Finally! I submitted my first agent query today for my novel Shadows. Submissions require a synopsis and the first 25 pages as well. With the help of my critique group and a patient, generous editor, each piece was as polished as I could make it.
As Homer Simpson say, “Now we play the waiting game.”
And go to bed as I am coming down with some bug. Weird as it has been in a kind of holding pattern all day – aches mostly.
What if vampires exist and the 16th president of the United States made a vow to destroy each and every one of them? It’s the central idea of the novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith.
Lincoln’s hatred for the undead begins when he learns that a vampire took his mother’s life. Hot-headed and heedless of danger, he clumsily seeks them out, swinging his trusty ax into the heads and hearts of those he finds. Along the way, he gains allies and a patron, who reveals to Lincoln that the vampires have a grander design for America, and he, Lincoln, has a greater destiny in opposing them.
The idea certainly intrigued me, but while there are admirable elements found in the novel, on the whole, the idea was more gimmick than story.
The writing quality is strong and the author captures the voice of Lincoln and those around him with apparent authenticity (as well as this non-Lincoln-expert can tell). To the point where, especially in passages of Lincoln’s younger life, the writing could pass for creative non-fiction. The voice is authoritative and engaging, painting vivid scenes of young Lincoln, his father and mother, and their hardscrabble years. The details are either well researched or well fabricated. (Less convincing are the “historical” pictures interspersed in the novel.)
But the life of Lincoln is as well known as any historical figure can be. What is really there to add? Where is there room? We all the know the arc of his story. The novel is much like those photographs — something lifted from real history and manipulated to insert a vampire. And like those photographs, flat, bordered, awkward.
I had joked on Twitter while reading this that the story would have been better served if it was Millard Fillmore: Vampire Hunter. Take the most forgettable, inconsequential of U.S. presidents and give him the story of fighting vampires. There would be more potential for humor and suspense. Whereas Lincoln might turn over in his grave with this novel — hadn’t he enough real horror and tragedy in his life? — Fillmore might sit up and read it. A chance at being talked about, remind the world he existed as the last Whig party president and opener of relations with Japan.
I was willing to read further than I otherwise would have as the first third of the book was slow to start. What didn’t help also was the framing, such as it was. The narrator exists in present day and is entrusted with the secret journals of Abraham Lincoln. The narrative flits between the narrator (third-person) and the journal entries (first-person). I did not care for this, finding it distracting too often.
Also, the narrator has no story of his own. He does not even complete the “frame,” as he doesn’t “appear” after the setup in the introduction. It’s as though he was forgotten. And it isn’t convincing that the narrator, as much as we are to know him at all, could relate the tale in the voice and with the knowledge that he does.
At the bottom of it, I guess I just wasn’t that interested in the fate of any of the characters. Again the writing is good, but somehow it failed to connect with me.
Leah Randall has been acting all her life, but her talent for timing, impressions, and improvisation will be put to the test. Success will mean more money than she can count, while failure will mean prison, perhaps worse.
After seeing her vaudeville performance twice, Oliver Beckett is convinced that Leah is in fact his long lost niece Jessie Carr. The resemblance is unmistakable. No one knows what had happened to the girl who disappeared seven years ago, but if she turns up by her 21st birthday, she’ll inherit the family fortune.
Perhaps Leah is not Jessie, but all the same, Oliver persuades her that with his help, she can convince the family and the fortune’s trustees’ that she is truly Jessie. Of course, Oliver will expect his share, enough to sustain his appetites for the rest of his life.
Well prepared by Oliver’s lessons on Jessie’s life, home, and family, Leah journeys to San Francisco to meet with the trustees, then live at the Carr family home, Cliff House, at the very edge of Dexter, Oregon. The new Jessie overcomes suspicions, reuniting with her family as though she had never left. But one family member is not convinced at all. Then the bodies of strangled women begin appearing.
The Impersonator is superbly written, transporting the reader to 1924 with expert, passing details such as the “four pans of oxalic acid” to keep bugs out of beds, the contemporary attitudes on race and women, and the yet-to-be-famous faces. A delightful peek at the days of vaudeville and life during Prohibition, the novel moves along nicely, maintaining the mystery of the true Jessie’s ultimate fate, and concluding with a smashing finish.
This debut novel is a personal pleasure, as I have read Mary Miley’s early drafts of it. I am thrilled to read its published, polished, and justly-laureled form.
Recently I had received a kind tweet from Mike Iverson, who is half the talented team that had created the Vigil comic book series. He had appreciated my post about my enjoyment of re-reading those issues that have held up so well.
To my delight, he also informed me that Arvin Loudermilk, the other half of the duo, has continued to write more adventures starring the butt-kicking vampire police detective Grace Kimble, but now in novel form. I downloaded a copy to my Nook and hope you will too.
Let me know if you enjoyed reading about Grace, either in the Vigil comic series or in the novel.
Tonight I am planning to complete revisions to a chapter that is comprised of scenes in which the reader meets Michael, a live-for-the-moment conman who charms a couple of women. The first scene is with a young shop owner (the second with an elderly socialite). In the earlier draft, by the end of Michael’s encounter with the shop owner I had hinted that he would take a bit of her blood. After feedback from the critique group, my revisions now include showing the reader Michael’s seduction of her and the blood-drinking. It’s an opportunity to convey to the reader what that experience is like for a vampire in this world.
Then I’ll submit the chapter this week for feedback and see if I hit the mark.
An ongoing difficulty for me is finding comparable novels. I know comp titles are important in pitches, but it has been a struggle to find ones that I believe are similar. So I am touching up select chapters for the purpose of sharing them with a new reader. He will hopefully be able to come up with at least one for me. His own novel has debuted very recently, but he assures me he has time to help.