9.03.2005

"Getting to Know you...getting to know all about youuuuu"

A Snarkling looks at her date book:


"I have several clients I've never met whose work I've sold." How common or uncommon is this? Should I want to do lunch with my agent--or is it simply an excue to go to Manhattan for the day? Has the whole biz become more depersonalized with the internet and email? Heck, there are friends that I don't talk to on the phone as much as before because of email and IM


Miss Snark loves you but you aren't going to lunch with her. First, lunches are reserved for editors with big fat expense accounts who are going to buy your work. Second, Miss Snark is working if she's not lunching.

If we are going to sign contracts, meet editors, or otherwise WORK (or celebrate a big success) then ok. But just lunching to chit chat, meet and greet, is hugely inefficient. I've done it, particularly with clients who are older, and used to a more genteel business climate, but I don't like it. I'd rather work on your behalf than eat lunch.

And it's very common to have clients you've never met.

Backstory

A Snarkling is editing her juicy novel and wonders:


What's the difference between back story and precipitating event? If your reluctant sleuth needs a precipitating event, does the experience have to play out with dialogue? What about Rear Window style observation of events beyond reach?


I use backstory to mean the events that flesh out the character or story but are not part of the current action. Backstory in Romeo and Juliet is Romeo's attraction for another woman before he meets Juliet. We hear about it but only very briefly. All of King Lear's reign before the division of the kingdom is backstory..alluded to but never seen.

One of the reasons Catwoman, the Halle Berry vehicle, failed as a movie was that it was almost all backstory..how she got to be Catwoman, rather than current plot.

A precipitating event might be backstory. How James Stewart got confined to the wheelchair in Rear Window is backstory but what he sees out the window, the event that gets the plot moving, isn't about the wheelchair it's about Raymond Burr.

What makes Rear Window work is that we see what James Stewart sees. If you can do that on the page, it works. The reader should become one with the narrator if it's first person. Big loads of backstory defeat that sensibility because no one narrates their own life story that often. We give nuggets of information to people in conversation; our actions reveal character but I've never said "oh by the way I'm a literary agent" to the guy at the cheese counter at Zabars in any of the conversations I've had with him.

Dialogue that is exposition in disguise is tough to write well. "Yes, Snoozabelle, I know you are a Harvard graduate in biochemistry, but surely you don't think this wine is poisoned do you?"

When to mention you're a blogger


Something I've been wondering about -- and I don't think you've addressed before -- is at what point a weblog should be mentioned in a query letter to agents. A few weeks ago, you suggested that it would require a pretty large regular audience to impact the money offered to
an author, but might a more moderate audience still help sell the book? For instance, 1000 or so visitors a day instead of 30,000. Is that something you would care about as an agent, or would it just sound desperate in a query?



Wild ass claims make you sound desperate, not the fact that you blog. ("My blog has 1000 eager readers all waiting with bated breath for my fabu novel").

You might want to make sure your blog isn't just majorly sucky before you start directing agents to it as well.

I read Sarah Weinman's blog religiously. One of the things I notice is that published writers I know are reading it and commenting on it too.

I read Maud Newton religiously. One of the things I notice is that her blog isn't just about her..she's a fully developed, and interesting person.

I read Rake's Progress religiously. He's as funny as they come. Victor Gischler is too (get the link from Sarah's blogroll, you have to earn this one).

If you're going to use your blog as part of your presentation portfolio, it's going to have to be more than just ranting about your bellybutton lint problems (which is not directed at this snarkling personally since it's an anon question with no attached blog so quit gasping and reaching for your poison pen to write snarkly comments).

Speaking of numbers...

A snarkling croupier is calculating her odds:



My questions - what approximate percentage of your incoming queries merit a request for a partial manuscript submission? What percentage then merit a request for a full submission? And of those, what percentage do you end up making an offer on?

My apologies if you've already answered this. I looked through your blog and don't remember seeing this topic.


On average I get 100 query letters a week.

I request 2 or 3 full or partials from that. I request full manuscripts if I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it, and a partial if I'm less sure and just don't want to overlook something. Each agent chooses differently so this is not to be written down in the Ironclad Rule book.

I probably read between 20 and 50 before finding one to offer on. Sometimes I don't get the client cause they've signed elsewhere or after talking with them I decide they are deranged, too much trouble, witlesss, whiny, or otherwise unsuited to the rigors of Snarkly Representation.

I also get clients from referrals though too, and that's a different process.

Writing Conferences


Dear Miss Snark, I'm in several writing list servs and someone is always reporting that this or that agent will only look at your stuff if you met her at a writing conference. How important is it to attend writing conferences? Shouldn't I be at home writing and sending queries? Thanks in advance for your wisdom.


I'd like names of the agents, and specific sources for that information. It smells like urban legend to me. Think about it. It doesn't make much sense. Here's why:

1. The numbers. If my numbers are a reliable indicator I have to see 1000 query letters to sign one client. If my ONLY source of those query letters or prospective clients are the people I meet at conferences, I'd have to go to five or maybe ten conferences to get ONE client. That's a VERY inefficient use of my time and resources. Not to mention cutting into my summer vacation time in Antarctica.

2. Agents are actively looking to make money (big surprise here). If you write well enough you can be introduced by the plumber and I'll sign you up. (Miss Snark's plumber is a published poet but you get the point).

Writers Market has a category for "How do you get clients" and multiple choices answers that include writing conferences, and referrals from current clients.. My listing says only those two things. It doesn't say "we'll look at everything". The truth is though, I will. My listing says that because I was trying to cut down on the people who just send queries without investing in learning anything about publishing. "Attending writing conferences" is sort of the short hand for "investing in learning about publishing" because for a long time it was about the only way you really could get direct, accurate info. The web, and blogs particularly, changed all that.

There's a lot of good things to be said about going to writing conferences. It's a good way to get a lot of information about publishing and to meet editors and agents. I think writing conferences over sell the importance of "meeting" editors and agents. I have several clients I've never met whose work I've sold. I think it's easy to get hoodwinked by agents who have charming public personas and speak well, but may not be effective agents. (See posts on "What have you sold").

I don't know a single agent personally who doesn't read her/his query letters if you send them in the desired format.

How much can you publish before you're published

A Snarkling writes:


I've had a large part of a first version of my First Sucky Attempt at Novel Writing online because I didn't know better back in 2002. I've taken it down long ago, and I have to rewrite the sucker, but I still wonder if it counts as prepublished. The novel (Hist Fic saga) will probably clock in at 150K, and I had 95K up.... I still have most of the characters, the major plotline, though with some changes, and an entire subplot intact. I like the story, despite its shortcomings, and I will try to kick it into shape. But I'm also going to be honest about having had most of it online. I'd like to know if I better post it at my blog and have some copies made via Lulu for my friends, or if I still stand a chance to find an agent/publisher for it. BTW, I'm working on other projects besides, and those have never been online except for a few snippets.


prepublished? I'm not sure what that means. Everything including Miss Snark's hand written directions to Mr Clooney's Bel Aire home are "prepublished".

If you mean does it count as published, the answer is no.

Two standards to use:
1. does it have an ISBN number? If the answer is no, it's still just Xerox copies off the machine.

2. Did anyone enter into a contract with you for publication rights for all or pieces of it? If the answer is no, you're good.

Putting it on your blog isn't publication. Putting it on my blog isn't publication. Putting it on the Random House web site is hacking, a felony, and probably going to get you some unwelcome attention from the boys in blue, but it's still not publication.

I'm not sure what Lulu is but those two standards should still be applicable.

Questions?

9.02.2005

Unagented contracts

A Snarkling is taking multiple choice out for a ride tonight:



Is it really easier to get a reputable agent after you have a contract on the table?


sure. all that messy selling process is done and cleared away. Send my commission check please. You can probably get a disreputable one too...oh wait, you didn't know about that morals charge did you?


What would be the appropriate protocol for contacting an agent in that case?


email or phone, "Hi I sold a book to Random House and I need an agent!"


Alternatively, if you have requested revisions out there and it has been several months, would it be worthwhile to try to find an agent in the hopes of expediting the process?


never hurts, but I've never been part of this process.


Or would this likely make your editor angry? I've had requested revisions hung in limbo for more than nine months before only to end up with a reject. Not much stinks worse than an insta-reject on a requested revision, but I think the nine month rejects just might!


editors tend to like having agents around cause they can tell them the bad news to relay to the author indirectly. We have "Buffer" tattooed on our posteriors.


Just make sure when you contact agents you let them know you've sent work in to places, and to whom. Don't be coy. Nothing makes an agent grumpier than looking like an idiot for asking about a project that's been rejected previously. I know. How do you think I got so snarky?

What am I?

A Snarkling is getting her knickers in a twist...and not in a good way:


Dearest Miss Snark, I've heard very different opinions about the importance of categorizing my book. I believe it's accessible and intelligent, but it doesn't fit into a category like thriller or mystery. My instinct is to call it a "literary novel," but some of my colleagues here at work think that is too vague or limiting from a sales stand point (we're in sales/marketing). They suggest I call it commercial fiction or compare it to other books (as in "a literary novel in the vein of...") to make it an easier sell. I'm wary of doing either. I understand and often depend on the usefulness of a good sales hook, but when I put on my novelist cap, I have a hard time reducing two years of labor to a "[bestselling author] meets [critically acclaimed author]" formula. If the rest of my one-page query letter describes the ideas and action of the book and why the reader should give a hoot, and if my five page sample shows off the style and voice, do I need tell the agent I'm querying about anything other than a literary novel? Thanks



First dearest Snarkling, and every Snarkling in the entire world, you will never ever, and I mean not ever EVER use the phrase "literary novel". You will find Miss Snark swooping down upon you, talons ablaze, fresh from the speakeasy, wielding her gin pail like a lacrosse stick. Stronger men and WOMEN than you have wept at that sight.

You may use ONE of the following phrases: literary fiction. Novel. Fiction. Mainstream fiction. Crime novel. Novel of crime. You may not ever say : fictional novel, or literary novel. Ever.

got it?

Now, what are you? Don't worry. Pick the best fit. Mainstream fiction is fine. We'll figure out where you belong if your writing is strong. Your job is to write. Ours is to pigeon hole you correctly.

Now, repeat after me: Novel. Fiction. Mainstream fiction.

Comparisons work if you're accurate. You may want to say "readers who like Genghis Khan's Memoir of a Silk Road Chow Hound and Nancy Drew's Roadster Moll will like this book." People who tell me they write like Dan Brown set themselves up to fail cause I don't like his writing. "People who were fascinated by The DaVinci Code" is a less negative comparison.

No, repeat after me: Novel. Fiction. Mainstream fiction.

Booklocker.com

A Snarkling commented that Booklocker.com seemed to be a straightforward company that publishes using POD.

I ankled over for a quick look at the website.

It's clear they aren't trying to rip you off. There are no banner headlines about "be published now". She's got a list of reasons you shouldn't submit a manuscript, which makes me think she's a pretty savvy marketer. She says she makes her money on sales, not services. That's a good thing.

She's got her head on straight about discounts, and most important PRICE POINT for books.

If you're going to go POD, Booklocker.com looks like a reputable candidate.

But also notice, on the submission guidelines, she's rejecting for spelling, hate, and religion. No mention of "is it any good". And that's the nub. She's not going to rip you off, but there's a limited review process going on. That means, if you offer it up to me as a publishing credential, I'm not going to take it at face value.

This is the place for hobbyists. Snark Central is a place for people intent on making some serious dough on their work. One is not better than the other, they serve different needs.

Desperate to Dance

A latecomer to the Wrath of Snark asks:


What does Miss Snark think about query and cover letters that mention prior publications (whether this submission or previous works) through noncommercial presses (Dorrance, Rutledge, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, XLibris, and many, many others) or that were self-published? Are you:

* Hostile?
* Indifferent?
* Dismissive?
* Saddened at the waste?
* So uninterested that you doodle a picture of Mr Clooney on the envelope instead of reading the submission?
* Impressed only if they note x (for your value of x) sales?
* Snarky at the impertinence of this inquiry?


Let's distinguish the cast by category: Dorrance is a subsidy house; Rutledge I've never heard of (not to be confused with the reputable Rutledge Hill Press, part of Nelson Publishing); and AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and XLibris are snake oil publishers who prey on people's desire to be published.

Subsidy means they take your money, and give you a certain number of books. They're usually not all that glamorous a product, but they're books. Subsidy publishers do NOT tell you that your book will be part of the publishing buffet table in the marketplace. That particular come-on is what distinguishes those PODmills, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and XLibris.

If an author queries me and tells me they are "published" by one of the POD mills, I make two immediate judgments: they're clueless and they're impatient. They're going to have to write REALLY well to get over those hurdles.

Not everyone agrees with me. And I've found one exception to that general principal. I read Jamie Baud's Envy the Rain (CafePress) on the recommendation of PODDYmouth, and it was good. I could see why it hadn't been picked up for publication, but he's a writer I'll keep my eye on. His blog is on my blogroll and I read him oftenTheKnownUniverse

If you query and say.."yea, I learned a lot, I did a book with -fill in the blank POD press- and now I see why you've been so hard on them" then I will be less hostile. But, if you query and you think it's a serious publishing credential, no dice.

It's not serious because there is no review process. And I don't mean a review in the New York Times Book Review. I mean, these places will publish anything. You pay your money, you get a book. Regardless of quality. They'd publish every single book that went through the Snarkometer this week, and even the people who WROTE those pages mostly agreed with my comments about things that needed to be changed.

Agents aren't trying to keep you away from the gravy train of publishing, nor are publishers. There are a LOT of good small publishers that don't pay a lot, but publish really good work. Akashic Press, Softskull Press, UglyTown, Contemporary Press, HardCase Crime. They take unagented work, some of them, and from agents too. But they don't take crap. POD mills do. Crap is the rule not the exception at those places, and if you don't believe me, go read 100 novels on their list and come back and show me I'm wrong.

There are exceptions. Not many.

So, to answer you directly:
Hostile-yes
Indifferent-no
Dismissive-yes
Saddened at the waste-no


So uninterested that you doodle a picture of Mr Clooney on the envelope instead of reading the submission? --don't even say his name in the same sentence as "uninterested"-so, no.

Impressed only if they note x (for your value of x) sales?- no, and $no. How many books your mom and Aunt Suzie bought aren't gonna make me love you.

Snarky at the impertinence of this inquiry?
Most people who don't know this are just clueless, not stupid. They'll learn. It's gonna be hard on them but they will. So, no to categorizing them as impertinent. Impertinent is writing BACK and telling me I'm a nitwit. For that however, there are revenge elves at the ready.

Anachronisms

A sharp eyed Snarkling noted (from a snarkometer page)


Here's a question...The Chrysler Sebring wasn't introduced until 1995, and the convertible wasn't available until 2001. I had to look up the exact years, but I knew it was off when I first read it. Does stuff like that matter, or will most people just ignore it (i.e. am I just a weirdo)?


you are NOT a weirdo because I notice it too, and Miss Snark is NOT a weirdo.

I detest anachronisms. They suck you right out of the narrative and make you dash to the OED or google to verify things.

There's a post way way down the archives about fact checking. I think I mentioned then that Ann Rule got names wrong in one of her books...easy to verify names. April Sinclair's Coffee Will Make You Black, an otherwise wonderful book, is rife with anachronisms.

There's an entire sub-category for movies: the continuity checkers. People write websites about "mistakes" like Brad Pitt eating shrimp from a plate in Oceans Eleven, and the next shot shows him eating from a silver bowl.

People notice. Nothing gets you more outraged letters than getting Civil War stuff wrong too.

Your job as a writer is to get it right.

Agent Buffet


You definitely ROCK! Mind if I put you in the acknowledgements of my next book (all the gods willing that there will BE a next book)?


Miss Snark thinks that is an excellent plan. Also, you must thank her at the Oscars when your book is made into a movie that wins Best Picture and stars George Clooney. Please make sure to include Miss Snark's home telephone number in the speech just in case Mr Clooney lost it (..again).


An agent I'm considering states that she isn't interested in mysteries except for chick lit mysteries (yay for me). She also isn't interested in thrillers. So, I have a thriller I want to sell too. Does this mean I should pass on her (at least until I'm totally desparate?).

I've heard that some agents contract on a project by project basis. Is this prevalent? If an agent is interested in one genre that I write, should I leap at the opportunity? And then what do I do with the book in the genre she or he doesn't represent/has no interest in? Seek another agent? I'd always thought (until recently) that agents contracted the AUTHOR, no just one book the author has penned.

Is the project-by-project contract the way agents are working now? Or just a few?


Well Miss Snark likes to have her authors think of themselves in bondage to her. Leather bondage. Contractual bondage is so much less..well...nevermind.

My agency takes on the whole person. If you write a thriller, and I sell it and your next book is a science fiction poem, well, ok. I make it clear that science fiction poems are pretty much NOT my strong suit and if you want a different agent, no hard feelings. You're always welcome to come back with the next thriller.

Frankly this doesn't happen too often. Most of my authors are writing within one field.

If the agent you're considering wants the first book, and not the others, ask her how you to handle it. She'll tell you. If you're writing in a bunch of areas, you might query mid size and larger agencies first, where they can handle all that stuff inhouse.

Agents too are willing to sell things for established clients that they aren't willing to take queries on. Find a good agent, the rest of the stuff will work itself out.

9.01.2005

REqueries...redux.

Queries a snarkling

I recently queried an agent at the very top of my list. She wrote me back (via email) the same day, requesting a partial. I sent it, and I got a very quick read--as in that very night. The next morning I got a form rejection. In spite of the rejection, I think this ms has a real shot and will continue to query it, because it's had a phenomenal request rate. But I also have several other completed mss, and another in the works. Is it okay to re-query agents who have rejected me when I have a new project ready to go? Even if I didn't get personal feedback? I'm interested in your opinion, but I'd also like to hear (read) whatever you know about your fellow agents' preferences.


Nothing makes me scream louder than someone who responds to a no by sending me another query letter. It seems obvious to me that if I didn't like something even well enough to write a "try me on other things" note, I'm probably not the right agent for you.

There are 65 gazillion agents in New York. Try a few more before you go back to the ones who've said no.

There's no law requiring agents to use form rejection letters. If I like something but I don't think it's finished, or ready, or quite right, but I'll look at other things, I'll write and say so.

People do this all the time and I want to wring their necks.

Not yours of course, dear Snarkling. You were wise enough to ask first.

Revise this!

A Snarkling is industriously working away and asks:


I'm one of those writers who revises when enough agents have told me the same thing. Sometimes the only thing that survives a revision is the title of the ms, some of the main characters, and the premise.

If you happened to get a second query on a revised ms would you read the pages, or embed the heel of your stiletto into my left temple? Do you know how other agents feel about such a scenario?


I don't keep track of query letters or "first couple pages" submissions. If you queried me, then revised and requery, it's a whole new ball game.

If I read the complete ms, I'll remember you and have you on my data base. Then, you write say "I paid close attention to what you said, revised as you advised, and enclosed please find Mr. Clooney's home phone number. Would you like to read the first 30 pages or so".

Chances are I will say yes. If I read the full ms before, I thought you had promise. I like people who listen to my comments and follow my advice...who wouldn't??

Just don't try to be sly about it though. If something sounds familiar and I can't find the title or you changed your name, or some other tactic, I'll think the work is derivative and say no.

As to how other agents react to this, query them. It's better to ask and find out no, then assume and miss a yes. Polite persistence!

How short is too short?

A snarkling follows up on the how long is too long post:


And is there such a thing as too short a word count? At what point to do the numbers by themselves start to make you apprehensive?


anything under 50,000 is going to make me look up how to spell "novella". Books get too small and people aren't willing to pay $23.00 for a hardcover.

Exceptions to this are graphic novels which are not measured solely by word count.

Publisher Response Times

A Snarkling is fretting:

How long does it take a publisher (on average) to get back to an agent on a novel submission? I've heard three months is average. Is that true? I know this is generalizing. There are some who call the next day and some who call a year later, but I'm curious as to what the "usual" timeframe is


Unless a novel is going to auction, I figure a month. Then I touch base. Three months, and then I say, ok, are we serious here or were you just yanking my snarkly chain. Three months is about average I guess, but I don't track that statistic closely.

I never send anything exclusively for longer than ten days so even if someone is just being a dickhead about saying yes they'll read it when they have no intention of doing so, it's not slowing me down.

I do enjoy the calls to those editors when I sell a project though. And I have sold projects to editors who've had the manuscripts for a long time.

"I'm not the right agent for this"

A Snarkling is wondering:


I have had some success in agents requesting my full manuscript - 4 in total. All have replied and said similar things ... "There was much I enjoyed, but in the end I'm afraid I do not think I am the right agent". None of the agents gave any details as to why they didn't think they were the right agent, and none of the agents had anything negative to say either.

My question is, how much should I read into this? I have had interest from some big name agents, but ultimately rejected after they read it in full. Should I be happy I got this close and keep trying or should I be worried there is something drastically wrong with the MS but the agents didn't want to point it out? (I know, I know, agents are not there to critique work!).

What's your opinion on this Miss Snark?


Should you keep trying? yes! Four rejections of a full ms is NOTHING. You might consider querying someone less "big time". Smaller agencies and lesser known agents have more room on their lists.

As for "I'm not the right agent" that's code for "I didn't like it enough to feel a lot of passion for it" or "I have no idea where I'd sell this".

Not everyone loves every book. Miss Snark herself found Bridges of Madison County to be utter claptrap, and it managed to sell a few copies despite that.

Most agents aren't going to take on a book they don't think they can sell. Labors of love, the ones you're not sure if you'll ever sell, suck up time and resources, and mostly don't pay their own way. Some you just have to do cause you love them, but you try not to do that too often. Love may make the world go round, but it doesn't pay Miss Snark's bar bill.

Less competitive genres

Wonders a snarkling:

In several posts, you mentioned that fantasy and youth fantasy are highly competitive genres. If there is such a thing as a highly competitive genre, then it follows that there are less competitive ones. What are the less competitive genres?


lad lit
westerns
true cozy mysteries

which is not to say they aren't competitive, just fewer people seem to be writing them. Or fewer people who query ME are writing them.

Publishing in general is competitive. I don't think there are any reliable statistics on query letters versus published books. I know we take on less than one in five hundred.

How much is too much? even of a good thing

A Snarkling gets out her yardstick:

Is it true that there's no point in querying a mainstream fiction manuscript that exceeds 100,000 words? Mine is currently quite a bit longer. (180,000) I don't think there's much fat in the story. Should I cut, quit, or query?

That's one big novel there!
Does it fetch and roll over too?

There are sweeping sagas, and huge novels published these days. Not many, but some. There was a story in the Times recently about a book that weighed over five pounds, and the author's website (tongue in cheek) offered "safe reading positions" for the tome.

My limit is about 100,000 words. I'm not a fan of sweeping sagas, and I'm not much on needing a trolley to whisk the manuscript off to an editorial lunch. Trolleys so seldom match one's shoes.

But, this is your work, your vision, and if you think it's at the correct weight...err...word count, then by all means, stand by your man.

Look for agents who have represented big books previously. Some of them love the darn things.

Order! Order! Order in the Snarkosaureum!

A Snarkling wonders:

I don't know what you ask people to send with their queries (sample chapters, synopsis, etc.), but what order do you generally read them in? Do you always at least glance at the first page of the novel, even if the query letter sucks? Assuming the author hasn't totally botched it and sent you something outside your genre or also included a helpful pamphlet on why George Clooney loves them more than you, do you still take a look at the work even if the query letter isn't perfect? How lenient are you?



Miss Snark, lenient? You're pulling Miss Snark's french stockinged, stiletto heeled gam right?

The real question here is how badly can you screw up before Miss Snark gives up on you. And the answer is "good writing trumps everything". You can send me pictures of yourself snuggling with Mr Clooney, and if the writing is good enough you'll hear from me. It might be preceded by a high pitched scream, but much of Miss Snark's communications are thus.

For novels, I ask for a cover letter and the first 10 pages or so. I do read the pages. I almost always read at least three. If by page three I know this is going nowhere fast and in a handbasket, it's off to the scrap heap and a nice rejection letter "not right for us".

I don't read the stuff in areas I don't represent. They get a different rejection letter.

I completely fail to understand agents who only want cover letters. It's my experience that cover letters are not a reliable indicator of the work. Sometimes yes, but not invariably. I earn my living finding good writers, I'm not going to overlook something cause the query letter sux.

A query letter that's well written, pages that are neatly presented and correctly spelled are more likely to get a yes I'll read this than the pages that aren't. It's my experience that meticulousness in presentation carries over to meticulousness in craft. I want to work with those people. I look for those people.

Don't screw up.

Editors

Following up on the posts about how long to query, several snarklings wondered how to find editors. First, beware beware beware any agent who directs you to an editor right off the bat. It's one thing for an agent to say, "I read your work, I think you need an editor, here are six suggestions on how to find one", or "here are three names to start you out", and an agent who says "call this person" and gives you contact info.

AAR frowns mightily on agents cozying up to editors who offer kickbacks. Most agents I know are VERY leery about making reccomendations of specific editors. As in all things, do your research. For an editor, the question is "what books have you worked on". If an editor is working on books that haven't sold, that's info to ponder.

Now, here's how to find editors.

First, Publisher's Marketplace. You're going to have to cough up $20 a month to join. You can join month by month, so if you get your skates on it's $20 total. I think it's worth every nickel and I use the site every day.

When I clicked "find members" and then "developmental editing" and "general fiction" on the menu I got 34 names with contact information. PM is pretty reliable contact info; most of us listed there update our info regularly and are actively looking for clients.


The second place is the Editorial Freelancer's Union. I didn't investigate as deeply here but I know two people who are members and both are reputable.

You don't need an editor in NYC. You don't need an editor in your home town. You need an editor who's worked on books in your category and is tough. Ask for references.

The other suggestions in the comments area of the previous post are also good.

If you're looking for an editor cause your work isn't getting picked up by agents, tell the editor that. Do NOT be coy. An editor can't help you by doing a line edit if what you really need is an overall look at why the first ten pages, or the novel as a whole don't work.

More questions snarklings? Bring them on!

One hundred bottles of Snark on the wall, 100 bottles of Snark

Wonders a Snarkling who's totting up her rejection letters

What do you do after 100 rejections?

This follows an earlier post wherein I said you have to query 100 times before you give up.

This is a good question. Recalling I have a client with 81 rejection letters (neatly filed, bless his heart) and a contract from me, my point was it only takes one agent to say yes.

If you've got 100 rejections here's the first thing to do:

sort them into 1. Form letters and 2. Non form letters.

Then read what the non form letters say. Did anyone make suggestions? Did they tell you that your plot was stale, your hero sux, your paper smells bad (you'd be surprised all you cigarette smokers!) or something, anything that will give you some insight of why this duck isn't flying?

If you sent out 100 query letters and have NO feedback, you need to find someone who will read your work and tell you what's wrong - cause something IS wrong. From the Snarkometer pages you can see that there is divergence of opinion on SOME things, but not all. If you've got 100 agents essentially agreeing your work is such that they won't even write to say its good but not marketable...the problem isn't publishing, and it's not agents. Disagree if you will, but I believe that's the snarkly honest truth.

Enroll in a writing class, find a crit group, pay an editor, go to a writing conference.

Maybe the next round of Snarkometer should be reserved for people who have 30 or more rejections and we'll read ten pages. Is that a good idea? (It's not happening anytime soon if it is).

If you do have feedback, pay attention to it. Maybe you ARE writing the wrong thing. Maybe you're NOT a good writer. it's not a character flaw and it doesn't mean you're going to hell. Writing is a skill and can be improved. If you're not listening to what people tell you, and you're not making changes, or experimenting, you're behaving like a two year old who thinks saying "I want it" is the answer to "no".

My client with 81 rejections didn't send the same query letter each time. He varied it as people responded to him, and as he read books on query letters. If you simply send the same thing over and over again, you're on the road to madness.

One of the blog readers has his own blog called 756Agents and Counting. This has clearly become some sort of epic quest beyond the publication of the novel itself. I don't advise querying past 100 for any reason unless you're looking to be the Morgan Spurlock of publishing.

snafus r us

Wonders a Snarkling


(An agent) asked, via e-mail, for submission --a complete novel. I sent it. Three months later, I inquired via snail mail whether she made her decision. A few weeks later I received a standard
pre-printed rejection from her assistant. Undaunted by such flat negativity, I e-mailed her again, asking whether she'd like to see another one of my novels. She replied that though she had an e-mail record of requesting my work, she never saw anything from me in the first place, and what was I talking about. I sighed and gave up on this venture. So, my question's driven by the said experience. I'm wondering whether the agent who requested the work will actually get to see it, though I did enclose a copy of the original e-mail request.


Actually, if she said she never saw the first one, I'd have offered to send it again. Shit happens. We're dealing with TONS (literally) of paper, in small spaces. Assistants and interns come and go. Things get deleted on the data base as if by elves. We're not perfect. We're not even close.

The important thing is to not let that deter you. It's just the price of doing business.

I've had to email people and say "I've had this for five months, I just found it under my Mallomar stash...is it still available". Sometimes I've missed my chance.

I've lost things. The post office has lost things. I've gotten letters with my agency name and address and the name of an agent who lives three thousand miles away. There was the sad case of a manuscript catching fire... but that's another story. I'll say it again: shit happens. Crude, but true.

I've had publishers send rejection letters, and then buy the same book a year later when the editor finally read it. I'm still laughing about that one.

Until you query 100 times you're not allowed to give up. That's a rule. Learn it. Know it. Live it.

Follow up on submissions-timing

A snarkling wonders:


What would be a reasonable time for a follow-up on agent-requested submission? We're talking here agents from (major agencies). Would it be 4 weeks...6 weeks or much longer post submitted requested material? And no, none of the submissions were "simultaneous." All were a different (and completed) novel. One was a complete novel request. One half the novel.(don't know why but that's what the agent wanted) and the rest were the usual 50-pages or 3 chapters. All requests were by e-mail - submission was hardcopy. I guess I'd like to know when I can e-mail asking whether they've made any decision, and if the answer is "no," then I'd like to move on in my agent search. Thank you for taking time to answer. Best regards.


First place to look for the answer is on the agency's website. Most will give you an idea of time. I know mine does and I got the idea from seeing it other places.

Second, ask the agent when you send the work in: When should I follow up with you? It's NOT an unreasonable thing to ask and if an agent gets huffy about asking...well, you've learned something.

Third choice is what I think of as standard time: 4 weeks for a query, 12 weeks for a full novel. Then email to touch base. Turnaround on full novels can take awhile so don't panic if you don't hear from them. Six months is maximum.

And you don't have to finish with one agent before you query another. Very few expect exclusivity any more, and those that do should only get it for a month or less. There's a post on exclusivity buried in the archives somewhere. I think I need an index to this blog!

Hope this helps!

Similarity

Wonders a Snarkling:



A writer friend of mine says agents often will decline to represent clients whose work is similar to that of an existing client. This makes perfect sense to me, as I'm sure it does to those who already have agents. But most of the agent-searching advice out there says to seek out agents who represent authors whose work is similar to ours -even to *point those similarities out* to the agent in our queries.

So what's your position? Do you and your esteemed colleagues try to keep your client lists heterogeneous?


My contract specifies that I can represent similar authors so I'm pretty upfront with clients that I do so. I actually think it's a good idea. Think about it this way: those guys at Burger King and McDonalds spend a fortune on store placement research. What did they learn? Put the competing brands near each other. Demand for McD drives up demand for BK.

From a literary perspective it makes sense too. If I take on a client within a category or genre, it makes sense to take on others in that category or genre. Philip Spitzer for example represents several very well known and successful mystery writers. If I wrote mysteries instead of rejection letters I'd sure want Mr. Spitzer as an agent.

The only time I can think of when this wouldn't apply is if you write political non fiction. I wouldn't want to represent Al Franken AND Ann Coulter. Both would be pretty upset about it, and both would probably doubt my commitment to them.

As it is Miss Snark confines her client list to less vitriolic people and happily, we all DO get along!

The Snarkometer retires to Mr. Clooney's chateau

We've reached the end of the Snarkometer submissions. 57 in four days is pretty much my limit I've discovered.

A tip of the Snark chapeau to everyone who sent in work. I know I learned a lot from reading it, and making comments. Several people have been kind enough to email their gratitude, and more have posted comments too.

I salute your courage. Even without names attached it's HARD to have someone tell you your work isn't what you thought it was. It's even harder to respond graciously which everyone who responded, did. Those of you who think Miss Snark needs her head examined were mostly kind enough to keep it to yourselves.

We'll do query letters in a while, but frankly I need to get some real work done here. There are some pending emails with questions, and I'll start in on those. If anyone else has general questions, now's the time to ask. Email is fine, or posting here on the comment board too. Email guarantees I see it; I miss some of the comments if they get submerged in a long list.

8.31.2005

Snark's 57 sauce finishes the buffet


"Should I seat the Prescotts with Scott and Tracey, or with Jim and what's her name? What do you think, Jack?"

"Neither."

"Well, Harry Baldrich had Scott work on that incorporation deal when you were out of town last month--should I put Scott and Tracey with the Baldriches instead?"

"Forget it, Emma."

"Jack, having the new partners and important clients together for dinner is your brainchild, remember? If you want to have the dinner again this year, and you expect me to plan it, the least you can do is help figure out the seating arrangements."

"It's not working."

"What's not working? Your attempts to get some of your clients to work with the new partners, or the seating arrangements?"

"Would you forget the goddamned place cards for a minute?" Jack slammed his hand down on the kitchen countertop and whirled around to face Emma for the first time since the conversation started. "There's someone else."

"Someone else has made partner, or someone else should be invited to the dinner?" She almost said, "But that would make thirteen at dinner, and that would be unlucky." She almost said it, but then she looked at her husband's face, really looked at it, and the words died on her lips. "We're not talking about the dinner party anymore, are we?"


no, we're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. There's nothing overtly wrong here, but this is old hat, tired stuff. You're going to have to show me something pretty enticing in the next three pages to keep my interest. I still think Jennifer Weiner's opening for Good In Bed takes the cake for this kind of scene.

The Snarkomter creaks up on 56


"I'm a thief. Not a murderer." Quinn Alexander crossed her arms over the orange jumpsuit and stared at Amos Nickleby.

"I'm not here to argue the point. Whether you killed the gardener or not, the DA has enough evidence to convince a jury that you did."

"How? How can he have evidence if I didn't do it?"

"Your prints are on the gun." Nickelby shrugged and settled back in his chair. "You'll probably only get life imprisonment since it wasn't premeditated. But it was during the commission of a burglary; it'll definitely go down as first degree."

Quinn stared at the table for a moment, then looked at Nickelby. When would she be eligible for parole? Thirty years? Maybe twenty if she kept her nose clean. And at forty eight, she'd still be young enough to track Alan Stanton down and kick his sorry ass.

Nickelby leaned back in his chair. "I can fix it."

Hope swelled in her chest until she ruthlessly beat it down. How the hell could he fix the fact that her lover had set her up? That he'd used her to accomplish his goals and then left her to suffer the consequences?

"I can make it all go away." He slid a set of papers in front of her.

Quinn scanned the document, her eyes stopping at certain words. "Use my knowledge and expertise? What does that mean?"

"We would expect you to use your skills to our advantage."

"My only skill is stealing."

Nickelby nodded.

She flipped the sheet over and her eyes stopped at the bottom of the page where there was a line for her signature. The cold knot in her stomach exploded into panic when she recognized the insignia.

"You want me to steal for the CIA?"


yea, and when you're done, Charlie Townsend has an angelic job for you too. This is old old old,
and while there is nothing new under the sun, you've got to give us something fresh to hold on to. I'd probably read on cause I'm a sucker for bad girls who kick ass...but this one is gonna be hard hard sell unless you do something amazing by page ten.

Snarkometer reaches the speed limit #55



PROLOGUE

"Put the gun down, Wayne." Liz Weeks' voice remained calm, with no hint of the icy terror gripping her heart.

"Don't tell me what to do, you bitch." In contrast to Liz's composure, Wayne Hennessey's voice shook with rage. The pistol in his hand wobbled uncertainly.

Liz had never seen this Wayne before. His usual pristine appearance was askew: face unshaven, hair mussed, tie undone. The smell of liquor clung to him like cheap perfume and provoked a sudden memory of her father. Just the thought of her nightmare childhood made drops of cold sweat run down her chest and pool beneath her bra.

She tightened her hands into fists, not wanting Wayne to see them tremble. It was a good thing she'd been sitting behind the desk when he'd burst into her office. If she'd been standing, her legs would have buckled when she saw his gun.

"You don't want to hurt me, Wayne."

He laughed and his handsome face twisted into an ugly grimace. "You're right. I don't want to hurt you. I want to kill you."

She inhaled a sharp breath, her throat tightening. There was nowhere to run. He'd shoot her before she could take two steps. She stared into the business end of his gun and waited in frozen disbelief for the bullet that would end her life.

A movement out of the corner of her eye caught Liz's attention. She shifted her gaze to the doorway where Sharon stood, white-faced. The secretary's mouth hung open and her eyes were glazed with panic.

The thought of Sharon's three small children roused Liz from her paralysis. She gave a minute shake of her head as a warning to the other woman not to intrude.

Seeing the tiny motion, Wayne turned.


Yup, this'll do it. I'll read on. I'll turn off the phone and the email and sit back to find out what happens. There's some tightening up like taking out "She inhaled a sharp breath", but this is good as it stands.

Snarkometer 54 where are you?



"Hey, twerp," Tony whispered, then leaned over and poked Mark's arm with the sharp end of a pencil.

Mark focused on the arithmetic quiz in front of him. He read the same question
over and over. _What is three-fourths of two-thirds?_ He couldn't remember if
_of_ meant you were supposed to multiply or divide.

Tony leaned over and poked him again. "Give me the answer to number three."

Mark watched Mrs. Peters write the next day's lesson on the chalkboard. The teacher's frizzy gray hair reminded him of the scouring pad his mom used to clean pots and pans. Mrs. Peters never noticed when Tony picked on him.

"I don't know it," Mark answered, keeping his voice low.

"Liar." Tony jabbed him with the pencil again.

"Stop it," Mark whispered.

In front of him, Sarah Harris turned, looked at him and frowned. "Be quiet," she said through clenched teeth.

Mark stared at the nineteen freckles scattered across her cheeks and nose. He knew there were nineteen because he'd counted them once when he sat across from her at the lunch table.

"Mark's the one who won't leave me alone." Tony widened his brown eyes so he resembled a puppy.

Without turning around, Mrs. Peters wrote his name and Sarah's on the board, then put a checkmark in front of them. Oh great. Now he'd have to stay after school. Of course, the teacher didn't write Tony's. He never got into trouble.

Tony smirked. Sarah frowned at Mark before she faced front again.

At the end of class, Mark stayed in his seat and watched the other kids grab their books and leave. Sarah opened her textbook and busied herself with homework. Mrs. Peters sat behind her desk with her hands folded, examining Mark the way his mother examined leftovers to see if they were spoiled.



There's nothing overtly wrong with this, but I've read it five thousand times and seen it in a dozen movies. There's nothing here that says you're going to show me something fresh and new. I'd read the first three pages, but after that, if something amazing doesn't happen it's a pass.

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer, #53


I spotted Amy Betts striding down the hill, away from the high school, too far gone to be stopped. "Cutting, again?" I swore in my empty classroom, half wishing I could join her. The brilliant, sassy girl was probably headed for the Long Island Rail Road station, then on to New York
City, where her apple-green hair and funky clothes fit in. Kids passed in the hall; I needed more copies of my handout for next period. Amy disappeared into a stand of tall bushes, then emerged on the far side, headed the wrong way. I couldn't look away, could only scream as Amy
stepped onto the tracks. The oncoming express rushed pell-mell toward the city. They found her backpack a hundred yards down the line.

Trains are implacable. At the wake, Amy's casket was closed. Her friends clung to each other. Her family sat blank-faced with grief. A black and white copy of Amy's yearbook photo stood propped on her casket. Mrs. Betts insisted on the colorless photo. She couldn't forgive her daughter for dying with apple green hair. I saw things differently. To me, Amy's hair was her rebellion against the depressing beast that plagued her, not defiance of her mother's standards. Too bad Mrs. Betts didn't see things that way.

Amy committed suicide just before spring break. For the remainder of the year her empty desk squatted like a black hole in the back corner of my classroom. The kids wouldn't let it go. I hid the fact that I'd lost faith in my ability to psych kids out and lead them toward tomorrow. Why did I ever decide to step into a classroom and play catcher in the rye? Flipping burgers would be so much easier. Want fries with that?


This is either backstory, or a very very rushed opening. You are telling us a lot of things, not showing them to us.

You're leaving out details that could tell more than facts: I remember when a friend of my youngest sister's was killed in an accident. Her friends came to the service, dressed in black, but the black dresses were party dresses. They were too young to have funeral clothes or business suits. I've never forgotten that detail. More than anything it underscored how young that college freshman was.


This is a pass.

Snarkometer Smackdown #52



Kelly knew something was wrong even before her father had to swerve the car. She didn't know what made her look up, but she did, and from her seat behind her dad she could just see a black sedan with blacked-out windows cross the double yellow line and aim right for them.


If you've been reading the Snarkometer results for the past few days, you'll know I don't like to hear you tell me about something, I like you to SHOW me.

Your lead is: She saw a black sedan with blacked out windows cross the double yellow line and aim right for them.


Fear rushed her, freaking out her whole body. Her dad yanked the car hard to the right. Kelly felt her seat belt engage, locking her core in place, but her head and arms still flew.


You don't need to tell us "fear rushed her"...in fact Im not sure what fear rushed her means. Keep going with the ACTION ie "her dad yanked. Her set belt engaged. "


Lots of noise. Her book bag flying from her lap. A glimpse of the black car out the window, racing away. Silver stripe on the side. Or was that just sunshine reflecting off the paint?

The car tilted into a ditch. Her mother screamed. *Crash-crunch,* a rolling pukey feeling, and they jolted to a stop.

Kelly blinked slowly, heart still racing, and realized she wasn't hurt. Then she remembered her book bag -- and what she'd stashed in it before they left that morning.

DO NOT EVER OPEN.

Carved into the top of the old wooden cigar box, the words taunted Kelly from the footwell of the seat behind her mother. It had flown out the top of her half-zipped book bag. Glancing warily toward the front seat, she tried to reach it with her hand, then her foot, but her seat belt was still engaged.

"Oh my God," her mother said from the front passenger seat. She patted back her gray hair with a shaky, wrinkly hand and then turned to face Kelly, who instantly sat up straight. "Honey, are you all right?"

She rolled her eyes. "Mom, please, do not call me honey!"

"But you're all right?"

Kelly sighed. "Yes, I'm fine.


Truly, ONLY a 14 year old girl can sigh with such long suffering disdain when her mother calls her honey after a car accident.
I hope she's 14...if she's more than 16 I have to track her down and slap some sense into her.

You've got good action up front, some mystery, and a heroine who seems pretty real to me. I'd read on ..I want to know what's IN the box!

If you're thinking of asking Miss Snark to be your agent....

think again.

I'm amazed at the people who send me e-queries. They say they're fans of the blog (thanks..I think). Have they missed the posts on "what have you sold"??

NEVER query an agent you haven't done some research on. Not even Miss Snark, her fabulousity self. If you do, you get what you deserve and Miss Snark will not feel sorry for you one little bit.

So, for those who are new, or witless, or both, know this: Miss Snark doesn't read e-queries and Miss Snark isn't going to be your agent.

Her "real" self is listed in Writers Market and Publishers Marketplace and every other list under the sun. THOSE are the places you find an agent, not here.

Miss Snark is flattered but deeply disturbed.

First Page Syndrome

A snarkling wondered what my references to First Page Syndrome meant.

I made up the term to mean reflect the problem inherent in reading only reading one page, it's a very limited look at the writer's work. Query letters should have at least 3-5 pages of the novel. Even if something is horrible on page one, I try to read at least three pages just in case a miracle occurs.

With just the one page posted here, we don't see what may make things clearer if they are on page two. Thus: FPS. It can also mean Full Phrontal Snark...but that's another page.

Snarklings Take on the Snarkometer, #51



Eli Roper wiped the sweat from his forehead and looked at the figure in the back seat of his Piper. She was still lying down. Hadn't moved since he took off four hours ago, and hadn't moved, despite the bumpy touchdown, when they'd landed just now on the steaming Louisiana runway.

"Stacey. Sister Stacey? We're here."

She whimpered in response. A pitiful, mouse-like sound.

He unbuckled his seatbelt and looked across the tarmac. An old-model dodge van, dirty white, late 50's maybe, sat parked near the edge of the asphalt. Two men stood beside it: one calm, hands in pockets. No big deal, just picking up a new member. The other looked agitated: a prematurely bald man, maybe early 30's, long nose, nervous eyes. Mouth twitched: half smile, half grimace.

Eli climbed from the Piper and went around to the passenger side, unlatched the door.

The nervous man darted toward the plane. Ducked under the wing as if it were helicopter blades and he in danger of being decapitated. Blinked beady eyes at Eli. "She in there? Stacey? She's okay?"

Eli forced a vacant smile. "Flynn McGinn?"

The man nodded. Stuck his head halfway in the plane. "Stacey? Stacey, you in there?"

Another mouse-whimper from inside the Piper.

Flynn looked at Eli, unsure what to do.

Did ever a more unconfident man exist, wondered Eli? Gestured into the plane. "Go on, Flynn. She's not going to walk out."

Flynn slipped into the Piper like a cat into a crevice. Emerged a minute later, arms full. Almost tripped getting out of the plane. "She's, uh. Huh! She's awful light this time." Her head lolling against his arm. Him lumbering, the bulk of him, toward the van. "Thanks, Brother Eli." Over his shoulder, voice tattered. "Thank you. I --Well, thank you so much."


ok, color me confused. Do these guys know each other? Has this happened before? You've got clues that they do like "this time". But you've also got Eli looking at the van and the guys like he's never seen them before.

Also, men tend to call each other by their surnames. so "Go on McGinn" would be more natural.

I'd probably read on for the next couple pages to see what happens but this needs some work before I'd call it ready for Prime Time.

Snarklings Swarm the Snarkometer, 50



The bodies rotted for two days in the 105-degree heat. Judd Stone swiped sweat from his eyes and gazed across Half Moon Valley. The coral ridges and mesas loomed on all sides. The stench sickened him. He could never get used to the smell of death. Twenty Marines lay scattered before him, swarms of fat flies buzzing above their bloated corpses. The coconut trees that once covered the hillsides resembled splintered posts, defoliated by the naval and artillery fire.

Stone's good buddy, Private Emery Snowfield, lay between two black stretcher bearers, his exposed viscera crawling with maggots. Sons of bitches. Stone shook his head. Thievin' sons of bitches.
Glancing down, Stone spotted his canteen next to three empty ammunition cans. He snatched the container and shook it. Not even a gulp left. After screwing off the top, he drained the last drops into his mouth, tried to swallow, gagged and coughed.

A slight movement to his left startled him and he dropped the canteen. Within two seconds he whipped his M-1 to his shoulder and panned the barrel across the draw.

Eyes wide and ears attuned, he inspected the carnage for an infiltrating Jap. His heart thumped in his throat. When the black stretcher bearer rolled over, he almost fired. Josiah Jones opened his eyes and lifted his chin.

"What the hell?" Stone whispered.

The tall Negro reached his hand toward him, Jones' dull stare like a mannequin's eyes.

"You're dead!" Stone yelled. "You thievin' sonovabitch. You're dead!"


Ok, you've got me. I'm reading on.

Notice dear Snarklings that there is MUCH unexplained. There is much undescribed but that which is described reaches right into our hearts and twists. It's also got more than just visual. We smell and hear what is going on.

This is good.

Snarklings Take on the Snarkometer, #49



She didn't understand what was happening to her. All she knew was that today she'd woken up feeling completely different from any other day. She looked the same: same brown hair, same blue eyes, same small stature complete with way too many curves, but she didn't feel the
same. The day started normally. Her alarm woke her at the godawful hour of 6 AM. She opened her eyes, and paused. Something was different, but she couldn't place it. She tried to shake off the feeling, but it resisted. Resignedly, she decided to just ignore it and go about her normal daily routine.


This is all tell, no show. It's like reading a to do list for someone who writes down Get Up at 6am.


She dressed, checking to see if there was anything physically different. She was almost disappointed when she realized that everything was the same. The pimple she'd gotten yesterday was even still there on her cheek, reminding her that pressure causes things to
explode. She sighed, brushed her hair, did her makeup, and headed out to the kitchen. She was running late, as usual. She grabbed her SlimFast on her way out the door and headed towards her car. It was only when she'd gotten there that she realized she had left her purse inside the house. Luckily, she'd also forgotten to lock the house up. Annoyed at herself, she rushed inside, grabbed her purse and her keys, and headed back to her car.


Unless you've got an ax murderer in the next paragraph, I'm pretty much done at this point. You're not giving us anything to hook our interest.


Yet when she tried to get into her car, she was shocked to find that her knees wouldn't move the way they normally did. Thinking back to earlier that morning, she remembered that she'd had a little trouble getting dressed but had just written it off as not being awake yet. This was different, though. Her knees not only were stiff, they felt like there was an iron inside them, grilling them from the inside out.


Knee pain? You've got three long paragraphs and 300 words for knee pain?
This just doesn't cut the mustard. You need something much more riveting than this to catch and hold my interest.

Snarklings Swarm the Snarkometer, Round 48


Rita Byrne writhed in pain. Why is this hurting so much? She had birthed the baby. Across the room, she saw the midwife's assistant measuring the girth of his head with a paper tape.

A sharp pain tore through her womb. The midwife stood between Rita's legs twisting the umbilical cord, trying to ease it out.

"Wait!" Rita screamed, but she heard no sound. "Stop!"

Oblivious, the midwife continued. When the twisting failed to dislodge the placenta, she tugged.

Rita struggled to sit up. She tried to clamp her legs together, but something pinned her to the narrow bed.

The midwife pulled the cord again, hard.

Rita felt the placenta tear loose, and began to swoon. Blood flowed from her body with the afterbirth. A vicious cramp grabbed her womb. The gush continued, soaking the bed and puddling in a dark, viscous pool on the saturated sheet.

Rita knew it was a hemorrhage, knew she could bleed out in 15 minutes, knew the midwife had botched the birth.

She knew she was dying.

She woke to the sound of whimpering. Who was crying? She held her breath to listen, but the sound stopped. As she exhaled, it began again. Is that me?

Pain squeezed her uterus again, milder this time, sending another flow of liquid onto the sheet, and the dream flooded back. The baby. The midwife. Dying.

But, no. This was her bed, and her husband Patrick lay snoring beside her. A dream. It was only a dream. She got up quietly and hurried to the bathroom, locking the door behind her.


ohyuckyuckyuck.
Dying in childbirth.
The standard pregnant woman's dream. That or giving birth to something icky.
Ick Ick Ick.
I don't like dreaming about this and I don't like reading about it, but the problem is you're writing about something every woman has already experienced (well, ok 99.9%) so you're going to have to freshen it up mightily make it seem like something other than sameold sameold.

Snarklings Wrestle the Snarkometer, round 47


The French reporter called him when he was already en route, heading for the airport.
"'allo, Cartier. C'est Giraux. I have an event that may be of interest to you, mon ami," the newsman said.
He only wished he was Cartier and said so at length last night, when he sat with Pascal in Il Giordano's pool bar, sipping Glenlivet and watching Cairo's spectacular sunset.
"Cartier, are you there?" he heard Pascal's cigarette-scarred voice.


He's not Cartier? You call him Cartier now and for the rest of the page. I'm confused



Carter glanced out the window. The blue Novotel neon roof sign and square white pillars of the hotel flashed by. He was practically at the airport.
"I'm here, Pascal, but here is a taxi, heading for Cairo International."
"Ah, c'est mal. I have an interesting proposition "attending" an event. When is your flight?"
"Leaves at noon," he said, re-shuffling the priorities in his head. His Delta flight for Istanbul, if on time, was to depart two hours from now. Did he have time to drop by Pascal's "event" and what would be the consequences of taking a later flight?
Hurmutz wasn't waiting for him at the Ataturk International. He begged Yassine to give him a week off to go stay with his dying mother who wasn't expected to last more than two to three days.


Now I'm more confused. You have "Hurmutz" and "him" in the first sentence. To whom does "he" in the second sentence refer?


Yassine didn't just run a one-time security check on a prospective employee, his watchfulness over his staff never ceased. The owner of Papillion Bleu was renowned for sending a couple of his "inspectors" to trail an employee across a continent if need be, just to make sure his generous nature wasn't abused with fanciful tales.

Hurmutz had spend a year establishing five "exit" points that would pass the Lebanese restaurateur's scrutiny. Dying mother was his third excuse in two years of working for Joseph Aziz Yassine.


I'm totally at sea here. I have no idea who is who, and what is going on. Pass.

Snarklings Wrestle the Snarkomter, bout 46



Senator "Jolly"Roger Claymore lay in bed in his cabin aboard the yacht Oil Wench waiting for the beauty queen to join him. Rosalie was in the head, and Roger was patient because he knew how women were, especially young, beautiful ones.

The Senator put his big, sunburned arms behind him on the pillow and attempted to give some serious thought to when they would dock at Miami the next day, and the paparazzo would swarm around him. But the thoughts were no match for his feeling of almost idiotic laissez faire. He began to laugh, a deep rumbling sound in his broad chest.


laissez-faire? not a phrase you see describing somnolence very often.

Paparazzo? You may not know this but the word paparazzo is actually a name. Three points if you know whose name. However, if there's a swarm there's more than one, and thus it's paparazzi, not o.


"Wal, worsh yore hands and bring me mah bacon and aigs."


dialect is hard to render in print. It's particularly hard to render a southern accent in print without making someone look stupid. I'm never sure why writers attempt dialect on the page. It slows down the narrative as you try to figure out what someone is saying and it's just as effective to say someone has an accent as to try to duplicate it. And if by some really horrid mischance you are using the fact that he has a southern accent to indicate he IS stupid....well, Miss Snark has some soap to wash out your mouth.


Claymore, Chairman of the powerful Justified Means Committee, was recalling the punch line of a joke, one of the many that his good buddy, Jay Barnes Shafer, the Oil Wench's owner, had filled his ears with on this cruise. This particular joke had to do with an oil field driller who went into a diner where he ate the same breakfast every morning. One morning the waitress handed him a menu and told him that she'd just scratched what he liked.

"Wal, worsh yore hands--" The jokes came straight off Jay Barnes' rigs, they were crude, almost always about women's body parts, but unlike oil, inexhaustible.


backstory backstorbackstory...and a lot of tell instead of show.


The senator bellowed toward the closed bathroom door, "Honey, whut in the bejesus are you doing in there?"

The only sound that came back from behind the door was that of water running.

"C'mon, Baby, Ah'm give out," Roger drawled in Texanese, sinking deeper into the pillows. "Don't be so vayahnn..."


This is probably a victim of First Page Syndrome but right now all we've got is a guy lying in bed laughing to himself. To misquote a Texan description this is "all hat, no cattle". Of course the girl is gone or dead, but I'd get her dead quicker and earlier.


This is a pass.

Snarklings Brave the Snarkometer 45 times



It couldn't be happening again.

Liv Olney gripped the edge of the desk and leaned forward to watch the jumpy video footage. The smoke cleared in front of the Amadanian school in Central Africa, revealing a car still in flames in the street. Soldiers poured through the opening in the school's courtyard wall, guns at the ready across their chests.

Guns, soldiers, children. A blood-chilling combination.

She pinched her nose against the remembered scent of smoke, of blood, closed her eyes against the brilliance of the flames. Her breath came faster as memories tumbled through the wall she'd so carefully constructed.

Spitting gunfire, almost innocuous sounding pops. Smoke filling the hospital, feet running past her -- friend or foe? -- as she slipped an oxygen mask over her patient. A hand wrapping around her ponytail, jerking her back and she stared into hateful black eyes.

And now her best friend was teaching in that school, subjected to that horror. She opened her eyes and unclenched her fists, looking around to see if anyone noticed her rapid breathing, her flushed face. She couldn't let anyone see her weakness, or they would remove her from this situation, and she couldn't allow that.

Jill, who had been there for her when she'd returned from her own nightmare, needed her.

Behind her in the darkened war room in the bowels of the Pentagon, she heard the murmur of voices, low and urgent, discussing the demands that had arrived with the videotape: Remove the peacekeeping troops from the ports where they were working to reduce arms-smuggling, or the hostages would start dying.

Line the pockets of the madman Wamukota or people would die.


As a matter of policy, I don't handle any books dealing with terrorism or terrorists. It's not a principal, I don't think those books are bad or evil or should be banned. I just choose not to deal with them.

In the months and years after 9/11every person, not only here in NYC, but everywhere had to figure out how to deal with the new world. Some people deal with it by writing books wherein the terrorists die, the good guys prevail and a sense of justice is restored. Nothing wrong with that at all

I can't do that however. I'm still taken aback by the sight of military men carrying automatic weapons in the subways despite the fact I see them often. I'm still unnerved by the signs that large packs, bags and purses are subject to search on the trains. I can't look at old movies that show the WTC without crying even though I feel stupid.

I deal with that by not reading this type of work. Not for the agency, not in other books.

As writers, that can't deter you from writing what you need to write. You're dealing with things in your way. You'll get some rejections from people who are dealing with things as I am, but there will be others who can look at your work objectively. You'll just have to work a little harder to find them.

Snarklings Brave the Snarkometer, #44



The trick was to kill them before their mouths moved. A problem this time.

Azeril slipped through the shadows behind the tiny house, peering around the corner again. One, two, three, *four* wizards. A smile witched across his lips as he pressed against the wall. No guards tonight. They were wising up.

A little girl sat on the ground, moonlight casting shadows across her face. Tears dripped from her cheeks onto the limp cat clutched in her arms. Blood stained her clothes. Her hands.

Az's heart sank.

Two of the wizards stood over her, as if she posed any threat to them. They shot frequent glances over their shoulders, knowing where the real danger would come from. The others had two women up against the front of the house. The mother and an older sister, Az guessed. The
sister looked familiar. Almost. It didn't matter.

"Charged with resisting the orders of the Crown, defying your queen. Keeping that *thing*." The wizard's nose wrinkled, and he cast a quick look at the dead cat.

"You're lucky it was only a false alarm." The other wizard leered at them, his voice smooth, like oil poured out his mouth instead of words. "We might be... *persuaded* to forget about this."

Azeril reached for the obsidian blade at his waist. The knife burned in his hand. The feeling spread through his arm and into his head, the fever blurring his vision. He'd get the close ones, then hope he had time to take out the other two.

"Just make it quick this time," one of them snarled. "This is business."


this isn't my genre, but I like it!
tension, forward movement in the narrative, no backstory to bog you down...
I'd read on for sure!

Snarklings take on the Snarkometer #43


Fleetfoot stamped his forefoot impatiently, and Kalen felt an urge to imitate his horse and stamp his foot too. His mother was taking a tediously long time to say goodbye. Kalen had bid everyone farewell in about ten words. Surely it was time for them to be on their way home.

With difficulty, he stood still, holding Fleetfoot's reins. He had had his twelfth birthday the previous month, his Gateway Birthday, marking the end of his status as an elfling. He had been thrilled. Now he would be able to do things like attend feasts in his father's Great Hall and learn to use a sword.

But he had found that being twelve had its drawbacks as well as its advantages. His parents, his tutor, and the weapons masters had all admonished him that behavior allowed in an elfling was no longer acceptable in one who had passed through the Gate. His mother was certain to include fidgeting to be gone from her cousin's village in that category.

He looked at the knot of relatives in the clearing in front of the cottage. The men had all said farewell and gone off to their day's tasks at dawn, so Kalen and the two guards waiting near him were the only males in sight, while his mother was surrounded by her aunt, two cousins, and one cousin's nine-year-old daughter. The little girl waved at Kalen, and he lifted his hand to wave back at her. To his surprise, she had turned out to be an entertaining companion, the one bright spot in the whole boring week he had been here.

The baby in the other cousin's arms was a girl too, of course. "Let me hold her one last time," his mother cried, stretching out her arms. Her cousin handed the infant over. Kalen's mother hugged the elfling and lifted her overhead, looking up at the baby so that her hood fell off and her dark hair tumbled down her back. "Can you smile for me?" she cooed.

To Kalen's deep disgust, the baby smiled and then opened her mouth and spewed vile liquid down the front of his mother's cloak. The women all laughed and rushed to dab at the cloak with wet cloths. Kalen grimaced. If he had learned one thing on this trip, it was that babies leaked at every opening except their ears, and it was safest to keep far away from them. His mother had fussed over the baby from the day of their arrival a week ago. Kalen could not understand her enthusiasm.


This is mostly tell, not show. Lot's of surface with no compelling detail. And it's not fresh or interesting to me.

This is YA fantasy, so your competition is Harry Potter and Eragon, and Lemony Snicket. You're going to have to juice it up to catch the attention of these readers.

Snarklings take on the Snarkometer, round 42



"I'll take it, thank you."

The man's large, almond-brown eyes widened involuntarily and gaped at her as if she had asked for twenty-two melons to go, please, before he began to digest the true meaning of her words.

"But--"

Reyna smiled sweetly and insisted, "I'll take it, thank you."

The silk slipped through his fingers much the same way as water and she was off with it, the scarf tucked partway into her belt, streaming behind her.


"much the same way as water"?...how about "like water". You're creating a simile not describing an action.


The merchant was still trying to muster support from the crowd.

"Help! Thief! THIEF!"

Reyna doubted any would come to his aid; his wares were priced so high that one felt sickened just standing near them. All the same, she increased the pace, her booted feet thudding smartly against the stone-and-cobble streets of Arunai.

At an intersection, she slowed, properly folding the delicate silk and stowing it into the knapsack slung over her shoulder for later. She hadn't planned to steal it, but the gold, amber, and rose hues had drawn her to the stall. She chuckled lightly, and concentrated on blending in with the crowd, pretending to inspect the nearest selection of crabmeat. The next time that particular merchant thought to sell something so gaudy, he would think of her.


This was labeled "high fantasy" and I'm not sure what that is, but so far it's ok despite the fact this girl thinks stealing pretty things is a good idea..heck, it's probably because she does that I'm willing to read on.

There's nothing particularly fresh and new here, and I do know SF/Fantasy is a competitive field and you're going to have to do something pretty spectacular by page ten to keep that crowd reading.

Snarklings Brave the Snarkometer, #41


Lauren Petersen hurriedly ran a brush through her short, static-charged hair. To her annoyance, rebel strands drifted up each time the brush made a pass. A glance at her watch caused her to grimace. She was running late and if she didn't get a move on it, she'd miss him. Again.


"a glance at her watch caused her to grimace". You say the same thing, better, in the next sentence. SHOW not tell.


Lauren hooked a finger on the strap of her salmon-pink purse as she passed the end table, then hopped from foot to foot as she slipped on her heels. Her keys were yanked from the cabinet hook like the baton in the Olympics and she raced to the front door - but once there, she halted and took a deep breath before calmly opening it.


"her keys were yanked" ...she yanked. Passive voice is certain death in romance novels.


The hallway outside her apartment was empty.

Slowly Lauren pulled the door shut and locked it as she threw a considering look at another door down the hall.

Had she taken too long?

The man had left at this exact time for the last two days. It had to mean he was finally on a schedule. He was going to open his door any second now and she'd be ready when he did. She took a deep breath and started walking, her stride oozing feminine confidence.

Two doors away.

She stopped to make sure her hose wasn't bunched at the ankle. It wasn't. She resumed walking - just as confident - but a little slower this time.


hose? she's wearing a garden hose? oh..you mean stockings, or pantyhose. I haven't heard anyone say "hose" since Grandfather Snarque discussed his sock drawer with me.


One door away.

No sign of life so far. Lauren stopped to look back at her own door - like maybe she had forgotten to lock it. Or had forgotten something else. Mentally she counted off the seconds, gave the appearance of deciding it was alright, then resumed walking.

One door back.

There was still hallway left. There was still a chance that she could run into him.

Two doors back.


She's a stalker? A murderer? One can only hope she's not actually trying to meet a MAN in such a way. Has anyone really done this since Doris Day? Perhaps Miss Snark is just feeling persnicketey. This just doesn't feel fresh and exciting. I want to slap Lauren around and tell her to read the Wall Street Journal.

Snarklings Duel with the Snarkometer, Round 40



He was tall, massive really. From his shoulder-length blond hair and mirrored sunglasses to the heavy boots on his enormous feet, he looked dangerous. Black leather clothes fit like a second skin that emphasized every muscle. And there he stood, in the children's section of the Eden Park Public Library, as out of place as Gulliver in the land of Lilliput.


You don't need the Lilliput comparison. We get the joke just by what you've written. In fact, the Lilliput phrase undercuts the humor of what you've written.


Daisy Richards narrowed her eyes as the man pulled a battered copy of Where the Wild Things Are off a shelf. He rested an elbow on the top of the bookcase and thumbed through the pages. His expression softened. Even so, he still looked like he belonged in jail instead of perusing picture books in her library.


Same with "even so"


From the other side of the shelves came the sound of a scuffle, and then children's giggles. But the big man paid the disturbance no mind.

Daisy sighed. How irresponsible for parents to bring their offspring to the library and ignore them. He needed to control his children.

Instead, he threw his arms out wide. Puffing out his chest and tossing his head from side to side, he made a fearsome growl. His blond hair waved in a mane, and his muscles rippled as he lurched to the far side of the bookcase.

The kids shrieked with delight.

Daisy raised a hand to her pounding heart. She couldn't allow this disturbance to go on any longer. She glanced at the circulation desk, but James and Sally were nowhere to be seen.

"Why me?" she sighed. "Why is it always me?"


Mane, and rippling muscles are such cliches that it's impossible to read them without inserting a sardonic sneer. Perhaps you meant us to do that?

Daisy needs to get off her feet and swill a pail of gin. What a stick!

Of course I'd read on. Miss Snark is as fond of leather clad musclebound men as the next fair flower. Of course, I'd have to stick my stiletto heel in Daisy's corset to loosen her up a bit, but I bet that's what you've got in store for us don't you?

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer, Round 39




Scottish Highlands, 1618
A crisp breeze blew between the mountains and over the deathly silent battlefield. The sharp scents of bruised grass and coppery blood blended. Gwyneth Carswell put down her herb basket, crouched by a patch of brambles and peered out at the motionless, tartan-clad bodies--a dozen or more--lying scattered about in the dusky gloaming. Blood darkened their shirts and doublets and seeped into the grass.


You've never been on a battlefield have you? How do I know? Cause you'll never smell grass. You'll smell blood, and shit and piss. Blood doesn't seep after someone is dead either. It pools in the lowest part of the body.

And she's just merrily picking her way around dead bodies? Miss Snark would be throwing up. Even in a romance novel.


A chill shivered through Gwyneth and nausea churned in her stomach. The men of the McIrwin clan, her distant cousins, lived and died only for a skirmish. She'd been in the Highlands long enough to expect brutality and violence at every turn, but her sheltered upbringing in England had molded her into the person she was--a lover of peace. Thank God her son had stayed in the cottage with Mora.


oh good, you do have her throwing up...sorta. And if she had a sheltered upbringing, she'd have a VERY violent reaction to all this carnage.


So much senseless death. For what?

After glancing about to make sure she was alone, Gwyneth ventured onto the battlefield and examined the bodies of her distant cousins. Some suffered ghastly wounds to the head or slit throats that had killed them instantly. Though she hadn't been particularly close to most of them, sadness and horror sickened her upon seeing their mutilated bodies.


"After" removes us from the immediacy of the narrative. "glancing about to make sure" keeps us with her, and thus involved.

And what's she doing out here anyway? If she's nauseated by the carnage, she's got to have a reason to be here. She can't just be here cause you need her here to get the story going.


A haunting groan floated on the breeze. She froze. A cold finger of fear trailed down her spine. The pain-filled groan sounded again, straight ahead. One of the men was alive. With skirts hiked, she rushed forward, picking her way among the dead, until she reached the far edge of the clearing.

The light was fading fast, but she saw well enough to know she didn't recognize the injured man, a large warrior with long dark hair, from the enemy clan..


haunting groan? yikes.
cold finger of fear? double yikes

rushed forward/picking her way among the dead....impossible to do at the same time.

He's alive, groaning and she notices his hair first?


You're writing in an intensely competitive category. You're going to have to be fresh, and inventive and smart to keep an agent reading. So far, this won't qualify.

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer, #38


The feed store had always been one of Dani O'Hara's favorite hangouts. She loved the rich mixture of aromas coming from sacks of sweet mash and the fine leather tack lining the walls of the dilapidated old building. There was always coffee and free donuts if you got there early enough. Rays of sunlight that managed to pierce the grimy store front windows played in the fine dust that drifted around the fragrant interior.


blah blah blah. This is all pointless description. It has nothing to do with what follows.


She wasn't trying to hear the conversation of the men gathered near the coffee pot. But, she heard something that made her let go of the fancy bridle she had been looking at.


Your story starts here.


She gulped and immediately choked on her bite of donut. The men were discussing a subject she had majored in for a life time. Diego Varga.

"You remember Diego don't you Dani?"The owner of the establishment was grinning at her.

"The names familiar,"she mumbled over a choking gasp.


"of the establishment" is a stilted way of saying "of the feedstore"
and "mumbled over a choking gasp"? she could swallow her tongue too...really you only need mumble, or choke or gasp...certainly not all three.


Remember him? She couldn't remember not knowing Diego. He was the guy that had taught her to jump a horse over a fence, how to roll a cigarette, not to mention her first cuss word. Most of all, he was the guy that had taught her to love him.

No one had seemed to notice her wolfing down a second donut or the hard time she had swallowing that last bite. It wasn't the first time they'd seen her embarrass herself. She pretended to not hear when the owner of the store spoke to her loud enough for all to hear.

"Say, Dani. I saw Diego go in the bank a few minutes ago. If you hurry, you can catch up with him"

His comment brought a round of chuckles from his companions. Every one for five counties around knew she had adored Diego from the first moment her blue eyes had focused on his fabulous face. The teasing she had undergone was fun once, but now, it was embarrassing. These friendly and caring men couldn't begin to know how deeply Diego had hurt her when she was a wide-eyed seven-teen year old.


Romance is the biggest selling category of books bar none. Romance readers gobble up books at a rate that makes Miss Snark's abacus heart flutter.

Everyone talks about about romance novels like they're a piece of cake to dash off. Miss Snark scoffs at that. Romance is incredibly difficult to write well because you have to balance innocence and reality, plot with character, and most of all, you have to create people we like and want to hang out with.

This one just doesn't work for me because we see Dani acted upon, rather than taking action. Fragile flowers of submission heroines went the way of the dodo bird. Romance heroines today are cowgirls for sure, but they're not just standing in a feed store being teased, they're giving as good as they get. Give this girl some moxie!!

This is a pass.

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer #37



Hollywood, California - 1925

"Come on back," Harry Durand said to his guest. "I was just watching the rushes from my new film."


Two things come to mind at once. Old time movies were called just that: movies. Or pictures. I"m not sure when "film" came into use. You'd need to check it in the OED or other sources. "film" is also used by those who want to sound sophisticated...and from your description of Harry that follows..that's not like him.

Second. "from my new film". If Harry is talking to an industry person (and it sounds like he is) he wouldn't need to explain what rushes are. Rushes can ONLY be from a new movie. And anayone in the movies knows what they are. Over explanation sounds stilted. The best example of over explanations I can think of are the Earl Stanley Gardner Perry Mason books. They are rife with it. I see it a lot in writing from academics, lawyers and doctors who are used to writing everything into a piece. You don't need to do that here. And in fact, you shouldn't. It makes the narrative waddle rather than zip along.



"Is it any good?" He managed to keep the disdain from his voice. Not that Harry would notice. If brains were gunpowder, he couldn't blow his hat off.


"He" is a pronoun. To use it effectively you have to know which noun it replaces. Since the only named person so far is Harry, it sounds like you mean Harry, but you don't. You'll need to use something OTHER than "he" first or it's jarring to the eye. It's even more confusing since your second use of "he" in this paragraph DOES mean Harry.


Nor was his host the most fastidious of people. His hair stuck out from his head in every direction and he had several days' worth of beard growth. And I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that tattered bathrobe. Let alone answering the door in it.


I? This is first person? It's third person in the first paragrpah "to his guest" says third person. "to me" would be first person. How many people are here anyway?



Harry glanced over his shoulder. "You're asking the wrong person if you want an unbiased opinion."

His guest forced a laugh. "I meant was it going well, more than anything else."

"Ah. Well, it's not without its problems, but we'll get them ironed out."

I wouldn't bet on that.


This doesn't read smoothly. That's deadly - and not in a good way- on a first page.

This is a pass.

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer, #36


The fire that warmed Tobias' cottage provided barely enough light for Honora to see the stylized knot in the seal of the packet she held. Under other circumstances, she might have asked him to light a rush light so she could make a more thorough inspection, but the rope maker seemed nervous tonight, constantly glancing toward the windows and twitching at every little sound. Somehow, she didn't think the request would be met with much enthusiasm.


You're telling it here, not showing. Consider: the rope maker glanced toward the window repeatedly, twitched at the smallest sound. See the difference? Use the story to show us how they are, rather than telling us.


The light was enough to see that the outer layer of parchment bore no address and only a few cryptic markings in the lower right hand corner, likely some form of code. She had never made an effort to find out and felt she was better off not knowing. Her complicity in treason was deep enough already; she didn't need to compound the matter.

"The oil cloth itself wasn't sealed again," Tobias complained. "If they keep doing this, my lad...sir, I'm not certain my associates will be willing to continue."


Ok, this is interesting. Tobias thinks Honora is a man, but you're using "she". That intriques me a bit.


"Your 'associates' are smugglers who are paid well for their work," Honora reminded him. "If this is an attempt to ask for more money..."

The older man looked offended. "Have I once taken coin for this work? In five years, have I ever asked for recompense? I believe in the King's cause. The others, though, they fear what would happen if they should be caught. Smuggling will land them in prison, but if they are suspected of knowing what is in these packets, they will hang. Your contacts in France grow sloppy and there's the truth of it."



You're working in a well developed and populated field here. How many books have we all read about smugglers, treason, and kings? Zillions. The form is hundreds of years old and what worked for Alexander Dumas, or even Antonia Fraser isn't going to work for you cause we've seen them do it already.

You're going to have to show me something really outstanding and different to get me past page one. So far, this isn't it.

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer #35



First, you had to make it over the nine-foot metal fence with its sharp finials. Then you had to jump past the jungle of honeysuckle vines that was so dense that it swallowed blue jays and carpenter bees, and small children could get lost in it and not be able to find their way out until they were teenagers. Then you had to walk through the lavender and the nasturtiums and the anise hyssop and the chicory until finally, finally, at the back of the Waverleys' yard you could see the old apple tree, cranky but mostly self-sufficient, like an elderly house cat. If you could manage to get to the tree and steal an apple before someone saw you, you still had to make your way past the flowers and the honeysuckle and the over the fence again. But then you could eat your apple at your leisure.

Why go through all of this? Because if you ate an apple from the tree in the Waverleys back yard, you'd see what the biggest event in your life would be. Local legend had it that, fifty years ago, Seth Bagwell saw himself making the winning home run the first and only time Bascom High made to the North Carolina state championship. And Janice Ramsey said she saw her wedding day. Junior Martin claimed he saw the time he was skinny dipping in Lunsford's reservoir and a bear chased him out of the water and right into old Mrs. Norton's yard. Though she'd never eaten a Waverley apple, this was probably the biggest event in Mrs. Norton's life, as she had been married sixty years to a fundamentalist and had never seen a naked man in the daytime before.

The irony was that the Waverleys themselves were all born with a severe dislike of apples, thus the old saying that Waverleys knew where to find the truth, they just couldn't stomach it.



This violates every rule I've been yapping about...and it's great. First, the second person "you" ..shades of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City. Second, nothing really happens, and technically it's all backstory...and it's great.

Notice the wry humor, the telling details, the crisp pace. Even the long sentences work.

I'd read on for sure.