Son of a Pitch


Son of a Pitch is a pitch contest where you post your query letter and the first 250 words of your novel. (Edited to remove bio)

Title: Dog Tags
Genre: Adult Contemporary with a touch of magical realism.
Word Count: 94,000

Here is a draft of the body of a query letter for Dog Tags.

DOG TAGS is a 94,000-word adult contemporary novel with a touch of magical realism.

Wounded veteran Marty Johnson just wants to be left alone. Back from a third tour in Afghanistan, his survivor’s guilt pushes him towards suicide while his PTSD prevents him from seeking help. With no friends or family, he drives the roads of the Pacific Northwest searching for the father he never knew. But a special dog, with a magical tag that displays changing messages, interrupts his journey.  She adopts him and helps him try to reintegrate into everyday society.

When Marty intervenes in a fight to help Suzanne, a veterinary assistant he’d just met, he gets sucked into a small town’s dark side. Framed for heroin possession and unable to continue his travels, Marty is quickly caught up in a battle he doesn’t want, in a town he wishes he could leave. Marty must choose the path to the rest of his life.

If he heeds the guidance of the dog and her magical tag, he stays and could end up in prison or worse. If he flees and heads back out on the road, he will lose his one chance to find family again.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250 Words of the MS:

Chapter 1

A dark desert highway. The phrase stuck in Marty’s head and brought back ugly memories. Bad things happened on dark desert highways. Especially on nights like this: no moon, clear, stars glittering like muzzle flashes. He shook his head hard; that was months ago and thousands of miles away. This road should be safe. No IEDs, no RPGs, and no God-damned Hadji.

He’d driven this way before, I-90 through eastern Washington. Not really a desert, more of a semi-arid steppe. It didn’t matter. He focused on the road and reality.

Bleary-eyed and dog-tired, Marty pressed through the tunnel of light provided by his pickup’s halogen beams. The highway’s dashed lines tried to fuse together. Hypnotic. He rolled down the window and let the cool wind blow through his hair. The music player had moved on, Zeppelin’s Black Dog pounded his ears. It helped him stop thinking, but he could only mutter along with the song. He needed to stop soon.

Two tiny glowing green orbs appeared, beyond the reach of his lights. He blinked hard, twice, and flashed his high beams. Still there. He eased off the gas—a hallucination?

The orbs got closer. A shimmering bloom of blue light appeared beneath them.

A dog blocked the middle of the road—staring into his headlights like a deer.

“Oh, shit!” He jammed on the brakes and yanked the wheel hard to the right, avoiding the animal—except he might have felt a bump. The truck careened down a slope, bounced through bushes and over rocks.


4 thoughts on “Son of a Pitch

  1. kjmilton

    Hi, Pat!

    I’m intrigued with both query and first 250. Both are really clean and polished, and pull you into Marty’s situation. Well done.

    I see the repeated dog references – Marty’s dog-tired, Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” on the radio, and a dog appearing on the highway. Deliberate, I’m sure, and a cool thing. You did great with sensory descriptions and imagery.

    Your voice resonates in me and I really have no critique. I want to read this story.

  2. jayperin

    Query: Solid. Except when you referred to the dog as ‘she.’ For a few seconds, I thought I had Marty’s gender mixed up. Recommend making it clear who you’re talking about.

    Excerpt. Good. The first sentence was enough to set the mood for me. Two issues – 1) Couldn’t you have “Hotel California” on the radio instead of Led Zeppelin? OK, JK 😀

    2) Don’t let on that it’s a dog in the 250 words. I live in the Great Plains where coyotes die with great frequency on highways. In the northeast, drivers have hit deer. Most don’t take the chance of killing themselves or another driver/passengers to save the life of a dog.

    In case you feel like returning the favor –

  3. Amy Drayer

    The first paragraph of the query is very strong. Less so in the second. I’d say pull Suzanne out. Between her and the dog I think the dog is more important, and she pulls focus. I think you can also lose the “marty must choose the path” sentence, as you do very well at illustrating that!

    First 250 – love it. I like knowing it’s a dog because I don’t want Marty to hit it (her). I get and like the dog references but I think it’s one too many. Also felt out of voice with the precise geology of the EaWA “steppe.”

    So well done – you’re super polished and I wish you luck. 🙂


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