Tuesday, July 20, 2010

#2 Creepy Query Girl

Query Excerpt:  Fourteen year old Gretchen Grey will grow up to be the most famous and sought after medium of the nineteen thirties and early forties. 'The Life and Adventures of Miss Gretchen Grey' follows our young heroine as she travels across the Atlantic after the deaths of her parents. She arrives into the care of her paternel Grandmother; a woman who holds a surprising perception of Gretchen's 'gifts'. This alternate history story is based upon real people and places in historical New England, including characters set within the wealthy Cheney family of Manchester, Connecticut and the little known Spiritualist Camp of Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts. The manuscript in its entirety is 102,000 words. My work should appeal to young adults between the ages of eleven and seventeen.


Chapter One
‘How do you punish someone who’s already dead?’ Gretchen Grey tightened her grip around an umbrella handle while she waited for her parents to arrive. Her haunted blue eyes examined the London townhouse where she had grown up. Thick green ivy cast shadow around the entrance and spread towards the outer corners, almost reaching the top floor panes. Looking at it from afar, it seemed her home rested in the palm of a giant murky green claw.

A woman appeared in the doorway and opened her umbrella against the pelting rain. "Gretchen child! There's no reason to wait outside.”

Gretchen tore her gaze away from the townhouse and looked up at the chambermaid. “You know that’s not true,” she answered softly.

Mira gave her shoulder a gentle pat. The sound of heavy steps and subdued voices drifted towards them from the interior of the London townhouse before her parents emerged.

They carried her mother's casket out first. It was a rich mahogany, etched with gold. Gretchen imagined her mother would have approved. She’d had an eye for detail that many admired.

The group of men was followed out by a second assembly. Her father's coffin was almost identical to her mother's, though a bit longer. Her father had been a tall man, after all. Gretchen's breath caught in her throat and her hand flew up to clutch Mira's as it rested on her shoulder.

‘This is all my fault.'


  1. Ooh you are creepy. In a good way. :) The last half of the page from "Mira gave her shoulder a gentle pat" onward is wonderful. I love how you set us up to expect her parents to emerge, only to find out they're being carried out in coffins. And of course we want to know why she believes it's her fault. Hopefully it will be something that will make us wonder if it really was. The opening, ironically, was less strong. Not to say it wasn't good. If she believes it was her fault, why does she want to punish the dead? Also, I think if you drop the "haunted blue eyes" it would be best. We get her mood fine from the setting and what she's seeing. I don't think this is the spot to give us her physical description. There is so much more going on here that I want to get lost in. I love the idea that this based on real people too. Very cool. I would drop the line in the query about being good for ages X-Z though. You've given the age of the MC, saying it follows her as she grows up. That should be guideline enough.
    One last thing, is this third person, close? If so, shouldn't she recognize that Mira appeared in the doorway and not a woman? Just a thought..

  2. I really like the second half of this opening. The voice is clearly teen and is an interesting combination of emotional and detached. I did not feel as strongly about the first paragraph. While I liked the “murky green claw” comparison it doesn’t rescue the rest of the paragraph; it feels too stilted and unnecessary and I’m afraid you’ll lose your reader right away. Once I saw her parents’ coffins emerging, the voice becomes more compelling. There is a dreamy, removed tone to the narrative, but I’m assuming the deaths and the medium angle are creating that. I can’t tell yet. If that’s not the case, then I think Lisa is right, maybe make the third person perspective a little closer and less detached feeling. The last line is intriguing, but feels artificial. It might feel less so when with the rest of the story. I’m definitely interested in this girl and her story, you just need to tweak the beginning a bit.

    I found the query to be a bit stilted and lacking the drama and intrigue that this idea has. It is a creepy, fascinating idea, especially with the historical ties, but you’re not conveying that feeling in the plot description. I think you need to have a little more fun with it. I would say YA and get rid of the 11-17 reference.

  3. Thanks Riley and Lisa for taking the time to comment! Very helpful!


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