Homing in on a decent query letter. I think. Updated version below.
His name: Chet Masters. His talent: Chemistry. The naughty kind.
Also: Chet is a thief.
Because when you’re on the run from a shadowy cabal of international ne’er-do-wells generally, and their gleefully murderous dogsbody specifically, it’s hard to balance atop the straight and narrow. Thus, Chet Masters — formerly of more respectable vocations and now an avowed practitioner of both the larcenous and distractionary arts — has taken to “alarming” by way of popping smoke grenades in crowded retail establishments and making off with your wallet, keys, Subway card, dignity, crumpled tissues, bobby pins, loose mints with lint on them, iPhone, iPad, and iDentity.
It’s a simple life, but a good one — no muss, no fuss, and enough larcenous shenanigans to make Robin Hood rend his fancy green hat with jealousy. That is, right up until he runs athwart his ex, the lovely and perspicacious Alicia Brahe, and mid-heist no less. Now Chet finds himself on the lam with a girl who sundered his heart once upon a time, while at his heels nip various pursuers, both lawful and not so much.
Set against the gaudy pomp of urban Las Vegas, Chet Masters is Alarming is a whizbang, 70,000-word postmodern heist story. It is my first novel, though I have written for various websites and self-published a collection, Pen and Platen: Short Stories Written the Long Way.
Thank you for your consideration. If you are interested, I will gladly send the completed manuscript.
Alas, my first foray into the wild world of traditional publishing did not work out like I’d hoped it would, Twitter-based glad-handing or no. Still! Not even a scintilla of my inertia shall go to waste, for I shall ply my words on more amenable climes, those of the good old US of A.
Which means, of course, and entirely different sort of query letter. Needs to be punchy and short, the kind of thing that hooks you through the gills and drags you along whether you like it or not. Lucky for me, I have the incomparable Lise J. Niggemyer in my corner, goading me towards some inevitable awesomeness.
That said, behold a few nascent attempts at the query letter game. They are still all wobbly like a baby deer learning to walk, but I think some chimerical amalgamation thereof will render slush-pile interns woozy with desire to read the whole damn thing. Oh, and tell me which you like best, below.
Chet Masters is on the run from just about everyone it’s possible to be on the run from.
The cops want him behind bars for a series of brazen daylight robberies in which he popped smoke grenades and absconded with everything that wasn’t anchored in place.
His former employers want him corpsified for having far too many nasty secrets locked up in his head, not the least of which is a chemical compound that makes ricin look like vitamin C.
His ex girlfriend, the lovely and perspicacious Alicia Brahe, wants him for whatever reason nice girls want bad boys.
And lo though Chet is avowed practitioner of both the larcenous and distractionary arts, each and every of the above is going to catch up with him. They know it. He knows it.
But until then, it’s going to be a wall-to-wall panoply of shenanigans most flagrant: high-speed chases, flying flash-bangs, romantic liaisons, Miguel de Cervantes, and at least one person getting punched square in the face.
Chet Masters is experiencing a run of bad luck.
First, his girlfriend dumps him rather than following him to his new, tantalizingly-clandestine chemistry job deep beneath the Colorado Rockies…
…at which point he finds out that the shadowy cabal of obscure interests he works for is (surprise!) up to no good, forcing him to flee for his life.
…at which point he decides (naturally) that the only course left to him is to return home to his native Las Vegas, there to parlay his chemistry skills into a series of larcenous shenanigans that make Robin Hood look like a rank amateur.
…at which point he finds himself at the center of a massive manhunt by the stalwart purveyors of law and order that are the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
…at which point his ex, the lovely and perspicacious Alicia Brahe, comes waltzing back into his life mid-robbery, putting a serious kink in his plans for reconciliation.
…which catches us up to Monday. By Friday, things are going to get infinitely more complicated.
Chet Masters is an excellent chemist, which in turn makes him a pretty good thief. A pinch of Potassium Nitrate here, a smidge of Sodium Nitrate there, and voila! The massed bourgeoisie are fleeing an ersatz conflagration, leaving Chet free to abscond with whatever overpriced baubles they leave behind. And when you get right down to it, a Louis Vuitton Petit Noe (MSRP $1,680), even slightly used, can fetch enough on the black market to keep Chet in barbecued pork for at least a month, and his ageing, estranged mother off the streets.
So yeah, it’s a simple life, but a good one. No muss, no fuss, just the occasional adrenaline spike when he very occasionally has to run from the stalwart LVMPD.
That is, right up until Monday, when Chet runs athwart his ex, the bosom-y and perspicacious Alicia “Heartbreaker” Brahe, mid-heist no less, after which point things start to favor entropy in a big way.
Now Chet finds himself running from the law, his shadowy and kill-crazy former employers, and – most dangerously – his own feelings for a girl who one sundered his blood pump in twain.
His name: Chet Masters. His talent: Chemistry. The naughty kind.
Also: Chet is a thief.
Because when you’re on the run from a shadowy cabal of international ne’er-do-wells generally, and their gleefully murderous dogsbody specifically, it’s hard to balance atop the straight and narrow.
Thus: Chet Masters, formerly of more respectable vocations, has taken to “alarming,” in which he sets off smoke bombs in crowded retail establishments, screams “Fire!”, and then helps himself to anything that isn’t nailed down.
It’s a simple life, but a good one.
Right up until he runs athwart his ex, the lovely and perspicacious Alicia “Multisyllabatrix” Brahe, and mid-heist no less.
Now Chet finds himself on the lam with a girl who sundered his heart once upon a time, while at his heels nip various pursuers, both lawful and not so much.
And they’ll all probably end with something like:
Set against the gaudy pomp of urban Las Vegas, Chet Masters is Alarming is a whizbang, 70,000-word postmodern heist story.
Pulling cable gives a body lots of time to think. The hands know their work, and so require no additional input save for the tactile memory of having performed the task innumerable times, leaving the mind to pull free from its moorings to drift along eddies many and currents manifold.
Thus did I decide upon my current course of action. You see, I’ve been working diligently (in my scant free time) on an interlocked series of short stories for Pen and Platen II, a trilogy grown from the unassuming image of a young girl finding a typewriter in the ashes of a bygone world.
But like so many things that we water with labor and devotion, the story grew beyond its preconceived bounds, o’erspilling first one notebook, then another. First black, then blue-black, then brown ink flowed forth and dried on the page, and still the tale refused satiation.
So yeah. What was once a short story is now three, which in turn are threatening to blossom into a novella. Which is exactly how Chet Masters sprang into existence.
Sorry about the radio silence. Been kinda busy with things like new jobs, tours of nuclear reactors, stuff like that.
But! The work goes on. Put down ’bout 2,000 words of P&P II story, “First,” estimate another 4,000 until it’s done, then another 10,000 besides on its sister tales, “Second” and “Third.” Kind of had a reverse-chronological narrative thing going on, plus sex, violence, and elephants.
Good news/bad news. Cliché, yes? But all too often apropos. So when I say,
“This is gonna be one of those good news/bad news situations,”
yeah, I could dress it up, maybe slap a witty preamble on there, and hope that you won’t notice how hard I’m leaning on ye olde tropery in some kind of perverse Weekend at Bernie’s-esque thing.
But that would be crass and tasteless, and I’ve done used up all my crass and tastelessness points for the month yelling swearwords at Frisbees that just wouldn’t. Stop. Fucking. Hooking.
This is gonna be one of those good news/bad news situations.
THE BAD NEWS: Pen and Platen 2 is gonna be late.
I know I know I know. Bad business, especially for an up-and-comer trying to eke out a living $.33 at a time. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not cancelled; it’s just late. Because I had to make room for…
THE GOOD NEWS: Editing is the worst.
Okay, so that part’s not the good news. But to me, writing is like some wonderfully horrible catharsis, a process by which I can excise whatever passes for personal demons among working class whitebread novelists.
But editing? Shiver.
Hate it. Hate it so hard, flames on the sides of my face, great, heaving breaths.
Anyway, so there I was a couple weeks ago, complaining to my friend Erin Anacker (she of Pixology fame) about the above, and she says to me, “You oughta get together with a friend of mine, name of Lise. She’s a smart cookie and has a laser robot ninja eye.”
So I smile and nod and let her send an introductory email, but inside my guts are roiling because even if it works out this Lise might end up another person who reads my stuff and shrugs and goes, “It’s…good? I dunno.”
Skip ahead a week and I send her the Chet Masters manuscript and try to forget how many people have the damn thing, try to forget how hard Good Friday crashed among its beta readers.
But then. Oh then.
I barely have a chance to take a breather when Lise hits me back with the full manuscript, marked up from hell to breakfast, plus two pages of notes AND a timeline replete with highlighted inconsistencies. Because while writer friends are great when it comes to things like character and plot and all that creative nonsense, it’s also nice to have someone in your corner who understands not only where all those pesky punctuational doodads go, but also why. Someone who knows what colors Southwest Airlines actually uses on their planes and that said colors are called “livery.”
Someone who’s not afraid to edit sex scenes.
I was floored. I’m still floored, in fact, at Lise J. Niggemyer’s attention to detail, exhaustive mental encyclopedia, and sheer, balls-to-the-wall speed.
And to be honest, even now I’m 51/49 on whether or no to share her with you guys or keep her to myself like some sorta literary Gollum. My editsssss…
But you know what? To keep her to myself would be a disservice to the writing community. So IF you write and IF you wanna have the best possible book, hit her up at readerlise(at)gmail(dot)com.
I need your opinion. Which is strange, knowing me.
I finished the second draft of my novel, Good Friday, last year. And since then it’s been languishing in a drawer while folks all across this great country of ours slog through it.
Which leads us to the problem: half the folks out there prefer nested narrative timelines, while the other half prefers straight-up chronological order.
The story, at present, takes place during three or so major epochs, 1930, 1970, and 1986, and switches between the three at random while advancing the narrative.
However, some folks have come forward with the opinion that this ruins the suspense a bit, since characters that appear in ’86 obviously survived ’70 intact.
Others, on the other hand, seem to prefer the braided narrative style, which hops back and forth.
Me? Well I obviously wrote it one way, and to transform it into the other would be a titanic task. That said, I’d rather have to work my ass off for another month or so and have something that folks want to read as opposed to a 140,000-word doorstop.
So please, hold forth in any manner you see fit. I am at a loss.