#Holiday Query Blog Hop –Far Rider

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I’ve been participating in pitch madness #pitmad on twitter, which would only logically lead to query madness.  It’s pretty tough to sum up a book in 140 characters, especially when you write a fairly complex epic fantasy, but it was fun. I think. Are headaches fun?

Anyway, the fabulous Michelle Hauck is hosting a Holiday Query Blog Hop. Queriers post their queries then link them on her site. They then critique the five above them and the five below them. It should be fun. http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.com/2014/12/holiday-query-blog-hop.html

So, here is the query for Far Rider, my epic fantasy. It’s over the ideal 250 words, but it’s one page. Hopefully agents will overlook the extra words.

They say bad news rides a fast horse. Kaelyn Diarmand’s bad news came on a dead horse ridden by her equally dead M’Eiryn uncle.

The M’Eiryn are warrior horse masters–barbarians, invited to settle in Tamarland after they helped the king defeat the demon armies. Her mother’s people are “civilized” and settled, building great cities and learning centers. Kaelyn is neither barbarian nor civilized, caught somewhere in between and belonging nowhere.

She should have been a Far Rider, a courier in the elite M’Eiryn cavalry, like her father. With the king missing and her dead uncle blamed for it, a bloody civil war that will destroy the M’Eiryn looms and Far Riders are never more needed. However, her mother concocts a wild scheme to keep Kaelyn out of the Far Riders that almost gets her killed and exposes her to a returned demon lord. The demon now wants to destroy her before she reveals him to the world. What’s worse, a handsome privateer wants to use her to disgrace his heroic father and she’s not at all immune to his charms. A senile sorcerer wants to…well, who knows for sure? He’s senile.

With her very survival at stake, she sneaks into the fledgling, and disdained, women’s unit of the military to learn how to fight. Then, perhaps, she can become a Far Rider and help save the M’Eiryn, even if it means going to war against her mother’s people.

Far Rider is an epic fantasy with series potential, complete at 145,000 words. I’m a huge proponent of Joss Whedon’s advice, “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”

I was a lead writer for Speedhorse Racing Report, a weekly horse racing magazine, for twenty-three years where I wrote race and human interest stories. I’m now with Raincrow Studios, an indie game developer specializing in games with a strong, fantasy narrative. I also raised Quarter Horses for years and I’m from a ranching background, so the horse details are authentic.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. nikolavukoja

    Hi there,

    At first I wasn’t convinced about the first line but after reading it 2-3 times, I come to like it, so I guess see what other’s says say as an opening line.

    I’m not fond of this line:
    Kaelyn is neither barbarian nor civilized, caught somewhere in between and belonging nowhere.
    I get why you put it in, so as to show Kaelyn is a ½ & ½ but I feel its overkill. Because you’ve explained her father’s side and her mother’s side, I already got that and I kind of felt like the author is say “Do you get it? Do you?”

    And just on the explanation. Often I’m not a fan of a long explanation however, I think, given the genre and the fact this is a fantasy world, its necessary. Even so, I’d suggest tightening it just a little, but certainly leave most of it so the reader DOES get it.
    “She should have been a Far Rider, a courier in her aunt’s elite guerrilla cavalry, like her father”
    There’s a lot of character’s and places (proper nouns) and things to conceptualise in this QL (which again I think is needed given the genre), however, because of that, I think you need to trim unnecessary characters (in the QL) as much as possible.
    The above line would be just as effective if it said:
    “She should have been a guerrilla cavalry Far Rider, like her father”
    We don’t need to know its her aunt’s army in the QL.

    “…and Far Riders are never more needed”
    I think here you’re aiming for era voice? By wording it as you have I think you’re trying to show the style of speech? If so, I’m not sur it works because there is no other reference to this speech style. I would suggest either adding more of this style or removing this one line with the style as it sits out of place.

    I got to this paragraph:
    She should have been a Far Rider, a courier in her aunt’s elite guerrilla cavalry, like her father. With King Cauland missing and her dead uncle blamed for it, a bloody civil war that will destroy the M’Eiryn looms and Far Riders are never more needed. However, her mother concocts a wild scheme to keep Kaelyn safe that almost gets her killed and exposes her to a returned demon lord. The demon lord needs to destroy her before she exposes him to the world. A handsome PIRATE plots to use her to disgrace his father and she’s not at all immune to his charms. A senile sorcerer wants to…well, who knows for sure? He’s senile.
    & I honestly couldn’t make sense of it.

    I read it 3 times and after the third read I think I’m with you but it’s a lot of info and a lot of people and a lot of stuff that isn’t really happening. You have Kaelyn, her mother, a pirate, a demon lord, a sorcerer, not to mention the King of Cauland & the Far Riders & M’Eiryn. It was way too much for me.

    I would like to see this down to one line. Maybe something like “After a her mother’s wild scheme to protect Kaelyn does the opposite and has her facing the demon lord… and then something happens that leads to something.

    Also this line:
    “Kaelyn just wants to survive long enough to find out who killed her uncle and kidnapped the king”
    I didn’t think this was enough of a stake. OK so your MC started off by wanting to revenge her uncle but now there’s a demon on her trail and a sorcerer and some “handsome” pirate, surely she wants more than to simply survive to learn who killed the king?

    I’ve got a feeling there’s several plot twists that could be awesome hidden in here somewhere & that your MC want much more than “just to survive long enough” – you don’t need to tell us everything but you should share with us the real stakes.

    I hope this helps and if you don’t agree, that’s OK too

  2. Julie Weathers

    nikolavukoja,

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Let me see what I can do with this. I really appreciate the feedback.

    Some of the phrasing is an agent’s suggestion, such as “…and Far Riders are never more needed”. Not sure what to do there, but let me think on it.

    Julie

  3. Sara

    Aloha! This isn’t my genre, so I hope I can do you justice. I read the previous comments and found that I had made similar notes. First off, it sounds like you’ve concocted a fantastic other world and there is a lot going on to make your story interesting. As for the query, I feel that it could use some streamlining. That first line does grab attention, but I find it hard to imagine a dead horse carrying anyone. Perhaps you could say it’s a ghost somehow? I would also delete caught somewhere in between. In the first few lines, I want to know why the uncle was killed. Also, when you say settle here, I want to know where. What land or place is this? A few times, you switch tense, be careful with that. Remember in the query, you can leave side story lines out. Just tell us the main lines and what we need to know.

    It sounds like you have a lot of interesting characters, a senile sorcerer sounds unique and funny, and much potential. I hope that helps a little and wish you luck in finding an agent and getting published!

  4. Julie Weathers

    Sara,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

    All right. I changed that due to some previous advice. Let me look at it again.

    Again, thank you so much from helping.

    Julie

  5. Janelle Fila

    I also am not a fantasy writer or reader, so please take my comments with a grain of salt.

    I liked the line “dead horse” (It brought an immediate image into my mind)
    but not “by her equally dead uncle.” I didn’t care for the fourth paragraph starting with “she should have been…” When it starts talking about her mother and the senile sorcery, this seemed to get away from the uncle mystery. The next paragraph leads back into the uncle, so maybe you could tie those two paragraphs together better?

    Fantasy is so hard to query because you have to explain this entire new world that you created, which is so difficult to do in such a short space. I was confused though with how this story flows and what exactly is the character’s motivation. What does she want most? Maybe the rest can get removed from the query to help simplify it a smidge.

    Good luck!

  6. Julie Weathers

    Janelle,

    The uncle is a bookend event pretty much. She starts out thinking that’s what she wants, but all she ever finds out is who killed him and that is at the very end. It’s not an event that is a driving force throughout the story. Getting kidnapped and tortured etc takes precedent.

    What she wants most is to be a far rider. It’s all she’s ever wanted, but it doesn’t happen in this book and not for a very long time. Life is tough. : (

    Let me see what I can do with your suggestions to make this less confusing. I really appreciate your time and comments.

    Julie

  7. Sarovar

    Hi Julie,

    They say bad news rides a fast horse. Kaelyn Diarmand’s bad news came on a dead horse ridden by her equally dead uncle.
    — Your opening line certainly packs a punch! Loved it 🙂

    He makes her promise not to avenge his death, but in her father’s culture entire clans had been sacrificed on the altar of vengeance. The M’Eiryn are “barbarians” invited to settle here after they helped King Cauland defeat the demon armies. Her mother’s people are “civilized” and settled, building great cities and learning centers.
    — The line about the uncle making her promise to avoid vengeance followed by details about her family, did not mesh together well though. Maybe directly start with description of father’s and mother’s side?

    Kaelyn is neither barbarian nor civilized, caught somewhere in between and belonging nowhere.
    –Not sure why this line is separated out? Belongs with the subsequent line.

    She should have been a Far Rider, a courier in her aunt’s elite guerrilla cavalry, like her father. With King Cauland missing and her dead uncle blamed for it, a bloody civil war that will destroy the M’Eiryn looms and Far Riders are never more needed. However, her mother concocts a wild scheme to keep Kaelyn safe that almost gets her killed and exposes her to a returned demon lord. The demon lord needs to destroy her before she exposes him to the world. A handsome pirate plots to use her to disgrace his father and she’s not at all immune to his charms. A senile sorcerer wants to…well, who knows for sure? He’s senile.
    — There is a flurry of information in this para which is a little confusing. The bit about the senile sorcerer made me smile though!

    Kaelyn just wants to survive long enough to find out who killed her uncle and kidnapped the king. To ensure that, she sneaks into the fledgling, and unpopular, women’s unit of the military school to learn how to fight. Then, perhaps, she can become a Far Rider and help save the M’Eiryn, even if it means going to war against her mother’s people.
    –Some of the commas are unnecessary. Eg. Fledgling and unpopular women’s unit… Then perhaps she can become… do not require any commas.

    Far Rider is an epic fantasy, complete at 145,000 words.
    I was a lead writer for Speedhorse Racing Report, a weekly horse racing magazine, for twenty-three years. I’m now with Raincrow Studios, an indie game developer specializing in location based games with a strong, fantasy narrative. I also raised Quarter Horses for years and I’m from a ranching background, so the horse details are authentic.

    –I liked your concept very much and your lead character is definitely interesting. The query does a good job outlining most of the details as well. But you may want to pick and choose what details are absolutely necessary – because the query has become a little too wordy.

    Best of luck!
    -Sarovar

  8. 1000th.monkey

    I love the first line, got thrown by line #2 (how can a dead horse be ridden by a dead man?) and then line #3 threw me off a cliff… how can her dead uncle get her to promise not to avenge him? I kinda feel like line #2 needs to be explained before conversations with dead uncles get poured into the mix, because I’m thinking this is a ghost story set in the wild west, and then we move onto demon armies…

    Overall, I found this very confusing to follow… so, I agree with most of the other comments already made… this could be trimmed down and cleaned up so the plot/stakes are a little clearer.

    1. Julie Weathers

      1000th Monkey

      Well, it’s epic fantasy and I say that up front in the query line, so I think the agent will figure that out.

      Thanks so much for commenting. I’m keeping everything in mind for revisions.

      Julie

  9. Julie Weathers

    Thanks so much for your input. I’m saving all the comments.

    Julie

  10. Lara Ruth

    Very intriguing premise! I agree with others that this overall shows you’ve built out a very interesting world here that I’m sure comes through even more so in your novel.

    This couldn’t be further from what I write, but the main thing I’d say is that there are a lot of characters introduced that make it a bit difficult to see who are the main ones and where the main conflict in the story lies. Is it with Kaelyn and the demon overlord? I feel like the query could be even stronger if that was more clear.

    Best of luck to you. This sounds like a great book!

  11. LaurieMichele

    Hi Julie,
    There is a lot to like about this query and I’m intrigued by your story concept. I think your first line has a strong punch and it grabbed my attention. The question it did leave me with was – how could a dead horse carry a man, and how could a dead man ask her not to seek vengeance?
    In order for the query reader to get a clearer view of your story, I would suggest only highlighting two-three characters. I know it’s hard to try to condense a full novel into a few paragraphs. (I’m struggling with the same thing)
    The strength of your story seems to be your MC’s journey to become a Far Rider and the fact she’s a strong female who is willing to fight for her family. Play that up. That hook would keep me reading! 🙂
    Good luck and Happy Holidays

  12. Julie Weathers

    Laurie, I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

    Well, that’s what she wants more than anything, but it doesn’t happen and won’t until the next book. That all becomes very secondary due to trying to survive her mother’s plot that almost gets her killed, dodging the pirate and surviving in the military.

    I’m saving all the comments for future revisions and do very much thank you for stopping by and helping.

    Julie

  13. aehearn

    Love the concept here! Barbarian guerrilla cavalry? Sign me up. Also, Kaelyn sounds like a super kick ass protagonist. All the “requirements” feel like they’re here in this query: character, conflict, stakes. Only problem is I had to read it a few times to pick them all out. Amidst the pieces that really stood out to me (personally, I like the opening lines), there’s a slight overload of information. If you simplify, I think you could really have something special.

    A few specific suggestions:

    Second paragraph you jump tense. “Entire clans have been sacrificed…” stay present.

    When you say “settle here,” I’m not sure what/ where “here” is. No location name has been mentioned yet.

    Personally, while I love the fact Kaelyn is of mixed civilized and barbarian ancestry, that might be the one detail that makes this query a little too convoluted. The jump from “demon armies” to “her mother’s people,” is a bit abrupt. And the conflict center more around the Far Riders which, I assume, are associated with her father’s clan. If you really feel it’s necessary to bring Kaelyn’s mother up, there might be a way to work it in more subtly.

    I might suggest something like:

    
“They say bad news rides a fast horse. Kaelyn Diarmand’s bad news came on a dead horse ridden by her equally dead uncle. He makes her promise not to avenge his death, but in her father’s culture entire clans have been sacrificed on the altar of vengeance.

    The M’Eiryn are “barbarians,” invited to settle (the land) after they helped King Cauland defeat the demon armies. Peace between reigns for a time, but when the king goes missing and Kaelyn’s dead uncle is blamed, she must join (team up with, take the oath of… idk something story relevant) the Far Riders—her aunt’s guerrilla cavalry—to stave off a civil war that could destroy the barbarian clans.”

    Paragraph 1 is character and set up

    Paragraph 2 is inciting incident

    Paragraph 3 should be plot/ motivation/ stakes… this is where you have way to much information. We jump from demon lords to pirates to women’s armies (are they related to the Far Riders?) before the ideas have a chance to flesh out. Focus only on the main plot in a query. This third paragraph should be what Kaelyn’s goals are, what she’s doing to accomplish them, and the stakes! what happens if she fails (stakes you pretty much have… love the closing line with “even if it means going to war with her mother’s people.)

    Like I said, the meat is all there. Maybe just a little too much. If you can simplify and clarify in a few places though, I think you’ll be good to go. Sounds like an interesting and original fantasy that I’d love to read someday.

    Happy Holidays,

    Ashley

  14. Julie Weathers

    Ashley, thank you. I appreciate your comments.

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