3rd SR Crapometer #60

Dear Mr./Ms. (uh..wtf?)

I am seeking representation for a recently completed 100,000 word, dark fiction manuscript titled Shadows at Twilight.

As one nightmare fades, another arises. Shadows at Twilight is one man’s descent into a nightmare from which he cannot wake. In the spring of 1945 the Second World War nears an end and Thomas Reibech, an officer of the shattered German army, leads a small band of soldiers on a journey home. The journey, through a land upended by war, takes a fateful turn as Reibech and his men collide with the fanatical disciples of a deviant Christian faction, known as the Second Advent. The mysterious sect gradually reveals their true nature in a quest for purity of blood, a desire to eliminate the impure of both race and faith and their grim ritual casts Reibech in a struggle for survival. But he finds an unexpected ally in Gisela Biehl, daughter to the leader of the sect. She is an attractive, yet perplexing young woman with an agenda of her own. Reibech must place his trust in her and the bond they form, as Gisela becomes his only hope for freedom and an end to the torment of his nightmare.

I believe this story is marketable across many genres as it blends elements of horror, supernatural and gothic, as well as historical fiction. To research the historical aspects of the novel I traveled to Germany during the writing process. Visiting the countryside that forms the predominant setting helped me add authenticity to the details. These exact elements, combining dark fiction with an historical backdrop, are at the core of anotherfreestanding novel that I currently have in outline form.

Please let me know if you would like to see the manuscript. I have enclosed an SASE for your reply. Thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to your response.

Best regards,

Is there a plot?
and the hero is a guy from the German army?
good luck selling that in the American market.

Chapter 1

Through the door and into darkness, pure and eternal. A simple notion. For Reibech it was almost laughable in its simplicity yet he was unable to shake the depth of his own premonitions. The waking dream, drawing him into its grasp. Its gravity luring him ever nearer. So that every inexplicable occurrence or image became cryptic, a mysterious symbol of the threshold opening before him. But the concept became more conflicted. Perhaps it was no entrance at all, but the way out. The world enveloping him was already that of utter darkness. Long ago unwittingly crossing into its uncharted fold, its implied underworld. And now, the channel of his salvation was before him. Through the door.


A day long course of frantic motion and disordered progress came to momentary rest. Finding shelter in the cover of thick woods, overlooking a rutted farm lane. Water pooled in the craggy mud. Across the lane, an old woman wearily picked through the pieces of her shattered home. Her face smeared with the greasy residue of dust and smoke, she resembled the blackened picture frames and underclothes and broken dinner plates and shredded books blown into the field adjacent to her home. The house that had two stubborn walls left standing and the balance in a pile of jagged rubble. She carefully sorted through belongings amid smoldering debris that glowed an angry red and then did not glow and trickled wisps of coal black smoke.

She did not see Reibech standing at the edge of the woods directly across the muddy road. Silently watching without acknowledging her, merely a part of the picture before him. Like the cool wind on the back of his neck or the damp air on his cheek, she simply existed.

He reached for his cigarettes. Habit. His pocket was empty, had been for days. Closing his eyes he could taste the smoke in his mouth, the warmth coiling against his nostrils. A handful of dried roots pilfered from a turnip shed had served as his last meal. Gnawing on that and his last crumb of bread was hardly a meal, but enough to trigger his urge for a smoke. Now he had neither cigarettes nor food.

well, you open with something I literally can't make sense of , then shift the action to a guy standing in the mud and the rain. Standing in the mud and the rain works if we have an emotional connection (think Bogart at the train station in Paris reading the note from Ilsa) but opening a novel this way sounds like a first draft from the writing team Dark and Stormy Knight.

Mostly I'm kidding about setting people on fire, but you gotta give me something to look at here.


December Quinn said...

Miss Snark, I'm amazed at your patience in not DQ'ing submissions that didn't follow your very clear requirements (like starting with "Dear Miss Snark".) This is the, what, tenth entry to mess that up?

Anonymous said...

I love the salutation.

Dear IT,
Hello sir or madam, I can't tell the difference,
Hiya Dude or dudette,
Hey you,
Dear something, it doesn't matter if you are male or female or Michael Jackson,

and of course the punch line is,
"I want to work with you on a novel and get deep into your psyche"


Anonymous said...

"Finding shelter in the cover of thick woods, overlooking a rutted farm lane."

Sentence--something with a noun, a verb, and an object. Definitions of such don't count.

Pass me that copy of Strunk and White's ELEMENTS OF STYLE.

Thank you.

:Editor beats hapless writer over the head with the book.:

Have you, perchance, read that gawdawful Dan Brown Code &*^% lately? Because the trend is over, over, over. The trend-following books you see on the racks in the store were bought two years ago.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, you have to read The Burn Journals.

marie-anne said...

So a german soldier of the Reich, a government dedicated to the purity of the german race gets involved with a religious sect dedicated to the purity of the german race. How can he tell the difference?

Anonymous said...

The cliche'd title sux.

Dave said...

A Nazi hero is unsaleable unless he's Oscar Schindler or someone like him.

That's a fact of life. It's not an opinion.
It IS a fact.
Don't think it's political correctness. It's not.

Change your hero.

Anonymous said...

Take a break, MS. You're going to dull your stilletos if you're not careful.

Bill Peschel said...

I wouldn't discount the German soldier angle entirely, if he is drawn as a sympathetic, interesting character.

He's someone who has fought on the wrong side of history. He may be conflicted, doing his duty as best he can, while realizing more and more the horrors of what his country has put the world through.

That's an incredible amount of conflict and heartache within him that could make for a powerful story.

Virginia Miss said...

I thought the opening section really sucked, but I kept reading, and I really enjoyed the second section (although I didn't like the first sentence of it). Yes, the author used phrases instead of complete sentences, but for me it worked. I liked the description of the woman, the comparison of her to the debris in the adjacent field. I liked the "stubborn walls."

Having a german hero could be interesting but not if he was a nazi party member or gung ho about the war. Having him be an officer is more problematic for me that him being in the german army.

Gabriele C. said...

I'd be careful to use the name Second Advent for an invented sect, because there are Second Advent Christians, and what I could glance from a brief internet search, their doctrine has nothing to do with what you present.

I think the idea of having a German soldier leading a group of survivors home during the last weeks of the war could make for an intriguing story, but it will prove difficult to find/invent any religious group more concerned with race and purity of blood than the Nazis. If you want to go that way, you could have a group that considers a different bloodline important, maybe some pagan Slavic religion revived and working against the Nazis. You could have some fun with the fact that the dukes of Mecklenburg traced their line right back to the Abodrite king Pribislaw who became vasall of Henry 'the Lion' of Saxony in 1167 - there are still remains of pagan places in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as well as a Slavic speaking minority.

And consider making the whole thing Alternate History, it may save you some troubles.

Just well I have enough plotbunnies already, now I get ideas about Germanic and Slavic gods being real and getting involved in WW2 the way the Greek gods did in the Trojan war ....

acd said...

I'm standing up for the German soldier because All Quiet On the Western Front was such a brilliant book that it took me about halfway through to realize all those charming protagonists were the bad guys.

(Of course, part of the point is that all the armies were made up of schmoes just doing their best.)

JacklynKy said...

Ditto from me on the opening section. It was a like a thesaurus gone mad.

I didn't mind the fragments. It was almost stream of consciousness. And it gave me a sense of weariness and dissatisfaction that served the story well.

I am confused about a Nazi soldier running into a group that is even MORE evil in their pursuit of race purification. It seems a huge obstacle you've set up for yourself in trying to convince us that there was a group of people WORSE than the Nazis during this time.

theraspberrycordial said...

I'm not into dark fiction but even I thought this was good. I didn't find anything wrong with the opening paragraph

As to the criticism from anon about incomplete sentences; such devices can and have been used by writers

Anonymous said...

Did you see the movie Wordplay about Will Shortz and the NY Times crossword puzzle? There's a scene where Will reads letters from solvers, and one of them begins "Dear Sir or Madam"...

Like Miss Snark, there's not much gender ambiguity to a name like Will.

Dave said...

I must chime in again.

A very dear friend of mine (sadly gone now) left Germany in 1938 with her husband and fled to America.

Just the mention of this plot would have put her into tears. You cannot make an ex-Nazi soldier like this the hero of your book and not expect to run into that emotional wall.

Find a way to make your hero something other than a nazi. Or make him an Oscar Schindler. Such German soldiers existed. They were not SS.

I wouldn't believe this myself if I had not seen her tears on three occasions and heard the explanation only once.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little bit ocncerned about comments calling the hero a Nazi. Nowhere in the query does it say he is a Nazi. He was simply an officer in the regular German army. These men were not necessarily Nazis; mostly they were just ordinary guys, ordinary soldiers fighting for the wrong side. Now the SS; that was a different thing altogether.

theraspberrycordial said...

er Dave...with all due respect, the word 'hero' does not denote ONLY a brave person but can also just mean a protagonist of a story, play etc

Sometimes a hero may be a highly offensive person

To say that the protagonist should only be a 'nice' German is a bit silly IMHO

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I live in [a formerly very brown part of] Germany. I don't get the difference between the Nazi soldier and the cult for racial purity, either. If these two entities are supposed to be in conflict, they need to be very, very different. You can't have one character who's evil and another who's even more evil, and feel any sympathy for the less-evil one. And it's hard if not impossible to find a stronger representation of evil than the Nazi party.

OTOH, I certainly wouldn't rule out a former German soldier MC. Plenty of room for emotional conflict and development, that's for sure. And if you don't think it would appeal to Americans, look at all the Civil War books that focus on the South. The *losers,* mind you, who were fighting for slavery.

Anonymous said...

To chime in on the "German protagonist": I agree with Virginia Miss that the officer status is more problematic than just being a German soldier. The Nazi government forced people to join the army. It wasn't just their own lives that were threatened, but their family's lives. Being a German soldier doesn't necessarily equal being a Nazi ideologically. (Aaron Elkins did this well in one of his books, and Shadow Divers handled this beautifully too.) Could an officer reach that status without adopting the ideology personally? Possibly--but there would have to be quite a story getting us there.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

I don't know. Look at Gunter Glass. Late in the war, the German army drafted all sorts into its ranks. It's not completely inconceivable they'd be unsympathetic. And there were lot of men who were on the cusp of being taken away to the camps who actually dived into the armed forces for protections. Like guys who were Christian but who had a single Jewish grandparent.

Of course, take this with a grain of salt. I liked the excerpt. It sounded like Cormac McCarthy.

Anonymous said...

The author does not state that his hero is a Nazi. Any German could have been conscripted into the armed forces ( Gunter Grass, the Pope ). Being an officer could simply be a matter of his social class and education. It is the unusual POV that I find most interesting.
What I find more amiss is the lack of clarity. Are we in France or Poland, or Germany? Is he separated from his men? Is he under attack? The author should sketch out the big picture in simple sentences before smothering us in detail. As for his first paragraph - best reserved for some angst laden stream of consciousness later on, I think. ( I wouldn't read past it. )

BuffySquirrel said...

Like many commenters here, I'm confused by a set of antagonists who seem to embody the views Reibech was supposedly fighting for. If he doesn't share those views, am I really supposed to believe he wouldn't stand up against the Nazis, but he will stand up against these people? Sheep are sheep.

With all those Nazis still around, even in 1945, why does the story even need this cult? Why can't he just run up against an SS cadre?

Oh, wait, I get it. The Nazis only wanted to eliminate other people; this cult wants to kill HIM. Is his hair the wrong shade of blond?

Not a hero.

Bernita said...

Oh dear.
Sentence fragments. How elliptically terrible.

Seems there are still nazis around.

Natalia said...

I think the German soldier angle has potential if you immediately, IMMEDIATELY draw the reader in. Don't start out with abstract musings, start out with something simple, and human, and possibly hearbreaking, because, after all, a lot of good people were on the wrong side of the war with this one.

And that's heartbreaking and, therefore, it has potential, but I just don't see you using that potential here.

Think Erich Maria Remarque. And nix the first paragraph completely. You don't need it. It's fluff.

Rei said...

I outright *like* the German soldier angle. Making a person sympathize with "the enemy" really grants a new perspective on things. And honestly, it's not too hard, when you look at what their country had turned into by the end of the war. The imagery that the author presents is a nice start at that (although I'd reduce some of the fragmented sentences and rearrange some of the others. Some is good, too much is bad).

Even if the person is SS, that doesn't mean that they can't be a sympathetic character (unless they were concentration camp guards or something). It just means that they were a sucker for the propaganda. Lots of people fell for the Nazi propaganda, even a number of famous Americans before the war. People who were late teens/early 20s when the war started had been exposed to Nazi propaganda day in, day out since they were ten or so.

I just got back from a trip to Japan a month and a half ago. One of the most interesting things: the elderly tend to love America, while the young tend to hate it -- just the opposite of what one might expect, since the elderly grew up with America as the enemy. It's a side effect of the collapse of the propaganda. With such strict indoctrination, they were all led to believe that people were thankful for what they were doing when they began occupying nations. Then, when the war turned against them, they were led to believe that a US victory would mean the end of them -- as a country, as a people, etc. They were led to believe that there would be a reign of terror. Then reality struck when they lost, and the propaganda broke down.

So, to sum up, I'm very interested in this book. I'd just clean up a bit of the "stream of consciousness" writing. " Finding shelter in the cover of thick woods, overlooking a rutted farm lane" is too early. "Her face smeared with the greasy residue of dust and smoke, she resembled the blackened picture frames and underclothes and broken dinner plates and shredded books blown into the field adjacent to her home" sounds like it's going to be another fragment, but isn't; it should be rearranged. Etc.

And of course, that first paragraph threw people. I'd leave it out of a query at least.