So you can read my books

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Starting your writing career.

That's something all of us want to know more about. Here is a link to an article by agent Michael Larsen on that very topic in the latest GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS :,month.2010-1.aspx.

And TJ was right when she wrote me in the last post in that my query was long according to what conventional wisdom advises. I have taken that thought into consideration, and based upon another article from GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS, I sent off a "wiser" query. Here it is :

Dear {First Name of Agent -- I think it is warmer to address an agent by the first name} :

After your April 5th interview on GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS, I am sure you are swamped by queries. You stated you were interested not only in urban fantasy but in lesbian characters that had more to share than the angst of coming out. In my urban fantasy, Lady Lovelace, Ada Byron, daughter of Lord Byron {and author of the first computer language a 100 years before the computer's invention,} is a major player. As is Margaret Fuller, the first woman foreign correspondent. The year is 2005, and they should be long dead. But they are not.

And they have been lovers for a 150 years. How? It is explained in the 90,000 word urban fantasy, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. Neither one is the central character. But they are his anchors to sanity.

In a world where reality is but a walking dream, nightmare is only a shadow away. A legendary jazz club owner decides he has lost enough : his humanity, his family, his beloved wife. He will not lose his city -- not to politicians, not to predators in the shadows, nor to his life-long enemy returning for a final revenge. His tale is set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

I have finished FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE as well as the first three chapters of its sequel, NEW ORLEANS ARABESQUE. As you requested in AGENT QUERY, I am sending the first five pages of my novel in the body of this email :

"Our nation is prepared, as never before, to deal
quickly and capably with the consequences of
disasters and domestic incidents.”
--FEMA chief Michael D. Brown - March 09, 2005
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans August 29, 2005


It rained lies and death today.

I stood knee-deep in water outside my French Quarter jazz club, Meilori’s. My soul stretched tight across my chest. Everything I saw and heard in the shadows spoke to me ... in threats. The sudden, short explosion of an unseen gun. A quick, sharp scream in the distance. And the blue spurt of a lighted match at the far end of the street. My city bled slowly in the ripples of the flooded streets.

I leaned back against the door to my club as if for reassurance that something solid still remained to me. That it had survived Katrina was a mixed blessing. It was all that was left to me of my wife. Staying here was both penance and purgatory. Meilori’s was the kind of place in which almost anything was likely to happen and in which almost everything had. Inside, the fifty-one survivors of Katrina that I could house were huddled in shivering, too quiet clusters. Words have no meaning when a city dies. Nothing much does.

{Then follows the remaining 5 pages, but I wanted to be kind to your punished eyes.}

To get a better idea of my writing voice -- and if you care to challenge the murky blog waters -- you may want to check out my blog, WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS,

If not, I understand. Some of those blogs are truly scary.

{Of course, I was not referring to any of the blogs I follow here.}

I would tell you mine isn't. But I would sound too much like Richard Nixon claiming he wasn't a crook.

I am a former high school teacher, family counselor, and now a blood courier. The last a result of being evacuated from Lake Charles due to Hurricane Rita and having to support myself any way I could. I found I liked the job and the people with whom I worked.

Thank you for taking the time to read my query. I would be happy to send you sample chapters or the full manuscript. I hope that you find some gem in the flood of submissions that pour your way. May your New Year hold only happy surprises with some relief for punished eyes and swamped workloads.

Roland D. Yeomans M.A.
{Say a prayer for this query, will you, friends? I'll say more than one for yours. I just added this new query to show how a short query would look. Subtract the requested 5 pages, and it is fairly short.}

Here is a lovely rendition of a prayer that means a great deal to me :


  1. Roland, I thought this letter was fantastic! I'm no expert at query letters, but I've read a fair share of sample letters. Several things impressed me about this one. First, the writing flowed effortlessly. There were no awkward sentences, and I never got the sense you were cramming required info into tight, concise spaces. Even through the transitions between thoughts or paragraphs, your words flowed like water over the falls.

    Your voice was strong and engaging. I really felt like I knew you better, sensed the person in the author. So hard to do, yet again so effortless in this letter.

    I really hope this letter brings you representation that leads to publication! Thanks for sharing it with us :)

  2. This was a very nice letter Roland. I still think that French Quarter Nocturne will get picked up soon.

  3. Hey Roland,
    Sounds like an intruiging story. I like how you personalized it and did your research. The following is just my opinion... I haven't written a query yet, but I was a Journalism major, so I've had some experience in fitting a lot of info into small paragraphs ;o)

    I'm not sure you need the quote at the bottom? Seems a bit out of place. I would also wait to pitch the sequel in the query. How does this story unfold? Maybe add in some actual events? I love the first line of Chapter 1, it's a disturbing yet haunting image. Wishing you much success with your query ;o)

    Great job!

  4. Nice query, Roland. Generally it isn't recommended that you mention the sequel in the query. Agents want stand alone books. If the publisher requests a sequel then great. It's best they think you are working on a different project in case your book doesn't sell. But don't mention the other book in the query.

  5. Roland, this is a pretty damn good query, BUT ... I'd get rid of "I am sure you are swamped by queries", you don't need this. It's part of the agent's job to get them, and if they didn't get them they wouldn't have clients. It's like apologising for sending a query. Not necessary.

    Also, as Stina, said, i'd advise you get rid of mentioning the sequal. It's a common pet peeve amongst agents.

    And, I'd also get rid of everything after your sample pages. Just end your query before them in the first part with: Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. The rest is just ramble to them. They want short and sweet and snappy.

    Otherwise, great job. AND I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your opening line! AWESOME!

  6. Roland, thank you for sending my your blog. Your writing is amazing. I love the beginning line of your novel.

    Your query is very good. I like how personable it is. It's sure to catch an agent's attention. Good luck with your writing ventures. I'll be back to read about more.

  7. Roland, an agent once told me no one ever makes money on the first book, it's the following books that make everyone money. So, do mention your follow up books.

    No one treated my writing seriously until I mentioned I had already written a series. Then, after the first publisher accepted my work, I actually had to turn down some publishers. Oh that felt good.

  8. Good job.

    Good luck!! I'm excited for you.

  9. Hi Roland! It takes a lot of guts to post your query here for strangers to critique. I commend you for that - I'm not brave enough!

    I like your writing style, and I think you've got a good start, and I love your opening paragraphs!

    I know when I've asked for critiques, I don't like it when people *don't* tell me what's wrong with it. I want people to point out where I've gone wrong. I've read enough of Query Shark's posts, so I'm going to channel her right now and tell you what I think she would say about your query.

    I would personally start your query with:

    [Name], a legendary jazz club owner decides he has lost enough to Hurricane Katrina: his humanity, his family, his beloved wife. He will not lose his city -- not to politicians, not to predators in the shadows, nor to his life-long enemy returning for a final revenge.

    The next paragraph should talk about who his life-long enemy is, what is the conflict? What's at stake if the enemy wins? What will happen if your MC loses his city to the politicians and predators? Who or what are the predators in the shadows (if it's central to the conflict - if not, I wouldn't mention it)?

    And I'm not really sure what Ada and Margaret have to do with the conflict. Are they helping the MC? Are they working for the enemy? Is he just crazy and they're all in his head? You start with the story of Ada, and who her dad was, but that doesn't really seem to be what your story is about, so I wouldn't start with that because it'll just confuse the agents.

    Since your ms is Urban Fantasy, I'm going to guess that Ada and Margaret are ghost-like creatures who help your MC in his fight with his enemy. So I would say something like, "Lady Lovelace, whose father wrote the first computer language one hundred years before the computer's invention, and Margaret Fuller, the first woman foreign correspondent, are anchors to his sanity as he fights for his city (or something like that). But they're not human. They have been lovers for over 150 years and they will die unless MC defeats his enemy (or whatever is at stake for them. I'm just guessing here.) But the key will be how to tie them in with your MC and his conflict. Since I haven't read your book, I have no idea, but I'm sure you'll think of a way.

    I hope I've helped! If not, I hope I haven't overstepped my boundaries.

    I definitely think you've got something here. I'm already intrigued by your story, and I think agents will be too! :)

  10. I agree about not mentioning 'swamped with queries' and about not pitching the sequel. One manuscript at a time.

    In addition, it's better to address the agent NOT by his or her first name. Instead of it feeling warm to them, most feel the writer is taking liberties by being too familiar. I've heard that time and time again. Once you develop a rapport and the agent signs off with first name only, then you may address them by first name.

    Good luck - sounds like a great story.

  11. Thanks for stopping by my blog; you are most welcome any time. I loved your query letter and I think your writing style is great. I'd buy the book. :)
    How interesting you should show up in my blogosphere at the time when I am working my way into the writing field. At the moment I am concentrating on the children's magazine field.

    Good luck with this book.

  12. I would have replied to all of your kind, thoughtful comments earlier, but I have been out all night doing blood runs. It is now 3:15 A.M. and I'm a bit exhausted so forgive my foggy head :

    Nicole : Thanks for letting me know my words flowed naturally, not feeling forced and giving an authentic feel to my words. That meant a lot.

    Anne, I hope you are right in your instincts that FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE is going to be picked up soon. And your novel as well.

    Erica, I will be praying for your gall bladder surgery happening today. May The Father heal you and ease your pain.

    Stina, thanks for the heads-up on sequels. I have always read that agents and publishers didn't want a one-hit wonder ... but that doesn't mean they want sequels either.

    Alliterative Allomorph, pruning as much chaff from query letters is always a good thing. You gave me good ideas. Thank you.

    Megan, your praise means a lot. Don't be a stranger, here?

    Walter, thanks for your counter thoughts to some of the other comments. I have heard some of the same things. And thanks for pointing out a possible publisher. Good luck with your sales.

    Lola, and good luck to your dreams as well.

    Kierah, your suggestions will help make my next query so much more stronger. Thanks for going the extra mile in giving me so much to consider doing better. I really appreciate all the thought you put into helping me write a better query next time. You are my hero.

    Carol, thanks for the heads-up about the first name salutation and the "swamped" intro I can prune. Your kindness is appreciated.

    Calfkeeper, welcome to the world of struggling would-be writers. If you come across a problem, just write me, and I will help you as best I can.