Aug 22, 2010

QUERY- GREEN-EYED MONSTER (with sample pages)

Dear AGENT,

After PERSONAL TIDBIT, I believe my urban fantasy novel, GREEN-EYED MONSTER complete at 80,000 words, may be a good fit for your representation.

Rookie detective Lucy Santone measures everything with the black and white rulebook of the Detroit Metro Police Department. Since the Incident, she also sees demons crawling on suspects, a halo above the cleaning lady, and a stalker-angel who claims to be her Guardian. Denial’s easy until the hallucinations try to kill her.

During an arson investigation, she is attacked by a hellion and wonders if her delusions are all that delusional. She learns the burned property belongs to a non-profit organization headed by Levi Johanneson, a hometown athlete who sold his soul for politics.

Levi's not the only player in town, however, another demon is vying for control over the broken souls of Detroit. Lucy can't fight them both, and when each offers her an alliance, she is forced to make a choice: the citizens she swore to protect, or her own ticket to the pie in the sky. Suddenly the rulebook looks a little gray.

Similar to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, GREEN-EYED MONSTER is a fantastical twist on detective fiction, researched through interviews with police/arson experts and utilizing my degree in Criminal Justice. I have a synopsis for a potential sequel.

The first five pages are included below. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
NAME
CONTACT INFO


SAMPLE PAGES: GREEN-EYED MONSTER

I imagined myself setting fire to the filing cabinet. Crispy carbon falling around my desk, the tan metal contraption belching smoke from mouth-like drawers. Manila folders, crisp eight-by-eleven-inch papers, meticulously labeled photos, and coroner's reports, all burning in a roar of blood-red flames.

A smile spread low and lazy across my face, tugging my cheeks upwards like a gentle lover, when someone kicked my chair.

"Oh sorry, did I wake you?" he said.

I turned to find Forest scrutinizing me with his unnerving gray eyes.

"Unghs," I affirmed.

He sipped from a steaming mug and set an identical one on my desk. Beads of coffee clung to his silver mustache. His hair had once been a ruddy brown, but now was streaked with gray. The 'stache, however, was almost white, suckling at the coffee as if trying to reclaim its youth.

"You look like shit, Luce."

I frowned, cupped my hands around the hot mug, and said, "You look old."

"I prefer wise."

"You look wizened."

Forest snorted. His eyes panned over the chaos of my desk, scanning the folders piled around a jumble of papers, glossy pictures, and newspaper clippings. I watched him absorb and catalog each piece of clutter, as if I might see the individual wrinkles form inside his skull.

"It's a shit-astrophe in here," he said.

"That your favorite word?"

"How do you find anything?"

"Please, these cases are older than me and colder than Donny. No one gives a rat's patoot about them, except maybe you."

"Things still shit at home, huh?"

"Poor, bad, crappy, buy a thesaurus."

"Guess so," he said. "What were you daydreaming about?"

I let him watch me in silence for a moment, the weight of his gaze pressing against me. I pressed back.

"What are you doing in my office?" I said.

He didn't respond, just gave me a dissatisfied look. The stained bristles of his mustache twitched twice, then went still. His cop-face was on: bland, distant, all business, but I saw an edge of concern tempering his disguise.

"It may not look like much," I said, waving my free hand around the four-by-four square that served as my office. With room only for my miniature desk and the dreaded filing cabinet, I had learned to live within a thicket of boxes. Sure, the door occasionally slammed into my back, and the ceiling fan's blades had been chopped in half to accommodate the floor-to-ceiling box growth. "But it's mine," I finished.

No response.

"Does it say Detective Forest Stephenson on my door?" I said. "No, it says Detective Lucy Santone. Me, mine."

Forest glanced at the paper I had taped to my door. The outline of the old plate could be seen underneath reading, "Detroit Metro Police Department Archives."

Not to be deterred I said, "Look, I got to pee, so if you've nothing important to say, why don't you bug off?"

My partner stared at me, then shrugged. "When you become human again, stop by my office. Drink the coffee." He lifted his mug towards my desk and strolled out.

"That know-it-all," I said to no one, especially not the pretty boy reading in the corner.

Seated with his back propped against the cabinet of doom was the prettiest man I'd ever seen. He stretched his jean-covered legs, so long they extended under my desk and poked out the side, and crossed them at the ankle. Even on one of the chilliest February days on record, he wore battered sandals and a white tee. Sable ringlets, perfectly tousled, crowned his head, and his eyes sparkled like sapphires catching the light. I knew his sun-browned skin would be warm to the touch.

As my eyes passed over him, he glanced up from an old issue of "Car and Driver." A hopeful expression lingered on his face, but I turned my head away.

He wasn't real.

7 comments:

Zee Lemke said...

tl;dr. Okay, not really; I read the query. For formatting reasons, I don't think this blog is the best place to put sample pages.

You do several things that I'd advise against. You mention that the novel is complete (it had darn well better be!). You mention a sequel (cross that bridge if you get that far). You compare yourself to a super-mega-bestseller with its own TV series (sounding derivative is never good). You capitalize a noun unnecessarily and without explanation. You use several cliches (sold his soul, pie in the sky)--one of them vaguely and possibly incorrectly. Actually, both of them obscure the meaning instead of clarifying. You use the word "utilizing."

I think there's a more important thing to fix first, though. Lucy doesn't do anything in this query. She doesn't fight the hellion, she's just attacked. She doesn't investigate, she just learns. Not every sentence is in the passive voice, but even her grammatically active verbs are pretty darn bland.

The cliches aren't used adroitly enough to convey that nifty noir feel that I love about Butcher (and my personal favorite in the genre, Cook's Garrett P.I. series).

Someone else should comment about the degree in criminal justice as a qualification. The interviews are interesting, but I think won't count for much in a fiction proposal--but I'm not sure.

Justin W. Parente said...

Hi!

So this sounds like it has a great premise. I like the plot and I think your choice verbiage in the query matches how I would expect manuscript itself to read.

I wouldn't mind terribly about comparing your "genre" to Jim Butcher. The commenter above points out he's a mega bestseller, but you're only likening the style, not the actually punch or plot of his books. A Butcher style, new UF would have me jumping around.

The only thing I can agree on with the comment above falls on the second paragraph. True, she doesn't fight the hellion, but that's worth the synopsis or sample read. I would like to see her investigate and not learn, as above suggests. But be cool about. No fanciness required here. All you need to do is entice me.

Thanks for sharing!

Zee Lemke said...

I broke down and read the sample pages after seeing a line as I was scrolling past.

Your dialogue is so very, very strong compared to your query. Those sample pages are reasonably good! I like the banter. The cliches and overdone comparisons are much more vivid in the actual pages than in the query.

Vivify your query a bit to match the zing of those pages. The sapphires sound so much better than pie in the sky (which is used to mean something one won't get anyway, right?) and the guy in the corner is so much more PRESENT of a "hallucination" than demons (what do they look like?) crawling on suspects (the guilty ones or the innocent ones?).

Mesmerix said...

Hey Zee: Really appreciate your critique. I was concerned with the comparison to Butcher, but I wanted to give an example of what the novel would read like and I couldn't think of anyone else. I think I'll cut it though, and address Lucy's verbage issue.

Pie in the sky means heaven. I don't know how that was used incorrectly. And "sold his soul" was literal.

I'll work on tightening it up. Thanks again!

Zee Lemke said...

I think "sold his soul" lost me because it came in a series of things that weren't developed. I did get that it was literal eventually--but on the first read, I didn't have enough sense of the world by the time I got to that sentence.

"Pie in the sky" does mean "heaven," but it's derogatory, an unrealistic dream or vision of the future that fails to justify current suffering. A choice between that and an oath to protect real people is no choice at all to me.

I didn't realize this was you, Mesmerix. Now I'm intimidated--your comments always seem so much more apt than mine.

...but you did comma-splice around a "however" up there.

Zee Lemke said...

Oh, and having read your sample pages, I'll probably like your novel better than Storm Front, btw. Dresden's head-up-his-ass-ness pissed me off. I can afford to buy about two books a month new; if I saw this on the shelves at work, I might make it one of them. But only if the jacket copy was really good or I knew it was yours.

Mesmerix said...

Zee: I think that is the best thing anyone's ever said to me. When it's published, I'll be sure to let you know.

That being said, the query needs work. I'm somehow capable of seeing the problems in other queries clearly, but am completely blind to my own.

Have a brilliant day!