Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #97


Title: #1 Murder, Madness & Love

Genre: Mystery / Suspenseful Romance
Word Count: 112,000
 Query:
            He’s a hardboiled police detective, she’s a sensitive artist; when murder, and unrequited love obstruct their quest for a normal life, heartbreak and mayhem results—one man’s obsession will create every possible obstacle for this ill-fated couple. Detective Steven Quaid, a dedicated sleuth who finds his identity irrevocably tied to his profession, Scott Chase a man who refuses to hear the word no, and Sarah Palmer, a talented artist who struggles to find her power, share this epic saga of love, loss, and obsession.
            The setting is Anchorage, Alaska and Seattle, Washington. The protagonists, Detective Steven Quaid, Sarah Davis Palmer, and the antagonist Scott Chase, steer this character driven plot to its final climax. While it is not CSI explicit, I did use the assistance of a police officer with the scenes of investigation and police procedure.
            Sarah is falsely accused of murdering her husband by cutting the brakes of the Porsche she gave him on his birthday. Through this novel, she is stalked by two different murderers, but ultimately by her first love, Scott Chase. Detective Steven Quaid a shrewd but determined man strives to get past the unspoken label half-breed that has haunted him since grade school. His heritage is Tlingit Indian and Irish. He questions his role as top cop for the Anchorage Police Department, when the nickname Hawk seems too easily earned. His pursuit of Sarah tests not only his sleuthing skills but also his determination to have it all. He wants the dream, the white picket fence, and so does Sarah, but first they discover that nothing comes easy, not even love.
            In Murder, Madness & Love, Detective Quaid is on his way to a crime scene when he sees the woman of his dreams in a city park. He soon discovers, she is being stalked by the murderer. Sarah Palmer came home to Alaska to escape the past, and the label black widow. Despite his attraction, Steven works to stay objective and protect a woman he thinks may be guilty. But as the body count climbs Steven realizes his objective is almost impossible. While he works to prove Sarah is not the black widow, unmask the stalker, and fight his natural instincts, Sarah finds she needs her friends around her when the stalker gets closer and becomes bolder. But one of those friends is Quaid’s top suspect, Scott Chase, Sarah’s first love. The case is solved and unrequited love is the reason for all the mayhem, but Chase isn’t the villain, this time. Rejected, arrested, and humiliated, Chase takes his daughter on a worldwide tour, but his heart is filled with revenge.
First 150 Words:          
Murder, Madness & Love
 Debra pulled up the collar of her jacket and stared out at the arctic gale battering the city.
“It’s do or die, and this is my chance to prove I can do this. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she told her best friend, Ginger.
“Deb, you don’t have anything to prove.” Ginger’s words were barely audible over the sound of the storm as Debra opened the door to leave.
She stepped across the threshold. “Yes, I do. I have to prove I’m as tough as any Alaskan!” She smiled at her friend and leaning into the wind she almost wished she had listened to Ginger and waited for the worst of the tempest to pass. Instead she braved the stinging wind and sleet, resolved that Alaska’s elements would not beat her this time. Yet her mood quickly changed from accomplishment to irritation when the cold air tore at her clothes.


8 comments:

Lauren said...

This reads more like a synopsis than a query, and I'm not sure whether you're talking about one story or three.

You've got the details here, but you're trying to give the query reader (i.e., agent) the whole story in a few paragraphs.

We don't need the setting paragraph, and the first paragraph is so full of cliches that I'd either remove it or completely rewrite it. My suggestion would be to start with the third paragraph, rewrite the first sentence to be more of a hook and remove some of the details.

Anything that is repeated more than once should be removed. The following appears to be the primary paragraph of your query.

Sarah (Add: Davis Palmer if you choose to take out the setting paragraph) is falsely accused of murdering her husband by cutting the brakes of the Porsche she gave him on his birthday. (Through this novel, she is stalked by two different murderers, but ultimately by her first love, Scott Chase. Remove, unnecessary)Detective Steven Quaid a shrewd but determined man strives to get past the unspoken label half-breed that has haunted him since grade school. (His heritage is Tlingit Indian and Irish. He questions his role as top cop for the Anchorage Police Department, when the nickname Hawk seems too easily earned. Not sure if this is necessary) His pursuit of Sarah tests not only his sleuthing skills but also his determination to have it all. (He wants the dream, the white picket fence, and so does Sarah, but first they discover that nothing comes easy, not even love. Not sure this is necessary either)

Leslie Karst said...

Query: I like the premise and the Alaskan backdrop--very exciting! But the query seems much too long; I'd try to condense it into two paragraphs, if possible. The second para. could be deleted entirely, and the setting mentioned elsewhere. Also the last para. seems unnecessary: It seems more like a synopsis than a query, giving much more detail than needed.

Watch your comma usage (e.g., none after "murder" in first sentence; none after "He soon discovers" in last para.)

1st 150 words: Nice setting of the scene; I can feel the cold and the wind. And I immediately want to know what she needs to prove, and how the Alaskan elements beat her last time.

Maybe delete "to leave" in third para., as it's obvious she's leaving? Also, Maybe make the last sentence of the fourth para. a new para., and change it to something like "Her mood changed quickly, however,..."

Liana Brooks said...

--- Query---(reading and commenting as I go)

Have you ever played with those plot generators running around in the internet? "He's a drag queen with a secret, she's an ambitious attorney with a grudge, together... they fight crime!" - Your opening totally reminds me of that. I'm snickering by the first comma. I don't think that's what you're going for, and it's just the phrasing. (reading on)

I'd suggest cutting the first sentence, that's your elevator pitch, I'm not sure it fits in the query. Starting with names is good.

New plan, cut the whole first paragraph.

Paragraph three is where you get to the actual query. "Talented artist Sarah Palmer is accused of murder" I don't think the How matters (or if you can do that with newer cars).

Oh boy... okay... So, this query is very wordy but you seem to circle the plot the whole time. It reads like a synopsis, not a query. And since I'm not an expert I'm referring you to QueryShark.com for study. You have a really good idea here, you just need to par it down.

--- First 150 ---

An interesting opening, but again, you are verbose.

"Opened to the door to leave." <-- 2 extra words. She's in the building looking out, why else would she open the door? Especially when she walks across the threshold in the next sentence.

"She smiled at her friend and leaning into the wind she almost wished she had listened to Ginger and waited for the worst of the tempest to pass" <--- highlight the word AND here. You're overusing it. "She smiled at Ginger, leaned into the wind, and headed for her car. Stinging wind and sleet battered her."

--- Overall ---

It looks like a promising idea, but I'm going to guess that an agent seeing this query and 112k word count is going to worry about whether the story is as tight as it can be. Tighten it all up and good luck!

- L

Brittany Pate said...

It looks like you've got the makings of a really great synopsis! That's impressive to me, because I had a harder time with the synopsis than I did the query.

I agree with Lauren, all you really need is that third paragraph, with a few tweaks. It was very well written and would make me want to buy your book.

When I'm writing a query, I try to think of what would be on the back of the book, what would make me want to read it.

The first 150 is well-written and I think will serve to draw a reader in. Best of luck!

Jessica Peterson said...

I like your hook but I might leave out this line: "one man’s obsession will create every possible obstacle for this ill-fated couple." or choose between that and the previous sentence. Also, I like how you've written the last sentence in the first paragraph but I think it's unnecessary. Same with most of your second paragraph. I think you could save the part about working with a police officer for your final paragraph/bio. I would also get rid of "through this novel" in the third paragraph.

I feel like there is a lot of the same information just being presented in different ways, I do feel like you have an interesting premise though, she's being stalked by two murderers...I'd expand on that part because that's what drew me in and made me want to write more.

Michael McDuffee said...

"He’s a hardboiled police detective, she’s a sensitive artist; when murder, and unrequited love obstruct their quest for a normal life, heartbreak and mayhem results—one man’s obsession will create every possible obstacle for this ill-fated couple. "


My first reaction is that there are horrible punctuation issues in this sentence. The first comma is misused, the second is just plain in the way, the semicolon should be a period, and the em dash really should also be a period. I hate to just be the grammar police, but you've got plenty of other great comments here about content and that sentence just screamed at me.


Using your same words:


"He’s a hardboiled police detective; she’s a sensitive artist. When murder and unrequited love obstruct their quest for a normal life, heartbreak and mayhem result. One man’s obsession will create every possible obstacle for this ill-fated couple."


There are other little tweaks that might help as well but the punctuation was the most egregious thing about it for me. You could use an em dash to connect the first two of those sentences, but otherwise I'd recommend something like the above.

BPatterson said...

Hi there!

It's great to see another mystery writer, and I love the details of the Alaskan setting, and the Tlingit Indian background.

I agree with the other writers that there are some issues with punctuation and wordiness in both queries and your sample. I sympathize greatly because I have the exact same problems. My writer's group has been an invaluable source to prune all those errors out. :) Maybe sign up for Deana's beta reader meet-up, and get some good contacts!

Sisters in Crime is also a great resource for beta readers and just general mystery author info. :D

amandakbyrne said...

Probably the best tip I ever got on writing a query is to look at the blurb that appears on the back cover of a book. Your query should be similar-it's gotta be hooky. Your opening sentence is good (some punctuation issues, but those can be fixed). But I had a hard time finding the plot in the rest of it. I kept getting Scott and Steven mixed up (maybe because their names both start with "S"?).

My suggestion would be to pick up a couple of books in the same genre as yours and read their back cover copy. Your query might end up being a little bit longer, but if you start with that, you can expand (or delete) as necessary.

Good luck!