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POUND OF FLESH (Horror, Supernatural thiller)


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#1 DAlexWard

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 02:04 PM

As I am working on the last bit of the book, the word count shown in the query is only an estimate but probably not far off, I'll bet. Since this would be my first agent query letter, please have at it and school me!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Agent X,

Beset on all sides by evil, trapped between his abusive father and a murderous presence from beyond the grave, Noah Belton and his mother, Ada, find themselves confronted with terrifying questions: how deeply into the dark will a parent venture to protect her only child and how do you kill that which is already dead?

Noah has to move with his family out of their trailer home; away from all that is familiar to the quiet, imaginative loner. Cedar Banks, the collection of small homes situated on a picturesque lake in the Virginia mountains, proves to be more solitary than he imagined. Apart from the peculiar old property manager who often dresses in Confederate gray, the Beltons are the only residents. The only living residents, Noah comes to realize, for the ability to perceive the restless dead has begun to develop in him and in the shadow of the storied Cross Mountain, there are ample opportunities to hone such a skill.

Hugh Belton’s volatile demeanor worsens, plunging his family into a downward spiral of cruel punishments that he backs up with Old-Testament fanaticism and a rage that has become a beacon for something wicked; the huntsman. This vile, putrid supernatural presence roams the grounds of Cedar Banks, its depraved appetites whetted by the violence of the Belton household. The huntsman begins a campaign of torment against them, shattering their lives with his unholy desires.

Isolated from the world and without a place or person to whom they might turn, every passing day is a deeper descent into a living hell. Ada, battered though she may be, struggles to protect her son from both her husband and the malignant force that invades their home. But what if she could give the huntsman what he wants and, at the same time, be rid of her tyrant husband? Could she even trust such a pact?
Soon, Noah finds himself pitted against an evil made flesh, battling for his mother’s life as well as his own, having learned a hard lesson too late: the devil always gets his due.

POUND OF FLESH is complete at around 90,000 words. It is my first full-length novel, though my work has appeared in several online publications and in the print anthologies Noxious Fragments, A Thousand Faces, Deadlines (from Comet Press) and is scheduled to appear in The Midnight Diner, Volume IV: Wastelands Under the Sun.

I thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

#2 Caterina

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 02:35 PM

As I am working on the last bit of the book, the word count shown in the query is only an estimate but probably not far off, I'll bet. Since this would be my first agent query letter, please have at it and school me!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Agent X,

Beset on all sides by evil, trapped between his abusive father and a murderous presence from beyond the grave, Noah Belton and his mother, Ada, find themselves confronted with terrifying questions: how deeply into the dark will a parent venture to protect her only child and how do you kill that which is already dead? I think this hook is too long and I don't think using a question is the right way about it. Try shortening it down without too many details. You could say, "A boy and his mother are pulled into the dark only to be confronted with the terrible truth they must kill that which is already dead."

Noah has to move with his family out of their trailer home, away from all that is familiar to the quiet, imaginative loner. This sentence reads odd. Cedar Banks, the collection of small homes situated on a picturesque lake in the Virginia mountains, proves to be more solitary than he imagined. Apart from the peculiar old property manager who often dresses in Confederate gray, the Beltons are the only residents. The only living residents, Noah comes to realize, for the ability to perceive the restless dead has begun to develop in him and in the shadow of the storied Cross Mountain where there are ample opportunities to hone such a skill. Last sentence might be better broken into two.

Hugh Belton’s volatile demeanor worsens, plunging his family into a downward spiral of cruel punishments that he backs up with Old-Testament fanaticism and a rage that has become a beacon for something wicked - the huntsman. This vile, putrid supernatural presence roams the grounds of Cedar Banks, its depraved appetites whetted by the violence of the Belton household. The huntsman begins a campaign of torment against them, shattering their lives with his unholy desires.

Isolated from the world and without a place or person to whom they might turn, every passing day is a deeper descent into a living hell. Ada, battered though she may be, struggles to protect her son from both her husband and the malignant force that invades their home. But what if she could give the huntsman what he wants and, at the same time, be rid of her tyrant husband? Could she even trust such a pact?

Soon Noah finds himself pitted against an evil made flesh, battling for his mother’s life as well as his own, having learned a hard lesson too late: the devil always gets his due. Good last sentence, but I might tighten it up a bit.

POUND OF FLESH is complete at around 90,000 words. It is my first full-length novel, though my work has appeared in several online publications and in the print anthologies Noxious Fragments, A Thousand Faces, Deadlines (from Comet Press) and is scheduled to appear in The Midnight Diner, Volume IV: Wastelands Under the Sun.

I thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you.


I hope that helps! =)

#3 DAlexWard

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 03:10 PM

ZombieWhisperer, I thank you for your suggestions and I completely agree with them. This thing has a good deal of problem areas and is a littler verbose in general but this was what I came up with after hours of hacking away and shortening and shortening and shortening. LOL Glad to see that someone else sees the same problem areas I did! Thanks!

#4 DAlexWard

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 03:52 PM

Okay! I think I was able to streamline this a bit more and maybe it reads a littler better. Keep the suggestions coming!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Agent Zero,

In the lonely hills of the Virginia mountains, a mother finds out out just how deep into the darkness she will go to protect her child and a boy must discover how to kill that which is already dead.

Eleven-year-old Noah Belton, has to move with his family out of their trailer home and away from all that is familiar. But Cedar Banks, the collection of small houses situated on a picturesque lake proves to be even more solitary than he had feared. Apart from the peculiar old property manager who often dresses in Confederate gray, the Beltons are the only residents. The only living residents, Noah soon comes to realize. How does he know? The ability to perceive the restless dead has begun to develop in him and in the haunted shadow of Cross Mountain, there are ample opportunities to hone such a skill.

Hugh Belton’s volatile demeanor worsens, plunging his family into a downward spiral of cruel punishments that he backs up with Old-Testament fanaticism and a rage that has become a beacon for something wicked; the huntsman. This vile, putrid supernatural presence roams the grounds of Cedar Banks, its depraved appetites whetted by the violence of the Belton household. It is not long before the huntsman begins a campaign of torment against them, further shattering their lives.

Isolated from the world and without anywhere to turn, every passing day is a deeper descent into a living hell. Ada Belton, battered though she may be, struggles to protect her son from both her husband and the malignant force that invades their home. But what if she could give the huntsman what he wants and, at the same time, be rid of her tyrant husband? Could she even trust such a pact?

Soon, Noah finds himself pitted against an evil made flesh, battling for his mother’s life as well as his own. He’s learned a hard lesson too late: the devil always gets his due.

POUND OF FLESH is complete at around 90,000 words. It is my first full-length novel, though my work has appeared in several online publications and in the print anthologies Noxious Fragments, A Thousand Faces, Deadlines (from Comet Press) and is scheduled to appear in The Midnight Diner, Volume IV: Wastelands Under the Sun.

#5 annierab2

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 03:28 AM

I'm not crazy about the logline, the 'hook" where they're living in the lonely hills of the Virginia mountains, then the next paragraph they're moving from their trailer home. Seems it would read less zigzag, jerking the reader around, if the events were in corrext order. AQC seems extremely fond of log lines. I agree with Query Shark: loglines are of the devil.

And I wonder how an eleven-year-old boy can fight this overwhelming, supernatural evil. Does he have some sort of supernatural power, apart from the ability to see/sense the entity? And if the devil is after him, that would be nearly impossible.

However, it looks to be a good horror story, though i didn't get chills reading the query.

#6 DAlexWard

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 08:36 AM

As far as "the hook" goes, I was understanding that it was to be sort of a one-line teaser and then the synopsis follows which generally follows a chronological order. Is this incorrect?

As to your other questions, annierab2, it's very much about his mother as well as him. But kids can do amazing things, especially in fiction. "Lord of the Flies" and "It" come to mind. I do want it to give chills but I'm finding it difficult to bring the feel of the book into the query letter.

I appreciate your taking the time to share your observations.

#7 DAlexWard

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 02:06 PM

Okay, even before the helpful suggestions I have gotten, something about the previous two versions of the letter really bugged me. However, I think I may have something finally going in the right direction. For my sanity's sake, I hope so!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the haunted shadow of Cross Mountain, a boy and his mother struggle against the evils that assail them from all sides, from this world and beyond.

Noah Belton leaves behind all that is familiar when he moves with his family to Cedar Banks, a quaint collection of homes on a picturesque lake in the Virginia mountains. As if this wasn’t enough upheaval in his young life, he also seems to be developing a new and disturbing skill: communing with the dead. Such a thing won’t keep his father, Hugh, a real Old-Testament disciplinarian, from meting out cruel punishments upon Noah and his mother but it will prove to be more useful than he could have imagined. Because the violence of the Belton household has become a beacon to a bent and restless spirit; the huntsman.

Wandering the shores of Ashwood Lake in an eternal purgatory, the huntsman is a vile, murderous presence who is unable to indulge in death the depraved appetites he had in life. Nevertheless, he begins a campaign of torment against the new residents of his old killing grounds even as Hugh Belton drags his family into a downward spiral of suffering and abuse.

Isolated from the world and without anywhere to turn, Ada Belton struggles to protect her son from both her husband and the loathsome force that has invaded their home. But what if she could give the huntsman what he wants and, at the same time, be rid of Hugh forever? What if she could make a pact with the thing?

Enduring agonies that strain the very limits of human fortitude, Noah and his mother soon find themselves pitted against an evil made flesh in a battle for not only their lives but their souls. Didn’t they know? The devil always gets his due.

POUND OF FLESH is complete at around 90,000 words. It is my first full-length novel, though my work has appeared in several online publications and in the print anthologies Noxious Fragments, A Thousand Faces, Deadlines (from Comet Press) and is scheduled to appear in The Midnight Diner, Volume IV: Wastelands Under the Sun.

#8 Brandi

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 02:12 PM

In the lonely hills of the Virginia mountains, a mother finds out out just how deep into the darkness she will go to protect her child and a boy must discover how to kill that which is already dead.

Eleven-year-old Noah Belton, has to move with his family out of their trailer home and away from all that is familiar. But Cedar Banks, the collection of small houses situated on a picturesque lake proves to be even more solitary than he had feared. Apart from the peculiar old property manager who often dresses in Confederate gray, the Beltons are the only residents. The only living residents, Noah soon comes to realize. How does he know? The ability to perceive the restless dead has begun to develop in him and in the haunted shadow of Cross Mountain, there are ample opportunities to hone such a skill.
(I agree that the trailer home line throws me off. I think you could make this simpler by saying something like, "When eleven-year-old Noah Belton's parents move the him to Cedar Banks, the ....proves to be...
Also, do they move there because of his dad?
I like the "only living residents". Maybe instead of telling us Noah has super-cool ghost perception, you could tell us what it's like for him to sense a ghost?)
Hugh Belton’s volatile demeanor worsens, plunging his family into a downward spiral of cruel punishments that he backs up with Old-Testament fanaticism and a rage that has become a beacon for something wicked; the huntsman. This vile, putrid supernatural presence roams the grounds of Cedar Banks, its depraved appetites whetted by the violence of the Belton household. It is not long before the huntsman begins a campaign of torment against them, further shattering their lives. (If this could tie to the first paragraph a little better, that'd help.)

Isolated from the world and without anywhere to turn, every passing day is a deeper descent into a living hell. Ada Belton, battered though she may be, struggles to protect her son from both her husband and the malignant force that invades their home. But what if she could give the huntsman what he wants and, at the same time, be rid of her tyrant husband? Could she even trust such a pact?

Soon, Noah finds himself pitted against an evil made flesh, battling for his mother’s life as well as his own. He’s learned a hard lesson too late: the devil always gets his due.

I think part of the difficulty might be the character shift in your query. I know it's hard sometimes to pick one line to follow, but for the shortness of a query, it's best to try to choose one character. Since it comes back around to Noah at the end, I wonder if you can tell how his mother's decision affects him? Something like, "Noah's mother makes a deal with the huntsman out of desperation, but Noah discovers (the I assume bad outcome)".

I'm no master query writer to be sure, so take everything as it is; a suggestion. I'd like to know more about what the huntsman does to torment them, I think. That should give you your chill factor. :biggrin:
I'm starting to think writing is a form of masochism, hehe.

#9 DAlexWard

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 02:32 PM

Thanks, Brandi. Check my 3rd version above. I nixed a lot of the awkwardness (I think, hope) and it seems smoother. Let me know what you think.

#10 CarmenE

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 03:47 PM

Hi DAlex:
I love the premise of this. I've made a few suggestions for you. Good luck!

In the haunted shadow of Cross Mountain, a boy and his mother struggle against the evils that assail them from all sides, from this world and beyond.

Noah Belton leaves behind all that is familiar when he moves with his family to Cedar Banks, a quaint collection of homes on a picturesque lake in the Virginia mountains. As if this wasn’t enough upheaval in his young life, he also seems to be developing a new and disturbing skill: communing with the dead. Such a thing won’t keep his father, Hugh, a real Old-Testament disciplinarian, from meting out cruel punishments upon Noah and his mother but it will prove to be more useful than he could have imagined. Because the violence of the Belton household has become a beacon to a bent and restless spirit; the huntsman.
replace with: Unfortunately, such a thing won't spare him from his abusive father, but it will prove to be more useful than he could have ever imagined.

Wandering the shores of Ashwood Lake in an eternal purgatory, the huntsman is a vile, murderous presence who is unable to indulge in death the depraved appetites he had in life. Nevertheless, he begins a campaign of torment against the new residents of his old killing grounds even as Hugh Belton drags his family into a downward spiral of suffering and abuse. I'd drop this because you've already established the abuse.


Isolated from the world and without anywhere to turn, Ada Belton struggles to protect her son from both her husband and the loathsome force that has invaded their home. But what if she could give the huntsman what he wants and, at the same time, be rid of Hugh forever? What if she could make a pact with the thing? I am assuming the story is told from Noah's POV, so I wouldn't shift to his mother's in the query. Maybe start with: At least Noah can count on his mom...and tell what she is doing for him, but by still maintaining it in Noah's voice.

Enduring agonies that strain the very limits of human fortitude, Noah and his mother soon find themselves pitted against an evil made flesh in a battle for not only their lives but their souls. Didn’t they know? The devil always gets his due. Nice last line!

#11 DAlexWard

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 05:12 PM

CarmenE, thank you for the wonderful suggestions. I think a lot of that makes sense. Regarding the Noah vs. Ada point of view, it is written in 3rd person and while Noah is the central character, his mother is gets a fair amount of page time and not always only in a supporting role. Thanks so much!

#12 DAlexWard

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 11:35 AM

Okay, made those changes that CarmenE suggested (except for one, which I can explain further.) Also cleaned up the bio paragraph a little.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the haunted shadow of Cross Mountain, a boy and his mother struggle against the evils that assail them from all sides, from this world and beyond.

Noah Belton leaves behind all that is familiar when he moves with his family to Cedar Banks, a quaint collection of homes on a picturesque lake in the Virginia mountains. As if this wasn’t enough upheaval in his young life, he also seems to be developing a new and disturbing skill: communing with the dead. Unfortunately, such a thing won’t spare him or his mother from his abusive father but it will prove to be more useful than he could have ever imagined. Because the violence of the Belton household has become a beacon to a bent and restless spirit; the huntsman.

Wandering the shores of Ashwood Lake in an eternal purgatory, the huntsman is a vile, murderous presence who is unable to indulge in death the depraved appetites he had in life. Nevertheless, he begins a campaign of torment against the new residents of his old killing grounds.

Isolated from the world and without anywhere to turn, Ada Belton struggles to protect her son from both her husband and the loathsome force that has invaded their home. But what if she could give the huntsman what he wants and, at the same time, be rid of Hugh forever? What if she could make a pact with the thing?

Enduring agonies that strain the very limits of human fortitude, Noah and his mother soon find themselves pitted against an evil made flesh in a battle for not only their lives but their souls. Didn’t they know? The devil always gets his due.

POUND OF FLESH is a Horror/Supernatural Thriller novel complete at around 90,000 words. It is my first full-length novel, though my short stories have appeared in several online publications and in the print anthologies Noxious Fragments, A Thousand Faces, Deadlines (from Comet Press) and another is scheduled to appear in The Midnight Diner, Volume IV: Wastelands Under the Sun.




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