3rd SR Crapometer #59

Dear Miss Snark,

My multi-viewpoint thriller, REVELATIONS, is completed at about 70,000 words.

What would you do if your identical twin were murdered . . . and you believe it should have been you because no one leaves the cult alive?

Although KIRK HUDSON has just run home from Celestial Village, a religious cult located in central Texas, to his parents and twin brother, he needs to decide whether he should return. After all, it might have been the cult leaders who ordered him dead, and the killer mistaken BURT for Kirk. The decision is made for him when LUKE, an ex-cop cult member sent to find Kirk, traps Kirk and Burt's girlfriend in Luke's motel room and says he will hurt the girl unless Kirk returns. Luke swears that he didn't kill Burt. Luke doesn't know that Kirk fled from the cult and its co-leaders, SISTER ANGELICA and her brother, BROTHER JAMES, the day he found them making love in Sister's tower room in the old Victorian house the cult owns.

Kirk and the Sister are attracted to each other, but neither ever did anything about it. When Kirk arrives back, he's locked into his old room, only let out to work and to eat with the rest. A few days after he returns, a young boy, JEREMY, falls from the barn's upper story and appears to be dead. Sister Angelica insists he will rise in three days. She also begins to talk about "Transfiguration" and the "end days," and even tries to seduce Kirk. Brother James is furious with her, but also worried about her plans.

Kirk enlists Luke's help in finding out what Transfiguration means, and escapes from his room. They search desperately for clues to his brother's murderer. One evening Kirk finds Jeremy walking in the hall, although he knows the boy is laid out in the barn with his mother, EDEN, keeping vigil. Eden has shown she desires Kirk since he joined the cult, but he has always avoided her. He hears hammering in the basement, but ignores it because he is intent on checking out Eden's room since he suspects she may have murdered his brother, mistaking Burt for himself.

On the third day, Jeremy rises from the dead, and now all the cult members are willing to follow Sister Angelica to Transfiguration.

Confused and horrified, Kirk and Luke search the old Victorian. Kirk finds evidence in Eden's room that she killed his brother. They find a wax effigy of Jeremy and understand how the whole cult was duped.

But what they find in the basement is the most astonishing thing of all.

I hope this short summary interests you. I've had one novel, XYZ published by Quiet Storm Publishing, and over thirty-five short stories in various magazines over the past several years.


you've confused a cover letter with a synopsis and it drives me crazy to have character names in all caps.

Thrillers tend to have plots wherein the well being of the world is at stake. Think James Bond, Tom Clancy, and other kinds of race against the clock stories.

Right now you've got a lot of people searching rooms in houses. That sounds like a gothic novel to me...plus you've got dead bodies and creepy wax figures.


Kirk's heart pounded every time a car drove by as he trudged down the highway. He prayed it wasn't them, hoped he could get home and hide. He realized how skinny he looked--a hundred and sixty pounds on a six-foot frame. His hair hung to his shoulders, and his beard and mustache were full and bushy. He'd have to shave and cut his hair when he got home. His step-father would have a stroke. Mom might not care too much, as long as he was clean, but she'd defer to Philip.

He glanced back over his shoulder as he walked along Route 80 towards Valleyview. At least he'd crossed the state line into California the day before. There wasn't much traffic, and he didn't thumb. Occasionally someone would slow down, but each time he shook his head, holding his breath, hoping it wasn't them. (why doesn't he hide?)
Home. He once thought he'd never see it again. Not after he'd joined a new family, a family made up of people who believed as he did. Until three days ago.

But he couldn't think about it. His head ached when he remembered.

A horn blared behind him, and he jumped, almost stumbling onto the roadway. He'd walked all the way from Texas, and he was exhausted. He shifted his backpack into a more comfortable position as he glared at the retreating car.

He plodded on. Where else could he go? How else could he get there? He had no money left from the eleven dollars he started with. He couldn't risk accepting a ride with anyone. They were searching for him, he knew. And if they found him, they'd take him back. He shuddered in the warm California sunshine.

He walked from Texas to California with less than eleven dollars?
uh huh. sure.

I've been working on these for about seven hours now, I'm tired, I'm cranky, and it doesn't take much for me to get snippy. That's how I read the slush pile on a lot of days; how many of us do. Slush is hardly ever the first thing we do every day, tackling it with chipmunk enthusiasm, bright eyed and bushy tailed. We do it when we're on hold, waiting for the Verizon repairman, and late in the afternoon waiting for KY to get picked up for Doggy Buns of Veal workouts in Central Park.

I'd pass on this one with a form rejection.


Anonymous said...

Kirk (Captain)

Multiple characters with four letters in each name is visually confusing. I got lost in the query. The protag's reminds me of the the captain of the starship Enterprise, so I suggest a change for him.

Interesting premise, but I want more research on the mindset of people who leave cults. I had to deal with this type of brainwashing once, and you don't suddenly get smart and leave unless something really dramatic takes place that wakes you up.

And even then. Google people who have left cults and the bleep they have to go through. It's scary.

Eleven bucks might do it in 1933, but not in this century.

class-factotum said...

It's 750 miles from El Paso (which is NOT central Texas -- it's another whole day's drive to Austin from El Paso) to San Diego. Let's say 600 miles from El Paso to the California border. If he spent three days walking from TX to CA, that's 200 miles a day. If he's walking 20 hours a day, that's ten miles an hour. That's a six-minute mile for 20 straight hours, which is pretty darn good if my math is right.

Bill Peschel said...

I, too, got lost amid the names. Plus, if the brother was killed as the (mistaken) cult member, how did the hero get his old room back? And wouldn't the killer wonder why everyone was calling him by the dead guy's name if he was supposed to be dead?

This is starting to sound like a Douglas Adams time-travel paradox.

JacklynKy said...

People escaping from a cult is interesting enough for me to want to read a story (Katie Holmes anyone?) But I also was confused by the query letter. I got a Scooby Doo vibe with the "wax-figure, we've been duped by old lady so and so" twist.

I liked the main character. I'd change his name, as a previous poster mentioned. I think you've got a great idea, just need to turn up the action.

Bella said...

I quite enjoyed the writing in the partial, although I couldn't make myself read through the QL.

I also have a problem with the walking - if I really believed my life was in danger every step I took along the highway, I wouldn't be there. Seriously. Do you know very many people who wouldn't steal bus fare - or even a car - if their life literally depended on it?

Loftybit said...

Just a note - my boyfriend's six-one and weighs about 160, and he's pretty cute. Yeah, he's thin, but he doesn't look like he just did a Forrest Gump marathon or anything. (Fortunately, he shaves and cuts his hair. Once in a while.)
I like the cult-escapee character, though. Good idea.

Frainstorm said...

Oh great. Just yesterday, I sent off a requested synopsis with the characters in all caps based on something I had read elsewhere.

Why does so much in this industry consist of silly rules that seem to be meant only to trip up writers?

Oh well. Suck it up and march on.

writtenwyrdd said...

I also got lot in the query. However, you opened with a character describing himself. Bleh. I wouldn't have kept going after that.

BuffySquirrel said...

I have trouble believing in the protagonist. His motive for leaving the cult sounds plausible enough for a 'normal' person, but not for one who's been systematically brainwashed. He's afraid cult members will find him, yet goes to the most obvious place--his home. He thinks these people are trying to kill him, so he places himself back in their hands. Is he thick or what?

But what cut the rope suspending my disbelief is that all the female cultists want to have sex with him. Yeah, right.

Jo Bourne said...

I get an odd feeling from the opening ... it's as if I were neither in the landscape nor in the POV character's body.

300 words into the story, in an outdoor scene that should be grittily realistic, I have no idea whether it's hot or cold, cloudy or bright, morning or dusk, in thick woods or desert.

I know his 'head aches' -- presumably from the tension of being on the run -- but I don't know whether he's hot and thirsty or cold and hungry. I don't know whether his tennis shoes are coming apart or whether he's got a sweater wrapped over his shoulders.

I'm not 'seeing' the scenery. I'm not 'inside' the character.

This distance makes his fear and his desperate flight less compelling than they might otherwise be.

Also, I'd skip the 'missing persons flyer description' of the POV character in that first paragraph. It breaks POV and sounds unnatural. One can sneak description in later, bit by bit.