not as pretentious as the header image suggests, but just as awesome

Ask Daphne! About My Query LXVIII

colorfulWowsers, talk about a lot of color! But sometimes, you need something bright and cheerful to fend off a Friday the 13th. Today’s About My Query post is the first in the latest batch of submissions, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Ms. Unfeasible,

There are few rules private eye Dennis Nealy won’t bend. When you’re already cursed, you don’t sweat staying on the straight and narrow, and not being able to die opens up interesting possibilities. Of course, if he was a respectable citizen, he never would have been cursed in the first place.

He has only one hard-and-fast rule: never accept a vampire as a client. At least, until poverty forces him to break it. Henry Fegin has a taste for blood, a hefty bank account and a missing human girlfriend. Although reluctant to work for a dead man, Dennis agrees to take the case, motivated by an old-fashioned sense of chivalry and his empty pockets.

Dennis fears Henry’s girlfriend fell prey to the serial killer haunting Pittsburgh. Bodies with arcane symbols carved into them have been found, and the murder victims don’t lie still in their graves.

Dennis’ investigation leads to the undead civil rights movement and its enigmatic leader, Charity Evers. He uncovers a dark side to the movement, including vivisection of lesser undead in secret experiments.

When bringing loved ones back from the dead is made practical through the federal zombie nutrition program, Charity is a world-wide celebrity. She wants the public to believe the undead are benign, but Dennis’ discoveries can destroy her carefully crafted public relations campaign.

Dennis’ enemies have his number: Although Dennis cannot die, his friends are vulnerable, and he will cross any line to protect them.

DEAD IN THE WATER is a 76,500-word urban fantasy.

I am a reporter and columnist at a daily newspaper and have won peer-judged awards, most recently for my work as a columnist from the West Virginia Press Association.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


There’s a lot to like here! The first two paragraphs, in particular, offer a very nice summary of our main character, with a few interesting character flaws/insights. I definitely want to know more about Dennis’s “old-fashioned sense of chivalry,” but then as the query goes on, that seems to get lost. I’d love to see you find a way to apply the character insights we get from Dennis to the continuing plot that is revealed in the rest of the query.

Otherwise, I find it hard to connect to the serial killer angle AND the “undead civil rights movement.” I imagine they’re connected somehow, and I wonder if you might not find a way in the query to skip the intermediate step and just tell the reader where you’re ultimately going to end up — not giving away the mystery, of course, but playing down what seems like it will be a red herring, or just a small clue along the way to the big reveal.

And if Dennis’ friends are going to play a big part in the story — in that their being threatened is what incites Dennis to action — then we need to hear about them sooner. Think of the relationship between Shawn and Gus on Psych, and how important that is to each of them — the show is build around that relationship, in the same way that I think you may need to spend more time in your query building up Dennis’s relationship with his friends. Because I don’t see an undying private eye with a lot of friends, but I love the idea of it, and I want to know more about that part of him.

What do you think? Are you drawn more to the mystery, and the charismatic leader of the undead civil rights movement? Worried about the national scale of the federal zombie nutrition program? Or just wondering where an undying private eye with a loose moral code makes friends? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

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