#6 Query Corner: ‘Shadowplay’

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Answering Your Query Quandaries

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

 

“SHADOWPLAY” is a romance featuring a Former US Army Sergeant who wants to help the Palestinians rebuild and an Israeli spy. Together, they’re working to stop the next terrorist attack.

Overall Impression:

This story sounds like it has it all! Spies, exotic dancers, and politics.
There’s a few things I would change:
  • The query runs a bit long, streamlining the query should help
  • The query is a bit disjointed, streamlining the query could help
  • There are a lot of pretty phrases that could be made stronger with precision

The Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear Agent, 

You mentioned on Twitter that you were dying for more thrillers [as this isn’t a very specific #mswl, I’d just leave it out]. SHADOWPLAY is a romantic espionage thriller [too many genres. pick 2] at 99,000 words [a little long for romance or thrillers] and is the Third Place Winner for the [AWESOME] Award. It is currently on submission to [AGENT?EDITOR] at [AGENCY]. SHADOWPLAY is an entrant in the [CONTEST]. 

Love and espionage are dangerous bedfellows. [Pretty line, but queries don’t need taglines]

Simon Walther survives a terrorist attack in the volatile West Bank, saved by a woman he’s convinced is an Israeli spy. The school he built for the UN was used by terrorists to hide weapons, making the kids human shields in a bitter war that explodes around him. But even in the midst of chaos and death he finds hope. Sarah Yadin [I guess I should assume that’s the female assumed spy] intrigues him with her fierce desire to save her enemy’s children [perhaps we should mention he’s Palestinian then? Otherwise, he could be a UN employee from anywhere], even taking a bullet in the attempt. He wants to see her again, despite his fears. But meeting off the battlefield is a risk for them both.

Sarah doesn’t trust easily. Raised in a family of spies in a nation under siege she knows the truth is rarely black or white, it’s messy and painful. The secrets she keeps could devour them both or turn Simon against her. But, he’s the only man she trusts and she has no greater love to give. [This paragraph is full of pretty phrases that could be a lot more specific] 

After an evening of kindled romance in her seaside home in Tel Aviv, Sarah is sent undercover in Istanbul as an exotic dancer. Though conflicted, she plies her trade uncovering a massive plot against the US. Her love[is this an insta-love sorta thing? Or should this be more ‘growing affection’] for Simon clashes with her loyalty to her people, until he steps into the shadows with her.

Simon joins Sarah in the race to stop the attack, but the price for saving thousands of lives could be the woman he loves.

SHADOWPLAY marries the espionage thriller of Daniel Silva with the heat and suspense of JT Ellison and Laura Griffin.

For eight years I studied counter-terrorism with [UNIVERSITY A] and the [UNIVERSITY B]. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and their Mystery/Suspense chapter, Kiss of Death.

 Thank you for your consideration.

 FIRST LASTNAME—writing under PENFIRST LASTNAME


The Revised Query:

Dear ———,

SHADOWPLAY is a romantic espionage complete at 99,000 words and was the Third Place Winner for the [AWESOME AWARD]. It is currently on submission to [AGENT] at [AGENCY]. SHADOWPLAY is also an entrant in the [CONTEST].[I like to put this section at the end, some agents specify a preference, but it’s up to you.]

When terrorists attack his Palestinian school, [Director/Teacher/Principal] Simon Walther is saved by the substitute teacher, Sarah Yadin. With her help, they manage to evacuate most of the students, caught between the terrorists and their apparently on-campus weapons cache. Her fierce resolve inspires him to fight harder, especially after she takes a bullet and pushes on. After they escape, Simon is certain he wants to see Sarah again. Only one problem, Sarah’s an Israeli spy.

Sarah doesn’t trust easily. Raised in a family of spies, in a nation under siege, she knows truth is messy and painful. If Simon knew some of the acts she’d committed in the name of this war, he’d be disgusted and horrified. But, Simon’s trust in her during the attack and his bravery at her back makes Sarah recklessly want more.

After an evening of kindled romance at her seaside home in Tel Aviv, Sarah is sent undercover to Istanbul as an exotic dancer. Though conflicted, she plies her trade–uncovering a massive plot against the US. Her growing affection for Simon clashes with her loyalty to her people, until he tracks her down, demanding an explanation.

Simon is determined to help Sarah stop this fresh attack, but the price for saving thousands of lives could be the woman he loves.

SHADOWPLAY marries the espionage thriller of Daniel Silva with the heat and suspense of JT Ellison and Laura Griffin.

For eight years I studied counter-terrorism with [X] University and the University of [Y]. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and their Mystery/Suspense chapter, Kiss of Death.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Q6,
(writing as Q6 pen)
 
[email]
[Twitter]
[phone]

Now, I made a lot of assumptions in my revision and this queryist ended up snorting coffee out their nose reading my draft. After chatting, I got several points of pertinent information and rewrote my revision. Here’s the latest and greatest draft:

Dear ———,

SHADOWPLAY is a romantic espionage complete at 99,000 words and was the Third Place Winner for the [AWESOME AWARD]. It is currently on submission to [AGENT] at [AGENCY]. SHADOWPLAY is also an entrant in the [CONTEST].[I like to put this section at the end, some agents specify a preference, but it’s up to you.]

Former US Army Sergeant, Simon Walther, is trying to appease his inner demons by building a Palestinian school in the West Bank, until terrorists attack. Saved by a local Israeli woman, Sarah Yadin, who takes a bullet and keeps going, they manage to escape. Simon finds himself smitten.

Sarah is pissed when terrorists attack the weapons cache she was sent to destroy. When she is forced to break cover to save the soldier across the street, Simon’s trust in her during the attack and his bravery at her back makes Sarah recklessly want more. But, being from a family of spies, in a nation under siege, she knows truth is messy and painful. If Simon knew some of the acts she’d committed in the name of this war, he’d be disgusted and horrified.

After an evening of kindled romance at her seaside home in Tel Aviv, Sarah is sent undercover to Istanbul as an exotic dancer. Though conflicted, she plies her trade–uncovering a massive plot against the US. Her growing affection for Simon clashes with her loyalty to her people, until he tracks her down, demanding an explanation.

Simon is determined to help Sarah stop this fresh attack, but the price for saving thousands of lives could be the woman he loves.

SHADOWPLAY marries the espionage thriller of Daniel Silva with the heat and suspense of JT Ellison and Laura Griffin.

For eight years I studied counter-terrorism with [X] University and the University of [Y]. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and their Mystery/Suspense chapter, Kiss of Death.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Q6,
(writing as Q6 pen)
 
[email]
[Twitter]
[phone]

I’m sure Q6 is going to tweak my draft for their own use but should be a lot closer!

Best of luck to Q6!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

 

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3 thoughts on “#6 Query Corner: ‘Shadowplay’

  1. Nice revision. A few things –

    “Former US Army Sergeant, Simon Walther is trying…” – Better to leave out that comma after Sergeant. It should have NO commas, or TWO – the one that’s there, plus another one after Walther.

    Is the name “Walther” intentionally meant to evoke the handgun-maker by that name? I find it a little distracting. It makes me think, “hmm, I wonder if he’s related to the handgun family. Must be a rich guy, no?” But maybe that’s just me. 🙂

    “building a Palestinian school in the West Bank, until terrorists attack.” – I’m confused. What terrorists would attack a Palestinian school? Palestinians? Why would they attack their own people’s school? Israeli terrorists?? Who? I need it specified here, because otherwise it’s a sticking point for me.

    “local Israeli woman” ? I would put her name there rather than in next paragraph. What is this Israeli woman doing in the West Bank? Is she a settler? I think you need to put back the “substitute teacher” descriptor.

    Grammar point here: “Forced to break cover to save the soldier across the street, Simon’s trust in her during the attack and his bravery at her back makes Sarah recklessly want more.” Who was forced to break cover? She was, no? But the way it’s worded, the phrase appears to be modifying “Simon’s trust.” Needs a fix. I would say “When she is forced to ….” and the rest stays.

    “evening of kindled romance” – Kindled? Ay yi. Corny. And makes me think of my Kindle. 😀

    “could be the woman he loves.

    SHADOWPLAY marries…” Note that because of the close proximity of “he loves” and “marries” there’s a bit of confusion. The “woman he loves” makes me think HE’S going to marry her…

    Hope you don’t mind my comments. If you find me annoying, please tell me and I’ll cease and desist in future. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the edits!

      I’m a comma fan, so I kept them in and added the matched set. I usually am better about those!

      Plot-wise: if you read the final draft, you should see that the plot is NOT what I assumed. Walther is still BUILDING the school, so there’s no teachers or students necessary…

      As it’s not my story, I can only speculate on plot points: Perhaps the terrorists are upset at American imperialism building the school?

      As the story is a romantic espionage, I think the author was being cute (and maybe marriage IS in the cards for them). I cut down on several of the cliche phrases, but if it’s partially a romance, I figured one or two might be appropriate. 😉

      And naming is clearly up to the author, not me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually what I try to do when I read the final revision of the query, is put myself in the place of the agent. So I pick on this, wonder about that, etc., oblivious to whether it’s the author or you, Morgan, who has written it, you see? If the actual author reads my remarks as I hope she/he does, it will maybe spark a couple of changes towards clarity. I’m big on clarity. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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