So you can read my books

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Matthew Rush has shown admirable courage and excellent insight in offering one of his rejected queries and his thoughts on said query.

For Matthew and for others out there who might want to see a query that managed to get an agent to ask first for a partial, then for a full manuscript, I thought I would offer mine that did so. The agent has not responded to the full. And I want to let you know that the agent may have asked to see my work inspite of my query rather than because of it.

Query_FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE_90,000 word speculative Noir thriller {was the subject header, telling the agent the title, word count, and genre right from the top.}

Dear Goddess {I actually used her first name, but if I had thought this title would have helped, believe me, I would have used it} :

Snowflakes are such fragile things, but this winter shows us what they can accomplish if they stick together. What a shame that most times Man refuses to be as wise as a simple snowflake.
{A hook to perhaps sound different than the flood of her usual pleas to "look at me."}

Trying to understand why Man acts as he does propelled me into a career in psychology. When I was evacuated out of Lake Charles during Hurricane Rita, I was jettisoned from the ivory tower and received a "doctorate" in the harsh realities of street life without the distancing buffer of a textbook or a TV screen. And though I have a Master's degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in English education, I, like so many others, survived as best I could and so found myself working as a blood courier to New Orleans in order to support myself.

{A brief look at who I am and why I could write convincingly of street life in post-Katrina New Orleans.}

I know firsthand the grim truths and bitter government betrayals Katrina-ravaged New Orleans endured, and how it felt to smell the stench of decaying human flesh upon the breeze of a too silent city, praying it came from no one that I knew and feeling guilty at the very thought. I chided myself that the death of a stranger was no less a tragedy, for somewhere someone soon would be grieving over the loss. And if someone had died for whom no one would grieve, that was an even worse tragedy.

It was as if you had slipped into a post-apocalyptic movie, but all the more chilling since the death and suffering was all too real. Each day grew more disturbing since the loss of my precarious job would have me on the streets with those haunted survivors. It was an experience beyond portraying to look into hollow eyes of people who had only thought they had known what having nothing meant and to hear them ask you "Why?" and "They really want us to die, don't they?".

As you are fluent in French, I could have used your language skills on those streets. True, Cajun French is hardly classic French. But your words would have fared better than my rusty knowledge of Latin and Lakota.

{I wanted to let her know that this wasn't some mass-offering, but a foused query based on my knowing something of her background.}

It was a true horror story. But one that many in this country consider "old news." And you know what you wrap fish in.

Though I felt compelled to write of that time, I knew the harsh truth that old news is "old hat." But there is always a market for urban thrillers and for a Noir visit into the shadows as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files prove. So as Mark Twain expressed his views on human nature and slavery in the guise of a boy's trip down the Mississippi, I presented what little I had learned on the streets of New Orleans in FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, a 90,000 word speculative Noir thriller set during the aftermath of Katrina. In its pages, the horror of the storm is but the metaphor for the horror which Man becomes when civilization's light no longer shines upon him.

{Actually, I beleive I added this much too late in my query. I tried to give a summary of what my novel is in such a way to spark interest and evoke the emotional depths I tried to acheive in it.}

Against the backdrop of Katrina's aftermath, an agnostic jazz club owner and his best friend, a haunted priest, engage enemies in the shadows that challenge both their belief systems. But there are two things not in doubt : their deep friendship for one another and the dark threat given license to kill by the absence of the police.

Samuel McCord is the owner of the jazz club Meilori's, a place in which almost anything is likely to happen and in which almost everything has. He tries to live with the loss of his beloved wife while struggling against political incompetence and intrusions by the Russian Mob, European revenants, and an old enemy seeking final revenge. Father Renfield tries to maintain his doubt-ridden faith under the twin barrage of his friend's questions and the overwhelming needs of Katrina's survivors.

The chaos in New Orleans has given the European revenants a chance to establish a beachhead in America. Worse, McCord's life-long enemy, a man who insists on being called DayStar, is plotting in the shadows. Gifted with a cruel intellect that makes Hannibal Lector look like a choir boy, DayStar has always been able to outwit McCord. But Sam's instincts tell him that if he is outwitted this time, all of New Orleans will suffer for his failure.

{Next, I tried to show the structure of my novel.}

McCord's world is internally consistent, his problems are diverse, and his obstacles offer opportunities not only to ride along on a great adventure but to watch from the inside as he confronts internal battles that resonate with real life. FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE offers a three-dimensional world, augmented as it is by various paranormal elements. Since the paranormal facets are subject to limits and rules, the existence of "revenants" and "linked dimensions" doesn't so much produce a deus ex machina as produce a new class of problems by which Sam can be outclassed -- and more rules against which poor Renfield can run afoul.

{Agents are overworked. I tried to present the logical reasons why my novel might be welcomed by economically-stressed publishers. I used authors to whom my work could be comparable and sale figures that appeal to the bottom line of publishing.}

The audience base for such a series of adventures is large as attested to by the sales of the works of Jim Butcher, Neil Gaiman {American Gods}, Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris. And like those authors, I toss jokes and inferences that resonate against what the readers know from the rest of their cultural lives.

{I added a media tie-in that would whet the appetite of the public for a work such as mine.}

Also on June 18, 2010, a supernatural western set in New Orleans is scheduled to be released. Jonah Hex stars Josh Brolin and Megan Fox. Its release will spark renewed interest in the legends surrounding New Orleans. A photo of the movie poster is at the bottom of this email. If it actually appears, then the spirit of Marie Laveau has smiled down upon me.

{I again tried to show I knew of her educational background and interests that I learned through internet researching of her.}

You may find the glimpses of the architecture of New Orleans, along with the little-known facts of its archeological history, interesting. The true glimpses of political incompetence and callousness are absorbing in a "train wreck" sort of way. I have just finished the prequel {of sorts since it is set in 1853}, RITES OF PASSAGE. And I have finished the first three chapters of NOCTURNE'S direct sequel, NEW ORLEANS ARABESQUE. I would be happy to send you a synopsis and sample chapters or the full manuscript of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE.

May your New Year hold only happy surprises with some relief for punished eyes and swamped workloads.

{Matthew and my other cyber-friends, I hope this query helped you -- if in no other way than to show what you did NOT want to do in yours. I now believe it is too long. But what do I know? The agent asked for a partial, then for a full. Now, I have to rush off to do blood runs. Wish me happy trails.}


  1. Thanks for sharing your letter. Interesting and insightful.

    Just found your blog and I'm enjoying it. Thanks.

  2. Wow that sounds like an awesome story!

    But question:
    how long was your query letter??

    Most of the agencies, agent interviews, and writer critique sites say to limit your query to 1 page and I am just curious how other agents you are querying responded to a longer letter (I had a hard time fitting all the action and drama of my novel into one page, and if they don't mind longer letters I would prefer to expand mine). :)

  3. It was an email query. And you are most perceptive, T. J. : it was too long. I have since shortened my current ones to the one page suggested. And guess what? Not a single nibble.

    The wisest approach is to do a simple tagline as if you were explaining your book to a friend. "I'm writing about the adventures of a legendary owner of a supernatural jazz club in the days right after Katrina. It's 90,000 words long and completed."

    That's the conventional wisdom, TJ. And the conventional wisdom hasn't gotten me one nibble since I've started using it. Maybe it is wiser to choose voice over brevity.

    I am pulling for you to get an agent soon, Roland

  4. My science fiction series America's Galactic Foreign Legion is being published by Penumbra Publishing. Consider E-mailing a complete manuscript submission to Penumbra Publishing. They're an honest company (though small) and will give you an honest fair read.

    My experience with Penumbra Publishing was they edited my submission for free. That was quite a different reply from what I ussually got. When when they found out I had written a series, they gave the total work a serious look, agreeing to publish. The editing got tougher after that, but it was an honest well thought out edit. No, Penumbra Publishing didn't want my money (I had got very wary of those types) and now my second book is at the printers.

    All this has been happening since November 2009. So screw agents. They don't want first time authors anyway. Give Penumbra Publishing a try. Why do I care? The larger Penumbra's catalog, the more traffic to their site.

    My America's Galactic Foreign Legion series is selling on Amazon. Only about a book a day for first two months, but hey, it's a start, and a thrill.

  5. Thank you, Walter. I may just do that. Roland

  6. Hi, I read about query letters on someone else's blog tonight. It is a mystery to me, since I am not a writer of books. Very interesting...

  7. Ruby, trust me, it's a mystery to most of us writing them, too.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Roland. The writing course I am doing has a query section in it. I haven't read it over yet, but am looking forward to learning all about them. Though after reading what everyone else has to say about queries, they sound rather scary! hehe :o)

    Good luck with your full :o)

  9. Thanks for bravely sharing your query. I'm not quite to the querying stage yet, but it's helpful to see other writers' experiences. Good luck!

  10. I loved your approach; I will keep my fingers crossed for you and I would love to read this!
    I really hope it gets published! Good luck!

  11. Thx for sharing Roland! Sounds like an awesome book. You definitely have mastered creative wordcraft and I wish you much luck in acquiring an agent! Keep writing!

  12. Thanks for the support! Good luck to you too. I hope you get some interest. I've sent mine to a lot and had 1 partial request w/ a rejection to follow so far. joy, ugh. But yeah, keep revising and critiquing b/c you never know what might catch someone's attention.