Getting Close

I posted my query exercise on Merry Monteleone’s site, which can be found in the side bar. After much good advice, I think I’m getting closer. Agent Kristen, who is also in the side bar, also has a lot of good advice about query letters.

My thanks to all the commenters and especially to Merry for hosting the exercise.

Dear Perfect Agent,

(Personalized introduction to agent.)

PALADIN’S PRIDE is complete at XXX words and it’s the first in a series.

Gentyl just wants to be a Horse Guard, but her dream fades, when her commander assigns her to wizard watch. Keeping an eye on a senile wizard with a talent for irritating nobles, botching spells and blowing things up won’t qualify her for the elite horse unit.

She learns Marak isn’t as addled as he wants people to believe, when he recruits her to help him solve the murder of the king’s last personal guard and the only remaining witness to the king’s disappearance. They discover the charismatic holy man cured the dying infant prince, but he isn’t who he says he is. Even they don’t realize Brother Timmons is an arch demon in human form, who was sent to gain the confidence of the young queen, however. With the king gone and the queen under the demon’s influence, a bloody civil war and genocide that will destroy Gentyl’s people grows closer.

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse Magazine for seventeen years. During that time, I wrote weekly stories about Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa racing in the United States , Canada and Mexico. I also wrote several stories about the history of various tracks and articles about equine health.



  1. Definitely an improvement! Excellent work. I do think there’s still a few rough edges, but I can see a much stronger query letter blooming out of what you’ve got here.

    First, a small niggle: I think your first two sentences would read more smoothly if they were combined into one with the conjunction “but”. (And by the way, I kinda liked the name Saerowyn for the wizard; it’s pretty. I didn’t associate it with Sauron at all, myself. Marak works well also, however.)

    These two sentences:

    They discover the charismatic holy man cured the dying infant prince, but he isn’t who he says he is. Even they don’t realize Brother Timmons is an arch demon in human form, who was sent to gain the confidence of the young queen, however.

    aren’t making sense to me. Is the first sentence missing the word “who” in between “man” and “cured”? That first sentence makes grammatical sense, but only if the holy man has been mentioned in the previous sentence, which he hasn’t been, which is why I’m wondering if you’re missing a word.

    The second of the quoted sentences has a larger structural issue. “[T]hey” apparently still refers to Gentyl and Marak, so who else is involved? When you say, “[e]ven they…”, that implies other people have been fooled by Brother Timmons also, but no such other people have been referred to in the query. Thus, the sentence seems to not make perfect logical sense.

    I think that second sentence would work better if it were streamlined to:

    Brother Timmons is an arch demon in human form, sent to gain the confidence of the young queen.

    My main concern with the rewritten version is that you’re still not focusing on Gentyl’s dilemmas enough. The first paragraph does do this, however, and quite nicely: Gentyl wants to be in the Horse Guard BUT she gets assigned to babysit a senile wizard instead. That’s good!

    It’s in the second paragraph where the query seems to not show the point of the story very well. Gentyl’s trying to solve the murder of the one man who could help explain the missing king’s disappearance BUT…what? How exactly does Brother Timmons get in her way? It isn’t enough to say a demon shows up; explain how he’s an obstacle to the protagonist’s quest.

    In your final sentence (“With the king gone…“), the second half of the sentence could stand to have a bit more punch. You could do this by making the high stakes seem more obviously the responsibility of Gentyl and Marak. For example:

    With the king gone and the queen under the demon’s influence, it’s up to Gentyl and Marak to prevent a bloody civil war and genocide.

    One last thing that would be nice would be to provide Gentyl’s motives for helping Marak. Would it be possible to alter the first sentence in paragraph 2 to show why Gentyl decides to help him? By saying Marak recruits Gentyl, you’re unintentionally making your protagonist seem passive. A little tweak of the language could fix that.

    Good luck with this, and I really do see a great improvement here! Keep working on it.

  2. JJ, good call and I think you’re right. It still needs work, but I am going to fiddle with it here instead of hogging Merry’s blog for eternity.

    The only thing I worry about is Gen goes through quite a bit before she meets Saerowyn (Marak), but the incident that starts it all is Aegis’ murder.

    I think I’m closer, but I know this isn’t the final version.

    I also liked the name Saerowyn for some reason, but I didn’t want people thinking I tagged Sauron’s name.

    Thanks again for all your help.

  3. Hey there,

    You weren’t hogging my blog, I had a lot of fun with that critique, I hope you’ll participate when we do Gina’s, probably tomorrow.

    And you see how cool JJ is, she and Josephine helped me tons with mine.

    By the way, the name Saerowyn, I didn’t mean to freak you out on it – that was just what came to my mind – I don’t think it would be something that made an agent say no, if they were concerned with it they would just voice it to you.

    Oh, and I tagged you!

  4. I had to post when you commented on Princess Kawananakoa
    I showed at her barn here in Hawaii and know her Hawaii trainer/barn manger wayne who is great-
    Her horses are to die for…
    In her barn office are photos of when she used to show… very cool…

  5. JJ

    Interesting. Gen wants to find Aegis’ killer also because he was a family friend. I had a part about the connection and cut it to save words.

    Gen is attacked by an assassin with a poisoned blade. The poison is so rare they have to take her to a woman who specializes in rare herbs. Unknown to her family and superiors, the orphanage matron has been taken over by evil, demon-calling baroness. She calls Timmons in to cure Gen. That gets him his introduction to court.

    Timmons is still weak in his human form and she still taps arcane energy to survive. He tries to feed off Gen, while he is examining her and forms a weak link with her in the process. She has some latent powers she’s not aware of yet, but he senses them and her connection to a magic object.

    His desire to possess her goes all the way to the bitter end.

    I had the line about him wanting to possess her in an earlier version, but it sounded really cheesy so I took it out.

  6. Merry, you didn’t freak me out about the name, but it does bear noting.

    Eep! I’ve been tagged.

    I’ll post something tomorrow after the Evil Editor party is over. Gee, I feel so loved. Getting invited to a game of tag.

  7. Patricia,

    I worked with Princess Kawananakoa’s northwest trainer, Lin Melton. He really was a sweetheart. He’d always give me a good quote to hang a story on and he was accessible, which is really nice when you’re on a tight deadline.

    She has some marvelous horses. You can tell they are a passion of hers.

    I have heard her place there is fabulous. Lucky you.

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