The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

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jacksonbaer
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The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » March 27th, 2013, 5:27 pm

Thanks in advance for your help!


Dear Mr. x,

When Jessie, my wife, raced down the stairs while gasping for air, my heart sank like a heavy stone. "Scott, Ashley's missing, they don't know..."

Ashley, our only daughter, is seventeen-years old and her worthless boyfriend just called 911 to report that a masked intruder broke into his home, shot Ashley, and proceeded to kidnap her. My town of Corvallis, Oregon is stunned by the news and all police found was a pool of Ashley's blood. We searched the woods and the local river when divers discovered the body of another girl at the bottom of the Willamette. The FBI landed the next day and somehow the media was leaked the eery signature found on this girl. I couldn't believe that they thought Ashley's case might be connected with a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer or that they were calling it a homicide before they even found Ashley's body.

The FBI had three other young girls bodies with the same distinct marking, though no one was prepared for the discovery in Ashland, Oregon. Local hikers uncovered a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaced inside. Then, they told us about a cabin nearby with another gruesome discovery. It was almost more than we could handle until the FBI stumbled upon the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer's family. What emerged from his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined.

I'm not sure if Ashley is still alive but if she is, the FBI better hurry before the killer disappears.

Complete at 81,000 words, THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is a blend of mystery and suspense with enough thrills to captivate any imagination. It is similar to WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates and INDIAN KILLER by Sherman Alexie.

I will soon be graduating with a B.A. in English and Education from Oregon State University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Jackson Baer
facebook.com/jacksonbaer
@NoHairBaer

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Shipple
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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by Shipple » March 28th, 2013, 12:51 pm

This is not my genre, so I can't comment upon the story. It does like it could be pretty darn scary and fascinating, though.

However, I have read that a lot of agents don't like to have the query letter written in the voice of the main character. Of course, there will be some who like things that others don't, but I'm fairly certain that I've read a few recommendations against it.

And now let me tell you why it doesn't work for me that you wrote this letter in character. This character just lost his daughter. Most likely to a horrific crime, and yet he's calm and cool enough to relate all the facts of the case. The first two paragraphs you stay mostly in character (although still without a full sense of the panic, anger, and worry that I think a distraught father would be feeling). Then in the third paragraph you don't bother with being in character. You go straight into story telling mode.

The line that really brought home to me how much you'd gone out of character was
I'm not sure if Ashley is still alive but if she is, the FBI better hurry before the killer disappears.
Is this really something a father would think or would he be thinking that the FBI had better get their asses in gear and holding on to every last hope he had that his daughter was still alive?

I think you actually do convey really well that this is a well thought out and interesting murder mystery/horror story. You can see your plot play out in your query, which is exactly what a query letter should do. I think you probably ought to try writing your query letter from a third person POV because then you could convey all this information without making it seem like your main character is rather heartless.

Good luck!
"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." - J.K. Rowling (an awesome opening line)
Me: http://sarahhipple.blogspot.com/ and http://shipple.tumblr.com/

jacksonbaer
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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » March 28th, 2013, 1:50 pm

Thank you for the direct and honest feedback. I will rewrite it and would love your thoughts afterwards.

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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » March 28th, 2013, 7:02 pm

How's this:

Dear Mr. x,

When Scott and Jessie's daughter is kidnapped, divers scouting the local river discover the body of another girl.

Ashley, their only daughter, is seventeen-years old and her worthless boyfriend called 911 to report that a masked intruder broke into his home, shot Ashley, and proceeded to abduct her. Their town of Corvallis, Oregon is stunned by the news and all police found was a pool of Ashley's blood. The eery signature found on the girl at the bottom of the Willamette River is linked to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer. While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI is convinced that she is the killer's latest victim.

The FBI had three other young girl's bodies with the same distinct marking, though no one was prepared for the discovery in Ashland, Oregon. Local hikers stumbled upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaced inside. Then, a cabin is uncovered nearby with another gruesome discovery. The FBI finally caught a break when they stumbled upon the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer's family. What emerged from his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined.

Can the FBI catch the killer in time or is it already too late for young Ashley?

Complete at 81,000 words, THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is a blend of mystery and suspense. It is similar to WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates and INDIAN KILLER by Sherman Alexie.

I will soon be graduating with a B.A. in English and Education from Oregon State University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Jackson Baer
facebook.com/jacksonbaer
@NoHairBaer

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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by COFFEE@3AM » March 28th, 2013, 11:59 pm

I am no expert so please take or leave any of my advice. My suggestions are in ()
Dear Mr. x,

When Scott and Jessie's daughter is kidnapped, divers scouting the local river discover the body of another girl.

(I would rework the hook it doesn't seem to blend well together. What does the body of a different girl have to do with Scott and Jessie or their daughter? You should try something like
When Scott and Jessie's daughter, Ashley is kidnapped........ OR When Scott and Jessie receive a phone call telling them that their daughter, Ashley has been kidnapped......... )

Ashley, their only daughter,( Telling us that Ashley is their only daughter is unnecessary) is seventeen-years old and her worthless boyfriend called 911 to report that a masked intruder broke into his home, shot Ashley, and proceeded to abduct her. Their town of Corvallis, Oregon is stunned by the news and all police found was a pool of Ashley's blood. The eery signature found on the girl at the bottom of the Willamette River is linked to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer.(This needs to be reworked. Up until this line it seems like you are jumping back and forth between two different stories.) While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI is convinced that she is the killer's latest victim.

The FBI had three other young girl's bodies with the same distinct marking, though no one was prepared for the discovery in Ashland, Oregon. Local hikers stumbled upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaced inside. Then, a cabin is uncovered nearby with another gruesome discovery. The FBI finally caught a break when they stumbled upon the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer's family. What emerged from his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined.

Can the FBI catch the killer in time or is it already too late for young Ashley?

Complete at 81,000 words, THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is a blend of mystery and suspense. It is similar to WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates and INDIAN KILLER by Sherman Alexie.

I will soon be graduating with a B.A. in English and Education from Oregon State University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

(I think your book sounds very good but your query needs work. Your query should flow from one sentence to the next this kind of feels like it's jumping around a lot, especially in the last paragraph. Like I said I am no expert so please take or leave any of this advice. Good luck!!)

jacksonbaer
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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » March 29th, 2013, 12:28 am

Thank you for the feedback. I've been working on it for more than two weeks now with a lit agency intern and another author. It is harder to write than the book itself! I appreciate the feedback and will post a revision with your advice and the author's mixed in.

jacksonbaer
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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » March 29th, 2013, 1:07 am

Closer??? :)


Dear Mr. x,

When Scott and Jessie's daughter is kidnapped, they fear the worst as all that's left behind is a pool of her blood.

Ashley is seventeen-years old and her disappearance is quickly thought to be a homicide. Their cozy, northwest town is stunned by the news when police find the body of another girl at the bottom of the Willamette River. The eery signature found on the girl is linked to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer. While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI is convinced that she is the killer's latest victim.

In spite of the three other bodies with the same distinct marking, no one was prepared for the discovery in southern Oregon. Local hikers stumbled upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaced inside. Then, a cabin was uncovered nearby with another gruesome discovery. The FBI finally caught a break when they stumbled upon the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer's family. What emerged in his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined.

The FBI rushes to catch the true killer or risks losing Ashley forever.

Complete at 81,000 words, THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is a blend of mystery and suspense. It is similar to WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates and INDIAN KILLER by Sherman Alexie.

I will soon be graduating with a B.A. in English and Education from Oregon State University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Shipple
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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by Shipple » March 29th, 2013, 9:42 am

I like this much better! You still convey the intricacy of the story, and now I'm not distracted by what I think the narrator ought to be feeling.

I've given several of my opinions on the revised query below. Keep in mind that everybody's opinion is subjective, so if you don't like what I have to say, you can feel free to ignore it.
jacksonbaer wrote:How's this:

Dear Mr. x,

When Scott and Jessie's daughter is kidnapped, divers scouting the local river discover the body of another girl.

Ashley, their only daughter, is seventeen-years old and her worthless boyfriend called 911 to report that a masked intruder broke into his home, shot Ashley, and proceeded to abduct her. This is much more clear now. I was actually thinking maybe the boyfriend had done the abducting before. But now I see that's not the case. Their town of Corvallis, Oregon is stunned by the news and all the police found was a pool of Ashley's blood. Maybe transition a little more right here. Maybe something like, "But Ashley's case isn't the only murder investigation causing a stir in this small town."The eery signature found on the girl at the bottom of the Willamette River is linked to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer. While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI is convinced that she is the killer's latest victim.

The FBI had found three other young girl's bodies with the same distinct marking, though no one was prepared for the discovery in Ashland, Oregon. Local hikers stumbled upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaced was found inside. Then, a cabin is uncovered nearby with another gruesome discovery. Slightly confused. Is the cabin the cabin of the Hail Mary Killer's family? I'm guessing so (?) The FBI finally caught a break when they stumbled upon the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer's family. What emerged from his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined.

Can the FBI catch the killer in time or is it already too late for young Ashley? Much better!

Complete at 81,000 words, THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is a blend of mystery and suspense. It is similar to WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates and INDIAN KILLER by Sherman Alexie.

I will soon be graduating with a B.A. in English and Education from Oregon State University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Jackson Baer
facebook.com/jacksonbaer
@NoHairBaer
"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." - J.K. Rowling (an awesome opening line)
Me: http://sarahhipple.blogspot.com/ and http://shipple.tumblr.com/

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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by Quill » March 29th, 2013, 11:37 am

jacksonbaer wrote:Closer??? :)


Dear Mr. x,

When Scott and Jessie's daughter is kidnapped, they fear the worst as all that's left behind is a pool of her blood.

Ashley is seventeen-years old and her disappearance is quickly thought to be a homicide. Their cozy, northwest town is stunned by the news when police find the body of another girl at the bottom of the Willamette River. The eery signature found on the girl is linked to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer. While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI is convinced that she is the killer's latest victim.

In spite of the three other bodies with the same distinct marking, no one was prepared for the discovery in southern Oregon.
So far, the only verb you use (besides "fear") is "is". This is passive writing and will probably not impress your prospective literary agent.
In spite of the three other bodies with the same distinct marking, no one was prepared for the discovery in southern Oregon. Local hikers stumbled upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaced inside. Then, a cabin was uncovered nearby with another gruesome discovery. The FBI finally caught a break when they stumbled upon the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer's family. What emerged in his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined.
Here you switch from present tense to past tense. Queries should be written in present tense, unless where referencing the past. Then you switch back to present for the rest of the query (from the last sentence in the paragraph onward)

Also, almost all verbs are passive: "was" "needle surfaced" "was discovered" "is more terrifying" "could have imagined"

Also, a number of awkward phrases:

"they fear the worst as all that's left behind is"

"is seventeen-years old and her disappearance is quickly thought to be"

"Their cozy, northwest town (whose? The parents aren't mentioned in the previous sentence)

" is stunned by the news when police find the body" (omit "by the news" as it is redundant to "when police find the body")

"Local hikers stumbled upon ... they stumbled upon" (one too many "stumbled upon")

"What emerged in his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined." (who can say what "anyone could possibly imagined." The killer imagined it, didn't he?)
The FBI rushes to catch the true killer or risks losing Ashley forever.
This will not work as the crux to your query. A faceless organization as the entity bearing the dilemma will not excite the reader. It rushes, it risks. Generally, passive writing is when things are or do. Active writing is when people are or do.
Complete at 81,000 words, THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is a blend of mystery and suspense. It is similar to WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates and INDIAN KILLER by Sherman Alexie.

I will soon be graduating with a B.A. in English and Education from Oregon State University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
This part seems fine.

jacksonbaer
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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » March 29th, 2013, 1:01 pm

Thank you, that was extremely helpful. Let's try this again:

Dear Mr. x,

When Scott and Jessie's daughter is kidnapped, they fear the worst as all that's left behind is a pool of her blood.

Seventeen-year old Ashley Miller vanishes and her strange disappearance is quickly thought to be a homicide. Her cozy, northwest town seems stunned when police find the body of another girl at the bottom of the Willamette River. The eery signature found on the girl links to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer. While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI feels convinced that she is the killer's latest victim.

In spite of three other bodies with the same distinct marking, no one prepared themselves for the discovery in southern Oregon. Local hikers stumble upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaces inside. A cabin appears nearby with another gruesome discovery. The FBI finally catches a break when they unearth the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer's family.

What emerged in his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined.

Complete at 81,000 words, THE EARTH BLEEDS RED is a blend of mystery and suspense. It is similar to WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates and INDIAN KILLER by Sherman Alexie.

I will soon be graduating with a B.A. in English and Education from Oregon State University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Quill
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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by Quill » March 29th, 2013, 11:12 pm

jacksonbaer wrote: When Scott and Jessie's daughter is kidnapped, they fear the worst as all that's left behind is a pool of her blood.
Awkward and not a hook. When the daughter is kidnapped the parents fear the worst: she might be murdered. That is not unique enough for a one-line opener. It is not a set up. It does not pique interest.

What is awkward is the phrase "as all that's left behind is a pool of her blood." "As all that is left behind" is simply not smooth prose. Besides this, you have two passive clauses in the opening, which flattens it. Daughter is kidnapped and all that is left is a pool.
Seventeen-year old Ashley Miller vanishes and her strange disappearance is quickly thought to be a homicide.
Here again, passive: disappearance is thought. We need to know who is thinking. Especially awkward: "disappearance is quickly thought." It doesn't make sense.
Her cozy, northwest town seems stunned when police find the body of another girl at the bottom of the Willamette River.
More passive awkwardness: "Her town seems stunned." Can a town appear stunned? What is the look of a town in seeming stunnedness? Do you see the problem?
The eery signature found on the girl links to a monster dubbed the Hail Mary Killer.
More passivity: The signature links to a monster. The signature links. It links. We need to see people doing things. Not things doing things. Not the signature links, the town is stunned, the disappearance is thought, the blood is left.
While Scott searches for Ashley, the FBI feels convinced that she is the killer's latest victim.
Passive: the FBI feels.
In spite of three other bodies with the same distinct marking, no one prepared themselves for the discovery in southern Oregon.
Awkward: 1. In spite of what three other bodies? 2. No one (singular) prepared themselves (plural). 3. Prepared (a lapse into past tense without a clear reason why).
Local hikers stumble upon a car in the mountain brush and a tattooing needle with an evil history surfaces inside.
Awkward: two subjects within the sentence without so much as a comma to separate: hikers stumble and a needle surfaces. Maybe break into two sentences.

Passive: a needle surfaces. (Who finds it would be much more interesting than what the objects are doing) (as long as the discovery is important to the query).
A cabin appears nearby with another gruesome discovery.
Passive: a cabin appears.
The FBI finally catches a break when they unearth the dark past of the Hail Mary Killer's family.
Awkward: The FBI (singular) catches when they (plural) unearth ...

Passive: The FBI catches ...
What emerged in his basement is more terrifying than anyone could have possibly imagined.
Passive: What emerged

Awkward: verb tense change: what emerged

Cliche: "than anyone could have possibly imagined." And again why would you say this? Do you know that nobody on earth (or anywhere in the Universe) could conceivably have imagined it? Did the killer imagine it? What is the value of asserting such an unprovable thing? How about saying, "...than the parents could have imagined." Bring it down to earth. Bring specific people into the query. Activate, activate.

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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » March 29th, 2013, 11:53 pm

I would have to respectfully disagree with your critique of the opening. On Twitter today, I received two query requests from agents based on that one sentence during #pitmad. I do appreciate your constructive criticism as it is helping me make the query one that will garner interest in the book. As for the last line, it's what the lit agent intern who I've been working with suggested I close with.

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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by Quill » March 30th, 2013, 1:12 am

Good luck with your query! Let us know how that goes with the two agents.

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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » March 30th, 2013, 2:31 am

Thank you again for your help and I most definitely will. I'm also working with another editor/manuscript professional to perfect the query. I will let you guys know what she says too.

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Re: The Earth Bleeds Red- Query Help

Post by jacksonbaer » April 10th, 2013, 1:30 pm

I received a contract offer from Pandamoon Publishing today based on the final version of the query in this thread (plus a few small changes). Thanks for all your help everyone!

Jackson

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