Monday, February 22, 2016

Forbidden




Title: Forbidden
Age and Genre: Adult, Crime / Suspense / Romance
Word Count: 100,000

Query:

Forbidden will grab and hurl you into a plot full of treachery and passion.
  
Screams of terror and gunfire echo within the walls of a compound. The horrific massacre of fifteen Americans forces two government officers of The Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories to cover-up the truth. They thrust the task into the hands of a ruthless police captain, Hashim Sharif. His corrupt superiors’ rules are simple. Maintain silence, or his family will suffer dire consequences.

He cannot bear lowering his ethics to become the same gutter vermin he hunts in Samarra’s dark streets. And yet, if his loyalty is questioned, an unmarked grave awaits him in the desert. He fears justice may never be served. Even so, he cannot commit an act most forbidden – treason. His family’s honor would be forever lost.

Within a week, his nightmare plunges into a bottomless pit. To maintain the cover-up, he must dispose of the one witness – Eliza MacKay. Murder of innocents?

Unthinkable.He keeps her out of sight inside his apartment, risking the wrath of Allah. While searching for evidence of the killer’s identity, Sharif and MacKay struggle to survive. Hit men, the CIA, and his government have them in their cross hairs. When his children are kidnapped, Sharif becomes the beast his enemies dread.

Sharif and MacKay dodge traps and their mutual attraction. Given her PTSD, he cannot trust her. A strangle hold over his desires for the pretty woman becomes his greatest challenge. If escape is possible, love will only get in the way. Or will it save them?

Target Audience: This crime, suspense romance novel will be enjoyed by readers who favor espionage novels with international intrigue, and multi-cultural themes.

Forbidden’s twisting plot and fully fleshed out characters are unforgettable. Other target audiences will include Muslims and those interested in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Muslims will appreciate the accuracy of the references to moderate Islam. 

First 250 Words

Bird With a Broken Wing

Eliza fidgeted with her hijab. Excited Arabic voices echoed throughout Samarra’s busy airport. The arrivals terminal barely contained the hundreds of visitors waiting for the arrival of the next flight.

She stared at the airport arrivals app on her cell phone.  ‘United Air 719 – DELAYED’.Friggin’ hell, they’re an hour late. As she gazed at ‘DELAYED’, a vision blocked out the surrounding clamor. Screams, bloodied bodies, and flames in a dark void engulfed her with waves of horror. Her hand shot up to her mouth, barely containing a shriek. Stop it, just friggin’ stop it! The premonition urged her to run. Get out of RIPT on the next plane.

“Breathe,” she whispered. She inhaled and exhaled with calm deliberation. “Again.” She shivered as the graphic scene faded. Thank God I can control these annoying visions. Whoever said that being a seer is a gift was delusional. Now, if I could manage my PTSD psychosis as easily, I might get my life back.

Her feet ached from wandering through the airport shops for the last five hours. “It’s almost nine. The airport will be closed in another two hours. What the hell happened to the Americans? A man rushing by bumped into her and nearly tripped over her suitcase. He turned toward her and glared.

“Laanah aleiky,” he growled in Arabic.

She squared her shoulders and turned away. Damn you, too. She adjusted her head scarf and smiled confidently at nearby women. 

They stepped away from her.

*****

Participants do not comment on other entrants' posts, only your own. You can bribe, coax, share, tweet, and do whatever to your entry, but you cannot comment on anyone else's.

The Judges

&

Me!

Visitors welcome!

Please comment as to whether this pitch piques your interest and what feedback you have about making it stronger.
Your assessments will be appreciated by the participants.



13 comments:

  1. Query: Don't tell me - show me with a great hook. Introduce your protagonist and his dilemma in a line or two. You have the basics just tighten it up with a real grab at the beginning.

    I like this phrase: "if his loyalty is questioned, an unmarked grave awaits him in the desert." Could be the tagline?

    I'd leave the last paragraph off completely and finish with your platform, or writing credentials.

    250 words: I would have chosen something that includes both protagonists. This scene is too benign for such a thrilling introduction.

    Your writing is excellent just tighten and show what is happening between these too protagonists.

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  2. Excellent advice. Thank you, Yolanda. Hook and grab - you'll have it in the next submission. Readers really need to feel the terror, the desperation. I aim to give readers what they desire, and then some.

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  3. I like this line, because it shows what is stake for the character and how his ethics differ from those he works for, which set up inner conflict tie into the outer conflict and how they relate to him personally. "Even so, he cannot commit an act most forbidden – treason. His family’s honor would be forever lost."

    I agree a more action oriented scene or emotional scene including both characters might be the ticket. I agree with need more showing rather than telling for such an exciting action tale.

    Sounds like a suspenseful read. It has my vote.

    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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  4. I suck at writing pitches, so I can only applaud Judy and wish her well. She hooked me in.:-)

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  5. 'Morning!

    Query: tagline. Remove this, because you have to show us how it does this. Similarly, remove the last two paragraphs.

    This is an unorthodox query in a lot of ways, but I actually think it's working. I'm getting a real sense of the character, the tension, and the world he lives in. I think you should heighten the forbidden romance/attraction aspect just with a couple poignant words, or a phrase...this sounds like an awesome book in all respects (and as a fan of diverse viewpoints, I am SO in love with this concept...I am SO VERY tired of all Muslims in U.S. & other literature being the antagonists, or peripheral characters...), but the romance aspect will be the hugest selling point (just because people love that sort of thing - (believe me. Look at my reviews for LOVE OR MONEY, which is heavy on the thriller, lighter on the romance, but most people concentrated on the romance aspect). The romantic tension here is super interesting, and palpable. Just play it up slightly. Make our hearts flutter.

    "...cover up the truth..." since "truth" is so ambiguous here and distracting, I'd just say "...to collaborate in a deadly cover-up" or something. The hidden truth in that situation is implied, and tantalizes even more, I think.

    250 - "engulfed her in waves of horror." Replace this with a period, because it's implied by the vision itself and her reaction. "The premonition urged her to run." Show us this. You're already halfway there, anyway, because hell yeah I'd be scared. But show that she's having to stop herself running. Also, I don't like the inner dialogue about "get out of RIPT", because it seems like the VISION itself is talking to her, and this takes me out of the story. It's okay if there's that voice in her head, but I need to be eased into that aspect in a different way. Also, not sure what RIPT is yet, so it takes me out of the story.

    The "Thank God I can control these visions" inner dialogue seems to telly and info-dumpy here. Work this info in in a different way, because it's really cool info and it makes me really identify with and be interested in your character. Which I already am, because I love her voice and the image of her.

    Next paragraph: I need eased out of that vision more gently, so I can stay in your character's head. She may be used to this stuff: we are not, yet. It reminds me of how hard I had to work on the beginning of THE OTHER PLACE, which has a schizophrenic MC: took readers longer to get to know him and identify, so I had to ease them gently. You don't have so steep a task with this character, because I already like her a lot, but the visions stuff is scary.

    "Damn you, too." This is confusing to me, because I don't know who these people are yet, why they're approaching her, and why she would treat them this way. I hope you show us this soon.

    This is an incredible premise, with a character I'm already in love with and want to know more about. And it is six kinds of diverse. This needs to be published, and it will be. I think if you either do another pass-through with good critiquers and betas, and/or hire a freelance editor, you'd get a ton of offers if you pitched it to the right people. Even without that stuff, you might get lots of offers, but I'm so hooked on this premise and character that I want to see it babied and loved and polished until it WHAPS me over the head with awesomeness, you know? I care about it that much, which is hard to get me to do in a query & 250.

    Thank you for your entry.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Well done, Judy. If I were a publisher, this would leave me wanting more. A very descriptive, action packed, broad rage synopsis. But I would like to have known a little more about your protagonist. Don't forget to tell the publisher why this book would be perfect for his/her publishing house.

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  8. I suck at pitches so I'm not sure how much help I will be. Basically, I feel it needs to be trimmed to pack more of a punch. The line about the grave grabbed me so I would like to see the first paragraph shortened to get there faster.
    Again, to get to the good stuff about cross-hairs, searching for the killer's identity can go. We already know they are out to solve the crime. Of course they would be looking for the killer's identity.
    I think Feather is almost there with this and it sounds like an interesting story.

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  9. I think your query is in pretty solid shape. I recommend the removing that top tag line – show them your story will pull them in, don’t tell them.
    I tinkered a bit with your opening and a few lines to give you something to think about.

    Screams of terror and gunfire echo within the walls of a compound. The horrific massacre of fifteen Americans forces government officers of The Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories to cover-up the truth. Hashim Sharif, a ruthless police captain, is entrusted with the cover up. His corrupt superiors’ rules are simple. Maintain silence, or his family will suffer dire consequences. OR
    Hashim Sharif, a ruthless police captain, is entrusted by The Republic of Islamic provinces and Territories with the cover up of a horrific massacre leaves fifteen Americans dead. His corrupt superiors’ rules are simple. Maintain silence, or his family will suffer dire consequences.

    Hashim cannot bear lowering his ethics to become the same gutter vermin he hunts in Samarra’s dark streets. And yet, if his loyalty is questioned, an unmarked grave awaits him in the desert. He fears justice may never be served. Even so, he cannot commit an act most forbidden – treason. His family’s honor would be forever lost.

    In an effort to maintain the fabricated story of the cover-up, Hashim must dispose of the one witness – Eliza MacKay. Murder of innocents?

    The task unthinkable. Hashim conceals her in his apartment, risking the wrath of Allah. While searching for evidence of the killer’s identity, Sharif and MacKay struggle to survive. Hit men, the CIA, and his government have them in their cross hairs. When his children are kidnapped, Sharif becomes the beast his enemies dread. (Like this line!!)

    Sharif and MacKay dodge traps and avoid/ignore their mutual attraction. Given her PTSD, he cannot trust her. A strangle hold over his desires for the pretty woman becomes his greatest challenge. If escape is possible, love will only get in the way. Or will it save them?

    Like the ending – good job.
    First 250 Words

    Bird With a Broken Wing
    Eliza fidgeted with her hijab. Excited Arabic voices echoed throughout Samarra’s busy airport. The arrivals terminal barely contained the hundreds of visitors waiting for the arrival of the next flight.

    She stared at the airport arrivals app on her cell phone. ‘United Air 719 – DELAYED’. Friggin’ hell, they’re an hour late. As she gazed at ‘DELAYED’, a vision blocked out the surrounding clamor. Screams, bloodied bodies, and flames in a dark void engulfed her with waves of horror. Her hand shot up to her mouth, barely containing a shriek. Stop it, just friggin’ stop it! The premonition urged her to run. Get out of RIPT on the next plane.

    “Breathe,” she whispered. She inhaled and exhaled with calm deliberation. “Again.” She shivered as the graphic scene faded. Thank God I can control these annoying visions. (Whoever said that being a seer is a gift was delusional. Now, if I could manage my PTSD psychosis as easily, I might get my life back. – this feels a little contrived and exposed too easily, especially since it feels like she’s laying all her cards on the line at once… – can you tease this out slowly?)

    Her feet ached from wandering through the airport shops for the last five hours. “It’s almost nine. The airport will be closed in another two hours. (Is this a voice form the loud speaker? Is she talking to herself?) What the hell happened to the Americans? A man rushing by bumped into her and nearly tripped over her suitcase. He turned toward her and glared.

    “Laanah aleiky,” he growled in Arabic.

    She squared her shoulders and turned away. Damn you, too. She adjusted her head scarf and smiled confidently at nearby women.

    They stepped away from her.

    First 250
    Packed and suspenseful, your first 250 move the story along. I made a few notes and posed a few questions in the body.

    Best of luck!

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  10. I'm amazed at everyone's detailed and helpful advice. And so grateful. This has been an exciting and educational experience. I've been working on a rewrite and hope to continue on to the next round. Thank you everyone for your support.

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  11. Query: Like other commenters, I recommend cutting this opening line, “Forbidden will grab and hurl you into a plot full of treachery and passion.” That’s the conclusion you’re hoping I’ll come to after reading. Starting with those “Screams of terror” is much more engaging. It seems like Hashim Sharif is the main character that the story revolves around. Get to him and the ethical choice he must make as soon as possible. For example, do we need the details of what he’s being asked to cover up here in the query? Or is it enough to know that he’s being asked to cover something up? I feel like you’re actually giving me too much detail, when what I need is a feel for the story and the stakes of it.

    First 250 Words: There’s a lot being introduced very quickly here: Eliza, her Muslim background, the immediate setting, the fact that she has visions, the fact that she has PTSD, etc. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel that connected to the story after this excerpt. I can’t tell where my focus should be.

    Hope that helps! -SB

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  12. I really enjoyed reading this. I would give the same advice the others have in reference to your query: get rid of that first line. You don't need it! Your first 250 words pulled me in. I would work on showing vs. telling, and proofreading. Make sure you aren't switching tenses. You have a random quotation mark hanging in there that isn't closed (and may not even be needed). All of that said, I absolutely love the diversity here and would love to see this on my Kindle in the future. :)

    THIS STORY HAS MY VOTE.

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