9.02.2006

3rd SR Crapometer #6

Dear Miss Snark,

Thank you for taking time from your busy agenting life to schedule another crapometer. I hope I’m lucky enough to get snarked. (well, you might change your mind now, but thanks)


All Christine Abernathy wanted was to get through another day, but karma—the bad kind, never the good stuff—hovered around her in a cloak of disaster. Little did she know the simple act of opening the door to the CEO’s office would embroil her in the dirty world of black market pharmaceuticals...


Hired by a group of oncology doctors to investigate the source of contaminated chemotherapy solution, David McLeod discovered he’d sunk to a new low when the butt of his gun taps a woman unconscious. But he must finish the job before spending Christmas with his grandmother, even though his gut told him he hadn’t seen the last of the woman who wore the sweet scent of trouble.



Beyond the Past is a romantic suspense complete at 100,000 words. With the story’s roots embedded in the medical world, I’ve drawn upon my twenty-three years of experience as hospital medical technologist. An active member of RWA, I am currently serving as president of my local RWA chapter.

If this submission doesn’t meet your needs at this time, please send your response to u.stink@suckywriter.

Sincerely,



A Devout Snarkling


well, that's a sucky query letter. First. Romantic suspense and cancer? yikes. Second, you're trying to hard to be clever. Cloak, karma, gun taps. I'm losing confidence you are in control of your adjectives and adverbs which are wily creaturs at best and must be on leash and at heel in the doggone query letter.


Christine Abernathy hated Christmas.

So why in the hell had she taken this second job? She hated smiling with artificial cheerfulness while the same stinking Christmas music played over and over on a thirty minute loop until she wanted to pull her hair from its roots. Helping frantic men, flustered women and the hordes of screaming, whining kids…

God, it was enough to drive a sane person crazy.

But here she was, wrapping Christmas presents for the largest retailer in town—Beekmans. Everyone shopped at Beekmans. Everyone from every stupid little town for fifty miles around shopped at Beekmans. And they were all here tonight.

Could life get any suckier?

Taping the last corner of the package, Chris couldn’t help but admire her work before tying the silk mistletoe to the top. It provided the one bright moment in her life. There. Forcing her lips to turn upward in her best fake smile, she walked to the counter to hand the customer his free holiday wrapped package. “Here you are, Mr. Tinsley. It’s a lovely gift. I’m sure Mrs. Tinsley will enjoy it.”

“Took you long enough,” he grumbled, his breath smelling like a Johnny Walker distillery as he grabbed the package out of her hands.

Chris wrinkled her nose to keep from sneezing as the fumes tickled her sinuses. Through all she kept the smile firmly super glued in place—a feat in itself as she recited, “Have a Merry Christmas. Please shop with us again.” You cheap SOB.

“Next time work a little faster.” Clutching the present to his thin chest, he pushed his way through the throngs of humanity waiting impatiently in line.

Up yours, Scrooge. Her faced ached from a smile so firmly entrenched she thought it had become stuck in an artificially benign expression. (you've said the same thing before-we have the picture) What a dreadful thought. A faint throb beat at her temples and it didn’t bode well for the rest of her evening. “Thank you. Next, please.”

Why did she put herself through this? It wasn’t as if she needed the money. With her job at the pharmaceutical company, she lived comfortably—at least, in the physical sense. So why did she put herself through this hell?

To keep the memories at bay, that’s why.

Jeez, now she’d even started answering herself.

Chris wanted, no…needed, exhaustion to numb her feelings and deaden her emotions. So she worked long and hard hours to fall into bed in a dreamless slumber, waking to the buzz of the alarm clock to mindlessly perform the same ritual all over again. It was the only way to keep from dwelling about the past—the last long and lonely year.

A very large woman plopped her stuffed Beekmans bag on the counter. “I need all of these wrapped,” she said in a little girl voice totally at odds with her appearance. (we see that from what you wrote-you don't need to tell us again)

Great. Life did get suckier. God, she hated people. This was her own private hell, a purgatory where she must earn her freedom.


I'd stop here.
I see over explaining (her job at the pharmaceutical company paid enough) melodrama ( a purgatory where she must earn her freedom) and nothing very suspenseful or romantic.

I'm not much of a Christmas partisan myself but anti-Christmas has been done to death.

Romantic suspense requires a hero and a villain. If this is your villain, what wuss. If this is your heroine...what a whiner. I'd like to read about someone interesing not someone who won't say "Did I mention my admiration for Carrie Nation" out loud to a drunk customer.

10 comments:

December Quinn said...

David McLeod discovered he’d sunk to a new low when the butt of his gun taps a woman unconscious.

What, all by itself? How do you "tap" someone unconscious? This made it sound like she was at waist-level and he turned unexpectedly and hit her with the butt of the gun by accident. The tenses are off, too.

I didn't think the excerpt was that bad, though, but I would have liked it more if she was forced to be at that job. The fact that she could quit at any time just made her look like she was trying to play martyr. If she wanted to keep busy, it isn't like the homeless shelters and charities aren't busy that time of year.

And I answer myself when thinking all the time. I thought everyone did?

Anonymous said...

I have doubts the main character has ever worked retail, and she must be a truly miserable stick if she doesn't enjoy the gift wrap department. That's a cushy job. No ringing sales, no swiping plastic, no stocking shelves, no dealing with indecisive customers holding the line up for others, protected from the crowds behind a nice, solid counter.

She should be whining about her aching feet, but also thinking of the extra money she's bringing in. At this point she's the Scrooge and I don't like her much.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone wrinkle their nose these days??

I usually see it when the writer can't think of anything interesting to put in as a character reaction.

What a sourpuss. I thought I was reading about my mom with her tattooed-on frown and grimly sensible shoes, not a savvy heroine to follow to the very last page.

Snarkominion said...

This plot sounded familiar so I searched Evil Editor's blog and sure enough he had critiqued the query (#130). This is better than what was sent to EE (believe it or not), but not as good as his revised version (which, admittedly, was not entirely serious).

But he must finish the job before spending Christmas with his grandmother, even though his gut told him he hadn’t seen the last of the woman who wore the sweet scent of trouble. Yuck.

Keep at it.

Sherry Decker said...

Heroines in romance novels do not need to be beautiful, but they do need to be smart and aware. This heroine needs a personality makeover. Working retail: use customers with their own personality problems instead of picking on fat-skinny-pimpled-scarred-hurried or demanding customers, because those are so ordinary. Regular customers with 'habits' are funnier and more memorable than strangers with physical problems. People who smell, twitch, stutter, won't hand you the money, but toss it on the counter instead as if they have a phobia about touching anyone. Not horrible writing, though. Perhaps another rewrite. Good luck.

BuffySquirrel said...

december, maybe the gun is secretly the protag?

Seriously, the fact that this woman's putting herself through this torture when she doesn't have to lessens my sympathy, which wasn't very high to begin with. As for karma...nah, this isn't the place to rant about that.

Frainstorm said...

With the caveat that I don't read romance, I had a couple thoughts here.

First, you switch tenses in the query. That needs a fix. Second, there's a typo in the excerpt: Her faced should be face. Third, (okay, I guess I had a few thoughts), you set up a few perfect places for some great zingers but fail to come through. Instead our heroine (unless she's the villain?) only whines and I found that a tad tedious.

Just my thoughts, and I'm a nobody. Good luck though.

Crystal said...

I like the cranky Christmas chick. Oh, but enough with the suck, and the suckier, and the suckiest. I get it.

Why does she hate people, why does she hate Christmas, and what is the deep, dark secret in her past? Those are the questions that would keep me reading.

Just so you know, the stress of working retail isn't the customers, not even the rude ones. It's the pressure the bosses put on you, the petty spats between coworkers, annoying regulars--basically, people you see every day. Not ones you see once for 30 seconds.

I like that she likes wrapping presents, that she takes some joy in her job. Maybe she likes to make things pretty, or finding the exact right shape and size of box. If the customer disappears, if the music fades away, while she's doing that, that would be good. Then long periods between customers would--suck.

Virginia Miss said...

So that readers feel some sympathy for the heroine's crankiness, give her a specific reason. For example, have a customer change her mind about the wrapping paper she wants her 21 gifts wrapped in, just as the heroine finished #20...that might sound dumb but you get my point.

magolla said...

I would like to thank everyone for their comments, including the Queen O' Snark. And no, I never worked retail, I worked in an ice cream store, but that's way different, so your retail comments are helpful, along with the whiny heroine issues. I'll use your comments to continue to improve this manuscript--in about six months. It is time to put this cranky child to bed and concentrate on my new novel. Anyone out there a diamond thief?