So you can read my books

Monday, May 10, 2010


Casting dreams into the darkness.

That's what you do when you send out queries to agents or to publishers. Writing a short note in a bottle and tossing it out onto the horizon-to-horizon waves. Will it succeed it getting you off the deserted island of unpublished status?

The million dollar question.

{Leonardo da Vinci scribbled in his many notebooks never knowing if all his work would ever be appreciated.}

Like any intelligent person, I read what each individual agent writes she would prefer -- only to read in another article how she just had to sign this debut author. One who broke all the query rules and wrote such a refreshingly different query, breaking away from the crowd who slavishly submitted the same old, same old {in other words : followed her submission guidelines.}

Sometimes I can feel a nosebleed coming on.

I have been following the conventional wisdom lately and feeling a lot like Snoopy riddled by the Red Baron. Once I emailed a query early in the morning to get the rejection in the late afternoon of the same day.

All right. Obviously, it was course correction time. I looked back at the four queries that got 4 agents to ask to see more. They had what I call the 4 C's : interesting Character, primal Crisis, enough of the plot to make the agent Curious, and most important, they were all Concise ... ie. short as to be kind to a weary agent's eyes and frayed patience.

I decided to go with what had won me the attention of four agents and write a query that used the 4 C's, trying to improve upon the theme. And this is what I wrote and promptly sent off to another agent {who did not reject me the same day or the day after.}

Dear Ms. _________ :

Hurricane Katrina has mortally wounded New Orleans. There is no help in sight. Federal agencies are grid-locked. State officials are befuddled and ineffectual. The police are undermanned with little amunition and no sure means of communication.

And along every dark, flooded street ... the dead have started to rise.

Samuel McCord, legendary French Quarter jazz club owner, decides he has lost enough : his family, his wife, and his humanity. He will not lose his adopted city -- not to inept, corrupt politicians, not to the rising dead in the shadows, nor to a life-long enemy whose power is causing the dead to return and the creatures of the night to close in around a helpless New Orleans.

And so begins the 90,000 word urban fantasy, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. I'm including the first three pages of my novel to give you a feel for my writing voice :

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, fifty-one survivors of Katrina were huddled in shivering, too quiet clusters. Words have no meaning when a city dies. Nothing much does.

Somewhere distant in the hot, red darkness a shot rang out. Another called out to it like a wolf. But it came from a different direction. I smiled bitter. The predators were crawling out of their boarded shelters. They knew the restraint of law had died this day. Soon they would come for me.

You see, I had enemies in the night. And not all of them were human.

But what was human? Science kept telling us that human was only another kind of animal. We certainly acted it.

The lights were out all over New Orleans. And the real face of Man was showing. I knew what so many were thinking : ‘Now, I can do what I’ve always wanted. No one to see me. No one to stop me. No one to make me pay.’

“There’s me,” I whispered to the approaching darkness. “And soon there’ll be hell to pay.”

The water lapped at my knees, and I shook my head. Hell had already come collecting. But it seemed Hell was never satisfied. Soon it would demand more.

I had no words. An entire life’s outrage at lying politicians tried to crowd itself into this one moment. It wouldn't fit. In fact, I felt like I was about to explode. My anger was a wild beast inside my heart. But the outrage was slowly pushed into the background by the numbed shock of the sight before me.
My city shouldn't be drowning in front of me. And yet, here it was doing just that. I tried to remember what these streets had looked like dry and filled with laughing tourists. I couldn't. My mind felt broken.

The love that had kept me whole in its invisible sheath was gone. Gone. And what was left worth having? There had to be something better than cursing the darkness. But for the life of me I couldn’t think of it. All I could do was mourn.

I thought about the words Wilde had me carve on his false tombstone.

“Alien tears will fill for him

Pity’s long-broken urn,

For his mourners will be outcast men,

And outcasts always mourn.”

I looked all around. Yes, those words fit the desolation I saw. Hell, they fit the desolation inside me. The emptiness that had been born seven years ago when Meilori, my wife, could no longer stand the sight of me and had stormed away into the night.

Now, another lady named Katrina had come storming back. And she didn't seem to like me any more than had Meilori. I shook my head. That particular line stretched around the block.

The light was quickly fading. A last crimson glory filled the French Quarter. Its glow lay on the flooded streets like a crown of blood. A whisper of ice murmured that I was watching more than the death of the day. I was watching the death of a city, of a people’s hopes and dreams. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time. And like the people now inside my club, they had looked to me for answers and meaning then, too.

My jaw firmed. It would be different this time. I heard Meilori’s mocking laughter in my mind.

Damn it. It would be different. I would be different.

The laughter continued.


To get a better idea of my writing voice, you may want to check out my blog, WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS, .

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. I stayed.

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 Spring hold only happy surprises with some relief for punished eyes and swamped workloads.

Roland D. Yeomans M.A.

I included the first three pages as that was part of her submission guidelines. If no pages had been requested, I would have sent the first three paragraphs anyway. That is usually all weary agents read of our submissions before deciding to reject or not.

Just thought my query might help you write your own -- either incorporating some of its facets or steering away from them. Good luck with your queries everyone. And success to us all.

And here is a tune that describes how Samuel McCord feels towards his one great love, Meilori Shinseen.


  1. Roland,
    Honestly, I know how you feel. I send in my submissions and I follow guidelines and I still see a lot of rejection. AHHH! I am told to keep on keepin' on and so I do.
    I really enjoyed your excerpt of French Quarter Nocturne. You have a wonderful voice, a lovely way with words.

  2. Roland, thank you for sharing your query letter with us.

    You will find an agent. He/she is waiting for that gem, which is you, amid the flood of submissions. You have an enviable ability to spin a tale. This blog, being a testament to your strength as a writer.

    I wish you all the luck in the world.

  3. Roland, it never fails, when I read your work, I can't help but think...Koontz, and I say that with utmost respect. "The Taking," "Intensity," "Fear Nothing," and the Frankenstein series are what I read whenever in the mood for something unique, something unexpected, something with an artisitic voice. When blogging, and in that same frame of mind, I stop here.
    ...I look forward to one day selecting your novel off the shelf.

  4. That was a great query. I really hope you find the agent for you. Good luck!

  5. I'm no expert, but the query sounded good to me. I also enjoyed the writing sample. I really like the line about the mind feeling broken. I don't know why- I guess because usually we think about the heart as being broken.

    Oh, and have you watched the new HBO show Treme about post-Katrina New Orleans? I like it.

  6. I've got a post coming up in the next couple of weeks about openings in works of fiction and yours would have made the grade easily. 'It rained lies and death today.' That was powerful enough, the rest is equally good. Many thanks and good luck with agents. You deserve it.

    Greetings from London.

  7. Oh yes, I hear you with the nosebleeds. Your query sounds good to me, with a strong start. Have faith, and keep plugging. It's all we can do! Good luck. :)

  8. Just amending my post - I meant a strong start, middle and end - so sorry, I type and edit in the middle of what I want to say, and then post without checking it still says what I want it to! You can see how my current redrafting has taken a year. :)

  9. I thought your query was tight. But I'm the wrong person to ask because I've only ever had two fulls requested and I don't know if that was from my query or despite my query.

    I'm going to a conference this Friday, and will do my first ever query critique. Even though I've read countless "how to" articles and blogs, I hope meeting face to face with an agent I respect is going to help me figure out it's my query, my premise, or what.

  10. Interesting that I also posted a query today. Yours is better than mine but hey, it's all subjective right?

    I have a very LOVE/HATE relationship with querying. I hate pretty everything about them, writing them, that they are even necessary etc. But I love that query writing hell has given me a great premise for a blog and now I have connected with many other writers I never would have reached before.

    Like you. So there is that.

    Great post, thanks for sharing Rolkand.

  11. Love the metaphor here. I never thought of this that way, but it's true: sending off a query is very much like putting a message in a bottle and casting it off to sea!

  12. Thank you for sharing your query. It helps to see one. I have yet to send a query. For what it's worth, it sounds wonderful to me.

  13. other than errant spelling, this is a powerful query and excerpt...

  14. I feel you. What gets me about querying is getting numerous requests but bare bones rejections. I'm still waiting for something on their end, just a brief note, telling me the reason why the rejection or how to improve.

  15. Roland, thanks for sharing your query. I'm bookmarking this post to come back to when it's time for me to write mine!

  16. Very helpful! I haven't done query letters in forever. I guess it's a lot like looking for an internship huh? I'll be sure to remember the 4 Cs when I finally finish my novel.