THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (Newer Draft on page 2)

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Jaligard
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THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (Newer Draft on page 2)

Post by Jaligard » October 25th, 2010, 5:28 pm

Newer New Version on page two.

* * *

I went back to the drawing board (mostly) after the last version and have what I hope is a vastly improved query letter. I would appreciate all the criticism you care to provide.

Here is the previous query letter.

Thanks in advance!



Dear [Agent name],

Tessa is young, talented, and blind. She walks alongside the canals of Beldessario and plays her dulcimer for strangers, seeing only their auras and relying on their generosity to survive. Gazing into people's souls may not win her many friends, but being able to spot the blackened heart of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city. All she wants is a normal life: to play her music and maybe to marry a certain one-legged soldier-boy.

Those dreams are shattered when she meets Raz, the would-be conqueror of her city. Ambitious, evil, and powerful, the world's last fire wizard can see auras, too. Raz is trying to bring the world back under the rule of wizards. He is well on his way to conquering the world, but—he lacks the wizards. Every city has magical trinket mongers; reading auras separates the amateurs from the truly powerful. Tessa has enough potential to move his plan forward twenty years. Not only is she untrained and malleable, but she can be the perfect breeding stock to make new wizards.

Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario, the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. She’ll have to use all her magic to defy Raz—with Tessa tipping the balance—to keep both the girl and her beloved city safe.

THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO is a 90,000-word fantasy novel set in a Renaissance pseudo-Venice, complete with courtesans, sword-fights, wizard duels, and a bucket of water.

Sincerely,
[Jaligard]
Last edited by Jaligard on December 3rd, 2010, 2:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by elfspirit » October 25th, 2010, 8:04 pm

I read a much earlier version of this, and you have here a greatly improved version. The only thing I'd like to see is how Tessa tips the balance for the water wizard--not vast detail--just a phrase. It would up the ante.

Congratulations for staying with this. I've taken a short vacation from my own query for the sake of sanity.

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Melissa LR Handa
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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 25th, 2010, 8:21 pm

Just a few questions, coming from someone who is not at all well-versed in the fantasy genre.

How is Tessa talented--musically, magically?

Tessa walks alongside the canals, day-in and day-out, or as part of the opening-scene?

Would more information about the besieged city/ war be helpful?

Does the one-legged soldier boy play into the plot?

What are magical trinket mongerers, and how are they important?

You make use of fire and water, is Tessa somehow symbolic of air? Could be an interesting thing to draw out (how air can make both water and fire more powerful, if applied properly)

I really liked your sign-off sentence!

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by Ermo » October 25th, 2010, 8:31 pm

Tessa is young, talented, and blind. She walks alongside the canals of Beldessario and plays her dulcimer for strangers, seeing only their auras and relying on their generosity to survive. Gazing into people's souls may not win her many friends, but being able to spot the blackened heart of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city. All she wants is a normal life: to play her music and maybe to marry a certain one-legged soldier-boy. Good first paragraph.

Those dreams are shattered when she meets Raz, the would-be conqueror of her city. Ambitious, evil, and powerful, the world's last fire wizard can see auras, too. Raz is trying to bring the world back under the rule of wizards. If he's the last wizard, how is he going to bring the world back under the rule of wizards? He is well on his way to conquering the world, but—he lacks the wizards. Every city has magical trinket mongers; reading auras separates the amateurs from the truly powerful. Tessa has enough potential to move his plan forward twenty years. Not only is she untrained and malleable, but she can be the perfect breeding stock to make new wizards. Ok, you answered my earlier question. Nice. I like how his motivations include your protagonist.

Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario, the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. She’ll have to use all her magic to defy Raz—with Tessa tipping the balance—to keep both the girl and her beloved city safe. Hmmmmmmm. It seems like your protag changed here in the last paragraph. Can you rewrite to show this from Tessa's perspective?

THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO is a 90,000-word fantasy novel set in a Renaissance pseudo-Venice, complete with courtesans, sword-fights, wizard duels, and a bucket of water.

This is a good query. I think you just need a tweak to the Alli paragraph. Good luck!

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by fishfood » October 25th, 2010, 9:12 pm

Great novel you have here! I have a few minor critiques, and I think I will end up supporting the same suggestions of the earlier posters.
Actually as is, I think this query would garner some requests, so don't feel like my suggestions are deal-breakers--as in you HAVE to make these changes otherwise this query is terrible. Quite the opposite. I understood the plot and the conflict overall, I like the characters and think the writing is awesome!
Jaligard wrote:I went back to the drawing board (mostly) after the last version and have what I hope is a vastly improved query letter. I would appreciate all the criticism you care to provide.

Here is the previous query letter.

Thanks in advance!



Dear [Agent name],

Tessa is young, talented, and blind. She walks alongside the canals of Beldessario and plays her dulcimer for strangers, seeing only their auras and relying on their generosity to survive. Gazing into people's souls may not win her many friends, but being able to spot the blackened heart of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city. All she wants is a normal life: to play her music and maybe to marry a certain one-legged soldier-boy. Since the one-legged soldier boy doesn't play into the rest of your query (though I'm sure he plays an important part in the novel) I would cut it and move right into your second paragraph. To tie it into your first, I would try: That safety is shattered when she meets Raz.

Those dreams are shattered when she meets Raz, the would-be conqueror of her city. Ambitious, evil, and powerful,shattered dreams implies Raz is bad and you go on to show us his badness so you don't need the adjectives. The world's last fire wizard can see auras, too. Raz is trying to bring the world back under the rule of wizards. He is well on his way to conquering the world, but—he lacks the wizards. Every city has magical trinket mongers; reading auras separates the amateurs from the truly powerful. Tessa has enough potential to move his plan forward twenty years. Not only is she untrained and malleable, but she can be the perfect breeding stock to make new wizards. Is there any way you can keep this query from Tessa's pov? The first paragraph is Tessa's pov, then it's Raz's and then...you change it again in the third. Even if the story is told equally from three perspectives, for simplicity sake I would try to keep it to one or at the most two povs.
Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario, the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, show us she's kind, passionate, wise...she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. She’ll have to use all her magic to defy Raz—with Tessa tipping the balance—to keep both the girl and her beloved city safe. How does Tessa tip the balance? What's at stake beside the safety of the city? Is Tessa's soul at stake? Will she end up good or evil?
THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO is a 90,000-word fantasy novel set in a Renaissance pseudo-Venice, complete with courtesans, sword-fights, wizard duels, and a bucket of water. Cute, I like this line. :)
Sincerely,
[Jaligard]

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by ABFTomioka » October 25th, 2010, 10:41 pm

Hello! I loved this idea when I first read it, and I like your query even better now. This is definitely an eye-catching book and I can't wait to read it in print! The letter is great, I think. I only have a couple nitpicky suggestions:

Tessa is young, talented, and blind. She walks alongside the canals of Beldessario and plays her dulcimer for strangers, seeing only their auras and relying on their generosity to survive. Gazing into people's souls may not win her many friends, but being able to spot the blackened heart of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city. All she wants is a normal life: to play her music and maybe marry a certain one-legged soldier boy.

Those dreams are shattered when she meets Raz, the would-be conqueror of her city. Ambitious and powerful, the evil fire wizard can see auras, too. Raz is trying to bring the world back under the rule of wizards. He is well on his way to conquering the world, but—he lacks the wizards. I feel like the word "wizard" is used a bit too often here....can you rephrase the last sentance or two to fix it? "Bring the world under his control," maybe. Every city has magical trinket mongers, but reading auras separates the amateurs from the truly powerful. Tessa has enough potential to move his plan forward twenty years. Not only is she untrained and malleable, but she can be the perfect breeding stock to make new wizards. Ooooh, so creepy! I love it!

Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario and the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. Even with the amateur Tessa tipping the balance, she’ll have to use all her magic to defy Raz and keep both the girl and her beloved city safe.

THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO is a 90,000-word fantasy novel set in a Renaissance pseudo-Venice, complete with courtesans, sword-fights, wizard duels, and a bucket of water. As before, I think this is absolutely fantastic - it's funny and intreguing. I want to know where that bucket of water comes in!

You've got a great query and what looks like an even better novel. Best of luck!

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by Nicole R » October 26th, 2010, 11:28 am

Hi Jaligard. Great idea! This is exactly the type of book I love to read. My specific thoughts on your query are below. I also think that you can streamline this a little more, but overall it's intriguing. Good luck!

Tessa is young, talented, and blind. I’d combine the first two sentences somehow. Otherwise, I’m left wondering just how young she really is, and exactly what she’s talented at. She walks alongside the canals of Beldessario and plays her dulcimer for strangers, seeing only their auras and relying on their generosity to survive. Gazing into people's souls may not win her many friends, I’m not sure I get this line – wouldn’t her ability help her seek out the best type of friends? And, unless she’s going around announcing peoples’ flaws, no one knows she has this ability. So why would it affect whether or not they choose to be friends with her? but being able to spot the blackened heart of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city. All she wants is a normal life: to play her music and maybe to marry a certain one-legged soldier-boy. I love this line! I want to know more about the one-legged soldier boy. But I think it’s stronger if you delete the reference to a normal life – skip the cliché and go right to the specific. She wants her music and her soldier boy.

Those dreams are shattered when she meets Raz, the would-be conqueror of her city. Ambitious, evil, and powerful, the world's last fire wizard can see auras, too. Raz is trying to bring the world back under the rule of wizards. He is well on his way to conquering the world, but—he lacks the wizards. Every city has magical trinket mongers; reading auras separates the amateurs from the truly powerful. I think this paragraph could be stronger if you give us a phrase about how Raz discovers Tessa’s ability. I’m guessing that’s really the event that sets things in motion. Can he sense it in her, since he has it too? Or is there more of a confrontation? Tessa has enough potential to move his plan forward twenty years. Not only is she untrained and malleable, but she can be the perfect breeding stock to make new wizards. Okay, here’s where I want to know her exact age – you say she’s young, but there’s a whole different level of ickiness here if she’s 12 or 13 vs. 18 or 19. I’m guessing it’s the latter.

Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario, the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. She’ll have to use all her magic to defy Raz—with Tessa tipping the balance—to keep both the girl and her beloved city safe. I agree with others that this paragraph should show more of Tessa’s role, since she’s your main query subject.

THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO is a 90,000-word fantasy novel set in a Renaissance pseudo-Venice, complete with courtesans, sword-fights, wizard duels, and a bucket of water.

Jaligard
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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by Jaligard » October 26th, 2010, 2:13 pm

Melissa LR Handa wrote:Just a few questions, coming from someone who is not at all well-versed in the fantasy genre.
Do you mean questions the query should answer or questions that you would like to know the answers to?
How is Tessa talented--musically, magically?
Yes!
Tessa walks alongside the canals, day-in and day-out, or as part of the opening-scene?
Yes!
Would more information about the besieged city/ war be helpful?
Not in the query, I think. It's enough to know the city's in trouble because of Raz.
Does the one-legged soldier boy play into the plot?
Yes and no. He plays into the plot, but he's more of side-plot character.
What are magical trinket mongerers, and how are they important?
They sell magical trinkets. They are not important, but they set up the difference between real wizards and pretenders.
You make use of fire and water, is Tessa somehow symbolic of air? Could be an interesting thing to draw out (how air can make both water and fire more powerful, if applied properly)
She is an untrained air wizard, but I thought it too much for the query. I have also refrained from using the in-novel terminology: efreet, marid, and djinn.
I really liked your sign-off sentence!
Thanks!
Last edited by Jaligard on October 26th, 2010, 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Melissa LR Handa
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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 26th, 2010, 2:18 pm

These were just the questions that hit me. As I said, I am completely unversed in this genre, so things that I don't understand could be perfecly clear to an agent. I think if you found a brief way of mentioning the element of air, your query could be improved (just don't spend too much time fleshing it out). Good luck to you, and thanks for your help on my query (I have a new draft up on my thread, if you have the time and desire to give it another once-over).

Thanks,
Melissa

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by Jaligard » October 26th, 2010, 2:27 pm

Ermo wrote:Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario, the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. She’ll have to use all her magic to defy Raz—with Tessa tipping the balance—to keep both the girl and her beloved city safe. Hmmmmmmm. It seems like your protag changed here in the last paragraph. Can you rewrite to show this from Tessa's perspective?
This is the paragraph that has given me the most trouble. I've tried half a dozen ways to write it from Tessa's perspective, but I cannot make it work. It's disingenuous to the story, mostly. Tessa is way, way out of her league with Raz. The most she'll do in the story is tell him off and then help Alli. The story is hers, she's the main character, but Alli is the champion.

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by Melissa LR Handa » October 26th, 2010, 2:32 pm

Jaligard wrote:
Ermo wrote:Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario, the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. She’ll have to use all her magic to defy Raz—with Tessa tipping the balance—to keep both the girl and her beloved city safe. Hmmmmmmm. It seems like your protag changed here in the last paragraph. Can you rewrite to show this from Tessa's perspective?
This is the paragraph that has given me the most trouble. I've tried half a dozen ways to write it from Tessa's perspective, but I cannot make it work. It's disingenuous to the story, mostly. Tessa is way, way out of her league with Raz. The most she'll do in the story is tell him off and then help Alli. The story is hers, she's the main character, but Alli is the champion.
Perhaps a transition of some sort will help make this paragraph mesh with those before it, while maintaining Alli's point of view. Now that I've hit reply I don't have the whole query sitting in front of me, but what about something to this effect...

With a tendency to expect the best in people, Tessa is naive to the dark machinations of Raz. Luckily, she's not alone. Also standing in Raz's way is Alli...

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (second attempt)

Post by Jaligard » October 27th, 2010, 6:58 pm

New version below.
Last edited by Jaligard on November 15th, 2010, 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (New Draft on page 2)

Post by Jaligard » November 15th, 2010, 7:17 pm

More tweaks in the third paragraph. Would appreciate comments. Thanks in advance!

Tessa is young, talented, and blind. She walks alongside the canals of Beldessario and plays her dulcimer for strangers, seeing only their auras and relying on their generosity to survive. Gazing into people's souls may not win her many friends, but being able to spot the blackened hearts of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city. All she wants is to play her music and maybe marry a certain one-legged soldier-boy.

Those dreams are shattered when she meets Raz, the would-be conqueror of her city. Ambitious, evil, and powerful, the world's last fire wizard can see auras, too. Raz is trying to bring the world back under the rule of wizards. He is well on his way to conquering the world, but—he lacks the wizards. Every city has magical trinket mongers; reading auras separates the amateurs from the truly powerful. Tessa has enough potential to move his plan forward twenty years. Not only is she untrained and malleable, but she can be the perfect breeding stock to make new wizards.

Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario, the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. Alli will never defeat him without Tessa’s help. If Tessa hopes escape Raz’s plot, she’ll have to embrace her powers over air magic and leave her simple life behind.

THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO is a 90,000-word fantasy novel set in a Renaissance pseudo-Venice, complete with courtesans, sword-fights, wizard duels, and a bucket of water.

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Re: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (New Draft on page 2)

Post by D.Bond » November 16th, 2010, 7:15 pm

Tessa is young, talented, and blind. Very intriguing, you don't see many blind main characters. This'll definitely set your novel apart from others. She walks alongside the canals of Beldessario and plays her dulcimer An instrument? for strangers, seeing only their auras So, she's not completely blind. Does she see them as colors or...? and relying on their generosity to survive. Gazing into people's souls may not win her many friends, but being able to spot the blackened hearts of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city. All she wants is to play her music and maybe marry a certain one-legged soldier-boy.

Those dreams are shattered when she meets Raz, the would-be conqueror of her city. Ambitious, evil, and powerful, the world's last fire wizard can see auras, too. Raz is trying to bring the world back under the rule of wizards. He is well on his way to conquering the world, but—he lacks the wizards. He's well on his way to conquering the city, but he doesn't have the wizards he needs... This is a bit confusing to me. Every city has magical trinket mongers What? Magic comes from these trinkets?; reading auras separates the amateurs from the truly powerful. Again, what? That is confusing to me. :( Tessa has enough potential to move his plan forward twenty years. Not only is she untrained and malleable, but she can be the perfect breeding stock to make new wizards. Good. You've brought out the stakes. :)

Standing in Raz’s way is Alli, the Harlot of Beldessario, Interesting having the whore of the city be a good character. That definitely isn't something I've seen before. the city’s resident water wizard. Passionate, kind-hearted, and wise, she’s been waiting for the right moment to train Tessa herself. With Raz in her city and his army at the gates, she cannot afford to wait any longer. Alli will never defeat him without Tessa’s help. If Tessa hopes escape Raz’s plot, she’ll have to embrace her powers over air magic Since when does she have air magic? All I thought she could do was read auras. :( You might want to bring this up earlier, because it was kind of a jolt. and leave her simple life behind.

This is really interesting, but if Tessa is your MC, we only get 1/3 of the query from her perspective. The other 2/3 are split between the villain, Raz, and the hero, Alli. :/ Also, I really think that using djinn, efreet and marid could add an intriguing element to add that. I understand most people wouldn't understand those terms and it might lead to more questions, but sometimes using the actual names brings the story out more. (Just a quick question, is this taking place in the middle east? I know those are from Arabian/Arabic mythology.)

I don't think adding the side-plot one-legged soldier adds anything, nor would taking it out detract. Seems kind of like an add-on. I think you should take out the magical trinket mongers. I don't think it added anything, but! That's just my opinion. :) I hope this helped.

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Re: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (New Draft on page 2)

Post by androidblues » November 19th, 2010, 7:45 pm

Tessa sounds too passive to me. She doesn't really do anything, but rather things are happening around her. Also, why is the world under wizard rule a bad thing? I understand the stakes, but why is the Fire Wizard evil? Uniting a people under common rule was what Genghis Khan, Caesar, and Alexander the Great did, but we don't view them as evil. Why is Raz evil? Why should I root for Tessa and the Harlot over him?
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