Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to one and all!

You enrich and enlighten me with your comments and contributions. You amaze and delight me with your wit and knowledge. It's my great pleasure to be in your company.

I hope 2006 is a fabulous year for you!

Are You For Real?

Very early in the life of this blog, there were several people who doubted Miss Snark was "real". I had some good laughs about that. However, it has now come to my attention there is another doubter in our midst: Blogspot!

Starting yesterday I got error messages on my posts telling me to contact blogger support.
Dutifully I did, but of course, it's Friday, no one's home, and besides, the posts were going through, no problemo. I hunted around a bit to see if the terms of service said anything about too much bandwidth, given the VAST amount of space I was taking up with this synopses workout.

In my hunt, I came across the archive setting and changed it to weekly, figuring that way the "current" blog would be cut in half at least.

When I did that, word verification appeared on my POSTS! Not comments, the actual posts.

My theory is that blogger automatically turns that on if you post too much. Given I've done between 15-20 posts a day for a week, you'd think it would have kicked in sooner!

The error messages went away, the posts go through, alls well that ends well, but oh boy, was I laughing at the idea that even Blogger thinks Miss Snark might not be "real".

#80 Crapometer


Prudence Peters has spent thirty years in the travel business and the last twenty-three as a leisure travel agent and manager for a national agency. She is a single woman, just turned fifty, extremely well traveled, long-divorced homeowner, who is used to taking care of herself as long as she stays employed.

The industry has been in slow decline because of the Internet for years and now seems on the brink of a major crash. Her week from hell begins on a Monday morning conference call with her State supervisor, Claudia Gage, demoting all five managers in the state of Oregon. If that isn't bad enough, one of the five offices will be closed down completely and the remaining offices will have to layoff one agent each. It is also the week for agent reviews, and later that day Claudia arrives with the additional bad news for Pru that her job is up for grabs. Everyone in the company is free to apply too.

That afternoon, instead of being laid off, one of Pru's agents, Meg Schultz, is fired and Pru and her agents are left with the stunned dread of things to come.

The rest of the week piles trauma after trauma, so that Friday morning Pru arrives with two offices closed instead of one and the news that Meg was seen arguing with Claudia in the Gresham office parking lot on Wednesday. That afternoon Pru gets a call from Meg's Mom saying that Meg didn't come home the night before. No one Pru calls has seen her, so she tells Meg's mother to report her missing. During her calls, she finds out most agencies are laying people off and not hiring, adding more stress to Pru's prospects should the company replace her. That evening she leaves for Vancouver, BC for a manager's meeting and decides to stay one more day and make a weekend out of it. It may be her last trip for a long time. At the airport she sees Claudia returning from her own meeting in LA looking stunned and anxious.

Monday morning Pru finds a police detective waiting for her at the front door of the office. She assumes it is about the disappearance of Meg Schultz. It is, but Claudia Gage was murdered Friday night.

Prudence Peters is a reluctant amateur sleuth in the story. Not interested in tracking down Claudia's killer, her priorities are to save her job and protect her office from closure and the jobs of her agents. However if Meg's name isn't cleared, all the offices in Oregon could be closed to protect the company's reputation from what one memo calls 'a postal employee'. The company becomes another antagonist in the story as it tries to back peddle by suggesting the firing of Meg was all Claudia's idea. Pru's regional manager arrives from LA to direct damage control causing more problems as they reveal hidden company agendas.

Pru tells herself she is only trying to find Meg to help her clear her name.

The same detective, Jacob LaFoure, is handling both cases. (Something Portland Police detectives do.) He is perfectly willing to let Pru check out all sorts of details that she has quicker access to than he does, thereby saving him loads of time in the missing person case. But soon her search for details lap over into the murder investigation and she and another agent find the body of Meg Schultz in her car parked in the long-term parking lot at PDX.

As the story progresses we meet the agents of the travel agency, the regional director, Claudia's husband Matty Stein, who is also a travel agent, and the manager of Matty's agency. All have major agendas that impact on both cases.

You leave me high and dry with no solution to the plot and I’m going to call you at 7am my time (and YES I know what time it is in the City of Roses) and yell at you till you confess whodunit. Don't think I won't. I have your phone number; it's on your query letter.

This is a good synopsis. Crisp, clean, with motivation and an explanation for how the amateur sleuth is realistically involved in murder.

However, if you fail to complete the plot, you’re toast.

#79 Crapometer


Heartsicle, Pa., is a town built on chocolate and sustained by the candy company, the theme park and Franklin & Paine University. But the proposed construction of an administrative building downtown triggers a fight with the business owners who will have to move and threats against the Doves, the family whose name will adorn it.

The Doves are one of Heartsicle's prominent families, the creators of the long-running "Gastown Gang" comic strip but an auto accident and suspicions of theft have shaken them. As a Heartsicle police detective and friend of the family, Bette Fisher will discover that their troubles were not bad luck. Someone wants to destroy the family.

There’s a lot to be said for starting sentences with the subject. One of the main attractions is that it promotes clarity. Consider: Bette Fisher, a Heartsicle police detective and friend of the Dove family, discovers their troubles are not bad luck. See the difference?

The battle over two of the buildings threatened with demolition -- the Majestic Trans-Lux porn theater and the abandoned "Stonehead Manor," the Victorian turned apartment building -- uncovers their secrets.

The battle over the threatened demolition of the the Majestice Trans Lux porn theatrel and Stonehead Manor the now abandoned Victorian apartment building reveals their secrets.

To Kate Gaddis, the film buff whose father, Ralph, is fighting to save downtown, she discovers that the Majestic was built by her great-grandfather and passed down to Ralph, who sold it. Raised to be an activist, she is disenchanted with politics, but unsure of her future.
She finds direction in a potential relationship with Daniel Frederick, and her link to the theater's past.

Stonehead Manor's proposed demolition triggers an awakening in Professor Philip Dodd. In 1975, Dodd saw the girl he loved, Sandy, killed there by her father, Mervin Oliver. Thinking her father had followed him to her, he blames himself for her death. Dodd re-visits the story behind the killing and understands how it caused him to withdraw from life, love and grieving.

It didn’t cause him to withdraw from life, love and grieving. It caused him to withdraw from life and love, grieving. Or better yet; it cause him to withdraw from life and love.

Meanwhile, the Dove family threatens to implode. Edgar Dove hurt his hand in the wreck, and his son, Marcus, now draws the strip. Edgar's second wife, Elena, tries to hold the family together and keep the business running. The new accountant, Walter Friheit, reconstructing the business records, wants a forensic audit because he suspects embezzlement.

When Bette and her partner, Harry Justus, investigate a burglary at the studio in which computers and CDs were stolen, she wonders if it was just another break-in, or someone wanted to hide something.

On her way to the theater with her husband, Bob, Bette encounters a beaten Marcus. He claims he was mugged, but his wallet, with money, was found nearby.

Edgar, disgusted by the strip's falling readership and his son's inability to replace him, decides to end the strip. Marcus vows to fight his father. But Marcus is shot to death in the studio. On his chest was pinned a Nixon campaign badge.

The murder shakes Bette, who knew Marcus and helped him when he was a teenager, but she discovers that he was not just a son trying to fit in as his father's heir. He was having an affair with his assistant, Nikki. The stolen business records are found in his car. She learns that the Nixon button is vintage, and hears about the Stonehead Manor killing. Investigating Edgar's accident, she proves the car was sabotaged.

At the funeral, Philip Dodd is hung over. Revisiting his past has left him depressed and drinking. Weeping, he runs into Bette and confesses, "I killed her."

Meanwhile, to keep the strip going until it runs out its contract, Edgar begins working with Cornelia, his estranged daughter who had left the family when Marcus got the strip because he was male. She clashes with Edgar over the direction of the strip and her ambitions as an artist.

Bette visits Dodd, who tells her about Stonehead Manor and his need to learn more about what happened. He shows her a yearbook, and she sees a photo showing Edgar and Sandy, who is wearing a Nixon button.

uhhh...they manufactured those campaign buttons by the gazillions. It’s not exactly rare. A Wendal Wilkie button maybe, or a Nixon button in Massachusetts..maybe. Or a Bush button in NYC, definatly, but Nixon won by a landslide in 72.

Harry Justus learns that Nikki, Marcus' assistant, has an abuse order against an ex-boyfriend. He tracks him down and he confesses that he beat up Marcus. An anonymous call tipped him to the affair.

what’s an abuse order? I’d like to order abuse for certain car alarm owners.

As Katie and Daniel investigate the theater's history, they suspect that granddad's hints of "treasure" may be real. They sneak into the theater and discover movie memorabilia from the silent and early talkie eras, including lost films worth a fortune.

Bette questions Edgar. He says he was Sandy's boyfriend, and he gave her a Nixon button similar to one found on Marcus. She learns that Sandy Oliver's dad was released two years ago and requests his mug shot.

Bette tells Dodd that the father hadn't followed him to Sandy's apartment, but that he had paid Ralph Gaddis for the information. Dodd is shocked; he had assumed someone else's guilt all these years, and avoided that part of town because he didn't want to see the house. He
decides to burn the building down.

Bette gets Mervin Oliver's mug shot. It is Walter Friheit, the family's accountant. She calls the house. Walter, Nikki, Edgar and Cornelia were gone. Bette suspects they've gone to Stonehead Manor. At the old murder scene, they discover a double masquerade. Mervin's
surviving daughter had changed her name to Nikki and gotten a job as Marcus' assistant. She was the one who'd taken them hostage. Walter encouraged Marcus to steal because he wanted to ruin the family financially, but Nikki wanted blood.

While Dodd sets the basement afire, Nikki shoots Cornelia. She's restrained. Cornelia survives, the bullet stopped by the thick sketchpad she keeps in her coat. Smelling smoke, they flee down the stairs, but the stair rail to the first floor gives way, and Bette hits the floor.
Harry rescues her, and they escape.

The building project is thwarted. Told of the treasure, the Dove family gets the university to buy the theater, and the Dove-financed film and graphic arts department is founded. Professor Dodd, his hair and eyebrows burned in the fire, takes a sudden leave of absence. Bette
and Harry visit the family as they celebrate the second life of the "Gastown Gang" under Edgar and Cornelia.

You’re awash in events and names here instead of just hitting the highlights. This isn’t an index, it’s just an overview.

You need to crisp up your writing too. Yes, I read the first five pages to see what the novel is like but if I see fat sentences and passive voice in the synopsis, you just raised my suspicions the text will follow suit. Remember, the default answer on queries is NO. You have to really show me something fabu to get me to YES.

#78 Crapometer

Genre: Historical Romance

All the World's a Stage

Duchess is a common pickpocket who will lie, cheat and steal to gain her freedom from the streets of London. Her partner-in-crime, Hannah, works as a maid at a brothel and collects Duchess' take at the end of each day. The two girls dream of amassing enough money to buy a small, rural plot of land.

Duncan March, Earl Ravenscroft, is known to his friends as "the Honest Nobleman." He, too, longs for freedom, but the chains that bind him to the dissembling world of London society are his deathbed pledge to his grandmother to find his impossibly histrionic sister a suitable match, and later, an assignment from the Queen to help uncover a plot against her dear Essex's life.

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE finds Duchess and Duncan on a collision course when one autumn afternoon she steals the baron's purse. (what baron?) To elude both the baron and Duncan, she dons the stolen garments of an apprentice, leaves the money with Hannah but keeps the purse, and hides under the stage at The Rose.

The baron recovers the money from Hannah, but Duncan's suspicions are aroused when the baron refuses to give up searching for the purse. In order to protect Hannah from the baron's brutal rage, Duncan takes her home, hoping Hannah's expertise with potions will help his sister.

Duchess needs to get Hannah out of the Duncan's clutches, yet her own strong attraction to the man keeps her longing to be near him. If she reveals her true identity, she fears the "Honest Nobleman" will have her thrown in Newgate.

Penniless and posing as Hannah's brother Hob, Duchess unwittingly becomes involved in an absurd wager between the two preeminent acting companies of the time. They wager against one another that "Hob" would make a fine heroine for one of Shakespeare's plays. Duchess agrees to the wager with the stipulation that if she succeeds, she should take the lion's share of the winnings-- more than enough to escape London with Hannah. It is finally agreed that "Hob's" debut be performed before the Queen herself at Christmas Revels.

Throughout the weeks leading up to Revels, Duchess and Duncan find themselves often in each other's company. The attraction Duchess feels for Duncan deepens with every encounter, and she is torn by her need to protect her identity, his unbending honesty, and their very different lives. Yet they find kindred spirits in one another-- two caged birds longing for the peacefulness of the pastoral life.

Hannah enlists the aid of the earl's sister to help "Hob" learn how to wear a farthingale, hold a fan -- things with which Duchess has no experience. When Duncan sees Duchess dressed as a woman, he finds himself both attracted to her beauty and repulsed by the fact that HOB IS A BOY!

Duncan whisks Duchess off to an alehouse, intending to foist "Hob's" virginity off on an old whore, and secure his own masculinity with a young one.

Duchess cleverly escapes the old crone, and takes refuge in a darkened room, only to find a very drunk, very naked earl alone in the bed. Duchess' curiosity gets the best of her.

Duncan mistakes her for the young doxy and asks her to please play a role for him - his angel. Duchess is swept up in the charade, allowing herself to believe he longs for her. But her bliss is destroyed when Duncan abruptly lurches out the door, tossing a bag of coins at her feet.

Duncan is tortured by the vision of "Hob" that plagued him in bed at the alehouse.

At Christmas Revels, Duchess successfully fools the Queen, but the rival actors cannot make good on the wager, so Duchess is forced to stay "Hob" awhile longer.

For extra coinage, Duchess helps the Shakespeare's men dismantle The Theatre and haul the timbers over the frozen Thames to build the Globe. The plan goes awry when Duchess falls through the ice.

Ok, I just read about this in 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare by James Shapiro. They DIDN'T haul the timbers across the Thames..they stored them.

Duncan arrives in time to pull her from the river and rushes her to a nearby alehouse. He strips unconscious "Hob's" icy clothes and discovers HOB IS NOT A BOY!

Suddenly his strange attraction to "Hob" makes sense. But he finds among her frozen clothing the baron's stolen purse, and within it smeared writing of which he can only make out a few words - a list of poisonous compounds.

Duncan suspects the purse is key to the plot against Essex, but cannot discover whether Duchess is a party to it. He only knows he can never trust this woman who went to such lengths to live a lie.

Once she recovers, Duncan follows her as she reverts back to picking pockets to finance her escape. But an old enemy named Cutlip accosts her. Having kidnapped Hannah, he demands Duchess bring him items Hannah needs to make a poison. Duchess discovers that the baron has hired Cutlip to ensure Essex's murder.

Duchess resolves to tell all to Duncan. But Duncan, who witnesses their seemingly conspiratorial meeting, tells the Queen.

Duncan and Duchess find themselves on the same side in a battle against Cutlip and the baron. Duchess kills the baron to spare Duncan's life.

Duchess is sentenced to death. Duncan visits her cell. She confesses all and hopelessly proclaims her love for him. He flees the cell, and she fears she will never see him again.

Duchess is strung up on the gallows, only to have Duncan arrive to save her just before her soul leaves her body.

The Queen rewards Duncan for foiling the plot against Essex by betrothing his sister to a Scottish lord. Duncan concocts a story in which he is the baron's slayer. His foray into deception convinces the Queen, and she alters Duchess' sentence. She banishes Duchess, promising Duncan he may do as he please with her, as long as she never returns to London.

Duchess and Duncan find their freedom in each other's arms.

Does Gwynth Paltrow get an Oscar for this?

The synopsis is clear and well organized. Not much hint of voice or depth of character, but that’s not a deal breaker when you’ve got a lot of territory to cover in 1000 words.

Of course, in historical fiction, you gotta get the details right, so you want to keep up on the current stuff like James Shapiro’s book.

I’d look for very very good writing to make this rise above “been there done that” plot elements.

#77 Crapometer

Genre: mystery

The Desperado of Brooklyn Heights

Kate Shaughnessey's hunger for a more glamorous, sophisticated life leads to romance, single motherhood, and unwitting involvement in a murder.

Kate has seldom left her blue-collar neighborhood of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. She is intelligent and strong-minded, but naïve. Most of her ideas about the world come from books, and she is convinced that Manhattan, unlike Bay Ridge, is peopled with literate, fascinating people who are her true clan. Despite family pressure to marry early and settle down in the neighborhood to raise children of her own, Kate has managed to graduate from a local college and has just landed a job proofreading for a large corporate law firm in Manhattan. Her fellow proofreaders are a quirky, interesting bunch, and Kate enjoys them, but she continues to seek the more glamorous life that seems to elude her.

When Kate meets Stephen Lodge, a rising star at the firm, she is stunned by his good looks and easy charm. He appears to be a romantic hero out of one of her books. Stephen asks her out and seduces her primarily as a lark, but her openness and vulnerability disarm him. Soon they are deeply involved. Stephen confides in Kate that he was a sickly child, pampered and protected by his mother because of childhood diabetes, and thus a target of bullies. As a young adult he worked to become physically strong and emotionally invulnerable. He now keeps his medical condition a secret from everyone but his powerful mentor, partner Jefferson Hartford, who shares the condition.

Kate moves into Stephen's apartment in glamorous Brooklyn Heights. Stephen, a product of prep schools and the Ivy League, introduces her to a new style of living, and she begins to believe she has landed in the world she dreamed about. However, their relationship, which becomes an open secret despite their best efforts, isolates them. Kate's family disapproves of her decision to live in sin with Stephen. Kate resents their small-mindedness and breaks her ties with them. She convinces herself that this is for the good.

The firm, with its rigid hierarchical structure, frowns on fraternization between attorneys and office staff. Hartford despises Kate as a lower-class opportunist, and Stephen feels he is in danger of losing Hartford's support. The other proofreaders exclude Kate, believing that she has defected to the side of the oppressors.

Stephen becomes increasingly distant and secretive and Kate suspects he is seeing Ivy, a glamorous attorney Hartford has handpicked for him. Then she discovers that she is pregnant. Stephen expresses doubt that he is the father. They quarrel, and Stephen moves in with Ivy. Kate finds herself completely alone.

At work, Kate is suddenly in trouble for errors she did not make. She suspects that Hartford is behind this witch hunt. The other proofreaders rally back to her side and try to shield her, and she begins to realize how foolish she was to abandon them for a seemingly more sophisticated life. When she is fired despite their best efforts, these friends continue to help her as they can.

After her son is born, Kate takes a low-paying teaching position in an exclusive Brooklyn Heights nursery school. She befriends a few of her co-workers, including Maureen, the school nurse, a sad and eccentric but kindly figure. One of Kate's students turns out to be the son of her nemesis, Jefferson Hartford, and his young second wife.

The morning after Hartford fails to show up for a parent-teacher conference, Kate finds his suffocated body in the supply closet of her classroom. Her horror turns to panic when she learns that she is a suspect. The fear that she could be separated from her baby drives her to do her own detective work. When family members turn up to help her, she is forced to reexamine her willingness to leave Bay Ridge behind.

Kate discovers that Hartford and Stephen were involved in a ring that smuggled young Thai women into the United States, forced them into prostitution, then blackmailed their clients. Suspicion then points toward Stephen, and he is arrested.

Despite the evidence and pressure from her friends to forget him, Kate refuses to believe that Stephen was involved in Hartford's death. She is forced to acknowledge that he is weak, self-serving, and duplicitous, but she believes that if he truly loved anyone besides himself, it was Hartford; besides, the evidence against him does not add up. She continues to dig into Hartford's history.

A friend attends Hartford's funeral and reports that Maureen, the school nurse, was greeted affectionately there by Hartford's grown sons from his first marriage. Kate follows this trail, eventually meeting Hartford's son Andy, who hates his father. Andy tells her that Maureen had worked at the school he and his brother attended, and her son, Tim, was his best friend. Tim had contracted HIV through a transfusion, and Hartford led a successful movement to force him out of the school. Soon afterward, Tim died, and Maureen's marriage collapsed.

Maureen confesses to the murder. She came upon Hartford, who was disoriented from a hypoglycemic episode, while he was waiting alone for his conference with Kate and impulsively injected him with his own insulin.

At the book's end, Kate is cautiously hopeful for the future. She has developed a more nuanced understanding of human nature and an enhanced appreciation for family and community, and she has begun to explore new romantic possibilities.

This is a good synopsis. As a clever Snarkling pointed out in the comments trail last night when I excoriated someone for over used plot elements “it’s the writing that counts”. I’d look for really vivid writing in the sample pages.

You’ve got very very traditional plot here. However, I like very much the fact that “Prince Charming” doesn’t rescue her, she rescues herself.

#76 Crapometer

Single Title Romance

WALK THIS WAY/synopsis

Nora Linnet catches men who cheat--starting with her fiancé. She spies on men from Milwaukee to Chicago, in bars, strip clubs, and pool halls. So she won’t get hit on, she dresses like a man, with helpful advice from her blogging friends on how to talk, walk, and sit.

I’m hoping Nosy Nora is at least a private investigator of some kind. Spying on guys just to spy is creepy.

In P.I. Tony Gallaghers marriage, his wife slept around. (active voice: PI Tony Gallaghers’s wife slept around) The last thing he wants is to hook up with a woman, but his dead partner’s ghost plays matchmaker. So why does the ghost steer him to a woman who mistrusts men as much as he mistrusts women?

ghost? he gets instructions from a ghost?

Someone tries to kill the multi-millionaire industrialist who Tony’s partner was working for when he was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Now the industrialist requires a couple to spy for him on a ten-day Caribbean cruise. He suspects his cousin wants to kill him because he’s in love with his wife.

He’s in love with whose wife? His? the cousin’s. Those pronouns get tricky.

This has now devolved into a smorgasbord of plot elements. There’s too much going on for this to be anything but farce. There’s nothing wrong with farce, but you told me this was a romance.

When an angry client’s boyfriend threatens Nora, she agrees to pretend to be Tony’s lover. (those two clauses have no logical connection) On the yacht, Nora gets cozy with the industrialist’s wife and her longtime friend, who is married to the industrialist’s cousin.

And how exactly do Tony and Nora know each other? By failing to identify Nora above (I think you mean Nora anyway when you say “the ghost steers him toward a woman who mistrusts men) you leave us in the dark about how they know each other.

I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone referred to as an industrialist since ...Ayn Rand? Andrew Carnegie?

Tony is drawn to Nora, but he convinces himself it’s a chemical reaction. Why not take advantage of the enforced intimacy and have a fling? He can tell she wants him too.

So, he’s a hound. And a hypocrite. Nice qualities in a hero.

Rebuffing Tony gets harder for Nora with each nautical mile, but she fights it down, priding herself on thinking with her brain instead of her vagina. Nora grew up with a mother who attracted cheaters like fresh blood attracted sharks. Then Nora’s fiancé cheated too. How can she trust any man? (you already set up her character as untrusting, you don’t need to repeat it)

Tony discovers Nora’s blog and understands why she’s wary of men. He signs in under his partner’s name. They begin a cyber correspondence, sharing pieces of themselves.

The industrialist docks the yacht on an island, renting a villa. Another murder attempt follows--on the cousin. Tony wonders if his partner’s hit-and-run death was connected to the case. He was following the wife at the time. What if she’s the killer? Or her friend?

the wife? whose wife?

At dinner, someone spikes Tony’s drink with the cousin’s Cialis pills. Tony gets a boner he can’t lose. Feeling sympathy and excitement, Nora invites him to her bed. Their lovemaking is hot, steamy, and glorious. Tony tells her he loves her, but Nora can’t let down her defenses.

This is ludicrous.

Tony confides his suspicions to the industrialist, who arranges a trap. He announces he’s changing his will when they return home, leaving his money to Save the Children. At an island festival that night, fireworks go off, people surge toward the seashore, and their group is separated. (from what? reality?) Tony tells Nora to stay put and he rushes off. When he finds the two women (what two women??) with the drugged industrialist, the women try to shoot him. (I hope they get him) Nora follows and saves him. The women are lovers and can’t stand having sex with their husbands. Because of the pre-nups, divorce isn’t an option. Murder is.

While Tony is at the police station, Nora Googles him and finds out his dead partner is her e-mail correspondent. Tony deceived her. She packs and boards a cruise ship about to return to Florida, leaving Tony a good-bye e-mail.

Two days later, she reads an e-mail from Tony, who says he’ll be alone and lonely without her. She admits she’s alone and lonely without him too. The person keeping her from happiness isn’t Tony but her own distrust. She replies that she loves him...and trusts him.

Twenty minutes later, Nora’s doorbell rings. Instead of Tony, it’s the cheating husband who threatened her life before she left for the cruise. He aims a gun at her heart. (her least vulnerable spot I bet)

Nora throws her laptop at him (yea I answer the door holding my laptop all the time too) just as Tony tackles him through the open doorway. Tony tells Nora they make a good pair. Why not make it official? As his business partner she can still cross-dress; as his life partner she can be all woman.

is there any device you don’t use? This might work on the page but what you have here is a mess. Nothing makes any kind of logical sense. You throw in blogging, and email and google as plot devices, not to mention ghosts, and cross dressing but they seem thrown in for your convenience rather than rising from the plot naturally. The plot seems to hinge on women, unnamed or identified, who are lesbians, and murderers.
That is the stuff of farce, or noir, not romance.

#75 Crapometer

Genre -- fantasy

Title: Gordath Wood

When champion show horse Dungiven refuses to load into the horse trailer after a show, Hunters Chase stable manager Lynn Romano thinks it's because he's been spooked by a rare earthquake. She rides the horse home on the hunt trails in Gordath Wood instead of trying to force him into the trailer but she gets lost, unaware that a portal between worlds has opened up in the forest and she has crossed into Aeritan. She comes across the guardian Arrim, victim of a gunshot wound, and tries to help him. Instead, he steals Dungiven and abandons her.

Captain Crae of Red Gold Bridge has been charged with finding Arrim and bringing him back to control the gordath, or portal, that has been opened between the worlds, and now is dangerously unstable. Arrim was shot by the mysterious Bahard, also known as Mark Ballard, who has been running guns from our world to Aeritan in exchange for gold, other goods, and land rights in the southern provinces. Lord Tharp of Red Gold Bridge is seeking to leverage the new weapons in his quest to wrest control from the Aeritan Council, the ruling body of the country. War looms

Instead of Arrim, Crae finds Lynn. They forge an alliance, wary at first, brought together by Lynn's need to find a way home and Crae's growing fear of the gordath. He believes that it opened up seven years before when Lord Tharp's wife, the Lady Sarita, never returned from a journey through the Wood. After coming across a village destroyed by the out-of-control portal, Lynn throws in her lot with Crae to try to find a way to stop the destruction.

Kate Mossland, a shy teen who worships Lynn, rides off to find her, but also gets caught in the unstable gordath. She ends up on the other side in the army of the Aeritan Council, at first hazed and frightened, but learning to rely on her own strengths and finding her place in the rough organization. She becomes the apprentice of the army's surgeon and develops a crush on a boy her age, the young soldier Colar Terrick, who returns her feelings.

Back in our world Joe Felz, Hunters Chase handyman and Lynn's boyfriend, begins an investigation that leads him from a bar in Connecticut to an abandoned house on the edge of the eerie wood, stocked with weapons and ammunition. He finds Arrim, who has come through the portal to our side, half-dead from his infected gunshot wound.

The first battle between the two armies is won by Lord Tharp. The council works on a strategy to counter Lord Tharp's guns. Marthen devises shield walls and training techniques from information Kate has given him. Marthen is fascinated by Kate and begins scheming to have her recognized as noble with a plan to wed her as a reward for leading the army of the council. This way, he would be elevated to the nobility himself.

Crae and Lynn's journey takes them to Trieve, an ally of Lord Tharp's, where they hope to find a guardian to control the gordath. They are almost caught by advancing reinforcements of the Aeritan army and must flee. They are captured by the Brythern lord Hare, and are brought back to Red Gold Bridge, where Hare hopes to form an alliance with Lord Tharp. Crae and Lynn's relationship has grown from respect to friendship to love, though Lynn still loves Joe and is experiencing guilt about her new feelings. They return to Red Gold Bridge as prisoners where Lynn discovers that the mysterious Bahard is really Mark Ballard, an old boyfriend.

In the Aeritan army, Kate's value rises when she and Colar capture Bahard's Jeep and drive it back to camp. Inside is a cache of tech that she teaches the rest of the army how to use. She and Colar kiss in a flush of triumph from their raid but Colar's father comes upon them and vents his anger on Colar.

Back home, the earthquakes are getting worse, and a helicopter that is searching for the missing women explodes in the sky as it runs into the portal. Joe is arrested for the kidnapping of the two women. He is bailed out by Mrs. Hunt, the owner of Hunters Chase, who asks him to help her contact the wounded man Arrim, now in a mental hospital. Mrs. Hunt is Lady Sarita, Lord Tharp's long-lost wife, and she decides it is time to return home. She, Joe, and Arrim return to the wood in the middle of the final battle, where Mrs. Hunt is reunited with her husband. The combatants call a wary truce as everyone decides that closing the portal is the top priority. Joe discovers that he has a guardian's talent, and he decides to stay in Aeritan, though he loves Lynn. She is torn for she loves Joe and has come to love Crae, but returns home. She and Kate drive home, along with young Colar, who is badly wounded and needs a hospital.

General Marthen, though he did not admit it to himself, had fallen in love with 15-year-old Kate even apart from his scheme. With her gone, the war over, and the council no longer inclined to be grateful, his ambitions have come to nothing. Marthen uses one of the strange weapons, Bahard's personal handgun, to shoot himself. Captain Crae has become Lord Crae, recognized by the council for his deeds in stopping the gordath. He marries the Lady Jessamy of Trieve, but still loves Lynn. Lynn inherits Hunters Chase from Mrs. Hunt/Lady Sarita. Joe, used to the wide-open spaces of Texas, learns to walk softly in the woods so as not to waken the gordath. After Colar heals up, he joins Kate in high school, missing his family but excited by the possibilities of this new world.

You’ve made the classic mistake of including so many people and events you sacrifice clarity. You don’t need to mention everyone; in fact, it’s better not to. The classic example of this mistake is the horse. You start with him, but he's never mentioned again after paragraph one.

You have four main characters (I think..it’s hard to tell who’s important cause there are so many here). Give each a few lines, and then outline the major points of the plot. You don’t have to follow the chronology of the book.

#74 Crapometer

Genre: Middle readers/horror-fantasy

Synopsis: The Waas and The Riddlers' Realm

In an age now forgotten, a race of people slowly died out - leaving one. Retreating underground, this lone survivor - The Waas - toiled away, protecting his people's legacy, making sure they would never be forgotten. He devised a plan that would allow his people to rise again. That was thousands of years ago, and now, his world - The Realm - is thriving once again with despicable creatures of human form. They leave their world and enter into ours unseen through concealed tunnels, hollow tombstones, and vacant mausoleums. And they are taking humans to populate their world. Don't shrug off strange ideas that pop into your head. It is them - The Waasms - and if you don't believe, you may have just become a Forgotten Memory.

A glitch in the carefully crafted security system of the Realm is about to unleash havoc that has been slowly brewing just a few miles below the ground. The Waasms did not prepare for two eleven-year-old friends to uncover their secret.

EHRIN MARTIN and BRENDAN LOUGHRAN, are cutting through Abbington cemetery while running from another botched attempt at spying on their freaky neighbor, SICKY NICKY. While a crumpled piece of paper snagged against the base of a tree catches Ehrin's eye, NANEEK, a creature of the Realm, enters the cemetery through a pine tree, his eye on the treasure now safely tucked into Ehrin's front pocket. But he must wait, as he has been waiting for ten years, to retrieve the paper that might make him human again. Ehrin and Brendan can not see this creature, for Waasms become invisible when they leave the Realm. The winds from an approaching storm awaken the smell that oozes from Naneek's decaying body, and the two friends know that they are not alone.

Fearing that his plan to become human again might be jeopardized because of the paper's ability to write on its own, Naneek stalks the two friends. He plans on waiting for them in one of their hideouts - The Secret Hole. Sitting silently, listening to movements coming from inside the overgrown backyard, Brendan and Ehrin watch as a door appears in an old pine tree. A repulsive odor and blinding light send the two spies tearing out of The Secret Hole, heading straight for their spy headquarters in Brendan's garage.

Before they investigate, they devise a plan. Using the strange looking pen found in a neighbor's yard, Brendan begins to scribble on the old piece of paper. Instantly, Brendan begins to write, but they are not his words. Line by line, a riddle appears, revealing clues to a dangerous journey that is about to be taken, and it will only reveal itself to Brendan and Ehrin.

They tuck away their new discovery and head to the Secret Hole to find the door that they can't see. With a tug on a hidden knocker, Brendan and Ehrin discover a world that is buried right in their own back yards. They are instantly on the run, darting inhabitants and fleeing from hideous creatures. They must stay out of the way of an internal war raging on between the Waasms and THE BANISHED.

Naneek finds the two friends, and being desperate to keep his plan hidden, he has to help them make their way safely back to the entrance of the tunnel, not before he takes their memories. With The Waas and the new leader, Sicky Nick, on their heels, Brendan and Ehrin exit the dangerous world two days later. But there is one catch: Ehrin remembers.

I’d move everything into the present tense to keep the sense of immediacy: Naneek finds the two friends, and desperate to keep his plan secret, he helps them safely back to the tunnel entrance. He takes their memories. The Waas and their new leader Sicky Nicky on their heels Brendan and Ehrin exit the dangerous world two days later.

This is pretty good, not awash in unnecessary details or descriptions.

#73 Crapometer

Hell's Bells

genre: Fantasy

The great gates of hell are guarded by the most ferocious of beasts and only open one way, down. Except for every full cycle, on the fourth bell of the full moon that sounds throughout the spiritual plain, when the gates of heaven and hell are opened wide to bring back lost souls, and those on the run.


Alexander is Hell’s most beautiful assassin. Lucifer himself adores Alexander above any other--a fact that doesn’t set well with Alex’s fellow demons. Alex is passionate in his discontent with life, and all that hell can offer is not enough for even its most treasured spirit. As the first bell rings, signaling a new cycle in hell’s domain, Alex’s ambitions fire
into action, and in a pique of angst he crashes through the gates of hell, battles the hounds, and heads to the surface above. He only has three more bells to find his peace before Satan is freed once more to round up his minions gone awry. So what happens when a brooding dark Lord from hell sets out on his own to find a life above ground? All hell breaks loose.

pique of angst?

Alexander is overwhelmed by his experiences on the surface. He must quickly find his equilibrium in order to prepare for the demons Lucifer is sure to send after him. Doing his best to blend, and that’s not easy for a winged assassin, he blends into life on earth until a particularly vicious battle in the park leaves him beaten and bloody on the ground at the feet of a perky young born again Christian named Christine who is sure she’s found a brave angel of God who’s just defeated a demon from hell. Well, she is part right.

Christine is forced into the most painful decision of her young life, caste (you mean cast. Caste is like a category) away the demon from hell, or help him defeat the devil, and possibly lose her soul in the process.

She hides Alexander in her apartment until her damnably atheistic boyfriend pounds on her door. Try as she might, she’s never been able to save Michael’s soul.

I don’t know many born again Christian girls with atheistic boyfriends.

Michael Dugan has had a rough few days as chief homicide investigator in the once sleepy small town of Havenhill. His desk has been littered with missing persons, ravaged bodies, and Equiresque pictures of a strange man with enormous wings, obviously the reporters in the dull town had begun to get creative in their search for excitement. If that weren’t enough, he is currently frustrated by his girlfriend’s sudden disappearance. When Alexander opens the door to Christine’s home, Michael is not amused. He becomes determined to track down the background of the stranger that has stolen his girl. What he finds shakes his atheistic body to the core.

bodies aren’t atheistic. Atheism is a belief. You don’t have atheist toes.

The trio find themselves face-to-face in a battle of souls between heaven and hell, with Alexander in between. When Lucifer unleashes his fury, and Armageddon begins, its Christine’s faith that gives them strength, Michael’s investigative prowess that finds the weakness in Satan’s plan, and Alexander’s power that win the fight leaving Satan beaten back, Alexander a true angel of God, and Christine and Michael in a more powerful relationship that will last until the end—which is coming sooner than they think.

Hell’s Bells is part one of a planned trilogy that will give new definition to the relationship between heaven and hell, and just where earth stands between them.

uh..the earth stands between heaven and hell. This is a tautology.

You might have a good novel tucked away here but this synopsis is a slew of feverish description that doesn't really say very much. If you give us a paragraph on each of the main characters, then give us the highlights of what happens and what’s at stake, it will work better. Less is more here.

#72 Crapometer

Genre: Fantasy Romance



After a thousand years of exiled sleep, an ancient malice awakens, intent on reclaiming dominion over the world. The high priests of the Gray Conclave search desperately for a way to destroy it. In a crumbling fortress, a renegade sorcerer known as the Master of Crows struggles against succumbing to the entity’s power, even as his new apprentice seeks to win her freedom from life-long servitude by betraying him.

MARTISE of Asher, sold as a child into servitude by her poverty-stricken family, is a bondswoman in a Conclave bishop’s household. Born with the talent of total recall and a magic that has not yet revealed itself, the priests of Conclave consider her a perfect candidate to spy on a rebellious and powerful wizard they suspect of treachery. In exchange for her services as an informant, her master will revoke her articles of indenture that bind her to his household for a period of forty years. It is a risky endeavor, but she agrees and travels to the mage’s stronghold to play the role of apprentice.

SILHARA of Neith, Master of Crows, sends a request to Conclave for a novice mage to help with manuscript translations. Because of his refusal to swear allegiance to the order and his reputation as a dabbler in the black arcana, he expects a refusal. What he gets is a spy. He suspects Martise is no Conclave student but cannot reject her as it will raise suspicions even more that he has something to hide. He does. The fallen god known as the Corruption has broken its bonds set by an ancient Conclave and seeks an avatar to help it regain control over a world that has mostly forgotten it. It is slowly seducing the bitter Silhara with visions of supremacy, weakening him so that it may take possession of his mind and soul.

The story begins with Martise taking her place in her new master’s home, intent on fulfilling her mission. She is at first unprepared to deal with the volatile and ruthless Silhara. His training is rigorous, sometimes deadly, and it is obvious he is trying to intimidate her into running away. Still, as the weeks pass, and they both try to discover the key to unlocking her magic, she finds herself increasingly fascinated by him. He shows flashes of kindness and humor to the members of his small household and sympathy for outcasts like himself. It becomes harder for her to reconcile her purpose at Neith with her deepening feelings for him.

As Silhara struggles to resist the Corruption’s influence, he searches for a way to destroy it. He finds a manuscript telling of an ancient ritual that may do just that. Two of the pages detailing the ceremony are missing. One is held in the possession of a powerful lich, the other by a hostile mountain tribe. He bargains successfully with the tribe for their page but must fight the lich for the second page. He almost loses his life and is saved by Martise whose magic manifests itself when he needs it most. She is a life-giver, able to channel her life force for healing, and in darker rites, for resurrection. Life-givers are rare and coveted as slaves by the more powerful sorcerers.

Martise is unaware that her talent may be more of a curse than a blessing, but Silhara knows and insists on teaching her how to use and hide her ability. Despite their hostile beginnings, he has come to admire her intelligence, compassion and fortitude. The sharing of her life force with him only heightens his growing attraction to her, and he considers extending her apprenticeship for more personal reasons.

The two become lovers and find some happiness together. But that happiness is short-lived. Silhara discovers that the ritual’s success may hinge on the sacrifice of a life-giver, and Martise witnesses the Corruption take temporary possession of Silhara. It is the evidence she needs to damn him. She flees Neith and returns to the bishop, but cannot bring herself to betray Silhara to the Conclave. She tells him she has found nothing and gives him a letter she forged stating that her apprenticeship has been revoked for “insurmountable incompetence.”

Silhara shares most of his knowledge he gained from the manuscript with Conclave. But he withholds the information relating to the sacrifice of a life-giver. Instead, he proposes a different plan -- one which will probably result in his own death. He cannot bring himself to betray Martise’s secret any more than she could betray his. Conclave accepts his plan and his role in it.

As Silhara and the clerics gather on an ancient tor to confront the Corruption, Martise learns of the ceremony and what it entails. She is stunned by Silhara’s silence regarding her ability and the fact that he will risk himself and a world to protect her. She embarks on a desperate journey to reach the tor in time and participate in the ritual, even if it means dying in the process.

The battle is fierce, but Conclave triumphs, ultimately annihilating the malevolent god. Silhara and Martise both survive, though the ritual has caused her to permanently lose her gift. The two are separated in the aftermath of the confrontation and subsequent celebrations.

Despite her role as one of the saviors, she has failed in her mission to expose Silhara and remains an indentured servant to the disappointed bishop. He soon sells her articles by proxy to another master, and she discovers it is Silhara who has bought them. He burns them, telling her she is no longer bound to any master. Martise tells him that she is bound to him by far more than her contract. He kisses her. “Life-giver,” he says, “I loved you even before you breathed your spirit into me.”

Well! Who knew this could be done! A fantasy that isn’t awash in detail and confusing vocabulary! Yet, here it is! We get a sense of the characters, how they change and develop, the challenges they face, and a sense of the alternate world. We can understand unfamiliar things from context. Good!

#71 Crapometer

Genre: Romantic adventure

What are the odds that two people can find love in the middle of a blazing gun battle in the Nicaraguan jungle? Vast and insurmountable when those two people are a woman who has finally realized her love has been misplaced, and a man who distances himself from any possibility of a long term relationship.

you don’t need to underscore the obvious with “vast and insurmountable”. The question is rhetorical.

Jessica Fontana is a Special Ops Agent for Homeland Security, based in Seattle and engaged to a man who insists she give up her job because his society minded family doesn't approve.

Jake Claypool, Special Ops Agent married a society girl when he was too young to realize sexual desire goes out of the bedroom when war is waged in every other room in the house. Since his divorce, he accepts the fact that he has no life except the Homeland Security Department.

When Jessica is loaned out from her Seattle office to help track down a brutal assassin named Azizi , she and Jake begin a prickly work relationship. He thinks she's mouthy, even if he finds himself irritatingly attracted to her. Jessica revels in putting burrs under his hide even though she is increasingly drawn to the flinty lawman. They manage to work together while preparing for their mission to capture currently holding the US Ambassador to Nicaragua.

mission to capture currently holding the US Ambassasor...um...Call Vanna White, we’re missing some words here.

After a dinner one night where the two put aside animosity to talk honestly and candidly, Jessica calls her fiancé to break off their relationship. Jake overhears the conversation and leaps to the incorrect conclusion that she believes they could become a serious item. He advises her to consider returning to her fiancé. She tells him to mind his own business.

The flight to Northern Nicaragua goes anything but smoothly as co-pilots Jake and Jessica sit side by side in the C-7 plane . But their verbal jabs and heated comments are quickly tossed aside when they attempt to land their suddenly crippled aircraft miles from their targeted landing strip. Instead, they're forced to bail out just before the plane crashes into a cliff. In the darkness of the jungle, without their supplies, they're forced to huddle together. The intimate contact removes their differences and they make love.

Soon after, while Jessica is off to find privacy, Azizi's thugs surprise Jake and take him prisoner. Jessica stealthily follows them and breaks into the stable, seeking a way to free Jake. Meanwhile, Jake has been tied up and beaten. Worried about Jessica, he is grateful she got away--until he sees her peering at him through an opening in a privacy screen. He is desperate to protect her, but she proves he's wasting his concern. After clobbering the guard, she frees Jake from his shackles.

you don't tie someone up with shackles. Shackles are like handcuffs. Being tied usually means rope.

They raid Azizi's weapons stash and arm themselves for the ensuing gun battle that rages through the sprawling house. The battle ends and Jake and Jessica are the last warriors standing. They cling to each other with emotional relief, but neither dares to express his or her true feelings.

They return to the States to resume their former lives, intent upon forgetting what they'd shared. Christmas Eve is unbearable in their longing for each other. The night before Jessica is to return to Seattle, they both accept an invitation to the same party and are speechless when they meet on the darkened patio. The emotions are high and the fire of desire consumes as they touch one another and say the pain soothing words of I love you. She is confident and secure of his love and he has learned to listen with his heart and to freely show his love for her.

this is a good synopsis with a kick ass heroine! Too bad the cliche society family isn’t a family of left wing granola types who think Homeland Security is the next wave of McCarthyites ... much more interesting.

#70 Crapometer

Chick lit synopsis

The desert is no place for a city girl, but when KAT MARKS' aunt asks her to spend the summer in rustic Moab, Utah, Kat can't say no. Her cousin is failing English and needs her help, she's been putting off a visit for years now and, most convincing of all, her best friend has just informed Kat she's in a rut. Kat prides herself on her sophistication, fashion sense, and fun–she can't be boring.

when I first read this I thought Kat's best friend was in the rut. You can clear this up by taking out the name "Kat's been informed she's in a rut. She prides herself on her sophistication, fashion sense, and fun--she can't be boring!" or "her close friends tell Kat she's in a rut" I also didn't realize Kat wasn't a teenager till the end of this.

Small-town Moab, self-proclaimed “Adventure Capitol of the World” couldn't be more different from Boston. Although Kat resists assimilation, her roommate advises a makeover from polished city chick to hip outdoors girl. Soon Kat's wearing quick-dry shorts and Chacos to work instead of skirts and heels, and going on camping trips and hikes for fun instead of shopping and visiting the gym.

AUNT SHEL provides Kat with a job manning the counter at Wet 'n Wild, her successful white water rafting company. When Shel suggests Kat go rafting, since she can't sell what she hasn't tried, she balks. Getting hot and wet might sound appealing, but not when it also involves mud and white water. To her horror, she loves the adrenaline rush of rafting. When she realizes a guiding job also entails hot guys, toned upper arms and a great tan, Kat convinces her skeptical aunt to let her become a guide. Before long, she's hefting sixteen-foot boats, fitting strangers for lifejackets, and maneuvering rafts through gnarly holes.

Although Kat keeps busy, even she has a day off occasionally. (she has a day off occcasionally) One afternoon, she heads to a beach along the Colorado River, where a startling sight greets her–a skinny-dipping, overly permed, eighty-one-year-old nursing home escapee. EULA is on a mission to do all the risky things she never tried. She begins dragging Kat along on sky diving appointments and overnight rafting trips–a source for contention between Kat and Eula's grandson GABE, who thinks Kat is encouraging his grandmother to risk her life. But when Kat's current summer fling fizzles, she finds herself interested in Gabe, despite the fact that this outdoorsy bike store owner is so not her type.

Just as Kat has begun to relax into her temporary life, she comes in to work one morning to find all the rafts slashed and learns that Wet 'n Wild's record summer has been marred by vandalism, including sugar in a gas tank and a break-in that left the cash register empty and in pieces. Although the police have filed numerous reports, they have no leads. Then Kat stops by one evening, and finds her cousin MICKEY crouched behind the Wet 'n Wild building with a gas can and a lighter.

Kat, an accomplished English teacher, had begun tutoring her cousin Mickey a few days after arriving in Moab. Their sessions had been rocky, considering he's twelve and has the attitude to go with the age, but she felt they'd made a connection. As their relationship grew, she learned of his sadness at having a father back in Boston and few friends in Moab, but until now she never understood the depth of his loneliness and hurt. The plan he reveals that evening shocks her: if the rafting company folds, his mom will return to Boston and get back with his dad. In his adolescent world, it makes perfect sense–too bad for him it would never happen.

Before Kat recovers from her disappointment in Mickey and her guilt at failing as a role model, Eula's latest stunt lands her in the hospital, and the ensuing argument between Kat and Gabe threatens to destroy their budding relationship.

Preoccupied by Mickey's vandalism, Eula's injury, and the fight with Gabe, Kat flips a raft full of tourists in a challenging rapid. Reality slams into her full on. The results–a tourist with a broken leg and several expensive cameras lost beneath the waves–make Kat realize she treated the summer like a game, and it's time to return to Boston before more people get hurt. She ends things with Gabe, says an awkward goodbye to her friends and family, and heads back home.

Her once-anticipated return to Boston is a disappointment. She feels distant, more like a tourist than a local, and she finds herself missing her life in Moab. After a disastrous dinner with her distant father, a successful politician she had once emulated, Kat realizes how much she has changed. In a fit of enthusiasm for a life that could be, she turns in her notice at the private academy where she teaches, secures an interview with Moab's school district, packs everything she owns, and takes off for Moab, not certain what awaits her, but sure that it will be anything but boring.

This is a crisp clean synopsis. There’s a hint of voice, enough about characters to get a sense of them and it’s not awash in extraneous detail.

What I’d look for in the novel is depth of character, some surprise twists to them.


That's all for today, Friday

We're on pace to finish up over the weekend, maybe the last few on Monday.
After we finish the synopsis I'm going to take some time off.
This sucked up a lot more time than I thought, but it's been worth it.
I hope it has for y'all too.

One of the things that has really amazed me is no one, not one single person has posted or emailed me with "Miss Snark you suck gym sox". Everyone has really sucked up the critiques and there have been some pretty brutal comments. "mess" "yuck" "yawn" are not words I'd want to see attached to my posts.

I salute you all, particularly those who got savaged, for real grace under pressure.


#69 Crapometer


If it isn’t quite a wonderful life, at least it’s a well appointed one. Until one morning Mar wakes to find her sense of duty has changed to cynicism.

Well bred, tractable and resigned, Marlene Reichmann-Stevens steers by auto-pilot in a world of people she tolerates, work that’s degenerated to paper pushing and wealth that traps her into soul-sucking social obligations. This morning, though, Mar is different and she doesn’t know why. It may be midlife crisis, critical mass or a nervous breakdown, but today she can no longer fool herself that running an importing firm inherited from her father, living in her childhood home married to the son of her father’s partner and continuing her parents’ civic involvements add up to anything but slow asphyxiation.

Navigating nannies, board meetings, five star restaurants and the trappings of life as a CEO, Mar hunts for something she cares about. Over lunch she tries to confide in her friend Lanya, who encourages her to embrace this new outlook and kick off constraints. But Mar is terrorized by the thought of all she stands to lose. Everything she has, everything she is, was defined by her father’s training and the stipulations of his will. She doesn’t know how to do without the structure he imposed and the social system to which she’s accustomed.

Mar’s tension builds as she goes through the motions of her day. At first she wonders where this change in her came from. By afternoon however, the need to find answers to the questions she’s suddenly willing to ask becomes far more crucial. The questions have been there all along but Mar hasn’t allowed herself to acknowledge them. Now memories she’s kept submerged in her effort to maintain normality rise to the surface and everything she’s built her life on looks tarnished.

do NOT tell me she remembers being abused or some such treacly thing. That's so five minutes ago.

Once Mar’s thoughts begin to fly out of Mar’s tight control, her behavior follows. Over the foie gras she becomes hysterical, laughing to the point of tears. At the Seattle Art Museum she kisses a man she’s only known an hour and snubs a politician’s wife. Convinced she’s going crazy, Mar draws on all the tricks and strategies gleaned from a life in business, forcing herself to concentrate on work. At quitting time the questions return as she faces the prospect that at home she’ll find her family life as empty as her professional.

Mar has tried to scrub the traces of her childhood pain from the house, but the unclouded vision of this day shows the classic structure is still stained with abuse, neglect, loss and fear. The life she’s been trying to lead here, with her husband and twin daughters, is beginning to follow the same dangerous patterns. At dinner the question Mar has been asking herself all day, “Who would I be if I left this life?” turns upside down and she asks instead, “Who will I become if I stay?” The answer to that question is clear – if she stays in her house, in her current life, she will be like that politician’s vacuous wife. Or worse, she’ll become her mother and ruin her children. Perhaps it’s already too late.

oh boy, abuse and neglect. yawn yawn yawn.

As night falls, Mar goes to bed devastated by what she’s just admitted to herself. Lying awake beside her oblivious husband she slowly resolves to act, convinced she has nothing to lose by taking a chance. She packs up her two small daughters and carries them out to a waiting taxi, anxious to get far away before she wakes to the enormity of what she’s doing and falls back into habit. Giddy with fear and anticipation, Mar directs the driver to the airport and watches the house and her half-dead past recede into darkness.

ok there’s the first chapter. Now what?

Don’t confuse a dawning realizatin that your life sux with action and conflict. It’s just the start. Now she’s got to actually do something, face the challenge, and change.

#68 Crapomenter

Forgottonia's Soldier
Crime Fiction

Forgottonia's Soldier is a multiple-point-of-view crime novel that focuses on three characters: Lucinda "Lucy" Cole, a twenty-six-year-old part-time gas station clerk who is finishing up her bachelor's degree at Western Illinois University; Tom Barger, a thirty-two-year-old employee at Illinois Pork Products (IPP), a slaughterhouse; and Quince Thoroughgood, a twenty-one-year-old journalism student at Western.

The novel is set in the spring of 2003, at the beginning of the second war in Iraq. Lucy, who still lives at home with her parents, is going to graduate at the end of the semester, and her father, the purchasing director at IPP, has plans for her to join him at the slaughterhouse and work in human resources. She doesn't want the job and wants out of Macomb, a desolate region of west-central Illinois that was once dubbed Forgottonia.

At the beginning of the novel Lucy bumps into Quince Thoroughgood at a bar. She knows his face from the school newspaper, The Daily Leatherneck , where he writes a weekly column. Several reservists are drinking at the bar, talking about their impending deployment, and Lucy, lonely and desperate, buys Quince a drink and tells him she has a story he could use for his column: the deployment of her friend, Tom Barger. Lucy tells Quince that Tom is a single parent and his nine-year-old daughter, Jules, is going to live with her. None of this is true—Tom isn't a reservist and doesn't have a daughter—but Lucy likes the attention from Quince the story gets her.

Quince, who has high hopes for his journalism career and thinks Lucy's story could be a strong one, follows up with Lucy a few days later about the soldier. Lucy then manages to stage a meeting with Tom and Jules. She tells her friend Tom that she is making a documentary about the life of a soldier. She also borrows Jules, a home-schooled nine-year-old, from a neighbor, and tells the girl's parents that Jules is going to play the daughter of a soldier in her documentary. At the first meeting, Tom and Jules pose for photographs, and Quince interviews them. The story runs in the campus newspaper and several students write in comments about poor Tom and Jules.

Tom notices that there aren't any cameras around at the meeting, but he thinks there must be something legitimate about the whole ordeal, since there is a reporter present. He doesn't confront Jules about the lack of cameras.

Lucy likes the effects of her staging. She feels like she is accomplishing something, affecting people's lives, and she stays in touch with Quince. She suggests that he publish some of Jules' letters to her "Dad" and when Quince says it's a good idea, she writes the letters -- full of heartbreak and misspellings -- herself. The paper publishes them, and the reaction, again, is huge. Letters to the editor start bickering about Bush's policy in Iraq, about weapons of mass destruction, and about this poor girl Jules who could end up parentless.

As the next month progresses, Lucy sends e-mails to Quince, pretending to be Jules. Quince is touched by the girl's e-mails, even if he wants to use them to further his career. He ends up publishing a weekly column by nine-year-old Jules about the life of a soldier's daughter.

Because her fictional soldier is now supposedly in Iraq, Jules eventually feels a little trapped by her own story. She enjoys sending the e-mails, but with Tom deployed, there aren't any chances for photo ops and feature stories. So she decides that Tom is going to get a leave of absence to come home and visit his daughter. Quince brings along a cameraman, and Tom and Jules celebrate her tenth birthday together. Tom and Jules are still under the assumption that this is a movie, but don't see any cameramen. Lucy tells Jules that everyone -- all of the students walking by, the employees of the pizza joint where they go to eat -- is an actor, and that the cameras are everywhere. Tom is pretty certain that Lucy is making all of this up, but he doesn't know what the hoax would be, what Lucy could stand to gain. Quince writes an amazing piece and begins sending out his clips to prospective employers.

Summer, and Quince has landed a job in Peoria at The Journal Star. Lucy has graduated, but she is still working at the gas station, uncertain about what she's going to do next. Amid pressure from her father about beginning work at IPP, Lucy decides that the soldier Tom needs to die. She contacts Quince and tells him the heartbreaking news. Then she plans a funeral. Quince comes from Peoria, but reporters also come from the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune's reporters start to dig and find out there is no soldier named Tom Barger. Lucy's plan blows up. Jules' parents find out what Lucy has been using their daughter for. And Tom learns just what Lucy has been up to.

The sorting-out of events is a little rocky. People accuse Quince of being a co-conspirator. They also accuse Tom of being in on the hoax with Lucy. Jules, in the eyes of most of the media, appears to be the only true victim.

Ultimately, Lucy's caper, at the heart of Forgottonia's Soldier, examines the loneliness and ambition of a small group of Midwesterners amid the patriotic tumult of the spring of 2003.

Technically this isn’t crime fiction but that’s about the only thing wrong here.

Ths is a well executed synopis, with enough dtail to get a sense of the story. Given the rash of Jayson Blair like events this is probably topical enough to get some interest.

#67 Crapometer

Mainstream Novel

Fault Lines

Life’s changes – even a tragedy that splits the solid bedrock of a family’s foundation – can propel those affected in new, rewarding directions. Three adult siblings - JOANNA, OLIVIA, and JASON STONER – learn this when their mother dies suddenly, releasing them from old accustomed roles and inspiring them to make new lives for themselves. Each finds that life’s adversity can stimulate growth.

Joanna, the perfect wife, mother, and economics professor, can’t remember when the magic drained out of her marriage. Kicking her principles out the door of Woodward Hall, she pursues a forbidden romance with a brilliant black graduate student. She soon finds herself on her own with two college-age daughters, wracked with guilt over destroying her marriage. But she musters her courage and wins a grant to travel abroad to study the economy of China, something she has always dreamed about.

they fire your ass for sleeping with students these days. particularly if they file sexual harrassment charges against you

Jason, a heavy-drinking contractor who discards beautiful women like empty beer bottles, injures himself in a bar brawl. In the hospital he becomes intrigued with a chubby nurse who falls miles short of his normal physical prerequisites. The nurse helps him conquer a lingering guilt over his mother’s death. When he attracts legal trouble, she again trusts in his good character. Horrified, he finds himself in love for the first time – with a girl who turns hearts, not heads. Letting go of his macho persona, he trades glamour for contentment.

cause of course if she's chubby, a hard drinking bar room brawler is just what she wants.

Olivia, the rock’n’roller, dyes her spiked hair turquoise, writes haunting music, and performs in Albuquerque’s bars and nightclubs. Feeling like the black sheep of the family, she takes in first a homeless cat, then a homeless girl. Glimpsing her younger self in the girl, she persists in trying to rescue her – even after the seventeen-year-old is busted for theft and prostitution. Then, diagnosed with lung cancer, Olivia fights an even larger battle. She shaves her head bald, dares the world to criticize, and creates music that keeps her memory alive after her death.

the days of anyone being shocked by a woman shaving her head are pretty much over, don't you think?

Fault Lines, set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, probes the sudden coming-of-age that accompanies the death of a parent. Beneath the guilt and sorrow felt by each sibling, new possibilities reveal themselves. Without Mom there to push them in the right direction, the three take their futures into their own hands – with some surprising results. They discover new strengths while reaffirming the bonds of family, commitment, and love. Together, they emerge onto solid ground.

this is a very crisp synopsis of a book you couldn’t pay me to read. It might be just me but the idea redemption/change is precipitated by who you sleep with (the first two examples) or illness is so over used that I just can’t imagine anything new to say about it.

On the other hand, you couldn’t pay me to read Nicholas Sparks or Bridges of Madison County, so this could be destined to make a mint.

#66 Crapometer

Genre: Fantasy

Jol trains to be a Predator mage to erase the shame of his halfcaste birth so he can earn his maternal family's acceptance. On graduation day, the day to achieve those dreams, he is outcasted (cast out) for refusing to kill a creature to take its magic. It is pregnant; the Predators don't care. They bind his ability to do Predator magic, leaving Jol with one recourse: the courts. If they believe him capable of being a Predator, they will grant a second chance. In Jol's mind, there is no other choice; he must be a Predator.

If he must be a predator, why won’t he do what predators must? I don’t understand the dilemma here.

An unholy ability, one Jol buried long ago, stirs--his soul can leave his unconscious body and move about as a ghost. Through this ability, Jol sees a Rapax mage with its female, human victim. He also sees strange tattoos on their foreheads: on its, that of the Dark Moon,
afterlife for the wicked; on hers, the opposite, the White Moon. When Jol wakens, he rescues the victim by injuring the Rapax with Rage--holy fire bequeathed by the White Moon. He is tired and in shock. When he is joined by the victim's twin brother Cat, a mage who sensed her danger, they take her to Cat's healer friend. The victim is dying, and the healer, due to pregnancy, cannot use magic. Cat leaves to find another healer while Jol rests.

When Jol wakes, Cat's friend is dead and the Rapax wears Cat's sister's skin, thus hidden from Rage. As it tortures Jol, Jol uses his ability to touch the concealed Rapax, then he uses Rage to kill it. Ill, Jol does not bury the bodies before Cat returns, and Cat breaks down from grief. Feeling responsible, Jol stays to help Cat recover.

In the following weeks, Jol discovers the Rapax's torture has destroyed his ability to use Rage. Worse, every time he sleeps, he is forced out of body to sites of other Rapax attacks. One Rapax and its skinflier--a toothy, stingray-like pet--sense Jol during these visitations: the Rapax tastes its father's magic in Jol's skin; the skinflier smells a Moon tattoo Jol can't see. Once Cat is better, Jol leaves and tries to repress everything but the desire to reach the courts--until this Rapax leaves one victim alive. Jol rushes to the rescue. It is a trap. He is captured and tortured for revenge. The Rapax also conducts its father's Moon-people experiments on Jol, never seeing the White Moon on its own forehead.

Zel, the Rapax's apprentice and helper in Jol's torture, reveals herself to a half-crazed Jol as an undercover Predator seeking to destroy all Rapax. Her rescue attempt of Jol fails, and as the Rapax prepares Zel for slaughter, Jol knows he must kill it. One magic is left to him, but it will strip him of his old dreams, of his old self. No choice. Jol stabs the Rapax and uses its blood to burn it, thus becoming a Rapax himself. It escapes, injured, but Zel lives.

Jol runs--from Cat who wants to heal him, from Zel whom he distrusts but Cat loves, but mostly from himself--and he stumbles into his past: his estranged, knight father. Father seeks an heir to train, a son he never told Jol about. When Cat finds Jol, Jol feels hope again.
Cat has a spell that can locate people, and once Cat locates his brother, Jol believes he can build a new life with his father and brother.

Zel's arrival later is less welcome; she needs Cat to locate her missing, adoptive father, whom she believes is in danger. Despite knowing Father's impatience and the great time and magic needed to ready the spell, Jol tells Cat to find Zel's father first. This causes Jol's father to depart, accusing Jol of deterring him out of pettiness. Meanwhile, Cat's spell uncovers Zel's father--dead.

Unwilling to give up on family, Jol combines his ability with Cat's spell to find and see his brother. Instead, he sees a sister: Zel. Father will never accept a daughter when he desires a knight heir, and he will never accept Jol, an imperfect son. At last, Jol sees his father as a chaser of ideals not reality. At last, Jol sees his father in himself: because of what she did, Jol cannot accept Zel either. She leaves unenlightened, and Jol leaves to forget her and
his past.

Neither Zel nor the Moons forget him. The White Moon reveals the world is dying. A White Moon-person must Choose how it will be reborn--and die for it. The Dark Moon desires to control the Choice. Jol learns he bears both Moons' marks and that both Moons seek to
influence him, because, thanks to the first Rapax's selective killing spree, Jol must make the Choice. If he refuses, the second Rapax--Zel's mentor--is next in line. Though Jol does not want to die, it is a way to do good, to die with a clean soul.

Before Jol can journey to the Choosing place, Zel captures him. She claims the Dark Moon uses him and gifts him with unholy abilities, and the only way to stop the Dark Moon's desire for destruction is to prevent it from choosing another. She refuses to listen to Jol, so he
attacks her to escape. She dodges, and he rips off her headband instead. Beneath lies the tattoo of the Dark Moon, and Jol understands: so afraid of the Dark Moon's corruption, she doesn't see she is already corrupted.

She imprisons Jol in living stone.

Now, Jol has ample time to reflect--on the people and beings who betrayed and used him, on lost dreams, on identity. He has been choiceless all his life, and he decides, when he escapes, he will be the one making the choices.

You're awash in detail here. When you create a new world, you have to give us enough context to pick up or understand the unfamiliar, but not have so much that it’s overwhelming. This was overwhelming for me; admittedly some of that is cause I don’t read the genre enough to recognize the basic vocabulary. What the hell is a mage anyway?

You’re doing the basic Quest format here. You can simply tell us who the hero is, and what his dilemma is and who opposes him, the culmination and resolution of the conflict. All the other stuff like the signs of the moons is detail that probably makes sense in the book but is extraneous here.

#65 Crapometer

Genre: Middle-grade fantasy


Tony Quigley isn’t sure which is worse -- the monsters stalking him that no one else sees, or his obnoxious classmate, Marcus. Marcus is obnoxious, constantly insults Tony, and even steals an amulet from Tony’s twin sister Josephine. When Marcus insults Tony’s missing father, Tony’s hatred turns to rage. Later that evening, Marcus vanishes. Tony knows Marcus didn’t run away, but before he can do anything, the minotaur – a half-man, half-bull monster – captures Tony and Josephine and takes them to a jungle world far from home.

Tony and Josephine flee from the monster and wander deeper into the alien jungle, where they meet Doram, a lost solider. Doram agrees to lead them to his hometown and the Seer, the greatest magician in the world. Together they outwit the minotaur and reach Doram’s hometown of Spirah, a strange place of gaudy colors, alien people, and magic. They meet the Seer, but he refuses to send Tony and Josephine home until he rescues Marcus, who is held by the evil magician Malengogg in the Castle of Fears.

When the minotaur appears again, Tony is sure it will kill him, but instead the minotaur gives Tony a message: you must save him. Tony convinces himself that the minotaur is referring to his missing father, but in his heart he knows he's supposed to save Marcus. With the Seer’s blessing, Tony sets off to rescue the person he hates most. Despite his protests, Josephine and Doram insist on accompanying him.

They travel through Malengogg’s desolate realm to the gates of the castle. Doram and Tony fight a magic creature, while Josephine uses magic to open a portal into the castle. Doram realizes that Malengogg will notice the magic, so he creates a diversion with a series of magic spells. Tony and Josephine enter the castle unnoticed but unarmed.

The Castle of Fears is horrible – dark, confusing, lonely, and the words of crazed prisoners scream inside Tony’s head. But when he hears Marcus’s voice, he follows the words backward to Marcus’s prison. Marcus is as obnoxious as ever, to Tony’s irritation, and the rescuers become trapped as well, because soul-eating ghosts wander the halls at night.

While they wait for daybreak, Marcus tells about the horrors of the castle and Malengogg, including his encounter with the ghosts. He gives Josephine her amulet back, and she realizes it has powerful magic -- Malengogg’s true desire.

In the morning they attempt to escape, but Malengogg plays with them and leads them into his magic tower. Josephine recognizes Malengogg’s secret weapon, a scrying pool able to see anyone in any world. She wants to destroy it, but Tony prevents her from destroying the pool. Instead, he attempts to use it to contact his father, but before he succeeds, Malengogg interrupts him. The evil magician tries to win the amulet by guile and magic. When that fails, he offers Tony a choice -- to either rescue Marcus or to find his father. Tony rescues Marcus, and Josephine destroys the amulet and the scrying pool. Infuriated, Malengogg tries to kill them. They run, but are trapped until the minotaur appears and takes them to the Seer.

The Seer praises Tony for his strength, but Tony is ashamed. He asks about his father, but the Seer only says that their father is not on that world, but he challenges Tony to keep hoping and searching for his father.

The minotaur, mysterious as always, takes Tony, Josephine, and Marcus home -- as friends.

This is a good crisp synopsis. Are kids still reading stuff this obvious though? Didn’t Lemony Snicket make the world safe for middle grade irony?

#64 Crapometer

Genre: thriller

Faithful Execution

For Emma Patchett, an innocent 26-year-old, what begins as a nerve-(w)racking State Dinner turns into tragedy. Emma, a junior scheduler on Vice President Veronica Diener’s staff, is seated next to the Norwegian Oil Minister at a banquet. Before the dessert plates are cleared away, the minister dies, a victim of poison.

I can tell you that unless the Oil Minister is a total pervert and insisted on sitting next to a young pretty girl, the protocol officers would not seat a junior staffer at the same table, let alone next to a cabinet minister.

The Norwegian minister was in the United States to negotiate an oil deal with the President, a deal the Vice President opposes. Emma soon believes the Vice President will do anything - even kill - to undo this deal and rise to power. The Saudis are manipulating the Vice President into assassinating the President to punish him for moving away from the Saudis politically and for brokering the oil agreement with Norway.

Emma's friend Lars Utgard, assistant to the minister, is implicated in his death. Emma tries to help Lars extricate himself with the reluctant assistance of her suitor, Secret Service Agent Christian Whittenberg.

As Emma gets too close to the truth, she is identified as a threat to the conspirators. The Saudis have recruited Emma's boss to act as a mole in the Vice President's office to ensure she does not double-cross her Saudi co-conspirators. Her boss becomes suspicious of Emma's interest and alerts the Saudi hit man who is helping the Vice President in her assassination plot.

To keep tabs on Emma, the hit man begins stalking her and her roommate. Emma survives two attempts on her life, once during her monthly flying lesson and once while walking with her boss. While attempting to elude the hit man's speeding car, her boss shoves Emma out of his way. She falls onto the curb and her boss is killed. Emma is briefly hospitalized.

Emma accompanies the Vice President to Norway to prepare for the President's upcoming visit, when the Vice President plans to poison the President.

Emma is kidnapped in Oslo by the Saudis. They plan to video Emma's execution, after forcing her to read a statement revealing the Vice President's involvement in the President's eventual poisoning death. If V.P. Diener keeps her end of the bargain, Emma will be quietly killed and her body hidden. If the Vice President double-crosses the Saudis, they will frame the Vice President for Emma's murder.

The Saudis fly Emma from Oslo to Tromsø, where Norway's new oil field is located. She is forced out of the plane in a tandem parachute jump and is transported to the Saudis' camp, where they have been spying on the off-shore oil rig. She smuggles a message to Lars, who reports her whereabouts to the Vice President.

Veronica Diener knows that Emma is held by the Saudis, but she does not know where. When Lars gives her Emma's location, she decides to rescue her to prevent the Saudis from having a hold on her for the rest of her life. She hires mercenaries to rescue Emma. They carry her by Zodiac to the oil rig, where they believe they are protecting her from her kidnappers by hiding her for the Vice President.

Emma escapes from the mercenaries by enlisting the help of the oil rig doctor. Feigning illness, Emma is flown by helicopter to the mainland, where the doctor and his wife hide her until Lars arrives from Oslo. While on Lars' motorcycle en route to the Tromsø airport, he and Emma are spotted by the kidnappers, who give chase.

Emma and Vice President Diener meet in the airport and have a major confrontation in the Ladies Room, with her Secret Service team outside. Once Vice President Diener learns that Emma knows about the President's poisoned medication, she resolves to avoid being brought to justice for her treason. She grabs a gun away from Secret Service Agent Christian Whittenberg, forcing a struggle in which she is killed.

This is a crisp clean synopsis. The book itself sounds good, and with female action heros, it has movie written all over it.

#63 Crapometer

Young adult chick lit in email/instant message format.



After a two-week family reunion on the cape, sixteen-year-old MACY flies home to the Midwest and emails DYLAN, a seventeen-year-old native Cape Cod surfer. Macy and Dylan have promised, after their heated summer romance, that they will "wait" for each other. Macy's best friend, KATJA, feigns support, concerned about the possibility of Macy's long distance relationship. When Dylan finally e's Macy back, Katja points out his less-than-sincere tone. Macy is not oblivious to this, but assures Katja that Dylan is different, privately welcoming the drama. With the death of Macy's grandmother, her mom's recent mid-life crisis, and her parents' inevitable divorce, Macy ponders whether anyone can ever live a happy and fulfilled life anyway.

Dylan slowly invests himself in the relationship, bringing his own issues to the table. An old flame cries "baby!" which forces Dylan to vacillate between his heart and his head. His father insists he spend less time surfing, and more time working. In addition, his father's Ivy League expectations and his stepmom's shallow indulgences don't mesh with anything Dylan believes… everything his deceased mother stood for.

Macy misinterprets Dylan's slow pace and aggressive tone for disinterest, and resumes dating, even though she would rather be with Dylan. She also lands the lead in the school play, OUR TOWN. As Macy begins to find meaning in the lines, she shares them with Dylan, who learns that these very lines were some of his mother's own life truths.

Meanwhile, the baby is on its way, and Dylan must make some tough decisions. He is wowed by the poetic verses Macy emails to him, wowed by her artistic talents, and realizes that--WOW--he's in love with her. He makes a plan with best friend, SMASH, to take a road trip and surprise Macy, by sitting in the audience for her performance. What he sees instead, is Macy making out backstage with another guy.

In addition, Dylan's dad and stepmom are now expecting their own baby. Dylan hates his life more than ever. He's heartbroken and angry, and tries to avoid the pain by writing off his relationship with Macy and concentrating on the child who may or may not be his, despite his father's wish for him to sever all ties with the baby and her mother.

Macy is mad at Katja for being "right" about Dylan, and spends a lonely holiday season between her parents' two homes. She doubts she'll ever be able to afford to get back to the cape anyway, so she unleashes venomous, melodramatic attacks on Dylan via email/instant message/phone. Because she's miserable and feeling abandoned, she indulges in some unhealthy behaviors, one of which breaks her promise to Dylan. She knows immediately it is all wrong, because she still loves Dylan.

Smash encourages Dylan to either date other girls and forget the "psycho bitch" or just come out and tell Macy he loves her, but Dylan says he can't. After several weeks, Macy tricks Dylan into speaking to her again. Dylan tells Macy there's no such place as "Our Town". Life is more complicated than Grover's Corners and he believes happiness is surely there for the taking. After figuring out the child is not his, Dylan makes progress toward finding his own happiness, daring Macy to do the same. He tells his dad he won't be applying to law school on the east coast, but rather will move to the west coast to surf and study oceanography where Macy will be going to college too.

Katja and Macy make up, when Katja finally admits Dylan is good for Macy. Macy agonizes over her broken promise and how to tell Dylan. She takes a job earning enough money to return to the cape in the summer, where at long last she and Dylan finally reunite.

This is a pretty good synopsis. It’s crisp and clean, gives us a sense of the characters.

The problem of course is the book itself. There’s nothing remotely fresh or surprising here. Don’t mistake format (email exchange) for fresh content. The YA crowd is a whole lot more sophisticated and sardonic than this. And does anyone actually stage Our Town anymore? Last time I looked sixth graders were doing Rent.

#62 Crapometer

Genre: mainstream fiction


The Photograph is a story of one man's journey toward self-acceptance. Like a French braid, it weaves themes of family, faith and friendship into a saga which touches three generations. It is the story of Paddy Quinn and the ghosts that haunt him.

Awakened by a phone call, Paddy is forced to face his troubled past. His son, Richard, wants to meet the father he's never known and plans to recognize him on the basis of a forty-two year old street photograph of a man in a borrowed suit. This proposed reunion sends Paddy's memory back to 1953 and the day he met Roslyn Price, a woman with a scheme that would alter the course of his life.

Paddy’s story unfolds as he relives his youth in the North End of Winnipeg. An unplanned pregnancy and a hasty marriage set Paddy on a course of self-destruction. Family secrets, illicit affairs, death and indiscretions chip away his faith in family, God and himself.

Roslyn’s ambitions push Paddy into an uncharacteristic charade. He borrows a suit in an attempt to impress a potential employer. A street photographer captures his image just after a disastrous job interview; the photograph becomes the only evidence of an ill-laid plan. Unbeknownst to Paddy, he has failed Roslyn’s final test.

Richard’s birth does little to save Paddy from himself. After Roslyn disappears with Richard, Paddy’s life melts into a haze of booze and regret.

Now a recovering alcoholic and terminally ill, Paddy‚’ world is rattled by Richard’s phone call. He reluctantly agrees to meet, if only to set the record straight. Recognizing his son from a distance, Paddy makes a split second decision to leave Richard a legacy - the father in The Photograph.

uh ok...what happens?
you’ve given us the beginning and set up the ending. To quote Clara Pell “Where’s the beef?"

There's nothing here that gives us a sense of voice, what the characters are like, what the pivotal moments are, what they learn, or fail to.

This is similar to flap copy. It’s not a synopsis in any meaningful sense.