Author Topic: LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - NEW Updated query in post 27  (Read 467 times)

Offline mikepellegrini

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 12
« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2019, 07:53:44 PM »
Thanks, those are interesting, helpful edits.

I like what you've written and while it doesn't actually fit my novel, it's given me some ideas on how to re-frame my query. 

I'll give it another go.


Offline mikepellegrini

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 12
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2019, 05:31:24 PM »
OK, here's another go.  I re-framed the query to focus solely on the action taking place in the first part of the book - how Mark and Gail get together.

I discarded that approach starting out because if you look only at what takes place in the first section of the book, the result reads more like a romance.  Which I suppose it could be but the balance of the book is more about dealing and addiction, as well as their relationship.

That's always been one of my key problems - how to categorize the book.  It really doesn't fit in any particular genre.  I haven't found any comparables at all.  It is character-driven, commercial fiction or maybe literary fiction.

*******************

LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN is an 89,000-word character-driven, commercial novel about love, weed and alcoholism.  It’s set in 1974.

Ask anyone and they'll you Mark Roosevelt's a nice guy – he’s one of those people who just wants to please everyone.  Twenty-two years old, he’s a gifted, aspiring rock musician with dreams of making it big.  Currently between bands, he hitchhikes from Seattle down to Monterey, California to look up an old flame, Gail Loughlin.  He’s been infatuated with Gail since the summer they spent together four years ago, just out of high school. 

The hippie daughter of a wealthy San Francisco deputy DA, Gail’s a chronic overachiever.  She’s smart as sh**, highly motivated and can drink almost anyone under the table.  Rebelling against her dad, she’s dropped out of Stanford passing up a law degree to work as a bartender. 

Together again, Mark thinks he might be falling in love.  But when he finds out Gail’s dealing weed on the side, and after playing with a local musician, Mark realizes Monterey is the perfect place for him:  he could pursue his music and be with the woman of his dreams – and, maybe even help her deal weed.  A fantasy come true.  Almost.

The reality is he’s got three weeks to get back to Seattle for his next National Guard meeting.  And while they’re having fun and Gail’s loving and affectionate, she seems ambivalent about him staying for more than a short visit. 

Mark’s always been in awe of Gail.  She’s just too good-looking, too rich, and too smart.  More than anything, he’d love to stay with her – and he thinks it’s possible the Guard might give him a transfer to Monterey.   But insecure and scared she’ll reject him, he's afraid to broach the subject.  Unable to find his courage, Mark’s resigned to losing his love and returning to Seattle.  Then one of her old boyfriends assaults them and everything begins to change for the better.

Thanks for your consideration. 


Any critiques?

Offline Tigerlily1066

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 16
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2019, 07:29:06 PM »
Hi, Mike. It's clear you can write. Your sentences have a lovely flow to them while maintaining an edgy vibe that's intriguing. I'm afraid my issue is still the same: I do not understand the stakes of your novel as presented in the query. In a romance, the stakes are obviously: will the main couple get together? In literary fiction, the stakes are about a character or characters who need to make a change or else (something). The something can be loss of a meaningful relationship, loss of position in the community, loss of self in some way. Lots of possibilities but there needs to be something at stake. I am not sure what change Mark needs to make. What is his journey? What happens if he fails? Why is this story being told through his eyes?

The or else (something) is still what's missing from your query.

Offline Marysia

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 16
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2019, 10:47:48 PM »
Hi there. :) I'm obsessed with music and love stories about musicians, so already, you've got my interest with this story. :) I write SFF, but I, too, focus on character-driven stories in my writing and interpersonal relationships, so I'll do my best to take a stab at your query here.

LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN is an 89,000-word character-driven, commercial novel Earlier you said it was literary. Difference between the two? Does it have a literary style?about love, weed and alcoholism.  It’s set in 1974.

Ask anyone and they'll you Mark Roosevelt's a nice guy – he’s one of those people who just wants to please everyone.  Twenty-two years old, he’s a gifted, aspiring rock musician with dreams of making it big.  Currently between bands, he hitchhikes from Seattle down to Monterey, California to look up an old flame, Gail Loughlin.  He’s been infatuated with Gail since the summer they spent together four years ago, just out of high school.  Good job setting up Mark and Gail's past; I'm not sure you need the last sentence.

The hippie daughter of a wealthy San Francisco deputy DA, Gail’s a chronic overachiever.  She’s smart as sh**, highly motivatedconsider a double dash here for dramatic effect since the "drinking" problem is in direct conflict with her intelligence and type-A personality and can drink almost anyone under the table.  Rebelling against her dad, she’s dropped out of Stanford comma herepassing up a law degree to work as a bartender.  If she's such an overachiever, is it shocking to Mark that she's dropped out of Stanford? That's not something overachievers usually do.

Together again, Mark thinks he might be falling in love. Cut first sentence and start with "When..." But when he finds out Gail’s dealing weed on the side, and after playing with a local musician, Mark realizes Monterey is the perfect place for him:  he could pursue his music and be with the woman of his dreams – and, maybe even help her deal weed. why would he want to? To make money so he can support his art? A fantasy come true.  Almost.

The reality is he’s got three weeks to get back to Seattle for his next National Guard meeting.  And while they’re having fun and Gail’s loving and affectionate, she seems ambivalent about him staying for more than a short visit. 

Mark’s always been in awe of Gail.  She’s just too good-looking, too rich, and too smart.  More than anything, he’d love to stay with her – and he thinks it’s possible the Guard might give him a transfer to Monterey.   But insecure and scared she’ll reject him, he's afraid to broach the subject.  Unable to find his courage, Mark’s resigned to losing his love and returning to Seattle.  Then one of her old boyfriends assaults them and everything begins to change for the better.The boyfriend assaulting them ratchets up the tension, but then you say that everything changes for the better--it seems to take the wind out of your sails. Consider cutting that last phrase and rewriting the part about the assault so that the stakes are as high as they can be, leaving us with a cliffhanger.

Thanks for your consideration. 

I think JeanneG gave you excellent advice on how to improve your various queries, and I'm in awe of the way she rewrote your query to really focus on what Mark wants out of a relationship with Gail, and why the weed dealing becomes problematic. I know that you said it's not exactly in line with your plot, but I would recommend (even as a thought experiment) to use her query letter and fill in the blanks with plot points appropriate to your novel, just to see how it works.

People keep mentioning that they don't know what the stakes are. I don't know about that; I'm an aspiring Author with a capital A who takes way too long to finish her books and wastes a lot of time playing video games. I think I can understand a good deal of Mark's anxiety and the tension in this story.  :wag:  ;D Let me see if I have this right: Mark wants to be a musician. He also wants Gail. He would like not to have to worry about money, and--happy coincidence--Gail's drug dealing gives him a way to get rich quick while dating her. What's the part that starts giving him anxiety? The fact that her addictions are affecting his productivity with making music? Is the drug dealing getting in the way to the point where it's jeopardizing the music? I'm guessing that's one of his problems? Is he also disappointed that Gail is no longer the same driven young woman he used to love? And, of course, the ex boyfriend is another source of tension for them as well. I think if you focus on Mark the Aspiring Musician vs. Mark the Nobody Drug Dealer, you'll have a very relatable conflict. I get plenty of nightmares thinking about Marysia the Writer with 10 published fantasy novels under her belt vs. Marysia the Penniless Zelda Addict, forced to teach remedial English forever.  ;D Good luck

Offline Marysia

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 16
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2019, 10:56:26 PM »
A million posters, a million opinions. Honestly, I hate writing queries myself. Everyone's given such good feedback IMO, but ultimately it's up to you to figure out what fits and what doesn't. I really do wish you the best of luck, and please keep posting updated queries if you'd like the community to keep looking at them. :)

Online JeanneG

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 16
« Reply #20 on: September 13, 2019, 11:05:53 AM »
Marysia,

Boy, can I relate!  ;D

JeanneG
Debut novel, BLOOD OF A STONE (Tuscany Press) released in March 2015; winner of IPPY in national category of religious fiction and currently a finalist for IAN Book of the Year. My work-in-progress: THE DOUBLE SUN.
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Offline mikepellegrini

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 16
« Reply #21 on: September 13, 2019, 12:02:22 PM »
Hey thanks, Marysia.   Thanks for the compliments!   I like your edits.

I spent several days looking at JeanneG's re-write and how it could be adapted to my book but it just isn't possible because the elements of my novel are just too different.  Great re-write but I can't use it (I did use bits and pieces). 

To the other points you raised:  I am unsure of what category the book belongs in.  It is character-driven.  Janet Reid gave me a critique of my original query (similar to the last version here) and my first five pages; she thought it was commercial.  I've been marketing it as both, depending on the tastes of the particular agent.  I think my greatest hope is that it could be upmarket.

Gail's dropping out of Stanford happened in the backstory so I don't talk about it in the query.  In brief, Gail was raised to follow in her father's footsteps, as a lawyer.  Unbeknownst to her parents, Gail was heavy into drugs an alcohol (hey, it's the early 70's - everyone was).  In her 3rd year at Stanford, the $hit hit the fan and she rebelled, dropping out, and moved in with a drug dealer in Monterey - as a slap in the face to her father.  She split up with the dealer not long after, and when she did, Gail took some of the boyfriend's customers and sources with her.  The transition from honors college student to dropout didn't shock Mark - knowing Gail (the hippie), it seemed like a natural progression.  What did shock him was to find out she was dealing - because of her dad's job as a prosecutor.

Mark "hitchhikes" down to Monterey.  I put that in to show Mark's socio-economic status - he's broke.  A typical starving artist.  So yeah, when Gail offers to split the business profits with him - sure, Mark jumps at it.  The money she's offering is way more than Mark's ever made in his life.  Gail tells him she'd like him to spend all his time playing music - she's extremely supportive of his music.  But Mark abhors men who leech off their girlfriends, so he offers to help out, figuring he can get in a band and follow his music while dealing.  Mark's truly smitten by Gail and that tends to obscure everything else.  Mark's character is on a flat arc; Gail's on a downward arc.

Through the course of the book, Mark's music gets left behind as he starts making major money, and he gets caught up in Gail's quest to become the biggest, baddest dealers in the area.

This is a three-book series.  The first book gets Mark and Gail together, and grows their business and relationship, while Gail starts the slide into overt alcoholism.  They cope with being ripped off; Gail's contact hires some hitmen to track down and kill the robbers.  Gail bucks her contact and lets the robbers go.   Gail starts getting very drunk on a regular basis, interfering with their relationship.  They start selling large amounts of weed - 100 pounds at a time - and following the first big deal, she gets extremely drunk and her and Mark fight.  Mark gets her to promise she'll quit drinking.  Mark jams with friends every now and then, but figures he doesn't have time to actually be in a band.  The book ends with one of their customers getting busted - Gail copes with the stress by getting drunk.  A newspaper report says the busted customers have named their contacts and Mark and Gail flee to San Francisco figuring they're next.  Mark gets Gail to promise she'll quit drinking again; he finds out the dealer she lived with (she stole his customers when they split) abused her.  After a bunch of suspense, their attorney tells them they're in the clear.  Mark arranges an invite to Gail's parents house for Christmas dinner - Gail and her parents reconcile.  They find out her dad's about to become a federal judge.   The book ends with them returning to Monterey to resume dealing.

The second book sees the business grow even more, and while Gail stops drinking, she starts using coke and heroin and ends up a junkie.  He becomes good friends with one of his customers, Debbie.  Gail gets in an accident while stoned on heroin, and Mark and Debbie have to break her out of the hospital, one step ahead of the cops.  Mark forces her to get clean and sober.  She got some cuts on her forehead in the accident and they go up to Seattle to get a plastic surgeon to fix the scars.  Mark gets to play with his old band at a gig at the Rainbow Tavern in Seattle's U-District, and Mark's in seventh heaven being back up on stage.   After about six months of sobriety, Gail backslides and she and Mark split up;  Gail takes over the whole business.  Mark gets in a band with one of his friends up in Santa Cruz and starts dating Debbie.  The book ends with Mark and Gail reunited for one last deal before Gail sells the business and pleasing her father, goes back to school - she's smuggling in a ton of weed.  There's a ripoff.  Gail gets shot but Mark saves the day, killing the robbers.  She dies later at the hospital.  Mark and Debbie wind up with a ton of weed.  They walk into the sunset.

The third book is split between Mark's band and smuggling.  Mark's band is quite successful, they're playing all over the place at bars in Santa Cruz and Monterey.  Mark and Debbie have way too much money - the proceeds from the ton of weed - and they want to go straight, but they get sucked back into smuggling.  Through the course of the book, Mark's band continues its slow, upwards journey:  they manage to get a booking agent who gets them gigs at clubs up in the Bay Area; they record some good demos in a studio; they get booked at tours of bars in the hinterlands (in Northern California).  They jam with Neil Young at a bar in La Honda, where Neil lives.  At the same time, Mark and Debbie do several successful smuggling trips, doing 5 tons per trip.  At the end of the book, Mark's band gets a manager and they figure they're close to making it - they're finally booked into the Catalyst - Santa Cruz's premier nightclub, and they have a gig opening for George Thorogood at the Keystone in Palo Alto.  Debbie gets pregnant.  Mark and Debbie decide to do one last smuggling trip - 8 tons - then get completely out of the business.  The deal goes down okay, but then their main contact gets busted.  They spend a few days in terror, figuring they're next.  They escape by the skin of their teeth.  Mark proposes to her and they go off hand in hand.



Tigerlily1066:  hey thanks for the compliments!  The first section of the book is in essence a romance, but the balance of the book is a character study with elements of an action/adventure/ crime fiction book, not a romance.   Which is why I suspect I'm having such a tough time categorizing it.  The first version of the query I posted here was an attempt to give a broader view of the book; this latest version just focuses on the opening act.

The three books are complete.  I keep thinking I started the book too early in their relationship, but at this stage of the game (319,000 words for the three books), I'm not gonna change it.   

My hope is that my writing is good enough to make the 3 book series it stand as it is.  The second book is a stand alone, but before I try marketing that (as a 2 book series), I want to exhaust the possibilities of selling the first book.


Offline Tigerlily1066

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 16
« Reply #22 on: September 13, 2019, 01:20:08 PM »
Whoa, that is an ambitious project! I think I understand why you're struggling to get the stakes on the page for Book One given the epic saga that you are aiming for here. Mark's arc actually spans all three books!

The problem for you is that each book absolutely has to stand on its own. They can build on one another, but each one has to be a complete story in and of itself. Right now, Mark in book one has, as you say, a flat arc. That won't work for selling the book. He has to have some movement, even if it's only that he's starting to wonder if hitching his wagon to Gail and the weed business was the right move.

Offline mikepellegrini

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 16
« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2019, 07:58:48 PM »
Okay, here's another stab at it.  Thanks everyone for the feedback.

******************

LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN is an 89,000-word character-driven, commercial novel about love, weed and alcoholism.  It’s set in 1974.

Ask anyone and they'll you Mark Roosevelt's a nice guy – he’s one of those people who just wants to please everyone.  Twenty-two years old, he’s a gifted, aspiring rock musician with dreams of making it big.  Currently between bands, he hitchhikes from Seattle down to Monterey, California to look up an old flame, Gail Loughlin.  He’s been infatuated with Gail since the summer they spent together, four years ago. 

The hippie daughter of a wealthy San Francisco deputy DA, Gail’s a chronic overachiever.  She’s smart as sh**, highly motivated – and can drink almost anyone under the table.  Rebelling against her dad, she’s dropped out of Stanford, passing up a law degree to work as a bartender. 

When Mark finds out Gail’s dealing weed on the side, and then after jamming with a local musician, he realizes Monterey is the perfect place for him:  he can pursue his music and be with the woman of his dreams – and maybe, even actually support himself helping her deal weed.  A starving artist's fantasy come true.  Almost.

The reality is he’s got just three slim weeks to get back to Seattle for his next National Guard meeting.  And while they’re having fun and Gail’s loving and affectionate, she seems ambivalent about him staying for more than a short visit.  Gail hasn’t given him any cues at all, so he’s at a loss.

Mark’s always been in awe of Gail.  She’s just too good-looking, too rich, and too smart.  He’d give anything to be living with her.  He thinks it’s possible that Guard might give him a transfer, but insecure and scared she’ll reject him, he's afraid to broach the subject.  Can Mark overcome his insecurities, and find the courage to tell Gail he loves her?  Or will he wuss-out and lose the girl of his dreams?  Those are the questions.  Then one of Gail’s old boyfriends assaults them.

Thanks for your consideration. 

*********

In this, as well as incorporating some feedback, I tried to more fully delineate the conflict and the stakes for Mark.  Thanks again to everyone for their critiques.

 Tigerlily1066:  Thanks, it is an ambitious project, like you said.  I screwed myself because when I began writing it (in  the mid-90's) I was approaching the thing like writing as an art-form - I just sat down and let it all flow, lost in the throes of creation.  It was a helluva lot of fun; an intense, rewarding project but the result was a 165,000 word book that rambled all over - not marketable at all (although I did try - I did my market research after I wrote it.  Gah!).   A few years ago, mindful of all the weed legalization efforts underway, I decided to resurrect it.  I split the thing in two, and completely rewrote the first 100 pages of the first book, then added about another 100 or so pages in the second book.  Over a 2-year period, I did a complete re-write.  I had about 20,000 words done in what is now the third book (from the mid-90's) and so for the hell of it, I decided to finish that.  This time I planned everything out before I started - helluva deal - and it went smoothly.  It took me three months to do the first draft.  About 100,000 words.

Like I said before, all three books do stand on their own, but before I discard the first book and start trying to market the second two, I want to exhaust all the possibilities of selling the whole 3.

Yeah, Mark's arc does span all three books and he changes as the books progress,  It shows his rise from being a submissive follower to a leader - over the course of the first two books, Mark and Gail's roles pretty much reverse.


Offline Marysia

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 16
« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2019, 09:47:12 PM »
Marysia,

Boy, can I relate!  ;D

JeanneG

JeanneG, can you really?  ;D I'm not alone! LOL  :wink:

Offline AlisonFaith1212

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 23
« Reply #25 on: September 15, 2019, 11:09:16 AM »
I like that this version is a bit shorter, but I like the contents of the earlier query better. This query doesn't have as much exciting content (issues with the business such as robberies and the physical altercation with Gail).

Just my personal opinion. I was more drawn in by the original query.

Offline mikepellegrini

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 23
« Reply #26 on: September 15, 2019, 03:48:59 PM »
AlisonFaith1212 - My son made the same argument.  He's a business writing instructor at Purdue so that carries some weight.  His suggestion was to look at it like a movie preview - you have to expose enough content to suck people in.

Gah!  Back to the drawing board. 

Offline mikepellegrini

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Re: Query for LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - Updated query in post 23
« Reply #27 on: September 15, 2019, 05:25:11 PM »
Okay, how's this one?  I apologize for burning everyone out with what seems like an endless project.  Thanks to everyone for your help.  This is closer to the first version I posted (in content).  334 words. :koolaid:

V16

LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN is an 89,000-word character-driven, commercial novel about love, weed and alcoholism.  It’s set in 1974, in Monterey, California.

Ask anyone and they'll you Mark Roosevelt's a nice guy – one of those people who just wants to please everyone.  Twenty-two years old, he’s a gifted, aspiring rock musician with dreams of making it big.  When he hooks up with his old flame, Gail Loughlin, and finds out she’s dealing weed, Mark thinks his life is complete. 

The hippie daughter of a wealthy San Francisco deputy DA, Gail’s a chronic overachiever.  She’s smart as sh**, highly motivated – and can drink almost anyone under the table.  She’s got a plan for her weed business: she’s going to the top and she’s taking Mark with her.

Caught up in the excitement of making big bucks for the first time in his life, Mark’s musical ambitions are left by the wayside.  Not that there aren’t few speed bumps. 

Mark can cope with the robbers crashing through the door, ripping them off at gunpoint, and even the hitmen Gail’s contact hires to find and kill the robbers.  He can even put up with the constant threat of being busted and hauled off to prison.  But not Gail’s drinking.

As the business grows and pressures build, Gail’s drinking starts to get out of hand.  The night they do their biggest deal ever – selling 100 pounds – Gail goes on a huge bender.  Mark’s forced to confront her and their bitter fight ends with Gail in a drunken rage, physically attacking him.  Mark’s devastated.  Sober, she’s the best person in the world.  He loves Gail and can’t imagine life without her, or without the money – the thought of resuming his life as a starving musician doesn’t turn him on at all.  He’s got to get Gail to quit drinking; he can’t sit idly by, and simply watch as she destroys herself.  Mark must save her from herself – or face losing her and the business. 

Thanks for your consideration. 
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 08:15:01 AM by mikepellegrini »

Offline AlisonFaith1212

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Re: LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - NEW Updated query in post 27
« Reply #28 on: September 15, 2019, 11:15:31 PM »
I like it!  :clap:

Offline mikepellegrini

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Re: LOOK OUT THE CANDYMAN - Literary fiction - NEW Updated query in post 27
« Reply #29 on: September 17, 2019, 05:57:03 PM »
Hey thanks!