Nov 11, 2009


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

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like to submit for your consideration COOMBE’S WOOD, a horror novel of 67,000 words.

Izzy Santana and her 13-year-old son Connor move into a Reading Council-provided flat in the sleepy village of Cedham. Locals darkly warn her to stay away from nearby Coombe’s Wood, hinting first at elves(!), then at multiple murders… which may or may not have taken place in the woods hundreds of years ago. It’s all ludicrously superstitious, and Izzy is so delighted to have found a haven for her son – after escaping her sadistic ex-partner George – that she takes little notice.

She meets a neighbour who seems kindly, if a trifle fey, and who takes a great interest in her son. Connor seems instantly comfortable with him. She begins to feel as if she is also falling under his spell. But Connor is bullied at school, and one night she finds herself tracking those bullies in the wood, where she believes they are waiting for him. She doesn’t find them, but something closes in on her – something that sounds like a savage animal. As she runs she realises she may have been set up – or Connor was – to be caught by whatever the animal was. She strengthens the barricades in her flat, no longer puts all the local tales about ‘danger in them woods’ down to superstition, and even begins to wonder about the way she was selected by the Reading Council officer to live in the village in the first place. It couldn’t be something to do with her odd, long-vanished husband, Connor’s father, who came from this area… could it?

Then a slit rabbit turns up on her doorstep, along with a distinctive cigarette butt, and she knows George has found her. Desperately compassionate, her neighbour calls the police, who turn up next day, harumph the ceiling, and take the attitude: You’ve not been attacked, then, Miss? You haven’t actually seen him? Why, if your ex-lover has tracked you down, do you suppose he would he dump a rabbit at your door…? Her own question, more urgent, is: if George can get in the front door of the building, can he get into her flat?

What Izzy needs to do is protect Connor. She has already started to uncover the ancient secrets of the village, and now she works out the perfect way to get rid of George… for good.

Coombe’s Wood was runner-up in’s 2008 Book of the Year Award and a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. An early novel of mine, The Crocodile, was short listed in the Undiscovered Authors 2006 competition. I also have short stories in various anthologies including the UKAuthors Anthologies, La Fenetre, Spinetinglers 2009 Anthology, and e-zine Literary Magic. I have several other complete novels that are still in their first draft, and consider myself an author of the thriller and gothic horror genres.

I was born in Portsmouth in 1971, and grew up in England, Scotland, Portugal and America. After winning a scholarship to The American College in London I graduated with a BA in Interior Design, although I now work as an architectural technician.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,


Suzan Harden said...

Interesting concept here, but there's three big problems with the query.

1) It's way too long. Ideally, you want it to be in the 250-300 word range.

2) The narrative is scattered. Focus solely on Izzy, her conflict (running from ex), her complication (there's monster in the woods that may after her son) and what's going to happen if she doesn't stop thm both. The rest is gravy.

3) Only list your major writing credits on your bio. The agent or editor doesn't care if I grew up in Ohio Amish country, unles I'm writing an Amish vampire novel. *grin*

Okay, one more thing - if this is horror, leave out the fairies/elves/brownies/etc. These days such things imply fantasy.

Good luck with your submissions!

wendy said...

I think you have a lovely writing style and sense you would handle the suspense in a thriller type of story very well....which this one is.

That you mentioned elves early in the query isn't a forewarning this is going to be a fantasy is it? I think what you were implying is that because of the fantastic nature of the warnings about the wood, Izzy takes them with a grain of salt. It's just that, for me, anyway, this mention kind of jumps out in a brief query and gives it too much emphasis. I wonder if you need to specifically mention them, just allude to dire superstitious warnings.

'Desperately compassionate, her neighbour calls the police, who turn up next day, harumph the ceiling, and take the attitude: '

I thought the previous sentence rather rambly and awkward. Could you maybe even omit the police's reaction? I don't think it's all that important info and would help shorten the query.

Very intriquing story idea!

P.S. Personally, I hope there really are elves in that wood. ;)

wendy said...

I meant - above - to possibly omit all reference to the police at all...

Lisa said...

Thanks for the comments, all have been taken on board. I will get editing on a new version!

Gina said...

Hi Lisa,

this sounds like a great story!

However, as mentioned above, the query is vastly too long, even by UK standards (and my research on UK agents suggests that you probably won´t go wrong with a US-style query there; in any case many UK agencies specify that they want a cover letter of not more than one page, including addresses). If you´re querying in the US don´t exceed 250 words for your hook.

For a start, I´d leave out everything between ´... George has found her´ and ´What Izzy needs to do...´

The fairies didn´t faze me; I presumed they were mentioned to illustrate how outlandish the villagers´ tales are. However, when there then was a reference to Izzy falling under her neighbour´s ´spell´, I began to wonder...
I´m not familiar enough with the genre to know whether ´gothic thriller´ implies supernatural goings-on, but it seems to me that it might, so maybe the supernatural element (if it exists; I might very well be wrong, in which case the neighbour might be described differently) should be spelled out a bit better.

And, again as above, leave anything not writing-related out of your bio paragraph.
Don´t mention the first-draft novels. It´s clear from your credits that you write lots.

Personally, I´d leave out the first short paragraph as well, as I get the impression that US agents tend to regard this sort of line as dispensable.

Prune mercilessly. For example, leave out ´Reading´, but perhaps put ´sleepy English village´ for US querying.

The voice is great and Izzy´s history is woven in nicely at the end of the first paragraph.

Lisa said...

Hi Wendy, thanks so much for your comments. I've edited heavily, and will repost in a few minutes.

Thanks very much for your help!