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THE DO OVER (thriller)


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#1 DeVallon

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 08:50 PM

In my novel, a crime thriller of about 55,000, words called TheDo Over,when Michael Bonesteel finds his family brutally murdered in their own home, the Vietnam vet and successful D.C. area real estate developer thinks he's got a chance to do the past over and this time get it right, but in the end all he can do is try to find the truth and take revenge.

Michael Bonesteel loves money for the same reason he loved war. It's simple and it doesn't require him to think well of anybody. But then his cushy life is torn open. When his wife and young son get murdered in their home, their throats cut, his mind goes back 40 years, to Vietnam, to another woman and boy, their throats cut. Bonesteel knows these two crimes have to be connected. D.C. Police Detective Sergeant DeAngelis and his partner, Officer Jeff Nguyen, think Bonesteel's the killer. The evidence says they're probably right. Bonesteel doesn't know, though. He's deep in the quicksand of PTSD. He hasn't just lost memories, he's got some that never happened. Thirty years ago, he wrote it all down and buried the past in the Shenandoah. Now he's got to get it back because what ever happened to his family here is chained to the war and what happened there. His search for the past takes him to old friends and old enemies – sometimes the same person – and uncovers more and more layers of lies, corruption and betrayal. Finally, everybody comes together in a warehouse full of guns and drugs in the slums of Arlington to play out their shared past in a bloody do-over.

I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up there and in Europe. I volunteered for combat arms and served in Vietnam as an NCO in Armored Reconnaissance, operating between Saigon and Cambodia. Decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, an Overseas CampaignMedal for the Cambodia incursion, and the Bronze Star. I am expert in American military history and international security. I have lectured widely and published chapters on American strategic interests in the eastern Mediterranean in a number of collections.

I am writing to you because of your professional expertise, and because my father, xxxxx was a xxxxx client back in the 40s and50s when he published several books, including a best seller. I thought it would be nice to follow family tradition.

Sincerely,

#2 Mark Friedlander

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 09:19 PM

DeValion,

I'm afraid you're going to loose most agents at the first sentence only because of the word count. 55K is 25K below the "sweet spot" of 80k and 15 - 20K short of the "minimum" most agents indicate they want in a manuscript.

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#3 Cat Woods

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 06:33 AM

Mark is right about the word count. Assuming you can punch up your novel to hit the target and add depth to your novel in the process, let's talk query.

This is your hook, and a damn good one.

Michael Bonesteel loves money for the same reason he loved war. It's simple and it doesn't require him to think well of anybody.


I'd keep reading. Your first few sentences are very strong and then you start to unravel a bit. Keep focused on your MC (no need for names of officers, etc) and hit the highlights.

Bonesteel's family is murdered. There's a connection between his war life and his now life. He must uncover the secret of his past before the officers do. If he fails...

While I love your hook, I'm a bit uncertain of how the money part fits into the rest of the query. I'm sure it's obvious in your manuscript, but you need to make the connection here or your query falls apart.

I think your premise sounds intriguing and promising--already thinking my dad would love this. Your voice was strong in the hook and immediately afterward. Think about how to successfully add to your word count and tighten up your query. If you can do this, I might have my dad's Christmas present bought for 2013! :wink:

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#4 Pete Morin

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 09:31 AM

I agree with Cat, but I think you could profit from a quick trip to the AQ Library for query letter formatting, etc. - or the pinned article in this forum at least.
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#5 gaius

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 01:47 PM

Dear Devallon,

I like it and here's how I see it.

Michael Bonesteel loves truth for the same reason he loves war.

In THE DO OVER, a crime thriller of xx words, Michael returns home to discover his family murdered. The Vietnam Vet turned successful developer briefly drifts into the world of, "This isn't happening", but soon realizes all he can do is make it right–––truth then revenge. Gazing at the slit throats smiling beneath the faces of his wife and son, he recalls Vietnam and another woman and child disposed of in a similar manner.

Are the crimes connected? D.C. Detective DeAgelis and his partner Jeff Nquyen think so. Matter of fact, they believe Michael is their man. For Michael, it all sounds like Chinese. He's knee-deep in PTSD. It's not only erased memories, there's a few that create a false present. Luckily, he wrote the facts down thirty years ago. Now he's gotta dig them up, which leads to encounters with old friends and old enemies who are sometimes one-in-the-same.
Layers of lies, corruption and betrayals later, the past meets the present and fact confronts fiction in a warehouse of guns, drugs and violence; all played out in the slums of Arlington in search of the same thing–––a do-over.


I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up there and in Europe. I volunteered for combat arms and served in Vietnam as an NCO in Armored Reconnaissance, operating between Saigon and Cambodia. Decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, an Overseas Campaign Medal for the Cambodia incursion, and the Bronze Star. I am expert in American military history and international security. I have lectured widely and published chapters on American strategic interests in the eastern Mediterranean in a number of collections.

(skip the other stuff. your experience speaks volumes.

gaius

#6 DeVallon

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 09:24 PM

Well, I want to thank you guys for your comments. When I was starting all this, I looked up how long a novel should be and the answer I found was a minimum of 50,000. I read a best selling crime novel that was (a) shorter than mine (b) not really very good. That encouraged me. I do now think that 80,000 words is probably more like it. I've been nervous about expanding it for fear of screwing up the pace, but I actually think that now I have a vision of how to do that -- where to expand while maintaining the suspense. So I think that can be done.

I appreciate Cat's encouraging remarks. Made me feel good. I think the critique sounds reasonable. And thanks as well to Gaius. I'll work on expanding it and get back to you. The thing that has surprised me most from people who have read the typescript is how shocked people have been at how cruel and violent the people in the story are. It has shifted my attitude a bit. I thought everyone pretty much knew how to cut a throat, how to cut a finger off. Oh well.
I am DeVallon Bolles, Ph.D. You may contact me at devbolles@gmail.com

#7 Pete Morin

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 10:07 PM

What was the best-selling crime novel?
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#8 kevinmont

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 01:43 AM

I personally like that you give away the ending, or not, give it away, but tell the last scene:

"Finally, everybody comes together in a warehouse full of guns and drugs in the slums of Arlington to play out their shared past in a bloody do-over." I do that, too, mention the ending, and I admire you for that, because people here will blast you for giving away the ending. Don't listen to them.

I also like the mention of "Shenandoah," but I'm a history buff.

I would write out the words for "PTSD." I know, everyone SHOULD know what it means, but why flirt with a rejection from a 25-year-old intern who thinks that Vietnam is in Ohio?

Finally, your credentials alone should sell it, but trim them down. Also, as said, word count needs to go higher. That shouldn't be hard to do.

#9 DeVallon

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 09:34 AM

I appreciate your comments. You're probably right about PTSD; the problem is that Post-Traumatic-Stress-Syndrome is so long and awkward. You might be entertained by how the Shenandoah thing works out. People in the DC area go out to the Shenandoah frequently for weekend car rides, visits to the sacred ground of the Valley, 2nd homes, etc... One of the most beautiful spots on earth. "I long to see you." Also, although I do give away the scene obligatoire, the outcome isn't necessarily clear in the query. I'm working on making the book longer without killing the pace. Thanks.
I am DeVallon Bolles, Ph.D. You may contact me at devbolles@gmail.com

#10 richard p

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 09:48 AM

I agree pretty much with everyone else's suggestions. I got lost in the body of the query, lost interest in reading it. It's too complex. Simplify, simplify, but try to generate some excitement (which I know is difficult). Don't give away the ending, which I don't think you do.

I find your sentences "Michael Bonesteel loves money for the same reason he loved war. It's simple and it doesn't require him to think well of anybody" hard to understand. Money and war are simple? How so?

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#11 kevinmont

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 01:33 PM

Thanks, DaVallon. I'm intested in the Shenandoah because of "Sheridan's Ride," but I've been there, and it is indeed beautiful. Thanks for your service to our country.

#12 EMDelaney

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 01:59 PM

The query is tooooooooooo long.

However...it appears to contain a good hook and the necessary ingredients to promote your story well. Boil it down. Also, as Pete suggested, a study of query formatting in the AQ Library would be in order.

By the way..what was the name of that "best-selling" crime novel that was so short. I'd like to be abloe to study it and see how that author was to be so successful with such a short story. We could all learn something from him/her I'm sure.

Best of luck to you

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#13 gaius

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 02:40 PM

D: I substituted "truth" for "money" in the opener. I thought it might help. I may me wrong, but I feel as though the purpose of "do-over" directly relates to one's own truth not monetary reward. To me, war is the imposing of one's truth on another with money/power serving as a perk.

Your story sound exciting. Take your time and make it yours.

Wishing you the best,

gaius

#14 DeVallon

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 09:26 PM

I just want to mention that it has just come to my attention that F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, a no-kidding great novel, consists of 47,094 words. However, probably greatness grants privileges.
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#15 Randy

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 10:23 PM

Hay DeVallon:

50,000- does max out a novella. You might be able to get away with querying this WIP as such. Thrillers do have to be at least 70,000 to reach your target audience, but, again, this could pass as a novella. If the work is tight, and interesting enough, you may get away with adding a few thousand more words, but I would caution the word count if passing for a novel; novella should work fine.

Now, what sparked my interest here, was a similar crime 40 years prior. I can get a sense of the direction you're going with that. I also agree with Kevin, in that you should spell out Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While it is safe to assume, you just might send to someone that doesn't know that.

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#16 Pete Morin

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 09:03 AM

I just want to mention that it has just come to my attention that F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, a no-kidding great novel, consists of 47,094 words. However, probably greatness grants privileges.


Different era, Val.

WHAT WAS THE BEST-SELLING CRIME NOVEL? (Seriously, that's what I read/write, I want to know!)
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#17 DeVallon

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 12:49 PM

I agree pretty much with everyone else's suggestions. I got lost in the body of the query, lost interest in reading it. It's too complex. Simplify, simplify, but try to generate some excitement (which I know is difficult). Don't give away the ending, which I don't think you do.

I find your sentences "Michael Bonesteel loves money for the same reason he loved war. It's simple and it doesn't require him to think well of anybody" hard to understand. Money and war are simple? How so?


To quote Clausewitz: "War is simple, but it is not, on that account, easy." Same, same money. If you let yourself get lost in the details of financial instruments it won't seem simple at all, but the essentials are simple and obvious, at least to those who are good with it.
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#18 Inglory

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 03:39 PM

In my novel, a crime thriller of about 55,000, words called TheDo Over,when Michael Bonesteel finds his family brutally murdered in their own home, the Vietnam vet and successful D.C. area real estate developer thinks he's got a chance to do the past over and this time get it right, but in the end all he can do is try to find the truth and take revenge. This sentence is trying to do way too much, even though the individual elements, when you pick them out, sound promising.

Michael Bonesteel loves money for the same reason he loved war. It's simple and it doesn't require him to think well of anybody. This is a very nice opening - maybe you should open here - inserting 'Vietnam' before 'war. But then his cushy life is torn open. When his wife and young son get murdered in their home, their throats cut, his mind goes back 40 years, to Vietnam, to another woman and boy, their throats cut. You're still doing OK here, but the sentence is messy: try getting there without all the commas! Bonesteel knows these two crimes have to be connected.

D.C. Police Detective Sergeant DeAngelis and his partner, Officer Jeff Nguyen, think Bonesteel's the killer. The evidence says they're probably right. Bonesteel doesn't know, though. He's deep in the quicksand of PTSD. Maybe it's cultural, but I don't know what this is. He hasn't just lost memories, he's got some that never happened. Interesting... Thirty years ago, he wrote it all down and buried the past in the Shenandoah. Now he's got to get it back because what ever happened to his family here is chained to the war and what happened there. This is a bit clunky. Maybe something along the lines of 'because it holds the key to both crimes'.

His search for the past takes him to old friends and old enemies – sometimes the same person – confusing and uncovers more and more layers of lies, corruption and betrayal. Finally, everybody comes together in a warehouse full of guns and drugs in the slums of Arlington to play out their shared past in a bloody do-over. This last sentence is hurried and bathetic. It lets down your query. You've given us Michael. We care about Michael and his problems (the mysterious murders, his false memories). So tell us how the climax affects those things e.g. he has to chose between revenge and discovering the truth.

I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up there and in Europe. I volunteered for combat arms and served in Vietnam as an NCO in Armored Reconnaissance, operating between Saigon and Cambodia. Decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, an Overseas CampaignMedal for the Cambodia incursion, and the Bronze Star. I am expert in American military history and international security. I have lectured widely and published chapters on American strategic interests in the eastern Mediterranean in a number of collections. I think that saying you have a military background is enough.

I am writing to you because of your professional expertise, and because my father, xxxxx was a xxxxx client back in the 40s and50s when he published several books, including a best seller. I thought it would be nice to follow family tradition. Lucky you!

#19 Inglory

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 03:47 PM

Well, I want to thank you guys for your comments. When I was starting all this, I looked up how long a novel should be and the answer I found was a minimum of 50,000. I read a best selling crime novel that was (a) shorter than mine (b) not really very good. That encouraged me. I do now think that 80,000 words is probably more like it. I've been nervous about expanding it for fear of screwing up the pace, but I actually think that now I have a vision of how to do that -- where to expand while maintaining the suspense. So I think that can be done.

I appreciate Cat's encouraging remarks. Made me feel good. I think the critique sounds reasonable. And thanks as well to Gaius. I'll work on expanding it and get back to you. The thing that has surprised me most from people who have read the typescript is how shocked people have been at how cruel and violent the people in the story are. It has shifted my attitude a bit. I thought everyone pretty much knew how to cut a throat, how to cut a finger off. Oh well.


Maybe you could expand it by interspersing another POV. Sometimes when you try to expand something from the inside out, it gets flabby because you're just adding things that don't need to be there. Just a thought.

As for the throat and finger, I guess the challenge would be mental rather than physical!

#20 Pat Megahey

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 09:47 PM

I agree with Cat about your hook. That sentence, "Michael Bonesteel loves money ..." intriques me and makes me want to know what your book is about. Best of luck. Pat




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