Holiday Query Blog Hop

Michelle Hauck is hosting a Holiday query critique blog hop! Come one, come all! Hop on the sled and have some fun helping out fellow writers for the Holidays. Below is the information from her announcement post.

Here’s how it will work:
Post your query letter onto your blog. It can be any genre or age category, but please list this crucial information somewhere in the query letter. Keep your query to 250 – 350 words, give or take a few. No indents and put line space between paragraphs. Include everything you would send an agent: bio, greeting, closing.
Take the url link from your post and add it to the linky list at Michelle’s site . (Click on the button in the post, not in the comments.) Use the list to critique the five people above and below your listing. If you are number 6 then you would feedback numbers 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10,11 on the list. Please leave constructive criticism, but also say what you like about the query. Don’t worry if it’s not your genre, just do your best to give your thoughts.

Here’s my query for a middle-grade fantasy called NINJA SQUIRRELS OF THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD.

Dear Agent,

When Kuji, a recent graduate of Black Squirrel Academy, is assigned to the Ninja Squirrels of the Hundred Acre Wood, he doubts his ability to become a member of the elite, clandestine force responsible for protecting the Wood and its inhabitants. He contemplates requesting a transfer to an easier first assignment but decides to take the risk and accept the position as a Ninja Squirrel trainee. Kuji discovers he has found a place to truly call home, a place with good friends and a future. He is quickly put to the test and must prove to himself and the others he is capable of the challenges, even if the difficult training forces him out of his comfort zone.

His arrival, though, has triggered an increase in attacks by the Hundred Acre Wood’s greatest enemy, the Arachne. The Arachne are evil, overgrown spiders and scorpions who will stop at nothing to defeat the Ninja Squirrels and drain the magical power that gives the Wood its innocence and goodness.

Adding to the pressures of a trainee, Master Jonin, the legendary sensei of the Ninja Squirrels, tells Kuji of his destiny to be the kami, the group’s ninth member who is to bind the Ninja Squirrels, make them stronger, and eventually become their leader. Kuji is not sure he can live up to this lofty expectation. He doesn’t know if he can deal with the responsibility of leadership or risk losing being just one of the squirrels, which is his favorite thing about being a member of the team. But, Kuji also realizes that without this kami presence, the Ninja Squirrels will inevitably drift apart and leave the Wood vulnerable to Arachne attack.

The adventures in NINJA SQUIRRELS OF THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD, a 39,600-word middle-grade fantasy, are stories built around the world created by A. A. Milne in his Winnie-the-Pooh books.

My upper middle-grade historical fiction novel, THE YOUNGER DAYS, was released by the MuseItYoung imprint of MuseItUp Publishing and was awarded the Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval Award. I have also published three non-fiction football coaching articles in a national coaching magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration. The complete manuscript is available upon request.

 

 

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9 responses to “Holiday Query Blog Hop

  1. This sounds like a super fun read! Ninja squirrels battling evil magic-draining spiders and scorpions to save the wood? Love it! You’ve done a great job giving us a teaser of your story, complete with voice and stakes. The one place I have a suggestion is the ending of the first paragraph. It left me wanting a bit more specifics about what challenge Kuji faces that puts him to the test and who he is as a character that this challenge, this training forces him out of his comfort zone.

    Hope this helps!

    -Lora

  2. This sounds like so much FUN!!! What an awesome title too. Immediately caught my eye. Like Lora said, the voice and stakes are sooo there! You captured the middle grade feel here and I’d definitely request pages to see how it plays out in the text.

    I tripped a bit over the length of the first sentence and had to reread it a few times (Especially for MG I don’t think you need clandestine). Maybe something like:

    “Kuji, a recent graduate of Black Squirrel Academy, doubts about his ability when he is assigned to the Ninja Squirrels of the Hundred Acre Wood—the most elite force responsible for protecting the Wood and its inhabitants.”

    Personally, I’d delete the last sentence of the first paragraph. Either that or throw in some specifics. Vaguely stating Kuji faces challenges doesn’t add anything, and I think “good friends and a future,” is a nice, natural end to the paragraph.

    Super nit-pick. Round your word count to the nearest thousand.

    You don’t have to listen to a word I say though, because this is a well polished query with all the essentials in place. You will undoubtedly find a home for this.

    Happy Holidays!

    @AshleyHearn

  3. Hi Mike! I agree with the other folks here that you have a great query with an intriguing story. And I also second ditching the last sentence in the first paragraph. Perhaps it’s my tired eyes, but is the first story in a series or will the book be made of stories? I ask because in the bio paragraph you say “are *stories* built around the world…”
    Good work!
    Beka

  4. I echo your other commenters – wonderful concept, terrific fun!!
    Also like others, I think the first paragraph needs trimming – perhaps lop off a few adjectives but also, focus on just a few details. Even though it scares him, he acccepts the offer to be a Ninja Squirrel trainee.
    Also — the line about being put to the test should be specific — is the test the surge in the Arachne and scorpions?
    Also – I feel you could be more precise about the way you define the conflict for Kami. is this a crisis of faith in himself? Are the stakes that he must overcome his fear of falling himself and his friends? Is that why he wants to be just one of the gang?
    Also note – round your word count to the nearest hundred – you’re safe in saying it’s 40,000 words.
    Good luck!!

  5. Note: I’m used to using HTML in my query critiques, so I’m still struggling with the comment section. If my crit is unclear at all, let me know!

    Dear Agent,

    When Kuji, a recent graduate of Black Squirrel Academy, is assigned to the Ninja Squirrels of the Hundred Acre Wood, he doubts his ability to become a member of the elite, clandestine force responsible for protecting the Wood and its inhabitants. [He contemplates requesting a transfer to an easier first assignment but]*you already told us about his doubts. I’d cut this and move right along* /He/ decides to take the risk and accept/s/ the position as a Ninja Squirrel trainee. *I might add a transition here like “Despite his fears,”* Kuji discovers he has found a place to truly call home, a place with good friends and a future. [He is quickly put to the test and must prove to himself and the others he is capable of the challenges, even if the difficult training forces him out of his comfort zone.]*Delete. I’m not sure it’s necessary*

    His arrival, though, has triggered an increase in attacks by the Hundred Acre Wood’s greatest enemy, the Arachne. The Arachne are evil, overgrown spiders and scorpions who will stop at nothing to defeat the Ninja Squirrels and drain the magical power that gives the Wood its innocence and goodness.

    [Adding to the pressures of a trainee, Master Jonin, the legendary sensei of the Ninja Squirrels, tells Kuji of his destiny to be the kami, the group’s ninth member who is to bind the Ninja Squirrels, make them stronger, and eventually become their leader. Kuji is not sure he can live up to this lofty expectation. He doesn’t know if he can deal with the responsibility of leadership or risk losing being just one of the squirrels, which is his favorite thing about being a member of the team. But, Kuji also realizes that without this kami presence, the Ninja Squirrels will inevitably drift apart and leave the Wood vulnerable to Arachne attack.] **This whole paragraph doesn’t sit with me. You have a good plot going, and I feel like you’ve jumped tracks to to tell me about this other thing that’s also happening. I feel you should talk more about the threat of the Arachne, and work in that Kuji needs to help bring the group together. Otherwise, to me, this paragraph seems out of place**

    The adventures in NINJA SQUIRRELS OF THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD, a */40,00/*-word middle-grade fantasy, are stories built around the world created by A. A. Milne in his Winnie-the-Pooh books. **The only reference I see to Winnie-the-Pooh is the Hundred Acre Woods. Maybe I’ve been away too long and you’ve already done this, but if there are more references in your book, you should include them in the query!**

    My upper middle-grade historical fiction novel, THE YOUNGER DAYS, was released by the MuseItYoung imprint of MuseItUp Publishing and was awarded the Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval Award. I have also published three non-fiction football coaching articles in a national coaching magazine.

    Thank you for your time and consideration. [The complete manuscript is available upon request.]*delete. With your writing credits, they’ll know you know to query with a completed MS**

    Overall, I really like this premise! I felt it jumped around a little too much, and I’d rather you spend the last paragraph answering question you brought up in the first two, but if you like the query best as is, then I’d say go for it! The rest of my edits are just nit picks 🙂

  6. MG isn’t really my genre, so please take this with a grain of salt!

    ======================

    When Kuji, a recent graduate of Black Squirrel Academy, is assigned to the Ninja Squirrels of the Hundred Acre Wood, he doubts his ability to become a member of the elite, clandestine force responsible for protecting the Wood and its inhabitants. —{I feel like this is a way too long sentence to start a query with and it has too much details as well}—

    He contemplates requesting a transfer to an easier first assignment but decides to take the risk and accept the position as a Ninja Squirrel trainee. Kuji discovers he has found a place to truly call home, a place with good friends and a future. He is quickly put to the test and must prove to himself and the others he is capable of the challenges, even if the difficult training forces him out of his comfort zone. —{I feel like I’m not really getting a sense of who Kuji is as a character}—

    His arrival, though, has triggered an increase in attacks by the Hundred Acre Wood’s greatest enemy, the Arachne. The Arachne are evil, overgrown spiders and scorpions who will stop at nothing to defeat the Ninja Squirrels and drain the magical power that gives the Wood its innocence and goodness. —{I like the image this creates}—

    Adding to the pressures of a trainee, Master Jonin, the legendary sensei of the Ninja Squirrels, tells Kuji of his destiny to be the kami, the group’s ninth member who is to bind the Ninja Squirrels, make them stronger, and eventually become their leader. Kuji is not sure he can live up to this lofty expectation. He doesn’t know if he can deal with the responsibility of leadership or risk losing being just one of the squirrels, which is his favorite thing about being a member of the team. But, Kuji also realizes that without this kami presence, the Ninja Squirrels will inevitably drift apart and leave the Wood vulnerable to Arachne attack. —{I feel like the stakes aren’t very clear}—

    I like the idea of the story – feels like something my 8-year-old would like to read!

    Good luck! 🙂

  7. Hi there,

    Firstly, I don’t read a lot of MG, so please keep that in mind.
    Overall, I think this is a really fun idea and I could see myself giving this to one or two of my younger nephews.
    I did think some of the language was a little out of place. Words like ELITE & INHABITANTS, didn’t fit the overall voice. I also was concerned about using “100-acre-wood” as it’s a direct copy of Winnie-the-Pooh. The fact that you reference Winnie also tells me you know this and it’s not a coincidence, is there any other way you could show the size of the woods? I’d hate for an agent or publisher to think it’s a Squirrel-to-Pooh copy.
    And this is a personal thing (but I know many agents feel the same way), finishing with “the complete manuscript is available on request” isn’t necessary as it should go without saying that the manuscript is complete & available. Rather than wasting word-space on that, I’d save the words for the body of the QL & suggest finishing with simply “Regards” or “I look foreword to hearing from you”

  8. Ninja squirrels…how cool is that? I love your concept and your query is in pretty good shape. I agree with trimming the long first sentence. It’s a lot to take in right off the bat.
    “His arrival, though, had triggered an increase in attacks…” I was left wondering why.
    In my humble opinion, the last two sentences could be tightened a wee bit. You gave four possible stakes- fear of responsibility, loss of being an normal team member, the ninja squirrels drifting apart, and the Wood being vulnerable to attack. As a reader, I would like to know which one is the most important to the character. Focus your attention on that.
    Good luck with your story!

  9. This is such a cool concept! I love the idea, and I can see this getting requests. I agree with some of the other comments – the first sentence could do with tightening, and I feel like the line about how he finds a place to call home in the first paragraph isn’t necessary.

    My only substantive comment is that I’m not sure I get a great sense of who the character is, although the stakes and conflict are nice and clear so as it stands you might not want to add much to this. I think the first sentence of paragraph 3 could do with shortening – I tripped over it a little.

    Overall, though, this has all the right components for a great query, so well done! 🙂

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