Jan 13, 2010

Query: Out of Time (1st revision)

Click here to read the original query.

Drew Evans, a police officer in one of St. Paul's worst gang-infested precincts, is working at the Republican National Convention when he finds himself drawn to a solitary man. Something about the man doesn’t look right. Watching him leave, he spots the glint of metal under the man’s seat, bringing a momentary vision of the Unibomber. No worries though, it’s only a cell phone that Drew pockets, planning to leave it with the lost & found.

Fighting with a burglary suspect the following week, the phone falls from his vest pocket. Recognizing it as the phone from the convention, Drew hits the re-dial button to track down the owner, when a wave of vertigo hits. When he’s able to stand, Drew find that he’s no longer leaning against his squad car; he’s in an alley. Noise draws him out of the alley; there are helicopters circling overhead and cops in full riot gear. It becomes clear that he’s back at the Republican National Convention—which ended a week ago. Stunned, Drew stares at the phone in his hand. Could he really have made a call bringing him to the past? Pressing the end button, the vertigo returns and he’s back leaning against his squad car.

Presented with an opportunity like no other, Drew makes the decision to use the device to travel back to visit his father, renowned musician Doc Evans, who died during Drew’s teenage years. Drew chooses to visit his father in 1947 Chicago at a pivotal time of his father’s life when he becomes a star headlining the Jazz Ltd nightclub. Of course things never go as planned—that Murphy guy got it right—and when Drew interferes with a robbery, it causes the Chicago mob to have a newfound interest in the club. Now, caught in the middle, Drew must use his experience with combating gangs to force the Chicago mob away from the club to save his father’s future—while risking the opportunity to connect with his father.

OUT OF TIME, an adventure novel complete at 75,000 words, will appeal to fans of Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler. This is an adventure story that has time travel, but isn’t science fiction—in the same sort of way The Time Traveler’s Wife wasn’t a science fiction story. Think of it as Mike Hammer meets Chris Hughes (the main character of Timeline).

Having written professionally for the last ten years in advertising and marketing, I’ve learned the value of powerful ideas and concise execution.

Thank you for your consideration,

Allan Evans

6 comments:

Holly said...

This is way, way better. I couldn't understand your storyline in the first version, but this comes across as a really interesting tale. I would buy a book like this.

You have a few typos that detract from your statement about your professional background:

It's UNABOMBER, not Unibomber.

Run-on sentence:
"No worries though, it’s only a cell phone that Drew pockets, planning to leave it with the lost & found." I would write "No worries, (insert comma) though. (insert period) It's only a cell phone that...."

You write "Presented with an opportunity like no other, Drew makes the decision to use the device to travel back to visit his father, renowned musician Doc Evans, who died during Drew’s teenage years." My question: he didn't have any control over the phone before, so how does he learn to pinpoint when and where he travels? Maybe you could just say he learns to control the device, and then travels to see his father.

"This is an adventure story that has time travel, but isn’t science fiction—in the same sort of way The Time Traveler’s Wife wasn’t a science fiction story." There might be another, more positive way to say this. I would rethink this sentence.

Good luck!

Falen said...

Much better, but I think it still needs a lot of work. There's a lot of cutting that needs to be done.

The first two paragraphs could probably be condensed into one - we don't need to know about the RNC unless it's pivotal to the plot of the novel, same with the Unabomber info. It reads too much like a synopsis.
I would work on just highlighting the highpoints - 1 - 2 sentences about who the character is (keep in the gang stuff, that's important). 1 sentence about how he finds the cell phone. 1 -2 sentences about the discovery of the time travel.

The third paragraph is much better than the first two.
I think you really want to highlight the conflict which is: does the main character save his father and lose the chance to connect with him? Or does he connect with his father and risk both their futures? It's the conflict that will really help sell your story.

The last paragraph can be cleaned up as well - say "fans of Crichton's Timeline" and pick a specific Cussler book (I'm not as familiar with his titles to offer you a suggestion).
Get rid of the time traveler's wife stuff - it's clear from the query that it's not a sci-fi story and you blatantly state this in the beginning when you say it's an adventure. I'd say keep the "Mike Hammer meets Chris Hughes" but maybe just say "Mike Hammer, from (whatever he's from, I'm not familiar with him) meets Chris Hughes from Timeline" sort of deal.

The story sounds good, though. Reminds me of Frequency. Also I'm from St. Paul, so that piques my interest.

Better, but not there yet

Aimless Writer said...

I don't think we need the details of how he finds the time device or figures out how to use it in the query. The conflict really starts when he goes back in time. Something like: When St. Paul police officer, Drew Evans discovers a device to travel through time he ...
Question; why is he going back to this time? Just curiousity? What's his motivation for picking that time? Is he trying to fix something or just see his dad?

David said...

Allan: a few comments generally:

The Unambomber mailed his bombs -- he didn't carry them around like a suicide bomber. It's sort of an inapt vision for the officer to have. I find it a little jarring.

Also, why would the officer hit "redial" to find the cell phone's owner? Typically, evidence recovered from a suspect following an arrest is catalogued and inventoried. I realize you need to have the officer trigger the device, but you're skirting the realities of police patrol work.

I also find it hard to belive that a patrol officer would remember a cell phone from a week previous (or do you mean that Drew been carrying the phone in his own vest and just forgot it was there?) That is not clear.

I agree that this reminds me a lot of the movie Frequency. Also, if the story starts in the present (2009-10) 1947 seems like too far back in time for Drew (presumably a young-to-middle aged adult) to have a father finding stardom (presumably about the same age).

In terms of cutting words down -- who cares if he's in one of St. Paul's worst gang-infested precincts? That tidbit seems to have no bearing on the story at all.

Hope that helps, and that it didn't come across too harshly.

gj said...

You spend the bulk of the query on set-up (which isn't unusual enough in the genre to need this much explanation), leaving too little for the story itself.

All you need for set-up is: protagonist finds cell phone that acts as time-travel device and decides to use it to visit his father in 1947 in order to .... [resolves old issues, or whatever his motivation is]. The details of the time device aren't all that important; what matters is that he's got one and decides to use it for a goal that matters to him.

Then spend more time on the story itself. The way it's queried now, it's as if 200 pages of the story show the finding of the cell phone's properties, and only 200 pages will be left for what he does with it, which, really, should be the bulk of the pages.

Dominique said...

Much better. There's definitely been loads of improvement. The story is clearer in this version.

It does still run a little long, though. While you're voice shows, some of the paragraphs could be trimmed and some sentences could go.

I might also suggest slimming down the paragraph comparing your work to other people's work.