Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday Tinted Ink

Inspiration anyone? What do you do when you need some? How do you write when you feel flat? Defeated? Unable to write?

What is inspiration, anyway. Do you know?

the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative:
a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea

Creativity. Hmm. It's just not happening and you have no idea how to get it.
Flickr
I look at art.
I listen to music.
I read.
I watch a movie.
I talk to someone.
I read poetry.
I go for a walk.
I draw and paint.
I play the piano.
I read to my kids.

What do you do?

*********

Okay, beautiful guys and dolls. Post your queries and let's get some critiques going on...

58 comments:

  1. Amanda Smith’s grandpapa taught her the language of his birth country but died without revealing anything of his life before America. Determined to find answers, Amanda leaves her home in Texas for the city her grandpapa grew up in, Pécs, Hungary.

    Captured by the beauty and history of the walled city without cultural borders, Amanda embraces all of its aspects, including the people ostracized by racial barriers-- Gypsies. Excitement flutters inside her when Luca, a Gypsy dancer, moves his hips with precision. And she yearns to know him more when she observes him caring for his dying sister. After a short, summer fling she agrees to an odd marriage proposal.

    Before the wedding, her grandpapa’s brother visits. He exposes the real reason his brother fled Hungary for America. Secrets that open old wounds and reveal a connection with Luca’s clan. The Gypsy family rejects Amanda, and even her fiancé walks away because of clan loyalties. Now she questions everything she knew about her beloved grandpapa and must repair the wounds she didn’t intend to open.

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    1. I think this a good start, but to refer back to Ink, I think your hook needs to be stronger. I don't see the tension or the conflict. Get to the problem faster. I think starting with her being pulled into the love interest and the arranged marriage is interesting but it should be sooner. A query, from what i understand should be pretty precise so I wouldn't waste words with describing the city. i also thought the picture I got in my head with "moving hips" and so quickly after the marriage proposal was weird. I think your last paragraph is what the agent wants to know.

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    2. I do see your character, your conflict, and the choices the MC is faced with during the story. They are subtle, but present. I am queenly aware of the problems the MC is facing.

      My YA historical is about gypsies, and the racial upheaval is very strong and binds are tight in my novel, too.

      Also, the character arc is interesting. I like how you bring the query to full circle by beginning with the relationship of MC and grandpa, and ending with the ties that bind, even after death.

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  2. When seventeen year old Emma's best friend turns up dead, she knows her boyfriend Luke, is the one responsible. Emma may not have a family and lived in group homes her whole life, but even she knows love shouldn’t come at that high of a price. In an attempt to escape Luke’s obsessive control, Emma is pulled into a world of Native American legend, and hidden powers of telepathy begin to emerge. Able to hear the thoughts of those around her would be an advantage, that is if Luke wasn’t able to block her. As her powers grow stronger she learns about Skinwalkers—witches who alter their shape to wreak havoc on humans. And Luke is one of them. Disguised as a raven, Luke watches, waiting until Emma turns eighteen so he can reclaim the powers that are rightfully his, even if it means killing everyone in his way.

    When Emma meets Solomon, a young medicine man, he offers her protection. But knowing what happened to the last person she befriended and unsure of Solomon’s true intentions, she pushes him away. When the connection with Solomon and his family becomes too strong, Emma knows she can’t turn her back on her first chance at love. She must learn to use the powers she’s been entrusted to defeat Luke, or risk losing the only family she has ever known.

    Entrusted, a YA Magical Realism is complete at 96,000 words.

    Thank you for your consideration.

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    1. Nice hook! But you need to separate the hook from the rest of that paragraph. It's too long. As Query Shark says, "White space, white space, white space." I thought the rest of the first paragraph had too much information packed in it. Pare it down, leaving only the most essential elements.

      Nice wrap up in the last paragraph with the stakes.

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    2. I really like your hook. Emma knows something terrible, and maybe even scary. I'm wondering if the murdered best friend is in the story more and what the murder has to do with the rest of the story.

      The middle of the query reads more like a miniature synopsis. There is a lot of story and might benefit from paring down a little info and sticking with only the main facts.

      The wrap up stakes is definitely a great hanger. The only nit pick I have here is the phrase :risk losing" because it sounds cliche. Is there another way you could word the last sentence?

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    3. "Emma may not have a family and lived in group homes her whole life," I would choose one of these two to make a point, also it isn't grammatically correct. Also, she suddenly gets pulled into Native American legend, but you don't say how, so I'm thinking "Why?" "hidden powers of telepathy begin to emerge" is passive. Etc.

      I agree with the others, it's too long. Try to pare it down to just the essentials. As an exercise, write a ten-word summary of the book. It shows you what REALLY needs to be there. And breaking it into three shorter paragraphs instead of two long ones is easier on tired eyes. Good luck with it!

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  3. Victoria Logan always dreamed of having children, but in her dreams, the image always included at least one daughter.

    After finding out she’ll give birth to a second son, she is desperate to try for a girl; she longs to experience the complex and extraordinary bond of a mother-daughter relationship. In her drive to find out how to make it happen, she joins an online gender swaying
    forum, consults with a psychic, gazes up at the moon for just the right amount of luminosity, and tries out different lovemaking positions. In her quest, she will battle pessimism from friends and family and a heartache that will test her grit and determination.

    On the gender swaying forum, she meets Lacey Dalton, the mother of two daughters, who is scarred by her older brother's death and positively possessed with the need to bear a son. Lacey cannot risk a mere fifty percent chance at obtaining him. While her husband’s away on business,
    she opts for a high-tech gender selection method that is ninety-nine percent effective. Believing that she’ll have a son, she instead receives a shocking surprise that she's pregnant with her third girl.

    When Victoria and Lacey venture away from their computers and meet up in real life, it will be an experience that offers both women perspective and insight into each other's worlds. For Victoria, Lacey is a reminder that there are no guarantees; she must risk her whole heart for a chance at her dream. And Lacey must come to terms with fate and that, just maybe, this little girl is exactly the child meant
    for her.

    NEEDING HER is my tentatively titled women’s fiction novel. It is complete at 88,800 words.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

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    1. I think the first sentence of your second paragraph is a better hook because it's more engaging and gets to where Victoria is right now, and your current hook is implied in the first sentence of the second paragraph anyway.

      Character-driven novels need to be reflected in the query letter, which is different from the more plot-driven standard query. Yours is obviously character-driven, but I think it could benefit from condensing some of the elements of the query. It's important to get the emotional core and the character's personality, dreams, etc. in a character-driven query, but you still need to stick to the basics of who the MC is, what does she want, and what stands in her way of getting it. You don't want to summarize the whole book.

      One other thing I want to point out is why after she went through something with a rate of being 99% effective did she expect to have a boy?

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    2. I notice a couple of instances in change in tense. Make sure you stay in the same tense throughout the query.

      The first sentence is the most important of a query. Think about the impression yo want to immediately convey to an agent. I love the longing and desire that pours from your first sentence. But I see the word "always" is used twice, and also "dream." Could you find a different way to say the last part of the sentence?

      Also, my suggestion would include keeping the query limited to Victoria. I had to read through a couple of times to get Victoria and Lacy separated.

      As I have told you already, I love your writing and the thought behind your story. I know it will be a great story and hope to read it one day.

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    3. I have to point out a major loophole. Unless Lacey used donor sperm without her husband knowing, then his being away on a business trip won't keep him from knowing. If she used donor sperm, then there's a bigger story here than just having a boy or girl.

      The process involves "washing" sperm to try separating out X sperm from Y sperm. This means a sample is needed from the man (in other words, he needs to ejaculate in a cup and get it to the lab while it's still warm, or do it at the lab). A costlier method is to harvest eggs from the woman, fertilize using a process called ICSI using a sperm of the desired gender, and transfer an embryo or two either three or five days later. This also involves either the husband/partner or a donor.

      Microsort, the company that does the sperm washing for artificial inseminations or intrauterine insemination (IUI), cites some of their statistics here: http://www.microsort.com/?page_id=453 It's no where near 99%. As far as the success rate for in vitro fertilization with sex-specified ICSI will vary by the individual clinic.

      Aside from that, I also had a hard time keeping the two different women straight. It starts off sounding like Victoria will be the main character, but ends with the other woman deciding that maybe her newest daughter might be the child for her.

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    4. Alys, thanks for your reply. To clear up some confusion about the questions asked, is that Lacey's character was doing a different method that only had 70-80 percent accuracy (similiar to Microsort) but before her husband went out of town, he donated a sample, thinking she was going to do this method, but instead she chose to do the sex selection at the same clinic with his frozen sperm. I know that sounds convoluted, but that's how it happens in the book. So it is his baby. As for the story itself, every chapter alternates between the two characters, so the book is equally both of their stories. The 99 percent I specified in my query is referring to a procedure called PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis)which is that effective. Hope this clears up everything, and maybe my query is too detailed. Thanks Talynn for the shout-out on my writing!

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    5. You'll need to make that more clear in your letter. It sounds like she's doing everything without him knowing.

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  4. I am seeking representation for my contemporary romance, TAKING SECOND CHANCES, complete at 108,000 words.

    Thirty-nine-year-old college professor, Gabriella Edwards, hasn’t had an easy life. She’s lost her parents, her husband and sometimes she thinks she’s lost her mind. With so much death surrounding her, Gabriella is trapped in a state of depression. But when she takes advice from a friend to relieve the pent up stress and “just get laid” it turns into seven semesters of getting lost between the sheets—with her students. Her naughty vice is definitely a distraction, but when she unexpectedly falls in love her whole world is turned upside down again.

    Tired of empty affairs and exhausted from swearing off love, she is finally ready to move on. Her prayers are answered by Caleb Waters; a hot, older, promising student. He’s different from the rest. And she can’t stay away from him, even though she knows she should. For the first time since losing everything, Gabriella finds herself letting down her guard and trusting in this man, who teaches her how to love again.

    But it’s never easy for Gabriella. Just when the semester is winding down and they are almost in the clear, Caleb’s obsessed roommate discovers they are together and threatens to expose their secret. Now, with her career and her family's respect on the line, Gabriella must decide if Caleb is worth it.

    Thank you for your consideration.

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    1. The first couple of sentences seem like needless backstory. Start with the advice to get laid.

      "Finally ready to move on" is cliche; just focus on what she does next.

      Nice stakes at the end. This sounds like a juicy read.

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    2. Well, that stinks! Blogger just erased my reply! Shoot, I spent a lot of time on this reply. I hope I can remember it all!

      Your first sentence tells me the MC had a hard life, then you show me why. I like the "show me why" part best. Your first sentence isn't needed. Get right to the point!

      Watch passive voice.

      "Pent up" needs a hyphen.

      You've got your Character, conflict and choice, so the basics are covered. Great! And the stakes at the end make me wonder what she does to make it all work in her favor...

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    3. Thank you both for your input. I will tweak it a bit based on your suggestions. :) Now if only I could get another bite...LOL

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    4. How about this for a hook?

      When Gabrielle Edwards takes her friends' advice to “just get laid.” it turns into seven semesters of getting lost between the sheets—with her students.


      That right there would pique my curiosity to read more.

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  5. Music and movies usually do it for me.

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    1. Yep, but it's got to be something really, really good!

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  7. In a town where half the people are DROPPs, dirty-rotten poor people, eleven-year-old Boot Lancaster tries to help out the poor however he can. And he’s the only one.

    The normal people, the ones who still have jobs and money, refuse to be bothered with other people’s problems. Even the kids at school have made it clear; whoever helps a DROPP is nothing more than worthless trash. Not wanting to become the school’s punching bag, Boot tries to keep his efforts a secret. Sticking to the shadows, he visits the junkyard to find things he can fix up and give to needy DROPPs. But he isn’t the only one using the shadows.

    At first, there’s only a small theft here and there, but soon full-fledged burglaries plague the town. One night, Boot is attacked and comes face to face with the thieves. They aren’t what he expected; they’re worse. He might know their secret, but they also know his, and their word is worth a whole lot more in that town than his ever could be. They promise to leave him alone on one condition – he helps them scout out their next job.

    Boot plans on refusing. But when his own father is seriously injured, his plans start to change. His family needs cash fast. Maybe it’s time he became a thief.

    STAYING IN SHADOWS is a 45,000 word contemporary fiction for the middle grade audience, which reminds a bit of THE THIEF LORD and THE OUTSIDERS.

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    1. This has a great start, and immediately I'm intrigued. I think the third paragraph goes into too much of a plot summary, but it's still interesting. Good luck with this.

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    3. You've got character, conflict and choice. I like it!

      There are a couple instances of passive voice you might want to look at.

      I love the name Boot. I think my son would enjoy this.

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    4. Great bones here! I think I've seen this before? Anyway, tighten the wording and lower the word count - it feels a little wordy (says the one guilty of the exact same thing!), and almost gives away the ending.

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  8. All of these queries so far feel more like synopses than get-me-excited teasers. One suggestion I've seen is to limit the query to 150 words and four sentences: The hook; what the MC needs; why he/she cannot get it; and to what lengths he/she will go to get it anyway. That's the core conflict. Put it in your voice and go for it.

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    1. Last year when I pitched to an agent at a conference, I stuck to those basics. She told me my Women's Fiction sounded like a thriller and that with character-driven novels, I needed to get to the emotional core. I think that's the one drawback in many workshops and sites that teach how to write query letters-- they focus on how to write a plot-driven query.

      Yesterday, Ink posted her character-driven query, and it was beautiful while still capturing all the elements of a good query. Some of the commenters thought she should have taken out the character elements and the scene setting that was so crucial to establishing voice and stakes. The reason those things are so important to establishing stakes is because the stakes typically aren't earth-shattering in a character-driven novel, so if we know something about the MC, we know how much she has to lose, thereby increasing the stakes.

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    2. I just love this explanation of a character driven query. And novel. Not all novels contain earth shattering consequences.

      Not to mention, every writer, every agent, every novel is DIFFERENT. It is a subjective business and can be seen only through the eyes of the creator. The key is finding the agent and publisher who can see through the writers eyes, with the same dream.

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    3. Thank you. The more I try to break into the publishing industry, the more tidbits I pick up along the way.

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  9. I definitely agree that listening to other people's creations inspires me! Sometimes just emptying my mind and going for a run or something works too!

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    1. I don't do much running, except trying to catch a kid (hehe)

      But I do walk sometimes and that helps.

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    2. I wish I could run. But I kinda, sorta, beat up the body when younger, and paying for it now. Swimming, on the other hand, I'm with you! The quiet, concentrating on muscle movement - clears the cobwebs.

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  10. I find inspiration everywhere. But the one used most often is time spent staring at the mountains, my Zen, and letting thoughts flow freely.

    And, here is my query:

    Kylie Rippons possesses the power to braid time. The rarest of mortals, she was born with the ability to manipulate the threads of time into a braid and affect endings. But the power demands a steep cost - she must forfeit a piece of her soul with every use.

    The gods want to use her unique skills in their never-ending wars, uncaring of the cost she must bear, but she prefers to keep sanity and tattered spirit in tact. She finds herself waging war against the powerful immortals and relinquishing pieces of her soul in the fight to keep her beloved son, Riot, a secret. Unknown to the immortals, Riot is a demi-god carrying the power of his mother, born of a youthful, short lived affair with a Norse god.

    Fighting at Kylie's side are two ancient goddesses, plus an outcast Valkyrie and a rogue Beserker. They decide to hunt the gods, in hopes of forcing them leave her alone, but life ruins their pursuit. Nothing like a few universal truths, a painful betrayal by an ally and a vicious threat against Riot to force a gifted mortal to change tactics.

    Kylie wants her son, left with his mortal grandparents for safety's sake four years ago, remain sane and live a life of peace in the Denver suburbs. Instead, the gods learn of Riot, intending to use him as leverage. She must face her worst nightmare: braid time and temporarily remove the threat to Riot - losing soul and sanity in the process, give in to their demands, or find the power to follow one bright string depicting a time line in which Riot is safe and she is dead.

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    1. Your door prize is coming TJ. Hold on tight. It's coming...

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    2. Woohoo! I'm gathering as much red ink as possible. I really feel this MS is the "one." Or maybe I'm over-hoping LOL

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    3. So when do I get to read more? Huh huh huh?!

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    4. Talynn - now I'm worried LOL Was it that bad?! LOL

      Alys - how much do you have??? LOL I'm up to chapter 18...

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    5. I don't know good or bad. But I do know its getting a thorough critique. Woo hoo:)

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    6. Just the first few, but send them all again in case there are edits I didn't see.

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  11. I get a lot of inspiration when I am working out and listening to music. I have a pad of paper and a pen in my kindle notebook for the gym. I also get a lot when I am at church, for my first manuscript scriptures kept popping out at me. Also the special ops group of my second MS is from the Bible.

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  15. First, I wanted to let you know I tagged you for The Next Big Thing here: http://deskoflaurastephenson.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-next-big-thing.html (Sorry, I don't know how to do links in comments.)

    Second, my query:

    Riches, youth, magic, Kalara has it all. She's a classic evoker--hurling fire, ice, and electricity is her specialty. As her father always said, the classics are important.

    Meet Whitcomb, a powerful necromancer who doesn't want anyone discovering he's selling the souls of the dead who go through his funeral home. Kalara finds out he's also a mage, and lets him know they have that in common in an endeavor to network. His response is an attempt to teleport her into the Hudson River, and it almost works. Scared for her life, she elicits the help of a devil.

    Enter Evander, son of a devil. He's fresh from failing his final test to become a devil, and making a deal with a mortal would save him from disgrace. He has Kalara sign an overly fair contract: in return for borrowing his power for five days, she has to give him a heart from one of his enemies so he can eat it and grow stronger. If she fails to deliver the heart, he eats Kalara's instead.

    THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BEING EVIL, finished at 60,000 words, is a quirky Urban Fantasy.

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    1. Need a beta reader? This one sounds like a lot of fun!

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    2. Sure, if you want. I can't promise to return the favor, based on the current level of activity in my life (barely getting through my edits on the schedule I've set for myself). I know it sucks to work really hard to help someone with their work and not get much in return, so it's cool if that changes your mind. If not, I think clicking my name leads to my email address somehow? :D

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    3. That's fine with me. :) alysbcohen at gmail. Clicking on your name doesn't do anything for me.

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  16. As for writing when tired? I JUST DO IT. Can't come up with anything for a manuscript at the moment? Than I'll write a scene using my characters for something that won't be in the book. I did that with the sequel to my MS mentioned above (it's first draft right now), and ended up with one of my best scenes of the book. Yes, the "I'm uninspired and feel like blah" little attempt at killing one of my characters to make myself feel better ended up making the cut.

    I have a rule of not taking a day off. Every day, even if it's just revising or writing one paragraph, I do SOMETHING. I keep up momentum this way.

    If nothing wants to come to me, I'll look at pictures of France or listen to classical music, or listen to music while laying down with my eyes closed. It's too cold her to go running, but perfect for music and napping.

    Worst case scenario is I'll look up random writing tips to improve writing and will pick m weakest chapter and try to apply those tips.

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  17. When Frost Fairy Casiphia finally gains a spot on the coveted First Flight as the youngest flier ever, her enthusiasm is quickly overridden by fear as the flight proves to be far from routine. The Autumn fairies refuse to concede the ending of their season, ripping away those closest to her and most of the Hibernal Governing authority. With the threads of her society unravelling can she lift up and restore not only the dominance of her clan, but the seasonal balance of the world?
    Casiphia is 15 turns old and after fulfilling a year long contract with her father, she is allowed to fly in the Grand and largely ceremonial First Frost flight. Casiphia soon discovers that a year and good intentions do not equate to a successful flight. After visiting the Sacred sun table, and noting the beginning of Winter the Flight officially begins. From dealing with Snowflake Guild assertion, and the irritating and embarrassing presence of her non-cousin turned assistant Aeron, to open eyed dealing with the cold and death she is fated to dispense, she is blown far beyond her normal range. When the Autumnal fairies first take stand, her inexperience betrays her and she barely manages to escape with her life, and Aeron's. The Frost flight is abandoned long before it is complete with most of the Elders dead or dying. Casiphia must rise up and defeat the Autumnals not only for her species, and the only way of life she knows, but for the health of the entire world. Her only hope is by uniting the Winter factions, releasing ally and supporter Aeron from his responsibilities to her, and taking flight with a cold vengeance. She wages a tough campaign that will most likely take the lives of many, but will ultimately restore the Natural Law and everything she holds true to her heart.


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    1. Sorry about the lack of formatting. I really don't know what happened. (?)

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  18. Inky,
    I loved what you shared!
    Walking also helps me... :D
    This was a beautiful post!
    Thank you
    @>-----------

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    1. Ella, you always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Thanks!

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  19. SInce I got no feedback above, I'm going this alone, I guess. How about this?

    Battered and frightened, Juliette St. Claire flees from near-death at the crushing hands of her boyfriend, to find her closest friend, Tristan Larocque, only to discover he has kept a vital secret about his identity.

    Juliette lives her existence resigned to her boyfriend, Nathaniel Jensen's violent whims. After a particularly violent evening, she has had enough, and a high window is her only chance at escaping with her life. Desperate to live through the night, she flees.
    
    Finally free, Juliette finds her best friend, but just when she needs him the most, Tristan must leave. She learns that he is a breed of vampire who needs to find and warn a lost vampire coven that they are in danger from Nathaniel, an instinctively violent werewolf leader determined to abolish them. Rather than hide from the danger her ex presents, Juliette, determined to keep Tristan safe, insists that she accompany him on his mission.
    
    Over the course of a multi-country journey to save the mysterious coven, Juliette discovers she has more internal strength and courage than she'd ever realized. She leads the vampires into battle against the werewolves and discovers she alone holds the power to destroy her terrible ex-boyfriend and to save the future of vampires, or to mercifully spare his life.

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    1. Alys,
      The only thing that sticks out to me is the word "resigned" I'm not for sure why, but it felt stuffy to me.
      The query flows well.

      Your hook is a tad too long. Maybe something like:

      "Battered and frightened, Juliette St. Claire flees the crushing hands of her boyfriend to find her closest friend, Tristan Larocque has kept a vital secret about his identity."

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  20. So many great ones here. Let me get over this head cold & I'll post mine (if it's not too late).

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    1. Feel better soon! And go ahead and post it when you feel better!

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    2. Missed all the fun Friday. :-(

      Going to post a short query here, hope it gets picked apart. Have to say this is cobbled together from a couple of versions and I hope it makes sense:

      Ilia's foresight gives her an affinity to Death, but now that he's tasked restore fate she finds herself dealing with conniving gods, one of their off-spring intent on grabbing as much power as possible and dead souls attaching themselves to her. With fate off kilter, Ilia knows there's more at stake than her quest. When her brother lives past his time, and the gods start redefining fate, Ilia faces questions her role and whether she can, or wants to complete her task. The gods have their own plans and Ilia finds herself fighting for her own life and destiny, one which she'll have control over, not the deities.

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