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#1 NoNoNoNo

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 12:54 PM

See Post #11 for current version



#2 ddcash80

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 03:06 PM

So I wrote a query for this book four years ago and only just now have gotten it to the point I feel it's ready to go out. Before I pull the trigger I wouldn't mind a few more sets of eyes on the Query. It's (hopefully) fairly polished, but any feedback is appreciated. Happy to look at your stuff in return. Good luck everyone!

 

 

Kind sirs,

 

Brandon Starns is killing people. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but a diagnosis of cancer forces him from his new life in college and back to his small hometown. As his health deteriorates, he dedicates his final months to his only passion in life, social justice. Faking an overseas treatment program, he tries his hand at hunting and killing men involved in the sex trade in Southeast Asia.

 

I would shorten the first paragraph. I like the first line (i.e. hook), but then it falls flat, talking about college, etc. I would try to shorten it and get to the point faster. Maybe:

Brandon Starns is killing people. It wasn't supposed to be this way, but after getting diagnosed with cancer, there's nothing else stopping him from taking his life passion of social justice further, and hunting the sex traders of Southeast Asia.

(still rough, but hopefully you get the idea)

 

Salt Dog (this was a bit jarring, i assume this is a nickname for the MC? I would just continue with Starns. Or say: AKA Salt Dog, he spent the last thirty years....) spent the last thirty years as the hardest-working, hardest-drinking electrician the auto plant had ever seen. Now the self-described redneck and known parrothead must take his retirement pay while it's still on the table. To make things worse, he somehow let the married businesswoman he's sleeping with rent out his house for months. seems unnecessary, if you're looking to trim, i would cut this.

 

Temporarily homeless, jobless, and flush with cash, Salt (is this a nickname for a nickname?) looks to recover from his latest misdeeds roaming the world in search of cheeseburgers in paradise. He meets a kooky group of kindred spirit expats in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and for the first time since his teenage years feels truly alive. The only problem in this newfound Eden is his friends keep turning up dead.

 

The deaths are as fishy as the local cuisine, but police won't investigate and Salt takes it upon himself to uncover the truth. The decision puts him on the trail of a serial killer preying on the strange expatriates who have made this lawless place home. (needs more punch at the end. "hunting a serial killer" is a generic topic that shouldn't be the final sentence. Try looking for some other deep detail or twist in your story. Or saying something like: As Salt gets closer to the trail of the serial killer, he doesn't know whether he's the hunter or prey.)

 

TEMPLE DOGS is a 93,000 word upmarket commercial fiction that deconstructs the narrative around heroes and villains. Told without a sympathetic bias, the dual-narrative follows two ordinary Americans with different generational ethics working to do the right thing as they end up desperately trying to kill each other in the streets of Cambodia.

 

thx and salutations,

Overall, I think it's a good query. I like the first line, as stated above, and think it's a good hook. One thing I thought was weird was that there was no other mention of the sex traders. Maybe that's not a big part of the story, but I was expecting it, since that was the intro.

 

I definitely think the last sentence should be juiced up to match the awesome first sentence. Add some flare or twist and it will improve a lot.

 

Here is my query if you get a chance:

http://agentquerycon...crits/?p=361101



#3 NoNoNoNo

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Posted 29 June 2019 - 03:31 AM

Thanks  ddcash80!

 

Hmm. There's some important feedback here. Most of the line edits I agree with. The biggest issue to me is that I didn't get across that 

 

1. Brandon and Salt are two distinct characters

2. They are both MCs and in direct, mortal conflict with each other.

 

 

 

Told without a sympathetic bias, the dual-narrative follows two ordinary Americans with different generational ethics working to do the right thing as they end up desperately trying to kill each other in the streets of Cambodia.

 

So, this what what I was hoping was the flare or twist that wraps it all up (and also ties back into the sex tourism of the opening.) Do you mind giving me a little more detail about what didn't work for you? What would you like to see in terms of "punch"?

 

My goal is to stand out a little from the standard format, but not so much that an agent doesn't know what's going on. I'd like for them to read that last sentence and suddenly get it, and hopefully get excited. Looks like I've failed in that regard although that hasn't been an issue with other eyes on it so if there are other readers who think it's clear/unclear I'd love to hear from you.

 

I will at the very least be sure to mention this is a dual-pov narrative while introducing myself to prime the pitch.

 

Revised Pitch:

 

Brandon Starns is killing people. It wasn’t supposed to be like this - he was supposed to be in college - but after being diagnosed with cancer he’s faced with either going back to his small hometown or doing something crazy, like taking his life passion for social justice even further by hunting the men involved in the sex trade of Southeast Asia.

 

Salt Dog spent the last thirty years as the hardest-working, hardest-drinking electrician the auto plant had ever seen. Now the self-described redneck and known parrothead must take his retirement pay while it's still on the table. To make things worse, he somehow let the woman having an affair with him rent his house out for months.

Temporarily homeless, jobless, and flush with cash, Salt looks to recover from his latest misdeeds roaming the world in search of cheeseburgers in paradise. He meets a kooky group of kindred spirit expats in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and for the first time since his teenage years feels truly alive. The only problem in this newfound Eden is his friends keep turning up dead.

 

The deaths are as fishy as the local cuisine, but police won't investigate and Salt takes it upon himself to uncover the truth. The decision puts him on the trail of a serial killer preying on the strange expatriates who have made this lawless place home.
 

TEMPLE DOGS is a 93,000 word upmarket commercial fiction deconstructing the narrative around heroes and villains. Told without a sympathetic bias, the dual-narrative follows two ordinary Americans with generationally different concepts of justice struggling to do the right thing as they end up desperately trying to kill each other in the streets of Cambodia.



#4 JoQwerty

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 01:33 AM

I think there is a problem in tone. The first three paragraphs make the story sound like a comedy that veers between slapstick and black humor. Then in the last paragraph you talk about "...deconstructing the narrative around heroes and villains..." which makes the book sound deep and brooding. Try to rewrite the last paragraph in the same tone as the previous paragraphs.



#5 Derrick

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 10:33 AM

Brandon Starns is killing people. It wasn’t supposed to be like this - he was supposed to be in college - but after being diagnosed with cancer he’s faced with either going back to his small hometown or doing something crazy, like taking his life passion for social justice even further by hunting the men involved in the sex trade of Southeast Asia.

 

I read the first version first, then saw the revision. And so I think my next comment might be a product of that. But I think the two red sentences above are too far away from each other to really pack a punch.

 

I'm maybe thinking you don't really need the back story at first. Maybe just starting with "Brandon Starns hunts men involved in the sex trade of Southeast Asia." And here I would put what the stakes are for him. Or, better yet, put something here about Salt Dog.

 

I'm really trying to figure out the hook, so I'm just playing with some concepts in my head and trying to get you to where you hook should be:

 

Something like, "Salt Dog finds paradise after roaming the world, unemployed. But when his new friends keep turning up dead, he is forced to take on the mystery himself. But he'll discover the man he's hunting might be the only form of justice in this new paradise."

 

Salt Dog spent the last thirty years as the hardest-working, hardest-drinking electrician the auto plant had ever seen. Now the self-described redneck and known parrothead must take his retirement pay while it's still on the table. To make things worse, he somehow let the woman having an affair with him rent his house out for months.

Temporarily homeless, jobless, and flush with cash, Salt looks to recover from his latest misdeeds roaming the world in search of cheeseburgers in paradise. He meets a kooky group of kindred spirit expats in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and for the first time since his teenage years feels truly alive. The only problem in this newfound Eden is his friends keep turning up dead.

 

The deaths are as fishy as the local cuisine, but police won't investigate and Salt takes it upon himself to uncover the truth. The decision puts him on the trail of a serial killer preying on the strange expatriates who have made this lawless place home.
 

TEMPLE DOGS is a 93,000 word upmarket commercial fiction deconstructing the narrative around heroes and villains. Told without a sympathetic bias, the dual-narrative follows two ordinary Americans with generationally different concepts of justice struggling to do the right thing as they end up desperately trying to kill each other in the streets of Cambodia.

 

I also have to say, I really don't feel the stakes here. I think it's the execution of the tone of the query. It's just so matter of fact at some points. But what will Salt Dog do when he discovers why his friends are dying? I mean that right there could be the stakes. Is he put up to choice to bring justice to his "friends" or to let justice live out through Starns? Like that right there, if you hinted at it in your query, would make it stronger, imo.


Would you do me the kindness of critiquing my query?


#6 CarterT

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 10:39 AM

Something to consider: write your query about whoever is in chapter 1. I find it really hard to write a strong Multi-POV query if I am trying to fit both/all POVs into it. Focus on one, make that story strong, and then mention in your closing credits that it's multi-POV. But, don't try to explain everything for both characters, you'll end up all over the place and without enough depth for either (in most cases). 



#7 NoNoNoNo

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Posted 09 July 2019 - 12:36 AM

thanks



#8 Aightball

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Posted 09 July 2019 - 09:56 PM

Thanks!

 

I'll look for your posts JoQwerty, Derrick, & CarterT.

 

Take 3:

 

Brandon Starns is killing people. It wasn’t supposed to be like this - he should be in college - but an aggressive sarcoma in his skull has other plans. Now he can either die in his tiny hometown or, for once in his life, do something totally crazy...like, say, take his passion for social justice even further by hunting sex tourists in the developing world. <-- This is quite a long sentence.  I've tried to insert some punctuation to make it better, but I think seeing if you can break it up would be the best way to fix it. BUT I do love your opening line...it drew me right in!

 

Salt Dog spent the last thirty years as the hardest-working, hardest-drinking electrician the auto plant had ever seen. Now the self-described redneck and known parrothead is embarked on a belated journey of self discovery after being forced into early retirement. He hates everything about travel until he meets a kooky group of kindred spirit expats in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For the first time since he was a teenager he feels truly alive. The only problem in this newfound Eden is his friends keep turning up dead.  Is it important for us to know about Salt Dog in the query?  Even though your novel may have two POVs, sometimes it's best to focus on the most important one.  I feel like this doesn't really fit into your query and it causes some confusion when you swing back to Brandon in the next paragraph.  When you open with Brandon, try to continue with Brandon.  If Salt Dog is important enough for the query, perhaps put Brandon first, then make a transition to how the two met or find a way to bring Salt Dog in.

 

Brandon discovers a world more cruel and nuanced than he anticipated, and decides he’s killing for the wrong reasons. But now the lives of the sex workers he’s befriended are in danger and he can’t stop until they’re safe. Meanwhile Salt unravels the threads of a friend’s murder but the police won’t help, leaving only a half-drunk Florida electrician between a community of expatriates and a serial killer.  You open with Brandon is killing people, which is good. It draws the reader in.  I think the sentence I mentioned that was too long should be re-written now I'm further down in your query.  Perhaps say he's taking his social justice overseas or something.  Tie the opening paragraph to this one so everything flows and makes sense.  Right now, I'm confused as to how Brandon go to Cambodia to befriend Salt Dog.

 

Each stumble through an unfamiliar world of sex and violence guided only by their stubborn determination to do the right thing, which leaves them desperately trying to kill each other in the streets of Cambodia.  So...what are your stakes?  What happens is thing A goes all wrong?  I like that you describe their journey here, but I'm not sure trying to kill each other is good enough stakes.  You need to make us care here...this is your last chance to sell the agent on your novel.

 

TEMPLE DOGS is crime fiction (pick one genre) complete at 93,000 words commercial/crime fiction. Told without a sympathetic bias, the dual-narrative follows two ordinary Americans with generationally different concepts of justice trying to deal with a world bigger than they ever prepared for.

 

I think your novel sounds interesting...but the query is not quite there yet.  I made note of the things that confused me or threw me off and hopefully my notes are helpful =).  Interested to see the revision!


Most girls are made of
sugar and spice and everything nice; they
screwed up the recipe for me: I'm made of
bat wings and broken things.

Query: http://agentquerycon...-urban-fantasy/

Blog: http://aightball.wordpress.com

Synopsis:

Twitter Hook(s):

Short Story "Anguish", in Winter's Regret: http://www.amazon.co...winter's regret

aertja.jpg


#9 London C

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 07:18 PM

Thanks!

 

I'll look for your posts JoQwerty, Derrick, & CarterT.

 

Take 3:

 

Brandon Starns is killing people. It wasn’t supposed to be like this - he should be in college - but an aggressive sarcoma in his skull has other plans. Now he can either die in his tiny hometown or for once in his life do something totally crazy, like say take his passion for social justice even further by hunting sex tourists in the developing world. (I'm not sure if would add something or just take up space, but perhaps mention why this is the cause he's chosen—reading the query again, I think you need to establish the why for it to fit with the conflict with Salt Dog at the end).

 

Salt Dog spent the last thirty years as the hardest-working, hardest-drinking electrician the auto plant had ever seen. Now the self-described redneck and known parrothead is embarked on a belated journey of self discovery after being forced into early retirement. He hates everything about travel until he meets a kooky group of kindred spirit expats in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For the first time since he was a teenager he feels truly alive. The only problem in this newfound Eden is his friends keep turning up dead.(Great, economical character sketch)

 

Brandon discovers a world more cruel and nuanced than he anticipated, and decides he’s killing for the wrong reasons. But now the lives of the sex workers he’s befriended are in danger and he can’t stop until they’re safe. Meanwhile Salt unravels the threads of a friend’s murder but the police won’t help, leaving only a half-drunk Florida electrician between a community of expatriates and a serial killer.

 

Each stumble through an unfamiliar world of sex and violence guided only by their stubborn determination to do the right thing, which leaves them desperately trying to kill each other in the streets of Cambodia.

 

TEMPLE DOGS is a 93,000 word commercial/crime fiction. Told without a sympathetic bias, (To me, that makes it sound like you will have shallow characterizations) the dual-narrative follows two ordinary Americans with generationally different concepts of justice trying to deal with a world bigger than they ever prepared for.

 

I think this is a lot closer to done than Aightball. While I want to know more about why Brandon chose this mission as his last time on earth thing, you set up conflicting agendas well and paint a clear picture of how it will lead to violence.


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques


#10 jpfranco

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 10:20 AM

So I wrote a query for this book four years ago and only just now have gotten it to the point I feel it's ready to go out. Before I pull the trigger I wouldn't mind a few more sets of eyes on the Query. It's (hopefully) fairly polished, but any feedback is appreciated. Happy to look at your stuff in return. Good luck everyone!

 

 

Kind sirs,

 

Brandon Starns is killing people. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but a diagnosis of cancer forces him from his new life in college and back to his small hometown. As his health deteriorates he dedicates his final months to his only passion in life, social justice. Faking an overseas treatment program he tries his hand at hunting and killing men involved in the sex trade in Southeast Asia. The first sentence is an attention grabber, but the next couple are kind of meh. I'd focus more on the killing and the targets. I also think you need to stick to Salt, since he's the bulk of the query. It's jarring to go from one to the other. The immediate switch may stop agents right there, since you are totally leaving them hanging there with the whole vigilante thing. 

 

Salt Dog spent the last thirty years as the hardest-working, hardest-drinking electrician the auto plant had ever seen. Now the self-described redneck and known parrothead I'm a huge Parrot Head myself but I think you should leave this out. There's not room in the query for everything, so you've got to keep it as tight as possible. His music choices don't matter to the plot.  must take his retirement pay while it's still on the table. To make things worse, he somehow let the married businesswoman he's sleeping with rent out his house for months. This para doesn't do much for me. You need to grab the agent and make him care about Salt. This doesn't do it. 

 

Temporarily homeless, jobless, and flush with cash, Salt looks to recover from his latest misdeeds roaming the world in search of cheeseburgers in paradise. lose the tie-in. It won't make sense unless they are Jimmy Buffett fans and is  essentially meaningless anyway He meets a kooky group of kindred spirit expats in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and for the first time since his teenage years feels truly alive. The only problem in this newfound Eden is his friends keep turning up dead. Still not doing it for me. What misdeeds? What is making him feel alive? Show one of them turning up dead here instead of telling about it. e.g. When he finds character name in a pool of his own blood... (Don't use that line, it's just the first thing that came to my head)

 

The deaths are as fishy as the local cuisine, this is a good line but police won't investigate and Salt takes it upon himself to uncover the truth. The decision puts him on the trail of a serial killer preying on the strange expatriates who have made this lawless place home. There are no stakes. What happens to Salt if he fails to find the killer? What he wants is there, vaguely. 

 

TEMPLE DOGS is a 93,000 word upmarket commercial fiction that deconstructs the narrative around heroes and villains. No no no. I made this mistake too, in the beginning. You don't tell the agent what it's about. I know it's important to you, but you have to show it in your query. Told without a sympathetic bias, the dual-narrative follows two ordinary Americans with different generational ethics working to do the right thing as they end up desperately trying to kill each other in the streets of CambodiaThis doesn't belong, either. 

 

thx and salutations,

 

Dual POV queries are frowned upon. I know because mine is one. I can't not have both POVs in mine, but I think you can. It's already 90% about Salt anyway. 

 

You've got an interesting study in human nature here. You've got someone who is young and has cancer. The reader feels bad for him. He decides to do the wrong thing, but we kind of understand why (I'm seeing shades of Walter White). Then we've got Salt, who we are supposed to see as someone who's been kind of shit on by his company and his lover, so we feel bad for him, but then he goes off and rediscovers himself and that's cool, but he's friends with (I guess) a bunch of the scum of humanity, and he's defending them. I can't get behind him defending them, even if he doesn't know how horrible they are. They sound offbeat and quirky, so it's hard to see them as child predators/slavers/whatever. 

 

I think you honestly can leave out why Salt ends up in Cambodia. Just start with him being an expatriate there. The query isn't a synopsis, it's like a movie trailer. The whole plot doesn't fit, it's got to be just enough to grab you. Start with the absolute bare bones and then sprinkle in a little bit of voice and excitement. The formula is character, plot, stakes: Killer cancer patient + laid back, partying electrician, murders for justice, stakes for both characters. Make the stakes more than your basic life or death. All stakes are pretty much life or death. Make yours stand out. 

 

Make sure you do not waste your fellow author's time by putting a newer version of the critique deep in the thread. I don't read other critiques until I write my own, usually, and if I find a newer version buried somewhere it's very irritating. Either note at the beginning where to find the updated version or always update on the first post. 

 

Good luck, I think there's a gem here that needs a thorough polish

 

If you'd like further guidance, you can find me at jpfrancoedits.com 

 



#11 NoNoNoNo

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 11:23 AM

I suppose I should update this. I keep hearing I should focus on one POV, and it's very valid feedback (even if I thought it wasn't the repetition says otherwise.)

 

I can't/won't focus on one POV. The conceit of the book is that there are two main characters with equal page time, they are in a struggle against each other. That's the thing I'm pitching - one story told from both the protagonist and antagonist POVs without playing any favorites...in an ambiguous enough setting that neither has the moral high ground they think they do but both are completely sympathetic and feel fully justified.

 

This of course needs to be conveyed in the pitch, and until I figure out exactly how to do that I'm wasting everyone's time. I'll gray out everything but my latest...although it's not quite getting the essence across yet.

 

(I will return critiques, sorry for the delay)

Revision: 

 

Brandon Starns shouldn’t be killing people. He was supposed to be in college. But an aggressive sarcoma in his skull leaves him to either die in his tiny hometown or for once in his life do something crazy...like, say, take his passion for social justice a step further by hunting sex tourists in the developing world. 

 

Salt Dog was never looking for paradise. Forced into an early retirement, the hard-working hard-drinking electrician embarks on a belated journey of self discovery. He hates everything about travel until the day he meets a kooky group of kindred spirit expats in Phnom Penh. For the first time since his teenage years he feels truly alive. The only problem in this newfound Eden is his friends keep turning up dead.

 

Brandon is better at dropping targets than picking them, and his first kill leaves him with second thoughts. But the sex workers he’s befriended beg him to resume his mission when one of them is forced to marry a violent sociopath. Meanwhile Salt brings the police evidence of his friend’s murder and is threatened with deportation for his trouble.

 

Both men must defend their adopted community in an unfamiliar world of sex and violence, guided only by their stubborn sense of justice. But justice for one means death for the other. 

 

TEMPLE DOGS is a 93,000 word dual-narrative crime fiction that explores generational ethics and stretches the concept of hero and villain.



#12 Derrick

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 12:09 PM

I'm fine with the dual POV. As you can see, I put dual POV in my query, and it really isn't even dual POV. I just did it for clarity of the query.

 

My issue is that I just don't think you hook is packing as much punch as it could. I think you are starting with backstory more than the premise.

 

I think the hook could be something like,

 

Salt Dog finds paradise after roaming the world, unemployed. But Salt Dog's paradise is Brandon Starns' hunting grounds. When Salt Dog's friends start showing up dead, he is forced to take on the mystery himself. But he'll discover Brandon might be the only form of justice in this new paradise.

 

Something like that. If it's dual, put both in your hook. But what should really shine in your hook is the overall premise.

 

Answer this up front:

 

1) Who? Brandon AND Salt Dog

2) Incident? Brandon is killing people

3) What do they need to do? Salt Dog wants to catch Brandon

4) What happens if he doesn't?

 

I think once you nail your hook, you can tweak the rest of the query to fit. I think a lot of the pieces are there, but just not in the right order to catch my interest right away.


Would you do me the kindness of critiquing my query?


#13 London C

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Posted 14 July 2019 - 11:01 AM

I suppose I should update this. I keep hearing I should focus on one POV, and it's very valid feedback (even if I thought it wasn't the repetition says otherwise.)

 

I can't/won't focus on one POV. The conceit of the book is that there are two main characters with equal page time, they are in a struggle against each other. That's the thing I'm pitching - one story told from both the protagonist and antagonist POVs without playing any favorites...in an ambiguous enough setting that neither has the moral high ground they think they do but both are completely sympathetic and feel fully justified.

 

This of course needs to be conveyed in the pitch, and until I figure out exactly how to do that I'm wasting everyone's time. I'll gray out everything but my latest...although it's not quite getting the essence across yet.

 

(I will return critiques, sorry for the delay)

Revision: 

 

Brandon Starns shouldn’t be killing people. He was supposed to be in college. But an aggressive sarcoma in his skull leaves him to either die in his tiny hometown or for once in his life do something crazy...like, say, take his passion for social justice a step further by hunting sex tourists in the developing world. 

 

Salt Dog was never looking for paradise. Forced into an early retirement, the hard-working[comma] hard-drinking electrician embarks on a belated journey of self discovery. He hates everything about travel until the day he meets a kooky group of kindred spirit expats in Phnom Penh. For the first time since his teenage years he feels truly alive. The only problem in this newfound Eden is his friends keep turning up dead.

 

Brandon is better at dropping targets than picking them, and his first kill leaves him with second thoughts. But the sex workers he’s befriended beg him to resume his mission when one of them is forced to marry a violent sociopath. Meanwhile Salt brings the police evidence of his friend’s murder and is threatened with deportation for his trouble.

 

Both men must defend their adopted community in an unfamiliar world of sex and violence, guided only by their stubborn sense of justice. But justice for one means death for the other. 

 

TEMPLE DOGS is a 93,000 word dual-narrative crime fiction that explores generational ethics and stretches the concept of hero and villain.

 

 

Nice improvement over the last draft. I'm a little split on Derrick's advice. I think this suggests what the story is well (without reading the novel, at least), but the hook is all about Brandon. If you can figure out a way to pull both Brandon and Salt Dog into the opening, it may be stronger.


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques





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