3rd SR Crapometer #54

Dear Miss Snark,

Thank you for taking the time to eviscerate me. I admire the style with which you have eviscerated those before me. I am writing to you regarding my novel Title Redacted, complete at 129,000 words.

Haunted by her mother’s suicide, Daisy Gray stuffs her pockets with a dozen stone eggs, carved by her grandfather to woo her grandmother, and jumps off the edge of the deepest quarry in Cobble County. But as she descends through its icy waters, she begins to suspect that it is neither fate nor granite which causes her to sink: she is drowning under the weight
of all the things her family has not told her.

For generations the women of Daisy’s family have been too busy keeping their own secrets to tell each other anything. As Daisy’s mother Sarah attempts to cook and clean her way to inner peace, she discovers bitter seeds hidden in her heart, like caraway baked into rye. (I thought she was dead...wait, wait, I know...you really liked The Lovely Bones, I get it) When Daisy’s aunt Ruth, a librarian with an aversion to metaphor, is charged with the literary legacy of local playwright Carmina Bone, she chooses poetry over truth with consequences that reverberate through time--all the way forward to Daisy and all the way back to old half-mad Carmina herself, who has revealed everything in her strange play, if only anyone had eyes to see.

Into the mix are thrown the men: an honest arsonist, a house builder living in shambles, a beekeeper who converses with his bees, a centenarian grave carver who cannot seem to die despite his best efforts, and a black bear who may or may not be Carmina’s lover.

As Daisy falls through the water, the secrets of the Gray family are revealed in intertwining narratives spanning three generations. Strongly plotted but contemplative, Title Redacted is a meditation on family mythology and the power of imagination for redemption but also for self-delusion and madness. Daisy’s descent into the quarry and an act from Carmina’s play bracket each of the book’s four sections.

My play, Title Redacted, which appears in the novel as Carmina’s work, was a finalist in An Obscure Theater Festival. I hold an MA in Classics but left my PhD program to work in the Antarctic, where much of this book was written long hand. I now live in Oslo, where
I am midway through another Cobble County novel aboutCarmina’s girlhood.

May I send you a few chapters? Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward hearing from you.


Senseless Folly

I don't even know where to start.
This is like a Rubik's Cube. There are so many sentences that I'm sure some of them go together but every time I try to make it work, it just gets more jumbled.

Remember, I'm not carefully reading this with tons of time to ponder literary cleverness. You've got about ten seconds on a good day to show me something wonderful.

Get in, get out. Tell me the heroine and her problem. Let me read the first page wherein you show me you can write. All this stuff about how the chapters are bracketed, and insight born of oxygen deprivation just gets in the way.

Chapter 1 / Daisy Gray / 1999

The day Daisy Gray jumped from the edge of the deepest quarry in Cobble County, an early hard freeze killed the asters and mums that local gardeners had planted for fall color. No one was greatly surprised. Living so far north, they expected as much. So far north,
winter was always near. So far north, there could be frost in May and snow in August.

Daisy lowered herself over the squat cement barrier that blocked the sheer edge of Cobble quarry. The extracted granite, cut for foundations and curbs, but primarily for tombstones, left a socket in the earth, like a pulled tooth leaves in a jawbone, where rain and snowmelt collected. Limping down the path that led to an outcropping below, Daisy wondered if it
would snow. The sky had the same flat milky surface as the quarry water.

Her aunt Ruth had once told her that a powder of stone--Ruth called it “stone flour”--tinged the water its odd shade. The particles, fine as ash, were a byproduct of the copious sanding and honing required to fashion raw blocks of granite into gravestones. The dust filled the local stonecutters’ lungs, drowning them on dry land. They died like flies carving other men’s monuments, perishing of other men’s deaths. It was a circumstance that had always
struck Daisy as the end to some morbid riddle, as every Cobble County schoolchild knew gravestone solved:

The man who made it does not want it.
The man who bought it does not need it.
The man who needs it does not know it.

Daisy tripped on the long hem of her bridesmaid’s dress and knocked her sore foot painfully against a rock, setting it throbbing. Cobble County had boomed through the Great War: all those young men dead, demanding stones to keep them underground. But soon afterwards, the quarries had sputtered closed, leaving the county riddled with dozens of pits like the one
she approached.

Miss Snark sets hair on fire...
but first a word from our sponsors.
(five minutes later)
Miss Snark, in a fit of Crapometer frustration has set her hair on fire.

If you're going to drop some girl into the quarry, get on with it.


delilah said...

Oh Miss Snark!

I sure hope you remembered to recharge that fire extinguisher.

Blackened Snark -- ack, ack ack.

(I've always pictured bushels of curly, black hair.)

Anonymous said...

"Into the mix are thrown the men:"

a kitchen sink, Tom Cruise, Andy Hardy, Judge Crater and the long lost Nostradamus

Mambo time - Rum and Coke:
A little bit of Monica in my life
A little bit of Erica by my side
A little bit of Rita is all I need
A little bit of Tina is what I see
A little bit of Sandra in the sun
A little bit of Mary all night long
A little bit of Jessica here I am
A little bit of you makes me your man

Anonymous said...

Write about Antartica! Write about Oslo! I read a book in either of those settings long before I'd pick up a book set in Cobble County.

This struck me as a very, very long version of "Incident at Owl Creek."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Miss Snark - get that girl in the water!

I didn't read anything here that seemed necessary. I'd suggest saving the stuff about the stone-cutters for later, if it's needed, and leaving out the riddle entirely.

And I'd also love to read about Antartica. Oslo might be a hard sell, however, as some in the industry seem to be allergic to stories set in any country but the United States.

Anonymous said...

Author - As much as I respect Miss Snark, I liked this. I found your writing engaging. I didn't get the query - but I liked the opening. We know she is going to jump into that quarry, and that is enough impending drama for me. I like this. Call me crazy.... I'd read on for sure. In my mind, this is nicely done.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a story here, and some interesting characters, but will we ever get the chance to read it? Start with her zipping her pockets full of polished rocks shut and JUMPING. Feel the sudden, hard surface of the water, the cold rush as it envelopes her, the sound and touch of a thousand bubbles swirling up and around her face - the light on the surface water as she sinks.
Now, second thoughts! Unzipping those pockets, tossing the eggs, holding her breath, holding her breath . . . now kicking, thrashing, swimming . . . up up up!

Maybe when she makes it to the shore, gasping, crawling up on a rock, she has time to think about family history for a moment or two, but hopefully there is someone there who wants to know what the hell she's just done. Some dialogue. Embarrassement. Etc.

A. M. said...

The query is a bit tough to follow. For what I understand:
She jumps in the icey water and on her way down she somehow "sees" all the stories of the other women in her family. The truth, not all the lies. Is she travelling in time, somehow? (and prolly realizes that she's an idiot for trying to kill herself)

I liked the sentence about Sarah and how she attempts "to clean her way to inner peace". So true for many of them Dirt-Devil girls.

Loved that first sentence, the "asters and mums". Somehow "askers" and "mum's the word" comes to mind. I'm totally off? Well, no biggie.

The next paragraph with the extracted granite for tombstones.... socket like a pulled tooth leaves in a jawbone... that's nice, too. "Lose a tooth - lose a friend", as dreams tell us. Again, I'm free to read into this whatever I want. Huh.

Next paragraph - it's interesting to hear about the stone powder, but I still don't know what to do with it.

Next up she trips on her bridesmaid's dress, okay. But now even I want her to get on with it, I don't want to hear about the Great War.

So - though I do like it for a couple of reasons, I would love it if it was tighter. Without the flour, the riddle, and the Great War. I'd like to see her get to where she wants to go, jump, and give us the promised stories about the other women - the family myths, the lies, the truth.

This could be really cool. And I'd read on, definitely, even in the form it's in now. I might skim over stuff, but I'm too curious not to read on. I'm digging it.

Good luck with it!

BuffySquirrel said...

Yet another suicidal female. Y'all do know that most successful suicides (if indeed successful is the right word here) are male, right?

I liked the riddle. I think the story could start with the riddle. After all, she may or may not be needing a tombstone herself, soon. And thoughts of death would probably be more on her mind than A Short History of Cobble County, right about then.

Wabi Sabi said...

Seems you're into magic realism here, which is why you can get away with your heroine not jumping too quickly - it's not the action of jumping that's important, it's the story that's going to come out of it that matters. It's meditative, innit? It's fresh and intriguing but could move faster in parts. Some of the query is unclear. KBO.

Anonymous said...

Yet another suicidal female. Y'all do know that most successful suicides (if indeed successful is the right word here) are male, right?

We may not try it as often, but when we do, at least we get it right.

Feisty said...

Jump, damn it!

overdog said...

I like your first page, I just don't think it's a first page. Nice writing, though.

Diana Peterfreund said...

I love the idea of 'stones to keep them underground.' This isn't my style of book, but I can see the possible appeal

Anonymous said...

I hate writers who try to impress with their poetry. This is fiction; tell us a damn story already.

Jocasta said...

If that girl doesn't jump soooon, I'll push her!! I liked the writing though, and would read more out of curiosity

Anonymous said...

sorry Miss Snark - I think this has heaps of potential!
Love the ideas, love the way the writing tantalises. Yes the first page is a bit overwritten and could do with a tight edit, but I like it and I'd definitely keep reading.

Sarah said...

I think you've got potential so I wouldn't give up yet. I agree with anonymous number 589,682 (rolls eyes) who said write about Antarctica or Norway. Write about what you know.

This is a problem...

"Into the mix"

You are not making a Clever Cake, whereupon you muse for hours on what extraordinarily gifted ingredients you could sift into the bowl, which will result in the best apple pie in the whole world which will impress everyone and their dog.

Believe in what you're writing and feel it, live it and get it on the page (without deliberately attempting to intellectualise it) then the reader can live it too, through you.

> Thank you for taking the time to eviscerate me.

Don't ever put yourself down like this. It makes you look stupid. Faux masochism is a twisted form of arselicking and is never, ever funny or amusing, least of all to the recipient.

> But as she descends through its icy waters, she begins to suspect that it is neither fate nor granite which causes her to sink: she is drowning under the weight
of all the things her family has not told her.

And this is why I'm bothering to comment on your entry, whereas for most entries I'm too depressed at the appalling quality of writing to even muster the energy to comment.

You have potential. Keep writing, but try not to be so precious about it....you know...."but left my PhD program to work in the Antarctic, where much of this book was written long hand." is a bit bleeding Karen Blixen "I had a faaaaaarm in Aaaaafrica."

I like your idea for a book, you've got some talent, but get rid of all the curly wurlyness which is technically referred to as "overwriting." Pare down and simplify.

I think you would benefit from joining a writer's group, actually.

Anonymous said...

I liked this. It sounds like multigenerational magical realism, which I adore. I like the idea of the play being worked in as significant, and any story about a librarian piques my interest. I'd buy this book, definitely.

I think the jumping into the quarry is more in the nature of a prologue than a first chapter, and we'll probably see the story in flashback.

Manic Mom said...

FIrst you set your kitchen on fire, and now your hair? Bejeezus Miss Snark! I just hope those firefighters that keep visiting really do look like George Clooney; you'd want to be getting something outta all this singeing.

Anonymous said...

reminds me of Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates. Girl is in a car with a politican, he's been drinking and they get lost and end up in a river. He escapes out of the car and goes for help, but she's jammed inside. As she struggles to escape she gets flashbacks of her life and imagines her parents and people watching her now, or the politican coming back to rescue her. After A LOT of chapters and saying that she drowns many times, she finally drowns.