Sunday, March 20, 2011


Dearest Agent;Ha!

Dear QueryShark:

Emily Jacobs, a senior at Maryland, is off for the summer. The last thing she remembers is walking through the woods by her parents’ Long Island home. Now she’s in a locked room, wearing strange clothing, with no idea when or how she got there.

A slight quibble: it would be better to say she's a college senior UNLESS the fact she's attending that specific school is important. If it is important, say the whole name of the school: University of Maryland.

Then the heavily disguised voice of some asshole calling himself Harold tells her she’s been kidnapped, although she’ll be treated well and released whether her parents pay or not. Of course she will…of course. Emily hasn’t believed in the tooth fairy for years.

Then again, maybe she’s wrong. Maybe they will release her. Meanwhile, the walls seem solid, but Harold and his friends have given her some CDs and a nice, large mirror. Maybe she can cut her own way out instead.

THE ABDUCTION OF EMILY, a mystery/suspense novel of 84,000 words, is an account of a kidnapping as seen from three points of view: the kidnapper, the kidnapped, and the people left behind.

This last paragraph is the reason I chose this letter for QueryShark. I've never seen the problem of multiple viewpoints addressed quite this elegantly. The main part of the letter is in Emily's viewpoint, and we get a strong sense of her voice and character.

The writer then did NOT try to do the same thing for each of the other viewpoints, and that restraint is a VERY.Good.Thing. Instead, simply saying there are three POV's and whose they are tells me what I need to know.

This should be a template for anyone with multiple POV novels.

I have attached…, as requested. Most likely it will be pages IN THE BODY OF THE EMAIL. Make sure you don't attach something unless the agent's very own website says to do so.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Phone numbers
Favorite Color ha!

This is a very good query letter.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Dear QueryShark:

Preparing to tape the races on the river, 'Mac' McCaskill stumbled on a brutal execution style murder. Even more ominous, the shooter sped off in a police car.

I don't intuitively know what "tape the races on the river" means, so using that as an opening is confusing. It's also not important.  That Mac sees a murder is important. Open with the important event.  I also have a well-known loathing of starting sentences with clauses rather than the subject, particularly in a query.

Fleeing to another state, transplanted westerners Mac and his wife Sharon surrender the video to the authorities for an empty promise of safety.

Again, focus on what's important first.  Also, I'm confused about why they would first flee, then surrender the video.  Wouldn't they give it to the local law enforcement guys first? 

They are subjected to sleazy cops, bureaucratic control freaks, and professional hitters. As private agendas unfold with a vengeance, they are forced to escape and evade as he was taught in SERE school. Striking back with other violent skills learned in the military was entirely his idea.

I don't know what SERE school is. I can intuit that it's some sort of military tactics school from context but acronyms are a risk you can avoid simply by leaving it out. 

Using the momentum of the ongoing corruption investigations in Memphis, this novel exploits the lack of a state sponsored witness protection agency.

Aha! Now I see the source of the real problem in this query.  You're trying to make a point.  Don't.  The story has to come first.  I'm fundamentally uninterested in"sleazy cops, bureaucratic control freaks, and professional hitters" because they are one-dimensional characters you're using to make a point.

Your characters need to reveal the point you're trying to make. Consider this: Mac turns over video tape of a shooting that involves a police officer.  Expecting help from law enforcement, after all he's seen movies about Witness Protection, he's dumbfounded to learn there's no protection available for him.  He's on his own. With his wife.

You've made your point without sounding like this is an expose of something. You've got to tell a story well to make your readers care. Otherwise you're writing a treatise and I don't represent those if I can help it.

Currently a Systems Analyst, I planned my first book while a Staff Sergeant in the U. S. Air Force. Part of my training in 'Electronic Intelligence' took place at the SERE school mentioned in the story. After writing my first novel and several short stories, I discovered and joined the (redacted) Writer's Guild. Now on the Board of Directors, I have finished my second novel and am midway through my third. 

None of this is a writing credit.  You don't need to be in the military to write about it. 

Immediately available, "aka; The Dark Side of Wit-Sec" is a fast paced thriller of 50,000 words about the mysterious side of witness protection.

"Immediately available" is expected. You wouldn't query unless the novel was ready to go. You don't have to say this; we expect it.

And what you've described isn't really a thriller.  There's no ticking clock. There are no stakes larger than the personal (whether Mac and Mrs. Mac live or die isn't of national importance) and as far as I can tall, there's no antagonist.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is a form rejection even though the idea of no state sponsored witness protection is interesting.