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Ask Daphne! About My Query XIX

gaShoes worn by one of my favorite FBI agents (Scully) for JMD, our next About My Query participant. As a reminder, the goal here is to provide helpful comments to aid the author in improving their query. Here we go!

Dear Ms. Schafer,

I am seeking representation for my paranormal suspense novel, Deadworld, complete at 109,000 words.

Jackie Rutledge is a Chicago FBI agent who walks that fine line between competence and nervous breakdown. When a killer begins bleeding people dry, Jackie’s psychic partner Laurel, tells her to get off the case. The spirit world is involved and they aren’t playing nice. Worse, the prime suspect, one PI Nick Anderson, seems to exude death worse than the local cemetery. Jackie is not a “leave well enough alone” sort of woman however. She hasn’t let a bad guy get away since she was twelve, and this one will be no different. Unless of course, he’s not the killer.

Despite the evidence, Jackie does not get the “killer” vibe from Nick. He’s not at all what he appears. His past goes back far beyond the humanly possible. In fact, nothing about the case makes sense, and the more they dig, the more it seems Laurel was right. They’re dealing with a killer who effortlessly walks between the living and the dead, and she will need Nick’s help to take that step, because facing the dead is where Jackie’s competence ends and the breakdown begins.

This is my second completed manuscript. I am Vice President of my local RWA chapter, and upon request, I would be happy to submit a partial or the full manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


This is certainly intriguing, but raises the kind of questions that I think could be cleared up in a revision. One of my big ones in any paranormal story is whether or not the paranormal world is known or expected in the novel. In other words, is the FBI agent a Mulder in a world where no one believes her, or does everyone and their brother know that the strange and unusual exist next to our own world? Does her partner just happen to be psychic, or are they deliberately teamed up in a “one of them, one of us” pairing?

When we get to the PI, however, I think things get a little more confusing. For one, the “bad guy” is, one presumes, the killer. But by saying “Unless of course, he’s not the killer,” it’s clear Jackie is referring to Nick as the “bad guy,” instead of just her suspect.

I mean, I don’t want it to seem I don’t get the tropes of a romantic suspense novel, where the mysterious guy who seems to be the killer turns out not to be, just in time for the heroine to fall for him. But I think you want to say something more like “She hasn’t let a bad guy get away since she was twelve, and this guy will be no different. But when Jackie does not get the “killer” vibe from Nick, she decides to work with him to track down the real killer.”

Something. That’s not perfect either, but I hope you get the idea. The agent reading this needs to be clear that we’re dealing with four characters: Jackie, her psychic partner, Nick, and the killer.

Another confusing part is when you say “it seems Laurel was right” — the assumption is that she was right in telling Jackie to get off the case, when I think you mean that she was right about the spirit world not playing nice. It’s just not a smooth connection.

Finally, I’m not sure you need to say this is your “second completed manuscript.” It emphasizes a first novel that obviously did not sell, or you’d be telling us about your pub credits. Otherwise, my assumption is that you’re clearly involved with perfecting your craft, thus the membership and involvement in the RWA.

So those are my thoughts. Readers, am I off base? Did you have an easier time following this pitch? If you were an agent, with a couple of hundred queries a week, would you ask for material on this?

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