3rd SR Crapometer #40

Dear Miss Snark,

Rosalia is a finished 56,000 word work of commercial fiction set in modern day New York and written in the tradition of The Godfather. (wtf?)

19-year-old Ro Bellidonno never expected to see the man who killed her brother again, so when her father brings Mickey Sguglia home for dinner one evening, her world is flung upside down for the second time by the same man. (gasp for air here--that's one long sentence) Seven years is a long time to be angry, and in a world where justice is often delivered with a bullet, she intends to see him pay for the death of her twin.

But his return is no accident, and he’s working on a murderous plan of his own. For decades the name Bellidonno has been synonymous with the east coast’s most powerful criminal organization. Now he wants that power for himself, and he’s willing to kill patriarch and heir to get it. Helped by an embittered inside man, Sguglia aims to finish the job he began seven years ago.

Will Ro get her revenge before Sguglia makes his murderous mark on her family again? With deadly intentions from every direction, only one thing is certain: the last word will be spoken in blood.

I have enclosed sample pages and a SASE. Thank you for your time and consideration.


there's no plot. There's no nuance. There's nothing new here to make me want to read on.
You tell me this is in the tradition of The Godfather, but what you describe doesn't sound anything like that.


"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…"
Her mother smiled brightly over the cake she balanced carefully as she came into the dining room, her expression oddly lit by the candles arranged around the frosted edge.

The room, meant for entertaining a good sized crowd, was crammed full of her siblings, aunts and uncles, friends of her parents, and cousins, all singing, perhaps all the more boisterously thanks to the wine that flowed freely for the occasion.

"Happy birthday, dear Rosalia…. Happy birthday to you!"

The cake was set before her, and her mother pressed a kiss to her temple with a smile before straightening. Ro tensed at the gesture.

"Alright, then, how 'bout a wish?" Her father came to stand beside his wife, smiling kindly at his youngest daughter. The girl, eyes dark in an echo of her father's, looked at them both quietly, then down to the cake. "Happy 19th Birthday, Rosalia!" was piped across it in red frosting, neat script letters that filled the whole of the cake's surface. No space remaining.

"Remember, Ro, don't tell nobody, it won't came true!" one of the cousins called out, eliciting a few laughs. She did not glance up, only looked over the cake, her gaze moving over it almost methodically. The silence settled, and those huddled close in the crowded room shifted uncomfortably, waiting for her to blow the candles out.

Ro lifted her gaze from the cake and looked around the crowd of people. Familiar faces, background at every event like this her whole life. This was a small gathering, really, low key as Bellidonno family celebrations went. But it was a celebration, a birthdya, and here they were.

At her left, her cousin Dino leaned close for a second. "C'mon, Ro. Make a wish." She glanced over at him, dark eyes cool and placid and slicing, and he sat back. She reached for his glass, and, without a warning or hesitation, poured the wine onto the cake, dampening the candles.

What had been rustling quiet was now silence as rivers of faint red-pink ran among the white and red frosting. "Happy 19th birthday, Rosalia!" the words bled.

Her chair scraped against the floor as she stood, and she shoved through the crowd, out of the dining room. Behind her, her brother wondered again under his breath why they bothered to try, while her father put his arm around his wife, and aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends exchanged looks that spoke a thousand words.

The dark look that clouded the girl's face as she moved quickly through the house and up the stairs was not one unknown to her family. Indeed, they saw it, or some variation of it, often enough to think of it as something close to usual. Perhaps, though, they had hoped for better on her birthday.

and yes, this is why I always ask for pages. That query letter sux big time, and this writing doesn't. It's probably not going to make the cut, but it's a whole lot better than the query letter led me to believe.

I'd read the rest of the pages for sure. You've got action, you've got an interesting take on the tried and true birthday cake image. I'd want to find out why she poured the wine on the cake and why her family has come to expect that kind of thing from her. It's good show, not tell.


Anonymous said...

"Her mother"

Whose mother?

"her siblings"

Whose? The mother's? Mom was the last one identified.

Proof read those pronouns, please. I got lost trying to figure which "she" belong to which person.

Try opening at the point where the cake is set before Ro, as I liked the bleeding letters image to set the internal mood, then pull your internal camera back to take in the scene, THEN she makes her exit. I wanted to see things from her POV rather than the 3rd person omniscient that seems to be going here.

I'm not a Godfather fan, but I might read this one.

HOWEVER 56K words is way too short unless it's a Harlequin catagory romance.

otto said...

It is good writing and a good opening scene. I worried from the query how she would know her brother's killer and yet her father would not (bringing him home). I wanted to scream "Tell Daddy! He'll take care of him!" But it looks like you've got the story planned out better than the query suggests.

Melissa said...

"... the words bled."

I love that line. Very interesting scene --I'd read on, too!

Anonymous said...

I think 450 to 500 words on a spoiled birthday cake is too much to open the novel with. . . (ugh, my English)

It's a good start but needs to be tightened up. The only suspense we're left with is will someone run after her (and that isn't very much suspense) .

A. M. said...

An incident! Live, not rehashed! Dear Mother of Cheesecake I made it to this party in time. Whee.

Actually, I was a tad worried while I read the first 5 paragraphs. But you nailed it. And I'm curious to find out what happens next.

Cool beginning. Congrats!

Kim said...

Noooo.... I want to read why she poured wine all over the cake? Ugh... I hate being left hanging :>

However, the word length is only sufficient, as anon#1 said, for Harlequin category. And it's too short for some of their category lines as well.

Anonymous said...

Author here. :)

I wondered about the query letter. I only happened to see the notice about the crapometer a few hours before submissions opened, and knew it wasn't an opportunity I wanted to miss out on, but I'd never written a query before putting this together. And, yes, I have cringed repeatedly over the mention of The Godfather since hitting "send." Anyway, thank you! This is really helpful, I will *definitely* be working on my query before sending it out. And uh. Trashing this one, maybe. :)

The positive notes about my pages are really encouraging - thank you! The comment about wishing to see it in 1st person is interesting, as I've considered trying it that way.

Anyway, thank you very much Miss Snark! This is really helpful, and you can bet I'll try to make good use of it. Thanks Snarklings, too, for your comments.

BuffySquirrel said...

I can see this being a very short novel.

"Daddy, that's the man who killed my twin brother. Your son--remember him?"

"Is that right. Okay, I'll just call out the boys."

Maybe the query should mention why that doesn't happen.

overdog said...

I think someone recommended cutting to the chase--in this case, the cake. It wasn't really interesting until then. But when she poured the wine on the cake, it stopped being stereotypical yadda yadda and I perked up.

lizzie26 said...

Wow, hey, an author who really understands critiquing, thanks Miss Snark and everyone, doesn't storm-off in a hissy-fit, and will try to rewrite the query and maybe work on POV. Rare person, she/he is. I salute this author!

McKoala said...

I was bored until the wine. Then all of a sudden I was hooked.

xiqay said...

I am not channeling your vibes, Miss Snark.

Typos. Head-hopping. Yet you say the writing isn't bad?

The story isn't bad, I agree. But I'm confused about who I'm rooting for. I'd read on. But I would generally expect better.

Dating Amy said...

I read this yesterday and had to come back to read it again just for fun. It's my favorite so far. I just love the birthday cake image. Fantastic start!

Anonymous said...

You have the kernel of an interesting story here, but it needs some rethinking. The main difficulty, as far as I can tell from your query letter, is how Rosalia can recognize her brother's killer when no one else can. Try this on as a possible solution:
Ro and her twin brother were hanging out together when he was assasinated (say, sitting in the same car). He was killed, she survived, but she saw the shooter clearly and will never forget his face. Dad and Company saw to it that the assassin slept with the fishes. Cut to present when Dad brings new guy, Mickey, home. Ro recognizes him as the killer, but the rest of her family thinks she's crazy. She's been traumatized since her twin's death. Is Mickey really the killer or is Ro losing her mind? And if not, can she stop Mickey before he strikes again?
Ratchet up the stakes for Rosalia and involve her more in the major action from the get-go. You've got an interesting premise. I look forward to seeing the rest of the story.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit slow reading all these, I don't know how Miss Snark does it every day!

I really liked the birthday cake bit. However, it was a bit slow getting to that part, and my attention was starting to wander. Can you cut the part before she poured the wine down?