1.06.2007

HH Com Rd 2 -#9 (151)

Hook here


"Darling, it was such an inspiring story. A woman organized a gang of juvenile delinquents into a baseball team. No one thought she could do it, especially since both of her legs were amputated, but she was determined."

Ivy wedged the phone under her chin and made another sale, all the while muttering "uh huh" noises to her mother. Customers roamed the bookstore aisles like cats on catnip: aimless wandering interrupted by sudden strikes. Ivy watched a woman pile a box of Georgia O'Keefe notecards and a One-A-Day meditation calendar onto the already teetering stack in her arms.
She tipped everything onto the counter, laid a memo pad on top, traced a pen down the list, and made two checkmarks. She looked at Ivy. Ivy covered the receiver with her hand and mouthed "my mother" at the woman. Another customer crowded behind her.

“And on top of it all, she included colored children on her team. It was a wonderful movie. You
can always count on Hallmark, can’t you dear?”

Yeah, that Hallmark, Ivy thought, they love cripples. It’s either a saintly super hero or a
convenient victim who waits to be rescued by the real character. And neither type ever gets laid.

"Mother."

"Yes, dear?"

"There's a customer waiting. I've got to go."

“What time will you be here on Christmas Eve? I’ve already put fresh sheets on the bed for you. So, about six?”

“Uh huh. No, wait Mother, no. We talked about this. I work that day. It’s better for me to rest
and, I promise, I'll drive out very first thing in the morning.”

"Ivy, I don't understand the difference. It's the same trip no matter what time you make it."

"Remember Mother, those articles I sent you about post-polio, how they said it was important to pace things and not get overtired – ”

"Ivy, don't keep that customer waiting."

At the sound of the dial tone, Ivy let the phone fall out of her neck. She had her standard stock of apologies ready, but the two women looked at her kindly. One of them said, "Tidings of good joy?" in an ironic voice. Everyone smiled, and Ivy slipped into retail gear as she rang up sales and made book suggestions at the same time. The phone, for once, stayed silent.

“Here you go. Need a bag?”

“I want something for my father.”

“And he’s, what?”

“Oh, loves that Reagan's president, hates I’m a lesbian but deals, World War II vet.”

“Here, take this.” Ivy handed her Genet: A Biography Of Janet Flanner and turned the book over to the picture of a monocle-wearing lesbian. “ She was a war correspondent in the European Theatre. The troops adored her.”

Next, a young woman, a student at one of the universities perhaps, slapped both Coming Out To Parents and Now That You Know down between them. She and Ivy grinned.

“Going home for the holidays?”

“Yeah, this time I’m doing it.”

Ivy gave a “right on” hand gesture and wondered, once again, how many of these books (and they sold a lot of them this time of year) ever made it out of the bottom of the suitcase. As she watched the customers leave, Ivy also wondered when she had started thinking of college students as young. More and more, being thirty-six resembled middle-aged.

People needed tending in the other room, but Ivy closed her eyes and let her head fall forward into a long stretch. She was feeling the pull between her shoulder blades when Kate’s voice snapped. “Ivy, hang up the phone." Without raising her head, Ivy turned it toward the
office. Kate had cracked the door and, from her sideways view, Ivy saw a four inch strip of cheek, shoulder, knee, and chair leg. Sometimes it was hard to remember they’d ever been lovers. Ivy looked for the receiver and found it buried in the bag of bags at
her side.

“Sorry, just a second.” Ivy slid a section of the cord out from under one of her push handles. She lifted an armrest to untangle another length and pulled until it uncoiled from around the brake lever. Twisting the wheelchair to the side, she rolled the casters over the cord, releasing it, and gathered the loops into her arms. Holding them high, away from the wheel spokes, Ivy dumped the tangle onto a shelf and put the receiver on the base. "It’s all yours."
A door couldn’t slam with only a four inch start, but it tried.


The main problem here is that it's set in the 80s. So much has changed since then that it's hard for a novel set in that time period to feel fresh...but it's not far enough back to feel nostaligic about yet.

I really really like the mother character though...what a piece of work. And I like the last line a lot.

This is probably going to be one of the best examples of "not right for me" that really means "nothing's wrong, it's just not right enough". I'd probably give this careful read on the five pages with the query but probably not a partial. THAT is why you query a lot of agents-what I don't connect with may be just exactly what someone else is looking for, and wildly enthusiastic about.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

No comment on the long-ass sentences"? What about the needless dialogue?

I might suggest a pacing problem.

me-oh-my said...

I would read this in a heartbeat.

Then again, I'm a bookstore nerd.

(I'd still read it.)

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I LOVED this and I feel quite cheated because I really wanted to read on.

Zany Mom said...

I'd read this, if only to satisfy my curiosity that the narcissistic mother gets offed somewhere along the line.

Anonymous said...

I loved the hook and I love the pages. Actually, the only part I didn't like was the mother --- she seemed a little cliched. But that's an easy fix. I want to read this some day. Query widely!
I am learning so much from reading these pages and all the comments. Authors who get snarked: good for you for making it this far!

Anonymous said...

Is there any reason that she has that obscure book right at hand?

McKoala said...

I'm the complete opposite of the anti-mother anonymous - I loved the conversation with the mother while Ivy watches the life of the bookstore going on around her. Ah, Hallmark. You lost my interest a bit with the conversations with the customers - they didn't seem to have much purpose other than to put a point across and they were a bit rambling. I'd read on, though, in the hope of meeting Mom in person, plus thinking that you would have some other great characters in there too.

Rei said...

As for 80s nostalgia, I sure got it when I first watched Donnie Darko... I wouldn't describe the 80s as "too recent". Perhaps I'm just too young.

Anonymous said...

I think you write well. Very well. The ONLY thing I see that could be improved in this is: there is no discernible conflict or problem. I did not read your hook, but if I were perusing this in a bookstore I would not read it there, either. I would kick a royalty your way or not based on what the first page said. And what it says is, the lady has a job selling books to lesbians in a store. Woo woo.

If you took the talent and skill you obviously have and turned it on to a grabber, you would create a best seller, IMO. You have the potential. Miss Snark wouldn't represent you, but then that would just be another multi-trillion dollar blockbuster lost to William Morris. It happens every day. She doesn't mind.

Come to think of it, maybe Miss Snark should contact you privately and ask to see the revision when it is ready.

One PS: I do not agree that you need 250 words to write a grabber. I don't remember the exact words, but the premise for COMA went something like this:

Imagine you're in a state of drugged twilight consciousness.

Imagine someone is coming to harvest your organs.

Imagine you're not imagining.

Anonymous said...

Suggestion for opening line:

Hallmark loves cripples.

Go on from there..

Anonymous said...

This may never be a bestseller, but I think it has a definite audience. I don't really know, but I'm guessing that the 1980s were very different from now in terms of lesbian attitudes and visibility, so nostalgia could be in order.

Alison Bechdel has shown that snarky lesbian self-discovery can have mainstream appeal. If I were you, I would query her agent (unless that person only represents graphic novels...).

Anonymous said...

I hated the opening. If you had the opening dialog a little more shocking, such as "But you don't understand, darling-- the woman was an amputee! A softball coach with no legs? Now that's inspiring!" that's a bit more efficient in grabbing my attention, and it matches better with "And on top of it all, she included colored children..." Mom isn't exactly free of prejudice.

I have to say, I was waiting for Ivy to roll her eyes at her mother.

Twill said...

Anon 4 - it's a *gay* bookstore in the 1980s. (Maybe not exclusively, but that's the flash.) That was not an obscure book, it was a tactical book. She probably sells fifty of them a month.


Only quibble I have is "More and more, being thirty-six resembled middle-aged.
"

I had to read it five times to figure out what she was trying to say, since the line before was something about people looking younger. Probably just me.

Anonymous said...

The writing grabbed my attention but I was shocked you mentioned Post-Polio. My mother has it and she couldn't find a doctor to diagnose it correctly in the 90s much less the 80s.

wonderer said...

I loved this. Great sense of character and voice - it pulled me right along. I did start wondering what the scene was actually going to be about, but I would still read on.

Good luck with it!

zkgxfpw - wtf?

Anonymous said...

I'm going to respectfully disagree that the Eighties is not far back enough to feel nostalgic about.

Have you seen all the tribute shows on TV about the Eighties? Even the Nineties are getting their own retrospective on VH1.

Every day, if you still listen to the radio, you can hear all the old groups on mainstream stations, and not just for special hours either.

My novel is set in the Eighties, and I hope the agents I query don't feel this way. A lot of teen novels set in the present have Eighties references which don't ring true considernig their characters were in diapers at the time. But their creators sure weren't. One book I just read about a 16 year old had her quoting Mili Vanilli and Def Leopard. Not!

Oh, and I like this sample very much.

Ellen said...

I enjoyed this, and I'd probably read on. The one thing that caught my attention, though, was 'post-polio syndrome'. I guess she's just old enough to have had polio in the last big epidemic, but post-polio syndrome is somthing that seems to come on when you're 50+, and it's (very slowly) fatal. Had they even identified it back in the 80s? I thought it was identified fairly recently.

Then again, it could just be me.