hx-wa1i-Nqjenpy5OrS01HCV6t0 Sun vs. Snow: Query and first 250 words critique - Angela D'Ambrosio Author, Reader, and Brand Ambassador

Sun vs. Snow: Query and first 250 words critique

Michelle Hauck and Amy Trueblood are hosting a critique workshop/blog hop for anyone who would like peer review of their query and first 250 words. Please leave your comments below and a link to your blog if you would like me to critique yours.

Title: LOGOS

Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction with fantastical elements

Word Count: 80,000

Query:

Dear Wish-list Agent:

I am currently seeking representation for my novel LOGOS, Contemporary Fiction with fantastical elements –in the vein of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

Keep it hidden. Keep it safe. Eve promised her grandfather thirteen years ago, right before he vanished. She keeps her word. But the moment she touches the Sumerian stone is like sending a personal ad to every alien on the planet and downloads a map into her brain. The map leads to a source of unlimited alien power locked away in the Garden of Eden–the same energy crackling through her.

Now she senses sentient energy embedded in artifacts. Like a genie trapped in a bottle, these souls are being harvested by the Kenosi, corrupted beings intent on returning to their god-like status. These alien weapons are capable of turning Rome to dust.

This Light calls to her begging to be free. She would love nothing more than to fulfill, to squash the loneliness plaguing her since childhood. But her new soul-searing power didn’t come with instructions.

Aliens, human half-breeds, soulless beings, and an order of Persian assassins want Eve. Some want her soul, some want her dead, and others just want her. Having handsome powerful men chase after her is one thing, but this attention she could do without.

Then there’s what the Light is doing to her. Manifesting Light swords is a neat trick, but being burned alive from the inside out isn’t a price she wants to pay.

Eve must learn to wield her new powers in time to stop a soul-fueled bomb from leveling The Vatican. But saving the innocent may open a gate, giving the Kenosi exactly what they want, absolute tyranny like they had in the days of Pharaoh. How can she stay hidden and safe when she is the key?

LOGOS  is complete at 80,000 words and is the first in a planned series. The real life disappearance of my husband’s uncle after he boarded a plane thirty years ago, later featured on Unsolved Mysteries was the inspiration for my novel.

My short stories have been featured in Go Read Your Lunch, The Idaho Magazine, and I am a contributing writer for The Urban Liaison Magazine.

First 250 words:

Somehow, I had completed the transatlantic journey my grandfather hadn’t. Not that I expected to disappear mid-flight, but it had happened before.

The wheels touching down nearly spilled the last swallow of a bottomless cup of red. I eyed the plane’s emergency exit for the last time knowing the metal tomb with wings wouldn’t have me this time.  A warm haze engulfed me somewhere over the Atlantic thanks to a generous flight attendant pouring the liquid sedative. Raising my glass, I toasted the wine gods for delivering me safely. Then downed the last of it.

My airline-assigned friend shifted in her seat away from me. Her face pinched with disgusted. What’s her deal? As inconspicuously as I could I put my nose to my armpit. Reeling back with a cough, I wished I could scoot away too.  My deodorant had quit. Strong enough for a man and yet retreating from the tropical storm bleeding through my white shirt.

I hate quitters!

The overhead bell rang and phones lit up throughout the cabin as though turning on our electronic devices was part of the disembarking process. I didn’t expect a call, and I didn’t have a call to make, but having it on made me feel less alone.

My phone chimed. My heart stuttered.  I could only think of one person who might call me, and she hadn’t been coherent for more than a year. The last time she called she’d stolen an orderly’s phone to remind me to feed her cat.

She never owned a cat.

About admin

Angela grew up in a small mountain town of Idaho and graduated top of her class of seven. She was born in Boise, Idaho in 1977, the second of four children and only girl. She currently lives in Sun Valley, Idaho where she raises three small kids and blogs about reading, writing and the human condition.

12 Responses to “Sun vs. Snow: Query and first 250 words critique”

  1. Eric Wheeler February 15, 2015 at 7:26 pm # Reply

    The query could use some more voice. It is this happens then this happens without any emotion.

    250: great voice. I love the character and the humor/sarcasm is refreshing. From the first 250 words I would read on. I would have liked to know about the MC in the first 250 name/age/sex. I know it from the query but readers of your novel won’t have the query. I like this is based on a true event.

    Mine is number 37 if you have a chance to review it. Eswheeler.blogspot.com

  2. Rose Black February 15, 2015 at 8:16 pm # Reply

    Hi Angela,

    Here are my thoughts on your query and opening words. I hope they’re helpful.

    Query:

    The query feels very long and quite disjointed, being broken into so many small paragraphs. I love Keep it hidden, keep it safe, but it loses focus after that point. Perhaps introduce what it is a bit earlier, and what happens to make her betray her promise of keeping it safe. You cut out the next couple of paragraphs and move straight to the conflict. I don’t like the line about having handsome men chasing after her being one thing, because it either makes it seem like I’m missing something (is this a regular problem?) or that Eve is quite shallow.

    250 words:

    I’d remove somehow from the opening line. It doesn’t add anything.

    cup of red – do you mean red wine? Otherwise I don’t really get what you mean here.

    Okay, so yes, it is wine. Maybe mention that outright, just make things a bit clearer.

    A warm haze [had] engulfed me – otherwise it makes it sound like she’s still somewhere over the Atlantic.

    I think the passage about her deodorant doesn’t really add anything so early on in the story. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it slows down the opening in my opinion. The bit about the text from the mysterious person who doesn’t own a cat is much more interesting.

    Thanks for your comments on mine, though I’m not sure how to remove words such as like from similes.

    Rose

  3. Mich Masoch February 15, 2015 at 11:03 pm # Reply

    Wow! This is a really cool concept.

    The query:

    Since you’re running a bit long, every place you can trim without cutting real content helps. Opening with housekeeping that’s also listed at the end softens the punch of what could be a hell of an opening punch to draw in an agent. I’d move the comp to the end and cut the part about seeking rep, as it’s inferred by the process. The end section explanation of the inspiration is interesting, but doesn’t add much to the pitch if you need the words for story content.

    Paragraph 1: A Sumerian stone from a disappeared grandfather that passes on a map to the Garden of Eden, along with alien power source, is a killer hook. Leading with that would pique interest with real content over the sensational, which calls attention but does little to inform. The opening you’ve got now feels urgent, on its face, but you might be doing yourself a disservice by, in essence, burying the lede.

    Paragraph 2: 2nd sentence can be cut after the comma to “souls are harvested”. To cut a “these”, the final sentence could be folded in the previous as “with alien weapons capable of turning cities to dust” (to make the threat more universal).

    Paragraphs 3-5: Unfortunately, this part loses me entirely. I assume the Light is the energy of the stone? Using one paragraph to clearly establish what it is and what effect it has on Eve would be great here. It establishes a better base for the next bit, which sets up the conflict and reinforces the stakes.

    Paragraph 6:
    The stakes are set up very well, along with Eve’s conflict. I’m not a fan of a question vs statement as a close, but that’s more of a stylistic tic.

    Overall, the query is solid and sets up Eve’s situation, the conflict with the Kenosi, and the stakes very well. By tightening up and clarifying the power she’s absorbed from the stone, you’ll have an even stronger tool to sell your story. A touch more voice would also add to an already good, urgent tone.

    First 250:

    I’ll just admit up front, I’m not a fan of “somehow”. Your opening could be stronger without it, especially if you make the grandfather’s disappearance clearer.

    The second paragraph has excellent voice. There’s a lot about the wine, which might be trimmed to make better use of the important first page real estate by getting into Eve’s head, her nerves about flying, and what waits for her at the end of her flight.

    The bit about the neighboring passenger and pit stink has mood/voice, but does little to move the story along.

    In the next bit, you can tighten a touch to get to the important aspect of the phone and next development, mainly because turning phones/devices back on really is a firmly-established part of the disembarking process now. “The overhead bell rang and phones lit up throughout the cabin. I didn’t expect a call, and I didn’t have a call to make, but having it on made me feel less alone.”
    The end of this line is fantastic and subtly establishes voice while setting up the next forward move in plot.

    I love, love, love the closing section. You’ve found an excellent way to sneak in backstory without being info-dumpy, plus make it sing with tons of voice and mood. It leaves me with a want to turn a page and find out more.

    In all, the 250 is exceptionally effective. You have a great flow in the prose, establish mood and hints of backstory with ease, and set the story up really well. The little quibbles I’ve noted are just that, and fall more into stylistic tics than anything else. You have a badass concept and a strong query and opener to sell it. Good luck with the pitching! You should get a lot of bites.

  4. Amelinda February 16, 2015 at 9:19 pm # Reply

    Lots of cool settings and concepts here, but to be honest I had trouble following your query. This might be due in part to some demonstratives (“these souls,” “this alien energy,” “this light”) lacking clear antecedents – what do they refer to? I think you need to focus on the basics of the story and spell things out a bit in plainer terms.

    e.g. The moment Eve touches the ancient Sumerian stone entrusted to her by her vanished grandfather, she is filled with crackling, alien energy – and the knowledge of where to find its source, a terrible weapon locked away in the Garden of Eden. …etc.

    In case you haven’t already come across it, Queryshark.com has a formula that may be helpful for streamlining purposes:

    “What does the protagonist want? What’s keeping him/her from getting it? What choice/decision does he/she face? What terrible thing will happen if he chooses ____; what terrible thing will happen if he doesn’t.”

    OR

    “The main character must decide whether to ____.
    If s/he decides to do (this), the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are ____.
    If s/he decides NOT to do this: the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are ____.”

    I’d also strike “Keep it hidden. Keep it safe.” – maybe I’m alone in this but what this immediately brings to my mind is a nearly identical line from Lord of the Rings. Possibly I am just that geeky 😛

    Enjoyed the voice and the picture you build in the first 250. Keep in mind that her wine “glass” is going to be a little plastic cup on an airplane. Bottomless confused me at first until we got to the flight attendant constantly refilling it. (Do there remain any airlines where you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a glass of wine in-flight, by the way? Maybe a detail worth including.)

  5. Erin Fry February 17, 2015 at 3:46 am # Reply

    Wow. Some cool things going on here. I really like the opening of the Query pitch: “Keep it hidden. Keep it safe.” Great hook and sets a clear tone for where the story is going. And obviously Eve has her work cut out for her in this story. I think that’s probably where the query needs a little work: as I read, I was trying to hone in on the one thing that Eve needs or wants and it was tough. She’s lonely, she has assassins trying to kill her, she is trying to figure out her powers–I have no doubt that your story is going to be chock full of action and great moments of tension, but the query was a little overwhelming. Any way to streamline? What’s the big picture idea that we need to walk away with right now in order to want to read this?

    Your M.C.’s voice is great. I was a little confused by the “cup of red.” Figured it was wine but had to ponder a minute. And I am not sure the stuff about the deodorant fits in with the mood of these opening lines. You would know better—maybe your M.C. is going to be a little irreverent and snarky, but it didn’t quite match with her discussion of her grandfather and whoever is calling her. But that could just be me.

    Great writing and really cool premise. I can see this being something that would be fun to write, which, of course usually translates into something fun to read. Best of luck.

  6. Kamerhe Lane February 17, 2015 at 5:21 am # Reply

    Thanks for sharing this with me! I hope my comments are useful. Let me know if you have any questions. Leave a comment on my blog: https://kamerhesthebestthingsince.wordpress.com/

    Query:
    + Should the “Keep it hidden, keep it safe” part be in italics?
    + “But the moment…into her brain.” –I think you’ve got a missing word in this sentence.
    + How is “the same energy crackling through her”? Is this a new thing since she touched the stone?
    + Garden of Eden?! And her name is Eve?! Hehehehe…loving it 
    + 3rd paragraph—I’m starting to get lost… There was a Sumerian stone, some aliens, and a Garden of Eden and I was good. But now there are souls and god wannabes called Kenosi and Rome! Oh my…
    + Huh… what time period are we in?
    + I’m usually pretty good with Fantasy and I love me a novel with lots goings on (shoutout to George RR Martin and Larry McMurtry), but I’m getting lost, like Jennifer-Connelly-in-a-maze-with-Muppets lost.
    + Also, I think your query might be a little long. Could you simplify it? That might help with the getting-lost aspect. ‘Cuz overall, I’m intrigued by the concept. I like the fantastical stuff mixed in with history and religion. It’s super exciting 

    First 250:
    + LOOOOOVE that first paragraph—“but it had happened before”- LOL 
    + “My airline-assigned friend”- 
    + “disgusted”—should it be “disgust”?
    + “bleeding” is a bit strong for me. What do you think of “soaking”?
    + I didn’t get the “I hate quitters”
    + “part of the disembarking process”- 
    + love the last two paragraphs

    • Kamerhe Lane February 17, 2015 at 6:07 pm # Reply

      Just realized all my 🙂 showed up as boxes. Soooo, weird little boxy symbol=smiley face, i.e. things I liked/thought were awesome 🙂

  7. Melissa Menten February 17, 2015 at 6:08 am # Reply

    Hi there, #43 chiming in. Mine is at http://melissamentenwriter.blogspot.com/2015/02/sun-vs-snow-critique-blog-hop.html

    Query: I do think you are probably trying to include too much plot info here. Remember you just need to whet our appetite by introducing the character, conflict, and stakes with as much voice as you can.

    Query:

    I suggest you condense the first paragraph-it seems we need to know the Sumerian stone her grandfather gave her years causes an alien power to crackle through her and sends her on a quest. Not sure we need anything of the 2nd paragraph except that she discovers that artifacts can be alien weapons (if I interpret that right) and pose a threat to Rome. Is “this Light” in paragraph 3 the alien power? I can’t really tell, but here you throw in her loneliness which seems unrelated the way you’ve phrased it so I’m not sure how much of this paragraph is essential. The 5th paragraph could actually be a good opener if you include the info about the stone and the power it gave her being the motivation for these beings to want her. The 6th paragraph tells us some more of the personal consequences, but could be joined with the previous paragraph to up the stakes. The 7th paragraph is pretty good. If you add the word “alien” right before “Kenosi,” then it would be clear who they are. The last question I would change to a final statement of the stakes and make it clearer. She needs to stay hidden and safe from the aliens so they don’t get the power she can use, yet she is the only one who can defeat them and save Rome/the world? That’s a pretty good conflict/stakes if you can word it right.

    First 250: I would skip the first paragraph. It’s backstory you can reveal later when you introduce the stone, and the next paragraph is more interesting, filled with your protagonist’s voice. It also gives us info that she is not comfortable with flying. The third paragraph is also filled with voice. If you change “shirt” to “blouse” that’s an easy clue your MC is a woman, though you could some other descriptive clue to her gender here. Notice you have an “ed” on “disgust” that I don’t think you intend. I am not sure the “quitter” thing works and I’d rather have more clues in the 250 as to what type of story this is. So far, it could totally be just a contemporary adventure or romance. The part about being alone I am guessing is an important interior conflict for your character but it is almost lost so bring that out more. The last two paragraphs add tension, good for an opening page, but because you haven’t made it clear your MC is a woman, this could almost be a man dreading a phone from his ex-lover. If this is important, find a way to make it clear that this is a friend calling (unless by some chance, there is a lesbian thing in her background?) or her mother, as that possibility seems likely as well. My main point, I guess, is that we need a less mysterious clue as to who is calling because it’s great that she dreads the call, but why?

    Overall, it’s an exciting premise and your page shows promise of an entertaining adventure.

  8. Shanna February 17, 2015 at 6:34 am # Reply

    Query: I love that she has to take over a project that the grandmother was working on! That really hooks me.
    So much is happening plot wise that you could call it fantasy instead of fantasy elements.
    I used to watch Unsolved Mysteries all the time. Do you have the show worked into the novel in some meta way?
    Maybe add more mystery to the query?
    Wonderful idea!
    First 250:
    Very nice!
    Certainly giving a frantic, claustrophobic atmosphere-he’s equally disturbed by his own self as the plane travel.
    The first 250 don’t read as fantasy, so I see the Adult genre of the story here.
    You could push the first two lines into being even more shocking if you mention more about the fame of the grandfather’s disappearance.
    Overall: Intriguing story!

    • admin February 19, 2015 at 12:25 am # Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Shanna! I had an agent suggest using “Contemporary with fantastical elements” but I may just use Contemporary Magic Realism since that seem to be a closer fit.

  9. Lora Palmer February 17, 2015 at 6:00 pm # Reply

    Love the premise of your story, and you have a fun opening page! You already have some great ideas for tweaking the query and page, so I’ll just add that I would love to see a bit more tightening and voice in the query. I think you could consolidate several of the middle paragraphs into one paragraph highlighting that ever since she touched the artifact, she’s been displaying some rather nifty but out-of-control powers that could burn her from the inside out if she doesn’t learn to control them.

    Best of luck with this! 🙂

    • admin February 19, 2015 at 12:22 am # Reply

      Thanks Lora! Yes, I’m condensing down paragraph 3-5 in my query.

Leave a Reply