My Latest Query Letter: Any Comments?

I’ve got a new manuscript I’m pitching to agents, so I’ve been spending a lot of time refining my query letter.

After many agonizing hours writing, revising, banging my head against the table, getting feedback from my wife, and reading advice on Query Shark, I think I’ve got a good draft.

But I’d also like to get feedback from the community. If you have comments or critiques, I’d appreciate the input. Here’s the most current draft:

Edward Drake wants to be more than a Negro curiosity to the privileged white Brahmins among whom he lives in 19th century Boston. Brought to Beacon Hill as a child to serve as a spirit medium for a wealthy widow, he’s since grown weary of seances and other psychic nonsense.

Thwarting the wishes of his patroness, he disavows his ability to communicate with the dead—only a fool or a madman would believe such a thing.

But that disavowal is tested when Edward receives gruesome news from his home town; a rash of child murders has roused panic and anger in the town. His estranged brother Jim is accused of the crime, and has gone fugitive.

Edward fears that if Jim is caught, he’ll be hung without trial or jury. As he races home to seek his brother and find the true perpetrator, he must wrestle with the nature of his strange and dreadful abilities. Can he truly speak with the dead? Is this power the key to saving his brother, or a sign of encroaching madness?

I’m seeking representation for my novel THE HAUNTING OF EDWARD DRAKE, which blends historical fiction with psychological suspense. The manuscript is complete at 86,000 words.

Editing Tips For Writers

Fellow novelist and blogger Rachel Carrera posted a call to writers to share editing tips. Rachel was kind enough to post my favorite editing techniques on her blog. You can find them here. You can also see what other writers have suggested.

Editing, like writing, is a skill that will improve with effort and attention. When it comes to my own writing, I use a light hand in the early stages of a draft; I want to encourage a flow of words and ideas without worrying too much about mechanics.

But once the draft has taken shape and I’ve got a solid beginning, middle, and end, then it’s time to be merciless. I hope you find the tips I shared useful, and please share your own to help us all improve.

edit all the words

Agents & Manuscript Word Counts: Is There An Optimal Number?

I recently got some interesting feedback from an agent about my query for a historical fiction novel. The manuscript is approximately 140,000 words. She noted “the high word count was a bit concerning.”

She also wrote “For a new client, going over 100k can be pushing it.” Apparently it’s a signal of potential overwriting that will require revisions.

I’ve gone back to manuscript to start trimming, but I’m not sure I want to cut 40,000 words on one agent’s advice.

Have other writers heard anything similar? Is there an industry benchmark on manuscript word counts for new authors?


Neuromancer: Case Is A Script Kiddie!

I’m re-reading Neuromancer, William Gibson’s sci-fi/cyberpunk classic. The book amazes me as much now as it did when I read it back in the ’80s. The writing is lean and sharp as a scalpel, the world is realized in exacting detail, and the pace moves the reader forward while still immersing the reader in different locales.

However, on this re-reading I realized that Case, the hacker protagonist, isn’t the uber-hacker he’s portrayed to be. He’s just a script kiddie; that is, he just uses pre-written programs that he had no involvement in creating.

He doesn’t uncover any weaknesses in the system he’s meant to be attacking. He doesn’t craft any exploits or discover software vulnerabilities. He doesn’t even social-engineer anyone to steal credentials or gain system access. Most of the computing work is either handled by Dixie Flatline, a virtual construct of one of Case’s teachers, or by virus software that was given to Case.


In other words, Case is a bit of a passive protagonist. It seems like his primary role is look over Molly’s shoulder as she does the physical legwork of breaking into places and shooting people.

That said, considering this was Gibson’s first novel, it’s easy to forgive Case’s script kiddie status. The novel still stands as an exemplar of near-future, noir-drenched, sci-fi that’s a pleasure to read.

Judges Wanted For Reader’s Choice Award

The publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press (RDSP) is holding a Reader’s Choice Award and needs judges to participate. Judges will read four books published by RDSP in 2014 and select a winner. RDSP specializes in science fiction and horror.

If you’re interested in being a judge, send an e-mail to books@rawdogscreaming and put “Volunteer Judge” in the subject line.

My novel Wasteland Blues may be one of the books up for judging.