Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Agent,

On a cloudless, hot and sunny morning in August of 1989, Chris Carter and Jimmy Vale began what would become the last sane day of their lives. The two inseparable high school friends were off on the adventure of a lifetime, a cross-country trip in Jimmy’s car that began in New York and would take them wherever destiny called. A fateful decision to go northwest on Interstate 90 instead of southwest on Route 66 would lead them through the North Woods of Wisconsin and into the hands of The Cleaner; the ancient servant of The One. Over the next twenty years, Jimmy embraces the evil and Chris, at first succumbs but eventually rejects it. Their contrasting tales of success and misery are the background to the investigation of a series of missing girls: girls that The Cleaner has disposed of.

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Watson is a certified genius, an over achiever, a loner and a rules breaker. There is a folder on her laptop titled “Dead Girls.” She lives for her work devoting every minute of every day to finding an end to the seemingly endless supply of missing people cases. Her idea of intimacy is a one-night stand. Her specialty is looking for connections in open cases, which might tie the victims together; not routine connections, things no one else would locate. What she finds is a connection between a series of disappearances and the lifestyle of the very successful, ever-youthful rock star, Jimmy Vale.

Her investigation leads her to Chris Carter, a man who has had his life ripped apart by circumstances way beyond his control. The two become allies in a battle against an evil that has existed in the North Woods since before the white settlers, before the Woodland Indians, before the mound builders. It is an ancient evil brimming with shape shifting, murder and cannibalism.

In a whirlwind mission that takes the reader across the country, Kimberly Watson must trust the research of a man who appears crazy. She has to break all the rules, to join with him and help discover the forces at work, find their perpetrators and then understand how to defeat them.

DEAD GIRLS is a thriller; a work of adult mystery and horror. Its 80,000 words and 275 pages will introduce you to characters you will want to see more of. The settings include New York City, Hollywood, Denver and the area of the North Woods in Wisconsin.

It is my third complete manuscript and the first I am offering to you for representation. I have painstakingly researched, completed multiple rewrites and searched for the agent/agency that I feel would be the best fit for them and me. I have followed you personally on Twitter and am aware of your reputation, enamored of your obvious enthusiasm for your clients and would consider myself incredibly lucky to be represented by you and your agency.

I have included the first 250 words below and hope they will entice you to request some or all of the remaining manuscript. Thank you for your time.



Part One: A Forest Dark

Chapter I: 1853

In the dream, he split his father’s face in half with the long handled ax, while the dog watched through shrewd hungry eyes: Thick, mucous-like drool dripped from the corners of its toothy canine grin. 

“Lijah?” his father’s angry voice called from the big room, rousing him form a state somewhere between dream and hallucination. “You gowna slep the whole day away? G****** boy, needs to get some fishin done so’s we can et tonight.” Elijah Elder sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He winced from the sharp and sudden pain in his ribs; a quick reminder of yesterday’s beating. The room he slept in was barely closet-sized and when he was sitting, his head brushed against the logs that provided the upper perimeter of his tiny bedroom. His mattress was straw on dirt and the door was nothing more than a scrap of old canvas from someone’s long ago discarded tent. 

When he parted the stiff cloths to slip out, the first rays of early dawn poked through dirty windows to give a smoky illumination to the one austere room that made up the Elder family’s cabin. It smelled of earth, fried animal fat and burnt pine. His mama, still sleeping, wheezed a low coarse snore through whistling lips and his father had already rolled over and gone back to sleep. It was the same every morning; the unchanging routine of a moonshiner.


Ashton said...

Starting out your 1st sentence of a query with a date and the weather is something that I've heard multiple editors cringe at. They just think it's a boring way to grab someone's attention. That's not my opinion honestly I just went to a literary pitching event and every single one that start out that way was instantly buzzed off the stage...
The other thing in the query that I know is a bit of a turn off to agents is the paragraph.

"I have painstakingly researched, completed multiple rewrites and searched for the agent/agency that I feel would be the best fit for them and me. I have followed you personally on Twitter and am aware of your reputation, enamored of your obvious enthusiasm for your clients and would consider myself incredibly lucky to be represented by you and your agency."

This is obviously generic and something you include to every agent and perhaps follow all of them on twitter post query?

A better approach is to actually google an interview they've done.. maybe read it and pull something out they said in the interview that resonated with you that way they KNOW you didn't just copy paste the same thing to a million other agents.

In the pages your first line is very dramatic so that draws me in but maybe a bit too many adjectives in there.. this is something I struggle with myself.. adjectives are so fun to write but too many just end up drawing attention away from your action.

The premise and everything else sounds good just maybe trim that query and do some line edits and keep going ! :)

Staci said...

I like your premise of two friends on a post-graduation adventure who take divergent life paths and the mystery that brings them back together twenty years later. The inclusion of the intrepid FBI agent working with one man to hunt the other is also intriguing. I wonder, though, if your query letter gets muddled with too many details? It might be more effective to refer to The Cleaner as simply an ancient evil involved in the disappearance of the girls.

Like Ashton said above, I would leave out the generic paragraph that led you to query the particular agent. I would simply describe the novel as an 80,000-word thriller and omit reference to settings and whether it will make the agent want to read more.

As for your first 250, it feels a bit like prologue. It might work better to weave that into backstory and kick off the novel with an intro to Chris and Jimmy. Based on your QL, it seems like their relationship and the paths they choose is what drives the narrative of your novel.

I hope that feedback is helpful. Good luck to you!

The Agent said...

The beginning of the query does not intrigue me, so I lost interest instantly. And you should not be so generic with your agent reference. Not for me, sorry.

C.F. said...

I had to force myself to read after the first paragraph. It was a bit drawn out. My suggestion is to tighten it up and shorten it. Give just enough to pitch and leave them wanting more because the actual story seems rather interesting. Hope this helps!

Lauri JB Corkum said...

I think you have the start of a great concept here. However, the query was a little too long and filled with too much information. Your query should whet the agent's appetite... pique his or her interest and make him or her anxious to read more. I would focus on your central character, the FBI agent. Put Kimberly and her journey front and center. When I read that she had a folder on her laptop called "Dead Girls", I was totally hooked. Save the descriptions about the other characters for your synopsis where you really need that level of detail.
Good luck!

Charles Kowalski said...

Sorry to be late to the party! I'd start the query with the second paragraph; weather openings are a bit of a taboo even in manuscripts, let alone query letters, but Kimberly Watson definitely looks like a character I'd like to get to know better. (And I know this without your having to tell me.) Good luck to you and Agent Watson!