Friday, June 17, 2011

Query Revision 92

Face-Lift 912: Defy Reason
[Re-titled from Camp Coyote]

Jo Redfox and her mother Spooky, a powerful, reincarnated Seer, run Camp Coyote, a summer training center for young werewolves vying for a spot in the elite pack of Cosmic Law Enforcers known as the Scythe. When Spooky is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jo takes over the camp while her mom beseeches the Constellati Court to save the life of their favored Seer. Jo’s hope runs out when her mom fails to return.

With every moment passing bringing her mom’s death closer, Jo is up shit creek and her only paddle is an old journal full of secrets Spooky never shared, and the cryptic post-its her mom scattered randomly in Jo’s path. When the signs point to the Scythe, despite their vow to protect the Redfoxes, Jo knows the stars aren’t the only ones screwing her over.

Jo reluctantly accepts help from John Casteel. The Casteels owe the Redfoxes much more than just the fortune the Seer afforded them, and John never leaves debts unpaid. His specialty is finding what doesn’t want to be found. He will do everything in his power to find Jo’s mom and win Jo’s trust because from the second he laid eyes on the down-home country girl, John wanted her for his own. But he has no idea how deadly the obstacles separating them are – shifters from the sticks don’t like outsiders much and breaking the Cosmic Law by bringing him in to the inner circle will paint a stellar target on his back.

Old enemies and dangerous secrets stream from the shadows of Spooky’s past to hunt the Redfoxes. With only a fraction of her mom’s gift, Jo is at a disadvantage in this cosmic game of deadly hide and seek. Never one to scare easy, until she finds a post-it saying, “Goodbye”, nothing will stop her. But time is running out and the last secret Spooky hid from her daughter will change Jo forever and threaten the tenuous trust between her and John.

DEFY REASON is a 120,000 word paranormal romance set in the wilds of West Virginia’s New River Gorge and my debut novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


The author is worried she's lost her voice in this revision in trying to bring the query to ground. She's also over-written, trying to get all the explanations in, which is a VERY natural part of the cycle of query revision. The query is too long and it needs more focus. Taking a close look at the genres in play here will, I think, help with the focus.

Points to include for the paranormal part:

  • Shifters
  • Native American/celestial-based pack law as a unique differentiator
Points to include for the romance part:
  • Who Jo is
  • What Jo wants
  • Who John is
  • What John needs
  • The dark moment that separates them
Points to include for the suspense part:
  • Mom disappears (I'm not convinced we need to know she's dying; in the query it doesn't seem to make a difference)
  • Discovery that who Jo thought were family friends and protectors may be the enemy
Voice Attributes:
  • Blunt
  • Honest
  • A bit crude
What's unconventional about this story is that it seems neither the hero nor heroine is a shifter. That helps with the focus because it's now more romantic suspense with paranormal elements and, in the query, the paranormal bits can be relegated to secondary status.

As for the new title, DEFY REASON does nothing for me, especially given the genre. Maybe look to the celestial overtones for inspiration?

My Version

This reduces the word count by about 25% and takes the focus off of Mom and puts it more squarely on Jo and John.

When Jo Redfox's powerful, reincarnated Seer of a mother, Spooky, goes missing, Jo discovers the stars that power her less-than-perfect Sight aren't the only ones screwing her over. Cryptic clues Spooky left behind point to the very folk sworn to protect them: an elite force trained up at the camp she and Spooky run for the Scythe -- cosmic law enforcers of the werewolf kind.

Desperate, Jo calls in a marker from ex-marine John Casteel, whose family owes a blood debt to the Redfoxes. Never one to to leave debts unpaid, John agrees to put his talent for finding what doesn't want to be found to work for Jo. The only problem, after one look at the down-home country girl, John can't be sure whether it's his honor or his dick making the decisions now. And he might think differently if he knew just how lethal helping her could be -- shifters from the sticks don't much like outsiders sniffing around.

With John's honed deltoids and six-pack abs a nagging distraction, Jo follows shadowy clues from Spooky's past as the truth of who her mother really is slowly surfaces. Then the hunt for her mother takes a deadly turn. [The Scythe's pack leader figures out she and John are closing in on secrets best left buried] and the cosmic game of hide and seek escalates. Now time is running out, and there's still one last secret Spooky hid from her daughter that, when found, will change Jo forever and threaten the tenuous bond between her and John.

WOLFSIGHT/FOXLIGHT/STARFOX is a 120,000 word paranormal romance set in the wilds of West Virginia’s New River Gorge.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Ink and Pixel Club said...

I think Spooky being reincarnated is another detail that can be dropped from the query, as it doesn't seem to have any bearing on the story as it's told here and adds one more detail to an already long list of information you need to get across.

I still don't understand the post-it notes. Are they strewn around Jo and Spooky's house or all over town? Are they just little reminders Spooky would write under nirmal circumstances or did Spooky purposefully leave them behind as clues for Jo? If it's the latter, why doesn't Spooky just leave Jo a note that fully explains what's going on? What is Jo learning from the notes?

I'd like a little more setup for how Spooky and Jo came to be running this camp, particularly if they aren't werewolves themselves. The werewolves still feel almost tangental to the main story, so some more information on how your maincharcters connect to their world might help.

I would steer away from the possible title "Starfox," as you may end up with an audience of confused Nintendo fanboys. But I do agree that the title doesn't work. Even after reading the query, I don't understand how it relates to the story.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This query is still going all over the place-- the writer needs to find the central focus of the story. Reduce it to a single sentence. Work upward from there.

I would also caution the writer to remember that a query is a business letter, and while it's true American culture is becoming even more informal than it always has been, "up shit creek" will probably never be an appropriate phrase for a business letter.

A little too much voice, if you will.

Xenith said...

The voice doesn't seem consistent, sometimes it's formal but then it falls into the blunt/honest/crude bits and they jar. Also too many proper nouns for me to keep track of :\

Better than the previous one though. (Although that might because it reads better without the blue comments :)

I liked the original title, even if it's not obvious how it fits from the query.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I read the first two paragraphs and was utterly confused. Phoenix's version helped. It's still quite a lot to pack in a query.

What is the overarching story line? Maybe concentrate on that and only one subplot to flesh it out a bit.

If you're afraid you're losing the voice, you're probably right. It's hard to boil down such a long book to 250 words, but it doesn't have to be the whole story with all the threads involved. It just has to entice us to want to read the pages. The pages are what will sell your book.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Please delete "just". Doesn't fit. Thank you.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

If Spooky (bad choice of names imho) was an incarnate I'm taking the leap she'll be incarnated again. So I fold here. Sorry, I'm not willing to invest in a logic problem. With I and P.

ARC whose comments I respect, this once I must say I found "up shit creek" refreshing. But I'm not the one to follow, but I like it. Up shit creek. I got it. Honest.

Good luck, has promise.

batgirl said...

Really minor point, but I'd suggest cutting 'cosmic' - it makes me think the werewolves are enforcing law on other planets, and there's enough distraction in this query already.