Thursday, September 8, 2016

Minki Pool's Current Query Critiqued

Today we have Minki Pool's current query for her Spec Fic novel SPADILLE. Be sure to check out Minki's website.

The query:

After the death Suicide? Murder? Freak Accident? Be specific. of his twin sister, Christopher Langley WHO IS CHRIS? I mean, we can assume he's an adult male, since you don't call this book YA in your housekeeping details below, but what kind of person is he? Why should we care about whether or not he achieves his goals? Why should we root for him? Even just a little bit goes a long way. Have you seen Mr. Robot? The protagonist in that show, Elliot, is not the most likable guy at the beginning, but we root for him. We care about him because he is vulnerable, and while he isn't perfect, he tries to do what he thinks is right. You have to introduce us to Christopher the CHARACTER before you introduce us to Christopher's STORY, or we won't have a vested interest in whether or not he succeeds. Right now the biggest problem with this query is the lack of a sense of CHARACTER. spends his nights hacking the multi-player virtual reality dream world of Spadille, This is going to be very difficult to describe in a query. I'm sure it makes sense in the book, but it's not clear here how this works. Is Spadille a game? A dream? A virtual reality? I get the feeling it's all three, but you need to try to make it clearer how that works. Is there data stored on a server somewhere? On many servers? There kind of has to be in order for Christopher to be able to hack it. Or is it more like a neural network, or something newer and stranger? Try to watch and read in this genre, to see how other creators have dealt with this. Read and watch stories like STRANGE DAYS and NEUROMANCER and so on. looking for answers. Answers to what? And why would Spadille have them? I get that you probably mean answers to why his sister (killed herself, was murdered, etc.) but the reader has no idea why answers to those questions would be somehow kept in Spadille. But then he gets caught and has to cut a sinister deal to stay out of prison: he must hack into Spadille one last time and kill its Goddess Queen, Desiderata. This is pretty damn good. A great inciting incident that's still a bit WTF because we don't know how a lot of this works, but this is really specific, and sets up a very interesting concept of an antagonist.

It sounds easy enough, Not to me. Maybe the hacking part, since he's done it before, and will now be sanctioned (I assume, by whoever caught him, the government? Or something?) but the killing part doesn't sound so easy. Unless, I guess, she's just a program like agents in THE MATRIX? Either way, I would suggest you maybe touch on something about why killing her sounds easy. until he finds himself holding his partner’s Why this word? Do you not mean girlfriend? Lover? Partner feels cold and clinical, but if that's really what you mean, it might help clarify their relationship. avatar as she bleeds to death in the dream. He has never met her in real life, but when he wakes up, he is covered in blood. Again, this is really good. Keep this.

Chris investigates his partner’s fate, but instead ends up responsible for a dream junkie called Myr. How? Myr’s addiction has destroyed her career and her health in the waking world (or something like that?), but in Spadille she is a revered handmaiden of the Goddess Queen. Chris hopes to use Myr in order to finally get to Desiderata, but it looks like Desiderata has become more powerful than any one human As opposed to someone from another species? Just cut the word human, unless there really are aliens in this story. can handle.

Every night, through wireless oneirotech implanted into the brain, THIS. Put this up above. Now the details and specs of how Spadille works make sense. millions of people log into Spadille as they go to sleep. Every morning all of their dreams are consolidated and televised like an endless soap opera. The dream is big, it is popular, and through the oneirotech Desiderata has found a way to download her religion straight into the minds of all the dreamers. This probably goes on a bit long, but this is strong. If you can make this more concise, this would fit really well coming earlier.

More and more people are starting to worship her, and their blind belief is bringing the dream to life. Their conviction is somehow turning Spadille into an alternate reality that threatens to become more real than the original. Cut all of this.

Neither Chris nor Myr knows whether Desiderata is a human avatar with incredible power, an intelligent virus, Again, make this point above. or something even more sinister, but they know that if they don’t manage to kill her, the very fabric of reality may be at stake.

In Spadille Chris and Myr are enemies, but in real life they are allies on the verge of becoming friends. Now they have to decide whether they are willing to sacrifice each other, the dream, or even themselves, for a reality that has never given them anything. This is pretty good as choices go, but at this point this query is far too long and you need to start cutting.

SPADILLE, a novel of speculative fiction, is complete at 102 000 words.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.

This query is 373 words long. That's too long. Try to cut it to 250 if you can, but definitely under 300. I get that it's difficult to pare this stuff down, and I know I've harped on specificity with you when we've worked on this before, but you're really treading into synopsis territory here.

CHARACTER, CONFLICT, CHOICE. That's all you need. You don't even HAVE to have CHOICE, but it's pretty standard for most queries to end with a sadistic choice of some kind, so agents are used to seeing it.

That said, this is getting much, much better. You've got details of the world and details of the characters in here that you did not before, and this is really starting to come together. It's clear you listened to me about specificity, and although that makes many improvements here, it also means you're sharing too much with the reader in this query. Remember, a query has only one job: to get the agent's assistant to read the pages, or request some if the agency's guidelines don't allow pages to be included. That means entice the reader, but also get it over with quickly.

Here are your beats:

  • Chris, a lonely hacker with no relationships to speak of outside the virtual reality, loses his twin sister to (some kind of death).
  • He gets caught hacking, and turns spy.
  • His in game partner dies, and her death somehow leaks into the real world.
  • He meets Myr (more on how this works or why it happens would help).
  • Together they must decide how to take down Desiderata (great reference by the way, I assume you know the poem?).

That's it. I mean, at least as far as plot points go, that's all you need to touch on. Anything else is too much.

That's it.

What do you all think? Would you disagree on anything?

The query, again, so you can see it without my notes.

After the death of his twin sister, Christopher Langley spends his nights hacking the multi-player virtual reality dream world of Spadille, looking for answers. But then he gets caught and has to cut a sinister deal to stay out of prison: he must hack into Spadille one last time and kill its Goddess Queen, Desiderata.

It sounds easy enough, until he finds himself holding his partner’s avatar as she bleeds to death in the dream. He has never met her in real life, but when he wakes up, he is covered in blood.

Chris investigates his partner’s fate, but instead ends up responsible for a dream junkie called Myr. Myr’s addiction has destroyed her career and her health, but in Spadille she is a revered handmaiden of the Goddess Queen. Chris hopes to use Myr in order to finally get to Desiderata, but it looks like Desiderata has become more powerful than any one human can handle.

Every night, through wireless oneirotech implanted into the brain, millions of people log into Spadille as they go to sleep. Every morning all of their dreams are consolidated and televised like an endless soap opera. The dream is big, it is popular, and through the oneirotech Desiderata has found a way to download her religion straight into the minds of all the dreamers.

More and more people are starting to worship her, and their blind belief is bringing the dream to life. Their conviction is somehow turning Spadille into an alternate reality that threatens to become more real than the original.

Neither Chris nor Myr knows whether Desiderata is a human avatar with incredible power, an intelligent virus, or something even more sinister, but they know that if they don’t manage to kill her, the very fabric of reality may be at stake.

In Spadille Chris and Myr are enemies, but in real life they are allies on the verge of becoming friends. Now they have to decide whether they are willing to sacrifice each other, the dream, or even themselves, for a reality that has never given them anything.

SPADILLE, a novel of speculative fiction, is complete at 102 000 words.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Now that's really it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Review of The Memory of Things, by Gae Polisner


Before I get started on my review, here is the jacket copy, from Goodreads:

The powerful story of two teenagers finding friendship, comfort, and first love in the days following 9/11 as their fractured city tries to put itself back together.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.


THE MEMORY OF THINGS, by Gae Polisner is one of the best young adult novels I have ever read. It's poignant, and powerful, and oh so painful. It's told in this brilliant kind of uneven, stumbling rhythm to the prose that would probably ruin the pacing of most stories, but works wonders for this tale, leaving you feeling like you're reading wounded, crawling haphazardly away from the wreckage of your own despair.

We all remember 9/11, but there are many points view through which that horror can be recalled, and Kyle and his silent, nameless friend's are simultaneously two of the most harrowing and deeply moving lenses through which to recall those memories. This isn't so much a story about that disaster, or about tragedy in general, as it is a story about hope, and how the power of human kindness, and the resilience of mankind's spirit allows us to survive almost anything, and then, with time, eventually heal.

It's not the most exciting or epic tale, told almost exclusively from Kyle and his friend's points of view, almost the only two characters in the novel with speaking parts, and it almost all takes place in side of Kyle's little apartment in Brooklyn, and yet the emotions and the truths and the interactions of the characters are as grand and as sweeping, and more importantly-as authentic, as any narrative.

Anyway, assuming, with the obvious caveat of the potential trigger warning for anyone who lived through it, I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. It touched me deeply, and I believe it will move you too.

You can find out more about Gae Polisner, on:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Izanami's Choice, by Adam Heine




Well, it's been almost a year since I blogged, but this great book by my friend Adam Heine is now available for pre-order, and I wanted to tell some people about it, in case anyone still reads this thing. Here's the jacket copy from Goodreads:

Samurai Vs. Robots.

Progress. Murder. Choice.

In 1901, the Meiji Restoration has abolished the old ways and ushered in a cybernetic revolution. Androids integrate into society at all levels, following their programming for the betterment of every citizen, as servants, bodyguards, and bureaucrats. Jinzou are the future. Japan is at the threshold of a new tomorrow!

As a ronin steeped in the old ways, Itaru wants nothing more to do with the artificial creations posing as human. But when a jinzou is suspected of murder, he's pulled into a mystery that could tear the nation apart.

Malfunction or free will? When is a machine more than just a machine?

I always enjoy Adam's writing, but this story in particular captured my attention with its lush retro-future Japan setting, and its ability to ask compelling questions about androids, artificial intelligence, and morality without gumming up the story works of pacing, action, and intrigue.

It's full of combat, and adventure, and escapes, and murderous robots, and just enough mystery to keep you guessing what everyone (and every droid and AI) is up to right up until the end.

I had the good fortune to read an early version of this Novella, and it doesn't come out officially until September 1st, but you can pre-order it now, and there may be some advance e-galleys available for those willing to write an honest review.

You should definitely get your hands on it one way or the other if it sounds like your kind of thing.

Find it on: Amazon | Broken Eye Books | Goodreads

Monday, August 24, 2015

Is This Thing On?

If anyone still comes here, I'm over at Project Mayhem for the last time in a while today, so please stop by if you have a moment.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blazing Courage over at Project Mayhem

I'm actually blogging today! Can you believe it? I know, I know. Don't get me started.

Please just drop on by Project Middle Grade Mayhem, and take a gander at my post about Kelly Milner Halls' debut MG novel, Blazing Courage.