HH Com 661

The Earth’s surface, atmosphere and seas are warming; ocean currents are slowing; ice shelves are melting faster than projected; spring is coming ever sooner; rainfall patterns are changing; North American migratory birds are ranging father north; the ability of the earth to self-regulate to resist warming appears to be waning,” NY Times (May 24,2006)

Welcome to the world in WARM FRONT a novel set in the midst of a mounting global warming crisis. Jack Sheldon, a caribou biologist on Alaska’s north slope, monitor of the dwindling Porcupine caribou herd and an environmental reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner embark on a quest to get the message out on an around the world investigation from the Arctic to Antarctica and back. Along the way, both are imperiled by the consequences of abrupt climate change that could end their lives and threaten the existence of life on the planet.

Sheldon meets Robin Sampson a 28-year-old lawyer and head of an environmental group attempting to sue Arctic Oil Corporation for endangering the polar bears of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Her father, Alaskan Republican Senator Richard Sampson opposes them, throwing all his power and weight behind an industry led effort to obfuscate the truth and discredit the scientists.

Through his danger-filled global treks, Elmore learns just how dire this is and methodically lays out the case in a climate series widely read all over the world, by both friend and foe. He risks his career and life to report it. Will the message be heard in time?

What's the plot?
Global warming isn't a plot. It's an issue.


Mark said...

Well, what's the plot of Michael Crichton's State of Fear? Allow me since you asked. Wild-eyed ecofreaks plot to alter the weather, break off Antarctic icebergs and create a fake tsunami in order to prove the Earth is in a false crisis, and for what? Donation money from dupable rich Hollywood liberals? Please.

This is the antithesis of that farcial and improbable premise and false scientific conclusion.

roach said...

"Jack Sheldon, a caribou biologist on Alaska’s north slope, monitor of the dwindling Porcupine caribou herd and an environmental reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner embark on a quest to get the message out on an around the world investigation from the Arctic to Antarctica and back."

This is a really unwieldy sentence. The first time through I thought Jack was a biologist and an environmental reporter and thought, "Wow, he's a busy guy."

Karen said...

Global warming has been an issue for a long time. The greenhouse effect itself was named/described back in 1820s, and average temperatures have been rising for at least the second half of the 20th century. It has just become very public lately because people are finally starting to see the effects.

Given this, I have to say a story where the public suddenly 'gets' the immensity of the problem because of a series of newspaper articles is somewhat hard to believe.

Maybe you could narrow the focus the message being delivered somewhat.

Mark said...

Yes, well I suppose naming the reporter twice would also been unecessary, but one makes choices in 250 words. It doesn't take much reading to clear this up. But it won't matter at this agency now will it? No one answered my plot defense. It has a plot. Only the conservatives are the villains in mine as they are in real life. On this "issue" at least.

MWT said...

Have you considered writing this as a narrative nonfiction instead?

Anonymous said...

Michael Crichton already has an agent, and a track record. Your hook has to stand alone on a faceless overworked agent's desk. Defending it to us in the comments trail won't help your cause.

Tighten up those sentences, give only the very necessary information in the clearest, least confusing way possible, and try to fill the credibility gaps.

Mark said...

The picture book version would be An Inconvenient Truth. If not a celebrity one would have to be an expert themselves in the filed, or say, Elizabeth Colbert of the New Yorker. Again I defer to Crichton who wrote wingut crackpot novel that libeled scientists.

I'm a scientist myeslf and I know my business even if others can't conmprehend even the basics. It's the burden we carry. Since the model for the journalist is Andrew Revkin, well make the synaptic connections if you can. Concentrate. It's doable.

Mark said...

Understood. I'm defending the book, the story and the concept but the letter has obviously failed under the 250 word logline ceiling. I chose the wrong words to describe it. There's plenty of company in that bin.

Anonymous said...

Agents aren't interested in writers' defences of their work, they're interested in the work itself - and when people make direct comments on your hook, you tend to ignore them and cite other books. You still haven't said what the plot is, just what it isn't.

Agents are very reluctant to take on authors who reject all suggestions and quarrel at the drop of a hint, because they're a pain in the tail to work with. If you want to sell, you're going to have to work on your attitude. Being this argumentative will hurt you.

Mark said...

On the contrary the changes have already been made. The plot is the same as Crichton's with the character's roles reversed. Right wing politicican's and oil corporation funded lobbyists seek to destroy credibility of of US scientists working to prove catastrphic global warming and and even kill the messengers to do it. There's your logline.

What part of that isn't clear other than no one read State of Fear? Miss snark never saw my work so the idea that I wouldn't change anything about the specifics of the story isn't established here. Only the need to educate the populace has. That's the point in the first place. Confirmed.

Anonymous said...

Autgor, I'm startled by your statement that "But it won't matter at this agency now will it? No one answered my plot defense." Are you under the impression that the commenters to this blog are representatives of an Agency, or that submitting to the Crap[ometer was an opportunity to be considered by an agency? If so, you aren't a careful reader -- Miss Snark jas nmade it very clear that this is an educational opportunity, a chance to see how well your hook communicates to readers. When sending your query out to agents, you won't have the chance to follow up with further explications; if your book gets published, you won;t be standing next to the reader to help them 'get it,' either. It's your responsibility as a writer to make sure your words on paper convey what you want the reader to understand; the responses of comfused readers are your *opportunity* to revise. Your choice to blame the readers for failing to understand your prose strikes mer as not only a bad attitude for an author, but a sign of poor scientific method. The readers are your test subjects; are you only satisfied by data that conforms to your expectations? Shame on you.

Defending your plot be saying it's the same as an existing novel is hardly a stirring argument in its defence. Even with the roles reversed, why would you want to present your work as a corrected version of a novel you (and many others) despise?

Anonymous said...

Author: you complain that people haven't read State of Fear. Agents aren't under obligation to read every book ever published just in case someone comes along with a hook that can't be understood without references. Hooks are supposed to be self-sufficient. And don't forget, any agent who wants to take on an environmental novel is going to have green politics. Why would a good environmentalist read State of Fear? From all I've given to understand, they'd hate it, and people don't generally read books that they hate.

Referring to your potential readers as 'the populace' shows a deep disrespect for them. Authors who don't respect their readers seldom keep them.

People don't want to be educated by a novel, they want to be entertained. If it's educational as well, great, but if they just want education without a fun story, they can read non-fiction. A didactic and un-entertaining novel is never going to sell.

Mark said...

Let me be blunt: Take your "shame" and shove it. I've nothing to be ashamed of and if I did you wouldn't be the appropriate authority.

"but if they just want education without a fun story, they can read non-fiction. A didactic and un-entertaining novel is never going to sell."

Any more platitudes? You have no idea if I've written a fun story or not, and neither does snark. She only knows what she likes and if she can't see in 250 it's done. Hell I couldn't read hardly any of these they were so bad in my mind, but mostly I wasn't interested in the topic and hates polemical tomes. Crichton's is and so is mine from a different perspective, so the odds were staked to begin with. And since she's rejected the concept of a nonfiction book of mine along the same lines, based on my personal reporting and professional expertise on a similar issue the picture I get is even clearer now.

I've admitted to failing in the query thinking, foolishly, that unsaid things were attainable under the surface. See Hemingway for that concept. But I mistook the nitiwittery quotient by ten fold.

The populace is the populace: you me and all the rest. How is that disrespectful? Don't answer it because I care little for your reader "opinion." It's the difference between reader reviews on Amazon and Kirkus et al. As I've said back in this barrage of insults I rewrote the hook and query. Since I routinely get requests for partials and fulls some things I do must be right on some level.

See the defintion of assume. You assume incorrectly that I haven't listened or done anything. I have.

Anonymous said...

This is a useful object lesson in How Not To Take Criticism.

What this author is doing includes some common mistakes: being thin-skinned, blaming readers rather than oneself if they don't take to one's work, bringing up other books that people may or may not have read to prove points, insisting that something happens in the real world as if that excuses one from the duty of writing convincingly, implying it's impossible to get something across in a standard format (in this case 250 words), taking it personally when work fails to convince, asking for opinions and then calling comments 'insults', bombarding with e-mails, and being, yanno, rude. Pretty much all the major mistakes are here; the only big one he's skipped is emotional blackmail.

Many of these things are a temptation when your pitch isn't going well. If you ever feel the urge to do any of them, take a deep breath, count to ten, and then remind yourself of this guy. His kind of attitude is the reason why agents hear a deafening alarm bell at the first hint of defensiveness or excuse-making from authors: they've run into too much behaviour like this, and they don't want any more of it. The less like this you act, the more interested an agent will be in working with you.

Anonymous said...

"My book is very similar to State of Fear" AND "State of Fear was a terrible book" therefore "My book is...?"

Needless to say, comparing your book to any other book makes it seem unoriginal. Comparing it to a book you clearly despise...that's just a bad plan altogether.

What my main question is, what new argument is your scientist and reporter making? NGOs have been talking about climate change (what scientists/journalists are calling it these days) for decades now. One of the world's largest rallies on the issue was recently held in London - over 25,000 people! So I think the general public is pretty aware of the issue, even if they're apathetic about it. Also, information alone, like a newspaper series, generally doesn't get the public to do much of anything except complain. Getting the public to actually take action on environmental issues is incredibly hard. So unless the world is truly going to end tomorrow, the political stakes on this don't seem nearly as high as you make them out to be.

Also, as you seem to care a great deal about expertise, my college degree is in environmental communication, so I've done loads of reading on the subject.

Mark said...

The new information in the book is extensive. I don't have to devulge my sources but it has an extensive bibliography analyzed and presented correctly according to what the top people are saying. The journalist discovers what the truth is by investigating and running with the experts.

Just because you people don't understand or see the problem, plot and what the big deal is doesn't mean the story is a nonstarter to those more in tune with environmental topics. The comments here have been wrongheaded and the suggestions nonsensical and only reveal ignorance, except to find someone who agrees. That's what every writer needs. What this set of commenters doesn't get is they aren't the judge of anything.

Google "global warming" and you'll find the controversy and impacts all around you. Urgent? It is if an iceberg crashes into your village. One has to be aware enough to know. I don't see it here. Just ad hominem. Frankly I amazed by the stupidity I've been subjected to here. It's odd that when I submitted it for review by experts, and even the hook to a prominent author of 11 novels they all had a positive reaction. Blog commenters seem to have a comprehension problem. That and false charges of emailing people, who are anonymous and have no addresses listed. That's usually the way with cowards.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there's a huge difference between Major Environmental Problem (which climate change is) and Political Secret People Will Kill For to Keep Secret. You fail to make that distinction in your hook. Climate change isn't a secret at all, which is why it is so unclear why your hero is in danger. If the hero isn't in danger, there isn't a plot, which I think was what Miss Snark was implying. If you can tell us what is so special about your hero's message, people will be much more interested.

Honestly, I'm attempting to ask some legit, helpful questions, but if you keep insulting everyone, I won't bother.

And if your audience is "those in tune with environmental topics," I should match that perfectly. Science-based writing is one of my favorite genres and I'm an avid environmentalist, both personally and professional. But while the topic stirs my interest, I would still need to see some very strong writing to want to pick this up because of the potential for heavy-handedness with the subject matter.

Mark said...

I see what you're doing Shannon and I've looked at your site and interests. Frankly, it's like looking at an A.N.S.W.E.R rally. This sort of "Kumbaya" group handholding peace march stuff is the sort of thing that the deniers of climate change, who happen to be the captains of industry and the leaders of our government, make a mockery of along with Al Gore. They simply don't believe you. Or me.

Enter Michael Crichton whose "bad" book blamed the hype on people like you, Greenpeace and the like, got himself a Congressional hearing and an audience with the president. That's big time influence sis. He got the science wrong and my scientists prove that. The impending danger is all through the story. I suggest you do some reading at www.realclimate.org and take a gander at www.exxonsecrets.org to larn who the players are. I'm a biologist who actually worked in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. You can read about that at Barnes & Noble. It's free. As I've said I rewrote the query and whether you would read it or not is immaterial to me. Heavyhandedness is what our top people at NASA have been getting and the smear campaign. For a radical you don't seem to know much about the subject.

Anonymous said...

Further to what I said earlier about why agents don't react well to defensiveness, this thread also demonstrates one reason why they can be circumspect about giving feedback.

Some people will argue with every suggestion, however well meant, and will not give up. Hence, offering feedback can open the door into an endless dispute with someone who is going to reject everything you say, that will carry on indefinitely until you throw up your hands and stop replying to their correspondence.

It's hard on the innocent, but there are a lot of people trying to get published who are pretty unstable. This is a good insider's view of the kind of bad experience that makes agents wary of prospective authors, and explains why many a feedback request goes unanswered.

Anonymous said...

Mark, although I would like to further respond to your book and personal attacks on me (looking at my personal LJ doesn't say much about my professional experience - you aren't the only one who can play that game), but Miss Snark's blog certainly isn't the appropriate place to do that. As I cannot find an e-mail address for you on your webpage, I'm afraid I can't offer you further advice.

However, I am quite interested in your strategies to motivate public policy change on the issue of climate change (in contrasts to protests, etc.) Feel free to e-mail me - it's available on the info part of my LJ. As my focus is environmental communication, I always welcome new perspectives on the subject.

Mark said...

Yet another personal attack. I'm shocked. The tin ears are very evident since I've repeatedly said the concerns addressed have been taken into account and ALREADY CHANGED. The only thing established in this thread is the feeding frenzy of anonymous shills. This has nothing to do with the agent and everything to do with just attacking anyone indentifiable in the public arena.

Mark said...

Well I guess if you can't figure out how to add a comment on a similar blog or provide a link to your experience as I have on mine I can't help you. I have no idea what your profession is. There's no evidence for me to go on. By the way there's an email address on mine one click away.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see you at a public event if you ever get that book of yours published. I'll bring popcorn.

Seriously. Read over some of the comments. Apply them to your hook, rather than to the book none of us could possibly know about. Some of them were rude, but some were fairly constructive and polite. You responded equally bitterly to all. Take a yoga class, or better yet, anger management.

Good luck. If this is well written, it is exactly the type of book I would read. But no one likes to work with difficult people, even if they are brilliant. Tone it down when you're looking for an agent.

Mark said...

"rather than to the book none of us could possibly know about."

Oh I think you should know about any similar book especially by the author of Jurrasic Park. Thanks for the advice, but spare me the psychological profiling. Ignorance perturbs me. Believe me when an agent says rewrite something I do it, and have here many insults back, which I said repeatedly into an ill wind. I didn't create that.

Nature and man are the antagonists here in this story. And it's real.