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Ask Daphne! About My Query LII

christian-louboutin-shoe-bloody-mary-ankle-bootsThese are Louboutin “Bloody Mary” ankle boots, and as such, I think they’re wonderfully appropriate for today’s About My Query post. Shall we?

Dear Daphne,

Being undead has its perks. For medical examiner Joe Cooper those include inhuman strength, good looks to spare, and the ability to read the memories of the dead.

Joe’s a vampire with a lust for booze, blood and broads. And while Joe could spend all his nights with one hand on a bottle of scotch and the other on some curvy dame, being a member of the walking damned does carry baggage. That tug on his conscience that for every ounce of blood he takes, he should give a little something back. So to his other appetites, add a hunger for justice. When a mutilated corpse is left steps from Joe’s favorite bar, it’s that hunger that fuels the hunt for a gang of rogue vamps on a killing spree during Baltimore’s peak tourist season.

Sure, like any other red-blooded vampire, Joe likes his blood direct from the source—and that doesn’t mean cud-chewing cows or big-eyed deer—but in his world, that doesn’t mean his mark has to die. Take what you need and never leave the human worse for wear. When others of his kind fail to follow that dictum, Joe doesn’t hesitate to point out the folly of their ways.

Using his vampiristic abilities and skills acquired as a medical examiner, Joe tracks down the vamps responsible for the murders. When he does, he discovers there’s more at stake than a group of bloodsuckers hell-bent on breaking all the laws that govern his kind. And that the vampire calling the shots is the same one who has hunted him for decades, the same one who murdered his wife and turned him into a vampire sixty years ago, the same one who is now after his son—a female with the darkest of blood running through her veins. A nasty bit of goods he’s done everything he could to avoid, but the time for running is over. Joe soon realizes that before you can knock down all your demons, you have to SET ‘EM UP, JOE.

SEEING RED – SET ‘EM UP, JOE is a 94,000 word urban fantasy similar in style to Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. It is my first novel.

Thank you for your time,

C.M.

OK, I’m going to do things a little differently today. I’m giving you my step-by-step impressions, rather than reading the entire query and letting my thoughts be influenced by the whole. (I contemplated inserting my comments into the query itself, but I think that will interrupt your reading of it too much.)

So, first paragraph: In two short sentences we know who Joe Cooper is — a good-looking, strong, undead medical examiner who can read the minds of the recently deceased. Dexter meets Pushing Daises‘ Ned times vampire. Very clear and concise.

Moving on: I feel like we’ve suddenly lost the most intriguing part of your pitch — the fact that Joe’s a medical examiner. Sure, “booze, blood, and broads” is nice and alliterative, but to me, it doesn’t add anything beyond what you’ve already told me in paragraph one. I like the bit about the “tug on his conscience”, but I would prefer you tie that into his work, and THEN move onto the corpse left practically on his doorstep. I think you can leave out “So to his other appetites, add a hunger for justice” entirely, and just insert “for justice” in the next sentence to describe which hunger Joe is working with.

Paragraph three: The way you focus on “his world” makes me wonder if Joe’s the only vamp of his kind who follows the dictum of “Take what you need and never leave the human worse for wear.” In that case, I imagine Joe’s a bit like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, trying to change the minds of every other vampire out there. If, however, most vampires are like Joe, and take enough blood to feed but not to kill, then the “mutilated corpse” of paragraph two has a lot more meaning. Also, I think you want to keep the query focussed on the death at his doorstep, rather than making it a campaign against rogue vamps in general.

Next: Murders? I know you mention a “killing spree” back in paragraph two, but I lost the impact of multiple deaths in the adorableness of “cud-chewing cows or big-eyed deer” (and, for that matter, “red-blooded vampire”. Watch how often you use the same grammatical style to describe something). I am glad that we’re getting back to the idea of Joe as a medical examiner, but with the Big Bad being the one behind Joe as a vamp in the first place, and having a personal connection to our hero, I wonder if you’re dealing with coincidence, or a deliberate attack. I think you can make that clearer to the reader. Bringing Joe’s son into it this late into the query feels a bit like a sneak attack, and I will add that the structure of the sentence is very confusing — for a moment, I wondered how Joe’s son could be a female. I also think you’re missing a noun-verb clause in the sentence fragment “A nasty bit of goods he’s done everything he could to avoid”, which will speak to your writing skills. The titular moment is nice, if a little forced, but if you are going to mention the boozing back in paragraph two, this is a nice call out to it again.

In closing: Wait, “SET ‘EM UP, JOE” isn’t the title? It should be. “SEEING RED” does nothing for me, and is a bit generic. But the Dresden comparison is nice. I can see where you want to leave room for a series title, but let the first book stand on its own. An idea for titles of future books can come later — personally, I like the concept of a series of “Joe” puns — “Joe Average”, “Say It Ain’t So, Joe”, etc. But again, that can come later.

All in all, I think this is a strong, intriguing query, with some nice bits, and some things I might choose to tweak. Readers, what do you think?

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