Jul 18, 2009

QUERY: Ghosts of Innocence

Dear Amazing Agent,

Shayla Carver, undercover agent and master assassin, has killed many times. That's what assassins do. Nothing to lose sleep over. But this mission is different; she's never killed a whole planet before.

She's seen it happen though, many years ago, when her own home burned on the orders of a young Emperor. The young Shayla watched, helpless but incensed, and vowed revenge.

How many youngsters dream the impossible? And how many think of the consequences? Shayla did more than dream. She started on a long road, a road which she's followed without question, a road which has finally brought her to the Emperor's palace and within reach of her goal.

Shayla has planned everything meticulously, except that she hasn't allowed for coming face to face with some of the two billion inhabitants she's about to slaughter. Ordinary people. Not the stereotyped strutting Imperials of her imagination, and not so readily dismissed as legitimate targets or collateral damage. And then there's the Emperor himself. An ordinary man with troubles and dreams of his own. Not the kind of man Shayla can picture giving such an order.

Now she's starting to lose sleep.

As she enslaves the destructive might of the Emperor's own fleet and launches the final stage of her plan, Shayla can no longer ignore the enormity of what she's doing. On the brink of success, she must choose: To complete her lifelong goal to rid humanity of a corrupt regime, or to heed her own misgivings and trust the man, her sworn enemy, that she's spent so many years pursuing.

"Ghosts of Innocence" is a science fiction novel complete at 95,000 words. I am also working on a sequel, "The Ashes of Home". Thank you for your time and consideration.


Wannabe Author


Julie said...

Wow, this is really good! I'm new at query letter writing so I'm sure some of the veterans will have suggestions for you.

But I wasn't confused about anything as I have been in other query's (including my own).

I have questions about the characters but only because I want to know not because you confused me at all in your query!

gj said...

I love, love, love the first paragraph, but then you lose me for two paragraphs of backstory and angst and rhetorical questions, and then it picks up again after that.

It makes me worry that you do the same thing in your manuscript -- wander off into backstory, I mean, and ruin your pacing. You don't want to give an agent that impression.

Simple solution -- just excise those two paragraphs. Maybe keep one much shorter sentence about how she wouldn't consider killing a whole planet, except it's the one responsible for her own planet's death.

Suzan Harden said...

You've got an interesting premise with lots of built-in conflict.

Take a good look at your query, and see what can be trimmed. Things like repetitve statements and rhetorical question can be cut out. If you're going to query certain agents (the terrific Nathan Bransford comes to mind), you definitely don't want a rhetorical question in the query.

Be a little more specific in the events of the book. And watch your words choices. Would Shayla really just be 'incensed' over the destruction of her homeworld? How about 'horrified'? Little things like that up the ante in your character's conflict.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Killer opening! Really hooked by the story and character.
You need to lose the third paragraph--it slows your query to a crawl. Rhetorical questions can stop a reader (agent) cold.
I agree with other comments already posted.
Good luck with this. It really got my attention.

Joshua McCune said...

I agree w/ the first paragraph's hookishness, though I think you can kill the 2nd and 3rd sentences... the second adds to voice, but a voice that's a bit too flippant, IMO and the 3rd sentence is a bit too ruthless/callous... though you use it as the punch for your later line (which is a nice line, but I still think she's painted a bit too callously in the 1st paragraph).

Agree w/ what everyone said about paragraph 3 -- you can probably condense ideas in 3 and 4 a bit tighter.

Also, there's a bit of logic confusion on my part -- The Emperor appears to be the one giving orders to destroy planets... so is eliminating a corrupt regime killing the emperor or the planet? Is trusting The Emperor mean she has to destroy the planet? Not sure if anybody else found this vague, so, as always, TWAGOS.

All that being said, I like the anti-hero storyline and the query's structure/writing is strong.

Botanist said...

Fantastic feedback everyone!

Sheesh - I wish I'd found this site sooner. Thanks so much Rick for setting it up. I've spent the last year sending variations on this query to the Query Shark hoping for a bite, but to no avail. This has really helped a lot.

Suzan Harden, you sent a cold shiver through me. I just sent exactly this query to Nathan Bransford only a couple of days ago! Stable doors and horses ... Oh well :-(

But I will certainly review & condense paras 2 & 3. Isn't it amazing how things like that are so obvious after the fact?

Thanks again.