Saturday, June 7, 2008


Dear Query Shark:

Four total strangers sit across around a card table from one another and each holds the others’ fate in their hands. The prize is a million dollars, but they’re each playing for something far more valuable than money. The players come from four different worlds, and none of them can go back. Each turn of the cards changes the odds of success, and survival, for everyone at the table. Face Cards is a thriller that gives the reader clear reasons to champion each of the players at different times throughout the story, knowing all the while that only one can be the ultimate winner.

I don't get it. What's the purpose of the game? How did they get there? Why does the game have such high stakes?

For Ruby, the queen of the trailer park, it’s literally life or death. Her lover and her best friend are both dead, and their killer has his sights set on her next. If she wins, she lives. If not, all bets are off. Will is the guy you love to hate, but he doesn’t care. He’s in love with himself. His wealthy mother was his ace in the hole, but now it’s time for him to stand on his own. For Cashbox, the jack-of-all-trades from South Central LA, it’s win or return to the streets. If he can’t outplay the other three, his dream of a better life is over. Ted’s been a loser all his life. He has one last chance at a happy ending if only fate will finally deal him a hand fit for a king.

This is character soup. It doesn't tell me anything about the plot, and at this point, I'm not sure there is one.

You haven't given me a reason to care if any of them win the game or not. At this point I'm hoping Omar **shows up with a shotgun and robs them all.

I’m currently seeking representation for this completed 85,000 word novel. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ellis College in 2006 with a BA in English. My emphasis was in literature and culture. In 2007, I graduated with distinction from National University. I received my MA in English with a concentration in creative writing. Face Cards is my first novel.

I look forward to discussing my work with you. Thank you for your time and consideration.


**Season 4 The Wire


Marian said...

Argh, this is the bad thing about reading too much fantasy and science fiction. When I read “four different worlds”, I took that literally and imagined a grand, sweeping-in-scope setup, with powerful ruthless people betting the fates of nations in their game.

So it was kind of a letdown to read about a guy who depended on his mother and someone who had been a loser all his life, though that's probably just me.

beth said...

I also thought it was about four literal different worlds, it's not just you, marian!

When I read this query, I wonder: where is the plot? This query reminds me of the Fox show, Prison Break. One reason I never bothered watching the show is: once they break out, end of show. When I read this query, all I can think is, once they lay down the cards, end of the book. Where's the plot to carry the story out?

Lehcarjt said...

I'll third the comment about thinking 'four different worlds' meant we were talking about alien species.

What I get from the query is that this is 85,000 words of telling how four messed-up people sit around a table and play cards. Why would this be an interesting read for me?

I'm guessing (hoping) that it is really more than just one room, one table, four people. Tell me about that story. Tell me what they win or lose. Give me a better sense of the scope of the story.

talpianna said...

I guess the intended audience for this book is the people who watch high-stakes poker games on ESPN.

I also thought "four different planets/universes" and thought of the way the gods of the Discworld play dice (or is it Monopoly? Parcheesi? CRIBBAGE??? with the fate of nations.

Southern Writer said...

I must be the lone weirdo here. I totally got what you meant by "four different worlds." I'm not going to care about Will, though, so that narrows my interest to the other three, and if Will turns out to be the winner, I'm going to be ticked off, big time.

Julia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julia said...

The "queen, ace, jack, king" puns in the summary make me hate this query author intensely.

And sweet mother of Baal, if you're going to have a plot point like "People are literally staking their lives on the outcome of a card game" you've got to explain why. Who's going to kill Ruby if she doesn't win this? Loan sharks? Aliens? A dented can of tuna?

Anonymous said...

Yep, another one for the "four different alien worlds" here. Maybe something like The Player of Games (Iain M Banks)?

Personally I would like to take the characters and magnify their flaws and twist them as much as possible. As it is now, they're just losers -- as the query writer says.

I would also like to know what kind of card game they're playing. Poker, Bridge and Uno all have different mental images and connotations which could be used to your advantage.

Just_Me said...

I thought the first paragraph was setting up a sci-fi story too. That's probably not what you want here. As soon as I realized it wasn't, you lost me.

Four people playing for a million dollars because it might change the way they live their lives doesn't excite me. The threat of being forced to read the play-by-play of a poker game with flash-backs sprinkled in makes me want to run. There are just some things that shouldn't be done.

I recommend changing your opening line and telling us exactly how the people are going to use the money. "Ruby needs a million dollars to buy off a killer. Richie Rich needs a million to buy his life away from his controlling mother. Jack O'Alltrades needs a million to get off the street and set up a life for his baby girl now that his wife left him....."

And then get to the major plot points because there HAS to be more to this book than a card game.

Beth said...

The players come from four different worlds, and none of them can go back.

I thought that was meant literally. I was intrigued. Pity.