New Adult musings

July 2015 Critique Blog Hop aka Another Excuse to Get Eyes on My Query #amwriting

Hot off the roller coaster fun of New Agent, I’m participating in Michelle Hauck’s critique blog hop. Please see below and feel free to critique in the comments section. Thank you!

Query:

Discovering her self-harming father in a bathtub of blood created a life-long phobia in twenty-two-year old Michelle Fortes. When she learns her boyfriend cheated, Michelle opts for a job opportunity in France, away from heartache and painful family memories. If she can pass the French language certification in the city of Rouen, she’ll have a promotion in her international law office.

Once she arrives, Michelle learns the promotion hinges upon the impossible: speaking French fluently in an oral exam. Throwing herself into the task, she works as a teaching assistant in Normandy, where she meets non-profit icon, Alexandre. His eagerness to help knows no bounds, showing her castles, delectable wines, and how to French-kiss. But Michelle’s suspicions are raised when she finds photographs of women in his locked armoire, track marks on his arms, and discovers he’s been stalking her since she disembarked the plane. Despite these red flags, her undeniable attraction to him and stubborn belief in his goodness keep her close.

When Alexandre reveals his true identity and his strange request, Michelle must determine if she can face her greatest fear to save him, risking her heart and her career in the process.

HEARTS IN ROUEN is a 81,000-word New Adult work of romance and mystery, exploring the themes of life after college and how to move forward from difficult beginnings.

First 250 words:

Blood oozes from my thumbnail, bright red against the azure of the carpeted jet way. My knees ache against the thin runner where I tripped at the airplane door, but my eyes lock on the pool forming in my nail bed.

“Mademoiselle? You are okay?” The flight attendant’s thick accent and the growing nausea in my stomach make it difficult to focus.

Josh’s voice fills my ears, scoffing at my dreams. France? You can hardly navigate a sidewalk.

“I’m sorry?”

“You are bleeding. I may help?” Without waiting for a reply, the flight attendant pulls me to my feet with calloused hands. A drop of blood hits the ground and the stars crowding my vision turn to fireworks. Crap. Not here, not here. My chest constricts while I stare hard at the runner, taking deep breaths until my head clears.

“Thank you,” I mumble. The flight attendant hesitates, his bushy black mustache twitching, then disappears back inside the plane.

I’ve been in France two whole minutes and I already almost blacked out. Between the jet lag from Los Angeles, four-hour layover through Swiss Customs, and the signs in French I’m lucky I made it this far.

Inside the terminal, delectable smells of pastries waft from a nearby patisserie counter, swamped with the lunch rush. A ferocious growl rumbles from my stomach, as I page through my list of train times to my new city.

Focus, Michelle. 

My thumb throbs beneath the napkin I grabbed but I press forward. I can do this.

18 thoughts on “July 2015 Critique Blog Hop aka Another Excuse to Get Eyes on My Query #amwriting”

  1. Hi Elle!

    I love love love your query. It flows well, the stakes are clear, and the premise is interesting (want to write mine for me?? ;). The only thing that confuses me is the jump from her discovering Alexandre’s stalking of her and pictures of other women to her wanting to save him. I’m sure in the story this is all explained, but it seems like a bit of a leap without that. Otherwise I think the query is really strong.

    Only a couple little things stand out in your 250. There are some extraneous words like “the azure color” you could lose “color.” Also “the napkin I grabbed” could just be “the napkin.” Little stuff like that. There is also something grammatically off about the stomach grumbling sentence. I think the way its written implies that the stomach is eyeing the croissant 😉 This is something I would definitely want to read though!

    Well done!

    Like

    1. Ahh good call on the extraneous words! I recently re-worked my first 250 so I really appreciate the specifics you provided on that and the query. Great catches, thank you! 🙂

      Like

  2. Query: The part about her childhood is a strong hook. A MC that black outs that could be problematic! But there is no more mention of it in the query. So I was like hmph! lol

    At the end you describe your novel as New Adult work of romance and mystery. In the query, the guy needs her blood, so I think it may qualify as paranormal or fantasy. I can’t be sure without knowing exactly why he needs her blood. I wouldn’t say “work of” though. Keep it simple and clean. New Adult Fantasy. The agent will be able to tell the mystery by your query.

    Hope this helps! Good Luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the helpful feedback! It’s not a fantasy so I’m not sure how to get around that but it’s great knowing that’s the vibe I’m giving off. Thanks again!

      Like

  3. Hello!

    Your query is pretty great. The only thing is, I don’t think you need the first line. It’s great and tells us something about Michelle, but it doesn’t really come up again. I think starting with the second sentence and tweak it a bit to be a beginning. Or does her fear of blood matter because at the end we’re told the guy “needs her blood?” If so I think maybe you should explain what for a little because it does give off a vampire feel and I saw you said this isn’t fantasy. But I’m excited to see a story that looks like the creepy guy doesn’t get the girl 🙂

    Your 250: I didn’t realize she’d fallen once she fell, so I think it should be clearer and also get more of a reaction from her, especially since this is triggered by a traumatic event. Similarly when she’s reading the train times, it comes from nowhere and is confusing. So I think this just needs some fleshing out of the world and the MC’s thoughts and it is solid.

    I hope this was helpful. Best of luck 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm. You’ve given me a lot to think about! Thanks for the comment about the train times. I’ve always felt a little off about them and I’ll see if I can integrate them better. Thank you for taking the time! 🙂

      Like

      1. Just a simple “I paged through the train schedule in my hand, figuring out how I would reach Paris” etc should do it 🙂 maybe even something about her wanting to succeed and prove to herself she can do this 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oooh I like that. I had her explaining she memorized the times in one of my first drafts and her repeating them in her head is something that stuck. Might be time to cut! Good suggestion.

        Like

  4. I really liked your query and first 250 words. Great job.

    Most of what I say is going to be fairly nitpicky, but here goes…

    Query:
    I don’t think you need the first line. You show that she had a rough childhood in the next one, so you might as well save that valuable space in your query. The only other thing with the query is that I’d like a bit more of her relationship with Alexandre in the query. When you talked about discovering the pictures in the armoire, I thought he was going to turn into the antagonist that your protagonist had to escape from. Even at the end, I was confused that she would even consider risking her life for someone she’s barely met.

    The only thing I can think of mentioning for the first 250 is that when I heard flight attendant I automatically thought ‘female’ (sorry, that’s bad, I know). However, I think that might be a common reaction so you might want to mention earlier that he’s a man.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Query:

    A lot going on in the first paragraph. Do we need to know the backstory for her phobia of blood? Or just that she has a nasty habit of fainting at the sight of it because of some trauma from her past.

    I’m also not sure we need to know that she’s going to return to California in two months. It doesn’t seem important to know in order to understand that plot.

    I think you can kill “Throwing herself into the task, she works as a high school teaching assistant in Normandy, where” and just start with the fact that she meets Alexandre who offers to tutor her. I’d also get rid of “alpha male” as it makes me feel like Alexandre is one-dimensional.

    I’d like to understand more about Alexandre’s need for her blood. Is he a vampire? That’s what I’m thinking. Either way, I think an agent would want more info on that, because this is the conflict. We need to understand it clearly. And why is her career at risk?

    If the part about her father is critical to her sanity being at stake, then you probably need to tie the two together more.

    250:
    I’m a little confused about what’s going on here. Partially because of the line about Josh. Suddenly, there are three people in the first three lines of the opening, and I don’t even know our MC, yet.

    Also, there’s a lot happening: the blood, her reaction, the fact that she tripped. And because you start after she tripped, it is hard to put it all together and understand what’s going. As is, I wouldn’t understand that seeing the blood is making her light-headed if I hadn’t read the query. So, I think you need to be clear about this. She can be annoyed or otherwise upset that she’s reacting to seeing her blood, again.

    The whole scene would be more clear if you started with her tripping and then walked us through her seeing her blood and reacting.

    Note, this sentence doesn’t work “A ferocious growl rumbles from my stomach, eyeing a fluffy, chocolate-filled croissant and interrupting my list of train times to my new city.” It reads as though her stomach is eyeing the croissant. Which would be interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Elle, this story completely grabbed my attention. I noticed a couple things that folks have already mentioned: Train sched times, stomach sentence and in the query “needs her blood” suggested paranormal to me.

    But what I really wanted to tell you was, if you want to swap first chapters for critique, let me know! I’d love to read more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey there, stranger 🙂

    Query:
    I’m not really hooked in with the first few lines being about her childhood. I want to jump into the current story. Maybe try mixing it in later?

    We don’t get to the real story until the second paragraph, which I don’t think should be the case. Try starting with something like:

    “Michelle Fortes hopes for a fresh start by spending the summer in France, working toward her French language certification and getting far away from her cheating ex. If she can keep her heartache and debilitating phobia of blood in check, she’ll return to California and be promoted to legal assistant at the international law firm in two months’ time.”

    And ‘his need for her blood’ makes him sound like a vampire…

    First 250 words:

    Suggestion for change: “where I tripped on a carpet ripple, sprawling at the airplane door.”
    Suggestion for change: “It’s been two minutes since I disembarked and I already almost blacked out.” to “I’ve been in France for two whole minutes and I already almost blacked out.”
    Comma after ‘the signs in French’

    You have some experience with my query critiquing, so please let me know if there’s more I can do for you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. *add*
    –cut–
    [$0.02]
    🙂

    Query:

    Discovering her self-harming father in a bathtub *covered in blood* created a life-long phobia of blood in twenty-two-year-old Michelle Fortes. Tired of heartache, Michelle hopes for a fresh start in France, away from her painful past and cheating ex, and works to snag a promotion in her international law office. [This is really clunky maybe make it two sentences– or put the cheating ex in the beginning?] –If she can keep her emotions and debilitating phobia of blood in check, she’ll return to California as a legal assistant in two months’ time.–

    Once she arrives, Michelle learns the promotion hinges upon the impossible: speaking French fluently in an oral exam. Throwing herself into the task, she works as a teaching assistant in Normandy, where she meets non-profit icon, Alexandre. –He tutors her in French– *His eagerness to help knows no bounds by* showing her castles, delectable wines, and how to French-kiss. But Michelle’s suspicions are raised when she finds photographs of women in his locked armoire, strange track marks on his arms, and discovers he’s been stalking her since she disembarked the plane. Despite these –red– flags, her stubborn belief in his goodness keeps her close.

    When Alexandre reveals his true identity and his startling *and strange* request, Michelle must determine if she can face her greatest fear to save him, risking her sanity and her career in the process.

    HEARTS IN ROUEN is a 80,000-word [round] New Adult work of romance and mystery, exploring the themes of life after college and how to move forward from difficult beginnings.

    First 250 words:

    Blood oozes from my thumbnail, bright red against the azure of the carpeted jet way. My knees ache against the thin runner where I tripped at the airplane door, but my eyes lock on the pool forming in my nail bed.

    “Mademoiselle? You are okay?” The flight attendant’s thick accent and the growing nausea in my stomach make it difficult to focus.

    Josh’s voice fills my ears, scoffing at my dreams. France? You can hardly navigate a sidewalk.

    “I’m sorry?”

    “You are bleeding. I may help?” Without waiting for a reply, the flight attendant pulls me to my feet with calloused hands. A drop of blood hits the ground and the stars crowding my vision turn to fireworks. Crap. Not here, not here. My chest constricts while I stare hard at the carpet –runner–, taking deep breaths until my head clears.

    “Thank you,” I mumble. The flight attendant hesitates, his bushy black mustache twitching, then disappears back inside the plane.

    I’ve been in France for two whole minutes and I already almost blacked out. Between the jet lag from Los Angeles, four-hour layover through Swiss Customs, and the signs in French I’m lucky I made it this far.

    Inside the terminal, delectable smells of pastries waft from a nearby patisserie counter, swamped with the lunch rush. A ferocious growl rumbles from my stomach, as I page through my list of train times to my new city.

    Focus, Michelle.

    My thumb throbs beneath the napkin I grabbed but I press forward. I can do this.

    _______________________
    I only had to make a few suggestions! It’s still reading amazing. YOU can do this, girl! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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