Sunday, November 7, 2010

#186-Revised 4x

Dear QueryShark:

Politicians, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they need to remain emotionally detached to work their trade. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and he knows that's dangerous.

Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as one of the best investigators in the country. He uncovers the girl's secret life, as a prostitute, and finds the public attitude changes quickly. When all clues point towards the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. The fear of what secrets might be uncovered within the flock spurs religious leaders and several high-ranking politicians to obstruct his investigation.

Through the course of his investigation, Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway selling herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers while Lizzy becomes suspect on the street for her cooperation with the enemy: the police.

Lizzy and Joseph come to rely on each other for moral support until the night she is assaulted and disappears. Joseph charges headlong into a clumsy campaign to "rescue" other girls who might also be in danger. He quickly realizes that some people don't want to be "rescued" and that he must change his attitude--and perception of people--if he is going to affect some change in their lives. His search for Lizzy and others, like her, pushes him to become that better man.

Rescue should not be in quotes since that's exactly what he's trying to do.

"What Little Girls Are Made Of" is 90,000 words, my first novel, and based on real incidents I observed working with several police agencies.

Thank you ahead of time for your consideration or any comments.


I debated about whether to post this because I think   you're flailing here. Time to get out of the water, dry yourself off, have a martini and think about diving in again when you've had time to get some perspective.


Focus on the formula I've mentioned before: What does the main character want? What's keeping him from getting it?  

You're still making some fundamental mistakes (like mentioning this is based on events you've seen).  And we're back to the first title? Does that make it 0-5 or does it only count as one strike if you use the same one again.

You might consider junking the entire query and starting again.  It's sometimes better to start fresh instead of trying to fix what's not working.

Let this sit for a while.  Rethink what you're trying to tell me about.





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Dear QueryShark:

It is sometimes said soldiers, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they need to remain emotionally detached to work their trade. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and he knows that's dangerous.


Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as one of the best investigators in the country. When he uncovers the girl's secret life, a prostitute catering to pedophiles through the internet, he finds the public attitude changes quickly. When all clues point towards the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. The fear of what secrets might be uncovered within the flock spurs religious leaders and several high-ranking politicians to obstruct his investigation.

Through his high profile investigation of the death of a 13-year-old girl, Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway who sells herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers while Lizzy becomes suspect on the street for her cooperation with the enemy: the police.


What we're missing here is what he does that makes people think he's losing his objectivity. If you're using that as the hinge for the plot, you need to be very very specific about what he does and why it's dangerous.

Lizzy and Joseph come to rely on each other for moral support until the night she is assaulted and disappears. Joseph leaps headlong into a clumsy campaign to protect other girls who might be in danger until he stumbles into the one field that might actually help others before the police arrive: social worker.

I don't understand what is happening here.  What does until he stumbles into the one field that might actually help others before the police arrive: social worker. mean?

"Angel With The Barb Wire Tattoo" is 90,000 words, my first novel, and based on real incidents I observed working with several police agencies as a computer technician.

Oh good, we're 0-4 on the title. I'd hate to actually like one. This is too evocative of the Stieg Larrson books.

Thank you ahead of time for your consideration or any comments.

If Joseph is getting too involved with Lizzy, focus on that for the query.  Leave out all the other stuff.  I think it's a mistake to do that, because I don't think the personal dynamics of a cop are enough to carry a novel, but that's your choice as the author to make. 

    


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Dear QueryShark:

It is sometimes said soldiers, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they need to remain emotionally detached to ply their craft. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and he know that's dangerous.

"ply their craft" makes them sound like they bake cookies or weave straw hats.  "Do their job" is both more accurate and sounds (literally) better.

Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as one of the best investigators in the country. When he uncovers the girl's secret life--a prostitute catering to pedophiles through the internet--he finds the public attitude changes quickly. When all clues point towards the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. The fear of what secrets might be uncovered within the flock spurs religious leaders and several high-ranking politicians to obstruct his investigation.

Through his investigation, Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway who sells herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers. Lizzy becomes suspect on the street for her cooperation with the enemy.

Ostracized from their clans Lizzy and Joseph come to rely on each other for moral support. He begins a campaign to protect other girls who might be in danger... but the one girl Joseph cannot protect is Lizzy, and it threatens to break him.

Who killed the 13-year old girl, the girl that got the plot going?  Does Joseph find the culprit? Is finding the culprit the climax of the book, OR is it the fact he can't find the culprit what leads him to begin a campaign to protect other girls who might be in danger? And how does he know which girls are in danger? And if he can't find the culprit, what's the climax of the book?

And why can't he protect Lizzy?  Does she resist what he's offering? 



"Who'll Love Dizzy Lizzy" is 90,000 words and is my first novel.

I thought the titles couldn't get worse. I was wrong.






     


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Dear Query Shark:

It is sometimes said that soldiers, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they all need to remain emotionally detached to ply their craft. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and he know that's dangerous.

Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as one of the best investigators in the country. But when he uncovers the girl's secret life--a prostitute catering to pedophiles through the internet--he finds the public attitude changes quickly. When all clues point towards the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. The fear of what secrets might be uncovered within the flock spurs religious leaders and several high-ranking politicians to obstruct his investigation.

Through his investigation, Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway who sells herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers.

Ostracized from their clans Lizzy and Joseph come to depend on each other for support. He begins a campaign to protect other girls who might be in danger... but the one girl Joseph cannot protect is Lizzy, and it threatens to break him.

So why is Lizzy ostracized? You'd think if she was paying the bills she'd be pretty much secure in her merry band of misfits.

"Requiem For Dizzy Lizzy" is 90,000 words and is my first novel.


The problem here is you're focusing on the two protagonists. That leads me to think Joseph's dependence on Lizzy is the main plot of the book. If the crime is the focus of the book, you need more about that.

The problem with Joseph and Lizzy's relationship being the focus of the query is you don't have enough time to overcome the ick factor.

You'll need the length of the novel to do that, where I hope we can come to see Joseph as a sympathetic and flawed protagonist.

And we're 0 for 3 on the title.  Maybe the comment column can generate some ideas on that.

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Dear QueryShark,

It is sometimes said that soldiers, prostitutes, and cops have one thing in common: they all they need to remain emotionally detached to do their job. Chief Detective Michael Joseph is losing that detachment, and it terrifies him.

This is much better than the first version. The reason it's better is that we have a sense of what's at stake for the main character.

Public outrage over the death of a 13-year-old girl shoves him into the spotlight as the one of best investigators in the country, but when he uncovers her secret life as an online prostitute catering to pedophiles, he finds the public attitude changes quickly. And when all clues point towards someone from the largest television ministry on the East Coast the change becomes dramatic. A general fear of what might come out of this flock spurs politicians and religious leaders to obstruct his investigation at every turn.

The first sentence in the paragraph is very long. (One way to know how long is too long is to say the sentence out loud. If you need to pause to breathe, it's too long) I'm also going to quibble with "prostitute" since it's clear she's online, and prostitution requires in-person activity. I know people use "sex worker" but that's not the right phrase either.

Just "someone" is too generic. The clues indicate the killer is someone 

"a general fear" is also too nebulous. Polish and sharpen your language and word choice here.

Joseph befriends a 16 year old who calls herself Dizzy Lizzy, a young runaway who sells herself in order to provide for the social misfits that inhabit her world. Amid accusations that he is losing his objectivity, he becomes a pariah amongst his fellow officers. With only Lizzy fighting on his side, he grows closer to the girl who reawakens humanity in him that he had almost forgotten he had. The dispassion he had exercised for so long had cost him his marriage and the bond he shared with his daughter. Watching Lizzy interact with her clan provides him with a glimmer of hope: how he can best bridge the gaps he had thrown up to separate himself from the vulgar orbit of the criminal element he saw everyday. But the one person he cannot help is Lizzy, and it threatens to break him.

You can cut almost all of this paragraph out and solve a lot of the problems in this query. Remember you don't need the entire plot, or the entire motivation, you only need enough to entice my interest.

"The Absolution of a Fallen Angel" is a 90,000 words commercial fiction piece and is my first novel.

I really really hate this title too.  Fallen Angel is smarmy and a stereotype of prostitutes.
I wouldn't stop reading a query based on a bad title --no one really would-- but a good title is better than a bad one for enticing interest.

This is a lot LOT better than the original (good work) but it needs some honing and polishing.


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ORIGINAL


Dear Query Shark,

Chief Detective MIKE JOSEPH is in over his head and knows it. Investigating the death of a 13-year-old girl uncovers her secret life as an online prostitute catering to pedophiles... and all clues point towards someone from the largest television ministry on the East Coast. This pits JOSEPH against a cabal of politicians and the self righteous terrified of what an investigation into the flock might uncover.


Don't capitalize the names of characters. That's the format for film scripts, not query letters.  The only thing in a query that is all caps is the title of the book.

"Cabal of politicians and the self-righteous" doesn't actually say anything useful.  You're using buzz words to evoke knee-jerk responses (ie politicians = bad, evil) rather than actually creating an interesting villain.  Cardboard cutout stereotypes aren't interesting.


JOSEPH 's single ally is a female runaway, who calls herself DIZZY LIZZY--five years older than his own daughter--also selling herself in order to support her junkie boyfriend and the colorful cast of misfits who inhabit her world.

"colorful cast of misfits" is a pretty light hearted description.  Coming after "online prostitutes catering to pedophiles" there's a real disparity of tone. You can be funny about serious topics, but you can't then have the serious topics viewed with any gravitas (examples are Carl Hiassen, Janet Evonovich.)

As a cop, he tries to insulate himself from horrors of a culture on society's fringe but finds himself drawn to LIZZY and her clan bringing accusations that he is losing his objectivity.

The construction of this sentence makes it look as though "her clan" is the one accusing him of losing his objectivity. That doesn't actually make sense.

His meticulous nature as a detective has pushed his wife to divorce and daughter to arm's length but he draws strength from the charismatic 16 year old LIZZY. Even JOSEPH fears he might be another of the girl's "projects."

Here's where you lose me.  He's meticulous so his wife divorces him and his daughter doesn't much like him so he draws strength from a 16 year old online prostitute?  That doesn't feel very real to me, but more than that it makes the protagonist seem weak and frankly, rather icky.

He needs to solve a case that has becomes a political hot potato, come to grips with his divorce, while he hopes to rescue LIZZY from a dead end life. But he begins to question who most needs to be rescued: LIZZY or himself.

Are you seriously asking if a grown man dealing with a divorce and an alienated child has the same need of help as a 16 year old girl who is making money to support a junkie boyfriend by whoring?

At this point I want to hit the protagonist with a 2x4 and shriek "do your damn job" and that's absolutely not the response you want.

You'd do better to focus more on plot and less on character in this query.  It's very very difficult to reduce complex motivations and situations to enticing descriptions for a query. You need to bat to your strengths, and plot may be better for that here.


WHAT LITTLE GIRLS ARE MADE OF is a 90,000 word popular-cop fiction and is my first novel.

There's no such category as popular cop fiction.  There's commercial fiction; there's police procedural; there are crime novels. If you can't figure out what to call your novel, pick a novel that's close to yours (in this case I would pick one of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels.)  Go to Amazon. Look at the tags people give their reviews (it's near the bottom of the page.) Generally speaking you'll find what to correctly call your novel there. Pick ONE of the tags, not the top five.

I really hate the title.  My guess is you are going for a juxtaposition of what the nursery rhyme evokes and the strength of Lizzy (little girls aren't made of sugar and spice; they're made of oak etc.)  Coming at the end of the query it doesn't do that.  We haven't  really seen what Lizzy is made of; we've seen the weakness of Mike Joseph. Since the novel is about pedophilia and prostitution the title has to avoid an "ickiness" risk that other books don't.  Obviously, an agent does not stop reading a book based on a bad title, but you want to be very aware of the effect every word in your query, including the title, conveys.


This is a form rejection. There's not enough plot to catch my interest.  The main character doesn't seem very heroic if he's busy leeching off a 16 year old for emotional strength.

74 comments:

alaskaravenclaw said...

"What Are Little Girls Made Of" was the title of a Star Trek episode.

The plot that's introduced in the first paragraph-- cop investigating dead child prostitute discovers link to tv preacher-- seems to get buried thereafter.

Why is Lizzy Joseph's single ally? What about the police dept? They seem like natural allies for a cop investigating a murder.

Telling us she's "five years older than his own daughter" doesn't tell us anything. His own daughter could be 35. Since you later say she's 16, it's also unnecessary. (And not particularly shocking, since you've already given us a dead 13-year-old prostitute.)

Agree w/Ms. Shark on the "ick" factor there. It made me wonder how the story would look from Lizzy's point of view, or from the POV of his wife, who may not be so upset by his meticulousness as by his fixation with a 16-year-old. You should probably de-emphasize that.

Amber J. Gardner said...

I agree. I had the same "ick" reaction at the part where the MC draws strength from a teenager. Is it me, or does this query seem pedophilia seems okay...other than the prostitution?

Stephanie Barr said...

As soon as you talk about "on-line pedophilia", you're talking a federal investigation, not a local cop one. FBI would take over long before hsi happy marriage dissolves into divorce. If you don't know that, your story won't sound very genuine.

Actually, the focus on Dizzy Lizzy and her friends seems to supercede the investigation. Does he know them personally or just on-line (which makes him a suspect of not objectivity but potentially pedophilia by those same feds)?

What is he doing on the investigation? What is she a runaway from? The pedophilia ring (which seems to dilute her use to the case) or from home?

I agree with Ms. Shark's view of Mike's character. But I'm not sure the plot is any stronger. If it is, that might be what you should reflect.

nn Angel said...

You lost the interesting factor of how politics and ministries fit into the death of a 13 year old for uninteresting characters (and the motivation for the divorce seems more like writer's convenience from how you've put it). Focus on the plot.

Also, why do you call the detective Joseph instead of Mike? I realize in a lot of TV shows and things like that detectives and police officers are called by their last names, but is it what he goes by the entire novel? Or just what he goes by in the office? Because, in the query at least, I feel like it puts him at arm's length and dampens anything I might feel for him. But that might also just be me.

morphine-moniza said...

I cringed pretty much instinctively when I read the title. I thik it's because "what little girls are made of" has a cutesy ring to it that's somehow icky given the paedophilia context.

I have to agree with Janet Reid. The protagonist sounds extremely unlikeable, if for no other reason than the fact that he thinks his problems are anywhere near as horrifying as that of a teen who has been forced into prostitution. And there's something not quite right about his relationship with her.

Me said...

Go the whole way and make JOSEPH - sorry, Joseph - an anti-hero, a 'Bad Lieutenant' type character: sleezy cop who's maybe more interested in the prostitute and dodgy-dealing side of things than solving the case. At least that'd give reason for the divorce and lack of contact with the daughter.

Maybe he's not really bothered about who's to blame, but more about how he can take advantage of the situation?

Protagonists don't all have to be good guys. Just make the real bad guy a shade or two darker ...

Lehcarjt said...

A religious pedophile, a corrupt politician, and a divorced cop with emotional problems walk into a bar...

Is it possible to finish this statement in a way that is not a huge cliche? To get me to read about these well-used characters, the story has to be pretty darn original. One of the problems here is that this query does not make the book seem so to me.

Also, the title seems sexual to me in nature. That coupled with the detectives relationship to the teen prostitute, makes him seem the pedophile.

Brenda said...

All I could think of was ew ew ew. The protag comes across as a creep. I agree that you should focus on the plot introduced in paragraph 1 and avoid the ick factor that follows it.

arhooley said...

Author, maybe the world you create has a blade of green somewhere, but as it's described in your query, I don't want to live in it for even one paragraph.

That's just an FYI. I realize some editors and readers dig utter darkness.

McWilliam said...

At 90,000 words, there must be more story -- more plot -- than the author shows us here.

The way the query is written now, the sleaze factor is overwhelming. No one will want to see more.

Surely Mike Joseph intends to rescue Izzy and nothing more. The author needs to rethink his query or perhaps his entire book.

flibgibbet said...

This same tale told from the POV of the wife, daughter, and/or Dizzy, might make a more convincing query. As is, it's impossible to empathize with a grown man's fascination with a child, much less a child-prostitute.

Perhaps the MS clearly shows this relationship as father-daughter, but that's not coming across in the query.

Agree with the Shark about giving up trying to explain the nuances (subplots/subtext), and stick to the main plot (how he attempts to solve the crime).

lora96 said...

Is the mc ATTRACTED to 16yo Lizzy? Cause that's the feeling I got from the query and it made me queasy. If he is finding purpose and redemption through helping her that is another thing entirely and would come across better with different wording.

Irene Troy said...

I’m a big fan of mysteries, police procedurals and crime novels. I also worked with children and adolescents affected by pedophilia, so you certainly captured my interest immediately. Unfortunately, the more I read the less I liked. First: even when writing fiction it is important to get the facts right. I’m confused about the term “online prostitute”. Thirteen year-old girls can be prostitutes (unfortunately), and certainly, there are pedophiles inhabiting the darker regions of the Internet. However, no one is an “online prostitute”. The very definition of “prostitute” makes face-to-face interaction necessary.

We also have the issue of whether a 13 year-old would be online soliciting sex, at least as the direct solicitor. Far more believable is a 13-year-old willingly or unwillingly being drawn into sexual activity by an adult male met online.

Your hero - the police officer – Joseph also poses something of a problem for me. He’s supposed to be heroic but you set him up as something of a user and abuser. No self-respecting cop – or anyone for that matter – is going to use a young child as his confident and guide. The idea simply doesn’t fly – at least not to my mind. You tell us his wife left him because he’s too meticulous. What does this mean? He cleans obsessively, throws all her things away, demands a perfectly kept house, or what? You tell us this cop is leaning upon a 16-year-old girl because he is needy and weak. Hardly the hero with which a reader might identify. I think you’d do better making him either a true anti-hero, or painting him closer to real life.

I have to agree with Janet, the title is terrible. I suspect that under the mess of the query there may be a good story, or at least the gem of a good story. I suggest returning to the draft board and rethinking your characters. It might also help to do some research into child prostitution and the methods law enforcement uses to address this problem. Having a deeper understanding of these issues will help you to create more believable characters and a plot that bares some resemblance to reality.

Joanne Sheppard said...

This query made me rather uncomfortable all round. One minute the protagonist is investigating an on-line paedophile ring, and the next minute he seems peculiarly obsessed with a 'charismatic' 16-year-old prostitute. I rather hope this wasn't the author's intent, but to me, it certainly came across like that in the query.

M. G. E. said...

Wait, a 13 year old is prostituting 'herself' out online? No thanks.

I'm completely creeped out, especially by your MC's implied pedophilic-tendencies.

I get the feeling that you're trying to cause controversy with a story like this, but I really think this is the wrong way to go about that. Is this really a book you want to be remembered for?

Pedophilia is a wall that no one wants broken down. Maybe you've read too much Nabakov or something >_>

Kate said...

If, indeed, Mr. MC is feeling romantic toward Lizzy, I think you can still make that work. Unfortunately you'll need to handle that very carefully in the query and in the novel. How he handles that attraction could define him. And there will need to be some extremely likable quality about him to balance out the ick factor a la Lester Burnham from American Beauty. Or, read Nic Pizzolatto's Galveston. He handles it well. I'm sure there are more examples.

After all, lots of grown men ARE attracted to 16 year old girls. They just are, especially when you can't tell the difference between a high school junior and a college senior. We don't like it, but it's true. The difference between the sickos and the regular dudes is action.

College Boy said...

This query creeped me out. I will not be reading the book.

siebendach said...

I'd be leery of a main character whose surname is a word most people immediately discern as a first name.

It's a bit like opening a fantasy novel and seeing that everyone's name has an apostrophe.

The case doesn't sound like a "political hot potato," it sounds like the Holy Grail for a prosecutor with political aspirations. Granted, not all prosecutors have political aspirations, but the other 99% would be all over this one. The public can't get enough of celebrity clergy getting caught in sexual scandals, people would be elbowing each other out of the way to get to this case.

Patrice said...

Well, Query-writer, you certainly have gotten the sense of the Shark and the commenters -- most are very put-off by the story your query seems to represent.

I'm wondering if you are going for a "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" kind of plot, except your main female character doesn't just LOOK young, she is young. Maybe you see your protag as fighting for justice, and just forgot to mention that the murdered 13-yr-old was not a voluntary online prostitution mastermind, but was put up to it by one of the preachers. And maybe when you say that Joseph is drawing strength from Lizzy, you mean that he admires her courage -- and there's nothing at all sexual about it.

But if that's the case, you have a swirling miasma of misdescription here that makes us all go -- what? Ew.

And I have to say that maybe if you're a man, you might not quite get the instinctive caution or even revulsion felt when it looks like an adult male is too involved with a child.

Perhaps it's just your query. But it may be your manuscript... in which case, you've got a lot of rethinking and rewriting to do.

Jo-Ann said...

Hi author

Your query sounded like you tried to pack lots of detail into it at the expense of clarity.

I'm assuming (ok, hoping) that you're trying to portray Dizzy Lizzy as having dignity and being wise beyond her years, and that Mike finds himself drawn to her for the insights she can offer: into both the case he's working on, and his own train-wreck personal life. That could work as long as you completely avoid the whole "adult-attracted-to-vulnerable-kid" element discussed at length in previous posts. Sure, "Lolita" was a best seller, but the MC was a pathetic loser. I had the feeling you wanted us to like Mike.

Another point that stood out for me was about Mike becoming one of Lizzy's "projects". My understanding is that the life of a street kid is a daily struggle to stay safe. A youthful harlot (to quote Blake)would be malnourished (not under fed so much as eating poor quality foods), smoke far too much, have issues with anger and difficulty trusting adults (particularly those in authority roles ... such as a cop). It makes me ask "what's in it for Lizzy?"

They generally dont have much time to devote to taking well-fed, employed and housed adults under their wings. Unless by "project" you mean "mark" (ie, she's scamming him). The whore-with-a-heart-of-gold thing has been done to death, so if that's your intent, it needs something extra to make it credible.

Keep going, the manuscript probably has merit, but please show this in the query.

Gisele said...

"Chief Detective MIKE JOSEPH is in over his head and knows it".

Why is he over his head? As the Chief Detective, he surely has been a detective for a while and knows the job, right? When I read that he's over his head, it gives me the impression that he doesn't quite know what he's doing.

There are a several instances in this query that gives me the impression that Mike Joseph is weak and emotionally immature (more on that later).

I agree with the person who posted that this case would be the Holy Grail for a prosecutor instead of a political nightmare. People who are in law enforcement dream about having the chance to take pedophiles off circulation and teen prostitutes off the streets. That's their raison d'etre: To lock up the bad guy and throw away the key.

Any cop worth his/her salt would never coward away in fear because of political pressure when there is a pedophile on the loose. (Again, the issue of Mike Joseph been weak comes up).

"This pits JOSEPH against a cabal of politicians and the self righteous..."

Sigh... these descriptions are so cliche! More importantly, they are 2 dimensional stereotypes. You know what's ten times more interesting than a self-righteous flock? A loving religious group who are active in their community and take an interest in protecting one of their own. You'll instantly add a third dimension to your cardbox characters if you give them a soul.

"JOSEPH 's single ally is a female runaway..."

Why is a 16 year old runaway his single ally in his quest to fight crime? What about the police force, FBI, etc... (Again with the weakness in Mike Joseph's character).

Also, the name Dizzy Lizzy, though it rimes (points for that) is not a good name for a somber novel about pedophilia. I'd expect Nancy Drew's sidekick to be named Dizzy Lizzy. Not a 16 year old runaway who turns tricks to support her junkie boyfriend.

"he finds himself drawn to LIZZY and her clan..."

Here's another example of weakness and emotional stunt growth of the MC. I think it would be OK to take an interest or try to help Lizzy and her clan but to be "drawn" to them evokes the creepy feeling that others already mentioned. How old is he? Why is he so drawn to a 16 year old prostitute in such a manner that she is his "only ally"? Does he also have some romantic feelings toward her? Or perhaps; was he abused as a child as well and now he relates to her? (At least that would explain the emotional stunt growth).

"Even JOSEPH fears(The "even" requires that others, aside from Joseph,also fear)he might be another of the girl's "projects."

Why in the world is a capable, fully grown man "another project" for a 16 year old hoe? And why does he "fear" it?

I just want to smack the MC around. He is just so pathetic and spineless!

I can take an unlikeable character. An anti-hero as it were. However, I am not as forgiving toward a helpless character. As a reader, I feel the need to respect the MC otherwise my frustration with him will cause me to stop reading at once.

I've said some harsh words here but I truly have the author's best interest in mind. There are flaws with the query that needs to be ironed out.

Good luck

Jo-Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sherrill said...

A very hot topic. Seems like every week we have a tv show that covers pedophilia and or teenage prostitution. But, this query is so poorly written. Is there one weak plot are several small weak storylines? The MC is a cop, but, he has none of the qualities of even a half-way decent cop. MC is just what I would not want a MC to be, weak, creepy and sleezy, etc. Title has to go. Just not very appropriate for this type of story. Even after several revisions, I don't think this query would be one FTW.

Orlando said...

Cops always have issues with their wives and daughters, cliché. Why is it that he can relate to Dizzy Lizzy and not his own child?

The only project prostitutes have is prostitution. Why then does (even) Joseph fear he's another of the girls project? Is he involved in the prostitution ring?

Why does Lizzy or Joseph need to be saved? I thought he was supposed to find a murderer? And what is Lizzy saving Joseph from, boredom with his wife?

The only way you can save this story is by making Joseph a teen himself who is trying to find the killing without the help of the police. Other than that "icky". Anyway you look at it "icky".

Alison said...

A "16 year old hoe"...? C'mon, Gisele, where are you from?

This author needs to concentrate on the plot he introduces in P #1. Going after "the largest television ministry on the East Coast" (think Pat Robertson or Billy Graham Crusade???) could very well ostracize the cop from his fellow investigators, wife, and daughter. His only allies may indeed be the lowlifes he is fighting for. Be more careful how you word his relationship with them and you may have something.

Good luck!

nn Angel said...

"...could very well ostracize the cop from his fellow investigators, wife, and daughter." (from Alison)
~*~
The only way that would really ostracize him is if they idolize whomever he believes is connected and with (at least to start) fairly weak evidence to support it. It's a more plausible explanation, but Mike's surroundings would need to be religious (with an extremely strong following for the minister in question) for it to work.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Agree with nn Angel. It depends who you hang with, of course, but pretty much everyone I know considers tv evangelists to be sleaze, and would be utterly unsurprised to hear that one of them was involved in a crime.

I can't imagine Joseph's colleagues on the police force, wife and daughter would all have trouble accepting the awful truth.

Stephanie Barr said...

Playing off what nn Angel said made me think this story might be a whole lot more interesting and palatable if Michael Joseph wasn't a cop but was instead a minister himself. That could explain a relationship (platonic, please) with a troubled teenager and real risk if he finds other church officials were using troubled teens a different way.

It might make what he tells the cops suspect and certainly wouldn't make him any friends among the others in the church's hierarchy.

Jo-Ann said...

Orlando said: "The only project prostitutes have is prostitution."

Umm.... bit of a generalisation there? I'm sure that sex-workers have a life outside of their work. At least one got herself elected into Italy's parliament!

And haven't you seen any recent tv shows featuring sex-workers? Most appear to be working their way through law-school!

siebendach said...

Sherrill's right. I have no reliable data, but it seems like a high proportion of as-yet-unpublished novelists choose to take on the sexual exploitation of children as a topic.

The problem is, the target audience for police/crime novels is well-educated, well-informed. For them to follow your novel, they expect the writer to know at least as much as the thousands of cops, teachers, and social workers who deal with this problem in every big American city.

Another literary pitfall about using the sexual exploitation of children as a plot device: it's so evil that it tends to make everything else around it less significant. If I were drawn into a story like this, all I'd care about would be seeing the lives of the children improved somehow. I certainly wouldn't be the least bit concerned with the detective's failing marriage --- in fact, I'd consider him too timid and incompetent to be anything but an irritation.

The protag seems to be a big part of the problem here. Why not try changing a couple of critical scenes where he backs down, and make him effective. You could keep him worried and timid on the inside, terrified at his weakness, but the sort of thing where he's the only one aware of how fragile he is. That might make him seem less likely to be attracted to an abused 16-year-old; less "icky" overall and more like just "flaky", with untapped potential. Then I might even root for him to get his act together, because it feeds right into my larger desire (for him to help the abused minors).

Fanfreakingtastic Flower said...

Well, on the bright side, I don't feel like you've written what you know here. Which, considering the subject matter, is probably a positive commentary on your life as a whole.

I think the "write what you know" line gets misused. Obviously, you need to plot outside of your own experience. But you need to research this world to do it justice and just as importantly, you did need to know the emotional truths behind the action.

While your query did read as "icky" to me, I don't mind "ick" as a concept, as long as it is real and it is honest. Your story, as glimpsed through your query, does not feel either real or honest to me.

I'd be curious to know what compelled you to start this story in the first place. Whatever the seed was, I'd return to it and mine it for more.

Jake said...

What no Catholic Priest? Oh, teenage girls instead of boys. Ok, same premise. The cop MC is a sleeze bag. I simply cannot identify with him. Too many inconsistancies in his character (personality). Like the QS and others, this query and is just tooo icky.

Polly said...

I'm a mom, and my own mom worked with abused women and families. No child would be working as a prostitute willingly, and would be exceedingly damaged.

Do you really want to write in this world? It's not hard boiled, it's not bringing light to a hidden problem; this query feels like the author is taking a voyeuristic thrill ride.

Just because you can write something, doesn't mean you should write something. Who is the audience for this book?

Joel said...

Is it an episode of Law & Order: SVU? Is it an episode of Monk? You make it sound like Monk: SVU? Have you seen Paper Moon with Tatum O’Neal? You need to make a fundamental decision.

CONSIDER:

Chief Detective Mike Joseph is in over his head, and he knows it. Everybody else in the Fraud Unit uses computers, but the closest Mike gets is feeding alimony into video poker at the casino. When he busts Dizzy Lizzy—a loitering teenager—he takes a backpack full of cash and wallet-sized photos. He’s ready to turn her in until he discovers pictures of his ex-wife, her latest boyfriend and Tina, Mike’s only child.

Mike and Lizzy negotiate over a couple of smokes: Mike agrees to let Lizzy go if she’ll tell him where she got the wallet, and Lizzy won’t mention that Mike was drunk when he busted her. Mike walks away with the pictures and leaves her the cash. “Alimony fucks up your priorities,” says Lizzy, her feet dangling from the barstool.

Lizzy repays the kindness by befriending Tina. Tina gives Mike a McDonald’s bag filled with twenties. Inside is a note in a looping schoolgirl script, “She’s a natural!!!!”

Mike puts Tina on a plane to visit the grandparents, takes an old .22 automatic from its hiding place in the rafters and says, “Nothing wrong with my priorities.”

TICK TOCK PICK POCKET, complete at 76,000 words, is the story of an old cop and a young con artist, one poisoned by the 21st century and the other immune from it.

Thank you for your time and consideration. (230 words)

Dave said...

Hello #186,

Cabal of politicians and the self-righteous doesn't even cut it as cardboard. It's too diffuse. Even if Mike is fighting a whole army, focus on one bad guy.

All clues point towards someone ... Give us one vivid clue pointing towards a specific someone. Eg, A text message on the dead girl's phone says I love you. It's traced to billionaire tele-evangelist Harvey Large.

The end of your query is horribly weak. All the LIZZY or himself thing does is paint a picture of a man who's got problems multi-tasking. Kick her and her merry friends out of the query and stick to the main plot.

That plot is barely expressed in the query. As it stands, we've a static, wide-angle view of an 'investigation'. Nothing concrete happens to which Mike can react.

Finish the query on a dramatic high. Something like Then Mike's house is raided by the police and his laptop is seized. It's crammed with child porn ... What this suggests is obvious, but we'd also suspect a setup. There's a zillion ways you can do it.

Don't worry about the flak re Mike's implied paedophilia. I'm certain it wasn't intentional on your part and it's easily fixable.

Best of luck.

Megan said...

I totally agree with every other poster about the ick ick ICK (must go shower after reading this query), and I'll add that I actually physically recoiled when I read the title because it's just too gross.

That's been covered, though, so I'll move on.

Totally putting aside the yicky things, my eyebrow first rose a bit at "the largest television ministry on the east coast." I don't know what that means. I first thought that this was a Sci Fi book with competing Ministries of Television, and then I realized you meant a religious television show. Those aren't really East Coast things. I guess I can see a big one in the South, which is technically along the Atlantic Ocean but people usually call it The South. The East Coast implies, say, north of Maryland. I don't really think of New England and the New York area as being a huge religious television show area. All of these shows are national, so it's just a weird thing to say.

"cabal of politicians and the self righteous terrified..." is clumsy, and I have no idea what politicians have to do with it. Maybe if you phrased it "against a cabal of the self righteous, many of whom happen to be among the most influential politicians in the US" it would make more sense.

(cont below... it says my comment is too long)

Megan said...

(cont from above)

"a female runaway" sounds forced formal. "a 16 year old runaway named Lizzy" gets all the info needed across.

Isn't it a cop's job NOT to insulate himself from the horrors of a culture on society's fringe? I think you mean that he's trying to divorce himself emotionally from the horrors that he's confronting.

Is he OCD? Is that why his wife divorced him? What on earth does meticulous mean? Dude, I'd LOVE it if my husband were a bit more meticulous, especially when it comes to sorting laundry and yard work.

Basically, nothing in this query makes sense, and I'm actually okay with that because I find the entire story repugnant. I would have stopped reading at the part about a 13 year old prostituting herself, with no mention of someone else putting her up to it. Even if she was totally acting as a free agent, if a 13 year old really decides that being a prostitute is a more appropriate job than babysitting or walking dogs for her elderly neighbors you're reeeeeally going to have to sell that to us and give us some reasons as to where that came from and why.

Lithopedion said...

Lol, I'm sorry but "colorful cast of misfits" makes me imagine the plot enacted by Oliver Twist characters, which is actually hilarious.

wizardonskis22 said...

Hi, I think you have what sounds like an interesting story. I had a hard time understanding exactly what the query was saying, though. the MC sounds like a hypocrite to me. Cop who's after pedophiles, in love with a 16-year-old? Not only ick-factor, but makes him less likable for the hypocrisy as well. I could have misunderstood though, because, as I said, I found it slightly confusing.
What type of a wife divorces her husband because he's too "meticulous"? What does that even mean? Mental Image: husband crawling around house with baby wipes, cleaning up behind wife's shoes as she marches out the door.
The query could use a mop (or a meticulous husband), but the story sounds interesting. Best of luck!

Reena Jacobs said...

Keep in mind, titles don't have to be long. A title as simple as "Absolution" might work.

wizardonskis22 said...

Good job, this one is much better! I really liked the first paragraph, and, although there was some unnecessary stuff in the third paragraph, it looks like you're almost there. Keep it up! Best of luck!

Joel said...

Hey! Much better! I agree. Probably helped that QS out and about. I was stunned to discover that she would let her career and business get in the way of those of us in the shadows who choose this form of procrastination.

There are many versions of your novel to come, to be mangled by the tired, botched by the careless, twisted by the busy.

But there are four versions you have absolute control over. Each is reduced until it is perfect, smooth, seamless:

1. The title. Ad men will tell you a billboard should never be longer than seven words. You're going 65 MPH, and--blink--it's gone. You have HALF that many words.

2. The query. 250 words, and 50 is formula BS that communicates that you're looking for a business partner, not a mommy. So. Stand up. Read it aloud. Do not mumble. Imagine your listening to it on the radio.

3. The synopsis. 750 words. The whole thing. Start to finish. Yes. You have to leave stuff out. But EVERYBODY does this. I can't do it to save my life. My synopses are linguini: a sticky paste of loose ends that looks great from a distance but gives you indigestion unless it's accompanied by a nice red, a nice red sauce, a nice saucy red or a nicely sauced red.

4. The book.

But: Good job!

Stephanie Barr said...

Re: Rev

Better, yes, but still confusing. Perhaps you should drop the on-line portion of child prostitute (which forces Fed involvement). The second paragraph left me confused about what was going on and why. It didn't make sense to me. Why would the public be less outraged that a 13 year old girl was also used as a prostitute? Obstructing such an investigation would be dangerous in the extreme. It's not working for me as written.

The third paragraph, after QS ruthless trimming, can still work. What I'm missing is the tie between the dead girl and Lizzie - i.e. the menace - since Lizzy's line of work alone doesn't seem to be enough.

And that last alone might make this a tough sell. Protecting Lizzy from death or danger is one thing. Leaving her to a profession she "chooses" as a kid - that might be a tough story to make work.

Lithopedion said...

Reena stole the words right out of my mouth. I think Absolution would be a great title.

siebendach said...

This effort's much better than before.

I'd drop the first five words of the query: "It is sometimes said that". Here's a rule of thumb: cut any word or words that leaves the meaning of the sentence identical to whatever it was before.

Send me pages, Joel! Today!

nn Angel said...

I feel like the vaguest part (and what may give more shape to your query) is the changes that become so dramatic and the obstructions politicians and religious leaders are using.

Overall though, much better job.

Tiger said...

I will say don't softball the ick if that's what you're going for. Stories should be challenging, sometimes. I just wanted to put out a dissenting voice against those telling you how gross it is. If you go with it, though, make it real. Otherwise it will be just so much offensive shock value.

Reena Jacobs said...

I thought this one was pretty clear. In my mind, everything went well until the last two paragraphs. Specifically, the last sentence in the final paragraph and the entire last paragraph.

The last sentence of the second to last paragraph is a little ambiguous. What accusations? And why would he be accused of anything?

The last paragraph seems to deviate from the focus: Joseph and turns Lizzy into the protagonist. I think your query would be stronger if you kept the focus on Joseph and how his choices affect his life.

Maybe if you eliminated the last sentence of the second to last paragraph and just ended the final paragraph with something that shows how Lizzy is able to help Joseph bring down the religious leaders and politicians. For example:

Joseph refuses to allow another girl die at hands of religious leaders and politicians. With Lizzy's help, he begins a campaign
to protect other girls who might be in danger... but the one girl Joseph cannot protect is Lizzy, and it threatens to break him.

By doing so, it turns Joseph into a strong protagonist with direction. Lizzy turns into a secondary character who supports Joseph in making the world a better place. No ick factor, because a sexual relationship isn't even suggested.

Yes, there may be suggestions of pedophilia between Joseph and Lizzy in the actual novel, but every detail doesn't need to be spelled out. Let the agent/editor get to the actual pages. That way, they'll get a chance to know Joseph and know he's not a pedophile before the subject is broached in your manuscript.

Tiger said...

I'm sorry, but that title is gross. Please come up with something else. I actually liked the first title better. Maybe something that sounds more like a procedural?

(Walking with the Devil, a Different Shade of Blue, a Thin Blue Line etc)

Theresa Milstein said...

I don't like the title either. The first one wasn't great but it was better than this one. Focus on the bad guys - the pedophiles. The officer against them.

Stephanie Barr said...

Rev 2 - My comments on the previous rev still apply here. I think the crime is still not addressed properly nor do the reactions described make any sense.

I think you need to be clear on the relationship between the detective and the prostitute. If he feels protective about her because she reminds him of his estranged daughter, that's an entirely different thing than having a romantic interest. If the latter is not the case, I think you're best making that clear in the query (whether or not you tease the novel reader with that notion).

I don't understand the relationship nor do I have any reason to care about either character. I just can't get interested in this query.

Slush said...

I think that you are getting closer. My one piece of advice is go back to the GMC- Goals, Motivations, and Conflict of the main character's in your story. This little fact has been helping me craft a better query.

If you stick to the conflict (the major one of the story), which I think centers around the East Coast Ministry angle. You will find better results.

I cannot weight a story by a query only but I can tell you that it is tricky to get the full depth of your story sanwiched in under 300 words.

As far as titles go: I am not expert. The suggestion of Absolution is not a bad one. I would start by trying to sum up the story in one desriptive word and move from their. The whole GMC thing mentioned above could help with that if something is synomynous between all the characters.
Look forward to seeing how this progresses.

Stephanie Barr said...

Regarding names, you've stressed lack of objectivity. In my business (and law enforcement), that's called Conflict of Interest. Perhaps that would work here.

Eli Ashpence said...

Honestly, the 'ick' factor along with all the other button-pushing makes me really interested to read, simply to see if you actually pulled it off.

As for the title, why not something like 'Notoriety' or 'The Named and the Nameless'?

Gisele said...

I am not too enamored of the first paragraph. It is not sounding as strong as it could. It is odd to me that soldiers, cops and prostitutes (3 professions) would be mentioned, but then only talk about 2 of them: Cops and prostitutes.

Of course, there isn't a follow up on the "soldiers" bit, because the story isn't about soldiers. They aren't part of it. So, why are they in there? Is it because it adds a better rhythm to the sentence?

If that is the case, I suggest saying something along the lines of "Politicians, prostitutes and cops have one thing in common..." That way you'll still have the same rhythm to your sentence. Along the added bonus that politicians are indeed part of this story and they also should remain emotionally detached to ply their craft.

Someone already mentioned that "It is sometimes said" is utterly unnecessary. I'd like to second that.

It is hard for me to think of a 13yr old prostitute. It seems to me that the word "prostitute" implies a certain choice, albeit small, on the matter. I don't know how much of a choice a 13yr old would have. In my opinion, "a sex victim" catering to pedophiles... sounds better. It also makes me care for the misfortune of the 13yr girl that much more. But this could just be my opinion.

The Title "Requiem for Dizzy Lizzy" doesn't really do it for me either. I also would like to point out that such title gives away the fact that Lizzy will die at some point in the novel. If the intention was to keep her death a secret for a big surprise ending than, the title is giving it away.

Perhaps knowing how the story ends isn't as important to the plot as the journey of how she got there. If that's the case, than it wouldn't matter so much.

So far, the title I liked better is "Absolution". But I'd keep thinking of more titles.

This query is getting better as it progresses. Keep it up!

Lady Epsilon said...

Why not simply call it Dizzy Lizzy? The title suggests a little girl with the power to knock you off balance and subvert your expectations. And if I'm reading your queries right, that's the theme you're going for here.

alaskaravenclaw said...

In re revision of 12/4/10:

Writer, you still haven't addressed the issues that people had before:

1. How can one be a prostitute through the internet? (I assume the answer is that she advertised online.)

2. The public isn't going to stop being outraged about the murder of a 13-year-old just because they find out she was a prostitute, nor because of who her clients were.

People who feel implicated might be outraged, but that's hardly going to be a large proportion of the public.

Stephanie Barr said...

Rev 12/4:

As alaskaravenclaw said, I still don't see you addressing much of the concerns raised previously. You tell us what happens and the repercussions, but they don't seem to go together.

Who stops feeling sorry for a murdered 13-year-old because she was used as a prostitute? Why would the public be less outraged? Why would anyone worrying about a 16-year-old betraying anything? Who trusts a 16-year-old prostitute with secrets? Who would expect real objectivity on sex crimes involving children? Why aren't the Feds running this as they would for any on-line pedophilia issues?

You've ascribed reactions that seem counterintuitive to me and built the story on those reactions. I just can't bring myself to buy it.

Gisele said...

The one thing the writer has addressed successfully is the icky factor between Detective Joseph and Lizzy. The awkwardness between their relationship is gone. Well done.

Now, Alaskaravenclaw and Stephanie Barr took the words right out of my mouth!

The writer is not addressing most of the issues and/or suggestions that were brought forth a while ago, during the first query attempt. It is now round number four and the query still has most of the same original problems.

I fully respect that the writer has complete control and choice of whether or not to follow through with a suggestion. However, it seems bizarre to me that even the factual discrepancies that have already been mentioned are still left ignored. Case in point: Stephanie’s on-target observation that it is the FBI and not local cops, the ones who investigate online pedophilia cases. This is a fact. I don’t see this as a take-it or-leave-it suggestion.

I pray thee, how else will you have a credible novel, fellow writer?

Meaningless Prose said...

To me, Dizzy Lizzy sounds like a drink name, so I keep wondering why the author is so attached to a cocktail.

Theresa Milstein said...

Don't have her be Dizzy Lizzy and don't put it in the title. There's got to be a better name. It sounds like it's from an old western. This is contemporary.

maxdname said...

I am sorry... I had no idea there was a discussion going on. I am a goof.
Despite that: to those who offered up suggestions--
"what little girls are made of" has a cutesy ring -- it's supposed to
(the divorce has already happened)
Yes, I know what little girls are made of is a Star Trek title
Stephanie Barr said...
the FBI would take over because it is an interstate crime... Yes, if there is a suspicion that she was killed by a "customer." In the beginning, nothing points to that. Only as Joseph puts the pieces together does this show up. And in some states (east coast) state borders are close and accordingly there are combined "local" agencies that are given jurisdiction over an area).
nn Angel said...
You hit it dead on! Thank you. The case becomes political but the MC is trying to keep it pointed at the ministry, which is the only solid lead he has. "Lizzy and her friends" is a lead he develops only through doggedness (it's a place called the "candy store"--a place where the cops "let" thing drug deal and prostitution go on, it being easier to control if it's in one place (sometimes agencies allow illegal activity to occur in a location because it is easier to keep track of it)
siebendach said...
Granted, not all prosecutors have political aspirations, but the other 99% would be all over this one... if Big Whig (yes Whig, the political party, that's where the term comes from) pols look to slap down anyone getting near this church--and only a few people know of the connection and the MC isn't going to leak that to the press (he's a nice guy).
Jo-Ann said...
...hoping) that you're trying to portray Dizzy Lizzy as having dignity and being wise beyond her years, and that Mike finds himself drawn to her for the insights she can offer: into both the case he's working on, and his own train-wreck personal life.
Yes, yes, yes... that's what is happening.
what's in it for Lizzy? It was her friend who died and she hopes the MC is going to offer her, and her clan, a modicum of protection--something rarely offered.
to many who said: the minister is somehow involved... it's not him. The MC wants to turn over stones within his flock... The minister knows EVERYBODY's got something to hide and he doesn't want the BEST investigator around sifting through the lives of his evangelical herd.
Fanfreakingtastic Flower said...
writing what you know... everything in this comes from my observations working with cops, but not as a cop and pretty much everything really happened.
wizardonskis22 said...
wife divorces her husband because he's too "meticulous"?
He's one of those people who ask a question expecting a certain answer, and when he doesn't get that, he'll rephrase the question, and continue to do so until a person answers with every detail. Some cops (and some people) use that as a technique and it's very annoying.
Polly said...
no teen would voluntarily work as a prostitute... I've seen runaways often hustle to make some cash (with boys it's quite common)

maxdname said...

Joel said...
thank you, that's good advice. Some of the best yet.
Tiger said
Thank you that's good advice, too.
Slush said...
GMC, thank you.
Stephanie Barr said...
Conflict of interest isn't bad at all. Thanks.
Gisele said...
politicians, prostitutes, and cops
That one I HAVE to use. Dead on! Thanks.
Or how about a title: Pols, Prostitutes, and Cops
sounds like a cheesy Raymond Chandler cover, huh?
Lady Epsilon said...
what about Dizzy Lizzy as a title
I thought about it but she doesn't show up until chapter 5 (out of twenty). Wouldn't that be too long to wait for the title character?
alaskaravenclaw said...
The public isn't going to stop being outraged about the murder of a 13-year-old just because they find out she was a prostitute
You'd be amazed at quickly public opinion can swing when dealing with a "criminal element." Unless it's a serial killer people, have a tendency to say "bad things happen to bad people" (as self righteous as that may sound it's sometimes true).
alaskaravenclaw said...
again
No one can connect the murder to the internet nor can they say it was a john. This only comes to light after the MC starts to dig into the girl's computer. Then on a hunch, he looks for Lizzy who did the same thing as the dead girl.

Here's the story line in brief:
I chose the title "What Little Girls Are Made Of" because the victim is a seeming innocent: young, good grades et cetera. She uses a church as an excuse to get out of the house (parents feuding).
When the MC discovers the prostitution link (he's the one who finds it and dogs it out) he finds Lizzy and company at a park where drugs and illegal stuff goes on (sometimes cops will let "little stuff" go on in one location because it's easier to keep track of it and it's often not worth busting).
When the girl is murdered, the community is outraged. Then the MC discovers the online "advertising" (she adverts online not really doing it) he also finds a slim thread that leads to the church. Someone high up (this is an interagency police unit) leaks the info to the TV minister (who doesn't want the MC poking around in his flock) and the TV minister asks some pols to put pressure on the MC to leave the church alone and look in the park for the murderer (TV evangelists can say just about anything they want short of outright libel, and that represents a lot of votes in today's world).

Stephanie Barr said...

Sorry, internet child pornography=FBI jurisdiction. If it's not what she's doing that killed her, why is your detective involved with other child prostitutes? And people don't think 13 year olds deserved it because they're prostitutes; that makes them more sympathetic, not less.

My ex is a cop. I could never get past the logical fallacies in this setup, even if I found it intriguing.

Joel said...

I'd add that she's not saying give up. She's just saying, give it a little time.

I found making a checklist from the archives made my letters easier to write ... still.

And I'd advise against venue-shopping. There's a guy who's submitted and re-submitted the same query on sites, hoping that, you know, the laws of literary physics (read: economics) will not work at one of these sites.

Stick with this site. These are good people. And consider ditching the name Dizzy Lizzy. Seriously. I agree with alaskaravenclaw, who is more sensitive than I, that it's not a pleasant thing to do, but consider it.

And the title.

Joel said...

Here are some title suggestions. Some are better than others. See how I pulled them out--they're all your own words.

The best are two syllables, like a pulse: da-dum.

Note that there's a spy novel *and a spy movie* called THE TOURIST. Just because you can use someone else's title doesn't mean you should:

DETACHED
ONE THING IN COMMON
EMOTIONALLY
FEAR OF SECRETS
BEFRIEND
SIXTEEN
OBJECTIVITY
RELY
MORAL SUPPORT
HEADLONG
RESCUED
PERCEPTION
A BETTER MAN

Gisele said...

From Joel's suggestions, the title I liked best is "Sixteen".

It has good rhythm, it sounds similar to "sex teen", which helps define the book. It also highlights the youthfulness of the victims, making the crimes all the more gruesome.

I think, it's a winner.

Theresa Milstein said...

I think the query is better. But why does she have to be Dizzy Lizzy? I just dislike the name. And don't go back to the original title.

jesse said...

I think you're trying to put too much of your story into the query. There seem to be lot of interesting things happening in your book. However, when you try to tell us everything in 250 words, it's just a boring list (see paragraph four of your query).

Also, there is a huge disconnect in your q. Paragraphs 1 and 2 read like an interesting "man vs the machine" type of crime novel, while P3 and P4 read like a "cop going native" type of crime novel.

If think if you pick one or the other, the query will improve dramatically.

Also, to beat a dead horse, I had a strong ick reaction with your first/last title. I know you're going for cutesy, but the subject matter juxtaposed with that title has bad connotations. Try to picture in your mind, Steve Buscemi saying your title out loud.

Jason said...

CO-DEPENDENCE

ywia

Rick said...

A picky little comment: DOCTORS, soldiers, prostitutes, and cops need to remain emotionally detached. Maybe add writers, agents, and publishers? Maybe scrap all that and start with: Chief Detective Michael Joseph knows he is losing his emotional detachment, and he knows that's dangerous.

laurathewise said...

The title made me shudder.

I think you can clear up a lot of the ick factor by making it clear whether Mike's reliance/fixation on Lizzy comes from him seeing her as a replacement daughter, or is sexual in nature. You mention that she's x years older than his daughter, but then seem to dance around the fact of her sexuality for the rest of the query. Is he attracted to her? Does he come on to her, or does she try to seduce him? That makes a HUGE difference in how Mike will be perceived. Or maybe he's just using her as the daughter he's distant from (again, huge difference).

I also lost the plot after about 2 paragraphs...all this interesting stuff with a minister and the media is mentioned, then Mike meets Lizzy and it all goes out the window. Is this story about Lizzy, or about Mike? What about the murdered girl?

caseydancer said...

Online prostitute catering to pedophiles. Seriously?? I'm offended both as a writer and online escort. And for the record, not one sane, stable women (16 or not, sex worker or not) CATERS TO PEDOPHILES. That person doesn't exist, COULD NOT exist, not for more than 24 hours before being institutionalized over the mental break brought on by the sheer impossibility of that disgustingly twisted job description.

You don't understand women much less escorts and you shouldn't be writing about us. Not ever. EVER.

And thanks for FURTHER stigmatizing an already highly marginalized, misunderstood group of human beings. Unreal.

Sarah Nambiar said...

The first title makes me think of that country song Gunpowder and Lead. The girlfriend loads her shotgun and waits for her abusive boyfriend to show up. In the song she says, "I'm gonna show him what a little girl's make of: Gunpowder and Lead."