Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Query 72

My Father's Blood

For Frank McAllister, being a cop in Philadelphia is hard enough without being the son of Preston O'Hannon, the city's most notorious and powerful Mafia boss. His mother never even mentioned Preston's name or Frank's special heritage until he hit puberty, grew four feet, gained three hundred pounds of muscle, and his skin turned to stone during summer vacation. "Oh, by the way son, you're half troll," just never came up in the preceding twelve years.

For twenty three years, Frank has kept himself distanced from his heritage and the Three Families, or he thought he had. War between the Families has been brewing for centuries. When Frank's partner, Joe Laren, is kidnapped, however, Frank is pulled into the middle of the stalemate. To top things off, Internal Affairs believes Frank is involved in Joe's kidnapping. They suspend him pending investigation and send him home. When he gets in, he finds Joe's severed finger in a box on his kitchen counter and a card with a phone number.

The kidnappers instruct Frank to bring them evidence from the lockup at the precinct in exchange for Joe's life. Frank agrees and takes the evidence to the drop, but is attacked by a gunman and looses it. Now Frank has to find Joe before the kidnappers kill him or IA arrests Frank for kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and murder. And he has do it without sparking a war between the Families that would tear the city apart - literally.

MY FATHER'S BLOOD is a completed modern fantasy of 80,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.

Comments

Hmm. You give us an interesting premise in the first paragraph, but then don't capitalize on any of the hooky bits in the rest of the query. Once the story gets rolling here, I'm wondering why Frank is half troll at all since it doesn't seem to lend to the plot. Nor do I get a good idea about how the Families are involved. Or even that they are all involved until the last sentence and suddenly the stakes revolve around them.

Also, as there's a sharp contrast between that first paragraph and the rest, it feels like this is a story unsure of its genre and its audience.

We can infer that O'Hannon must be a troll and that maybe this mafia is an all-troll criminal unit, but something to confirm that would be helpful, I think. The first thing that popped into my mind reading this was a Hellboy-like figure out fighting crime, but instead of a lone troll facing the scum of the city, he's facing off against a crime syndicate full of trolls. Is that the world I should be envisioning?

For Frank McAllister, being a cop in Philadelphia is hard enough without being the son of Preston O'Hannon, the city's most notorious and powerful Mafia boss. His mother never even mentioned Preston's name or Frank's special heritage until he hit puberty, grew four feet, gained three hundred pounds of muscle, and his skin turned to stone during summer vacation. "Oh, by the way son, you're half troll," just never came up in the preceding twelve years.

This is a good paragraph on its own, but paired with the more thrilleresque story in the next paragraphs, it seems out of place -- it comes across more YAish and humorous. That's the expectation I have going into the rest of the query and why I'm confused as I continue reading and the tone changes abruptly.

For twenty three years, Frank has kept himself distanced from his heritage and the Three Families, or he thought he had.

So Frank's 35, right? How has he been able to keep distanced from being what he is? Is he not OK being a troll? Or is he accepting like Ben Grimm finally became as The Thing? I'm not getting a good feel of Frank as troll. There's so much character that I think you can bring to this query, but Frank sort of turns into the typical set-up cop on the run.

War between the Families has been brewing for centuries. When Frank's partner, Joe Laren, is kidnapped, however, Frank is pulled into the middle of the stalemate.

A little more clarity around why the War is coming to a head now and why Joe has been kidnapped would be good. Is the evidence or Frank the real target of the kidnapping?

To top things off, Internal Affairs believes Frank is involved in Joe's kidnapping. They suspend him pending investigation and send him home. When he gets in, he finds Joe's severed finger in a box on his kitchen counter and a card with a phone number.

The pacing slows here. We don't need to know the details of this scene: that he goes home, gets in, the kitchen counter, card and phone number are all unnecessary.

The kidnappers instruct Frank to bring them evidence from the lockup at the precinct in exchange for Joe's life. Frank agrees and takes the evidence to the drop, but is attacked by a gunman and looses it.

By spending time going through the instructing and exchanging and agreeing and taking, a reader could start getting the impression there isn't much real meat to the story. Providing some more background on the Family and their intentions and giving the reader a taste of what Frank can/can't do as a troll would make things more exciting and help build out your world a bit more. And does Frank being O'Hannon's son specifically play into this? Tie the reader back into the things you laid out in P1.

And it's "loses" of course.

Now Frank has to find Joe before the kidnappers kill him or IA arrests Frank for kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and murder. And he has do it without sparking a war between the Families that would tear the city apart - literally.

Why would his actions (simply finding Joe and getting him out, which the query indicates is what he wants to do) spark a war?

MY FATHER'S BLOOD is a completed modern fantasy of 80,000 words.

I'd go with contemporary or urban fantasy.

Thank you for your consideration.

6 comments:

Matt said...

If I were pitching this to movie execs, I would say, "Shrek meets Law and Order." But I get the feeling that this is more of a Hell-Boy thing, so the overall tone of the novel needs to be made clear, meaning I want a snapshot of the troll's personality. You can show his personality through active decisions.

The current query shows him as passive, which is to say that everything happens to him -- he avoids the Families until his partner is kidnapped, IA is after him, the kidnappers give him instructions which he follows, he is attacked by a gunman.

Does Frank always look like a troll or is he a were-troll?

Phoenix raised the most important point: how does Frank's being a troll set this apart from cut-and-paste cop dramas?

vkw said...

They suspend him pending investigation and send him home. When he gets in, he finds Joe's severed finger in a box on his kitchen counter and a card with a phone number.

Could be written

He's suspended and sent home where Joe's severed finger is waiting along with instructions on how to save him.

The voice sounds very YA - middle schoolish to me in the first paragraph.

Since that doesn't sound important cut it and fit the details.

like - "messing with Frank is a bad idea not only does he have the ability to . . . . because he's half troll but he also is the son of the notorious gangster O'Hannon"

I get they took Joe to get Frank to get the evidence for them. I imagine any old cop could have been chosen? Right? So really there's nothing special about Frank? Or is there? Tell us we want to know, cause right now it sounds like the book could be, "Frank's mother tells him when he turns 18 that he is the son of the notorious gangster O'Hannon - that's why he has red hair."

In your world - does everyone have four feet? Or does Frank disguise that somehow?

AA said...

@vkw: Four feet! LOL!

Author: Really, you've chosen to tell us all the uninteresting stuff and hardly any of the interesting stuff. Why did you make that choice?

Here's what I mean: "War between the Families has been brewing for centuries." This suggests nothing is likely to happen anytime soon. Why this century?

"Frank is pulled into the middle of the stalemate." What in the world do you do if you're in the middle of a stalemate? Play cards? Movie marathon?

"They suspend him pending investigation and send him home." People who work at McDonald's get suspended and sent home, too.

The severed finger thing is interesting, but the rest of the sentence is banal. "Kitchen counter" + "phone number" makes me think he ordered out for pizza before he called 911.

"The kidnappers instruct Frank..." No comment. Still yawning.

The attack sparks an interest, and kidnapping and murder, sure- but tampering with evidence? Does that really belong in that sentence?

Come to think of it, I don't see how they could arrest him for murder if there's no evidence Joe is dead. Assuming this is referring to Joe.

We do need to know more about this crime syndicate than that they're notorious gangsters. That in itself is too cliche'. What makes them INTERESTING notorious gangsters?

Ryan Mueller said...

You're calling this a fantasy novel, but apart from the fact that Frank is half-troll, I don't see fantasy.

As this query is written now, the troll part sounds useless. The actual story starts in the second paragraph. If you started it, "Philadelphia cop Frank McAllister has distanced himself from his heritage and the Three Families for twenty three years," it would get across everything that seems important from the first paragraph.

If there is some reason his being half-troll makes this interesting, put it in the query.

Questions I have from reading this query:

Are there other fantasy elements beside trolls?

Is this some kind of alternate reality, or have the trolls always been able to conceal themselves (highly unlikely)?

Is O'Hannon involved in the kidnapping plot? You mention him in the first paragraph and never mention him again. The way you set it up right now, I leave the first paragraph thinking O'Hannon is the antagonist.

Jo-Ann said...

Like the other commenters said, author, you failed to capitalize on the most interesting aspect of Frank's life.

I can see the advantages for a cop to be unnaturally tall, muscular with stone-like skin, but I was wondering who else might have noticed? His partner? Or does he have a clever stylist?

BTW, I read this after consoling a friend who'd broken up with his "partner", so I briefly interpreted that word in your query as a gay thing. But regardless of which type of partner Joe was (let's not be prejudiced here, he could have been both), it would have been freaky to find his severed finger in the kitchen -so my interst was rekindled at that point.

The word "literally" always sets my teeth on edge, but I guess if trolls were involved, then the city might well get dismantled.

Are all of the warring Three Families trolls? How do they relate to humans - well, other than mating with them and producing half-troll offspring? Is Frank somehow unique or are half-trolls common in Philadelphia?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I think a card or a phone number would be enough in the box with the sliced digit. Both seems a little obsessive/overkill to me.

I have a hard time blending the half troll with the present day detective thing and a ongoing war taking centuries and the Mafia.

The query is set in contemporary time. The time triangulation isn't a good fit for me.

The troll thing is great, but how does that work with the rest of the world you've created?

"Literally" doesn't give the impact you are going for, in my opinion.

It means word for word giving me visuals of creatures ripping up roads and knocking down buildings.

You've got the makings of a strong start.