3rd SR Crapometer #9

Dear Miss Snark:
Death is stalking thirteen-year-old Seth across the dusty plains of Texas.

It picks up his scent after he befriends T.C., the young cat who witnesses the horrific car-deer crash that kills her mother and Seth's parents. T.C. knows that Seth is a Listener–one of those mythical (mythical means not real..but clearly Seth IS real) humans who can communicate with animals. When puberty reveals this ability to Seth, he joins T.C.'s mission to stop the carnage caused by car-animal collisions.

The mission grows perilous as carrion-loving creatures become desperate to preserve their roadkill smorgasbord. Seth's adventures reach a perilous climax when coyotes, vultures, andcrows execute an ambush designed to have T.C. and Seth plunging to earth in a giant fireball. Only the teenager's new and surprising powers can bring the journey to a successful close. Butcan he master those powers in time?

The Listeners is a young adult novel of approximately 71,000 words. Not just a gripping adventure story and poignant tale of discovery, The Listeners explores issues of social justicefrom the animal point of view. I have enclosed the first page of the completed manuscript for your consideration, together with a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

Thank you for your time.


Quakin G. Snarkling

smorgasboard road kill.
Yanno...just for that alone I'd read the pages.

The Listeners

The young cat sniffed her mother's blood-stained face, and touched the still body with a gentle paw. Mewing sadly, she turned and trotted to the crumbled car that lay steaming and hissingagainst an aged oak tree a few yards away.

Inside the car, another mother was close to death. The man she had loved so dearly slumped lifeless beside her. Their young son was in the back seat, moaning with pain, but she could not help him. Out of the corner of her eyes, the woman saw the black cat (you've shifted POV here and it's jarring) leap through the driver's side window and onto her husband's back. Pain shot through her as the little cat crept onto her lap and into her arms.

"Please. Help my son. Help my Seth." The mother's plea pounded into the cat's thoughts.

The cat pressed softly against the mother's face. "Tell me what to do, Listener...."


Casey-the-Dog lay by the fence and watched the cars speed by. Few drivers noticed the beautiful collie as he hunkered down in the dry September grass, enjoying the cool autumn breezes that ruffled his thick coat of black, brown, and white fur.

Through the white board fence, Casey could see the two-lane road that meandered past his People's land and through the surrounding Leesburg countryside. He could also see theneighbor's farm that lay on the other side of the road. Every now and then, Casey's golden eyebrows twitched as he focused his ears and attention on the field of rustling corn stalks acrossthe road.

He could hear her getting closer.

When she was close enough, Casey rose with a shake and a stretch, crawled under the fence, and made his way to a little rise from which he could see both approaching traffic and the spot at which she would cross the road. Within minutes, Casey saw the black nose of T.C.-the-Cat peeking through the stalks, followed by her white paws, sleek black body, and long, upheld tail.

"How's the view up there this morning?" TC's thought floated into Casey's head, unaffected by the noise of the cars rushing by.

"Pretty good." Casey's thought bounced back. "Get ready to run when I give the word."

"NOW!" Casey thought and barked at the same time, as soon as the road was clear. T.C. leapt across the gully that separated the road from her People's farmland, sprinted across the road, and ran up the knoll where Casey stood waiting. Rubbing noses, the two friends congratulated each other on achieving another safe crossing, and took off down the roadway walking side-by-side. (took off and walking convey two different senses of speed)

"How are the preliminary reports looking this morning?" T.C. asked as she sidestepped a turtle.

"Not too good. The fog is cutting down on visibility in the mornings and evenings. We're losing a lot of our Rudiments because of that." Casey paused as they approached the carcass of a raccoon.

"This is the first car-Rudiment fatality in our sector, according to reports from last night. It only gets worse from here."

"How many orphans?" T.C. asked, as the pair watched a group of vultures circle overhead.

"Three fawns, two litters of kittens, and some skunks and raccoons. Fortunately, the skunk and raccoon offspring are old enough to make it on their own...."

Ok, you've got a fundamental problem of what kind of book this is. Is it meant to be funny? Roadkill smorgasboard made me think that. Yet you've got all this turgid prose about mythical humans and quests.

You've over written the part about the dog. You want this to be snappy and zippy. We don't need to know the dog is beautiful, the color of her hair or whether people stop to look at her (KY! dammit, stop biting my ankle you ungrateful..I mean beautiful white pink snouted Burberried poodle). Get into the story. And get focused.

I'd read a page or two more.


Anonymous said...

Don't you think this is a "ringer?" Too bad you wasted your time on a hoax, Miss S. Honest to dog, this CAN'T be an actual submission.

Anonymous said...

I gotta know more!

Eviltwin said...

I was actually intrigued by this. There are definately YA readers out there for modern animal fantasies. I was a bit put off by the naming coventions (Casey-the-dog etc.). The first bit with the cat was quite compelling, but the next section lost that energy.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is a ringer, and I do think it's a really cool idea. The excerpt didn't pull me into the story, however. I actually found the query letter more intriguing. Get to work, Author; you've got an attention-getter here, so make sure the writing lives up to the great idea it surrounds. Good luck with it!

Alan Morgan said...

Like Miss Snark, I'd read more of this as well.

You'll be hard-pressed to win me over from Diane Duane's felines, but I'd give you a shot.

Anonymous said...

I am totally NEVER EVER going to buy a book with this premise.


Prozac, where's my dog-bleeped PROZAC!!!!!

Bernita said...

If there's going to be constant descriptions of road-kill, domestic or native, then pardon me while I barf.
Od course, kids in their early teens might love it.

Feisty said...

I am noticing that Miss Snark is being very kind and gentle with this round. Did the Crapometer get injured in Coney Island and lose its snark?

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading after, 'mewing sadly'

Katrina Stonoff said...

This one has some basic mistakes, things a good writers group would have pointed out, but the premise worked for me.

Sam said...

Very cool idea.
I'd think that this could be developed into a really interesting YA book. Good luck!

Writerious said...

Talking, anthropomorphized, telepathic animals.


No thanks.

Frainstorm said...

I think you have a hurdle to climb the moment you introduce talking animals, fantasy or not. And I really don't get the -the-cat and -the-dog tags. Are they last names? Seems you can establish their characters without saying what they are and it would work better.

Maybe I'm the wrong audience, but I had a hard time with it after the scene shift.

I was giving it a chance at the outset because that opening scene was pretty cool, but the next scene let up so much that I didn't want to continue to hear a traffic report of carnage.

Anonymous said...

Initial reaction - Reminded me of the first Hugh Pine book - a PB written in the 1980s...

Anonymous said...

The first few lines of the query had me hooked, but then you had the line "Mewing sadly,..." early on in the chapter. Unneeded -ly word and unneeded clause inversion. Also, without some action from the cat, her POV didn't work for me in the opening.

Like Miss Snark, I'd read on a bit.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but no! No, no, no, no, no!

The idea that these animals could be intelligent enough to have these kinds of discussions, and at the same time so stupid as to not be able to cope with something as simple as crossing a road safely is just too much of a mental leap for me.


Jo Bourne said...

I guess I hate to start a fictional problem
that doesn't have a solution.

He reads animal minds.
He wants to stop animals getting hit by cars.


But I can't come up with any 'how'
and that makes it all seem pointless.

So maybe the query needs to say how he suceeds.

Anonymous said...

I'd read this one. Keep writing, author, this'll be really good with a little revision :)