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Cayce Osborne's debut thriller centers on Petal, a smart-mouthed forty-something with a dark secret from her teenage years. An introvert and a bit of a slacker, Petal is happy chilling out, smoking weed, and binging on junk food and 90's action movies. But when an anonymous best-selling "fiction" novel comes out that calls her out by name and delves into her traumatic past, Petal returns to her hometown to search for the mysterious author - risking her life in the process. It's a wildly entertaining ride that more than lives up to it's cool, original premise and you can buy it here:

Cayce was kind enough to share the stellar query letter that got her a deal with Crooked Lane Books:

To the Crooked Lane Books editorial team: Thank you for considering my voice-driven mystery novel I Know What You Did, Petal Woznewski, complete at 72,500 words. In reading through your team bios, I noticed several people have ties to Madison, Wisconsin, which felt fortuitous. Madison is my hometown, and where the majority of my book is set. While that's not the only reason I think my novel could be right for Crooked Lane Books, it was a nice surprise and made me want to submit it to you right away. Forty-four-year-old introvert Petal Woznewski is in a rut, but she likes it that way. Predictability is as comfortable as her trusty Doc Martens, broken in from hours spent walking New York City sidewalks. She’s learned to compartmentalize the tragedies in her past, and focus on what keeps her sane in the present: a loud action movie on Netflix, a well-rolled joint, her part-time boyfriend Gus. These avoidance tactics work, until a new novel drags her skeletons out of the closet and onto the bestseller list. The book claims to be fiction, but it contains more of her childhood than any “novel” should—including the 1991 death of her best friend Megan. Petal would rather walk naked through Times Square, holding a sign reading Ask Me About My Tattoos, than return to her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. But it’s the only place she can uncover why an anonymous author has exhumed her well-buried secrets after 30 years in the dark. I Know What You Did, Petal Woznewski will appeal to fans of modern, voice-driven noir, in the vein of Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt series, and readers who like revisiting dark childhood secrets, as in All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. I’m a writer and graphic designer from Madison, WI. I work in science communication and public engagement at the University of Wisconsin. My writing has been published in Exposition Review, Typehouse Magazine, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and elsewhere. I am included in several story anthologies; most recently, Triangulation: Habitats by Parsec Ink, Things with Feathers from Third Flatiron, and Monsters Monsters Monsters Monsters from Hellbound Books. I have been a writing tutor, an associate editor at a literary magazine, and I currently write a monthly subscription newsletter about writing, reading, and life. I’m active on Instagram (@cayceosbornewriter), dabble on Twitter (@cayceosborne) and run my own website at I appreciate the time it takes to go through submissions like mine. As requested, the first two chapters are pasted below, and the full manuscript is ready to send if you are interested. I look forward to hearing from you. Cayce Osborne

  • Alex

Writing a good book is easier than writing a winning query letter. I'm serious - they're awful. You have to come up with 200-350ish words that captivate a busy agent/editor, describe your book, situate your work in the publishing market, and explain why you are the ideal person to write it. Ideally, your letter will also make each recipient feel that it was written for them and only them. Ugh.

Since I published my first book, a number of writers have asked my advice on these. Frankly, it's not my strong suit. I'm good at writing entertaining noir mysteries about weirdos. I'm less good at distilling them into a couple catchy paragraphs. But as a survivor of this heinous process, I want to do what I can to help other people get through it. What I found most helpful was reading query letters from people who were actually published to see what works. So with this "blog," I plan to ask published writers if they'd be generous enough to share the query that helped them break free of the slush pile. Hopefully after a while, they'll add up to a useful resource.

I'm going to start with my query for What Meets the Eye, which got me a publishing deal as a previously unagented writer. I'm not saying it's anything special - just that it worked (not included: the countless versions that earned rejections and silence).

If you're reading this - congratulations on getting to where you're even able to query and good luck!


Dear Crooked Lane,

I’m writing to submit my murder mystery novel, What Meets the Eye (79,884 words). This book will appeal to fans of art-related thrillers, like Barbara Bourland’s Fake Like Me, Christopher Bollen’s A Beautiful Crime, and Diane Chamberlain’s Big Lies in a Small Town.

Kate Myles was a promising Los Angeles police detective, until an accident and opioid addiction blew up her family and destroyed her career. Struggling to rebuild her life, she decides to try her hand at private detective work.

Margot Starling was a celebrated painter, until a gallery assistant found her dead in her downtown loft. Kate takes on the case and expects to quickly confirm a suicide. But the glamorous artist had many secrets – and a slew of powerful enemies.

As Kate delves into Margot’s secret life, she discovers that a shady art dealer is selling forged works by Margot and another dead artist, Jason Martinez. Kate tracks down Jason’s terrified boyfriend and learns that the forgeries are part of a complex scheme involving money laundering, counterfeit art, and organized crime. Despite her instincts for self-preservation, Kate goes undercover to learn the truth about Margot and Jason, with potentially deadly consequences.

This book combines my interest in oil painting and murder. I practice criminal law in Los Angeles. Before graduating from Penn Law, I sold art by Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall, and other twentieth century masters. I also wrote about art and culture for The Atlantic, Washington City Paper, and California Literary Review.

Below, please find the first two chapters of my novel, as specified on your website. I am also attaching a PDF of these pages. Thank you for your time and consideration.


[name and contact info]

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