Aug 3, 2009

Query- Ferris' Bluff (Revision 2)

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the first revision.

Dear Agent,

Ace Evans, ex-Navy SEAL and undercover operative, is on the run--has been for the three years since his family was brutally murdered. He’s running from the Witness Protection Program that betrayed him, from Russian arms dealers still out for revenge, and nightmares of that tragic fiery night.

He risks a brief visit with an old friend, Granville Tubbs. Ace feels like he needs to stick around the quaint little town of Ferris’ Bluff, Arkansas after he learns that Tubbs, comatose, is being kept in near isolation by the lawyer, Tremont.

While trying to unravel the lawyer’s motives Ace is determined to see that Tubbs gets proper treatment. He’s drawn into the lives of Annie Travers, her two children, and a collection of townsfolk that are pleasant and friendly, and, well…a bit nosy. There’s ‘gossip in the water’ in Ferris’ Bluff, you know. He can’t avoid making friends, try as he might to leave a faint footprint and stay true to his alias.

He can’t seem to avoid making enemies either. Ace is soon at odds with the lawyer, his slutty scheming wife, and a psychotic town tough named Pink.

As if things aren’t difficult enough, a resourceful young Deputy Marshal tracks him down. He urges Ace to return to the WPP, warning him that the Russians are nearby. Ace won’t go back. He likes it in Ferris’ Bluff. Friends new and old need him.

He discovers that the accident that killed Annie’s husband and left her daughter paralyzed was no accident. One of his new friends is murdered. Tremont has apparently stolen some mineral rights from Tubbs, the underlying catalyst for all of the local tragedies. Tubbs regains consciousness, drawing the Russians dangerously close by using Ace’s real name.

All the while the affection he’s trying to deny for Annie grows. It’s a very mutual attraction. Ace is more determined than ever to set things right. With a bit of forgery, a touch of larceny, and a little help from his new friends he might just pull off his audacious ruse.

FERRIS’ BLUFF is a 96K word thriller; the story of a troubled lonely man seeking a connection to his past, a glimpse of the life he’s been forced to abandon…and what he has to do now that he has finally found a home.

Thank you for taking a look. I look forward to hearing from you.

After a bit of cogitating I got what the frogmeister was trying to say. NOW it might be ready for some looks.



Rick Daley said...


This is huge improvement, especially in the beginning. You've done a great job at incorporating the feedback into your revisions.

I think it's still a little long, if you don't have any requests for partials out of this consider focusing just on the main story arc and not the sub-plots.

It clocks in at 400 words total. 342 are your story description. It fits on a single page in TNR and 12 point font, but it's too long to be a single page in business letter format with the agent's name and address at the top.

That being said, it still held my attention through to the end because it has voice.

Good luck!

Fred Limberg said...

Thanks Rick,

David Kazzie said...

I agree that this is much, much better.

I still have a problem with this former undercover operative taking such a huge risk to visit an old friend. Navy SEALs do not take unnecessary risks. ESPECIALLY since he already doesn't trust Witness Protection. it would just annoy me as a reader.

Perhaps there is a reason he decided to take such a risk, other than "boy, it sure would be nice to catch up with Granville!"

also, you might want to work on describing "the lawyer, Tremont" a little differently. It's a strange turn of phrase to introduce a character with. Is he Granville's personal lawyer? Does he have a first name? what about: "...after he learns that Tubbs' personal lawyer, Tremont, is keeping him isolated (also avoids passive voice).

Other than that, nice work!

Fred Limberg said...


Thanks for weighing in again. It's not supposed to BE much of a risk to visit and out...until he learns Tremont's up to somethng fishy. Didn't use the first name, and avoided using many other names as well as I've heard that too many characters in a query is a no-no.

To Rick, Other than the romantic subplot involving Annie, it'sa pretty straight forward story. I'm confused by the subplot reference--and mention of the romantic subplot is, n my mid, critical to the pitch...this book will appeal to women readers.

Unknown said...

I agree - too long. Try and wittle your synoppis down to one paragraph, not much longer than six sentances (better in six or less). This expercise really forces you to work hard at boiling down your novel into it's core elements.

Rick Daley said...

Hi Fred,

Here are the different story arcs I take away from the query:

- Tubbs and his Lawyer; the rights to the minerals
- The Russians who are after him; whatever they want revenge for
- His past and relationship with the WPP / Marshal
- His relationship with Annie
- The accident with Annie's husband and daughter (this seems a sub-plot to the Tubbs / Tremont story arc)
- The murder of Ace's family. MIght have something to do with his family being murdered, but if that is the case, then Ace should be the one wanting revenge. No clear motive is given for the Russian's need for revenge.
- Other enemies- the slutty scheming wife and Pink

Who is the main antagonist, the Russians who are after Ace, or the Lawyer Tremont? I understand that they are both crucial to the story, but which comes first in the way you tell it?

Check out this query that agent Nathan Bransford posted:

It does an excellent job of getting the point across that there are many layers to the story, and the whole query is only 267 words with 126 being the story description.

What to include and what to leave out is something most of us struggle with. My novel deals with past lives, and I have a lot of detail in the present and the past to try and get across. For me, the less I say about the details and the more I generalize the story description, the clearer it becomes.

Do this for me: tell me what your novel is about in a single sentence.

Fred Limberg said...


How about:

While visiting an old friend Ace has to fight scheming local villains as well as enemies from his mysterious past, finds love with a woman as lonely and damaged as he is, and pulls off a dangerous ruse in which both enemies destroy each other setting him free from a life of anonymous wandering.

It's an interesting exercise, and I drafted the sentence trying to avoid a lot of extraneous descriptors...bare bones--that's Ferris' Bluff in a nutshell.

I've seen that sample query before. It's a good one no doubt, but not a good roadmap for me. No one is going to be impressed with my local writing accomplishments. I'm just a guy who thinks he can spin a pretty good yarn.

I've crafted another query that does fit the one page rule, but I'm going to sit on it for a day or so in hopes that some others will weigh in on the one posted.

It's getting there. Thanks for all your help.

Rick Daley said...


This is good at paring it down. You're at 54 words. Now you can add 100-150 more words to it. It's usually easier to build upon a foundation like this than to whittle away at a larger text.

I like that you have the kind of Mexican stand-off at the end, where the two factions take each other out. I don't think I got that sense from the prior queries.

Good luck!

gj said...

Ditto to the advice to cut it down some more. The beginning, with a few bits of tightening, would be fine, but after about three paragraphs, my attention starts to wander, and I start skimming, which makes me wonder if I'd also skim the story itself.

See if you can combine the first two paragraphs (running from the WPP is interesting; a murdered family, I hate to say, is cliche and doesn't add much to the query), and then continue cutting out the unnecessary stuff until you're down to about three (not-too-long) paragraphs: he goes to visit a friend and finds him comatose. He starts to suspect foul play, and falls in love (giving him motivation to stick around), and then things get even worse when the Russians are on the horizon. ALthough you could probably leave out the Russians for the query, and just keep the WPP people finding him, or vice versa (but if you leave out the WPP people finding him, then there's no point in having the initial hook of him being on the run from them, so I'd keep the WPP over the Russians, even though the Russians are likely more deadly).

Remember, all you're trying to do is give the agent/editor a taste of your book, not the whole menu. Show that you've got a protagonist with a goal (to protect his friend) and an antagonist (the lawyer initially at least), and they're going to struggle in an escalating battle, with solid stakes (protagonist's life and his future with the love interest). You need enough details to differentiate your story from others, but don't try so hard to get in every single plot twist.

Fred Limberg said...

Word counts


too much detail

not enough detail


Okay, new query coming...

I kind of like it.

Rick Daley said...

Better to go through it here than get a form rejection from an agent...