Nov 22, 2009

QUERY: "Unbreakable"

QUERY: "Unbreakable" by KLo at

When two longtime friends are faced with different but equally devastating events, they eventually come to the same conclusion: only their tumultuous pasts can set them free.

Roy Pentinicci, son of an abusive gangster, experiences a childhood characterized by violence, dark secrets, and unspeakable shame. Roy's voyage to manhood is rockier than most, accentuated by his own struggles with his father's demons and the devastating loss of his cherished older sister. As a professional baseball player married to his childhood sweetheart, Roy convinces both himself and those around him that he's moved beyond his past. However, a startling revelation from his wife forces him to go back and face a past that has haunted his psyche all along.

Susy Heidelman survives an equally traumatic upbringing; after being abandoned by her father before she was born, Susy is raised by an emotionally absent and suicidal mother and a drug-abusing older brother. Nobody is more surprised than Susy when her Prince Charming shows up in the unlikeliest of places and whisks her away to a shockingly happy life that is suddenly ripped apart at the seams by a few thoughtless words from her adored son.

The bond between Roy and Susy carries them through happiness and devastation, crime and punishment, life and death as they, both apart and together, realize the truth of karma, the necessity of putting to death their past demons if they want the strength to face the future, and most importantly, the power of love.

I am an aspiring novelist and currently an English teacher in southern New Hampshire. I hold both a B.A. in English (cum laude) and an M.Ed. from the University of New Hampshire. I have used my own experiences with revision within my classroom, and it has been a great privilege to share Unbreakable with selected students along with friends and family members. All were happy to, as I requested, rip it to shreds with love. Now that I have finished polishing it, I am very enthusiastic about sharing Unbreakable with a literary agent.

Thank you for your time and attention to this query; it is very much appreciated. If you are interested in reading the beginning chapters or even the complete manuscript, I would be more than happy to send it right out.

And sample pages ...


(Roy; Boston, MA; September, 2006)

I'm sure that to some people, memories are indeed the proverbial priceless gem that can be brought out to examine and relive with positive connotations.

My memories give me nightmares for a week.

That's not precisely true, of course; some of my memories are absolutely wonderful. It's just that virtually all the good ones gleaned over the course of thirty years occurred after I was fourteen. It’s the years before then, though, that my mind is focusing on now as I sit alone in the study of the Boston penthouse that Addie and I have lived in for the past five years, wishing randomly that I was a drinker. All sources I can find confirm that nothing helps tragedy like alcohol (until the next morning, anyway), but I can’t keep myself from holding true to a promise I made when I was just a kid that I would never drink.

Adelaide is in our bedroom crying. She doesn’t want my comfort; as usual, I caused every one of her tears.


Unknown said...

Thanks for posting, and I'm really looking forward to receiving feedback : )

Just wanted to say, the spacing and paragraphs in the sample I included didn't copy to the comments section the right way. Please don't judge on that : )

Erinn said...

You've got a good idea here. But your letter needs a little work.

First off, mention the names of the characters in the opening paragraph.

The biggest issues is your bio paragraph. It's a lot of information. Speaking as a teacher,saying you a Masters in education isn't needed in this letter. (most teachers have that) You also don't need your college either.
I think you should cut the line about letting your students rip it to shreds. The opinion of a high schooler isn't as valuable as the opinion of a writer's group, UNLESS you're writing a YA. Also an agent doesn't need to know that you had someone else look at it, it goes without saying. No one should ever send a novel out without having someone read it.

What I do like about the final paragraph is it shows your voice, but that doesn't carry throughout the whole letter.

Overall I feel like it could be tighter.
What careless words from Susy's son?
Maybe if you describe specific events in the novel not vague overviews.

Good luck

Erinn said...

BTW What is your word count and genre. That should be in the letter too.

Andrea Coulter said...

First off, I like the concept!
Thoughts on the query letter:

-the first paragraph is vague and basically says what the next two paragraphs say. If you cut it you lose nothing, so I'd start with Roy's paragraph.
-in Roy's paragraph: 'startling revelation' is vague. What is the revelation?
-similarly, in Susy's paragraph, what are the 'few thoughtless words'? Not telling us the specifics makes it hard to relate to the characters because it's too vague to really know what is going on.
-'ripped apart at the seams' is a cliche. Is there another way to say this that gives us specifics? Other cliches: putting demons to rest, power of love.
-It's not apparent what the 'bond' between Roy and Susy is. I know they're longtime friends, but from where? From childhood?
-I personally would cut the entire bio paragraph: none of it is going to impress an agent, especially talking about being an aspiring novelist and about how family and friends edited the novel.
-I second Erinn's comment that word count and genre are needed. I'm guessing this is literary fiction?

Anyway, I know that's a lot of suggestions, but I think you've made a great start here and that your story sounds compelling. Good luck!

Rick Daley said...

I'm glad you found the site and chose to submit, good luck! I added line breaks in your sample, I hope I got them in all the right places.

Your query is well written and it makes me curious, but it tells me more about the characters than it does the story. There are many vague descriptions that lead to questions.

What are the devastating events they face? What is the startling information Roy's wife revealed? Is Roy Prince Charming? What could a child say to his mother that would have such an impact?

I liked the sample, but is it the second chapter? Your sample should start at page 1.

I really liked this line: Adelaide is in our bedroom crying. She doesn’t want my comfort; as usual, I caused every one of her tears.

I think you should limit your credentials to your degrees and cut the rest; for fiction, the agent isn't concerned about how it was composed, edited, and revised, just that the manuscript is finished.

I hope you find the advice you get here useful!

RC Writer Girl said...

I'll just agree with what others said here. Your query letter is too vague. You need to tell us what happens in the book. Right now, this query doesn't emotionally invest us in the book. we have no idea what happens or why. It's just a bunch of vague sentences hinting that something emotional is going on.

You need to tell us what happens. "a startling revelation from his wife forces him to go back and face a past that has haunted his psyche all along" is no good becuase it doesn't tell us what happened. Saying: "His wife reveals he's not the father of their baby, the one he just donated part of his liver to." From a sentence like that, we can glean it was startling. And we're emotionally invested because we can imagine what that must feel like.

You've really got to give some specifics of the story, not just general statements. The specifics will lead us to the emotional conclusion. Pretend you were telling your best friend what happened. Surely you would tell her more accurately and raptly than you do in this query letter.

Story sounds interesting, based on what you've got. But, help enrapture us with some specifics.

Good luck.

RC Writer Girl said...

P.S. I know people say not to obsess too much over titles, and I'm not trying to cause you to obsess. But, when I see Unbreakable as a title, all I can think of is that M. Night Shamylan movie with Bruce Willis.

Not saying others will think that way or it's a bad title. Just an FYI of the thoughts it evoked in one person.

Holly said...

Your query intrigues me. The positive tone makes me want to look at the novel.

Suggestions for the bio:

DEFINITELY leave in your educational credentials, especially the Master's, but cut the sentence about sharing the novel with the students. It is not necessary to tell the agent who read your manuscript, unless you have the endorsement of a famous person.

Holly said...

My reaction about the sample:

Again, it is well-written (I especially like the powerful last sentence about the crying child), but I wish the story started in the middle of some action, not an explanation.

Backstory/explanations come acoss better when they are woven into the story.

When they appear at the beginning, they remind me of a giant bow neatly wrapping everything up at the start.

I believe zillions of novelists start with explanations because our grammar school teachers told us to give the theme first and then write our essay.

Anonymous said...


Just a quick note to tell you how much I appreciate everything you do for your fellow writers.

You are a prince among... uh... among... well, you’re a prince among something.

Thank you.

Rick Daley said...

Anon- Thank you. Since we're all writers, I'll refer back to my Machiavelli for guidance on how to handle my Princely duties ;-)

I'm just paying it forward out of help I've received from many agents and writers. If I were to ask anything in return (which I don't), it would be that others who benefit from this site do the same...