kissing.

And technically, it's really a story-within-a-story (within a story): Jason and his father, Kris and his quest to find his family, and the orphans in Oldenton. Weaving them together so it seems like all are cut from the same cloth was not easy, but I'm confident I nailed it. It took a mix of favorable and harsh criticism, and a hell of a lot of revising, but it works.

If you are interested (and available, I know these are two very different factors) to read it, I would love your feedback. Feel free to contact me at rjdaley101071 (at) gmail (dot) com.

And as always, thanks for your participation on this blog!

Anonymous said...

Blogger sucks. yankinfrance here...

I think there's a nice flow to the writing in this query, which is very hopeful for the novel itself.

I'm impressed that you're able to achieve a story-within-a-story (within a story) in just 35,000 words -- I can understand the temptation of wanting to get all that information into the query. But doing so leads to confusion.

There's an element of The Neverending Story in this story (that one was framed by a boy who finds a book too), it might be worthwhile exploring how that one was presented.

I'd focus the query entirely around Kris and his conflicts -- I'm assuming Jason plays some part in its ultimate resolution? If so, then this information can be provided later in the query.

I also wonder about calling this a 'novella', which I've always thought was a long short story. Instead, this seems like children's fiction -- the word count seems like the right length for a novel in that category.

Lastly, you don't need most of the last paragraph -- certainly you can lose the "streak of action and adventure..." and the "think" bits. And you don't need to tell an agent who this would appeal to either.

The most important thing I take away from this iteration of the query, however, is that you can indeed write. Which seems to be a pretty rare thing ;-)

Rick Daley said...

Thanks for the compliment, yakinfrance.

I'm familiar with The Neverending Story, that's another good example of the framing I used.

Fitting three overlapping story lines into a dual-narrative novel in 35,000 words was certainly a challenge, but what do you expect for a guy who thinks "for my next book I'm going to re-boot the Santa Claus legend"?

In my previous queries I did position it as MG. I'm not sure why I changed it to novella, other than thinking that it's a great read for adults as well as kids.

Mary Kate Leahy said...

First off the plural of elf is elves and one would refer to something as elven. That's easily corrected. I think the query definitely has a voice that I like. I can imagine buying a book like this.

I am torn on whether or not to remove Jason from the query. Maybe move where he is talked about? for example have the paragraphs about Kris Kringle and the elven stuff and then talk about Jason. I don't know if that would work but I would play around with it maybe. Having not read the whole thing I would say open the query with the character who has the most airtime.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks for the feedback Mary Kate. I had this in the prior versions of the query, I should probably keep it in:

"A note on style: the book was written by an Elf. Elfs always capitalize the E, and never convert the f to a v. That’s a human thing."

Kris is the main character for the overall novel, but it opens and ends with Jason and his father. My fear in leaving Jason out is that if a partial is requested, or if sample pages are provided with the query, Kris doesn't show up until page 10. Jason and his father find the book in the ice at the end of chapter 1 (page 5) and dig the book up in chapter 2 and start reading it in chapter 3 (page 10).

glj said...

Sorry, but reading "Elfs" really bothered me. Your writing flows well, but when I hit the first occurrence of this, I couldn't help but think "ug, kid writer". Consider only spelling it that way when Jason and his dad start reading the book.

The story-within-a-story threw me a bit. But I think that if you trim back the detail of Kris' story, it might work better. After all, interest is created by showing a looming conflict, but not resolving it. This seems to resolve too much. Jason and his dad should feel compelled to read more after reading a little bit, and so should we.

Definitely drop the explanation in the last paragraph. I think readers can grasp that it is the story of Santa if you give just enough detail.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks glj. In the MS I do format elf / elves properly in the opening chapters, before the narrative shifts to the book they found.

Anonymous Author said...

Rick, I think what you should actually do is just spell it elves in the query rather than take up time explaining why you're spelling it elfs.

Sorry I didn't answer your previous comment; blogger was screwing with me. I haven't really got time to do anything much right now-- busy caring for a seriously ill family member and working on the revision from hell.