3rd SR Crapometer #69

Dear Miss Snark,

Title is a 60,000 word romance novel I'm querying for representation.

Deep in a quarter life crises, Todd's boss "helps" by setting him up with his daughter, Ricarda, despite Todd's fiancé and social implications of dating the boss' daughter. (diagram that sentence; I dare you) The ensuing affair U-turns Todd's life. (U-turn isn't a verb)

The twist: upon Todd ending his engagement, it's revealed Bossman and Todd's fiancé were secretly dating; hooking Todd on Ricarda was their plan all along.


err...huh?? I've stopped reading right here. You have a romance and the main characters are both men? even I know you've got a fundamental problem from the get go.

McBride leaned into the corridor, smiling. His veneers arched to each ear like Christmas lights.

"Sir?" Todd got to his feet, allowing himself a polite smile, but his stomach dropped at the impeccable cut of his boss' suit.

"I was just saying to–" McBride guided Todd into the office. His monolithic desk was the type of furniture that made Also Sprach Zarathustra play in one's mind. " you know Sheryl?"

Todd shook his head, never privy to his boss' lady friends. He gazed at the mound of CVs littering the desk. Well, that certainly wasn't a good sign…

"I was saying to Sheryl," McBride went on. "Coffee? No? The other day - we were down at Fitzpatrick's stud last weekend. Great place. Are you into the GGs?"

Todd shook his head again, thinking of the nodding dogs that sat on dashboards. Did Bossman even remember why he'd called him?

"-so she said that you're nothing without an education. Of course, I think that's bullshit. Dropped her sharpish, so I did," McBride barked a laugh and took up an empty mug. "Snotty bitch."

Todd felt it appropriate to speak. "Yes, sir."

"And I told her straight out so I did, I told her to her face. 'Sarah,' I said."


"Hmm?" McBride looked up from his coffee making. He stared and Todd knew McBride didn't have a clue what he was talking about. Bossman cleared his throat. "Let me tell you Todd, know why I'm doing this?"

Todd sighed inwardly. His answer was the utmost truth: "No, sir."

"Want to know why I'm making my own coffee? I, me, making coffee?"

Those executive development classes returned to haunt him. Something about…

"Independence, sir?"

McBride snapped his fingers and the veneers flashed. "That's right. See? I like you Todd, always said that. Gotta think on your feet. Independence. Make your own coffee. Wipe your own arse."

Todd thought for a moment. "Y-yes."

"Mmm?" McBride cocked an ear, but then: "For fuck's sake, no cream.

How the hell are you supposed to make coffee?"

"Drink it black?" Todd thought, but then the words sounded… audible. Shit, had he said that aloud?

McBride stared again.

Dear, sweet, holy Lord please don't freak, the words ran through Todd's mind and he kept his face blank.

"That's another thing – adaptability." McBride took a swig of the black coffee and hissed, steam rolling from his mouth like the maw of hell. "And independence. Gotta have them both. That's what I like to see, especially in my employees. Always thought you've got 'em
both. I have. Yes, you're quite the candidate..." He drifted off, sliding into his supple chair. McBride kicked his feet onto his desk, ignorant of the CVs he rumpled.

"Candidate?" Todd stepped closer, forcing his hands to de-fist.

"Kids today," McBride made a face and picked up the nearest page. "Look at this: 'best practices' blah, 'amortization' blah, 'Sarbanes Oxley' blah. No one gives a shit." He tossed the page in the bin and looked up. "Am I supposed to care?"

"I-I would think... Uh… perhaps?"

Hmm." The corners of McBride's mouth turned down.

Misstep, misstep, thought Todd. "Unless... you can delegate the position… or the candidate… it's… delegate…" Todd realized he had no idea what he was saying. His mouth closed and he tried not to envy the aroma of roasted, ground goodness.

McBride snapped his fingers and an odd expression alighted his face.

"Know what else I admire?"

Todd felt like a long-suffering butler. "Delegation, sir?"

"Delegation." McBride grinned. "You gotta have it these days. Independence, adaptability, so on. You need them all. Can't function sans, just can't." McBride glowered at the CVs. "That's something these eejits should realize. I won't have it Todd. I can't hire a single one of them."

"There's a vacancy sir?" Todd asked, puzzled. Then the penny dropped. Of course there's a vacancy. That's what happens when you're fired. He gulped, "But sir, you said I-"

"Now you Tom, uh, Todd," McBride pointed a finger, "Todd, you're different. You're like me."

I've seen this a million times already.


Anonymous said...

But have you seen it with an English accent? There's the twist.

By the way, I believe there is a market for romance novels where the main characters are both men...

Anonymous said...

Todd sounds like a wimp. And it took three readings for me to figure out that "veneers" were teeth. I doubt they were strung out like Christmas lights unless they were red and green. Also, I have never, ever had Also Sprach Zarathustra pop into my mind.

Okay, that's enough. But pulllease.

Anonymous said...

"Deep in a quarter life crises, Todd's boss..."

'Nother dangling modifier here. You defo do not want these in your query. "Deep... crises" modifies Todd, and therefore Todd, not Todd's boss, must be the subject of this main clause.


Cheryl Mills said...


Have fun!

Anonymous said...

And it should probably also be "quarter-life crisis."

The other Cathy said...

Author -- What's "a quarter life crises"? Is that something that happens when you're 25? It's really distracting to start off your query letter with something that nobody's ever heard of and that you don't explain. Also, crises is plural, crisis is singular; and fiancé is a man, fiancée is a woman. You really need a good proofreader.

Anonymous said...

Where's the conflict? If you're writing and querying romance, you need to have your conflict UP FRONT. Okay, so Todd has a fiancee. Why, then, does he agree to date this woman to begin with? That makes him sound like a jerk, unless we know his fiancee encourages it. (i.e. "Todd doesn't want to date the boss's daughter, but when his fiancee sees what an opportunity for career advancement it could be she forces him into it.")

Unfortunately, though, there's almost no way to word it that doesn't make all of these people sound like idiots or jerks. Todd comes off as an unsympathetic weakling--why is je going on a date when he's engaged? And doesn't he feel conflicted about that at all? Does he even care? Your personal/emotional conflicts have to be outlined in the query, because that's what romance is about. Why don't his boss and fiancee just tell him they're having an affair? What would they have done if Todd and the daughter hadn't hit it off--gone to a dating service and produced a string of "daughters" for him to date, hoping one of them would finally click?

The idea of the two of them cuckolding Todd while sweetly finding him a new love is hard to swallow.

Anonymous said...

You said:
"His veneers arched to each ear like Christmas lights."

I looked up the word veneers in the dictionary and found "thin wooden surfaces etc.."

That's lurid!

merulo said...

I didn't follow the query at all, but I did kind of like the dialogue. The voices had a voice.

Time's Ocean said...

"I looked up the word veneers in the dictionary and found "thin wooden surfaces etc.."

Maybe Todd has George Washington's dentist?

Is this gay romance? It sells well in certain markets (regional, specialty shops, internet, etc)

Heather said...

I suspect this isn't gay romance, that it's instead a misunderstanding about the word 'fiance'. I think the author meant 'fiancee' (woman) not 'fiance' (man).

A. M. said...

It's a case of ESL, quite obviously. German? Austrian or Swiss? Grammar's a bitch.

Translate to ->"Thus Spoke Zarathustra", for starters. I'd reconsider Nietzsche, though.

I'd also reconsider writing in English - if you do, make up your mind if it's gonna be American or British. Beware of DENGLISH, btw.

Though I can understand why one would try, in many cases it's easier for people to write in their native language and find success eventually, no matter how limited the market might seem.

Sell millions of copies, get translated by pros (who may butcher your stuff, but hey...) into many different languages. Patrick Süskind ring a bell?

Plus, with people like Hera Lind and Gaby Hauptmann making the charts it can't be that hard, methinks.

Just a thought. Hope you don't mind. (If you did you wouldn't have subbed to the Craps, I know.)

Anonymous said...

Although I see the humour of this scene, Todd's pain goes on a bit too long to be funny. Also, it's not the place to start the novel, is it? You're introducing us to the characters well, but nothing is happening.

Start at the point where things are really getting uncomfortable for Todd - probably the moment when McBride starts insisting Todd go on a date with Ricarda, right? Stick us right in the middle of Todd's horrible dilemma, so that we empathise with him and become curious to see how he gets himself out of it.

Good luck with it!

Anonymous said...

Dilbert fans might understand what the bleep is going on with the office shorthand stuff.

I work at home and will have to call my corporate robot bud for a translation--only it's not worth interrupting her day.

A yukky unlikeable boss, si.

A wimpy unlikeable protag, no.

Get to your d&&& story, okay?

Anonymous said...

Title is a 60,000 word romance novel I'm querying for representation. Don't get fancy with that opening sentence. Sometimes the regular line does the job. This one makes it sound like you're querying your own document instead of Miss Snark. You query the agent, you offer a manuscript for representation. You can't use the verb query to describe that last action.

BuffySquirrel said...

Teeth? I thought maybe the veneers were sunglasses.

I thought the attempts to catch up with what the boss meant were modestly amusing, myself, but the plot is not engaging. Readers probably need to like the characters in a romance. There is nothing likeable about cheating behind someone's back, and pimping your daughter to help legitimise your own affair is sick. JMHO.

Jo Bourne said...

The Pov voice in this segment has a ... a 'chick-lit-narrator' sound to it. It's tentative, scattered and breathless. The details noted are those a female would typically note. The submissive posturing comes across as feminine, rather than that of a harried male.

This would be an effective voice for a ditzy female character. It doesn't work well for the male romantic lead.

So maybe work on making Todd come across as more 'masculine'.


Diana Peterfreund said...

Quarter-life crisis is a very popular term. I'd wager most agents know what it means, as all are probably familiar with the megahit non-fic of the same name by Alexandra Robbins.

McKoala said...

I thought that the tone of the dialogue was good, although it didn't really seem to be going anywhere. Also, maybe not the most exciting place to start?

thraesja said...

I liked the dialogue, assuming it gets some cleanup done. Working in an office, I could follow along, but a few more cues would likely be helpful. Keep the tone, but tighten it up.
You do need to mend the British/American confusion. I thought at first you were going for Todd being a Brit and the boss being American, but it doesn't work. Eejits do not wear veneers, they wear dentures or false teeth. They also dump their girls fast. Pratts wear veneers and drop girls sharpish.
Oh, and I've had Also Sprach Zarathustra pop into my head, although never by a desk.

Stephen said...

Translate to ->"Thus Spoke Zarathustra", for starters. I'd reconsider Nietzsche, though.

I think that the author intends Strauss, rather than Nietzsche - the music from 2001 that isn't the Blue Danube (which is by a totally other Strauss, but that's not important right now).

I couldn't tell where the dialogue was supposed to be from. It didn't sound particularly English, but it didn't sound American either.

~Nancy said...

The author should definitely decide on whether to use British English or American English.

He gazed at the mound of CVs littering the desk.

I'm sorry, but in the business world I work in (corporate America), they're not called CVs; they're called resumes. I think CVs are used more in either the academic and/or scientific community.

I have to admit, I skimmed most of it, esp. after reading about "veneers" and wondering what the heck that was all about.

Sorry, author. Keep at it!


Rei said...

[quote]"I was just saying to–" McBride guided Todd into the office. His monolithic desk was the type of furniture that made Also Sprach Zarathustra play in one's mind. " you know Sheryl?"[/quote]


Anonymous said...

Wow. Veneering, besides putting a layer of rare or hardwood over a peice of cheaper furniture, is also a dental term.
Porcelain is layered over one's teeth to either repair damage, mask damage, or cover imperfections.
Very common.
Some of you guys scare me with ignorance of common terms.