Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Holiday Query Blog Hop -- SPOOKY JANE

Another blog hop critiquing opportunity!! Once again, Michelle Hauck is sponsoring this terrific opportunity to give and get invaluable feedback.

Want to know how it works? Look here:

Here's my REVISED query -- looking forward to making it bright and shiny when I see all your feedback. 

Dear Brilliant Agent,



Twelve-year-old Ivy Jane is thrilled when her family stops moving around and settles in the Minnesota town where her close-knit clan of cousins lives. It’s nice to finally be around people who are like her – they’re a family with the unusual gift of being able to keep anything alive. But even more important is the chance to be in on the inside jokes instead of always the lonely outsider.


But immediately, things get spooky. People standing too close to Ivy suddenly feel sick and have bone-chilling hallucinations. She has walking blackouts where she takes on a different personality – but remembers nothing afterward. She hears voices in her head and because she acts so strange, they’re the only ones talking to her.    

Then the voices actually introduce themselves, which is when she learns she’s not crazy, just the unlucky gateway for some troubled family ghosts. They are the ones in control during Ivy’s blackouts, and through her, they’re growing stronger. But they’re also killing her. The only way to save herself will be to untangle her family’s power over life from its apparent connection to the spirit of death.  But to do that, she’ll need the help of her cousins, who are leery of being around her. Besides, they don’t believe in ghosts.

SPOOKY JANE is an in-progress Upper MG Paranormal. It echoes elements of television’s SLEEPY HOLLOW – written for a younger crowd – and the themes of haunting and family in Mary Downing Hahn’s ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES. 


Thank you for your time and consideration.

16 comments:

  1. Hi Heather-

    I think your query is very interesting and I would be excited to read your book!
    A couple recommendations. I would move the first paragraph to the end. I don't want to start picturing other books or movies, etc when I am about to read your query. I just want YOUR story. Also, it seems that the family history is at the center of the story but are they not affected by Ivy's "gift"? You only mention kids at school. And I'm not getting a clear idea of what Ivy's obstacle is. Yes, she's dying but the sentence about her family's long entanglement with death comes out of nowhere and I was a bit thrown. See if you can focus in on one aspect of your story. Leave something for us to discover when we read.
    Solid story idea and I look forward to seeing it on the shelves!
    Beka

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  2. Hi!

    I remember this from the 250 blog hop. This is a great story idea!

    I think the third paragraph is a bit wordy, with too many details. I'd par it down...'People feel cold and sick when they’re near Ivy. A kid in her art class loses all feeling in his hands and another sees spiders where there are none – but only when Ivy is around. She has walking blackouts where she acts and talks like someone else – but remembers nothing afterward. All she knows is she sometimes hears voices in her head and because she acts so strange, they’re the only ones talking to her.' Maybe try...'People are acting strange: sickness, numbing hands, and hallucinations--but only when Ivy is near. That, and the walking blackouts she endures, is enough to leave her lonely, with only the voices in her head to keep her company.'

    I like the last paragraph. It explains some things, but keeps me in the dark just enough.

    If I were you I'd move the first paragraph to the end of your query. Start with your story.

    Best of luck with this!

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  3. Thanks so much, Amy and Beka, for your great insights -- very helpful!

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  4. Heather,

    I agree with Beka. The comp paragraph, which is very good, should come later with the book details. Start the query with the story.
    I like the introductory paragraph, but think you can combine and pare down the third and fourth story paragraphs to focus on the meat of the story-- Ivy's dead relatives are trying to use her as a portal to return from the dead and it's taking a toll on her mentally, emotionally and physically.
    I think you have a really cool story here. I like the last line about the need for Ivy to recruit her non-ghost believing cousin for help. Great stuff!
    Good luck.
    Mike Hays

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    1. Thanks Mike - really appreciate your thoughts!!

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  5. FULL DISCLOSURE: I am struggling to translate my usual critiquing style (which uses HTML) into a good blog comment format, so let me know if the translation doesn't make sense :P


    Dear Brilliant Agent,

    SPOOKY JANE is an in-progress Upper MG Paranormal. It echoes elements of television’s SLEEPY HOLLOW – written for a younger crowd – and the themes of haunting and family in Mary Downing Hahn’s ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES.

    **I wouldn't compare an upper middle grade novel to anything older than YA, and I'm hesitant to compare it to any other media besides a novel, but that might just be me**

    Twelve-year-old Ivy Jane finally gets her wish **I know it's kind of obvious what her wish is immediately after this, but it still feels like a jolt to start out the query with that. We don't know Ivy. We don't know what her wish is. Is it to settle down? Is it to move to Minnesota? Is it to live with her close-knit clan of cousins?** when her family stops moving around and settles in the Minnesota town [where]*delete* */with/* the rest of her close-knit clan of cousins [lives]*delete*. Now she can be in on the inside jokes instead of always the lonely outsider.

    But immediately, things get spooky. People standing too close to Ivy suddenly feel sick and have bone-chilling hallucinations. She has walking blackouts where she acts and talks like someone else **how would she know?** – but remembers nothing afterward. All she knows is she sometimes hears voices in her head and [because she acts so strange,]*delete* */now/* they’re the only ones talking to her.

    The whispers are that she’s got a personality disorder – but she discovers otherwise when the voices finally introduce themselves. **Just because a voice introduces itself, doesn't mean you don't have a personality disorder. If the disorder isn't vital, i'd cut it** It turns out she’s the unlucky gateway for some troubled family ghosts. They are the ones in control during Ivy’s blackouts*/, and/* they’re growing stronger [– but]*delete* at a cost to Ivy. [She realizes t]*delete* /T/hey’re sucking her life away and the only way to save herself [will be]*delete* /is/ to somehow unravel her family’s unusual power over life from its entanglement with the spirit of death **the end of this sentence is really confusing. I have no idea what's going on**. But to do that, she’ll need the help of her closest cousin – who doesn’t believe in ghosts. **I wish you'd mentioned her cousin sooner? I'm also not sure why she needs her cousin's help**


    I think your strongest point is that she needs help from someone who doesn't believe in ghosts, so I'd love to see that in play more throughout the query. I want to know why she can't do this alone and why her cousin can help. I also understand that these ghosts are draining her, so that obviously needs to stop, but I'm also wondering what problems the ghosts might cause to everyone else if they become powerful enough.

    This is a really strong foundation to a query, there's just a few more questions I'd like to see answered before I'd be intrigued enough to ask for more

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  6. Hi, Heather!

    First of all - being a gateway for troubled family ghosts? COOL! I love this part, and I think it's something that makes your story unique. With that in mind, I'd reshape your query to get to that hook quicker.

    I'll quickly get out the way that I agree with Bryanne - I wouldn't compare it to anything above an MG and like others have said I'd move the comp paragraph down - let the story speak for itself. If you can't come up with an MG comp title, it might be best to let the agent decide for themselves :)

    In the first paragraph, I'd cut the line about inside jokes and create a contrast. Her family can keep things alive (what does that mean? An example might be better) but in the next line this is when I would mention how Ivy, on the other hand, makes everybody sick and hears strange voices no one else hears.

    In the second paragraph, I think you'd benefit from having only one or two lines about what happens during an episode and focus more on why it happens - because she's struggling to contain all these family ghosts who introduce themselves! (Cool!) And this is where I'd explain that to control them she'll need the help of her cousins, but there's a problem - they don't believe in ghosts. I say all of this because these are the parts making your story really unique, and I feel like the explanations of her episodes are more confusing than informative.

    The final paragraph would be better if it was only about how the ghosts are taking control, and growing stronger. And that soon, they'll kill her. So the stakes are then how if she can't control them/find out why it's happening, she'll die. I do like how you've tied in the family's power over life with your earlier reference to the family's strange gift.

    This is such a cool idea and I really think your query would stand out more with just a little clarification and restructuring. But obviously my comments are only subjective, so take from them what you will!
    Best of luck with this!

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    1. Thank you Jen! I appreciate your insight!

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  7. Hi Heather,

    This is a very interesting concept that you have! Also I immediately got a good feel about Jane’s character and her challenges from your query.

    SPOOKY JANE is an in-progress Upper MG Paranormal. It echoes elements of television’s SLEEPY HOLLOW – written for a younger crowd – and the themes of haunting and family in Mary Downing Hahn’s ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES.
    -- I would move these details toward the end and start with ‘Twelve-year-old Ivy…’

    Twelve-year-old Ivy Jane finally gets her wish when her family stops moving around and settles in the Minnesota town where her close-knit clan of cousins lives. It’s nice to be around people like her --their family shares the unusual gift of being able to keep anything alive. But even more important is the chance to be in on the inside jokes instead of always the lonely outsider.
    -- This is a great introduction to your main character. Also the unusual gift of keeping anything alive - very intriguing!

    But immediately, things get spooky. People standing too close to Ivy suddenly feel sick and have bone-chilling hallucinations. She has walking blackouts where she acts and talks like someone else – but remembers nothing afterward. She hears voices in her head and because she acts so strange, they’re the only ones talking to her.
    -- Because she acts so strange, they are the only ones talking to her? I didn’t really get what you mean by this.

    Then the voices actually introduce themselves – which is when she learns she’s not crazy, just the unlucky gateway for some troubled family ghosts.
    -- This is a little hard to read. Also I notice that you have a lot of hyphenated sentences. A minor suggestion that you word as complete sentences.

    They are the ones in control during Ivy’s blackouts and they’re growing stronger. But they’re also killing her and the only way to save herself will be to somehow untangle her family’s power over life from its apparent connection to the spirit of death.
    -- Again a little to wordy. Better to separate it out.

    To do that though, she’ll need the help of her cousins – who are leery of being around her and don’t believe in ghosts.
    -- Reword a little like: To do that though, she’ll need the help of her cousins, who are leery of being around her as it is. Besides they don’t believe in ghosts.

    Overall this is a great theme and I would love to find out what happens next in Jane’s story!

    -Sarovar

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  8. Ooh, LOVE this premise, and the query reads very clearly. It sounds like an awesome story! :). I think you have some awesome suggestions here, and those suggested tweaks will help polish the query to a shine. I agree especially with the suggestion to move the first paragraph to the end, after you've already told us all about your story. Best of luck with this! :)

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    1. Thanks Lora - appreciate your insight!

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  9. SPOOKY JANE is an in-progress Upper MG Paranormal. It echoes elements of television’s SLEEPY HOLLOW – written for a younger crowd – and the themes of haunting and family in Mary Downing Hahn’s ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES. {Oh! I love the TV show Sleepy Hollow! *swoons over Tom Mison* - Ok, back to your query! As someone else here has mentioned, I would move this to the end, because I'd rather be able to make my own idea of your story and then read comparisons}


    Twelve-year-old Ivy Jane finally gets her wish when her family stops moving around and settles in the Minnesota town where her close-knit clan of cousins lives. It’s nice to be around people like her --their family shares the unusual gift of being able to keep anything alive. But even more important is the chance to be in on the inside jokes instead of always the lonely outsider. {I like this - it explains Ivy's character and the plot all at once!}


    But immediately, things get spooky. {'spooky' is vague and a little cliche, but I think that it actually works in your query and adds voice to it}


    People standing too close to Ivy suddenly feel sick and have bone-chilling hallucinations. {Oh! I like this!}


    She has walking blackouts where she acts and talks like someone else {I'm not sure how to explain it, but this sentence throws me off a little. Maybe reword it?} –


    but remembers nothing afterward. She hears voices in her head and because she acts so strange, they’re the only ones talking to her. {I laughed and went "aww" at the same time}


    Then the voices actually introduce themselves {I'm really liking this story!}


    – which is when she learns she’s not crazy, just the unlucky gateway for some troubled family ghosts. {her family or a family of ghosts?}


    They are the ones in control during Ivy’s blackouts and they’re growing stronger. {Creepy and I like it}

    But they’re also killing her and the only way to save herself will be to somehow untangle her family’s power over life from its apparent connection to the spirit of death. {This is a long sentence, and I think you could remove the "But" because it sounds like: "Oh, they're gaining power, but it's ok because they're killing her too." You know what I mean?}


    To do that though, she’ll need the help of her cousins – who are leery {I had to look up the word leery *bows head in shame*}


    of being around her and don’t believe in ghosts. {I love the difficulty of her stakes!}


    Hope this helps!
    Good luck! :)

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    1. Thanks Magali - great suggestions. Appreciate it!

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  10. Twelve-year-old Ivy Jane is thrilled when her family stops moving around and settles in the Minnesota town where her close-knit clan of cousins lives. It’s nice to finally be around people who are like her – they’re a family with the unusual gift of being able to keep anything alive. But even more important is the chance to be in on the inside jokes instead of always the lonely outsider.

    (First, what a cool idea for a story!

    I like your set-up, but I think the “they’re a family…” line is a little clunky. I’d love to see more of what this means instead. How do they keep everything alive?)

    But immediately, things get spooky. People standing too close to Ivy suddenly feel sick and have bone-chilling hallucinations. She has walking blackouts where she takes on a different personality – but remembers nothing afterward. She hears voices in her head and because she acts so strange, they’re the only ones talking to her.

    (How does she know she takes on a different personality if she doesn’t remember it afterward? I love the voice of “they’re the only ones talking to her”!)

    Then the voices actually introduce themselves, which is when she learns she’s not crazy, just the unlucky gateway for some troubled family ghosts. They are the ones in control during Ivy’s blackouts, and through her, they’re growing stronger. But they’re also killing her. The only way to save herself will be to untangle her family’s power over life from its apparent connection to the spirit of death. But to do that, she’ll need the help of her cousins, who are leery of being around her. Besides, they don’t believe in ghosts.

    (I love your last paragraph, but I think you bog it down with extra words. I took the liberty of rewriting it—hope you don’t mind.

    She discovers she’s not crazy when the voices introduce themselves. Seems Jane is the unlucky getaway for some troubled family ghosts. They control her blackouts, and through her, they’re growing stronger. But they’re also killing her. If she wants to survive, she’ll have to free her family’s power over life from its connection to the spirit of death. To do that, she’ll need her cousins’ help. Too bad they don’t want to be around her. Besides, they don’t believe in ghosts.)

    All the best with the query trenches!

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