Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Contest (And Free Stuff for Everyone)

I've added a "Free Stuff" section to the sidebar, including a free story in PDF format (a piece that was published in Morpheus Tales #1 last summer), an audio story (more to come), and my website (yeah, I have one of those too...what a geek). All I hear about lately is "give stuff away" so I am. Listen to this wonderful story from NPR about the future of publishing. In my opinion, it doesn't sound like a time to protect content.

So the contest: I'm begging for feedback on my query for The House Eaters. If you need more information, I can forward a synopsis if you email me at aaron_polson(at)hotmail.com. The rules: post a constructive comment (positive, negative, helpful) between now and Sunday, and I will draw a winner from the lot. Said winner will receive a copy of either Monstrous or The Black Garden (winner's pick). I will even sign the book, although that is likely to lessen its value.

Here is the query (at least the hook bit; I'm still working out the bio):

I am seeking representation for my young adult dark fantasy, The House Eaters, a novel blending coming of age trials with Native American mythology and a non-traditional haunted house narrative.

When high school senior Nick Gillingham’s mother loses her job in Kansas City, his family moves to a small town—his father’s hometown—to save money. A new house and a new school are the least of Nick’s problems. On his first day in the neighborhood, he discovers The House, a ruined mansion tucked inside a crevice carved from the surrounding hillside.

It’s not bad enough that Nick begins to hear disembodied voices after the discovery; the local football team decides he is their new tackling dummy, the queen of the school tries to manipulate him for her own selfish purposes, and his parents’ marriage begins to disintegrate. Could something in the ruined house cause all these problems? Does his elderly neighbor know what lurks under the hills surrounding Broughton’s Hollow?

12 comments:

Barry Napier said...

I think it works well. Doesn't give away too much and sets up the characters and locale nicely. If anything, I'd recommend adding perhaps another sentence or two about why he suspects the house is the reason for his sudden misfortunes. My two cents...

Jamie Eyberg said...

Dang, I never read one or written one before so I know nothing about queries, yet. So far it looks good to me, I want to read it.

Catherine J Gardner said...

Argh! I love contests and I hate query letters (though not as much as I hate synopsises - shiver).

Here's my take.

First off, you need to add the word count ie:

I am seeking representation for my young adult dark fantasy, The House Eaters, a 45,000 word novel blending...

Word count is essential in a query letter - and that's about the only thing I don't fail on. :)

Loved the tackling dummy comment (made me smile, made me sit up and think 'think I'd like to read more'). If the 'queen of the school' is the actual Queen of the school (like Elizabeth is of England) then I think that's fine but otherwise I thought it sounded a little bit awkward and something like 'prom queen' (working blind here) would be better.

All in though, very good query. I think I'll do a contest where I insist people write my query for me. :D

Natalie L. Sin said...

Wish I could add something, but I know shit about novel queries : (

Carrie Harris said...

I'm kind of loony. I actually LIKE writing query letters. So here's my take...

"Non-traditional haunted house narrative" stood out for me. I understand there are some standard haunted house elements often used in stories, but instead of telling us that this is different and leaving us to wonder why, how about SHOWING us how it's different?

You mention that Native American myth figures into the story, but it doesn't pop up in the summary you've provided here, so I don't understand how it ties in. I'd suggest either elaborating on that or removing it from the query.

Do we need to know details like the town they move to is his father's hometown? Could you better use the space to expand on the above elements? By eliminating details that aren't essential to the story or don't highlight your unique voice, you'll gain more space to really show off. For example, the sentence beginning "A new house and a new school..." doesn't add anything we don't already know, and it doesn't stand up to the imagery you've used elsewhere (my favorite is the tackling dummy too).

I'd also like to see the neighbor brought up earlier in the query. It seems like he/she figures prominently in the plot but is only brought up as an afterthought.

Okay, now that I've nitpicked, I have to say that I like the concept, and I like the hints of Nick's voice that pop up in the last paragraph. I'm intrigued enough to want to learn more, even if I'm really picky when it comes to queries. Hope you don't regret asking for feedback now. :)

Aaron Polson said...

Carrie - your comments are exactly why I ran this silly contest. Why would I regret constructive feedback? ;)

Jamie Eyberg said...

I want Carrie to write my queries for me. I have a lot to learn.

Aaron Polson said...

Me too - I've already sparkled it up a bit, thanks to the feedback.

Catherine J Gardner said...

I think we should nickname Carrie 'The Query Queen', though she'd probably prefer the 'Query Ninja'.

Carrie Harris said...

Query Ninja. HAH! I like that.

Unsurprisingly.

Danielle Ferries said...

Would love to help but your query is miles ahead of the one (the only one) I submitted a while back.

K.C. Shaw said...

Wow, Carrie really is the Query Ninja. Everything she said (and also Cate's recommendation not to forget the wordcount). You might add a short third paragraph telling us a bit about Nick's actions once he begins to suspect the house is causing the problems.

The query is very good, and the book sounds fascinating. Good luck with it!