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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Query & First Page Critique - Deceptive Cadence

I have another query and first page with all my comments all over it. Let her know what you think too.

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Dear (Agent Name)


Would you like to go back several years with the knowledge that you have and redo events which you regret? Some agents are really irked by rhetorical questions in a query, especially as an opener. In any case, I think you could have a stronger hook anyway. Cadence's husband and toddler daughter die. That's powerful and enticing. You already feel bad for her. I don't think you need much else as a hook, just start where the story starts. That was the question Cadence’s guardian angel asked her when her husband and toddler daughter died. If this happened during your story (and not before the book begins) it should be present tense, as all parts of a query pitch. Bereaved by the loss,  This seems obvious enough to me that you may not need this. Cadence eagerly accepts, knowing she can go back and prevent their deaths.

She is shot shoots back in time to her fourteen-year-old self, and faces high school all over again. She is determined to do everything better, including preventing the loss of her best friend and not dating any of her original boyfriends while she focuses on her future husband who she won’t meet for several years.

But then James Gordon crosses her path. While she is now perpetually single, the bad boy pursues her in this new timeline. He threatens to disrupt everything that is to come, and distract her from her original goal: to save her future family.

Deceptive Cadence is a Contemporary NA/YA crossover running at 85,000. So, how old is Cadence when her husband and toddler daughter die? I think that's pretty important to mention since having a husband and child is out of the norm for the NA/YA genre. If you didn't say "NA" I would assume she was in her late twenties or early thirties, so if she's not, definitely say so. Is she a New Adult who goes back in time to become a Young Adult? Wow, that really is a "crossover", if I ever heard of one. lol It seems like the PERFECT premise to market to 30 something women who read young adult! ;)

Your query is strong. The conflict is clearly laid out and the MC's challenge is something I care about from the beginning. I can also sense a lot of opportunity for conflict and plot opportunities between the lines. Well done! I don't think much needs to be changed except the beginning.
First page:

A steady beep brought me out of my unconsciousness. My eyes felt heavy and I struggled it was a struggle to open them. There was a I smelled the distinct aroma of cleaning products. My most recent editing for The Charge was extensive "was" removal. So, I'm sensitive to it. :) My brain switched on as I realized where I was. I forced my eyes open and the beeping sped up. The walls were white in the hospital room, and directly across from me was a closed bathroom door. To my left was a brown couch under a window – which was covered by blinds – and to my right was a tan leather armchair. I was completely alone. I panicked. Where was my family? My husband? My eighteen-month-old daughter? 

I tried to sit up but my whole body writhed with pain. I moaned, and a second later a nurse, dressed in aqua scrubs, burst into the room. “It’s all right, just don’t move,” she said in a soothing voice.

I wanted to ask a million questions, but I couldn’t seem to form any words. She gently pressed me back onto the bed and checked me over. I watched her, as she avoided looking directly into my eye. I followed her movements which was when I became aware of the cast on my arm. My right leg was bound and raised in a sling and appeared to have large bolts sticking out of my thigh. “What happened?” I finally managed to utter.

The nurse slowed. “You have a fractured femur, ulna and radius. You also sustained substantial head trauma which is why you’ve been unconscious for the past few days.”

“Few days?” I groaned. “What day is it?”

“Thursday.”

“But how? The last thing I remember was... was...” I didn’t actually know. The Monday was a haze. I’d come home from university and found my husband had cooked dinner and our daughter was bathed and in her pajamas. It was such a wonderful surprise and I’d kissed him, feeling as if I’d never be happier. We’d sat and ate together, enjoying our family time. Our little girl rambled about this and that, while my husband told me about his day.

“There was an earthquake,” the nurse told me.

I snapped back into focus. “But, we don’t live near a fault line.”

The nurse dropped her eyes. “It was a freak incident. Your leg was crushed under a ceiling beam and your arm broke when you hit the floor.”


Great first scene! It helps that I have a husband and small children, but I'm definitely scared for her. I would read on in a heart beat. In fact, I was a little disappointed when the brief excerpt ended. :)
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Your turn! Please provide your feedback for Deceptive Cadence in comments.

Dear (Agent Name)

Would you like to go back several years with the knowledge that you have and redo events which you regret? That was the question Cadence’s guardian angel asked her when her husband and toddler daughter died. Bereaved by the loss, Cadence eagerly accepts, knowing she can go back and prevent their deaths.

She is shot back in time to her fourteen-year-old self, and faces high school all over again. She is determined to do everything better, including preventing the loss of her best friend and not dating any of her original boyfriends while she focuses on her future husband who she won’t meet for several years.

But then James Gordon crosses her path. While she is now perpetually single, the bad boy pursues her in this new timeline. He threatens to disrupt everything that is to come, and distract her from her original goal: to save her future family.

Deceptive Cadence is a Contemporary NA/YA crossover running at 85,000.

First page:


A steady beep brought me out of my unconsciousness. My eyes felt heavy and it was a struggle to open them. There was a distinct aroma of cleaning products. My brain switched on as I realized where I was. I forced my eyes open and the beeping sped up. The walls were white in the hospital room, and directly across from me was a closed bathroom door. To my left was a brown couch under a window – which was covered by blinds – and to my right was a tan leather armchair. I was completely alone. I panicked. Where was my family? My husband? My eighteen-month-old daughter?

I tried to sit up but my whole body writhed with pain. I moaned, and a second later a nurse, dressed in aqua scrubs, burst into the room. “It’s all right, just don’t move,” she said in a soothing voice.

I wanted to ask a million questions, but I couldn’t seem to form any words. She gently pressed me back onto the bed and checked me over. I watched her, as she avoided looking directly into my eye. I followed her movements which was when I became aware of the cast on my arm. My right leg was bound and raised in a sling and appeared to have large bolts sticking out of my thigh. “What happened?” I finally managed to utter.

The nurse slowed. “You have a fractured femur, ulna and radius. You also sustained substantial head trauma which is why you’ve been unconscious for the past few days.”

“Few days?” I groaned. “What day is it?”

“Thursday.”

“But how? The last thing I remember was... was...” I didn’t actually know. The Monday was a haze. I’d come home from university and found my husband had cooked dinner and our daughter was bathed and in her pajamas. It was such a wonderful surprise and I’d kissed him, feeling as if I’d never be happier. We’d sat and ate together, enjoying our family time. Our little girl rambled about this and that, while my husband told me about his day.

“There was an earthquake,” the nurse told me.

I snapped back into focus. “But, we don’t live near a fault line.”

The nurse dropped her eyes. “It was a freak incident. Your leg was crushed under a ceiling beam and your arm broke when you hit the floor.”

6 comments:

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I agree with her critiques. I'll add that in the first page I'd say 'Where was my family? Where are-their names here.' You can add the daughter's age later in the scene at home. It just seems like she should think their names, but that's just my nitpicky opinion. :)
Also, in the query, is she attracted to the bad boy? I would make it more clear why he's a threat to her future.
But I agree that this sounds really interesting! And she's right, a lot of adult women read YA (me) and this would appeal to them I think. :)

Patchi said...

I agree with the comments that the first paragraphs in both the query and the chapter could be stronger. Also, I thought it was awkward that she knew where she was just by the smell and that she was focused enough to know left from right or that there was a bathroom behind a closed door. Does she work at the hospital? Has she been there before? If not, I think it would feel more natural if she opened her eyes and noted the unknown furniture she sees before she realizes she is in a hospital room. Then it would progress naturally to her panic about her family.

Good luck!

Laura Stephenson said...

I agree with the above advice, and would add my own: "brought me out of my unconsciousness" is worded awkwardly. Perhaps "was the first thing I heard" or "woke me" or "was what dragged me from sleep." Also, "directly into my eye" is awkward, and would be better as "directly in the eye" or "me in the eye."

Good luck with it! Sounds very promising.

Brooke R. Busse said...

"and appeared to have large bolts sticking out of my thigh" doesn't quite make any sense. Perhaps "Large bolts stuck out of my thigh" as its own separate sentence would read better.

Also, I would suggest cutting "the" before "Monday" in the fourth to last paragraph.

Other than that, I agree with the comments above and think your story sounds interesting! Guardian angels kind of have a soft spot with me since I also have a book that contains them. :)

Katie Teller said...

Thank you to everyone! Your thoughts and suggestions were all helpful and I appreciate them so much!

Shell Flower said...

This is a really interesting premise, but I agree that you need to make it more clear how this is a YA/NA novel in the query. The first page is great and sucked me right in. Calling out her husband and baby's names would be a nice touch. Good luck.