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Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXVIII

gladiator-sandal-1-24-07Shoes fit for a Greek Goddess for C.C., who’s query is the subject of today’s post. I know these “as always” reminders get repetitive, but thanks for remembering that the point here is to provide constructive criticism for the author, give your honest opinion about the query, and suggest ways you see of improving it. With that said, let’s get down to business!

Dear Ms. Schafer-Testerman (and which, if either, would you prefer to go by if not both? I’ve always been curious)[Ms. Testerman, since you asked!],

Greek geek Jessa Whitley gets the coolest chance-of-a-lifetime summer school trip to Greece and plans to become immersed in Greek mythology. Finding out she’s part of that mythology? Not as cool.

So far her trip has included: one uber-creepy stalker guy, a bizarre vision-inducing experience with a statue, and an attempt on her life that would’ve been successful had it not been for Paul. He just so happens to be Apollo personified and tells her she’s Hercules incarnate- less Kevin Sorbo and more Twelve Labors. Since the last person to hold the title kicked the bucket, its Jessa’s turn to fill those shoes.

Jessa bails— Texas and her normal life never seemed so attractive. But Paul follows her home, assigned the task of assisting Jessa in figuring out her new powers. He also helps to solve her cryptic, oracle-like visions of the Apocalypse. With the god of Death hunting her, along with every other daemon of the Underworld, she can use all the help she can get. But the god of the Underworld takes matters into his own hands and tells Jessa part of the truth in hopes of destroying her. She can still have her normal life. All she has to do is kiss her superhuman bad ass daemon slayer identity goodbye, which includes Paul and pretty much the rest of the world. Being the savior to all humanity totally isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

I’m an active member of the SCBWI, North Texas RWA and DFW Writers’ Workshop, which hosts the annual DFW Writers’ Conference in Dallas, Texas. The full manuscript of MYTHIC, A YA fantasy complete at around 70,000 words, is immediately available for review at your request.

All the Best,

I feel like I’ve seen a lot of ancient-myths-in-modern-life stories lately, and whether that’s the result of the popularity of the Percy Jackson books, or just a cyclical thing that happens, I like it. That said, however, since there are so many of these manuscripts out there, much like in other paranormal subgenres, it really needs to pop to keep my attention.

This is close, but not quite there.

I think you tried to put too much information into your first sentence: “Greek geek Jessa Whitley gets the coolest chance-of-a-lifetime summer school trip to Greece and plans to become immersed in Greek mythology.” That’s three versions of the word “Greek,” or a derivation of it, plus “geek” to confuse us. I’m also not sure that it works as a sentence. If you take out some of the adjectives — “Jessa gets the coolest summer school trip to Greece” — it seems to be missing something. Maybe “Jessa gets the chance of a lifetime to take a summer school trip to Greece.” Or maybe not, but something is just a little off. Also, is her plan to really to become immersed in Greek mythology, or in the study of it?

Moving on, I think you should clarify if Paul is the “uber-creepy stalker guy”. I love that you’ve flipped things on their head a bit and made Jessa the reincarnation of Hercules, pretty much the buffest of the buff Greek gods, instead of a vampy female goddess of love. That said, while the Kevin Sorbo reference works for me, the show went off the air in 1999. Even putting aside the fact that it may take as much as two years to get a novel from manuscript to book, your intended YA audience of 13 to 18 year olds now would have been between 2 and 7 years old when “Kevin Sorbo as Hercules” meant something. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive about the timing. What do you guys think?

I’m also a little confused about how Jessa got to be Hercules incarnate. Was she born with it, and it’s taken Paul this long to find her and tell her? Did something recently happen on the trip that revealed things to her? Or did Herc just sort of get zapped into her when his old host body died?

The next paragraph totally loses me. I feel like you’ve moved from Greek myths to generic save-the-world stuff. I’m not asking for an exact retelling of the Twelve Labors of Hercules, but saving the world from daemons is pretty common stuff in YA right now. What makes your novel stand out?

Your credits and closing paragraph are fine. Readers, how would you help C.C. refine her query to keep and catch an agent’s attention? And how excited are you for the remake of Clash of the Titans? (Although there could be more Pegasus in the trailer, if you ask me.)

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