9.02.2006

That's all folks...for today anyway-upadated

that's it for today.
I'm taking KY to the circus.

Nothing before noon tomorrow in case you want to stand down from the computer screen.

If any of you want to recommend good mail programs that work for multiple incoming accounts that I can download off the web I'd be glad to hear about it. Mac compatible of course (and no guff from anyone about that please) I'm not real happy with Eudora and I don't want to keep trying different ones if there's a clear front runner amongst y'all.

Thanks for your suggestions! I managed to figure out how to get multiple emails on my mac mail program, which is the easiest, but I do like the Thunderbird program. I just can't get it to send mail. Receives fine. The tribulations of living by electron!!

Ok, time for coffe, a cruller, and then back to work!


tks.

3rd SR Crapometer #31

Dear Miss Snark,

I would like to present my literary fiction novel (fiction novel!!! Achhhh!!) for your consideration. At about 90,000 words, 'title' (I redacted the title but it's pretty good) tells the story of an Indian programmer's quest for meaning and identity as he embarks on a project that will rescue his outsourcing company from bankruptcy.

Walloped by the murky reality of the software outsourcing industry – from 90-hour workweeks to fixing code written before his birth - young programmer Vinod Dhote has only one month to prevent a layoff from his company in Bangalore. His last opportunity to save his fledgling career is to deliver an unrealistic, crucial project for an US client that must succeed if his company has to survive the 2000-01 dot-com burst. Can he combat his ex-managers determined on ruining him, conquer his self-doubts, and recover from the trauma of a failed love affair to salvage the project? Can he make sense of the contrasts around him, and build an identity in an environment that thrives in providing cheap labor for menial tasks?

Though 'title' is my first novel, my essays have appeared in Indian magazines and local newspapers. I am a software developer in Mumbai working for a global IT company. Given the concerns and furor about outsourcing, this first fictional work based on that setting might appeal to an international readership.

I would be happy to send sample chapters or the complete manuscript on an exclusive basis.

I thank you for your time, and look forward towards your response.

Yours sincerely,
XXX

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
First Page of title


Bugs, Vinod rued, creep when you expect them to, like when you are in a hurry to catch the last train home after an 18-hour shift. Staring at the frozen cursor, he asked Sugar, 'When did your ARM crash?'

'2:30 PM PST,' Sugar replied. 'After midnight our time,' he added, almost as an afterthought. Pointing at the Speakerphone, he said, 'Guha sighted it first.'

'We are in deep shit,' Guha's voice quivered from the speaker. 'The order shipment has stopped. Mrs. Travers demanded an Accounts Receivables calculation when we were shutting down for the weekend. I wouldn't agree, not once the file backup starts, but you don't say no to the client manager. I restarted ARM. It hung. What a disaster!'

Vinod grunted, glancing at the screen's bottom-right corner. The clock displayed 1:05 AM. Was he to miss the train? Flinching, he input values that he thought might persuade ARM to spit some data, and jabbed Enter. Damn! No effect. He prodded the key. The keyboard juddered. The screen lay numb.

'Make it move,' Sugar said, shifting on his chair, 'now.'

Vinod glared at Sugar. Irritated, he asked Guha, 'Did you try restarting ARM?'

'Thrice. It refuses to budge.'

'I expected a more professional approach,' a woman's voice boomed from the speaker, 'not hocus-pocus or trial and error. I suppose that's the best you can offer?'

'When did you arrive, Mrs. Travers?' Sugar asked, clutching the knot of his tie. 'Please permit to remind you that the failure is the first critical situation this July.'

'Delighted to hear you speaking sense for once,' Mrs. Travers said. Her voice rose. 'You bet this is a crisis! ARM is our central package. And it's been failing every time we use it!'

'Today's incident -'

'Today's screw-up,' Mrs. Travers hissed, 'again demonstrates your off-shore team's incompetence. What does Ashworth have after outsourcing our inventory maintenance to you? Crippling production failures! System shutdowns! Red-flag emergencies!'

Sugar hit the 'mute' button and cussed. Mrs. Travers continued.

'Unless you compute the account receivables, we can't ship the order. A two hundred thousand USD order, no less! I want ARM to run ASAP!'

'You can start other shipment activities in parallel,' Vinod said.

'I don't need Indians to preach me on how to run our business!' Mrs. Travers thundered. 'The inventory check is running. But it's useless if ARM fails! If I don't have a fix before end of the day – my day -'

'That's only two more hours!' Sugar gasped.


ok, a couple things here. First, I'm looking very closely at anything with exotic location, in a voice that isn't over represented. This qualifies. Second, this sound like reverse chick lit...the protaganist is a guy but the situation is "can he save his job before the world comes crashing down" is pure chick lit set up.

I'd read the rest of the pages and hope it was going to be very very funny.

Now, for all of you who are ready to scream "but wait Miss Snark you xenophobic beast, you said no clients offshore..or even off continent". Well, I didn't say that. I said the bar was higher. That's still the case, but Indian lit is hot, this looks like it might be a nice fresh voice, so I'd read this without my usual X-vision.

3rd SR Crapometer #30--partial requested

Dear Miss Snark,

Thank you for taking the time to consider my novel, _______, for representation. I believe your interest in exotic locales (North Central Florida) and snark (my main character, is nothing if not snarkastic) dovetails nicely with my 102,000 word, literary/commercial novel.

Claudette Taskett was the only person with her father, Hap, when he died in a mysterious accident on rural Orange Lake. But she refuses to talk about it, and within months, she’s gone, hitching north to outrun the tug of memory and guilt. Always an outsider, an edgy, angry girl who tells herself she’s above the goings-on in their small town, Claudette hooks up with Jack, a self-made outlaw with an agenda she doesn’t understand. It takes her a couple thousand miles and one too many bad nights to find value in the scant family she left behind, and by then, she’s caught between Jack and his overblown sense of himself and in serious danger.

Meanwhile, younger sister Leanne, still mourning the death of her father, faces the loss of her sister as well. Alternately despondent and furious, she withdraws to the Idylwilde Lodge, the Taskett’s rundown motel. Sometimes she’s sure she’ll never forgive Claudette for whatever it was that happened out on the lake, for taking off on her, for not being the protective older sister she’s needed. Sometimes she longs for Claudette just as she is: brave, snarky and utterly frank. When the hokey and hugely pregnant Citra Stark takes up residence in Claudette’s old room, Leanne’s unprepared for the feelings the older girl provokes, and even more surprised to find her new tenant holds the key to both her father’s death and her sister’s baffling flight. Armed with half a version of the truth, Leanne travels to the high desert of Colorado where the sisters must confront Claudette’s current mess, as well as the troubling circumstances that divided them.

I grew up in Florida, spent several years teaching in the rural communities around Orange Lake, and believe I have an insider’s sense of this distinctive and beautiful setting. I’ve also attended the University of Colorado’s Master’s program in Creative Writing, where I won a
teaching assistantship. I’ve published several poems and a few short stories in small literary magazines, but most of my energy has been devoted to this novel.

Sincerely,

A. Snarkling

P.S. I’m including a short sample. While not a prologue, per se, it introduces the central incident in the manner of Ann Packer’s “The Dive from Clausen’s Pier”.


this is a dogawful query. Laden with recitation of events and unfocused. Blah.




This is what happened. Claudette came first, swimming then crawling then standing in the damp sand, her eyes not catching on any one thing. Something in the pulled back curve of her sister’s lip called Leanne to her feet. But by then, Claudette had taken off, running down the beach and into the brushy woods, away. The men in the bass boat came next, hollering for help. And then Daddy lay where they’d dragged him, sodden t- shirt pushed halfway up his chest, the fishermen still attempting CPR.

Leanne ran to him. Her foot caught in the loop of the picnic basket she’d insisted on packing, and when she shook it free, a couple of Twinkies tumbled out and lay like dog turds in gullies of sand. Blood shushed in her ears and also the harsh, wet wind. She hunched beside him, and he was the same overcast color as the clouds that day, his gaze gone distant. Gone. While, out on Orange Lake, each choppy wave balanced at its crest. Birds hung in the sky as if stapled there.

She called and called for Claudette, though it was pointless, and then fell to holding his hand, pushing it along the length of her cheek. His fingers, so loose, so like inner tube rubber, caught on her ear and in her hair. It occurred to her—a brief stab, pushed away as quickly as it’d
come-- that soon there'd be only this body, the color of potter's clay, this story she would not ever have the words for. Then no no no no no! This could not-- could not! -- happen.
This is what happened, and although people at highway pile-ups, fires, TV disasters, always start off with "It didn’t seem real,” it did. She couldn't muster the attention to fool herself. Her future came unhinged, this new thing yawning open like another door. And she saw that later, for the whole rest of her life, she’d start off here.



Then you read the writing, and you thank all dogs you make people send pages.
This is good. I'd read more.

3rd SR Crapometer #29

Dear Miss Snark,

Macaroni and Cheese are girls desperate for adventure, but their small Michigan town isn't terribly forthcoming. That is until they meet a mysterious old woman in the woods near the lake. Rumors about Miss Elizabeth abound in town, but Macaroni and Cheese must discover for themselves whether she is a crazy axe-wielding maniac or just an eccentric old spinster.

I am seeking representation for my 52,000 word young adult novel, "The Adventures of Macaroni and Cheese", and I am appreciative of your consideration. Below is the first page of the text, per your submission guidelines.

I am an editor at Idy-bidy Publishing, and have had three short stories published in "Short Stories R Us" and "Random Stories" magazines in the past two years.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Eternally Hopeful Writer


Great query. I'm ready to read.

The Adventures of Macaroni and Cheese

"Macaroni. That's a weird name."

"Oh yeah, like Cheese is any more normal? Besides, you gave it to me."

"So, you didn't start calling me Cheese until I started calling you Macaroni. And anyhow, I think Macaroni sounds lots better than 'Mac'. Mac sounds like a truck driver."

(as you know Bob)
"Whatever. Here we are, Macaroni and Cheese, with the whole summer before us. . ." Macaroni said sweeping her arms dramatically.

"And we're bored to death," said Cheese.

Macaroni plunked back down on the step and sighed. "You're right. Greenbrier is such a boring place."

The mid-June sun warmed the morning, promising another not-too-hot Michigan day. Greenbriar, the home of both Suzanne Margaret MacIver, also known as "Macaroni" and Anne B. Brewer, also known as "Cheese". Anne—er—Cheese refused to reveal to anyone, including her very best friend Macaroni, just what the "B" stood for.

School had been out just a week, and already Macaroni and Cheese were feeling like they'd depleted their store of creative summer activity. Of course when you're eleven and have just finished the fifth grade, kids' stuff just isn't what it used to be. But what with the way
Macaroni and Cheese looked sitting on the back steps of Cheese's house, you'd think they lived in the most boring place on the planet.

In fact, Greenbriar was not at all boring. Located on a small lake, bearing the same name as the town, Greenbriar was teeming with summer activities, for kids of all ages. There were the big "kids" with their speedboats and water skis. Younger kids with their bicycles and
roller blades. And the oldest group of "kids," who derived their enjoyment from watching all of the others play from lawn chair vantage points.



Tell tell tell.
Show me.
Show me
Show me.

Stay on Mac and Chee and give me THEIR POV. Don't step back and start sounding like Grandmother Snark pointing out the advantages of a small town. Gimme junior high ennui.
I'll help you paint your toes silver, and you can dye my hair magenta while we discuss B-O-Y-S.

This is the classic disconnect of a good query and a disappointing first page. Y'all drive me to gin I swear.


3rd SR Crapometer #28--partial on this one for sure

Dear Miss Snark:

Below please find my query and the first page of my cozy KILLER SWING (65,000 words).

Out of work for the first time, disheartened executive Liz Grant seizes the opportunity to act as manager of her vacationing brother's golf course. Believing his dream business is a success, she realizes too late that her brother took the course's funds and left her to save his motley staff's jobs. Finding a murdered woman on the tenth hole only adds to the challenge. When Daniel Ames, the head golf pro who captures her heart, is arrested, Liz steps forward to accept custody of his six-year-old daughter and scrambles to prove his innocence, redeem the course's reputation, and catch a killer. (yea!!! a plot!!)

KILLER SWING is written in the humorous first person of a task-oriented, never-give-up career woman just discovering her maternal instincts. (well, she'll be sorry soon enough about that but ok)

I have a bachelors degree in English and a M.B.A. in Marketing. My previous publications include employee manuals and marketing materials, written while I worked in human resources and marketing management - two great fields to meet interesting characters. I am a member of Sisters in Crime.

The polished manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.


"In golf as in life, no matter how badly the game is played, it can always get worse."

At this point, I have put down the gin, shoved the DVD remote into KY's sticky paw to keep him occupado, and I'm reading.


CHAPTER ONE

When my first practice shot flew eighty yards on the driving range, sliced over the top of the containment net, and dropped inches from the groundskeeper's head as he raked a sand trap, I knew I had made a mistake. Not only in my shot which could have killed or injured him, but in becoming Acting Manager of Heron Vale Golf Course while my brother and his wife cruised the Mediterranean.

"Just come for one month. All you have to do is approve checks and keep an eye on things. Kathy and I haven't had a vacation in ten years. We need to get away," Jeff, the course's owner and manager, had pleaded.

"I've never managed a golf club. And I'm a lousy golfer."

But I had always wanted to be a good one, envious of Jeff's skill and drive, not to mention his snappy clothes. Golf is an individual achievement sport, right up my alley, requiring the ability to hit a stationary target, a relatively simple task in the realm of sports. And no catching, which has always been my downfall.

"Liz, you're the most capable person I know. You stink at golf because you refuse to practice. This month will give you the opportunity. It'll be fun."

It was reaffirming to hear that someone still believed in me, even if it was my brother. I had just lost my job and yet another boyfriend, a cause-and-effect situation come to find out. As Vice President of Human Resources for Hire Me, an Internet job search company, I was responsible for naming the next Sales Manager, and my boyfriend Ron had wanted the job. When the company downsized and set me out on the sidewalk, Ron lost interest in me.

I hadn't planned on spending my life with either one of them, but it was rejection overload. Without a job for the first time in my adult life, I felt empty and betrayed. Wanting to feel productive and valuable, and certainly in need of a change, golf took on a whole new appeal for me. So I seized the opportunity to help my baby brother, who I could never resist, and better myself at the same time.

First I went to the nearest pro shop and bought all new golf clothes, because sometimes looking the part is half the battle. Then I packed my new clothes and drove to scenic Chelseaport, New York. Jeff and Kathy hopped the next plane to Europe.

Now it was day one of my adventure, and I had almost killed the one person Jeff said to count on for support.

"Ms. Grant, you need to yell 'Fore' if you think your ball is heading towards someone." Ed Huber, the groundskeeper, strolled over to me and took off his Heron Vale cap, releasing a shock of white hair. He rubbed the sheen of perspiration off his forehead with his sleeve and replaced the hat. The smile beneath his thick handlebar mustache was gentle.

"Sorry, Ed. And please, call me Liz."

"Right. Liz." Ed gave his mustache a nervous twirl, reminding me of a cartoon character who tied damsels in long skirts and ruffled petticoats to train tracks.

I'd read on for sure. I'd be watching for good character development and the feeling that I'm right there on the green. There's a wonderful series of golf mysteries by Roberta Isleib that I'm very fond of. I'd be starting to think about pitching this as appealing to people who read and enjoy her work.

3rd SR Crapometer #27

Dear Miss Snark,

Some people are just born assholes. Fortunately for most, in my novel, The Fatal Nature of Life, the universe offers a multitude of lifetimes for souls to learn how to rise above such faults. (huh?)

These opportunities go completely wasted on Eldridge Peet, however. Over the course of his previous lives, Eldridge has managed to devolve more and more into quite a despicable human being. To top it all off, his generally foul outlook, immoral manner and devious schemes have gotten him murdered on no less than nine occasions. And now it’s beginning to look like his current life will be ending in murder number ten. (Would it be catty to say he's not living his nine lives well?)

The Fatal Nature of Life (I like the title) bounds throughout history chronicling the misadventures of a pathetic loser who, through nearly every fault of his own, just can’t get things right. Along the way, Eldridge’s travails run the gamut from whimsical to terrifying.

My manuscript is approximately 84,000 words in length. I would be glad to send you a hard copy upon your request.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration, Miss Snark, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

All the best,

I. M. Redacted

uh...you want me to read about a pathetic asshole? Yanno, I have Fox News for that. And while we're at it, did you want to say anything about the plot? You do have one tucked away in there right?

March 14, 1999

Over the centuries, Eldridge Peet’s various lives were quite unusual in the respect that he’d been murdered on no less than nine occasions, and of late, it was beginning to look like the hands of another would do him in yet again. (me! I wanna!! I'll do it!)

Eldridge was a man that many people would’ve described as handsome, if not for a few minor flaws. His head was slightly larger and more round than it should be, making his protruding ears seem even bigger than they were. His complexion was pale, oily and often marred by pimples. His nose was visibly crooked, as if it were bent on pointing out the angry mole residing under his right eye--which was lazy and set a little higher than the left. His stomach bulged more than it should, causing his shoulders to slouch, and his feet sweated profusely with an odor that was nearly palpable from several feet away much like his halitosis.
(people kill him for this??)

And, just as his flawed appearance went, his personality was such that he would’ve been admired, if not even loved, by the majority of those who knew him, but for a small number of quirks. He tended to lie, but not like most people do, when it came to major things--although he certainly told those falsehoods too. No, Eldridge troubled himself to design fabrications concerning minor, if not completely insignificant, matters. Furthermore, he wasn’t what one would call an accomplished liar, since he was caught in his dishonesty quite regularly.
(you look quite fat in that font..what, you're gonna shoot me for that??)

He was both greedy and cheap. He found fault with both his small number of friends as well as the multitude of people he didn’t know, or did know, but didn’t care for. (He's in publishing, right?) He never remembered to say please or thank you, but he could be counted on to point out when such politeness was due to him. He found great pleasure in the pain of others, and usually went out of his way to share that schadenfreude with them. Lastly, he thought everyone else was beneath him in at least some, if not many ways, and made no effort to conceal that opinion. He did have a few more faults, of course, but they will go unmentioned here because, after all, nobody’s perfect.

Probably one of the more interesting things about Eldridge Peet though, was that over the course of all of his prior lives--as well as the current one that he’d very soon be in danger of losing--he’d not only failed to make any progress towards becoming a better human being, but had in fact, usually gotten a little worse with each reincarnation. Yes, from his first life as a nameless hunter at the cusp of mankind’s beginnings, chasing mostly small game across the African savanna, until his most recent manifestation as a salesman of insurance in a rundown shop in New York City, (I thought he worked in publishing!) Eldridge Peet had slowly evolved into quite a piece of shit.



well just sign me up to read more more more....oh wait, that was a lie wasn't it? ...i"m meellllttiinnnngggg...

Look you can be sardonic as hell and I'm right there with you cheering you on. With a name like Miss Snark how can I possibly not be? But, you gotta give me a reason to read this. A litany of character flaws is for the good Father on Sunday morning in his homily, but in my slush pile it's a non starter.

3rd SR Crapometer #26

Dear Miss Snark,
For your crapometer, I'm sending you a proposal for a romantic comedy entitled 'Working Title'. (I hate entitled. Just write "the romantic comedy Working Title"--and know too that romantic comedy is a description of a movie, not a book)

It's about a girl who gets mixed up with a racing scam in Saratoga and falls in love with the policeman who arrests her. (don't we all)

I have a background in racing and horses, and have been to Saratoga. I'm a published author of YA books and would like to branch out into romantic comedy.

I have the outline, synopsis, and first three chapters written (automatic no) if you are
interested.

Best wishes -
Aspiring Romantic Comedy Author

I don't take on unfinished novels unless the author is bringing some serious pub credits to the table. If I got this in the mail the first thing I'd do is google you and look you up on Bookscan.


#
This is what I tell my customers: "It's written in the cards." It sounds a lot better than saying, "Life is iffy." But life is iffy. For example, if I didn't have dyslexia, I'd probably have some sort of degree and a decent job instead of being a fortune teller. And if my grandmother didn't have
dementia and think she was still in 1940, and that the Germans were trying to kill her, we wouldn't have gone to Saratoga. And if I hadn't bet on Bittersweet Melody that day at the track, I wouldn't have ended up stumbling onto a drug ring and stealing a million dollar race horse.

#
"Ruby, there's a German under my bed again."
My grandmother was whispering, so I lowered my own voice and said, "Don't
worry, it's just Karl."

This was the story I'd concocted. Since my grandmother was absolutely convinced there was a German under her bed, I had to render him harmless. So I invented Karl, a fifteen year old soldier who wanted to defect. Karl, I informed her, was just a kid. My grandmother had been in the war in Normandy, she'd seen the soldiers. She'd told me how, as the war dragged on,
they got younger and younger, until sometimes they hadn't even started shaving and their skin had that translucent, taut look of adolescence. She'd told me stories about how she'd befriended a young soldier named Karl, but how she'd never seen nor heard of him after the war.
So I made Karl into the phantom under her bed, and that always settled her down.
"Well, tell him to come out when it's safe."
"I will."
She thought for a minute. "And offer him something to drink."
"That's a good idea. How about you?"
"A tea would be nice, if you can find some. With rations the way they are, it's a miracle if we can get good tea."
"I'll find some, don't worry."
"Do you still have your friends in the black market? What about Suzanne, the one with the horses?" My grandmother could remember the minutest detail about her life during the war, but the present was a thick fog where she wandered without a clue as to where she was. For some reason, she usually remembered who I was, and yet transposing me, her granddaughter, to 1940 didn't pose a problem to her addled mind. Dementia trumped logic. My whole life lacked logic. For a while I didn't care. I figured things would get better. Things could have been worse. I might not have any friends at all, be bald, obese, or chronically ill. In fact, I have good friends, my hair is strawberry blond, and I'm healthy. When I walk down the street I get
wolf-whistles, and once a guy walked into a lamppost because he couldn't take his eyes off me.
But suddenly I was a quarter of a century old. I took stock of my situation. It wasn't great. I was living with my grandmother, I didn't have a steady job, I'd never had a proposal from a man I loved, and my best friend was a jockey who kept trying to fix me up with other jockeys; and I'm nearly five nine.
I said to myself, "Ruby, you're not getting any younger. You have to get a life before it's too late. Why don't you go see your friend Suzanne at the track and maybe win some money?" And that's how it all started.

I cannot tell you how sick I am of hearing people describe themselves in books. When was the last time you gave one single thought to how tall you are? Well, unless you are trying to meet the height requirements for the rides at Disneyland.

Strawberry blond hair indeed. Give me a f/ing break. I hate to tell you this but MOST girls I know are not focused on how good they look, they only see the flaws. (I'm not saying that's a good thing or a preferred thing, but it's a TRUE thing. There's a hilarious scene in Mean Girls about just that...and we don't grow out of it after 8th grade).

You've got a good and funny premise here but we're spending too much time (if you'll pardon the pun) beating a dead horse. One quick comment about Karl under the bed and we've got the picture that Grandma is stuck in the time warp (she and the Rocky Horror Picture show guy make a cute couple).


I'm obviously not going to reject something cause of strawberry blond hair and description but at this point I'm not as excited about your work as you want me to be. Get Grandma out from under the bed, strap on your helmet and let's get racing.

3rd SR Crapometer #25

September 1, 2006

Miss Snark, Literary Agent


Dear Miss Snark:

I read on your web site that you are interested in romantic suspense. I thought that you might be interested in my novel, The Drakkan Stone, a romantic suspense/time travel of 100,000 words, which is a stand-alone but is intended to be the first in a series.

Seahenge, an ancient water megalith was a career-making story for Lorin Gallagher, a freelance writer with psychic ability to know the truth by touch. A weekend retreat to the Scottish Highland Games in the mountains of North Carolina, and she meets a Highlander, Kohner Cormac, who rescues her from an attack. (is there a connection between these two things-if there is, it's not clear to me) Her research takes her to Scotland and while visiting the ruins of Kohner’s castle, she travels back in time to Medieval Scotland.

In her zeal to locate the next big story and return home, she uncovers a long buried secret and realizes her breaking story isn't the Seahenge discovery but the facts surrounding the ancient civilization that built the henge. However, revealing that secret could change the way scientists view this ancient civilization. Her ambition blinds her to the far-reaching affects of this revelation on people’s beliefs.

Her life is in danger as someone tries to stop her return home and gain possession of the ancient finger-ring, which she learns has certain powers. As she gets closer to the truth, her own daring puts others in danger as she and a young girl are kidnapped.

Kohner Cormac, Clan Guardian of the Misty Island, has the responsibility for the clans: MacLean and MacKinnon. However, his powers as Royal Sentinel from an ancient, thought to be lost, civilization have lessoned with the loss of the drakkan-stone ring. A dark secret that he guards threatens to be exposed by the same woman he has rescued.

Engaged in a battle of wits and wills between a scare-ravaged clan leader who is determined to prove to her that there is more to success than revealing beliefs better left unwritten and a career-oriented modern woman determined to forge her own success, brings about a decision that each must sacrifice their own desires.

Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander novels were a great inspiration to my own writing, and although The Drakkan Stone is my first novel, I have been writing for five years and have two other manuscripts in this series ready for revision.

gadzooks, pare this down. I don't need a synopsis, I just need a glimmer of hope that there is a plot in the book.

Thank you very sincerely for taking the time to consider my novel. I would be happy to send you a synopsis and three chapters for your review, or the complete manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Name Withheld

THE DRAKKAN STONE

Chapter 1

Medieval 18th Century, Scotland (err..isn't the 18th century called something like Restoration, Regency or the Age of Reason or something. Medieval is centuries before this)


The darkened room was small by the castle standards of chambers, but its purpose- a secret workroom, lined with overflowing shelves filled with books on magic, spells and dragon lore. All of which disinterested him. He had what he came for. In his hand, he held an obsidian scrying glass that he could see into clearly, despite the confines of the darkness. The glass crystal proved clear tonight, and with little effort, he summoned the dragon-hunter. At this moment, they could not call his powers inept. To scry this effortlessly was a boon to his ego. There would be plenty of entertainment for this eve.

He gave a low chuckle (really? to whom?) and reached for the soft velvet pouch to enclose the scrying glass. He was now ready to join the group headed for the Games. He paused as he noticed the scene in the crystal begin to change. No longer the familiar coastline, but an unknown cairn. Fog interfered with the scene, but something lay covered in the cairn. Would this be a benefit to him or a hidden complication? As long as his identity remained unknown, he was safe. He would have to examine this further. A knock sounded. He put the cloth wrapped crystal back in its resting spot, gathered his cape about him and moved silently into the wall. (well, that sounds promising)

#


Startled, he awoke by a thump. The candle on the adjacent nightstand beckoned the shadows, and brought them to life. (ok, this is where I stop reading) Kohner’s hand slid swiftly beneath the pillow and grasped a dagger as he tried to slow his breathing. His heartbeat hammered, not from the awakening sound, but from the affects of the disturbing dream that had plagued his slumber. There it was again- a knock on the wooden door. He bolted off the bed as he heard a voice call to him from the other side.

“Milord, there was a . . .”


You're absolutely awash in more words than you need. Pare! Pare! Take that dagger and cut off about half of what you have here. Get the action moving. Quit telling us how all fired moody and Heathcliffian all these "he's" are. Kill someone! Now!

You tell us the heroine of the novel is someone named Lorin. Where the hell is she?

3rd SR Crapometer #24

Dear Miss Snark:

After sending her ex-fiancé, Jack Fishen, behind bars for murdering her father, Stephen Parks, Holly Parks comes close to losing it. (losing what? she has mixed feelings about the murder of her father?) When Stan Jacobs offers her the chance to work in Mexico City, Holly jumps at the opportunity. But when Stan begins stalking Holly, she must
return to Minnesota and fight for the truth about her father, ex-fiancé, and past. (what's the Spanish word for lurid?)

"Guilty as Charged" will be (is it finished? it better be. Query me about an unfinished novel and it's an auto-no) about 85,000 words in length. Those who read it will also enjoy the works of Mary Higgins Clark and Catherine Coulter. (err...you've got the comparison wrong. You mean to say people who read Mary Higgins Clark and Catherine Coulter will also like your work. So far however, that's not the case)

I have lived in Mexico for more than six years. I have worked as a freelance writer for one year.
(do I want to know what you were doing for those five years? Stalking? Bullfighting?)

Following is the opening of "Guilty as Charged." I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you! (I won't hold you to that)

Sincerely,


I'd stop reading here if this was in the slush pile.

Guilty as Charged

The black waters of the Mississippi swirled twenty feet below me. I leaned over the ledge, peering into the darkness. The first raindrops of the approaching storm landed on the river. They splattered on the surface and then dissolved into the murky waters.

The storm intensified. The rain, now coming down in sheets, slammed into the back of my neck. I bent further over the edge of the bridge, searching for a glimpse of the water. Bolts of lightning flashed above me. In the instant of light, the river was clear. It churned below me,
offering an invitation. Then the thunder rolled, taking the light and the river scene with it.

My thoughts swirled together with the waters. I saw Jack, sitting in the courtroom, his shoulders squared. He faced the judge, who was reading something. "…by the authority…sentence Jack Fishen to life in prison…"

"No!" I cried. My voice was swept away in the wind and swallowed by the thunder. I gripped the ledge with both hands. Lightning flashed. The ring on my left hand appeared for a moment. I tugged it off with my right hand and leaned further over the edge. The ring dangled
between my thumb and index finger. The only thing separating it from the water was air.

So it was over. We both knew it. It was time to accept reality. I had to move on, had to rid my chest of the awful pain, had to put the past behind-

"Don't jump!" The loud voice boomed into my ears. Startled, I straightened up and took a step away from the ledge. A tall figure stood about five feet away. Faint shades of blue and red fell on his face. I followed the light sources back to a squad car. It was parked behind my Nissan Altima. "Is everything okay, Miss?" he continued.

I slipped the ring back on my finger and raised both hands in the air.
"No problem here, officer." (yes there is)

He held my gaze. "What brings you to park on a bridge during a thunderstorm?"

"I was just…" my voice trailed off as I searched for a reasonable excuse.

He took a few steps toward the ledge, using his body to separate me from the railing. "Did anything go wrong? Something that made you want to end things tonight?"

I took another step back, away from the officer. "No, no, nothing like that. Don't worry, I wasn't going to jump." (I'll pay you to fling me over the rail right now..will a $20 be enough?)

He didn't seem convinced. He scanned my soaked hair and suit. Then, slowly, he continued, "Well, alright. But you can't park here. It's illegal to park on this bridge." (yea, there's a strategy for would be suicides---ticket them for illegal parking)

"I'm sorry. I was just leaving." I headed to the driver's side of the car. (wait! wait! you forgot to fling me over the side!)

The rain had let up during our conversation, making it easier to see. I put my hand on the door handle. Before I opened it, I glanced at the police officer. His whole face looked grim. Under a large nose, he wore a drenched mustache that turned down at the corners, matching the
frown on his lips. He must have caught a glimpse of me, too, because
he exclaimed, "Hey, you look familiar."

I opened the car door and turned my head away from him, but it wasn't enough to stop him. He continued, "Aren't you Mayor Park's-"

"Yes, I am." I jumped in the car and slammed the door shut. I drove off before he could ask any more questions.


Focus.
What's the problem, the "my heroine is beset by this dilemma and must..."
Opening with weather and ring flinging is best left to Victorian melodrama.
For good visual assistance on "opening scenes" go watch The Wire. See what they do to open the show. It's very rarely static. We need action, not introspection. Unless of course she actually flings herself off the bridge, on fire. Now THAT I'd be interested in.

3rd SR Crapometer #23

Query

Funny, neurotic, absurd--all describe my heroine, Monica Baker, a 33-year-old single professional with more baggage than a Boeing 747.

Fears? Monica has plenty--strangers, elevators, hot tubs. As a result she’s cautious, overly cautious. But life can get so damn boring when you’re always worried about something…anything. Just once, she’d like to say the hell with it and brave a Port-a-Potty, take a hot air balloon ride or talk tomatoes with a guy in produce.

But change is tough, so what’s the hold up? Ex-boyfriend Sammy is a Fruit Loop-eating drummer with a talent for making women hum. Teddy, her father, camps on his Laz-Y-Boy and buys tulip bulbs and steak knives from The Home Shopping Network. Duffy, her mother, can’t be bothered as she gambles, downs gin and amasses a collection of gnomes to rival Tolkien.

In the end, forced by a depressive episode to confront her failures in life, Monica discovers the strength to create a new self--confident and fearless.

Me? I’m a published poet and former reporter for Nation Publications. I hold a B.A. from the University of Iowa.

I would be happy to submit Caution Ahead, my completed 75,000-word manuscript, upon request. A stamped envelope is enclosed for your reply.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


four words: is there a plot?

Page 1

I hate that I’m cautious. It holds me back. I don’t take chances. Wouldn’t you rather err on the side of caution?--my aunt loves to say. Well, I guess, but life can get so damn boring when you’re always worried about something--anything. I’ve got to get over it. That’s my plan, my resolution, my mission.
And in an effort to crawl out of my safe hole, I’ve decided to do things differently. Ideas: take a hot-air balloon ride, talk tomatoes with a stranger in the produce section, use a Port-a-Potty at a sleazy carnival, buy a whiskey sour for a gentleman in a bar.
I walk to the window. In the dimming light, I see cars parked in the lot, but no red GTO. I slip my fingertips under the rubber band around my wrist. Where is he? My fingers squeeze the band.
It’s Saturday, late afternoon, and I’m waiting for Sammy. We have a date, and he’s late again. Not surprising at all. I hear garbled tones over my intercom. Finally. I move to the foyer, buzz him in and open the door. He sings in the best nasally, Sonny Bono voice he can muster--a classic about how he’s got me and I’ve got him.
He rounds the last turn of the staircase and stands before me, all six feet, two inches of him. Wheat colored hair curls around his shoulders. Low slung Levi’s settle on his narrow hips and round sunglasses perch at the end of his nose, rock star chic. He grabs me like a bear and stuffs his paw in my back pocket.
“Ready, babe?” He whispers in my ear. I’m momentarily stunned, a wide-eyed doe in a meadow. I haven’t been pawed in three days.
“You’re late, as usual.” I pull away. A spicy scent surrounds my face, something musty and alcohol tinged. Definitely not pleasant. “What’s that smell?”
“English Leather. You like?” He steps forward, tilts his head and gazes at me with his robin-egg blue eyes. Must admit, he’s mesmerizing at times.
“Sammy, the ‘70s are over.” I close the door behind him.
Like I said, I need a new life.


It's really hard to make neurotic people interesting. And most neurotic people think they are the normal ones: "Grandma, not everyone shops for vegetables in latex gloves!" "They should!"

3rd SR Crapometer #22

Dear Miss Snark:

When plain-as-her-name Mary Jane Smith discovers a magical cloak, she thinks she’s finally found a way to be special. Donning the cloak gives her the title of Chosen One, but her stubbornly dormant powers threaten her new and powerful position. To learn her craft, she journeys to a witchcraft summer camp that is, unfortunately, full of those who seem more powerful, more intelligent and more beautiful than herself. Ultimately, her hard-learned lessons teach her that sometimes it takes more than just magic to be special.

Witchcraft Summer Camp is a 55,000 word middle grade novel I hope you will consider representing. Below is the first page for your perusal.

I’ve not had a work of fiction published, but my journalism degree began my freelance writing career, and I’ve had numerous articles published in newsletters and magazines. (this is a nice concise way to tell me you're a pro)

I look forward to your response, and I thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,




On the last day of seventh grade, Mary Jane Smith climbed a tree. She climbed this particular tree, an old Oak that sat in the middle of a miniature park, often. This was her place; her place to think about the horrible events of the day, her place to spy on the rest of the students as they made their separate ways home from Alfred Burger Middle School. But mostly, it was her place to hide.

Since it was the last day of school before the summer break, there weren’t many students she could spy upon. They had all been in such a hurry to leave the building that no one was lollygagging around. Most days Mary Jane could rely on the cute boy from her class, Mickey Hendrickson, to leave the school later than everyone else because to get out of the building he had to first fend off whatever hoard of girls had stayed behind to flirt with him. He never did fight them off with much energy, though; he just smiled and nodded and side-stepped slowly away from the throng. Then he would walk down the street and under the very limb that Mary Jane was perched on, while whistling a song that always seemed so sad. But today, he must have hurried away with everyone else, because there was no Mickey Hendrickson and his sad whistle.

Mary Jane trailed her finger through the M & M she’d carved into the tree and sighed. She would have to wait until the fall to see him again. Although, he never had and never would notice her, or miss her over the summer.

No one would.

And so it was time to rehash the day and count up the awful moments. But when she concentrated on the events, starting with being “accidentally” shouldered into her locker in the morning and then ending the day by finding her math book in shreds on the floor in front of her locker, she realized that her list wasn’t as long as it normally was. Oh well, it had been the last day and people had been distracted. And there had been a good moment too. When she had offered the torn-up book to Mr. Pinter the math teacher, he hadn’t gotten angry at her but instead got mad at the students in the class who snickered.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I realize it is the last day of the year and though I don’t know who did this, I know you all well enough to know who was just laughing, and I promise you, your parents will hear from me. So, happy summer and class dismissed.” Then he’d turned his back to the class and winked at Mary Jane. Once the classroom full of groaning students had emptied except for her, he’d said: “Time will take care of everything for you. Don’t let them bully you around. You are just as important as they are.” Then he packed up his old leather briefcase and left to see to his own summer plans.

So, even though her best-and-only friend, Alice Jeffrey, had already left for her vacation to Canada, Mary Jane didn’t have much to complain about. And since the school grounds were empty and no one was around, there didn’t seem to be any reason to continue hiding in the tree.



blah blah blah.
This is all backstory.
Get to camp, get the cloak, kiss a toad. Baby, we need some witchy wimmin to get things going here.

3rd SR Crapometer #21

Dear Miss Snark,

Two years ago I was hitting my stride in a brave new world called co-parenting and enjoying every-other weekend without kids or dogs. Then my ex-husband died suddenly. I found myself with grieving children, unconventional extended family, an intimate relationship with probate court, but no time for internet dating.

Over the years I have lost much, but have finally once again found peace of mind.

I respectfully submit the first 650 words of The Maybe Wife, my mom-lit-with-smarts-and-heart memoir that I believe will resonate through the suburbs and carpool lines.

Thank you for your time,



The Maybe Wife
My childhood was compact. We lived in a row house -- a narrow existence. And it was safe; like our one-way street with cars parked on both sides that I crossed by myself when I was six. It was like every other street in my city neighborhood, a middle-class pattern of attached dwellings and lives. I knew nothing of foreign lands called suburbia and rural routes were only traveled while watching The Waltons.

Academically I knew that other places existed, but they were merely vacations spots limited to Northeastern cities within driving distance. I never contemplated lives being anywhere else. The world was where I was. I did not think outside my own city limits.

I always wondered, though; how the building we called the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world. It was eleven stories high and it stood next to our local Sears store. It was my childhood curiosity, but I said nothing in fear of appearing limited. I'm glad I didn't know then that I was.

But this petite world of mine was always filled to capacity with family and friends and familiar opportunities. It lacked nothing, and until college I looked no further than the bus stop for anything I ever wanted. Even then I didn't look too far. I was so single-city-minded that I lived at home and went to school thirty minutes from where I was raised.

In my married motherhood, as in my childhood, sameness had its virtues. I strove to remain true to the blueprints that had mapped out my future. It was a definitive plan of how things would be one day. We would live in a big house, and we'd already chosen the Stickley furniture for the living room. We drove around looking for the perfect two-story attached to the right-styled three-car garage. Our wardrobes would be extensive and up-to-date, although not too trendy. We fashioned ourselves the couple -- the family -- that everyone knew and liked; the ones who had come so far, worked so hard, and earned so much. It took a certain amount of confidence to pursue these dreams for so long. Early on I grasped and embraced the fact that I cheered from the sidelines and kept the home fires burning while the dream was being built on the field, according to plan.

We started drawing up these plans not long after we met as college freshmen on a long ago and far away cold January night. Charlie was a serious pre-med student, studying biology. I was the friend of a friend, studying English. I remember the first time I saw him, sitting on that dorm bed, against the wall. I flirted simply; by leaning very intentionally on the door jam. Surrounded by chattering sorority sisters, I didn't hear a word they said. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. He was clean-shaven, a little preppy, and nonchalant. Very collegiate, blonde and suburban, unlike the rough-cut urban boyfriends of my short but colorful social past who built their own cars and wore Wallabies and flannel shirts. I had big hair, frosted make-up and tight jeans. I'm sure for both of us, the dichotomy fanned the flame.

It wasn't until five months later when we'd meet again on our first, somewhat arranged date. Embarrassed at first by being seen with someone in an argyle sweater and boat shoes, I was, however, intrigued by a car with a sunroof. I found out much later that he was equally ill at ease with my choice of wearing dungarees. It certainly goes to reason then, that through this seemingly social incompatibility our fate was sealed over a salad bar dinner in University City and underage drinking at a college pub. We never dated anyone else.



This is the classic example of query disconnect.
You tell me your husband died, and you've gotten familiar with probate court, and a weird extended family. I'm thinking "bummer, but who knows..this could be compelling".

Then you start out with backstory. Yadda Yadda and more yadda.

You all make me crazy when you do this cause there is so much crapola on my desk on any given day, when I see a query letter that gives me hope..and you follow it up with THIS..I just want to reach through the SASE and clobber you.

Sometimes I'll say this in a rejection letter and ask you to get your damn act together but mostly I say "pass".

3rd SR Crapometer #20

Dear Miss Snark,

You are the best writing/agent/publishing teacher online. Your knowledge and sharp wit has kept me coming back to your informative blog daily. I know this is called sucking up, but everything I’ve said is true.

I’m published in the mystery/thriller genres by a small publisher and have established some name recognition with readers. I feel I’ve paid my dues and am ready to advance my writing career. I understand in order to move to a larger publishing house I will need the help of a business partner who loves my work and believes she can sell it.

So I’m seeking representation for my completed traditional mystery of approximately 80,000 words. In xxxxx xxxxxx, my protagonist’s thrilling first Jet Ski ride leaves her wet and heartbroken when she gets a glimpse of the decomposed body washed ashore the small island along the Susquehanna River. She recognizes the young girl (she's decomposed and recognizable??) from the missing person photo she ran in the local newspaper she publishes. Circumstances surrounding the girl’s tragic death will soon have her deep in the investigation. Uncovering the truth puts her back on a Jet Ski trying to outrun a killer who wants to permanently silence her before she reaches shore and exposes the truth. (shades of The Bulgari Connection by Fay Weldon)

I’ve enclosed the first page of the manuscript, per your crapometer instructions. I’d like the opportunity to send a partial or the full manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Author



Chapter One

My screams ricocheted (screams do not ricochet..they echo) off the banks of the Susquehanna while Betsy shouted for me to hold on. I could barely hear her above the roar of the Jet Ski and the water pounding against its underbelly.

“My fingers are going to break off if I squeeze you any tighter,” I yelled, trying to relax the death grip I had around her tiny waist. (you're saying things twice here)

She opened the throttle and steered into the next incoming wave, throwing us into a spin. I lost my grip and flew off the back, shrieking at the top of my lungs. (death grips aren't what they used to be I guess)

Betsy circled and pulled up alongside my withering body. “You okay?” she asked.

I coughed up a mouthful of nasty tasting river water and tried to focus on her but the sun half blinded me. I continued to paddle my arms and legs in doggie style. “Now I know why you made me put on this bulky life jacket. I’d have drowned without it.” (yes I speak in complete sentences when I'm hacking spewing drowning AND annoyed)

She sat like a queen on that damn machine and put a hand on her hip.(good balancing trick) “Kay, it’s the law. You have to wear one.” Then she snickered. “If you’ll drop your legs down you’ll see you won’t drown.”

“Huh?” I stopped paddling like a maniac and my feet settled on a rocky bottom. My head and shoulders were still above water.

I grinned. “People have been known to drown in a few inches of water, especially when they get the wind knocked out of them.” I slouched my way to the Jet Ski and grasped her held out hand.

At that moment, two speed boats roared by creating a rush of waves, smacking me in the middle before I could get my leg up. I dropped her hand. “I’ll wait until the water calms.”

I began searching the river to make sure no more boats were in sight.

“Hey, get up here,” Betsy commanded.

I managed to board. But before I could get seated properly, she moved forward. I grabbed her waist and we took off toward the miniature island a few hundred feet ahead.

I squinted against the sun’s glare off the water and spotted blue lights flashing atop two boats wedged between other water craft lining the shore. “Uh oh, looks like an accident.”

“We’re going to find out.”


How wet and cold is she?
Is the sun out?
If the water is nasty what does it really taste like?

This is a pass probably cause I look for stuff that really makes me feel I'm there in the middle of the action.

Also, the cover letter didn't give me a much about the plot or a compelling hook to read on.

3rd SR Crapometer #19

Dear Miss Snark:

Below you will find my submission for your pending Crapometer, a very short story: The entire piece is only about 2000 words. It has not been submitted elsewhere. This query and the story fragment total 736 words.

I have no published fiction. I have published approximately 150 articles under my real name, with and without a co-author, most of them appearing in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, although I have had one in the Loyola Consumer Law Review; two in the Illinois Bar Journal; and several in the CBA Record, the magazine of the Chicago Bar Association. The vast majority of these concerned new court opinions. And for each of these pieces I received exactly zero dollars. On the other hand, judges before whom I appeared were often familiar with my articles. It gave me an 'edge' coming in, or I thought it did – which is much the same thing.
(there's no point to this..why waste words?)

Although my protagonist is drinking vodka, I want to assure you that this e-mail was thoroughly soaked in Tanqueray before being launched into the ether.

Thank you for your consideration.

The Curmudgeon



The New Associate

I was complaining about the loss of a new associate. He'd been with our law firm for only three months, but had announced today that he was moving on. More money. Fewer hours. That's what he said; I'm sure that’s what he was told.

I was skeptical that these promises would be kept. But this guy's future was no longer my concern. Still, I mused to my companion, three months was an awfully short time for anyone to stay with a law firm, even in this mobile age.

George laughed bitterly. Of course, he only laughed bitterly. He was a very bitter man.

He twirled his finger in the tumbler in front of him, watching the lemon peel swirl in the vodka and ice. "That’s nothing," he said.

"It was in the mid-90's," George began, looking up now and smiling that nasty smile of his, apparently relishing the recollection. "1994 maybe. Matt and Tony were going to hire someone to work exclusively for me. I wasn't unhappy about it; I could have used the help."

Matt Clifton and Tony Clark were the founding and managing partners of Clifton & Clark, the 17-lawyer firm in which George was a junior partner. Of course George and his three fellow junior partners were only a few years' junior to either Clifton or Clark, and now that George's head was entirely gray he was looking less junior by the day. I often theorized that this minimal age difference may have been one source of the continuing friction between the two partner groups.

George hated Clifton and Clark with a passion came across as truly frightening until you learned to appreciate George's gift for exaggeration. In our few social encounters, for example, I'd always found Matt Clifton pleasant, even charming. He may have been somewhat short and a little pudgy, but he was neither ugly nor deformed. George, though, called Clifton "The Evil Dwarf" – you could hear the capital letters when he spoke somehow – and that was one of the nicest, least profane things he called him.

Trying to see past George's odium, I had long ago concluded that Clifton and Clark, like so many lawyers, must be control freaks. I found it understandable that two people who'd formed a business would want to thoroughly control it, but these were not opinions that could be discussed rationally with George. He insisted that Matt Clifton's real ambition was to be the firm's office manager. He claimed that only Clifton or Clark could open the mail in the morning unless special dispensation was first obtained. George claimed that Clifton personally approved every vendor invoice on every single file in the office – not just his own – every court reporter bill and every record copying invoice, and if it took him 60 or 90 days to get through any one stack, that was the vendors' own tough luck. Like I said, George was quite an exaggerator.

And he was warming up, now: "Moses and Elijah" -- i.e., Clifton & Clark -- "didn't do any billable work for about six weeks while they sifted through the résumés and conducted interviews. They'd huddle together for hours before and after interviews, too, comparing notes, I suppose. Who could tell? Their office doors were always closed." George took a swig from his glass.


If you want me to dive into a story quit telling how blue the water is, how sparkly the tiles are and how hunky the lifeguard is. Push me off the diving board. Get me IN the damn water.

I realize that this is foreign to someone who makes his living with billable hours but in fiction less is more.

3rd SR Crapometer #18

Dear Miss Snark:
Below are the first 715 words of my novel FAINTING IN COILS, the misadventures of a naive Southern girl who graduates from a provincial art school in 1979 and moves to New York in hopes of taking the art world by storm.

A thousand thanks from your most humble & obed't servant,
XOXO


is there a plot?
a word count?
a category other than novel?

***************************
FAINTING IN COILS [OK to post this title]

For the third time, Becky anxiously rearranged the crackers and cheese on the round china platter her mother had brought from home. She wanted everything to be just right for her senior show, the final requirement for a BFA at Carolina College. She had scoured all of sleepy little Tarville the day before, searching for Stoned Wheat Thins, a wedge of Brie and a half-dozen bottles of Folonari Soave. Becky wasn’t so sure that she actually liked the Brie--it had a pungent, not altogether pleasant tang that reminded her vaguely of something; she couldn’t quite think of what. But she had to have the Brie and Wheat Thins because they were served at all the gallery openings in SoHo. She knew, because she and the nine other senior painting students had spent the past spring break there, camping out on the floor of the cavernous loft that Eldon Kingsley, Carolina’s most--in fact, only--famous alumnus, magnanimously made available every year for a hefty fee.

Becky wasn’t sure that she cared for the taste of the Soave either, but then she’d been off wine ever since an unfortunate episode a couple of years before, in which she’d downed an entire bottle of Lake Country Red and awakened with her first hangover and a strange guy, and then had to spend the day hammering copper to finish a jewelry project. (She’d been put off making jewelry ever since then, too.) But the Soave was also served at all the SoHo galleries, so Becky knew it must be good, and carefully poured it into the rows of stemmed plastic glasses she’d lined up next to the platter on her mother’s shaky old card table.

She took another look around the walls at the end of the floodlit gallery where she’d hung and obsessively rearranged her twenty best paintings over the last week. Even though she had stared at each piece for countless hours, Becky still got a frisson of surprise and pleasure when she looked at her assembled work. It was good, even if at her final critique her faculty advisor had noted a few too many allusions to DeKooning in the splashy brushwork--though DeKooning never painted such earthy, sensuous figures.

“At least my paintings aren’t fake Diebenkorns like that jerk Kingsley’s,” she muttered fiercely to herself, recalling how their host had shepherded her group to his show at the Frank Fennell Gallery on Madison Avenue, where his pastel-streaked canvasses sold for $20,000 and up to Texans with more money than taste. Then she sniggered, recalling how a puffy middle-aged Fennell salesman had rapturously declared, “It would be great to have a couch and a fireplace here, to really set off the paintings.” Kingsley had made some noncommittal sound and stalked away, leaving Becky and her best friend Liz bursting in their efforts to keep their faces straight.

“What are you laughin’ about?” Liz appeared at Becky’s side and gave her an affectionate nudge. Before Becky could reply, Liz spotted the platter. “Ooh!” she squealed. “I just love Brie!” She flipped aside her long honey-colored hair and popped one of the cheese-topped crackers into her mouth. (Becky worried that the Brie was getting too runny under the hot gallery lights.) “Mmm,” Liz moaned throatily and smacked her lips. “Tastes like cum, don’t you think? And don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about because I know you do.” She washed it down with a gurgle of wine.

“Well, um, now that you mention it, there is a certain similarity,” Becky admitted, noting rather glumly to herself that it had been a long time since she’d been qualified to make the comparison. The past year, while very productive artistically, had been a total dud for romance--or even just plain old sex, which, if a suitable partner had presented himself, she would have settled for now and then. She must have looked a bit forlorn, because Liz patted her arm and crooned, “Don’t you worry, honey, when you get to New York City you’ll have all the cum you want.” “Gee, thanks, Liz, you sure know how to cheer a girl up,” Becky replied with a grimace. She glanced at her watch. “Hey, it’s a minute to three. The doors are about to open.”

and she steps to the mound, spits on the ball, winds up...and winds up...and winds up.

You're spending a lot of time telling us she isn't a virgin, doesn't know much about cheese and is fresh off the (not dairy) farm.

Can we get a fast ball, spit ball, or knuckleball over the plate in the first 250 words please??

Since we don't have a clue about plot from the (abbreviated I'm sure) query letter, I'd pass.

3rd SR Crapometer #17

Dear Miss Snark,

My science fiction novel, Emissary (100,000 words), is complete. It is set in the far future when mankind is exploring outer space. (uh...like 1968?)

Of the many alien races discovered by human explorers, the humanoids of Epsilon Orionis are unique. They can absorb and manipulate pure energy with their metallic bodies. Earth initiates a secret operation to obtain the technology. Eager to succeed, Ambassador Spanner Templeton, Captain Randall, Lieutenant Buck Owen and First Mate Milo Orrington secretly guide the crew of the Dreadnought Apollo and a cohort of marines through their conversion to metallic humans regardless of the consequences.

Each character, human or alien, is vividly drawn (don't tell me this--it makes me think you tell not show) as they struggle to adjust to new circumstances and unexpected changes both physical and mental. Humans and aliens alike have hidden agendas as they struggle to unite their bodies, minds and futures.(wtf?) Only a select few know the consequences of failure. A xenophobic cabal of humans has opened a gateway to another dimension. In a misguided effort to preserve the purity of the human race, the xenophobes will allow the inter-dimensional aliens enslave and isolate the human race, maintaining its purity. Only the metalized humans can prevent alien domination and enslavement. The personal and political struggles of the characters all lead to a final confrontation with the xenophobes and invaders.

I am a retired chemical engineer and unpublished author. I have another novel and a dozen short stories in the works. (do NOT NOT NOT tell me any of this)

Thank you for your consideration.



Emissary

“…A world of energy populated by metallic humanoids. I’d give my right arm to be down there. But I’m not a politician. I’m a captain first, a sailor second and a politician never,” Captain Randall said. Even through the leaded glass, they could feel the energy radiating from the central white dwarf. (as you know Bob)

“This is so magnificent…” Spanner said unable to move his eyes away from the swirling energy fields.

“Besides, I fart and belch. Diplomats don’t do either. I think it’s a good place for a tan,” Captain Randall laughed heartily and smacked Spanner’s back.

“You’re a prince, Captain,” Spanner joked. Disgusted by the Captain’s humor, Fred Smith sneered. Randall noticed. (Miss Snark is beginning to think this is a put on)

“Aw Freddy, I know that you think that I’m prince of the pig people in your xenophobic little heart. That’s what you told my crewmen, didn’t you? That’s what I heard, Prince of the pig people, a nice name from a diplomat... Anyone who thinks that I don’t what is whispered on my ship is sadly mistaken. I bugged the entire ship. Once a year I playback the crew’s most private privates—everything from their farts and grunts to their love affairs and intimate sighs. We all laugh. It keeps the crew humble and subservient,” Captain Isaac Jefferson Randall was on a riff. He stoked Smith’s smoldering paranoia.

“They say you’re a stud mosquito but I dismiss that as unrequited love,” Captain Randall said. Fred Smith’s eyes narrowed with hatred. Spanner silently smiled as he imagined the scene when the weasel-like Fred confronted five-star generals with Randall’s fabrications or reported his behavior to the Earth-Firsters.

“Of course, Spanner here is going to make nicey-nicey with an alien species and I guess you’re here to make sure that doesn’t include cohabitation. Do oyu know what sailors call a kissy-bear, huggy-face assignment? Does cohabitation with aliens fill you with dread, Fred?”

“You impure idiot,” Fred Smith turned his back. Captain Randall ignored the snub.

“You don’t know loyalty or fear, young man. You only know betrayal. Why, when I was young and foolish like you, we just had rockets, shuttles and our own wits to survive. You have your prejudices and you hope those will sustain you… Have I ever told you about the time when I befriended the radical Fugitive Emissions from Betelgeuse 5, the red giant. It had a gas planet orbiting it that was ten times the size of Jupiter…” Randall paused. A klaxon sounded.

“Attention, diplomatic shuttle craft from Epsilon Orionis arriving NOW,” the communications officer snarked. Spanner made a note to reward him for interrupting. They joined the crew of the Dreadnought Apollo and Marine Platoon A.

The shuttle floated gently onto the deck. Most spacecraft were ugly. The Epsilon Orionis shuttle glistened like a diamond. Brilliant white light burst through the entryway. Three metalloids stood silhouetted, their bodies’ angular, sharp, all steely muscle and tendon, their skin reflecting the myriad lights of the space-dock.

“The men of Epsilon Orionis send you greetings. I, Algrica Ponti of Orionis, present my credentials.”


Miss Snark is retiring to the gin mill.
Not even a flask is enough.

If this is not a joke, please google "turkey city lexicon" and read carefully.

If this is a joke, Miss Snark is not amused.
Nor are the 359 people who didn't get a crack at the crapometer cause you sent this.

3rd SR Crapometer #16

Dear Miss Snark:

I have written an 80,000 word commercial fiction novel based on my experience in the Hollywood rock music scene in the early ‘90s, entitled “Bottumz Up”.

Aspiring rock star Dee Jones leaves his home at 19 and moves to Hollywood, against the wishes of his parents. Once there he realizes he is but one of hundreds attempting the same impossible feat. Amidst conflict with his best friend, Dee joins a promising rock band, who soon performs at famous clubs like The Whisky and The Roxy. However, with success just around the corner, the band is rocked with internal strife.

While I have found nothing quite like “Bottumz Up”, it is similar to Anne Thomas Soffee’s “Nerd Girl Rocks Paradise City” and the movie “Rock Star”.

I have spent six years working on the manuscript, (leave this out) and I would be happy to send it to you. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Just cause things happen to you or your hero, doesn't mean you have a plot.
You don't as far as I can tell.
Are you writing this to make sense of your experience?
Valuable tool, writing...but what I need is something I can sell.

Prologue – March, 1988

The music blared through the PA speakers, assualting his ears like a sonic wave. On the shadowy stage, twenty feet in front of where he stood, five musicians jammed a raucous tune. Dee knew the leather-clad, long-haired musicians from magazines and the tapes he owned. He timidly joined the impenetrable crowd of seasoned concert-goers, men and women alike, as they cheered on their heroes. The thick audience prevented him from getting any closer, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. Instead, he contented himself by standing along the periphery. At least his vantage point gave him a moderate view of the backstage proceedings.

Half a dozen groupies, in short skirts and fishnet stockings, stood off to the side of the stage. Periodically a musician wandered their way and flashed a knowing grin. The lucky young lady puckered her lips expectantly as her competition looked on enviously.

Ponytailed men, in shorts or jeans, flittered about during the performance, dispensing cups of water or otherwise catering to the musicians’ needs. Roadies, Dee assumed.

Dee’s companion nudged him and said something, but Dee couldn’t make it out over the music. He leaned his ear towards him. “Awesome show, dude.” He said. Dee nodded and cheered loudly, pumping his fist into the air. A loud roar erupted as a black lace bra flew on stage. The singer stooped to pick it up and casually wrapped it around his neck.

The concert didn’t end until after midnight. The crowd gradually left the smoky, stuffy club to the crisp spring air outside. Dee and his companion followed the others out, keeping an eye out for his Dad’s pickup. Three girls caught his eye, two he recognized from their high school. The other was a bit older, probably one of their sisters. Dee nudged his companion as his stomach tightened. “Let’s go say hi,” Dee’s friend said. Before Dee could refuse, he was dragged along by the other young man.

The older girl saw them approach, and quickly turned around, towards her parked car. The younger girls waved hello but were right on her tail. Dee and his friend were left standing alone on the sidewalk as they drove off. “So much for that,” Dee’s friend mumbled in disappointment.

Minutes later his Dad showed up, and they climbed into the pickup. “Thanks for getting us,” Dee said as politely as he could. It was weird talking while his ears were ringing so loudly from the concert. He hoped he wasn’t shouting.

His Dad, weary from a long day of work, simply grunted in response. Dee glanced at the ring on his Dad’s finger, his 1974 Oregon State University class ring. The only ring he wore on either hand.

Dee peered out the window at the city lights behind him, dreaming of the day he would be on stage. No matter what, he vowed silently, I have to do that.

“Damn rock music,” he heard his dad mutter as he swerved to avoid a speeding driver next to him. “No son of mine is going to waste his life away doing that. The comment stung Dee like a razor. He knew his parents weren’t fond of his passion for music, but never heard such a blunt
admission.

“What if I could make a good living doing it?” Dee said meekly, keeping his stare out the window.

His father chuckled in disdain. “More than likely you’ll end up pumping gas.” Dee’s cheeks burned, and he felt two feet tall.


There's no energy and excitement here.
No sense of the crowd, no taste, or smell. I'm going to require you pay for adjectives piecemeal instead of by the pound so we can have some restraint here.

This is pass at page one.

3rd SR Crapometer #15

Dear Miss Snark:

I would like to submit my novel, Wingman for Hire, to the Third Semi Regular Crapometer Contest. It is an adult fiction manuscript (this is like saying Miss Snark is bipedal. It's accurate but it doesn't tell me much I really need to know...like her affinity for poodles and gin...be more specific. Is it romance? science fiction? literary fiction? true crime?) , approximately 75,000 words in length.

I have enclosed the first page as per the Third Semi Regular Crapometer submission guidelines. Perhaps you will let me know if you would like to see the entire manuscript. I can be contacted by this email address.

Thank you, Miss Snark, for your time.

Sincerely

------------------------------------------------


Kacey Black glanced up from the familiar movement of the front door swinging wide open. (She's swinging on a door, hot diggety dog). Grinning, she watched as Jillian Kelley bounded past and into the dimly lit bar. She was breathing heavily as if she’d sprinted across the city. (similies are so we can see things in a fresh way or gain insight into something. This just says the same thing twice) Her eyes swept the half-deserted bar, no doubt, scanning for the familiar sight of her shabby (shabbily)-dressed brunette friend. Being in love with fashion and all it entailed, frustrated Jillian that her friend, Kacey was the complete opposite. More over, it infuriated her that someone so cute wouldn’t want to play up her looks with some color other than black.

I'd stop reading here.

Kacey scribbled something unimportant onto the half-filled page of the composition book before she returned her attention back to the latest visitor, not attempting to signal her friend(ya just in case we forgot they were friends cause mentioned it 35 words back..) that she was there.

Jillian made her way along the bar but stumbled upon her three-inch heels, reaching down to dislodge something stuck to the bottom of the spike. This abrupt movement caused her hair to fall forward, entangling some of the blonde strands within the jewel-encrusted bobble earrings. She spent several more minutes untangling them and checking her appearance before she returned to her present task of finding Kacey. Poor Jillian, Kacey thought, for as well dressed as she looked, it seemed to be too much work just to keep looking like a fashion ad.

“Hey there sugar, looking for me?” a gruff voice startled Jillian from behind.

“Oh--uh...I’m looking for my friend,” she bumped into the next chair, which lucky for her was empty.

Fumbling with her purse, Jillian nervously backed away and glanced about once more, making a half turn to leave when she at last spotted her friend, hunched over the table of a corner booth. She darted past a poorly lit pool table, bumping into one of the long-bearded players. Stumbling through an awkward apology, she finally made it past to stand next to Kacey’s private booth.

“What are you doing?” she breathed.

Kacey glanced up with a grin. “Nice to see you too, Jillian.”

Kacey surveyed her friend with concern. Jillian had a look about her face as if she didn’t know whether to laugh or to yell. She looked mad-crazy, somewhat like when someone is on the verge of crossing the line of sanity.

Jillian had no idea Kacey thought such things of her character. Jillian didn’t care so long as the compliments toward her new outfits, car and makeup remained a steady flow. Nothing else mattered.

“Well, are you going to tell me what you are doing?” she asked a second time.

“Hibernating,” Kacey exhaled a steady stream of bluish-grey smoke.

“What?” she gasped.

“It’s not spring yet, too cold to go down to the ocean front,” she sipped on the cherry colored drink.

“Well duh, the bands won’t show up for another three months,” Jillian flipped her hair back over her shoulder.

“And with them--tourists,” Kacey frowned.

“Why...are...you...here?” Jillian disregarded her comment.

“I told you, I’m hibernating.”

“Did you forget about tonight...you forgot about tonight, didn’t you?”

“No, every Wednesday night I come here to hibernate. No, Jillian, how is that possible I could forget about tonight?”

“But you’re here, not there,” Jillian pointed in a hypothetical direction.

“Where?”

“Sunnys,” Jillian waved her hands.

Kacey took a moment to absorb their conversation. She knew that Jillian wanted her to leave Big Wednesday’s but why on the one night a week that Kacey had all to herself.

“Well...why here?” Jillian pressed.

Nothing new or fresh or enticing means it's a pass.

3rd SR Crapometer #14

Dear Ms. Snark:


A boy's first brush with love, death, and wearing women's underwear—just your average coming-of-age story.

One Friday night, 15-year-old Malcolm O'Healy's life takes a sharp turn for the weird and wonderful against the backdrop of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. An outsider among the outsiders at his high school, Malcolm stumbles into the theater expecting to watch the show,
not become part of it. But that night, caught somewhere between Sharon, his emotionally shattered mother, Lucy, the sexual predator of the freshman class, and Trixie, floorshow mistress and the love of his Latin class, Malcolm will discover just what kind of man he really is. [TITLE] is his story.

Rocky Horror has been the misfit's midnight movie of choice for almost 30 years. It's cultural shorthand for the thousands of people who've been part of the "floorshow" experience and the hundreds of thousands more who return each week to have an uninhibited good time. In my
research, I haven't found a single work of fiction based on this perennial youth subculture. [TITLE] is a 55,000 word novel for all of those people, as well as anyone who has struggled to belong.

I chose to query you [agent choice reasons here].

Growing up in Ohio, I was a Rocky Horror regular and played Magenta in in our floorshow cast for four years. My short stories have been published [my credentials]. I would love to send you the complete manuscript of [TITLE].

Thank You,

Me




Friday, September 20, 1991
11:38 p.m.

"If there are any beautiful people here, they're stupid."

Trixie worked a smudge of lip liner off her front tooth with her tongue.

"Gone?" she asked, baring her teeth.

Malcolm nodded, and his over-heated brain regretted it. The girl bathed in the streetlamp's puddle of yellow-white, the casual conversation—it was all just too surreal. For an instant, he saw two girls staring up at him with four swimming-pool-blue eyes. He leaned against the concrete stairwell that led to a decrepit parking garage, desperately nonchalant, while Trixie got her floorshow face on.

Trixie pulled a compact from her tackle box of Halloween close-outs and lipsticks meant for black girls. Her tiny hands moved in rote memory of the same lines drawn week after week. Just like the movie. Always almost the same, but not quite, differences so subtle it took
repeated exposure before you could spy them. Rocky Horror offered an illusion of security for the floorshow cast and the audience—same images, same words—and they came back over and over again. Malcolm, with less than ten visits on his punch card, was still a newbie.

Everybody came for their own reasons. Some people wanted a place to cuss and be rowdy. Others liked to dress up and get stared at.

Malcolm's reason was on the steps in front of him, smoothing the last of the white face around her hairline, blending it under her jaw. Tracy Wilcox, who had refused to answer to any name other than Trixie since seventh grade. She was a Junior, a year ahead of him at St. Brendan's Catholic High School, even though they were the same age.

Trixie was beautiful. And she was anything but stupid.

She wore big hoop earrings and black lace bras under her white blouses, just daring the vice-principal, Brother Abe, to say something. She looked tough and seemed to dare the social powers that be to jack with her. More than once, Malcolm had turned a corner to see Trixie, feet planted wide, tearing some idiot jock a new one with nothing more than a loud voice and superior vocabulary. Those confrontations, like the time Rick Dorsey had to ask his girlfriend
what an encephalitic hermaphrodite was, were some of Malcolm's favorite memories from freshman year.

He had stalked her, following her after Latin class, making mental notes when and where he passed her in the hall. He made excuses to walk by her locker, and imagined putting a note through the vent, saying what, he had no idea. But he'd never worked up the sack to talk
to her. Not until that night two and a half months ago. Something about being at Rocky made him bolder. Or crazier.

Trixie adjusted the zip-up sweatshirt that kept the makeup and powder off her costume. It was black, like everything else she seemed to own. Somewhere, he filed that precious detail in a drawer in his mind marked "Trixie," which was sloppily pasted over the original label,
"Love."



The reason fan fiction, love poems and Christian rock suck big time is that it's not enough to be about the beloved. You have to have something other than "it's about Rocky Horror Picture Show, and there's never been anything about it before !!!) to maintain a novel.

You're going to get tired of me saying this but is there a plot? 'Coming of age' is not a plot.

Rocky Horror may not have been done before but that doesn't make it fresh and new.

Pass on this one.

3rd SR Crapometer #13

Dear Miss Snark,

I am seeking representation for my comedic urban fantasy, [redacted], complete at 81,000 words.

One fine morning long ago the god of Judgment found himself in the throes of an existential crisis, kicked off by an epiphany concerning cultural relativity and the banality of evil. This wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that his boss, the creator, had been on sabbatical since the beginning of time and forgot to leave a list of actionable items behind (and in an existential crisis, you really need actionable items to see you through). In a fit of pique, Judgment quit. He took his brother, Justice, with him, and they both called in sick to work for the next five thousand years.

Justice, unable to fulfill his purpose, never gave up hope that eventually they would hear from the creator - or at least get a memo - and be able to return to their previous positions. When he runs into a young woman by the name of Leda Swanson, who finds him startlingly familiar - though she is unable to say why or how - he is convinced that she is the sign he has been waiting for.

For her part Leda is in the middle of sliding down a slippery slope of homelessness, joblessness, and alcohol abuse in an attempt to drown out the memories of her painful childhood. After a little persuasion (but not much) she agrees to help the down-and-out deities (help them do what?) in exchange for the promise of a personal audience with the creator when they find him. With much ado the three enlist the aide of the supernatural family tree as well as that of a slew of characters from the pages of religious myth and step into the next world in the ultimate quest to confront the management.

The manuscript is available upon request. I have enclosed an SASE for your reply. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,
(redacted)



Ok, I get it's funny, humorous and all that stuff.
Is there a plot?


The man who wore his grin like a garment stood before the man who wore his tattoos like a skin and announced:

"I have received... a Sign."

The tattooed man did not even dignify the dramatic pause. "Is that so?" he asked in the same tone of voice he'd been using for the past three centuries to shut down any and all discussion pertaining to Signs, Portents, Omens, Auspices, Premonitions, and I Just Have This Feelings. "Did it say, 'Darrius is blocking the TV'?"

Though Darrius was the sort of person whose optimism remained undiminished even in the face of overwhelming experience, he nevertheless felt a tickle of annoyance on his tongue. "The hell?" he said. "I'm trying to impart an important revelation to you and all you can think about are your stupid soap operas!"

The clove cigarette clinging to the tattooed man's lips wheezed a melancholy wisp of smoke. "My soaps are important," he said. "Move."

"No. I have received a wondrous Sign that I cannot ignore."

"Fantastic. Less door, more window."

Darrius took a calming breath, and then stepped back slightly to readjust his grip on the situation, a thread of discontent weaving its way through what was probably his soul.

The tattooed man had clearly been sitting in the same spot for several days; dust was already collecting in the folds of his clothes, the frighteningly organic flotsam of the living room threatened to engulf him, and he was still wearing his weekend get-up of shiny buckles and slick leather that always put Darrius in mind of a male prostitute.

Currently he reclined against the broken couch that had been arranged in front of the antiquated television out of a vague regard for convention. It was not a nice couch, and the tattooed man was losing nothing by not choosing to sit on it: the fabric was ripped, springs protruded from its torn green velvet skin at odd angles, and the cushion with the bloodstain - this particular couch had been purchased at a remarkable discount - hadn't even been turned over. A family of enterprising beer bottles appeared to have made a nest in it, and frankly the only thing saving the tattooed man from a swift mercy killing was the puppy in his lap, gnawing joyously on his inked fingers.

All in all, Darrius concluded, a depressing tableau that merely served as a microcosm of the current state of his existence. He took a personal moment to entertain fond thoughts of arson.


ok, now that we've all finished admiring your deftness with words...
you're getting bogged down in description again. Description just for the sake of showing us your facility with it doesn't work....particularly if you haven't clued me in on plot.

This one is a pass but I'd probably say something nice about the writing cause I don't think you suck. Get over yourself long enough to move us down the road --although I might try to phrase that a bit less ..um ...honestly.

3rd SR Crapometer #12

Dear Miss Snark,

I’m seeking an agent for my novel SLEEPING INDOORS, adult literary fiction complete at 105,000 words. In many ways it’s a love story, exploring the complicated bonds of a friendship and a marriage. It’s also the story of three people struggling to stay employed and pay their mortgages. (yawn)

When schoolteacher Ellen Barnett moves back to New Haven, Connecticut, to keep an eye on her elderly father, she reconnects with her childhood best friend Leah Cluny, now a single mom with a rebellious eleven-year-old son, Sam. She also meets and marries Gilbert Stevenson, a self-employed computer engineer struggling to patent a new voice recognition software.

"You have a career," Leah tells Ellen. "I just work so I can sleep indoors." But Ellen, burned out, wants to quit teaching, so Leah finds her a job at the family-run Cluny Bookbindery. Soon Ellen is supporting both herself and Gilbert--to help keep his business afloat, he stops drawing a salary. He spends long hours at the lab; she feels abandoned and retaliates with equal time at the bindery, where she and Leah joke about crazy teens and absentee spouses. This fragile equilibrium shatters when Leah’s sister launches a child custody suit to get Sam.

The dispute closes the bindery, and Ellen follows Leah to a night job as a computer clerk at a nearby data center. Surrounded by machine noise and disgruntled "lifers" competing for a slot on days, the two friends unravel. Ellen wins a programming traineeship, and Leah takes a company transfer out of state. She and Sam leave without ever saying good bye. Ellen--alone, lonely, and struggling with a job that just might be over her head--must reexamine her definition of shelter. Like Leah, she’s working to sleep indoors, but when she gets home, she finds no comfort there.

I feel compelled and qualified to write about the many ways our jobs impact our psyches. In my own quest to sleep indoors, I’ve worked as a teacher, a bookbinder, a computer clerk and a programmer. Currently, I design speech recognition software. I’ve studied writing at W University, at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown with Alice Mattison, and at Southern Connecticut State University with Tim Parrish.

SLEEPING INDOORS is about frazzled, middle-class people with real problems--failing parents, a teenager who acts out, a marriage on the brink of collapse--who grapple with the high cost of making a living in the twenty-first century. May I send you the manuscript?

Sincerely,

A. Devoted Snarkling

dog no.
I'd stop reading right here.
Is there ANYTHING remotely enticing here?
fun? zip? sex? passion? poodles?

Are you sure you didn't study with Theodore Dreiser?
------

In the three years since her mother Rose died, Ellen Barnett’s father Willis has done no housework. Ellen’s not sure how she missed this. Perhaps because their main contact has been when he drove up to her place for the holidays. With her in Boston and him down here in New Haven, it’s not like she could just drop in and look around.

Now Ellen stands barefoot at his kitchen sink and stares out the dingy window. The shadow of his run-down Victorian house streams across the backyard, pointing to the well-groomed playing fields of East Rock Park and the basalt backdrop of East Rock itself, cliff face ruddy in the early sun, foliage gleaming among its skirts.

She clangs an encrusted pot against an encrusted lid and wonders: how can out there be so pristine and in here so vile? Beside her on the counters, flies patrol a high-rise slum of dirty dishes. A thick blanket of grease and dust--what her mother used to call "gurry"--coats the appliances. On the floor next to the island where the family used to eat breakfast, a puddle shaped like the state of Vermont has coagulated. Is it coffee? Too thick. Soup? Not chunky enough. Chocolate ice cream? Maybe. If she’s lucky.

Why bother with a bucket? Ellen geysers water directly onto the linoleum with the hand spray. She rips off a string of paper towels, drops it, squishes with her toes, then shudders--bad idea! Hopping back, she thinks longingly of her former condo with its shining floors and immaculate cupboards.

Stop it, she commands herself. You made a decision. Get used to it.

Somewhere, the phone rings.

Ellen races into the living room and paws through the rising tide of books, letters, photo albums, magazines, greeting cards, bundled newspapers, used Kleenex and empty pizza boxes. She finds the cordless in a basket of dead staplers stashed behind the sofa.

"Hullo?" she asks, out-of-breath.


ack ack ack
I need to pause for a moment and take a shower.
ok, back now.

You can open with this if you want..but why?

Either Ellen is furious with herself for letting her father live in filth, or she's furious with her father for being filthy, or she's going to burn the house down. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you MUST hook a reader very early. You've got 30 seconds or so to get me interested and long descriptions of filth, sans emotional framework, don't work for me. If there isn't a match (fire or shouting) in the next two sentences, I'm outta here. And I'm taking my SOS pads with me.