Aug 24, 2010

Query- The Tale of Lizzie Brogan and The Moon Goddess

In each query the paragraph about how I found the agent changed. They are all done individually. I have not yet sent this to anyone.

Dear _____________:
Lizzie, the over indulged baby of the Brogan clan, lives a life of privilege until the morning of her thirtieth birthday, when her older brother delivers her to a Brooklyn basement apartment she calls her cave dwelling. Concerned Lizzie will remain the baby of the family, he employs a formula of tough love and hard work to help her grow up.

For the first month, she believes all she must face in her new life is the responsibility and collective confusion of five little row houses. Not quite. Soon, Lizzie meets the ghost of her Aunt Annie May, a bawdy, talented Broadway performer, whose portal to this life is a tramp steamer and an old wooden trunk from the Belasco theatre.

During the next two years, while Lizzie discovers the secrets of the five houses, she also learns she is a direct descendent of The Moon Goddess, the Celtic Goddess of Love. By the summer soltice, using the book of sacred scribes, she must remove a curse, reverse each disaster that has plagued her and help clear the way for the true magic of love.

The Tale of Lizzie Brogan and The Moon Goddess, completed at 85,000 words, is humorous, women's fiction about a late bloomer who finally grows up with a little help from a ghost.

My eighteen-year career in community development and children's not-for-profit, has provided me numerous opportunities to hone my written and verbal skills. I am a comfortable public speaker, possessed the marketing skills necessary to gain valuable funding for our youth, and can create a network of support for my stories.

I found your name the first time on Chuck Sambuchino's Blog; A Guide To Literary Agents, read your blog every day, and I believe my work meets your criteria. I would be happy to send part or all of the completed manuscript. Thank you for your consideration and time.
Florence Fois (a/k/a Cronin)

My blog:

The Tale of Lizzie Brogan and the Moon Goddess By: Florence Fois

The late bloomer ...
"The term is used metaphorically to describe a child or adolescent who develops more slowly than others in their age group, but eventually catches up and in some cases overtakes their peers, or an adult whose talent or genius in a particular field only appears later in life than is normal – in some cases only in old age."
Paraphrased from an Internet Encyclopedia


My name is Lizzie and I live in a cave in Brooklyn. No, not like the Indian caves inside the cliffs which rise above the Hudson River. This is what my brother Timothy calls a modern boutique single, real estate jargon for a Brooklyn cave dwelling, known as a basement apartment rising above the concrete foundation of a row house.

Until the lovely May morning of my thirtieth birthday, my life was one of leisure and discovery, a series of adventures, the tastes and sounds of traversing the globe and each birthday, a magnificent event with a deluge of presents befitting the "baby" of the family.


Stephanie Lorée said...

So here's what I'm interested in, "is about a late bloomer who finally grows up with a little help from a ghost."

This is an awesome hook. It should be the first thing you say. Because everything before this point confused me.

Here's my critique:

1) The first paragraph is all backstory. You need to start the query where the story begins. Character and conflict, boom. I do not need to know about her house or her brother (unless that's the main conflict). Really, I just need to know about who Lizzie is and what problem she's having.

2) Your story does not seem to start until the 2nd paragraph, 2nd sentence, "Lizzie meets the ghost of her Aunt Annie May, a bawdy, talented Broadway performer, whose portal to this life is a tramp steamer and an old wooden trunk from the Belasco theatre." BOOM! That's awesome. Everything before this needs to be tossed.

3) Too much subplot. What is the main plot? You have the ghost aunt, "secrets of the five houses," a descendent of a Moon Goddess, curses and disaster, and a coming-of-age story. What is the main plotline? Scrap everything else and rewrite the query using only the main plot. I know your novel will have subplots, but a query needs just one.

4) The entire paragraph regarding your career needs cut. Unless you have published credentials, none of this matters. I struggle with this part as well, because I want to tell the agent. But the truth is, the agent doesn't care. Cut it.

5) Cut the excess sentence of "happy to send you all or part of my MS" because the agent already knows this. It's just extra words.

6) Genre. Your query does not sound like it's "humorous women's fiction" right now. It sounds like YA Paranormal. A coming-of-age story with ghosts and goddesses and curses. Are you certain you have the right genre? If so, you need to rewrite the query keeping that in mind.

If I were you, I'd go back and rewrite with a focus on a single plot. Your tagline is excellent, your premise sounds fun. There's just too much going on and it doesn't seem cohesive. Also keep in mind your genre.

I noticed your sample pages are in 1st person PoV. A technique I found helpful to capture the voice of the story was to write my query as if my protag was telling me what the book was about. Then, I took that 1st PoV and moved it to 3rd, with some additional edits for clarity sake. Maybe this would help you as well.

Looking forward to the next revision. Best of luck!

Scribbler to Scribe

Anonymous said...

"Respectively" is used to distinguish items in a group. I think you mean "respectfully".

Zee Lemke said...

Mesmerix is spot-on as usual.

I'm worried about a couple of specific words and things. Your punctuation choices in your last paragraph especially need, hm, normalizing. "Book of sacred scribes" seems like it needs either explanation or (sigh) capitalization. That "Internet Encyclopedia" (quotes for both quotation and irony) excerpt needs considerable touching-up just to be sensible.

That said, I do love the "wtf?" moments I got at P2S3 and P3S1. Start with those and keep it funny. (The first paragraph isn't funny. That's a problem.)

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

My first concern with this query is that when I see a name like Lizzie Brogan, I think of Lizzie Bordan and axe murder. Not the place you wanted my head to go, I'm sure.

Another question I have is, if she's 30-years-old, why doesn't she just move out of the "cave dwelling" her brother takes her to. She might be the baby of the family, but I doubt she really has to do everything he says.

That said, I like the idea of her mentoring ghost being a bawdy Broadway performing. That definitely sounds like something a person can have a lot of fun with.

fOIS In The City said...

Mesmerix: Your critique is very helpful. You zero in and capture exactly what needs to be cut, changed or moved.

I am copying the critique and using it to do a rewrite.

Anonymous: I am a terrible speller, confuse homym ... see what I mean ... passed and past ...

Thanks for pointing out respective ...

Zee Lemke ... Thanks for taking the time. I do think the book is funny and I will take your advise and start the query with funny.

If anyone ever comes back to these, my only problem is genre. It's a pain in the butt ... but ... I am not sure.

I am doing a rewrite and I look forward to reading your critiques once again.

My sincere thanks for such a thorough job.

fOIS In The City said...


The answer to your question: She is old enough, has the resources, and stays for reasons I bring into the story quickly.

And the ghost is a fun character. I am tempted to do another because of her.

Again, thank you so very much for taking your time to help me.

I will be back :)

Stephanie Lorée said...

Florence: I'm excited to read your next draft as I think you have an excellent story lurking in there. I know sometimes critiques are harsh, heck, did you see Zee hammer me on my query? :) Happens to all of us. So keep up the work and best of luck!

Zee Lemke said...

I think if Lizzie is 30 and is written as having a 30-year-old's life (however bizarre), then yes, this is probably women's fiction, not YA.

I didn't get that she was being moved into the basement apartment to manage the buildings and/or deal with her neighbors at first. I thought her brother was just making her live there... while she did whatever else. If she's the building superintendent or something, say that. If not, some other way of bringing in her responsibility for the families around her is in order or she's just nosy. Giving her a job will make her sound more 30 and less 16.

fOIS In The City said...

It's morning here ... so good morning to Mesmerix and Zee Lemke ...

thank you both for your suggestions and yes I am going to incorporate what I have learned here and come back with another draft ...

about genre I am a bit perplexed ... It is not YA ... I might try to say "light paranormal" as that at least denotes "can be funny and has a ghost or two lurking ..."

thanks again, I'll be in touch

Stephanie Lorée said...

Florence: I think the problem was that from the query, I read Lizzie as a young adult. She's an "over-indulged baby" who needs "hard work to help her grow up." Her brother seems to be the one taking care of her.

This is what made me think she was young. I didn't see "humorous" at all from the first paragraph. We don't get funny until the mention of the bawdy Aunt.

Admittedly, I don't read women's fiction. I'm not overly familiar with the genre, but I'll bet if you rewrite this query with your genre in mind, you'll be surprised at the different tone it takes. Just because it has a ghost, doesn't automatically make it paranormal, but an agent/pub will decide what genre you will market best as.

Hope that helps to clarify. When in doubt, leave genre out and let the agent decide.

Zee Lemke said...

"Chick lit" might actually be the genre here if there's a strong enough focus on family membership as a crucial part of a person's development. Like women's fiction, but lighter-weight.

fOIS In The City said...

Lemeke this is the direct quote from Wikipedia. Most other definitions of "late bloomer" are similar.

A late bloomer …
Is a person whose talents or capabilities are slow to develop. The term is used metaphorically to describe a child or adolescent who develops more slowly than others in their age group, but eventually catches up and in some cases overtakes their peers, or an adult whose talent or genius in a particular field only appears later in life than is normal - in some cases only in old age.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is a direct quote of mine: Since my brilliance decided to surface "late" in life, and I have always been the "also ran gal," I get a kick out of playing with this concept of "growing up." When and why should we do it? Ah, that is the question dear ones. My vote is … avoid it as long as possible and let your older brothers and sisters get falling arches and gray hair.

Also, most agents these days cringe at the genre "chick-lit" although it made Candace Bushnel quite a few bucks ... in the last two years it has fallen out of "style" ...

Maybe she can do a sequel ... Love "Bites" in the City ...

I am submitting my revision later. And thanks to everyone for such great feedback.