Pseudopath Query (SF)

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KaylingR
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Pseudopath Query (SF)

Post by KaylingR » March 14th, 2010, 2:06 pm

Thanks so much for all the suggestions! I've given it another go. Scroll down for revised query.

I'm hoping to start submitting in several weeks. Please be brutal. All advice welcome. :)


Dear [agent],

When caught in flagrante, Kei must choose between giving up her memory or her life.

Her lover opts for an easy death, but Kei submits to mind shearing. The ordeal reveals a reviled talent. In a world of psychic truth-tellers, Kei can lie. She lives under unrelenting suspicion until the alien ship she hardly remembers inspiring arrives and offers a third alternative: escape.

Kei betrays allies of both races in her failed defection, poising the two cultures for interstellar war. While held in the foreign environment of the ship, her body rejects the flesh-grafts that have kept her alive since reprogramming. Kei must answer for a past that’s been stripped from her to resolve the crises, but she’s running out of time before mind and body fail.

Pseudopath is a 115 thousand word science fiction novel. I hope it will appeal to you as someone looking for [something about my novel this agent is asking for: dark/ literary SF/ strong female protagonist/ GLBT protagonist/ founded in brain science etc.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

-K.
Last edited by KaylingR on March 29th, 2010, 7:43 am, edited 2 times in total.

ljkuhnley
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Re: Pseudopath Query (SF)

Post by ljkuhnley » March 14th, 2010, 4:01 pm

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Last edited by ljkuhnley on May 18th, 2012, 11:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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mmcdonald64
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Re: Pseudopath Query (SF)

Post by mmcdonald64 » March 14th, 2010, 7:21 pm

I'm going to preface my comments with the warning that I'm just another unpublished writer. However, I've been really, really studying queries and revising my own for the last four months or so. I hope I have something worthwhile to offer.

Pseudopath Query (SF)

Postby KaylingR » 14 Mar 2010, 11:06
I'm hoping to start submitting in several weeks. Please be brutal. All advice welcome. :)


Dear [agent],

When caught in flagrante, Kei must choose between giving up her memory or her life. Why? Is she with someone forbidden to her?

Her lover opts for an easy death, but Kei submits to mind shearing. The ordeal reveals a reviled talent. That sentence is awkward. Reveal and revile so close to each other made me do a double take and have to re-read it. Could just be me. In a world of psychic truth-tellers, Kei can lie. She lives under unrelenting suspicion until the alien ship she hardly remembers inspiring arrives and offers a third alternative: escape. I don't understand the part about the alien ship. What does she have to do with its arrival?

Kei betrays allies of both races in her failed defection, poising the two cultures for interstellar war. While held in the foreign environment of the ship, her body rejects the flesh-grafts that have kept her alive since reprogramming. Kei must answer for a past that’s been stripped from her to resolve the crises, but she’s running out of time before mind and body fail.

Let me see if I have this right. Kei was caught in the act, her lover chose death and she chose a mind wipe instead. It's discovered that she can lie, which is unheard of in a race of people who can read minds, so therefore, have no way to hide the truth. She's ostracized and undersuspicion since nobody can trust her. Here's where I get fuzzy. Who are the aliens and what do they have to do with Kei? I take it she wasn't able to defect for some reason, but don't get how that failure brings the two cultures to the brink of war. I guess what I'm missing is who is Kei and why is she so important? Other than the ability to lie, that is.

The memory wipe involves flesh grafts of some sort, that begin failing and at the same time, she holds the answers that can avert the war, if only she lives long enough and can remember. Do I have the premise right? Just asking because I think one of the most important things, and something it took me awhile to learn, is that boiling the plot down to the bare essentials sounds simple, but is one of the hardest things to do. As the author, you know the story inside out and backwards, so you might leave out something important without realizing it...because it's so obvious to you.


Pseudopath is a 115 thousand word science fiction novel. I hope it will appeal to you as someone looking for [something about my novel this agent is asking for: dark/ literary SF/ strong female protagonist/ GLBT protagonist/ founded in brain science etc.]Also might want to add a thank you for considering...type of sentence here.

Erica75
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Re: Pseudopath Query (SF)

Post by Erica75 » March 14th, 2010, 8:39 pm

mmcdonald has some good points. I actually understood your query better after reading hers (um, his? I'm not sure)! You have the fodder, but your version is a bit short. On Nathan's blog, he has query stats that show the best ones fall in the 250-350 word length - don't give away everything, but you should add a little so it's less confusing. Change revile - it's easily confused with reveal and is awkward. I'd also reconsider the word poising - I believe it means balancing or finding equilibrium, but that doesn't make sense here, right? Change the word count to 115,000 rather than writing it out. Also, just my opinion, but if Kei is GLBT and that factors into the story, I think you should be honest right away. Either put it in your sentence about the genre or work it into the beginning when you mention the lover. Good luck with the submission - you've got the hard part done if you wrote a 115,000 word novel you're proud of!
Last edited by Erica75 on March 14th, 2010, 11:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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mmcdonald64
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Re: Pseudopath Query (SF)

Post by mmcdonald64 » March 14th, 2010, 9:17 pm

Erica75 wrote:mmcdonald has some good points. I actually understood your query better after reading hers (um, his? I'm not sure)!
Her. :-) I should sign these posts. My name is Mary, which is so common, it's not often I get to use it as a username. I was trying to upload an avatar pic, but mine is too big.

KaylingR
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Re: Pseudopath Query (SF)

Post by KaylingR » March 15th, 2010, 9:39 am

Thank you all so much for your feedback!

In a workshop I took with the Query Shark she said the synopsis part should be 100 words. This is is 127, but I haven't been able to remove more. Queries here do run longer, and looking around it seems some agents are more indulgent, specially those that don't want a few pages with the initial email. Perhaps I should also make a (slightly!) expanded version...

Mary's pretty much got it right, which is heartening, although its clear she worked pretty hard to get there. Everyone's questions are places I've really glossed over the plot to keep it simple. I'l process them and give it another shot.

ordEAL/reVEAL ReVeaL/ReViLe was a choice ppl either loved or hated. 2 more votes against mean I should probably axe it.

Also not the first objection to 'poised.' On the cusp, on the brink, a tipping point, a precarious balance where Kei's actions could plunge them into war or dissipate the tensions. Worked for me, but if not for others, I'll find something else. :)

My barbie-dream agent would handle both GLBT and SF to help me solve that question, but I've only found half a dozen such people, and those are pretty long odds. My limited professional advice has been conflicting. I would never be dishonest about the fact that my main character is a lesbian, but whether to include that fact in a query where you leave out so much is a real question (I don't even go into the nature of their psychic sense, which is crucial to the plot and unusual). I've also been told if I put that fact upfront *I'm* labeling it a niche book. (And hey, I may happily land there.) This will probably be a trial and error thing for me where I'll send out small batches of a couple different versions and track any responses. My first impulse is to put it out there front and central, but I've had enough people who know more than me say not to, I'm hesitant. This is something I've thought a lot about but welcome input.

Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate it. :)

-K.

lac582
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Re: Pseudopath Query (SF)

Post by lac582 » March 17th, 2010, 12:12 am

I am not an agent and have no experience selling books, but I wouldn't think that GLBT themes or characters would be a dealbreaker for mainstream Science Fiction. Ursula LeGuin, Neil Gaimen, and plenty of others have had same-sex love scenes in their novels - so don't box yourself in!

Not much to say about the query that hasn't already been said. Just two small points:

1) I had to look up the phrase "in flagrante". Maybe I've been living under a rock?

2) LOVE "Pseudopath" as a title.

KaylingR
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Re: Pseudopath Query (SF)

Post by KaylingR » March 29th, 2010, 7:40 am

REVISED QUERY

When caught in flagrante with another woman, Kei must choose between her memory and her life.

Her lover opts for an easy death, but Kei is mind shorn. The ordeal reveals a despised talent-- pseudopathy. Unlike fellow psychics who broadcast every passing emotion, Kei can lie. How else does a deviant survive?

Because her work with the alien Terrans benefits their oppressed colony, local authorities enable Kei to bury her history. Publicly revered, she lives under unrelenting supervision until a PR opportunity on the alien ship offers an alternative: escape.

Kei betrays allies of both races in a failed hijacking. Held awaiting trial, she proves sensitive to foreign materials aboard the alien ship. Her body rejects skin-grafts keeping her alive, the enduring scars of her reprogramming.

Kei’s only hope is defection, but to make her case for asylum she must account for a past she no longer remembers. She is running out of time to reconstruct the truth before mind and body completely fail her.

My novel, Pseudopath, runs 115,000 words. I hope it appeals to you as....

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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