Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Query Revision 21

Face-Lift 484: Zulaire

Dear Benevolent Editor,

Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane is thinking about how to spend his retirement bonus when HQ assigns him one last mission: rescue a civilian woman stranded on a planet on the verge of violent civil war. Someone has pulled some serious strings to get her plucked out of the hot zone by Deverane and his team.

Andrianda Markriss isn’t about to pack up and leave Zulaire just because of Deverane’s orders, though. Deverane’s never met anyone so hard-headed—or so appealing. Just as he manages to persuade her to leave with him, rebel fighters infiltrate the village to brutalize and massacre everyone.

Andi, Deverane, his team, and two young natives manage to escape the slaughter. The weary group are themselves forced to hike through dense forest and enemy territory to get to the relative safety of the capital. On their frantic journey through the mountains they discover evidence that Zulaire’s so-called civil war is part of a larger plot in a terrifying alien race's attempt to subjugate the entire Sector.

Deverane, busily falling in love with Andi, fights his way across half of Zulaire, trying to protect her from rebel fighters and the dangers of the planet’s formidable wilderness. His only hope: that he can get his people to the capital in time to stop the planet from being consumed in a massive bloodbath that would destroy all of Zulaire, and maybe take the rest of the Sector with it.

Complete at 80,000 words, "Zulaire" is a science fiction romance novel. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.

An Author


I think this query starts out strong then loses just a bit of ground at the end.

My first question is whether this is truly an SF romance OR is it SF with romantic elements? Why is that important? Because if it's a romance, it gives short shift to Andi and the romance and completely ignores any dark moment between them. It's interesting to see a romance focused more on the hero than the heroine, but the genre is really geared more to the woman's story and you don't want to stray too far away from the conventions. As a reader, I think I'd be more forgiving if you called it romantic elements.

There's redundancy between the third and fourth 'graphs that can be edited out that would leave room for maybe a little more about Andi and the relationship before you bow out of the query. There's mention of a hike, a journey and fighting across half of Zulaire. The terrain is dense forest, mountains and formidable wilderness. They're trying to get to the capital twice. The Sector is threatened twice. I think all of that can be tightened to single mentions each of the journey, the terrain, the capital and the Sector. I also wasn't entirely clear how the small team was going to influence the war if they got to the capital.

Maybe reorganize it along the lines of:

Andi, Deverane, and his team escape the slaughter, but they've lost [mode of travel] and communications. Faced with no other choice but to flee, Andi [something here about the circumstances helping A&D's relationship along and maybe why Andi finds Dev appealing/irritating/however she feels about him since we don't really get her side of things in the query.] Busily falling in love with Andi, Deverane fights his way across half of Zulaire, trying to protect her from rebel fighters and the dangers of the planet itself.

On their frantic journey through the wilderness they discover evidence that Zulaire’s civil war is actually part of an alien race's larger plot to subjugate the entire Sector. Their only hope: get to the capital with their secret in time to stop the massive bloodbath about to destroy all of Zulaire -- and beyond.


Anonymous said...

Author here. *waves*

It actually is a romance. There are Sex Scenes, and the budding love is a big element of the plot. :)

So, I should probably revise this to focus more on the feelings, huh?

Another thing is the book is actually all from Andi's POV, but I can't seem to get my query-writing brain to make that work.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Andi's POV? Whoa. You really need to start over. That's quite a shocker.

Forget about his retirement and one last job stuff and start with her on the planet about to erupt and here comes Captain Bully trying to force her in directions she doesn't want to go. Yet.

Phoenix said...

Oh. My. Andi's POV?

A shocker, yes, as Sarah so succinclty said.

One format you can use with romance in both queries and synopses is to write separate paragraphs about your hero and heroine before you bring them together.

You have a start here on that. You could keep P1 about Deverane. Then keep the first sentence of P2 about Andi. Then finish that paragraph with a sentence or two about how Andi reacts to Dev's demanding, hothead ways.

P3 would start up with "But when rebel fighters storm the village, only Andi, Dev and his team survive the slaughter. On foot, with no communicators, and with only themselves to rely on, Andi begins to appreciate the alpha side of hunky survivalist Dev. Busy on his end falling in love with a woman who matches him sarcasm for sarcasm [or whatever], Dev fights his way across half of Zulaire ... blah blah from here.

Kings Falcon said...

Hey Author.

If your current query caught a SF agent, she would likely be upset that it was more romance based (i.e. not what your query is selling) and you might not land a romance agent because of the SF emphasis.

If it's a romance with SF elements, you need to make sure the query follows the well-plowed genre elements. It's not that you have to focus on "feelings" but you should show the agent that you know what and have followed the required romance plot elements.

EE summed up the elements in Face Life 800 - Redemption.

(1) Romantic conflict.(Usually they hate each other or some outside force keeps them apart)

(2) Conflict seemingly resolved.

(3) Major obstacle that threatens happiness and expands word count by 20,000.

Check out EE's comments to that post.

So . . .

Start with Andi . .
Go to Dev . . .
Throw them and the conflict together in the third paragraph and tell us they live happily ever after.

You use adjectives you don't need. As an example - aren't civil wars presumptively "violent?" If it was "non-violent" you'd need that adverb.

You also tend to some awkward sentances - "fighters infiltrate the village to brutalize and massacre everyone." Well, yes. Why not just say, "the fighting threatens to raze the village?"

The powerful players and the rest of the team are ballast and should be cut from teh query.

Also you make Dev sound like a bit of a nit -"busily falling in love with Andi."

So maybe try:

Andrianda Markriss isn’t about to abandon her mission (which is what by the way) on Zulaire when Captain Tom Deverane desends on her lab and orders her to leave. Instead she shows him the door.
Tom Deverane thought his last mission before retirement would be a milk run, sure a milk run into a civil war zone, but still. Who knew his target wouldn't want to be rescued?
But when the fighting threatens to raze the village, Andi reluctantly agrees to go. Forced to rely on each other to escape the hot zone, Andi realizes that he's just a sweetie.

Something like that. . .

vkw said...

Yep, you need to focus on Andi. Why doesn't she want to leave? Who paid to have her rescued?
Tell us more about Andi - like a job title.

Andi, a scientist, is there to (save the world, running from . . whatever) when planet X erupts into a civil war. Determined to stay the course, believing the cure for cancer is at hand, she continues with her work before hunky mercernary love interest arrives.

He threatens to hogtie and carry her away if she doesn't agree to leave. She agrees but its too late because. Now they have flee the base in a race across the planet. Where they learn, blah blah blah.

Ignoring her common sense and the fact she already has a husband, as well as the danger all around her, she falls hopelessly in love with Hunk. Now she is faced with the knowledge that if they save the world, their love will never work out, her secrets will be told, her work will go unfinished or she'll have to betray the man that paid a fortune, all that he had in fact, to save her.

something like that.

batgirl said...

Definitely repackage this emphasising the romance. If the sf is a backdrop to the throbbing passion, it's fine. If the sf is foremost, there are a whack of worldbuilding issues (or so it appears) that may put off an sf-literate agent or editor.

batgirl said...

Oh, yes, and a really minor word-choice issue - to infiltrate is to sneak in (related to filter) without drawing notice. If there's brutalising and massacre going on (remember, brutalise first, massacre second!) we've moved from infiltration into flat-out invasion or assault.

How big is this planet? Does it really only have one ecosystem? How long does it take to fight your way across half of it, apparently on foot? I guess I just really question whether this needs to be sf rather than jungle adventure.

Anonymous said...

"the book is actually all from Andi's POV, but I can't seem to get my query-writing brain to make that work."

You better learn to make it work or come to Thailand and take up making paper from elephant poop. Don't shoot yourself in the foot now.
Re-write, re-send from the mc's pov.
Best and we're with you, Bibi

Anonymous said...

Sorry - sent same mess 3 times - because I got Thai messages telling me I didn't match letters - and no Thai is supposed to show up on my computer. I don't read Thai. Oops. I don't know how to delete the excess messages. Thousand pardons. Bibi

Phoenix said...

Oops. I don't know how to delete the excess messages. Thousand pardons. Bibi

No worries, Bibi. If you have a profile set up with Blogger you can delete your own posts. The anonymi don't have that privilege ;o). I deleted the excess for you.