top of page

Casey Stegman is a busy man.  In between tirelessly promoting authors on social media and publishing short stories, he managed to write a novel and start a new interview series for Mystery Tribute about writers and their debuts.


Stegman recently acquired an agent for his entertainingly titled historical mystery, Murder Your Darlings.  The book follows two screenwriters during Hollywood’s golden age as they set out to adapt a novel about a killing – only to discover that it’s not a work of fiction.


With that fun, original concept, I’m looking forward to diving in once the book finds a home.  In the meantime, Stegman was kind enough to share the query that landed him an agent.  He also wanted to point readers towards Libby Cudmore’s excellent query letter for The Big Rewind.  Cudmore’s letter was originally published as part of a wonderful Writer’s Digest series on successful queries.  

Here’s Casey’s pitch:


Dear Dr. Stender,


Most plot holes simply reveal an unresolved issue in a story. But in my historical mystery, Murder Your Darlings, a plot hole in a bestselling novel reveals a whole lot more, including a very real unsolved murder. 


Hollywood, 1948. When aspiring screenwriter Sidney Becket gets her first scripting assignment for a major studio, she’s stunned to learn it’s an adaptation of an acclaimed new mystery novel. And to top it all off, she’s being teamed with one of America’s greatest living authors, Henry Grierson—who’s been slumming it in Tinseltown for almost two decades. Things quickly turn complicated for this mismatched duo when they find that one of the murders in their source material is never actually solved. As their deadline looms, the two try to track down the elusive author behind the book to get some answers. They soon discover that this supposed work of fiction is anything but. And their plot hole leads to a killer who will stop at nothing to keep them from digging any deeper. 


Murder Your Darlings takes the meta-narrative mystery structure of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot and combines it with the Golden Age of Hollywood setting from Anthony Marra's Mercury Pictures Presents. The characters and their rapid-fire dialogue will appeal to those who enjoy films by the Coen Brothers and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. 


Clocking in at 82,000 words, Murder Your Darlings is my first novel. It’s inspired by my deep love for the 1946 film version of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and my fascination with its infamous plot hole—the murder of chauffeur Owen Taylor. Previously, my short stories have been published by Mystery Tribune, Shotgun Honey, Dark Yonder, and Punk Noir Magazine. Currently, I have stories set for publication in Tough and MOTEL (a forthcoming anthology from Cowboy Jamboree Press). 


I’d be happy to send you a full or partial manuscript, should you be interested. Thank you for your consideration.



Casey Stegman


Jennifer K. Morita combines her experience as a journalist, love of food, and knowledge of Hawaii in her upcoming mystery debut, The Ghost of Waikiki (set for release November 2024).  The book follows unemployed journalist, Maya Wong, who reluctantly takes a job as a ghost writer for a rich developer in her native Hawaii. She ends up using her investigative chops to look into a mysterious killing, endangering her life, and bringing her into unexpected contact with a former love interest.

I’m really looking forward to this one – both for the intriguing premise and because editor Sara J. Henry has a taste for complex characters with a dark side.


Morita kindly shared the query letter that landed her an agent.  I really like how she personalized the letter.  Morita mentioned that her agent, Lori Galvin, used to be an editor for America’s Test Kitchen and edited several cookbooks.  In her query, Morita puts their shared love of food front and center.  The letter also makes it clear that she has the background to write this book: a connection to journalism and Hawaii. Finally, Morita succinctly and clearly summarizes her book, includes appropriate comparisons, shows that it’s an appropriate word length, and lets the reader know it can function either as a stand-alone or as the beginning of a series.


Dear Lori Galvin,

Thank you for your interest in the #HivePitch Tweet for my manuscript Ghost of Waikiki, a traditional adult mystery. I’m a big America’s Test Kitchen fan and like to weave cooking into my writing. Complete at 87,000 words, my book deals with themes of family, food and culture, and revolves around a down-on-her-luck storyteller trying to find her way home.

Rootless, out-of-work reporter Maya Wong knows a good story is like good mochi - a nice chew with a hint of sweetness - the kind of stories that matter.

Ever since the newspaper she worked for went belly up, she’s had to settle for freelance assignments like “How to Get Men to Swipe Right” to make ends meet. She reluctantly returns to her native Hawaii to be a ghostwriter for rich, influential developer Parker Hamilton.

But when an old man dies under suspicious circumstances, Maya discovers a connection between her new employer and a woman who disappeared twenty years ago.

A burglar hits home, and another body drops. But Maya can’t stop digging for clues, even if the grumpy detective in charge turns out to be her ex.

Convinced the answers lie in the past, she combs museum archives, trawls online databases and spies on her employers, risking her career and her life to stop a killer.

I am a former reporter for The Sacramento Bee, currently freelancing, and a fourth-generation Asian American who lived in Hawaii for several years as a child. I am a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

This standalone book is the first in a proposed series. It is endorsed by mystery author Laura Jensen Walker. It would fit well on a shelf next to Naomi Hirahara’s Iced in Paradise and Jesse Q Sutanto’s Dial A for Aunties.

Thank you for your consideration.


Jennifer K. Morita

I’ve always been fascinated by artists/authors who shift between genres and mediums. As a writer Michael Amos Cody wears a lot of hats. He spent the eighties as a songwriter in Nashville. Since then, he’s published poems, scholarly articles, a coming-of-age novel, and an award-winning short story collection. As if that weren’t enough, Cody earned a PHD and works as a professor teaching Native American literature, early American literature, and mythology.

His upcoming literary suspense novel, STREETS OF NASHVILLE (2025) mines Cody’s own rich history. The book telling the story of a struggling Nashville songwriter, who witnesses a homicide and in the process, becomes an object of fascination for the killer.  Since the novel combines two of my passions – crime fiction and old-time country – I’ll definitely be reading.

Cody was kind enough to share the query that landed him a deal with Madville Publishing, a small, independent press with nonprofit 501(c)(3) status.  (Note: from a glance at their submissions page they don’t appear to be accepting full-length manuscripts at the moment but I believe they take unagented submissions when they're open).


I hope you will consider my novel, STREETS OF NASHVILLE, for publication by Madville Publishing. STREETS is a completed 88,500-word adult literary suspense novel set largely in the vicinity of Nashville’s Music Row, where identities can get lost behind stage names and where morality can take a back seat to murky ambitions and desires.

In early March, 1989, a man in black murders a music chart analyst on famed 16th Avenue. Fifteen days later, gunfire echoes along the Row again when four people are shot—three fatally—in the wee hours of Easter Sunday morning. Tenderfoot songwriter Ezra MacRae—out on the town to celebrate the first good fortune he has had with his songs (after six years in Music City)—witnesses the triple homicide, but the masked gunman spares him. While Nashville Metro PD’s investigation progresses, the killer develops an obsession with Ezra—calling him, following him, haunting him, but not eliminating him. Ezra tries to carry on with his songwriting, maintain his day job cleaning pools, and assist in the investigation as he can. When the methodical mind behind the Easter killings begins to unravel, the violence—including the threat to Ezra—escalates in Nashville and moves toward a final confrontation in an isolated farmhouse near Ezra’s hometown of Runion, in the North Carolina mountains.

Two additional Ezra MacRae novels are in progress.

In terms of genre, STREETS OF NASHVILLE is similar to the work of Edgar Award winners James Lee Burke and Steven Womack, authors who employ criminal elements and Southern urban settings—Womack’s Harry Denton series, in fact, is set in Music City. My novel also shares characteristics with the work of such Appalachian writers as Chris Offutt, Sharyn McCrumb, and Ron Rash, exploring how mountain communities and mountain people respond to the invasion of criminal elements.

I spent my formative twenties living and working as a songwriter in Nashville, TN. This was during the 1980s, the last decade that the Nashville music business operated via traditional modes of recording studios, song publishing, record promotion, and so on. My first novel, GABRIEL'S SONGBOOK (Pisgah Press 2017) is a coming-of-age novel that explores the same time period in Nashville and also establishes my fictional community of Runion in the mountains of western North Carolina. Runion is further developed as the setting for my collection of linked stories, A TWILIGHT REEL (Pisgah Press 2021), winner of the Short Story / Anthology category in the Feathered Quill Book Awards 2022.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All best--

Michael Amos Cody

bottom of page