Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #95


A SCARRED MIND
Thriller
96000 words

Query:

When Jake Murphy has a premonition of a stranger’s brutal stabbing death, he knows the time has come to emerge from the psychic closet. Gifted since childhood, Jake has always “known” things: who would win the latest dating reality show, what time the pizza would arrive, that he would marry Sarah. But he has never talked to dead people or looked into a crystal ball. Hell, he doesn’t even tell people he’s psychic. Now he must delve into the mind of a sadistic killer to save a stranger from a horrific end.  
He enlists the help of two detectives, human lie detector Tom Callahan and cynical yet charming George Morgan, to stop the crime before it’s committed. The killer turns out to be a disarmingly average guy identifiable only by the sharp scar on his right cheek. If Jake’s visions are accurate, the twenty-something woman killed in his vision will be the first victim of many. The scarred sociopath seems bent on turning the tourist-filled coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina, into his personal hunting ground. Jake and the detectives must stop the massacre before it begins.  
My thriller A SCARRED MIND is complete at about 96,000 words. This is the first in a planned series that chronicles Jake’s struggles with his ever-blossoming abilities.  The second book, A SCARRED LIFE, is currently in the works. Readers of my work would probably enjoy Harlan Coben, Tami Hoag and James Patterson.

First 150 Words:

Chapter One - Jake
When Jake brushed the bank teller’s hand and foresaw her death, Tuesday instantly became a bad day.
“Oh shit,” he blurted out.
The teller paused in the process of counting out the bills from the check Jake was cashing. With a raised eyebrow, possibly insulted, she said, “Excuse me?”
Jake opened his mouth in an attempt to explain but the words caught in his throat. What was he supposed to say? Certainly not “I’m sorry for my profanity, ma’am. I just had a vision in which you were viciously murdered by a scarred dude with a butcher knife.”
His mouth still hanging open, Jake’s gaze drifted to the attractive brunette’s nametag. He found himself staring at the name engraved in gold: Stephanie. Jake wondered if Stephanie had children. He kind of hoped not. But she was obviously married, judging by the ginormous rock on her ring finger. Sarah certainly didn’t have a diamond that big. 


12 comments:

Leslie Karst said...

Query: Really great first paragraph; I'm immediately hooked. Not sure about the "turns out to be" in the second para--seems a bit awkward. This sentence could be omitted and the following sentence could be rewritten to include the fact that the killer is a "disarmingly average guy..." The last sentence of the second para. is repetitive (see first sentence of 2nd para). Delete "my thriller" and "about" in first sentence of 3rd para., and delete "probably" in last sentence.

1st 150 words: Very engaging opening, which sets the tone for the book. And I love the "I'm sorry for my profanity, ma'am" bit. Maybe work with the "possibly insulted" phrase, or just delete it.

Lauren said...

Interesting premise, and a good query. The only real change I would make is to take out "human lie detector...George Morgan". We don't need to know the names in the query, and the cliches distract.

Lauren

JenfromtheBlock said...

This is a genre I love and I'd be tempted to read your story. The query cooks along until you shift to describing the killer. It almost sounds spoilerish. I think you should leave things shadowy and continue to focus on the hunt for him instead of on his motivations. Also, your last sentence should read: Readers of Tami Hoag, James Patterson, etc...would probably enjoy this series. The other way sounds like you're throwing them the bone, IMO--and I know that's not what you intend. Great idea for a series!

Richard said...

"Gifted since childhood, Jake has always “known” things: who would win the latest dating reality show, what time the pizza would arrive, that he would marry Sarah." This info is backstory and isn't needed for the query.

"He enlists the help of two detectives, human lie detector Tom Callahan and cynical yet charming George Morgan, to stop the crime before it’s committed." Not essential to the query. Focus on your protagonist.

I would try to focus more on the plot elements. "Jake and the detectives must stop the massacre before it begins." is almost the first hint of a plot in the query. How will this be accomplished? What obstacles will Jake face? Will he overcome them? How wily is the murderer? Does he and Jake have some dark past that makes the battle more compelling? Try to focus on the human/conflict elements, the thriller elements, without giving the ending away.

Good luck.

amycavenaugh said...

Thank you all for your comments and feedback! Much appreciated. I've tweaked the second paragraph. Hope it works better now!

He enlists the help of two detectives to stop the crime before it’s committed. If Jake’s vision is accurate, the killer will be identifiable only by the sharp scar on his right cheek. On top of figuring out how to handle the newfound aspect of his gift, Jake soon learns the twenty-something woman is the first of many planned victims.

Jessica Peterson said...

I love your first paragraph but even with revisions, I think your second paragraph still needs work. I feel like it's too many different ideas not really tied together. Best of luck :)

BPatterson said...

Hi there!

I like the premise and the 150 sample reads very well.

I'm not sure the query does your story justice though. Your 150 words are full of punch and power. Put some of that into the query. :) Show us the conflict and risk that Jake is facing.

"When Jake is forced to emerge from the psychic closet"

"Jake normally ignores his psychic visions. But when he sees a stranger's brutal murder, he just can't let it go. He talks two detectives into helping him track down the killer. Unfortunately the only feature of the killer Jake saw clearly was a knife scar on the right cheek. And the only thing Jake is sure of, is that the killer is planning on turning the tourist-filled, blah blah to his personal hunting ground."

Something like that maybe? I really want to read it and find out what happens.

Kind regards from #94 :>


amycavenaugh said...

Hi #94 :) I really liked your premise and would be interested to read your story too. Thank you (and everyone) for the suggestions! I hope to get that second paragraph cleaned up and as good as the first! This query has been such a struggle for me. I'm sure you all can relate. :)

amycavenaugh said...

I've tweaked the second paragraph again. I'm determined to make this good! Any suggestions are welcome :)

Jake catches only a glimpse of the killer in his vision, but the jagged scar on the man’s right cheek is enough of an identifier to convince two detectives to check it out. Although content to let the cops handle it from there, Jake’s work is not done. His visions become more intense, warning him that the scarred man intends to kill again. And even though he would rather not believe it, Jake holds the key to stopping the murders.

amandakbyrne said...

Jumping right to the second paragraph (and your most recent revision) I think it works a lot better. Now going back to the top...

I like the "backstory" you give in the first paragraph about Jake's abilities, but I'd find a way to tighten it. It does a good job of giving us a better sense of Jake, but it's a little long. It needs a stronger opening line, though, a big punch. Your opening line is good, it could just be better.

I would take out the "complete at" in the last paragraph (because you should never query if it's not complete!), and the mention of the second book in the series. In fact, I'd take out all mention of this being the start of a series. You're pitching this book, not a series :)

amycavenaugh said...

I mentioned the series because I've read that agents want to know if you are planning one or if this is a standalone book.

I've tweaked both paragraphs and think maybe I'm finally close:

Jake Murphy is forced to emerge from the psychic closet when he has a premonition of a stranger’s brutal stabbing death. Gifted since childhood, Jake has always “known” things, like who would win the latest dating reality show, but he has never communed with the dead. Now that he must delve into the mind of a sadistic murderer, crystal ball jokes are the least of his worries.
Jake catches only a glimpse of the killer in his vision, but the jagged scar on the man’s right cheek is enough of an identifier to convince two detectives to check it out. Although content to let the cops handle it from there, Jake’s work is not done. His visions become more intense, warning him that the scarred man intends to kill again. And even though he would rather not believe it, Jake holds the key to stopping the murders.
A SCARRED MIND is 96,000 words and the first in a planned series that chronicles Jake’s struggles with his ever-blossoming abilities. The second book, A SCARRED LIFE, is currently in the works. Readers of Harlan Coben, Tami Hoag and James Patterson should enjoy my work.

Stacey Nash said...

Hi Amy,

I'm not going to crit your query - cause we both know I suck at them. :)But I read all the comments as well as and I think the tweaking you have done has really made a difference. Good Luck!