Ask Daphne! About My Query LXI

June 25th, 2010 • Kate

stonesandalsA massage for your feet while you walk for A.H., who’s sent us his query for review today. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Dear Ms. Unfeasible:

For Hagai’s twenty-first birthday, his mother sends him a stone that gives visions of the future. But he doesn’t know why she sent it, or how, since she was killed eighteen years ago. Hagai’s not exactly a hero — the bravest thing he’s ever done is put peppers in his stew — yet when the stone shows his mother alive and in danger, he sets out to find her.

Air pirates and sky sailors are also after the stone, and Hagai soon loses it to a wanted sky’ler named Sam. Sam wants the stone to help him avenge his father, but it only shows him his own death. Hagai, he learns, receives many visions. So when Hagai tracks Sam down and demands he give the stone back — politely, of course, because Sam’s got a knife — Sam offers him a job instead.

Now Hagai, who grew up wanting nothing to do with sky’lers, is crew to one and fugitive from both pirates and police. He’s not sure he can trust Sam, and the stone haunts Hagai with visions of his own death.

Nonetheless, he’s determined to change the future and find his mother, if it’s not already too late.

AZRAEL’S CURSE is a 90,000-word science fantasy novel, available on request. It’s written to stand alone but has series potential. My
short story “Pawn’s Gambit,” set in the same world as AZRAEL’S CURSE, appeared recently in BENEATH CEASELESS SKIES. Thank you for your time and consideration.


On the whole, I think this is pretty well done. There’s sweet bits of character detail about Hagai — the stew thing is particularly nice — and I’m intrigued to know more about a world with both air pirates AND sky sailors. (And which ones are the sky’lers?)

But where I’m getting slightly hung up is the sense that the query seems to give me a lot of action, possibly the entire story of this novel plus the set up for the sequel. The alternative is that this is just the set-up for the bulk of the novel, covering the action is just the first few chapters, in which case, I think you can spare some of the detail, and tell me more about what happens after Hagai signs onto Sam’s crew.

Maybe I’m being picky. I know I’m much more inclined to say no to something than yes, so I’ll open up the floor to my more generous readers. What do you think? And how do you feel about the term “science fantasy”?

Filed Under: About My Query, Ask Daphne!

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15 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LXI”

  1. Kater Says:

    It sounds like steampunk to me. If I read this on the back of a paperback at B&N, I'd buy it.

    (Okay, truthfully, I'd see if the library had it first. I'm kinda cheap.)

  2. Anabelle Says:

    Whoa. I'm not exaggerating at all—I am now dying to read that. Sam sounds like an interesting antihero, and Hagai's lack of courage sounds like it could be turned into something comedic. I hope it's well-developed!

  3. Screaming Guppy Says:

    I also liked the character tidbits about Hagai. Sounds like some voice is making its way into the query, something I struggle with personally on my own queries!

    But I was confused by (and/or not liking) the fact that the stone is showing "his own death" to both Hagai and Sam?

    I'm also wondering what the theme/bigger idea is – which ties into Daphne's comment about a lot of action, I think?

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Allisyn Says:

    I agree with Kater- it does sound Steampunk.

    I'd want to read this, but if that does turn out to be the whole of the plot for this book I'd be very disappointed.

  5. Adam Heine Says:

    I'm glad people are liking the story. And thank you for the helpful comments/questions.

    The query covers about a third of the novel. So it's not all setup, but obviously there's more that happens once Hagai joins Sam's crew.

    Re: science fantasy. The story has the feel of fantasy, but there's science behind it all. So after much deliberation 'science fantasy' is what I landed on. Probably I should just go with the commenters here and call it steampunk.

  6. CFD Trade Says:

    Is this a new genre science fantasy? Just curious…was thinking also about genres lately like paranormal romantic commercial chick lit.

  7. Adam Heine Says:

    Not a new genre. More like an old, never-very-well-known subgenre of speculative fiction. Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun is a good example.

  8. Carrie Harris Says:

    I run into a similar genre problem, Adam. Lots of science in my book, but it doesn't read like hard sci-fi. I have most success hooking people in a one-liner if I stick with a genre they know rather than one that makes them say, "Uh…what's that?" I think calling it steampunk would help alleviate that.

    Good luck with it!

  9. Adam Heine Says:

    Thanks, Carrie. That's really great advice. Sometimes I'm too precise for my own good 😉

  10. Krista V. Says:

    Yep, calling it steampunk will give agents and readers a label they can instantly grab hold of. And I love the little details that highlight Hagai's character.

    About those details, though. You set both of them off with long dashes at the end of their paragraphs. You may want to change up that sentence structure a bit, just for variation's sake.

    On the whole, though, nice job.

  11. Kate Says:

    For the record, CFD Trade, I like to steer clear of using more than two words in your book's genre description. Stick with Paranormal Romance, or Chick Lit, rather than trying to say everything you want to say in the genre.

  12. Rissa Watkins Says:

    This reminds me a bit of the Shannara series of books by Terry Brooks. (one of my favorite authors) Those are considered fantasy (possibly high fantasy).

    If yours has more science in it, like others have said, steam punk might be right. It depends on how your science is presented.

    I wouldn't create my own genre though. Agents are busy and might decide they don't want to bother figuring out what you mean.

    Story sounds good though.

  13. DeAnna Says:

    I'm not in on the science fantasy; I'd want something a bit more stylized and Victorian-sounding to believe that. I'd just call it "fantasy" or "steampunk" or just not call it anything. It's pretty clear in the query that there's action, there's adventure, there's a cool setting, there's magic, we're good.

    I'd ask for a partial and a synopsis, and forget about reading the end of the synopsis if the writing was any good. As a reader, I'd do a flip test, and if a few paragraphs looked good, I'd buy it.

  14. DeAnna Says:

    And I love Gene Wolfe 🙂

  15. Shannon Says:

    There is a movie that sound similar to this just by what I've read in your query, "Treasure Planet." It's a kid animated movie.

    They are probably different enough to not be a problem, but you might to take a look at it.

    Otherwise, I like the sound of the book. I would like Sam and Hagai to be developed a little bit more. I found myself thinking 'wait' who has the stone? Who has the vision?'

    I'd buy it.