Query: Through Fire and Ice (NEW VERSION!)

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JL Hartfield
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Query: Through Fire and Ice (NEW VERSION!)

Post by JL Hartfield » February 11th, 2010, 8:34 pm

***I have posted the new version of the query below as a reply. While I welcome comments to the older version, I would appreciate your thoughts on the new version. Thanks for reading!***

Do your worst!

*****

Dear Agent,

Sucks. That's the word Lieutenant Jana Darren would use to describe her life. Forced into the military at a young age, she’s since slipped into a coma of routine, and she hates it. Military life is not what she would have chosen. Identity woes aside, a terrorist group has emerged to challenge the government. They will topple them and lift the ban on planetary living, no matter how many innocent lives they take.

As if being caught in the crossfire wasn't enough, special ops soldier Aeronth is driving her crazy--in more ways than one. She falls hard for him, and he makes it clear he’d let her face plant in the mud. Grievances are set aside when they are sent to recover the data of a crashed research expedition on Earth. Unbeknownst to them, the rebels have chosen the deserted planet for their own diabolical uses.

Jana begins to wonder whether the government’s Planetary Restoration Act banning them from living on-planet was really for the good of the people, or just to keep them caged. In the war to come, Jana will be torn between two sides of herself; duty to her government, and responsibility as a human being.

One side will mean the end of her career and life as she knows it. The other will condemn her to years of unacceptable monotony.

Both might just get her killed.

THROUGH FIRE AND ICE is science fiction, complete at 80,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Last edited by JL Hartfield on February 15th, 2010, 12:28 am, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice

Post by benwhiting » February 11th, 2010, 9:06 pm

JL Hartfield wrote: Dear Agent,

Sucks. That's the word Lieutenant Jana Darren would use to describe her life. Forced into the military at a young age, she’s since slipped into a coma of routine (love this), and she hates it. Military life is not what she would have chosen. (we already know that because she was forced into the military) Identity woes aside, a terrorist group has emerged to challenge the government. They will topple them and lift the ban on planetary living (not sure what this is), no matter how many innocent lives they take.

As if being caught in the crossfire wasn't enough (Who is this referring to? You mean Jana, but the construction is ambiguous), special ops soldier Aeronth is driving her crazy--in more ways than one. She falls hard for him, and he makes it clear he’d let her face plant in the mud (I get the idea, but I'm not sure what this means). Grievances are set aside (make this active voice) when they are sent (this is also passive) to recover the data of a crashed research expedition on Earth. Unbeknownst to them, the rebels have chosen the deserted planet for their own diabolical uses.

Jana begins to wonder whether the government’s (cut--who else would make an act like that?) Planetary Restoration Act banning them from living on-planet ("that banned on-planet living") was ("is") really for the good of the people, or just to keep them caged. In the war to come, Jana will be torn between two sides of herself; duty to her government (she doesn't want this life though--why the loyalty?), and responsibility as a human being (which includes a disregard for innocent lives? That's what we know about these rebels--they don't care who dies. You might want to make this more about how she finds out that the rebels aren't so bad after all and have everyone's best interests in mind).

One side will mean the end of her career and life as she knows it. The other will condemn her to years of unacceptable monotony.

Both might just get her killed. (nice tagged ending)

THROUGH FIRE AND ICE is science fiction, complete at 80,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
The other thing I would suggest is cutting out some (if not all) of the opening bit about Jana not wanting to join the military. It's not really part of the main conflict (as evidenced by the fact that you say "Identity woes aside"), which is what a query needs to be concerned with. You might try starting with Jana being forced on a mission with Aeronth and the conflict there. Then introduce the rebels, who are supposedly evil. Then you can lead into her choice between government and rebellion.

This just occurred to me, but her decision would be harder if this mission brings her closer to Aeronth--but then he decides to side with the government. Of course, that might require rewrites--just throwing it out there.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice

Post by DedicatedWriter » February 11th, 2010, 10:42 pm

Credit for the following good advice goes to The Query Wizard -- Molli Nickell. She pointed out our query should include: the hook, the book, and the cook. The hook: One side will mean the end of Jana's career and life as she knows it. The other will condemn her to years of unacceptable monotony. Both might just get her killed. The book: a brief two-paragraph look at the story. And the cook: You and your writing credits. Hope this proves hopeful.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice

Post by JL Hartfield » February 12th, 2010, 12:11 am

***Here is the new version. Please post your suggestions for this one, not the older version.***

Dear Agent,

Sucks. That’s the word lieutenant Jana Darren would use to describe her life. Fifteen years in the military has caused her to slip into a coma of routine, and she hates it. A long awaited transfer only brings more problems. Special ops soldier Aeronth is driving her crazy—in more ways than one. She develops feelings for him, but he makes it clear that if she’s falling, she’s on her own come time for the catching.

Sent to recover the data of a crashed research expedition on Earth, the two are forced to put their grievances aside for the sake of the mission. Unbeknownst to them, a terrorist group has chosen the deserted planet for their own diabolical uses. Bent on toppling the galactic government, they don’t care how many innocent lives they take along the way; all that matters is lifting the ban for on-planet living.

Delving ever deeper into the conflict, Jana begins to wonder whether the terrorists’ cause is noble, even if their methods are heinous. She begins to feel her ironclad loyalty to the government waver. Is the Planetary Restoration Act really for the good of the people, or merely a way of keeping them caged and easily monitored?

In the war to come, Jana will be torn between two sides of herself—loyalty to the familiar and safe life that humans have enjoyed for five hundred years, and responsibility as a human being. One side will mean the end of her career and life as she knows it. The other will condemn her to a life of unacceptable monotony.

Both might just get her killed.

THROUGH FIRE AND ICE is science fiction, complete at 80,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (REVISED)

Post by benwhiting » February 12th, 2010, 10:29 am

She develops feelings for him, but he makes it clear that if she’s falling, she’s on her own come time for the catching
This is better, but I think you could still improve it. It's wordy, especially the last phrase. Perhaps: "She begins to fall for him, but he makes it clear that he has no plans to catch her."

Don't have time to look too closely at everything else, but it is an improvement as well.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice

Post by theWallflower » February 12th, 2010, 11:22 am

JL Hartfield wrote: Sucks. That’s the word lieutenant Jana Darren would use to describe her life. Fifteen years in the military has caused her to slip into a coma of routine, and she hates it. A long awaited transfer only brings more problems. Special ops soldier Aeronth is driving her crazy—in more ways than one. She develops feelings for him, but he makes it clear that if she’s falling, she’s on her own come time for the catching.
I see you're trying for a bang-up intriguing opening here, but it falls flat. There's nothing intriguing about someone who thinks their life sucks, lots of people think that. It just ends up as being weird construction, like a Jeopardy question. And if her life sucks, why doesn't she quit?
Another problem is that we haven't gotten into the story yet, just the premise--long life in military, feelings for the bad boy soldier. I want to know the story, the central conflict. The story might come at the transfer, but why was she transferred, and what are the consequences of that transfer?
What is "come time"?
JL Hartfield wrote: Sent to recover the data of a crashed research expedition on Earth, the two are forced to put their grievances aside for the sake of the mission. Unbeknownst to them, a terrorist group has chosen the deserted planet for their own diabolical uses. Bent on toppling the galactic government, they don’t care how many innocent lives they take along the way; all that matters is lifting the ban for on-planet living.
I might give some back story on Earth here, like "Sent to recover the data of a crashed research expedition on Earth--now an abandoned planet..."
What kind of terrorist group? You're being vague in this query and I want specifics. Specifics are the flavor, the voice, of the piece, and it's what will get an agent intrigued to read. Right now this sounds like every generic space opera ever.
JL Hartfield wrote: Delving ever deeper into the conflict, Jana begins to wonder whether the terrorists’ cause is noble, even if their methods are heinous. She begins to feel her ironclad loyalty to the government waver. Is the Planetary Restoration Act really for the good of the people, or merely a way of keeping them caged and easily monitored?
What causes her to think that? Give the inciting event, not just "delving deeper".
Is her loyalty really ironclad if she things her life sucks?
You're giving a bunch of rhetorical questions. That's a no-no.
JL Hartfield wrote: In the war to come, Jana will be torn between two sides of herself—loyalty to the familiar and safe life that humans have enjoyed for five hundred years, and responsibility as a human being. One side will mean the end of her career and life as she knows it. The other will condemn her to a life of unacceptable monotony.
Eliminate this. Combine the specifics of this paragraph (safe life for five hundred years) with the specifics of the previous paragraph (Planetary Restoration Act).

A query should answer three things:
1. Who is the protagonist?
2. What problem does the protagonist face?
3. How is the protagonist going to solve that problem?

You've answered 1 fairly well, but you've not been specific enough on 2 and you've failed to answer 3.
Waterworld meets The Little Mermaid
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WriterKitty
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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (REVISED)

Post by WriterKitty » February 12th, 2010, 8:32 pm

I'm certainly no expert on query writing, but here are my humble thoughts:

I like your premise and you've managed to interest me with this query, but I agree with the previous post about Jana falling in love with a man unwilling to catch her. The way you've worded it here is a bit awkward.

I also think 'Delving ever deeper into the conflict' is vague. It seems like it should either be deleted or more concrete details should be used.

JL Hartfield
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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (REVISED)

Post by JL Hartfield » February 12th, 2010, 9:29 pm

Thanks for all your feedback so far. The things you brought up are the things that I've been looking at myself. I'm working on the third version, which will hopefully fix most (if not all) of these problems. I've decided to take the route from some of my other queries and write a simple sentence for each of them, then write beneath it a most in-depth version. It should be ready to go soon.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (REVISED)

Post by JL Hartfield » February 13th, 2010, 12:35 am

This is another version of the query. Please direct suggestions to either this or the previous one.

Shuffling through some old papers, I came across an old query rough draft I'd written for TFI. I figured I'd post this one here.

_______________________

First the galactic government receives word of a threat; an emerging terrorist group promises to bring them down, no matter what it takes. Then, she falls for black ops soldier Aeronth, but he makes it clear that he won’t be there to catch her.

Sucks. That’s how Lieutenant Jana Darren would describe what’s happening to her.

Unaware what awaits them on the deserted planet Earth, Jana and Aeronth are sent there to recover data from a crashed research expedition. After a crash landing of their own leaves them stranded, they stumble across the manufacturing plant for a biochemical weapon the terrorists intend to unleash on dozens of defenseless colonies scattered throughout the galaxy.

Even if their methods are heinous, Jana surprises herself when she begins to believe that they aren’t wrong. The safe life the government has provided its subjects for the last five hundred years all of a sudden seems like a sham. The Planetary Restoration Act imposed to keep people from living on-planet now seems like a plot to keep them caged and easily monitored--maybe even to cover up darker, more dangerous secrets.

Deep into the conflict, Jana must decide where her loyalties lie. At the other end of her gun is a forerunner in the terrorist cell. Whether she kills him and reports the location to the government or lets him live to carry on his mission, thousands will die.

Either way, Jana might end up among the victims.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (REVISED)

Post by benwhiting » February 13th, 2010, 11:10 pm

JL Hartfield wrote:First the galactic government receives word of a threat; an emerging terrorist group promises to bring them down, no matter what it takes. Then, she falls for black ops soldier Aeronth, but he makes it clear that he won’t be there to catch her.

Sucks. That’s how Lieutenant Jana Darren would describe what’s happening to her.

Unaware what awaits them on the deserted planet Earth, Jana and Aeronth are sent there to recover data from a crashed research expedition. After a crash landing of their own leaves them stranded, they stumble across the manufacturing plant for a biochemical weapon the terrorists intend to unleash on dozens of defenseless colonies scattered throughout the galaxy.

Even if their methods are heinous, Jana surprises herself when she begins to believe that they aren’t wrong. The safe life the government has provided its subjects for the last five hundred years all of a sudden seems like a sham. The Planetary Restoration Act imposed to keep people from living on-planet now seems like a plot to keep them caged and easily monitored--maybe even to cover up darker, more dangerous secrets.

Deep into the conflict, Jana must decide where her loyalties lie. At the other end of her gun is a forerunner in the terrorist cell. Whether she kills him and reports the location to the government or lets him live to carry on his mission, thousands will die.

Either way, Jana might end up among the victims.
I like this one better for the most part because it is more detailed. We know right away that this is an inter-planetary story, where in your other version that didn't become clear until the second paragraph, and then only because they are sent to Earth. We know what plans the terrorists have, and best of all we know what decision Jana is faced with to determine her loyalties--the imprisoned man.

I'm going to agree with the earlier comment to get rid of the "sucks" part. It seems like an obvious attempt to add "voice," but that word doesn't really distinguish a person much because its just overused slang.

I like the last line of your newer version better than this one. It's snappier.

And I think the details here are better, but the vague government description is bothering me even more now. The picture of these terrorists is not very flattering--their position might be valid, but we're already biased against them after hearing "terrorist." If we don't know why Jana thinks their cause is right, we're more likely to turn against her than for them.

This aspect in particular still needs some work, but I think if you combine the best aspects of the two versions you'll take a solid step forward.

You don't have to, but I'd appreciate a return critique of my query here: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=825

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (REVISED AGAIN)

Post by JL Hartfield » February 14th, 2010, 1:21 am

Here is the most recent (and hopefully one of the last!) revision for TFI. As always, anything goes. Have at it!

_______________


Dear Agent,

When the galactic government sends Lieutenant Jana Darren to the deserted planet Earth on a mission to recover data from a crashed research expedition, the last thing she expects is to stumble on a terrorist organization hell bent on toppling the all-powerful authority.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what she gets. The group calling themselves Reconstructionists is manufacturing a biochemical weapon they plan to release in dozens of helpless colonies scattered through the galaxy.

Infiltrating their base, Jana begins to see the other side of the coin. She surprises even her when she begins to think of the terrorists as revolutionaries, even if their methods are heinous. The “safe” life the government prides themselves on providing starts to look like a plot to cage and monitor their subjects. Jana wonders if the Planetary Restoration Act banning people from living on-planet is to hide deeper secrets kept since plague and famine drove the human race from their home world.

Jana must decide where her loyalties lie. At the other end of her gun is a forerunner in the terrorist cell. Whether she kills him and thwarts the revolution or lets him live to carry out his mission, thousands will die.

Jana might be one of them.

[Personal Bit] Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (Fourth Revision)

Post by bunderful » February 14th, 2010, 2:51 am

Dear Agent,

When the galactic government sends Lieutenant Jana Darren to the deserted planet Earth on a mission to recover data from a crashed research expedition, the last thing she expects is to stumble on a terrorist organization hell bent on toppling the all-powerful authority. (I think this sentence it too long).

Unfortunately, that is exactly what she gets (what happens? you don't say that she expects to get something, the wording is a bit strange maybe you don't even need this sentence). The group calling themselves (the?) Reconstructionists is manufacturing a biochemical weapon they plan to release in dozens of helpless colonies scattered through the galaxy.

Infiltrating their base, Jana begins to see the other side of the coin. She surprises even her (she even surprises herself? there is something awkward here) when she begins to think of the terrorists as revolutionaries, even if their methods are heinous. The “safe” life the government prides themselves on providing starts to look like a plot to cage and monitor their subjects. Jana wonders if the Planetary Restoration Act (I'm confused, maybe a little more background about the government and the acts they have instituted?) banning people from living on-planet is to hide deeper secrets kept since plague and famine drove the human race from their home world.

Jana must decide where her loyalties lie. At the other end of her gun is a forerunner in the terrorist cell. Whether she kills him and thwarts the revolution or lets him live to carry out his mission, thousands will die (either way?).

Jana might be one of them.

[Personal Bit] Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hope that helps! - Rena

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (Fourth Revision)

Post by JL Hartfield » February 15th, 2010, 12:28 am

NEW VERSION! This is actually the seventh version of this query. I'm trying to go in a different direction with each one and see how it plays out. A few questions I'd like any reviews to answer:

1) Should I leave the paragraphs short like this, or combine some of them?
2) Should "Planetary Restoration Act" be left in, or simply changed to "law"?

On another note... I have "on-planet" twice in this, and I want to change one of them, but I'm not sure what to change it to. It's not just Earth they're banned from. Under this law, the citizens of the government cannot live or work on ANY planet. (There have been discoveries of habitable planets, so it's not just Earth.)

Once again, have at it!

****************

Dear Agent,

Lieutenant Jana Darren has singlehandedly uncovered a terrorist plot to overthrow the galactic government.

Not bad for a day’s work, but the information comes at a price. Before narrowly escaping, she is tortured to the brink of death.

Now, it’s a race to stop the terrorists from unleashing their biochemical weapon in dozens of helpless colonies scattered throughout the galaxy. Given the opportunity to exact her revenge on the Reconstructionists, Jana takes it. The lines of right and wrong blur when she starts to think the rebels might be right, even if their methods are heinous.

One little girl, born and raised on-planet, changes everything.

The safe life the government provides starts to feel like cage. Jana wonders if the Planetary Restoration Act, banning people from living on-planet, is to hide deeper secrets kept since plague and famine drove the human race from their home world. On one hand, the government has proven capable to take care of its people, something left to chance in the hands of the Reconstructionists. On the other, the “man behind the curtain” approach the government uses doesn’t help Jana to trust them.

Jana must decide where her loyalties lie. At the other end of her gun is a leader in the terrorist cell, and the little girl’s father. Whether she kills him and thwarts the revolution or lets him live to carry out his mission, the casualties will be many.

Jana only hopes she makes the right choice.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (NEW VERSION!)

Post by StayPositive » February 15th, 2010, 2:04 am

This new version is lean and clean and more enticing. Some suggestions:

Lieutenant Jana Darren has singlehandedly uncovered a terrorist plot to overthrow the galactic government.

Take this back to previous para otherwise "Not bad" is separated from its subject. Not bad for a day’s work, but the information comes at a price. Before narrowly escaping, she is tortured to the brink of death.

Now, it’s a race to stop the terrorists from unleashing their biochemical weapon in dozens of helpless colonies scattered throughout the galaxy. Given the opportunity to exact her revenge on the Reconstructionists, Jana takes it. The lines of right and wrong blur when she starts to think the rebels might be right, even if their methods are heinous.

One little girl, born and raised on-planet, changes everything. If this is central, which your last para suggests, then it would be better at the start, setting the scene.

The safe life the government provides starts to feel like a cage. Jana wonders if the Planetary Restoration Act, banning people from living on-planet, is to hide deeper secrets kept since (I would use "after" rather than "kept since") plague and famine drove the human race from their home world. On one hand, the government has proven capable to take care of its people, something left to chance in the hands of the Reconstructionists. On the other, the “man behind the curtain” approach the government uses doesn’t help Jana to trust them.

Sentence structures may have been jumbled with rewrites. Also the second half of the para sounds like God (Goddess) speaking, rather than Jana's point of view. Suggestion: On one hand, Jana had seen the government take care of its people, something left to chance in the hands of the Reconstructionists. However, Jana still didn't trust the “man behind the curtain” approach the government used.

Jana must decide where her loyalties lie. At the other end of her gun is a leader in the terrorist cell, and the little girl’s father. Whether she kills him and thwarts the revolution or lets him live to carry out his mission, the casualties will be many.

Again, would take this back to the previous para as it looks like an orphan. Jana only hopes she makes the right choice.

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Re: Query: Through Fire and Ice (NEW VERSION!)

Post by JL Hartfield » February 17th, 2010, 5:56 am

Looking for a few more opinions on this version still.

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