For now I’ve decided not to carve off portions of the novels as short stories in order to submit them for publication. I acknowledge that accumulating a few short story pubs would pad my résumé, enhancing incrementally my chances of scoring an agent and a publisher. But:
1. The excerpts work best in context. For example, the revenge fantasy piece I posted yesterday comes from the second book in the Suite. It points back to the first book and the story of the Bathrobed Man, who sent a parcel to his childhood friend that has remained unopened for twenty years. This dual mystery — the contents of the parcel, the Bathrobed Man’s disappearance — threads through the entire Suite. The Bathrobed Man’s back story was initially sketched out in that first book by these same two unidentified characters, whom we now overhear spinning out the revenge story at the end of the second book. Who are these two storytellers? They appear again in the fourth book, and again in the sixth, both times elaborating on the Bathrobed Man mysteries. All of this context is lost when excising this one fragment of dialogue from its native habitat and pinning it to the page like a dead bug awaiting inspection.
2. I’ve been reading some stories published online. Many are very good; many have clearly been worked over and refined until they gleam like gems, like framed paintings. I respect the short form; I’m not a master of it. Maybe some day I’ll give it a go, but now is not the time.
3. I’ve already accumulated a reasonable track record as a writer. It’s not fiction, but it is well-crafted and creative, and I have done it professionally. It is a kind of writing that I can put forward as a credential.
Here’s a sample agent inquiry letter. It’s a page long, meeting the usual requirements. The introductory paragraph I can customize to the specific agent. The second and third paragraphs contain the blurb for book one, the fourth introduces the idea of the Salon Suite of multiple volumes, the fifth provides an autobiographical sketch.
Any comments or suggestions?
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I’m looking for a literary agent to represent my fiction. Though I find it nearly impossible to predict how someone will respond to any particular book, your stated enthusiasms and your client list offer some encouragement. I present therefore for your examination the novel In the Days Before the Reckoning.
Escorted by an unconventional guide, a handful of outliers embark on a pilgrimage into the wilderness where, through an uncertain alchemy, obscurity is turned to legend.
“Get Different” – printed on a weathered index card, the invitation lures a select if idiosyncratic clientele up the long narrow stairway to the Salon Postisme. After nearly bleeding out onstage, a hemophiliac body artist immerses himself in an ancient ritual for freeing the “clotters” of the world. A high-priced corporate consultant risks his career to identify the Double Outlier, destined to change the world in this generation, for better or worse. A college student searches for the mad-genius father she’s never met – or is she an impostor, a covert operative tasked with stealing his plans for building a powerful but enigmatic device code-named “The Icon”? An elegant and sophisticated fundamentalist divorcée crosses the frontier into the realms of the unchosen, where the daughters of men consort with the sons of the gods. Stephen Hanley, new Proprietor of the Salon, offers his clients neither happiness nor success but a guided tour of the Abyss. When one of the impossibly wealthy attendees at a mountaintop debauch pursues his covert obsession with a lovely barkeep, the fates of the Salon’s clients and its Proprietor become as inextricably intertwined, and as self-devouring, as the braided gold Ouroboros chain encircling the barista’s throat.
The Salon Postisme occupies the irregular spaces between what easily could be and what can never be. It is an array of vectors veering across an N-dimensional frontier into a multiverse of alternate realities, each diverging from the mundane by the merest of imaginings. Weighing in at 87,000 words, In the Days Before the Reckoning stands as textual overture to a suite of fictional installations of the Salon Postisme.
About me… I have been the sophisticated fundamentalist, the eccentric engineer of crackpot schemes, the high-priced corporate consultant. So: Madame Bovary, c’est moi? No. Having also been the psychological practitioner of difference, I encourage my fictional clients to reach escape velocity, freeing them from their progenitor’s gravitational pull. It is, admittedly, a continuing struggle, in part because I find myself drafting along in their slipstreams. I’ve also been a writer: of articles and a book for publication, of technical reports and white papers for hire. As for the possibility of my being a double outlier, I await the discernment of a qualified Identifier.
Thank you for your consideration.