Monday, April 12, 2010

Entry 00

This is a non-entry and does not qualify for the contest. I'm only posting it to get your comments for improvement. (It's mine.)

Genre: MG Steampunk

Your turn-of-the-century cabin is waiting aboard The Seahorse for a 70,000-word steampunk adventure that will take you from England to Peru, complete with a Light Emitting Oscillator and Perpetual Matches.

When Richie Armstrong’s father dies, their long search for the ancient time-travel device ends — until he hears a fantastic tale about a treasure hidden on an uncharted island off the coast of Peru and recalls his father's final request: The Golden Disk is near Lima. Find it! But Richie's archenemy, Hans Von Hisle, is eavesdropping and hatching a plan to get there first.

When Richie and two friends set sail aboard the flagship of the Armstrong Steamship Line, he spots one of the Von Hisle's dirigibles shadowing them and discovers the Von Hisle's have an accomplice on board. After a harrowing journey around Cape Horn, the Seahorse arrives at the island, and Richie finds Werner Von Hisle waiting for them inside the pyramid — swaying like a grotesque puppet with his throat slit and his eyes burned out.

Before Richie can retrieve the Disk, the cannibals come out of the shadows and the ancient clockwork mechanism is set in motion. Between the poison darts flying toward them and the walls crumbling around them, Richie realizes that surviving this adventure is going to require a lot more than dumb luck and a treasure map. His dream of acquiring the Disk fades and his nightmare begins when he feels the sting of a poison dart in his neck and the cannibals start closing the circle.

I would be happy to send sample chapters or the full manuscript at your request. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


  1. Michael,
    This query has all the right components and really relays the spirit of adventure and eeriness I think you're going for. I especially love the opening; it gets all the pertinent info in while setting the book's tone.

    This query has a lot of specifics, and I've heard agents emphasizing that.

    I would break up a couple of the longer sentences, but that's just the way I write. I notice you use a cliff hanger instead of revealing the ending. I've heard yay and nay on that from different sources.

    And I love the name "Werner Von Hisle."

    Sounds like an exciting read. Good luck!

  2. Okay, so this feels like I'm critiqueing the teacher or something ;)

    I love the character names. I really like the swashbuckling sense of adventure and think it would make a great read.

    I have a few points/questions:
    - 70,000 sounds a wee bit long for MG
    - While the slit throat and eyes burned out will no doubt thrill the reader, I wonder if that is more of a YA scenario. And if you think not, maybe leave that part out of your query.
    - You mention "the Seahorse" in the last paragraph but I had to re-read a few times to catch that you mentioned it in your first line. Who does the boat belong to?
    - You mention "the Disk" but I'm not sure what that is - I assume it's crucial but it's not mentioned before the last paragraph.

    p.s. thank you so very much for organizing this query contest! I wish you well on your journey towards publication.

  3. Glad you're not entered in the contest. This query is great - sounds like a book my son would love.

    My only suggestion would be the last paragraph before the close. I know it's MG, but rather than go into details with the cannibals and the ancient mechanism, I tend to think in terms of "all hell breaks loose" when Ritchie tries to retrieve the Golden Disk.

    Enjoyed reading this one.

  4. This is a fantastic query, Michael. It gives off a creepy feeling. Maybe explain a little more about the disk. I really like the names of the characters and love the cliff hanger at the end, that’s a great hook. Not sure if it’s giving a way too much though, but hopefully the agent will critique your query too, then we’ll all know.

    I can’t remember the limit on word count for MG, but this is a long story. However, some kids love to get their teeth into a thick book. I’m not sure about the throat slitting either, but hopefully the agent will answer that question. I would love to know myself for future reference.

    This could by Y/A or MG. That’s good, isn’t it?

    Sounds like a very exciting story, for boys and girls.

  5. Steampunk pirates, cool! I'd love to see this as a movie, actually.

  6. I seem to be the only one who was confused about who Werner Van Hisle was. I had to check back since I thought the rivals name was Hans. It was, so I'm guessing Werner is his dad.

    Other than that, I thought the query was great: easy to read, and full of intriguing info. (and promise of a sequel too- i love series though I know it can be risky pitching them to agents)

  7. First of all, sounds like a really solid addition to the growing Steampunk world. The others have already mentioned that 70K is quite long for MG, but unless Ritchie is less than 13, you could probably aim for the YA market. Although, I've heard lots of agents are looking for boy-hero MG right now, so you might luck out.

    I agree that there is probably a bit too much story here. Reads more like a one-page synopsis than a query. In fact, I'd start with the father's final request. Leave Hans out of it, and just refer to his archenemies, the Von Hisles--too many names otherwise.

    Speaking of which, if you leave it as is, take the apostrophe out of the 3rd paragraph. Von Hisles is plural here, not possessive.

    I feel like this query is close, but you have room for tightening and teasing a bit more. That being said, I think you show an excellent sense of the story, with a feeling of high adventure. Having not read the manuscript, I can't be sure if you're showing the voice here, but if you have, I appreciate that you didn't dumb-down for a young audience.

    Best of luck to you with this.

  8. The goods:
    great concept, excellent voice and unique story. I'd be interested in reading - and it appeals to the male and female audience
    I like the hook

    The bads:
    70,000 does seem quite long for MG.. but it might be one of those cross over MG-YA novels.
    Query itself seems slightly winded - might be able to cut and tighten it down slightly... it reads a little more like a synopsis/query... I'd like to be pulled in a bit more.

    The ugly's (not really so ugle, just wanted to add that line in):
    Id keep the first 3pp and just the first line of the last pp - maybe add another hook that makes the reader-agent want to request the first three chpaters or MS to find the answer.

    Cheers, I enjoyed the query and adding my tidbit

  9. Jamie Weiss ChiltonMay 7, 2010 at 4:47 PM

    I recommend omitting the word count from the first paragraph as I think it reads easier without.

    A few questions:

    How old is Richie?

    Who's Werner Von Hisle? Do you mean Hans Von Hisle?

    I'd cut "...Swaying like a grotesque puppet..." and keep this vague.

    I always like to get a sense of the end of the story in a query; as it stands, I'm not sure where we are in the story arc when the cannibals start closing in.

    An action-packed adventure. Nice job.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.