Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXXVII

March 19th, 2010 • Kate

BGM008_HEEL_LGThis gorgeous Badgley Mischka pump came up multiple times when I searched for an image for this post, so clearly, it was meant to be. Anyway, I got a number of queries when I asked for them recently, so while I’m going to be out of the office all next week for the Bologna Book fair, I’m going to be serving up an extra helping of AMQ posts for your comments. You may need to do some of the heavy lifting, though. I can trust you, right? I’ll also have another guest post from the fabulous Intern Jenny, one from kt literary client Amy Spalding, and one from the Web Monkey himself, about living with an agent (me).

But for now, let’s get to today’s query!

Dear Daphne:

In 2009, Charley Afortiori died; in 2014, she is resurrected. The first real success story, Charley is to cryonics as Dolly was to cloning. But not everyone ethically approves of her second chance at life, and Charley soon finds herself assaulted by hate mail and crank calls.

Although Charley is still seventeen, everything else has changed. Her friends have grown up and moved on. A new guy, Ryan Lewis, has moved in next door. Her parents’ marriage is deteriorating, and Charley suspects her dad is having an affair. As Charley tries to prove her dad’s infidelity with Ryan’s help, she discovers sinister secrets about her death.

Charley’s parents let her believe that she died heroically, driving off the road to avoid a collision with an oncoming car. But someone out there knows the truth, that she actually swerved the wrong way and they collided. That someone has gotten close to Charley. And that someone will stop at nothing to ensure that justice is served.

A YA science fiction novel complete at 45,000 words, FREEZING CHARLEY will appeal to fans of Scott Westerfeld and Robin Wasserman.

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

Best wishes,
D.Q.

This is really interesting! I don’t have a ton of comments, since I think you’ve done a good job with this — and, in fact, if you want to send me five chapters and a full synopsis, I’d love to read more. But I think you could go into a little more detail about why Charley doesn’t remember the facts of her own death. The over emphasis on “someone” in the third paragraph also reads as a little awkward, and makes me feel like maybe I know who that “someone” is already.

Ok, maybe I have a few more comments — which didn’t jump out at me the first time, because it’s a good hook. But if I’m going to be picky, in the line, “The first real success story, Charley is to cryonics as Dolly was to cloning”, I think you might want to identify what kind of success story Charley is. Maybe “The first real cryonics success story, Charley is to that burgeoning science as Dolly was to cloning.” Or maybe “Their first real success story, Charley is to the cryonics industry as Dolly was to cloning.” It just feels a little assumptive to me.

I also prefer that authors don’t assume their books “will appeal” to fans of other authors, but rather “might” or “should” appeal.

What do you guys think?

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16 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXXVII”

  1. Carrie Harris Says:

    I love this too! It's exactly the kind of book I'd pick up off the shelf.

    My only constructive bit of criticism is that I wonder what Ryan adds to the query. Yes, he might be a big part of the story, but does he need to be mentioned here? He's not really adding much other than the fact that he exists and is "helping."

  2. Sandy Shin Says:

    This is a wonderful query! I'd definitely pick this up in a bookstore. :]

    I'd also like to echo Carrie's criticism. I kept wondering what Ryan has to do with the story, and thought he is that "someone." I'm not quite sure if that's the conclusion I'm supposed to arrive at…

  3. Lisa Aldin Says:

    This sounds like a great book. You've such a great hook! Good job and congrats!

  4. write-brained Says:

    Yeah, I feel like she's just about there with this one (I agree with your points about "someone")! And woo-hoo, you asked for pages–score!! 🙂

  5. Lysh Says:

    I agree with the "someone" bit. And I don't know, I guess it depends on who you're querying to, if it's okay to mention other authors or assuming who will read the book. I've heard different things. BUT this book sounds really good! It's a unique storyline. I would actually definitely read this.

  6. Karen Says:

    Ooooh! I don't have anything constructive to add. I just love when you request stuff from these About My Query posts.

    Congrats and good luck D.Q.!

  7. Adam Heine Says:

    This is nice. Halfway through I forgot I was reading a query critique and thought I was reading the back of a published book.

    The only thing that halted me at all was I wasn't sure 5 years was long enough for everyone to have "grown up and moved on." But I guess when you're 17, those 5 years are like an epoch.

  8. Janet B Says:

    Agreed that the hook is enough to get an agent to ask for more. And it worked! But I struggled with the third paragraph. Why is it a big deal that Charley collided instead of swerved off the road? That doesn't seem like enough of a dilemna, although I am sure it is when you read the story. I think in the query you should make it clearer why that distinction is such a big deal–big enough to make someone want to hunt down our heroine to do what–seek revenge or just tell her her life is a lie?

  9. Katie Says:

    Congratulations on being asked for pages. The concept of the book sounds really interesting but I have two issues.

    First of all isn't cryo when you freeze someone who is still alive and then unfreeze them. It sounds to me that Charley has gone through a more Frankenstein like process- she was dead and brought back to life. Anyway, my point is simply that I think you are miss using terminology so I would be wary of that because I found it rather confusing. I wanted to know more about her death (or almost death as I assumed it must have been for her to be cryogenically frozen)both in a good way- intriguing concept- and in a bad way- not quite adding up with your terminology.

    The other thing I would flag up is what Janet already pointed out- you kind of lost me with your "big deal." I mean, having only left teenager-dom recently I am fully aware that things like your parents relationship and the boy next door seem very important at the time but I just wonder if they are enough to fuel a novel. So, I would definitely encourage you to flush out the "someone" who is trying to find Charley and the 'why' they are trying to find her if you end up having to re-write this query.

    I hope things pan out for you with KT. Best of Luck.

  10. Chantal Kirkland Says:

    I really like the premise and would pick it up, except that it's laid-out right now more like a mystery revolving around finding-out the circumstances of her own death and her dad's infidelity. I know there's more to the story, there has to be, otherwise it wouldn't be 45K. I'd have liked to hear more about the relationship and it's affect on her, that kind of thing that will appeal to the YA reader. But I also want to note: If Ryan is the dude trying to bring her to justice (which is where my mind went automatically), that might be a disappointment…just sayin'. I do love it, though–and I'd definitely read it!

  11. Darra Says:

    I'd probably read it, although five years doesn't seem like an insurmountable social hurdle between her and her former peer group. Ten might be.

  12. Wendy Oliver Says:

    I think five years is plenty – her friends had to grieve and move on years ago. They're probably scattered at college by now. A lot of high school friendships don't survive, anyway.

    My concern is the confusion of "someone." And specifically, if she's the one who was mostly killed, why is someone out for "justice." I can only assume that Charley caused the accident and killed "Someone's" family member.

    Congrats on the request! Your story sounds really interesting. Good luck!

  13. Krista V. (the forme Says:

    I agree with Katie – not sure how the cryo fits into the story, as that involves freezing someone and then thawing them back out. You might want to explain that in a little more detail.

    Also, this reminds me quite a bit of Mary E. Pearson's THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX. It might be worth checking out that book and figuring out how you can differentiate yours in your query.

  14. Olleymae Says:

    This query definitely got me interested! I also automatically thought of THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX because there are some similar elements. Nothing's really new under the sun, though, so I wouldn't worry about that much, but I would definitely take Krista V.'s advice, and try to show why your novel is unique.

    I think it's funny that several people are guessing Ryan is the "someone" — I automatically thought it was the woman that Charlie suspected her dad of having an affair with.

    I hope this works out for you, D.Q.!!!!!!!

  15. DQ Says:

    Just wanted to drop by and say thanks so much for the amazing feedback everyone! It's definitely super helpful, and it's made the gears in my head do some more turning about my query letter.

    And I guess just to address a few of the more specific points –

    I suppose as it is, Ryan does seem a little static/just there in the query; will try to rework it so that he's either cropped out or his role more prominently alluded to.

    I was actually a little surprised to see how many people thought "someone" was Ryan; in all honesty, it hadn't even occured to me that it could come off as that way before. Reading the query with new eyes now, I definitely can see the point about the awkwardness about using "someone." While writing the query, I was just kind of stuck on the fence about whether to leave a little bit of mystery or to reveal one of the major twists. Will have to rephrase that paragraph somehow though – thanks for pointing it out!

    As for the 5 years thing, I'm actually 17 right now, and to me, personally, five years feels like a long time away. Right now, faced with university decisions and senioritis, it's kind of hard to fathom the future five years from now, because that would be after the completion of an undergrad degree and everything. I guess just from this perspective, it looks pretty colossal to me. I have been considering making the time period longer though, mostly because of whether cryo-tech will have enough time to advance that far in the next half-decade.

    Ah, now that it's been pointed out, can see the awkwardness of the terminology and such. I'll try to make those paragraphs less so. I've been hearing about The Adoration of Jenna Fox a fair bit recently, so I'll definitely have to check that one out some time.

    Thank you all so much for all the great concrit! Really appreciate it! 🙂

    Cheers

  16. Bill Giovannetti Says:

    Sounds fun, and best wishes going forward with this one. I also like that you're willing to take critique! Congrats on that. The tense shift in the first sentence left me wondering a bit, as did the adverb "ethically" before "approved".

    I like the straightforward, declarative sentences of the second paragraph. The third para left me a bit confused, but I think that was your point. I get the impression it's also what your story is about — the unfolding drama of how Charly really died. If the cryo part is simply a device to freeze Charly in time for 5 years, your reader may be a bit disappointed. I hope you get into the technology, the story, even perhaps the inner experience of being Frozen Charly.

    You use a rhetorical term (a fortiori = a type of logical argument) and I wonder if your character lives up to that name.

    Best wishes. You have a great idea and an excellent voice.