3rd SR Crapometer #53

Dear Miss Snark:

Until vampires attack them, Linda thinks Phillip and she are a typical middle-age, middle-class couple. She discovers, instead, that Phillip is New Hampshire’s Vampire Prince. Every bit as shocking is Phillip’s insistence that she is one of the last true gypsies, a race endowed with the power to destroy his people.

Linda decides to leave him, but when she overhears human assassins preparing to kill him, she races to warn him, saving his life and admitting to her love for him in the process. When Phillip proposes a choice between becoming his vampire queen and becoming his bonded human mate, Linda begs for time to think about the sacrifices she’d have to make in either case. He gives her a year to choose and allays her fears about the clash of their two worlds.

Phillip informs his people that she’s under his protection but not everyone is happy there’s a gypsy in their midst. When it becomes clear that both humans and vampires are plotting against him, Phillip and Linda have to confront not only the millennia old hostility between their two peoples, but also the deeper conflict between the good and evil among both races.

Linda, a child care director and lifelong idealist, and Phillip, a 3,600-year-old warrior and hardened pragmatist, must work together to discover who’s behind the attempts on Phillip’s life.

(title) is set in present-day New Hampshire where the places and people have both a delightfully quirky nature and a timeless grace. In this novel, the mysteries of gypsy heritage and lifestyle are given mystical origins, and the controversies regarding the true nature of vampires are at the heart of an ancient and contentious war.

Enclosed, please find the first page of (title), the first novel in the (title) series. The next three novels in this six book series have been completed. Thank you for taking the time to review this query. I am happy to send the manuscript or sample chapters and I have enclosed a SASE for your response.


You're confusing a query letter with a synopsis but that's not the worst problem we've seen today.

The problem here is you've got nothing new to say about vampires.
Despite being a denizen of dark places and vamping on pianos singing torch songs, I don't know a lot about vampire novels. I've read a couple but they aren't my forte. So when even I recognize this as biz as usual, you've got a problemo. Fresh and new may be heretical among vampires but over here in publishing you bloody well come to the meeting with it stamped on your forehead.

I'd read the pages only to see if you'd get a form rejection or one that said "keep me in mind for other things"

An explosion of sound and glass blew over Linda from across the room and she screamed. Phillip rolled away from her and jumped to his feet on the bed. Standing in the shards of the sliding glass door were three enormous dogs. No, they were wolves. No, as they stood up on two legs, they were people. No, just, no, she couldn’t accept what she had just seen.
The intruders growled and then the middle one spoke. “A new sheep, Phillip? A little old and grisly, isn’t she?”

Not waiting for more information, she rolled off the bed and ran from the room, swinging right in the hall and into the living room. Before she could make it to the front door, a different voice laughed at her from behind.

“Old and slow, but still willing to run. This may be a very short chase, but that’s better than none.”

She was almost to the door and very close to the wall, the wall where more than a dozen swords hung. She turned and looked at him. He was young, maybe 24, he looked strong and he was naked, so it was easy to see every single bulging muscle. (she's in fear for her life and stops to ogle a naked man .. just another Sunday at Snark Central)

Her mind was spinning. Her life had been as mundane as one could possibly imagine. She was a middle-aged, white-collar professional living in suburban New England. Nothing in her experience had prepared her for a wolfman attacking her in a secluded cabin. She shook her head, her hair flying around her. She could only survive this if she kept her head clear, kept thinking. Armed, she might have a chance. To her left were the only weapons in the cabin and she reached out and grabbed the closest one, hefting the heavy sword her left hand and then holding it before her.

The monster laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding. Oh, come on, old woman, you can barely hold that thing. Run for the door. I’ll give you a 30 second head start. That’s pretty sporting, wouldn’t you say?”

“I may not know much more than which end of this thing to hold, but I’m willing to learn more right here and now.” She knew that her challenge would have sounded more menacing if her voice weren’t trembling.

Find a critique group. You need some reader input. This has a lot of problems.


Anonymous said...

Oh my, Cheesy villian dialog - long and explanatory.

I hope you realize that once she sees her pursuer - "so it was easy to see every single bulging muscle." - she can say,
"yes and it's cold tonight, little boy" and get the drop on him. What's more fragile for a 24 year old naked man than his EGO.

December Quinn said...

I think the word you're looking for, author, is "gristly"--meaning tough and full of gristle. Not "grisly", which means bloody, gory, and disgusting.

Sorry, pet peeve-I've seen this mistake three times in magazines lately (including a mention of a "grizzly" murder which did not involve any bears whatsoever.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, oh, oh. Where the bleeping bleep did I put my eye-bleach? A spork, my software for a SPORK.

Dear Writer, you've been reading too much S. Kenyon, and despite the NYT bestseller status and money, she doesn't know how to write very well. In fact she's pretty awful, and I am in a position to judge.

No, they were wolves. No, (snip) they were people.
No, just,
no, she couldn’t accept what she had just seen.

No, please stop, I'm in PAIN now.

STOP READING PARANORMALS. NOW. I mean it. Read something else because you're not going to grow as a writer reading just the one thing. What you have is the red-headed demon child resulting from literary incest. Your gene pool for creativity is less than a millimeter deep--in a thimble.

Pick up something OUT of the genre with substance to it like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Confederacy of Dunces, something you can LEARN from.

Then read the 808 section of your library.


Then come back in ten years.

Sherry Decker said...

I think every vampire novel is going to be compared to 'Interview With the Vampire' by Anne Rice. Someone might someday write something as good, but it probably won't happen soon.

BuffySquirrel said...

She doesn't know her husband is a vampire? My suspension of disbelief just hit the ground.

Anonymous said...

Yanno, Agent Kristen seems to like those long summary/synopsis type query letters.

Anonymous said...

You snarklings are too harsh; I thought this sounded like great fun. I'd read on, knowing not to expect fine literature, and I'd probably enjoy the book enormously.

The excerpt did do one thing right - there's action, right away. Someone noted that the most common complaint in the comment tails for all the crapometer entries is that things don't start fast enough. That's certainly not the case here.

Author, there is room for improvement, but I don't think you should scrap what you have. A book like this needs to be fun and zippy. I think you've got that already, but could stand to get a little more. Humour is also a good thing to have in a book that's supposed to be pure escapist fun. Have you got any? If no, consider getting some.

I think the one thing you're doing that's new with vampires is the idea of a very old, very noble vampire getting himself an ordinary-seeming suburban human wife. There's potential for humour in that idea, and it might be worth your while to play it up in both your query letter and your novel a little.

MaryKaye said...

I really like having the heroine be middle-aged and married to the vampire, instead of the usual blushing young idiot.

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, this is in need of big time help. You do start at a dramatic moment, but all you need is Snidely Whiplash to jump out wearing a pair of plastic fangs to clog the cheesiness meter.

To use a few writerly cliches, you should show, not tell; you should avoid cliche phrases; you should avoid as you know Bobisms - especially from the villian; and you should consider adding a little bit of logic. I mean, not knowing your hubby is a vampire? And I question the logic of a vampire prince living in NH. Lived there, it's not that densely populated that a vampire could run around unnoticed. Especially if they are living in a small town, the traditional home of quirky populaces. (Since I have lived in a small town in NH, a small town in VT and currently live in a small town in Maine, I do believe I have the right to say so.)

I am sorry this is harsh. But this is pretty juvenile writing.

Catja (green_knight) said...

If I found out that my husband of however many years had hidden most of his history from me (never mind that I now realise *why* he's so grumpy every time I throw open the curtains in the morning and let the sunlight stream into the room) then I'd go through a crisis - if he hadn't told me *that*, what else has he hidden? (that he's been a serial murderer for several millenia. Next.)

Cheesy plot, and all that action is for nothing, because to get her out of danger it will need only one 'down, boy' from her husband - and if he doesn't even try to save her life *now* what basis is there for a relationship?

Anonymous said...

I know I keep my antique weapon collection in the living room of my secluded weekend cabin. Doesn't everyone?

JRBrown said...

I personally am waiting for a vampire novel that doesn't involve a Vampire Prince or an earth-shattering conflict between Good and Evil. I'd much rather read about how a 3,600 year old vampire remains undetected living in modern-day New Hampshire. How does he get a driver's license, a bank account, a job? Won't anyone notice the rash of anemic young women?

Action on page one is good, but I'd throw in at least a sentence or two establishing who, when and where before things start to blow up. As is, the opening is way too abrupt. The problem we've seen in other entries isn't starting with backstory, it's staring with a solid page and a half of backstory. You can spare a paragraph to let us know it's night and Phillip and Linda are in bed.

This will also allow you to clear out some of the distracting narration in the action sequence ("She was a middle-aged..."). Description takes up story time as well as reading time; in other words, it implies pauses in the action. If we knew about the middle-class New Hampshireness, the cabin, and the wall of swords already, you wouldn't have to mention them in the middle of the fight scene, which would help maintain tension and immediacy.

And the villain who takes time to think up clever dialog instead of just attacking and getting it over with is old, old, old.

blissbat said...

Author, I think you have some interesting elements here. The older heroine is unusual, particularly if she really is a bit gristly (that descriptor made me imagine her as a marathon runner with stringy muscles, which is interesting).

Elizabeth Bear has a great middle-aged female heroine in her first science fiction series (Hammered, Scardown, Worldwired), and I'd also direct you to Nicola Griffith (esp. Stay and The Blue Place) for non-fluffy heroines. I also recommend short stories by authors like Kelly Link -- there are a lot of youngish writers who are doing weird, interesting, very funny things in fantasy/horror right now, and they might help joggle you out of any ruts you fall into.

In my opinion, it's true that reading widely can only help -- but you don't have to try to write Serious Literature with Big Themes if you don't want to. If you can identify cliches (like Vampire Prince) and ditch them in favor of unusual, fresh elements (maybe your vampires run the local Elks club or maybe the husband's a Vampire Alderman), you'll be able to write fresh, entertaining genre work.

Best of luck!

JRBrown said...

blissbat said...
maybe your vampires run the local Elks club or maybe the husband's a Vampire Alderman

Now THAT I would read.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Don't let the comments get you down, #53. Don't you know people who constantly bitch about how awful JK Rowling is? Or Dan Brown (uh, guilty as charged)? Plots, cliched or otherwise, can be fixed. In fact, when I read that Phillip was New Hampshire's Vampire Prince, I giggled because I thought you were setting up something comedic. The comic potential is certainly there, IMO. If that's not your vision, no problem. :)

You are probably a member of RWA. If so, I urge you to exploit the resources it offers if you have not already done so.

Don't let the criticism stop you. You damn well began with a serious bang, and that was pretty cool.

And why couldn't she be unaware Phillip was a vampire? It's possible. Julie Kenner just wrote a wildy successful novel about a demon-hunting soccer mom. The character's husband has no clue. Millenia Black wrote a novel about a guy with a double life, two wives in two different cities. It's possible, just needs to be well motivated.

JMO. :)

Anonymous said...

Pretty much what everyone else said (both bad and good) ... and one more thing. REAL SWORDS AREN'T THAT HEAVY! Hie thee to Sword Forum International and learn the truth. ;-)

This definitely has some interesting aspects! I'd read more but you lost ME with that cliche.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Swords! I have a sword!

Oh, ok, here's the story with swords. If you include one in your story, find an expert willing to share facts with you. I found a very nice medieval weapons guy to tell me that my sword misbehaved in Dragon Sword. I changed that chapter to fit the facts. It's much better.

And I found a knife maker to tell me that what I planed for my current work in progress works but just barely. I'll change the story a bit to accommodate his suggestions.

Now, about your story, dear wannabe writer: Even when you write about the extra-normal (I hate the word paranormal), your characters must behave in a rational way. I'm not sure yours do. In fact, I'm more sure yours don't.

The deepest well of rational behavior one can drink from is the Bible. This is not a religious suggestion. It's a literary one. You'd be surprised how much fantasy fiction has a religious background, much of it derived third or fourth hand from The Book. Read it. While reading it analyze the character motivations and behaviors. Pick an easy to read translation. I suggest the Jerusalem Bible, Fox's Genesis, The New English Bible. There are others too. If you must have a slightly archaic flavor, try the American Standard Version.

And read The Wizard of Oz. In it there are totally unreal characters behaving in ways that seem rational though oddly so.

And read anything by Israel Smith Clare or Charles Coffin. Don't know who they are, do ya? No matter. You can find out. They were 19th Century historians. Forget that historiography has changed since their era. Notice how they wrote. Notice how they bring alive subject matter that is otherwise dry, uninteresting. Or read something by Francis Parkman other than his Oregon Trail. Oregon Trail is okay, and it's interesting, but for unending, moving, interesting description, his multi-volume history of France in the New World is hard to beat.

Read Lord Dunsay. Any. My personal recommendation is King of Elfland's Daughter.

And, by all that is holy to writers, read at least one book by Dashiell Hammett. He will teach you how to write, if you let him.

You have, writer-person, some interesting ideas. You need some real skill now.