Friday, January 29, 2016

Pass Or Pages Entry #5

Welcome to our feedback reveal for Pass Or Pages. In this contest, randomly chosen entries were critiqued by our agent panel. We hope it will give everyone a sense of what is going on in an agent's head as they read queries and first pages. We're so grateful to the members of the agent panel who gave their time to provide feedback on these entries. We'd also like to thank the entrants. It's hard to put yourself out there. Thanks for being brave!



There is no how-to manual for coping with a stalker/killer bent on ruining your life no matter where you try to hide.  Nor is there a manual for dealing with the grief/relief felt after the murder of two ex-husbands[CF1].  Allison Franks really needs both.

A killing crusader known as the "Dirtbag Killer" is relentlessly pursuing Allie no matter where she tries to hide.[CF2] This persistent stalker/killer[CF3] has made her life a living hell.  The recent slaughter of her latest ex-husband, Dirk Daggett, [US1] has ensured law enforcement spot lighting her as the prime suspect and threatens her job as a civil servant with the Indianapolis Police Department.  She risks her life and that of life-long friends[CF4]. James Ivan McArthur, a military criminal lawyer, and Elson Moldavian, ex-lover, and retired syndicate enforcer in an attempt to detour the investigation and get the detectives to focus on someone else. [US2]

Daggett's murder ignites a series of events exposing the secrets of two rival crime syndicates, a crooked FBI agent, as well as her personal killer/crusader.  In a final dramatic encounter,[CF5] Allie comes to grips with her troubled past and her serial killer/stalker while realizing everything we do in life has consequences, both good and bad. 

I'm sending my query in hopes you will consider my novel, LOW FLYING DIRTBAGS, a woman's mystery/domestic noir novel, complete at approximately 82,661 words.

[CF1]This feels like a clich├ęd opening. I see the use of “character could use a manual” in at least a couple queries a month. Find another way to reward what’s going on.

[CF2]Don’t use the same phrase twice in your query

[CF3]Try to limit the use of x/y – pick one term and use it.
[US1] She should just stop getting married, then there would be no killer/stalker.

[CF4]This is awkwardly worded maybe change to “She risks her life and the lives of her life-long friends….”
[US2] Awkward sentences, I would stop here. The way the characters are introduced is confusing.

[CF5]Cut this – we don’t need to know that doesn’t happen until the dramatic encounter and you don’t need to tell us there is one. It is a mystery – they should always end with one.
[LA] I’m passing on this entry. It sounds like it might be interesting but the query is very confusing, so I’m not sure what I’d be getting. I suggest tightening and restructuring so the query so it reads more like a pitch, or an invitation to read, than a summary or synopsis of the book. Focus on the main theme or plot and what is driving the story and the main character(s).

FIRST 250:

Dirk Daggett woke screaming.  He felt as if thousands of fire ants were crawling along the length of his body, biting and gnawing on his flesh.  He shivered while trying to lift a hand to his mouth.  He couldn't move.  He blinked, trying to focus as he realized he was naked and strapped to a metal table.  He screamed again as his pulse beat like a hammer banging into an open wound.  He closed watery eyes and willed himself to wrestle down the panic while trying not to struggle against the restraints knowing it would only intensify his agony. [US]

Dim light filtered through a small grimy window set high on the cinder-block wall above his head.  He smelled mold and mildew and felt an icy chill causing him to shiver again.  It was quiet as a burial ground except for the sound of water slowly dripping.

"Help me!"  Daggett coughed.  His mouth felt cottony and his throat raw.

A soft chuckle snaked through the gloom.

"Please, help me!"

The clip-clop of hard-soled shoes echoed on concrete as overhead florescent bulbs clicked on, flooding the room with light, forcing him to wince from the burning glare. 

Carefully Daggett cracked his lids allowing light to leak into his pupils.  When his eyes finally focused on his captor, he saw sky blue orbs looking at him with curiosity, draped in a loose-fitting, long sleeved, green hospital gown.

[US] I dislike gerunds and there are 8 in one paragraph. Find a better way to describe the action and bring the reader into the story.
[CF] This is a little too familiar. I feel as if I have read a scene just like this before. You may be starting in the wrong place.

Uwe Stender: PASS
Caitie Flum: PASS
Mark Gottlieb: PASS
Lisa Abellera: PASS


  1. Where are there gerunds? I don't see a single one, and I don't see 8 present participle verbs, either, so I'm curious what Mr. Stender's even talking about. I would hope he knows what they are, considering he's calling everybody out on their grammar errors.

  2. I believe Uwe was referring to screaming, crawling, biting, gnawing, trying, banging, trying, knowing. Some people consider overuse of this verb form to be weak writing. Others do not. It's a good example of how personal taste can inform a rejection.


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