Jul 1, 2009

Query - Winter Roses Never Die

Dear Literary Editor,

Although endearing in a way, Jennie is rather too imaginative and naive for someone of thirty-four. As she lives in a small country town where most of the inhabitants are earthy and provincial, her whimsical, shy nature stands out even more than her colourful array of shabby chic clothing. When she breathlessly relates to her library co-workers of meeting a handsome man (in a wheel chair) in an abandoned winter cemetery beside a rose-covered grave, her credibility is stretched to the limit. And then when she describes hearing disembodied singing and music that seemed to follow her down the cemetery path, her long-suffering associates begin to doubt her integrity and sanity. However, she hasn't even told them the whole story of what she experienced. She is convinced a beautiful lady with sloe-shaped green eyes was reclining on a twig-like branch of a wattle tree. The lady's eyes held such power that Jennie went into sensory overload and couldn't move. Only when she was able to recite her favourite prayer (asking for the protection of the Holy Blood) did the vision disappear.

The two focal points of the old, abandoned cemetery where most of the story is set are the blood red roses growing over the co-joined graves of Charos and his mother, and the blood red cloak worn by the statue of the Christ. Both signify the healing and transforming power of selfless, unconditional love. Jennie discovers through her 'inspirationals' that the power of the human soul is in the blood and is triggered by the emotions. Humankind does not know how to tap into that power, but The Family do through their spiritual awareness - an awareness that was taken away from most of humanity but which Jesus came to restore. The difference between Jennie's two favourite men, Jesus and Charos, is that while the vampire-like Charos must take human blood to live, the Blood of Jesus was given on His death so that humankind would throw off their guilt and forgive themselves and find healing and spiritual life, which before was denied to them - through their guilt and lack of spiritual knowledge. Like humanity, Charos has also been cursed - along with his enigmatic people called The Family - and they are also partly dead. But unlike humanity, the power of their spirits is still intact and, hence, their knowledge and understanding of spiritual/supernatural?power. It is?this power, contained in?the soul, which has been lost to them. Their souls have been captured by infernal spirits which live off the power and energy from these souls. The only way The Family can keep physically alive and powerful is by absorbing human blood. The roses growing over Charos' and his mother's graves are actually his transformed mother, transformed through her selfless love and compassion for her son. They are blood red, the radiance of which helped him heal of his terrible burns inflicted by The People. The blood red of the roses signify her love for her son and the energy and comfort which she gave at the expense of her own life-force. The blood red cloak worn by the statue of Jesus in the cemetery also?symbolises the transformed nature of the Christ through His compassion and selfless love for us. He gave His Blood to bring comfort, life and healing to?humanity - the same way that Charos' mother did when she was transformed through the same selfless love for her son into the roses which never die.

Jennie's initial quest is to discover the identity and true nature of the enigmatic man in the wheel chair, to liberate him and the rest of his (non-human) Family from the evil that holds them captive on this earthly plane and which prevents them from being able to feel and be truly alive.? Most importantly, she wants to win the love of this man, Charos, and bring him back into her life and that of their beautiful child, Julianna.?

Combined with this outer quest are Jennie's spiritual experiences which seek her out as opposed to?her outward efforts to find love and happiness.? In the process she discovers that the inner world, the Kingdom of Heaven,?is?such a treasure trove of inspiration, love and happiness that she is tempted to abandon?her seemingly impossible outer quest.? However, as part of her growing process, she discovers she's not the only one fighting terrible battles?of insecurity.? Everyone, no matter how powerful they seem or how perfect their life appears, is fighting the same battle - even the seemingly invincible Charos.? She realises that even though she doesn't need his love for happiness, he needs her love and human power to regain his soul and freedom.

At the end of the story, Jennie's faith and love are victorious. Through her courage and faithful love, Charos is redeemed from his soulless existence, and he and The Family are free to return to their own plane. He, however, chooses to stay with Jennie and their daughter. But it is only when Jennie is able to demonstrate a more perfect and deeper love through compassion and understanding of his past suffering and his insecurities is she able to disarm those insecurities. Only then is Charos able to say the words Jennie has waited years to hear: I love you.

Winter Roses Never Dies is a paranormal romance combined with elements of mystic Christanity, 87,000 words in length, for the adult reader.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this project.

Yours faithfully...


Scott said...

First - way, way, way too long.

Second - too much descriptive detail about clothes, the cemetery, long suffering assocites, etc.

Third - too many adjectives.

The query should be concise and to the point. I think many agents would quit reading after the first paragraph. A query should fit on one page . . . even an email query. I always type my queries up in Word first and make sure it fits, single spaced, double space between pargraphs, on one page.

Also, you need a single line hook, preferably in your first paragraph. What's going to make an agent read more? Maybe something like . . . Jennie hears disembodied voices as she walks through the cemetery . . . or, something else.

The story does sound interesting, I just think you're trying to put way too much into a query. You might want to check out Nathan Bransford's blog - he has some great advice on queries.

Best of luck.


Rick Daley said...

To add to what Scott said about typing your query up in Word, I suggest using Times New Roman 12pt font. Don't try to get extra words in by using a smaller font size.

I have many of Nathan's posts listed under the links on the right side of the Slushpile. Scroll down, it's below the Labels.

Here is an invaluable exercise to help you find the heart of your story: describe it in a single sentence.

Condensing 80,000+ words into 250 for a query is very difficult. I think most people try and hit the 500-1,000 word range, and then cut away at it. The problem is, by the time ytou get it down to the right word count, the awriting is disjointed from all the editing and take-aways.

If you start with a single sentence and build up to 250 words, you are more likely to hit the mark.

Don't be afraid to have a short, sweet query letter that includes the first 4-5 pages of your manuscript. You want to get your voice across, and if the query doesn't fully carry it, the sample pages will.

wendy said...

Thank you, Scott and Rick for the great advice and for wading through that convoluted attempt at a query. Actually, I think I went for a combination of synopsis and query. *g* Well, back to the laptop...

Kori said...

Obviously this has been said before, but OMG TEXT WALL. DD8 I actually gave up halfway through the first paragraph because it was sooo looong and there was just much crammed into such a tiny space.

Pretty much everything Scott said was directly to the point, when I managed to go back and reread it. It seems like you might have something good here, but it's like digging through mud to find a diamond at the moment.

Rachael said...

Number one: Way, way too long. A query should be less than a page total. That includes your personalized bit if you have one, bio, and maybe even the contact information as well.

Focus. On. Jennie. She’s the main character I assume. You can probably cut the entire second paragraph. If it’s ABSOLUTELY VITAL to your story, then condense it into one or two lines.

What’s up with all the random question marks? Was that just some kind of copy/paste error?

Rule number two: Don’t give away the ending. You want to hint at the ending and leave the reader begging for more.

This is a pretty good frame for a synopsis. Put it aside, flesh it out, make it more interesting, and you have a synopsis. Pull out a sheet of clean paper and start all over on the query.

We want a basic overview of the plot without the ending. It has to be interesting. There are tons of examples all over the internet. To get an idea of what they’re looking for, read the back summary of books. It’s very similar to what a query should be. It needs to contain just enough information to get the agent to ask for more.

wendy said...

Thank you very much, Kori and Horserider. Appreciate you both taking the time.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Wendy.

I did, in fact, read the entire query, though I must admit that my eyes wandered a little...

That said, I think the other commenters pretty much nailed it. While your story sounds interesting, the query is too long and too full of description.

Rick is right that starting with a hook sentence and building to 250 words (or no more than 350) would do wonders to streamline your query. Although you shouldn't give an agent a complete synopsis of the story (which is what this feels like), most agents would like to hear the whole story in a query - the protagonist's conflict, goal, and quest in one or two paragraphs. So, I'm not sure I fully agree with Horserider about leaving out the ending - guess it really depends on the agent.

Hope that helps, Wendy! Your story really intrigues me (I love paranormal religious romances) - and I wish you lots of luck with it. :-)


wendy said...

Thank you, Laura. That was really helpful. I think what confused me a bit was I'd only sent of a synopsis and chapter samples to an Aus. agent a while ago. In fact, the couple over here that I've checked out wanted this sort of thing. Perhaps the short query is just a U.S. and/or maybe a British thing? I'm not sure. So this query was just a parred down synopsis. *g* I laughed when I saw the size of it compared with the other queries and wondered who'd be brave enough to tackle it. And you were! Thank you, again. Hope to return the favour in some way. :)

Rick Daley said...


Agents in Australia may have different guidelines than US agents. I mean, you have different rules for football, right ;-)

At least one query posted here is from a writer in the UK, and they do have different guidelines there. I'm only halfway through with my first cup of coffee, so I'm not cognizant enough to remember which one right now, though!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Wendy!

Oh, you know us Americans! We have short attention spans. Consider our ubiquitous three-day weekends. When I lived in England, people laughed at how short our "vacations" were. Europeans know that you need at least two weeks for a real vacation - three days isn't enough to relax before you're headed back to "the grind" again. So, what can you expect of our publishing? U.S. agents apparently don't have time to review a synopsis - when a one-page query can tell them quickly if they're interested or not. :-)

You're lucky that Aussie agents don't require queries - they can be a regular pain in the arse.

Oh, and the U.K. query that Rick is thinking about (I think) is "The Braidwood Circle" - I remember mentioning how awesome it was that he/she didn't have to worry so much about queries over there.

Anyhoo, enough about that! Good luck with your query - guess you'll need it if you're planning to contact an American agent!