Alien Blue Query Letter

All, here’s the latest draft of my Alien Blue query letter.  Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Dear _________,

When barkeep Bill Trout’s best friend, Jack Stout, tries to hide an interstellar fugitive in small-town Haley, New Mexico, Bill refuses to help—it’s too dangerous. Jack claims the alien, Anam, is harmless. Forty-five minutes later, two people are dead and duct-taped into trash cans, the county courthouse has to be fumigated, Bill’s had to dump his own beer down the drain, and Jack still won’t admit he’s wrong.

Bill fights an uphill battle against intelligence, compassion, and loyalty to kick Anam out of town before his pursuers kill them all. Then Bill discovers he’s getting rid of the only life form able to save them from an alien invasion. Bill decides to help Anam using a mysterious blue beer he calls “Alien Blue”—but Bill’s plans never work out as intended.

Alien Blue is an 85,000-word tragicomic science fiction novel about the conflict between doing the right thing and protecting the ones you love, written in the shadows of Spider Robinson (but with fewer puns) and Kurt Vonnegut (but with a happier ending).

I’m a technical writer for the DoD; none of the events portrayed in this novel have the slightest association with fact. I belong to the Pikes Peak Writer’s Group and write murder-mystery party games in my spare time (www.freeformgames.com). I blog at www.blog.deannaknippling.com.

Thanks for your time,
DeAnna Knippling

6 comments

  1. ***Dave says:

    I’m not as conversant with Query Letter form as I ought to be, but this seems pretty good both at introducing the tale, its town, and its author.

    That first sentence feels a bit convoluted — maybe a more straightforward structure … “When Jack Stout tries to hide an interstellar fugitive in small-town Haley, New Mexico, his best friend and barkeep, Bill Trout, refuses to help—it’s too dangerous.” Or even a less starting-with-a-prepositional-phrase kind of thing “Jack Stout tries to hide an interstellar fugitive in small-town Haley, New Mexico, but his best friend and barkeep, Bill Trout, refuses to help—it’s too dangerous.”

    But — in general — coolness!

  2. Definitely sounds interesting! I’ve never written a query letter, so this gives me a good idea of what it should look like.

    That being said, you can take my advice with a grain of salt when I say I wouldn’t say, “sounds like Spider Robinson and Kurt Vonnegut”; I think the synopsis speaks for itself and gives the reader a great idea of what the book is about and the style it’s written in.

    But then again, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Wish you luck and hope someone picks it up; I’d like to read it!

  3. Vicky says:

    I think the query captures the needed attention and shares a good look into the synopsis. So keep it up and good luck on your query journey!

  4. Krista G. says:

    I liked the first paragraph, except for the line about Bill and his beer. The rest of the aftermath description made sense; this didn’t (to me).

    The second paragraph glosses over some details that would probably be stronger if you gave us a clue as to what they were. What examples of intelligence, compassion, and loyalty are you talking about? And how does Bill discover Anam’s ability to save them from an impending alien invasion?

    Also, I’m not quite sure how to feel about the voice. It has some zany elements a la HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, but I get the impression that you’re going for something more serious than that. So you may consider revising it a bit to give it whichever feel you’re looking for.

    Good luck with it!

  5. ktbuffy says:

    I like it! And I look at a ton of these on a regular basis, so woot!

    A couple of nitpicky notes: I immediately start trying to rhyme Bill and Jack’s names when I see them so close together in the first sentence. Can you leave off Jack’s last name for simplification’s sake? Likewise, do you have to give the alien’s name in the query? I feel like the first couple of sentences would read more smoothly as follows:

    When barkeep Bill Trout’s best friend Jack tries to hide an interstellar fugitive in small-town New Mexico, Bill refuses to help. He’s sure it’s too dangerous, even though Jack claims the alien is harmless.

    I love the next sentence, but moving into the second paragraph, I’m not sure an agent is going to read about the “uphill battle against intelligence, compassion, and loyalty” in the way you intend. (It took me several goes.) Can you skip right to the next sentence? Something like: Bill’s battle to toss the alien out of town faces tough opposition — especially when Bill discovers he’s trying to get rid of the only life form able to save them from a full-on alien invasion.

    You can probably have a little more fun with mocking how Bill’s plans usually turn out in speaking about his beer plan, but I think the final two paragraphs work well. Comparing your work to other writers’ can be tricky, but I like the way you do it here — emphasizing the differences as well as drawing a comparison.

    You can probably save the space and leave out the line about your blog, and just put a link below your signature.

    My two cents!

  6. De says:

    Dave – Agreed that first sentence could be less convoluted, but I want to keep Bill’s as the first name mentioned to prevent people thinking it’s about Jack.

    How about: “When barkeep Bill Trout’s best friend, Jack, tries to hide an interstellar fugitive in small-town New Mexico, Bill refuses to help—it’s too dangerous.”

    Elizabeth – Dunno. I want people to know where I place the book on the shelves. Maybe I should take the ()s out, though, as they’re a little too cute. I know, I know, blue on black.

    Vicky – Thanks!

    Kris – How about “good beer has been spilled”? As for the rest…it’s a long story and would require more explanation (and more character names) to have it make sense. I’m worried about too much blah blah blah. The point is, Bill isn’t just his own worst enemy, he’s all of humanity’s. This is a story with a lot of irony. Would it work if I added the own worst enemy line? Oh, there’s also the aliens, who eventually arrive. Should I say more about them?

    As for the tone – ehhh, the book itself really does take a very light-very dark tone. But the query sounds more like a movie pitch, where the book sounds more like a conversation with a guy who’s pulling your leg. I’ll have to think about that.

    Kate – Coool. I can take Stout & Anam’s names out. Breaking up the sentence in the first para seems to work, and I can take the other sentence out in para 2. I just need to keep the sense of irony, Bill trying hard to what turns out to be the wrong thing, then changing his mind. As far as the beer plan goes, should I keep it at “mysterious blue beer” or explain that he’s adding the alien corpses to the beer (which makes no sense without a bunch of additional explanation but was, really, the reason I wrote this book instead of something else)? HOW SHORT CAN A QUERY BE?!?

    Several interesting ways to approach this. Thanks, all.

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