Friday, June 29, 2012

How I know you're lying** when you tell me you read the archives

You send a "query" that has this, and only this:


your name
your address
your city, state zip
your phone number

Word Count: of the query no less, not even the book itself



Chapter One

This is an example, one of the better ones actually, of a query that I just delete. If you've sent something to QueryShark and you don't receive an acknowledgment that starts:

Your submission to the Query Shark has been received.

then your query did not arrive OR it was deleted. Before resending, make SURE you follow the directions. If you keep sending queries that are clearly just plain wrong, your email address will be diverted to spam automatically.

**yes it's possible you sent the wrong query by mistake, sure. But no query should ever exist in this format.  Every single thing about it is wrong.  If you can't see that: READ THE ARCHIVES.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Dear Query Shark:

She's short, round, and pushing forty, but Julia Kalas is a damned good criminal. For seventeen years she renovated historic California buildings as a laundry front for her husband's illegal arms business. Then the Aryan Brotherhood made her a widow, and witness protection shipped her off to the tiny town of Azula, Texas. Also known as the Middle of Nowhere.

My attention is engaged from the very first sentence. I love love love the contrast of "short, round and pushing forty" and "damned good criminal."  This paragraph does EXACTLY what a good query should do: entice me to read more.

The Lone Star sticks are lousy with vintage architecture begging to be rehabbed, so Julia figures she'll just pick up where she left off, but she's got a federal watchdog now: Azula's hard-nosed police chief Teresa Hallstedt, who is none too happy to have another felon in her jurisdiction. Teresa wants Julia where she can keep an eye on her, which turns out to be behind the bar at the local watering hole. The bar's owner, retired fighter Hector Guerra, catches Julia's eye, so she takes the job. Before he can catch any more of her, they find Teresa dead on the bar's roof.

"The Lone Star sticks are lousy with vintage architecture begging to be rehabbed" makes me weak at the knees with joy. This is exactly the kind of sentence that SHOWS the writer is in command of her craft.

This continues to engage my interest because the diction is energetic and full of vim and vigor: "begging to be rehabbed" "federal watchdog" "local watering hole."  

Enter taciturn county sheriff John Maines, who begins trying to pin the murder on Hector for reasons that Julia soon discovers are both personal and nefarious. 

Nefarious! oh you have my heart at nefarious. But you have it because it's exactly the right word, not just popped in to a sentence for show.  

Unfortunately, the evidence cooperates, (oh yes this is a perfect phrase!) but Julia's finely-honed bullshit detector tells her Hector isn't a killer. She risks reconnecting with the outlaw underground to prove it, and learns the hard way that she's not nearly as tough -- or as right -- as she thinks she is.

And there's the choice that sets up the plot.  Oh yes, I am primed for pages at this point.

NINE DAYS is complete and runs 80,000 words. I hope to feature Julia Kalas in a continuing series, and am currently at work on a sequel, SOUTH OF NOWHERE. I currently make my living as a licensed architect specializing in the renovation of vintage Texas houses, and have been writing creatively for my own enjoyment since I was a pre-teen. Two of my short stories, (title 1) and (title 2), were recently published online by (press)

Your time and attention are greatly appreciated.

This is exactly the kind of query letter that makes me reach for pages. It's energetic. There's not a word out of place. It's got plot.  It's got an interesting, and unusual set up.

And for the blog readers, if you read this and want to pick at nits, remember that my purpose in reading queries is NOT to pick nits. It's to find energetic writing.  I'm not looking for mistakes. I'm looking for novels.

So, is this query perfect? No. But it does EXACTLY what it is supposed to do: make me want to read more. This gets a request for a full manuscript by return email.