#9 Query Corner: ‘Trail To Testament’

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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.]

 

“Trail To Testament” is a historical/contemporary fantasy. When Union veteran Theodore Benjamin arrives home to find his family slaughtered and cannibalized, he sets out on a mission of revenge, never knowing his path would lead him to become Ben, the street-folk-hero of the modern-day streets of Testament, New York.

Overall Impression:

I love the plot and am curious about his life-span! It makes me want to read more.

My only comments are:

  • Organizationally, the query is a little off. It should be addressed and formatted like a business email.
  • Pick ONE genre. I’m trying to decide what your novel is: historical fantasy? Contemporary fantasy? saga? Gothic fantasy? Supernatural horror? Don’t make something up, they need to know how to market it. decide where in the bookstore you want your book to be put. Who should its neighbors be?
  • Novellas/ novelettes are hard to market, so emphasizing that portion of the novel is unlikely to be motivating to an agent.
  • 120,000 is the upper limit of a novel from a non-established author. Is there anywhere you can cut?

The Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]
[Need to address the letter and left align everything.]

Trail to Testament [Working Title]

 

          In 1866, Theodore Benjamin returned home as a Union Civil War veteran to find his wife, daughter and infant son horribly murdered and cannibalized. [WOW! I’m pulled in, sympathetic for the main character, and we have setting and motivation just like that.]

Mentally unhinged by exposure to the violations of his family and home, Theodore finds himself compelled to track down his family’s murderer, hunting him through the streets following cues
[or clues? both could work] only he seems able to see and finally using his bare hands to tear out the invisible puppet master working the murder’s body like an automaton. Recognizing only afterwards that to anyone else, he has murdered a stranger in the street, so he flees into the night and his own disjointed perceptions. [Oh dear! ]

          This proved to be only the first steps on Theodore Benjamin’s bizarre journey.

          Awakening periodically from being lost in a travelling mental fugue, Theodore Benjamin takes on the opaquely plain travelling name “Ben”, slowly losing bits of his personal history while picking up new experiences, skills and tools to defend himself and others against the unnatural forces he can now perceive that most others cannot. Compelled to journey eastward toward an unknown destination, he surfaces from his fugues at a Dust Bowl era farm struggling to survive unnatural forces driving the vicious winds; at a Prohibition-defying Louisiana plantation manse where a man is holding tight to a treasure from thieves only he can see; at a forest where a woman with repressed bestial tendencies must face those who have been embraced by them; and finally coming to rest in the upstate New York town of Testament where Ben falls in with street-folk and ultimately under the auspices of wildly unorthodox psychiatric treatment. [I’m not sure how to rephrase this so you emphasize the continual story nature, without making it sound like a series of separate stories starring the same character…]

          Trail to Testament is an anthology of five novelette to novella length stories [15,000 to 25,000 words] chronicling the evolution through time and space of former Union soldier Theodore Benjamin into the street-folk-hero known only as Ben on the streets of Testament, New York. Appealing to readers enjoying urban fantasy with a hint of historical fiction, comparable works would be entries of Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series or, to a lesser extent, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, starting with a more historical bent before advancing to a more contemporary time-frame.

          Thank you for your time and consideration.

Good Journey,

Q9


The Revised Query:

Dear [Agent Name],

Union Civil War vet, Theodore Benjamin, returns home in 1866 to find the cannibalized bodies of his wife, daughter, and infant son. [don’t need to change, but I was playing with it to streamline the sentence]

Losing his grip on reality, Theodore is compelled to track down his family’s murderer. Theodore finds himself following clues only he is able to see until he rips the invisible puppet master out of the murderer’s body with his own bare hands. As the compulsion fades, Theodore recognizes that, to anyone else, he murdered a stranger in the street. Frightened by his loss of control, Theodore flees.

Taking the traveling name “Ben”, Theodore Benjamin loses more and more time to the mental fugue that plagues him. The compulsion drives him eastward, while the fugue only releases him to fight off unnatural forces that few besides him can even sense. [You can end here, or “, until he finds himself on the modern-day streets of the upstate New York town called Testament.”] The unnatural winds of the Dustbowl, the questionable influences of an invisible treasure, and the hostilities of bestial forest folk, he faces them all before finally coming to rest in the upstate New York town called Testament. There, Ben falls in with street-folk and under the auspices of wildly unorthodox psychiatric treatment.

The historical/contemporary fantasy, TRAIL TO TESTAMENT, is complete at 120,000 words and chronicles the evolution of former Union soldier Theodore Benjamin into the street-folk-hero known only as Ben on the modern-day streets of Testament, New York. TRAIL TO TESTAMENT should appeal to fans of Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Good Journeys,

Q9

 [email]
[Twitter]
[phone]

Knowing what books you think make good comparisons for your novel can be helpful in deciding what genre to pitch a story as.

If you think you have a series of novellas featuring the same character, look at the stories. Is there an over-arching goal or theme that they all include? Can you edit them for greater cohesion?

Best of luck to Q9!


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

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7 thoughts on “#9 Query Corner: ‘Trail To Testament’

  1. As a proofreader, I’m compelled to mention the typos. In some places it says “Trail” to Testament, and in others it says “Trial” to Testament.
    You wrote “staring the same character” instead of “starring…”
    [Why does hero assume there is only one murderer? And could it not have been a pack of wild animals that did the killing? Just wondering.]
    You wrote “out of the murder’s body” instead of “out of the murderer’s body”
    “Theodore Benjamin’s loses more…” Some sort of typo here.
    Otherwise, I really like how you streamlined her letter. I still think these queries run more like synopses, but that’s coming from a non-fiction writer, so as you pointed out, it’s a different world. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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