Saturday, December 4, 2010

#9 Mystery: Dead, Without A Stone To Tell It (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Dead, Without A Stone To Tell It
GENRE: Mystery

When a single human bone is found on a lonely stretch of coastline, a determined homicide detective and a reluctant scientist risk their lives when they join forces to bring a serial killer to justice.

Boston, Massachusetts; the Old North Church

The heels of the woman’s boots beat a muted staccato against the worn wood of the narrow, centuries-old staircase as she followed the vicar from the brightly lit, sun-streaked upper reaches of the church above into the oppressive still and silence of the dark, damp basement below.

Not many people went down to the basement anymore ― only those who would commune with the dead.

She was one of those people.

She stepped off the lowest step onto a floor of poured concrete and followed the darkly robed clergyman through the adjacent doorway, barely skimming the crown of her head on the low lintel as she ducked under the small sign that read ‘Watch Thy Head’.

“Here we are.” The vicar’s voice resonated in the quiet. “These are the crypts.”

They stood in a small vestibule, the large area under the sanctuary of the church spreading out before them. Through the doorway, a long corridor stretched away into the gloom that shaded the far reaches of the space, only dimly lit by the few exposed light bulbs that hung from the ceiling. There, long held safe in the quiet darkness and forgotten by all but a scarce few, were the oldest crypts in Boston.

Standing in the near silent basement, with only the creaks from the floorboards overhead announcing the presence of the funeral mourners above, she could feel the centuries of history entombed in this building, just like the dead sleeping inside the aged brick walls.


  1. Good job. I would suggest reworking your sentence structures. There are a few that are way too long. I don't think you need that first one. I would also suggest cutting some of the descriptions and giving us more insight on either who she is and why she's there.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I like the log line, but I would rephrase the last part because you use "when" twice in one small sentence.

    I like the description of the atmosphere, but the first sentence was way too long. I lost interest halfway through it. I also agree with E. Arroyo in that we need to feel more connected to the character, a reason to care that she's there.

  3. I'd shorten several sentences - you offer some lovely vivid images, but when they're packed together it's hard to appreciate them.

    As a matter of personal taste, I would like to know the character's name by the time I finish reading this opening.

  4. Good logline!

    Good intro, but I won't be able to read your book because I am a wimp and am already creeped out. Which means you are doing what you set out to do, so good job setting the scene!

    Now where's an entry about rainbows and puppies...

  5. WAY too many adjectives in this passage. I think I counted 9-10 and that's just in the first paragraph.

    I would prefer to see a name rather than more adjectives in the logline too. It comes off as very impersonal as written and it's harder to connect to a story that's impersonal.

  6. I like the adjectives. However, if you cut the as, drop the period after staircase, and replace she with the name, i think it would help. I'm getting a feeling for the character in your details and I like it.

    She is wearing heels and boots, and despite her claim that she communes with the dead, is able to feel something more than benign interest in the darkness that awaits her.

    She appreciates history and is cognizant of details. I would love to read more. :D

  7. While I think this is very atmospheric and intriguing, I felt the writing quickly grew slow and bogged-down by all the unnecessary adjectives. Pick the best description for something and stick with that.

  8. I think you have done very well setting the tone, the mood, the creepiness for your tale. I'm all goosebumped.

    For me, all that has happened thus far though, is that she has walked to the basement. I don't really know who she is, why she's there, why I should care, if she's on a tour of historical places in Boston or what. What kind of story have I fallen in to? I'm 250 words in, but not sure. The log line tells me this is a murder mystery, but I don't get any indication of that from these first few paragraphs. Maybe a few well-placed details to indicate some of that would help.

    Great place to begin the story--Old North Church. I would like to read more.

  9. Logline:
    Given that this is just a sentence and not a whole query, I'd suggest that in a longer situation, such as a query, add a bit of motivation as to why the detective and scientist are willing to do this (you may already do that; just wanted to make sure)

    Line comments:
    -That's rather a lot of adjectives in one sentence, especially a first sentence.
    -Beyond the description-laden first sentence, the rest of the excerpt read fairly well to me.

    -Right now, the tone of the novel feels impersonal and vague--I don't even know the main character's name. However, the writing is interesting--if the story picked up soon after, I'd keep reading.

  10. I'd like to know her name and there's too many adjectives and too much description for me, especially in the long first sentence. Plus this part seems repetitive and confuses the picture in my mind: 'They stood in a small vestibule, the large area under the sanctuary of the church spreading out before them. Through the doorway, a long corridor stretched away...'

  11. The logline is short and to the point. I thought it worked.

    Excerpt - The first parg (one sentence) could be broken into two sentences for easier reading. You might even cut the part about where they're coming from because it's bright and sunny and you're going for dark and gloomy. And we never see it anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

    You could cut the third parg. because the second parg. makes that evident.

    The overall problem here, I think, are all the long, drawn out sentences that are only long because of all the description. I don't think it's the adjectives (although there are more than you need) so much as the describing of things that don't need to be described. For example - she stepped off the lowest step. She just came down the stairs so what else would she step from? You don't need to say it. "Onto a floor of poured concrete" - what difference does it make to the reader, or your story, that the floor is poured concrete? Concrete woul be enough. And why even describe the floor? It doesn't matter to the scene (unless they're going to dig it up later and find bodies underneath it.)

    You can still get the creepy atmosphere across by describing just the necessary elements - a dark crpyt, dusty coffins, no, or little, light. Less really is more.

  12. That first sentence dragged on because there are so many adjectives. I'd split it up. Also, I'd save some of those adjectives and use them to describe her - her feelings about communing with the dead, her desires, her purpose in being there. Vivid description is fantastic, but sometimes it's best served showing character rather than setting.

  13. I found this atmospheric. I bid to read the first 10 pages.
    Melissa Jeglinski
    The Knight Agency

  14. I would cut down the adjectives, but I like creepy vicars!
    I bid 50 pages
    Josh Getzler

  15. I see your 50 and I raise it to 60 pages. Crazy vicars are right up my alley.

    Melissa Jeglinski
    The Knight Agency


  17. The blurb hooked me, but the first paragraph was clunky enough that I started to second guess that emotion (too many adjectives--pare it down). I did like the "only those who would commune with the dead" line, which made me want to read more. (An editor will not put it down because of one clunky line. She'll want to *edit* that line if the rest of the piece works, though.)

    I'm unclear what exploring the crypts of the Old North Church has to do with the mystery, though, and would want to read far enough to figure that out.

    Also, I find it a bit too far of a stretch to find catacombs under the Old North Church. The North End of Boston is a tiny 1-mile stretch of land surrounded on all sides by water. Given the leaking problems the Big Dig is dealing with at about that same level, anything that deep would have been swamped years ago. Burial crypts are more of a medieval convention; by the time the pilgrims came to America, churchyards were more the practice (see the original settlers' graveyard on the Common in Boston to know where those people were buried).

    So that stretches my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point right in the first chapter, which loses the hook entirely for me.

  18. Stacey,
    Thank you so much for your comments. They are very much appreciated.

    I just wanted to comment on your statements about the Old North Church in Boston. That part of the story in 100% factual. During my research of the book, I applied for, and received, a personal tour of those crypts from the vicar of the church. Those crypts are real and hold the remains of one of the first captains of the U.S.S. Constitution as well as other Revolutionary War heroes and notable citizens of historical Boston.

    Two hundred and fifty words makes for a very short excerpt so it is not evident from this passage that the crypts play a major role in the background of the second of the two main characters, but that is explained within the first chapter.

    Thank you again for your advice. I just wanted to clarify that one point since that seemed to be a breaking point on the project for you, yet is historically accurate nonetheless.

  19. That's really interesting! It must be possible because it's near the top of the hill, with lots of bedrock underneath.

    You'll want to be sure in any queries to mention that connection.