Thursday, April 16, 2009

Face-Lift 623

Guess the Plot

Harper Street

1. To Kill a Sparrow, To Kill an Albatross, and To Kill a Dodo were all flops. Sooner or later, Harper Street will just have to face it: she's a cheap imitation.

2. From where I lie, I've seen them all-dames, dolls, dicks, devils. On one end it's the sticks, the other, the docks. In between it's penthouses and parks, slums and schools, churches and chopshops. I'm more than just a slab of asphalt: I'm Harper Street, and this is my story.

3. Mandy drives her Hummer to the Harper Street Mall to shop for shoes, but her heel & buckle man is none other than Dwight Lopez, undercover super-spy, who suddenly needs to borrow Mandy's car and lipstick to flee assassins so he can stop the Tinker, a deranged mastermind with a nuclear device in a shoebox.

4. Once the realm of the wealthy elite, Harper Street has fallen on hard times--which is why I've chosen it as my personal hunting grounds. I'm Geoff Van Der Plaz, the sexiest, most ruthless vampire of them all.

5. Who is killing the homeless? I'm Addy. I run the shelter, and I've fallen for one of the homeless guys, but that's the least of my problems. The cops think I'm the obsessed serial killer behind all the grisly murders committed lately, here on . . . Harper Street.

6. Everything gets strange when we move to the mansion on Harper Street and Tyrone digs in the backyard and finds bones. Ramona convinces him we can make it a tourist attraction. She'll sell tickets and tee shirts. And all I need to do is train the ghost.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

I have recently finished a 90,000 word romantic thriller titled Harper Street, for which I am seeking representation.

Tucson celebutante Addy Harper gave up her carefree lifestyle when a drunk-driving accident caused the death of a good friend. Ten years later, her former friends would hardly recognize her – she’s the hardworking director of the Harper Street Shelter, named after her deceased father.

Along with funding the shelter before he died, Ben Harper also left Addy one half of his multi-million dollar empire – If she could stay out of trouble for ten years. He left the other half to her brother, Paul Harper, on the same condition.

When a series of grisly murders is uncovered among the street people of Tucson, all signs point to Addy’s involvement in a complicated insurance scam where death means a nice, meaty payoff. But Tucson homicide detective Renner Cole isn’t so sure. He’s gone undercover at the shelter to try and dig up solid evidence on the real killer, and he’s seen the woman Addy Harper has become: hardworking, spirited, and generous. As a matter of fact, she’s just the kind of woman he’s been looking for – if he can keep her off of death row.

When Addy finds out that her newest resident is really an undercover cop, she’s furious and hurt that she's been lied to. [Now you tell me you're not a homeless guy? Now that I've fallen head over heels in love with you?! Bastard!] She liked RC, with all his crazy talk about walking the perimeter and his invisible buddy Frank. [Frank should be an invisible animal of some sort, but not a rabbit, which has been done to death. Maybe an ostrich.] But when the smoke clears, she realizes that Renner Cole is the only thing standing between her and a serial killer who's out to prove her guilt - permanently. [That word makes me think death, but I don't see how her death proves her guilt. And how does she know the serial killer is out to get her?]

Along the way to tracking down a killer and clearing her name, Addy realizes that she’s finally found the one man brave enough, caring enough, and tough enough to steal her heart. [RC's invisible buddy.]

I would be glad to send you a sample chapter, or the manuscript, at your request. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to facilitate your consideration.



Very nice. Whether or not you want to slip in the answer to a question or two, it should get a positive response from someone.

Is killing homeless guys really enough of a no-no to cost Addy her inheritance?

Are there other specific suspects, or is it just a matter of Addy or anyone else?

As they don't usually put you on death row for running an insurance scam, I assume they suspect Addy is the serial killer. You'd think someone running a shelter would have an alibi for some of the murders.

Obviously Addy's brother is the serial killer. It's refreshing to see a query whose author isn't afraid to give away the surprise ending.


Sarah Laurenson said...

Wow! Four paragraphs with no blue font? Amazing!

Good job.

Anonymous said...

seems a bit naive about cops and the legal system but so are a lot of readers.

Debbie said...

I can't think of anything to add that EE didn't already point out. I just wanted to say that I thought the query did a nice job and that it would have gotten me to read the first few pages of the manuscript.

EB said...

She's disappointed that her love interest isn't a schizophrenic? That seems...odd.

As does the amount of insurance money to be made by bumping off homeless men.

150 said...

How meaty could the payoff be compared to a multi-million-dollar inheritance? She has a lot more to gain by NOT killing people. Of course, if she'd already lost the inheritance by a parking ticket or something....

writtenwyrdd said...

This does sound like it ought to get you some partial requests.

I would suggest you mention the brother did it or if someone else did it, though, or at least allude to the suspicion that her brother is the killer.

Insurance 365 said...

good to read and get to know about this. thks

debhoag said...

Thanks for all the positive comments - I've been learning from the best. I've posted enough query letters here to paper my spare room!

(EE, I'm curtseying in your general direction, and I've had another book accepted by a small press - it's a series of rants on mental health in America, titled Dr. Gonzo, due out in 2010 by Unlikely Stories)I'm thinking I might be able to quit my day job within the next couple of decades.

batgirl said...

This is good, though it did feel a bit heavy on the backstory (which maybe can't be helped). What I wondered about is that a former celebutante would be believable as the mastermind of a complicated and ruthless insurance scam.
Also, couldn't Addy clear herself of suspicion pretty easily by donating any insurance money to the shelter or another charity?

batgirl said...

By the way, this seems weirdly familiar. Was it posted on Miss Snark once?

Anonymous said...

I like this. Does RC describe his fake past before he reveals he's a cop? If so, perhaps the query can touch on this, however briefly.

Bill H.

debhoag said...

I'm thinking that mentioning the insurance fraud piece is too much of a distraction in the query. Suffice it to say that signs point to Addy's involvement in a series of murders?

Evil Editor said...

Do the cops think she's the serial killer, or that she's involved in fraud? Seems like the former, as RC hopes to keep her off death row.

150 said...

I assume that the insurance fraud and serial killing are linked "black widow" style, but I think the instinct to remove the insurance part from the query might be a good one.

batgirl - the beginning was posted on here, just search the blog for "Abby".

debhoag said...

they think she's picking out the targets, and getting the fraudulent policies written, and a partner is offing the victims. There was a california case a couple of years ago that was similar.

Evil Editor said...

So if they don't think she's the killer, why is she the perfect match for RC IF he can keep her off death row? Did the person in California who was picking out the targets end up on death row?

none said...

Well, IANAL, but under English law, the actions of the person who selected the victims would be murder (the principle is "joint enterprise"). US law may well be the same.

debhoag said...

there's assignment of guilt if you incite someone else to murder, or if you plan a murder that someone else carries out.

Adam Heine said...

She's not the daughter of this Ben Harper, is she?

debhoag said...

spooky, but no relation.

Sarah Laurenson said...

It was 2 older women in CA. And they were convicted. Can't remember the sentence, but I don't think it was death.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hey Deb: The nits I have have been covered already, so nothing much else to add. Good query. A little revise will make it a very good one ;o) Our job here is done.

Congrats on Dr. Gonzo! (I should be able to quit my day job in a couple of decades, too. In my case, though, it's called 'retirement.')