Thursday, September 30, 2010

Query Letter #11

Query #11
Name: Marilyn Peake
Title: Mermaid in the Summer of Burning Water
Genre: YA Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

With the help of a mermaid who washes up on shore following an oil spill, three teenagers uncover deeply hidden family secrets, including that of a drowned twin.

In the dead of night, a deepwater oil rig explodes. Workers fall from the platform. The sky bursts into continuous flame and the stars are obliterated from view. Military personnel are sent in to keep reporters and locals away. By morning, oil coats the sea and fish float on the surface. Dispersants are dumped into the water.

Three local teenagers – Shrimp, Raine and Noah – sneak onto the beach one night. Finding an unconscious mermaid lying facedown in the sand, they try to roll her over. As the mixture of oil, dispersant and the natural coating on her scales soaks into their fingertips, they experience a heightening of all their senses. Over the next few months, they see and hear things they never noticed before, symptoms of deeply buried family secrets, including the accidental death of a twin. When the mermaid awakens, she offers the teenagers a chance to heal their families and bring the oil company to justice.

MERMAID IN THE SUMMER OF BURNING WATER is a 58,000-word YA Fantasy novel.

I’m the author of three small press novels and short stories published in anthologies. I’m also a contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL published by The Perseus Books Group, with one of my submissions included in serialization at THE DAILY BEAST. My writing has won numerous awards, including the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards, EPPIE Awards, and Dream Realm Awards.

Thank you very much for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Marilyn Peake


  1. Did you change the name of your novel? I didn't think it was called that. Hmm. Anyway. Wow, I love the names of your characters!!! Shrimp, Raine, and Noah. Perfect! I'd like to see them intro'd earlier though, and it's not ultra clear with the way you've worded it that these are the same 3 teens in the first paragraph. You'd have to say THE three teenagers. Or better yet, say their names earlier.

    The first paragraph seems to focus on the mermaid, since she is the subject of the sentence--it almost sounds like she's the MC. A bit difficult to tell who is the MC, from that paragraph. The drama of the 2nd paragraph almost sounds better to begin with (though admittedly it doesn't mention the MCs). The last half of your first sentence seems awfully vague, especially uncovering deeply hidden family secrets. The 2nd paragraph (tho nicely written and dramatic) might be a bit too detailed--it sets a mood and scene, but doesn't tell about the plot or conflicts. It might only need a tad of streamlining, though.

    Your writing credentials are impressive, good paragraph there.

  2. Marilyn,

    I think it's much better than when we started this contest. So good job! One thing I would suggest is a personalized message to the agent you are querying. Why did you pick her? Did you follow her blog and find something in common with you or your work?

    I think I'd still like to hear a little more about the teenagers involved. How do heightened senses help them discover family secrets? What is it that the mermaid offers them? What happens to her in the interim? Use some of that gorgeous writing of yours to make me connect with someone. I know that's not the point of a query, but I want to get a feel at least for what the MC or MCs might be thinking or feeling - how this affects them as people. The high concept is great! But I want to see a hint at how this story can't be told without these characters. Now, please understand that this is just my own opinion. I really do think it's come a long way and I am intrigued by it.
    Very nice bio by the way. Good luck!!

  3. Hi, Carol and Lisa Gail,

    Thank you so much for all your feedback. I really appreciate it!

  4. Marilyn, I agree that your character names are GREAT. My big concern is the 2nd paragraph--I think that's just a little too general and not plot-focused enough to maintain interest. I want to hear more about the kids right up front!

  5. I agree with Phoebe. The first paragraph is so much set-up you run out of room to make us care about any of the people involved, and since it's a quiet plot there's nothing that makes me think I HAVE to read this. And it could be me but the way this is written makes it feel like the mermaid was an afterthought, something to give the quieter story some oomph. Don't get me wrong, I like quiet stories, mine is, but this just feels too distant and general for me to care, yet.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)