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Query Saturday: No. 8 The Lords of Method

Welcome to Query Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a query to be read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. Published authors may do so under their own name or anonymously.

Readers, though, the way that I look at it is this: Would the hook itself interest you in reading the book. If yes, what interests you and if not, what would you change to make it more appealing?

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Dear M-..,

I am seeking an agent for my stand-alone urban fantasy/romance novel, The Lords of Method: Mistress of Deceit, complete at 96,000 words. The second novel, The Lords of Method: Children of Crystalix, is completed and is a sequel to Mistress as well as being able to stand alone.

I love writing unconventional romantic urban fantasy wrapped around our contemporary society. It’s like changing taste of a plain dish and making it waft with an exotic aroma by just sprinkling it with little spice of speculation and magic. Mistress is not just an adventure and steamy love story, but a window into the lives of immortal men who chose human partners to love and cherish and then must watch in agony as time slowly withers their loved ones while they remain young.

Those you never knew shared the world with you, cannot become extinct. That’s the paradox that brings together Niven and Ambrosia. She’s combing the beach for treasure when he walks out buff-naked from the surf. She’s an orthopedic surgeon and sees a collection of best limbs and musculature she’s ever come across. He’s a descendant of Avendar explorers stranded on Earth eight thousand years ago. He’s suddenly not sure he wants to keep walking towards a woman he’d secretly monitored for fifteen years. But he must-because if he doesn’t she’d not live through the night. And the moment he walks out of the surf he knows he has broken every single rule and regulation that features in the Avendar laws. But it’ll take him a while to admit it. Amy is a talented young orthopedic surgeon, about to branch off in an exciting new direction in the field of limb replacement. That’s precisely why a predatory Siren wants her dead. And the man sent to keep Amy alive is the Siren’s betrothed.

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Interested in participating in Query Saturday? Send your query to jane at dearauthor.com. All queries are kept confidential. Sadly this is our last query so unless others step up, we’ll have to suspend this feature.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Anion
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 04:35:23

    Oof.

    Even if you hadn’t lost me at “The second novel, The Lords of Method: Children of Crystalix, is completed and is a sequel to Mistress as well as being able to stand alone,” (it’s pretty obvious from your calling it “the second book” and that it repeats the title, that it’s a sequel, and it’s totally unecessary in a query anyway. What you say is “The Lords of Method: Mistress of Deceit is a standalone novel, but is intended as the first in a series”, and you say that AFTER the hook)…even if you hadn’t lost me there, you would have lost me at that dull and useless paragraph about why you like writing uf (nobody cares) and a TELL about the book.

    Don’t TELL us it’s exciting and special and nifty-noo, SHOW us by giving us a quick hook. Show us your interesting characters and conflict-filled plot. You’ve done neither. I still don’t know what this book is about. I have some idea from those jerky little sentences at the end, but it’s hard to follow.

    I’m sorry. You may have a good book here, but it’s totally lost in this awful, poorly written, too-chatty query.

    (BTW, Niven and Ambrosia? Really?)

    Oh, and yes, species become extinct every day without humans knowing they existed. Just because we don’t know about them doesn’t mean they DON’T become extinct. This is the kind of thing that gets right up my nose and makes me hurl queries into the sea.

    ReplyReply

  2. Kaitlin
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 04:42:09

    I’m sorry, but this query really doesn’t make any sense. The entire second paragraph is completely unnecessary. The “description” of the book sounds like a disjointed book blurb.

    The title doesn’t make sense either. It reads more like a self-help title. Why the Lords of Method w/ the second part? Why not just the second part? I’m confused.

    I’d recommend rereading the query, cutting out 99% of it & redoing it. I’m sure a publisher or an agent wants to know the bones of the story, not why you like writing uncoventional romances. Take the meat of your actual story & sell it! Why is it so unconventional? What makes it different from all the other paranormals out there? What is your hero? Explain it all without using a lot of words!

    Good luck! :)

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  3. Erastes
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 06:13:56

    The first paragraph is so confusing I nearly gave up reading there. It’s a stand-alone, but it has a sequel. Better to say that it’s part of a series but can be read as a stand-alone.

    I love writing unconventional romantic urban fantasy wrapped around our contemporary society. It's like changing taste of a plain dish and making it waft with an exotic aroma by just sprinkling it with little spice of speculation and magic.

    Completely unnecessary.

    Those you never knew shared the world with you, cannot become extinct.

    What does that mean?

    You repeat the woman’s professional twice too, which is unnecessary, but once again, like a few of these queries, I have NO idea what this book is ABOUT. I get a vague impression that these immortal men mate with mortal women and angst about their ephemeral lives, and if he doesn’t approach her, she won’t live – but what’s the book about?

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  4. ChoptLiverz
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 07:48:00

    Do over.

    Where is the conflict? What is the conflict?

    Answer the following questions:

    Who is the hero?
    What does hero want?
    Why is it important?
    Who is the bad guy?
    What does the bad guy want? (It better be either some object the leading pair wants or the exact opposite)
    What prevents the hero from reaching his goal?
    What does the hero have to risk to get what he wants?

    Now that you answered it, write it all out in a spiffy two paragraph summary.

    ReplyReply

  5. Sandra Schwab
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 08:19:27

    Apart from the problems that have already been mentioned, there are also many grammatical mistakes, e.g.

    It’s like changing taste of a plain dish [...]

    the taste

    But he must…because if he doesn't she'd not live through the night.

    she will not live through the night

    Always, always proofread your material before you submit it! And don’t do this directly after you’ve written it, but put your text aside for a few days.

    ReplyReply

  6. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 09:06:13

    She's combing the beach for treasure when he walks out buff-naked from the surf.

    I like this visual. But I would use buck-naked. I’ve heard “in the buff” and naked, but not those two words together. Maybe this is a regional thing.

    Anyway, I think you should go over the names in your query and explain who and what they are. Amy is the heroine. Is her full name Ambrosia? Is Niven the naked dude? You kind of explained Avendar, but you lost me at Siren. The titles are also unclear. Who are the Lords of Method? Is Amy a Mistress of Deceit?

    Urban Fantasy is unconventional by definition (isn’t it?). I would drop the first two sentences of that second paragraph.

    This genre is hot right now, so fine-tune your query and go for it! I wish you the best of luck.

    ReplyReply

  7. B
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 09:16:01

    Others have talked about the plot of the story, so I’ll leave that to them.

    I want to address something else. You see, all agents are different. Some want a very simple, straightforward letter detailing what the story is about and what your credentials are, period. Some will want to know about you, about your work, and what makes both unique. Others won’t specify at all or very much, and you’ll be left to figure out for yourself.

    So let’s say that you’re addressing an agent who wants to know about you and your work and what makes it special. I’ll assume that is the sort of person you’re addressing here.
    The problem then is that you go on about writing urban fantasy that’s somehow different from its contemporaries. You talk quite a bit about how you do that, then fail to actually specify. What little detail you give doesn’t highlight a single thing that’s at all different from the rest of urban fantasy. What truly makes it unique? What do you do that’s so different from everyone else? Just being you simply isn’t enough.

    Aside from some really awkward and vague phrasing, I noticed one other thing. This isn’t the whole letter, is it? If it is, it’s a seriously unprofessional one. Always, always, always thank the agent for their time and consideration. Always.

    ReplyReply

  8. Jill Myles
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 09:33:25

    Actually, I really liked this.

    MOSTLY.

    I love the visual of the guy rising up from the ocean, I love the fact that his people have been stranded for 8000 years, and I love that the heroine is going to die if he doesn’t save her RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW. He’s the boyfriend of the evil siren! All good stuff (though it sounds a little more paranormal romance than urban fantasy).

    However.

    Your grammar is really confusing and/or not good. Examples:

    Those you never knew shared the world with you, cannot become extinct.

    I read that three times and I’m still a little lost as to what it says. I realize you’re trying to go for a ‘style’ with this sentence, but skip the style and say it outright. Secret Avendarians (or whatever) are eternal. Don’t dress it up so much, because it makes me fear for the rest of the book.

    lives of immortal men who chose human partners to love and cherish

    Should be either ‘choose’ (different tense) or the past tense should be ‘have chosen’, I believe.

    The whole thing has slightly sloppy grammar, which makes me want to cry because I love the concept and would totally buy this in the bookstore…until I opened it up and read page one and saw the grammar.

    I would recommend going over this again with a big red pen – and then passing it to the meanest crit partner you have. And then go over your manuscript one more time with the same.

    You have a good concept here. Don’t let something as rudimentary as grammar blow your chances for you. :)

    Good luck!

    ReplyReply

  9. Tracey
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 10:05:42

    Dittoing what everyone else has said about changing the first paragraph to “first of a series, but can be read as a standalone.”

    I don’t care why you’re writing fantasy. That’s not important. Tell me about the book. (And I wouldn’t call this urban fantasy, as it’s not set in a city–at least, no city is mentioned in the query or appears to be key to the story. I would probably call it contemporary fantasy.)

    Those you never knew shared the world with you, cannot become extinct.

    I concur with Anion, by the way. Species become extinct every day; the fact that humans may not know about the species before they die off doesn’t make the latter any less real.

    That's the paradox that brings together Niven and Ambrosia.

    You named the alien after Hugo- and Nebula-winning SF author Larry Niven? And the girl’s name is Ambrosia? It sounds like the name of a porn star! And you call her Amy later. Why not have Amy be her real name?

    She's an orthopedic surgeon and sees a collection of best limbs and musculature she's ever come across.

    A “collection of best limbs”? Don’t you mean “the best collection of limbs and muscles”?

    And I have to say that I don’t like that description. It reduces Niven to nothing but a body in one sentence, and it tells me that Amy/Ambrosia a) doesn’t see Niven as a person, but as a collection of attractive pieces. It makes her look both dehumanizing and shallow. Right away, I don’t like her.

    He's a descendant of Avendar explorers stranded on Earth eight thousand years ago.

    And she’s an orthopedic surgeon with a taste for beachcombing. Together, they fight crime!

    He's suddenly not sure he wants to keep walking towards a woman he'd secretly monitored for fifteen years. But he must…because if he doesn't she'd not live through the night.

    “Because if he doesn’t [insert comma], she won’t (or she will not) live through the night.”

    And the moment he walks out of the surf he knows he has broken every single rule and regulation that features in the Avendar laws.

    That should be “feature.” “Rule and regulation” are a compound object; the predicate in the modifying clause should reflect the fact that two things are being discussed, not just one.

    This bit threw me, as I had been thinking of Niven as a descendant of aliens, but not someone who was part of an alien culture. (I presumed that they’d been assimilated into human society, after eight thousand years on Earth–even if no human knew of their ancestry.)

    Amy is a talented young orthopedic surgeon, about to branch off in an exciting new direction in the field of limb replacement.

    This is where my cursed taste for accuracy comes into play. Four years pre-med, four years med school, five year residency…Amy the orthopedic surgeon would be at least thirty-one. Possibly older. (Which has not been considered “young” in the romances I’ve read.) And wouldn’t she be working in the field of prosthetics, if she’s working on limb replacement?

    This may sound trivial, but as I said, I like accuracy. If the author’s writing makes me question what’s going on, I wonder about the quality of the work.

    That's precisely why a predatory Siren wants her dead. And the man sent to keep Amy alive is the Siren's betrothed.</em

    Questions I have at the end of this:

    1) Whose story is this–Niven’s or Amy’s? Who is the primary protagonist?

    2) What’s the problem that the main plot is concerned with? You have two–Niven has broken all the laws of his people for a woman alien to him, and Amy is in life-threatening danger.

    3) Where is this taking place?

    4) When is it taking place?

    5) What are the Avendar?

    6) What, for story purposes, are Sirens? Are they the same as mythological Sirens, or something completely different?

    7) Is Niven the Siren’s betrothed? It sounds like it, yet how can he have been sent to protect Amy and be breaking all of the laws of the Avendar at the same time?

    The plot, setting and details are all rather vague; you haven’t given me any reason to like the characters, or to be interested in what happens to them; and both the grammar and the punctuation of the query are flawed. For these reasons, I would reject the query.

    ReplyReply

  10. Chicklet
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 13:49:33

    I concur with the previous commenters: The query is so vaguely written, I have little or no idea what’s going on or what the stakes are. Are the Avendar aliens to Earth? Interstellar explorers? Then say so. Who are the Sirens, and how do they relate to the Avendar and to humans?

    And please don’t tell me you’ve actually named the heroine Ambrosia. I urge you to take out all references to Ambrosia and use Amy instead, as you do in the final paragraph.

    Finally, and maybe I’m alone in this, but I find it creepy that Niven has been “secretly monitor[ing]” Amy for 15 years. If this is one of those destined-to-be pairings, make it clear, so Niven doesn’t come across as a stalker.

    Overall, I might be willing to explore this book further, but I don’t hold out high hopes, given the poor grammar and construction of the query.

    ReplyReply

  11. DS
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 13:58:56

    What they said. Except after thinking about Larry Niven I wondered if the author was a fan of the late David Niven.

    I would also like to comment and most of the orthopedic surgeons I know get more excited (hopefully not in a sexual sense) by someone with an interesting osteopathic problem than someone with good musculature.

    ReplyReply

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