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  1. #1
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    Query: A TAINT IN PUTNAM

    Gentle readers, lurkers and you trolls, I rewrote the time line because I just couldn’t get a query together. I have some questions about this one also so please feel free to rip into it.

    Thanks in advance.

    Dear Prudence

    Four months after Iris disappeared; the county she disappeared from threatened to sue. She had gone there to do a job and it hadn’t been done. Not a hair from her head had been found. Putnam County claimed they turned the investigation over to the FBI and the FBI said that they hadn’t. A couple of friends in the Duval Sheriff’s department had gathered enough evidence to create a pattern, one they would share.

    Justin Thomas fought being sick. Ten girls appeared to have been abducted. They seemed to be taken in pairs and at six month intervals. My assistant wasn’t a blondish girl next door and the timing was early. DHS information said that some of the girls had ended up in the Sandbox and had been used as human shields. The Agent was here because some intercepted metadata had pointed at this part of Florida but had a personal stake in the missing girls.

    The door to the second building we were auditing for contaminants slammed shut. It shouldn’t have. The roof of the second building we were going to check had collapsed. We set up a safety line in case I needed to be pulled out. Vicky was the qualified safety person. I turned at the sound of the door and noticed the line in a pile on the floor. Vicky was no longer attached.


    A TAINT IN PUTNAM is a completed 110,000 word thriller.

    Thank you for your time and consideration



  2. #2
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    I'm afraid this is more of a teaser than a query. It really doesn't convey a coherent sense of what your story is about, just a collection of "something strange is going on" events. Remember, a query isn't the blurb on the back of the book; it's the 250-word pitch to convince someone that your story is something worth reading.

    If Iris is missing, how can the county "threaten" to sue? They'd have to talk to her to do that. They could file in court without her (it's actually the court's job to serve the subpoena), but then that would be actually suing her. Besides all that, why is it important for us to know that the county is considering legal action? Isn't it more important that she's been missing for four months, and no one seems to be looking for her?

    I thought Justin was the lead character, until you starting saying "my" and "we". Unless he's in the habit of referring to himself in the third person, stick with one point of view (preferably third person for a query, even if the story itself is in the first person).

    I assume DHS is Department of Human Services, but would they be the ones identifying the pattern of missing girls? Who's agent are you referring to? Why should I care about intercepting metadata? Intercepted where and how? Metadata is information about data, so what data is being referenced, and why would it have anything to do the missing girls?

    What happened to the first building they audited? What do contaminants have to do with anything you've mentioned so far? What role does Vicky play in any of this? Is she just unlucky, or is she another victim?

    Scrap this and start again from scratch. Tell us who the main character is, what crisis or conflict is he involved with (and why), and what the consequences of failure are. I get none of this from your attempt here.
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 03-31-2014 at 06:31 PM.

  3. #3
    Rogue Mutt
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    Hooray, just in time for April Fool's Day! The fool being anyone who takes a stab at trying to revise this mess.

    And before you say, "You're being mean!" How many times do we have to tell this guy how to write a query letter and point him to websites to help and for him to show absolutely no improvement? If anything he usually regresses. It's sad.

  4. #4
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Hah. I read the initial post, and I thought, "What the...?", then I saw that it was the St. John's guy. Gil, this fellow cannot string two coherent thoughts together, at least not in writing. Surrender is the better part of valor with this fellow.

  5. #5
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    Here's my rewrite.

    Note that I didn't change anything--I just re-arranged existing sentences. Let me know what you think.

    Dear Prudence

    Four months after Iris disappeared; the county she disappeared from threatened to sue. DHS information said that some of the girls had ended up in the Sandbox and had been used as human shields. The door to the second building we were auditing for contaminants slammed shut. Ten girls appeared to have been abducted.

    A couple of friends in the Duval Sheriff’s department had gathered enough evidence to create a pattern, one they would share. She had gone there to do a job and it hadn’t been done. My assistant wasn’t a blondish girl next door and the timing was early. Not a hair from her head had been found. I turned at the sound of the door and noticed the line in a pile on the floor.

    Putnam County claimed they turned the investigation over to the FBI and the FBI said that they hadn’t. Justin Thomas fought being sick. It shouldn’t have. The roof of the second building we were going to check had collapsed. Vicky was no longer attached.

    The Agent was here because some intercepted metadata had pointed at this part of Florida but had a personal stake in the missing girls. We set up a safety line in case I needed to be pulled out. Vicky was the qualified safety person. They seemed to be taken in pairs and at six month intervals.

    TAINT IN PUTNAM is a completed 110,000 word thriller.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    A valiant try, Robin, but it hasn't resolved the underlying issues. The information in this query, regardless of the order of presentation, does not convey a sense of who the book is about and what the larger story arc is about.

    @John: I'm an optimist, what can I say? If nothing else, perhaps someone else will read the comments and learn from them.

  7. #7
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Alrighty, Gil...it's your head against the brick wall, lol.

  8. #8
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    Hi Craig,

    My thoughts, in red.



    Dear Prudence

    Four months after Iris (who is this? Age? something sympathetic?) disappeared;(why the ;?) the county she disappeared from threatened to sue (who or what department is the county suing and why? and is it important to the plot?). She had gone there to do a job and it hadn’t been done (who does Iris work for? is she w/the county or the FBI?). Not a hair from her head had been found. Putnam County claimed they turned the investigation over to the FBI and the FBI said that they hadn’t. A couple of friends in the Duval Sheriff’s department had gathered enough evidence to create a pattern, one they would share.

    Justin Thomas fought being sick. Ten girls appeared to have been abducted. They seemed to be taken in pairs and at six month intervals. My assistant (POV change) wasn’t a blondish girl next door and the timing was early (I don't understand?). DHS information said that some of the girls had ended up in the Sandbox and had been used as human shields. The Agent was here (on site) because some intercepted metadata had pointed at this part of Florida but (he? she?) had a personal stake in the missing girls.

    The door to the second building we were auditing for contaminants ("auditing for contaminants" -->Is your character with the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department of Health or the FBI?) slammed shut. It shouldn’t have. The roof of the second building we were going to check had collapsed. We set up a safety line in case I needed to be pulled out. Vicky was the qualified safety person. I turned at the sound of the door and noticed the line in a pile on the floor. Vicky was no longer attached. (Is she dead, injured or has she suddenly been abducted?)

    How does any of this circle back to Iris and why should I care about Iris? What's at stake for Justin Thomas, other than him puking his lunch?

    A TAINT IN PUTNAM is a completed 110,000 word thriller.

    Thank you for your time and consideration
    Last edited by Naomi B.; 04-02-2014 at 02:47 PM.

  9. #9
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    First I would like to thank you all for responding. I admitted I had basically written myself into a corner with this version. I am still hoping some inspired query will hit me upside the head. I think that all of the Agents I would like to look for have seen the query for PREMEDITATED and said “I want”.

    The problem that I have is that I have a hard time divorcing myself from inside information. I tried to infer a lot in this query but the puzzle was too hard to figure out and I admit that I missed some things but 250 words doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room.

    Let me explain a bit.

    Iris Dur is an employee of Justin Thomas. She signed a contract to audit a facility before it would be destroyed. This is done on all such buildings because it releases the owner from liability. Some also use for a defense if an employee decides he got sick while tearing it down.

    She was abducted before she got there and the job wasn’t done. The County sues the company because they have millions in grants riding on putting a waste to energy plant on that spot. This facility is strategic to the book. It also explains why Justin Thomas was there.

    A County north of this had been investigating because five other young women had been abducted from there. Those abductions tied too closely to the others and they found a definite pattern that included the type of young lady taken. The Department of Homeland Security Agent was haunted by having to shot a human shield in Afghanistan. She had set up a search to inform her when women of a certain type is abducted. She is angry because it was four months before she got the information about Iris. It is the first time that the possibility arises that the abductions are a business and not an individual psychosis. The employee Justin took to assist him did not fit those parameters but was abducted.

    The reason the bad roof is important is because that is how Justin escapes the building. He believes that if he just waits the abductor will come back to kill him. It is also when he starts to think that the facility might have something to do with it. He reaches the roof in time to see an overloaded ATV heading into the wilderness. It was a Chinese knockoff ATV that many buy because they can bypass registration but they are cheap and underpowered.

    He uses a bicycle to follow realizing that it would be the last place the abductor would look. He rescues his assistant and uses a couple of massive locks on the perimeter fence. When the abductor is thwarted from getting the keys he escapes by boat. Justin has the only boat they can use to follow the next morning.

    When it hits the fan Justin must take what they found at that facility away by boat. It was the only way to stop fighting on two fronts. The good guys didn’t have enough bodies to fight on two fronts.

    The final section of the book has to do with the local FBI SAC’s agenda. He gets the abductor into Witness Protection. Because he was injured when he was captured he gets put in the same hospital as Justin’s assistant.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    First off, I have to admit some skepticism concerning your plot. If Iris was assigned to inspect a building, why doesn't the inspection company not assign someone else to finish the job after Iris disappears? How in the world does it get to the point that, some months later, the building owner sues them for breach of contract? Even if they have to hire some new person off the street, they'd still be able to finish the job before getting pulled into court. I don't buy it.

    Regardless, I suspect the main problem you're having with your queries is the inability to distinguish between what is truly important to the story, and what is merely incidental. You're allowed (and encouraged) to reveal the juicy details in your query; that's what will attract the agent's interest and reassure him/her that it's a story worth reading. Iris, to my mind, is not central to the story, near as I can tell: she's just another victim. I assume Justin is actually the main character; tell us about him.

    So what are the key points of your story? Even with the extra information you've provided, I'm still not entirely certain. Here's what I have so far:
    1) Someone is abducting women of a certain type.
    2) Iris disappears on the job. She matches that type, but no one makes the connection right away.
    3) Someone else disappears on a similar job in a different location, but she doesn't match the type.
    4) Justin is a potential witness.
    5) A DHS agent is looking into the disappearances and has some personal issues that seem to have nothing to do with what's going on.
    6) The FBI fits in there somewhere.
    7) Some people ride Chinese ATVs, which Justin recognizes because of his expertise in that area and his very excellent eyesight. (Okay, I admit I got a bit sarcastic on that one.)

    Once again, I suggest you start by not writing a query, but by simply telling us, in three sentences:
    1) Who is the main character, and what is his role in the story (the character)? For example, Justin Thomas is a building inspector who stumbles onto a human trafficking ring.
    2) What is the nature of the situation he finds himself (the crisis)? Two of his coworkers have been taken, and he's the only witness who can lead the authorities to the culprits.
    3) What happens if he is unsuccessful (the consequences)? If they can't find the women soon, they'll be sold off into slavery, or worse.

    Once you have that laid out, then you can add and embellish to fill out your 250 word query. If you can't get three sentences together, well, there's little hope.
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 04-02-2014 at 08:46 PM.

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