Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

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Quill
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Quill » June 20th, 2010, 12:31 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.
Does she really like to think she's an assassin? This sounds a little 'flip', a bit casual for the seriousness of her trauma.

But the real reason, because she was traumatized after witnessing her father's murder, is one she longs to keep buried.
Technically I think a reason (being a noun) cannot be "because". The reason would more properly be "her trauma".

Also,I would think her trauma would have been incurred during the murder, not after witnessing it. .

Also, "longs to keep buried" may not be the strongest way to say this. "Longs" seems passive, invoking hope rather than an active stuffing of her emotions, which is probably closer to the dynamic regarding her assassin persona.

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).
Good plotting by the way, but this may best be broken into two sentences. Otherwise there is some awkwardness ("a lead brings her closer when she is captured") and a whole lot of ground covered here.
There she learns she has the ability of shadow manipulation.
1. What seems like a major plot point is glossed-over. Elaborate: what is this ability, and of what use is it. How does it figure in the story?

2. Ability to (manipulate shadows); an ability is not of...

She flees to Creigh, where the country's king, Alaric,
This is our first clue that we are probably not in modern times on Earth, and seems abrupt. Any way to clue us in earlier?
has an enormous bounty on his head.
Without context this seems odd, like saying President Obama has a bounty on his head. Is the king not on the throne at this time? If not, what is the situation?
Instead of killing Alaric, Lorna falls for him.
Again, this is quite clipped, and needs context. Is it that easy to get next to a king? Falls for him like a young girl might fall for a singing idol? Or do they actually date?
When he learns that she is the assassin, he wants nothing to do with her.
The assassin? Is he expecting her?

"Wants nothing to do with her" is weak. Who would? It's obvious.

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 doesn't sound like a very strong linkage. Not sure I understand any direct linkage at all, actually.

Can these backstory elements be clarified and slanted to highlight more clearly the present conflict?

Alaric is now willing to help Lorna on her quest for revenge.
Why? How? Who is this Alaric besides "king"?

Also, "quest for revenge" kind of lays there, being unspecific and cliche.
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?
Though rhetorical questions usually aren't the strongest way to reveal plot in a query, some of these work fine. Not sure about the forgiveness, though. What does the king need to forgive Lorna for in her past? What does Lorna feel the need to forgive herself for? Killing people? If so, I'm not sure you've laid the groundwork for such internal soulwork. Maybe more emphasis is needed earlier on her dichotomy: killing while stuffing emotions. As mentioned before, that part is treated somewhat casually above.
HIDDEN IN SHADOWS is a 96,000-word urban fantasy novel.
This doesn't come across as urban at all. There are mentions of island and none of city.

GeeGee55
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by GeeGee55 » June 20th, 2010, 2:23 pm

Hi, NZ:
I didn't read through the other versions, so here's my reaction to this version:

Nicole Zoltack wrote:"Why am I a hired assassin?

Two reasons.

One, because it pays well. Extremely well.

And two, because I can."

This opening is catchy. Some ppl would say you shouldn't use it, especially if it's a quote from the novel. I'm not sure

A does she have a psychiatrist? if so, say her rather than 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 ( this seems a bit off, needs more info I think, because the first thing I thought was do assasins investigate leads? tie it in with the previous sentence somehow), Lorna is capture by the Paranormal Intelligence Agency. Apparently she has the ability to create and hide in artificial shadows, an awesome - don't think you need this power she had unknowingly used during assignments. A PIA goon is willing to give her information about her father’s employment with the agency - I think this would be clearer if you said - if she agrees to kill an innocent woman in exchange for killing an innocent woman.

It may be hard to believe but Lorna does have some morals and refuse.- this kind of contradicts what you have above for her two reasons for being an assasin, again rewording might make it more clear, as it's written it sounds like the reader may find it hard to believe, I wonder if you don't mean that Lorna finds it hard to believe of herself After she escape, her life becomes even more complicated - don't think you need this phrase 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.
- these last two sentences don't really entice me, I think they could be reworked, something about her struggle to find her father's killer while thinking about giving up the assasin's life.

Keep trying. You've got a very interesting story going here.

suesan0814
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by suesan0814 » June 22nd, 2010, 6:32 pm

Nicole Zoltack wrote:Dear Agent:

I have not mastered writing a query, in fact mine has gone through many changes, but as I read I will offer my thoughts on yours. Hope I can help.

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 have to agree with the others, this opening is rough. Perhaps:

Lorna McCloud likes to think she's an assissin for the money and because she's good at it. But in her heart, she knows it's because she whitnessed her father's murder and it had a traumatizing effect on her, But that's something she longs to keep buried.


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.

Nice follow up and the beginning of a plot!

Instead of taking the money and making the hit [killing Alaric], Lorna falls for [him] Alaric. 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] and Lorna believes it was at the hand of [by] the same man who later murdered [Lorna's'] her father.

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 personally think you should tell the agent if Lorna finds that killer - what the PIA want from her - if she finds love - if Alaric will forgive her and that in turn gives her the peace she is looking for. JMHO. If no one else suggests this, go with the flow.

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.

That's it... Good luck with your querying!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


Thanks in advance for your help!

Jessica Peter
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Jessica Peter » June 22nd, 2010, 8:29 pm

"Why am I a hired assassin?

Two reasons.

One, because it pays well. Extremely well.

And two, because I can."
Though I know quotes aren't always "the thing to do" in query letters, I really do think this one works. Personally, I would keep it to one line rather than spacing it like that: I've heard some agents complaining about needing to scroll through unnecessary stuff (like an address) before they get to the meat of the query - especially a few agents that read on iPhones or the like - and I think this would count as unnecessary spacing.

A psychiatrist would disagree, saying Lorna's occupation stems back to her father, and his murder.Wait, is it daddy issues AND daddy's murder issues? If it's just the murder, I would say ". . . stems back to her father's murder." Which is also true, but after so many years, she doubts she'll ever have her revenge.So? That doesn't seem connected to the hypothetical psychiatrist's diagnosis - I would think the hypo psych is saying not that she's looking for her father's killer, but that her father getting killed messed her up enough so that SHE kills. The revenge/hypo psych's "diagnosis" don't match up for me.

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. Cool. I like it.A PIA goon is willing to give her information about her father’s employment with the agency in exchange for killing an innocent woman. Ooh. Good setting of stakes - but maybe even set the stakes higher. I mean is her father's basic employment info really worth the death of an innocent?

It may be hard to believe but Lorna does have some morals and refuses. I actually don't find it hard to believe, even if she is an assassin. But maybe that's just me. After she escapes, Oh, I saw it in the other query version, but it's missing here - what is she escaping? 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. this line seems a bit overwritten. I would say something else other than the light/shadows thing after "noble Alaric" 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 wonders if she even deserves a chance to live a happy life.

It's looking pretty good, in my opinion! I assume they'lll be a paragraph here about word count/genre/agent specifics/ about you?
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mfreivald
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by mfreivald » June 22nd, 2010, 11:43 pm

I think (if I have it right) the primary foci to find her father's killer and win over the king get watered down with the organization that may or may not be a threat to her and the new powers that may or may not do anything to drive the story. I need to know how they drive the story.

I imagine it coming out something like this (which I do mostly for my own practice):

Lorna McCloud extols her exceptional skill and good pay to avoid the real reason she chooses to be an assassin. Revenge. Every job grows her bankroll and hones her deadly skills for the ruthless hunt for her father's murderer. Her discovery of paranormal powers and a covert organization propel her into the life of a king, her would-be victim, and she falls in love. When the king discovers her profession and rejects her for it, Lorna must utilize her powers to discover a new way to pursue her father's killer and reclaim her love.

Okay--that's clunky as written, and I think the last line is particularly weak, but I think it would be better tightened up that way. Of course, that's the assessment of a guy who's never even gotten a request for pages, let alone been published as you have.

Since my inexperienced brashness hasn't deterred me, I might as well recommend you mine something deeper from your story to extend the sentence:

HIDDEN IN SHADOWS is a 96,000-word urban fantasy novel that examines/explores/discovers/etc. __________________.

Nicole Zoltack
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Re: Hidden in Shadows - Urban Fantasy

Post by Nicole Zoltack » June 23rd, 2010, 1:07 am

Thank you so much for your help, everyone! I think I'm getting close:

"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.

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