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Author Topic: THE KABBALIST-- draft query
History
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quote:
A close friend of Rabbi Cane has lost his head. Literally.

While investigating the occult decapitation of his colleague, Jacob Cane, unordained rabbi, physician, paranormal investigator, and mage is drawn into a police investigation of a series of gruesome murders, the victims seemingly harvested for random body parts.

Someone has called up a demon. Cane seeks to discover who, and why. Then Cane discovers the demon has its own agenda: to fully Manifest on Earth and open the Gates of Hell. To stop it, Cane will need to save the life of Thomas Assini, the Boston crimelord who may have conjured it.
But Assini is trying to kill him.
Some days it doesn't pay be a tzaddik.

The Kabbalist: The Foundation of the Kingdom is an urban fantasy novel (108,000 words) incorporating the mystical traditions and folklore of Judaism, as well as Christianity, and Germanic pagan epigraphy. In the world of The Kabbalist, all derive from the same source: the collective creative Will of Man.

In the tradition of William Hope Hodgson's Thomas Carnaki, Randall Garret's Lord Darcy, and Brian Lumley's Titus Crow, the paranormal investigations of Jacob Cane in the narrow streets, ancient fields and mansions, and the subway tunnels of Boston should interest fans of Jim Butcher's wizard and private investigator Harry Dresden, as well as those of Harry Kellerman's happenstance detective and mensch Rabbi Small.

The author is a middle-aged [if he lives to 104] physician, practicing Jew, and a student of Jewish tradition and folklore for over thirty years. Prior to his medical career, he majored in English at The University of New Hampshire, graduating summa cum laude, with concentrations in British Literature, Critical Analysis, and Creative Writing. The author shares many of the character flaws of his protagonist in being an over-educated, well-meaning and, at times, overbearing schlemiel. His wife and daughter graciously, and expertly, with curt word or silent stare, correct his excesses.



Second crack at this.
The first, perhaps, could be considered:
quote:
There is a demon loose in Boston, and Rabbi Cane has to stop him. As the body count rises, his friends, his enemies, and the police are saying it's his fault. Cane fears they may be right.

The Kabbalist: The Foundation of the Kingdom (108,000 words) is an urban fantasy set in the narrow streets, alley bars, mansions, and subway tunnels of Boston, and chronicles the life and exploits of Rabbi (unordained) Jacob Cane, Jewish occultist, physician, and paranormal investigator. Cane seeks to surmount his professional and personal challenges: the smart and beautiful Boston Detetctive Akako Olafson, her irascible boss Lieutenant Sean Callahan, the head of the Boston crime syndicate Thomas Assini, and a variety of angelic and mazzilkim/shedim (i.e. demonic) beings associated with sequentially higher emanations (and attributes) of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

The title The Foundation of the Kingdomrefers to the two lowest of these ten emanations, not only as spiritual/mystical realms but also as reflected in human behavior as in: "While real human actions are the "Foundation" (Yesod) of this universe/Kingdom (Malchut), these actions must accompany the conscious intention of compassion. Compassionate actions are often impossible without "Faith" (Emunah), meaning to trust that God always supports compassionate actions even when God seems hidden. Ultimately, it is necessary to also show compassion toward oneself in order to share compassion toward others." Cane is a solitary man whose knowledge, life experience, and Talent separates himself from his fellows, with the consequence of unintentional condescension toward those for whom he most cares and seeks to protect. This undermines his effectiveness as part of the investigative team and, simply, pisses them off. Can they trust him?

In the tradition of William Hope Hodgson's Thomas Carnaki...



Quite obviously, I would benefit from Members' opinion, advice, and experience.
Suggestions and thoughts are humbly requested.

The first 13 lines of the novel are discussed at http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum26/HTML/000929.html

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

[This message has been edited by History (edited October 24, 2010).]


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Meredith
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The first was better.

quote:
A close friend of Rabbi Cane has lost his head. Literally.

While investigating the occult decapitation Suddenly just dropping in that it's occult doesn't work. Perhaps something to say that Rabbi Cane suspects the occult? of his colleague, Jacob Cane, unordained rabbi, physician, paranormal investigator, and mage is drawn into a police investigation of a series of gruesome murders, the victims seemingly harvested for random body parts.

Someone has called up a demon. Another huge leap without any support. Cane seeks to discover who, and why. Then Cane discovers the demon has its own agenda: to fully Manifest on Earth and open the Gates of Hell. To stop it, Cane will need to save the life of Thomas Assini, I'd leave the name of the crime lord out. the Boston crimelord who may have conjured it.
But Assini is trying to kill him.
Some days it doesn't pay be a tzaddik.

The Kabbalist: The Foundation of the Kingdom is an urban fantasy novel (108,000 words) incorporating the mystical traditions and folklore of Judaism, as well as Christianity, and Germanic pagan epigraphy. In the world of The Kabbalist, all derive from the same source: the collective creative Will of Man.

In the tradition of William Hope Hodgson's Thomas Carnaki, Randall Garret's Lord Darcy, and Brian Lumley's Titus Crow, the paranormal investigations of Jacob Cane in the narrow streets, ancient fields and mansions, and the subway tunnels of Boston should interest fans of Jim Butcher's wizard and private investigator Harry Dresden, as well as those of Harry Kellerman's happenstance detective and mensch Rabbi Small.

The author is a middle-aged [if he lives to 104] physician, practicing Jew, and a student of Jewish tradition and folklore for over thirty years. Prior to his medical career, he majored in English at The University of New Hampshire, graduating summa cum laude, with concentrations in British Literature, Critical Analysis, and Creative Writing. The author shares many of the character flaws of his protagonist in being an over-educated, well-meaning and, at times, overbearing schlemiel. His wife and daughter graciously, and expertly, with curt word or silent stare, correct his excesses. None of this has anything to do with the book. If an agent asks for a bio (a few do), then give them this. Otherwise, cut it. And if you do include it, refer to yourself in the first person.




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LDWriter2
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Hmm, too bad you couldn't combine the two.

The first is better over all but I think the second has some facts that the editor-agent might want. The first is concise, tells what info is needed and makes sense, plus sounds professional.

I must say though that I have read few queries. I wrote a couple a few years ago and soon, not by Christmas as I had hoped, I will be writing a couple more but right now it's been a while.


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History
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Thank you both.
LD, which "facts" in the second do you believe "the editor might like to know"?

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob


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KayTi
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It seems really long and really heavy on the names of OTHER people who wrote things who are *not* you.

While I think it can be worth saying "I believe this book would appeal to readers who enjoy the Dresden series..." That's as far as I personally would take comparisons. Editors read A TON OF BOOKS. Published, unpublished, etc. They will very quickly draw comparisons of their own, they don't need a lot of help with this.

Another exception might be for you to mention something specific that a specific editor has purchased/edited before -- e.g., "I noticed you edited the fantastic XYZ series, and I think my project may interest you."

I recently attended a novel marketing workshop - the whole focus was on the query, the synopsis (not the same as the query) and researching markets to send the book proposals to. I blogged about the query-writing part recently.

I didn't get into the synopsis part on my blog yet, but the synopsis is longer, present tense, and tells the major events of the story, including the ending. The blurb for the query can be shorter (1, 2 paragraphs max) and is more like a TV announcer teasing the next episode of a popular show, leaving some of the questions open.

I hope this is helpful! Good luck!


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LDWriter2
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I think the line about the back allies ect. and the whole second paragraph but adding that to the first query would make it way too long...I think. And it would probably depend on the editor if they wanted that info.

And thinking about it I would think some editors would want to know what a tzaddik was.


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WouldBe
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I like the opening, italicized paragraph. That's the highlight of the present query, I think.

To add to what KayTi said...you have 7 parentheticals in the second-third paragraphs of the second version. I think that should be closer to zero, such as unordained Rabbi rather than Rabbi (unordained). The others provide details that do not further persuade the reader about the quality of the story itself.

Just guessing...you're trying to convince the reader that you have superior qualifications to write this story, but what was mentioned earlier and the explanations about the title are overkill. I think a *shortened* version of your bio will leave no doubt about your qualifications. You risk giving the impression that the story will be similarly dense with detail thereby rendering it unreadable.

It sounds like a great story. I'd love to read it. Pitch the story, mostly, and the characters and setting....Your words entirely, but for minor reordering:

There is a demon loose in Boston, and unordained Rabbi Cane has to stop him. As the body count rises, his friends, his enemies, and the police are saying it's his fault. Cane fears they may be right.

This urban fantasy of 108,000 words set in the narrow streets, alley bars, mansions, and subway tunnels of Boston, and chronicles the life and exploits of Rabbi Jacob Cane, Jewish occultist, physician, and paranormal investigator. Cane seeks to surmount his professional and personal challenges: the smart and beautiful Boston Detetctive[Detective] Akako Olafson, her irascible boss Lieutenant Sean Callahan, the head of the Boston crime syndicate Thomas Assini, and a variety of angelic and demonic beings associated with the higher emanations of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

[Shortened Bio]

Good luck with it.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
I would think some editors would want to know what a tzaddik was.

My experience with editors, in New York, at least, is that they know more Yiddish than most Americans (even editors who aren't Jewish--it comes with the territory, more or less), so I don't think they'll have trouble with tzaddik. And I wouldn't be surprised if this applied to editors outside of New York as well.

Edited to add:

Not that tzaddik is strictly Yiddish--it's also Hebrew, but the way you're using it, History, sounds more a Yiddish expression (tzaddik = wise man/sage, aka "wizard") to me than a Hebrew word (tzaddik = righteous man). Please correct me if I'm wrong.

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited October 26, 2010).]


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History
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I wish to thank you all for your sage advice and suggestions.
[Although, it would have been wonderful if there was a 100% consensus of what opening works best ].
Still, you have provided plenty of ideas for improvement.
I'll take another crack at this.
I haven't written a query letter in over 30 years (and back then I did not even know there was a standard format for such a thing -- and I also assumed personalized rejection letters from editors were the norm. Ah, youth.)
I appreciate the link regarding query letters. I have others I've been studying as well.
I can understand why there are writing courses just dedicated to this endeavor. Oy.

Today, I condensed the novel to a six page synopsis.
How to get it to five, or strike me with a boiled chicken, only three, I'm not sure I have the gehim to do.
I believe I've written more a lively literary "summary" rather than a "synopsis" inclusive of key characters, plot, protagonist internal and external conflicts, and resolution.
I'll also be reading through the dozens of links I've discovered on "synopsis" writing, though I'd rather eat dirt, with horseradish.

I will admit, I'm not enjoying this "business" part of the writing craft, as much as I understand its necessity for the publishing community. I much rather just write the stories that are kvelling and kvetchingin me to be put on the page.

Hi, Ms Woodbury. A pleasure to hear from you. A tzaddik is literally a righteous person and it is derived from the Hebrew root for "justice." In jewish teaching, only a tzaddik, or those who strive for righteousness as does my protagonist, can access the creative powers and insights within the emanations from God that compose the Kabbalist Tree of Life.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

[This message has been edited by History (edited November 17, 2010).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Ah! Okay. Thanks for the clarification, Dr. Bob.

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Brendan
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quote:
My experience with editors, in New York, at least, is that they know more Yiddish than most Americans (even editors who aren't Jewish--it comes with the territory, more or less), so I don't think they'll have trouble with tzaddik. And I wouldn't be surprised if this applied to editors outside of New York as well.

My concern would be that the use of this word in the teaser would be indicative that a lot of similar words would be used throughout. The editor may immediately reject it based on the limitation it creates in the likely market space. (There are a lot of Jews, but is there a lot that also like urban fantasy and are prepared to accept a rabbi that is also a mage (a form of witchcraft)?) I may be completely wrong in this assessment.


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History
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Hi, Brendon, your point is well taken.

Though, my hope that the same sf/fantasy readers who readily accept and enjoy completely invented languages (e.g. Quendi and Sindarin from Tolkien) will not be adverse to a few words of actual Yiddish and Hebrew (and Greek and Arabic, ftm), especially when most if not all should be understood within the context of their sentences.

To be certain, the novel does include a Glossary for those who wish more information -- thought I have refrained from following F&SF and Asimov's Magazine author Leslie What's use of "Glossary for Goyim" as some may unnecessarily take offense at the term. Kapish?

In regard to the synopsis, I am finding so many variations of what it should and should not include that I am becoming ferblunget (all messed up).
**Do you use a hook in the synopsis if you have used one in the Query letter?
**Do you include quotes from the novel or not? Just a sentence? Or a few? How much is too much?
**Should it be a summary of all the major plot points including the ending, or should it skim the plot but entice the editor/agent to want to read more?

I'd be interested in your thoughts and recommendations of the best source/link that concisely and accurately reviews the subject.

Respectfully,
Bob

[This message has been edited by History (edited October 26, 2010).]


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KayTi
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Synopsis tells the reader the major events of the story, including the ending. It's written in present tense, as active as you can get it. You can repeat a bit or two from the query letter, but not word-for-word (no point, as the synopsis would go in the same packet with the query letter.)

It should be written in the same kind of voice as the book (and the query letter!) The guy who ran the workshop I attended said it clearly - if you're funny in the book, you better be funny in the query! In my case, my novel is a YA novel, so there's a very specific sarcastic and slightly biting voice to my character, which i reflect in both the query and synopsis.

He also recommended to keep it to 5 pages or less (but 5 is fine.)

It should tell the events of the story, but by way of what the story is *about*. I got positive feedback for a line in my synopsis that started, "Hungry for companionship and feeling lost and alone..." - which tells you a lot about what the story is *about* - which is a girl feeling out of her element, a stranger in a strange land, and how she bonds with a computer to help her feel less alone. So don't get bogged down in PLOT, but rather focus on what the story is about (presumably by way of the events that carry the MC through.)

I personally didn't like the synopses that included quotes. We read each other's at this workshop, so I have recently read 10 synopses plus my own, all from people who are serious about getting published and have quite a few writing credits. Ideally your submissions packet includes your cover letter, followed by a short sample (2 chapters, 15-20 pages, some amount of the novel that is enough for an editor to tell what your writing style is like. The workshop heads told us that once an editor finds themselves reading the sample, versus analyzing it, then they skip past the sample - you've passed their test/passed muster if you get them starting to read.) The last piece is the synopsis, so the editor can skip to that, skim, and flip to the last page of the synopsis to see how the story ends.

If they like what they see, they'll ask for a full manuscript (or so the story goes...I have yet to be on the receiving end of such a request but I hear tell it happens all the time and I have several appendages crossed on my behalf, lol.)

But my main suggestion - don't dwell on it too long. What's the worst that happens? You send out a submission and...never hear back? That's not so bad.

Good luck!


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Amanda1199
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I had no idea what "tzaddik" meant until I read the thread, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the word and piquing my curiousity.

As far as the bio, I liked this part:
"The author is a middle-aged [if he lives to 104] physician, practicing Jew, and a student of Jewish tradition and folklore for over thirty years. Prior to his medical career, he majored in English at The University of New Hampshire, graduating summa cum laude, with concentrations in British Literature, Critical Analysis, and Creative Writing."

Aside from the middle-aged part, which is redundant since you mention "over thirty years" in the same sentence, it tells me that you know what you're talking about. That will be an authentic asset to, not only the book, but finding a niche as an author. I think I was more curious about reading the novel after reading that part. I agree with Meredith that you should refer to yourself in first person.

For the opening? Hands-down:
"There is a demon loose in Boston, and unordained Rabbi Cane has to stop him. As the body count rises, his friends, his enemies, and the police are saying it's his fault. Cane fears they may be right."

It summarizes the book, gives me a good read on the character and the conflict, and lets me know what I'm getting into immediately. The other doesn't.

WouldBe's shortened version works for me as well, though I do like some of the facts in the fourth paragraph of your first post.


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LDWriter2
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I'm no expert even though I have observed readers and what sells over the years and I think the language wouldn't be a hinderance to most readers. There would be a few who may not like Yiddish or any language but I believe they would be small in number.

And its obvious my concern about editors was misplaced so you don't have to worry about them not liking it. Most of them anyway, as someone said there may be a few that are put off by unknown words-titles names etc.. but all they will do is say no or ignore you. I've heard that some agents do the last anyway these days.


So go for it. As to how to do a query letter and synopses. I would say take a chance. Maybe find a couple that have worked and use them as a modal or take the chance that it all depends on the editor, what type of story it is and how well you say what you want to say. I have heard, from pros, that some editors do not worry if everything isn't exactly right as long as it is well written and not too far off the wall.


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History
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Again, I am greatly appreciative of everyone's responses.

I have the synopsis down to 4 pages but I'm unhappy with it.

Making the transition from a first person narative to this third person truncation has muted my protagonist's voice that sets the pervasive tone of the writing in the novel. I will need to work on it further, but I will send something out to Penguin (UK) whose open submissions deadline is in three days.

"It couldn't hurt."
[or not much ]

Respectfully,
Bob


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History
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Mixing it up a bit. From what you all have kindly shared, I've constructed the following query. Not perfect, and a bit long, but time's up.
I also found my character's voice for the synopsis but the result is it is five pages. Thank you all for your help.
quote:
There is a demon loose in Boston, and Rabbi Cane has to stop him. As the body count rises, his friends, his enemies, and the police are saying it's his fault. Cane fears they may be right.

A close friend of Rabbi Cane has lost his head. Literally.

While investigating the decapitation of his colleague, Jacob Cane, unordained rabbi, physician, paranormal investigator, and mage is drawn into a police investigation of a series of gruesome murders, the victims seemingly harvested for random body parts.

Someone has called up a demon. Cane seeks to discover who, and why. Then Cane discovers the demon has its own agenda: to fully Manifest on Earth and open the Gates of Hell. To stop it, Cane will need to save the life of Thomas Assini, the Boston crimelord who may have conjured it.
But Assini is trying to kill him.
Some days it doesn't pay be a tzaddik.

Rabbi Cane must surmount both professional and personal challenges: the smart and beautiful Boston Detective Akako Olafson, her irascible boss Lieutenant Sean Callahan, the head of the Boston crime syndicate Thomas Assini, and a variety of angelic and demonic beings associated with the higher emanations of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

The Kabbalist: The Foundation of the Kingdom (108,000 words) is an urban fantasy novel set in the narrow streets, alley bars, mansions, and subway tunnels of Boston and incorporates the mystical traditions and folklore of Judaism, Christianity, and Germanic paganism. Its audience includes fans of Harry Dresden as well as those of Harry Kellerman.

I am a physician, practicing Jew, and a student of Jewish tradition and folklore for over thirty years who majored in English at The University of New Hampshire, graduating summa cum laude, with concentrations in British Literature, Critical Analysis, and Creative Writing. I find I unfortunately share many of the character flaws of my protagonist in being an over-educated, well-meaning and, at times, overbearing insufferable schlemiel. My wife and daughter graciously, and expertly, with curt word or silent stare, correct my excesses.

As directed, I have attached a synopsis below. I appreciate the opportunity to submit my work to Penguin Books.

Respectfully,


[This message has been edited by History (edited October 29, 2010).]


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Corky
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I like it.

I'd change one sentence, though:

quote:
Its audience includes fans of Harry Dresden as well as those of Harry Kellerman.

You've got a character and a writer listed. While the Harry... Harry... is nice, there's a bit of a disconnect.

However, the main thing I'd change is the first few words of the sentence. It might work better to say instead something like "It should appeal to fans of..." because while you hope it includes them, who are you to say, really?


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History
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Hi, Corky.

Yes, the disconnect between the Harrys was purposeful.
I also did yet another revision and shortening because on cutting and pasting this into an email, it seemed too long.
As did the synopsis at 5 pages, but that I could not do anything about for now. And my personal deadline (before tonight's Sabbath) is up.

I actually do not have expectations of a response from Penguin, but the exercise was a great learning experience, and I thank you all for your assistence.

Respectfully,
Bob


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LDWriter2
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Not bad, I think the losing the head sentence should go first however. The way you have it almost feels like it comes out of no where. At least to me.

And I don't think I know Harry Kellerman. Who writes him? That's surprising I thought I at least knew of most every UF hero especially the well liked ones.


And you will probably get some response from Penguin since they asked for them.


I thought about sending in a query letter I wrote years ago for a novel I did but I kept forgetting to check on it and updating it.


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History
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Hi, LD
quote:
And I don't think I know Harry Kellerman. Who writes him? That's surprising I thought I at least knew of most every UF hero especially the well liked ones.

I'm just showing my age.
Harry Kellerman, as Corky noted, is an author.
He wrote the Rabbi Small mysteries in the 1970's and 1980's.

While The Kabblist: The Foundation of the Kingdom is an urban fantasy, it also is a mystery, and liberally seasoned with Judaic themes, aphorisms, and angst.

quote:
And you will probably get some response from Penguin since they asked for them.

Penguin (UK) was specific in saying this will not occur:

"We will not contact you with feedback on your submission and will only enter into email correspondence with you if an editor within Penguin is keen to progress your idea."

quote:
I thought about sending in a query letter I wrote years ago for a novel I did but I kept forgetting to check on it and updating it.

You have one more day.
Nothing ventured...

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

[This message has been edited by History (edited October 30, 2010).]


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LDWriter2
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I think I saw two movies based on the Rabbi books. Don't know how well they kept to the books but I liked them.

Well, at least Penguin is being up front up front.

And if my query is anything like my writing, especially back then, it needs a lot of work.


But Maybe I can still look it over tonight and see if it might be half way okay.


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LDWriter2
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You talked about the trouble finding a good source for how to do query letters. I asked someone I thought would know but they didn't. But this fell into my lap via a Writer's Digest Newsletter.

http://view.writers-community.com/?j=fefd15767d6407&m=fe9b15707463077575&ls=fe5515767d6d00787d15&l=ff62117273&s=fe8f1770706d067a73&jb=ffcf14&ju=fec516777d650079&r=0

I have no idea how good it is or what the times are.


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debhoag
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History, what ended up happening with this? I really liked it, but it sounded like you were done, so I didn't bother posting a comment. Days later, though, I'm still interested. I'd like to know more about what you're doing next, if you don't mind?
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History
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How very kind of you to ask.

Copies of the novel, now in manuscript submission format, are in the hands of test readers and proofreaders.

I am blessed to have a few people who are excellent proofreaders. I've been amazed at the little things they have found.

My test readers include those who are Jewish and non-Jewish (admittedly mostly the former), as well as those who are familiar with urban fantasy and those who are not. I have found this enlightening in regard to what they did and did not enjoy as well as what plot points they found confusing or completely missed. This has led to a number of minor revisions.

I have one moderate revision I am considering. I have a secondary character (one of the Nephilim) who speaks only in idioms, advertising jingles, quotations, and a rare lyric or two. While most are free of copyright concerns, a few are not, and the effort (and headache) of assuring compliance with copyright law is daunting the more I investigate the subject. "Verucca" Joe may need to find some other eccentricity. I hope to complete the final novel revision the week of December 8th (my next time off), after all comments and corrections are in. Then I will begin the quixotic agent and/or editor query process. I hope I am not merely tilting at windmills.

With help from the Hatrack Forum Members above (thank you, everyone), last week I crafted a query letter and synopsis to submit to Penguin Books (UK) who had open submissions (email only) 1 August to 31 October. As I said in a heavy Jewish accent, "It couldn't hoit."

And it was very good practice, as much as I bemoaned the loss of the time for creative writing. I've three short stories (and a fourth that is a Rabbi Cane tale regarding twin dybbuks) that are haunting me to complete them -- as is appropriate this Halloween season. I would like to have firsts drafts done before Marley's ghost is due to visit. It would be great to have something to follow the one completed story I just sent out when, statistically, the first rejection letter arrives.

Respectfully,
Bob

[This message has been edited by History (edited November 17, 2010).]


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LDWriter2
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If you read this
Just in case you may want or need more info on queries here's a link

http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/11/09/UltimateBlogSeriesOnNovelQueries1.aspx

Its the first of a five part series. Notice the name of the blog.

[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited November 16, 2010).]


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History
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Love it, LD. Thank you for thinking of me.
A link to all her 5 blogs on novel queries is:
http://janefriedman.com/read-my-stuff/

I bookmarked her. Her advice is excellent and succinct.

I hope to improve the query letter and synopsis and do the last rewrite on THE KABBALIST when I'm off the week of December 6th with hope to begin the agent query process soon after.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob


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