Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Query Revision 25

Murder on Music Row

When a spunky thirty-five-year old Nashville hair stylist finds her ex-boyfriend bludgeoned with his own Grammy Award, she enlists an entourage of eclectic friends to untangle the clues to find his killer. MURDER ON MUSIC ROW is a cozy mystery, complete at 81,000 words.

Nan Macomb works her cut-and-color magic in her tiny home salon while gabby clients keep her apprised of the Music City’s latest ‘hair-raising’ gossip. Bombarded by one too many anecdotes about her lover’s cheating heart (and other body parts) she barges into his office only to find him out cold. She moves the Grammy, leaving her fingerprints all over the heavy statuette and becomes a murder suspect when he dies. Her friends rally determined to salvage her career, preserve her reputation, and maybe even solve the crime. If these resourceful women can't foil inept kidnappers, untangle an elaborate embezzlement scheme, and find the solution to an encrypted message, Nan's future might include inmate makeovers—if scissors are permitted in prison.

A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, I live in metropolitan Nashville, Tennessee.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully,

Comments

This is a pretty good query, and I bet it gets requests as is. I like the touches of humor throughout. I do think it can be ratcheted up just a bit in this format, though, and given just a tad more room to sprawl in another.

First, though, I have two questions:

  1. P1 calls the victim her ex-boyfriend, but P2 calls him her lover. Is he an ex or a current?
  2. I'm confused about who all are trying to solve the crime. If Nan's a suspect, has she been charged and is she in jail and it's her friends trying to solve the crime? Or is Nan still out and she's helping her friends? It's not crystal clear for me.
With those questions cleared up, here are some things to consider for the query in this short, mainly 1-paragraph pitch format:
  • Since this is a cozy, I'm assuming your "entourage of eclectic friends" are mainly the women who frequent Nan's hair salon. Marketability-wise, I think going with a tight theme here rather "eclectic friends" might gain you some advantage. Maybe "her cadre of salon clients" or "ecclectic clientele" to tie them together and tie them to a cozy theme?
  • "Apprised of" sounds a bit too sophisticated. Maybe "up to date on"
  • Maybe "her clients rally"
  •  "If scissors are permitted" doesn't quite cut it for me (yes, bad pun). I think it's the "if" clause here throwing me since it seems this is an authorial sentence. Maybe something more along the lines of "...Nan's next makeover might just be her cellmate's."
While some agents prefer this shorter pitch, others like a little meatier query. Another 80-120 words would provide some room to expand on the inept kidnappers, embezzlement scheme and encrypted message, and give the reader a taste of how it all comes together.

11 comments:

Matt said...

It starts off promising, but then it just...ends.

The last few sentences of the plot paragraph are in need of elaboration. How does the embezzlement scheme tie into the murder? Who does Nan suspect to be the real killer? Where do they find this encrypted message?

Avoid generalities, use specifics.

Good job overall. I'd request a partial.

Matt said...

Ohh, I know why this is so short. I just scrolled down and saw the comments in the last post. This query is meant to be enjoyed with a synopsis, am I right?

Still though, a query should flesh out the plot a bit more.

Michelle said...

I really liked the voice of the query.

My only advice is to consider getting the MC's name in the first paragraph. The query shark says get that infomation in there fast with the plot and leave the details like title, genre, and word count for the end.

Also the added bit about the scissors at the end of the second paragraph felt forced. You might drop that and end at inmate makeovers.

Kay said...

REVISED QUERY

When a spunky thirty-five-year old Nashville hair stylist finds Randy, her married, music exec ex-boyfriend, bludgeoned with his own Grammy Award, she and her two best friends decide to untangle the clues to find his killer.

Nan Macomb works her cut-and-color magic in her tiny home salon while gabby clients keep her up-to-date on the Music City’s latest ‘hair-raising’ gossip. Bombarded by one too many anecdotes about her former lover’s cheating heart (and other body parts) she barges into his office only to find him out cold. She moves the heavy statuette and tries to revive him, leaving her fingerprints all over the Grammy. It’s no surprise her name heads the suspect list when Randy dies.

Nan’s cadre of friends and clients rally to help her comb for clues to prove her innocence, preserve her reputation and salvage her career. They aid and abet her break-in to Randy’s house to search for documents he’d told her were there. What they uncover exposes an embezzlement scheme at his company but creates more questions than answers.

When inept kidnappers snatch Nan from Randy’s crowded funeral, she foils their plans and finesses the missing details about the elaborate payroll ruse from these employees. A note is found that leads the police to a dead-end, but Nan, a long-time puzzle enthusiast, discovers an encrypted message buried in the words—a message that could ensure her future makeover subjects won’t be fellow cellmates.

MURDER ON MUSIC ROW is a stand-alone 81,000 word cozy mystery that could be developed into a series. May I send you pages or the complete manuscript?

Matt said...

The only thing I'll say is don't name Randy before Nan. I think the hook works better that way.

Kay said...

Version 3:

When Nan Macomb, a spunky thirty-five-year old Nashville hair stylist finds Randy, her married, music exec ex-boyfriend, bludgeoned to death with his own Grammy Award, she and her two best friends decide to untangle the clues to find his killer.

Nan works her cut-and-color magic in her tiny home salon while gabby clients keep her up-to-date on the Music City’s latest hair-raising gossip. Bombarded by one too many anecdotes about her former lover’s cheating heart (and other body parts) she barges into his office only to find him stone cold dead. She moves the heavy statuette, leaving her fingerprints all over the Grammy. It’s no surprise her name heads the suspect list.

Nan’s cadre of friends and clients rally to help her comb for clues to prove her innocence, preserve her reputation and salvage her career. They aid and abet her break-in to Randy’s house to search for documents he’d told her were there. What they uncover exposes an embezzlement scheme at his company but creates more questions than answers.

When inept kidnappers snatch Nan from Randy’s crowded funeral, she foils their plans and finesses the missing details about the elaborate payroll ruse from these H&S employees. A note is found that leads the police to a dead-end, but Nan, a long-time puzzle enthusiast, discovers an encrypted message buried in the words—a message that could ensure her future makeover subjects won’t be fellow cellmates.

MURDER ON MUSIC ROW is a stand-alone 81,000 word cozy mystery that could be developed into a series. May I send you pages or the complete manuscript?

Phoenix said...

Almost there, Kay!

"...document he'd told her were there." Maybe just"...he'd hidden there."

"... but creates more questions than answers." Maybe "...that point to a possible motive."

"...from these H&S employees." We don't know that Randy's company is H&S. Perhaps sneak that info in earlier.

Jumping to the note is a little confusing. Is the embezzlement scheme not the answer? I took a peek at the synopsis, so I know it isn't, but the query seems to need a sentence to explain that.

"A note is found..." is passive. How about "When a note surfaces that stymies the police, Nan, a long-time puzzle..."

Kay Elam said...

Great comments, Phoenix. Here's the revision. Do you think the transition sentence works?

When Nan Macomb, a spunky thirty-five-year old Nashville hair stylist finds Randy Soleman, her married, music exec ex-boyfriend, bludgeoned to death with his own Grammy Award, she and her two best friends decide to untangle the clues to find his killer.

Nan works her cut-and-color magic in her tiny home salon while gabby clients keep her up-to-date on the Music City’s latest hair-raising gossip. Bombarded by one too many anecdotes about her former lover’s cheating heart (and other body parts) she barges into his office only to find him stone cold dead. She moves the heavy statuette, leaving her fingerprints all over the Grammy. It’s no surprise her name heads the suspect list.

Nan’s cadre of friends and clients rally to help her comb for clues to prove her innocence, preserve her reputation and salvage her career. They aid and abet her break-in to Randy’s house to search for documents he’d hidden there. What they uncover exposes an embezzlement scheme at his company, Hart and Soleman, and points to a possible motive.

When inept kidnappers snatch Nan from Randy’s crowded funeral, she foils their plans and finesses the missing details about the elaborate payroll ruse from these H&S employees. Unfortunately, her chat also convinces her they didn’t kill Randy.

When a note surfaces that found that stymies the police, Nan, a long-time puzzle enthusiast, discovers an encrypted message buried in the words—a message that could ensure future makeovers won’t be on fellow cellmates.

Phoenix said...

Hi Kay:

The good thing is this is down to just finessing word choices, I think.

The bad thing is that it's down to finessing word choices ;o)

Both of your two last paragraphs start with "When"

I know you're using "chat" ironically, but I'm not sure it comes across that way.

Maybe change the first use of Randy in the penultimate paragraph to "her husband's" to remind the reader who Randy is.

I think there needs to be some tie-in with the note to Randy. The way it reads, there doesn't really seem to be a connection. "an apparent suicide note" maybe? Just trying to think of something short that would convey the conundrum uet still tie it all back to Randy...

Kay said...

I absolutely LOVE that you take the time to do this. Thank you. I also love that we're down to finessing word choices. :-) Kay

When Nan Macomb, a spunky thirty-five-year old Nashville hair stylist finds Randy Soleman, her married, music exec ex-boyfriend, bludgeoned to death with his own Grammy Award, she and her two best friends decide to untangle the clues to find his killer.

Nan works her cut-and-color magic in her tiny home salon while gabby clients keep her up-to-date on the Music City’s latest hair-raising gossip. Bombarded by one too many anecdotes about her former lover’s cheating heart (and other body parts) she barges into his office only to find him stone cold dead. She moves the heavy statuette, leaving her fingerprints all over the Grammy. It’s no surprise her name heads the suspect list.

Nan’s cadre of friends and clients rally to help her comb for clues to prove her innocence, preserve her reputation and salvage her career. They aid and abet her break-in to Randy’s house to search for documents he’d hidden there. What they uncover exposes an embezzlement scheme at his company, Hart and Soleman, and points to a possible motive.

Inept kidnappers snatch Nan from her ex-lover’s crowded funeral, but she foils their plans and finesses the missing details about the elaborate payroll ruse from these H&S employees. Unfortunately, her inquest also convinces her they didn’t kill Randy.

When apparent suicide note surfaces that stymies the police. Nan, a long-time puzzle enthusiast, discovers an encrypted message buried in the words—a message that could ensure future makeovers won’t be on fellow cellmates.

Phoenix said...

Yep, I think it's ready to go out into the world!

Just add "an" before "apparent" and change the period after "police" to a comma, and get this baby out there.

Good luck!