Archive for January, 2010

Ho hum, the fun part’s done. I’ve finished my book, “Don’t Get Dead,”  and now I have to find an agent. Or a publisher. What a pain.

Since I know no one in the publishing industry, I have to go the hard route: writing and sending out query letters.

Querying is a formidable task. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with (and intimidated by) all the information about literary agents floating around in books and on the internet.

I discovered two fabulous websites to help with querying.

The first is Query Tracker ( www.QueryTracker.net ). A Premium membership (nominal charge) provides writers with a wealth of information about agents and their respective agencies, i.e., names, contact information, links, affiliations, genres they handle, their submission requirements and on and on. Query Tracker allows you to research agents, save their information in separate files, and track what you have sent them when, whether you’ve heard back from them and what the response was.

You can also use Query Tracker for research and record your contacts with  publishers.

But before you query, you first have to  write that query letter (yikes!). Enter The Query Shark. On Literary Agent Janet Reid’s website, she accepts and critiques online query letters from writers. She’s blunt, ruthless, and shows no mercy. She’s also brutally honest, incredibly helpful, a wealth of  information, and truly funny. Delve into the website, read the information, i.e., the queries submitted and her responses, and you’ll learn tons about how to write a query, what to include in the letter, what agents are looking for, what they hate, etc.  What it also does is help you grow a thick skin, and God knows, we all need help with that.

Here’s the link:  http://queryshark.blogspot.com

Let the bloodletting begin!

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As promised, here are a few pages from my new novel, “Don’t Get Dead,” the first of the Gracie Kinkaid mysteries.



The body hung upside down in the truck, suspended by the seatbelt, sun-bleached hair hanging straight down to skim the roof of the cab.

The light from the headlamp strapped to Gracie’s forehead merged with that of Ralph Hunter’s mag flashlight to illuminate the interior of the crumpled pick-up that had shot off the road high above their heads and now lay upside down amid a jumble of rocks and vegetation on the desert floor.

“Well, as far as dead bodies go,” Gracie said, “this one’s in pretty good shape. At least it’s in one piece.”

Ralph grunted his agreement.

Thank God this guy was wearing his seatbelt, Gracie thought. She had seen the results of vehicles launching themselves off mountain roads and highways. Often times drivers wearing seatbelts walked away relatively unscathed from their impromptu four-hundred foot roller-coaster rides. Drivers not wearing seatbelts usually didn’t. As exhausted as Gracie was, retrieving body parts would definitely have sucked.

Gracie dug a piece of strawberry bubble gum from a side pocket of her pants and popped it into her mouth, dutifully tucking the wrapper back into the same pocket.

In spite of the heavy shadows of the truck’s interior, Gracie was able to discern that the victim was male and young, possibly still in his teens, and that there was little blood inside the cab or on the body itself. “He didn’t bleed out,” Gracie said as she tugged open the radio chest pack she wore and picked out a pair of purple latex gloves.

“Blunt force trauma probably knocked him out,” Ralph said, keeping his voice as bland and clinical as if they were sitting comfortably in a classroom discussing ropes rescue theory and not the cause of death of someone who hours before had been a breathing, laughing human being with a family, maybe a sweetheart, and dreams and a future. “Traumatic asphyxia. Died from hanging upside down in the seatbelt.”

Gracie snapped on the gloves. “First time I’ve seen someone actually die from wearing a seat belt.”

“Dead for sure without it.” Ralph swung the beam of his flashlight over so he could see Gracie’s face without shining it directly into her eyes. “You okay with this, Gracie girl?”

“Yes,” Gracie bit off. Then, “No!” followed by, “Yes! I need to be able to do this, dammit!”

“Okay then,” Ralph said, obviously taking her at her word. “Let’s open it up.”

Ralph slipped his heavy flashlight through a belt loop, then, donning his own pair of latex gloves, tugged on the passenger door handle of the upended truck. When the dented door resisted, he planted a dusty boot on the truck’s side panel and hauled with both hands until the door opened with an unearthly screech of metal on metal that raised the hair on the back of Gracie’s neck.

In what both rescuers knew was a formality, but had to be done regardless, Ralph leaned inside the cab and placed two fingers on the carotid artery of the young man’s neck, checking for any signs of life.

Gracie silently counted off the seconds until Ralph said in a low voice, “Nothing.”

He wrestled a thin wallet from the back pocket of the dead man’s jeans and held it out behind him. “ID.”

As Gracie grabbed the wallet and backed away from the truck, she became aware for the first time of muffled voices and occasional bursts of laughter filtering through the forest of Joshua trees behind her, signaling the arrival of the rest of the recovery team hefting in the litter–the orange plastic basket in which to transport the body–from one of the countless dirt roads that criss-crossed the desert flats.

Unoccupied, the Junkin litter was unwieldy and heavy. Day packs, body bag, daisy chains of woven nylon webbing, steel carabiners and other ropes rescue hardware tossed into the basket weighed it down even further. Another one hundred eighty pounds or so of dead weight translated into strained shoulders, arms and hands on the way out.

Gracie opened the wallet and zeroed the beam of her headlamp on the California driver’s license inside. A bright young face smiled back at her.


She snapped the wallet closed and shoved it into a side vest pocket.

“Deep breath,” she whispered to herself. “Do not feel anything. You have to get the job done.”

Her eyes slid over to the truck where Ralph was sifting through papers scattered inside the truck cab.

“Besides, you barf all over Ralphie’s boots again and your ass is grass.”

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