Query: Natural Selection, Part Two: NOW CLOSED

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
Post Reply
Poisonguy
Posts: 19
Joined: February 12th, 2010, 3:37 am
Contact:

Query: Natural Selection, Part Two: NOW CLOSED

Post by Poisonguy » March 26th, 2010, 9:37 am

This is what I came up with after incorporating the suggestions I received here. The first sample includes personal information on the protagonist (which addresses a theme that is expanded upon in the story) and the second doesn't (mainly because some folks suggested it was better to exclude this information). Let me know what y'all think. Any input is better than no input. A big thank you in advance.

Sample One:

Natural Selection is a 100,000-word mystery that follows Dragan Sakic, an ER physician with a troubled past. When he agrees to have a child with his girlfriend, thoughts of his childhood molestation flood his mind and he does what he’s always done. He hides in his protective shell.

Pressured by an evasive cop to look over the autopsy of Salt Lake City’s district attorney, Dragan reluctantly agrees. Camouflaged deep in the toxicological report, he notices that three substances—no more than remedies when taken separately—mimic a heart attack when combined. Dragan comes to believe it wasn’t luck that brought him and the DA together. It was the result of a buildup of countless imperceptible changes and, like evolution, inevitable.

As he reveals more similar deaths, Dragan provides an ailing investigation much needed momentum. In doing so, he unearths a new species of killers: one who uses tiered poisonings unseen before in ingenuity, one who goes to painstaking lengths to disguise his murders as natural deaths. The ensuing investigation saps Dragan’s spare time, leaving his relationship in shambles.

Unbeknownst to Dragan, the victims were part of a secret cabal with plans to release a bioweapon at the Utah-BYU football game. Fearing he may lead the police to them, the surviving members send out their henchman to kill Dragan.

When the police find his girlfriend near death, evidence found in Dragan’s home implicates him in the anthrax attack and the murders he's investigating. Fueled by his desire to avenge the woman he loves, Dragan must revisit painful childhood memories if he is to survive and find justice. The days that follow surface old scars and rips them wide open.

SampleTwo:


Pressured by an evasive cop to look over the autopsy of Salt Lake City’s district attorney, Dragan Sakic, an ER physician with a trouble past, reluctantly agrees. Camouflaged deep in the toxicological report, he notices that three substances—no more than remedies when taken separately—mimic a heart attack when combined. Dragan comes to believe it was not luck that brought him and the DA together. It was the result of a buildup of countless imperceptible changes and, like evolution, inevitable.

Natural Selection is a 100,000-word mystery that follows Dragan’s personal struggles as he reveals more similar deaths. In providing an ailing investigation much needed momentum, he unearths a new species of killers: one who uses tiered poisonings unseen before in ingenuity, one who goes to painstaking lengths to disguise his murders as natural deaths.

Unbeknownst to Dragan, the victims were part of a secret cabal with plans to release a bioweapon at the Utah-BYU football game. Fearing he may lead the police to them, the surviving members send out their henchman to kill him.

When the police find his girlfriend near death, evidence found in Dragan’s home implicates him in the anthrax attack and the murders he's investigating. Fueled by his desire to avenge the woman he loves, Dragan must revisit painful childhood memories if he is to survive and find justice. The days that follow surface old scars and rips them wide open.
Last edited by Poisonguy on March 29th, 2010, 4:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
ryanznock
Posts: 100
Joined: February 13th, 2010, 1:13 am
Location: Atlanta, GA
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by ryanznock » March 26th, 2010, 6:33 pm

Poisonguy wrote:Natural Selection is a 100,000-word mystery that follows Dragan Sakic, an ER physician with a troubled past. When he agrees to have a child with his girlfriend, thoughts of his childhood molestation flood his mind and he does what he’s always done. He hides in his protective shell.
First question, what's the etymology of the name Dragan Sakic? Neither name matches any culture I'm familiar with, and I'm wondering if the character's ethnic or cultural background matters here.

Also, I'm not a big fan of the declarative beginning: 'XX is a yy word genre novel.' Save that for the end of the query, or at least switch to a more active structure.

The rest of your query hops around a lot. You start by mentioning some real traumatic shit, but it seems not to play any role in the plot, and warrants only a brief, rather generic mention at the end of the query. I mean, half the characters in modern literature have to "revisit painful childhood memories," so it doesn't seem like a particularly strong element of the story from this query.

Likewise, I'm cool with the nefarious group of poisoners, but I don't get the evolution simile. How does survival of the fittest relate to the meeting of an ER doc and a dead DA (and why isn't a coroner doing the autopsy?)

What is the core plot of the novel?

What is the core emotional arc of the novel?

Now how do they fit together?

lachrymal
Posts: 70
Joined: February 12th, 2010, 7:35 am
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by lachrymal » March 26th, 2010, 7:12 pm

It looks to me like you're quite attached to a few of the sentences and phrases in your query, and so you're finding a way to fit them in--but they don't. Like the two sentences about luck vs. evolution. It really doesn't fit.

I have such sympathy with falling in love with certain things you've written in your query and wanting to keep them--I'm struggling to revise my own query and it's difficult to let go of some things. What's really helpful is hearing the feedback from my fellow authors who have not read/slept/eaten/dwelt within my novel for the past several months. They have no such sentimental attachment, and tell me point blank when I've lost them. That doesn't mean it's easy to get my brain out of the rut it's in but...sigh--I sympathize. Back to your query.

The part about childhood molestation doesn't fit, because it's impossible to tell from the query how it could possibly be relevant to a group of poisoners. So it seems thrown in, and I know that's not how it is in your book. I'm sure it all comes together quite nicely. But in the query, where it just gets a mention at the beginning and a scant reference at the end, it's jarring and weird.

Also: Since you've kept the "species" sentence, you need to refer to it as a "that" rather than a "who". If you say "a new kind of killer", which refers to one specific person, you can keep the who. But right now, it's not clear if you're referring to one person or a group, and your "who"s are specifically referring to the word "species", which just doesn't seem right.

The phrase "more similar deaths" must be changed. It is quite awkward. "More poisonings" would be just fine.

You mention the DA in your evolution sentences, but nowhere else, and it seems irrelevant. I know it is relevant, but that's just how it seems in your query because I have no idea what you're referring to in those sentences. Same thing with the evasive cop. One mention, but then no tie-in. Seems irrelevant. Why should I care who asked him to review autopsy findings? If I should, then you must tie it together for me.

You've got some subject-verb agreement issues with your last sentence. I think you could have a much more specific, powerful final sentence, but if you're really going to keep that one, it should be "...days surface old scars and RIP them wide open" rather than the singular "rips", because your subject--"days" is plural.

I think your revision is closer, but still needs some work to pull it together and make it flow.

User avatar
Matthew MacNish
Posts: 285
Joined: March 5th, 2010, 4:31 pm
Location: Georgia
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by Matthew MacNish » March 26th, 2010, 8:23 pm

NATURAL SELECTION should be all caps, and the title and word count should be at the end. I can see why you want to keep the phrase about evolution. The way it ties into the title is kind of clever.

GeeGee55
Posts: 173
Joined: February 19th, 2010, 11:01 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by GeeGee55 » March 26th, 2010, 11:17 pm

You have something really interesting here, but it's not quite clear. I'm liking the first version better, I wish I could say why.

Sample One:

Natural Selection is a 100,000-word mystery that follows Dragan Sakic, an ER physician with a troubled past. When he agrees to have a child with his girlfriend, thoughts of his childhood molestation flood his mind and he does what he’s always done. He hides in his protective shell. I don't mind this beginning, it flows well, some ppl say to put that stuff at the end, but others say it's ok to start that way

Pressured by an evasive cop - this is where I begin to have trouble, why is the cop evasive, how does he apply pressure to D, I'm assuming someone's already done an autopsy and the cop is suspicious to look over the autopsy of Salt Lake City’s district attorney, Dragan reluctantly agrees. Camouflaged deep in the toxicological report, he notices - also, here, I don't think it quite says what you mean - does he notice that these things put together appear to cause heart attack symptoms, or does he discover it through his work somehow? or does he have some knowledge of this already: it's not clear and it almost sounds like he's camouflaged deep in the report that three substances—no more than remedies when taken separately—mimic a heart attack when combined. Dragan comes to believe it wasn’t luck that brought him and the DA together - why would he believe that anyway?. It was the result of a buildup of countless imperceptible changes and, like evolution, inevitable.

As he reveals more similar deaths,- how does he reveal them? are they cold cases? new deaths? How about As more deaths occur, Dragan provides an ailing investigation much needed momentum. In doing so, he unearths a new species of killers: one who uses tiered poisonings unseen before in ingenuity, one who goes to painstaking lengths to disguise his murders as natural deaths - I think the tiered poisonings idea is different, but a killer who tries to disguise his murders as natural deaths is not, and this is a kind of complicated sentence. The ensuing investigation saps Dragan’s spare time, leaving his relationship in shambles.

Unbeknownst to Dragan, - how about - Though Dragan doesn't know it, the victims were part of a secret cabal with plans to release a bioweapon at the Utah-BYU football game. Fearing he may lead the police to them, the surviving members send out their henchman to kill Dragan.

When the police find his girlfriend near death, evidence found in Dragan’s home -cut implicates him in the anthrax attack and the murders he's investigating. Fueled by his desire to avenge the woman he loves, - what follows here just doesn't work for me, why must he revisit memories to survive? Dragan must revisit painful childhood memories if he is to survive and find justice. The days that follow surface old scars and rips them wide open.
ote]

Perhaps Nathan's post about being specific about plot might help you. Good luck with it.

User avatar
Matthew MacNish
Posts: 285
Joined: March 5th, 2010, 4:31 pm
Location: Georgia
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by Matthew MacNish » March 26th, 2010, 11:37 pm

Poison, I just thought of something. When you say a new species of killers, do you mean literally? Because if so that sounds cool, but might need a little explanation. If not I would really consider rephrasing. I noticed you stuck with the concept through your revision so it just occurred to me that it might be on purpose.

Poisonguy
Posts: 19
Joined: February 12th, 2010, 3:37 am
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by Poisonguy » March 27th, 2010, 2:28 am

Maybe by making a few things clearer, it will help give my reasons more anchor, and you, more perspective to add to your already very good, worthy advice.

The reason for the "imperceptible changes, species, evolution" is that it ties in to the "theme" of Natural Selection, the title of the book and a theme in the story. Also, all victims in the story die from natural poisons and were "selected." By selected, I mean as in an FBI criteria (there's a retired FBI profiler in the story that provides Dragan help--based on a discussion I had with a person who helped the FBI develop their poisoner profile). I admit it, it's a bit of an indulgence.

The reason for the mention of personal issues (the molestation) is because it's intrisic to the story. Some of the plot/story answers reside in what happened around the time of Dragan's abuse and the people involved. From the feedback I've gotten so far, this subplot has garnered the most interest. Readers have found that this is subplot is the "real" mystery in the story. I'm hoping, maybe naively, that the agent will give me the benefit of the doubt and trust that since I mention the molestation it is connected to everything.

I didn’t want to go too much into the DA and the detective so I could stick to the protag. Needless to say, the DA’s death begins it all. There’s a tie-in between the DA and Dragan. There’s a reason why Dragan was “chosen” to help out on the case—he has a past connection to the DA that he is not yet aware of. And there is a reason why the cop is evasive. My writing, believe it or not, if very sparse with adjectives, but it seems they are needed for economical reasons in a query. The word “evasive” should have implied that the detective is shifty, has something to hide, isn’t being fully truthful, etc, because he has his reasons for believing the DA did not die a natural death. I thought it would draw out what I wanted drawn out from the mention of the detective (i.e. something is amiss). So, Dragan is recruited after the autopsy has been completed.

How an ER doc came to look over an autopsy report and participate in the investigation is addressed in the story.

Dragan Sakic is of Croatian ancestry.

Matthew, the entire story is based on reality. There are no supernatural elements. The species is purely metaphorical. Sorry to disappoint you! LOL

Anyway, I’m open to more suggestions (I hope my answer didn’t come across as defensive). I’ve already got plenty of stuff I want to incorporate into the new version. Thanks a lot everyone.

chomsnumnum
Posts: 17
Joined: March 16th, 2010, 8:40 pm
Location: http://melissagettingpublished.blogspot.com/
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by chomsnumnum » March 27th, 2010, 10:05 pm

Sorry, I just can't get past this line about being pressured by an evasive cop. What is that supposed to mean? How's the cop supposed to pressure him and evade him at the same time. So I ponder that, give up, and stop right there.

Poisonguy
Posts: 19
Joined: February 12th, 2010, 3:37 am
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by Poisonguy » March 28th, 2010, 3:58 am

Evasive
adj.
1. Inclined or intended to evade: took evasive action.
2. Intentionally vague or ambiguous; equivocal: an evasive statement.


The second usage.

kenpochick
Posts: 84
Joined: March 12th, 2010, 4:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by kenpochick » March 28th, 2010, 8:50 am

You've gotten some good feedback. I agree with the others about the molestation part. It seems to be part of a side story but not really relevant to the main action of the poisoners. I also agree that the "Pressured by an evasive cop" is awkward. What about "Pressured by a cop who is evasive with details, motive, blah blah, blah."?

I'll preface my next comments by saying that I'm a Forensic Toxicologist by trade. (no, really!) I'm not clear why an ER doc is being pulled into looking at these cases. This would be done by the Medical Examiner and quite honestly unless something strange comes out of the Tox report they wouldn't call in a toxicologist. Did he treat some of these victims? Does he have some specialized background that's really prominent, like a University Professor or something like that. There are many herbal remedies that when combined will kill you so maybe specify what they are or what they are remedies for. I'm also not sure how the killers go from herbal remedies to a large scale anthrax attack. (Make sure you have solid facts here, Anthrax isn't as deadly in the air borne state.) Maybe something about their agenda, why are they doing this? The reasons I'm putting out this stuff is because there are books out there written by forensic banned word that are very fact based and detail oriented. Think Scarpetta.

Ok, I see you've changed it to a bioweapon at the football game. Same statement though, make sure you have good facts. Small Pox would be a good one. High mortality rate, easily spread and only the older generation has been immunized against it.

Poisonguy
Posts: 19
Joined: February 12th, 2010, 3:37 am
Contact:

Re: Query: Natural Selection (Mystery) Part Two

Post by Poisonguy » March 29th, 2010, 3:05 am

Thanks, Ken, for the feedback. I'll definitely be more specific about the "evasive cop."

FYI--just so you know where I'm coming from for this story--I worked in poison centers for over ten years (and in that capacity I dealt with the Medical Examiner's office and Toxicology Office on a few occasions) and I was a liaison with FEMA way back when they were in charge and involved in preparing protocol to protect against bioweapon's attack (before Homeland Security took over), so I hope I learned a thing or two well enough. The thing is, in my first draft I was so specific and "accurate" to the point of being boring. So what I decided to do, since I wanted to appeal to as large a target audience as I could, is not to bog down the story with excessive toxicology. I wasn't so specific and accurate, but I tried to stay on the side of plausibility. Sure, not every forensic banned word, toxicologist, doctor, etc, will agree 100% with what I've done, but if they keep an open mind, they'll tilt their heads from side to side rather than shake it (I hope).

How the ER doc got involved is somewhat like I got involved in real cases, but I got him more inside than I ever did. How I tried to do this "plausibly" was to create a rogue cop who got Dragan involved by, basically, feeding him lies . The cop knows something about the victim no one else does and was told by his superiors to stay away from the "case," yada, yada, yada. So, the cop is doing this "off the books." Typically, it's the ER Director that deals with the cops (in our ER it was), but in my story, the ER director suggests the cop speak to Dragan (psst, the ER Director is one of the bad guys from the cabal and has a reason to suggest Dragan), etc. So, I pushed the envelope as much as I could, hopefully staying within the realm of plausibility. Oh, if it isn't clear, Dragan is approached after the ME examined the victim and provided a report stating the he believes the victim died naturally of an ischemia-induced arrhythmia (you know, the default postmortem for older men who in life battled heart disease, especially when there are no obvious alternatives). But, this rogue cop knows something about the DA which makes him suspicious that he died of natural causes and he decides to go outside normal channels...
I'm also not sure how the killers go from herbal remedies to a large scale anthrax attack.
There are two different "killers." The guy/gal that poisons is alone. The ones that release the anthrax are the crazy cult guys (and the victims of the poisoner).

Anthrax was chosen specifically because it's not as "potent" as some other bioweapons I could have used. I didn't want the story to spend too much time with technical details...and didn't want that much death (turns out the release mechanism malfunctioned and only a small section of the crowd was affected). Just to let you know of the research I did, the incident at the weapons facility in Sverdlovsk is mentioned in the story.

Anyways, I've said more than I wanted to say. Thanks again.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 3 guests