Thursday, December 9, 2010

Query Revision 45

Face-Lift 823: The Green Tower

Dear agent,

Lianne Stracker, professional assassin in service of the Winged Empire, needs a holiday. However, when her airship crashes, she takes it personally and decides to look into it. She’s not inclined to put up with this sort of nonsense, especially when she’s certain the airship was sabotaged, and resolves to make whoever’s behind the attempt on her life pay.

Lianne enlists the help of an imperial sorcerer named Arus; he suspects a plot against the Empire, and together they discover she wasn’t the only victim. A pattern emerges from their investigations: the attacks appear to be targeted at the Empire’s magic converters, a technology newly integrated into the Empire’s energy infrastructure.

Furthermore, the source of these attacks appears to be an ancient green tower out in the countryside. Expecting the worst, Lianne and Arus venture out to the tower, but all they find there is a strange young woman and her flock of pure-white songbirds.

Soon enough, airship crashes rapidly escalate into charred airfields and whole cities in smoking ruins. With the imperial troops tied up in rescue work, it’s up to Lianne and Arus to find the answers: why are these attacks happening? How do the green tower and its occupants fit into the picture? Most importantly, how can they stop this nonsense before the whole Empire melts down into one huge mess?

THE GREEN TOWER is a fantasy/steampunk novel at 100,000 words.

Thanks you for your consideration,

Comments

I think this version does a better job at laying out the mystery, so it's better in that regard -- with two exceptions. You haven't given us a concrete obstacle/antagonist. You've forced a list of questions on us at the end. Wrapping up with one question is often one too many. Three is squirm-inducing, I'm afraid.

Personally, I also think it's a mistake to suppress your voice as much from the version we saw on Evil Editor's site as you've done here. I think there's a way you can marry the mystery with the voice for a greater-than-sum-of-the-whole effect.

My Revision

Business is booming thanks to [the shenanigans of the Cheat Street Boys] and Lianne Stracker, professional assassin in service of the Winged Empire, needs a holiday. But when the private airship she's on crashes, its newly refurbished engines sabotaged, Lianne resigns herself to a little unpaid, off-duty work. No one gets away with ruining her vacation.

Enlisting the help of Arus, an imperial sorcerer, Lianne discovers she may not have been the primary target after all. There have been other attacks and the pattern points to the one thing they all have in common: the Empire's new magic converters, a technology recently integrated into the Empire’s energy infrastructure. It was bad enough when Lianne thought there was a contract on her life. But finding out she was just collateral damage -- now that's an insult she really can't ignore.

Soon enough, airship crashes rapidly escalate and generators throughout the Empire start exploding, leaving airfields charred and whole cities in smoking ruins. With the imperial troops tied up in rescue work, it’s up to Lianne and Arus to find the answers. The only lead they have, though, is an ancient green tower that stands at the center of the destruction. If they can't figure out what the tower and its occupants -- a strange young woman and her flock of pure-white songbirds -- have to do with such sophisticated attacks and stop all this nonsense, it won't be long before the whole Empire melts down into one huge mess.

What they don't know is that their every move is being watched by the mastermind behind it all -- and said genius isn't about to let two menial government servants foil him now.

THE GREEN TOWER is a steampunk mystery complete at 100,000 words.

6 comments:

Lccorp2 said...

Thanks, Ma'am. This really does sound a lot better. The second and third paragraphs do work very well, although I've slightly tweaked the first and fourth paragraphs to better reflect the novel:

"After the harrowing experiences of her last job, Lianne Stracker, professional assassin in service of the Winged Empire, needs a vacation. But when the airship she's on crashes, its newly refurbished engines sabotaged, Lianne resigns herself to a little unpaid, off-duty work. After all, she hasn’t survived this long in the business by putting up with this sort of nonsense."

And:

"What they don't know is that the mastermind behind it all is hiding in plain sight right before their eyes--and has manipulated these two unwitting government servants into helping him move his plans forward."

Other than that, this reads really, really well. I'm in your debt.

no-bull-steve said...

WOW!

Phoenix, that was an amazing rewrite! Be careful or you're going to be asked to do a LOT of these!!!
;-)

Couple nits:
1. I don't see any steampunk here either in the setting or the plot. I think steampunk might heat up (no pun intended), so if it is steampunk highlight it, if it really isn't (and you need to be sure that it is, not just say it cuz it sounds cool), then get rid of it.

2. The only problem with Phoenix's masterful rewrite (and there may not be any way around this) is that it too resembles Stephen King's epic fantasy The Dark Tower. Be very very very very careful to know what that is and make sure your novel doesn't sound derivative.

Anonymous said...

I'm so taking that last line and using it somwhere in a query. Such an original was to say Suprise! evil mastermind standing in front of you the whole time.

IMO the three questions at the end are a little OTT. The query has lots of good information - but to the detriment of having an interesting voice. (Nice job Pheonix!) You also mention the woman with the white birds and then drop that. If she's the obstical they have to overcome maybe flesh this out. She's sort of dropped in there and left dangling. If I read this correctly Lianne is doing this to save her world, so it would be good to know why she steps up - duty, history etc. We all like to think we would sacrifice everything to save the world - but in actual fact I'm guessing many of us would step back and see who else might have a go instead. Good luck with your revisions. Tess xx

Lccorp2 said...

@ Steve:

-Steampunk was the closest thing I could fit the novel into. Yes, there are a few elements that don't really fit, but it's the closest fit, I think.

Still, I guess I should err on the side of caution and call it a fantasy mystery, I guess.

-To be honest, the book is more like Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos than Stephen King, so I'm not particularly worried about that.

@Anonymous 19:16:

-The original intent of the woman and her birds was to hopefully create intrigue by juxtaposing something seemingly harmless with the nastiness that's going on. I'm half-wondering if it works, myself.

-I note Lianne's motivation has been a problem in the query, because so many people expect protagonists to be at least somewhat morally straight, that they're somehow in this for others or for the greater good.

The problem is, she isn't. She's in it because someone figuratively kicked her in the teeth and pissed her off, and you can't take that lying down when you do her kind of job. My betas tell me that this isn't a problem in the novel proper, that she's likable enough as a protagonist, and the moral ambiguity of her character is interesting.

Still, the majority of people who read the query wondered why she wasn't in it to rescue the downtrodden, help the world, save the world from exploding, that sort of thing. Sure, she does do it, but it's more a by-product than anything else. Arus is the one actually concerned about morality and rescuing people and all that stuff.

***

I've added in a few bits here and there to clarify some stuff (like what the attacks are aimed at; state-of-the-art machinery).

My main concerns are primarily whether the query's too long (it's about 300 as it stands) and I do want to make the query a good sell without misrepresenting the novel.

Anonymous said...

Lccorps - I'm no expert - yet 300 seems the max you would want to go. (Maybe cut the woman and her birds - yes unusual, but I don't think that's something that will entice readers/agents and that's what this snippet is aiming to do.) Fantasy is nice and broad and covers most things. If it is steampunk - I think that's pretty hot now so don't lose it unless it is the wrong fit.

The fact Lianne is stepping up not because she wants to say the world but because she's done with being kicked in the teeth or just a martyr (?) is excellent I think this is you can tell with the voice of the piece by tweeking the Lianne resigns... and next sentence. (eg Lianne takes it personally. To try and kill her is stupid. To expectto get away with it...never going to happen. She's and assassin for petes sake. - not true to your book maybe - but I was going for an example of voice.

Good luck with it. Tess

Sylvia said...

You know, I would go ahead and call it steampunk if it's a general fit. I just think it's better to use a specific term (and steampunk is still a hot genre) rather than play it safe with a generic description.

In your original query, you repeated the plot elements in para 1 and para 2. I can see Phoenix had more context for this and you're ending up with something new but I thought I'd mention it as a tick that you might want to watch out for.