TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

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mfreivald
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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by mfreivald » July 12th, 2010, 8:44 pm

I don't have a lot of time for more commentary, but that first paragraph sang to me. :)

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FK7
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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 10:19 pm

Based on your invaluable advice (and some on another forum), this is the final version I'm going with. In blue is what I changed from 2nd version
Bioengineer Gabriel Clarkson is a cappuccino addict and self-declared workaholic. He's spent the last five years in his Vermont lab developing a virus meant to cure cancer. A breakthrough earns him a fifteen million dollar grant, thus securing not only his research's future but the holy grail of espresso machines to go with it. Victory has never been so caffeinated.

Shortly after fresh help is hired, the lab is plundered and the break-in threatens Gabriel's life. After the new and obnoxiously smart colleague rescues him with inhuman kung-fu and a badass attitude, he's as intrigued as he is jealous. Now he knows why Emilie Jensen looked so good on paper before he hired her: she's a whole lot of trouble.

She brings Gabriel to an underground megalopolis hidden under the mountains of Vermont. Toturia is home to the Protectors, an ancient race of humans born from the hybridization of feline and human DNA. Even though they're blessed with speed and agility, it'd be easy to overlook these ordinary looking folks if it weren't for the jaguars they tame and keep as sacred pets.

The Protectors face extinction and Gabriel's research could save them. Another Protector clan is believed to be behind the attacks and Gabriel finds himself in the middle of a war for survival. All that's left to figure out is how to protect the rest of his friends and family while he tries to save an ancient civilization that can't even appreciate a good latte.

Complete at 95,000 words, TRINITY is an urban fantasy novel where big cats rule all and expensive coffee is totally in style.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
1) I think the coffee jokes might be overdone and I might remove "save an ancient civilization that can't even appreciate a good latte" or "expensive coffee is totally in style". One or the other... on another forum someone shot them down really quickly saying "the cute coffee jokes aren't helping this query at all". I don't agree, but I also don't think it should be overdone. In any case, the publishing industry (as many others) hold many aspiring baristi and the coffee jokes seemed appropriate both to my reality and my MC's. What do you guys think on that front? I realize not everyone will like them, but writing a query that is universally liked is also impossible, so I'm just hoping for a majority of people to like it. Worse case scenario, people will just overlook it. Thoughts?

2) 2nd paragraph was entirely re-written again, keeping in mind that only one event was sufficient to transition to the presentation of Protectors (I removed the kidnapping). I also infused the second paragraph with a bit more life as far as Emilie is concerned, as some of the little feedback I got on my partial was that Emilie was "incredibly authentic and very interesting without being a cliché, something to be proud of as a male writer" so giving Emilie a bit more room in the query makes sense as she is as important as the MC (she is in 90% of the scenes). I've also removed the acquaintance and simply mentionned the break-in threatens Gabriel's life (he ends up in a coma for a week) since it is true we don't care about an acquaintance we don't know.

3) A few people noticed a virus is mentioned in the fourth paragraph only for the first time, so I cleared up it was in fact the aim of the research already in the second sentence of the first paragraph.

4) I'm not sure if "and Gabriel finds himself in the middle of a war for survival" is clear enough... I mean it as both Gabriel's survival and the war between the two clans who are also fighting for their survival... is it too ambiguous?

5) I cleared up what the Protectors look like. On another forum someone thought they were shapeshifters (I did go WTF when I read that) so I had to clear it up. They're ordinary looking humans with some key differences in their neurophysiology and metabolism (3 years of medschool really helped out create their anatomy!!!) to compensate the O2 requirements of their heightened speed, agility and strength... but they don't have any whiskers or tails. In fact, if anyone remembers the sci-fi TV show Dark Angel that aired on FOX from 2002-2004 (I think), the genetically modified supersoldiers had feline DNA in them. It's the show that propelled Jessica Alba to stardom btw, it was great :D

At 276 words (down from 353) I'm pretty happy with this query as it is and I am so grateful for all of your help! I was really devastated when I got my partial and full rejected but writing this new query has motivated me for another round of query... or maybe the 35 rejections I piled up made me more thick-skinned? Who knows :D

Providing you guys aren't annoyed by some of the edits, I'll let this sit for a few days and then start querying with that query in small batches!

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by Bron » July 13th, 2010, 7:36 am

1. I liked the coffee jokes and I don't even like coffee. I thought they showed good voice.
2. I didn't care about the acquaintance but a death does raise the stakes. I don't think a brief mention that someone died In the break-in would hurt.
3. The only thing I wondered about reading this query was how his research would help the Protectors. I get that research in one field can have an effect on an entirely different field, but I would like to see this explained a bit more in the query.
4. I think it's clear enough. If he's caught in the middle of a war, we're going to assume he's fighting for his own survival.
5. I thought they had fur so good idea to clarify this!

Great job on this. I'm no expert but I think it's good, really tight and intriguing. You've obviously gotten a lot of feedback on this so feel free to ignore mine if it disagrees with the majority :-)

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FK7
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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 13th, 2010, 10:26 am

Thanks so much Bron :D

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by Quill » July 13th, 2010, 11:22 am

FK7 wrote:
Bioengineer Gabriel Clarkson is a cappuccino addict and self-declared workaholic. Armed with nothing but sarcasm and tenacity, he's spent the last five years in his Vermont lab trying to cure cancer.
"Nothing but sarcasm and tenacity" doesn't ring true. Surely he has some test tubes. An engineering degree. A coffee maker.
A breakthrough earns him a fifteen million dollar grant, thus securing not only his research's future
Omit "thus".
but the holy grail of espresso machines to go with it. Victory has never been so caffeinated.
The holy grail? A great, mythic, one-of-a-kind artifact of machines? Or are you simply going for top of the line. How about "Rolls-Royce of expresso machines".
A month and a new colleague later, his lab is plundered and an acquaintance is killed during the break-in.
Omit "and a new colleague" as you mention colleague in the next sentence, and here it gets confused with the acquaintance.
Trouble finds Gabriel again when two men try to kidnap him and the new obnoxiously smart colleague, Dr. Emilie Jensen, rescues him with inhuman kung-fu and a badass attitude.

She brings Gabriel to her home, a vast underground megalopolis hidden under the mountains of Vermont.
The colleague has megalopolis for a home? The colleague is a reclusive billionaire? I don't get this.
He's introduced to the Protectors, an ancient race of humans born from the hybridization of feline and human DNA. Naturally fast, strong and highly intelligent, they tame jaguars and leopards and keep the snarly predators as sacred pets.
This story seems to have taken a ninety degree turn. It started out about coffee and cancer. If this is the main conflict/storyline, can we omit the cancer and coffee from the query?
The Protectors are facing extinction and Gabriel's research could save them. He learns another clan might be responsible for the attacks because they want his virus for themselves. Stuck between a rock and a feline war, he accepts to trade knowledge for protection. All that's left to figure out is how to protect the rest of his friends and family while he tries to save an ancient civilization he didn't even know existed until his last cup of java.

Complete at 95,000 words, TRINITY is an urban fantasy novel where big cats rule all and expensive coffee is totally in style.
Not sure your voice or story are presented consistently enough to know what kind of read this is. Thriller? Lighthearted conspiracy? Looking for the tone of it. The title doesn't tell me, either. What is the trinity in the story?

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by Quill » July 13th, 2010, 9:35 pm

Also, what happened to the Mayans from your past query? Did you write them out?

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by ryanznock » July 13th, 2010, 9:43 pm

I agree that the tone seems to take a hard left turn halfway through the query. It's hard to go from quirky cappuccinos to potential genocide without some cognitive dissonance.

Also, this isn't fair, but I'm personally biased against cat people. Maybe it was too much anime as a teenager, or Avatar, or my friend the cosplayer who responds to every question with "Mew?", but you might run into some bias because the cat-person idea has gotten a bad rap in some circles.

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FK7
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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 13th, 2010, 10:01 pm

No, they're very much there (in fact their collapse is the center element of the main plot arc) but it worked against me in the query. Too many agents jumped to the conclusion that my novel would be about the stupid 2012 prophecies (the agent who requested the partial did say he thought this is what he thought this was going to be about at first, but it's not what made him request the partial. He was in fact happy it wasn't about 2012. Still rejected it though :-/) whereas my novel is based on weeks of serious research and university classes. When people hear Maya they immediately think "Calendar, 2012, prophecies or end of the world" and not about their mysterious collapse, the latter being actually interesting and a "real" thing.

Based on the feedback I got and the rejections, my instincts told me it was time for another approach and I was probably right since 1 hour after sending this new query I had a request for a partial from an awesome agent this morning. It's kind of sad that these Hollywood lunatics who made shit up are ruining the realistic world view of the Maya and their accomplishments, but I should have been less naïve. This issue could have easily been foresaw, but I was just too insecure.

35 rejections and some requests later, I feel more thick-skinned and more confident to make better decisions. Also, the only writer's story I had heard before I began writing and researching the industry was through a friend and it was Stephenie Meyer's story, who sent 15 query letters via snail mail, got one request for a partial from some assistant at one of the most prestigious agencies (Writer's House), then the request for a full came and the 750k deal... I naively thought if a stay-at-home mother who's a Mormon and who doesn't watch R rated movies (therefore has a very conservative world view) could do it, I could too. So I got in thinking this was going to be easy. Big, big mistake...

I got my ass kicked a few times, from agents and critique partners. I've had a crazy run-in with one particular CP and I was also shocked to realize even if you get requests for partials or fulls, you don't even get feedback. In essence, you're in the dark from beginning to end, the end being when you get an agent. At this point, I feel like what little feedback I got from an agent must be invaluable and it should be seriously considered, hence the rewriting of the query.

The Maya are still in, but they don't need to be in the query. A great friend and ex editor suggested I leave them out at the query stage (she read my ms without reading the query) because she thought the surprise had a much better impact with the proper context (which the novel provides). Of course I might be totally off the mark but I've got nothing to lose. I'd rather try my luck with a new query. You can't query an agent who's rejected you (with the same project that is) so if you miss your shot, you're done.
Last edited by FK7 on July 13th, 2010, 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 13th, 2010, 10:12 pm

ryanznock wrote:I agree that the tone seems to take a hard left turn halfway through the query. It's hard to go from quirky cappuccinos to potential genocide without some cognitive dissonance.

Also, this isn't fair, but I'm personally biased against cat people. Maybe it was too much anime as a teenager, or Avatar, or my friend the cosplayer who responds to every question with "Mew?", but you might run into some bias because the cat-person idea has gotten a bad rap in some circles.
I agree with you. Many people might be fed up with cat people and it's the risk I took when I went with this, but it's something I absolutely cannot change. Felines are an integral part of the mythology, which was mainly inspired by the fact Maya considered jaguars as sacred animals. They tamed them to guard their royal estates and studied these felines with great care. When they noticed jaguars purposefully got high by eating the bark of the yaje vine, Mayan priests began getting high as well and thought their hallucinations was in fact "the vision of the jaguar", some kind of sixth sense that allowed them a glimpse in the afterlife.

These kind of little insights make the story a lot more interesting (in my opinion) because they have real world correlation and roots. In the end though, this business is so subjective that you're bound to have people read your query and utter an "eek, not for me". If you read all the queries that got a yes on QueryShark, you'll notice in the comment sections opinions were split. I don't think there's a story or a query out there that will be universally liked.

All you can count on is that agent taste will be as diversified as the stories we read. Many people are fed up with angels, vampires, paranormal YA altogether or Greek mythology, but big deals with these creatures are still being reported. A writer (Jacqueline something) just got a seven figure deal on her debut novel and a three book deal, which is a retelling of the Helen of Troy legend. It's been done many times, but clearly, agents and editors still want them.

I've set myself a limit of 150 queries. If you read the success stories database on QT, you realize most of these people queried over 40+ agents, the average being 94 last time I ran statistics. If by #150 I still don't have an agent, I'll write a new project and start over. Right now I've sent 53 queries and have 37 rejections according to QT. 2 fulls, 1 partial and 13 still out. The stats are just slightly encouraging so I am hopeful, but I won't be naive anymore!

All it takes is "one" yes... or so they say! ;)

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 15th, 2010, 5:53 pm

I want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart! I sent nine queries over two days and received 1 rejection and 3 requests for a partial so far! I'm quite sure my new query would have been a lot less strong without your feedback, so thank you 1000 times!

If I land an agent I'll throw a contest reserved for NB Forums folks for an original website design from yours truly!!!

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by ryanznock » July 16th, 2010, 6:09 pm

Yikes, 150 agents? I only have a list of 25 agents so far, though admittedly these are just the ones I've found by clicking through a web of agent blogs. Where do you find lists with that many agents?

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FK7
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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 16th, 2010, 6:10 pm

I didn't, I made my own list. QueryTracker helped a lot.

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by suesan0814 » July 17th, 2010, 3:49 pm

Bioengineer Gabriel Clarkson is a cappuccino addict and self-declared workaholic. Armed with nothing but sarcasm and tenacity, he's spent the last five years in his Vermont lab trying to cure cancer. A breakthrough earns him a fifteen million dollar grant, thus securing not only his research's future but the holy grail of espresso machines to go with it. Victory has never been so caffeinated. Didn't get 'the' holy grail of espresso machines…. Maybe 'a' holly grail of….


Complete at 95,000 words, TRINITY is an urban fantasy novel where big cats rule all and expensive coffee is totally in style. ***don't think you need the word 'novel'. Other than those two things I think this is an amazing query. I wish you luck with it.

I wanted to mention; you said you didn't think your last query was a good one. I have to say that if it gleaned several requests for partials and full MS's it was doing its job. I had the same problem. I researched HOW to write a query and WHAT the do's and don't were, and what a good query should contain. I followed it closely. I got those requests - baby - followed by those rejection letters. I had to stand back and ask why. In my case it was the tone and style of my query. It did not have the same tone as the novel. I reworked it, sent out a few new revised queries a month ago and got three full MS requests and three partials and sent them off, hopefully. Several weeks later, I got a contract! What I chanced was going from third person to first person and told the story from my protagonist's POV, and really gave it the same tone and style as my novel. I think what happened the first go around was the query was good, but when they read the MS they didn't get the same feel from the novel.

Hope this helps,

Susan
The Grateful Undead: They're So Vein

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FK7
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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 17th, 2010, 9:09 pm

Hello Susan!

Thanks so much for sharing your story, I find it very inspirational and I love to hear those success stories too! :)

In Canada we often refer to things that are "la crème de la crème", ie the best of as "the holy grail of 'whatever'". Quill's suggestion of using Roll's-Royce instead would have meant the same thing, except it hears itself as a very old-fashioned expression in my part of the country. Plus, I think Rolls-Royce are fooking ugly! ;)

The new query's working well so far and I'm happy. I hope I'll get the same happily ever after as you :D

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by Quill » July 17th, 2010, 9:32 pm

In Canada are "la crème de la crème" and "the holy grail" synonymous? In the U.S. they are not.

Agree Rolls Royce is dated and old fashioned. It was just an example of a superlative -- of the best -- whereas the grail, I didn't think said that.

Obviously whatever you wrote is fine, though, as you are getting good feedback. Wish you lots of luck with the project.

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