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Query: The Enemy Within

Posted: August 27th, 2010, 7:31 pm
by oldhousejunkie
First, I'll say thank you in advance for any help you throw my way. I really need help with making my query a query and not a synopsis. I've had a hard time getting my character's voice across. Second, I'm a disiciple of the Query Shark, so I've tried to stick to her pointers. I will however edit my queries based on who I am querying, and will add in other details such as where I found the agent, comparisons to other books, etc. based on the agent's personal preferences (if I can find them). So here's the meat.

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent:

Nineteen-year-old Julienne Dalton is not the typical Southern belle. She would rather be riding horses bareback, and not hunting a husband. She can afford to be eccentric--her father is a powerful house representative, and owns the best
horse farm in Kentucky.

But it is 1863 and the Civil War is raging. Reeling from her father's murder at the hands of Union soldiers, Julienne decides that would rather be dead than a victim again. She joins a ring of Confederate agents, seeking solace in
her harrowing life of espionage. Despite cheating death in her reckless escapades, Julienne longs to restore the family's horse farm to its former prestige.

After finding her name on the Union Secret Service's most wanted list, Julienne is forced into early retirement. Trapped by Frankfort's diminished and stifling society, she is intrigued when a handsome stranger named Alexander
Caulfield turns up. Inexplicably drawn to each other, Julienne cannot deny the attraction and consents to a hasty marriage.

Julienne is shattered when her secret life is suddenly unmasked, and she discovers that Alex was sent to Frankfort to capture her. In fear for her life, Julienne leaves the country and tries to Alex's betrayal. When she entangles
herself with an English lord, Julienne struggles to shutter her heart against her husband, and start a new life. But her plans are complicated when Alex unexpectedly shows up in the small English village she has been living in. Julienne is forced to make a decision about her future, and the consequences are deadly.

THE ENEMY WITHIN is a historical fiction and is complete at 100,000 words. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,


Re: Query: The Enemy Within

Posted: August 27th, 2010, 7:51 pm
by thewhipslip
Welcome! Yeah, this definitely reads more like a synopsis. I'm just going to summarize what I think your query should read like:

It's 1863 and the Civil War is raging. Nineteen-year-old Julienne Dalton goes from typical Southern belle to daughter of a murdered father by Union hands. She won't be a victim, joining up with a ring of Confederate agents who [insert what the agents actually do. act as spies??]. Julienne's only solace is the dream of restoring her father's horse farm once the war is done.

But she's on the Union Secret Service's [do these guys have another name??] most wanted list. She's got to hide indefinitely, trapped in Frankfort [where's Frankfort?? geographically-challenged here...]. Her only solace is the new man in her life, Alexander Caulfield -- a man she quickly marries, only to find out that he's not a [insert what he told her he was - blacksmith? farmer?], he works for the Union, and he's been sent to kill her.

My question is if the query should end here. Any opinions? I've taken your sentences and just condensed the action. You can do the same with the later details about England if you choose to.

I hope this helps!

Re: Query: The Enemy Within

Posted: August 27th, 2010, 8:10 pm
by oldhousejunkie
Thank you soooo much!

I really does help. It's so funny that you can read successful queries all day long, then go to write one, and fail miserably.

I don't know about the query ending there. That's the first half of the novel. The other half is in England and involves a lot more action than I was letting on.

How about:

It's 1863 and the Civil War is raging. Nineteen-year-old Julienne Dalton goes from priviledged Southern belle to orphan when her father is murdered by Union soldiers. Refusing to be a victim, she joins a ring of Confederate agents who gather information to be used against the enemy. Julienne's only consolation is the dream of restoring her father's horse farm once the war is done.

But Julienne's success as a spy makes her a target of the Union Secret Service. She's got to hide indefinitely, trapped in the stifling society of Frankfort, Kentucky. Boredom turns to interest when a mysterious stranger, Alexander Caulfield, turns up in town. She hastily marries him, only to find out that he's not the businessman he claimed to be. Instead he works for the Union, and he's been sent to capture her.

Now Julienne's on the run, and when she finally settles, it is in a small English village half a world away from the war torn United States. She is hiding a secret from Alex and she will do anything to keep him in the dark--even if it means marrying another man.

I'm not sure about that last bit. In the story, she doesn't commit bigamy, and I certainly don't want people to be turned off by that. Thoughts?

Re: Query: The Enemy Within

Posted: August 27th, 2010, 8:22 pm
by JadePhoenix
Is this a love story or a story of revenge? You seem to have two different threads - she's pissed by her father's muder and wants to restore his horse farm, and then - she's dealing with the husband and the English guy (and isn't even in America anymore at that point). You seem to switch - she "longs to restore her father's horse farm" and then suddenly there's no other mention of that and she's getting married and running off to England and it's a romance story. So, maybe tie that together a little more.

Anyway, that's all I saw. It sounds like a really interesting story! :)

On a side note, and this is JUST ME, if her secret is what I think it is then it's kind of a bit of a cliche so I'm not sure if that will turn off agents. Pretty much every single historical based story I've ever read where the woman runs off and the guy chases after her, she's got the exact same secret. Again, just me, just me, but just reading what you wrote up there I was really interested right up until the "secret" and then felt somewhat disappointed. Again though, totally just me so feel free to disregard. It's possible it's an entirely different secret, and it's also possible it's just me that thinks the one I'm thinking about is a cliche. :)

Re: Query: The Enemy Within

Posted: August 27th, 2010, 8:44 pm
by oldhousejunkie
Thanks JadePhoenix!

Sadly, yes, I have a feeling the secret is the cliche you were talking about. But it's so great for high drama! I will take it out though, for query purposes.

I do agree with you on tying together the themes. I've struggled with that. Even though she takes off for England (actually for the Continent...she gets derailed in England when she finds out about the "secret") and starts to build a new life there, she is planning on returning to the States, and even starts buying up horse stock to take back with her. I just don't know how to get that all across without getting wordy. :-(

Re: Query: The Enemy Within

Posted: August 27th, 2010, 9:00 pm
by TroyMichael
Definitely the story has some intriguing elements, and potential. I do agree that the query reads more like a synopsis. I would vote for one of the more abbreviated forms already presented. Two solid paragraphs, three tops, seem to be the right amount to whet the agents appetite and interest without going into too much detail.

Obviously the story breaks into two environments, the later being in England. This brings up the point regarding where the focus is in the story. I believe an agent may consider the story line at this point to be fragmented, which you don't want. Were it my query I would consider the briefest of descriptions of the American events and emphasize the English portion. This may not work for you depending on where the bulk of the story lies. You might want to revisit the comments made by any story editor or evaluations by early readers to see where their interests lie.

Good start.
Troy Michael
"words are the chariots of our imagination"

Re: Query: The Enemy Within

Posted: August 27th, 2010, 9:41 pm
by thewhipslip
I was with you on the query up until the "secret" part, just as Jade l said. I would cut that out. And TroyMichael's not wrong about re-evaluating where the bulk of your story lies. Only you can decide that, obviously. I like the part about her buying horse stock in England though.

Re: Query: The Enemy Within

Posted: August 27th, 2010, 11:07 pm
by oldhousejunkie
Thanks Troy Micheal. I will definitely re-evaluate. I always thought of the first half of the novel being the dynamic part, but if I re-focus on the second part being where the action is, I think I get it across better. I guess I got waylaid by the whole her being a spy is where the action is. :-)

I'll drum up Take Three tomorrow...

Thanks to everyone for the comments. You were all a major help!