QUERY: Penumbra (1 Revision)

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benwhiting
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QUERY: Penumbra (1 Revision)

Post by benwhiting » February 11th, 2010, 7:22 pm

I've sent this out a few times now. I got two partial requests right away and thought I was onto something, but both of those have now turned into rejections, and the other queries have come back as rejections as well. Critique away.

***REVISED VERSION BELOW***

Dear Agent,

Avicus Bost’s mother raised him to be a God-fearing Christian; his father raised him to be a killer. After years of following his father’s path, Avicus is burdened by guilt and ready for change. He embraces his mother’s faith, hoping to leave his old life behind.

But his father has other plans. He traps a family in small-town Texas and manipulates them into carrying out the dark desires of their hearts—the same type of coercion he used on Avicus years before.

Avicus gets sucked back into his murderous ways by the demons he thought he had exorcised, and he seeks out his father, hoping to end his and the family’s problem—permanently. The desires to stop killing and to kill just once more collide in Avicus. And his fate is no longer the only one at stake.

Penumbra is a completed contemporary suspense novel of 90,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,
Ben Whiting
Last edited by benwhiting on February 12th, 2010, 10:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.

BasilZyllion
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra

Post by BasilZyllion » February 11th, 2010, 7:34 pm

Ben,

I thought the premise was entertaining especially since there was a moral dilemma involved with sins of the father. However, the thing that I was wondering that you might want to look at was the demon exorcising part. The lyrical flavor was lost in translation for me somehow. There didn't seem to be any real demons being exorcised was there? I know, I know that's not what you meant. But that's what might be interpreted.

Hope you get it!

Basil

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Bohemienne
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra

Post by Bohemienne » February 12th, 2010, 3:11 pm

Wow--that sounds like a really fascinating story. Definitely one I would read! The only section that felt a little clunky to me was this paragraph:
benwhiting wrote: Avicus gets sucked back into his murderous ways by the demons he thought he had exorcised, and he seeks out his father, hoping to end his and the family’s problem—permanently. The desires to stop killing and to kill just once more collide in Avicus. And his fate is no longer the only one at stake.
"Gets sucked back into his murderous ways by the demons..." confused me at first. It was clear from the first path that his father was a killer, but not that Avicus performed any killings himself--only observed his father's actions. "Sucked back" doesn't really work for me either. Perhaps you could say that he's lured back to his father's ways, or resorts to the darkness he thought he'd conquered. "The desires to stop killing and to kill just once more" is also pretty clunky. I had to read it a few times to sort out the jumble of infinitives. The last line, however, is really strong. Nicely done!

MaryAnn
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra

Post by MaryAnn » February 12th, 2010, 3:31 pm

How is it possible that his mother raised him one way and his father raised him another? Why did he follow the father's path and not the mother's? Wouldn't expect a complete explanation within the query, but might consider rewording so the question isn't even asked or thought of.

This sounds almost like a supernatural rather than a suspense novel because of the line, "...carry out the dark desires of their hearts." Not his heart.

Title needs work, a reader should not have to look up a word in the dictionary to understand your title. Not a biggie though since the title will probably be changed by the agent, editor, or publisher.

"Avicus gets sucked back into his murderous ways by the demons he thought he had exercised, and seeks out his father...." Avicus gets sucked back in by whose murderous ways, his or his fathers? Why does he seek out his father, did his father contact him somehow to let him know he, the father, had trapped a small town family?

This query raised more questions than it answers. On a more positive note: The book is probably a lot better than the query. Queries are really hard to write well.

benwhiting
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra

Post by benwhiting » February 12th, 2010, 10:53 pm

Thanks to those those who have commented.

Here is my revised version. Nothing too drastic, but I think the comments helped me to tweak some things. Not sure I'm sold on the way I tried to fix things--more on the fact that these are the things to fix. And I'm not going to scoff at a slight change--the difference between solid and sold can be a small one. So don't hesitate with suggestions.

Dear Agent,

Avicus Bost’s mother raised him to be a God-fearing Christian; his father raised him to be a killer. After years of following his father’s path, Avicus is burdened by guilt and ready for change. He embraces his mother’s faith, hoping to leave his old life behind.

But his father has other plans. He traps a family in small-town Texas and manipulates them into carrying out the dark desires of their hearts—the same type of coercion he used on Avicus years before.

The familiar darkness Avicus thought he had conquered wells within him again, and he falls back into his old ways. His father lures him to Texas under the pretense of revenge, and Avicus comes willingly. He wants to end the games once and for all, but killing doesn't seem the right way to do it. And his fate is no longer the only one at stake.

Penumbra is a completed contemporary suspense novel of 90,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,
Ben Whiting

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Holly
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra

Post by Holly » February 13th, 2010, 11:18 pm

benwhiting wrote:Thanks to those those who have commented.

Here is my revised version. Nothing too drastic, but I think the comments helped me to tweak some things. Not sure I'm sold on the way I tried to fix things--more on the fact that these are the things to fix. And I'm not going to scoff at a slight change--the difference between solid and sold can be a small one. So don't hesitate with suggestions.

Dear Agent,

Avicus Bost’s mother raised him to be a God-fearing Christian; his father raised him to be a killer. After years of following his father’s path, Avicus is burdened by guilt and ready for change. He embraces his mother’s faith, hoping to leave his old life behind.

But his father has other plans. He traps a family in small-town Texas and manipulates them into carrying out the dark desires of their hearts—the same type of coercion he used on Avicus years before.

The familiar darkness Avicus thought he had conquered wells within him again, and he falls back into his old ways. His father lures him to Texas under the pretense of revenge, and Avicus comes willingly. He wants to end the games once and for all, but killing doesn't seem the right way to do it. And his fate is no longer the only one at stake.

Penumbra is a completed contemporary suspense novel of 90,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,
Ben Whiting

"The familiar darkness Avicus thought he had conquered wells within him again, and he falls back into his old ways. His father lures him to Texas under the pretense of revenge, and Avicus comes willingly." Can you rephrase so you don't have two sentences with similar structure in a row?

One other quick comment. Don't close the letter with best wishes (it's not businesslike enough). Use another closing like sincerely or best regards.

Good luck to you.

Ghost in the Machine
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra (1 Revision)

Post by Ghost in the Machine » February 16th, 2010, 1:18 pm

Hi Ben,

Whoa, dude! This is wicked! I’d be all over this like a bear finding a honey tree. The query is tight; it flows well.

Dear Agent,

Avicus Bost’s mother raised him to be a God-fearing Christian; his father raised him to be a killer. After years of following his father’s path, Avicus is burdened by guilt and ready for change. He embraces his mother’s faith, hoping to leave his old life behind.

Comment: I find it a little hard to believe Avicus has a change of heart because of guilt alone. I could be wrong; it wouldn’t be the first time. Did something specific trigger the change? A close call with the authorities or a victim that reminded him of his mother or her teachings? If so, it would be nice to work it in.

But his father has other plans. He traps a family in small-town Texas and manipulates them into carrying out the dark desires of their hearts—the same type of coercion he used on Avicus years before.

The familiar darkness Avicus thought he had conquered wells within him again, and he falls back into his old ways. His father lures him to Texas under the pretense of revenge, and Avicus comes willingly. He wants to end the games once and for all, but killing doesn't seem the right way to do it. And his fate is no longer the only one at stake.

Comment: One possibility in punching things up is to specify what Avicus does when he goes back to his old ways.

Suggestion: The familiar darkness Avicus thought he had conquered wells within him again, and he falls back into his old ways. He strangles a young mother for a pack of cigarettes.


Penumbra is a completed contemporary suspense novel of 90,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes, you want Sincerely
Ben Whiting

jessicatudor
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra (1 Revision)

Post by jessicatudor » February 17th, 2010, 1:52 pm

Hey Ben,

Great job! I'd definitely want to read pages with either version, but the second is a bit better. I'd take Ghost in the Machine's advice about a bit of clarification on the first para, and maybe give a specific about how his father uses the family in Texas to get Avicus back, or revenge for what. There's nothing to indicate a revenge plot anywhere else. The writing is tight and keeps me hooked, with writing out the exorcism of demons you avoid the familiar cliches one would expect in this sort of query . . . and thanks to urban fantasy, can't be used metaphorically anymore! When I read the first version I thought you had a supernatural element, too.
'The world is but canvas to our imaginations.' - Thoreau

Lunetta22
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra (1 Revision)

Post by Lunetta22 » February 17th, 2010, 4:20 pm

I like teh second version better. It's a great premise. I agree with Ghost's editing suggestions. Definitely end with something like "sincerely" over best wishes. I think Janet Reid favors "thank you for your time and consideration."

jessicatudor
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra (1 Revision)

Post by jessicatudor » February 17th, 2010, 5:23 pm

Lunetta22 wrote: I think Janet Reid favors "thank you for your time and consideration."
Janet Reid does NOT favor 'thank you for your time.' It's one of her peeves. Your time is just as valuable as hers.
'The world is but canvas to our imaginations.' - Thoreau

Lunetta22
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Re: QUERY: Penumbra (1 Revision)

Post by Lunetta22 » February 17th, 2010, 5:31 pm

It's the way she tells people to end their queries if they don't use sincerely. One person ended it with "thank you for your valuable time" and she said her time wasn't any more valuable than theirs, and to use "thank you for your time and consideration" instead. (It's query 112...I just got into reading Query Shark recently. :))

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