I've trashed and started from scratch.
I've irritated my friends, annoyed my best editors, read QueryShark (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/), read the BookEnds Blog (http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/), looked up author advice, trashed again and then dug through the trash for bits I wanted to save after all, only to throw them right back in there.
And I've come up with Query Version (mumble-point-oh).
This version is much tighter, more gripping, and shorter. It's still more than 250 words (the query rule of thumb,) but not much more. Also note that I have my title in all-caps (POSEIDON'S DAUGHTER); that's standard form for queries.
I also worked on showing, not telling, my characters' personalities. That's important: telling is passive, and showing is active. I don't need a lot of background; I just want the agent to read the letter. So I cut out most of the plot, offered my two main characters, the love connection, and their biggest problems. Do I say that Lygos hates politics and doesn't want to stop being a general? No, I say
"he’ll have to join a new Council, taking up the most disgusting profession he can imagine: politics."Same idea, but here you get into his head and find yourself saying the word like it's profanity. And that tells you just how much he hates it, without having to say "Lygos hates politics."
I also don't specifically say that POSEIDON'S DAUGHTER is a time-travel romance. But do I have to spell it out? No, you catch on immediately with the questions that also indicate Carol's confusion, and her exasperation/disgust with having to deal with a dead body minus her typical tools. That's showing. EDIT 10/3/11: I've been advised (by the professionals!) to clearly state the time-travel up front, because many agents who do paranormal have preferences for or against specific subgenres such as time-travel. Since time-travel is not a central theme, I'm call it "a fantasy romance with elements of time-travel."
Will this query work any better than my last versions? I don't know for certain, but I think it has a much better chance! If you're working on writing your own query, I highly suggest hitting up queryshark and reading through the advice and feedback they've put together for writers. It takes a lot of reading, but it's worth it. As for me... Cross your fingers and wish me luck?
And on a random note - finally got around to fixing the "mysterious sinking island" loophole. Poor Aegadon. One day you're a mile-wide island ten miles off shore; the next, you're one fourth the size and 95% closer. Either way, you get sunk. Splash!