I should have done this a while ago


Actually, maybe I have and just don’t remember.

Anyway, I thought people might be interested in seeing the query letter I wrote that caught the interest of my agent (and a couple others besides).

Here it is with the addresses stripped out:

Dear [Agent’s Name]:

Ray Lilly is just supposed to be the driver. Sure, he knows a little magic, but it’s Annalise, his boss, who has the real power. Ray doesn’t like driving her across the country so she can hunt and kill people dabbling in dangerous magic, but if he tries to quit he’ll move right to the top of her hit list.

But Annalise’s next kill goes wrong and she is critically injured. Ray must complete her assignment alone; he has to stop the man who is sacrificing children to make his community thrive, and also find the inhuman supernatural power fueling his magic.

Harvest of Fire is a completed 99,000-word contemporary fantasy in the tone and style of a crime thriller.

I have sold several short stories to the magazines Black Gate and On Spec. The latest is “Eating Venom,” due out in the next issue of Black Gate.

Thank you for your time,

While I’m proud of those short fiction sales, I’m not sure they did much to catch anyone’s interest. At least, editor and agent both convinced me to publish my novel under a different name than those shorts.

Also, the synopsis covers only the characters, setting and the big plot twist that finishes the “first act” of the novel, which falls around page 30-50. That recommendation came from “Agent Kristin” who runs the “Pub Rants” blog (pubrants on LJ) and it really works.

For the synopsis, I described the whole book, right up to the end, ‘natch.

Notice also that I used the word “magic” three times in two paragraphs–word echoes are my enemy.

Anyway, I hope that’s interesting or useful.

Added eight years later: I don’t have a lot of analysis in this old post, but then I’m not sure it needs it. It bugs me (still) that I used the word “magic” so many times, but word echoes are one of the crosses I have to bear.

Many years ago, there was an account called Evil Editor who would read queries, snark about them, then give advice. The query I wrote or Twenty Palaces, the book before this one, is here. EE didn’t ask me to change much, but they still had fun at my expense (all in good fun). Apparently, “ruthless vigilante sorcerers” became a thing on the site.

I think that query is too long, but it didn’t matter because the book wasn’t ready. It wasn’t until I had my Road to Damascus moment while revising Child of Fire that I began stringing sentences together in a reasonable way.