Jun 5, 2009

Query- Blood From Heaven

A revision of this query has been posted. Click here to read it.
Click here to read version 3.

Dear Future Agent:

Your expressed interest in literary fiction with commercial appeal led me to approach you for representation for my upmarket fiction work Blood From Heaven, which is complete at 82,700 words.

Samone is a woman who communicates with spirits within her own body, only when she is found in the woods, no one knows who she is or that her spirit is actually missing; her body is being kept alive by an angel―a Seraphim.

Dale Paterson and Michael “Liner’ Dawson find themselves thrust into a new life when they encounter this woman. The veils between the spirit world and the Earthly realm are shredded by the urgency of life and death: the life of Samone, who will die if her spirit is not found in time, and the murders of two men.

Serafina, the angel, is forced to trust Paterson and Liner and imprints them into the world of magic, angels, and demons. As their new lives lurch forward in a world that alienates them from "mundanes", they begin a new path of initiation into spiritual self-transcendence, guided by the interaction with the angel Serafina. Once they rescue Samone from the spirit realm, the three of them form a bond of intimacy that only unbelievable circumstances can forge. Paterson and Liner have to face their own inner struggles while learning the ways that demons invade the lives of humans, and the ways angels are not always what they seem.

My novel most certainly fits the description of edgy dark fiction that has mainstream appeal as it combines elements of paranormal, mystery, and crime fiction, with a focus on strong character development and interpersonal relationships and conflict. Blood From Heaven presents a unique perspective and voice, as it weaves together the points of view of the three protaganists without losing the readers ability to remain immersed in the story. It incorporates the ancient pagan traditions of women who served as Priestesses and liminal points to the spirit realm using an oracular technique of trance possession. Blood From Heaven was crafted with a strong and unique literary style.

I have drawn from my educational and professional background in Social Work, law enforcement, psychology, sociology, archaic and dead languages, Pagan spiritualities, occult history, modern magical movements, magical philosophy and history, and the arts and science of occult practice. I own a retail occult/Pagan business with an international customer base. This is my first novel.

I have started a blog written from the point of view of the female protagonist, Samone. [http://ejalvey.wordpress.com] It is a prequel to this novel in the form of her journal entries. Paterson and Liner use Samone's journal to learn about her and to assist them in locating her spirit and bring it back to her body. I think this will be an excellent way to help market the book and reach and maintain a fan-base for this series, as I have successfully developed a following in the blogosphere before from two blogs that I wrote and maintained, as well as when I diaried on Daily Kos.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


E J Alvey


Rick Daley said...

I like the premise...a body kept alive by a surrogate spirit is cool concept. The query is very long, though. I copied it into a blank word document at Times New Roman and 12 pt font and it didn't fit on a single page. I recommend typing it first formatted as a professional letter, times New Roman 12 pt font, and make sure it all fits on one page.

There are 208 words that show us what the story is about, but another 268 that tell us about the story and your background.

The story is the most important thing. That should be the focus of the query. Omit unnecessary words. For example, "Your expressed interest..." Unless they expressed interest directly to you, I would take out expressed. And if they did express interest directly to you (e.g. at a writer's conference, pitch session, etc.) then be precise in referencing that event.

If you know from reading their blog, or website, state that.

I know that this is a general query for public submission, so you can't get too particular, but I hope you see my point.

"edgy dark fiction that has mainstream appeal as it combines elements of paranormal, mystery, and crime fiction,"

When you list your genres, narrow it down to one common definition. The agent will know how to present it to an editor, and it also helps keep your word count down.

There is a link on the right side of this blog to genre descriptions at AgentQuery.com, and a post on this blog titled "Got Genre?" labeled under FAQ's.

There was also a good post describing genres today at The Literary Lab (http://literarylab.blogspot.com)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your comments on my query. I welcome more criticism, so I hope others will chime in!

I also thank you for this blog--what a great idea!

Did the section of my query that referenced the story itself seem clear, interesting, and did it draw you in?

I have not gotten any requests, and am having trouble I think getting it tight and inviting, since my novel is rather complex and involved.

Again, thanks!

Rick Daley said...

No problem, I'm glad you found the site. Give it a day or two, I'm sure you'll get more feedback.

The description can be distilled, I think there's a lot there. Many of us struggle with short form writing, this may help:

I had a query critique by Nathan Bransford earlier this year, and he gave me a great tip: write the story description in one sentence. What is it really about?

Instead of making a long description short, find that sentence, and then make that short description long.

Try to keep it to the protagonist and antagonist. Protagonist is trying to do X, but antagonist is trying to do Y to prevent it, resulting in Z.

That's the starting point, and build up from there. Make sure you don't add things that require too much detail or invite too many questions.

Make it active. "Samone is a woman who communicates with spirits within her own body" this is passive...the verb "is" drives the sentence. Make it active. Samone communicates with spirits within her boy. Communicates is now the prominent verb. The pronoun her shows the reader she is female.

Anonymous said...

Extremely helpful. Thanks!!

Lori Folkman said...

Awesome book idea. Like Rick said, the query was too long. I think this may be a case of trying a tad to hard...strip it down to the story essentials. It is so hard to condense a complex story down to a couple of paragraphs, but it must be done! You don't want to invite skimming, which, quite frankly, after the first few paragraphs is what I did. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks folksinmt. I am going to do a major revision. It seems like every time I have read advice on different blogs and done revisions, my query has grown and gotten larger.

This is really going to help me focus on what I need to do. Thanks.

Laura Martone said...

Hello, EJ! I agree with Rick and folksinmt - this query is way too long. The query should snag and hold an agent's attention with a concise, impactful description. While I find the story intriguing, I must admit that my eyes wandered a bit at times. Just keep it simple. One thing that might help is focusing on one character's point of view. Your novel might be complex, but a query needs to be as simple as possible. As other critiquers have advised me for my own query, you should stick with one protagonist in the query. Here, I count at least four.

In the interest of brevity, you should consider combining the last three paragraphs into one very short one - focus on no more than two genres (like paranormal mystery), eliminate phrases like "a unique perspective and voice" (for the sake of word count - and because agents tend to despise such assessments), get rid of generalizations about the story (just tell what happens - not what the book is about), streamline your connection to the material (agents also dislike laundry lists like the one concerning your background), and reduce the blog info to one sentence at the most.

Remember, a good rule of thumb is to keep a query between 250 and 350 words.

Good luck!

scott g.f.bailey said...

Think of the coolest thing about your story, then write it down, in a single sentence. Start with that. What's the main conflict? Again, in one sentence. What is the main goal, and what's in the way of reaching that goal? Be specific. "Learning the ways that demons invade the lives of humans, and the ways angels are not always what they seem" is not really a goal.

This looks like an interesting premise, but you've written what seems like a synopsis of the first half of the book. Like everyone else here, I think this is too long. My query letter was eight sentences long. Yours is eight paragraphs long, and never quite gets to the point. An agent will likely think that your book goes on without getting to the point too.

And as has been said above, don't talk about yourself; just talk about the book. Tell us what's really cool about it.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Laura.


Anonymous said...

Good advice, Scott. Thanks.