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CHIMERA DAWN

Posted: March 7, 2014 in #crimwrriting, #self publishing
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CHIMERA DAWN.

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CH WHITE CAT 3 new

Paranormal WIP book, crime/thriller. No vampires, no zombies, no werewolves.

 

Zombies crave living flesh

 Vampires need your blood and your soul

 Chimeras want humankind’s extinction


I’m no book designer and the cover blurb needs tweaking, but I produced this as further motivation to write the story. The blurb is far too long and it was my original attempt at a query before I started the story. So it is somewhat different from the pitch below, but it conveys the same message as the query example.

Lethal Journey publisher

Click on the cover to be able to read the full size version.

Note: the cover is not the one that will be used. The cover to be used is at the end of the article.

Writing a thriller query/back cover book blurb.

I’m no expert, but the 5 years I have been writing thrillers, my overall learning curve is now off the scale and way north of where I started. Having said that, however much we learn, there is always room to improve and nothing we do can guarantee success. However, if I could start over, one of the first things I would have done was to research query letters, back cover blurbs and the art of writing a story synopsis, before putting my fingers to the key board to begin writing. ‘Why”? you may ask. ‘I write by the seat of my pants and it works for me.’

‘God luck,’ I say, ‘and long may you prosper.’ However, I would like to wager that 75% of writer’s block comes from writing without a plan. I don’t want to go into planning at this stage, but here’s why I think starting with at least a query and a synopsis helps in banishing writers block. From my own experience, I wrote 50,000 words for a thriller. Around the halfway mark, I ended up in a cul-de-sac with the plot and however much I tried to work it out there was no way to get from A to Z via P without a dreaded reveal. All that hard work ended up on the hard drive, where it will languish forever.

‘So how do you think the query may help?’ you may ask. Here is my take on the subject. Ask yourself if the kernel of an idea has legs for you to run with the story. The time commitment alone suggests that you owe yourself that thought.

‘But I’m thinking of self-publishing,’ you say. ‘What good is a query if I don’t want an agent to represent me?’ My answer to that is to ask why an agent asks for a query. And here, you can discount that they want you to suffer the trial as a kind of homework torture. The query you send to an agent is slightly different to the back cover blurb that the reader sees, but with the same result in mind. The aim is to create interest for them to read on. What I am going to propose is that the query as a tool will help you to develop your idea. Just as an agent reads hundreds of queries a week, a reader has hundreds of books to browse in a bookstore and thousands online, so constructing that query/cover blurb, is what will highlight your writing and skill in creating interest. By preparing a query in advance of commencing, it will stir your own interest and hone in on the basics of the plot that can be developed into a synopsis and then into the full story.

So how do we apply this to a thriller? Here is the way I approach the subject. Consider the following basics. It is not the only way to produce a thriller query and many agents–the same with readers — will have different opinions as to the interest the end product creates and the boxes it checks.

Here goes;

What is your entire story about in one or two tag lines?

Where is it set?

Who is the protagonist and what does he/she want?

What stands in the way of your protagonist getting what they want?

Who is the antagonist and what do they want?

Is there a mystery/secret to discover?

What is at stake that elevates the pitch?

Here is my latest effort for Deadly Journey, followed by my thoughts on why I constructed in the way I am presenting it to you.

—————————————-

Someone wants Rawlings dead. A cartel needs him alive for now, but in chains. Rawlings? He wants to deny them both. Someone has to lose.

D.E.A. Agent Kurt Rawlings has never given more than a cursory thought to what life is like for those criminals he has sent to prison. Even less so if every minute of the day those incarcerated face the fear of death at the hands of others. He wishes he had thought about it, because now he is living it himself.

Assailants, who hold a contract on his life, take Rawlings from the streets of El Paso. When a Mexican cartel buyout the contract, he is transferred across the border. At first, he doesn’t know who is holding him captive or why, but it becomes apparent that this is not a simple kidnap and ransom.

The cartel wants something from him. Something locked in his mind that they are willing to do anything to get a hold of, even if it breaks him in the process. All Rawlings wants, is to be reunited with his family. In captivity, he comes closer to discovering the dreadful secret of who is responsible for the original contract on his life. To confirm his suspicions, he needs to be free if he is to get to the truth and bring them to justice. It will be no easy task. Whoever wants him dead has a long reach and Rawlings’ captivity isn’t going to stop them. It’s going to take all his ingenuity to figure out a plan of escape, but his enemies are on a killing spree—and he’s next in the firing line.

—————————————

Okay, this one is on the long-winded side at 285 words and half a page. Different agents will ask for different lengths, but most want less than 300 words and no more than 1 page. If an agent wanted a shorter length then I would cut the paragraph after the tag lines and consider other cuts to reduce the certain reveals. But, for my purposes, I now have something to work with as the bare bones of a plot, to create a synopsis for me to expand into the full story and the essence a book cover blurb, with tweaks, for if I decide to self-publish.

The initial idea I had was that I wanted two antagonists, quite separate from each other as a means of setting the story apart from the usual one antagonist scenario, but, with one of them providing the overall mystery to solve, with a final chapter reveal as to his/her identity and motive. So I started with … Someone wants Rawlings dead. Of course, I can’t name him/her, or that would give away the reveal.

Someone wants Rawlings dead. A cartel needs him alive for now, but in chains. Rawlings? He wants to deny them both. Someone has to lose.

Rather than one sentence, I chose a number of tag lines that I felt summed up the overall story and conflict. Originally, I had: A gangland hit – A D.E.A. Agent kidnapped. A game of life or death. While this summarized the story I had in mind, I put it to one side as possible wording on the front cover for if I self-published. Basically, the tag lines in the query cover most of what I set out as bullet points above, with the exception of, place. We know what everyone wants, which give the stakes, who the MC is and that there is a likely mystery to solve as to who wants him dead. All I need now is to expand on what stands in his way in the elevator paragraph.

D.E.A. Agent Kurt Rawlings has never given more than a cursory thought to what life is like for those criminals he has sent to prison. Even less so if every minute of the day those incarcerated face the fear of death at the hands of others. He wishes he had thought about it, because now he is living it himself.

These lines serve a number of purposes, besides naming the MC and his occupation. For me it creates the MC’S emotional attachment to the story that will give the story its depth. It also serves to tell the reader that his imprisonment is what he will face as a substantial part of his ordeal. And maybe for them to wonder if they have ever given the same sort of thoughts to what it would be like for them if they were incarcerated and facing death.

Assailants, who hold a contract on his life, take Rawlings from the streets of El Paso. When a Mexican cartel buyout the contract, he is transferred across the border. At first, he doesn’t know who is holding him captive or why, but it becomes apparent that this is not a simple kidnap and ransom.

In this paragraph, we are given the setting. It starts out in El Paso and quickly ends up in Mexico. This also adds to the mystery of someone wanting him dead, with the introduction of the ‘cartel’ (unnamed) and with the MC Not knowing who they are or why they hold him. Further, it implies there is some ulterior motive, other than a kidnap and ransom for holding him.

The cartel wants something from him. Something locked in his mind that they are willing to do anything to get a hold of, even if it breaks him in the process. All Rawlings wants, is to be reunited with his family. In captivity, he comes closer to discovering the dreadful secret of who is responsible for the original contract on his life. To confirm his suspicions, he needs to be free if he is to get to the truth and bring them to justice. It will be no easy task. Whoever wants him dead has a long reach and Rawlings’ captivity isn’t going to stop them. It’s going to take all his ingenuity to figure out a plan of escape, but his enemies are on a killing spree—and he’s next in the firing line.

I think that by now the reader is getting the idea of the genre. This is my elevator pitch and one, which I hope spells out that it is a psychological thriller. The importance of this is that the author needs to know exactly where on the store bookshelf you would place your book to be of interest to those who would buy the genre. In this case, as I have said, it is a psychological thriller,  a sub genre of the thriller. It can have the traits of a mystery and the MC can use physical prowess to overcome his enemies, but the thrust of the narrative is that the antagonist/s seeks to destroy his mind and the MC uses his mental abilities to overcome his tormentors. In my elevator pitch, I have sought to raise the stakes to spell out what the MC faces and how high the stakes are. Even if it hasn’t grabbed the attention of an agent or a reader as yet, at least it has created an outline that I am excited to know how the story progresses for me to continue to the synopsis stage.

This is the blurb I settled on, with a professionally designed cover.

deadly Journey JPG

Click on the cover to be able to read the full size version.

DEADLY JOURNEY is a psychological thriller complete at 113,000 words. To be published shortly.

Useful links on queries.

Authonomy writers site. http://authonomy.com/forums/threads/114075/are-you-about-to-query-your-novel-/?pagenumber=66

Easy to join. Post your queries for other writers to make comment and participate with your own ideas. My own query above has had some useful input from members, for which I am eternally grateful.

Query Shark. http://queryshark.blogspot.com.br/

Worth a look. Read an agents take on how not to write a query, mixed in with a few good examples.


Create Space and Kindle description, simple formatting in HTML examples.


Importance of researching the facts before writing fiction.

How many times have you heard the old cliché? “Fact is stranger than fiction”? Until I started writing I had never really thought about it before, and I blame TV programs such as Myth Buster for stirring me into action on the research front. In truth, it is that and a one star review of one of my short stories, where I had the Vice President of America boarding Air Force One, under the misconception that they were actually named aircraft. The fact is, Air Force One and Two are one of the same, with the descriptions only applied as to who is onboard. Air Force One is the designated name for when the President is onboard and Air Force Two for the Vice President. Okay, so it was no great effort to change the eBook text, but the one star review remains forever and serves as a reminder of the importance of getting things right.

Another cliché that comes to mind and directed at authors’ is, “Write about what you know.” There is a lot of truth in this as research is not as big a deal if you are writing about what you know and love and your knowledge adds authenticity to the read. A good example of this would be the Bravo Two Zero, by Andy McNab, who wrote about his British Special Air Services operation exploits as a memoir. Since then he has gone on to writing fiction thrillers using his expertise in covert operations and weapons to produce a list of best-selling fiction.

“What’s the big deal?” you say “It’s fiction and in fiction we can write what we want.”

“True” I say, Not all readers are intolerant when it comes to stretching the plausible, but if you want to appeal to your market, you have to consider a good percentage of your readers who are well versed in all manner of subjects and even the slightest error of fact will have them toss the sample of the read aside, or they may respond with a bad review.

An example of this would be a gun enthusiast reading your work. Say you write a modern thriller and describe someone firing a Glock 9mil and invoke their sense of smell as experiencing the smell of “Cordite.” There are a number of problems using this description.

1) They stopped using small bore Cordite rounds around the end of the 20th century.

2) It is likely your character would be too young to have ever experienced the smell.

So how would you describe it? The answer is, that if you haven’t fired a gun, then research the subject.

Another example would be safety catches and safety-operational devices of guns and the way different models operate. I wish I had a penny for every time I have seen it described wrong. Research your guns folks. The link above “gun enthusiast” has some good descriptions of how different safety devices work.

“Okay but this is mostly boring stuff about guns.”

Well, yes it is, but let’s look at other examples. For instance, say you want to write about a wildfire in the Pine Mountains to the north of LA. It may be hot where you are for the time of year, but what is the season for likely wildfires in this area. A search of the internet will tell you. You will also be able to find the rescue services response to such events and the names of the equipment used. Who would have known that a bucket dropped into a lake from a helicopter to gather water would be called a Bambi bucket? Bambi bucket sounds just so much more authentic.

One example where I found research of vital importance was when I wrote a short story about Climate Change and the end of life on earth through CO2 poisoning. (The End, or a New Dawn). Here I wanted to have the character experience the death that breathing CO2 would cause and to evoke a sense of dread, or some response in the reader’s mind as to what could happen if the emotive term “Global Warming,” got out of hand and what it would mean physically and mentally before death. Rather that, than use my instinct to write simply that he coughed and spluttered and choked to death. I wanted the description to be medically correct in the depiction of the character’s death and what he would experience. Without research, on the internet I would not have achieved this.

One other thing to consider is that procedures change with technology advances. Ask yourself, does your city police still use a physical identity parade, or show you a number of photos, or do they pop in a computer disk have you watch a slide show. The same question could be asked of fingerprints. Do they still use ink and a roller, or do they digitize your prints from an electronic-pad device direct to a computer?

What can I do other than search the internet?

Well if you are famous, I suppose the FBI, or the local Police department may give you time of day. But for mere mortals there is always the local library, or if you know an expert on the subject in your neighborhood, you could always ask, or even pop into your local police station if you have a question on say procedure. Who knows, you may strike lucky as many people like to talk about their work. The internet is the least time consuming. One tool I have found useful is Google Maps and the street-level view. If you are writing about scenes in a town or city that you are not familiar with, then Google Street View is a useful tool, down to what type of business and other landmarks are around, and what type of trees etc to the type of road surface.

Writing about what you know?

There is no question about it, that if you don’t have the knowledge, that it should not be an impediment to writing about a subject, especially if you are an avid reader of your chosen genre, but if you have first-hand knowledge of the subject, then it places you at an advantage and in some instances it shows in the confident voice of the author that oozes authenticity.

One such author that is a great example of this is British author/ Crime writer, Debbie Bennett, who features on our Book Buzz page and expands on the subject of research in her article. Her latest release is due out soon. Debbie is the author of a number of books, one of which is Hamelin’s Child. Her background in Law enforcement and procedures in the UK, which extends over 25 years, together with knowledge of drugs suppliers/users and their habits, it shines through in one of the most gritty authentic reads I have had in a long time. No wonder it was on the list for consideration by the UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Mine is not to reason why, but at the current sales promotion of 99c (Usual price $2.99) on Amazon kindle, it really is a steal.

Debbie is from England. I first met Debbie on the Harper Collins writers’ site, Authonomy. It was a few years ago when the site first opened and authors’ uploaded their work for critique. I’ll never forget sampling her work and thinking, wow, or the constructive advice she gave me when sampling mine. Her work was at the time streets ahead of the rest.

Here’s an idea of what she has gleaned from those 25 years to help with her work, which I am sure doesn’t even scratch the surface, but at the same time still uses research to keep her up to date.

“It was working with heroin importation that got me thinking about street drugs which led to Hamelin’s Child and the sequel Paying the Piper (which will be out in the next 2 months). I have (literal) hands-on experience with heroin, though I have to be careful how much I say! But I know what it tastes like and smells like, how it gets in the hair and into your clothes. I also have (or had) a working knowledge of police procedure and how custody works – although I’m a bit of out date on that score now, I do still work in police headquarters and have lot of useful contacts. I even asked one of my police mates (who is also a writer) to tell me how modern radio procedure would work and he helped me with a mock conversation that I have used in Paying the Piper.”

So there you are, even those with extensive knowledge of a subject still need to research to keep abreast of procedures. Good luck with your writing and with your research.