Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Query Crit #6

Dear Awesome Agent,

Prohibition has turned Eve Medina’s rural hometown into a center of black-market wine trade and police corruption. So when Eve kills a wealthy man, she knows it won’t matter that she’s sixteen, or that she acted in self-defense. What matters is that she’s poor, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, and she makes a living pretending to be a fortuneteller, which draws more than a few suspicious eyes. Her only chance to avoid ending up the first woman hanged in California is to get away with it.

Then Jakob Gellert, a young Hungarian immigrant who works as a magician, finds out about the murder. Desperate to learn the truth about why the state has erased all records of the only family he has in America, Jakob wants to use Eve’s knowledge of the town’s politics, prejudices, and secrets. And his reputation as an illusionist, equal parts skilled and dangerous, tells Eve he won’t hesitate to use what he knows against her if she doesn’t agree.

THE COIN DIVER, complete at 90,000 words, is set in Central California in 1927.

I’m a [redacted] Fellow, and winner of the 2012 [redacted] Award. My work is included in thirteen [redacted] anthologies, and in the young adult anthology, [redacted]. My poetry and non-fiction have appeared in [redacted] and on the [redacted] website.


  1. What a rich story! This sounds great!

    I love the first paragraph -- it sets up great conflict, an underdog MC worth rooting for, and an exciting setting. Fabulous job!

    I had to read the second paragraph twice, and the second time around I understood everything, but I wonder if rearranging things a bit might smooth things out for the reader. After that first sentence in the second paragraph, it might make sense to follow it with the last sentence in the paragraph because then we don't have to switch gears from Eve's pov to Jakob's. After that I'd include the ideas you have in that middle sentence and end with something that suggests why it might be a challenge for Eve to go along with Jakob's demands.

    Just an idea.

    Of course, if I was an agent I'd have already requested pages -- without any changes. :)

    Good luck!

  2. I completely agree with Ann— I'm extremely picky with historicals, but if I saw this as a back-cover copy, I'd pick it up. That said, I think there are a few things that could be tweaked.

    The last line of the first paragraph is a bit confusing. I wasn't completely sure what "it" was on the first read-through, though I'm not entirely sure it'd affect others, so I'd hesitate to change it. Maybe change the order of the sentence? "Getting away with it is Eve's only chance to avoid being the first hanged woman in California" or something like that. Just a suggestion.

    How did Eve kill the wealthy man? Did she stab him, shoot him, poison him?

    "Desperate to learn the truth about why the state has erased all records of the only family he has in America, ..." I feel this could be condensed a bit.

    Overall, amazing job! Can't wait to see this on shelves.

  3. I agree. Query is great, but I had to re-read the second paragraph. Such a great premise! Good Job!

  4. Great query!! :)

    I can see where everyone else is coming from with the 2nd paragraph, but I don't necessarily agree. Especially if your story is told from both Jakob & Eve's POV's, having that switch may be key. However, if you can take a query letter as being from anyone's POV besides an omniscient narrator, this one did have a POV switch in the last sentence of the 2nd paragraph. All the preceding sentences (of the para) were from Jacob's POV, then it jumps to Eve's.

    Now, if it were me, I'd tweak that last sentence a bit, and make it its own standalone para. It would add a bit more punch, and I don't think you're necessarily limited to 2 paragraphs, more wordcount than anything (which I don't think you need to worry about.)

    Hope you land someone with this soon--it sounds right up my alley, other than the historical setting. ;)

  5. I agree with the comments on the last sentence of the first paragraph, as well as the second paragraph needing some work.

    One thing I think is missing is a sentence (or two), showing a bit of what they face/what happens AFTER they meet /start to work together. You've got your characters introduced but that's not really the meat of the story, is it? A taste of what's going to happen next, what they face-- basically an idea of how the plot develops *after* the characters have been introduced is needed, IMO. I don't know much about the story line from this, as interesting as the characters and setting are (and they really are!).

  6. This sounds really exciting! The part I got tripped up on is the second sentence of the second paragraph. It's very intriguing, but a little confusing because looking for family records has nothing to do with being a magician or finding out about the murder. It might help to put the fact that he is an immigrant closer to the end of the sentence, or include it with the next sentence. I feel like the other information separates the two and makes it confusing. I hope that makes sense?
    This sounds like a great story, and something I would definitely like to read. Good luck!

  7. This is a really strong query - well done! I second what Ann (the first commentor) said above about making the Jakob part a bit more clear, but otherwise, this is great!