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Author Topic: A Borrowed Hell - contemporary fantasy query
Eliza C
Member # 9805

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Hi all -
This is my first time in this section of the forum, but looking through other posts, it looks like we can put up a full query here. This query is for my 2nd completed novel, just about to go out into the world to agents. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

July Davish wants a normal life -- nothing elaborate, just a home, a job, and someone to love. His tumultuous past and addiction-riddled family gave him little to steer by to his goal but, at thirty-one, things are finally coming together; he owns a small house, construction is booming, and his girlfriend recently moved in with him. He should know from his past, though, that good luck never stays with him long. When the economy tanks, July loses in months what it took him years to attain. With his house facing foreclosure, July confronts his mortgage broker on the street, but two cars colliding directly in front of them take his situation from bad to worse.

Released from the hospital with a mild head injury and evicted from his home, July leaves San Diego behind hoping to start over somewhere new. Unfortunately, nothing is ever that easy for him. Driving cross-country, July begins to pass out intermittently. When unconscious, July finds himself thrust into a strange, nearly deserted America -- a world which proves to be as real and unforgiving as his own. Trying to make it as far as Flagstaff in the real world, July picks up a hitchhiker. Driving in exchange for a ride, Valerian, a dread-locked fire dancer, gets more than she bargained for when July continues to pass out.

Valerian sticks with July, even through his emergency surgery, but only July can stop the bizarre pendulum that keeps sending him to the alternate world. When one of the enigmatic inhabitants of that world tells July he must walk through their desert to escape, July accepts the challenge. He quickly discovers that his journey is not a physical goal but an emotional journey, confronting the tragic past he keeps deeply buried. Worse still, he learns that if he fails to complete the task, his consciousness will be trapped forever in that alternate world.

A BORROWED HELL is a 69,000-word, stand-alone, contemporary fantasy for adults that could be described as Neil Gaiman’s “AMERICAN GODS,” meets Carlos Castaneda’s “THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN.” My recent writing credits include short story publications in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Aoife’s Kiss, The Absent Willow Review and Golden Visions Magazine.

Per your guidelines, I am sending...

(sorry - as usual, I did a little line-editing after posting. I'll leave it alone now. [Roll Eyes] )

[ May 31, 2012, 03:48 PM: Message edited by: Eliza C ]

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Member # 2714

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My apologies, but I have to ask if he is actually driving when he passes out, and how many accidents does he have because of it? I mean, what kind of condition is his car in by the time he picks up Valerian?
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Member # 8368

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Okay. The query is too long. Shoot for somewhere around 250 words. Paradoxically, the novel is a little short, adult fiction is more commonly in the 90,000 to 100,000 word range.

In the query, you only need to tell us:

  • Who is the main character and why should we care about them?
  • What choice do they have to make and what are the obstacles?
  • What are the consequences?

Those things are in there, they're just buried.

For example, does Valerian even need to be in this query? She doesn't seem to have a central role other than driving the car and being there during July's surgery.

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I think your story actually starts in the second paragraph. The first seems to be info dump and left me thinking, so what, sounds like a lot of people. In the second paragraph though we find out that July (must say this name threw me, stand out is good but odd isn't) drifts in and out of an alternate reality, as I understand it. This is probably your hook.

You also need to be clearer on Valerian, she is obviously important to the plot, yet in the query she's a hitchhiker. There must be more to her.

And I agree with Meredith, for an adult novel this does seem very short.

I must say, I like the idea, it sounds intriguing but I think a lot of agents will take one look at it and see a dream world cliche. I think you might get around this by showing a bit more of the alternate world. The agent is going to get the first thing that pops into his/her head (I saw Fallout 3 - must stop playing that game), when they should be seeing what you've painted for them.

Hope that helps, and good luck wth it.

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