Marshall Payne (marshallpayne1) wrote,
Marshall Payne

My Query for Petrol Queen

It was two months ago yesterday that Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency signed me, and I thought for those who were curious I'd share my query letter.

I feel most fortunate to have scored an agent on my first query attempt. It only took 84 days and 17 queries, but I had great help from Jaime Lee Moyer (stillnotbored ) and Jodi Meadows (jmeadows), who have both been successful at this endeavor.

In writing this query for Petrol Queen my problem was that because it's a multi-POV third-person novel, it has a large ensemble cast. And while Lana is the main protag, Corona the half-haint stole the show as there aren't very many ghost hookers out there working the streets in contemporary fantasy. Also, there is Lana's mom, Ziane, the titular character who is the embodiment of the ancient dragon spirit, from where the idea for this book sprung.

So basically I have three women protags, which presented the problem of how to get them all into the query letter and show the stakes involved. As I learned from Jody and Jaime, showing the Big Stakes involved for the characters is what you're after in a query. Here's what I came up with:

Dear Ms. McClure,

I am seeking representation for my urban fantasy, PETROL QUEEN, complete at 92,000 words.

Aeons ago, before becoming extinct, dragons reigned in the kingdom now known as Amel-Gar. Today, Ziane Kont has a monopoly on the precious J-fuel she extracts and synthesizes from the underground bones and magic of J-mu and her dragon weyr, the greatest of their kind. Now the spirit of J-mu lives on inside Ziane, allowing her to morph into dragon form, a destiny soon to be passed down to her daughter before it's her time.

In her first year of college, Lana Kont is in love with Dallon Jaser, her history professor. But when her mother orders his execution, mother and daughter are pitted against one another, as they bend the pollution-based sky-haints to assume dragon form and wage war in the sky.

Corona is a half-haint, an incorporeal being in constant danger of slipping off this mortal coil. When she becomes involved in the Agony Underground, she is caught between Lana and Ziane in their struggle for supremacy.

PETROL QUEEN is the first novel of a planned series in this modern-day secondary-world fantasy. I've included a sample from the first chapter. I look forward to hearing from you.

I am a member of SFWA and Codex. I've sold 41 stories to various markets including Aeon Speculative Fiction, Brutarian, The Hub Magazine and Talebones. I was the assistant editor at The Fix, the short fiction review zine from TTA Press. There I was also the principal interviewer, spotlighting various luminaries in the field of SF/F. Since then I have done interviews at Fantasy Magazine and on the SFWA Nebula Award site, as well as on my blog.

Marshall Payne
Tags: cameron mcclure, fiction writing, petrol queen
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