THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

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Terry Towery
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THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Terry Towery » January 8th, 2010, 8:24 pm

Ah God. I can't believe I'm doing this!

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced former nun that changes his life forever. The desperate woman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse?

Within hours of the call, Michael’s comfortable life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job and eighteen years of sobriety. Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. Within seconds, Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable.

Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear?

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

A career journalist, I have received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

[Insert personal stuff here]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Terry Towery
[contact info redacted]

Yoshima
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Yoshima » January 8th, 2010, 9:08 pm

Here's what I was thinking as I read your query. People have done this for me and I've found it very helpful as to whether or not I'm leading them on the right track.
Terry Towery wrote:Ah God. I can't believe I'm doing this! (?)

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced (don't need "disgraced" because it's her son we want info on, not her)former nun that changes his life forever. The desperate woman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse? (Hmm...so what was the nun's reasoning for calling a newspaper editor, of all people? Is she trying to prove her son is Jesus and spread the word?)

Within hours of the call, Michael’s comfortable (whoa, there. I thought he was burned-out. Burned-out people are not comfortable in life.) life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job (shouldn't he be happy about that, since he's burned-out?) and eighteen years of sobriety (...wouldn't a burned-out person be a drinking already? Just a thought.). Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. (this detail really got me to care about this character. great job!) Within seconds, Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable. (Very good progression of plot points here.)

Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true (isn't his son alive? isn't that more than enough proof?) and what his mind says is madness. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear? (wait, I thought the Crane kid brought his son back to life! Why is he trying to kill him again? I'm confused now.)

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

A career journalist, I have received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

[Insert personal stuff here]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Terry Towery
[contact info redacted]
Overall, I really loved the details and it was very well-written. It was also fast-paced, which is a good reflection that your book will be as well. So great job on that! I'm just a little confused about young Mr. Crane. Right now, I'm thinking that he's a devil kid but revived Michael's son to confuse Micheal into thinking he's Jesus...but then that doesn't make sense with the last paragraph, with the whole "what his heart believes" thing, which generally isn't a phrase used to describe believing in the devil. But if the kid's Jesus, then why is he trying to kill Michael? I know that this is a thriller and you want your query reader to have a few questions, but are the questions I'm asking the ones you intended your reader to have?

And remember that I'm just one person, and these are just my thoughts as I was reading--I hope they're helpful in looking at your query in a new way. Sounds like a great thriller! Good luck with revisions!

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Holly
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Holly » January 8th, 2010, 9:20 pm

Terry Towery wrote:Ah God. I can't believe I'm doing this!

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced former nun that changes his life forever. The desperate woman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse?

Within hours of the call, Michael’s comfortable life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job and eighteen years of sobriety. Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. Within seconds, Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable.

Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear?

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

A career journalist, I have received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

[Insert personal stuff here]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Terry Towery
[contact info redacted]

Terry, your query is great. The story sounds really interesting. I would put the name of your newspaper on the real letter. Good luck.

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Ryan
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Ryan » January 9th, 2010, 12:46 pm

Did a once through and cut some stuff. See if you miss anything. Sounds like a cool book. On the run--holy sh&$!--type book.

Cheers
Ryan


Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced nun. The conversation sends Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse?

After the call, Michael’s life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job, eighteen years of sobriety and his eight-year-old son is killed on a highway. Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable.

Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear?

THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

A career journalist, I have received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting.(Don't be shy man! List some of the rewards) My newspaper(name of newspaper. News paper awards?) submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

[Insert personal stuff here]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Terry Towery
[contact info redacted][/quote]
My love of fly fishing and surfing connects me to rivers and the ocean. Time with water reminds me to pursue those silly little streams of thought that run rampant in my head.
http://www.withoutrain.com/

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Dankrubis
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Dankrubis » January 9th, 2010, 2:04 pm

Thoughts as I read in red-

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced former nun that changes his life forever. There are a lot of words in this sentence. A lot of words doing a lot of modifying. Maybe it's just me, but I had to read this three times to get a good grasp on what was happening. The desperate woman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Sorry man, but same deal. Not as wordy as the first sentence, but still, this sentence is busting at the seams. I recall that people on another forum were saying you were too concise- maybe this is what they were referring to. I'd suggest taking the first two sentences and breaking them up a little bit. Turn them into three or four. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse? Good stuff.

Within hours of the call, Michael’s comfortable life inexplicably falls apart I'm not saying to take this adverb out, but it's already the second one I've noticed. Remember Stephen King - "The road to Hell is paved with adverbs." . He loses his job and eighteen years of sobriety. Sweet. Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. Daaaayyyum. Within seconds, Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable. Awesome.

Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. Cool. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear? I feel like there's something missing here. It's the evil, the major conflict. Before this last sentence, I'm thinking this is about the journalist trying to rationally explain how this Jordan Crane kid is performing miracles. But then you jump to him and his entire family dying? I'd like to get a good idea of the antagonist. Is the antagonist some mystical force that's caused him to fall of the wagon and lose his job? Or is this Jordan Crane kid actually the devil? You don't have to give it away, but I'm leaving your query without a good idea of what the real conflict is, so at least throw us a substantial hint.

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

A career journalist, I have received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees. Neat!

I do like this query, but what you've presented so far, the skeptic gets confronted with the divine, it's been done a lot (Hell, look at the entire run of the X-Files, plus it's the basis of the relationship of Jack and Locke on Lost.) I know that everything's been done before, but maybe you should focus on something about your story that's a little different than the others. Or, you know what, I could be talking out of my ass. It'd be nice to get other people's opinion on this.

TheShadow
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by TheShadow » January 9th, 2010, 2:13 pm

I like your query, not much to add over what others have said, but I want to point out that I just finished reading THE DEVIL YOU KNOW by Mike Carey (good read, btw). So of course this caught my eye. Not a big deal or anything, just a heads up, I know how it can be with titles.
What dark dreams lay in dormant minds?

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shadow
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by shadow » January 9th, 2010, 8:00 pm

Let me try this! BTW "The shadow" you have almost the same username as me :O JK Anyways to the query.

Ah God. I can't believe I'm doing this!

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced former nun that changes his life forever. The desperate wDo you mean "the desparate woman requests that he..."?oman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane.I read this a couple of times and it is still hard to decipher... Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse?

Within hours of the call, Michael’s comfortable life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job and eighteen years of sobriety.I would just connect those two sentences into something like; Within hours of the call, Michael loses his job along with eighteen years of sobriety. Don't do it exactly like I did. You can make it better. Mine is just a short example. Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. Within seconds, Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable. That right there, the stuff i highlighted in red is good! It's gripping. Maybe something you would even flesh the whole query off.
Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear?

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

A career journalist, I have received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

[Insert personal stuff here]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Terry Towery
[contact info redacted]

Best of luck and you have an interesting idea!
~shadow~
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

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Madaboutstories
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Madaboutstories » January 10th, 2010, 12:58 am

Terry Towery wrote:Ah God. I can't believe I'm doing this! It's intimidating, but helpful hopefully

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced former nun that changes his life forever. The desperate woman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse?

Within hours of the call, Michael’s comfortable life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job and eighteen years of sobriety. Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. Within seconds, Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable. My issue with this, is that the action seems to stop here...just my opinion. Is the rest of the story his decision making or does he continue to follow Jordan in an attempt to prove true or false. Try making the story arc more clear, unless this is really the end.

Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear? I'm guessing this is Jesus come back as the Lion and possibly ending mankind unless Michael proves human worth!

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 120,000 words.

A career journalist, I have received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

[Insert personal stuff here]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Terry Towery
[contact info redacted]
To read a story is to breathe life into society-real or imagined, yet the imagined comes out of the truth.

Laura Hyatt

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Terry Towery
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Terry Towery » January 11th, 2010, 9:32 pm

Thanks everyone! I appreciate the help. Anyone else?

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » January 11th, 2010, 10:57 pm

Hey Terry,

I agree with some of the other comments, as with removing lines like "change his life forever". It's a bit of a tell rather than a show... and the change in his life should be apparent within the query as you explain the story. Or maybe "showing" the story is more appropriate than "explaining" it, as I feel the language verges a little too much towards talking about the story rather than simply revealing it. At times I feel outside the story, rather than inside it and experiencing the action.

I think the strong point is your obvious writing ability, particularly paired with an interesting premise. You've got a great hook here. I'm interested in the setup... but in the next bit you fade into generalities and I lose some of that interest. After his son is brought back everything goes a bit vague, a bit generic. It could apply to a lot of stories. But you have that great hook. That incites the story... but what is the story? What happens next? What's the conflict, what's at stake, and what are the choices your journalist has to make? The more specific and interesting the better. Take that interest you've generated and capitalize on it - ratchet it up a notch. Don't be afraid of giving something away, either. I think an agent wants to see (wants to know) that something works more than they look forward to a surprise at the end. They're not normal readers. They don't want to read to the end to see if there is a payoff; they want to know there's a payoff to get them to that end. Or so's my guess, anyhow... :)

Best of luck. The story looks really interesting.

Bryan
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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Mira
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Mira » January 12th, 2010, 1:34 pm

This sounds like a great book, Terry.

I like the length of this query. I think it's well-paced. You give just enough information about the story, without extraneous details. That's well done, I think. I especially like the 3rd paragraph.

I guess there are only two suggestions = I agree with Bryan, the first two paragraphs seem alittle too distant and telling 'about' the story, rather than telling the story. Does that make sense? I hope so. The third paragraph captures it well, I would just do that in the 1st and 2nd.

I often suggest that writers pretend they are telling the story to a 14 year old. That should capture the sense of excitement and story-telling that you want. I should say, that advice is completely untested, I have no idea if it works or not, but it sounds good to me.

Also, I have no idea if this is good advice or not, but I might move your credentials to the top of the letter. For one thing, they are very impressive, and might keep an agent reading just for their sake. For another thing, it lends credence to your ability to tell a story about a journalist.

Hope any or all of these suggestions are helpful - if not, please ignore.

Good luck, Terry! I suspect you're well on your way. :)

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Terry Towery
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Terry Towery » January 13th, 2010, 5:25 pm

Well, after a bit more polishing, I've sent my query off to an agent! Yikes. And no, not Nathan. Not sure if I'm ready for that yet.

The wait begins.

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Jaime
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Re: THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW query

Post by Jaime » January 13th, 2010, 9:03 pm

Terry Towery wrote:Well, after a bit more polishing, I've sent my query off to an agent! Yikes. And no, not Nathan. Not sure if I'm ready for that yet.

The wait begins.
Haha! I'm in the same boat as you - I haven't started querying yet, but he's at the top of my list! There's agent-ready, and then there's Nathan-ready :)

I read your query and was hooked, but like Ink said, describing the protag's challenges and choices he will have to make (and how they will change the world), would really make it stand out - which I'm sure you've done in your polish. It sounds like a fast-paced, interesting read. I wish you luck! Let us know how it all goes!

Jaime.

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