Son of a Pitch Blog entry

Title: Venom

Age category:  Adult Thriller/Eco-thriller

Word count: 108, 000

Query: Dear Agent,

Based on your interest in thrillers, I hope VENOM, a 108,000 word eco-thriller will suit your list.

When herpetologist Kylie Marx investigates the slaughter of rare endangered skinks, an infestation of snakes, scorpions, and a variety of creepy crawlers invades the Key West area. During a blackout, they escaped from their crates from a semi crash hit a telephone pole. With a looming anti-venom shortage, Kylie and her fellow scientists scours the town to milk venomous reptiles and amphibians to make anti-venom. Kylie fears she won’t have enough time to cover every bite with fresh anti-venom, because they could die. She explores the option of creating synthetic anti-venom. Until things take a serpentine turn for the worse. She deduces that the man responsible for the outbreak is the same person who left her for dead in the Everglades twelve years ago. Now Vaughan St. Croix breeds dangerous hybrid snakes and sells his poached kills on the black market. His evil presence is no coincidence. It coincides with the National Zoological Symposium for Endangered Species.

 St. Croix threatens Kylie and her new friends with an ultimatum: produce a vial of synthetic anti-venom for his deathly ill sister by midnight. Or  watch those around her succumb to fatal venom.

Si Rosser’s TIPPING POINT meets Erica Spindler’s JUSTICE FOR SARA, when an alarming infestation of deadly snakes hits Key West, sending the small town into a panic.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Kristen Howe

First 250 words:

Chapter 1

Kylie studied the Solomon Islands dark green skinks climbing the glass walls of its tank in slow motion. Such a rare species to exhibit, she examined the long slender male consuming a diet of fruits and vegetables. On a quiet morning at the reptiles section of the Naples Zoo, she waited for the female to emerge and be courted. Before she could check the Key West Mole Skinks in the second tank,  her older sister bolted into her office.

Penny breathed heavily as she came to a halt. “Kylie! Did you check your texts?”

“No. What’s up?”

“All your hard work finally paid off. You got the grant!”

“You’re kidding. How do you know?”

While Penny explained the details of her financial endowment for research, Kylie’s heart wanted to explode with joy. This was a big opportunity for her to shine!

Giddy with excitement, Kylie hugged her sister. “I kept wondering when I would hear. I thought I wasn’t going to get it.” With no word on their end, she feared they turned down her proposal for her research.

“I know it’s last minute. But the National Zoological Symposium is worth it.” She paused. “But we’re going to look into the delay, while you get your ass to the airport.”

Both Kylie and Penny worked at the Naples Zoo in Caribbean Gardens, a nonprofit organization cooperating in conversation, both inside and outside the wild for endangered species.

“When’s the flight?” Kylie asked.

“It leaves in two and a half hours.”


5 Responses

  1. Hi Kristen! I love this idea! The setting is unique and the stakes are clearly high. Even though this is not zombies, the idea of venom and rabid reptiles and snakes gives us a similar nowhere to hide, epidemic feel. I think playing to the sci-fi, thriller, ecological disaster theme will be great for pin-pointing your audience!

    I have some tips for both the query and 250 words. I’m new to this, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but most of my suggestions are for clarity purposes rather than format.


    1. The sentence “Fearing she wouldn’t have enough time to cover every bitten victim with a fresh batch of venom from scratch, Kylie explores until things had taken a serpentine turn for the worse”.

    First, I would change “wouldn’t” to ‘won’t’ and “had taken” to “take”. The query should be present-tense.

    Second, I’m not sure what Kylie is exploring. Is she exploring the everglades? Different anti-venom concoctions? The properties of the venom infecting the victims?

    Finally, you say “fresh batch of venom”, do you mean “anti-venom”?

    2. You mention the symposium at the end of the first paragraph. This is the first we hear of it, and it’s not clear exactly what it’s for. I can make the leap, but it is a bit confusing. Maybe try Venomous Amphibian Symposium, or some descriptive title to show us why Kylie and this man care about this symposium.

    3. I would leave out the first sentence of paragraph 2 and “when torment isn’t enough”. Neither bit tells us much new information and you don’t need to add in the vague dramatics because your stakes are already high enough to illustrate the thrills we should expect.

    4. I would take out “turn up the notch on the timetable”. It doesn’t quite make sense to me. I think you’re trying to say shorten the deadline, but I think your ultimatum is powerful enough without the introduction. Perhaps just say “…ultimatum: produce a vial of synthetic anti-venom for his deathly ill sister by midnight, or watch those around her succumb to the fatal venom.”

    Otherwise, like I said, the premise is great! The stakes are high and I think this could be a really interesting and thrilling novel.

    250 Words:

    Perhaps describe what the skink looks like eating a specific piece of fruit, rather than just saying the male skink eats fruits and veggies. I have to google a skink to know what it looks like, so some description would be awesome. 🙂 Also, when describing the female, perhaps you could say “emerge” rather than “appear”. This makes her entrance less magical and more ‘creeping out into the open’.

    You can probably edit “older sister, Penny” by taking out ‘Penny’. I think we can assume Penny is her sister as she is the only other human in the room and you’ve named her when you say “Penny said”.

    The phrase, “with no word on her end” sounds like Kylie hasn’t given any response to the financial endowment, rather than vice versa. I think you mean “with no word on their end”.

    I really think this is great! Hopefully my suggestions make sense and are helpful! Good luck in the querying!


  2. You don’t need to say “based on your interest in thrillers” the agent knows what they’re interested in.

    Your query implies cause an effect, “When…” yet I can’t see how the investigation leads to the infestation. After that you lose me. She’s getting anti-venom… okay why does she want to cover the victims with venom? Then you switch tenses which adds to the confusion. So… this is like Snakes on a Plane, but in a swamp? This guy commands snakes to do his bidding? Okay… I mean I guess that works for a certain type of novel, but if he’s a snake breeder, where do the scorpions and “other creepy crawlies” come from? What’s a “deadly hybrid obstacle”? Your spell-checker should have picked up the double T in “tturn”. “Turn up the notch on the timetable” is mixing several cliches, but it’s a muddle. I understand what it means, but it just looks like a mistake.

    First 250, second sentence, the two clauses don’t match at all. Is the first bit meant to be a thought? Why are skinks in the amphibian section? Now, she’s in the amphibian section, and I guess maybe skinks are kept there (even though they’re reptiles) so how does she know her sister charged into her office? I’m confused, I thought she was in the public part of the zoo.

    Again you have some tense confusion with “When Penny…” IMO should be “While Penny…”

    The dialogue is pretty stilted and only appears to be used here as a tool to advance the plot (it’s fine to use dialogue to advance the plot, but it shouldn’t be obvious what you’re doing, and it should help express character and such as well).

    The third from last paragraph should be cut entirely IMO. Flat-out telling like that should be avoided, especially in your first page.

    Sorry I don’t have more nice things to say, but this needs quite a bit of work.

    I hope that helps!


  3. Hi,

    I have just one comment, but it applies to both the query and excerpt. There is a lot of the sentence format that goes “Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah,” and I’m sorry but it makes for hard reading.

    When it’s used a lot, especially in consecutive sentences, it sets up a weird rhythm that is disruptive to reading. It creates a tendency to combine ideas in a sentence that should have their own sentence. It takes away the narrotor/author’s voice because it starts to sound like too many other queries/unpublished novels. It’s like pepper. A little bit adds variety, but too much and your eyes start to water. Once a page is probably more than enough.

    Can I suggest you rewrite the query (and your novel!) without using the “—-, —-” format at all?


  4. What a unique idea you have. Completely different than anything else out there. Fresh. I like it.

    I only have a couple of quick comments. You’re missing quotation marks in paragraph 4 of your first 250. Instead there is an asterisk. The first 250 get right into some action though. Great job

    As far as the query goes. You’ve got what you need in there. The only thing I would change is to tighten the first sentence. Also, I wasn’t sure what a skink was either, so another, more generic term might work in your favor.

    Good luck in the next round!


  5. I read the book and it’s a really fresh idea unlike anything I’ve read. I like the query, and the changes you made to the first 250 since the first comments went up.Fingers crossed for the next round for you my friend!


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