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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Query for FIRE AND EARTH

   
Author Topic: Query for FIRE AND EARTH
Meredith
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(Formerly known as SEVEN STARS).
And newer still. This isn't quite right yet, but as a direction?

quote:

Exiled for carrying the berserker curse, seventeen-year-old Casora turns mercenary, seeking revenge on the invaders who ravaged her homeland. All the while, she prays for some way to tame the berserker so she can return home. She gets a mystifying answer: rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs. Casora has high hopes that her prayers may be answered when she's sent to rescue Tiaran.

Third prince of a neighboring kingdom, Tiaran is considered more a scholar than a warrior, but he's nevertheless determined to fight for his home. When the raiders attack, he's trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Rescued from his first disastrous battle by Casora, he gets a chance to learn warfare from a master.

But Tiaran has something to teach her, too--a discipline and philosophy that could help to control the berserker curse. It's just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others' prayers if, between them, they can find a way to stop the marauders who seem intent on sweeping through their world.

FIRE AND EARTH is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore's GRACELING will enjoy FIRE AND EARTH. I have included [whatever the agent wants].

Thank you for your time.

Here's the latest revision:

quote:

Born with the mark of the berserker, seventeen-year-old Casora has been sent away to learn war craft. When her native land is invaded, she's not there to do the one thing she's been prepared for all her life--to use those skills to protect her family and home. Learning that the young man she loves was killed in the fighting is the last straw. She releases her curse and goes berserk.

Now she's doubly cursed, because she can never go home to find out what happened to her family or even if any of them are still alive. With no way to help the ones she cares most about, she turns mercenary, leading a band of teenage warriors looking for the chance to avenge themselves on the marauders. But she prays for a way to cure the curse so she can go home. When she prays for an answer, she's told to rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs.

Tiaran, third prince of a neighboring kingdom, is considered more a scholar than a warrior, but he's determined to fight for his home. When the raiders attack, he's trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Casora and her band are sent to rescue him. With the capital city now besieged, there's no option but to keep him with them and teach him to be a warrior.

But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It's just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others' prayers.

FIRE AND EARTH is a 76,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore's GRACELING will enjoy FIRE AND EARTH. I have included the first three chapters per the instructions on your website.

Thank you for your time.

And here's the previous query for reference:

quote:

Now that she's lost it and gone berserk, seventeen-year-old Casora is doubly cursed and there's no going back.

Born with the mark of the berserker, she's been sent away to learn war craft. Those skills are no use when her home is invaded while she's far away. She turns mercenary, leading a band of teenage warriors looking for the chance to avenge themselves on the marauders.

What she really wants is to find a cure for the curse so she can go home. When she prays for an answer, she's told to rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs.

Tiaran, third prince of a neighboring kingdom, is considered more a scholar than a warrior, but he's determined to fight for his home. When the raiders attack, he's trapped on the wrong side of the city walls. Casora and her band are sent to rescue him. With the capital city now besieged, there's no option but to keep him with them and teach him to be a warrior.

But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It's just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others' prayers.

FIRE AND EARTH is a 76,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore's GRACELING will enjoy FIRE AND EARTH. I have included the first three chapters per the instructions on your website.

Thank you for your time.

Let the crits begin!

[ June 12, 2012, 06:34 PM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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LDWriter2
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I like the new one better. The older one sounds amateurish. The new one is short, to the point-no extra stuff- and flows well at the same time.
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Boone
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I would agree that the new one is better. I offer one suggestion. You state that Casora can never go home but it's not clear to me why ("she releases the curse and goes beserk" doesn't answer this, though I assume it's the underlying cause). I would suggest you clearly state why she can't go home until the curse is cured. Will she be shunned if she returnes? Is it forbidden? Will she be disowned by any surviving family? Good luck!
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Eliza C
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I like the new query better.
My suggestion would be to punch up the verbs, cut all extra words and make the writing as active as possible.
For example, "has been" in the first sentence is passive. Consider, Born with the mark of the berserker, Casora is sent away at (age whatever)to learn war craft.
"Last straw" feels cliche to me.
Now she's doubly cursed, because she can never go home to find out what happened to her family or even if any of them are still alive. - this sentence feels especially wordy. Potentially, it could be as short as "Doubly cursed now, she can never return home to discover if any of her family still live."
But she prays for a way to cure the curse so she can go home. When she prays for an answer, she's told to rescue the youngest prince to find what she needs. - These two sentences are repetitive. Perhaps "In answer, she's told..."
Questions this left me with were:
At what age was Casora sent away, young or at seventeen?
Isn't a curse a curse? How do you release it?
If she's mercenary, who tells her to rescue the prince?
This sounds interesting - I think it just needs some tightening and some stronger verbs.

I struggle with my own queries, so take the suggestions for what they're worth to you.

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MattLeo
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I have to vote for the older query too, but it seems to me that both have a bit too much data -- are perhaps a bit synopsis-y -- and not quite enough information that bears on the important question: why am I interested in this story?

The newer query gives us something like 170 words about Casora, then segues into Tiaran and Casora in a way that almost suggests that the Casora material is backstory. Any agent or editor who spends much time with his slush pile is bound to be allergic to backstory.

I think the reason it strikes me that way is that all the people involved in the dramatic events of Casora's life are anonymous -- nameless forces even. The first hint we have that this is about characters interacting is when Tiaran enters the picture.

Here's something to think about: what if you started the query with matter in the Tiaran paragraph, e.g.:
quote:
Tiaran, third prince of his kingdom, is more a scholar than a warrior, but when raiders attack he's determined to fight for his home. When he's trapped on the wrong side of the city walls, the cursed beserker Casora is sent to rescue him...
Then you can go on to tell about an interesting irony: each of these characters has what the other wants. Casora has fighting skills, but regards them as a curse. Tiaran has a peaceful, constructive role but wants to be a warrior. *How* Casora got her curse is not interesting from the point of view of the query; it's how the curse works in the plot and characterization.

quote:
But Tiaran has something to teach them, too. It's just possible that Tiaran and Casora may be the answer to each others' prayers.
This seems a bit "on the nose" to me, maybe even a bit precious. It *sounds* like you could just come out and say what it is Tiaran and Casora offer each other but you're *obviously* teasing the query reader, which some agents write that they really dislike.

Rather than leaving out the nature of the motivations and conflict as a tease, perhaps it would be better to spell them out and leave the details of the resolution unspecified. This is still a tease but it feels more like fair play. In a nutshell the scenario seems to be this: Tiaran has A but wants B. Casora has B but wants A. Obviously Tiaran and Casora have much to offer each other, but first they'll have to overcome C (which ought to be specified in your query).

If you could just describe just the nature of Tiaran and Casora's goals and conflict in the query, you've described the stuff that really drives the plot and makes the characters interesting. The specifics of how Casora ended up as she has are difficult to imposisble to make interesting or compelling in the space you have, because there's no personal conflict, in fact Casora seems to have little agency in these events.

How Casora became a beserker really sounds like backstory to me because you can just introduce her as already a beserker and the mainspring of the plot is still clear.

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Meredith
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Thanks, MattLeo. You've given me some interesting things to think about.

I definitely want to start the query with Casora, though. This is YA and there's a fairly strong expectation of a female protagonist and a love story. [Smile] Not that Tiaran didn't do his level best to steal the story, though. [Wink]

But, like I said, you've given me some good ideas to work with in revising this.

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Meredith
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Bump for revision.
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LDWriter2
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To me it sounds-reads- okay. Something seems off though but that might be because if I recall correctly I liked the "born with mark query "
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