Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXII

November 27th, 2009 • Kate

amberpurpleThese gorgeous shoes are from a British company called Amber and Jade, which as far as I can tell, specializes in large size shoes for women. We love them! Anyway, for your post-turkey day food coma, following please find a query from Jade, which I’m happy to share for your review and critique. Allons-y!

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

Be careful what you write because it will come true.

Stella Tomas’s six-month stint as an exchange student in the U.S ends in a particularly auspicious manner. Dropped off at JFK a day early by her obviously frightened host-family, Stella is put on a plane back to Australia with three parting gifts: a charm bracelet, a sack of marbles and an ancient power known as the Scribe.

Of course, Stella doesn’t know that she’s been used like a magical drug-mule. Nor does she realise that her dull life in Canberra is about to take a few turns towards the peculiar.

First Stella makes her physics teacher go insane simply by writing the words. Then Stella’s long-time crush starts following her around like a paranoid babysitter, which is odd considering he barely noticed her before. Finally there’s the crazy bag-lady who has taken to standing on her lawn at all hours of the night.

Oh, and the potentially possessed charm bracelet. Can’t forget that.

Just when Stella thinks the level of weirdness in her life can’t rise any higher, she meets Noelle, aforementioned crazy-bag lady, who is in fact a Spook.

The Spooks are members of a paranormal community whose job it is to protect the last remaining magical Potents; ancient powers that can be passed from one person to the next. The Scribe is the most valuable of these Potents, as it gives its Keeper the ability to make something come true just by the writing the words.

So on top of now having to be careful what she writes in her diary, Stella also has to keep an eye out for the Screams. They’re the bad dudes of Spookland and they want the Scribe more then anything, because who ever possesses it can change the fate of the world will a few simple strokes of a pen.

Spookland is a YA paranormal and is complete at 70 000 words and available upon you request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


As I’m off to spend some more family time with the Implausibles, I’m going to add my thoughts in the comments in a few hours. In the meantime, what do you think?

Filed Under: About My Query, Ask Daphne!

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19 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXII”

  1. Holen Says:

    I like the concept. The query was a bit long for me, and the sentence about making her physics teacher go insane seemed ambiguous. I had to read it a few times to figure out that she must've written "He's insane" or some variation of it…

    Also, I liked the drug-mule comparison, but the follow through wasn't really there. The screams are mentioned, and I'm assuming they were supposed to be the end-users of these magic powers, but there was so much in between the drug-mule mention and their appearance that it seemed like the book's not really going to be about that.

    So cut down the query. (Yes, I get the irony of taking so many words to spit out that opinion.)

  2. Kristi Says:

    I like the premise of the story and love the magical drug-mule line, but got a little overwhelmed by the Spooks, Screams, Scribe, and Potents. I'd try to simplify things a little and put everything else in the synopsis but that's just one opinion. Also, I'd take out some of your adverbs – the sentences would be stronger without them. Other than that, it's a strong letter and made me want to read more. Hope that helps and best of luck with your ms.

  3. Jade Says:

    Hello. I'm the author.

    I just wanted to say that I haven't queried this yet and I'm really open to advice. Plus, I'm a big girl so I can take it! I appreciate all suggestions so keep them coming.


    P.S Thanks Kristi, I had a feeling that it might have a bit too much going on.

  4. Kate Says:

    OK, I've done my family duty for the day, and am chilling in the hotel room with Rexroth and Trixie. So on to my thoughts on this query!

    I like the twist you've got going on with "Be careful what you write…" but I wonder if you can make this even more powerful. Maybe "Be careful what you wish for… especially if you put in writing."

    Moving on, I read "auspicious" as good, and yet the way it seems as if you're using it, you're setting up Stella to have a tough beginning — trip cut short, frightened host family, unwanted parting gifts. Maybe you want "inauspicious"? Or something else entirely.

    Moving on, I love the idea of Stella being used as a magical drug mule. And I think the first couple of short paragraphs are ok as is, but moving onto the fourth paragraph, I would drop the sentence about the bag lady to use later, and leave the next paragraph about the charm bracelet out entirely.

    After that, though, it gets very confusing, as Kristi says, with trying to keep track of the Scribes, Spooks, Screams, and Portents. They may all be fine in your manuscript, but you may want to consider leaving them out of your query.

    Minor quibble: you say the manuscript is "available upon you request" instead of "on your request."

    Finally, if you're seeking a US publication for this novel, instead of publication in Australia where most of the story is set (and where, I assume — judging from some of your grammar and spelling — you are also located) you may want to consider a term other than "Spooks" and by extension, "Spookland," which has a history of a negative racial connotation in the US. Did that bother anyone else?

  5. Kristi Says:

    It didn't bother me as I read it but I think it's because she mentioned Spooks as members of a paranormal community so I was thinking along the lines of 'spooky' rather than racial terms. However, since you pointed it out and I re-read the query, now I can't help but think of the racial connotation. I'm also originally from North Carolina where that word is still used in a negative way, so I would agree that if Jade is hoping to publish globally, it might be best to find a more neutral term.

  6. Jade Says:

    Hi again. Yes, I'm an Aussie

    Wow, I had no idea about the racial thing at all. That's something for me to think about definitely because I wouldn't want to offend anyone in that way.

    Thanks again for everyone for their advice, I really appreciate it. I've been working on my query for a few months (perhaps I shouldn't admit that!) and I feel like I've hit a dead end with it.

  7. Rissa Watkins Says:

    When I read Spooks I thought of the CIA.

    I liked the query. I would definitely read this book after reading this query.

    I agree that cutting back some would make it easier to track, however to introduce the main conflict you have to give info about the Screams. So you should include the Spooks to explain her allies. Maybe you can cut out the Potents and the Scribe parts?

    It sounds like a very cool book though.

  8. Kate Says:

    Extra bonus About My Query post today, if you're interested! Go here and help out another writer with her query. Thanks!!

  9. Vicky Says:

    I liked the query. It caught my attention. Especially the drug mule part : ) it was a little crowded but nothing a little cutting won't fix. Keep it up!

  10. Sara Raasch Says:

    I like the premise, but I agree with the others in that it could definitely be trimmed. The explanation of the bag-lady and the Spooks should be saved for a synopsis, while the main storyline of Stella's discovery of these magic artifacts and her dealing with them should be the focus of the query. But I did think this was well written!

  11. Paul Says:


    You've got a good voice in your query. I do think it could be trimmed. I wrote cover copy for my novel and then added a couple sentences just to give a little more detail. If you want to take a look at it it's posted on my blog on the page labeled Placement.

    Good luck!

  12. Jade Says:

    Vicky, Sara and Paul–Thanks for coming over to have a look at my query. I got twice as much love from you guys today!

    Thanks for all the comments. The trimming of the fat will commence once the hell that is NaNo is over!

  13. Adam Heine Says:

    You've got some great advice here already. So I'll just say that the big question that popped in my head was why couldn't she just write the Screams away? "There are no screams." You know?

    I'm sure this hole is handled in the novel. For the query, it might be as simple as changing "the ability to make something come true" to "the ability to make almost anything come true".

    That said, I think the voice is strong, I love the magical drug-mule line, and I first thought of CIA when I read Spooks too. But better safe than sorry.

  14. Susan Says:

    I got an overall positive impression here–it sounds like fun!

    I also live in NC and "spooks" only gave me pause for a second. It's just not a word we use much. Definitely, it's a synonym for ghosts, but I think you'd only use it if you happen to be writing lyrics to some sort of children's Halloween song. Otherwise, I do think of it in the spy sense and only really thought of it as a racial slur for half a sec. (And can I stand up for my region here and say that I've never actually heard anyone use that term as a racial slur except in the movies? "Back to the Future," specifically.)

    I feel exceedingly dumb here, but what is a magical drug-mule and why is Stella being used as one? Is the mule magical or are the drugs? Am I just not hip enough to understand what's going on? I thought she was sent back to Australia with a magical power, but is she being used to smuggle drugs or something? I feel like somebody's uncool Mom asking, but I'm just not getting the reference.

    Lastly, like Adam above, I wondered why Stella has to worry about the Screams because couldn't she just write them away? I'm sure you've set up some sort of rules for her power and maybe they don't need to be explained in the query, but I thought I'd let you know, that bit about "has to keep an eye out for Screams" made me want to argue back.

    Best of luck with it! 🙂

  15. Stina Says:

    This is a very energetic voice with tons going on in the query. But unlike most queries that cram too much into them, I found this one compelling. I would still simplify it though. Everyone has already given you some great advice here. Have your read the Inkheart series? In a small way, it reminds me of that series. Meggie was able to change the course of events by rewriting a scene from the original story. Much like what Adam and Susan had mentioned.

  16. Jade Says:

    Hello yet again.

    Yes the loop-hole about Stella being able to just make the Screams not exist is dealt with in the story. I'm glad you guys pointed that out and I think I'll look at tweaking the query accordingly so others don't think the same thing.

    Susan–I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as a stupid question. The magical drug-mule line was just a reference to the fact that Stella was used like a drug-mule would be, i.e. to smuggle something out of the country, except instead of drugs she smuggled out a magical power. I could have said she was used like a magical-mule but I don't think people would have got that.

    I'm really unsure about the whole Spooks thing. Part of me thinks I should just change the name but the name has been ingrained in my head. The other half thinks I should just leave it as is and in the off chance it gets published I can look to changing then if need be. If anyone has any more thoughts on the issue feel free to shout them at me.

    Thanks again for all your suggestions and positive feedback, you have no idea how much I appreciate it!


  17. Adam Heine Says:

    Jade, I totally get how you feel about renaming things. Judging from the reactions here in the comments, it's probably not a huge deal if you leave it, just something to be aware of. But if you do change it, it'll only take a week or two before the new name becomes the only name in your head. That's how it was for me, anyway.

  18. Jade Says:

    Thanks Adam. I'm only hesitant because it seems silly to worry about offending people on a global scale unless it's going to be read by people on a global scale. Anyway, I'll give it some thought.


  19. Susan Says:

    See I didn't even know there was such a thing as a "drug-mule." That's how not plugged into the world of drug and mules, I am. People use mules to smuggle drugs? Nevermind, please don't tell me the details! 🙂

    Jade, you're probably right to leave the "spooks" term alone until it becomes a problem, if it even is one. It definitely wouldn't be a deal-breaker, IMO. They'd just suggest you change it to some other term.

    It sounds like you have a great attitude about tweaking the query!