Genre: Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 68,000


Dear Query Faerie,

I am submitting my romantic suspense WATERS OF OBLIVION to you for consideration in your April Fools’ Query contest.

Reine Baldwin’s past resurfaces when she’s called to Venice to authenticate a purported Old Master painting. Returning to the city where she drowned on her honeymoon in 1498, the reclusive art historian expects a challenge. What she doesn’t expect is for the woman in the centuries old portrait to look exactly like her. Before she can fully question the discovery, Reine wakes with a pounding headache, full-blown amnesia, and a man claiming to be her long-lost husband. Confused and conflicted, Reine still knows that it has to be more than fate that brought them together. Realizing that in spite of her immortality someone must have tried to kill her puts even the little she does know into doubt. Is the pompous, yet utterly irresistible Massimo’s intention of rekindling their relationship as innocent as he’s leading her to believe? Who else knew her secret and what do they want her to forget? And most importantly, if dying was supposed to wipe her slate clean, why are there certain things that she’s already starting to remember? If Reine doesn’t uncover the truth, this second chance may very well turn out to be her last.

WATERS OF OBLIVION is complete at 68K words. It is a stand-alone with series potential that can be described as a bit of JULIET IMMORTAL mixed with A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES. In my day job, I am a senior higher-education administrator; however, I’ve worked and studied at the same university as my heroine, earning a graduate degree in visual culture.

First 250:

Reine clutched her broken hand to her chest and repeatedly tapped the “door close” button with the other. The pain in her fingers was almost unbearable, but it would be gone soon. Hopefully it would be soon enough. Given the weather and the late hour, the hotel lobby was deserted, but she couldn’t risk being seen. Not just yet.

The elevator door slid slowly into place. She looked at her hand again. It was shaking, but as she flexed her fingers, the last signs of bruising – and of the pain – disappeared. However, that hardly made her happy. Reine only had herself to blame for getting into this predicament. For the second time in two weeks, she almost inadvertently revealed her secret. A secret her life depended on.

She should have just ended things when she fumbled to answer a simple question: “Are you married?”

But she didn’t, and that was mistake number one.

It was a warning sign, and she ignored it. She had uncharacteristically let her guard down. But who wouldn’t have, if they had looked into those eyes or had seen that smile? As always, her heart would be her downfall. That’s why she had avoided listening to it for so long. Until tonight.

And that’s when she made the second mistake: getting injured. But it really all started just a few hours earlier with the blackout.

Thank you for your time and consideration


9 thoughts on “Entry 5 – WATERS OF OBLIVION

  1. Query:
    words: 10/10
    hook 6/10
    plot 7/10
    amount of characters 10/10
    show/tell 9/10
    stakes 8/10
    overall 8/10 You don’t have to include what your day job is if it’s not directly related to the novel. I haven’t read the Juliet Immortal or the Discovery of Witches, but I’ve heard that comp titles are very hard to do. Unless if you are positive that your novel is related to those two, I would leave out the comp titles.

    First page:
    first line 9/10
    voice 9/10
    originality 10/10
    character development 8/10
    setting 8/10
    overall 9/10 Your first page is very well written. It looks polished, professional, and interesting.

  2. Feedback From Entry #9
    words 8/10
    hook 6/10
    plot 6/10
    amount character 9/10
    show/tell 5/10
    stakes 6/10
    overall 6/10 When does this take place? You mention 1498 but is this in the present day?

    First page
    first line 8/10 I liked the first line and its sense of urgency.
    voice 6/10 Passive and I didn’t draw me in.
    originality 5/10 – There is a paranormal romance feel to it. This may be a tough sell since the market is flooded with this genre.
    character development 7/10
    setting 7/10
    overall 7/10

  3. from Entry #10

    Query is 250-300 Words: 10/10
    Hook: 9 /10
    Plot: 7/10 Is it important that she remembers the she is immortal? It would be an interesting twist if she didn’t, at least for a while. I think the relationship between Reine and Massimo will be interesting to explore. This would defiantly pull me in as a reader.
    Amount of Characters Listed: 8 /10
    Showing vs. Telling: 7/10
    Stakes Clearly Listed: 6/10 I am confused at why she might die now? How does she know this, or has she forgotten that she is immortal? These things contradict each other a bit.
    Overall: 7/10 You might want to vary sentence length a little more. I have read that agents want simple sentences in the query. (But half the things I have read on the internet have been wrong, so take that with a grain of salt!)

    First 250:

    First Line: 9/10
    Voice: 9/10
    Originality: 8 /10
    Character Development: 10/10 You have done a great job of bringing her out in just the first few words.
    Setting/World Building: 8 /10
    Overall: 9 /10 Excellent work.

    “It was a warning sign, and she ignored it.” Does this mean she is ignoring the warning at that moment, or during the past event? You might clear this up.

  4. Query
    words 10/10
    hook 7/10 I liked the idea of her drowning in 1498 and being an immortal, perhaps you can work that into a gripping hook.
    plot 7/10 What gave her the pounding head-ache, was a bit confused there. Could you break your query into paragraphs.
    amount of characters 10/10
    show/tell 8/10
    stakes 8/10
    overall 8/10

    First page
    first line: 9/10
    voice 9/10
    originality 7/10
    character development 8/10
    setting 8/10
    overall 8/10

    from entry 3

  5. Query:
    Query is 250-300 Words: 10/10

    Hook: 5/10 Didn’t really draw me in until the second line, and that just confused me. Is she a ghost?

    Plot is Easily Understandable (MC, Goal, Conflict): 7/10 A woman dies, then wakes up and can’t remember anything? It’s still a little confusing, but I hope I understand the gist of it.
Amount of Characters Listed: 10/10

    Showing vs. Telling (Doesn’t Read like a Synopsis): 6/10

    Stakes Clearly Listed: 5/10

    Overall: 6/10 I’m not sure if you intended to make this all one paragraph — it might have just been posted that way on the blog — but if you did, there should be some paragraph breaks, because it all seems to run together.

    First 250:
    First Line: 8/10

    Voice: 8/10
Originality: 6/10

    Character Development: 6/10 Hard to tell so soon, though
Setting/World Building: 9/10

    Overall: 7/10 The first two paragraphs drew me in, but then the narrative ventured into backstory. At this point, I’m more curious as to why Reine is on an elevator and just what is going on than her marital status. Unfortunately, I don’t think your query does the writing justice just yet.

    from entry number 8

  6. Query:
    Words: 9/10
    Hook: 6/10.
    Plot: 6/10. I got thrown when you mentioned 1498. Is that the time she’s basically thrown back to?
    Characters: 8/10
    Showing vs Telling: 7/10
    Stakes: 8/10
    Overall: 7/10.

    First 250:
    First Line: 8/10
    Voice: 7/10
    Originality: 8/10
    Character development: 8/10
    Setting: 6/10 Just because it’s so soon, I think.
    Overall: 8/10


    Length: 10
    Hook: 0
    Plot is Easily Understandable (MC, Goal, Conflict): 1
    Amount of Characters Listed: 5
    Showing vs. Telling (Doesn’t Read like a Synopsis): 6
    Stakes Clearly Listed: 1
    Overall: 2

    First 250:
    First Line: 6
    Voice: 4
    Originality: 7
    Character Development: 6
    Setting/World Building: 6
    Overall: 8

    Total score: 62

    Hook: there isn’t one.
    Plot: I get that the MC dies and is given a second chance at life, but beyond that, there seems to be nothing to draw the reader’s attention.
    Characters: This is listed as a romance, which requires two characters. You mentioned only one – ok, I eventually found the other, but he was well hidden, deep in the abyss of that monster paragraph.
    Stakes: Other than the “second chance may turn out to be her last” bit, there is nothing at risk for the MC, and she’s already had one more chance that most people get.
    Overall: This is a mess. Everything is jammed into one long paragraph that is difficult to decipher.
    Questions are best left out of queries. Show the agent what is happening. Don’t ask her to guess.
    Your day-job is irrelevant, as is attending the same university as your MC. Only include this type of information if it clearly makes you the best person to write this book.

    First 250:
    Voice: A little awkward in places.
    Overall: Although nothing in particular stands out, everything seems to fit well together.
    If I hadn’t already studied the query, I would have no idea where this was going, but it’s interesting and entices me to read more. Overall, a successful first page.

    General notes, applicable to all:

    Query length:
    250-275 is the sweet spot to aim for (300 words is too long). I used a simple formula. Any query of appropriate length scored 10/10. Anything over 275 words (excluding salutation and sign-off) lost one point, and then another point was deducted for every 10 words extra. I did not deduct points for short queries as this is not likely to be a problem with agents, provided all the important information is presented.

    Number of characters:
    I awarded the maximum to every entrant, unless it read like a character soup, or it was clear that something was missing.
    (Note for next time: I think this category should have been a little broader to include depth of character)

    Other categories:
    I figured that 6 is an average score, appropriate for an average query as seen in the “Query Critiques” forum (polished & revised versions, not first drafts as this is a contest and entries should already be polished). I adjusted the scores up or down based on how I felt it would stack up on that forum.

    I skewed the overall scores slightly depending on whether or not the entry left me wanting to read more.

  8. Query
    Words: 10/10
    Hook: 6/10–Very confused. I realize by the end that she’s immortal, but this needs to be very clear from the beginning. I actually thought Reine was a ghost.
    Plot: 8/10–Although I understood, it’s very wordy and is accompanied by subplots; focus on ONE conflict.
    Characters: 9/10–I was wondering who was Peter, but then I figured it out later.
    Showing vs. Telling: 9/10
    Stakes: 6/10–The questions aren’t helping to express the stakes. And if she’s immortal, why might she die after this “second chance” (at what? living?)
    Overall: 7/10–Needs to be broken into at least 2 paragraphs for clarity and flow.

    First 250
    First Line: 8/10
    Voice: 7/10–Too passive
    Originality: 6/10
    Character Development: 7/10
    Setting/World Building: 7/10
    Overall: 7/10–After the first paragraph, you drift into passive voice and backstory. We need to know where she’s going and not about where she’s been…not just yet. Otherwise, I think there’s a good story here.

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