Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

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Nicole Zoltack
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Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Nicole Zoltack » June 12th, 2010, 5:01 pm

latest version:

Dear Agent:

"Why am I a hired assassin? Two reasons. One, because it pays well. Extremely well. And two, because I can."

In her heart, Lorna knows the real reason stems back to her father’s murder. While trying to track down his killer, Lorna is captured by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency. She has the ability to create and hide in artificial shadows, a power she had unknowingly used during her nightly killings. A PIA goon is willing to give her information about her father’s last assignment with the agency if she agrees to kill a seemingly innocent woman. Lorna does have some morals, refuses, and escapes the compound.

Her life becomes even more complicated when she meets her newest target – the dashing king of a small island. Lorna hasn’t felt the stirrings of love in a long time, but something about the noble king makes her long for the light after her lifetime spent in darkness and shadows. Torn between murder and love, Lorna struggles to find her father’s killer even as she thinks about giving up the assassin lifestyle.

HIDDEN IN SHADOWS is a 96,000-word urban fantasy novel.

I have published a medieval fantasy romance series, The Kingdom of Arnhem -- Woman of Honor (2009) and Knight of Glory (2010) through Desert Breeze Publishing. I have also sold six short stories for anthologies, two of which under the pen name Nicolette Zamora.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Nicole Zoltack


Thanks in advance for your help!
Last edited by Nicole Zoltack on June 23rd, 2010, 1:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

Jessica Peter
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Jessica Peter » June 12th, 2010, 10:02 pm

Here's my thoughts on your query, line-by-line. All my personal opinion, of course, but I hope they are some help to you!

Dear Agent:

Lorna McCloud likes to think she's an assassin for the money and because she's good at it. But the real reason, because she was traumatized after witnessing her father's murder, is one she longs to keep buried. (This sentence is really awkward for me. Also, there seems to be something wrong with the process - if she likes to think one thing, but clearly knows the opposite, she's not doing a good job. Maybe change it to something along the lines of her pretending she's an assassin for money/etc.)

A fresh lead in the cold case brings her closer to discovering her father's murderer when she is captured by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency (PIA). There she learns she has the ability of shadow manipulation. She flees (escapes?)to Creigh, where the country's king, Alaric, has an enormous bounty on his head.

Instead of killing Alaric (Wait, what? Why would she kill him? Assassins, in my very limited knowledge, would be hired by someone to kill someone specific, and paid for that. She isn't a bounty hunter, out to collect ANY bounty... right?) , Lorna falls for him. When he learns that she is the assassin(Oh, oh wait. So she was SENT to kill him? How did she end up escaping the PIA only to suddenly get a job on route fleeing the country?), he wants nothing to do with her. However, they are linked -- her father and his killer visited Creigh before Alaric’s grandfather discovered the island. The island's original inhabitants had been killed, most likely by the same man who later murdered Lorna's father. (This feels complicated, and I'm confused about the ages. Is Lorna significantly older than Alaric if her father visited the island before Alaric's grandfather discovered it?)

Alaric is now willing to help Lorna on her quest for revenge. (Why? You need to show the changing point. Is it their "link"?) Will Lorna ever find the killer? And the PIA -- what do they want from Lorna? Has her assassin lifestyle doomed her to a life without love? Will Alaric forgive Lorna for her past? More importantly, will Lorna be able to forgive herself? (You should certainly cut these questions: maybe take them out entirely, or maybe replace them with tempting regular sentences showing conflict & tension... )

HIDDEN IN SHADOWS is a 96,000-word urban fantasy novel.

I have published a medieval fantasy romance series,The Kingdom of Arnhem, Woman of Honor (Desert Breeze Publishing 2009) and Knight of Glory (Desert Breeze Publishing 2010). I have published three medieval fantasy romances, THE KINGDOM OF ARNHEM (2009), WOMAN OF HONOR (2009), and KNIGHT OF GLORY (2010) with Desert Breeze Publishing. I have also sold six short stories for anthologies, two of which areunder the pen name Nicolette Zamora.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
http://jessdoesstuff.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/JessicaPeter1
Currently querying HUNT, YA Urban Fantasy & writing a post-apocalyptic romance

Emily J
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Emily J » June 12th, 2010, 10:59 pm

Nicole Zoltack wrote:Dear Agent:

Lorna McCloud likes to think she's an assassin for the money and because she's good at it. But the real reason, because she was traumatized after witnessing her father's murder, is one she longs to keep buried. this sentence doesn't flow well, could stand a rewrite

A fresh lead in the cold case brings her closer to discovering her father's murderer when she is captured by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency (PIA). There she learns she has the ability of shadow manipulation. She flees to Creigh, where the country's king, Alaric, has an enormous bounty on his head. okay you lose me here a bit. I was thinking this was urban fantasy, what world are we in?

Instead of killing Alaric, Lorna falls for him. When he learns that she is the assassin, he wants nothing to do with her. feels like you need a conjunction or something here However they are linked -- her father and his killer visited Creigh before Alaric’s grandfather discovered the island. is Creigh the island? The island's original inhabitants had been killed, most likely by the same man who later murdered Lorna's father. how does this tie into the greater plot?

Alaric is now willing to help Lorna on her quest for revenge. umm... why exactly? Will Lorna ever find the killer? And the PIA -- what do they want from Lorna? Has her assassin lifestyle doomed her to a life without love? Will Alaric forgive Lorna for her past? More importantly, will Lorna be able to forgive herself? I think you should be answering these questions instead of asking them, I understand the urge to end in a question (i've been guilty of it myself) but it is generally not well received in a query

HIDDEN IN SHADOWS is a 96,000-word urban fantasy novel.

I have published a medieval fantasy romance series, The Kingdom of Arnhem, Woman of Honor (Desert Breeze Publishing 2009) and Knight of Glory (Desert Breeze Publishing 2010). I have also sold six short stories for anthologies, two of which under the pen name Nicolette Zamora.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


Thanks in advance for your help!
The writing is pretty good, but I feel like I'm not sure what the plot really is. How does the PIA tie into Creigh, the king, and the man who murdered Lorna's father? I guess I'm just not seeing the bigger picture of how all this ties together to form a cohesive engaging story.

Meredith
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Meredith » June 13th, 2010, 12:06 am

Nicole Zoltack wrote:Dear Agent:

Lorna McCloud likes to think she's an assassin for the money and because she's good at it. But the real reason, because she was traumatized after witnessing her father's murder, is one she longs to keep buried.
I wouldn't start the second sentence with a conjunction. Can you shorten the second sentence and join the two up?
A fresh lead in the cold case brings her closer to discovering her father's murderer when she is captured by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency (PIA). There she learns she has the ability of shadow manipulation. She flees to Creigh, where the country's king, Alaric, has an enormous bounty on his head.
I'm not sure of the connection between learning shadow manipulation and fleeing. And I don't know exactly what shadow manipulation is. It's not really referred to in the rest of the query, so I wonder if you need it here.
Instead of killing Alaric, Lorna falls for him. When he learns that she is the assassin, he wants nothing to do with her. However they are linked -- her father and his killer visited Creigh before Alaric’s grandfather discovered the island. The island's original inhabitants had been killed, most likely by the same man who later murdered Lorna's father.
As someone else pointed out, I don't get why she would be trying to kill Alaric when she is fleeing the PIA. This mythological(?) island almost throws me towards thinking second world rather than urban fantasy. How does Creigh relate to the real world?
Alaric is now willing to help Lorna on her quest for revenge. Will Lorna ever find the killer? And the PIA -- what do they want from Lorna? Has her assassin lifestyle doomed her to a life without love? Will Alaric forgive Lorna for her past? More importantly, will Lorna be able to forgive herself?
I agree with showing more of the turning point for Alaric. And I don't like putting all those questions at the end.

HIDDEN IN SHADOWS is a 96,000-word urban fantasy novel.
I have published a medieval fantasy romance series, The Kingdom of Arnhem, Woman of Honor (Desert Breeze Publishing 2009) and Knight of Glory (Desert Breeze Publishing 2010). I have also sold six short stories for anthologies, two of which under the pen name Nicolette Zamora.
I agree with the earlier post that suggested only listing the publisher once. Congrats on all the publishing credits.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


Thanks in advance for your help!
Hope this helps. On the whole, personally, I would try to make it a little less like a synopsis of the story. That always seems to lead to more questions you can't answer in the space available and then the story makes less sense than it should. I like the Query Shark's formula:

Who is the main character? What choice does she face? What are the consequences?

And leave the synopsis for, well, the synopsis. It's just too hard to make a half-page synopsis sound interesting, IMO. For fantasy, it can be almost impossible to make a half-page synopsis even coherent.
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Nicole Zoltack
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Nicole Zoltack » June 13th, 2010, 5:17 pm

I think I was trying to shove too much information into the pitch. It always seems that if you add in too many details, the more questions are raised. So I tried to scale back and came up with this:

Lorna McCloud pretends she's an assassin for the money and because she's good at it. The real reason — she was traumatized after witnessing her father's murder.

While investigating a fresh lead in the cold case, she is captured by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency (PIA). There she learns she is a paranorm with the ability of shadow manipulation, the power to create and hide in artificial shadows.

Lorna loves her ability and is eager to learn more but when it becomes obvious that the PIA has an agenda, she escapes. Life becomes even more complicated when she falls in love with her next target, a king of a small island. When he learns she is the assassin, he wants nothing to do with her.

With worries that her assassin lifestyle has doomed her to a life without love, Lorna struggles to master her power and solve her father’s murder.

Emily J
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Emily J » June 14th, 2010, 4:02 pm

Nicole Zoltack wrote:I think I was trying to shove too much information into the pitch. It always seems that if you add in too many details, the more questions are raised. So I tried to scale back and came up with this:

Lorna McCloud pretends she's an assassin for the money and because she's good at it. The real reason — she was traumatized after witnessing her father's murder. but she is seeking revenge right? not everyone who is traumatized becomes an assassin (i would have killed so many people if that were true :) )

While investigating a fresh lead in the cold case, she is captured by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency (PIA). i know this hasn't changed but I have to admit, the name of this agency is very generic, also it evokes black suits and sunglasses, is this a modern-day world? I feel I could be a bit more grounded in the setting There she learns she is a paranorm I don't think this is a word, it's fine to make up words (i do it all the time) but maybe put it in quotation marks? with the ability of shadow manipulation, the power to create and hide in artificial shadows. fyi this is an awesome power, esp for an assassin

Lorna loves her ability and is eager to learn more but when it becomes obvious that the PIA has an agenda, she escapes. from her captivity? Life becomes even more complicated when she falls in love with her next target, a king of a small island. maybe the king of a small island? When he learns she is the assassin, he wants nothing to do with her.

With worries that her assassin lifestyle has doomed her to a life without love, Lorna struggles to master her power and solve her father’s murder. lackluster last sentence, this is really nothing more than recapping, find a way to end with a bang and leave 'em wanting more
I think this is definitely a more clear straightforward query than the first. I do think you cut out a lot of plot but I think that was probably a good move. Although I think you get the general story across fine, I think it could use more pizazz, more excitement and a greater sense of urgency. Know what I mean?

JMB
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by JMB » June 14th, 2010, 5:16 pm

One line of the query really troubles me: When he learns she is the assassin, he wants nothing to do with her.

If I learned someone was trying to kill me, I think I'd have a much stronger reaction. I would try to take the assassin out before she killed me, or at least remove her from my island (if I were the king).

This needs a much bigger punch, especially if it is the main conflict faced by the protagonist.

Good luck with your story.

Nicole Zoltack
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Nicole Zoltack » June 18th, 2010, 3:42 pm

Yet another try, this time from Lorna's POV. Since I can't seem to get the pitch just right, I thought this might help.


Why am I a hired assassin?

Two reasons.

One, because it pays well. Extremely well.

And two, because I can.

But a psychiatrist would disagree, saying that my occupation stems back to my father, and his murder. Which is also true, but so after so many years, I doubt I’ll ever have my revenge.

While investigating a lead, I’m capture by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency. Apparently I have the ability to create and hide in artificial shadows, an awesome power, one I had unknowingly used during assignments. A PIA goon is willing to give me information about my father’s employment with the agency in exchange for killing an innocent woman.

It may be hard for you to believe but I do have some morals and refuse. After I escape, my life becomes even more complicated when I meet my newest target – the dashing king of a small island. I haven’t felt the stirrings of love in a long time, but there’s something about the noble Alaric that makes me long for the light after my lifetime spent in darkness and shadows. I struggle to keep my past a secret from him, even as I investigate my father’s murder. Torn between murder and love, I can’t help but wonder if I even deserve a chance to live a happy life.

Emily J
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Emily J » June 18th, 2010, 3:58 pm

Gonna be honest, I think you should go back to third person. Just my opinion tho.

Nicole Zoltack
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Nicole Zoltack » June 18th, 2010, 4:16 pm

Why am I a hired assassin?

Two reasons.

One, because it pays well. Extremely well.

And two, because I can.

But a psychiatrist would disagree, saying Lorna's occupation stems back to her father, and his murder. Which is also true, but after so many years, she doubts she'll ever have her revenge.

While investigating a lead, Lorna is capture by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency. Apparently she has the ability to create and hide in artificial shadows, an awesome power she had unknowingly used during assignments. A PIA goon is willing to give her information about her father’s employment with the agency in exchange for killing an innocent woman.

It may be hard to believe but Lorna does have some morals and refuse. After she escape, her life becomes even more complicated when she meets her newest target – the dashing king of a small island. She hasn’t felt the stirrings of love in a long time, but there’s something about the noble Alaric that makes her long for the light after her lifetime spent in darkness and shadows. She struggles to keep her past a secret, even as she investigates her father’s murder. Torn between murder and love, Lorna can’t help but wonder if she even deserves a chance to live a happy life.

DarinKennedy
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by DarinKennedy » June 18th, 2010, 11:44 pm

I've heard it's very dangerous to write queries from the POV of the character. Unless you know the agent likes that sort of thing, stick to a 3rd person query, even if the book is in 1st. DK

Meredith
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Meredith » June 19th, 2010, 12:01 am

DarinKennedy wrote:I've heard it's very dangerous to write queries from the POV of the character. Unless you know the agent likes that sort of thing, stick to a 3rd person query, even if the book is in 1st. DK
Probably true. But writing it in first person could still be a useful exercise to get to the voice and find a way to cut down to what is really important to your character.
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khanes
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by khanes » June 19th, 2010, 12:18 am

I actually really liked the punchy style of the second query, but didn't like it in the first person. Maybe you could change it to third? I liked how this query seemed to spell out your story in simpler, more enticing terms. I love how you explained what shadow manipulation meant - it made it so much more interesting! I also liked how you described her love interest and delimma in the second one. This sounds like a good book! good luck.

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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Nicole Zoltack » June 19th, 2010, 12:24 am

"Why am I a hired assassin?

Two reasons.

One, because it pays well. Extremely well.

And two, because I can."

A psychiatrist would disagree, saying Lorna's occupation stems back to her father, and his murder. Which is also true, but after so many years, she doubts she'll ever have her revenge.

While investigating a lead, Lorna is capture by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency. Apparently she has the ability to create and hide in artificial shadows, an awesome power she had unknowingly used during assignments. A PIA goon is willing to give her information about her father’s employment with the agency in exchange for killing an innocent woman.

It may be hard to believe but Lorna does have some morals and refuse. After she escape, her life becomes even more complicated when she meets her newest target – the dashing king of a small island. She hasn’t felt the stirrings of love in a long time, but there’s something about the noble Alaric that makes her long for the light after her lifetime spent in darkness and shadows. She struggles to keep her past a secret, even as she investigates her father’s murder. Torn between murder and love, Lorna can’t help but wonder if she even deserves a chance to live a happy life.

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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by clara_w » June 20th, 2010, 6:31 am

Lorna McCloud likes to think she's an assassin for the money and because she's good at it. But the real reason, because she was traumatized after witnessing her father's murder, is one she longs to keep buried. I´d rephrase this. Maybe: But the real reason is because she was....."

A fresh lead in the cold case brings her closer to discovering her father's murderer when she is captured by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency (PIA). Awesome, seems really interesting! There she learns she has the ability of shadow manipulation. She flees to Creigh, where the country's king, Alaric, has an enormous bounty on his head.

Instead of killing Alaric, Lorna falls for him. When he learns that she is the assassin, he wants nothing to do with her. However they are linked -- her father and his killer visited Creigh before Alaric’s grandfather discovered the island. The island's original inhabitants had been killed, most likely by the same man who later murdered Lorna's father. Interesting but I´d try to simplify. For example, who is Alarics killer, I mean, hes still alive, right?

Alaric is now willing to help Lorna on her quest for revenge. Will Lorna ever find the killer? And the PIA -- what do they want from Lorna? Has her assassin lifestyle doomed her to a life without love? Will Alaric forgive Lorna for her past? More importantly, will Lorna be able to forgive herself?

Very good query here. =)

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