Saturday, February 2, 2013

#236-revised twice FTW

Dear QueryShark:

Ariel Cordova's soon to be dead husband calls to say he loves her, he's sorry, and he doesn't think they know about her. He directs her to leave Texas, go into hiding and find the clue he tucked away in her books explaining his perilous predicament.

oh yes! yes! Yes!!!! MUCH better!

An assassin's bullet keeps him from warning her of the rogue C.I.A. operative demanding the return of four million dollars. Or the blackmailer who has stolen the digital plans for Jester, part of a missile launching system he was unwittingly designing for the spook.

Across the country in Granite Pointe, New Hampshire, when Ariel escapes a kidnapping she's forced to hire Marco Romano, security and protection specialist and notorious playboy. Rebuffing his advances will be as challenging as avoiding kidnappers and killers. In the end, she teaches Romano to be a better man while he helps her to find personal strength she wasn't aware she possessed.

The only chance of survival will be to identify and capture the blackmailer, destroy the plans for Jester, keep it from being used against American targets, and stop a murderer from adding them to his growing list of dead bodies.

At 82,300 words, KEEP AWAY is a Romance.

I left a few strings untied to allow for a sequel which I'm currently working on.

Thank you for your time and attention. 


You've got all the pieces in the right place now and I think this is pretty spiffy. Let it sit a week, then pare and prune as needed but don't fuss yourself in to not sending.

Good luck!


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Dear QueryShark:

Ariel Cordova's soon to be dead husband calls to say he's sorry, he doesn't think they know about her and she should leave Texas and go into hiding.

An assassin's bullet stops him from warning her of the rogue C.I.A. operative who wants his client's four million dollars back.

Those troublesome double subjects. When you have the CIA guy acting for someone else, you end up with sentences flailing from too many people.

How about this:  CIA operative who wants a four million dollar refund.

In a query, you don't have to spell out every connection. The CIA guy wants the money back for someone else it's true, but in this form, you don't have to explain that. It's enough for our purposes here to know he wants it.


Or the blackmailer who has stolen the digital plans for Jester, a navigation system for a missile launcher he was unwittingly designing for the spook and his buyers, some not so nice people with a grudge against the United States.

and you've got the same convoluted problem here too.

Across the country in Granite Pointe, New Hampshire, Ariel wants to settle in to an anonymous life, stay off the radar of her husband's killer, and avoid the charms of Marco Romano, security specialist and notorious playboy.

Can you say that sentence in one breath? If NOT then it's too long.

After a run-in with a bungling F.B.I. poser, a nervous man who knows all about jester,Jester she's forced to hire Romano for protection and investigation.  Not willing to join Romano's fan club of bimbos, she attempts to train the dog in the ways of monogamy while he digs to find the truth.

You need to be careful here. If Romano's fans are "bimbos" and he's the romantic lead...that makes OUR girl one of the bimbos.  You don't need to characterize his "fan club" as more than that. We get it.

Also why is she training him for monogamy if she doesn't want to join his fan club. You're revealing too much here. "Forced to hire" gives us the sense she doesn't want to be around him. What's missing is what changed her mind.


In her book collection hides a clue, an explanation and the location of the money.  The only chance they have at making a life together, or living at all, will be to identify and capture the blackmailer, recover and destroy the plans for Jester, and stop a killer from adding them to his growing list of dead bodies.

In her book collection hides a clue.  In this sentence awkward rhythm prevails.  I've jumped up and down endlessly about the value of putting sentences in the "right" order: subject verb object.  If you need to gussy it up after you see it in that form, do so. START with the simple. Then gild.

At 82,300 words, Keep Away is crime romance.
Ah, MUCH better title.

I'm not sure what a crime romance is. At some point we'll need to figure out if this is going to crime editors or romance editors.  I think it's romance.

I left a few strings untied to allow for a sequel which I'm currently working on.

Thank you for your time and attention.






One of the things about revising is when you do one round, it often reveals things you didn't see on the first round. Thus this is better but still not there.



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Dear QueryShark:

Arial Cordova's soon to be dead husband calls to say he's sorry, he doesn't think they know about her and she should leave Texas and go into hiding.

This is a great opening. I particularly like "soon to be dead."  It puts us in the moment and creates instant tension.

Contrast that to what I see a lot of--backstory: "Arial's husband was killed in the middle of a phone call warning her..."

See the difference? 

An assassin's bullet ends his life before he can tell her of the ex-C.I.A. operative who wants his four million dollars back, or the blackmailer who has stolen the digital plans for Jester, a treasonous weapon her husband was unwittingly designing for the former spook.

Ok, here we get a little muddled.  "Treasonous weapon" isn't very clear. Because of that wonderful first line, I have confidence in the writer though, so I'd keep going.

The good thing though is that we instantly see the problem, and what's at stake.



Across the country in Granite Pointe, New Hampshire, Arial would like nothing more than to blend with the community and avoid the charms of Marco Romano, local security specialist and notorious playboy. However, a bungling F.B.I. impostor, and a kidnapper hired by an elusive stranger in the neighborhood are keeping her from settling into a new life.

Now this is interesting because the tone changes.  It's not a high stakes thriller, it's more of a down home cozy. Can you have both? Well, not really. This isn't a deal-breaker though. I'll keep reading because there's nothing here that goes splat. It's just going in a direction other than what I thought--not always a bad thing.



If Arial can't find the clue her husband said he left in her book collection and stop his killer from adding her to his growing list of dead bodies, she won't get the chance to live happily ever after.

Err...living happily ever after is NOT what can be at stake for a mystery or thriller.  There has to be a real problem that has an impact on other people.  Happily ever after is what's at stake in a romance novel.


So, I'm confused, but I like the writing.  Not a deal breaker yet.



At 82,300 words, The Jester Project is crime fiction with some laughs and a little romance.

TERRIBLE title because it sounds like a thesis for an undergraduate degree at Clown College (a college I always wanted to attend in fact...it was run by Ringling Bros.--but I digress)

So, here's the rub. This isn't really crime fiction since what's at stake is romance. And there's not enough here about the romance to make me think it's a solid romance.






I left a few strings untied to allow for a sequel which I'm currently working on.


I love this line. It's funny and fresh. It makes me think I'd like the writer, that s/he'd be fun to work with.


Thank you for your time and attention.

And the writer hasn't made an crazy claims of self-importance or included pictures of his/her cat, rat or alpaca--all good things to avoid.

This is good, but not really good enough. To work it needs better stakes, a better description of the weapon (and what would happen if it got in the wrong hands) and a new title won't hurt.

 Revise, resend.






19 comments:

Brittany Constable said...

I might suggest changing the name of the lead to Ariel. Right now I get pictures of a sans-serif font trying to stay alive long enough to find love. While that might be an entertaining read in its own right, I'm not sure that's what the author is going for.

french sojourn said...

a bungling F.B.I. impostor, and a kidnapper hired by an elusive stranger,

O.K. I'm with you till here.
I think if you clarify or embellish their motives it will tie it together.

I love whats going on and can work with everything else, however comma but enlighten their motives and it will draw the reader in.

It's a very fun concept, and I love the idea of her name being Ariel as she sounds like a high wire act.

Good luck.

Theresa Milstein said...

All stories have a few threads. If there's some romance, that's fine, but I'd stick to the high stakes tone of the main plot in your query. Putting in the romance detracts from the tension. Make us feel that clock ticking...

Theresa Milstein said...

By the way, one of the best lines from Query Shark: "TERRIBLE title because it sounds like a thesis for an undergraduate degree at Clown College (a college I always wanted to attend in fact...it was run by Ringling Bros.--but I digress)"

nightsmusic said...

The first two paragraphs are great, and when the tone changes, those are okay too, but I kept trying to figure out what I didn't like about this and it's the fact that this query reads like the author is writing two different stories.

The first two paragraphs are a thriller and I'm with you there! When the romance comes into play, I'm not so sure because I've lost the tension and the high stakes. I need something to pull both sections together.

BTW, my dad was a clown for many years. :o)

Laura W. said...

This sounds really good and interesting! I'd probably read it if it was either a high-stakes thriller or a romance/mystery. But I want to know which one it is. Or if it's both, how they fit together.

Kneazle said...

So just to confirm, that's a no to sending photos of my alpaca?

Lemur said...

LOL Kneazie! I have yak pics (for real!) How about those? Seriously, it does look lie an interesting read, but definitely needs clarity about what kind of book it is. Still, if I was an agent I'd probably read pages.

Angie Brooksby said...

She wants to avoid the charms of some guy in New Hampshire where she can blend to a new life but it sounds like she's running from something including a kidnapper.

How does living happily ever after fit in the story?

What is she running from? What is pertinent: happy or escape or the book collection, or her ex's influence on her new life?

Ellipsis Flood said...

I've got to say, the tone's much more consistent now. But I'm still not sure if this is more about the crime or more about the romance.

Katherine Traylor said...

So is it recommended that you mention it if your novel allows room for a sequel? I'm in the same boat--my story can stand alone, but I've left some loose threads that will be woven into the next book(s). This is really interesting--thanks!

T.D. Hart said...

Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I had trouble with the protagonist falling in love so quickly after her husband was murdered. (You may have handled this in the ms itself, but as a back cover hook I'd wonder about the heroine's character.) For me, the thriller aspect was more intriguing than the love story. Best of luck, and good job getting your query crunched by Her Sharkness.

Cheers...and Happy Writing!
T.D. Hart

Kim Kouski said...

Ok, so Ariel is the good guy, the elusive stranger is the bad guy. So what will happen if ES wins? Does he release a virus? missiles? Puppies that lick people to death? What bad thing will happen if the bad guy wins? I don't care about the love interests or bumbling FBI guy. I want to know what will the ES do if he wins.

Ellipsis Flood said...

Rereading all of this, especially the comments, made me realize that the biggest problem here isn't that the story can't decide what it is.

It's that the author has their focus on the romance aspect, while pretty much everyone else wants to know more about the crime aspect.

I felt similarly when I read the first revision. The query starts with a focus on crime and sticks to it for a few paragraphs. I kind of want to know what's going on with Jester, since that sounds really high-stakes-y.

Then we cut to somewhere else, Romano barges in and takes over. Even though the crime elements seep back in after a few paragraphs, Romano stays there and seems to be the focus point, which, to me, trivializes the stakes that were set up earlier.

If this is about the romance, this needs to be made clearer. Unfortunately, I feel like Miss Shark here and say that the romance aspect here isn't very strong.

If this is about the crime, I'd say tone down the romance aspect or cut it out entirely. I've read many thrillers where, on the way to the solution, the protagonists fell for each other. Just because it's there that doesn't mean that it has to play a big role.

I hope I made sense here. Wall of Text, end.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, the new version is so snappy. And what a quick turnaround from the previous version. Congratulations!

Theresa Milstein said...

Keep Away is WAY better for a title too.

Ellipsis Flood said...

Yes. This is it. This got ~200% better after the last revision. I still wouldn't read it for the romance, but the rest of the plot sounds really awesome now.

hank petterson said...

The revisions are great, well done.
Another fine example of how and why Query Shark works.

The gradual shift to Romance is interesting, sometimes a couple hearts combine to rise above the direction chosen for them.

Good luck, and way to go for putting your writing oout there.

Cheers Hank

Susan Bernhard said...

soon-to-be-dead

He's not a soon husband, a to husband, a be husband or even a dead husband, so you must hyphenate the whole phrase.