HH Com 568

When Lieutenant Jane Gould of the Arcturian Confederate Space Fleet responds to a routine distress call she discovers that, far from being in need of help, Arthur Kelso and his son Duncan are plotting to steal an entire planet. This astronomical crime is only the prelude to a scheme that could make them the richest criminals in human history, even though they may start several interstellar wars and kill the odd billion bystanders on the way.

The Kelsos have reckoned without Jane. Although small, fragile and torn apart by the death of the only man who loved her in an incident for which she blames herself, she possesses a core of steel. Jane is a girl who achieves what she sets out to do, even though her methods can reduce
senior officers to speechless horror. Who else would dance the night away with a small atomic weapon tucked down the front of her dress?

Jane is determined to stop Arthur. Arthur is determined to destroy anyone who gets in his way. From this clash of wills there can emerge only one victor, although for a time it seems both must perish as Arthur's spaceship falls into the sun.

Jane emerges triumphant and Arthur dies messily when he won't listen to her telling him to seal up his pressure suit as the ship disintegrates.

"astronomical crime"!

Anyone else feel their leg being not just pulled but yanked??


Inkwolf said...

He's going to steal a planet? A WHOLE PLANET?? Well, at the least you've gotten my curiousity engaged. I want to know how he does it.

Is it meant to be over-the-top space opera, or quite serious? Either way, I think I'd be interested enough to at least riffle the pages...

Anonymous said...

My leg's not just been yanked, but the writer is beating people over the head with it.

~Nancy said...


Is this a real, live novel? :-)

This sounds hilarious. The only nit I have is to lose the last paragraph, because, in my mind, how it wraps up should be put into the synopsis, not the hook. (You want people to keep reading, not say, "Oh, is THAT what happens? Next book!")

FWIW, of course.

Good luck with it!


Robert Billing said...

Sorry you felt that way. The novel exists and the submission was perfectly serious.

Oh well.

Robert Billing said...

Sorry, my last was perhaps a little ungracious. First of all thanks for taking the time to read the submission, and second your comment is of considerable value to me.

I've had endless "near miss" rejections with this one from both agents and publishers who have read either full or partial and liked it but couldn't quite take it on.

Virginia Miss said...

sounds like space opera.

Author, a few suggestions.

Start with "Arthur Kelso and his son Duncan are plotting..."

Second paragraph: delete "small, fragile" "for which she blames herself" and "is a girl who":

"The Kelsos have reckoned without Lieutenant Jane Gould of the Confederate Space Fleet. Although torn apart by her role in her lover's death, she possesses a core of steal. Jane achieves what she sets out to do, even though her methods reduce senior officers to speechless horror. Who else would dance the night away with an atomic weapon?

End with your third paragraph, but cut "From this clash of wills there can emerge only one victor, although for a time it seems" so you end with: Both may perish as Arthur's spaceship falls into the sun.

Cut the last paragraph completely; save that information for your synopsis only.

Kate Nepveu said...

Author: is the book a comedy? If not, the tone of the hook is wildly off.

This is particularly true of the last sentence, which would be a major anti-climax if found in a non-comedic work.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a sci-fi comic/adventure novel in the vein of 'The Stainless Steel Rat' to me. Which I loved to death. I think if there's a problem here it's that you need to spell out a little more if this is a) comic at all b) deliberatley overdone space opera c) a serious space opera. If the latter, then I think in your attempt to hook you've taken the cool elements and pushed them a bit hard to the point of the reader going 'are they for real?'. In other words either push more - or less - and we'll know for sure where you're going.
Still sounded kinda fun to me. And there's a bit of that 'voice' that Miss Snark keeps harping on about.

Robert Billing said...

1) The trick to stealing a planet is very simple but takes several pages to explain in detail. Basically you have to fool the colonising authority into evacuating the colonists, then you move in and set up your own de-facto government. "Steal" in this sense leaves the planet exactly where it was, but under the control of the criminals.

2) Nancy, yes, it's real and I have 37 rejections to prove it. There are in fact two complete novels, one in progress, one outlined and endless short stories about Jane.

3) Yes, it is supposed to have some comedy elements. It's a bit like "Stainless steel rat", "Bill, the galactic hero" and Sladek's "Reproductive system" in that there is comedy wrapped around a deadly serious main plot. In that sense it follows established genre. Where I break away from genre is in having a female protagonist. In fact Jane has been described a a female James Bond. She switches effortlessly from being a perfect hostess to winning a running firefight if the occasion demands. I've even given her a female Q who wears tweeds, pearls and very sensible shoes, usually has three dogs in tow, and still does her own test flying.

4) Thank you for the more specific critique.

I now realise that this is going to be an absolute beggar to sell, if it ever sells at all. However I can console myself with the thought that my one and only non-ficton book sale set some kind of record. It was done by exchange of e-mail with a publisher and from first contact to positive response took exactly 330 seconds.

Shannon said...

Truly comedic science fiction can be terrific, ala Hitchhikers Guide. However, it is definitely difficult to pull off. I feel like you have a real sense of humor about things, but just need to make it clearer. Play up the humorous elements more - I loved the "dancing with an atomic weapon" bit! - and leave out the depressing, straight-sounding ending. Space opera/adventure/mystery/comedy sounds like a mess but could be very fun if the rules are clearly set.

Also, as Miss Snark said, how do you steal a planet? Making this just a little clearer may limit the WTF? sort of reaction.

Twill said...

My suggested edit on the hook -

Here's the Kelso’s plan -

First, Arthur Kelso and his son Duncan will steal an entire planet. Next, they'll do something *really* big, even though they may start several interstellar wars and kill the odd billion bystanders on the way.

Here's the Kelso’s problem -

Lieutenant Jane Gould of the Arcturian Confederate Space Fleet responded to a routine distress call, discovered the Kelso plan, and decided to stop it. Jane usually achieves what she sets out to do, even though her methods can reduce senior officers to speechless horror. Who else would dance the night away with a small atomic weapon tucked down the front of her dress?

Here's the maneuvers –

[Use 100 words to evoke 2-3 sweeps of the plot – Kelso does this, Jane counters that, Kelso etc]

[Finish up with a restatement of the motivations of the two sides - *why* they are fighting.]

writtenwyrdd said...

Last paragraph sounds like you got interrupted in mid thought. I'd can it. Despite the horrific pun in "astronomical crime" (which made me howl with laughter, scaring my cats silly) I liked this. I loved the atomic device in her cleavage. You are riddled with cliches here, but somehow they work in this blurb. I would expect this to be pure space opera and riddled with sly humor and in jokes. If not, I'd be disappointed in it.

I'd definitely want to read this one, I do believe.

MWT said...

The first paragraph was very strong. Though perhaps I'm in the minority about not blinking at the "steal an entire planet" line.

The second paragraph seems to be a character sketch of Jane. Which is mostly not needed in a hook. Inserting it after the first paragraph kills the momentum you've built up. You've successfully conveyed the type of people the Kelsos are in the first paragraph ("ehh.. kill a few billion bystanders.. whatever, we'll be rich"); if you want to describe Jane more, try to do the same type of hinting about her in the first paragraph too.

About the third paragraph. We already know from the first paragraph that she'll be trying to stop the Kelsos and that the Kelsos will try not to let her stop them. This is redundant.

(Though that begs the question, who sent the distress call? The way the first paragraph is written, it sounded like Arthur did - and why would he do that?)

(And also, how did they get to be on the same spaceship and falling toward the sun?)

The fourth paragraph is an extremely weak way to end the hook. As this is a novel, we already know what the ending is supposed to be. The good guys (girl in this case) are supposed to win. Of course she's going to defeat the Kelsos by the end of the book. The interesting part is in the how - and the way it's currently written, that "how" isn't very compelling. He lost because he failed to seal up his pressure suit?

xiqay said...

I didn't blink at stealing an entire planet either.

I agree that you should lose the last paragraph in a hook (although it fits in a synopsis).

You say you've got 37 misses. Miss Snark, in previous advice on this blog, says to query widely, and go for 100 agent responses.

You've still got room (63 more agents) to sell this.

Good luck.

LJCohen said...

I had the privilege to read this and I have to say, it's a wonderful novel. Jane is a kick-ass heroine. Keep plugging Bob--I'm hoping to see this at my local bookstore some day.

dana p said...

Virginia Miss and twill have both come up with good ideas for how to rewrite this.

I think that those of us who didn't blink at "stealing an entire planet" are SF readers -- unlike Miss Snark. And we can always use more *good* space opera. Good luck with it, author!

Helen said...

Keep querying - I'd buy this!

In terms of the hook, I'd like to hear less about Jane's smallness and fragility, and more about what sort of actions and activity we can expect from the rest of the book, i.e. her efforts to stop the Kelsos. Spaceship chases and fire fights? Or sleuthing and sneaking? Or intrigue and intricate plans?