Holiday query blog hop!

Vegin Artwork by Hazel Butler

Vegin
Artwork by Hazel Butler

Once again, Michelle Hauck is hosting a blog hop to help authors get their stuff together.  This time, though, instead of first page critiques, it’s a query critique!  Like my first page, I’m sure that my query needs as much help as it can get, so here it is:

Dear Super Agent:

As the Crown Prince of Lokana, nineteen-year-old Vegin is expected to follow in his father’s corrupt footsteps by marrying a wealthy noblewoman and filling the royal coffers to the brim.  But the prince has other ideas, and when he falls in love with a peasant named Lipei, his father threatens to deny him the crown and live forever.  Though Vegin knows his father is serious, he insists that he will marry for love or not at all.

But there are bigger problems facing the kingdom than succession.

When the king executes an entire village, a long-simmering rebellion threatens to explode into all-out war.  Led by Lipei’s brother, Ghrelin, Lokana’s malcontents want revenge on the royal family, and they don’t care which member pays the price.  Vegin must find a way to protect his family and atone for his father’s actions, or he could lose everything he’s ever cared about…forever.

The Price of Mercy is an adult fantasy work in progress with series potential that deals with the relationships between fathers and sons, the place of traditional values in a changing world, and the ways in which a single person can change the world.

I earned an Associate’s Degree in English from Marshalltown Community College in Marshalltown, Iowa and work as a legal secretary.  This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Kay Kauffman

So what do you think?  Good, bad, indifferent?  Help?  Please note that I don’t actually plan on querying until it’s completed, and I expect it to top out at somewhere around 100k.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below and help me make this baby shine!

UPDATE:

Dear Super Agent:

Nineteen-year-old Prince Zandoor is expected to follow in his father’s corrupt footsteps.  His first task: Marry a wealthy noblewoman and fill the royal coffers to the brim.  But the prince has other ideas.

When he falls in love with a peasant named Lipei, his father threatens to deny him the crown and live forever. Zandoor doesn’t doubt his father’s threats.  Magic was banned a millennium ago, but the king possesses a youth potion and has no qualms about using it.  Despite this, Zandoor insists that he will marry for love or not at all.

But there are bigger problems facing the kingdom than succession.

A long-simmering rebellion threatens to explode into all-out war after the king executes an entire village.  Led by Lipei’s brother, the kingdom’s malcontents demand revenge on the royal family, and they don’t care which member pays the price. If Zandoor can’t find a way to atone for his father’s actions, his throne won’t be the only thing he loses.

The Price of Mercy is a 100,000-word work of adult fantasy.  I earned an Associate’s Degree in English from Marshalltown Community College and work as a legal secretary.  My short fiction appears in the anthology A World of Their Own, forthcoming from Kristell Ink in 2015.  This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Kay Kauffman

(c) 2014.  All rights reserved.

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22 thoughts on “Holiday query blog hop!

  1. Tricia Drammeh says:

    Great query, Kay. The only thing I would change is in the bio section. I would maybe take out of second “Marshalltown” and just say “I earned an Associate’s Degree in English from Marshalltown Community College and work as a legal secretary.” I’m not by any means an expert at writing queries, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

    I hope The Prince of Mercy finds a good home when you’ve completed revisions!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kelly deVos (@KdeVosAuthor) says:

    Hi Kay! Thanks for letting me have a peek at your query. I am loving this blog hop!! And the illustration of your character is seriously cool.

    I think this query is already in great shape. But here’s my non-expert feedback:

    I’d split the sentence that begins with, “But the prince…” into two sentences. Right now, it reads a bit like a run on sentence for me.

    In the first paragraph, I was confused by he “live forever” part? In your fantasy world, could the king actually live forever? Or is this more of a nod to the idea that the king wouldn’t relinquish the crown? I feel like you might want to make that a bit more clear.

    I’m really torn on the forth paragraph. On one hand, it’s very informative and presented in a nice, concise way. But on the other hand, I think it may be a better idea to work those points in as you are describing your plot so that you show the reader your conflicts instead of telling them.

    Thanks again for letting me hop on over! Happy writing and querying.

    Like

      • Kay Kauffman says:

        I noticed that when I read this comment last night, but I was so tired that I thought maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me. And this blog hop is so much fun! Michelle is awesome. 🙂

        The live forever part is actually possible, as well as being a nod to his unwillingness to give up the crown.

        As for the fourth paragraph, I had so much trouble with it! If you’ve got any suggestions on how to improve it, lay ’em on me. The blurb part (the first three paragraphs) I had pretty well ready to go because I’d written this when I put the story back up on Authonomy. The bio part I had pretty well ready from my last round of queries two years ago. But the fourth paragraph is completely new, as I’ve spent the last two years rewriting it and it’s only since I started rewriting it that the themes of the story really jumped out at me. Conveying them has been difficult.

        And thanks for the comment about the illustration! Hazel does fantastic work. If you’re ever in need of a cover or illustrations, check out her website, Aädenian Arts. 🙂

        Like

  3. Angela says:

    Hi Kay,
    Thanks for letting me read your query! I am a sucker for “marry for love” themes when royalty is involved. 🙂
    The stakes are clear and I have a good feeling for your MC. Great job!
    I do agree with Kelly about the “live forever” line.
    No other critique than that.
    Good luck!
    Angela #37 on the Query Blog Hop

    Like

  4. bridgettejohnson says:

    I don’t read much adult fantasy (YA and MG are my thing), so take the critique with a grain of salt. I’ve put my comments in parentheses.

    As the Crown Prince of Lokana, nineteen-year-old Vegin is expected to follow in his father’s corrupt footsteps by marrying a wealthy noblewoman and filling the royal coffers to the brim. But the prince has other ideas, and when he falls in love with a peasant named Lipei, his father threatens to deny him the crown and live forever(Okay, so since this keeps getting brought up, it is confusing to me too. Basically, his father has the ability to deny him immortality, right? If so, maybe something like “deny him the crown and strip him of his immortality” or “deny him the crown and turn him mortal” or something else that conveys he’s immortal. If he is. Or if he becomes immortal by becoming king, then state that). Though Vegin knows his father is serious(This is awkward for me… the word “serious.” Maybe “Though Vegin doesn’t doubt his father’s threats” or something else. It just feels a little out of one with the rest of this paragraph for me), he insists that he will marry for love or not at all.

    But there are bigger problems facing the kingdom than succession.

    When the king executes an entire village, a long-simmering rebellion threatens to explode into all-out war(Psh, it better. Wimpy characters if they’re gonna let a king murder a whole village). Led by Lipei’s brother, Ghrelin, Lokana’s (I had to double check here because of all the names. I’m not sure you need her brother’s name. He’s probably important, but it got a little confusing. With all the names of people together for a second I thought Lokana was a person also. I had to go back to the first paragraph to realize it’s the place) malcontents want revenge on the royal family, and they don’t care which member pays the price. Vegin must find a way to protect his family and atone for his father’s actions, or he could lose everything he’s ever cared about…forever.

    The Price of Mercy is an adult fantasy work in progress with series potential that deals with the relationships between fathers and sons, the place of traditional values in a changing world, and the ways in which a single person can change the world.

    I earned an Associate’s Degree in English from Marshalltown Community College in Marshalltown, Iowa and work as a legal secretary. This is my first (Maybe say debut instead? I know what you mean by first, and if it is, more power to you, but most debut novels are not actually the first novel the author wrote. Chances are mine won’t be because that first novel requires so much editing) novel.

    Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Sincerely,

    Kay Kauffman

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Okay, so he’s not immortal. And his father isn’t immortal, either, though he does have it within his power to live forever (he’s got his own private fountain of youth sort of thing). Magic was banned a thousand years earlier, and the only two people who know that the king has the ability to live forever are his son and himself. Conveying all that concisely is, um, hard? 🙂

      I like your suggestion for replacing the word serious. Thanks! 🙂

      Ghrelin is actually pretty important – he’s the main antagonist. But I see what you mean about the wording in that sentence. Back to the drawing board!

      Yeah, this is definitely not my first novel. I have two shelves full of my first novels. Unless I win the lottery, they’ll never be anything more than trunk novels because I’ll never have the time to rework them (and some of them are just unsalvageable). 😉

      Thanks for your great feedback! Looks like I’ve got some work to do this afternoon. 🙂

      Like

  5. jryatesauthor says:

    Dear Super Agent:
    As the Crown Prince of Lokana, nineteen-year-old Vegin is expected to follow in his father’s corrupt footsteps by marrying a wealthy noblewoman and filling the royal coffers to the brim. (I would try to avoid the use of passive voice if possible.) But the prince has other ideas, and When Vegin falls in love with a peasant named Lipei, his father threatens to deny him the crown and live forever (Threatens to make him live forever or to take away that ability to live forever? – not clear). Despite his father’s threats, Vegin insists that he will marry for love or not at all.

    But There are bigger problems facing the kingdom than succession. When the king executes an entire village, a long-simmering rebellion threatens to explode into all-out war. Led by Lipei’s brother, Ghrelin (so the brother is a traitor to the Royal Family? – yeesh the plot thickens), Lokana’s malcontents want revenge on the royal family, and they don’t care which member pays the price. Vegin must find a way to protect his family and atone for his father’s actions, or he could lose everything he’s ever cared about…forever (What will he lose?).
    The Price of Mercy is an adult fantasy work in progress with series potential that deals {with the relationships between fathers and sons, the place of traditional values in a changing world, and the ways in which a single person can change the world}. It’s my understanding that even in a query letter – show don’t tell – so you have to show that The Price of Mercy is about all of these things in the first 2 paragraphs. I think that you’ve done that.
    I earned an Associate’s Degree in English from Marshalltown Community College in Marshalltown, Iowa and work as a legal secretary. {This is my first novel} Don’t point this out – highlight what you’ve done – not what you haven’t.
    Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Sincerely,
    Kay Kauffman

    Very good job Kay. I think that I get a good idea about the conflict. As a side not, I find your main character’s name a bit distracting – it makes me thing Veggin’ (as in ‘I’m veggin’ out) or Vegan. Just some thoughts.

    Wishing you the best,

    J.R.

    Like

  6. LAURENCE KING says:

    Hi Kay,

    This is a solid query that instantly drew me in.

    I just have a few comments:

    I, like the other commenters, was confused with “live forever.” It needs to be explained. Is he immortal? Does he have special powers?

    “…or he could lose everything he’s ever cared about…forever. ” What is it that he cares about? The crown? Living forever? Anything else?

    No need to point you that this is your first novel 😉

    Like J.R., I was distracted by your MC’s name…not sure how it should be pronounced.

    Other than that, I think you did a great job.

    Best of luck!

    Laurence

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thank you! Oh, names, they can be such trouble. I love this name. No one else loves this name. I’ve changed names on half a dozen other characters at various points of this story, but this one (and Lipei) never changed. It’s frustrating because part of me is tired of explaining it, but part of me is like, “What about all those other beloved fantasy characters with impossible to pronounce names (Tolkien, anyone)? Where’s the backlash against them?”

      Please, if you have a solution to my quandary, by all means, suggest it.

      Like

  7. stormowl7 says:

    As the Crown Prince of Lokana, nineteen-year-old Vegin is expected to follow in his father’s corrupt footsteps by marrying a wealthy noblewoman and filling the royal coffers to the brim. {I like the start!}

    But the prince has other ideas, and when he falls in love with a peasant named Lipei, his father threatens to deny him the crown and live forever. Though Vegin knows his father is serious, he insists that he will marry for love or not at all. {I like that we get a sense of the characters and it forwards the plot!}

    But there are bigger problems facing the kingdom than succession. {second hook!}

    When the king executes an entire village, a long-simmering rebellion threatens to explode into all-out war. Led by Lipei’s brother, Ghrelin, Lokana’s {I actually went back in the query trying to find a character I somehow missed when I realized that it was the place’s name… So far, I feel like there are way too many names – usually, I believe the max is 2 or 3 only}

    malcontents want revenge on the royal family, and they don’t care which member pays the price. Vegin must find a way to protect his family and atone for his father’s actions, or he could lose everything he’s ever cared about…forever. {Stakes are very clear!}

    Hope this helps!
    Good luck! 🙂

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! Someone else had already suggested removing Ghrelin’s name and after reading the remark, I can totally see why – it makes complete sense. I just haven’t had a chance to make any revisions on this yet.

      I think I’ve seen up to four is okay for number of names in a query, but since I have three of them in a row like that, I can totally see why it would be a little confusing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Melissa Menten says:

    Hi Kay,

    We live just across the corn field from each other and have the same number of children.

    Overall, good premise. I think the limited access to a kind of fountain of youth is one aspect that makes your story less clichéd than just a royal fantasy about a forbidden romance. If there is anything else that makes your story more unique related to the conflict (maybe in the way he finds a way to protect his family?), bring that out. I do agree with the above comment about the distraction of your MC’s name.To make my post concise, I’ve left out sentences that I don’t have a comment on.

    his father threatens to deny him the crown [by tapping a secret fountain of youth.]
    When the king executes an entire village, a long-simmering rebellion threatens to explode into all-out war.[Is it really just threatening or does it start a war? Probably you can delete “threatens to” and just say “explodes into all-out war.”] Led by Lipei’s brother, [here I would leave out the name 1)because you want to limit the number of names in a query and 2) too many unusual names are even harder to retain.] Lokana’s malcontents want revenge on the royal family, and they don’t care which member pays the price. Vegin must find a way to protect his family and atone for his father’s actions, or he could lose everything he’s ever cared about [I would delete the “forever” here.]
    The Price of Mercy is an adult fantasy work in progress with series potential [I’ve read in different places not to mention this unless you know the agent would like the series potential] that deals with the relationships between fathers and sons, the place of traditional values in a changing world, and the ways in which a single person can change the world. [This last bit tells us more about your themes but loses some of the punch from above.]
    I earned an Associate’s Degree in English from Marshalltown Community College in [yes, do leave out the second Marshalltown] Iowa and work as a legal secretary.
    Overall, I would read this personally, but if I’m making a discriminating critique, I would suggest you infuse the query even more with what makes your story not just any “rebellious prince picks forbidden love” trope.
    Best wishes,
    Melissa, #43 on the Query Blog Hop

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Really? Awesome! I love meeting other writers from the Midwest! 🙂 Which side of the cornfield do you call home?

      And I love your comments. Will definitely have them next to me as I revise this baby. The part about exploding into war, though, that actually doesn’t happen till the second book (hence the threatening language). What happens is that the two sides enter into an appeasement-type situation, similar to Europe in the 1930s. Actual war doesn’t come till much later.

      As for the whole theme paragraph (no. 4), it needs help. Serious help. I’ve seen some places recommend the series potential language, and some places that say not to mention it till you have an offer. When I started writing this story, the first two books in the series were one book that was meant to stand alone, and then I started a sequel. And my queries were all rejected. And I started splitting the first book into two, which I’d known for a couple of years was necessary, but it took me a while to figure out how to do it. Now I’m not sure the first book will stand alone, or the second book, because I think each needs the other. So if you have any suggestions on how to fix this whole paragraph, lay ’em on me. 🙂

      Like

  9. Karrie ᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ (@karriebearr) says:

    Great query! Very straight-forward and I can see exactly where the story is going. I just have some clarifying questions.

    – “father’s corrupt footsteps ” – this makes me think his father is just corrupt for marrying for money. Later on the query, turns out he’s a bad dude, so maybe clear this up.

    – “live forever” – his father is immortal? I would state this clearly, otherwise I think it’s a typo or something.

    – ” he insists that he will marry for love” – so I don’t get the sense that Vegin cares about the crown at all if he’s turning down his father?

    – “But there are bigger problems facing the kingdom than succession.” – love this

    – “When the king executes an entire village” – why does he execute the village? This makes me thinks his father is bad (though you already said he’s corrupt), but this undermines Vegin’s heroic mission if I don’t understand his father more, or if Vegin doing anything will help

    – “Lokana’s malcontents want revenge ” – there are so many unfamiliar names at this point, I had to look up what Lokana was. I would just say “the kingdom” here to avoid confusion.

    – “he could lose everything he’s ever cared about…forever.” – this doesn’t exactly follow from the situation. So there’s war, but the rebels just want to kill one member of the royal family? Wouldn’t they really want to kill the entire royal family and then take over the throne?

    Like

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